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Archive for the ‘Climate Change’ Category

Energy Charades

A previous post, Energy Realities, showed in clear, graphical detail, the status of energy production and consumption, both globally and for two key nations; the USA and China.

In this post I’ll link to a number of detailed reports, all published recently, that provide more context to the graphs presented in that previous post.

But first there are a number of points about the current energy situation that can be taken from those graphs and their data:

  • As of 2019, almost thirty years after the Kyoto Treaty was signed, the world still overwhelmingly relies on fossil fuels for its energy needs, from electricity production to transport, to the tune of 87%.
  • Renewable energy forms a small percentage of global energy, and the majority of that is traditional biomass and hydro.
  • Nuclear power forms an even smaller fraction.
  • In the USA, fossil fuel dominance is at 80%, even as coal has fallen to about 11% of total energy production.
  • Despite this, the USA’s CO2 emissions per person is 18% less than it was in 1949 and 50% less than the peak in 1973.
  • China’s coal production has exploded in the last twenty years by a factor of almost 400%.
  • The efficiency of wind power is very low, with actual output being a small fraction of installed capacity, and often falling to zero. The same is true of solar power.

So let’s look at some of the reports from just this year alone that explain those graphs, noting that fossil fuels already generate 86% of China’s primary energy consumption.

China’s 2020 coal output rises to highest since 2015:

The world’s biggest coal miner and consumer produced 3.84 billion tonnes of coal in 2020, data from the National Bureau of Statistics showed on Monday.

China’s new coal power plant capacity in 2020:

China put 38.4 gigawatts (GW) of new coal-fired power capacity into operation in 2020, according to new international research, more than three times the amount built elsewhere around the world

Including decommissions, China’s coal-fired fleet capacity rose by a net 29.8 GW in 2020

There’s more to come:

China will invest more in coal to power its economy over the next five years, according to a government plan released Friday that only modestly increased renewable ambitions.

Two specific reports on that.

China’s Economy Is Based on Fossil Fuels:

China plans to build 250 gigawatts of coal-fired generating capacity to add to its current coal-fired fleet of over 1,000 gigawatts—more coal-fired capacity than the entire U.S. generating fleet. Last year, China opened the $30 billion Haoji Railway line, a 2,000-kilometer (1,243-mile) conduit to haul 200 million tons of coal a year directly from central coal mining basins to regions in the southeast.

The Chinese gap between Green and coal:

China approved the construction of a further 36.9 GW of coal-fired capacity last year, three times more than a year earlier, bringing the total under construction to 88.1 GW. It now has 247 GW of coal power under development, enough to supply the whole of Germany.

It’s sad to see in that last article, the claim being made that China is still holding to its commitment for reaching peak CO2 emissions by 2030 and the claim that these coal plants will become stranded assets, even as those actual figures are shown. Nobody, not even in infrastructure investment-mad China, would be stupid enough to build assets costing tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars that will be “stranded” within a decade. These things are built for thirty to forty years of life.

And it’s not just China.

Asia snubs IEA’s call to stop new fossil fuel investments:

Asian energy officials on Wednesday disputed the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) call for no new oil, natural gas and coal investments for the world to be able to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, viewing that approach as too narrow.

Europe turns to coal-fired generation as gas prices rise:

Europe is so short of natural gas that the continent — usually seen as the poster child for the global fight against emissions — is turning to coal to meet electricity demand that is now back to pre-pandemic levels.

Coal usage in the continent jumped 10% to 15% this year after a colder- and longer-than-usual winter left gas storage sites depleted

The return of coal is a setback for Europe ahead of the climate talks in Glasgow later this year. Leaders of the world’s biggest economies failed to set a firm date to end coal burning at the meeting of the Group of Seven at the weekend in Cornwall, U.K.

I assume this means the EU will be giving Poland less shit about its refusal to trash 65% of its energy supply as they attempt to recover from four decades of Communism and reach the wealth levels of the Western EU nations.

INDIA – Coal projected to be its largest source of power in 2040.

Coal is projected to remain the largest single source of electricity in India in 2040, according to Michelle Manook, Chief Executive, World Coal Association.

You would expect such a person to make such a claim, but their energy minister sounds like he’s backing it up, according to the BBC:

India lambasted the richer world’s carbon cutting plans, calling long term net zero targets, “pie in the sky.” Their energy minister said poor nations want to continue using fossil fuels and the rich countries “can’t stop it”.

As a result the following analysis is probably right on the money:

The world’s coal producers are currently planning as many as 432 new mine projects with 2.28 billion tonnes of annual output capacity, research published on Thursday showed, putting targets for slowing global climate change at risk.

China, Australia, India and Russia account for more than three quarters of the new projects, according to a study by U.S. think-tank Global Energy Monitor. China alone is now building another 452 million tonnes of annual production capacity, it said.

More stranded assets I guess!

You need to understand that the developing world is not simply being obstructive in all this. It’s not just that they need to develop their economies fast and that fossil fuels will power the way forward just as it did the West, it’s also the simple fact that renewable energy cannot do the job because of its inefficiency and base load instability, both a result of laws of physics that cannot be avoided, no matter how low the cost of wind turbines and solar panels fall.

