Tuesday, February 27, 2018

DW examines what the oil giants knew about climate change


DW has produced an excellent documentary on the subject How much did the major oil companies know about climate change? Turns out they knew a very great deal. People who actually did some of the research are interviewed for the first time. This is quite remarkable.

The video has been pulled down from YouTube but can still be seen here.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Last Year Hottest �By Far�: World�s Oceans Top Temperature Records Again

Remember, air pollution is just a step on the way to becoming water pollution. This was the most memorable one-liner in a class on Energy and Public Policy I took in 1974. Of course, the big subject in those days was acid rain but the policy holds true for global heat retention. Whatever heats the atmosphere will eventually heat the oceans. 2017 was a record year for warming oceans. It was also a record year for damaging hurricanes with Harvey's damage to greater Houston at over $125 billion leading a $300+billion total in natural disasters.



Last Year Hottest �By Far�: World�s Oceans Top Temperature Records Again


David Goldman 28.01.2018

New data has revealed that the world's oceans have reached the hottest temperatures ever recorded, and by a significant margin.

CCA new analysis conducted by a Chinese research paper published on Friday in a peer-reviewed journal entitled �2017 Was the Warmest Year on Record for the Global Ocean' detailed the last year to be the hottest year for ocean temperatures since records began being kept.

"The long-term warming trend driven by human activities continued unabated," stated researchers Lijing Cheng and Jiang Zhu, in the journal Advances in Atmospheric Sciences.

"The high ocean temperatures in recent years have occurred as greenhouse gas levels in the atmosphere have also risen, reaching record highs in 2017," added the authors of the report, cited by Commondreams.org.

Commenting on the newly-released data, thermal sciences professor John Abraham with the University of St. Thomas School of Engineering, Minnesota, noted that almost all of the globe's heat is stored in the oceans.

"In terms of understanding how fast the Earth is warming, the key is the oceans," Abraham said, cited by The Guardian. Although minor temperature fluctuations each year are considered to be within statistical norms, particularly as natural meteorological cycles such as the Pacific Ocean's El Ni�o/La Ni�a affect global weather patterns, Abraham asserted that, "the long-term upward trend that extends back many decades does prove global warming."

"The human greenhouse gas footprint continues to impact the Earth system," noted the study's researchers, pointing out that long term consequences include not just a sea level rise, but also "declining ocean oxygen, bleaching of coral reefs, and melting sea ice and ice shelves," cited by Phys.org.

"The consequences of this year-after-year-after-year warming have real impacts on humans," noted Abraham. more

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

A sense of urgency


Quite honestly, I do not know a great deal about Robert Hunziker. But on Monday, he wrote a piece that was special because it injected urgency into the climate debate. Urgency is a quality I often forget to stress both in my life and this blog. So I really appreciated his effort. If we are to escape the fire and energy trap we have built for ourselves, time is rapidly running out�if the goal is to build a post-fire civilization, we should have gotten serious about it in 1973. Projects take time. BIG projects take BIG time and effort. So rebuilding complete civilization, which is the biggest project I can imagine, will require trillions and a global effort.

In addition to reposting him below, I wrote him an email.
Your There is no time left was magnificently crafted�not to mention scary as hell.

As I see it, the fact that no one wants to talk about genuine climate change solutions is that the problem is SO large, very few can comprehend even a tiny segment of the big picture.

The basic problem is fire�that�s where most of the excess CO2 is generated. Making things worse, we are burning carbon that is millions of years old (coal, petroleum). And making this catastrophic, civilizations were designed to run on fire. This took humanity at least 6000 years to accomplish. If your essay is even partially correct, we have about 5 years to replace this incredible investment.

Part two is cultural. This sort of solution will absolutely depend on the kind of people who build the extremely difficult. While the idea of covering a cloudless hunk of the Gobi with solar cells is imaginative, it doesn�t work unless people figure out how to move that massive energy to China�s great cities. Since this has never been done before, it rivals the moon shot in complexity. (Five years, huh?) And yet, we live in a culture whose closest portrayal of the scientific and technological literate is The Big Bang Theory. Yet it is precisely these sorts of persons who have ANY chance of building the new and necessary world. At least we could stop making fun of them and learn what they must accomplish.

