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Relax, we are in the best of hands

13 Sep 2023 | OP ED Watch

The Manhattan Contrarian is at it again, asserting that “The Elites Directing The Energy Transition Really Have No Idea What They Are Doing”. In the piece he takes square aim at the World Economic Forum, the gnomes of Davos. But if you’re looking for plotters on a Dan Brown or Jason Bourne level, guess again. Instead he writes that for a mere $52,000 entry fee and a $19,000 annual conference price tag plus the usual private jet transport, “you can hear the very smartest people imparting their thoughts on the most important topics of the day, like ‘The Great Reset,’ ‘Emerging Technologies,’ ‘Diversity and Inclusions,’ and, of course, ‘The Net Zero Transition.’” But if you listen closely you discover that, for instance, a key speaker discussing battery storage thought GWh meant Gigawatts per hour not Gigawatt hours. Thus his colleagues got the amount of energy storage required for Net Zero by 2050 off by a factor of roughly 650. Perhaps you’d rather be ruled by rogues than fools. But when he asks “Is it possible that these people are completely incompetent and have no idea what they are doing?” the answer is a quavering yes.

The problem is not just the speaker’s error, it’s that this elementary physics error went unnoticed. As tends to happen in a muddled feel-good echo chamber. A crowded one at that.

When you start looking for examples of this feel-good incompetence they swarm in. For instance in the Canadian province of Ontario, which has a government monopoly on liquor sales because politicians are as ignorant of economics as they are of climate science, Mark Schatzker recently wrote in the National Post:

“It’s official. On Sept. 4, the Liquor Control Board of Ontario will give away its last paper bag. Fifteen years after the country’s largest liquor retailer dropped the axe on plastic bags, the time has come to say goodbye to their paper cousins. It’s about time, right? The initiative, according to the LCBO, will eliminate the use of nearly 135 million bags every year, saving the equivalent of more than 188,000 trees and diverting 2,665 tonnes from landfill.”

Woot, right? Except Schatzker does something they didn’t. The math. As he explains:

“Consider first the claim that eliminating 135 million paper bags will save the equivalent of 188,000 trees. If an average LCBO paper bag weighs 20 grams – that’s the actual weight of a medium-sized LCBO paper bag – then according to the LCBO’s numbers, a typical tree produces a measly 718 paper bags. Does an entire tree really produce such a measly quantity of bags? And aren’t paper bags supposed to be made from recycled paper?”

Perhaps not on the latter, because recycled paper is weak and your bottle of hooch falls out and smashes in the parking lot. But most paper comes from sawmill leftovers and the trees will still be cut anyway. Plus the LCBO allows you to choose an eight-pack carrier made of… cardboard. Or a recycled plastic bag produced at horrifying environmental cost in some remote country like, particularly notoriously, Vietnam.

As Tristin Hopper wrote in the same newspaper, Canada’s federal government pooched the paper straw business just as badly. It seems a Belgian team looked at plant-based straws and, Hopper explained:

“Straws examined by the researchers were largely found to be laden with per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS), commonly known as ‘forever chemicals.’ This not only means that the straws likely aren’t biodegradable, but that they are vectors for chemicals considered hazardous to human and environmental health.”

Our fearless leaders also failed to take into account that:

“Although Canada’s straw ban has often [been] pitched as a means to protect ocean health, the vast majority of plastic in the world’s oceans comes from a handful of countries (largely in South Asia) that dump their waste directly onto beaches or into rivers. In Canada, by contrast, the vast majority of single-use plastics are captured by existing waste-management systems.”

How much is “the vast majority”? He’s glad you asked:

“A 2019 report commissioned by Environment Canada determined that of the 3,268 kilotonnes of plastic waste Canada generated in 2016, 3,239 kilotonnes were ‘collected.’”

So it was over 99 percent already before they charged in to fix the situation. Oh darn. Saving Earth is hard. But claiming to do it is easy… and fun.

Like the Canadian government spending $133.7 million to cut diesel emissions in northern Canada, a program a federal audit found did nothing. Well, not nothing. Someone thought to include that it resulted in “trusting and respectful relationships” with aboriginals in the area. Phew. Nobody fired. As Blacklock’s Reporter added:

“Auditors complained of ‘inefficiencies,’ ‘delays,’ ‘limited capacity and expertise’ and said program elements appeared ‘unclear’ and ‘confusing.’ However numerous committees and working groups were established with ‘dialogue’ and ‘information sharing,’ said Evaluation.”

