Renewables: Is There Anything They Can't Do?

From the Wall Street Journal:

Natural gas and electricity markets were already surging in Europe when a fresh catalyst emerged: The wind in the stormy North Sea stopped blowing. The sudden slowdown in wind-driven electricity production off the coast of the U.K. in recent weeks whipsawed through regional energy markets. Gas and coal-fired electricity plants were called in to make up the shortfall from wind. Natural-gas prices, already boosted by the pandemic recovery and a lack of fuel in storage caverns and tanks, hit all-time highs. Thermal coal, long shunned for its carbon emissions, has emerged from a long price slump as utilities are forced to turn on backup power sources.

The episode underscored the precarious state the region’s energy markets face heading into the long European winter. The electricity price shock was most acute in the U.K., which has leaned on wind farms to eradicate net carbon emissions by 2050. Prices for carbon credits, which electricity producers need to burn fossil fuels, are at records, too... At their peak, U.K. electricity prices had more than doubled in September and were almost seven times as high as at the same point in 2020. Power markets also jumped in France, the Netherlands and Germany.

So the transition to so-called renewable energy has really been raking European energy markets over the coals. Literally, in fact, as coal-fired power plants are having to increase production to meet energy demands. And it's making Russia into a one nation OPEC, the only country in the region with an excess of natural gas which will happily export it.... for some significant diplomatic concessions.

Quite the bind the E.U. finds itself in. Perhaps they might consider changing course, accepting that shutting down their natural gas and nuclear power plants, not to mention banning fracking, is a mistake?

Doesn't sound like it! Reuters -- "Record high power prices in European Union countries show the bloc must wean itself off fossil fuels and speed up the transition to green energy, the EU's top climate change official said on Tuesday." That official -- first vice-president of the European Commission Frans Timmermans, who has appeared in these pages before, always singing the same one-note tune -- argues that, in fact, it is because they haven't transitioned quickly enough that things are so bad! "Had we had the Green Deal five years earlier, we would not be in this position because then we would have less dependence on fossil fuels and on natural gas," he said.

Never mind that the transition itself helped create the shortage by causing a shortage of the fuels that, for the foreseeable future, the continent continues to run on. That, and the fact that the wind doesn't always blow and the sun sometimes fails to shine.

Anyway, you heard it from Frans first -- renewable energy causes problems that can only be solved by... more renewable energy. Is there anything it can't do?

Winner Takes All, Beijing-Style

Much has been made of the estimated one-trillion-dollars worth of lithium reserves hiding in the soil of Afghanistan since the chaotic withdrawal of American troops from Kabul cast doubt on America’s future ability to exercise power in and around Afghanistan. That ability is not zero. The U.S. has the power to withhold large sums of aid on which the Taliban is relying for the reconstruction of a devastated country. But it’s greatly inferior to the power and influence currently exercised by China which is cosying up to all of its neighbors in Central Asia in an attempt to gain something like a monopoly of lithium.

It’s a scene reminiscent of pre-war thrillers in which hostile powers vie for the control of materials essential for war, usually oil, and their agents scheme to steal the maps and contracts that will ensure their victory. (See Eric Ambler, Graham Greene, and more recently, Alan Furst passim.) But it’s very far from fiction.

China herself has substantial reserves of lithium. That’s a “special earth” that goes into the manufacture of electric vehicles, AI machines, and iPhones. As an Al Jazeera report pointed out,

Now all three are at the cutting edge of a modern economy driven by advancements in high-tech chips and large-capacity batteries that are made with a range of minerals, including rare earths. And Afghanistan is sitting on deposits estimated to be worth $1 trillion or more, including what may be the world’s largest lithium reserves — if anyone can get them out of the ground.

And not just lithium. Among the other rare minerals increasingly needed to power a modern economy and to achieve climate change policies such as Net-Zero, China also has large reserves of tungsten, iron, lead, copper, mercury, and more.

Looking to 2050.

If China succeeds in its current wooing of not only the Taliban but also Pakistan, Iran, Russia, and other countries in Central Asia, the Middle East, and further afield, it will come close to gaining a strategic monopoly of the minerals needed for economic growth, technological superiority, and military power. The West ignored that threat until recently when the Chinese Communist Party’s deceptive and even sinister suppression of news of the Covid virus until it had spread worldwide belatedly alarmed policy-makers. If China is an enemy or becoming one, its hoovering up of strategic minerals would constitute a major national security threat. Unless . . .

