‘Climate’ policy ignores weather at its peril

In rain and wind and sleet and snow, the power is out in your bungalow.

Excellent analysis. RTWT.
Assigning Blame for the Blackouts in Texas | Climate Etc.

“Extreme cold should be expected to cause significant outages of both renewable and fossil fuel based resources. Why would anyone expect that sufficient amounts of natural gas would be available and deliverable to supply much needed generation? Considering the extreme cold, nothing particularly surprising is happening within any resource class in Texas. The technologies and their performance were well within the expected bounds of what could have been foreseen for such weather conditions. While some degradation should be expected, what is happening in Texas is a departure from what they should be experiencing. Who or what then is responsible for the shocking consequences produced by Texas’s run in with this recent bout of extreme cold?…

Traditionally, responsibility for ensuring adequate capacity during extreme conditions has fallen upon individual utility providers. A couple decades ago I was responsible for the load forecasting, transmission planning and generation planning efforts of an electric cooperative in the southeastern US. My group’s projections, studies and analysis supported our plans to meet customer demand under forecasted peak load conditions. We had seen considerable growth in residential and commercial heat pumps. At colder temperature these units stop producing heat efficiently and switch to resistance heating which causes a spike in demand. Our forecasts showed that we would need to plan for extra capacity to meet this potential demand under extreme conditions in upcoming winters.”

Debate is raging over which form of power generation was the proximate cause of the Texas power fiasco. Bill Gates is arguing with Greg Abbot; the MSM publishes articles alternately excusing windmills and blaming natural gas. There’s chatter about failure of the free market.

Forget all that. Yes, more solar panels and more windmills would have made it worse, but nuclear plants shut down when cooling pumps froze (go figure), and natural gas more or less ran out. Gas prices soared 10,000%.

Texas power generation failed because of central planning. Intermittent energy generation was favored over energy capacity. CO2 reduction became more important than reliability. The system was robust until it wasn’t. Nassim Taleb’s books The Black Swan and Antifragile leap to mind.

Central planners knew reserve dispatchable (on demand) electricity provision was a weakness for renewables’ case, even as renewables raise the importance of dispatchable power. If planners wanted more renewable energy they had to raise electricity prices to fund building the standby generators and securing the fuel supplies they might not use, or take bigger risks across the board.

Wind and solar were not to be dinged for the increased costs they impose on the grid to ensure reliable generating capacity during extreme weather events. Mustn’t have anyone question whether windmills or solar panels are doing the job you hired them for if you still have to have natural gas plants idling in case of bad weather.

Politicians are neither engineers nor risk managers. They see risk management as an electoral issue. Global warming is a vaguely apprehended future risk, but the present hype is concrete and assuaging it ‘virtuous.’ Weather caused power failure is concrete, but also mundane and inevitable. The need for dispatchable power, AKA the cost of mitigating the extreme weather risk, is directly proportional to the increase in renewable energy dependance. And inversely proportional to the direction of the political wind.

This is a tunnel vision application of the precautionary principle. The risk of a once in a lifetime weather event was judged to be less important than the risk of AlGore’s vision of a future flaming globe. You get votes by paying homage to the latter, and complaints about electricity cost if you mitigate the former.

This danger was not a Hayekian lack of information. The consequences had been clearly foreseen by well established risk analysis protocols, and papered over. The consequences were unintended only in the sense of “we didn’t want that to happen.” Some of the ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) Board at least had the grace to fall on their swords.

ERCOT bet they wouldn’t have the weather, during THEIR terms, which they knew Texas would eventually experience.

Put differently, Warren Buffett invests in windmills because the economics are tilted by subsidies and pricing manipulation, not because he cares about providing affordable, reliable power.

*Yes, that would be regulation. In a free market we would long since have had contractual ways of doing this.

Calinferno – Anthropogenic Regional Malfeasance

I don’t want an argument about irrelevancies, so let’s stipulate that warming of the earth is a factor in California’s infernos. For our purposes here, it’s irrelevant. Whether it’s anthropogenic or not, California doesn’t control it. What they could control, they leave to chance.

Claims that wildfires started by lightning can be ameliorated today in California by achieving tenths of a degree reductions in global temperature by the year 2050 are facially specious. California’s only proven anthropogenic wildfires came from arson, poorly maintained power lines, and gender reveal parties.

In the gripping hand, we have technology to mitigate wildfire. And we know that California refuses to employ it, even as science tells them they should. Decreasing the amount of fuel available to a wildfire and creating clear-cut firebreaks are within the direct control of California. Eliminating CO2 and cow farts world-wide are not.

Propublica, no right leaning climate denier site, tells us the extent of this failure. They Know How to Prevent Megafires. Why Won’t Anybody Listen?

