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Fossil Fuels Power Disaster Monitoring, Escape, Response, and Relief

September 29, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #263

A few weeks ago I wrote about how the productive use of fossil fuels makes society more resilient in the face of natural disasters. Shortly after that, a column came to my attention focusing laser-like on the critical role fossil fuels are playing in the recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria. As artist and conservative columnist Caroline Camden Lewis points out, no industry has done and will continue to do more to help the hurricane- and deluge-stricken areas to recover than the fossil fuel industry.

Fossil fuels powered the helicopters, boats of the “Cajun coast guard,” the Coast Guard itself, military, and police boats and vehicles that evacuated people from the flood zone; the 18-wheelers delivering water, food, blankets, and other relief supplies; the ambulances carrying those hurt during the storm or needing transport from hospitals, medical facilities, and nursing homes damaged or left without power after the storms; utility vehicles sent to get the power back on; and the list goes on.

When the power lines were down in parts of Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico, back-up generators powered by diesel, natural gas, or liquid propane provided the electricity to apartment residents, patients in hospitals (many for whom a power outage could be deadly as patients on ventilators and dialysis require electricity), nursing homes, and elsewhere. Diesel-powered cranes and heavy equipment are knocking down dangerous, damaged buildings and power poles, and they will be required to put up new poles and structures, while gasoline-powered chainsaws “cut apart the fallen trees blocking the roads and diesel-powered trucks to haul it off. Utility companies use diesel-powered cranes to attach the wires,” Lewis reminds us.

Not only was the food and water provided to evacuees delivered by fossil-fuel-powered vehicles, the food also was grown using diesel- and gasoline-powered equipment and, although Lewis didn’t mention it, grown using pesticides and fertilizers that require fossil fuels as components and in their manufacture.

And the plastics in cell phones, computers, and equipment that have kept people connected and informed are made up in part from, and were manufactured using, oil and natural gas, while the silica necessary for microchips at the core of these technologies was mined by diesel-powered mining equipment.

Fossil fuels were also front and center before and during the hurricanes, reducing the number of people ultimately harmed by them. Fossil fuels were integral to the construction of modern building materials and infrastructure that, as badly as they were damaged, certainly stood up to the storms’ winds and rain better than the wood and plank homes and rutted wagon trails that would have stood in the storms’ paths less than a century before. Fossil fuels powered the advanced warning systems giving people time to evacuate or take shelter – including the weather planes that literally flew through the storms – and the 24/7 communications systems that tracked and allowed meteorologist to report on the storms’ progress.

With early warning, many people fled prior to the storms using vehicles primarily powered by fossil fuels. If everyone had only electric vehicles to flee the storms in advance, or to get out of Houston or Florida shortly after the hurricanes hit, people caught in dead vehicles would have been the norm as batteries drained in the bumper-to-bumper traffic leaving town – that is, if the cars were even fully charged to begin with, having been used to pick up emergency supplies or go about a normal business day before the owners decided to flee. Even fully charged, electric vehicles in most locations hard hit by the hurricanes would not have delivered many of their drivers from harm’s way, having too short a range to get them fully out of the storms’ paths from coastal Texas or throughout Florida to safety 200 and more miles away. And after the storms, electric vehicles would be useless as the electric power necessary to recharge their batteries – unless you charge them using a diesel-powered generator – was, and in many places is still, out. Concerning Puerto Rico, although many people rode out the storm on the island, those that escaped used fossil-fuel-powered boats, ships, or planes to do so.

Even the foolish or obstinate likely wouldn’t argue fossil fuels cause hurricanes in general or these three most recent storms in particular. But, despite lacking any credible evidence, they might argue the hurricanes wouldn’t have been as powerful were it not for our use of fossil fuels. To this I say, look at history and see how many people were killed by bad weather before the widespread use of fossil fuels, or even in the present, compare the number of people killed and damage done in countries without access to reliable fossil-fuel-powered electricity and transportation, and the technologies and infrastructure they make possible. Even if the use of fossil fuels modestly increased hurricane wind speeds, a supposition I’m not granting, the benefits of using those fossil fuels to track, warn, flee, and respond to damaging storms and other natural disasters far outweigh the harm caused by a few more miles per hour of wind.

Anyone who denies these basic facts is ignorant, lying to themselves, or evil, the latter two camps being made up of fanatics caught in the grips of a theory.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: The Patriot Post


IN THIS ISSUE …

Court deals setback to alarmists’ Exxon lawsuitAustralia backing coal not climate commitments … Carbon dioxide benefits rice, yamsWidely published climate scientist jailed for fraud


AMERICA FIRST ENERGY CONFERENCE ON THE HORIZON

The Heartland Institute is hosting its American First Energy Conference in Houston, Texas on November 9 at the J.W. Marriott Galleria. Speakers include Heartland’s new president, former Congressman Tim Huelskamp; University of Delaware climate scientist David Legates; Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry; and Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke. Contact Gwendalyn Carver, The Heartland Institute’s development director, at gcarver@heartland.org or 312/377-4000 to become a sponsor of the event. Registration for the event is $349.00 (including meals), visit the conference website at: http://americafirstenergy.org/register/.


