Control Population, Control the Climate. Not.

Far from being a catastrophe, population growth and carbon fuel-based development are the best means to lift people out of poverty, the authors write.NASA

A recent book explains what’s mistaken about climate alarmists/activists thinking human numbers must be reduced in order to save the planet from us (H/T Master Resource). The Title is Population Bombed! by Pierre Desrochers and Joanna Szurmak who provide an introduction to their assessment in an article at Financial Post For 200 years pessimists have predicted we’d ruin the planet. They’re still wrong.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

In Avengers: Infinity War, the villain Thanos said: “If life is left unchecked, life will cease to exist.” Johns Hopkins University philosopher Travis N. Rieder apparently agrees, as he views each new child as an environmental externality putting “irreparable stress on the planet” in a way that “exacerbates … the threat of catastrophic climate change.” Similar ideas have been expressed by the likes of Al Gore, Hillary Clinton and Bill Gates. Feminist icon Gloria Steinem put it best: “What causes climate deprivation is population. If we had not been systematically forcing women to have children … for over the 500 years of patriarchy, we wouldn’t have the climate problems that we have.”

Population-growth catastrophism has been around for centuries. In the English-speaking world it is generally associated with economist Thomas Robert Malthus’ 1798 edition of his Essay on the Problem of Population and U.S. biologist Paul Ehrlich’s 1968 bestseller The Population Bomb. Ehrlich and his co-author and wife Anne predicted imminent environmental collapse followed by mass starvation. What they didn’t see coming was that, to the contrary, hundreds of millions of people would soon be lifted out of grinding poverty while parts of the planet became greener and cleaner in the process.

In our new book Population Bombed! Exploding the Link between Overpopulation and Climate Change we mark the 50th anniversary of the Ehrlichs’ book by explaining that their predictions bombed because their basic assumptions are flawed.

First, the Ehrlichs assume that human numbers cannot exceed the limits set by a finite system. Bacteria in a test tube of food are used to model such a system: Since the levels of food and waste limit bacterial growth, human population growth, by analogy, ultimately cannot exceed the carrying capacity of test tube Earth.

Second, they assume that wealth and development unavoidably come with larger environmental damage. This assumption is still at the core of pessimistic frameworks, which maintain that physical resource throughputs, not outcomes, matter. So, countries such as Haiti where deforestation and wildlife extermination are rampant are inherently more “sustainable” than richer and cleaner countries like Sweden and Switzerland.

Third, Ehrlich does not acknowledge that, unique among this planet’s species, modern humans: transmit information and knowledge between individuals and through time; innovate by combining existing things in new ways; become efficient through specialization; and engage in long-distance trade, thus achieving, to a degree, a decoupling from local limits called the “release from proximity.” And the more brains there are, the more solutions. This is why, over time, people in market economies produce more things while using fewer resources per unit of output. Corn growers now produce five or six times more output on the same plot of land as a century ago while using less fertilizer and pesticide than a few decades ago.

Fourth, the Ehrlichs and other pessimists also fail to understand the uniquely beneficial roles played by prices, profits, and losses in the spontaneous and systematic generation of more sustainable — or less problematic — outcomes. When the supply of key resources fails to meet actual demand, their prices increase. This encourages people to use such resources more efficiently, look for more of them, and develop substitutes. Meanwhile, far from rewarding pollution of the environment, the profit motive encourages people to create useful by-products out of waste (our modern synthetic world is largely made out of former petroleum-refining waste products). True, in some cases dealing with pollution came at a cost — building sewage-treatment plants, for example — but these are the types of solutions only a developed society can afford.

Fifth, pessimists are also oblivious to the benefits of unlocking wealth from underground materials such as coal, petroleum, natural gas and mineral resources. Using these spares vast quantities of land. It should go without saying that even a small population will have a much greater impact on its environment if it must rely on agriculture for food, energy and fibres, raise animals for food and locomotion, and harvest wild animals for everything from meat to whale oil. By replacing resources previously extracted from the biosphere with resources extracted from below the ground, people have reduced their overall environmental impact while increasing their standard of living.

Why is it then that after two centuries of evidence to the contrary, the pessimistic narrative still dominates academic and popular debates? Why are so many authors and academics still focusing on the Malthusian collapse scenario — now bound to come from carbon dioxide emissions and the teeming populations that produce them?

The prevalence of apocalyptic rhetoric may be, arguably, due to factors ranging from financial incentives among academics and activists to behavioural heuristics that dictate why worrying is a motivator, and why even well-meaning people rarely change their mind given new evidence. Short-termism may also take some of the blame: Population control and climate activists take for granted the non-scalable benefits of a carbon-fuel economy in which large numbers of people collaborate and innovate. The cognitive biases at the root of our thinking may shape, and in the end distort, the impulse to question “consensus,” particularly in an intellectual climate lacking the motivation to achieve what social psychologist Jonathan Haidt called “institutional disconfirmation.”

Far from being the catastrophe that Thanos, the Ehrlichs and other pessimists would have us believe, population growth and carbon fuel-based development in the context of human creativity and free enterprise are the best means to lift people out of poverty, to build resilience against any climate damage that increased anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions might have, and to make possible a sustained reduction of humanity’s impact on the biosphere.

Pierre Desrochers, a geography professor at the University of Toronto Mississauga, and Joanna Szurmak, a doctoral candidate at York University, are the authors of Population Bombed! Exploding the Link Between Overpopulation and Climate Change. The book was launched at an event on Oct. 15th in Toronto.

More at their website: Population Bombed!

Update October 17,2018

Master Resource just posted an interview with Desrochers (here)

What we need in order to fight environmental degradation is to make sure that people in less advanced parts of the world can also be the beneficiaries of these processes. There is no doubt in my mind that these beneficial substitutions will happen more quickly the cheaper carbon fuels are. Of course, the argument is even more powerful when you think of the social consequences of less affordable energy.

Now, as with everything else, bad political institutions in some parts of the world will result in greater pollution as more carbon fuels are burned. The solution, however, is not to ban or tax everything from coal to plastic bags, but rather to improve standards of living and public governance. In my opinion, our guiding principle as far as carbon fuels are concerned should be the creation of lesser problems than those that existed before.

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Putting Down Climate Virtue Signaling

This exchange occurred yesterday in the debate between Arizona Senatorial candidates:

Democrat Kyrsten Sinema: “I do believe that climate change is real.”

Republican Martha McSally: “I can’t believe this is the last question.”

MARIA POLLETTA: Congresswoman Sinema, this comes from one of our readers, viewers. With climate change, number one: Do you believe it is a manmade problem, caused by humans? Number two: What are your plans in terms of combating climate change, particularly with regard to water and possible water shortages?

