Category Archives: Environment

Fossil Fuels’ Forthright Defender

Illustration: Ken Fallin

The last thing most CEOs want is to court the wrath of politicians like Sen. Elizabeth Warren. That’s especially true of oil and gas executives, who try to appease their political opponents by talking up investments in renewable energy. Toby Rice is the rare CEO who seems to enjoy the political combat.

The 40-year-old leads EQT Corp. , America’s largest natural-gas producer. Last November Ms. Warren, in her fashion, fired off letters accusing him and 10 other energy executives of “corporate greed” for exporting liquefied natural gas.

Mr. Rice’s fierce nine-page response was chock full of data refuting Ms. Warren’s claim that gas exports increase U.S. energy prices. That assertion, he wrote, is “without merit” and fosters “a narrative that politicizes natural gas and associated infrastructure in a manner that runs counter to one of our key collective goals, one we know you share—addressing climate change.”

Ms. Warren and her ideological compatriots style themselves champions of the little guy and the environment. Nonsense, Mr. Rice says: Their policies mean higher prices for consumers and more carbon emissions. “If you’re blocking pipelines, you’re blocking the biggest green initiative on the planet,” he says in a Zoom interview from his office in Carnegie, Pa., a former karate studio in a walk-up above a liquor store. In the background are colorful portraits of Andrew Carnegie, Nikola Tesla, Cornelius Vanderbilt, John D. Rockefeller and J.P. Morgan.

Mr. Rice is a general on the frontlines of an energy war whose outcome matters more than ever after Russian’s invasion of Ukraine. The anti-fossil-fuel left is waging a multifront campaign to keep natural gas “in the ground,” as activists like to say. Along with political efforts, they are leveraging the administrative state and courts to block new pipelines that are essential to deliver more natural gas to customers in the U.S. and overseas.

Energy companies have already given up on two major pipelines in the Northeast (PennEast and Atlantic Coast) in the past two years. Even after winning legal challenges at the Supreme Court, they faced mounting costs from permitting and legal challenges raising different objections. “The 4,000 pages of permits that we have to submit have created 4,000 opportunities for environmental groups to attack,” Mr. Rice says.

He cites the Mountain Valley pipeline, which aims to deliver cheap gas from Appalachia to the Southeast. A three-member panel of the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals keeps nitpicking the government’s environmental reviews, forcing the energy companies back to the permitting table. (The same three judges blocked the Atlantic Coast pipeline before the Supreme Court later reversed 7-2.)

The pipeline is more than 95% complete, and developers had aimed to bring it into service this summer. But litigation is delaying the final work and inflating costs. “They find themselves in a situation where that project cost was originally $3 billion budgeted. Now it’s $6 billion,” Mr. Rice says.

Meantime, the environment will suffer because of the delays. There will be more greenhouse-gas emissions, because the gas the pipelines transport would replace coal power on the electricity grid.

Solar and wind power could fill some but not all of the gap, as they depend on daylight and weather. Fossil fuel is a necessary backup. “I don’t think residents in South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia, Florida recognize that a pipeline is being challenged in West Virginia,” Mr. Rice says. “Their energy security is being challenged because of people attempting to block this pipeline.”

Matters are even worse in the Northeast, including Ms. Warren’s state of Massachusetts. Three large pipelines capable of transporting enough gas from Appalachia to serve more than 10 million households in the Northeast have been blocked. As a result, the region must import LNG from abroad at much higher prices to heat homes and power the grid in the winter. (The Jones Act of 1920, a protectionist regulation of maritime commerce, limits the ability to move American LNG from the Gulf Coast to Northern states.)

Natural-gas prices one weekend this January were eight times as high in New England as in Appalachia. “We’ll do a deal with Senator Warren: Build a pipeline to Appalachia, and we’ll fill it for you at Appalachia prices,” Mr. Rice says, adding that it boggles his mind “that New England is burning oil to create electricity” in the winter and “that over a third of the residents use oil to heat their homes.”