COURT DEALS SETBACK TO ALARMISTS’ EXXON LAWSUIT

A federal judge in Boston dealt a major blow this week to environmental activist groups, led by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), who are suing ExxonMobil for allegedly failing to sufficiently prepare a facility in Everett, Massachusetts, for the effects of climate change, including sea-level rise and more frequent and severe storms.

On September 12, U.S. District Court Judge Mark Wolf partially granted ExxonMobil’s motion to dismiss CLF’s case, ruling CLF was unnecessarily injecting climate change into its complaint, to the detriment of its own argument. Wolf says the case is about whether ExxonMobil violated the terms of a Clean Water Act permit from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), ordering CLF to refile its complaint with all references to climate change removed.

Wolf’s order made it clear for CLF’s claims to move forward, the organization needed to show ExxonMobil had either caused harm to the plaintiffs or that harm was “imminent,” and references to the projected effects of climate change by 2050 or 2100 wouldn’t qualify as such. If the plaintiffs were concerned about the effects of climate change on the facility in 2050, Wolf said, “they should refile their case in 2045.”

SOURCE: Energy In Depth


AUSTRALIA BACKING COAL NOT CLIMATE COMMITMENTS

In response to summertime electric power outages largely caused by previous governments’ efforts to impose renewable energy on the electric grid and prematurely shutter coal-fired power plants to fight climate change, Australia’s government is walking away from the “Clean Energy Target” proposed by previous governments and replacing it with an energy plan emphasizing reliable baseload power driven by coal-fired power plants. The government’s new energy policy will place a premium on baseload power, to best ensure the stability and reliability of the electric power system. In a speech to Parliament Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said, “We need to ensure that the energy market design provides a suitable framework for investment that doesn’t simply get new generation, but gets generation of the right kind. Because you have to keep the lights on, and you have to ensure that people can afford to pay to keep the lights on.”

As part of its new focus on reliability, the government is encouraging AGL, which operates the Liddell coal-fired power plant, to keep it operating beyond 2022, when the company had planned to retire the unit as unprofitable under present carbon policies. While AGL is free to shut down the Liddell plant, Turnbull said whatever it replaces it with must be equally reliable and inexpensive, which he stressed excluded wind and solar.

SOURCE: Financial Review


CARBON DIOXIDE BENEFITS RICE, YAMS

Research published in the journal Plant Production Science notes increased carbon dioxide levels increase the yield of the yam, “the third most important tropical root and tuber crop after cassava and sweet potato in west Africa, central America, the Pacific islands, and southeast Asia,” and rice, a staple crop across Asia and South and Central America.

The researchers compared the growth of both staple crops in spring and fall, in a controlled environment under ambient (403 parts per million [ppm]) and elevated (591 ppm) carbon dioxide levels during the summer experiment, and 400 ppm and 591 ppm in the fall experiment, with temperatures approximately 0.3°C higher than the outside air but varying to reflect the differences in temperature between fall and spring.

For the Chinese yam at ambient temperatures, elevated carbon dioxide levels increased the number of leaves 29 percent, vine length 49 percent, leaf area 59 percent, leaf dry weight 61 percent, vine dry weight 59 percent, root dry weight 38 percent, tuber dry weight 44 percent, and total dry weight 43 percent. At higher temperatures, the yams’ various features increased by 54, 86, 71, 76, 67, 83, 40, and 60 percent respectively.

Rice crops also benefited from higher atmospheric CO2 concentrations, with total dry weights measuring “16 and 21 percent higher in the ambient and high temperature treatments during the summer and 22 and 40 percent higher in the fall experiment.”

SOURCE: CO2 Science


WIDELY PUBLISHED CLIMATE SCIENTIST JAILED FOR FRAUD

Australia has jailed a widely published climate scientist for fraud in connection with payments he falsely claimed were related to his research on climate change. Australian Institute of Marine Science senior researcher Daniel Michael Alongi has authored or co-authored more than 140 publications, many related to climate change and its impact on the Great Barrier Reef. Over seven years, Alongi submitted 129 fraudulent claims for fictitious purchases totaling $553,420. Commonwealth prosecutor Chris Moore said Alongi, who pleaded guilty to defrauding the federal agency he worked for, “created or modified invoices, receipts and credit card statements, along with drafting fake analysis reports and email trails.” Alongi’s research has been cited 5,861 times, yet based on his fraudulent receipts, it seems he may not have taken some of the trips or conducted the research and analyses many of his papers were based upon.

SOURCE: American Thinker

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland research fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org

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