Tuesday, October 10, 2017

America signs a peace treaty with coal

Some mixed feelings about the happy death of the Clean Power Plan

Donald Trump isn't the first president of the U.S. Some younger readers probably no longer know the name but Trump's predecessor was called Mr Barack Obama and he has done some mad things to please America's extreme left-wingers. One of them was the adoption of the "Clean Power Plan" that was basically killing coal as the source of energy in the U.S. – while using the pseudoscientific excuse that there was something wrong about the CO2 emitted when the coal burns.

The impact of acid rains which have nothing to do with CO2, as I will remind you.

The "Clean Power Plan" was insane from any economic viewpoint. For example, even if you thought that it was a good idea to try to cool the globe by reducing CO2 emissions, and it's not a good idea even qualitatively, folks like Bjorn Lomborg have calculated (as mentioned in a 2015 blog post) that the whole "Clean Power Plan" would reduce the global mean temperature by 0.013 °C before 2100.

Just imagine that. The world's main superpower was supposed to abandon the cheapest source of energy – or one of the two cheapest sources, we could say – in order to reduce the temperature by the undetectable 0.013 °C. And you have to wait for almost a century to feel it. And most of you won't really agree that a cooler weather is a better weather – indeed, most of the people on Earth have good reasons to say the opposite thing. Regardless of debates about the greenhouse effect, the economic evaluation of the "Clean Power Plan" was obvious: the plan was plain insane.

At the end of 2016, we were reminded that Scott Pruitt thought that the EPA, the America's Environment Protection Agency (for us, Europeans: the Unistatians' ministry of environment) has overstepped its authority when it decided to fight the carbon dioxide emissions because those can't be considered a pollution – in the sense of a substance that is either unhealthy or aesthetically harming or otherwise crippling. Indeed, CO2 is a perfectly "edible", odorless, transparent gas whose main role in the cycle of life on Earth is to be used as food by plants.

And yes, Scott Pruitt, the long-time EPA critic, was really named the boss of the EPA and the decision to stop the "Clean Power Plan" was just a matter of time. In March, we already saw some budget for 2018 where the spending for the "Clean Power Plan" was reduced back to zero, a rather fair and balanced number in this context. Pruitt said that the plan was about "picking losers and winners" (a sensible interpretation) and announced the cancellation in Kentucky and the folks of Kentucky applauded (2-minute video). However, I guess that they would also applaud if the taxation on fried chickens were also abolished. ;-)

It's great that America is restoring the sanity in policymaking when it comes to the climate hysteria – which globally peaked about a decade ago – and its political and economic consequences. I congratulate Americans with this progress. Of course, my happiness is tamed by the realization that I live in Europe and especially thanks to the politicians and NGOs that are close to the European Union authorities, the European countries are pushed to adopt lots of similar insane policies while tens of millions of European children are being indoctrinated by the atrocious lies about the evil CO2 that were fabricated by the despicable climate alarmist ideologues. To some extent, I guess, similar brainwashing continues at some schools in the U.S.

But even if I ignored the "localized" character of the victory, my enthusiasm about Pruitt's decision would be reduced by some other realizations. Realizations that are confirming my previous predictions. You know, the "policies against coal in the U.S." were easy-come, easy-go. It was easy for some politicians to introduce them and it seems easy for other politicians to dismantle them. When these policies were being introduced, corrupt and ideological scientists were used as an excuse. And numerous honest scientists, some of which I deeply respect, had to fight against this abuse of science.

However, I think it's right to say that the actual scientists' activities have played a minimal role. The introduction of the anti-CO2 policies was a political or ideological act, not a scientific one, and their elimination is a political, not scientific, process as well. I was always immensely skeptical about some scientists' or similar people's desire to tilt at the windmills. Sometimes, I felt that some rather invisible people wanted to spend hundreds of hours just by creating some appendix to some irrelevant worthless climate alarmist's text – and it wasn't even clear whether the appendix would push the matters in the desirable direction. And I was often asked to spend lots of time as well, just in order to – if I use a tougher language – play the role of a footnote in these irrelevant skeptical trolls' appendix under some much more visible but despicable climate alarmist's document.

I have always found it insane because I have always been convinced that the elimination of these policies wasn't supposed to be hard and wasn't supposed to need some real power of science. It was a political decision. It's enough to simply elect a U.S. president who agrees that the climate hysteria is hogwash – and he can effectively dismantle most of this stuff by several signatures. And indeed, that seems to be the case in the U.S. now.

While it confirms my expectations, I would still be happier if the actual, refined scientific arguments actually played a greater role in the policymaking. And yes, I would be happier if I saw some real scientific heroes of the struggles against the climate hysteria, such as Richard Lindzen and perhaps a dozen of others, to be praised for their attitude in recent decades that has basically become heroic.

Let me say something about coal and the environment. Much of my childhood when I was aware of the world took place in the 1980s. I lived in Pilsen which was one of the dirtiest cities in Czechoslovakia and probably the world. The Škoda Works – nicknamed the V.I. Lenin Factory at that time – had lots of chimneys. But I have also witnessed the amazing smog and forests decimated by the acid rains especially in the Ore Mountains, the part of the Sudeten mountains along the Northwestern edge of Czechia (the border with East Germany). As the name indicates, they're the mountains from which Marie Curie got the uraninite (from Jáchymov in Czech or Joachimsthal in German; silver coins made there from the local silver were named "thalers" after the town in German or "tolars" in Czech, and it's the Czech word for the coin that was used to name your currency, dear Yankees) and where lots of lithium may be mined very soon, turning Czechia into a top six world's lithium superpower. (Political arguments about the status of the lithium reserves are resonating in Czech politics in recent days. Mr Babiš has abused some lithium complaints against the social democrats to distract everyone from the police charges he just received.) So yes, the Ore Mountains are all about silver, uranium, radium, lithium, and some dirty brown coal.

But as many if not most of the laymen ceased to understand, the smog and acid rains have nothing to do with the CO2 emissions. Acid rains are caused by emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. Add smoke, soot, particulates, and ozone if you want to create smog. Most of these dirty components of the smoke from the chimneys were removed across the civilized world some two decades ago if not earlier. The remaining stuff is mostly carbon dioxide which is, when it comes to its environmental impact, extremely similar to water vapor. It's natural and life-friendly. In fact, life needs CO2 and H2O to a very similar extent.

While coal may be saved and the civilization may enjoy very cheap energy in the future, I am also saddened by the fact that so many people – including people who consider themselves fans of science – have been deceived about so elementary things such as the difference between CO2 and pollutants. The uneducated and miseducated nations may end up being an even bigger problems for themselves than a more expensive energy that could result from the near bans on coal and similar isolated misguided policies.

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