Coal not Candles

It was coal that produced clean electric power which cleared the smog produced by dirty combustion and open fires in big cities like London and Pittsburgh. Much of the third world still suffers choking fumes and smog because they do not have clean electric power and burn wood, cardboard, unwashed coal and cow dung for home heat.

It was coal that saved the forests being felled to fuel the first steam engines and produce charcoal for the first iron smelters.

It was coal that powered the light bulbs and saved the whales being slaughtered for whale oil lamps.

It was coal that produced the steel that replaced shingles on the roof, timber props in the mines, wooden fence posts on the farms and the bark on the old bark hut.

In Australia today, coal provides at least 75% of our lighting, cooking, heating, refrigeration, rail transport and steel. Without it, we would be back in the dark days of candles, wood stoves, chip heaters, open fires, smoky cities, hills bare of trees and streets knee deep in horse manure.

Coal is fossil sunshine as clean as the green plants it came from, and often less damaging to the environment than its green energy alternatives.

Earth Hour candles are green tokenism for rich status-seekers and nostalgic dreamers.

We should spend Earth Hour saluting the real people who produce the coal on which most people on earth depend.

The Real Agenda of Earth Hour

“We must make this place an insecure and inhospitable place for Capitalists and their projects – we must reclaim the roads and plowed lands, halt dam construction, tear down existing dams, free shackled rivers, and return to the wilderness millions and tens of millions of acres of presently settled land.”

– Dave Foreman, “Earth First”

Authorised by Viv Forbes
153 Schneiders Road, Rosevale via
Rosewood Qld Australia
0754 640 533

Disclosure: Viv Forbes has had a long love affair with electricity.

“It started many decades ago when the candles and kerosene lights of my childhood were replaced by a 32 volt DC electricity system powered by the diesel engine that also ran the new milking machines on our dairy farm. The generator charged 16 large 2 volt batteries sitting on the veranda. These batteries powered a couple of room lights and the new-fangled radio (His Master’s Voice). If Mum wanted to use her new electric iron, Dad had to start the engine in the milking shed. We still made do with a wood stove and an evaporative cooling safe.

“It was magic to just flick a switch to get bright clean light to every corner of the room. And no wick trimming, no getting into trouble for spilling kerosene on the kitchen table while filling the lights, no smoky lamp globes to clean (and occasionally break), and no candle setting fire to the curtains when I tried to read in bed. I have never longed to return to the era of candles.

“I learned about electricity networks by constructing roads for my toy truck with real street lights made from two torch bulbs mounted on poles made from wooden meat skewers. The power station was a discarded torch battery.

“Then I grew up and had a long adventure with coal – learning about where and how it was formed; observing evidence of the massive climate changes that have occurred since the great coal forests covered the globe; learning how coal properties were related to the type of plant material that formed that coal; marvelling at the extent of the earth upheavals and volcanic eruptions that have sometimes destroyed the coal seams; and observing how government policies can foster our resource industries or drive them overseas. I still hold shares and earn income from a small Australian coal exploration company.

“None of that knowledge and experience changes the truth or relevance of the above comments about coal and candles.”

If you would like to read more on the romance of the story of coal, get this book:

Barbara Freese, “Coal, a Human History” Published by Arrow Books, UK, 2006.

Barbara Freese is no patsy for the coal industry. She was Assistant District Attorney in Minnesota for 12 years, responsible for enforcing air pollution laws. Her book is a marvellous story of King Coal and the Big Smoke (London). Just ignore her misguided lapse into climate alarmism at the end (remember, she was a government lawyer).

“Coal has transformed societies and shaped the fate of nations. It launched empires and triggered wars. Above all, it fuelled the Industrial Revolution in Britain, propelling the rise of a small rural kingdom into the greatest commercial empire in the world.”

Another reviewer says “Barbara Freese has a nose for the links between things, technology and culture. I can think of no substance that has played so important a role in shaping industrial technology and the relative fortunes of competing economies. And while its role has been somewhat reduced by growing recourse to petroleum, we may yet find it desirable or necessary to return to coal, whether as a fuel or as a source of electric power.”

Try holding a candle to that.

Fracking: An existential threat to green dogma

Misleading claims about shale gas development serve dogma but not the public interest