KYRSTEN SINEMA: Why, I do believe that climate change is real. And I think it doesn’t make a lot of sense for us to spend time debating how we got to the place that we are today. What does make sense is for individuals who have the ability to make a difference moving forward to work together to make that difference. And here in Arizona, water is of grave concern to our state. As a United States senator, I’ll hope to work with Sen. Jon Kyl, who’s been a leader on the issue of water during his time in the United States Senate. It’s our duty to not only preserve our own water supply for the next 100 years, but to partner with states in the region — Colorado, New Mexico, Nevada, and California — to ensure that we have a regional strategy to move forward and protect our state in future years. It’s working together — Republicans and Democrats from these states across the region — that’s how we’ll find the solution to these challenges.

But I firmly believe that as Arizonans, as Americans, we have the resources, we have the tools, we have the skills, and we have the knowledge. We can address issues of climate change together, and do so without harming our business prospects and without harming what makes Arizona so amazing. You know, folks know this about me, but I’m an outdoor enthusiast. So, every morning, I get up and I go outside to either run, hike, bike, swim, every day. And I want to make sure that we can protect that beauty, why we all love Arizona so much, for our future generations.

MARTHA McSALLY (R): Ted and Maria, I can’t believe this is the last question. I mean, we do have to address the issues of climate, and water is so important for Arizona; it’s our lifeline. But I worked for Sen. Jon Kyl when I was a legislative fellow as a major, and it’s so important that we follow his lead — and he is my mentor — to be able to move forward to address these really important issues. But we have to talk about the military. We have to talk about our veterans.

TED SIMONS (MODERATOR): Quickly, please.

McSALLY: We haven’t had any opportunity.

SIMONS: You have it right now.

McSALLY: That’s what brought me to Arizona, like 500,000 of our veterans, for our national security treasures that are here. I fought for to make sure that the A-10 was preserved, that we fight for Luke Air Force Base. My opponent advocated to shut down Luke Air Force Base. While we were in harm’s way, she was protesting our troops in a pink tutu. And I’ll tell you what, if these are not disqualifying enough, Kyrsten, what came out last week, CNN reported that in 2003, when she was on the radio, you said it was OK for Americans to join the Taliban to fight against us. You said you had no problem with that. Kyrsten, I want to ask right now whether you’re going to apologize to the veterans and me for saying it’s OK to commit treason, Kyrsten?

Alarmists: Global Warming Destroys Good Bugs and Multiplies Bad Bugs

Alarmists are now bugging us with a new dire threat of bug populations declining in Puerto Rican rain forests.

‘One of Most Disturbing Articles I Have Ever Read’ Scientist Says of Study Detailing Climate-Driven ‘Bugpocalypse’  from Common Dreams

A truly scary new study finds that insect populations in protected Puerto Rican rainforests have fallen as much as 60-fold. Bill McKibben tweet

But just a few months ago they were warning that global warming would increase bugs and eat our lunch.  As usual they claim both things at the same time, unwilling to notice the contradiction.  This rise of the bad bugs is described in a previous August post reprinted below.

Global Warming Bugastrophe

This week yet another unimaginable calamity if Paris Accord is not fulfilled. That’s right the coordinated reports in the media raise the alarm: The Insects Are Coming For Us (unless we mend our ways!)

Global warming will help insects, hurt crops NBC News

Climate change may boost pests, stress food supplies Axios

Climate Change Will Lead To More Crop-Destroying Insects IFLScience

Global Warming Means More Insects Threatening Food Crops — A Lot More, Study Warns InsideClimate News

Global warming will likely help bugs devour more crops CBC.ca

Global warming could spur more and hungrier crop-eating bugs ABC News

Global warming could spur more crop-eating bugs CTV.ca

Global warming will make insects hungrier, eating up key crops: study AFP

Crop losses due to insects could nearly double in Europe’s bread basket due to climate EurekAlert!

Climate change projected to boost insect activity and crop loss, researchers say EurekAlert!

Rise in insect pests under climate change to hit crop yields, study says Carbon Brief

Swarms of insects will destroy crops across Europe and America by 2050 due to global warming Daily Mail

Global warming: More insects, eating more crops Phys.org

Climate change to accelerate crop losses from insects Cornell Alliance for Science

Climate Change Means Insects Are Coming for Our Food The Atlantic

Well, at least we know who is keen to reprint press releases from Alarmist Central. I am not an entomologist, nor are the journalists who are piling on this story. So let’s hear from some insect experts.

First, a tutorial on Temperature, Effects on Development and Growth (Insects)

Adult insects generally are of smaller body size when larvae are reared at higher temperatures. For example, females of Bicyclus butterflies reared at 20°C were larger than those reared at 27°C. Moreover, females laid larger eggs when they were reared or acclimatized for 10 days at the lower temperature compared to the higher temperature.

LDT: actual lower developmental threshold; T0: predicted lower developmental threshold; UDT: upper developmental threshold; TO: thermal optimum (maximum) for developmental rate. Total optimum for population growth is usually at moderate temperatures, not at such high extremes.

Development time (dt) is the time required to complete specified stage or instar and can be described as dt = SET/(T-T0). SET is the sum of effective temperatures or “thermal constant,” expressed as the number of degree days. T0 is the lower developmental threshold (LDT, or base temperature Tb), the hypothetical temperature at which developmental time would be infinite or developmental rate would be zero. The product of developmental time and the amount to which ambient temperature is above the threshold was found to be constant (= SET), that is, development will take a fixed number of degree days essentially independent of the temperature at which the animal is reared. The thermal parameters are determined in defined conditions (set of constant temperatures, suitable nutrition).

The LDT and SET values are population-specific characteristics. The LDT values are similar for all developmental stages of a given population, even when they develop in diverse seasons and experience disparate temperature fluctuations. The stability of LDT is manifested as developmental rate isometry, that is, the percentage of time spent in a particular stage at any constant physiological temperature is a stable fraction of the entire developmental time.

Tropical species have higher values of LDT than temperate ones. SET decreases as LDT increases. Insects that have spread to temperature zones from the tropical regions often maintain a high LDT and can reproduce and develop only in the hot season, spending most of the year in a state of dormancy.

A general response of insects to temperatures just below their LDT or above their UDT is the cessation of development and reproduction while the insects remain active and feed. The larvae may slowly grow and the adults accumulate reserves. These processes are terminated at more extreme temperatures.

During cooling, motility gradually decreases. At certain temperature, the neural and muscular activities are impaired and the insect lapses into cold stupor (chill coma). The stupor point is as high as 12°C in tropical insects including stored product pests, and in honey bees, around 5°C in many temperate species, near 0°C in most overwintering insects, and even below the freezing point in species living in very cold areas.

