Bio-Fools 'R' Us

Over at The American Conservative, Michael Fumento has a piece on one of the great environmentalist boondoggles of our time, namely biomass. Regular readers of The Pipeline will be familiar with the biomass sham, where wood pellets and other biological material are burned in place of fossil fuels, with the implicit understanding that by being "natural" these energy sources are simply better than coal, oil, or natural gas.

Fumento does a good job of picking this often unstated argument apart and exposing the sleight of hand at the heart of it:

Biomass generally benefits from confusion over two vastly different terms that often are used interchangeably: “renewable” (or sustainable) and “carbon free.” Both appeal to the touchy-feely, warm and fuzzy set, but they are not necessarily the same.... Woody biomass is clearly “renewable,” whereas technically fossil fuels are finite.

This is, of course, because we can always plant more trees, whereas, in his words, "Even if enough fossil fuel reserves were found to last a thousand years, nay a thousand thousands, finite means finite." It is upon this distinction that environmentalists have justified classifying biomass as "green energy."

On its face, the formula for biomass burning is simple. While the wood or other plant material is growing it absorbs carbon dioxide, then upon burning it’s released. So it all balances out and is a net zero emitter.

But this is misleading -- trees absorb and store carbon over the course of decades, while burning them as biomass releases that carbon right now, in one fell swoop. The timeline makes a huge difference. And beyond that, this remains an apples and oranges comparison. Biomass supporters are pushing it not because it is supposedly part of a cycle of balanced carbon absorption and release, but rather as a replacement for carbon intensive fossil fuels. And yet:

Woody biomass burning releases 65 percent more carbon dioxide per megawatt hour than modern coal plants and an amazing 285 percent more carbon dioxide than natural gas combined-cycle power plants, which use both a gas and steam turbine together.

So tell me again, in what sense is biomass 'carbon neutral?'

Carbon boogeyman gonna get'cha!

Moreover, environmentalists never engage with the fact that burning biomass creates actual pollutants (which carbon dioxide is not), "including particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, lead, and mercury." Fumento points out that the United States and Europe have made tremendous strides towards reducing these air pollutants over the past few decades, significantly improving our air quality. Biomass cuts against those improvements.

So what is the rationale behind the green movement's embrace of biomass? Well, it is partially that they need to propose a reliable fuel source to fill the gaps left by wind and solar. We can't make the wind blow or the sun shine, but any time we want we can certainly chop down a few hundred year old trees for energy.

But that is another way of saying that the motive is P.R., and that's true from multiple angles. Intermittent power looks bad for the environmentalist cause, so they need a controllable source of energy. But also, energy megacorporations (Fumento singles out the British energy giant Drax Power PLC) have found it convenient to repurpose their coal-fired power plants for biofuel as a way of both improving their image (an act known as "greenwashing") while also collecting government subsidies for "green energy."

So biomass really is a boondoggle in the truest sense of the word, in that it's a scam whose object is the parting of fools from their money. Unfortunately, in this case, the fools are us.

Lord Percy and the Green Climateers

Skint and owing £1000, Lord Blackadder faces the wrath of the perverted Bishop of Bath and Wells and the fate of being buggered by a red-hot poker. Valiantly trying to save him by making gold, his incredibly dim-witted friend Lord Percy instead makes ‘pure green’. Not gold! Blackadder points out.

Think of Percy’s quest as a metaphor for the quest of today’s climate activists. Instead of gold, they’re after carbonless energy. Alchemy rethought through a climate prism. And, to boot, with a religiously-convicted single mindedness. Pure "green."

Consider the attitude of those working for the myriad of agencies in each western country dedicated to completely greening the production and consumption of energy. I’m not a mind reader, but in Australia I can’t spot doubt. Just group-think. No evidence of robust internal debate. None escapes into public view in any event. Presumably no one is hired who doesn’t fit the mould.

Catastropharians all -- skeptics shunned -- they’ve fixed on their fanciful quest without at all questioning its feasibility. Percy’s problem. Fortunately, Blackadder found another way. If sense is not soon restored, we might be stuck with pure green and, figuratively speaking, with Blackadder’s blazing nemesis.

One way to appreciate the infeasibility of decarbonisation is to lay bare the fantastical plans for its achievement; by whichever climate agency, in whichever country. Incidentally, this is not necessarily straightforward. Common to all plans are grand visions and longwinded bafflegab. Thus, I was unsurprised to learn of the length of New York’s Draft Scoping Plan to radically reduce emissions. All 330 pages plus appendices were released on December 20.

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Everything’s bigger in New York. So, Australia’s reports tend to be shorter but remain competitive in the visions and bafflegab stakes. Which brings me to Australia’s equivalent of the DSP, the Integrated System Plan (ISP) to transform the production and consumption of energy. This plan, released also in December, was issued by the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO); the agency responsible for keeping the lights on.

The ISP is just ninety-nine pages long. Even so, I admit to not reading it all. Too little fortitude. However, the eight-page executive summary suffices to reveal its innards. Net-zero by 2050 is the goal of course but, to ease concern, we are told that power will remain “affordable, reliable and secure.” Take it to the bank. Every pie-in-the-sky plan to do away with fossil fuels contains the same placating, empty assurance.

The plan calls for ‘delivered electricity’ to nearly double by 2050; from 180 terawatt hours (TWh), to 330 TWh. Bear in mind, we are told, this electricity is needed “to replace much of the gas and petrol currently consumed in transport, industry, office and domestic use.” And this, seriously folks, without coal and natural gas which presently account for about 75 percent of electricity generation.

