California's Electric Boogaloo to Nowheresville

No sooner does California move to ban the sale of gasoline-powered cars by 2035 and force everyone to buy electric cars than it announces, oh by the way, please don’t charge your electric cars last weekend because we’re going to be short of power as three-digit temperatures strain the grid. And turn your thermostats up to 78 while you’re at it.

Perhaps California will have figured out a way of expanding its carbon-free electricity sources and grid capacity in the next decade, and the recent week’s lopsided vote in the state legislature to keep open its Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant, which supplies nearly 10 percent of California total electricity at present, is a sign that energy reality is starting to intrude. But even if the dreams of a “carbon-free” California somehow come true over the next two decades, the electric car diktat represents a stark new moment in our green madness.

Gavin Newsom: now hear this, peasants.

Never mind that the electric car mandate was promulgated not by the elected state legislature, but by the eco-crats at the California Air Resources Board (CARB), representing yet another example of the administrative state in action. And never mind that the lifecycle environmental impacts (including carbon emissions) of the vast supply-chain for electric cars and their material-intensive batteries are nearly as large as conventional hydrocarbon vehicle. The strangest aspect of the scene is that the biggest enthusiasts for the electric car mandate are America’s auto manufacturers.

Barron’s magazine reported last month: The Biggest Fans of California’s No-Gas Policy? Ford and GM. “General Motors and California have a shared vision of an all-electric future,” said GM’s spokesperson Elizabeth Winter. “We’re proud of our partnership with California,” Ford’s “chief sustainability officer,” Bob Holycross, said in a statement. In Detroit-speak, “partnership” is today’s patois for “take orders from the government.” It was fashionable after the automakers were bailed out in 2009 to refer to GM as “Government Motors,” but today the label truly fits. The political takeover of the auto industry, long in the making, is now complete.

One way to perceive this slow-motion takeover more clearly is to ask why cars from every automaker now look the same. Most cars models now are squat, with teardrop-shaped bodies, nearly interchangeable with models from other manufacturers. Even high-end SUVs like the Ford Explorer or Range Rover are shorter and rounder than their predecessor models of just a few years ago. This is likely not a response to changing taste in car buyers, like tail fins in the late 1950s. A primary driver of current design are aerodynamic requirements to help meet the government-mandated fleet fuel-economy standards that have been slowly ratcheted up over the last decade.

Some years ago I met in Washington with senior executives from one of the big-three Detroit automakers to talk about energy and environmental policy, and how it affected their industry. They said that their single biggest problem in planning for the future was less the uncertainty of government regulation than wildly fluctuating gasoline prices. If car makers could predict what gasoline prices would be over the next decade, they’d know what kind of cars to build. When gas prices are low, consumers like SUVs; when gas prices are high, they shift on a dime to smaller, higher mileage cars. Car companies may see a shift to an all-electric car fleet as a means to ending the boom-and-bust cycle that has afflicted the industry for decades. Never mind that electricity rates are likely to become more volatile as we “green” the supply, as Europe is learning to its chagrin right now. And Californians already pay twice as much for electricity as the national average.

Pray it keeps working.

Beyond the final submission of the auto companies to our green commissars, there are a number of other ways California’s electric car mandate represents a step increase in the ambition of the climate crusaders. California has long enjoyed the privilege under federal law of setting its own tailpipe emissions standards for autos sold in the state that were tougher than national standards (a power the Trump Administration sought to curtail—and a lawsuit remains in process). Because auto makers didn’t want to manufacture two different kinds of cars (or surrender the California market), the California standard effectively became the national standard.

It’s one thing to impose a product performance standard; it’s another thing to ban a product that would be legal in the other 49 states. This may run afoul of the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, especially if California prohibits bringing gasoline-powered cars into the state. One can imagine a market for gasoline-powered cars sold just over state lines, and delivered to California buyers by Carvana or some other enterprise. Will the state attempt to “retire” the existing gasoline-powered vehicles in the state and close down gas stations? Look for a flourishing black market for gas and diesel. And the next wave of demand for H1B visas will be for Cuban auto mechanics, who are skilled in keeping gasoline-powered cars running for decades.

