Who's Afraid of 'Climate Change'?

If you don't already keep tabs on Michael Shellenberger, you should. While you may not always agree with him -- Shellenberger is a self-described environmentalist and man of the left -- you will find him to be an honest, insightful, and even brave writer. Brave because he consistently uses facts to counter the hysterical narrative of the Green New Deal wing of the green movement, which as you might imagine doesn't win him a lot of friends.

One example of this: Forbes, where he is a regular contributor, pulled down his most recent piece, 'On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare,' within a few hours of publication.

In the piece, essentially a pitch for his book Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, Shellenberger reviews his environmentalist bona fides, working to save the California redwoods and lobbying the Obama administration to spend billions on so-called renewable energy, etc. Increasingly, however, he became disturbed by other environmentalists distorting the science to make a case for hysteria, and shutting down anyone who questioned their conclusions.

Shellenberger

They've been so successful that children routinely report having nightmares about climate change and people around the world are convinced the end is near. Eventually Shellenberger came to feel he had a responsibility to speak out and counter their propaganda.

Here are some facts few people know:

• Humans are not causing a “sixth mass extinction”
• The Amazon is not “the lungs of the world”
• Climate change is not making natural disasters worse
• Fires have declined 25% around the world since 2003
• The amount of land we use for meat — humankind’s biggest use of land — has declined by an area nearly as large as Alaska
• The build-up of wood fuel and more houses near forests, not climate change, explain why there are more, and more dangerous, fires in Australia and California
• Air pollution and carbon emissions have been declining in rich nations for 50 years
• Adapting to life below sea level made the Netherlands rich not poor
• We produce 25% more food than we need and food surpluses will continue to rise as the world gets hotter
• Habitat loss and the direct killing of wild animals are bigger threats to species than climate change
• Wood fuel is far worse for people and wildlife than fossil fuels
• Preventing future pandemics requires more not less “industrial” agriculture

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism.

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Fitch Downgrades Canada's Credit Rating

Fitch Ratings, one of the big three global credit rating agencies, has announced it's downgrading Canada's credit rating from AAA to AA+. This is due to the tremendous debt -- roughly a quarter of a trillion dollars -- the Canadian government took on to prop up the economy during the COVID-19 lockdowns.

Though the Trudeau government was quick to argue that Canada's economy remains strong and that the country in an ideal position to turn things around, this does have the potential to significantly increase the cost of government borrowing and of doing business. That danger, moreover, will be amplified if, as some think, there are further downgrades to come:

David Rosenberg... has been predicting a downgrade on Canada’s sovereign debt since late April and thinks this won’t be the last. “The real question is: What took so long?’ .... Canada’s excessively leveraged national balance sheet has looked a lot like China, Italy and Greece for quite a while.” While Ottawa may appear to be in “solid” financial shape to some, this has “masked bloated debt ratios” in households, business sectors, and most of the provinces, he said. “This won’t be the last ratings cut, I can assure you,” said Rosenberg.

Now, it is true that governments worldwide have responded to the pandemic by racking up what would normally be unthinkable amounts of debt. Consequently, it is likely that Canada won't be the only country to have its rating downgraded.

But one thing that makes Canada unique is the shame that its governing elite feels about one of the pillars of its economy. As Dan McTeague of Canadians for Affordable Energy said the other day in an excellent piece on Erin O'Toole's environmentalist pitch in the CPC leadership contest,

Rather than championing Canada's hydrocarbon industry and creating economic growth with our country’s wealth of natural resources, O’Toole’s policies seem most focused on maintaining the what-seems-to-be-required, green-is-god image of so many politicians.... Our natural resources are an asset to this country, not a liability. They keep energy affordable, and give us one of the highest standards of living. O’Toole and other political candidates seem determined to remain blind to that fact.

You would hope that this turn of events would cause Canada's governing class to thank its lucky stars for the energy sector, a potential launchpad for recovery. But unfortunately they'll probably keep just hoping for pats on the head from similarly green-obsessed organizations like the UN  -- and how's that been working out for them?

Eventually someone is going to have to grow up and start taking things seriously.

Gov. Blackface and the Greening of Virginia

You're forgiven for still thinking of Virginia as a conservative state. If you went to school before the Leftists leveled our educational system, you'll know that securing the buy-in of steady, aristocratic Virginians like George Washington and Thomas Jefferson helped convince the colonists that the dispute those rowdy New Englanders were having with Britain wasn't just a regional affair. But as a matter of more recent history, between the elections of Dwight Eisenhower in 1952 and Barrack Obama in 2008, Virginia was only won by one Democrat in a presidential contest. This isn't to say that the Old Dominion has been governed exclusively by the GOP -- when Linwood Holton was elected governor in 1970 he was the first Republican to hold that position in a century -- but no matter the party power in Richmond, they had to conform to the small 'c' conservative culture of the state.

