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.

The Injustice of 'Environmental Justice'

At its core, my day job as an environmental consultant to industry is about helping clients safely negotiate the rocks and shoals of an ever-more complex regulatory structure. The Biden administration, along with an increasing number of blue states, are adding yet another level of needless complexity to that structure, making so-called “environmental justice” a priority.

In practice, the idea of "environmental justice" has almost nothing to do with protecting low-income and minority communities from supposed exploitation by dirty, rotten scoundrel polluters, but instead ensures economic injustice by placing roadblocks to development in areas that have a disproportionate number of historically brownfield sites.

As we dive into this issue, it’s important for the reader to understand what a brownfield site is and how it came to be. Brownfield, as opposed to greenfield, sites refer to properties that are often contaminated by pollution from historical activities that occurred prior to the modern era of environmental regulation, which began under the Nixon administration in 1970.

Time's up, racist!

Consider my childhood home as a typical example. I grew up on the far southeast side of Chicago in a neighborhood called “Hegewisch” after its founder Adolph Hegewisch, who had hoped to duplicate the George Pullman ideal of a self-sustaining industrial community via his Rolling Stock Company.

That didn’t happen, neither for Adolph (his name is sometimes given as Achilles, or even Adolfo) nor for Pullman, but what did happen is that the burgeoning steel industry that emerged shortly after the turn of the last century pumped a lot of money and jobs into the southeast side of Chicago and northwest Indiana. Steel mills popped up like mushrooms, creating good-paying, secure jobs. Immigrants flooded in to fulfill the labor demand.

Both my maternal and paternal grandparents immigrated (legally, by the by) from Poland in the 1920s, hoping to cash in on the boom, and settled in Hegewisch. The steel industry on the Southeast Side of Chicago and Northwest Indiana was eventually deemed a vital national resource during the Cold War. Nike missile batteries ringed the area in to protect the mills from Soviet bombers. As kids, we all knew the location of the nearest fallout shelter in case the Soviets tried to take out the mills with nuclear missiles.

The growth of the steel industry from c. 1920 to 1980 on the southeast side of Chicago and northwest Indiana had absolutely nothing to do with taking advantage of an otherwise disadvantaged populace and labor force. It was quite the opposite. Business was booming and everyone was welcome to contribute. My father worked in the mills all his life. I and my three brothers who variously worked in the mills or had jobs supporting the mills benefited as well.

The bottom dropped out of the Chicago-area steel industry starting around 1980. There was no single cause one could point to, but rather a combination of events. These included: the rise of big labor, management’s willful ignorance when it came to recognizing how drastically lower labor rates in the Asian countries could undercut the American steel industry, management’s unwillingness to deploy new, more efficient technologies to offset the labor rate difference, and the new environmental movement’s demands to establish standards that were far more stringent than any standards that had been previously imposed.

American steel mills lost their competitive advantage and many went out of business throughout the latter half of the 20th century. On the southeast side of Chicago and northwest Indiana the carnage wiped out names that had previously been core employers: Republic Steel, Wisconsin Steel, Interlake, U.S. Steel South Works, Youngstown Steel and many others

The timing was significant. Big steel grew in the Midwest corridor during a time when nobody paid much attention to environmental standards. It shrank during a time when environmental standards began to emerge. Thus the area was full of properties that been the home of now shut-down and abandoned steel mills that also contained levels of pollutants in the soil and groundwater that were typical of the pre-environmental regulatory era, but unacceptable in the new era. This problem did not only involve the now-dormant mills, but included the many industries that grew up during boom times to support the mills: coke plants, landfills, railyards, etc.

Assumption of the Virgin Mary Greek Orthodox Church in Hegewisch.

As the jobs left and the depression-era generation that at one time made up most of Hegewisch’s populace began to die off, the neighborhood changed over time. What had been a middle class mostly Polish neighborhood morphed into a lower class, mostly Hispanic neighborhood. The neighborhood had aged and was surrounded by abandoned brownfields sites. Property values dropped, attracting lower-income families who could not afford homes in more affluent neighborhoods.

