The Political Superstorm that Devastated New York

Paul Driessen

“Superstorm” Sandy killed more than 100 people, destroyed thousands of homes and businesses, and left millions without food, water, electricity, sanitation or shelter for days or even weeks. Our thoughts and prayers remain focused on its victims, many of whom are still grieving as they struggle with the storm’s wintry aftermath and try to rebuild their lives.

Unfortunately, too many politicians continue to use the storm to advance agendas, deflect blame for incompetence and mistakes, and obfuscate and magnify future risks from building and development projects that they have designed, promoted, permitted and profited from.

Sandy was “unprecedented,” the result of “weather on steroids,” various “experts” insist. “It’s global warming, stupid,” intonedBloomberg BusinessWeek. “Anyone who says there is not a change in weather patterns is denying reality,” New York Governor Andrew Cuomo declared. We must protect the great NY metropolis from rising oceans, said the Washington Post. This storm should “compel all elected leaders to take immediate action” on climate change, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg pronounced.

Unfortunately for the politicians and spin-meisters, the facts do not support this obscene posturing.

North America’s northeastern coast has been battered by hurricanes and other major storms throughout history. A 1775 hurricane killed 4,000 people in Newfoundland; an 1873 monster left 600 dead in Nova Scotia; others pummeled Canada’s Maritime Provinces in 1866, 1886, 1893, 1939, 1959, 1963 and 2003.

Manhattan got pounded in 1667 and by the Great Storm of 1693. They were followed by more behemoths in 1788, 1821, 1893, 1944, 1954 and 1992. Other “confluences of severe weather events” brought killer storms like the four-day Great Blizzard of 1888. The 1893 storm largely eradicated Hog Island, and the 1938 “Long Island Express” hit LI as a category 3 hurricane with wind gusts up to 180 mph.

Experts say such winds today would rip windows from skyscrapers and cause a deadly blizzard of flying glass, masonry, chairs, desks and other debris from high-rise offices and apartments. People would seek safety in subway tunnels, where they would drown as the tunnels flood.
Sandy was merely the latest “confluence” (tropical storm, northeaster and full-moon high tide) to blast the New York-New Jersey area. It was never a matter of if, but only of when, such a storm would hit.

People, planners and politicians should have been better prepared. Instead, we are feted with statements designed to dodge responsibility and culpability, by trying to blame global warming. The reality is, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose to 391 ppm (0.0391%) today, average global temperatures have not changed in 16 years, and sea levels are rising no faster than in 1900. Even with Hurricane Sandy, November 2012 marked the quietest long-term hurricane period since the Civil War, with only one major hurricane strike on the US mainland in seven years. This is global warming and unprecedented weather on steroids?

In Hurricane Sandy’s aftermath – with millions freezing hungry in dark devastation – Mayor Bloomberg sidetracked police and sanitation workers for the NYC Marathon, until public outrage forced him to reconsider. While federal emergency teams struggled to get water, food and gasoline to victims, companies, religious groups, charities, local citizens and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie worked tirelessly to raise money and organize countless relief efforts.

Most outrageous of all, though, was how ill-prepared the region was for another major storm – and how many political decisions had virtually ensured that any repeat of the 1893, 1938, 1944 and other storms would bring devastation far worse than would likely have occurred in the absence of those decisions.

In one of the most obvious, architects, city planners, mayors and governors alike thought nothing of placing generators in the basements of hospitals and skyscrapers built in areas that are barely above sea level. Past storms have brought surges12 to 18 feet high onto Long Island, and studies have warned that a category 3 direct hit could put much of New York City and its key infrastructure under 30 feet of water. Sandy’s 9-foot surges (plus five feet of high tide) flooded those basements, rendering generators useless, and leaving buildings cold and dark. Perhaps if Mayor Bloomberg had worried less about 32-oz sodas and seas that are rising a mere foot per century, he could have devoted more time to critical issues.

The mayor has also obsessed about urban sprawl. However, when new developments mean high rents, high taxes and photo-op ground breakings, he has a different philosophy.

Mr. Bloomberg’s Arverne by the Sea initiative transformed what he called “a swath of vacant land” into a “vibrant and growing oceanfront community,” with “affordable” homes starting at $559,000. (The land was vacant because a 1950 storm wiped it clean of structures.) The new homes were built on 167 acres of land raised five feet above the surrounding Far Rockaway area.

Those Arverne homes mostly survived Sandy. But the high ground caused storm surges to rise higher and move faster elsewhere than they would have on Rockaway lowlands that are always hit head-on by northward moving storms.

If Sandy had been a category 3 hurricane like its 1938 ancestor, the devastation would have been of biblical proportions – as winds, waves and surges slammed into expensive homes, businesses and high-rises, and roared up waterways rendered progressively narrower by hundreds of construction projects.

Lower Manhattan has doubled in width over the centuries. World Trade Center construction alone contributed 1.2 million cubic yards to build Battery Park City, narrowing the Hudson River by another 700 feet. The East River has likewise been hemmed in, while other water channels have been completely filled. Buildings, malls and raised roadways constructed on former potato fields, forests, grasslands and marshlands have further constricted passageways for storm surges and runoff.

As a result, storms like Sandy or the Long Island Express send monstrous volumes of water up ever more confined corridors. With nowhere else to go, the surges rise higher, travel faster and pack more power. It’s elementary physics – which governors, mayors, planners and developers ignore at their peril.

No wonder, Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Cuomo and other politicos prefer to talk about global warming, rising seas and worsening weather – to deflect attention and blame from decisions that have put more people in the path of greater danger. Indeed, the very notion of packing more and more people into “sustainable, energy-efficient” coastal cities in the NY-NJ area is itself madness on steroids.

Worst of all, politicians are increasingly and intentionally obscuring and misrepresenting the nature, frequency and severity of storm, flood and surge risks, so that they can promote and permit more construction in high-risk areas, and secure more money and power. They insist that they can prevent or control climate change and sea level rise, by regulating CO2 emission – while they ignore real, known dangers that have arisen before and will arise again, exacerbated by their politicized decisions.

As a result, unsuspecting business and home owners continue to buy, build and rebuild in areas that are increasingly at risk from hurricanes, northeasters and “perfect storms” of natural and political events. And as the population density increases in this NY-NJ area, the ability to evacuate people plummets, especially when roadways, tunnels and other escape routes are submerged. Let the buyer beware.

Sandy may have been a rare (but hardly unprecedented) confluence of weather events. But the political decisions and blame avoidance are an all-too-common confluence of human tendencies – worsened by the dogged determination of our ruling classes to acquire greater power and control, coupled with steadily declining transparency, accountability and liability.

How nice it must be to have convenient scapegoats like “dangerous manmade global warming” and insurance companies – today’s equivalent of the witches whom our predecessors blamed for storms, droughts, crop failures, disease and destruction. It’s time to use the witches’ brooms to clean house.

