Ukraine in Context; The Death of Net-Zero?; and California's Impending Energy Shortage.
In this week’s editor’s column, Michael Walsh discusses the Ukraine conflict in the context of America’s post-Eisenhower “Forever Wars.”
By now, it's a commonplace to observe that, in accordance with Conquest's Third Law of Politics, our country is ruled by a cabal of her enemies. The brief Trump interregnum between 24 years of Clinton/Bush/Obama—in retrospect, nearly indistinguishable in the havoc each wreaked on the United States—and now the first term of Joseph Robinette Biden, Jr., is barely a blip on the radar screen of Progressivism. As Mark Antony observes during Caesar's funeral oration: “The evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.” Welcome to the boneyard of America.
This is, alas, true regardless of whether the men themselves were of good character. Clinton wasn't, Bush more or less was, Obama isn't, and Biden is one of the worst men ever to assume the presidency: a bully, a liar, a plagiarist, a mediocrity and, at this stage of his senescence, a clear and present danger. As for Trump, no one ever mistook him for a secular saint, and indeed he was brought down and done in by his own manifest personal imperfections, poor personnel choices, and chronic inability to control his self-destructive solipsistic nature. But in Trump's case the good he did has already been interred with the bones of his presidency, and we are now left at the mercy of a vengeful Permanent Bipartisan Fusion Party determined to bring us to heel and ruination.
Case in point: the Ukraine. Back in 1965, an accidental president, Lyndon Baines Johnson, hit upon the brilliant idea of fully involving the U.S. in a pointless war in Vietnam and southeast Asia. Nobody wanted this war. "I ain't got no quarrel with them Viet Cong," observed Muhammad Ali around that time, upon learning that his vengeful draft board had just reclassified the heavyweight champion of the world from 1-Y (qualified for service only in time of war or national emergency) to 1-A. Most Americans agreed with him. LBJ, however, didn't care. We had to save Asian boys from the consequences of their imported Gallic laziness and martial impotence.
What a steaming pile of Texas codswallop that was, and even those of us who were in high school at the time knew it. But thus began the Forever Wars, the latest incarnation of which is currently being held in Kiev, Ukraine, formerly the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Although it's in a war zone, the manifest lack of danger to visiting American politicians and aging rock stars is quite obvious, as Jill Biden, Nancy Pelosi, and even Mitch McConnell have all showed up in party attire to what's supposed to be a live-fire zone, to take in the sights and perhaps enjoy a few golden oldies. Cui bono, or should I say cui Bono? As the playwright David Mamet notes in his new book, Recessional: The Death of Free Speech and the Cost of a Free Lunch: "When all politicians are agreed, someone is getting bought off."
This would be the same Ukraine whose dirty fingerprints are all over every significant scandal of the past several years, including the odiferous Burisma deal with the Biden family, as well as various electoral shenanigans in which prominent members of the amoral establishment political-consulting class have been involved up to their eyeballs, including David "Jake Lingle" Axelrod, Steve Schmidt, Mark Penn, Paul Begala, and Paul Manafort….
It's also the birthplace of Alexander Vindman, the professional rat fink who was one of the central figures in the bogus first impeachment of Donald Trump, which was occasioned by Trump's raising the issue of the Biden family's involvement in the Ukrainian financial sewer system:
I was a 44-year-old U.S. Army lieutenant colonel assigned to a position equivalent to that of a two-star general, three levels above my rank. Since July 2018, I’d been at the National Security Council, serving as the director for Eastern Europe, the Caucasus, and Russia. Recently, deep concerns had been growing throughout the U.S. foreign-policy community regarding two of the countries I was responsible for. We’d long been confused by the president’s policy of accommodation and appeasement toward Russia. But now there were new, rapidly emerging worries. This time the issue was the president’s inexplicable hostility toward a U.S. partner crucial to our Russia strategy: Ukraine.
"Our" Russia strategy"? Easy enough for a guy born in Kiev to say. And "inexplicable" only if you're rooting for the other side. But if like all of the Democrats and at least half the Republicans in Congress you're on the bipartisan team Gravy Train, elbow deep in the one supply chain—the military-industrial complex's arms-procurement racket— that's working just fine, you're sitting pretty while real Americans suffer. After all, nothing's too good for keyboard whiz Volodymyr Zelensky and Plucky Little Ukraine, so the hell with your baby formula.
