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.

It's Not Nice to Mow Mother Nature

Recently, a friend sent me a Globe and Mail article entitled “Is it Time to Decolonize Your Lawn?” with the comment that he guessed it was a slow news day. Before I had finished the first few paragraphs, I saw what I was in for: a censorious screed against green grass combining anti-Western, anti-capitalist animus with an oft-incoherent environmentalism. 

The article, by Sierra Bein and Christopher Katsarov, informs readers that while many people associate a green lawn with carefree childhood summers, and may even “feel a sense of pride” about their carefully tended grass, such positive associations are a delusion. Just as we now regard with mystification the Victorian practice of affixing dead birds to ladies’ hats, so we may come to reject the traditional lawn as a symbol of violence. The lawn’s troubles stem from its location “at the confluence of two hot-button issues: climate change and Indigenous rights.” 

Not everything in the essay is nonsense. It is true, for example, that green lawns require a lot of water during hot summers, and that in drought-prone areas, the need for water—and for chemical fertilizers—is a problem. But a fact-based argument about alternatives to the grassy lawn would not have allowed the authors to range over such guilt-inducing preferred topics as cultural appropriation and planetary peril. 

The essay is a hodgepodge of assertions and half-made arguments, many over-stated or self-contradictory. Readers are chided for not realizing that weeds “are as wonderful as any other plants” (“when you actually get to know them”) and then told a paragraph later that attempts to get rid of weeds “often lead to more” (though wouldn’t that be a good thing according to the article’s logic?). At one point, lawns are criticized for failing to mitigate heat, as if gardeners don’t know that’s what trees are for. Biodiversity is touted, but never with the recognition that most serious gardeners seek biodiversity.

Nonetheless, despite its tangents, the essential ideas in the article are unambiguous: 1. Lawns are expressions of colonialism and private property, and are therefore a vestige of the bad old days; and 2. Lawns indicate our western attempt to control nature, a dangerous act of hubris that must be overcome.  

A settler-invader strikes again.

The suggestion that lawns violate “Indigenous rights” is perhaps the weakest of all the article’s dubious assertions, and it is never seriously pursued. But we are told that lawns are “a lasting symbol of how settlers appropriated Indigenous land and culture.” How so? The article never manages a coherent answer. It is stressed that the idea for green lawns—to be used for picnicking and croquet playing—was brought by European immigrants to North America in the late nineteenth century, even though the conquest and colonization of the land that would become Canada and the United States had occurred centuries earlier and had nothing to do with lawn care. It’s hard to believe that relations between Native and non-Native peoples would have developed differently if European Canadians had never come to valorize a swath of green, and I doubt many contemporary Indigenous advocates lie awake at night plotting to eradicate the lawn-mower.

The greater issue here, one suspects, is the opportunity for the authors to tout the superior ecological virtues of the Indigenous way of life, and to shame non-Native people for their alleged failures. A First Nations advocate is quoted extolling the respect Natives peoples traditionally held for the land. Jayce Chiblow, a member of the Garden River First Nation and spokesperson for a group called Indigenous Climate Action, says of plants that “Our teaching is that those are our relatives and that we belong to the land. It’s an entirely different concept” (from the destructive, instrumentalist attitude of non-Natives). Chiblow adds that “for Anishinaabe people, the bush was their pharmacy and fridge. ‘It was our everything.’” That “everything” was decimated as a result of the arrival of Europeans, who caused “a decline in the biodiversity so relied on by Indigenous people” and who brought “invasive species over with them.”

This is a familiar idea sometimes referred to as the motif of the Ecological Indian, the widely-held conviction that Indigenous people have a special caretaker ethic vastly different from, and superior to, the exploitative mentality of non-Native peoples. The reality is far more complex, as anthropologist Shepard Krech demonstrates in his book The Ecological Indian: Myth and Reality. Providing an extensive exploration of the notion that Native Americans were closer to nature than Euro-Americans, he examines the mass extinctions that accompanied the arrival of Native peoples on the North American continent, Native use of fire in agriculture, and the fates of buffalo, deer, and beaver populations under Native control. 

Myth

He concludes that although Native peoples certainly did emphasize the interrelatedness of human beings and other living things, neither their actions nor their belief systems—specifically their belief in animal reincarnation—supported a concern for the balance of nature or what would now be considered environmentalist principles. No matter. The romantic idea that non-Indigenous descendants of “settlers” (sometimes called “settler invaders” for the added sting) should engage in self recrimination for their despoliation of a pristine world is a hardy doctrine of contemporary belief. 

Related to the emphasis on non-Native desecration of the land is an equally familiar attack on property ownership. The article makes the link between lawns and “the property ownership mentality,” the capitalistic (i.e. bad) idea “that we can own” things at all. Readers are informed that, once established in North America, the manicured lawn became a sign of respectability and of wealth. “Every backyard essentially became a private park” as mini-landowners vied with one another for conspicuous displays of their status. All of this is presented as if its immorality and negative consequences are self-evident, and as if giving up our lawn-mowers and allowing the weeds to sprout unhindered are necessary acts of environmental and communal contrition. 

It doesn’t seem to matter to the article’s authors that it is impossible to establish any positive correlation between state or communal ownership of land and ecological flourishing: quite the opposite. Environmental catastrophe is the signature of Communist regimes, which lack the responsibility incentives of private or commercial ownership. As Thomas DiLorenzo points out in The Problem with Socialism, to envision the greater care involved in private ownership, one need simply notice “how car owners treat their property compared to how rental cars get treated, or how homeowners treat their homes and property compared to how renters treat theirs.” But in the upside-down vision of radical environmentalists, the man who lets everything go to weed is practising greater care than the person who labors to make his home beautiful.

