Children’s Climate Lawsuit Tossed

Now this is interesting. This week another children’s climate lawsuit has been dismissed, this time in Seattle Washington, hotbed of climatists as rabid as California. According to AP, Judge Michael Scott gave away his personal bias by telling the plaintiffs not to be discouraged by his ruling granting the motion to dismiss from defendant Governor Inslee. Methinks that leftward justices in the lower courts are realizing they can no longer make policy from the bench and expect higher courts to let it pass. With Gorsuch sitting on the highest court, and Kavanaugh soon to be added, liberal grandstanding opinions may become much rarer.

The story from Washington Examiner Washington judge throws out children’s climate change lawsuit Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

A judge in Washington state on Tuesday dismissed a climate change lawsuit filed against the state by a group of child activists.

King County Superior Court Judge Michael Scott ruled in favor of the State of Washington’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit, Aji P. v. State of Washington. The 13 young activists in the suit argue that the state is violating their constitutional rights through actions that cause climate change.

Judge Scott ruled that issues brought up in the case are political questions that cannot be resolved by a court, and must be addressed by Congress and the president.

Attorneys representing the children said they would make a formal statement on the judge’s decision on Wednesday morning. An initial statement by Our Children’s Trust, the group representing the children, suggested Judge Scott erred in his decision.

“Given the significance of the Court’s decision and the pronounced departures from proper judicial procedure and consideration of Plaintiffs’ claims, Our Children’s Trust will issue a formal statement regarding the decision tomorrow,” the initial statement read.

The child plaintiffs in the lawsuit said they were both “saddened” and heartbroken” by the judge’s decision.

The same group of child activists has also sued the federal government on the same constitutional grounds in Juliana v. United States. But that lawsuit has had better luck in federal appeals court, which rejected the Trump administration’s several attempts to have the case thrown out.

More recently, the Supreme Court rejected a last-ditch attempt by the Trump administration to block the climate change lawsuit filed by children, meaning the lawsuit will have its day in court later this fall.

“The Government’s request for relief is premature and is denied without prejudice,” read the high court’s decision.

The case will be heard in federal district court in October.

Note: The article omits the caution directed by the supremes in their decision not to intervene.  The brief unsigned order said the Trump administration’s request was premature. The court did, however, note that the claims made in the ambitious lawsuit are “striking” and the question of whether they can be considered by a jury “presents substantial grounds for difference of opinion.”  As such, the lower court should take those concerns into account in handling the case, the order said.

“Without prejudice” suggests the highest court is open to hearing the case should the lower court get it wrong.

Footnote: The Fable of Political Success

A provincial political leader won the parliamentary election and on the day to take the oath was greeted by the outgoing premier.  Wishing him well, his predecessor gave him three envelopes, explaining it was a tradition.  The envelopes contained advice to be consulted later on if difficulties were encountered.

Not long after taking office, criticisms started up, and the new premier opened the first envelope.  It explained:  “Blame it on the previous administration.”  He followed that advice pointing to past financial mismanagement, and the difficulty undoing bad policies and programs he had inherited.

That calmed things down for awhile, but a year later the excuses were wearing thin.  So he turned to the second envelope which gave the advice:  “Blame it on the federal government.”  A new campaign of announcements focused on delays and shortfalls of federal funding, poor coordination and liaison by federal counterparts, and counterproductive federal policies.

This quieted critics for more than a year, but alas it too began to fall on deaf ears.  It was time to open the third envelope:  ” Blame it on climate change, or else prepare three envelopes.”

 

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Methane Waste Prevention Circus

In the middle ages, theologians strenuously debated the number of angels dancing on a pinhead. Now we have lawyers and judges going around in circles in order to prevent methane emissions. This circus show is a direct result of the embedded green bureaucracy in government, together with a segment of the population mobilized by fear of global warming/climate change.

The courtroom drama started when the Obama administration in its midnight hours gave environmentalists a Christmas gift with a new Methane Waste Prevention Rule issued by BLM (Bureau of Land Management). It demonstrated how federal agencies were enslaved by green ideologues in order to choke any energy developments with a slew of regulations and penalities. In fact, folks like the EDF (Environmental Defense Fund) are traumatized by fear of “greenhouse gases”, and methane in particular. Their real mission is to keep fossil fuels in the ground, thereby securing an imaginary future where the climate is always favorable and never changes.

This hysteria has been deliberately instilled and maintained by climatists (alarmists/activists) and produces a circus whenever they feel threatened (which is often). This is a case in point, and a cautionary tale for anyone trying to reconcile conservation and development.

Aside: In 1978 Billy Martin was Manager of the New York Yankees baseball team during a particularly turbulent time with players, coaches, the owner and fans. The Yankees were known by the NYC borough housing their stadium; overnight they went from the “Bronx Bombers” to the “Bronx Zoo.” The long-running soap opera prompted this comment from third baseman Graig Nettles: “When I was a kid I wanted to be either a ball player or work in a circus. Now I get to do both!”

Harvard Law School has a record of the series of acts in this soap opera here Methane Waste Prevention Rule

The schedule of Acts in the Methane Waste Prevention Circus (synopsis only; details at linked website)

History Before Trump Era (BTE)
On November 18, 2016 BLM published the Waste Prevention Rule with an effective date of January 17, 2017 and additional compliance deadlines set for January 17, 2018.

Three days before publication (November 15, 2016), but after the rule was signed, industry and states filed challenges to the rule in the District of Wyoming.

On January 17, 2017 the District of Wyoming denied a request for a preliminary injunction (leaving the rule in effect during the litigation).

Trump Common Era (TCE)
On February 3, 2017 The US House of Representatives passed a Congressional Review Act resolution to disapprove the rule, which would have voided the rule and barred any other “substantially similar” rule in the future.

On March 28, 2017 President Trump’s Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth directed the BLM to review the rule.

On May 10, 2017 the US Senate voted down the House of Representatives’ Congressional Review Act resolution, with three Republicans voting no.

On June 15, 2017 BLM announced that it was postponing the 2018 compliance dates for an indefinite period of time (as long as litigation is pending), “pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act” in a notification in the Federal Register.

On July 5, 2017 California and New Mexico challenged BLM’s postponement of the compliance dates.

On July 10, 2017 several environmental groups also challenged BLM’s postponement. The Northern District of California granted a motion to relate these two cases on July 12, 2017 and North Dakota and several industry groups were later allowed to intervene in the consolidated cases.

On September 7, 2017 the Northern District of California denied a request to transfer the litigation challenging BLM’s postponement to the District of Wyoming.

On October 4, 2017 the Northern District of California determined BLM’s June 15, 2017 postponement was unlawful, granting summary judgment in the case that vacated the postponement notification and reinstated the rule’s January 17, 2018 compliance date.

Also on October 4, 2017 BLM proposed a rule to delay the 2018 compliance dates in the Obama-era rule until January 17th, 2019. The agency accepted comments until November 6, 2017.

On October 27, 2017 industry groups asked the District of Wyoming to issue a preliminary injunction on the rule’s January, 2018 compliance deadlines to keep them from going into force while litigation is pending.

On October 30, 2017 the District of Wyoming agreed to a Trump administration request to slow the litigation by postponing briefing deadlines as BLM goes through its rulemaking process to repeal, revise, or rescind the rule pursuant to Executive Order 13783.

On November 2, 2017 Democratic lawmakers wrote a letter to Secretary Zinke opposing BLM’s attempts to repeal, revise, or rescind the rule.

In the last week of November 2017 environmental groups filed briefing with the District of Wyoming opposing the industry groups’ October 27, 2017 preliminary injunction request.

On December 4, 2017 BLM filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit of the October 4, 2017 Northern District of California decision finding the June 2017 BLM delay unlawful.

On December 8, 2017 BLM published a final rule delaying the 2018 compliance dates until 2019. Often referred to as the “Suspension Rule,” this was the final version of the rule BLM proposed on October 4, 2017.

On December 19, 2017 New Mexico and California sued BLM over its December 8, 2017 final rule to suspend the methane rule’s 2018 compliance dates, delaying them until 2019. A coalition of environmental groups also sued over the December 8 rule. Both lawsuits were filed in the District Court for the Northern District of California and were consolidated in January 2018.

On December 29, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming granted a request from industry groups and Wyoming and Montana to stay litigation in light of the final Suspension Rule BLM issued on December 8, 2017.

On January 5, 2018 the American Petroleum Institute moved to intervene in the December 19 lawsuits in the Northern District of California, saying the rule would be economically damaging. On January 9, 2018 the states of North Dakota and Texas also moved to intervene on behalf of BLM. Both of these motions were granted on February 26, 2018.

In the week of February 12, 2018 BLM released a proposed rule (the Revision Rule) to replace the 2016 Waste Prevention Rule.

On February 22, 2018 the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction preventing BLM’s December 8, 2017 Suspension Rule from taking effect. This order also denied a January 9th request by BLM, North Dakota and Texas to transfer the case to the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming.

On March 7, 2018 U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming agreed to resume industry and state challenges to the rule, lifting a stay issued on December 29, 2017 and setting a briefing schedule for pending motions.

Also on March 14, 2018 BLM announced it would voluntarily dismiss its appeal to the Ninth Circuit of the October 4, 2017 ruling from the Northern District of California, finding BLM had violated the Administrative Procedure Act by postponing 2018 compliance dates. The Ninth Circuit granted its motion to dismiss on March 15, 2018, ending the substantive portion of this case.

On April 4, 2018 the US District Court for the District of Wyoming agreed to suspend key provisions of the Waste Prevention Rule. The court stayed the case pending BLM’s completion of rulemaking process for the Revision Rule.

On April 5th and 6th, 2018 California, New Mexico, and environmental groups filed notices of appeal to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals of District of Wyoming’s April 4, 2018 order staying implementation of provisions of the Waste Prevention Rule.

On April 23, 2018 BLM filed a notice of appeal to the Ninth Circuit of the February 22, 2018 order denying a motion to transfer venue and granting a preliminary junction.

On April 30, 2018 the District of Wyoming denied appellants’ April 6, 2018 motion to stay its April 4th decision. By denying the motion, the court left in place its suspension of key provisions of the rule and stay of the case pending completion of the regulatory process for the Revision Rule.

On May 11, 2018 Environmental Defense Fund sued Interior and BLM for BLM’s failure to respond to FOIA requests “to produce records relevant to efforts to suspend, delay, repeal and/or revise the Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation final rule.”

