American Elephants

What Do They Believe? Who Is Telling the Truth? How Do You Tell? by The Elephant's Child

What people believe matters.  In general, rural people are apt to be climate skeptics.  I’m not speaking of people who live in small towns, for they live much the same lives as their counterparts in cities. When I speak of rural people, I’m talking about farmers, ranchers and others whose livelihood depends on daily interaction with the weather.  A late freeze or early frost can mean a ruined crop, windstorms can play havoc. an unexpected hard rain can destroy a crop just before harvest.

These people check the weather when they get up in the morning and before they go to bed.  They listen to the weather forecast with far more attention than a decision about what to wear tomorrow would warrant.  And they may get up in the middle of the night to plow before the snow gets too deep.

For you city people: a farmer raises crops, a rancher raises animals.  What they have in common is their dependence on the weather and its variability. They are  natural skeptics about global warming.  When “experts” panic because global temperature has increased by one degree over the past century, rural people are amazed.  They adapt to hundred-degree temperatures in summer, below zero temperatures in winter, everything Mother Nature has in her bag of tricks in between, and recognize that you can’t do anything about the weather except adapt to it.

Rural people have deep knowledge of the environment.  They know one weed from another, and which birds are pests and which to welcome. They know what grows where, and when to harvest a crop. They know about lightning strikes, and bear and deer and cougar.  And they know when some species has grown so numerous that they have become predators rather than an occasional nuisance, and are impatient with city people’s desire to protect the cute wild animals.

I am one of those natural skeptics, raised in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains at a little over 4000′ elevation.  I’ve had lightning strike a few hundred yards away, experienced flood that took out needed buildings, shot predators and heard a cougar scream. I’ve killed rattlesnakes, been attacked by a great horned owl, trod on an eel in the river, been snowed in, and put up ice in an icehouse.  I hope you are suitably impressed.

When city councils are told by authorities that modern man’s abuse of the environment is creating  noxious gasses that are messing up the atmosphere and causing the earth to warm, the seas to rise — you know the rest — they are apt to believe. They have neither the time nor the inclination to search out the scientific literature.  When city people are told that a species in endangered, they are concerned.  They don’t appreciate the vastness of the natural world, nor how hard it is to tell how many of a species exist.

So you have a Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), who introduced the Waxman-Markey climate bill.  Does he believe in his environmental bill, does he think he is saving the earth, does he want more government control, does he need to please Leonardo Di Caprio and Barbra Streisand, or all of the above?

Corporations find that free government money will raise their bottom line more reliably than investing their own money.  Do the executives at GE believe that they are saving the world with the wind farms they build?

Does President Obama actually believe that he is creating a “clean, green economy” and creating “green” jobs, or is he simply doing paybacks to the environmental lobby for their support?  Does he believe that shutting down the carbon-based economy will force people to accept his green policies?  Does he understand that his green policies have been tried extensively in Europe and failed?

Some scientists have found that government grants, wealth and fame come along with a good grant proposal, and the intention of studying the science involved. When all the goodies threaten to vanish with admission that the temperature record does not support their alarm, the computer programs they devised become more authoritative than straightforward evidence. Do they truly believe that the world is threatened or is it their bank accounts?

As the people in the Windfall trailer warn, you have to do your homework.  We cannot know what these people really believe, nor what their aims really are.  If you are well-informed you can make educated guesses, and have greater influence on policy.  Nobody said it was easy.

…And They Think We’re Stupid???? by The Elephant's Child

This is a trailer for a documentary that premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. It observes the residents of Meredith, New York, an upstate farm community who allowed wind turbines on their land. They had the promise of green energy (false promises), monetary compensation (not nearly enough), and very little understanding of what the presence of the turbines meant. The Wall Street Journal’s review is here.

An eight-page October 25 memorandum to the President, written by departing economist Larry Summers, and senior aides Carol Browner and Ron Klain, has been going around Capitol Hill and industry circles for the past week.  The three examine an interagency dispute about Energy Dept. subsidies for “renewable”power,” which DOE claimed were being held up by joint Treasury and White House budget office (OMB) reviews.

The stimulus made the government into the world’s largest private equity firm (or angel).  DOE now has $6 billion in stimulus funds to guarantee loans and the department can convert an energy investment tax credit equal to 30% of the cost of a project into a direct cash grant to “green” developers.

