New Nukes, More Nukes, not No Nukes

The war in Ukraine created a new energy reality. Russian petrochemicals, including natural gas once bound for Europe, are now being sold to India, China and other customers in Asia. Offering discounts out of necessity, Russia has displaced 'gray market' Iranian and even Gulf oil in Asian countries. The distribution has rearranged the map of buyers and sellers, but there is little doubt that the market for petrochemicals has shrunk for a long time to come.

The world is reeling from the economic impact of steeply rising fuel costs but bureaucrats at the International Energy Agency (IEA) can scarcely contain their delight at the shortage of 'fossil fuels.' They hope to avoid any further investment in petroleum and meet the entire energy shortfall through increases in renewables. "Global fossil fuel use has grown alongside GDP since the start of the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century: putting this rise into reverse will be a pivotal moment in energy history... Today’s growth rates for deployment of solar PV, wind, EVs and batteries, if maintained, would lead to a much faster transformation than projected in the Stated Policies Scenario, although this would require supportive policies not just in the early leading markets for these technologies but across the world." In other words subsidies and incentives for renewables will still be needed to save the day.

First World problems.

Prominently missing from the IEA's list of preferred energy technologies is nuclear power, which despite a high regulatory cost burden that must be capitalized is nevertheless "cost competitive with renewable generation when capital cost is in the region of 2000-3000 ($/KW)." It is extremely reliable and insensitive to fluctuations in fuel costs because the fissile material is replenished so infrequently. Moreover the big reactors -- unlike renewables -- are 'load following', that is to say able to increase or decrease their output in response to the demands of the grid. Because they are so useful, planned nuclear power capacity worldwide will increase steadily with about 55 reactors under construction, mostly in the Asian region.

Nuclear power technology is also advancing steadily. "More than a dozen advanced reactor designs are in various stages of development." The most mainstream of the new designs are the Generation IVs. The Generation IV International Forum (GIF), initiated by the US Department of Energy in 2000, has 13 member countries (Argentina, Brazil, Canada, France, Japan, South Korea, South Africa, Switzerland, China, Russia, Australia, U.K., U.S.A.) plus Euratom jointly developing next generation nuclear technology. Six designs have been readied so far. They feature:

Perhaps the most exciting development is the availability of commercial small nuclear reactors, which are perhaps the most tested kind of all. Many hundreds of smaller power reactors have been built for naval use accumulating over 12,000 reactor years of experience. They are inherently safer. "This is largely due to their higher surface area to volume (and core heat) ratio compared with large units. It means that a lot of the engineering for safety including heat removal in large reactors is not needed in the small reactors." But their biggest advantage is they can be located—even airlifted—anywhere, even where the local grid is limited or nonexistent.

By contrast solar PV, wind, EVs and batteries require a smart grid to smooth out supply and demand. Solar farms built in North Africa, for example, need huge, kilometers-long undersea power cables to send electricity to overcast Europe. Called the EuroAfrica Interconnector, it will have 1000 MW capacity in the first stage, only equal to an average nuclear power plant. But unlike a nuclear power plant, which can be securely located near the user, a solar array in North Africa has to be secured along a long, vulnerable line of communications across national boundaries.

Given these factors, why aren't Green activists turning more to nuclear power to redress the energy crisis exacerbated by the Ukraine war? The counterintuitive reason is that cheap and reliable nuclear power would enable wasteful capitalist consumption and undo the Green agenda. Environmentalist Paul Ehrlich said in 1975:

In fact, giving society cheap, abundant energy at this point would be the moral equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun. With cheap, abundant energy, the attempt clearly would be made to pave, develop, industrialize, and exploit every last bit of the planet—a trend that would inevitably lead to a collapse of the life-support systems upon which civilization depends.

Cheap nuclear power would allow ordinary people, even in the Third World, to afford big screen TVs, game consoles, electric vehicles, lights, air conditioning, etc., all of which in the Leftist view would spell disaster.

The Catch-22 is that hardcore Greens prefers power to be expensive in order to cut consumption. As an op-ed in the Seattle Times put it: "High gas prices? They’re just what we need." The Green nightmare is billions of Africans living like Americans. The advantage of solar and wind over nuclear is it sets a hard limit on the lifestyle it will support. In that way Americans would live like Africans. As filmmaker Robert Stone put it: "as you provide societies with more energy it enables them to do more environmental destruction. The idea of tying us to the natural forces the wind and the sun was very appealing in that it would limit and constrain human development."

For the radical Greens, that's a good thing.

'Green' Belgium Nukes Itself

On Friday, September 23rd, at precisely 9:31 p.m., Belgium's Doel 3 nuclear reactor was disconnected from the nation's power grid, beginning the process of its complete decommissioning. It should be noted, there is nothing wrong with this reactor. It's just that the Belgian government, intoxicated by environmentalist platitudes, passed a law in 2003 which stipulated that all nuclear power plants must cease producing electricity 40 years after they went online.

This is madness.

As we've discussed before, Europe is in the midst of an energy crisis, with various countries throughout the continent preparing for oil and natural gas shortages this winter, and related blackouts. Meanwhile, according to The Brussels Times, "keeping the reactor open would safeguard over 50 percent of Belgium's yearly electricity needs."

That's a pretty big carrot, while the threat of energy shortages in freezing temperatures should serve as the stick. Consequently, the current government (whose prime minister, Alexander De Croo, has been sounding increasingly pessimistic about Europe's energy situation over the next decade) has belatedly seen the light on nuclear power -- on September 14th Interior minister Annelies Verlinden called for the plants closure to be delayed, only to be told by the company which operates Doel 3, Engie, that "[t]o change plans at such short notice is just not feasible."