Rebuilding complete civilizations will be expensive. We need the world�s central banks to change policy so that the end-fire project is properly financed. Unfortunately, the people who pull the large levers of monetary policy share a fatal flaw�they are scientifically and technologically illiterate. Yet they can either ensure a new civilization or watch the one we have burn to a crisp. Time to make a new qualification for potential central bankers�they MUST be able to demonstrate an understanding of what it means to live in a fire-based civilization.

Congratulations



There Is No Time Left


ROBERT HUNZIKER, FEBRUARY 19, 2018

Imagine a scenario with no temperature difference between the equator and the North Pole. That was 12 million years ago when there was no ice at either pole. In that context, according to professor James G. Anderson of Harvard University, carbon in the atmosphere today is the same as 12 million years ago. The evidence is found in the paleoclimate record. It�s irrefutable.

Meaning, today�s big meltdown has only just started.

And, we�ve got 5 years to fix it or endure Gonzo World.

That�s one big pill to swallow!

That scenario comes by way of interpretation of a speech delivered by James G. Anderson at the University of Chicago in January 2018 when he received the Benton Medal for Distinguished Public Service, in part, for his groundbreaking research that led to the Montreal Protocol in 1987 to mitigate damage to the Ozone Layer.

At the time, Anderson was the force behind the most important event in the history of atmospheric chemistry, discovering and diagnosing Antarctica�s ozone hole, which led to the Montreal Protocol. Without that action, ramifications would have been absolutely catastrophic for the planet.

Stratospheric ozone is one of the most delicate aspects of planet habitability, providing protection from UV radiation for all life forms. If perchance the stratospheric ozone layer could be lowered to the ground, stacking the otherwise dispersed molecules together, it would be 1/8th of an inch in thickness or the thickness of two pennies. That separates humanity from burning up as the stratospheric ozone absorbs 98% of UV radiation.

In his acceptance speech, James G. Anderson, Harvard professor of atmospheric chemistry, now warns that it is foolhardy to assume we can recover from the global warming leviathan simply by cutting back emissions.

Accordingly, the only way humanity can dig itself out of the climate change/global-warming hole is by way of a WWII type effort with total transformation of industry off carbon and removal of carbon from the atmosphere within five years. The situation is so dire that it requires a worldwide Marshall Plan effort, plus kneeling in prayer.

Additionally, Anderson says the chance of permanent ice remaining in the Arctic after 2022 is zero. Already, 80% is gone. The problem: Without an ice shield to protect frozen methane hydrates in place for millennia, the Arctic turns into a methane nightmare. This is comparable to poking the global warming monster with a stick, as runaway global warming (�RGW�) emerges from the depths. Interestingly enough, the Arctic Methane Emergency Group/UK, composed of distinguished scientists, seems to be in agreement with this assessment.

Assuming professor Anderson is as accurate now as he was about the Ozone dilemma, then what can be done? After all, the world�s biggest economy, which has over-reaching influence on the biosphere, is under the influence of anti-science leadership. In fact, the Trump group is driving scientists out. France is hiring left and right under its �Make Our Planet Great Again� initiative. Thirteen of the initial eighteen French science grantees are from the U.S.

The world cannot count on leadership from America. In fact, quite the opposite as America gears up for massive fossil fuel production like never before just as the biosphere starts crumbling. Leadership by arrogance is a deadly deathly exercise.

Donald Trump claims the Paris �15 accord will hurt U.S. business because it requires reduction of emissions. That�s costly. He�s got it backwards. U.S. business and neoliberal tenets destroy the climate whilst creating an inverted pyramid of wealth that undermines the entire socio-politico-economic fabric. It�s the one-two punch, (1) ignoring and abusing the biosphere because �care for the planet� requires extra costs that eat into corporate profits whilst (2) undercutting upward mobility as American wages are exported and destroyed when U.S. manufacturing offshores to low wage countries like China and Mexico and Thailand. What could be worse for American workers than competition with the lowest common denominator in the world while living in a dicey biosphere? In part, it�s why the American middle class is almost broke, actually appended to credit cards in debt up to eyeballs.

