May 1 Arctic Ice Persists Strangely

Double-click to enlarge image.

Arctic ice extent changes for the last two weeks are shown in the MASIE animation above. Note that the Pacific basins of Bering and Okhotsk (upper left) melted dramatically.  Meanwhile on the Atlantic side ice persisted, actually growing in Barents and Greenland seas.

The strangeness concerns weirdness in Google Earth Pro treatment of kmz files from MASIE.  Previous I have used these to produce animations like the one below for the month of March.

Today when attempting to do the same for April, this is what was shown.

That is a screen capture since Google Earth could not render an image.  I hope it is just a temporary technical difficulty.  But I can’t help but imagine this depicting some kind of military map with a two-pronged attack by red forces with a single resisting force in red and blue. Is it more virtuous canceling of all things Russian at the expense of scientific inquiry? (The mask with colors was only imposed on the Northern Hemisphere)

The melting effect on NH total ice extents during April is presented in the graph below.

The graph above shows ice extent through April comparing 2022 MASIE reports with the 16-year average, other recent years and with SII.  On average ice extents lost 1.1M km2 during April.  2022 ice extents started slightly lower, then tracked average, ending slightly above average. Both 2021 and 2007 ended  below average, by 200k km2 and 400k km2 respectively. The two green lines at the bottom show average and 2022 extents when Bering and Okhotsk ice are excluded.  On this basis 2022 Arctic was nearly 400k km2 in surplus at end of April.

Region 2022120 Day 120 Average 2022-Ave. 2007120 2022-2007
 (0) Northern_Hemisphere 13623874 13507670  116204  13108068 515806 
 (1) Beaufort_Sea 1070776 1067739  3036  1059189 11587 
 (2) Chukchi_Sea 963424 955654  7770  949246 14178 
 (3) East_Siberian_Sea 1087137 1085485  1652  1080176 6961 
 (4) Laptev_Sea 897845 889961  7884  875661 22184 
 (5) Kara_Sea 932842 911757  21084  864664 68178 
 (6) Barents_Sea 654813 547685  107129  396544 258270 
 (7) Greenland_Sea 777073 640123  136950  644438 132635 
 (8) Baffin_Bay_Gulf_of_St._Lawrence 1243689 1205315  38374  1147115 96574 
 (9) Canadian_Archipelago 854685 848564  6121  838032 16653 
 (10) Hudson_Bay 1240262 1238267  1995  1222074 18188 
 (11) Central_Arctic 3247307 3229654  17652  3241034 6272 
 (12) Bering_Sea 334929 482018 -147089  475489 -140560 
 (13) Baltic_Sea 22696 20622  2074  14684 8012 
 (14) Sea_of_Okhotsk 294259 381697  -87438  295743 -1484 

The only deficits to average are in Bering and Okhotsk, more than offset by surpluses everywhere else, especially in Barents and Greenland seas. 2007 extents were lower by 516k km2 (half a Wadham)

 

April 1st Footnote:

It has been a long hard winter, requiring overtime efforts by Norwegian icebreakers like this one:

In addition, cold Spring temperatures led to unusual sightings of Northern creatures:

Not only Polar bears are flourishing!

 

Society Damaged by Surge of Narcissists

Ross Pomeroy writes at Real Clear Science What Are the Effects of America’s Narcissism Epidemic? Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.

There’s a strong case to be made that since the end of World War II, Americans have grown increasingly narcissistic on average – more entitled, with an inflated sense of self-importance.

Psychologists Jean Twenge and W. Keith Campbell are most responsible for collecting data and creating a narrative to support this claim. According to the duo, the rise began with the Baby Boomers, who grew up in an era of relative ease and plenty after their grandparents endured a Great Depression and their parents soldiered and sacrificed through World War II. By the time they were college-aged, Boomers eschewed the collectivist mindset of their elders in favor of individualism.

The trend continued with Boomers’ kids. As Dennis Shen wrote for the London School of Economics’ Phelan United States Centre, “One study comparing teenagers found that while only 12% of those aged 14-16 in the early 1950s agreed with the statement “I am an important person”, 77% of boys and more than 80% of girls of the same cohort by 1989 agreed with it.”

And, of course, the rise in narcissism has persisted since. In 2008, Twenge published a study comparing college students’ scores on the Narcissistic Personality Inventory scale to scores from students in 1979, finding that levels of narcissism had risen roughly 30 percent.

Additional research has evinced this increase. “59% of American college freshmen rated themselves above average in intellectual self-confidence in 2014, compared with 39% in 1966,” Shen wrote.

Owing to the elevated prevalence of social media services over the past decade, it’s highly likely that the rise in narcissism has only accelerated of late.

We see it on Twitter, where users flock to share their ‘brilliant’ opinions. We see it on Instagram and TikTok, where people carefully curate their online personas. We also see it in traditional media sources, where elite-educated journalists often make themselves the story and focus on tending their Twitter profiles. Narcissism also reigns on television news. Gone are the days of humble correspondents and “just the facts” anchors, replaced by talking heads and opinionated hosts more interested in their ratings than the truth.

Of course, while narcissism has risen, that doesn’t mean we are all narcissists. It exists both as a trait, which is on a spectrum, and a personality disorder, which is much more extreme and debilitating. Narcissistic personality disorder has actually remained fairly stable in the U.S. over the past decades. This means that the average American is more self-centered than they used to be, but decidedly not stuck in their own head.

What are the wider effects of this psychological transition?

As Shen speculated, partisanship has exploded as people have grown more enamored with their own beliefs and less open to others’. Debt-financed conspicuous consumption “to elevate one’s status in front of others, rather than out of necessity” has risen. And an increasing disdain for government could partly be attributed to a focus on somewhat arrogant self-sufficiency.

There is also another way to look at the rise in narcissism – as a defense mechanism. Narcissism is often driven by low self-esteem and insecurity. Since the 1950s, wealth inequality has risen, cost of living has exploded, especially for housing, and puchasing power has stagnated. Combine these economic pressures with the competitive, pressure-filled media environment since the turn of the century and you have a recipe for a rise in narcissism. And sadly, narcissism is linked to elevated hostility and aggression towards others. One hopes that Americans can find a way to cool their collective narcissism before it boils over.

Narcissism Linked to America’s Political and Economic Crises

Denis Shen adds discussion at LSE (London School of Economics) A rise in narcissism could be one of the main causes of America’s political and economic crises.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Dennis Shen tracks narcissism’s rise, the potential link to economic conditions and discusses consequences. Moreover, he notes the striking phenomena now comparably evolving in China and abroad.

At extremes, narcissism undermines institutions that underpin a strong society, with links to shallow values, less intellectual interest and value on hard work, aggression and relationship complications, and lack of empathy and concern for others. When we consider political or economic dilemmas, we should not avoid discussion of the role that cultural factors and social psychology might have.

A multi-generational change

In the aftermath of the Second World War, a rare consensus within America emerged, the result of existential crises in the form of the World War and looming Cold War. In an era when the United States’ hegemony was unchallenged in the West, a type of groupthink existed within the nation’s borders—the ‘Greatest Generation’ emphasized conformity and discouraged individuality. This was supported by earlier shared struggles and the decline of class differences during the Great Depression and war era. This post-war era of togetherness saw unprecedented economic stability and trust in the state as the steward of the people. The nation backed global reciprocity, exemplified during the founding of the United Nations, Bretton Woods institutions and Marshall Plan.

As the Baby Boomers came of age in the 1960s and 70s, the grey society of the post-war consensus had begun to vanish in favor of a more individualistic focus on self-expression and self-identity.

The problem is that this change in the narrative furthered henceforth. It became pronounced enough by the 1970s that Tom Wolfe in 1976 titled this “The ‘Me’ Decade”. The cohorts that were raised in the 70s and 80s—Generations X and Y—continued this trend: to the extent that one study comparing teenagers found that while only 12% of those aged 14-16 in the early 1950s agreed with the statement “I am an important person”, 77% of boys and more than 80% of girls of the same cohort by 1989 agreed with it. This evolution has accelerated since the 1990s and 2000s, with the rise of the internet and social media influencing the social milieu of the Millennials and Generation Z.

Cultural roots of the modern crisis

Many of the extant crises in the United States can be traced to some extent to such cultural factors and entitled behavior. The racial and ideological tensions, and consequential partisanship in Washington—which supported the election of Donald J. Trump, have been exacerbated by the self-focused and competitive behavior of separate interest groups in society and politics, with not enough of the requisite empathy to reassess the world from one another’s vantage points. The financial crisis can be explained in part by the narcissistic behaviors of bankers and consumers alike—creating a “time-delay trap” of near-term greed over long-term logic. America’s trade deficit has been exacerbated by debt-financed “conspicuous consumption”—goods purchased to elevate one’s status in front of others, rather than out of necessity. And the crisis of confidence in government can be ascribed in part to the philosophical “hunkering down” and focus on self-sufficiency, rather than on mutual dependence.

