Category Archives: Global Warming

The Social Benefits of Fossil Fuels – WSJ

Yes, let’s put all the benefits on the table.
By Joseph L. Bast and Peter Ferrara
June 17, 2018 1:58 p.m. ET

As several cities continue their suit against oil companies, The People of the State of California v. BP, Judge William Alsup has boiled the case down to its pivotal question. In March he ordered the legal counsels of both parties to help him weigh “the large benefits that have flowed from the use of fossil fuels” against the possibility that such fuels may be causing global warming.

We sent the judge, and posted online, a 24-page document that answers his question. The benefits of oil, coal and gas are rarely acknowledged by environmental activists, who seek to regulate and tax these fuel sources out of existence. But an honest accounting shows that fossil fuels produce enormous social value that far outweighs their costs.

First, fossil fuels are lifting billions of people out of poverty, and in turn improving health. “The most fundamental attribute of modern society is simply this,” writes historian Vaclav Smil in his 2003 book on energy: “Ours is a high energy civilization based largely on combustion of fossil fuels.”

Fossil fuels, and coal in particular, provided the energy that powered the Industrial Revolution. Today, coal plants still produce most of the electricity that powers high-tech manufacturing equipment and charges mobile computing devices.

The alternative energy sources environmental activists favor are generally more expensive. Energy economists Thomas Stacey and George Taylor calculate that wind power costs nearly three times as much as existing coal generation and 2.3 times as much as combined-cycle gas. There is a negative correlation between energy prices and economic activity. A 2014 survey of economic literature by Roger Bezdek calculates that a 10% increase in U.S. electricity prices would eliminate approximately 1.3% of gross domestic product.

Cheap energy from fossil fuels also improves human well-being by powering labor-saving and life-protecting technologies, such as air-conditioning, modern medicine, and cars and trucks. Environmental activists often claim that prosperity speeds the depletion of resources and destruction of nature, but the opposite is true. As Ronald Bailey writes in “The End of Doom”: “It is in rich democratic capitalist countries that the air and water are becoming cleaner, forests are expanding, food is abundant, education is universal, and women’s rights respected.”

Fossil fuels have increased the quantity of food humans produce and improved the reliability of the food supply. The availability of cheap energy revolutionized agriculture throughout the world, making it possible for an ever-smaller proportion of the labor force to raise food sufficient to feed a growing global population without devastating nature or polluting air or water.

Fossil-fuel emissions create additional benefits, contributing to the greening of the Earth. A 2017 study published in Nature magazine found that the global mass of land plants grew 31% during the 20th century. African deserts are blooming thanks to fossil fuels.

Finally, if fossil fuels are responsible for a significant part of the warming recorded during the second half of the 20th century, then they should also be credited with reducing deaths due to cold weather. Medical researchers William Richard Keatinge and Gavin Donaldson assessed this effect in a 2004 study. “Since heat-related deaths are generally much fewer than cold-related deaths, the overall effect of global warming on health can be expected to be a beneficial one.”

They estimate the predicted temperature rise in Britain over the next 50 years will reduce cold-related deaths by 10 times the number of increased heat-related deaths. Other research shows climate change has exerted only a minimal influence on recent trends in vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue fever and diseases spread by ticks.

Altogether, fossil fuels have produced huge benefits for mankind, many of which continue today. But advocates of alternative energy sources usually manage to omit or diminish many of these benefits when calculating fossil fuels’ “social cost.”

Thankfully, President Trump and congressional Republicans understand that the costs of fossil fuels must be weighed against their substantial benefits. They have decided wisely not to carry on the “war on fossil fuels” waged by the Obama administration, congressional Democrats and their Golden State allies.

Messrs. Bast and Ferrara are senior fellows at the Heartland Institute.


A Libel Suit Threatens Catastrophe

If the left wants to take off the gloves, perhaps that is what should happen.
WSJ Feb. 5, 2017 8:16 p.m. ET

The First Amendment provides robust protection for political and scientific debate, but it faces a new threat from a climate activist determined to silence his critics. In a case pending before the District of Columbia Court of Appeals, Penn State professor Michael Mann is waging an aggressive campaign of lawfare, accusing of defamation those who dare to question his work. So far, the courts have given this assault on free speech a green light.

