YouGov Climate Push Poll: Still no Believer Majority

A new internatiional climate change poll shows most European countries as well Anglophone nations are divided between belief and scepticism over global warming claims.  The YouGov poll results are presented in part in the diagram below (H/T GWPF)

Lest there be any doubt:  This is a survey of opinions (beliefs) about global warming/climate change as buzzwords without any meaning defined as a reference for knowing why any response was given.  Further on is a reprint of a previous post describing the tactics for getting the highest possible affirmation of belief rather than scepticism.  Of course, it is important to know what was the survey methodology, i.e. how the questions were put, what answers were offered and/or accepted, and what context (if any) was given to participants.  For the YouGov International Survey the questioning went like this.

Thinking about the global environment… In general, which of the following statements, if any, best describes your view?

The climate is changing and human activity is mainly responsible
The climate is changing and human activity is partly responsible, together with other factors
The climate is changing but human activity is not responsible at all
The climate is not changing
Don’t know

Which countries, if any, do you think have had the most negative impact on global warming and climate change?  (Please tick up to five)

[Most frequently mentioned by Europeans were Brazil, China, India, Russia, USA, and Don’t know]

And do you think that you personally could be doing more to tackle climate change, or are you already doing as much as you reasonably can? Could be doing more/Doing as much as it reasonably can/Don’t know

How responsible, if at all, do you think each of the following are for the current situation with climate change?  Very responsible/Fairly/Not Very/Not Responsible at all/Dont’t know

International bodies (e.g. the United Nations)
National governments of wealthy countries
National governments of developing countries
Businesses and industry
Individuals

And how much power, if any, do you think each of the following have to combat climate change?
A great deal of power, a fair amount, Not very much, no power at all, Don’t Know

International bodies (e.g. the United Nations)
National governments of wealthy countries
National governments of developing countries
Businesses and industry
Individuals

How much of an impact, if any, do you believe climate change will have on your life?
A great deal of impact/ A fair amount, Not Much, No impact at all/Don’t know

Which of the following comes closest to your view?

It is already too late to avoid the worst effects of climate change
We are still able to avoid the worst effects of climate change but it would need a drastic change in the steps taken
We will be able to avoid the worst effects of climate change if we broadly carry on with the steps currently being taken
Don’t know

If you had to choose one, which approach would you prefer governments and societies to focus on more to tackle climate change?

One where we attempt to reduce consumption of resources to slow or halt the negative effects of climate change
One where we attempt to come up with technological solutions to try and counter the effects of climate change
Don’t know

How likely do you think it is that climate change will cause each of the following? Very likely/Quite/Not Very/Not at all likely/ Don’t know

The extinction of the human race
Small wars
A new world war
Serious damage to the global economy
Cities being lost to rising sea levels
Mass displacement of people from some parts of the world to others

For your information the table of Yougov climate questions and responses from various nations is here

Comment:  Note how belief in climate change and its human agency is assumed throughout the questioning process.  As discussed below, using “environmental” and “global” are AGW belief triggers.  And then asking which nations are most responsible for hurting the climate is akin to asking “Have you stopped beating your wife?” Note also that “tackling climate change” presumes humans caused it and can stop it by changing behavior.

Background from previous post The Art of Rigging Climate Polls

Marketing and social influence makers have used opinion surveys extensively to promote awareness, interest and motivation to engage with their products or preferred policies. I have written before on how this ploy is used regarding global warming/climate change (links at bottom). This post is prompted by a fresh round of climate polls and some further insight into how results are created to support a socio-political agenda.

Of course, any opinion poll on climate as a public policy matter is indicating how much of the blather in the media has penetrated public consciousness, and softened them up for political pitches and financial support. And the continuing samplings and reports need to show progress to keep activist hopes alive.

Just yesterday we had an announcement along these lines. Poll shows consensus for climate policy remains strong is published at Phys.org from Stanford U. (where else, home of the belated Stephen Schneider, among many other leading alarmists). Stanford also happens to be my alma mater, but when I was studying organic chemistry there, we knew life on earth was carbon-based and did not think CO2 was a pollutant.

Climate Public Opinion is a Program of Research by the Stanford Political Psychology Research Group (website link) and has done frequent surveys on the question: What do the residents of the United States believe about global warming?

From psy.org article (excerpts in italics with my bolds):

While the United States is deeply divided on many issues, climate change stands out as one where there is remarkable consensus, according to Stanford research.

“But the American people are vastly underestimating how green the country wants to be,” said Jon Krosnick, a professor of communication and of political science at Stanford, about new findings from a poll he led on American attitudes about climate change.

The study was conducted with ABC News and Resources for the Future, a Washington, D.C.-based research organization. A representative sample of 1,000 American adults nationwide were polled from May 7 to June 11, 2018. The margin of error is +/- 3.5 percentage points.

The poll showed that Americans don’t realize how much they agree about global warming: Despite 74 percent of Americans believing the world’s temperature has been rising, respondents wrongly guessed 57 percent.

“The majority doesn’t realize how many people agree with them,” said Krosnick. “And this may have important implications for politics: If people knew how prevalent green views are in the country, they might be more inclined to demand more government action on the issue.”

Public belief in the existence and threat of global warming has been strikingly consistent over the last 20 years, even in the face of a current administration skeptical about climate change,” said Krosnick, who has been tracking public opinion about global warming since 1995.

Krosnick has learned from his 20 year experience with this topic, and shares with us some of the tricks of the trade. For example, one paper provides their finding regarding the wording of questions.

1. “What do you think is the most important problem facing the country today?”

In this traditional MIP question, about 49 percent answered the economy or unemployment, while only 1 percent mentioned the environment or global warming.

2. “What do you think is the most important problem facing the world today?”

Substituting the word “country” with “world” produced a significant change: 7 percent mentioned environmental issues, while 32 percent named the economy or unemployment.

3. “What do you think will be the most important problem facing the world in the future?”

When asked to consider the future of the planet, 14 percent chose the environment or global warming, while economic issues slipped to 21 percent.

4. “What do you think will be the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it?”

This time, 25 percent said the environment or global warming, and only 10 percent picked the economy or unemployment.

“Thus, when asked to name the most serious problem facing the world in the future if nothing is done to stop it, one-quarter of all Americans mentioned either global warming or the environment,” Krosnick said. “In fact, environmental issues were cited more often in response to question 4 than any other category, including terrorism, which was only mentioned by 10 percent of respondents.”

Thus it is that survey results are influenced greatly by the design of the questioning process. Helpfully, the Stanford program provides this history of the questions put to participants over the years. Below are the result categories, some showing the evolving form of questioning, and others just the most recent form for brevity. I will comment on the first few, and leave the others for your reflection (my bolds)

1. Global warming is happening. 2012-2013: What is your personal opinion? Do you think that the world’s temperature probably has been going up over the past 100 years, or do you think this probably has not been happening? 2012: What is your personal opinion? Do you think that the world’s temperature probably has been going up slowly over the past 100 years, or do you think this probably has not been happening? 1997-2011: You may have heard about the idea that the world’s temperature may have been going up slowly over the past 100 years. What is your personal opinion on this? Do you think this has probably been happening, or do you think it probably has not been happening?

Fair question with both responses equally acceptable. The earlier form referred to what they may have heard, but wisely dropped that later on. One does wonder what evidence people use for 100 years of reference.

In a separate study Krosnick tested the effect of asking about “global warming” or “climate change” and concluded:
In the full sample, global warming, climate change, and global climate change were all perceived to be equally serious on average. These findings seem to be inconsistent with the claim that people view climate change or global climate change as less serious than global warming. In addition, the distribution of seriousness ratings were equivalent for global warming, climate change, and global climate change.

IMO it is to his credit that he asks about global warming rather than the vacuous “climate change”.

2.Warming will continue in the future. 2012: If nothing is done to prevent it, do you think the world’s temperature probably will go up slowly over the next 100 years, or do you think the world’s temperature probably will not go up slowly over the next 100 years?

Here comes the phrase:  If nothing is done to prevent it . . . The participant gets the suggestion that rising temperatures have human agency, that we can do something to prevent them. As Krosnick explained above, this phrase will help respondents identify the issue as “environmental” and tap their instinct to protect nature. Implanting this subliminal suggestion sets them up for the next question.

3. Past warming has been caused by humans. 2012: Do you think a rise in the world’s temperature is being caused mostly by things people do, mostly by natural causes, or about equally by things people do and by natural causes? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, do you think a rise in the world’s temperature would be caused mostly by things people do, mostly by natural causes, or about equally by things people do and by natural causes?