Paul Driessen

The Sierra Club and other environmental pressure groups are redoubling their efforts to “stop fracking in its tracks.” No wonder. The technology is an existential threat to fundamental “green” dogmas.
Horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing is a true “game changer.” In less than two years, this proven but still rapidly advancing technology has obliterated longstanding claims that we are running out of petroleum. Instead, the USA now finds itself blessed with centuries of oil and gas.
Thankfully, much of it is on state and private lands, which cannot easily be locked up by federal diktat.
Poland and Estonia are using it, China has invited companies to the Middle Kingdom, Britain, Israel and Jordan are evaluating their shale deposits, and other nations are following suit – coaxing oil and natural gas from shale and other rock formations that previously had refused to yield their hydrocarbon riches.
By making more natural gas available, fracking has reduced the US price for this clean-burning fuel to under $3 per thousand cubic feet (or million Btu), compared to a peak of $8 a few years ago.
Natural gas is also supplanting coal for electricity generation. Due to excessive, mostly unnecessary new Environmental Protection Agency regulations, many US coal-fired power plants are shutting down. Replacement plants are far more likely to be gas-powered than nuclear, especially in the near term.
Natural gas makes heating and electricity more affordable for families, hospitals, government buildings and businesses; feed stocks less expensive for makers of plastics, paints, fabrics and other petrochemical products; and the prospect of natural gas-power vehicles more enticing, without mandates or subsidies. That translates into thousands of jobs created or saved.
Companies are keeping chemical plants open that were slated to close, due to soaring prices for oil that they now can readily replace with cheap natural gas. Shell plans to build a $2-biillion ethane “cracking” plant near Pittsburgh – creating 10,000 construction jobs and 10,000 permanent jobs – thanks to abundant gas from Marcellus Shale. Louisiana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas and other states are reporting subsidy-free employment and revenue gains from shale gas development. More are likely to follow, as companies seek new ways to capitalize on access to abundant, inexpensive, reliable gas.
Natural gas also provides essential backup power for wind turbines. Without such backup, electricity generation from these projects would plummet to zero 70-80% of the time, affecting assembly lines, computers, televisions, air conditioners and other electrical equipment dozens of times every day.
Even harder for environmentalists to accept, cheap natural gas also makes it harder to justify building redundant wind turbines that require large subsidies to generate far more expensive electricity only 5-8 hours a day, on average, while killing large numbers of raptors, migratory birds and bats. It makes more sense to simply build the gas turbines, and forget about the mostly useless wind turbines.
Fracking is also unlocking oil in the vast Bakken Shale formations beneath Montana, North Dakota and Saskatchewan. Oil production there has shot from 3,000 barrels a day in 2006 to nearly 500,000 today – creating thousands of jobs … and a growing need for the Keystone XL pipeline to Texas.
In response, eco-activists are spreading unfounded fears about this proven technology. Using words like “reckless,” “dangerous” and “poisonous,” they say unregulated fracking companies are operating with little concern for ecological values and causing cancer, earthquakes and groundwater contamination.
The claims have fanned borderline hysteria in some quarters and prompted Maryland, New York and other states to launch drawn-out studies or impose moratoria that will postpone drilling and the benefits it would bring. Facts are sorely needed.
Drilling and fracking have been carefully and effectively regulated by states for decades. As studies by the University of Texas and various state agencies have documented, there has never been a confirmed case of groundwater contamination due to fracking. Even EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson acknowledged that to a congressional panel.
These analysts, drilling companies and even an Environmental Defense expert now say fracking has not played a role in any of the rare cases where methane has gotten into drinking water.
Instead, the cause has generally been a failure of “well integrity” – the result of improper cementing between the well borehole and the steel “casing” and pipes that go down through aquifers and thousands of feet deeper into gas-laden shale formations. Similar failures occur in water wells drilled through rock formations containing methane (natural gas).
The solution is straightforward: better standards and procedures for cementing vertical pipes in place, and testing them initially and periodically to ensure there are no leaks.
Similarly, fracking fluids fail to match the “toxic” and “cancerous” opprobrium alleged by anti-drilling campaigns. Over 99.5% of the fluids is water and sand. The other 0.5% is chemicals to keep sand particles suspended in the liquid, fight bacterial growth and improve gas production.
Although industrial chemicals were once used, almost all of today’s are vegetable oil and chemicals used in cheese, beer, canned fish, dairy desserts, shampoo, and other food and cosmetic products.
As to “earthquakes,” barely detectable “tremors” have occasionally been measured near fracking operations and wastewater disposal injection wells. However, calling these snap, crackle and pop noises and movements “earthquakes” is akin to screaming “Earthquake!” when a cement truck goes by.
Despite these facts, EPA is nevertheless trying to invent problems and inject itself into already vigilant and responsive state regulatory efforts. The agency has conducted a roundly criticized study in Wyoming and is conducting water tests in Pennsylvania, where state officials view its activities as unnecessary meddling.
Additional over-reach and over-regulation would be hugely detrimental to US and global well-being. Fracking could help create numerous jobs and provide a far more secure, affordable, dependable and lower-pollution future than would ever be possible with wind or solar power.
By expanding oil and gas development, it could make North America the world’s new energy hub. Middle East sheiks, mullahs and OPEC ministers would lose economic, political and strategic power. Threats of Russian pipeline closures would no longer intimidate Eastern European countries. Politicians everywhere would waste less money on “renewable” energy T-Boonedoggles.
Unfortunately, though, fear campaigns are preventing some of America’s poorest counties and families from enjoying the economic benefits of Marcellus Shale development.
Baltimore’s Sage Policy Group calculated that fracking in western Maryland could reduce energy costs, create thousands of jobs, and generate millions of dollars annually in revenue for the state and Allegany and Garrett Counties. Similar studies in New York and elsewhere have reached similar conclusions.
Hydraulic fracturing technologies are proven. Regulations to protect drinking water are in place and improving steadily, as cementing and other legitimate concerns are recognized and addressed.
North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Texas, Poland and Israel are showing the way forward.
Communities that have not yet opened their doors to responsible drilling, fracking and production need to replace anti-hydrocarbon agendas and fears with facts, optimism and science-based regulations.
Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Congress of Racial Equality, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

The EPA Wrecking Ball

By Alan Caruba

The Environmental Protection Agency is using its power to advance the objective of the environmental movement to deny Americans access to the energy that sustains the nation’s economy and is using the greatest hoax ever perpetrated, global warming—now called “climate change”—to achieve that goal.

“This standard isn’t the once-and-for-all solution to our environmental challenge,” said Lisa Jackson, the EPA administrator, “but it is an important commonsense step toward tackling the ongoing and very real threat of climate change and protecting the future for generations to come. It will enhance the lives of our children and our children’s children.”

This is a boldfaced lie. Its newest rule is based on the debasement of science that is characterized and embodied in the global warming hoax. It will deprive America of the energy it requires to function.

