Sailing Into the Abyss

The year is 2013. I am a passenger on a container ship as it voyages for twenty-seven days from Hong Kong to Southampton. Magellan, the third largest container ship in the world, is powered by a huge engine, equalled in size by only one other in the merchant fleet. For the mechanically minded; it is a marine diesel, fuel-injected, internal combustion, two-stroke engine, generating 109,000 hp. It has fourteen pistons, each almost a metre in diameter. I can vouchsafe that it is very large and loud.

On this voyage, the ship is carrying the equivalent of nearly 10,000 standard-sized containers. Containers, which can be more than double the length and taller than standard-sized, can hold up to about 28 tonnes of cargo.

Why mention any of this? A container ship provides a practical and grounding lesson on the realities of modern economic life that school children might be taught. As distinct, that is, from being brainwashed with fairy tales of sustainable development.

Magellan today: there's a metaphor here somewhere.

The lesson might begin thus: Our way of life, our prosperity, our ability to help those among us in need, are all critically dependent on growing, mining, making, trading and transporting things. Needed are entrepreneurship, business acumen, skill, hard work and, critically, cheap and plentiful supplies of energy.

A series of questions might follow to generate discussion. Apropos: If it takes around 4,700 tonnes of marine diesel fuel at $550 per tonne to shift one-hundred thousand tonnes of cargo from Hong Kong to Southampton, how many batteries charged by wind and solar farms would it take and how much would it cost? For mathematics students this would be an instructive introduction to imaginary numbers.

Another question might go like this. Is it possible for us to enjoy the ownership of cell phones, computers, flat screen TVs, cars, and all of our other modern conveniences without the dirty business of their manufacture and shipment? For students of anthropology, this may throw light on the development of cargo cults among primitive peoples. And talking of cargo cults, adult classes might be held for those who vote for green parties who seem equally prone to thinking that goods simply appear out of thin air.

Other instructive questions could be posed for the tutelage of students and greenies alike. Me, I want to stop there and turn back to the crude diesel which powers large ships. According to those who estimate these things, shipping accounts for around 2.5 percent of man-made CO2 emissions. Twice the emissions of Australia by the way. And as Australia is under pressure by the great and good, Joe Biden and Boris Johnson included, to prostrate itself before the deity of net-zero emissions by 2050, it isn’t surprising that shipping is also in the firing line.

No emissions please, we're Norwegian.

The International Maritime Organisation’s voluntary goal is to cut greenhouse gas emissions from international shipping by at least half by 2050 compared with 2008. Bear in mind that tonnages shipped are on course to be far higher in 2050 than they are now. The goal might be described as aspirational. Think of the late Soviet Union’s five-year plans. Even so, it is not going to be nearly enough to satisfy the zealots, when net-zero is their goal.

Norway is doing its bit.  Reportedly, as from January 2026, Norway intends to ban cruise ships from sailing through its fjords unless they generate zero emissions. How to bring this about? I don’t know. However, the Norwegian shipping line Hurtigruten announced in 2018 that it would run its ships on dead fish and other rotting matter. Smelly business. Fish at risk. Has limitations.

In an article in Forbes, development economist Nishan Degnarain echoed the UN in calling for shipping to urgently ditch fossil fuels. He claims that shipping is the sixth-largest emitter after China, the U.S., India, Russia and Japan; which, though mixing categories, is about right. What to do?

Degnarain doesn’t mention dead fish. He lists four possible solutions. These come out of a report by the international conservation group Ocean Conservancy. The report was launched at U.N. Climate Week, held virtually in New York in September 2020. Here are the putative solutions:

  1. Electrification, in other words batteries
  2. (Green) Hydrogen fuel cells
  3. Ammonia
  4. Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG)

To take them in reverse order. Environmentalists aren’t keen on LNG. Apparently, it leaks methane in transit. And, anyway, “cleaner” though it is, it is still a foul fossil fuel. Ammonia carries a risk of blowing up and when burnt emits the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide. Just a guess, but fuel cells powered by green hydrogen might not be quite ready for widespread installation in ships. One solution mooted is the onboard conversion of sea water to hydrogen. I simply assume that’s a joke. And in that same amusing vein, electrification is clearly a risible solution for ocean-going vessels. Consider the magnitude of the problem.

Leave aside the 30 million or so recreational and fishing boats in the world; lots pumping out CO2. As of the beginning of 2020, there were around 56,000 merchant ships trading internationally. This encompasses 5,360 container ships, over 17,000 general cargo ships, more than 12,000 bulk cargo carriers, around 8,000 crude oil tankers, nearly 6,000 chemical tankers, over 5,000 roll-on roll-off ships, and some 2,000 LNG tankers. All running on fossil fuels, overwhelmingly crude diesel, with a bit of LNG thrown into the mix.

Is it possible to get your head around refitting and/orreplacing this fleet so that it's emissions free? Maybe, if you’re an airhead and assume as-yet uninvented technologies will somehow save the day. If burdened with common sense and realism, you will know that it can’t be done. It is Panglossianism on stilts.

This is the situation. Western world leaders, without political opposition, have bought completely into "global warming" alarmism. Extraordinary, but that is the least of it. They are buying into delusional solutions to a non-problem. You’re sane and trying to figure out what the heck’s going on? Forget it. Just cling onto the rails as they do their damnedest to sail us into the abyss.

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.

The Fake News of 'Beyond Coal'

When one happens to be a scientist with an expertise in environmental issues like yours truly, one has the opportunity to digest a disturbing number of misleading, eye-rolling headlines in the mainstream media as heavily-biased journalists vainly attempt to present accurate information about environmental issues.

Even by that ridiculously low bar, the headline that appeared in the May 5 edition of the Chicago Tribune rates as the most misleading, unscientific and mindlessly hysterical that I have ever seen. A major metropolitan newspaper in the United States actually printed the following:

Burning natural gas is now more dangerous than coal.

