Beijing Power Players Poised To Pull Plug On Prospects To Go ‘All-Electric’

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

Editors’ Note:  Even if one accepts the dubious proposition that carbon emissions cause global warming, it seems to us almost insane to wreck America’s energy infrastructure, while giving China a free pass on coal-fired plants until 2030. All of the U.S. sacrifices would do nothing to improve the situation as China is the main contributor to the problem. You wind up with the worst of both outcomes: the climate does not improve and we placed ourselves at the mercy of the Chinese Communist Party. It is naive to think the Chinese Communist Party would alter its ambitions because they feel the need to copy America’s supposed righteous behavior.

 

Feckless far-left fantasies of trading away the 80% of American fossil-fueled energy independence and prosperity for technologies that are 80% dependent on China’s rare earth materials makes for a gullible green new deal that only Beijing beneficiaries can love.

Included are 17 indispensable metals including lithium, that will be needed to supply those so-called green “technologies to decarbonize industry and power.”

Such 21st Century technologies are used in the manufacture of domestic and strategic military airplanes, computers and smart phones; electricity generation and transmission systems; advanced weapon guidance systems; and yes, those solar panels, wind turbines, and batteries for utility-scale energy storage and electric vehicles (EVs).

To the inevitable delight of Beijing oligarchs, Biden’s new policy priority focuses on a singular issue above all else that plays entirely to their advantage … namely to forego American energy independence for China’s support in promoting the administration’s climate crisis-premised agendas.

China is reportedly known to be looking into strategies to leverage its control of rare earths against competitive Western interests. Last January, according to the Financial Times, their Ministry of Industry and Information proposed draft controls where industry executives were asked to assess how U.S. and European companies could be affected if Beijing decided to cut rare-earth exports during a bilateral dispute.

A Chinese government adviser told the Financial Times that one of the topics discussed was whether the U.S. “may have trouble making F-35 fighter jets if China imposes an export ban.”

Meanwhile, as President Biden and his handlers have re-upped the U.S. in the Paris Climate Accord and called for slashing our greenhouse emissions by 50% or more by 2030 over the 2005 level, China, the largest CO2-emitter gets a free pass to continue ramping up its coal development until 2030.

Last year, China built over three times as much new coal power capacity as all other countries in the world combined — the equivalent of one large coal plant per week.

The Biden administration’s vainglorious holy war on hydrocarbons exemplified by capping off the Keystone XL pipeline, canceling oil and gas permitting on federal lands and waters, and this month suspending drilling leases in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge will vastly increase Beijing’s rare earth leverage and control over our national economy and security.

An unnecessary irony is that many of those “rare earths” aren’t truly all that rare.

Whereas China only actually possesses about an estimated one-third of global rare earth reserves, America also has an abundance of these natural resources.

The big problem is that environmental opposition to mining these dirty materials needed to create that “clean energy” has resulted in a regulatory minefield of local, state, and federal rules that have turned permitting into a costly decades-long process.

Lawmakers have all but banned rare earth mineral exploration and development on materials-rich federal lands, and the few once-active mines have been shuttered largely due to compliance costs.

Making matters even worse, many of the rare earths mined in the USA are processed in the People’s Republic of China because it’s cheaper to have them do it than to pay for American regulatory environmental and workplace safety costs.

Shortage pains will worsen as Democrat plans to transform America’s transportation to 100% EVs dramatically add to power demands, dependence on rare earth imports, and auto industry trade deficits.

In January 2020, Tesla Inc. kicked off production of its first vehicle manufactured outside the U.S. in its new $2 billion Shanghai, China factory.

GM, China’s second-biggest foreign automaker, is aiming to offer four models as it looks to improve its brand image and support a sales recovery: Chevrolet’s Tahoe and Suburban, Cadillac’s Escalade, and the GMC Yukon Denali.

Ford announced plans last January to manufacture its Mustang Mach-E, an all-electric SUV, in China.

In addition to providing a large automotive sales market, China will maintain a chokehold over batteries needed for U.S. EV and hybrid production everywhere.

A report from Securing America’s Future Energy indicates that China currently controls nearly 70% of electric vehicle battery manufacturing capacity, compared to just 10% by the U.S.

The report projects that 107 of the 142 EV battery manufacturing projects scheduled by 2021 will be in China… with only nine in the U.S.

Add to this disaster-in-waiting that Taiwan – a central target of exploitive Chinese Communist Party territorial ambitions – produces 92% of the world’s most sophisticated sub-7 nanometer semiconductor computer chips which form the backbone of many sectors in the rapidly evolving digital economy, ranging again from automotive – to smartphones – to advanced weapons systems.