As it did with emissions standards, California likely thinks it can strong-arm other states or Congress to adopt its electric-car mandate. Texas (among other states) might have something to say about that. And what if car companies and consumers don’t go along with this extravagant target? The New York Times reported a crucial caveat:

To enforce its rule . . . California would fine automakers up to $20,000 for every car that falls short of production targets. The state also could propose new amendments revising the sales targets if the market doesn’t react as state leaders hope, said Jennifer Gress, who leads the California air board’s sustainable transportation division. [Emphasis added.]

Cuban mechanics wanted.

That language about “amendments” is the Emily Litella “never mind” clause. It has happened before. In a prequel to the current madness, in the early 1990s California tried to mandate that 5 percent of all new cars sold by the year 2001 be emission-free, which meant electric cars in practice. GM publicized lots of happy talk about its EV-1, a crappy electric car that cost six-figures (though it was “leased” at an implied purchase price of about $35,000), had a pathetically short range (50 miles on a good day), and took several hours to recharge. Not long before the mandate was set to take effect, it was quietly abandoned.

Electric cars have gotten much better in recent years, but in a state where lots of drivers travel well beyond the range of an electric vehicle every day, EVs still won’t meet the needs of a large number of Californians—never mind citizens of rural states that need vehicles that can run all day long. Look for history to repeat itself with the California EV mandate.

Where's the Beef?

Where IS the beef? Prices may very well be keeping it out of your refrigerator and inflation has something to do with that. But there’s another factor in play, involving where the beef was before it hit the grocer’s shelves. The meat packing industry has consolidated in recent decades to the point where four companies control about 85 percent of the market. Pretty much everyone agrees that’s a problem, but bipartisanship only goes so far. The difference between Republicans and Democrats on this issue involves what to do about it.

Republicans urge President Biden to use the tools he has and enforce existing anti-trust legislation like the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and the Clayton Act. Unlike President Trump, whose Department of Justice did indeed investigate Big Beef, Biden has carefully limited himself to criticism while taking no substantive action. He, or whoever comes up his talking points, is smart enough to know that five dollars per pound for ground beef is a bit exorbitant for most Americans. Don’t let those crocodile tears fool you though. The climate change crowd is cheering the trend and if there is one constituency that Dems are careful never to offend, it’s climate change alarmists.

And, yes, I'd love a burger, thanks.

The big four meat packers in the United States are: Cargill, Tyson Foods, JBS SA and the National Beef Packing Company. The first two are American-owned and the latter two are Brazilian. Consolidation in the industry started in the late seventies, when the big four controlled about twenty five percent of the market. The industry was robust and decentralized back then, including many small shops (plants that process less than 500 head per week) scattered about the country.

Today, the small meat packer has all but disappeared in the United States. In their place, the Big Four have relied upon mega packing plants that can process thousands of head per day. In most industries, larger plants benefit from economies of scale, driving prices down. In the weird world of meat packing, it hasn’t worked that way, prompting just about everyone to suspect that if it smells like price fixing, it probably is price fixing.

Weirder still is that the prices that the Big Four pay to American ranchers for cattle has and continues to drop. Increasing imports of cheap beef from countries like Canada and New Zealand drives cattle prices down and gives the American rancher with little choice but to accept contracts with the Big Four that ties the rancher to under-valued pricing. So we have the unique situation of an industry in which the price of the raw material (cattle) drops, but price of the product (beef) heads in the other direction. One doesn’t require a degree in economics to understand that the increasing spread is making somebody a lot of money.

Reacting to the President’s criticism of the meat-packing industry, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem agreed with the President’s view of the problem, but was critical of his unwillingness to take concrete action to address it. Appearing on Hannity, a visibly frustrated Noem said:

He's willing to go out there and spend more money and pursue other ideas and not just do the basic job of government, and that's to make sure you're implementing the laws correctly, you're making sure people are following the rules, and his Department of Justice has every single tool to make sure that people aren't attacked under the situation that they're in today.

