Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Nuclear bros and environmentalists

 I'm Scott. 

You may know me as a nuclear bro' as I'm male and staunchly support nuclear energy. I need to preface the following as I'm only now publishing work I wrote mostly last summer only now, slightly edited with some extra paragraphs to compensate for me not having not completed the work. The motivation to put it out in the wild comes from things that impacted me in the past couple of days. On a positive note the federal government has shifted to include nuclear in programs aimed at eliminating emissions - perhaps it needs a push to reconstruct the Ministry of the Environment to align it with the new government position and this will provide it. Ignobly the greater motivation really comes from reading this interesting Twitter thread from the Patrick Brown associated with the Breakthrough Institute, and the invasion of my Twitter thread with formerly curious and interesting climate commentators/academics who stagnated intellectually a decade ago and now come out mainly to bless the words of other old stale 'environmentalist'.


One benefit I’ve gotten from social media is learning I am hated by some people I’ve never met - or even heard of. It comes when I enter arcane discussions on obscure topics and some viciousness enters from the periphery. I recognize the emotion in the irrational histrionics as I’m not immune to behaving similarly when losing my composure. I empathize with my haters. After viewing profiles to learn something about them I realize they have reason for animosity as they draw income from some pursuit I’ve attacked, repeatedly, in the past. This has worried me - I do know and like some people in fields I am not keen on (such as solar and efficiency), and I think in recent years I’ve worked at remaining civil. Unfortunately, this is now problematic. The same institutions, and people, I railed against over a decade ago in fighting the assault on the Ontario electricity consumers launched by the Green Energy Act, and related feed-in tariffs, are being manipulated in the same way by many of the same people with the same playbook as they perceive a political environment receptive to their same manipulation. If there’s hating to be done, I’m damn well going to be doing it!

What is an environmentalist?

I suggest an environmentalist is somebody considered an environmentalist by others marketed as environmentalists. There’s some requirements for that group to emerge: money, influence/access to media, communication and social skills… cinematographers.

What there hasn’t been is any requirement for accomplishment.

A decade ago it was suggested to me that the role of bureaucrats is to expand bureaucracies. I shared that thought with Richard Tol and I am delighted to find that 6 years later he was still tracking and graphing United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) annual meetings, and costs - and global greenhouse gas (ghg) emissions.

There’s been no correlation

For environmentalists there’s great news in the expansion of bureaucracies as it leads directly to more environmentalists through a couple of avenues. One is funding accrediting institutions (a.k.a. universities) in order to certify experts (a.k.a. employees) and environmentalists (a.k.a. graduates). I’ve no doubt government funding of allegedly non-Governmental Organizations has also soared in proportion to UNFCCC mandated meetings, and, perhaps best of all for environmentalism, people are just given money for things they claim will have an environmental benefit. The benefits are never measured, but the environmental quality of the government, and the business, isn’t measured that way: it’s measured by the amount of money dispensed and allies purchased.

There are ways less directly tied to government to become an environmentalist. Both David Attenborough and David Suzuki benefitted from sharing a name with a mythologized slayer of a goliath and cinematographers. Both did benefit from the funding of public broadcasters - but I think it’s the cinematography that made them iconic. The first government of the second Prime Minister Trudeau’s Minister of the Environment and Climate Change, et cetera, famously spent lavishly on photographers in ratcheting up her profile as an environmentalists and subsequently, in keeping with the movements ‘pay it forward’ way, ratcheting up the spending of that Ministry. The Minister was later rewarded with a move to Infrastructure where she could have a very meaningful impact in a real way - at which point she left the government for a broader stage without expectations of producing tactile things.

The Prime Minister had, upon his first electoral victory (and only majority) picked failed Alberta candidate Marlo Raynolds as the Chief of Staff for the Minister of Environment and Climate Change etc. Raynolds is an environmentalist as he conspired with other environmentalists in opposing oil sands and nuclear energy while advocating all the soft path stuff invented by Amory Lovins nearly half a century ago in producing the nothing/efficiency industryPembina, which Raynolds led for several years, shows his top 3 accomplishments as opposing the oil sands, “laying the ground work for things like the Renewable Energy Act of Ontario”, and elevating the discussion of “energy issues as a whole in Canada.” This clashes with an actual review of the history of energy issues in Ontario as Pembina campaigned for policy which would have driven emissions in Ontario far above where they’ve been for the past decade. The backlash against the Green Energy Act halted growth in contracting of wind energy back in 2011 (solar slowed over a longer period), and the majority of voters support parties that moved to strong support for a nuclear base. This reality doesn’t impact on the perception of Pembina, and Raynolds, as environmentalists:
At the Pembina Institute… we knew what we were not –we were not a Greenpeace, we were not a WWF with a worldwide brand, we were not a David Suzuki Foundation with a Canadian icon, and we were not an EcoJustice with a team of legal expertise.

…At our core, we were technical and policy analysts with a keen interest to collaborate with anyone we believed could move solutions forward. We largely became known as “the egg-heads of the environmental movement doing good analysis”.

