A Wake-Up Call for Canada's Energy Sector

At the outset of the pandemic I was inclined to think that the tough economic realities of our post-prosperity world would diminish the environmentalist movement, as people increasingly recognized the importance of pro-work policies over and above green utopianism. Well, that hasn't happened, in part because the economic disaster hasn't been as catastrophic as it initially seemed it might be, and in part because massive increases in debt financed government spending -- most particularly on unemployment benefit top-ups and direct-to-taxpayer stimulus checks -- have obscured the rough shape the economy is actually in.

Consequently, environmentalist fantasies have continued unabated, with their most recent victory being Joe Biden's decision to cancel the Keystone XL pipeline project via executive order on day one of his presidency, a move which has already eliminated one thousand Canadian jobs and will shortly do the same to tens of thousands stateside. I've spent this past week hammering both Biden's decision and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's supine indolence in standing against it on behalf of Canadian workers.

Along those same lines, Dan McTeague, president of Canadians for Affordable Energy, has written a sobering blogpost which really is Must Read. McTeague, a longtime Canadian M. P. (he was elected as a Liberal, but don't hold that against him), knows more than anyone about Canada's resource industry and the effects burdensome regulations on it has on regular people.

After pointing out that Keystone XL was "one of the most sophisticated, innovative, job-creating, economy-stimulating, aboriginal-engaging, infrastructure projects in North America," McTeague rakes the Trudeau government over the coals for its totally inadequate management of the issue:

The response from Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Minister, Jonathan Wilkinson, to Biden’s decision was appalling. Minister Wilkinson said that he wasn’t going to dwell on this particular decision about a pipeline, but instead would focus on the new climate ally we have. Incredibly, he took the view that the new U.S. administration “offered a welcome dose of climate optimism.”

Climate optimism? Think about this, fellow Canadians. Climate optimism for Jonathan Wilkinson means having someone in charge of the biggest economy in the world ranting about a “climate crisis” just like Justin Trudeau does, while ignoring the real crisis. And what is the real crisis? It is the disaster of ideologically-driven environmental policy that raises the cost of living and kills jobs.

He goes on to warn Canada's oil and gas companies that they had better wake up.

Your customers are watching you trip over yourselves to show your green credentials and as you boast about your commitment to meet globally-imposed emission reduction targets such as the Paris Accord’s 30% reductions by 2030 target, or Canada’s “net-zero emissions by 2050” commitment.

Instead, those companies have to accept the fact that "the Trudeau government and their friends simply do not want your sector to exist," adding "Stop pretending that you do not know this!"

So, assuming that Canada's oil and gas industry takes McTeague's advice, what should they do in practice? He has several concrete proposals, including doing a better job of promoting the good work they do, both with the public and with politicians; and refusing to adopt the environmentalist language of the left, which has the effect of conceding their points (which are wrong).

Most important, he advises them to stand up for their customers, and "be a voice for their interests instead of the interests of environmental activists, their government friends, and the investment community sharks who feast off the green largesse of the taxpayer."

This should be a wake up call to all Canadians, McTeague says, demonstrating as it does "that Canada doesn’t matter to the U.S., and Justin Trudeau and his minions like Jonathan Wilkinson aren’t capable of changing that current reality." Canadians should respond accordingly.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Shooting Stars

I love when life just works out as it should. I’m meeting Daddy in Copenhagen where he’s chairing a big (and important) meeting on best practices for oil exploration and extraction in the region.  It seems Denmark's issued a moratorium on new permits for fracking but is still honoring the ones they’ve already issued, and which I assume includes his company. 

This trip should be so much fun, it reminds me of when I was a little girl—Judith and I would tag along and I’d go to the lobby and drink cocoa on my own.  Mummy never joins these days, but the reason I got to join is Daddy’s aide is afraid to travel under “the dreaded Covid”. 

We (of course) had to arrive three days in advance and receive special dispensation which we were able to do as he’s conducting necessary business. And of course we flew private… Daddy from London City Centre and I caught a ride with my friend Anna, whom I know from dressage, when she represented the Danish national team and I from Britain of course.

All this and Covid-19 tests too!

Along with Anna… I got a CV test three days prior to leaving Lyford in the Bahamas, and one on the day we left, and just for fun (not!) we did them again on the plane as a courtesy to her purser or something, and then filled out forms upon forms. I felt as though I’d already completed a project when I arrived… prepared to impress even the sternest immigration official only to find no one had the least interest.

We simply stepped off the plane, cars pulled up, and in minutes... each of us going in different directions. Gosh. Anna was craving something called a shooting star sandwich—something “divine” she said, with fish and shrimp and caviar— kissed me on the cheek,  and away she went. I was the last to find my driver who held a sign “Mrs. Kennedy”. Somewhat flustered I answered, “Yes.” Did he think my father was in possession of a rather young new wife? Apparently. 

In a few minutes I arrived at the Hotel D’Angleterre, not because we're English but because it’s the place where Daddy's conference is, and well… where else would one stay in Copenhagen? I mean, for Copenhagen it’s basically Annabels and The Connaught and The Ledbury all in one. I found Daddy in the bar and not up in his room under quarantine at all. 

The testing did release us from quarantine, as did the special dispensation but that didn’t stop the hotel from reading us guidelines which apparently state… if we were to quarantine we were expected to stay within the hotel -- meaning in the heart of all the action.  I couldn’t believe I’d had my nose probed three times for nothing.  Daddy suggested I not look so shocked and order some lunch. 

Oui, oui, messieurs.

I overheard a conversation in French. Clearly they recognized my father and clearly didn’t imagine I could understand them. I motioned with my eyes and said,

“That table over there is talking about you.”

“Just when we think we can underestimate the French” he replied.

“I’m serious.” I insisted, “they seem to oppose all future drilling in Denmark.” 

“Ah well, they are in the majority. So very un-French of them.” Typical Daddy. 

“Should I try to listen?” I continued. 

“I don’t think so. We’ve already concluded they are French.” he said.

I started into my yellow lentil soup and asked if he was familiar with a shooting star sandwich. 

“Delicious, but a damned waste of good caviar” was all he had to say. 

