Tuesday, January 14, 2020

GWPF Newsletter: The World’s Next Energy Bonanza

Sir Roger Scruton: The Politics Of Climate Change, The Inquisition & BBC Censorship

In this newsletter:

1) The World’s Next Energy Bonanza
Foreign Policy, 9 January 2020 
2) Terence Corcoran: Mark Carney’s War Against The Fossil Fuel Industry Is Just The Beginning
Financial Post, 9 January 2020

3) John Constable: The Burden Of Proof Rests On Mark Carney, And He Hasn't Made His Case Against Fossil Fuels
Financial Post, 10 January 2020
4) Roger Scruton: The Politics Of Climate Change, The Inquisition & BBC Censorship
Forbes 4 April 2014
5) Climate Experts Back Up Trump Claim On California Wildfires
Washington Examiner, 11 January 2020
6) Geoff Walker: I Cheered When the Bushfire Came
Quadrant, 12 January 2020
7) And Finally: Unaffordable Recycling, Or The Death Of Another Green Pipe Dream
The Boston Globe 11 January 2020

Full details:

1) The World’s Next Energy Bonanza
Foreign Policy, 9 January 2020

The fracking of shale gas may have substantially shifted the global energy landscape, but another hydrocarbon resource—oceanic methane hydrates—has the possibility to do even more to change the picture.

Formed only under the unusual combination of low temperatures and high pressure under the ocean subsurface and in permafrost regions at high latitudes, the potential of these hydrates is truly extraordinary. Depending on economics and technology, they could potentially supply the world with more than 1 million exajoules of energy, equivalent to thousands of years of current global energy demand. And they are nearing commercial production, with some ventures looking to be only half a decade away. That’s why it is time now to think about how to govern their use.

Ocean hydrates consist of methane—essentially natural gas—trapped in icelike cages called clathrates on the ocean floor. Originally discovered in the mid-20th century, the hydrates have long been a focus of national energy research programs. Recently, key demonstration projects have shown that producing natural gas for energy use from hydrates is technically feasible. And Canada, China, Japan, and the United States have all begun testing extraction processes. The race is on.

Although the economics of hydrate production remain highly uncertain, the coming boom raises at least two major governance challenges. First, hydrates are present off the coasts of many countries worldwide. While this makes them attractive from an energy security perspective, it also raises international cooperation issues. Second, they have significant potential environmental impacts, both in terms of production-related concerns (an uncontrolled leak could be catastrophic) and in terms of greenhouse gas emissions from their use (likewise with enormous possible consequences).

The widespread nature of methane hydrates could upend the global energy trade. Existing oil and natural gas deposits are geographically limited to certain regions, leading to the trade patterns and associated geopolitics—conflicts in the Middle East, pipeline disputes in Eurasia, and so on—we see today.

But the prevalence of hydrates offshore of many countries could enable large and emerging energy importers, including China, Japan, and South Korea, to reduce their dependence on others. For other coastal nations, hydrates could represent a first major indigenous energy resource, which is both a development and export opportunity—and the start of a possible resource curse. […]

Just as the shale revolution has transformed the energy economic and security situation of the United States, widespread use of methane hydrates could upend global energy markets. Countries that are traditionally energy importers or have poor energy resources could have a scalable and abundant energy source for the first time. Traditionally, coal has been used, as it is one of the most common national energy resources—hydrates could rival its ubiquity, displacing the fuel where it is used now and preventing its adoption elsewhere. This source still, of course, comes with environmental perils—but it also offers the promise of global energy abundance.

Full post

2) Terence Corcoran: Mark Carney’s War Against The Fossil Fuel Industry Is Just The Beginning
Financial Post, 9 January 2020

The corporatist left is scheming to control the flow of money and cut off funding to business activities that may be contributing to the climate emergency

Mark Carney is leaving his post as head of the Bank of England to take up a new role as the United Nations’ “special envoy on climate action and finance.” Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

It is hard to imagine the global policy environment around climate change can get any wonkier through 2020 than it has been through 2019. The Oxford Dictionary declared the two-word slogan “climate emergency” to be the 2019 Word of the Year, although that was before the crash-and-burnout of the 25th United Nations’ intergovernmental Conference of the Parties (COP25) in Madrid. It’s a climate emergency, but let’s put the whole thing off until COP26 next November in Glasgow.

Propelled by Greta Thunberg, who attempts to live without consuming energy, the 2019 extremist policy options range from $250-a-tonne carbon levies to new climate taxes on ice cream, restaurant dining, meat and alcohol. “Might taxing ice cream help reduce greenhouse gas emissions?,” said a Globe and Mail column headline this week. The food tax idea is a bit of a retreat from an earlier Globe opinion piece that described climate change as a war that required such wartime measures as national rationing.

