Still the Only Thing We Have to Fear

On March 4, 1933 newly elected President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt made this famous declaration during his inaugural address: “…let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself; nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror.” FDR had his faults, as all leaders do, but uttering those words to a nation terrified by hopelessness and dread was a shining moment in his career.

On February 20, 2023 The Pipeline's editor Michael Walsh wrote this: “…democracy does not "die in darkness." It dies in chaos, brought on by fear, engendered by uncertainty and birthed of instability…” While I’m not willing to suggest that Walsh's eloquence should move him to seek elected office, or to be regularly photographed grinning with a fancy cigarette holder clenched in his teeth, I do believe that his declaration is every bit as profound as Roosevelt’s was ninety years prior.

In 1933 Americans were terrified by enormous economic upheaval few citizens understood. The disaster seemed unsolvable to most. In 2023 Americans are terrified by rapid advances in technologies and the sciences that – to many – seem to create problems as equally dangerous and apparently unsolvable as the Great Depression did in 1933.

FDR: Fear itself.

This writer is not an expert on all technologies and all of science. We’ve advanced way to far for anyone to lay claim to being a modern-day Da Vinci. That said, this writer is an expert on the complex intersection of chemistry, environmental protection, risk evaluation, and public policy. In that world Walsh’s description holds true: all rational parts of that equation are dying in chaos, brought on by fear, engendered by uncertainty, and birthed of instability. Moreover, I firmly believe that is the case in many, likely most, other areas of scientific discipline when they intersect with public policy or popular trends. In this era of mass, instantaneous communication, nothing is guaranteed to attract more attention than communicating fear.

Consider how many people routinely purchase indoor “air purifiers” that are designed to remove air contaminants from indoor air by generating the most widely regulated air pollutant in America: ozone. Ozone is basically oxygen on steroids; three oxygen atoms bonded together rather than the usual two. The extra atom gives ozone some unique properties, among which is its ability to react with a variety of air contaminants and remove them from the air we breathe. So far so good, except for the fact that ozone is itself a highly regulated air contaminant. Reducing ozone in the air we breathe has been the focus of EPA and environmental group efforts for over fifty years.

The EPA has reduced the National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone three times since the original Clean Air Act was promulgated. Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama all reduced the ozone standard, largely in response to environmental group claims that the preceding standard was not sufficiently protective of human health. There are mountains of regulations designed to reduced ozone formation. Vehicles have catalytic convertors largely to reduce ozone formation. If you live in an urban area, you pay for low vapor pressure gasoline in the summer months to reduce ozone formation. The push to reduce ozone formation affects the price we pay for electricity, natural gas, consumer goods, and a host of other areas.

Liberals have toyed with the ludicrous idea of banning natural gas-fired appliances, but none seems moved to grab this incredibly low-hanging fruit: Americans are routinely purchasing air-pollution generators in the name of improving air quality! It’s the sort of exploitation of fear and ignorance that would have amazed even Orwell.

Beware the O-Zone.

Ozone-generating air purifiers are just one example of the ignorance and hypocrisy that infects issues involving science and technology. Fire up your favorite search engine and try out the following queries: “manganese pollution,” “lead toxicity,” and “poly-aromatic hydrocarbons cancer risk.” You’ll find some dry, technically-accurate but boring as hell to read discussions involving those keywords published by government agencies and academics, and you’ll also find articles in which “experts” warn readers about the extreme danger associated with exposure to those compounds.

But how significant are these supposed dangers? Let’s start with manganese. Do you or a loved one take a multi-vitamin on a regular basis? Take a look at the ingredient list. Chances are you’ll find manganese listed among the minerals included.

This may give you pause. There are plenty of stories out there that describe manganese as a dangerous neuro-toxin. There are plenty of community leaders, political types, and environmental activists wringing their hands about the fate of the poor, innocent children exposed to this poison. So what the heck is it doing in your vitamins?

The answer is that manganese is an important and necessary micro-nutrient. Your body doesn’t need a lot of it, but it needs some of it. Chemicals are neither inherently toxic or non-toxic. The dose makes the poison, so it’s the amount one is exposed to and the route of exposure that ultimately matter. Good luck finding any member of the modern intelligentsia who understands, much less can explain, that simple fact.

Most everyone is aware of the dangers associated with ingesting lead. Less well known is that virtually every kitchen in the United States contains bowls and utensils that contain lead. For lead is a minor, but measurable, component of many grades of stainless steel—and whose kitchen doesn’t have a stainless item in it?

Does the amount of lead contained in stainless steel or how it is held within the lattice structure of the metal present any concerns about lead exposure? Not really, but don’t expect the fear-mongers to figure that out, even if they cared to do so.

Safety first.

And Poly Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAH)? There’s plenty of literature talking about how these potentially toxic and/or carcinogenic compounds can be formed during the combustion of coal, oil or natural gas. True, so far as that goes, but in very tiny amounts that will expose the average citizen to concentrations so low they are hardly of concern.

On the other hand, the smoke from your campfire, the cloud coming from your charcoal grill and any smoked food you consume will contain much more PAH compounds than anything a power plant will expose you to. That doesn’t keep me from enjoying smoked and barbecue foods, but then I’m not a hypocrite.

