Discover more from This Week at The Pipeline
What is to be Done?; The World Turns on Net-Zero; & Canada Cuts Off its Nose to Spite its Face
In his Editor’s Column this week, Michael Walsh puts in a word for the importance of winning.
If there is one area in which the conservative movement, such as it is, is notably deficient it lies in the area of education and intellectual rigor. One of my maxims is that I never take political advice from small children, and yet in the age of the instant hot take from kids still in the mental equivalent of knee pants, it's all around us. The reason so many putative up-and-coming tyros have crashed and burned so publicly recently is that they weren't ready for prime time in the first place, having been rushed into service without proper grounding and, frankly, knowledge and life experience. But conservative donors don't pay for ideas (they give, uselessly, to candidates) and refuse to invest in the kind of training academies that are routine on the Left. Until major donors on the right arise and give to the creation of something like an institutionalized version of the ancient Greek agora, "progressives" will continue to win the war of ideas.
I called the reader's bluff because the hot air of impotent keyboard-warrior anger, temporarily satisfying as it may be, is not enough. As the current internecine warfare in the GOP amply demonstrates, there is a great deal of unfocused rage resulting from the last election -- and even more directed at the daily enormities visited upon us by our political opponents -- now being exacerbated by the Twitter wars between Trump partisans and those who feel the way forward cannot be backward, and that a campaign based on revenge is doomed to failure.
I've made my position regarding the 2020 election very clear in two pieces for the-Pipeline: "The System IS the Steal," and "The Sting." The Covid hoax-related changes in our electoral system -- all of them bad -- which cost Trump the election were instituted right under his nose and without his objection, and, alas, have recently been institutionalized by an errant Supreme Court in its Moore v. Harper decision, which has destroyed the one legal leg the "stolen election" crew had to stand on.
By a 6-3 vote, the court rejected the “independent state legislature” theory in a case about North Carolina’s congressional map. The once-fringe legal theory broadly argued that state courts have little — or no — authority to question state legislatures on election laws for federal contests. The court’s decision in Moore v. Harper closes the path to what could have been a radical overhaul of America’s election laws.
So it's quite possible that the pessimists on the right are perfectly correct in their insistence that a conservative candidate will never be able to win another national election. But we're not there yet. Nominating a candidate that for whatever reason half the electorate despises and upon whom they've already had their say is not a winning ticket in 2024; a Trump loss will prove nothing except that more people hate him than love him. The damage the more deranged Trump partisans have already done to Ron DeSantis in their hopeless quest to "reinstall" the former president may be terminal, although we won't know until actual voting begins in the primaries next year.
Steven Hayward contributed a piece on the slow international drift away from net-zero.
There has been no official announcement from the officials who preside over the official institutions of climate change hysteria and the glorious five-year plans for “energy transition,” but if you pay close attention you can make out the beginnings of an across-the-board retreat from the Net-Zero madness that has gripped governments everywhere except China and India.
Reality is starting to intrude on green dreams in two easily predictable ways: the economic cost is starting to bite, and the political cost—voters furious with the prospect of rising energy costs and mandates to buy inferior appliances they don’t want and can’t afford—is rising faster than inflation.
“Europe blinks in its commitment to a great green transition,” the Washington Post reported last week: “Europe made big, bold promises to slash carbon emissions to slow global warming, but now the bill is coming due, and governments are starting to blink at the cost — political and economic — needed to power the great transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewables.”
Start with Britain, where the ruling Conservative Party, facing electoral wipeout according to the polls just four years after its greatest electoral landslide in a century… was suddenly outflanked by the Labour Party, which cleverly began expressing opposition to the Tories’ draconian Net-Zero plans. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has done an abrupt 180, scrapping plans for strict anti-auto rules for London, and infuriating the Climate Cult by approving large new oil and gas development in the North Sea. (Norway, celebrated for its high number of electric cars, also just approved 19 new North Sea oil and gas projects.)