Gradual warming above UDT, which is for many species around 35°C but is never sharply delimited, increases the metabolic rate, loss of water, and motility. Around 40°C, the water loss increases sharply: the spiracles are wide open and the melting of cuticular lipids permits evaporation through the body surface. Exhaustion of water and nutrients leads to rapid decrease of motility and a drop of transpiration. At a certain temperature, heat stupor occurs. Survival at temperatures above the threshold is a function of temperature and length of exposure. Warming to the absolute upper lethal temperature, which is usually around 50-55°C, causes fast, irreversible tissue damage and death.

And then from Australia Responses to Climate Change Upper thermal limits in terrestrial ectotherms: how constrained are they?

The data for terrestrial ectotherms discussed previously point to species from mid-latitudes in particular being closest to their thermal maxima. Moreover, although data are still quite scanty, species may have only a limited capacity to deal with changes in upper thermal limits. Under an expected 2–4 °C warming scenario (IPCC 2007), mid-latitude populations near limits are likely to face the threat of extinction because they cannot adapt to new environmental conditions.

There is almost no information on how thermal limits are influenced by combinations of stressors. Changes in the conditions that organisms experience during thermal stress could lead to quite unpredictable upper thermal limits (Terblanche et al. 2011; Overgaard, Kristensen & Sørensen 2012). Moreover, thermal stress can influence susceptibility to other selective agents; tropical Bicyclus anynana butterflies lose immune function as measured by phenoloxidase (PO) activity and haemocyte numbers when exposed to warm conditions, and the effects are particularly marked when adults have a limited food supply.

Summary

These scares always sound plausible, but on closer inspection are simplistic and unrealistic. The above shows that each type of insect has a range of temperatures they can tolerate and allow them to develop. They are stressed and populations decrease when colder than the lower limit and also when hotter than the upper limit. Every species will adapt to changing conditions as they always have. Those at their upper limit will decline, not increase, and their place will be taken by others. Of course, if it gets colder, the opposite occurs. Don’t let them scare you that insects are taking over.

Minnesota Valve Turners Case Dismissed Without Necessity Defense

“Stunning”: State Court Silences Climate Experts Set to Testify in Valve Turners’ Necessity Defense Trial  “Four days before trial, for no apparent reason, the court eviscerated our defense, and essentially overruled itself.” Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.

Minneapolis October 8, 2018 In an eleventh hour decision, a Minnesota court “eviscerated” the defense of three activists—whose landmark trial began Monday for their 2016 multi-state #ShutItDown action that temporarily disabled tar sands pipelines crossing the U.S.-Canada border—by barring experts from testifying that their civil disobedience was necessary because fossil fuels are driving the global climate crisis.

While all charges against Steve Liptay, who filmed the Minnesota action, have been dropped, valve turners Emily Nesbitt Johnston and Annette Klapstein, along with their support person, Benjamin Joldersma, are still facing felony charges under Minnesota state law. Their legal team will now have to present their “necessity defense” without the slate of experts who had agreed to explain the climate crisis and the impact of civil disobedience to the jury.

This “stunning” reversal came after an appeals court ruled in April that they could present a necessity defense, a decision upheld by the Minnesota Supreme Court in June. The rulings were celebrated by climate activists and experts nationwide as courts in Washington, North Dakota, and Montana blocked requests from fellow valve turners’ on trial for the 2016 action to present such a defense.

“We were looking forward to entrusting this case to a Minnesota jury of our peers to decide after hearing expert scientists and social scientists discuss the facts of climate change and public policy,” said Klapstein, a retired attorney.

“By requiring us to establish the necessity defense, without allowing us to use our planned expert testimony to do so, the court has placed an overwhelming burden on us,” she added. “I’m baffled by the surreal nature of this court’s decision and timing.”

“Four days before trial, for no apparent reason, the court eviscerated our defense, and essentially overruled itself,” said Johnston. “It is impossible for us to properly defend ourselves without expert testimony.”

Experts that had planned to testify include climate scientists Dr. Jim Hansen, Dr. Mark Seeley, and Dr. Peter Reich; public health expert Dr. Bruce Synder; Princeton professor Dr. Martin Gilens; Harvard Law professor Lawrence Lessig; nonviolent direct action historian and Albert Einstein Institution executive director Jamila Raqib; 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben; and oil infrastructure expert Dr. Anthony Ingraffea.

Minnesota District Court Judge Robert Tiffany claimed their testimonies would be confusing to the jury, Climate Direct Action said in a statement on Monday.

“The irony is that the judge may be proving our point—we acted as we did because we know that the paralysis and myopia of the executive and legislative branches with regard to climate change mean that the political system itself must be shaken up if there is to be any hope for all of us,” Johnston noted. “We were hoping that the judiciary might show the way.”

Minnesota judge tosses charges midtrial against 3 activists 
Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) October 9, 2018 A Minnesota judge abruptly dismissed charges against three climate change activists during their trial on Tuesday, saying prosecutors failed to prove that the protesters’ attempt to shut down two Enbridge Energy oil pipelines caused any damage.

Clearwater County District Judge Robert Tiffany threw the case out after prosecutors rested their case and before the protesters could use their defense: that the threat of climate change from using crude oil drilled from Canadian tar sands was so imminent that the activists’ actions were not only morally right, but necessary.

The attorneys had long fought to use a “necessity defense” during the trial of the three Seattle-area residents, two of whom admitted turning the emergency shut-off valves on the northwest Minnesota pipelines in 2016 as part of a coordinated action in four states. Such a defense has been used by other activists protesting pipelines.

Their attorney, Lauren Regan, acknowledged outside the courthouse in Bagley that she and her clients were surprised that the judge granted their motion to dismiss the case. The three defendants faced felony charges involving criminal damage to critical public service facilities. They could have faced up to a year in jail, according to prosecutors.

“I’m very relieved the state of Minnesota acknowledged that we did no damage and intended to do no damage,” defendant Emily Johnston said. “I also admit that I am disappointed that we did not get to put on the trial that we hoped for.”

Clearwater County Attorney Alan Rogalla declined to comment afterward.

Climate change activists have increasingly turned to direct actions against oil and gas pipelines, with mixed legal success . Valve-turner cases in other states resulted in convictions that are under appeal. A Massachusetts judge in March cleared 13 gas pipeline protesters who used a necessity defense. While the cases generally have not set binding legal precedents, activists are hoping they help legitimize direct action as a tactic against climate change.

In the Minnesota case, Johnston and Annette Klapstein readily acknowledged turning the emergency shut-off valves on two Enbridge Energy pipelines on Oct. 11, 2016, near Leonard, about 210 miles (338 kilometers) northwest of Minneapolis. A third defendant, Ben Joldersma, called in a warning to Enbridge. Charges were earlier dropped against a fourth defendant.