In a relatively short time, however, that Virginia has been fundamentally transformed. After the most recent gubernatorial contest, which saw the election of the fourth Democrat in the last five cycles, journalist Matthew Continetti wrote a piece about his home state entitled 'How States Like Virginia Go Blue.' In it he paints a picture of modern day Virginia as "a hub of highly educated professionals, immigrants, and liberals," with an exploding population comprised of both the wealthy and educated and the comparatively poor, both key Democratic constituents:

Over the last 29 years, Virginia has become wealthier, more diverse, and more crowded. The population has grown by 42 percent, from 6 million in 1990 to 8.5 million. Population density has increased by 38 percent, from 156 people per square mile to 215. Mean travel time to work has increased from 24 minutes to 28 minutes. The median home price (in 2018 dollars) has gone from $169,000 to $256,000. Density equals Democrats.

The number of Virginians born overseas has skyrocketed from 5 percent to 12 percent. The Hispanic population has gone from 3 percent to 10 percent. The Asian community has grown from 2 percent to 7 percent. In 1990, 7 percent of people 5 years and older spoke a language other than English at home. In 2018 the number was 16 percent.

If educational attainment is a proxy for class, Virginia has undergone bourgeoisification. The number of adults with a bachelor’s degree or higher has shot up from 25 percent of the state to 38 percent. As baccalaureates multiplied, they swapped partisan affiliation. Many of the Yuppies of the ’80s, Bobos of the ’90s, and Security Moms of the ’00s now march in the Resistance.

Which is to say that, in that time, Virginia has been culturally and demographically tugged away from the rural, southern states and towards the urban, mid-Atlantic states. As one might expect, these trends are significantly more pronounced in the DC suburbs of Northern Va., especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties. The populations of these counties have exploded in that time. Fairfax gets more press, but Continetti points out that the population of Loudoun has more than quadrupled since the early '90s. Immigration is an important factor, but the expansion of the federal government during the Bush and Obama administrations might be more significant. Bureaucrats and defense contractors have to live somewhere, and they vote according to their interests.

Transformations like the one Continetti describes have consequences. In 2017, Virginians elected Democrat Ralph Northam, a pediatric neurologist, as its governor. A lot of ink has been spilt on Northam's expanding abortion access in Virginia (including his controversial comments related to post-birth abortion) and his war on guns (as well as the extremely civil protests against his anti-2nd Amendment initiatives, which were nevertheless vilified by the mainstream media), as these have particularly enraged the Old Virginians. And who could forget his racist yearbook photo, which he originally claimed did not depict him until he eventually apologized, though without clarifying whether he's the Klansman or the guy in black face. Somehow Democrats are always able to survive these things, while Republicans have their careers ended over more ambiguous incidents.

As Politico noted at the time:

In a bid to salvage his job, the Democratic governor of Virginia denied he was one of the men dressed up as a Klansman or in blackface in a picture on his medical school yearbook page — after admitting the night before he was, in fact, in the photo.

In a different yearbook at Virginia Military Institute, Northam was nicknamed “Coonman.” Why? He wasn’t quite sure, he said. “My main nickname in high school and in college was ‘Goose’ because when my voice was changing, I would change an octave. There were two individuals, as best as I can recollect, at VMI — they were a year ahead of me. They called me ‘Coonman’. I don’t know their motives or intent. I know who they are. That was the extent of that. And it ended up in the yearbook. And I regret that.”

Right.

A less publicized aspect of Northam's agenda has been his environmental extremism. Last September he signed an executive order setting a goal that the state produce 100 percent of its energy via "carbon-free" sources by 2050, and 30% within the next 10 years.

Chris Bast... of the [Department of Environmental Quality] told The Center Square that he did not have an estimate on how much the executive order will cost consumers or taxpayers, but said that investments to fight climate change are necessary. “The cost of inaction outweighs the cost of action,” Bast said.

Of course.

After the state elections in November flipped both legislative houses to the Democrats, they set about turning that goal into a mandate, and this spring -- in the midst of the pandemic and Virginia's lengthy and onerous lockdowns -- Northam signed the Green New Deal-inspired Virginia Clean Economy Act, which did exactly that. He also approved the Clean Energy and Community Flood Preparedness Act which puts Virginia on the path to joining the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. This multi-state compact imposes new regulatory burdens on Virginia's oil, natural gas, and coal power plants, and introduces a cap-and-trade scheme on the 30 largest of them.

As Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow with the National Center for Public Policy Research, told The Daily Signal, “Virginia could hardly have picked a worse time to join RGGI,”

Everywhere RGGI has gone, higher electricity prices have followed. In Virginia’s case, however, membership will coincide with trying to recover from the self-imposed economic collapse of the statewide lockdown. At a time when millions have lost their jobs, many of them from small businesses that may never reopen, Gov. Northam and his supporters in the General Assembly are knowingly adding to the burdens of families trying to recover from the COVID-19 lockdown. It is a direct assault on the disposable incomes of the state’s most vulnerable residents by an out-of-touch political elite. Absurdly, with natural gas abundant, reliable, and cheap, the governor chooses this moment to hitch Virginia’s fortunes to taxpayer-subsidized wind and solar power, which are intermittent, unreliable, and expensive.

