Beware the Environmental Emojis

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hitler with Opel, 1937.

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

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

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

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

No names, please.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Driving Towards Utopia, Skidding on ICE

“Against stupidity the gods themselves struggle in vain, O’Sullivan,” my grammar school teacher, quoting Goethe, would say as he handed back my weekly essay with helpful comments. “So what chance do you have against it?”

They said things like that in those days. And I have often wished that Mr. Hughes were both around and in a position to “mark” the policy announcements of various governments painting the glorious future they were shaping. Her Majesty’s Government headed by Boris Johnson especially needs his dry and weary judgmentalism.

Last week I contrasted two things: first, HMG’s apparent decision that, having already announced a ban on the sale of petrol- and diesel-fueled vehicles by 2035, it would bring forward that timescale to 2030; second, the substantial reasons why electric cars might not be the inevitable future—consumer resistance, the vast expense of expanding the electricity network to cope with EVs, and the possibility that a new battery needed to make EVs cheaper and more efficient might not materialize for a future as near as 2030.

That’s a tough contradiction. But it was resolved on the day I wrote it by the adverse reactions of both specialist writers and the market to Elon Musk’s “Battery Day” announcement that Tesla hasn’t come up with that hyped-up battery yet but it will soon.

Here’s the summing up of Tesla’s stock gyrations over the next few days by Market Watch: “Shares fell 22%, as of Thursday’s closing price, as a widely anticipated update on the company’s battery technology failed to wow investors. The decline is worse than Tesla’s 21% drop in March, when the entire market was plummeting because of the coronavirus.”

Even Goethe had his critics.

Now, the market isn’t infallible. Some of the higher share price may have been in response to salesmanship by Musk that now looks over-optimistic.  It’s also likely that research and innovation will develop a lighter and more efficient battery and thus a cheaper EV in time, if not necessarily in line with a politically driven target like 2030.

That said, public policy should not be based on optimistic forecasting of specific innovations in technology. Which means that the U.K. government should not bring forward its ban on selling petrol-fueled cars—ICE cars in the jargon—to 2030 and should even push it forward to beyond 2035. That would give us the time needed to consider a better mix of public policies on carbon emissions and much else.

As it happens there are very solid reasons for doing so, as Professor Gautam Kalghatgi, a fellow of the Royal Academy of Engineering, the Institute of Mechanical Engineers and the Society of Automotive Engineers, who is currently a visiting professor at Oxford University, argues in his monograph, The Battery Car Delusion:

The first sentence of his summary introduction alone is a stark questioning of current orthodoxy in Whitehall: “Battery electric vehicles (BEVs) do not represent a significant improvement over internal combustion engine vehicles (ICEVs) in terms of their carbon dioxide footprint unless all the energy for their manufacture and use is CO2 -free.”

There’s a huge cost -- as in Pounds and Dollars -- in carbon emissions as well, from building a larger and more robust system of electrification to accommodate BEVs. It’s paid not only by government but also by EV owners who would have to install battery-charging pillars in their garages and driveways in order to avoid long lines and waiting times to refuel their vehicles.

And what are the benefits to set against these extraordinarily heavy costs? Still in his summary, Professor Kalghatgi points out that “Even with a 100-fold increase in the number of BEVs to 10 million, around 85% of transport energy will still be delivered by ICEs. And this large increase will at best save about 4% of the GHGs [Greenhouse Gas Emissions] associated with transport in the UK. ”

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In short the switch to electric vehicles, even if we could be confident that they will be cheaper and more efficient for EV drivers (which we can’t be) would offer an extraordinarily modest benefit to set against heavy costs. It’s a public policy that makes no sense.

Unfortunately, if you want to get a policy changed, it’s not enough to persuade governments that it will have a net negative impact on the country. You also have to convince that them there is a policy that will also meet their aims—here it’s reducing carbon emissions—to compensate them for having to abandon their destructive approach.

In this case there is an alternative policy. It  is to improve the efficiency of the internal combustion engine so that it releases fewer carbon emissions into the atmosphere. It’s a very simple and practical approach to solving a difficult problem. It does not require the building of any infrastructure, let alone a massive one, in order to work effectively. For that and other reasons, it doesn’t constitute a heavy increase in expenditures by governments and consumers.  It’s already being accomplished by the research departments of automobile companies which have transformed conventional cars to an astounding extent since the 1960s.