Pollution from natural gas is now responsible for more deaths and greater health costs than coal in Illinois, according to a new study highlighting another hazard of burning fossil fuels that are scrambling the planet's climate.

Researchers at Harvard University found that a shift away from coal during the past decade saved thousands of lives and dramatically reduced  from breathing particulate matter, commonly known as soot. But the numbers declined only slightly for gas, another fossil fuel that by 2017 accounted for the greatest  risks.

About half the deaths from soot exposure that year can be attributed to the state's reliance on gas to heat homes and businesses, the study found. Coal is more deadly only when used to generate electricity.

The alarming findings raise questions about whether Gov. J.B. Pritzker's proposed transition to a zero-carbon economy would move fast enough in phasing out the use of gas—not only to blunt the impacts of climate change but also to ensure Illinoisans breathe clean air.

The term “fake news” hardly covers it. This is “farcical news,” “fanciful news,” “delusional news,” etc. Yeah, journalists are not scientists. I get it. But, how sad it is to consider there is not one editor at the Trib who might have enough passing knowledge to think something like “that really doesn’t sound right, maybe we should take a second look.”

The essence of the Trib’s story, written by staff enviro-propagandist Michael Hawthorne, may be summarized thus:

Hawthorne does not actually use the accepted environmental terms “fine particulate” and “PM-2.5” in his story. Instead, he calls fine particulate “soot.” Certainly, that’s a much more appealing term to someone attempting to create a narrative, but it has little to do with reality. When you call in a chimney sweep to remove actual soot from your fireplace, almost none of the black gunk he or she will brush off is anything close to 2.5 microns in aerodynamic diameter.

Anyway, the problem with this particular narrative is the same one that always occurs when people with an agenda attempt to dragoon science into supporting their political agenda: they use that portion of the science that helps them and ignore (willingly or ignorantly) any of the science that disproves their premise.

I can accept that the amount of PM-2.5 generated though the combustion of natural gas now exceeds the amount of PM-2.5 generated by through the combustion of coal. At least theoretically. The amount of PM-2.5 generated by the combustion of natural gas is relatively so tiny that it is very, very difficult to accurately measure using accepted EPA test methods. In the enviro-biz, one errs on the side of caution, meaning that PM-2.5 emission rates attributed to natural gas are likely inflated.

Doesn’t really matter though, since the amount of PM-2.5 emissions that can be tied to electrical generation of any kind is trivial. Based on the last verified National Emissions Inventory (NEI) of 2017, the total amount of PM-2.5 emissions generated across America was 5,706,842 tons/year. Of that, EPA attributed 107,270 tons/year of fine-particulate emissions to fossil fuel combustion used to generate electricity. That’s less than 2 percent of all national PM-2.5 emissions.

Wondering about the biggest source of PM-2.5 emissions? Glad you asked. The 2017 NEI attributes 4,188,615 tons/year of PM-2.5 emissions to “Miscellaneous Sources.” That’s a shade over 73 percent of the total. Miscellaneous sources are non-industrial, non-transportation related sources of all kinds. In this case, the vast majority of miscellaneous sources consist of wildfires – many of which are the result of pitifully irresponsible forest management in blue states like California – and natural erosion.

Back in the nineties and early 2000s, environmental NGOs like the Sierra Club were all-in supporting natural gas. They recognized that natural gas combustion was inherently cleaner than coal combustion and that the amount of greenhouse gas produced using natural gas was far lower than that amount of greenhouse gas produced using coal on a per megawatt generated basis. They gleefully accepted donations from natural gas producers in order fund initiatives like the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign.

Chesapeake Energy, the nation’s second largest natural gas producer, was a big Sierra Club supporter back then, presumably because Chesapeake executives hoped that going “beyond coal” would help their bottom line. They didn’t have the foresight to see that once the enviros actually went beyond coal, natural gas would be the next target of opportunity. I’ve been told by people I trust that several Chesapeake shareholders were something less than pleased when the Sierra Club pivoted from being a natural gas supporter to a natural gas opponent, which is where they and most of their fellow environmental NGOs remain today. In the business of environmental advocacy, as is the case with any other big business, one has to follow the money.

It’s a disappointing story, but I fear that Chesapeake will be far from the last company to jump at the bait when an environmental NGO offers them absolution in return for thirty pieces of silver.

Colonial Pipeline Hack May Be Just the Beginning

This week, hackers believed to be the DarkSide ransom gang operating out of Eastern Europe, possibly Russia,  targeted Colonial Pipeline, infecting its  information-technology systems though not its operational control systems. It seems to me the hack is a national security issue, as the pipeline which runs some 5,500 miles from the Gulf State refineries in Houston to customers in the southern and eastern part of the country all the way to New Jersey. It supplies 45 percent of the fuel in this swath and serves 50 million Americans and several major airports. 

The White House apparently takes a different view  announcing it’s a “private sector decision” as to whether Colonial should pay a ransom to get its pipeline back on  line. Anne Neuberger is deputy national security adviser for cyber and emerging technology:

Ms. Neuberger declined to comment on whether Colonial has paid a ransom, and the company hasn’t said so publicly either. She also said the administration hadn’t made a recommendation to Colonial on whether it should pay.

Normally the FBI encourages victims to not pay the ransoms to avoid fueling a booming criminal industry, but Ms. Neuberger said the administration recognized that is often not a feasible option for some companies, especially those that don’t have backup files or other means of recovering data.

Of course, paying the ransom will only make DarkSide’s tools more valuable to both them and to those they sell the programs to, meaning we’ll see more of this and with ever-increasing deleterious economic and energy consequences.

The shape of things to come?