Mr. Mann is famous as the creator of the “hockey stick” graph, which portrays a dramatic trend in global warming over the past century. Numerous critics have cast doubt on the quality and accuracy of his work. They argue that his historical temperature proxies are unreliable, his data presentation misleading, and his statistical techniques skewed.

Even among those who support the theory of global warming, some have singled out Mr. Mann’s work as sloppy and exaggerated. David Hand, a former president of Britain’s Royal Statistical Society, has written that Mr. Mann’s technique “exaggerated the size of the blade at the end of the hockey stick,” which corresponds to the 20th-century temperature rise.

Not content to answer his critics in the public square, Mr. Mann has sued them. One target of his lawsuit is the political magazine National Review, which published a 270-word blog post criticizing Mr. Mann as “the man behind the fraudulent . . . ‘hockey-stick’ graph.” His lawsuit objects to the magazine’s decision to quote a critic who wrote that Mr. Mann “could be said to be the Jerry Sandusky of climate science, except that instead of molesting children, he has molested and tortured data.”

National Review moved to dismiss the suit, citing a phalanx of Supreme Court precedent. The Constitution obviously does not allow crippling damages to be imposed for voicing one’s opinion, however vehemently or caustically. Punishing such criticism because a jury disagrees with it does not aid the search for truth, but impedes it by stifling conflicting views. As the liberal Justice William Brennan observed: “Truth may not be the subject of either civil or criminal sanctions where discussion of public affairs is concerned.” Such speech “is the essence of self-government.”

As a federal court once put it in the particular context of scientific controversies: “More papers, more discussions, better data, and more satisfactory models—not larger awards of damages—mark the path toward superior understanding of the world around us.” Even a meritless defamation suit can be an effective weapon to intimidate critics and shut down debate through ruinous litigation costs.

In this case the trial court refused to dismiss Mr. Mann’s libel suit. Judge Natalia Combs Greene ruled that the defamation claims were “likely” to succeed because “to call his work a sham or to question his intellect and reasoning is tantamount to an accusation of fraud,” when in fact Mr. Mann “has been investigated by several bodies (including the EPA)” which determined that his research was “sound and not based on misleading information.” For procedural reasons, the case was reassigned to Judge Frederick Weisberg, who largely adopted Judge Greene’s reasoning.

Appellate courts, which exist to reverse such legal error, in this case compounded it. National Review was supported in friend-of-the-court briefs by such unlikely allies as the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Washington Post and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Yet a panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals—Judges Vanessa Ruiz,Corinne Beckwith and Catharine Easterly—held in December that Mr. Mann’s suit should proceed to a jury. The court again relied on various “official” investigations that had cleared Mr. Mann of misconduct, including an inquiry by the federal government. Speech that disagrees with the government is at the core of the First Amendment’s protection—though not in this court’s topsy-turvy world.

National Review has filed a petition for rehearing along with its co-defendants, the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Rand Simberg. If the full court of appeals does not correct the error and end this assault on the First Amendment, the case will doubtless proceed to the Supreme Court.

Those hoping Mr. Mann prevails because they agree with him about global warming are missing the point. If he succeeds in diminishing the right to free speech, he and his fellow climate activists have just as much to lose. Mr. Mann has attacked his critics for peddling “pure scientific fraud,” engaging in what he calls “the fraudulent denial of climate change,” and taking “corporate payoffs for knowingly lying about the threat climate change posed to humanity.” He accused Fox News of trying to “mislead its viewers” through a “deceptive” report about climate change.

None of this is particularly polite, but it is common in the cut-and-thrust of public debate. If such caustic criticism is now to be fair game for legal action, big oil companies and other well-heeled interests can launch their own lawsuits asking juries in Texas or Oklahoma to silence Mr. Mann and his allies.

The logic of Mr. Mann’s position threatens to convert political and scientific debate into a litigation free-for-all, with all sides seeking to sue one another into submission instead of resolving differences through the free exchange of ideas. For those who care about the spirit of open inquiry at the heart of the scientific enterprise, it is scarcely possible to imagine a greater legal disaster than the prospect of Mr. Mann’s succeeding on his claims.

