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For Some, Driving Out Producers Is a Feature, Not a Bug

A father-and-son op-ed in the Wall Street Journal notes that California’s cap-and-trade energy scheme (like Rhode Island’s) misses the reality that companies can simply leave and, moreover, have incentive to do so:

Yet the law’s designers still have not confronted the central conundrum of trying to impose a state or regional climate policy: As firms compete for a limited supply of carbon permits, they are put at a disadvantage to out-of-state rivals. Production flees the state, taking jobs and tax revenues with it. Emissions “leak” outside California’s cap to other jurisdictions.

Of course, as we can readily observe in Rhode Island, this works out just fine for people who have jobs (often because they’re politically connected) and the wealth to tolerate higher energy prices.  They’re happy to pay more for energy… for everything… if they get to feel good about “being green” and never coming across any energy-production plants that don’t give them a thrill of self virtue, like wind turbines might.  Those to whom that doesn’t apply, however, find that they have incentive to leave the state, as well.

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Spinning Evidence of Climate Change Alarmism

A curious thing happens by the end of Harry Cockburn’s Independent article about scientists’ admission that they overshot the mark with their warnings of global warming a decade ago.  We start with this acknowledgment that those of us who were sneered at as “deniers” were actually right to be skeptical:

The study, published this week in the journal Nature Geoscience, does not play down the threat which climate change has to the environment, and maintains that major reductions in emissions must be attained.

But the findings indicate the danger may not be as acute as was previously thought.

But we end with the new spin, from University College London Professor Michael Grubb, who suggests that keeping the global increase in temperature to 1.5° Celsius “is simply incompatible with democracy.”

New calculations suggest that humanity can emit more than three times the amount of carbon than scientists had previously prescribed (as a pretense for imposing economy-changing regulations on the planet), which is great news, according to Grubb, because:

“That’s about 20 years of emissions before temperatures are likely to cross 1.5C,” Professor Allen said.

“It’s the difference between being not doable and being just doable.”

Catch the trick?  Under the previous assessments, it would already be too late to do anything about catastrophic climate change, so we might as well keep our democracy (and prosperity, I might add) through to the bitter end.  If we acknowledge that the models have been alarmist, on the other hand, there’s a chance that we just might be able to save the world.  So, there’s still a reason to hand over our freedoms to an international bureaucracy of elites.

Whether the models might still be too alarmist, we cannot yet tell, but why risk it for the petty sake of our inalienable rights as individual human beings?

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A Century of Global Climate… Easier to Predict than a Hurricane’s Path?

I make a point of directing news and commentary from ideologically conflicting sources across my desk, and so it isn’t unusual for me to see a headline like, “Harvey should be a warning to Trump that climate change is a global threat,” immediately following one like, “The Trouble With Connecting Harvey to Climate Change.”

My own view on that contrast is much like Datechguy’s (via Instapundit):

Now as a person familiar with both mathematics and computer science, this [huge] variation [in predictions of the incoming hurricane’s likely path] is not odd, in fact it’s completely understandable. After all a computer model is based on the best possible guesses from the available data and hurricanes are “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” so there is nothing at all odd about there being a 850 mile variation as to where it will it.  As we get closer to Sunday and we have true data to input the variation in the models will correspondingly decrease.Now apply this to climate change models telling us we face disaster in 100 years.You aren’t dealing with a single “complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes” you are dealing with EVERY complex natural phenomena that involve multiple interacting processes that exists on the earth. Every single additional item you add increases the variation of the data models. Furthermore you are also dealing with variations in the sun, variations in the orbits of the earth, its moon and more.

Furthermore, as the post points out, those advocating alarmism on climate change have financial incentive to do so in a coordinated “consensus” kind of way, whereas the incentive for those predicting hurricanes that will play out over the following week is mainly to be as accurate as they can be.  The hurricane trackers aren’t asking us to hand over vast quantities of our resources, not to mention our rights, to them.  They’re just trying to do a job, and because they’ll have liability for their predictions in the near future, they’re much more controlled about their claims.

Observe, Americans, and respond to activists accordingly.

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Greenpeace Objects to Others’ Using Leftist Tactics

The news is interesting enough, as Christopher Matthews reports it in the Wall Street Journal, that Energy Transfer Partners, which is the Dakota Access Pipeline company, is suing Greenpeace under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO).  Greenpeace’s response, however, is nothing if not revealing:

Greenpeace USA General Counsel Tom Wetterer said in a statement that the suit was “not designed to seek justice, but to silence free speech through expensive, time-consuming litigation. This has now become a pattern of harassment by corporate bullies.”