It’s not as if we are in the dark about the need to safeguard cyberspace in critical infrastructure. We have in the Department of Homeland security and  a National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC),  with this mission:

DHS coordinates with sector specific agencies, other federal agencies, and private sector partners to share information on and analysis of cyber threats and vulnerabilities and to understand more fully the interdependency of infrastructure systems nationwide. This collective approach to prevent, protect against, mitigate, respond to, investigate, and recover from cyber incidents prioritizes understanding and meeting the needs of our partners, and is consistent with the growing recognition among corporate leaders that cyber and physical security are interdependent and must be core aspects of their risk management strategies.

In an email communication to me Eric Goldstein, executive assistant director for cybersecurity of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, states they are on the case of the Colonial Pipeline hack. “We are engaged with the company and our interagency partners regarding the situation," he said. "This underscores the threat that ransomware poses to organizations regardless of size or sector. We encourage every organization to take action to strengthen their cybersecurity posture to reduce their exposure to these types of threats.”

Colonial is in the meantime manually operating a segment of the North Carolina to Maryland stream. Gas-station lines have formed in several of the southern states, and truckers are warning of a variety of supply chain problems. The company indicated they may be fully operational in a few days  but Mark Ayala, director of industrial-control system security 1898 & Co., suggests it may take longer:

Given the breadth of the unknowns, the discovery, containment decontamination and remediation effort will be lengthy and likely to result in a gradual return to operations.

 The immediate impact may be less on the immediate availability of gas in the affected corridor than on the rising cost of gas as people prepare their getaways after over a year of Covid-19 lockdowns. The issue that most concerns me, however, is the need to update cybersecurity on energy infrastructure.

Here we go again.

There are political and technical problems with doing this, even if we make the assumption that government cybersecurity operations are doing their job and private firms are working hard to protect it. Mandiant (part of FireEye) did just that in successfully limiting the Colonial damage by persuading a hosting provider to shut down a server that contained the stolen data, thus isolating it from the hackers.

 Last year CISA warned pipeline operators about the threat of ransomware. It doesn’t seem Colonial  adequately responded to the warning. Why not? There are several practical problems with hardening cybersecurity on pipelines. Indeed, such risks seem to exist throughout the energy grid:

  1.  “Legacy assets,” decades old systems to which more recent digital technology has been added on, making them more vulnerable, not less.
  2.  The technology is difficult to update because there’s no down time for the operations, and with no downtime it’s difficult to update software. You cannot shut down a pipeline regularly to update your technology.
  3. The reluctance of rate regulators to allow expansion of cybersecurity budgets.
  4. The recent practice of industrial companies to converge their operational technology and information technology, which  makes it harder to contain infections.

And then there's overconfidence:

More than two-thirds of executives at companies that transport or store oil and gas said their organizations are ready to respond to a breach, according to a 2020 survey by the law firm Jones Walker LLP. But many don’t take basic precautions, such as encrypting data or conducting dry runs of attacks, said Andy Lee, who chairs the firm’s privacy and security team. “The overconfidence issue is a serious phenomenon,” Mr. Lee said.

These are the practical constraints on limiting malware and ransomware attacks on critical energy sectors, like pipelines. And then there’s the political handicap. Despite sending our warnings and calling together task forces of bureaucrats to discuss the issue, the focus of the Biden Administration is not on shoring up cyber liabilities. To it, “infrastructure” means doing away with fossil fuels and making the grid even more vulnerable. In fact, as the editors of the Wall Street Journal argue:

The U.S. government could help companies harden their information systems, but the risks to infrastructure will grow unless the U.S. makes the energy system more resilient and redundant. That won’t happen with Mr. Biden’s 500,000 new EV charging stations and rooftop solar panels on every home.

Just the opposite. The grid and other infrastructure will become more vulnerable as more systems get electrified and connected. The Government Accountability Office warned in March that home solar panels, EV chargers and “smart” appliances that companies control remotely are creating new entry points for cyber criminals to take over the grid.

Defending the U.S. against cyber attacks is the Biden Administration’s most important infrastructure job, but that’s not what its $2.3 trillion proposal would do.

Buckle up for a bumpy ride.

The Fossil Fuels Must Go Through

There is something surrealistically ironic about Joe Biden's Emergency Order to mobilize tanker trucks -- anything -- to keep the fossil fuels going. On the one hand it is a backhanded admission of how vital the products transported by the Colonial Pipeline are. On the other it is a reminder of how policy errors can progressively cascade through the system, one mistake compounding the others.

The federal government issued a rare emergency declaration on Sunday after a cyberattack on a major U.S. pipeline choked the transportation of oil to the eastern U.S. The Colonial Pipeline, responsible for the country’s largest fuel pipeline, shut down all its operations Friday after hackers broke into some of its networks. All four of its main lines remain offline.

The emergency declaration from the Department of Transportation aims to ramp up alternative transportation routes for oil and gas. It lifts regulations on drivers carrying fuel in 17 states across the South and eastern United States, as well as the District of Columbia, allowing them to drive between fuel distributors and local gas stations on more overtime hours and less sleep than federal restrictions normally allow. The U.S. is already dealing with a shortage of tanker truck drivers.

Why is there a shortage of tanker truck drivers? One reason is the Covid-19 lockdown. "We've been dealing with a driver shortage for a while, but the pandemic took that issue and metastasized it," said Ryan Streblow, the executive vice president of the National Tank Truck Carriers. "It certainly has grown exponentially."

Warning: driver shortages ahead.

More fundamentally truck driving has become an unattractive lifestyle choice for young people. "The trucking industry relies heavily on male employees, 45 years of age or older... With an alarming amount of these drivers retiring within the next 10-20 years, we are quickly approaching a dangerous cliff." Given the 18-20-year-old group has the highest rate of unemployment of any age bracket that may sound surprising, but it less so when the strict regulatory requirements for commercial driver's licenses are taken into account.

It is telling that one of the first things Biden did to increase fuel-trucking capacity was to relax federal restrictions. For too long public policy has taken the availability of labor and energy for granted. "There are now more jobs available than before the pandemic. So why aren't people signing up?" asks NBC.

