Climate-change lawsuits discourage those seeking solutions

When Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison announced lawsuits against fossil fuel companies in 2020, the moment was ripe. Reports on elevated greenhouse-gas emissions were stark, demonstrating both a warming planet and causal evidence that fossil fuels were a lead culprit.

The lawsuit led by Ellison’s office aims to hold accountable “companies responsible for harms associated with climate change,” as his office stated. It accused firms such as ExxonMobil, American Petroleum Institute, and Koch Industries of “consumer fraud, deceptive trade practices, misrepresentation, (and a) failure to warn.” The main premise of the suit seems to be that, by producing oil products and not being more forthcoming on climate impact, or downplaying them, these firms greatly misled consumers.

There is no question that fossil fuels contribute to climate change, and the firms that both produce and distribute those fuels have some culpability.

But considering the global energy crisis that has led to international battles on oil supplies and increased energy costs, are lawsuits the right course of action? Are we, as consumers of these products and also citizens of this planet, victims? If we are victims, then we also happen to be the ones perpetuating harm.

To whom does ExxonMobil or any other oil company sell its products? It’s us, consumers and entrepreneurs. We fill up our cars, SUVs, tractors, and lawnmowers with gasoline. We power our industries, heat our homes, and use fossil-fuel energy in the course of our everyday lives to improve our standard of living. This is especially true in a harsh-winter state like Minnesota.

There are questions about shifting the sources of that energy and how we can move to cleaner and renewable processes and outputs, whether that be nuclear energy or solar and wind.

At least one Minnesota start-up is harnessing geothermal energy to both heat and cool homes — but has been stalled by an unclear regulatory environment. In that case, shouldn’t the focus of regulators and public officials be on addressing the “how” of an energy transition rather than solely addressing the “who” of the energy status quo?

Using civil courts and lawsuits to address that energy question is a targeted approach with an intended outcome that has little to do with energy innovation. Rather, these lawsuits seek financial settlements from oil and gas companies. Every climate-change lawsuit filed by Minnesota’s attorney general, or dozens of other state attorneys general, has a goal of extracting money from energy firms.

This will have no bearing on future investments in energy production, renewable or not, and could logically lead to higher energy costs for consumers if firms are required to settle or pay large sums to both lawyers and states that pursue them.

Climate action via courts is not novel. There are entire university law departments predicated on the idea of suing, pursuing, or otherwise holding energy companies liable for some aspects of climate change. There are grants available from organizations such as the Collective Action Fund for Accountability to public officials with attorney privileges who commit to such lawsuits.

Tort law firms such as Arnold and Porter have staked their reputation on lawsuits against energy providers, creating a mounting war chest that will likely leave oil and gas producers with higher attorney fees than investments in renewables or alternative sources of energy. Not to mention higher costs passed on to consumers.

Whatever one’s view on how best to adapt or overcome climate change, the practice of litigating the science in a court of law is a poor strategy. This will not empower nor inspire the next generation of energy entrepreneurs to provide better solutions. There will be more rich lawyers, more clogged courtrooms, and fewer resources available to energy firms that do seek to pivot to better alternatives.

If consumers want an alternative-energy future, shouldn’t we dedicate resources and create the environment for that innovation to occur? Or should we forever cast its fate into the hands of lawyers and judges and those cashing the checks? I would rather choose innovation and creativity over this litigious status quo.

Originally published here

Hey buddy, consumers don’t need protection from natural gas stoves

The degrowther cacophony of environmentalists, bureaucrats, and supposed consumer advocates has found a new enemy to protect you from: the gas stove in your kitchen.

As spelled out by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Richard Trumka Jr. in a recent Bloomberg interview, a federal “ban on gas stoves is on the table amid rising concern about harmful indoor air pollutants.”

Trumka joins the chorus of enterprising journalists, academics, and green activists (and even the World Economic Forum) who have taken up the agency’s call to not only make a health case against kitchen stoves that heat food with natural gas, but also the environmental and moral one.

An article in New York Magazine asked, rather innocently, “are gas stoves the new cigarettes?” We all know what follows.

Humbly, Trumka later clarified the agency wouldn’t propose banning them, but would instead only apply strict regulations to “new products,” following cities like San Francisco and New York City, and entire states like New York (no surprise) that have already enacted bans on natural gas hook-ups for new construction. It should be noted that the majority of these proposed actions were based on environmental claims rather than health claims, and the most prominent advocates have been “environmental law” experts and the like.

