The Tangled Web of Climate-Change Funders

In our last article, we detailed how a wealthy family established an offshore trust, and funneled tens of millions of dollars from that trust to a 501(c)(3) called The Sea Change Foundation.  This “charitable entity” is a major hub of funding for the climate-change alarmists.

In this article, we’ll trace where the Sea Change Foundation directs these “charitable funds”, and what each of its recipients do with the money.  We shall quickly discover that the money trail becomes a tangled web of Leftist organizations all dedicated the climate alarmism in various forms.

Sea Change’s Form 990-PF for the year ending July 2011 describes its activities in appropriately vague terms:  “Private foundation dedicated to achieving meaningful social impact through leveraged philanthropy that address the most pressing problems facing the world today”.

Could this be any less specific?

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Fortunately, the next four pages make it very clear what “meaningful social impact” on “the most pressing problems” means: anti-fossil fuel and clean energy propaganda, along with and “education” initiatives.

An entity known as “The Energy Foundation” located in – where else? – San Francisco is a favored recipient of funds from Sea Change. There were 16 separate grants made to The Energy Foundation totaling over $17 million.  The “purpose of funds” is sometimes described as to “promote energy efficiency,” sometimes as “educate public about climate and clean energy,” and other times as “reduce reliance on high carbon energy.”

For the period ending July 2015, some 33 separate grants were made to The Energy Foundation (out of 79 total), for more than $16 million.  At least this year, the disclosure was much more transparent.  Every single grant’s purpose was listed as “mitigate climate change.”   Every year it’s pretty much the same pattern.

Sea Change isn’t the only benefactor of The Energy Foundation.  The entity receives hundreds upon hundreds of millions of dollars from other organizations.  The ClimateWorks Foundation, itself the recipient of over $870 million in contributions between 2010 and 2018, sent $165 million to The Energy Foundation between 2010 and 2012.

Le Rouge et le Noir.

So what is The Energy Foundation?  Sure enough, those diligent Senators that issued a 2014 minority report on these climate change shenanigans figured it out.  It is a pass-through public “charity,” which aggregates hundreds of millions of dollars from Sea Change and other organizations, and then passes much of that money on to other climate activists.  In doing so, the report says:

… they are providing two services: distance between the donor and the activist, and enhancing the clout of the donors as their individual influence is maximized by pooling resources….[and is] utilized by the most powerful EGA members to create the appearance of a more diversified base of support, to shield them from accountability, and to leverage limited resources by hiring dedicated energy/environment staff to handle strategic giving.

Indeed, The Energy Foundation made nearly 500 grants between 2015 and 2017 alone. That’s a lot of passing through of funds, and those funds often aren’t used for charitable purposes but for political activities – and that’s forbidden under federal law.

The IRS strictly prohibits 501(c)(3) entities from “directly or indirectly participating in, or intervening in a political campaign for or against a candidate for political office.”  So instead, the 501(c)(3) tries to skirt the law by contributing funds to a 501(c)(4), which is permitted to engage in political activities.  There is an oversight issue here, however.  The donation made to the 501(c)(4) must be restricted to a charitable purpose that aligns with the organization's mission, and does not violate the 501(c)(3) nonprofit's eligibility.

Who is watching to make sure these laws are being followed?  Nobody, really.  The IRS should do it, but given the complexity of how money is moving around through all these different entities (and we haven’t even scratched the surface), actual oversight appears non-existent.

It should come as no surprise that the 501(c)(4) entities that are the recipients of such generosity from 501(c)(3) entities are often closely aligned.  The Senate report describes one such example:

For example, the League of Conservation Voters (LCV) is a 501(c)(4) group with an affiliated 501(c)(3) nonprofit almost identically named the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund (LCV Education Fund). In 2012, LCV Education Fund had total assets of just over $8 million and net assets of over $7.3 million.  According to LCV, LCV Education Fund is “separate from the League of Conservation Voters, with its own mission, programs, and Board of Directors.” Even so, the two groups are very closely intertwined. Forty percent of LCV Education Fund’s Board of Directors also serve on LCV’s Board of Directors.

Yet unless one went hunting for this information, the tangled web of funding would never be exposed.  A visit to The Energy Foundation’s website reveals an optimistic website that talks in vague terms about how great clean energy is, bringing solar power to consumers all over America, providing thousands of jobs in the sector, and to “modernize the power grid.”

Then again, maybe not.

Yet behind all the pretty pictures and generalized terminology, there is nothing of substance.  It’s all sizzle designed to target the ignorant, feel-good nonsense that doesn’t offer specifics.  Take a look at the mission and vision statements of The Energy Foundation:

Mission Statement
Securing a clean and equitable energy future to tackle the climate crisis.

Vision Statement
A healthy, safe, equitable economy powered by clean energy. We believe a thriving clean energy economy can create sustainable opportunities, spur innovation, and protect our climate—for today and future generations.

Nothing on the website discusses the downsides of “clean energy,” or acknowledges the truth about how much fossil-fuel energy is necessary to create solar panels and wind turbines. Few of the stories listing the foundation’s successes go into specifics about a given grant’s success, or the costs incurred by harming the fossil fuel sector.  It also delivers falsehoods about nuclear, coal, and natural gas.

The website touts the Southern Environmental Law Center, which “successfully push[es] regulatory commissions to scrutinize utilities’ operations and long-term planning, and to promote alternatives to proposals for more coal, gas, or costly nuclear plants.” Rather than address the truths about nuclear plants, which produce more energy with the greatest possible existing efficiency, it dismisses its very existence as being “too expensive.”

One becomes dizzy very quickly trying to track all the different recipients of The Energy Foundation’s grants, but the sheer number of happy stories it touts on its websites demonstrates that the climate-change activists have tons of money to spread around and seem keen on hiding how it all gets distributed.

Why?

Take California -- Please

The epicenter of all things destructive, California is a tragicomedy of the highest – or lowest – order. If you are looking for something, anything, destroying America today, California is the pot at the end of your rainbow, filled today with brass, not the gold.

