The New Paganism? The Case against Pope Francis’s Green Encyclical by Max Borders

Paganism as a distinct and separate religion may perhaps be said to have died, although, driven out of the cities, it found refuge in the countryside, where it lingered long — and whence, indeed, its very name is derived. In a very real sense, however, it never died at all. It was only transformed and absorbed into Christianity. – James Westfall Thompson, An Introduction to Medieval Europe

In 2003, science-fiction writer Michael Crichton warned a San Francisco audience about the sacralization of the environment. Drawing an analogy between religion and environmentalism, Crichton said:

There’s an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there’s a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all.

We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability. Sustainability is salvation in the church of the environment. Just as organic food is its communion, that pesticide-free wafer that the right people with the right beliefs, imbibe.

This analogy between religion and environmentalism is no longer a mere analogy.

Pope Francis, the highest authority in the Catholic Church — to whom many faithful look for spiritual guidance — has now fused church doctrine with environmental doctrine.

Let’s consider pieces of his recently released Encyclical Letter. One is reminded of a history in which the ideas of paganism (including the worship of nature) were incorporated into the growing medieval Church.

Excerpts from Pope Francis are shown in italics.


 

This sister protests the evil that we provoke, because of the irresponsible use and of the abuse of the goods that God has placed in her. We grew up thinking that we were its owners and rulers, allowed to plunder it.

Notice how Pope Francis turns the earth into a person. Sister. Mother. This kind of anthropomorphic trope is designed to make you think that, by virtue of driving your car, you’re also smacking your sibling. We’ve gone from “dominion over the animals and crawling things” to “plundering” our sister.

The violence that exists in the human heart wounded by sin is also manifested in the symptoms of the disease we feel in soil, water, air and in the living things. Therefore, among the most abandoned and ill treated poor we find our oppressed and devastated Earth, which “moans and suffers the pains of childbirth” [Romans 8:22].

First, if the state of the soil, water and air and living things is indeed symptomatic of our violent, sinful hearts, then the good news is that sin is on the decline. On every dimension the Pope names, the symptoms of environmental harm are getting better all the time — at least in our decadent capitalist country.

Do not take it on faith: here are data.

There are forms of pollution which affect people every day. The exposure to air pollutants produces a large spectrum of health effects, in particular on the most poor, and causes millions of premature deaths.

This will always be true to some degree, of course, but it’s less true than any time in human history. Pope Francis fails to acknowledge the tremendous gains humanity has made. For example, human life expectancy in the Paleolithic period (call this “Eden”) was 33 years. Life expectancy in the neolithic period was 20 years. Globally, life expectancy is now more than 68 years, and in the West, it is passing 79 years.

Yes, there is pollution, and, yes, the poor are affected by it. But the reason why the poor are affected most by air pollution is because they’re poor — and because they don’t have access to fossil fuel energy. Pope Francis never bothers to draw the connection between wealth and health because he thinks of both production and consumption as sinful. Brad Plumer writes at Vox,

About 3 billion people around the world — mostly in Africa and Asia, and mostly very poor — still cook and heat their homes by burning coal, charcoal, dung, wood, or plant residue in their homes. These homes often have poor ventilation, and the smoke can cause all sorts of respiratory diseases.

The wealthy people of the West, including Pope Francis, don’t suffer from this problem. That’s because liberal capitalist countries — i.e., those countries who “plunder” their sister earth — do not suffer from energy poverty. They do not suffer from inhaling fumes and particulate matter from burning dung becausethey are “sinful,” because they are capitalist.

See the problem? The Pope wants to have it both ways. He has confused the disease (unhealthy indoor air pollution) with the cure (cheap, clean, abundant and mass-produced energy from fossil fuels).

Add to that the pollution that affects all, caused by transportation, by industrial fumes, by the discharge of substances which contribute to the acidification of soil and water, by fertilizers, insecticides, fungicides, herbicides and toxic pesticides in general. The technology, which, connected to finance, claims to be the only solution to these problems, in fact is not capable of seeing the mystery of the multiple relationships which exist between things, and because of this, sometimes solves a problem by creating another.

It is strange to read admonitions from someone about the “multiple relationships that exist between things,” only to see him ignore those relationships in the same paragraph. Yes, humans often create problems by solving others, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t solve the problems. It just means we should solve the big problems and then work on the smaller ones.

Solving problems even as we discover different problems is an inherent part of the human condition. Our creativity and innovation and struggle to overcome the hand nature has dealt us is what makes us unique as a species.

Perhaps this is, for Pope Francis, some sort of Green Original Sin: “Thou shalt just deal with it.” But to the rest of us, it is the means by which we live happier, more comfortable lives here under the firmament.

The Earth, our home, seems to turn more and more into a huge garbage dump. In many places on the planet, the elderly remember with nostalgia the landscapes of the past, which now appear to be submerged in junk.

If you get your understanding of waste management and the environment from the movie Wall-E, then you might have the impression that we’re burying our sister in garbage. But as the guys over at EconPop have pointed out, land used for waste management is also governed by laws of supply and demand — which means entrepreneurs and innovators are finding better and less expensive ways to reuse, reduce, recycle, and manage our waste.

The industrial waste as well as the chemicals used in cities and fields can produce an effect of bio-accumulation in the bodies of the inhabitants of neighboring areas, which occurs even when the amount of a toxic element in a given place is low. Many times one takes action only when these produced irreversible effects on people’s health.

People, on net, are living longer and healthier than they ever have in the history of our species. What evidence does the Holy Father have that irreversible effects on people’s health rises to the level of an emergency that demands drafting in a papal encyclical? And why focus on the costs of “chemicals” without a single mention of overwhelming their human benefit? Indeed, which chemicals? This kind of sloppy thinking is rather unbecoming of someone who is (we are constantly reminded) a trained chemist.

Certain substances can have health effects, but so can failing to produce the life-enhancing goods in the first place. The answer is not to beg forgiveness for using soaps and plastics (or whatever), but to develop the institutions that prevent people and companies from imposing harmful costs onto others without taking responsibility for it.

The key is to consider the trade-offs that we will face no matter what, not to condemn and banish “impure” and unnatural substances from our lives.

These issues are intimately linked to the culture of waste, affecting so much the human beings left behind when the things turn quickly into trash.

Now we’re getting somewhere. This is where Pope Francis would like to add consumerism to production on the list of environmentally deadly sins.

Let us realize, for example, that most of the paper that is produced is thrown away and not recycled.

Heaven forfend! So would Pope Francis have us burn fossil fuels to go around and collect processed pulp? Is he unaware that demand for paper is what drivesthe supply of new trees? We aren’t running out of trees because we throw away paper. The Pope’s plan sounds like it could have been hatched in Berkeley, California, instead of Vatican City. And yet worlds have collided.

Michael Munger puts matters a little differently:

Mandatory recycling, by definition, takes material that would not be recycled voluntarily, diverts it from the waste stream, and handles it several times before using it again in a way that wastes resources.

The only explanation for this behavior that I can think of is a religious ceremony, a sacrifice of resources as a form of worship. I have no problem if people want to do that. As religions go, it is fairly benign. Butrequiring that religious sacrifice of resources is a violation of the constitutional separation of church and state.

Well, Professor Munger, this is the Pope we’re talking about.

We find it hard to admit that the operation of natural ecosystems is exemplary: plants synthesize nutrients that feed the herbivores; these in turn feed the carnivores, which provide a lot of organic waste, which give rise to a new generation of plants. In contrast, the industrial system, at the end of its cycle of production and consumption, has not developed the ability to absorb and reuse waste and slag.

Where is the evidence for this? These are matters of faith, indeed. All this time I thought the industrial system did have the ability to absorb and reuse waste: It’s called the system of prices, property, and profit/loss. The problem is not that such a “recycling” system doesn’t exist, it’s that corruption and government distorts the system of property, prices and profit/loss so that our economic ecosystem doesn’t operate as it should.

Indeed, when you have the Pope suggesting we burn gas to save glass, you have to wonder why the industrial system is so messed up. A system that “requires us to limit the use of non-renewable resources, to moderate consumption, to maximize the efficiency of the exploitation, to reuse and to recycle,” is called the market. And where it doesn’t exist is where you’ll find the worst instances of corruption and environmental degradation.

Then, of course, there’s climate change. In the interests of brevity I won’t quote the whole thing. But here’s the punchline, which might have been plucked straight from the IPCC Summary for Policymakers:

Climate change is a global problem with serious environmental, social, economic, distribution and policy implications, and make up one of the main current challenges for humanity. The heaviest impacts will probably fall in the coming decades upon developing countries.

This might be true. What the Holy Father fails to appreciate is that the heaviest impacts of policies designed to mitigate climate change will definitely fall upon developing countries. (That is, if the developing countries swear off cheap energy and embrace any sort of global climate treaty. If history is a guide, they most certainly will not.)

Meanwhile, the biggest benefits of burning more carbon-based fossil fuels will accrue the poorest billions on earth. The Pope should mention that if he really has their interests at heart or in mind.

But many symptoms indicate that these effects could get worse if we continue the current patterns of production and consumption.

“Patterns of production and consumption”? This is a euphemism for wealth creation. What is wealth except production and consumption of resources to further human need and desire?

His suggested cure for our dangerous patterns of wealth creation, of course, is good ole demand-side management. Wiser, more enlightened minds (like his, he hopes) will let you know which light bulbs to buy, what sort of car to drive, and which insolvent solar company they’ll “invest” your money in. You can even buy papal indulgences in the form of carbon credits. As the late Alexander Cockburn wrote,

The modern trade is as fantastical as the medieval one. … Devoid of any sustaining scientific basis, carbon trafficking is powered by guilt, credulity, cynicism and greed, just like the old indulgences, though at least the latter produced beautiful monuments.

But the most important thing to realize here is that the “current” patterns of production and consumption are never current. The earthquakes of innovation and gales of creative destruction blow through any such observed patterns. The price system, with its lightning-quick information distribution mechanism is far, far superior to any elites or energy cronies. And technological innovation, though we can’t predict just how, will likely someday take us as far away from today’s energy status quo, just as we have moved away from tallow, whale oil, and horse-drawn carriages.

The Pope disagrees with our rose-tinted techno-optimism, saying “some maintain at all costs the myth of progress and say that the ecological problems will be solved simply by new technical applications.”

The Pope sits on his golden throne and looks over the vast expanse of time and space — from hunter-gatherers running mammoths off cliffs to Americans running Teslas off electric power, from the USA in 1776 and 2015, from England before and after the Industrial Revolution, from Hong Kong and Hiroshima in 1945 to their glorious present — and sneers: progress is a myth, environmental problems can’t be fixed through innovation, production is destroying the earth, consumption is original sin.

Innovation is the wellspring of all progress. Policies to stop or undo innovation in energy, chemistry, industry, farming, and genetics are a way to put humanity in a bell jar, at best. At worst they will put some of us in the dark and others in early graves. They are truly fatal conceits.

And yet, the Pope has faith in policymakers to know just which year we should have gotten off the train of innovation. William F. Buckley famously said conservatives “stand athwart history, yelling ‘Stop!’” Greens are similar, except they’re yelling “Go back!”

Therefore it has become urgent and compelling to develop policies so that in the coming years the emission of carbon dioxide and other highly polluting gases is reduced drastically, for instance by replacing fossil fuels and by developing renewable energy sources.

I reflect again on the notion that this effort might be just another way of the Church embracing and extending a competitor religion. Then again, Pope Francis so often shows that he is a true and faithful green planner. In an unholy alliance with those who see the strategic benefit in absorbing environmentalism, the Holy Father has found the perfect way to restore the power of the Church over politics, economics, culture, and the state to its former glory.


