Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Stephen Moore: how environmentalist restrictions are killing energy sector jobs

From the Heritage Foundation.

Excerpt:

[...][I]f you visit the drilling sites in Williston, N.D., you discover an amazing phenomenon: At night, this little energy town of fewer than 30,000 people lights up like Manhattan on New Year’s Eve. All these lights are flares burning off the natural gas that was drilled that day. Why on earth would the drillers do that? Because they want oil, which sells at $100 a barrel, as opposed to natural gas, which is now so abundant that it’s cheap.

But why don’t they sell the natural gas too? Because they don’t have the pipeline capacity to bring it to the markets where it’s needed. So they are burning off an energy source, without capturing the power. What a waste.

The pipelines aren’t getting built, simply because the government isn’t letting them get built. It has been an eye-opening experience to watch liberals block an infrastructure project — the Keystone XL pipeline — that two of three Americans (and even a plurality of Democrats) support. Pew had an amazing poll last month reporting that just about every demographic group in America supports the Keystone pipeline, except for Democrats with Ph.D.s and Democrats who earn more than $100,000.

But this problem goes well beyond the Keystone pipeline. We need to build in America a national network of pipelines from coast to coast, much as Eisenhower built the interstate highway system. Unlike the highways, the private sector will gladly build the pipelines; they just need the permits. And Uncle Sam won’t give them out.

We are talking about a lot of jobs here — and really high-paying, often union, jobs. Welders and pipe fitters and construction workers and truckers earn $70,000 or more — well above the median salary in America.

But the environmentalists hate pipelines because they encourage drilling, and drilling is bad because it kills windmills, er, the planet. The enviros have been running a campaign in Washington to keep the oil and gas in the ground. And if you can’t transport it, why drill it? These activists are the same sort of people who opposed the Great Alaska Pipeline back in the 1970s. Can you imagine how much we’d be in hock to the Saudis these days if we’d listened to their loopy advice back then?

And since they won’t allow pipelines, we use trains and trucks — which is much worse for the environment than building the pipelines. Remember the rail crash several weeks ago with massive explosions? Thank the Sierra Club.

Meanwhile, in Canada, where the Conservative Party is firmly opposed to global warming nonsense, the government has decided to build pipelines from Alberta to the West and East coasts.

Excerpt:

Foreign Minister John Baird said Sunday he’s sure there will be a pipeline from Alberta’s oilsands to the Pacific coast.

Without mentioning the Northern Gateway specifically, Baird sounded confident when discussing pipelines on Fox News on Sunday morning.

Asked for his thoughts on recent comments from former U.S. energy secretary Spencer Abraham, who expressed doubt President Barack Obama will approve the Keystone XL pipeline, Baird said Canada’s energy resources are vast and that he expects a decision from the president within two months.

“Listen, we want to get this project approved,” he said on the U.S. network. “We want to work with our American friends, our partners in freedom and liberty.

“At the same time there will be pipelines going to the Pacific coast and even reverse pipelines going to the Atlantic so we can diversify our markets.”

I expect that Republicans will be making a big deal of the jobs that could be created if we the government were giving out the appropriate energy production permits and approving the Keystone Pipeline. I think people will be responsive to a message like that when Obamacare kicks in for employer-provided health care and employers start to cut jobs. I know the Democrats are happy right now keeping everyone on unemployment payments, but eventually, that money is going to run out. It might not be tomorrow, but it’s coming one day.

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American Spectator praises Australia’s bold new conservative leader

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia

Tony Abbott, Prime Minister of Australia

Well, I think we can get some encouragement from this article from the American Spectator.

Let’s take a look at his policies and appointments:

On economic policy, his government has moved in the opposite direction of those who favor Dodd-Frank-like behemoth approaches to the financial industry. Instead it’s opted to simplify regulation. As the minister responsible for the reform bluntly pointed out, “no amount of legislation will ever be a guarantee against another Storm Financial.” Indeed it’s often excessive regulation that creates opportunities for financial shenanigans by industry insiders.

Regarding the welfare state, Abbott’s minister for Social Security, Kevin Andrews (another conservative politician-thinker), has announced a major overhaul of a welfare system that was starting to drift in a distinctly European-direction. Predictably the left are up in arms. But so too are those rent-seeking Australian businesses who now find themselves dealing with a government uninterested in subsidizing them. That’s nothing, however, to the fury that greeted Abbott’s disbanding of the climate-change bureaucracy established by the preceding Labor government.

[...]The first sign of Abbott’s seriousness about obstructing the left’s long march through the institutions was his government’s appointment of the policy-director of the center-right Institute of Public Affairs to the nation’s Human Rights Commission. This was widely seen as the beginning of an effort to re-balance an organization long criticized as monolithically left-wing. Since then Abbott has indicated that major changes are coming to the ABC: Australia’s government-funded institutional — and ideological — equivalent of the BBC.