Messrs. Carvin and Dick are Washington lawyers. They represent National Review in Mr. Mann’s lawsuit.


What Al Gore told Trump

WSJ 12/10/2016

During the decades we’ve been waiting for actual climate data to validate or invalidate our climate models (we’re still waiting), at least one phenomenon has been reliably observed. This is the political domestication and cooptation of the once-vexing global warming hypothesis.

A pioneering shaman of this transmutation was BP CEO John Browne, who in the 1990s declared his company “beyond petroleum,” then proceeded on a series of mergers that made it an even bigger petroleum company. GE, Ford, DuPont and others quickly lined up behind a U.S. capand- trade bill. There can be something for everybody in treating carbon dioxide as a problem, they realized. That is, as long as nobody is so crazy (wink, wink) as to actually try to slow down materially the amount of CO2 going into the atmosphere.

Which brings us to President elect Trump’s meeting this week with Al Gore.

Details weren’t released but we can be pretty sure of the message Mr. Gore delivered. It’s the message he’s been delivering since President Obama’s election in 2008: Climate change no longer requires any painful root-canal actions. No need for unpopular energy taxes or giving up our energy-rich lifestyles.

The problem can be solved with handouts to the green energy lobby. Who doesn’t like distributing handouts?

A credulous piece in the New York Times tells us Elon Musk makes a “compelling case” that Tesla would be better off without federal subsidies yet the paper doesn’t tell us what the case is. Here it is: Mr. Musk would certainly be better off without federal fuelmileage mandates that cause his competitors to make and dump electric cars on the market at a $9,000 loss. But those rules aren’t going away even under President Trump. And there is no sign Mr. Musk is eager to do without his own subsidies. He was last seen berating the California Air Resources Board for failing to create enough “zero-emission” credits to suit Tesla.

A new study from Arthur D. Little finds that, over its lifecycle, an electric car will generate just 23% fewer greenhouse gas emissions than a gasoline-powered car. If every car on earth were electric, this translates into a mere 1.8% decline in total emissions.

Forget climate change. Green handouts have become a political end in themselves.

Yet even a small electric car will cost its owner $20,816 more to own and operate than a comparable gas-powered car, and its total “human toxicity”—mainly due to heavy metals and graphite—will be three to five times greater.

This is hardly the first study to demonstrate that electric cars solve no environmental problem. Will it make a difference? No. We’re way beyond that now.

News reports say Ivanka Trump organized the Gore meeting, undoubtedly due to her keen nose for the social incentives that make complying with the climate narrative a no-lose proposition for the kind of people who have a Manhattan socialite’s ear.

Kara Alaimo, an assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University, in a Bloomberg News oped this week stated that Exxon sells a product that “scientists have proven threatens the continuation of human life on earth”—an idiotic statement that no scientist would make and yet is the kind of thing that passes uncontested these days.

Which is ironic since the science has just started to get interesting again.

In its latest report, issued in 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change expanded the range of uncertainty regarding future warming— and in the direction of less warming.

It abandoned its central forecast, in its 2007 report, of 3 degrees Centigrade of warming. Now it issues no central forecast.

It said in 2007 that a warming as slight as 1.5 degrees was “very unlikely.” Now it puts the bottom stop at 1 degree.

The latest climate models are backing off on the size of “climate sensitivity.” This implies climate change will be smaller and less severe than earlier estimates.

Even less noticed, it implies a higher, more astronomical cost for avoiding any given amount of warming.

If climate sensitivity is high, you might have to avoid only 50% of future emissions to avoid 2 degrees of warming. If climate sensitivity is low, as increasingly seems the case, you might have to avoid 100% of future emissions to avoid just 0.5 degrees of warming.

Don’t expect to hear about this in the mainstream media for a decade or so, and then only because today’s editors and reporters have retired. The climate reporting industry has long since given itself over to propaganda rather than actually reporting on climate science.