On June 4, 2018 the Tenth Circuit denied a request from California, New Mexico and environmental groups to stay the April 4th order of the District of Wyoming (suspending key portions of the rule and staying litigation at the district court level) pending the Tenth Circuit’s consideration of their appeal of the order. In the same ruling, the Tenth Circuit also denied Wyoming, Montana, and industry groups’ motion to dismiss the appeal of the April 4th order entirely.

On June 20, 2018 BLM filed a motion to voluntarily dismiss its appeal to the Ninth Circuit filed on April 23, 2018. This leaves in place the February 22, 2018 preliminary injunction of BLM’s Suspension Rule.

On July 30, 2018, environmental groups, California, and New Mexico filed a brief with the 10th Circuit asking the court to overturn the District Court’s decision to enjoin the Methane Waste Prevention Rule.

Currently Running Methane Circus Performances

Four cases related to the Waste Prevention Rule and the Administration’s efforts to delay, suspend, or roll it back are currently active:

  • Wyoming v. U.S. Dep’t of the Interior, No. 2:16-CV-00285 consolidated with Western Energy Alliance, et al. v. Sally Jewell, 2:16-CV-0280. (D. Wyo.) — challenging the original Waste Prevention Rule,
  • California and New Mexico v. Zinke, No. 3:17-CV-03804 consolidated with Sierra Club et al., v. Zinke. No. 3:17-CV-03885 (N.D. Cal.) — challenging BLM’s June 15, 2017 notification of postponement of the rule’s compliance dates,
  • California and New Mexico v. BLM, No .3:17-cv-07186 consolidated with Sierra Club et al v. BLM 3:17-cv-07187 (N.D. Cal.) — challenging BLMs December 8, 2017 Suspension Rule delaying the Waste Prevention Rule’s 2018 compliance dates, and
  • EDF v. Dept. of Interior, No. 1:18-cv-01116 (D.D.C) -– a FOIA suit against BLM regarding requested documents relating to its efforts to delay, suspend, and rollback the Waste Prevention Rule.

I searched a lot to find out what is the root of the legal conflict. Almost everything in the media is from alarmist sources and avoids the details and differences between what is proposed in 2016 and 2018. The most informative source IMO is the legal brief submitted by the energy producers April 23, 2018 Comments on BLM 2018 Revisions to Waste Prevention Rules Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.

To Whom it May Concern: Western Energy Alliance (the Alliance) and the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) appreciate the opportunity to provide comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) proposed revisions of certain provisions of the Methane and Waste Prevention rule, or 2016 rule. The 2016 rule as promulgated exceeded BLM’s authority under the Mineral Leasing Act (MLA), and that the decision to re-evaluate the rule is required. The proposed revision rule more accurately captures the scope of BLM’s waste minimization authority, and will better ensure federal mineral interests are adequately protected without excessively burdening federal lands development with overreaching regulations.

IPAA represents thousands of independent oil and natural gas exploration and production companies, as well as the service and supply industries that support their efforts. Independent producers drill about 95% of American oil and natural gas wells, and produce about 54% of American oil and more than 85% of American natural gas. The Alliance represents over 300 companies engaged in all aspects of environmentally responsible exploration and production of oil and natural gas in the West. Alliance members are independents, the majority of which are small businesses with an average of 15 employees.

The 2016 Waste Prevention Rule Exceeds BLM’s Statutory Authority

The 2016 rule exceeds BLM’s statutory authority under the MLA and must be revised. The United States District Court for the District of Wyoming expressed significant concern with the rule. The court described BLM as having “hijacked the EPA’s authority under the guise of waste management” and stated that “the BLM cannot use overlap to justify overreach.”1 Given such a strong warning of the legal vulnerability of the rule, it is logical and necessary that BLM move to substantively revise it to more accurately reflect the agency’s statutory authority. Our comments on the 2016 rule, which are attached hereto as Appendix B and reincorporated in full by reference herein, provide an overview of our concerns with the technical and legal vulnerabilities of the 2016 rule. Many of those concerns went unaddressed and are subject to the ongoing litigation referenced above. This letter raises further concerns with the 2016 rule.

The stated primary goal of the 2016 rule was to reduce methane emissions from oil and gas operations. During that rulemaking process, BLM repeatedly emphasized that the methane reductions achieved by the Proposed Rule justified its provisions. As the Wyoming court noted, however, BLM only has “authority to regulate the development of federal and Indian oil and gas resources for the prevention of waste.” Id. at 15 (emphasis in original). Therefore, some emissions reductions may occur as a result of an otherwise lawful measure to prevent the “waste” of gas pursuant to BLM’s authority under the MLA. But BLM’s obligation to promulgate reasonable waste prevention measures does not confer any authority to regulate air quality. The Wyoming court also made clear that the “protection of air quality . . . is expressly within the ‘substantive field’ of EPA and states pursuant to the Clean Air Act.” Thus, in the context of the 2016 rule, BLM lacks authority to require the oil and gas industry to reduce methane (or other air) emissions.

The only way BLM could justify the 2016 rule was to incorporate global climate change benefits. As the Wyoming court put it, “the Rule only results in a ‘net benefit’ if the ‘social cost of methane’ is allowed to be factored into the analysis . . . [and] [t]he Court questions whether the ‘social cost of methane’ is an appropriate factor for BLM to consider in promulgating a resource conservation rule pursuant to its MLA authority.”The social cost of methane was formally withdrawn by Executive Order No. 13783, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, meaning it is no longer a suitable metric for rulemaking.

Under the MLA, produced gas is “wasted” only if it could have been economically captured and marketed or put to beneficial use on the lease. Thus, to establish that a proposed waste prevention measure is a “reasonable precaution” against “waste” and authorized under the MLA, BLM must demonstrate that the gas can be economically captured by the operator or beneficially used on the lease. If a waste prevention measure renders gas capture or use uneconomic, then BLM has no authority to impose it.

The reality is that without duplicative and burdensome federal rules, industry has made tremendous progress in addressing issues associated with venting, flaring, and methane emissions. According to EPA’s most recent greenhouse gas inventory, between 1990 and 2016, methane emissions from petroleum and natural gas systems declined 14% while natural gas production increased 50%. In the 2016 inventory (published in 2018), petroleum system methane emissions declined 3% since 1990, and methane from natural gas systems declined 16% since 1990. These decreases come despite a 71% and 48% increase in production, respectively, since 2005. Most important, the most recent EPA data, which applies more accurate calculation methodologies, show that emissions from associated gas venting and flaring decreased 36% from 2015-2016. See 2018 GHG Inventory Report at 3-64. In fact, EPA revised petroleum system methane emission estimates going back to 1990, resulting in an average decrease of 28% for a given year relative to previous estimates due to the “recalculation of associated gas venting and flaring emissions using a basin-level approach.” Id. at ES-6 (the same recalculation results in increased CO2, however). EPA’s new data reveals that the 2016 rule was premised on inaccurate information regarding the volume of methane emissions attributable to venting and flaring, and is therefore, an arbitrary and capricious agency action that was premised on faulty logic and without adequate support on the record. EPA’s new and updated data further supports the agency’s rationale for the Proposed Rule.

Conclusion

In closing, we reiterate the tremendous progress that America’s oil and natural gas industry has made, and will continue to make, in addressing venting, flaring, and methane emissions. EPA’s most recent data concerning such emissions demonstrates that despite a significant increase in production in recent years, emissions continue to decline, including specifically methane emissions from venting and flaring. In this respect, the fundamental premise upon which the 2016 rule was based is not accurate and warrants a reconsideration of the rule. The 2016 rule exceeded BLM’s authority, made numerous and fundamentally flawed assumptions in its assessment of both the cost of compliance to industry and the benefits derived from the rule, and was an unlawful, arbitrary and capricious agency action. Accordingly, BLM was required to make substantial revisions to that rule, and we believe the Proposed Rule is a vast improvement and consistent with the agency’s statutory authority in most respects.

Footnote:

This is another example of using regulations and legal techniques to add layers of complication and cost with the intent of stopping energy extraction:  “Leave it in the ground.” A previous post showed how this is an activist strategy with deep commitment and deep pockets supporting it.  Just look how quickly legal teams acted to obstruct a more balanced rule, and put sand in the gears of deregulation.  In fact a circus should be more fun instead of a  continual battleground with slings and arrows.

Battle of Agincourt.

Background

Methane Gets a Bad Rap  More Methane Madness

Methane is Natural not Pollution Carbon Sense and Nonsense

Game Plan against Fossil Fuels Climatist Revolutionaries

Note:   Here is the proposed rule:
A Proposed Rule by the Land Management Bureau on 02/22/2018

Breaking the Climate Spell

 

Rupert Darwall is one of the more knowledgeable people concerning how the world came under the spell of global warming/climate change. This post features his recent article regarding how the worldwide delusion may be losing its power. Breaking the Climate Spell. appeared today in the Weekly Standard.  Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.

Getting out of the Paris Agreement was just the first step on the road to a realist global energy policyThirteen years ago, a Republican president who had pulled the United States out of an onerous climate treaty faced isolation at the annual gathering of Western leaders. “Tony Blair is contemplating an unprecedented rift with the U.S. over climate change at the G8 summit next week, which will lead to a final communiqué agreed by seven countries with President George Bush left out on a limb,” the Guardian reported of the meeting at Glen­eagles, Scotland. France and Germany preferred an unprecedented split communiqué to a weak one, the article said.

George W. Bush, who had pulled the country out of the Kyoto Protocol in 2003, blinked and agreed to an official document that affirmed global warming was occurring and that “we know enough to act now.” The 2005 G8 put the United States back on the path that ultimately led through the Copenhagen climate summit—when China and India thwarted U.S.-led attempts at a global climate treaty—to the Paris Agreement 11 years later.

There was a very different American president this June at the Charlevoix G7 (as it has been since Russia’s suspension in 2014). Had it not been for the row with Justin Trudeau, when the Canadian prime minister responded to President Trump’s steel and aluminum tariffs with retaliatory tariffs of his own, the big story would have been the climate split. Where 15 years ago the mere possibility of isolation pushed Bush to compromise, Trump embraced the isolation and inserted an America-only paragraph into the summit communiqué outlining a position fundamentally contradicting the rest of the group’s.

Donald Trump with G7 leaders in Charlevoix, Canada, June 9. Credit: Jesco Denzel / Bundesregierung / Getty

“The United States believes sustainable economic growth and development depends on universal access to affordable and reliable energy resources,” it reads, going on to offer a manifesto for global energy realism. That single paragraph is more definitive than the president’s announcement last August that the United States would be withdrawing from the Paris treaty. After all, George W. Bush nixed the Kyoto Protocol that Bill Clinton signed. And Trump, when announcing the Paris withdrawal, left the door open to U.S. participation in a renegotiated climate deal. At Charlevoix, he closed it. Unlike in 2005, it’s very hard now to see any way back.