As such, between squeezing the daylights out of middle class pocketbooks and abusing the biosphere, U.S. leadership stinks so badly that it demands outright change, similar to France in the late 18th century when thousands of arrogant aristocrats were beheaded in the streets, and the American Revolution (1775-83) when colonists got fed up with the madness of their leader, King George III. Except, King George was the first British monarch to study science. Still, the king suffered from �acute mania.�

Good News: There is a silver lining to the Trump presidency: Inept, arrogant, stupid leadership often times serves as a catalyst, often times revolutionary, for major changes in the socio-politico-economic fabric of society. This is seen throughout history. The reasoning is simple enough. Inept leadership brings to surface all of the warts for all to see. The deficiencies and inequities are not only exposed but also hit citizenry over the head like a leaden hammer. Suddenly, people awaken from their deep coma and kick the bums out. In the case of King Louis XVI of France, he was beheaded before a crowd of tens of thousands in the streets of Paris. In the case of King George III, his ineptness led to the American Revolution. Both leaders served as catalyst to radical change. Today, the warts are (1) neoliberal globalism with its tail of inequities, leaving 90% of society choking on dust. �The one percent� says it all, and (2) fossil fuel use/abuse, as the planet chokes on a dust cloud so thick that it�s losing its breath (new research shows that global warming destroys oxygen). There�s one powerful catalyst, amongst many! more

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Peak Fracking


Kunstler has a habit of speculation about the future with at best, partial information. But on this subject, he is spot on! Shale oil is a mirage. It is a secondary recover scheme that only works when there is plenty of money financing this crazy difficult / expensive scheme. In many cases, shale exploration does not even cover the investment in purely energy terms so eventually, even the hot money boys will find something else to do.

Of course, none of this is especially new. I knew folks in 1960s oil patch North Dakota who could have predicted that the long-term outcome for such scheme was non-producing wells.

Enjoy Kunstler at his most informative.

Party On, Dudes

James Howard Kunstler , February 9, 2018
Clusterfuck Nation

Support this blog by visiting Jim�s Patreon Page

As of this week, the shale oil miracle launched US oil production above the 1970 previous-all-time record at just over ten million barrels a day. Techno-rapturists are celebrating what seems to be a blindingly bright new golden age of energy greatness. Independent oil analyst Art Berman, who made the podcast rounds the last two weeks, put it in more reality-accessible terms: �Shale is a retirement party for the oil industry.�

It was an impressive stunt and it had everything to do with the reality-optional world of bizarro finance that emerged from the wreckage of the 2008 Great Financial Crisis. In fact, a look the chart below shows how exactly the rise of shale oil production took off after that milestone year of the long emergency. Around that time, US oil production had sunk below five million barrels a day, and since we were burning through around twenty million barrels a day, the rest had to be imported.


Chart by Steve St. Angelo at www.srsroccoreport.com

In June of 2008, US crude hit $144-a-barrel, a figure so harsh that it crippled economic activity � since just about everything we do depends on oil for making, enabling, and transporting stuff. The price and supply of oil became so problematic after the year 2000 that the US had to desperately engineer a work-around to keep this hyper-complex society operating. The �solution� was debt. If you can�t afford to run your society, then try borrowing from the future to keep your mojo working.

The shale oil industry was a prime beneficiary of this new hyper-debt regime. The orgy of borrowing was primed by Federal Reserve �creation� of trillions of dollars of �capital� out of thin air (QE: Quantitative Easing), along with supernaturally low interest rates on the borrowed money (ZIRP: Zero Interest Rate Policy). The oil companies were desperate in 2008. They were, after all, in the business of producing� oil! (Duh�.) � even if a giant company like BP pretended for a while that its initials stood for �Beyond Petroleum.�

The discovery of new oil had been heading down remorselessly for decades, to the point that the world was fatally short of replacing the oil it used every year with new supply. The last significant big fields � Alaska, the North Sea, and Siberia � had been discovered in the 1960s and we knew for sure that the first two were well past their peaks in the early 2000s. By 2005, most of the theoretically producible new oil was in places that were difficult and ultra-expensive to drill in: deep water, for instance, where you need a giant platform costing hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention armies of highly skilled (highly paid) technicians, plus helicopters to service the rigs. The financial risk (for instance, of drilling a �dry hole�) was matched by the environmental risk of a blowout, which is exactly what happened to BP�s 2010 Deepwater Horizon platform in the Gulf of Mexico, with clean-up costs estimated at $61 billion.

