Ted Cruz Misses an Opportunity to Nail Climate Alarmists

October 11, 2015

by Avi Davis

The climate debate kicked into high gear this week when on Tuesday, Senator Ted Cruz, clashed swords with Sierra Club president Aaron Mair at a Senate Judiciary Sub-Committee hearing on the impact of climate change on minorities.  Cruz, a seasoned prosecutor, made mincemeat out of Mair, who seemed entirely unprepared for Cruz’s questioning, falling back repeatedly on the Sierra Club’s position that 97% of climate scientists around the world support the claim of anthropogenic global warming and that the science is settled.  Time and again Cruz challenged Mair to admit that satellite data over the past 18 years shows no credible evidence of a change in global temperatures and that it has forced global warming alarmists to retreat to the claim that there has been an  unexpected “pause” in the projected rise in temperatures.

Cruz was relentless in demanding to know whether the Sierra Club would agree to retract its statements and change its policy if this satellite data were proven to be correct.  Mair, who seemed uncomfortable and not at all confident of his position, whispered constantly to an aide who furnished him with the only answer he could muster: ” The Sierra Club’s position remains that anthropogenic global warming is settled science and is validated by a majority (97%) of world scientists.”

The questioning and stonewalling from Mair grew so preposterous that it looked as though the Sierra Club was under cross examination and had reverted to its Fifth Amendment protections, so as not to incriminate itself.

This was the point at which Cruz failed to press his advantage.  The obvious next question to the floundering Mair should have been: “Well where did you get that figure of 97%?”  It is a figure, after all, relied upon, not only by the Sierra Club, but by the President of the United States, his Secretary of State, the entire Democratic Party, the media, academia and the environmental NGOs who relentlessly spew it as unassailable proof that the world is being catastrophically warmed by man-made activities.

But where does the figure actually come from?  Surely someone, at some point, must have conducted a survey or study to produce it?

Well, indeed, they had – and not just once.   One is a 2004 opinion piece by Harvard science historian Naomi Oreskes, published in Science Magazine, which claimed that of the abstracts of 928 articles published in scientific journals between 1993 and 2003, 75% supported the view that man-made activities were responsible for most of the observed warming of the earth’s atmosphere over the past 50 years. But Oreskes’ essay failed to note whether any of these abstracts at all determined that the warming was “dangerous”and it did not contain any reference to world renowned climatologists such as Richard Lindzen, Roy Spencer,  Sherwood Idso  or Fred Singer.  Forgotten also by Orekes, was that abstracts of academic articles often fail to be substantiated by the body of the article they preface. Since she didn’t apparently read the articles she could not have truly  known what they did or did not support.

Then there was a 2009 article in Eos, by Maggie Kendall Zimmerman, a student at the University of Illinois, supported by her thesis adviser Peter Doran, who reported, in her master’s thesis, the results of a two question on-line survey which found that 97% of scientists surveyed agreed that global temperatures had risen over the past 50 years and that human activity had been a contributing factor.  But the survey failed to question its respondents as to  whether the human factor was sufficient to constitute a problem for the future of the planet.  And more importantly, only 79 respondents claimed an expertise in climate science.  This was out of a total of 3,146 total respondents!

Another student, William R. Love Anderegg, this time at Stanford University, conducted a survey in 2010 through Google Scholar of 200 of the most prolific writers on climate change and found that ” 97% to 98% agreed that anthropogenic greenhouse gases have been responsible for ‘most’ of the unequivocal warming.” But once again, how much of a danger this posed to the earth’s atmosphere was not determined.  And of course the fact that only 200 out of the tens of thousands of climate scientists world wide were surveyed, was not dispositive of much at all.

Then of course there is the U.N’s IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) which issues reports every six years and claims to represent the views and opinions of 2,500 climatologists world wide.  Its reports have been the basis of the claim that world wide scientific opinion accepts that greenhouse gases have been the single greatest contributor to the rise of the Earth’s temperature over the past 50 years.  And yet, in its Fifth Assessment Report, issued in 2013, only a handful of those 2,500 had reviewed research having to do with the key question: how much of the increase in world temperatures over the past 50 years was due to man-made activities?.  Only a paltry 41 authors and editors in the crucial fifth chapter of the Report had addressed anthropogenic and natural radiative forcing.

Forgotten, neglected or discredited by the alarmists are other surveys which have come to opposing conclusions as those of the students at Stanford University and the University of Illinois.  In 2010, two German scientists, Dennis Bray and Hans van Storch found that most scientists disagree with the “consensus ” on key issues such as the reliability of climate data and the projections of computer models.  A 2012 survey by the American Meteorological Society found that only 39.5% of its 1,854 members accepted that man made global warming is even dangerous.

The Heartland Institute, based in Chicago, has now organized nine international conferences ( two of which I have attended) which have brought together a very wide selection of scientists from a  variety of backgrounds around the world to discuss and debate anthropogenic global warming.  Their consensus has been that in fact not only has global warming abated, but that man made activities contributed little to it and that the measures now being recommended by our own government, most academic institutions and other activist NGOs, (such as the Sierra Club) would do little to nothing to reverse nor forestall climate change either now or in the foreseeable future.

This, then, is the material Senator Ted Cruz had at his disposal to sweep the floor with the Sierra Club and its highly politicized agenda which aims at saddling mankind ( read- the developed nations of the world) with the responsibility for the allegedly manmade catastrophic damage to our climate.  It was an opportunity invidiously lost.