Sceptics weather the storm to put their case on climate

WELL, so much for the 2012 apocalypse. If the ancient Mayans ever knew anything about the future, they made a serious miscalculation. The same fate has befallen the international climate change emergency brigade. About $1 billion and 18 “Kyoto” meetings later, the world has agreed to do nothing much more than meet again.

How did this frightening climate threat dissolve into scientific uncertainty and political confusion? What of the many billions of dollars of wasted public resources? Some might blame the “sceptics”, the “merchants of doubt” or the “deniers”. Others point to the global financial crisis.

We can say for certain that many hesitant individuals overcame the pressures of group-think, intimidation and tribal disapproval to have a closer look at the relationship between real science, politics and business.

I was once told by a friend that when it comes to scientific issues of major public concern, it is “not what you know but who you know”. I think he meant that my fledgling scepticism about dangerous anthropogenic global warming (DAGW) was pointless, for as a cartoonist I was as unqualified to assess the science as he was.

The implication was that all who are untrained in “climate science” are required to accept the scientific and political authority of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and its local colleagues such as the CSIRO: the scientific establishment.

I found my friend’s advice baffling. Anyone familiar with the judicial process knows the gravest issues of liberty and fortune are often determined by a jury selected from the public. Expert witnesses can give evidence in support of either side at a trial. The judge must rule on questions of admissibility, but in the end it is the jury that decides which scientific evidence is to be believed.

In the climate debate, the only “judge” is the scientific method – a testable hypothesis followed by factual or experimental challenge. The “facts” here represent an anxious problem for the DAGW advocates. For example, everybody agrees that the warming trend paused 16 years ago, despite a corresponding 10 per cent increase in atmospheric CO2. This ought to be an embarrassment to the global warming alarmists. What exactly is the relationship between CO2 and temperature? Why did the warming trend stop as it did between 1945 and 1975, when CO2 emissions took off?

As Dr David Whitehouse, the former BBC online science editor, said in the New Statesman in 2007, “something else is happening to the climate and it is vital we find out what or we may spend hundreds of billions of pounds needlessly”. Obviously we should pay close attention to the computer models that form the basis of climate scientists’ projections. In fact these models apparently failed to anticipate the current pause in global warming, not to mention the abundance of post-drought rainfall in Australia. Scientific “consensus” based on these computer models is becoming rather shaky.

The reason why scientific consensus emerged in this debate is because political activists want to get things moving, and if they say that consensus is scary and urgent, then sceptics had better get out of the way.

The activist cause peaked early in 2007 when Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Truth became an international hit. This documentary was superficially compelling for the uninitiated, but in October 2007 the British High Court found the film contained nine errors of fact.

Professor Bob Carter of Queensland’s James Cook University gave evidence in this case; few people in Australia are aware of this severe embarrassment for Mr Gore.

Later that year, the ABC broadcast Martin Durkin’s provocative documentary, The Great Global Warming Swindle, against the outraged objections of many prominent alarmists. How interesting. The science was “settled”, the debate was said to be over and no further discussion was required. Any media professional should have been aroused by such an excited censorship campaign, and it stimulated my first cartoon on the subject (above), which depicted the family TV set as mediaeval stocks with an imprisoned climate sceptic being pelted by the family with their TV dinner.

It seemed to me that things changed after that documentary was screened. Perhaps the shock of hearing the likes of Nigel Calder, former editor of New Scientist, and Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace, had joined the ranks of the sceptical was just too much for some people.

Things got nasty. Someone came up with the brilliant but insidious idea of using the term “denier” to describe a person who remained agnostic or sceptical about the exact human contribution to the 0.7 degree global warming of the past 100 years. This malicious rhetoric came to be adopted by climate activists, media reporters and politicians up to head-of-state level. Many distinguished scientists such as Paul Reiter of the Pasteur Institute in Paris, Professor Richard Lindzen of MIT, and Bill Kininmonth, former head of our National Climate Centre, were casually defamed in this way. The same label was applied to world-renowned theoretical physicist Freeman Dyson and Australia’s distinguished Professor Bob Carter.

Holocaust denial describes the heartless and despicable refusal by anti-Semites to acknowledge the historical truth of the Jewish genocide of World War II. If you use the offensive term “denier” you do so for reasons best known to yourself. You may be calculating or you may be indifferent, but as Wong, Rudd and Gillard would have known, the effect is pungent. No sensible, morally responsible person wants to be stigmatised in such a way.

Some prominent Australian intellectuals to this day continue to explicitly endorse the moral equivalence between Holocaust and global warming denial. This is all the more incredible because it comes from academics who understand the horror of the Holocaust. For good measure, sceptics have also been compared with 18th century slave trade advocates, tobacco lobbyists and even paedophile promoters.

But times have changed, and since 2007, the non-scientific players in this great intellectual drama have been confronted by creeping uncertainty about many of the major climate science issues. These have included the composition of the IPCC and the credibility of its processes; remember Glaciergate? The IPCC predicted the end of the Himalayan glaciers based on non-scientific literature; the unusual (or not) melting of sea ice and glaciers; the evidence for warm temperatures during the mediaeval period; the importance of sun spots; changes (or not) in patterns of extreme weather events; ocean “acidification”; ocean warming and rising sea levels; bio-mass absorption and the longevity of molecules of atmospheric CO2; the influence of short-period El Nino southern oscillation (ENSO) and other similar oscillations on a multi-decade scale; the chaotic behaviour of clouds; and the impact of cosmic rays on climate. Even James Lovelock, the founder of the “Gaia”, movement has turned sceptic.

By early 2010, it seemed that nearly every single element of the global warming debate was up for grabs, and scandals like Climategate and gross mistakes in their work had weakened the credibility of the IPCC. Even Professor Paul Jones of the Climate Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, a leading contributor to IPCC calculations, confirmed in a 2010 BBC interview that the warming rates of the periods 1860-80, 1910-40 and 1975-98 were statistically similar. He also said that “I don’t believe that the vast majority of climate scientists believe that the climate change [debate] is over”.

To the great credit of The Age and its pluralistic tradition, the occasional sceptical science article has been published along with regular cartoons on the issue.

However, I still feel that the voices of highly qualified sceptics are not heard enough. In an effort to redress this imbalance, an unusual book on the sceptics’ view will be published in 2013.

The text, sprinkled with cartoons and illustrations, takes the Socratic form, giving answers to commonly asked questions about the science and economics of climate change. The content is provided by a collaboration of five highly qualified experts. They include a meteorologist, the former director of the Australian National Climate Centre; a geologist, a former member of the Australian Research Council and chairman of the Earth Sciences Panel; an independent energy consultant who manages his own small hydro power station; a professor of environmental engineering (hydrology) and one of Australia’s leading tax consultants.