Moreover, these nations are beginning to notice some of the problems arising in Western nations and regions that have pushed hard into renewable energy. Some more headlines:

GERMANY – Chipmakers lament high taxes and levies on electricity:

“The high electricity price makes the location unattractive,” Christoph von Plotho, head of chip supplier Siltronic, told Handelsblatt. Another main reason were high personnel costs in Germany. At the same time, a spokesperson of Germany’s largest semiconductor producer Infineon told Handelsblatt that a secure power supply without fluctuations was also a major factor in keeping production in Germany and Europe.

That comes after Germany has spent twenty years and some 500 million Euros in its Energiewende program to build a wind and solar power system. This has resulted in a huge amount of installed capacity that just does not produce and actually requires the old power system to continue beside it:

In 2000, Germany had an installed capacity of 121 gigawatts and it generated 577 terawatt-hours… In 2019, the country produced just 5 percent more (607 TWh), but its installed capacity was 80 percent higher (218.1 GW)

The new system, using intermittent power from wind and solar, accounted for 110 GW, nearly 50 percent of all installed capacity in 2019, but operated with a capacity factor of just 20 percent. (That included a mere 10 percent for solar, which is hardly surprising, given that large parts of the country are as cloudy as Seattle.)

The old system stood alongside it, almost intact, retaining nearly 85 percent of net generating capacity in 2019. Germany needs to keep the old system in order to meet demand on cloudy and calm days and to produce nearly half of total demand. In consequence, the capacity factor of this sector is also low.

The average cost of electricity for German households has doubled since 2000.

All this has not been helped by their insane decision to shut down nuclear plants. The result is that coal still generates some 37% of electricity and Germany has missed its CO2 emission reduction targets. This won’t get better either:

Germany’s solar farms will have to be rebuilt every 15-25 years. The wind farms will need to be rebuilt every 20-25 years.

Higher investment costs, higher running costs, both short and long-term, resulting in more expensive electricity – and all to deliver poorer CO2 reductions than the USA, which has done nothing nationwide like the acclaimed Energiewende.

But while the USA has largely relied on switching from coal to gas for generating electricity (thanks frackers) , California has been another of these “Green Energy leaders” – and the results are the same, Blackouts Loom in California as Electricity Prices Are ‘Absolutely Exploding:

Two inexorable energy trends are underway in California: soaring electricity prices and ever-worsening reliability—and both trends bode ill for the state’s low- and middle-income consumers.

Texas is not as well known for pushing wind power but it has, and the results – blackouts – were already seen during the February cold snap, and could be seen again with this summer’s heat.

New York is also not well known for Green Energy, but they’re trying. On April 30 it closed the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which reliably produced 1,036 MW of electricity.

And so just the other day…

There is no way that China and India or the rest of the developing world are going to accept the same results.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 4, 2021 at 7:08 am

Energy Realities

There have been some terrific graphs published recently that tell us much more about both the global energy situation and efforts to reduce AGW than any number of lengthy articles.

All these graphs but one are historical, showing how energy use has changed over time since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

First, some history of our reliance on different types of energy over the last two hundred years. Note that coal usage peaked around one hundred years ago and oil in the 1970’s. But note also how important they remain.

The reason for those changes can be seen in the next graph, which effectively demonstrates the energy content of the different types. It’s interesting to see that Biomass is churning out slightly more energy than ever, but as energy demands have risen it and other renewable energy sources have simply been left behind. Those fuels with higher energy density have taken over by massive margins.

The only exception to this is nuclear, which is still a pitifully small contributor despite having the highest energy density of all.

Those global figures have been driven by two nations in particular, the USA and China.

Here’s the US. Coal’s contribution has dropped by a huge margin in the last twenty years. The reason for that can be seen in the mirror-image increase in natural gas, which has steadily replaced coal for burning to generate electricity. That in turn has been driven by fracking and horizontal drilling that has unlocked huge reserves of gas on the continental USA, greatly reduced the long-term cost of gas, and thus caused power companies to shift over to using more gas, a process that will continue.

The result of all that has been the steady reduction of CO2 emissions per person in the USA over the last fifty years.

All without signing up to, and even rejecting, the Kyoto Treaty and Paris Climate Accord. So much for government “action”.

Unfortunately all this good work by the USA’s capitalist economy, with its relentless focus on increased productivity that demands getting more production with less energy, is being undone by China.

Not that you can blame them. They have 1.4 billion people that need to have their lives lifted to something approaching that of the West, and they are therefore following a similar path of energy production that the West has undertaken over the last two hundred years. It’s the only way for people to become more prosperous and comfortable in all aspects of life, especially food, housing, health, work.

Note how even the impact of a government lockdown of the economy had no effect on the burning of coal in China in 2020.

India’s 1.2 billion people are following China as fast as they can, as well as the rest of Asia and Africa.

If you want one graph to explain why renewable energy forms such a tiny part of all this, even after hundreds of billions of dollars and Euros of investment over the last thirty years, then the following graph is as good as any.

You just can’t beat physics.

Written by Tom Hunter

July 2, 2021 at 7:00 am

Survival in changing times

The predecessor of this blog was named after the famous comedy character from the Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister TV series of the 1980’s, Sir Humphrey Appleby.

I was reminded of yet another aspect of him the other day when reading one of Chris Trotter’s latest missives, They Say We Want A Revolution – But Do We?.

The article is about both the proposals from the Climate Change Commission and the He Puapua report, but it was this part that caught my eye:

As a “free-marketeer” of no mean ability (the man has a PhD from the prestigious Wharton School of Business) Rod Carr could contemplate the installation of cash registers in public hospitals without flinching. 

