Tornados, Tragedy, and Ghoulish Politicians

There’s an old saying that to a carpenter equipped only with a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. It is much the same in the weird world of climate alarmists: any bad weather must be caused by what they call “the climate crisis.” There’s really no need for professional meteorologists in their world. Climate change causes everything.

Case in point are the devastating series of tornados that hit Kentucky and neighboring states last weekend. President Biden claimed that he understands the root cause of the problem. “The fact is that we all know everything is more intense when the climate is warming,” the President said. “Everything. And obviously it has some impact here, but I can’t give you a quantitative read on that.”

News flash: nobody can give us a quantitative read on that. In the first place, tornados are too small to resolve on the climate change models currently in use. The models can’t deal with tornados, because they can’t see them. Moreover, nobody actually knows what causes tornados to form. Meteorologists understand how supercells form, which often turn into the most severe form of thunderstorm, but what causes some supercells to spawn tornados? Scientists that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration admit that they don’t really know.

With the prevalence of Doppler radar in the U.S. today and that technology’s ability to get finer resolution than other types of radar, tornados that were small enough to escape detection in decades past are now part of the annual total. This while it might look to folks like the President that there has been a drastic uptick in tornados in recent years, there is little indication that is the case. 

In fact, the most devastating years for tornados in recent times was 2011, when a late spring/early summer outbreak killed more than 580 people and cost more than $21 billion in property damage.  By that standard, the Kentucky event is not all that unusual. It’s just part of living in North America.

Blaming a tornado outbreak on a non-existent pattern of bad weather caused by climate change is intellectually lazy in the extreme. The story that alarmists are trying to sell is that as our system retains more energy, that energy has to be dissipated somewhere and naturally that’s going to cause severe weather. That model may work when you overfill a balloon to the point of bursting, but it has no place in evaluating a complex and dynamic global climate system.

Not "global warming," either.

Supercells sometimes spawn tornados. Wind variables spawn supercells. So does it follow that increased temperatures equates to more wind? Winds are created by pressure differentials, which are related to temperature differentials, not by increased temperature. Abhorring a vacuum as they do, masses of air tend to flow from high pressure to lower pressure regions, creating wind. How these wind patterns converge and diverge and sometimes come together in just the right way to cause a severe weather event is process that involves a wide array of variables. Shining the spotlight on a single one, temperature, is the opposite of how science works.

There is something depressing and ghoulish about politicians and pundits rushing in to shed crocodile tears over the bodies of the victims after a natural disaster strikes. For we know that however much grief climate change zealots like Biden display in public, there is also glee inside as they contemplate how well the tragedy will serve their radical agendas.

Gone Green with the Wind

There are few things more beloved of "conservationists" than the environmental devastation caused by wind farms. In Australia, a 2019 project atop Mt. Emerald in Northern Queensland, at first greeted as a great leap forward for "green energy," is now causing major concern. What had once been pristine wilderness, noted environmentalist Steve Nowakowski with dismay, "is now basically a quarry site. That landscape will never come back."

Apparently, he had no idea that many other wind farms were under construction or planned for the same geographical area; some on tracts of unspoilt country. That really gets under the skin of your average environmentalist of yesteryear. “It’s really out of control… and no one knows about it," he said.

That's the price of progress, apparently. Michael Moore’s 2019 documentary movie Planet of the Humans captures the dilemma. Unsightly, costly, acreage demanding, bird-killing, child-labor-using and, to boot, unreliable thus needing nasty fossil-fuel backup. What true greenie would like them? Anyway, it's far fewer humans that they really want, not more energy, whatever the source.

There are no offshore windfarms yet in Australia. One advanced proposal is to build one in the Bass Strait, off the coast of Gippsland in South East Australia. The problem? Birds. One fisherman not only pointed to the danger to migratory birds but also to the effect on fishing. Birds are such good fishermen, he said, “we watch them, and we know where the fish are.” There you go, process it as you will.

But wherever you figuratively fish, on land or sea, from Evia in Greece, where they will “ruin acres of ancient forests;” across the Atlantic to the U.S., where Robert Bryce writing in Forbes in September claimed that 317 wind projects had been cancelled due to environmental concerns; and onwards across the Pacific to Australia, environmentalism has a schism.

Look out above.

Expect the list of rejected wind farms to grow. For example, in recent times, a Southern Tablelands farm in New South Wales was rejected because of its “visual impact on residents.” And one in central Queensland because of its “potential impact on threatened native animal species, including the koala.”

“The faux environmentalist is easy to spot: he loves industrial wind power and couldn’t care less about the environmental destruction it causes,” said one environmentalist. Internecine struggles are afoot. Such struggles, like civil wars, are usually ugly

You wonder what those supporting renewable energy think will happen to pristine land and coastal waters. In 2019 wind accounted for 2.2 percent of the world's primary energy consumption. And if it gets to only a modest 22 percent, where exactly do they think these tens upon tens of thousands of square miles of wind farms are going to go?  Thankfully, not before time, the opposition's growing.