Continuing on the topic of Ukraine, John O’Sullivan thinks that the war will spell the end, or “in the softer language of bureaucracy,” the postponement, of Net-Zero.
When last heard from, I was pointing out that Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, though undoubtedly a monstrous crime by every decent standard, had produced one worthwhile consequence. It had forced the political leaders of the Western world to be much more realistic about their policies on energy. The first expression of this realism was the strategic decision of several European countries, above all Germany, to reduce their dependence on Russian oil and gas.
There’s been more talk than action on this front since February 24, with commitments followed by qualifications, but European governments now seem on the verge of agreeing upon a collective plan to substantially cut their demand for cheap Russian energy. That will have a massive impact on the world’s energy markets with innumerable secondary effects that we can only dimly foresee but which we will shortly be experiencing.
Among them, however, is that this decision will complicate even further what is the invasion’s second major consequence for energy policy—namely, it has made the legally-binding commitment by Western governments to a Net-Zero policy of reducing carbon emissions by 2050 completely unrealistic so that it will have to be substantially re-thought.
Governments aren’t good at rethinking bad policies even when they’re minor policies, and Net-Zero isn’t a minor policy. Once President Biden entered office, every government in the West had committed itself to Net-Zero policies and Boris Johnson had held a vast international conference to make that commitment as dramatic and as unsayable as possible.
You see the problem. If you nail yourself to a sinking ship, you must learn not only how to swim but also how to remove nails from planks. That’s too embarrassing for modern Western governments to admit publicly. They want to combine—and camouflage—these two exercises with lectures on the unchangeable necessity of nails remaining in planks. Accordingly, as the priorities for energy policy change in order to resist Putin’s Russia, all the secondary policies that Net-Zero requires are trundled out to establish the falsehood that energy priorities remain unchanged and unchangeable. The result is what’s known as “cognitive dissonance” or following contradictory policies simultaneously.
Here’s Clarice Feldman on the insanity of California’s energy policies.
To supply shortages on everything from silicon chips for cars and household appliances to food, including baby food, this summer promises an exceptionally miserable shortage—electricity in California, and other things elsewhere in the country. California energy officials warned that the state lacks sufficient capacity to meet electric demand if other extreme events—perfectly predictable ones by the way—like heatwaves, and wild fires, and drought –occur.
Days later the Wall Street Journal observed that “power-generating capacity is struggling to keep up with demand, a gap that could lead to rolling blackouts during heat waves and other peak periods as soon as this year.” It's easy to make fun of California for its absurdly unrealistic, aggressive "climate-change" energy policies, but these warnings are now spreading “from California to Texas to Indiana,” but I pick that state because it is the most absurd.
It’s not the variations in weather we should blame. It’s weather—we have always had variations due to La Nina, wildfires, and drought. It’s why energy producers have always built in excess capacity. It’s idiotic policies, not least of which is retiring power plants before they can be replaced by "renewables" or conventional energy. Of course, the most idiotic of all policies is the notion that depriving people of needed energy will make it possible to control the climate which in their fantasy world is heating up at an unprecedented and terrifying rate because of CO2 emissions.
National economies are intricate webs of interrelationships in which monomaniacal planners lack the sophistication of natural supply/demand operations of millions of actors—us, the consumers. Take one small example: as the electrical-generating capacity in California increasingly fails to meet demand, California has encouraged the purchase of electrical vehicles, instead of gas or diesel-fueled vehicles, and has mandated electrical home ranges instead of gas. When predicable electricity shortages again occur this summer, millions of Californians will be unable to store food, or cook it, or drive to get some from somewhere. And they’ll be hard pressed to find water to drink, wash in, or grow food with because of similarly nonsensical water policies which are diminishing hydro electrical generation.
Reliability of supply of something as critical to health and welfare as electricity should never be dependent on intermittent sources like wind and solar. Maybe some day someone (Elon Musk, for example) will invent large batteries to store their output so it will be available when the wind doesn’t blow and the sun isn’t shining, but we aren’t there yet, and until we are we simply cannot replace conventional electrical generating power plants with them.
Peter Smith discussed the lack of intellectual curiosity of the majority of pushers of the climate change narrative, while explaining some of the unfashionable theories of a scientist of his acquaintance.