An area is designated as an "environmental justice" zone primarily based on two characteristics: income and ethnicity. A poor neighborhood with a large minority population is the ideal EJ zone and Hegewisch, along with some surrounding neighborhoods has been so designated.

Though the EJ designation is supposed to be protective, it’s actually quite damaging. The theory is that dirty rotten polluters would try to take advantage of vulnerable neighborhoods but for the EJ zone protection. The reality is that we live in an era of the most stringent environmental standards in the history of the industrial era. No facility being built in America today has anything near the potential to generate pollution or affect public health the way that the old rust belt plants built in the first part of the 20th century had.

So what an EJ zone does, in effect, is to serve as a red flag to anyone thinking of developing a new job-creating facility in or near such a neighborhood. Building in an EJ zone means jumping through many more regulatory hoops, risking being vilified by ignorant journalists and self-interested environmental NGOs. No one in my business, whose job it is to look out after our client’s best interests, would ever advise some one to develop a new project in an EJ zone.

Dirty rotten scoundrels polluting the Calumet River in Hegewisch.

Before leaving this story, let’s step back into my old neighborhood of Hegewisch. A metal recycling facility operated by General Iron received a permit to build a state-of-the-art plant in one of the old industrial parts of Hegewisch.

There are more than 300 metals-recycling plants, sometimes called “auto shredders,” across the United States. They are by far the most important and most economic form of recycling in the country. According to the Department of Commerce, the industry ranks 16th in terms of revenue nationally. More steel is now recovered through recycling in America than is produced in the blast furnaces at traditional steel mills, and the air pollution generated by recyclers is a tiny of fraction of what traditional integrated steel mills generate on a per ton of steel produced basis.

Add to this that, General Iron (not my client, if you’re wondering) permitted the plant with state of the art pollution controls, equipment most similar plants do not have. And, in addition to the jobs the facility would directly create, it would also create related jobs among the truckers, maintenance contractors and other services necessary to keep the plant going. All good stuff, right?

No. Not according to the mainstream media and environmental NGOs who have made the most outrageous claims about the danger the facility supposedly represents to my old neighborhood. Trusting those frauds and not really understanding the issues, some citizens banded together to form groups whose sole goal is to prevent the multi-million-dollar facility from opening. Some have even gone on hunger strikes.

It’s madness, but it’s the sort of madness that grows out of the noble-sounding, but utterly damaging concept of environmental justice. The next time a client asks me about building in an EJ area, I’ll have to point them no further than the General Iron fiasco to demonstrate how big a mistake that can be.

Will the U.N. Security Council Rescue Net-Zero?

Constructing and imposing an international orthodoxy is a never-ending task, especially when the orthodoxy imposes heavy costs on those countries and organizations that support it. That’s more clearly true about the orthodoxy on “climate change”—i.e., it’s an “emergency” that means global “catastrophe” very soon unless we take brave corrective measures to avert it—than about any other global “crisis.”

A quite small number of U.N. official have been the drivers of this diplomatic agitprop since it started at the Rio de Janeiro UN Earth Conference in 1992. Of the UN Secretariat’s estimated 37,000 officials responsible to the Secretary General, only eight enjoy the title of UN Secretary, and a further fifty are Deputy Secretaries. In short fewer than a hundred diplomats and ex-politicians have succeeded in cajoling and corralling most governments into adopting policies that require economic sacrifices on their populations for aims that are at the very least questionable. It’s a astounding achievement of sorts.

A questionable orthodoxy needs to be shored up against questions and costs, however, and plenty of both have been coming home to roost in the last year: questioning books by previous believers in the “climate emergency” such as Michael Shellenberger as well as from established sceptics like Bjorn Lomborg; and soberly realistic estimates of the costs of “Net Zero” by 2050, the main plank of UN climate policy, in terms of both greater pressures on over-burdened government budgets and downward life-style changes for the voters. Shrewd political analysts—and that describes the UN Secretariat very well—know that they need additional measure to sustain a potentially rickety consensus.

