"Restore(s) a little sanity into current political debate" - Kenneth Minogue, TLS "Projects a more expansive and optimistic future for Americans than (the analysis of) Huntington" - James R. Kurth, National Interest "One of (the) most important books I have read in recent years" - Lexington Green
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Once upon a time we knew enough to curse the darkness. In the aeons long climb from the muck, we have only had the ability to hold back the dark for a bit over a century. Now millions yearn to embrace it and, should they yearn long enough and hard enough, the darkness will embrace them and hold them for much longer than a brief hour of preening and self-regard.
The Big Picture at the Boston Globe site routinely publishes stunning photographs of what is taking place in the world. But at editor Alan Taylor’s whim after last year’s “Earth Hour”, it went a step further in “celebrating” the rise of mass insanity in our age. “Earth Hour 2009″presents a round-the-world tour of cities with each picture designed to fade from light into darkness at the click of a mouse. Proud of his clever variation on a theme, the editor’s instructions were — without a hint of irony:
“[click image to see it fade]”
Of course with a second mouse click the lights came back on. It never seems to occur to the people with the Green Disease, that is perfectly possible to
[click civilization to see it fade]
and get no second click.
I’ve done four posts with the “Powering Down” heading, all relating to the stream of political and social attacks which are being conducted against the West’s energy sources and industrial base. These attacks are usually justified by “environmentalism” raised to the status of a religion; often, they are also motivated by individual and/or group desires to align themselves with technologies and trends that are considered “cool” and to avoid any connection with technologies and trends that are considered “uncool.”
Powering Down #1: Here’s the great French scientist Sadi Carnot, writing in 1824:
To take away England’s steam engines to-day would amount to robbing her of her iron and coal, to drying up her sources of wealth, to ruining her means of prosperity and destroying her great power. The destruction of her shipping, commonly regarded as her source of strength, would perhaps be less disastrous for her.
For England in 1824, substitute the United States in 2009. And for “steam engines,” substitute those power sources which use carbon-based fuels: whether generating stations burning natural gas, blast furnaces burning coke, or trucks/trains/planes/automobiles using oil derivatives. With these substitutions, Carnot’s paragraph describes the prospective impact of this administration’s energy policies: conducting a war on fossil fuels, without leveling with people about the true limitations of “alternative” energy technologies and without seriously pursuing civilian nuclear power.
Powering Down #2:Patrick Richardson: Kansas is ranked second in the nation behind Montana for wind energy potential, a fact which should have environmentalists jumping for joy. Instead, they’re trying to block the construction of transmission lines to wind farms in south central Kansas and north central Oklahoma.
Why? Well it all has to do with the lesser prairie chicken. According to a story by the Hutchinson News in February of this year, ranchers and wildlife officials in the area are teaming up with groups like the Sierra Club to block the construction of the lines, which would apparently run through prime breeding territory for the bird.
Powering Down #3: The California Water Resources Board has ruled that 19 natural gas power plants, located in coastal areas, are in violation of the Clean Water Act for using a technique called “once-through cooling.” According to this article, it appears that this ruling will result in the shutdown of most of these plants. continued
Powering Down #4: George Will writes about the the attack that Obama’s EPA is conducting against the Navajo Generating Station, which together with the coal mine that feeds it represents an important factor in Arizona’s economy and an important source of employment for members of the Navajo tribe.
Will notes that the NGS provides 95 percent of the power for the pumps of the Central Arizona Project, which routes water from the Colorado River and which made Phoenix and most of modern Arizona possible. A study sponsored by the Interior Department estimates that the EPA’s mandate might increase the cost of water by as much as 32 percent, hitting agriculture users especially hard.
When I was thirty one, I sat on my back porch on a lovely summer day, reading Reason magazine. The issue was devoted to debunking global warming. And suddenly, like a weight lifting, I realized there really wasn’t proof. That it wasn’t preordained that my generation would be the last to have a decent life on Earth. That my kids and grandkids (I only had one kid at the time, and he was still nursing) wouldn’t necessarily be doomed. That the future wasn’t all doom and gloom.
