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The not so great green fleet

22 Jun 2022 | OP ED Watch

It’s not just central banks that have decided fighting climate change is more pressing than what they’re supposed to be doing. The US Secretary of the Navy has declared that “I chose climate as a focal point for my tenure as Secretary” instead of some silly side issue like being able to defeat America’s enemies in a naval fight. And Joe Biden actually boasts of using the Defense Production Act… to make solar panels.

The White House FACT SHEET on use of the DPA deployed a lot more military terminology than logic in linking solar panels to armed combat:

“Today’s clean energy technologies are a critical part of the arsenal we must harness to lower energy costs for families, reduce risks to our power grid, and tackle the urgent crisis of a changing climate. From day one, President Biden has mobilized investment in these critical technologies. Thanks to his clean energy and climate agenda, last year marked the largest deployment of solar, wind, and batteries in United States history… Together, these actions will spur domestic manufacturing, construction projects, and good-paying jobs – all while cutting energy costs for families, strengthening our grid, and tackling climate change and environmental injustice. With a stronger clean energy arsenal, the United States can be an even stronger partner to our allies, especially in the face of Putin’s war in Ukraine.”

But even if it’s all true, which it isn’t, how is a “clean energy arsenal” going to be any use for stopping Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, or any potential incursion by Chairman Xi into Taiwan? And what’s the justification for taking these actions by executive fiat rather than legislative action, other than that the plan does not enjoy public support, something that used to matter in a democracy?

Of course consistency is not the 46th president’s strong suit. It’s especially wacky that Biden is urging oil and gas companies to invest billions of dollars into increasing production of a substance he is pledged to drive off the market, something his energy secretary stumbled over in a recent interview. (Just as he also released oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve as a hapless tactic for reducing energy prices rather than for any strategic reason.) And the CEO of Chevron just tried to explain it in unusually blunt language for a businessman, saying “There hasn’t been a refinery built in this country since the 1970s. I personally don’t believe there will be a new petroleum refinery ever built in this country again…. we live in a world where the policy, the stated policy of the U.S. government is to reduce demand for the products that refiners produce.” So, he asked, “How do you go to your board, how do you go to your shareholders and say ‘we’re going to spend billions of dollars on new capacity in a market that is, the policy is taking you the other direction.’”

ExxonMobil also let its frustration show, putting out a press release responding to Biden’s call for “near-term solutions” to get more fossil fuels to market that said “In the short term, the U.S. government could enact measures often used in emergencies following hurricanes or other supply disruptions – such as waivers of Jones Act provisions and some fuel specifications to increase supplies” while over time the government “can promote investment through clear and consistent policy that supports U.S. resource development, such as regular and predictable lease sales, as well as streamlined regulatory approval and support for infrastructure such as pipelines”. Normally business leaders, despite left-wing fantasies of a corporate cabal controlling the state (no, right-wing populists didn’t invent the “deep state” or paranoia), are very cautious about annoying lawmakers, regulators and those with sweeping executive authority even when they know they are doing something mean and stupid, because the “power” of corporations is nothing to the police power of the state. But in this case others too seem to have had enough, including the CEO of the American Petroleum Institute, who tried to explain to the President that “Tone matters here. Unfortunately, our industry is not something where you can just flip a switch and turn things back on.”

Still, Biden’s move is popular with people with whom it’s popular. NBC didn’t have a problem with Biden’s use of “his executive powers” to bypass the legislature. And PBS ran a piece from a contributor to “The Conversation” asking “Solar panels, heat pumps and hydrogen are all building blocks of a clean energy economy. But are they truly “essential to the national defense”?” and answering heck yes and then some:

“As an environmental engineering professor, I agree that these technologies are essential to mitigating our risks from climate change and overreliance on fossil fuels. However, efforts to expand production capabilities must be accompanied by policies to stimulate demand if Biden hopes to accelerate the transition from fossil fuels to clean energy.”

Still, all’s fair in war, right?

“The Department of Defense has identified numerous national security risks arising from climate change. Those include threats to the water supply, food production and infrastructure, which may trigger migration and competition for scarce resources. Fossil fuels are the dominant source of greenhouse gas emissions that are driving global warming. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine highlights additional risks of relying on fossil fuels.”

Wrong. It highlights the risks of relying on an adversary’s energy sector because you crippled your own in reckless disregard of national security considerations. Not the same thing.