Max Borders

Max Borders is the editor of the Freeman and director of content for FEE. He is also cofounder of the event experience Voice & Exit and author of Superwealth: Why we should stop worrying about the gap between rich and poor.


Daniel Bier

Daniel Bier is the editor of Anything Peaceful. He writes on issues relating to science, civil liberties, and economic freedom.

Boston Hospital fires Physician for Discussing ‘Gay’ Medical Dangers!

On March 30, a major Harvard-affiliated hospital in Boston, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), expelled a well-respected urologist from its medical staff because he voiced concerns about the unhealthy nature of homosexual behavior and objected to the hospital’s aggressive promotion of “gay pride” activities.

Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center is a sprawling hospital complex in Boston.

People trust the medical profession to protect them – on both the personal and public health levels. But in recent years, a nightmare has taken hold. Now, a medical doctor is being expelled from his hospital for telling the politically-incorrect truth about a serious medical issue. What you are about to read is truly Orwellian.

Dr. Paul Church has been a urologist on the BIDMC staff in Boston for nearly 30 years. He is a member of the Harvard Medical School faculty. He has done research on diagnosing prostate and bladder cancer, and has been a frequent volunteer for medical mission projects in Mexico and Africa. He has also spoken before educational and civic groups on the subject of high-risk sexual behaviors.

Voicing serious medical (and moral) concerns

Over a decade ago, Dr. Church became concerned about the hospital’s aggressive promotion of and involvement in LGBT activities — including Boston’s annual “Gay Pride Week” – and its emphatic push for staff participation in them. He felt compelled to speak out.

Through emails to hospital officials and later posting on the hospital’s Intranet system, Dr. Church cited irrefutable medical evidence that high-risk sexual practices common to the LGBT community lead to (among other things) a higher incidence of HIV/AIDS, STD’s, hepatitis, parasitic infections, anal cancers, and psychiatric disorders.

Promoting such behavior, he said, is contrary to the higher mission of the healthcare facility to protect the public welfare and encourage healthy lifestyles.  Dr. Church also reminded the administration that its staff and employees represent a diversity of moral and religious views, and many believe that homosexuality is unnatural and immoral.


The BIDMC contingent at a “Gay Pride” parade in Boston. [MassResistance photo.]

Response by the hospital: Attempts to silence and censor Dr. Church

The hospital did not at any time dispute the truth of his medical statements, nor did they address his other concerns.

They did not claim that Dr. Church ever discussed this with patients, or treated patients any differently if they were involved with these behaviors.

Instead Dr. Church was met with increasingly harsh efforts by the hospital administration to silence and censor him. They told him that his admonitions about homosexual behavior constituted “discrimination and harassment,” were “offensive to BIDMC staff,” and could not be tolerated.

In July 2011, he was called into the Chief of Surgery’s office and told he should consider resigning or else he would face an investigation. He refused to resign. So a few months later a formal “Peer Review Committee” of BIDMC staff physicians was called together to “assess” his “conduct.” He again presented them with the medical facts, which they did not dispute, but ignored. The committee instead sent him a “letter of reprimand” ordering, “You shall have no communications [in any manner, to anyone in the hospital] concerning your opinion about sexual orientation, homosexuality, or other protected status.”

It was an unusual order – that a physician be banned from discussing critical medical facts relating to his expertise, that could affect the health of people the hospital serves.

Dr. Church subsequently requested that the hospital not send any more promotions about LGBT activities to his email or hospital web connection. The hospital refused that request and continued sending them to him.  (They rejected the idea that these communications constituted a religious-based harassment of Dr. Church, or the possibility that such a “gag order” was illegal.)

As the emails and postings sent to Dr. Church by the hospital grew more frequent — as BIDMC’s LGBT activities expanded — he again voiced his concerns via a brief posted comment on one occasion in 2013 and twice in 2014.

Dr. Church is expelled from the staff

The hospital reacted with vehemence. In September 2014 a special “Investigating Committee” was assembled to investigate him. “Charges” were brought against him.

But also, over the next few months the Investigating Committee and BIDMC’s president received an outpouring of letters from colleagues, ethicists, public health experts, and others supporting Dr. Church and his advocacy for healthy behaviors. But the committee was not moved by the concerns of Dr. Church or those who wrote letters on his behalf.

In January 2015 the Investigating Committee submitted its findings to the hospital’s highest body and most prominent group, the 25-member Medical Executive Committee, which then met in February to decide on Dr. Church’s fate. At the meeting they allowed Dr. Church to read a statement defending himself.

On March 30, 2015, the Medical Executive Committee announced its decision. Dr. Church was informed that because of his “unsolicited views about homosexuality that were offensive to BIDMC Staff,” he was being terminated from the hospital staff. Further, he was told that that his statements on the subject of homosexuality were “inconsistent with the established standards of professional conduct” and constituted a violation of the hospital’s “Discrimination and Harassment Policy.”  It was beyond belief.

Read an expanded description and timeline of these events HERE.

Appeal hearing

According to the hospital’s bylaws, Dr. Church can ask for an appeal hearing, which he has done. It has been scheduled for the end of July. However, it is not a “legal” process per se, but completely run by hospital rules. Dr. Church can at least be accompanied by an attorney, which was not allowed in any of the previous hearings.

Given the way the hospital has handled this so far, the odds of a successful appeal are not good.

A few scenes from the Boston “Gay Pride” parade:

Sado-masochism – man in high-heel boots with lash leads other man by a leash around his neck.
[MassResistance photos]

 

Left: Man in dress – part of “transgender” group.

Right: Hatred of Christianity is a common theme.

Is this the future for us all?

Dr. Church has essentially done what virtually no one in the pro-family establishment has been willing to do for at least a decade: unflinchingly tell the medical and moral truth about homosexual behavior. In our opinion, that failure is the main reason why we have lost so much ground in the courts, the public forum, and just about everywhere else.

And this is what it’s come to. The insanity of this decision by a major hospital against a respected physician is staggering. It is one thing for the education system, big business, or even government to succumb to the lunacy of “political correctness.” But when the medical profession do so – especially such an irrational and oppressive manner – it is time for all of us to be fearful. Is this the future?

If you do nothing else, make sure that Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center hears from you – and as many others as you can get — on this. Dr. Church has put his career on the line for all of us. It’s time for us to step up for him.

Contact the president of BIDMC right now. Tell him this is an unacceptable way for a hospital to act. Dr. Church must be reinstated to his position immediately!

Kevin Tabb, MD
President and CEO, BIDMC
Feldberg 230
Boston, MA  02215
Phone: 617-667-4607
Fax: 617-667-3626
ktabb@bidmc.harvard.edu

The Heartland Institute Exhibits “Bad Judgment”

For some years now I have publicly praised the work of the Heartland Institute for leading the attack against the fraud of the anthropogenic global warming movement.

Based on criticism the Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC) received from Heartland the day after our June 8, 2015 press release, it would seem my praise has been misdirected.

The June 9, 2015 ‘shoot-from-the-hip’ opinion by members of the Heartland Institute (HI), about the important SSRC press release, demonstrates what I believe is a patent lack of credibility and bad scientific judgment on the part of the institute.

The article was written by HI ‘expert’ Alan Caruba with comments by HI Science Director Dr. Jay Lehr. See the article at Mr. Caruba’s site at Facts Not Fantasy. They jointly recommended that people be “extremely skeptical” of the SSRC press release.

The SSRC Press Release 3-2015 was titled “Earthquake and Volcano Threat for USA Increases.”  The release referenced new research that was subsequently published in the SSRC’s Global Climate Status Report (GCSR) on June 10, 2015. See the report at the GCSR page of the SSRC web site.

The SSRC press release and the semi-annual GCSR were a culmination of a number of other papers from the sister company of the SSRC, the International Earthquake and Volcano Prediction Center (IEVPC).  As well, leading edge climate research from the SSRC over the past eight years was included. Several PhD experts in seismology and solar induced climate change were directly involved in the research in the GCSR that supported the assertion of the press release – that a potentially dangerous era of increased geophysical activity – major earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, has begun.

The press release not only contained a general U.S. wide alert, but also referenced a letter sent to FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate, asking that he begin to prepare the US for what the science says is coming. In these documents, the SSRC specifically indicated another major earthquake is highly probable in the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) between St. Louis and Memphis. The time frame for the next catastrophic quake to strike was determined to be 2017 to 2038.

The Caruba-Lehr explanation seems to be that they have accepted the current USGS position that no one can predict earthquakes. The USGS position was born out of their singular attempt and failure to predict an earthquake in Parkfield, California between 1985 and 1993. This has led to a global scientific barrier to advancements in earthquake prediction based on the belief that if the USGS cannot do it, then no one else can, or should try!

Beyond that, the HI article has many fundamental errors that should not go unmentioned:

  1. Neither Mr. Caruba nor Dr. Lehr have any research background in seismology or climate science and are thus unqualified to render such important opinions as they have about the SSRC press release. Though a well published author in ground water hydrology, the public record shows Dr. Lehr has done nothing in the relevant fields of seismology, or climate science, much less solar effects on the Earth’s climate. Mr. Caruba’s choice of someone with no apparent credentials or history of scientific achievement in the fields being discussed is like asking a brain surgeon to do his first heart transplant operation on you. Everyone should demand a ‘second opinion’ here.
  2. The criticism by HI completely ignores the decades of experience and success achieved in the fields of seismology and climate science found within the careers of the authors of the research cited.
  3. The HI assault on the credibility of the SSRC and the IEVPC comes from Dr. Lehr and Mr. Caruba without either of them even reading the research! The research was not posted in the GCSR until two days after they issued their critical article. This is an unforgivable failure in making a scientific decision on any subject, especially one where so many lives are at stake. This is de facto bad scientific judgment. One has to ask is this typical of how decisions at HI are normally conducted?
  4. If Caruba and Lehr had done their homework first, they would realize that what the press release said was nothing new but merely an independent research company confirming what is already widely known by the USGS and experts who study the NMSZ, namely: The approximately 200 year pattern of major quakes in the NMSZ is already well established. The work by the SSRC shows the pattern is identical in periodicity to a 206 year solar cycle. We merely confirm what is already known from a solar-climate perspective.
  5. The geology community and the USGS are keenly aware that there has been a dramatic increase in earthquakes and volcanoes worldwide and in the US. Our press release and GCSR just gives a new rationale, highly correlated to climate change, for why this is happening.
  6. The expected quake for the NMSZ mentioned in the article is not a prediction for an earthquake per se since it lacks a specific magnitude, epicenter location, depth and day (s) expected. Neither the SSRC nor the IEVPC currently do earthquake predictions. The press release is, however, a reasoned long range warning of a highly likely event based on past history and now linked to naturally caused climate variation.
  7. The criticism by HI misses the point altogether of both the press release and the more important GCSR, the latter of course no one read anyway. Specifically, the last four devastating quakes in the NMSZ struck at the bottom of a solar hibernation, a period of dramatic reduction in solar energy output. Now that the next solar hibernation has begun, common sense dictates that major preparations be made in the interest of public safety.

The present state of preparation by the federal government and the state governments involved for another major NMSZ quake can be described as token at best, and otherwise abysmal in all categories. A human catastrophe is highly probable based on the best seismic and climate research available. Yet what do we see from the Heartland Institute and the federal and state governments? Nothing, except heads buried in sand or else criticism of those who wish to give the public the information they deserve.  Is it any wonder why so many Americans distrust the US government and political organizations?

In the absence of any government and media interest in properly educating our people on the increased risks they face, the SSRC has issued the appropriate press release and notification of the FEMA Administrator.