I’d forgotten about that long-lost tidbit from Rod Carr, back when he looked like this:

Yep. Every inch the 1980’s/90’s Rogernome businessman on the make, expensive business suit and cool tie with the suitably modish beard – and free market ideology at the forefront of thinking.

Nowadays however it’s Climate Change at the forefront, likely combined with a bit of He Puapua and so…

From 1980’s business suit and tie to being a bearded git who resembles nothing so much as an Amish elder, but with a huge chunk of pounamu around his neck for added Aotearoan authenticity, Carr is testimony to Sir Humphrey’s philosophy:

“Bernard, I have served eleven governments in the past thirty years. If I had believed in all their policies, I would have been passionately committed to keeping out of the Common Market, and passionately committed to going into it. I would have been utterly convinced of the rightness of nationalising steel. And of de-nationalising it and re-nationalising it. On capital punishment, I’d have been a fervent retentionist and an ardent abolitionist. I would’ve been a Keynesian and a Friedmanite, a grammar school preserver and destroyer, a nationalisation freak and a privatisation maniac; but above all, I would have been a stark, staring, raving schizophrenic.”.

At least Sir Humphrey never grew a beard.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 28, 2021 at 9:35 am

A distorted economy

Two graphs that summarise where we are economically as a nation, and without even looking at the tourism numbers, which are bad enough on their own.

First up, real estate prices for residential properties.

Those increases, in one year, are staggering. In dollar terms they exceed any “help” that any government, even one as spendthrift as Labour, can give to young, first-time home owners.

The price to income multiplier increased during the “nine long years of neglect” of National from 5.05 to 6.08. Under Labours stewardship it’s now at 8.61.

It’s been common wisdom for twenty years now that Aucklanders were cashing up and heading to the Waikato and Bay of Plenty. But since when are retired Aucklanders or Wellingtonians cashing up their houses and moving to Gisborne (almost 50% increase) or for that matter the West Coast (33.6% increase). There will be specific reasons for this inflation but they all boil down to factors driving the basic economic law of demand exceeding supply.

In Auckland those factors have been population growth increasing faster than homes can be built – which in turn is based on government immigration decisions on the demand side vs. building regulations and costs, and even more so the land-banking of city planning causing huge lifts in the cost of land, far beyond the increase in house value itself.

But can those factors be driving demand exceeding supply across the whole nation this time? Immigration has been basically zero for the last year and while land-banking and city planning are a nation-wide supply restricting problem there have not been dramatic changes in those factors in the last year, and some areas have always been more relaxed than others. So what’s driving this recent nationwide inflation?

  • Government changes on investment deductibility and the increased time over which the bright-line test can be applied (basically a Capital Gains Tax) mean that investors are deciding now it’s not a great time to sell, reducing the number of listings (supply)
  • Sensitive people are feeling the breeze of general inflation and take positions to protect their own capital base by lifting those sales from the market, further tightening supply. Better to sit on the potential capital gains, increase the mortgage and use that money to buy a new boat. Notice the increase in prices for second-hand boats, caravans and motor homes.
  • Interest rates pushed down in 2020 as the classic mode of Keynesian response to a potential recession. That increases demand, at least for a while.

The government must be hoping that this is just a one-off and that once the housing market has adjusted to a post-Covid world, things will settle down. We should all hope for that but I see merely the results of a “critical mass” of factors that have finally come together at one point in time rather than individually affecting the market at different times. Even if this spike cools down, the ongoing house price increases will still be greater than we can cope with.

Then there’s this:

That’s Fonterra’s share price in the last three months. An awful drop from $5 per share to $2.82 that exceeds the percentage drop in 2018. That last was caused by financial problems at the company. Problems that, like the housing situation, had been bubbling away for years, but which hit critical mass that year.

Fonterra has since cleaned up many of those problems and was looking pretty healthy internally, with a good payout. So what’s happened?

Professor Keith Woodford is on the case as usual with two articles in May that discussed what might be coming.

You can read the details in those two articles . The summary comes to five points, the first two being around proposals only.

  1. Reduce farmer requirements to own shares, with them needing to hold one share for every four kg of Milksolids supplied, compared to the current one share for every kg of supply. That last is a hangover from Co-op days when the shares were a nominal $1 that never changed as farmers joined and exited co-ops.
  2. Shut down or cap one arm of its two-armed share investors world, the Shareholders Fund. This Fund and the related Trading Among Farmers (TAF) scheme allowed a two-way flow of “units” and shares between the Fund and the Farmer share trades, which kept the price of shares and units within a cent or two of each other and supplied vital pricing information to both farmer investors and external investors.
  3. The Fund allows non-farmers to buy shares and get a dividend but with no shareholder voting. While there was talk about enabling the company to raise capital this way without trying to get cash from cooperative members, the real reason was to remove the redemption risk as farmers exited the company. Under the old co-op model they would not have had the cash to pay them out. The Fund and TAF would shift the risk.
  4. The flaw was that the only way TAF could remove the redemption risk should Fonterra lose a major number of suppliers was by taking on a new risk of losing control of the company to non-farmer investors.
  5. The risk now is not from exiting farmers but from a substantial and ongoing reduction in production, perhaps in the order of 10% to 20%, primarily driven by future environmental regulations around herd sizes. That’s one rock. The other is that farmers still want to control the company.

