Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Scott Pruitt signals new post-Obama era at EPA with Alaska's Pebble Mine decision

The Obama administration didn't wage war just on coal. In addition to that hydrocarbon, the Environmental Protection Agency took aim at copper, gold, and another element called molybdenum. But under Trump, the government may make peace with the Periodic Table.

The EPA settled a lawsuit with the Pebble Limited Partnership Friday, reversing a longstanding campaign to stop groundbreaking on a massive copper and gold mine in Alaska's Bristol Bay region. Promising economic news, it signals to industry leaders how Trump's EPA will function.

While the EPA and the Pebble mining company have asked the U.S. District Court in Alaska to drop the lawsuit, despite an emerging narrative, the federal agency has not given industry a free hand in the region.

"The agreement will not guarantee or prejudge a particular outcome," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt stressed in a statement, "but will provide Pebble a fair process for their permit application and help steer EPA away from costly and time-consuming litigation."

Put another way, Pruitt signaled that the EPA would, you know, start following the rules. Maybe that sounds boring but it represents a radical departure from Obama-era operating procedure.

In a bold and unprecedented move, Obama's EPA issued a preemptive veto of the proposed mining project. Something like 15,000 jobs and $180 million in annual taxes, according to an IHS Global Insight Study, stayed in the ground as a result. The EPA never even gave the company a chance to make its case.

According to emails obtained by the Washington Post through the Freedom of Information Act, EPA officials weren't just enforcing the law, they were coordinating with anti-mine groups to kill the mine. Months before getting involved officially, the EPA was trading emails with Alaskan tribes to coordinate the opposition.

In one Jan. 8, 2010 email, one lawyer literally asked the EPA for "suggestions, revisions or edits" to a petition asking the agency to stop the mine. Other records, WaPo reported, show the EPA accepting scientific assessments from outside groups to incorporate into their environmental review.

No doubt that charming correspondence and collusion will end under Pruitt. But oversight will not. As the Washington Examiner reported Friday, the Pebble company must still apply for a Clean Water Act from the Army Corps of Engineers. In other words, they can restart a lengthy process, one that the Alaska Dispatch News predicts might not even be finished before 2020.

No doubt a lengthy fight is still looming. But for the first time, all parties involved will know that the EPA will at least be fair.


Big Wind Gets Spanked in Michigan


Citizens in 20 localities rejected wind-power expansion.

Big Wind’s lobbyists and promoters love to claim that their projects are being welcomed by rural communities everywhere. The reality is rather different. Last Tuesday, voters in 20 rural towns in Michigan went to the polls and rejected or restricted the expansion of wind energy.

Furthermore, those same Michigan voters soundly rejected two projects being promoted by the world’s largest producer of wind energy, NextEra Energy — which, as I discussed on this site last week, has been suing rural governments in multiple states (two of them in Michigan) while at the same time collecting billions of dollars in federal tax subsidies.

Big Wind’s worst drubbing occurred in Sand Beach Township, in Huron County, where voters approved modifications to a township ordinance that will effectively ban wind development. The vote tally: 413–80. In addition, Lincoln Township voters approved an initiative that will allow it to form its own planning commission, a move that will make it far more difficult for wind projects to be developed in the township. Sand Beach and Lincoln were among 18 townships in Huron County that gunned down Big Wind’s expansion plans. (Huron County is about 130 miles due north of Detroit.) Voters in the other 16 townships went to the polls as a group and rejected two projects, including a 60-turbine project proposed by NextEra and a 70-turbine project being pushed by DTE Energy. Both proposals lost by a margin of 63 to 37 percent.

I recently talked to Kevon Martis. He is the founding director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, a group based in Blissfield, Mich., that works with rural governments in the Midwest that are resisting the encroachment of Big Wind. He was exultant. “Huron County has more than 400 turbines,” Martis said. “If wind energy is so great, why didn’t the county voters choose to have more of them?” Martis went on, saying that NextEra and DTE probably spent more than $500,000 on their efforts to get voters to approve their projects while the anti-wind forces “might have spent $3,000 or $4,000.”

Big Wind also lost on ballot questions in Marlette Township in Sanilac County and in Almer Township in Tuscola County. In Marlette, voters approved, by a margin of 53 to 47 percent, a zoning amendment that will toughen an ordinance governing wind-energy projects.

