Trouble in Oz for Albo and the Ghastly-Green Fourteen

The left-wing Labor Party narrowly won a majority in the May Australian federal election. It holds 77 of the 151 seats in the House of Representatives. It faces Liberal and National Parties, together holding 58 seats, and 16 assorted cross benchers. Of the cross benchers, an assorted ghastly-green fourteen will form, without much doubt, a cacophonous green choir. Nothing that Labor does on climate will be enough. And if that weren’t nearly enough, the Greens (party) will hold the balance of power in the Senate. Interesting times for the new government.

The Labor Party is not the natural party of national government in Australia. In the seventy-seven years since the end of WWII it has formed government only one-third of the time. The (now notionally) centre-right Coalition of the Liberal Party, largely representing urban areas, and the National Party, representing regional and rural areas, has formed government for the balance of the time.

Labor last formed government from 2007 to 2013. It was ugly. Prime minister Kevin Rudd was sacked in mid-first term and replaced with Julia Gillard. The 2010 election was all but lost. Gillard was subsequently sacked and Rudd resuscitated to try to save some seats at the 2013 election. To not much avail. Tony Abbott took the Coalition to a resounding win. Abbot used two principal slogans: “stop the boats” (carrying so-called asylum seekers) and, most notably, “axe the tax” (namely, the proposed carbon tax). Voters want climate-change action. Don't want to pay for it.

And your little dog Toto, too.

New Labor prime minster Anthony Albanese is quite evidently apprehensive. He doesn’t fancy traversing the same rocky road as Rudd or Gillard. Yet, only weeks into office, gas and coal shortages appear, energy prices soar.

What to do in these circumstances; when the election’s been won on climate action, reducing electricity prices and creating lots of green jobs? When, moreover, the cross-bench members of parliament have become greater in number and even more pathologically fixated on combatting climate-change? When they all, without the pesky burden of governing, want emission-reduction targets to go well beyond, and much more speedily beyond, the 43 percent (on 2005 levels) promised by Labor by 2030 and the net-zero promised by 2050?

It’s a rock and hard place. Which way will Labor go? For now, it’s Realpolitik. How could it not be? At the end of May, the wholesale price of natural gas in the states of New South Wales and Victoria spiked 50 and 80 times higher. That’s not a misprint. The Australian Energy Market Operator, responsible for keeping the lights on, responded by putting in place a temporary price cap of $40 per gigajoule. Still four times its not-so-long-ago average price of around $10.

Of course, the Ukrainian conflict, now an excuse for almost any government failure, took part of the blame. The rest was put down to the weather and to a fall in the generation of coal power. Herein hangs a disconcerting tale of inexplicably inclement weather in the era of global warming and, would you believe it, demands by the new fossil-fuel-averse government for more coal and gas power.

Currently it’s 6pm in Sydney and cold. My gas heater is on. It’s that or hypothermia. Is an exorbitant bill on the way? It's an uncommonly cold beginning to winter; lots of snow in the high country for skiers. And weren’t we told that it wasn’t going to snow again? The weather is paying no heed at all to global-warming soothsayers. You can say that again, and I will.

Ho ho ho: winter's on its way.

Inopportunely, as gas prices spiked, Australia’s largest coal power station, Eraring, some 90 miles north of Sydney, reported that it was running out of coal. As an aside, so what? Australia can do without Eraring. That must be so. Climate-change heads wiser than ours have determined that it will close in 2025, seven years earlier than its previously planned premature closing. Never mind, nothing to see there. Move on. But why was Eraring running out of coal?

Flooded coal mines is the answer. Back to that inclement weather. Climate "expert" Tim Flannery assured us in 2007, when made Australian of the year for his environmental credentials, that drought was here to stay. “Even the rain that falls isn't actually going to fill our dams,” he sermonised. And since? Rain aplenty and massive flooding. Don’t think for a moment that this has dented Tim’s chutzpah. Year in and out, decade in and out, dud prediction after dud prediction. The hallmark of the climate cult.

Chris Bowen, the new minister for contradiction in terms—sorry, officially, for climate change and energy—blamed the rise in gas prices on the previous government for not building more renewable energy and transmission infrastructure. Exactly how that would have helped in the circumstances is anybody’s guess. But, in the world of lies in which we live these days, baseless claims are commonplace. However, Madeleine King, the new minister for resources, swallowed her pride and introduced a note of realism. We need more coal and gas power to fill the breach, she said, “climate change be damned.” Well, no, she didn’t exactly say that last bit.

Calls for more coal power? What an irony. Numbers of aging coal power generators suddenly fell out of action. That’s not surprising for an industry destined for complete abolishment, stressed by having to compete with renewables when the wind blows, and to which banks won’t lend.

Hey, big Spender.

Ms Allegra Spender, a member the aforementioned green choir, and in sore need of relevance, blamed reliance on fossil fuels for the situation and called on gas companies to do the right thing, “to come to the party and make sure that Australian consumers and businesses are protected." From pointless to purposeful. Cut to Kevin Gallagher, the CEO of Santos, Australia’s largest gas production company, speaking at a Sky News conference in Sydney in early June.

What’s effectively happened over the last decade as gas resources have been used up and new projects have not been able to come forward and be developed and bring new supply into the market; all the buffer and all the slack in the system has been used up… Successive state and federal governments have put red and green tape in place which has made these projects…impossible to get up.

To wit, a major coal-seam project at Narrabri in northern NSW has been held up for years. All of the gas is destined for domestic consumption. “We thought that would inspire people to help get the project approved,” Gallagher said. Not in today’s world. A cognitively dissonant world; desperately in need of more fossil fuels, while bloody-mindedly preventing their extraction. Albanese’s government is already wrestling with the bitter fruits.