Other than the logistical challenges that renewing the reactor would bring, there are also legal barriers that would need to be overcome: "It is legally prohibited for the reactor to produce any more electricity after 1 October 2022," [Engie spokesperson Nele] Scheerlinck stated. This is written into Engie's operating license. Furthermore, the power plant's director Peter Moens told Belga News Agency that delaying the shutdown was "neither wise nor advisable," not least given that most of the staff working on the reactor have already planned to work elsewhere.

Maybe they shouldn't have waited to ask until nine days prior to the shut-down. Or, even better, maybe they shouldn't have passed that inane regulation in 2003 in the first place. No doubt at the time Belgian Greens imagined that this was a risk-free move, because, surely, the world would have long-since developed a magical energy source which could satisfy their exacting (re: unrealistic and irrational) standards before it would matter. Yet here we are, twenty years later, and the energy sources they hate most -- nuclear, natural gas, etc. -- are still on top, and have even contributed more to worldwide carbon emission reductions than their animal-slaughtering windfarms and strip-mined rare earth mineral-requiring solar panels. Meanwhile, worldwide economies have been thrown for a loop by the WuFlu (and our absured governmental responses to it), and the energy markets have gone to hell thanks to Russia's invasion of Ukraine (and our absurd governmental responses to that).

Perhaps these things were unforeseeable in 2003, but it is any competent government's job to keep the country as ready as possible for such disasters. Semper paratus, as they say.

In Oz, No REST for the Greenies

Strictly speaking, an acronym must be a word, and pronounceable at that. Thus LGBTQ+ is not an acronym. If DEI is turned into DIE, and I don’t see why not, then it is an acronym. ESG and CRT are not acronyms and can’t be rearranged to make them so. WEF is not an acronym but could be rearranged as FEW; though this might not please the legion (apropos Mark 5:19) attending Davos. An advantage of acronyms is that they slide off the tongue. So it is that a new slick acronym has been introduce into Australia’s climate debate by Zali Steggall. Namely, REST; standing for "renewal energy storage target." This obviously complements the acronym RET, standing for renewable energy target. Incidentally, for the avoidance of doubt, RET is a word.

Ms Stegall is notable for depriving former prime minister Tony Abbott of his seat in the 2019 federal election. She’s a pathbreaker for six Stegall lookalikes (the so-called Teals) who defeated their putative right-of-centre opponents in well-heeled electorates in this year’s federal election. All ran, almost entirely, on the single policy of being greener than mere green; of proposing impossible-to-achieve renewable energy targets. I dare say they’ll all adopt REST as part of their sloganeering.

'REST is a crucial piece in Australia’s energy transition puzzle,' argues Steggall. Puzzle is a well-chosen word. Australia’s transition to intermittent, unreliable and costly energy from abundant coal and natural gas is a great puzzle. Matched by a mind-bending solution. The Australian market Operator (AEMO) issued its '2022 Integrated System Plan' on 30 June. The objective of the plan is to engineer “a true transformation of the NEM [National Electricity Market] from fossil fuels to firmed renewables.”

Does nuclear count as "renewable">

And what will the transformed electricity market look like? Far-flung wind and solar farms, connected to the grid by 10,000 kilometres of new transmission lines; pumped hydro and plain old hydro; super batteries; gas peeking stations; hydrogen, generated by electrolysis, fed by desalination plants, converted into ammonia for safer transport; so-called virtual power plants (see below); a nationwide network of charge points for EVs; and, lest we forget, demand management (aka, rationing).

I will have missed something. Doesn’t matter. I’m not alone in Oz in seeing it as a dead ringer for the instantaneously-ridiculed Knowledge Nation, ex-quiz champion and former science minister Barry Jones drew up on a whiteboard for the Australian Labor Party in 2001. Irreverently called ‘spaghetti and meatballs’ and, rather more cleverly, ‘noodle nation’; its shelf-life expired within the blink of an eye. If only that were predictive of the fate of the new-beaut electrical system that they (renewable-energy fantasists) intend foisting on the Australia population.

Storage, hence REST, is the last piece in the puzzle for fantasists. It completes the renewable-energy utopia in their delusional minds. But storage is a stock. Stocks run down. The supply of electricity is a continuous flow. Lapses require a compensating flow; for however long. Now those in the front line of keeping the lights on (prominently AEMO) are not complete dimwits. So, it’s not storage but firming which takes centre stage in bridging lapses. Words are important. Firming is a flow of power.

What can provide a flow of power for the extended periods when renewable energy is MIA? Not batteries, however super. The Australian Energy Council provided an unusually factual take on Victoria’s big battery (VBB). A battery twice the size again of the now doubled, much-vaunted, battery installed in Hornsdale in South Australia, courtesy of Elon Musk.

The VBB will not store huge quantities of surplus energy generated by renewables on sunny,windy days, and release this back into the grid for days and days when the sun isn’t shining and the wind isn’t blowing. Its energy storage capacity is limited to at most a few hours’ worth of charging and release. Claims that such batteries will magically solve all the challenges of renewable generation variability and set us on a path to 100 per cent renewables tomorrow totally misconstrue the real roles that grid-scale batteries can effectively play.

Never mind, there’s always pumped hydro and virtual power plants to fill the breach. And do I have the Sydney Harbour bridge to sell you.

Australia’s only major pumped hydro project, Snowy 2.0, was originally slated to produce power by 2021; then 2026; now 2028, though no one would bet on that. And who would have ever guessed, it’s turning out to be far more expensive than envisaged. From $2 billion when announced by former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull in 2017, to $5 billion, to now over $10 billion. And, when finally built, it will do no more than reproduce the power (2GW) of the Liddell coal-power station, due for premature closure in April 2023. For how long can it deliver such power? For as little as 20 hours perhaps, in some circumstances. Then it will take days to pump the water back up. Fingers crossed that the wind keeps blowing during these times. Might be better than a big battery? Still, has the history of energy generation ever seen so much expended for so little return?