Over at The Atlantic’s “Planet” they seemed equally thrilled at Biden’s imperial presidency. Robinson Meyer gushed that:

“A legal relic dating back to the Korean War has become one of the White House’s most important tools to pursue its climate goals. On Monday, the White House announced that it was invoking the Defense Production Act to boost manufacturing of certain technologies that will be essential for decarbonization, such as solar panels, heat pumps, and transformers for the electrical grid. This move may sound like standard federal paper-shuffling (heat pumps!?), but it amounts to one of the most aggressive executive actions that the administration has yet taken on climate change. It signals that with the White House’s climate legislation stalling in Congress, President Joe Biden is willing to use his sweeping executive authority, including under defense bills, to achieve his goals.”

So who needs that silly old legislature anyway? Not King George, that’s for sure. Though American liberals were more than a bit unhappy when Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan asserted sweeping executive prerogative even where national security really was involved. Which it’s not here.

Or maybe it is, to hear the Navy tell it. In their report “Climate Action 2030”, complete with pictures of forest fires and floods neither of which seem hugely relevant to ships, the Secretary’s opening screed blasts away with everything he’s got:

“Climate change is one of the most destabilizing forces of our time, exacerbating other national security concerns and posing serious readiness challenges. Our naval forces, the United States Navy and Marine Corps, are in the crosshairs of the climate crisis: the threat increases instability and demands on our forces while simultaneously impacting our capacity to respond to those demands…. On January 27, 2021, as one of his first acts, President Biden prioritized climate change as an essential element of national security in Executive Order 14008, Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad. Secretary Austin has championed that prioritization in the Department of Defense.”

The Navy surely understands that if sea levels rise, their ships go up with it, right? Ready aye whatever:

“If we do not act, as sea levels rise, bases like Norfolk Naval Base and Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island will be severely tested in their ability to support their missions. If temperatures continue to rise, the oceans will get warmer, creating more destructive storms requiring our Fleets and Marine Corps forces to increase their operational tempo to respond.”

Where did the vaunted Naval intelligence get the idea that more storms are on their way? After all the IPCC recently concluded “In the United States, it is indicated that there is no significant increase in convective storms, and hail and severe thunderstorms.” Never you mind, lubber. “We will see more extreme heat events such as the record-setting heatwaves in the normally temperate Pacific Northwest, and the expansive fires and unprecedented droughts in the West.” Which concerns the Navy how? Ah, see, “These events mean more black flag days with temperatures at-or-above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, requiring strenuous activity – including mission-essential training – be curtailed because it is not safe. It means strain on the grid as people compete for energy to cool off, making mission and our people vulnerable to an outage.” And they’re just, um, warming up.

“If temperatures continue to rise, and disease develops and spreads, our hospital ships and medical personnel will be called on to deploy more in support of nations in need. As we see increased instability in parts of the world strained by climate-driven water and food insecurity or migration, the blue-green Gator Navy team will need to support more of these increasing humanitarian aid and disaster relief missions. For these reasons and so many others integral to our mission, the Department of Navy will take on the urgency of the climate crisis and harness our power to make change – as an environmental leader and a market driver. For the DON, bold climate action is a mission imperative. In this decisive decade, we have no other alternative.”

Yeah. You do. For instance you could consider that D-Day almost failed because of the worst storm in the English Channel in 40 years, in the coolest part of the 20th century. (To repeat, colder weather is not milder weather.) And consider that the “Big Blue Fleet“ operated throughout the Pacific throughout the Second World War without much in the way of effective air conditioning, encountering some horrific weather along the way including “Halsey’s Typhoon”. (Meanwhile Canadian readers might want to check out Frank Curry’s War at Sea: A Canadian Seaman On The North Atlantic for descriptions of some winter weather that will turn your hair white… literally, in the form of “white mist”.)

Consider also that a significant rise in sea levels around Norfolk is “mostly due to Virginia’s sinking land, and it’s causing major issues” according to SeaLevelRise.org. Not climate change. And that if Parris Island really does go under, you could perhaps move the recruiting station. Or build a dyke. Or just take advantage for the combat swimming portion of training. But anyway it’s all rubbish since the Corps says less than half of the place is dry land now anyway even as the seas relentlessly don’t rise.

