On the Blog

Looking Into My 2014 Crystal Ball

Somewhat Reasonable - January 04, 2014, 8:30 AM

Pundits are expected to make predictions for the year ahead and far be it for me to avoid what, generally speaking, depends on who is making them. Major trends are already in place and easy to predict as they proceed, but it is always unknown events that upend predictions. Mother Nature and perpetrators of evil can always be counted upon to provide them.

Since the Earth has been in a seventeen-year cooling cycle, I can safely predict there will be no “global warming” in 2014 and, given the other science-based factors, the likelihood is that 2014 will experience more colder weather and may even be an earlier predictor of a mini-ice age much the same as the one that occurred from 1300 to 1850.

As mentioned, it is the unpredictable events that will affect 2014. The good news is that the U.S. has seen far fewer hurricanes, tornadoes, and forest fires in recent years. The global cooling trend, however, is likely to cause more and larger blizzards.

“Climate change”? This is now the basis of all the lies we shall hear from the President to justify his five-year delay of the Keystone oil pipeline, his continued war on coal—affordable electricity—and other Environmental Protection Agency efforts to control our lives while denying the creation of the thousands of jobs the pipeline and other energy-related development would provide. Environmentalism is the enemy of the technologies that have transformed and enhanced our lives.

The November mid-term elections hold the promise of ridding Congress of some of the Democrats who unanimously voted for Obamacare in 2009. It will also replace those Republicans-in-name-only, RINOs, who have joined Democrats in voting for legislation that advanced the socialism that is strangling the nation by expanding the federal government. I predict the ranks of “independent” voters will increase in 2014.

The erosion of the Democratic Party base will continue as Obamacare afflicts millions of Americans who will lose their healthcare insurance plans, be deprived of using their personal physician, and see their costs increase. It is the essence of communism, providing the government with control over one’s life and, in too many cases, causing many to die for the lack of plans they previously had or the costs of those they are required to purchase. Those leaving the party will include women and the younger generation leaving college to discover there aren’t any jobs to help them cope with the debt they incurred to attend. Hispanics, too, show signs of leaving.

It is hard to predict what will occur within the Republican Party whose leadership has engaged in denunciations of the Tea Party movement. However, when the Tea Party movement elects more committed conservative GOP candidates, it will save the nation and the party. Suffice to say that Obamacare will be the gift that keeps on giving in 2014. It will, in time, be repealed.

Obama’s failed foreign policy will ensure that former allies will cease to trust the U.S. to support their need to deal with the rising threat of Islamic jihad in the Middle East and Africa. Obama has lost Egypt and Saudi Arabia as long-time allies. Israel is in a particularly perilous situation and the outcome of the Syrian civil war does not bode well for it or its neighbor Jordan.

Iran will be the greatest threat of war since the 1930s. And, yes, the U.S.-led “deal” will fail.

Polls reveal a growing unhappiness with the U.S. Congress. The President’s performance ratings have been falling and will continue to do so in 2014. The problem is the growth of socialism that began during and in the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The pension debt and other benefits resulting from government worker unions has forced Detroit into bankruptcy and other American cities will follow.

By executive order the President just raised government salaries by 1%. Can he do that? Not really. Only the House can authorize such expenditures. Can he change Obamacare without consulting Congress? Not really.

The mainstream media will continue to lose its credibility as the Internet affords Americans alternative means of finding out what is really occurring as opposed to the deceptive and manipulative efforts of the Obama administration. Having raised voter’s expectations of Obama, his fall will be dramatic in 2014. The mainstream media is largely composed of liberals who are the result of the transformation of education into socialist indoctrination that began in the 1960s. By contrast, conservative print and broadcast media will thrive. Fox News has more viewers than the networks and CNN, combined.

Events such as the current attack on Southern Sudan, and the on-going slaughter in Syria will continue. Christians throughout the Middle East and Africa will find themselves under continued attack. Muslim-on-Muslim violence will continue. Islamists are devoted to its “holy” war, including its own schism.

In America, privacy, an essential element of the Constitution, will continue to be diminished if Congress does not address the vast collection of information of all of our communications. Read the Fourth Amendment. It says in part that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

We may see more states enact laws to defy Obamacare. South Carolina is currently the only one. The Tenth Amendment says “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Read the Constitution, you will not find the words “health” in it, nor “education”, nor ‘environment.” The federal government should get out of these aspects of our lives.

My most positive prediction is that historians will look back at 2014 as the year in which Americans woke to the threat of socialism-communism and, like the Tea Party movement, began to fight back.

Categories: On the Blog

Them vs. Us

Somewhat Reasonable - January 03, 2014, 4:19 PM

With all the talk of America’s forgotten middle class, it’s worth taking time as we begin a new year to consider that the country’s seeming obsession with wealth and inequality may instead be turning the U. S. into a country with only two classes: the governed and the governing.

The aim of the 100-year old Progressive movement in America has purportedly been a more just and humane society in which everyone’s needs are taken care of by government, no one goes hungry or without health care because the state provides for everyone, and everyone is equal in almost every way – except, of course, for the ruling class of expert elites, who will always be more equal than the rest of us.

The goal of conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, is a more just society in which individuals make their own decisions about what is best for themselves and their families, resources are allocated more efficiently because most people actually pay for what they consume, and everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed or to fail based upon his or her own talents, ambition, and work ethic.