Nevertheless, those in the vanguard of the effort to expose Global Warming propaganda for what it truly is – an attempt at global wealth redistribution and an opportunity for a small cadre of opportunists to make a great deal of money – should not hesitate to press again and again on the issue of where, exactly, the alarmists come up with their 97% figure.

Curiously enough, that would make for a far more conclusive debate and authoritative finding than anything that could be finally settled about climate change.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone.  In 2010 he organized the international conference Big Footprint: Is Green the New Tyranny?which took place at UCLA in Los Angeles.

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The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels by Alex Epstein: A Review

December 30, 2014

 

by Avi Davis

At a parent-teacher conference for one of my children several years ago, I asked my son’s science teacher what he taught our child about global warming.  The teacher, who was a deeply respected school veteran, responded that his instruction was that global warming was real and that it was caused by man’s over reliance on fossil fuels.

I wasn’t startled by the answer.  I had come to expect it.   But I did raise an objection and asked why he didn’t offer an alternative view point.  He look at me a little baffled, murmuring that he didn’t realize there was an alternative viewpoint. The other parents in the room shifted nervously in their seats and one even whispered to me to drop it.

After the conference, I approached the teacher to let him know that there is a whole range of countervailing science which suggests that the question of anthropogenic global warming is not at all settled and that the use of ‘ dirty’ fossil fuels might actually be good for our environment and for our world in general.  He looked at me incredulously and then shook his head, thought for a moment and then muttered:

” Well, you know, I just feel bad for the polar bears.”

That answer almost defines the deep divide between contemporary conservationists and modern environmentalists over the standard of value we should employ when deciding the best use of the Earth’s resources.  For the conservationist, the standard of value is how human happiness can be enhanced though the employment of the earth’s resources.  For the environmentalist the primary concern is the environment’s own needs and its future; For the conservationist, our environment serves human needs. For the environmentalist, human beings serve the Earth.

Alex Epstein is used to entertaining debates of this nature.  As the founder of a for profit think-tank The Center for Industrial Progress in Southern California, Mr. Epstein has invested a great deal of his intellectual energy into challenging those who seem so fixated on the greatest of perceived modern evils- fossil fuels.  He has sought to address the claim of environmentalists who argue that human beings are destroying the earth and ruining any prospects for our future with their addiction to oil, coal  and natural gas.

The only problem with this scenario is that fossil fuels are not ruining anything at all.  Quite the opposite.  Over the course of the past 300 years they have actually enabled the greatest expansion of  prosperity the world has  known and the broadest growth of free enterprise and individual liberty ever experienced by mankind.

The case is made forcefully in Epstein’s The Moral Case of Fossil Fuels – possibly the most lucid and cogently argued work on the subject you will ever need to read.  For the author makes the argument, through the employment of graphs, comparative studies and statistical analyses that a cheap, abundant, reliable and scalable energy source has always been the key to the growth of human prosperity as well as the spread of human liberty over the past half century.  That energy source has been oil and natural gas whose benefits have redounded, not necessarily to the rich and powerful in human civilization but to ordinary people who could not dream of  owning or using such things as a motor vehicle, ready to wear clothes, fast, efficient forms of public transportation, central heating or air conditioning even 100 years ago.  All of these advances were made possible by the extraction of a fossil fuel that have appeared so abundant that it is as if  it has been secretly left it in the ground for us by a benevolent donor, only awaiting our, discovery, extraction and use.  “Oil,” argues Mr. Epstein, “is the fuel of freedom, – the fuel that liberated Americans to go where they want. Economically oil is the fuel  of trade. Our entire standard of living depends of specialization – on people doing what they do best – wherever they are – and then being able to cheaply move  those products to those who most need them.”

Fossil fuels such as oil have also helped solve world hunger.   When Paul Ehrlich published The Population Bomb in 1968, he predicted that the world would exhaust its food resources by the year 1980, the world population was 3. 6 billion.  But over the past 45 years, not only has world’s population grown to more than 7 billion but the ability of nations to feed these burgeoning populations has taken an exponential leap with world hunger reduced from 22% of the world’s population in 1968 to only 9% today. This has been made possible by oil powered mechanization which has increased the amount of farmland that can  be cultivated per worker and the much wider availability of efficient transportation making it possible to reach and export to markets from formerly remote area   The great achievement of plant geneticists such as Norman Bourlang, what is widely known as the Green Revolution,  were made possible only because high powered machines have replaced physical labor – machines that run on fossil fuels.

The central complaint of the environmentalist movement is that all of this development has come at a tragic cost – and that is the pollution of our planet.  That is to say that fossil fuels are ‘dirty’ and their CO2 emissions now threaten our future.  No one doubts that the burning of fossil fuels emit a residue of CO2 which can then escape into the atmosphere. But have CO2 concentrations accumulated to the point where they have been the singular contributor to catastrophic climate change that now threatens the Earth’s future, to the point where, according to those involved in the production of the recent film Interstellar, some day in the not too distant future, human beings might actually need to abandon the planet?

The question of course revolves around the impact of the well known Greenhouse Effect – which states that the introduction of more CO2 into the atmosphere can make the molecules inthe atmosphere more heat absorbent,  which they will then reflect back at the Earth, much as occurs in a greenhouse.  The scientific question which needs answerING is whether CO2 is is the overwhelming driver of the global climate system and thus that its warming impact is predictable over time?

One way to determine  this is to construct climate computer models and feed data  that would indicate whether our continuing CO2 emissions into the atmosphere at the present rate will result in greater global temperatures.   That has been done, over and over again- but most famously by former NASA scientist James Hansen in 1988, but the models have proved spectacularly wrong and we have now reached a general scientific consensus that  no global warming has been reported for at least 17 years.  If, claims the author,  a climate production model can’t predict climate, it is then not a valid model – and the predictions made on the basis of such a model are not scientific.