As for virtual power plants, i.e., tapping into household and EV batteries? Pull the other one. A complex and expensive workaround offering an insignificant cache of power for the foreseeable future. In any event, it’s batteries again and they’ll run out long before wind droughts end. Tough toodles Teals & Co. Backing up unreliable renewable energy, requires gas-fired generators. There is no other practical way. But let’s do it with green hydrogen, they fantasise. Sure, mañana. One of these balmy days and nights.

According to AEMO, sans coal, the existing firming capacity in Australia’s national electricity market has to increase by more than six times. No doubt a model spat this out. Save the modelling. Apply simple logic for a world which often enough darkens and stills. As much power that can be got from wind and solar has to be backed kW for kW by another means. One hundred percent firming required. And by a means which can deliver a continuous and indefinite 24/7 flow.

What, a whole separate system backing up the primary system? Just imagine, analogously. Every utilitarian household appliance backed up. Two washing machines installed because one can be absolutely relied upon to regularly breakdown in mid-cycle. Why not throw that one out then, said a small child?

Of Carbon, Carbs, Keto, and Canada

Canada was once a hale and hearty country, or at least, it was not in excessively terrible shape, until Prime Minister Justin Trudeau decided it was packing too much weight, foundering on a surfeit of carbs. The only solution was to put the country on a high-rez, environmental keto diet. The keto diet, we recall, restricts carbs to 50 grams or fewer per day to promote a state of nutritional ketosis. The body will burn fat instead of carbs, thus producing energy, muscle tone and overall natural fitness. Of course, industrial keto has nothing to do with healthful outcomes—quite the reverse—but the analogy holds.

In terms of radical enviro-thinking, the nation will eliminate or reduce its reliance on carbon and will burn solar and wind to produce energy to power our homes and industries. The nation will then grow stronger, healthier and more productive, and the economy of the body politic will correspondingly improve. The problem with this hypothesis is that environmental ketogenesis has got it wrong way round. It is both ideologically dangerous and environmentally unsound. 

For one thing, environmentally speaking, carbs are good. In his various books, The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It and False Alarm, Green skeptic and president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center Bjorn Lomborg contends that global paroxysms over the heating of the atmosphere are utterly misplaced. The planet is not facing a climate cataclysm. As Lomborg writes, “more CO in the atmosphere has acted as a fertilizer and created a profound global greening of the planet.”

Good old carbon.

Similarly, in Heaven and Earth, geologist and University of Melbourne Earth Sciences professor Ian Plimer points out that CO₂ is a vital chemical compound that every plant requires to live and grow and to synthesize into life-giving oxygen. The vendetta against carbon can lead to no good.

Robert Zubrin’s Merchants of Despair and Michael Shellenberger’s authoritative Apocalypse Never effectively lay out the case for environmental CO2 as a crop multiplier and a benefactor of life and prosperity—a counterintuitive fact not understood by the myopic catastrophism of the global warming crowd. “Carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels,” writes astrophysicist S. Fred Singer in his blockbuster Hot Talk, Cold Science, “becomes a natural resource for humanity rather than an imagined menace to global climate.” Singer’s examination of the relevant facts is convincing.

Carbon capture, carbon offsets and renewable energy subsidies amount to a fool’s errand. An environmentally-unfriendly, landscape-defiling, uglifying architecture of wind turbines and solar panels is not only largely unworkable and egregiously costly but actually futile. Neither the economy nor the backup electrical grid can sustain them for any length of time. The uncomfortable truth is that wind is capricious and sun prefers the tropics; air and light are non-dispatchable energy sources. The power-intermittency problem is crucial and baseload battery storage to solve the deficits is inordinately complicated, obscenely expensive and far from currently feasible. The aeolian fantasy persists.

These are facts that cannot be “fact-checked” or IPCC’d out of the physical record. Moreover, as Lomborg shows in The Skeptical Environmentalist, there is no dependable method of modeling an open system such as the earth, and there is no climate modeling system that can yield accurate predictions. The data insistently driving industrial keto are highly questionable. The advantages of carbs to the environment are not.

For another thing, the reduction in the percentage of atmospheric carbs owing to “Green technology,” carbon capture and punitive carbon taxes is infinitesimal. One of the few Canadian dailies that appears to have retained a measure of editorial independence, the Regina Leader-Post, reports that Canada’s new climate plan banking on carbon capture is a pipe dream. The newspaper quotes Julia Levin, senior program manager at Environmental Defence and author of the Buyer Beware: Fossil Fuels Subsidies and Carbon Capture Fairy Tales in Canada Report, who dismisses Canada’s climate strategy as “not at all realistic.”

The Leader-Post continues: “Carbon capture utilization and storage (CCUS) projects only capture 0.05 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions, according to the new report, published March 31 by Environmental Defence.” Given exorbitant technology costs and the meagre emissions reductions they yield, the scheme is an administrative delusion. The global record is even worse, amounting to only 0.001 per cent of total emissions. To add injury to injury, in some cases carbon capture systems emit more carbon than they capture.

Lots of CO2 in this atmosphere.

As for carbon taxes, they do far more harm than good, being essentially a form of virtue signaling lavishly emitted by the Canadian prime minister. Their effect is to diminish productivity, raise prices, reduce disposable revenue and elevate the poverty index, all in order to materially change consumption behavior to medieval levels of scarcity. Carbon taxes have increased every year since 2019, when the tax was introduced at $20 per tonne of emissions, and will continue to rise annually up to $170 per tonne in 2030. Added to the rising cost of transportation, housing and food due to inflation, they represent a net loss for most households. Parliamentary Budget Officer Yves Giroux is very clear about the harmful effects of the tax: “When including the economic impacts as well, most are worse off.” 