Tom Pyle, president of the American Energy Alliance, adds that this push will ultimately be harmful to the environment and ignores the fact that the fracking revolution has led to a significant decrease in America's carbon emissions.

“If you’re going to require all of the state’s power to come from 100% carbon-free sources by 2050, this will require a lot of [the] state’s land, which probably means impacting the state’s agricultural lands or cutting down some forests and probably both... So much for the environment.”

“It’s also completely unnecessary,” he said. “If the goal is to stop climate change, the U.S. is already the global leader in carbon dioxide emission reductions. Between 2005 and 2018, CO2 declined 12%. The free market is already taking care of the environment.”

Unfortunately these trends seem unlikely to turn around any time soon. The Virginia Republican party is made up of factions which seem to despise each other more than they hate the Democrats, but it just might be the case that the numbers to change course just aren't there. Northam's opponent in 2017 was the GOP establishmentarian Ed Gillespie, a two-time loser in state elections, who attempted to appeal to nationalists by focusing on issues like crime and immigration. He received only 45% of the vote.

Perhaps the only solution might be a proposal which started gaining steam during the Second Amendment battles earlier this year -- secession. Specifically secession for those counties in western and southern Virginia disturbed by the direction of their state and interested in joining the more conservatively inclined West Virginia. And the free state of West Virginia, which itself seceded from the slave state of Virginia in 1863, seems ready to welcome their separated brethren with open arms. Should that transpire, and the size and relative importance of Virginia decrease on Northam's watch, his face will no longer be black or even green. It will be red.

Prediction of Economic Recovery Terrifies Dems

It looks like we're getting to the other side of this pandemic, with lock-down orders easing up and restrictions on everyday activities being lifted, with and without masks. One sign that things are returning to normal is that people's minds are turning away from daily case numbers and towards the election in the fall. To that end, Jason Furman, a Harvard professor and one of Barack Obama's senior economic advisors, gave a presentation to the Democratic party's top strategists a few weeks ago, and what he had to say absolutely shocked them:

“We are about to see the best economic data we’ve seen in the history of this country," he said.... “Everyone looked puzzled and thought I had misspoken,” Furman said in an interview. Instead of forecasting a prolonged Depression-level economic catastrophe, Furman laid out a detailed case for why the months preceding the November election could offer Trump the chance to brag — truthfully — about the most explosive monthly employment numbers and gross domestic product growth ever....

Furman’s counterintuitive pitch has caused some Democrats, especially Obama alumni, around Washington to panic. “This is my big worry,” said a former Obama White House official who is still close to the former president. Asked about the level of concern among top party officials, he said, “It’s high — high, high, high, high.”

Maybe I've missed something, but the above sounds to me like.... good news. But I suppose that's because I'm not running for president with the hopes of hanging a new Great Depression on the incumbent.

Furman stressed that he was speaking “in gross terms, not in net terms,” which is to say that the "V shaped" recovery he was predicting wouldn't leave us better off than we were before the pandemic. The economy would look great compared to the depths of the April and May, but we would still be in rough shape. This, of course, is a difficult message to boil down into a campaign slogan or a meme, which is why the Dems are so anxious about it.

At the same time, it should serve as a rallying cry for the Right. Just a few months ago, when we were riding an incredible economic wave with low taxes and low unemployment, the Democrats were arguing that we should be willing to risk our prosperity on their ideological program. Here's Jim Geraghty on that point:

Back during one of the debates, Tim Alberta of Politico asked Biden, “As president, would you be willing to sacrifice some of that growth, even knowing potentially that it could displace thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of blue-collar workers in the interest of transitioning to that greener economy?” Biden responded, “The answer is yes. The answer is yes, because the opportunity — the opportunity for those workers to transition to high-paying jobs, as Tom said, is real.”

Biden pledged “no new fracking” during a debate, then walked it back; he wants to set a price on carbon to be used for either a carbon tax or cap-and-trade; Biden endorsed California’s AB5, the anti-“gig” law; he would raise the corporate tax rate from 21 percent to 28 percent, and he insists he can raise taxes by $4 trillion over the next decade, without raising taxes on anyone making $400,000 per year or less.

If the economy is heading in the right direction in the fall -- if jobs are coming back and the stock market is up -- but hasn't quite recovered, should we really trust Joe Biden to prioritize getting us back where we need to be, rather than handing over his domestic policy to the Green Blob? His recent pledge to kill the Keystone XL pipeline if he's elected doesn't inspire confidence.

'GOP Out of Touch on Climate Change'

Former Pennsylvania governor, Homeland Security secretary, and current enviro-lobbyist Tom Ridge has published an article at The Atlantic arguing that his fellow Republicans are behind the curve on environmentalism. After opening the piece with a maudlin reflection on the fact that we all should have been celebrating Earth Day on April 22nd, but that the COVID-19 pandemic kept us from doing so (for the first time I was able to connect with the Libs who've been rooting for the virus), Ridge states:

The Republican Party has largely abandoned environmental issues—to its great detriment politically. Majorities of Americans say the federal government is doing too little for key aspects of the environment, such as protecting water and air quality and reducing the effects of climate change. A recent survey from the Pew Research Center finds that Democrats mostly agree that the U.S. government should do more on climate. Republicans are divided by ideology, age, and gender; moderates, Millennials, and women within the party are far more likely than conservatives, older Republicans, and men to favor more federal action. More and more, the GOP as a whole seems out of touch on this crucial issue.