The impetus behind the many flabby generalizations and utopian imaginings on display here is ultimately an anti-human one, as is made clear in the authors’ respectful quoting of Dr. John Douglas Belshaw, a Canadian history professor at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, B.C., who asks rhetorically, “What is a lawn but a statement of control over nature?” Belshaw goes further to itemize the indignities practiced by “settler culture” against our mother nature in furtherance of the settler culture imperative. “You see that river there? We can dam that. We can organize that water, we can make that water work for us. It’s essentially the same mindset. I can reorganize this landscape, flatten it, plant lawn, find a non-indigenous species of plant, of grass, and completely extract anything that’s not homogenous, that doesn’t fit with this green pattern and control it… A backyard with a big lawn is like a classroom for colonialism and environmental hostility.” 

Reality.

Belshaw does not mention that Native peoples too sought to control nature and make it work for them, but lacked the technology to do so as effectively as their European counterparts. Is this professor of Canadian history really advocating that we stop trying to make nature work for us? The degree of success of the European adventure in North America is rendered vivid by this well-read man’s inability to imagine how gruesome and full of suffering and death our lives would be without our much-denigrated “control” of nature.

Alleging a series of historical, cultural, economic, and environmentalist accusations against lawns, this preachy article seems intended to provoke in readers a massive guilt and sense of illegitimacy. From whatever angle it is viewed, the green lawn accuses its owner of wastefulness, pride, immorality, and perhaps even complicity in genocide. 

With an article like this, we have left the realm of the rational, of cause and effect, and of individual agency far behind. The new conceptual arena we enter is one of collective shaming and technocratic governance.  As our ability to feel confidence in even the most seemingly apolitical actions and basic values is undermined, our need for reliance on “experts” including Indigenous advocates, conservation officers, radical environmentalists, and anti-humanist professors, must increase. The “decolonizing” project has almost nothing to do with lawns or biodiversity, everything to do with delegitimizing western freedoms and prosperity, and destroying our ability to understand or defend them. 

'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.

Something Wicked This Way Comes

At this point in the global hysteria -- increasingly mixed with petty bureaucratic malevolence -- over Covid-19, we have seamlessly passed from tragedy to farce, as a Marxist might say. As far back as April, it was already clear that the international Left was being forced to choose between its twin apocalyptic wet dreams of global destruction via "climate change" and global destruction via the second coming of the Black Death, aka, the Dreaded Coronavirus. If we didn't all drown from the rising oceans or fry under a burning sun, we would fall like tenpins to a virus of such deadliness that it has a kill rate of .04% and most victims don't even know they have it.

Why the Left has such a burning psychological need to constantly fantasize about destruction is no secret: in effect, they are a monomaniacal suicide cult with the added fillip of wanting to take the rest of the world down with them. They exist fearfully in a crabbed, constricted self-prison, in which anything -- a breath, a fart, a sneeze, the flick of a light switch -- can unleash cataclysmic events. What the arbitrary and capricious lockdowns have taught us -- in addition to the fact that the American constitution is now clinically dead, and that the Bill of Rights no longer is absolute -- is to fear our fellow man and thus turn ourselves into a nation of snitches and scolds.

A rising tide sinks all boats.

And so we are lectured to by children, and harried by agents of the state for the most trivial of offenses, most of which seem to be violating laws passed yesterday by thug governments criminalizing dissent from state orthodoxy. This story, concerning a pregnant woman arrested in front of her husband and children is bad enough:

“Arresting a pregnant female, it's never going to look good. The optics of arresting someone who is pregnant is terrible,” Mr Cornelius said. “We were very keen to understand the circumstances and consider whether or not in all the circumstances that action was appropriate. And I can say to you, based on the briefings that have been provided to me and my colleague, Assistant Commissioner Cindy Millen, we're satisfied in those circumstances the members behaved appropriately and in accordance with our policy.”

Mr Cornelius said the handcuffing of Ms Buhler was standard procedure when officers are executing a search warrant at a home but the handcuffs were removed as soon as police rendered the situation safe. “I've seen the footage, and you know, in my assessment, the members have conducted themselves entirely reasonably,” Mr Cornelius said.

Watch the video at the link just above and you be the judge of its "reasonableness." And then watch this:

Once a penal colony, always a penal colony.

Still, on the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend pro tempore, it's been amusing to watch the two imaginary bugbears of "climate change" and the "Dreaded Corona" turn on each other. Not only has the virus spared us further manifestations of Greta Thunberg, last seen going sheepishly back to school in wintry Sweden, it's also seriously damaged the "green energy" quasi-industry:

Before the coronavirus pandemic arrived this year, clean energy was one of fastest-growing sectors in the U.S. economy. But since moderate stages of recovery began, experts say the industry has struggled to find footing. Just 3,200 jobs returned to the clean energy sector in July, Labor Department data shows.

That 0.1% employment growth has left more than 500,000 workers in fields including energy efficiency, solar and wind energy and clean vehicles without a job, an industry-sponsored analysis by the BW Research Partnership shows.