The Shape of Things to Come

Our rulers have recently completed another greendoggle on foreign shores, flying in on their private jets to congratulate one another on their plans to deprive us of liberty and property; life, too, if they’re all up for it. How much easier it would be for them if we all just died.

The primary job of any politician is communication. Communications nowadays are instantaneous and global. No reason exists for this gathering to disgorge thousand of metric tons of GHG to gather to communicate about excess GHG. If our entire $20 trillion economy can work from home and on video-calls for well over a year, these few penny-ante taxpayer-and-corruption-funded millionaires can, too.

If they must get together, if drinking maskless and telling happy lies and sitting around watching the same old PowerPoint presentations they heard last year and the year before (which can be emailed to them) are critical to their well-being, well – again, as comms are global (and if they absolutely refuse to videoconference) they can take the train, or a ship and then a train, all of which emit less GHG per passenger than Gulfstreams and Lears and Cessnas and 85-car motorcades. The longer they are in-transit, the less harm they are to the productive middle classes. If they want to extend these ridiculous and childish meets to 24 x 7 x 365, who are we to complain? As long as they are out of our hair and pocketbooks.

Look who's here.

If Congress wanted to pass a useful bill and work seriously on revitalizing friendships with our European “allies,” and do the world a favor, they could strip the citizenship from Uncle Joe while he’s gone, sell Air Force-1 to the French in exchange for screwing them on the Aussie sub deal, and purchase an abandoned castle somewhere in the U.K. for President Brandon to live out his daze.

But – they seem to think they know best, so let’s take a brief look at some of the scare stories in the media being drummed-up by our betters, and the reality behind them. After all, if we’re going to have our liberty and property taken-away extra-judicially, it’s a good idea to understand the problems causing our unprecedented loss of freedom by those who would rule us without our permission. Normally when people are asked to sacrifice, there’s a good reason for them to comply. Invasion, Global War, stuff like that. So let’s take a quick look at some of the things for which our sacrifice (is it a “sacrifice” when it’s not voluntary?) is demanded.

Arguably the biggest problem of Baby Boomers in government (other than they’re not retiring and just going away to prattle amongst themselves and stop damaging the rest of us) is that they have this childish idea that nothing changes – ever. That everything has been the way it has been over their pampered, safe, wealthy lives enriched by the Industrial Revolution they now demand to reverse;  that the world they see through Disney’s lens is the real world. For the rest of us to listen to them is absurd. Seas rise, mountains slump and volcanoes volcano.

Here in the real world, actual data show none of the “ills” with which our betters were entertaining one another in vodka-fueled stories around the Glasgow campfire at COP26. The Lancet, in fact, (via the WSJ) a journal the elite rely on when it tells stories they like, reports that, no, we’re not all going to die from the heat in 12 years.

The Lancet published what is arguably the largest study ever to examine excess mortality associated with temperature. The study’s authors, 68 scientists representing universities and research institutes in 33 countries spanning all regions of the world, came to two clear conclusions: cold temperatures contribute to far more deaths each year than warmer temperatures, and deaths associated with extreme temperatures, hot or cold, are declining. Referencing data on more than 130 million deaths from 43 countries, located in five continents they found that 5,083,173 deaths were associated with non-optimal temperatures per year, with most of these excess deaths tied to cold temperatures.

Maybe our betters are complaining that we aren’t dying fast enough? Perhaps we’re reading the entire global warming fantasy incorrectly and they want us to get colder so we can die more quickly?

Who needs heat?

It’s also what those searching for extra-terrestrial life are saying by looking for an off-world home that is five degrees C warmer than earth for optimal conditions for human life. And, of course, all food plants thrive at warmer temperatures and increased CO2, thus allowing the poor to be fed. I guess the elites don’t really care about the poor.

I’m with 'em – let’s find a warmer place and ship Davos Man there. Better for them. Better for us. Less hot air, too.

Higher Prices? Ho Ho Ho, Yes

During a recent White House briefing, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm was asked by a reporter how much oil is consumed on a daily basis in the U.S. She was outlining Biden’s strategy to release of 50 million barrels of oil from the U.S. Strategic Reserves. By adding to the national supply of oil, goes their thinking, "adequate supply" can be maintained amid global shortages and increasing gas prices. However, there are a couple problems with their ill-conceived strategy.

Granholm was  unable to answer the reporter’s question, instead insisting that she would need to check the number. What everyone already knew is that the amount the administration is seeking to release from the U.S. Strategic Reserves represents about 2.6 days of added supply… hardly a game changer in a supply constrained market.

