In the next couple of issues of Climate Change Weekly I will be responding to critiques raised regularly by radio, television, and print interviewers who’ve contacted me in response to President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.
In his Rose Garden address announcing the decision, Trump said the treaty would cost the United States jobs. Trump cited a study by NERA Economic Consulting, which estimated the U.S. economy would lose nearly $3 trillion if the United States were to meet its carbon-dioxide emissions reduction obligations under the Paris climate agreement. The United States would lose 6.5 million industrial jobs by 2040, including 3.1 million in the manufacturing sector.
Almost every reporter or host who’s interviewed me since Trump’s announcement has questioned Trump’s claim about job losses. They also say green energy technologies, especially solar – they love to talk about solar – are engines of job creation and would benefit if the United States stayed in the Paris agreement. In particular, they argue there are now more jobs in the solar segments of the electric power industry than in coal, natural gas, or oil electric power generation combined.
This claim is true (in a limited sense) but misleading. In absolute numbers, the U.S. Department of Energy reports solar power employed 43 percent of the Electric Power Generation sector’s workforce in 2016, employing more than 374,000 people constructing, assembling, selling, and installing solar panels. Fossil fuels combined accounted for 22 percent (187,000) of jobs directly tied to generating electric power. These numbers are misleading for a number of reasons, of which I’ll mention a few.
The employment figures leave out the mining jobs associated with coal production and the jobs related to the production of oil and gas. The DOE report notes fuel production and electricity generation combined directly employed 1.9 million workers in 2016, with 55 percent, or 1.1 million jobs, working with fossil fuels. The figures also ignore the thousands of jobs tied to the transportation of fossil fuels and, for oil and gas, jobs at refineries and chemical plants, and for coal, jobs at steel mills.
In addition, many, perhaps most, of the jobs created in the solar and wind industries — from construction to power generation – are artifacts of various government interventions in the market. Consumer demand in the marketplace did not create these jobs; rather, billions of dollars in federal government subsidies, tax breaks, and loan guarantees were dedicated to building the factories that churn out wind towers, turbines, and solar panels. Billions more taxpayer dollars were diverted to installing and partially paying for the electricity generated by wind turbines and solar panels. Solar- and wind-generated power, being much more expensive than conventional fossil fuel-generated electricity, would be used only sparingly absent government support. And while fossil fuel producers and users pay billions of dollars of taxes and fees to the government, renewable energy sources are net tax takers.
And this is before considering the billions more dollars various state governments have lavished on the wind and solar industries, and the fact many states force utilities to use wind or solar for a specific share of the electricity they deliver, despite the high cost and reliability problems inherent to the technologies.
The proponents of green energy also ignore the fact jobs in the solar industry don’t pay well when compared to jobs in coal mining or in oil and gas production. The Bureau of Labor statistics reports the average solar installer makes between $12.00 and $15.00 per hour. By comparison, the average coal miner makes more than $23.00 per hour before overtime and the average pipefitter, driller, or extraction worker makes between $25.00 and $31.00 per hour before overtime.
Finally, consider how wasteful and inefficient jobs associated with the production of wind and solar energy are compared to jobs associated with the production of fossil fuel energy. As my friend and colleague Paul Driessen pointed out in recent paper:
“* 398,000 natural gas workers = 33.8% of all electricity generated in the United States in 2016
* 160,000 coal employees = 30.4 % of total electricity
* 100,000 wind employees = 5.6% of total electricity
* 374,000 solar workers = 0.9% of total electricity”
Do the math: Coal generates 7,745 megawatt-hours (MWH) and natural gas generates 3,812 MWH of electricity per worker; wind generates just 836 MWH and solar delivers a dismal 98 MWH per worker. “In other words, producing the same amount of electricity requires one coal worker, two natural gas workers – 12 wind industry employees or 79 solar workers,” Driessen writes.
I think I’ve made my point.
— H. Sterling Burnett
SOURCES: Climate Change Weekly 251 and Forbes and CFACT
IN THIS ISSUE …
Withdraw endangerment finding, electric users tell EPA … New effort aims to provide classroom materials from a realist perspective … Financial firms drive Exxon shareholder resolution … UN says courts can, should push climate restrictions … Swiss crank up carbon dioxide-sucker
WITHDRAW ENDANGERMENT FINDING, ELECTRIC USERS TELL EPA
On May 8, 2017, the Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) filed a supplement to its January 20, 2017 Petition asking the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to vacate its finding that carbon dioxide is a threat to human health and welfare. CHECC contends if EPA does not rescind the endangerment finding, the Trump administration will have no choice but to regulate CO2 emissions.
The supplement cites an April 2017 report from researchers James Wallace, John Christy, and Joseph D’Aleo, who examined the impacts of key natural factors (including solar, volcanic, and oceanic activity) on tropical and global temperatures. The researchers say once natural factors are properly accounted for, there is no “warming remaining to be attributed to rising atmospheric CO2 levels. That is, these natural factor impacts fully explain the trends in all relevant temperature data sets over the last 50 or more years.”