Before you can say, gee, that's too damn bad, there's more:

The last few months have seen a major reversal of fortune for a sector that grew 70% faster than the entire economy between 2015 and 2019 and had been employing three times as many workers as real estate, banking or agriculture. At July's growth rate, industry leaders say, it will take 15 years to replace the jobs that were wiped away by the pandemic.

The slow rebound can be blamed, they add, on a slate of pandemic-related restrictions and consequences that have combined to affect the industry.

Well... who decreed the "pandemic-related restrictions" in the first place? Which political party signifies its acquiescence to the whims of the state by wearing face masks on all possible occasions? How do the Karens of the world vote?

This is the path madness takes, once you go crazy. A central tenet of Leftist "woke" practice is 1) posit a counter-factual and, 2) act upon it as if it were real. The problem comes when the gulf between what you believe (imminent annihilation caused by driving to the supermarket to load up on groceries) and reality (the sun comes up tomorrow on pretty much the same planet it came up on when Caesar walked the earth).

Accordingly, the Left has spent -- and demanded that we spend as well -- billions of dollars to indulge their "climate change" fantasy: money now circling the drain in order to indulge their "Black Death" fantasy. That both fantasies are devoted to the destruction of the capitalism system in general and the U.S.A. in particular accounts for their passionate devotion to both, even though that were both true, their own destruction is equally guaranteed.

Some of the job losses have come in the energy-efficiency industry which -- as long as it makes economic sense -- is regrettable. Everybody wants to pass less for energy, not more, so it the more we can make our appliances better and more efficient, the more insulated our homes are, the better it is for "the planet" (if the planet cares, which it doesn't) and our pocketbooks.

"Out of the 3.2 million people who work in the clean energy field -- or did up until this year -- the vast majority are in the energy efficiency field," Bob Keefe, executive director of the non-partisan advocacy group Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), told UPI. "Those are people who go into buildings and do everything from installing insulation in the walls and ceilings to swapping out incandescent lighting for LED lighting."

The sudden idling in the industry has brought into focus impressive growth it has experienced in recent years. By late 2018, more than 2.3 million Americans were working the field, and the growth rate was more than 5%, according to last year's U.S. Energy and Employment Report.

Only a sheep could love them.

Another element in the slowdown are the declining sales of such talismans as solar panels, sold to a gullible public as helping to power your own home when the sun shines but in reality simply making the sucker pay to contribute to the electric grid for others.

One theory is that homeowners are wary of strange workmen coming to their homes while the Black Death runs wild in the streets, but a more likely answer is that the customer has finally wised up to the scam.

As for the unsightly goliaths slowing spinning their alien turbines above the water line, or disfiguring the landscape from sea shore to mountain ranges, the nearly prohibitive cost of making, maintaining, and disposing of them, the less said the better.

But it's an article of faith among the regressive Left that the way forward is backward, to the days of windmills and waterwheels. Lacking a belief in God, the feminized Left increasingly lacks a belief in Man as well, especially in his ability to adapt to changing conditions with inventions and common sense. As Camille Paglia wrote in her seminal treatise on sex and culture, Sexual Personae, "If civilization had been left in female hands we would still be living in grass huts."

This is the end result of a Safety First philosophy, under which any outcome that could possibly be bad is to be avoided by simply refusing to engage. No ships should cross the ocean, no wagons rolling westward ho, no rockets to infinity and beyond. Progress cannot come without death, the thinking goes, so if death cannot be tolerated, then neither can progress. Which means, in the end, that the end stage of "progressive" liberalism can only be totalitarianism: that which is not expressly allowed is forbidden, unless we whimsically decree otherwise.

Why, just this week, another embarrassing Antipodean country, New Zealand, ha suspended the shipments of one of the few things anybody wants to buy from it -- cattle -- after a boat bearing 6,000 moo cows capsized and sank, with a horrifying bovine death toll. Instead of finding out why the vessel sank off the coast of Japan (which doesn't have a lot of grazing land), the reaction was... well, let the New York Times tell it:

New Zealand has suspended the export of live cattle after a ship that left its shores with 43 crew members and nearly 6,000 cows capsized off Japan this week, raising fresh questions about the safety and ethics of transporting livestock by sea.

Animals rights activists say the move did not go far enough because the transnational livestock trade is rife with abuses. “Ultimately, this is a trade that has to be banned,” said Will Appelbe, a spokesman for SAFE, an animal welfare group in New Zealand.

Of course it does, along with everything and anybody else that could go wrong. And if -- like Pennywise the Clown from It, you have to live the rest of your life in a sunless subterranean lair, comrade, remember: it's for your own safety.

Low-Energy Joe v. High-Carb Donald

In last week’s column I compared the energy-related policy agendas of the two men, Joe Biden and Erin O’Toole, who have been chosen to lead their parties, both in opposition, in the United States and Canada respectively. It was a task requiring at least some subtlety and fine distinctions, because both men claim to be pursuing the same goal of zero-carbon emissions by . . . well, by different dates but let’s not quibble yet.

O’Toole is the more cautious politician, and he has hedged this pledge about with more qualifications than does Biden, who in his embrace of Green policies is a purist missionary devoted to environmental virtue at any cost. Joe’s 47 years in politics haven’t exactly demonstrated this selfless devotion to principle, but it’s possible that, like President Truman, he’ll be a different man if he makes it to the White House. Anyway, let’s take the charitable view.