The Summers memo notes that these two provisions alone “reduce the cost of a new wind farm by about 55% and solar technologies by about half compared to a case without subsidies.”  Taxpayers are silent majority partners who get no upside.

DOE wanted the White House to get OMB and Treasury out of deal-by-deal oversight so they could get money out the door quicker.  They were getting attacked for slow implementation, and impatient Democrats had already raided the $6 billion fund to pay for cash for clunkers.

OMB and Treasury found big problems with the “economic integrity of government support for renewables.”  Developers had almost no “skin in the game” — their equity was far below standards in the private market, and they also getting loan guarantees.  The loan guarantees were for projects that were “likely to move forward without credit support” from the stimulus because of other subsidy programs.

“Rent seeking” refers to the process by which a corporation lobbies for government funding instead of doing an honest day’s work in the private sector.  And the very biggest cheese of rent seeking is General Electric.  Treasury and OMB called attention to an 845-MW wind farm in Oregon called Shepherds Flat, that DOE had guaranteed — a $1.9 billion installation of 338 General Electric turbines.  When you combine the stimulus and state and federal subsidies, the total taxpayer cost is about $1.2 billion, while sponsors General Electric and Caithness Energy LLC invested equity of only 11%.  As they say: “Such a deal!”

The memo notes that the wind farm could sell power at “above-market rates” because of Oregon’s renewable energy mandate, which requires utilities to buy a certain annual amount of wind, solar and whatever else is masquerading as “green.”

At this point, please read “Why Windpower Doesn’t Work” just below.  It is really hard to know just who believes what.  Do some of these parties believe that “global climate disruption” is a real threat?  Do they believe that there are “green jobs” in these projects?  Do they believe that wind energy means less CO2 gets into the atmosphere?  Do they believe that CO2 is a pollutant?  Do they believe that wind energy lessens our support on “foreign oil?” Do they believe that wind energy will mean that we don’t need to drill for our own “dirty oil?” Not one of these fantasies is true, but there are lots of foolish true believers.

Reductions in CO2 per ton from the project “would have to be valued at nearly $130 per ton for the climate benefits to equal the substitutes.” And as my previous piece notes, there aren’t really any reductions in CO2, nor are reductions in CO2 desirable in any case.

So we have the government (us) paying for 65% of a project that doesn’t meet its ordinary cost-benefit test.  Then the White House has to referee when one of the world’s largest corporations (GE) begs the Administration to move faster by threatening to find a private financial substitute like any normal business.  This is “rent seeking,” “corporate-welfare,” and government fraud.  The taxpayers are putting up the stimulus funds, the tax incentives, the loan guarantees, and the funds in their state for the renewable energy mandates. They are paying more when they get their electricity bill — and to top it all off, the government demands that they save teeny amounts by switching all their light fixtures to accept CFL bulbs and buy only CFL bulbs.

Summers, Klain and Browner seem to be on the side of the adults and propose reforms, but they also point out that “Failing to make progress on renewables loan guarantees cold upset the Hill, Sen. Bingaman (D-NM), Speaker Pelosi, and signal the failure of a Recovery Act program that has been featured prominently by the Administration.”

ADDENDUM: General Electric was not happy with the editorial from the Wall Street Journal referenced here.  They do too “have skin in the game.”  They are investing millions of dollars of their very own money.  The Shepherds Flat project, already under construction, provides “upside” to taxpayers through the jobs created and through the tax revenue for local, state and federal jurisdictions during constriction and operation.    “Such projects also provide environmental benefits, avoiding greenhouse-gas emissions and fossil-fuel depletion.  They help national security by reducing our dependence on imported fuel and boost the U.S.’s competitive position.”

We just established that these projects do NOT avoid greenhouse-gas emissions, but actually increase them.  They don’t save any fossil fuels.  And can we once and for all get it straight.  Wind farms produce electricity.  Electric power doesn’t come from our dependence on imported fuel, it is produced by our very own hydroelectric plants,  natural gas, coal-fired power plants and nuclear plants.  The foreign fuel is petroleum, which powers our transportation.  Don’t let them get away with nonsensical claims.

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