Technology � that El Dorado of the Mind � rode to the rescue with horizontal drilling and fracturing of �tight� oil-bearing shale rock. It was tight because of low permeability, meaning the oil didn�t flow through it the way it flowed through normal oil-bearing rocks like sandstone. You had to sink a pipe down, angle it horizontally into a strata of shale only a few meters thick, and then blast it apart with water under pressure and particles of sand or ceramic called propants, the job of which was to hold open those fractures so the oil could be sucked out. Well, it worked. The only problem was you couldn�t make any money doing it.

The shale oil companies could get plenty of cash-flow going, but it all went to servicing their bonds or other �innovative� financing schemes, and for many of the companies the cash flow wasn�t even covering those costs. It cost at least six million dollars for each shale well, and it was in the nature of shale oil that the wells depleted so quickly that after Year Three they were pretty much done. But it was something to do, at least, if you were an oil company � an alternative to 1) doing no business at all, or 2) getting into some other line-of-work, like making yoga pants or gluten-free cupcakes.

The two original big shale plays, the Bakken in North Dakota and the Eagle Ford in south Texas, have now apparently peaked and the baton has passed to the Permian Basin in west Texas. If the first two bonanzas were characteristic of shale, we can look forward not very far into the future when the Permian also craps out. There are only so many �sweet spots� in these plays.

The unfortunate part of the story is that the shale oil miracle only made this country more delusional at a moment in history when we really can�t afford to believe in fairy tales. The financial world is just now entering a long overdue crack-up due to the accumulating unreality induced by Federal Reserve interventions and machinations in markets. As it continues to get unglued � with rising interest rates especially � we will begin to see the collapse of the bonding and financing arrangements that the fundamentally unprofitable shale �miracle� has been based on. And then you will see the end of the shale �miracle.� It is likely to happen very quickly. It was fun while it lasted. Now comes the hard part: getting through this without the nation completely losing its marbles and doing something stupid and desperate � like starting another merry little war. more

Sunday, February 11, 2018

HAWB 1816-1834 - West Point Foundry and Steam Power for the Navy


How America Was Built

HAWB 1816-1834 - West Point Foundry and Steam Power for the Navy

The following is an excerpt from my book Admiral Benjamin Franklin Isherwood and the Scientific Study of Steam Power (which will hopefully be published later this year), detailing how the U.S. government helped create a private enterprise in 1816, how that enterprise became a leading center of metal working and steam engine building, and how 18 years later the national government turned to that company to help the Navy adopt the new technology of steam propulsion. This is not the mythical laissez faire, "free market" capitalism that supposedly built the United States. It is a deliberate policy of nation building, originated by first Secretary of the Treasury Alexander Hamilton, and carried out by his successors. 

By the early 1830s, there were some people beginning to worry about the more rapid development of naval steam power in Britain, but not much was done. Some Navy Secretaries briefly summarized known developments in the Royal Navy their annual reports, but Congress was not inclined to act on the matter.[1] Things began to change in July 1834, when U.S. Senator from New Jersey Mahlon Dickerson was appointed Secretary of the Navy. Dickerson had been chairman of the Senate Committee on Commerce and Manufactures for the 16th through 18th Congresses and the Senate Committee on Manufactures from the 19th through 22nd Congresses, and no doubt was familiar with the state of steam engine design and manufacture in the country. The Board of Navy Commissioners was already in contact with engine builders, and was trying to obtain plans from the West Point Foundry.[2] In June 1835, President Andrew Jackson ordered Navy Secretary Dickerson to direct the Board of Naval Commissioners to actually begin building a steam battery. This would become the 181-foot, 1,200-ton Fulton II, based on Humphreys� plans of 1831, with an additional 41 feet of length.