If you’re reading this piece, most experts agree that you are probably alive. Other experts tell us that sometime in the future you will cease to be alive. In between then and now, do yourself a favor: enjoy life. One of the ways you can enjoy it best is by tuning out the sad, ignorant masters of exploitation and propaganda who dream up ways to try to control your behavior by exploiting your natural tendency to exercise extreme caution when facing fear itself.

South Africa: State of Collapse

South Africa is in the midst of a political crisis, and energy shortages are at the heart of it. You'll be forgiven for not having heard—western media has preferred to focus on the war in Ukraine and everything else has fallen through the cracks. Here's a rare report on the matter, from Britain's The Spectator:

Blackouts of up to ten hours a day are bringing businesses to a halt, making teaching harder and turning traffic lights dark. Food is rotting in warm fridges. There were more than 200 blackouts last year and they have continued every day so far in 2023.... The cause is a debt-ridden and run-down fleet of power stations, which have been starved of repairs and regularly break down. Electricity supplies have to be switched off to stop the grid collapsing....

The power cuts are affecting every sector. Erratic supply is hitting the country’s mining giants, its major exporters. Small grocers and supermarkets are shutting shop. ShopRite, Africa’s biggest grocer, said in its financial results that it had to spend an extra £26 million on diesel in the final half of last year to run supermarket generators during power cuts. The country’s sugar industry estimates it will lose £33 million this year. Unemployment is running at around a third.

And if you are wondering what this means for regular South Africans, read this lengthy Twitter thread. A few excerpts:

How did this happen? It is a complex story, but it has a few key themes running through it. First of all, corruption at the state-run energy utility Eskom. Farmer details how former president Jacob Zuma spent years helping his cronies embezzle money from Eskom. But the corruption didn't end when Zuma left office. When Eskom brought in a new CEO, André de Ruyter, to reform the organization, he found that it was rife with criminality. According to de Ruyter, "Machinery has been deliberately sabotaged so that gangs can benefit from maintenance contracts; good coal is stolen and sold off, to be replaced with poor-quality fuel or even rocks." And when he tried to get to the bottom of it, someone slipped cyanide into his coffee. De Ruyter recovered, but he ultimately resigned in frustration, and has decided to leave the country. He told The American Conservative's Helen Andrews, “I think it will be good for my health.”

Hard times, indeed...

Second, incompetence. Andrews' report explores how the centrality of affirmative action polices -- intended to combat inequality in a nation which spent decades under a notorious apartheid regime -- has left the company unable to deal with this kind of crisis.

In 1995, [Eskom's] senior management was mandated to go from 70 percent white to 50 percent black by 1999 and 75 percent black by 2005. In 2008, Eskom’s head of human resources announced, “Over the next five years...Eskom has to appoint two new staff every day, and it is adamant that one of them will be a black woman.”

Well it has now been 15 years, and the company is $26 billion in debt and the power grid is on the verge of collapse. Aptitude-based hiring does have its advantages.

And, of course, there is the environmentalist angle. South Africa is known for its coal mining, something that environmentalists and their political lapdogs have been complaining about for years. In order to stay in the good graces of their western counterparts, South Africa's government—lead by the corrupt African National Congress party of Nelson Mandela since 1994—has signed onto increasingly onerous environmental regulations over the last several years. Their object is the eventual phase-out of coal. What will it be replaced with? There have been some vague gestures at renewable energy, but the real answer is nothing. They haven't thought that far ahead.

Which is to say, western elites have fomented this crisis. Moreover, a lot of this should remind you of their vision for America. Skyrocketing energy prices, inflation, crime rates, equality-of-outcome-ordered affirmative action, pie-in-the-sky energy policies -- sounds like a Leftist paradise. Except none of them would want to live there.

Down Under, Mindless Fantasies of Net-Zero

We have a government scheme in Australia which I’ve mentioned before. Its objective is to ensure the lights don’t go out during the chimeric transition to a bountiful job-rich renewable-energy future. It’s called the capacity mechanism. I suspect most western jurisdictions have one, in one form or another. In Australia it came under the purview of the Energy Security Board. Alas, the ESB is effectively no more; it’s been absorbed by the ever-expanding renewal-energy hegemony (akin to The Blob); namely, in this instance, by the Australian Energy Market Commission, the Australian Energy Regulator and the Australian Energy Market Operator. We got a million of 'em.

The ESB made the mistake of proposing the use of gas and coal to “firm” the supply of electricity during the transitional period and was duly given a damn good thrashing for its trouble. So now the plan, so far as I can work out, is to firm unreliable renewables with unreliable renewables, plus a few batteries thrown into the mix. Don’t dare say it won’t work. They visualize therefore they actualize.

The transition itself, which I’ll come to, via a different government scheme, this time mysteriously called the safeguard mechanism, is still no more than a gleam in the eyes of renewable-energy aficionados. To illustrate: the latest official figures, for the year 2020-21, show that coal, oil, and gas accounted for 92 percent of Australia’s energy consumption. Energy badged as "renewables" accounted for only 8 percent; and of that wind and solar was only 45 percent, or 3.6 percent of the overall total. That’s where we’re at after three decades and more of huffing and puffing and spending billions of dollars on subsidies and tax breaks. And yet, mindless fantasies of net-zero persist unabated among the zealots who populate governments and the plethora of assorted climate-change bodies.