Ms. Warren was one of 10 Democratic senators, seven of them from the Northeast, who on Feb. 2 urged Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm “to take swift action to limit U.S. natural gas exports” to ease domestic energy prices. Mr. Rice shot off another blistering response, this time to Ms. Granholm. He made the point that an export ban would reduce the global LNG supply by roughly 22%, raising, not lowering, energy prices in New England and elsewhere.

“The problem is very straight forward,” he wrote: “The pipelines heading to New England are full, and as a result, we cannot physically flow that gas needed to meet growing demand without more infrastructure. That’s it. And the way to solve this problem is equally straight forward: allow the completion of pipeline projects.”

If Mr. Rice is more forthright than the typical CEO, perhaps it’s because he didn’t rise through the corporate ranks. In 2007 he and two of his brothers formed Rice Energy Inc. in his Pittsburgh apartment. Their father, a former BlackRock money manager with energy expertise, helped them scout land in Pennsylvania’s shale-rich country. “Our higher purpose back then—we were young guys with a lot of friends that fought in the war [in Iraq]—was, we wanted to help make America energy-independent,” he says.

The brothers bought drilling rights to some of the most productive land in Appalachia and built their company into one of the country’s top 10 natural gas producers. They also developed a colorful reputation. They played professional wrestler Hulk Hogan’s theme song, “Real American,” as the hold music at their headquarters, and named wells after monster trucks and comic book characters. When coal miner Alpha Natural Resources went bankrupt, they showed up at an asset auction donning Mickey Mouse T-shirts, shorts and blazers. (In our interview, alas, Mr. Rice is staid and professional in a white dress shirt.)

In 2014 the Rice brothers took their family-owned business public. A few years later, Rice Energy merged with rival Appalachian fracking company EQT to form the country’s largest natural-gas producer. Unhappy with EQT’s high costs, Mr. Rice and his brother Derek launched a proxy battle to nominate nine directors to the 12-member board. They won, and Mr. Rice became CEO.

“Giving people access to cheap, affordable, clean energy is the key to skyrocketing the quality of life,” he says. “There’s a very clear correlation: The more energy people use, the better the quality of life.” And that’s true everywhere in the world: “There’s three billion people around the world that have less electricity than it takes to run a fridge.”

He’s rolling now. “One thing I think that people don’t understand is how much energy demand there is in this world. And when solar and wind aren’t capable of meeting that energy demand, people will turn to their next option, which is coal,” he says. Annual emissions from coal are up 500 million tons over pre-pandemic 2019 levels: “To put that into perspective, that completely offsets all of the emission reductions we’ve done from solar and wind here in the United States in the last 15 years.”

When Russia slowed gas deliveries to Europe last fall, the Continent had few alternatives but to ramp up coal power. As gas prices surged amid a global supply shortage, Asian countries, especially China, burned more coal. Increased emissions from Chinese power and heating generation last year offset all emissions reductions in the rest of the world between 2019 and 2021. The world’s response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—barely three weeks after the senators wrote to Ms. Granholm—will further constrain fossil-fuel supply.

The only way for the U.S. to make a significant dent in greenhouse-gas emissions, Mr. Rice says, is increasing liquefied natural gas exports. By his calculations, the U.S. could increase gas production 50% and LNG exports fourfold over the next decade based on existing natural-gas plays. Replacing coal power overseas with American LNG, he says, would “have the environmental impact of electrifying every vehicle in the United States, putting solar on every household in America, and adding 54,000 industrial-scale windmills—like that would be double the U.S.’s wind capacity—combined.”

This could be done quickly and would require no technological breakthroughs. Already, he says, the climate impact of U.S. LNG exports replacing international coal over the past five years is greater than that of the U.S. solar industry from 2005 to 2019.

Most of the country’s 20 or so proposed LNG export facilities are on the Gulf Coast. But gas from Texas’ Permian Basin won’t be enough to supply them. So gas from Appalachia would have to be pushed through pipelines to the Gulf. Opponents will surely continue their effort to block any new pipelines. One solution is to build additional pipelines along rights of way for existing pipelines. That can fast-track permitting and minimize environmental disturbance. “There’s space in these right of ways to add another 3 feet worth of pipe,” he says.