Besides, now that President Trump has accepted the GOP nomination for the 2020 November election, we can compare Biden with Trump directly which means we have at least to start by treating their energy-related policies at face value. Just to show that we’re not naïve, however, we’ll lay out a key reality test:

Economic growth means more energy. Growth needs more energy and it generates more energy. Sure, there are qualifications and off-sets which is why we always add the rider, “other things being equal.” And innovation can produce more growth without using more energy in those cases where an entrepreneur arranges the factors of production more efficiently. But the overall truth remains that growth and energy go together like a horse and carriage—with the horse providing the energy and the carriage representing the greater comfort and wealth of a economically prosperous society.

All aboard for the 21st century!

Most politicians try to confuse this truth and avoid the difficult problem it imposes on them. Since they want both to increase growth and to reduce the carbon emissions that fossil fuels generate, they have to avoid putting realistic prices on their “carbon net-zero” policies and to argue that as yet elusive technological innovations, such as carbon capture, will enable them to produce the same amounts of energy with lower carbon emissions.

Boris Johnson is a prime example of this approach since his energy policy is deep green and his signature economic policy (before the Covid-19 pandemic) was to borrow large sums on money at low interest rates in order to fuel a U.K. recovery via infrastructure spending. Nice work if you can get it, as Gershwin wrote, but there’s a car crash in the future of such a contradictory policy.

So it’s a pleasant surprise that both Trump and Biden do their best to be honest about their choice in the Growth versus Greenery debate. Trump favors a policy of encouraging economic growth above all else; so he accepts that it will require energy policies that exploit as many new ways of generating energy as possible. His motto might as well be “Let 'er rip!”

Biden makes the opposite choice. He wants to move the U.S. away from fossil fuels and towards “cleaner” energy as quickly as possible and he seems to accept that this will mean less economic growth overall even if it encourages jobs growth in specific areas. He doesn’t spell out that choice exactly, but the phrase “economic growth” is hard to find in his grand $700 billion economic program.

It’s low-energy Joe versus the high-carb Donald.

Of course, we already know what Trump is about because his first term was based on the policy choice of liberating energy production, de-regulating, and cutting taxes in order to hike growth. Just in case we’ve forgotten, however, his acceptance speech this week reminded the viewers of how he began four years ago:

Days after taking office . . . I approved the Keystone XL and Dakota Access Pipelines, ended the unfair and costly Paris Climate Accord, and secured, for the first time, American Energy Independence. We passed record-setting tax and regulation cuts, at a rate nobody had ever seen before. Within three short years, we built the strongest economy in the history of the world.

And the future?

Over the next four years, we will make America into the Manufacturing Superpower of the World. We will expand Opportunity Zones, bring home our medical supply chains, and we will end our reliance on China once and for all. We will continue to reduce taxes and regulations at levels not seen before. We will create 10 million jobs in the next 10 months.

All that’s clear enough. But what of the environmental costs of Trump’s booming pre-Covid US economy? These should have been visible in rising carbon emissions. But, remember, that depends on “other things being equal.” In reality carbon emissions in the industrialized world—the US, the EU, and Japan—fell in the last few years because these economies were switching to cleaner fuels. And they fell faster than most in the U.S. because the “fracking revolution” in America meant that cleaner natural gas was replacing dirtier coal.

For the future, Trump is banking not only on the continued spread of fracking and its benefits but also on the likelihood that a booming economy will produce innovations that to make both renewables and fossil fuels cleaner, cheaper, and safer.

Frack this.

It’s a bold gamble, but so far it’s paying off.

Now, Biden makes his choice almost as clear. If you type “Joe Biden and economic growth” into Google, what you get back is this: The Biden Plan To Build a Modern Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future. In other words, you get an economic program that subordinates the need for economic growth to other desirable things—notably, a switch to cleaner energy.

That’s very clear in his plan’s section on what he proposes for those communities who powered the industrial revolution over centuries. He means people working in the fossil fuels industry, and his policies include “securing the benefits coal miners and their families have earned, making an unprecedented investment in coal and power plant communities, and establishing a Task Force on Coal and Power Plant Communities," etc. In other words, coal miners and perhaps other fossil fuel producers will not be part of Biden’s sustainable and equitable clean energy economy, but their workers will be economically protected.

The key elements of the Biden Plan to Build a Modern, Sustainable Infrastructure and an Equitable Clean Energy Future include:

  1. Build a Modern Infrastructure
  2. Position the U.S. Auto Industry to Win the 21st Century with technology invented in America
  3. Achieve a Carbon Pollution-Free Power Sector by 2035
  4. Make Dramatic Investments in Energy Efficiency in Buildings, including Completing 4 Million Retrofits and Building 1.5 Million New Affordable Homes
  5. Pursue a Historic Investment in Clean Energy Innovation
  6. Advance Sustainable Agriculture and Conservation
  7. Secure Environmental Justice and Equitable Economy Opportunity

In fact, there’ll be a Biden program costing $2 trillion that will finance both the transition from dirty to clean energy production and a large variety of other infrastructure expenditures and industrial subsidies to, for instance, the auto industry. But all economic forecasts of the costs of switching to non-fossil fuels show that it will be extremely expensive. And though two trillion dollars will finance many good things, unless there’s economic growth overall—and the Biden plan doesn’t seem to promise that—there won’t be any net additional jobs. What there will be is “jobs growth” in the industries favored by the Washington planners granting the subsidies.