Walter Mitty, stand aside.

Surely the world is doing better than Australia in saving the planet? I consulted the BP Statistical Review of World Energy, to find that 92.6 percent of energy consumption came from coal, oil, gas, nuclear, and hydro in North America in 2021, and 93.3 percent in the world as a whole. Of the rest, including biomass and ethanol, wind, and sun form only a fraction. Consolingly, Australia is not letting the side down.

But we must do better, so says Chris Bowen, "climate change" minister in the federal government. Bowen is on the job, single-mindedly; or, more aptly, simple-mindedly. Hence the so-called safeguard mechanism; named, I can only assume, to keep the planet safe from the one percent of world emissions being spewed out recklessly by Australian industry.

To give effect to the mechanism, legislation is afoot to make the 215 largest emitters of CO2 reduce their emissions by 4.9 percent per year from July this year until (end) 2030. Why 4.9 percent? Well, compounded, it comes to 43 percent after seven and a half years, in line with the government's goal of reducing emissions overall by 43 percent. Is that scientific enough for ya? Those who better this hurdle will be allowed to sell carbon credits to their recalcitrant fellows, who will also be allowed to buy carbon credits (domestic and some selected foreign credits) on the open market to assuage their polluting excesses.

The Greens (Party) don’t like the scheme. Giving miners the option of paying to pollute doesn’t row their boat. But, transactional to their bootheels, they’ve offered their votes in the Senate—required if the legislation is to pass—with the proviso that all new coal and gas projects are prohibited by law. I am not sure why they’re bothering to seek de jure prohibition when, de facto, the job is pretty well done. A combination of state government bans, onerous federal and state environmental hurdles, green and indigenous lawfare are already preventing any new projects from going ahead. It can only get worse as Australia’s judiciary inevitably becomes still Woker. Capital will flee.

Take a recent court case in which Australia’s largest gas producer, Santos, lost its ability to restart drilling at a multi-billion-dollar gas project off the Tiwi Islands, 265 kilometres northwest of Darwin. Santos thought it had jumped every environmental hurdle, consulted every indigenous group with a legitimate interest. It missed someone. Tiwi Islander Dennis Tipakalippa launched legal action, claiming successfully that he was not consulted over the company's plans and should have been. Apparently, his rights had been trampled on.

Rights to the sea country [in question] were based upon longstanding spiritual connections as well as traditional hunting and gathering activities in which they and their ancestors have engaged.

Spiritual connections you see. And how could Mr Tipakalippa afford to take legal action to protect his spiritual connections? Look no further than the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO); a bunch of lawyers on a well-financed mission to stymie fossil-fuel developments. If you look hard enough, and the green-left are indefatigable in their oversight, there is not one patch of Australian land for which an indigenous person can’t be found to have a spiritual connection. It’s game over, short of a sufficiently faltering grid bringing about a return to sanity. Cling on to that last best chance.

Clingers of the world, unite!

Back to the safeguard mechanism. It covers only 28 percent of Australia’s emissions. It will have a marginal effect, if any measurable effect at all. It will impose further costs and regulatory burdens on many of the businesses and industries which underpin Australia’s prosperity, and thereby lessen their international competitiveness. As to that, the government has engaged in silly speculative talk about placing tariffs on imported products which compete with products hit by the safeguard mechanism, which have not been similarly hobbled in their home country. The mind boggles as complication is heaped on complication is heaped on cluelessness. And all for very little to nought.

Be done with it. Close Australia down. Save the world. Shucks, forgot. China emits more greenhouse gases in 16 days than Australia does in a year. Never mind. As the late and great Leonard Cohen might have put it on behalf of alarmists: First we take Sydney, then we take Shanghai.

Too Woke for Her Own Good

The fall of Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister in the U.K.’s system of “devolved” government, after an unbroken succession of election victories since 2007, is a highly consequential one. It postpones the Scottish National Party’s (and her) driving purpose of independence for Scotland, maybe indefinitely. Yet at the same time it’s an oddly anti-climactic event too.

One moment Sturgeon was the dominant figure in Scottish politics, the noisy center of a storm of massive scandals, controversies, and looming battles; the next moment, hey presto, she had gone, retired because of "exhaustion," and the expected grand fireworks display of fizzing crises fizzled out without even a bang.

This sense of anti-climax is explained in part by the fact that under the leadership of Sturgeon and her patron and predecessor, Alex Salmond, who first took the S.N.P. into office as First Minister in 2007, Scottish politics has been a high-voltage, high-energy activity, a crusade to break up the U.K. and to restore the Scottish sovereignty lost at the start of the modern age.

Net: Zero.

Not only that, but Scottish nationalism differed from most other separatist movements in Europe by virtue of being very left-wing. That leftist profile protected the S.N.P. from the usual slurs and suspicions (racism, etc.) directed at other nationalisms, made it attractive to “liberal” opinion in the metropolitan media in London, and helped it to replace the Scottish Labour Party as the main opponent of Tory governments at Westminster.