China Trying to Corner the Solar-Panel Market

We at The Pipeline have noted in the past the fact that the world's solar panel supply chains are utterly reliant on the People's Republic of China. For a sense of just how reliant, check out this WSJ piece on the ongoing havoc in the solar panel industry occasioned by a Commerce Department investigation into allegations that Chinese firms have been circumventing American tariffs and sanctions by moving products necessary for panel through neighboring countries like Thailand, Malaysia, Vietnam and Cambodia.

Auxin Solar Inc., a tiny, struggling maker of solar panels, has thrown the entire American renewable-energy industry into chaos. A petition Auxin filed with the Commerce Department accusing Chinese companies of circumventing tariffs spurred a U.S. probe in March that has effectively halted most solar-panel imports, according to utilities and industry groups, delaying solar projects all over the country. Utility chief executives and politicians including California Gov. Gavin Newsom have protested, warning that the investigation could set back U.S. efforts to transition to cleaner energy sources to combat climate change. A U.S. solar trade group estimates the turmoil could cost the industry billions of dollars. On Wednesday, Indiana-based utility NiSource Inc. said delays of up to 18 months in solar projects meant it would have to keep coal-fired power plants that are slated for retirement running longer than expected.

The article, entitled, "The Most-Hated Solar Company in America," is about the furor directed at this miniscule San Jose-based solar panel manufacturer -- whose name was barely known in the industry before their petition -- because they dared to complain that their competitors were violating U.S. law. Industry insiders have taken to insinuating that Auxin might be some kind of false-flag operation run by anti-environmentalists or suggesting that they are selfishly trying to eliminate foreign competition.

But their justification for the complaint is sound -- the company has been been slogging along, trying to make a profit, but they've found themselves competing against Asian companies "which were able to sell panels at much lower prices — in some cases less than Auxin’s cost of materials," not to mention American companies which were happy to look the other way in order to do business with them. Says Auxin CEO Mamun Rashid, “I don’t think we could have ever imagined how aggressively China would want to dominate the market, and that’s been very tough to contend with.”

China's desire for dominating this particular market is substantial. For years they've been quietly gaining control of areas in Africa and South America that are rich in minerals necessary for the manufacture of solar panels. And some of those minerals are abundant in their own territory -- about half of the world's polysilicon comes from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government have been accused of imprisoning ethnic Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. In fact, some of these very solar panel companies have been accused of utilizing Uyghur forced laborers. Jim Geraghty notes the odd fact that a recent letter signed by twenty-two senators (including two Republicans) urging President Biden to bring this investigation to a "swift conclusion," mentions neither China nor the Uyghur. Says Geraghty, "if all you knew about this issue was from their letter, you would think the U.S. Commerce Department was investigating the sourcing of these solar panels for no particular reason."

All of this should hammer home the degree to which China, that land of smog filled cities, whose new coal-fired energy capacity alone recently outstripped the rest of the world by 300 percent, is the very heart of the environmentalist project. And why not -- their number one geo-political rival is willing to hand them boatloads of money to manufacture an unreliable energy source to supplant the reliable petroleum products that helped make us a world power in the first place. From their perspective, it seems like a win-win.

'Green Energy' Unsafe for Birds and Other Living Things

Wind and solar energy technologies, which eco-religionists claim will save the planet from the ravages of capitalism and the destruction it supposedly causes, are culling endangered animals and wiping out their habitats. Michael Shellenberger pinpointed the problem with renewable energy in a May 2018 Forbes article: “If solar and wind farms are needed to protect the natural environment, why do they so often destroy it?” It’s a fair question.

Researchers looked at 23 endangered bird species killed at wind and solar outfits in California, according to “Vulnerability of avian populations to renewable energy production,” published March 30 in Royal Society Open Science. The study of the impact on wildlife of renewable energy, which requires more land than conventional means of energy production such as oil and natural gas drilling, was funded by the California Energy Commission, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, and the University of California at Davis. Hydroelectric dams were not dealt with in the paper, but the U.S. Geological Survey reports it is known that they “create barriers to fish migration and alter upstream and downstream ecosystems.”

The paper states that of the 23 bird species, renewable energy generation appears to have made things significantly worse for eleven, or 48 percent of them. Those eleven species “were either highly or moderately vulnerable, experiencing a greater than or equal to 20% decline in the population growth rates with the addition of up to either 1,000 or 5,000 fatalities, respectively.” For five of the eleven species, “killed birds originated both locally and non-locally, yet vulnerability occurred only to the local subpopulation."

R.I.P. tweety bird.

In the United States, anywhere from 140,000 to 328,000 bird fatalities take place per year at monopole turbines, but the real figure is probably much higher because, as the paper acknowledges, the estimate comes from data gathered a decade ago when installed capacity was only 57 percent of the current figure. Solar energy generation back then, when capacity was only 37 percent of the current figure, caused up to 138,600 birth deaths in the country, most of which took place in California.

California, of course, has an economic death wish – it’s betting everything on a utopian carbon-free future, the well-being of its human population be damned. In September 2020, the state’s Democrat governor, Gavin Newsom, who couldn’t even be bothered to follow his own pandemic rules, decreed that no gasoline-fueled automobiles will be sold in the state by 2035, the goal being to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. At the same time, he urged that fracking be banned.

Encouraged by Newsom, anti-growth fanatics forced the state to mandate 33 percent renewable energy by 2020. Utilities achieved this early and now the goalpost has been moved to 60 percent renewables by 2030 and 100 percent carbon-free energy by the middle of the century. Some California cities even want to ban natural gas heating and cooking in new buildings.

All this pressure to go renewable has to lead to more animal deaths as wind and solar generation expands. The Royal Society paper states that of California’s “23 vulnerable bird species studied (barn owls, golden eagles, road runners, yellow-billed cuckoos…), scientists have found 11 are now experiencing at least a 20% decline in their population growth rates because wind turbines and solar panels are killing them and/or destroying their limited-range habitat.”