This assertion is questionable. Gallup has actually just released a new poll attempting to document how Americans priorities the challenges facing our country, and the data for April, respondents put Climate Change at the bottom of the list, tied for dead last in importance. Now, of course, April is a bit of a skewed month, with the pandemic understandably taking first place and sucking up all the oxygen. Even so, it is worth noting that in the previous months surveyed, "climate change" only barely misses last place.

Heartland Institute president James Taylor, commenting on this data, rightly points out that "People have a vague, general desire for policymakers to pay attention to climate change," but when there's any question of the bill coming due -- he also mentions polling which suggests that support for Green initiatives collapses when respondents are asked if they'd be willing to pay an extra $100 per month for them -- they completely change their tune.

To Ridge's credit, he makes a few points which might make his new friends at The Atlantic uncomfortable, saying "I continue to support policies that embrace all sources of energy, including natural gas, which has lowered our dependence on coal. I also support nuclear power, the largest around-the-clock provider of carbon-free energy." But he follows that up with a lament that his "conservative friends have been reluctant to join me in supporting renewable technologies such as wind and solar." Perhaps because his conservative friends are aware that wind and solar are boondoggles which might help gullible Liberals sleep better at night, but they certainly don't benefit the environment. Then again, maybe his friends would come around if they were paid lobbyists for the renewable energy industry, like Ridge.

All of which is to say, if anyone is out of touch with American voters, its Tom Ridge.

New York's Fiscal Chickens Come Home to Roost

We are living through an apocalypse. Not the Apocalypse mind you. (Or, well, I hope not, but of course we "know not the day nor the hour"). But an apocalypse, in the truest sense of that word: an unveiling, a laying bare. With the Wuhan Novel Coronavirus and the lock-downs, as well as the economic calamity which they've brought about, many things which were obscure before are now becoming clear. The shaky ground upon which many of our political realities have been built are beginning to crumble. As the saying goes, the chickens are beginning to come home to roost.

To take just one example of this (though I plan to write about more of them in the coming days), let us take a look at New York State. The first thing I ever wrote for The Pipeline was a blog post about Gov. Andrew Cuomo's ideologically grounded refusal to allow hydraulic fracturing in New York, while also killing proposals to expand natural gas pipeline capacity into New York. This has led, predictably, to natural gas shortages in the Empire State, with natural gas suppliers increasingly less inclined to hook new customers up to natural gas lines, and even occasionally refusing to turn the gas back on when people have turned them off during home renovations.

It has also meant that New York State has missed out on the well-paying blue collar jobs that have been such a boon to neighboring Pennsylvania, which allows fracking, and which like New York sits atop the Marcellus Shale, one of the largest natural gas fields in the world. These are jobs that have the potential to revitalize upstate and western New York and to help beat back the opioid epidemic that has ravaged the less-prosperous parts of the state. Moreover, the revenue which the natural gas industry could generate could help paper over the decades of poor governance which have led to poorly funded pension plans, and rankings near the bottom of the country for business and personal tax liability, which combine to make New York one of the toughest states in which to raise a family or start a business.

For years now, New York has managed to stay afloat by trading on its reputation. It's home to the Big Apple, the city that never sleeps. Ambitious kids around the country grow up hearing that "if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere". They dream of taking the A Train, giving their regards to Broadway, hitching a ride to Rockaway Beach. Which is all well and good, but you can't live off of capital like that forever without the occasional deposit. And in the era of COVID-19 (which Governor Cuomo has bizarrely decided should be referred to as the "European Virus"), New York's capital -- cultural and pecuniary -- is running thin.

Thanks in large part to the inept pandemic response from New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Cuomo himself, New York is the American epicenter of COVID-19, leading the country in both cases and deaths. Researchers have even determined that New York seeded the virus to the rest of the nation, with between 60% and 65% of virus samples studied displaying markers which link them back to the outbreak in New York. (Consequently, after Cuomo unveiled his "European Virus" bit the other day, the NY Post's Karol Markowicz pointed out that, if the governor wasn't careful, Americans might start calling it the "New York Virus").

New York has also taken the lead -- with New Jersey and Illinois right behind it -- in imploring the federal government for a coronavirus bailout. Cuomo publicly begged President Trump to back such a bailout the other day, saying,

You know the state governments are now responsible for the reopening and the governors are going to do the reopening, and they have no funds to do it.

The editors of the Wall Street Journal pointed out in reply,

The Governor blames the pandemic and recession, but states like New York were already in trouble from their own mismanagement. Mr. Cuomo warned for months about a $6 billion state deficit thanks to runaway Medicaid costs and taxpayers leaving his high-tax state. He signed a $177 billion business-as-usual budget on April 3 that allows him to borrow $11 billion if spending exceeds revenues. The coronavirus was already a clear and present danger....