There was one optimistic interpretation of China’s rush to monopolize strategic minerals, however: it suggested that the new superpower might be serious about eventually combatting climate change. Its previous promises to do so were looking as threadbare as its explanations of the origins of Covid. But might China’s grab for a virtual lithium-etc. monopoly mean that it was preparing for an eventual switch from fossil fuels to “renewables” which would require a reliable supply and build-up of stocks of the raw materials for the switch?

So has does that optimistic view look when placed alongside other decisions taken by Beijing? My attention was caught by a paragraph in the important book, This Sovereign Isle: Britain In and Out of Europe, by the distinguished Cambridge historian, Robert Tombs, in which he briefly notes the “alarming rampage” that China embarked on in June 2020: economic sanctions against Australia when its government proposed to investigate subversion and corruption in its own political system; China’s suppression of liberty in Hong Kong (that incidentally broke an international treaty with the U.K.); the invasion over the Ladakh frontier by the Chinese army that attacked and murdered twenty Indian troops; renewed tensions with Japan and other maritime states over Chinese claims on strategic islands in the Pacific; threats against Taiwan (naturally); and then, more interestingly:

[I]n quick succession in July and August the Chinese government concluded long-term oil and gas contracts with Iran(for $400 billion—effectively a monopsony for twenty-five years), Saudi Arabia (it is said in exchange for nuclear technologies that the US would not provide), and Abu Dhabi, securing long-term supplies at bargain prices at the expense of Europe and Japan.

The return of the Silk Road.

At the expense of the U.S. too since the country won’t be able to access the reserves China has locked up when the slow strangulation of America’s fracking revolution and pipeline capacity by Biden’s regulatory policy means that the supply of American natural gas peters out. No one in Washington or Brussels seems to have joined up all the dots. Professor Tombs now does so:

[T]his pre-emption of vast oil supplies, combined with massive use of coal for electricity generation, suggests how far Beijing’s vaunted backing of Green technology is a weapon against a gullible West.

In other words the Chinese government is locking up energy reserves of all kinds, the means of transporting energy of all kinds (think Belt and Road), and the supplies of lithium and other raw materials needed for ‘clean’ energy and ‘renewables’ to work. America’s defeat in Afghanistan just made China’s task both easier and more vital.

And what are the U.S. and the West locking up? Not America’s high-technology weaponry abandoned in Kabul but promises of eventually joining the West in its Net-Zero crusade—promises that China has broken several times already.

It Ain't Over 'til the Greens Win

Lawyers specializing in migration from both sides of the barricades have a wry capsule explanation of how the law works: It Ain’t Over 'til the Migrant wins. In this explanation “wins” means “stays.”

There are American laws galore that allow the government to deport people present in the United States illegally. Why don’t they work? Well, there are also laws that enable a competent lawyer to string out his client’s deportation indefinitely until he has a wife, children, a job, a home, and a lawyer here—which almost amounts to a squatter’s right to stay.

It seems downright unreasonable to send him back to where his home used to be—at least that’s the view of the immigration bar, NGOs specializing in migration and refugee policy, media that are overwhelmingly sympathetic to migrants of every kind, all Democrats and some Republicans in Washington, academic “experts” on immigration, and so eventually of the courts trying such cases.

As the late Judge Robert Bork pointed out in his short, brilliant book, Coercing Virtue: The Worldwide Rule of Judges (AEI, 2003), modern judges implement not the law as such but a blend of the law itself and of the opinion of the law held by legal members of the highly educated upper-middle class.

That’s why the opinions of judges matter and why legal verdicts in immigration cases increasingly follow the maxim of “It ain’t over 'til the migrant wins.” And, therefore, stays.

Case closed!

Is that maxim now being transferred to law determining court cases on the environment and climate change?  That question is raised by the proliferation of court challenges to projects to extract and transport fuels, especially fossil fuels, when those projects have survived regulatory challenges from the federal bureaucracy, and even when their cancelations are likely to provoke disputes between the U.S. and other countries.

The most recent case of such judicial intervention took place in Alaska—usually a state hospitable to the oil and natural gas industry (as well it might be)—when a federal judge canceled Willow, a massive energy investment by Conoco-Phillips on Alaska’s North Slope.

Judge Sharon Gleason of the District of Alaska ruled that the environmental impact statement for Willow should have included a ”quantitative estimate of emissions resulting from oil consumption” (or explained why the estimate could not be produced) and provided better protection for wildlife including caribou.

These are interesting proposals, but they are not exactly legal judgments. They are  decisions for the political and regulatory authorities which had considered then and taken a different view to Judge Gleason. Willow had been approved by the Bureau of Land Management, supported by the Biden administration, and backed enthusiastically Alaska’s Governor, Mike Dunleavy, who is responsible to the voters for Alaska’s economic development. He responded sharply to Gleason:

We are giving America over to our enemies piece by piece. The Willow project would power America with 160,000 b/d, provide thousands of family-supporting jobs, and greatly benefit the people of Alaska.