Birds and bats are particularly susceptible to wind turbines, which nowadays are typically mounted on towers 200 feet high or higher with rotors spanning 150 to 260 feet, which means blade tips can reach higher than 400 feet above the ground. Rotors can spin at speeds from 11 to 28 rpm with blade tip speeds of between 138 and 182 mph, the U.S. Department of Energy reports.

Beware of barotrauma.

Birds tend to be killed directly by collisions with turbines, meteorological towers, and power transmission lines, and indirectly by habitat disruption, behavioral effects, drowning in wastewater evaporation ponds, and other causes. Bats are typically killed by collisions and barotrauma, which means catastrophic damage to internal organs caused by rapid air pressure changes. Migratory bats could go extinct if wind energy production keeps growing, a May 2017 paper in Biological Conservation argues.

The Royal Society paper states that photovoltaic solar panels used at solar farms convert the light produced by the sun into electricity via turbines. There are environmental tradeoffs. The 6,000 birds that fly annually into the concentrated sunlight beams produced at the Ivanpah Solar Plant in California’s Mojave Desert, are instantly cremated alive, leaving puffs of smoke behind to mark their passing. A large fence erected to keep endangered desert tortoises out of the plant made it easier for coyotes to prey on roadrunners.

According to a January 2008 paper in the Journal of Wildlife Management, about 4,700 birds, including golden eagles, are killed by wind turbines at California’s Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA). “Every year, an estimated 75 to 110 Golden Eagles are killed by the wind turbines in the [APWRA]. Some lose their wings, others are decapitated, and still others are cut in half.”

Led by California’s crazed, hardline push to get off so-called fossil fuel-based energy production and into "renewable" energy, commercial wind energy generation capacity in the entire United States has gone up almost 300 percent since 2009. The current installed capacity exceeds 107 gigawatts from about 59,000 turbines and is expected to rise to more than 160 gigawatts by 2030, the Royal Society paper states.

Solar energy generation has gone up 9,400 percent in the country, from 0.4 gigawatts in 2009 to more than 38 gigawatts in 2009. In the coming 5 years capacity may blow past 75 gigawatts.

This will take a toll on fauna. But that’s fine with environmentalists, who observe a hierarchy of values. Animals, especially those with wings, will continue to die for our sins as "renewable" energy expands.

'Green Energy'? Let's Do the Math

Rather than argue climate politics and ideology, let’s look at math, the language of the universe. Americans own approximately 270 million private gasoline vehicles (GVs) and drive 3.2 trillion miles per year, consuming 123 billion gallons of gasoline.  Why? Because we want to. Because we (still) are free to do what and go as and where we want. Democrats don’t like this. They prefer that we little people live in little boxes wedged-in with a hundred other little boxes, next to the (subsidized) light rail and the (un-air-conditioned) workplace and the (un-air-conditioned) grocery store selling bugs instead of food.

President Brandon read from his teleprompter that he wants to build 500,000 EV charging stations. By comparison, our 279 million GVs require only 115,000 “charging” (gas) stations. “Charging” a GV for the next 400 miles takes about 10 minutes. Absent fast chargers, charging an EV for the next 400 miles can take up to eight hours.  Spending less time per person charging requires having more stations – about four times more. How much CO2 will be expelled into the atmosphere to build this costly infrastructure? As with windmills, arguably more than using them will reduce.

America generates annually, using 99 percent traditional power sources (hydro, coal, oil, natural gas, uranium) about four trillion kilowatt hours (Kwh) of electricity to power our grid and run our homes, offices, stores, internet, etc. NOT in charging 270 million EVs. The additional one percent of electricity generation comes from small-scale solar. The EPA has created a metric, “MPGe,” for EVs. An EV will use 33.7 Kwh of electricity to travel as far as a GV on one gallon of gasoline. Replacing 123 billion gallons of gasoline will require four trillion Kwh, or double what the nation generates and uses today. See the problem? California can’t even keep the lights on today.

Not as easy as it looks.

Let’s add physics to math. How does the electricity we use get to a charging station, whether commercial or at our home? Electrons – electricity – travel in the vacuum of free space at the speed of light, which is the speed of electromagnetic radiation, of which light is a frequency. This speed is three million meters, or about 186,272 miles, per second. Through wire here on earth the electrons travel more slowly, but the speed of the electrical charge moving through a wire is nearly the same as in free space.

The transmission wires from a power plant to an outlet are not batteries; no charge is “held” in them to be used when turning on a light switch or plugging in an EV. The instant the switch is flipped to charge an EV and apply that load to the circuit, that electrical charge is created by releasing water at the dam, burning coal, natural gas or oil, or using the heat of fission at a nuclear plant.

What’s the point? If 270 million cars are sitting at home plugged-in overnight for their change, how much sun is shining? How much wind is blowing? None, and not much. As noted previously, the planet lacks the elements and minerals, and certainly the mining capacity, to create the amount of battery storage required to store all the energy hitting the earth daily from the sun to charge our vehicles overnight.

[A] rough conclusion is that getting all of our electricity from wind, solar and batteries would consume around 70 percent of all of the copper currently mined in the world, 337 percent of global nickel production, 3,053 percent of the world’s total cobalt production, 355 percent of the U.S.’s iron output, and 284 percent of U.S. steel production. Along with unfathomable quantities of concrete–which, by the way, off-gases CO2.

Plugging in the car, closing that circuit, requires that the electricity is created at that instant. Simply – this cannot happen with “sustainable” electricity generation and storage. It is mathematically impossible to replace America’s GVs with EVs and retain anything close to our rate of progress or standard of living. It also is culturally impossible; why do you think the elites have been attacking Western Culture?

Been around for thousands of years.

Economists talk about removing friction from the economy. Removing economic friction ostensibly is why we are going to (be forced to) go cashless, though the reality for that forcing may be entirely different. Moving to EVs will add friction to our everyday lives, to food and material consumption, to transportation, to the entire supply chain and the variety and quantities of goods and services we have come to expect and which all our jobs are designed to extract, produce, move, sell and dispose of. Removing friction aids progress; adding friction reduces progress.