Now we have some serious distortions inserted into the findings. The end results will reported as “The % of Americans that believe past warming has been caused by humans.” Note that participants have been primed to think warming is preventable by humans, so obviously humans have caused it (logical connection). Moreover, there are the 50-50 responses that will be counted as human causation. The problem is, people who are mostly uncertain and unwilling to say “don’t know” will fall back to the “equally human, equally nature” response.  It is a soft, not affirmative response.

And a further perversion: Those who have said temperatures are not rising are now told to “Assume it is happening.” What? This is no longer an opinion, it is out-and-out speculation. It appears that “Don’t know” and “Not Happening” are disallowed to force a choice with a 67% chance of getting the right answer: “Caused by Humans.”

4.Warming will be a serious problem for the U.S. 2012: If nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for THE UNITED STATES – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it would be for THE UNITED STATES – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all?

Again the phrase “If nothing is done to reduce global warming. . .” signaling participants that this is a serious issue, so don’t come with “not so serious” or (God forbid) “not serious at all.” And again, global warming must be assumed to be happening by anyone still unconvinced of it.

5. Warming will be a serious problem for the world. 2012: If nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it will be for THE WORLD – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all? 2012: Assuming it’s happening, if nothing is done to reduce global warming in the future, how serious of a problem do you think it would be for THE WORLD – very serious, somewhat serious, not so serious, or not serious at all?

Same comments regarding #4 apply here, only as Krosnick explained, elevating the issue to a “world problem” triggers even more seriousness in responses.

6. Five degrees of warming in 75 years will be bad. 2011-2012: If the world’s average temperature is about five degrees Fahrenheit higher 75 years from now than it is now, overall, would you say that would be good, bad, or neither good nor bad? 1997-2010: Scientists use the term “global warming” to refer to the idea that the world’s average temperature may be about five degrees Fahrenheit higher in 75 years than it is now. Overall, would you say that if the world’s average temperature is five degrees Fahrenheit higher in 75 years than it is now, would that be good, bad, or neither good nor bad?

In the past, interviewers told participants that global warming is defined as 5 degrees warmer, which triggered “bad” as a response. Fortunately, that obvious bias was dropped, and now people are free to say good, bad or neither. Interestingly, this question is not emphasized in the reports, perhaps because it only gets around 50% “Bad”, even in alarmist places like New York and California.

7. The government should limit greenhouse gas emissions. 2012: As you may have heard, greenhouse gasses are thought to cause global warming. In your opinion, do you think the government should or should not limit the amount of greenhouse gasses that U.S. businesses put out? 2008-2011: Some people believe that the United States government should limit the amount of air pollution that U.S. businesses can produce. Other people believe that the government should not limit air pollution from U.S. businesses. What about you? Do you think the government should or should not limit air pollution from U.S. businesses?

Here the older form of the question was more balanced: Some people believe X, some people believe Y, what do you believe? However, the older question was about air pollution which confuses CO2 (natural plant food) with artificial chemicals. The recent question targets “greenhouse gases”, a term nowhere defined. Now the biased question: Greenhouse gases cause global warming, should the government reduce them? Duh!

8.U.S. federal government should do more to address global warming. 2012: How much do you think the U.S. government should do about global warming? A great deal, quite a bit, some, a little, or nothing? 2009-2011: How much do you think the U.S. government is doing now to deal with global warming? A great deal, quite a bit, some, a little, or nothing? 2008: Do you think the federal government should do more than it’s doing now to try to deal with global warming, should do less than it’s doing now, or is it doing about the right amount?

Note the shift from asking about Whether government should do more than now, to How much is government doing now, to present form: How much more should government do.  Compares with: “Have you stopped beating your wife?”

9. U. S. should take action regardless what other countries do. Do you think the United States should take action on global warming only if other major industrial countries such as China and India agree to do equally effective things, that the United States should take action even if these other countries do less, or that the United States should not take action on this at all?

IOW, Should the US wait for others and be a follower, not a leader? Duh!

Series of Government Policy Questions

The real reason for the survey is to develop support for government officials to impose climate policies upon the population. The flavor of these is below with few comments from me until the end.

10. For the next items, please tell me for each one whether it’s something the government should require by law, encourage with tax breaks but not require, or stay out of entirely. Each of these changes would increase the amount of money that you pay for things you buy.

Reduce greenhouse gas emissions by power plants. Favor lowering the amount of greenhouse gases that power plants are allowed to release into the air?

Favor a national cap and trade program. There’s a proposed system called “cap and trade.” The government would issue permits limiting the amount of greenhouse gases companies can put out. Companies that did not use all their permits could sell them to other companies. Companies that need more permits can buy them, or these companies can pay money to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that other people or organizations put out. This will cause companies to figure out the cheapest way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. This type of permit system has worked successfully in the past to reduce the air pollution that companies put out. For example, in 1990, the federal government passed a law like this, called the Clean Air Act, which caused companies to put out a lot less of the air pollution that causes acid rain. Would you favor or oppose a cap and trade system to reduce the amount of greenhouse gases that companies put out?

Tax breaks to produce renewable energy. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving companies tax breaks to produce more electricity from water, wind, and solar power?

Tax breaks to reduce air pollution from coal. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving tax breaks to companies that burn coal to make electricity if they use new methods to reduce the air pollution being released from their smokestacks?

Increase CAFE standards for cars. Favor building cars that use less gasoline?
Build electric vehicles. 2012: Building cars that run completely on electricity?

Build appliances that use less electricity. Favor building air conditioners, refrigerators, and other appliances that use less electricity?

Build more energy-efficient buildings. Favor building new homes and offices that use less energy for heating and cooling?

Tax breaks to build nuclear power plants. Do you favor or oppose the federal government giving companies tax breaks to build nuclear power plants?

Who Pays for all this? It is time for the turkeys to face the pilgrim with the hatchet. How willing are you to pay increased taxes to “fight global warming?”

Increase consumption taxes on electricity. Do you favor or oppose the federal government increasing taxes on electricity so people use less of it?

Most places, majorities of respondents were favorable, up to 80% in some states. Perhaps a tribute to relatively cheap electricity in the U. S.  They are blissfully unaware of what can happen to electricity rates, having been spared so far the “Ontario Experience.”

Increase consumption taxes on gasoline. Do you favor or oppose the federal government increasing taxes on gasoline so people either drive less, or buy cars that use less gas?

Nowhere does this get a majority favorable response. It ranges from 15% to 40%, with most places around 30% in favor of higher gasoline taxes.

And finally, how much do you care and how much do you know?

Warming is extremely important personally (and is likely to influence voting). How important is the issue of global warming to you personally – extremely important, very important, somewhat important, not too important, or not at all important?

Less than 17% of people say global warming is personally extremely important, and most places are under 10%

Highly knowledgeable about global warming. How much do you feel you know about global warming – a lot, a moderate amount, a little, or nothing?
Americans rate their global warming knowledge higher than other countries, going up to 60-70% claiming “Highly Knowledgeable.” Other country surveys would report 25% more typically.

Conclusion

An opinion poll is a mirror claiming to show us ourselves. All polls have error margins, and some are purposely bent to a desired distorted outcome.

In modern social democracies, polls and media are used to shape and report public opinions required by ruling elites to impose laws and policies unwanted by the people. A recent example was the distorted Canadian survey on carbon pricing used by Trudeau government to justify a carbon tax. That poll is deconstructed in a post Uncensored: Canadians View Global Warming.

Krosnick said that people taking his climate poll were surprised that the responses were not more skeptical of global warming claims. After seeing how the survey is put together, I am inclined to believe that participants and their neighbors are actually more skeptical than depicted in the results.  This showed up in the low numbers saying global warming is an important personal issue.  Despite agreeing with alarmist talking points, people seem to know this is about virtue signaling and tribal politics.  It is an “everywhere elsewhere” problem.

Finally, in the survey, Americans rate themselves as highly knowledgeable about global warming, up to 60-70% in some states. Other countries doing such climate surveys typically get about 25% of people saying that. For so many to be taken in by such a survey suggests that Americans’ actual knowledge of global warming is highly overrated.

Background:  Another Climate Push Poll

Climate Is a State of Mind

 

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Woke Tycoons Playing with Fire

Matthew Continetti writes at Washington Free Beacon The Wages of Woke.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.
How the left uses corporate America to evade democracy

Time was, CEOs of mighty enterprises shied away from politics, especially hot-button social and cultural issues. They focused instead on the bottom line. They maximized shareholder value by delivering goods and services to customers. Some businessmen still operate by this principle. In doing so they provide not only for their employees and CEOs and board members but also for the institutions—pensions, individual retirement plans, index funds, hospitals, philanthropies—invested in their companies.