Judge Gleason has no accountability for the economic consequences of her arbitrary judgments. She was exercising irresponsible power—or as the saying goes, legislating from the bench. Alaska voters damaged by her intervention have no way of sanctioning her for it.

Judge Gleason has spoken.

Of course, we should acknowledge that such judicial interventions sometimes favor the corporation against the regulatory bureaucracy or the decisions of lower courts. A recent example of that took place in Louisiana where a court forced the Biden administration to resume selling oil and gas leases to energy company which it had halted “temporarily” while the Interior Department reviewed them.

Higher courts may reverse that judgment on appeal—but that comes with a cost too. As the formidable columnist Mark Steyn has pointed out in the different context of libel law, “the process is the punishment.”

All these infrastructure projects are hugely expensive and take years to complete. If their approval is a constantly changing shuttlecock batted back and forth between the courts, the regulatory bureaucracy, the political world, and the industry, that will raise their costs massively, sometimes cause their cancelation, and hike the price of the final product in energy bills to the electricity consumer—who now include owners of electric cars and other electrical products. They buy such such products in order to switch from dirty fuels to greener power sources at a considerable increase in cost. That cost increase will get larger if infrastructure projects become as risky as roulette. And if you make the cost of switching heavier, fewer people will do it.

All those consequences—and more—were exemplified by President Biden’s cancelation of the nine-billion dollar Keystone Pipeline from Canada to Texas. He did this by executive order immediately upon coming into office after it had survived more than a decade of regulatory and legal challenges from the usual suspects—environmentalists, protesters claiming to represent indigenous interests, progressive billionaires: the Democratic party’s post-industrial urban base.

Par for the course, you may think. But this particular decision was unusual in two respects. In the first placed, it reversed the more common practice by which the courts override the national executive in Washington. On Keystone, Biden overrode the courts—which is usually seen by Democrats as a constitutional mortal sin. "Climate  change," however, is the excuse that sweeps all rational argument aside. Second, it provoked a serious foreign policy crisis with—of all energy-producing countries—Canada! Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau is Biden’s ideological soulmate on energy, the environment, and much else, but he still had to take his constituents into account.

That international crisis shows no sign of abating—quite the contrary—because Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer canceled a much more important and more established pipeline between the U.S. and Canada, apparently without really grasping the extraordinary damage she was inflicting on our friendly neighbor to the north. Here's one local report:

While the Keystone project was halted in early construction, Line 5 has transported Canadian oil since 1953. More than half of Ontario’s supply passes through it, according to [the pipeline company] Enbridge. It exits Michigan at the border city of Sarnia, Ontario, and connects with another line that provides two-thirds of crude used in Quebec for gasoline, home heating oil and other products.

I would once have thought that a war with Canada was in the realm of the impossible. But Governor Whitmer may be proving me wrong. She is threatening to confiscate Enbridge’s profits and do many other terrible things if the company continues to defy her. The federal regulator seems not to agree with the governor’s arguments that the pipeline is a hazard to the environment. Enbridge points out that all the alternatives to the pipeline would be more hazardous. The Canadians seem to be united around the defense of their own oil and gas industry since it keeps Ontario and Quebec warm in winter (and Michigan's airports operating). Local Michigan businesses are largely on Enbridge's side too. The Biden administration, which is currently digging down into a lot of holes, must be wondering how on earth it got into this hole and how to get out of it.

Game over, man.

The answer is that, as in Biden’s cancelation of the Keystone pipeline, there are far too many “authorities”—executive, regulatory, state, federal, legal—which believe that their virtuous Green ideologies give them a right to intervene arbitrarily in environmental and energy issues to reach the right outcome. Which one of them prevails is now an almost random matter. For companies contemplating multi-billion dollar projects, both negotiating with regulatory authorities and going to law in these circumstances are a little like shaking a kaleidoscope or consulting an astrological chart.

The main villain in all this is the authority that should and normally would determine fairly which of all the other authorities has the right and obligation to make which decisions on what and on what legal basis. That authority is the courts. Law should offer a reasonable certainty to companies and individuals contemplating major expenses from mortgages to investment in renewables. But it can only play this role well if it reduces to the minimum its own opinionatedness on green issues.

Unfortunately, the courts are no longer impartial umpires interpreting laws passed by Congress and state legislatures. They are moving in the direction of becoming more “green” rather than more judicial as the examples quoted above demonstrate. They have their fingers on the scales of Lady Justice. It threatens both America's prosperity and its democracy if it ain't over till the Greens win. But that's the trend.