Keep in mind that Congress’s $2.2 trillion Cares Act last month included a $150 billion blank check to states plus $90 billion for schools, public transit and Medicaid. To put these numbers in perspective: All state tax revenues during the last three months of 2019 totaled $254 billion. So Washington’s last state infusion is roughly equal to three months of tax collections... New York received $5.22 billion in direct aid from the Cares Act, or 6.8% of its $77 billion in annual general-fund tax revenue. That doesn’t include $3.8 billion in the Cares Act for the New York subways, and billions more for health care and schools. Illinois received $3.52 billion, or 8.8% of its general-fund revenue, while Michigan also made it big with $3.1 billion, or 27%.

The economic shutdowns will cause budget pain in states and cities. But states with healthy finances going into the pandemic should be able to endure revenue declines for a few months thanks to the Cares Act.

Crises happen. They are simply a fact of life. And one mark of a true statesman or of a well-governed polity, is that they use the good years to "caulk their hulls and clear their rigging," as the British politician Daniel Hannan so memorably put it. In New York that should have meant taking advantage of the Marcellus Shale, a blessing of nature which has led to Pennsylvania "producing about one-fifth of the nation’s natural gas, the making it the second-largest natural gas producer after Texas" according to the Institute of Energy Research.

Back in March, as the scope of this present crisis was beginning to become clear, I argued that the post-COVID world would have less time for anti-human environmentalist bromides and the government policies that flow from them. Hopefully in New York State that will mean clearing the way for cheaper energy and good jobs by reversing the fracking ban. It isn't like they have all the time in the world to change course. In the words of New York legend Yogi Berra, "it's getting late early."

Carbon Emissions Fell Months before Pandemic

One disturbing thing we've seen during the course of this pandemic is that there's a certain variety of Greenie -- not all of them mind you, but some -- who are almost gleeful about the state of things. John O'Sullivan pointed out one example back in March, when former Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis tweeted the following:

Fun, eh? File that one under takes that didn't age well. But even so, it demonstrated an enthusiasm for large-scale, government mandated lifestyle change once the pandemic has come to an end. Another, perhaps more common source of environmentalist delight is the decline in CO2 emissions as a consequence of the the decrease of economic activity of every kind. Britain's left-leaning newspaper Guardian reported a few weeks ago:

Global carbon emissions from the fossil fuel industry could fall by a record 2.5bn tonnes this year, a reduction of 5%, as the coronavirus pandemic triggers the biggest drop in demand for fossil fuels on record. The unprecedented restrictions on travel, work and industry due to the coronavirus is expected to cut billions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic metres of gas  millions of tonnes of coal from the global energy system in 2020 alone

And Jeff Gibbs, of Planet of the Humans fame, said in an interview just the other day:

[R]ight now we're learning that the three times when climate change and fossil fuel usage went down were during this pandemic, in the days after 9/11, and during the Great Recession.

There's something revelatory about this way of looking at things -- these horrible moments of tragedy, of poverty and loss of life, conform most perfectly with the vision of the environmentalist movement. Conservatives have been saying that misery would be the necessary outcome of environmentalists getting their way, and environmentalists seem to be in agreement.

But it is also oddly misleading. Their vision of graceless growth, of the gluttonous nature of modern capitalist life, leaves out the fact that the nations who have been most successful in employing technologies that decrease carbon emissions are market economies, generally in the West.

The United States, the country hated by environmentalists most of all, actually saw its carbon emissions decline by 2.8 percent last year, according to a new report released by the Energy Information Administration. A decline, it need hardly be stated, that occurred before the pandemic. Moreover, the U.S. has led the world in reducing carbon emissions over the past 20 years.

And it isn't just America -- worldwide carbon emissions were flat in 2019, even though the global economy grew.

The stall in emissions, as reported by the International Energy Agency on Tuesday, was mainly due to rich countries using less coal for electricity, replacing it with natural gas, wind, solar, and nuclear power. Coal generation in advanced economies fell by nearly 15%.

It is also worth noting that our transitions toward natural gas and nuclear (I'm less certain than the IEA about the contributions of wind and solar) helped keep worldwide emissions flat, even though the massive increase in coal usage throughout Asia meant that emissions in the rest of the world grew by nearly 400 million tons in the same time period.

All of which is to say, human misery and communist diktats won't lead to a cleaner environment, whatever the Greenies might tell you. Prosperity, rational development, stewardship, and freedom are the way forward.

Trudeau's Oil Sands 'Relief' a Bust

Back in 2017, Justin Trudeau was speaking at a town hall event in Peterborough, Ont., and was asked about his government's decision to approve an extension to Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline, which seemed in tension with his environmentalist commitments. He replied:

We can’t shut down the oil sands tomorrow. We need to phase them out. We need to manage the transition off of our dependence on fossil fuels but it’s going to take time and in the meantime we have to manage that transition.