That is no longer enough for many of America’s richest and most powerful. Suddenly, corporate America has a conscience. Every week brings new examples of CEOs intervening in political, cultural, and social debate. In every instance, the prominent spokesmen for American business situate themselves comfortably on the left side of the political spectrum.

Shareholder capitalism finds itself under attack.
Not just from socialism but also from woke capitalism.

Apple employees march in the San Francisco Gay Pride Parade / Getty Images

These outbursts are not just virtue signaling. Nor is the left-wing tilt of corporate America merely a response to the “rising American electorate” of Millennial, Gen Z, and minority consumers. What is taking place is not a business story but a political one. What is known as “stakeholder capitalism” is another means by which elites circumvent democratic accountability.

Corporate managers find themselves at odds with at least 46 percent of the electorate. The divergence is not over jobs or products. It is over values. The global economy generates social inequalities as much as economic ones. Many of the winners of the global economy justify their gains by adopting the rhetoric, tastes, ideas, and affiliations of their cultural milieu. Their environment is inescapably center left.

Even so, the social justice agenda of corporate America is not only meant to appease voters, or even to placate Elizabeth Warren. Some of these businessmen really believe what they are saying. And they are beginning to understand that they have another way—through social position and market share—to impose their cultural priorities on a disagreeable public.

The trend began as a response to the Tea Party. In 2010 the “Patriotic Millionaires” began advocating for higher marginal tax rates. A few years later, when state legislatures passed laws opposed by pro-choice and LGBT groups, corporations threatened or waged economic boycotts. Large individual donations made up more than half of Hillary Clinton’s fundraising; for Donald Trump the number was 14 percent.

CEOs protested the implementation of President Trump’s travel ban in 2017. The following year, after two black men were arrested at a Philadelphia Starbucks, Howard Schultz closed stores nationwide so his more than 175,000 employees could be trained in diversity, equity, and inclusion. Earlier this summer, Nike pulled shoes featuring the Betsy Ross flag after Colin Kaepernick raised objections. Recently four major auto companies struck a deal with the state of California to preserve fuel economy standards the Trump administration opposes.

Business has provided ideological justification for its activities. In mid-August, a group of 181 members of the Business Roundtable, including the CEOs of Morgan Stanley, GM, Apple, and Amazon, issued a statement redefining the purpose of a corporation. “Generating long-term value for shareholders” is necessary but insufficient. In the words of Jamie Dimon, business must “push for an economy that serves all Americans.” A few weeks later, one of the Business Roundtable signatories, Walmart CEO Doug McMillon, announced that America’s largest retailer would end sales of ammunition for handguns and for some rifles. Once its current inventory is exhausted, of course.

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“We encourage our nation’s leaders to move forward and strengthen background checks and to remove weapons from those who have been determined to pose an imminent danger,” McMillon wrote. “We do not sell military-style rifles, and we believe the reauthorization of the Assault Weapons ban should be debated to determine its effectiveness.” Note the use of the first-person plural. Of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees, more than a few, one assumes, do not believe it is necessary to “strengthen background checks” or debate “the Assault Weapons ban.”

To whom does the “we” in McMillon’s statement refer? To everyone who thinks like he does.

“You have a business acting in a more enlightened and more agile way than government,” is how one MSNBC contributor enthusiastically described Walmart’s directive. Left unsaid is why government has not, in this case, been “enlightened” or “agile.” The reason is constitutional democracy. The electorate, like it or not, continues to put into office representatives opposed to gun registration and to a renewal of the Assault Weapons ban. And these representatives, in turn, have confirmed judges who believe the Second Amendment is just as important to self-government as the First and Fourteenth.

Much of Western politics for the last decade has involved elites figuring out new ways to ignore or thwart the voting public.

Barack Obama was following in the EU’s footsteps when he went ahead with Obamacare despite Scott Brown’s victory in Massachusetts in January 2010, and when he expanded his DACA program to the parents of illegal immigrants brought here as children despite Republican gains in the 2014 election and despite his own admission that he lacked authority.

James Comey’s towering ego and self-regard compelled him to interfere in the 2016 election with consequences we can only begin to reckon. Over the last two-and-a-half years, district judges and anonymous bureaucrats have impeded and obstructed the agenda of a duly elected chief executive. A few weeks ago a former governor of the Federal Reserve suggested in Bloomberg that the central bank should thwart Trump’s reelection. And in England, elite resistance to the results of the 2016 Brexit referendum and to the 2017 parliamentary invocation of Article 50 has brought the government into a crisis from which there seems no escape.

In such an environment, one begins to see the appeal of nongovernmental instruments of power. What might be rejected at the ballot box can be achieved through “nudging” in the market and in the third sector. If you can’t enact national gun control through Congress, why not leverage the economic and cultural weight of America’s largest corporations?

The market, we are told, is not a democracy.  Oh, but it is.

The market may be the ultimate democracy. “The picture of the prettiest girl that ever lived,” wrote Joseph Schumpeter, “will in the long run prove powerless to maintain the sales of a bad cigarette.” Woke capitalists remain accountable to consumers and to shareholders. The audiences of ESPN and of the NFL cratered when those institutions elevated politics over consumer demand. Hollywood’s anti-American offerings routinely flop. Public opinion, in the form of popular taste, rules. Shareholders of publicly traded companies are a type of electorate. The companies that do not satisfy customers will disappear. Or shareholders will demand changes to management to prevent such an outcome.

The politicization of firms is a double-edged sword. The responsible stakeholder CEOs may have the best of intentions. They might assume they are doing the right things not only by their companies but also by their societies. What they fail to understand is that corporations acting as surrogates of one element of society, or of one political party, will not be treated as neutral by other elements, by the other party. By believing their superior attitudes will save capitalism, our right-thinking elites are undermining its very legitimacy, and increasing the severity of the ongoing populist revolt.

Big Wind Blacklisted

What is wrong with wind farms? Let us count the ways.

Dear Congress, stop subsidizing wind like it’s 1999 and let the tax credit expire is written by Richard McCarty at Daily Torch.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Congress created the production tax credit for wind energy in 1992. In other words, wind turbine owners receive a tax credit for each kilowatt hour of electricity their turbines create, whether the electricity is needed or not. The production tax credit was supposed to have expired in 1999; but, instead, Congress has repeatedly extended it. After nearly three decades of propping up the wind industry, it is past time to let the tax credit expire in 2020.

All Congress needs to do is nothing.

Addressing the issue of wind production tax credits, Americans for Limited Government President Rick Manning stated, “Wind energy development is no longer a nascent industry, having grown from 0.7 percent of the grid in 2007 to 6.6 percent in 2018 at 275 billion kWh. The rationale behind the wind production tax credit has always been that it is necessary to attract investors.”

Manning added, “wind energy development has matured to the point where government subsidization of billionaires like Warren Buffett cannot be justified, neither from an energy production standpoint nor a fiscal one. Americans for Limited Government strongly urges Congress to end the Wind Production Tax Credit. The best part is, they only need to do nothing as it expires at the end of the year.”

There are plenty of reasons for ending the tax credit. Here are some of them:

  • Wind energy is unreliable. Wind turbines require winds of six to nine miles per hour to produce electricity; when winds speeds reach approximately 55 miles per hour, turbines shut down to prevent damage to the equipment. Wind turbines also shut down in extremely cold weather.
  • Due to this unreliability, relatively large amounts of backup power capacity must be kept available.
  • Wind energy often requires the construction of costly, new high-voltage transmission lines. This is because some of the best places to generate wind energy are in remote locations far from population centers or offshore.
  • Generating electricity from wind requires much more land than does coal, natural gas, nuclear, or even solar power. According to a 2017 study, generating one megawatt of electricity from coal, natural gas, or nuclear power requires about 12 acres; producing one megawatt of electricity from solar energy requires 43.5 acres; and harnessing wind energy to generate one megawatt of electricity requires 70.6 acres.
  • Wind turbines have a much shorter life span than other energy sources. According to the Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory, the useful life of a wind turbine is 20 years while coal, natural gas, nuclear, and hydroelectric power plants can remain in service for more than 50 years.
  • Wind power’s inefficiencies lead to higher rates for customers.
  • Higher electricity rates can have a chilling effect on the local economy. Increasing electricity rates for businesses makes them less competitive and can result in job losses or reduced investments in businesses.
  • Increasing rates on poor consumers can have an even more negative impact sometimes forcing them to go without heat in the winter or air conditioning in the summer.
  • Wind turbines are a threat to aviators. Wind turbines are a particular concern for crop dusters, who must fly close to the ground to spray crops. Earlier this summer, a crop dusting plane clipped a wind turbine tower and crashed.
  • Wind turbines are deadly for birds and bats, which help control the pest population. Even if bats are not struck by the rotors, some evidence suggests that they may be injured or killed by the sudden drop in air pressure around wind turbines.

