Backtracking on fracking

Western Maryland is blessed with an enormous amount of cleaner burning natural gas and we need an all of the above approach to energy. I am concerned that there has been a knee-jerk reaction against affordable energy production in our state. Maryland is definitely behind the curve because this administration has decided to politicize the issue rather than take a balanced approach to ensuring we have access to clean and affordable energy sources to power our homes and businesses and grow our economy.

States throughout the country including our neighbors develop their natural gas resources safely and efficiently. Many of these states are realizing an economic boom through gas and oil exploration and are working in concert with groups like the Natural Resources Defense Council to harness these vast resources of domestic energy in an environmentally sensitive way.

Larry Hogan, in response to a WYPR-FM candidate survey, May 2014. (Emphasis mine.)

Three years later, western Maryland is still blessed with an enormous amount of cleaner-burning natural gas, but on Friday Governor Hogan decided it would be better to leave this valuable resource in the ground rather than create jobs and economic opportunities for a section of the state that lags behind the rest of Maryland when it comes to those two very things.

Perhaps we should have seen this coming, though: the temporary moratorium that was in place stemmed from a bill that Hogan allowed to become law without his signature rather than veto it back in 2015. The bill, which as originally introduced was laughably intended to “protect our health and communities,” was amended from a ban extending to 2023 to a prohibition intended to last until October of this year, when the Maryland Department of the Environment was to have regulations in place. But, as Governor Hogan noted in his press conference announcing the new fracking ban, Maryland envisioned the most stringent regulations in the nation – a roll of red tape that would have amounted to a de facto ban if enacted.

And to illustrate the political pressure Radical Green can put on wobbly members of the GOP, bear in mind that the original third reader vote on the 2015 House bill had 45 opposed, but that number whittled down to 33 once the Senate version passed and the House bill (as amended to match the Senate version) went to third reader. The wobblers who changed their votes were Delegates Anderton, Afzali, Beitzel, Carozza, Krebs, Malone, McComas, Miele, Shoemaker, and West. (This list is ten because two Delegates who voted “no” originally were absent the second time, but Afzali changed her vote after the fact to be truly gutless. Interestingly enough, Delegates Anderton, Carozza, Krebs, and Shoemaker all changed back three days later when the Senate third reader came to the House while Delegate Saab opted to join the dark side.) Conversely, the Senate only had two votes correctly in opposition all along, Senators Hough and Ready.

Now we can add Larry Hogan to the list that has wobbled and fallen – this despite a mountain of evidence that hydraulic fracturing, which has been ongoing for over six decades, is safe when done properly. Even the EPA, which put out a final report in the waning days of the Obama administration, noted they found scientific evidence that hydraulic fracturing activities can impact drinking water resources under some circumstances. Yet many of the circumstances they point out could occur at any chemical plant, and they note:

Data gaps and uncertainties limited EPA’s ability to fully assess the potential impacts on drinking water resources locally and nationally. Because of these data gaps and uncertainties, it was not possible to fully characterize the severity of impacts, nor was it possible to calculate or estimate the national frequency of impacts on drinking water resources from activities in the hydraulic fracturing water cycle.

So should I point out again that over 2 million wells have been hydraulically fractured over the last six decades without incident? It seems to me that past performance should be a very good predictor of future results, particularly as the technology advances. And if you read the report, you’ll note that the uncertainty of cause even extends to those limited, rare incidents blamed – many times falsely – on fracking and most publicized by Radical Green.

No one denies there is risk with hydraulic fracturing – just as there are documented issues with low-frequency noise and impacts on bat population with wind turbines and potential for environmental impact as more and more solar panels are spread over the landscape to significant effect – but the rewards from fracking, as measured by both local economic benefits and the lessening of reliance on foreign energy supplies, have been found to outweigh the risks in nearly every jurisdiction where fracking is possible, while the recalcitrant others (Maryland and New York) have believed the hype over the facts.

While Maryland is a small part of the Marcellus Shale formation that has produced the resurgent energy industry in a region that first benefitted over a century ago from an oil boom – there’s a reason we have motor oil from Pennzoil and Quaker State and it’s not because the brand names are cute – this is a time when the domestic oil and natural gas industry is in a holding pattern. Crude oil prices in the $40-50 a barrel range and a relatively constant balance of natural gas supply and demand means that Maryland missed the boat by about a half-decade in the current cycle, but an increased potential in natural gas exports – coupled with a multi-billion dollar investment in Maryland’s Cove Point facility for LNG exporting that’s slated to come online later this year - means our state would have been in good position to benefit in a few years’ time once natural gas exploration began and delivery infrastructure was put in place. (People tend to forget that part of the equation, too.) But politics, embodied in the baseless fear caused by a noisy environmental lobby, ruled the day Friday.

Allow me to let you in on a dose of common sense: there’s no way in hell Radical Green will give Larry Hogan any credit for what he did on fracking come election time. You can bet your bottom dollar that they will flock to whoever the Democrats end up anointing in their primary because their main goal isn’t a clean environment but to have statists in charge of government. Yes, the rank-and-file who might send a couple hundred dollars to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation every year may really care about the health of the bay, but when the people who benefit most from it are the ones who determine the annual “grade” for the cleanliness of the Bay one has to wonder how much of their thumb is placed on the scale. After all, if the Bay had a grade of A and was pristine H2O, what need would there be for a CBF?

The oil and gas industry doesn’t depend on a government subsidy – they just want a fair and predictable regulatory scheme. But a state which has no problem bending the energy trade by mandating a certain percentage of electricity comes from solar energy and demanding ratepayers subsidize an offshore wind farm seems to have an issue with the source that’s been proven reliable over time and is known as a job creator.

As a ratepayer and voter, I was willing to accept the slight environmental risk of fracking in return for a more prosperous state overall as well as more inexpensive and reliable energy. (And yes, I know that the area in question isn’t one where I live. But if I ever secure a piece of land nearby and someone wants to pay me for the right to use my land to explore for energy resources, I’m glad to oblige. No one has yet assessed the Delmarva Basins on which many of us live for their energy potential.)

In 2014, Allegany and Garrett counties provided almost 1/4 of Larry Hogan’s margin of victory as he carried the duo by 16,466 votes in an election he won by 65,510 votes. Add in adjacent Washington County and that number becomes 35,274 votes, or over half his victory margin. At the risk of losing thousands of votes in that region, Larry Hogan has acquiesced to an environmental lobby that’s not going to give him any credit, any dollars, or any votes for the decision he’s made.

I suppose Larry Hogan thinks he’s got an all-of-the-above electoral strategy, too. But at a time he could have changed Maryland for the better, he instead foolishly chose to surrender to the naysayers.

A good week for American energy (and American jobs)

I was sitting on some stuff from my old friends at API for awhile, but I decided it was getting a little too stale and broomed it. Luckily for both of us, events and more concise blogging make for a far better analysis, to wit from the Energy Tomorrow blog and Mark Green:

President Trump’s executive orders clearing the way to restart the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines are welcome indeed. Both projects represent great opportunity for U.S. jobs, consumer benefits, economic growth and strengthened energy security.

At the same time, the significance of the White House’s action goes beyond a pair of important energy projects. It’s a signal that long-needed energy infrastructure will once again be able to advance in this country – under regular-order reviews and approval processes – providing broad benefits to millions of Americans. That’s huge.

Both projects had become political footballs, with political agendas trumping science, factual analysis and careful, lawful governmental review.

Keystone XL was reviewed five times by the U.S. State Department, which said the pipeline and the Canadian oil sands it would deliver to U.S. refiners would not significantly impact the environment. It enjoyed strong, bipartisan support from the American public, which saw the privately financed project as a job creator and economy grower. The builders of Dakota Access followed regular permitting and approval processes – only to see politics prevail over the rule of law – with the 1,172-mile pipeline just 1,100 feet from completion.

President Trump’s executive orders allow both projects to get on track again. API President and CEO Jack Gerard:

“We are pleased to see the new direction being taken by this administration to recognize the importance of our nation’s energy infrastructure by restoring the rule of law in the permitting process that’s critical to pipelines and other infrastructure projects. Critical energy infrastructure projects like the Keystone XL and the Dakota Access Pipelines will help deliver energy to American consumers and businesses safely and efficiently.”

I find it amazing just how little of the DAPL was controversial: it would be like driving from here to Key West to stay free at a Gulf-front cottage for a week only to find the last bridge is out and no repairs are scheduled for the month.

