No Minister

Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

Just clouds

I’ve never heard of Mammatus clouds and now I want to see them with my own eyes.

Meanwhile, in honour of the lunar eclipse the other night, which was rather more spectacular than the usual ones because it lasted such a long time (the longest in 800 years apparently), here’s something else that’s beautiful.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 23, 2021 at 5:53 am

Posted in Art, Environment

Is COP-26 over yet?

I ask because, aside from all the billionaires who flew into the Glasgow soiree in their private jets, I understand that New Zealand had a contingent over at the blowhardfest as well and that they will soon be returning.

On Sunday, MailOnline observed at least 52 private jets landing at Glasgow – while estimates put the total number flying in for the conference at 400. Conservative predictions suggest the fleet of private jets arriving for COP26 will blast out 13,000tonnes of carbon dioxide in total – equivalent to the amount consumed by more than 1,600 Britons in a year. 

I assume that they will not be getting the “greeting” that Democrat Senator Manchin got the other day as Climate Activists attempt to convince him to vote for Biden’s Build Back Better (BBB) bill, which contains all sorts of juicy subsidies and the like for renewable energy. He and Arizona Senator Sinema have already done a great job in hacking it down from $3.5 trillion to $1.75 trillion, but it’s still stuffed with “pork”.

The term was further popularized by a 1919 article by Chester Collins Maxey in the National Municipal Review, which reported on certain legislative acts known to members of Congress as “pork barrel bills”. He claimed that the phrase originated in a pre-Civil War practice of giving slaves a barrel of salt pork as a reward and requiring them to compete among themselves to get their share of the handout.

That sounds about right.

The joke is that those protestors are already living a great life. Mostly white, mostly middle and upper-class climate activists don’t have to worry about the cost of electricity as Manchin’s considerably poorer West Virginian voters do, to the extent that it becomes a question of paying the food bill or the power bill.

This comment is a precise summation of this Glasgow farce:

“The COP has turned into a PR event, where leaders are giving beautiful speeches and announcing fancy commitments and targets, while behind the curtains governments of the Global North countries are still refusing to take any drastic climate action.”

That’s “You robbed my future” teenage fanatic Greta Thunderhead who, despite her autism, appears to be finally learning the grim human realities that politicians are facing, which is the yawning gap between the voting public’s supposed desire to “do something” about AGW and the cost of doing so via government imposed rules, regulations, taxes and “markets”.

The thing is that while Greta can be excused for not learning this until now because she’s a child – a remarkably pampered child – there’s no excuse for the millions of idiots who’ve followed this path since the original Kyoto Treaty.

BTW, “doing something” with these people always and only means that government is doing something: anything outside of that is not counted as doing something, despite things like this.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 8, 2021 at 11:18 am

It’s not about what they say it’s about

Commentary on the G20 and COP26 conferences, and about the people who attend them, from Scottish archeologist Neil Oliver:

He is best known as the presenter of several documentary series on archaeology and history, including A History of ScotlandVikings, and Coast. He is also an author of popular history books and historical fiction. He was the president of the National Trust for Scotland from 2017 to 2020.

Written by Tom Hunter

November 1, 2021 at 10:06 am

Big Metal

One of the most basic things you learn in economics is the classic supply-and-demand graph, showing how the two things interact to produce the delicate balance that establishes the price of something, be it strawberries or cell phones.

What they don’t tell you is how useless that graph is in the practice of predicting what the price will be when demand or supply (or both) change. Behind that calculation sit super-computers and richly detailed software models, but the best they produce is a range, sometimes so broad as to be practically useless..

All one can say for certain is that supply exceeds demand the price will drop, and the greater it exceeds demand the greater the price drop will be. The supply does not even have to be in the marketplace to have an impact. For example, below is a graph of US prices for LNG (Liquified Natural Gas) over the last twenty years.