So too regarding extreme weather – another so called barometer of anthropogenic global warming and climate change. If the climate computer models have failed ( and they have done so almost certainly because predicting climate is an enormously complex undertaking fraught with pitfalls)  there is really nothing much to hang a scientific understanding of extreme weather on except very unscientific guess work.

In this regard,  the author actually offers a full page of headlines of climate catastrophe, but the headlines (eg;  “Antarctic Heat Wave: Explorers Puzzled But Pleased” or “Death’s Toll Mounts to 60 in U.S. Storms”)  derive , not from our present day but from the  year 1934 – before significant CO2 emissions began.   The point is that our climate is a combination of so many factors – the moon’s gravitational pull, the sun’s level of radiation and even the position and rotation of other planets in our solar system, that is almost impossible to predict climate – just as it is impossible to attach severe weather in any given period to a general pattern of  rapid climate change.

Epstein refers briefly to the overt politicization of climate science (although this subject surely deserves another book from him) by pointing out how the figure 97% is bandied around to describe the consensus among scientists about man made global warming.    The figure  goes back to a survey by John Cook who runs a website called skepticalscience.com and who completed a  survey in which he found that 97% of the papers he studied endorsed the view that man made greenhouse gases were the main cause of global warming.  But the category he chose did not state whether each or any of the scientists selected 1% or 100% as the percentage contribution of man to global warming.  A number of the scientists who were quoted by Cook as confirming his preferred view, vehemently protested.

Finally Epstein dwells on the opposite  of the Greenhouse Effect –  the Fertilizer Effect – the theory that worldwide increases in plant growth over the past 50 years are attributable, at least in part,  to the increases in CO2 in the atmosphere. Although the theory has gained considerable ground among horticulturalists and certain climatologists, Epstein uses it to ask the question what if  there  is, contrary to the doomsayers, a positive impact to our carbon footprint?  Most climate change activists scoff at such a notion  – but their rejection of the argument is not scientific, it is political.

And what of  the alternative technologies – wind and solar and ethanol – ballyhooed as replacements for the fossil fuels to which we have become so presumably addicted? They, argues the author, are nowhere near ready for prime time and being dependent on the weather, are still notoriously unreliable.   And not only are they expensive, they are environmentally hazardous, consuming vast quantities of chemicals and raw materials for the manufacture of their panels and turbines.

Mr. Epstein provides a chilling  account from reporter Simon Parry of a visit to a huge waste dump lake in China where he describes

“a hissing cauldron of chemicals where several million tons of rare earth have been mined. Standing  on the brink of the lake for just a few seconds and my eyes water and a powerful, acrid stench fills my lungs.  People in the nearby village were having their teeth fall out and their hair prematurely turn white and suffered from severe skin and respiratory illnesses.” 

This site is revealed to be, not the toxic dump of a nuclear station or the slag heaps of a nearby coal mine as you might think, but a mining pit for rare earth, a material vital for building wind turbines.  And that’s just some of the collateral damage of shifting from oil to expensive, unreliable and non scalable alternative energies.

Because of their unreliability ( ‘only when the sun shines and the wind blows’) alternative sources of energy require a reliable back up – and guess what that is?   You can’t run huge metropolises, now or in the forseeable future on the kind of wind and solar energy technologies presently available, without a dependable reserve energy.  Without such a back up our cities would come to a standstill.  To pretend otherwise, is  consign ourselves to a future where our central heating may stop functioning in the middle of winter or our cars will cease to operate in the middle of our highways.

The image of a solitary polar bear, floating away on a tiny ice floe has become an iconic symbol of both the global warming movement and of mankind’s degradation of the earth – made even more poignant by Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth.  Leave alone the fact the polar bear population of Antarctica is larger than it has ever been and has never faced extinction, we should be taking a much harder look at the facts, figures and arguments supplied by the environmental movement and understand it for what it truly is – a determined, dogmatic ideology for which actual facts and science are only niggling secondary concerns on the road to an alternative (and less free) global life style.

But before we leave this issue, lets not forget the polar bears entirely.

For I once felt bad for them too. But I was a child then. It is a pity, if not an intellectual disgrace, that so much of what we are told by the climate change activists and the alternative energy gurus seems to be the stuff of children’s dreams and not grounded in real world science.  Epstein’s lucid and carefully researched book should make anyone who reads it understand that to plan for a grown up future we cannot allow ourselves to be hoodwinked by juvenile illusions and false promises.  That is not the road to progress and human happiness. It is the road back to the 16th Century, a place very few of us would want to visit and even fewer would wish to live.

Avi Davis is the President of the American Freedom Alliance and the editor of The Intermediate Zone


The Retrogressive Progressives of New York

December 21, 2014

by Avi Davis

Andrew Cuomo, Governor of the State of New York, announced on Wednesday that  he will ban all forms of hydraulic fracturing in his state until further information can be obtain about health and environmental risks of the oil drilling process.  The announcement came on exactly the same day that Russia announced emergency measures to shore up the ruble and to prevent the Russian economy tail spinning into collapse; as well as the day that it was announced  that Cuba and the United States will re-commence diplomatic relations after a 53  year lull.  Both of the latter events can be tied directly to the impact the fracking boom has had on the United States.   The ruble has lost 20% of its value against the dollar after prices for oil collapsed under the weight of the global oil glut.  Cuba, reliant on Venezuela for its energy needs and economic subsidies, faces consequences in the near future as the Venezuelan economy buckles  as its oil fetches lower prices and the American market is saturated with domestic supplies of crude. Adrift, Cuba had little choice but to seek rapprochement with the United States.