Methods to address narcissism are not simple, however, even if society is malleable. During times of economic growth and stability, narcissism tends to grow. This is due to how success and prosperity impacts people, how that then filters to more accommodating parenting norms, and how we’re affected by urbanization and changes to smaller family sizes. Conversely, economic hardship and economic down-cycles tend to support group-minded, non-self-centered people, by enforcing modesty and hard work. In that, there may be both an inherent cyclical dynamic between business cycles and narcissism, and a structural dynamic between economic development and narcissism—with too much societal hubris only correctable in the end through a form of economic or national crisis.

A crisis around the world

The issue has not been isolated to the United States. Rather, the evolution of narcissism has advanced around corners of the world.

In China, there’s been an economic revolution experienced within the span of half a lifetime—with hundreds of millions lifted out of poverty since 1980 and living standards transformed and modernized. But, with the economic miracle has come the sudden upheaval in former collectivistic norms. The rise of the ‘Little Emperors’ and ‘Precious Snowflakes’ is now evident in younger generations that have grown up in only-child households amongst growing economic abundance. Research notes the role of sociodemographic factors in this increase in narcissism. In the decades ahead, societal, political and economic dilemmas could manifest, if such trends in China advance absent pushback.

A recognition of the problematic associations with narcissism is critical to solving domestic and international issues impacted by it. In addition, greater attention needs to be placed in policy circles on how economic and political development can be furthered whilst preserving or inducing characteristics of a cohesive, self-critical community.

 

 

Ocean SSTs Still Cool March 2022


The best context for understanding decadal temperature changes comes from the world’s sea surface temperatures (SST), for several reasons:

  • The ocean covers 71% of the globe and drives average temperatures;
  • SSTs have a constant water content, (unlike air temperatures), so give a better reading of heat content variations;
  • A major El Nino was the dominant climate feature in recent years.

HadSST is generally regarded as the best of the global SST data sets, and so the temperature story here comes from that source. Previously I used HadSST3 for these reports, but Hadley Centre has made HadSST4 the priority, and v.3 will no longer be updated.  HadSST4 is the same as v.3, except that the older data from ship water intake was re-estimated to be generally lower temperatures than shown in v.3.  The effect is that v.4 has lower average anomalies for the baseline period 1961-1990, thereby showing higher current anomalies than v.3. This analysis concerns more recent time periods and depends on very similar differentials as those from v.3 despite higher absolute anomaly values in v.4.  More on what distinguishes HadSST3 and 4 from other SST products at the end. The user guide for HadSST4 is here.

The Current Context

The 2021 year end report below showed rapid cooling in all regions.  The anomalies then continued in 2022 to remain well below the mean since 2015.  This Global Cooling was also evident in the UAH Land and Ocean air temperatures (Still No Global Warming, Milder March Land and Sea).

The chart below shows SST monthly anomalies as reported in HadSST4 starting in 2015 through March 2022.  A global cooling pattern is seen clearly in the Tropics since its peak in 2016, joined by NH and SH cycling downward since 2016. 

Note that higher temps in 2015 and 2016 were first of all due to a sharp rise in Tropical SST, beginning in March 2015, peaking in January 2016, and steadily declining back below its beginning level. Secondly, the Northern Hemisphere added three bumps on the shoulders of Tropical warming, with peaks in August of each year.  A fourth NH bump was lower and peaked in September 2018.  As noted above, a fifth peak in August 2019 and a sixth August 2020 exceeded the four previous upward bumps in NH.

After three straight Spring 2020 months of cooling led by the tropics and SH, NH spiked in the summer, along with smaller bumps elsewhere.  Then temps everywhere dropped for six months, hitting bottom in February 2021.  All regions were well below the Global Mean since 2015, matching the cold of 2018, and lower than January 2015. Then the spring and summer brought more temperate waters and a July return to the mean anomaly since 2015.  After an upward bump in August, the 2021 yearend Global temp anomaly dropped below the mean, driven by sharp declines in the Tropics and NH. Now in 2022 all regions remain cool and the Global anomaly remains lower than the mean for this period.

A longer view of SSTs

To enlarge image double-click or open in new tab.

The graph above is noisy, but the density is needed to see the seasonal patterns in the oceanic fluctuations.  Previous posts focused on the rise and fall of the last El Nino starting in 2015.  This post adds a longer view, encompassing the significant 1998 El Nino and since.  The color schemes are retained for Global, Tropics, NH and SH anomalies.  Despite the longer time frame, I have kept the monthly data (rather than yearly averages) because of interesting shifts between January and July.1995 is a reasonable (ENSO neutral) starting point prior to the first El Nino.  The sharp Tropical rise peaking in 1998 is dominant in the record, starting Jan. ’97 to pull up SSTs uniformly before returning to the same level Jan. ’99.  For the next 2 years, the Tropics stayed down, and the world’s oceans held steady around 0.5C above 1961 to 1990 average.

Then comes a steady rise over two years to a lesser peak Jan. 2003, but again uniformly pulling all oceans up around 0.5C.  Something changes at this point, with more hemispheric divergence than before. Over the 4 years until Jan 2007, the Tropics go through ups and downs, NH a series of ups and SH mostly downs.  As a result the Global average fluctuates around that same 0.5C, which also turns out to be the average for the entire record since 1995.

2007 stands out with a sharp drop in temperatures so that Jan.08 matches the low in Jan. ’99, but starting from a lower high. The oceans all decline as well, until temps build peaking in 2010.

Now again a different pattern appears.  The Tropics cool sharply to Jan 11, then rise steadily for 4 years to Jan 15, at which point the most recent major El Nino takes off.  But this time in contrast to ’97-’99, the Northern Hemisphere produces peaks every summer pulling up the Global average.  In fact, these NH peaks appear every July starting in 2003, growing stronger to produce 3 massive highs in 2014, 15 and 16.  NH July 2017 was only slightly lower, and a fifth NH peak still lower in Sept. 2018.

The highest summer NH peaks came in 2019 and 2020, only this time the Tropics and SH are offsetting rather adding to the warming. (Note: these are high anomalies on top of the highest absolute temps in the NH.)  Since 2014 SH has played a moderating role, offsetting the NH warming pulses. After September 2020 temps dropped off down until February 2021, then all regions rose to bring the global anomaly above the mean since 1995  June 2021 backed down before warming again slightly in July and August 2021, then cooling slightly in September.  The present level compares with 2014.

What to make of all this? The patterns suggest that in addition to El Ninos in the Pacific driving the Tropic SSTs, something else is going on in the NH.  The obvious culprit is the North Atlantic, since I have seen this sort of pulsing before.  After reading some papers by David Dilley, I confirmed his observation of Atlantic pulses into the Arctic every 8 to 10 years.

But the peaks coming nearly every summer in HadSST require a different picture.  Let’s look at August, the hottest month in the North Atlantic from the Kaplan dataset.

The AMO Index is from from Kaplan SST v2, the unaltered and not detrended dataset. By definition, the data are monthly average SSTs interpolated to a 5×5 grid over the North Atlantic basically 0 to 70N. The graph shows August warming began after 1992 up to 1998, with a series of matching years since, including 2020, dropping down in 2021.  Because the N. Atlantic has partnered with the Pacific ENSO recently, let’s take a closer look at some AMO years in the last 2 decades.

This graph shows monthly AMO temps for some important years. The Peak years were 1998, 2010 and 2016, with the latter emphasized as the most recent. The other years show lesser warming, with 2007 emphasized as the coolest in the last 20 years. Note the red 2018 line is at the bottom of all these tracks. The heavy blue line shows that 2022 started warm, but now is below all the tracks pictured.

Summary

The oceans are driving the warming this century.  SSTs took a step up with the 1998 El Nino and have stayed there with help from the North Atlantic, and more recently the Pacific northern “Blob.”  The ocean surfaces are releasing a lot of energy, warming the air, but eventually will have a cooling effect.  The decline after 1937 was rapid by comparison, so one wonders: How long can the oceans keep this up? If the pattern of recent years continues, NH SST anomalies may rise slightly in coming months, but once again, ENSO which has weakened will probably determine the outcome.

Footnote: Why Rely on HadSST4

HadSST is distinguished from other SST products because HadCRU (Hadley Climatic Research Unit) does not engage in SST interpolation, i.e. infilling estimated anomalies into grid cells lacking sufficient sampling in a given month. From reading the documentation and from queries to Met Office, this is their procedure.

HadSST4 imports data from gridcells containing ocean, excluding land cells. From past records, they have calculated daily and monthly average readings for each grid cell for the period 1961 to 1990. Those temperatures form the baseline from which anomalies are calculated.

In a given month, each gridcell with sufficient sampling is averaged for the month and then the baseline value for that cell and that month is subtracted, resulting in the monthly anomaly for that cell. All cells with monthly anomalies are averaged to produce global, hemispheric and tropical anomalies for the month, based on the cells in those locations. For example, Tropics averages include ocean grid cells lying between latitudes 20N and 20S.