I trust the integrity and compassion of these “deniers”, and admire their courage and awesome perseverance. We hope the book will help redress the imbalance in easily accessible knowledge for a “jury” of ordinary Australians.

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Blow off wind-production tax credit

By George Taylor and Tom Tanton Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Wind-energy advocates claim that with just one more extension of the 20-year-old “temporary” wind-production tax credit, wind generation finally could become competitive with conventional sources of electricity. The truth is, it’s never been competitive — and has only appeared to be close because some of its costs have been subsidized and others have been ignored.

Here’s the issue. Wind generation has three unusual indirect costs that no one wants to discuss:

The cost of keeping available the primary fossil-fired plants that must balance wind’s large variations in output, even though adding wind to the system reduces the amount of generation for which they are paid.

The reduced fuel efficiency that wind imposes on those plants.

The cost of long-distance transmission and the losses that come with it.

As The Hidden Costs of Wind Electricity, a report released by American Tradition Institute, shows, adding conservative values for these real but hidden costs to the most recent generation-cost reports from the Energy Information Administration (EIA) and the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy would nearly double wind’s projected cost — from 8 cents per kilowatt-hour without them to 15 cents per kwh with them (after backing out a depreciation-related subsidy and an atypical operating lifetime assumption as well).

That 15 cents per kwh is triple the current cost of natural-gas generation and 40 percent to 50 percent more than EIA’s estimates for the cost of new nuclear or coal generation.

It’s also unlikely to be reduced much by either technological advances or further economies of scale because wind is a mature technology, its worldwide market is more than $50 billion per year, and its indirect costs are consequences of two fundamental shortcomings that are independent of the turbines. First, with rare exceptions, wind can operate only as an appendage to either natural-gas or coal-fired generation. Second, its most productive locations are far from major cities.

While the three indirect and infrastructure costs listed above have been acknowledged in research reports, they have not appeared in most generation-cost comparisons. That’s because regulatory authorities have not required wind operators to pay for them, they’ve required consumers to pay for them instead. In an honest, transparent and accountable political system, that should not be an excuse for policymakers to ignore their impact on consumers, jobs and the economy.

How large has that impact been? Based on EIA’s numbers and electric system operators’ conclusions about the amount of conventional generation capacity wind installations can replace, at the current price of natural gas and before counting any extra costs of transmission, wind generation’s cost is at least 6 cents per kwh greater than its benefit — namely, the fossil fuel it can save and the small amount of conventional generation capacity it can replace.

At wind’s current 3.5 percent share of generation, that 6 cents per kilowatt hour translates into an extra $8.5 billion that ratepayers have paid this year and will have to pay every year for as long as existing wind facilities (or their replacements) are kept in operation.

However, that’s not the worst of it. While most existing wind facilities were built in locations that could piggyback on existing transmission infrastructure, as these easier opportunities are used up, wind’s net cost will increase.

Even with an optimistic onshore wind-transmission scenario such as the one described in a widely referenced National Renewable Energy Laboratory report, the gap between wind’s cost and its value would increase to at least 9 cents per kwh.

This means the cost of wind electricity would not break even with the cost of natural-gas-fired electricity unless the delivered price of natural gas were about $20 per million British thermal units, or four to five times today’s price. Stated another way, if we increased wind’s share of all generation to 10 percent and built a transmission system similar to the one the laboratory proposed, wind’s excess cost to consumers would increase to more than $30 billion per year.

Of course, if the price of natural gas went up, wind’s cost gap compared to gas-fired electricity would go down. Yet its gap with nuclear and coal-fired electricity would not. In order to keep wind in operation, system operators would be forced to buy the higher-priced gas electricity or revert to coal because in the absence of energy storage or hydro-generation, wind always must be paired with one or the other.

In sum, there is no reason to think wind electricity will become competitive with conventional sources or replace any meaningful amount of fossil fuel. If we continue expanding it, wind generation will increase the cost of electricity, tie us to fossil fuels indefinitely and require us to build transmission lines that otherwise would be unnecessary. Those are no reasons for shifting any of wind’s cost from ratepayers to taxpayers. Congress should allow the wind-production tax credit to expire, as it always was intended to do.
George Taylor is a research fellow at the American Tradition Institute, where Tom Tanton is the director of science and technology assessment.

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Good News – Growing Consumption Of Coal Continues To Eradicate Poverty Worldwide – With No Impact On Climate!

By P Gosselin on 18. Dezember 2012

The International Energy Agency (IEA) has issued a press release on global coal consumption. Many claim that last decade’s rapidly rising coal consumption is causing global warming. I beg your pardon:

While coal consumption has “risen rapidly” over the last decade, the linear global temperature trend has dropped at a rate of 0.7°C/century!


The IEA press release (emphasis added):

Coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to rise, and by 2017 coal will come close to surpassing oil as the world’s top energy source, the International Energy Agency (IEA) said today as it released its annual Medium-Term Coal Market Report (MCMR).

The IEA expects that coal demand will increase in every region of the world except in the United States, where coal is being pushed out by natural gas.

“Thanks to abundant supplies and insatiable demand for power from emerging markets, coal met nearly half of the rise in global energy demand during the first decade of the 21st Century,” said IEA Executive Director Maria van der Hoeven. “This report sees that trend continuing.

In fact, the world will burn around 1.2 billion more tonnes of coal per year by 2017 compared to today – equivalent to the current coal consumption of Russia and the United States combined. Coal’s share of the global energy mix continues to grow each year, and if no changes are made to current policies, coal will catch oil within a decade.”

China and India lead the growth in coal consumption over the next five years. The report says China will surpass the rest of the world in coal demand during the outlook period, while India will become the largest seaborne coal importer and second-largest consumer, surpassing the United States.

The report notes that in the absence of a high carbon price, only fierce competition from low-priced gas can effectively reduce coal demand. “The US experience suggests that a more efficient gas market, marked by flexible pricing and fueled by indigenous unconventional resources that are produced sustainably, can reduce coal use, CO2 emissions and consumers’ electricity bills, without harming energy security,” said Ms. van der Hoeven. “Europe, China and other regions should take note.”

She noted that the report’s forecasts are based on a troubling assumption, namely, that carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) will not be available during the outlook period. “CCS technologies are not taking off as once expected, which means CO2 emissions will keep growing substantially. Without progress in CCS, and if other countries cannot replicate the US experience and reduce coal demand, coal faces the risk of a potential climate policy backlash,” she said.

As US coal demand declines, more US coal is going to Europe, where low CO2 prices and high gas prices are increasing the competitiveness of coal in the power generation system. This trend, however, is close to peaking, and coal demand by 2017 in Europe is projected to drop to levels slightly above those in 2011, due to increasing renewable generation and decommissioning of old coal plants.

Amid concern about the impact of Chinese uncertainty on coal markets, the report offers a Chinese Slowdown Case. This scenario shows that even if Chinese GDP growth were to slow to a 4.6% average over the period, coal demand would still increase both globally and in China – indicating that coal demand is not likely to stop growing even with more bearish economic perspectives.