It will take a lot more than a press conference and a paltry 50 million barrels of oil to repair the economic damage brought upon America by this administration’s policies. Joe Biden’s policies have been devised to create oil and gas shortages, thus ensuring higher prices for consumers, and moving toward parity with wind and solar sources. It is a strategy the Left has been working on for years, and one they unleashed upon this country within hours of taking office. It is the reason America is now experiencing inflation, supply chain pressures, and economic malaise.

Dress warm this winter!

Charged with regulating the oil and gas industry, the depth of Granholm’s ignorance about how the industry she regulates works, is surpassed only by her lack of understanding of the economics of oil and gas. Up until the Biden administration's war on the oil and gas industry, the men and woman of the industry have achieved countless efficiencies through technological innovation that have repeatedly overcome industry challenges and difficult market conditions. Reliable, inexpensive energy after all is the backbone of any robust modern economy.

Granholm's jaw-flapping was further punctuated by her attempt to blame the oil and gas industry for supply shortages that her administration has worked hard to create. Asserting that oil and gas companies are simply trying to make lots of money, Granholm revealed the second problem with her strategy.

The supply and demand curve is one of the most basic concepts in economics. Almost immediately upon entering office, the administration and its surrogates began working to disassemble the infrastructure that until their arrival had delivered inexpensive energy to all corners of the country and overseas. Offering up "climate change" and institutional racism as the cornerstones of their destructive strategy, the administration has diligently worked to increase the price of oil and gas by attempting to remove the systems in place that inexpensively distribute oil and gas. Consider their impact in less than one year.

Hope they don't fart.

But the administration went even further. They engaged multiple other agencies to harangue businesses outside the oil and gas industry. The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration -- part of Pete Buttigieg's crack Department of Transportation -- will push utilities and gas companies to "fix" leaks in natural gas distribution lines. The Department of Agriculture will be forcing farmers and ranchers to reduce methane emissions from manure, and the Department of Energy recently launched a program to force the adoption of heat pumps and induction stoves to reduce the need for natural gas inside homes and apartments. The Bureau of Land Management is planning to charge companies royalties for any gas that is vented or flared on public lands. One need not be an economist to understand that the heavy-handed regulatory maneuvering being undertaken by this administration will increase the price of oil and gas, and just about everything else.

So while Secretary Granholm touts the need for less expensive gas, perhaps the most obvious place to look is inside her own administration. Repeatedly devising plans, and launching initiatives intended to hamper the markets and diminish economic activity, will deliver higher prices to all. Merry Christmas America.

The Court Steps in to the War on Greenhouse Gases

What’s a g,reenhouse gas and who and how can regulate it? The Supreme Court has agreed to decide whether the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases in a quartet of appeals from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Their decision could spell the end of the administrative agencies' hitherto unbounded, extra-legal ability to "regulate" U.S. business.

The matter begins with then-President Obama’s  Clean Power Plan of 2015. That plan established guidelines for states to limit carbon dioxide emissions.  The essential features of the plan, which was designed to boost renewable energy sources in place of fossil-fuel generated power, set standards to reduce CO2 emissions by 32 percent from 2005 levels by the year 2030. It required each state to submit plans to the EPA for reaching those goals and gave them until 2022 to comply with the approved plans. This grand plan was short-lived. Two years later under President Trump the head of the EPA proposed a rule repealing the plan Subsequently, after a review, the EPA did repeal the Plan.

Barry's brainchild.

Administration action was not the sole block to enforcement of the Plan --  industry groups and twenty-seven states filed legal challenges to the Obama plan:

because the E.P.A. assumed utilities could reduce emissions at individual plants by taking actions outside of those plants — say, by replacing coal plants with wind farms elsewhere. Industry groups and more than two dozen states challenged this move in court, arguing that the EPA can look only at cleanup measures that can be undertaken at the plants themselves.

The states argued that the Clean Air Act under which the EPA was acting never gave the agency the power to regulate CO2 emissions and the Supreme Court held enforcement of the plan in abeyance until the court challenges could be resolved.

It's unprecedented for the Supreme Court to step in and block a federal regulation like this, before review by an appeals court. None of the justices gave any explanation for the move. The justices voting to block the rule were Roberts, Alito, Scalia, Thomas, and Kennedy.

In January of this year after lengthy hearings on the issue the U.S.  Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia struck down the effort to repeal the Obama emissions plan. That Court remanded the matter to the EPA to craft regulations on power plant CO2 emissions.