A pragmatist will concede that a certain amount of inequality will always exist under both worldviews, as talent, ambition, work ethic, political connections – and just plain luck – are not distributed evenly or equally among the general population.

For every Michael Jordan, for example, are a thousand or a million kids who never make it off the playground; for every Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Steve Balmer are a bunch of programmers writing code in anonymity; for every Oprah Winfrey are a host of local television news readers and late-night radio disc jockeys; and for every Steven King or J. K. Rowling are a million bloggers seeking a following.

A market-based system that attempts to maximize individual liberty and opportunity accepts inequality of results as inevitable and recognizes that, for all its perceived unfairness, maximizing individual liberty also maximizes human happiness. Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Steven King, and J. K. Rowling have brought joy to millions – if not billions – of people worldwide while generating ancillary jobs and revenue in the sports, television, publishing, movie, and toy industries, among everyone from ticket-takers to executive suites, as well as inspiring others to attempt to achieve some comparable degree of success.

Progressivism sees this as unfair and seeks redistribution of wealth by taxing those who’ve succeeded financially and subsidizing those who haven’t. But as one hundred years of a “progressive” income tax, over eighty years of alphabet administrative agencies, and fifty years of an unsuccessful “war” on poverty have demonstrated, the unfortunate result is not equality in any meaningful sense but instead an increasingly polarized population. More people have civilian government jobs and more people receive public assistance than ever, yet the nation is not demonstrably better off either economically or spiritually.

The sad truth is that no amount of wealth redistribution is likely to create the next Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, J. K. Rowling, or Michael Jordan, no matter how much we wish it were so. If that were true, then every lottery winner would go on to fame and creative success instead of disappearing into obscurity or winding up in bankruptcy.

In one important sense, however, progressivism has indeed reshaped society. Primarily through actuarially unsound defined-benefit pension systems with health care benefits and compounded cost of living adjustments, it has created a new privileged class of government employees and former employees who have lifelong claims on the resources of the rest of the population. Part of the population must work longer and harder so that others may retire from working sooner.

Most people would likely not begrudge such a system for citizen-soldiers – particularly those who have been seriously injured while serving their country – but it is difficult to understand why those who hold essentially civilian jobs with little or no distinction should be so privileged.

Real-life examples include the public school teachers whose graduates can neither read nor write but who were promoted into administrative positions their last three years so that their pensions would exceed the salaries they received during most of their careers; the cops who checked in at the station in the morning, then spent the rest of the day snoozing in the local movie theater; the third guy on the garbage truck who rode shotgun and read the paper while another drove the truck and the third guy picked up the garbage before the whole crew drove under a viaduct for an afternoon nap before returning the truck to the depot. That’s not service; it’s taking unfair advantage.

A society in which growth may be a thing of the past can no longer tolerate such excesses, waste, and abuse. But the threat is not merely financial; it is moral and structural as well. For privileged treatment for a fortunate few first undermines initiative and promotes apathy, then lethargy; in the end it generates envy, then resentment, then anger, which has ways of boiling over.

As Abraham Lincoln famously observed in his Gettysburg address, a society cannot exist half slave and half free. Nor can it exist half productive and half parasitic. As the nation begins a new calendar year, it is worth taking the time to ponder how Lincoln’s words may still ring true today.

Categories: On the Blog

Sound Science And The U.S. Economy Victimized By The EPA’s CIA Fake, John Beale

Somewhat Reasonable - January 03, 2014, 12:26 PM

While the American public is justifiably outraged about a high-ranking EPA official collecting large paychecks while messing around, skipping work and falsely claiming to be doing CIA work, it is the work that John Beale actually performed – rather than the work he didn’t  – that should cause the most outrage and alarm. The incompetent, bumbling imposter served as the right-hand man to EPA’s top official and personally oversaw the development of EPA’s climate policy and international climate negotiations. Sound science and the American economy are currently paying the steep price for Beale’s “Spies Like Us” asininity.

In one of the funniest slapstick scenes from the 1985 comedy classic, bungling wannabe spies Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are caught blatantly cheating on their foreign service exam. Presented with video evidence of their cheating, Aykroyd asks his government overseers, “So what are we going to get, dismissal, suspension, censure, departmental prosecution – what?”

Chase and Aykroyd then bungle their assignment so badly that they launch a nuclear missile against their own country.

Put Chase and Aykroyd at the top of EPA rather than the top of CIA field operations, and you have an idea of how Beale monumentally screwed up EPA climate policy and international climate negotiations.

Inexplicably believing Beale’s story that he was actually a CIA spy and that was why he was missing so much work, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took Chase and Aykroyd’s slapstick asininity to a new, real-world level. In a memo sent out to EPA staffers, McCarthy attempted to provide cover for Beale to continue skipping work under fictitious CIA pretenses. Beale “is supposed to be sitting in 5426B of Ariel Rios North, but good luck finding him. We are keeping him well hidden so he won’t get scooped away from [his EPA position] anytime soon,” McCarthy wrote.

McCarthy then affirmed Beale would continue overseeing EPA’s climate policy and international climate negotiations.