The science is settled, comrades.

Until now, the biggest gun in their arsenal has been the notion of “legally binding” climate treaties that will compel governments to stick with the unpopular consequences of “Net-Zero” policies as they become inescapably evident. It’s a confidence trick. Politicians go along with it because it’s also a method diverting blame for Net-Zero away from them onto the treaty with the argument that “we have to accept international law.”

But there are commonsense limits to that. No government will accept massive economic damage and huge political unpopularity simply because it, or more likely one of its predecessors, unwisely signed a “legally binding” but masochistic and unenforceable treaty.

Some governments won’t even sign a treaty with such dire results in the first place. President Obama never submitted the Paris Accords on Net-Zero for Senate ratification because he knew they’d be rejected. President Trump (while delivering a greater reduction in carbon emissions than any signatory nation because “fracking” fueled a switch to cleaner greener natural gas) was therefore able to withdraw America’s signature on it because Obama’s “executive agreement” had no constitutional force.

And if President Biden seriously intends to make his own switch back to supporting the Paris “treaty” effective, he’ll have to submit the Accords for the Senate ratification from which Obama prudently shrank—or risk another withdrawal of the U.S endorsement by another Trump.

I don’t think Biden will take that risk. But if he does, and given his hostility to fracking, it’s possible that he’ll go down in history as the president who both signed the Paris Accords and presided over a large increase in net carbon emissions. Watch this space.

It’s because the "legally enforceable" gambit is not really enforceable on sovereign states, especially those with democratic governments, that the UN bureaucrats have had recourse to a weapon that is more under their control: namely, bringing the UN Security Council into play.

Gentlemen, you can't fight in here.

The UNSC is the single most important and powerful institution in the UN system. According to its own website: “All members of the United Nations agree to accept and carry out the decisions of the Security Council. While other organs of the United Nations make recommendations to member states, only the Security Council has the power to make decisions that member states are then obligated to implement under the Charter.”

This makes the UNSC a very big deal. Its enforcement powers in dealing with “threats to peace and international security” include economic sanctions, arms embargoes, financial penalties and restrictions, and travel bans; the severance of diplomatic relations; blockade; or even collective military action. And if climate change were to be declared such a threat, that would allow—in theory at least—the Security Council to employ these enforcement mechanisms in dealing with it.

Some governments and international agencies have been arguing that climate change is a threat to international security for some time. My take is a highly skeptical one:

[T]hinking about such matters should not be a priority. In comparison with countering the most advanced weaponry being developed by the Russian and Chinese militaries (and also with subversive methods of asymmetric warfare), holding down carbon emissions is a third-order consideration. Truth be told, climate change is not a question of military security at all unless some other power is weaponizing climate change against NATO. That kind of thing happens a lot in James Bond movies—usually through the agency of a mad billionaire. . .  Not, however, anywhere else.

But the United Nations “Climate Emergency” caravan rumbles on regardless. One month ago the UN Security Council had a debate on whether the Council should treat climate change as a “threat to national security,” and all the international chart-toppers were present to sing along from the alarmist handbook.

The session was opened by the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, and other speakers included President Macron of France, Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister, the Biden administration’s special envoy for climate, John Kerry, and a large host of prime ministers, foreign ministers, and other “eminent persons” (an actual UN term.) It’s not necessary to plough through the entire debate, however, because all the speeches said much the same thing, which in the case of the BBC’s long-standing television naturalist David Attenborough was: “If we act fast enough we can reach a new stable state” and the UN conference in Glasgow next November “may be our last opportunity to make this step change.”

My suspicion is, however, that Glasgow will only prove to be the next last opportunity to save the world with many more to come along as the conference circuit.

Et tu, Brute?