To be sure, these results haven’t been reported by mainstream media. But then, the fact that rural communities from Maine to California are rejecting Big Wind doesn’t fit the popular media’s narrative that wind energy is “green.” The Michigan results expose the fictions being peddled by Big Wind’s multitude of lobbyists. Tom Kiernan, CEO of the American Wind Energy Association, who has refused to answer my e-mailed questions regarding the backlash against the wind industry, recently claimed that wind energy “boosts rural American economies in unmatched ways” and that “83 percent of Americans support more wind.” In March, Kiernan’s AWEA colleague Susan Sloan claimed that “the idea that rural America doesn’t want wind power, that’s just not what we’ve experienced.”

The fact that rural communities from Maine to California are rejecting Big Wind doesn’t fit the popular media’s narrative that wind energy is ‘green.’

Perhaps Kiernan and Sloan should visit Almer Township, where voters rejected a NextEra-backed ordinance that would have weakened the town’s zoning ordinance. As I noted in these pages last week, Almer is one of five rural governments that have been sued by NextEra since last October. Almer residents, who are defending themselves against NextEra’s lawsuit in federal court, voted against the wind giant’s proposal by a margin of 55 to 45 percent.

NextEra can afford its courthouse mugging of small towns like Almer and Hinton, Okla. (population: 3,000), because it is gorging on federal tax subsidies. Between 2008 and 2015, according to a recent report by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, NextEra accumulated profits of $21.5 billion but didn’t pay a dime in federal income taxes. Nor does it appear that NextEra will be paying federal taxes anytime soon. In its 2016 10-K filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company reported $3 billion in tax-credit carryforwards, an increase of $143 million over its 2015 numbers.

Norm Stephens, a retired schoolteacher who lives in Almer and opposed the project, told me of the vote total, “It’s huge. We are sending a message.” But he quickly added, “NextEra is not going away. There’s too much money involved.”

The vote totals in Michigan add to my ongoing tally of the rural backlash against Big Wind. Thus far this year, 37 government entities in ten states have moved to reject or restrict wind-energy development. More rejections and restrictions are coming.


UK: Wind is an irrelevance to the energy and climate debate

Even after 30 years of huge subsidies, it provides about zero energy

The Global Wind Energy Council recently released its latest report, excitedly boasting that ‘the proliferation of wind energy into the global power market continues at a furious pace, after it was revealed that more than 54 gigawatts of clean renewable wind power was installed across the global market last year’.

You may have got the impression from announcements like that, and from the obligatory pictures of wind turbines in any BBC story or airport advert about energy, that wind power is making a big contribution to world energy today. You would be wrong. Its contribution is still, after decades — nay centuries — of development, trivial to the point of irrelevance.

Even put together, wind and photovoltaic solar are supplying less than 1 per cent of global energy demand. From the International Energy Agency’s 2016 Key Renewables Trends, we can see that wind provided 0.46 per cent of global energy consumption in 2014, and solar and tide combined provided 0.35 per cent. Remember this is total energy, not just electricity, which is less than a fifth of all final energy, the rest being the solid, gaseous, and liquid fuels that do the heavy lifting for heat, transport and industry.

[One critic suggested I should have used the BP numbers instead, which show wind achieving 1.2% in 2014 rather than 0.46%. I chose not to do so mainly because that number is arrived at by falsely exaggerating the actual output of wind farms threefold in order to take into account that wind farms do not waste two-thirds of their energy as heat; also the source is an oil company, which would have given green blobbers a excuse to dismiss it, whereas the IEA is unimpleachable But it's still a very small number, so it makes little difference.]

Such numbers are not hard to find, but they don’t figure prominently in reports on energy derived from the unreliables lobby (solar and wind). Their trick is to hide behind the statement that close to 14 per cent of the world’s energy is renewable, with the implication that this is wind and solar. In fact the vast majority — three quarters — is biomass (mainly wood), and a very large part of that is ‘traditional biomass’; sticks and logs and dung burned by the poor in their homes to cook with. Those people need that energy, but they pay a big price in health problems caused by smoke inhalation.

Even in rich countries playing with subsidised wind and solar, a huge slug of their renewable energy comes from wood and hydro, the reliable renewables. Meanwhile, world energy demand has been growing at about 2 per cent a year for nearly 40 years. Between 2013 and 2014, again using International Energy Agency data, it grew by just under 2,000 terawatt-hours.