Putting Beale in charge of crafting our nation’s climate policy was the equivalent of putting Bernie Madoff in charge of crafting our nation’s fiscal policy. Or, in this scene from Spies Like Us, entrusting Chase and Aykroyd to impersonate medical doctors and treat live patients.

While Chase and Aykroyd’s antics make for good comedic cinema, Beale’s antics had much more serious real-world impact. When EPA disregarded mountains of sound science demonstrating carbon dioxide emissions are being scapegoated for a mythical global warming crisis, Chase and Aykroyd – er, I mean Beale – was calling the shots on behalf of EPA’s “scientific” findings to the contrary. As a result, coal miners are being sent to unemployment lines in droves, Americans are being deprived of their most affordable widely available electricity source, jobs and wealth are being shipped overseas and bogus EPA findings are driving the Obama administration’s war on affordable energy.

The Beale fiasco is just the latest in a long line of appalling scandals perpetrated by global warming alarmists. The Climategate and Climategate II scandals should have sunk the fictitious man-made global warming crisis once and for all, but alarmists and their media allies worked to ignore and hide the truth. The Fakegate scandal of 2012 further demonstrated the agenda-driven dishonesty motivating prominent global warming alarmists.

Now we learn that Beale, one of the highest ranking figures in the Environmental Protection Agency, was not only a bumbling fool, but also a criminal, recently sentenced to 32 months in federal prison. His own attorney says his client was motivated “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives.”

You have to search long and hard to find a better representation of the individuals at the top of the global warming movement. Again and again we have seen these are men and women who lie to the public, manufacture false data, conceal evidence and use the power of their offices to attack those who expose their fictitious narratives.

Maybe the best that can be said of these latest revelations is they provide more evidence, in case any more was needed, that the mythical global warming crisis was a canard from start to finish, that the Obama administration and EPA in particular need to be reined in before they destroy even more of America’s economic strength, and that 2014 must be a breakthrough year for the voices of truth.

[Originally published on Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

The Guardian Slams Funding of Anti-Global Warming Groups

Somewhat Reasonable - January 03, 2014, 11:35 AM
The Guardian, a London-based daily newspaper, has been a leading advocate of the global warming theory—now called climate change—and its December 20 edition published an article by Susanne Goldenberg, “Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change.”

The article focused on a study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle that had been published in the journal Climate Change asserting that “The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change.”

What action these organizations or even entire governments could take to have any affect whatever on “climate change” defies common sense. Nothing they could do, for example, would have any effect on the action of the Sun, the primary determinant of climate. For the past seventeen years the Sun has been in a natural cycle of reduced radiation, less warmth for the Earth. The result has been a cooling cycle on Earth that has crushed decades of lies about “global warming.”

It’s not that the Earth hasn’t had previous cycles of warmer climate, but they had nothing to do with anything humans do. There was warming before the Industrial Revolution introduced the use of coal, oil and natural gas to provide the energy that has marked the development and use of technologies that have improved human life in countless ways. “Global warming” is blamed on the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called greenhouse gases. The most prominent of these gases in the Earth’s atmosphere is nothing more than water vapor.

Apparently, if Brulle and The Guardian are to be believed, anyone or any organization that donates to any group that doubts the claims of Big Green are the enemies of “global warming”, but this conveniently ignored estimates that the U.S. government, according to an October article in The New American “will spend more money on fighting global warming than it will on tightening border security.” The spending is estimated to cost approximately $22.2 billion this year, twice as much as the $12 billion estimated for customs and border enforcement.”

There are, according to the White House, “currently 18 federal agencies engaged in activities related to global warming. These agencies fund programs that include scientific research, international climate assistance, renewable energy technology, and subsidies for renewable energy producers.”

The Guardian article caught my eye because, among the organizations that have been active in debunking the “global warming” theory has been The Heartland Institute. I have been an advisor to the Institute which, since 2008, has organized eight international conferences on global warming that have featured some of the world’s leading skeptics.

If you want to know how the Institute is funded, you can go to their website where you will find, for example, that it does not solicit or accept grants from any of those government agencies using billions of taxpayer dollars to convince Americans that “global warming” is real or that anything the government does about “climate change” can have any effect on it. In 2012, Heartland received 50% of its income from foundations, 28% from individuals, and 18% from corporations. No corporate donor contributes more than 5% of its annual budget.

In contrast, a recent article by Ron Arnold, a Washington Examiner columnist and executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, noted that over the past decade environmental organizations received 345,052 foundation grants totaling $20,826,664,000—over twenty billion dollars—largely from a 200-plus member Environmental Grantmakers Association and the smaller, farther-left National Network of Grantmakers. Arnold said that “Today, foundations are the backbone of Big Green.”

On a recent CNN television program, Marc Morano, the communications director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) took on the Sierra Club director, noting that this major environmental organization has received $26 million from natural gas corporations to support its attacks on the coal industry. So “fossil fuels” industries are okay if they are giving the Sierra Club money.

“So record cold,” said Morano, “is now evidence of man-made global warming.”

While the Koch-affiliated foundations that provide grants to conservative groups were singled out, along with Exxon Mobil, in The Guardian article, no mention was made of multi-billionaire George Soros who is famed for funding all manner of liberal groups and who reportedly has invested heavily in “clean energy” companies—solar and wind—whose products do not produce the so-called greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the more recent articles in The Guardian was titled “Global warming will intensify drought, says new study.”  The problem, of course, is that there is NO global warming.