Who knows, maybe burning coal is actually causing global cooling.

PTC: Costly Climate Policy Dud


The wind energy production tax credit (PTC) expires at the stroke of midnight, Dec. 31, unless Congress votes to renew the tax break. A one-year extension would add an estimated $12.1 billion to deficit spending over 10 years. A six-year extension, advocated by the wind industry, could add $50 billion.

The fiscal cliff looms and the national debt already exceeds GDP, but if Congress cared more about the general interest of taxpayers than about the special interests of campaign contributors, the nation would not be sliding towards insolvency.

Whether Congress should renew the PTC or let it expire is the topic of this week’s National Journal Energy Experts Blog. Twenty wonks weigh in, including your humble servant. I heartily recommend the contributions by Sen. Lamar Alexander (R.-Tenn.), Craig Rucker, Phil Kerpin, Benjamin Zycher, Thomas Pyle, James Valvo, and David Banks.

My contribution addresses the environmental side of the debate, in particular the claim that recent extreme weather events demonstrate “just how badly our nation needs to take advantage of our vast wind energy potential,” as one contributor put it.

Below is a lightly edited version of my comment.

* * *

Of all the lame arguments used to sell Americans on the proposition that wind power, an industry propped up by Soviet-style production quota in 29 states and numerous other policy privileges, deserves another renewal of the 20-year-old production tax credit (PTC), the lamest is the claim that the PTC helps protect us from extreme weather.

PTC advocates talk as if Hurricane Sandy and the Midwest drought were obvious consequences of anthropogenic global warming, and that subsidizing wind energy is a cost-effective way to mitigate climate change.

They are wrong on both counts.

Neither economic analyses nor meteorological investigations validate the asserted link between recent extreme weather events and global warming. When weather-related damages are adjusted (“normalized”) to account for changes in population, per capita income, and the consumer price index, there is no there is no long-term trend such as might indicate an increase in the frequency or severity of extreme weather related to global climate change.

A 2012 study in the journal Climate Change examined 370 years of tropical cyclone data from the Lesser Antilles, the eastern Caribbean island chain bisecting the main development region for landfalling U.S. hurricanes. The study found no long-term trend in either the power or frequency of tropical cyclones from 1638 to 2009. It did however find a 50- to 70-year wave pattern associated with the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, a mode of natural climate variability.

A recent study in the Journal of Climate similarly found no long-term trend in the strength or frequency of landfalling hurricanes in the world’s five main hurricane basins. The data extend back to 1944 for the North Atlantic, to 1950 for the northeastern Pacific, and to 1970 for the western North Pacific, northern Indian Ocean, and Southern Hemisphere. Among other inconvenient findings: “The U.S. is currently in the midst of the longest streak ever recorded without an intense [category 3-5] hurricane landfall.”

Sandy was not even a category 1 hurricane by the time it made landfall. New York has been hit with more powerful storms at least as far back as the 17th century. For example, the New England Hurricane of 1938 was a category 3 that killed 600 people. Carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations in 1938 were about 310 parts per million (ppm), well below the level (350 ppm) advocated by NASA scientist James Hansen, activist Bill McKibben, and Al Gore as the upper limit consistent with climate stability.

What made Sandy so destructive was the hurricane’s merging with a winter frontal storm to produce what MIT climatologist Kerry Emanuel calls a “hybrid” storm. The usual suspects, of course, were quick to suggest that any such ‘freak of nature’ must be man-made. That is speculation, not science. In Emanuel’s words: “We don’t have very good theoretical or modeling guidance on how hybrid storms might be expected to change with climate. So this is a fancy way of saying my profession doesn’t know how hybrid storms will respond to climate [change]. I feel strongly about that. I think that anyone who says we do know that is not giving you a straight answer. We don’t know.”

As for the Midwest drought, if it were a symptom of global climate change, then there should be a long-term positive trend in the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI). Instead, as Cato Institute scholars Patrick Michaels and Chip Knappenberger point out, the PDSI from 1895 through 2011 is slightly negative, i.e., the trend is towards a somewhat wetter climate.

But here’s the kicker. Even if one assumes fossil fuel emissions revved up Sandy and the Midwest drought, extending the PTC for another year – or even another six, as advocated by the American Wind Energy Association – would provide no protection from climate-related risk.

Using IPCC climate sensitivity assumptions, Knappenberger calculates that even if the U.S. eliminated all CO2 emissions tomorrow, the impact on global temperatures would be a reduction ”of approximately 0.08°C by the year 2050 and 0.17°C by the year 2100 — amounts that are, for all intents and purposes, negligible.”

The U.S. will continue to emit billions of tons of CO2 annually for decades whether Congress extends the PTC or not. Hence even under IPCC climate sensitivity assumptions, the PTC is climatologically irrelevant and can provide no meaningful protection from extreme weather events.

Extending the PTC for one year could increase the national debt by $12.1 billion. A six-year extension could add more than $50 billion to the debt. As global warming policy, the PTC is all taxpayer pain for no climate gain.

Chilling climate-change news

The Washington Times, Tuesday, December 18, 2012
With Permission of Author, Steve Goreham

When politicians want evidence to back up their belief that mankind is heating up the planet, they turn to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). The Nobel Prize-winning organization was responsible for the famous hockey-stick graph used to demonstrate the purported warming effect of man-made carbon dioxide. IPCC’s notoriety has turned out to be a two-edged sword, as leaks continue to undermine the group’s core message.

In a statement Friday, IPCC officials confirmed the authenticity of a leaked draft of the forthcoming Fifth Assessment Report on climate. Skeptics seized upon a chart within the document that compares past IPCC predictions with actual temperature readings. The scientific models of 1990’s First Assessment Report forecast temperatures would rise fast, reaching alarming levels by 2010. The mercury refused to cooperate with the warming hypothesis that year. In 2012, temperatures also were frostier than the generous assumptions in each of the group’s four previous reports.

A sensible explanation is that Mother Nature has been playing a more powerful role in determining the weather than some would care to admit. “Natural events created the biggest peaks and dips in the observations portion of the IPCC chart, and the observations run cooler than the models,” meteorologist Anthony Watts told The Washington Times. The biggest recent drop in global temperatures in 1992 was due to the lingering effects of the eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines. The highest temperature in 1998 coincided with El Nino.

Even though the official charts show no significant warming trend in the past 15 years, the planet may be even cooler than the IPCC figures suggest. Mr. Watts, who runs the Watts Up With That website, points out that IPCC is using adjusted data. In a forthcoming scientific paper, he demonstrates that improper placement of weather stations has resulted in the temperature increase being overstated by 92 percent. The last thing government officials want to hear is that the planet isn’t actually warming.