The island is home to Taiwan Semiconductor CO. (TSMC), the world’s largest foundry and go-to producer of chips for Apple Inc. smartphones, artificial intelligence and high-performance computing.

Taiwan’s importance to the international auto industry recently became too important to ignore as shortfalls of chips used for everything from parking sensors to emission reduction recently forced carmakers including the U.S. Ford Motor Co., Germany’s Volkswagen AG, and Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. to halt production.

Although the United States lacks a formal diplomatic relationship with Taiwan, we maintain unofficial ties with the self-ruled island under a 1979 Taiwan Relations Act which authorizes the U.S. to provide defensive military equipment through a nonprofit corporation called the American Institute in Taiwan which serves as a de facto American embassy.

Nevertheless, Washington has always been cautious about provoking a major confrontation with Beijing over Taiwan’s sovereignty, a circumstance which can be expected to be particularly true with the current White House.

President Biden and his B Team are transparently desperate in seeking China President Xi Jinping’s symbolic support for their obsessive Paris partnership.

We can also but imagine that Biden Family Inc. isn’t anxious to risk ugly Beijing extortion blowback regarding legendary foreign influence-peddling demons known to be residing in Hunter’s laptop from Hell.

Altogether, team Biden’s clueless climate crisis-premised carbon-cutting cooperation canard awards huge gifts to China.

First, Beijing gains leverage over America in establishing unserious and unrealistic CO2 emission concessions as key bargaining chits in bilateral economic and trade policies.

In concert with a weak and compliant U.S. president, Chinese oligarchs then gleefully watch as America abandons its rich hydrocarbon resource advantages to eliminate competition from an economic and military adversary.

On top of all this, the Chinese Communist Party gains control to hold hostage over the commercial, industrial, and military materials needed to power Biden’s fossil-free fantasy future.

Such destructively dunderheaded green new dealings will not end well for America.

*****

This article was published on June 11, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from CFACT, The Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow.

How Many Species Have Gone Extinct?

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Editors’ Note:  Not many people keep a scorecard on the veracity of public statements.  If they did, they would find that most predictions from government and private organizations concerning “the environment” have a poor track record.  Many are based on faulty computer modeling and many tend to the hyperbolic to encourage fundraising or political action. Yet, even today, we are expected to upend our entire way of life, based on their predictions.  We offer what is below as an example.

 

In 1979, the EPA along with other federal agencies and the world’s leading environmental groups projected that “at least 500,000-600,000” species would become extinct by the year 2000. By how much did this projection overshoot reality?

What do you think?
Less than 10 times?
Less than 100 times?
More than 1000 times?

The correct answer is…more than 1000 times.

In 1977, President Jimmy Carter tasked the EPA and other federal agencies to estimate “probable changes” to the world’s environment up through the year 2000. This effort involved hundreds of people, including advisors from the world’s leading environmental groups. In 1979, this team released “The Global 2000 Report to the President of the U.S.,” which stated that under current policies and continued technological progress, “at least 500,000-600,000” species “will be extinguished during the next two decades.”

In 2004, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the world’s leading authority on extinctions, reported: “At least 27 species are recorded as having become Extinct or Extinct in the Wild during the last 20 years (1984-2004).” The report notes that other extinctions may have occurred, such as “eight species of birds,” but more research is needed to be certain. Even if 100 species went extinct, the 1979 projection overshot the actual loss by more than 5,000 times.

*****

This article is adapted from Just Facts Daily, published on June 13, 2021.

Do Climate Alarmists Believe Their Own Predictions?

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

In public discourse, it’s considered bad form to insult your opponent’s integrity. But it’s almost impossible to believe that climate alarmists believe their own apocalyptic predictions.

Greta Thunberg, Al Gore, and other experts sternly warned that our planet will be an uninhabitable, unsalvageable oven unless within 15 years (now 10 or 12) we bend all human activity to the goal of eliminating carbon emissions. If true, this creates an obvious moral imperative.

So on his first day in office, President Biden terminated the extension of the Keystone pipeline, created to export shale oil from Alberta to the US. It was, uh, controversial.

Union leaders were upset that 60,000 good jobs were lost. The pipeline’s demise threatened America’s energy independence. There were safety and environmental concerns too. Even Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm admitted that pipelines are the best, lowest carbon means of transporting fuels.