Gridcells lacking sufficient sampling that month are left out of the averaging, and the uncertainty from such missing data is estimated. IMO that is more reasonable than inventing data to infill. And it seems that the Global Drifter Array displayed in the top image is providing more uniform coverage of the oceans than in the past.

uss-pearl-harbor-deploys-global-drifter-buoys-in-pacific-ocean

USS Pearl Harbor deploys Global Drifter Buoys in Pacific Ocean

 

 

FERC Aims to Decarbonize, Shoots Down Energy Security

Marlo Lewis explains the Biden regime push to undermine critical energy supply in pursuit of climate virtue in his CEI article Why FERC’s Greenhouse Gas Regulatory Policy Cannot Pass a Cost-Benefit Test.  Excerpt in italics with my bolds.

Today, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) filed comments on the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) proposal to consider climate change impacts in reviews of infrastructure projects under the Natural Gas Act (NGA). The comments were jointly submitted by my CEI colleague Patrick Michaels; Heritage Foundation Chief Statistician, Data Scientist, and Senior Research Fellow Kevin Dayaratna (commenting as an independent scholar rather than as a representative of any organization); and yours truly.

We submitted comments back in January on FERC’s November 2021 technical conference on the same issues. We advised FERC to steer clear of climate policy, for three main reasons.

1.  Decarbonizing Goals Conflict with Natural Gas Act Purpose

First, the Biden administration’s NetZero agenda to decarbonize and degasify the U.S. electric power sector cannot lawfully be aligned with the Natural Gas Act. Biden’s goals conflict with the NGA’s “principal purpose,” which is to:

 “encourage the orderly development of plentiful supplies
of electricity and natural gas at reasonable prices.”

In addition, climate change is not a factor Congress authorized FERC to consider. The words “climate,” “carbon,” “greenhouse,” “global,” “warming,” “mitigate,” or any of their cognates do not occur in the Act.

2.  Infrastructure Emissions Do Not Threaten the Environment

Second, although the direct and indirect emissions of natural gas infrastructure may be “reasonably foreseeable,” the climate effects are not. FERC’s project reviews are governed by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which requires scrutiny of major federal actions “significantly affecting the human environment.” Even the emissions of the largest natural gas projects are too small to discernibly affect global climate, and no project’s “carbon footprint” is big enough to influence the fate or fortunes of any community, business, or human being anywhere in the world.

3.  Social Cost of Carbon Is Speculative and Subjective

Third, the social cost of carbon (SCC)—an estimate of the present value of the cumulative climate damages of an incremental ton of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions—is too speculative and subjective, and too easily manipulated for political purposes, to be weighed in the same scales with an infrastructure project’s estimated economic benefits. The Biden administration’s SCC estimates are egregiously biased in favor of climate alarm and regulatory ambition, rendering any agency action that relies on them arbitrary and capricious.

Unsurprisingly, FERC did not take our advice, and proceeded in February to adopt an “interim” policy statement on NGA project review and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. That stirred up controversy, including pushback by Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Ranking Member John Barrasso (R-WY). As a result, FERC in March demoted its GHG policy statement from “interim” to “draft,” and extended the comment period until today, April 25.

Unlike several presenters at FERC’s November 2021 technical conference, the draft GHG policy statement does not advocate requiring SCC analysis in NGA determinations of public convenience and necessity. Neither, however, does FERC disavow an intent to require it in later policy statements. The Commission may simply be waiting for the Biden administration’s Interagency Working Group (IWG) to finalize its interim SCC estimates, or for courts to resolve Louisiana’s challenge to federal agencies’ use of those metrics.

The Commission’s draft GHG policy statement establishes a “rebuttable presumption that proposed projects with 100,000 metric tons per year of carbon dioxide equivalents (CO2e) emissions will be deemed to have a significant impact on climate change.” FERC also implies that it may condition project approval on the sponsor’s plans to “mitigate all or a portion of the project’s climate change impacts.”

The camel’s nose is already under the tent.

It is not hard to guess where this is going if FERC does not quickly reverse course. The usual suspects will pressure the Commission to:

(1) progressively lower climate significance thresholds,
(2) monetize undetectably small project-related climate “impacts” using agenda-driven SCC estimates, and
(3) either reject needed natural gas infrastructure projects outright or impose mitigation requirements that render them uneconomic.

This is bad policy, as Michaels, Dayaratna, and I explained in our January 7 comments. If an infrastructure project is commercially viable and helps ensure plentiful supplies of electricity and natural gas at reasonable prices (the NGA’s principal purpose), the Commission knows in advance that the project’s economic benefits far exceed its climate-related externalities. Therefore, no further investigation of the project’s GHG emissions is required, nor does it make sense to condition the certificate of public convenience and necessity on the project’s adoption of mitigation measures.

Conclusion

New research by Dayaratna (hereafter “Heritage analysis”) further confirms that conclusion. Using the U.S. government’s leading energy and climate policy models, the Heritage analysis demonstrates that banning construction of new U.S. pipelines would have a negligible effect on U.S. annual CO2 emissions through 2050 and, thus, a similarly negligible effect on global temperatures through 2100. The policy implication for FERC is clear. No level of overregulation or prohibition that regulators might apply to the development of U.S. natural gas pipelines could meaningfully affect the Earth’s climate.

Consequently, no regulation or prohibition of new natural gas pipelines could possibly be worth the economic losses imposed on construction companies, natural gas producers, and energy consumers.

See Also Seeking Climate and Energy Security

If That Tesla Battery Could Talk

Let’s imagine what an EV battery could tell us about its reality. A short story.  H/T Graeme Weber

The packed auditorium was abuzz; nobody seemed to know what to expect. The only hint was a large aluminum block sitting on a sturdy table on the stage.

When the crowd settled down, a scholarly-looking man walked out and put his hand on the shiny block, “Good evening,” he said, “I am here to introduce NMC532-X,” and he patted the block, “we call him NM for short,” and the man smiled proudly. “NM is a typical electric vehicle (EV) car battery in every way except one; we programmed him to send signals of the internal movements of his electrons when charging, discharging, and in several other conditions. We wanted to know what it feels like to be a battery. We don’t know how it happened, but NM began to talk after we downloaded the program.

“Despite this ability, we put him in a car for a year and then asked him if he’d like to do presentations about batteries. He readily agreed on the condition he could say whatever he wanted. We thought that was fine, and so, without further ado, I’ll turn the floor over to NM;” the man turned and walked off the stage.

“Good evening,” NM said. He had a slightly affected accent, and when he spoke, he lit up in different colors.

“A few days ago, at the start of my last lecture, three people walked out. But here is what I noticed about them. One was wearing a battery-powered hearing aid, one tapped on his battery-powered cell phone as he left, and a third got into his car — which would not start without a battery. So, I’d like you to think about your day for a moment; how many batteries do you rely on?”

He paused for a full minute which gave people time to count their batteries. Then he went on, “Now, it is not elementary to ask, ‘what is a battery?’ I think Mr. Tesla said it best when they called us Energy Storage Systems. That’s important. We do not make electricity — we store electricity produced elsewhere, primarily by coal, uranium, natural gas-powered plants, or diesel-fueled generators. So, to say an EV is a zero-emission vehicle is not at all valid. Also, since 40% of the electricity generated in the U.S. is from coal-fired plants, it follows that 40% of the EVs on the road are coal-powered, n’est-ce pas?”

He flashed blue again. “Einstein’s formula, E=MC2, tells us it takes the same amount of energy to move a 5,000 lb. gasoline-driven automobile a mile as it does an electric one. The only question again is, what produces the power? To reiterate, it does not come from the battery; the battery is only the storage device, like a gas tank in a car.”

He lit up red when he said that, and then he continued in blue and orange. “Mr. Elkay introduced me as NMC532. If I were the battery from your computer mouse, Elkay would introduce me as AA, if from your cell phone as CR2032, and so on. We batteries all have the same name depending on our design. By the way, the ‘X’ in my name stands for ‘experimental.’

“There are two orders of batteries: rechargeable and single use. The most common single-use batteries are A, AA, AAA, C, D, 9V, and lantern types. Those dry-cell species use zinc, manganese, lithium, silver oxide, or zinc and carbon to store electricity chemically. Please note they all contain toxic, heavy metals.

“Rechargeable batteries only differ in their internal materials, usually lithium-ion, nickel-metal oxide, and nickel-cadmium.

“The United States uses three billion of these two battery types a year, and most are not recycled; they end up in landfills. If you throw your small, used batteries in the trash, here is what happens to them.

“All batteries are self-discharging. That means even when not in use, they leak tiny amounts of energy. You have likely ruined a flashlight or two from an old, ruptured battery. When a battery runs down and can no longer power a toy or light, you think of it as dead; well, it is not. It continues to leak small amounts of electricity. As the chemicals inside it run out, pressure builds inside the battery’s metal casing, and eventually, it cracks. The metals left inside then ooze out. The ooze in your ruined flashlight is toxic, and so is the ooze that will inevitably leak from every battery in a landfill. All batteries eventually rupture; it just takes rechargeable batteries longer to end up in the landfill.