I looked through his papers for the schedule, and so that I could figure out when to meet Anna.  “I have to ask…” I said. "Denmark seems to be on track to being free from using fossil fuels by 2050 and hopes to make Copenhagen a carbon-neutral city…why promote exploration here?” 

 “Well I hope I’m not in the business of promotion as you put it, but there is drilling and fracking and not everyone wishes to put all of their eggs in one basket. Even if the DEA does.” 

“Meaning?”

“Meaning…there is still money to be made, contracts to be honoured, and it’s a fantasy to believe they can eliminate fossil fuel consumption in such a short time. AND…you are meant to be here to help me!” 

Yes, of course, Daddy” I said, “I just want to understand if you are working against my beloved planet and if so…how much—it’s just for me to know.”

“Yes of course.” he said. "And how was your trip to the modest Cay in the Bahamas anyway?”

“Air-conditioned” I said knowing I’d been beaten and changed the subject. “So…on some future day… if I take my vitamins and live long enough… what must we overcome to achieve a carbon-neutral Copenhagen in my lifetime?”

“Well, for starters, offshore wind is lagging well behind the oil and gas industry in safety. They had several hundred high-potential incidents—only luck prevented a fatality and risks are growing as this ‘independence’ madness pushes the boundaries.”

“I see. That can’t be good. And what if they run out of wind?”

“NO. The danger is that too high winds can cause turbines to topple, and of course, hurricanes and cable failures are always a problem, but it’s really the fossil independence MADNESS, creating the danger, pushing them to go deeper into the ocean, cut corners, cut costs…” 

“And birds?” I asked.

“Twenty-two million a year. I just didn’t want to mention it since our eavesdropping friends are having… LE POULET!” Daddy did a quick turn of his head and it broke their gaze. So busted. “…but the independence we should be talking about is Greenland. They want independence from Denmark, Lord knows why, but it seems to be a trait of the Inuit wherever they go. When we find the sweet spot in Greenland, and find it we will...there are going to be some very independent Inuit for the first time in history. It's just a matter of how much resource we put into Greenland and how soon. It's easy to make them wait when other areas of the world are currently more profitable."

It's all for the Inuits.

“Aha!” I said, “So partially we are here for Greenland?” 

“Perhaps,” he said, smirking. 

“But, wait -- how much of Greenland is Inuit?” 

“Most.”

“And are these the same Inuit as in Canada?” 

“The very same.”

“So as I understand, the offshore industry has only thrived due to people like me… who want a green planet, not because renewables are more economically viable.”

“That is correct," he said.

“So if an initiative is sufficient grounds to pursue a form of energy...why couldn’t a different initiative...a humanitarian initiative, launched to help the Inuit thrive—be a reason to conduct even more drilling in Greenland?” 

“Well…that’s an excellent question,” he said after some consideration. "And one I’ll ask you not to bring up at my conference, but you may well have earned your lunch my dear.” 

Ha! Bravo me. But since I'm ahead, probably best not to tell him I'm on my way to the Great Reset later this month in Davos...

The Environmentalists' Train Wreck

Just days before Christmas, as parcels were being prepared and stockings stuffed, ten rail cars carrying crude oil from North Dakota, destined for a nearby Phillips 66 refinery, derailed along a section of BNSF track. The incident occurred just south of the Canadian border and was considered a low-speed derailment. While a plume of smoke billowed from some of the derailed tanker cars after they ignited, there were ultimately no injuries. The derailment caused some oil to spill and necessitated the evacuation of local residents closest to the incident.

Seattle media reported the incident with finger-wagging smugness directed toward the oil and gas industry although the event remains under investigation. Even U.S Representative, Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) chimed in with a statement, presumably because the incident occurred in his district.

I am concerned about the oil train derailment in Custer, WA. I worked closely with the Obama administration to create strong rules to make the transport of oil by rail safer. Clearly there may be more work to do.

However, insight from recent incidents in Washington State should have tipped off the media and congressman Larson that this event was no more about a failure of rail safety than a jet crash is about the failure of the tray table to stay in an upright position. 

Or a dangerous idiot.

Only a month earlier two women were arrested not far from the same section of track where these ten cars derailed. In that case two young terror suspects, both of whom appeared in Federal Court in Seattle in mid-December, were charged with Terrorist Attacks and Other Violence Against Railroad Carriers.

Two people arrested on the BNSF Railway tracks near Bellingham, Whatcom County, were charged with terrorist attack and other violence against a railroad carrier, and appeared in federal court today, announced U.S. Attorney Brian T. Moran.  SAMANTHA FRANCES BROOKS, 27, and ELLEN BRENNAN REICHE, 23, both of Bellingham, Washington, were arrested Saturday night in Bellingham as they allegedly placed a ‘shunt’ on the tracks.  A shunt disrupts the low level electrical current on the tracks and can disable various safety features. 

“Since January there have been 41 incidents of shunts placed on the BNSF tracks in Whatcom and Skagit counties—causing crossing guards to malfunction, interfering with automatic braking systems, and, in one case, causing the near-derailment of tanks of hazardous chemicals,” said U.S. Attorney Moran.  “These crimes endanger our community.  I commend the agents from Customs and Border Protection, FBI, BNSF Police, and state and local partners who prioritized stopping this criminal conduct.”

The defendants, two pale-faced, pacific northwest locals, are accused of laying a wire “shunt” on the track. A tool beloved of environmental terrorists, shunts consist of a wire and magnets strung across a railroad track, mimicking the electrical signal of a train. The devices are intended to force trains to automatically brake, causing the train to derail or to otherwise disable railroad crossing guards and various other safety features along a track.

This is done by disrupting the low-level electrical current on the tracks. A camera captured Reiche and Brooks bent down along the track where the shunt was found. They were also carrying a brown paper bag containing rubber gloves, a piece of black insulated copper wire, and a Makita drill.  

Of particular note regarding the case of these environmental terrorists is that their efforts represent only one of 41 similar incidents of shunts having been placed on rail tracks in that part of Washington during 2020, nearly one per week throughout 2020.