Salmond and Sturgeon, both energetic campaigners, formed a political partnership that, eight years after the Scottish Parliament was born, enabled their party to enter a series of minority, majority, and coalition governments lasting from 2007 to the present day.

That partisan identity smoothed over several problems that otherwise might have crippled the S.N.P. As a nationalist party, it naturally wanted to break away from the control of the Westminster parliament; as a left-wing party, however, it also wanted to remain in the anti-nationalist European Union. That led directly to another difficulty: the E.U. was intent on centralizing power in the Brussels institutions while the Westminster Parliament was willing to cede powers to the Scottish Parliament. Going from Westminster to Brussels would have been jumping from the frying pan into the fire. It’s hard to see how an independent Scotland within the E.U. would have easily accepted the gradual loss of its bright new sovereignty to the creeping ambitions of Brussels—see Hungary and Poland passim.

Even while Britain was in the E.U., the financial and economic risks for Scotland of leaving the U.K. were formidable. They couldn't be explained away, and largely account for why the S.N.P. lost the 2014 referendum on independence by 55 to 45 percent. But when the entire U.K. voted to leave the E.U. only a year later, the S.N.P.’s problems became even more severe. Scotland was now outside the E.U.—against its will, argued the Scot-Nats, because most Scots had voted Remain, but outside nonetheless. Moreover, the E.U. was not prepared to let Scotland remain (or re-enter) when the U.K. left because other E.U. member-states like Spain had separatist provinces they wished to discourage by making Scotland an example of the folly of separatism. An independent Scotland would be out in the cold, without the protection of any financial sugar-daddy, let alone one as indulgent as London.

Sturgeon at this point might have decided to postpone her ambitions for an independent Scotland, concentrate on establishing a record of successful government for her party, seek to widen the areas of independent Scottish authority within the devolution settlement, and wait for better days. Instead, she decided on two other very different political strategies. First, she would maneuver to hold a second referendum on independence as soon as possible even if she had to do so unconstitutionally, maybe illegally, and against the sovereign authority of the U.K. Parliament. Second, she would widen the differences between the political cultures of Scotland and the rest of the U.K., above all the political culture of England (which in Scottish mythology is irredeemably Tory).

The first strategy went nowhere. It forced her to claim that she could treat the next U.K. general election as a de facto referendum on independence even though the S.N.P. will struggle to gain the substantial victory that alone would give even a semblance of legitimacy to her argument. Recently, she has been visibly flailing on that front. In short, she subordinated the good government of Scotland to her obsession with forcing through an independence referendum only nine years after she lost the first “once-in-a-generation” referendum.

Lady Macbeth got tired, too.

As for her second strategy—doubling down on Scotland’s leftism—that worked well until recently but it has now run into an unforeseen difficulty. As in most Anglosphere nations, the Left in Scotland has gone Woke, and the more it’s moved in that direction, the more it has alienated ordinary people. A younger and shrewder Sturgeon would have noticed this trend and adapted to it. Whether from philosophical conviction, mistaken electoral calculations, or the tiredness she admitted when resigning, Sturgeon doubled down on Wokeness in the following decisions on policy and legislation:

  1. In 2021 her government forced through a "Hate Crimes and Public Order" bill against widespread public opposition. It greatly expanded the definition of hate crimes, even criminalizing statements made in the home around a dinner table.
  2. She used the authority of government to conduct a vendetta against her former patron and ally, Salmond, who had left the S.N.P. and started a rival nationalist party.
  3. Only a fortnight before she exited the scene, Sturgeon released the latest instalment of her energy-cum-environmental policy. It doubled down—apparently her specialty when it comes to unforced errors—on the U.K. drive to Net-Zero on the grounds that since we have hugely increased the price of energy by restricting oil-and-gas production, it will be cheaper to use other forms of energy (however expensive they may then be). Or in her own words, the strategy “shows that as we reduce Scotland’s dependence on oil and gas – both as generators and consumers – there is a huge environmental and economic opportunity to be seized.” To be fair to Sturgeon, that is the logic of the international community. Net-Zero is unsustainable, but sadly that light will only go on when the lights go out.
  4. Against rare opposition within the S.N.P., her government forced legislation through Parliament that enabled people to determine their "gender identity" without medical or official approval while still being binding on others, including institutions such as prisons. When a biologically male rapist "transitioned" to female, public outrage forced Sturgeon to accept that “the rapist” should not be placed in a woman’s prison even if that violated the semi-official mantra that “transwomen are woman.” Unusually for her, she floundered hopelessly in trying to justify or even explain her government’s policy which is rapidly being abandoned even as it still remains law in theory.

In the last few weeks, Sturgeon’s errors were thundering down the track towards her. Wisely, she stepped aside into the shadows—the first political leader to lose power because she argued that rapists can be women and that shortages cause prices to fall.

The Gensler SEC Two-Step

You may wonder with the Security and Exchange Commission (SEC) having failed to catch the most obvious and significant fraudsters—Madoff and, allegedly, FTX—how well it is performing the duties for which it was created. If you harbor any such concerns, its proposal last year –with over 100 footnotes—to require disclosure of "climate change" effects on companies’ business operations will not diminish the perception that it has gone off the rails.