The idea of using rationing — depriving consumers of their right to consume via taxes or other war measures — has been around for a couple of decades in radical enclaves frequented by such eco-activists as Britain’s George Monbiot and Canada’s Naomi Klein. At Canada’s Socialist Project, a total wartime takeover of the economy to avoid global warming is seen as essential.

As 2020 wears on, leading up to COP26 in Glasgow, we can expect to hear more of these and other wonky plans to seize control of economic activity in the name of fighting climate change — although not all ideas will take direct aim at consumers feeding on meat and ice cream at the bottom of the economic production chain.

At the top of the economic system, the corporatist left is scheming to control the flow of money and cut off funding to business activities that may be contributing to the climate emergency.

These schemes go by many names and cover many aspects of corporate finance beyond climate: ethical investing, sustainable financing, green financing, social financing, impact investing, ESG investment, responsible investing. At their extreme, these movements aim to impose a form of rationing on investment.

Cutting off the flow of money to fossil fuel as a “socially undesirable” activity is certainly the prime objective of Mark Carney, who is about to become the world’s leading public proponent of the idea that global financial markets need to be controlled and manipulated. The former Bank of Canada governor leaves his post as head of the Bank of England to take up a new role as the United Nations’ “special envoy on climate action and finance.”

The UN Secretary General’s announcement last month summarized Carney’s new mission: “He will focus on ambitious implementation of climate action, with special attention to significantly shifting public and private finance markets and mobilizing private finance to the levels needed to achieve the 1.5°C goal of the Paris Agreement. This will include building the frameworks for financial reporting, risk management and returns in order to bring the impacts of climate change to the mainstream of private financial decision-making and to support the transition to a net zero carbon economy.”

In short, Carney will assume the role of chief advocate for a centrally planned global financial system whose primary aim is to reduce carbon emissions to zero. In a year-end interview with the BBC (as part of a program guest-edited by Thunberg), Carney outlined the tricky part. The market cannot do the job since it is based on “selective information, spin, misdirection.”

Instead, he said, there needs to be a “shared understanding about what’s necessary. It is reasonable for there to be debates at the margin about where does the role of the state stop — and what’s the role of markets.”

The idea that the market is dumb compared with non-market state-backed actors should be more than a discussion “at the margin.” By shuffling the topic to the sidelines, Carney is joining the UN, radical activists such as Thunberg’s Extinction Rebellion and the expanding cabals of corporate executives who are willing to abandon whatever market principles they hold or pretend to hold in the name of protecting the planet from disaster.

At the UN, Carney is taking over from Michael Bloomberg, the media mogul who is now running for the leadership of the Democratic Party. Bloomberg is among many corporate executives and financial billionaires — from BlackRock’s Larry Fink to Tom Steyer and members of the U.S. Business Roundtable — who have decided to overthrow the role of markets in favour of greater non-market controls and authoritarian policy manipulation.

More than markets are being manipulated. A recent article by the University of Colorado’s Roger Pielke Jr. — “How Billionaires Tom Steyer and Michael Bloomberg Corrupted Climate Science” — describes how they helped fund and promote the most extreme and improbable climate scenarios they are now hyping as part of their platforms.

Full post

3) John Constable: The Burden Of Proof Rests On Mark Carney, And He Hasn't Made His Case Against Fossil Fuels
Financial Post, 10 January 2020

If any investments are likely to be stranded, it is those such as wind and solar, not fossil fuels

Mark Carney is using his final days as governor of the Bank of England to intimidate institutional financial managers by suggesting that investments in conventional energy are high-risk adventures requiring special justification.

However, consideration of the state of the global energy supply over the past 30 years suggests that if anyone has some explaining to do it is Carney himself. Climate policy failure followed by distressed correction seems more probable than other outcomes, and if any investments are likely to be stranded, it is those such as wind and solar that are in effect wagers on the success of current carbon-reduction strategies.

Carney, who becomes the UN’s special envoy on climate action and finance later this year, seems intent on causing an investment market panic and a consequent stampede out of conventional energy and into renewables. Asked point-blank in a recent interview whether he supported “divestment” from fossil fuels he tactfully evaded the question but nevertheless asserted that coal, oil and gas were insecure assets. He said any institutional decision-maker preferring to bet on oil, for example, is engaged in a high-risk adventure and must therefore offer special justification for their position.