But no matter. Keystone made feasible the transport and use of fossil fuels and had to be stopped, no matter the impact on the welfare of Americans.

Maybe not smart, but at least ideologically consistent. To the environmental Left calling the shots, it signified America’s willingness to sacrifice for a carbon-free future.

But then in May, Biden did an about-face and gave the go-ahead to a similar Russian project transporting natural gas to Germany and other European countries via an immense underseas pipeline. It’s a huge win for Russia, cementing the economic dependence of fuel-starved Europe and circumventing the necessity of paying transit fees to Ukraine.

But waiving the Trump-era sanctions on Nordstream was an expensive concession. Russia’s gain is America’s loss of an export market. Our value to our European allies is diminished. Moreover, all the arguments against supporting fossil fuel use that shut down Keystone apply equally to Nordstream.

The effects of carbon emissions on global temperature are obviously the same regardless of their origin. Russia and China have paid only thinly disguised lip service to participating in reduction efforts. For us to aid the expansion of Russian fossil fuel production is nuts.

So what did good old Joe get for this precious gift to Putin? Nothing.

But even in a world where the unthinkable keeps morphing into reality, Biden would never have agreed to open the pipeline if he really believed our continued existence depended on radically transforming away from fossil fuels in the next few years. (“Biden“ is used here to denote whoever the deciders are behind the curtain in the current administration).

More suspect thinking surrounds the current fad for electric car subsidies. The subsidies are popular with wealthy beneficiaries, of course, the manufacturers and drivers.

The US spends about $10,000 per car on these “temporary“ handouts intended to promote the development of the electric car market. Nations around the world are charging ahead with plans to eliminate fossil-fuel-powered cars within the foreseeable future.

But electric cars aren’t all that green. First, manufacturing large batteries is an energy-intensive process they can emit a quarter as much greenhouse gases as a gasoline car produces in a lifetime.

Second, the electricity to operate a clean vehicle must be generated somewhere. Solar and wind are not yet technically developed to the point of being adequate contributors and non-emitting nuclear has been shunned by self-styled environmentalists. For now, that leaves fossil fuels.

Electric cars in sum have little or no effect on net emissions. The International Energy Agency estimates that if all the players follow through and we get to 140 million electric cars by 2030 – a highly ambitious goal – the net reduction would be only 0.4% of global emissions.

The alarmists wouldn’t be wasting their time on cars if they really believed the end was near. “Biden“ just sees a chance to make a politically astute move that corresponds with environmental groupthink.

It’s pretty obvious that the enviros don’t believe their own BS (sorry, ladies). The Thunberg/Gore 15-years-and-out prophecy is one of 50 hair-raising expert predictions documented by the American Enterprise Institute, all meant to induce panic and soften us up to accept the attendant necessary sacrifices.

Relax. Not one of them has come true.

Climate Alarmists Flip-Flop Again: Cancel their Monsoon Drought Crisis, Now Claim Too Much Rain

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Among its top results today under the search term “climate change,” Google News is highlighting articles claiming new research shows global warming will cause stronger Indian and South Asian monsoons and rainfall, which will wreak climate havoc in future decades. Yet, just a few years ago climate alarmists and their media allies claimed global warming will cause weakening monsoons and weakening rainfall, which will wreak climate havoc. The alarmists’ embarrassing self-contradiction begs the question – precisely what among the contradictory alarmist climate narratives is the “settled science”?

On Monday, India Today published an article titled, “Climate change to worsen Indian monsoon, global warming sets the stage for dangerous rains: Study.” The article claims, “The Indian monsoon is likely to get much more dangerous and wetter as global warming alters the system, new research says.”

Reporting on the same study, The Indian Express published an article today titled, “A million years of data confirms: Monsoons are likely to get worse.” The article claims, “Global warming is likely to make India’s monsoon season wetter and more dangerous, new research suggests.”

Both articles are prominently highlighted today by Google News.

Just last year, however, the Hindustan Times reported that a newly published peer-reviewed study showed that global warming will weaken monsoons and reduce monsoon rainfall.

Ominously, the Times asserted, “Monsoon rains are the main water source for agriculture in half of India with irrigation facilities being limited.”

“There is clear evidence that warming of sea surface temperatures have reduced intensity of monsoon rains in several places in India, especially the north-east, where the dip in average annual rainfall is 6-8% since 1980s,” the Times quoted K.J. Ramesh, a former director of the India Meteorological Department.