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To stretch credulity even more, the forecast in the plan of how much electricity will be required by 2050 looks way too low. The economy will at least double in size over the next 28 years, under conservative assumptions about immigration and per-capita economic growth. But hold on. I'm assuming, naively perhaps, that people in 2050 are still enjoying unrationed heating and cooling, red meat, freedom of personal travel, and other dissolute pleasures.

And from unreality to beyond, the plan contemplates, without quantification, the need for even more additional electricity power to make hydrogen. Readers are referred to another AEMO report called 'Hydrogen Superpower'. Yep, Australia along with many other countries, intends to be a superpower in producing and exporting green hydrogen. Why the additional electricity? Well, to make green hydrogen, lots of electricity is lost in translation. How is all this extra electricity to be generated?

Note, excluding the hydrogen bit, by “a nine-fold increase in utility scale variable renewable capacity.” Meaning in common parlance, nine times the current number/size of wind and solar farms. Where will they be built?

Much of this resource will be built in renewable energy zones (REZs) that coordinate network and renewable investment, and foster a more holistic approach to regional employment, economic opportunity and community participation.

Blue-collar workers and their families can relax. Look forward to holistic experiences. Starry-eyed boys and girls with university degrees have the conn.

Also required, we’re told, is “a five-fold increase in distributed photovoltaics capacity [and] substantial growth in distributed storage.” To again interpret, this means many more solar panels on roofs, complemented with household battery storage. Are there enough bribable and/or willing roof owners?

I presume this hypothesised blanketing of land with turbines and solar panels has been fed into a computer model. Hence, I’ll gullibly take it as given that on a good day all of this wind and solar infrastructure, in the extremely improbable event it is ever built, together with existing hydro, would do the job. But then there’s night, and stormy days and nights, and windless days and nights.

According to the plan, three times the current amount of standby power, equal to 620GWh, will be required to underpin the system. Or to put it into plan-speak: “significant investment is required… to treble the firming capacity that can respond to a dispatch signal.”

Again, I have no informed view about the numbers being spat out. But just suppose the envisaged standby power is not enough. Modelling has been wrong before, I vaguely recall; and wind capricious. Result blackouts? Am I being vexatiously querulous?

And a little child shall lead them.

Apropos the wind- and sun-dependent state of South Australia over the Christmas to New Year week. Renewable energy hit a peak of 130 percent of demand, a trough of just 4 percent and everything in-between. Not unusual. Is that any basis for delivering dispatchable power, adults might once have asked? Ah, the old days, when common sense had a look in.

Where is the so-called firming to be sourced? Gas is in the mix but, as the plan says, “over time, its emissions will need to be offset, or natural gas will need to be replaced by net-zero carbon fuels such as green hydrogen or biogas.” These zealots are not for compromising.

What else is in the mix? Predominantly batteries and pumped hydro. Good luck in getting dams built to supply additional pumped hydro. Environmentalists detest new dams as much they detest coal and human fecundity. Finally, demand responses are brought into play to help manage peak loads. A euphemism for rationing supply.

Shambles ahead, from Sydney to New York. Indelicately speaking, I foresee the Bishop of Bath and Wells, poker in hand, ready to collect a debt.

'Rumble thy Bellyful! Spit, Fire! Spout, Rain!'

In politics as in markets the tough question is not whether there’s going to be a crisis—believe me, there is—but when. Getting it right too soon or too late is to get it wrong. That remark could be about any kind of crisis, but in what follows I’m discussing the West’s crisis not over global warming but over the energy policies intended to solve it.

For the last two years The Pipeline has been predicting that the drive for a carbon-free world was certain to run into political trouble when the voting public began to realize that it would mean horrendous costs for them in higher taxes, bigger energy bills, electricity blackouts, and unpleasant life-style choices (i.e., no meat, fewer vacations abroad, and colder homes in winter).

What looms ahead, we’ve been warning, is an inevitable clash between the supposedly irresistible force of Net-Zero policies and the immovable object embodied in a democratic political system. It’s taken time for the crisis to arrive, but it began to hit the fan last fall when the wind across Western Europe failed to blow as strongly as its electricity grids needed; continued with the failure of the COP26 climate change conference in Glasgow around the same time; and is reaching its climax with the combination of cold weather, rising energy prices, and signs from Russian president Vladimir Putin that he might soon be turning off the gas pipelines which provide Western Europe with half its energy.

Blow winds blow. Or in this case, don't.

Here are two early signs that this is producing political second thoughts about climate change orthodoxy in European government circles:

  1. The European Commission proposes to declare that nuclear power is now a “green” and “sustainable” fuel and therefore eligible for various subsidies and investment incentives across the E.U. The Commission’s own technical experts oppose this judgment; it will be contested by several E.U. governments' and by the Greens in Germany’s new coalition government; but there is a good chance it will get through. That will not end the dispute, however, because the Commission’s proposal is a violation of one of the deepest commitments of both the environmentalist and climate emergency movements which until very recently have been growing in political clout. So watch what happens when the full E.U. council of ministers meets on this.
  2. Tory MPs have been pressing the U.K. Treasury to lighten the consumers’ burden of energy prices swollen by the levies imposed by the government on energy utilities to subsidize their switch from fossil fuels to “renewables” (i.e., wind and solar—neither of which have been very cooperative in Britain lately). In response to this pressure from their colleagues, other Tories (led by a former minister for science and universities) have founded a backbench committee to push the case for Net-Zero. They are likely to have the support of prime minister Boris Johnson who has made Net-Zero a flagship policy of his administration. But that policy is at odds with his other flagship policy of “leveling up” the Northern English constituencies the Tories won from Labour in 2019 with a massive (anti-Green) infrastructure building program. And as I outline in detail in National Review Online Boris is in deep trouble with almost all factions of his party because so many of his policies irritate them, Net Zero especially. A battle royal is looming in the Tory Party on it. It’s hard to forecast which side will come out on top.