With these moves Sunak halted his slump in the polls and has started recovering. But with crazed activists from Extinction Rebellion and Just Stop Oil alienating the public by stepping up their protests blocking roads and defacing monuments and artworks, both major parties in Britain will now be in competition to back away from Net-Zero. “The geopolitical ground is shifting beneath the eco-fanatics feet; this could be the beginning of the end of net zero,” The Telegraph observed.
France’s president Emmanuel Macron has called for a “regulatory break” by the European Union, whose proposal to ban gasoline-powered cars by 2035 set off such a backlash in Germany that even the German Green Party had to go along with weakening the proposal, while Poland’s government is suing the E.U. to block it altogether. In the Netherlands, a "climate-based" proposal to curtail fertilizer use in the agricultural sector set off a populist backlash that toppled the government in regional elections, and a new “Farmer-Citizen Movement” may win outright in a national election scheduled for the fall. A new Farmer's Alliance has just been formed in Ireland, where climate lunatics are threatening to cull the nation's cattle herds. Italy’s new populist prime minister Giorgia Meloni and her cabinet are openly rebelling against E.U. climate targets (and the E.U. generally).
Peter Smith wrote about the questionable assumptions underpinning pro-wind-and-solar studies.
Something called The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) has been instrumental in many scientific and technological developments, particularly in the field of Australian agriculture. Sadly, it has succumbed to “climate change” cultism. All government institutions right across the Western world have succumbed to one extent or another. However, scientists, being more narrowly focused than most, are particularly susceptible to blinkering up and slotting into the paradigm du jour. And they come with the gravitas of being scientists; experts, who must be believed.
Each year in partnership with the Australian Energy Market Operator , the CSIRO produces a so-called “GenCost” study of electricity costs by source. And, no prizes for guessing. In the latest study, issued in July, the "levelised cost of electricity" -- LCOE, in industry jargon -- meant to put different sources of generation onto a common basis, comes out least for wind and solar. Hence, climate change minister Chris Bowen is steeled in his oft-repeated claim that “renewables are the cheapest form of new energy.” For Bowen and his ilk in the Western world, when there is a conflict between facts on the ground and a stylised pro-renewables study telling you what you want to hear, pick the study every time; facts be damned.
The latest GenCost study has come under scrutiny. Has this thrown light onto its innards? Not much. Those compiling these studies bring opaqueness to an art form. A multiplicity of climate-related government bodies regularly issue reports based on unintelligible black-box modelling wrapped in pages of dense text, charts and appendices. Pick your country. They’re all doing it.
I reckon that these lengthy complex reports, all pointing to the attainability of a wonderful green future, are deliberately designed to snow potential skeptics. There I go with a conspiracy theory. Nevertheless, let’s remind ourselves, that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.
I’ll focus on the GenCost calculation for various forms of power. These are calculated for the year 2030 onwards. A bit unusual, but from there it gets curiouser and curiouser. Prospective costs up to 2030 are treated as sunk. Not only that but the next seven years up to 2030 are assumed to go without a hitch; that is, if renewable energy is your passion. It is assumed that Renewal Energy Zones will be up and running, that transmission lines to connect them will have been built, that the pumped-hydro white elephant Snowy 2.0 will be operating, as will two planned “gas-fired peaking plants at Kurri Kurri and Illawarra,” and throw in an additional “2GW of at least 8 hours duration storage in New South Wales,” and so on into assumption land, where everything seemingly runs smoothly to plan.
Never mind that no plan, no matter how comforting on paper, ever survives first contact with reality.
Paul Graham is chief energy economist at CSIRO and one of the authors of the GenCost report. This is part of a comment of his in response to an op-ed article questioning the report. Notice the seamless transition from 50 to 90 percent share of renewables in electricity generation. Not to mention the starting point of 50 percent in 2030, requiring an approximate doubling of wind and solar power in the next seven years.