By contrast, a July Fox News article, “Billions spent in Obama climate plan may be virtually useless, study says” was not also reported in the mainstream media. Suffice to say that those billions came from taxpayer’s pockets.

I am happy to know that the Heartland Institute, a 29 year old non-profit research organization, CFACT, and other free market research and activist groups receive foundation and other support. Without them, the lies about “climate change” from the Obama administration and the many environmental organizations would not be debunked.

[Originally published on Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Crooked Labs, Agencies and Prosecutors

Somewhat Reasonable - January 03, 2014, 11:18 AM

Former Durham, NC district attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred for withholding evidence from the defense and lying to the court in the trumped-up Duke lacrosse team rape case. Ex-Boston crime lab technician Annie Dookhan was prosecuted for faking test results and contaminating drug samples, to get accused dealers convicted. In both cases, charges against their victims were dismissed or are under review.

So how should we handle federal officials who’ve become unethical researchers and prosecutors – determined to get convictions, basing their cases on esoteric circumstantial evidence, allowing tainted and fraudulent evidence, hiding exculpatory information, rewriting the law, and denying defense counsel the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses or present their case?

As the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow explains in its amicus curiae brief to the US Supreme Court, that’s what Environmental Protection Agency regulators have been doing with global warming. They’re pulling every dirty prosecutorial trick in the book, to convict fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, and America’s economy and living standards of “endangering” the public welfare.

Since 2009, EPA regulators have shown a single-minded determination to slash hydrocarbon use, drive up the price of energy, and impose huge costs on companies, industries and an economy struggling to stay afloat and retain jobs. They want to control CO2 emissions from vehicles, electrical generating plants, and eventually the sources of nearly everything we make, grow, ship, eat and do. The damage to our livelihoods, liberties, living standards, legal system, health, welfare and life spans will be enormous.

The devious dealings have continued under new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who has pronounced that there is “no more urgent threat to public health than climate change.” Now it appears the mendacious malfeasance is even worse than previously thought.

Newly released emails reveal that Ms. McCarthy was “very excited” in 2010 to “finally get the opportunity to work with” Mr. John Beale, who for several years was the senior EPA policy advisor helping Ms. McCarthy and her Office of Air and Radiation develop and implement tough air quality and climate regulations. When he wasn’t off on one of his Walter Mitty undercover CIA capers, that is.

Beale was just convicted of defrauding taxpayers out of $1 million in salaries and expenses for extended vacations that he took while claiming to be a high level intelligence operative. His attorney says he had a “dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior” and “manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives.”

It defies belief to suppose his dysfunctions and fabrications did not extend to his official EPA roles of devising agency air pollution and climate policies, then cherry picking reports and manipulating research to justify them. The criminal fraud for which Beale will serve 32 months in prison and repay $1.4 million is outrageous. The fraud on our economy, democracy and people’s lives is far more costly and despicable. Even worse, their regulatory fraud is a pervasive problem throughout EPA.

The Constitution specifies that the Executive Branch has no authority to engage in lawmaking, but must faithfully execute the laws as written – and not as regulators might wish the laws had been written, to advance their preferred policy agendas. EPA has violated these most fundamental rules, ignoring inconvenient statutory language, and devising and enforcing other provisions out of whole cloth.

Between 1989 and 2010, Congress considered and rejected some 692 bills addressing various aspects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. So President Obama’s EPA simply imposed carbon dioxide controls by executive fiat, using “prevention of significant deterioration” and “new source performance standards” to create new authority over coal-fired electrical generating plants. It then unilaterally changed precise statutory emission standards from 250 tons per year to 100,000 tpy – to avoid the public backlash that would come if it began regulating and shutting down all the natural gas generators, refineries, cement kilns, factories, paper mills, shopping malls, apartment and office buildings, hospitals, schools and even large homes that emit more than 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Those job-killing rules can come later, when radical environmentalists sue radical regulators, to enforce the statutory requirement.

In circumventing Congress, rewriting laws and ignoring the “separation of powers” doctrine, EPA accomplished an unprecedented power grab over the energy that fuels our economy and makes our jobs, living standards and civil rights progress possible. It also flouted clear NEPA, Clean Air Act and other statutory mandates that EPA protect the health, welfare and environmental quality of all Americans.

The agency remains fixated on the speculative impacts of sea levels, storms, droughts and other manifestations of allegedly “dangerous manmade climate change.” As CFACT’s amicus brief explains, it completely ignores the increasingly adverse effects that its boiler MACT, carbon dioxide and 1,900 other Obama-era EPA regulations are having on companies, jobs, families, entire industries and communities – and thus people’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.

As breadwinners are laid off or reduced to part-time status, families are unable to heat and cool their homes properly, pay bills, rent or mortgage, buy clothing and medicines, or take vacations. Increasing numbers of families deplete their savings and are made homeless. Being unable to find or keep a job erodes self-worth, self-confidence and psychological well-being. The stress of being unemployed, or involuntarily holding multiple lower-paying part-time jobs, means reduced nutrition, sleep deprivation, increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, higher incidences of depression and alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse, more suicides and generally lower life expectancies.