While I’m sure the folks in the media work hard to keep a sharp eye out for pipeline mishaps in this day and age, the fact that there’s a “dog bites man” quality to these stories means that they’re a pretty safe way to get oil and natural gas from one place to another. To hear Radical Green tell it, we should have totally contaminated Gaia ten times over by now, so the fact that we haven’t means either we do a good job of keeping environmental damage to a minimum (which, in the long run, pays dividends for these energy companies) or Mother Nature does a pretty good job of healing itself. (Consider the Deepwater Horizon from the more immediate perspective to that of more recent vintage, when those studying had to speculate on mental health of residents because the seafood coming from the Gulf was deemed safe.)

There won’t be a whole lot of jobs from DAPL now (since there’s less than 1/4 mile remaining to be built) but there will be jobs with Keystone. More importantly, this commentary from API reflects their optimism that the Trump administration will be more amenable to their interests, something that was missing over the last eight years despite the industry’s relative prosperity.

Closer to home, here’s hoping that streak continues: there’s been a full-court press on the Radical Green side to keep Democrats in line regarding Governor Hogan’s veto of the “sunshine tax” but also, more behind the scenes, there’s a call for a permanent fracking ban in Maryland. For that I have two words: big mistake. Our options should remain open, particularly since the regulations are being finalized.

America has abundant energy in many places, so if you have it you may as well use it for our good. No need to keep it in the ground – that’s the place for the pipelines to go. Let’s get to work.

March of the undesirables

January 23, 2017 · Posted in Culture and Politics, Inside the Beltway, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Since I was told – with a very condescending tone by a woman, I might add – to blog about Saturday’s Women’s March on Washington, here you go. Be careful what you wish for.

First of all, let’s look at the timing and philosophy of this. One day after a new President is sworn in, these women gather to protest policy decisions that probably won’t happen, doing so in the most outlandish of ways. I suspect dressing in anatomically correct costumes is really going to endear you to middle America. </sarc>

So why did they get together? This is a description of why they marched, their “unity principles.” Let’s see what they stand for.

ENDING VIOLENCE

Women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free of all forms of violence against our bodies. We believe in accountability and justice in cases of police brutality and ending racial profiling and targeting of communities of color. It is our moral imperative to dismantle the gender and racial inequities within the criminal justice system.

It seems to me we already have laws which cover the violence against their bodies part. Besides, I was taught a real man doesn’t hit a woman.

But then they go off the rails on the racial profiling and targeting. If that is the criminal element and we know where the crimes occur, one would seem to think that’s where law enforcement should focus its resources. And I’m still trying to see where we have gender and racial inequities, particularly since much of the sentencing in this country is predefined.

This one is a little iffy, but I guess I can give them an “e” for effort.

REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS

We believe in Reproductive Freedom. We do not accept any federal, state or local rollbacks, cuts or restrictions on our ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education. This means open access to safe, legal, affordable abortion and birth control for all people, regardless of income, location or education.

A non-starter, particularly since women have the ultimate measure of birth control. Haven’t there been advocacy drives that beseech women not to have relations with their men until they do some act against their interests, like vote for Hillary Clinton? (Why yes, there have. And the idea of keeping it zipped up isn’t just used in America.)

But seriously: there is no other reliable measure as to when life begins but conception. And since our Declaration of Independence tells us all men (meaning mankind, not the specific gender) are endowed by their Creator (that’s not the sperm donor, by the way) with certain inalienable rights – and life is listed first among those rights – it is pre-eminent. Although it is difficult, you can pursue happiness to some extent without liberty, but you have neither that pursuit nor liberty without life. Thus, the right to life of the unborn trumps (pun intended) the liberty of the mother to terminate the pregnancy. Her liberty is lower in the hierarchy.

LGBTQIA RIGHTS

We firmly declare that LGBTQIA Rights are Human Rights and that it is our obligation to uplift, expand and protect the rights of our gay, lesbian, bi, queer, trans or gender non-conforming brothers, sisters and siblings. We must have the power to control our bodies and be free from gender norms, expectations and stereotypes.

The last time I checked, 99.999% of humans are born either female or male, based on chromosomes and anatomy. That’s the way the Creator made us. While I would prefer couples be opposite-sex, though, I know there is some small percentage who see it differently. My only request: call your relationship something other than “marriage” because that is exclusively reserved for one man and one woman. Civil unions were fine with me, as they satisfied the legal advantages given to opposite-sex couples.

WORKER’S RIGHTS

We believe in an economy powered by transparency, accountability, security and equity. All women should be paid equitably, with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, paid family leave, and healthy work environments. All workers – including domestic and farm workers, undocumented and migrant workers – must have the right to organize and fight for a living minimum wage.

Honestly, I believe the whole “equal pay for equal work” thing is a sham. If a woman is doing a better job or more tasks than a man who is supposedly doing the same thing and not being paid as much, well, it’s time for her to find a new employer who will pay her more in line with her worth and expectations. A company that continues that practice will soon lose enough good workers to change.

The rest is standard-grade liberalism that was stale in 1975. And, by the way, are you saying only men have affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, family leave, and a healthy work environment? That’s news to me considering our workforce at my employer has numbers that are almost even and both men and women take advantage of these things.

CIVIL RIGHTS

We believe Civil Rights are our birthright, including voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation or harassment, freedom of speech, and protections for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability. We believe it is time for an all-inclusive Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

I think all this is covered already. But might I suggest this amendment instead?

Congress shall make no law that codifies discrimination for or against any person based on their race, religion, gender, or sexual orientation. This Amendment shall also be construed to include a prohibition on Congress enacting additional criminal code or punishment solely based on these factors.

I hesitate to add age or disability in there because it would open the can of worms of Social Security, Medicare, and the Americans With Disabilities Act, among other things. (Oddly enough, that post was written 11 years to the day before the March. Guess I knew it would come in handy someday.)

DISABILITY RIGHTS

We believe that all women’s issues are issues faced by women with disabilities and Deaf women. As mothers, sisters, daughters, and contributing members of this great nation, we seek to break barriers to access, inclusion, independence, and the full enjoyment of citizenship at home and around the world. We strive to be fully included in and contribute to all aspects of American life, economy, and culture.

To determine this, the first thing to do is define “disability.” I don’t know what they consider as one.

IMMIGRANT RIGHTS

Rooted in the promise of America’s call for huddled masses yearning to breathe free, we believe in immigrant and refugee rights regardless of status or country of origin.  We believe migration is a human right and that no human being is illegal.

Sorry, a nation has the right (and duty) to secure its borders. Humans are not illegal, but their actions may be.

ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE

We believe that every person and every community in our nation has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. We believe that our environment and our climate must be protected, and that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for corporate gain or greed – especially at the risk of public safety and health.

Radical Green rides again, dressed up in pink. So I suppose any farmer who is a corporate entity may as well give it up? Oh, never mind - let’s just call a spade a spade: they don’t like Big Oil. They know as well as I do that mankind doesn’t have the first thing to do with climate change, but the charade is great for gathering a lot of small-minded people.

**********

Basically, this group goes a collective 0-for-8 on real issues. You know, there was this guy whose birthday we celebrated recently who made a big deal about content of character rather than the color of skin – I suspect we can extrapolate this really well to the particular parts and chromosomes they are carrying.

As someone on social media noted, thirty million women had their own march on November 8 and went to the ballot box to elect Donald Trump – for better or worse, despite his faults. I’m sure that not all of the women in the march on Saturday agreed with every one of these tenets, and it wouldn’t shock me if there was some small percentage who just went for the party. But they were there while the silent majority of women looked on and agreed these people were completely, off their rocker, nuts. I think the silent majority was right.

Best of all: I bet my wife agrees with me on most of this. I love domestic bliss and having a conservative, God-fearing wife.

A push for new jobs

January 3, 2017 · Posted in All politics is local, Business and industry, Maryland Politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Two weeks ago, in the waning days before the Christmas holiday, perhaps 40 to 50 brave souls dealt with the cold weather to state their case for job creation in western Maryland and beyond. I don’t think the Maryland Energy Citizens and Energy Nation Rally drew a lot of interest outside the energy field beforehand (except perhaps from me) and in doing a news search for the event I found exactly zero coverage. (The photos I’ll use here were Tweeted by Energy Citizens.)