Once could certainly dispute the characterization that Greenpeace is entirely, or even mostly, about “free speech,” but even if it were, the complaint is essentially that the company is stealing one of the Left’s signature moves.  How many projects have been delayed or canceled because environmentalist groups have sued to impose costs on those behind them?  How many people on the right have battled through the investigations and lawsuits that inspired the coining of the phrase “the process is the punishment”?

No doubt, we’re in dangerous territory if organizing against projects can be litigated as if it were a criminal enterprise, but this is the world that progressives have brought about, and the rules can’t only cut in one direction.

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While Politicians Demagogue Energy, They Ensure Higher Rates

Although it’s not entirely unique in this respect, energy policy is incredibly complex, which makes tracing the effects of policy very difficult.  But how could this, as reported by Ted Nesi on WPRI, not drive up the cost of energy and (therefore) everything else in the Northeast?

Rhode Island and the eight other states that are part of a decade-old compact to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions announced Wednesday they have reached an agreement for further cuts through 2030.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) said the governors have agreed to an emissions cap of 75.15 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2021 and a 30% cut from that level over the subsequent decade. If successful, by 2030 the initiative will have reduced carbon emissions in the Northeast by more than 65% since it began in 2009, officials said.

Our governments (which one might reasonably hesitate to characterize as “representative”) continue to set policies that close down nearby energy production and hinder the importation of energy from elsewhere.  Then they turn around and blame greedy private corporations when they have to raise prices.

Of course, the politicians are aided in this endeavor by activists.  This is from another WPRI article, by Ian Opaluch and Shiina LoSciuto:

“They want to build a biomass plant [in Somerset],” Connie Brodeur of Coalition for Clean Air South Coast said. “Bio sounds very green, but it’s not.”

“We’d like to see Somerset go into a different direction, away from burning things,” she added.

Here’s a thought:  If that’s what you’d like to see, then get some money together and start a business.  Compete for a share of the energy market, rather than interposing yourself between people trying to supply energy and the people who rely on it.

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When the “Affordable” Fashion Needs a Subsidy

Here’s a telling story, from Susan Cambell of WPRI:

Piette said the [electric] car was an affordable option because of rebates and tax credits. One of them he was banking on? A $2,500 rebate from Rhode Island’s DRIVE program. (DRIVE is short for Driving Rhode Island to Vehicle Electrification.)

“That $2,500 was going to help me put in a charging station at the house here,” Piette explained. “The car takes about 18 hours to charge on 110 [volts], but it takes four to five hours on the system I’d be putting in.”

Unfortunately, when Mr. Piette bought the car, he wasn’t aware that the funds for the subsidy had just dried up.  Now the car requires more than just an overnight-charge, and he apparently won’t spend his own money on what he was willing to force taxpayers to cover.

One wonders how pervasive this phenomenon will prove if ever our government finds it can’t continue to subsidize (by tax or by rate-payer mandate) everything from electric cars to home rooftop solar to offshore wind farms.  It may not seem like much in the grand scheme of the economy, but the $575,000 that went toward the program in which Piette missed his chance to participate would have gone to something else — something that the economy considered to be more important.

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Who Can Solve the Mysterious Energy Cost Increases?

Ian Opaluch, of WPRI, provides the latest forum for local politicians to go after National Grid for seeking a 53% increase in its energy rates.  Says Democrat Lieutenant Governor Daniel McKee: “National Grid’s proposed 53-percent standard offer rate increase is unacceptable. Another rate hike is a step in the wrong direction when it comes to making Rhode Island a better place to live, work and own a business.”  Republican Senator Elaine Morgan calls the request “unconscionable.”  

But there’s a mystery:

… Laws in Rhode Island prohibit National Grid from making a profit on the energy supply itself, and the company said the price hike is necessary to deal with rising energy costs.

In addition, the price increase would not affect delivery fees, so the average bill would go up by about 19% if the rate hike is approved, according to the Public Utilities Commission (PUC).

In short, National Grid won’t profit from this increase, but rather is just passing increased costs along.  What could be driving the request, then?

Rhode Islanders should wonder how any reporters could cover this issue without noting the culpability of state governments.  Even with fracking holding down the price of energy worldwide, New England politicians are happy to cave to activists on actions like shutting down the Brayton Point energy plant, delaying and maybe stopping a new energy facility in Burrillville, forcing us all pay for expensive renewable energy mandates, imposing additional taxes on fossil fuels, and on and on.