How effective might this approach be in reducing carbon emissions? Professor Kalghatgi estimates that a 5 percent reduction in fuel consumption by ICE vehicles would obtain a larger reduction in carbon emissions than the massive switch to electric cars with all its attendant infrastructure costs. That alone would be a massive prize. But he also believes that a reduction much larger than 5 percent in fuel consumption by ICEVs could be obtained through such methods as “better combustion, control and after-treatment systems along with partial electrification and reductions in weight.”

The snag is that though these innovations are being pursued now, how long is that likely to continue if the U.K. government instructs car manufacturers that they must stop selling their product in ten years? What incentive is there for companies to maintain large R&D expenditures when they are officially told that these innovations, even if successful, will reduce  carbon emissions and make other improvements in their automobiles for only a short period before production is halted altogether?

Let's relax and think this through.

Indeed, how long will automobile companies continue to invest at all in products other than those which, unless Musk gets that elusive breakthrough, will be too expensive for most consumers to buy unless the government steps in with subsidies to help them?

It’s policy fueled by the moral vanity that Britain should lead to the world in combatting climate change by destroying a major industry, making a huge dent in the Exchequer, and contributing a reduction in world carbon emission so small that it would not register on any meter.

Against stupidity the Gods themselves struggle in vain.

To Save California from Fire, Burn It

As the state of California slowly returns to the state of Nature, politicians such as Gavin Newsom -- the worst governor in Golden State history, so bad he makes one yearn for the second coming of Gray Davis -- and the arsonists in Sacramento propose to make things worse, not better. Newsom, whose name should be changed to Noisome, blames the outbreak of fires during, um, fire season on "global warming" and "climate change."

And not just are the hots getting hotter -- the wets are getting wetter!

“This is a climate damn emergency,” Newsom said, standing amid the ashes of the North Complex fire in Oroville in Northern California. The fire is one of 28 major blazes currently raging across the state — four of which are among the 10 largest wildfires in state history.

“I’m a little bit exhausted that we have to continue to debate this issue,” Newsom said of climate change, standing in Butte County, the same county that suffered the Camp fire in 2018 — the deadliest in state history — only to face massive fires again this year.

“The debate is over on climate change,” Newsom added. “Just come to the state of California.”

Well, governor, I've lived in California multiple times in my life, including growing up in San Diego, working as a reporter and critic in San Francisco, and writing in Hollywood. I love California -- or at least what it used to be. I knew California -- and your state ain't no California any more. But that's what happens when the same few interlocking wealthy families control the state's destiny for far too long: it becomes Mexico, ruled by aristocrats and cauldillos as they punish the peasants for their penury.

The fact is, the current wildfires are not, as the Huffington Post would have it, "among the largest wildfires in state history." Maybe in recorded state history, but that doesn't go back very far. Bjorn Lomborg, the "Skeptical Environmenalist," has a few words for the governor:

The massive fires raging in California are being blamed squarely on climate change. Alongside ominous photographs of orange skies, the front page of the Sunday Los Angeles Times blared: “California’s Climate Apocalypse.” Golden State Gov. Gavin Newsom says the cause is climate change. Anyone who thinks differently, he insists, is in denial.

The governor is right that climate change is real, man-made and something we need to deal with smartly. But the claim that the fires are caused by climate change is grossly misleading. To understand why, it helps to know that California wildfires used to be much bigger. This past decade, California has seen an average burnt area of 775,000 acres. Before 1800, however, California typically saw between 4.4 and 11.9 million acres burn every year.

In other words, up to 12 percent of the entire area of the state — had its modern boundaries existed in the 18th century — burned every year. This all changed after 1900, when fire suppression became the norm, and fire declined precipitously. In the last half of the 20th century, only about 250,000 acres burned annually.

But because most fires were stopped early, this left ever more unburnt fuel in the forests. According to one estimate, there is now five times more wood-fuel debris in Californian forests than before Europeans arrived. Californian fires are slowly coming back to their prehistoric state because of the enormous excess fuel load. Putting up solar panels and using biofuels will be costly but do virtually nothing to fix this problem. Prescribed burns will.

Ah, but the Left -- which systematically discourages the study of history -- believes (as did the French revolutionaries and the Soviet communists) -- that the world began anew with them. As far as the modern California Left is concerned, the Golden State sprang into being fully formed, like Athena from the brow of Zeus. They never give a thought to the white male easterners and midwesterners who came out west and made the desert bloom, who dammed the Sierra lakes and rivers, tamed the Colorado River, built the beautiful neighborhoods of San Francisco and Los Angeles, and most of all, learned to prevent forest fires via brush clearing and controlled burns (so, by the way, did the Indians).