The commission is currently reported to be backstroking away from this misbegotten idea. But should scrap the notion entirely as unworkable and get back to its main job for which it was created: protecting investors and the economy from fraud and manipulation of the sort that led to the Great Depression. Some background:

All publicly listed U.S. companies must file financial disclosure statements with the SEC. The purpose of an SEC disclosure statement is to provide useful information for investors about the profitability of their investments. Normally, companies are required to disclose things like debt and litigation vulnerabilities, expenses, liquidity and capital resources. Filings are reviewed by a branch of the agency, the Division of Corporate Finance:

 In its filing reviews, the Division concentrates its resources on critical disclosures that appear to conflict with Commission rules or applicable accounting standards and on disclosure that appears to be materially deficient in explanation or clarity. The Division does not evaluate the merits of any transaction or determine whether an investment is appropriate for any investor. The Division’s review process is not a guarantee that the disclosure is complete and accurate — responsibility for complete and accurate disclosure lies with the company and others involved in the preparation of a company’s filings.

We're all doomed, as usual.

While the SEC lacks the power to criminally deal with false disclosure statements there are penalties for inaccurate disclosures. Among them is the power to impose substantial fines for such conduct, the penalties assessed depend on whether the misstatements were the result of negligence, fraud or failure to exercise due diligence in the issuance. It does have the power to investigate and refer cases of suspected false disclosure filings to the Department of Justice for prosecution.

SEC chairman Gary Gensler made climate-change rules a priority. Perhaps the SEC was just trying to increase jobs for professionals as it did when the government required environmental impact statements: such nonsense would also spawn a new industry of navel gazers. Unlike the rest of the normal disclosure reports, under the proposed regulations, that portion of the disclosure statement relating to the impact of climate change need not be attested to by certified accountants. Ergo, a new market for feather merchants. (And probably for law firms who will claim client losses because of inadequate disclosures.)

Here is the summary of the original proposal requiring, inter alia, disclosure of the companies’ greenhouse gas output. As the Wall Street Journal notes, the rules would be extremely burdensome:

The proposed reporting rules would require public companies to include a raft of climate data in their audited financial statements. The mandated disclosures cover everything from costs caused by wildfires to the loss of a sales contract because of climate regulations, such as a cap on carbon emissions.

Companies would have to analyze climate-related costs and risks for each line item of their financial statements, such as revenue, inventories or intangible assets. Any climate costs that are 1 percent or more of each line item total would have to be reported.

As soon as the proposal was made, companies affected noted the impossibility of the task Gensler’s crew would impose on them, in particular, reporting Scope 3 emissions, that is emissions by their suppliers and consumers. "Scope 3" emissions an outgrowth of "stakeholder" capitalism, i.e. not capitalism at all, but a lawyer's dream come true: an infinite supply of potential plaintiffs.

Scope 3 emissions are likely to be the largest share of your emissions—typically 80–90 percent. But what makes up scope 3? Essentially, all the emissions indirectly generated by a business: business travel, employee commutes, waste, purchased goods and services, the goods you produce, end-of-life disposal of your products, transportation, distribution, and more.

Take, for example, a clothing brand. Its scope 3 emissions come from an array of places—vehicles that transport clothing to retailers, energy used in manufacturing (if at facilities not owned by the company, otherwise, these would be scope 1), energy used to grow raw material, energy used by consumers to wash and dry the clothing, and the greenhouse gas generated as the materials decay in a landfill, the list goes on.

Given all that, you can see why scope 3 emissions could make your head spin, especially if you want to responsibly cut or offset your emissions. If it feels overwhelming, pause and take a deep breath. Calculating—and then cutting—your scope 3 emissions is a process that you can tackle step-by-step.

In other words, the only way to fully comply with this latest fantasy is for your company to go out of business. Voila! No more "Scope 3" emissions!

They're everywhere!

Apple Inc. says it produced 47,430 tons of greenhouse gases in a recent year. The production of its computers and phones by its suppliers, plus their transportation and use by customers, generated an estimated 22 million tons. ExxonMobil Corp. reported that it simply could not estimate emissions from transporting its oil and gas “due to lack of third-party data” and Walmart indicated it would just have to estimate the Scope 3 emissions by “scaling up emissions reported by the fraction of suppliers making disclosures.” To suggest that requiring emissions figures from all a company’s suppliers and consumers would be “burdensome” is to grossly understate the case. In any event, such a wide-reaching search for carbon emissions most certainly seems beyond the SEC’s authority.

It’s certain that unless these rules are substantially scaled back the SEC will face substantial legal challenges, as companies contend that they’d be forced to undertake “extremely difficult, if not impossible” analyses. Even the premiere virtue-signaling asset-managing firm BlackRock complained that disclosures would be “highly inaccurate and force unduly burdensome costs” of reporting companies.

We’ll see how Gensler's fantastical SEC adventure goes. In the meantime, at least one company is pulling away from this climate change-carbon reduction parade. BP announced this week that it was backing off from its earlier announced plans to convert to low or non-carbon energy. Investors cheered the decision and the stock has a significant price rise. How about that?

Animal, Vegetable, or Whatever

With the Climate Cult demanding we stop eating grazing animals, transitioning ourselves to fake meat (and bugs) instead of real beef, in the name of preventing the climate from getting a degree or three warmer, causing us all to die in a few years, let’s discuss tradeoffs between digesting animal protein and vegetable matter.