While only proposals, they did suspend trading before the announcement and they have cut the link between farmer share trading and the external fund, showing the future to investors.

Those investors, the market, have reacted badly to all of this and although it would be easy to say that this is just frippery that ignores the now “healthy” internals of Fonterra, the fact is that share prices tell us what the market thinks of any company’s future.

Clearly Fonterra’s and perhaps the rest of the dairy industry’s future in NZ is not good. What that means exactly for the wider NZ economy is another question, but clearly for some environmental and economic extremists like No Right Turn the message is the same as for the Huntly power station and the fishing industry: Let It Die.

Written by Tom Hunter

June 19, 2021 at 12:24 pm

It’s That Damned Global Warming Again!

A polar blast is heading across NSW and Victoria. Picture: BOM/Sky
 News Weather

Inland temperatures have been 10C to 12C colder than average on Thursday morning, while coastal parts of the state have shivered through a morning 5C to 7C below average.

Written by adolffinkensen

June 10, 2021 at 11:48 am

California Screaming – Fire

For decades in the USA there has been a cartoon character who would warn the good people of America that:

Only YOU can prevent forest fires”.

Smokey the Bear was invented in 1944 by the US Forest Service as a way of enlisting the public in helping them fight forest fires, which was also a wartime concern as Japan tried forest fire attacks via balloons launched into the stratosphere aimed at the USA’s West Coast.

In addition to this the US Forest Service decided to throw everything and the kitchen sink at fighting these fires, using as much technology and manpower as they could afford, which was a lot in the booming post-war American economy. Their compatriots in the National Park service followed suit.

But as the years went by they began to notice that the fires were getting worse – much worse – even as they did everything to slow them down and stop them. Finally, in the early 1960’s, the Department of the Interior commissioned a study to look at ecosystem problems across the board in National Park, including predator control (Yellowstone elk were having to be constantly culled) and what came to be called fire ecology.

What the conclusions boiled down to for fire was that the “kill the fire” policy was actually making things worse because it was allowing huge buildups of fuel on the floors of the forests instead of steadily reducing and then stabilising it. So when fires did break out they became monsters.

So by the late 1960’s/early 70’s the policy was changed from suppression to management, allowing fires to burn while keeping an eye on them and acting only to protect developed areas. Events like the massive 1988 Yellowstone fires resulted in public and political backlash about this but although the decision criteria around fire fighting was modified the basic policy remained. However, the environmental movement began to impact this in other ways. Not that they went back to fire suppression, but – thinking that they were being kind to the environment – they started doing things that caused the same problems:

Shortly before leaving office in 2001, Clinton limited the ability of the United States Forest Service to thin out a dense thicket of foliage and downed trees on federal land to bring the West into a pristine state, Bob Zybach, an experienced forester with a PhD in environmental science, told the Daily Caller News Foundation. The former president’s decision created a ticking time bomb, Zybach argues.

“If you don’t start managing these forests, then they are going to start burning up. Thirty years later, they are still ignoring it,”

It was more than just underbrush management:

Under this policy, thousands of miles of forest roads were ripped out, roads built to allow the harvesting of timber, but also used by firefighters to access wildfires in the hinterlands before they spread to populated regions. And timber harvests plunged as much as 84 percent from 12 billion board feet per year to less than 2 billion board feet per year.

California was, as usual, the leader in this policy for the future, being even more fanatical than Clinton’s policies, (although other Western states like Colorado and Oregon are up there) reducing the state’s timber industry to less than a third the size of what it was 60 years ago. The state now imports 80% of its timber.

You would think that, given the natural dryness of California and the massive forests in the state, its leaders would not have been so stupid as to ignore the science. But even worse than the national logging policy, California’s Green sentiment also prevented controlled burns (for fear of disrupting animal habitats) and barred even minor brush-clearing programs.

As a result its forests are now twice as dense as they were 150 years ago — when the population was a fraction of today’s. Behind that unnatural density: state and federal rules that make it nearly impossible (and insanely expensive) to lay a finger on any of this precious overgrowth.

historically, ponderosa pines grew in stands of 20 to 55 trees per acre, but in some areas, they now grow in densities of 300 to 900 trees per acre. The unnatural density allowed what were formerly isolated pockets of insect infestations to morph into massive infestations killing large swaths of forests. There are now more dead trees in many federal forests than live ones, drying out and becoming growing stockpile of fuel for wildfires. Indeed, the U.S. Forest Service estimates more than 190 million acres of public land, almost all of it in the arid west, are at risk of catastrophic fires.

There’s a whole generation
With a new explanation

In addition to the mountain forests the hillsides above the cities of San Francisco, LA and most others are also overgrown with drought-stricken scrub and half-dead trees, in part due to restrictions on grazing, brush removal, as well as logging. They’re the kindling.

And it’s not just the evil Right Wing of the Heritage Foundation that’s pointing this out. Here’s The Guardian:

As part of a project to study California’s fire history, we sampled almost 2,000 fire-scarred trees and stumps in the Sierra Nevada. What was equally arresting as finding 10 or more scars in a single tree, however, is what we did not find. Of the hundreds of living trees we sampled, only a handful had even a single fire scar in the 20th century. 