That couldn't stand -- why, didn't they know that managing the fire threat was inflicting pain on Mother Gaia? The Left is nothing if not superstitious and anthropomorphic, and in the guise of "environmentalism" is hurtling the state back to the stone age.

Here's Michael Shellenberger, who like Lomborg believes that the warming trend is in part attributable to human activity, giving the governor a meteorological lesson. Please watch the video:

The climate hysterics don't want to hear this, of course. It's critical to their view of the world to believe in the innate evil of mankind, the better to salve their consciences as they punish their fellow citizens with ever higher taxes to appease the angry climate gods who do not, in fact, exist. Of such delusions are the ruination of once-great states made.

'Resilient Recovery' to the Rescue!

The Trudeau government has a plan to save Canada's economy from post-Covid collapse. It advances a glorious shopping list of unsustainable programs and initiatives called the Task Force for Resilient Recovery, part of the so-called “Build Back Better” campaign, which is also Joe Biden’s campaign slogan. The plan claims that “Our focus should not be simply on returning to growth, but on growing smarter and cleaner to support a more resilient future.”

The intention is “to put our economy on a low-carbon [and] sustainable and competitive pathway [toward] net-zero,” thus supporting “Canada’s adaptation to climate impacts.” Its attention will be on “supporting the environment, clean competitiveness and climate resilience [while] addressing implementation, and with attention to youth, women, Indigenous peoples and vulnerable groups.” 

The emphasis will be on solar panels, new grids, hydrogen production, carbon pricing systems, clean energy sectors (i.e., wind farms) and zero-emission vehicles (ZEVs). The project is being pushed by Deputy Prime Minister and newly-installed Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland, and by Trudeau crony Gerald Butts, which inspires zero-confidence in the outcome. Freeland is all fries and no burger. Butts is the next edition of the Terminator. Given their qualifications and record, the leadership of these two Trudeau stalwarts should inspire profound misgivings.

It can't be reasoned with, it can't be bargained with.

As Diane Francis writes in the Financial Post regarding “the loopy recommendations put forth this summer by Trudeau’s Task Force for a Resilient Recovery,” it is an anti-business outfit consisting of “a hand-picked task force that is a grab-bag of professional Liberals, green activists, former civil servants and self-described social entrepreneurs whose business models are all about getting grants and subsidies.” She continues:

Their recommendations would bankrupt the country. They include: $27.5 billion to build energy-efficient buildings; $49.9 billion to retrofit existing buildings; and a pledge to ‘jump-start production and adoption of electric vehicles,’ which does not include a price tag, but is sure to be a hefty one. When mixed with Trudeau’s continuing assault on Canada’s only engine of economic growth — the oil and resource sectors — the outcome is a foregone conclusion: Canadian taxpayers, who already pay some of the highest taxes in the world, will crumble or flee, along with their investors and employers.

The resilient recovery initiative is neither resilient nor oriented toward recovery. It is shaky and abortive and will crater on itself, dragging the economy down with it. A similar project was tried in Ontario under the Liberal governments of Dalton McGuinty and Kathleen Wynn. The aforementioned Butts was McGuinty’s senior advisor and also, as the CBC reports, the “brains behind… the ill-fated Green Energy Act.” He had no compunction about “signing onto dubious wind power projects and its cripplingly inefficient Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program (RESOP).” Ontario is now the most heavily indebted sub-sovereign borrower in the world, plagued by systemic inefficiency, prohibitive electricity rates, and a debt load almost double that of the “fiscal train wreck” known as California, a triple whammy from which the province may never recover. 

The science on which the taskers predicate their version of the Green New Deal is deeply flawed. Writing in PowerLine, John Hinderaker lucidly exposes why Green energy is impossible. It is an article that should be read by every citizen concerned about the wind turbine being erected in his neighborhood. The problems are insurmountable. “Wind turbines produce energy around 40% of the time, and solar panels do much worse.” Battery storage, the Liberal default position, is a dead end. There is no feasible battery “that can store the entire output of a power plant or a wind farm,” apart from the fact “that battery storage is ruinously expensive.” Moreover, the materials needed for a single wind turbine—4.7 tons of copper, 3 tons of aluminum, 2 tons of rare earth elements, and 1,200 tons of concrete—should give us pause.

Depleting the planet's resources, one twirl at a time.

Figures for the U.S. grid taken as a whole show that the wind-solar-battery nexus “would consume around 70% of all of the copper currently mined in the world, 337% of global nickel production, 3,053% of the world’s total cobalt production, 355% of the U.S.’s iron output, and 284% of U.S. steel production, along with unfathomable quantities of concrete.” In addition, to have a perceptible effect on climate, “China, India, Brazil and the rest of the developing world would have to get all of their electricity from wind and solar, too. That would increase the above demand for materials by something like 15 to 20 times,” depleting the planet’s resources.