Academics believe that between 4.4 million and 11.8 million acres burned each year in prehistoric California. Between 1982 and 1998, California’s agency land managers burned, on average, about 30,000 acres a year. Between 1999 and 2017, that number dropped to an annual 13,000 acres. The state passed a few new laws in 2018 designed to facilitate more intentional burning. But few are optimistic this, alone, will lead to significant change. We live with a deathly backlog. In February 2020, Nature Sustainability published this terrifying conclusion: California would need to burn 20 million acres — an area about the size of Maine — to restabilize in terms of fire.

Now, it’s not as if California lacks deep, ongoing experience with wildfires. And they do indeed know what to do. Here’s a blurb from the CAL FIRE website about plans submitted to the Governor in 2019. Emphasis mine:

Using locally developed and vetted fire plans prepared by CAL FIRE Units as a starting point, CAL FIRE identified priority fuel reduction projects that can be implemented almost immediately to protect communities vulnerable to wildfire. Socioeconomic characteristics were also considered, including poverty levels, residents with disabilities, language barriers, residents over 65 or under five years of age, percent non-white, and households without a car. [Decide for yourself which of those criteria are best addressed so as to prevent widespread conflagrations.]

Through this process 35 priority projects were identified, reducing risk for over 200 communities. Project examples include removal of hazardous dead trees, vegetation clearing, creation of fuel breaks and community defensible spaces, and creation of ingress and egress corridors.

As Governor, if you sincerely believed climate change was THE major factor in your well established wildfire problem, and knew you had little control over that, is it prudent to ignore the means of significant mitigation your advisors recommend, or is it better to have an excuse for having ignored the advice?

I’d like to assure you that all 35 CAL FIRE proposed fire break/prescribed burn/fuel reduction projects have been completed. CAL FIRE is nice enough to provide a link:

… which leads to the California Natural Resources Agency. Where we get this:

It’s usually easier for bureaucrats and politicians to find a reason not to take an action which requires a decision or represents any immediate risk to their sinecure. Sometimes, though, responsibility avoidance goes pear shaped: The Governor attracts an argument from Donald Trump about it because, you know, California is burning. Then, decisions avoided must be clumsily disappeared.

Back to the Propublica article:

“[P]lanning a prescribed burn is cumbersome. A wildfire is categorized as an emergency, meaning firefighters pull down hazard pay and can drive a bulldozer into a protected wilderness area where regulations typically prohibit mountain bikes. Planned burns are human-made events and as such need to follow all environmental compliance rules. That includes the Clean Air Act, which limits the emission of PM 2.5, or fine particulate matter, from human-caused events. In California, those rules are enforced by CARB, the state’s mighty air resources board, and its local affiliates. “I’ve talked to many prescribed fire managers, particularly in the Sierra Nevada over the years, who’ve told me, ‘Yeah, we’ve spent thousands and thousands of dollars to get all geared up to do a prescribed burn,’ and then they get shut down.” Maybe there’s too much smog that day from agricultural emissions in the Central Valley, or even too many locals complain that they don’t like smoke [Ed: Well how do you like the smoke you’ve got now?]. Reforms after the epic 2017 and 2018 fire seasons led to some loosening of the CARB/prescribed fire rules, but we still have a long way to go.”

It’s natural to want the beauty of nature to go undisturbed. In California it’s become natural to assume man’s limited mastery of nature is sufficient to create a wildfire safe space through the power of imagination. And you might well believe this if you aspire to effect a global change in the composition of the atmosphere from your San Francisco penthouse by forcing rolling blackouts on the unwashed.

The chemistry of fire is an objective fact, which probably makes it patriarchal and colonialist. Still, It Burns.

One thing we can say is that the extent of California wildfires have an anthropogenic origin. We can name names.

Update: 11:35AM, Sep. 16th
Sorry, solar panels won’t stop California’s fires

According to Dr. Bjorn Lomborg, climate change isn’t the issue in California’s wildfire problem.

Lomberg, author of The Skeptical Environmentalist, Cool It, How to Spend $75 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, and False Alarm, is a “lukewarmer”.

Lomborg thinks global warming is real, man-made, and a serious problem, which can be and needs to be tackled. But he disputes that it is an existential risk, or indeed our biggest challenge.“.

In other words:

“[C]limate alarm causes nothing but anxiety and bad policies, arguing we can do better with smarter solutions to the problem…. If climate change really could end the world, then perhaps this alarmism might be warranted, but that is simply not the case.“.

Climate change panic policy today boils down to limiting access to cheap energy, (women, children, and the poor hit hardest) and promoting alternative energy sources (subsidizing Warren Buffets windmills- he should pay more taxes by foregoing the subsidies). Since energy = wealth, opposing zero-emission nuclear power tells you all you need to know about the actual motives of Big Green.

Ardnassac

This is a book recommendation. Sadly, it’s out of print, and I can find none in any of the used book sites I have used. The good news is it’s cheap on Kindle.

I found out about it here if you want a short opinion second to the one that follows.

I can’t believe I’d never heard of the book, either.