 

 

 

But just as Cuomo was self righteously patting himself on the back for having stood up to the oil industry, there were  dozens of newly minted millionaires in formerly lowly North Dakota cashing their checks at the bank ; and in nearby Pennsylvania there are farmers and ordinary landowners who are buying themselves mansions;   The ordinary American citizen has not been passed by either.  He has watched,  astonished, as the cost of a tank of gas has plummeted by up to 30% over the past 12 months.  Throughout the world the fracking revolution, which began only five years ago, is not only reviving the world economy; it is challenging the very economic viability of long term U.S. adversaries such as Russia, Venezuela and, yes, Cuba.

But nobody in the heart of Progressive  America would seem to know any of this.  For it seems that liberal elites in the  State of New York, who have placed inordinate pressure on the Governor to thwart the fracking boom, this extraordinary progress and the optimism it has generated –  opening the world to the idea that the oil resources of the Earth may be limitless – is all a chimera. They are certain that fracking is dangerous for the environment and costly to the health of anyone living  near the vicinity of its wells.

Or are they?

For surely they know that hydraulic fracturing has been proven again and again to be safe – with no adverse health affects in the regions of the country in which it has been applied and at no significant environmental cost.  And some of these reports come from the reliably skeptical Environmental Protection Agency itself.  So as the fracking revolution rolls over the United  States, reviving a moribund economy and injecting a much needed rush of adrenaline into our downcast national mood, the progressives of New York State don’t seem to be too happy about  this  unquestionable form of human progress.  Rather they are quite determined to stand steadfast  against it.

 

But surely they must know this: New York state sits astride the Marcellus Shale Formation, which contains one of the potentially richest sources of natural gas in the country – a resource that could power the state for several hundred years and provide employment to hundreds of thousands.   Cuomo’s ban will be particularly devastating for poor New Yorkers, who can now be expected to struggle with high home heating bills due to expensive imported gas.  If Cuomo and his progressive friends would like an idea of exactly how drilling for natural gas using fracking procedures could help the economy of New York State, perhaps they should should look no further than nearby Pennsylvania.   There they will find, according to the American Petroleum Institute,  energy companies who have generated more than $2.1 billion in state and local taxes since the fracking boom began.  And according to state data, energy employment has more than doubled from 13,059 jobs in the first quarter of 2014  to 28, 229 in early 2014.  The average salary for those jobs is $93,000 per year, which is $40,000 higher than the national average.

And then there are other benefits of the fracking boom.  The United States has seen dramatic reductions in national carbon dioxide emissions, over the past six years –  largely as a result of hydraulic fracturing, which allowed natural gas to become cheap and abundant, and mostly displacing dirtier, higher-emission coal in the generation mix.  And lets not forget  that hydraulic fracturing, and the similar techniques used for “tight oil” drilling, have actually allowed the United States to become the world’s leading oil producer in 2014 and will allow it to become completely oil independent by 2020  – which only strengthens the nation’s geo-political position.

Given this information there are few other conclusions at which to arrive other than the fact New York does not want more natural gas, because it does not want more energy; and it does not want more energy because it fears humans will use it to build more industry; and it does not want more industry because it does not want – wait for it –  more human progress.

For you see more progress means more human development, which means more human intrusion on the natural environment.  And that is the red line which our environmentalists and their progressive allies will not allow us to cross.  Of course you will not hear the Sierra Club propound this philosophy out loud.  But it is written all over their rather limp reasoning for an absolute ban on fracking.

So there you have it.  The retrogressive progressives, determined, at any cost, to resist the juggernaut of fracking that is proving not only good for our economy, good for the environment but also good for maintaining U.S. dominance of the energy markets of the world.  If the U.S. maintains this dominant position, this will be indeed be, not the century of American decline – as so often predicted by the liberal media –  but potentially the greatest  century of American achievement in history where the country reaches its economic zenith.

Its really just too bad that New York State will not be along for the ride.


There Will Be Oil

December 7, 2014

Anyone who grew up in the Sixties knows how Jed Clampett found oil.   The southern hillbilly, out shooting rabbits on his property in East Texas, had one of his bullets glance off a rock which then released a cap on a thundering oil flue.  As the gusher shot into the atmosphere, Jed had to be informed by his family about the exact value of, well, ‘Texas Tea’

And the next thing you know ol’ Jed’s a millionaire……..

If only oil exploration was that simple.  Today we know that oil deposits are buried thousands of feet below the surface and that sophisticated equipment must be used to both locate the deposits and then extract the oil.  Eighty percent of our economy is dependent on oil – and will be for the forseeable future –  but for years we have been told that we are going to exhaust the Earth’s natural  supply.  The ” Theory of Peak Oil” took hold of many engineers worldwide and was loudly amplified by environmental activists.   Take this 2007 assessment from  the Institution of Mechanical Engineers:

” There are an estimated 1.3 trillion barrels of proven oil reserve left in the world’s major fields, which at present rates of consumption will be sufficient to last 40 years.

By 2040, production levels may be down to 15 million barrels per day – around 20% of what we currently consume. It is likely by then that the world’s population will be twice as large, and more of it industrialized (and therefore oil dependent).