This pre-emptive strike means that Carney’s own wager on certain low-carbon technologies escapes examination. That is the wrong way around. Fossil fuels are known quantities; their physical and thermodynamic properties are manifestly favourable. They also as a matter of historical record delivered human wishes for centuries, and still continue to do so at low cost in the present.

What we know about modern renewables, on the other hand, is, to say the least, much less certain. The burden of proof, then, must be on those who believe, as Carney apparently does, not only that low-carbon policies will persist for decades to come but also that modern renewables are now competitive and pose a real threat to conventional sources of energy.

We can gain some insight into the likely strength of his position by looking at the growth in global total primary energy supply since 1990.

According to the International Energy Agency, nearly all the growth in global energy consumption over the period is accounted for by growth in fossil fuels. Renewable energy in total, including traditional biomass in the developing world, made up 13 per cent of total primary energy in 1990 and 14 per cent in 2017. Renewables have grown by 72 per cent over that period, from a low base, but fossil fuels have grown by 59 per cent from a substantial base, and consequently they continue to dominate world energy.

Perhaps most striking of all, the proportion of low-carbon energy, that is nuclear and renewables together, stands today at 19 per cent of global TPE just as it did in 1990, before intense coercive policies supporting renewables were introduced.

Given the policy pressures applied to the world’s economies since the year 2000 that is an extraordinary failure.

On what grounds, therefore, does Carney believe that institutional investors in fossil fuels “have to explain the judgment, justify that to the people whose money it ultimately is?” The IEA data clearly suggests that fossil fuel investments require no justification as investments.

On the contrary, the questions should be directed at Carney. On what grounds does a person of his prominence take to the headlines to prophesy that fossil investments are at risk?

The answer appears to be that Carney is less concerned with empirical data than with the virtual reality of Policy World, a group hallucination in which a “fact” can be conjured out of the air, first by nominating a target and then by reinforcing that target with legislation, or to use the term widely employed by journalists, by “enshrining” it in law.

Thus, the ambitions of policy become pseudo-concrete legal realities that can be used to intimidate the public. What we want to happen becomes what is going to happen.

John Constable is energy editor with the Global Warming Policy Forum in London, from which this commentary has been extracted.

4) Roger Scruton: The Politics Of Climate Change, The Inquisition & BBC Censorship
Forbes 4 April 2014

Our friend Sir Roger Scruton (1944-2020) has died at the age of 75. Nine months ago, weeks before he was diagnosed with cancer, he had accepted our invitation to deliver the Annual GWPF Lecture on the threat to free speech. He will be greatly missed. In his memory, we have republished his 2014 essay on climate change & censorship.

RIP Sir Roger Scruton, a man of immense courage, intellect and wisdom.

In a report published last week in London, Andrew Miller, the Labour Member of Parliament who chairs the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee, urged the BBC and other media to stop giving  time and space  to ‘climate change deniers’, and to accompany any appearance of them with a health warning denouncing their views. What the deniers are peddling, Miller argues, is not science but politics, and the public should be informed that their views are rejected by 97% of scientists. Just where the figure of 97% came from Miller does not say; but he is adamant that all government ministers should acquaint themselves with the science of climate change, and be prepared to speak with one voice, accepting collective responsibility for the official opinion, which will be his opinion and the opinion of his committee.

The invocation of collective responsibility is revealing. For this implies that the orthodoxy Miller adheres to is, after all, not simply a matter of science, but a ‘party line’ that must be supported for the sake of policy. If it is the science that concerns us, then dissenting voices must surely be part of the data, and not dismissed out of hand on the authority of the ‘97%’. No doubt, at the time when Galileo stood before the Inquisition, 97% of scientists were prepared to assert that the sun goes round the earth. Luckily for Galileo, his humiliations were not crowned by an appearance on the BBC with a health warning strung round his neck.

What most struck me in Andrew Miller’s words, quoted in The Times was his insistence that all ministers should acquaint themselves with the climate change science. As someone who, in a modest way, has tried to do this, all I can say is that the attempt will not leave much time for the business of government. In the course of writing Green Philosophy: How to Think Seriously about the Planet (Oxford University Press, 2011) I studied the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reports and the literature that has grown around them, much of it supportive, much of it also critical. I concluded that ‘climate change science’ is not one thing, but the amalgamation of many disciplines and that its predictions, such as they are, depend at every point on disputed ‘models’ rather than established theories.