Since the 1980s the Greens have been telling everyone that carbon dioxide was causing global warming—now called climate change—and warning that CO2 emissions were going to kill everyone in the world if they weren’t dramatically reduced. The ball was put in motion with the United Nations 1997 Kyoto Protocols when many nations agreed to this absurd idea and carried forward by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ever since.

The Environmental Protection Agency was created to clean the nation’s air and water where it was deemed that a hazard existed. Like most noble ideas and most Congressional mandates, the initial language was vague enough to be interpreted to mean anything those in charge wanted it to mean. Add in the global warming hoax and you have the means to destroy the nation.

Now it means that the source of fifty percent of all the electricity generated in the United States is being systematically put out of business and please do not act surprised; that’s exactly what Barack Obama said he intended to do if elected President.

This is evil writ large.

Shutting down utilities that use coal, an energy source the U.S. has in such abundance that it could provide electricity for the next hundreds of years, and ensuring that no new ones are built fits in perfectly with all the Green pipedreams about “renewable” energy. Solar and wind presently provide about two percent of the nation’s electricity and, without government subsidies and mandates requiring their use, they would not exist at all.

How stupid is it to not build more nuclear power plants when this form of power doesn’t emit anything but energy?

How stupid is it not to use coal when the U.S. is the Saudi Arabia of coal?

How stupid is it to begin to find reasons to regulate and thwart fracking, the technology to access trillions of cubic feet of natural gas that has been in use for decades?

How stupid is it to cover miles of land, far from any urban center, with hundreds of solar panels or huge, ugly wind turbines that kill thousands of birds every year?

The sun does not shine all the time, nor does the wind blow all the time. In the event of overcast skies or a day without wind, traditional plants—those using coal, gas, nuclear or generating hydroelectric power—have to be maintained as a backup. Take away the coal-fired plants and there were be huge gap in the national grid.

Darkness will descend and Americans will begin to live with blackouts and brownouts that will undermine every aspect of our lives. It’s bad enough when a town or even a city briefly loses power because of a storm, but imagine that occurring on a regular basis because there just aren’t enough utilities generating power!

What kind of people stand by idly while its own government conspires to take away the primary source of energy that everything else depends upon? The answer? You. The answer is the many elected politicians that have done little to rein in a rogue government agency intent on undermining the nation by denying it the ability to generate power with the least expensive source of electricity, coal.

The EPA, an unelected bureaucracy, has just ensured that all Americans, industries, small businesses, and individuals will begin pay far more for electrical power.

Richard J. Trzupek, the author of “Regulators Run Wild” and an environment policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, said of the new rule, “With around 50,000 megawatts of coal-fired power set to be forcibly retired in the next few years—thanks to the draconian policies of Obama’s EPA—this rule ensures that no new modern, efficient coal fired power plants will be built to fill the gap.”

In a triumph of crony capitalism, Trzupek notes that “The big winner will be Obama’s good friend, GE Chairman Jeff Immelt. Since solar and wind cannot fill a 50,000 megawatt baseload gap, the only way to ensure continued reliability of the grid is to build a lot of natural gas-fired plants quickly. And who is the biggest supplier of natural gas-fired combustion engines? GE of course.”

If you think that environmental organizations like the Sierra Club and Friends of the Earth, among many others, are seeking to “protect” the Earth, you are seriously mistaken. They have been among the leading opponents of coal and they have had allies in Congress such as the Majority Leader of the Senate, Harry Reid, (D-NV) who has said “Coal makes us sick. Oil makes us sick.”

NO! Coal provides the engine of our nation’s electrical power and oil provides the energy that fuels our transportation and is the basis for countless products that enhance and improve our lives every day.

We are witnessing the destruction of the nation by the environmental movement and the EPA has just provided you with the most dramatic example of that plan.

EPA imposes first greenhouse gas limits on power plants

EPA imposes first greenhouse gas limits on power plants

Environmental Protection Agency issued the first limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants Tuesday, a move which could end the construction of conventional coal-fired facilities in the United States.

“Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement. “Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies – and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow.”

Years in the making and approved by the White House after months of review, the rule will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.

The Washington Post first reported details of the proposed rule Monday.

Costly controls

Industry officials and environmentalists said in interviews that the rule, which comes on the heels of tough new requirements that the Obama administration imposed on mercury emissions and cross-state pollution from utilities within the past year, dooms any proposal to build a coal-fired plant that does not have costly carbon controls.

“This standard effectively bans new coal plants,” said Joseph Stanko, who heads government relations at the law firm Hunton and Williams and represents several utility companies. “So I don’t see how that is an ‘all of the above’ energy policy.”

The rule provides an exception for coal plants that are already permitted and beginning construction within a year. There are about 20 coal plants now pursuing permits; two of them are federally subsidized and would meet the new standard with advanced pollution controls.

An administration official who asked not to be identified because the rule hasn’t been announced wrote in an e-mail Monday night: “This standard provides a clear and certain path forward for industry and the important domestic energy sources they rely on” for electricity generation.

The proposal does not cover existing plants, although utility companies have announced that they plan to shut down more than 300 boilers, representing more than 42gigawatts of electricity generation — nearly 13 percent of the nation’s coal-fired electricity — rather than upgrade them with pollution-control technology.

Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club, said the new rule “captures the end of an era” during which coal provided most of the nation’s electricity. It currently generates about 40 percent of U.S. electricity.

The power sector accounts for 40 percent of the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, and Brune said it is “the only place where we’re making significant progress” in curbing greenhouse gas emissions linked to climate change, adding that “at the same time, it’s not sufficient.”

Cheap natural gas is also contributing to the closure of aging coal-fired plants, as many utilities switch over to gas plants, which produce about half the carbon emissions.