But the Navy had not a single officer or sailor with a solid knowledge of the design and operation of steam engines.... by the end of the year the Board was forced to admit it simply did not have the knowledge and expertise to carry it into effect. In a remarkable letter to Secretary Dickerson, dated December 30, 1835, the Commissioners frankly confessed �their ignorance upon the subject of steam engines� and doubted they would be able to even provide �necessary information to enable persons to make proper offers� to design and build the engines. �They [the Commissioners] are satisfied that they are incompetent themselves, and have no person under their direction who could furnish them with the necessary information to form a contract for steam engines that may secure the United States from imposition, disappointment, and loss��[3]

Fully aware that they lacked the expertise to make any decisions regarding procurement of steam engines, the Board of Commissioners, requested assistance from Gouverneur Kemble, president of the West Point Foundry, at the time perhaps the largest iron foundry and engine builder in the country. The West Point Foundry was established in 1816 at one of four strategic locations selected by Secretary of War James Monroe and Secretary of the Treasury Alexander J. Dallas for the construction of iron foundries to produce cannon and shot for the Army and Navy. It was located in Cold Spring, New York, on the Hudson River opposite West Point. (The other foundry sites were Georgetown, D.C., Richmond, Va., and Pittsburgh, Penn.) To begin construction, $25,000 in direct funding was given to Gouverneur Kemble, a New York businessman �who had served Commodore Stephen Decatur's fleet as an assistant navy agent in Cadiz, Spain during the Barbary War in 1814,� and who therefore was �no stranger to the Navy Department's method of procuring supplies or doing business.�[4] 

The foundry�s first engine for a steamboat was built in 1823 for the James Kent. It was a very successful design, securing the company a leading reputation for building engines and other machinery. Over the next two decades the foundry built engines for a number of other boats, including Victory (1827), DeWitt Clinton (1828), Erie (1832), Champlain (1832), Highlander (1835), Swallow (1836), Rochester (1836), Utica (1837), and Troy (1841).[5] Beginning in 1830, West Point Foundry built three of the first four steam railroad locomotives made in the United States. The first, Tom Thumb, was designed, built, and operated by Peter Cooper, and was only an experimental machine, intended not for revenue service, but to convince the directors of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that steam was a viable source of power for railroads (it must be recalled that at the time, there were widespread doubts about the feasibility of applying power to iron wheels on iron rails, especially up a grade.) The next three locomotives built in the U.S. were all intended for revenue service, and all were built by the West Point Foundry: Best Friend of Charleston (1830), and West Point (1831), both for the South Carolina Canal and Rail Road Company, followed in 1831 by the DeWitt Clinton, for the Mohawk & Hudson Railway. These was followed a few years later by the locomotives Phoenix and Experiment, the last reportedly capable of reaching 80 miles per hour.[6]

It must be noted�especially now, when the economic role of government is under constant attack as dangerous �statism��that the shift by a government-funded establishment into a leading role in new technologies was entirely in accord with the intent of first President George Washington, and his Treasury Secretary, Alexander Hamilton, and their plans to have the new government actively foster and promote economic development. In his 1791 Report on Manufactures, Hamilton wrote:

To cherish and stimulate the activity of the human mind, by multiplying the objects of enterprise, is not among the least considerable of the expedients by which the wealth of a nation may be promoted�. Experience teaches, that men are often so much governed by what they are accustomed to see and practise, that the simplest and most obvious improvements, in the most ordinary occupations, are adopted with hesitation, reluctance, and by slow gradations�. To produce the desirable changes as early as may be expedient may therefore require the incitement and patronage of government� it is of importance that the confidence of cautious, sagacious capitalists, both citizens and foreigners, should be excited. And to inspire this description of persons with confidence, it is essential that they should be made to see in any project which is new�and for that reason alone, if for no other, precarious�the prospect of such a degree of countenance and support from government, as may be capable of overcoming the obstacles inseparable from first experiments.[7]

When the Navy Board of Commissioners requested his assistance, Kemble in turn sought the advice of Robert L. Stevens, son of the builder of the first steam battery in 1814. He had helped his father design and build the steamboats Phoenix (1807) and Julianna (1811), and mastered them on the Delaware River, servicing Philadelphia. The Phoenix had been built in Hoboken, New Jersey, and her transit from thence to Philadelphia in June 1809 made her the first steamboat to sail the open ocean. Robert Stevens had also traveled to Britain to examine railroads and locomotives there, and had brought the locomotive John Bull to the U.S. in 1831 to operate on the Camden and Amboy Railroad, of which Stevens was president.