Those who have spent much time around horses and cows know that they almost never stop eating if grass is within reach. A horse walking across a meadow will reach out to bite off a mouthful of grass if the rider allows it. Cows will grab mouthfuls of grass and go lie down in the shade under a tree to chew their cud, moving it from one stomach to another for hours.  Until they get up and wander off to fill their bellies again with more grass.

Grazing animals eat so much grass because vegetable matter has very little protein. Protein is what makes mammal muscle. It’s why Genghis Khan hunted and herded ruminants along his travels, and why his men defeated the local vegetarians wherever they went; they never lacked for milk or meat – animal protein – that made them stronger and gave them more endurance than those lacking in animal protein. In pre-mechanical combat, individual strength was all.

Does he look like a vegan to you?

It surprises, in the 21st Century, particularly among the Greens demanding solar power, that so many remain unaware that ruminants are solar energy storage systems. Solar power causes plant matter to grow; as plants grow, they turn that solar energy into matter. Grazers eat that solar energy converted to and stored as plant matter, processing it into muscle they then store and use to move around to live, work for us, make more ruminants, and to fertilize the ground wherever they go, nurturing more grass which, powered by sunlight, grows tall, storing more solar energy for another ruminant to store and make use of.

Humans consume this stored solar energy when eating beef, venison, rabbit, etc., allowing us to move, think, live, create. Animal manure and composted animal carcasses provide fertile soil to begin the cycle again as the sun enables new vegetable matter to grow and store yet more solar energy. In essence, animals we raise for food are organic solar batteries storing energy from the sun that we eventually use to grow, to live our lives, invent, explore, create, and procreate.

Grazing animals have digestion systems evolved and specialized to digest plant matter and turn it into useful protein. Humans, as omnivores, have different digestive systems, systems less-specialized for digesting plants. We process plant matter less efficiently than do ruminants simply because we also digest and process animal protein. The more specialized a digestive system, the more efficiently the plant matter consumed as food – stored solar energy – is turned into useful muscle, bone, skin, organs, etc. The less specialized, the less efficient.

Eating vegetable matter has certain physiological consequences. Again, if you’ve been around horses or cows, or read all the “bad” things about bovine burps and farts, you know that processing vegetable matter produces methane. If, for health reasons, you have altered your diet to consume more vegetables and fruits, you understand these consequences. If you’ve spent much indoor-time with vegetarians or their more aromatic cousins, vegans, none of this is news. We are not evolved to consume only plants.

Hilarious, right?

Scientists are working on altering feed to cause cows to create less methane, which is a good thing. But that’s a long process just beginning, and runs counter to the globalists demanding we eat fake, plant-based meat, or no meat at all to stop cows from destroying our world. But is our switching to vegetable matter really changing anything for the better?

Americans consume about 70 percent of their approximately 2,500 calories per day from plant matter, and 30 percent from animal matter. If we transitioned from 70 percent to 100 percent plant matter, an increase of 43 percent, it is logical to assume our methane output also would increase by 43 percent. Moving to a plant-based/fake meat diet would increase the human-expelled methane output of the United States from 332,000,000, to over 480,000,000 liters per day.

Removing the beef industry in America also would mean putting over a million Americans out of jobs and altering our health in unknown ways of unknown magnitude as we all stop digesting the food our digestive systems have evolved to digest, switching to digestive requirements for which we have not evolved.

Mr. Olympia he ain't.

Activities involving strength and endurance – from sports to military service to jogging or walking to stay fit – would decrease, further reducing the health of Americans, as well as our entertainment opportunities and ability to defend ourselves or our allies. To say nothing of the impact on industries as diverse as shoes, coats, and car seats, industries consuming leather and producing leather goods.

Does the road to reducing methane really run through rejection of animal protein?

When the Lights Go Out in Karachi

This Associated Press story about a recent nationwide blackout in Pakistan should be added to the extremely long brief against centrally planned energy schemes. It explains that, to save money amidst the country's dire economic situation -- which has seen skyrocketing government debt and inflation as well as a freefalling currency valuation -- the Pakistani government decided to cut power throughout the nation of more than 220 million people "during low usage hours overnight to conserve fuel." But energy grids aren't designed to be flipped on and off like light switches, and so, come morning, when they attempted to "turn the systems back on, a 'fluctuation in voltage' was observed, which 'forced engineers to shut down the power grid' stations one by one."

Of course it did. And the result? According to the New York Times:

The power breakdown caused a major disruption in daily activity. Internet and mobile phone services blinkered offline in intermittent outages across the country.... “There was complete chaos in the hospital because of the power outage,” said Akram Shah, a 45-year-old textile worker who was accompanying his sick mother at the state-run Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in Karachi.... People in several cities complained that they were facing water shortages as water pumps, which run on electricity, were not working.... Many shopkeepers used small generators to keep their lights on. But some people complained that they could not withdraw money from A.T.M.s because they had stopped working.