The Hindustan Times article is merely one of many articles and studies that have claimed global warming will weaken monsoons and regional rainfall. For example, in a 2015 article, the climate activist group India Climate Dialogue asserted researchers found in a peer-reviewed study that “the monsoon is weakening, at least since 1990, as researchers have now proved.”

According to India Climate Dialogue, the researchers “found that there was a 10-20% decrease in the mean rainfall in the Indian subcontinent. The monsoon was decreasing over central South Asia – from south of Pakistan through India to Bangladesh.”

“The decline is crucial because in these regions agriculture is still largely rain-fed. The South Asian monsoon brings sustenance to around two billion people,” India Climate Dialogue warned.

So, which is it? Does global warming strengthen monsoons and cause more rainfall, which we are told is bad? Or does global warming weaken monsoons and cause less rainfall, which we are told is bad? Or, just maybe – and as concluded by scientists in a recent peer-reviewed study, modest warming has little impact on monsoons, though that would be quite inconvenient for climate alarmists.

Alarmists, get you propaganda – er, stories – straight and then get back to us with your “settled science.”

*****

This article was published on June 9, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from Climate Realism.

State of Wyoming to Install Nuclear Reactor at Retiring Coal Plant

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Wyoming is the largest coal-producing state in the country. However, the Cowboy State is also going to be a pioneer in the emerging industry of building small, modular nuclear reactors.

According to a press release from TerraPower, the company developing the reactor.

TerraPower, Wyoming Gov. Mark Gordon and PacifiCorp today announced efforts to advance a Natrium™ reactor demonstration project at a retiring coal plant in Wyoming. The companies are evaluating several potential locations in the state.

Unfortunately, the press release did not give us any information about what the project would cost, but the Casper Star Tribune reports the plant would begin producing electricity by mid-2028. The press release continues:

The project features a 345 MW sodium-cooled fast reactor with a molten salt-based energy storage system. The storage technology can boost the system’s output to 500 MW of power for more than five and a half hours when needed, which is equivalent to the energy required to power around 400,000 homes.

The company’s innovative design means that the nuclear plant will be able to serve as a baseload power plant that also has the ability to follow electricity demand as it ramps up.

TerraPower is understandably marketing this as a way to incorporate more wind and solar onto the grid, and the flexible nature of the reactor design would theoretically make it good at this. However, given the fact that renewables are too unreliable to be depended upon, one wonders how adding them to the grid will do anything other than increasing the cost of electricity.

Wyoming’s plan to replace coal-fired power plants with new nuclear plants is a much better idea than Minnesota’s expensive combination of wind, solar, and natural gas generators.

Nuclear power plants can utilize the existing coal-plant infrastructure to keep costs low and deliver reliable power. Wind and solar require massive transmission line upgrades and “backup” energy sources for when the weather doesn’t cooperate, greatly adding to the total cost of electricity paid for by consumers.

It would be wise for Minnesota Power to replace the retiring coal plants at the Boswell Energy Center with small, modular nuclear reactors, but it is currently illegal to build new nuclear power plants in Minnesota, and liberal State Senators testified against legalizing it.

As I wrote in our Fall 2020 issue of Thinking Minnesota, wind and solar are the energy past, fossil fuels are the energy present, and nuclear power is probably the energy future. The sooner we realize this, the better.

*****

This article was published on June 9, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from the Center for the American Experiment.

Ducey Declares Emergency Over Wildfires

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is freeing up extra money to aid in the fight against two large fires that have left tens of thousands of acres charred.

Ducey issued two emergency declarations Wednesday because of the Telegraph and Mescal fires, making up to $400,000 available for increased response. Ducey’s office has requested additional federal funds to help in the effort.

The Telegraph fire has become one of the largest in state history, starting on Friday between Superior and Miami in eastern Arizona. As of 10:30 a.m., the blaze has consumed 80,000 acres and is 21% contained, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group. Ducey’s office said multiple evacuations had been ordered, and road closures are in place.

The fire consumed the family home of Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers on Tuesday, officials with his office confirmed. The property was not his primary residence.

Rep. David Cook, R-Globe, has been recording video of the firefighting effort visible from his driveway to the north of the flames. Cook’s community had been ordered to evacuate.

Just to the east, the Mescal fire was 23% contained as of 10 am Wednesday but not before burning more than 70,000 acres of public and private land on the western edge of the San Carlos reservation south of Cutter. While residents near the fire had evacuated, officials said they’ve been allowed to return.