This is about far more than process. Trump is breaking the spell of inevitability of the transition to renewable energy. The impression of irresistible momentum has been one of the most potent tools in enforcing compliance with the climate catechism. Like socialism, the clean-energy transition will fail because it doesn’t work. But it requires strong leadership to avoid the ruin that will disprove the false promise of cost-free decarbonization.

That reality is already hurting those countries that are farther down the renewable-energy path of ruin than the United States—and, when offered the chance, voters are taking it out on politicians. In March, a fanatically pro-wind and solar energy Labor government in South Australia, one of the eight states and territories that make up the country, decided to make the state elections a referendum on renewable energy. With some of the world’s most expensive electricity and a serious blackout in 2016, South Australia voters kicked out Labor and voted in a government vowing to repeal the state’s renewable-energy target.

Days before Justin Trudeau took the center of the global stage as host of the G7 summit, his Liberal party was trounced in provincial elections in Ontario. The province’s party had won four consecutive terms in office and had pressed virtually every pro-renewable, anti-hydrocarbon policy imaginable. In the June 7 elections, they took just seven seats in the 124-seat legislature. “I made a promise to the people that we would take immediate action to scrap the cap-and-trade carbon tax and bring their gas prices down,” newly elected premier Doug Ford announced.

 

Nowhere has confrontation with the physical and economic realities of renewable energy been more painful than Germany, the birthplace of renewable-energy ideology. As party leaders negotiated a new coalition agreement after the September 2017 elections, they acknowledged for the first time that Germany was going to miss the sacrosanct 2020 target to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 percent from 1990 levels. This had been set in 2007, and the first 20 percent had been easy. Thanks to German reunification, the former East Germany had seen its industries collapse, and there were plenty of inefficient power stations to close. It had always been clear, Angela Merkel declared three weeks after the September federal elections, that it was not going to be easy to cut the other 20 percent “at a time of relatively strong economic growth.” Note: Stronger growth equals higher emissions.

Launching the German renewables transition in 2004, energy minister Jürgen Trittin promised that it would put no more than the cost of an ice cream on monthly electricity bills. Nine years later, his successor, Peter Alt­maier, admitted that the costs could amount to $1.34 trillion by the end of the 2030s. At a meeting in June of E.U. energy ministers, Germany ran up the white flag. Altmaier shocked fellow E.U. energy ministers by rejecting higher renewable-energy targets. “We’re not going to manage that,” he told them. “Nowhere in Europe is going to manage that. Even if we did manage to get enough electric cars, we wouldn’t have enough renewable energy to keep them on the road.”

No country has a greater abundance of hydrocarbon energy than the United States. The corollary is that no country was as big a loser from participating in the Paris Agreement and its intention to progressively decarbonize the world’s hydrocarbon superpower. On July 10, the Energy Information Administration forecast that next year, the United States will produce 12 million barrels of oil a day and overtake Saudi Arabia to be the world’s number-one producer. When it comes to the politics of energy, the interests of the United States and European green ideology are irreconcilable.

Donald Trump understands this. “Our country is blessed with extraordinary energy abundance, which we didn’t know of even 5 years ago and certainly 10 years ago,” the president said in 2017. Those remarks were not only a paean to America’s energy resources, they were a full-dress rejection of the policies of his predecessor and of the Democrats’ goal of Europeanizing American energy policy.

“We have nearly 100 years’ worth of natural gas and more than 250 years’ worth of clean, beautiful coal. We are a top producer of petroleum and the number-one producer of natural gas. We have so much more than we ever thought possible. We are really in the driving seat. And you know what? We don’t want to let other countries take away our sovereignty and tell us what to do and how to do it. That’s not going to happen. With these incredible resources, my administration will seek not only American energy independence that we’ve been looking for for so long, but American energy dominance. And we’re going to be an exporter—exporter. We will be dominant. We will export American energy all over the world, all around the globe. These energy exports will create countless jobs for our people, and provide true energy security to our friends, partners, and allies all across the globe.”

For the first time since 1992, when George H.W. Bush went to the Rio Earth Summit, an American president was outlining a global energy strategy diametrically opposed to the tenets underlying the U.N. climate process. Trump was establishing a rival pole based on energy realism and energy abundance.

The Rio Summit was the brainchild of Canadian ­Maurice Strong, and he understood that what most motivates political leaders, bureaucrats, and corporate CEOs is the fear of being left out. “The process is the policy,” Strong said, and the annual climate conferences that have been held since the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in Rio created a sense of irresistible momentum. It’s that spell Trump is now breaking. Countries around the world are being damaged by the anti-hydrocarbon policies encouraged by the U.N., but leaving the Paris Agreement was a step only the United States was strong enough to take. Now it is up to the Trump administration to help other countries act in their economic interests.

Energy secretary Rick Perry has talked of U.S. willingness to lead a global alliance of countries wanting to make fossil fuels cleaner rather than abandoning them. Of the G7, Japan has traditionally been most leery of decarbonization, and after the 2011 Fukushima accident Japan decided to expand its coal-fired generating capacity by half, building 45 new coal power stations.

Poland is another coal-based economy that has no intention of phasing out coal. Of all energy-realist nations, Poland is the one that sees eye to eye with the Trump administration. During the Brezhnev years, Poland—alone of the Eastern Bloc nations—refused to sign up to sulphur-emission cuts designed to isolate the U.K. and the United States at the height of the acid rain scare. As host of the next round of U.N. climate talks, at Katowice in December, Poland is more than usually important as a U.S. energy ally. Australia, the world’s largest coal exporter, is another obvious U.S. partner.

Where the United States can make the biggest difference, though, is with the developing nations who depend on overseas finance to build out their electrical grids and need the cheap, reliable energy only coal can supply. Last September, Southeast Asian energy ministers, noting the rising use of coal in the region, called for greater promotion of clean coal. In June, India struck a strategic energy partnership with the United States, described by Perry as an “amazing opportunity for U.S. energy” to sell clean coal, nuclear technology, oil, and gas.

In October 2016, Nigeria’s finance minister, Kemi Adeosun, railed against the West’s energy imperialism and the hypocrisy of using coal to industrialize and then denying it to Africans. “By telling us not to use coal they are pushing us into the destructive cycle of underdevelopment; while you have the competitive advantages, you tie our hands behind us,” she said.

Denying the world’s poor cheap electricity is the official policy of the World Bank. In 2012, Barack Obama agreed to the appointment of Jim Yong Kim as president of the World Bank, and the next year, the bank stopped the financing of coal-fired generation. Although the Trump administration publicly opposes the coal ban and the United States has the largest number of votes at the World Bank, the institution is doubling down on its anti-fossil-fuel agenda. At Emmanuel Macron’s climate summit in December 2017, Kim announced the bank was extending the financing ban to upstream oil and gas. Here is the first order of business for a global energy alliance—to pressure the World Bank to lift its hydrocarbon financing bans and serve the world’s poor rather than sacrifice them to a regressive climate agenda.

As it is, China is the biggest winner from the World Bank’s energy policies. A June 2017 World Bank report notes China’s “global dominance” in the supply of materials needed by renewable energy technologies. In addition to China’s control over the supply of base and rare-earth metals, last year 7 of the top 10 global suppliers of solar panels were headquartered in China. An eighth is in Hong Kong and a ninth in Canada, but with Chinese links. For as long as the World Bank’s hydrocarbon-financing bans remain, American taxpayers will be funding a war on American coal and subsidizing China’s solar industry. If this seems an unappealing prospect, the Trump administration should move fast to assemble the necessary votes ahead of the World Bank meeting in October.

Domestically, the climate caravan keeps rolling. At the beginning of June, 13 Republican senators wrote to the president urging him to submit the Kigali Amendment to the Montreal Protocol, described by the U.N. as “another global commitment to stop climate change,” for the Senate’s advice and consent. Two weeks later, the New York Times carried a report and associated op-ed by former senators Trent Lott and John Breaux on a new group, Americans for Carbon Dividends, which has hired the bipartisan pair to lobby for a carbon tax. “We must put a meaningful price on carbon,” they wrote, arguing for a $40 per ton tax “high enough to encourage a turn to cleaner energy sources.”

Former Fed chair Janet Yellen, another member of the group, told the Times that taxing carbon emissions is “absolutely standard textbook economics.” The textbook actually teaches that a carbon tax would be efficient if it replaced all the tax credits, subsidies, portfolio standards, and regulations supporting the expansion of uneconomic wind and solar energy. Their inherent defect is that the amount of energy they produce depends on the weather, not on demand. Because of the way the electrical grid works, they dump their intermittency costs on other generators, particularly the reliable coal and nuclear plants. It is not surprising that the backers of Americans for Carbon Dividends and its seven-figure annual budget include First Solar, Inc. and the American Wind Energy Association.

Only a small portion of the putative climate benefits of a carbon tax would ever flow back to the United States in the form of avoided climate impacts. Insofar as cutting greenhouse gas emissions creates environmental benefits, it’s a vast foreign aid program in which costs are incurred domestically and most of the benefits go abroad. Worse still, federal government estimates of the social costs of carbon still rely on climate models using computer-simulated data. These produce higher values than estimates based on actual climate data. According to a 2017 paper by the economists Kevin Dayaratna, Ross McKitrick, and David Kreutzer, a $37 per ton carbon tax using model-based estimates for the climate sensitivity of carbon dioxide would be halved if based on empirical data. Dayaratna, a fellow at the Heritage Foundation, has also noted that one of the impact assessment models used by the Obama administration even produces a negative estimate for the social cost of carbon under “very reasonable assumptions.” A negative carbon tax—subsidizing carbon emissions—is hardly what First Solar and the American Wind Energy Association are funding some of Washington’s most expensive lobbyists for.

For all the energy revolution so far, the Trump administration’s energy agenda remains incomplete. The Clean Power Plan is being rolled back, but the EPA’s 2009 greenhouse-gas endangerment finding on which it stood remains in place. There has been talk from the administration of creating red and blue opposing teams of climate scientists to give politicians and the public a more balanced view of our understanding of climate. On energy policy, Rick Perry’s grid-security study can be extended to examine how wind and solar subsidies distort the costs of electricity. That way, Americans will begin to see the true price of renewables and the extra they’ll have to pay to keep the lights on thanks to the intermittency problem of generating energy from the winds and the sun.