Imagine for a moment that instead of having used shunts to damage property and to threaten human life, they had attempted to detonate a suicide vest, or had attempted to fly planes into buildings, or had attempted to blow up a parked truck in a downtown city street. Shunts on rail tracks are intended to have an equally tragic outcome for passenger trains and commercial trains alike. Shunts are non-discriminating after all.

That no one has yet been killed or injured, or that homes have not yet been destroyed by these terrorist tactics is nothing short of luck. Failed attacks make the attempts no less serious. But for the attention and acumen of BNSF workers who monitor the tracks, and the speed with which of law enforcement responded to the call when requested, the outcome could have been tragically different.

No emissions or pipelines here.

According to U.S. Attorney Brian Moran, in another shunting incident in October this year shunts were placed in three locations on tracks in northwest Washington. This prompted emergency brakes to engage on a train hauling flammable gas and hazardous chemicals. The braking caused a bar to fail that connects the train cars. As a result, the cars became separated. The decoupling had the potential to cause the derailment in a residential neighborhood.

Of these 41 incidents, there were at least ten different occasions where shunts were placed on the track near enough to a roadway to potentially cause crossing-signal and crossing-arm malfunctions, including failure to block traffic when a train was oncoming. On at least two occasions, individual shunts have interfered with multiple roadway/railway signals.

The narrative of these environmental zealots is that pipelines are an infringement on land rights; land that they assert belongs to North American Indian ,tribes. According to their narrative, by destroying pipelines, or in this case, transportation infrastructure, all will be right in the world of first nations' politics. These non-first nation terrorists are apparently even willing to kill innocents to make that point. 

According to investigators, shortly after the first shunts were discovered in January, 2020, a claim of responsibility was published on an anarchist website called It's GoingDown.org. The claim read, “the shunting activity was carried out in solidarity with Native American tribes in Canada seeking to prevent the construction of an oil pipeline across British Columbia, and with the express goal of disrupting BNSF operations and supplies for the pipeline.”

While many Americans look west and roll their eyes about the extremism of the environmental zealots in states like Washington, caution is advised. The cancer has already metastasized. Just a day after Christmas, while Canadians were celebrating Boxing Day, three Black Hills Energy gas line sites were vandalized in Colorado; two in Pitkins County and one in Aspen. The FBI has joined local police in the criminal investigation of what they are referring to as an apparent "coordinated attack."

It is clear that these gas line attacks in Colorado, like the shunt attacks on the rail lines in Washington, are part of a larger, anti-energy campaign designed to dismantle and destroy energy infrastructure and to harm life and property in the process. The last time there were terrorists intent on harming our way of life, they flew two planes into the World Trade Center on 9/11. In the face of that reality, the country must be ready to confront the threat directly, root out the financiers of the activity and punish those who choose to participate.

Pacific Gas? and Electric

Earlier this month, just as the hand of winter tightened her grip across some of the most prolific oil and gas regions in America, city officials in San Francisco demonstrated the disregard they have for the free market and unmasked the contempt they have for hard-working Californians. Fortunately, the oil and gas industry has the opportunity to stand in the gap and protect the future of free markets through continued delivery of low cost, abundant energy.

In what is yet another chapter in the effort by local and state leaders to create government dependence through the methodical dismantling of the free market, the city’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to ban the use of natural gas in new commercial and residential construction in San Francisco. That means natural gas stoves, furnaces, water heaters and appliances will no longer be permitted. Rather, builders will be required to install electric (or solar) powered appliances and heating equipment, fueled by more costly electricity or insufficient solar power.

This is curious since California is a net importer of power, meaning the state does not have enough local power generation capabilities to meet the power demand. Hence the decades of rolling brownouts across the state that plague California’s summers. According to government data, natural gas and solar are the two most prevalent sources of electricity generation in California; however, solar generation is non-dispatchable.

Grid operators have been using natural gas and, to a lesser extent, electricity imports from neighboring areas to contend with changes in demand. San Francisco city government, therefore, just made using natural gas illegal, while mandating the use of already scarce electricity which is generated from natural gas and hydro-electric (dams) sources located outside of California. It feels like some kind of drunken game of Twister doesn’t it?

It's all fun and games until the power goes out.

City officials cited cost savings, public health benefits and a fervor to reduce greenhouse gas emissions for the move. None of the officials were able to explain how electricity, more expensive and more scarce than natural gas, would produce cost savings.

In fact, depending upon the market, it costs about 30 percent more to operate electric appliances compared to natural gas appliances. Nor could the officials articulate the "standard" by which public health benefits were being measured by this mandate. San Francisco is after all, the city where human feces and hepatitis C-infected drug addicts are strewn about the streets in equal measure, with nary a city health official in sight. If ‘public health benefit’ in San Francisco were a ship, it would be called the Titanic.

In its vote, San Francisco joined nearly forty other California cities which have also banned natural gas in new commercial and residential construction. These actions stand alongside similar efforts around the country. In Washington state, for example, the state, in defiance of the Transportation Department’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, sought to ban oil trains transporting oil and gas from North Dakota’s Bakken fields to ports and refineries located along the western shores of the state.

Or the efforts by the Center for Biological Diversity to dismantle four hydro-electric dams on the Snake River in Washington state. Or the effort of Michigan governor Whitmer’s to permanently close Line 5 of the Enbridge pipeline that moves oil to refineries in the region.

Even the most casual observer would deduce that it must be green zealotry that in fact underpins these dreadfully anti-market efforts. During all of this, however, it is notable, that the rates of greenhouse gas emissions are below what would have been required by the infamous Paris Climate Accord. And the U.S. hasn’t even been aligned with the carbon gas-emitting signatory countries for at least four years. These lower emissions rates have been the direct result of the move from coal to natural gas.

The objective becomes increasingly clear then. While asserting concern for climate change, green zealots actually are more interested in control…. control of just about everything. They seek to increase the cost of producing and using these otherwise inexpensive fuels through rules and mandates. Government is artificially manipulating the market in an effort to force consumers and industry into accepting a more expensive, but less desirable quality of life.

Control freaks unite!

And if the market won’t accept this objective? That depends entirely upon the importance the oil and gas industry places on its own future. The industry must be willing to chart its own course and communicate its own narrative if it wants to stop this sinister effort.