When Kemble�s brother, William�who was West Point Foundry� agent in New York City and presumably was dealing with Stevens�sent drawings for engines to Navy Commissioner John Rodgers in January 1834, he included a note stating �Robert Stevens feels the engines above 30 inches cylinder should not be vertical due to wear in the underside and in vessels because of the length taken up by the engine.�[8]

The plans and accompanying explanations must have further perplexed the board. In June 1835, the Board requested it be allowed to again contact Stevens, plus others who had designed and commanded steam vessels. Secretary Dickerson readily agreed. Three board commissioners traveled to New York, and began gathering information. At some point, they concluded that the Navy simply needed to secure the services of someone with the training and skills required to supervise the acquisition and building of steam engines, and installing them in a hull. In July 1836, the Commissioners accepted the offer of Charles H. Haswell, a skilled worker at the West Point Foundry, to design a steam engine and supervise its construction. Haswell had been schooled in the classics, but in 1828, at the age of 19, he began working at the New York City engine works of James P. Allaire, one of the first major builders of steam engines and boilers in the United States. The brass hardware and fittings for the engine of Robert Fulton�s North River / Clermont were built by Allaire.

At first, Haswell was a temporary employee of the Navy Board of Commissioners, but it quickly became apparent that his lack of rank was a serious disadvantage in dealing with naval officers, so Haswell was given the official title of �Chief Engineer� of the Fulton II. This had little actual effect; obstruction and delays continued; and the steam battery was not ready for launch until May 1837.

With the hiring of Haswell, the virtuous economic circle designed by Alexander Hamilton was completed. The government had �cherished and stimulated the activity of the human mind,� and �multiplied the objects of enterprise,� and now was harvesting the wealth of mechanical knowledge which had thereby been promoted. The national government had provided direct funding for the creation of West Point Foundry, and within two decades it had become a center of the nation�s most advanced metalworking and machine-making capabilities. Now the government was reaching out to enlist the skills and capabilities of the Foundry to help the nation�s Navy transit into the modern era of mechanized power. 


[1] Sprout, Harold and Margaret, The Rise of American Naval Power, Princeton, NJ, 1966, Princeton University Press, pp. 112-113.

[2] Tomblin, Barbara, From Sail to Steam: The Development of Steam Technology in the United States Navy, 1838-1903 (unpublished History PhD dissertation, Rutgers University, 1988, pp. 14-15.

[3] Bennett, Frank M., The Steam Navy of the United States; A History of the Growth of the Steam Vessel of War in the U.S. Navy, and of the Naval Engineer Corps, Press of W. T. Nicholson, Pittsburgh, Penn., 1896, p. 18.

[4] Tomblin, pp. 15-17.

[5] Buckman, David Lear, Old Steamboat Days on the Hudson River; tales and reminiscences of the stirring times that followed the introduction of steam navigation, New York, 1907, The Grafton Press, pp. 137-138.

[6] �Archaeological Research at West Point Foundry Preserve,� http://www.scenichudson.org/land_pres/wpfp_research.htm, accessed November 7, 2017.

[7] Hamilton, Alexander, Report on Manufactures, Communicated to the House of Representatives, December 5, 1791.

[8] Tomblin, p. 21.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Donald Trump isn't the only solar power protectionist


The Chinese really DID cheat on solar panels. The chain of events goes something like:
  1. The Germans, even though blessed with very few good natural solar sites, decide to forge ahead with solar cell development anyway. To make this all work, they create an industry from scratch and cover the upfront capital costs with subsidies. They justify this public expense by claiming it is a jobs program for the old DDR.
  2. Solar cells are very sophisticated products. To make them successfully, they required the creation of very sophisticated tooling. The folks who figured out how to make these tools, naturally looked for new customers beyond the Germans that bought them first. So when the Chinese got into solar cell manufacture, they could purchase excellent tools off the shelf sold to them by folks who knew what they were doing. Ah yes, the advantages of being second.
  3. Suddenly, the Chinese could build solar panels for a fraction of what it cost to invent the methods in the first place. In fact they created a glut on the market that could could only be cleared by dramatically lowering prices. They lowered them so much, that the Germans (and others) actually won some trade rulings in WTO. 
  4. The EU slapped tariffs on Chinese solar panels in 2013, which were renewed in 2017. So when Trump got into the act in 2018, he was not being especially innovative. There seems little to make one believe that he acted to protect infant solar industry in USA�the most common defense of tariffs. Rather, he did it to burnish his America-First credentials. We will see how that goes.
My guess is that these tariffs will have very little impact. The reason solar is growing by leaps and bounds is that the industry has perfected some very efficient and low-cost methods of manufacture. Solar is already cheaper than any of the alternatives and new methods will probably lower costs even more. And if the Chinese government is already subsidizing their solar industry, they can probably plug a few sales holes caused by tariffs.