First developed  in the 1950s by petroleum geologist M. King Hubbert, peak oil theory held that any individual oil field (or oil-producing country) will experience a high rate of production growth during initial development, when drills are first inserted into a oil-bearing reservoir. Later, growth will slow, as the most readily accessible resources have been drained and a greater reliance has to be placed on less productive deposits. At this point—usually when about half the resources in the reservoir (or country) have been extracted—daily output reaches a maximum, or “peak,” level and then begins to subside. Of course, the field or fields will continue to produce even after peaking, but ever more effort and expense will be required to extract what remains. Eventually, the cost of production will exceed the proceeds from sales, and extraction will be terminated.

Of course Peak Oil  Theory was completely turned on its head five years ago when the shale oil revolution hit  North America.  Hydraulic fracturing (famously known as ” fracking”)  as well as horizontal drilling are the new technologies which have allowed drillers to tap dense, previous inaccessible shale deposits.  Because of this revolution, daily world supply has surged to 1. 2 million barrels a day, an increase  of 400,000 units over 2012 daily production.  And its is only going up.

The incredible boost in world supply has  had the shock of bringing the price per oil barrel down as well, dropping almost by half to now a current $65 per barrel.  And of course this may come down much further as the global glut forces more countries to sell their oil at lower and lower prices.  We have already begun to see this reality at our local gas stations.  Here in California, the price of gas in the most expensive areas in edging down below $3.00 a barrel ( from a peak of $4.85) and in some parts of the country, gasoline is selling at less than $2.50 a gallon. 

The geopolitical consequences of this development are staggering.

The first to feel the bite will be Russia.  Only six years ago, the Russian economy was going through a decade-long boom, allowing Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin to enlarge subsidies, social transfers, government salaries and embarking  on massive development programs including the exorbitant Sochi Olympics.

However rising consumer prices and the closure of markets in the West  is having a severe impact on the average income of Russian citizens who are also fearing that the rapidly devaluing rouble could wipe out their savings. In his annual “Nation Speech” on Thursday, Putin blamed the West for trying to stymie Russia’s growth, even comparing the West’s policy with that of Hitler, and promising Russia would persevere. But even he acknowledged the dire situation when he offered “amnesty” to Russian businessmen who in recent months have transferred at least 100 billion dollars of assets out of the country.   The flight of capital and the loss of confidence in Russia’s long term economic future could stop the Russian juggernaut in its tracts that no amount of nationalistic breast beating nor invasion of neighboring countries will stem.

The second country or institution to be significantly affected is  the OPEC group of oil producing nations. Last week Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading supplier of oil, at an emergency meeting of the OPEC consortium, refused to reduce its supply, which might have placed a brake on prices.   This was done in order to let oil prices drop as far as they can, so that that more highly capitalized drillers will be forced out because their costs of extraction will be too high ( the Saudi cost of extraction is the lowest in the world at approximately $5.00) .  But the good news is that the  stranglehold OPEC has exerted on oil prices since the 1970s is weakening.  The United  States production boom is  accelerating to the point where it may become a completely oil independent by 2020 and a competing exporter of crude oil even sooner.

Iran clings to the hope that OPEC will cut output, pushing the prices back up.  But with its hopes curtailed and nuclear talks with the West still unresolved, the tension between Iranian politicians in favor of reestablishing relations with the West and the hardliners prepared to risk even greater financial hardship to keep the dream of a nuclear weapon alive, will greatly intensify, together with a greater potential for food riots. Iran will also have less ability to continue supporting its regional allies, the Assad regime in Syria, Iraq’s Shiite government (also suffering from the low oil prices), Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in Gaza.   The weakening regime may be ripe for counter-revolution.

Other countries with oil-based economies such as Venezuela which were once ascendant are now fearful of a rapid decline.  President Hugo Chavez had nationalized the oil industry and used the oil money to finance the populist-socialist-Bolivarist fiscal plans. But despite Chavez’s promises to develop a diverse economy, industry and infrastructure, Venezuela’s fortunes remain reliant on the price of oil and under his successor Nicolas Maduro, the growing deficit is already causing shortages of food and other goods that it can’t produce for itself. Dozens of citizens have already been killed in violent demonstrations which are set to get worse. Under Chavez, Venezuela generously supported other nations in Latin America which adopted his strident anti-Americanism and propped up Cuba’s weak economy. Maduro won’t be able to do the same and he will find it difficult to cling to power in his own country as basic commodities become scarcer.  A realignment of South America’s poorer  countries with the richest oil producing country in the hemisphere may be in the offing for those who were once in thrall to Venezuela.

The great winners of this oil lottery will be countries in the West.   The rapid drop in oil prices has given American taxpayers, according to Goldman Sachs, the equivalent of a $75 billion tax savings.  The growth in consumer confidence can only reignite the U.S. economy after six years of stagnation.  “Self sufficiency in oil and gas,” says Mark Papa, the former CEO of  EOG Resources, the leading  crude oil producer in the lower 48 states, “will give the United States a two to three fold competitive advantage over Europe and Asia, leading to a revival of in-sourced manufacturing.  It will result in a state and federal tax revenue bonanza and will diminish the need of  the U.S. to tip toe around Russian and Persian Gulf sensitivities, giving the U.S. a leverage in the exercise of foreign policy, it has not had in years.”

Europe, still struggling with recession and with many of its Southern countries in economic free fall, will benefit from releasing itself from dependence on Russian oil and gas WHICH will buy more cheaply from the United States, Canada and OPEC.  The cheaper gas prices should have the same revitalizing influence it is having in the U.S..