Although California is re-creating the car market of Cuba with the recent diktat of no more gasoline cars sold after 2035, thereby ensuring used cars stay on the road decades past when they otherwise would have been exchanged for cars of greater efficiency and less pollution, the state's forest management is way ahead of its automobiles in producing a negative impact on the climate – assuming one subscribes to current dogma, as California most assuredly pretends.

Since about 1969, my brother and I have spent a week each summer backpacking in the California Sierra Nevada mountains. Though we try to spend as much time above timberline as possible for the views, time is spent in the forest, as well, appreciating these great trees for their beauty, their shade on a hot trail, their strength in holding up one’s hammock at night. I’ve also car-camped many times through the Sierras with my own family. If one were to design a forest management system worse for the environment and climate, as well as the wildlife and visitors on foot or car, one could not design a system worse than that of California. Though this is a topic of annual summer discussion and critique, what are the numbers this year, in 2020?

The dead and the dying.

About 150 million dead trees are standing, leaning or lying on the ground in the forests of the Sierra. My experience shows that these trees are between 40-70 feet tall and usually between 10 and 16 inches in diameter: we can use 12 inches and 50 feet as an average. The average tree in the California forests now aflame weighs about 2,000 pounds, or about 900 kilograms. Burning a kilogram of wood will generate between 1.65 and 1.8 kg of CO2. Using an average of 1.7 kg, 150 million burned trees will have generated 230 billion kg, or 230 million metric tons of CO2. In an average year, California emits 359 million metric tons of CO2. Faulty forest management in 2020 could increase by 64 percent the amount of CO2 emitted by California.

When a mega-fire caused by a century of bad forest management burns through, it doesn’t burn only the dead trees. If one of every ten trees burned was dead to start, that 230 million metric tons becomes 2.3 billion and an increase of 640 percent in total California CO2 emissions. Governor Newsom may always have Paris, but the Paris climate accords aren't going to fix a six-fold increase in CO2.

Why does California reject the same forest management practices of other states? One big reason stems from the spotted owl controversy of decades ago and the subsequent California infestation of far-left environmentalists and California regulations and budget priorities limiting the ability to harvest trees or remove deadwood, “for the sake of the environment and animal habitat.”

The same California adding its wind farms has resulted in the annual deaths by slicing and dicing in windmills situated in their flight paths, of millions of migratory birds, as well as the birds of prey that feed on them. This is because birds are smart enough to use the wind to aid their migration, but climate alarmists demand their use of the wind is more important than those tens of millions of birds that have been using the wind for tens of thousands of years. Evidently, the Spotted Owl habitat must be preserved so we can chop them up later. So much for concerns about the original inhabitants of the land…

We can’t manage the forests because of its wildlife and we can’t let wildlife stand in the way of wind farms. Wildlife loses both ways thanks to California’s “environmentalists.” As a California native, camper and backpacker, I find this loathsome.

Birds beware: no pot of gold here.

But it is not just CO2 and forests burning down and wildlife burning up or being sliced into pieces by 200 mph windmill blade tips. Wood is more expensive because it’s out there burning down and not at the lumber yard ready to build a home. Add the close-the-door-behind-me housing regulations in California and the cost of home ownership is prohibitive for a new family.

But that’s OK, because the left hates families anyway and finds children worse than useless so they don’t have any. Children have to be educated, yet California ranks 37th out of 50 in education, which seems odd when you think of the California tech titans and the size of the California economy; the only possible reason is that Democrat single-party governance of California just doesn’t care.

(For more on how California committed suicide, please see the first chapter of Michael Anton's new book, The Stakes: America at the Point of No Return.)

Remember: Democrats have owned education for over 50 years; if they wanted better education, we would have better education. Research also shows that kids turn out better when Mom stays home with them when they are young (what family in California can get by on the earnings of only one adult?) And we have too many people anyway. Besides, families want a house, not an apartment (the left hates the suburbs), and then they need water, electricity, and they'll probably want to heat and cool their homes and cook their meals, all of which require an amount of energy bird-Cuisinarts can’t provide.

California is the home to two large university systems, the University of California, and the California State University. What is being taught? Socialism: Anti-capitalism. How is a clean environment created? Wealth. How is wealth created? Capitalism. How is wealth destroyed? Socialism. “Ecocide” (the killing of the ecology)  is the term that had to be invented when we got a look into the ecological catastrophe created by the socialist paradise of the USSR after it destroyed itself via… communism.

No drilling please, we're Californians.

California’s rejection of oil drilling -- the industry that helped makes its fortune -- is widely known. Rarely discussed is that by refusing to drill under the strong environmental strictures enforced in a wealthy first-world country, oil drilling is forced into third world countries with little or no environmental restrictions. Results: Dead people and a dirtier environment.

And then there’s Big Tech, using its breadth of contact and ability to censor – often without the knowledge of the audiences – to ensure the magnification of propaganda supporting socialism and denigrating capitalism. Result: A dirtier environment.

The server farms of these massive tech companies (Google, FaceBook, etc.) consume enormous quantities of electricity as they proselytize against energy use.

According to the SMART 2020 report, server farms create carbon footprints that grow more than 7% per year, making them one of the greatest challenges faced by the proponents of green IT. Data centers need numerous auxiliary systems, including storage devices, power supplies, and cooling systems. In 2010, over 10% of electricity in the U.S. was due to computer and IT equipment usage. At the current rate we're going, analysts and experts figure that 10% of the world's power bill will be spent on running computers.

To give a more concrete example of how much energy this is, Dixon shows that one 50,000 square feet data center uses about 5 megawatts, but continuously. This energy output would satisfy the needs of 5000 homes. In another staggering example, assorted US data centers use a collective 7000 megawatt data centers from seven different plants; this is more power than is used by the State of Mississippi. Even more surprising is that this astronomical power consumption is just by the plants themselves - cooling systems use as much energy as the plants.

Maybe Big Tech want us to heat, cool, transport and feed ourselves with windmills because they want all the base load electricity?