Within 15 hours all of the major cities had power again, and many of the smaller ones as well. Extra police were dispatched to public areas to prevent an outbreak of crime, though if their was any looting it wasn't mentioned in the reports. Still, this was a serious blackout and the disruptions it caused it will further strain the economy of a nation which is already in severe economic distress. Economies require power to thrive, and as bad as things must look on the inside for the Pakistani government to have made this call, it was ultimately counter-productive and will make their bad situation worse.

'Conservation' Programs No Substitute for More Energy  

It astonishes me that the basics of human nature and the law of supply and demand seem to have escaped the ken of the West’s big thinkers—the politicians, think tanks, private do-good operators and media, but every now and then someone has to point these things out to them. 

 When it comes to energy conservation—the hat trick the left pulls to avoid facing the inability of renewable sources of energy to meet demonstrated and projected needs—every new brainstorm gets glowing endorsements in the press. When the stated objectives fail we rarely hear much of them. (It’s of a piece with the media magnifying the damage to the environment while ignoring for the most part the chopping of wild birds by windmills and the frying of them by solar fields, or the human and environmental tolls of lithium mining. ) 

Sudden death in the skies, to save the planet.

I remember in 2006 arguing that a government plan to have utility companies retrofit for free homes in order to make them more energy efficient would not result in substantial reductions in electric demand or free up energy for other users. The point to me seemed obvious. When the cost of home heating is high, people would be more conscious of turning off lights and appliances when not in use. But if—as this plan provided in effect—homeowners would not after retrofitting pay more for increased energy use, they might prefer a cozier, warmer house or a brighter one or even add on a lovely heated porch.

Such views were of course cast aside by the big thinkers and here and abroad, and governments got involved in subsidizing retrofitting for conservation. President Obama launched home energy retrofit programs (the Home Energy score pilot program in 2010) to assess homes and offer cost-effective recommendations and low-cost loans up to $25,000 would be made available for “energy-saving improvements.” 

In 2016 the domestic home energy conservation program became even more ambitious when the administration announced a Clean Energy Savings for All Americans program. The largest part of the program was the installation of solar and wind “to create a more inclusive workforce,” the latter, of course, padding the treasuries of non-government organizations, ostensibly to take people off the streets to train and employ them to install insulation, new windows, doors and solar equipment in existing homes (a project which to my mind seriously underestimates the skills in such construction work and overestimates the interest in such arduous work by the unemployed). 

How this has fared I am unaware, but a similar program in Great Britain seems to have validated my earlier concerns about the efficacy of such projects. The far-left newspaper, The Guardian recently described a University of Cambridge report on the long-term effect of attic and wall insulation, and the report was what I had anticipated years ago. After retrofitting, there is a “rebound effect” which cancels out reductions in gas use. Put simply, with the cost of gas heating of their homes down, homeowners turned up the heat, opened windows to air out stuffy rooms and even built on extensions to their homes. 

Look out below!

Once again, it’s the law of supply and demand which makes hash of so many bright ideas. Twenty-one years ago John LaPlante, predicted this. “Government-mandated conservation efforts never work to alleviate shortages. In fact, they do the opposite." With increased energy efficiency we are likely to consume more energy—and the result is either no net savings or even a loss of available energy. In the process, government-enforced measures like automobile fuel efficiency standards “impose unnecessary costs on people—even deadly costs” because smaller cars are less safe cars. 

It may be unpleasant for the renewable energy crowd to concede this, but the reality is that “conservation doesn’t reduce overall energy consumption.” Increased energy efficiency may provide lower costs, making product prices more competitive and affordable for more people when driven by market forces, but government policy makers must face the fact that, as the Cambridge study found, government programs are not a means of reducing energy consumption. You really have to increase energy production.

In Defense of Bitcoin

When Bitcoin was first designed by the mysterious Satoshi Nakamoto, it had two key features. First, unlike paper money which can be debased by overprinting, the total supply of Bitcoin cryptocurrency units was capped at 21 million. To ensure this number is never exceeded, the mathematical task necessary to make it intentionally grows progressively harder, like an asymptotically rising cliff, until no more than the limiting quantity can be produced. Second, validating the newly mined Bitcoin was itself computationally expensive to the network so that once it was registered, it was ruinously costly to counterfeit it.

Together the two computational exercises comprised "proof of work," which supported the integrity of the concept. You couldn't make Bitcoin without expending a lot of real physical electricity; nor could you demonetize a coin and replace it with one fashioned by a politician. Chiseling out and altering a single Bitcoin or consummated transaction would change the mathematical signature of the whole blockchain of which it was part, invalidating the whole, a fantastically difficult task. That resistance to alteration made it real.

These were deliberate design choices picked to mimic the physical properties of gold. Like gold, an element which is present in only small quantities in the earth's crust, Bitcoin rarity was thus guaranteed. Like gold, which could be assayed against dilution and forgery, Bitcoin could be exactly verified and its bits engraved in the public, distributed blockchain so there could be no doubt about its authenticity.

Miner at work.

The purpose of these design elements was to insulate it from attempts at manipulation. By emulating the properties of gold, Bitcoin became attractive to the financial industry. According to Susan Arbetter of State of Politics, "The allure of cryptocurrency is that by using blockchain technology, financial transactions are instantaneous, secure and very difficult to trace."