Laws and rules like these represent actual threats to the very foundations of the industry and to a free society. Local and state governments across the country seek to wrestle our free-market decisions from us and mandate the quality of life we will be permitted to enjoy. If the industry fails to respond, the next reasonable steps will include outright bans according in accordance with this Orwellian worldview.

These 1984-esque realities will not impede leaders and their cohorts. They will continue to live as they desire. The rules and bans aren’t for them after all. Think Michigan's Whitmer whose husband went boating during its state lockdown, or California governor Newsom’s French Laundry group birthday party during his state’s lockdown. They and their cohorts will assuredly keep using their gas appliances they’ve prohibited others to use in the coming years, while also feeling superior. After all, they recycle, drive Teslas, provide their own canvas bags when shopping at Whole Foods and wear Lululemon leggings while they work out their status anxiety on their Peloton bikes.

As an industry, oil and gas needs to commit to pushing back on these attacks. Inexpensive energy is imperative for a thriving economy, manufacturing excellence, economic mobility, job creation and a future of prosperity. The industry needs to take back control from the preaching class and remind them that their lifestyles have been brought to them by the men and woman of the oil and gas industry. 

Meditating Upon the Black Stuff

Call me a cockeyed optimist. I’m not convinced that the end is nigh. True a giant asteroid might come hurtling our way. However, I still regard dire warnings of the imminent end of times as the stuff of outlandish cults. Or, more entertainingly, humourists.

I might be missing something. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, David Attenborough, Greta Thunberg, Prince Charles, and too many other notables to mention, think differently. They’re sure we are on our last legs; with only, what is it now, something like nine or ten years left to save the planet? Don’t hold me to this number. I get confused when threatened with extinction.

If those who do think the end is nigh were asked, I feel confident they would nominate coal as the biggest culprit. It spews out CO2 like nobody’s business. According to the U.S. Energy Department, per unit of energy produced, coal emits around twice as much CO2 as does natural gas. And, to boot, it has been the predominate source of power for industry and households for a very considerable time.

According to the Resources and Energy Quarterly published by the Australian government, thermal coal still accounted for 45 percent of global electricity production in 2018. Hence, coal is still doing its darndest to queer the planet and, shiver in trepidation, there’s 133 years of proven reserves of the black stuff still to dig up. But it’s not all bad.

To coal or not to coal? That is the question.

It’s good for Australia. Thermal coal is the fifth biggest exporter earner behind (in order) iron ore, metallurgical coal (there’s that coal again), natural gas and gold. The prime minister is torn. Electorates in coal country in Queensland gave him victory in May 2019. Careless of dire predictions of doom, they selfishly voted their wallets ahead of the planet. Yet, from royal progeny to billionaires to zealots to inner-city elites to banks to boardrooms to the media, the anti-coal clamour is deafening. Politicians wilt.

In 2017, to the chagrin of the great and good, Scott Morrison -- before he became prime minister -- theatrically brought a lump of coal into parliament to make a powerful case for coal. And now, only a few short years later, is contemplating zero net emissions “as quickly as possible.” Trying to mix coal and zero emissions is a species of double-think. He’s a politician, he won’t notice.

Coal is enigmatic. Cheap energy to some, demonic to others; and with a future which is hard to pin down. Here is a trick question. How many coal-power plants are under construction? Answer: it depends upon which newspapers or fact-check websites you read or TV channels you watch. Greens and their allies want to convince everyone that coal is uneconomic, and on the way out. Coal lobbies present a bullish outlook for coal. Different interests, different schticks, different facts.

That said, whatever source of information takes your fancy, a large number of new coal-power plants are on the way. This is simply because coal provides cheap and reliable power and the Chinese and Indians, e.g., aren’t stupid. No need to guess who is.

The Chinese know how to make electricity.

When I say new coal-power plants are on the way; not so much in Australia, where they are on the way out. An irony you might think in a country with rich coal reserves, which for so long underpinned the competitive advantage of Australian manufacturing. Not so to those who believe Australia has to do its bit by closing down all of its installed coal-power of around 23 GW capacity in order, wait for it, to offset the up to 250 GW or so (depending on what you read) of new capacity China is intent on building. Do the sum.

Here is something else: on December 2, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) claimed that coal dust blowing from coal-loading ports 100 to 1,000 kilometres away threatened, the perpetually threatened, Great Barrier Reef. Peter Ridd, cancelled by James Cook University In Queensland for daring to suggest that the Reef was not under threat, described the claim as “ridiculous.” Ridiculous? How about “crackpot.”

On much surer footing than the tendentious apparatchiks at the IUCN, Michael Shellenberger (Apocalypse Never) goes into bat for coal. Coal, he says, with twice the energy of timber, saved the forests, while fuelling the industrial revolution. But for coal there might have been few trees left. Excluding those conservationists who bizarrely favour making them into biomass, everyone likes trees. Ergo, coal’s role in preserving them must be good.

Then again coal must be bad. The Economist (3 December) told us that, “unlike natural gas and oil, it is concentrated carbon, and thus [in America and Europe] it accounts for a staggering 39% of annual emissions of carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.”

That might be true, who knows, but this isn’t: “Solar farms and onshore wind are now the cheapest source of new electricity for at least two-thirds of the world’s population.” Here the poor sods at the lower end of the prosperity scale in Asia and Africa are invited to “consign coal to museums and the history books.” “Much work lies ahead,” avers editor-in-chief Zanny Minton Beddoes.

I just wonder how much work has to be done to persuade developing regions of the world to use the cheapest source of electricity? They must all be dim-witted, if Ms Beddoes is to be taken at her word. Of course, Ms Beddoes is spouting agitprop. To be kind, she can do no other as a dedicated follower of the party line.

The case against coal is not based on economics. It is the cheapest source of 24x7 power. The case stands or falls on the danger CO2 presents to the planet.

If the alarmist predictions are wrong then the trillions of dollars spent on wind and solar farms has been the gravest waste of resources in the history of mankind. As the size of the effect of man-made CO2 on global warming is matter of conjecture, a contested hypothesis at best, it is inexplicable that is has taken such an iron grip on the minds of so many in positions of influence and power.