It was a modest gathering to be sure, but those who showed were interested in regulations that would allow for job creation – directly in Allegany and Garrett counties, and eventually spilling over into other parts of the state as the infrastructure needed to move the natural gas to market is placed. And there was one group who understood this well.

The folks in the orange shirts were members of the Laborers Union, which would stand to benefit from the infrastructure being built. In the universe of the left wing, oftentimes Big Labor and environmentalists stand on opposite sides because the union side understands better the economics of utilizing our energy resources to provide the clean and reliable power we need to keep the economic engine going, while environmentalists seem to think that the wind will always blow and the sun shines every day so we can rely on those sources. With their entrenched opposition to energy progress through additional exploration and infrastructure construction, Radical Green would shortly have us in the same boat as the New England states when it comes to energy costs, especially at this time of year.

Yet in the days since I’ve learned of a study from the University of Chicago that has attempted to quantify benefits and costs of fracking, with the study being summarized thus:

The benefits include a six percent increase in average income, driven by rises in wages and royalty payments, a 10 percent increase in employment, and a six percent increase in housing prices. On the costs side, fracking reduces the typical household’s quality of life by about $1,000 to $1,600 annually – excluding the increase in household income.

As a point of reference, the average household income across the two counties is about $42,000 so a 6% increase would be a net gain in household income equating to approximately $2,500. And considering energy jobs tend to pay more than average, the 10% increase in employment would be a boost to the median so the benefits could work out to $3,000 or more while the somewhat dubious “quality of life” costs would not be so affected.

I noted above that there was no coverage of the rally by the local media, but that very day the Baltimore Sun chose to run a laughable screed by Senator Cardin about the prospect of the incoming Trump administration abandoning the Paris Climate Agreement; a diatribe that included this howler:

In 2015, investment in renewable energy was nearly $350 billion worldwide, more than fossil fuel energy. Even though gas and oil have hit record low prices, current and projected prices for renewables are low too, making clean energy solutions remarkably competitive.

The huge piece of information unspoken here is how much of that renewable energy “investment” was picked from the pocket of unsuspecting taxpayers, nor does it account for the amount of the market carved out for renewables artificially by state mandate. Nor should it be our intention to follow Europe and take the blue pill, thinking mankind has one iota of effect on the global climate in the long run.

Sadly, it may be almost as much of a folly to believe that a small group of common-sense protestors will have an effect on a group of legislators who mistakenly believe that restrictive regulations will encourage job creation or that a fracking ban will benefit the state. But I encourage them to keep trying anyway because people who can see the long-range picture will realize you are on the right side of this.

A look ahead: 2017

Last year I did this in three parts, but to me that may be overkill this time around. Consider that 2017 is not an election year, so if anything we will not see much on that front until the latter stages of the year as the campaigns for 2018′s state elections ramp up. And because all but one of our local officials are first-term representatives in their respective offices, it’s likely they will wish to continue in office. Bear in mind, though, on the Senate side longtime House member Addie Eckardt will be 75 and Jim Mathias (who is in his second term as Senator after one-plus in the House) will be 67 by the time the next election comes around, so they are likely closer to the end of their lengthy political careers than to the beginning. And thanks to Wicomico County voters who passed the referendum this past November, 2017 will be the year we formally set up the elections which will net the county its first fully-elected Board of Education in late 2018.

Speaking of the local BOE, we still have an appointed board until that election and the two members whose terms expire this year are both Democrats who are term-limited. I suspect the local Democrats will try and send up names of people who will run for seats in 2018 to gain that incumbency advantage – as envisioned, though, these will be non-partisan elections. And the final say goes to the state Secretary of Appointments, who over the years hasn’t always been kind to those we preferred, either. Or, conversely, since the incumbents serve until their successors are appointed, we may see a long stalling technique, too. It will be interesting to see how that plays out, but I’ll bet those who are appointed will use that tenure as a springboard for eventual election.

Elsewhere in Wicomico County as 2016 comes to an end, it appears the city of Salisbury and Wicomico County are working out their issues rather well. The biggest sticking point remains fire service, and it’s relatively likely the city is going to see more of a reimbursement from the county when it comes to that – perhaps to the tune of up to $2 million a year. It’s possible there may be something to cut to make up for this, but as the county has increased its debt in the last few years to build several schools it leaves less room for spending cuts to make up the difference. If the city receives $2 million annually that would equate to about a 3 or 4 cent property tax increase for county residents. There’s also the chance that a tax differential or rebate may be on the table in order to reimburse city residents, as they pay the same tax rate as county residents. Wicomico is one of only three counties in the state that choose not to provide a tax differential to their municipalities.

But there is another factor to consider. Back in June the number of people working in Wicomico County set an all-time high of 52,010, eclipsing a mark that had stood for nearly a decade (July 2006.) That record lasted a month, as July came in at 53,668. While the number of jobs has finally reached where we were a decade ago, bear in mind the labor force is about 1,000 larger – so unemployment is in the 5.5% range rather than 4%. Even so, that extra number of people working – a number which year-over-year between 2015 and 2016 has fluctuated quite a bit but usually comes in at 1,000 or more additional workers in 2016 – means there’s more revenue to the county from income taxes so paying the city of Salisbury may not be such a heavy lift. The question for 2017 will be whether these economic conditions continue and whether Wicomico County will want to spend every “extra” dime on items which are unsustainable in rougher economic times.

That same question goes for the state, but the trend there has been for more spending. Democrats in the General Assembly added millions in mandated spending to the state budget and it’s a sure bet they will try again this year. Add to that the general belief that year 3 of a Maryland political cycle sees the most ambitious agenda put forth – it’s time for those incumbents to bring home the bacon and burnish their re-election chances the next year – and you can bet that paid sick leave will pass, Radical Green will have its day (perhaps with a fracking ban, which would devastate Western Maryland), and any Hogan veto will be promptly overridden. It’s certain that they will leave enough time in passing these controversial bills to do so. We’ve already seen battle lines drawn with the counter-proposal from Governor Hogan on paid sick leave and the social media-fueled drive to repeal the “Road Kill Bill” that Democrats passed over Governor Hogan’s veto in the spring of this year.

The wild card in state politics, though, comes from national politics. It’s not because we had the well-publicized answer to an extremely nosy press – if only they paid as much attention to some of Martin O’Malley’s foibles and scandals! – that Larry Hogan wasn’t going to support his (nominally at best) fellow Republican Donald Trump, but the idea that Donald Trump may actually do something to cut the size and scope of government. (Military contractors, particularly, have reason to worry.) And because Maryland’s economy is so dependent on the federal government, to a shocking and sickening degree, we know that if Trump begins to make cuts it will hurt Maryland the most. Given the typical bureaucrat CYA perspective, it explains perfectly why four of the five jurisdictions Trump did worst in - the only five which came in below his 35% statewide total – were the four counties closest to the District of Columbia (MoCo, PG, Charles, and Howard. Baltimore City was the fifth.) While I am entirely a skeptic on this, there seems to be the belief that Trump will take a meat cleaver to the budget and thousands of federal and contract workers will be cast aside because of it.

And in a situation where revenues are already coming up short of forecast, a recession in the state’s biggest jurisdictions, coupled with the mandated spending Democrats keep pushing through, will make it really, really difficult on Larry Hogan going into 2018. You will be able to judge who has the most ambition to be Governor by who carps the longest about these cuts.

While the Dow Jones stalled this week in an effort to breach the 20,000 mark by year’s end, the rise in the markets echoes consumer optimism - even as fourth quarter GDP forecasts turned a little bearish, consumers still feel a little better about the state of our economy. If we can get the 4% GDP growth Donald Trump promised we may see some of these fiscal crises take care of themselves.

Yet there was also a sentiment in 2016 that the world was going mad: consider all the terror attacks, the seemingly unusual number of and extended shock over high-profile celebrity deaths, and a general turning away from that which was considered moral and proper to that which fell under the realm of political correctness, wasn’t a “trigger” and didn’t violate the “safe spaces” of the Millennial “snowflakes.” (I can’t resist linking to this one I wrote for The Patriot Post.) At some point the pendulum swings back the other way, but in most cases that takes a life-changing event like 9/11 or Pearl Harbor. I’d prefer a much softer transition but a transition nonetheless.

As I see it, the key word for 2017 will be leadership: if the current elected officials and new President have it and use it wisely to the benefit of our county, state, and nation “so help me God” things will be okay. If not, well, we’ve seen that movie for about eight or ten years already and we will continue to slouch toward Gomorrah.

