The green mirage – and con job

Musk, Schmidt, Simons and billionaire buddies build empire based on climate and energy BS

Paul Driessen and Tom Tamarkin

Elon Musk and his fellow barons of Climate Crisis, Inc. recently got a huge boost from Pope Francis. Musk et al. say fossil fuels are causing unprecedented warming and weather disasters. The Pope agrees and says Catholics must “ask God for a positive outcome” to negotiations over another UN climate treaty.

It matters not that the predicted calamities are not happening. There has been no warming in 19 years, no category 3-5 hurricanes making US landfall for a record 9-1/2 years, indeed none of the over-hyped climate disasters occurring in the real world outside the alarmists’ windows. In fact, poor nations support the treaty mostly because it promises some $100 billion per year in adaptation, mitigation and compensation money from FRCs: Formerly Rich Countries that have shackled their own job creation, economic growth and living standards in the name of stabilizing Earth’s perpetually fluctuating climate.

Any money that is transferred will end up in the pockets of governing elites. Poor families will get little or no cash – and will be told their dreams of better lives must be limited to jobs and living standards that can be supported by solar panels on their huts and a few wind turbines near their villages.

Simply put, the Musk-Obama-Pope-Climate Crisis schemes will save humanity from exaggerated and fabricated climate disasters decades from now – by impoverishing billions and killing millions tomorrow.

For the catechism of climate cataclysm coalition, the essential thing is that we believe the hysterical assertions and computer models – and support endless renewable energy mandates and subsidies.

Musk and his Tesla and SolarCity companies have already pocketed $4.9 billion in taxpayer-financed subsidies, and even long-elusive profitability has not ended the handouts. Now he claims a small “blue square” on a map represents the “very little” land required to “get rid of all fossil fuel electricity generation” in the USA and prevent a non-existent climate cataclysm. We just need rooftop solar panels linked to wall-mounted battery packs – a mere 160 million Tesla Powerwalls – to eliminate the need for all coal and natural gas electricity generation in the United States, he insists.

Hogwash (from pork barrel political pig farms). As a careful and extensive analysis demonstrates, even without considering the monumental electricity demand required to convert America’s vehicles to electric-battery versions, providing today’s baseload and peak demand electricity would require 29.3 billion one-square-meter solar panels. Assuming adequate yearlong daily sunlight, that’s 29,333 square kilometers of active solar panel surface area: 7.2 million acres – or nearly all of Maryland and Delaware!

The analysis is technical, beyond the ability of most voters, journalists, politicians and regulators to comprehend fully. Read it anyway, if only to understand the enormity of financing, raw materials, mining, manufacturing and electricity required to make and ship the panels (some 40 million per year), battery packs and inverters (to convert low-voltage solar electricity to 120 or 240 Volt alternating current).

We are clearly dealing with an unprecedented green mirage and con job. It will drive average retail electricity prices from the 8-9 cents per kilowatt-hour in coal and gas-reliant states, to the 15-17 cents per kWh in California, Connecticut and New York – or even the 36-40 cents in Germany and Denmark, where unsubsidized rates are 70-80 cents per kWh! The impact of such prices on people’s jobs, living standards, health and welfare would be devastating. But Musk and his “clean” energy friends ignore this.

Musk has a BS in physics – and obviously holds advanced BS degrees in lobbying and con-artistry about climate disasters and renewable energy solutions, mandated by government decrees and financed by endless billions in subsidies. He has made numerous personal visits to legislative offices in Sacramento and Washington, to promote more such schemes, and aligns his efforts with those of Eric Schmidt, Nat Simons, Tom Steyer, Al Gore and members of the Clean Tech Syndicate: eleven secretive families with total wealth of over $60 billion, who want to get even richer off taxpayers and consumers.

They assume (demand) that bogus climate cataclysms will continue to bring them billions in climate cash payouts from Washington and state capitals, along with more exemptions from endangered species and environmental cleanup laws and regulations that are applied with a vengeance to fossil fuel projects.

Google scientists finally admitted that existing and near-term renewable energy technologies simply do not work as advertised and cannot meet their political or climate promises. The technologies are all hat, no cattle. However, the Climate Crisis and Clean Tech industries are determined to push ahead – using our money, risking little of their own, and getting reimbursed by us when their investments turn sour.

Google and NRG now want a $539-million federal grant to bail them out of $1.6 billion in taxpayer loans for the bird-roasting Ivanpah concentrated solar power project in California, because it does not work and needs so much natural gas to keep its water hot that it doesn’t meet state renewable energy standards. Other Obama “greenbacks” energy “investments” have also drowned in red ink, leaving taxpayers to pay the tab: Solyndra, Abound Solar, Solar Trust, Ener1, Beacon Power, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera.

Musk is nevertheless lobbying for SB-350, which would require that 50% of California’s electricity be produced via “renewable” sources, such as wind, solar, biofuels and politicians’ hot air. Meanwhile, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt’s family and corporate foundations give millions to alarmist climate scientists, the ultra-green Energy Foundation, and rabid anti-fracking groups like the World Wildlife Fund and Natural Resources Defense Council. NRDC also gets millions from EPA, to promote the agency’s anti-fossil fuel agenda and place 33 of its employees on 21 EPA “advisory” committees.

Schmidt and Warren Buffett also support the secretive far-left Tides Foundation, which has given millions to groups opposed to coal and hydraulic fracturing, the Keystone XL and Sandpiper pipeline projects, and countless other job-creating hydrocarbon programs. Canadian researcher Cory Morningstar accurately describes Tides as a “magical, money-funneling machine of epic proportions.”

Billionaire Nat Simons and his Sea Change Foundation spend tens of millions annually promoting and lobbying for “renewable” energy policies, mandates and subsidies; investing in wind, solar and biofuel companies; supporting environmentalist pressure groups; and contributing to Democrat politicians who perpetuate the crony corporatist arrangements. Simons, his wife and various Vladimir Putin cronies (via Klein, Ltd. and the shadowy Bermuda Wakefield Quin law firm) are the only contributors to Sea Change.

We often rail against Third World corruption. Our American (and European) environmental corruption is simply more subtle and sophisticated. It is legalized deception and theft – a massive wealth transfer from poor and middle class consumers and taxpayers to billionaires who are raking in still more billions, thanks to brilliantly crafted alarmist campaigns. And let’s not forget Al Gore, Mike Mann, Tom Steyer, James Hansen and all the others who likewise profit immensely from these arrangements – and the constant vilification of scientists who question climate catastrophe mantras.

Pressure groups and governing elites used to argue that we are running out of oil and natural gas. That ploy no longer works. While fossil fuels may eventually prove finite, fracking has given us vast new supplies of petroleum – and huge coal, oil and gas deposits have been placed off limits by government decree. We have at least a century to develop alternative energy sources that actually work – that create real jobs, actual revenues, lower energy prices and true prosperity – without the mandates, subsidies, deception, fraud and corruption that are the hallmark of “green” energy schemes.