The overwrought reaction to Covid is similarly puzzling. Perhaps when religion wanes, collective belief is more susceptible to superstition and mass suggestion. If that is so; what, I wonder, will be the next hobgoblin to scare us into submission?

Cracks Appear in the Climate Consensus

On the face of it, international progress towards a global consensus on reducing carbon emissions to net-zero by 2050 in order to restrain the rise in world temperature to between 1.5 and 2.00 degrees above pre-industrial levels is about to be resumed after a four-year interruption. When President-Elect Biden overcomes the remaining legal hiccups to take office on January the 20, 2021—as I am assuming he will —his first acts will include returning America to its observance of the Paris climate accords. Since 195 other nations have already signed on to the Accords (and everyone has agreed to treat them as a treaty, even if a non-binding one), it’s full speed ahead to a net-zero carbon world.

Or so it would appear.

This global pact rests on strong support from the world‘s governments which in turn rest on a firm consensus of political parties, scientists, officials, “Green” activists, and the media that a net-zero carbon policy is essential in order to avert a global climate catastrophe. This consensus is so universal that anyone who dissents from it, even a distinguished scientist or a Nobel Prize winner, risks being treated as a dangerous eccentric and finds it hard to get a hearing in respectable forums. Demands are sometimes heard that such people be kept off the airwaves altogether or even prosecuted for “climate denialism.” Fortunately, there are very few such eccentrics.

As green as they come.

Not that those within the consensus deny that the net-zero policy has problems. On the contrary everyone acknowledges that it will require quite heavy sacrifices from the ordinary citizens in their countries in the form of higher taxes, higher energy prices, and lower living standards. But these sacrifices will be worth it not only because they will avert a global catastrophe but also because Boris Johnson’s “green industrial revolution” or (according to taste) Joe Biden’s “Green New Deal” will create well-paying jobs in cleaner green industries such as windfarms.  And the last obstacle to this green utopia in the form of President Trump has now been removed.

Thus ends my rather bland outline of the Authorized Version of climate change politics. If we examine it critically, it surely becomes clear very quickly that it rests on two unsteady supports: the strength of the establishment consensus and the electoral popularity of a policy of transitioning to a net-zero carbon economy. Both seem strong at present. As climate skeptics such as Allister Heath in the London Daily Telegraph have conceded, the elites on both sides of the Atlantic have committed themselves wholeheartedly to the consensus; and a poll taken before the recent U.S. election showed that America voters were greener than ever before:

Seven in 10 voters support government action to address climate change, with three-quarters wanting the U.S. to generate all of its electricity from renewable sources such as solar and wind within 15 years.

In both cases, however, there are grounds for predicting that trouble lies ahead. Take, first, the establishment consensus. That is far from being a spontaneous embrace by almost all scientists and economists (climate policy being a blend of both disciplines) of manifest truths. Nor could it be, for a variety of reasons: science itself offers only provisional truths; climate science alone covers a wide range of scientific disciplines; and even the U.N. IPCC reports offer a range of possible outcomes with varying degrees of probability attached to each.

When its tentative and uncertain conclusions disappear and re-emerge as government policy, they have become firm doctrines (e.g., outlawing the U.K. sale of petrol-driven cars after 2030) enforced by quite strong sanctions: the granting or withholding of official contracts; appointments to official boards, university posts, and the civil service; publication in scientific journals; threats to employment and promotion; and even a de facto censorship of heretics in mainstream and official media. It’s hardly surprising that few people contest the establishment consensus when there are serious risks and no practical benefits in doing so. What’s surprising is that some do.

The whole world is watching.

Who are they? Usually, the first critics of the consensus are natural heretics who look at any powerful structure of ideas maintained by force and try to find cracks in it. Others join them because they may have either economic or intellectual interests in doing so—a naturalist opposes windfarms because they kill birds, for instance.

Some people working to advance the policy discover flaws or scandals in its operations and resign to oppose it from outside. Then there are journalists, natural heretics often, but looking for a good story always. Finally, there are critics who are simply very clever people who notice things and realize they don’t add up. And when all these “types” start examining climate policy and how it’s going, they find all kinds of risks being taken and mistakes being made.

Of course, there have been sharp-eyed critics of  “climate change” alarmism—and of the policies intended to ameliorate it—from the first: former U.K. finance minister Nigel Lawson who founded the Global Warming Policy Foundation, Danish academic Bjorn Lomborg who founded the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, and the late Nobel Laureate Freeman Dyson, who thought for Princeton.

But their numbers have been growing in the last year. The American environmentalist, Michael Shellenberger, announced his de facto resignation as a leading environmentalist by writing his book,  Apocalypse Never. Its theme, echoing Lomborg's, is that climate change is a serious problem but not a looming catastrophe requiring drastic emergency measures.

Dieter Helm, the Oxford professor who was commissioned by the U.K. government to report on British energy supply chains and climate change, has now written a new book, Net Zero: How We Stop Causing Climate Change that challenges the central orthodoxies of the Western establishment’s climate policy. In a review on the U.K .Reaction website, Jack Dickens writes:

Two fatal flaws in the current global approach are emphasized in Helm’s book – the focus on reaching Net Zero carbon emissions while maintaining high levels of carbon consumption, mostly through off-shoring carbon-intensive activities, and the faith in a symbolic but ineffectual top-down approach to solving the climate conundrum, as exemplified by grand United Nations summits in Paris and Tokyo. The result, he argues, has been the creation of an illusion that something is being done while individuals and governments are consistently failing to take decisive measures.

And the U.K.’s main conservative papers in the Telegraph group—papers read by Tory activists and thus important to Tory politicians—have started to take a more skeptical view of Boris Johnson’s boasted “green industrial revolution” in op-eds by three of its star columnists—former editor Charles Moore, Sunday Telegraph editor Allister Heath, and columnist Matt Ridley. It doesn’t amount to a complete conversion; the Telegraph’s formidable financial columnist, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, remains on Boris’s side. Still, all three have written strong criticisms of the government's net-zero policy recently, and Ridley offered an especially scathing critique of ten reasons why it’s a mistake.