The greenhouse effect has been known for over a century and a half, and implies that, other things being equal, the accelerating production of carbon dioxide will cause the earth to warm. But will other things be equal? That is where the disagreements begin. There is geological and fossil evidence of major and rapid fluctuations in temperature, prior to the relatively stable Holocene period in which we are living, and the causes remain uncertain. Greenhouse gas emissions are only one factor in altering the balance of incoming and outgoing radiation on which the earth’s temperature depends. And among other relevant factors there are some for which the science is incomplete or in its infancy – such as the fluctuations in solar energy, which probably had much to do with those brief but devastating ice ages in the recorded history of Europe.

In these circumstances, for a politician to insist on ‘collective responsibility’ for a particular view of our planet’s future, and to describe that orthodoxy as ‘science’, is an affront to human intelligence. It is also a reminder of those previous attempts to mask ideological censorship as scientific proof, inspired by the ‘scientific socialism’ of Marx.

The Inquisitors who threatened Galileo had a point. After all, they were guardians of a volatile community of religious believers, whose happiness depended on their faith. They could not treat the prevailing orthodoxy lightly when (as they thought) the moral order depended on it, and all would-be challenges had to be scrutinized not only for their scientific basis but also for their social impact. I don’t think Mr Miller is in the same position. For although there is an undeniable religious streak to environmental activism, it is not shared by the majority of people, most of whom live by other orthodoxies than those that Miller wishes to protect from the heretics.

When it comes to the big issues of the day it is tempting to try to silence those who disagree with you and who complicate a question that you wanted to see as obvious and simple. And the easiest way to silence someone is to portray him as some kind of lunatic or extremist, a person outside the consensus of ‘reasonable’ opinion, and beyond the pale of rational argument. But the true extremist is the one who argues in that way, and who cannot entertain an opinion without wanting to protect it at all costs from those who disagree with it.

5) Climate Experts Back Up Trump Claim On California Wildfires
Washington Examiner, 11 January 2020

President Trump might be right about land management and California wildfires, according to climate experts.

Scott Stephens, a University of California, Berkeley professor of fire science, said 75% of the damage from the wildfires was because of "the way we manage lands and develop our landscape." The comments made earlier this week echo what Trump said over a year ago.

"There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor," the president said. "Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!"

"Fire was almost as important as rain to ecosystems," Stephens added. Jennifer Montgomery, a director of the California Forest Management Task Force, concurred with the point.

"Wildfire is not really wildfire — it’s not pointy green trees," she said. "You get these so-called wildfires at intersection of development."

In 2018, California saw over 225,000 acres of land burned along with 7,000 structures destroyed when Trump blamed land management. In 2019, hundreds of thousands of people had to evacuate their homes because of the wildfires.

Full story

6) Geoff Walker: I Cheered When the Bushfire Came
Quadrant, 12 January 2020

With the eastern seaboard currently ravaged by bushfires, what sort of an idiot would actually cheer when one worked its way down the peninsular where he lived? I did, and there were a lot of others who did the same.

To understand why, we must go back over more than a year when a winter bushfire got going to the west of the town. It did for us what the volunteer firies couldn’t: it got rid of the ground fuel with minimal canopy scorch. No lives or property were lost. Had this ‘good’ bushfire not happened, the peninsular would have been obliterated this summer when a firestorm with winds gusting to 100kph came our way.

No fire fuel meant that it burned and went out. Simple as that. Today, as thousands of Australians confront the bushfire threat, we on the Tilligerry peninsular are safe. With only one year of fuel build-up we have little to worry about.

When bushfire management passed from local control to government bureaucracies, the political influence of the green movement virtually stopped the off-season burnoffs. This traditional practice dated back to the black man and his firestick management of the landscape. The European settlers adopted it, as did farmers and local grassroots volunteer firefighters.
In researching my bushfire book White Overall Days, I found that our local brigade averaged some 15 burnoffs per year in the decade of the 1970s; nine in the ’80s, a mere two or three in the ’90s and similar numbers ever since.

The reason for this dramatic fall-off in burnoffs was the complex web of rules and procedures dumped on the local captains to comply with before they could do anything. They simply gave up. It was all too hard.

The bushfire that saved Lemon Tree Passage from a genuine inferno. (Author’s photo)

It was NSW Premier Bob Carr who proclaimed vast areas of the state of NSW as national parks. The problem was that they were not fire-managed and have now been devastated by uncontrollable firestorms. Lives and property have been lost as they roared out of the forests into adjoining farmland and rural communities.

Several things have emerged from the current crisis. Green zealots are blaming coal mining and climate change for the fires. They refuse to concede that the green-leaning management policies caused the fires in the first place by ensuring catastrophic fuel build-up. On the other hand, the vast number of ordinary, sensible people now realize that cool burning delivers a far better environmental outcome than raging wildfires. From what I hear, even some of the self-serving bureaucrats are starting to talk mitigation rather than reactive suppression.