Norwegians Love Oil & Gas

Among the best television programs of the past decade or two is the Norwegian geopolitical thriller Occupied. It tells the story of a near future, where an extremist Green party is swept into power in Norway on a pledge to ban oil and gas extraction. Fulfilling this promise provokes an energy crisis throughout Europe, leading the E.U. to deputize Russia to enter Norway, under not-so-subtle threats of violence, to get production started again. Once that has been accomplished, however, the Russians aren't too keen on leaving, and the Norwegian government soon becomes a Quisling regime whose prevailing preoccupation is keeping Russia happy, while patriots (and eventually the military) begin an I.R.A.-like campaign against it and, especially, against the Russkies.

Don't let the climate stuff put you off (it quickly falls by the wayside) -- Occupied is a brilliant show which explores questions of sovereignty and nationalism, and with more nuance than any other popular production I've yet encountered. But even with environmentalism being a comparatively minor aspect of the show, I was interested to read that the environmentalist fervor which put the greens into power in the first place is not particularly realistic.

Sure, Norwegians have an affinity for electric cars -- they own more E.V.s per capita than any other nationality -- but they are also quite fond of their resource industry. This is likely due to the fact that their oil and natural gas has made them the richest nation in Scandinavia, with the second highest GDP per capita in all of Europe. Oil and gas comprise more than 40 percent of Norway's exports and almost 20 percent of GDP. One thing that Scandinavia-loving American lefties will never tell you is that Norway's generous welfare system is utterly dependent upon its resource wealth -- almost a third of all government revenue comes from oil and gas. And this has given the nation a strong sense of economic independence -- it's not for nothing that Norway has twice voted down proposals to join the E.U. They can't have Brussels attempting to regulate their most important industry out of existence.

Which is to say that, even though the Conservative coalition which has been governing Norway since 2014 looks likely to fall in next month's general election, popular sentiment is such that the nominally environmentalist Labor Party will likely find it extremely difficult to turn off the taps.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Waiting

Just when you thought you’d seen it all… 2021 brings fuel shortages in the most developed nation in the world. I wouldn’t have believed it myself but my new client has me hopping to various locales, and today that has me absolutely stopped on the runway at Reagan National Airport. What would dear Ronnie have to say on the subject? 

One assumes he’d find someone to sack. But these days no one is to blame, and the airlines in particular have the insidious practice of pretending that things just happen upon them. They never have any idea that an aircraft that leaves very late is also going to arrive late. Of course they could simply look up into the sky and see if the bloody plane is not en route…then there should be no surprise when it doesn’t pull into the gate as scheduled. But surprised they are. Every. Single. Time.

And they pretend not to know they are short an entire crew until… oh gosh, did they really not turn up? Passengers have to check-in, but crew? Apparently there is no system in place until— like the thief that skips bail -- they don’t turn up. And today the excuse was that they did not have sufficient fuel to fly the thirty-five-minute flight from Washington D.C. to New York. Honestly…

Up, up, and away... maybe.

I can tell you this never happens to me—this confusion about how gas is expended or how to get more. I never go to my garage to then be utterly surprised that there is no fuel in my car. And when I hire staff, I have them arrive well before the guests. A shocking practice I know. But oh the reveal… as first time fliers gasp, and the eyes of seasoned passengers glaze over.

Is it any wonder so many would-be actors end up as cabin crew? It must take years of Meisner acting technique to convincingly utter the sentence that begins with "unfortunately." Perhaps I should try this…  just say unfortunately as an excuse for absolutely anything. Unfortunately I was applying lipstick while driving and… were you very fond of that child? 

And just now…unfortunately… (although we are already on board and strapped in) we just found out we haven’t any fuel. This is unfortunate? Like a surprise? Even as a teen I would never have the nerve to call Daddy and say… unfortunately I ran out of petrol -- your car is in Chelsea.

But today, (despite having a dreaded window seat) I am calm—knowing I have a whole eight hours to get where I need to be. No worries on my end, I will wait in silence and pen mean letters in my head that I will never send as they refuel—and off we will be. But, unfortunately, that is not what happened. Minutes turned into hours and we began to feel it indeed unfortunate that they had closed the door to the aircraft and no one was allowed to get off. At two hours and eleven minutes (eleven minutes past the legal allowable detainment) Captain Unfortunate told us that ‘by law’ they have to let us off and he would be opening the door… however, he added, if you get off the aircraft you will not be going to New York with us. What cheek.

This must be what hell feels like.