There are price spikes all the time, driven by all sorts of factors. But you’ll notice that there was a steady rise up 2005, followed by a steady drop to the present day. That’s the impact of the practice of fracking and horizontal drilling in gas fields, a technology that had been developing for decades but which only took off in the mid-2000’s. Fracking showed that the USA had vastly greater reserves of gas than had been predicted only a few years earlier. In fact, previous forecasts were that the nation would have to start importing LNG, which resulted in several giant terminals being built around the coast to unload the stuff from ships. Within a few short years that had been turned around, literally. The reserves “discovered” were so vast they amounted to hundreds of years of use and the terminals were re-configured to export the stuff.

Meanwhile the impact on the price was not just to greatly reduce it but to do so as far out into the future as could be seen, and another impact was that electrical generation companies switched large numbers of coal-fired power plants to being gas-fired. That, in turn, resulted in the USA reducing its CO2 emissions on such a scale that by 2020 it was beating the reduction targets of the 1997 Kyoto Treaty, (which its Senate had rejected), and the 2009 Waxham-Markey bill (which never passed).

So if you like reducing GHG’s (Greenhouse Gases), hug a fracker and thank them.

It’s not so easy to pull the same stunt with other commodities. Metals in particular, since it’s hard to see any revolution in mining them – although there will be steady, incremental improvements, and the planet has been well searched over the centuries for sources.

But there is one potential source that could change things in the 21st century:

Astronomers have now identified two metal-rich asteroids in orbit near the Earth, with one having a precious metal content that likely exceeds the Earth’s entire reserves.

Asteroid 1986 DA is estimated to be about 1.7 miles across, based on radar data obtained during a close Earth fly-by in 2019. The second asteroid, 2016 ED85, appears to have a similar content from spectroscopy, but no radar data has as yet been obtained of it, so much less is known.

figure 13 from the paper, illustrates the amount of precious metals available in asteroid 1986 DA, compared to the world’s entire reserves (FE=iron, Ni=nickel, Co=cobalt, Cu=copper, PGM=platinum group metals, Au=gold). From this single metal asteroid a mining operation could literally double the metal that had been previously mined on Earth.

Sure, but the technology to mine those metals and transport them to Earth does not yet exist, although there have been plenty of ideas over the decades, and the basics are understood.

But even when it’s developed there’s going to be a question of cost versus revenue, which brings us right back to that supply-and-demand graph. What would happen to the price of all these metals if such a source could be mined and added to the world’s reserves? The paradox is that the price might fall so low as to make the whole effort uneconomic.

The authors of that paper actually do try to account for this price drop, but the simple fact is that it’s as much of a guess as predicting the price of strawberries when that market is flooded. You know it’ll go down but to precisely what value?

We estimated that the amounts of Fe, Ni, Co, and the PGM present in 1986 DA could exceed the reserves worldwide. Moreover, if 1986 DA is mined and the metals marketed over 50 yr, the annual value of precious metals for this object would be ∼$233 billion.

In any case, it may well be that the metals never get to Earth because heavy industry slowly moves off the planet and there will be human colonies established in space that will need the metals right there. Getting them from asteroids certainly makes more economic sense than digging them out of the Moon or another planet. That seems to be what Jeff Bezos is thinking as he pushes forward with his Blue Origin rocket company (To rouse the spirit of the Earth, and move the rolling stars):

In Bezos’ view, dramatically reducing the cost of access to space is a key step toward those goals.

“Then we get to see Gerard O’Neill’s ideas start to come to life…

“I predict that in the next few hundred years, all heavy industry will move off planet. It will be just way more convenient to do it in space, where you have better access to resources, better access to 24/7 solar power,” 

Written by Tom Hunter

November 1, 2021 at 6:53 am

The Global Warmists didn’t think this through

Apparently some activist group on Twitter, called “DCist” recently started running Global Warming Catastrophe stories to support the great COP26 conference in Scotland.

That’s the conference that has seen hundreds of political and bureaucratic worthies spewing thousands of tons of CO2 into Mother Earth’s atmosphere by flying from all over the world to a place where they can discuss how they can stop spewing meagatonnes of CO2 into Mother Earth’s atmosphere.

Here’s one example.