And I realized my entire life I’d lived in the shadow of the fear of decay and death. First there was the cold war, and sooner or later, the bombs would fly. We’d die screaming. Then there was overpopulation. If we escaped the bomb, we’d all starve to death. Or thirst to death (thank you, Paul Ehrlich!) Then there was global cooling. We were all going to freeze in the ice age. Then there was global warming. Amid all these threats, how could we escape. To watch the thing debunked and to see it pointed out that even the proponents of AGW don’t live like they believe in it lifted a weight from my heart.
Since then I’ve been skeptical of the end of the world prophecies.
And yet there are signals of personal defeat which are like red lamps on broken roads, to these we must pay heed. I grew anxious when a man’s speech began to betray him; when he was full of windy talk of what the Boche had done in the new sector the battalion was taking over, of some new gas. It was always about something which was going to happen; the wretched fellow must have known the mess would muzzle him if it could, but he seemed driven by some inner force to chatter incessantly of every calamity that could conceivably come to pass. It was as if he had come to terms with the devil himself, that if he could make others as windy, his life would be spared. How full of apprehension the fellow was; death came to him daily in a hundred shapes. This was fear in its infancy. It was a bad sign, for when a man talked like that, his self-respect was going, and the battle was already half lost. It was just a matter of time. Such a man did the battalion no good for the disease was infectious; I was glad to get him away.
Not everyone is helpful in what Strauss and Howe call a Crisis Era. This is not a matter of ability or resources, but of attitude. I have recently encountered numerous highly intelligent, capable, and often firmly upper-middle class men who at the slightest provocation vehemently insist that the United States is doomed. This year alone, they have predicted at least three of the last zero national calamities. Repeatedly failed scenarios make no impression on them. Some of these people are actually planning to run and hide somewhere. Read the rest of this entry »
Cold and misty morning, I heard a warning borne in the air
About an age of power where no one had an hour to spare …
– Emerson, Lake & Palmer, “Karn Evil 9, 1st Impression, Part 1”
Imagine that you just stepped out of a time machine into the mid-1930s with a case of partial historical amnesia. From your reading of history, you can still remember that the nation has been beset with economic difficulties for several years that will continue for several more. You also clearly remember that this is followed by participation in a global war, but you cannot recall just when it starts or who it’s with. A few days of newspapers and radio broadcasts, however, apprise you of obvious precursors to that conflict and various candidates for both allies and enemies.
As mentioned several times in this forum, I adhere to a historical model, consisting either of a four-part cycle of generational temperaments (Strauss and Howe), or a related but simpler system dynamic/generational flow (Xenakis). That model posits the above scenario as a description of our current situation and a prediction of its near future: a tremendous national trial, currently consisting mostly of failing domestic institutions, is underway. It will somehow transform into a geopolitical military phase and reach a crescendo early in the next decade. It cannot be avoided, only confronted.
Nor will it be a low-intensity conflict like the so-called “wars” of recent decades, which have had US casualty counts comparable to those of ordinary garrison duty a generation ago. Xenakis has coined the descriptive, and thoroughly alarming, term genocidal crisis war for these events. Some earlier instances in American history have killed >1% of the entire population and much larger portions of easily identifiable subsets of it. Any early-21st-century event of this type is overwhelmingly likely to kill millions of people in this country, many if not most of them noncombatants. And besides its stupendous quantitative aspect, the psychological effect will be such that the survivors (including young children) remain dedicated, for the rest of their lives, to preventing such a thing from ever happening again.
I will nonetheless argue that no matter how firmly convinced we may be that an utterly desperate struggle, with plenty of attendant disasters, is inevitable and imminent, we must avoid both individual panic and collective overreaction.
Judith Curry: The debate is polarized in a black-white yes-no sort of way, which is a consequence of oversimplifying the problem and its solution. Although you wouldn’t think so by listening to the Obama administration on the topic of climate change, the debate is becoming more complex and nuanced. Drivers for the growing number of layers in the climate debate are the implications of the 21st century hiatus in warming, the growing economic realities of attempting to transition away from fossil fuels, and a growing understanding of the clash of values involved.