Is there anything sadder than living in the past? I thought of that the other evening when viewing an Australian government ad still desperately pushing Covid boosters and vaccinations for children (aka, child abuse). Those of even modest sense can no longer see the rotting carcass of the Wuhan plague in their rear-view mirrors. To medico fascists, government busybodies, and rapacious big pharma; it’s over, get used to it. You’ll soon think of something else to keep the plebs tremorous. Unless, of course, the climate-change “crisis” is thought sufficient for the day.
Mencken nailed it more than a century ago: “The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.” And, truer it's become, since the application of common sense became unfashionable. Around what time did that happen? Hard to say, but the establishment of the United Nations' IPCC in 1988 was a watershed moment. Shortly after that, if you recall, the scientific methodology of Karl Popper was completely discarded.
The onerous hurdles entailed in rejecting the null hypothesis became infra dig among establishment climatologists and other scientists. Hocus pocus prevailed. The alternative hypothesis that industrial emissions of CO2 were on course to cause catastrophic global warming became settled science. Irrefutable science. Geocentrism revisited.
Simple minds; to be kinder, blinkered minds; to be unkinder, paid-for minds, reduced the unfathomable complexity of climate variability to the alluring simplicity of statistical correlation; hid within technobabble; the modelling equivalent of bafflegab. Up goes man-made CO2, up goes atmospheric CO2, up goes temperature. Hence the first causes the second and the second the third. Post hoc ergo propter hoc.
And by this circuitous route I come to my tale…. I have a friend who’s a scientist. Professor Emeritus Ivan Kennedy of Sydney University. His principal field is agricultural science; his speciality, soil science. I’ve mentioned him before on this site in context of his hypothesis that wind turbines cause turbulence and drying in surrounding areas. Possible outcomes: more (warming) water vapour in the atmosphere, less agricultural productivity, and foliage more susceptible to fire. How significant are these effects is indeterminate at this stage? He has a prospective paper in Wind Energy Science. Perhaps that will prompt empirical testing. Perhaps not. His conclusions aren’t within the zeitgeist.
To the larger point, he is presenting a paper in July at the quinquennial National Congress of the Royal Australian Chemical Institute on the effect on atmospheric CO2 of exporting agricultural produce from rural to urban environments. The scientific detail is beyond me, though he's taken time to explain it, but the substantive hypothesis is plain enough. Modern agricultural practices rob the soil of alkalinity, as waste products are not returned to the soil. The resultingly lower pH levels (more acidity) in soils means less net CO2 absorption.
Professor Kennedy’s view is that in normal course man-made CO2 would be absorbed back into the land and oceans and cause no problem. Thus, according to Kennedy, it’s not CO2 emissions per se that is causing increased CO2 in the atmosphere but the reduced ability of low pH soil to absorb it. He notes, on the basis of his “crude estimate,” that this effect “is very substantial, perhaps a major part of the atmospheric increase since the early 1800s.”
Tom Finnerty contributed a blog post on the present disruptions in the global solar panel supply chain occasioned by an investigation by the Commerce Department into allegations that Chinese firms have been circumventing American tariffs and sanctions by moving products necessary for panel through neighboring countries, and the complicity of American firms who’ve been going along with it.
China's desire for dominating this particular market is substantial. For years they've been quietly gaining control of areas in Africa and South America that are rich in minerals necessary for the manufacture of solar panels. And some of those minerals are abundant in their own territory -- about half of the world's polysilicon comes from Xinjiang, where the Chinese government have been accused of imprisoning ethnic Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps. In fact, some of these very solar panel companies have been accused of utilizing Uyghur forced laborers. Jim Geraghty notes the odd fact that a recent letter signed by twenty-two senators (including two Republicans) urging President Biden to bring this investigation to a "swift conclusion," mentions neither China nor the Uyghur. Says Geraghty, "if all you knew about this issue was from their letter, you would think the U.S. Commerce Department was investigating the sourcing of these solar panels for no particular reason."
All of this should hammer home the degree to which China, that land of smog filled cities, whose new coal-fired energy capacity alone recently outstripped the rest of the world by 300 percent, is the very heart of the environmentalist project. And why not -- their number one geo-political rival is willing to hand them boatloads of money to manufacture an unreliable energy source to supplant the reliable petroleum products that helped make us a world power in the first place. From their perspective, it seems like a win-win.
Jack Dunphy wrote about the recent assault on Dave Chappelle.
Thanks for reading, and keep a look out for upcoming pieces by Steven F. Hayward, John O’Sullivan, Rich Trzupek, and Tom Finnerty. All this and more this week at The Pipeline!