Of course, they’ll say they don’t want to outlaw gas stoves in your home or dispatch agents to rip them from your kitchens and load them onto flatbeds. That’s silly. They just want to use the force of laws, guidance, and incentives to nudge consumers away from a natural gas standard. The federal government’s ineptly named Inflation Reduction Act will go a long way.

If you voluntarily swap your gas stove for an electric one, the IRA deems you eligible for a tax rebate of up to $840 — which would easily subsidize your lifestyle “choice”. This is similar to the law’s incentives for buying electric vehicles, installing solar panels, and fitting new construction with green-friendly tech.

While subsidies for your home kitchen may be all the rage, it’s understandable why this issue has become a cultural flashpoint.

For average consumers, the advantages of using a gas stove are plentiful. For one, they heat quickly and efficiently, reducing the time and energy used to cook a meal. They offer heat moderation that any meal would require. And because natural gas is a separate utility hook-up, it means that in the case of brownouts or power outages, you can still cook, boil water, and heat your food.

Restaurant chefs are slavishly reliant on natural gas to provide the best source of heat for lunchtimes and dinners for hungry patrons, as are Americans of more modest income who can more cheaply provide food at home using natural gas than increasing their electricity bill.

The disadvantages of natural gas stoves, according to the activists, are they could leak nitrogen oxides into your home, which, when wedded with improper ventilation, presents a risk for childhood asthma and other health concerns. In addition, that gas leakage could contribute to greenhouse emissions, which links it to climate change.

When Trumka first entertained a natural gas stove ban — on a December private Zoom meeting with the Public Interest Research Group Education Fund — the asthma risk was front and center. He went so far as to call it a “hazard,” which boggled our minds at Consumer Choice Center, considering the extent of our work clarifying the errors of legislating based on risks instead of hazards.

For a look into the studies, economist Emily Oster recently did this on her Substack, and her conclusion is that the risks claimed by researchers are actually so minimal that they aren’t worth taking seriously for anyone who has a properly vented kitchen and up-to-date appliances.

While indoor air pollution is indeed a serious hazard, it is not one that affects US households. Hood vents, air conditioning, and modern construction have avoided this issue for nearly all Americans, as the EPA admits. The effect on climate change is also negligent, considering that conversion to all-electric stoves does nothing to clean up the energy grid or move all electricity generation to carbon-neutral alternatives.

Why then is this issue gathering so much steam among consumer advocates like PIRG, which began a campaign against natural gas stoves early last year?

While they may be sincere in their aims, it amounts to yet another crusade against consumer choice. People know the risks of gas stoves and the cost-benefit analysis that comes with purchasing one. Having a gas stove with children running around isn’t ideal, and in most cases, an induction stove is likely even more efficient and desirable.

But the entire purpose of having a variety of stoves is to offer users — professional chefs and home cooks alike — the option that fits best with their lifestyle and budget. There are always risks when it comes to home appliances, energy applications, and what we bring into our homes.

But we would rather trust consumers to make this decision than a regulatory agency with its own agenda.

Attacks on forestry industry strain credulity

Canadian forest management is an envy of the world, routinely atop the global standings for stewardship and sustainability, writes Yaël Ossowski and David Clement

With an immense land mass filled to the brim with natural resources, Canada is bountiful with energy and industry that provide dividends for its citizens.

Whether that means reserves of oil, softwood lumber, or iron ore used to make steel, responsible use of these resources makes Canada punch above its weight when it comes to economic growth, productivity, and a strong standard of living.

While these jobs continue to power the nation, many environmentalist activist groups — both foreign and domestic — have continued to call our country to task on the sustainable production of our natural resources. And too often, their bombastic and unfounded claims are accepted wholesale by many media outlets.

In only the latest example, the US NGO Natural Resources Defense Council partnered with Nature Canada to release a report making the shocking claim that carbon emissions from the forestry sector are even more than oilsands production.

Instead of applying a critical analysis to a claim that has been rejected by Natural Resources Canada and international experts, The Canadian Press accepted the activist groups’ claim, accusing our own agencies of “using questionable methods to underestimate emissions from the forest industry.”