Carbon pricing especially hurts farmers deep in the pocketbook owing to the mounting expense of propane, fertilizer and transport. The fact is that Canada cannot feed itself without sufficient and high-capacity agriculture and a solvent farming community to harvest its product and move it to market, any more than it can heat its homes and keep a G20 nation running without fossil fuels.

It has been sensibly argued that a northern country like Canada subject to long and harsh winters is uninhabitable without ample and secure supplies of coal, oil and natural gas. As Energy Policy Analyst David Yager states in From Miracle to Menace, to believe otherwise “is against the reality of what is required to live in this large, cold and dark country for much of the year.” The trouble is, Yager says, that we Canadians are living in “a parallel universe where the basic laws of physics, common sense, reality and even basic honesty no longer apply... Canada’s self-appointed climate leadership role,” he concludes, “is a failure.” There can be no doubt that a viable economy is reliant on plentiful and readily exploitable energy and agricultural resources, development and experiment, for both domestic and export purposes, which we are now sacrificing to climate folly. 

Indeed, the controversy around fossil fuels is merely academic. Belatedly realistic countries, despite their infatuation with renewables, will tap out of this particular bout against carbon. They may begin to look unfavorably on ESG investment of private pension funds in underperforming alternative fuels concerns. Conventional forms of energy, abetted by nuclear power plants, must necessarily be with us for the foreseeable future. There is no way around this reality unless we are willing to crash our economies and opt for endemic shortages of everyday essentials and a dramatically diminished lifestyle with little prospect of recovery. Interestingly, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) predicted in its 2022 Annual Energy Outlook that hydrocarbons “will increase through 2050 as a result of population and economic growth.”

A virtue-signaling luxury Canada can no longer afford.

Canada, however, remains oblivious to such findings as it continues to believe in and advocate for renewables, which is merely whistling past the oilpatch. Should we improbably win the war against carbon, we will then have lost everything. Canada sees itself as the bellwether in an ostensibly noble fight that, in reality, garners nothing but parliamentary plaudits and massive corporate profit. As Rupert Darwall reveals in his must-read Green Tyranny, it is not Big Oil that is the villain of the piece; it is Big Green. Everyone else will suffer. The writing is on the factory gate. Energy costs, stemming from both foreign sanctions and a modicum of domestic production, are sending retail prices through the roof.

Any way one looks at it, the climatological keto diet is a prohibitive farce. Taking carbon out of the planetary ecology is a very bad idea to begin with. If the project is ever carried out to putative net-zero, the dieter will sicken and find himself on intimate terms with sparsity. As Ian Plimer argues with abundant evidence in his recent Green Murder, “It has never been shown that human emissions of carbon dioxide drive global warming”—which, as noted, is by no means a catastrophe but a benefit. We should take heed. Carbon deficiency means less fecundity, less productivity and less prosperity. It will likely mean famine in many parts of the world. 

Canada had better wake up asap. As a country facing critical reductions all across the board—energy extraction, investment, jobs, household income, farming, manufacturing, GDP to debt ratio—we don’t need our clamorous Green saviors, Woke investors, faux-ethical functionaries, and ideological champions. They are completely dispensable. But we do need our carbs, which are not.

Lies, Damn Lies, and Wind Power

Great news for the climate crowd: For the first time ever, wind successfully generated more energy than coal and nuclear!

Power generation from wind turbines was the second-largest source of electricity in the United States on March 29, behind only natural gas and surpassing both coal and nuclear power generation for the first time on record, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) said on Thursday. On March 29, wind turbines in the lower 48 states produced 2,017 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of electricity, EIA’s Hourly Electric Grid Monitor showed. Daily wind-powered electricity had surpassed coal-fired and nuclear electricity generation separately on other days earlier this year but had not surpassed both sources on a single day, the administration noted.

Their beloved wind turbines successfully out competed coal and nuclear! The Watermelons must be so proud!

Still, they might not want to break out the party hats quite yet. As the statement above makes clear, this milestone only accounts for a single day of power generation. A particularly windy day, no doubt. Which is to say, it is right in line with the intermittency problem energy realists often bring up in debates with wind enthusiasts. Sure, it's fun to go outside with your pinwheel on a windy day. But when the wind isn't blowing it's no fun at all.

And when your pinwheel is as tall as the Statue of Liberty and you're expecting it to power your energy grid, you end up in a tough spot. That's what Europe discovered earlier this year, when energy prices went crazy because the normally stormy North Seas remained preternaturally calm all season.

And even beyond that, there's a certain sleight-of-hand going on throughout this announcement. It purposefully conflates the amount of energy actually generated by wind with wind "capacity." So: "U.S. wind power capacity installation has soared in recent years to the point where wind capacity exceeded nuclear capacity in September 2019" and "wind power ranks as the third-largest source of generating capacity." The significance of this is made plain as you read on:

Despite surpassing nuclear capacity more than two years ago, wind still generated less electricity than nuclear because the two technologies differ in their utilization. The average capacity factor of U.S. wind generators was 35 percent in 2021, much lower than the average capacity factor of nuclear generators, 93 percent in 2021. Nuclear generators are designed to run at or near full output, which they typically do.

So while wind capacity has skyrocketed in recent ("Yay!" say the Greens), it still generates less electricity than nuclear power, which produces a reliable stream of power against which wind turbines can't compete.

Consequently, "despite beating both coal and nuclear on a single day, wind power generation in the U.S. is not expected to surpass either coal or nuclear generation on a monthly basis" anytime soon. Which on closer inspection makes this breathless "news report" basically a participation trophy. Maybe climate activists should postpone the party until they have an actual achievement to celebrate.

If We Only Had a Brain...

The Babylon Bee strikes again:

With oil imports from Russia banned and gas prices continuing to rise, many around the nation report really wishing we had our own oil we could dig up with big machines and then transport around with some sort of pipeline. "If only we had oil, and knew how to get it," said one local mom as she shelled out $300 for gas to take her kids to soccer practice. "Then maybe we wouldn't have to buy it from evil regimes around the world and gas prices would be lower. I know that's ridiculous, but it sure would be nice if that were possible!"