For the lucky few who were missing their flights—the choice was obvious, and an exit made sense. But (unfortunately) I had to show up for work. And Captain Unfortunate now became Captain Storyteller saying ‘Gosh folks…’ (a phrase that makes me immediately suspicious) ‘I’ve read about this happening but apparently (apparently??) there are not enough employees to fuel the aircraft and we have to wait our turn.’ Of course no explanation as to why said employee wasn’t summoned during the last two unfortunate hours, but the captain assured us that we were fourth in line for refuelling. And at which point I just had to call daddy.

‘Yes, Jennifer,’ he answered. But I had to make him wait because the captain was now telling us that weather would lead to a further delay even once we were fuelled. I opened my radar app… nothing going on in New York. Nothing at all.

‘Are you on an airplane?’

‘Yes, I am, and…’

‘Increasing your carbon footprint in service of your green client?’

‘It’s commercial and I’m paying a carbon offset.'

‘And your client?’

‘He’s uh… on his plane,’ I conceded, and crunched on the last of the ice from my G&T. ‘Thing is, Daddy, I was wondering is there a fuel shortage sufficient to delay a major airline at a major airport? Everything I found online says it is due to the Colonial Pipeline hack, which was already three months ago… and nothing mentioning the shutdown of the Keystone Pipeline… So is that the real reason?’

‘Ah, yes, the Keystone… To be clear, you know who shut that down don’t you? [of course I knew] It was your green president.’ He gloated.

‘Yes, daddy, my green president," I offered, (as if all environmentalists knew one another) ‘But is that the reason?’ I asked.

Now they tell me.

‘It is not.’ He said. ‘Stopping Keystone XL doesn’t keep Canadian crude from getting to market it just means that it is transported by less safe, and far less green methods—like rail and truck.’

‘So it really is a labour shortage?’ I asked, perhaps too loud for the other seven passengers in first class.

‘I couldn’t say. But we both know refuelling is not a highly skilled profession. I’ve done it, Patrick has done it. It’s even likely that in wartime Queen Elizabeth has done it. No… I’d say follow the money. It’s that thing you green-niks are forever going on about…profits and greed. Only here it likely applies."

How does he always manage to hand me my own hat? We were now at the four-hour mark and having finished my entire bottle of water and a second G&T, I was feeling woozy without any food and went into my carry-on to fish out a protein bar. When the pilot announced they would ‘in fact’ be allowing us off the aircraft but to stay close to the gate. Why couldn’t we have stayed close to the gate four hours ago?

I went straightaway to the burger bar I’d passed prior to boarding. I was first off, and fourth in line, and luckily the manager was railing on his staff to move things along. With order in hand, I deftly made my way to the club lounge to sit out the rest of the wait and book a hotel just in case, and YES I KNOW—no outside food allowed in the lounge, but I had a crafted a very curt answer if they had any intention of stopping me because truth be told, they had long stopped serving any real food in the clubs… ‘because of Covid’. Which, fortunately, is the other universal excuse when ‘unfortunately’ just won’t do.

Heinrich's New Mexican Boondoggle

Earlier this summer Senator Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), one of the most ardent environmentalists in national politics, wrote a typically brainless Op-Ed in the New York Times on electrification and the push for net-zero in the Democrats' multi-trillion dollar infrastructure bill. Over at Capital Matters, Paul Gessing of the Rio Grande Foundation does us all a favor by thoroughly demolishing it.

Gessing opens with an important clarification --

Unfortunately, in Heinrich’s parlance, “electrification” does not mean bringing much-needed electricity to impoverished corners of our country, including the Navajo Reservation right here in New Mexico. No, the legislation he’s pushing in Congress — and the funding he’s advocating in the infrastructure bill, specifically — do nothing of the sort. By “electrification,” the senator means that he’d like federal, state, and local governments to phase out or completely ban your natural-gas stove, oven, and furnace, thus requiring you to use electric heat and stoves.

Which is partly to say that the bill itself is almost the antithesis of an infrastructure bill. Instead of putting government money towards what were once called "internal improvements" with the goal of raising the standard of living and improving economic conditions in neglected parts of the country, this bill ignores those forgotten places while seeking to lower standards of living and weigh down the economies across the board. This is what the Left calls "equity."

Gessing points out that, until a few years ago, environmentalist groups such as the Sierra Club actually supported natural gas, due to its cleanliness compared to coal. He mentions that Barack Obama even touted its potential for reducing atmospheric CO2. But now major American cities like Sacramento, Seattle, and New York have begun the process of banning natural gas in new construction.