That’s a huge change because almost all governments and parties in Europe pledged themselves to support tough carbon emissions reduction twenty years ago. How did they sustain this? In place of a democratic conversation between politicians and the voters in elections, the parties substituted a conversation between themselves, business, and what they called “civil society” which is a nice-sounding name for NGOs, which itself a synonym for pressure groups, usually in this context Green ones.

Ben Pile who’s that rare pollical animal—a climate-skeptical activist on the U.K. Right—points out that this common position deprived the voters of democratic choice over climate policy. But that common front can’t really be sustained when the voters start to get genuinely worried about whether they can pay the bills and taxes that the policy requires. Then you get what the sociologists call a "preference cascade" as the voters wise up and start protesting first the consequences, then the policy, in an impressive cascade as they realize that many others share their opinions.

Let the cascade begin!

That happened with Brexit. It’s happening now. It’s what’s supposed to happen in democracies. And it should logically be followed by a change of policy. Indeed, almost everywhere Net-Zero has been offered to the voters, they have rejected it—most recently in a Swiss referendum that asked them if they would pay higher taxes in order to meet Net-Zero targets. They voted no.

But the powerful economic and ideological interests that support climate alarmism have already set in place barriers to any change of mind by the voters. The first such barrier has been constructed by an alliance of capitalist fund managers and banking regulators—among them former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg and former Bank of England governor Mark Carney—which seeks to compel investors to accept lower rates of return on their savings by, in effect, stopping the flow of funds to fossil-fuel companies. Their argument is that as fiduciary guardians and regulators respectively they have duty to protect these investments from the undue risks that fossil fuels represent. It is a ludicrous argument, exploded on this website a year ago, by among other arguments this knockdown refutation from economist John Cochrane:

Relative market demand for fossil vs. alternative energy is as easy or hard to forecast as anything else in the economy. Exxon bonds are factually safer, financially, than Tesla bonds, and easier to value. The main risk to fossil fuel companies is that regulators will destroy them, as the ECB proposes to do, a risk regulators themselves control. [My italics.]

And indeed, in the months since then, fossil fuels have strongly outperformed the market, owing ironically, at least in part, to the kind of policies that Carney and Bloomberg advocate, which have encouraged the European energy crisis and the corresponding sharp rise in demand for oil, gas, and even coal. It is probably too much to hope that the Green Grandees will now have second thoughts.

At about the same time, Ambrose Evans-Pritchard, writing in the Daily Telegraph, was pointing to the second barrier to democratic re-thinking on climate: legal warriors are busily weaponizing international law, in particular human rights law, to obstruct democratic governments in their pursuit of policies to guarantee cheap and reliable energy supplies:

There has been a cascade of judgments based on the UN Convention, the European Convention on Human Rights, or national constitutions. They are compelling governments to act faster than they had planned, or are capable of doing without resorting to revolutionary economic and social measures. [My italics.]

Mr. Evans-Pritchard is sympathetic to the aims of the climate legal warriors on the grounds that they represent the judgment of mankind expressed in the policies of more than a hundred governments. But do they really represent the judgment of mankind?  Or merely the convictions of passionate minorities who exploit the somnolence of most citizens in order to rig the rules of politics and law so that when the majority wakes up, it will be unable to express its conscious and deliberative second thoughts in the voting booth with any practical effect.

We may be about to discover that.

In the meantime, here’s a tip on how to deal with people who tell you that climate change is too important to be left to the voters in democratic elections. Ask this question:

“Okay, I’ll accept that on one condition: Tell me the policy so vital to the world’s well-being that you would accept the decision of a non-democratic junta of experts to carry out the opposite of the policy you want."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gone Green with the Wind

There are few things more beloved of "conservationists" than the environmental devastation caused by wind farms. In Australia, a 2019 project atop Mt. Emerald in Northern Queensland, at first greeted as a great leap forward for "green energy," is now causing major concern. What had once been pristine wilderness, noted environmentalist Steve Nowakowski with dismay, "is now basically a quarry site. That landscape will never come back."

Apparently, he had no idea that many other wind farms were under construction or planned for the same geographical area; some on tracts of unspoilt country. That really gets under the skin of your average environmentalist of yesteryear. “It’s really out of control… and no one knows about it," he said.

That's the price of progress, apparently. Michael Moore’s 2019 documentary movie Planet of the Humans captures the dilemma. Unsightly, costly, acreage demanding, bird-killing, child-labor-using and, to boot, unreliable thus needing nasty fossil-fuel backup. What true greenie would like them? Anyway, it's far fewer humans that they really want, not more energy, whatever the source.