I said many years ago in these debates that people telling me with horror that “The great cities of the world like New York, Washington D.C, San Francisco and LA, will be flooded”, was not only not going to get me onboard the AGW-action train but produce the opposite reaction: “You mean I get to burn fossil fuels AND destroy Leftist enclaves? SIGN ME UP”.

And so…

This thread is even better for responses.

Meanwhile in actual news of the ocean, Despite Climate Change Fearmongering, Study Shows The Great Barrier Reef Is Growing Quickly:

The Australian government’s most recent official report on reef recovery indicates that coral cover at the Northern Great Barrier Reef “continued to increase to 27% from the most recent low point in 2017.” Meanwhile, the Central Great Barrier Reef saw a 26% increase in hard coral cover.

Indeed, the study stated that over thirty-five years of monitoring, the Great Barrier Reef has consistently “shown an ability to recover after disturbances.”

Naturally this is not being covered by the MSM, unlike recent years when, as the article records, the likes of the NYT and WaPo screamed their guts out about the dying Great Barrier Reef.

We have now had thirty years of this sort of doom nonsense and reality never matches it, which is the real reason – not the awful “Climate Change Deniers” – why so little is achieved at and arising from conferences like COP26.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 30, 2021 at 9:19 am

Wellington is not moving.

I’m a firm believer in blogs like this connecting to other blogs rather than the MSM (breaking news aside) because blogs often provide a level of expert analysis and detail of subjects that the MSM does not.

In this case I’ll link to two blogs, Not PC and Liberty Scott on the matter of transport and do so in two separate posts. But they should be read together.

First up is Not PC, run by Peter Cresswell, an architect who has spent decades writing and thinking about urban planning. This particular article is a guest post by The Uncivil Servant, and focuses on transport in just one place, Wellington, and one group there planning it:

A RUNNING JOKE AROUND Wellington is the organisation for activist bureaucrats Let’s Get Wellington Moving (LGWM). A running joke, because it is a symbol for how bureaucracy barely lets anything move at all.

The last National Government foolishly set it up to try to get agreement with local government on fixing transport problems in Wellington. Labour however has since changed its objectives, and painted a wide band of Green all over it. So now it isn’t really much about transport at all.

You could say the same about MBIE, set up at the behest of ACT. When are our “Right-wing” parties going to realise that setting up new bureaucracies to get things done simply results in these scenarios? All that happens is that the lovers of the State, the Left, have a new home to burrow into. In this case the writer details how the organisation’s primary objectives have been changed:

The upshot of this capitulation to blancmange is that LGWM is now less about transport and more about enabling intensification for housing development, and reducing carbon emissions. In fact, almost all about carbon emissions. Note: not noxious emissions like particulates…

The autistic focus gets worse than that:

It is also single-mindedly focused on reducing emissions solely by mode shift. Not by travelling less, not by moving to electric or hybrid vehicles, or by reducing traffic congestion to waste less fuel. LGWM is instead now almost solely focussed on enabling more housing (on one corridor), and on making peasants like you drive less by using public transport more.

They already have the statistics in front of them that show that their approach is not going to work, even on their own terms of reducing CO2 emissions. One third of traffic enters Wellington only to get to other places, and the primary reason for the congestion is that there is no bypass:

The problem is easy to identify: Wellington’s urban motorway ends abruptly at Te Aro at one end, and at the other end, SH1 from the airport stalls at the bottleneck of Mt Victoria Tunnel, with one lane in each direction. This causes congestion all day long and on weekends as well. Plus between 15-40% of traffic along Wellington’s waterfront is travelling to avoid that congestion, according to LGWM, that’s traffic that helps separate Wellington city from its harbour.

But LGWM is just not interested in solving that problem. Although the author does not say so I reckon that they’re actually happy with the congestion, thinking it will force drivers on to their trains, trams and buses, much as the Greens are happy about the Covid-19 lockdown destruction of our tourist industry, since it means fewer CO2 emitting planes ferrying people to and from our shores.