Reality puts IPCC in a bind. Despite the draft chart’s implicit admission that climate models have exaggerated warming, IPCC has not backed down from the tale that carbon dioxide, a natural byproduct of industrial society, is heating the planet. At the same time, the organization realizes it can no longer hide from the widely known temperature data. Billions of dollars are at stake, and politicians expect IPCC to continue drumming up the fears of imminent cataclysm necessary for advancing their classic tax-and-spend liberal agenda. The spending comes in the form of subsidies to trendy “green” companies (usually run by powerful Democratic donors), and cap-and-trade schemes supply the tax revenue.

Screen shot 2012-12-03 at 4.12.04 PM

David Whitehouse

Because governments control scientific research funding, it’s likely the final version of the IPCC report will find a more creative way to disguise the conflict between theory and reality. It may already be too late. Since the 2009 release of the leaked Climategate emails, the public has been less willing to fall for the claim that mankind can control the weather through public policy. In an ideal world, IPCC scientists would realize the next report is their best chance to come clean.

Whatever one’s view about the leaking of the draft IPCC AR5 report it does make fascinating reading, and given the public scrutiny it is now receiving it will be interesting to see what parts of it are changed when the final report is released in a year or so.

One part of it that should be changed is the section on global surface temperature data and its interpretation.

The analysis of global combined land and ocean surface temperature in AR5 is inadequate for what it admits is seen as the prime statistic of global warming. It is highly selective in the references it quotes and in the use of time periods which obscures important, albeit inconvenient, aspects of the temperature data. It is poorly drafted often making a strong assertion, and then somewhat later qualifying if not contradicting it by admitting its statistical insignificance. This leaves the door open for selective and incomplete quoting.

In Chapter 2 the report says that the AR4 report in 2007 said that the rate of change global temperature in the most recent 50 years is double that of the past 100 years. This is not true and is an example of blatant cherry-picking. Why choose the past 100 and the past 50 years? If you go back to the start of the instrumental era of global temperature measurements, about 1880 (the accuracy of the data is not as good as later years but there is no reason to dismiss it as AR5 does) then of the 0.8 – 0.9 deg C warming seen since then 0.5 deg C of it, i.e. most, occurred prior to 1940 when anthropogenic effects were minimal (according to the IPCC AR4).

AR5 admits that of the warmest years on record the “top ten or so years are statistically indistinguishable from one another.” This is sloppy. The “or so” is significant and should be replaced with a more accurate statement. Despite the admitted statistical indistinguishability of the past ten years (at least) AR5 then goes on to say that 2005 and 2010 “effectively” tied for the warmest years! There is no mention of the contribution to global temperature made by the El Nino in those years!

It is in its treatment of the recent global temperature standstill that AR5 is at its most unevenhanded. It says that much attention has been focused on the “apparent flattening in Hadcrut3 trends,” and it says that “similar length phases of no warming exist in all observational records and in climate model simulations.”

No it hasn’t. The IPCC says that the time when anthropogenic influence dominated began between 1960-80. AR5 takes 1979 – 2011 as a period for analysis when temperatures started rising after a 40-year standstill. The fact that is obvious from the data is that the past 16 years of no global temperature increase is unusual and is not an “apparent flattening.” It is a total flattening for 16 years (as AR5 confusingly admits later on), just over half of the duration of the recent warming spell. Flat periods have existed before but they were in the era when mankind’s influence was not significant. The 16-year flatness since mankind has been the prime climatic influence has been the cause of much discussion in the peer-reviewed literature, something that this AR5 does not reflect.

AR5 goes on to say that with the introduction of Hadcrut4 (and its inclusion of high latitude northern hemisphere data) there is now a warming trend. No it isn’t. Look at the Hadcrut4 data and, as the GWPF has demonstrated, it is warmer than Hadcrut3, but it is also flatter for the past 15 years. AR5 also adds that “all products show a warming trend since 1998.” That this is not the case seems to be something that AR5 concedes a little later in the report when it that none of the warming trends they quote are statistically significant!

Referenced And Dismissed

Consider AR5’s summary: “It is virtually certain that global near surface temperatures have increased. Globally averaged near-surface combined land and ocean temperatures, according to several independent analyses, are consistent in exhibiting warming since 1901, much of which has occurred since 1979.”

Nobody doubts that the world has warmed since 1901. But why choose 1901, and what warming is natural and what is anthropogenic? As we have seen the last comment is wrong.

AR5 says: “Super-imposed upon the long-term changes are short-term climatic variations, so warming is not monotonic and trend estimates at decadal or shorter timescales tend to be dominated by short-term variations.”

So since 1979 we have has about 16 years of warming and 16 years of temperature standstill. Which is the short-term natural variation? The warming or the standstill?

AR5 says: “A rise in global average surface temperatures is the best-known indicator of climate change. Although each year and even decade is not always warmer than the last, global surface temperatures have warmed substantially since 1900.” Nobody, of whatever “skeptical” persuasion would disagree with that.

I can’t help but conclude that the pages of the GWPF contain a better analysis than is present in AR5, which is a mess written from a point of view that wants to reference the recent standstill in global temperatures but not impartially consider its implications.

The unacknowledged (in AR5) problem of the global temperature standstill of the past 16 years is well shown in its fig 1.4, which is seen at the head of this article. Click on the image to enlarge. It shows the actual global temperature vs projections made by previous IPCC reports. It is obvious that none of the IPCC projections were any good. The inclusion of the 2012 data, which I hope will be in the 2013 report, will make the comparison between real and predicted effects appear ever starker.

In summary, the global temperature of the past 16 years is a real effect that in any realistic and thorough analysis of the scientific literature is seen to be a significant problem for climate science, indeed it may currently be the biggest problem in climate science. To have it swept under the carpet with a selective use of data and reference material supported by cherry-picked data and timescales is not going to advance its understanding, and is also a disservice to science.

Why Romney Ryan lost – a provocative article by a NJ Rabbi

Please take a moment to digest this provocative article by a Jewish Rabbi from Teaneck, N.J. It is far and away the most succinct and thoughtful explanation of how our nation is changing. The article appeared in The Israel National News, and is directed to Jewish readership. 70% of American Jews vote as Democrats. The Rabbi has some interesting comments in that regard.

Rabbi Steven Pruzansky, Rabbi Pruzansky is the spiritual leader of Congregation Bnai Yeshurun in Teaneck, New Jersey.

The most charitable way of explaining the election results of 2012 is that Americans voted for the status quo – for the incumbent President and for a divided Congress. They must enjoy gridlock, partisanship, incompetence, economic stagnation and avoidance of responsibility. And fewer people voted.

But as we awake from the nightmare, it is important to eschew the facile explanations for the Romney defeat that will prevail among the chattering classes. Romney did not lose because of the effects of Hurricane Sandy that devastated this area, nor did he lose because he ran a poor campaign, nor did he lose because the Republicans could have chosen better candidates, nor did he lose because Obama benefited from a slight uptick in the economy due to the business cycle.