Exiting Paris was the first step. The president has also ended his predecessor’s war on coal. Globally, the administration’s continued advocacy for energy realism can win friends among the world’s poor and make allies of some of the world’s most dynamic economies. The geostrategic potential of American energy is already being felt. American gas is being shipped to Poland and American coal to Ukraine—reducing the region’s dependence on Russian gas. As the president pointed out at the NATO summit in early July, Germany’s pipeline will see it paying “billions of dollars” a year to Russia, although he subsequently undercut the strategic logic of his argument at the disastrous press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki on July 16. The Trump administration should now formalize its ties with other energy-realistic nations and show the world the benefits of America’s energy exceptionalism—jobs at home, booming exports, and an escape from dismal energy policies predicated on bogus resource shortages. Having broken the spell, America and its friends around the world can reap the benefits.

Rupert Darwall is the author of Green Tyranny: Exposing the Totalitarian Roots of the Climate Industrial Complex.

Strange Days and Witch Hunts

Re-enactment of Renfrewshire Witch Hunt of 1697

Contrary to conventional wisdom, witch hunting did not happen much during the Middle Ages, since in most places it was illegal  to believe witches existed. Most of the witch hunts occurred during what’s called “the Renaissance.” Witch hunting continued though the “Age of Rationalism” and for the most part ended about in the middle of the “Age of Enlightenment” (in Europe at least).

As a general rule, witches were not hunted as witches, instead it fell under the larger banner of “heresy.” Pretty much what is going on now in targeting climatism unbelievers. Since suspected witches were tried as heretics instead of as witches, it makes getting exact numbers impossible. And so much for modern reasonable people being adverse to condemning and destroying others with differing beliefs.

Strange days have found us
Strange days have tracked us down
They’re going to destroy our casual joys
Lyrics from song “Strange Days”, The Doors 1967

The lyrics from the Doors classic song “Strange Days” seem (strangely) appropriate today with all of the lashing out of the climate alarmist movement. There are subpoenas flying around and multiple accusations against corporations, contrarian scientists, think tanks and even the federal government for not thinking and acting correctly to “fight climate change.”

Most recently we have the fires of hell awaiting all of us in the “Hothouse” earth depicted by climatists unless repentance occurs in the form of draconian reforms imposed by international self-appointed experts.  As well we are now seeing warning labels on contrarian videos, a new step in pointing out modern witches (deniers).

Steven Hayward writes this week in a Powerline article Make Socialism Scientific Again with insights into what is going on (H/T John Ray)  Of particular relevance is the excerpt below in italics with my bolds.

I’ve never met Prof. Clark, and don’t know him at all, but he is the author of one of my very favorite articles about the institutional problems of science and politics way back in 1980: “Witches, Floods, and Wonder Drugs: Historical Perspectives on Risk Management.” It’s a terrific article. It was the late columnist Warren Brookes who first brought it to my attention. Clark’s comparison of the institutional incentives for witch-hunting with contemporary risk assessment (built partially on the terrific work of the late Aaron Wildavsky) has a perfect application to today’s Malthusian environmentalism and especially climate change thermaggeddonism—especially apt for the Inquisition-like treatment of dissent from climate change orthodoxy.

Some samples from Clark’s article:

Collective action by the central authority was henceforth required, and any action taken against a particular individual was justified in the name of the common good. In the case of the witch hunts, this “common good” justified the carbonization of five hundred thousand individuals, the infliction of untold suffering, and the generation of a climate of fear and distrust—all in the name of the most elite and educated institution of the day. . .

The institutionalized efforts of the Church to control witches can be seen, in retrospect, to have led to witch proliferation. Early preaching against witchcraft and its evils almost certainly put the idea of witches into many a head which never would have imagined such things if left to its own devices. The harder the Inquisition looked, the bigger its staff, the stronger its motivation, the more witches it discovered. .

Since the resulting higher discovery rate of witch risks obviously justifies more search effort, the whole process becomes self-contained and self-amplifying, with no prospect of natural limitation based on some externally determined “objective” frequency of witch risks in the environment. . .

In witch hunting, accusation was tantamount to conviction. Acquittal was arbitrary, dependent on the flagging zeal of the prosecutor. It was always reversible if new evidence appeared. You couldn’t win, and you could only leave the game by losing. The Inquisition’s principal tool for identifying witches was torture. The accused was asked if she was a witch. If she said no, what else would you expect of a witch? So she was tortured until she confessed the truth. The Inquisitors justified ever more stringent tortures on the grounds that it would be prohibitively dangerous for a real witch to escape detection. Of course an innocent person would never confess to being a witch (a heretic with no prospects of salvation) under mere physical suffering. The few who lived through such tests were likely to spend the rest of their lives as physical or mental cripples. Most found it easier to give up and burn.

You can see here an early version of the “precautionary principle” (“The Inquisitors justified ever more stringent tortures on the grounds that it would be prohibitively dangerous for a real witch to escape detection”) and many other prominent traits of the climate campaign.

Here is Clark’s killer sentence:

Many of the risk assessment procedures used today are logically indistinguishable from those used by the Inquisition.

And this coda, for which you should swap out “risk assessors” with “climate change advocates”:

Today, anyone querying the zeal of the risk assessors is accused at least of callousness, in words almost identical to those used by the Malleusfive hundred years ago. The accused’s league with the devil against society is taken for granted. Persecution in the press, courts, and hearing rooms is unremitting, and even the weak rules of evidence advanced by the “science” of risk assessment are swept away in the heat of the chase. This is not to say that risks don’t exist, or that assessors are venal. It is to insist that skeptical, open inquiry remains theory rather than practice in the majority of today’s risk debates. That those debates are so often little more than self-deluding recitations of personal faith should not be surprising.

Cue the refrain that “97 percent of scientists believe in climate change.” Believe? It would seem the Inquisition never really went away: it just changed institutions and identified a different class of witches to hunt down.

Scientists are the equal of any other citizens, and are perfectly entitled to their political opinions. But to represent their opinions with the veneer of scientific authority, as is done here, degrades science, and contributes to the decline in public regard for the scientific community. Prof. Kerry Emanuel of MIT, a “mainstream” climate scientist, put the matter well a few years back:

Scientists are most effective when they provide sound, impartial advice, but their reputation for impartiality is severely compromised by the shocking lack of political diversity among American academics, who suffer from the kind of group-think that develops in cloistered cultures. Until this profound and well-documented intellectual homogeneity changes, scientists will be suspected of constituting a leftist think tank.

Instead of offering vague political nostrums like this article, scientists who are sincerely convinced of the high probability of doom from climate change ought to be offering the specs for the technical changes that need to be made to energy supply (i.e., what carbon intensities, what kind of pollution mitigation, what kind of “geoengineering” strategies, etc). To their credit, many scientists do just this. This group of authors clearly want to be in a different line of work—or at least ought to be.

Summary:

As climate alarmists continue to amp up the fear factor to achieve their political aims, they risk unleashing the heart of darkness hidden under the surface of civil society.

Background:

Summer “Hothouse” Silliness 

Perverse Postmodern Climate: Retreat from Reason

Head, Heart and Science Updated

Greenland Viking Science in Depth

 

Eric the Red slept here: Qassiarsuk features replicas of a Viking church and longhouse. (Ciril Jazbec)

Update August 9 2018

With an article just published in South China Morning Post and reblogged in GWPF,  I am reposting this more in depth discussion of the Greenland Vikings.  It was originally published in 2017 with information and graphics drawn from a fine essay in the Smithsonian Magazine.

It is refreshing to come across scientists researching a question without the corrupting need to scare the public or to confirm some personal, professional or moral fear of the future. In this case I refer to a wonderful Smithsonian article on the question: Why Did Greenland’s Vikings Vanish? Newly discovered evidence is upending our understanding of how early settlers made a life on the island — and why they suddenly disappeared.

Some excerpts below give the flavor of this persistent effort by researchers unrewarded by the availability of huge grants that now flow to the once-lowly climatologists.  The whole article is fascinating to anyone with curiosity.

The Mystery of Greenland Vikings

But the documents are most remarkable—and baffling—for what they don’t contain: any hint of hardship or imminent catastrophe for the Viking settlers in Greenland, who’d been living at the very edge of the known world ever since a renegade Icelander named Erik the Red arrived in a fleet of 14 longships in 985. For those letters were the last anyone ever heard from the Norse Greenlanders.

They vanished from history.

Europeans didn’t return to Greenland until the early 18th century. When they did, they found the ruins of the Viking settlements but no trace of the inhabitants. The fate of Greenland’s Vikings—who never numbered more than 2,500—has intrigued and confounded generations of archaeologists.

Those tough seafaring warriors came to one of the world’s most formidable environments and made it their home. And they didn’t just get by: They built manor houses and hundreds of farms; they imported stained glass; they raised sheep, goats and cattle; they traded furs, walrus-tusk ivory, live polar bears and other exotic arctic goods with Europe. “These guys were really out on the frontier,” says Andrew Dugmore, a geographer at the University of Edinburgh. “They’re not just there for a few years. They’re there for generations—for centuries.”

So what happened to them?

The Conventional Wisdom

Thomas McGovern used to think he knew. An archaeologist at Hunter College of the City University of New York, McGovern has spent more than 40 years piecing together the history of the Norse settlements in Greenland. With his heavy white beard and thick build, he could pass for a Viking chieftain, albeit a bespectacled one. Over Skype, here’s how he summarized what had until recently been the consensus view, which he helped establish: “Dumb Norsemen go into the north outside the range of their economy, mess up the environment and then they all die when it gets cold.”

Thomas McGovern (with Viking-era animal bones); The Greenlanders’ end was “grim.” (Reed Young)

Accordingly, the Vikings were not just dumb, they also had dumb luck: They discovered Greenland during a time known as the Medieval Warm Period, which lasted from about 900 to 1300. Sea ice decreased during those centuries, so sailing from Scandinavia to Greenland became less hazardous. Longer growing seasons made it feasible to graze cattle, sheep and goats in the meadows along sheltered fjords on Greenland’s southwest coast. In short, the Vikings simply transplanted their medieval European lifestyle to an uninhabited new land, theirs for the taking.

But eventually, the conventional narrative continues, they had problems. Overgrazing led to soil erosion. A lack of wood—Greenland has very few trees, mostly scrubby birch and willow in the southernmost fjords—prevented them from building new ships or repairing old ones. But the greatest challenge—and the coup de grâce—came when the climate began to cool, triggered by an event on the far side of the world.

In 1257, a volcano on the Indonesian island of Lombok erupted. Geologists rank it as the most powerful eruption of the last 7,000 years. Climate scientists have found its ashy signature in ice cores drilled in Antarctica and in Greenland’s vast ice sheet, which covers some 80 percent of the country. Sulfur ejected from the volcano into the stratosphere reflected solar energy back into space, cooling Earth’s climate. “It had a global impact,” McGovern says. “Europeans had a long period of famine”—like Scotland’s infamous “seven ill years” in the 1690s, but worse. “The onset was somewhere just after 1300 and continued into the 1320s, 1340s. It was pretty grim. A lot of people starving to death.”