That suspicion is fueled by the fact that it’s not until paragraph nine of the comprehensive account of the discussion in the UN’s own press release that we come to the speech of the Russian Federation’s representative, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia, who wondered skeptically if climate change issues were really the “root cause” of the conflicts cited by Kerry, Johnson, Macron, and almost all the other dignitaries.

The connection between the climate and conflicts can be looked at with regard to only certain countries and regions, talking about this in general terms and in a global context has no justification.

He concluded that, for Russia, climate change was an issue to be dealt with not by the Security Council with its array of diplomatic pressures and economic and military sanctions, but by the less powerful specialist UN agencies armed only with scientific and economic expertise.

China’s special climate envoy, Xie Zhenhua, after repeating China’s familiar pledge to meet the Net-Zero carbon targets ten years after the West when it would have enjoyed forty years of economic growth built on fossil fuels, said much the same thing:

International climate cooperation should be advanced within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In one of the conference’s most impressive speeches, India’s environment minister, Prakash Javdekar, argued that countries should meet their earlier targets for carbon emission reductions before embarking on ambitious new ones—a criticism that was all the more powerful because India is one of the few countries to have met its targets. But he too went on to express skepticism about the idea that "climate change" was the cause of conflict.

These three speeches amounted to a Niagara of cold water pouring over the argument that an imminent climate emergency is a threat to peace and security requiring the UN Security Council to intervene to force massive carbon reductions on reluctant member-states.

Consider now that China and India are the two most important economies in Asia, and that Russia is an energy superpower as well. Consider also that Russia and China are two of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council with the power of veto over its decisions, and that India is the Asian country with the best claim to joining them there. When you add up all those facts, the speeches calling for the UNSC to push a reluctant world to implement the hairshirt economic policy of Net-Zero are soon revealed as a dystopian delusion.

To adapt an old gag: the dogs may bark, but the caravan has ground to a halt.

Climate Changes. Always Has, Always Will

Since reliable climate records exist only for the past two or three centuries, figuring out what the environment was like before that time is an inexact science. There's some empirical data that can be examined, but even that can only be accurately interpreted when cross-referenced with the historical record -- diaries, works of art, etc. For instance, we partly know about the period known as the Little Ice Age because of the descriptions of the frigid weather of New England as described by the Puritans when they arrived in Massachusetts Bay in June of 1629. Suffice it to say, they weren't used to seeing ice flows in the ocean in the middle of summer.

Along these same lines, Suzannah Lipscomb has written an article detailing the bizarre climatic irregularities of that same era. It's an illuminating read at a time like ours when every environmental event -- blizzards, tornados, forest fires, hurricanes, heavy rain, droughts -- is blamed on "climate change."

In February 1540 rainfall effectively ceased, falling only six times in London between then and September. It was not only exceptionally dry but warm: it is probable that the highest daily temperatures were warmer than 2003 (the warmest year for centuries).... Edward Hall noted that the drought dried up wells and small rivers, while the Thames was so shallow that “saltwater flowed above London Bridge,” polluting the water supply and contributing to the dysentery and cholera, which killed people in their thousands. In Rome, no rain fell in nine months; in Paris, the Seine ran dry. Grapes withered on the vine and fruit rotted on trees. Even the small respite of autumn and winter was followed by a second warm spring and another blisteringly hot summer. Forests began to die until, in late 1541, rain fell and fell. 1542 was a year of widespread flooding.

Just a few decades later, there was incessant rain and years-long dampness across Europe, coupled with extremely low temperatures, with predictable results -- four harvests in that ten year period were complete failures, causing widespread famine. Shortly after that, in the "Great Frost" of 1607-1608, England grew so cold that "the trunks of large trees split open, and the Thames froze so solidly that people sold beer and played football on it." A frozen Thames meant no ships entering the port of London, with disastrous economic results, and related civil unrest.