Romney lost because he didn’t get enough votes to win.

That might seem obvious, but not for the obvious reasons. Romney lost because the conservative virtues – the traditional American virtues – of liberty, hard work, free enterprise, private initiative and aspirations to moral greatness – no longer inspire or animate a majority of the electorate.

The simplest reason why Romney lost was because it is impossible to compete against free stuff.

Every businessman knows this; that is why the “loss leader” or the giveaway is such a powerful marketing tool. Obama’s America is one in which free stuff is given away: the adults among the 47,000,000 on food stamps clearly recognized for whom they should vote, and so they did, by the tens of millions; those who – courtesy of Obama – receive two full years of unemployment benefits (which, of course, both disincentives looking for work and also motivates people to work off the books while collecting their windfall) surely know for whom to vote. The lure of free stuff is irresistible.

The defining moment of the whole campaign was the revelation of the secretly-recorded video in which Romney acknowledged the difficulty of winning an election in which “47% of the people” start off against him because they pay no taxes and just receive money – “free stuff” – from the government. Almost half of the population has no skin in the game – they don’t care about high taxes, promoting business, or creating jobs, nor do they care that the money for their free stuff is being borrowed from their children and from the Chinese. They just want the free stuff that comes their way at someone else’s expense. In the end, that 47% leaves very little margin for error for any Republican, and does not bode well for the future.

It is impossible to imagine a conservative candidate winning against such overwhelming odds. People do vote their pocketbooks. In essence, the people vote for a Congress who will not raise their taxes, and for a President who will give them free stuff, never mind who has to pay for it.

That engenders the second reason why Romney lost: the inescapable conclusion that the electorate is ignorant and uninformed. Indeed, it does not pay to be an informed voter, because most other voters – the clear majority – are unintelligent and easily swayed by emotion and raw populism. That is the indelicate way of saying that too many people vote with their hearts and not their heads. That is why Obama did not have to produce a second term agenda or even defend his first-term record. He needed only to portray Mitt Romney as a rapacious capitalist who throws elderly women over a cliff, when he is not just snatching away their cancer medication, while starving the poor and cutting taxes for the rich.

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back: “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!” Truer words were never spoken.

Obama could get away with saying that “Romney wants the rich to play by a different set of rules” – without ever defining what those different rules were; with saying that the “rich should pay their fair share” – without ever defining what a “fair share” is; with saying that Romney wants the poor, elderly and sick to “fend for themselves” – without even acknowledging that all these government programs are going bankrupt, their current insolvency only papered over by deficit spending.

Similarly, Obama (or his surrogates) could hint to blacks that a Romney victory would lead them back into chains and proclaim to women that their abortions and birth control would be taken away. He could appeal to Hispanics that Romney would have them all arrested and shipped to Mexico and unabashedly state that he will not enforce the current immigration laws. He could espouse the furtherance of the incestuous relationship between governments and unions – in which politicians ply the unions with public money, in exchange for which the unions provide the politicians with votes, in exchange for which the politicians provide more money and the unions provide more votes, etc., even though the money is gone.

Obama also knows that the electorate has changed – that whites will soon be a minority in America (they’re already a minority in California) and that the new immigrants to the US are primarily from the Third World and do not share the traditional American values that attracted immigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries. It is a different world, and a different America. Obama is part of that different America, knows it, and knows how to tap into it. That is why he won.

Obama also proved again that negative advertising works, invective sells, and harsh personal attacks succeed. That Romney never engaged in such diatribes points to his essential goodness as a person; his “negative ads” were simple facts, never personal abuse – facts about high unemployment, lower take-home pay, a loss of American power and prestige abroad, a lack of leadership, etc. As a politician, though, Romney failed because he did not embrace the devil’s bargain of making unsustainable promises.

It turned out that it was not possible for Romney and Ryan – people of substance, depth and ideas – to compete with the shallow populism and platitudes of their opponents. Obama mastered the politics of envy – of class warfare – never reaching out to Americans as such but to individual groups, and cobbling together a winning majority from these minority groups. If an Obama could not be defeated – with his record and his vision of America, in which free stuff seduces voters – it is hard to envision any change in the future. The road to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and to a European-socialist economy – those very economies that are collapsing today in Europe – is paved.

For Jews, mostly assimilated anyway and staunch Democrats, the results demonstrate again that liberalism is their Torah. Almost 70% voted for a president widely perceived by Israelis and most committed Jews as hostile to Israel. They voted to secure Obama’s future at America’s expense and at Israel’s expense – in effect, preferring Obama to Netanyahu by a wide margin. A dangerous time is ahead. Under present circumstances, it is inconceivable that the US will take any aggressive action against Iran and will more likely thwart any Israeli initiative. The US will preach the importance of negotiations up until the production of the first Iranian nuclear weapon – and then state that the world must learn to live with this new reality.

But this election should be a wake-up call to Jews. There is no permanent empire, nor is there is an enduring haven for Jews anywhere in the exile. The American empire began to decline in 2007, and the deterioration has been exacerbated in the last five years. This election only hastens that decline. Society is permeated with sloth, greed, envy and materialistic excess. It has lost its moorings and its moral foundations. The takers outnumber the givers, and that will only increase in years to come. The “Occupy” riots across this country in the last two years were mere dress rehearsals for what lies ahead – years of unrest sparked by the increasing discontent of the unsuccessful who want to seize the fruits and the bounty of the successful, and do not appreciate the slow pace of redistribution.

If this election proves one thing, it is that the Old America is gone. And, sad for the world, it is not coming back.

German Energy Agency Chief

11/15/2012 12:10 PM
German Energy Agency Chief
‘We’ll Need Conventional Power Plants until 2050’

Stephan Kohler, the head of the German Energy Agency, says the country must act smarter and more realistically in its transition to renewable energy. The “feel-good” subsidies for locally produced wind and solar power have had unintended consequences, he says, and the environmental movement is often part of the problem.

SPIEGEL: Mr. Kohler, according to the government’s plans, the last German nuclear power plant will go offline in 2022. What will the domestic power supply look like at that point?

Kohler: It will be interesting. It’s easy to shut down a nuclear power plant, but that doesn’t mean you have something to replace it with. We know today, for example, that we don’t have enough reliable power plant capacity in southern Germany to be able to offset the loss of nuclear energy.

SPIEGEL: Solar and wind aren’t enough?

Kohler: According to the generally accepted opinion, the transition to renewable energy sources means that we will give up nuclear power and rely on wind and solar instead. The reality is that we’ll need conventional power plants until at least 2050, even if we do create massive renewable energy sources. Many people dispute this. They say that we could replace power plants operated with fossil fuels by adding more renewable energy sources. My response to them is: It won’t work.

SPIEGEL: What’s the problem?