The Heartland Institute article by Caruba and Lehr is a clear example of shooting the messenger. Except this time, many citizens may pay with their lives for following such uninformed, incompetent advice.

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EDITORS NOTE: After this column was published we learned that Alan Caruba had passed away. Alan was a friend, colleague and contributor to this publication. We will miss his daily commentary and analysis of the issues. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.

To read all of Alan’s contributions to this publication please click here.

Against Eco-pessimism: Half a Century of False Bad News by Matt Ridley

Pope Francis’s new encyclical on the environment (Laudato Sii) warns of the coming environmental catastrophe (“unprecedented destruction of ecosystems, with serious consequences for all of us”).  It’s the latest entry in a long literary tradition of environmental doomsday warnings.

In contrast, Matt Ridley, bestselling author of GenomeThe Agile Gene, and The Rational Optimist, who also received the 2012 Julian Simon Memorial Award from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, says this outlook has proven wrong time again. This is the full text of his acceptance speech. Video is embedded below.

It is now 32 years, nearly a third of a century, since Julian Simon nailed his theses to the door of the eco-pessimist church by publishing his famous article in Science magazine: “Resources, Population, Environment: An Oversupply of False Bad News.”

It is also 40 years since The Limits to Growth and 50 years since Silent Spring, plenty long enough to reflect on whether the world has conformed to Malthusian pessimism or Simonian optimism.

Before I go on, I want to remind you just how viciously Simon was attacked for saying that he thought the bad news was being exaggerated and the good news downplayed.

Verbally at least Simon’s treatment was every bit as rough as Martin Luther’s. Simon was called an imbecile, a moron, silly, ignorant, a flat-earther, a member of the far right, a Marxist.

“Could the editors have found someone to review Simon’s manuscript who had to take off his shoes to count to 20?” said Paul Ehrlich.

Erhlich together with John Holdren then launched a blistering critique, accusing Simon of lying about electricity prices having fallen. It turned out they were basing their criticism on a typo in a table, as Simon discovered by calling the table’s author. To which Ehrlich replied: “what scientist would phone the author of a standard source to make sure there were no typos in a series of numbers?”

Answer: one who likes to get his facts right.

Yet for all the invective, his critics have never laid a glove on Julian Simon then or later. I cannot think of a single significant fact, data point or even prediction where he was eventually proved badly wrong. There may be a few trivia that went wrong, but the big things are all right. Read that 1980 article again today and you will see what I mean.

I want to draw a few lessons from Julian Simon’s battle with the Malthusian minotaur, and from my own foolhardy decision to follow in his footsteps – and those of Bjorn Lomborg, Ron Bailey, Indur Goklany, Ian Murray, Myron Ebell and others – into the labyrinth a couple of decades later.

Consider the words of the publisher’s summary of The Limits to Growth: “Will this be the world that your grandchildren will thank you for? A world where industrial production has sunk to zero. Where population has suffered a catastrophic decline. Where the air, sea, and land are polluted beyond redemption. Where civilization is a distant memory. This is the world that the computer forecasts.”

Again and again Simon was right and his critics were wrong.

Would it not be nice if just one of those people who called him names piped up and admitted it? We optimists have won every intellectual argument and yet we have made no difference at all. My daughter’s textbooks trot out the same old Malthusian dirge as mine did.

What makes it so hard to get the message across?

I think it boils down to five adjectives: ahistorical, finite, static, vested and complacent. The eco-pessimist view ignores history, misunderstands finiteness, thinks statically, has a vested interest in doom and is complacent about innovation.

People have very short memories. They are not just ignoring, but unaware of, the poor track record of eco-pessimists. For me, the fact that each of the scares I mentioned above was taken very seriously at the time, attracting the solemn endorsement of the great and the good, should prompt real skepticism about global warming claims today.

That’s what motivated me to start asking to see the actual evidence about climate change. When I did so I could not find one piece of data – as opposed to a model – that shows either unprecedented change or change is that is anywhere close to causing real harm.

Yet when I made this point to a climate scientist recently, he promptly and cheerily said that “the fact that people have been wrong before does not make them wrong this time,” as if this somehow settled the matter for good.

Second, it is enormously hard for people to grasp Simon’s argument that “Incredible as it may seem at first, the term ‘finite’ is not only inappropriate but downright misleading in the context of natural resources.”

He went on: “Because we find new lodes, invent better production methods and discover new substitutes, the ultimate constraint upon our capacity to enjoy unlimited raw materials at acceptable prices is knowledge.” This is a profoundly counterintuitive point.

Yet was there ever a better demonstration of this truth than the shale gas revolution? Shale gas was always there; but what made it a resource, as opposed to not a resource, was knowledge – the practical know-how developed by George Mitchell in Texas. This has transformed the energy picture of the world.

Besides, as I have noted elsewhere, it’s the renewable – infinite – resources that have a habit of running out: whales, white pine forests, buffalo. It’s a startling fact, but no non-renewable resource has yet come close to exhaustion, whereas lots of renewable ones have.

And by the way, have you noticed something about fossil fuels – we are the only creatures that use them. What this means is that when you use oil, coal or gas, you are not competing with other species. When you use timber, or crops or tide, or hydro or even wind, you are.

There is absolutely no doubt that the world’s policy of encouraging the use of bio-energy, whether in the form of timber or ethanol, is bad for wildlife – it competes with wildlife for land, or wood or food.

Imagine a world in which we relied on crops and wood for all our energy and then along comes somebody and says here’s this stuff underground that we can use instead, so we don’t have to steal the biosphere’s lunch.

Imagine no more. That’s precisely what did happen in the industrial revolution.

Third, the Malthusian view is fundamentally static. Julian Simon’s view is fundamentally dynamic. Again and again when I argue with greens I find that they simply do not grasp the reflexive nature of the world, the way in which prices cause the substitution of resources or the dynamic properties of ecosystems – the word equilibrium has no place in ecology.

Take malaria. The eco-pessimists insisted until recently that malaria must get worse in a warming 21st century world. But, as Paul Reiter kept telling them to no avail, this is nonsense. Malaria disappeared from North America, Russia and Europe and retreated dramatically in South America, Asia and Africa in the twentieth century even as the world warmed.

That’s not because the world got less congenial to mosquitoes. It’s because we moved indoors and drained the swamps and used DDT and malaria medications and so on. Human beings are a moving target. They adapt.

But, my fourth point, another reason Simon’s argument fell on stony ground is that so many people had and have a vested interest in doom. Though they hate to admit it, the environmental movement and the scientific community are vigorous, healthy, competitive, cut-throat, free markets in which corporate leviathans compete for donations, grants, subsidies and publicity. The best way of getting all three is to sound the alarm. If it bleeds it leads. Good news is no news.

Imagine how much money you would get if you put out an advert saying: “we now think climate change will be mild and slow, none the less please donate”. The sums concerned are truly staggering. Greenpeace and WWF, the General Motors and Exxon of the green movement, between them raise and spend a billion dollars a year globally. WWF spends $68m alone on educational propaganda. Frankly, Julian, Bjorn, Ron, Indur, Ian, Myron and I are spitting in the wind.

Yet, fifth, ironically, a further problem is complacency. The eco-pessimists are the Panglossians these days, for it is they who think the world will be fine without developing new technologies. Let’s not adopt GM food – let’s stick with pesticides.

Was there ever a more complacent doctrine than the precautionary principle: don’t try anything new until you are sure it is safe? As if the world were perfect. It is we eco-optimists, ironically, who are acutely aware of how miserable this world still is and how much better we could make it – indeed how precariously dependent we are on still inventing ever more new technologies.

I had a good example of this recently debating a climate alarmist. He insisted that the risk from increasing carbon dioxide was acute and that therefore we needed to drastically cut our emissions by 90 percent or so. In vain did I try to point out that drastically cutting emissions by 90% might do more harm to the poor and the rain forest than anything the emissions themselves might do. That we are taking chemotherapy for a cold, putting a tourniquet round our neck to stop a nosebleed.

My old employer, the Economist, is fond of a version of Pascal’s wager – namely that however small the risk of catastrophic climate change, the impact could be so huge that almost any cost is worth bearing to avert it. I have been trying to persuade them that the very same logic applies to emissions reduction.

However small is the risk that emissions reduction will lead to planetary devastation, almost any price is worth paying to prevent that, including the tiny risk that carbon emissions will destabilize the climate. Just look at Haiti to understand that getting rid of fossil fuels is a huge environmental risk.

That’s what I mean by complacency: complacently assuming that we can decarbonize the economy without severe ecological harm, complacently assuming that we can shut down world trade without starving the poor, that we can grow organic crops for seven billion people without destroying the rain forest.

Having paid homage to Julian Simon’s ideas, let me end by disagreeing with him on one thing. At least I think I am disagreeing with him, but I may be wrong.

He made the argument, which was extraordinary and repulsive to me when I first heard it as a young and orthodox eco-pessimist, that the more people in the world, the more invention. That people were brains as well as mouths, solutions as well as problems. Or as somebody once put it: why is the birth of a baby a cause for concern, while the birth of a calf is a cause for hope?

Now there is a version of this argument that – for some peculiar reason – is very popular among academics, namely that the more people there are, the greater the chance that one of them will be a genius, a scientific or technological Messiah.

Occasionally, Julian Simon sounds like he is in this camp. And if he were here today, — and by Zeus, I wish he were – I would try to persuade him that this is not the point, that what counts is not how many people there are but how well they are communicating. I would tell him about the new evidence from Paleolithic Tasmania, from Mesolithic Europe from the Neolithic Pacific, and from the internet today, that it’s trade and exchange that breeds innovation, through the meeting and mating of ideas.

That the lonely inspired genius is a myth, promulgated by Nobel prizes and the patent system. This means that stupid people are just as important as clever ones; that the collective intelligence that gives us incredible improvements in living standards depends on people’s ideas meeting and mating, more than on how many people there are. That’s why a little country like Athens or Genoa or Holland can suddenly lead the world. That’s why mobile telephony and the internet has no inventor, not even Al Gore.

Not surprisingly, academics don’t like this argument. They just can’t get their pointy heads around the idea that ordinary people drive innovation just by exchanging and specializing. I am sure Julian Simon got it, but I feel he was still flirting with the outlier theory instead.

The great human adventure has barely begun. The greenest thing we can do is innovate. The most sustainable thing we can do is change. The only limit is knowledge. Thank you Julian Simon for these insights.

2012 Julian L. Simon Memorial Award Dinner from CEI Video on Vimeo.

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Climate Station Data Shows U.S. In A 10-Year Cooling Trend

The Daily Caller reports:

Data from America’s most advanced climate monitoring system shows the U.S. has undergone a cooling trend over the last decade, despite recent claims by government scientists that warming has accelerated worldwide during that time.

The U.S. Climate Reference Network was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to provide “high-quality” climate data. The network consists of 114 stations across the U.S. in areas NOAA expects no development for the next 50 to 100 years.

us climate data

Read more. 

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“Skeptics” Gather in D.C.

On Thursday and Friday, June 11-12, there will be a gathering of some of the nation’s and the world’s leading climate change “skeptics” in Washington, D.C. and joining them will be members of Congress and their staffs. The Tenth International Conference on Climate Change will occur and the odds are that the mainstream media, as it has done for all the previous conferences, will do its best to ignore it.

In attendance as well will be scores of scientists, economists, and policy experts for a conference being held just two blocks from a White House in which the President of the United States resides while lying about “climate change” as the greatest threat to the planet.

In March, the Gallup Poll revealed that “Although climate scientists have been in the news describing this winter as a strong signal that global warming is producing more extreme weather, Americans are no more likely today (55%) than in the past two years to believe the effects of global warming are occurring.”