No wonder the “clean tech” crowd is financing anti-hydrocarbon and climate chaos campaigns. But despite the Pope’s belated rescue attempt, the pseudo-science of “dangerous manmade global warming” is slowly succumbing to climate reality. And any new UN climate treaty will founder once poor nations realize the promised hundreds of billions a year will not materialize.

Those still impoverished nations should not do what rich countries are doing now that they are rich. They should do what rich countries did to become rich.

___________

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org), author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death, and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine.

Tom Tamarkin is founder and CEO of USCL Corporation and of the fusion energy advocacy groups http://www.fusion4freedom.us and http://www.fuelRfuture.com. He is widely credited with inventing the utility industry smart meter and holds granted and pending patents in the field.

Advertisements

NY Times Embraces Christian Moralism (Left-Wing Variety) on Sunday Front Page

By Clay Waters

More liberal media double standards: The New York Times, which would move, ahem, heaven and earth to get religion out of politics when it comes to companies like Hobby Lobby that refuse on religious ground to pay for birth control, eagerly embraces the perceived moral authority of Christianity when it comes to leftist issues like global warming. Such ardor was recently refueled by the release of Laudato Si, a papal encyclical on climate change.

Exhibit A: Avowedly activist environmental reporter Justin Gillis praising environmentalist Christians on the front page of Sunday’s edition: “For Faithful, Social Justice Goals Demand Action on Environment.” The text box: “Linking degradation of environment to the plight of the poor.”

For an earnest young Christian named Ben Lowe, revelation came on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, in Africa. A relentless warming of the lake was reducing the catch of fish, the people were going hungry — and he had learned of scientific evidence that climate change was to blame.

For the Rev. Brian Sauder, who grew up attending a small Anabaptist church in rural Illinois, the moment came in a college classroom. Studying the fallout from environmental degradation, he learned of poor people who had to walk hours longer each day to gather firewood from depleted forests.

For both men, Christian duties that their upbringing had led them to regard as separate — taking care of the earth and taking care of the poor — merged into a morally urgent problem. “Why haven’t I ever made this connection before?” Mr. Sauder recalled asking himself.

It is a connection that many people of faith all over the world are starting to make.

Yet that “connection” would doom those same Third World people to living in permanent poverty, without the benefit of air conditioning or other life-saving modern technology that would doubtless be regarded as necessities by Gillis and other prosperous American liberals. The anti-capitalist sweep and catastrophic tone of the papal encyclical would help pin those same people into lives of hopeless poverty by increasing the cost of energy by government mandate.

The sweeping pastoral letter issued by Pope Francis on Thursday may prove to be a watershed, highlighting the issues of social justice at the heart of the environmental crisis. But the pope’s encyclical is, in a sense, simply an exclamation mark on a broad shift in thinking that has been underway for decades and extends far beyond the Roman Catholic Church.

Many faith traditions are awakening to the burden that climate change is placing on poor people, and finding justification for caring for the environment in their scripture. The pope’s urgent call is likely to intensify this discussion, provoking what could be one of the most important dialogues between science and religion since the days of Charles Darwin.

It’s an odd day indeed when the New York Times is encouraging people to look to the Bible (or at least tortured left-wing biblical interpretations) for specifically moral guidance.

Environmental scientists who are themselves people of faith are in rising demand, valued as translators between two camps that have often seen the world in radically different ways. These scientists have known for a long time that the facts and data produced by their research colleagues would not be sufficient to rouse the public to act. For that to happen, the science had to be reframed in moral terms, they said.

Gillis again takes the left-wing view that global warming is enhancing global poverty – never mind that the same free-market capitalism criticized so harshly in the papal encyclical has moved millions around the world out of dire poverty:

Polls show that a majority of American Christians view climate change as real, but fewer than a third of them understand the point, thoroughly documented in scientific studies, that poor people are already being harmed by it.

There’s a slight echo of the Washington Post’s notorious 1993 “poor, uneducated, and easy to command” slur against Christian conservatives, in Gillis’s description on Sunday of “politically conservative” evangelicals.

Polls suggest that evangelicals are the American religious group least likely to believe that global warming is real or caused by humans. Many of them are politically conservative and are influenced by groups that question established climate science and defend the rising use of fossil fuels.

Among Christians and Jews, theological discussion sometimes centers on exactly what God meant in the first chapter of Genesis when he granted human beings “dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.”

Does this passage — in Christian theology, it is called the dominion mandate — mean that people can do no ecological wrong? Some conservative politicians do seem to interpret the verse, and related ones, as a promise that God would not let humans wreck their only home.

Gillis belatedly tossed a bone to the human progress borne by use of fossil fuels, albeit with an immediate liberal rebuttal.

Religious conservatives who oppose environmentalism profess a deep concern for the plight of the poor. But they point out that economic success has historically been closely linked to the use of fossil fuels.

….

Liberal groups often dismiss that view as tendentious, yet it is precisely the fear that preoccupies countries like India that have refused to commit to serious emissions limits.

The stated goal of the environmental movement is to break the link between fossil fuels and economic success.

Perhaps the biggest question now is whether rising concern about the environment among religious groups will translate into stronger political demands that governments find ways to reduce the cost of low-carbon energy supplies, improve their reliability and speed their deployment.

EPA Analyst Exposes Climate Science Takeover

By Larry Bell  

My friend Alan Carlin’s long-awaited book “Environmentalism Gone Mad” (published by Stairway Press) discusses “How a Sierra Club Activist and Senior EPA Analyst Discovered a Radical Green Energy Fantasy.”

Educated as a Caltech scientist and MIT Ph.D. economist, Carlin is a true environmentalist, not an ideological wild-eyed dreamer. He explains how “the environmental movement of the 1970s has been hijacked by a radical fringe who are attempting to change the way of life for all Americans through EPA regulations drafted in response to a blueprint prepared by the movement itself and aimed particularly at forcing those who do not accept their radical ideology to abide by it by Federal fiat.”

Carlin refers to a “climate-industrial complex” patterned after a “military-industrial complex” term that President Eisenhower warned against in his 1961 farewell address.

As Eisenhower observed in a less well remembered threat in that speech: “The prospect of the nation’s scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present — and is gravely to be regarded. Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of scientific-technological elite.”

Alan’s book reveals evolutionary EPA experiences and insights through the eyes of an environmentally-dedicated Los Angeles/Orange County Sierra Club chapter leader who later served the agency for nearly 39 years beginning in 1971 under the Nixon administration. That period and throughout the present has witnessed dramatic changes.

The EPA enjoyed substantial administrative policy and budget independence during its early years. This rapidly began to change when President Clinton came into office with an alleged pre-election deal to appoint an assistant administrator from the Sierra Club who carefully and methodically removed the policy office’s independent analytical integrity.

By the 1990s the agency had become highly politicized. Early hires began leaving and were replaced by more radical staff, a circumstance which rapidly rose to epic proportions when the new Obama administration later swept through the EPA bureaucracy overnight.