The paper finds increasing atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations have had no statistically significant impact on any of the 14 temperature data sets they analyzed. Because the climate models relied upon by EPA to claim humans are causing dangerous climate change fail to accurately reflect measured temperatures and trends, and the projections they’ve made of the impacts of warming have been routinely wrong, there is no statistically valid proof anything other than natural factors is responsible for ongoing climate change.
SOURCES: Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council and Carlin Economics and Science
NEW EFFORT AIMS TO PROVIDE CLASSROOM MATERIALS FROM A REALIST PERSPECTIVE
David Wojick, Ph.D. has assembled a team of teachers, scientists, policy analysts, and others working to develop an online collection of classroom material suitable for high school or lower grades, including lesson plans and other materials. Initially, the team will be collecting into one place the materials that already exist. Once the portal is established and sufficient funding is raised, new teaching materials will be produced.
Wojick notes, in what we consider to be a real understatement, “The teachers need this and so do the children. Please gear up your contributions and let’s get going.”
If you can help – with classroom-suitable materials or financial support – please visit the project’s GoFundMe site at https://www.gofundme.com/climate-change-debate-education. Do it for the children, for the planet, and for your own peace of mind.
FINANCIAL FIRMS DRIVE EXXON SHAREHOLDER RESOLUTION
Over the recommendations of ExxonMobil’s management and just a day before President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris climate agreement, shareholders adopted, by a 62 percent vote, a non-binding resolution saying Exxon should report on the possible impact on Exxon’s business prospects of international efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an amount necessary to prevent global temperatures to rise by two degrees Celsius – the target set in the Paris Climate agreement. Exxon had defeated similar proposals in previous years by wide margins. The Washington Post suggested the resolution succeeded this year because Exxon’s largest shareholders, major financial advisory firms and fund managers BlackRock, State Street, and Vanguard (who own collectively more than 18 percent of the company’s shares) backed the resolution.
Earlier in 2017, similar resolutions requiring management to account for how climate change and climate policies could affect their businesses were adopted by Occidental Petroleum, with BlackRock’s backing, and PPL, a large utility holding company. By contrast, such resolutions failed to be adopted at shareholder meetings of Dominion (48 percent in favor), Duke Energy (46 percent), and Southern Co. (46 percent).
The Post reports in opposing the resolution Darren W. Woods, ExxonMobil’s new chief executive said, “We believe the risks of climate change are serious and warrant action, thoughtful action. … [But] there’s a moral imperative to bring energy to people who live in energy poverty.”
While Woods said the company would take the nonbinding resolution under advisement, he also said the disclosure contained in Exxon’s annual “Outlook for Energy” document, which estimated global demand for energy would increase 25 percent through 2040 and that “oil will remain the world’s primary fuel,” was adequate.
SOURCE: Washington Post
UN SAYS COURTS CAN, SHOULD PUSH CLIMATE RESTRICTIONS
By withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate agreement, President Donald Trump may have avoided myriad legal efforts to force the administration to restrict fossil fuel development and use in the United States.
A United Nations Environment Programme report released in late May argues the agreement can be used by environmental non-governmental organizations and state parties to the agreement to force countries “that have adopted climate-oriented laws to implement them.”
The report says litigation “has arguably never been a more important tool to push policymakers and market participants” to fight climate change.
The report notes hundreds of climate-related lawsuits have been filed, including many in the United States, “to compel governments to impose regulations, assign damages to emitters, and stop projects that could increase emissions.”
Even before the Paris climate agreement was adopted, Dutch activists successfully sued the Netherlands in 2015 for not doing enough to fight climate change, with the court ordering “the Dutch state to limit GHG emissions to 25 percent below 1990 levels by 2020,” UNEP reported.
Since adoption of the Paris climate agreement: “Swiss environmentalists filed a petition in 2016 making arguments similar to Dutch activists, but this time they buttressed their claims with the Paris Agreement; Austrian activists used the Paris Agreement to argue against expanding the Vienna airport; Norwegian campaigners used the Paris Agreement to bolster their legal challenge of lease sales to explore for offshore oil and sell a coal mine instead of decommissioning it; [and] Swedish activists challenged the sale of coal mines and plants in Germany under the Paris Agreement.”
The Daily Caller reports a memo obtained from New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman circulated among fellow Democratic AGs in 2016 said they should work together to “ensur[e] that the promises made in Paris become reality.”
If nothing else, Trump may have dodged years of costly climate litigation by withdrawing from the agreement.
SOURCES: UN Environment Programme and Daily Caller
SWISS CRANK UP CARBON DIOXIDE-SUCKER
The Swiss company Climateworks AG opened on May 31 the world’s first commercial plant for capturing carbon dioxide directly from the air. The Climateworks facility, located near Zurich, is the first industrial-scale facility to remove carbon dioxide from the air and sell it directly to a buyer. Climateworks estimates the facility will capture approximately 900 tons of carbon dioxide annually, equal to the amount of carbon dioxide released by 200 cars in average use annually, and ship the gas through pipelines to greenhouses to help grow vegetables.
While this plant in isolation removes only a small amount of carbon dioxide emitted annually from the atmosphere, Climateworks hopes its demonstrated success will spawn demand for 250,000 similar-sized plants worldwide, which combined would remove an amount of carbon dioxide equal to 1 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions.
SOURCE: Science Magazine
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