The great blow back to this extraordinary economic windfall is due to come from the environmental movement.   Certain that that the West’s embrace of Peak Oil Theory would lead to the diminishing reliance on fossil fuels –  to the benefit of alternative energy sources such as wind and solar – environmental attacks on fracking will only grow in volume and possibly violence as an attempt is made to prevent further oil and natural gas exploration and to disrupt its transport.

We have already seen the impact of the environmentalist campaign in California, which sits on one of the largest shale oil reserves in the world, and has adamantly refused to allow that resources’ exploitation.   In 2011, the Energy Information Administration (EIA)published a report by INTEK Inc. which stated that the Monterey Formation contains 15.4 billion barrels of technically recoverable shale oil—64% of the entire estimated shale oil resource in the continental U.S.    The EIA/INTEK report was used as the basis of a March 2013 University of Southern California (USC) economic analysis which projected as much as a $24.6 billion per year increase in tax revenue and 2.8 million additional California jobs by 2020.

And yet anti-fracking activist organizations  have mounted an unending campaign to stymie the oil deposits’ exploration and extraction. Drawing on State-wide fears of increased water usage during drought, exacerbated seismic activity and pollution of the water table , county after county has enacted anti- fracking regulations.

A bill proposing a statewide moratorium on fracking failed in  the California House of Assembly  in May . But in January, a state law that requires oil companies to obtain permits for fracking and to estimate how much water they’ll use took effect. State agencies are developing more comprehensive regulations, but many local governments are taking matters into their own hands.

Last month, the City of Carson in Los Angeles County imposed an emergency 45-day moratorium on all new drilling because of fears that Occidental Petroleum would use fracking to drill more than 200 wells near homes and a university.

And in February this year Los Angeles became the first oil-producing city in California to ban fracking technologies.

Drilling wells are pictured in Los Angeles, California (Reuters/Mario Anzuoni)

The joke is how little water is used in fracking and how senseless is the idea that drilling will set off tremors and earthquakes along the San Andreas Fault.

“They’re skilled at marketing and skilled at hyperbole,” said Rock Zierman, CEO of the California Independent Petroleum Association in Sacramento, a group that represents 550 companies and individuals in the oil industry. “But we use less than a total 300 acre-feet of water a year for fracking. That’s equal to what all golf courses in California use in half a day.”

And polluting the water table?

A landmark federal study , released by the Energy Department and issued in July, 2013 found no evidence that hydraulic fracturing contaminated drinking water in western Pennsylvania.  Study after study has turned up little evidence that fracking is unsafe or that it harms suburban or rural water supplies.

“About a third of the 2,000 new oil wells in California are hydraulically fractured,” Zierman said. “They also talk about air pollution from methane leaks.  Our air [quality] laws established regional air districts that regulate all our service equipment, every joint, every coupling [that’s] permitted.”

Reeling from years of business flight and economic recession, if there is a State that could use the injection of economic stimulus afforded by the new drilling technologies, it is the State of California.

Wise Jed Clampett, who moved to Beverly (Hills, that is) after his lucky strike, would probably look upon this blood feud with some amusement.  He knew that economic success is a matter of luck on the one hand and good timing, the right location and the perfect (gun) technology on the other.  He might shake his head and whisper:

Jes’ dang stoopid, ain’t it? ”


Neil Young Still Trips Down that Ol’ Hippie Highway

November 24, 2014

I have to admit that being a Neil Young fan has its challenges.  Yes, there is lots of new music to listen to (eight albums, including live releases, in the past four years); plenty to read (two auto-biographies in the same time period) and even some new audio hardware ( the PONO, whose development Mr. Young led).  But after a while it does get a bit much.  Some of the albums are true stinkers ( A Letter Home and Le Noise are almost unlistenable); the books endlessly focused on cars, drugs, booze and more cars  and Young’s obsession for improving technology a bit self aggrandizing.

Now we can add an overweening desire to sermonize as part of the problem.

Back in 2005 Young issued an album titled  Living With War – a barbed, venomous attack on President George W. Bush and the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars over which he was then presiding.   The album was choc-a- block with political screed.  With song titles such  as Let’s Impeach the President; Shock and Awe and Looking for a Leader, Young could not be mistaken for anything but that frayed-jeaned Woodstock warrior who is still so certain that the era of  peace, love and anti-militarism (read draft dodging)  still holds the answers for our future happiness and prosperity.

Granted, Young has always been something of renegade, even against his own audience ( for a brief timE in the 1980s he was a supporter of Ronald Reagan).  But his turn to chic liberal political causes in recent years has truly augmented his image as something  of a throwback, unwilling to examine in any depth the sagacity of the movements to which he attaches his name and driven as much my ideology than common sense.

His latest support for the anti- Keystone XL pipeline  campaign is a case in point.  Drawn into the fight to prevent the pipeline’s construction by his paramour, uber-environmentalist Darryl Hannah, Young has seemed to agree with  NASA Scientist and all round global warming Cassandra, James Hansen, that  the construction of the pipeline will mean  “game over ” in the battle to save our planet from the poisons of carbon dioxide.  Hansen’S May 12, 2o12 New York Times editorial sent Young into a flurry of activity about our environmental future and he has now pledged himself to its rescue.  And so we can expect many more Young albums which bristle with indignation against oil companies, multinational corporations and well paid CEOs (of which , of course, he is virtually one).