Alan Carlin’s professional life in the agency took a consequential downturn upon determining strong scientific reasons to challenge EPA regulatory rulemaking based upon U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) global warming projections attributed to fossil fuel CO2 emissions.

IPCC’s alarmist claims had dismissed a number of natural climate influences which seemed to more logically explain observable phenomena such as temperature fluctuations correlated with solar cycles.

Those observations ran counter to the Obama EPA’s crash efforts to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gasses through a public health and welfare Endangerment Finding under the Clean Air Act premised upon climate change mitigation.

This current no-holds-barred attack on the coal industry is a sequel to previously failed liberal efforts to pass congressional cap-and-trade legislation. In addition to lacking a valid scientific basis for such policies, any emission reductions achieved would be minuscule compared with large increases already occurring in Asia and other regions.

Obama’s political shot at his predecessors vowing that “the days of science taking a backseat to ideology are over” has missed the mark by a mile. So has his commitment to create an unprecedented level of transparent openness in Government.

Carlin’s internal research report conclusions were ignored with an explanation that: “The administrator and the administration has [sic] decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.”

His supervisor added: “I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office.”

That wasn’t the end of it. Dr. Carlin was then directed not to spend any more EPA time on climate change, and was even forbidden to speak with anyone outside the agency regarding endangerment issues.

EPA’s rulemaking reliance upon alarmist IPCC claims continues despite the fact that virtually every climate model-based prediction has proven grossly inconsistent with reality. Determined to implement an even more draconian “Clean Power Plan” regulatory agenda, they are digging themselves into an ever larger scientific credibility hole. Their solution is to continue digging even deeper.

Carlin emphasizes that responsible policies must be based upon reproducible and verifiable scientific methods and realistic cost-benefit analyses. As he notes, “The problem with the current EPA structure is that it is overly responsive to political pressure from the party/president in power or from public fads rather than to careful science and economics.”

His experience reveals how easily regulatory agencies can be corrupted by minority interest views using an alleged “crisis” of their own making to propel themselves into positions of even greater power and influence at great involuntary expense to the rest of us.

Larry Bell is an endowed professor of space architecture at the University of Houston where he founded the Sasakawa International Center for Space Architecture (SICSA) and the graduate program in space architecture. He is the author of “Scared Witless: Prophets and Profits of Climate Doom”(2015) and “Climate of Corruption: Politics and Power Behind the Global Warming Hoax” (2012).

SCIENCE JOURNAL FINDS NFL FAVORED ‘FOUL PLAY OVER SCIENCE’ IN DEFLATEGATE CASE AGAINST PATRIOTS

By

Ted Wells (Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images)

When scientists chime in on Deflategate, it’s bad news for Ted Wells.

The latest pummeling of the ill-conceived report comes from the respected editors of “Science News” who published their findings of a survey of scientists who carefully examined footballs to simulate the conditions of the AFC championship game on Jan. 18 in Foxboro.

In a story entitled, “Deflategate Favored Foul Play over Science,” reporter Rachel Ehrenberg consulted several scientists from both academia and industry, and the findings do not support the conclusions reached by Ted Wells in his report. The Wells report dismisses any significant atmospheric impact on the deflated footballs, concluding that the deflation came primarily from an attempt by the Patriots to intentionally deflate the balls below the 12.5 PSI threshold.

On June 23, the NFL commissioner will hear the appeal of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady‘€™s four-game suspension, one of the punishments that resulted from the controversy,” Ehrenberg writes. “Patriots’€™ team equipment managers may have intentionally underinflated game balls and Brady may have known about it I won’€™t weigh in on that here. But the scandal, which propelled the ideal gas law to the front pages of sports sections, inspired an odd mix of experts to choose science over sports, and that’€™s almost always a win.

To Ehrenberg’s point, in his now-famous scientific press conference eight days before Super Bowl XLIX, Patriots coach Bill Belichick pointed to “climatic conditions,” “equilibrium states” and “atmospheric conditions” to explain the deflation. Bill Nye, with his mechanical engineering degree, came out within 24 hours to laugh at Belichick’s science. But, as “Science News” points out, it’s Belichick who should be enjoying the last laugh.

Here’s what Ehrenberg found and detailed:

If the initial pressure of a football measured in a warm locker room during pre-game inspection was 12.5 psi, could the roughly 25-degree-Fahrenheit drop in temperature between the locker room and the rainy field that day account for the lower air pressure of a ball measured at halftime?

Scientist Michael Naughton (expert in condensed matters physics, Buffalo Bills fan) lent his expertise to the matter when the controversy initially blew up. Naughton’€™s lab at Boston College inflated a football to 13.5 psi at 72 degrees F. Then they stuck it in a fridge and measured the pressure at 42 degrees F (slightly cooler than the low on game night of 47.7 degrees F, the average of measurements from two weather stations near Gillette Stadium). The pressure dropped to 10.5 psi.

HeadSmart labs, a Pittsburgh-based engineering firm that ordinarily conducts research related to helmets and concussions, also turned its attention to the matter. Experiments done by CEO Tom Healy (mechanical engineering Ph.D. student, Patriots fan) and others in the lab (not Patriots fans) simulated field conditions by placing 12 balls inflated to 12.5 psi in a cold room for 2.5 hours. Measurements revealed an average drop of 1.07 psi, well within the range of the halftime measurements. Saturating the balls with water to mimic field conditions bumped the measurements down another 0.75 psi, they conclude in a technical paper. (HeadSmart has launched a crowd-funding campaign to raise research funds to further investigate the matter.)

The kerfuffle provided a teachable moment for physics teachers everywhere, and despite Deflategate fatigue, homework problems featuring the ideal gas law ‘€” which relates temperature, pressure and volume to an amount of a gas (in moles) ‘€” will likely be assigned for years to come. This science matters well beyond the football field: Understanding the gas law means knowing whether a scuba diver will experience potentially fatal bends when returning to surface waters, why life-saving contraptions like fire extinguishers and airbags work, and how hot air balloons and combustion engines do their stuff.

But instead of acknowledging that game day conditions could have accounted for the psi changes, an acknowledgement that wouldn’€™t preclude other evidence of foul play, the NFL’€™s Wells Report concludes that there’€™s an ‘€œabsence of a credible scientific explanation for the Patriots halftime measurements.’€

It would be one thing if the Wells Report (which consulted Daniel Marlow, experimental high energy physics expert at Princeton) just said that additional evidence (bathroom breaks and text messages, among other things) was more compelling than the pressure data. Or if it noted that the pressure data are ambiguous, collected so haphazardly that they wouldn’€™t be allowed in a high school science fair: Two different gauges that differed by approximately 0.4 psi were used in taking measurements, and it isn’€™t clear which one was used in the pre-game measurements because those data were not recorded. At halftime, 11 Patriots’€™ balls and four Colts’€™ balls were measured, and while all of the Patriots’€™ balls measured below 12.5 psi, three of the four Colts’€™ balls also did, according to one of the gauges.

From Catholic layman, Phil Lawler on Pope Francis’s ‘Laudato Si’

We were expecting something big from Pope Francis: something controversial, something that carried a heavy political charge. What he has given us is something bigger.