This was widely considered to be a gaffe of the Kinsley variety, which is to say the type in which a politician "accidentally reveals something truthful about what is going on in his or her head." Trudeau was acknowledging that somewhere in that woolly brain of his is the desire to shut down Canada's oil sands, the backbone of Canada's western economy, and a key sector of the national economy as well.

The representatives of affected Canadians were compelled to respond. Rachel Notley, whose socialist New Democratic Party was enjoying a rare period in power in Alberta, said, “[Our] oil and gas industry and the people who work in it are the best in the world and we’re not going anywhere, any time soon.” Jason Kenney, who would replace Notley as premier two years later, asked whether Trudeau's "phase-out" meant "he wants to hand-over all global oil production to Saudi [Arabia], Iran, Qatar, et al?" Then-opposition leader Brian Jean replied, "If Mr. Trudeau wants to shut down Alberta's oil sands... he'll have to go through me and four million Albertans first." The pushback was such that eventually -- that is, more than a week later -- Trudeau walked back the comment, saying that he "misspoke," and that he had “said something the way I shouldn’t have said it.”

Fast forward to our present calamity, which has seen Canada's oil and gas industry pounded by a perfect storm consisting of the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant lockdowns on the one hand, and the Saudi/Russian production war on the other. Back in the middle of March, as the nature of these twin crises was becoming clear, news began to surface about Ottawa's proposed response.

The federal government is preparing a multibillion-dollar bailout package for Canada’s oil and gas sector that is expected to be unveiled early next week, sources say.... [G]overnment insiders are saying little about the details... but the oil and gas sector can expect to get more access to credit, especially for struggling small and medium-sized operations, and significant funding to create jobs for laid-off workers to clean up abandoned oil and gas wells.

One senior Alberta source said the province is expecting Ottawa to provide $15-billion in relief to an industry that has been hammered by the COVID-19 crisis and the price war between Saudi Arabia and Russia that has cratered oil prices and energy-company stocks.

Finance Minister Bill Morneau assured the nation on March 25th that the government understood that "the energy sector is in a particularly challenging situation," and that the rumored bailout was imminent, not "weeks [but] hours, potentially days" away.

Well, not hours or days, but nearly a month later details of the relief package were made public, and they were underwhelming to say the least. Reports of a $15 billion package were off by almost an order of magnitude, as the actual package came to $1.7 billion, largely geared towards environmentalist priorities. Whereas oil and gas representatives had been asking mainly for new lines of credit and an easing of regulations, the actual package earmarked the vast majority of dollars for the remediation of abandoned oil wells and methane-gas emission reduction.

As Grant Fagerheim of Whitecap Resources put it, “This is not going to do anything... If this is as good as it gets, it will do very little or nothing to assist with operations for companies.”

What changed? Well, for one thing, the environmentalists got involved. Around the time of Morneau's pledge, a coalition of environmentalist groups wrote an open letter to Trudeau arguing against such a package, saying

"Giving billions of dollars to failing oil and gas companies will not help workers and only prolongs our reliance on fossil fuels."

They seem to have had an influence. As one oil executive observed to the National Post:

[T]he announcement appeared to adhere closely to Ottawa’s tendencies around environmental messaging, rather than addressing immediate concerns on private sector balance sheets. “I think they made the calculation that it would be politically unpalatable in Ontario and Quebec to provide direct supports to oil and gas."

Of course, Canada's environmentalist groups were elated and were quick to offer praise:

Josha McNabb of the clean-energy think tank Pembina Institute said well cleanups and methane reductions are good steps toward reorienting Canada’s economy toward a low-carbon future. “Those are types of things that are going to lead to an oil and gas sector that is more competitive because it’s cleaner, and also (develop) the kind of expertise that is going to be in demand,” she said.

Even more to the point was the statement put out by Tzeporah Berman of Stand.Earth, which read,

Today, Prime Minister Trudeau made clear that Canada’s bailout package will prioritize addressing the climate crisis and building the cleaner, safer economy we need. This is the kind of leadership the world needs .… This bailout announcement is a major turning point for oil and gas politics in Canada.... [W]inding down the oil and gas industry [is] a hard, but necessary part of achieving [Canada's Paris Agreement climate] targets.

Of course, Trudeau's cabinet is itself brimming with borderline enviro-activists, including Catherine McKenna, Navdeep Bains, and Steven Guilbeault (the latter a full blown activist, who spent ten years with Greenpeace before running for office). None of them needs much pressure -- public or private -- to leave the resource sector out in the cold. No doubt when Morneau said that relief was "hours, possibly days" away, that was based on his perception of the negotiations as they stood at the time. Perhaps he was even trying to hurry his fellow ministers along. But he appears to have gotten ahead of his skis, and in the end the greenies won out.

Furthermore, despite requests from industry representatives, the Trudeau government insisted on going ahead with its plan to double the Federal Carbon tax and merely delayed the implementation of their Clean Fuel Standard by a few months.

“Just because we are in one crisis doesn’t mean we can forget about the other crisis, the climate crisis, that we’re facing as a world and as a country,” said Trudeau.