Even though our government ministries use internationally accepted standards for calculating emission levels from activity, NRDC and Nature Canada aim to paint Canada as a powerhouse, not of responsible resource management, but reckless greenhouse gas emission.

This stands against science. According to the United Nations, Canada’s forest area has remained relatively stable for the last 30 years, despite the surge in forestry industries, wildfires, and clearing for residential use. That means Canada is actually a global leader in replanting and repopulating its forests, especially compared to Brazil, China, and other nations with large forests.

If this is true, why then are activist groups claiming that Canada’s industry providing us with both construction wood and paper (used in now-mandated cardboard food packages) is more of a polluter than oil extraction?

The major claim in the report is that industry emissions must be combined with those from naturally-occurring wildfires, plant diseases, and invasive insects, none of which are understood to be commercial activity undertaken by Canada’s loggers. Rather, these are part of nature’s ordinary life cycles that we can only hope to mitigate and limit, if not prevent.

Considering that The Canadian Press and other outlets that reported on these claims didn’t reject them outright is concerning. But more concerning is what these activist groups seek as a result of their flawed findings.

Just days after the report’s release in October, activists were meeting with senators and ministers to “force the hand of policy-makers themselves,” potentially leading to restrictions and emission limits that would hurt not only Canadian jobs and industry, but also significantly skew our fight against climate change.

It is worth remembering that Canadian forest management is an envy of the world, routinely atop the global standings for stewardship and sustainability.

Cardboard, made from pulp sourced in our forests, is now the destined alternative to plastic for food packaging products, mostly due to restrictions and bans sought by these same groups.

The aim of making Canada a global leader for sustainable climate progress is noble, and one that we should all agree on. However, that must be done with scientific facts and evidence, not the twisting of facts and caution to fit the narrative of heavily funded environmental groups with another agenda.

If our news media aims to both inform and educate our citizens, it will have to do a better job of calling out misinformation on all sides. That is the only way we will be equipped to deal with climate issues going forward.

Originally published here

In the fight between rodents and humans, environmentalists choose the rats

Imagine the scene in 14th-century Europe, as the continent was suffering under the bubonic plague, if a group of aristocrats had taken the side of the rats. What seems like a blueprint for a Monty Python sketch, or a skit on SNL during the days it dared to take risks, is not far from the world we see today.

For years, environmental activists have supported a ban on rat poison, and the Environmental Protection Agency has followed suit by, for instance, banning pellet rodenticides. When activists target examples of products that deserve increased scrutiny, though, their blind spots show. The Pesticide Action Network writes in a blog post: “The fact of the matter? Rodenticides are not needed. Predators like owls, hawks and other raptors do a great job of rodent control.”

While hawks and other raptors may address a rat problem in the countryside, they don’t show up to catch rodents in Times Square. Europe has learned this lesson painfully since the European Union has restricted the use of rat poison. Some EU members, such as the Netherlands, have gone further by virtually banning all rat poison from 2023, paving the way for a significant infestation. 

The Knowledge and Advice Center for Animal Pests warns in major media outlets that new infestations of rats are looming. Its director told a public radio station: “Unfortunately, people will not realize it until the rats and mice run down the street.”

“In the Lanternfly War, Some Take the Bug’s Side,” announced the New York Times in a headline last month. The Chinese insect that has made its way to the United States and infested fields since 2014 now threatenshundreds of millions in farming damages, according to the Department of Agriculture.

However, the article also gives voice to those who believe that protecting the insect, and not preventing farms and forests from being decimated, ought to be the priority. Student Catherine Bonner, 22, says the bugs “didn’t ask to be invasive, they are just living their own life” and “I would be bummed if I suddenly started existing somewhere I wasn’t supposed to exist, and everyone started killing me for it.” The New York Times adds that Bonner shares her feelings about lanternflies “only with close friends” (and a reporter of a national newspaper for her story).

Environmentalists and lanternfly enthusiasts fail to recognize the importance of the agricultural sector. One would think that the last two years have shown how supply chain disruptions and food price inflation affect all consumers alike, making families struggle to make ends meet. Toying with the thin fabric that holds our food system together is irresponsible and ignorant; it’s a luxury perspective that only some in the Western world can afford to have.