Meanwhile, in a crowning irony, radical environmentalists “bitterly oppose, and successfully frustrate, the very mining projects that would be needed to produce the materials for the turbines and solar panels they say are essential to the continued existence of the human race.” Altogether, it makes more sense to “harness the energy of unicorns running on treadmills.”

And what is driving this Green madness? Two things: “1) politics, and 2) enormous quantities of money being made by politically-connected wind and solar entrepreneurs.”

In a painstakingly detailed report for the Manhattan Institute, The New Energy Economy: an exercise in magical thinking, Mark Mills has also demonstrated that the green energy movement is wrong by orders of magnitude in every single claim it makes regarding cost, efficiency, underlying math, energy availability, disposal protocols, grid parity, incremental engineering improvements, digitalization and the ability to meet demand

Green energy, he points out, is no substitute for hydrocarbons, which are the world’s principal energy resource today “and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future. Wind turbines, solar arrays, and batteries, meanwhile, constitute a small source of energy, and physics dictates that they will remain so… there is simply no possibility that the world is undergoing—or can undergo—a near-term transition to a ‘new energy economy.’” The mathematics is unforgiving.  “The path for improvements now follows what mathematicians call an asymptote; or, put in economic terms, improvements are subject to a law of diminishing returns.” As he explains:

This is a normal phenomenon in all physical systems… gains in efficiency… or other equivalent metrics such as energy density (power per unit of weight or volume) then shrink from double-digit percentages to fractional percentage changes. Whether it’s solar, wind tech, or aircraft turbines, the gains in performance are now all measured in single-digit percentage gains.

In other words,

The physics-constrained limits of energy systems are unequivocal. Solar arrays can’t convert more photons than those that arrive from the sun. Wind turbines can’t extract more energy than exists in the kinetic flows of moving air. Batteries are bound by the physical chemistry of the molecules chosen… The limits are long established and well understood.

Mills is talking about actual energy production and use, not about digital miniaturization, which follows different laws of efficiency. “Physics realities do not allow energy domains to undergo the kind of revolutionary change experienced on the digital frontiers,” he explains. Green enthusiasts believe that energy tech will follow Moore’s Law, namely, that the number of transistors on a microchip doubles every two years, though the cost of computers is halved. Mills puts paid to the idea of domain parity:

Logic engines can use software to do things such as compress information… and thus reduce energy use. No comparable compression options exist in the world of humans and hardware. If photovoltaics scaled by Moore’s Law, a single postage-stamp-size solar array would power the Empire State Building. If batteries scaled by Moore’s Law, a battery the size of a book, costing three cents, could power an A380 to Asia. But only in the world of comic books does the physics of propulsion or energy production work like that.

Nonetheless, the scam persists thanks to “scientific” jobbery and self-interest, as well as the furthering of political schemes in favor of the Green agenda. Stuart Ritchie in his just-released Science Fictions refers to what is known as the Mertonian Norms (named after sociologist Robert Merton) that underpin all scientific research and progress. These comprise the four major scientific values:

So-called climate science is an example of how the Mertonian Norms—in particular the last two principles—have been consigned to the scrap heap, leading to data manipulation, massaging of results for propaganda purposes, belief in the improbable or impossible, and promotion of government projects however dubious or ill-advised.

Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.

The newfound passion for ZEVs is a case in point. Transport Canada announced a national purchase incentive program for electric vehicles. Canadians who purchase electric vehicles or plug-in hybrids are eligible for an incentive of $2,500 to $5,000. It sounds good on bureaucratic paper, but as Mills clearly shows:

There are no subsidies and no engineering from Silicon Valley or elsewhere that can close the physics-centric gap in energy densities between batteries and oil. The energy stored per pound is the critical metric for vehicles… The maximum potential energy contained in oil molecules is about 1,500% greater, pound for pound, than the maximum in lithium chemistry.

Yet enthusiasm for these projects continues to grow. In a recent column, “The folly of green economics," Rex Murphy comments on the absurdity of the city of Toronto’s plan to outfit its ambulances with solar panels. “[S]o inventive, so original an initiative to stave off planetary oblivion,” he writes, will be little consolation to anyone who “has to be carted off at high speed to the emergency department… should  911 be called on a rainy day, or during the night.” But the symbolism of the project is not to be downplayed since it shows the world “how sublimely climate-virtuous we are.” 

