“Billionaire’s Club” Funds Bogus “Anti-Fossil Energy Message”

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

According to the Minority Staff of the United States Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, a “close knit network of likeminded funders, environmental activists, and government bureaucrats . . . specialize in manufacturing phony ‘grassroots’ movements and in promoting bogus propaganda disguised as science and news to spread an anti-fossil energy message to the unknowing public.” See the Complete Colorado report for details, or see the Senate report itself, titled, “How a Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.”

The Consequences of Power Shortages in Developing Nations

Here in America, anti-fracking activists wouldn’t dream of going home and finding their lights didn’t work, their cars didn’t run, their refrigerators didn’t cool. But in many parts of the world energy shortages are a routine part of life—and they can be impoverishing and even deadly. Kenneth P. Green quotes one observer: “Lack of power means so many things. It means women giving birth in the dark, children who either cannot study at night or don’t go to school, and business that cannot function.”

Coloradans Rally to “Stop the EPA Power Grab”

Agents of the Environmental Protection Agency are in Denver to promote the agency’s restrictions on carbon-emitting power generation. Yesterday hundreds of Coloradans rallied to “stop the EPA power grab”; the Denver Post has the story. However, Eli Stokols reports for Fox31 the hearings were “dominated by the environmentalists.” Dustin Zvonek of Americans for Prosperity make some pro-energy remarks at the hearings.

Contra Gasland Deception, Colorado Water Always Featured Natural Methane

A couple of years ago the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission debunked major claims of the Gasland anti-industrial propaganda film:

Gasland features three Weld County landowners, Mike Markham, Renee McClure, and Aimee Ellsworth, whose water wells were allegedly contaminated by oil and gas development. The COGCC investigated complaints from all three landowners in 2008 and 2009, and we issued written reports summarizing our findings on each. We concluded that Aimee Ellsworth’s well contained a mixture of biogenic and thermogenic methane that was in part attributable to oil and gas development, and Mrs. Ellsworth and an operator reached a settlement in that case.

However, using the same investigative techniques, we concluded that Mike Markham’s and Renee McClure’s wells contained biogenic gas that was not related to oil and gas activity. Unfortunately, Gasland does not mention our McClure finding and dismisses our Markham finding out of hand. . . .

Laboratory analysis confirmed that the Markham and McClure wells contained biogenic methane typical of gas that is naturally found in the coals of the Laramie–Fox Hills Aquifer. This determination was based on a stable isotope analysis, which effectively “finger-printed” the gas as biogenic, as well as a gas composition analysis, which indicated that heavier hydrocarbons associated with thermogenic gas were absent. In addition, water samples from the wells were analyzed for benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, and xylenes (BTEX), which are constituents of the hydrocarbons produced by oil and gas wells in the area. The absence of any BTEX compounds in these water samples provided additional evidence that oil and gas activity did not contaminate the Markham and McClure wells.

I have not researched what “part” of the contamination of the Ellsworth well was allegedly “attributable to oil and gas development,” nor what sort of development that was, nor what the settlement was. In general, if there is objective evidence of a tort, the government properly intervenes to protect property rights (in light of any contractual relationships) and ensure just compensation for damages.

To me what is most interesting about the document, though, is that it demonstrates that usually methane in water is attributable to natural causes, not industrial development.

Recently I was talking with my father Linn about this, and he shared some anecdotes buttressing this fact:

Your great-grandfather Glenn Linn owned land south of Collbran, Colorado, until around 1963. As a child I spent many summers on this ranch. Of course, I have many fond memories spent in the mountains and one of the exciting memories is when we crossed the small stream running in front of the cabin Glenn would throw a match into the stream. A loud roar would ensue from the surface gas exploding.

In the 1960s the surface gas near The DeBeque bridge was very useful to the ranchers. In the cold winter the ice would freeze on the river which would force the ranchers to chop ice in order for the livestock to drink. Those lucky ranchers who had access to the river near the surface gas simply had to light the gas which kept the water clear of ice. Ranchers and cattle were both happy.

Your grandfather Otto Armstrong related that the train would stop just past the town of DeBeque so that the passengers see a geyser raise several feet into the air caused by surface gas. This must have been a great spectacle with the train engines of the 1920s and 30s bellowing smoke and a geyser spouting water feet into the air.

But we all know what’s going on here. The anti-industrial environmentalists will damn any sort of energy development that alters the natural environment in any way, no matter how much energy production contributes to human life and flourishing. And they’re not about to let the facts get in the way.

Image: Creative Commons by Tim Hurst

The Progressive Gas Guzzler

ProgressNowColorado just launched an awesome new fundraiser offering a “Progressive” bumper sticker for the low, low price of $5 (or, for the real bargain shoppers out there, two for $10).

My favorite aspect of the campaign is that the featured image shows one of the “Progressive” bumper stickers on the back of a V8 Toyota Tundra. (See my screen capture on Picasa.)