“Gas is contributing to the closure of these plants,” Dominion Resources chief executive Thomas F. Farrell II said in an interview last week. Farrell, who also chairs the Edison Electric Institute, the utility trade association, added: “It’s not all EPA. It’s a combination of low gas prices and EPA working at the same time.”

National Mining Association spokesman Luke Popovich said the proposal shows that President Obama is following through on his pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through means other than legislation.

Bypassing Congress

“After Congress refused to pass carbon caps, the administration insisted there were other ways to skin the cat, and this is another way — by setting a standard deliberately calculated to drive affordable coal out of the electricity market,” Popovich said.

Conrad Schneider, advocacy director for the Clean Air Task Force, said the proposed rule will ensure a cut in the nation’s carbon output even if gas prices spike.

The proposal will provide some flexibility, allowing super-efficient coal plants an exemption for the first decade of operation before requiring them to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 50 percent.

The EPA rule, called the New Source Performance Standard, will be subject to public comment for at least a month before being finalized, but its backers said they were confident that the White House will usher it into law before Obama’s term ends.

“The Obama administration is committed to moving forward with this,” said Nathan Willcox, federal global warming program director for the advocacy group Environment America. “They’re committed to doing it this, and we’re committed to helping them do it.”

Obama Turns from Raising Gas Prices to Raising Electric Rates

Obama Turns from Raising Gas Prices to Raising Electric Rates

By Killing Coal, EPA Rule Will Impoverish Consumers and Destroy Manufacturing Jobs

Washington DC, March 27, 2012 – The Obama Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency today released a final rule to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from electric utilities that will ban the construction of new conventional coal-fired power plants. The result will be to raise electric rates for consumers, businesses, and manufacturers.

“President Obama has decided to apply the same policy magic that is raising gasoline prices to electricity prices,” said Myron Ebell, Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment. “The Obama EPA’s new global warming rule will raise electric rates in the heartland states that get most of their electricity from coal. These are the states where American manufacturing is now concentrated precisely because they depend on affordable electricity from coal.”

“President Obama says he wants to get the economy going and create jobs, but EPA’s action today is a job killer,” Ebell continued. “President Obama vowed when he ran for president in 2008 to bankrupt coal, but EPA’s new rule will do much more than kill coal. The higher electricity prices caused by the EPA rule will close American factories and send jobs overseas.”

“EPA is proposing this rule to limit greenhouse gas emissions even though EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has admitted that it will have no effect on global warming,” Ebell concluded.

“By effectively requiring the use of carbon capture and storage technology that is not commercially available, EPA’s standards violate the plain language of the Clean Air Act and even EPA’s own standing interpretation of the statute,” said William Yeatman, Assistant Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment.

“EPA’s rule is an affront to the Constitution’s separation of powers,” said Marlo Lewis, Senior Fellow in CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment. “Congress never voted to ban investment in new coal electric generation. Indeed, Congress declined to pass less onerous versions of Obama’s ‘bankrupt coal’ agenda when Senate leaders abandoned cap-and-trade. Congress needs to reassert its constitutional authority, overturn the rule, and rein in EPA.”


“The Obama agenda seeks to control the way we live, work, and act by controlling the sources of energy we use. This rule gives more power to Obama regulators by giving fewer sources of affordable energy to American consumers.”
— IER President Thomas J. Pyle

WASHINGTON D.C. — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing today to issue a proposed rule for greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants, a move that industry experts believe “effectively bans new coal plants” in the United States. Currently, coal-fired energy provides nearly 45 percent of America’s electricity needs, while solar and wind energy provide a combined 2.33 percent.

IER President Thomas Pyle released the following statement in advance of EPA’s proposed rule:

“President Obama promised to bankrupt coal-powered electricity in the United States, and this latest rule — when combined with the administration’s new rules for mercury emissions and cross-state pollution — makes good on that promise. Already, towns like Craig, Colo., whose economies rely on coal-fired electricity generation, are struggling under the burden of Obama regulations.

“Because the administration couldn’t shut down towns like Craig through cap-and-trade laws, the President has determined to impose his agenda through the EPA. This development is not surprising, given the president’s assurance that cap-and-trade was ‘just one way of skinning the cat.’

“The United States has the largest coal reserves of any country in the world with 486 billion short tons of technically recoverable resources. States like Wyoming, West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, and Montana lead the nation in producing this valuable resource for affordable electricity. If the EPA’s new rules are finalized, entire industries across the United States will be pushed out of business — and jobs with them.

“The EPA’s increasingly politicized rule making is clear. Administrator Lisa Jackson and her regulatory enforcers are advancing an agenda that gives tremendous financial benefit and market advantage to the president’s closest allies in the renewable sector and satisfies the ideological demands of environmental extremists who want to destroy traditional energy in America.

“The Obama agenda seeks to control the way we live, work, and act by controlling the sources of energy we use. This rule gives more power to Obama regulators by giving fewer sources of affordable energy to American consumers.”


EPA unveils power-plant standards
By: Erica Martinson
March 27, 2012 12:23 PM EDT

The Obama administration took a major step forward on the regulation of greenhouse gas emissions when the EPA on Tuesday released its long-awaited rule limiting carbon dioxide emissions from new coal-fired power plants.

It essentially means that new coal-fired power plants will have to capture their carbon dioxide emissions — either for storage or, in many cases, to send the CO2 to oil and gas drilling operations where it can be used to help extract fossil fuels. It also gives a big leg up to natural gas-fired plants.

“Right now there are no limits to the amount of carbon pollution that future power plants will be able to put into our skies — and the health and economic threats of a changing climate continue to grow,” said EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson in a statement.

Already, Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) says he will seek a Congressional Review Act vote to halt the rule.