On the scale of Roman decadence similarities, it’s hard to tell where taking the side of rats and insects fits in. This phenomenon underlines a fundamental problem of the environmental movement: It does not prioritize the interest and well-being of humans. The essence of their ideals lies in elevating the lives of insects or plants over those of people. If the two interests can’t be immediately reconciled, environmentalists will choose whichever hampers the interests of consumers.

It would be hard for our ancestors to believe that anyone would have to say this, but between rodents and humans, don’t choose the rodents.

Originally published here

Is Russia Funding European Environmental Activists?

Russia might be funding European environmental organizations to support its position in the energy market and undermine competitors.

Why is Europe’s political class questioning the effectiveness of modern agricultural practices and the legitimacy of nuclear power when the rest of the developed world is upgrading its fission capacity and allowing for gene-editing technology to revolutionize food production? One could think it’s the inherent need for Europe to be different from the rest of the world, but that would neglect the significant lobbying efforts that have prevented the continent from becoming food and energy independent.

In 2014, former NATO secretary-general and prime minister of Denmark Anders Fogh Rasmussen described this phenomenon to The Guardian:

“I have met allies who can report that Russia, as part of their sophisticated information and disinformation operations, engaged actively with so-called non-governmental organisations – environmental organisations working against shale gas – to maintain European dependence on imported Russian gas.”

The extraction of shale gas is known as fracking. While legal and used in the United States, European parliaments have consistently opposed this alternative and preferred to rely on standard Russian gas pipelines. According to a letter sent to then-Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin by U.S. representatives Lamar Smith and Randy Weber, Hillary Clinton told a private audience in 2016 “We were even up against phony environmental groups, and I’m a big environmentalist, but these were funded by the Russians …”

Has the Russian Federation been funding environmental activists around the world? A few more voices point in this direction.

WWF Germany, BUND (Friends of the Earth), and NABU (Nature and Biodiversity Conservation Union), three environmental organisations who were avowed opponents of Germany’s NordStream pipelines with Russia, dropped their opposition after Gazprom promised funding for environmental protection, according to a 2011 report from the European Parliament. A foundation set up by a German federal state, environmental organizations, and NordStream (controlled by Gazprom) had filled its coffers with €10 million with representatives of the environmental organizations sitting on the board. Did these groups drop their opposition to the pipelines because of Russian funding? Whether they did or not is anyone’s guess.

Another striking example is Belgium, where the federal energy minister Tinne Van der Straeten (from the green party “GROEN”) has sought to dismantle Belgium’s nuclear energy capacity. Van der Straeten’s former job? Lawyer and associate at a law firm whose largest client is Gazprom. 

It’s not just energy dependence that Europe has created, but also significant food import dependency. According to the European Union (EU), 19 percent of “other feed and feed ingredients” imported to the bloc come from Russia, as well as almost 8 percent of sugar (other than beet and cane), and slightly more than 6 percent of imported wheat. While total agri-food imports from Russia to the EU only represent 1.4 percent, the country’s trade is vital for Europe’s animal feed, and by blocking Ukrainian trade routes, Moscow is worsening food security all over Europe. Conveniently, many of the organizations mentioned above have been adamant about reducing European farmland, phasing out crop protection, and blocking the use of genetic engineering.

The question of whether environmental activists have been funded by the Russian state might help resolve the even more puzzling inquiry into why they told deliberate mistruths for decades. Take the example of insecticides: when a decline in the honey bee population went unexplained for some time in the early 2000s, environmental activists first blamed their favorite boogeyman – genetic engineering. When that talking point was debunked by the scientific community, environmentalists turned their attention to neonicotinoid insecticides, and also subsequently to neonic alternatives such as sulfoxaflor.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), a March 2018 U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) report, and reports from Canada and Australia, there has been no proven link between neonics and harm to bee populations. The scientific community rejected sulfoxaflor-related claims as recently as July last year. The European Food Safety Authority EFSA and the EPA, even called sulfoxaflor “better for species across the board.”

Not just have those claims about bee health been rejected, but bee population growth across the globe is on the rise. The data show that as of 2020, there has been a 17 percent increase in beehives, a 35 percent increase since 2000, and a 90 percent increase since 1961. In the United States, the number of bee colonies has been stable for thirtyyears while in Europe, where farmers also use insecticides, the number has increased by 20 percent.