Naturally, because it’s the Grundian, there’s shout-outs to Global Warming and the genius fire management of indigenous peoples, but the key point is not denied and it’s not just current science but history telling the tale:

… a 2007 paper in the journal Forest Ecology and Management found prior to European colonization in the 1800s, more than 4.4 million acres of California forest and shrub-land burned annually, far more than the area of California that has burned since 2000, which ranges from 90,000 acres to 1,590,000 acres per year.

But even though wildfires have declined over all in the USA (and around the world), in California 10 of the state’s 20 largest, most deadly fires ever occurred in the last decade.

To make things worse California’s leaders, instead of admitting they got it wrong, have actually been using the wildfires of recent years as an excuse to go even crazier on the environmental front, via blaming the fires on AGW.

It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy. They warn of cataclysmic climate change if we don’t suddenly remove the fossil fuel energy on which their state (and the Western world) built its modern, prosperous, comfortable lifestyle. Then they work against any sensible management of California’s forests that would reduce the severity of routine regular wildfires. Then, when the wildfires become record-breaking conflagrations, they point and say, “See, I told you so.”

They’re like arsonists admiring their handiwork from afar.

Just one other example of how these political and media “environmentalists” don’t understand the environment is shown in how they shed tears about the terrible fires destroying the great redwood forests:

“Hundreds of trees burned at Big Basin Redwoods State Park,” reported Shawn Hubler and Kellen Browning for The New York Times. “Park officials closed it on Wednesday, another casualty of the wildfires that have wracked the state with a vengeance that has grown more apocalyptic every year.”

“The protected trees, some 2,500 years old, were nearly wiped out by loggers in the 1800s,” claimed CBS News’ Jonathan Vigliotti. “Now human-caused climate change has damaged or destroyed many of these ancient giants.”

Except that these old-growth redwood forests need fire to survive and thrive. Heat from fire is required for the release and germination of redwood seeds, and to burn up the woody debris on the forest floor. The trees themselves survive – as long as the fires are of normal, historic scale, rather than monsters fueled by the stupidity of environmentalists:

“I see [the current California fires] as a normal event, just not one that happens every year,” Jon Keeley, a leading forest scientist, told me. “On July 30, 2008, we had massive fires throughout northern California due to a series of lightning fires in the middle of the summer,” he said. “It’s not an annual event, but it’s not an unusual event.”

“The idea that fire is somehow new,” said geographer Paul Robbins of the University of Wisconsin, “a product solely of climate change, and part of a moral crusade for the soul of the nation, borders on the insane.” 

The cherry on top is that despite all this sturm and drang, California’s GHG emissions over the past decade have fallen less than 39 other states.

Coastal California is hilly, difficult to build on, and prone to devastating earthquakes. It is semi-arid, without much of an aquifer. The watershed of the Sierra Nevadas is more than 200 miles away. In other words, some of the people most eager to offer green sermons to others live in one of the most artificial and ecologically fragile environments on the planet, and they’ve been managing it very poorly even as they’ve shouted their own praises from the rooftops.

On his final day in office in January 2019, California Governor Jerry Brown admitted as much by quietly signing bills removing impediments to “controlled burns” and allotting $190 million a year to “improve forest health and fire prevention.” Whether this is followed up by enough practical action to slow down the monster fires is yet another question since the state increasingly can’t seem to accomplish anything.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 22, 2021 at 9:43 am

Quick! Let’s Have Another Carbon Tax.

Adolf laughed his arse off when he read this morning’s Australian.

Australia’s southeast shivers through ‘widespread polar’ cold snap

It will be chilly for the rest of the week. Picture: Sky News Weather
It will be chilly for the rest of the week. Picture: Sky News Weather

The cold snap sweeping across nation’s eastern states is set to hang around until at least the end of the week.

Queensland, NSW, the ACT, Victoria and Tasmania have all shivered through freezing nights and frosty mornings, with temperatures falling to below zero in all states.

Snow has also fallen in Tasmania and alpine Victoria, with more snow on the way for the Apple Isle in coming days.

The temperature is set to drop to as low as 7C in Melbourne on Friday morning, while Sydney is set to shiver through 9C on Thursday.

Canberra will fall to -3C on Wednesday and 0C on Thursday with morning frost and fog, and the temperature in Hobart will get down to 4C on Friday.

Inland Australia has seen widespread frosty mornings over the past few days.
Inland Australia has seen widespread frosty mornings over the past few days.

Frost has been forecasted again across inland NSW, southern Queensland and parts of South Australia on Wednesday before it eases back to just a few patches on Thursday.

Snow will also fall to 1300m in central Tasmania on Thursday.

Sky News chief meteorologist Tom Saunders said the cold spell developed late last week as a series of four cold fronts swept across southeast Australia within four days.

“Behind the fronts modified polar air has now settled over southeast Australia and combined with calm, clear nights is leading to widespread frost,” he said.

It was very chilly across eastern parts of Victoria on Tuesday night, with frost areas in the northeast. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology
It was very chilly across eastern parts of Victoria on Tuesday night, with frost areas in the northeast. Picture: Bureau of Meteorology

“It’s not unusual to have late autumn cold spells but this event has seen temperatures drop to levels only seen every couple of years outside of the winter season.”

The cold snap hasn’t broken any records – yet – but a number of towns have shivered through their coldest May morning in a few years.