Call and response

I liked what I wrote on a Facebook post regarding this article so much that I had to share. It’s illustrative of how one side argues with the other on the topic.

My story begins when I saw this reply, by Karl Shipps. He’s not a friend of mine, but in a quick check of his Facebook page it’s noteworthy that he signed a petition called “Don’t Let Myron Ebell Dismantle the EPA.” (Ebell is a noted skeptic of the idea that mankind is a prime driver in our climate.) Shipps wrote:

This story takes you to a climate change denial website. These people are not to be trusted.

So it sounds like this gentleman is denying the “deniers”? Well, that wouldn’t stand with me so I wrote:

Few deny climate change. What they correctly debate is mankind’s impact on it.

So, piling on was another person, Jim Davis – same general tenor, but in his concession was a more emotional appeal. I guess I was already winning.

Yes, it’s hard to say with 100% certainty that the climate change is due or even strongly enhanced by human activity. However, on a planet on which we ultimately WILL run out of fossil fuels, why not reduce the pollution so we can breathe cleaner air (note the recent terrible pollution in major cities around the world) and stop polluting our fresh water. And do we really want to continue to send our children into coal mines?

All right, I decided it was time to set folks straight with some logic. So here we go:

First off, we don’t send children into coal mines. Adults make a conscious decision to work in the field, particularly when the average starting salary can be $60,000.

But to address the main point: it will be decades or centuries before we “run out” of fossil fuels – in truth, the definition of running out is the point where it’s not economically viable to extract them. (Case in point: there was a recent oil find in Texas of 2 billion barrels, but at this time the price of oil is too low to make it economically viable to extract it.)

And the usage of fossil fuels is what global climate change alarmists truly wish to go after. Anyone with any sense knows that our climate is mainly controlled by the sun: near the equator it’s mainly tropical because of the duration of sunshine over the year and close to the poles it’s extremely cold since days are short. And given that the world has endured ice ages and blossomed during warm periods over the last 2,000 years or more, to believe mankind can affect this with his SUVs and coal-fired plants is pure folly. Nor can we claim what we have is the optimum, normal climate: after all, with a degree of global warming it would open up thousands of acres to food production where the growing season is too short now.

Furthermore, trying to predict weather two weeks out is tricky enough, let alone forecasting the temperature trends a century hence. So I have figured out the game, and our economic progress is best advanced when energy sources are cheap and plentiful.

As I said before, few deny there is climate change – we have thousands of years of recorded history to suggest that it does and will continue to do so. What I “deny” is that our lifestyle has any major effect on it, because the “solution” to climate change always seems to be more government mandate, taxation, and control.

So am I wrong, or out of bounds here?

This is why I don’t object to drilling for oil, fracking, or any other attempt to use the resources our nation and world was blessed with. Over time we have found that fossil fuels are inexpensive and reliable sources of energy, unlike the “renewable” sources that either aren’t reliable (we don’t have constant wind or sunshine, and even a river’s flow can be diminished by drought) or not economically viable without government subsidy or artificial market carveout. This is why we have treaties and agreements that mandate carbon reduction because the market would never do this on its own, nor should it.

The best example of this that I can think of is the common farmer. A century ago he would build a windmill to provide power for his farm, but as soon as he could hook up to electricity as utility companies moved into rural areas, he generally did because it was much more reliable. (Much of this was done through a New Deal initiative which also electrified individual homes as a job-creation measure; that was later expanded for communications. Eighty years later, even though practically all the rural areas of the country have long since been connected to electricity and basic telephone service, the program was again modified for energy efficiency purposes. It’s additional proof that government is less about solving problems and more about self-preservation for bureaucrats.)

To me, logic dictates that global climate change is real but not influenced by man, and that distinction removes any excuse for government to be involved.

Get ready to break wind

Commentary by Marita Noon

If Hillary Clinton becomes our next president, one of the changes you can expect is an invasion of industrial wind development in your community that has the potential to severely damage your property values, ruin the viewshed, impact your sleep patterns, and cause your electricity rates to “necessarily skyrocket” – all thanks to your tax dollars.

The Democratic presidential candidate frequently references her pledge to install 500 million solar panels. Her website promises: “The United States will have more than half a billion solar panels installed across the country by the end of Hillary Clinton’s first term.” And, while we know she wants to make America “the clean energy super power of the 21st century,” finding her position on wind energy is not so obvious. Perhaps that is because, as more and more people learn more about its impacts on their lives, its support continues to wane.

Pragmatic environmentalists find it hard to ignore the millions of birds that are killed by the giant spinning blades – including bald and golden eagles, as well as massive numbers of bats (which are so important for insect control) that are being slaughtered. Some have even “successfully sued to stop wind farm construction,” reports Investor’s Business Daily.

More and more communities are saying: “We don’t want wind turbines here.” For example, in Ohio, a wind project was “downed” when the Logan County Commissioners voted unanimously to reject EverPower’s request for a payment in lieu of taxes to build 18 wind turbines – though since then, the developer is taking another bite at the project, and the locals are furious. In Michigan, the entire Lincoln Township Board opposes a plan from DTE Energy to bring 50 to 70 more wind turbines to the community – despite the fact that four of the five members would profit from easement agreements they’d previously signed.

While not one of her top talking points, a President Hillary will increase the amount of taxpayer dollars available to industrial wind developers. At a July 2015 campaign stop in Iowa, she supported tax incentives and said: “We need to continue the production tax credits.” Previously, she claimed that she wants to make the production tax credits (PTC) for wind and solar permanent. (Note: without the PTC, even the wind industry acknowledges it won’t “be able to continue.”) She frequently says: “I want more wind, more solar, more advanced biofuels, more energy efficiency.” Remember, her party platform includes: “We are committed to getting 50 percent of our electricity from clean energy sources within a decade.” And: “We believe America must be running entirely on clean energy by mid-century.”

So, if your area hasn’t been faced with the construction of the detrimental and dangerous turbines, you can expect that it will be – even if you live in an area not known to be windy. That’s the bad news. The good news is the more wind turbines spring up, the more opposition they receive – and, therefore, the more tools there are available to help break the next wind project.

Rather than trying to figure out what to do on your own, John Droz, Jr., a North Carolina-based physicist and citizen advocate, who has worked with about 100 communities, encourages citizens who want to protect their community from the threat of a proposed wind project to maximize the resources that are available to them.

Kevon Martis, who, as the volunteer director of the Interstate Informed Citizens Coalition, has helped protect citizens in 7 states, told me: “Nothing makes it harder for a wind developer in one community than if the neighboring community already has an operating wind plant. Once they can see the actual impacts of turning entire townships into 50 story tall power plants, they can no longer be led down the primrose path by wind companies and their agents.” Martis’ equitable wind zoning advocacy has been extremely effective. In his home state of Michigan, wind has been on the ballot at the Township level 11 times since 2009 and has never won. In Argyle Township, in Sanilac County, Invenergy spent $164,000 in campaign funds in the 36-square-mile township, yet the people prevailed at the ballot box.

Two communities in Vermont have industrial wind on the ballot on November 8 and it is playing a big role in the state’s gubernatorial race where many Democrats are pledging to vote for the Republican candidate, who opposes more wind energy development. There, the foreign developer is essentially offering a bribe to the voters to approve the project.

Martis uses a concept he calls “trespass zoning” – which he says is a “de facto subsidy extracted from neighbors without any compensation.” Because the definition of trespassing is: “to enter the owner’s land or property without permission,” Martis argues that wind turbine setbacks, that cross the property line and go to the dwelling, allows the externalities of wind development – noise pollution, turbine rotor failure and its attendant debris field, property value loss, and visual blight – to trespass. He explains: “Where the wind developer can use these unleased properties for nuisance noise and safety easements free of charge, they have no reason to approach the neighboring residents to negotiate a fair price for their loss of amenity. Trespass zoning has deprived wind plant neighbors of all economic bargaining power. It has donated their private property to the neighboring landowner’s wind developer tenant.”

Droz agrees that zoning is important – as are regulations. He believes that since an industrial wind project is something you may have to live with for more than 20 years, it seems wise to carefully, objectively, and thoughtfully investigate the matter ahead of time. Droz says: “In most circumstances, your first line of defense is a well-written, protective set of wind-energy regulations that focus on protecting the health, safety, and welfare of the community. They can be a stand-alone law, or part of a more comprehensive zoning document.”