It must be mentioned that one request from the resource industry was included in the relief package, namely expanding credit availability for small and medium sized energy companies, and there has been talk of further assistance aimed at ensuring that the industry maintains liquidity. There's a good argument for such interventions -- since government ordered lockdowns are a major contributor to the industry's plight, it makes sense that the government would help shoulder the burden while oil and gas companies work their way through this. And it's worth noting that, as the energy sector has contributed more to the Canadian economy over the past 20 years than any other, a lot of that money comes from oil and gas to begin with.

Even so, the core of this package makes plain the Prime Minister's priorities. Weighted as heavily as it is toward capping off old wells, it serves mainly as an instruction to an ailing industry that it had better restructure itself with an eye towards closing up shop for good. Rahm Emmanuel famously advised Barack Obama in 2008 to never let a good crisis go to waste, and Trudeau and his ministers appear to have taken that to heart. Never mind that the resource sector makes up roughly 10 percent of the Canadian economy; that, as this pandemic has reminded us, it contributes the material to make personal protective equipment and ventilators; or that the Green Energy Industry on which they have pinned their hopes has been shown to be a sham. This is their moment. They will not let it pass.

A View from the Bakken Oil Fields

As you drive into western North Dakota it becomes painfully evident that the energy industry has hit the pause button. There is an eerie stillness. The roads are less trafficked than is typical in this wide-open prairie country. Even the flares are smaller, dancing less wildly in the wind as if to communicate that they know the music has stopped… and there aren’t enough chairs for everyone across the oil and gas industry.

Statistics tell part of this painful story. It's a tale of supply meeting demand in a virus-laden, economic brawl that has left both sides wounded and bleeding. On the supply side, the industry is hemorrhaging revenue, jobs, talent, and institutional knowledge. There is simply too much oil and gas being produced for the current global demand. On the demand side, input prices are low. But everyone is locked in their houses, hunkered down for a statistically unlikely contraction of a largely non-fatal cold.

Even Russia, one of the instigators of this international, global throw-down that seeks to harm North American shale producers, is now feeling market pressures. Their commitment to increase production has led to storage shortages for them, like the rest of the industry has been already experiencing. According to Department of Energy officials, the talks between the U.S., Russia and Saudi Arabia will soon yield fruit with Russia committing to reducing production.

But substantial harm has already been done to American shale producers. As of this week, the rig count in North Dakota is down 35 percent, from 53 to 35. Expectations by the North Dakota Petroleum Council are that the number could drop to as low as 25. Layoffs are abundant for service companies. According to One Basin One Way, an industry orientation and training partnership, oil and gas employs somewhere between 35,000-50,000 employees. While official layoff counts are not available because it is difficult to get real time data, estimates are that there could be thousands of layoffs in North Dakota in the coming weeks and months. Some industry sources suggest as many as 70-75 percent of service companies will close their operations due to limited or no cash reserves, contracted employees returning to their families in other states, and an inability to ensure work into the future. With the memory of the 2016 market softening and related economic pain still a topic in therapy sessions for many owners and workers alike, many owners know they cannot withstand the 24+ month road to recovery of higher prices.

To further underscore the current reality, consider that 3,600 of the nearly 16,000 producing wells in North Dakota have been "shut in" over the last few weeks. Wells get shut in when the cost to operate the well is more than the revenue that could be realized by continuing to operate it. Current market conditions have driven some producers to make this decision. This is essentially asset retirement.

While prices have fallen to 18 year lows recently, storage is perhaps a more immediate challenge to producers and refiners alike. Traditional tanks have long been filled, as were many vessels. Now, even rail tankers have become an storage option. The U.S. government is trying to offer some help to the producers in the form of storage capacity. The Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) will be open for an initial tranche of 30 million barrels. Awards will be handed down next week and the SPR will be able to accept oil beginning in May, if not sooner. With a daily capacity of 685,000 barrels, opening the strategic reserves will help with storage issues for the next 45 days. The hope is that within that period demand will begin to pick up, even as prices remain low. A second tranche is slated to open to accept another 45 million barrels.

On the demand side, well…that’s a reality everyone is experiencing. Equally bloodied are the consumers and businesses who use the refined product as a normal part of their everyday lives. Shutting down a national and global economy hopefully has cleared up any question about whether "trickle-down economics" is real: it’s an affirmative. Global daily consumption has fallen from 100 million barrels to 30 million. So while the price of the input is low, so is the demand for the output of refined products. As such, refineries are trying to limit their runs while they store what they are refining. They are hoping the storm breaks and global demand comes roaring back.

We can only hope that job seekers from all the shuttered businesses around the world decide to drive and fly great distances in their attempts to get re-employed.

Public Enemy No. 1: Now It's Fracking, not Cows!

We interrupt our global hysteria about the Wuhan virus to bring you this public-service message, courtesy of The Nation:

Our leaders thought fracking would save our climate. They were wrong. Very wrong.

There’s one greenhouse gas everyone knows about: carbon dioxide, which is what you get when you burn fossil fuels. We talk about a “price on carbon” or argue about a carbon tax; our leaders boast about modest “carbon reductions.” But in the last few weeks, CO2’s nasty little brother has gotten some serious press. Meet methane, otherwise known as CH4.