Ridley, who moonlights as a member of the House of Lords, is the author of several well-regarded books on science of which the latest, How Innovation Works, is highly relevant to the climate debate. He takes aim at Boris’s ideas on  innovation in climate policy with a double-barreled shotgun. The first barrel demolishes the Prime Minister’s own proposed innovations:

Innovation will create marvelous, unexpected things in the next 10 years. But if you could summon up innovations to order in any sector you want, such as electric planes and cheap ways of making hydrogen, just by spending money, then the promises of my childhood would have come true: routine space travel, personal jetpacks and flying cars. Instead, we flew in 747s for more than 50 years.

The second barrel aims at Whitehall’s neglect of more realistic innovations that get no money or attention in the green industrial revolution:

My fear is that we will carry out Boris’s promised 10-point plan, cripple our economy, ruin our seascapes and landscapes, and then half way through the 2030s along will come cheap, small, safe fusion reactors.

It’s a bracing attack from a government supporter, friendly fire in fact, and taken together with the other skeptics, it’s a sign that the establishment consensus is showing some cracks. In part, these criticisms are a reaction to the fact that policies like net-zero carbon are ceasing to be distant possibilities and becoming real prospects. No sale of petrol-driven cars is only nine years away. And as Dr. Johnson wrote two centuries ago, when a man knows he will be hanged in the morning, it concentrates the mind wonderfully.

Mind, concentrated.

But surely these policies are popular with the voters? Wasn’t that the story of the U.S. opinion poll quoted above? How can a popular policy be reasonably compared to being hanged in the morning?

The answer to that objection is a rule that I’m thinking of calling O’Sullivan’s Second Law. It goes as follows: The popularity of a policy is less important than the popularity of its consequences.

How popular are the consequences of a policy of net-zero carbon by 2050 likely to be? It is hard to estimate that because governments constantly evade answering the prior question of what will be the costs of going net-zero in terms of higher taxes, higher energy prices, and a lower standard of living. They concede in a vague and slightly noble way that people will simply have to make heavy sacrifices, but they don’t want to put a figure on it.

That’s not surprising. When the New Zealand government did just that, it discovered, according to Lomborg, that getting to carbon neutrality would “cost more than NZ$85 billion annually, or 16% of projected GDP, by 2050. That is more than last year’s entire national budget for social security, welfare, health, education, police, courts, defense, environment, and every other part of government combined.”

Sixteen percent of projected GDP annually. That’s what you call political suicide. No policy that requires it will remain popular. It runs up against Stein’s Law formulated by the late Herb Stein, a distinguished American economist: ““If something cannot go on forever, it will stop.”

It can’t go on. Long before 2050, the net-zero policy will have to be abandoned. And the longer that political establishments cling to its defense, the worse the resulting crash will be.

Apparatchik John Kerry, Climate Czar

Suppose you are a man with a long history of personal mediocrity in important positions. You aren’t quite as publicly toxic as, say, Hillary Clinton. But no one really respects you either. You’re old, 76. You’re definitely a “me too” lothario. You have said nothing notable in 35 years in the public eye, first as a U.S. Senator, then failed presidential candidate, and finally Secretary of State.

Your biggest success was in being the face of Obama’s Iran deal, the entire premise of which was to set up an untrustworthy, fundamentalist regime hell-bent on acquiring nuclear weapons, and deeply hated by its own people, as a dominant regional power.

So which job do you get in a Joe Biden Administration?

Somewhere a Soviet architect weeps: the DoE.

Climate Czar!  Nice touch, that "Czar." Commissar would have been a bit heavy handed. Who knows what the Mandarin translation is.

Actually, John Kerry’s official new title is “Special Presidential Envoy for Climate,” and he will report directly to apparent president-elect Biden. The post is housed within the National Security Council, because, apparently, climate is a now national security issue, which is not quite the same thing as a matter of science, or even weather (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, anybody?).

Official Washington is gleeful at the appointment. A typical Washington Post headline joyfully trumpeted, “Biden Brings Back the Establishment.”  It is deeply ironic that Kerry, who first came to prominence as a decorated Vietnam war veteran leveling allegations of war crimes against fellow soldiers, is now ‘the Establishment.”

In addition to the Iran deal, from which President Trump withdrew the U.S. early on because Iran’s compliance was unverifiable, Kerry also oversaw negotiations for the multilateral Paris climate Accords, from which President Trump also withdrew the U.S. Trump’s blunt contention was that, since the Paris accords failed to hold China responsible for the pollution it generates, which comprises the largest share of global pollution leading to warming and environmental destruction, and since the U.S. generally outperforms the standards the accord require in terms of emissions and carbon use, there was precisely no point in being party to, or bound by, its strictures.

The Paris accords, Trump claimed, harmed U.S. energy and manufacturing jobs, and were simply another way of transferring money to China, while absolving that nation of responsibility. Both Biden and Kerry, whose sons have been partners in some of their financial ventures, have ties to China that may render that consideration moot.

Didn't end well for this czar.

Not only did Biden campaign on an immediate return to the Paris accords, but he  has repeatedly placed “climate change” at the top of his “Day One” agenda for action, second only to Covid-19. Indeed, Biden has been eager to persuade other nations to adopt even higher standards. He has mentioned “zero carbon emissions” by 2030, and 100 percent clean electricity by 2035, which even some lefties privately agree is unrealistic.

How, precisely, climate change affects American national security is undefined. In a statement released on Monday the transition team remained committed to vagueness, noting that Kerry, “will fight climate change full-time as Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.”  “This marks the first time that the NSC will include an official dedicated to climate change, reflecting the president-elect’s commitment to addressing climate change as an urgent national security issue.” Kerry himself tweeted:

As a political matter, it is worth considering the possibility that Kerry is there to rein in staffers who are far more radical than he or Biden. According to the Washington Post, the Biden administration has a plan to spend upwards of “$2 trillion over four years to boost renewables and create incentives for energy-efficient cars, homes, and commercial buildings.”