Wouldn't it, though? Never fear, however: Li'l Petey B., the former mayor of South Bend, Ind., has a solution!

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg says he commiserates with people who are struggling right now. "I do have a solution though," he said. "If you all just plop down $90K on an electric car and another 3 million on building a windmill in your backyard, you won't have to deal with these gas costs. I am smart!"

According to the Bee, American scientists are working hard on a solution to the nation's energy woes, but so far no dice. Nuclear power, long bruited in the pages of science fiction, is still years if not decades away.

One solution might be for the feds and the states to immediately suspend all taxes at the pump, thus reducing the price-per-gallon to 1970s' level, but that has been dismissed in Washington as the kind of crazy talk we've come to expect from the insurrectionists of Jan. 6 and their fellow travelers in states that didn't vote for Joe Biden.

E.U. Commission: Nukes and Natural Gas are Now 'Green'

Well this is a pleasant surprise: the European Commission -- the executive committee of the European Union -- has decided to propose a plan reclassifying natural gas and nuclear power as "green energy," at least for the sake of investment. From Reuters:

The Commission's proposal would label nuclear power plant investments as green if the project has a plan, funds and a site to safely dispose of radioactive waste. To be deemed green, new nuclear plants must receive construction permits before 2045. Investments in natural gas power plants would also be deemed green if they produce emissions below 270g of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt hour (kWh), replace a more polluting fossil fuel plant, receive a construction permit by Dec. 31 2030 and plan to switch to low-carbon gases by the end of 2035.

The background to this is, of course, Europe's ongoing energy crunch, which has seen record prices per megawatt hour in countries throughout the continent, as wind turbines and solar panels have failed to produce enough electricity to meet winter demand. Germany, which famously went all in on its green energy transition known as die Energiewende roughly a decade ago, has been forced to restart some of its closed, carbon intensive coal-fired power plants to keep up.

And it isn't as if they're actually lying about this -- as much as green activists hate to admit it, the United States has led the world in emissions reduction since the year 2000, largely because the fracking revolution has allowed us to increasingly lean on low-carbon natural gas for our heat and energy needs. Nuclear power, meanwhile, is effectively a zero-carbon power source. Consequently, if you're actually concerned about carbon emissions, natural gas and nuclear should be high up in your proposed power mix. They are as "green" as any first world nation's energy is going get.

Even so, it is worth noting the EC tries to stress that they're not proposing a permanent shift -- "[T]he Commission considers there is a role for natural gas and nuclear as a means to facilitate the transition towards a predominantly renewable-based future," according to their statement. That is to say, they consider natural gas and nuclear as "transitional" energy sources whose role is to bridge the gap to their still-inevitable wind-and-solar powered future! Moreover Germany, which still has the largest economy in the E.U., remains fanatically committed to its Energiewende, to such a degree that they've just closed down three of their remaining six operational nuclear power plants, their soaring energy rates notwithstanding. Theoretically, Germany could lead a charge to kill this sensible proposal in the European Parliament, over the objections of France and other nations who have relied on nuclear for decades.

Still, let's focus on the bright side -- Europe's governing class is cracking under the pressure of sky-high energy rates and are being forced to admit that their current way of doing things just isn't working. If this reclassification actually goes through, activists will have a real fight on their hands when they try to change it back in a few years time. And officially classifying natural gas and nuclear as green energy is likely to take so much wind out of the green movement's turbines that it could eventually cease to exist.

Beware the Environmentalists' False Flags

You're probably familiar with the phrase "false flag operation." Referring originally to a ship's flying the flag of a different nation than that with which it was aligned in order to deceive the enemy, it has come to refer to any such misrepresentation, particularly those with the intent of casting one's opponents in a negative light.

The thing that makes false flag operations so effective is that it is often impossible to prove, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that one has actually taken place. Absent an admission of guilt, all one can do when investigating the circumstances is to lay out the facts and let the jury decide.

I bring this up because I've recently stumbled upon two stories which have the appearance of false flag operations. The first is by Jazz Shaw, who reports on the attempt to build what's being billed as the next generation of nuclear power plant in Idaho. The plant would serve roughly 720,000 homes in that state and in neighboring Utah. Communities in both states which would benefit from this project have already signed on, but one group of activists have made it their mission to convince all involved that it's a bad deal.

The group is called the Utah Taxpayer Association, and their principal argument is that the project is a waste of taxpayer money and (because the technology is still being developed) is likely to fail and lead to higher electricity prices.

Well, as a conservative, fiscal responsibility arguments always get my attention. But Shaw points out that there is something fishy about the organization making the argument:

As to the “fiscal conservative” group trying to get municipalities to pull out of the project, the Utah Taxpayer Association is being fronted by The Hastings Group. One look at their client list at that link will give you an idea of their general ideological makeup. They include:

Bulletin Of The Atomic Scientists
Green America
National Resources Defense Council
Renewable Nation
Union Of Concerned Scientists

The Utah Taxpayer Association has also enlisted anti-nuclear power advocate Peter Bradford as a spokesperson. The list of their association with green energy and environmentalist groups goes on.

Shaw doesn't mention this, but along those same lines, the website of The Hastings Group is full of boasts about their "18-month push" to pressure the Trump administration to stop off-shore drilling and their "12-year campaign to shift media attitudes about socially responsible/sustainable investing," the latter being code for divesting from fossil fuels.

Judging by these relationships, it seems unlikely that the Utah Taxpayer Association is the confederation of Goldwater Republicans that its name and rhetoric would lead you to surmise. It's rather more likely that some textbook Greenies, aware that their normal pitch would have less purchase in rural mountain states, decided to attack the problem from a different angle, hoping that cost-conscious conservatives would miss the lefty agenda behind the scenes.