There are no offshore windfarms yet in Australia. One advanced proposal is to build one in the Bass Strait, off the coast of Gippsland in South East Australia. The problem? Birds. One fisherman not only pointed to the danger to migratory birds but also to the effect on fishing. Birds are such good fishermen, he said, “we watch them, and we know where the fish are.” There you go, process it as you will.

But wherever you figuratively fish, on land or sea, from Evia in Greece, where they will “ruin acres of ancient forests;” across the Atlantic to the U.S., where Robert Bryce writing in Forbes in September claimed that 317 wind projects had been cancelled due to environmental concerns; and onwards across the Pacific to Australia, environmentalism has a schism.

Look out above.

Expect the list of rejected wind farms to grow. For example, in recent times, a Southern Tablelands farm in New South Wales was rejected because of its “visual impact on residents.” And one in central Queensland because of its “potential impact on threatened native animal species, including the koala.”

“The faux environmentalist is easy to spot: he loves industrial wind power and couldn’t care less about the environmental destruction it causes,” said one environmentalist. Internecine struggles are afoot. Such struggles, like civil wars, are usually ugly

You wonder what those supporting renewable energy think will happen to pristine land and coastal waters. In 2019 wind accounted for 2.2 percent of the world's primary energy consumption. And if it gets to only a modest 22 percent, where exactly do they think these tens upon tens of thousands of square miles of wind farms are going to go?  Thankfully, not before time, the opposition's growing.

The Perils of Consensus: Beware 'Climate Change'

Many today believe that the globe is heating up and that something must be done to prevent a looming apocalypse. Carbon is ravaging the planet and fossil fuels must be replaced by wind and solar. The science is apparently settled. Yet predictions of global devastation have predictably failed for as many years as we can remember. Wind and solar are prohibitively costly, land defiling, and almost entirely unreliable, as every significant study has shown.

Important books by top-tier scientific investigators like Bruce Bunker (The Mythology of Global Warming), Rupert Darwall (Green Tyranny), Bjorn Lomborg (False Alarm), Michael Shellenberger (Apocalypse Never), and John Casey (Dark Winter) credibly put paid to the accepted narrative of rising seas and falling skies—though such books seem to have gone unread. Here in Vancouver, BC, winter came early this year, with temperatures clearly falling—we were bundling up in October; yet, it is difficult to get people merely to observe and assess for themselves, given sensationalist and misleading news reports to the contrary.

Consensus is always moot, regardless of how many people adhere to a general theory or a global assumption, as Charles Mackay has definitively shown in his classic study Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds and Eric Hoffer has laid out for us in The True Believer, an analysis of mass movements and the dynamics of fanaticism. It’s hard not to get swept along when we are told every day by our news anchors, newspaper editors, digital platforms, elected politicians and “science guys,” who have their own agenda of profit and power, that flood, fire and hurricane are our imminent future, that icebergs are melting by the minute and polar bears are starving, that Pacific islands are sinking, and that millions of people are about to starve. The overwhelming consensus of our experts and authorities cannot be accidental or wrong, can it?

But consensus is a funny thing. It can change unpredictably, very much like our weather reports. Paradigms tend to shift rapidly. Not so long ago, we might recall, we were all getting ready to freeze. As I indicated in a previous article for The Pipeline, in 1971 the Global Ecology network forecast the “continued rapid cooling of the earth.” In 1975 the New York Times brooded that the earth “may be headed for another ice age.” In the March 1975 issue of Science, we were informed that “the approach of a full-blown 10,000-year ice age [was] a real possibility,” and in the July 1975 issue of National Wildlife, C.C. Wallen of the World Meteorological Organization warned that “the cooling since 1940 has been large enough and consistent enough that it will not soon be reversed.” (Much of this information can be found in a provocative Forbes article by Gary Sutton).

Turn the calendar page and we are all getting ready to bake. As Robertas Bakula explains in The American Institute for Economic Research, dodgy statistics, ideological zealotry and partisan massaging of data work to falsely establish that “the scientific consensus on the human origins of climate change is beyond doubt.” Nothing could be further from the truth. He continues: “Thus it is not surprising to see an array of messiahs, from honestly concerned activists to self-righteous politicians, gather in their congregations, prophesize doomsday, and come up with their genocidal plans to banish all evil, that is, reliable energy.” 

Coming to a planet near you.

The original consensus may have been closer to the truth. Climatologist Kenneth Tapping of the National Research Council of Canada concluded in 2008 that sunspot activity, the driver of global temperatures, had diminished to the point of presaging the onset of colder winters and widespread cooling. Global warming was a temporary phenomenon. A decade later, The Science Times reported that it would appear the earth is indeed cooling, signaled by “a surprisingly long period of very low sunspot activity.” A decreasing number of sunspots is crucial, leading to changing climate cycles and declining temperatures.  

Such events were experienced during a period known as the Dalton Minimum (1790-1830) and earlier during the Maunder Minimum (1645-1715), established from data based on carbon-14 content in tree rings. Both minima were synonymous with the Little Ice Age (1350-1850).

As Brian Fagan writes in The Little Ice Age, evidence for the period derives from radiocarbon dating of dead plant material collected from beneath the ice caps of Greenland and the Arctic. In the words of Historical Climatology, “growing seasons shortened, food shortages spread, economies unraveled, and rebellions and revolutions were quick to follow.” This suggests the time may now have come for political caution and scientific revaluation of the warming hypothesis. As the journal Phys.Org observes, “The sun is now on track to have the lowest recorded sunspot activity since accurate records began in 1750.”