They did it as part of a coordinated action by Climate Direct Action activists to shut down five Canadian tar sands crude pipelines in Minnesota, North Dakota, Montana and Washington state. A total of 11 activists were charged in the four states.

Calgary, Alberta-based Enbridge temporarily shut down the two pipelines as a precaution before any damage occurred. The company issued a statement Tuesday saying the protest was “reckless and dangerous.”

“The individuals involved in these activities claimed to be protecting the environment, but they did the opposite and put the environment and the safety of people at risk — including themselves, first responders and neighboring communities and landowners,” the company said.

The defendants insisted there was never any danger.

“We did everything in our power to make sure this was a safe action, and we did this to protect our children and all of your children from the devastating effects of climate change,” Klaptstein said at the activists’ news conference afterward.

While the judge took the unusual step of allowing allowed the necessity defense in a ruling last October, he said the defendants had to clear a high legal bar to succeed. He said the defense applies “only in emergency situations where the peril is instant, overwhelming, and leaves no alternative but the conduct in question.”

The valve turners had hoped to put climate change itself on trial by presenting expert witnesses who would have backed up their claims that climate change was making natural disasters worse, and that the threat of climate change from Canadian tar sands crude — which generates more climate-damaging carbon dioxide than other forms of oil — was so imminent that they had no legal alternatives. But they never got the chance.

Summary

I am not sure what to make of this.  The rejection of expert climatists is encouraging since the courts are in no position to judge scientific positions.  The dismissal of the charges in a way avoided a messy situation for the court.  If no damage was done, it was the easy way out to dismiss the charges before going through a show trial before a jury, and as an additional benefit preventing grandstanding by professional activists.

Climate Science, Ethics and Religion

Thanks to an insightful post at Climate Scepticism (here), we have a recent quote from former US President Obama:

“You have to believe in facts. Without facts there’s no basis for cooperation. If I say this is a podium and you say this is an elephant, it’s going to be hard for us to cooperate…I can’t find common ground if somebody says climate change is just not happening, when almost all of the world’s scientists tell us it is.”

This statement is the starting point for that poster to explore ways that even the most accomplished scientists have in the past shared beliefs that were valid only as fashionable at the time.  In this post, I want to consider first why a lawyer like Obama gets science wrong, and secondly to consider the moral and religious confusion regarding our climate.

Science is Trial And Error, not Case Law

In the legal world, cases are judged and rulings become precedent for later cases that arise.  Thus principles become established, settled facts for jurists to follow.  Scientists operate in a different world, one where experiments provide evidence that an assumption successfully predicts how things work in nature.  But that premise can be overturned by subsequent experiments, so scientific laws are always tentative.

In short, lawyers proceed by deduction, going from the accepted generality to the particular instance.  Scientists refer to generalities, but induction is their primary method of discovery.  Science proceeds from the particular to arrive at general conclusions, sometimes overturning a previous generality.

A previous post Degrees of Climate Truth was based upon work by Andy May in discussing how climate assertions can be seen in various stages of development toward scientific truth.

072516_1631_factsandthe1

In Table 1 we can see that the comparison of man-made climate change and the possibility of a man-made climate catastrophe are not really comparable to the theories of gravity and evolution. Man-made climate change is more than an idea, it is based on some observations and reasonable models of the process have been developed and can be tested. But, none of the models have successfully predicted any climatic events. Thus, they are still a work-in-progress and not admissible as evidence supporting a scientific theory.

Ethical and Religious Dimensions

Climate assertions come from people based on moral and religious frameworks.

This post is background to exploring the ethical and religious dimensions of the climate change movement. It is also important to recognize the human journey regarding morality.

Moral Models

The ethic of Good vs. Evil is a teleological paradigm, going all the way back to Plato, but still a reference for some today. This model asserts that values can be determined as eternal truths, applicable in all times and places.

Most people have moved to an ethic of Right vs. Wrong, a legal paradigm. Here morality is relative to a society that determines what is morally acceptable or not. And of course, there are variations both among different places, and within a single society over time.

Modern ethics has taken an additional step to an ethic of Responsibility vs. Irresponsibility, a contextual paradigm. Now moral behavior seeks the largest possible context: “the greatest good for the greatest number.” This can lead to some strange choices, such as suicide bombers or pro-life advocates who justify murdering abortion clinic doctors.  The perversion arises when an actor excludes some living things, or whole classes of creatures from the context of responsibility.

Summary: Climate Morality

Some climate activists/alarmists are operating with a good vs. evil model, in which their understanding of good separates people into sheep and goats.  Describing others as “deniers” shows this clearly.  And in the recent US senate supreme court nomination hearings we have an additional stark reminder that members of even advanced societies can seek to disqualify others as human beings, not simply block them from positions of responsibility.

Obama is clearly operating in the right vs. wrong model, as expected given his legalistic education.  Since laws and legal principles are relative to a social framework and heritage, social proof is all that is required for him to accept climate assertions as true.  At the same time, that mentality requires dismissing and demeaning the viewpoints contrary to the consensus. Such tribalism is contrary to scientific discourse, and in the extreme case like Rwanda the others can be considered “cockroaches” and exterminated.

It should be clear that when climate alarmists appeal to saving the planet for future generations, they are applying contextual ethics. Less obvious is the ancient religious notion that by making sacrifices, we humans can assure more favorable weather. These days, fossil fuels have become the sacrificial lamb required by Mother Nature to play nice with human beings.  In the past, people made images and worshiped them, thinking that they could control nature in that way.  These days, we make computer models whose projections are sure to scare the bejesus out of us.

See also: What’s wrong with the legal brief on climate change Facts Omitted by Climatists

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Preview of Minnesota Pipeline Trial

pipeline-sectionalising-valves

Previous posts reported on the series of trials of climate activist “valve turners” who sabotaged pipelines transporting crude oil from Canada.  The last remaining trial proceeds on October 8, 2018 in Minnesota, and it is one where defendants will be allowed to mount a “necessity defense.”  For insight into the implications, here is a timely article Invoking the ‘Necessity Defense’ in Pipeline Sabotage Prosecutions. It was written by Troutman Sanders Pipeline Practice.  Excerpts below in italics with my bolds.

Opposition to new pipeline construction has grown in recent years, moving from public comment to litigation to physical protest and vandalism. In 2016 alone, several coordinated actions led to trespass and vandalism of pipelines and pipeline facilities in multiple states, some of which were prosecuted as felony criminal acts. The defendants in several of these cases have raised a “necessity defense” to their actions, and two courts have now allowed that defense to proceed.