The Biden administration’s energy policies are a study in contradiction. On one hand, the president says he wants to help wean Europe off Russian gas. On the other, his administration is making it harder to build more pipelines and LNG export terminals. The White House Council on Environmental Quality this week revised its National Environmental Policy Act regulations to require agencies to consider the “indirect” climate impact of infrastructure projects such as pipelines. That could make it nearly impossible to approve new pipelines.

Surging energy prices since the Ukraine invasion have led European politicians to recognize they can’t replace fossil fuels with renewables overnight. But American politicians haven’t received the wake-up call. “There’s signs of energy insecurity happening here in America too,” Mr. Rice says, pointing to New England’s high energy prices.

“I think, because a lot of people don’t see us—and that’s a good thing by the way, that’s by design—I think a lot of people maybe take us for granted,” he adds. “A lot of people maybe think that they can live in a world that doesn’t rely on hydrocarbons.” That goal is a long way off, if it’s possible at all.

Mr. Rice says his letters are intended to educate politicians. “When you attack oil and gas energy producers here in the United States, you’re attacking their customers, plain and simple,” he says. That makes “it harder for us to do what we do—and that’s to provide cheap, reliable, clean energy to the world. It’s going to have unintended consequences.”

Has he heard back from Ms. Warren? “Not yet. It’s been a couple of months. I’m still waiting for a conversation. I’m still optimistic.”

Ms. Finley is a member of the Journal’s editorial board.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/fossil-fuels-toby-rice-eqt-pipeline-natural-gas-lng-emissions-reduction-climate-change-warren-granholm-energy-prices-white-house-council-environmental-quality-11650634990?mod=opinion_major_pos7

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Billion-Dollar Network Is Playing Politics in America’s Energy Sector, Driving up Costs

The Epoch Times  12/27/2021

By Katabella Roberts and Joshua Philipp
December 23, 2021 Updated: December 23, 2021
biggersmaller

Environmental groups and advocates are spending billions of dollars every year playing politics with America’s energy sector while simultaneously driving up energy costs for Americans, according to Ken Braun, the senior investigative researcher at the Capital Research Center.

President Joe Biden has issued a series of executive orders since taking office in an effort to tackle the climate crisis, slash greenhouse gas emissions by more than 50 percent by 2030 and become carbon-neutral by 2050.

Biden says his “whole-of-government” approach to climate change “creates well-paying jobs, grows industries, and makes the country more economically competitive.”

While many have championed the president’s ambitious push toward green energy, he has also faced criticism from those working in the oil and gas industry, among others.

In an interview with EpochTV’s “Crossroads” program, Braun said that numerous companies, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, League of Conservation Voters, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, and more, are pumping a combined billion dollars a year into promoting so-called green energy, in line with the president’s push, and move away from nuclear energy.

However, such companies are failing to recognize those renewable energies, which are weather-dependent, are not always reliable, and can also be costly.

“Most of the environmental movement, upwards of more than 1,000 organizations are spending over a billion dollars per year, pretending to be environmental stewards who oppose nuclear energy and promote these wind and solar fantasies that are land hogs and really destructive to our environment, in order to create energy that really isn’t going to get the job done for us,” Braun said.

“You intuitively know that these things don’t work, when the sun’s not shining, which happens in most places between eight and 14 hours a day. And the winds not blowing, and we don’t really have the battery storage to hold this power,” Braun said. “So if you really are concerned about reducing our carbon footprint, nuclear energy is the only way that you’re going to accomplish it in a reliable, non-weather reliant way.”

Epoch Times Photo
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) speak during a press conference to announce Green New Deal legislation to promote clean energy programs outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, on Feb. 7, 2019. (Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images)
Biden
President Joe Biden looks at a wind turbine blade as he tours the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Arvada, Colo., on Sept. 14, 2021. (Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images)

Braun noted that such environmental companies are greatly exaggerating the risks associated with the use of nuclear energy and that they fail to talk about the risks that come from using renewable energy sources.

The senior researcher said studies have shown that nuclear energy is 351 times safer per megawatt-hour created than coal, 263 times safer than oil, and 40 times safer than natural gas, which he said means it is is “basically right down there with wind and solar, as far as its risk to people” goes.