One of LGWM’s primary proposals is some sort of tram system that will cost $2.2 billion. That’s their estimate: public transport systems around the world regularly blow out such forecasts, often by multiples of two, three or more. Auckland’s ring train being merely the latest local example. The LGWM idea won’t do a damned thing for CO2 emissions either. In fact it has a different objective:

This policy of LGWM is straight out of the North American urbanist planner playbook, which calls for more “PT” (public transport) to induce more high-density housing. A policy that  has had the same success in addressing housing shortages and traffic issues there (i.e., virtually  none) as it would in Wellington. 

The other idea is fiddling around with the Mt Victoria road tunnels; building one for walkers and cyclists only and the other for buses only. Seriously, do these people even live in the city? I’ve walked and cycled around the place and on the rare nice day of sun and little wind it’s great, but there is no way I’d do it most of the time, especially during Winter and Autumn (Spring is not great either). There is already a dedicated bus tunnel of one lane only: why not just enlarge it? Probably for the following reason:

So all of the proposals essentially keep the current road capacity and do nothing at all about the bottleneck. This is straight out of the Green Party “building new road capacity is bad” school of thinking, on the basis people might have the audacity to drive (even with an electric car). One has to suspect the proposals are designed to just be dumped for being uneconomic, because they won’t encourage housing, won’t reduce emissions, nor encourage people to shift modes.

There’s nothing for the rest of Wellington either, even for other places with bottlenecks and congestion, like Karori. What a future National/ACT government should do about this is pretty simple:

If we want to ever get Wellington moving, a first step must be to remove Let’s Get Wellington Moving. It must be stopped.

Thereafter, [NZ Transport Agency] should be directed to finish SH1 in Wellington with a second Terrace Tunnel and Mt Victoria Tunnel; to trench the highway under Te Aro; and to grade separate at the Basin Reserve. Wellington City Council should put in place bus-priority measures at strategic points across the network.

On the other hand perhaps we just let Wellington drown in its own juices? Despite countless fuckups I see the locals regularly voting in very Lefty and Green councillors so Mencken’s rule of democracy should perhaps apply.

The only problem with that approach is that the rest of us, via central government, would end up paying to dig them out of their crap sooner or later. Better to stop them now before they hurt themselves.

Written by Tom Hunter

October 26, 2021 at 9:41 am

“Unforeseen” Consequences

The foremost concern of environmentalists is, of course, the health and well being of the environment.

It’s in their name and all.

So it’s always funny and sad when environmentalists do stuff that blows up in their faces. There are countless examples but in terms of large scale screwups Germany’s decision to shut down its nuclear power stations while also trying to switch the system to wind power is probably the winner. Some €500 million over less than twenty years and all they got was an unreliable network, power prices that have more than tripled, a lot of coal still being burned, plus constantly falling short of their GHG reduction targets. On that last it should be noted that the 2020 Chinese Xi Snot lockdowns and restrictions were a huge help, but that’s not going to be true of 2021 and beyond.

That chart is from 2017 but it’s 2020 forecast of 45 cents per kilowatt hour is not far off where it is right now.

But the latest news from another group of wind farm fanatics, California, is what is really delicious.

As more renewable power has crowded the state’s power grid with traditional power sources switched off, the grid has become more unstable and also unable to meet electrical demand even when its up and running. This has resulted in increasingly frequent summertime calls for people to lay off using power in the crucial 4-9pm slot.

Faced with this, companies and even individuals have begun to turn to, of all things, diesel generators. In fact the state itself has 2,773 stationary and mobile generators in its inventory. Now you would think that the uncompromising Eco-Stasi authorities would crack down on that quick smart. But of course they know if they forced people into that corner even the Liberal Luvvies would revolt. So instead, they’re allowing this to expand and continue. In fact, they’re even helping all this fossil fuel burning along, California wants air pollution rules suspended:

The state’s main grid operator wants the U.S. Department of Energy to suspend air-pollution rules for some natural gas-burning power plants in case their output is needed “to meet demand in the face of extremely challenging conditions including extreme heat waves, multiple fires, high winds, and various grid issues,” according to a filing. The last time California received a waiver of such length and breadth was 21 years ago during the Western Energy Crisis.