In the end, Lipscomb transitions to a discussion of how this history is relevant today because "the slowly unfolding disaster of global warming means extreme weather events." This is unfortunate, since she had just been discussing the unpredictable nature of the earth's climate. She even admitted that "the warmest year for centuries" was 2003, almost twenty years ago! But overall, it's a valuable read, and bears out an observation of our contributor Christopher Horner, who said "[C]limate changes – it always has, it always will. Of course, saying “climate changes” makes one a “climate change denier.” Go figure."

When 'Inclusive' Capitalism Becomes Socialism

Capitalism is not the answer to human suffering. At the same time, it is the only economic system which allows individual freedom to flourish; it produces unrivalled prosperity; and, as Michael Novak perceptively says in the 1991 edition of The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism, “it is the most practical hope of the world’s poor: no magic wand, but the best hope.”

Not content, some very rich people, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Pope, among others, want capitalism to do more. Enter “inclusive capitalism” and its more recent stablemate “stakeholder capitalism.”

It was May 2014. A conference called “Making Capitalism More Inclusive” was held in London. Inclusive capitalism is a concept developed in 2012 by the Henry Jackson Society - a British think tank of classical-liberal persuasion. It started well enough with the principal objective being to engender more ethical behaviour in business practices. The excesses surrounding the recession of 2009/10 were fresh in mind. Unfortunately, it has gone rapidly downhill since.

The aforementioned conference was opened by Prince Charles and featured Bill Clinton, Christine Lagarde, Mark Carney and Lawrence Summers. Hardly a conservative or classical liberal in sight. Three conferences have followed: in London in June 2015, in New York in October 2016 and back in London in March 2018. Presumably, Covid has prevented holding a more recent conference. No matter. Those behind inclusive capitalism co-opted the Pope to keep the pot simmering.

Money makes the world go 'round.

As the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCA News) puts it, Pope Francis has become the “moral guide to inclusive capitalism.” ‘The Council for Inclusive Capitalism (the Council), with the Vatican onboard, was launched on December 8 last year. Earlier in the year, in May, The Great Reset was unveiled at Davos. “Stakeholder capitalism” became the watchword; encompassing the same grand idea as inclusive capitalism.

So, to my theme: What’s it all about or, in other words, what do ‘they’ want; and why is the whole thing a crock or, more politely, misconceived?

This is Mark Carney, the then Governor of the Bank of England, at the 2014 conference to which I referred: “Inclusive capitalism is fundamentally about delivering a basic social contract comprised of relative equality of outcomes, equality of opportunity, and fairness across generations.” Hard to believe coming from a central banker? He’s Canadian.

This is easier to believe. Justin Welby, participating in the 2015 conference, outlining his aspirations for capitalism: “A generosity of spirit that doesn’t always seek the greatest return…that meets the needs of the poor and the excluded and the suffering.”

To add waffle to waffle, the Council’s mission is to “harness the private sector to create a more inclusive, sustainable and trusted economic system.” Understandably, sustainability is featured. After all, the Pope urges us to listen to “the cry of the earth.” Hmm? Smacking too much of paganism? Perish the thought.

Klaus Schwab, Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum, expanded on the term stakeholder capitalism in February this year. He identified two primary stakeholders. One is the planet (no, not kidding); the other is everyone, wherever they live. The respective wellbeing of both stakeholders is the objective. Though, Schwab notes, “people are social animals and their absolute well-being is less important than their relative well-being.” Got that. You and your neighbour each having ten dollars is better than him having fifteen and you only twelve.

How the idea of levelling down translates to those participating at Davos and at inclusive capitalism forums is beyond me. Note this description in UCA News of those calling the shots at inclusive capitalism: “a group of individuals and institutions with more than $10.5 trillion in assets and companies with a combined market capitalization of more than $2 trillion.” They are the woke big end of town. A race apart from the small and medium-sized businesses which make up the bulk of market economies. Their self-appointed mission: to rescue the world by reimagining capitalism.