It means the regulations are far worse than the harms they supposedly redress. For EPA to ignore this simple reality is illegal and unconscionable. For it to do so based on fraudulent science is outrageous.

The agency’s position hardly reflected genuine climate science in 2009, when EPA decreed that carbon dioxide endangers human health and welfare. Since then, Earth’s temperature and weather events have refused to cooperate with EPA’s dire predictions. But the agency’s views and decisions remain etched in stone, leaving the agency on the extreme fringe of alarmist opinion, insisting that its views are supported by IPCC predictions that are increasingly discredited by Climategate revelations, investigations into IPCC practices, the Beale scandal and even an exhaustive report by one of EPA’s own analysts.

When presented 37-year EPA veteran Alan Carlin’s analysis, his supervisor tried to suppress the paper and refused to forward it to the EPA group preparing the final report that would guide the endangerment decision. The supervisor told him: “The administrator and administration has [sic] decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.”

Finally, even full compliance with EPA’s destructive regulations would achieve zero benefits, because emissions from China, India and other rapidly developing countries will continue increasing total atmospheric GHG levels – and because climate change is driven primarily by natural forces, not CO2.

For all these reasons, EPA’s carbon dioxide “endangerment” decision must be reversed; its stationary source regulations must be scrapped; and the agency must be required to fully evaluate the consistently adverse effects of its regulatory edicts on human health, welfare and environmental quality. If the Supreme Court fails to do so, the House and Senate must reassert their Constitutional roles.

Otherwise the United States will steadily fall behind its international competitors. The health and well-being of Americans will increasingly suffer. And the Legislative and Judicial Branches will become mere bystanders to an unelected, unaccountable, agenda-driven Executive Branch.

Categories: On the Blog

The Solar Swindle

Somewhat Reasonable - January 02, 2014, 5:39 PM

Solar electricity is growing, promoted, and most importantly, heavily subsidized.  The promoters of solar electricity claim that it is close to being competitive with conventional sources of electricity.  That is a fantasy.

Solar electricity is expensive and impractical.  If it weren’t for government subsidies, some explicit and some disguised, the solar industry would collapse.  The many claims of competitiveness are always based on ignoring subsidies provided to politically correct renewable power, ignoring the costs associated with unreliability, and ignoring the cost of backup fossil fuel plants.

An example of a hidden subsidy is the California Renewable Portfolio Standard that mandates utilities to obtain 33% of their energy from so-called renewable sources by 2020.  This mandate forces utilities to contract for expensive sources of energy, such as solar.  The cost is passed on to the utility customers with the connivance of the government.  Although the motivation behind the California scheme is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, politically incorrect sources of CO2-free electricity, such as nuclear and large-scale hydroelectric, can’t be counted as renewable.

People whose knowledge of electricity production ends at their wall outlet are dictating national energy policy.  Magical thinking by hopelessly ignorant political activists permeates the alternative energy universe.

How much does electricity from conventional sources cost?  If I look at my ComEd (Chicago) bill, the charge for electricity is about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (KWH).  Additional charges for delivering the electricity and various taxes increase the total to about 10 cents per KWH.  This is electricity mainly from coal, nuclear, and natural gas.  Electricity is available at the plant gate in much of the U.S. for about 5 cents per KWH.

Figuring out how much solar electricity costs is tricky.  Most of the cost is the capital cost of building the plant; in favorable situations, a solar plant costs 15 times more than a fossil fuel plant per KWH generated.  How one assigns this initial capital cost to the electricity generated over the life of the plant depends on economic assumptions involving interest rates.  The amount of sunshine can vary by as much as two to one, if you compare sunny Arizona locations with cloudy European ones.  Photovoltaic technology, using electricity-generating panels, is the currently favored technology.  An alternative technology is thermal solar or plants that use reflectors to concentrate sunlight to generate high-pressure steam, or other high-pressure gas, to operate turbines that drive generators.  The estimates in this article refer to recently constructed photovoltaic plants.

The cost of solar electricity at the plant gate is about 25 cents per KWH, or about 5 times more than conventional electricity.  It may be 50 cents per KWH in cloudy northern areas.

It is true that the cost of solar panels has greatly decreased in recent years.  This decrease has to do with technological improvements and overbuilding of capacity in the Chinese panel manufacturing industry.  However, even if the panels cost nothing, solar electricity would not be remotely competitive.  The panels are only part of the cost.  One also has to pay for the land, the mounting systems for the panels, and other infrastructure.

The cost of a solar electricity plant is usually quoted as so many dollars per watt.  For example, many large-scale plants cost about $4 per watt to build.  The watts in this case refer to the maximum amount of electricity the plant can produce when the sun shines squarely on the panels, or, more technically, the number of watts that can be generated when the panels are illuminated with sunlight with an energy content of 1,000 watts per square meter (approximately the energy flux of full sunlight).  In the best locations, a solar plant with fixed panels can generate the equivalent of full power 25% of the time.  That is called the utilization factor.