Canberra’s minimum of -5.4C on Sunday was their coldest in six years for May, while Mitchell in Queensland had a low of -2.9C on Monday morning, its coldest temperature for May in 15 years.

On Tuesday morning, Sydney dropped to 8.7C, while Canberra shivered through -3.6C, Orange -3.5C, Launceston -1.4C, Bendigo 3.8C and Roma -1.2C.

Written by adolffinkensen

May 19, 2021 at 1:25 pm

The Song Remains The Same

This is outstanding news:

Tens of millions of dollars have been spent on Auckland light rail since Labour came to power, despite there being no shovels in the ground to build it. 

Information released by Waka Kotahi-NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) shows $34.8 million has been spent since October 2017 on business cases, project management, legal costs, office space and equipment, and Ministry of Transport funding. 

With more projects like this we’re going to able to stand up and proudly proclaim to the world all the wonderful things we’re doing to halt Global Warming… whilst actually doing abso-fucking-lutely nothing about it.

Plus there’s the wonderful Keynesian effect of all that money passing through the hands of lawyers and consultants and into the pockets of Mercedes and Tesla dealerships and Auckland real estate companies.

Now be honest. What more could you want from a government?

The only problem is that they’re showing signs of becoming restrained:

The Government was left with a $47 million contingency in its $6.8 billion NZ Upgrade transport package after $211 million worth of rail projects were put into the package at the last minute.

This was despite repeated warnings from officials the contingency might be too small to pay for any cost blowouts.

Those warnings were prescient, as new cost estimates for the transport projects have led the Government to back away from promises to build everything they proposed a little over a year ago – something that could have been avoided had the projects been given larger contingency funding.

I’m sure they’ll learn from this and put in a bigger contingency for next year’s budget. About a billion dollars should do it.

On the other hand their extreme restraint in achieving anything may actually start being translated into spending as well, with that contingency problem perhaps not being the usual Labour screwup as an indicator of where they’re going, as Chris Trotter points out:

Let’s begin with the Labour Government’s decision to impose a three-year wage freeze on three-quarters of the Public Service. Under the old Political Rule Book, such an action would have been deemed extremely unwise. That rule book would have explained the sheer folly of effectively decreasing the purchasing power of some of the Labour Party’s most loyal supporters. This is hardly surprising: “Look after your electoral base.”; has always been the first and most important rule of electoral politics.

Chris thinks that this is all part of keeping onboard those National voters who crossed the aisle last year, but it’s more likely that Robertson has taken a look at the deficits and debt and finally got the wind up about blowing more money on stuff, especially as he considers how much of the spending to date has produced nothing of consequence or, in the case of poverty and healthcare, seen things go backwards.

To me it therefore seems quite a natural and logical progression for Labour to start down the He Puapua route of separate Maori development. As I have pointed out several times Critical Race Theory, which is currently shredding the USA, was always going to make it down here to New Zealand where it would be gleefully taken up by Maori activists and academics as an even more extremist extension of what used to be called Political Correctness (now “Woke” Politics).

But the reason why the political and activist Left have glommed on to it is that the traditional Left ideas have failed Maori, just as they’ve failed Blacks in the USA.

Public education. Public Healthcare. Social Welfare. And still Maori are suffering worse in education, health and poverty than other ethnic groups in our society.

What else has the Left got to offer Maori? Nothing, which is why this new ideology has taken hold so quickly on the NZ Left. I think it will ultimately prove to be even more useless than traditional Socialism, but for the moment it’s a salve for Maori activists and a possible electoral winner for White Leftists who otherwise have no idea what to do to improve their public institutions beyond simply dumping in more money.

There’s also increasingly a lot of moaning from the Left about why their wonderful Labour government can’t get anything done. Certainly a lot of this is due to their shambling incompetence; they are the most useless shit shower of a government that I’ve known in my lifetime.

But the simple fact is that you can’t build the same thing twice. Is Adern’s Labour government going to build another Social Security system? Another Public Healthcare system? Another building to house the bureaucracy for them? The low-hanging fruit was plucked by the First Labour government. There may be equally revolutionary things like a Universal Basic Income that they could try to implement, but I see no signs of such things from this government.

Which, as a Right-Winger, suits me just fine. I may even vote for them in 2023 on the sound basis that the more useless a government is the better it is for the individual.

But then I recall that even a government that’s too useless to build anything can still stuff things up badly by constantly saying “No” and stopping people doing things, and that’s so easy that even this government can do it. In fact it seems to be their speciality.

Labour 2023: Vote For Nothing.

If I could have just one extra promise from Labour though it would be that their post-2023 government spend less for nothing.

The North Face: an outstanding company

I don’t think I own any North Face gear, or ever have, though I do think their line of outdoor clothing is stylish.

Apparently the company likes stylish things across the board, especially those which let its customers know that it cares about more than just profits, but the Earth itself:

Innovex is based in Houston and has nearly 100 workers in the Permian Basin.

Each year, the company gets a Christmas gift for its employees. This year, it was supposed to be a North Face jacket with an Innovex logo, a company Innovex has ordered gear from in the past.

The company providing the jackets said The North Face doesn’t want to support the oil and gas industry in the same way they’d reject the porn industry or tobacco industry.

“They told us we did not meet their brand standards,” Innovex CEO Anderson said. “We were separately informed that what that really meant is was that we were an oil and gas company.”