What causes a politician like Biden to talk the talk, but refuse to walk the walk? These days the answers are almost always either “sexism," “racism,” or “global warming.” Since we are not yet aware of people who choose to identify as bovines (but we of course defend their right to do so) the answer, by default, is indeed global warming. Again.

More than twenty years ago I wrote a tongue in cheek column describing the EPA’s comprehensive catalog of data with respect to cow flatulence. They have data classifying the gas-passing abilities of cattle by breed, by diet, by location and God only Knows what else. I started to speculate on how that data was acquired and by whom, before deciding that some things are better off unknown. And I jokingly observed that if were classifying cow farts, what’s next? Are we going to start regulating them?

Cow farts: who wants the job?

It was all great fun, but it was all unwittingly prescient. If the Dems can’t quite bring themselves to pass a bill regulating bovine flatulence – probably out of fear that the ensuing Kamala Harris giggle fit would force the session into the wee hours – they do the next best thing. They look the other way as Big Beef happily makes their product more and more expensive, reducing consumption, but who really cares so long as those beautiful margins continue to grow? Dems get what they want, fewer cows cutting the cheese and the Big Four getting some very happy shareholders. It is, from the Democrat perspective, a win/win.

For the record, according to the latest EPA Greenhouse Gas report, methane emissions from American cows contribute about 6,800,000 tonnes per year of methane to the atmosphere. That’s equivalent to about 170,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide. Sounds like a lot, until one realizes that annual worldwide greenhouse-gas emissions average about 50,000,000,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent gas per year. Thus, Bessie and Elsie and their pals on American farms account for a little more than 0.3 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. Does reducing that tiny fraction to a slightly tinier fraction justify five dollar plus per pound hamburger? Joe Biden seems to think so. But then when you regularly shake hands with invisible people, you can pretty much believe anything.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Mining

As is (almost) always the case my hard work has really paid off. I say almost because nearly everyone knows how my Olympic equestrian gold was stolen from me, but today I can proudly say that all my hard work—hunkering down in the Bahamas, has landed me a big, fat, juicy, client. SO big that, were I tell his name everyone would certainly know it. Shall we just say tech baron?

As it turns out, my bug soirée was a much bigger smash than I’d imagined because despite a paltry twenty-five guests, the event was lauded as “exclusif” and got picked up by Paris Match, Semana, Hello!, Tatler, and Vanity Fair.  Oh and obviously also by my new “Baron”. Frankly I shouldn’t be surprised, because I was way out in front of this whole bug-eating trend. I mean the WEF had talked a good game but when it came down to it, their pet source was SO not ready for prime time.

So when “Baron” went looking for someone to head his personal push to lessen reliance on traditional protein sources, all paths led to me. At the same time the U.S. is experiencing a once every 17-year infestation… or rather burgeoning... of cicadas! These too are edible, and an excellent source of protein but Americans are understandably loath to try them because an unfortunate bit of press came out rather early… warning against allergies to the cicadas when it turns out only those with shellfish allergies need to take heed. 

Hostess with the mostest.

My baron hopes that together we can turn this bounty into a sort of ‘gateway' to eating more bugs. The good news for me is I am the hostess who served them (instant credibility), and the good news for the planet is that with more people eating bugs we will rely less on large animals that create more greenhouse gases. Also the sheer sound of the cicadas in some parts of the East Coast is deafening—and who wants that? Surely less is more. 

I’ve already contacted the Boy Scouts of America, 4-H,  and the Future Farmers of America to see if they can begin some sort of hunting/harvesting exercise. The Boy Scouts already got back to me with a definitive NO—owing to the fact that they apparently ‘do not have a cicada patch’ and cannot get new patches approved in less than a year’s time—which if you think about it, is truly intolerable given that the cicadas will be gone by then.  And second of all, I didn’t ask for a patch, I asked for a programme.

I coordinated to get so very many publications to run recipes that feature cicadas.  Among the best was  Spicy Popcorn Cicadas  fish soup with chicken and cicadas   and Cicada Cookies. Things were going well until I went to upload these pictures onto my website and started to gag. This time it wasn’t the thought of the crunchy legs getting stuck between my teeth but seeing the juicy insects floating in the fish and chicken soup—I just imagined them alive and swimming on my tongue and down my throat and that was it for me. Vomit-central. I only made it to the trash bin near the bar. 