“We were successful in stopping their job-killing agenda through legislation when we defeated cap and trade, now our fight is to stop them from forcing it on the American people through regulations,” he said.

The CRA — which requires 30 co-sponsors to get a Senate vote — would give senators the chance “to decide whether they will stand with President Obama” or against his environmental and energy agenda, Inhofe said.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), author of the ill-fated cap-and-trade bill, said the proposal “is a breakthrough.”

“It sets achievable limits on dangerous carbon pollution, spurs investments in new clean energy technologies and provides certainty for industry,” Waxman added. “And it shows the president is listening to scientists, not extremists who deny the existence of climate change.”

“EPA’s proposed standard reflects the ongoing trend in the power sector to build cleaner plants that take advantage of American-made technologies,” the agency said in a factsheet released with the proposed rule.

EPA said the decision to limit greenhouse gases is consistent with the Supreme Court’s 2007 decision in Massachusetts v. EPA, after which EPA determined that “greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long lasting changes in our climate that can have a range of negative effects on human health and the environment.”

The agency and environmentalists supporting the standards are quick to point out that it mirrors current trends in power generation: natural gas is up, and new coal plants are all but dead.

“Because of the economics of the energy sector, the EPA and others project that [natural gas combined cycle technology] will be the predominant choice for new fossil fuel-fired generation even absent this rule,” the proposed rule says. “In its base case analysis, the EPA does not project any new coal-fired EGUs without CCS to be built in the absence of this proposal through 2030.”

This article first appeared on POLITICO Pro at 12:19 p.m. on March 27, 2012.

Government climate change staff ‘miserable and disengaged’

By Simon

So the government has spent another $175,000 of your money to cheer them up:

THEY are responsible for some of the government’s most important policies – but staff at the Department of Energy and Climate Change are too ashamed to admit where they work.

Staff morale is so low the government has spent almost $175,000 on consultants to lift staff’s flagging spirits.

A negative public image of the department, changing environmental policies and lack of internal support had left them feeling miserable and disengaged, an internal report has found.

The report was conducted by consultants Right Management in July 2010 when the department was under the responsibility of Finance and Deregulation Minister Penny Wong.

The portfolio has since been taken over by Greg Combet.

The department is responsible for carrying out some of the government’s most critical and controversial policies, including those relating to global warming, carbon emission reduction and promoting energy efficiency.

The findings of the report are so damning the government only released it nine months after it was first requested by the Opposition under Freedom of Information laws.

The report, which also includes a survey of 788 people, found the department to have “low levels” of employee engagement. Staff held a poor view of the department, felt a lack of purpose, were uninformed about changes to policies and procedures, and worried about their future employment.

“Many reported having to think about whether they would tell people where they worked because of the department’s negative image,” the report said.

Opposition Climate Action, Environment and Heritage spokesman Greg Hunt said the report exposed the level of incompetence within the department.

Maybe they secretly realise that their department is an utter waste of money, whose actions will make not the slightest bit of difference to the climate? And just piss people off.

Ballooning cost is blowing in the wind

by: Bjorn Lomborg
From: The Australian March 22, 2012 12:00AM

EFFORTS to stem global warming have nurtured a strong urge worldwide to deploy renewable energy. As a result, the use of wind turbines has increased tenfold during the past decade, with wind power often touted as the most cost-effective green opportunity. According to Connie Hedegaard, the European Union’s Commissioner for Climate Action, “People should believe that (wind power) is very, very cheap.”

In fact, this is a highly problematic claim. While wind energy is cheaper than other, more ineffective renewables, such as solar, tidal, and ethanol, it is nowhere near competitive. If it were, we wouldn’t have to keep spending significant sums to subsidise it.

In Britain, for example, wind remains significantly costlier than other energy sources.

Using the UK Electricity Generation Costs 2010 update and measuring in cost per produced kilowatt-hour, wind is still 20-200 per cent more expensive than the cheapest fossil-fuel options. And even this is a significant underestimate.

As Britain and other developed countries have rushed to build more wind turbines, they have naturally started with the windiest places, leaving poorer sites for later.

At the same time, people increasingly protest against the wind farms in their back yards. Local opposition has tripled during the past three years, and local approval rates for new wind farms have sunk to an all-time low.

Most people believe that a few wind turbines can be attractive, but it is an entirely different matter when turbines are scattered across the countryside, or when massive, industrial wind farms extend for kilometres. Complaints have also increased about enormous new wind turbines’ low-frequency noise.

Given souring public sentiment, most of the future increase in wind turbines is expected to take place offshore, where there is less opposition, but where costs are much higher.

With its “20-20-20” policy, the EU has promised that, by 2020, it will cut its carbon emissions by 20 per cent from 1990 levels, and increase its reliance on renewables by 20 per cent.

For Britain, this requires a dramatic increase in wind power, especially offshore.

This will be surprisingly costly. Britain’s Carbon Trust estimates that the cost of expanding wind turbines to 40 gigawatts, to provide 31 per cent of electricity by 2020, could run as high as pound stg. 75 billion ($113bn). And the benefits, in terms of tackling global warming, would be measly: a reduction of just 86 megatons of CO2 a year for two decades. In terms of averted rise in temperature, this would be completely insignificant. Using a standard climate model, by 2100, Britain’s huge outlay will have postponed global warming by just over 10 days.

Moreover, this estimate is undoubtedly too optimistic. Wind frequently does not blow when we need it. For example, as the BBC reported, the cold weather on December 21, 2010, was typical of a prolonged cold front, with high-pressure areas and little wind. Whereas wind power, on average, supplies 5 per cent of Britain’s electricity, its share fell to just 0.04 per cent that day. With demand understandably peaking, other sources, such as coal and gas, had to fill the gap.