To summarize, California voters continue to perpetuate in office those whose climate and environmental polices are destroying millions of acres of forest, emitting into the atmosphere billions of tons of CO2 , chopping millions of migratory birds into pieces and burning millions of mammals unable to run from the fires these officials refuse to act to prevent, sending oil drilling to places that lack the wealth to control it, educating children that the economic system that everywhere and every time destroys standards of living, learning, wealth and the environment, somehow is superior to a system that generates the wealth required to improve these standards, while BigTech is using enormous quantities of non-green base-load electricity to manipulate the information and voters to continue this mess all in the name of…

… saving the environment for future generations the left refuses to have.

And that takes a lot of brass.

Beware the Environmental Emojis

It needs to be said: radical environmentalism is both a scam and a destroyer, hiding behind a smiling-face-with-hearts emoji.

I have little doubt that Jim Jones and the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, once much-loved messianic figures, would today be staunch environmentalists. In fact, Jones’ “apostolic socialism” movement was called the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project, which culminated, as we recall, in “revolutionary suicide.”

And one of the central concepts in the Reverend Moon’s Divine Principle is the responsible stewardship of the earth and a caring attitude for the entirety of nature. This doctrine did not prevent him from incarcerating and brainwashing the members of his Unification Church, while operating among his many businesses a car manufacturing plant in North Korea, a sea food consortium, media and estate agencies, and a munitions racket that funded his mansions, castles and large properties around the world. For some of the shadier characters in the salvation business, a tenderness for nature can become a most profitable proposition.

In fact, liberal environmentalism is the cutting edge of the movement for bureaucratized state control of both private life and free market economics, not only conscripting the media, the NGOs, government departments and the intellectual classes to advance its agenda but shrewdly operating through the very corporations it seeks to regulate by offering tax and other incentives to ensure compliance. And it seems to be working.

The former Czech president, Vaclav Klaus, author of Blue Planet in Green Shackles, is on the mark when he warns of the irrationality of the bullish “global warming” industry: “As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism… Let us not scare ourselves with catastrophic forecasts, or use them to defend and promote irrational interventions in human lives.”

Like Vaclav Klaus, we might one day find ourselves living under a regime that would in many ways resemble the Communist nightmare from which half of Europe has only recently emerged. Similarly, in Left in Dark Times, Bernard-Henri Levy speaks of “the former Reds who have now turned Green and the friends-of-nature type of Greens who have now become greens of the revolutionary jihad variety.”

Green has become big business even though its effects have been largely counter-productive. It should be obvious by this time that the grass is not necessarily greener on the other side of the ecological fence. What we see at work is the bizarre confluence of leftist autocracy and wealth known as fascism, that is, corporate totalitarianism, in which capital wealth is placed at the service of but also facilitates the rule of the managerial state. As Jonah Goldberg (among others) elucidates in Liberal Fascism, fascism and communism are kissing cousins, totalitarian movements and regimes that differ only in the disposition of industrial authority, but to the same end.  

Hitler with Opel, 1937.

Corporate totalitarianism is now an internecine phenomenon, predicated on corruption. Robert Morton points out in the first of a multi-part series for The Pipeline that the major “charitable” foundations enjoy lucrative dealings with national competitors while at the same time aiming for oligarchic control of the very nations they putatively serve—all in the name of creating an egalitarian society where the environment is preserved by its self-appointed custodians and stewards, and men can live in harmony with nature. But the underlying motive is almost always money and power.

Morton mentions, for example, the Sea Change Foundation, Renaissance Technologies, Klein Ltd. and their umbrella entity the Lord Jim Trust. These organizations, which have “funneled tens of millions of dollars to anti-fracking environmentalist groups in the United States,” are run by “executives with deep ties to Russian oil interests.” Cui bono? Clearly neither the environment nor the climate. The founders and managers of these firms and trusts are profiting handsomely, as is the state-owned Russian oil company, Rosneft

These left-wing, faux-environmental trusts, foundations and endowments tend to breed like rabbits on steroids. They are owned and managed by obscenely wealthy people who flourish in a privileged milieu of money, influence, business deals and political connections. The Tides Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation (which “contributes to a more just, sustainable, and peaceful world,” according to its promo), are among the most notorious of these progressivist organizations. 

Other such concerns, reported by the Capital Research Center, include the California Endowment, the Chicago Community Trust, the Ford Foundation, the Pew Memorial Trust, the Union Square Foundation, the Lumina Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Novo Foundation, the David and Lucille Packard Foundation, the Ben and Jerry Foundation, the Sierra Fund and of course the George Soros Open Society Foundations.

No names, please.

These enterprises are collectively awash in billions of dollars which they use, under the guise of public charity, to promote their own interests. What author Hayden Ludwig says of Tides seems true across the board: “Using a sophisticated funding model, Tides has grown into a leading platform for laundering away ties between wealthy donors and the radical causes they fund—while generating hundreds of new organizations along the way.” That is, many of these groups are conveniently set up to obscure the connection between donors and grantees, many of these latter violent activists who blockade railways, disable pipelines and foment riots.

Such consortiums, then, are designed “to maximize the flow of donations to far-left nonprofits while minimizing donors’ public exposure to the fruits of their largesse.” The motives behind these left-wing philanthropists and groups are a blend of fiscal and political objectives, promoting a “social justice” agenda, a single-party state governed by a plutocratic and technological elite (called “democratic socialism” and “the Great Reset”), and ultimately a monopoly controlling the nation’s wealth.

The environment in which these plutocratic pseudo-philanthropists function, and which galvanizes their interest is not river, land and air but finance, stocks and power. The only hedges they care about are hedge funds. The only power they are interested in is not electrical but political. The fact that the engine of Green energy will render the landscape unsightly, leak toxins into soil and water, remain variously unreclaimable and undisposable, fail to supply sufficient power to sustain a nation’s infrastructure without oil, gas and coal back-up, cost hundreds of thousands and perhaps millions of jobs, and crush the population under a punitive tax-and-utility burden is of no account to them. After all, they are our gracious benefactors, complaisant and benign, “friends of nature” laboring to save the planet, just like Jim Jones and the Reverend Moon.