These mistruths about crop protection and bee numbers have made countries fight what even mainstream news sources in Europe consider “bee-killing pesticides.” 

In France, Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Front (itself supported by loans from Russian banks)supported a ban on sulfoxaflor in 2015. In 2019, the country outlawed neonics and sulfoxaflor, only to discover that it led to a massive decrease in sugar beet production. Paris had to pause the bansas its beet farmers were facing extinction but still received criticism from environmental organizations for their pragmatic decision. Again, the fact that Russia is a significant exporter of sugar beet is likely purely coincidental and unrelated.

Do environmental organizations support the efforts of foreign governments by increasing the dependence of NATO allies on Russia? Even if not deliberately, they do so indirectly as their advocacy leads to food inflation and economies that cannot argue from a position of strength. 

Originally published here

NIMBY Bitcoin mining ban threatens to lock New Yorkers out of the crypto revolution

By Yaël Ossowski

In 2015, when New York unveiled the BitLicense, a regulatory framework for Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, there was great fanfare among lawmakers. For innovators and entrepreneurs, however, that began what many labeled the “Great Bitcoin Exodus”.

And though it has been reformed since, much of the cryptocurrency space has walled off the Empire State because of the exhaustive regulations, leaving many customers unable to use a host of exchanges, brokerages, and other services. Residents were even prohibited from buying the much anticipated NYCCoin that launched last year.

Though some exchanges and brokers have applied and received the license — usually those armed with lawyers and staffed by former regulators — New Yorkers are still left out of most of the innovation happening with cryptocurrencies. Miners, however, decided to stay.

Bitcoin mining firms have scooped up abandoned plants in Niagara Falls, Buffalo, and more, using hydropower and natural gas to power the computers needed to “unlock” Bitcoin from the network. Regulators, however, are once again keen to put the screws to crypto. 

A bill awaiting its fate in the Senate would impose a two-year moratorium on crypto mining permits, and launch an expansive environmental review.

As a consumer advocate, I view this bill as a death blow to the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency industry, risking jobs and capital that could otherwise scale up renewable energy, and would deny the benefits of crypto and Bitcoin to consumers.

Embracing climate goals to ensure 100% renewable energy usage in mining is well-intended, but a complete ban would have consequences. It will be yet another signal to entrepreneurs and consumers that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not welcome in New York, and the regulatory framework is too unfavorable to justify investing here.

For people feeling the impact of inflation, and for those who are locked out of the traditional finance and banking sector, their choices will become even more limited.

I understand the rise of cryptocurrency mining raises questions for residents, particularly when it involves the economy and environment. However, a more prudent path would be an environmental review conducted by relevant authorities, rather than a wholesale ban and moratorium that would put many projects in jeopardy.

When it comes to public policy on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, I would rather side with financial inclusion and crypto innovation than a “Not In My Backyard” mentality.

New Yorkers deserve better: a choice of whether they want to participate in the crypto revolution, rather than have their lawmakers make that choice for them.

Yaël Ossowski is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center

New Yorkers need prudence, not bans, on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining

On May 24, 2022, the Consumer Choice Center sent a letter to New York state lawmakers, warning of the potential consequences to consumers if bill S6486D was adopted, a moratorium on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency mining.

The full letter is available below, or in PDF version here.

Dear Senators,

We write to you to urge you to vote against S6486D, a companion bill to A7389C, which would order a state-wide moratorium on cryptocurrency generation or mining.

If passed, this bill would be a death blow to the Bitcoin and cryptocurrency industry, resulting in thousands of jobs lost in New York, a loss of capital to scale up renewable energy, and would harm all potential benefits to consumers from cryptocurrency projects and initiatives. 

The aim of embracing climate goals to ensure 100% renewable energy usage in cryptocurrency generation and mining is well-intended, but a complete ban will have a devastating impact on innovators and entrepreneurs hosting their facilities in the state of New York, and consumers and investors that rely on their services.

As a consumer group, it may seem odd for us to weigh in on a topic that affects mostly industry players and firms. However, because we believe that Bitcoin, and cryptocurrencies more broadly, will serve a vital role in making finance and economics more inclusive and accessible for sending, receiving, and saving value, we hold it in the interest of consumers that the hashrate (the total computing power of the network) continue to grow, and that better public policy on cryptocurrencies is embraced among state legislatures.