The Court noted that the Clean Air Act grants the federal agencies the power to regulate air pollution. Significantly, however, the Court did not direct the EPA to readopt the Obama plan that Trump had repealed. That means EPA has to start over, and the latest  Supreme Court action means the EPA cannot even begin the process until sometime in the middle or late 2022 after the Court decides the case it just decided to hear. So none of the EPA regulations in this area are operable now. To me, it’s a stretch  to consider CO2 a pollutant. Nevertheless, as the D.C. Court observes in its opinion the Supreme Court has held that CO2 is a pollutant:

It was not until the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, however, that the Court confirmed that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions constituted “air pollutant[s]” covered by the Clean Air Act. The Supreme Court explained that the Clean Air Act’s “sweeping definition of ‘air pollutant’ includes ‘any air pollution agent or combination of such agents, including any physical, chemical . . . substance or matter which is emitted into or otherwise enters the ambient air...'  On its face, the definition embraces all airborne compounds of whatever stripe, and underscores that intent through the repeated use of the word ‘any.’ Given that statutory command, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA “can avoid taking further action” to regulate such pollution “only if it determines that greenhouse gases do not contribute to climate change” or offers some reasonable explanation for not resolving that question.

You can practically smell the absence of CO2.

At no point to my knowledge has Congress held that it considers C02 a pollutant. The closest statutory language I can find is in the 1987  Global Climate Protection Act which found that “manmade pollution[,]” including “the release of carbon dioxide... may be producing a long-term and substantial increase in the average temperature on Earth[.]”

The  four cases which are joined in the matter  in which the Supreme Court just granted certiorari  cover a variety of related issues including the scope of the Clean Air Act  whether regulations must be based on existing technologies and methods at existing sources (that is, individual plants) and not industry-wide ones, and whether  the EPA usurped state regulatory powers.

In 42 U.S.C. § 7411(d), an ancillary provision of the Clean Air Act, did Congress constitutionally authorize the Environmental Protection Agency to issue significant rules—including those capable of reshaping the nation's electricity grids and unilaterally decarbonizing virtually any sector of the economy—without any limits on what the agency can require so long as it considers cost, non-air impacts, and energy requirements?

Whether 42 U.S.C. § 7411(d), which authorizes the EPA to impose standards "for any existing source" based on limits "achievable through the application of the best system of emission reduction" that has been "adequately demonstrated," grants the EPA authority not only to impose standards based on technology and methods that can be applied at and achieved by that existing source, but also allows the agency to develop industry-wide systems such as cap-and-trade regimes.

Whether 42 U.S.C. § 7411(d) clearly authorizes EPA to decide such matters of vast economic and political significance as whether and how to restructure the nation's energy system... Can EPA promulgate regulations for existing stationary sources that require States to apply binding nationwide "performance standards" at a generation-sector-wide level, instead of at the individual source level, and can those regulations deprive States of all implementation and decision making power in creating their Section 111(d) plans?

Can EPA promulgate regulations for existing stationary sources that require States to apply binding nationwide "performance standards" at a generation-sector-wide level, instead of at the individual source level, and can those regulations deprive States of all implementation and decision making power in creating their Section 111(d) plans?

Professor Jonathan Adler offers up the most valuable of the commentaries on these matters I can find.

This case could be tremendously significant beyond the question of the EPA's regulation of greenhouse gases because (as detailed below) the questions presented encompass both the immediate question of what authority the EPA has under Section 7411 of the Clean Air Act, but also the broader question of how prescriptive Congress must be when delegating broad regulatory authority to federal agencies. This gives the Court room to refine and expand the "major questions" doctrine (as I have suggested it might want to do), as well as to perhaps identify some of the outer limits on delegation more generally.

Thanks, Nixon!

It’s peculiar, as Adler also observes, that the Court took up the case now as the Biden Administration has not even proposed its own regulations. Four of the justices had to agree to hear theses cases for the writ of certiorari to be granted. To Adler, and me, the fact that at least four justices are concerned about the broad grant of administrative power to the EPA hints at some effort to require Congress to be more “prescriptive” to regulatory authority to administrative agencies. Perhaps the days of Congress leaving to the executive branch to fill in broad empty provisions in legislation will be coming to an end. Perhaps , as well, the Court is rethinking its decision in Massachusetts vs. EPA on CO2 emissions as pollutants.

However, this case is resolved -- and I dare not predict these days -- it will have far reaching implications for environmental law. As well, it may set new boundaries on the interactions between Congress and the executive branch and whether the administrative agencies’ powers, so long given very broad reach, will be clipped and Congress forced to exercise its constitutional responsibilities.

Electric Vehicle Fires: Nearly Impossible to Extinguish

Here's something you won't hear much about in the mainstream media -- America's firefighters are struggle to develop procedures for dealing with electric vehicles that have crashed and burst into flame. "The problem," explains Jazz Shaw, "is that despite not having a tank full of gasoline, electric cars burn longer and more fiercely than automobiles with internal combustion engines." Why is that?

Damaged banks of lithium-ion batteries contain a lot of residual energy and can keep driving up the temperature (and reigniting everything around them) for many hours. There is currently no official training for how to deal with these fires. Tesla’s own first responder’s guide only advises firefighters to “use lots of water.”