Large wind turbines endanger lives, the economy, and the environment. Even after decades of heavy subsidies, the wind industry has failed to solve these problems. For these and other reasons, Congress should finally allow the wind production tax credit to expire.

Richard McCarty is the Director of Research at Americans for Limited Government Foundation.

Update August 16, 2019

nzrobin commented regarding more technical detail about managing grid reliability.  A new post is a synopsis of his series on the subject On Stable Electric Power: What You Need to Know

EU Update: Pipelines and Pipe Dreams

Daniel Markind writes at Forbes The Nord Stream 2 Pipeline And The Dangers Of Moving Too Rashly Toward Renewable Energy. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Few Americans likely noticed last week that Denmark refused to grant a permit for finishing construction of the Russian natural gas pipeline Nord Stream 2, but its international significance is enormous. Denmark’s refusal is the latest chapter in a story of how good intentions in fighting climate change go bad. It is a cautionary tale of how a country – in this case, Germanywhile seeking to make itself and its energy use cleaner, more efficient and more self-sufficient, can produce the opposite of all three. As climate change becomes more of an issue in America heading into the 2020 election season, Nord Stream 2 provides a case study of the potential peril we face when our desire to switch as rapidly as possible to cleaner energy overwhelms current scientific, technological, political and economic realities.

The back story of Nord Stream 2 involves the desire of Germany to be the world leader in clean energy. In 2010, Germany embarked on a program called “Energiewende” – meaning literally, energy transition. This was designed to transform the German energy economy from being based on fossil fuels to being based on so-called “renewables”. In practical effect, the German government refused to approve any energy project that did not involve renewable energy. Germany hoped that Energiewende would reduce drastically Germany’s CO2 emissions and also end the country’s reliance on fossil fuels. This would strike a blow both for German energy independence and for the fight against climate change.

It didn’t work. At first the country’s CO2 emissions fell, but Germany never was able to generate enough reliable renewable energy to sustain itself. Instead, partially because it had not properly planned for its energy needs during the transition period to full renewable energy, Germany had to fall back on coal produced in the former Communist Eastern part. Ironically, the renewed reliance on this coal, called “lignite”, only made Germany’s short-term pollution problems worse, as lignite is a peculiarly dirty form of coal. By 2015, despite closing nuclear power plants and preventing new fossil fuel energy investment, Germany’s CO2 emissions started again to increase. They eventually dropped in 2018, but few are confident that decrease will continue.

Worse still, prices for German energy kept soaring, becoming among the highest in Europe. Simultaneously, Germany’s energy needs became more dependent on natural gas from Russia. Mainly for political reasons, Russia hardly is a reliable energy source. It certainly is not an environmentally conscious one. Instead of making Germany more self-reliant and a world clean energy leader, Energiewende actually drove Germany further into the arms of Russia. In addition, it otherwise thwarted Germany’s goal of a rapid renewable energy transition.

Had it been available, a more attractive and environmentally beneficial choice for Germany would have been imports of abundant, readily available, and above all relatively clean natural gas from the Marcellus Shale region of Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia – at least on an interim basis until renewable energy transition could catch up to the political and economic realities. While there is more than enough gas in Appalachia and Northeastern Pennsylvania to export overseas to places like Germany and not delete supplies for domestic usage, American energy politics have prevented the needed pipeline and export infrastructure from being built. Simply put, without approved pipelines, the gas has no way to get from the point of production to ports where it can be shipped overseas. The Philadelphia area, which could be a center for the energy industry and for breaking Russia’s gas energy monopoly on Europe, remains woefully oblivious even of its possibilities.

The result is that instead of having natural gas transported to Germany from a NATO ally that drills and transports using stringent environmental safeguards, Germany now relies on Russia, a country that drills in a sensitive Arctic ecosystem with few environmental limitations. The money that could have gone to American companies, landowners and taxes goes instead to Gazprom, the Russian gas giant.

This still is not the end of the story. Germany receives its natural gas via pipelines that traverse Ukraine, Poland, and the Baltic States. Indeed the revenue to Ukraine for allowing transshipments of gas from Russia to Germany via existing overland pipelines within Ukraine’s borders constitutes over 2% of the total Ukrainian GDP. That mostly will end when Nord Stream 2 becomes operational. Nord Stream 2 will bypass the current overland route. That would largely cut out Ukraine, Poland and the Baltic States – all important United States and Western Europe allies.

Last July at the annual NATO summit, President Trump publicly excoriated German Chancellor Angela Merkel over Nord Stream 2. She rebuffed him, insisting on making her country more susceptible to Russian control while also upsetting other NATO allies. With the Nord Stream 2 pipeline currently 70% built and with the Ukrainian-Russian transshipment contract ending in 2020, it looked like all systems go.

Then Denmark stepped in. One of four countries that needs to approve the Nord Stream 2 pipeline route as it passed through Denmark’s territorial waters in the Baltic Sea, the Danes refused to grant the final permits. They demanded the pipeline be moved farther away from the country. At the least, based on published projections that may even understate the impacts, Denmark’s decision means an additional cost of €740M and an eight month delay, going beyond the end date for the current Ukrainian transit contract. This now will need to be extended, giving some consolation to Ukraine.

Still, Nord Stream 2 likely will be completed eventually, and by the same Europeans who routinely preach the loudest about climate change.

It appears to be a loser in every way a pipeline can.

Nord Stream 2 ties Germany closer to Russia, puts more money in the pockets of Gazprom, increases incentives for Russian President Vladimir Putin to ratchet up his environmentally unsound natural gas drilling in and transporting from the Arctic, gives Russia more ability to blackmail the West using its natural gas weapon, cuts out Western-leaning countries in Eastern Europe from needed revenue, and keeps money and investment out of the United States where it could go via exports from the Marcellus Shale deposits.

As always, reasonable people can argue about the wisdom of building new fossil fuel infrastructure when we hope to switch to renewables. However, given the current state of scientific knowledge and of world affairs, failure to do so also has real world adverse environmental, economic and political consequences.

To anyone serious about renewables and reducing our world-wide carbon footprint, the story of Energiewende and Nord Stream 2 should be studied carefully. Our desire to do something good for the planet cannot overwhelm our common sense and world realities. We must be very clear-eyed about how soon and how efficiently we can, in fact, switch from a carbon based energy infrastructure to one based entirely on renewable resources. The Danes just dealt Nord Stream 2 a temporary setback, but the only real winners from the Nord Stream 2 saga long term will be people in Moscow whose concern for the environment certainly is not equal to those who enacted Energiewende or who fight in the United States to stop oil and gas pipeline construction. This surely is not the result anyone in the West would have desired, nor is it good for the future of the planet.

Daniel Markind is a shareholder at Flaster Greenberg PC who practices in Energy, Real Estate, Corporate, and Aviation Law. He can be reached at daniel.markind@flastergreenberg.com.

Forget IPCC: Energy Industry Cuts Emissions, Nations Don’t

Maj. Gen. Paul Vallely writes at Town Hall Wait…Who’s Trying to Beat Climate Change?

Well, there goes the justification for Green Socialism and Nationalizing Energy Supply. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The energy industry is waging war against climate change – and winning.

Last week, the Environmental Partnership, a group of oil and gas firms dedicated to cutting greenhouse gas emissions, released its first annual progress report. The results are impressive — and showcase what happens when an industry unites to further the public good.

The Environmental Partnership launched in late 2017 with 26 members. Within 12 months, it more than doubled in size to 58 members — including 32 of America’s top 40 oil and gas producers. Today, its members account for nearly half of America’s oil and natural gas production.

The group focuses on cutting emissions of methane and other greenhouse gases known as “volatile organic compounds.” Without proper monitoring and maintenance, these gases can escape from drilling rigs and pipelines and contribute to global warming.

Even before the partnership formed, firms were spending millions to reduce their carbon footprints. Methane emissions have plummeted in America’s largest energy-rich basins, even as oil and gas production has spiked.  

Production at the Appalachia Basin, which spans from Alabama to Maine, rose more than 380 percent from 2011 to 2017 — yet methane emissions dropped 70 percent. Texas’s Eagle Ford Basin, meanwhile, produced 130 percent more oil and gas, but released 65 percent less methane.  And the Permian Basin, split between Texas and New Mexico, doubled production while decreasing emissions by almost 40 percent.