If the Bitcoin hashrate grows specifically in the United States, then we will have more control in how mining develops and how it can benefit the country, its citizens, and our energy grids.. This last part is vital for climate goals, which cannot be said for China or other nations.

According to the latest figures from the first quarter of 2022 on Bitcoin mining specifically, 58.4% of miners are using renewable energy sources, and that number has only increased in several years. In New York, many firms are retooling abandoned processing and power generation plants to build cryptocurrency data centers, and are providing economic value in return that is putting renewable energy to work.

What’s more, this wide-ranging energy diversification is happening at a pace faster than any other industry, leading to more investment in renewable energy capacities and delivery systems. This increased demand is leading to more environmentally favorable energy delivery for customers of all public electricity utilities, and will also help bring down costs. And this is being carried out due to the incentives of firms and individuals who participate in adding hash rate to mining: they want to lower their costs and find better alternatives. 

Cryptocurrency generation and mining firms have an incentive to use the most affordable and renewable energy sources available, and the data backs up this claim. This is a win-win scenario for towns and localities with these facilities, for employees of these firms, residents in these towns that benefit from increased commerce, and energy customers overall.

As cryptocurrency mining has proliferated in New York, it has opened up new entrepreneurial activities that will help improve the lives of New Yorkers in small communities and large urban centers alike. Entertaining a ban on these activities, in pursuit of an unclear climate goal, will negate these gains. There is a better path.

It should not surprise you to know that New York’s previous policy decisions, including the highly criticized BitLicense, have locked many New Yorkers out of the new cryptocurrency ecosystem due to the high compliance costs. Some New Yorkers have chosen to change residences in order to acquire cryptocurrency or to invest in crypto businesses, which they can do in any other state, but more specifically Texas, Wyoming, and Florida.

If this moratorium on cryptocurrency generation comes to pass, it will be yet another signal to entrepreneurs and consumers that Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies are not welcomed in New York, and the regulatory framework is too unfavorable to justify investing here.

A number of industry organizations, communities, and unions have already expressed their concerns about the impact this bill would have on their families and livelihoods, fearing potential job loss in case industry gets driven away from the state as a result of this legislation. The loss of future investments and new jobs is another concern expressed by many communities in cities such as Rochester, Albany, and Syracuse.

According to the May 2022 Empire State Manufacturing Survey, the general business conditions index has dropped thirty-six points statewide. The last thing many affected and marginalized communities need is a moratorium that would drive businesses away from the state, and keep millions of New Yorkers from being included in a new system of value.

We understand that the quick rise of cryptocurrency mining raises many questions for residents, particularly when it involves the local economy and environment. However, a more prudent path would be an environmental review conducted by relevant authorities, rather than a wholesale ban and moratorium that would put many projects in legal jeopardy.

As consumer advocates, we are strongly opposed to this bill. We believe that New York residents deserve a chance to take part in the nascent industry that so many other states are hoping to accommodate. Using the force of regulation to drive away investments and jobs, stop economic progress, and shut out millions of New Yorkers from a more inclusive financial system would not only be wrong, but it would also be negligent.

Please vote No on S6486D aiming to place a moratorium on proof-of-work and help New York become a hub of innovation that embraces new technologies. New Yorkers should have the opportunity to participate in one of the biggest innovations of our age. With your vote against this bill and a more prudent direction, we can ensure that will happen.

Sincerely Yours,

Yaël Ossowski

Deputy Director

Aleksandar Kokotovic

Crypto Fellow

Democrats Can’t Have Both PFAS Ban and EV Transition: Choose One

As part of the climate agenda, Democrats have advocated the phasing out of motor vehicles. The goal is to ensure that electric vehicles make up half of all new vehicles sold by 2030. To accomplish this task, tax credits of up to $12,500 could be offered.

Democrats have put electric vehicles at the heart of their climate ambitions. While that all sounds great on paper, the reality is more complex. The extensively demonised PFAS (Per- and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances)–known as forever chemicals–which Democrats want to ban are key to the production of EVs. Either Democrats call off the prospect of a full PFAS ban, or their EV agenda will never be realised.

PFAS are the latest target of regulators in the United States. They are a group of over 4000 chemicals that carry individual risks; benefits and availability of substitutes vary as well. Turning a blind eye to the complexity of these substances, Democrats introduced the PFAS Action Act in April 2021. The Act is now with the Senate’s Committee on Environment and Public Works.