Morgan is right; it is unconscionable for Rhode Islanders to be saddled with skyrocketing energy costs when our country is becoming a world leader in energy production.  But the people taking the unconscionable actions are those who work in the same building as Morgan and McKee.  Every year, they take many steps in the wrong direction, across a variety of issues.

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A More-Scientific Approach to Dealing with Climate Change

The suspicious assumption of climate-change hysteria is that if the proclaimed science is accurate, then the policies of the hysterics obviously follow.  We should question whether an economic system that restricts rights and consolidates power would be the solution at a time when the world especially needs ingenuity and progress if we rightly avoid such a system when we aren’t in desperate need of innovation.  (The inference of alarmists’ attitude, of course, is that freedom and inalienable rights are luxuries with which we must dispense once they’ve proven their science.)

In an op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, David Henderson and John Cochrane of the Hoover Institution suggest a different attitude:

… spread over a century, the costs of moving and adapting are not as imposing as they seem. Rotterdam’s dikes are expensive, but not prohibitively so. Most buildings are rebuilt about every 50 years. If we simply stopped building in flood-prone areas and started building on higher ground, even the costs of moving cities would be bearable. Migration is costly. But much of the world’s population moved from farms to cities in the 20th century. Allowing people to move to better climates in the 21st will be equally possible. Such investments in climate adaptation are small compared with the investments we will regularly make in houses, businesses, infrastructure and education.

And economics is the central question—unlike with other environmental problems such as chemical pollution. Carbon dioxide hurts nobody’s health. It’s good for plants. Climate change need not endanger anyone. If it did—and you do hear such claims—then living in hot Arizona rather than cool Maine, or living with Louisiana’s frequent floods, would be considered a health catastrophe today.

Some methods of conning people involve a manufactured sense of urgency to whisk the victim past the opportunity for reflection.  Henderson and Cochrane have it right:  “Strategic waiting is a rational response to a slow-moving, uncertain peril with fast-changing technology.”

Especially in sluggard Rhode Island, if time really is of the essence, we should stop binding our people with ideologically derived restrictions and allow dynamism to get us to a surer economic footing.

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“Collusion” Among Newspapers, Researchers, and “the Resistance”

This is perhaps a minor thing, and it’s certainly a little outside of my usual scope, here, but being a language guy, I found it to encapsulate the bias that many of us see in the news media.  This is from text by the Washington Post’s Ashley Parker that appears as a brief sidebar in today’s Providence Journal.  The Projo gave it the online headline, “White House blames Obama for failing to stop Russia collusion“:

The White House blamed the Obama administration Sunday for failing to tackle possible Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election, sticking with a new strategy to fault President Donald Trump’s predecessor for an issue currently facing the president himself as part of a widening FBI probe.

Either Parker and the Projo’s online headline writer are attempting to deceive readers or they don’t know what “collusion” means.  They use the word to mean, broadly, Russian interference or meddling in the election, but it actually requires some sort of agreement, in this case between somebody in the Trump campaign and the Russian government.  Even with all of the illegal leaks newspapers have published in the last however-many months, we’ve seen no evidence of collusion, and yet journalists are using that mere allegation as the characterization of the whole “widening FBI probe.”

This sort of peep-hole into the thinking and decisions of people who claim to be objective investigators gives an example of why so many of us are suspicious of all such claims.  Consider the legislation that looks likely to become law this year to shield researchers in state institutions of higher education from public records requests.

Maybe there’s an argument to be made for the transparency exception on more procedural grounds — if serious scientists are avoiding employment in state institutions because having to divulge “preliminary drafts, notes and working papers” hobbles them in professional competition with other researchers, but that’s not how it’s being presented.  It’s being presented as a mechanism for hiding the work on the hotly contested issue of climate change on behalf of a governing elite that has given the people no justification for trust.

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Competing to Impose Expensive Energy on Residents

The whole notion of states’ competing to lead the nation in offshore wind, as reported in an AP article by Providence Journal alum Philip Marcelo, is strange.  This isn’t an attempt to woo companies to the state, whether through a mere personal touch or millions in taxpayer subsidies; it’s explicitly an effort to force electrical customers (i.e., everybody) to fund the industry:

A state law passed last year to boost Massachusetts’ use of renewable energy outlines the process for developing offshore wind power.

The law calls for generating at least 1,600 megawatts of power, roughly enough electricity to power 750,000 homes annually, from offshore wind by 2027.

To accomplish this, the utilities are required to secure long-term contracts with wind farm developers in at least two phases: a bid request this June and another in 2019.

Treating this as some sort of positive competition reveals a certain tint of ideological glasses.