Laudato Si is more provocative, but less political, than what we expected. Those who try to twist the document into one ideological framework or another are doing a disservice not only to the Holy Father but also to those many potential readers who could profit from a careful perusal of the encyclical. The Pope has set out not to change public policies, but to convert private lives.

Read the full text. Or if that’s too much to ask, read the prayer with which Pope Francis concludes the encyclical; that gives a clear sense of what the Pontiff is trying to achieve.

Forget all the hype that was built up before the release of this encyclical. Laudato Si is not a statement about climate change. A reader disengaged from today’s ideological battles, having digested the full 192-page text, might conclude that the encyclical is mostly about sustainable development, or anthropomorphism, or the unequal profits and burdens associated with exploitation of natural resources. More generally it is about living in harmony with nature, preserving a humble reverence for the intricate beauty and balance of creation. One perceptive reader has remarked, quite accurately, that Laudato Si could be read as this Pope’s homage to his two most recent predecessors, since their thoughts are cited constantly. For me, the most interesting facet of the encyclical is the Pope’s development of the concept of “ecological debt,” which I’ll explain below.

But if you think Laudato Si is about climate change, I suspect you might also think that Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet is about suicide. Yes, the topic is mentioned; indeed it’s a very important part of the story. But it’s not the main theme.

Climate change 

Prior to the public release of this encyclical, many analysts predicted that the Pope would denounce climate-change skepticism. I prefer to think of myself as an “agnostic” rather than a “skeptic” on the question of man-made climate change, since I do not have the scientific credentials to justify taking any stance on the issue. But insofar as I am not convinced that human activity is changing the climate, I fully expected a papal rebuke. I found none.

”A very solid scientific consensus indicates that we are presently witnessing a disturbing warming of the climatic system,” Pope Francis writes in the relevant section of the encyclical (paragraph #23). Well, that’s a fact; there is a consensus. But scientific questions are not resolved by consensus, and anyway the key question is not whether the climate is changing, but why.

In that same section—after conceding that many factors other than human action play a role—the Pope goes on to note that “a number of scientific studies indicate that most global warming in recent decades is due to the great concentration of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrogen oxides and others) released mainly as a result of human activity.” Again, yes; a number of scientific studies make that argument. And a number of other studies dispute it.

Man-made climate change either is, or is not, a scientific reality. A pronouncement by the Pope—who has no special authority on scientific issues—will not affect that reality one way or another. In the encyclical the Holy Father clearly sides with the majority opinion, but he does not attempt to close off the scientific debate. More importantly, he constructs an argument that does not rely on uncertain scientific theories—an argument that will endure the test of time, no matter how the climate-change debate is ultimately resolved.

To be sure the Pope stresses that we face an ecological crisis. He says at the outset (#2) that nature “now cries out to us because of the harm we have inflicted on her by our irresponsible use and abuse of the goods with which God has endowed her.” He follows up (#3) by saying that just as St. John XXIII issued his encyclical Pacem in Terris when mankind stood on the brink of nuclear disaster, so he is issuing Laudato Si at a time of looming environmental disaster.

Still, having established that he considers the matter one of the utmost urgency, the Pontiff does not proceed to examine the wonkish policy proposals aimed at resolving the problem. In one of his few mentions of specific proposals (#171), the Holy Father quickly dismisses the notion of trading carbon credits as a “quick and easy solution under the guise of a certain commitment to the environment, but in no way does it allow for the radical change which present circumstances require.” Pope Francis is not interested in technical solutions to a technical problem; he is hunting for bigger game.

The anthropocentric temptation

Actually it is the reliance on technical solutions that the Pope sees at the root of environmental problems. As he introduces the encyclical (#10) he mentions his love for St. Francis of Assisi, “a mystic and a pilgrim who lived in simplicity and in wonderful harmony with God, with others, with nature and with himself.” Pope Francis wants to emulate that sort of life, and encourage us all to do likewise.

Here the Pope shows his “green” sympathies. But his views seem to align more closely with the “crunchy cons” of the American right than with the environmental activists of the left. R.R. Reno goes too far, I think, in suggesting that the Pope is reviving the anti-modernism of the Catholic past. Yet he is certainly criticizing the modern way of life.

In his laments for the loss of natural scenery and of family farms, about powerful multinational corporations and blighted urban landscapes, Pope Francis can be read as a liberal. But the same complaints have been characteristic of an important strain of conservatism: the agrarians and the distributists, the disciples of Russell Kirk, the Small is Beautiful school of E. F. Schumacher. I do not mean to suggest that Pope Francis himself emerges as a conservative; he does not. Readers from both ends of the political spectrum will find in this document some reasons to cheer and also, if they are honest, some reasons to examine their own consciences.

Take, just for instance (although it is definitely not a minor issue) the Pope’s insistence on reverence for all human life. He mentions (#136) that it is “troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life.” And he writes (#118) of a “constant schizophrenia, wherein a technocracy which sees no intrinsic value in lesser beings coexists with the other extreme, which sees no special value in human beings.” The argument that population growth is the source of our environmental woes is, he says (#50) “one way of refusing to face the issues.” He continues:

It is an attempt to legitimize the present model of distribution, where a minority believes that it has the right to consume in a way which can never be universalized…

On the other hand, defenders of free-market economics will be unsettled by the Pope’s argument (#123) that reliance on the market alone is a form of moral relativism. Later (#129) he adds:

To claim economic freedom while real conditions bar many people from actual access to it, and while possibilities for employment continue to shrink, is to practice a doublespeak which brings politics into disrepute.

Above all the Pope criticizes a society that defines progress in terms of the stimulation and satisfaction of purely material needs. “This paradigm leads people to believe that they are free as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume.” (#203) The consumer is not the whole man, and for that matter homo economicus does not exhaust the reality of homo sapiens. Thus the Pontiff issues a challenge to the economic profession: “The principle of the maximization of profits, frequently isolated from other considerations, reflects a misunderstanding of the very concept of the economy.” (#195)

But wait: If the goal of economic activity is not to maximize profits, what is the goal? Pope Francis suggests a broader conception of what constitutes success. Again and again he speaks of “sustainable development,” emphasizing that the economic activities of a healthy society should pave the way for further “sustainable development” in future generations.

In nature, the Pope reminds his readers (#22), everything serves a purpose. What dies decays, and fertilizes the growth of new life. For centuries farmers have known that by leaving fields fallow and rotating crops, they can preserve their land; foresters have learned to plant trees to replace the ones cut down for logs. The Pope observes:

But our industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the capacity to absorb and reuse waste and by-products. We have not yet managed to adopt a circular model of production capable of preserving resources for present and future generations.

Now there is a challenge for 21st-century entrepreneurs: to find ways to turn waste products into elements of future production! And maybe it can be done, Pope Francis suggests (#159), if we adopt a different attitude toward industrial production: “Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others.”