The necessity defense derives from old common law (i.e., not established by statute, although many states have now codified the defense by statute). A necessity defense is not often invoked, in part because the initial element of the defense is to admit that a crime was committed. A defendant must then persuade the court that the otherwise criminal act was required to prevent a greater harm. The requisite showing is typically that (1) there was a significant threat of imminent hazard; (2) there was an immediate need to act; (3) no other alternative was available to prevent the harm; and (4) no greater harm was caused by the prohibited act(s). Examples of successful invocations of the necessity defense include commandeering a private car to carry victims to a hospital, taking food to keep a child from starving, escaping jail because it was on fire, etc. In order to use the defense successfully, the defendant bears a heavy burden to show that no practical alternative to the criminal act was available, and that the criminal act did not create a greater harm.

In a Minnesota case, four individuals were criminally charged for turning valves on a crude oil pipeline, in an attempt to stop the flow of crude oil. The defendants admitted that their acts violated state law, but then claimed the necessity defense. The trial court allowed the defendants to assert the defense and present evidence at trial of the ‘greater harm’ presented by oil pipelines, in the form of climate change. Prosecutors appealed that ruling, and on April 23, 2018, the Minnesota Court of Appeals in a split decision rejected the prosecution’s challenge and agreed that the defendants should be allowed to present the defense. Minnesota v. Klapstein, No. A17-1649 (Minn. Ct. App. Apr. 23, 2018). The dissenting judge stated that ‘there is no direct, causal connection between defendants’ criminal trespass and global warming.’ A court in Massachusetts has similarly allowed defendants who trespassed and/or vandalized pipeline property to present a necessity defense. Other courts in Montana, North Dakota and Washington have rejected the defense. See, e.g., Montana v. Higgins, DC-16-18 (Mont. Dist. Ct. Nov. 22, 2017).

Allowing defendants to present evidence in support of a necessity defense does not mean the defendants have been excused from criminal conduct; they are simply allowed to make that argument at trial. No case has yet accepted the necessity defense to exonerate criminal acts involving pipelines, although some cases have been downgraded to civil fines and resolved after a necessity defense was presented. The burden on the defense remains high, not only to show that no other practical alternative existed, but also to establish a causal connection between a specific pipeline and global climate change. The same week that the Minnesota Court of Appeals allowed a necessity defense to proceed, API and AOPL released their “2018 Annual Liquids Pipeline Report”, documenting the continuing reduction in number and scope of incidents releasing oil to the environment. Similarly, as natural gas pipelines continue to replace coal for electric generation, the amount of greenhouse gas emissions has gone down.

Pipeline opponents have turned to direct acts of vandalism targeting pipelines in the past few years, although those actions present the risk of causing an incident and may result in criminal convictions. Federal law enforcement agencies are monitoring these activities under laws related to Homeland Security and terrorism, beyond state laws for criminal trespass [see prior Pipelaws.com post on November 27, 2017]. In furtherance of that approach, the same week that Minnesota allowed pipeline activists to proceed with a necessity defense, the adjacent State of Iowa signed into law a more strict felony provision applicable to interference with pipelines and other ‘critical energy infrastructure.’ The new law is called the ‘Critical Infrastructure Sabotage’ act, and carries potential penalties of up to 25 years in prison and fines of $100,000.

Sabotage or vandalism of pipelines presents a significant risk of causing substantial harm that could result in killing or injuring people or damaging the environment. Admitting to a crime – particularly a felony criminal act – is a steep price to pay for a defense to those acts. The stakes are high, as are the consequences

Background:  Wheels of Pipeline Justice Grind Slowly.

Wheels of justice grind slow but grind fine — Sun Tzu, Art of War

An update on pipeline disruption cases is provided by Blake Nicholson, Associated Press, January 9, 2018, in Great Falls Tribune: Court cases from coordinated 2016 pipeline protest delayed. Excerpts below with my bolds.

BISMARCK, N.D. — Several court cases stemming from a coordinated pipeline protest in four states have been delayed, including one where an appeals court is deciding whether to allow two women to argue their law-breaking was necessary to prevent a greater harm.

Eleven activists with the group Climate Direct Action were arrested on Oct. 11, 2016, when they tried to either shut down pipelines in North Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Washington state or film the attempts. The activists said they were protesting fossil fuels and supporting people demonstrating against the Dakota Access oil pipeline, which was still under construction.

The activists broke into private property and turned shutoff valves at five pipelines that moved oil from Canada to the U.S.

In Minnesota, prosecutors have asked a state appeals court to reverse a judge’s ruling that would allow two women to use the so-called necessity defense. The defense is popular among environmental activists who argue that global warming caused by fossil fuels is the greater harm, though legal experts say it’s a long-shot defense.

The appeal delayed the December trial of Seattle-area residents Emily Johnston and Annette Klapstein, who are accused of closing valves on two pipelines in northwestern Minnesota. The trial hasn’t been rescheduled, and their attorney said he doesn’t expect a resolution on the appeal until spring.

Sentencing has been delayed for two men who were barred from using necessity-defense arguments. Leonard Higgins of Portland, Oregon, was convicted in November of criminal mischief and trespassing in Montana; his January sentencing was pushed to March 20 after his attorneys asked for more time, according to court documents. Seattle resident Michael Foster also was set for sentencing this month in North Dakota but the hearing was moved to February because of a timing conflict.

A Washington state case was resolved last year when Ken Ward, of Corbett, Oregon, was convicted of burglary and sentenced to two days in jail plus community supervision and community service. He, too, wasn’t allowed to use the necessity defense.

The six other arrested activists were accused of filming the vandalism. Prosecutors dropped charges against two of them in Washington. Trials are pending for two others in Minnesota and one in Montana, and one activist is to be sentenced in North Dakota the same day as Foster.

Summary

Actually, I don’t mind them taking it slow, so long as they get it right.  Still, putting global warming on trial during this winter weather would have provided at least poetic justice, less so in springtime.

Background:

On civil disobedience by climate activists:

A Valve Turner’s Trial: Mostly guilty

Minnesota judge allows ‘necessity defense’ in pipeline case

On the Judiciary unprepared for such cases: Critical Climate Intelligence for Jurists (and others)

 

Ontario has to Launder $1B in cap-and-trade money

CBC has the story: Ford government sitting on $1B in cap-and-trade money
Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Environmental commissioner says by law it can only be spent on reducing greenhouse gases

Context: No one is talking about the reason Ford canceled cap and trade the first day on the job. It was to eliminate the 4.3 cents/liter gasoline tax. At the same time, spending on schemes to “fight climate change” was stopped.  By skimming a few cents off every liter sold, pretty soon you have billions of dollars in the pot. The law ending cap and trade did not reimburse gasoline retailers who had bought carbon allowances in the past, because they already passed on the cost to customers. Those who bought in advance to avoid higher carbon prices later are now caught and want the government to reimburse them, since they lost the opportunity to stick it to their customers. What a great idea is cap and trade: A market to sell a non-good at arbitrary prices paid by other people’s money. What could go wrong?

