Human Misery of Hurricane Sandy Not Caused by Energy Policy

Russ Steele

One of my regular reads every day is Roger Pielke Jr.’s Blog, he is a moderate voice in the climate change debate.  He had an insightful look at the impact of Sandy in the Wall Street Journal. Hurricanes and Human Choice

Sandy was terrible, but we’re currently in a relative hurricane ‘drought.  Connecting energy policy and disasters makes little scientific sense.

Hurricane Sandy left in its path some impressive statistics. Its central pressure was the lowest ever recorded for a storm north of North Carolina, breaking a record set by the devastating “Long Island Express” hurricane of 1938. Along the East Coast, Sandy led to more than 50 deaths, left millions without power and caused an estimated $20 billion or more in damage.

But to call Sandy a harbinger of a “new normal,” in which unprecedented weather events cause unprecedented destruction, would be wrong. This historic storm should remind us that planet Earth is a dangerous place, where extreme events are commonplace and disasters are to be expected. In the proper context, Sandy is less an example of how bad things can get than a reminder that they could be much worse.

In studying hurricanes, we can make rough comparisons over time by adjusting past losses to account for inflation and the growth of coastal communities. If Sandy causes $20 billion in damage (in 2012 dollars), it would rank as the 17th most damaging hurricane or tropical storm (out of 242) to hit the U.S. since 1900—a significant event, but not close to the top 10. The Great Miami Hurricane of 1926 tops the list (according to estimates by the catastrophe-insurance provider ICAT), as it would cause $180 billion in damage if it were to strike today. Hurricane Katrina ranks fourth at $85 billion.

To put things into even starker perspective, consider that from August 1954 through August 1955, the East Coast saw three different storms make landfall—Carol, Hazel and Diane—that in 2012 each would have caused about twice as much damage as Sandy.

Here is a graph from his blog.

The graph above shows normalized US hurricane damage, based on data from ICAT, which applies an extension to the methodology of Pielke et al. 2008. The 2012 estimate for Sandy comes from Moody’s, and is an estimate.  The red line represents a linear best fit to the data — it is flat

So there your have it! Sandy is not the new normal, regardless of what the lame steam press has to say, you now have the facts.

H/T to a regular reader for the WSJ article.

ERC Board Meeting Insights

Russ Steele

I attended the ERC Board Meeting this morning have some short notes to share:

  • The ERC Board is looking for a person to serve as Executive Director. Interested persons should send resume to exec@ncerc.org. Or, mail resume to Nevada County ERC, 149 Crown Point Court, Suite A, Grass Valley, CA 95949.
  • Brent Smith gave a presentation on the regional Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy. He is looking for input to the CEDS, to include projects that will result in economic development and more jobs in Nevada County from 2012 to 2017.  Due date for submissions is third week of November. See SEDCorp Web Site for more details or call 530-823-4703.
  • There was a discussion of the impact that Prop 30 would have on schools. The part of Prop 30 taxes allocated to the schools is less than 40% and will only be used to maintain the status quo, no improvements in the current infrastructure or staff.  I was very disappointed in the answers to a question by the schools representatives in the room. When asked what the relationship was between staff and teacher ratio not one representative could provide a direct answer. Either they did not know, it was an embarrassing answer.  It is a question that needs to be answered. Where will the cuts from come when Prop 30 goes down to defeat? Cut Student services or Cut Administration Staff?
  • Robert Trent, Sierra Commons, announced the return of Tech Talks at the Business Ignitor, and the first Nevada County Hackathon on 1-2 December. Tech Talk details can be found on the web site HERE. and the Hackathon HERE.  If have found the Tech Talks most interesting, especially the questions from the audience and the ensuing discussion.

A Message From Mexico

Russ Steele

This came in over  the e-mail transom. What struck me as I was watching this video is that our past RINO Governor, after he signed AB-32 the Global Warming Solutions Act, is that California should emulate Spain, which is used as an example of how socialist leaders can destroy an economically robust nation.

Obama is Hiding His Environmental [Job Killing] Agenda for Next Four Years

Russ Steele

Inhofe-EPW Senate Report Reveals Economic Pain of Obama-EPA Regulations Put on Hold Until After the Election

On Fox News this morning, Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, exposed that the Obama administration has failed to comply with the law requiring them to publish in the Federal Register their regulatory agendas. The EPA has failed complied with its legal obligation to issue such a report every 6 months for years.