The Conference is sponsored by The Heartland Institute, a Chicago-based free-market think tank and, while most of us have heard of the Rand Corporation or the Heritage Foundation, Heartland is one of the those power houses that labors without the “image” accorded others.

Founded in 1984, it has a full-time staff of 31 with approximately 235 academics and professional economists who participate in its peer-review process, plus more than 160 elected officials who serve on its Legislative Forum. In addition to the environment, its scholars also focus on education, health, budget and tax issues.

I have been a Heartland policy analyst for so long I can’t recall when I joined. Approximately 8,300 supporters contribute to its annual budget of $6 million. It does not accept government funding.

Without your knowing it, the nine conferences that preceded the current one have had a dramatic impact on your life and wallet. For one thing, you’re not being robbed by a “carbon tax” aimed at “reducing greenhouse gases.” On the other hand, you may be at risk of losing a coal-fired plant that provides your electricity if the Environmental Protection Agency is allowed to continue its vile attack on our energy resources.

It has been Heartland and a handful of other think tanks that labored to inform the public about the science that utterly debunked the lies about “global warming” and now works to do the same for those applied to “climate change.” Heartland’s power is seen in its conferences.

The problem for Heartland and the rest of us is that we are up against the U.S. government whose Obama administration is completely committed to the lies; agency by agency within the government have budgets and programs to continue to telling the lies. Beyond them is the entire system of government schools and, beyond them, much of the higher education community.

In early June the Daily Caller reported that “National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists have found a solution to the 15-year ‘pause’ in global warming: They ‘adjusted’ the hiatus in warming out of the temperature record.” This is what Heartland and others have been fighting against and exposing since the global warming hoax began in the late 1980s. And we are beginning to see the Congress respond.

As reported by CNS News, appropriators in the House of Representatives have let it be known that they are taking aim at one of the Obama administration’s most cherished priorities—international climate change funding. An appropriations bill for the State Department and foreign operations excluded the Green Climate Fund, the Clean Technology Fund, and the Strategic Climate Fund, while also removing funding for the U.SN-backed Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. That’s millions in U.S. taxpayer funding that will not be wasted on the climate change hoax.

The Conference will honor some of the world’s leading “skeptics”—the alarmists call them “denier.” They include Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) as the winner of the Political Leadership on Climate Change Award, sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. My friend, Robert M. Carter, Ph.D. will receive Heartland’s Lifetime Achievement in Climate Science award. Others whom you may not have heard of include William Happer, Ph.D., David Legates, Ph.D., and Anthony Watts, all of whom have been on the front lines of the battle for the truth about the planet’s climate.

An entire generation has grown up and graduated from college since the first lies about global warming were unleashed. That’s how long Heartland and others have labored to present the truth. If the media fails to take notice of this week’s conference, you will know that the battle will continue for a long time to come.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Cyber Security: Where are we now and where are we headed?

I recently had an extended conversation with John Jorgensen, founder and CEO of the Sylint Group, and USAF Brigadier General (Ret.) Charly Shugg, Sylint’s Chief Operations Officer, on where we are on cyber security and where we are headed. Both John and Charly understand that technology is ubiquitous. It is present, appearing and found everywhere. As technology expands so does the possibility of those with the necessary skills to use it for both good and evil. The Sylint Group is focused on combating the evil – the cyber war being conducted at every level from the individual to the nation state every moment of every day.

The more we tune in, turn on and hook in to technology the greater the threat to individual privacy and freedom.

Mr. Jorgensen believes the greatest future threat is from “chipping” but more about that later.

What is the current threat?

What most individuals think about when you say cyber security is protecting their personal information (e.g. credit cards, medical records, telephone and email conversations). For corporations it is about protecting their data, corporate processes and networks. For nation states, like the U.S., it is about protecting national assets such as the electrical grid, nuclear power plants, government websites and government secrets. Each sector has its unique needs but are these needs to provide cyber security being met? According to Mr. Jorgensen they are not. Mr. Jorgensen in his column “A New Age – The Cyber Information Age” wrote:

We are connected to each other electronically through communications systems that we don’t understand and to people we don’t know personally, and maybe don’t know that they are connected to us. Our lives bleed out through on-line personal accounts and everyone knows our foibles and sins. Our hard earned money is stolen from our bank accounts by somebody in a mid-eastern country, which we didn’t know existed. And all of this is accomplished using 1’s and 0’s in a nanosecond of time from thousands of miles away.

I notice that the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) is held a conference titled “Road Ahead to Cybersecurity”. I don’t think that there is a “road ahead” for cyber security. There isn’t a road at all! The whole playing field has changed and there are no defined roads in or out.

I firmly believe that we are stuck in a quagmire alongside that “road” to the playing field and it dead ended at the entry to a new age called “the Cyber Information Age”.

What are the future threats?

bio chip embedded in hands

Sub-dermal chip implants.

Restorative and enhancement technologies, biohackers, cyborgs, grinders and sub-dermal technology (chipping). Restorative technologies include devices used to help individuals medically. They are devices, that include a computer chip, used to restore the lives of individuals to normal or near normal. Restorative technologies include devices such as: heart pace makers, insulin pumps and prosthetic devices.

Enhancement devices are those which the individual implants into their bodies outside of the medically approved arena. Individuals can for just $39 buy a glass-encased embeddable chip that works with some Android smartphones.  A full DIY cyborg kit, including a sterilized injector and gauze pads, runs about $100. Amal Graafstra, a cyborg who creates and sells biohacking devices, said, “Some people see the body as a spiritual vessel not to be tampered with.  And some people understand their body is their own, treating it like a sport utility vehicle. I see [biohacking] as, I got fancy new fog lights on my SUV. “

Some of these enhancement devices are being designed to be used with computer games. The idea is to give the gamer a more realistic experience by using sub-dermal technology to provide pleasure and pain as the game is played. Mr. Jorgensen states that the gaming industry is “spending $300 million annually” to provide sub-dermal gaming chips, effectively turning gamers into cyborgs.

If a gaming chip is implanted in an individual and it can impact that person emotionally or physiologically, then someone (biohackers) could access the chip and use it to control the individual. Mr. Jorgensen calls this phenomenon “chipping.” Mr. Jorgensen notes that the U.S. military used to use games to train our soldier but dropped the program. The reason was that games are all about the individual and not the team. The gamer games to win, regardless of the impact of those around him or her.

How will this impact society?

Jim Brandon in his column “Is there a microchip implant in your future?” wrote:

Like any tech advancement, there are downsides. Concerns about the wrong people accessing personal information and tracking you via the chips have swirled since the FDA approved the first implantable microchip in 2004.

Naam and Pang both cited potential abuses, from hacking into the infrastructure and stealing your identity to invading your privacy and knowing your driving habits. There are questions about how long a felon would have to use a tracking implant. And, an implant, which has to be small and not use battery power — might not be as secure as a heavily encrypted smartphone.

Troy Dunn, who attempts to locate missing persons on his TNT show “APB with Troy Dunn,” said a chip implant would make his job easier, but he is strongly against the practice for most people. “I only support GPS chip monitoring for convicted felons while in prison and on parole; for sex offenders forever; and for children if parents opt in,” he says. “I am adamantly against the chipping of anyone else.”

Using chip implants to locate abducted children could actually have the opposite effect. Pang says a microchip would make a missing person easier to rescue, but “Kidnappers want ransoms, not dead bodies. The most dangerous time for victims is during rescue attempts or when the kidnappers think the police are closing in.”

And beyond the obvious privacy issues, there’s something strange about injecting a chip in your body, Lipoff says. Yet pacemakers and other embedded devices are commonly used today. “People might find it a bit unsavory, but if it is not used to track you, and apart from the privacy issues, there are many interesting applications,” he says.

What happens if you, your child or grandchild decide to implant a chip in their body. What would you say, think, do?

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Predicting Earthquakes. Not.

The president of the Space and Science Research Corporation, John Casey, is also the author of “Cold Sun: A Dangerous ‘Hibernation’ of the Sun Has Begun!” and has called attention to a meteorological cycle that until the global warming hoax occurred, was largely unknown to many people and, to a large degree still is.

Nature has not cooperated with the charlatans who made claims about a dramatic warming of the Earth. Since 1998 the planet along with the Sun has been in a solar cycle distinguished by very few, if any, sun spots—evidence of solar storms—and a cooling of the Earth that has some predicting a forthcoming new Little Ice Age.

As Wikipedia reports: “Solar Cycle 24 is the 24th solar cycle since 1755, when extensive recording of solar sunspot activity began. It is the current solar cycle, and began on January 4, 2008, but there was minimal activity until early 2010. It is on track to be the Solar Cycle with the lowest recorded sunspot activity since accurate records began in 1750.” These cycles occur every eleven years.

I was surprised to receive a news release from the Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC) on Monday with the headline “Earthquake and Volcano Threat Increases” because, frankly, I could have put out the same release and, if such activity did increase, I could claim credit for predicting it and, if not, few if any would recall I had made such a claim. While earthquake activity has been studied for decades, even the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) makes no claim to being able to predicting when or where one will occur.

What the USGS can tell you is that their scientists (and others) “estimate earthquake probabilities in two ways: by studying the history of large earthquakes in a specific area and the rate at which strain accumulates in the rock.” A translation of this is that they have only the most minimal clues when and where one will occur. A recent International Business Times article reported that this may change as the introduction of “big data analytics” kicks in to provide “a leap of accuracy of quake predictions.”

The SSRC news release was about a letter that Casey had sent Craig Fugate, the Administrator of the Federal Management Agency which “disclosed that we are about to enter a potentially catastrophic period of record earthquakes and volcanic eruptions throughout the United States.”

Casey’s letter outlined “how the ongoing dramatic reduction in the Sun’s energy output will not only plunge the world into a decades-long cold epoch, but at the same time bring record geographic devastation in monster earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.”

Other scientists have come to similar conclusions, but after years of sorting through all the claims about global warming and “climate change”, one might want to tread lightly before embracing them.

I asked my colleague at The Heartland Institute, Science Director Jay Lehr, for his reaction and he was quite candid. “I have read it and am extremely skeptical. It sounds like the agency is looking for some press and, of course, when they turn out to be wrong no one will be upset. No harm. No foul. Being ready for earthquakes in known quake zones makes sense; creating unwarranted fear does not.”

Dr. Lehr summed up my own reaction. I would recommend his skepticism to everyone.

Will there be earthquakes here in the U.S.? Yes. The New Madrid earthquakes were the biggest in the nation’s history, occurring in the central Mississippi Valley and so large they were felt as far away as New York and Boston, Montreal and Washington, D.C. President James Madison and his wife Dolly felt them in the White House. They lasted from December 16, 1811 through March of 1812 and there were more than 2,000 quakes in the central Midwest, and between 6,000-10,000 in the boot-heel of Missouri where New Madrid is located near the junction of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

When will new earthquakes or volcanic eruptions occur? I doubt anyone knows the answer to that.

© Alan Caruba, 2015

Earthquake and Volcano Threat for U.S. Increases

In a rare letter to Mr. Craig Fugate, the Administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Orlando, FL based Space and Science Research Corporation (SSRC), has disclosed that we are about to enter a potentially catastrophic period of record earthquakes and volcanic eruptions throughout the United States.