Talk about a carbon footprint! This glorious gas guzzler gets an impressively low 16 miles to the gallon for city driving. (The figure varies slightly by model.) I definitely have some energy envy; my Honda Civic gets 50 percent more miles to the gallon. Foiled by the progressives again! I may have to take some extra leisure drives up to Boulder just to keep up the pace.

Can I trust that Colorado’s so-called progressives will now stop haranguing people for their gasoline consumption? Now that would be progress.

Warming Prophets Create Climate of Smear

I like Skeptic magazine; indeed, I have written an article for eSkepticabout religion in Harry Potter. Healthy skepticism is about thinking for yourself, declining to accept “established wisdom” without good evidence, and rejecting pseudo-science and appeals to non-natural explanations about the world.

Unfortunately, the latest article by geologist Donald Prothero for eSkepticpromotes group-think and smearing the opposition. Prothero accuses “climate change-deniers” of ad hominem attacks, even though the very label contains two smears.

First, Prothero clearly means to attribute guilt by association with the term “denier,” linking his opponents with other unassociated groups. Prothero explicitly likens his opponents to “evolution-deniers,” and never mind that many critical thinkers accept evolution but question climate alarmism. Ah, but some “climate change-deniers” are also “evolution-deniers,” and that’s good enough for Prothero. The argument seems to be, “Some of my opponents are idiots; therefore, all of my opponents are wrong.” But that’s not good enough, not if you claim the mantle of science.

Second, Prothero’s claim that his opponents “deny climate change” is simply a ridiculous lie. Nobody denies that the climate changes. Indeed, it is precisely the fact that the climate always changes and has been continually changing since the formation of the Earth that provides goodprima facie reason to think that modern climate change is dominated by nature rather than humans. In all the climate-change literature, the single page that most impressed me was the page from Al Gore’s first major book on the subject showing the pre-human cycles of climate change.

Only a fool would argue that modern climate change is due exclusively to human industry. (On the other hand, it is a tautology that, before humans evolved, nature was exclusively responsible for climate change.) However, nobody could sustain the view that human-caused CO2 emissions have zero impact on today’s climate. Therefore, the real debate is between the views of “human-dominated climate change” and “nature-dominated climate change.”

Given that nature obviously dominated climate change for nearly all of the Earth’s history, the idea that nature continues to dominate climate change remains a highly plausible starting point.

As to Prothero’s claims about the “scientific consensus” (which, incidentally, has been wrong before), there are a couple of good reasons to think that ideology drives much of the science. First, large sums of federal cash are awarded to scientists who promote the “consensus” view. Second, most advocates of “human-dominated climate change” advocate massive federal controls on the economy as a response, even though that political conclusion extends well beyond the scientific claims.

True skeptics will not be bowled over by the smear tactics and intimidation of the modern environmentalist movement.

Alien Invasions: Where Economic and Environmental Insanity Meet

“You’re traveling to another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. … Your next stop: the Twilight Zone.”

If the Onion covered the Twilight Zone, you’d end up with the sort of actual headlines we’re seeing today.

Consider the first headline, from Time“Paul Krugman: An Alien Invasion Could Fix the Economy.” What Krugman said was this: “If we discovered that space aliens were planning to attack, and we needed a massive build-up to counter the space alien threat, and inflation and budget deficits took secondary place to that, this slump would be over in 18 months.” He actually referenced the Twilight Zone.

And thus Krugman, a Nobel-winning economist, commits the simplest of economic fallacies, what Bastiat in 1850 called the broken-window fallacy, a type of the error of accounting for the seen but not the unseen.

The next headline comes from the land of environmental nuttiness, from the Guardian“Aliens may destroy humanity to protect other civilisations, say scientists: Rising greenhouse emissions could tip off aliens that we are a rapidly expanding threat, warns a report.” (For context, read the report from NetworkWorld.)

For any consistent leftist, this creates a paradox of unprecedented proportions. For clearly the solution is to expand CO2 production as rapidly as possible, so as to exacerbate global warming and incite an alien invasion, so that we can “stimulate” the economy and reelect Barack “The Chosen One” Obama in 2012.

(Hat tip to Aaron Bilger for blending the two stories.)

The Winds of Force and Taxes

The Associated Press released a (remarkably inept) article about “a 29 megawatt wind project near Pueblo” half-owned by Black Hills Energy. But at least the AP’s article tipped me off to the Black Hills release, which includes more relevant details.

The company’s Christopher Burke explained the real reason for the wind farm: “This approval of our wind project by the PUC is an important milestone as our utility continues to put assets and programs in place to meet the requirements of Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard…”

In other words, this project has absolutely nothing to do with economically meeting the needs of Colorado’s energy consumers, and everything to do with pandering to the environmentalist fantasy of widespread wind energy.

Moreover, “The project, planned for completion in late 2012, is expected to qualify for the U.S. Department of Treasury’s section 1603 cash grant program,” the release states. I’d never heard of the “1603 cash grant program” before; it’s part of the so-called “Recovery Act.”