Oilprice.com: How does the climate change debate differ, in your experience, in varying cultures; for instance, from the United States to Western Europe, or Canada?
Judith Curry: The U.S. is more skeptical of the idea of dangerous anthropogenic global warming than is Western Europe. In the U.S., skepticism is generally associated with conservatives/libertarians/Republicans, whereas in Western Europe there is no simple division along the lines of political parties. In the developed world, it is not unreasonable to think ahead 100 or even 300 years in terms of potential impacts of policies, whereas the developing world is more focused on short-term survivability and economic development.
Oilprice.com: How significant are cultural elements to this debate?
Judith Curry: The cultural elements of this debate are probably quite substantial, but arguably poorly understood. A key issue is regional vulnerability, which is a complex mix of natural resources, infrastructure, governance, institutions, social forces and cultural values.
When reporters asked Crist why he did not drive to Tallahassee, fly commercial, or hold his press conference in Tampa, Crist said, “Listen, I’m trying to win this race and Florida’s a big state.”
See, he’s trying to get elected. That’s important — unlike, by implication, the things that matter to lesser citizens. Therefore he should be exempt from the rules of environmentally correct behavior that his party wants to force on the rest of us.
Crist doesn’t seem to be a bad man as politicians go. Nor is Rick Scott, the incumbent governor, without significant flaws. However, Scott has at least been somewhat consistent in holding down spending and overzealous regulation as he promised (this is doubtless part of the reason why my Democratic acquaintances all vehemently dislike him).
Crist, by contrast, has been astonishingly cynical and unprincipled in his political career. He used to be a conservative Republican, then morphed into an Independent and finally a Democrat as Florida’s political demographics shifted leftward. His only constant has been opportunism. His use of a donor’s jet to avoid a four-hour drive makes clear that he doesn’t believe the climate alarmism he publicly supports.
We would be in better shape if we paid more attention to the personal integrity of public officials as revealed by their long-term personal and professional records, and less to their ability convincingly to repeat current talking points.
Christopher Hayes, who writes at The Nation, sees a connection between human slavery–in particular, human slavery as practiced in the US prior to 1865–and the use of fossil fuels. Specifically, he argues that the reluctance of energy companies and their investors to lose the financial value of their fossil-fuel assets is directly analogous to the reluctance of pre-Civil-War southern slaveholders to lose the financial value of their human “property”…and he goes on the assert that environmentalists attacking the use of fossil fuels are in a moral and tactical position similar to that of the pre-war Abolitionists.
His article reminded me of a few things.
1) Sometime around 1900, a young PR man who had recently been hired by GE in Schenectady realized that he had a problem. He had gotten his job through glowing promises about all the great press coverage he would get for the company. But his boss had called him in and announced that he had “a terrific front-page story” about a 60,000 kilowatt turbine generator that the company had just sold to Commonwealth Edison…and the PR man accurately realized that this story would get maybe a paragraph on the financial pages. Looking for ideas, he went to see GE’s legendary research genius, Charles Steinmetz, explaining that headlines need drama, and “there’s nothing dramatic about a generator.”
Steinmetz picked up a pencil and did a little calculating…and quickly determined that this one rotating machine could do as much physical work as 5.4 million men. The slave population in the US on the eve of the Civil War had been 4.7 million. To the young PR man, Steinmetz said: “I suggest you send out a story that says we are building a single machine that, through the miracle of electricity, will each day do more work than the combined slave population of the nation at the time of the Civil War.”
2) Frederick Douglass, himself a former slave, visited a shipyard in New Bedford shortly after obtaining his freedom. Here are his comments on observing a cargo being unloaded:
In a southern port, twenty or thirty hands would have been employed to do what five or six did here, with the aid of a single ox attached to the end of a fall. Main strength, unassisted by skill, is slavery’s method of labor. An old ox, worth eighty dollars, was doing, in New Bedford, what would have required fifteen thousand dollars worth of human bones and muscles to have performed in a southern port.