“In addition to dry-cell batteries, there are also wet-cell ones used in automobiles, boats, and motorcycles. The good thing about those is, 90% of them are recycled. Unfortunately, the cost of recycling EV batteries is more expensive than the cost of mining and creating a new battery. EV batteries that don’t have enough potency to power a vehicle can sometimes be used to power home appliances, street lights or solar panel backup until they finally lose all their energy.

“But that is not half of it. For those of you excited about electric cars and a green revolution, I want you to take a closer look at batteries and windmills and solar panels. These three technologies share what we call environmentally destructive embedded costs.”

NM got redder as he spoke. “Everything manufactured has two costs associated with it: embedded costs and operating costs. I will explain embedded costs using a can of baked beans as my subject.

“In this scenario, baked beans are on sale for $1.75 a can. As you head to the checkout, you begin to think about the embedded costs in the can of beans.

“The first cost is the diesel fuel the farmer used to plow the field, till the ground, harvest the beans, and transport them to the food processor. Not only is his diesel fuel an embedded cost, so are the costs to build the tractors, combines, and trucks. In addition, the farmer might use a nitrogen fertilizer made from natural gas.

“Next is the energy costs of cooking the beans, heating the building, transporting the workers, and paying for the vast amounts of electricity used to run the plant. The steel can holding the beans is also an embedded cost. Making the steel can requires mining taconite, shipping it by boat, extracting the iron, placing it in a coal-fired blast furnace, and adding carbon. Then it’s back on another truck to take the beans to the grocery store. Finally, add in the cost of the gasoline for your car.

“But wait — can you guess one of the highest but rarely acknowledged embedded costs? It’s the depreciation on the 5000-lb. car you used to transport one pound of canned beans!”

“But that can of beans is nothing compared to me! I am hundreds of times more complicated. My embedded costs not only come in the form of energy use; they come as environmental destruction, pollution, disease, child labor, and the cost to be recycled.”

He paused, “I weigh 1,000 pounds, and as you see, I am about the size of a travel trunk. I contain 25 pounds of lithium, 60 pounds of nickel, 44 pounds of manganese, 30 pounds cobalt, 200 pounds of copper, and 400 pounds of aluminum, steel, and plastic. Inside me are 6,831 individual lithium-ion cells.

“It should concern you that all those toxic components come from mining. For instance, to manufacture EACH auto battery like me, you must process 25,000 pounds of brine for the lithium, 30,000 pounds of ore for the cobalt, 5,000 pounds of ore for the nickel, and 25,000 pounds of ore for copper. All told, you dig up 500,000 pounds of the earth’s crust for just. one. battery.

“I mentioned disease and child labor a moment ago. Here’s why. Sixty-eight percent of the world’s cobalt, a significant part of a battery, comes from the Congo. Their mines have no pollution controls, and they employ children who die from handling this toxic material. Should we factor in these diseased kids as part of the cost of driving an electric car?”

400MW/1600MWh Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility in California Image: LG Energy Solution

“Finally, “I’d like to leave you with these thoughts. California is building the largest battery in the world near San Francisco, and they intend to power it from solar panels and windmills. They claim this is the ultimate in being ‘green,’ but it is not! This construction project is creating an environmental disaster. Let me tell you why.

“The main problem with solar arrays is the chemicals needed to process silicate into the silicon used in the panels. To make pure enough silicon requires processing it with hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone. In addition, they also need gallium, arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride, which also are highly toxic. Silicon dust is a hazard to the workers, and the panels cannot be recycled.

“Windmills are the ultimate in embedded costs and environmental destruction. Each weighs 1688 tons (the equivalent of 23 houses) and contains 1300 tons of concrete, 295 tons of steel, 48 tons of iron, 24 tons of fiberglass, and the hard to extract rare earths neodymium, praseodymium, and dysprosium. Each blade weighs 81,000 pounds and will last 15 to 20 years, at which time it must be replaced. We cannot recycle used blades. Sadly, both solar arrays and windmills kill birds, bats, sea life, and migratory insects.

“There may be a place for these technologies, but you must look beyond the myth of zero emissions. I predict EVs and windmills will be abandoned once the embedded environmental costs of making and replacing them become apparent. I’m trying to do my part with these lectures.”

See Also World of Hurt from Climate Policies, Part 3 Wind and Solar Infrastructure Consumes Rare Metals Far Beyond World Supplies

Global critical metal demand for wind and solar power plants

When considering a global perspective, the critical metal demand for our future renewable electricity production is significant. This graph shows the annual metal demand for the six most critical metals, compared to the annual production. The dotted line represents present-day annual production.  

Elitist Lies About Inflation

The editors at Issues and Insights reveal false and misleading statements by a leading elitist spokesperson, US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen.  The article is  See If You Can Follow Yellen’s Bouncing Inflation Ball.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said over the weekend that we’re going to have to “put up with inflation for a while longer,” which means that she has now held just about every possible — and almost always wrong — position on an issue about which she is supposedly an expert. Is it any wonder nobody trusts elites anymore?

Yellen was on CNBC over the weekend and, when asked whether inflation had peaked, said:

“Well, it may have peaked, but … I think the shocks emanating from this unjustified attack on Ukraine will prolong inflationary pressures. So, the outlook is uncertain. As you know, the Fed is taking steps to bring inflation down, but I think we will have to put up with high inflation for a while longer.”

Let’s leave aside Yellen’s dubious claim that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had any meaningful impact on inflation. Why would it? Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, which was far more disruptive to the global oil market, bumped oil prices up for a short period but had no broader inflationary effect.

The Putin-is-to-blame for skyrocketing prices is one of team Biden’s big lies
meant to deflect blame. But the press never calls them on it.

No, what’s really troubling is the fact that Biden’s Treasury secretary has been so utterly clueless about inflation since joining his cabinet.

Let’s look at what Yellen has claimed about inflation since early last year and the actual results. The chart shows what inflation was doing when she made these statements.

  1. February 2021: “I’ve spent many years studying inflation and worrying about inflation, and I can tell you, we have the tools to deal with that risk if it materializes.”
  2. March 2021: “I don’t think it’s a significant risk. And if it materializes, we’ll certainly monitor for it, but we have tools to address it.”
  3. May 2021: “I don’t think there’s going to be an inflationary problem, but if there is, the Fed can be counted on.”
  4. June 2021: “Supply bottlenecks have developed that have caused inflation. I believe that they’re transitory, but that doesn’t mean they’ll go away over the next several months.”
  5. October 2021: “I don’t think we’re about to lose control of inflation.
  6. November 2021: “If we want to get inflation down, I think continuing to make progress against the pandemic is the most important thing we can do.”
  7. January 2022: “If we’re successful in controlling the pandemic, I expect inflation to diminish over the course of the year and hopefully revert to normal levels by the end of the year around 2%.”
  8. February 2022: “I think people heard ‘transitory,’ and to them it meant a couple of months. Maybe a better word could have been chosen.”
  9. March 2022: “We’re likely to see another year in which 12-month inflation numbers remain very uncomfortably high.”

Keep in mind who we are talking about here. Yellen has a sterling resume. A doctorate in economics from Yale. Professorships at Harvard and the University of California, Berkeley. On the faculty of the London School of Economics. President of the Western Economic Association and vice president of the American Economic Association. Head of the Council of Economic Advisors under President Bill Clinton. President of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco. Chairwoman of the Federal Reserve.

So how in the world can her pronouncements about inflation under President Joe Biden be as reliable as the weather forecast? Is her understanding of economics tainted by liberal ideology? Is she just doing the bidding of an incompetent and desperate Biden administration?

Does it matter? Yellen is a shining example of why so many in this country
feel betrayed by the people who claim lordship over them.

 

 

 

Seeking Climate and Energy Security

Europe at night from space NASA 2016

News is out that US Senators are meeting in search of (using Sen. Joe Manchin’s words)  “a bipartisan climate and energy security package.” . . .  “It’s urgent to find out if there is a pathway.”

The principals should attend to Dieter Helm’s expert March 2022 analysis of Climate and Energy Security entitled Energy policy  Some excerpts are below in italics with my bolds, suggesting the thrust of his wisdom in this regard.

Introduction

Energy policy is not rocket science. It is about achieving core objectives – security of supply and decarbonisation – and achieving them at the lowest cost. Neither will be met by purely private markets, since the former is a public good and carbon is an externality not properly integrated in competitive markets. Furthermore, energy is a primary good for citizens: not to have energy deprives people and businesses from access to the wider economy and to society. It is a core USO: a Universal Service Obligation. That is why energy cannot be treated like any other commodity, as some of the architects of the “privatisation, liberalisation and competition” paradigm believed. Citizens are more than just consumers.

Security of supply requires a capacity margin: “just in case” rather than “just in time”. Decarbonisation requires more renewables, possibly nuclear, and maybe hydrogen, carbon capture and storage (CCS) and an active demand side. Security of supply sits in this decarbonisation context, and because many of the options on the generation side are intermittent, security of supply takes on a much more demanding dimension – not just the old question of access to fuels and power, but the ability to handle large-scale intermittency.