Economic impact payments, or stimulus checks, have also played a factor for some who are sitting out the labor market, some employers say. Factory owners and employers lament that the generosity of unemployment benefits and stimulus payments have some workers avoiding returning to work because they make more money not working.

“I had one guy quit who said I can make more on unemployment. I’ll take the summer off,” said Robert Stevenson, CEO of Eastman Machine Company, a producer of machines that cut specialty fabrics for industry. “I told him I can’t guarantee you’ll have your job back. He said, ‘I’ll take my chances.’”

It's easy to throw away capacity when you've got enough. Activist Kendall Mackey was willing to cancel the Keystone XL Pipeline to make a statement. “The Keystone XL pipeline was never about any single pipeline. It’s about establishing a litmus test rooted in climate science and climate justice for government projects and infrastructure.” Gail Collins wrote in the New York Times that “my instinct is to always side with the folks who don’t want to drill for more oil.”

Oil -- who needs it?

Only a few had the wit to realize the years of fat don't last forever.  As Robert McNally wrote on CNN the years of lean eventually come. "When oil prices next boom (and trust me, they will), investors will resume interest in pipeline projects and whoever is in the White House may regret Keystone XL's cancellation because the United States will have to rely more on less stable trading partners for oil."

The cyberattack on the Colonial Pipeline by the Russians no less is a reminder that old fashioned national security, fuel stockpiles and working class labor still matter in the real world. When you need them you really need them. Well might Joe Biden mimic Augustine's famous prayer: "Grant me chastity and continence, but not yet."

Abolish fossil fuels and rednecks, but not yet.

What Price 'Infrastructure'?

It seems like just yesterday then-President Obama put Joe Biden in charge of that “three-letter word: J.O.B.S.,” and while he failed in that mission, as president he’s back at it, this time with incoherent strategies and massive graft opportunities for all his Democrat constituencies.

The proposed $2 trillion giveaway, dubbed the American Jobs Plan, only thinly disguises the graft-enabling nature of the proposal. And the means to pay for this giveaway -- higher taxes on persons, investments and businesses -- are more likely to destroy the economy, most particularly regarding small businesses, long the generator of jobs in this country, than the expenditures proposed for actual infrastructure are to increase job opportunities and prime the economy already reeling from the Covid lockdowns.

But let me begin with the most ludicrous of Biden’s ideas, supersonic jets and a national high speed railroad, something not specified in the Plan, but Buck Rogers-ish notions he keeps talking about nevertheless, perhaps under the misguided notion that these are in the Plan. Perhaps even to deflect from what is in it.

Biden claims, “If we decide to do it, be able to traverse the world in an hour, travel at 21,000 miles an hours.” Earth’s circumference is slightly short of 25,000 miles. To circumnavigate it these imaginary planes would have to fly 25,000 miles per hour, coincidentally the escape velocity of the earth. The last supersonic jets were the Concorde fleet which took 3 1/2 hours to fly from New York to Paris to London, so noisy and at an operating cost so high that these factors  caused its demise in little over two decades.

Of course, it would be interesting to see how supersonic jets could, in any event, function without Biden’s hated fossil fuels. Maybe some sharp engineers can rig up solar panels and windmills on them without jeopardizing reliability or reducing air speed.

All aboard the Shanghai maglev express!

Equally unrealistic is his advocacy for a cross-continental high speed railway, something once bandied about, then scrapped for decades. To my knowledge, the fastest trains operating today still move at less than conventional air speed: “ Shanghai Maglev has the highest run speed of 431 kph for an operational train covering a 30.5 km distance in 7 mins 20 secs.” Japan’s L0 Series Maglev due to be operational in 2027 will travel at 310 miles per hour, slightly less than half the speed (about 570 mph)of a Boeing 747.

It’s almost 3,000 miles from New York City to Los Angeles. To be of any value, any cross-national high-speed train will have to connect major urban areas, and the difficulty of obtaining the right of ways through already well-developed tracts in a country with so many litigation opportunities available to opponents seems as difficult as getting high-speed trains operating on such varied topography and wind speeds as a national railway would encounter.

Even without the delays and legal costs to obtain rights of way, the last estimate I saw for construction of high-speed rails was $60 million per mile. The Chinese have fewer property rights they can defend in court, and Shanghai’s 30 km Maglev line cost 1.2 billion to build. This, of course, doesn’t cover recurring capital costs --Shanghai’s train is losing about $33 million per year on those. Given the way Amtrak is run (it manages to lose money even on $9.50 cheeseburgers, we can expect to lose far more on our national railroad.

But the final kicker, it seems to me, is that like the push for all-electric vehicles, Maglev high speed trains require a great deal of electricity (between 1 and 3 kilowatts per ton ), but nothing in any of the administration’s grand plans includes increasing electric-power generation. If it did, fossil fuels would still be needed to create the electricity unless the administration has some super-secret plan to create much more nuclear energy generation. Do you see that on the horizon? I don’t. And there's not a whisper of it.

Just as fantastical as Biden’s wish list for things not in the Plan, are the items in it. This is how the Democrats who like this infrastructure bonanza define “infrastructure":

Translation: It’s everything they want to use tax revenues to pay for. Like Lewis Carroll’s Humpty Dumpty, the Democrats seem to think ,”when I choose a word, it means just what I choose it to mean.”

In the real world, however, infrastructure is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “the basic physical and organizational structures and facilities (e.g. buildings, roads, power supplies) needed for the operation of a society or enterprise.”

In real infrastructure terms only 5 percent of the  $2.7 trillion  would go for roads and bridges. More than half the plan is designed to eliminate fossil fuels. $213 billion would go to build and retrofit energy-efficient homes and buildings. Elsewhere, retrofit investment costs came to almost twice the actual energy savings with an average return of minus-7.8% annually. The plan calls for $85 billion for regional mass transit, just as mass transit ridership is collapsing because Covid-19 has warned people of the dangers of it.