The letter was signed by SSRC President, Mr. John Casey, and delivered to FEMA headquarters in Washington, D.C. today. In the letter, Mr. Casey outlines how the ongoing dramatic reduction in the Sun’s energy output will not only plunge the world into a decades-long cold epoch, but at the same time bring record geophysical devastation in monster earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. These cold climate periods called “solar hibernations” or “solar minimums,” are well known phenomena in the solar physics community. The SSRC has done important pioneering work in the field of solar- climate modeling and has established itself as a leader in climate prediction and the study of these hibernations of the Sun.

Citing new research included in the SSRC’s semi-annual Global Climate Status Report (GCSR) to come out on Wednesday, the letter to FEMA’s Craig Fugate contained an important warning for all major earthquake fault zones and volcanically active areas. The research focuses especially on the increased threat for the New Madrid Seismic Zone (NMSZ) between St. Louis and Memphis.

This new threat information is contained in one of several papers in the June 10 edition of the GCSR paper authored by Mr. Casey and Dr. Dong Choi, Director of Research for the International Earthquake and Volcano Prediction Center (IEVPC). The paper shows that the NMSZ is due for another calamitous quake between 2017 and 2038. Dr. Choi and Casey show that for four times in a row since the year 1450, a major quake strikes the NMSZ when the Sun has gone into a hibernation phase. This scientific revelation is what Choi and Casey believes solves the puzzle of when the next major quake will strike the area. Geologists have studied the NMSZ for many years using traditional approaches. Casey and Choi say it is the combined research from the fields of solar physics and geology that provides the best opportunity to date to estimate when the next devastating NMSZ earthquake will strike. Other scientists agree with their opinion.

For this singular reason Dr. Choi and Mr. Casey have strongly recommended to FEMA Administrator Fugate that all high risk earthquake fault zones and areas with a history of volcanic eruptions in the USA take immediate precautions to mitigate what they describe as a “period of unparalleled geophysical lethality and destruction.”

Mr. Casey adds, “The very strong correlation between these solar minimums and the incidence of catastrophic earthquakes worldwide is an impressive display of how interconnected we all are to our natural world and the cycles of the Sun. It would be foolhardy to ignore in particular, the history of major earthquakes in the NMSZ and the fact that at the bottom of every solar hibernation for the past 600 years, that area has seen devastating earthquakes ranging from M6.8 to M8.0.

“While we address the New Madrid risk in this press release and in the June 10, 2016 Global Climate Status Report, the coincidence of major earthquakes with solar minimums is not limited to just that area of the U.S. That is why our letter to Administrator Fugate was a nationwide alert. The ~M9.0 Cascadia quake and tsunami of 1700 was at the bottom of the coldest solar hibernation period which was called the Maunder Minimum. The Great San Francisco quake of 1906 was at the bottom of another solar low point – the ‘Centennial’ Minimum as it is called at the SSRC. This strong association of solar activity and the worst earthquakes and volcanic eruptions could represent the ‘missing link’ for geophysical disaster prediction.”

Dr. Choi (Australia) also supports Casey’s opinion by saying, “The extensive research done in this area is clear in its implications. When the solar minimums arrive, the worst recorded earthquakes and volcanic eruptions strike. The last solar minimum for example, saw the largest series of earthquakes in human history in the NMSZ and the largest recorded volcanic eruption at Mt. Tambora in Indonesia. These events occurred within a few years of each other during the coldest period in the Sun’s last hibernation in the early 1800’s.”

Click Here to Download The Letter to the FEMA Administrator

EPA: Hydraulic Fracturing is No Threat to Drinking Water

Hydraulic fracturing, when done correctly, is safe and saves Americans money. The science says so.

EPA looked at scientific studies, government, NGO, and industry data and concluded that hydraulic fracturing has not had “widespread, systemic impacts on drinking water.”

For those of us closely involved in the debate over shale energy, this report simply reaffirms what previous science has shown, as Katie Brown explains at Energy In Depth:

EPA’s study actually builds upon a long list of studies that show the fracking process poses an exceedingly low risk of impacting underground sources of drinking water.  It corroborates a “landmark study” by the U.S. Department of Energy in which the researchers injected tracers into hydraulic fracturing fluid and found no groundwater contamination after twelve months of monitoring. It is also in line with reports by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Government Accountability Office, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Groundwater Protection Council, to name just a few.

“The results of EPA’s exhaustive new analysis of hydraulic fracturing should not come as a surprise,” Christopher Guith, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for 21st Century Energy, said. “As the scope of America’s shale oil and gas opportunities have become understood, states and industry have developed regulatory environments and practices that ensure that hydraulic fracturing is done safely.”

In light of EPA’s study, some people have some reevaluating to do:

This study shows that states are successfully regulating hydraulic fracturing and duplicative federal rules aren’t needed. “Shale energy development continues to be a major economic driver of our economy, and it is critical that the federal government does not layer on duplicative and unnecessary regulations,” said Guith.

As for hydraulic fracturing opponents, they need to stop denying the science.

Meet Sean Hackbarth @seanhackbarth Follow @uschamber

EDITORS NOTE: The featured image is courtesy of a hydraulic fracturing site located atop the Marcellus shale rock formation in Pennsylvania. Photographer: Ty Wright/Bloomberg.

Caitlyn Jenner is only skin deep

I did an interview with ABC Channel 7 journalist Alix Redmonde about Caitlyn (formerly known as Bruce) Jenner. You may watch my interview with Alix by going here. In video journalism not everything I or others interviewed said is published, so I wanted to expand on my thoughts about Caitlyn Jenner as well as the comments by transgender “Jimmy” featured in the ABC report.

I asked my wife what she thought of Bruce becoming a faux woman. Her initial response was that it was all about the money. Bruce needs to pay for his/her medical bills and provide, at least for the short term, a revenue stream. While this is certainly a rational short term answer, what else could be a reason for this drastic “transformation”.

I titled this column “Caitlyn Jenner is only skin deep” because that is what Caitlyn’s sexuality is, skin deep. Caitlyn is still Bruce, the only thing that has changed is the outward appearance of Bruce. Caitlyn’s outward appearance is a facade, it is an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a creditable reality, the fact that Caitlyn is genetically still is a Y chromosome male. The reality is that Caitlyn is a man and Bruce can never change that reality. When I heard about Caitlyn I thought about Michael Jackson and how he tried in the 1980s to surgically become more white. Michael Jackson wanted to become something he is not.

That is the fundamental issue – trying to become what you are not. But at what cost?

I recently reviewed Alex Garland’s film Ex Machina. I wrote:

This film is disturbing because is shows how humans without a conscience (morality) can, when given the chance, pass along their lack of morality to a machine.

[ … ]

At the end of the movie Ava escapes from the laboratory. To achieve this escape she deceives Caleb and kills both Nathan, its creator, and Caleb. Perhaps the most telling scene in the film is at the end when Ava finds previous versions of itself and begins to take the skin off of a previous robot and puts the skin on itself to look more human.

You see for Ava being human is only skin deep. Ava lacks the conscience (morality) of a human. Nathan did not learn the lesson of Issac Asimov’s book “I Robot.” Machines are just that, machines. To believe otherwise is fool hardy at the least and deadly at the worst.

Humans must control their urges to use technology to become God, as Caleb points out to Nathan. Robots must never be allowed to act alone. Think of the film The Terminator. You see machines may have a goal but lack a soul.

The doctors, psychiatrists and others who have encouraged Bruce to become Caitlyn are using technology to become God, but this time with a human being. Just because we can use technology to create a faux woman, should we?

This video by Bill Finlay titled “Bruce Jennercide” explains the tragedy of the misuse of technology by man:

I asked Jack Rigby, a psychologist living in Australia who, “[I]n my early practice before I went sane many decades ago,  I worked with many, many homosexuals”: What is the social redeeming value of homosexuality, exactly? Jack wrote:

Utterly none. Individual homosexuals can be constructively integrated to the rest of the population by simply conforming to normal social mores and exercising discretion.

The interesting observation I made over many decades of association with sexually aberrant people, was that these people almost instinctively recognize others of the same state without any obvious physical indications.

However, in recent decades in the fractured Society in the West, there has been a very strange situation develop in which small numbers of Homosexuals have formed politically obnoxious very public and virulently demanding groups .

This is creating a very dangerous situation for the great bulk of homosexuals who live quiet and integrated lives because there will be, without question, a violent mass backlash against them in the not distant future as has always happened in the past throughout the history of all races, Religions and Societies.

I actually have a great deal of concern for the number of the normally integrated ones who will be innocently caught up in the eventual reaction of Society to these strident, insane  anti-social demands of the entirely unstable violent few, whose intolerable antics and demands have already surpassed any reasonable level of public tolerance.

This transformation is disturbing because is shows how humans without a conscience (morality) can, when given the chance, pass along their lack of morality to a man. You seem Jimmy, the transgender in the ABC video report, believes that Caitlyn will advance the LGBT cause. I fear the opposite is true. Society will eventually react to “these strident, insane anti-social demands of the entirely unstable violent few, whose intolerable antics and demands have already surpassed any reasonable level of public tolerance.”

Society will not accept Caitlyn. Only a few radicals will.

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“I Had Sex Change Surgery and Regret It”: What Bruce Jenner, Diane Sawyer, and You Have to Hear [+video]

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‘The Butterfly Effect’ – Obama, Climate Change, and Islam’s War against the World by Ralph Sidway

If even the wings of a butterfly have weight and shared causality, then what of the teachings and example of a seventh century desert prophet?

President Obama, during his recent address at the Coast Guard Commencement ceremonies, again offered his profound views on the myriad vectors shaping global unrest and chaos. Ranking high among the primal forces threatening us — high enough to be emphasized by the President of the most powerful nation on the planet — is that bane of mankind, “climate change.”  Lest there be any doubt of the gravity of the situation, or of his authority in such matters, Mr. Obama predicates his mission with a great “I am” statement:

“I am here to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and make no mistake, will impact how our military defends our country.”

The Obama Administration is consistent and adamant on this topic. This past February, Vice-President Biden told college students in Iowa that “global warming is the greatest threat of anything at all, across the board,” and Secretary of State Kerry has likewise been beating the same drum. (Never mind that the data shows we have been in a “global warming pause” for nearly two decades, and that climate-change IPCC scientists resorted to manipulating the data in order to create the fraudulent “hockey-stick graph” and advance their agenda.)

Curiously, the Administration’s emphasis on the threat from “climate change” seems to roughly balance its insistence that the Islamic State Caliphate is “not Islamic” and is not much of a threat anyway.  One might be tempted to think that the “war against climate change” is being used as a tool to deflect attention away from Islam’s war against us.

But let’s allow, for the sake of argument (and in deference to the great Ray Bradbury’s short story,“A Sound of Thunder”), that there is some validity to “The Butterfly Effect,” the chaos theory corollary which postulates that events of great consequence may be set in motion by much smaller events separated by vast scales of time and distance. “Change one thing — Change everything,” says the tag for the 2004 Ashton Kutcher film of the same name.

So, in the Obama narrative, chaotic weather shifts are contributing to drought, floods, poverty, inequity, and a host of other effects, all triggers generating global violent extremism, as disenfranchised groups duke it out for dwindling resources — or something like that.

But no matter how you dress it up with fancy words and phony analysis, the Obama narrative of “Blame it on the weather” is not only incorrect, it is downright deceitful.

Let’s rather explore “the Butterfly Effect” and take a quick ride in Ray Bradbury’s time machine back to the early 7th century. Let’s set the dials for shortly after Muhammad makes his hijra to Medina (Year 1, in the Islamic calendar). Let’s listen to the prophet and watch his actions. But take care not to step off the path.

The first thing we might hear would be recitations of early, Meccan-period, Quran verses such as these:

50:45. We know of best what they say; and you (O Muhammad) are not a tyrant over them (to force them to Belief). But warn by the Qur’an, him who fears My Threat.