The environmentalists had it right the first time. As regular Pipeline readers know, the United States has led the world in carbon emissions reduction since the year 2000.  Senator Heinrich and his allies, meanwhile, imagine that it can be entirely replaced with electricity generated by so-called renewable resources. That would be quite the trick, considering the fact that only about "10 percent of current electricity production comes from wind, solar, and geothermal combined" while this proposed transition "would increase U.S. electricity consumption by 40 percent." No surprise that Germany's attempted wind and solar transition has resulted in an increased reliance on coal, not to mention skyrocketing energy rates.

It's worth noting that the politicians pushing these policies are often working against the interests and preferences of the citizenry. The majority of people even in liberal cities want natural gas because it is "clean, affordable, and reliable energy," in Gessing's phrase. And Heinrich's home state of New Mexico is a major natural gas producer -- his own constituents would suffer if his preferred policies were fully enacted! In saner times, the residents of these communities would simply vote the bums out, but nowadays extreme partisanship protects activists masquerading as representatives.

It's quite the boondoggle. Just like Senator Heinrich's electrification proposals.

Unlike Trump, Biden Puts Moscow First

Over at Newsweek Josh Hammer has a good piece on the Biden Administration's capitulation on Putin's Nord Stream 2 pipeline which, among other things, highlights the American Left's Russian schizophrenia.

We all remember the Obama years which brought us the Hillary Clinton "Russia Reset'" button; then- President Obama's famous debate smack down of Mitt Romney for his pugnacious attitude towards Moscow, "The 1980s are now calling to ask for their foreign policy back;" and Barack's assuring Dmitry Medvedev that he would have “more flexibility” in dealing with his country once the election was over. Things were all candy and flowers.

Then came the 2016 election, which saw Trump, like every U.S. president going back to Reagan, indicating a preference for improving relations between the two powers. The Left lost its collective mind in response, to the point that watching Rachel Maddow's nightly show got to be like hanging out with Joe McCarthy while he was on a bender, only a lot less fun.

Hammer does a good job of illustrating how little their accusations actually matched the facts on the ground:

The irony is that Trump, on the actual substantive merits, toed a very hawkish line on the Russian Federation. He shored up missile defense in Central and Eastern Europe, which the Obama administration had undermined.... He repeatedly stood strongly with America's ex-Iron Curtain allies, delivering a powerful, Reagan-esque 2017 foreign policy speech in Warsaw that was aimed squarely at Moscow. He unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from certain bilateral and multilateral accords... that buttressed Russia due to the simple fact that it did not comply and America did. Trump also adamantly opposed and issued strong sanctions to try to prevent the construction of the Nord Stream 2 pipeline."

That was because Nord Stream 2 would, as I wrote in May, increase Germany's addiction to Russian energy (since their own electricity rates have skyrocketed due to their foolish Energiewende program), replenish the Kremlin's coffers that had been hurt by several years of low energy prices as well as Covid, and alienate our Eastern European allies who are understandably anxious about Russian domination.

Hammer calls Biden's decision to greenlight the project "a stunning about-face." After all, the president never shied away from the Dems' constant assertion that when Trump said "America First" he really meant "Moscow First." Biden frequently calls Putin a "KGB thug," and claims to have once looked him in the face and said "I don't think you have a soul." And on Nord Stream 2 specifically, the Biden administration frequently reiterated that their position is essentially that of the last administration, right up until the day before it changed completely.

So who does this benefit? Putin, obviously, as well as the Merkel government, whose energy failures can be papered over with Russian oil and gas. And who loses out? Aside from America's allies in the region, the biggest losers are America's natural gas exporters, who are effectively locked out of a key European market.

So tell me again, which president actually puts Moscow first?

PennEast Pipeline Beats New Jersey at SCOTUS

Legal eagles might find today's Supreme Court decision, in PennEast Pipeline Co. v. New Jersey, compelling, contending as it does with a tension between the exercise of eminent domain on the one hand and a state's sovereign immunity as guaranteed by the 11th amendment on the other. For a layman like myself, one smart enough not to have attended law school, the discussion makes my eyes glaze over. However, the case might have some important ramifications in the ongoing dispute between the environmentalist movement and the oil and gas industry in the months and years ahead, and we would do well to be aware of it.

PennEast Pipeline Company LLC, a joint venture of energy producers including Enbridge Inc., South Jersey Industries Inc, and New Jersey Resources Corp, has been constructing a 116-mile pipeline that would transport as much as one billion cubic feet of natural gas per day from Pennsylvania's Marcellus Shale and serve customers in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

After having secured the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission's approval, the company began acquiring the land along the pipeline's planned route, making use, where necessary, of a provision in the U.S. Natural Gas Act which allow resource companies to utilize federal eminent domain authority. However, some of that land belonged to the state, and the administration of Governor Phil Murphy, a Democrat, refused to hand it over, contending that only privately owned land can be acquired in this way.