3) Speaking of GE…Owen Young was a farm boy who grew up to become Chairman of that company. To his biographer (Ida Tarbell), he provided a vivid word-picture of what life had been like for a farm wife back in the slightly earlier times. Here, he remembers Monday–wash day:
He drew from his memory a vivid picture of its miseries: the milk coming into the house from the barn; the skimming to be done; the pans and buckets to be washed; the churn waiting attention; the wash boiler on the stove while the wash tub and its back-breaking device, the washboard, stood by; the kitchen full of steam; hungry men at the door anxious to get at the day’s work and one pale, tired, and discouraged woman in the midst of this confusion.
Here are some pretty pictures. Check out the reader comments below them. A skewed opinion sample to be sure, but also an indication of how some people think. Like other true believers, they tend not to respond well to reasoned appeals, and to dismiss evidence that doesn’t support their position.
This would appear to be the new theme song for the Fed-Gov’s Bureau of Land Management – that bane of ranchers like Cliven Bundy – as well as a whole lot of other ranchers, farmers, loggers, small landowners, and owners of tiny bits of property on the edge of or in areas of spectacular natural beauty, west of the Mississippi and between the Mexican and Canadian borders. Read the rest of this entry »
Saw a bumper sticker today that said, “I’m a member of the 99%, and I vote.”
…intended to imply, surely, that members of the 99% (based on income) have common economic interests on which they should be voting together.
But a professor of environmental studies, on the one hand, and a welder working in the oil/gas industry, on the other, do not have common economic interests, even if their incomes are exactly the same. Quite the opposite..the professor is likely to profit from a more restrictive approach to energy infrastructure, whereas the welder is likely to suffer economically from those same policies.
An inner-city couple concerned with getting their kids a good education does not have common interests with the local head of a teachers’ union striving to maintain antediluvian policies and consequent low standards, even if they are in the same income bracket.
The game the Democrats and their media sycophants are playing is this: to try to focus public attention on generalized income-based class conflict in order to divert attention from the preferential treatment given by government to certain groups at the expense of others. The hope is that if sufficient anger can be generated and directed at “the rich,” people will be less likely to reject those politicians who want to cripple America’s energy infrastructure, leave the public schools to continue their multigenerational wrecking program, etc etc.
America’s consensus culture, Bottum argues, is the unmistakable descendant of the old Protestant Mainline, in particular the “Social Gospel” promulgated by Walter Rauschenbusch before the First World War and adopted by the liberal majority in the Mainline denominations during the 1920s. Although this assertion seems unremarkable at first glance, the method that Bottum brings to bear is entirely original. A deeply religious thinker, he understands spiritual life from the inside. He is less concerned with the outward forms and specific dogmas of religion than with its inner experience, and this approach leads him down paths often inaccessible to secular inquiry. The book should be disturbing not only to its nominal subjects, the “Poster Children” of post-Protestant America, but also to their conservative opposition. The battle is joined on a plane far removed from the quotidian concept of political debate.
Thanks to this new green faith, our smallest acts have incalculable repercussions. The world seems literally to hang on whether we leave the water running as we brush our teeth, take the subway rather than drive, or flick off the switch as we exit a room. The humblest objects are alive with meaning. Bruckner calls it “post-technological animism” (33). Environmentalist discourse, he suggests, is a variation on the Fall of Genesis: eating of the fruit of the tree of scientific knowledge has driven us from God-given Paradise.
Also see Paul Gottfried on the lack of interest in logical argument prevalent among today’s leftist campus professors, and how this differs from the attitudes of their predecessors of a few decades ago. Indeed, if contemporary “progressivism” is a religion, it is not a religion of the intellectual system-building type represented by, say, Saint Thomas Acquinas or William of Ockham, but rather of the most emotionally-driven type of snake-handling fundamentalism.