The report provides... calculations of levelised cost of electricity data for new build generation capacity... This analysis calculates the cost of moving from the expected 50 per cent variable renewable share in 2030 to 60 per cent, 70 per cent, 80 per cent and 90 per cent. All existing generation, storage and transmission capacity up to 2030 is treated as sunk costs since they are not relevant to new-build costs in that year. When making these calculations, the LCOE of moving to the variable renewable shares of between 60 and 90 per cent is lower than the LCOE of any other technology.
Consider, every dollar spent up to 2030, positioning the electricity system to handle renewables, is regarded as a bygone and, to boot, all practical difficulties in the way are miraculously overcome. Hence a clean and facilitating slate awaits wind turbines and solar panels in the year of our Lord 2030. And, on that basis, the GenCost study finds that wind and solar are cheaper than the alternatives. Even then, the analysis is seriously wayward, but that’s for another day.
In a follow-up piece, Smith zoomed in a bit further:
Take an equal collection of men from Lilliput and Brobdingnag. Average height 5 feet 9 inches. If you were told that the same number of men were shorter as were taller than the average you might suspect that the height of the subjects conformed to a normal distribution. You would be quite wrong of course. Averages can be deceptive. If only those pushing wind and solar energy knew that. Or, more pointedly, knew it and applied it rigorously to their modelling.
I referred in my last Pipeline piece to a finding by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), in its latest “GenCost” study, that wind and solar are the cheapest way of generating electricity from 2030 onwards. A foreseeable, indeed predictable finding. Finding otherwise would be mortifying. So, how to get to this “right” result? First, assume that all planned renewable infrastructure is in place by 2030 -- transmission lines, pumped hydro, gas firming, grid-scale batteries -- when clearly it won’t be. Second, regard the enormous prospective cost of this infrastructure as “sunk” (unrecoverable) by 2030 and therefore not attributable to wind and solar installations post 2030. It gets worse.
My friend Bob King has the energy to write submissions. He pointed out to the CSIRO that the average capacity factor of wind in 2022 in Australia across the National Electricity Market was 29 percent, not the 35 to 44 percent assumed in the GenCost study. He also drew attention to the inflated capacity factor of solar in the study. This was among other fudges. For example, no account being taken of increasing transmission losses as wind and solar turbines are progressively located further afield. The understating of battery storage costs. The lack of appreciation of the vulnerability of the system as the penetration of wind and solar generation increases. “This is difficult for me to express diplomatically,” he wrote, “I think the report is biased and contains too many straw men.” You can say that again, Bob.
I’ll be less diplomatic. It’s apparent that those behind these renewable energy studies, every one of them, everywhere, configure their computer models to spit out the desired results. It’s a modeling scam, inside the renewable-energy scam, inside the global-boiling scam.
Clarice Feldman wrote about a shocking legal development out of Montana.
Montana judge Kathy Seeley was handed a science test by a group of kids (none over the age of eighteen at the time suit was filed) fronting for an "environmentalist" lawfare group, Our Children’s Trust, and she bombed it. Judge Seeley, it appears, was bamboozled by their tales of the prospective woe that would come from a failure to force state agencies to evaluate the effects of greenhouse gas emissions on kids. The opinion and order which runs to over 100 pages, recounts a litany of the children’s absurd fears if she fails to enjoin the state’s actions and is weak on the impact of Montana’s refusal to cede to the plaintiff’s demands:
“Olivia expressed despair due to climate change.”
“Badge is anxious when he thinks about the future that he, and his potential children, will inherit.”
“Grace … is anxious about climate change.”
“Mica gets frustrated when he is required to stay indoors during the summer because of wildfire smoke.”
At issue is Montana’s code, which forbids the state “from considering the impacts of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions or climate change in their environmental reviews; and the aggregate acts the State has taken to implement and perpetuate a fossil fuel-base energy system pursuant to these two statutory provisions.” But the tears of the children -- inspired, of course, by climate activists -- persuaded the judge to declare it unconstitutional for the state to disallow these ephemeral fears to be taken into account in all environmental reviews.