When PennEast took the state to court, the Murphy administration argued that the 11th amendment-guaranteed sovereign immunity protected it from being sued by a private entity. The majority, in an opinion written by Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Justices Breyer, Sotomayor, Alito, and Kavanaugh), disagreed, accepting PennEast's defense that their use of eminent domain flowed directly from the federal government.

Roberts argued that the right of the federal government to use eminent domain for the construction of essential infrastructure was well established, that there was nothing stopping it from delegating that power to a private company, and that "[a]lthough nonconsenting States are generally immune from suit, they surrendered their immunity from the exercise of the federal eminent domain power when they ratified the Constitution."

This doesn't mean that the pipeline will definitely be completed. As Greg Stohr points out in Bloomberg, PennEast "still must secure state-level permits, something that may prove difficult in [liberal] New Jersey." But this case is still has the potential to be significant, limiting as it does the ability of left-wing activists to kill major infrastructure projects they couldn't stop at the federal level simply by pumping money into local politics.

Will this precedent affect, for instance, Enbridge's other big pipeline project, which has seen Michigan holding all of eastern Canada hostage just to make a point? It's a hopeful sign.

Godzilla vs. King Kong

Late last month during a multi-day interview with a Chinese virologist and researcher who is in hiding in the U.S, I had a revelation about how the largest institutional banks feign having principles, while they avoid actually being principled. While the country is being beaten about the head with a counter-factual accusation that the two greatest threats to America are systemic racism and climate change, there exist actual geo-political and economic threats that require real leadership and genuine principle.

I had driven to the secure location to meet the doctor and followed extensive protocols to ensure her safety. What Dr. Li-meng Yan reveals about the Chinese Communist Party and the Chinese military’s malevolent misdeeds surrounding the release of the SARS CoV-2 virus left me pondering how reason has been replaced by such rhetoric.

COVID-19 is an "unrestricted bioweapon" that slipped from a Wuhan facility. This claim was according to a Chinese virologist who fled to the United States after claiming that China covered up the coronavirus epidemic. Dr. Li Meng-Yan, a whistleblower, claims that a trove of Dr. Anthony Fauci's emails backs up her assertions. In an interview with Newsmax, the Chinese whistleblower said she had emailed Dr. Anthony Fauci about her theory and "discovery."

The messages - obtained through the Freedom of Information Act - implied that the White House virus expert knows the possibility of the virus being manufactured. However, The Sun claimed Fauci downplayed it publicly. 

Dr. Li said that Fauci's emails revealed on Tuesday by Buzzfeed and the Washington Post show he knew about the Chinese tinkering with viruses to make them more lethal. "Frankly, there is a lot of useful information there [Fauci's emails]," she said in The Sun's report. "He knows all these things," she insisted of Fauci in a New York Post report.

Ground Zero.

So how has "climate change" superseded Covid-19 as an existential crisis, as Larry Fink, CEO of BlackRock, in his annual ‘letter to CEOs’, thinks it has? China’s continued cunning and sinister shenanigans, in all their variations, have been conspicuously overlooked; instead of identifying the Chinese Communist Party, and all its many tentacles, as the greatest existential threat of our time, Fink posits a counter-factual. China after all makes money for BlackRock  through investments. Having actual corporate values guided by principle does not.

Dr. Yan, a medical doctor and published researcher who specializes in immunology and vaccine development, and is an independent coronavirus expert, was forced to flee Hong Kong last year because she declared that the SARS CoV-2 virus had been engineered in a lab and that it indeed had gain-of-function characteristics -- in other words, it was weaponized expressly to increase virulence in humans. While  more will be forthcoming in the weeks ahead about Dr. Yan’s knowledge of these events, it is clear that Larry Fink may need to spend a bit more time using the BlackRock’s annual RAND Corporation subscription. In his letter to CEO’s he writes,

I believe that the pandemic has presented such an existential crisis – such a stark reminder of our fragility – that it has driven us to confront the global threat of climate change more forcefully and to consider how, like the pandemic, it will alter our lives. It has reminded us how the biggest crises, whether medical or environmental, demand a global and ambitious response.

In the past year, people have seen the mounting physical toll of climate change in fires, droughts, flooding and hurricanes. They have begun to see the direct financial impact as energy companies take billions in climate-related write-downs on stranded assets and regulators focus on climate risk in the global financial system. They are also increasingly focused on the significant economic opportunity that the transition will create, as well as how to execute it in a just and fair manner. No issue ranks higher than climate change on our clients’ lists of priorities. They ask us about it nearly every day.