Mary Kay Barton, a citizen activist from New York State, began writing about the industrial wind issue more than a dozen years ago when her home area in Western New York State was targeted by industrial wind developers. Wyoming County was slated to have more than 2,000 industrial wind turbines strewn throughout its 16 Townships. So far, the massive projects have been limited by the outrage of residents to the current 308 turbines in 5 rural districts. Barton told me: “We wouldn’t even be talking about industrial wind if cronyism at the top wasn’t enabling the consumer fraud of industrial wind to exist with countless subsidies, incentives and renewable mandates.”

Minnesota citizen energy activist, Kristi Rosenquist, points out: “Wind is promoted as mitigating climate change and benefiting local rural economies – it does neither.”

Through his free citizen advocacy service, Alliance for Wise Energy Decisions, Droz tries to make it easier for communities to succeed when dealing with industrial wind energy by learning lessons from some of the other 250 communities – including those near Martis, Barton, and Rosenquist – that have had to deal with it.

At WiseEnergy.org, Droz has a wealth of information available including a model wind energy law that is derived from existing effective ordinances plus inputs from numerous independent experts. He advocates a wind energy law that contains carefully crafted conditions about these five elements:

  1. Property value guarantees;
  2. Turbine setbacks;
  3. Noise standards;
  4. Environmental assessment and protections; and
  5. Decommissioning.

Droz, Martis, Barton, and Rosenquist are just four of the many citizen advocates that have had to become experts on the adverse impacts of wind energy – which provides negligible benefits while raising taxes and electricity rates. Because of their experiences, many are willing to help those who are just now being faced with the threat.

Because I’ve frequently written on wind energy and the favorable tax and regulatory treatment it receives, I often have people reaching out to me for help – but I am not the expert, just the messenger. These folks are dealing with it day in and day out.

Here are some additional resources they suggest:

If the threat of industrial wind energy development isn’t a problem for you now, save this information, as it likely would be under a Hillary Clinton presidency.

Barton explains: “My town was able to stop the ludicrous siting of these environmentally-destructive facilities by enacting a citizen-protective law back in 2007. Since then, however, Governor Cuomo enacted what I refer to as his ‘Power-Grab NY Act,’ which stripped ‘Home Rule’ from New York State communities and placed the decision-making process regarding energy-generation facilities above 25 MW (that translates: industrial wind factories) in the hands of five unelected Albany bureaucrats. Other states are sure to follow Cuomo’s authoritarian lead. I urge people to be pro-active! Get protective laws on the books now – before corrupt officials steal your Constitutional rights to decide for yourselves.”

Think about your community 20, 40, 60+ years from now.

“There was a time when the environmental movement opposed noise pollution, fought industrial blight, and supported ‘little guys’ whose quality of life was threatened by ‘corporate greed,’” writes Martis. “But that was a long time ago, before wind energy.”

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

WikiLeaks: Hillary’s conflicted comments on fracking

Commentary by Marita Noon

One of the recent WikiLeaks email dumps revealed some interesting things about hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking. (This enhanced drilling technology is a big part of America’s new era of energy abundance.)

First, they add to the growing question about what Hillary Clinton really believes: her public comments, or her private positions?

Regarding fracking, the leaked emails offer a glimpse into speeches she made to closed groups that we’ve previously been unable to access. One such speech was given to the troubled Deutsche Bank on April 24, 2013. There, she praised fracking as a tool to “make even more countries more energy self-sufficient.” She told the audience: “I’ve promoted fracking in other places around the world.” She bragged about “the advantages that are going to come to us, especially in manufacturing, because we’re now going to produce more oil and gas.”

Yet everything she’s said in the campaign paints a different picture.

Her stated energy policies are decidedly anti-fossil fuel. The Democratic Party platform calls for “a goal of producing 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2050.” In addition to promoting “enough clean renewable energy to power every home in America within ten years,” Hillary’s website outlines her desire to “reduce the amount of oil consumed in the United States and around the world.” She’s declared that banning fossil fuel extraction on public lands is: “a done deal.” While she won’t come out and clearly state that she’d ban fracking, at a March 6 CNN debate with Bernie Sanders in Flint, Michigan, she proudly stated: “By the time we get through all of my conditions, I do not think there will be many places in America where fracking will continue to take place.” And, she has pledged to “stop fossil fuels.”

Then there’s her comment about green-group funding, as coming from Russia. It’s long been suspected that Russia is protecting its national oil-and-gas interests by funding anti-fracking activism – while not a new idea, the current attention makes it worth revisiting.

To the best of my knowledge, Russia’s reported involvement in shaping public opinion came to light in 2010, when different WikiLeaks revelations made public private intelligence from Stratfor – which had previously published a background brief on Shale Gas Activism – that speculated on Russian funding for the anti-fracking movie Gasland.

In 2013, filmmaker Phelim McAleer, in his film FrackNation, pointed out Russia’s “disingenuous objections” to fracking. In it, British journalist James Delingpole said: “Russia is screwed if it can’t export its gas, so it is really important for Russia that the shale gas revolution does not happen. It is also in Russia’s best interest to fund those environmental groups which are committed to campaigning against fracking.”

Then in June 2014, while serving as NATO secretary general, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former Prime Minister of Denmark, stated that he’d “met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.” According to The Guardian, “He declined to give details of those operations, saying: ‘that is my interpretation.’”

A few months later, the New York Times (NYT) featured a story titled: “Russian money suspected behind fracking protests.” It recounts several cases in different Eastern European countries that are most dependent on Russian energy, where Chevron planned exploratory gas drilling that then “faced a sudden surge of street protests by activists, many of whom had previously shown little interest in environmental issues.” NYT quotes the Romanian Prime Minister, Victor Ponta: “Energy is the most effective weapon today of the Russian Federation – much more effective than aircraft and tanks.”

“Russia,” the NYT adds, “has generally shown scant concern for environmental protection and has a long record of harassing and even jailing environmentalists who stage protests. On fracking, however, Russian authorities have turned enthusiastically green, with Mr. Putin declaring last year that fracking ‘poses a huge environmental problem.’ Places that have allowed it, he said, ‘no longer have water coming out of their taps but a blackish slime.’” Russian television, aimed at foreign audiences, carried warnings about poisoned water. Yet, exploration in western Romania by Gazprom, Russia’s biggest oil firm, has not stirred similar mass protests. Additionally, “Pro-Russian separatists in the east, who have otherwise shown no interest in green issues, have denounced fracking as a mortal danger.”

In January 2015, The Washington Free Beacon reported on a Bermudian firm that had connections to Russian oil interests and was funneling money to anti-fracking groups in the U.S. It outlines how the money-laundering scheme works and concludes: “The overlap between executives at firms with ties to Russian oil interests and a multi-million-dollar donor to U.S. environmentalist groups has some experts worried that Russians may be replicating anti-fracking tactics used in Europe to attack the practice in the United States.” I addressed it in February in my column titled: “Naming enemies of U.S. fossil fuel development” – where I also brought up reports of OPEC reported involvement in funding anti-fracking activities.

In March 2015, at the Forbes Reinventing America Summit in Chicago, Harold Hamm, Chairman and CEO at Continental Resources – also known as the “fracking king” – said: “Russia’s spent a great deal of money over here to cause a panic in the United States over fracking to stop it, because suddenly their market share is going away.”

Anti-fracking groups such as Greenpeace, dismiss such accusations as “silly.”

Despite all the multiple claims linking Russia to anti-fracking activity, there’s been scant hard evidence.

But, now, thanks to WikiLeaks, Russia’s reported anti-fracking funding is back in the headlines: “Leaked emails show Hillary Clinton blaming Russians for funding ‘phony’ anti-fracking groups,” wrote the Washington Times.

With knowledge only someone with a high-level security clearance and an understanding of foreign relations, like the Secretary of State, would have, Hillary, in a June 2014 speech in Edmonton, Canada, reportedly said the following to an audience:

“We were up against Russia pushing oligarchs and others to buy media. We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians to stand against any effort, oh that pipeline, that fracking, whatever will be a problem for you, and a lot of the money supporting that message was coming from Russia.”

Now, thanks to WikiLeaks, we have the first “semi-official confirmation,” as Delingpole called it, “of Russia’s sponsorship of the vast, influential and obscenely well-funded anti-fracking industry.”

McAleer, in a press release, accuses these groups of “acting as paid agents for a hostile foreign power.”