Amid that calamity, so the story goes, Greenland’s Vikings—numbering 5,000 at their peak—never gave up their old ways. They failed to learn from the Inuit, who arrived in northern Greenland a century or two after the Vikings landed in the south. They kept their livestock, and when their animals starved, so did they. The more flexible Inuit, with a culture focused on hunting marine mammals, thrived.

An aerial photograph of southern Greenland. (Ciril Jazbec)

New Evidence Overturns Past Conceptions

But over the last decade a radically different picture of Viking life in Greenland has started to emerge from the remains of the old settlements, and it has received scant coverage outside of academia. “It’s a good thing they can’t make you give your PhD back once you’ve got it,” McGovern jokes. He and the small community of scholars who study the Norse experience in Greenland no longer believe that the Vikings were ever so numerous, or heedlessly despoiled their new home, or failed to adapt when confronted with challenges that threatened them with annihilation.

“It’s a very different story from my dissertation,” says McGovern. “It’s scarier. You can do a lot of things right—you can be highly adaptive; you can be very flexible; you can be resilient—and you go extinct anyway.” And according to other archaeologists, the plot thickens even more: It may be that Greenland’s Vikings didn’t vanish, at least not all of them.

A New Understanding How Vikings Lived on Greenland

 

The Vikings established two outposts in Greenland: one along the fjords of the southwest coast, known historically as the Eastern Settlement, where Gardar is located, and a smaller colony about 240 miles north, called the Western Settlement. Nearly every summer for the last several years, Konrad Smiarowski has returned to various sites in the Eastern Settlement to understand how the Vikings managed to live here for so many centuries, and what happened to them in the end.

“Probably about 50 percent of all bones at this site will be seal bones,” Smiarowski says as we stand by the drainage ditch in a light rain. He speaks from experience: Seal bones have been abundant at every site he has studied, and his findings have been pivotal in reassessing how the Norse adapted to life in Greenland. The ubiquity of seal bones is evidence that the Norse began hunting the animals “from the very beginning,” Smiarowski says. “We see harp and hooded seal bones from the earliest layers at all sites.”

A seal-based diet would have been a drastic shift from beef-and-dairy-centric Scandinavian fare. But a study of human skeletal remains from both the Eastern and Western settlements showed that the Vikings quickly adopted a new diet. Over time, the food we eat leaves a chemical stamp on our bones—marine-based diets mark us with different ratios of certain chemical elements than terrestrial foods do. Five years ago, researchers based in Scandinavia and Scotland analyzed the skeletons of 118 individuals from the earliest periods of settlement to the latest. The results perfectly complement Smiarow­ski’s fieldwork: Over time, people ate an increasingly marine diet, he says.

Judging from the bones Smiarowski has uncovered, most of the seafood consisted of seals—few fish bones have been found. Yet it appears the Norse were careful: They limited their hunting of the local harbor seal, Phoca vitulina, a species that raises its young on beaches, making it easy prey. (The harbor seal is critically endangered in Greenland today due to overhunting.) “They could have wiped them out, and they didn’t,” Smiarowski says. Instead, they pursued the more abundant—and more difficult to catch—harp seal, Phoca groenlandica, which migrates up the west coast of Greenland every spring on the way from Canada. Those hunts, he says, must have been well-organized communal affairs, with the meat distributed to the entire settlement—seal bones have been found at homestead sites even far inland. The regular arrival of the seals in the spring, just when the Vikings’ winter stores of cheese and meat were running low, would have been keenly anticipated.

The Vikings Were Players in the Ivory Trade

The Norse harnessed their organizational energy for an even more important task: annual walrus hunts. Smiarowski, McGovern and other archaeologists now suspect that the Vikings first traveled to Greenland not in search of new land to farm—a motive mentioned in some of the old sagas—but to acquire walrus-tusk ivory, one of medieval Europe’s most valuable trade items. Who, they ask, would risk crossing hundreds of miles of arctic seas just to farm in conditions far worse than those at home? As a low-bulk, high-value item, ivory would have been an irresistible lure for seafaring traders.

After hunting walruses to extinction in Iceland, the Norse must have sought them out in Greenland. They found large herds in Disko Bay, about 600 miles north of the Eastern Settlement and 300 miles north of the Western Settlement. “The sagas would have us believe that it was Erik the Red who went out and explored [Greenland],” says Jette Arneborg, a senior researcher at the National Museum of Denmark, who, like McGovern, has studied the Norse settlements for decades. “But the initiative might have been from elite farmers in Iceland who wanted to keep up the ivory trade—it might have been in an attempt to continue this trade that they went farther west.”

A bishop’s ring and top of his crosier from the Gardar ruins. (Ciril Jazbec)

How profitable was the ivory trade? Every six years, the Norse in Greenland and Iceland paid a tithe to the Norwegian king. A document from 1327, recording the shipment of a single boatload of tusks to Bergen, Norway, shows that that boatload, with tusks from 260 walruses, was worth more than all the woolen cloth sent to the king by nearly 4,000 Icelandic farms for one six-year period.

Archaeologists once assumed that the Norse in Greenland were primarily farmers who did some hunting on the side. Now it seems clear that the reverse was true. They were ivory hunters first and foremost, their farms only a means to an end. Why else would ivory fragments be so prevalent among the excavated sites? And why else would the Vikings send so many able-bodied men on hunting expeditions to the far north at the height of the farming season? “There was a huge potential for ivory export,” says Smiarowski, “and they set up farms to support that.” Ivory drew them to Greenland, ivory kept them there, and their attachment to that toothy trove may be what eventually doomed them.

A New Theory Why Viking Greenland Settlements Failed

For all their intrepidness, though, the Norse were far from self-sufficient, and imported grains, iron, wine and other essentials. Ivory was their currency. “Norse society in Greenland couldn’t survive without trade with Europe,” says Arneborg, “and that’s from day one.”

Then, in the 13th century, after three centuries, their world changed profoundly. First, the climate cooled because of the volcanic eruption in Indonesia. Sea ice increased, and so did ocean storms—ice cores from that period contain more salt from oceanic winds that blew over the ice sheet. Second, the market for walrus ivory collapsed, partly because Portugal and other countries started to open trade routes into sub-Saharan Africa, which brought elephant ivory to the European market. “The fashion for ivory began to wane,” says Dugmore, “and there was also the competition with elephant ivory, which was much better quality.” And finally, the Black Death devastated Europe. There is no evidence that the plague ever reached Greenland, but half the population of Norway—which was Greenland’s lifeline to the civilized world—perished.

The Norse probably could have survived any one of those calamities separately. After all, they remained in Greenland for at least a century after the climate changed, so the onset of colder conditions alone wasn’t enough to undo them. Moreover, they were still building new churches—like the one at Hvalsey—in the 14th century. But all three blows must have left them reeling. With nothing to exchange for European goods—and with fewer Europeans left—their way of life would have been impossible to maintain. The Greenland Vikings were essentially victims of globalization and a pandemic.

Summary

So there is a climate angle to the story of Greenland Vikings. Unlike climate alarmists, these scientists looked deeper and found a more complicated truth. Of course, even this explanation is provisional, because we are talking about science, after all.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Culture War Frontlines Report

 

Background Context: The struggle between left and right (Progressive vs. Libertarian) world views has been heating up ever since events like the Brexit vote and elections of non-progressive leaders like Trump. An excerpt below describes how the culture war plays out in the current context. (H/T Ace of Spades)

Short version: The right attempts political persuasion. The left, on the other hand, attempts social persuasion — basically seizing the commanding heights of culture-making institutions and then deciding that espousing some political claims (being pro-gay-marriage) increase social status and that espousing other political claims (being against gay marriage) decrease social status and, indeed, make one a social pariah, fit for ostracism, mass mockery, and internal exile.

The left’s method works much better than the right’s. It always has and it always will. Because most people don’t care about politics all that much — but nearly everyone (except for the crankiest of contrarians, including some of the current assembled company) cares about their social status.

Having higher social status gets you invites to the Cocktail Party Circuit, which is a real thing, defined broadly (and metaphorically) enough. It makes you datable, it makes you “clubbable,” as the old term went.

It can get you promoted at work, particularly if the sort of job you do is a bit vague as far as definite, tangible outputs and thus advancement depends more on how upper management feels about you.

While the left wing continues winning arguments by not even having arguments at all, instead simply demonizing those who espouse any contrary position, the #SmartSet (citation required) of the establishment right continues believing, apparently earnestly and definitely ridiculously, that if they just out argue their political competitors, they’ll change minds.

They won’t. Or not enough to actually matter. Because most people don’t really care enough about these issues to really engage with them on an intellectual level; they just want to know what to claim to believe so that other people won’t think they’re weird, and deem them unfriendable, undatable, and poor candidates for promotion inside The Corporation. More at Feel Good Climatism

Youtube Applies Warning Labels to Selected Videos

This has been building up as the social media companies (progressive and post-modern to the core) became disturbed that through their platforms people were accessing content and opinions objectionable to the media overseers.  A previous post discussed a form of systemic discrimination against “conservative” viewpoints Suppressing Climate

Now Youtube is taking an additional step by putting quotes from Wikipedia (reliably Progressive) on videos that might confuse snowflakes. From Daily Mail YouTube will now place Wikipedia entries about global warming below videos ‘refuting evidence of global warming’  Excerpts below with my bolds.

Youtube is fighting back against climate change deniers by implementing a fact-checking box below user-uploaded videos on the controversial topic.

The system will surface information from Wikipedia or Britannica Encyclopedia to display factual information in bitesize chunks below videos on climate change.

YouTube already implemented the feature for videos on a slew of other contentious topics, including the MMR vaccination, the moon landing and UFOs.

However, this is the first time the platform has targeted climate change deniers.

The feature is the latest step from the Google-owned video platform in its battle to reduce the spread of misinformation and conspiracy theories on the service.

Users who upload their content to YouTube cannot stop the service displaying blurbs of factual information below their content.

So, on matters of opinion one person’s fact is another’s misinformation, but these media overlords are not burdened with uncertainty:  They know the truth because they have “social proof”.  And as the cigarette pack shows, first there are warnings, then the object is banned from public spaces.

Signals of Progressive Desperation?