Murphy can scarcely disguise his incredulous contempt. I take this folly as representative of what, in reality, is meant when Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland speaks so confidently about a green recovery.” For there is nothing “so unpromising in practical terms, so irrelevant to the real challenges of our time… as subservience to green politics.” Come to think of it, if solar is so reliable and efficient that people’s lives are made to depend on it, why don’t solar panels or, say, lithium batteries power helicopters or passenger jets or ocean liners? As we’ve seen, adducing Moore’s Law to green the future simply cannot work in this energy context. 

I watch the tugs from my window hauling gigantic barges, massive cargo ships and endless log booms up the Fraser River toward the sawmills. Heavily laden mile-long freight trains rumble across the nearby trestle bridge dozens of times day and night. On the farther shore tall cranes, dredges and power shovels are at work putting up a fifty-seven storey condo tower. Tugs, barges, ships, freight trains, sawmills, bridges, dwellings—in short everything we rely on for our existence would cease to exist on solar, lithium and wind. Commerce would come to a standstill.

The fact is that the war against the energy sector and its replacement by green renewables will be calamitously unaffordable, trash the domestic power grid, and ultimately bankrupt the nation. And if carried out globally, it would devastate the planet. This should be a no-brainer but it escapes the progressivist mind with perfect serenity, in particular since neither Mertonian disinterestedness nor skepticism are cherished values.

Writing in the Financial Post about the “five years of suffering in eco-zealot purgatory under the Trudeau Liberals,” Gwyn Morgan cites Statistics Canada showing that “since election of the Trudeau government in 2015, investment in 10 of our 15 major business sectors has dropped by 17 percent, as both Canadian and foreign investors have fled. More than $185 billion left the country.” The full impact of the gargantuan restructuring of our vital business sectors in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic will be economically apocalyptic if based on green thinking. To make matters worse:

In the face of such alarming prospects, it seems the coronavirus has fostered escape to a fantasy state where reality is magically replaced by an imagined world that is whatever one wishes it to be. It’s baffling to hear our government declare the pandemic has created an ‘opportunity for public investment in green restructuring of the economy,’ which translates into subsidizing windmill and solar-power companies. How will that work out? Ask Ontarians.

Morgan concludes his fiscal obituary with a note “to our new Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland: Achieving private-sector investment and job creation is the only hope for keeping the good ship Canada from smashing onto the post-Covid rocks and sinking a nation that had such great potential.” Unfortunately, Minister Freeland knows nothing about finance and, like the rest of the Green coterie, is deaf to reason, science and economics. And it is unlikely they will undergo a change of heart or mind, being subject to Brandolini’s Law: The amount of energy needed to refute bullshit is an order of magnitude bigger than to produce it.

And so the Task Force for Resilient Recovery ploughs ahead toward the abyss, indifferent to the laws of nature, in defiance of the principles of scientific inquiry, and oblivious to the dictates of common sense. It is busy imposing its comic book designs upon the real world. As Graeme Gordon writes for CBC News, “The architects of Ontario's energy fiasco are now stationed in the PMO. The whole country should be wary of the financial disaster of that province being replicated nationwide.” 

It’s a foregone conclusion.

California Bows to Energy Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smoking Out the Golden State's Green Utopia

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newsom or Noisome?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About Those 'Green Energy' Unicorns...

You think those baby unicorns grow on trees? Better think again. "Green" energy, in fact, comes with a very high price tag. as this report from the Manhattan Institute makes clear:

As policymakers have shifted focus from pandemic challenges to economic recovery, infrastructure plans are once more being actively discussed, including those relating to energy. Green energy advocates are doubling down on pressure to continue, or even increase, the use of wind, solar power, and electric cars. Left out of the discussion is any serious consideration of the broad environmental and supply-chain implications of renewable energy.

As I explored in a previous paper, “The New Energy Economy: An Exercise in Magical Thinking,”[1] many enthusiasts believe things that are not possible when it comes to the physics of fueling society, not least the magical belief that “clean-tech” energy can echo the velocity of the progress of digital technologies. It cannot.

This paper turns to a different reality: all energy-producing machinery must be fabricated from materials extracted from the earth. No energy system, in short, is actually “renewable,” since all machines require the continual mining and processing of millions of tons of primary materials and the disposal of hardware that inevitably wears out. Compared with hydrocarbons, green machines entail, on average, a 10-fold increase in the quantities of materials extracted and processed to produce the same amount of energy.