[...]Along the same lines, Abbott’s education minister, Christopher Pyne, has initiated a review of the national curriculum implemented by the previous government. A moment’s glance at the curriculum’s treatment of history soon illustrates the extent to which it seeks to downplay Australia’s indisputably Western heritage. In the words of Sydney’s Cardinal George Pell, “Europe, Britain and the United States are mentioned 76 times, while Asia is referred to on more than 200 occasions.” This disparity is odd because although Australia is certainly in Asia, no objective observer could say that Australia is “of” Asia. Moreover, while Australian students learn about “Gaia” and other deep-green fantasies in grade 9, many Australian universities find they need to put the same students through remedial English classes once they begin college.

Then there are Abbott’s initial steps on the international stage. Take, for instance, his recent remarks at Davos. Much of the address was devoted to pushing a strong free trade agenda and insisting that governments should let business do what it does best: promote lasting economic growth. “After all,” Abbott said, “government doesn’t create wealth; people do, when they run profitable businesses.”

In the same speech, however, Abbott made the conservative point that economic prosperity and freedom can’t be sustained in a value-neutral world. Nor did Abbott shy away from relentlessly pressing one of the most important moral arguments for free trade articulated long ago by Adam Smith: that economic freedom, combined with the right institutions, radically reduces poverty faster than any other approach. “No country,” Abbott added, “has ever taxed or subsidized its way to prosperity.”

All in all, the address added up to a solid integration of sound economics with conservative principles. That’s what makes Abbott different from, say, Canada’s Stephen Harper or Spain’s Mariano Rajoy. Abbott happily engages in the indispensable task of moral suasion in favor of conservative positions. What’s more, he’s quite good at it. With his rare combination of plain-speaking and intellectual substance, Abbott makes conservative ideas sound, well, reasonable to the average voter.

Now, I personally thought that prime minister Stephen Harper of Canada was the best leader of any nation out there, but I had not been following Australian politics as much as I should be, and now I think I’ll give the crown to Abbott. He seems to have a good fusionist view that integrates economic policy and social policy, and that makes him better than Harper, in my view. I would like to see Abbott flex his muscles on foreign policy, as well. Something to look forward to.

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State department: not building the Keystone XL pipeline could increase greenhouse gas emissions

From CNS News.

Excerpt:

Not building the 875-mile Keystone XL Pipeline could result in the release of up to 42 percent more greenhouse gases than would be released by building it, according to the State Department.

Not building the pipeline “is unlikely to significantly impact the rate of extraction in the [Canadian] oil sands or the continued demand for heavy crude oil at refineries in the United States,” the department noted in a long-awaited environmental report released January 31st.

But the “No Build” option is likely to result in an increased number of oil spills, six more deaths annually, and up to 42 percent higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, the State Department concluded.

The proposed 36-inch pipeline would transport 830,000 barrels of crude oil each day from western Canada through the Bakken oil fields of Montana and South Dakota before connecting to an existing pipeline in Nebraska on its way to Gulf Coast refineries.

The project will create an estimated 42,100 jobs and add $3.4 billion to the U.S. economy.

This report follows last week’s report showing that the pipeline would have no major environmental impact.

Excerpt:

The long-delayed Keystone XL oil pipeline cleared a major hurdle toward approval Friday, a serious blow to environmentalists’ hopes that President Barack Obama will block the controversial project running more than 1,000 miles from Canada through the heart of the U.S.

The State Department reported no major environmental objections to the proposed $7 billion pipeline, which has become a symbol of the political debate over climate change. Republicans and some oil- and gas-producing states in the U.S. — as well as Canada’s minister of natural resources — cheered the report, but it further rankled environmentalists already at odds with Obama and his energy policy.

Now the State Department is one of the most liberal departments in the government. Unfortunately, this has not appeased the great climate science experts in Hollywood, who donate so much money to Democrat election campaigns. So long as the money keeps flowing from the high school drop-out celebrities, don’t expect this pipeline to get built. For the Democrats, it’s all about staying in power.

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Dr. Robin Collins explains two kinds of cosmic fine-tuning

I was busy working my way through “Debating Christian Theism“, a book published by Oxford University Press in August 2013. It features about 20 different topics from science, to philosophy, to history. For each topic, there is an essay by a world-class scholar in favor, and one opposed. So you get both sides of many interesting issues, at a very advanced level. The section on cosmic fine-tuning features a chapter written by Dr. Robin Collins.