Further corroboration is provided by Arnab Rai Choudhuri’s fascinating study Nature’s Third Cycle, which explains the daunting complexities of “solar dynamo theory” and “meridional  circulation inside the sun’s convection zone,” furnishing evidence for drastically reduced sunspot activity and the prospect of cooling summers and harsh winters to come. Although “precise theoretical calculations are hardly possible in climate science,” Choudhury remarks, we seem to be heading toward a cryogenic future, utterly unprepared to adopt contingency plans to adjust to and cope with colder temperatures and its attendant miseries—a condition that Choudhuri calls “the verdict from the Sun-God.”

Old and busted: "global warming."

The debate will continue to rage. The science is quite definitely “unsettled,” as Steven Koonin, a moderate among climatologists, tells us in his book of that title. In his just released Hot Talk, Cold Science, Fred Singer believes that “modest warming is likely to occur in the century ahead,” and that it should be welcomed. Carbon is our friend.

Brian Fagan, whose knowledge of the Little Ice Age is unquestionable, is a true believer in global warming and the advent or “record-breaking heat, mild winters [and] Category 5 Hurricanes.” Unlike Singer, he stresses that global warming must be mitigated. Energy and Technology scientist Peter Taylor’s Chill: A Reassessment of Global Warming Theory, which appeared ten years before Fagan’s volume, is a penetrating antidote to Fagan’s consensus thinking.

The prestigious Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, for its part, vigorously disagrees with both Singer and Fagan. “Our main message,” it proclaims, “is that global climate is moving in a direction that makes abrupt climate change more probable… and the consequences of ignoring this may be large. For those of us living around the edge of the N. Atlantic Ocean, we may be planning for climate scenarios of global warming that are opposite to what might actually occur.” Resistance to the prevailing narrative of thermogenic catastrophism is growing. 

In its November 23 edition, The Epoch Times reports on an interview with British scientist Valentina Zharkova, a member of the department of Mathematics, Physics and Electrical Engineering at Northumbria University, who foresees “the onset of a grand solar minimum between 2020 and 2053 [that could] reduce global temperatures by up to 1 degree Celsius.” Zharkova warns that “governments in the Northern Hemisphere should prepare their citizens for a sharp downturn in temperatures during the next several decades.” She also believes that some scientists involved in promoting global warming are aware of the prospect of terrestrial cooling, but want to profit from green technology “as soon as possible, because they will be exposed very quickly.”

Into the sunny uplands of Green! Maybe.

Admittedly, the dilemma of consensuality is not easily resolved. One can only go with the best evidence available after diligent inquiry and honest appraisal, aided by a certain saving skepticism. As Peter Taylor advises, “I would urge these people uneducated in science to trust their ability to think for themselves and to use this material to open up discussion and further study.” Whenever one hears the word “consensus” in the news or on any Internet site, a warning light should flash where the idea bulb is presumably located.

In the present circumstance of cold fury and heated controversy, the global cooling hypothesis is well attested by reputable scientists who do not depend on academic approval and government grants serving to promote a political ideology—and who are regularly censored as iconoclasts and purveyors of “misinformation” by social media and the influential digital platforms, generally a sign that a maverick truth is being deliberately suppressed. However unsettled the issue remains, they are worth attending to.

A Magic-Pudding Antipodean Plan to Reach Net-Zero

The Liberal and National Parties form Australia's current coalition government. As leader of the Nationals, the junior coalition partner, representing regional and rural areas, Barnaby Joyce is Australia’s deputy prime minister. He came to global attention, you may recall, in 2015 when he threatened to “euthanise” Johnny Depp’s illegal-alien dogs, Pistol and Boo, unless they were removed tout de suite back to California.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison needed Barnaby to bring the Nationals onboard the concept of net-zero. The supposedly right-of-centre Liberal politicians all now embrace climate change. Morrison himself has no philosophy except to be re-elected. Barnaby is a climate skeptic as are some of his party colleagues. But they voted, and pragmatism won the day.

Nirvana ahead! All aboard!

What does pragmatism look like? In this case, twelve Nationals against nine voting in their party room to keep the government together and heighten their chances of being returned to power when the federal election is held early next year. Was there any high principle or conviction involved? Hardly.

This is Barnaby just a little over a year ago: “prospects of getting out of that [party] room as leader [having agreed to net zero] would be zero.” And here he is a few days ago on October 25: “The party has clearly said that they are in favour of a goal of net zero by 2050. I am now absolutely onboard…”

What we have is the deputy prime minister of the country being personally opposed to the very centrepiece of government policy; a policy that will define the battle lines in the forthcoming election. He should resign you might think. Not if you like being deputy prime minister.

There is an excuse of sorts for all of this. Morrison needed to go to Glasgow promising net-zero or risk Australia's becoming an international pariah and suffering retribution from international capital markets. It’s expedient for the U.K., Europe, the United States, woke corporates, and billionaires to point the finger at Australia (less than 1.2 percent of global emissions). No good blaming much bigger fish: China, India, Russia. They’ll shrug it off or, worse, take umbrage. Better to pick a more compliant mark. Kick the cat, so to speak. And Boris Johnson repaid Australia’s redemptive compliance by calling it “heroic.” Morrison purred.

If he only had a brain.