“There are risks in wind turbines and solar panels that we don’t talk about, such as the predatory birds that just get chewed up by these windmills,” he said. “And the industry has pretty much declared it a trade secret. We can’t know how many of these things we’re killing. I would argue one bald eagle’s life is not worth an entire wind farm for what the wind farm gives us, versus how just glorious these birds are and should be protected. … But that’s the kind of environmentalist I am.”

“All of these organizations and some of a couple of those that I mentioned have 100 plus million dollar budgets. Most of the big ones you hear about are pretending to be environmentalists and hypocritically arguing against nuclear energy. … But they’re driving up energy costs on the rest of us by doing that. And so, they are distorting the market and they aren’t even accomplishing their goals,” Braun said.

“That’s major, that’s a billion dollars distorting our energy choices just making our problems worse and not doing anything to reduce carbon emissions, which is what all this billion dollars is supposed to be spent for,” he added.

“If our argument is that we are trying to reduce carbon emissions—if that’s important to you, as the Sierra Club and the Environmental Defense Fund … and all these environmental groups that are saying that this is their number one priority—if it’s really your number one priority, then you should be going to a crash nuclear program and saying all these subsidies that you’ve been telling to throw at wind and solar, you should be putting it into nuclear power. But that’s not the argument they make.”

https://www.theepochtimes.com/billion-dollar-network-is-playing-politics-in-americas-energy-sector-driving-up-costs-ken-braun_4174252.html?utm_source=News&utm_campaign=breaking-2021-12-27-1&utm_medium=email&est=pa9x5kzebKP1KjlHB9btTWKPcog6JXpHE4EAJdCufyx+b+1Ob7jbfI3LYzH4Gg==

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‘We Want Them to Go Bankrupt’

Here is the Democrat Party in plain sight. This is what they want for the USA. What do you think? mrossol

WSJ  11/20/2021

Saule Omarova continues to make the case against her nomination to be Comptroller of the Currency, as critics need only to quote her own words. The latest example is a video interview she gave in February in which the Cornell professor opined on “the case for a U.S. national investment authority.”

The conversation at one point turned to climate change and its impact on fossil-fuel producers, and Ms. Omarova was on the case. “A lot of the smaller players in that industry are going to, probably, go bankrupt in short order—at least, we want them to go bankrupt if we want to tackle climate change,” she said in the session that was part of the Jain Family Institute’s “Social Wealth Seminar” series.

She went on to say “that creates a lot of this sort of loss of jobs, a lot of displacement, and economic fallback that we cannot afford, really,” which is nice of her to concede. Bankruptcy isn’t painless, especially when the government drives you out of business.

But then she adds that the response would be to set up a National Capital Management Corporation that would “become a kind of equity investor at that point, taking over management of those companies and basically leading them through restructuring to a new technological basis and to a new technological business model.”

 

So first put private companies out of business “in short order,” then put government central planners to work to restructure them as the political class wants. Give Ms. Omarova credit for candor. Most progressives disguise their real intentions.

All of this matters because as Comptroller Ms. Omarova would have enormous authority to regulate banks. It’s clear from this interview that one of her policy ambitions is to deny capital to certain companies that she wants to go bankrupt. Senators will have to decide if they want the Comptroller to be a one-person systemic risk to the banking system.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/we-want-them-to-go-bankrupt-saule-omarova-comptroller-biden-nominee-11636668294?mod=hp_opin_pos_2#cxrecs_s

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Climate change is no catastrophe

UnHerd by Michael Shellenberger, November 3, 2021

No global problem has ever been more exaggerated than climate change. As it has gone from being an obscure scientific question to a theme in popular culture, we’ve lost all sense of perspective.

Here are the facts: in Europe, emissions in 2020 were 26% below 1990 levels. In the United States, emissions in 2020 were 22% below 2005 levels. Emissions are likely to start declining, too, in developing nations, including China and India, within the next decade. Most nations’ emissions will be bigger this year than last, due to post-Covid economic growth. But global emissions are still likely to peak within the next decade.