Kohler: When a new wind farm is opened and we’re told how many thousands of households it can supply with electricity, that number applies to only a quarter of our demand. In Germany, 75 percent of electricity goes to industry, for which a secure supply — that is, at every second, and with constant voltage — is indispensable. Neither solar nor wind power are suitable for that purpose today. Both fluctuate and provide either no secure supply or only a small fraction of a secure supply. Solar energy has a load factor of about 1,000 hours a year. But there are 8,670 hours in a year.

SPIEGEL: But on some days solar power is already enough to supply all of Germany with electricity.

Kohler: Photovoltaic systems are distributed across hundreds of thousands of small power plants, which sounds nice. But when the sky is blue over Germany, these hundreds of thousands of decentralized plants act like a single, large power plant. All of the sudden we have 30,000 megawatts coming into the grid, which, in many cases, we can’t use.

SPIEGEL: Is that so dramatic? It’s better to have a surplus than a shortage.

Kohler: I don’t want to bore you with the details, but a surplus and fluctuations lead to very unpleasant systemic effects. We have voltage fluctuations within the grid that create problems for industry. Or we overload the grids in neighboring countries. Poland is in the process of installing technical equipment to protect its grids by keeping out surplus German electricity.

SPIEGEL: So far the prognoses that anticipated possible blackouts during peak load times have not come true. Weren’t the concerns, including yours, exaggerated?

Kohler: We were lucky in the winter of 2012. By 2015, we will manage to secure the current power supply with old power plants. Then a number of large power plants in southern Germany will gradually go offline, starting with Grafenrheinfeld in Bavaria. If we don’t act very quickly now, the reality will show us that we face real problems.

SPIEGEL: What do you propose?

Kohler: We have to make sure that operating power plants remains economically attractive. Nowadays, solar systems are often in operation around noon, when there is high demand for power and the price was high in the past. As a result, conventional power plants can no longer make enough money, which is why existing plants are being shut down and no new ones are being built. Anyone who guarantees the security of supply in the future has to be paid for it, even if his power plant is only needed at certain times.

SPIEGEL: Some receive subsidies for supplying green energy, while others are paid so that they’ll be available in case it rains or the wind doesn’t blow. It doesn’t sound very market-based.

Kohler: It can indeed be organized in a market-based way throughout Europe by using so-called capacity markets. But that doesn’t do any good. We have to synchronize the addition of more solar and wind energy systems with an expansion of the overall system, or the energy revolution will be a failure.

SPIEGEL: So no more wind turbines or solar roof panels until the infrastructure is up and running?

Kohler: That isn’t politically feasible. But we can make sure that the expansion of renewable energy is managed in a sensible way. That means that we have to put an end to the completely unstructured installation of solar systems as soon as possible.

SPIEGEL: If you don’t want to stop the expansion, what do you want?

Kohler: Today anyone can build a solar power system wherever he wants. And anyone who owns one of these systems also has the right to be connected to the grid operator. Just take a drive through Bavaria, and you’ll see entire fields full of solar power plants, even though there is zero consumption there and there is no grid. Solar systems should be expanded only in places where the electricity is needed and there are grids that can absorb it; in other words, in industrial areas, on stadium roofs and at indoor swimming pools. To that end, I would propose that the grid operators provide a map of available grid capacities.

SPIEGEL: So no more subsidies for solar arrays in the countryside?

Kohler: Exactly. A grid map would give us the opportunity to control the installation of additional solar systems to minimize additional grid costs. And it would also give us a tool to finally prevent too much power from migrating into the grid. Under the current circumstances, we have to invest about €28 billion ($36 billion) in the distribution grid to integrate renewable energy, while we have entire areas where there is still available grid capacity.

SPIEGEL: Does this also apply to wind turbines?

Kohler: Of course. Nowadays wind energy is mostly generated where it isn’t needed, that is, in the north. But the power lines that are supposed to carry this electricity to the south only exist on paper at the moment. I would propose that we permit the construction of more wind farms only once the power lines have actually been built.

SPIEGEL: So it would be best to stop work on the offshore wind farms in the North Sea and Baltic Sea immediately?

Kohler: No, but their additional expansion has to be tied to the expansion of the power grids. For example, the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein should be told: You can build additional wind turbines only once the power line to southern Germany is complete, so make an effort to make that happen. So far the expansion of power lines has often been blocked by objections from the environmental movement, that is, the people who staunchly promote the development of renewal energy. When things go wrong, they give themselves an environmental halo and blame the grid operators.

SPIEGEL: Maybe it just isn’t a good idea to install solar panels everywhere in a country like Germany, which has relatively little sunshine, or to build wind farms in northern Germany, where there is hardly any industry.

Kohler: I support the expansion of solar and wind energy, but only when it makes economic and technical sense. The operator of a solar plant should be getting a message, namely that it’s up to him to market the electricity he produces. He should come up with his own ideas to sell the electricity, and he shouldn’t be subsidized.

SPIEGEL: You would get rid of Germany’s Renewable Energy Act?

Kohler: It is pure insanity! You put a solar panel system on your roof and, thanks to government guarantees, you don’t have to do anything more except make sure that you clean the snow off the panels in the winter. We now have to say to everyone who benefits from this feel-good law: Listen, people, it can’t go on this way!”

SPIEGEL: At least renewable energy sources have led to the price of electricity coming down on the markets, because they have displaced expensive conventional power plants.

Kohler: There was that positive effect of more expensive power plants being displaced. But now it’s going in the opposite direction, because the power being generated often exceeds demand. Every new solar or wind energy system that we cannot integrate in a way that makes sense has a negative impact on the system, both economically and technically.

SPIEGEL: How realistic are the federal government’s forecasts when it comes to electricity demand and generation?

Kohler: In the 1970s, they believed that there is an annual 6-percent linear increase in the demand for electricity. That number was used to estimate how many nuclear power plants had to be built. It was also the reason I went to work for the Institute for Applied Ecology (Öko Institut) in Freiburg at the time. I thought the calculations were fundamentally wrong. Today we have a solar and wind euphoria, instead of a nuclear euphoria. We believe that there will be a 10-percent decline in electricity consumption by 2020. And, once again, we assume that this change will be linear. But I’m sure that we’re probably going to be wrong this time, too.

Interview conducted by Jan Fleischhauer and Alexander Neubacher. Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan.

Cute, Cuddly, and Here to Stay

Cute, Cuddly, and Here to Stay

by Douglas Gregory

The Christmas season brings images of many things, one of the most popular being the North Pole, where jolly St. Nick wraps presents with his elves. Thanks to the Coca-Cola Corporation, Santa now hangs out with sunglass-wearing, Coca-Cola- drinking polar bears frolicking in their winter wonderland. Slick.

But it can never be enough simply to laugh at anthropomorphic, goofy animal antics. These animal antics have a purpose—to push the environmentalist agenda, using cuddly polar bears.