The Policy Mess We Are In

This pressure to “do something” is most intense in a “crisis”, and what is happening right now is a classic example. Lots of interventions currently being proposed by all the lobbyists are likely to make things worse.

Complexity is a lobbyist’s utopia. Engaged in each consultation, clear about the single aims of its vested interest, able to engage in each and every consultation, able to brief MPs, the media and the ministers, and sow doubt where interests are threatened, it is no wonder that the energy sector is now close to resembling that of agriculture, captured by the core interests. Spending (and it is very large-scale spending) on lobbying keeps going up as the government is more and more engaged in the details of all the main contracts.

These lobby interests have been very successful in getting subsidies and convincing government that the transition to net zero is going to be cheap (just not yet), and that there is no threat to security. Just go for net zero, they argue – on a territorial carbon production basis – sign up for lots and lots of targets and then, once the fish is hooked, play in the threat of failures and hence the case for more and more subsidies. (If it was all so cheap, we could of course abolish the subsidies – but no vested interest is demanding the end to subsidies.)

The facts –not only that decarbonisation is essential, but it is going to cost a lot – remain, and they are increasingly emerging. Each time they do, the lobbyists turn to the Treasury and ask the taxpayer to bail them out.

At its simplest, the government has been pursuing decarbonisation without addressing in parallel the security of supply implications. The failures are multiple. It is not just the gas price and the collapse of suppliers; it is also about the balancing market, and the distribution companies.

Behind all of these is the lack of a coherent market design
fit for the decarbonising purposes.

Exposure to the spot markets, with no storage and no special relationship to North Sea producers, is only one reason why the gas price increases hit the UK particularly hard. A second reason is that the UK has built a lot of intermittent wind capacity without thinking through how to manage the intermittency. In the UK (for good reasons) there is very little coal generation capacity left – except DRAX. For all the hype about batteries and smart demand management, the fact is that gas (and small diesel generators) is almost all that is currently left to do the heavy lifting.

In a renewables energy system, there needs to be a lot more capacity
to meet any given demand.

In theory, if there was no wind, then there would need to be another complete system to be on standby. As demand keeps going down – in part because of de-industrialisation (industry demand is down 20% since 2000) – capacity has been going up towards the 100GW mark, an increased requirement of over 20GW for a significantly lower total demand. It will need to go up a lot more with 40GW of offshore wind as planned. It seems to have escaped the notice of all those projecting that the costs of the transition would be very low, and claiming that renewables are cost-competitive with fossil fuels, that all this capacity has to earn a reasonable rate of return. It is a cost of renewables.

Needing the gas capacity is only one dimension of the problem. The other is how to deliver it, given that the wind has a marginal cost close to zero. Whereas a conventional gas power station could rely on running most of the time when first built, now it is itself intermittent, depending on whether the wind is blowing. This breaks the conventional back of the economics of gas investment. Hence there is no merchant gas investment. Gas shifts from being driven by a normal wholesale market towards a strategic reserve of capacity. The market design has not caught up with this. Gas now needs a capacity payment to make its reasonable return, and hence a capacity contract, which only the government can underpin.

Back to Basics

The very concept of a competitive retail energy supply market cuts across the basic idea that energy is a USO. Some think that goes beyond the pure commodity to an essential service necessary for a citizen to participate in society. Without electricity and gas, citizens can die of hyperthermia (quite a lot do each winter), they cannot access the internet, phones may not work, and the freezer thaws out. Any decent society recognises that energy cannot be simply about price, supply and demand. Yet that is precisely what the architects of the privatisation and liberalisation paradigm thought they were doing. The current crisis is not just about whether people can or will pay: it is also about all those voluntary actions to stop using the heating and the electricity, with all the consequences for the poor that this implies. Paying the electricity bill can be a trade-off with food.

The supply market is now broken, and it is unlikely that many customers will now want to switch – especially amongst the poorer ones. The government has had to step in to bail out Bulb. All electricity customers are now going to pay more than £60 each in their bills to pick up the tab for the costs of sorting out all the company failures. We have come full circle, back to an oligopoly again, and one that will need proper regulation.

The right way to address supply is to start with what customers want, to ensure that the companies serve the customers, not that the customers serve the interests of the suppliers.

How It Could Be Different

Though it is true that we are where we are, it is worth considering how it could be different by looking at what is happening elsewhere. Recall the reasons why the gas price increases have hit so hard are that the UK has lots of intermittent wind, and the electricity price is determined by the (marginal) wholesale price. Intermittency reads across to greater demand for gas, and that translates straight into the electricity price. The gas and electricity price paths match each other remarkably closely in the UK.

To see how it could be different, consider what is happening in France. It is around 70% nuclear and has a lot of hydropower. As the gas prices have shot up, the cost of nuclear and hydropower has not changed at all. Similarly in the UK, the cost of wind, solar and nuclear generation has not gone up. But now the difference. In France, the price increases are being limited to 4%. This reflects the costs. EDF understandably protests that this will lose it money (around €8 billion), because it could have sold its power into the EU markets at the spot price.

But the €8 billion is not a loss, but rather an additional profit that would go to EDF. Since EDF is largely owned by the French state, the €8 billion would be a taxpayer gain, and stands against a customer gain if the benefits of a stable nuclear power supply go to the French citizens and industry. Quite why Germans should benefit from French nuclear at this point of the gas price crisis, when it has closed its own nuclear fleet, is hard to fathom.

The building blocks of a sensible energy policy

Energy policy is all about setting a system framework within which markets operate to deliver what citizens and customers want. It starts with setting the objectives, and then ensures that these are met by a set of institutions, interventions, regulations, licences and auctions and so on.

The objectives

There are two primary objectives: security of supply and decarbonisation. Unless these are clearly and appropriately specified, no amount of ingenuity about the development of policies will be anything other than inefficient.

Security of supply includes price and costs, as does decarbonisation. Setting either independently of prices and costs make them unlikely to be attainable. In both cases higher prices have an impact on demand and hence the required supply-side infrastructure, reserves, capacity margins and the total envelope of investments. For example, gas security is always possible if the price is high enough. Supply equals demand at a clearing price. Security of supply has to be at reasonable costs, as must decarbonisation.

Both objectives are currently set as if they are independent of prices and costs. Hence they are in doubt: market participants need to try to guess the reaction function of government if and when customers and voters rebel or are simply unable to pay. In particular, there is an assumption as noted above that decarbonisation will be very low cost (perhaps 1% GDP per annum), but this is hopelessly unrealistic – it assumes as noted, for example, not only that the costs of renewables and low-carbon technologies will keep falling, but also that government policy will be perfect. There will be no government failure.

This is nonsense. Pretending that the costs are low to get governments signed up is a classic NGO trick, but the unfortunate reality is that the costs do not go away by assumption. In the current circumstances, few can bank on getting the net zero for the electricity sector by 2035. The uncertainty raises risk and hence the cost of capital.

The security of supply objective is also ill-defined, if defined at all. How much risk does the government want the economy and its companies and citizens to take that they will face price shocks? It is easy to be very secure, provided the economy can withstand the costs of a range of policies, including strategic stocks, reinforced networks and large capacity margins. We could, for example, agree to pay whatever it takes to secure LNG cargoes by agreeing to outbid every other country in the world. The costs of all of this would be beyond those that the economy could withstand.

The task of government in general, and BEIS in particular, is to set out serious and sensible objectives, and then delegate their achievement in a credible way.

Stakes in the ground

There are a number of decisions which cannot be taken by the private sector, or at least not without a very high cost of capital. The government is already the central buyer for almost everything in the electricity sector – directly or indirectly. Almost all new generation comes with a government-backed contract: a capacity contract or a CfD or a RAB. All the networks are regulated, and the regulator has a duty to finance functions in one form or another. The government controls the North Sea licences for oil and gas, and The Crown Estate runs the seabed licences.

The first stake in the ground concerns nuclear.

It can never be a purely private investment, for multiple reasons. Waste is an intergenerational liability. The political nature of nuclear means that investors always face the risk that government performs the sorts of U-turns made in Germany. Limited liability of private sector firms leaves the government with the unlimited liabilities. These considerations trump the further worries about the length of the project, cost and construction overruns, and changing regulatory requirements. Every major incident globally at a nuclear facility leads to a review of safety regulators, and safety regulators usually come up with new tighter regulations as a result.

Having a nuclear capability is part and parcel of having a robust nuclear programme, as it is of a military nuclear deterrence. Looking ahead, it is possible to envisage a joint UK– France nuclear programme, adding France’s six to say four to six in the UK, making a programme of at least ten. This would yield a supply chain. But it would need a UK company as part of the deal and a joint political framework. All of this, in the current context, is fantasy. If the UK does nuclear, it will be far less ambitious, less joined-up, and probably much more costly.

The conclusion that follows is that it is very hard to think of any worse way of taking nuclear decisions than the recent past in Britain. It maximises the cost of capital without complete risk transfer, and it minimises the supply chain efficiencies. Opting for more nuclear now as part of a security and decarbonising strategy requires the ambition to be matched by a more coherent and joined-up commitment, sustained over more than a decade.