As an example, the Agua Caliente solar plant in Arizona, when completed in 2014, will be rated at 397 million watts and will cost $1.8 billion.  This works out to $4.53 per watt of capacity.  The cost of generating electricity from this plant has two components: the capital cost of building the plant spread out over the 25-year life of the plant and the annual maintenance cost for such things as periodically washing the solar panels that cover 4 square miles of land.  When a utility invests in a generating plant, it needs a rate of return on its investment great enough to stay in business.  It must pay dividends attract capital, maintain a good credit rating, and pay substantial taxes.  Roughly an 8% return on a generating plant investment is needed to maintain the business.  This means that if $1.8 billion is invested, the annual capital cost is similar to the payments on a 25-year mortgage at 8% interest.  This is a higher interest rate than one might pay on a home mortgage due to taxes and the need to attract risk capital.  The utility might finance half the cost at 4% or 5% and finance the other half with equity capital, for which a return of 10% or 12% is necessary.  The budget for the Agua Caliente plant would look roughly like this:

 

This is the price at the plant gate, assuming that all the electricity generated is purchased for 25 years.  The required price of 22 cents per KWH compares unfavorably with the 5 cents per KWH that is widely available in the U.S.  But this is only half of the story.  The price of 22 cents per KWH for a plant in sunny Arizona is actually misleadingly low.

Solar electricity is generated when the sun is up and the sky is clear.  But electricity is needed during the night and on cloudy days.  So a solar electricity plant must be accompanied by a backup plant.  A combined-cycle natural gas plant can be purchased at a capital cost of approximately $1,000 per kilowatt of output capability.  Depending on the percent utilization, electricity can be generated in the range of 4 cents to 6 cents per KWH.  The natural gas fuel at current prices costs about 3 cents per KWH.  Capital costs distributed over the 30-year life of the plant are in the range of 1-3 cents per KWH depending on percent utilization.  The percent utilization can be has high as 90%.

The bottom line is that the only saving from a solar electricity plant is the fuel not burned when the solar is working.  Most likely, the fuel is natural gas.  But the maintenance of the solar plant costs about the same per KWH as the fuel for a natural gas plant.  It most cases, it probably makes sense to bulldoze a solar plant and use the backup natural gas plant.

Believers in global warming alarmism will probably claim that it is worth paying 5 times more for electricity in order to reduce CO2 emissions.  But if they are really concerned about CO2, the obvious solution is CO2-free nuclear power, which is far cheaper and more practical than solar.

Wind power is the other renewable energy.  The capital cost of building wind farms is less than solar, and the utilization factor may be higher in favorable locations.  But, at best, wind energy costs 2-3 times more per KWH than conventional energy.  There are doubts about the useful life of wind turbines and many population centers have no suitable wind energy sites near enough to economically transport the power.

Solar energy and wind energy are nothing but a scam promoted by ideological fanatics in environmental organizations and allied special interests.  We all pay for the scam with our taxes and with our electric bills.

[Originally published on the American Thinker]
Categories: On the Blog

The Secret Danger Liberals Don’t Want You to Know: Fracking is Safe

Somewhat Reasonable - January 02, 2014, 5:30 PM

Hydraulic fracturing started out as an “exploding torpedo” back in 1865. Today, nearly 150 years later, the actual process has made giant technological strides, but now, it’s the topic that’s explosive.

While the White House has been encouraging Christmas dinner table conversation to center around Obamacare, in my experience, it is fracking that came into the conversation—and when it did, the results had the potential to be as explosive as the early practice.

Over the holidays two young adults came home for Christmas. Somehow hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” came into the conversation. Dad, a reader of my column whose employment is also peripherally connected to the oil-and-gas industry, spoke up in support of the practice that has unleashed America’s natural resources and made us the world leader in energy production. His children, and their friends who had gathered in his home, were shocked and spouted the usual claims of water contamination, harsh chemicals, and flaming faucets. The topic became so explosive that his kids packed up and left before the festivities even began.

I was in California for Christmas. I visited a cousin in Napa Valley whose adult son is in the wine business. He was at her home when I arrived. She told him what I do and stated that he had many friends in the oil-and-gas business. I smiled and said: “I can talk oil, gas, coal, nuclear, fracking, whatever…” My cousin quickly interrupted and stated: “We probably don’t want to talk fracking.” I took the hint, and we moved on to another topic. Driving back to my brother’s house, I wondered: “When did fracking become an explosive topic.”

With the Christmas prime rib consumed, my family and friends were still gathered around the table. Once again fracking came up. I shared the previous two recent stories. One woman asserted that if her sister, who was arriving in a few days from Boulder, Colorado, was there and we talked fracking, the results would be explosive, too.

Because they are not in the industry, I found that the group gathered around our table had misconceptions about the process that they’d picked up from the media.

While I don’t have an exact date when the topic of fracking became explosive, I do know, from my speaking and writing on the topic, from radio interviews with listener call-ins, and private conversations, that the explosive reactions are due to a lack of understanding about the process—with the two biggest concerns being about water and chemicals.

Water

As I’ve written previously, there are accusations that fracking is taking billions of gallons of water out of the hydrologic cycle. Especially in the southwest where water is scarce and drought conditions persist, this poses a problem.

The process of hydraulic fracturing has advanced from the first nitroglycerin “torpedo” that was shot down a well hole on April 25, 1865, and well acidizing that was used in the 1930s to enhance productivity, to the modern mix of high pressure, water, and chemicals—and it continues to evolve and become more economical.