“Firefighters and safety officials have been working around the clock to protect Arizonans, and we need to make sure they have the support they need to successfully fight the wildfires in Pinal and Gila Counties,” Ducey said. “I issued Declarations of Emergency so those responders will have the necessary resources to protect people, pets and property – and we will continue to work closely with local officials to ensure the needs of those communities are met. Arizonans must take the threat of wildfires seriously and follow all safety precautions during these dry months, including following evacuation orders.”

*****

This article was published on June 10, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from The Center Square.

 

 

International Energy Agency’s Green Energy Fantasy Is A Hoot

Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Looking for laughs? The International Energy Agency has produced a laugh-filled report, grandly titled: “Net Zero by 2050: A roadmap for the global energy system“. Redesigning the global energy system. My, oh my. Below are a few highlights, out of many.

To begin with, it is not a roadmap, as it does not tell us how to get there. In fact, you cannot get there from here, which makes their there very amusing. This is perhaps the most elaborate net-zero fantasy concocted so far.

IEA Executive Director Faith Birol explains where the fantasy comes from: “…combining for the first time the complex models of our two flagship series, the World Energy Outlook and Energy Technology Perspectives.”

So two, not just one, complex computer models, that have never before been combined. I feel better already. Instead of the world energy outlook, it is IEA’s outlook for world energy. I hope they are not predicting this because there is zero chance of it happening.

Since it is loaded with fantastical technologies, you might think this is at least a technology assessment, but it is not, for two reasons.

First of all, there is a heavy emphasis on what they call “behavioral changes.” When the technocrats start talking about behavioral changes it is time to step back and shut the door, because it is something they know nothing about. So there is nothing about how these deep behavioral changes will be brought about, most likely including by force.

Second, a technology assessment looks at feasibility and cost. That is what “assessment” means. This non-roadmap never considers either. Instead they gleefully point out that 50% of the needed technology does not yet exist in working form. How it can possibly be fielded globally, in unbelievably massive amounts, in 9 to 29 years is not explained. It is simply assumed, which is hilarious. I say 9 years because they also claim that all of the technology we need between now and 2030 already exists. Another laugh.

The biggest laugh of all is probably their most fundamental assumption. They assume that total global energy use in 2050 will be 8% LESS than today. Yes, less. Mind you they assume 2 billion more people, with more developing countries emerging from poverty, more people getting more electricity, and so forth. But still some-magical-how they need considerably less energy than we do now.

Apparently, it is all due to that great green magic wand called energy efficiency. I do not see how people getting cars, home heat and cooling, endless appliances, etc., that they never had before can be overcome with efficiency, but then I am not a complex computer model.

One thing I do like is that they do not buy the 100% renewables fantasy. They only get 70%, mostly from solar. How that is possible given that the sun does not shine 70% of the time is fun. Apparently, they make a lot of hydrogen which is pumped all over the place or something. That is a separate fantasy.

Apparently, the other 30% of energy comes mostly from nuclear. I guess they did not get the memo that nuclear is forbidden in green fantasyland. Surely they could just make more hydrogen.

Of course, everything is electrified. That is where the pesky behavioral changes come in. Apparently, no one wants to drive a gasoline-powered car, or cook or heat with natural gas, etc., even in developing countries. Or maybe these unhappy choices are forced upon them. The complex computer models are silent on this potentially unpleasant forced-march scenario.

Also funny is the great long list of peer reviewers of this so-called study. Almost all are promoters of renewables. Almost none are from developing countries. Even fewer are from electric power utilities, which are supposed to power this low energy wonderland.

So in its way, this study is very useful. IEA shows us in glorious detail just how laughable the green energy dream really is.

*****

This article was published on June 5, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from CFACT, The Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow.

Arizona, Sonora, Sign Water and Air Quality Agreement

Estimated Reading Time: 2 minutes

Gov. Ducey and Sonoran Governor Claudia Pavlovich met for the last time to sign an agreement to secure Sonora’s access to water and further monitor air quality.

The agreement marks the end of a six-year professional relationship between Ducey and Pavlovich, who was elected in 2015 and will leave office this year. She is the first woman to govern Sonora, one of the 32 states which make up the Federal Entities of Mexico.

Gov. Ducey tweeted three aspects of the agreement.

First, the agreement includes “an ongoing study of international opportunities for desalination along the coast of Sonora in the Sea of Cortez,” Gov. Ducey said. Desalination is the process of improving the drinking quality of water by removing salt and other minerals.

Officially signed on May 18, the agreement also provides for examining alternatives for water delivery between Arizona, Sonora, and the Colorado River Basin with the help of federal partners.