One thinks of Hamlet: “A man may smile, and smile, and be a villain.”

As responsible citizens, we must do our utmost to put the brakes on hasty and poorly thought-out Green infatuations and should proceed carefully and slowly to develop and introduce so-called “renewables” to offset a portion of our energy consumption without collapsing the economy and without fattening the revenues of parasitical corporations intent on political domination.

Above all, caution, thorough study and robust skepticism should be our watchwords. Beware the smiling emojis.

How to Make Poverty Expensive

"Do you not know. my son, with how little wisdom the world is governed?" That’s a famous remark by a Swedish statesman, Axel Oxenstierna (1583-1654), one of the most celebrated men of his time who is now largely forgotten except by historians. He gave that advice in a letter to reassure his nervous son that he need not worry about the diplomatic negotiations in which the young man was about to engage because he wouldn’t find them that difficult. Message: Don’t be too impressed by important people, son. They may have no idea of what they’re doing.

Most people recognize the wisdom of this remark on hearing it but they’re not always able to explain why. My own view is that many of us get it wrong. We think Oxenstierna is deploring the low vices—greed, ambition, jealous rivalry, etc.—that lead people in positions of power into corruption and disaster. Such things happen and they produce bad results. But the disaster arising from greed and corruption are fairly minor compared to those produced by great schemes of idealism so virtuous that no one opposed them on grounds of cost for fear of seeming petty. They’re the really big ticket items.

That was brought home to me this week when I came across a televised debate in the U.K. House of Lords in June 2019 in which Viscount Ridley (in private life, Matt Ridley, author of The Rational Optimist and Innovation, and on climate change a “lukewarmer”) was complaining the British government didn’t seem to have conducted a cost/benefit analysis of its decision that the U.K. would eradicate its net contribution to climate change by 2050.

In fact, when Prime Minister Theresa May announced the decision the previous week, she had said proudly: “This means the U.K. will be the first G7 country to legislate for net-zero emissions.” (Tory cheers!) Ridley was less proud because he thought that spending a vast but unknown sum to reduce U.K. carbon emissions to net zero by 2050 without first discovering what it would cost or what benefits it would deliver suggested a spirit of light-hearted financial abandon.

“We’re faced with a measure,” he declared, “that is likely to cost at least a trillion pounds on top of the 15 billion pounds a year that we’re now spending on subsidies to renewable energy. Let’s remind ourselves for a second just how big a sum a trillion pounds is. If you spent a pound a second, it would take you thirty thousand years to get through one trillion pounds. You’d have to start before the peak of the last Ice Age where woolly mammoths and Neanderthals roamed across a tundra where we now sit.”

Ridley went on to point out that when you added in the costs of other measures to reduce emissions—converting gas-heated homes to electricity, switching to hydrogen-based fuels, etc.—the total costs of U.K. policy came to something like £2.8 trillion. Similarly, writing in the monograph Greenhouse Emissions: the Global Picture, Martin Livermore estimates the various costs of government measures to mitigate climate change as likely to present every family in Britain with a bill for 100,000 pounds.

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These are massive expenditures—so massive that we have no real sense of what the statistics mean until someone like Ridley takes the trouble to express them in an arresting way. That explains why two of the earlier speakers in the Lords debate had dismissed them implausibly as “nickles and dimes” and “manageable.” These Brits had already swallowed Everett Dirksen’s Kool-Aid: “A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money”—except that a billion’s no longer real money.

And, finally, they are being spent at a time when other vast sums are being allocated both to treat patients suffering from Covid-19 and to sustain the living standards of workers made unemployed by the lockdown even though the expected recession will greatly reduce revenues going to the Treasury.

Burning bread since the 9th century.

A certain giddiness has seized the minds of hitherto sober politicians and officials. If you ask the question: “Is the U.K. taxpayer getting decent value for the expenditures being made on his behalf,” you’re likely to be told that’s not the point. What is the point then?  It’s to save the world by setting a moral example of a mature developed nation making sacrifices for the common good of the world by moving to a net-zero carbon economy.

That arguments falls at more fences than there are in the Grand National. We exaggerate our sacrifice. Much of the fall in Western carbon levels comes from moving our industries overseas to Asia and then importing the goods they produce back to home. Our consumption levels still push up carbon levels. Even if we went without those goods, that would persuade Asians not to cut back on carbon emissions but to look for new markets. They want higher production and higher standards of living which, in the absence of major technological breakthroughs, will require greater use of fossil fuels and higher carbon emissions. And for Western countries to make the deeper emission cuts promised by their leaders, that would mean much higher electricity and other fuel prices and a much reduced standard of living, inflicted on Western voters by their own governments. Even then, in the case of Britain, it would have no impact on global emission levels because the U.K.’s share of them is so small.

As the Brits were making these painful but pointless sacrifices for the common good, China, India, and the former developing countries would be surging ahead and pushing up carbon emission levels ahead of themselves. Indeed, that’s exactly what they are doing and why carbon emissions are not falling but rising. Among other consequences, the shift of economic and financial power (and ultimately of military power too, as we’re starting to realize) from the West to Asia would be greatly accelerated by our own energy policy!

And what makes the position of Western governments still more uncomfortable, as Livermore points out, is (1) that their long-term strategy for getting to net-zero is neither economically nor politically plausible without carbon capture and storage technologies that don’t yet exist, and (2) that they will have to modify it by adopting energy solutions such as nuclear power that they and their peoples have rejected until now. Livermore’s picture of Western policy is like a maze with exits that close as soon as you approach them.

Just whistle a happy tune and it will all turn out right.

No sensible analyst thinks that the plans for net-zero carbon economies by 2050 (let alone 2030) can possibly succeed. They have no justification unless it’s an exercise in multicultural masochism and the politics of sainthood. The voters won’t tolerate them even if small groups of fanatical greens agitate violently to impose them or if the Eurocrats try to close down democratic access to energy policy, which Andrew Willshire recently hinted at in his Spectator piece on the EU’s new energy targets. And their enormous cost will become increasingly burdensome as the bills for so many other better causes fall due.