In a piece addressing water used in fracking, The Economist describes the process this way: “Water injected at high pressure into rock deep underground during the process of hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ often returns to the surface as brine, having picked up a lot of salt on its journey. It is also contaminated with chemicals from the fracking process itself.”

Today, less and less freshwater is being used—especially in the arid southwest where water for drinking and agriculture is at a premium. A typical frack job can use as much as 5 million gallons of water and lasts about 3 days. The procedure can result in decades of oil or gas production.

With the development of new technologies, the fracking process can be done with brackish water that may be as much as ten times as salty as seawater. A recentreport from Reuters, titled “Fracking without freshwater at a west Texas oil field,” documents some of the advancements. Billions of gallons of brackish water are located far below the fresh water aquifers. Producers in west Texas are fracking with the brackish water from the Santa Rosa aquifer. They are then recycling the produced water—a byproduct of oil and natural gas drilling, and the flowback water—the fluid pushed back out of the well during fracking. Both forms of wastewater have historically been trucked to underground disposal wells.

A couple of months ago, I participated in the Executive Oil Conference in Midland, Texas where a panel of water experts addressed the crowd of more than 800 attendees and discussed the new technologies.

Now, instead of trucking wastewater to a remote location, mobile systems can treat the water onsite and condition it to meet almost any specification the driller wants—resulting in a reduction of expensive truck traffic. The portable systems can treat 20,000-30,000 barrels of water per day. For bigger frack jobs, additional units can be added—making the system totally flexible.

These new water solutions can reduce the total dissolved solids in the water from as high as 200,000 to below 200. For reference, the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for drinking water is 500. The same water can be recycled and used over and over again. Addressing the new technologies, James Welch, Global Business Development Manager, Water Solutions, with Halliburton, told the crowd: “Produced water is not a waste. It is an opportunity. It is an offset to freshwater usage.” Halliburton is able to fracture with water that’s 280,000 TDS.

The result of these new procedures is, according to The Economist: “Clean water …pure enough to be used for irrigation, or even drinking water. …Alternatively, it can be re-injected into the ground during the next frack.”

Rather than taking water out of the hydrologic cycle, the oil-and-gas industry is actually often taking formerly unusable water, using it in fracking and then cleaning it up to a level where it can be introduced into the cycle as either irrigation or drinking water.

Stan Weiner, Chairman and CEO at STW Resources, was one of the panelists. He summed up the new water solutions by saying: “Now we’ve figured out a way to clean it up economically. There’s no reason not to use it. Companies nationwide, worldwide, all want to do this. We get no resistance from them. They want to see it work. It’s a go.”

GE (as addressed in The Economist), Apache Corp. (as covered by Reuters), Halliburton, and STW Resources are just a handful of the many companies, which are developing revolutionary water treatment processes that neuter one of the biggest arguments against fracking.

Chemicals

In our Christmas conversation, someone asked: “Why do they need chemicals? Why don’t they just frack with water?” She’d heard stories.

I explained that the so-called chemicals are needed to provide lubrication for the tiny particles of sand that hold open microscopic cracks in the “fractured” rock that allow the oil or gas to escape. “As a woman, I am sure you’ve had your fingers swell. That makes it hard to get your rings off.” She nodded. “What do you do then?” I queried. “Soap my hands up,” she replied.

Bingo!

That is the role the chemicals play in the fracking process. But those chemicals are now mostly food-based and can be consumed with no ill effects—both Governor Hickenlooper (D-CO) and CNBC’s Jim Cramer have had a drink.

So, even if the chemicals did somehow defy geology and migrate several miles from the fracked well through the layers of sedimentary rock to the aquifer, they are not harmful.

To illustrate the point, I am in the process of organizing what I am calling “the great New Mexico fracktail party.” I have several state legislators lined up—and am looking for more. I need to find an operator who is willing to invite us onsite when a frack job is being done. The legislators, industry folks, and anyone else who wants to participate, will be invited to the location with cocktail glass in hand (umbrella, fruit, olive—whatever—included). With media cameras rolling we’ll pour the fracfluid from the tank to our glasses and toast to American energy freedom.

My sister-in-law asked: “What about the flaming faucets?” “Those are real,” I explained. “But they have nothing to do with fracking.” Natural gas, or methane, was found in water wells long before any fracking was done in the area. In fact, it was the gassy smell that often alerted explorers to the potential oil and gas in the region. Oil-and-gas drilling didn’t cause the flaming faucet phenomenon. Quite the contrary. The presence of gas near the surface brought about the “don’t smoke in the shower” adage. While the water is harmless to consume, a gas build up in the house could cause an explosion.

Lies about hydraulic fracturing are rampant. If fossil fuel opponents can spread fear, uncertainty, and doubt about fracking—with the goal of causing a federal fracking ban, they can virtually stop oil-and-gas development in America, as it is estimated that 90 percent of producing wells have been fracked. Without American ingenuity and increasing production, gasoline prices and utility bills will skyrocket. Economic ruin will reign. America will, once again be beholden to increasingly hostile foreign sources.

A fracking conversation shouldn’t be explosive. Today’s hydraulic fracturing is really benign, American technology that is ecologically sound and economically advantageous. Keep these facts in mind. As my stories illustrate, not everyone will listen—but if more people, such as my brother and sister-in-law, know the truth they can help de-fuse the explosive conversation.