But firms in the Environmental Partnership weren’t satisfied with that progress. They sought to slash emissions even further.

First, the partnership focused on updating outdated technology like high-bleed pneumatic controllers. Pneumatic controllers regulate temperature, pressure, and liquid levels at natural gas sites by opening or closing valves. To operate these valves, the controllers rely on pressurized natural gas. As their name suggests, high-bleed pneumatic controllers can release relatively large amounts of natural gas, along with methane and VOC byproducts, into the air.  

The Environmental Partnership plans to replace all high-bleed pneumatic controllers in five years. And it’s well on its way to doing so. It replaced, retrofitted, or removed more than 28,000 prior to 2018 and an additional 3,000 last year. As a result, nearly 40 participating firms don’t use high-bleed controllers at all.

Second, the partnership set out to curb methane leaks – which can sometimes happen as firms extract, store, and burn natural gas. Methane is both a potent greenhouse gas and the main ingredient in natural gas. Participating companies conducted more than 156,000 surveys across 78,000 production sites, inspecting more than 56 million individual parts.

After its thorough inspections and repairs, the Environmental Partnership found that just 0.16 percent of industry parts contained leaks — and member firms repaired 99 percent of those in 60 days or less.
Participating firms also worked to better monitor liquid removal from natural gas wells. When too much liquid, mostly consisting of water, builds up within gas wells, firms manually direct the liquid to vents that bring it to surface. During that process, methane or volatile organic compounds can potentially escape into the atmosphere.

Over the course of 2018, the Environmental Partnership oversaw more than 130,000 manual removals to ensure environmentally safe execution.

In addition to these three initiatives, the Environmental Partnership held numerous conferences and workshops across the country to share best practices and new technologies. These conferences featured energy experts, regulators, and academics.

These meetings amount to more than feel-good powwows. The Environmental Partnership has spurred America’s largest energy producers to take a good, hard look at their operations, pinpoint the need for critical changes, and execute those reforms.

Methane emissions from natural gas systems fell over 14 percent between 1990 and 2017. The Environmental Partnership’s initiatives will undoubtedly cut these emissions even further. According to the EPA’s own estimates, reducing methane leaks and replacing high-bleed controllers can slash emissions by 40 and 60 percent, respectively.

Energy firms are weaponizing their data and tools for the common good. Let’s hope they keep up the fight in the war against climate change.

Paul E. Vallely is a retired U.S. Army major general who serves as a senior military analyst for Fox News. Gen. Vallely is the founder and chairman of Stand Up America, a public policy research organization committed to national security and energy independence.

 

Update: At Last A Climate Policy with Teeth

Update August 7 2019:

Tired of all the tokenism in proposals to “fight climate change”?  Like this one from Singapore today: Want to do more to fight climate change? Cut down on driving, buying stuff and eating meat
Or What will it take to kick Singapore’s growing multimillion-dollar addiction to bottled water?

Once again the UK is at the forefront showing how to get serious in fighting climate change. Euan Mearns has the story UK Government to Announce New Energy Policies Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Amidst Brexit chaos, the Prime Minister will today introduce a white paper to Parliament detailing the Government’s new energy strategy. Stunned by criticism that she has failed to listen, the new policies will take full cognisance of the concerns recently raised by striking school children. The new policy has 4 main strands. The Downing Street press release is below the fold.

[BEGINS] In view of the grave concerns raised by 5 to 17 year old children on the impact of CO2 on Earth’s climate, Her Majesty’s government will today introduce legislation that will address the most pressing issue of our times, namely CO2 emissions and the ensuing climate mayhem that they cause (Exhibit 1, Appendix 1). CO2 has risen to record levels from 0.0280% (pre-industrial) to 0.0405% today (see endnote 1). The new energy policy has four main strands:

1. Adult only flights

As of 1 January 2020 juveniles below the age of 18 will no longer be allowed to fly on commercial flights within the UK and between the UK and foreign destinations. A reciprocal arrangement will apply to incoming flights that will not be allowed to land on British soil if there are juveniles on board. The government appreciates this will have a major impact on family holidays and tourism. But that is the policy goal. We can no longer countenance families flying all over the place simply for the sake of seeking some sunshine. Tourism is one of the most useless and resource wasteful activities known to Mankind. What is the point in wrecking Earth’s climate to go and gaze at the Eiffel Tower or to go visit Euro Disney when an equally enjoyable time can be had at our home grown attractions of the Blackpool Tower and Center Parcs (Figures 1 and 2).

The government appreciates this is going to have a catastrophic impact on the airline and airport industries. That is the whole point of the policy. We can longer countenance giving shelter to evil polluting companies on these islands. The UK will press our allies throughout the OECD to follow suit. Given time this should also have a catastrophic impact on the airliner manufacturing sectors where we expect Rolls Royce (engines) and BAE systems (wings) to be hardest hit. We point to the troubled Jaguar Landrover, caused by government policy, as a shining example of government aptitude at wrecking British industry.

2. An end to North Sea Ferries

The government is often accused of lacking foresight and we wish to stress that we are smart enough to recognise that selfish polluting families may simply try to avoid the adult only flight policy by using car ferries instead. The government sees no way of tackling this problem other than to close down all ferry services between the UK and mainland Europe, the Island of Ireland and all other destinations. Car ferries travelling between Scottish Islands comes under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Parliament.

The activity of transporting a two tonne SUV on board a ship running on filthy dirty bunker fuel needs to be consigned to history. The idea of families boarding a ship to simply drive around Europe looking at stuff, while wrecking Earth’s climate, needs to be stopped.

The government is aware that these policies may seem to be anti-tourism. Nothing could be further from the truth. We remain committed to a robust, albeit crippled, tourist industry. British children will simply need to learn how to enjoy beach holidays at home (Figure 3). And to prove this point, children will still be allowed to travel to Europe on all electric Eurostar trains. And really rich families will even be allowed to take cars with them, so long as they are all-electric vehicles.

3. An end to driving to School

With immediate effect, the UK Government is to introduce a ban on children being driven to school by their parents in petrol or diesel cars. We will continue to allow children of very wealthy families to be driven to school in all-electric vehicles. Hybrid plugin electric vehicles will not face an immediate ban but will be phased out over three years.

To enforce this ban children will be encouraged to spy on their friends (or enemies) by taking pictures of children covertly being dropped off just around the corner and sharing these images on social media. This should create a deterrent to illegal child dropping.

4. Phasing out of gas or oil heating systems in schools

In keeping with the recently announced policy of the Dutch Government to phase out natural gas all together and the allied UK policy of ceasing to build homes with gas central heating, the government will bring forward a bill to phase out gas or oil heating systems in all our schools by 2022. Schools will instead by obliged to install all-electric heating that runs exclusively on in-situ, off-grid, renewable energy systems. Using the latest SMART technology it is anticipated that this should be simple and straightforward to achieve.

Here’s the clever part. Children of all ages (5 to 17) will be allowed to participate in designing these SMART heating systems. The Government does not have spare funds to support this initiative so schools will have to pay for it out of existing budgets. However, since renewable energy prices have tumbled, paying for this should not be a problem. If schools struggle to meet this bill, they will be encouraged to either lay-off staff or ask parents to pay for this vital flagship policy. [ENDS]

Thank you Euan.  There is no fool like a Climate Fool today or all year round.

Legal Calamity: Climate Nuisance Lawsuits

I am suing you

It has come to this:  Sue anyone doing anything you don’t like for profit as a “Public Nuisance.”  Further on is reprinted a previous post explaining why it is legally wrongheaded to claim damages against purveyors of fossil fuels because of global warming/climate change.  What is news today is a federal judge making exactly that mistake.

Michael I. Krauss writes at Forbes Federal Judge Allows Misuse Of Public Nuisance Doctrine. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

I have written, in this column and elsewhere, about the threat to the Rule of Law created by the misuse and abuse of Public Nuisance doctrine. Now I write to bemoan a federal judge’s tolerance of a particularly egregious effort by a state to invoke this ancient tort (typically used to sanction those who blocked the public roads) to judicially create legislative policy.

In State of Rhode Island v Chevron Corp. et al, [decided July 22, 2019], Chief Judge William Smith of the United States District Court in Rhode Island (appointed by President Bush) was presented with a suit launched by the Ocean State against energy companies it says are “partly responsible for our once and future climate crisis.” Rhode Island isn’t claiming that Defendants broke its laws, but that its behavior is “greedy” and suboptimal for the future of the Rhode Island. Of course the same might be said about Rhode Island farmers (who “greedily” raise beef for profit, and contribute methane to the environment) and about Rhode Island car dealers (who “greedily” market expellers of CO2), but I digress.