Remember, these groups are big supporters of Hillary and - based on her stated public policies – she’s a big supporter of their anti-fracking agenda. As I’ve said before, we are in an economic war and there are many who don’t want America to win. The cheap energy prices fracking has provided give the U.S. an economic advantage – hence the hostility toward it.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Striking down Obama’s climate legacy has its day in court

Commentary by Marita Noon

President Obama’s flagship policy on climate change had its day in court on Tuesday, September 27. The international community is closely watching; most Americans, however, are unaware of the historic case known as the Clean Power Plan (CPP) – which according to David Rivkin, one of the attorneys arguing against the plan: “is not just to reduce emissions, but to create a new electrical system.”

For those who haven’t followed the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) rule, here’s a brief history that brings us to up to date:

  • EPA published the final CPP rule in the Federal Register on October 2015.
  • More than two dozen states and a variety of industry groups and businesses immediately filed challenges against it – with a final bipartisan coalition of more than 150 entities including 27 states, 24 trade associations, 37 electric co-ops, 3 labor unions, and about a half dozen nonprofits.
  • On January 21, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia denied a request for a stay that would have prevented implementation of the rule until the court challenges were resolved.
  • On February 9, the Supreme Court of the U.S. (SCOTUS), in an unprecedented action, before the case was heard by the lower court, overruled, and issued a stay that delays enforcement of CPP.
  • The Court of Appeals was scheduled to hear oral arguments before a three-judge panel on June 2, but pushed them to September 27 to be heard by the full court – something the court almost never does (though for issues involving “a question of exceptional importance” procedural rules allow for the case to proceed directly to a hearing before the full appeals court).

The court, which is already fully briefed on a case before hearing the oral arguments, typically allows a maximum 60-90 minutes to hear both sides and occasionally, with an extremely complex case, will allow two hours. The oral argument phase allows the judges to interact with lawyers from both sides and with each other. However, for the CPP, the court scheduled a morning session focusing on the EPA’s authority to promulgate the rule and an afternoon session on the constitutional claims against the rule – which ended up totaling nearly 7 hours. Jeff Holmstead, a partner with Bracewell Law, representing one of the lead challengers, told me this was the only time the full court has sat all day to hear a case.

One of the issues addressed was whether or not the EPA could “exercise major transformative power without a clear statement from Congress on the issue” – with the 2014 Utility Air Regulatory Group (UARG) v. EPA determining it could not. Republican appointee Judge Brett Kavanaugh noted that the UARG scenario “sounds exactly like this one.”

Judge Thomas Griffith, a Bush appointee, questioned: “Why isn’t this debate going on in the floor of the Senate?” In a post-oral argument press conference, Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) pointed out that the debate has been held on the Senate floor in the form of cap-and-trade legislation – which has failed repeatedly over a 15-year period. Therefore, he said, the Obama administration has tried to do through regulation what the Senate wouldn’t do through legislation.

“Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe, one of Obama’s mentors,” writes the Dallas Morning News: “made a star appearance to argue that the Clean Power Plan is unconstitutional.”

Judge Karen LeCraft Henderson, a Bush appointee, concluded: “You have given us all we need and more, perhaps, to work on it.”

The day in court featured many of the nation’s best oral advocates and both sides feel good about how the case was presented.

For the challengers (who call CPP “an unlawful power grab”), West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, who along with Texas AG Ken Paxton, co-lead the case, reported: “We said (then) that we were looking forward to having our day in court on the merits. Today was that day. I think that the collective coalition was able to put very strong legal arguments forward, as to why this regulation is unlawful, and why it should be set aside.”

But the case has its proponents, too, and they, also, left feeling optimistic. In a blog post for the Environmental Defense Fund, Martha Roberts wrote about what she observed in the courtroom: “The judges today were prepared and engaged. They asked sharply probing questions of all sides. But the big news is that a majority of judges appeared receptive to arguments in support of the Clean Power Plan.” She concluded that she’s confident “that climate protection can win the day.”

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) summarized the session saying that stakeholders on all sides were left “parsing questions and reactions, and searching for signs of which way the judges are leaning.” U.S. News reported: “The judges repeatedly interrupted the lawyers for both sides to ask pointed questions about the legal underpinnings of their positions.”

The decision, which is not expected for several months, may come down to the ideological make-up of the court: 6 of the judges were appointed by Democrat presidents and 4 by Republicans. Though, according to WSJ, Obama appointee Judge Patricia Millet “expressed concern that the administration was in effect requiring power plants to subsidize companies competing with them for electricity demand.” She offered hope to the challengers when she said: “That seems to be quite different from traditional regulation.” Additionally, in his opinion published in the Washington Post, Constitutional law professor Jonathan Adler, stated: “Some of the early reports indicate that several Democratic nominees posed tough questions to the attorney defending the EPA.”

Now, the judges will deliberate and discuss. Whatever decision they come to, experts agree that the losing side will appeal and that the case will end up in front of the Supreme Court – most likely in the 2017/2018 session with a decision possible as late as June 2018. There, the ultimate result really rests in the presidential election, as the current SCOTUS make up will be changed with the addition of the ninth Justice, who will be appointed by the November 8 winner – and that Justice will reflect the new president’s ideology.

Hillary Clinton has promised to continue Obama’s climate change policies while Donald Trump has announced he’ll rescind the CPP and cancel the Paris Climate Agreement.

The CPP is about more than the higher electricity costs and decreased grid reliability, which results from heavy reliance on wind and solar energy as CPP requires, and, as the South Australian experiment proves, doesn’t work. It has far-reaching impacts. WSJ states: “Even a partial rebuke of the Clean Power Plan could make it impossible for the U.S. to hit the goals Mr. Obama pledged in the Paris climate deal.” With Obama’s climate legacy at stake, the international community is paying close attention.

And Americans should be. Our energy stability hangs in the balance.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Ethanol is the wrong solution

September 6, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

University of Michigan’s Energy Institute research professor John DeCicco, Ph.D., believes that rising carbon dioxide emissions are causing global warming and, therefore, humans must find a way to reduce its levels in the atmosphere – but ethanol is the wrong solution. According to his just-released study, political support for biofuels, particularly ethanol, has exacerbated the problem instead of being the cure it was advertised to be.

DeCicco and his co-authors assert: “Contrary to popular belief, the heat-trapping carbon dioxide gas emitted when biofuels are burned is not fully balanced by the CO2 uptake that occurs as the plants grow.” The presumption that biofuels emit significantly fewer greenhouse gases (GHG) than gasoline does is, according to DeCicco: “misguided.”

His research, three years in the making, including extensive peer-review, has upended the conventional wisdom and angered the alternative fuel lobbyists. The headline-grabbing claim is that biofuels are worse for the climate than gasoline.

Past bipartisan support for ethanol was based on two, now false, assumptions.

First, based on fears of waning oil supplies, alternative fuels were promoted to increase energy security. DeCicco points out: “Every U.S. president since Ronald Reagan has backed programs to develop alternative transportation fuels.” Now, in the midst of a global oil glut, we know that hydraulic fracturing has been the biggest factor in America’s new era of energy abundance – not biofuels. Additionally, ethanol has been championed for its perceived reduction in GHG. Using a new approach, DeCicco and his researchers, conclude: “rising U.S. biofuel use has been associated with a net increase rather than a net decrease in CO2 emissions.”

DeCicco has been focused on this topic for nearly a decade. In 2007, when the Energy Independence and Security Act (also known as the expanded ethanol mandate) was in the works, he told me: “I realized that something seemed horribly amiss with a law that established a sweeping mandate which rested on assumptions, not scientific fact, that were unverified and might be quite wrong, even though they were commonly accepted and politically correct (and politically convenient).” Having spent 20 years as a green group scientist, DeCicco has qualified green bona fides. From that perspective he saw that while biofuels sounded good, no one had checked the math.

Previously, based on life cycle analysis (LCA), it has been assumed that crop-based biofuels, were not just carbon neutral, but actually offered modest net GHG reductions. This, DeCicco says, is the “premise of most climate related fuel policies promulgated to date, including measures such as the LCFS [California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard] and RFS [the federal Renewable Fuel Standard passed in 2005 and expanded in 2007].”