As much as $1 billion in Ontario’s cap-and-trade fund is sitting unspent, and questions are swirling about what Premier Doug Ford’s government will do with it.

The money was brought into provincial coffers under a law that says it can only be spent on measures that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, Ford has dismissed the money as a “slush fund,” and his government is pushing forward legislation to use some of it to cover the costs of cancelling the cap-and-trade program.

The dedicated fund for reducing greenhouse gases had a balance of $553 million at the end of March, when the last fiscal year ended, according to the province’s newly released public accounts. Another $476 million was added in May from the final cap-and-trade auction of carbon allowances, before Ford’s PCs won the election and quickly scrapped the Liberals’ climate-change plan.

That would put the account at more than $1 billion. What remains unclear is how much of that has been spent in the past six months, and how much will be used to wind up cap-and-trade.

CBC News asked the Environment Ministry for the current balance of the greenhouse gas fund, but officials did not provide an answer.

Ontario’s environmental commissioner Dianne Saxe believes there’s still $1 billion in the account because she has seen no evidence that money has been dispersed since the end of March.

Saxe — an independent officer of the Legislature like the auditor general and ombudsman — says the costs of winding up cap-and-trade ought to be small enough that the bulk of the $1 billion will remain.

“They will have quite a bit of money left,” said Saxe in an interview. “That can be money they can use to invest in [climate-change] solutions.”

She is warning the government that it cannot spend the money however it wishes, but only on initiatives to reduce carbon emissions. “That was the legal basis on which the money was collected, and that remains the law,” she said.

Liberal MPP Nathalie Des Rosiers said Monday she fears the government will not spend the money on cutting greenhouse gases but on lawsuits arising from cancelling cap-and-trade.

That fear is unfounded, said Environment Minister Rod Phillips.

“The money will be used for the purpose it was collected,” said Phillips in an interview Monday at Queen’s Park.

He declined to estimate how much of the $1 billion will remain in the fund once the cap-and-trade program is wound up. Nor did he agree that the figure will be in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

“I don’t think it would be fair to speculate at this point,” said Phillips. “We will make it clear how much money was spent and where it was spent.”

Ford made cancelling the cap-and-trade program a central election promise, calling it the “cap-and-trade carbon tax” during and after the campaign. Within days of taking power, his government shut down rebates to homeowners for making energy efficiency improvements, such as installing new windows, and ended rebates for buying electric cars. Those rebates came from the greenhouse gas reduction fund.

The government won’t be able to say how much remains in the greenhouse gas fund until all the programs wind up, said Phillips. He also said the government is allocating $5 million to compensate companies that bought cap-and-trade allowances, which are now worthless.

Phillips is promising a plan to tackle climate change this fall, including an “emissions-reductions fund” but says it will not come from a carbon-tax model.

The province is challenging Ottawa in court over the Trudeau government’s plan to impose a carbon tax on Ontario in the absence of a provincial carbon-pricing program.

Meanwhile, environmental groups led by Greenpeace are suing the province over cancelling cap-and-trade, alleging that the Ford government broke the law by failing to consult Ontarians on the move.

No Mention of climate or warming in New NA Trade Accord 

Hats off to all for arriving at an agreement for economic transactions unburdened by obsessions with CO2 and unfounded claims of humans controlling the weather. A survey of the text shows the terms “climate” and “warming” do not appear even once. Good job!

Of course, greens are up in arms. Imagine signing a trade agreement that does nothing to destroy our economies in order to save the planet from CO2.

The deal does have a chapter on the environment, but critics such as the Council of Canadians call it weak and unenforceable.

It mentions pollution, marine traffic, endangered animals and ozone, but ignores what many call the world’s largest environmental challenge.

“The deal doesn’t even mention climate change,” Stewart said.

What has been thrown out is a provision in the old North American Free Trade Agreement that allowed corporations to sue governments for lost profits if they were injured by public-interest regulations such as environmental laws. The Council of Canadians pointed out that Canada was sued 37 times, mostly by American companies, under the old clause.

Update October 2, 2018

The new NA trade accord also strengthens energy security and trade. From offshore-technology.com:

The US oil and gas industry has urged Congress to approve the Trump administration’s renegotiated North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), saying that the deal will support US oil and gas exports across North and South America.

American Petroleum Institute president and CEO Mike Sommers said: “We urge Congress to approve the United States-Mexico-Canada-Agreement (USMCA). Having Canada as a trading partner and a party to this agreement is critical for North American energy security and US consumers. Retaining a trade agreement for North America will help ensure the US energy revolution continues into the future.”

There were concerns in the industry that Trump would scrap the NAFTA, which was pivotal in making Mexico the largest exporter of US oil, transportation fuel, and natural gas.

Meanwhile, with support from the trade agreement, Canada is the largest supplier of foreign oil and a significant exporter of electricity to the US.

The deal also makes Canada’s heavier crude oil more attractive to refiners in the Mexican Gulf, especially at a time when Venezuela’s production has reduced amid political and financial worries. Fracked US crude oil is lighter, and refineries in the Gulf, which traditionally deal with heavier crude, are still adjusting their processing practices.

The new NAFTA deal ensures a ‘zero-tariff’ on energy products traded between the US, Mexico and Canada.

 

Honey, I Made the Earth Wobble! Not.

 

Image is from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids, a 1989 American science fiction family film produced by Walt Disney Pictures.

Repeated robotically by alarmist websites, this week’s climate scare says that burning fossil fuels is causing the earth to wobble in its spin.

Earth is Wobbling and Climate Change is to Blame Newsweek

Humans Are Causing Earth to Wobble Popular Mechanics

Human-Driven Climate Change Is Literally Making Earth ‘Wobble’ Motherboard

Earth’s rotation wobbles. NASA says humans partly to blame. Big Think

Earth’s Axis Is Drifting Inches Every Year In Part Because Of Human-Driven Climate Change IFLScience

Planet Earth Wobbles As It Spins, and Now Scientists Know Why Live Science  The case as made in the Live Science article,

Since 1899, the Earth’s axis of spin has shifted about 34 feet (10.5 meters). Now, research quantifies the reasons why and finds that a third is due to melting ice and rising sea levels, particularly in Greenland — placing the blame on the doorstep of anthropogenic climate change.

Another third of the wobble is due to land masses expanding upward as the glaciers retreat and lighten their load. The final portion is the fault of the slow churn of the mantle, the viscous middle layer of the planet.

Earth wobbles irregularly over time, which means it does not always spin on an axis running through its poles. Its axis has been drifting towards North America during most of the last century (green arrow). That direction has changed dramatically due to changes in water mass on Earth. (Image: NASA/JPS-Caltech)

After a little investigation, there are several reasons not to be alarmed about this finding.