Environmentalist contrarian Michael Shellenberger noted on Nov. 24, on the Tucker Carlson show that all of this adds up to nothing more than Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal. That plan was explicitly formulated by the “Justice Democrats” as a way to take over the economy. According to Shellenberger, “we are way past the point of stopping climate change. If we gave up all carbon use, temperatures would rise for the next 400 years, anyway. But we are doing a fine job adapting."

Biden has framed his climate plan as a jobs program, making clear that he is prepared to pour unprecedented resources into transitioning the United States away from fossil fuels as part of the effort to boost an economy battered by the pandemic.

And "climate change" is now a matter of social justice. The Washington Post reported that the Biden plan includes a commitment to invest 40 percent of the clean energy money in historically disadvantaged communities, on the flimsy justification that there is some connection between climate change and systemic racism. A local California politician called it “the most innovative and bold plan in a presidential campaign that we’ve seen from an environmental justice standpoint.”

Detroit: blame racism and climate change.

Biden’s team already has plans on how it will restrict oil and gas drilling on public lands and waters; ratchet up federal mileage standards for cars and SUVs; block pipelines that transport fossil fuels across the country; provide federal incentives to develop renewable power; and mobilize other nations to make deeper cuts in their own carbon emissions.

Remember that second debate between Trump and Biden, in which Biden denied that he would end fracking, or destroy the oil and natural gas industries, with their millions of jobs, in the U.S.? That was not true. Look for steeply rising gas prices early in a Biden Administration, something it might take the populace some time to notice, due to state mandated lockdown orders.

It is clear that when Biden warned the nation, in the first debate, that we were heading into a "dark winter," that was a promise, not just a threat. He and Czar Kerry will ensure it happens with higher energy costs that will keep us in the dark and shivering far into the winters of the future as well.

The Swamp Strikes Back

Joe Biden has started to announce appointments to key roles in his administration should he be inaugurated in January. He finds himself constrained by the unexpected failure of his party thus far to retake the senate and its reduced majority in the House.

Consequently, it doesn't look like we will be seeing Elizabeth Warren at Treasury, Bernie Sanders at Labor, or -- a popular rumor over the past few weeks -- Hillary Clinton as Ambassador to the United Nations. But instead of those ideological actors, we're getting mostly career political staffers and bureaucrats, aka the Swamp.

The big fish thus far is longtime Biden ally Antony Blinken for Secretary of State. Blinken -- the son of wealthy investment banker and Clinton-era Ambassador Donald Blinken -- served as then-Vice President Biden's national security adviser before being promoted to Deputy Secretary of State by Barack Obama. He is also a Russia hoax-supporter and an ardent champion of the kind of hawkish foreign policy which Trump ran against in 2016. As The American Conservative's Curt Mills wrote this morning, the worry about Blinken isn't so much that he's a "wild-eyed radical," but that "his policy views are emblematic of a broader rot within the American establishment."

The same could be said for the the other intended appointments announced on Monday, including former Foreign Service Director General Linda Thomas-Greenfield to the U. N. and former Hillary Clinton foreign policy advisor Jake Sullivan. The latter, as you might have guessed from his relationship with Mrs. Clinton, is another hawk, but he is also noteworthy for having had a hand in secretly negotiating the Iran deal, which the U. S. has since backed out of.

Environmentalist groups are upset by the potential appointments of both Sullivan and Rep. Cedric Richmond (D-La.), who Biden has announced as a senior advisor, as both are reportedly skeptical of their cause. Sullivan appears in one of the leaked Clinton E-Mails questioning the idea that carbon neutrality by 2050 is at all realistic. As for Rep. Richmond, environmentalists are concerned by his closeness with oil and gas in his home state of Louisiana. The Sunrise Movement, an environmentalist activist group, put out a statement opposing his appointment which read,

One of President-Elect Biden’s very first hires for his new administration has taken more donations from the fossil fuel industry during his Congressional career than nearly any other Democrat, cozied up to Big Oil and Gas, and stayed silent and ignored meeting with organizations in his own community while they suffered from toxic pollution and sea-level rise.

Now, should those of us who are concerned about the resource sector as a source of good jobs and safe, reliable (and clean) energy be encouraged by these appointments? Probably not. There's a civil war brewing on the left, which has been held in check until recently by shared loathing for Donald Trump. Though Biden might feel forced staff up with conventional swamp creatures, before too long he will feel the need to satisfy the loudest lefties in his caucus. Short sighted as they might be, carbon taxes and increasing restrictions on fracking are the easiest bones he can throw them.

Of course, for the Greens, those would only whet the appetite.

Green Pen, Green Phone

On Wednesday I mentioned that Democrats were disappointed by the failure of their projected blue wave to materialize. Their congressional majority has been whittled down to almost nothing, the best they can hope for in the Senate is a draw, and in the presidential race, the decisive rejection of Donald Trump they were hoping for didn't happen.

What's more, less radical (or more pragmatic) office holders, like Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), have been arguing that the Green New Deal, along with other extremist proposals like Medicare for All and Defunding the Police, are the reason they fared so poorly.

But, of course, backing off on such proposals, which might make the party more attractive to actual voters, would alienate the leftist donor class. So what is the solution? Executive orders of course! Faced with a similarly divided government, Barack Obama proudly proclaimed that his administration was

[N]ot just going to be waiting for legislation.... I've got a pen and I've got a phone… and I can use that pen to sign executive orders and take executive actions.

In various liberal publications right now, the details of a Biden administration's own climate-related "pen and phone" strategy are being hammered out.

To take just one example, in the Los Angeles Times, Anna M. Phillips has a list of five climate actions Biden can take immediately, "without Congress’ help." These include imposing California's onerous auto emissions standards nationwide; halting the issuance of new permits for fracking and oil drilling on federal land (a position Biden stumbled his way onto over the course of his campaign), as well as imposing new regulations on oil and gas companies operating on existing federal permits (decidedly not something he campaigned on); declaring a climate national emergency; and creating a "climate club" of countries who mutually agree to reduce carbon emission through carbon taxation.