It was a good ten minutes before I wasn’t flop-sweated and felt I could control my need to gag. The pictures were not getting uploaded—at least not by me. I closed my laptop and went down to the port in search of a cocktail.

To start my employ I flew to meet the baron’s yacht and then stayed on until we docked at Port de Saint-Tropez where I checked into the Byblos. I don’t know his plans for the next three days but at the end of the week I’m meant to host another insect cocktail party, this time for a hundred and with an even greater variety of bugs. The thought of which was making me queasy; the stacked hard shells, the squish, the crunch, ladies with leg-bits stuck to their lip gloss… I began to hurl again. Good Lord, please tell me there are people one can hire to just… OMG.

If it's good enough for Mick Jagger...

I called Daddy and he suggested when in bug distress I place a large silver coin on my tongue near the back of my throat, claiming it helped him through a few excessive drinking situations at Oxford. 

‘But how am I supposed to talk?’ I asked, nearly swallowing the coin.

‘You aren’t’, he said, ‘that’s the point, you don’t lift your uvula, you don’t take that breath in, and you don’t lose your job. That was the point, wasn’t it?’ 

‘I don’t know.’ I said, spitting the coin into my hand. This was a disaster. The press would like nothing more than to tear down the girl they just praised. She can’t even look at the stuff, they would write. 

‘I think the press will have a bigger issue with your environmental conflict if they were to find out your robber baron paid you in Bitcoin.’

‘How? Bitcoin is about fairness,’ I explained.  ’It allows the people to have power at long last, instead of only banks and a few families. Also, they say…’

‘Ah yes, THEY. The famous they… I think best you ask your robber baron to pay you by check, or wire transfer, or actual coin.’

‘Actual…no.  it’s no risk.  I already got my first payment and converted it to cash.’

‘Well that’s great except ‘it’ is exceedingly bad for the environment and as he’s your green baron, you should be giving him better advice.’

‘How?? It’s mined on computers. It was basically a peaceful revolution that brought the power to the people, even people who previously had no access to banking systems.’

Talk about a carbon footprint!

“But that’s not your client is it? And these people of whom you speak are not owning their own banks, or data mining centres or even computers. The power my darling girl, is mostly coal power because most of these are China-based mines, and they use the cheapest electrical generation, most of which is derived from coal-fired plants.’

Ugh, another disaster! ‘Why is it always China!’ I wailed.

‘Why is the left always focused on something like making us eat bugs?' he replied. 'And tell me, how was the boat ride?’

He just had to get the last jab in.  I pecked away on my computer for a bit longer finding that Bitcoin consumes more energy than Malaysia, Sweden and Argentina combined, and causes more carbon emissions than Conoco Phillips and American Airlines. Not looking good. 

I couldn’t undo the transfer but at least Bitcoin activity is under the radar—or at least I assume it must be given it’s the choice of illicit trade.  Oh, boo. I would indeed have to tell him to pay me by traditional methods—for his reputation as well as mine.  And even if I might not be able to down a juicy cicada for the camera, I would be able to help him not look like an obvious hypocrite. Surely that’s what he’s paying me for. 

'Climate Change' Marxists, Come Out of the Closet

Putting aside the fact that the entire “climate change” discussion is based on a long-disproven set of data abandoned even by its author, that it is physically impossible to create the electrical systems and capacity demanded by the Warming hypothesis, and that no uncorrupted global temperature data set supports “climate change,” we are left with the fact that a great many policymakers and voters in the West believe in it.

Policymakers must be expected by voters to get serious, or to acknowledge that the entire argument is, as the U.N. has stated, just a process to destroy capitalism, the most anti-poverty, wealth-creation system ever created.