And what is that agenda exactly? After all, as Shaw notes, nuclear power is effectively zero carbon, so you'd think that anti-carbon emissions activists would be on board with this project. Their opposition reveals their true colors -- for a lot of them, at least, it isn't the carbon they care about so much as limiting the competition for their so-called renewable energy projects.

The second potential false flag is rather more complicated, and has to do with the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a planned project which was principally owned by Richmond, Va., based Dominion Energy. It was meant to move natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in West Virginia through Virginia and then down to North Carolina. Had the pipeline gone through, it is probable that Dominion would have built a second natural gas liquefaction terminal, likely in the Newport area, to complement the one it already owns in Cove Point, Md., creating lots of well-paying jobs for Virginians and allowing the company to export significantly more natural gas overseas.

"Was" is the operative word here, however, because in July it was announced that Dominion is cutting its losses and pulling out of the $8 billion project, citing "the increasing legal uncertainty that overhangs large-scale energy and industrial infrastructure development in the United States." This is being spoken of principally as a victory for the environmentalist groups which have been trying to kill the project since it was launched, with Michael Brune of the Sierra Club crowing,

Dominion did not decide to cancel the Atlantic Coast Pipeline—the people and frontline organizations that led this fight for years forced [it] into walking away.

However, journalist and Virginia native Arthur Bloom is skeptical. As he put it in a recent podcast appearance, "the death of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline has sort of been heralded by activists as this big win, this is the new Virginia, pushing back on decades of probably-racist Republican rule. Virtually none of that is true."

Bloom has written a detailed piece at The American Conservative in which he attempts to connect the dots to discern what really happened here. The thing is, Dominion is not only pulling out of the Atlantic Pipeline, it is, as the Wall Street Journal reports, "selling the rest of its natural-gas transmission and storage network to Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. for $9.7 billion," a deal which includes a 25 percent stake in its Cove Point liquefaction facility. As he investigated the "various interests that were publicly opposed to the construction of the pipeline," Bloom was struck "quite forcefully [by] how many of them were connected to Berkshire Hathaway."

One of those interested parties was Michael Bills, a Virginia billionaire and chairman of the board of environmental lobbying group Clean Virginia, who has waged a war against Dominion for the past several years, even offering to max out donations to any political candidate in the state who pledged not to accept any money from the company. Bloom points out that Bills is the former business partner of Berkshire Hathaway executive Ted Weschler, who is frequently mentioned as a potential replacement for Warren Buffet, as Berkshire's CEO. That doesn't prove anything, but it is a connection, and a high level one at that.

Bloom also details the political opposition to Dominion from the state's ascendant Democrats, a more important part of the story than the legal and regulatory hurdles to the project. (Indeed, the project had recently won big at the Supreme Court). Of course the state Democratic ascent has been funded in large part by Berkshire money too. Bloom notes that "the largest single donor to the Democratic Party of Virginia in 2015 was the son of Buffett partner Charles Munger, Jr, whose money supplied more than half of their funds for statehouse races that year."

And then there's the fact that, in Bloom's words,

Berkshire also owned most of the newspapers in western and central Virginia until March, including the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Free Lance-Star, the Culpeper Times-Exponent, the Daily Progress in Charlottesville, the News Virginian in Waynesboro, and the Roanoke Times, giving them almost complete control of the pipeline narrative in the parts of the state where it mattered.

Be sure to read the whole piece to get into the real nitty-gritty of the thing, but Bloom makes a compelling case that everything is not as it seems. As he makes clear in the interview cited above, there is something a little too convenient about the fact that Dominion was the focal point of so much environmental activism, which had the effect of depressing the stock price of the company, allowing a massive financial firm -- which had deep ties to the environmental activists -- to swoop in "and [scoop] up their assets on the cheap." Meanwhile the environmentalists are able to claim the scalp of a major pipeline project while ignoring Berkshire Hathaway, this despite the fact that the company's anti-union history makes it likely that the unionized workers in Dominion's natural gas sector might soon be out of a job. Unions are less important to the left these days than wealthy environmentalists.

False flag operations are difficult to prove, but Shaw and Bloom argue persuasively that alliances and the money trail constitute a preponderance of evidence in their respective cases pointing to real deception on the part of the interested parties. Read and judge for yourself.

The Case of the Unknown Dosage

This column is a second-hand mystery thriller on the lines of the Agatha Christie Poirot television series. It tells the story how a real-life scientific scandal that involved a Nobel Prize winner, great American and U.K. universities, the Manhattan Project, several expert U.S. government committees, and dirty work at the laboratory was exposed by an academic detective almost a hundred years after it was first committed. Maybe it’s a mystery that would be solved easily by Poirot or by anyone familiar with those civilized British murders which turn on how much arsenic was in the jam omelette. But no one knew there was a mystery to be solved. And even though billions of dollars may hang on their decision, the authorities have not yet agreed to re-open the case.

The Hercule Poirot in this case who’s seeking the truth, whatever the cost to distinguished reputations, is Edward J. Calabrese, Professor of Toxicology at the University of Massachusetts, School of Public Health and Health Sciences, at Amherst. As in the best thrillers, Professor Calabrese blundered into the scandal by accident when he attended a research conference that starred two different sets of elderly rats. He was struck by the difference in their appearance.

Some looked “remarkably healthy, showing a wonderfully shining coat of fur. They seemed to be in the prime of their adult life.” Others “looked unhealthy, very haggard, skinny, with very little fur, and that patchy and dull.”

Nothing odd there, you might think, because the study of the rats was being conducted to determine the effects of exposing them to high doses of background radiation, sometimes sixty per cent higher than the background radiation they had experienced throughout their lives. But something odd was there because the healthy, shiny-coated rats were the ones who had been subjected to massive doses of radiation while the ailing, haggard, and dull creatures were the control group living protected lives. And that comparison contradicted the orthodoxy of public health and regulatory authorities holding that any dosage of radiation, however small, was bound to inflict health damage on living creatures.