Here's the paper by Mark P. Mills: "Mines, Minerals and 'Green' Energy: A Reality Check."

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It never seems to occur to the Reality-Based Community that in the real world one must think past "A, therefore B" to include many others letters of the alphabet as the variables pile up. In other words, if you think that by plugging your electric vehicle into a handy wall socket you've just put the fossil fuel and ancillary industries out of business while otherwise continuing your lifestyle and saving money to boot, think again.

As Mills points out, among the reality of "green energy" are:

  • Building wind turbines and solar panels to generate electricity, as well as batteries to fuel electric vehicles, requires, on average, more than 10 times the quantity of materials, compared with building machines using hydrocarbons to deliver the same amount of energy to society.
  • A single electric car contains more cobalt than 1,000 smartphone batteries; the blades on a single wind turbine have more plastic than 5 million smartphones; and a solar array that can power one data center uses more glass than 50 million phones.
  • Replacing hydrocarbons with green machines under current plans—never mind aspirations for far greater expansion—will vastly increase the mining of various critical minerals around the world. For example, a single electric car battery weighing 1,000 pounds requires extracting and processing some 500,000 pounds of materials. Averaged over a battery’s life, each mile of driving an electric car “consumes” five pounds of earth. Using an internal combustion engine consumes about 0.2 pounds of liquids per mile.
  • Oil, natural gas, and coal are needed to produce the concrete, steel, plastics, and purified minerals used to build green machines. The energy equivalent of 100 barrels of oil is used in the processes to fabricate a single battery that can store the equivalent of one barrel of oil.
  • By 2050, with current plans, the quantity of worn-out solar panels—much of it nonrecyclable—will constitute double the tonnage of all today’s global plastic waste, along with over 3 million tons per year of unrecyclable plastics from worn-out wind turbine blades. By 2030, more than 10 million tons per year of batteries will become garbage.

Yeah, well, surely they've thought this whole "green" thing, right? Sadly, no. For not only will the "green movement" be hideously expensive and result in no appreciably better ecological ends, the extraction of its necessary materials -- for even unicorns must come from somewhere -- will also cost more and require even more pollution than current fossil fuels do.

For example, replacing the energy output from a single 100-MW natural gas-fired turbine, itself about the size of a residential house (producing enough electricity for 75,000 homes), requires at least 20 wind turbines, each one about the size of the Washington Monument, occupying some 10 square miles of land.[4]

Building those wind machines consumes enormous quantities of conventional materials, including concrete, steel, and fiberglass, along with less common materials, including “rare earth” elements such as dysprosium. A World Bank study noted what every mining engineer knows: “[T]echnologies assumed to populate the clean energy shift … are in fact significantly more material intensive in their composition than current traditional fossil-fuel-based energy supply systems.”[5]

Nothing comes from nothing, and the rare-earth elements and other necessities to build "green energy" machines have to be extracted, just like fossil fuels, only far more expensively. "Wind farms come close to matching hydro dams in material consumption, and solar farms outstrip both," write Mills. "In all three cases, the largest share of the tonnage is found in conventional materials like concrete, steel, and glass. Compared with a natural gas power plant, all three require at least 10 times as many total tons mined, moved, and converted into machines to deliver the same quantity of energy."

Please click on the link at the top to read much, much more on the subject. The short version is those who harbor of prelapsarian vision of "clean and green" energy are not only fooling themselves, but are putting the rest of us at risk while indulging their neo-totalitarian fantasies of streets whose only traffic will be that of little princesses on unicorns.

Instead, as Mills concludes, the future really is going to be all of the above -- minus the unicorns, of course:

Even without subsidies, mandates, and policies that favor green energy, the future for both America and the rest of the world will see many more wind and solar farms and many more electric cars. That will happen precisely because those technologies have matured enough to play significant roles. And given the magnitude of pent-up global demand for energy and energy-using machines and services—especially after the world struggles out of recession—it is a truth, not a slogan, that the world will need “all of the above” in energy supplies.

These realities, combined with the immutable reality that green machines require extraordinary quantities of energy minerals, can perhaps form a common intersection of interests that support an expansion in domestic mining. That would be, after all, of strategic and economic benefit to the United States, regardless of the debates over whether green energy is a replacement for hydrocarbons, which it is not, or a significant new and valuable energy sector, which it most assuredly is.

That Big Green won't even hear of it tells you all you need to know about their real motives.