A second stake in the ground is offshore and onshore wind.

The key point about wind is its difficult economics: it is low-density, disaggregated, intermittent and remote from consumers. Nevertheless, its lobbyists claim that wind is the cheapest form of electricity generation. Sadly this is not true once the full costs are taken into account, and that means that it is government that has to decide how much offshore and onshore wind and has to provide the subsidies to the full costs to make it happen. The regulator has to instruct the network companies to build an interconnected system between the offshore wind farms and then between the wind farms and the mainland grids. Offshore wind – the main play – differs from nuclear in all the above respects. It also differs in having shorter lead times and its components can be manufactured, currently primarily in China.

The stake in the ground decisions about the volume of offshore and onshore wind are conditional on deciding about the system infrastructure to collect and distribute the energy, and how to deal with the intermittency.

This is a system question that depends not only on the quantity in GWs of offshore wind in particular, but also on what else is on the system at the same time. It is rarely observed that the decision about wind needs to be taken in conjunction with the decision about gas – at least until there is a largescale alternative storage technology that can cope with longer periods of low wind, notably in winter (but increasingly in summer, too, as the air conditioning loads grow). Given the 2035 target for decarbonising electricity, the gas decision depends in turn on the CCS decision, since more wind means more gas, which means more CCS if the gas is to meet the net zero requirement by 2035.

This leads to the third stake in the ground – CCS.

Successive governments have stalled on CCS (Carbon Capture and Storage) investments and decisions. As noted, a Treasury paper in 2007 promised £1 billion of support to develop CCS. Fifteen years later, and despite there being even a competition for the £1 billion, CCS remains largely on the drawing board. It requires a regulatory and licences framework, a liability insurance regime, a pipeline system, and a price of carbon sequestrated.

Though all of this is reasonably straightforward, these ancillary stakes in the ground are not yet in place, and the clock is ticking both as the offshore wind develops and the 2035 deadline gets ever closer.

The fourth stake is the new kid on the block – hydrogen and green ammonia.

It is unlikely to be the last “new kid”. The promise of hydrogen is that it can be manufactured by using excess wind and perhaps even solar, thereby being truly “green”. (Nuclear could do this too, though it is unlikely to be surplus unless on a French scale.) In the meantime, hydrogen is “blue”, made from natural gas, which brings us back to CCS. Blue hydrogen is inconsistent with the net zero targets without CCS. The hydrogen decision differs from the nuclear and wind stakes in the ground because it is very much at the R&D and demonstration stage. R&D is a public good and hence there is an obvious role here for government support.

There are several other stakes in the ground, though they tend to be more about the frameworks and less the technology per se. Solar falls into this category, and targets are particularly inappropriate given the major differences between rooftop, household, farmland and other variants. In an ideal world with perfect foresight, governments might want to go further, but there are corollary dangers as the lobbyists get their teeth into government and regulators, and getting the really big decisions right on the above stakes in the ground would be a major achievement. All of the above are decisions which cannot be taken by markets.

Governments should resist the temptation to do everything. Just doing a few things well would be a massive improvement on the current policy mess described above.

Delivering the plan – guidance and the system operator and regional system operators

Government can and indeed has to take the decisions about the major stakes in the ground. What then is required is a plan to deliver the energy system within which these stakes are embedded.

These objectives will not be achieved without a plan. If, for example, the government seriously intends to get to net zero for the electricity sector by 2035, then with 13 years to go, it needs to radically up its game and set out a plan to get from here to there. To give some examples, if part of the plan is to build lots more offshore wind and to increase electricity capacity to tackle transport and some heating, then as noted it will need a lot of gas capacity to back it all up. That in turn will need CCS, since electricity will not be net zero if there is a lot of gas on the system unless the gas is net zero and the only plausible way of doing this is to use very large-scale CCS. Similarly, it makes a lot of difference to the networks and the capacity requirement whether there is more nuclear or not. To get more nuclear in just 13 years on the system requires a lot of actions now. The stakes in the ground are for government: the delivery of the system to meet these is an evolving and detailed matter. Things will change. Nuclear might be late, wind costs may increase, and so on.

Someone has to manage this process, and whilst the government and BEIS can and should issue guidance – notably in respect of the overall objectives and the stakes in the ground – there need to be a system architect. The obvious place to start is with the SOs at the national and also at the regional level too. The Cost of Energy Review sets out how these should be separated from National Grid and the distribution network operators (DNOs) and details some of the consequences for Ofgem and system regulation. Five years later, the government is still prevaricating about how to do this. Every year means that the system plan remains incomplete, which means that it is harder and harder to meet the 2035 target and the costs of doing so goes up. It has an impact on the generation investment decisions, notably because without a network system in place, uncertainty increases and hence the costs of capital goes up.

Creating a market fit for the purposes of the twenty-first century

Critical to rebasing energy policy now is a series of decisions – stakes in the ground – that have been fudged in recent years. Either do nuclear properly or not at all. Recognise the security implications of lots of intermittent wind on the system and plan the system architecture to deal with this. Integrate the offshore and onshore electricity grids. Do not ignore the gas that will be a part of the back-up for at least a decade to come. Do not pretend that stopping new gas production in the North Sea solves the problem of UK consumers consuming a lot of gas by importing it instead.

Get on with separating out the regional SOs and the national SO. Evolve quickly to an EFP market to supersede the fossil-fuel-driven wholesale markets of the twentieth century. Take longer term contracts seriously rather than relying overwhelmingly on spot markets, and extend the price cap periods to a year. Get on with designing and implementing an integrated CCS system offshore.

Do these things, and spend less on perverse subsidies, and the UK can have secure energy at a reasonable cost and decarbonise at the same time. Ignore all these, and not only will the UK lack security, but it will pay higher prices and the 2035 target will fade, and possibly with it the willingness of the public to support the vital objective of decarbonisation.

See also World of Energy Infographics

 

 

Fake Virtue Demeans Us All

Explained at Peak Prosperity For The Narrative-Creators, The Play Is You… And You Are Not Real.  Excerpts in italics with my bolds and added images.  H/T Tyler Durden

If, like me, you’ve been wondering about why things are the way they are in today’s world, and how this relates, this is my explanation: For the actors, writers and directors who create real world narratives, the play is you. And you are not real.

Actors and Reality

Much has been made of the jarring dissonance between the heroic stand of the president and the people of Ukraine and the facile signaling of the Social Justice crowd. Feel free to pick your favorite exemplar, from the merely stupid banning of Russian cats and renaming of White Russian cocktails to the more sinister cancelling of Russian performers, or the horrific threats and vandalism to places serving Russian food. There’s no shortage of content here. And, as we’ll get to shortly, that’s the point.

Ukraine’s policy goals do not map fully to those of the United States (think Azov Battalion, for starters), and we can and should carefully consider our response with that awareness. But this does not change Ukrainian heroism. Zelensky wants planes, a no-fly zone, and he would no doubt love NATO boots on the ground. Prudence may dictate we provide him none of these, but it is worth noting that any of us in his circumstances would likely be asking for the same things. Any of us who stayed during the onslaught, that is.

Clearly, Putin’s bet from the beginning included Zelensky on the first plane out to serve as the leader of the Ukrainian government in (comfortable) exile, after which the dismemberment of that nation would rapidly become a fait accompli. Zelensky was having none of it. He stayed, and continues to stay, at great personal risk to himself and his family. He is, unquestionably, a hero.

It is the contrast between these two extremes (the banning of Russian-themed menus et al vs. Zelensky’s stand) that provides ample opportunity to reflect on the idea that many Americans are just not serious people. Unsurprisingly, their response to events in Ukraine has been to simply cut and paste from the outrage-of-the-week playbook: change profile picture, use a hashtag, find some people to cancel, and congratulate oneself on how virtuous one is. In the real world, rational people are tempted to say, “None of this ‘support’ matters”. It’s just empty signaling. So why is it happening, why has it become so pervasive, and how should we contend with it? Examination of a few high-salience topics can shed some light.

Covid and Wuhan Lab Leak Theory

Consider this first in the context of Covid and the by now well-known case of the Lab Leak Theory. Peter Daszak of the Eco-Health Alliance was the prime mover behind the infamous Lancet Letter branding any lab leak speculation uninformed conspiracy. This makes perfect sense when considering his incentives. Daszak (and Fauci, and others) had something to lose here. Perhaps a lot to lose. U.S. funding of Gain of Function research in Chinese labs resulting in a global pandemic is, to put it mildly, not a very good look and could be costly both financially and criminally.

And that’s where those laws, norms, and standards come in. In an environment with many disinterested actors, those entities without skin in the game would easily out-produce the relatively small number of individuals invested in a particular narrative. In that environment, the idea that zoonotic transmission and escape from a biolab in the same city where researchers were known to be working on bat viruses were both very real possibilities would be obvious.

But that is not at all how it went down.