Also related to this topic of spiritual hunger as a driver of political belief: Arthur Koestler’s novel of ideas The Age of Longing, which I reviewed at length here: Sleeping with the Enemy.
-Wildlife photographer pleads guilty to violating Endangered Species Act – The gist of the story is that some guy was photographing “endangered” birds from less than 500 feet away, which apparently is a violation of the Endangered Species Act, and was turned in to the feds by zealous environmentalists who saw him do this. Of course he copped a plea. If he had taken his chances in court he could have ended up in jail for years. As it is he may still do time and will end up with a felony conviction and probably a big fine to make an example of him. The birds he supposedly harassed aren’t even rare, merely locally rare in Florida, and he didn’t harm any of them. At most he should have been fined a few hundred bucks and warned to stay farther away from the wildlife. But nowadays everything is a federal crime with draconian penalties, and you can’t fart in a wetland without violating some rule. And the enforcement agencies have to justify their budgets. He should have left the birds alone, but his punishment is cruelly excessive. Some of the comments in response to the article are remarkably heartless. Not just the EPA but also the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Park Service deserve substantial defunding.
The NY Times recently had an article about the high levels of pollution in India’s capital city, Delhi.
Beijing’s air pollution has reached such toxic levels recently that the Chinese government is finally acknowledging the problem – and acting on it. But in New Delhi on Thursday, air pollution levels far exceeded those in Beijing, only without any government acknowledgement or action.
When I was in India in late 2012 I too was overwhelmed and amazed by the level of smog and pollution in the capital. When you blew your nose, particulate matter came out in your snot. This photo taken below is out the window of our tour bus and you could not see large office buildings along the roadside a few hundred feet away.
The tuk-tuk in the photo (it is a three wheeled semi-motorcycle used as a taxi) is green and yellow because those are the official colors of vehicles using CNG, designed to reduce pollution, which are also used for city buses. Unfortunately the streets are clogged with traditional gas powered vehicles and myriad ancient looking diesel trucks which more than make up the difference. Read the rest of this entry »
Despicable. US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Istanbul, compared the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing to the nine Turkish activists killed by the IDF as they tried to break Gaza’s naval blockade.
Typical South Texas landscape – Taken north of Goliad
This last Saturday was the second day of Christmas on the Square in Goliad, Texas. I had a table there, as a local author, but the cold was so pronounced that the whole event was rather a bust … but it did mean that folding up and coming home early allowed some time for taking pictures on the way back. This is a part of Texas which overlies the Eagle Ford Shale formation, and over the last five years I have noted a good many changes along the route, and in the small towns that we pass through on a semi-regular basis. Read the rest of this entry »
Some of this is just because people enjoy having and using a fireplace, which is good…much of it, though, is apparently because people can’t afford to heat their houses due to increasing energy prices, which is not so good.
In the US we hear frequently about the environment and how we are doing so much damage to our environment. It would be good for people to visit India to see actual pollution in action on a large scale.
As we drove around Delhi, the smog was amazing, even with all the vehicles that converted to CNG from diesel (in this picture you can see a tuk tuk in “CNG” yellow and green colors). In this photo there are a couple of huge office buildings right off the road but you can’t even make them out in the smog. We asked our guide if the CNG over diesel made any difference and he said that in the days before the conversion “if you wore a white shirt outside it would be colored grey from all the soot in one day”.
This photo shows a jet flying over a famous minaret in Delhi. You can see the smog there, too.
I felt like one of those cartoon characters where when you cough “dust” flies out of your mouth. One of my close travel mates blew her nose and it just came out black. And we were in a tour bus much of the time that was just from being outside seeing the monuments (and then getting herded back in the bus).
With the CNG and investments in public transport it seems that India is trying but the current state seems unimaginable to a Westerner. I really don’t think that I’d be able to survive in Delhi for an extended period of time since I have allergies unless I never left the house.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 14th October 2012 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
There is still considerable talk about global warming, or as it is now termed, “climate change.” California is about to destroy a large part of what is left of its economy by initiating a new “Cap and Trade” program that will spike energy costs and drive more employers from the state. New reports are casting more doubt on the reality of “climate change” and now there is more information that warming ended in 1997. The past two years have shown a definite cooling trend.