If wind turbines were to supply all of that growth but no more, how many would need to be built each year? The answer is nearly 350,000, since a two-megawatt turbine can produce about 0.005 terawatt-hours per annum. That’s one-and-a-half times as many as have been built in the world since governments started pouring consumer funds into this so-called industry in the early 2000s.

At a density of, very roughly, 50 acres per megawatt, typical for wind farms, that many turbines would require a land area [half the size of] the British Isles, including Ireland. Every year. If we kept this up for 50 years, we would have covered every square mile of a land area [half] the size of Russia with wind farms. Remember, this would be just to fulfil the new demand for energy, not to displace the vast existing supply of energy from fossil fuels, which currently supply 80 per cent of global energy needs. [para corrected from original.]

Do not take refuge in the idea that wind turbines could become more efficient. There is a limit to how much energy you can extract from a moving fluid, the Betz limit, and wind turbines are already close to it. Their effectiveness (the load factor, to use the engineering term) is determined by the wind that is available, and that varies at its own sweet will from second to second, day to day, year to year.

As machines, wind turbines are pretty good already; the problem is the wind resource itself, and we cannot change that. It’s a fluctuating stream of low–density energy. Mankind stopped using it for mission-critical transport and mechanical power long ago, for sound reasons. It’s just not very good.

As for resource consumption and environmental impacts, the direct effects of wind turbines — killing birds and bats, sinking concrete foundations deep into wild lands — is bad enough. But out of sight and out of mind is the dirty pollution generated in Inner Mongolia by the mining of rare-earth metals for the magnets in the turbines. This generates toxic and radioactive waste on an epic scale, which is why the phrase ‘clean energy’ is such a sick joke and ministers should be ashamed every time it passes their lips.

It gets worse. Wind turbines, apart from the fibreglass blades, are made mostly of steel, with concrete bases. They need about 200 times as much material per unit of capacity as a modern combined cycle gas turbine. Steel is made with coal, not just to provide the heat for smelting ore, but to supply the carbon in the alloy. Cement is also often made using coal. The machinery of ‘clean’ renewables is the output of the fossil fuel economy, and largely the coal economy.

A two-megawatt wind turbine weighs about 250 tonnes, including the tower, nacelle, rotor and blades. Globally, it takes about half a tonne of coal to make a tonne of steel. Add another 25 tonnes of coal for making the cement and you’re talking 150 tonnes of coal per turbine. Now if we are to build 350,000 wind turbines a year (or a smaller number of bigger ones), just to keep up with increasing energy demand, that will require 50 million tonnes of coal a year. That’s about half the EU’s hard coal–mining output.

Forgive me if you have heard this before, but I have a commercial interest in coal. Now it appears that the black stuff also gives me a commercial interest in ‘clean’, green wind power.

The point of running through these numbers is to demonstrate that it is utterly futile, on a priori grounds, even to think that wind power can make any significant contribution to world energy supply, let alone to emissions reductions, without ruining the planet. As the late David MacKay pointed out years back, the arithmetic is against such unreliable renewables.

MacKay, former chief scientific adviser to the Department of Energy and Climate Change, said in the final interview before his tragic death last year that the idea that renewable energy could power the UK is an “appalling delusion” -- for this reason, that there is not enough land.

The truth is, if you want to power civilisation with fewer greenhouse gas emissions, then you should focus on shifting power generation, heat and transport to natural gas, the economically recoverable reserves of which — thanks to horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing — are much more abundant than we dreamed they ever could be. It is also the lowest-emitting of the fossil fuels, so the emissions intensity of our wealth creation can actually fall while our wealth continues to increase. Good.

And let’s put some of that burgeoning wealth in nuclear, fission and fusion, so that it can take over from gas in the second half of this century. That is an engineerable, clean future. Everything else is a political displacement activity, one that is actually counterproductive as a climate policy and, worst of all, shamefully robs the poor to make the rich even richer.


Global Warming Claims and the So-Called Consensus Are Betrayals of the Scientific Method

Joseph D'Aleo
Crowds marched again for Earth Day. Many were really marching in anger because their candidate lost. Some probably feared what would happen to their benefits when the bloated government bureaucracy is forced to shrink. Others showed the typical march disdain for democracy, which gives them the right to march and protest. Others were deluded into thinking a critical mission they supported to save the planet was threatened.

The book “Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds” was a study of crowd psychology by Scottish journalist Charles Mackay, first published in 1841.