109:1. Say: “O Al-Kafirun (disbelievers)!

109:2. “I worship not that which you worship,

109:3. “Nor will you worship that which I worship.

109:4. “And I shall not worship that which you are worshipping.

109:5. “Nor will you worship that which I worship.

109:6. “To you be your religion, and to me my religion (Islam).”

That sounds reasonable enough. Muhammad was not a tyrant – the Quran tells us so! Islam is a “live and let live” religion.  Yes, this is what the experts and the president say Islam is.

We might even be around to hear Muhammad share this verse, from early in the Medinan period:

2:256. There is no compulsion in religion. Verily, the Right Path has become distinct from the wrong path. Whoever disbelieves in Taghut {idolatry} and believes in Allah, then he has grasped the most trustworthy handhold that will never break. And Allah is All-Hearer, All-Knower.

I remember those Islam experts telling us this, yes! Here is the religion of peace in its formative years… How wonderful!

But let’s stay on the path and keep watching and listening.

Wait… What’s this? This sounds totally at odds with what we heard after first arriving in the Way-Back machine:

9:5. Then when the Sacred Months have passed, then kill the Mushrikun {unbelievers} wherever you find them, and capture them and besiege them, and prepare for them each and every ambush…

8:39. And fight them until there is no more Fitnah (disbelief and polytheism: i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will all be for Allah Alone…

8:12 I will cast terror into the hearts of those who have disbelieved, so strike them over the necks, and smite over all their fingers and toes.

9:29. Fight against those who believe not in Allah, nor in the Last Day, nor forbid that which has been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger and those who acknowledge not the religion of truth (i.e. Islam) among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.

9:33. It is He {Allah} Who has sent His Messenger (Muhammad) with guidance and the religion of truth (Islam), to make it superior over all religions even though the Mushrikun (polytheists, pagans, idolaters, disbelievers in the Oneness of Allah) hate (it).

What? This isn’t the Islam I was told about by Obama and the experts at all! Fighting, killing and domination, supposedly the literal commands of God!?  Why, that would mean the words are eternal, unchanging…

But stay on the path… Let’s keep watching, it’s not just about the words. Surely they were taken out of context…

Wait… What’s this? Raids on caravans? A battle at Badr? More raids on different tribes? Battle after battle… And new revelations endorsing this, killing the vanquished, deceit and treachery, taking sex slaves and booty!

We saw other tribes exiled by Muhammad, but now, after his victory at Medina, we can hardly believe our eyes!  Muhammad ordering the beheading of hundreds of men from the Bani Quraiza! The Muslims cheering and beheading them in huge groups. Muhammad himself setting the chief example! All the blood and carnage… Unbelievable! It’s like ISIS times twenty!

Returning to our own time, we look around at the Islamic State, Boko Haram, Al Qaeda, the Taliban. We see the beheadings, the taking of captives, the slavery, the booty. We see thousands of Muslims from Europe and North America, Australia and Central Asia, flocking to join the Islamic State. We see the persecution of non-Muslims in Indonesia (which President Obama told us is modern and moderate!), Malaysia (another moderate Islamic country!), Egypt, Turkey…

And we hear and read of them justifying what they’re doing using the Quran itself…

Why, this is exactly what we saw and heard being commanded in our time travel back to Muhammad’s day. This is exactly what Muhammad did and preached!  The Islamic State ISIslamic!

No matter how often we check our boots, there is no dead butterfly crushed in the treads, no alternate blame to be laid on some shift in the timeline, nor on the forces of nature or even “human-caused global warming.”

The causes of “violent extremism” — Alas! — are now clear to us after seeing it with our own eyes. It is Muhammad himself who set all this in motion, fourteen centuries ago. It is Muhammad’s own example and the words he claimed were from God which devout Muslims today are following.

Of course, there is no time travel in the literal sense of the word. But our hypothetical journey to the seventh century in search of the Butterfly Effect was based entirely upon the Quran and the life of Muhammad as collected by his followers and as set down by his earliest biographer, Ibn Ishaq. Islam’s own revered texts provide the Way-Back machine, the lens into the past, which reveals to us the prophet and what he was like.

Sorry, Mr. Obama, you almost had us fooled, but no more. Sure, maybe the weather can impact human societies, but now we have seen with our own eyes the real cause of Islam’s war against the world.

And now we know it is Muhammad and the Quran.

And the sound we hear all around us… a sound of thunder.

ABOUT RALPH SIDWAY:

Ralph Sidway is an Orthodox Christian researcher and writer, and author of Facing Islam: What the Ancient Church has to say about the Religion of Muhammad. He operates the Facing Islam blog.

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True Costs of Wind Electricity by Planning Engineer and Rud Istvan 

Wind turbines have become a familiar sight in many countries as a favorite CAGW mitigation means. Since at least 2010, the US Energy Information Agency (EIA) has been assuring NGOs and the public that wind would be cost competitive by now, all things considered. Many pro-wind organizations claim wind is cost competitive today.  But is it?

Images for wind1

Yet incentives originally intended only to help start the wind industry continue to be provided everywhere. This fact suggests wind is not competitive with conventional fossil fuel generation. How big might the wind cost gap be? Will it ever close? We explore these questions in four sections: incentives, lifetime costoelectricity generation (LCOE), system costs, and market distortions. We examine onshore wind, since EIA says offshore is almost 3x more expensive. For simplicity, we examine EIA national averages, rather than regional ranges.

Incentives

The main US federal incentive is the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC), created by the Energy Policy Act of 1992. It is now $21.50/MWh for the first ten years of generation. It was intended to jumpstart the industry, so has expired via sunset provisions several times over the past 23 years. Each time, US wind investment promptly collapsed. Each time, Congress promptly renewed PTC at the same or higher incentive rates. Why? At Berkshire Hathaway’s (BH) 2014 annual meeting (BH’s Iowa based electric utility MidAmerican Energy has $5.6 billion invested in wind generation) Warren Buffet said:

“I will do anything that is basically covered by the law to reduce Berkshire’s tax rate. For example, on wind energy, we get a tax credit if we build a lot of wind farms. That’s the only reason to build them. They don’t make sense without the tax credit.” [1]

Images for wind2U.S. Congressman Lamar Smith asked the Congressional Budget Office to estimate PTC’s 2013 cost (as part of that year’s reinstitution debate): the 2013 cost was $13 billion.

Iowa has enacted an additional state PTC of $10/MWh. Buffet gets a total PTC of $31.5/MWh from both federal and Iowa taxpayers. YE2014, BH’s MidAmerican Energy, had 2953MW of Iowa wind capacity. Warren Buffet wind farms  are receiving $253 million of annual tax credit from Iowa wind generation on an investment of $5.6 billion (2953 MW * 0.31CF * 8766 hr/year *$31.5/MWh). BH’s effective tax rate last year was 31%. Those wind credits are equivalent to earning (253/0.31) $816 million on his $5.6 billion wind investment—a 15% return before any operating profit from selling electricity. That is a good deal for the Nebraska billionaire, but not for the rest of us.

The EIA estimates wind costs five years in the future. Since 2010, each cost estimate has had a separate entry for subsidies. Each estimate since 2012 (for 2017) has zero wind subsidies. EIA assumes the PTC expires (it has yet again YE2014). The Obama administration is proposing it be made permanent, with strong support from the AWEA (American Wind Energy Association). This suggests EIA’s estimated wind costs are too low, and partly political rather than mostly factual. How much is shown by closer examination of their other cost components.

LCOE

The most recent ‘official’ EIA estimates are available in Table 1 of EIA’s Annual Energy Outlook 2015, Electricity Generation Forecasts. The EIA explains:

Levelized cost oelectricity (LCOE) is often cited as a convenient summary measure of the overall competiveness of different generating technologies. It represents the per-kilowatthour cost (in real dollars) of building and operating a generating plant over an assumed financial life and duty cycle. Key inputs to calculating LCOE include capital costs, fuel costs, fixed and variable operations and maintenance (O&M) costs, financing costs, and an assumed utilization rate for each plant type. The importance of the factors varies among the technologies. For technologies such as solar and wind generation that have no fuel costs and relatively small variable O&M costs, LCOE changes in rough proportion to the estimated capital cost of generation capacity.

EIA’s LCOE is the annualized net present value (aka annual annuity cost). The estimate is always 5 years into the future. That is why their 2010 estimate above was only verifiable in 2015.

EIA calculates LCOE as the sum of five components: Capital, Fixed O&M, Variable O&M (including fuel), Transmission (incremental), and Subsidies (none). Capital costs are spread over a 30-year life at an interest rate of 6.5%. This appears superficially reasonable, but as we show below, isn’t. Following are the basic LCOE generation comparisons in $/MWh and capacity factor (CF) %, from the EIA AEO 2012 and 2014.

………………………CF%       ($2017)              ($2019)

CCGT                         87               66.1            66.3

Conv.Coal                85               97.7             95.6

Wind                         35               96.0             80.3

GT (peaker)           30             127.9           128.4

Three things stand out. Combined cycle gas turbine (CCGT) costs are cheaper than coal. That makes directional sense; in the US CCGT is gaining share at the expense of coal. CCGT cost advantages include: (a) better net thermal efficiency (61% versus 41% for USC coal), (b) abundant inexpensive natural gas thanks to fracked shale, and (c) cheaper capacity. It takes three years to build a CCGT for about $1000-1250/kw. USC coal takes 4 years to build for about $2850/kw.[2]Peak load gas turbine (GT) capacity only costs about $750/kw, but its LCOE is twice CCGT because its capital is under utilized–only operating 30% of the time. Finally, EIA says wind is competitive with coal and will become more so (about 20% more in just three years!).

‘True’ wind LCOE is understated since the PTC is missing. The annuity value of $21.5/MWH for 10 years at 6.5% interest, annuitized over 30 years is $7.2/MWh. A ‘truer’ comparison to coal is (96+7) ~$103/MWh from the general taxpayer perspective, rather than from Warren Buffet’s.

This unsurprising result just shows the PTC was intended to make wind ‘grid competitive’, and seems to do so—at taxpayer expense. That is why investment collapses toward zero in its absence. There are, however, two further ‘obvious’ plus two additional ‘hidden in the fine print’ issues with the EIA LCOE comparisons that are equally consequential, and similarly biased.

Wind capital cost

Wind capital declines 22% from 2017 to 2019; CCGT only declines 8%. This difference is not attributable to turbine production volume. According to GWEC,51,473 MW was delivered globally in 2014, comprising at least 17000 units (at ~3MW each). Installation costs don’t scale. Past reductions in wind capital per megawatt came from developing larger turbines, not from increased volume.

Images for wind3But actual installed cost/MW stopped declining, and started rising around 2005. There are few onshore turbines larger than 3 MW because of transportation (road/rail) constraints on blade length. The above 2012 NREL composite chart isdeliberately misleading; it ended in 2005 although LBNL data was available to 2011.

Images for wind4EIA’s projected 22% decline in wind capital LCOE is very dubious. We shall use $96/MWh total, the same as EIA’s 2010 LCOE midpoint charted above.

Capacity Factor

The record US annual wind capacity factor was 2014 at 33.9%. EIA itself says the median CF over the past decade is 31%. (Still better than the UK, where CF ranged from a low of 21.5% in 2010 to a record high 27.9% in 2013.) The assumed US 35% CF is unrealistically optimistic[3]

Images for wind5Using the historic median CF, a ‘truer’ wind LCOE is roughly (35/31*$96/MWh) $108/MWh.Using the historic median CF, a ‘truer’ wind LCOE is roughly (35/31*$96/MWh) $108/MWh.