Another culture war correspondent has a different view, seeing these events as expressions not of strength but of vulnerability. Caitlin Flanagan writes in the Atlantic Why the Left Is So Afraid of Jordan Peterson
The Canadian psychology professor’s stardom is evidence that leftism is on the decline—and deeply vulnerable. Excerpts in italics with my bolds. She speaks below about her sons’ journey.

The boys graduated from high school and went off to colleges where they were exposed to the kind of policed discourse that dominates American campuses. They did not make waves; they did not confront the students who were raging about cultural appropriation and violent speech; in fact, they forged close friendships with many of them. They studied and wrote essays and—in their dorm rooms, on the bus to away games, while they were working out—began listening to more and more podcasts and lectures by this man, Jordan Peterson.

The young men voted for Hillary, they called home in shock when Trump won, they talked about flipping the House, and they followed Peterson to other podcasts—to Sam Harris and Dave Rubin and Joe Rogan. What they were getting from these lectures and discussions, often lengthy and often on arcane subjects, was perhaps the only sustained argument against identity politics they had heard in their lives.

That might seem like a small thing, but it’s not. With identity politics off the table, it was possible to talk about all kinds of things—religion, philosophy, history, myth—in a different way. They could have a direct experience with ideas, not one mediated by ideology. All of these young people, without quite realizing it, were joining a huge group of American college students who were pursuing a parallel curriculum, right under the noses of the people who were delivering their official educations.

Because all of this was happening silently, called down from satellites and poured in through earbuds—and not on campus free-speech zones where it could be monitored, shouted down, and reported to the appropriate authorities—the left was late in realizing what an enormous problem it was becoming for it. It was like the 1960s, when kids were getting radicalized before their parents realized they’d quit glee club. And it was not just college students. Not by a long shot.

The alarms sounded when Peterson published what quickly became a massive bestseller, 12 Rules for Life, because books are something that the left recognizes as drivers of culture. The book became the occasion for vicious profiles and editorials, but it was difficult to attack the work on ideological grounds, because it was an apolitical self-help book that was at once more literary and more helpful than most, and that was moreover a commercial success. All of this frustrated the critics. It’s just common sense! they would say, in one arch way or another, and that in itself was telling: Why were they so angry about common sense?

The critics knew the book was a bestseller, but they couldn’t really grasp its reach because people like them weren’t reading it, and because it did not originally appear on The New York Times’s list, as it was first published in Canada. However, it is often the bestselling nonfiction book on Amazon, and—perhaps more important—its audiobook has been a massive seller. As with Peterson’s podcasts and videos, the audience is made up of people who are busy with their lives—folding laundry, driving commercial trucks on long hauls, sitting in traffic from cubicle to home, exercising. This book was putting words to deeply held feelings that many of them had not been able to express before.

But the producers did their part, and Peterson did not go to their studios to sit among the lifestyle celebrities and talk for a few minutes about the psychological benefits of simple interventions in one’s daily life. This should have stopped progress, except Peterson was by then engaged in something that can only be compared to a conventional book tour if conventional book tours routinely put authors in front of live audiences well in excess of 2,500 people, in addition to the untold millions more listening to podcasts and watching videos. (Videos on Peterson’s YouTube channel have been viewed, overall, tens of millions of times.) It seemed that the book did not need the anointing oils of the Today show.

The left has an obvious and pressing need to unperson him; what he and the other members of the so-called “intellectual dark web” are offering is kryptonite to identity politics. There is an eagerness to attach reputation-destroying ideas to him, such as that he is a supporter of something called “enforced monogamy,” an anthropological concept referring to the social pressures that exist in certain cultures that serve to encourage marriage. He mentioned the term during a wide-ranging interview with a New York Times reporter, which led to the endlessly repeated falsehood that he believes that the government should be in the business of arranging marriages. There is also the inaccurate belief that he refuses to refer to transgender people by the gendered pronoun conforming to their identity. What he refuses to do is to abide by any laws that could require compelled speech.

It is because the left, while it currently seems ascendant in our houses of culture and art, has in fact entered its decadent late phase, and it is deeply vulnerable. The left is afraid not of Peterson, but of the ideas he promotes, which are completely inconsistent with identity politics of any kind. When the poetry editors of The Nation virtuously publish an amateurish but super-woke poem, only to discover that the poem stumbled across several trip wires of political correctness; when these editors (one of them a full professor in the Harvard English department) then jointly write a letter oozing bathos and career anxiety and begging forgiveness from their critics; when the poet himself publishes a statement of his own—a missive falling somewhere between an apology, a Hail Mary pass, and a suicide note; and when all of this is accepted in the houses of the holy as one of the regrettable but minor incidents that take place along the path toward greater justice, something is dying.

In the midst of this death rattle has come a group of thinkers, Peterson foremost among them, offering an alternative means of understanding the world to a very large group of people who have been starved for one. His audience is huge and ever more diverse, but a significant number of his fans are white men. The automatic assumption of the left is that this is therefore a red-pilled army, but the opposite is true. The alt-right venerates identity politics just as fervently as the left, as the title of a recent essay reproduced on the alt-right website Counter-Currents reveals: “Jordan Peterson’s Rejection of Identity Politics Allows White Ethnocide.”

If you think that a backlash to the kind of philosophy that resulted in The Nation’s poetry implosion; the Times’ hire; and Obama’s distress call isn’t at least partly responsible for the election of Donald Trump, you’re dreaming. And if you think the only kind of people who would reject such madness are Republicans, you are similarly deluded. All across the country, there are people as repelled by the current White House as they are by the countless and increasingly baroque expressions of identity politics that dominate so much of the culture. These are people who aren’t looking for an ideology; they are looking for ideas. And many of them are getting much better at discerning the good from the bad. The Democratic Party reviles them at its peril; the Republican Party takes them for granted in folly.

Perhaps, then, the most dangerous piece of “common sense” in Peterson’s new book comes at the very beginning, when he imparts the essential piece of wisdom for anyone interested in fighting a powerful, existing order. “Stand up straight,” begins Rule No. 1, “with your shoulders back.”

Climatist Revolutionaries


Obama and other Western political leaders have been saying that Climate Change is the biggest threat to modern society. I am coming around to agree, but not in the way they are thinking. I mean there is fresh evidence that we can defeat radical Islam, but radical climatism is already eroding the foundations of our modern societies.  I refer to climate alarm and activism, which has come to dominate the environmental movement and impose an agenda for social re-engineering.  At the end of this post is my understanding of their revolutionary game plan, but first a new report on the strategy and current events in the campaign.

A fresh confirmation of my insights from two years ago regarding the motives and tactics of the radical anti-fossil fuel movement is provided in The Conversation article All the battles being waged against fossil fuel infrastructure are following a single strategy Excerpts in italics with my bolds

Keep it in the ground

The overarching aim is to prevent as much new fossil fuel infrastructure as possible from being built and shutting down as many operations as possible. It’s all part of a “keep it in the ground” strategy with “it” referencing fossil fuels.

This wide-ranging attempt to block oil, gas and coal infrastructure emerged after the American political system tried and failed to deal with climate change.

Many of this movement’s rank-and-file members reached two main conclusions regarding this failure. Real climate action, they decided, would require a broad-based, grassroots social movement. And the oil, gas and coal industries’ influence over the nation’s political system, through financial donations to politicians and other activities, was to blame for the lack of climate action in the U.S.

As one movement strategist at a prominent climate advocacy organization told me, a large number of climate activists at that point became determined to bring about what they called the managed decline of the fossil fuel industries.

They are trying to expedite the demise of the oil, gas and coal businesses through a death-by-a-thousand-cuts approach that includes several strategies. One is getting investors, including university endowments and public sector pension funds, to stop investing in fossil fuel stocks and other assets. When I researched this divestment movement with journalism professor Jill Hopke, we found that activists were trying to chip away at the moral legitimacy of the oil, gas and coal industries. Another is fighting new fossil fuel infrastructure through civil disobedience and litigation.

celts-storm-exxon

Climate Activists storm the bastion of Exxon Mobil, here seen without their shareholder disguises.

The Trump effect
The keep it in the ground movement has gained a new sense of urgency during the Trump administration.

Because of this new political climate, activists have concentrated harder than ever on local actions, such as fighting pipelines and other infrastructure projects, wherever they believe they can make a difference during the Trump years. This stands in contrast to their strategy of only a few years ago that focused at least to some degree on influencing national policies.

The Climatist Game Plan

Mission: Deindustrialize Civilization

Goal: Drive industrial corporations into Bankruptcy

Strategy: Cut off the Supply of Cheap, Reliable Energy

Tactics:

  • Raise the price of fossil fuels
  • Force the power grid to use expensive, unreliable renewables
  • Demonize Nuclear energy
  • Spread fear of extraction technologies such as fracking
  • Increase regulatory costs on energy production
  • Scare investors away from carbon energy companies
  • Stop pipelines because they are too safe and efficient
  • Force all companies to account for carbon usage and risk

Progress:

  • UK steel plants closing their doors.
  • UK coal production scheduled to cease this year.
  • US coal giant Peabody close to shutting down.
  • Smaller US oil companies going bankrupt in record numbers.
  • Etc.

Collateral Damage:

  • 27,000 extra deaths in UK from energy poverty.
  • Resource companies in Canada cut 17,000 jobs in a single month.
  • Ontario green energy policy results in highest NA electricity rates and largest debt among the world’s sub-sovereign borrowers.
  • EU farmers now growing more biofuels instead of food crops.
  • Etc.

Summary:

Radical climatism is playing the endgame while others are sleeping, or discussing the holes in the science. Truly, the debate is over (not ever having happened) now that all nations have signed up to the Paris COP doctrine. Political leaders are willing, even enthusiastic dupes, while climatist tactics erode the foundations of industrial society.  Deaths and unemployment are unavoidable, but then the planet already has too many people anyway.

ISIS is an immediate threat, but there is a deeper and present danger already doing damage to the underpinnings of Life As We Know It. It is the belief in Climate Change and the activists executing their game plan.  Make no mistake: they are well-funded, well-organized and mean business.  And the recent behavior of valve-turners, acting illegally to shut off supplies of fossil fuel energy, shows they are willing to go very far to impose their will upon the rest of us.

See Also:  Upping the Stakes for Ecoterrorists

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Fighting Plasticphobia


Despite the welcome presence of plastic items in our lives, there is mounting plasticphobia driven by the usual suspects: Multi Million Dollar enterprises like Greenpeace, Sierra Club, Natural Resources Defense Council, etc. The media and websites stoke fears and concerns about traces of chemicals used in making plastic products. The basic facts need reminding in this overheated climate of fear, so this post exposes widely observed poppycock about plastics with facts to put things in perspective.