Throwaway culture 

The characteristically Christian instinct to share—both with the poor and with future generations—is diametrically opposed to the impulses of what Pope Francis has frequently condemned as a “throwaway culture.” In Laudato Si the Pontiff enlarges on this familiar theme, decrying the tendency of modern man to identify productive resources, use them up, and move on without a thought to the long-term consequences.

The poor do not enjoy the same opportunities to profit from the results of technological progress, the Pope reminds us. Yet they suffer disproportionately from any negative environmental consequences. Poverty always implies an inability to insulate oneself from life’s harsher realities.

Wealth, on the other hand, gives some fortunate people the opportunity to live in splendid isolation, blissfully unaware of the problems that others are facing. Pope Francis remarks that the world’s wealthiest people pay little attention to their less fortunate neighbors, in part because they have little contact with them. In a passage (#49) that could almost be drawn from Charles Murray’s Coming Apart, he writes:

This is due partly to the fact that many professionals, opinion makers, communications media and centers of power, being located in affluent urban areas, are far removed from the poor, with little direct contact with their problems. They live and reason from the comfortable position of a high level of development and a quality of life well beyond the reach of the majority of the world’s population.

Laudato Si envisions a world in which there is no demand for gated suburban communities with manicured lawns, or for hermetically sealed steel-and-glass skyscrapers in which corporate executives decide the fate of people living thousands of miles away. He argues that at each stage in development, everyone involved—including workers and residents as well as entrepreneurs and financiers—should weigh every facet of a proposal, including its potential impacts on the poor, on the environment, on the community, and on the future. The Pope insists (#183): “Environmental impact assessment should not come after the drawing up of a business proposition or the proposal of a particular policy, plan or program. It should be part of the process from the beginning.”

Furthermore, because political leaders in any given country might be shifting influences that deter effective long-term planning—and because we are “witnessing a weakening of the power of nation-states” (#175) anyway—the Pope advocates greater reliance on a global authority to enforce environmental standards. Here his suggestion troubles me, because it plays into the ambitious plans of the United Nations: an organization run by people who are not friends of the Catholic Church, or of healthy local communities, or of human life. But to keep things in perspective, this Pope’s call for an international political authority is no more insistent—and no more unsettling—than that issued by his predecessor, Pope Benedict XVI.

The ecological debt

As I mentioned above, in my view the most intriguing new perspective in Laudato Si—the aspect of this encyclical most likely to find a permanent place in Catholic social teaching—is the concept of “ecological debt.” In previous encyclicals, other Roman Pontiffs have referred to the “social mortgage” on private property. The “ecological debt” is closely related.

In Catholic social teaching, the right to private property is essential, but it is not absolute. Since all material resources should serve the common good, and since anyone in possession of valuable property is ultimately indebted to God for his blessings, the wealthy few have a moral obligation to use their resources in ways that serve the poor. The “social mortgage,” then, is roughly equivalent to the principle of noblesse oblige; with money and power come certain implied obligations to the community.

The “ecological debt” follows the same logic. When we extract ore or fossil fuels from the earth, or put dangerous chemicals into the air and water, we are potentially causing problems for our children and grandchildren. Ideally we should stop running up environmental debts that future generations must repay. At a minimum we should find ways to help them pay down those debts.

Again, Pope Francis does not propose grand schemes to resolve the environmental crisis that he perceives. Instead he proposes changing attitudes and behaviors incrementally, even alluding (#230) to the “little way” of St. Therese of Lisieux. “an integral ecology,” he reasons, “is also made up of simple daily gestures which break with the logic of violence, exploitation and selfishness.”

Insofar as he is lobbying for anything in Laudato Si, Pope Francis is lobbying for humility in the face of creation. In the most endearing passage of the encyclical (#227) he offers one very simple practical way of nourishing that humility:

One expression of this attitude is when we stop and give thanks to God before and after meals. I ask all believers to return to this beautiful and meaningful custom. That moment of blessing, however brief, reminds us of our dependence on God for life.

In the final analysis Laudato Si calls for an attitude of reverence toward creation. Rather than seeking to exploit every resource that we find, we should be learning to live in harmony with our environment (#77)—to set our schedules in accordance with the rhythms of nature, to perceive and respond to “the love which moves the sun and the stars.”

FLASHBACK: ABC’s ’08 Prediction: NYC Under Water from Climate Change By June 2015

New York City underwater? Gas over $9 a gallon? A carton of milk costs almost $13? Welcome to June 12, 2015. Or at least that was the wildly-inaccurate version of 2015 predicted by ABC News exactly seven years ago. Appearing on Good Morning America in 2008, Bob Woodruff hyped Earth 2100, a special that pushed apocalyptic predictions of the then-futuristic 2015.

The segment included supposedly prophetic videos, such as a teenager declaring, “It’s June 8th, 2015. One carton of milk is $12.99.” (On the actual June 8, 2015, a gallon of milk cost, on average, $3.39.) Another clip featured this prediction for the current year: “Gas reached over $9 a gallon.” (In reality, gas costs an average of $2.75.)

On June 12, 2008, correspondent Bob Woodruff revealed that the program “puts participants in the future and asks them to report back about what it is like to live in this future world. The first stop is the year 2015.”

As one expert warns that in 2015 the sea level will rise quickly, a visual shows New York City being engulfed by water. The video montage includes another unidentified person predicting that “flames cover hundreds of miles.”

Then-GMA co-anchor Chris Cuomo appeared frightened by this future world. He wondered, “I think we’re familiar with some of these issues, but, boy, 2015? That’s seven years from now. Could it really be that bad?”

Ultimately, ABC delayed the air-date for Earth 2100 and the one-hour show didn’t debut until June 2, 2009. The program showcased the terrible impact of global warming from 2015 through 2100. In the special, a “storm of the century” wiped out Miami. Other highlights included a destroyed New York City and an abandoned Las Vegas. By 2084, Earth’s population will apparently be just 2.7 billion.

On June 13, 2008, ABCNews.com promoted the special by hyperventilating, “Are we living in the last century of our civilization?” Unlike the 2015 predictions, that suggestion hasn’t (yet) been proven wrong.

Seven years later, the network has quietly ignored its horribly inaccurate predictions about 2015. When it comes to global warming claims, apparently results don’t matter for ABC.

A partial transcript of the June 12, 2008 GMA segment is below:

GMA
6/12/08
8:34am

CHRIS CUOMO: Now, we will have a dramatic preview for you of an unprecedented ABC News event called “Earth 2100.” We’re asking you to help create a story that is yet to unfold: What our world will look like in 100 years if we don’t save our troubled planet. Your reports will actually help form the backbone of a two-hour special airing this fall. ABC’s Bob Woodruff will be the host. He joins us now. Pleasure, Bob.

BOB WOODRUFF: You too, Chris. You know, this show is a countdown through the next century and shows what scientists say might very well happen if we do not change our current path. As part of the show, today, we are launching an interactive web game which puts participants in the future and asks them to report back about what it is like to live in this future world. The first stop is the year 2015.