Of course there is no mention of continuing high capital costs, safety concerns and the demonstrably poor management of such systems. In Washington, D.C., we had a multi-billion dollar federally financed mass transit system which has been so poorly managed it has become unreliable and dangerous to passengers. People in ever larger numbers are refusing to ride it. To lure riders back, the management is now offering lower fares, further increasing the operating deficits which were already high. It’s estimated that by 2025 the revenue shortfall over expenses for this single system is expected to be some $2 billion. Taxpayers, of course, will be making up the difference.

Moral: you can build these things at great expense but you can’t make us ride them. And you can’t ignore the fiscally painful experience that huge continuing capital outlays will be needed to keep them afloat.

The D.C. Metro: if only it worked like it looks.

As the Administration works to banish fossil fuels, which presently make up more than half of American electric generation, Biden works to boost the wind and solar industries and is making the power grid less reliable in the process. His idea of providing tax credits for battery storage and high-voltage transmission lines to places now reliant on fossil fuels, is equally unrealistic.

I've already discussed here the plans to pay states, cities and schools to buy electric vehicles and build 500,000 charging stations, and how ludicrous this is without a plan to increase electric generation. Biden plans to shell out $178 billion in grants to create these charging stations along the 50,000 miles of interstate highways and thousands of other major highways. How to decide who gets those grants and where the charging stations will be built? If you live in a Democrat-run city you can figure this out. If not, ask a savvy friend who lives in one.

Less remarked upon are the tranches of cash for things no one would actually consider infrastructure:   building and upgrading schools and child-care facilities and extending broadband service to all Americans.

The plan to spend $100 billion on K-12 facilities includes $50 billion in direct grants for facilities and $50 billion in construction bonds. Another $45 billion in Environmental Protection Agency funds would be used to reduce lead exposure in schools and early-childhood facilities. In addition to expanding broadband, Biden’s plan would seek to lower the cost of internet service.

Also not well-publicized is the plan to kill the suburbs, a refuge for middle class Americans from crime, bad schools and high taxes -- this would be done not only by making transportation by cars more expensive, but also by “diversifying” neighborhoods through forced changes to local zoning laws that would end single-family-home neighborhoods. Placing low-income, multiple-unit rental housing in single-family suburbs, something that overturns the long established right of municipalities to create their own zoning preferences, will likely face a mountain of legal challenges.

Meanwhile, zoning is now racist.

The Plan, is manifestly unrealistic and expensive. Will it create the 19 million new jobs the administration claims? No way. Moody’s chief economist estimates that the plan will net only 2.7 million new jobs, 600 percent smaller than Biden's claim. To however many jobs are created by building charging stations and upgrading nursery schools to be more energy efficient, subtract the large number of jobs lost in the fossil fuel and carbon-intensive industries.

But they even have a plan for that: some $40 billion is to be allocated for a "dislocated workers" program and $10 billion for a Civilian Climate Corps. How wonderful will it be for oil rig workers and coal miners to learn to code from Democratic functionaries or to have your homes and schools retrofitted by people who've never done this work before and are unlikely to have the skills to do it properly?

In sum, the plan is built on fantastical notions respecting transportation choices, is littered with graft opportunities and means to pay off supporters without doing much to improve actual infrastructure, transportation, energy use or that “three-letter word, J.O.B.S." -- which in Biden's mouth now really does seem like a four-letter word.

The Democrats are attempting to ram through an expensive, job killing, neighborhood destroying, pelf-increasing, waste of money. In Congress, they have the slimmest of majorities. At the moment they hold the House by only six votes (218-212) and the Senate is 50-50. One can only hope the Republicans will stand firm and that enough Democrats will see that their political survival depends on their joining the opposition to kill this monstrosity.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Entertaining

I called Daddy to discuss a few details of my upcoming party but to no avail. It goes without saying that Judith (mummy) is more the person to consult when it comes to parties but this is meant to promote both my newly expanded life coaching business, and to incorporate my love for the planet.

I’m not mocking those who push to ‘do what you love’… but taken literally… my job would be reviewing posh resorts and spas. Practically speaking though, the planet does matter to me, and I’ve taken up the Great Reset Agenda in tandem with furthering my work. Some of which was Daddy’s idea… unfortunately Judith answered.

‘Yes, I’m still in the Bahamas… yes, all going swimmingly… (OMG!) YES I’m wearing sunscreen… is Daddy there?’ (as if I’m twelve). ‘Yes, I’m working, loads of clients on the horizon… is Daddy… no not technically on the horizon, some are actual clients, I just need to ask him some questions about a party… a BUSINESS party.’ 

Always be closing.

Then she went on about invitations, and how themes generally fall flat before eventually telling me that Daddy was out.

‘Out? How can he be out? You’re in the country.' I insisted.

‘I think he’s gone duck hunting,' she said, in an uncharacteristically high voice.

‘In spring?? Unlikely. This wasn’t going well. I checked my watch for no reason and asked, ‘Can you just have him… NO, MOTHER I’m fine… I just…’ Oh my double god! ‘Can you please just… thank you. Goodbye.’

Truth was, it had been Daddy’s suggestion that I do some real promotion while I’m here amongst the leisure working class, and that I get a jump on the Great Reset folks, why wait for the WEF to dictate a timeline. He’s suggested instead of just posting videos and admonishing like they do… that I really implement. So I’m doing cocktails for a hundred and serving the most sustainable options: Cocktails that come packaged in barrel pouches, paper straws, eco-friendly everything, cheeses from farms that convert buffalo waste into clean energy, and of course bugs—the greenest of all proteins.

I just wanted to ask if he really was in favour of serving bugs… I certainly didn’t see anyone serving them in Davos and the idea made me shiver but I thought… maybe he’s right and I needed to really dig in, but every choice created a dilemma.

Tastes like yakitori!