Instead, the idea that it might be prudent to investigate what role the lab in Wuhan may have played in the pandemic became roughly equivalent to arguing Flat Earth Theory. What the hell was going on here? Did everyone in the American media landscape owe Daszak a favor? Did Fauci have a secret cache of compromising emails and photos to dangle J. Edgar Hoover style over the heads of troublesome journalists? Why on earth would hundreds or thousands in the media run cover for these guys and for the Chinese government to the extent of making claims that mere investigation of the possibility of a lab leak was racist?

More puzzling still is the idea that there is nothing about either potential source of the pandemic that presupposes an explicitly liberal or conservative position. Indeed, one could easily flip the script and imagine a campaign urging people to “follow the science” rather than resorting to xenophobic tropes about savages in wet markets. Until, that is, Donald Trump and other conservatives brought it up, which was like Christmas came early for Daszak and his co-conspirators. For the progressive left, the endorsement of anything by President Trump was more than sufficient cause to oppose it, and thus the wheels began to turn.

None of this should be surprising to anyone who’s been paying attention. At its heart, this is an expression of the luxury of operating without consequences. The luxury of not having to think operationally. To be clear, what I am saying is that Daszak and his cronies were able to leverage a system in which those with the loudest megaphones literally did not and do not care where and how Covid originated. For them, it just doesn’t matter. The pandemic is just background noise. That may seem like a strong statement. So, why and in what sense did they not care?

Personal Gain Not Public Trust

In a recent episode of Bari Weiss’ podcast Honestly, journalist and academic Yuval Levin articulated a theory of the change from institutions-as-formational to institutions-as-platforms. In his view, institutions of all types formerly served to develop the individuals inside them. If for example, you worked at the New York Times as a young journalist, you would be shaped by the ethos of that institution, informed by the repository of values developed over time within that structure.

According to Levin, this has been replaced by the notion of institution-as-platform,
the idea  that these structures exist as a launching pad for one’s personal brand.

Understood from this perspective, the great Lab Leak crackdown suddenly makes a great deal of sense. One of the baseline branding positions operating was “not-Trump.” I am completely persuaded that if Trump had spoken out in favor of the wet market theory, we’d all have been loudly advised to “follow the science” in precisely the opposite direction.

It is also worth noting that these personal brands are rivalrous goods. Having a “take,” even the right one, is necessary, but not sufficient. Your take must outcompete the other signals in the marketplace in order to claim disproportionate attention. And this explains why the Lab Leak Theory had to be, “conspiracist,” “anti-science,” and eventually, of course, “racist.”

The more extreme the position is,
the more effective it is in gaining audience-capture.

And this is not part of the story; it’s the entire story. There is effectively nothing behind the curtain. Because of these powerful incentives, what has happened without us realizing it is the creation of a public dialogue between a small, privileged elite that is fixed on in-group signaling and status-capture. The policy concerns or post-pandemic reforms that should differentially apply depending upon the origin of the disease diminish in importance to the extent that they functionally do not matter at all.

And people impacted by those decisions by extension do not matter either.
They are extras and scenery.

The Damaging Script

This goes a long way toward explaining the persistence of the otherwise bewildering advocacy that has permeated American life. Democratic New York Mayor Eric Adams noted that the Defund the Police crowd “are a lot of young white affluent people.” Of course they are. Poll after poll reveals that those who live in high-crime neighborhoods want more police, not less.

Like any other sane person, those citizens also want their police officers to be professional and not corrupt, but “I want my police officers to fight crime and be professional” is just not an exciting take. From this perspective, insanity like Defund the Police isn’t surprising, but rather inevitable. It is the position pushed to its logical extreme. And that is why arguing with this group is useless.

Perhaps nothing is more indicative of this trend than the increasingly unhinged claims emerging from the trans-activist community, as LGB became LGBT and now for some is properly expressed as LGBTQQIP2SAA, in order to be “inclusive” to intersex, pansexual, asexual, and two-spirit people.

For an outsider, it can all seem like satire.
How could anyone engage in these abbreviation acrobatics unironically?

For outsiders, the criticism seems insane. That is because, once again, we are not the audience. What we are seeing is a process of in-group jousting for status, where increasingly bizarre formulations become predictable and indeed necessary to gain attention. “I disagree with J.K. Rowling” is hardly a winning message, especially compared with “J.K. Rowling threatens my right to exist!” Thus, once again, appeals to reason, biology, or even compassion for a generation of children we are harming irrevocably do not and will not work.

No one affected by these positions exists in any meaningful way
because, again, they are not real.

By far the best example of this phenomenon is Black Lives Matter, a marketing triumph that proved beyond all doubt that these tactics can work, work well, and most importantly, be monetized. The familiar script is here, but no one has ever executed it better, as activists turned their rallying cry into a movement indistinguishable from religion. No nuance or difference of opinion was tolerated. Even to remain silent was proof of apostacy.

The net result? More than $60 million, most of which remains unaccounted for, and a series of high-end real estate purchases by the activists behind the whole thing. No policy achievements of any kind, because of course those were never the point from the beginning, as was obvious to anyone paying attention.

The response to this from BLM? Condemn the black reporter who exposed their murky finances and questionable real estate transactions as racist, smear the black Harvard economist as a sexual predator, and suggest that even the financial reporting required of non-profits is, you guessed it, racist. It’s not that hard to parse this: BLM activists are not friends or allies of black communities whatsoever. Instead, we come back to the same point: everyone outside of the in-group are just extras and scenery. Including those for whom they purport to advocate. None of them are real.

Luxury Beliefs

Rob Henderson calls all of this a symptom of “Luxury Beliefs.” According to Henderson, these are “ideas and opinions that confer status on the rich at very little cost while taking a toll on the lower class.” What we have is a catechism, a portfolio of dogma that operates as a signaling mechanism among the elite. And so, in addition to “Follow the Science” on Covid, “Trans Women are Real Women”, and “Black Lives Matter”, we have a host of other statements expressed as moral imperatives, including things like “Healthy at Any Size”, “All Family Structures are Equal”, “Open Borders”, etc.

All of this can be considered an unexpected and unwelcome consequence of our own success. The complex, exquisitely-tuned supply chains that funnel us goods and services have become so remarkably effective they are essentially invisible. Elites don’t have to worry about how things get done, how X leads to Y, or how thing A gets to place B.

It just happens. Magically. Invisibly.
How the sausage is made is a question for smaller minds.

In my view, Henderson gets one thing wrong about his theory. Luxury Beliefs are not in fact, the provenance of the rich, but rather of the educational elite, some of whom are also rich in the bargain. Journalists, other media members, academics, and activists typically have little to no experience in actual business and even less incentive to ever gain any. The effortless flow of goods and services they experience allows them the freedom from having to think operationally or consequentially.

Over the past two years, COVID revealed and supercharged the insular status of these elites. If you talk to business owners, no matter how wealthy they may be, who vitally need to think operationally and consequentially every day, you find considerably less support for these elitist notions.

All of this is bad enough when locked in some academic ivory tower, but as we’ve seen, this has escaped into the American Wild with terrifying effect. Crime, inflation, record border crossings, education, and more. Pick your topic, as the list goes on and on.

The Final Act

Which brings us back to Ukraine as the setting for the ridiculous virtue signaling and posturing by these same luxury elites. It is jarring when juxtaposed against actual tanks and soldiers, but it is just more of the same.

I stated earlier that these are not serious people, but that is not entirely accurate. They are extremely serious, just not about anything other than their own internal conversations.  These people will not change, and they will not be persuaded by your arguments, your statistics, and your facts.

Because the people who make any of the things elites consume and the people elites purport to stand up for are all equally irrelevant. Performance is the point. The performance is the whole thing, and the actors, playwrights and directors aren’t taking suggestions from you, the extras and the scenery.

Which leads us to the final act: maybe it’s time to think about shutting down the whole play.

 

Free Speech (Musk) or Curated Speech (Obama)?

The alternative attitude was recently put forth by Obama exercising his free speech rights in front of a Stanford audience who both like him and like what he says.  In effect he said he is all for free speech but tech companies need to censor some speech to protect democracy.  Seems like a semi-pregnant posture.  It reminds me a Rodney Dangerfield scene portraying a business executive: He tells his secretary, “Hold some of my calls!”

Jenin Younes explains the issue and its import in her Brownstone Institute article The Federal Government Forces Social Media Companies to Censor Americans.  Excepts in italics with my bolds and added images.

In May of 2021, the Biden Administration began a public, coordinated campaign to combat the dissemination of “health misinformation” related to Covid, especially across social media platforms.

Members of the Administration, including Surgeon General Vivek Murthy and the President himself, often through White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, have made clear that they blame Big Tech for American deaths from the virus, and insist that these platforms have an obligation to censor those who articulate views that depart from the Government’s messaging on Covid-related matters.

The Administration has stated that it supports “a robust anti-trust program,” a not-so-subtle warning that if the Twitters and Facebooks of the world do not do the Government’s bidding, they will suffer the consequences.

The campaign has been increasing in intensity for nearly a year.