Making up for a 5 per cent shortfall in supply is manageable, but the situation will change dramatically as Britain increases its reliance on wind power to reach the 31 per cent target by 2020. Wind power becomes much more expensive when we factor in the large supplies of power that must be created for back-up whenever the wind dies down.

The cheapest back-up power by far is provided by open-cycle gas plants, which imply more CO2 emissions. Thus, wind power will ultimately be costlier and reduce emissions less than officially estimated.

(This is also why simple calculations based on costs per kWh are often grossly misleading, helping to make wind and other intermittent renewables appear to be cheaper than they are.)

This has been shown in recent reports by KPMG/Mercados and Civitas, an independent think tank. A new report by University of Edinburgh professor Gordon Hughes for the Global Warming Policy Foundation estimates that 36GW of new wind power would cost pound stg. 120bn for just 23 megatons of CO2 reduction a year. In other words, temperature rises would be postponed by a mere 66 hours by the end of the century.

Contrary to what many think, the cost of both onshore and offshore wind power has not been coming down. On the contrary, it has been going up during the past decade. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change acknowledged this in its most recent renewable energy report. Likewise, the UK Energy Research Centre laments that wind-power costs have “risen significantly since the mid-2000s”.

Like the EU, Britain has become enamoured with the idea of reducing CO2 through wind technology. But most academic models show that the cheapest way to reduce CO2 by 20 per cent in 2020 would be to switch from coal to cleaner natural gas.

The average of the major energy models indicates that, downscaled for Britain, achieving the 20 per cent target would imply a total cost of roughly pound stg. 95bn during the coming decade, and pound stg. 18bn every year after that.

Of course, these figures include reductions in areas other than electricity, as well as higher energy prices’ total cost to the economy. Nonetheless, the lesson is clear: if the goal is not just to cut CO2 emissions, but to use renewables to do it, the models show that the cost balloons to pound stg. 188bn for this decade and pound stg. 36bn every year after 2020.

In effect, insisting on wind power means using energy that is far from competitive, does not help to avert climate change, and costs an extra pound stg. 92bn for Britain alone. For any country, this seems like a very poor choice.

Bjorn Lomborg is the author of The Skeptical Environmentalist and Cool It, head of the Copenhagen Consensus Centre, and adjunct professor at Copenhagen Business School.

Stop the demagoguery on oil and gas, Mr. President

Washington Examiner

That was quite a performance Thursday at Prince George’s Community College when President Obama spoke on energy issues. He repeated so many Big Green energy myths that even the most obsessive environmentalists must surely have been exhilarated. One of those myths deserves particular attention because it is at the core of Obama’s “clean energy” agenda for America’s future. As he so frequently does, Obama repeated the misleading assertion that America has only 2 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves but uses 20 percent of all the oil consumed every year.

That claim is at such variance with the facts that even some liberal mainstream media people are beginning to question it. Glenn Kessler of the Washington Post Fact Checker column, for example, concluded yesterday that, while “on the surface, the president’s numbers are correct, based on official government data,” they are actually “two bits of information that bear little relationship to each other.” Thus, Kessler categorized Obama’s claim as a “non sequitur fact.”

Kessler is right because Obama’s 2 percent figure represents only “proven reserves,” which represent a narrow slice of what is actually underground. According to the federal Energy Information Administration, the 2 percent equals about 22 billion producible barrels. Obama would be more honest with Americans if he instead cited the government’s estimates of “undiscovered technically recoverable oil,” of which there are 140 billion barrels. How much of that becomes available depends mostly on technology. With the development of horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing and other new technologies, however, there is little doubt Americans will get the vast majority of those 140 billion barrels.

But to appreciate the true magnitude of as-yet untapped oil resources in or near the United States, consider these facts: The Institute for Energy Research reported last December that government data puts the total recoverable resources in North America at more than 1.7 trillion barrels. “That is more than the world has used since the first oil well was drilled over 150 years ago in Titusville, Pennsylvania,” according to IER. “To put this in context, Saudi Arabia has about 260 billion barrels of oil in proved reserves. For comparative purposes, the technically recoverable oil in North America could fuel the present needs in the United States of seven billion barrels per year for around 250 years.”

There is comparable data for natural gas. At present, the U.S. has 272.5 trillion cubic feet of proven natural gas reserves, but the total for all of North America is 4.7 quadrillion. At the current consumption rate of 24 trillion cubic feet annually, there is enough natural gas under Canada, Mexico and the U.S. to last 175 years. To put that in further perspective, IER estimates that “the United States, Canada and Mexico have more technically recoverable natural gas resources than the combined total proved natural gas reserves found in Russia, Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkmenistan.”

Data like these make it clear that America’s biggest problem on these issues isn’t that it’s impossible to “drill, drill, drill,” but rather that the president, his appointees at agencies like EPA and the departments of energy and interior, and his Democratic allies in the Senate refuse to deal with the world as it is instead of how they wish it could be.

Alexander: “It’s Time to End Big Wind’s Big Loophole”

Calls $27 billion wind subsidy “a waste of money that could be used for energy research or to reduce the debt”; says, “I’m ready to reduce the subsidies for ‘Big Oil’ as long as we reduce the subsidies for ‘Big Wind’”

February 15 2012

“And what do we get for these billions in subsidies? A puny amount of unreliable electricity that arrives disproportionately at night when we don’t need it. Americans … are finding out that these are not your grandma’s windmills. These gigantic turbines, which look so pleasant on the television ads paid for by the people getting all the tax breaks … are three times as high as stadiums … taller than the Statue of Liberty … blades are as wide as a football field. You can see the blinking lights for 20 miles … and on top of that, these giant turbines have become the Cuisinart in the sky for birds.” – Lamar Alexander

WASHINGTON – In a speech today on the floor of the United States Senate, U.S. Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) called on Congress to reject any efforts to “put in the payroll tax agreement a four-year extension of the so-called production tax credit,” calling it “a big loophole for the rich and for the investment bankers.”