Progress is the more productive use of natural and human resources, including energy. If we want to consume fewer resources, to use less energy, we need more progress...  and more electricity.

This seems to be a conundrum. Do we use less energy shopping online than going to a dozen stores around town on a Saturday? Sure. But do you know how much electricity the data centers hosting our online shopping used over a decade ago…?

In 2010, over 10 percent of electricity in the U.S. was due to computer and IT equipment usage…  assorted US data centers use a collective 7000 megawatts… ; this is more power than is used by the State of Mississippi.

We need electricity to create and maintain our standard of living, to continue to progress. “Sustainable” energy cannot replace hydro, fossil and nuclear, let alone double it. We can neither sustain our current standard of living nor advance it without more energy. This doesn’t factor-in the developing world’s need for more energy to achieve equity in living standards with the first world.

Can we generate the additional electricity we need to continue our current, and future-desired, standard of living? Of course. Can we do so and reduce the CO2 in the atmosphere (which may not be necessary at all, given that the CO2 levels have increased for years without warming)? Yes. How? Nuclear. No other generation capability can do so. Nuclear is such a good idea that even the founder of Greenpeace is all for it. It’s pretty hard to refer to him as an “anti-environmentalist.” But the left won’t allow nuclear, and our rulers don’t want us to have the freedom it provides.

Only way this works, greenies.

Friction – the Green Dream – is anti-progress. Which makes it anti-employment, anti-prosperity, anti-humanity, anti-liberty, anti-freedom, anti-natural resource and anti-future. The only people supporting adding this friction are those not understanding the ramifications, and those not having children so who do not care about the future. The former need to be educated and the latter ignored. The Green Dream is cultural and civilizational suicide. Because math.

Our elites know this. They aren’t stupid. The also aren’t replacing their motorcades with EVs, their seaside homes with inland apartments, and their steaks with bugs. Because they aren’t stupid. The Klimate Kult isn’t about the environment, the planet, the climate. It’s about control.

The Green Dream is about getting us in on the plot to destroy liberty and enable tyranny by brainwashing us to vote for our own demise. To destroy prosperity and spread poverty. To destroy the educated, productive middle class on which civilization depends.

Bernie Sanders may remark that we don’t need one thousand different kinds of deodorant that capitalism can provide and Marxism can’t, but I’m not at all sure I want a government that can’t win a war, can’t keep the homeless off the streets, can’t stop Capitol Cops from rioting against and murdering peaceful citizens, can’t stop BLM from burning down our cities and assassinating law enforcement officials, can’t stop meth and heroin junkies from shooting-up in the streets, can’t stop “teachers” from “teaching” 6-yr-olds how to masturbate, can’t stop pedophiles from attacking our children, can’t police our own border, can’t stop printing money to repair the damage from their last money-printing… telling me I can’t drive my GV to Yosemite or to a steak house.

Do you?

Reality Intrudes Upon Biden’s Climate Hypocrisy

It's time for a reality check. If you take a confidential survey of environmentalists, the candid ones will admit that the Obama administration was a great disappointment when it came to "climate change "and moving the country to “green” energy. Despite promising on election night in 2008 that the sea levels would stop rising because he’d deliver green nirvana, the Obama years saw the massive reversal in America’s long decline in domestic oil production, as the fracking revolution took Washington by surprise.

The fracking revolution happened quietly out of view; if Washington had been aware of what was happening, they would surely have stopped it cold. Like Uber when it shows up to challenge a taxi monopoly in a city, it is hard to kill off a thriving sector entirely once it has taken root.

Obama was an ideologue, but he wasn’t stupid. After the financial crash of 2008 and the slow-growth recovery that followed, the oil and gas sector was about the only sector that boomed aside from Wall Street. He likely knew that without the resurgence of oil and gas, especially in swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio, he likely would have lost his re-election bid in 2012. Ironically the hated fracking revolution led in the U.S. to the largest decrease in carbon emissions anywhere in the world, as suddenly cheap natural gas outcompeted coal in the marketplace—all without a signing ceremony on the White House lawn.

In sum, the political agenda of the climate campaign largely ground to a halt during the Obama years. Ambitious new legislation stalled out on Capitol Hill despite large Democratic majorities before the 2010 election, and Obama’s regulatory strategy—the so-called “Clean Power Plan”—was blocked in court. The Paris Climate Accord was so weak that the founding father of climate alarmism, NASA’s James Hansen, called it a “bull----” agreement. The only exception to this litany of disappointment was lavish and solar subsidies, which both parties in Congress love to expand, even though they generate meager amounts of energy. By the time he left office, Obama was embracing an “all of the above” energy strategy that implicitly recognized the long-term necessity for fossil fuel energy.

Joe Biden took office apparently after gulping extra helpings of climate Kool-Aid, determined to strangle fossil fuels more seriously than Obama ever did. Halting the Keystone XL pipeline in mid-construction was an unprecedented step. It is one thing to block a permit application for a project, but a president had never before stopped a private sector construction project that was already under way. And while the administration lacks the power to halt fracking in private or state land, proposed new regulations for “fugitive emissions” of methane could significantly hobble fracking activity, which is the intent. The administration is slow-walking permits for oil and gas production on federal lands, and expanding its regulatory chokepoints for oil and gas production finance.

Once again reality has intruded upon the climate fanatics’ green dreams, in the form of energy shortages and price spikes, but most especially the Ukraine crisis which has revealed the folly of dependency on despotic regimes for oil and gas. Even irresponsible governments, which are most of them, have turned on a dime. Germany has abruptly reversed course on its Energiewende (green energy revolution) by making plans to keep coal-fired electricity sources online longer, while France is going to expand its nuclear power capacity and Britain is going to relax its hostility to fracking for natural gas. (According to one recent estimate, one-quarter of British households will be unable to afford their skyrocketing energy costs by the fall.)