About Robin Collins:

Robin Collins (PhD, University of Notre Dame, 1993), is professor of philosophy at Messiah College, Grantham, PA specializing in the area of science and religion. He has written over twenty-five articles and book chapters on a wide range of topics, such as the fine-tuning of the cosmos as evidence for the existence of God, evolution and original sin, the Doctrine of Atonement, Asian religions and Christianity, and Bohm’s theory of quantum mechanics. Some of his most recent articles/book chapters are “Philosophy of Science and Religion” in The Oxford Handbook of Science and Religion, “Divine Action and Evolution” in The Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology (2009) “The Multiverse Hypothesis: A Theistic Perspective,” in Universe or Multiverse? (Cambridge University Press), and “God and the Laws of Nature,” in Theism or Naturalism: New Philosophical Perspectives (Oxford University Press, forthcoming). He recently received a grant from the John Templeton Foundation to finish a book that presents the case for design based on physics and cosmology, tentatively entitled The Well-Tempered Universe: God, Cosmic Fine-tuning, and the Laws of Nature.

His specialty is this fine-tuning argument. So let’s see what he says about it.

The fine-tuning argument

Here’s a short article where Collins gives TWO examples of the fine-tuning. He is very modest in his argument, merely asserting that the fine-tuning is more compatible with theism than it is with atheism.

Excerpt:

Science is commonly thought to have undercut belief in God. As Nobel Prize winning physicist Steven Weinberg famously remarked, “the more we find out about the universe, the more meaningless it all seems.” Yet, the discoveries of modern physics and cosmology in the last 50 years have shown that the structure of the universe is set in an extraordinarily precise way for the existence of life; if its structure were slightly different, even by an extraordinarily small degree, life would not be possible. In many people’s minds, the most straightforward explanation of this remarkable fine-tuning is some sort of divine purpose behind our universe.

This fine-tuning falls into three categories: the fine-tuning of the laws of nature, the fine-tuning of the constants of physics, and the fine-tuning of the initial conditions of the universe. “Fine-tuning of the laws of nature” refers to the fact that if the universe did not have precisely the right combination of laws, complex intelligent life would be impossible. If there were no universal attractive force (law of gravity), for example, matter would be dispersed throughout the universe and the energy sources (such as stars) needed for life would not exist. Without the strong nuclear force that binds protons and neutrons together in the nucleus, there would not be any atoms with an atomic number greater than hydrogen, and hence no complex molecules needed for life. And without the Pauli-exclusion principle, all electrons would fall to the lowest orbital of an atom, undercutting the kind of complex chemistry that life requires.

Some fundamental physical numbers governing the structure of the universe—called the constants of physics—also must fall into an exceedingly narrow range for life to exist. For example, many have estimated that the cosmological constant—a fundamental number that governs the expansion rate of empty space—must be precisely set to one part in 10120 in order for life to occur; if it were too large, the universe would have expanded too rapidly for galaxies and stars to form, and if it were too small, the universe would have collapsed back on itself. As Stephen Hawking wrote in his book A Brief History of Time, “The remarkable fact is that the values of these numbers [i.e. the constants of physics] seem to have been very finely adjusted to make possible the development of life.” Finally, the initial distribution of mass energy at the time of the big bang must have an enormously special configuration for life to occur, which Cambridge University mathematical physicist Roger Penrose has calculated to be on the order of one part in 1010123. This is an unimaginably small number.

How widely acknowledged is the fine-tuning of the universe? Here’s an article from the New Scientist that discusses the fine-tuning of the force of gravity. (Link goes to my blog post on the New Scientist article, which is now no longer available)

Excerpt:

The feebleness of gravity is something we should be grateful for. If it were a tiny bit stronger, none of us would be here to scoff at its puny nature.

The moment of the universe‘s birth created both matter and an expanding space-time in which this matter could exist. While gravity pulled the matter together, the expansion of space drew particles of matter apart – and the further apart they drifted, the weaker their mutual attraction became.

It turns out that the struggle between these two was balanced on a knife-edge. If the expansion of space had overwhelmed the pull of gravity in the newborn universe, stars, galaxies and humans would never have been able to form. If, on the other hand, gravity had been much stronger, stars and galaxies might have formed, but they would have quickly collapsed in on themselves and each other. What’s more, the gravitational distortion of space-time would have folded up the universe in a big crunch. Our cosmic history could have been over by now.

Only the middle ground, where the expansion and the gravitational strength balance to within 1 part in 1015 at 1 second after the big bang, allows life to form.

Here’s a very long paper by Collins on the fine-tuning argument, where he answers several objections to the argument, including the multiverse/many-universe hypothesis.

I think if you’re going to bring this argument up with a naturalist/non-theist, you should probably have a couple of examples ready.

In dialog

There’s a PBS TV series called “Closer to Truth” that covers interesting questions about science and religion. It’s moderated by famous scholar Robert Lawrence Kuhn, who has his PhD from UCLA in anatomy and brain research. The series features interviews with many prominent scholars like Alvin Plantinga and Paul Davies.

Robin Collins was also a participant, and here are a couple of clips from his segment on the fine-tuning argument.