And the result will be a much smaller increase in global average temperatures than almost anyone predicted just five years ago. The best science now predicts that temperatures are likely to rise just 2.5-3°C above pre-industrial levels. It’s not ideal, but it’s a far cry from the hysterical and apocalyptic predictions of 6°C, made just a decade ago. A 3°C increase is hardly an existential threat to humanity.

Not that you’d know it, if you had half an eye on the headlines this summer. The floods, fires and heatwaves that plagued the world were, for many observers, proof that the impacts of climate change have already become catastrophic. In Europe, more than 150 people died in flooding. In the United States, wildfire season started earlier and lasted longer, razing hundreds of thousands of acres. Around the world, hundreds died from heatwaves.

But again, it’s worth reminding ourselves of the facts: there has been a 92% decline in the per decade death toll from natural disasters since its peak in the 1920s. In that decade, 5.4 million people died from natural disasters. In the 2010s, just 0.4 million did. Globally, the five-year period ending in 2020 had the fewest natural disaster deaths of any five-year period since 1900. And this decline occurred during a period when the global population nearly quadrupled — and temperatures rose more than 1°C degree centigrade above pre-industrial levels.

Suggested reading

The great climate change fallacy

By Tom Chivers

But then, 1°C is not that much. What determines whether people die in heat waves is not whether temperatures rose to 110°F — or even 115°F— instead of 109°F. It is whether or not they have air conditioning. Heat-related deaths have halved in the US since 1960 — even as the population expanded and heat waves grew in frequency, intensity, and length — because more and more people did.

Though climate alarmists steadfastly ignore it, our capacity to adapt is extraordinary. We are very good at protecting people from natural disasters — and getting better. To take just one example, France in 2006 had 4,000 fewer deaths from a heat wave than anticipated thanks to improved health care, an early-warning system and greater public consciousness in response to a deadly heat wave three years earlier. Even poor, climate-vulnerable nations like Bangladesh saw deaths from natural disasters decline massively thanks to low-cost weather surveillance and warning systems and storm shelters.

And today, our capability for modifying environments is far greater than ever before. Dutch experts today are already working with the government of Bangladesh to prepare for rising sea levels. The Netherlands, of course, became a wealthy nation despite one-third of its landmass being below sea level — sometimes by a full seven meters — as a result of the gradual sinking of its landscapes.

Global sea levels rose a mere 0.19 metres between 1901 and 2010. But the IPCC estimates sea levels will rise as much as 0.66 meters by 2100 in its medium scenario, and by 0.83 meters in its high-end scenario. Still, even if these predictions prove to be significant underestimates, the slow pace of sea level rise will likely allow societies ample time for adaptation.

Where the secondary effects of climate change do cause catastrophe, it’s often due to failures on the part of authorities. The extent of the devastation wrought by wildfires on the West Coast of America was, for instance, preventable. California has mismanaged its forests for decades — including by diverting money that the state’s electric utilities could and should have spent on clearing dead wood.

Given how good we are at mitigating the effects of natural disasters, it’s ironic that so many climate alarmists focus on them. It’s perhaps because the world’s most visually dramatic, fascinating events — fires, floods, storms — make their cause stick in the minds of voters. If it were acknowledged that heat deaths were due to lack of air conditioning and forest fires were due to the buildup of wood fuel after decades of fire suppression, alarmist journalists, scientists and activists would be deprived of the “news hooks” they need to scare people, raise money and advocate climate policies.

And not all climate alarmists are altruists. Elites have used the cause to justify efforts to control food and energy policies for more than three decades. Climate alarmists have successfully redirected funding from the World Bank and similar institutions away from economic development and toward charitable endeavours — which don’t power growth.

Suggested reading

Is this the end of the world?

By Doug Coupland

This is part of a common pattern: the people who claim to be most alarmed about climate change are the ones blocking its only viable solutions, natural gas and nuclear. This year’s increase in coal production is a case in point. China has been widely criticised for waiving environmental and safety regulations on its mining recently, in a mad rush to meet winter heating demands. But less attention has been paid to the fact that the increased demand is mostly due to climate activists’ efforts to prevent oil and gas development in Europe and the United States. Lack of natural gas is what led directly to China having to reopen coal mines — and to Europe, North America, and the rest of Asia having to burn more coal. Had climate activists not fought fracking in America and expanded oil and gas drilling in Europe, then we would not be experiencing its worst energy crisis in 50 years.