For instance the cocktails in recyclable barrel pouches… forget that they would have to be shipped here especially, but unless I made a big deal about it, I mean really point it out… who would know? I run the risk of virtue signaling, which is the exact opposite of what I’m trying to do.

It was a dilemma until I realised this crowd wasn’t going to want anything other than known commodities anyway (Veuve, Monkey 47, French reds…) If I were going to introduce the eco packaging, I’d have to just send everyone home with a sample of the pouch cocktails, which again they’ll likely never drink so… hmm.

I called the third sustainable cheese farm on my list and was told, "People don't think a lot about poop when they think about sustainable cheesemaking, but they really should.” And I knew I’d reached the right place. But best keep that slogan off a cocktail napkin though.

I was going to need backup, so I flew in an assistant I’d used in the past. Straws, too, were creating a huge dilemma as everyone knows the paper ones just don’t work. I’d personally had good luck with pasta straws but they weren’t gluten-free.

Meanwhile my assistant had been making a mood board on whose authority I didn’t quite grasp, but which she says is ‘essential to really nail down the concept’. Ugh! She had researched “everything from movies, to fashion, to art”, and after half a day spent, it looked like a party in which I was marrying myself.

‘GREAT RESET!’ I yelled at the top of my lungs before realising I sounded like I needed a Xanax.

But Xanax I did need when I found out that the much-touted bug supplier…for all their preening and wailing, actually didn’t have any bugs at all! None I could serve anyway. Their “current line” catered only to agricultural needs (fertiliser) and pets. PETS?? Now I really wished I’d saved my scream.

How dared they go on chastising the rest of us, bragging about a higher protein source and more sustainable and no greenhouse gases and getting the rubber stamp of the WEF! Little creatures, big change my ass! I was livid. Twenty years ago Harrods had sold chocolate-covered ants which were considered a novelty but it actually existed. I wanted this bug supplier kicked out of the World Economic Forum and beaten with sticks.

The Chinese just love scorpions-kebab!

Just then Daddy rang and I had all I could do to not start crying. He listened and then said, ‘So if I understand the problem… your eco-food isn’t fit for human consumption… do I have it right?’

I was too pathetic for words. He had it right, which momentarily made me laugh, and then I did start sobbing. He just let me go on and on while he googled and found a solution.

‘It’s going to sting a little…’ He began… ‘but if you agree to overnight delivery there’s a company out of Thailand that sells cooked and dehydrated bugs—seasoned with salt! It says right here, edible grasshoppers, crickets, silk worms and sago worms’.

I was silent. ‘I thought for sure I had you with sago worms.’ He added, trying to cheer me up. Just then the idea that I truly was serving bugs hit me and I started to vomit. I thanked him and rang off.

After sorting myself out, I returned to find my assistant on the phone chatting up a DJ. Maybe. It was hard to tell with all the ‘totally’ and ‘kif-kif’ going on. It was then that I decided SHE ALONE could be on bug detail and I explained to her just how important this particular component was, and that she should create an ICP (ideal customer profile). Listen, I had just learned the term myself but I needed her to take this seriously.

It was party time and while I thought it would be the men clamouring to crunch down on one of these edibles, it was the women, who somehow conflated high protein with lean, and saw these critters as the fast-track to a flat stomach. I had to keep drinking because every time I thought about crispy cricket legs breaking away from a body and being pressed back by someone’s tongue I started to hurl. I couldn’t even face my guests. Had I seen any food stuck in anyone’s teeth I’d have lost it.

It was indeed too soon to leave my own party, but a hangover couldn’t come soon enough.

In the Union Halls, Strange Bedfellows

Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me. At what point to labor unions finally figure out that the Democrat Party is not their friend, that modern Democrats are anti-capitalist, anti-working class socialists of at least the limousine-liberal variety, and that members of the party of slavery, segregation, secularism, and sedition are simply not to be trusted with vital matters of public policy, especially at election time?

Such reflections arise after reading this Politico story, in which once again the blind and the gullible have fallen for Joe Biden & His Media Robinettes:

Biden's green energy plans clash with pledge to create union jobs

President Joe Biden touted his $2 trillion infrastructure plan as a "once-in-a-generation" effort to tackle climate change while creating millions of "good paying jobs." Some unions warn that it may ultimately cost a lot of jobs, too.

Labor groups, echoed by Republicans in Congress, are cautioning that Biden's plan to hitch the jobs recovery to massive green energy investment could backfire because of the quality of employment it will create and the economic devastation it could cause on rural communities.

The president's push to decarbonize the economy will mean eliminating the kind of steady, fixed-location jobs that come with coal mines or fossil fuel power plants. The Biden plan would require the construction of vast numbers of solar, wind and battery projects, along with potentially new pipelines for carbon dioxide and hydrogen. But construction jobs are temporary and require mobility, and once those projects are complete, they'll need few workers to maintain them and keep them operating.

"The jobs that he talked about yesterday were construction jobs," said Phil Smith, a spokesman for the United Mine Workers of America, a day after the Biden speech. "We're not seeing anything concrete that our members can look at and say, 'OK, that's where I'm gonna fit in.'"

Well, how about that! The chimera of "clean energy" should always be read as "bogus energy," not to mention "no jobs." One of the lies behind the claims of "renewable" energy is the implication that such energy will always be readily available and will take next to no effort to extract from Mother Gaia. The wind blows and the sun shines most every day, right? And once your solar panels and scenery-disfiguring windmills are up and running, presto!

It's witchcraft...

No more brutal rape of the virgin Earth. No more big sweaty men with dirty paws and grimy fingernails laboring in claustrophobic coal mines or broiling in the west Texas oilfield. Why, this is energy that even the most fastidious Ivy League poetaster can be proud of: just flip a light switch and you're good to go. Why, you can even plug in your electric car as you would a toaster and know that while your muffin is browning up the Earth has begun healing.