The larger lesson here isn’t about climate change. It’s about democratic sclerosis. It’s about the endless multiplication of v


Green Elites Face Trump Threat

I do hope Mr Trump gets into this space.
WSJ 11/9/2016

Whatever you think of Donald Trump, his candidacy represents an important opportunity. It’s a chance to dismiss a very particular elite about whom it could be said, borrowing from Cromwell, “For any good you have been doing . . . in the name of God, go!”

We are referring, of course, to America’s green-energy elite.

With a Hillary Clinton victory on Tuesday, America’s ludicrous Tesla subsidies would be certain to continue—because so many Democratic politicians aligned with the company, especially in California, are themselves too big to fail.

Washington’s Kafkaesque fuel mileage rules would only become more Kafkaesque. By forcing car makers and their customers to invest in economically unjustified fuel-saving technology, they’ve already perversely contributed to last summer’s breaking of a decade-old record for miles traveled and fuel burned.

Ethanol’s alleged greenhouse benefits have long since been scientifically debunked. Its putative contribution to America’s “energy security” has been rendered a joke by the fracking revolution. Never mind. Corn farmers like a handout, and corn-state senators like being re-elected. The cost to American motorists: $10 billion a year.

And making sure it remains so—we hardly needed the latest WikiLeaks dump to tell us—have been a handful of activist hedge-fund billionaires like Tom Steyer and Nat Simons. In the recent dump of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chief John Podesta, we see these men, in return for being willing to write fourfigure checks to Democratic candidates, fishing for reassurance that policies that cost the American people billions, with no benefits, will be embraced by the next Democratic administration.

We see climate saints like Bill McKibben and Joe Romm conspiring at their behest to silence a scientist for saying perfectly accurate things about the lack of evidence for a worsening of extreme weather events. We see Mr. Podesta himself trying to orchestrate a media mugging of liberal Harvard Law Prof. Larry Tribe for representing the coal industry.

And to what end, exactly?

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, is hardly a green-energy naysayer. Yet last week he estimated that even if electric vehicles accounted for half of global auto sales (currently EVs account for less than 1%), oil consumption would nevertheless continue to rise because the “demand growth is not coming from cars, it’s from trucks, aviation and the petrochemical industry and we don’t have major alternatives to oil products there.”

Mr. Birol politely failed to mention that the climate effect would also be nil, because these electric cars would be running on coal. China, the world’s biggest consumer of electric vehicles, fires up a new coal plant at the rate of one or two per week and will do so for years to come.

President Obama’s “clean power plan,” costing upward of $200 billion over the next 15 years, will have no discernible effect on temperatures even a century hence. A catastrophic idiocy has informed Europe’s favoritism toward diesel cars: In return for trivial CO2 gains, it got dirtier air in its cities. The Nature Conservancy, in a 2009 study, finds that even a modest U.S cap-and-trade program of the sort preached by greenies would require “an area larger than the state of Nebraska” for biofuels, wind and solar.

And still the effect would be meaningless: A 100% cut in U.S. emissions, by the standard climate sensitivity estimate, would influence temperatures by less than 0.2 degrees centigrade a century from now.

Even a carbon tax—the sensible policy—would offer no help unless the technological possibility already exists of meeting human needs with alternative energy at a price competitive with fossil fuels. If so, such technology will be forthcoming anyway for market reasons.

All this might be terrifically worrisome if climate change fears were soundly established by science. They aren’t. Al Gore-like forecasts of doom rely on doubtful computer simulations. As the International Panel on Climate Change delicately phrases it, numerous possible paths for future temperature are in rough “agreement with observations.” This is a roundabout way of saying that the observations have been unable to discern an effect, if any, of human- scale emissions on global temperature.

But then policies in a democracy are not sustained by their rationale. They are sustained by vested interests. Mr. Trump may be rude, crude, and largely visionless to boot. Yet purely by virtue of being out of sympathy with such elites his election would go a long way to de-corrupting America at least as far as energy policy is concerned.

We could still hope for action from Hillary Clinton on tax reform and other worthwhile pieces of the American agenda, but we will have missed an opportunity in this election to rein in perhaps the most dishonest, self-serving interest group of any in the American pageant.

A chance to clean up rampant cronyism in the energy sector won’t soon return.