Here in the United States, coal production was rising even before the Ukraine crisis, after falling during the Trump administration, because the price of natural gas has been rising. The limits of “green” energy are starting to bite hard, such as in California, which now has retail electricity rates twice the national average.

The TVA: something government got right.

By far the most embarrassing news for the climate campaigners in the U.S. is the news that the Tennessee Valley Authority, the electric utility for the southeastern U.S. that is an appendage of the federal government, has decided to invest heavily in new natural gas generation rather than wind and solar power. The New York Times reported recently about how TVA was “undermining Biden’s climate goals”:

The nation’s largest federally owned utility plans to invest more than $3.5 billion in new gas-burning electric plants, despite President Biden’s commitment to swiftly move away from fossil fuels and eliminate greenhouse gases from the power sector in a little more than a decade... In its deliberations about replacing coal-fired generators, the T.V.A. found that solar or other zero-emissions sources would be less dependable and more expensive than gas.

The TVA decision makes clear what every serious energy analyst knows—that even large amounts of solar and wind power require significant natural gas backup capacity to secure electric grid reliability. The Agency knows that you can’t replace old coal power plants with windmills and solar panels alone, despite what the green energy fanatics say. But that’s not the end of the reality check. The Times also notes:

It marks the second time in recent months that a federal entity has clashed with Mr. Biden’s climate agenda. The United States Postal Service is replacing 165,000 aging mail trucks with mostly gasoline-powered vehicles, despite the desire of the White House and leading Democrats to convert the fleet to all-electric vehicles.

The Times isn't alone in noticing these anomalies. Bloomberg Green blasted the headline, "Biden Embraces Oil as Ukraine War Overwhelms His Climate Agenda." This is more than a simple case of hypocrisy being the tribute that vice pays to virtue, or just as embarrassment to the Biden White House. The failure of federal government entities to conform to the climate crusade ought to be a clear sign to private sector utilities, traditional energy producers, and state regulators charged with electric grid stability that we have reached the limits of energy nonsense.

Practical Solutions to Pretend Problems

Let us assume, for the space of at least one column, that your not-so-humble correspondent agrees with the proposition that mankind’s increasing use of fossil fuels has released an unhealthy amount of heat trapping compounds into the atmosphere – primarily in the form of carbon dioxide.

People from Al Gore to Leonardo DiCaprio to Greta Thunberg cry that we are in the midst of a “climate crisis.” A few years ago AOC declared that we had only twelve years left to fix the “crisis” or else mankind was doomed. Just about every Democrat, and a disturbing number of Republicans, accept this point of view.

I don’t agree that we are in the midst of a “climate crisis,” along with millions of fellow scientists and a great many non-scientists. But let’s assume – for the sake of argument – that we’re all wrong. Let’s put aside our personal risk assessment and say that the “climate crisis” is real, that the world is in grave danger and that if we don’t do something to reduce carbon dioxide emissions substantially and immediately, there will be hell to pay. How would we react?

Apocalypse soon. Maybe. Some day.

If this is truly a “crisis”, shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to solve it? If a fire breaks out in your home, you do everything you can to put it out as quickly as possible. You grab a fire extinguisher. You turn on a garden hose. You use a rug to smother the flames. Etc.

You don’t do nothing. Sure, you can call the fire department, but if there are actual things you can do to mitigate the damage before firefighters arrive, without putting your life in danger, you do them. Using the fire extinguisher, or garden hose, or rug might result in some property damage that you will have to clean up later, but so what? Better cleaning up a mess than rebuilding your home once it’s a charred pile of rubble.

Were the climate crisis as bad as Al, Leo, Greta et al. assure us it is, wouldn’t you think they would do anything and everything to combat it? There a lot of actions individuals can take and a lot of programs that politicians can advocate that could have and still can make massive reductions in fossil fuel use. They are easy and unlike most actions that "climate change" alarmists demand of us, they are not costly to average citizens.

You rarely, if ever, hear about these alternatives in the Mainstream Media or among politicians who buy into the “climate crisis” narrative. The universal message on the Left (and all messages on the Left these days are universal – dissenters will be cancelled) is that all energy generation moving forward must be “renewable” and thus “sustainable." Practical and achievable are not features at issue.

Their formula involves a mix of wind power, which is unreliable; solar power, which is spectacularly unreliable outside of a very limited number of locations; and large-scale battery-storage, which has moved from the realm of “insanely impractical and expensive” to “crazily unreasonable and costly” after decades of research.

Not there when you need it.

Maybe there are other things we could do that could meaningfully reduce carbon dioxide emissions? Maybe some of those things are a lot less expensive than the windmill-solar -battery approach? Maybe they’re even practical? Let’s consider a couple of practical actions that alarmists could have and still can advocate if they truly believe that the “climate crisis” is real.

Like most of my fellow boomers, I grew up without air conditioning. Yes, those 100 + degree days in July and August sucked, but we got through them. People can deal with heat. If every member of the Sierra Club, every liberal celebrity and every Democrat pledged never to use air conditioning again, the savings in energy and the reduction in carbon dioxide emissions in the United States would be huge. So, why aren’t they taking this hit to save the planet?

In general, most fossil fuel generated power is produced using one of two thermodynamic “cycles”: the Rankine Cycle, which uses the heat generated by combustion of a fossil fuel to turn water into steam, which then spins a turbine to generate power, and the Brayton Cycle, which uses the expansion of gas to directly spin a turbine to generate power.

A boiler uses the Rankine Cycle. Burning a fuel such as coal or natural gas creates heat. That heat is transferred to pipes through which flows liquid water. The liquid water is vaporized to steam, under pressure. The steam then carries enough energy to spin a turbine that produces power.

Gas turbines, like jet engines, use the Brayton Cycle. Burning a fuel such as natural gas or kerosene makes the fuel expand in volume significantly. This expansion produces enough energy to directly spin a turbine that generates energy.

Kids today...