The complaints underscore the difficulty Biden will have in pursuing his two most ambitious goals: reviving the labor market by generating millions of jobs for unions — which traditionally thrive in old-line industries — and transforming the U.S. into a clean economy where electric vehicles and battery storage replace coal, natural gas and oil as energy sources.

Difficulty? Impossibility is more like it. There aren't "millions of jobs" lurking in "green" technology, except may in dumping the wind turbines at the bottom of the Marianas Trench when civilized people finally wake up to the environmental destruction they've created in the name of... preventing environmental destruction.

Environmentalists defend the plan as a necessary move away from old technologies to battle climate change. And others say Biden's plan does include tax incentives for manufacturing and a vision for developing a supply chain that could provide the kind of blue-collar, high-skill jobs that used to be in power plants.

Note the operative words in bold. Any story that includes the word "could" in a context of advocacy is lying to you: the word should be "won't."

While unions are strongly supportive of the administration's pro-labor stance, they worry that the end-goal — if not executed properly — could have devastating effects on their members. “From our perspective, if the jobs aren't there when the mine closes, this plan fails," Smith said. "There's a very large disconnect between what the aspirations are here and what's going to end up actually happening on the ground.”

Biden fought to bring white, blue-collar workers back into the Democratic fold after the party lost them to Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential race, and the administration is seeking to prove that this can be both the most pro-labor and anti-carbon presidency in history. But the reality may prove troublesome.

Ya think? Oh well, sin -- or vote -- in haste, repent at leisure. And learn to code, because unless traditional sources of energy production survive, union members will be looking for new jobs in the great green near-future.

Fighting the Climate War, One Fad at a Time

Behind my desk is a framed picture of an article in Newsweek dated April 28, 1975. The cooling world, it is titled. “Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects,” it is reported. Fortunately, nothing was done, e.g., “covering arctic sea ice with soot,” otherwise what a pickle we’d now be in, what with global warming and all.

Global cooling was forecast to cause “an increase in extremes of weather such as droughts, floods, extended dry spells, long freezes, delayed monsoons and even local temperature increases.” There it is. Whatever the climate does we should expect the worst.

Oops.

Australian palaeontologist and climate alarmist, Tim Flannery expected the worst in 2007. Droughts were in his crystal ball. “Even the rain that falls isn’t actually going to fill our dams and our river systems,” he said. Late March 2021 in the states of New South Wales and Queensland, rain galore, floods, dams overflowing. Of course, things will change, droughts will recur in the land “of droughts and flooding plains;” as the Australian poet Dorothea Mackellar put it, way back in a wiser age before Flannery was born. And they’ll be met with water restrictions and, among Christians, prayers for rain.

It would help if there were more and bigger dams, but these are hard to build. They are hard to build, in case you don’t know, because the habitats of rare species would be lost or Aboriginal cave drawings or other sights of significance submerged. As it turns out, these barriers to dam building apply more or less everywhere it makes sense to build large-scale dams. Sometimes I think we might as well designate the whole of Australia as a national park-cum-untouchable Aboriginal sacred site and be done with it.

Warragamba Dam is the primary water source for Sydney. It was finished in 1960 when Sydney’s population was not much over two million. Sydney’s population is now over five million and, surprise-surprise, during droughts water storage runs seriously low. A plan to increase the capacity of the dam by increasing its height is stalled. No surprise there either.

As an aside, isn’t it somewhat churlish to keep on praying for rain during droughts when we’re persistently recalcitrant in harvesting water? My Anglican minister points out that those suffering during droughts still need our prayers, whatever the circumstances. I take his point, yet I suspect most Anglican churchgoers are green-hued and therefore to some extent complicit in the suffering. It’s a conundrum, but enough of that.

Don’t for a minute think that the “record-breaking” rains (they are not by the way) in NSW and Queensland will dent Flannery’s (hysterical) conviction. It would take momentous contradictory events to disturb any part of the conviction among alarmists that we face imminent catastrophic climate change. It comes down to the philosophy of science.

To be honest, I don’t find the philosophy of science to be a riveting subject. But it seems to me that the history of science in the past half century has shown that Thomas Kuhn’s insights rather than Karl Popper’s best encompass the scientific method in practice. Scientists clearly move in crowds; albeit with the odd, shunned, ‘eccentric’ voices on the periphery. The prevailing scientific paradigm, as Kuhn describes it, bounds inquiry. That is, until whatever is the stubbornly-held paradigm is completely overwhelmed by contradictory events.

Incidentally, J K Galbraith (in The Affluent Society) used the term “conventional wisdom” to describe, more or less, the same phenomenon in the social sciences and in all walks of life.

We only have to be right this week.

I dare say many climate scientists were investigating global cooling when it was fashionable, as they are now almost all investigating global warming. I doubt many are subjecting the hypothesis of CO2-caused warming to stress testing. They are not Popperians, busying away trying to falsify the paradigm which guides their research. No, I suggest, they simply accept it as true and work within its bounds. And maybe that is the way science has generally proceeded.

Climate sceptics often charge that a scientific consensus is a contradiction in terms. But is that true? On reflection, I don’t think it is. I have read that a consensus has developed within quantum theory which leaves those on the outside at risk of being shunned. I understand that Galileo had less trouble with Urban VIII, the Pope at the time, than he had with the scientists of the day who had the ear of the Pope. At question is how to break through a consensus?

I will take my lead from Sun Tzu in The Art of War. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles” (3,18). Many of those who believe climate alarmists to be wrong don’t seem to know their enemy. They tend to think that logical counter-arguments will carry weight. They won’t. All such counter arguments strike at the paradigm (a walled city). That simply won’t work. It’s akin to infidels questioning the likelihood that the Archangel Gabriel spoke to Muhammed in a cave. It will carry no weight among Islamists.