 

California, RIP

This is Los Angeles, under the rule of Democrat Eric Garcetti:

The virtue-signaling mask, the hectoring, peremptory tone, the plea at the end -- it's almost too perfect. But hey, California -- this is the one-party state you voted for. And the fate you devoutly wish upon the rest of the country, and the world.

Energy isn't scarce, but brains apparently are.

California Bows to Energy Reality

Last week I described the dilemma facing the California State Water Resources Control Board. It could demand adherence to the schedule for closing coastal gas plants which use sea water by the end of this year. If they did so, they would compound California's energy crisis; if not, the board would have to face the fact that renewable energy was insufficient for the State's needs and acknowledge that it needed these fossil fuel plants to continue operating or the state would face further blackouts.

Today it acknowledged reality, as the Los Angeles Times reports. The board allowed the plants to remain in operation for a few more years until --  they hope -- chimerical renewable energy can pick up the load:

State officials threw a lifeline to four fossil fueled power plants along the Southern California coast, deciding the facilities are still needed to provide reliable electricity even as they contribute to the climate crisis.

Tuesday’s vote by the State Water Resources Control Board to let the gas plants keep operating past the end of this year followed brief rolling blackouts over two evenings last month, as a heat wave caused air conditioning demand to soar, and California found itself short on electricity supplies.

Energy regulators are still investigating the causes of the power shortage. But they said allowing the coastal gas plants to stay open a few more years would help prevent more outages as California continues its transition to cleaner energy sources — an ironic solution given that climate change almost certainly exacerbated the recent heat wave.

Maybe it won't ever get hot again in California. Maybe there never will be smoke and smog blocking sunlight. Maybe storage capacity will be vastly increased. Maybe the gas plants will find an efficient , affordable way to discharge seawater without substantially affecting marine life. Maybe not.

Of course the notion that the warm sea water discharge from the plants seriously harms marine life may also be open to some  debate.I remember environmentalists claiming the caribou would die off if the Alaskan pipeline was built, but it turns out the caribou love it:

Thirty years later we can see the effects of the pipeline on the caribous. Walter Hickel, a former U.S. Secretary of the Interior and governor of Alaska, said the caribou has not only survived, but flourished. In 1977, as the Prudhoe region started delivering oil to America's southern 48 states, the Central Arctic caribou numbered 6,000:it has since grown to 27, 128.

It's hyperbolical predictions like this, that make me chary of the environmentalists claims, which always exaggerate the risks of real energy production while they ignore the risks related to "renewables,"such as the risk to birds from large solar arrays in the dessert and from windmills and the danger now of disposal of solar panels and windmills that are now out of commission or soon will be.

Let me know when they march on the auto companies to highlight the environmental risks in the creation and disposal of electric car batteries.

Conservative Energy, or Canada at the Crossroads

Now that scandal-prone Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s approval rating has taken something of a hit, placing the Conservatives at least potentially within striking distance of forming the next government, the question that confronts Canada is whether a Conservative administration could honestly face the shambles that the Liberal government has made of Canada’s most important resource industry, energy production. Would it rescue the energy sector, located primarily in the province of Alberta, from its dormant condition and, at the same time, render unnecessary the budding secessionist, or Wexit, movement in a justifiably resentful Alberta, thus saving Confederation? 

The platform of the newly-elected leader of the Party, Erin O’Toole, seems at first blush encouraging for the energy sector and Alberta’s future prospects, but O’Toole is a noted flip-flopper—not particularly good news for either energy or Alberta. As John O’Sullivan writes in The Pipeline:

O'Toole has been all over the place on the resource sector, initially calling for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies…before backing away from that pledge.

How O’Toole can claim in his platform that “Climate Change is a global problem, that requires a global solution,” while at the same time stating that “Domestic energy production – including oil and gas – is an important part of making our country more self-reliant and more resilient in future” remains a conundrum. Which is noise and which is information? In other respects, his platform seems promising, but the jury will be out for some time. 

A pumpjack in a canola field keeps the lights on.

Leslyn Lewis, whose strong finish in the leadership sweepstakes may earn her a shadow cabinet position, has a Master’s degree in Environmental Studies from York University in Toronto—one of the country’s notoriously woke institutions with little professional stature—where actual climate science yields to a highfalutin iteration of cultural studies. It is, according to its mission statement, “a community that respects and values insight, creativity, justice, and diversity,” but leaves real science at a discount. Although lauded for her environmental expertise, Lewis, as a graduate of Environmental Studies, is a mere dilettante in the field. She has taken many principled social and political stands, but regrettably understands neither energy nor economics.

With the exception of failed leadership candidate Derek Sloan, who is pro-life, a believer in family and parental rights, emphatically anti-socialist, and a muscular supporter of the energy industry—and who is in danger of being expelled from the Caucus on the ludicrous grounds of  “racism, misogyny, and bigotry”—the Conservative Party as a whole, to this point in time, has been more or less devoid of positive initiatives.

Indeed, it appears to have forgotten its founding principles, as adumbrated by Canada’s great conservative thinker George Grant in Lament for a Nation: love of country, the rule of law, civil responsibility, an enduring moral order, freedom of speech, economic prudence, and restraint upon the sweeping exercise of government authority. Unfortunately, conservatism and the Conservative Party in its current incarnation do not always speak the same language. Whether O'Toole represents an answer to the Party’s dilemma remains to be seen.  

Erin, go bragh.

Meanwhile, Alberta is still holding the short end of the stick. It is for the first time in living memory a have-not province. After sending $630 billion in transfer payments to Quebec and the other provinces since 1961, it has received a federal transfer supplement (or so-called equalization payment) of $22 billion for 2020, misnamed as a “net gain.” This is total nonsense.

To begin with, in the current economic context $22 billion is a mere sop; moreover, the supplement is borrowed money that will have to be repaid with interest as part of the $350 billion Canada is borrowing for this year.