David Cavena contributed a blog post about a new proposal to use Electric Vehicles as a back-up to shaky, overly wind-and-solar dependent electric grids.
As we've often discussed before at The Pipeline, one of the big issues with the Left's planned "Green Transition" is the lack of sufficient battery capacity. Battery technology isn't anywhere near where it would need to be to counter the problem of wind-and-solar intermittency, and building up hundreds of thousands, or millions, of batteries to do that work now isn't really feasible. Unless, say some all-in Leftists, maybe it is:
PG&E's CEO Patricia Poppe has come up with an "unconventional" idea, using electric cars to send excess power back to the grid to prevent blackouts.
Unconventional is right! The idea being proposed by California’s largest electric utility, is that people have spent multiple hours storing all that nice sunshine and wind in their battery-powered cars, and now it is just sitting there, ripe for the taking. Why not -- only it times of potential grid instability, mind you! -- allow energy companies suck it back onto the grid, to help power their neighbor’s electric furnace, electric stove, the kid-down-the-block's video game console, and to charge the E.V. battery of the guy across town. All from the “excess” power, of course.
Some E.V.s, including Ford's F-150 Lightning, already have the capacity for what they call "bi-directional charging," which they tout as a way to draw energy from your car's battery to your home's generator, during the time's of extended blackout. PG&E's proposal is to make that feature standard on all E.V.s, and to use those batteries as back-up for the whole (unreliable, wind-and-solar powered) grid.
Tom Finnerty blogged about the Canadian government’s plan to kneecap its own economy.
Steven Guilbeault, known informally as the “Green Jesus of Montreal," though Minister for Environment and Climate Change is his official title, recently released the Trudeau government's revised net-zero regulation plans and they are a doozy. From the National Post:
Steven Guilbeault’s newly announced plan to largely phase out the use of fossil fuels to generate power in Canada over the next 12 years is being criticized as costly and unrealistic, despite his claims that higher electricity costs would be offset by savings on oil and gas... Environment and Climate Change Canada officials said in a technical briefing that the national average household energy bill would increase by between $35 and $61 per year when the regulations are adopted by 2040.... It also projects that the increase would be offset by savings when consumers reduce their dependency on fossil fuels, for instance the savings from the cheaper cost of recharging an electric vehicle (EV) compared to filling up with gasoline.
Rather than tapping the breaks on plans which have contributed to their party's slumping popularity in a time of economic hardship, the Trudeau Liberals are pushing pedal to the metal. The plan requires forcing a nation whose economy is so dependent on fossil fuels -- the resource sector makes up 10 percent of Canada's economy, by some measures -- to abandon them almost entirely, in just over a decade, and to replace them with energy sources which are entirely unreliable. That includes not just solar panels and wind turbines, of whose intermittency problems regular Pipeline readers are well aware, but also massively increasing the number of heat pumps used in homes, which are known for not working particularly well in extremely cold weather. And if Canada is known for anything, it's the cold.
Predictably, the most oil-and-gas dependent provinces are outraged. Saskatchewan premier Scott Moe released a statement saying the regulations are “unaffordable, unrealistic and unconstitutional,” that “they will drive electricity rates through the roof and leave Saskatchewan with an unreliable power supply" -- which of course is the entire punitive point -- and that “Trudeau’s net-zero targets are simply not achievable in Saskatchewan, and we will not ask our residents to pay the extraordinary price for the federal government’s divisive policies, nor will we risk the integrity of our provincial power grid to defy the laws of thermodynamics." Alberta premier Danielle Smith said the "net-zero power grid regulations are unconstitutional, irresponsible," and vowed that they “will not be implemented in our province — period.”
That’s all for this week, but keep a look out for our upcoming articles at The Pipeline!