Both the Rankine Cycle and the Brayton Cycle are about 30 -35 percent efficient. That is, for every 100 units of energy you put into the system, you get about 1/3 the energy back in the form of useful power. But, that math changes when you combine the two cycles. There are plants in the U.S. that burn natural gas to generate power through the Brayton Cycle, and then use the heat of the expanded gases to spin a turbine generator. This heat is used to generate steam from liquid water, which spins another turbine, effectively taking advantage of the Rankine Cycle.

A plant that uses a the Brayton Cycle to spin a turbine directly and the Rankine Cycle to spin a steam turbine is called a “combined-cycle plant.” This type of plant is about twice as efficient as any other type of fossil-fueled power plant. An administration that seriously wanted to reduce domestic fossil fuel use would have subsidized and advanced reliable combined-cycle power plants rather than shoving unreliable, expensive, “sustainable” forms of power generation like wind and solar down our throats.

But, we know that the “Climate Crisis” charlatans are not even close to serious about their messaging. If they were, they would have introduced the two simple concepts above into the discussion. If they were, they would have also talked about the roles of Red China and nuclear power in any energy discussion—ideas we’ll discuss in a future column.

Big Oil's 'Greed' Is Not the Problem: Biden Is

Earlier this week, President Biden announced that the U.S. would ban all imports of Russian oil in response to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. While many struggle to understand Putin’s rationale for the invasion, Biden’s unwillingness to increase domestic energy production, while instead courting enemies of democracy such as Iran and Venezuela, is equally confounding.

Instead of reaching out to the American energy industry to quickly reach production levels necessary for energy independence, Biden has relentlessly attacked and browbeaten the industry. His disregard of commodity-based economies aside, his besmirching of an entire industry reveals a divergence of values that should not be ignored. Truth and reason on one side and obfuscation and deception on the other. His assertions that the high prices Americans have been experiencing since he took office are the result of industry greed and Putin’s 12 days of tyranny in Ukraine defy reality and are untrue.

Working in the oil and gas sector requires a corporate and personal constitution not needed in most industries. Commodity-based industries are cyclical and intrinsically more volatile than traditional consumer markets. Spot prices reflect the price of a commodity more or less in real time while the futures  are exchange-traded derivatives contracts that lock in future delivery of a commodity or security at a price set today. The suggestion by Biden that greed drives that process impugns not only the energy sector, but any commodity-based industry, including agriculture and mining. His assertion oversimplifies a complicated relationship between these commodity-based sectors with manufacturing, transportation, and an array of consumer services that together represent the U.S. economy.

Who's your whipping boy?

But to the degree obfuscation and deception does exists in the energy sector, it doesn’t emanate from producers. Rather, it is governments that seek to manipulate and unfairly benefit from energy policies.

Consider what happened leading up to the recent Olympics. In order to clear the filthy skies of Beijing ahead of the Olympics, President Xi and his CCP cronies ordered smelters to shutter. While clearing the skies for a couple weeks to avoid international scorn, the mandate more significantly created a regional drop in demand for the coking coal. If smelters can’t smelt, then they obviously don’t need coking coal. This drove down coking coal prices by about thirty percent in the Chinese market, affecting producers around the world.

Closer to home, the Biden administration now seeks to forcibly move Americans into electrical vehicles, foist wind farms and solar panels into a field near you, while lying about the ability for those "renewables" to produce enough energy to fuel the economy. Simultaneously, his policies have sought to reduce the domestic supply of oil and gas so as to bring those prices into parity with the higher-priced alternative sources. Given that neither wind nor solar can or will ever come close to supplying the energy needs for a modern economy, this is a recipe for civilizational suicide.

Biden began his effort on his very first day in office by dismantling energy distribution networks like the Keystone XL pipeline. Already well under construction, he unilaterally canceled the project via executive order. His department of Interior and Energy are currently slow-walking permits for a slew of liquid natural gas (LNG) terminals that could be producing the natural gas Germany now so desperately needs to free itself from Russia’s grasp. Further, his agencies have increased the complexity of regulations so as to increase the cost to oil and gas producers, making many projects too expensive to complete. And perhaps most insidiously, he has urged institutional investors to not invest in oil and gas projects, limiting the amount of capital the industry can access. Together, these efforts constitute a policy that is intended to detrimentally impact supply, resulting in higher prices for everything.

Nice work, champ.

When President Biden took office, the U.S. was producing more energy than it needed, making it a net exporter. The price for a gallon of unleaded gas in the U.S. was about $2.19, depending on where one lived. As of this writing, the average is nearing $4.35, and continues rising. The previous administration understood that energy independence was an important and necessary element of American national-security strategy, and sought to create a situation in which the consumer benefited from lower prices—as the energy sector, which benefits from price stability.

The success of this strategy stemmed from a combination of a dedicated and skilled work force, technical innovation, regulations focused on safety, stable production costs, an abundance of investment capital, and market dynamics that supported global demand. Thanks to shale oil production, by the end of 2019, the U.S. was producing 1.5 million barrels per day more than what is being produced in the U.S. today.

While there have been multiple price peaks since 1979, including in 2008, and steep dips, including in 2016 and 2020, for the past two decades the average price for a barrel of oil has been $69.73. The industry has become comfortable with prices around $70-$80 per barrel (BBL) because it established guard rails of a sort, inside of which producers could reliably focus on production volume, not just price. This $70-$80 per barrel price point offers a good balance between low retail prices for consumers and the ability for producers to effectively manage their oil and gas assets while realizing sufficient revenue.

From the minute a well is producing, volume declines. Aware of the decline curve, producers must analyze the market in order to balance the price for which they'll sell a barrel of oil or metric ton of gas, against the cost and time it takes to acquire and permit the assets, complete the technical analyses of the assets, raise the necessary capital, allocate the requisite labor and equipment, and transport the oil and/or gas to market. That process, and the intellect, aptitude, and timing it takes to be successful in the effort, is nothing short of amazing. Until Biden took office, it was a process that had allowed Americans economic security, food security and national security. His policies have deliberately jeopardized that for all Americans.