My own view is why stop at net-zero? Go for broke, gross-zero. Anything is possible with Morrison’s costless plan. It won’t cost Australians a cent and will lead to higher incomes and more jobs, he promises. I don’t know why it wasn’t thought of before now. Years ago. And surely, logic says, if net-zero is so beneficial, gross zero would be even better?

The costless plan involves public spending of many billions of dollars; though, apparently, Australian taxpayers won’t be touched for the tab. It’s one of those magic-pudding plans (“The more you eats the more you gets”) which more than pays for itself. So, what is the plan?

Here it is below in a nutshell. It has to be in a nutshell. There are no costings or details.

First, the plan banks the fact that emissions are already 20 percent lower than in 2005. I don’t quite know how that works. Never mind, most of another 40 percent comes from green hydrogen. Australia’s former chief scientist, Alan Finkel, says that the export potential “is almost beyond imaginings.” He’s right, for once. It is beyond imaginings. It’s worthwhile to continually remind ourselves why coal, oil and gas, of which Australia has plenty of the first and third, are so good. It’s because they are the energy. Dense energy. They readily burn without much ado.

Green hydrogen is only energy once much more energy is expended making it into energy. To begin with, energy is required to purify copious quantities of water. To end with, energy is required to convert hydrogen to ammonia, for safe transportation, and to convert it back for use. In the middle is an energy intensive electrolysis process to isolate hydrogen from water. And all the while, solar farms and wind turbines occupying vast areas of land are needed to supply “clean” energy to make it all possible.

Quite apart from its sheer inefficiencies and costs, and assuming it can be done at all at scale, it poses untenable national-security problems. When all of your power plus fuel for transport is sourced from untold acreages of solar panels and wind turbines, the targets are expansive and unmistakable and the effect of them being hit is catastrophic.

Sitting ducks.

The hallmark of the plan, its electoral selling point, is net zero through "technology not taxes." Ergo, another 15 percent of the descent to net-zero is achieved by piggybacking on global technological developments, which are apparently afoot. Yes, I’m not quite sure what that means either. Another 10 percent comes from storing carbon in soils and plants and from buying offsets from abroad. The final 15 percent comes from unknown technological breakthroughs. Something will turn up. Not making this up. I’m essentially quoting from the plan, if not Mr Micawber his own good self.

The plan, of course, isn’t a plan at all; it’s a wish list. Hopes and dreams. Suspend disbelief, and you will be able to look forward to 2050 when there will be more than 100,000 more jobs than would otherwise exist. Each Australian will be $2,000 better off. Electricity bills will be lower than they are today. Australian exports will more than triple between 2020 and 2050, even though global demand for coal and gas will plummet.  Hydrogen will more than take up the slack. Warp-speed travel will also take Australians to the stars and beyond. I made that last bit up. It isn’t in the plan; unlike the rest of the faery tale.

All isn’t fantasy. Realism breaks through when it comes to methane. Australia is one of the few countries which has more cows and (many) more sheep than it has people. Awa’ to Glasgow and pressure on Australia to reduce methane emissions by 30 percent on 2020 levels by 2030. Apparently, Biden’s handlers are keen. Suspecting, I imagine, that Trump supporters eat lots of hamburgers.

Cows belch methane; as do sheep to a lesser extent. And there is little you can do about it apart from culling. Barnaby and his mates would never agree to that. Millions of disappeared animals is just too tangible. Best to remain in technological never-never land where nothing is remotely tangible. Pay no attention to the men behind the curtain.

Erin Go Bragh?

For reasons that are mysterious to those who know Irish history, the Irish think of themselves as an almost uniquely virtuous people. That self-appraisal first became evident when Irish nationalist history began presenting the nation as—in the words of skeptical revisionist historian Ruth Dudley Edwards—“the most oppressed people ever” or MOPE. Since the present age is one that worships the cult of victimhood, the most oppressed people ever have morphed easily into the most virtuous people ever. And because today’s dispensers of accolades of virtue are overwhelmingly woke progressives in politics and culture, the most virtuous people ever were soon encouraged to think of themselves as the most progressive people ever. (Those who would like a bracing corrective to this sentimentality with an edge of amnesia are advised to read the columns of Kevin Myers passim).

Currently essential requirements for internationally virtuous progressivism are a patriotic devotion to the European Union and a passionate attachment to all forms of Green politics. The Irish seem to score higher than anyone else by these tests. Indeed, this last week has seen the Irish government—composed as it is of Ireland’s two major “legacy” parties, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail—demonstrate a bipartisan conversion to the E.U.-backed international consensus that all governments should adopt a minimum corporate tax rate of fifteen percent.

Love it, hate it, tax it.

That conversion represents an astounding reversal of Ireland’s long-term economic strategy of attracting investment from multinational corporations with much lower rates—an economic strategy that has been largely successful and been declared irreversible by both parties many times. Yet it was abandoned with almost no prior debate and almost no subsequent controversy, as Irish Times columnist David Quinn has pointed out.

“Roma locuta, causa finita”—Rome has spoken, the debate is settled—used to be quite literally the motto of Irish governments in the bad old days of De Valera’s Catholic Republic. In the new modern progressive Ireland, however, an almost identically rigid rule—Brussels locuta, causa finita—applies to decisions of the European Union. And that includes decisions that the Brussels bureaucracy has taken but not yet formally managed to get into European law. Why bother when the subject nations prevent their own oppression “by a timely compliance”?