Senator Inhofe has sent a letter to President Obama requesting the administration adhere to its next statutory deadline. Here is part of that letter:

“The Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. § 602) requires federal agencies to publish in the Federal Register their regulatory agendas describing economically significant regulatory actions under development. The Act requires these agendas be published on a semiannual basis, specifically in April and October. It has come to my attention, however, that the federal government is not adhering to this legal requirement.” 

“As Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, which has jurisdiction over the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), my primary concern is with the Agency’s refusal to be open and transparent about its regulatory agenda. Magnifying this concern is that EPA, in what appears to be a string of politically motivated decisions, has “punted” or put on hold until after the election a number of economically damaging regulations, including greenhouse gas regulations, strict mandates for ground-level ozone, as well as guidance which seeks to greatly expand EPA’s authority to regulate waters of the U.S.” 

The last thing President Obama wants to admit to is that his administration is currently actively working to regulate traditional energy resources out of existence. As bad as the economy has sputtered in Obama’s first four years, you haven’t seen anything yet.

Last week Senator Inhofe released a detailed report that enumerates the slew of environmental regulations that the Obama-Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has quietly delayed or punted on before the election. As this report reveals, these rules taken together will inevitably result in the elimination of millions of American jobs, drive up the price of gas at the pump even more, impose construction bans on local communities, and essentially shut down American oil, natural gas, and coal production.

If you want high energy prices and fewer jobs in the US vote for Obama. If you want an economic recovery, lower priced energy and more jobs vote for Romney. Your choice! 

Carbon Cult Gets Free Passes on Unintended Consequences – Why?

Russ Steele

SOLAR Unintended Consequences (The Daily Bell) 

Solar Cells Linked to Greenhouse Gases Over 23,000 Times Worse than Carbon Dioxide According to New Book, Green Illusions … Solar cells do not offset greenhouse gases or curb fossil fuel use in the United States according to a new environmental book, Green Illusions (June 2012, University of Nebraska Press), written by University of California – Berkeley visiting scholar Ozzie Zehner.

Green Illusions explains how the solar industry has grown to become one of the leading emitters of hexafluoroethane (C2F6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), and sulfur hexafluoride (SF6). These three potent greenhouse gases, used by solar cell fabricators, make carbon dioxide (CO2) seem harmless.

Wind Turbine Unintended Consequences (WSJ)

For years, the wind energy industry has had a license to kill golden eagles and lots of other migratory birds. It’s not an official license, mind you.

But as the bird carcasses pile up—two more dead golden eagles were recently found at the Pine Tree wind project in Southern California’s Kern County, bringing the number of eagle carcasses at that site to eight—the wind industry’s unofficial license to kill wildlife is finally getting some serious scrutiny.

Some 77 organizations—led by the American Bird Conservancy, Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, Endangered Species Coalition and numerous chapters of the Audubon Society—are petitioning the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to toughen the rules for the siting, permitting and operation of large-scale wind projects.

It’s about time. Over the past two decades, the federal government has prosecuted hundreds of cases against oil and gas producers and electricity producers for violating some of America’s oldest wildlife-protection laws: the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and Eagle Protection Act.

But the Obama administration—like the Bush administration before it—has never prosecuted the wind industry despite myriad examples of widespread, unpermitted bird kills by turbines. A violation of either law can result in a fine of up to $250,000 and imprisonment for two years.

The Church of Climatology can kill 70 Golden Eagles every year in the Altamont Pass and fill the air with exotic greenhouse gases and still get a free pass from the EPA, CEPA and CARB.  Why are the Climate Cults not responsible for the unintended consequences of their  actions? Why have government agencies not responded to these ecological violations?  They go after oil, gas and power companies, why not solar and wind companies?   Why, because most citizens do not give a damn.

The COPs and CARB

Russ Steele

This is what happens when legislators give bureaucrats unlimited power and remove them from voter oversight.  The CalWatchDog has the story by Katy Grimes

CARB’s Clean truck month

Nichols then talked about how successful the new diesel regulations have been in forcing truck owners to replace their diesel engines with new ones at a cost of $50,000 to $60,000 each. Truck owner-operators who could not afford to do this have gone out of business.

However, the diesel regulations imposed by CARB were doctored, as I have written about extensively. Even with this information, CARB forged ahead with the program and killed a great many small businesses.

CARB’s enforcement arm

CARB has now “partnered” with law enforcement to ensure compliance. The California Highway Patrol has been ordered to pull truck drivers over to run tests on their engines to see if they are complying with CARB’s diesel regulations.

CARB calls this their “full commitment to compliance.” There was a great deal of talk at the meeting about enforcement and penalties.