Alexander said: “Let’s not even think about putting this tax break for the rich in the middle of an extension of a tax deduction for working Americans this week. Let’s focus on reducing the debt, increasing expenditure for research and getting rid of the subsidies. Twenty years is long enough for a wind production tax credit for what our distinguished Nobel prize-winning Secretary of Energy says is a ‘mature technology.’”

The full transcript follows:

“Madam President, there are reports in some of the newspapers this morning that there is an effort to try to slip into the negotiation about extending the payroll tax break for the next year a big loophole for the rich and for the investment bankers and for most of the people President Obama keeps talking about as people whose taxes he would like to raise. What I mean by this is I have heard there may be an effort to put into the payroll tax agreement a four-year extension of the so-called production tax credit, which is a big tax break for wind developers. I cannot think of anything that would derail more rapidly the consensus that is developing about extending the payroll tax deduction than to do such a thing. We are supposed to be talking about reducing taxes for working people. This would maintain a big loophole for investment bankers, for the very wealthy, and for big corporations.

“We hear a lot of talk about federal subsidies for Big Oil. I would like to take a moment to talk about federal subsidies for Big Wind — $27 billion over 10 years. That is the amount of Federal taxpayer dollars between 2007 and 2016, according to the Joint Tax Committee, that taxpayers will have given to wind developers across our country. This subsidy comes in the form of a production tax credit, renewable energy bonds, investment tax credits, federal grants, and accelerated appreciation. These are huge subsidies. The production tax credit itself has been there for 20 years. It was a temporary tax break put in the law in 1992. And what do we get in return for these billions of dollars of subsidies? We get a puny amount of unreliable electricity that arrives disproportionately at night when we don’t need it.

“Residents in community after community across America are finding out that these are not your grandma’s windmills. These gigantic turbines, which look so pleasant on the television ads — paid for by the people who are getting all the tax breaks — look like an elephant when they are in your backyard. In fact, they are much bigger than an elephant. They are three times as tall as the sky boxes at Neyland Stadium, the University of Tennessee football stadium in Knoxville. They are taller than the Statue of Liberty. The blades are as wide as a football field is long, and you can see the blinking lights that are on top of these windmills for 20 miles.

“In town after town, Americans are complaining about the noise and disturbance that come from these giant wind turbines in their backyards. There is a new movie that was reviewed in the New York Times in the last few days called “Windfall” about residents in upstate New York who are upset and have left their homes because of the arrival of these big wind turbines.

“The great American West, which conservationists for a century have sought to protect, has become littered with these giant towers. Boone Pickens, an advocate of wind power, says he doesn’t want them on his own ranch because they are ugly. Senators Kerry, Kennedy, Warner, and Scott Brown have all complained about the new Manhattan Island-sized wind development which will forever change the landscape off the coast of Nantucket Island.

“On top of all that, these giant turbines have become a Cuisinart in the sky for birds. Federal law protects the American Eagle and migratory birds. In 2009, Exxon had to pay $600,000 in fines when oil developments harmed these protected birds. But the federal government so far has refused to apply the same federal law to Big Wind that applies to Big Oil, even though chopping up an eagle in a wind turbine couldn’t be any better than its landing and dying on an oil slick. And wind turbines kill over 400,000 birds every year.

“We have had some experience with the reliability of this kind of wind power in the Tennessee Valley Authority region. A few years ago TVA built 30 big wind turbines on top of Buffalo Mountain. In the eastern United States, onshore wind power only works when the wind turbines are placed on the ridge lines of Americas most scenic mountains. So you will see them along the areas near the Appalachian Trail through the mountains of scenic views we prize in our State. But there they are, 30 big wind turbines to see whether they would work.

“Here is what happened: The wind blows 19 percent of the time. According to TVA’s own estimates, it is reliable 12 percent of the time. So TVA signed a contract to spend $60 million to produce 6 megawatts of wind — actual production of wind — over that 10-year period of time. It was a commercial failure.

“There are obviously better alternatives to this. First, there is nuclear power. We wouldn’t think of going to war in sailboats if nuclear-powered submarines and aircraft carriers were available. The energy equivalent of going to war in sailboats is trying to produce enough clean energy for the United States of America with windmills.

“The United States uses 25 percent of all the electricity in the world. It needs to be clean, reliable electricity that we can afford. Twenty percent of the electricity that we use today is nuclear power. Nearly 70 percent of the clean electricity, the pollution-free electricity that we use today is nuclear power. It comes from 104 reactors located at 65 sites. Each reactor consumes about one square-mile of land.

“To produce the same amount of electricity by windmills would mean we would have to have 186,000 of these wind turbines; it would cover an area the size of West Virginia; we would need 19,000 miles of transmission lines through backyards and scenic areas; so 100 reactors on 100 square miles or 186,000 wind turbines on 25,000 square miles.

“Think about it another way. Four reactors on four square miles is equal to a row of 50-story tall wind turbines along the entire 2,178-mile Appalachian Trail. Of course, if we had the turbines, we would still need the nuclear plants or the gas plants or the coal plants because we would like our computers to work and our lights to be on when the wind doesn’t blow, and we can’t store the electricity.