Genius. And here you were thinking that the following was just a joke.

Written by Tom Hunter

September 16, 2021 at 6:00 am

California Screaming – Recall Newsom

In the post, Flyover State, I pointed to the increasing problems that Governor Newsom is facing in his recall election.

For Newsom the election has gone from being something that can be dismissed – including legal efforts to stop the recall petition that started the whole thing – to being a real possibility that he could be booted from office on September 14.

He’s got a ton of money, vastly more than anybody else and in terms of powering the political machines to get the vote out, it might yet save him.

However, in addition to falling polls Gavin appears to have been abandoned by at least some Democrats in the state, including those opposed to his “equity” plan for Covid-19 vaccinations. However, in true tribal fashion most have not.

The election has even been nationalised to a certain extent, as the NYT expresses its fears that a Republican governor could replace California Senator Dianne Feinstein – who is yet another frail, old (88), dementia-ridden Democrat – with a Republican, breaking the 50:50 tie in the Federal Senate. Panic stations for the Left!

Now he’s facing more bad news, although it’s a regular feature of California at this time of year. Fire.

The thing is that for once Newsom does not bear responsibility, at least not solely As detailed in this post, responsibility for these environmental problems goes back decades and lies at the feet of both Californian and Federal Democrat policies. Newsom has begrudgingly, and only by implication, admitted the policies are wrong by directing the state to start clearing underbrush and such, with fire if needed: but that will take years to have any positive effect.

In any case his own party is filled with activists who are more than happy to take advantage of the fires and drought to push their efforts and ideas in fighting against AGW.

As a result, Gavin can’t point to these charts, even if he wanted to.

It’s a case of being trapped by their own rhetoric. If you scream about such things as a way of getting votes, like droughts and heat waves, then sooner or later voters will start asking why you’ve not done anything about it, like building more reservoirs. As with the fires, such politicians cannot then turn to charts like the following since they already dismissed them.

Written by Tom Hunter

September 6, 2021 at 7:34 am

Your Graphics friend who’s fun to be with.

I know that broadcast TV has been falling away as its Boomer audience ages and dies but it’s not until you see a fact like this that you can grasp the scale of it:

Fifty million Americans tuned in to Johnny Carson’s last appearance on The Tonight Show. Today, his Tonight Show successor, along with the egregious Stephen Colbert on The Late Show on CBS, barely have 2 million viewers on a good night…

Carson’s farewell was in 1992. The following is always the sign of a maturing industry, and often a dying one.

Of course there are still growth industries (graphic courtesy of The Times). The last US flight out of Kabul departed a few hours ago.

So I guess it’s back to focusing on Chinese Lung Rot, with a seeming increase in social and media pressure to vaccinate kids now.

I wonder what we’re doing to the usual building of immune systems in children?

Written by Tom Hunter

August 31, 2021 at 9:30 am

NZ Power Blows

After the recent power blackout, which did not affect me, I took a look at Peter Creswell’s long-time blog, Not PC, for his take on the situation.

It turned out that he had nothing new to add to warnings he’d made years, even decades, ago:

if I may continue a well-worn theme of previous posts over several years (No PowerNo power, againStill No Power‘More power!’ says India. ‘No power,’ says NZPower outrage ) and remind you of several famous power outages (such as Auckland 1998, 2006, 2009 … ) this news and that conclusion above simply confirms what should have been obvious years ago: in this country the lifeblood of production, energy, is running out. Not because New Zealand is short of resources with which to produce energy. But because politicians and earth-first worshippers have declared we are not allowed to use them.

That’s from 2012, although he did include this recent comment from one Hamish Rutherford.

“Between the decision to rip up the rules on the gas market, to the difficulty consenting renewables projects, to the threat to build hydro storage at Lake Onslow, the market is simply responding to the signals that the Government is sending it.”