PFAS are used to produce life-saving medical equipment and are vital for contamination-resistant gowns, implantable medical devices, heart patches, etc. These chemicals are also widely used in green technology production. In particular, solar panels, wind turbines, and lithium-ion batteries.

Fluoropolymers (one specific class of PFAS) are an essential part of green technology. Fluoropolymers are used to produce lithium batteries, the power source behind electric vehicles. They are durable, heat and chemical resistant, and have superior dielectric properties, all of these qualities make it hard for other chemicals to compete. If PFAS are banned as a class, the green ambitions of switching to electric vehicles would be extremely difficult to turn into policy. The PFAS Action Act would cause further disruptions in the EV supply chain, increasing costs for consumers and ultimately making them less attractive as an alternative to gasoline vehicles.

Fluoropolymers are also used in coating and sealing solar panels and wind turbines that protect against harsh weather conditions. Fluoropolymers provide safety by preventing leaks and environmental releases in a range of renewable energy applications. The unique characteristics of PFAS such as water, acid, and oil resistance make these substances hard to replace. 

Unless damaged, solar panels continue to produce energy beyond their lifeline. Fluoropolymers are what make solar panels durable. Going solar requires significant investments and without fluoropolymers, the risk of producing and installing them will increase. It is already expensive to build solar panels in the U.S., and the blanket PFAS will exacerbate it. In fact, this is exactly what is happening in Europe with microchips, which rely on PFAS in the production process, where the closing of a plant in Belgium is on the verge of causing serious production delays.

That is not to say that PFAS are risk-free. A 2021 study by ​​Australian National University confirms that the PFAS exposure comes entirely from water. If Democrats really want to make a difference, their legislation should focus on processes that are harmful instead of single handedly banning all PFAS. 

The proposed ban is also problematic because fundamentally it won’t drive down demand for PFAS. Banning will shift production to countries like China, where environmental considerations are nearly non-existent. As a result, American regulators will be giving China the upper hand for both EV battery production, solar panels, and semiconductors. Not to mention, that banning a substance that is key to so many production processes will magnify the damage caused by inflation. For American EV and solar panels producers, the PFAS ban will be a huge hurdle that is extremely difficult to overcome.

If Democrats are really as determined to pursue a transition to EVs as they suggest, the PFAS blanket ban should be called off. Instead, PFAS should be assessed individually and where poor production processes result in water contamination, the government should intervene.

Why is Germany hiring a former Greenpeace activist who reflexively opposed nuclear energy and genetic engineering as a climate advisor?

February 9, a headline caused a stir: Annalena Baerbock now employs Jennifer Morgan, the former head of Greenpeace, as special representative for international climate policy.

An open lobbyist in the federal government? “How can that be?” wondered many commentators on social networks.

The Federal Foreign Minister also encouragement received. LobbyControl, a German NGO, defended the federal minister with several tweets. It must be possible to bring experts from outside into the ministries. The transfers in the opposite direction are more of a problem. And anyway: lobbying for non-material goals should not be equated with organizations that pursue it for their own financial purposes.

After all, the organization admitted that Morgan would have to represent the interests of the federal government in the future and not those of Greenpeace.

An organization that, according to its own website, wants to be a counterweight to the ever-increasing influence of think tanks, PR agencies and their tricks, denies the problem. Our lobbying is better than your lobbying…

But apart from the problem of hiring a lobbyist in an important and representative position within the federal government, the question of Greenpeace’s “ideal goals” also arises. Is Greenpeace really an organization that works for the common good? Is Greenpeace a serious organization that achieves positive things? And is Morgan, as the former head of this organization, actually an added value for the German state?

Looking at Greenpeace’s activities, the affirmative answer to these questions seems unlikely. The organization has been engaged in populist and sensational activism for years.

You don’t have to look far for examples, we all remember the crash landing of the Greenpeace activist in Munich’s Allianz Arena. At the qualifying game of the German national team, the activist landed in the middle of the field after injuring two people on the head a few seconds earlier. The action was about putting pressure on the car company VW, which was being urged to get out of the combustion engine. Because of the same issue, Greenpeace activists later stole 1,500 keys to VW vehicles in Emden that were to be exported.