So instead of Trump's policy rooted in growth and abundant cheap energy, we have a Biden policy based on cleaner energy and state industrial investments financed by . . . redistribution and tax increases.

And a very substantial overall increase in taxation at that. The Democrat candidate has so far proposed the following:

US Budget Watch, synthesizing the estimates of several other economic consultancies, suggests that the plan would increase taxes for the top 1 percent of earners by 13 to 18 percent of after-tax income; indirectly hike taxes for most other groups by 0.2 to 0.6 percent; and moderately slow the pace of economic growth by discouraging work and capital accumulation.

Biden’s gamble here is a kind of mirror image of Trump’s: he proposes to increase taxes sharply and use the proceeds to re-direct investment from existing industries to "cleaner" and more sustainable ones, leaving them to achieve higher growth and technical breakthroughs in the future. A lot of bad decisions can occur that way.

Moreover, whereas overall growth and technical innovation will be financed from the proceeds of a growing economy in Trump’s plan, much of the state finance for growth and innovation in Biden’s industrial plan is earmarked for the expensive transition to carbon neutrality, and his tax plan will leave much less for private investors to spend on inventing the future. On top of which the psychological atmosphere of an economy powered by state control and direction of investment is unlikely to inspire the kind of entrepreneurial innovation we saw in the pre-Covid Trump economy.

What have I done?

How do things look, however, when we leave the Big Picture and go micro-economic? Consider how the contenders fare on fracking, nuclear power, and renewables.

Fracking is a clear advantage for Trump who has encouraged it with deregulation and who has been helped by its contribution to reducing carbon emissions. If fracking were a flag, Trump would be waving it. On the other hand, Biden has got himself twisted into knots on the issue, having earlier promised the illogical policy of “no new fracking” under pressure from the Green lobby. Unless Biden can embrace fracking fully, his overall energy policy becomes significantly more expensive. Plus, it’s a vital jobs issue in Michigan, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and New Mexico on which hundreds of thousands of job depend.

Both Trump and Biden favor a revival of nuclear power, but Trump has an advantage there, too, because a year ago he asked his Energy Secretary to assemble a nuclear energy working group to find ways to expand the U.S. nuclear energy industry in an effort to compete globally (i.e., versus China).

Renewables should be an easy win for Biden because he’s been a champion of them (his plan depends heavily on their success), whereas Trump has been a loud skeptic about the industry. Such is the unfairness of life, however, that last year there was a surge of investment in the U.S. industry. Expect more “America First” rhetoric about renewables, therefore, from the president. That said, better news for renewables is better for Joe Biden, just not that much better.

On those micro-economic measures, therefore, Trump wins two out of three, and when they’re added to the macro-economic outlook for their plans, Trump expands his lead over Biden by a head.

Trump and Biden are both to be congratulated on giving us a generally clear idea of how they would govern economically and especially on energy policy. It’s not a K.O, for either.

But on the evidence so far, High Carb Donald has it over Low Energy Joe.

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.

Getting to Net-Zero: Is It Worth It?

At the end of last week two men were selected as the leaders of the main opposition parties in North America—Joe Biden as the Democratic presidential candidate in the U.S. and Erin O’Toole as the leader of the Conservative Party of Canada. They’re very different people with very different ideas, but if both of them are elected, each is likely to exert a decisive influence on the other on the central political issue of energy policy and climate change.

But look, first, at who they are and what they’ve done. Biden has been a professional politician for almost all his adult life. After graduation and four years of lawyering, he became a U.S. senator in 1973 and has since remained in Washington for seven senatorial terms and two terms as U.S. vice-president. He is usually defined as a moderate Democrat, which in practice means he has an acute sensitivity to the shifts of opinion in his party and an unrivaled ability to adapt to them without apparently moving his feet.

That means at present he is being dragged leftwards by a Democratic party that is rapidly moving from liberalism to a more radical progressivism. Thus, when his party’s radicals demand to “defund the police,” he is described by an AP as wanting “some of the funding for police [to] be redirected into different programs, such as mental health counseling” which might or might not be a difference depending on the amount re-directed.

Joe and Jill.

O’Toole had a more varied career as first an officer in the Royal Canadian air force and then as a corporate lawyer until he was elected to Parliament in Ottawa eight years ago. Because he served in the RCAF sea rescue missions, he’s one of the few politicians anywhere who, like lifeguard Ronald Reagan, can claim to have saved lives. He’s a moderate conservative in an avowedly conservative party, but one who wants to broaden its base without throwing principles overboard. That’s a risky game to play, as Biden’s zig-zagging career illustrates, but O’Toole has found two ways to play it.

The first is to make policy into a balancing act. As a Catholic who supports choice on abortion, he also defends a conscience clause that would enable health professionals to refuse to assist in abortions if they have moral/religious reasons for doing so—and respecting conscience is an important principle. The second is to look for and elevate new issues that attract new supporters without alienating old ones. He was an early supporter of the idea of CANZUK—warmer and better trade and migration relationships between Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.—which seems to be an increasingly realistic policy now that the U.K. is making trade deals with CANZUK members.

It isn’t hard to tell Biden and O’Toole apart, and if it were, the policy packages that appear in their manifestos would make it very clear. They are separated by a vast ideological gulf—except in one key respect. Both men and their parties have committed themselves very firmly to one particular extreme policy outcome: they are both committed to the principle of making their economies “carbon neutral” by 2050—indeed, Biden has upped the ante on this with a revamped plan to spend two trillion dollars in making all of electricity production carbon-neutral by 2035. (I think that looks like this: $2,000,000,000,000—its cost to you we’ll come to in a moment.)