"Lots" seems like an understatement. Shaw reports that back in April it took eight fireman seven hours to get a burning Tesla under control outside of Houston, and they used roughly 28,000 gallons of water to do it, "more than the [entire] department normally uses in an entire month." And that bit about EV batteries "reigniting" is no joke either -- one veteran fireman likened them to a trick birthday candle, the kind that light up again every time they're extinguished.

So, EVs burn like crazy, they require a massive increase in mining for raw materials like lithium and cobalt which are extremely damaging to a variety of ecosystems, and, since they run on electricity which is mostly generated by fossil fuels, they aren't meaningfully reducing carbon emissions anyway.

Why are nations across the world moving towards mandating them again?

Black Monolith or Energy Black Hole?

Remember the famous scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey when the monolith first appears? The proto-humans all gather round and practically worship the thing as a god. The same sort of thing is going on in Hawaii as we speak, except the monolith is one giant freaking battery and the worshippers are not ignorant apes, but enviro-nuts, which are pretty much the same thing now that I think about it.

The Kapolei Energy Storage (KES) project is being built on eight acres of land in Kapolei on the island of Oahu. When complete, the giant battery will be capable of storing up to 565 megawatt hours of electricity and dispatching up to 185 megawatts. In other words, it can put 185 megawatts onto the Hawaii grid for up to three hours.

By law, all electricity generated in the state of Hawaii is supposed to be produced using 100 percent renewable fuels by the year 2045. The island’s lone coal-fired power plant, with a rated capacity of 203 MW, is due to be forcibly retired next year. Plus Power, the company developing KES, says the battery will enable the grid to operate reliably once the coal plant goes down for good: “The 2022 completion of the KES project will ensure that the AES coal-fired plant will end operations, supporting the state’s goal of shifting from fossil fuels to 100 percent renewable energy generation.”

Average hourly demand in Hawaii is about 1,000 megawatts. That’s average demand, peak demand – which is what really matters when talking about grid stability – is considerably higher. But, for purposes of this analysis, we’ll use the average, which leads us to an important question: can a battery that can satisfy a little less than 20 percent of demand for a period of three hours replace a coal-fired power plant that has the capacity to satisfy 2- percent of demand more or less continuously?

The answer, which should be obvious to any high-school physics student, is no. A battery does not produce electricity, it’s just a place for electricity produced elsewhere to hang out for a while. In the case of the state of Hawaii, most of that electricity is, has been and will continue to be produced by burning oil. Roughly 65 to 70 percent of Hawaii’s electricity is generated by combustion of petroleum liquids according to data provided by the Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Funny, it doesn't look like a monolith.

About 17 percent of electricity was generated from renewable sources, primarily wind and solar. That’s not bad, but it’s not anything close to the 100 percent goal. Worse, it’s likely that the battery will be primarily charged using electricity produced by burning oil, not by using electricity generated from renewable sources. The problem is the bugaboo that always affects wind and solar: capacity factor.

Capacity factor is a measure of how much electricity a power generation asset produces compared to what it theoretically can produce. If a plant is rated at 100 megawatts, but generates on average 40 megawatts, we say its capacity factor is forty per cent. Most nukes operate at capacity factors in the high nineties. Coal fired base-load plants are generally in the eighties, sometimes the low nineties.

Wind and solar have crappy factors because, even in Hawaii, the sun don’t always shine and the winds don’t always blow. Solar panels don’t have much to do at night and their efficiency drops significantly on cloudy days. Wind turbines can’t operate in calms or near-calms and, perversely, also have to shut down if the wind is too strong.

The Descent of Man: Feeling good about feeling good.

Again using EIA data, we find that last year the combined capacity factor for wind and solar was about 27%. So, while the total capacity of all renewable generation assets on Hawaii, 746 megawatts, sounds impressive compared to average daily demand, those assets will only generate about 200 megawatts on average. And when they are generating electricity it makes a whole lot more sense to pack it on the grid than sending it on a short vacation to the battery. The only time the battery will be charged using renewables is during those rare instances where there is a significant excess of renewable power. Most of the time, it’ll be charged up courtesy of fossil-fuel combustion.

Of course the battery will make a fine story for those who don’t understand how electricity works and allow eco-nuts to feel good about themselves. Will it do much of anything to help Hawaii meet its 100 per cent renewables mandate? Nope.

Beware the Triumvirate of Fear

Bad news everybody: turns out we’re going to die. Everyone of us. No exceptions. Sorry to have to break it to you this way, but I’m a “rip the bandage off as quickly as possible” kind of guy.

Not sure of the exact dates of demise of course, but despite all of our valiant efforts over the last fifteen months, death has not been eradicated. You survived infection after catching the Covid vaccine? That’s great. You’re still going to die. You want to keep wearing your mask for the rest of your life? Terrific. The important thing to remember is that the phrase “the rest of your life” always ends in a full stop.

It’s ironic, but the healthier a society and the more a society is successful in identifying and minimizing risk, the more risk-averse society becomes.