It is true that, eleven years ago, the Rhode Island Supreme Court unanimously rejected a similar public nuisance suit by the state against three former manufacturers of lead paint. That suit, the court held in 2008, represented an abuse of the public nuisance doctrine. But of course, that was eleven years ago. Times (and the judicial composition of many state courts) have changed. The defendants in this petrochemicals case, understandably wary about being sued in Rhode Island courts in front of state-appointed judges, in a suit launched by the state and aiming to transfer billions into the state, removed the case to federal court on the grounds that federal issues totally pre-empted Rhode Island’s claim. In his July 22, 2019 ruling, Judge Smith decided that the case should be returned to state court and there decided under state law. Here is the remarkable language the judge used to describe what he called the “background” of Rhode Island’s lawsuit — language the judge admitted he cribbed directly from Rhode Island’s complaint!

“…Defendants in this case… have extracted, advertised, and sold a substantial percentage of the fossil fuels burned globally since the 1960s. This activity has released an immense amount of greenhouse gas into the Earth’s atmosphere, changing its climate and leading to all kinds of displacement, death (extinctions, even), and destruction. … Defendants understood the consequences of their activity decades ago, when transitioning from fossil fuels to renewable sources of energy would have saved a world of trouble. But instead of sounding the alarm, Defendants went out of their way to becloud the emerging scientific consensus and further delay changes — however existentially necessary — that would in any way interfere with their multi-billion-dollar profits.”

Judge Smith may believe that his ruling is an example of judicial restraint. But to refuse to recognize the basic constitutional structure of the country is not laudable restraint, but rather timidity. As Justice Felix Frankfurter once explained in a different context: “The easy but timid way out for a trial judge is to leave all cases … for jury determination. A timid judge, like a biased judge, is intrinsically a lawless judge.”

In a virtually identical case to Rhode Island’s, City of New York v BP et al, decided on July 18 2018, Judge John F. Keenan of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York (appointed by President Reagan) ruled on the city’s public nuisance suit against petrochemical manufacturers:

“The Court agrees that the City’s claims are governed by federal common law…. Where “the interstate or international nature of the controversy makes it inappropriate for state law to control . . . our federal system does not permit the controversy to be resolved under state law.” [citing Banco Nacional de Cuba v. Sabbatino, 376 U.S. 398, 426 (1964)).

“To the extent that the City brings [public] nuisance and trespass claims against Defendants for domestic greenhouse gas emissions, the Clean Air Act displaces such federal common law claims under American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut, 564 U.S. 410 (2011).

And two weeks before the New York case, United States District Court Judge William Alsup of the Northern District of California (appointed by President Clinton) used the following language in dismissing San Francisco’s and Oakland’s climate liability lawsuits against the top five investor-owned fossil fuel producers:

“With respect to balancing the social utility against the gravity of the anticipated harm, it is true that carbon dioxide released from fossil fuels has caused (and will continue to cause) global warming. But against that negative, we must weigh this positive: our industrial revolution and the development of our modern world has literally been fueled by oil and coal. Without those fuels, virtually all of our monumental progress would have been impossible. All of us have benefitted. Having reaped the benefit of that historic progress, would it really be fair to now ignore our own responsibility in the use of fossil fuels and place the blame for global warming on those who supplied what we demanded? Is it really fair, in light of those benefits, to say that the sale of fossil fuels was unreasonable?… In our industrialized and modern society, we need (and still need) oil and gas to fuel power plants, vehicles, planes, trains, ships, equipment, homes and factories.”

As Judge Alsup impliedly states, it is absurd to allow a state jury to decide questions of national and international energy policy that the Constitution has clearly left to other branches of government. Rhode Island profits enormously from the products of the very same petrochemical industry that it now claims constitutes a nuisance.

Their suit is an invitation to legislate from the bench, or perhaps from the jury room.

The District of Columbia has recently solicited bids for a contingent fee public nuisance lawsuit against petroleum companies (despite the fact that DC itself has purchased millions of gallons of fuel from these same companies). This kind of “lawfare” can only survive if rulings like that of judge Smith prevail over those of judges Keenan and Alsup. It may be time for the Supreme Court to reiterate the holding of American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut and to end this abuse.

Is Global Warming A Public Nuisance?

Several posts have discussed activist attempts to use legal actions to press their agenda.  Now we have a fine article by Richard A. Epstein of Hoover Institution, published January 15, 2018
Is Global Warming A Public Nuisance?  
Text below in italics with my bolds and images.
H/T Jeffrey Taylor

New York City and a number of California municipalities, including San Francisco and Oakland, have filed law suits against five major oil companies—BP, Chevron, ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, and Royal Dutch Shell—for contributing to the increased risk of global warming. These complaints cite recent scientific reports that project that sea levels will rise from 0.2 meters to 2.0 meters (or 0.66 to 6.6 feet) by 2100, with a major loss of land surface area and serious climate disruptions. They further allege that the “Defendants had full knowledge that the fossil fuels would cause catastrophic harm.” The complaints rely chiefly upon public nuisance law, which prohibits unreasonably interfering with public rights in air and water through discharges of dangerous substances—in this instance, carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These cities are demanding that each oil company named in the complaint contribute to an abatement fund to counteract the perceived future threats to the environment from global warming.

In this essay, I confine my attention to the soundness of the public nuisance theory offered by San Francisco and New York in order to explain why private lawsuits are the wrong instrument for dealing with the global warming threat. In full disclosure, in this essay, I provide my own independent legal analysis of these complaints, which I prepared for the Manufacturer’s Accountability Project, an organization that focuses on the impact of litigation on the manufacturing industry.

The basic law of nuisance is divided into two parts, public and private, which complement each other. Private nuisances require at a minimum “an invasion of another’s interest in the private use and enjoyment of land.” The defendant must release, emit, or discharge the offensive materials—such as filth, odors, or noise—onto the plaintiff’s property. The relevant causal connection has to be so tight that there are no intervening forces between the discharge and the ensuing physical invasion of the plaintiff’s property. So, for example, the supplier of various materials and chemicals is not responsible for the waste that a manufacturer emits from their use.

The typical private nuisance dispute usually involves one party (or a very few) who either makes the discharges or suffers consequences from them. The basic intuition behind this limitation on private suits is that administrative costs balloon out of control when the number of parties who suffer some degree of harm increases, as happens when pollution is discharged into a public waterway used by hundreds of different people. Yet it is a mistake to ignore large pollution discharges simply because private law suits are an ineffective instrument to secure damages, an injunction, or both. As early as 1536, the English judges filled this gap by developing the law of public nuisances that rested, both then and now, on the key distinction between general and special damages. Thus, if the defendant erected an obstruction along a public road, none of the parties delayed by the blockage had a private right of action. But any individual who ran into the obstacle and suffered physical injuries or property damage could recover in tort. Now, the shortfall in deterrence attributable from not compensating the delayed travelers was offset by a fine against the wrongdoer, the money from which could be used to remove the obstacle or placed in the public treasury.

Woman on a ducking stool. Historical punishment for ‘common scold’ – woman considered a public nuisance. (Welsh/English heritage)

It is important to understand the enormous stretch in moving from traditional public nuisances to the modern global warming cases. The first point of difference is that only five companies—but no other carbon-dioxide-emitting polluter in the world—are joined as defendants. That is to say, the cities are apparently seeking to recover virtually all of their alleged abatement costs from the five named oil companies, instead of holding each only for its pro rata share of total emissions from all sources. But just what fraction of total carbon dioxide emissions can be traced to the named defendants? Note first that any release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere has the same impact on global warming regardless of its source.

These five oil companies are responsible at most for a tiny fraction of the global total of carbon dioxide emissions. First, just looking at the American scene, some good chunk of the carbon dioxide releases are from other oil companies not named in the complaint. Another, probably larger, chunk comes from burning coal, making cement, and human and animal respiration. Carbon dioxide is also released in large quantities by forest fires, including those that recently overwhelmed Northern and Southern California. And that’s just in America; vast amounts of carbon dioxide are released from a similar range of human activities all across the globe.