Third, he tweeted that the agreement will “expand collaboration between Arizona and Sonora on projects to monitor air quality in our region.”

The agreement, a Memorandum of Understanding, is the result of negotiations between Sonora and Arizona’s representatives in the Arizona-Mexico Commission(AMC). The document is not legally binding but shows that all parties agree to move forward with a contract.

Gov. Ducey attributed the growth in opportunity in the Arizona-Sonora region to their strong relationship and devotion to mutual economic prosperity.

“It’s our duty to lay groundwork for the generations of people that will live here after us,” he said. “I’m proud to sign a Memorandum of Understanding with Governor Pavlovich today to do just that by protecting our water and air quality future.”

Gov. Pavlovich thanked Gov. Ducey for his work on the agreement.

“The strong relationship between Arizona and Sonora has created jobs, enhanced trade and improved public safety.”

*****

This article was published on May 31, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from the Center Square.

Social Justice Warriors Have A Beef With Meat

Estimated Reading Time: 5 minutes

It seems like only yesterday that mainstream media sources like Forbes were condemning Fox Business News economist Larry Kudlow and other Republicans for “falsely claiming” that President Biden’s Green New Deal would force people to stop eating meat. The condemnation ranged from Rachel Maddow’s MSNBC lamenting “the Right’s foolish lie” to a Media Mattersgrenade, “Right-wing media invented a Biden ban on meat because they’re incentivized to lie.”

Turns out the liars are those who “falsely accused” Kudlow. As the show transcript shows, Kudlow did not say Biden had imposed a meat ban. He merely quoted a University of Michigan research study which he says found that, to meet the Biden Green New Deal targets, “America has to, get this, America has to stop eating meat, stop eating poultry and fish, seafood, eggs, dairy, and animal-based fats.”

What is true is that there has been a growing campaign to force-feed massive reductions in meat consumption “to save the planet.” As Bustle reported in 2019, the Green New Deal “explicitly mentions the importance of dealing with a very specific [and, as Bustle adds, ‘long-documented’] environmental issue: cow farts.”

The Bustle article also notes that, not only does the Green New Deal target cow farts, but the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s annual letter also stated that stopping climate change will be easier if media coverage focused on “trucks, cement, and cow farts too.”

Detractors also claimed that Biden lacks authority to impose restrictions on meat. But Michelle Obama rewrote the dietary rules for public schools with even less of an imprimatur.

Whether or not any current or future Biden climate policy will seek to diminish meat consumption (for example, via taxation or regulation), yesterday’s radical kooks are now in power and are already imposing their will on mainstream media.

There are plenty of people who want to take away your automobile, gas stove, and gas furnace. Now many of the same people are coming for your steaks and hamburgers, bratwursts, bacon, and ham, even your fried (or grilled) chicken and Thanksgiving turkey.

Take the recipe website Epicurious, which recently announced that, “Beef won’t appear in new Epicurious recipes, articles, or newsletters. It will not show up on our homepage. It will be absent from our Instagram feed.” The webzine urged its readers to think of the move “not as anti-beef, but ‘pro-planet’.”

Spokespeople David Tamarkin and Maggie Hoffman asserted that cows are 20 times less efficient to raise than beans and roughly three times less efficient than poultry and pork. Worse, according to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, 9 percent of greenhouse gas emissions globally come from livestock (and everything involved in raising it).

According to Tamarkin and Hoffman, “We know that some people might assume that this decision signals some sort of vendetta against cows—or the people who eat them. But this decision was not made because we hate hamburgers (we don’t!).” Except, of course, that they then call the beef industry “one of the world’s worst climate offenders.”

The authors, fearing that failure to march in lockstep with the Green Empire will leave us “with no planet at all,” instruct their readers that, “Addressing climate change requires legislation, international cooperation, and buy-in from the corporate sector.”

And what can each individual do, perchance? They recommend: Just don’t buy beef. “Every time you abstain from beef at the grocery store or a restaurant, you send a signal” that reverberates.

Nextar reported that reactions to the Epicurious decision were “highly mixed, with some applauding the recipe platform and others accusing it of vilifying the meat.”

Renowned food critic Mark Bittman, in an interview with NPR’s Michel Martin in a program entitled “Food World Ramps Up The War On Meat,” asserted that the amount of meat the U.S. is producing is “unsustainable.” He asserted that, for everybody to eat as much meat as Americans eat, we would need four times the resources – petroleum, land, water, waste disposal – that the world has now. “There just isn’t the room or the resources for all of this to happen.”