Happy rest of your lives, snowflakes!

America is now at a point where millions of its citizens are not only willing to sacrifice many of the joys of life in hopes of extending existence by a few years, most of this group firmly believes that everyone else should be morally and legally obligated to share their fearful, neurotic views.

Risk and living – truly living – are intertwined. Attempting to lead a risk-free life is not living, it’s mere existence, reducing what should be an adventure into panic-room level exercise in survival. As a general rule, most Americans have grown ever worse at reasonably assessing and responding to risk issues. Fear among average American citizens seems to grow in inverse proportion to our increasing ability to identify and manage risks.

There is no shortage of self-interested organizations and corporations willing and able to advance narratives that exploit the current climate of fear. Environmental NGOs can’t wait to paint the slightest potential hazard in apocalyptic terms. With few exceptions, politicians of all stripes willingly accept such narratives, sensing the votes that come along with going along. The vast majority of journalists, with little to no personal understanding of foundational technical issues are naturally inclined to support whichever position the left adopts and insists upon.

This trio of special interests are thus able to create “realities” that are detached from reality. In general, the more technically advanced the topic, the more emboldened the triumvirate of fear feels emboldened to push their particular agendas.

Looking for salvation in all the wrong place.

We’ve just undergone fifteen months of risk-avoidance on overdrive. It will be some time before sober, credible sources who do not have an agenda will provide accurate assessments of how well prevention-of-transmittal measures balance out against the societal and economic costs of those policies. I truly do not know how that valuation will come out. However, I am certain that anyone attempting to define that valuation at this point is engaged in speculation, not science.

Were we needlessly and overly cautious? As I said, we can’t be sure at this this point. My speculation: probably, but that’s water under the dam. Time to move on. Moving on means accepting victory, rejecting an eternal state of emergency and emergency powers, and starting to address the risk/reward proposition in rational terms again.

From everything I can discern and based on what the CDC is now saying, if you have either: 1) survived Covid infection, or 2) had one of the vaccines, you’re good to go mask-free in public. Surely certain businesses like restaurants and airlines will continue to require masks for a while and that’s just fine. In a free society, everyone can choose or not choose to wear masks in privately-held venues and suffer the consequences if their preference doesn’t align with venue policy. This is analogous to how we can choose or not choose to wear shirts and shoes while expecting service in a convenience store. The markets will figure it out in the long run.

The point is that the “big-mask” era is drawing to a close and we will finally be able to shout “Free at last! Free at last!” once more. What comes next is up to us.

'Eco-Feminists' vs. 'Toxic' Reality

“If civilization had been left in female hands,” wrote Camilla Paglia in her 1990 book Sexual Personae, “we would still be living in grass huts.”

Feminists have often retorted that patriarchal societies prevented women from exercising their artistic, scientific, and technological gifts—and that women’s true capabilities in these areas are still not fully known because of ongoing sexism. Lately, however, at least one group of feminist critics—namely the proponents of eco-feminism, who see the exploitation of women and of the environment as linked issues—not only seem to agree with Paglia, but go so far as to suggest that living in grass huts would be far preferable to controlling and dominating nature in the way that men have done. 

That’s the idea expressed in the almost-parodically titled “Boys and their toys: how overt masculinity dominates Australia’s relationship with water,” by Anna Kosovac, PhD. Published in the popular academic journal The Conversation, the article was written by a University of Melbourne academic who holds a prestigious Research Chair in Water Policy. 

Back to the future?

Writing from her air-conditioned room in an ivory tower designed, built, and maintained by men, intersectional feminist Kosovac believes that the days of exerting control over nature through dams, water pipelines, and sewer networks are largely over: the time has come, she writes almost mystically, “to reassess the old methods and explore new ways in our relationship with water.” In her view, masculine over-reliance on “technological and infrastructure ‘fixes’” is preventing Australians from “work[ing] in tandem with the environment” to address the country’s water needs.     

Although Kosovac states at the article’s outset that she spent nine years working as a civil engineer in water management, she has almost nothing good to say about the field as it currently operates, aside from the grudging admission that “there’s nothing inherently wrong with using technology to solve water issues.” But in Kosovac’s masculine-averse perspective, the male technocratic mind is far too rigid and exclusionary. It assumes that serious sustainability problems can be solved with “gadgets,” as she calls them, such as smart meters and other data-collecting technologies, and it will not give fair consideration to other (eco-feminist and Indigenous spiritual) perspectives.