It was mentioned by astronomer Carl Sagan, Professor and Director of Cornell University’s Laboratory for Planetary Studies and host of the series “Cosmos: A Personal Voyage.”

Sagan explained the scientific method and encouraged critical and skeptical thinking. He emphasized the importance of recognizing the difference between what is considered valid science and what is in reality pseudoscience.

Sagan, like fellow Cornell physicist/lecturer Richard Feynman, argued that when new ideas are offered for consideration, they should be tested by means of skeptical thinking and should stand up to rigorous questioning. Feynman lectured:

"If a theory or proposed law disagrees with experiment (or observation), it’s wrong. In that simple statement is the key to science. It doesn’t make any difference how beautiful your guess is, it doesn’t matter how smart you are who made the guess, or what your name is… If it disagrees with experiment, it’s wrong. That’s all there is to it."

Sir Karl Popper, an Austrian-British philosopher and professor, is generally regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of science of the 20th century. Popper is known for his rejection of the classical inductivist views on the scientific method, in favor of empirical falsification: A theory in the empirical sciences can never be proven, but it can be falsified, meaning that it can and should be scrutinized by decisive experiments.

See in this chapter of “Historical Perspectives on Climate Change” (2005) by James R. Fleming, Professor of Science, Technology and Society at Colby College, how the scientific method worked in climate change theories all through history.

That held until politicians with globalist viewpoint were searching for a cause that would drive their globalization goals. The Club of Rome was an organization formed in 1968 consisting of current and former heads of state, UN bureaucrats, high-level politicians and government officials, diplomats, scientists, economists and business leaders from around the globe. It raised considerable public attention in 1972 with its report, “The Limits to Growth.” The club states that its mission is “to act as a global catalyst for change through the identification and analysis of the crucial problems facing humanity and the communication of such problems to the most important public and private decision makers as well as to the general public.” In 1991, the club published “The First Global Revolution” in which it decided:

In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming…would fit the bill…It does not matter if this common enemy is “a real one or…one invented for the purpose.

That is when massive investment began into building a case for their cause by funding the UN, global universities, scientists and in government agencies through published work and reports ensuring an alignment around the theory that we are responsible for all bad things that happen and paint them as unprecedented. That investment has exceeded $1 trillion dollars. Meanwhile, instead of engaging and supporting critical thinking and testing of hypothesis, there was a concerted effort to paint anyone not supporting their theory as deniers with not so subtle attempts to liken them to holocaust deniers and those who denied the dangers of cigarettes.

Scientists practicing the scientific method were demonized, stripped where possible of their role in universities and in government agencies. Many have remained silent to keep their position. A few courageous whistleblowers have emerged from the UN, government and universities, but they have been attacked by other scientists and generally ignored by the media, which in many cases are trained in journalism schools that prepare environmental journalists to battle, discredit or deny air-time to any skeptics.

As Ron Arnold wrote in 2015:

You can credit the Society of Environmental Journalists (SEJ), a 501©(3) tax-exempt organization with more than 1,200 member reporters and academics in the United States, Canada, Mexico, and 27 other countries, with the general decline in journalistic standards among environmental journalists.

SEJ has received 119 grants from 35 notorious anti-development foundations, totaling $9.5 million since 1999. With this financial prompting, the SEJ’s stalwarts, including Andrew Revkin (The New York Times), Seth Borenstein (Associated Press), and Suzanne Goldenberg (The Guardian), have led the decline of climate news into ideological warfare.

To many SEJ writers, it is not possible for them to be biased, because issues have only one side: their own.

Associated Press' Borenstein asserted, "The nature of reporting is to get two sides to an issue. But the nature of science reporting is to get what’s really happening.” SEJ thinks whatever isn’t environmental dogma is a lie, as indicated by its incredible reference webpage "Climate Change: A Guide to the Information and Disinformation.“ SEJ writers also promote "false balance,” the notion that giving opposing views concerning climate change any mention at all is not real balance because skeptics are liars paid to undermine the truth, (which) justifies total censorship…. Some go as far as to recommend violence to achieve environmental goals

With the Obama administration’s Machiavellian collusion, reporters who are more environmentalist than journalist now rule the climate beat.

It is increasingly clear as MacKay warned 166 years ago, there is a politically-driven, wrong though popular delusion thanks to the help of complicit media. Earth Day weekend also showed a madness of crowds.