Environmentalism Looks in the Mirror

For Earth Day this year, Michael Moore gave environmentalists a very special present. It’s a greenish movie version of Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Gray, in which a young environmentalist sells his soul to the devil in order to stay pure but becomes rich by getting capitalism to fund the replacement of fossil fuel energy with carbon-free renewables. He thinks he has tricked the devil. But when he sees his photograph on the brochure of the new Green Energy Mega-Corporation as its CEO, he is horrified to find that instead of the shining youthful purity of his original countenance, it depicts the corrupt features of a greedy, grasping old titan, deep in sin.

In Wilde’s novel, Dorian Gray stabs the picture from repulsion and despair and dies. In the 1945 Hollywood movie with Hurd Hatfield and Donna Reed, he also stabs the picture but then turns dying to God and begs for forgiveness. But in the Moore reboot, Dorian simply closes down his Green Genesis investment fund (which has been the target of a damaging investigative documentary) and partners with Al Gore and Bill McKibben to establish a new Do It Right (This Time) Brazilian Rain Forest Eco-Partnership, after which he graciously accepts an award from the Sierra Club.

Now, that’s my summary of Planet of the Humans. On another page Tom Finnerty has a more thorough and thoughtful account of its plot and message. So you probably think you don’t really need to see the movie. But Tom and I would advise you to do so all the same.

Planet of the Humans is not a great world-changing documentary from an artistic point of view, and it’s not really a signature Michael Moore film either. He’s listed as its executive producer; it’s making an argument that fits comfortably inside his socialist outlook; doubtless he arranged its financing and production; and his name helps sell the final product. But instead of Moore’s trademark style of sarcastic accusation, it has a sadder but wiser more personal tone.

Its director, Jeff Gibbs, a frequent collaborator with Moore, is here his own Dorian Gray. He takes us on an autobiographical ramble through the last fifty years of the environmentalist movement as it goes from idealistic student radicalism into the tentacles of corporate sponsorship and as he goes from hopeful believer to disillusioned radical. The film’s merits are that it’s pleasantly watchable, occasionally very funny, tells a real story, makes an honest argument, and not least is given away free on the internet. What’s not to like?

We'll get onto that in a moment. First things first, however: on the good side of the ledger, the film’s honest argument is that the renewables movement is essentially a fraud. And it makes that case very effectively.

The movie is cleverly bookended by two rock concert celebrations of the renewables industry—the first a small Vermont renewables fair, the second a massive star-filled exercise in corporate self-congratulation—that fall victim to the same flaw and illustrate the same argument. Though the concerts are supposed to be fully powered by renewable energy, they have to fall back on the local electric grid when the rain falls, the sun goes behind clouds, the wind falls away, or the amount of energy generated by biomass fuel is simply inadequate to keep a rock band bursting our ear drums. It’s comforting to know, thirty years after Tom Bethell wrote The Electric Windmill, that some things never change.

The argument these two events illustrate is that renewable energy sources—windfarms, solar energy panels, biomass—consume more energy in their construction and their operation than they generate for the energy user and they are not always available when needed (at night, when the wind stops blowing, etc.) This is a story that’s told—together with supporting statistical evidence, shocking pictures of post-industrial decay, and ominous music—again and again through the movie. It packs a punch. And it drives the message home.

I didn’t suppose I would usually go to the Hollywood Reporter for an economic analysis of the renewables industry, especially from a skeptical standpoint, but its review of Planet of the Humans hit this nail squarely on the head:

You may feel good about yourself if you drive an electric car, but don't forget that it's recharged by energy from a power company that uses coal or natural gas. And that the battery was manufactured by a company using fossil fuels. Solar panels are great, but they mostly don't last more than a decade or so. Renewable energy sources such as wind turbines are intermittent, leading to power outages unless they're backed up by power generated by fossil fuels. Indeed, there are no business entities running one hundred percent on solar and wind alone.

Two caveats should be attached to this insightful praise for the movie. The first is that, as supporters of the renewables industry have claimed, some of the film’s examples may be technically out of date—notably its criticism of the efficiency of solar panels. But that criticism would be stronger if “green energy” companies were not still demanding subsidies from the taxpayer to “compete” with the fossil fuels on which they rely. The day when these industries will see real profitability, moreover, constantly recedes into the future. Continued subsidies for renewables therefore undercut their fossil fuel rivals The reductio ad absurdum would be reached when fossil fuels themselves have to be subsidized to keep supplying renewables with the energy they need on cold rainy days. It’s the economics of absurdity, but alas that doesn’t mean it can’t happen.