Kosovac alleges that Australia is suffering both politically and ecologically from “toxic masculinity.” This is a now-standard feminist phrase striking for its bigotry and intellectual incoherence.  At times this “dominant masculinity” seems indistinguishable from men themselves; at other times it is a specific attitude toward power, the exercise of control over nature and less powerful “others,” that is manifested by particular white, heterosexual men. The author speaks with satisfaction of the recent “fury of women” at the “toxic masculine culture of Parliament House” while neglecting to mention that women comprise 31% of the House of Representatives and a whopping 53% of the Senate. Closer to home, she complains that “in the area of water supply, sewage, and drainage services, only 19.8% of the workforce comprises people who identify as women.” Here is a patriarchal plot, one presumes, to keep women out of the sewers they would otherwise have been clamoring to enter. 

Girl power, One Million Years BC.

Kosovac cautions, nonetheless, that simply creating a more “diverse” water industry workforce made up of women, the Indigenous, and LGBTQI will not necessarily change “male-dominated decision making” and false faith in technology. That is what must change, according to Kosovac, though she never tells readers precisely what non-masculine, non-technological water management would look like.

It is quite stunning to read Kosovac’s glib dismissal of the male-led efforts that have made drought-prone Australia, the driest continent in the world, not only habitable for millions of people but one of the most prosperous and self-sustaining nations on earth. Missing from her sneering screed is any acknowledgement of Australia’s enormous achievements in water management, including seawater de-salination, which plays an increasing role in supplying water to many of Australia’s largest cities, or in the use of reclaimed wastewater for agricultural irrigation and other needs. 

One of Kosovac’s primary criticisms of Australian technology is the failure to engage the community or to care about ordinary people’s views and preferences (she cites one example in which residents of Toowoomba rejected recycled wastewater for drinking in a referendum that “divided the county”—apparently feminist policies are never divisive). The Australian situation is, in fact, far more complex than Kosovac’s article suggests. The Water Reform Agenda, adopted in 1994, established the principle of public consultation and emphasized the right of communities to participate in the development of water supply policies. Robust measures to encourage rainwater harvesting, greywater use, and many other conservation efforts with wide public support have been in effect for years and are a testimony to the multi-pronged, community-based approach pioneered in Australia.

While indulging in harsh criticism of the conservation and management practices currently employed in her country, Kosovac’s article is notably thin on solutions. It is time for a new way of doing things, she tells us repeatedly. But what is it?  She is in favor, it seems, of a “humble” approach that rejects the exertion of “control,” telling readers, with familiar academic vagueness, that “a different approach would incorporate valuable knowledge in the social sciences, such as recognizing the politics and social issues at play in how we manage water.” This is theoretical gibberish, and means little more than that under the influence of eco-feminist critics like Kosovac and her cadre of utopia-envisioning colleagues, water policy will be subject to a cultural Marxist analysis to identify oppressor groups (white male engineers, mostly, and those who support them) and oppressed groups (ethnic and gender minorities); such analysis will always castigate the oppressors and call for greater involvement of the marginalized.

Water, water, not quite everywhere.

True to form, Kosovac advocates “working closely with traditional owners to incorporate Indigenous understandings of water.” As an example of this approach, Kosovac refers with evident approval to a piece of 2017 legislation passed in New Zealand “that recognized the Whanganui River catchment as a legal person. The reform formally acknowledged the special relationship local Maori have with the river.”

It may be that despite her eco-feminist ideological commitments, Kosovac is struck near-speechless by this legislation, for she concludes her article soon thereafter without enlightening readers about how a governmental act of personification will help to address water management. Her only other specific suggestion involves “moving to community decision making models or even programs to increase youth involvement in water management.” Asking teenagers for input about water use may well yield some novel suggestions, but it’s difficult to conclude they will responsibly revolutionize water policy.  

Kosovac proclaims her support for “giving up some control.” I suspect, however, that her faith in youth and community consultation, and even in Indigenous spiritual beliefs, will last only so long as potable water flows abundantly from her tap and the toilet flushes on command. The much-derided “toys” of the “boys” may well represent a masculine orientation that it is now fashionable to condemn, but that masculine way of dealing with our environment has inarguably kept the sewage and water systems functional, thus making all our lives immeasurably better. The simple fact is that exerting control over water is indistinguishable from civilization itself. When it comes to complex technological systems, I’ll take the boys with their toys over the girls clutching their pearls any day of the week.

Stepping Up, or Stepping Back?

Of all the environmental topics I write about, the one I almost never write about is "climate change." The topic has beaten to death over thirty years and frankly it bores me. Like Gunnery Sergeant Thomas Highway, the one thing I cannot abide is boredom.

However, President Biden, or possibly his puppeteers, recently felt obliged to say it was time for America to “step up” to fight climate change. Folks of my persuasion would have preferred that the president asked his audience to “step back” instead. Specifically, he could have asked them to step back and consider all the things the United States has done to tilt at this particular windmill.

We’ve made massive reductions in carbon-dioxide emissions over the last twenty years. We’ve shut down scores of coal-fired power plants. We destabilized the grid in many parts of the country by relying on inherently unreliable sources of power to a degree that makes sane electrical engineers weep. Oh, by the way, we have not only allowed unreliable sources of power to threaten grid reliability, we subsidized the people who built them!