Much of this turning against meat is fueled by climate catatonia, the fear of coming world food shortages and a return to Malthusian scarcity. Or to 1970s “smallness.” [Diet for a Small Planet and Small Is Beautiful hail from that era.]

A 2019 NBC report quotes James Gerber, co-director and lead scientist of the Global Landscapes Initiative at the University of Minnesota. Gerber said that we must reduce total food waste because it releases the potent greenhouse gas methane as it rots. Gerber also said, “If people just eat a little bit less red meat, it can lead to a big reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.”

A follow-up NBC report focused on the 2019 report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which encouraged as a way to mitigate global warming’s impacts the widespread adoption of veganism or vegetarianism, which “could reduce the equivalent of up to 8 gigatons of carbon dioxide per year.”

The Economist a while back announced that, “Going vegan for two-thirds of meals could cut food-related carbon emissions by 60 percent.” The article cites a joint University of Minnesota-Oxford University study that a 50-gram chunk of red meat is associated with at least 20 times as much greenhouse-gas emitted and 100 times as much land use than a 100-gram portion of vegetables.

The report also claimed that, averaged across all the ecological indicators “the authors used,” red meat was about 35 times as “damaging” (to the environment?) as a bowl of greens. Clearly, there is a drumbeat against meat. Last fall the popular ‘zine Vox posted an article by Lili Pike entitled, “Why we need policies to reduce meat consumption now.”

Pike cites a recent study, reported on in Science, that claimed that, under a business-as-usual model, food systems emissions alone would cause the plant to cross the sainted 1.5-degree Celsius Deathstar Point. Pike further claimed that the food system is responsible for about 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and growing.

What this means, she posited, is that the food system will have to share the “world’s remaining carbon budget” with the biggest source of emissions: the energy sector. Much more importantly, of course, both the non-food and food sectors will have to decarbonize to stay within the highly contrived Paris targets.

Even “skeptical environmentalist” (and self-confessed vegetarian) Bjorn Lomborg has joined the discussion with the “practical solution.” “We should focus on research to develop cleaner, maybe artificial, meat. And cleaner energy.”

He added, chiding anti-meat crusaders, suggesting that, “It would be a better use of their time to push for more spending on development of artificial meat, which is showing much greater promise than the idea that all the planet’s meat-eaters will develop a taste for vegan alternatives.”

That … might not go over. At least, not in Texas.

The Texas House, over objections from Impossible Foods, Beyond Meat, and vegan advocates, has voted to approve a bill intending to prohibit the makers of plant-based meat alternatives from using the words “meat,” “beef,” “chicken,” or “pork” on product packaging. These stipulations would also apply to the manufacturers of insect-based alternatives or cell-cultured alternatives.

Texans are not, however, demanding a ban on veganism. Heck, we even let people call bean stew chili.

*****

This article was published on May 20, 2021 and is reproduced with permission from CFACT, Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow.

Are You “Wasting” Paper?

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I’m a heretic in a world where environmentalism is a leading religion. I think it’s okay to use a lot of paper, and I generally ignore the little exhortation at the bottom of so many emails saying “Think about the environment before printing this.” This isn’t to say I do use a lot of paper: most of what I read, write, and assign to students is digital now. You’re not “wasting” paper by using it and throwing it away any more than you’re “wasting” corn by eating tortilla chips. There’s a good case to be made that you probably should eat fewer tortilla chips—I certainly need to—but “Eating tortilla chips wastes corn” is not one of them.

Contrary to popular belief, economic progress is not the enemy of the environment. In a 2015 episode of EconTalk, Rockefeller University’s Jesse Ausubel explains “the return of nature” as we get more and more output with less and less land. Andrew McAfee has done some very interesting work in recent years suggesting that we’re reaching “peak stuff.” I haven’t yet read his book More From Less: The Surprising Story of How We Learned to Prosper Using Fewer Resources–and What Happens Next, but I’ve listened to a few podcasts in which he discusses what he calls “dematerialization” (like this episode of EconTalk). We are using less material and less energy to produce every dollar of GDP, but perhaps more importantly, we are using “less energy in total as economic growth progresses.” McAfee argues that our consumption of a lot of different kinds of stuff has likely peaked.

Why? Don’t people consume voraciously? Wouldn’t we need something like three earths to support everyone at an American standard of living? I doubt it. As people get richer, they stop spending their incomes on more burgers but on better burgers. In other words, they substitute quality for quantity. When we go to a very nice restaurant, we spend three times as much as we might spend at McDonald’s. We are not, however, getting three times as many french fries and three times as much beef. We are getting better fries and better beef.