It is quite amusing to see very rich men pretending that they are still just money scrounging buskers panhandling on the streets of  Toronto.  Young, now 68 – and looking very much  his age – still wears torn, patched jeans; baseball caps worn backwards ( a habit I thought outlawed in the 1990s) and drives one of his dozens of 50s era vintage cars. He recently ditched his wife of 36 years  (with whom he struggled to raise two children stricken with cerebral palsy) to take up with actress Hannah and has suffered health problems, including an aneurysm.

It all seems to fuel his output, which, for an artist of his age, is prodigious.

But one almost has to laugh at the irony of an artist who doesn’t seem to recognize how his own lyrics designed to skewer one president, are finding an even more fitting target in his successor:

Take for instance  the lyrics  for Lets Impeach the President:

“Lets impeach the President for spyin’

On citizens in their own homes 

Breaking every law in the country

Tapping our computers and telephones”

 

Or how about  these  words from Looking for a Leader:

 

“Yeah we got our election

But corruption has a chance

We got to have a clean win

To give us confidence

America is beautiful 

But she has an ugly side”

Spoken like the Canadian he is, a man who has lived in the United States for 40 years and yet to take out American citizenship.    But don’t you have to wonder whether this seeker of truth and promoter of justice will one day turn his muse to the clear violations of law and constitutional protections orchestrated by the very leader he once painted as a savior?

I await that album with much anticipation.

In the meantime, I am still almost certain to still indulge myself in Neil Young music.  Why?  I guess  there are some adolescent  habits you just can’t kick.  Yet, I am going to be on the look out, along that ol’ hippie highway, for that sudden sting of reality that  jolts Neil from the dreamland of 1969 to the present day suppressions and  legal violations which occur daily in Barack Obama’s America.

 

 

 

 

 


The Out of Touch President Down Under

November 18, 2014

In Australia this week, Barack Obama, attending the G20 Summit in Brisbane, made plain that he is an out of touch leader who not only fails to appreciate the importance of maintaining strategic alliances, but ignores fundamental realities about our world.

Speaking to a mostly student audience at the University of  Queensland, the President urged the younger members there to hold firm to the commitment to press the Australian government about climate change.

“Combating climate change cannot be the work of governments alone,” he said. “Citizens, especially the next generation, you have to keep raising your voices, because you deserve to live your lives in a world that is cleaner and that is healthier and that is sustainable.“But that is not going to happen unless you are heard.”

The remarks could not be disguised as anything but a venomous swipe at his host, set in the context of the Abbot government’s repeal of the Australian Carbon Tax in 2013.  

Why, exactly, the President of the United States would seek to humiliate an ally who has loyally stood by the U.S.’ efforts in its attacks on ISIS, worked closely with the Administration on Asia policy (particularly with regard to the disputed Senkaku/ Diaoyou Islands in the East China Sea) and on a multitude of trade issues is a quandry that many Australian politicians and commentators are now starting to question.  

Notwithstanding this, although Abbot engineered – as one of his first acts of office- the repeal of the ludicrous carbon tax (the first such legislation in the world and the first such repealed), his government has nevertheless maintained the Labor government’s goal of cutting carbon emissions by 5% over the next 15 years. Australia is highly placed among the developed nations who have worked methodically to cut emissions and compares favorably with anything achieved in this regard by the United States. 

The Australian people demonstrated in a loud voice last September that climate change is not one of their greatest priorities by dumping the  Rudd-Gillard Government .  It was an election where the survival of the hated carbon tax was a key issue.  The rejection of climate change as a fixation is evident throughout the West.  In the United States, a recent Gallup Poll  found that 66% of American citizens list climate change legislation and global warming as number 15 or lower on their list of priorities. 

But there is a real Australian issue that intersects directly with U.S.national security interests that the President might have mentioned.  

Just two months ago over 800 police officers in Australia arrested 15 people, allegedly connected to the terror group ISIS, who are believed to have planned to kidnap and behead people on camera. The counter-terrorism raids on houses and vehicles in both Sydney and Brisbane were the largest ever in the country’s history. At the time Commonwealth prosecutor, Michael Allnutt, told Sydney’s Central Local Court that the foiled plans were “clearly designed to shock, horrify and terrify the community.” Allnutt added there was “a plan to commit extremely serious offenses” that involved an “unusual level of fanaticism.”

Read that as ‘beheadings’ and ‘mutilations’ of Australian citizens.

And just today the Wall Street Journal reports how those Muslims in Sydney who support the crack down on their fanatical co-religionists, are suffering extensive condemnation and harassment from their own leaders. 

It must be remembered that Australia has a population approximately 1/8th the size of the United States. Proportionally, if such events had occurred in the U.S., it would have been as if a large scale pogrom had swept the country. 

Who can deny that if ISIS is alive and well in far distant Australia, it is not also flourishing and scheming its next atrocity right here in America?

And so we must ask:  A leader who seems so deeply concerned about the future and the  “next generation” (and indeed, almost everywhere he travels, he insists on speaking to students over the heads of government leaders), has nothing to say to that generation about the gravest physical threat faced by the West today in our own cities?

Barack Obama has always styled himself as something of visionary, capable of seeing and understanding the future as others can’t.  But the failure to grasp realities and grapple with them, will, with hindsight, render his visions of the future no more than fading props used to give a hackneyed background to a failed Presidency.


Daily Blurb #5

January 7, 2011

Is China Preparing For War With the United States?

Reports that China has developed the prototype of a stealth bomber is getting people in our Defense establishment hot under the collar – and for good reason.  While China has never approached anything near parity with the U.S. in military capacity, the fact that it is now developing its own military technology, sometimes well in advance of the United States, is certainly cause for concern.  There is of course an argument that the trade ties between the United States and the Republic of China and the mutually assured destruction of both economies should war erupt, would prevent a military confrontation.  But this is  no longer convincing.  One just has to read the the books of Niall Ferguson to understand how nations quickly abandon their own better economic instincts when it comes to wars of aggrandisement.