The flying car topic of the title is used to weave a sort of ‘back to the future’ look at at technology, American ingenuity/entrepreneurialism, and government regulation. There is a strong science fiction presence used to ask “Why did, or did not, the predictions of 1930-1960 SF come to pass?” It’s a good summary of my contention that much of that literature should have been required reading.

Appearances, among many others, by H. G. Wells, Issac Asimov, and Arthur C. Clarke.

The brilliant Dr. Richard Feynman also takes a bow in a discussion of Heinlein’s novellas Waldo and Magic Inc..

I cut my teeth on SF with Tom Swift, and my strong technological optimism arguably started with that series. (I wonder if there is anything comparable now for 10 year olds?)

The author, J Storrs Hall, is a techno-optimist, too, and he suggests that after the 1960’s America became a much less “can do” polity than we had any reason to expect. We went from the Wright brothers to 747s in 50 years, from Goddard (1926) to the moon in 43. Now we’re mired in CAFE standards and cronyism.

Hall does spend a fair bit of time discussing the history of ‘flying cars’ and that alone is fascinating. There’s much more. He also makes very intriguing points about nanotech, nuclear power, AI, cybernetics, economics, city planning, and other topics.

One major consideration is envirostatism (my term), where he contends that the GREEN point isn’t CO2, pollution, or any of the other excuses offered. It is essentially anti-human nihilism.

For example,

“Green ideas have become inextricably intertwined with a perfectly reasonable desire to live in a clean, healthy environment and enjoy the natural world. The difference is of course that in the latter case, the human enjoying the natural world is a good thing, but to the fundamentalist Green he and all his works are a bad thing.”

Lest you think this is hyperbole, he supplies some words from the mouths of the horses-asses:

The prospect of cheap fusion energy is the worst thing that could happen to the planet.
-Jeremy Rifkin

Giving society cheap, abundant energy would be the equivalent of giving an idiot child a machine gun.
-Paul Ehrlich

It would be little short of disastrous for us for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it.
-Amory Lovins

The title of this piece is Cassandra backwards. I closely paraphrase J Storrs Hall,

“There seems to be a bizarre reverse-Cassandra effect operating in the universe: whereas the mythical Cassandra spoke the awful truth and was not believed, these days “experts” speak awful falsehoods, and they are believed. Repeatedly being wrong actually seems to be an advantage, conferring some sort of puzzling magic glow upon the speaker.”

We hear California wildfires are caused by global warming climate change, when it’s actually envirostatist mismanagement, and the conscious intent to build windmills rather than maintain power lines. The California satraps agree with Rifkin, Ehrlich, and Lovins. In order to cripple the supply of energy, what have their like told us that wasn’t true?

California wildfires are caused by climate change. Gavin Newsom – yesterday
Four billion people will die between 1980 and 1989 from climate change. Paul Ehrlich – 1970
The polar ice cap will disappear by 2014. Al Gore – 2007
The planet will warm by 3 full degrees (0.1, actually). James Hansen – 1988
We will see the ‘end of snow.’ Untrue, no matter how many times it’s been predicted. various – 2000, 2015, 2017, 2020
Air pollution will reduce the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half. – Various – 1970

Amusingly, we also didn’t see an ice age by the year 2000. Kenneth Watt – 1970

Meanwhile, we see the very people who want zero CO2 emissions steadfastly oppose nuclear energy. Which is zero emission, safe, and causes immensely less environmental damage than windmills or solar panels. They are not protecting the environment, they are attacking the very idea of human well-being. This antipathy is in the spirit of Rifkin, Ehrlich, and Lovins. It is about authoritarian power in the way Critical Theorists describe it: There are no objective truths. Human history and culture are merely examples of a struggle in relative political power dynamics.

They don’t mean power as in horsepower, they mean justifying the political power of Antifa and BLM riots.

And don’t get me started on Critical Theorists’ “science” on “individuals with a cervix,” or what 2+2 equals.

Anyway. I recommend the book.

What do CAGW and CCP virus have in common?

Models. Models built by sinecured credentialists for careerist advantage; enabling anti-human busybodies, corporate elites and autocratic politicians to demand policies commanding the lives of ordinary people.

That both sets of models, and the ensuing policies, have been failures is not a coincidence. Neither is the refusal of the busybodies, elites, or politicians to apply the policies to themselves.

For example, flying from their mansions to environmental conferences in private jets and ignoring social distancing in BLM marches.

We have always been at war with Thunbergia

For the people who read Orwell as an instruction manual it is not merely a question of whether 2+2=5, or whether “freedom is slavery,” or “silence is violence,” or memory holing contrarian commentary about BLM, or Trans activism, or Feminism, or the CCP virus – climate alarmism must also be made safe from debate.
On Behalf Of Environmentalists, I Apologize For The Climate Scare — Environmental Progress

That article appeared in Forbes for about 24 hours before being taken down.

Shame.