Just as getting a paper straw in a plastic cup is confusing. But it can prompt dialogue. (So could other news from Blacklock’s that one executive with Canada’s all-in-on-climate-breakdown state media company, the CBC, “has billed nearly $30,000 in travel expenses to date this year including a now-cancelled junket to the French Riviera, records show. Bissonnette repeatedly flew business class to Paris and once hired a driver to chauffeur him five blocks through downtown Ottawa.” Got a program to reduce his emissions?)

Once in a while some environmentalist gets the willies about the shaky factual and logical basis of it all. Like this cri de coeur from Climate Home News:

“When remote Indian villagers fire up their stoves to cook fresh rotis, they could hardly imagine that action would one day contribute to the climate plans of top polluters like Shell. But that’s the premise of an increasingly popular sub-set of carbon credits involving the distribution of supposedly more efficient cookstoves, which we investigated. The theory goes like this: getting rural communities to swap out their traditional energy-hungry stoves with new ones consuming less firewood should reduce emissions.”

Cool, huh? Win-win. Except not because:

“as with most offsetting schemes, the devil is in the detail. Our investigation found that lax rules allow project developers to come up with vastly overinflated numbers. The result is that as much as 87% of the credits generated are likely bogus, according to researchers. It’s a bit of a problem when they are used to offset the very real emissions associated with pumping oil and gas out of the ground.”

And a lot more of one when the people designing it were as ignorant as they were smug, and got played by vested interests.

Then there’s Peter Coy in the New York Times complaining that:

“Something like Gresham’s Law is at work in the carbon offset market, which was set up to fight climate change. Bad carbon credits are driving out good carbon credits. And that’s a big problem for the effort to curb the greenhouse gas emissions that are heating up the planet and wreaking havoc from the Arctic to the Antarctic.”

His solution is simple. Even simplistic. The email teaser had this Jack Horner vision: “To fight climate change, we need a better carbon market”. Coy himself sounds a bit less naïve with:

“Rather than growing… the voluntary carbon market ought to be folded into the official market and disappear. There should be a single, unified global market with a single price.”

Great. Until you ask whether this unified global market will be devised by the same nitwits who created the current mess, or some other group? And who will enforce it? Um yes well… We are in over our heads, aren’t we?

The Contrarian’s rather cynical conclusion is that these bloviating speakers:

“have no skin in this game. They just babble some happy talk to get their hands on a few hundred billions of money from rich governments, and pass it out to build impressive-looking battery projects that are actually next to useless to provide reliable grid electricity. They can be very confident that no one in their circles will ever check the math to see if the numbers add up. When 2050 rolls around and the whole thing doesn’t work, they will be long retired on generous pensions.

Not if we have our way. And not as citizens in various Western nations start to experience with increasingly urgent intensity the real pain and confusion that trusting such people’s bogus math brings.

3 comments on “Relax, we are in the best of hands”

  1. "When 2050 rolls around and the whole thing doesn’t work, they will be long retired on generous pensions".
    And there you have it. Like politicians everywhere in the West and elsewhere wedded to 4 or 5 year electoral cycles, whatever happens down the road is of no interest, relevance to "now" or in the event goes pear shaped could rebound to their shame.....they are wealthy, uninterested and unaccountable.

  2. Paper bags, and all paper, comes mostly from farmed trees, i.e. trees raised to make paper, and then most ends up in land fills. And trees are mostly carbon extracted from the atmosphere. Land fills bury, so the carbon from the trees is then sequestered once buried (which Bill Gates just paid someone $6M to figure out how to accomplish). Seems like members of the anti CO2 religion ought to be encouraging the use and trashing, rather than recycling, of paper bags….taking CO2 out of the atmosphere and putting into the ground seems like what they’ve been dreaming about for a while now.

  3. Careful there Karl,
    the logical conclusion of your thoughts is that photocopier and printer manufactures are resulting in carbon sequestration when the paper is landfilled. They will be able to print carbon offsets. And print them on their own printers !

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