What to do against a strong enemy? “The worst policy of all is to besiege walled cities,” says Sun Tzu (3,3). “Force him to reveal himself, so as to find out his vulnerable spots” (6,23). In this case, the vulnerable spot is the practical means of countering CO2 emissions.  Clearly today’s renewable energy doesn’t and won’t ever work. Not even Michael Moore (Planet of the Humans) defends it. So, what will work? Right now, only nuclear can deliver sufficient dispatchable power, whenever and wherever it is required, without producing CO2 emissions. That is the turf on which the battle can be fought and won.

If indeed man-made CO2 is on the brink of causing catastrophic warming, then we need to move speedily. There is no time for endless research on renewables or hydrogen. Only nuclear is available in the limited time we have left. Might even be able to get David Attenborough to buy into this, in view of his current angst.

Of course, battles will remain. Electric vehicles, farm animal emissions etc. But at least we might be rid of ugly wind and solar farms and the costly, intermittent and unreliable power they bring. True we lose cheap and dependable fossil-fuel power. However, consolingly, it will not be lost to the world. We can depend upon China and India to keep on burning the black stuff.

It’s Not About the Environment

The admiral’s speech at the 2009 graduation of my stepson from U.S. Navy Basic Training included, “It’s not about the bed,” referring to teaching boot sailors to make their bed. The point was learning to do something because it was necessary: self-discipline. No one worried if the Boot cared about getting into an unmade bed. The bed was a tiny part of a big picture; a tactic to accomplish the strategy of creating a person disciplined to do what needed to be done by observing it. That strategy was part of a larger one: ensuring the ability to achieve a goal when confronting an opponent.

This is the self-discipline required not only of a warrior, but of every free person in a society that wants to remain free. Do we still have it? Winston Churchill once noted, “You can always count on Americans to do the right thing -- after they've tried everything else.”

The caveat is that the recognition of the usefulness of a tactic requires understanding the strategy of one’s opponent. Churchill’s meaning is that we will try multiple tactics until we hit on one that addresses the strategy of the opponent, at which point that tactic becomes the foundation of an effective strategy, and thus “the right thing.”

Vandals at the gates.

Americans so far do not grasp the strategy of the Democrats in particular, or of the bipartisan political establishment, in general. It is not an overstatement that our continuing failure to do so will be fatal to Western civilization. This is clear from their continuing, punitive fetish of "climate change."

The environment is a tactic. It is not the strategy. Blocking the Keystone pipeline (again), and joining the the Paris accords (again), are tactics within a tactic. Mask mandatess are a tactic. Open borders are a tactic. Even destroying education is a tactic.

If you think the city fathers of San Francisco, Los Angeles and Denver care about the environment, please explain tent cities, uneducated feral kids running in gangs, and streets full of discarded trash, used needles and feces. Explain killing pipelines to ship oil in (Warren Buffet’s) rail cars – which is more dangerous to the environment than pipelines.

Our rulers demand we stop the earth from warming right now or the global temperature might increase two degrees!  Not only does no data support their warming hoax, not only do these same “experts” admit that hitting 100 percent of the goals of the Paris Accord will not accomplish this, the peer-reviewed journal, Astrobiology, informs us that the ideal planet temperature is five degrees C - warmer .

Paris is not about the environment, and even if it were, it wouldn’t fix anything. Why are they pursuing this tactic?

We now have denied our entire youth of an education for an entire year. Ready for seven more? The education industry insists learning can and must be done from home. That they are wrong is not the issue. Parents – who know their kids far better than teachers – from across K-12 and college know the educators are wrong, as is demonstrated by the increasing number of child and young-adult suicides, if that’s a strong-enough indicator for you. These kids know they are falling-behind and that society doesn’t care. That is the issue.

“Educators” (remember when we called them “teachers,” and they could actually teach?) are refusing to return to the classroom. The risk for those under 70 of dying from this virus is shown in the CDC Table below, updated September 10, 2020. Basically, zero un-retired educators and zero of the student population are among cohorts at-risk of dying from this virus.

What will be the consequences of years of substandard schooling? The same as those of open borders – an uneducated labor force. An uneducated labor force is not employable in First-World jobs. Why are they pursuing this tactic?

If the next generation is to be educated in this brave new world, a parent will need to both stay home and have the capability to teach their own children. Ignore the “have the capability”; skip everything after “stay home.” The percentage of married couples with two earners is 60 percent. What do you think will be the consequence on the national housing market if we take half of the married breadwinners out of the labor force? What does the middle class do with most of its money? Buys housing. And here you thought the collapse of 2008 was bad?

But – the elite have a plan for middle class housing: Destroy it. Why are they pursuing this tactic?

Open the borders, kill the schools and you have voila! an uneducated labor force doing the bidding of the apparats at the top. And no middle class demanding to raise their children as they see fit, to earn a good living, to spend their money as they decide, and to speak their minds about what once was their own government.

The ruling class isn’t wearing masks, taking commercial airlines, sequestering themselves from social activities, or worried about their children, like those at Bill Gates’ alma mater, not being educated in opened schools. This isn’t about them. It’s about the same thing that drove Stalin and Mao and the Killing Fields: Totalitarian power.

Ready for what, Bill?

It’s about destroying a middle class they see as having grown too big for its britches, wanting too much, and refusing to shut the hell up and do as we’re told. It's about millions of impoverished, uneducated, powerless workers trying to feed their families, and so doing whatever is asked by the owners of the new slave class: You and me and our kids.

This isn’t about the environment or education or housing or borders. Those are tactics.

Their strategy is destroying self-rule, human independence and all human rights gained since ancient Greece. They mean to destroy us. No other reasonable explanation exists for Paris, Open Borders, or the lockdown. No other consequences from their actions are imaginable.

The tactics to stop our opponents are not running for school boards or donating money to the red half of the Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party happily and unconstitutionally impeaching our former president. We’ve tried those. We’ve “tried everything else.”

Are you prepared to contemplate a strategy to stop them from killing you? If not, why not?