A dose a day keeps the doctor away.

That belief in turn was confined neither to scientists nor to health professionals but had spread throughout society to promote strong risk-averse attitudes across the board but especially on the topic of radiation because, like cancer, radiation was a silent killer that murdered us without our noticing.

Most of us might have reacted to the rats therefore  as if it were an anomaly we hadn’t yet detected with some such thought as “well, that’s odd, wonder what caused it, probably something in the water.” But chance favors the prepared mind, as Louis Pasteur once said, and Calabrese, who had written several books on the topic, looked at the data and concluded that it was hard to deny that radiation had exerted a positive healthy influence on the rats. And for him that meant the conventional theory had to be re-examined.

The theory he was challenging is described by Calabrese as follows: any dose of chemical carcinogen or ionizing radiation, no matter how low, has the potential to cause cancer and shorten our lives. He traces the origins of this theory back to 1920 and to a Nobel Prize-winning scientist, Professor Hermann Joseph Muller, who in 1926 demonstrated that high doses of radiation could cause gene mutations in the fruit fly. That made him famous and won him the Nobel Prize in 1946.

But it was a limited scientific advance, and as interest in combating cancer grew, he sought to expand its application to consider the impact of X-rays on the health of the patients. He asked research students to test whether the gene mutation response was proportional to the dose of radiation administered in other cases. They found that it was. But the radiation dose was extremely high in their experiments—"hundreds of thousands to millions of times greater than background radiation.”

Rather than test what was the effect of very low doses of radiation, however, Muller extrapolated backwards or downwards to estimate the impact of such doses. He called these results the Proportionality Rule. And this linear no-threshold model or LNT (i.e., implying that there’s no threshold below which radiation is harmless or even beneficial) became over time the orthodox view—and so the basis of “precautionary” principles that sought to eliminate any risk whatever from radiation even at the cost of eliminating fuels and technologies beneficial to human flourishing.

It took time for the LNT to establish itself, however, because the LNT was controversial within medical science and because Muller and his colleagues found it hard to replicate the results in other experiments without heavy massaging of the data. In some cases Muller went beyond massaging data to outright misrepresenting it. When Muller received the Nobel Prize for his original research in 1946, he used his acceptance speech to claim that the “threshold model” had been definitively superseded by the LNT. As Calabrese says darkly in his essay in Reassessing Radiation Safety (The Global Warming Policy Group, London): “In effect, Muller deliberately deceived his audience in an effort to manipulate them into accepting his ideological perspective.”

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That was a serious violation of the procedures and ethics of science. But it need not have been the end of the matter. There were many occasions after 1946 when the LNT theory was supposed to be reconsidered by different scientific authorities. Indeed, for more than half of his investigative essay, Calabrese is describing how on one occasion after another scientific authorities who ought to have discovered the errors underlying LNT failed to do so, from causes both shocking and comic. At one time Muller and a colleague successfully dismissed criticisms of their position because they knew the evidence against them was in research documents classified by the U.S. government and thus unavailable to reporters or the public.

From 1946 to the mid-nineties in Calabrese’s telling, the LNT becomes a plot device like Alfred Hitchcock’s McGuffin which, as it passes from hand to hand, escapes any number of threats of impending detection and discrediting until in 1995 an Oak Ridge genetics researcher in Tennessee discovers major irregularities in earlier researches that had apparently supported LNT. That leads to further investigations which themselves result in the conclusions that LNT was a mistake (even if its consequences remain to be buried), that those subjected to low-dose radiation did no worse than their control group, and that there was even a “hormetic” effect, i.e.,  low-dose radiation was beneficial, as with the rats which started Calabrese on his voyage of discovery.

It's a complicated story but also a gripping one that Calabrese tells well and clearly. My brief summary is not a substitute for the monograph which you can read above. But the LNT story is not over. Though the scientific basis of LNT has evaporated, its consequences in terms of policy and regulation are very much alive.

First, at a time when government policies everywhere are looking for alternatives to fossil fuels that are both effective and reasonably priced, nuclear power stations are still being blocked by massive and expensive regulations that reflect a false and vastly excessive estimate of the risks of radiation. Reassessing Radiation Safety is highly topical and an important intervention in the nuclear debate.

Secondly, the story of Muller and LNT illustrates the danger of treating human scientists as the god, Science. Borrowing a remark of Chesterton another topic, we might say about Calabrese’s story: “We believe in science as much as we ever did, but—Oh--there was happy time when we believed in scientists.” Scientists themselves should welcome their liberation from divinity.

Thirdly, since the LNT was a rehearsal for the precautionary principle which, inter alia, is a device for stopping the kind of innovation that we need for purposes as various as climate policy and cancer research, we should cast a beady eye on how that logic looks in the light of Calabrese’s careful account.

But let the last word go to Lord Lilley, a Cambridge-educated scientist and a member of Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet, who returns to the main point in his introduction:

Professor Calabrese has shown that a great many things that are damaging in large quantities may – in small doses, below a certain threshold – do no harm or even be beneficial. It seems that very small doses of potentially damaging substances can stimulate the repair and protection mechanisms that our bodies have evolved to help us survive.

You can have 'too much of a good thing.' But can you have 'too little of a bad thing?'

The sooner we find out, the better.