They are discomforted by the prevailing state of affairs. They want a world within which all existing species survive and thrive, the oceans cease rising, the earth cools and each and every person everywhere enjoys a liveable income and state of the art medical attention.

Leaving aside a slight qualm I have about the earth cooling; the aims are fine. I sometimes daydream about winning a lottery. That fantasy is fine too. To take saving the poor and saving planet earth in turn.

Capitalism makes much of the world prosperous. Part of that is entrepreneurs and businesses striving to earn profits by vigorously competing with each other. Part is prices guiding resources into their best commercial use while informing and rationing demand. Part is not ensuring fair outcomes. Capitalism cannot be moulded into a generous outreach to the poor and disadvantaged. It simply won’t work. It is an idea contradictory at its core.

It's easy if you try. Scary, too.

As for lifting those in poor countries out of poverty, how about advising them to adopt Judeo-Christian institutions and values; the institutions and values that have underpinned economic progress in western countries and in other countries which have tried them. Call them what you like, of course, to make them universally palatable.

I will guess. That advice will never come out of Davos or the Council. Yet, when all is said and done, parliamentary democracy, the rule of law, property rights, free speech and freedom from fear, the absence of systematic nepotism, cronyism and corruption and, vitally, mutual trust, tell the tale of progress; not pie-in-the-sky reimagining of capitalism.

From the unattainable to the unachievable describes the segue from saving the poor to saving the planet. Here’s a thought. What is the ideal state of the planet? Roaming ruminants, sans people, perhaps. Short of that green-dream nirvana wouldn’t it be nice, for example, to get CO2 down to pre-industrial levels? Or would it?

A friend of mine, Ivan Kennedy, emeritus professor of agriculture at Sydney University, tells me that we are now effectively addicted to higher levels of CO2. He estimates that if CO2 were to return to pre-industrial levels it would reduce the photosynthesis of cereal crops by more than 20 percent. This would likely cause famine, malnutrition and death, particularly among the world’s poorest. Something on which the Pope and Archbishop might cogitate.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Caring

With all the excitement of coming to Davos for the World Economic Forum, I completely forgot I can ski here!  Skiing was obviously the last thing on my mind when a new friend from Lyford Cay mentioned they’d be able to smuggle me in among the climate gurus and environmental titans but here I am.

Landing was a bit of crush and I could see why some opt to take the train from Zurich-it’s not only because the trip is so majestic and reminds us of what we are fighting for… but Davos can’t possibly accommodate that many jumbo jets all arriving within hours of one another.  Rows and rows from heads of state made it look like the U.N. roll call of jets. And that doesn’t count the larger number of climate-minded oligarchs who selflessly give of their time and money.

But as I came in from Copenhagen, (chartered but shared) I landed right in the heart of things.  I did wonder if they even have traffic controllers here, it felt like that six-way stop in Beverly Hills just below Sunset where one car goes and then another and miraculously no one collides. Add to that the people who took helicopters from wherever they landed their jets and you have a very crowded airfield! 

It was on this airfield that I saw bellmen hauling skis and boots and I remembered it was originally a ski town.  Alas… I’ll have to rent. 

What better place for a Great Reset?

The conference is by invitation only (obvi!) but this year proved a bit tougher as the event has moved underground.  Daddy had been several years back (work stuff) and advised me to fill my dance card before I arrived, and boy he wasn’t kidding!

With the arrival of the dreaded Covid, the conference technically moved to next May in Singapore. So they just re-titled the January event as “The Davos Agenda” and made it fully virtual.  And who can blame them? If things go as we hope, The Great Reset is going to re-shape our entire world! And by extension my beloved planet. 

I feel as though I had a bit of a jump on everyone… having gone to so many underground parties in London during lockdown.  Who knew that the iceberg homes would prove to be the police-proof solution to a party. As things got more sophisticated in the London parties, we were asked to submit to a ten-minute coronavirus test before being allowed entry and obviously had to pay in cash under threat of having to split any fines incurred should we get busted. 