Ottawa is not re-distributing domestic wealth to disadvantaged provinces, as envisioned in the national Equalization Formula, but transferring borrowed wealth. Things need to be called by their proper names. Alberta’s $22 billion does not qualify as a “net gain” but a net liability. Wexit does seem to be the only hope for Alberta, whether as a bargaining chip or a realized outcome, but the trouble is that there are too many Canadians and not enough Albertans in the province. 

A sane reclamation of the energy sector will be a difficult slog—not least because an acceptable conservative in leftist Canada, as geologist John Weissenberger writes in The Laurentian ‘Elite’: Canada’s Ruling Class, is “one who can be counted on to lose gracefully”—but Canada will reap the whirlwind in scuppering the energy industry and bankrupting Alberta in the process. Energy is gold and it resides mainly in Canada’s west. 

It will take a surge of conservative energy to restore the country to its former viability. If Erin O’Toole remains true to his commitment to revive domestic energy production, without equivocation, the future may not be entirely dismal. Perhaps we will see a strong pushback by patriotic organizations intent on restoring the energy sector. The threat of Wexit may help to awaken a sleepy Canadian electorate, who may also be galvanized by mounting unemployment, rocketing prices, extortionate taxes, social anarchy and a failing power grid. But by then it may well be too late.

Low-Energy Joe v. High-Carb Donald

In last week’s column I compared the energy-related policy agendas of the two men, Joe Biden and Erin O’Toole, who have been chosen to lead their parties, both in opposition, in the United States and Canada respectively. It was a task requiring at least some subtlety and fine distinctions, because both men claim to be pursuing the same goal of zero-carbon emissions by . . . well, by different dates but let’s not quibble yet.

O’Toole is the more cautious politician, and he has hedged this pledge about with more qualifications than does Biden, who in his embrace of Green policies is a purist missionary devoted to environmental virtue at any cost. Joe’s 47 years in politics haven’t exactly demonstrated this selfless devotion to principle, but it’s possible that, like President Truman, he’ll be a different man if he makes it to the White House. Anyway, let’s take the charitable view.

Besides, now that President Trump has accepted the GOP nomination for the 2020 November election, we can compare Biden with Trump directly which means we have at least to start by treating their energy-related policies at face value. Just to show that we’re not naïve, however, we’ll lay out a key reality test:

Economic growth means more energy. Growth needs more energy and it generates more energy. Sure, there are qualifications and off-sets which is why we always add the rider, “other things being equal.” And innovation can produce more growth without using more energy in those cases where an entrepreneur arranges the factors of production more efficiently. But the overall truth remains that growth and energy go together like a horse and carriage—with the horse providing the energy and the carriage representing the greater comfort and wealth of a economically prosperous society.

All aboard for the 21st century!

Most politicians try to confuse this truth and avoid the difficult problem it imposes on them. Since they want both to increase growth and to reduce the carbon emissions that fossil fuels generate, they have to avoid putting realistic prices on their “carbon net-zero” policies and to argue that as yet elusive technological innovations, such as carbon capture, will enable them to produce the same amounts of energy with lower carbon emissions.

Boris Johnson is a prime example of this approach since his energy policy is deep green and his signature economic policy (before the Covid-19 pandemic) was to borrow large sums on money at low interest rates in order to fuel a U.K. recovery via infrastructure spending. Nice work if you can get it, as Gershwin wrote, but there’s a car crash in the future of such a contradictory policy.

So it’s a pleasant surprise that both Trump and Biden do their best to be honest about their choice in the Growth versus Greenery debate. Trump favors a policy of encouraging economic growth above all else; so he accepts that it will require energy policies that exploit as many new ways of generating energy as possible. His motto might as well be “Let 'er rip!”

Biden makes the opposite choice. He wants to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels and towards “cleaner” energy as quickly as possible and he seems to accept that this will mean less economic growth overall even if it encourages jobs growth in specific areas. He doesn’t spell out that choice exactly, but the phrase “economic growth” is hard to find in his grand $700 billion economic program.

It’s low-energy Joe versus the high-carb Donald.

Of course, we already know what Trump is about because his first term was based on the policy choice of liberating energy production, de-regulating, and cutting taxes in order to hike growth. Just in case we’ve forgotten, however, his acceptance speech this week reminded the viewers of how he began four years ago:

Days after taking office . . . I approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, ended the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord, and secured, for the first time, American Energy Independence. We passed record-setting tax and regulation cuts, at a rate nobody had ever seen before. Within three short years, we built the strongest economy in the history of the world.

And the future?

Over the next four years, we will make America into the Manufacturing Superpower of the World. We will expand Opportunity Zones, bring home our medical supply chains, and we will end our reliance on China once and for all. We will continue to reduce taxes and regulations at levels not seen before. We will create 10 million jobs in the next 10 months.

All that’s clear enough. But what of the environmental costs of Trump’s booming pre-Covid US economy? These should have been visible in rising carbon emissions. But, remember, that depends on “other things being equal.” In reality carbon emissions in the industrialized world—the US, the EU, and Japan—fell in the last few years because these economies were switching to cleaner fuels. And they fell faster than most in the U.S. because the “fracking revolution” in America meant that cleaner natural gas was replacing dirtier coal.

For the future, Trump is banking not only on the continued spread of fracking and its benefits but also on the likelihood that a booming economy will produce innovations that to make both renewables and fossil fuels cleaner, cheaper, and safer.

Frack this.

It’s a bold gamble, but so far it’s paying off.

Now, Biden makes his choice almost as clear. If you type “Joe Biden and economic growth” into Google, what you get back is this: The Biden Plan To Build a Modern Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future. In other words, you get an economic program that subordinates the need for economic growth to other desirable things—notably, a switch to cleaner energy.

That’s very clear in his plan’s section on what he proposes for those communities who powered the industrial revolution over centuries. He means people working in the fossil fuels industry, and his policies include “securing the benefits coal miners and their families have earned, making an unprecedented investment in coal and power plant communities, and establishing a Task Force on Coal and Power Plant Communities," etc. In other words, coal miners and perhaps other fossil fuel producers will not be part of Biden’s sustainable and equitable clean energy economy, but their workers will be economically protected.