Ms. Psaki and Dr. Murthy have subsequently stated that the government is flagging problematic posts for social media platforms to censor and commanded them to elevate the voices of those who promote the approved messaging through algorithms while banning those whose perspectives conflict with the government.

The President has affirmed his belief that social media platforms “should be held accountable” for misinformation circulated on them. On March 3, Dr. Murthy announced an initiative, wherein he demanded that tech companies provide the government with “sources of misinformation,” including the identity of specific individuals, by May 2.

Like many others around the world, Michael P. Senger of California, Mark Changizi of Ohio, and Daniel Kotzin of Colorado, operated Twitter accounts that centered around criticizing government and public health Covid restrictions. All three accounts rapidly became popular.

Starting last spring, right around the time the Biden Administration’s efforts became public, the three were subject to temporary suspensions. Mere days after Dr. Murthy’s March 3 statement, Mr. Kotzin was suspended for a week, and Mr. Senger permanently. This means he is never permitted to create another Twitter account. He has lost his 112,000 followers, and in his own words, been “silenced and completely cut off from” the network he developed over two years.

According to Twitter, the suspensions were for spreading Covid “misinformation.” Mr. Senger, Mr. Changizi, and Mr. Kotzin had, in the cited tweets, expressed opposition to vaccine mandates and suggested that the vaccines do not slow the spread of Covid. They also argued that government-imposed restrictions do not work to mitigate viral spread, the risks Covid poses to children are sufficiently low to disfavor vaccination for them given the long-term unknowns, and naturally acquired immunity is superior to that attained through vaccination.

None of these claims is outside the realm of legitimate scientific discourse.

In fact, figures like CDC Director Rochelle Walensky, Anthony Fauci, and President Biden, who a mere six or eight months ago expressed absolute confidence that, for example, the vaccines stop transmission and confer better protection than naturally acquired immunity, have now been confronted with unequivocal evidence that they were wrong.

A meta-study out of Johns Hopkins University concluded that lockdowns did not reduce Covid deaths, while causing quite a bit of harm, corroborating observational data from around the world. Several Scandinavian countries recommend against vaccinating healthy young children based on an objective risk assessment, and study after study has proven that naturally acquired immunity is superior to vaccine-induced immunity.

Following nearly two years of insistence that community masking is effective, many prominent public health officials have changed course. It is a great irony that those who have been so wrong throughout the pandemic now seek to silence dissenters, particularly those who have proven prescient on many topics.

And even if they were expressing flatly incorrect views, the First Amendment gives them the right to voice those opinions. The concept of free speech was embraced by the Framers of the Constitution, who were clearly wiser than many who govern us today. They recognized that censorship does not work practically: rather, it encourages people to operate covertly, often exacerbating the problem, and that the cure to bad speech is good speech.

But most of all, they understood that giving government the authority to determine which ideas should be heard and which should be suppressed is a dangerous game.

Of course, many will argue that Twitter and other tech companies censored Mr. Senger, Mr. Changizi, and Mr. Kotzin of their own volition, and as they are private actors, the First Amendment is inapplicable.

That argument should be rejected. When the government commandeers, coerces, or utilizes private companies to accomplish what it cannot do directly, courts recognize that is state action. In a mid-20th century version of this case, Bantam Books v. Sullivan, the Supreme Court held that a state government commission consigned with reprimanding sellers of pornography and advising them of their legal rights (a veiled threat) “deliberately set about to achieve the suppression of publications deemed ‘objectionable’ and succeeded in its aim.” The Court looked “through forms to the substance” and concluded that this program violated the First Amendment.

That is similar to what is happening here. The Biden Administration knows that it cannot get away with issuing orders directly prohibiting people from articulating views about Covid-related matters that differ from the government’s, or from obtaining users’ private information, so it is coercing companies into doing this on the government’s behalf.

Fearing reprisal from the government—reprisal that the government has publicly contemplated—the companies are ramping up censorship. These companies are also likely to turn over information about users that Dr. Murthy demanded, a violation of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against warrantless searches.

Not only are individuals like Mr. Senger being silenced outright. Mr. Changizi, Mr. Kotzin, and millions of others are afraid to say what they really think because they do not want to suffer Mr. Senger’s fate. Courts should “look through forms to the substance” and recognize what is going on.

The Government is deciding what speech is acceptable and may be heard, and what speech is not acceptable and must be silenced, on the most hotly debated political topics of our time. This strikes at the heart of what the First Amendment is supposed to protect.

See also Weaponized Claims of Disinformation

 

Covid Gets Milder, Left Stays Toxic

Physician C.J. Baker explains in his American Thinker article COVID-19 is becoming milder, but the left stays toxic as ever.  Excerpts in italics with my boldsand added images.

Just this morning (Tuesday, April 22, 2022), in the New York Times’ “the Morning” online report, a guy named David Leonhardt writes with apparent amazement that “Coronavirus cases have risen in major cities. Hospitalizations have not.” Imagine that.

Leonhardt goes on to note that despite the long list of members of Congress and other public servants recently diagnosed with COVID-19, none of them, even our superannuated speaker of the House, appears to have got very sick from it. To his credit, he supplements this observation with some charts that clearly show the disconnect between current cases (which are rising) and hospitalizations (which remain flat).

So far, so good. But then he gives his explanation for this trend. That’s where the spin and outright dishonesty of the COVID-forever left — led by the Times — continue apace.To what does David the Lionhearted, the Gray Lady’s intrepid knight of the keyboard du jour, attribute these positive trends? He reports what (supposedly) “many experts believe”:

♦  Vaccines and booster shots are effective and universally available to Americans who are at least 12. (Covid [sic] continues to be overwhelmingly mild among children).
♦  Treatments — like Evusheld for the immunocompromised and Paxlovid for vulnerable people who get infected — are increasingly available.
♦  Tens of millions of Americans have already been infected with the virus, providing them with at least some immunity.

Two key points should be drawn from this list of explanations.

First, an absolutely central reason for the good news about COVID-19 has been deliberately omitted. 

As any truly knowledgeable and honest doctor or virologist — provided you can find one these days — will tell you, viruses such as SARS-CoV-2 mutate like crazy and evolve rapidly and in a predictable manner. In short, these viruses consistently mutate to become more transmissible and less virulent. Why do they evolve in this way? For the same reason all organisms evolve: to benefit their own propagation and survival.

When a new virus is first introduced to a host species, the initial interaction is often not pretty. The virus may struggle to spread between individuals, endangering its survival, and it may invoke severe illness in its host, even killing it, thereby endangering both species’ survival.

Moving slowly and painstakingly from one home to another, while burning down the one in which you currently reside, is no way to survive. So the virus mutates and evolves into a milder form that spreads more readily yet sickens the host less.

In essence, the perfect respiratory virus is the common cold. It infects its host but makes the host sick enough only to sneeze the virus’s progeny at everyone around. It spreads like wildfire, but it doesn’t burn down its own house in the process.

Runny nose coronvirus family

Not for nothing, but what do the other coronaviruses in general circulation among humans cause? That’s right: symptoms of the common cold. This is almost certainly the final common pathway for SARS-CoV-2.

As a practicing physician, trained before schools of public health veered to the left of gender studies departments, I have been saying this since the summer of 2020.

Meanwhile, panic pornographers ranging from Anthony Fauci to Times newsboy Leonhardt’s “experts” have latched onto that first trait of viral evolution (increased transmissibility) while deliberately downplaying, or even denying the second (reduced virulence). Why?

Because they want to foment all the fear that increased transmissibility promotes, yet allow none of the hope and perspective about the virus that acknowledging reduced virulence would bring.

Second, several systematic lies are embedded in the three explanations that are given.

The second lesson to take from Leonhardt’s list is this: as the facts become too obvious to support their false narrative, leftists perform the propagandistic equivalent of a “tactical retreat,” covering their tracks with false and misleading explanations.

Leonhardt writes that “vaccines are effective and readily available.” Effective at what?

At stopping the virus in its tracks, as the Times and Fauci claimed for months? Nope. At preventing persons from contracting COVID-19, as they also claimed? Well, obviously not, since every one of those politicians has been vaccinated and boosted to the hilt. At reducing severity of disease? Well, then what happened to the vaunted “pandemic of the unvaccinated”? Based on the data curves Leonhardt provides, the unvaccinated aren’t going to the ICU these days, either.

Leonhardt touts Evusheld and Paxlovid as “increasingly available,” a total non sequitur in the absence of any data supporting their role in the current trends, which he does not provide. He completely ignores any cheap, repurposed early treatments, despite — or more likely because of — the growing mountains of data supporting their effectiveness.

Finally, Leonhardt blatantly understates the effect of natural immunity, both by lowballing the number of previously infected Americans (it’s in the hundreds of millions, Dave, not tens) and by the deeply misleading statement that prior infection produces “at least some immunity” (Natural immunity is far superior to vaccine-related immunity.)

Here is the reality, the plain fact that Fauci and Leonhardt’s “many experts” will never admit: SARS-CoV-2 is evolving and adapting to coexist with us. The COVID-forever left remains as toxic and destructive as ever.