Global Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Source 2013

Here are some numbers: As of 2015, all carbon dioxide emissions from the United States comprised 14.34 percent of the global total, while China’s emissions stood at 29.51 percent. Even if the five oil companies were somehow responsible for, say, 10 percent of the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions, that would be less than one percent of the total human releases. Under standard tort rules, the liability of each defendant must be limited to its own pro rata share of the total harm given that under Section 433A of the Restatement of Torts, there is a “reasonable basis for determining the contribution of each cause to a single harm,” in this instance measured by market shares.
Indeed, these public nuisance lawsuits are especially dubious, given that the oil companies did not by their sales emit any carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The dangerous releases came from many different parties, both private and public, including the municipalities bringing these lawsuits. These numerous parties used these products in countless different ways, with as much knowledge of their asserted effects on global warming as these five defendants. How could the oil companies have known about the anticipated course of global warming forty years ago when key government studies done today are uncertain about the magnitude of the effects of emissions on sea levels and the economic consequences?

The first paragraph of the New York City complaint ducks these factual complexities by insisting, falsely, that crude oil was “a product causing severe harm when used exactly as intended.” But the end uses of crude oil are so varied (including, for example, the creation of various plastics in common use today) that the effective control of emissions is best done through the regulation of these end users and not the oil companies. Indeed, even for gasoline, the level of carbon dioxide emissions critically depends on the operation and maintenance of the many different types of facilities, equipment, and vehicles, all of which are beyond the direct control of the oil companies. Yet all these end users are already subject to extensive emissions controls under the Clean Air Act and countless other environmental directives, both at the state and federal level.

This sensible distribution of regulatory authority rests on the superior ability of government agencies (at least compared to the courts), often in cooperation with each other, to formulate and maintain coherent policies to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide, as well as methane, nitrous oxide, and fluorinated gases, which the EPA calculates account for 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions.

The issues here are especially complex for many technical and logistical reasons. One critical task is to decide the optimal level of emissions. The implicit assumption of the New York and San Francisco lawsuits is that the world would become a better place if all emissions of carbon dioxide were stopped. But that position ignores the enormous benefits that come from the use of fossil fuels, which continue to supply over 80 percent of the nation’s energy needs. No other fuel source could keep manufacturing, transportation, and commerce alive. And it is just exaggeration to claim, as the city plaintiffs do, that these oil companies “have done nearly all they could to create [the] existential threat” of global warming when in fact energy efficiency in the United States has consistently improved, particularly in generating electrical power.

No public nuisance suits for global warming can solve a problem that must be addressed by a coherent regulatory program. Instead, chaos will follow if hundreds of different states, counties, and cities are allowed to bring separate actions under state law. It bears emphasis that in 2011, a unanimous Supreme Court decision in American Electric Power Co. v. Connecticut held that the combination of the Clean Air Act and actions by the Environmental Protection Agency “against carbon-dioxide emitters . . . displace the claims that the plaintiffs seek to pursue” under a public nuisance theory brought under federal law. The Court left open the question of whether the federal regulation at the time preempted any state law cause of action for public nuisance.

Summary

But, as I argued at the time, the only viable solution was for the federal government and the EPA to “orchestrate” the effort to control emissions. The point is doubly true against these remote, upstream defendants who have not emitted anything themselves. The standard analysis of federal preemption has long held that states may not engage in their own remedial efforts, even by actions in tort, when extensive federal regulation occupies the field, or when state activity either frustrates federal action or is in conflict with it. If anything, the scope of federal oversight, actual and prospective, is far more comprehensive than it was when American Electric Power was decided. And so federal preemption alone should block a set of dubious public nuisance claims that should never have been brought in the first place.

Background:  Critical Climate Intelligence for Jurists (and others)

Can Institutions Impose Climate Beliefs on Stakeholders?

Update July 31, 2019 at end

Stanley Kurtz writes at New Republic Fossil Fuel Divestment versus Institutional Neutrality: A North Carolina Test Case. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

An important test of “institutional neutrality” — a pillar of campus free speech — is now playing out in North Carolina, where the University of North Carolina Asheville (UNCA) recently chose to divest a portion of its endowment from companies selling “fossil fuels” (coal, oil, and natural gas).

Institutional neutrality means that universities should avoid taking official political stands at the institutional level, such as divestment from fossil fuels, since such actions tend to pressure faculty and students holding contrary views into silence. This is particularly true for public universities such as UNCA, for they belong to every citizen of the state.

What makes the UNCA test case especially important is that two years ago North Carolina passed HB 527, one of the first comprehensive campus free-speech laws in the country. HB 527 not only affirms institutional neutrality as a foundational principle of campus free speech at UNC schools, it mandates that an annual report by a committee of the UNC Board of Governors (which oversees the entire state university system) weigh in on any “difficulties, controversies, or successes in maintaining a posture of administrative and institutional neutrality with regard to political or social issues.”

The question now is how the annual report, due in September, will handle this decision by a public university to throw in its lot with the fossil-fuel-divestment movement. More broadly, the question is whether the UNC Board of Governors will act to halt and reverse this clear violation of institutional neutrality by UNC Asheville. Students and administrators at UNCA intend their move to pressure the entire UNC system to divest. That means the UNC Board of Governors’ response to UNCA’s divestment bandwagon will have an enormous impact on the survival of institutional neutrality at every public campus in the state.

Students and faculty at public universities have every right to take whatever stand they like on issues like fossil-fuel divestment, climate change, and the Green New Deal. It is precisely the neutrality of public universities at the official institutional level that supports and guarantees the ability of individual faculty and students to freely speak their minds on these issues. Public universities shouldn’t have an official political line. We wouldn’t tolerate a public university endorsing Bernie Sanders, Kamala Harris, or Donald Trump for president. Nor should a public university throw its official institutional weight behind a thoroughly political movement whose aims are the subject of active, widespread, and unresolved public debate, particularly when state law cites the principle of institutional neutrality as an essential component of campus free speech.

True, UNC Asheville is known to lean heavily to the left, but that does not matter. After all, there are conservative students there as well; there is no political litmus test required and UNCA must remain open to all points of view. An institutional decision to divest from fossil fuels is like a neon sign flashing: “Conservatives need not apply.” Divestment purports to settle a political argument that students ought to be having with each other.

Determining whether a particular policy stand violates institutional neutrality always entails a degree of judgement. HB527 doesn’t ban institutional policy stands outright, because complete neutrality is impossible. Universities have to be able to advocate for a tuition increase, for example. That’s why North Carolina’s campus free speech law leaves it up to the system’s Board of Governors to weigh in on potential violations of neutrality. Nonetheless, it’s tough to see how a state that has enshrined the principle of institutional neutrality in law can fail to condemn fossil fuel divestment by a public university.

HB 527 begins by citing the University of Chicago’s famous 1967 Kalven Report as the classic articulation of the neutrality principle. While the Kalven Report acknowledges that there may be rare exceptions, it establishes a “heavy presumption against the university taking collective action or expressing opinions on the political and social issues of the day.” Such a stand, the report says, comes “at the price of censuring any minority who do not agree with the view adopted.” The Kalven Report emphasizes that the university “is not a lobby,” but instead must “maintain an independence from political fashions, passions, and pressures.” And universities do this precisely because they are obligated “to provide a forum for the most searching and candid discussion of political issues.” In other words, neutrality at the official institutional level encourages and makes possible free debate by members of the campus community. Or, as the Kalven Report puts it, “the instrument of dissent and criticism” is not the university but “the individual faculty member or the individual student.”

In 2015, President Robert Zimmer of the University of Chicago, renowned for his support of campus free speech, invoked the Kalven Report to explain why his school would not divest from fossil fuels. When student advocates of divestment pointed out that even the Kalven Report allows for exceptions in certain circumstances, Zimmer said fossil fuel divestment was not such a case.

“We should … be very wary of steps intended to instrumentalize our endowment in ways that would appear to position the University as a political actor rather than an academic institution. Conceiving of the endowment not as an economic resource, but as a tool to inject the University into the political process or as a lever to exert economic pressure for social purposes, can entail serious risks to the independence of the academic enterprise. The endowment is a resource, not an instrument to impel social or political change.”

UNC Asheville, in contrast, touts its decision to divest from fossil fuels as a “groundbreaking” move designed to lend “momentum” to a “movement” that it hopes will sweep the entire UNC system. UNCA Chancellor Nancy J. Cable called the decision “a defining moment” for the university. That’s the problem. Fossil-fuel divestment sends out a message that identifies the university on the official institutional level with a political movement that excludes — and is even directly at odds with — roughly half the taxpayers and potential students in North Carolina.

UNC Asheville is open about the fact that its decision was a direct response to student pressure for divestment.

And the political nature of the UNCA student fossil fuel divestment movement is evident. An opinion piece by leaders of UNCA Divest three months before the school’s final divestment decision, for example, positioned divestment as a repudiation of President Trump. Meanwhile, the UNCA school paper reports that many conservatives “feel like outcasts on campus.” How can UNC Asheville’s divestment decision fail to intensify and confirm that feeling, further chilling conservative speech? If anything, the school ought to be making of point of welcoming a wide range of student views on political issues.