[NOTE: ABC provides no graphics or identification for any of the following individuals/activists featured. Identifications taken discerned from web article.]

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #1: The public is sleepwalking into the future. You know, sort of going through the motions of daily life and really not paying attention.

JAMES HANSEN (NASA/AL GORE SCIENCE ADVISOR): We can see what the prospects are and we can see that we could solve the problem but we’re not doing it.

PETER GLEICK (SCIENTIST/PACIFIC INSTITUTE): In 2015, we’ve still failed to address the climate problem.

JOHN HOLDREN (PROFESSOR/HARVARD UNIVERSITY): We’re going to see more floods, more droughts, more wildfires.

UNIDENTIFIED “REPORTER:” Flames cover hundreds of square miles.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: We expect more intense hurricanes.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE #5: Well, how warm is it going to get? How much will sea level rise? We don’t know really know where the end is.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE #2: Temperatures have hit dangerous levels.

UNIDENTIFIED VOICE #3: Agriculture production is dropping because temperatures are
rising.

HEIDI CULLEN (WEATHER CHANNEL/CLIMATE CHANGE EXPERT): There’s about one billion people who are malnourished. That number just continually grows.

CUOMO: I think we’re familiar with some of these issues, but, boy, 2015? That’s seven years from now. Could it really be that bad?

WOODRUFF: It’s very soon, you know. But all you have to do is look at the world today right today. You know, you’ve got gas prices going up. You got food prices going up. You’ve got extreme weather. The scientists have studied this for decades. They say if you connect the dots, you can actually see that we’re approaching maybe even a perfect storm. Or you have got shrinking resources, population growth. Climate change. So, the idea now is to look at it, wake up about it and then try to do something to fix it.

WOODRUFF: But the best of these regular reports that come from people that are watching, we’re going to put those on, all of this on our two-hour production that’s going to happen in the fall. And we just want more of these people to watch. And we’ve gotten already some remarkable interviews from these people. And just take a quick look.

UNIDENTIFIED TEENAGER: It’s June 8th, 2015. One carton of milk is $12.99.

SECOND UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Gas reached over $9 a gallon.

THIRD UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I’m scared [bleeped] right now, but I have to get this out.

WOODRUFF: So the producers actually work with those people that send in their ideas into the website. And then we’re just hoping that the goal is ultimately get these ideas very soon.

CUOMO: Lovely. Bob Woodruff. Thank you very much. You can find out much more about how you can be part of this exciting and important show. You can go to Earth2100.tv. Earth2100.tv or you can go to ABCNews.com.

– See more here.

Scathing MIT Paper Blasts Obama’s Climate Models

Robert S. Pindyck is a professor of economics and finance at MIT, with several decades’ experience publishing articles and books dealing with energy. Moreover, as he explains in this interview, Pindyck believes that man-made emissions of CO2and other greenhouse gases will impose climate change damages on future generations, and is an advocate of a carbon tax agreement among the major world governments (though he is doubtful such a tax is politically feasible). With a pedigree like that, you might expect Pindyck to be very complimentary about the computer models that the Obama Administration and other policymakers are using to justify the economics of anti-carbon measures. But as it turns out, Pindyck has written a new, peer-reviewed paper (forthcoming in the Journal of Economic Literature) that is absolutely scathing in its critique of such models. In this post I’ll highlight some of his points.

Two Types of Computer Models

In the climate change policy debate, there are two types of computer models. One type refers to models of the Earth’s climate that are created as simplified simulations of the atmosphere, ocean, sun’s radiation, etc. that rely just on the natural sciences such as physics, chemistry, and biology. These are the computer models that people have in mind when they say things like, “Global temperatures have been basically flat for years, and yet the official models predicted more warming than has actually occurred.”

But there are another set of models—called Integrated Assessment Models or IAMs—that have been created by economists, not climate scientists. The IAMs rely on condensed versions of the full-blown climate models as part of their structure, but they also rely on (crude) simulations of the global economy to try and assess the interaction between the economic and climate systems. In addition to all of the uncertainty stemming just from the physical science itself—such as asking how much global temperatures will increase in the long run, in response to a doubling of atmospheric CO2 concentrations—the IAMs have another layer of guesswork. For example, they have to make projections of “business as usual” growth in carbon dioxide emissions, in order to understand the full economic impact of emitting one more ton of CO2 today. These computer simulations are then used to gauge the likely results of various types of government policies to restrict emissions, which will affect both the economy and the climate.

Current Crop of Computer Models “Close to Useless”

It is this second class of models, the economic/climate hybrids called Integrated Assessment Models, that Pindyck discusses. Pindyck’s paper is titled, “Climate Change Policy: What Do the Models Tell Us?” Here is his shocking answer, contained in the abstract:

Very little. A plethora of integrated assessment models (IAMs) have been constructed and used to estimate the social cost of carbon (SCC) and evaluate alternative abatement policies. These models have crucial flaws that make them close to useless as tools for policy analysis: certain inputs (e.g. the discount rate) are arbitrary, but have huge effects on the SCC estimates the models produce; the models’ descriptions of the impact of climate change are completely ad hoc, with no theoretical or empirical foundation; and the models can tell us nothing about the most important driver of the SCC, the possibility of a catastrophic climate outcome.  IAM-based analyses of climate policy create a perception of knowledge and precision, but that perception is illusory and misleading. [Bold added.]

For those unfamiliar with academic prose, such inflammatory language is almost unheard-of, particularly for a politically sensitive topic such as climate change economics. Pindyck is here reaching the exact same conclusion that I gave in my recent testimony before Senator Barbara Boxer and other members of the Senate Environmental and Public Works Committee: The computer models used by the Obama Administration’s Working Group to estimate the so-called “social cost of carbon” should not be the basis of federal policy.

After my prepared remarks during the hearing, Boxer and others dismissed my testimony as the product of willful ignorance of “the science,” yet I pointed out that it was she and her colleagues who were misinformed. The professional economists who specialize in climate change would know that every point of my testimony was accurate; indeed I was merely explaining to Senator Boxer et al. what the Obama’s Administration’s own Working Group was saying in their official report.

In his paper, Pindyck goes over a few crucial problems with the economic/climate computer models, the so-called Integrated Assessment Models (IAMs). One major point is the arbitrariness of the discount rate used to compare economic current costs of curbing emissions with the projected benefits (sometimes centuries in the future) of mitigating climate change. However, I have already covered that point extensively for IER’s readers, so in this post I’ll focus on another of Pindyck’s arguments, which is the arbitrariness of the “damage function” in these models

“Any Result One Desires”

In my testimony, I said the “economist can produce just about any estimate of the social cost of carbon desired.” Pindyck reaches the same conclusion in his paper when he writes:

And here we see a major problem with IAM-based climate policy analysis: The modeler has a great deal of freedom in choosing functional forms, parameter values, and other inputs, and different choices can give wildly different estimates of the SCC and the optimal amount of abatement. You might think that some input choices are more reasonable or defensible than others, but no, “reasonable” is very much in the eye of the modeler. Thus these models can be used to obtain almost any result one desires. [Pindyck p. 5, bold added.]

