Molnar: The Politics of Climate Change
by Brad Molnar
Global warming was first discussed at the beginnings of the industrial revolution in 1856 and morphed into “climate change” as the debate has continued. True believers are armed with scientists and studies that debunk the each other. Neither side will talk to the other, preferring, rather, to roll eyes at their counterparts.
The debate has centered on CO2 as the trapper of greenhouse gasses though C02 is not the primary trapping agent of atmospheric heat. Water vapor is. But C02 is somewhat controllable and there is no funding for water vapor control. Battle lines are drawn on ancient CO2 contained in oil and coal being released via modern combustion. Politically oil and coal have been pitted against natural gas, wind and solar. Natural gas is a more potent, though shorter lived, driver of “climate change” than coal. Environmentalists dismiss natural gas emissions as a “bridging” energy source that will be discarded after enough renewable is installed. The more renewable energy installed the more natural gas is mandated; therefore the alliance.
With fracking we now export natural gas so imported/compressed natural gas is no longer a probable competitor. Thus the gas/renewable alliance has fractured. Another changing paradigm is the Democratic National Committee voted to not accept contributions from the fossil fuel industry. Two months later they reversed and said they would once again gladly accept fossil fuel money. In the mean time the renewable industry doubled contributions to Republican candidates seeding the political war clouds. In return the $11B annual U.S. renewable energy subsidy was never discussed during recent budget negotiations.
The Paris Climate Accord acknowledges it will probably not alter climate change. Yet, the argument rages in political campaigns as liberals keep the faithful on the side of saving the earth while conservatives rally for fossil energy jobs. Montana Republicans discuss climate change in relationship to forest fire management and jobs in Colstrip. Montana Democrats discuss the economic advantages of fighting climate change by installing evermore windmills, geothermal generation, and solar power. They use global initiatives as the measuring board.
Recently the Sanders Institute (a think tank founded by the wife of Senator Bernie Sanders), sent out bullet points on global clean energy successes. They surmise America should mimic these efforts to reach a 100% clean energy goal.
The Sanders Institute states: 1) New Zealand has a plan to transition to 100% renewable energy by 2035 2) Iceland has developed so much geothermal energy that they are now 100% renewable energy 3)Norway is 98% renewable energy 4) a Chinese province was powered on 100% renewable energy last year 5) Holland’s entire train system runs on wind power.
Who cares if New Zealand announced a plan? Iceland is a volcano so geothermal is plentiful and cheap. The majority of their power is hydro from glacier runoff. Norway is 98% renewable energy. Their large developed hydro, with some wind, is the source.
Norway’s population is 5M and Iceland has population of 337, 380. The comparison is flawed. Environmentalists want to remove dams in the U.S. and resist efforts to define all but the smallest hydro as renewable. What environmentalist laud in print is what they oppose in Congress and state legislatures.
According to the Wind Power Monthly, Qinghai province in northwestern China ran 100% on renewable energy for 216 hours. The power sources where hydro, wind, and solar. The trial was set for maximum times of hydro and wind production in a large, sparsely populated, desert. China will not allow verification of the results.
Most passenger trains in the Netherlands are electric but there are no direct connections from regional wind farms to the train lines. No one waits for the wind to blow to get the train moving. It is an accounting trick. The trains are powered mainly by natural gas and coal generation. Thirteen percent of their power comes from wind. The state owned rail lines pay wind farms for the right to claim their power is sold strictly to the railroad and the railroad gets to claim the renewable attributes in their advertising. It is good public/government relations but that is all it is.
Such a Pleasant Lie
When companies like Yahoo, Citigroup and Facebook say they are powered by renewable power they are telling the same lie. They are buying “attributes” to scrub the carbon from their footprint but they are not wired to a separate grid with little green plug-ins for their computers. Carbon output remains unchanged.
Have You Registered?
The debate has shifted from saving polar bears to selling the dream to people who will not fact check, but will deliver political victories.
Brad Molnar is a political investigative reporter that served in the Montana House and Public Service Commission for 16 years.