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We Won’t Always Have Paris, Thank Goodness

In light of Dan Yorke’s surprising incredulity that Mike Stenhouse would be satisfied with President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, I was happy to come across Roger Kimball’s shared glee over the withdrawal and the ensuing lunacy from the Left:

Hysteria on the Left was universal. But as many cooler-headed commentators observed, one of the really amusing things is that the Paris Accord means exactly nothing. Since it requires nothing of its signatories, it will yield nothing from them. As an editorial in The Wall Street Journal pointed out, “amid the outrage, the aggrieved still haven’t gotten around to resolving the central Paris contradiction, which is that it promises to be Earth-saving but fails on its own terms. It is a pledge of phony progress.”

Kimball offers two things that Paris does do, though.  First is offering people an opportunity for cheap-to-them virtue signaling.

The second reason for the hysteria follows from the one serious effect of the climate accord. It has nothing to do with saving the environment. Every candid observer understands that the real end of the accord is not helping “the environment” but handicapping the developed countries. At its core, the accord is intended as a mechanism to redistribute wealth by hampering countries like the United States from exploiting its energy resources and growing its economy. Hamstring the United States, but let countries like China and India—industrial strength polluters, both—do whatever they want.

Like many international agreements, the unspoken subtext of the Paris Climate Accord is “hamper America. Grab as much of its wealth as you can. Say it’s in the name of ‘fairness.’”

The irony is that the Left is throwing around terms like “traitorous” and “betrayal,” which makes me think of Indiana Jones.  Kimball quotes left-wing billionaire political activist Tom Steyer on the first term; I’ve noted our own Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s using the second, conspicuously just a few days after the mega-donor’s statement.  And yet, they’re using those words to describe an action that, from the perspective of many conservatives, puts working Americans’ interests first.

That’s a strange sort of betrayal, if your loyalty is to Americans.

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The Other Side in Battling Climates

RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse appeared on Dan Yorke State of Mind this week to talk about the Center’s Family Prosperity Index (FPI) release, but inasmuch as he followed a segment criticizing President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change accords, he tied the two together thus:

The one thing that’s missing from all [your previous guests’] discussions you heard was how this impacts real people and real families.  There’s this mythical — I don’t think the professor can prove that there’s “catastrophic” climate change coming — there’s this mythical problem we’ve created of this catastrophe.  Maybe the temperatures are rising, but is it a catastrophe?

What we do know is that it drives all these crazy energy policies, like the carbon tax, like energy mandates, that are driving up energy rates on families and businesses, that are driving people out of this state.  Do you know that in those 12-year periods, we’ve lost the equivalent of 11 cities and towns worth of people to net migration loss.

The costs of energy and other taxes and regulations are so high on businesses and families that they’re fleeing our state.  Eighty thousand people.  That’s 11 of our smaller cities and towns gone.

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The New England-Based Energy Supply Shrinks

From an aesthetic and health point of view, Michael Holtzman’s Fall River Herald report certainly doesn’t bother me:

“The decision is irreversible,” a spokesman for Brayton Point Power Station, along 300 acres fronting Mount Hope Bay, told The Herald News in an hour-long phone interview.

It’s “the permanent retirement” of coal-powered Brayton Point, not “mothballing” the 1,488-megawatt plant, said David Onufer, external communications and media relations manager for Houston-based Dynegy Inc.

Still, we need energy.  Right now, thanks largely to fracking, we’re enjoying a period of relatively cheap energy, but that could change.  If it does, the effect will be analogous to the increase of interest rates after a household has put itself into a great deal of debt during a time of cheap credit.

As a society, we’ve let environmental concerns rise up on the scale relative to the production of energy and all of the uses to which we put it.  Some crisis may or may not shock us to the realization that we went too far, but clearing the landscape of existing energy sources while blocking anything that isn’t a fashionable, subsidized, “green” alternative seems reckless on its face.

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Regulating for Profit

Such stories as this, in the Providence Journal, should read less like celebrations of newfound revenue and more like lamentations of tyranny:

Volkswagen is paying more than $157 million to 10 states to settle environmental lawsuits over the company’s diesel emissions-cheating scandal. …

Volkswagen has admitted to programming its diesel engines to activate pollution controls during government treadmill tests and turning them off for roadway driving.

So some states imposed harsh restrictions on cars, and one company cheated.  (More specifically, one company has been caught cheating.)  As a results those states are getting windfall slush money to splash around.

What huge incentive for states to over-regulate everything!  Environmental policy is especially ripe for this sort of abuse, and one can see why governments want so badly for there to be a looming environmental catastrophe to justify its confiscation of money and assault on rights.

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