Incidentally a rather mysterious timeline that takes up several pages of the DON report includes “Navy Deploys Great Green Fleet” in 2016, something to do with a “drop-in biofuel-conventional fuel blends” in case you remember the incredible display of grit at Guadalcanal better than this display of “energy efficient technologies and practices”. Basically they’ve drunk the Great Green Koolaid:

“Climate change is an existential threat that impacts not only our operations and readiness but also our infrastructure, our forces, and their families. Rising sea levels, recurring flooding, and more frequent and destructive hurricanes threaten our coastal installations. Changes in global climate and other dangerous trans-boundary threats, including pandemics, are only expected to worsen, posing increasing challenges for our forces, platforms, infrastructure, and supporting communities, and driving or intensifying conflict and humanitarian disasters around the world…. To combat these impacts, the Department of the Navy has an urgent charge: to build a climate-ready force.”

In some sense this statement is sententious bunk. The Navy operated from the Aleutians to New Guinea in World War II, and from Murmansk to Cape Horn. And guess what, kids? There was climate back then too. And terrible weather. But in another sense it is sententious bunk squared, because we asked above if the plan was to cope with the weather or get rid of it and eventually they get around to saying it’s both:

“To achieve this, the DON must meet two Performance Goals:
1. Build Climate Resilience. Ensure that our forces, systems, and facilities can continue to operate effectively and achieve the mission in the face of changing climate conditions, and worsening climate impacts.
2. Reduce Climate Threat. The Department must reduce its greenhouse gas emissions and draw greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere, stabilize ecosystems, and achieve, as an enterprise, the nation’s commitment to net-zero emissions by 2050.”

Now if you think the United States Navy switching to biofuels by 2050 will make the slightest difference in global temperature, your computer model should be towed out to sea and used as target practice by the missile cruisers the Navy is trying to decommission in hopes of being less ready to fight China than it once was. Speaking of which the People’s Liberation Army Navy, the ugly name for the naval branch of what is, oddly, not a part of the government of China but of its Communist Party, and is not just the largest private army in the world but the largest army of any kind (by a wide margin), does not place much emphasis on climate. Indeed a RAND Corporation report on the PLA from 2020 does not contain the word climate. Its goal, so far as can be determined given the secrecy and dissimulation characteristic of such tyrannical regimes, and that of its naval branch (PLAN to insiders) is to be able to fight and win a war anywhere in the world by 2050. And the Communists in Beijing are ramping up coal production as well. Just saying.

In the elevated mind of John Kerry it’s energy schmenergy, as the BBC reports that “The US envoy on climate change John Kerry has warned that the war in Ukraine must not be used as an excuse to prolong global reliance on coal.” Although he personally, of course, didn’t need an excuse to fly to Bonn to say “We can still win this battle,” but only given a “wholesale elevation of effort by countries all around the world”. (Speaking of which, Trudeau’s jetting off again to Rwanda, Germany and Madrid.) And Kerry also had to fly to California to ridicule claims that “we need more drilling” and “we need to go back to coal.” According to Biden’s climate czar, “No, we don’t. We absolutely don’t.” What’s more, he said, “We have to prevent a false narrative from entering into this”.

Over at Watts Up With That, David Middleton is happy to oblige, mocking a piece in OilPrice.com claiming “Climate advocates and skeptics alike can agree on one thing: becoming competitive with Europe will be essential to the future security of the United States economy” with the words “Show of hands… How many catastrophic anthropogenic global warming (CAGW) skeptics agree that “becoming competitive with Europe will be essential to the future security of the United States economy”? This is as dumb as saying that the United States Marine Corps becoming competitive with the Peace Corps is essential to national security.” And what of the Navy becoming competitive with Greenpeace?

2 comments on “The not so great green fleet”

  1. That branch of leviathan known as the US Navy has, for years, sent large cheques to land owners in Puget Sound to sign covenants to ensure that their land would not be used for future residential development. Meanwhile the Brass, when not concerned with post modern nihilism and CAGW hysteria, might want to give consideration to how many carrier groups they might have to sacrifice to protect Taiwan against Chinese hypersonic ordinance.

  2. I find it ironic that so many who've "drunk the Great Green Coolaid" are having so much trouble fueling their rhetoric with their own wind power that they have to resort to "gas-lighting". 🙃

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