Superficially at least the same seems to be true of Green politics. In the run-up to the COP26 Climate Change Conference in Glasgow, few peoples are as pleased with their own deep-green commitments as those governed from Dublin. As political editor Pat Leahy reported in the Irish Times: Ireland’s Parliament “has passed legislation requiring the Government to reduce carbon emissions by 7 percent a year, leading to a reduction of 51 per cent by 2030.” That’s a massive commitment—one that would impose real sacrifices on ordinary Irish people—but a massive poll last year showed that the voters thought climate change posed a catastrophic threat to them and their way of life. A massive threat justifies making massive sacrifices to keep it at bay, right?

Well, as it turns out, no.

Mr. Leahy reports that according to a very recent Irish Times poll, when you break down massive sacrifice into specific burdens caused by policies the government may soon introduce, people become much less willing to bear the pains. Its general import can be seen in the following examples. Large majorities opposed higher taxes on energy and fuel (82 to 14 percent), making it more expensive to buy cars (72 to 23 percent), higher property taxes for homes that are not energy efficient (69 to 23 percent), reducing the size of the national cattle herd (60 to 25 percent), and running the risk of interruptions of electricity supply (81 to 13 percent.) Even higher taxes on air travel were firmly nixed (53 to 40 percent.) In fact the only proposal for greater sacrifice that got an actual majority (60 to 24 percent) was “allowing more land to be used for wind energy/turbines”—and it’s likely that this idea was supported by landowners who expect to be well-subsidized for their sacrifice and opposed mainly by wildlife enthusiasts. It doesn’t directly affect many other people.

Despoiling the Irish countryside in order to save it.

I don’t suppose that most of my readers will be too shocked by this. Most polls in other countries have similar results, confirming that people’s willingness to make painful financial sacrifices declines in proportion as the reality of the sacrifices increase. Why did the government not notice the same thing?

My guess is that they knew there’d be trouble—just not quite so much trouble—for an understandable reason. When all the major institutions of society (including both major parties and the media) support even a painful policy, controversy over it gets damped down. The voters aren’t alerted to what’s coming down the pike. That’s what happened when Ireland abandoned its lucrative low level of corporate taxation, and government spinmeisters may have calculated it would happen again with Green taxes and higher energy bills.

The difference between the two cases isn’t that abandoning Ireland’s low corporate tax strategy won’t hurt multinational investment, Ireland’s economic growth, and thus the voters’ prosperity. It will hurt all three, but it will do so gradually, moderately, and above all imperceptibly. Higher electricity and property taxes, electricity supply interruptions, and unaffordable vacation flights, on the other hand—well, people notice that kind of thing. And when they do, they conveniently forget that they had once expressed a noble willingness to endure pain to avert climate catastrophe. Instead they doubt that the catastrophe is as urgent as the need to keep their homes heated, their cars running, and their tax bills moderate.

In the next two weeks we’ll have the run-up to COP-26 in Glasgow. We may then see how much raw virtue democracy can take in any country. The Irish are unlikely to feel ashamed by comparisons.

Reality Bites the Green Movement

Thomas Friedman had a very strange column -- even for him! -- in the New York Times recently entitled “A Scary Energy Winter Is Coming. Don’t Blame the Greens.” The headline captures pretty well what Friedman obviously wanted to say, namely that the exploding energy prices we are already beginning to see, and the shortages that Europe, especially, is bracing for, are not the fault of the environmentalist movement. But Friedman seemed to struggle making any kind of a case to that effect. Perhaps that's because there is none -- environmentalism really is at the heart of the matter, if not the whole of it. So he just sort of talks around the problem, and his ramblings are ultimately rather revelatory.

Friedman begins by fretting that the mounting crisis will, 1- "[M]ake Vladimir Putin the king of Europe," 2- Empower Iran to build atomic weapons, and 3- (apparently worst of all) cause blackouts in the U.K. during the upcoming U.N. climate conference in Glasgow, embarrassing the all-in-on-wind government of Boris Johnson. Friedman is very aware of how bad things are shaping up to be:

Natural gas and coal prices in Europe and Asia just hit their highest levels on record, oil prices in America hit a seven-year high, and U.S. gasoline prices are up $1 a gallon from last year.

He's concerned about predictions that this might be an especially brutal winter, and quotes with alarm a recent newsletter by market analyst Bill Blain who said simply, “This winter [in Great Britain and Europe] people are going to die of cold." But then Friedman articulates the thought which seems to central to his foreboding: If these concerns are realized, he says, "I fear we’ll see a populist backlash to the whole climate/green movement."

I'm glad he's got his priorities straight.

Tom Friedman, green as ever.

This type of thinking is so typical of the environmentalist approach to the real world problems that arise from the relentless pursuit of their ideological goals. Governments around the world have been giving way to their pressure for years, mandating the transition to unreliable energy sources and creating increasingly onerous regulatory hurdles the traditional resource industry must meet.

But then the wind stopped blowing and the sun didn't shine enough and scaled-back production meant the oil and gas companies didn't have enough product in storage. At which point Friedman & Co. say, not 'We screwed up,' but 'The populists are going to say we screwed up!' It's never the Green movement's fault.

Now, perhaps I'm being unfair to Friedman -- he does suggest that developed nations have attempted to transition to renewables too quickly, and criticizes the clearly foolish decision of the Merkel government in Germany to shut down all of its nuclear power plants by next year ("an overreaction to the Fukushima nuclear accident," he explains). Even so, his solution to the current problem includes "a carbon tax in every major industrial economy" and using nuclear power and natural gas as a bridge to wind and solar power. Sounds like just more of the same to me.