[Originally published on Townhall.com]
Categories: On the Blog

New Obamacare ‘Fee’ Assails Small Business and Jobs

Somewhat Reasonable - January 02, 2014, 7:26 AM

Jobs, jobs, and jobs are on the minds of legislators, as they should be, not only at the federal level, but also here in Illinois.

On October 24, 2011, President Obama said:

Without a doubt, the most urgent challenge that we face right now is getting our economy to grow faster and to create more jobs.  . . .  We can’t wait for an increasingly dysfunctional Congress to do its job. Where they won’t act, I will.

Counter productive was the Obama administration’s jobs plan based on a greening of the economy. Candidate Barack Obama said in 2008 that he would create five million well-paying “green” jobs within 10 years.

Solar panel company, Solyndra, was one of many boondoggle companies that went belly up after being the recipient of government largess (taxpayer’s money) through stimulus funds intended to boost the green economy. A Johnson Controls plant in Michigan, toured by Obama to much fanfare in 2011, was able to produce 150 jobs with its $300 million in conservation grants at a cost of $1 million per position.

Despite Obama’s initial pledge to create millions of well-paying green jobs, 88% of all jobs created in 2013 were “part-time” jobs. Considered a plus was that the unemployment rate declined in November of 2013 from 7.3% to 7.0%, although millions still remain out of work, not counted because they are no longer looking for work.

How did Illinois fare in 2013 at the state level with job creation? With a ranking of 48 out of 50 states on economic outlook and 47 out of 50 in economic performance, Illinois’ performance could rightly be called dismal and unacceptable. In the Monthly Rankings of Unemployment Rates for States, Illinois was ranked 48th at 8.7% by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for November, 2013.

Some areas of Illinois even experienced double the national average of unemployment, which, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, dropped to 7.0% in November (This 7% figures fails to consider those who have dropped out of the work force because they are unable to find jobs.)

Three of the ten top Illinois cities with the worst unemployment in 2013 were: 1) East St. Louis, 14.8%; 2) Harvey, 14.4%; and North Chicago, 14.3%.

Illinois legislators were chided by Illinois Chamber of Commerce President, Doug Whitley, when both the Senate and House failed to follow through on bills offering tax breaks for companies to stay or move to Illinois, but instead left town after the pension vote on Tuesday, December 4. Since lawmakers aren’t due back until January, the issue was pushed ahead into 2014.

According to Brent Pollina, head of Pollina Corporate Real Estate in suburban Chicago, whose firm helps companies find new locations:

It seems like Illinois can’t get its act together. Illinois really is behind the times when it comes to the concept of economic development and helping work with business.

Not so, according to Illinois lawmakers. Their first concern was to deal with the state’s roughly $100 billion pension crisis that had diverted money from other services and had led to repeated credit downgrades. Nevertheless, House Speaker Michael Madigan did tell reporters that “It’s still under consideration” to give tax incentives to corporations when lawmakers return to Springfield in late January.

While other states are in competition to snag large businesses here in Illinois — governors from Texas and Florida have waged public campaigns trying to get Illinois companies to move out of state — it is Illinois’ own messy state finances and incomes taxes that are presenting obstacles to what remains at the heart of America’s engine of growth for economic success and job creation. It is small businesses and start-up companies established through entrepreneurship that create new jobs.  In-state large corporations generally do quite well without incentives, even here in Illinois.

Talk to any small business owner in your community and you will find that many are just barely making it. It is not uncommon for a small business to go bankrupt and go out of business almost overnight.  But what has Illinois does to help small businesses survive in this time of economic uncertainty?

On January 1, a new drag was imposed on small business with a large new tax, compliments of Obamacare. It is the levy on health insurance premiums that targets small business and individual markets. Although the IRS classifies the tax as a “fee”, it functions like an excise tax on premiums.

Most gold-plated public, private and labor plans are exempt from the “fee” IRS regulations imposed last November which excluded “any entity that is a self-insured employer to the extent that such employer self-insures its employees’ health risks.” This political selectivity means that the tax burden will fall on those who work for small businesses, the self-employed and individuals. These are the people who can least afford the large, new Obamacare tax.

According to the research arm of the National Federation of Independent Business, these higher insurance costs will shrink hiring by 146,000 to 262,000 jobs over the next decade, with 59% of the losses hitting small business. Also prevalent will be the temptation to dump insurance coverage and send workers to the mercies of Obamacare, which most likely was the preferred outcome from the start.

Editorial page editor Paul Gigot discusses the new health-care tax on premiums that starts on January 1 via a video presentation at: Opinion: “Obamacare’s Coming Assault on Small Business.”

In case you’re feeling safe and secure from the reaches of Obamacare, not so fast! Surprises will be in store for you on your insurance premiums and income tax bills. Taxes and fees will be listed as a line item titled “Affordable Care Act Fees and Taxes.”

The government thinks we should surrender without complaint even though it is trying to make us buy something many of us don’t want. To add insult upon insult, government is now forcing us to pay additional taxes for what the government is demanding we buy, taxes that are set to increase year after year.

In my mind this results in the government’s confiscation of our liberty and freedom. What about you?

[First posted at Illinois Review.]

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