In February, Harvard researchers published an explosive paper in Geophysical Research Letters. Using satellite data and ground observations, they concluded that the nation as a whole is leaking methane in massive quantities. Between 2002 and 2014, the data showed that US methane emissions increased by more than 30 percent, accounting for 30 to 60 percent of an enormous spike in methane in the entire planet’s atmosphere.

To the extent our leaders have cared about climate change, they’ve fixed on CO2. Partly as a result, coal-fired power plants have begun to close across the country. They’ve been replaced mostly with ones that burn natural gas, which is primarily composed of methane. Because burning natural gas releases significantly less carbon dioxide than burning coal, CO2 emissions have begun to trend slowly downward, allowing politicians to take a bow. But this new Harvard data, which comes on the heels of other aerial surveys showing big methane leakage, suggests that our new natural-gas infrastructure has been bleeding methane into the atmosphere in record quantities. And molecule for molecule, this unburned methane is much, much more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide.

Well, as I like to say on Twitter, they never stop, they never sleep, they never quit. Just in time for fracking to have driven down the price of oil in one of the most environmentally friendly ways, putting the squeeze on the Saudis and other members of the Arab oil cartel, and dealing Vladimir Putin a blow in the shorts, we now learn (according to one of the most left-wing magazines in the country) that there's yet another problem gas associated with keeping our cars running and our houses warm: good old methane.

The EPA insisted this wasn’t happening, that methane was on the decline just like CO2. But it turns out, as some scientists have been insisting for years, the EPA was wrong. Really wrong... These leaks are big enough to wipe out a large share of the gains from the Obama administration’s work on climate change—all those closed coal mines and fuel-efficient cars. In fact, it’s even possible that America’s contribution to global warming increased during the Obama years. The methane story is utterly at odds with what we’ve been telling ourselves, not to mention what we’ve been telling the rest of the planet. It undercuts the promises we made at the climate talks in Paris. It’s a disaster—and one that seems set to spread.

As the saying goes, no one every went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American public. But here's the thing: this harum-scarum story is from 2016, during the Obama administration, when the former president promised us that we couldn't drill our way out of soaring energy costs. Well, we did -- but that hasn't stopped the propaganda drumbeat on the Left. In 2018, the website ThinkProgress hit the same theme, this time attributing the alarm to NASA (whose reliability on climate climes is, shall we say, highly suspect).

A new NASA study is one final nail in the coffin of the myth that natural gas is a climate solution, or a “bridge” from the dirtiest fossil fuels to low-carbon fuels like solar and wind. NASA found that most of the huge rise in global methane emissions in the past decade is in fact from the fossil fuel industry–and that this rise is “substantially larger” than previously thought. And that means natural gas is, as many earlier studies have found, not a climate solution.

A year later, the kiddie-news site Vox got into the act as well:

As greenhouse gases go, methane gets less attention than carbon dioxide, but it is a key contributor to climate change. Methane doesn’t stay in the atmosphere as long as CO2 and is reabsorbed into terrestrial cycles via chemical reactions within 12 years or so. But while it’s up there, it’s much more potent, trapping heat at roughly 84 times the rate of CO2. Scientists estimate that around 25 percent of current global warming traces to methane.

When it comes to reducing CO2 emissions, the chain between cause and effect is frustratingly long and diffuse. Reduced emissions today won’t show up as reduced climate impacts for decades.

But with methane, the chain of causation is much shorter and simpler. Reduced emissions have an almost immediate climate impact. It’s a short-term climate lever, and if the countries of the world are going to hold rising temperatures to the United Nations’ target of “well below” 2 degrees Celsius above the preindustrial baseline, they’re going to need all the short-term climate levers they can get.

Greenpeace and National Geographic have also piled on. There is some good news however, especially for beef lovers everywhere: fracking has now taken the onus off cow farts as the leading cause of methane gas in the atmosphere.

Fracking - not cows - is responsible for the big increase in atmospheric methane levels in the past decade, according to new Cornell University research published on Wednesday. The research, published in Biogeosciences, a journal of the European Geosciences Union, said atmospheric methane levels rose steadily during the last few decades of the 20th century before leveling off in first decade of the 21st century.

Atmospheric methane levels then increased dramatically from 2008-14, due to global human-caused methane emissions.

Previous studies erroneously concluded that biological sources - including animal agriculture, tropical wetlands and rice production - were the cause of the rising methane, according to the research paper's author, Dr Robert Howarth, the David R. Atkinson Professor of Ecology and Environmental Biology at Cornell University in the US.

What's the missing element in all these stories? Simply this: who cares whether fracking may cause the Henny-penny Left to miss its "climate goals" and its arbitrary insistence on a 2 degree Celsius upper limit? The real question should be: is the trade-off worth it? Don't cheaper energy prices compensate for some small, perhaps immeasurable, human contribution to "climate change"? Absent any evidence that the Apocalypse is right around the corner... so what?

That's the question the climate nuts can never answer.