… we built up our skills in government relations and communications, and developed relationships with a strong network of opinion leaders. This is where we focused. -Marlo Raynolds

Bullshit - but it’s a playbook for popular environmentalism: first kiss the asses of others perceived as environmentalists and then claim a competence in analysis protected by the shields of your cabal. The referenced Ecojustice is better known as Équiterre. Another way into the environmentalists club is through a law degree. Not only are legal challenges key to impeding things being accomplished by people (generally considered bad), but regulatory bodies pay intervenors to challenge projects - if a degree shows them to be a professional, if not birthers of ideas and accomplishments in the actual relevant field (such as electricity), regulators will also recognize expert-in-law. It's not uncommon to see an expert-in-law, such as one connected to the acronym CELA, be an expert in many things - all of which, as an expert-in-law, they cruelly work to impede. 

In 2008 Pembina’s Raynolds and Équiterre’s Guilbeault were writing together in opposition to the ‘tar’ sands production of ‘dirty’ oil - two adjectives they’d developed with others -domestic and foreign. Today in Canada’s Ministry of the Environment one is the Chief of Staff and the other the Minister.

Neither has generated anything useful.

Quite the opposite.

My annoyance of late is partially because a sage voice alerted me to a paper by “Canadian icon” David Suzuki’s foundation. I’ll summarize my understanding of the report I briefly, although it seemed like an eternity, skimmed: the peeps at the org asked representatives of the most important race what an energy system ought to be (which coincided with what Suzuki/Lovins have wanted for nearly 50 years now), then they found a ‘university’ with a ‘model’ and an ‘algorithm’ to test the feasibility of such a system, and, after fiddling with parameters and inputs were able to conclude the process discovered all of the assumption they began with.

A circular method for a circular economy!
No more need for a scientific method for a scientific period.

I could put more work into debunking silly Suzuki stuff, but the quality of such reports is not a goal in their production: quantity is. I learned this a dozen years ago in fighting off that Green Energy Act that was one of Raynolds’ most prized accomplishments. I refer to them as zombie reports - because long after being killed with valid criticisms they’ll walk about in citations by other environmental organizations. I’ll simply, for now, note:I note the last mainly because that 2014 work basically rebuts the plans in the Zombie paper just delivered by the Suzuki drones.The PCWIS calculated that at 35% of supply from wind level Alberta’s wind turbines would have a capacity value of 7.1% (I cited that in a post on Alberta) - and shows that value decreasing as share of generation grows.. The dangerously bad Suzuki study (which the industrial wind turbine industry provided help with throughout) plans primarily wind for Alberta anyway - it appears what is important to them is wind turbines, not Albertans.

The assemblage of low-quality reports to serve as zombies in being referenced by other low-quality reports provides as great an opportunity for green grifting under today’s Guilbealt/Raynolds Ministry than at any time since George Smitherman was capable of winning an election.

The Guilbeault/Raynolds government signalled, last year, a funding bonanza with the release of a Green Bond Framework earlier this year. The ‘Summary of Exclusions’ from that document:
  • Transportation, exploration and production of fossil fuels
  • Nuclear energy
  • Arms manufacturing
  • Gambling
  • Manufacture and production of tobacco products
  • Manufacture and production of alcoholic beverages
While there was some criticism of the exclusion of nuclear, I didn’t see a discussion of the reason it was venomously listed as an evil above weapons, gambling, smoking and booze. I suggest the reason is Ontario nuclear is perceived as green by many – so green that Bruce Power had successfully sold “Green Bonds” a few months earlier in an, “industry-leading step in the company’s environmental, social and governance strategy.” The faux environmentalists tried wielding national government power to invalidate a perception of nuclear as the best tool for producing trivial-emission electricity.

Or perhaps it was just a gangster’s reflex response to some stranger doing business on their turf. That seems to be the case as insiders can snark to the CBC and The Narwhal when the government moves to sell clean energy credits (RECs) independently: a “Whitepaper on Wind Energy and the Ontario Market” prepared for CanWEA in 2020, by Power Advisory LLC, recommended “IESO should explore monetizing environmental attributes (EAs), revenues from sale of EAs could be shared with supplying wind generators and Ontario electricity customers.” The IESO owns the environmental attributes of all the wind it has contracted, so perhaps the position is those assets should be abandoned while new, “wind generation projects can seek to monetize their greenhouse gas emission reduction attributes.” I didn’t interpret it that way at all: the paper acknowledges the IESO retains the ownership of environmental attributes but implies wind suppliers should get a big cut of any revenue derived from the sale of the attributes anyway.

The success of professional ‘environmentalists’ in finding careers without productivity is not actually without precedent.

The results of the 2022 Ontario election suggested the general populace understands the clique known as environmentalists has an agenda that doesn’t involve them - that is certainly the case outside of central portions of the province’s largest cities.

Jumping to the time of publishing I am encouraged that the efforts to oppose nuclear federally have failed. This is good. What is not good as all those faux environmentalists that did not call out the exclusion of nuclear are still considered environmentalists.  A couple of them still lead a Ministry of Environmentalishism -as if it's not 2023!

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