The world stopped getting warmer almost 16 years ago, according to new data released last week.
The figures, which have triggered debate among climate scientists, reveal that from the beginning of 1997 until August 2012, there was no discernible rise in aggregate global temperatures.
This means that the ‘plateau’ or ‘pause’ in global warming has now lasted for about the same time as the previous period when temperatures rose, 1980 to 1996. Before that, temperatures had been stable or declining for about 40 years.
There is even new debate among climate scientists.
Some climate scientists, such as Professor Phil Jones, director of the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, last week dismissed the significance of the plateau, saying that 15 or 16 years is too short a period from which to draw conclusions.
Others disagreed. Professor Judith Curry, who is the head of the climate science department at America’s prestigious Georgia Tech university, told The Mail on Sunday that it was clear that the computer models used to predict future warming were ‘deeply flawed’.
Even Prof Jones admitted that he and his colleagues did not understand the impact of ‘natural variability’ – factors such as long-term ocean temperature cycles and changes in the output of the sun. However, he said he was still convinced that the current decade would end up significantly warmer than the previous two.
Oct 2 (Reuters Point Carbon) – California Governor Jerry Brown has signed two bills related to the use of revenue raised through the sale of carbon allowances, although details of how the money will be spent won’t be determined until next year.
The bills are the first to address the estimated $660 million and $3 billion in revenue that will be generated during the first year of California’s carbon cap-and-trade scheme, which begins in January.
The first bill creates a new account for the revenue to be deposited into, and directs the Department of Finance and the California Air Resources Board (ARB) to develop an investment plan for the funds.
That plan, expected to be released in the spring of 2013, will be submitted for approval to the legislature as part of the governor’s budget and will be reviewed and updated on an annual basis.
It doesn’t matter that the state is going broke. Left wing pieties still rule California.
Around a decade or so ago a lot of things began to change in the world of residential HVAC (Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning). What I am going to discuss here is HVAC centric, but can apply across any industry where the government can (and does) make rules that on the surface mean “well” but in reality, just end up costing the consumer bucks$$$.
About five years or so, the manufacture of central air conditioners was mandated to be no less than thirteen SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Rating). The previous minimum was ten SEER.
On the surface, this doesn’t appear to cause too many problems, besides cost the consumers more money on their initial installation, since the 13 SEER product cost more money (more raw materials to get that energy savings). Sadly, the engineering and physics (which can’t be mandated) told us different.
From an article by Michael Prokup (sorry can’t find the link):
Older evaporator coils operate at lower temperatures and pressures than modern evaporator coils.
Without getting into too heavy of an engineering discussion, this means that basically, the new 13 SEER units won’t work well with the old evaporator coils that sit on top of the furnace. The air conditioning cycle uses condensation and evaporation of a chemical (at this time, it was R-22) to move the heat from inside the house to the outside. Moving from 10 SEER to 13 SEER changed the whole game. No longer could a contractor come to your house and simply replace the outside condensing unit – now the evaporator had to be replaced, adding a lot of cost to the job – especially if the inside unit was sheetrocked into a closet, or was in some other type of area that was difficult to access. Apartment building owners were also affected by this. Read the rest of this entry »
The included video interview with the journalist Emma Marris is interesting. She makes the reasonable points that 1) the environment is always changing, so determining a baseline for “pristine” is impossible, 2) humans are part of the environment and 3) many natural environments that we take for granted, such as Hawaiian forests, are populated heavily by “non-native” species that were introduced so long ago that no one now thinks to object to them. This is the environmentalist version of Saint-Exupéry’s observation that people who object to technology are typically objecting only to new technology.
Why is this mere partial sanity? Marris points out that the pythons are here to stay but doesn’t seem to consider whether allowing people to hunt them might be a good way to control the snake population. But perhaps I am being too critical.