But there were no such tests here in Davos, owing—I assume—to the fact that the leaders of the free world and the gilt-edged would have managed to run by a vaccine.  And I can tell you my poor over-swabbed nostrils were grateful. We were however, sworn to no mobiles, no texting, tweeting, posting, or sharing under penalty of some mandate I couldn’t quite understand, but am sure was all for the betterment of our poor planet.  

When I checked in they gave me a folder which I hoped would contain a schedule of everything but it only listed the conference schedule and a list of “starred must-watch sessions”, how to submit questions… blah, blah… whatever!  All virtual computer stuff. Luckily I had a host of WhatsApp invites with detailed instructions, and one even said to delete the invite itself.

I was looking a bit tired from travel, and the week with Daddy in Copenhagen,  so I slathered on a deep moisturising masque and opened my computer to watch the conference going on in some adjacent building.

The first video was “the welcome” and showed four masked, and distanced speakers… “live from the studio in Geneva”, which might have been true when they taped it but I’d just seen one of the very distinctive looking ladies stepping out of a helicopter. In the next screen was Klaus (Schwab) who was probably, admittedly, in Davos, and a stern un-masked woman who seemed to be sitting on a toadstool. Turns out I was wrong and she was not going to talk about mycology-it was just an unfortunate choice of chairs for a video conference. 

Klaus began saying, “2021 will be a crucial…it will be a pivotal year for the future of humankind”. 

Not really going out on a limb there but OK…I agree. 

Then he went on to say, “It will be crucial because we have to continue to fight the virus—BUT we have to move out of the pandemic".

Which is it??? Stay and fight or move out?  

Then he continued, "BUT…

Another BUT…

“…above all we have to restore trust in our world… in order to overcome the Kaisers.” 

WHAAT?  The Kaisers?  I needed a cup of tea. I rewound: "hin orduh zu overcome ze Kreisiz." The crisis! Dr. Strangelove has nothing on this guy.

 A knock on the door signalled my tea had arrived and so I answered with my white masque on.  That’s the great thing about a place like this… they pretend not to notice.  

I watched another few videos and they all had one thing in common. Super-fast talking and a limited lexicon. They all seemed to use the words “sustainable”,  “unprecedented”, “massive”, and “inclusive”— no matter what they were discussing. It was a good thing this wasn’t a drinking game!

And more absurd… “coronavirus” a word that infected every single sentence. It was the reason to be, the reason not to be, the reason to remember, to forget, to change, to remain…and yet they sat two feet apart, pulling off and donning masks like it was some musical chairs game at a children’s party. 

I looked at my phone to decide whether I would go to the Urban Transformation or Energy Infrastructure receptions.  I decided on Energy because someone might know my father and I just couldn’t listen to how coronavirus affected the poor disproportionately. Everything affects the poor disproportionately but it was the response to coronavirus that was more likely to affect the poor than anything else.   

Day Two and I am not drinking or eating anything. I had more champagne, wagyu beef, truffled lobster mac and cheese, and fatty tuna belly to get me to spring. I called Daddy to ask a few questions but he didn’t pick up. I opened up my computer to see what was on and if it should pre-empt a spa visit. Now playing was the session on how the forum is shaping media and entertainment. Well I can tell you… different actor, same script. Here’s what she said verbatim:

“Media was the first to go through massive digital disruption. Without a strong ecosystem you cannot sustain that kind of change.” 

Yes, believe it or not, that is what she said. “Massive”, “ecosystem”, “sustain.” Same words, new topic, making zero sense. And who wants to ‘sustain media disruption’ ?  It’s what she actually said.  But if you just listen to the buzz words instead of what she actually says… it seems sympathetic. And important.

How I wish Daddy would pick up.  I’m so lost and I can’t believe the point of this was to confuse. If I did reach him he’d likely ask me what did I expect. And then he’d tell me to go skiing. I think I shall. It will be massive, but not unprecedented.