Meanwhile, the organisations claiming that climate change dooms poor Africans to war, drought and poverty — including the WWF, the World Economic Forum and the United Nations — are the ones seeking to deny poor Africans life-changing natural gas plants, hydro-electric dams, and funding for fertiliser, roads and tractors. It goes without saying that all those organisations are dominated by rich, white Westerners.

The truth is that prosperity and environmental progress go hand in hand. Reductions in carbon emissions came from fracking and off-shore natural gas drilling; both lowered electricity prices, too. Technological innovation like this lowers energy prices, which reduces natural resource use, moving humans from wood to coal to natural gas to uranium. So it’s better to see growth — such a bogeyman to Team Green — as a solution, rather than a problem.

Instead of putting the brakes on, we should be facilitating more innovation, prosperity and wealth. For instance, the melodramatic UN’s own Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) concludes, as do all reputable analysts, that future food production, especially in poor African nations, will depend more on access to technology, irrigation and infrastructure than on climate change — these are the things that made all the difference, last century, in today’s rich nations. Humans today produce enough food for ten billion people, a 25% surplus. And even the FAO suggests that we’ll produce even more, under a wide range of climate change scenarios.

Indeed, the best available economic modelling finds that, by 2100, the global economy will be three to six times larger than it is today, and that the costs of adapting to a high (4°C) temperature rise would reduce gross domestic product by just 4.5%. Why kill ourselves trying to eliminate a problem that just isn’t that severe?

Suggested reading

Eco-fascism is our future

By Paul Kingsnorth

Consider the other threats humankind has recently been forced to cope with. In July 2019, NASA announced it had been caught by surprise when a “city-killer” asteroid passed by — just one-fifth of the distance between Earth and the Moon. In December 2019, a volcano unexpectedly erupted in New Zealand, killing 21 people. And in 2020 and 2021, four million people died from coronavirus.

While nations take reasonable actions to detect and avoid asteroids, super-volcanoes, and deadly flus, they generally don’t take radical actions — for the simple reason that doing so would make societies poorer and less capable of confronting all major challenges. Richer nations are more resilient, which is part of the reason why disasters have declined. When a hurricane hits Florida, it might kill no one, but when that same storm hits Haiti, thousands can die instantly through drowning — and thousands more subsequently, in disease epidemics like cholera. The difference is that Florida can afford to prepare properly, and Haiti can’t.

The richer the world gets, the better it will cope, then. But the climate alarmists have taken against economic growth. According to their holy scripture, the industrial revolution, powered by fossil fuels, was our fall — and the consequence is, according to the United Nations, “extinction.” The only alternative is puritan: don’t eat meat and don’t fly. There are even indulgences, for the wealthy who feel guilty, in the form of carbon offsets sold through the airlines.

This is the heart of the matter: climate alarmism is powerful because it has emerged as the alternative religion for supposedly secular people, providing many of the same psychological benefits as traditional faith. It offers a purpose — to save the world from climate change — and a story that casts the alarmists as heroes. And it provides a way for them to find meaning in their lives — while retaining the illusion that they are people of science and reason, not superstition and fantasy.

Naturally, as a religion, climate change has a fraudulent aspect. Some offsets pay rich landowners not to cut down trees they could not profitably cut down anyway. Exposed, the climate religion seeks to censor. The American government’s Forest Service has repeatedly silenced one of California’s most published and respected scientists, Malcolm North, who stressed to me and other reporters that the cause of high-intensity forest fires is not climate change, but rather wood fuel. The Center for American Progress, which raises tens of millions from natural gas, renewable energy, and financial interests, has been pressuring Facebook to censor critics of renewable energy.

It’s working: few people have a realistic understanding of climate change. Few consider whether, at its current rates, it might be less dangerous than efforts to mitigate it.

https://unherd.com/2021/11/climate-change-will-not-be-catastrophic/?1637012238158

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