As Pindyck is here underscoring, our claim isn’t that the economists generating large values for the social cost of carbon are “lying.” The point is, these models are so open-ended—they’re trying to model the entire climate system and global economy through the year 2300, for crying out loud—that the analyst has to pick and choose what items to include, and which to omit. If the economist wants the computer to spit out a big scary number, that’s not hard to accomplish.

Conclusion

Robert Pindyck is exactly the sort of expert we are being told should have the floor in the climate change debate: He is not from industry, but instead is an academic at a prestigious post at MIT. He has been publishing on energy issues (including entire books) since the 1970s. And yet, in his recent paper assessing the computer models currently driving federal policy, he concludes: “I have argued that IAMs are of little or no value for evaluating alternative climate change policies and estimating the SCC. On the contrary, an IAM-based analysis suggests a level of knowledge and precision that is nonexistent.”

Now it’s true, Pindyck still thinks there is a strong case for federal intervention to curb emissions of greenhouse gases, and on that score he and I part ways. Yet when it comes to the Obama Administration’s official rationale for its anti-carbon policies, even Pindyck the MIT expert agrees with me: these computer models are close to useless. I wonder if Senator Boxer and others will have a change of heart, since they claim to follow the peer-reviewed literature?

EPA Plan to Ban Coal Hits Major Roadblock

Phil Kerpen | May 23, 2015

The EPA proposal to impose a de facto ban on new coal-fired power plants received more than two million comments from the public – but it looks like it was just one five-page comment from the Energy and Environment Legal Institute (E&E Legal) that sent EPA scrambling back to the drawing board.

The draft rule mandated the use of so-called carbon capture and storage, a technology that would inject carbon dioxide underground but which has so far proved to be little more than a white elephant experiment. To mandate this technology, the law required the EPA to prove it was “adequately demonstrated” and “commercially available.” Thanks to E&E Legal, they failed.

Dawn Reeves at Inside EPA broke the story that carbon capture and storage has apparently been dropped from the agency’s final rule regulating greenhouse gas emissions. She also, curiously, reports that the White House may not allow the EPA to back down, instead forcing the agency to defend the legally indefensible in court.

But whether they win now or not until the issue is litigated, E&E Legal has scored a huge victory for the rule of law and economic common sense.

I reached out to Chris Horner, their lead author on the comment that carried the day.

“We submitted comments for the record explaining that EPA had made a mockery of the interagency review process, ignoring the government’s own experts in order to push an ideological agenda,” Horner said.

That’s a crucial point because if the EPA is demonstrably not serving as an expert but an ideological actor, it would not warrant deference in court, making its whole global warming agenda vulnerable.

E&E Legal obtained information proving that expert analysis from the Department of Energy actually concluded the opposite of what the EPA claimed when they asserted that carbon capture and storage had been “adequately demonstrated.”

“The truth is that the experts had persuasively argued the opposite, in effect, that carbon capture and storage has been demonstrated to be not viable,” Horner said. “Making this more egregious, the Department of Energy had paid a quarter of a billion taxpayer dollars to learn this information and lesson that EPA ignored and even misrepresented.”

The EPA was caught red-handed faking science and ignoring expert opinion, in effect requiring a technology that they knew did not practically exist. It is therefore reasonable to conclude that their actual intended purpose was indeed to impose a de facto ban on coal-fired power plants. And they might have gotten away with it if E&E Legal hadn’t busted them.

The stakes are enormous because the rule on new power plants is also the legal predicate for the EPA’s proposed rule regulating existing power plants. That rule establishes numerical emissions reduction targets for the states and coerces states to meet those targets by adopting cap-and-trade tax schemes and other policies that EPA cannot impose itself. All to achieve President Obama’s goal of fighting global warming by making electricity prices “necessarily skyrocket.”

If the EPA cannot, because of this now-exposed legal vulnerability, rely on carbon capture and storage, then the new source numerical targets will have to be revised up significantly, a major victory.

Unfortunately, the political activists who control the EPA see this as only a necessarily tactical retreat, with retooled rules still certain to impose steeply higher prices on consumers for emissions reductions that will have no impact on global carbon dioxide levels or global average temperatures.

That’s why Horner hopes that the biggest impact of E&E Legal’s depantsing of the EPA on carbon capture and storage, through a transparency campaign that continues regardless of EPA’s rumored move, will be to discredit the EPA enough that Congress will step in to put a stop to the misuse of the 1970 Clean Air Act to do all of this. I couldn’t agree more.

The Poor Need Affordable Energy

Affordable energy is fundamental to what economist Deirdre McCloskey calls the “Great Fact” of the explosion of human welfare. It remains central to the reduction of absolute poverty. Yet, some Western governments are working toincrease energy costs, purportedly to combat global warming.

What they are really combating is prosperity.

This is perverse and regressive. In America and Europe, energy takes up a much larger share of poor households’ budgets compared to other income brackets. For instance, a household with an annual income between $10,000 and $25,000 spends well over 10 percent of its budget on energy, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. And a January 2014 study for the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity found that “households earning $50,000 or less spend more on energy than on food, spend twice as much on energy as on health care, and spend more than twice as much on energy as on clothing.”

Increasing the cost of energy also harms people’s health. That’s because energy use is so fundamental to modern life that it can take precedence over other household expenses — including health care. The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association found that an increase in energy costs led 30 percent of poor households to reduce purchases of food, 40 percent to go without medical care, and 33 percent to not fill a prescription.

The term “fuel poverty” describes households in cold climates that are not able to keep their home warm at an affordable cost. The primary causes of fuel poverty are low income, poor insulation, and high energy prices. Eight percent of households in Belgium, France, Spain, Italy, and the United Kingdom suffer from some form of fuel poverty, according to the European Union’s European Fuel Poverty and Energy Efficiency consortium project. In the UK, where there is much more data owing to an official designation of fuel poverty, a household is defined as fuel poor if it has to spend 10 percent of its income on essential energy services; 20 percent of households meet this definition.

Despite this, Western governments are pursuing policies to increase energy prices. President Obama said during his first election campaign that electricity rates from coal would “necessarily skyrocket” under his policies; this may finally come to pass under his EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan. In Western Europe, energy costs have increased due to a combination of renewable energy subsidies and mandates, bans or moratoria on hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), hostility to nuclear energy, and Russia’s control of natural gas supplies for much of the continent’s eastern half.

Despite the president’s policies, US energy markets have shown that innovation beats regulation every time. Even though huge swaths of American energy resources are locked up under untouchable federal lands, energy production has boomed over the past decade, thanks to the development of horizontal drilling and improved hydraulic fracturing techniques. These technological advances have led to lower electricity prices from natural gas. And subsurface property rights have benefited both urban and rural households through royalty payments for energy production on their land.

Moreover, as gas became more affordable, it led to a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. Indeed, thanks to energy innovation, America met the emissions targets set for it in the Kyoto Protocol, without any need for burdensome laws and regulation — or for the Kyoto Protocol itself. Whatever you think of the need for carbon emissions reduction, energy innovation is achieving that goal.