Now, no one thinks of this policy as extreme because it’s supported overwhelmingly by most Western governments, most mainstream political parties (and, as it happens, most “populist” parties too), most of the media, most cultural institutions, the United Nations, and all the great and good around the globe. When a bill reflecting an earlier version of this was passed in the U.K. Parliament, only five MPs voted against it.

There’s been a slight down-tick in popular support for the policy since the policy response to Covid-19 both imposed heavy costs on ordinary people—with the prospect of many more to come—and weakened the credibility of scientists and computer modelling. A recent opinion poll showed that it ranked only fifth in the table of national problems facing the voters.

That will have little effect on elite opinion unless it takes the form of voting out MPs and Congresspersons respectively. As yet we’re quite far from that. Because its costs are in the future, a policy of saving the world is bound to be popular. And so, for the moment, making their economies “carbon neutral” by a given date is supported by both leaders.

But there is a vital distinction that politicians repeatedly ignore—and that I have repeatedly stressed in vain—between the popularity of a policy and the popularity of the consequences of a policy. The classic example is government control of prices and incomes which is always popular because it seems “fair” and advantageous to the poor, but which always becomes extremely unpopular because it leads to shortages of goods with controlled prices, black markets with much higher “real” prices, and exemptions for key workers who multiply in numbers the longer the policy lasts.

Carbon neutrality has enormous costs—so enormous that governments do their best to suppress their own estimates of what they are likely to be.  Only New Zealand has been honest or rash enough to do so. As the Danish economist and head of the Copenhagen Consensus, Bjorn Lomborg, pointed out recently in a New York Post oped, adapted from his new book, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet:

It will cost 16 percent of its GDP each and every year by 2050, making it more costly than the entire New Zealand public expenditures for education, health, environment, police, defense, social protection, etc. (My italics.) 

New Zealand, however, is an energy superpower only in hydro- and thermal power. Both the U.S. and Canada, however, are at present energy superpowers across the board—in oil, gas, hydro, and nuclear power since they have both fossil fuels and uranium galore and in recent years they have invented ways of accessing them more economically, such as fracking. The impact of carbon neutral policies would be far more damaging to Canada and the U.S. than to any other countries in the world except Australia and the Middle East for that reason—far more damaging, that is, than a 16 percent annual fall in GDP.

Erin O'Toole and American friend.

Biden and O’Toole have faced this dilemma—choosing a popular policy that has catastrophic economic consequences—in somewhat different ways. Biden, “an old man in a hurry,” has gone for broke. He’s adopted the most extreme version of an extreme policy and hoped that its dire results would not be noticed or, if noticed, not believed by most voters in the heat of an election campaign.

That’s certainly a risk. Already, a Trump campaign spokesman, Hogan Gidley, has described the policy as "like a socialist manifesto that promises to massively raise taxes, eliminate jobs in the coal, oil or natural gas industries, and crush the middle class. There is no way he can sell this radical agenda to union workers in energy-producing, manufacturing, or auto industry states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, or Wisconsin.”

In this election, however, maybe the policy will sneak through under the smokescreen of all the rest of the hellzapoppin shenanigans in both campaigns.

O’Toole is taking no such risks. True to his strategy of balancing, he opposes a federal carbon tax—carbon taxes are the main unpopular element in the carbon-neutral strategy—but will assist the Canadian provinces if they adopt such taxes on their own.  Along the same lines, he promises “a plan to get to net-zero emissions in the oil and gas industry through the use of technologies like electrification generated from sources such as nuclear and wind and carbon capture, with the government providing incentives similar to those that were used to stimulate the early development of the oilsands.”

In other words he’s hoping to be able to save Canada’s energy industries—and his own political prospects if he becomes prime minister—by relying on technical breakthroughs like “carbon capture” that would allow oil and gas (and presumably coal) to continue to be the basis for electricity generation. That’s not unreasonable as a political strategy—it’s traditionally known as “waiting for something to turn up”—but technical breakthroughs can’t be guaranteed to arrive on time. What about the interim?

Well, O’Toole may be helped by a deus ex machina in the modest form of Joe Biden. He is facing an election in just ten weeks on November the 3rd whereas the date of O’Toole’s rendezvous with destiny is more uncertain. Canada’s election must be held no later than October the 19th, 2023, but Canada’s scandal-hit minority Liberal government could fall at any time.

If Biden were to be elected in November, he would be unrolling his energy policy in early 2021 and its economic and industrial costs would begin to be apparent no later than Spring 2022. (Its benefits, being invisible, will never be apparent.) If they are as disastrous as the policies are bold, Biden will be a marvelous negative example of the economic consequences of courageous carbon neutrality.

On the other hand Trump may win—in which case Biden will provide a marvelous negative example of the political consequences of courageous carbon neutrality.

I don’t see how O’Toole can’t not enjoy the 2020 US presidential election.

What’s Behind The Green Door?

Looking up environmental sources under the variable heading “Green,” I came across a reference to a 1956 pop tune, “Green Door,” which had soared to the top of the hit parade charts. The question it posed was, “what’s behind the green door” and the answer it gave was a boisterous group of party animals who “laugh a lot” and whom the singer wished desperately to join: “All I want to do is join the happy crowd behind the green door.” The song’s open sesame “Joe sent me” didn’t cut any ice since “hospitality’s thin there.” The correct password, proleptically speaking, would have been “Al sent me.” After all, Al Gore has sent so many people through the green door that a vast new edifice has become necessary to house the “happy crowd” that grows by the day.