[North Face said that it] “thoroughly investigates product requests to ensure they align closely with our goals and commitments surrounding sustainability and environmental protection.”

Take that you disgusting, Global Warming, despoilers of Gaia! Begone from our customer’s ranks! No more will our skiers have to be ashamed at wearing the same clothes as some deplorable oil driller. Virtue and purity hath returned to our world.

Unfortunately for North Face their management turned out to be pretty ignorant about their own products and it didn’t take long for somebody in the fossil fuel industry to strike back – but in an unexpected way:

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association has bestowed its first-ever “Extraordinary Customer Award” on The North Face, saying it appreciates the company for its abundant use of oil and gas.

“To have such a large percent of what they make, probably three-quarters of the mass they ship is actually our product. So, it’s hard to top the all-in nature of The North Face as a consumer of our product,” said Chris Wright, CEO of Liberty Oilfield Services.

Fantastic stuff and now a US state government, Louisiana, has made it official with a resolution passed last week, that recognized The North Face as an “extraordinary customer” of “the Louisiana oil and gas petrochemical industries.”

The resolution highlights the “symbiotic relationship between the Louisiana oil and gas and petrochemical industry and The North Face,” commending the clothing company for “utilizing vital oil and gas resources so important to our state.”

“The North Face continues to offer a comprehensive collection of high-performance outerwear, skiwear, backpacks, duffels, and footwear made with nylon, polyester, and polyurethane, all of which come from petroleum products,” the resolution reads.

Congratulations to The North Face for these well-deserved awards.

In fact I’m so pleased about this that I think I shall go and buy a new ski jacket, and while looking at the products in the store I shall certainly offer voluble and effusive commentary in commending them on their wonderfully high use of fossil fuels.

I’m sure their sales people and customers will also be pleased with my visit.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 14, 2021 at 11:05 am

California Screaming – Water

From the 1900’s to the 1970’s California made huge plans for its future, building power stations and the transmission lines to link them, bridges and expressways for transport, and dams, canals, and aqueducts.

The latter was part of a vast system designed to bring water from the snowy mountains of the Sierra Nevadas to the deserts of the Central Valley and the coastal cities.

The dryness of those cities had been noted early on:

Our California ancestors understood this; they saw, after the 1906 earthquake, that the dry hills of San Francisco and the adjoining peninsula could never rebuild without grabbing all the water possible from the distant Hetch Hetchy watershed. I have never met a Bay Area environmentalist or Silicon Valley grandee who didn’t drink or shower with water imported from a far distant water project

It was a golden era and through the 1950’s it was planned for 25 million people. As the 1970’s rolled around new plans for further development were made in all these areas, for a 21st century population of 40 million or more. But then something terrible happened.

Actually that’s being unfair to the hippies, although they did vote for the real problem – Jerry Brown, seen here on a Time cover as he ran for election in 1974.

Jerry’s father was known as the builder of California, especially with the California State Water Project.

Perhaps it was just the usual father-son dynamic but Jerry turned his back on all that and began cancelling such projects as far and as fast as he could. Thanks to the 1960’s Counter-Culture revolution he had plenty of support from California Democrats in the State House and Senate.

The 10 largest reservoirs in California were built between 1927 and 1979. The New Melones Dam was the last of these, work already advanced enough that they couldn’t kill it. It was completed in 1979. Since then, 15 million more people have been added to the state’s population.

To a certain extent the voters cannot be blamed, since they have approved 15 of 16 state water bonds since 1970, yet this did not deliver major new water storage or canals nor maintain existing infrastructure. They can be blamed for voting in the likes of Brown and company who either didn’t care or actively opposed such plans.

Since California is basically a desert state, with a geological history of droughts, this was going to bite them in the bum sooner or later and the irony is that the worst drought in decades started not long after Brown climbed back into the throne in 2011 for another two-terms as Governor.

He wasn’t helped by the fact that his immediate predecessor. two term GOP Governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger (2003-2011), while hectoring state residents about global warming, green energy, wind and solar power in a beautiful example of UniParty thinking, allowed things to get even crazier, as this 2010 report noted:

It started with a 2008 federal court order that stopped water flowing from northern tributaries on a supposed need to protect a small fish — the delta smelt — that was getting ground up in the turbines of pump stations that divert the water south. The court knew it was bad law, but Congress refused to exempt the fish from the Endangered Species Act and the diversion didn’t help the fish.

After that, the water cutoff was blamed on “drought,” though northern reservoirs are currently full. Now the cry is “save the salmon,” a reference to water needs of the state’s northern fisheries.

Whatever the excuse, 75% of the fresh water that has historically irrigated California is now being washed to the open sea. For farmers in the southwest part of the valley, last year’s cutoff amounted to 90%.

It was also a waste of time for the fish, as reported by The Wall Street Journal in 2015:

“To protect smelt from water pumps, government regulators have flushed 1.4 trillion gallons of water into the San Francisco Bay since 2008

That would have been enough to sustain 6.4 million Californians for six years. Yet a survey of young adult smelt in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta last fall yielded just eight fish, the lowest level since 1967.”

“Politicians, ugly buildings, and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.”

So no extra storage provided in those eight years either and water sent running to the sea. Actually that’s what Noah Cross did in the movie Chinatown. Of course, he was one of the creepiest movie villains of all time, whereas this was done by Congress and environmentalists, which somehow makes it better.