Part 1:

Part 2:

If you’re looking for a good introductory book where this argument is explained, Lee Strobel’s “The Case for a Creator” is a good choice.

Filed under: Polemics, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

United Nations climate chief explains the real motive of global warming alarmism

Previously, I’ve documented many problems with global warming, and I’ve also noted that contrary to the predictions of the global warming socialists, we have had no significant warming in 17 years and Arctic ice is at a 35-year high. If global warmists are trying to convince us of something that is true, then they will have to show us better evidence for their views. A lot of us have given up on global warming as science, especially after the whole Climategate scandal, where it was proved that scientists at the University of East Anglia sent e-mails showing how they were trying to “hide the decline” in temperatures and suppress scientific articles critical of their theories.

My good friend Letitia posted this Daily Caller article, which discusses a possible motive for pushing a theory that is in conflict with the evidence we have.

Excerpt: (links removed)

United Nations climate chief Christiana Figueres said that democracy is a poor political system for fighting global warming. Communist China, she says, is the best model.

China may be the world’s top emitter of carbon dioxide and struggling with major pollution problems of their own, but the country is “doing it right” when it comes to fighting global warming says Figueres.

“They actually want to breathe air that they don’t have to look at,” she said. “They’re not doing this because they want to save the planet. They’re doing it because it’s in their national interest.”

Figueres added that the deep partisan divide in the U.S. Congress is “very detrimental” to passing any sort of legislation to fight global warming. The Chinese Communist Party, on the other hand, can push key policies and reforms all on its own. The country’s national legislature largely enforces the decisions made by the party’s Central Committee and other executive offices.

Communism was responsible for the deaths of about 94 million people in China, the Soviet Union, North Korea, Afghanistan and Eastern Europe in the 20th Century. China alone was responsible for 65 million of those deaths under communist rule.

Environmentalists often hail China as a model for fighting global warming, since they are a “leader” in renewable energy. The country set a goal of getting 15 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2020. In 2012, China got 9 percent of its power from renewables — the U.S. by contrast got 11 percent in 2012.

However, the country still gets 90 percent of its power from fossil fuels, mostly from coal. In fact, Chinese coal demand is expected to explode as the country continues to develop. China has approved 100 million metric tons of new coal production capacity in 2013 as part of the government’s plan to bring 860 million metric tons of coal production online by 2015.

China has publicly made big efforts to clean up its environment. The country’s booming industrial apparatus has caused so much pollution that the skies have been darkened over major cities and the air quality has heavily deteriorated.

The Wall Street Journal notes that China’s air quality was so bad that about “1.2 million people died prematurely in China in 2010 as a result of air pollution” and Chinese government figures show that “lung cancer is now the leading cause of death from malignant tumors. Many of those dying are nonsmokers.”

The Soviet bloc’s environmental track record was similarly dismal.

Letitia also posted this USA Today article from last Thursday to show you just how far off base this UN communist is.

Excerpt:

Beijing’s skyscrapers receded into a dense gray smog Thursday as the capital saw the season’s first wave of extremely dangerous pollution, with the concentration of toxic small particles registering more than two dozen times the level considered safe.

[...]The city’s air quality is often poor, especially in winter when stagnant weather patterns combine with an increase in coal-burning to exacerbate other forms of pollution and create periods of heavy smog for days at a time. But the readings early Thursday for particles of PM2.5 pollution marked the first ones of the season above 500 micrograms per cubic meter.

The density of PM2.5 was about 350 to 500 micrograms Thursday midmorning, though the air started to clear in the afternoon. It had reached as high as 671 at 4 a.m. at a monitoring post at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. That is about 26 times as high as the 25 micrograms considered safe by the World Health Organization, and was the highest reading since January 2013.

It seems tha the global warmists are very fond of big government, such as we find in the (mostly) communist China. This is not surprising since many of them receive government money (e.g. – Solyndra) if a global warmist President gets elected. In my experience talking to people about global warming, I am generally able to win the debate about the science, but then they explain to me that we must promote global warming alarmism because we need the public to do something about overpopulation and natural resource depletion. The comments of the UN woman seems to indicate that the something they want is bigger government, which can be used to nudge people away from having more children and restrict their use of natural resources.

So I think we need to be careful when science is being misused to support an ideology, especially one that is obviously false. (Global birth rates are dropping below replacement and shale oil reserves are abundant)

Having said all that, I want to reiterate that science itself is a great thing, and I support it. If it wasn’t for real science, Christian theists would not have the argument from the origin of the universe, the argument from the origin of life, the cosmic fine-tuning, the Cambrian explosion, molecular machines, galactic habitability, stellar habitability, planetary habitability, and so on. We also would not have many good things that make us freer, more prosperous and more healthy. Science is a good thing. But hijacking science to serve a power-hungry ideology (or just greed) is not a good thing. I oppose it.

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