Read the full article here

EU Green Policies Back On The Table

Europe’s Green Deal is supposed to revolutionize energy and agriculture. Now, the continent can’t afford it.

Russia’s war in Ukraine has shaken every political consensus in Europe. Within weeks, Germany’s Nord Stream 2 pipeline deal with Moscow was cancelled, and the principle of not sending weapons to war zones went out the window. Just three years ago, French President Emmanuel Macron called NATO “braindead.” Now, nobody in Europe is echoing this view. The same will happen with the European Green Deal, the mothership of Europe’s environmental ambitions.

The Green Deal encompasses all the regulatory measures the E.U. envisages to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions. It has been spearheaded by France and Germany, the latter already having started its energy transition (Energiewende) in 2011. Since Berlin’s radical decision to phase out nuclear power, Germany has experienced the highest electricity prices in the developed world, reduced competitiveness, and higher carbon-dioxide emissions as a result of increased reliance on coal and natural gas—from Russia. Now that Moscow has plunged European diplomacy into chaos, its hand hovering over the gas lever, Germany is scrambling to find alternatives.

Germany’s economy minister Robert Habeck—incidentally a Green Party official—did not rule out a delay to the phase-out of coal power and a halt to the phase-out of the three remaining nuclear power plants in Germany. Frans Timmermans, E.U. Commissioner in charge of the Green Deal, has also accepted that coal will remain an energy source for longer than Brussels initially anticipated. What is so striking about the European conversation is that practically nobody is talking about wind mills or solar panels, but instead countries are attempting to import more LNG (liquified natural gas) from Canada and the United States, max out the natural gas pipeline from Azerbaijan, or (in the case of the U.K.) argue to put a halt to bans on fracking.

Meanwhile, Italian foreign minister Luigi Di Maio has travelled to Algeria and Qatar to help ramp up alternative natural gas imports to the one Rome currently gets from Russia. Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi had said in a recent statement that he regretted the choices that were made in the past, as Italy is one of the countries most dependent on Russian gas imports. Algeria, which currently supplies 11 percent of Europe’s gas needs (a third of which goes to Italy), has said that it’s ready to increase output by 30 percent in the short term. Tunisia and Libya in Northern Africa are also strategic partners for Europe to ramp up natural gas imports, as are Nigeria, Egypt, Mozambique, Tanzania, and Ghana for LNG shipments. LNG terminals in Europe were running at 45 percent capacity last year, with most of the infrastructure in Europe located in Spain. Europe would need significant investment, which will take time, to even get close to what it needs to substitute Russian natural gas.

Europe also faces considerable challenges in agriculture. The European Commission’s “Farm to Fork” strategy seeks to reduce pesticides by 50 percent, devote 25 percent of agricultural land use to organic farming, and reduce fertilizers by 20 percent. Farming representatives have heavily criticized these plans, as they would tighten food supplies and increase dependence on imports. With sanctions on Russia severely disrupting the international food trade in fertilizers, can Europe afford plans to reduce agricultural output? Banking on organic food, which is notoriously under-productive, is unlikely to guarantee European food security. On Tuesday, that recognition came from the European Parliament’s leading parliamentary group, the center-right European People’s Party, calling for a moratorium on green agriculture policies.

USDA study on the “Farm to Fork” plans found that the targets will lead to a reduction in productivity for wheat and oilseeds, as well as a reduction in E.U. exports. The strategy would also lead to a decline in agricultural production in Europe between 7-12 percent. Meanwhile, the E.U.’s decline in GDP would represent 76 percent of the decline in the worldwide GDP. Adding to that, the situation of food security and food commodity prices deteriorates significantly under a worldwide adoption scenario, as USDA researchers have found. The outlook of agricultural prices soars between 20 and 53 percent due to the package. The legislation should entice none of the lawmakers in Brussels—and it appears that now it could be killed altogether.

Europe’s green ambitions have met the harsh realities of geopolitics and the feasibilities of their environmentalist ideologies. Had it listened to partners on the heavy reliance on Russian gas, Europe could have prepared by reading the IPCC report and banking on nuclear power as part of the energy mix by allowing for modern agricultural practices to take root. This should serve as a wake-up call for those in the United States, who for years have applauded the European decarbonization and agricultural policy model as an example to follow for Washington.

Originally published here

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