Has UNC Asheville even thought about how its divestment decision might endanger free speech by creating an official university ideological line? Has it contemplated its decision in light of the new state law? Is the very concept of institutional neutrality and its importance for free speech even on the UNCA administration’s radar? Apparently not. In an excellent account of the UNCA neutrality controversy, Jay Schalin of North Carolina’s James G. Martin Center for Academic Renewal reports that when asked whether divestment was at odds with the principle of institutional neutrality, UNCA issued a bland statement that failed even to address the question.

It’s evident that UNC Asheville’s decision to divest from fossil fuels was taken without any regard for the neutrality issue in general, or for the new state law in particular.

At this point, it’s tough to see how the forthcoming annual report mandated by HB 527 can fail to condemn UNC Asheville’s decision to divest from fossil fuels. The committee of the UNC Board of Governors charged with issuing the report is legally obligated to address controversies over institutional neutrality, and this is certainly such a controversy. On the face of it, fossil fuel divestment violates the principles of neutrality set forth in the University of Chicago’s Kalven Report, which is cited as authoritative by the new law. After all, the University of Chicago itself currently cites the Kalven Report to explain why it won’t divest from fossil fuels, and Harvard has made effectively the same argument. How much more is it vital for a public university to uphold institutional neutrality, given that the UNC system serves citizens in a state where the full range of American political views is robustly represented? Why should the taxpayers of North Carolina support institutions that turn themselves into political actors? It’s also perfectly clear that UNCA’s divestment decision was taken without any serious regard to the neutrality issue, much less the new law. In short, to allow UNC Asheville’s divestment decision to pass without condemnation in the annual oversight report would be to violate the fundamental intent of HB 527.

North Carolina must prevent the thoroughgoing politicization of an important state university system by upholding institutional neutrality — one of the central pillars of campus free speech and a principle now enshrined in North Carolina state law. If UNC Asheville’s fossil fuel divestment decision holds — or worse, spreads as planned through the entire UNC system — the clear intent of HB 527 will have been violated, and the system’s Board of Governors will have failed to protect the state’s students from unwanted, unneeded, and thoroughly inappropriate ideological pressure. If, on the other hand, the UNC system reverses Asheville’s divestment decision and literally lays down the law on institutional neutrality, it will confirm North Carolina’s reputation as a leader of the movement to restore free speech at America’s public colleges and universities. We should know more by September, when the Board of Governors’ committee report is due.

Footnote Update July 31, 2019

Reuters provides additional evidence that climate opinions are divided along political lines.  H/T GWPF

Climate Discussion Nexus explains: (in italics with my bolds)

Reuters reports that a poll it did with Ipsos shows “Democrats are far more likely to believe droughts, floods, wildfires, hurricanes and tropical storms have become more frequent or intense where they live in the last decade”. And of course polls are likely to show wide disagreement on all manner of subjects, especially among political partisans. But even in these broad-minded times, there’s one thing we should all agree on: If two people argue about whether, say, hurricanes have become more frequent or intense where they live, they can’t both be right and it is possible to check.

Reuters agrees, rejecting fashionable relativism on this topic at least. Nevertheless you can guess which side it thinks is right: it sides with the Democrats. “U.S. government researchers have concluded that tropical cyclone activity, rainfall, and the frequency of intense single-day storms have been on the rise, according to data compiled by the Environmental Protection Agency.”

Really? Where? When? We have pretty good data on tropical cyclones in particular and they aren’t increasing.

Neither are US floods.  Well, what about the other stuff including droughts?

People who bother to check will thereafter doubt claims that these things are all increasing, so if Republicans are doubters, maybe it just means they looked up the numbers. And you don’t win the argument by appealing to the speculative future. “’We do expect to see more intense storms,’ said David Easterling, a spokesman for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Centers for Environmental Information.” Expect to see? Wasn’t the topic what we’d already seen?

Silly Republicans. “An overwhelming majority of scientists believe human consumption of fossil fuels is driving sweeping changes in the global climate by ramping up the concentration of heat-trapping gases in the atmosphere. But it is impossible to draw a direct link between the changes in U.S. weather in the recent past to the larger trend of warming.” Whereas an innuendo about the indirect links, followed by a snide reference to Donald Trump, should do the trick. “President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the science of climate change… Still, a majority of Republicans believe the United States should take “aggressive action” to combat global warming, Reuters polling shows.”

Good old Reuters polling. The story goes on to note that “Liberals are more likely to expose themselves to news outlets and people who believe climate change is an urgent threat that affects current weather patterns.” Like Reuters, for instance.

 

LA Times Misreports Mexican Energy Realism

 

Emily Green writes at LA Times Alternative energy efforts in Mexico slow as Lopez Obrador prioritizes oil. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The title of the article is not wrong, as we shall see below. But as usual climatists leave out the reality so obvious in the pie chart above. Seeing which energy sources are driving his nation’s prosperity provides the missing context for understanding the priorities of Mexican President Andres Lopez Obrador

The alarmist/activist hand-wringing is in full display:

With its windy valleys and wide swaths of desert, Mexico has some of the best natural terrain to produce wind and solar energy. And, in recent years, the country has attracted alternative energy investors from across the globe.

An aerial view of the Villanueva photovoltaic power plant in the municipality of Viesca, Coahuila state, Mexico. The plant covers an area the size of 40 football fields making it the largest solar plant in the Americas. (Alfredo Estrella / AFP/Getty Images)

But the market has taken a step back under Mexico’s new president, who has made clear his priority is returning Mexico’s oil company to its former dominance.

Since taking office Dec. 1, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has canceled a highly anticipated electricity auction, as well as two major transmission-line projects that would have transported power generated by renewable energy plants around the country. He has also called for more investment in coal, and stood by as his director of Mexico’s electric utility dismissed wind and solar energy as unreliable and expensive.

It’s too soon to forecast the long-term consequences, but business leaders and energy consultants are seeing a trend: a chilling in the country’s up-and-coming renewable energy market.

Further on we get the usual distortions and misdirection: Renewables capacities and low prices are cited ignoring the low actual production and intermittancy mismatch with actual needs.

Energy and oil remain sensitive topics in Mexico, where people still recall the glory days of state-owned oil company Pemex, when it was the country’s economic lifeblood. There’s even a day commemorating Mexico’s 1938 nationalization of its oil and mineral wealth.

In recent years, however, Mexico’s energy market has undergone a transformation and reached out to investors. In 2014, Lopez Obrador’s predecessor, Enrique Peña Nieto, fully opened up the country’s oil, gas and electricity sector to private investment for the first time in 70 years.

The effects were immediate. In the oil sector, companies such as ExxonMobil and Chevron clamored to explore large deposits that had once been the sole purview of Pemex.

On the electricity side, the reform led to billions of dollars in private investment in Mexico’s power sector, both in renewable energy and traditional sources such as natural gas.

Through a series of auctions, Mexico’s state-owned utility awarded long-term power contracts to private developers. Although the auctions were open to all energy technologies, wind and solar companies won the bulk of the contracts because they offered among the lowest prices in the world. Solar developers won contracts to generate electricity in Mexico at around $20 per megawatt-hour, according to the government. Industry sources said that is about half the going price for coal and gas.

The country’s wind generation capacity jumped from 2,360 megawatts at the end of 2014 to 5,382 megawatts this April, according to the Mexican wind energy association. The numbers were even more stark in solar, which soared from 166 megawatts of capacity in 2014 to 2,900 megawatts in April, according to the Mexican solar energy association.

Virtue Signalling is an Expensive Way to Run an Economy

The electricity auctions were also seen as the main vehicle for Mexico to reach its clean energy commitments made as part of the Paris climate accord to produce 35% of its electricity from clean energy sources by 2024, and 50% by 2050. Under Mexico’s definition, clean energy sources include solar and wind generation, as well as sources that some critics say aren’t environmentally friendly — such as hydroelectric dams, nuclear energy and efficient natural gas plants. Currently, 24% of Mexico’s electricity comes from clean energy sources.

Summary

Note that for true believers, no energy is “clean” except wind and solar. And Mexico is another example of how renewables cannibalize your electrical grid while claiming to be cheaper than FF sources and saving the planet from the plant food gas CO2. Meanwhile those two “zero carbon” sources provide only 2% of the energy consumed, despite the billions invested.

I get the impression that ALO is much smarter than AOC.
See Also

Exaggerating Green Energy Supply

Cutting Through the Fog of Renewable Power Costs

Superhuman Renewables Targets