And then what happens? Biden—who flies around the world on Air Force One and travels with a vast, gasoline-powered motorcade wherever he goes—blames Putin and the war in the Ukraine for the high prices you're currently paying, and accuses the oil and gas sector of greed.  

We Used to Be Energy Independent: What Happened?

While responding to reporters about Russia’s incursion into Ukraine two weeks ago, President Biden committed that his administration was using every tool at its disposal to protect American businesses and consumers from rising prices at the gas pump. “I will do everything in my power to limit the pain that the American people are feeling at the gas pump.”

This would’ve been spectacularly good news for every American and the larger economy were it actually true. But as one considers the U.S.’s current energy policy, implemented when Biden took office, it is clear that Vladimir Putin’s attack on Ukraine will end up delivering precisely what the Biden administration itself has been working so furiously to achieve over the last year: higher domestic energy prices. Putin has inadvertently become the scapegoat and gift the Biden administration desperately needs to explain away increasing domestic energy prices that began at least eight months before Putin ever stepped foot on the stage in Ukraine.

When the Biden Administration took office, it unleashed a dangerous “Mandate and Moratorium” strategy, a green jihad of sorts against the U.S. energy sector. The strategy was simple-- create supply constraints for domestic oil and gas producers by dismantling distribution systems, tightening regulations, and suspending leases and permits, therefore impacting future drilling activity. Co-conspirators like Black Rock’s, Larry Fink, then jumped in by urging institutional divestment from the oil and gas sector and wielding a pseudo-sophisticated set of investments standards known as environment, social and governance  (ESG). The strategy was topped off with the complicity of social media and tech’s intolerance for a diversity of ideas, ensuring Americans couldn’t discuss the flawed energy policy, let alone dissent from it.

How much longer can this go on?

Biden’s anti-oil strategy has necessarily created a dangerous dependence on foreign producers, such as Russia. Higher prices for oil and gas, in the Biden narrative, deliver greater price parity with alternative energy sources like wind and solar, a "reality" toward which this administration demands American consumers must move. To the administration, economic "pain at the pump" has been its objective since taking office and is considered a positive turn of events. National security, food security, and economic security were never part of their calculus.

While announcing a suspension of the importation of Russian oil and gas yesterday, the administration is merely planning to swap one U.S. adversary with others, including Iran and Venezuela, both sidekicks of Russia. In all cases, the Biden strategy is to import oil and gas from anti-democratic, totalitarian regimes instead of relying upon the American energy sector to close the supply-and-demand gap that currently exists.

These adversaries of American democracy will use the funds received through Biden’s oil purchases to harm the country and our allies. The U.S. buys oil from our Russian-backed adversaries. Russian-backed adversaries use those proceeds to attack the U.S. America buys more oil and gas from Russian-backed adversaries… and so it goes. While on this merry-go-round of madness, the administration needs to consider the threat that walking away from domestic energy independence represents to the nation's short and long-term economic vitality and security.

But how did the U.S. get into this desperate position, when as recently as 2020 the U.S. was energy independent? What did the Biden administration do when it entered office that Congress should now seek to undo in the face of higher prices that began over eight months ago?

I did what?

From its first moments in office, the administration has sought to destroy the U.S. energy sector by using administrative rules and orders that circumvent Congress, and therefore the need to garner political consensus. The administration has aggressively hidden behind regulatory edicts at various federal agencies rather than defend their energy strategy publicly. Such tactics represent an overreach of the executive branch that has now exposed our nation to threats from foreign actors intending to dismantle western democracies. Congress must assert its power by requiring congressional ratification of all new regulations annually.

By destroying our energy independence, the administration also weakens the middle class and establishes a permanent underclass, reliant on government handouts and blocked from the opportunity and privilege that historically has been a beacon to the world. Guided by bad ideas, the administration has sought to diminish our economic security, food security, and energy security, while insisting it has the interest of America at heart. But consider the changes for which the Biden administration is directly responsible since taking office:

Say it ain't so, Joe.

The Biden “Moratorium and Mandate” energy policy was foisted upon the country with a sophomoric and malignant understanding of economics and a bias toward using alternative-energy sources exclusively. Without consideration for the actual role oil and gas plays economically and geo-politically, the Biden administration now seems willing to bet the well-being and future of America on a campaign slogan.

In the meantime, you're paying for it at the pump.

Ethanol for Cows, not Cars

How's this for a headline?

Reuters:

Corn-based ethanol, which for years has been mixed in huge quantities into gasoline sold at U.S. pumps, is likely a much bigger contributor to global warming than straight gasoline, according to a study published Monday. The study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, contradicts previous research commissioned by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) showing ethanol and other biofuels to be relatively green....

“Corn ethanol is not a climate-friendly fuel,” said Dr. Tyler Lark, assistant scientist at University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Sustainability and the Global Environment and lead author of the study. The research... found that ethanol is likely at least 24% more carbon-intensive than gasoline due to emissions resulting from land use changes to grow corn, along with processing and combustion.

Of course, as the piece helpfully reminds us, the U.S. Renewable Fuel Standard mandates that our oil refiners blend roughly fifteen billion gallons of corn-based ethanol into our gasoline per year, ostensibly for the sake of combatting carbon dioxide initiated "anthropogenic climate change." It turns out that, in the nearly two decades it has been in place, the Renewable Fuel Standard has actually increased the amount of carbon in the atmosphere!

Now, this story will have a familiar ring to it for regular readers of The Pipeline. Over the past two years we've covered the environmental (as well as the economic) costs of electric vehicles, solar panels, wind farms, biomass and other passions of the environmentalist left. Every item of that list has downsides that either mitigate or obliterate their supposed environmental benefits.