The DeCicco study differs from LCA – which assumes that any carbon dioxide released from a vehicle’s tailpipe as a result of burning biofuel is absorbed from the atmosphere by the growing of the crop. In LCA, biofuel use is modeled as a static system, one presumed to be in equilibrium with the atmosphere in terms of its material carbon flow. The Carbon balance effects of U.S. biofuel production and use study uses Annual Basis Carbon (ABC) accounting – which does not treat biofuels as inherently carbon neutral. Instead, it treats biofuels as “part of a dynamic stock-and-flow system.” Its methodology “tallies CO2 emissions based on the chemistry in the specific locations where they occur.” In May, on my radio program, DeCicco explained: “Life Cycle Analysis is wrong because it fails to actually look at what is going on at the farms.”

In short, DeCicco told me: “Biofuels get a credit they didn’t deserve; instead they leave a debit.”

The concept behind DeCicco’s premise is that the idea of ethanol being carbon neutral assumes that the ground where the corn is grown was barren dirt (without any plants removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere) before the farmer decided to plant corn for ethanol. If that were the case, then, yes, planting corn on that land, converting that corn to ethanol that is then burned as a vehicle fuel, might come close to being carbon neutral. But the reality is that land already had corn, or some other crop, growing on it – so that land’s use was already absorbing CO2. You can’t count it twice.

DeCicco explains “Growing the corn that becomes ethanol absorbs no more carbon from the air than the corn that goes into cattle feed or corn flakes. Burning the ethanol releases essentially the same amount of CO2 as burning gasoline. No less CO2 went into the air from the tailpipe; no more CO2 was removed from the air at the cornfield. So where’s the climate benefit?”

Much of that farmland was growing corn to feed cattle and chickens – also known as feedstock. The RFS requires an ever-increasing amount of ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. Since the RFS became law in 2005, the amount of land dedicated to growing corn for ethanol has increased from 12.4 percent of the overall corn crop to 38.6 percent. While the annual supply of corn has increased by 17 percent, the amount going into feedstock has decreased from 57.5 percent to 37.98% – as a graphic from the Detroit Free Press illustrates.

The rub comes from the fact that we are not eating less. Globally, more food is required, not less. The livestock still needs to be fed. So while the percentage of corn going into feedstock in the U.S. has decreased because of the RFS, that corn is now grown somewhere else. DeCicco explained: “When you rob Peter to pay Paul, Peter has to get his resource from someplace else.” One such place is Brazil where previous pasture land, because it is already flat, has been converted to growing crops. Ranchers have been pushed out to what was forest and deforestation is taking place.

Adding to the biofuels-are-worse-than-gasoline accounting are the effects from producing ethanol. You have to cook it and ferment it – which requires energy. In the process, CO2 bubbles off. By expanding the quantity of corn grown, prairie land is busted up and stored CO2 is released.

DeCicco says: “it is this domino effect that makes ethanol worse.”

How much worse?

The study looks at the period with the highest increase in ethanol production due to the RFS: 2005-2013 (remember, the study took three years). The research provides an overview of eight years of overall climate impacts of America’s multibillion-dollar biofuel industry. It doesn’t address issues such as increased fertilizer use and the subsequent water pollution.

The conclusion is that the increased carbon dioxide uptake by the crops was only enough to offset 37 percent of the CO2 emissions due to biofuel combustion – meaning “rising U.S. biofuel use has been associated with a net increase rather than a net decrease in CO2 emissions.”

Instead of a “disco-era ‘anything but oil’ energy policy,” DeCicco’s research finds, that while further work is needed to examine the research and policy implications going forward, “it makes more sense to soak up CO2 through reforestation and redouble efforts to protect forests rather than producing biofuels, which puts carbon rich lands at risk.”

Regardless of differing views on climate change, we can generally agree that more trees are a good thing and that “using government mandates and subsidies to promote politically favored fuels de jour is a waste of taxpayers’ money.”

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

A new international example for bad energy policy

August 30, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

If a country’s goal is to decrease carbon emissions by increasing reliance on renewable energy, it only makes sense to install the new equipment in the location with the best potential – both in geography and government.

For Australia, which has a national Renewable Energy Target (RET) of 33,000 gigawatt hours of electricity generated by defined renewable sources by 2020, South Australia (SA) is that place. According to SA Treasurer Tom Koutsantonis, who is also the Energy Minister, the federal government had determined that SA is where “the best conditions for wind farms” could be found. The state government was amenable, with SA Premier Jay Wetherill promising to make Adelaide, its capitol city, “the first ‘carbon neutral’ city by 2050.” The state’s RET is for 50 percent renewable energy by 2025. Wetherall, in 2014, claimed: “This new target of half of the state’s power to be generated by renewable sources will create jobs and drive capital investment and advanced manufacturing industries.”

In reality, SA has now found that talk is cheap, but renewable energy isn’t.

The decision to set a 50 percent renewable target is now being called “foolish,” by Tony Wood, an analyst at think-tank Grattan Institute, and “complete naivety and foolishness” according to Lindsay Partridge, chief executive at Brickworks, one of the nation’s leading providers of building products.

Now the largest producer of wind power, SA has enough installed capacity that, under ideal conditions, it could meet 100 percent of the current electricity demand. “However, wind generation tends to be lower at times of maximum demand,” according to the Australian Energy Regulator. “In South Australia, wind typically contributes 10 percent of its registered capacity during peaks in summer demand.” In fact, on some days, Jo Nova explains, they actually “suck electricity instead of generating it.”

Last month, SA experienced an energy crisis that The Australian, the country’s largest newspaper, blamed on “an over-reliance of untrustworthy and expensive wind and solar.” The paper warned that the federal RET “will force other states down the path taken by South Australia, which has the highest and most variable energy prices in the national electricity grid.” Nova adds: “South Australia has more ‘renewable’ wind power than anywhere else in Australia. They also have the highest electricity bills, the highest unemployment, the largest number of ‘failures to pay’ and disconnections. Coincidence?”

In July, the confluence of several factors resulted in a huge spike in electricity prices – as much as 100 times the norm.

In May, pushed out of the market by subsidized wind, SA’s last coal-fueled power plant was closed. Even before then, The Australian reported electricity prices were “at least 50 percent higher than in any other state.” According to the Australian Energy Market Operator, the average daily spot price in SA was $46.82 per megawatt hour. After the power plant was turned off: $80.47. In June: $123.10 – more than double the previous year. In July: $262.97.

Fred Moore, CEO of SA components manufacturer Alfon Engineering, addressing the electricity price hikes that are smashing small and medium business, says his latest electricity contract had increased by almost 50 percent. Until the end of May, his businesses electricity bill was about $3,000 a month and is now about $4,500 a month. He says: “I don’t know how long the company is going to be able to afford it.”

As a result of the loss of coal, when there’s no wind or sun, SA is now reliant on natural gas generation and from coal-fueled electricity being imported through a single connector from neighboring Victoria.

In part, due to a calm, cold winter (weather that is not favorable to wind farms), natural gas demand is high and so are prices. Additionally, the Heywood interconnector was in the midst of being upgraded – which lowered capacity for the coal-fueled electricity on which SA relies. Because of SA’s abandoning coal-fueled electricity generation and its increased reliance on wind, The Australian reports: “The national energy market regulator has warned that South Australia is likely to face continued price volatility and ‘significantly lower’ electricity availability.”

Then came the brutal cold snap, which caused more folks to turn on their electric heaters – thus driving up demand. The left-leaning, Labour state officials were prompted to plead for more reliable fossil-fuel-generated power. With the connector constrained, the only option was to turn on a mothballed gas-fueled power station – a very expensive exercise. The gas plant had been shut down because of what amounts to dispatch priority policies – meaning if renewable energy is available, it must get used, pushing natural gas into a back-up power source. This, combined with the subsidized wind power, made the plant unprofitable. The Australian Financial Review (AFR) explains: “Energy experts say South Australia’s heavy reliance on wind energy is compounding its problems in two ways, first by forcing the remaining baseload generators to earn more revenue in shorter periods of time when the wind isn’t blowing, and secondly by forcing baseload coal and gas generators out of the market altogether.”

Big industrial users, who are the most affected by the power crisis, are “furious about the spike in higher power prices.” According to AFR, Adelaide Brighton Cement, one of the few energy-intensive manufacturing industries still operating in South Australia, said the fluctuating price was hurting business. “As a competitor in a global market, it is essential for us to have access to the availability of uninterrupted economically competitive power.” In The Australian, Jacqui McGill, BHP’s Olympic Dam asset manager, agrees: “We operate in a global market…to be competitive globally, we need globally competitive pricing for inputs, of which energy is one.” The report adds that some major businesses in SA warn of possible shutdowns due to higher power prices – the result of a rushed transition to increased renewable energy. The Adelaide Advertiser reported: “some of the state’s biggest employers were close to temporarily closing due to surging SA electricity prices making business too expensive.” Not the job creation promised by Wetherall.