True, the Greenies by and large cannot be portrayed as a merry band of revelers. They are generally earnest and forbidding to a fault, self-righteous and censorious. They don’t laugh a lot and are certainly not a perky, convivial crowd. They are proud of their ostensible bona fides and redemptive proclivities as Mother Nature’s savior and mankind’s conscience. Many of the Greenies are academics draped in diplomas which they take as an infallible sign of prescient wisdom, but are really of no more value than ink stamps that allow them into the club.

Still, this is not the issue. The issue is that, competent or incompetent, charlatans or believers, they find the party too good to pass up. They want in and they want to stay in, even at the risk of eventually bringing their credentials into disrepute. The perks, awards, government subsidies, academic fellowships, scientific laurels, corporate subventions, endowments and research grants just keep rolling in to keep the party going. And the green door has swung wide open to welcome the climate beneficiaries while it remains shut tight to the uninvited. Hospitality’s thin there.

As the song puts it, “they play it hot behind the green door.” According to Green lore, the earth is warming catastrophically. Oceans will rise. Polar bears will soon become extinct. Snow will cease to fall. Greenland will melt. The Himalayas are puddle-bound. Land and sea will be despoiled by pipeline spills. Whole populations will starve. The world will come to an end if we don’t change our habits of consumption and our expectations for a viable and prosperous future. Only wind and solar can save us from the looming eco-apocalypse.

Get mean, think Green.

That’s the party mantra. If we ignore the portents, then one thing is certain. The end is nigh!

Predictive failure does not deter ideological zealots. A disaster must arrive someday to confirm their forecast and justify their program for salvation. It matters little if their timetable is off by ten, twenty, or a thousand years since, under the aspect of eternity, a cataclysm is bound to happen in seculae seculorum. The mathematics can always be redone in the light of a grisly but accommodating future to which only they have privileged access. It is they who stand before the burning bush of the world and hear the voice of the Lord. For this pixilated mentality, being wrong over and over is a sure sign that they will be right once. The end-of-the-world fanatics merely keep revising their calculations, relying on a new revelation to perfect their reckoning and reinforce their delusion. They have managed to turn science into divination.

The problem is that wind and solar don’t work as they should or are projected to. The reason for many of the failures in green energy-production companies—Spectrawatt, Ener 1, Abound Solar, Solyndra,  etc.—is simple. As noted environmental consultant, author, and Pipeline contributor Rich Trzupek, author of How the EPAs Green Tyranny is Stifling America, explains, the energy density of convertible wind and solar is risibly low and dispersed, which renders green, electricity-generating power plants, whether large or small, “the most inefficient, least reliable, and expensive form of power we have.” As Trzupek jestingly remarks, “‘climate change’ is a figment of a computer’s imagination.” 

But this has not prevented the climate models from becoming the Authorized Version. The Global Warming meme continues to circulate in defiance of accumulating evidence to the contrary, which leads one to wonder who the real “deniers” are. “Warmist” foundations and nonprofits are determined to continue issuing environmental fatwas, in particular to tie up state-of-the-art, economically productive oil pipelines in endless litigation, impacting national revenues and costing hundreds of thousands of jobs, as well as innumerable spin-off markets and enterprises. 

Unsightly government approved wind farms are killing birds in hecatombs, disfiguring the landscape, leading to wildlife habitat loss, polluting the soil and ground water, adding steeply to electricity bills and literally driving people crazy (Wind turbine Syndrome). Government and industry supporters of solar panels base their projections on the presumed success of the German solar model. But the German wind and solar experiment is tanking fast. It may soon become obsolete and is gradually being wound down.

With respect to solar, researchers at Utah State University have found that solar power “cannot sustain itself in the energy market… it is intermittent, inefficient and cannot meet demand,” as is also the case with wind. Mandates and subsidies cannot save these faltering industries. Pipedreams are no substitute for pipelines. Solar alchemy is as embarrassing as breaking wind.

None of the renewable proposals are feasible. The physics limit for wind turbines (the Betz limit) is too puny for anything but computer games. The same is true of the physics limit for solar cells (the Shockley-Queisser limit). Moreover, wind and solar function only when nature permits, which renders them unreliable. Even lobbying sites like iea wind (the Internet is awash with viridian proclamations) cannot hide the variability factor in wind and solar production. As Mark Mills of the Manhattan Institute concludes, “[T]he physics and economics of energy combined with scale realities make it clear that there is no possibility of anything resembling a radically ‘new energy economy’ in the foreseeable future.”

It’s time to face the truth. The global warning refrain is now a tiresome tune being played on an “old piano,” though they’re still “playing it hot.” The song concludes with the question: “Green door, what’s that secret you’re keeping?”

The secret is that demonizing traditional forms of energy extraction and application has become a recipe for economic debacle. The secret is that carbon is not a malefic agent but a chemical miracle that actually greens the world. Finally, the secret behind the green door is that some of the party-goers are surely aware that their testimony is spurious, but the party is just too good to leave. That’s a secret that must remain secret. 

Never Clean Enough for Government Work

Six former EPA Administrators have published a letter which offers some thinly veiled criticism of the current administration’s environmental policies and proposed rethinking the Agency’s mission moving forward. What might be the key to sound environmental protection in the future? More money for the EPA. Surprise, surprise.