And China’s ambitions in the Western Pacific are very much about self-aggrandisment.  In August, in its annual report to Congress,  the U.S. Department of Defense claimed that China was ramping up investment in an array of areas including nuclear weapons, long-range missiles, submarines, aircraft carriers and cyber warfare. The military report said China was “already looking at contingencies beyond Taiwan” including through a longstanding project to build a far-reaching missile that could potentially strike US carriers deep in the Pacific.

It should come as little surprise.  The revitalization of the Middle Kingdom of the  Ming and Qing dynasties, wherein China reduced all the nations surrounding it to vassal states, is not merely a part of Chinese folklore, but a central tenet of  political discourse and national business strategy.  Is war likely tomorrow, or next year or even in ten years?  Perhaps not.  But we would be foolish to believe that it could never happen or that expenditures in military technology represent no threat to the global  supremacy of the U.S. military.

Obama’s Day of Reckoning Over Settlements

In a few days the Obama Administration will be tested on exactly how much of an obstacle it believes the 120 settlements in Samaria and Judea represent to the peace process.  This month, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is taking his campaign to the UN Security Council, where the Palestinians will introduce a draft resolution that would declare Israeli “settlements” in Jerusalem to be “illegal.” The draft demands a halt to all construction in the eastern half of Israel’s capital city.   The Palestinians understand exactly what this means:   “We drafted it using the same words that Secretary Clinton is using and so we don’t see why the U.S. would veto it,” Abbas said.

The Obama Administration, as of today, stands equivocal on how it intends to address this flagrant attack on the notion of a negotiated settlement. On December 29, Mark C. Toner, the State Department spokesman had this to say on the matter at a press conference in Foggy Bottom:

” QUESTION: Hi, Mark. I’m wondering about this report of the draft resolution that may go before the UN Security Council on – by supporters of Palestinians condemning the Israeli settlements. What would the U.S. response be to that?

MR. TONER: Well, every U.S. Administration has been for decades has been clear on this. We don’t accept the legitimacy of continued settlement activity, and in fact, we believe continued expansion is corrosive to peace efforts, as well as to Israel’s future. We believe, fundamentally, that direct negotiations are the only path through which the parties will ultimately reach the framework agreement that is our goal, our mutual goal. And final status issues can only be resolved through negotiations between the parties and not by recourse to the UN Security Council, so we’ve consistently opposed any attempt to take these kinds of issues to the Council, because we believe that these kinds of efforts don’t move us any closer to our goal, which is of two states living side by side in peace and security.

QUESTION: Would the U.S. go so far as to use its veto power?

MR. TONER: Again, it’s a hypothetical at this point, Cami, but I think I made our position pretty clear. Any more questions?

This has never been a “hypothetical” for any other U.S. Administration and the government’s position on the matter is far from clear.   One-sided U.N. resolutions against Israel have ALWAYS been vetoed by the U.S. at the United Nations.   The failure of the Obama Administration to signal its intentions regarding such a draft resolution is truly a first and a worrying development.

Pundits in Washington and New York are now speculating about what any abstention on the part of the United States could mean for  Israel and the Middle East.  Some have suggested that it will confirm what many for some time have considered the truth – that the Obama Administration’s intends to become  the first openly hostile Administration to the Jewish state.  I would go further.  It would open the gates to the next Middle East war, encouraging Israel’s enemies to believe that it has been abandoned by its main diplomatic champion and that open season has been declared.

The Administration’s insistence on settlement freezes as preconditions to negotiations has proven rash as the Palestinians and their Arab allies have used it to craftily drive a wedge between Israel and its American ally.  If Obama wants to prove he cares more about peace in the Middle East than he does about punishing Israel for its settlement policies, then he must immediately signal to the Arab world that his country will not stand idly by while Israel is made the fall guy for his Administration’s own diplomatic failures and mistakes.   That would be the mature and responsible approach.  But I wouldn’t count on it.

Meet Fred Singer

On Wednesday night , January 5 in Bel Air,  AFA presented  Fred Singer, the renown and ebullient climatologist who has spent the past 30 years debunking anthropogenic global warming and transforming skepticism on that subject into a high art.   Singer’s book Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years and the unmatched research from his own organization, the Nongovernmental International  Panel on Climate Change ( NIPCC) which produced the 850 page study  Climate Change Reconsidered, form the basis of  the scientific response to the deeply flawed and highly politicized work of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the United Nations agency whose four reports over the past 19 years have been used to sound the clarion call for cutting global carbon emissions.

Singer, an avuncular and engaging speaker with a stentorian voice, described how the global warming debate gained world wide traction as environmentalists came to dominate world forums on issues of economic development.   Whereas he believes there is abundant evidence for increases in world temperatures over the past 150 years,  he stated that the evidence that man has substantially contributed to that warming is still very much in contention and should be debated.  The more likely explanation, he said, is that we are now in the midst of a global warming cycle that repeats every 400 or so years and has much more to do with solar activity than with anything humans do or don’t do on Earth.

It was a powerful presentation, delivered  with a wry sense of humor and a warmth that belied  Dr. Singer’s reputation as a curmudgeon.  I highly recommend Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1500 Years and hope to bring Dr. Singer back  to Los Angeles in June for our next summer conference Big Footprint: Is Green the New Tyranny?

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