On this last point, a club would have two uses. First, if all nations involved impose carbon taxes on themselves, none can reap the economic rewards of being a cheaper and easier place to live or do business. And second, each one can mutually agree to punish any other country that attempts to get a leg up on the others, "through trade measures such as tariffs" in Phillips' words. It is worth noting that leftists have already started making lists of countries they want to see punished in this way -- see this Vox article entitled "How Joe Biden could make Brazil his first “climate outlaw.”

By the way, if you're surprised to see Brazil as the highest climate priority, rather than mega-polluter China -- the world's second largest economy -- you'll be doubly so to read through article and see China mentioned as a potential ally against Brazil. This is as good a detail as any to demonstrate that this isn't really about the climate, it's about power.

So, while AOC's legislative Green New Deal might be D.O.A. in Congress, the Executive Green New Deal is rarin' to go. We will all suffer the consequences.

Biden's Deadly Plan for American Energy

It’s perfectly understandable for anyone concerned about energy production in the U.S. to be uneasy that Joe Biden appears to be winning this year’s contest for the White House. Whether he makes it to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. remains in doubt, but what is not in doubt is that, should that happen, he would have no substantial mandate.

The climate change part of the  platform--like much of his party’s platform--seems to have little purchase among other than the coastal bien pensants and the leftwing corporatists dreaming of yet another boondoggle financed by the taxpayers on the same pie in the sky swindle as was Solyndra and California’s train to nowhere. Of course, my ability to read the future is limited, but let me explain why I think much of what Biden has promised the far left of his party to secure the nomination and their support, is unlikely to take shape.

At the moment the election in six states is still either still being counted, being challenged in court, or subject to recount. Excluding those states, President Trump leads Biden 232 to 227 in the Electoral Vote totals. (270 electoral votes of 538  are needed to win the electoral college vote in January).

It is impossible in this fast changing circumstance to keep track of all the litigation challenging in the various state run elections. So far this compendium by OSU seems the most accurate. I’ve seen some of the complaints filed or about to be in Michigan and Pennsylvania and they include numerous credible affidavits documenting substantial illegality. If the Supreme Court meant it when they said this twenty years ago in Bush v. Gore, 531 U.S. 98, 105 (2000), I have to believe that the counts in both those  states simply to not meet the constitutional standard in Gore.

It must be remembered that "the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizen's vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise." Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U. S. 533, 555 (1964).

If these recounts and challenges are not resolved by the December 14 cut off dat-, the House of Representatives can choose the interim president and the Senate the interim vice president until they results are certified by the states. In the House, the vote is by state and the Republicans hold the majority there, as they do in the Senate. If the matter is not resolved to the satisfaction of the state legislatures, they may under the constitution select their own slate of electors. Republicans hold the majority in the legislatures of Pennsylvania, Georgia, and Michigan, the three states with the most electoral votes among the still disputed contests.

Given the uncertain outcomes, at this time it is preposterous to call Biden “president-elect.”

I was elected to what?

Nevertheless, there certainly is reason for concern in the Democratic platform Biden ran on. The platform reads like a prose version of the Russian film “Battleship Potemkin” substituting only the film’s motif of all forces of the population joining hands in revolution with everyone joining hands to keep the climate from changing. (It misses only scenes of fracking and gas rigs shooting at wounded veterans and orphans.) Among the specifics are these:

The program specifics are even more sophomoric and fanciful, involving retrofitting buildings, setting even higher emissions standards for cars and trucks, including 500,000 school buses, and more in a program “to ensure racial and socioeconomic equity in federal climate, energy, and infrastructure programs.”

(My guess is this was written somewhere else besides California which the document says should  again be allowed to set its own vehicle emission standards. I say that because rolling blackouts related to a similar set of juvenile energy policies  in that state’s programs would seem to put something of a leash on these overweening goals.)

Biden also has pledged to kill the Keystone pipeline. On that score, Alberta Premier Jason Kennery indicates confidence he can change Biden’s mind, and perhaps he would be successful -- pledges from Biden do seem to have a short life span. He promised during the debates that he would not claim victory until all the state contests were certified. He already has done so  when we are far from that point. 

He’s also promised  to crack down on “climate cheats” whoever they are; push the world on climate change, and invest $1.7 trillion to reduce global warming. At the same time his team is advocating further coronavirus  lockdowns and payouts to those unemployed because of them.

Now I could be wrong. He could have a secret invention to generate trillions of new dollars and is keeping it secret along with a never-revealed way to fuel this economy without fossil fuels, but I’m suspicious of the ability to fund these grandiose plans or carry the platform’s promises  out. 

Even if he were crazy enough to try it, he will do so without a great deal of support. At the moment the Democrats are hanging on to an even thinner majority in the House, having lost a number of seats they expected to win, and jeopardized more who in these weird times are labeled “moderates”.

The party is splintered and recriminations against the left are legion. It seems increasingly likely that the Blue Wave the media promised didn’t materialize and in fact a Red Wave washed a lot of the Democrats out to sea. There will be at least 50 Republican Senators in the Senate with the likely prospect of two more once the Georgia runoffs are complete in January.

Without a majority in the Senate Biden can’t revoke the industry-friendly fuel tax; he can’t restore or expand the federal tax credit for purchases of electric vehicles, he can’t repeal the Halliburton provision permitting fracking in Safe Drinking Water Act  he can’t amend the renewable fuel standard post-2022, he can’t alter the Jones Act, and he can’t change the the carbon price, etc.

Have they called a lid yet? It's past my bed-time.

Some have suggested he can  achieve these goals simply through executive orders, and there are a few things he can achieve via this route, beginning with an area in which he has the freest hand -- rejoining the Paris climate agreement. Some of the others, more troublesome to be sure, are regulatory actions like blocking oil and gas drilling on federal lands, allowing California to set independent standards for auto emissions and fuel economy, restricting access to low-cost capital for the fossil fuel industry, and setting fuel economy standards. For these,  judicial and public resistance are greater checks on his authority. 

Chief Justice Roberts has displayed a penchant for fine-tooth-combing executive orders and rejecting them . The public  -- reeling from the devastation of the lockdowns, pleased with lower gas prices and anticipating a continued v- shaped recovery -- are likely to find Biden's extremism unwanted and make their opposition known.

Biden may squeak out an election victory. If so, it will have been a Pyrrhic one.