That "climate change" policies will annihilate the middle class that is responsible for all progress since the Industrial Revolution is a given – and an unacknowledged goal of Progressives. The refusal to acknowledge this by the establishment is childish. If they believe in Marxism, why hide it? Tell the people the goal, why it is a beneficial goal and how to achieve it. Tell them the results of previous attempts at implementing Marxism, as well, of course.

Look who's back.

Can a policy framework be created to address function rather than form, what is seen by those who insist the Warming Emperor has clothes, but who disagree on the cut (oil or gas), the color (drilling or fracking) and the pattern (fossil, hydro or nuclear) of those clothes to meet their commitments?

The signatories to the Paris Accords believe emissions must be reduced in order to “save the planet,” and that they will meet the goals to which they agreed. Why, otherwise, would they have signed up? Are the signatories incentivized to make the changes for which they volunteered? Given their dismal performance to-date, the answer is, “No.”

People complain about President Trump having pulled-out of the Paris Accords, but remain silent about the view of the U.N.: “America Is Already Cutting So Much Carbon It Doesn’t Need The Paris Climate Accord.” As shown below, we already are reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) output faster than any signatory country. Being a Paris signatory seems primary, meeting one’s goal, secondary. These priorities are backward.

Is the point being a signatory… or reducing greenhouse gases?

In a flight of fancy in which we pretend that, yes, we can correct the global climate that has been set awry by too many American SUVs, why not formulate a policy with teeth to deal with GHG? Can we use positive and negative incentives to alter behavior in the way demanded by those who believe they are more powerful than the sun?

Yes, we can.

Let us suppose a nation “A” that has met and exceeded its GHG commitment to the Paris Accords, and a nation “B” that has not. What incentives can be used to resolve the discrepancy between commitment and performance?

A suggestion: If nation “A” has met 105% of commitment, and nation “B,” 88%, a metric to create a “Paris Transfer Payment,” or “PTP,” could be created. Nation “B” would pay annually to nation “A” a PTP on its failure of 12%, and another 5% to reward the success of “A,” for a total of 17% of this base metric, thus incentivizing both nations to continue to work toward GHG reduction. (Alternately, the 12% “stick” could be paid to a fund to help the non-industrialized world progress without despoiling the environment, but the 5% “carrot” still paid to the above-goal country.)

A sensible metric could be a percentage of GDP of each country. If we were to use, for example, 0.01% of GDP of the smaller economy as this metric, the PTP could be calculated with complete transparency. In this instance, country “B” (88% of commitment; GDP $500B), would pay a PTP to country “A” (105% of commitment; GDP $1,500B) of 17 times 0.01% of its GDP, or $850M, as a “stick,” and “A” would gain that PTP as a “carrot” for acting in the best interests of the global community of nations. This example is illustrated in Table 1.

Table One.

Those nations not having set a target for GHG reduction would have the applicable percent calculated by averaging their per-capita GHG output against the goals of nations of similar size. China and India (without which any global GHG reduction is chimerical), would be compared to countries above 200 million population (United States, Indonesia, Pakistan, Brazil), and have their GHG reduction goals set for them, and the PTP applied by the WTO via tariffs.

A nation’s choice of hydro, fracking, nuclear, oil, gas, coal, solar, wind would be theirs. The results are what matters. Form will not reduce the ocean’s rise; function will.

European nations keep telling America how backward we are; obviously they can use IP we – not they – invented, and manufacturing and distribution and energy exploitation systems we – not they – created to achieve the results we – not they – have achieved.

(This same calculation can be used in reverse to warm the planet if, as most uncorrupted temperature data sets now show, the globe is cooling. A “snowball earth” is far more of an existential threat than more food and a slightly-warmer climate.)

Who turned off the "warming"?

If meeting the Paris commitment is the goal of the signatories, how could this type of transparent, goal-oriented arrangement be rejected? A payment transfer system from those not meeting their commitments to the community of nations, to those who are is a win-win for the future and for countries taking the "climate change" issue seriously.

If nations agree to implement a carrot-and-stick PTP, we will know they are serious. If they are serious, and if they are correct in their anti-sun worship, we all will be better off.  If they don’t agree to an agreement with teeth, we will know they are not serious, and can be ignored.