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7) And Finally: Recycling -- The Slow Death Of Another Green Pipe Dream
The Boston Globe 11 January 2020

WESTFIELD — On a recent afternoon here, with urgency in the air, local officials huddled to consider what until recently was unthinkable. Should they abandon their popular curbside recycling program? Or spend millions to build a plant to process plastic and paper on their own?

With the recycling market across the country mired in crisis, a growing number of cities and towns are facing a painful reckoning: whether they can still afford to collect bottles, cans, plastics, and paper, which have so plummeted in value that in some cases they have become effectively worthless.

“We’re looking at going from paying nothing to paying $500,000 a year,” said Dave Billips, the director of public works in Westfield, referring to the city’s recycling costs. “That’s going to have a major impact.”

It’s a reckoning hitting home across Massachusetts. Boston, for example, is now paying nearly $5 million to have recycling collections carted away, up from just $200,000 in 2017. City officials said they do not plan to end the program.

The crisis began two years ago when China announced it would no longer accept large amounts of paper and plastic from the United States, which for years had exported huge collections of material there and elsewhere in Asia, because much was contaminated and unusable.

That decision has sent tremors through the recycling industry, leading to steep declines in the value of paper, plastic, and other recyclables. Waste Management, the nation’s largest recycling company, used to earn as much as $80 a ton for paper it collected; today, it gets nothing, officials said. The value of cardboard has plunged 70 percent, and it now costs more to recycle glass than the company can make selling it.

“There are once-in-100-year floods; this has been the equivalent to a once-in-500-year flood,” said Steve Changaris, northeast region vice president of the National Waste and Recycling Association, a trade group for waste companies. “We saw a loss of 40 percent of the market that consumed these materials.”

That collapse has reverberated widely. Until this year, Westfield and most other communities in Western Massachusetts paid nothing for recycling. Some even earned revenue from the region’s largest recycling plant, which turned their discarded paper and bottles into profits.

But the equation has changed, and by the end of January 74 communities across Western Massachusetts must decide whether to sign a new and much more expensive contract with a state-owned recycling facility in Springfield, whose contractor has said it was forced to raise its prices drastically.

“With current commodity prices at historic lows, the sale of those commodities does not cover the cost of processing,” said Garrett Trierweiler, a spokesman for Waste Management, which operates the Springfield plant for the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection. “As a result, new contracts for processing recyclables are typically written to cover the cost.”

As China has retreated from the international recycling business, other markets had taken some of America’s refuse. But now some of those countries have introduced policies similar to China’s to limit contaminated materials, drastically reducing US exports. Recyclables are often considered contaminated when they aren’t properly cleaned.

For example, Indonesia announced last year it would accept only minimal contamination in mixed paper — everything from newspaper to corrugated cardboard — sparking a drop in US waste exports to that nation by 95 percent, according to the National Waste and Recycling Association.

Just this month, India announced a similarly strict policy, halting all imports of mixed paper. After China changed its policy, India had become the dominant importer of mixed paper, taking in 40 percent of North American exports.

In Massachusetts, Michael Camara, chief executive of ABC Disposal Service, said the crisis shows no signs of relenting. The company’s recycling plant in Rochester, facing a 41 percent drop in prices, now has hundreds of bales of material waiting to be shipped to a processor, and the amount grows by the day.

“It’s a horrific situation, with high costs and limited demand,” he said. “At this point, it’s unclear whether we’ll be able to stay in business. Something needs to change.”

State environmental officials, who last year spent $7 million to help municipalities maintain and promote recycling programs, said they have sought to offset the financial impact on communities in Western Massachusetts by shortening the length of their contracts and opening up the plant in Springfield to 27 other towns in the region.

But little else can be done, they said.

Municipalities with programs that do not separate their recyclables, so-called single-stream collection, will have to pay on average about $150 a ton over a three-year contract to have their waste accepted at the plant; those where residents separate paper and plastic into different bins will have to pay nearly $100 a ton over a five-year contract.

“The new contract will be more expensive for communities due to a changed international market,” said Joe Ferson, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection. “These costs are in line with what many communities across the state, region, and country are paying.”

Ferson said the department hasn’t been informed that any communities are pulling out of the agreement, which would likely require Waste Management to raise costs even more for those that sign their contracts. But some communities — including the largest in the region — now say that they are indeed likely to pull out.

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The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at

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