But its success has attracted the very attention it had hoped to avoid. Environmentalists, who are always looking for some new activity to denounce, noticed that Bitcoin mining consumes more electricity than Finland, and began to condemn the process. Before long, their political lapdogs took the hint and got to work. And here's their biggest success thus far -- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul recently signed a law "banning Bitcoin mining operations that run on carbon-based power sources." According to CNBC,

For the next two years, unless a proof-of-work mining company uses 100 percent renewable energy, it will not be allowed to expand or renew permits, and new entrants will not be allowed to come online.

Some lawmakers saw Hochul restrictions as missing the boat to the future. These include Republican Assemblyman Robert Smullen, who argues "that New York is a world leader in financial services, so why shouldn’t the state lead when it comes to cryptocurrency as well?" Smullen's concern is that even Hochul's two-year moratorium will leave New York woefully behind, and push the fast-changing finance industry out of the state.

Until recently Hochul's restrictions would have been largely irrelevant since most Bitcoin mining was done in China with cheap coal-derived electricity. Then China cracked down on mining in the summer of 2021, driven by the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) suspicion of anything outside its control. At its 2019 peak, China was mining 76 percent of all the Bitcoin on the planet. (America by contrast, was mining only 4 percent.) But crypto miners proved ready to move anywhere convenient. Even before China banned the practice, miners were already leaving in droves for Russia, Kazakhstan, Canada and the United States. America steadily overtook China, and by 2022 accounted for 37.8 percent of all mining, and is now the biggest player. (China remains in second, at just over 22 percent, due to the prevalence of underground miners.)

America's appeal to Bitcoin miners lies in its institutional stability. While American electricity wasn't the cheapest in the world, nothing could beat the U.S.'s combination of advantages: the large hosting capacity, ease of financing, attractive living standards. Says Darin Feinstein of crypto firms Blockcap and Core Scientific, "If you’re looking to relocate hundreds of millions of dollars of miners out of China, you want to make sure you have geographic, political, and jurisdictional stability. You also want to make sure there are private property right protections for the assets that you are relocating." In other words you want to be in America.

Good as gold?

The Bitcoin mining industry now claims to be greener than the average industry: 59.5 percent of the total bitcoin mining global energy comes from renewable sources. Much of its claimed sustainability comes from rapidly rising computational efficiency. While output was up 137 percent, energy usage was up only 63 percent. What other industry could say that? The message is unmistakable: Bitcoin miners are willing to play ball with the Kremlin, the majilis, the mandarins and the Woke, for as long as they don't ask for too much.

Today, New York produces 9.8 percent of the U.S. total, behind Kentucky (10.9 percent), Texas (11.2 percent) and Georgia (30.8 percent), a real, though still-minor, a player. New York's electricity is significantly more expensive than the other three, but since New York's powergrid has the lowest carbon intensity of the top four states it can try to highlight the greenness of its electricity. And while there's a push to make "green" energy part of a scorecard to determine investment decisions, the truth is that it doesn't matter much; the authenticity of a Bitcoin does not depend on its origins. Once a particular coin is validated, it doesn't matter whether the pool which computed it was in China, Kazakhstan, Ireland or New York State. They are all equal.

One day the mining will stop, forever. After the maximum number of bitcoins is reached no new bitcoins will be issued. "Bitcoin transactions will continue to be pooled into blocks and processed, and Bitcoin miners will continue to be rewarded, but likely only with transaction processing fees." By then no one will remember Kathy Hochul. In that sense, despite its recent woes, it will also be like gold. No one holding a bar of bullion today knows who originally wrenched it from the earth, by what roads it traveled, through whose bloodstained hands it passed. Sufficient is the fact of its existence. Bitcoin in that at least aims to be like all true money.

Swiss to EV Drivers: Stay Home

How's this for the least shocking headline of the year: "Swiss look to ban use of electric cars over the winter to save energy." From Der Spiegel:

Switzerland could be the first country to impose driving bans on e-cars in an emergency to ensure energy security. Several media report this unanimously and refer to a draft regulation on restrictions and bans on the use of electrical energy. Specifically, the paper says: “The private use of electric cars is only permitted for absolutely necessary journeys (e.g. professional practice, shopping, visiting the doctor, attending religious events, attending court appointments).” A stricter speed limit is also planned highways.

Not shocking, of course, first because much of the world is in the midst of an energy crisis at the moment, brought about in part by the war in Ukraine and in part by the West's increasing reliance on unreliable "renewable energy." There just isn't enough juice on the grid to force everyone into electric cars, which fascist environmentalists hope to achieve within the next 10-15 years. In fact, E.V. manufacturers have been saying the same, at least the honest ones.

But, second, because another Keen-for-Green state, namely California, called upon E.V. owners not to charge their vehicles this past summer for the same reason.

So in our Electric Vehicle future, you can look forward to not be able to drive in the winter or the summer. Or we can stick with the gas- and diesel-driven cars we already have, and which are already the most environmentally friendly option. Just ask Toyota Motor Corporation president Akio Toyoda, who has said:

The more EVs we build, the worse carbon dioxide gets… When politicians are out there saying, ‘Let’s get rid of all cars using gasoline,’ do they understand this?

Unfortunately they do not. Or, worse... maybe they do.