Fine Print interest rate

The first fine print fudge is the annuity interest rate. The 2014 EIA text says 6.5% (same as 2012). Ah, but the fine print also says that for coal generation withoutcarbon capture and sequestration (CCS), 9.5% is used. EIA’s fine print inside that fine print says this is the equivalent of a $15/ton CO2 emissions tax on coal (buried inside Capital rather than exposed in Variable O&M explicitly including fuel cost).

EIA says conventional coal produces about 2.15 pounds of COper kWh (depending slightly on coal rank). That is ~2.15 tons of CO2 /MWh, a ‘hidden’ LCOE coal fuel penalty of (2.15*$15) $32.25. There is no US ‘carbon tax’; Congress refused to enact Obama’s proposal. A ‘truer’ comparison is wind at $108/MWh to coal at $65.45/MWh.

This also makes intuitive sense. The newest technology UltraSuperCritical (USC) coal must be similar in cost to CCGT in favorable locations (considering coal transport and quality). One was just completed for $1.8 billion (SWEPCO’s 600MW Turk plant in Arkansas) and 10 additional USC coal facilities are presently planned for the US. None of these will be built until the constitutionality of EPA’s proposed CO2 limit (which effectively prohibit them) is settled.

Fine Print lifetime

EIA comparisons are based on a 30-year lifetime; this introduces a large bias. The EIA itself says the average age of the US coal fleet is 42 years; effective coal lifetime is at least that. GE’s marketing materials say the expected life of its CCGT is at least 40 years. In other words, the capital annuity component of non-wind LCOE should be reduced by ~25% to reflect longer useful lives (40 rather than 30 year annuity, EIA capital only, 0.065 r). That is $8.35/MWh lower LCOE for coal after first subtracting the $32.25 fuel penalty hidden in capital, and $4.30/MWh lower for CCGT.

On the other hand, the design life for wind is 20 years; with maintenance they may last 25 years. EIA’s assumed wind lifetime is longer than the industry’s most cheery estimate, thereby understating LCOE. A ‘truer’ comparison would be wind at (capital component annuity 25 rather than 30 years, 0.065 r) $121/MWh compared to 40 year CCGT $57.5/MWh and Coal $57.1/MWh. ‘True’ wind LCOE is about twice the cost of conventional generation from either coal or natural gas.

Studies of UK and Denmark wind farms suggest their actual economic lives appear to be 12-15 years due to wear and tear.[4] One of the unanticipated problems that arose with larger turbines is premature cracking failure of the main axial bearing(s). These failures arise from two very difficult engineering conditions. First is uneven loading. Wind speeds increase with altitude so the three blades, which span great distances, are never evenly loaded. The bearing(s) wobble under the tremendous forces generated. Second, braking when wind speed exceeds 25mph suddenly loads reverse torque on the axial side where previously unloaded (and wobbling) individual bearings are in natural misalignment to their trace. If things go ‘well’, cracking can be caught before catastrophic failure. It is expensive to repair. The blades must be detached so the turbine can be dismounted and sent back to the factory. The following image shows a 3MW unit.

Images for wind6

Sometimes things do not go well.

Images for wind7To summarize the second section on LCOE: EIA’s wind future capital, capacity factor, and lifetime all understate the ‘true’ cost of wind. Conventional coal generation is misleadingly overstated. Given other information provably at EIA’s disposal, its wind-biased US findings appear driven by political considerations.

System Costs

We have looked at wind from the perspective of wind farmers and electricity generators. But that is not the whole story, since wind is intermittent. Intermittency has two broad utility system consequences not captured in generation LCOE. First, the grid has to have some level of offsetting backup generation to maintain stability. Those costs are not borne by wind operators unless they also happen to own the regional grid. Most don’t. Second, transmission capacity has to be added. The full extent of those costs is not usually borne by windfarms, but rather (again) by grid owners.

 Intermittent backup

Grids always have some spare capacity beyond average peak load. This safety margin handles unexpected peaks, unplanned outages, and other random fluctuations. How much depends on a grid’s many specific details, but 10 – 20% reserve margins are typical. A portion of this amount must be fast start gas turbines, or spinning reserves (older smaller depreciated plants operating at minimum capacity that can be ramped as needed), or flexible hydro, or (newly) flexible CCGT. For very small wind generation proportions, the ‘normal’ reserve suffices. As the percentage of wind in the generation mix grows, it increasingly does not. There are inefficiency costs and (depending on the grid) additional backup capacity costs incurred by the system as a whole.

Additional backup requirements depend on grid details beyond just wind generating penetration. For example, Ontario generation is about 58% nuclear, 24% hydro, and 4% wind (although wind is growing since Ontario subsidizes it with above market feed in tariffs). Nuclear is base loaded. Hydro is flexed for peak loads. The large proportion of hydro in Ontario means wind can grow to double-digit penetration without any significant additional backup capacity costs.

Backup has been studied for the UK National Grid and the Texas ERCOT grid, both of which have a more traditional generation mix than Ontario as well as higher wind penetration.

UK’s zero wind for three days 12/11-13/12 during its winter peak load season illustrates the National Grid’s need for wind backup. UK peak load is handled by flexing fossil fuel generation.

Images for wind 8Newer CCGT is specifically designed to flex as efficiently as possible. In recent years GE, Siemens, Alstom, and Mitsubishi have all introduced units. For example, GE’s FlexEfficiency 50 is a 510MWCCGT that can ramp 50MW/minute. At rated output, it operates 61% efficient. It is 60% efficient down to 87% load, and 58% efficient at 40% load (and not designed to operate below 40%). Cycling at less than rated output increases capital cost/MWh via under utilization, and increases fuel cost via reduced efficiency. Notionally, wind 30% CF means a supporting FlexEfficiency 50 running 70% of the time at rated capacity, and the remainder at 40% minimum load. Using GE’s numbers, that would add about $7.20/MWh LCOE of wind intermittency flex cost on a 30-year annuity basis.[5]

The Texas ERCOT grid is quite different. It has high summer peak load demand because of air conditioning. Texas backup capacity is therefore from high LCOE gas turbine peaker units which are unused except in summer.

Images for wind9As the proportion of wind generation increases, grids less blessed than Ontario have to add additional standby capacity of some sort. How much of which sort depends on grid details like those illustrated above. The UK National Grid has published estimates. An analysis by the UKERC suggested 15-22% additional for 10% wind production. A different analysis by the IEA ranged from 6% at 2.5% wind generation, to 12% at 5%, to 18% at 15%.[6] UK wind is presently 9.3% of generation. For the UK National Grid using flexed CCGT, these estimates imply about ($66.1+$7.2/MWh *0.15) ~$11/MWh for additional backup, a ‘truer’ wind LCOE of ($121+$11) $132/MWh for UK’s National Grid

On the Texas ERCOT grid, wind in 2014 was 10.6% of generation. For ERCOT’s summer gas peakers, wind’s ‘true’ cost is about ($121+ 0.15*$128) $140/MWh. Little wonder the Austin, Texas utility finds its renewable generation portfolio loses $80 million, while its fossil fuel generation earns $180 million annually at grid wholesale electricity rates! [7]

Transmission constraints

ERCOT also illustrates clearly the wind impact on transmission planning. Much of the wind capacity is in northern Texas, whereas the demand is in Dallas and Houston. ERCOT’s ‘CREZ’ wind driven grid capacity expansion added/upgraded 3600 miles of transmission lines at a cost of $6.9 billion over 3 years. That compares to $26 billion of cumulative (YE2014) investment in Texas wind generation. Annualized over 30 years at 6.5% and spread over ERCOT’s 36.1 million MWh of 2014 wind generation, CREZ adds wind LCOE of $6.44/MWh. That is 6.7% of EIA’s wind LCOE. EIA’s own incremental transmission estimate is 4%–yet again biased substantially low. The ‘true’ system LCOE of ERCOT wind is ($140+$6) ~$146/MWh, not anywhere near the general EIA estimate of $96/MWh — it is off by half.

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In the UK, lack of transmission capacity between Scotland’s wind farms and England/Wales consumers has led to National Grid Balancing Mechanism‘constraint payments’ netting about £165/MWh for wind NOT produced when it could have been. That comes out of British ratepayer pockets, even though they get no electricity in return.

Market Distortions

In 2011, MIT’s Paul Joskow circulated a Sloan School discussion paper pointing out that non-dispatchable generation (wind) not only has a different cost profile, it has a different value (price) profile.

“Wholesale electricity prices reach extremely high levels for a relatively small number of hours each year (see Figure 1) and generating units that are not able to supply electricity to balance supply and demand at those times are (or should be) at an economic disadvantage. These high-priced hours account for a large fraction of the quasi-rents that allow investors in generating capacity to recover their investment costs (Joskow 2008) and failing properly to account for output and prices during these critical hours will lead to incorrect economic evaluations of different generating technologies.”

Here’s a rough overview of studies that have looked at the impact of intermittent wind upon energy markets. This British study found that wind serves to change the capacity mix more so than the pattern of prices. The market shift to lower fixed cost higher variable cost stations results in relatively small price changes. This study from Ireland finds that increased wind penetration does not impact the pricing of electricity in Ireland (that is argued in the paper as a plus for encouraging more wind). This study found that wind in Denmark reduced costs to consumers. This study of ERCOT in Texas found that the spot market prices were reduced but price variance, volatility and risk increased. This study of the Pacific Northwest concluded that despite being more economical and easier to integrate in a hydro-rich area, “the direct economic benefits to end-users from greater investment in wind power may be negligible.”   There are many factors to consider and the interactions between spot prices and long term cost savings are uncertain. Perhaps the situation is best summed up as this report concluded, “the financial impacts of wind power generation are unclear due to the complex nature of wholesale power markets and the many variables that can impact wholesale electricity prices and generator revenues (i.e., location, natural gas prices, generation mix, and electricity demand).” It is not clear in any case that subsidizing wind production will lower overall energy prices in any region, and we already showed that subsidized wind raises generation costs.

Wind generation is associated with challenges in scheduling resources and participation in energy markets. Operators serve load with a varied generation mix. Generation plants have limited flexibility including minimum and maximum output levels, ramp up limitations, minimum down times and startup costs. The unpredictability of wind complicates the resource scheduling process. For more background see these Climate Etc postings: Watch out for the Duck Curve and All Megawatts Are Not Equal.

There is a limit to how far conventional plants can be backed down and remain available for service when they may be needed in the upcoming scheduling period. Wind availability coupled with low load periods can present major problems for system operators. It may be the case of simply having mismatched loads and generation of conventional plants may be needed to maintain gridreliability. Under “constraint payments” generators are paid for not injecting power into the grid. Under “negative power pricing” generators are charged for injecting power into the grid. Overwhelmingly conventional resources are not giving favorable treatment relative to intermittent resources.

This Study notes the additional harm caused by the US Production Cost Credit, which incents wind generators to make money by injecting power even during times of oversupply. Short term this impacts reliability and raises costs for others. Long term this serves to destabilize the market for conventional generation, which will defer investment and lead to further reliability concerns.

The ERCOT region was plagued by negative pricing concerns until the CREZ transmission improvements reduced such instances.

Images for wind11Some have argued from this that increased transmission build up can solve the problem of negative pricing and touted Texas as an example. However, what the transmission build out did was expose the wind resources to a larger market pool, thus reducing the effective penetration level of wind. The problem that wind at significant penetration levels will cause negative pricing remains. If you increase the penetration level in the larger pool, negative problems will remerge. Consistent with that, as Texas has continued to add wind resources, negative pricing problems reemerged in March of this year.