Definition: pop·py·cock ˈpäpēˌkäk/informal noun meaning nonsense.
Synonyms: nonsense, rubbish, claptrap, balderdash, blather, moonshine, garbage; Origin: mid 19th century: from Dutch dialect pappekak, from pap ‘soft’ + kak ‘dung.’

Below are some points to consider in favor of plastics.  Examples below frequently mention plastic bags, bottles, and food containers, all subject to demonizing reports from activists.

Plastics are functional.

It feels like we have always had plastic. It is so widespread in our lives that it’s hard to imagine a time without it. But in reality, plastic products were only introduced in the 1950s. That was a time when the Earth’s population was 2.5 billion people and the global annual production of plastic was 1.5 million tonnes. Now, nearly 70 years later, plastic production exceeds 300 million tonnes a year and the world population is on its way to 8 billion. If this trend continues, another 33 billion tonnes of plastic will have accumulated around the planet by 2050.

Versatile plastics inspire innovations that help make life better, healthier and safer every day. Plastics are used to make bicycle helmets, child safety seats and airbags in automobiles. They’re in the cell phones, televisions, computers and other electronic equipment that makes modern life possible. They’re in the roofs, walls, flooring and insulation that make homes and buildings energy efficient. And plastics in packaging help keep foods safe and fresh.

Example: Conventional plastic shopping bags are not just a convenience, but a necessity. Plastic shopping bags are multi-use/multi-purpose bags with a shorter life. They are used not just as carry bags for groceries, but are essential – reused to help manage household and pet waste.

They are not just a convenience to carry groceries, but a necessity playing an important role to facilitate impulse purchases and for the management of household and pet waste; and in Toronto, organics collection. They have very high alternate use rate in Ontario of 59.1% (Ontario MOE (data).

A move to reusable bags will not eliminate the need for shorter-life bags. Householders will have to supplement their use of reusable bags with a paper or kitchen catcher type bags for household and pet waste. In Ireland, the virtual elimination of plastic bags because of a high bag tax, led to a 77% increase in the purchase of kitchen catchers which contain up to 76% more plastic than conventional plastic bags and a 21% increase in plastics consumed. The fact they are a necessity is reinforced by Decima Research which shows that 76% of Canadians would purchase kitchen catchers if plastic shopping bags are not available at retail check outs.

Beyond bags, manufacture of goods such as automobiles increasingly use plastics to reduce weight and fuel consumption, as well as meet requirements for recycling.

Plastics are Cheap.
Alternatives consume much more energy. Plastics are made mostly of petroleum refining by-products.

Paper bags generate 50 times more water pollutants, and 70% more emissions than plastic bags.
Plastic bags generate 80% less solid waste than paper bags.
Plastic bags use 40% less energy as compared to paper bags.
Even paper bags manufactured from recycled fiber utilized more fossil fuels than plastic bags.

On top of all this, if plastic bag bans like California’s end up causing people to use more paper bags — instead of bringing their reusable ones to the store — it’ll certainly end up being worse for the environment. Research shows that making a paper bag consumes about four times more energy than a plastic bag, and produces about four times more waste if it’s not recycled.

These numbers can vary based on agricultural techniques, shipping methods, and other factors, but when you compare plastic bags with food, it’s not even close. Yet for whatever reason, we associate plastic bags — but not food production — with environmental degradation. If we care about climate change, cutting down on food waste would be many, many times more beneficial than worrying about plastic bags.

Plastics are Durable.
Plastics are highly inert, do not easily degrade or decompose. Without sunlight, they can last for centuries.

Almost all bags are reusable; even the conventional plastic shopping bag has a reuse rate of between 40-60% in Canada.

Conventional plastic shopping bags are highly recyclable in Canada because there is a strong recycling network across the country. Recycling rates are quite high in most provinces.

Plastics are Abused.
Because plastic items are useful, cheap and durable, people leave them around as litter.
Plastics should be recycled or buried in landfill.

In a properly engineered landfill, nothing is meant to degrade. No bag – reusable or conventional plastic shopping bag – will decompose in landfill. which actually helps the environment by not producing greenhouse gases like methane.

This myth is based on a common misunderstanding of the purpose of landfills and how they work. Modern landfills are engineered to entomb waste and prevent decomposition, which creates harmful greenhouse gases like methane and carbon dioxide.

Plastics are Benign.
Plastics are not toxic, nor do they release greenhouse gases.

In Canada, plastic shopping bags are primarily made from a by-product of natural gas production, ethane.

Polyethylene bags are made out of ethane, a component of natural gas. Ethane is extracted to lower the BTU value of the gas in order to meet pipeline and gas utility specifications and so that the natural gas doesn’t burn too hot when used as fuel in our homes or businesses. The ethane is converted, and its BTU value is “frozen” into a solid form (polyethylene) using a catalytic process to make a plastic shopping bag.

There have been claims that chemicals in plastics can leach into food or drink and cause cancer. In particular, there have been rumours about chemicals called Bisphenol A (BPA) and dioxins. Hoax emails have spread warnings about dioxins being released when plastic containers are reused heated or frozen. These are credited to Johns Hopkins University in America, but the university denies any involvement.

Some studies have shown that small amounts of chemicals from plastic containers can end up in the food or drinks that are kept inside them. But the levels of these are very low.

Studies may also look at the effect of these chemicals on human cells. But they will often expose them to much higher levels than people are exposed to in real life. These levels are also much higher than the limits which are allowed in plastic by law. There is no evidence to show using plastic containers actually causes cancer in humans.

The European Food Safety Authority did a full scientific review of BPA in 2015 and decided there was no health risk to people of any age (including unborn children) at current BPA exposure levels. They are due to update this in 2018.

In the UK there is very strict regulation about plastics and other materials that are used for food or drink. These limits are well below the level which could cause harm in humans.

“Generally speaking, any food that you buy in a plastic container with directions to put it in the microwave has been tested and approved for safe use,” says George Pauli, associate director of Science and Policy at the US FDA’s Center for Food and Safety and Applied Nutrition.

Elizabeth Whelan, of the American Council on Science and Health, a consumer-education group in New York think that the case against BPA and phthalates has more in common with those against cyclamates and Alar than with the one against lead. “The fears are irrational,” she said. “People fear what they can’t see and don’t understand. Some environmental activists emotionally manipulate parents, making them feel that the ones they love the most, their children, are in danger.” Whelan argues that the public should focus on proven health issues, such as the dangers of cigarettes and obesity and the need for bicycle helmets and other protective equipment. As for chemicals in plastics, Whelan says, “What the country needs is a national psychiatrist.”

Plastics are A Scapegoat.
Rather than using plastics responsibly, some advocate banning them.

The type of bag you use makes less importance than what you put into it. When it comes to both climate change and trash production, eliminating plastic bags is a symbolic move, not a substantial one. Encouraging people to cut down on food waste, on the other hand, would actually mean something.

Litter audit data from major Canadian municipalities shows that plastic shopping bags are less than 1% of litter. The City of Toronto 2012 Litter Audit shows that plastic shopping bags were 0.8% of the entire litter stream.

Focus on the less than 1% of plastic bag litter does not address the other 99% of litter. Litter is a people problem, not a litter problem. Even if you removed all plastic shopping bag litter, 99 % of the litter would still be a problem.

Believe it or not, plastic bags are one of the most energy efficient things to manufacture. According to statistics, less than .05% of a barrel crude oil is used for the manufacturing of plastic bags in the US. On the other hand, 93% to 95% of each barrel is used for heating purposes and fuel.

In fact, most of the plastic bags used in the US are made from natural gas, 85% of them to be exact. And although plastic bags are made from natural gas and crude oil, the overall amount of fossil fuels they consume during their lifetime are significantly lesser than paper bags and compostable plastic.

So, banning or taxing plastic bags will really do nothing to curb America’s oil consumption. After all, it hardly uses a fraction!

Resources:  

https://news.grida.no/debunking-a-few-myths-about-marine-litter

http://www.allaboutbags.ca/myths.html

https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/paper-plastic1.htm

Top 7 Myths about Plastic Bags

https://www.plasticstoday.com/extrusion-pipe-profile/fear-plastics-and-what-do-about-it/13536413858942

https://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-cancer/causes-of-cancer/cancer-controversies/plastic-bottles-and-food-containers

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2010/05/31/the-plastic-panic

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/mixing-plastic-food-urban-legend#3

Duped into War on Plastic

Step aside Polar Bear, It’s Turtle Time!

Everyday now, everywhere in the media someone else is lamenting the presence of plastics and proposing ways to end straws and other plastic items.  Terence Corcoran in Financial Post explains how we got here:  How green activists manipulated us into a pointless war on plastic  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The disruptive Internet mass-persuasion machine controlled by the major corporate tech giants, capable of twisting and manipulating the world’s population into believing concocted stories and fake news, is at it again, this time spooking billions of people into panic over plastic. Except…hold on: Those aren’t big greedy corporations and meddling foreign governments flooding the blue planet with alarming statistics of microplastics in our water and gross videos of turtles with straws stuck up their noses and dead birds with bellies stuffed with plastic waste.

As Earth Day/Week 2018 came to a close, the greatest professional twisters and hypers known to modern mass communications — green activists and their political and mainstream media enablers — had succeeded in creating a global political wing-flap over all things plastic.

That turtle video, viewed by millions and no doubt many more through Earth Day, is a classic of the genre, along with clubbed baby seals and starving polar bears. Filmed in 2015 near waters off the coast of Guanacaste, Costa Rica, the video was uploaded as news by the Washington Post in 2017 and reworked last week by the CBC into its series on the curse of plastics: “ ‘We need to rethink the entire plastics industry’: Why banning plastic straws isn’t enough.”

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo introduced a bill to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. In Ottawa, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau wants the G7 leaders to sign on to a “zero plastics waste charter” while British Prime Minister Theresa May promised to ban plastic straws.

No need for a secret data breach, a Russian bot or a covert algorithm to transform a million personal psychological profiles into malleable wads of catatonic dough. All it takes is a couple of viral videos, churning green activists and a willing mass media. “Hello, is this CBC News? I have a video here of a plastic straw being extracted from the nose of sea turtle. Interested?”

One turtle video is worth 50-million Facebook data breaches, no matter how unlikely the chances are that more than one turtle has faced the plastic-straw problem. If the object in the unfortunate turtle’s nasal passage was a plastic straw (was it analyzed?), it would have likely come from one of the thousands of tourists who visit Costa Rica to watch hundreds of plastics-free healthy turtles storm the country’s beaches for their annual egg-hatching ritual.