Green is the New Black

The entire industrial world is suffering from needless energy shortages caused by efforts to  precipitously switch from conventional  fossil fuels. It’s not true that simply mandating a switch from reliable power sources to intermittent wind, sun, and water will make the change workable when we need it. There’s scarcely a place in the modern world that will not be feeling the high cost and discomfort of a shortage of energy supplies and their increasingly soaring prices. Lebanon already is. Due to a shortage of oil, the two power plants that supply 40 percent of that country’s electricity simply shut down recently.

It’s an extreme case, but even the United Kingdom, the E.U., the U.S., and China are running up against diminishing ability to obtain the necessary energy supplies to keep things running smoothly. Nature has a way of fouling up such plans. Some of the shortages are due to accidents, like the cutting of an undersea cable to the U.K.; some are due to flooding of mines (China has closed down some mines because of it);some are due to draught in other places like America’s West which at the best of times has limited hydropower; some is due to extreme cold or lack of wind that has limited wind power; some is due to hurricanes which shutdown Gulf oil refineries.

These things are not exceptional occurrences, but reasons why redundancy must be built into energy planning. But most of these shortages are due to green policies and stupid political choices, ironically shutting down oil and gas-fired power plants and fossil fuel exploitation and transport at the demand of the greens, who grossly overestimate both global warming and the ability of air, sun, and water to take their place. Indeed, just today the Biden administration announced a new federal project to develop wind farms in American waters, including one near New York City.

Hard to kill King Coal.

Ironically, this means coal -- the dirtiest possible fuel -- is back in huge demand. The U.S. has lots of it, but the greens forced closing of most of the mines and mining is today a highly skilled job requiring substantial training. The miners who left for other work, are not easily replaced so that source is now not readily available to take up the demand.

Despite an import ban on Australian coal, China relented and has begun unloading Australian coal because of an extreme power crunch. Coal is now in demand in Europe as gas prices soar and the E.U.’s energy policies are in large responsible:

The ideological split will drive a wedge between the European Union, a long-time champion of a coal phaseout, and corporate interests as market conditions favour gas-to-coal switching. The switching ratio has slid in coal’s favour in the last weeks of June 2021 and judging by the current futures structure, it will stay in place until at least Q2-2022...

The current coal demand surge should force the European Union to reconsider its position on coal -- as polluting as it might be, it could still help alleviate energy crunches across Europe when the situation demands it. As things stand today, the upcoming four years would see at least seven countries phasing out coal: Portugal (2021), France (2022), UK (2024), Hungary, Italy, Ireland and Greece (all 2025). As Europe has seen nine consecutive year-on-year increases in aggregate coal burns, perhaps more switching flexibility and less bans could still be the way forward.

It’s no secret that the cleanest most reliable fuel – nuclear -- was murdered by the greens (except in France where Macron refuses to shut it down). Then natural gas, the second cleanest, became their target, so now many places are desperate for coal, the dirtiest option.

Was there any point to the war on fossil fuels? Probably not. Judith Curry, one of the most reliable climate researchers, explains how even the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) admits finally that the dire climate models off of which they were working were in substantial error.  The latest report from the IPCC indicates previous models were predicting a hotter climate than warranted.

A substantial number of the CMIP6 models are running way too hot, which has been noted in many publications. In its projections of 21st century global mean surface temperatures, the [report] provides ‘constrained’ projections (including climate models with reasonable values of climate sensitivity that reasonably simulate the 20th century).

GCMs [Global Climate Models] clearly have an important role to play particularly in scientific research.  However, driven by the urgent needs of policy makers, the advancement of climate science is arguably being slowed by the focus of resources on this one path of climate modeling.  The numerous problems with GCMs, and concerns that these problems will not be addressed in the near future given the current development path, suggest that alternative frameworks should be explored.

The shortage of energy supplies is causing food prices to rise, in fact, everything from food to  gasoline to heating and cooling is becoming more expensive. Inflation is not the only rational worry connected to energy shortages. Scarcities in everything from adhesives and paints to auto parts  are already showing up. Russia which is now a major natural gas supplier for Europe  is not only growing richer for the reduction of its usual  energy sources from elsewhere (and Europe’s incomprehensible reduction of its conventional sources) but it has now a more powerful lever to bend the gas dependent E.U. to its will. 

The Russians are coming, the Russians are coming.

Polling to date has shown people are generally in accord with their propagandized perception of the ill-considered green agenda, but unwilling to pay higher prices and undergo impoverishment to fund it . Expect continued pressure on the government leaders who bowed to the green propaganda (often because it allowed them to shovel government revenues to favored friends and donors) to now shift gears. Even the pork-rich proposed budget framework of the Democrats, contains a unanimously adopted provision to bar implementation of the Green New Deal, an amendment to prevent the promulgation of regulation to ban hydraulic fracturing -- fracking -- which made this country a global leader in oil and gas production, and two amendments barring the Agriculture Department from denying financing to fossil-fuel burning power plants and regulating emissions from farm animals.

It’s a small beginning to what will likely be a multi-national citizen pushback against this nonsense. The one thing politicians worldwide prize over everything else is retaining their personal power, and it’s looking more and more like the Green New Deal will either falter or a lot of political leaders who fell for this irrational program will be shortly out of office.