The second caveat is that while it’s admirable that environmentalists should admit and examine their own mistakes, the fact is that all of the film’s accurate criticisms are recycled versions of what the critics of deep-green environmentalism have said all along. Some credit should be given to the “climate deniers” for understanding reality first. If you want a sharp, lucid, and witty elaboration of the best points made in Humans, here is an after-dinner speech from 2014 by the Australian geologist, Ian Plimer, to the IPA in Melbourne. I’ve posted this before, but I never tire of watching it, and neither should you. No offense to Mr. Gibbs, but Professor Plimer is much funnier.

There are villains in Mr. Gibbs’s account, of course. They include  billionaires like Michael Bloomberg and Richard Branson and (inevitably) the Koch brothers who have greenwashed their reputations with donations to renewables and similar causes. Refreshingly for such indictments, however, enviro-activists and political sympathizers are named in the indictment too: Al Gore, Bill McKibben, Robert Kennedy Jr., the Sierra Club, the Union of Concerned Scientists, etc., etc.

Gibbs has a lot of fun, cross-cutting from noble speeches to Green groups by billionaires and high-profile enviro-activists to pictures of their failed renewable schemes and the dereliction the failures left in their wake. Hypocrisy is always an inviting target, and here it’s often an amusing one too. The message is hammered home that in dealing with the billionaires, the McKibbens and Concerned Scientists lent their prestige to the cause of enabling the rich to get still richer from renewable schemes that never had any real prospect of delivering a better energy source than fossil fuels.

But is that entirely true? And even if it is, is it entirely fair? Did the moguls and their green allies know that their investments were no more than ways of greenwashing carbon-based energy? That seems very doubtful to me. There must be at least the possibility that they hoped these investments would finance technical breakthroughs that would lead eventually to clean energy with no side-effects. Half the world’s scientists are trying to do just that. Indeed, the most likely solutions to the problems of energy and climate are technical ones. Admittedly, we can’t rely on future technical breakthroughs, as moderate environmentalists do when relying on carbon capture to justify a net-zero emissions policy, but it would be foolish to deny their possibility when history is littered with them. As Bertrand Russell used to say: “The existence of something is absolute proof of its possibility.”

But Planet of the Humans doesn’t grant that possibility. Indeed, the film has an almost religious objection to technical “fixes,” as do some of the activists they interview at protests and demos. The mere idea of a technical fix is denounced as a monstrous and threatening heresy. And this objection seems to arise less because the fixes would fail than because they might succeed and thus postpone the collapse of the present industrial system. As the film winds down, its message seems to be something like:

The End is nigh, and if it isn’t, it should be. So don’t talk to us about solutions.

That’s odd because Gibbs and Moore would usually be expected to advocate some such solution as socialism at this point. Its absence is glaring here. Tom Finnerty has a very interesting discussion of the reasons for this in his review, and I strongly recommend it. My own guess is that the filmmakers have a strong prudential reason for avoiding the topic.

Attacking capitalism is easy and acceptable in the current climate of opinion in which support for socialism is growing. But whatever its other attractions, it’s nearly impossible to advocate socialism on environmental grounds plausibly. Much the worst industrial pollutions, including Chernobyl, have not only occurred under socialist regimes but they have also been clearly traceable to the incentives of the socialist system. That truth has escaped from learned journals into the public mind, and it can’t be forgotten. So the film is shy about advocating socialism.

Its substitute for a solution is reducing the world’s population. Less is better. We are the problem. We are destroying the world, and the world will strike back, unless we master ourselves and reduce our numbers. That argument may initially sound responsible, but it's dangerous, unworkable, and short-sighted

Dangerous? The twentieth century shows the dangers of seeing people not as individuals with human dignity but as destructive pests. I’ll leave it at that.

It’s unworkable because governments can’t control population as they wish and make a mess of it when they try. China’s “one child” policy led to a serious population imbalance—not enough girls—and had to be abandoned owing to popular opposition.

Short-sighted? We know how to reduce population most effectively, and direct government anti-natal policies are not it. It's when it happens through millions of voluntary choices as a result of larger social changes. People have fewer children when women get a good education and when their employers seek to make the workplace both a family friendly environment and a flexible working one. Other policies play a part—affordable housing, for instance, so that lovers can found stable families.

But the key to all of them is that they are the kind of social policies that are found only in advanced, prosperous, democratic, market, and free societies in which women share fully in making family and social decisions. And such societies are the opposite of the poverty-stricken, cramped, static, technically-backward, and authoritarian societies that Greta Thunberg and the enviro-extremists want to introduce—and of which we’ve recently had a most unpleasant taste in the Covid-19 lockdowns.

And because we’ve had a taste of it, the End is probably not Nigh.