Running through his old posts the most detailed was Meet the Enfeebled, which had lots of graphs on power production, like this one:

... over the years from from 1980 to 1998, the growth in New Zealand’s generating capacity matched the growth in demand, growing at an averaged rate of about 150MW per year.  Despite this, regular power shortages such as the famous outages of 1992 showed that even at this time capacity was near its limits — partly because of the lack of backup generation for the occasionally fickle hydro generators.

The basic thrust of the article was that since the turn of the Millennium (up to 2008 when the post was written) production growth had not matched consumption growth. You can read the detail of power stations built and closed:

TOTAL NEW CAPACITY 1993 – 2008:   1850.5 MW .

TOTAL DECOMISSIONED 1990-2008:       1333 MW

TOTAL NETT NEW CAPACITY SINCE 1990: 949.5 MW

This while consumption grew by 2700MW. The margin was growing thin. But what’s happened since the mid-2000’s? This from the MBIE:

Luckily the consumption has also plateaued at tje same time to roughly the same level: 42,000GWh vs 44,000GWh production.

That is likely due to the steady conversion to energy saving devices such as LED bulbs and heat pumps, as well as the steady increase in insulated houses. But there will come a point where even slow economic growth of 2-3% per year will eventually outpace the improvements in energy efficiency.

But the greatest increase will come with the flip side of the renewable energy push: the electrification of everything. Below are the NZ consumption figures for 2018 in Petajoules (source MBIE report. pdf pages 14-15):

The supply figures are a little different, since we have to import most of our oil while we produce more than we consume for coal (38 vs. 25) and gas (172 vs. 74).

Current total electricity production from all sources in NZ is about 160PJ. So we’re talking about more than doubling our electrical production, and some 84% of it already comes from renewable sources. Geothermal has grown tremendously since 2005 but there are limits being approached quickly. Hydro reached its limits years ago; there have been more cancelled hydro projects to add to Not PC’s 2008 list – and most of those have been due to the Resource Management Act and the Environment Court

So that leaves Wind and Solar, which means an even greater increase needed from that slim red line below.

Basically from 8Pj to more than 300Pj – an increase of 3,750%.

I’m being generous in allowing that the remaining 82PJ might come from a mix of new hydro and geothermal, with a slight assist from residential PV (solar panels).

Moreover that’s just to replace current fossil fuel energy consumption.

Finally it must be noted that since Wind (and solar) are unreliable, tanking to zero on a regular basis, they will need backup generating capacity – 300Pj of it. Where will that come from? A doubling of hydro/geothermal power? In the case of Hydro it has problems itself, though nowhere near as bad as Wind, but Huntly was built to back them up in drought years.

To paraphrase Sir Humphrey, these are heroic assumptions.

There is one other possibility that should not be dismissed, even as crazy as it may sound. I’m not talking about Thorium Molten Salt Reactors, Fusion reactors or nuclear power in general on the supply side.

No, I’m talking about crushing the demand side. A policy of Zero Economic Growth, or even negative economic as all that fossil fuel energy is shut down to enable a Zero Carbon nation. Look how happy many Greens are with what Covid-19 has delivered to Fortress NZ: the huge reduction in airline flights to and from the nation and the subsequent massive drop in tourism and internal travel in general.

After all, as Robert Bidinotto explains:

Typically, the person who calls himself an “environmentalist” is really just a nature-loving “conservationist.” Appreciating the earth’s natural beauty and bounty, he is understandably concerned about trash, noise, pollution, and poisons. Still, he sees the earth and its bounty as resources–resources for intelligent human use, development, and enjoyment. At root, then, his concern for the earth is human-centered: he believes that this is our environment, to be used by people to enhance their lives, well-being, and happiness.

But the leaders of the organized environmentalist movement have a very different attitude and agenda.

Their basic premise is that human activities to develop natural resources constitute a desecration of nature–that, in fact, nature exists for its own sake, not for human use and enjoyment. By their theory of ecology, they see man not as the crowning glory of nature, nor even as just another part of “the web of life”–but rather as a blight upon the earth, as the enemy of the natural world. And they see man’s works as a growing menace to all that exists.

Written by Tom Hunter

August 19, 2021 at 11:00 am