How Fink jumped from a pandemic to climate change being a global threat while overlooking China as the global threat that demands a global and ambitious response, requires the flexibility of a Shabari submissive.

Enter the oil and gas industry. Under the false narrative of "climate change" representing an existential threat, oil and gas is described as the industry most responsible for said climate change. Neuter the industry and climate change disappears is the contrived narrative espoused by the politicians and their corporate collaborators.

To date, the oil and gas industry has been slow to counter punch. Instead of its  being the cause of climate change, the oil and gas industry has single-handedly led the reduction of American emissions to levels lower than defined in the Paris Climate Accord. By producing inexpensive, reliable, and abundant energy safely and without political objectives, the oil and gas industry has fueled global economic activity and improved lives of people throughout the world.

By contrast, in the skinny jean-wearing world Fink envisions, the economic vitality fueled by the oil and gas industry is blunted, and only a few are permitted to economically benefit. Every aspect of life in this brave new "Great Reset" world becomes more expensive, more confiscatory, and more Socialist if the climate change narrative is left unrebutted. Enter China.

China’s record of environmental degradation and abuse is well known and well documented. With 1.4 billion people, many living in utter poverty, a manufacturing sector whose carbon emissions are suffocating, and largely unregulated, and a Party that controls society via a digital surveillance state the Chinese people refer to as the "Great Wall," China is the actual existential global threat, not the climate change bogey man.

Tomorrow belongs to us.

Since 2012 when Xi Jinping began his tenure as party General Secretary (he became President the following year), more than 2 million Uyghurs have been sent to Mao-style "re-education" camps. At these camps, estimated to number more than thousand, Muslim Uyghurs have been abused, tortured, sexually assaulted, forcibly sterilized, and even killed. But climate change is the real threat?

Beyond environmental degradation, human rights abuses and corruption, the Chinese practice censorship with the help of tech companies, manipulate currency markets, steal intellectual property, have militarized artificial islands in the South China Sea, and most recently, according to Dr. Yan, have used unrestricted novel bioweapons, intended to harm people and to arrest economic activity around the world in their stated pursuit of world dominance by 2035. But institutional racism and climate change are the problem?

Russian Pipelines, Da, American Pipelines, Nyet

Let me get this straight. Recently, Russian hackers shutdown North America's largest pipeline for days, massively disrupting the supply chain on the eastern seaboard and leading to shortages and price spikes. Eventually Colonial, Inc, the line's owner, paid a $5 million ransom to get it up and running again, a decision about which the Biden administration officially had no opinion. Of course, anyone with half a brain knows that's a lie, that they must have been working both sides, pushing Colonial to towards a course of action (presumably the one they took) on the one hand, and engaging their Russian counterparts about it on the other.

Well, the cyberterrorists got what they asked for, and now the Putin regime have gotten their dearest wish as well: the Biden Administration will allow construction of the Nord 2 pipeline project which will enable Russia to satisfy Germany's appetite for oil and gas (which has become more voracious since Germany embarked on its foolhardy Energiewende policy) without passing through Ukraine, a country where anti-Russian sentiment is rife. Moreover, Biden is waiving existing sanctions on the company building the pipeline and its president, Putin ally and former Stasi officer Matthias Warnig, to get the project done.

This is surprising, as Team Biden have been very open about their opposition to Nord Stream 2, fearing it would shift the balance of power in the region by getting Germany addicted to cheap Russian energy, boosting Russia's economy, and further subordinating the smaller countries in the region to the larger. Just this February, Jen Psaki was uncompromising when she articulated the administration's view on the matter:

Our position on Nord Stream 2 has been very clear, and it remains unchanged. President Biden has made clear that Nord Stream 2 is a bad deal. It’s a bad deal because it divides Europe, it exposes Ukraine and Central Europe to... Russian manipulation, and because it goes against Europe’s own stated energy and security goals.

And then suddenly Bidenettes backed down. Something strange is going on here. Foreign policy analyst Rebeccah Heinrichs tweeted sarcastically, "How absolutely wild is it that Russians attacked a US pipeline while gas prices were already high and like two days after the US company pays the relatively small ransom Biden lifts sanctions on Nord Stream 2." It's definitely suspicious.

Then again, the two events might be unrelated. What is indisputable, however, is that this move looks  ridiculous in light of Biden's anti-pipeline domestic policy. As Dan Foster put it, "Killing energy jobs in Oklahoma and creating them in St. Petersburg is so comically inept and villainous you could never even try it without the entire press in your back pocket."

It isn't hyperbole to say Donald Trump (alleged Putin patsy, who was actually tougher on Russia than any president since the fall of the Berlin Wall) would have been impeached for this. After all, he was impeached for less.