Apocalypse now!

What's more, we got rid of the incandescent light bulb, which of course resulted in a massive drop in electrical demand all across the country. (If you’re a liberal and you happen to read this, that last sentence is what we on the right call “sarcasm” – it’s part of something known as a “sense of humor”).

We drive electric cars, we have greenhouse gas trading programs, we’ve got state mandates, we’ve got municipal mandates, we’ve got corporate initiatives and we’ve got half the population spending 98 percent of their waking day worrying about a problem that the other half doesn’t believe exists and that we can’t possibly solve even if it did. Can we get some credit? Just a little, maybe?

There is one thing of which a writer who chooses to write about climate change can be absolutely certain: nothing he or she says is going to change anyone’s mind. The last person to change his mind about "climate change" was a small town shopkeeper in rural Kentucky back in 2007.

With that in mind, let me just make a couple of general observations about climate change that the reader may find interesting.

First, I don’t believe it is any coincidence that global warming fears began to “heat up” about the time the Cold War ended. Up through 1991 everyone was worried, more or less, about the possibility of nuclear war with the Soviet Union. But while everyone was worried, nobody does worry like the left. They’re in love with it. And, no surprise, the problem that caused them to wring their hands about nuclear weapons was – wait for it – America! But for our evil, war-mongering, imperialistic selves, the world would not have to suffer under this shadow of doom. The hysteria reached its peak when Reagan was elected, with liberals and journalists wailing that the Gipper would hit the "nukem" button immediately after taking the oath of office.

Then this terrible thing happened to the Left: the Cold War ended. Worse, from their perspective, we won! You’ve got millions of Americans who pretty much hate America, who have spent literally decades engaged in self-loathing and fear-mongering, sure that crazy conservatives were going to wipe out all life on earth unless they somehow could be made to see the light. So if it wasn't "climate change" now, it would be  something else. The issue really doesn’t matter, so long as the modern liberal can demonstrate his or her moral superiority whilst showing how all of us on the right are knuckle-dragging cretins who can’t be trusted to cross the street, much less run a country.

It's unbear-able!

Observation two: there are three sets of people involved in what should be a climate-change debate, but is in fact an environmental shoe-throwing contest. Set one is actual, accredited climatologists who understand the myriad of factors that influence climate – which, if I have to say it, include a whole lot of things beyond carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere. This group includes accredited climatologists like Gavin Schmidt on what I call “the alarmist” side, and accredited climatologists like Roy Spencer on what the other side calls “the denier” side.

Alarmists like Schmidt know that folks like Spencer are every bit as qualified as they are to opine on climate change. I doubt if any serious alarmist climatologist buys what the left’s PR professionals routinely pumps out to smear “denier” climatologists: that they have sinister motives! They lie and know they lie! They are religious fanatics! They’re beholden to Big Energy!

Rather, I believe that the alarmists have fallen victim to that classic failing of academia: hubris. They have fallen in love with their hypothesis. They are so invested in it that they can’t imagine possibly turning back, much less actually doing so. They’ve chosen their hill to die on and if doing so means turning a blind eye to professional colleagues getting crapped on by media-relations types, congressional staffers, and ignorant journalists, well that’s just the price one has to pay. The end justifies the means.

Set two is slightly larger: it involves two subsets. The first is the group of people who are not expert climatologists, but who are good enough scientists to digest most – not all – of the arguments about actual science that we can find and make reasonable judgments on the worth of those arguments. That includes many chemists (including me and my two chemist brothers), physicists, statisticians, meteorologists, etc.  We’re not fluent in the climatologist’s language, but we understand enough of it to offer an educated opinion.

Unfortunately, this group also includes wanna-be second-level “experts," of whom Al Gore is the ultimate example. These are folks who pretend that they are qualified to decipher and comment on expert opinions, but who are actually about pushing the liberal agenda by using "climate change" as an excuse. When we on the right talk about liberals using "climate change" to promote socialism, this is who we mean.  They are the type of "scientists" who've been a bane on science since "consensus" demanded that ground-breaking pioneers like Archimedes, Copernicus, Galileo and Lemaître who dared to question orthodoxy be demonized. Consensus defenders are and have always been scientists so sure of their own infallibility that they can justify scorn in order to dismiss any idea that might possibly undermine their own theories.

Don't confuse me with facts.

Set three? Everybody else. The ultimate decision makers, unfortunately. When young, every generation believes that it’s discovered the mistakes their parents made. I know I did. In some cases one actually does, but in many others one finds later in life that the old-timers actually got a lot of things right. The trend right now, as I see it, is that more and more of the younger generation will chose to lock onto the fraudulent snake-oil salesmen and will tip public policy in their favor. They may eventually figure out they've been had, but by then it will be too late.