'Climate Change' Hysterics Seeing the Lights

One by one, prominent members of the Doomsday Cult of Climate Annihilation are beginning to defect to the side of reason and rationality. First came filmmaker Michael Moore and his heretical movie, Planet of the Humans, which castigated the "environmental movement" for selling out to corporate America. Next up was Michael Shellenberger, whose new book,  Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, is currently setting the kat among the klimate konformist pigeons by daring to argue that -- hold on to your Greta baseball caps! -- in fact, we're not all going to die and that there is a sane alternative to Thunbergianism. Among his findings:

I know that the above facts will sound like “climate denialism” to many people. But that just shows the power of climate alarmism. In reality, the above facts come from the best-available scientific studies, including those conducted by or accepted by the IPCC, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and other leading scientific bodies.

Shellenberger made these points in a piece he wrote the other day for Forbes... which of course yanked it from its website within hours, thus proving Moore's point about corporate hijacking of climate alarmism. So he reposted it on the Australian-based website, Quillette; have a look for yourself:

On behalf of environmentalists everywhere, I would like to formally apologize for the climate scare we created over the last 30 years. Climate change is happening. It’s just not the end of the world. It’s not even our most serious environmental problem.

In the final three chapters of Apocalypse Never I expose the financial, political, and ideological motivations. Environmental groups have accepted hundreds of millions of dollars from fossil fuel interests. Groups motivated by anti-humanist beliefs forced the World Bank to stop trying to end poverty and instead make poverty “sustainable.” And status anxiety, depression, and hostility to modern civilization are behind much of the alarmism.

Shellenberger calls out the impractical Ludditism of the "Green Movement" Neanderthals, and offers policy recommendation that will turn the Greenies purple with rage, including a defense of clean nuclear energy:

Once you realize just how badly misinformed we have been, often by people with plainly unsavory or unhealthy motivations, it is hard not to feel duped.

Clean energy or Green energy? Your choice.

Well, as Barnum said, there's a sucker born every minute, including some very famous ones, among them chimp conservationist Jane Goodall, 86, who's moved on from general monkeyshines to weighty issue of climate, diet, the coronavirus and -- of course -- Why Everything Now Must Change:

With a background in primatology, Jane Goodall became well known in the 1960s through films about her work studying chimpanzees in Tanzania. She famously gave the animals human names. Her discovery that chimps in Tanzania and elsewhere were threatened by habitat destruction due to human activity informed her view about the interdependency of the natural world. She founded the Jane Goodall Institute in 1977, and it's now a leading voice for nature conservation.

Dr Goodall’s analysis of COVID-19 stays true to her beliefs. Speaking at an online event held by the group Compassion in World Farming, Goodall said our global food production system is in need of urgent reform. “Our disrespect for wild animals and our disrespect for farmed animals has created this situation where disease can spill over to infect human beings. We have come to a turning point in our relationship with the natural world.”

Talk about hostility to modern civilization: here we are: after more than half a century of the relentless battering of Western civilization by the likes of the Frankfurt School and their bastard children in academe, there are suckers aplenty in the West, who will go to their graves convinced that everything modern man has done to improve his life is wrong and bad, and that a prelapsarian state of nature is the way forward. Such is the suicide cult of Leftism as articulated by Rousseau and then passed down by Marx and Marcuse.

And yet, some common sense is beginning to reassert itself. In addition to Shellenberger, the Danish author and climate-hysteria skeptic, Bjorn Lomborg, the "skeptical environmentalist," has a new book out as well, False Alarm: How Climate Change Panic Costs Us Trillions, Hurts the Poor, and Fails to Fix the Planet. As Richard Trzupek, an environmental consultant and analyst at the Heartland Institute, notes in his review:

Lomborg addresses his core mission statement early on: “[W]e’re scaring kids and adults witless, which is not just factually wrong but morally reprehensible. If we don’t say stop, the current, false climate alarm, despite its good intentions, is likely to leave the world much worse off than it could be.”

Everyone knows the meme: “Catastrophic global warming is real and it’s manmade.” It’s a simple statement of the perceived problem, one that would surely earn an “A” in Marketing 101. Whatever else it is, that simple statement is not science. The issue of climate change cannot be explained by any one statement, but must be addressed by answering a series of questions. This is what Lomborg bravely attempts to do in “False Alarm.”

And now along comes a lady with the felecitious sobriquet of Zion Lights, a spokewoman for Britain's lunatic Extinction Rebellion movement. When last seen, she was being memorably eviscerated by the BBC's Andrew Neil in October:

Today, however, she's singing a different tune.

Extinction Rebellion's spokeswoman has quit the protest group to become a nuclear power campaigner. Zion Lights, 36, has left the climate change cause, which brought London to a standstill last year, to join pro-nuke outfit Environmental Progress. The former XR communications head said she had felt ‘duped’ after being surrounded by anti-nuclear campaigners until she read more into the radioactive fuel.

Mother-of-two Zion said: ‘The facts didn't really change, but once I understood them I did change my mind.’ The switch took non-campaigners by surprise given her new role seems entirely at odds with her old position. Zion, who was born in the West Midlands and given her unusual name as a baby, said: ‘I have a long history of campaigning on environmental issues, most recently as a spokesperson for Extinction Rebellion UK.

‘Surrounded by anti-nuclear activists, I had allowed fear of radiation, nuclear waste and weapons of mass destruction to creep into my subconscious. I realised I had been duped into anti-science sentiment all this time. Now, I have quit the organisation to take up a position as a campaigner for nuclear power.’

It's easy to laugh, but pay attention to the statement above: I had allowed fear... to creep into my subconscious. Fear is a hallmark of all zealous crackpotism, along with an urgent insistence that the world change right now in order to accommodate what is manifestly a form of mental illness akin to aliens sending you messages through the fillings in your teeth.

The environmentalist Left needs more people like Moore, Shellenberger, and Lights, struggling out the darkness of their former irrational anxieties and obsessions and joining the community of the sensible, and fewer deluded children like poor exploited Greta, shamelessly manipulated by the "movement" for malicious ends.

After all, who doesn't want the best for Mother Earth? There are many paths to conservation and civilization. We need not let fear prevent us from seeing the solution, and the light.