“Of course, if you were some sort of contrarian eccentric,” writes Judith Sloan, Contributing Economics Editor for The Australian, “you could argue that escalating electricity prices, at both the wholesale and retail level, have made manufacturing in Australia increasingly uncompetitive and so the RET has indirectly contributed to the meeting of the emissions reduction target – but not in a good way.”

The SA energy crisis serves as a wake-up call and a warning to the other states, as the problem is, according to Koutsantonis, “coming to New South Wales and Victoria very soon.” But it should also, as the Financial Times reports: “provide lessons to nations rapidly increasing investment in renewables.”

Malcolm Roberts, CEO at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, called the situation in SA a “test case” for integrating large scale renewable energy generation into the electricity grid. According to Keith Orchison, former managing director of the Electricity Supply Association of Australia (from 1991 to 2003), now retired and working as a consultant and as the publisher of Coolibah Commentary newsletter and “This is Power” blog, current policy is driven by “ideology, politicking and populism.”

Roberts added: “No technology is perfect. Coal is great for base-load power, but it’s not so great for peak demand but gas is well suited for meeting peak demand. You need gas as an insurance policy for more renewables.” Even the Clean Energy Council’s chief executive, Kane Thornton, in the AFR, “conceded conventional power generation such as gas would most likely be needed as a back-up.”

Perhaps the best explanation for SA’s energy crisis came from the Australian Energy Council, formerly the Electricity Supply Association of Australia, which called it an: “accidental experiment in how far you can push technologies such as wind and solar power in to an electricity grid before something breaks.” According to Orchison: “The council says that intermittent renewables at scale reduces carbon emissions but ultimately increases end-user prices and system reliability risks.”

On August 13, The Economist, in an article titled It’s not easy being green, addressed the three goals of Germany’s energy transformation: “to keep energy supply reliable; to make it affordable; and to clean it up to save the environment, with a target of cutting emissions by 95% between 1990 and 2050.” All three of which, Clemens Fuest, of the Munich-based Ifo Institute think tank, says, “will be missed.” He calls Germany “an international example for bad energy policy.” Now we can add South Australia, and, perhaps, most of Australia, as another.

This is the result, Orchison says, of “pursuing a purist view at the political expense of power reliability.”

The question remains: will America learn from these bad examples, or will we continue down the path President Obama has pushed us onto – spending billions, achieving little environmental benefit, and raising rates on households and industry? The result of November’s election will provide the answer.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The few, the loud, the anti-fossil fuel crowd

Commentary by Marita Noon

If you get your news from the mainstream media, you likely think the views expressed by the environmental activists represent the majority of Americans. After all, their highly visible protests against the Keystone pipeline – sit-ins in front of the White House, locking themselves to the White House fence and then being arrested for it, and parading down the National Mall carrying a huge inflated tube emblazoned with the words: “Just say no to Keystone” – were effective. Despite repeated polling that showed a majority of Americans supported the pipeline, with a small minority opposed, the loud theatrics of the anti-fossil fuel crowd eventually won out. After years of stall tactics, President Obama finally bowed to their demands and said no to the job-creating infrastructure project.

Earlier this year, the usual group of suspects, led by well-known anti-fracking activist Bill McKibben, planned a “global wave of resistance” called BreakFree2016 - scheduled to take place from May 3-15 – on six continents. The event’s website announced the various activities, including an appearance and speech by McKibben, a Vermont resident, at the Colorado rally that promised: the “largest mass mobilizations for climate action in the history of Colorado.” It confirmed that there would be “civil disobedience.”

Did you hear about it? Probably not.

A news report of the planned Colorado activities said: “And on May 14, 350 Colorado is planning a day of speeches, live music and activities protesting oil and gas developments close to neighborhoods and schools in Thornton. The goal is to draw 1,000 people to the upcoming events.” The website, post-event, states: “about 800 people joined the action throughout the day” with “about 30-40 people” still there at the end of the day for the dramatic “frack-site” invasion. Yet, as even their own Facebook page photos indicate, not even 100 were present for the big McKibben speech. Without vendors and media, he may have had no audience at all.

After flying in to Denver, and then being driven to the protest site in a limousine, McKibben jetted off to Los Angeles, California, where he was joined by the greens’ “Daddy Warbucks,” billionaire political campaign donor Tom Steyer – with much the same results: a few hundred protesting fossil fuels and, as Energy In Depth reported, “the very social and economic underpinnings of liberal democracy.” The typical anti-everything protestors were present – but only a few.

In Iowa, as I addressed last week, a meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition – which according to the organizer includes those with “concerns about the impact it could have on the environment, farmers who worry about their cropland and religious groups who view expanding use of fossil fuels as a moral issue because of climate change” – expected a crowd of 200. Instead, according to the Ottumwa Courier, “only 40 or so were seated when the meeting began. Others trickled in as the meeting progressed.”

Now, Colorado is ground zero for “one of the biggest environmental fights in the country this year,” as Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain region director for Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based group advocating for safety in food production and oil and gas production, called it. Two ballot initiatives, 75 and 78, have the potential to, according to Colorado regulators, “effectively halt new oil and gas development in as much as 90 percent of the state.” In order to get the initiatives on the ballot, 98,492 valid signatures needed to be turned into the Colorado Secretary of State by August 8 – no later than 3:00 p.m.

In June, The Tribune reported that Tricia Olson, who has pumped in most of the funding for a group backing initiatives 75 and 78, hoped to “collect 160,000 signatures to account for the invalid signatures that inevitably pop up.” (Politico just announced: “recent campaign finance reports were filed with the Colorado secretary of state, the Sierra Club gave $150,000, making it the largest single reported contributor to the anti-fracking effort.”)

Because the Colorado Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on May 2, declared local fracking limits “invalid and unenforceable,” as state law trumps local ordinances, Olson sees the ballot initiatives as their “last ditch effort.”

On Monday, August 8, exercising stagecraft, at 2:30 p.m., dozens of supporters emptied a U-Haul truck and delivered box after box of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. They celebrated their “victory.” 350 Colorado, one of the groups behind the measures, proclaimed: “We did it! Over 100,000 signatures delivered on initiatives to limit fracking!” – not the 160,000 originally hoped for, and likely not enough to get on the ballot in November.

By CBS Denver’s accounting about 105,000 signatures were turned in – most in half empty boxes. Lynn Bartels, Colorado Secretary of State Communications Director, tweeted: “Proponents of fracking measures turned in lots of boxes with very few petitions in them.” Once the petitions were consolidated, there were roughly 50 empty boxes. Simon Lomax, an associate energy policy analyst with the conservative Independence Institute in Denver and a consultant who advises pro-business groups, said: “To make it look more impressive they added a bunch of empty boxes, or boxes with very few petitions. It just sort of shows, these groups don’t do substance, they just do deceptive publicity stunts.”

On CBS Denver, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler explained that since you need about 98,000 signatures to get on the ballot because, for a variety of reasons, at least 30 percent are rejected, you need to submit at least 140,000. He says that for the 105,000 signatures turned in to qualify would be “unprecedented,” something that “has never occurred in Colorado for a ballot initiative.” According to Gessler, the effort is “doomed” – though we will not know for sure until next month when the final counts are released.

Noted election reporter and national affairs columnist for the National Review, John Fund, told me: “If there is enough public support for an issue to get the votes needed to pass, getting a surplus of signatures to get it on the ballot is an easy task.”

Many Democrats, including Governor John Hickenlooper, support hydraulic fracturing and have come out against the ballot initiatives. Politico posits that because mainstream environmentalists “fear that their movement will suffer a demoralizing defeat if the two proposals make it in front of the voters,” they “hope the ballot initiatives will die instead.”  Additionally, “A decisive referendum on oil and gas production would increase calls for [Hillary] Clinton to explicitly take a side.” She’s previously aligned with 75 and 78 – which could spoil her attempts to attract moderate Republicans she’ll need to win the state.

Despite their drama and declared “victory,” it doesn’t seem that the Colorado anti-fossil fuel crowd has enough signatures, or support, to make it onto the November ballot. They may be loud, but, alas, they are few.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

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