But isn’t it wasteful to throw away food or use a lot of paper? Probably not: paper is cheap, and your time is expensive. Holding everything else constant, it’s probably a good trade-off to “waste” paper if it means saving your time for something more important. As Thomas Sowell points out in his book Basic Economics, it is actually wasteful for someone with a very high opportunity cost of their time to spend a lot of that time fixing broken things–or salvaging paper that is probably “reusable.” That so much goes into landfills in the United States and Europe may be the product of prices that don’t fully reflect all the relevant costs and benefits, but it is not a moral failing on our part. It’s a failure to let labor move to where it is most valuable. If you’re “thinking about the environment” before you print something, you’re probably economizing on what is abundant (paper) and wasting what is most scarce (your time).

Of course, participating in rituals that appear to be wasteful, at least on the surface, is part of participating in a complex society. There might be a kind of ritual value to saving paper and turning the lights off when you leave a room, just like there’s a kind of ritual value in singing the school fight song at a football game or taking communion at church. You’re the kind of person who doesn’t use “too much” paper and doesn’t waste electricity. That’s cool, and as a father who embraces all the Dad stereotypes, I’m right there with you. While writing the first draft of this article, I switched off a lamp thinking “I’m sitting next to a window; I don’t need the extra light.” I’d still rather cut off a finger than leave a room without turning off the lights, and I think I would rather watch people burn money than watch them throw food away. However, you’re not really “saving the earth” by using less paper. We should take seriously the possibility that our endeavors could backfire: by spending my “environmental consciousness budget” on basically trivial things like saving paper, then perhaps I end up with less energy for higher-impact environmental endeavors, like understanding how going “anti-nuclear” actually increases pollution or helping with a local park cleanup.

Am I encouraging prodigality and profligacy? No. I’m counseling regularly measured, well-thought-out prudence. Maybe the prices really are wrong, and the by-now-well-developed norms against using paper are an efficient response to that. I would rather see the energy directed toward rooting out and eliminating the sources of the distortion.

Consider too the constant additional cognitive burdens both large and small that people are expected to bear. Do we really want already-stressed out people adding to their cognitive load by thinking they might be sinning against Gaia or Greta Thunberg by printing or discarding a sheet of paper? As Bryan Caplan has pointed out, “Recycling is the philosophy that everything is worth saving except your time.”

Think for a moment about aluminum cans. A quick Google search turns up a scrap metal price of about 48 cents a pound. That’s hardly enough to make it worth my time, of course, but it may very well be worth the time of people who might have a comparative advantage in sorting recyclables. It’s also not like aluminum decays quickly. Another quick Google search suggested that aluminum cans won’t decompose for a century or more. This means that if we start running low on aluminum, we can probably start expecting people to mine landfills for the cans we’re discarding today.

Yet a third quick Google search suggests paper takes about 2-6 weeks in a landfill to decompose (another site said 5-15 years). But that’s beside the point. If we start really straining our ability to produce new paper or if we start running out of landfill space (and, therefore, the price of discarding stuff rises), we can expect again for people to start paying for and reclaiming the stuff we throw away. The world is an enormous place, and there are enormous tracts of land to be had at pretty low prices. Yet another Google search suggests that a landfill of 250 square miles, 400 feet deep would hold a century’s worth of American garbage (assuming the population doubles and we all keep producing about 3.5 pounds of trash a day). That sounds absolutely enormous—but Jefferson County, Alabama, where I live is just over 1,100 square miles. The United States is about 3.8 million square miles, which means our 400-foot century-long landfill would cover less than 0.007% of the US’s land area. Assume we produce the same amount of trash every century (a not-unreasonable assumption) and assume none of it ever goes away, and after a thousand years you’re still at less than one-tenth of one percent of US land area taken up by landfill space. Global land area is about 57.5 million square miles. It’s staggering when we think about just how much land is out there, even if these numbers are off by an order of magnitude. Idiocracy was funny and all, but the idea that we’ll all be living under mountains and mountains of garbage doesn’t really seem to hold up.

This claim, of course, basically assumes there is no technological change that continues the “dematerialization.” As more and more value comes from things other than the narrowly material, we can expect to get not just more and better silk stockings for steadily-decreasing amounts of effort, we can expect to get more and better silk stockings for steadily decreasing amounts of silk.

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This article was published May 19, 2021 and reproduced with permission by AIER, American Institute for Economic Research.