Donald Trump isn't the only solar power protectionist

Dave Keating, 26.01.2018

The United States, the European Union and India are all slapping tariffs on Chinese solar panels, accusing Beijing of dumping. Does this trade war risk killing the nascent solar power industry?

The global solar industry is reeling this week following the Trump administration's announcement that it will impose a 30 percent tariff on imported solar panels, mainly from China.

The US Solar Industries Association said this will result in the delay or cancellation of billions of dollars in solar investments, and the loss of 23,000 US jobs this year.

Despite the dramatic predictions, the solar industry likely knew the announcement was coming. The European Union has set roughly equivalent tariffs on imported Chinese panels, which were renewed in September 2017.

Another indication was how earlier this week, India set a whopping 70 percent import duty on Chinese and Malaysian solar panels.

Brussels, Delhi and Washington all allege that China has been "dumping" the panels on their markets � selling them at artificially low prices and taking a loss in the short term in order to kill competitors in rival markets.

SolarWorld Americas, the largest US solar panel manufacturer, first called for the US to impose such tariffs three years ago. The move fits with US President Donald Trump's protectionist promises.

But other parts of the US solar industry have been pleading with the administration to not follow Europe's lead, saying it would cripple their young but fast-growing businesses. They convinced a bipartisan group of 16 US Senators and 53 House members to write to Trump last year asking him not to impose the tariffs.

The US has set such tariffs before, in 2014, but ran afoul of World Trade Organization rules. South Korea has said in will likely challenge these new tariffs with the WTO.

Solar slowdown

While US and European solar panel manufacturers have said the tariffs are necessary to make a level playing field, solar installers, generators and users say thanks to the tariffs, those manufacturers may not have any customers left."While tariffs in this case will not create adequate cell or module manufacturing to meet US demand, or keep foreign-owned Suniva and SolarWorld afloat, they will create a crisis in a part of our economy that has been thriving," said Abigail Ross Hopper, president of the Solar Industries Association. This "will ultimately cost tens of thousands of hard-working, blue-collar Americans their jobs," she added.

She predicted that the tariffs could cut forecast solar installations this year by nearly 20 percent, to 9 gigawatts from 11 gigawatts. "It's just basic economics: If you raise the price of a product, it's going to decrease demand for that product."

US solar companies have pointed to the experience of their counterparts in Europe, where anti-dumping duties have been in place on Chinese solar panels since 2013. The industry association SolarPower Europe has said the EU tariffs have added at least �500 ($622) to the cost of a household installation.

"These policies have been tried in many parts of the world, and in not one case have the measures lead to more jobs, more manufacturing and more value," said James Watson, SolarPower Europe's CEO. "In essence, trade measures are a blunt tool with many unforeseen consequences on solar manufacturers of other crucial elements of the value chain."

Trade trumps environment

The US is the world's fourth-largest solar market after China, Japan and Germany. Zvi Schreiber, CEO of online freight marketplace Freightos, noted that the tariff is going to cause disruption in global trade patterns for these products � which could have the effect of shutting down new solar projects around the world.

"There will be shifts in demand," he told DW. "It's not just the solar panels themselves � today any product they manufacture includes dozens if not hundreds of materials."

Even if the playing field isn't level at the moment, Schreiber questions whether Washington and Brussels are cutting off their nose to spite their face, risking killing off an industry that does environmental good in the name of free trade � and risking a trade war with China in the process.

"Of course, the big loser is the environment," he said. "If China is willing to subsidize solar panels, we should all say 'thank you very much,' because that's going to help our planet � which is more important than whether it's fair."

"That's something that benefits all of us." more

Climate Grief

Below is a pretty good description of what the author calls "climate grief"�the crushing realization that everything at all lovely...