In other words, the U.S. government will steal wealth from wage earners across the country to subsidize an overprised wind farm boondoggle in Colorado.

And yet, given the widespread use of such force and taxes, some people still wonder why the economy is struggling.


Anonymous commented on August 9, 2011 at 10:54 AM:
I have been searching for some breakdown of what goes into wind power and what comes out. Is there any net gain? Don’t forget to add in the loss from all the traffic jams caused by transporting the long blades. Jeff

Anonymous commented August 9, 2011 at 3:05 PM:
Maybe windfarms are the cause of man-made global warming, not that I believe in man-made warming. This article thinks the wind-farm build up will change climate!http://www.livescience.com/74-windmills-change-local-global-climates.html

Green Doomsday Cultists

So the world is going to end tomorrow. Perhaps when it doesn’t the religious doomsday cultists will finally shut the hell up, at least for a little while.

I have to wonder, though, whether the doomsday scenarios of the environmentalists make much more sense.

Following in the footsteps of the global cooling and global warming scares comes the “climate change” scare. This latest iteration seems altogether too convenient, because the climate is always changing and has always been changing since the formation of the earth. Ironically, environmentalists blast critics as “climate change deniers,” when those critics are the ones pointing out that climate change long preceded humanity and, thus, obviously is driven largely (if not entirely) by non-human factors. Even Al Gore’s book provides ample evidence of non-human caused climate change, and Nova’s “Becoming Human” shows that humans evolved in an African climate that gyrated wildly between rain forest and desert. Yet environmentalists insist that, while pre-industrial climate change was caused entirely by natural factors, post-industrial climate change is caused mostly by human activity.

Also notice how environmentalists (and their lap-dog media) routinely latch onto any short-term weather pattern as proof of long-range “climate change.” If the weather is a little warmer, or a little cooler, or a little dryer, or a little wetter than average, then sound the alarms! Human-Caused Climate Change Invades New York! (Or wherever.)

It’s been raining in Colorado quite a lot over the past few days, and snowing in the mountains — allowing Aspen Mountain to reopen for the weekend and contributing to 25-foot drifts on Independence Pass — so obviously the reason is human-caused climate change. But just a few years ago, the environmentalists warned us that human-caused climate change would lead to drought and shorter skiing seasons.

That’s a pretty convenient theory that fits any and all possible weather and climate variations. At a certain point I think it’s reasonable to wonder whether claims of “human-caused climate change” remain theoretically open to challenge.

I do not doubt that, at certain stages of very-long-running climate cycles, the weather gets jumpier (more varied) than at other times. We might even be in one of those stages. But proving that would require quite a lot of evidence about present and past conditions — and good record-keeping on such matters began fairly recently. Proving that more variable weather is caused by human activity would require a far more robust set of facts. But notice how frequently we are urged to jump, without any substantial evidence, from “climate change” to “humans obviously caused it.”

In Biblical mythology, Adam and Eve lived in a technology-free state of environmental perfection. Then man sinned, setting off a a chain of events that some think will climax tomorrow. The environmentalists seem to concoct a similar ideal state — a climate paradise untouched by man — thrown into chaos by human industry.

But the climate has always been in a state of flux, and people have always suffered natural catastrophes, including wild weather patterns. It is only industrialization that has allowed us to protect ourselves from the fickle and destructive forces of nature.

Denver Post Reissues NREL’s Misleading Release

There are two stories here. One is that the National Renewable Energy Laboratory has put out an intellectually dishonest release touting the organization’s benefits to Colorado’s economy—without counting any of the costs in terms of tax subsidies and transferred resources. The second story is that the Denver Post reissued this release as “news” without bothering to mention its status as a copied release; the byline claims it is “by The Denver Post.”

Sure, if you totally ignore all the costs, any government expenditure looks like a great deal. Then again, if you ignore the costs, bank robbery also seems like a great deal, because look at how much the robbers are “stimulating” the economy by putting all that money into circulation! I have written about the general problem elsewhere, and economists have made the same rebuttals at least since the early 1800s.

But these sorts of releases are not intended as intellectually serious arguments; they are intended to stir up emotional support among economically illiterate (or simply dishonest) journalists, politicians, and taxpayers. So the fact that NREL would issue such a self-serving release is no surprise, even though any honest scientist working at the organization must be embarrassed by it.

I confess that I am surprised by the Post’s treatment of the release. I first heard of the story when hard-core leftist-environmentalist Pete Maysmith mentioned it on his Twitter feed: “More evidence that renewable energy is a boon for CO’s economy. #coleg http://bit.ly/g2P4Kz.” The shortened link accesses the Denver Post “story.” I got the idea that something was screwy when identical language showed up at Wind Today, and after a couple of phone calls I found the NREL release at the source.

I guess I just expected something a little more from the number thirteen newspaper in the nation.