1.The Wobble is ancient.

Scientists have long known that the distribution of mass around the Earth determines its spin, much like how the shape and weight distribution of a spinning top determines how it moves. Also, Earth’s spin isn’t perfectly even, as scientists know thanks to slight wiggles in the movements of the stars across the night sky that have been recorded for thousands of years, said Erik Ivins, a study co-author and a senior research scientist at JPL. Since the 1990s, space-based measurements have also confirmed that the Earth’s axis of rotation drifts by a few centimeters a year, generally toward Hudson Bay in northeastern Canada.

Researchers knew that a proportion of this wobble was caused by glacial isostatic adjustment, an ongoing process since the end of the last ice age 16,000 years ago. As the glaciers retreat, they relieve the land underneath of their mass. Gradually, over thousands of years, the land responds to this relief by rising like bread dough. (In some places on the edges of the ancient ice sheets, the land might also collapse because the ice had forced it to bulge upward.)

2. Wobbling results from multiple causes.

“We have provided evidence for more than one single process that is the key driver” for altering the Earth’s axis, said Surendra Adhikari, an Earth system scientist at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, and a lead researcher on the new study.

But in the new research, published in the November issue of the journal Earth and Planetary Science Letters, Adhikari and his colleagues found that glacial isostatic adjustment was only responsible for about 1.3 inches (3.5 centimeters) of axis wobble per year. That was only about a third of the wobble — 4 inches (10.5 cm) — observed each year over the 20th century.

To fill in the gap, the research team built a computer model of the physics of Earth’s spin, feeding in data about changes in the balance of land-based ice and ocean waters over the 20th century. The researchers also accounted for other shifts in land and water, such as groundwater depletion and the building of artificial reservoirs, all part of humanity’s terraforming of the planet.

The results revealed that these environmental processes cause another 1.7 inches (4.3 cm) of wobble each year. The melting of the Greenland ice sheet was a particularly important contributor, the researchers found. That’s because Greenland has released a large amount of water that was once locked up on land into the oceans, where its mass has been redistributed, Ivins told Live Science. Mountain glaciers and small ice caps elsewhere have also contributed to sea-level rise, he said; but they aren’t as concentrated, and their effects on the Earth’s rotation often cancel each other out.

3. The mantle itself is always moving.

The glaciers and the ice melt still left a third of the wobble unaccounted for, so Adhikari and his team looked inward. The Earth’s mantle is not static, he said, but moves by the process of convection: Hotter material from closer to the core rises and cooler material sinks in a cycle of vertical motion. By including convection in the model of Earth’s wobble, the researchers had accounted for the last third of the changes in the spin over the 20th century.

4. The Wobble is not menacing.

It’s important to realize that this wobble isn’t the prelude to any sort of environmental calamity, Ivins and Adhikari said. It doesn’t affect agriculture or climate in and of itself, and any small impact on navigational equipment is easy to correct for.

“The amount [of drift] is not a huge amount,” Adhikari said.

5. Greenland ice sheet is affected by many natural factors.

A recent paper looked into unusually extensive melting in 2012. The implication of nonradiative energy fluxes dominating Greenland ice sheet exceptional ablation area surface melt in 2012 by Robert S. Fausto et al. Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

The surface energy budget consists of nonradiative (sensible, latent, rain, and subsurface) and radiative (shortwave and longwave) energy fluxes. Distinguishing the contribution of nonradiative and radiative energy fluxes in melt over the Greenland ice sheet is important to understand ice sheet surface climate sensitivity, especially in the ablation area, where the majority of melt occurs [e.g., Fausto et al., 2012a].

Ablation varies with elevation, but there are also considerable latitudinal differences as the Greenland ice sheet stretches from the upper midlatitudes (~60°N) to the high Arctic (~82°N). The largest total observed ice ablation in 2012 was 8.5 m ice eq. at QAS_L, which was 9% less than the 2010 value. This interannual variability may be attributed to larger winter snow accumulation in 2012, which maintained high surface albedo by delaying bare ice exposure during the melt season.

Given that absorbed solar radiation is the primary energy source of melt on an annual basis, the influence of intra‐annual and interannual variability in air temperature and other variables on ablation is of secondary importance [Van den Broeke et al., 2011]. Yet during the two melt episodes we focus on, which together resulted in ~14% of annual ice ablation (Table 1), the nonradiative (sensible, latent, rain, and subsurface) energy fluxes were the primary control of melt with a contribution of 53 ± 16% and 66 ± 8%, respectively, averaged for the eight western AWSs for episodes E1 and E2, respectively (Tables 1).

During the two episodes, the large longitudinal contrast in nonradiative energy fluxes contribution to surface melt stem from anomalously warm and moist southern air flow being transferred onto the western ice sheet by atmospheric flow (Figure 2b) [Neff et al., 2014; Bonne et al., 2015], while east Greenland was dominated by stable weather with relatively low cloud cover and high solar radiation (Figure 2c) [Fettweis et al., 2013; Tedesco et al., 2013].

More broadly, data from the two episodes presented here demonstrate that exceptional melt can occur during periods characterized by cloudy skies and transient atmospheric flow, with melt being dominated by nonradiative, rather than radiative fluxes in the ablation area.

Conclusions

We find that year 2012 Greenland ice sheet melt was marked not only by widespread interior surface melting [Nghiem et al., 2012] but also by an increased nonradiative (sensible, latent, and rain) energy flux contributing to melt in the ablation area of the southern and western ice sheet. Latent and sensible energy advection governed two exceptional melt episodes in July 2012 [Neff et al., 2014]. The two episodes which lasted just ~6% of the ablation period in June–August were responsible for ~14% of the annual 2012 ablation average for all PROMICE measurement sites (Table 1). At all PROMICE sites during the two exceptional melt episodes the combined sensible, latent, rain, and subsurface energy fluxes (i.e., nonradiative energy fluxes) comprised 60% of the melt energy on average (Figure 1 and Table S1).

Summary

Earth has wobbled a bit in its rotation since the beginning, and continues to do so. The movement is not large or menacing. The three causes appear to be shifting material in the mantle, land rebounding when glaciers retreat, and changes in Greenland ice sheet balance.

The latter is attributed to human activity, even though major melting events result primarily from nonradiative factors: sensible, latent, rain and subsurface energy fluxes. If you buy the notion that burning fossil fuels causes Greenland ice sheet to melt, then please contact me about my bridge in Brooklyn that I am selling.