Last month, enforcement activities were conducted at CHP inspection stations, border crossings, truck stops, roadside locations, rest stops and port facilities.

Additionally, there was a well-coordinated media campaign orchestrated by CARB. Board members and staff bragged about the 37 news stories done by television news. They even showed clips of a few news stories. These were not public service announcements.

So now we have the California Air Resources Board writing the news, and compliant media reporting it as if it is spontaneous.

The end result is that taxpayer and rate payers pick up the bill for this stupidity.  Our only solution is to remove the legislator that create the bureaucracies and reign in the bureaucrats hiding in their concrete caves.

#Greenfail: Obama’s Solar and Battery Initiatives File for Bankruptcy In Same Week.

Russ Steele

It has been a bad week for the Obama Green Jobs Initiative as two more companies with Federal Loans file for bankruptcy. In the A123 case there is clear evidence of how crony capitalism works. The government picks the winner and looser, and so far the Obama administration has picked more losers than winners.

Here are some details:

Troubled battery maker [A123] won private meeting and phone call with Obama, a trade mission slot and $250 million in stimulus money before it went bankrupt

Executives of an energy company that received $250 million in federal money made donations to members of Congress while the company was facing bankruptcy.

Even as advanced battery maker A123 Systems struggled for financial viability, it played the Washington insider game, where political money and access go hand in hand.

The Massachusetts firm dished out nearly $1 million to hire a powerhouse lobbying firm with close ties to President Barack Obama between 2007 and 2009, and two of its top executives made personal donations to several high-profile Democrats in Congress as it won federal funding for its efforts to build the next generation of lithium batteries for electric vehicles.

The company produced and sold zero batteries More details HERE.

But there is more:

A solar company that got a multi-million-dollar grant from the Department of Energy earlier this year announced Wednesday that it will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, making it the second taxpayer-backed green energy company to file for bankruptcy this week.

Satcon Technology Corp. announced the decision in a Wednesday news release. “This has been a difficult time for Satcon,” president and CEO Steve Rhoades said. “After careful consideration of available alternatives, the Company’s Board of Directors determined that the Chapter 11 filings were a necessary and prudent step, allowing the Company to continue to operate while giving us the opportunity to reorganize with a stronger balance sheet and capital structure.”

Satcon received a $3 million DOE grant in January to develop “a compact, lightweight power conversion device that is capable of taking utility-scale solar power and outputting it directly into the electric utility grid at distribution voltage levels—eliminating the need for large transformers.”

More details HERE.

When there is no market for your product, there is no hope of success. All the government grants in the world cannot create sustainable markets. Government mandates can create the illusion of potential markets but they vanish when the subsides run out.

Prop 23 Update: Current Gas Prices a Test Run for Cap and Trade – The Impact?

Russ Steele

If you think that gas prices are high now wait until AB-32 Cap and Trade kicks in, starting in January 2013.

Wayne Lusvardi writing at the CalWatchDog has some details:

Under Cap and Trade, gas prices are expected to increase from $0.26 to $1.61 per gallon. One study concluded that, if all the provisions of Cap and Trade were loaded into the price of gasoline, it would reflect about a $2.70 per gallon gasoline price increase above prices as they were before the current surge.  In other words, California’s current gas price bump may be a pimple of what is to come in three months when Cap and Trade kicks in on Jan. 1.

Average gasoline prices in California shot up 50 cents per gallon in the last two weeks from $4.11 to $4.61 per gallon, according Reuters.  The price difference between Jackson, Miss. at $3.43 per gallon and California at $4.61 was $1.18 higher. That’s about a 34 percent price spread.  Many independent gas stations were reportedly shutting down — not because of lack of supply of gas, but due to the jump in price that reduced profit margins to zero.

The question is what will be the long term impact on the local economy as fuel, gas and diesel, prices stay well above $4.00 a gallon? Potential tourist income will not be going up to compensate for higher fuel prices.  Their budget are being challenges by higher food prices due to increased transportation and agricultural costs.  All these cost increases will result in less disposable income. Income familes might invest in a day or vacation trip to Nevada County.  Some families will be making the choice between food or fuel.  Those decisions will impact our local economy.

Prop 23 Update: Where are the Green Jobs?

Russ Steele

Remember how we were told by the local left that the full implementation of AB-32 and the Federal Stimulus would create lots of green job in the US and in California?   Here are some details from Master of Engineering Blog on where those jobs are not and how much the ones that were created cost the taxpayers.  My comments in [ ]s 

The 2009 stimulus directed around $90 billion toward green initiatives, including loan guarantees for green energy firms, money to weatherize homes, green jobs training grants, and many other projects. [Romney mention the $90 billion in his debate with Obama, who had no answers, and this is the reason why.]