This is all to the good, but more energy innovation is possible. They key is greater liberalization. America should free up federal lands to energy development, rather than pickle them in regulatory aspic. Europe could enjoy its own energy boom by approving hydraulic fracturing.

Reducing artificially high energy costs is the first step in tackling fuel poverty. In America, the market is alleviating the burden of energy costs on poor households, even as the government goes the wrong way. That shows us the way forward for tackling the much greater problem in the developing world.

Putin and Buffett’s war on U.S. pipelines

Billionaires use secretive foundations to finance anti-pipeline protests – and get even richer

By Paul Driessen

Abundant, reliable, affordable oil and natural gas empower people. They support job creation, mobility, modern agriculture, homes and hospitals, computers and communications, lights and refrigerators, life and study after sundown, indoor plumbing, safe drinking water, less disease and longer lives.

Hydrocarbons make plastics, pharmaceuticals and synthetic clothing. They create fertilizers and pesticides, to improve crop yields, reduce food prices and improve nutrition.

But Sierra Club, 350.org and other radicals want to keep America’s oil and natural gas bounties in the ground. They block leasing, drilling and fracking. They block pipelines that transport oil and gas to refineries, power plants, factories and homes. And the more their “dangerous manmade climate change” mantras fall on deaf ears, the more absurd their anti-energy campaigns are getting.

Hydraulic fracturing and Canadian oil sands development made North American petroleum production soar, created millions of jobs, sent oil, gasoline and natural gas prices plunging, and provided some of the few bright spots in the 2008-14 Obama economy.

New pipelines were approved and constructed, including the Keystone system’s first three phases. They augmented 2.5 million miles of liquid petroleum, gas transmission and gas distribution pipelines that already crisscross the United States.

But when the Keystone XL segment was proposed, intense opposition suddenly materialized. Protesters railed that habitat disturbance, potential leaks, climate change and ending fossil fuel use necessitated “no more pipelines.” Now the Sandpiper Pipeline from North Dakota’s Bakken shale region across Minnesota to Superior, Wisconsin is meeting similar resistance.

As with Keystone, the protesters say they’re just concerned student, hiker and Native American grassroots activists: average citizens who just care about their environment. The facts do not support their claims.

In reality, they are being bankrolled by billionaires, fat-cat foundations and foreign oil interests.

Putin-allied Russian oil billionaires laundered $23 million through the Bermuda-based Wakefield Quin law firm to the Sea Change Foundation and thence to anti-fracking and anti-Keystone groups, the Environmental Policy Alliance found.

Sandpiper opponents are also being funded and coordinated by wealthy financiers and shadowy foundations, researcher Ron Arnold discovered.

It’s true that several small groups are involved in the anti-Sandpiper protests. However, the campaign is coordinated by Honor the Earth, a Native American group that is actually a Tides Foundation “project,” with the Tides Center as its “fiscal sponsor.” They’ve contributed $700,000 and extensive in-kind aid. Out-of-state donors provide 99% of Honor’s funding.

The Indigenous Environmental Network also funds Honor the Earth. Minnesota corporate records show no incorporation entry for the Network, and 95% of its money comes from outside Minnesota. Tides gave IEN $670,000 to oppose pipelines.

Indeed, $25 billion in left-wing foundation investment portfolios support the anti-Sandpiper effort. Vastly more backing makes the $13-billion-per-year U.S. environmentalist movement a power to be reckoned with, Arnold and I document in our book, Cracking Big Green.

These tax-exempt foundations do not simply give money to pressure groups. They serve as puppeteers, telling protesters what campaigns to conduct, what tactics to use. Meanwhile, donors enjoy deductions for “charitable giving” to “education, conservation and other social change” programs.

Tides Foundation combined cash flows exceed $200 million annually, Canadian investigative journalist Cory Morningstar reported (here and here). Like Arnold, she and fellow Canadian sleuth Vivian Krause have delved deeply into troubling arrangements among Big Green, Big Government and Big Finance.

Morningstar calls the San Francisco-based Tides operation “a priceless, magical, money funneling machine of epic proportions.” It enables über-rich donors to distribute funds to specific organizations and campaigns of their choice, without disclosing their identities.

Even more interesting, among Tides’ biggest donors is Obama friend and advisor Warren Buffett. Beginning in 2004, Buffett funneled $30.5 million through his family’s NoVo Foundation to Tides. The cash ultimately went to selected pressure groups that led campaigns against Keystone, Sandpiper and other projects, Morningstar and Arnold found.

By donating the market value of greatly appreciated Berkshire Hathaway shares to NoVo, the Omaha billionaire avoided income taxes on his gains. Even more important, while public, media and political attention was riveted on Keystone, Berkshire Hathaway quietly bought the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad and Union Tank Car manufacturing company – with no notice, dissent or interference, Morningstar observed.

When Keystone XL et al. were blocked, more oil was shipped by rail – much of it via Buffett companies. In fact, oil-by-rail skyrocketed from 9,500 carloads in 2009 to 450,000 carloads in 2014. Mr. Buffett’s “investment” in anti-pipeline activism garnered billions in rail revenues.

The anti-pipeline campaigns blocked thousands of jobs and increased risks of tank car derailments, like the Lac Megantic, Quebec spill that destroyed much of the town and incinerated 47 people.

That may help explain why Mr. Buffett recently criticized President Obama’s veto of Keystone XL legislation. He now says the pipeline would be good for both Canada and the United States, and it is a mistake to jeopardize trade relationships with our northern neighbor.

But the campaigns rage on. Mr. Buffett helped unleash a beast he cannot control. The campaigns are not grassroots, or even Astroturf. Their “green” tint is the color of unfathomable behind-the-scenes wealth.

The clandestine Buffett-Berkshire-NoVo-Putin-Tides-activist-railroad arrangement reflects “a devious strategy on the part of both benefactor and recipient,” Morningstar concludes. “At minimum, it demonstrates an almost criminal conflict of interest.” Legislative investigations are needed, especially since the Justice Department is hardly likely to look into what its key allies are doing.

Meanwhile, pro-Sandpiper students from the Collegians For A Constructive Tomorrow presented these inconvenient financial truths to pipeline protesters at a recent University of Minnesota rally. “Buffet’s Puppets,” the CFACT students called the protesters.

How did the Buffett-Tides-Putin allies react, when they learned they are being used by billionaires? They dug in their ideological heels and shouted insults.

One red-faced protester walked away. Others intensified their chants or shouted racially tinged epithets at the multi-ethnic CFACT students. None wanted to discuss funding issues, America’s need for oil and jobs, or how best to transport fuels safely.

This is what passes for “environmental studies,” “robust debate,” “higher education” and compassion for blue-collar families on campuses and picket lines today. No wonder “environmentalism” and “liberalism” have become such pathetic political philosophies.

____________

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and coauthor of Cracking Big Green: Saving the world from the Save-the-Earth money machine.