The key elements of the Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future include:

  1. Build a Modern Infrastructure
  2. Position the U.S. Auto Industry to Win the 21st Century with technology invented in America
  3. Achieve a Carbon Pollution-Free Power Sector by 2035
  4. Make Dramatic Investments in Energy Efficiency in Buildings, including Completing 4 Million Retrofits and Building 1.5 Million New Affordable Homes
  5. Pursue a Historic Investment in Clean Energy Innovation
  6. Advance Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation
  7. Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economy Opportunity

In fact, there’ll be a Biden program costing $2 trillion that will finance both the transition from dirty to clean energy production and a large variety of other infrastructure expenditures and industrial subsidies to, for instance, the auto industry. But all economic forecasts of the costs of switching to non-fossil fuels show that it will be extremely expensive. And though two trillion dollars will finance many good things, unless there’s economic growth overall—and the Biden plan doesn’t seem to promise that—there won’t be any net additional jobs. What there will be is “jobs growth” in the industries favored by the Washington planners granting the subsidies.

So instead of Trump's policy rooted in growth and abundant cheap energy, we have a Biden policy based on cleaner energy and state industrial investments financed by . . . redistribution and tax increases.

And a very substantial overall increase in taxation at that. The Democrat candidate has so far proposed the following:

US Budget Watch, synthesizing the estimates of several other economic consultancies, suggests that the plan would increase taxes for the top 1 percent of earners by 13 to 18 percent of after-tax income; indirectly hike taxes for most other groups by 0.2 to 0.6 percent; and moderately slow the pace of economic growth by discouraging work and capital accumulation.

Biden’s gamble here is a kind of mirror image of Trump’s: he proposes to increase taxes sharply and use the proceeds to re-direct investment from existing industries to "cleaner" and more sustainable ones, leaving them to achieve higher growth and technical breakthroughs in the future. A lot of bad decisions can occur that way.

Moreover, whereas overall growth and technical innovation will be financed from the proceeds of a growing economy in Trump’s plan, much of the state finance for growth and innovation in Biden’s industrial plan is earmarked for the expensive transition to carbon neutrality, and his tax plan will leave much less for private investors to spend on inventing the future. On top of which the psychological atmosphere of an economy powered by state control and direction of investment is unlikely to inspire the kind of entrepreneurial innovation we saw in the pre-Covid Trump economy.

What have I done?

How do things look, however, when we leave the Big Picture and go micro-economic? Consider how the contenders fare on fracking, nuclear power, and renewables.

Fracking is a clear advantage for Trump who has encouraged it with deregulation and who has been helped by its contribution to reducing carbon emissions. If fracking were a flag, Trump would be waving it. On the other hand, Biden has got himself twisted into knots on the issue, having earlier promised the illogical policy of “no new fracking” under pressure from the Green lobby. Unless Biden can embrace fracking fully, his overall energy policy becomes significantly more expensive. Plus, it’s a vital jobs issue in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Mexico on which hundreds of thousands of job depend.

Both Trump and Biden favor a revival of nuclear power, but Trump has an advantage there, too, because a year ago he asked his Energy Secretary to assemble a nuclear energy working group to find ways to expand the U.S. nuclear energy industry in an effort to compete globally (i.e., versus China).

Renewables should be an easy win for Biden because he’s been a champion of them (his plan depends heavily on their success), whereas Trump has been a loud skeptic about the industry. Such is the unfairness of life, however, that last year there was a surge of investment in the U.S. industry. Expect more “America First” rhetoric about renewables, therefore, from the president. That said, better news for renewables is better for Joe Biden, just not that much better.

On those micro-economic measures, therefore, Trump wins two out of three, and when they’re added to the macro-economic outlook for their plans, Trump expands his lead over Biden by a head.

Trump and Biden are both to be congratulated on giving us a generally clear idea of how they would govern economically and especially on energy policy. It’s not a K.O, for either.

But on the evidence so far, High Carb Donald has it over Low Energy Joe.

Smoking Out the Golden State's Green Utopia

Into the grandest of fantasies, reality intrudes. And so, it may be that Mother Nature in the form of annual forest fires, will force a key California agency to face reality and modify the overly ambitious and unrealistic renewable energy  fantasy that has characterized the state’s energy planning for  a decade.

On Sept. 1, the California State Water Board will have to decide whether the four natural gas plants that provide desperately needed power in energy-short California must be shuttered or whether to grant them an extension in the midst of devastating state electricity blackouts by amending the policy use of on coastal waters for power plant cooling. .

There are four natural gas plants along California’s coast, in areas much desirable to developers: Huntington Beach, Long Beach, Oxnard and Redondo Beach. Because they rely on seawater cooling they are deemed environmentally unsound. The Clean Water Act requires the location, design and construction, and capacity of cooling water intake structures reflect the best technology available for minimizing adverse environmental impact, but there are no applicable nationwide standards implementing this section for existing power plants.

That task in California fell to the California Water Board. It determined that these four plants had not been able to comply with the Board ruling in 2010 that they had to create power without use of seawater cooling, and they were unable to do so. The companies involved begged for extensions citing the drastic shortfall if they were decommissioned. All four were slated to close  early this decade. The largest, in Redondo Beach was to close in 2023 and has asked for an additional year. The other three plants have asked for three-year extensions. (In February of this year, the state began dismantling its sole nuclear power plant, San Onofre.)

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Up to now their efforts for further extensions seemed unlikely to succeed, but policy makers considered the impossibility of compliance in a time of no great consequence. California planned to have 60 percent of all its power needs produced by "green" sources by 2030  and 100 percent by 2045. Unfortunately these best laid plans were hindered by the inability to increase battery capacity to store solar power overnight when the sun doesn’t shine, or wind power when the wind doesn’t blow.

Oh, and then there’s the perfectly predictable problem that when it gets hot in California people need air conditioning, and when it gets dry in California there are massive forest fires which block the sunlight. This summer those perfectly predictable events occurred and the state is now suffering rolling blackouts -- certainly uncomfortable, if not dangerous, for many people and disruptive to industries already in trouble because of Gov. Gavin Newsom's one-party state  lockdowns and other environmental, tax, transportation, housing, immigration ,law enforcement,  employment, and assorted budgetary idiocies.