Ethane is Transforming World Energy

Many of us know of methane (CH4, AKA natural gas), but overlooked in the current drilling revolution is ethane (C2H6) which is quietly transforming the world of energy. The story comes appropriately from the Houston Chronicle (H/T Master Resource). Jordan Blum writes How the ethane molecule changed the Gulf Coast — and the world Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Overview

Ethane is simply described as C2H6. But that molecule, a byproduct of natural gas, has triggered a petrochemical boom that is reshaping the Gulf Coast, the energy industry that lives here, and global markets for plastics, resins and other petrochemicals.

We followed that molecule from a Texas shale field where it is found, to the petrochemical plant where it is transformed into ethylene, the basic building block of most plastics, and to the Port of Houston, where it is shipped to Asia and other emerging consumer markets.

The impact of ethane is perhaps the most remarkable development in the remarkable story of the shale revolution. Less than three years ago, ethane was a largely unwanted byproduct of oil and gas drilling, much of it burned away in the natural gas stream flowing to power plants, businesses and homes, or flared off at well sites.

But today, ethane is feedstock for nearly half of U.S. plastics production and a valuable export to chemical companies around the world. As ethane flows from Texas shale fields, chemical and energy companies are building and expanding plants to take advantage of the cheap, plentiful raw material, plowing more than $140 billion into the Gulf Coast alone.

“It’s absolutely extraordinary this is happening in the United States,” said Neil Chapman, Exxon Mobil senior vice president. “I can assure you nobody predicted this in 2000 or even 2005.”

U.S. ethane production is projected to reach 2 million barrels a day by 2020, double the output at the height of the last drilling boom in 2014. On the journey from wellhead to market, ethane molecules will change forms several times as they are separated from natural gas, heated to become ethylene, processed into polyethylene, and ultimately extruded and molded into packaging and products that will appear on shelves in stores from Houston to Mumbai and Ho Chi Minh City.

The shale revolution is widely credited to the innovation and determination of one man, the late George P. Mitchell, son of a Greek immigrant and founder of The Woodlands. Mitchell, after striking it rich in oil, spent 35 years stubbornly focused on developing the Barnett Shale near Dallas, a play known for years as the “Wildcatters Graveyard.”

Mitchell, however, persisted, eventually combining hydraulic fracturing with horizontal drilling to unlock the complex shale rock. Mitchell didn’t frack his first profitable well until 1998, but with that success, he sold his company four years later for more than $3 billion to Devon Energy of Oklahoma City.

The shale boom was soon underway, producing oil and gas from Texas to North Dakota to the Northeast. It placed the United States among the world’s biggest energy producers, roiling global markets and upending more than 40 years of geopolitics.

And along with oil and gas came large volumes of another petroleum product known as natural gas liquids.

Three primary components can come out any successful well: crude oil, natural gas, which is essentially methane, and natural gas liquids, primarily ethane, butane and propane. Ethane is the most prevalent natural gas liquid, or NGL, and used solely as a feedstock for petrochemicals.

Mont Belvieu is built atop a salt dome formed more than 100 million years ago from deposits likely left by an ancient inland sea that cut across the North American continent. For more than 60 years, energy companies have used it as a natural storage tank, carving out salt caverns some 3,000 feet deep to hold millions of barrels of petroleum products.

Today, those caverns are increasingly filled with ethane and other natural gas liquids that feed the plastics and chemical industries, making Mont Belvieu and its neighbor to the south, Baytown, the focal point of the Gulf Coast petrochemical boom. Here, where rice fields once stretched as far as the eye could see, Exxon Mobil alone has invested some $6 billion to dramatically expand its 36-year-old plastics plant as well as its sprawling refining and chemicals complex in Baytown.

At these plants, the ethane molecules that squeezed through fissures in shale rock, flowed up a Texas well and traveled more than 150 miles by pipeline, will undergo chemical changes to transform them from once-overlooked byproducts of oil and gas drilling into one of most ubiquitous materials on earth. Hundreds of other pipelines stretching across Texas and beyond will carry millions more barrels of natural gas liquids from U.S. shale fields, converging near the salt dome under Mont Belvieu’s Barbers Hill.

This is the next stop for the natural gas liquids produced by Exxon’s subsidiary XTO Energy. Here, processing plants known as fractionators use varying pressures and temperatures to break the natural gas liquids into components, each with a slightly different combination of carbon and hydrogen, including butane (C4H10), propane (C3H8), pentane (C5H12) and, of course, ethane (C2H6).

The ethane is piped 10 miles to Exxon Mobil’s Baytown complex, which is simultaneously one of the nation’s oldest and most modern plants. The refinery was built nearly a century ago by one of Exxon Mobil’s predecessor companies, Humble Oil. A chemical plant was added in 1979 and expanded in 1997.

The focus of the Baytown expansion was eight furnaces, each costing more than $100 million and standing 23 stories tall — nearly the height of NRG Stadium. The furnaces, built in Thailand, are the heart of a plant known as a cracker, which gets its name from the process that uses extreme heat to crack ethane molecules in half and trigger chemical reactions that form ethylene.

The ethylene is piped back to Mont Belvieu, where some will be stored in the salt caverns, but most will feed another process that will change the hydrocarbons liberated from Texas shale once again.

Where the Baytown complex used heat and pressure to crack ethane into ethylene, Exxon Mobil’s Mont Belvieu plant relies on chemical reactions to fuse trillions of ethylene molecules into polyethylene.

The Mont Belvieu plant opened in 1982, producing mainly low-grade, flexible polyethylene used in plastic wrap and food packaging, and expanded nine years later to produce plastic for more rigid products, such as milk bottles. The most recent expansion, completed late last year, is dedicated to high-performance polyethylene that is light, flexible and strong.

After quality testing, the plastic is loaded into as many as 35 rail cars, each holding about 200,000 pounds of polyethylene pellets, and shipped throughout the country to customers who shape the polyethylene pellets into finished plastics products. About 40 percent of the polyethylene is made for the domestic market.

Polyethylene pellets marked for export are mechanically packaged in 55-pound bags, each holding about 1 million pellets. Every hour, the plant fills about 10,000 bags, which are loaded onto pallets, each holding 55 bags, and trucked to a 70-acre storage yard. As many as 100,000 pallets are kept for up to 45 days until they can be loaded into containers and shipped out of the Port of Houston.

The Baytown and Mount Belvieu plants together employ 7,500 people, and Exxon Mobil estimates that the number doubles to 15,000 when counting contractors and jobs at local suppliers, restaurants and other businesses that support the plant. Exxon pays more than $150 million a year in local taxes and fees.

The plants also have contributed to a surge in exports that has made Houston one of few regions in the country that exports more than it imports. That brings new money into the area — tens of billions of dollars that can be used to expand business, hire workers and increase wealth.

“We’re going to have things that are made in America again and getting shipped overseas,” Fritsch said. “That’s what’s exciting about shale gas. It’s the explosion of industry again in the U.S.”