“Then, of course, there is natural gas, which has no sulfur pollution, very little nitrogen pollution, half as much carbon as coal. Gas is very cheap today. A Chicago-based utility analyst said: Wind on its own without incentives is far from economic unless gas is north of $6.50 per unit. The Wall Street Journal says that wind power is facing a make-or-break moment in Congress, while we debate to extend these subsidies. So that is why the wind power companies are on pins and needles waiting to see what Congress decides to do about its subsidy.

“Taxpayers should be the ones on pins and needles. This $27 billion over 10 years is a waste of money. It could be used for energy research. It could be used to reduce the debt. Let’s start with the $12 billion over that 10 years that went for the production tax credit. That tax credit was supposed to be temporary in 1992.

“Today, according to Secretary Chu, wind is a mature technology. Why does it need a credit? The credit is worth about 3 cents per kilowatt hour, if we take into account the corporate tax rate of 35 percent. That has caused some energy officials to say they have never found an easier way to make money. Well, of course not.

“So we do not need to extend the production tax credit for wind at a time when we are borrowing 40 cents out of every dollar, at a time when natural gas is cheap and nuclear power is clean and more reliable and less expensive.

“I would like to see us put some of that money on energy research. We only spend $5 billion or $6 billion a year on energy research: clean energy research, carbon recapture, making solar cheaper, making electric batteries that go further. I am ready to reduce the subsidies for Big Oil as long as we reduce the subsidies for Big Wind at the same time.

“So let’s not even think about putting this tax break for the rich in the middle of an extension of a tax deduction for working Americans this week. Let’s focus on reducing the debt, increasing expenditure for research, and getting rid of the subsidies.

“Twenty years is long enough for a wind production tax credit for what our distinguished Nobel Prize-winning Secretary of Energy says is a mature technology.

UK Government Plans To Scrap 2030 Renewable Energy Target

GWPF reprint of arctile By Fiona Harvey and Juliette Jowit, the Guardian

The UK government wants nuclear power to be given parity with renewables in Europe, in a move that would significantly boost atomic energy in Britain but downgrade investment in renewable generation, according to a leaked document seen by the Guardian.

The move would in effect remove the most important prop from the beleaguered renewable energy sector – the Europe-wide targets stipulating that a proportion of each member state’s energy must come from renewable sources.

That target should be scrapped when its current phase – requiring member states to generate 20 per cent of energy from renewables – runs out in 2020, according to a secret submission to the European commission.

“The UK envisages multiple low-carbon technologies: renewables, nuclear and carbon capture and storage, all competing freely against each other in the years to come … For this reason, we cannot support a 2030 renewables target,” it reads.

But the document calls for “some type of target for 2030”, which a government adviser told the Guardian is likely to be a target for low-carbon energy. This would include nuclear alongside renewables and so far unproven technology for capturing and storing carbon dioxide underground.

The issue of giving nuclear parity with renewables is likely to be controversial for the energy secretary, Ed Davey, as the Liberal Democrat party’s official position is “no to nuclear”.

Industry experts and green groups said that nuclear power and the fledgling renewables industry would not compete on a level playing field, because nuclear technology has benefited from more than six decades of public subsidy, while renewable power has had its support slashed.

The UK’s renewable energy sector has already suffered a series of blows, with an anti-renewables backlash whipped up by right-leaning thinktanks and Tory MPs, more than 100 of whom sent a letter to the prime minister attacking renewables and calling on him to cut subsidies from onshore wind farms. Many wind turbine manufacturers have expressed concern over the effect of this on their prospective multibillion-pound investments in the UK.

Meanwhile, the gas industry has been lobbying heavily, arguing that gas offers a cheap alternative to renewables, despite being a fossil fuel.

Removing the targets could spell disaster in particular for new forms of renewables such as wave and tidal power, which had been tipped as areas in which the UK could lead the world.

Ruth Davis, of Greenpeace, warned that the government’s stance would threaten jobs. “Many companies have already put their investments in UK renewables projects on hold, as they lose confidence in the government’s domestic energy policies,” she said. “By opposing a European renewables target, the UK is signalling that it would prefer business as usual in its own energy sector to a German-style green industrial revolution.”

Davis added that the moves to boost nuclear power would backfire, and be a gift to the gas industry. “Including carbon capture and storage and nuclear power in the target would enable the big six energy companies to retain their current stranglehold on our power sector, building whatever kind of power generation most suits their business models. It will lock in public subsidies to nuclear generation and make us more dependent on expensive imported gas.”

Many of the potential jobs in nuclear generation in the UK, spearheaded by the French company EDF, are likely to go to French experts, as their nuclear industry is much bigger.

Claude Turmes, the Green MEP who was the European parliament draftsman for the original renewable energy directive, warned that the UK government’s stance would imperil efforts to tackle climate change. He said: “Low carbon targets are a Trojan horse, pushed by the nuclear industry and its proxies, to give a boost to ailing nuclear power. Nuclear is already more expensive than a number of renewable energy sources and by 2020 will be more expensive than offshore wind power, for which there is a huge potential in the UK.

“It is hard to understand why the UK government wants to waste its energy on this expensive French technology, when it could be focusing on maximising the potential of home-grown renewable energy technologies, which would create thousands of jobs in the UK.”

Davey said the UK was at the forefront of climate policy in Europe, arguing for the EU’s target of cutting emissions by 20 per cent by 2020 to be toughened to 30 per cent. He said: “I am strongly committed to making the case in Europe for a 30 per cent emissions reduction target. Stepping up our ambition on emissions reduction makes sense for energy policy, it makes sense in terms of green growth and jobs, and now we know it makes sense financially, because it would put us on the most cost-effective pathway to our 2050 target.”