Recall the words of H.L Mencken: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”


Global Warming Claims and the So-Called Consensus Are Betrayals of the Scientific Method

Until the last strong El Niño brought its normal spike in global temperatures, there was much ado about what was being called a pause of almost 19 years in global temperature rise. Eventually, even the once-professional societies like AMS had to admit to it and had papers published and many panels at annual meetings discussing why the accelerated warming predicted by climate models and the UN IPCC was not occurring even as global CO2 levels continued to rise.

The first efforts made to address this inconvenient truth were to modify the data sets (surface and some balloon and satellite) to bring the data closer into agreement with the models (instead of rethinking the theory and models as Sagan, Feynman and Popper would argue). Then they got the help from El Niño. Note, however, here in this work, we have shown that “Natural Factors involving solar, volcanic and oceanic activity fully explain the Earth’s tropospheric and surface temperatures. And that CO2 plays no significant role.”

This conflicting data had for several years brought an uncomfortable feeling among many believers, what is called “cognitive dissonance,” but most all were able to shake it off, especially when they have so many colleagues riding the same grant gravy trains that benefit from the failing theory or have business financial potential and/or personal political ideologies that the plans to address the so-called catastrophic anthropogenic global warming fits so nicely into.

A fine work over five decades ago, “When Prophecies Fail,” by Leon Festinger, a social psychologist, helps explain how they can do that and why we may not see a widespread rapid return to sanity on global climate change even as the pause resumes and other evidence mounts that the prevailing greenhouse theories are flawed, global warming has ceased and climate change may be largely due to natural variability.

When disconfirmatory (contrary) evidence is presented, Festinger found one condition that often determined whether the belief is discarded or maintained with new fervor by belief with a strongly held belief. That was whether or not the individual believer has social support. It is unlikely that one isolated believer could withstand strong disconfirming evidence. If, however, the believer is a member of a group of convinced persons who can support one another, you might expect the belief to be maintained and the believers to attempt to proselytize or persuade non-members that the belief is correct even in the face of data suggesting otherwise.

Today there is a huge “social support” group of grant-toting modelers and researchers, agenda-driven or ratings-driven journalists, environmentalists, pseudo-intellectualists, government agencies and corporations that have realized green is their favorite color and see this as a way to keep green paper flowing into their coffers and pockets. We have farmers who are benefiting from the misplaced focus on alternative fuel from crops, traders and major market firms licking their chops at the prospects of big time money from carbon trading, big oil and alternative energy companies that have realized this is the vector to bigger profits, and the politicians and political activists who see it as a way to accomplish ulterior goals about changing society and increasing their powerbase.

In reality, although there is claimed consensus, scientists and the public are not so convinced. It will only be after the public realizes they have been snookered — or like in the UK, they realize the pains for adhering to the green assault on humanity is insufferable (Brexit was largely due to this) — that the situation may turn on them. We can only hope damage done here is not great or irreparable when that day finally comes.

We have all heard the outrageous claims of the green organizations and the prior administration that “global warming is the greatest peril that humanity faces.” Bill Maher’s recent opinion that perhaps sarin gas was not the most dangerous chemical poison, CO2 is, has them sensing a snake oil salesman situation. Someone needs to inform Maher that every exhaled breathe he takes emits 100 times more CO2 as in the air than he inhaled.

The late great Dr. Michael Crichton, author of the Best Seller “State of Fear” on this topic, said:

“Historically, the claim of consensus is the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming the matter is already settled.”

“Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had.”

“Let’s be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. In science, consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus” (Galileo, Newton, Einstein, etc.).

He concluded: “There is no such thing as consensus science. If it’s consensus, it isn’t science. If it’s science, it isn’t consensus. Period.” We all miss the man and his work.

By the way, in “Has Science Lost its Way?” Dr. Michael Guillen reported that last year Nature, the prestigious international science journal, published a study revealing that “More than 70% of researchers have tried and failed to reproduce another scientist’s experiments, and more than half have failed to reproduce their own experiments.”

The inability to confirm research that was published in highly respected, peer-reviewed journals suggests something is very wrong with how science is being done.

They observed one of the issues was that too many scientists are actually never taught the scientific method.

Before scientists do research they ought to look at the work of Sagan, Feynman and Popper. Bad science leads to bad policies. Bad policies harm good people.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   main.html or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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