Recently the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) partnered with Coca-Cola to fund polar bear conservation, though the bear is already on the Endangered Species List. All this political grandstanding happens despite the increase in polar bear populations by a factor of four or five in the last 60 years.

In fact, there are now so many polar bears that they’ve become a threat to inhabitants of the northernmost parts of the North American continent, especially Hudson Bay.

Behind the false claims about polar endangerment lies the scientific fallacy of substituting the output of models for real-world observations. Polar bears are flourishing, but population models that assume catastrophic melting of Arctic ice falsely conclude they’re losing hunting grounds—and if they’re losing hunting grounds, surely they must be diminishing in number, right? But they’re not. Obviously, something is wrong.

The greater problem isn’t the faulty science that the WWF and a confab of environmental activists use to falsely bemoan the impending doom of polar bears. The greater problem is using such faulty science to impose economically harmful environmental regulations on mankind. Fear mongering is just another way to break the commandment, “You shall not bear false witness.”

The Cornwall Alliance fights anti-human policies and anti-Biblical views of nature, while promoting economic development, especially for the very poor.

Such harmful policy can be anything from forbidding interference with polar bears, thus allowing them to become dangerous to man, to the worldwide curtailing of economic development (and its benefits) because of its perceived harm to the “natural world.”

Dangerous policies that protect animals at the expense of people is anti-Biblical. People are made in the image of God, not polar bears. And while we don’t have the right to abuse them, we do have the duty to exercise godly dominion over them—including preventing their attacks on humans.

Polar bears are a poster child for environmentalist lobbying; they aren’t actually endangered, except according to models that don’t reflect observations. But they are cute, and they are iconic. Notice, those same environmentalists express no concern for the people directly or indirectly affected by polar bears’ proliferation.

Whether the harm to man comes from global treaties preventing greenhouse gas emissions, or laws that increase risk of harm to mankind from animal attacks, the end result is preventing man’s godly dominion. God’s ordination of man bestows upon him rights and responsibilities—qualities animals do not share.

The ideology of environmentalism is anti-human and must be stopped—and replaced with profoundly Biblical Earth stewardship crowned by the faithful proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Please pray for us, pass our information on to others, and assist us with your generous, tax-deductible donations so we can continue combating anti-Biblical ideologies.

Douglas Gregory is Research and Policy Analyst for the Cornwall Alliance.

Joel Krotkin: Obama’s Energy Dilemma – Back Energy-Fuelled Growth Or Please Green Lobby

Talk all you want about the fiscal cliff, but more important still will be how the Obama administration deals with a potential growth-inducing energy boom. With America about to join the ranks of major natural gas exporters and with the nation’s rising oil production reducing imports, the energy boom seems poised to both boost our global competitiveness and drive economic growth well above today’s paltry levels.

This puts President Obama in a dilemma. To please his core green constituency, he can strangle the incipient energy-led boom in its cradle through dictates of federal regulators. On the other hand, he can choose to take credit for an economic expansion that could not only improve the lives of millions of middle- and working-class Americans, but also could assure Democratic political dominance for a decade or more.

Stronger economic growth remains the only way to solve our nation’s fundamental fiscal problems other than either huge tax hikes or crippling austerity. As economist Bret Swanson has pointed out, the best way to raise revenues and reduce expenditures, particularly for such things as welfare and unemployment, would be to increase overall growth from the current pathetic 2 percent rate to something closer to 3 or 4 percent.

Swanson suggests in a few simple charts (PDF) that a 4 percent growth rate would drive output to levels that would cover even our current projected spending levels. Even at 3 percent, the additional revenue would be enough, for example, to fill in Medicare’s looming $24.6 billion liability that is projected to 2050. The effects of higher growth are likely far greater than either any anticipated bonanza by raising taxes on the “rich” or enacting the most extreme austerity.

The energy revolution presents Obama with the clearest path to drive this critical boost to greater economic growth. New technologies for finding and tapping resources, such as fracking and other new technologies to tap older oil fields, could make America potentially the largest oil and gas producer by 2020, according to the International Energy Agency.
Equally important, an increasingly energy self-sufficient America would enjoy significantly greater independence from pressure from the often hoary influence of such unattractive regimes as Saudi Arabia, Venezuela, and Russia. Approval of the controversial Keystone pipeline from Canada to Texas would cement what would effectively be a North American energy community utterly independent of these trouble spots.

Those that have embraced the energy revolution have already created a gusher in energy jobs, which pay wages on average higher (roughly $100,000 annually ) than those paid by information, professional services, or manufacturing . The six fastest-growing jobs for 2010-11, according to Economic Modeling Specialists International, are related to oil and gas extraction. In total, nine of the top 11 fast-growing jobs in the nation over the past two years are tied in one way or another to oil and gas extraction.

Over the decade, the energy sector has created nearly 200,000 jobs in Texas, as well as 40,000 in Oklahoma, and more than 20,000 in Colorado. Growth on a percentage basis is even higher in North Dakota, which saw a 400 percent increase in these jobs, as well as Pennsylvania, where jobs increased by 20,000.

In contrast California, whose Monterey Formation alone is estimated to be four times larger than North Dakota’s Bakken reserve, has chosen, in its irrepressible quest for ever greater greenness, to sharply limit its fossil-fuel industry As a result, it has generated barely one-tenth the new fossil fuel jobs generated in archrival Texas. Not surprisingly, California and other green-oriented states have lagged behind in GDP and income growth while the energy states have for the most part enjoyed the strongest gains.

In addition, domestic energy growth directly spurs the construction of new, as well as the rehabilitation of old, industrial facilities. This already is occurring across a vast swath of America, from revived steel mills in Ohio and Pennsylvania to massive new petrochemical plants being planned along the Gulf Coast. Further development of energy resources, according to a study by Price Waterhouse Coopers, could create upwards of a million industrial jobs over the next few years.

For Obama, getting behind energy boom presents both enormous opportunities as well a serious political dilemma. In terms of cutting emissions, the rising use of natural gas has been a huge boon, allowing the U.S. to make greater cuts than any other major country over the past four years. Yet, the green lobby, once sympathetic to this relatively clean fuel, has turned decisively against any new gas development.

As a major component of Obama’s wide-ranging coalition of grievance holders, environmentalists expect to exercise greater influence in the second Obama term. Hollywood, now virtually an adjunct to the “progressive” coalition, will soon weigh in with Promised Land, a predictably anti-fracking movie, starring Matt Damon. Living up to Hollywood’s tradition of serving as what Lenin called “useful idiots”, the movie is financed in large part by investors from the United Arab Emirates, whose profits would be threatened by the growth of American energy production.

The ideological stakes for the green movement are tremendous . Greatly expanded American fossil-fuel production violates the “peak oil” mantra that has underpinned environmental thinking for decades, and undermines some of the core rationale for subsidizing expensive renewables such as solar and wind.