Newsom or Noisome?

So next Tuesday, the Control Board is faced with a dilemma: should they amend their regulations to permit the Huntington Beach, Long Beach and Oxnard plant to stay open for another three years and the Redondo plant for another additional year? Naturally, environmentalists are opposing the extensions.

City leaders where the plants are located also are opposing the extensions; Redondo Beach, for example, has already made plans for the site with a mixed-use developer and the mayor, Bill Brand has, according to reporters covering the story, staked “his legacy on getting the plant removed,” which may be delayed. Other plant owners have sweetened the pot with expensive concessions to sway local politicians. Also fighting any extension are citizens living near the plants because if the plants go and are replaced  with more desirable structures their property values will increase.

So the board is facing a lot of pressure to sacrifice electric reliability—in fact, cause even more disruption to the already failing electrical power supply, or satisfy the environmentalists, citizens and political interests in shutting down the plants on schedule. As their proposed final amendment states “the compliance dates in this Policy may require amendment based on, among other things, the need to maintain reliability of the electrical system.”

This may sound technical, and you may think that Californians deserve to sit in the dark for electing such bad policymakers, but perhaps the plaint of its citizens so well-documented by Victor Davis Hanson might make clear the human suffering caused by such ill-conceived proscriptions by the neo-feudalist democrats who run the state.

 We can expect power outages, because we don’t believe in releasing clean heat to make energy. Note that we do not mind people heating up in their 108-degree apartments without power. The planet is always more important than the non-privileged people who inhabit it.

For some reason, solar panels don’t create much power when the state is engulfed in dust, haze, and smoke.

Note the synergism of the California postmodern apocalypse: The hotter it gets, the more fires burn on ecological fuel and hillside natural “compost,” the smokier the air becomes, the less efficiently California’s solar pathway to the future generates, the more power outages ensue, the more real people are put in danger from either being incinerated by fire or suffocated by smoke or boiled inside without air conditioning.

Last week, I asked an elderly patient at the allergy clinic whether, in the 108-degree heat, he preferred to stay outside to breathe smoke and haze, or stay inside his uncooled apartment. He gave a novel answer: He didn’t care about the power outages since he couldn’t pay the exorbitant electricity charges anyway to turn on his air conditioner. And he added that, in California these days, you can’t tell whether mask wearers are fighting the virus, the smoke, or the police.

Davis says Newsom is worried about the state’s “Frankensteinian Green New Deal,” which the Governor earlier helped create: "We cannot sacrifice reliability as we move on,’” Newsom said.

Davis translates this as something like “we built so many subsidized solar and wind farms, and retired or canceled so many clean-burning natural-gas power plants, that we don’t have enough electricity for 40 million sweltering residents when the annual green napalm hits, who would have figured?”

So, how will the Board vote on Tuesday? Before the electric grid failed, probably they’d have denied the extension, but now their hand may be forced into being pragmatic and approving them. It doesn’t hurt that the governor has signaled his concern about even more electrical power disruptions.

Dance with the One That Brung Ya

As John O'Sullivan has mentioned, the Conservative Party of Canada has just selected a new leader: Durham, Ontario M. P. Erin O'Toole. O'Toole succeeded in edging past former Progressive Conservative leader Peter MacKay, as well as the more right-wing candidates, Leslyn Lewis and Derek Sloan.

O'Toole himself ran as essentially the "Buckley Rule" candidate, referring to the founder of National Review's mid-'60s proclamation that his magazine would support "the rightwardmost viable candidate" in a given election. Despite his not-particularly-conservative voting record, O'Toole leaned hard on his military service during the campaign to sell himself as "True Blue O'Toole," manly patriot, not like progressive pretty boy like MacKay (who was famously named 'Canada's Sexiest Male MP' by The Hill Times in the early oughts, a fact which should have disqualified him from the start), who can actually hold Justin Trudeau to account in opposition (unlike Lewis, who doesn't yet have a seat in parliament) but is moderate enough (unlike, according to some, Sloan) to win a general election.

There's a lot of balancing going on in that pitch, one that sticks close to the political consultants' standard playbook: right-wing enough to win out west, centrist enough to pick up a few more seats in Ontario and then form a government.

That is, of course, a tenuous balance. That playbook also advises conservatives to go all-in on green initiatives to win in the Greater Toronto Area, and offer Western Canada... well, nothing. Except not being Trudeau that is. But western Canadians have a fiercely independent streak, and they've acted on it before, breaking off from the Progressive Conservative Party in the '80s (in rebellion against a Tory leader who they felt was unresponsive to their interests) to form the Reform Party, which supplanted the the P. C. Party within five years.

The "unite the right" movement of the early 2000s healed that divide and led to the creation of the modern Conservative Party, but it would be foolish for O'Toole to assume that's the end of the story. Consequently, O'Toole made it a point to launch his leadership campaign in Calgary, and he's racked up western endorsements, including from Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who proclaimed that O'Toole is "committed to a fair deal for the West and a strong future for our resource industries."

Only time will tell whether that is an accurate assessment. O'Toole has been all over the place on the resource sector, initially calling for an end to fossil-fuel subsidies -- a questionable description of industry-specific tax deductions for one of the largest contributors to Canada's economy, especially since the so-called renewable energy industry against which it is competing wouldn't exist without massive government subsidies -- before backing away from that pledge. He's also advocated repealing the Liberal's carbon tax, which he pledged to replace with "a national industrial regulatory and pricing regime," essentially a carbon tax by another name.

Alberta's support was definitive in O'Toole's beating out MacKay, and as much as he's likely being told to break left right now to appeal to the Toronto suburbs, he should heed the advice of a fellow Ontarian, and "dance with the one that brought" him. Because Alberta's economy has been hit harder by Covid-19 and the lockdowns than any other, and western discontentment have the potential to tear the party and the country apart.