Conclusion

It is reasonable to ask why utilities still invest in wind, when even after PTC ‘true’ wind generation is very uncompetitive with Coal or CCGT, as well as distorting the entire wholesale electricity marketplace. EIA LCOE is not the whole story. EIA does not include other incentives such as state level above market feed in tariffs. Ontario wind gets 13.5¢/kwh versus the Province’s 2014 average wholesale generation price of 9.25¢/kwh–a 46% premium. Texas has a variety of state wind incentives (e.g. job credits and property tax breaks) estimated to cost $1 billion in 2014. Oklahoma has a complete income tax moratorium on wind farms. In 2011, California mandated 33% renewables by 2020 no matter the cost (up from 20% in 2006). The UK has the 2008 Climate Change Act. Germany has the Energiewende. Wind operators generally do not pay a price penalty for the market distortions they create. The most severe example of distorted consequences is Germany’s E.ON utility. Late in 2014 E.ON announced it was taking a $5.6 billion impairment charge on its conventional generating assets then spinning them off into a separate (unprofitable) company.[8] Conventional generation simply is no longer profitable in Germany given Energiewende’s renewables pricing distortions and forced flexing.

We can only approximate the ‘true’ cost of wind, and how much the reality differs from ‘official’ EIA (and industry) claims. Wind resources have often been presented in a far more favorable light than they deserve. Looking at the costs presented here they are far higher than can be justified. It has been hoped that subsidies would make wind self-sustaining in short order, but wind appears no closer to economic viability today than years ago.

The impacts of subsidized wind upon electricity markets are highly uncertain, and in many cases demonstrably harmful. Wind serves to raise costs, complicate scheduling, destabilize markets, and adversely impact reliability all in a hopeless effort to receive “free” energy that is actually quite costly.

The potential for wind is limited. Any sub area can have a high penetration of renewables if those resources are diluted into a larger area. Wind can provide adequate performance when correctly integrated with hydro and fossil resources. But the challenges are significant at this time to reach high penetration levels within most standalone resource mixes in most system grids.

[1] US News and World Report 5/12/2014

[2] Essay No Fracking Way in ebook Blowing Smoke.

[3] The aptly named National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) has an even worse bias. Their 2013 “Transparent Cost Database” (a misnomer) has a selection biased sample of 109 onshore wind farms with a CF of 39% used for LCOE.

[4] Renewable Energy Foundation, Wear and Tear Hits Windfarm Output and Economic Life (2012). Available at www.ref.org.uk. See also Staffel and Green,How does wind farm performance decline with age?Renewable Energy 66: 775-786 (2014).

[5] We decided not to put this calculation in the text due to its complexity. CCGT LCOE capital $14.3/MWh. 70% operating at rated capacity, and 30% operating at 40% (14.3/.4) costing $21.45. Fuel inefficiency at 40% rated output is (61/58) times LCOE $49.1, a difference of $2.54. Total rated output difference is $23.99/MWh, but only for 0.3 of the time, so Δ$7.20/MWh.

[6] Holttinen et. al., Design and operation of power systems with large amounts of wind power, Final Report IEA Wind Task 25, p.170 (2009)

[7] Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts, Texas Power Challenge (2014)

[8] BloombergBusiness 11/30/14

JC note:  As with all guest posts, please keep your comments relevant and civil.

Anthrax Released: Should we be concerned?

US Army Dugway Proving Ground Main GateThe abrupt news that live anthrax samples  had been shipped from the U.S. Army Dugway proving ground to laboratories in the U.S., an air base in South Korea and possibly Australia came as a reminder to Americans and the world that biological warfare  training exercises might lead to troubling inadvertent releases. Fortunately, 22 military personnel exposed at the south Korean  airbase are being treated with the antibiotic Cipro. However, this latest release of a BW agent has caused both the U.S. Army bio-warfare directorate and the CDC to review safety precautions, packaging and procedures for the transmission of possible live anthrax spores and why samples had not been made inert?

The BBC reported that the U.S. military has ordered a review of how it handles anthrax after discovering more cases of live samples being accidentally sent to labs:

Live anthrax samples were believed to have been sent to a total of 24 labs, in 11 U.S. states as well as South Korea and Australia, the Pentagon said.

The Pentagon says that there is no known risk to the general public.

Experts in bio-safety have heavily criticized the lapse and called for improved precautions.

Symptoms of anthrax exposure include skin ulcers, nausea, vomiting and fever, and can cause death if untreated.

News of the live shipments first emerged on Wednesday, as the U.S. said it had accidentally shipped live anthrax spores from Utah to labs in Texas, Maryland, Wisconsin, Delaware, New Jersey, Tennessee, New York, California and Virginia, as well as an air base in South Korea.

Those shipments took place between March 2014 and April 2015, a U.S. official said, according to Reuters.

On Friday, the Department of Defense said it had identified “additional inadvertent live anthrax shipments”, including a suspect sample sent to Australia from a batch of anthrax from 2008.

It is not clear when that sample was shipped to Australia.

The military has ordered all of its labs that have previously received inactive anthrax samples to test them. In addition it is advising all labs to cease working with these samples until told otherwise.

Shortly after 9/11, the American public concern over bio-terrorism was raised  by the release of Anthrax in powdered form in letters sent to members of Congress and randomly to private persons. 22 persons were sickened, 5 died, the U.S. Senate building was shut down and inspected.  Anthrax exists naturally, but more powerful variants have been developed synthetically by dual use laboratories in rogue states like Iran, North Korea and Assad’s Syria.  Bio-warfare laboratories have been established by Al Qaeda and ISIS has been rumored to have obtained access to materials in Syria, as well. Remember the arrest in Afghanistan, prosecution and conviction in the U.S. of Brandeis University and MIT trained scientist, “Lady Al Qaeda”, Aafia Siddiqui .  There is also evidence that Iran’s terrorist proxy, Hezbollah may have been transferred BW capabilities and agents  by Syria that could be deployed against America’s ally , Israel and globally through major transportation nodes in Europe.

Jill Bellamy van Aalst(3)

Dr. Jill Bellamy

We asked Dr. Jill Bellamy, noted expert on biological warfare and threat reduction about this latest incident.  We have published articles by Dr. Bellamy on Syrian, Hezbollah, Al Qaeda and Iranian BW programs in both the NER and our blog the Iconoclast.

She commented:

Clearly from a bio-safety perspective this is a very serious breach of protocol and demands a full and transparent investigation. As anyone who works with inactivated anthrax would be routinely vaccinated with AVA, exposure from a clinical perspective is probably not as much of a concern as the general public may believe. Of course if anyone outside military labs the live anthrax was sent to and persons who have not been routinely vaccinated were exposed, this would be concerning. I would worry about the time frame from exposure. It appears from the reports that we are talking about several weeks or months during which the anthrax was shipped. It is probably a good sign that none of the labs has reported a laboratory acquired disease or LAD. If exposure is known Cipro (ciprofloxacin hydrochloride) is given for inhalation anthrax and usually a 60 day course is advised. The lab workers in these labs  would surely  have all been vaccinated, so how much of a health risk it poses is debatable.

The bio-safety side is more worrying. CDC and a number of other labs have previously had exposures from the accidental handling of live anthrax. There are very stringent regulations in place for the shipping and transport of live agents. It is doubtful there was any risk to public health during the transport as this would be handled by the military. What is more problematic is that the research done  at US Army labs and Dugway proving ground  are critical to national security.  Incidents like this feed an uninformed section in non-proliferation circles who then call for the closing of these labs or hype the danger they pose to the general public. It makes it more difficult to assure the public that such labs are a vital aspect to protecting citizens from BW attacks and ensuring vaccines and therapeutic countermeasures are available and stockpiled in the event of a deliberate attack. Hopefully this is an incident we will learn a great deal from in terms of bio-safety training, protocols and bio-security.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared in the New English Review. The featured image is of  microscopic anthrax spores. Source: Reuters.

Full Stream Ahead: Why EPA’s Water Rule Goes Too Far

The Obama administration didn’t listen. Instead, it went ahead with its regulatory overreach over America’s waters. This worries farmers, ranchers, and other businesses.

EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers released their final Waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule–known as the “Clean Water Rule” in EPA lingo–that claims jurisdiction over vast swaths of the country.

In a statement EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claimed, “This rule will make it easier to identify protected waters.” In reality, the rule does this by claiming federal jurisdiction over a huge number of waters.

Inside the 299 pages of regulations, definitions, explanations, and justifications for the rule, “adjacent” waters now under federal regulatory authority “include wetlands, ponds, lakes, oxbows, impoundments, and similar water features” that are “in the 100-year floodplain and that are within 1,500 feet” (five football fields) of a navigable water. The entire body of water is “adjacent” even if only a portion of it falls within the 100-year floodplain or within 1,500 feet of a navigable water.

While EPA and the Army Corps claim that WOTUS clarifies what waters are under federal jurisdiction, in agriculture’s case, nothing is clarified. The rule states [emphasis mine]:

Waters in which normal farming, ranching, and silviculture activities occur instead will continue to be subject to case-specific review, as they are today.

In fact, under this new definition bodies of water or wetlands over three-quarters of a mile from an navigable water could fall under federal jurisdiction if the federal government decides that it significantly affects another body of water [emphasis mine]:

[W]aters within 4,000 feet of the high tide line or the ordinary high water mark of a traditional navigable water, interstate water, the territorial seas, impoundments, or covered tributary are subject to case-specific significant nexus determinations.

The agencies claim they “do not anticipate that there will be numerous circumstances in which this provision will be utilized,” but who is to say the ever-growing Regulatory State won’t make this its default tool in its water regulation toolbox. Regulators’ best wishes are no guarantee that an agency’s power will be limited.

With federal jurisdiction comes costly federal permitting. “Over $1.7 billion is spent each year by the private and public sectors obtaining wetlands permits,” wrote the U.S. Chamber and 375 other associations in a comment on WOTUS to EPA and the Army Corps.

William Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber’s Senior Vice President of Environment, Technology, & Regulatory Affairs, said the process the agencies used to write the rule was “fundamentally flawed.”

Since issuing the proposed rule for public comment in April 2014, the agencies have somehow maintained that the proposal will have no significant regulatory or economic impact, and in fact the agency is simply ‘clarifying’ the current state of federal jurisdiction over waters. Such statements fly in the face reality.

Despite appeals from constituents and lawmakers across the country; countless business owners, farmers and industry leaders; and the Small Business Administration, the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers failed to conduct any meaningful regulatory or economic impact analyses prior to issuing a final rule.

The Chamber filed lengthy public comments identifying exactly how the proposal could affect businesses of all sizes, including local municipalities, and requested the agencies convene a small business review panel to study and evaluate those impacts. Numerous state, local and business stakeholders and the Small Business Administration (twice) echoed that request, to no avail.

In a blog post prior to WOTUS being released, Kovacs worried that the water rule “would put [EPA] effectively in charge of zoning the entire country.”

Kovacs isn’t alone in criticizing the rulemaking process. While explaining that WOTUS will expand federal authority, Charles Maresca, Director of Interagency Affairs for the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, told a Senate Committee it was “incorrect” for EPA and the Corps to claim that the regulation won’t have “a significant economic impact on a substantial number of small businesses.”

It was no holds barred in the administration’s defense of its controversial rule. President Obama’s top environmental advisor Brian Deese said, “The only people with reason to oppose the rule are polluters who threaten our clean water.”

Tell that to farmers, ranchers, home builders, and other businesses. They understand that clean water means everything to their customers and their businesses. Federal regulators going over the heads of local and state officials accomplishes little but adding more barriers to job creation and economic development.

With WOTUS businesses will be up a creek without a paddle.