Here's their letter:

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I have been involved with environmental regulatory activity since 1985. What follows is a open letter reply to ex-admins letter. It’s penned by a paid-my-own-way through college chemist son of a south-side Chicago steelworker. I must add that I’m quite certain I have been on more factory floors across this country over the last thirty-five years than these six ex-EPA officials combined.

Dear Messrs Thomas and Reilly and Madams Browner, Whitman, Jackson and McCarthy:

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on the future of the United States EPA and of environmental protection in general. I trust your lives as ex-EPA administrators have been fulfilling. It certainly appears that they have been profitable. You have variously parlayed your EPA credentials into powerful executive positions, seats on the boards of prominent public and private organizations and many advisory roles.

That’s not a criticism. You have only done what countless of other cabinet officials have done upon leaving government service. As one who continues to believe in the virtues of capitalism, I’m glad to see that it works for you too. However, one may fairly observe the common-thread that ties together your post-government employment: more EPA regulation directly benefits you and the organizations with which you are associated. More EPA regulation makes your roles more important and one’s financial compensation is usually a function of one’s importance.

You all claim to be very committed to unbiased, transparent scientific study. Yet, in your letter you quote precisely two statistics, both of which are virtually meaningless. The first is that EPA spending today is approximately half of what it was in 1980 during Reagan’s first term. The second is to cite an Office of Management and Budget study claiming that environmental regulation is so incredibly profitable it’s a wonder that private investors haven’t started up their own environmental protection agencies.

There are other statistics available you know. Surely you ran across them during your tenures. For instance, you might have cited EPA statistics that show how much air quality has improved over the last forty years; statistics that demonstrably prove how much better air quality has been during President Trump’s first term than during President Obama’s first term; statistics that prove that a higher percentage of Americans have access to high quality drinking water than most other countries on earth; statistics that document how modern waste management and landfill designs have done an incredible job in protecting ground water. The list goes on and on and on, in any environmental media you can name. Air, water and soil; we are as clean a nation as we have ever been in the industrial age and all of you know it.

But knowing it and admitting it are different things, aren’t they? Thus you give us this absurd, unsupported – and unsupportable – statement:

Fifty years ago, pollution was visible and unrelenting throughout our country. Today, less visible but equally dangerous environmental hazards threaten communities in ways that differ place to place, person to person.

While I can understand some staffer coming up with such drivel, congratulating themselves on their ability to coin a clever phrase, I cannot understand any responsible person in a position to influence public-policy affixing their signature to a document that includes it.

What exactly are these “equally dangerous environmental hazards” that have somehow slipped under the radar? Pretty sure that somebody in the media would be interested in that story. What hidden hazards today are as dangerous as rivers so polluted they actually caught fire, or a Great Lake that was declared “dead”? What toxic exposure incident this century comes anywhere close to the Love Canal disaster?

The Mistake by the Lake, 1969

Most of you are old enough to remember that prior to 1970 most industrial sources of air pollution were uncontrolled, spewing huge black plumes of soot into the sky; that the lack of tailpipe emissions standards filled crowded freeways with a stinking fog; to visualize that clearly-visible orange haze of urban ozone that you saw flying above major cities back then. Point out the most socio-economically disadvantaged neighborhood you can and there is no way that its residents are dealing with anything close to the same sort of risks and environmental damage that we were experiencing fifty years ago.

You have also apparently collectively forgotten the simple fact that most day to day enforcement and control activity occurs at the state level, not at the federal level. The EPA is primarily there to ensure that the states are doing their jobs in accordance with applicable statutes and regulations. The states are in the trenches, not the feds. Between the states doing most of the heavy lifting and corporate America revising it’s seventies-era “I don’t care” to today’s “if we don’t care, we’re screwed” attitude toward the environment today, there is much less for the EPA to do in the far cleaner nation we are blessed with in 2020.

The EPA isn’t being funded at 1980 levels because it doesn’t have 1980 levels of problems to deal with and most of what remains is managed by the states. Simply put, EPA is a victim of our mutual success in making huge, meaningful environmental progress over the last fifty years. While there will and always should be a role for EPA in maintaining environmental stewardship, creating make-work programs to artificially inflate that role should never be part of the Agency’s mission.

With sincere congratulations and condolences on your success,

Rich

A final note: the mainstream media has made a big deal over the fact that the letter was signed by three administrators who served under Republican administrations, and three who served under Democrats. This is an artificial, immaterial distinction. Prior to President Trump, every EPA administrator under Republican presidents was virtually indistinguishable from EPA administrators under Democrat presidents. Nixon, Reagan and both Bushes treated environmental protection as a cheap, “give in” issue. All willingly advanced all but the most extreme parts of the environmentalist agenda and all hired EPA administrators who would do so. The belief seemed to be that if they “gave in” they would get credit for advancing a progressive cause, at relatively little political cost.

This never worked. The three Republican signatories to the letter, Thomas, Reilly and Whitman, were beat up as regularly by the opposition and its media allies as the three Democrats, Browner, Jackson and McCarthy were celebrated. No one would describe either Thomas or Whitman as conservative, and Reilly – who supported Hillary in the last election – is clearly a RINO these days. This letter is not about representatives of two parties coming together to chart a new course for the EPA, it’s yet another attempt to protect the swamp from further drainage.