In an audit released in September, the Department of Labor’s inspector general found that a $500 million program for training people with so-called green skills has so far produced only 1,336 jobs that have lasted over 6 months, with $163 million already spent. This amounts to $121,856 per successful green trainee.

The Obama administration had an idea that would solve the jobs crisis and our environmental woes in one fell swoop. They gave loans and grants to green energy and research companies in order to move the market forward and enable the companies to hire more employees.

- SunPower, after receiving $1.5 billion from DOE, is reorganizing, cutting jobs.

- First Solar, after receiving $1.46 billion from DOE, is reorganizing, cutting jobs.

- Solyndra, after receiving $535 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- Ener1, after receiving $118.5 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- Evergreen Solar, after receiving millions of dollars from the state of Massachusetts, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- SpectraWatt, backed by Intel and Goldman Sachs, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- Beacon Power, after receiving $43 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- Abound Solar, after receiving $400 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- Amonix, after receiving $5.9 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- Babcock & Brown (an Australian company), after receiving $178 million from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- A123 Systems, after receiving $279 million from DOE, shipped some bad batteries and is barely operating. It cut jobs.

- Solar Trust for America, after receiving a $2.1-billion loan guarantee from DOE, filed for bankruptcy protection.

- Nevada Geothermal, after receiving $98.5 million from DOE, warns of potential defaults in new SEC filings.

So, now you know that  Green Jobs was a major failure in both the production of jobs and in the ability to produce green energy. Obama green job myth has exploded in his face and the tax and rate payer have to pay for this failure.  We cannot stand 4 more years of this kind of failure. And we hear nothing but crickets from our local lefties who were promoting AB-32 and the Green Stimulus.  Tell us where are the green jobs?  

Wind Power Will Blackout Millions in UK — CA Next?

Russ Steele

The UK Telegraph has the details:

Millions of British households face blackout, warns Ofgem [Britain's energy system manager]

Millions of households are at risk of power black-outs within three years because coal stations are being replaced with wind farms, the energy watchdog has said.

If it will happen in the UK, and Obama’s EPA is shutting down the coal plant across the United States, will we soon be joining the million in the UK shivering in the dark on long winter nights?  California has sworn off the use of coal generated power and is switching to wind and solar power. We could be just a vulnerable if coal plants shut down and there are no backup power plants to provide power when the wind is not blowing and cold is seeping in the windows at night.

We currently do not have a effective method for storing solar energy, and increased cloudiness from volcanic eruptions or a burst of cosmic rays during a quiet sun could reduce the solar output.  Solar scientist are predicting the loss of sunspots sometime after 2015, resulting in the potential for more cosmic rays entering the atmosphere, generating more clouds.

The potential for black outs in California could increase over time. One of our best options is to get rid of Obama and his EPA which are forcing the closure of our coal mines and coal fired power plants.  Insurance against the whims of Mother Nature.

Sale Taxes and Leakage

Russ Steele

The other day I saw a Measure L sign and did not know what it was about. On investigation is it for a sales tax increase in Nevada City that gets dumped into the general fund. I knew that Grass Valley was having a measure N to increase sales tax in the city to produce more general fund revenue.  There was a brief mention of sales taxes by the Board members representing the cities at the last ERC Board meeting, but no discussion of the economic impact and the potential leakage of sales to Placer and Yuba County.

The only mention of leakage was in response to a question posed to Dave Schmall the Union Publisher, about the papers coverage of South County. He responded that The Union would be increase South County coverage in the hope of luring more people to come up the hill to shop rather than going to Auburn.

In retrospect, I am surprised that the ERC Board was not more interested in the economic impact that increases sales taxes might have on the growing business leakage to Placer County, as more people are shopping in the “big box” stores in North Auburn.  Target is just finishing up a major upgrade to come a Super Target — one stop shopping for anything a family could need.  This is in competition with  WalMart which will some become a reality in Auburn.

I have serious doubts that the real money difference between the increased sale tax will make much of a difference to most people’s shopping habits. Most shoppers are more interested in the increased selection in the big box stores, more quality and pricing options to find the right product quality at the right price.

There is more online shopping now than every before.  In the retail industry, 16% of search queries come from mobile web usage. It was only 10% in 2011. Even with Amazon now collecting the CA sales tax, the prices are much lower than at local stores. And, with the price of gas who is willing to drive around looking for just the right product and the right prices, when it can be found on line, and delivered to the door the next day?