But that isn't to call them failures. That would be to assume that saving the environment was their main purpose. To be sure, there are sincere environmentalists. But for the men and women running the show, the environmentalist movement is an investment. Its monetary returns -- driven by cronyist mandates such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and massive "green energy" subsides -- are enormous. And then there's the cultural capital they accrue for the time and effort they put into saving the world from "climate change."

As studies like the one above show, the environment would be better off without them.

Oxymorons and Morbid Attachments

It’s approaching breakfast time in Australia on 25 January. Avid wind-watcher Rafe Champion reporting:

Wind addicted South Australia is importing half of its power from Victoria and 94 percent of the local generation is gas. Wind turbines are running at 2 percent of capacity and providing 5 percent of demand. Victoria is generating a small excess of power [mainly from coal] but not enough to prop up South Australia without help from Tasmania and New South Wales. Across the national electricity network wind is delivering 3.7 percent of consumption, fossil fuels are delivering 83 percent (coal 75 percent).

Close your eyes and imagine the entire world without coal, gas and oil. If you imagine in their stead thousands of modular nuclear power stations dotted around the globe, relax. While you probably need counselling on the practicalities of supplying affordable and reliable energy in the immediate decades ahead, you don’t have acute symptoms of a novel psychological affliction. To wit, a morbid fear of cheap dispatchable power and, its mirror image, a morbid attachment to rude living.

We had it coming.

To the afflicted, cheap dispatchable power means travel and gadgets galore for humans to enjoy. This isn’t the world they envision. To them it’s a dystopian nightmare. Hence their understandable terror at the prospect of its metastasising. Correspondingly, it’s no wonder that they’re smitten by unaffordable and unreliable energy. Out of the resulting deprivation, they see the noble savage emerging ready to live parsimoniously in harmony with nature.

Ask almost anyone in the street. Ordinary people. Normal people. None will like the idea of living parsimoniously. Certainly, when it’s explained to them.

When I was a boy, me mum used to wash our clothes, bedsheets and towels by hand in the bath; mangle them, then hang them on the clothesline outside even in the deepest English winter. Electricity usage zero. Mind you, mum used hot water heated in a boiler next to our coal fire or by gas on the stove top. Carbon footprint there, I suppose. Vandalism. She should have used cold water to be absolutely green-minded and parsimonious.

Today all kinds of labour-saving, communication and entertainment gadgets abound. They will be prised only out of cold dead hands. And not just gnarled hands. Make no mistake, those jet-setting climate-warrior hypocrites and their handmaidens are not about to forsake a smidgeon of indulgence.

How in the world do they get away with it? That is the question. Why isn’t net-zero laughed off the stage? Smoke and mirrors. That’s why. The truth is hidden. It’s hidden by baseless claims of green nirvanas. Job creation is the poster child.

Angus Taylor is Australia’s federal government “minister for industry, energy and emissions reduction.” His job description is a double-barrelled contradiction in terms. But all of those propagating the received wisdom are intent on the populace seeing them as oxymorons. Even among those who’ve never heard of Shakespeare’s sweet sorrow; who wouldn’t know an oxymoron from a contradiction in terms; and, incidentally, who might benefit from Danny DeVito’s masterly teaching.

Oxy this, you moron.

To expand. Juxtaposing both industry (the thriving thereof) and energy (the affordability and reliability thereof) with emissions reduction is meant to instill confidence that all is well with the world. Thus, effectively, we are meant to view "carbonless energy" and "carbonless industry" as oxymorons. That is to say, thunderous silence is more silent than plain silent. So, carbonless energy is cheaper and more abundant than just plain old energy. Carbonless industry is more competitive and job creating than just plain old industry. Grammar and propaganda working in sync to underpin the big sell.

Other countries have different set ups. But, within western governments these days; as, for example, in the U.K. and in the U.S., energy, industry and climate-change policy are caught under one broad umbrella, as though they are mutually supportive with no hint of conflict. And who’s to gainsay? No one of note at a political level. They’re predominantly likeminded.

It’s the real plague of our age. Political opposition has withered. Combatting climate change is a shared hysteria across the political aisles. It’s exactly the same thing with combatting the Wuhan virus. There’s no mainstream opposition. For the most part in Australia at a state and federal level, the usual charge against governments is that they’re not being hysterical enough. If you get the occasional reservation, it’s at the margin or from powerless mavericks.

Our system of government depends upon there being robustly opposing political forces. In Australia, Canada and the U.K., Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, puts the imperative into words. They’re not idle words.

Two things thrive in the absence of opposition. Foolishness and despotism. We are seeing both in full bloom in the response to Covid. So far climate policy is simply replete with foolishness. Watch out for despotism when people refuse to follow the parsimonious script, grids collapse and blackouts ensue.

Not hysterical enough.

Back to Angus Taylor. He recently took delight in a ship leaving port for Japan carrying hydrogen made using brown coal. Reportedly, the CO2 was captured and stored in a reservoir. No comment on the extent of capture, how leaky, how expensive, how scalable. What he said is that “clean hydrogen is a fuel of the future [and] the government is investing more than $1.3 billion to accelerate the development of our local hydrogen industry.” And did he promise jobs? Needless to ask, “over 16,000 jobs by 2050 plus a further 13,000 jobs from the construction of related renewable energy infrastructure.”

Notice something across jurisdictions. Renewable energy creates job galore. No mention of jobs lost. It’s all gain and no pain in the imaginary renewable energy world. This is the way hearts and minds are lulled. But real life is confronting and salutary. As my opening shows, unlike Esteban in Kill Bill II, wind is not susceptible to flattery. Neither will clean hydrogen become cheap and abundant on the wish and prayer of governments.

We are told by Taylor that “the government is determined to supercharge the [hydrogen] industry even further to support our plan to reach net zero emissions by 2050.” There you have it. Nothing is impossible for a determined government armed with taxpayer dollars. Didn’t Barack Obama promise to quell the rise of the oceans among other wonderous feats and derring-dos? Job all done then, surely?