As a result there was no margin for error left in the system and as the drought grew worse in Brown’s first term he finally had no choice but to impose water restrictions, starting in 2015 with a target of 25% usage reduction and then going even harder in 2018:

California citizens will be limited to using 55 gallons of water a day now and just 50 per day by 2030.

According to the San Jose  Mercury News, the new laws will “require cities, water districts and large agricultural water districts to set strict annual water budgets, face fines of $1,000 per day if they don’t meet them, and $10,000 a day during drought emergencies.”

As some have noted, the restriction could make it difficult for some California citizens to do laundry and take a shower on the same day without going over the limit.

Naturally, rather than blaming themselves for the short-sighted decisions over the years, or changing their minds and policies, the California Democrats began attacking the state’s agricultural industry for “wasting” the water. However:

It’s now popular to deride California agriculture in cost-benefit terms, given that its share of state GNP (anywhere from 4 percent to 8 percent, depending on how one counts related industries) supposedly does not justify its huge allotted consumption of state water (anywhere from 65 percent to 80 percent). But note the irony: California supplies a staggering percentage of the nation’s fresh vegetables and fruits; it’s among the most efficient producers in the world of beef, dairy, and staple crops.

One can purchase an iPhone 6 or a neat new Apple watch, but he still must eat old-fashioned, pre-tech food. There are no calories in Facebook, and even Google can’t supply protein. On the other hand, I can live without an iPad. Who is to say which industry is essential and which isn’t?

The drought would grind on for fifty months as Brown and friends watched in a calm and detached manner the inland parts of the State start to die:

[As of 2015 the]Central California water table has fallen in depth anywhere from 50 to 500 feet—the severity predicated on the distance from the Sierra Nevada Mountains. That decline has prompted the drilling of thousands of new private wells, but at costs often quadruple the pre-drought rate.

Small rural homes with dry wells, especially along the western corridors of the valley, are now often abandoned. If they had been rented out, several years of rental income would not have paid for the exorbitant cost of new replacement domestic wells. Most valley residents, especially those retired, could not afford the $60- to $100-a-foot expense to drill down hundreds of feet to tap falling water.

There were also perverse results in agriculture:

The huge demand for limited drilling rigs, the need to drill to unprecedented levels to find water, the soaring power bills to pump from greater depths, and the increase in permanent orchard and vineyard acreage all conspired to spike agricultural expenses.

Only the record net profits from almonds (between $5,000 and $9,000 per acre) allow new wells to be drilled. The larger the farm, the more frequently profitable almonds are planted, the more reasonably an operation can afford the cost of buying scarce surface water or drilling deeper—and the more likely smaller farmers sell or lease out their ground to those with the capital to make the costly transition to almond and other nut orchards.

So the Big Guys got even bigger thanks to the Democrats and with even more mono-cropping. In addition almonds and other nuts are the most mechanized of all crops, so that crunched down hard on the working classes who otherwise would have had thousands of farm jobs in the vineyards and fruit orchards that were ripped out to plant almonds. The final joke is that these crops use about the same amount of water per year, so no water savings on that front.

The following is an excellent documentary on the Central Valley disaster, Dead Harvest:

Après nous, le déluge

Meteorologists had long forecasted that the cyclical return of the so-called El Niño Southern Oscillation – the rise in temperature of a band of ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific – would end the California drought. The warmer Pacific alters winds, air temperature, and atmospheric pressures and thus reroutes northern storms to their proper course over the Western United States.

At the end of 2015 that is exactly what happened.

The cherry on top of this whole drought disaster was that when the rain and snow finally did start to fall and as the weather turned even wetter through 2016 and 2017, there was nowhere to store all that extra water.

There would have been if the giant reservoirs of The Sites, Los Banos Grandes, and Temperance Flat had been built – basically the second stage of the California State Water Project. They would have drought-proofed the state for years. To make matters worse, the existing, aging infrastructure, starved of maintenance for years, could barely cope, as witnessed by the crumbling spillways of the Oroville Dam, the tallest dam in the United States, which threatened a massive breach in early 2017.

Given the lack of water-storage capacity, and due to environmental diversions, 20 million acre-feet of precious water had simply been washed to the ocean by early 2017. That’s 6.5 trillion gallons or 24.6 trillion litres of water: enough to sustain about twenty million Californians for ten years.

That is criminal mismanagement. About the only thing that is funny about it is that a bunch of arrogant, ignorant environmental fantasists have found themselves at the mercy of early and mid-20th century water systems that they now condemn.

There is also some irony in the fact that while the likes of Brown and Newsom politicised the drought by blaming man-made global warming and leveraged that to obtain even more extreme environmental rules and nutty projects like high speed trains, instead of attending to water infrastructure (among other basics) – the Meteorological analysis that accurately forecast what would end the last drought also works in the opposite direction; a natural, cyclical and slight cooling of the Pacific Ocean will cause future droughts in California.

And that’s before we get to the likelihood of the return of mega-droughts lasting 100, 200 years or more.

Will the Democrat government of Californian be ready for the next drought? I don’t think so. To paraphrase the French diplomat, Charles Maurice de Talleyrand-Périgord, officials in Sacramento “have learned nothing, and forgotten nothing.”

But that’s okay. The state needs to shrink drastically anyway. Losing twenty million people to other states would fit the population to the old infrastructure and make the place sustainable again.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 10, 2021 at 6:00 am