Our insurance company, USAA, now has an online shopping mall called Member Shop with reduced prices and in some cases free shipping for members. The stores in the mall include many of the big box stores that are now going on line to compete with Amazon, who keeps expanding the selection options.

The real solution to the brick and mortar leakage is to have our own “big box” stores in Nevada County. If we could stop the leakage and started collecting those tax dollars locally, the cities may not need a tax increase.

I am assuming they will soon be getting revenue check from the state for the Amazon collected sales taxes.

More Economic Trouble in the Valley – Atwater Going Belly Up

Russ Steele

We used to live in the sleepy town of Atwater when stationed at Castle AFB in the late 1960s. We lived next to the watermelon fields and after the harvest was over we would collect the melons left behind.  Ripe watermelon right of the field was the best ever. Agriculture and the Air Force base were the primary economic engines, now the base is gone  and Atwater must depend on agriculture.

The small agricultural town of Atwater, Calif., has declared a fiscal emergency, as it seeks to avoid becoming the fourth municipality in the state this year to file for bankruptcy protection.

Located about 100 miles east of San Francisco, Atwater is grappling with a $3 million budget deficit, declining city revenues and cost overruns for a new wastewater treatment plant.

The town on Wednesday declared the emergency, which under state law allows it to restructure union contracts, including imposing salary reductions and benefit cuts without negotiations. “We’re working hard to balance the budget and avoid bankruptcy,” said Joan Faul, Atwater’s mayor.

You can read the full article HERE. Walter Russell Mead concludes:

How many more California cities will follow Atwater? As David Kotok, chief investment officer at Cumberland Advisors, told Bloomberg: “In California, we have a disease, and the disease is spreading. . . . I suspect we’re going to see wholesale warnings and downgrades.”

Our small downs are asking for more taxes, rather can cut spending. With a plethora of tax measures in the ballot, voter with their own economic troubles will most likely reject them all.  Then what?

Obama’s October Surprise — September jobs report? No Really?

Russ Steele

We all knew it was going to happen, the numbers would be rigged to get the unemployment number down.  You can change that number  by juggling the numbers, but you canot change reality. James Pethokoukis at the American Enterprise Institute has an article titled The sickly, stagnant September jobs report, that is worth your time to read.

Bottom line: The U.S. labor market remains in a deep depression with virtually no recovery since the official end of the Great Recession. But the Long Recession continues unabated.

Who Would Have Thought in the Real Promised Land

Russ Steele

A regular reader of this blog sent me a link to this insight: Arabs funding anti-fracking film!

Who would have thought that the oil-rich Arabs would want to constrain our ability to be dependent on them for our  fossil fuels?

A new film starring Matt Damon presents American oil and natural gas producers as money-grubbing villains purportedly poisoning rural American towns. It is therefore of particular note that it is financed in part by the royal family of the oil-rich United Arab Emirates. [Emphasis added]

The creators of Promised Land have gone to absurd lengths to vilify oil and gas companies, as Scribe’s Michael Sandoval noted Wednesday. Since recent events have demonstrated the relative environmental soundness of hydraulic fracturing – a technique for extracting oil and gas from shale formations – Promised Land’s script has been altered to make doom-saying environmentalists the tools of oil companies attempting to discredit legitimate “fracking” concerns.

You can read the whole story HERE.  I will not be viewing the Promised Land, I hope others will do the same. Why should we support the Arabs and their goal of keeping us on their fossil fuel tit, by encouraging US citizens to demand our own government stop “fracking” in America.

CARB’s Job Leakage Continues? – Campbell Soup Closes Sacramento Plant

Russ Steele

The Mercury News has the story:

Campbell Soup Co. is closing two U.S. plants and cutting more than 700 jobs as it looks to trim costs amid declining canned soup consumption.

The world’s largest soup maker said Thursday that it will close a plant in Sacramento, Calif., that has about 700 full-time workers. The plant was built in 1947 and is the company’s oldest in the country. It also has the highest production costs of Campbell’s four major U.S. soup plants.

Campbell also plans to shutter a spice plant in South Plainfield, N.J. that has 27 employees. Production will be shifted to the company’s only other U.S. plant, in Milwaukee.

One has to ask, why are Campbell’s production costs highest in the California plant?  It could be because the plant is older, or it could be because that California regulations are driving up cost. Looking down the road Campbell may see that AB-32 Cap and Trade will being driving cost into the unsustainable column.

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