That the turtles are not in fact threatened by plastic straws would be no surprise. It is also hard to see how banning straws in pubs in London and fast-food joints in Winnipeg would save turtles in the Caribbean or the Pacific Ocean.

Creating such environmental scares is the work of professional green activists. A group called Blue Ocean Network has been flogging the turtle video for three years, using a propaganda technique recently duplicated by polar-bear activists. Overall, the plastic chemical scare follows a familiar pattern. Canadians will remember Rick Smith, the former executive director of Environmental Defense Canada and co-author of a 2009 book, Slow Death by Rubber Duck. In the book, Smith warned of how the toxic chemistry of everyday life was ruining our health, reducing sperm counts and threatening mothers and all of humanity. The jacket cover of Slow Death included a blurb from Sophie Gregoire-Trudeau, who expressed alarm about all the chemicals “absorbed into our bodies every day.”

To mark Earth Day 2018, orchestrated as part of a global anti-plastics movement, Smith was back at his old schtick with an op-ed in The Globe and Mail in which he warns “We must kill plastics to save ourselves.” Smith, now head of the left-wing Broadbent Institute in Ottawa, reminded readers that since his Slow Death book, a new problem has emerged, “tiny plastic particles (that) are permeating every human on earth.” He cites a study that claimed “83 per cent of tap water in seven countries was found to contain plastic micro-fibres.”

You would think Smith would have learned by now that such data is meaningless. Back in 2009, Smith issued a similar statistical warning. “A stunning 93 per cent of Americans tested have measurable amounts of BPA in their bodies.” BPA (bisphenol A) is a chemical used in plastics that Smith claimed produced major human-health problems.

Turns out it wasn’t true. The latest — and exhaustive — science research on BPA, published in February by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, concluded that “BPA produces minimal effects that were indistinguishable from background.” Based on this comprehensive research, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said current uses of BPA “continue to be safe for consumers.”

Might the same be true for barely-measurable amounts of micro-plastics found today in bottled water and throughout the global ecosystem? That looks possible. A new meta-analysis of the effects of exposure to microplastics on fish and aquatic invertebrates suggests there may be nothing to worry about. Dan Barrios-O’Neill, an Irish researcher who looked at the study, tweeted last week that “There are of course many good reasons to want to curb plastic use. My reading of the evidence — to date — is that negative ecological effects might not be one of them.”

Instead of responding to turtle videos and images of plastic and other garbage swirling in ocean waters with silly bans and high talk of zero plastic waste, it might be more useful to zero in on the real sources of the floating waste: governments that allow it to be dumped in the oceans in the first place.

Update: August 4, 2018

Claim: There is a “sea of plastic” the size of Texas in the North Pacific Gyre north of Hawaii

First question: have you ever seen an aerial or satellite photograph of the “sea of plastic”? Probably not, because it doesn’t really exist. But it makes a good word- picture and after all plastic is full of deadly poisons and is killing seabirds and marine mammals by the thousands.

This is also fake news and gives rise to calls for bans on plastic and other drastic measures. Silly people are banning plastic straws as if they were a dire threat to the environment. The fact is a piece of plastic floating in the ocean is no more toxic than a piece of wood. Wood has been entering the sea in vast quantities for millions of years. And in the same way that floating woody debris provides habitat for barnacles, seaweeds, crabs, and many other species of marine life, so does floating plastic. That’s why seabirds and fish eat the bits of plastic, to get the food that is growing on them. While it is true that some individual birds and animals are harmed by plastic debris, discarded fishnets in particular, this is far outweighed by the additional food supply it provides. Plastic is not poison or pollution, it is litter.

Patrick Moore, PhD

Footnote:  Dare I say it?  (I know you are thinking it.): “They are grasping at straws, with no end in sight.”

 

 

Halting Failed Auto Fuel Standards

There are deeper reasons why US auto fuel efficiency standards are and should be rolled back.  They were instituted in denial of regulatory experience and science.  First, a parallel from physics.

In the sub-atomic domain of quantum mechanics, Werner Heisenberg, a German physicist, determined that our observations have an effect on the behavior of quanta (quantum particles).

The Heisenberg uncertainty principle states that it is impossible to know simultaneously the exact position and momentum of a particle. That is, the more exactly the position is determined, the less known the momentum, and vice versa. This principle is not a statement about the limits of technology, but a fundamental limit on what can be known about a particle at any given moment. This uncertainty arises because the act of measuring affects the object being measured. The only way to measure the position of something is using light, but, on the sub-atomic scale, the interaction of the light with the object inevitably changes the object’s position and its direction of travel.

Now skip to the world of governance and the effects of regulation. A similar finding shows that the act of regulating produces reactive behavior and unintended consequences contrary to the desired outcomes.

US Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards Have Backfired

An article at Financial Times explains about Energy Regulations Unintended Consequences  Excerpts below with my bolds.

Goodhart’s Law holds that “any observed statistical regularity will tend to collapse once pressure is placed upon it for control purposes”. Originally coined by the economist Charles Goodhart as a critique of the use of money supply measures to guide monetary policy, it has been adopted as a useful concept in many other fields. The general principle is that when any measure is used as a target for policy, it becomes unreliable. It is an observable phenomenon in healthcare, in financial regulation and, it seems, in energy efficiency standards.

When governments set efficiency regulations such as the US Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards for vehicles, they are often what is called “attribute-based”, meaning that the rules take other characteristics into consideration when determining compliance. The Cafe standards, for example, vary according to the “footprint” of the vehicle: the area enclosed by its wheels. In Japan, fuel economy standards are weight-based. Like all regulations, fuel economy standards create incentives to game the system, and where attributes are important, that can mean finding ways to exploit the variations in requirements. There have long been suspicions that the footprint-based Cafe standards would encourage manufacturers to make larger cars for the US market, but a paper this week from Koichiro Ito of the University of Chicago and James Sallee of the University of California Berkeley provided the strongest evidence yet that those fears are likely to be justified.

Mr Ito and Mr Sallee looked at Japan’s experience with weight-based fuel economy standards, which changed in 2009, and concluded that “the Japanese car market has experienced a notable increase in weight in response to attribute-based regulation”. In the US, the Cafe standards create a similar pressure, but expressed in terms of size rather than weight. Mr Ito suggested that in Ford’s decision to end almost all car production in North America to focus on SUVs and trucks, “policy plays a substantial role”. It is not just that manufacturers are focusing on larger models; specific models are also getting bigger. Ford’s move, Mr Ito wrote, should be seen as an “alarm bell” warning of the flaws in the Cafe system. He suggests an alternative framework with a uniform standard and tradeable credits, as a more effective and lower-cost option. With the Trump administration now reviewing fuel economy and emissions standards, and facing challenges from California and many other states, the vehicle manufacturers appear to be in a state of confusion. An elegant idea for preserving plans for improving fuel economy while reducing the cost of compliance could be very welcome.

The paper is The Economics of Attribute-Based Regulation: Theory and Evidence from Fuel-Economy Standards Koichiro Ito, James M. Sallee NBER Working Paper No. 20500.  The authors explain:

An attribute-based regulation is a regulation that aims to change one characteristic of a product related to the externality (the “targeted characteristic”), but which takes some other characteristic (the “secondary attribute”) into consideration when determining compliance. For example, Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) standards in the United States recently adopted attribute-basing. Figure 1 shows that the new policy mandates a fuel-economy target that is a downward-sloping function of vehicle “footprint”—the square area trapped by a rectangle drawn to connect the vehicle’s tires.  Under this schedule, firms that make larger vehicles are allowed to have lower fuel economy. This has the potential benefit of harmonizing marginal costs of regulatory compliance across firms, but it also creates a distortionary incentive for automakers to manipulate vehicle footprint.

Attribute-basing is used in a variety of important economic policies. Fuel-economy regulations are attribute-based in China, Europe, Japan and the United States, which are the world’s four largest car markets. Energy efficiency standards for appliances, which allow larger products to consume more energy, are attribute-based all over the world. Regulations such as the Clean Air Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, and the Affordable Care Act are attribute-based because they exempt some firms based on size. In all of these examples, attribute-basing is designed to provide a weaker regulation for products or firms that will find compliance more difficult.

Summary from Heritage Foundation study Fuel Economy Standards Are a Costly Mistake Excerpt with my bolds.

The CAFE standards are not only an extremely inefficient way to reduce carbon dioxide emission but will also have a variety of unintended consequences.

For example, the post-2010 standards apply lower mileage requirements to vehicles with larger footprints. Thus, Whitefoot and Skerlos argued that there is an incentive to increase the size of vehicles.

Data from the first few years under the new standard confirm that the average footprint, weight, and horsepower of cars and trucks have indeed all increased since 2008, even as carbon emissions fell, reflecting the distorted incentives.

Manufacturers have found work-arounds to thwart the intent of the regulations. For example, the standards raised the price of large cars, such as station wagons, relative to light trucks. As a result, automakers created a new type of light truck—the sport utility vehicle (SUV)—which was covered by the lower standard and had low gas mileage but met consumers’ needs. Other automakers have simply chosen to miss the thresholds and pay fines on a sliding scale.

Another well-known flaw in CAFE standards is the “rebound effect.” When consumers are forced to buy more fuel-efficient vehicles, the cost per mile falls (since their cars use less gas) and they drive more. This offsets part of the fuel economy gain and adds congestion and road repair costs. Similarly, the rising price of new vehicles causes consumers to delay upgrades, leaving older vehicles on the road longer.

In addition, the higher purchase price of cars under a stricter CAFE standard is likely to force millions of households out of the new-car market altogether. Many households face credit constraints when borrowing money to purchase a car. David Wagner, Paulina Nusinovich, and Esteban Plaza-Jennings used Bureau of Labor Statistics data and typical finance industry debt-service-to-income ratios and estimated that 3.1 million to 14.9 million households would not have enough credit to purchase a new car under the 2025 CAFE standards.[34] This impact would fall disproportionately on poorer households and force the use of older cars with higher maintenance costs and with fuel economy that is generally lower than that of new cars.

CAFE standards may also have redistributed corporate profits to foreign automakers and away from Ford, General Motors (GM), and Chrysler (the Big Three), because foreign-headquartered firms tend to specialize in vehicles that are favored under the new standards.[35] 

Conclusion

CAFE standards are costly, inefficient, and ineffective regulations. They severely limit consumers’ ability to make their own choices concerning safety, comfort, affordability, and efficiency. Originally based on the belief that consumers undervalued fuel economy, the standards have morphed into climate control mandates. Under any justification, regulation gives the desires of government regulators precedence over those of the Americans who actually pay for the cars. Since the regulators undervalue the well-being of American consumers, the policy outcomes are predictably harmful.