The Climate Caper. Crony science leads to crony capitalism.

In New Orleans at the annual conference of the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics I enjoyed an encounter with Bill Butos and Thomas McQuade who have been working on climate science. This paper contains a mass of information on the number of dollars devoted to climate science and the innumerable channels that contribute to it, a great many of them driven directly out of the office of the President of the United States.

Our overall conclusion is that a confluence of scientific uncertainty, political opportunism, and ideological predisposition in an area of scientific study of phenomena of great practical interest has fomented an artificial boom in that scientific discipline. The boom is driven and sustained by the actions of Big Players—the IPCC and various government entities—in funding the boom and singularly in promoting only one among a number of plausible hypotheses describing the relevant phenomena.

A key feature of the US scene is the Global Change Research Act of 1990 which established institutional structures operating out of the White House to develop and oversee the implementation of the National Global Change Research Plan. It also created the U.S. Global Change Research Program (USGCRP) to coordinate executive departments’ and agencies’ climate-change research activities. The USGCRP drives the research components of thirteen participating government agencies, each of which independently designates funds in accordance with the program’s objectives.

The departments and agencies whose activities compose the bulk of such funding include independent agencies such as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the quasi-official Smithsonian Institute as well as executive departments such as Agriculture, Commerce (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration [NOAA], National Institute of Standards and Technology), Energy (DOE), Interior (DOI, the U.S. Geological Survey and conservation initiatives), State, and Treasury.

As of 2014, the coordination of climate-change-related activities resides largely in the president’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, which houses several separate offices, including Environment and Energy, Polar Sciences, Ocean Sciences, Clean Energy and Materials R&D, Climate Adaptation and Ecosystems, National Climate Assessment, and others. The Office of the President also maintains the National Science and Technology Council, which oversees the Committee on Environment, Natural Resources, and Sustainability and its Subcommittee on Climate Change Research. The subcommittee is charged with the responsibility of planning and coordinating with the interagency USGCRP. Also, the Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy is housed within the president’s Domestic Policy Council. Although Congress authorizes executive-branch budgets, the priorities these departments and agencies follow are set by the White House. As expressed in various agency and executive-branch strategic plans, these efforts have been recently organized around four components: (1) climate-change research and education, (2) emissions reduction through “clean” energy technologies and investments, (3) adaptation to climate change, and (4) international climate-change leadership.

The impact of government funding on scientific research is a matter not only of the amounts but also of the concentration of research monies arising from a single source and brought to bear on particular kinds of scientific research. Government is that single source and has Big Player effects because it has access to a deep pool of taxpayer (and, indeed, borrowed and created) funds as well as regulatory and enforcement powers that necessarily place it on a different footing from other players and institutions.

Crony Capitalism

Section 1705 of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 authorized the DOE to provide taxpayer loan guarantees and direct-investment subsidies for the development of green technologies. As the program wound down in 2014, $16 billion had been allocated to twenty-seven firms. As Christine Lakatos (2014) has reported in detail, the majority of the firms had officers or investors with close ties to political insiders at the federal and state levels, campaign bundlers, donors, and DOE agency officials. Of these firms, several have declared bankruptcy, accounting for $3 billion in taxpayer losses, and several others that Victor Nava and Julian Morris (2013) list as “troubled recipients” account for another $3.5 billion.58 Of the eighteen firms that were not listed as “troubled,” fourteen, representing $11.3 billion in loan guarantees, had not completed their projects as of the end of 2013, and only four firms with loan guarantees of $352.6 million had completed projects. In summary, of the $16 billion in DOE loan guarantees, about $15.6 billion represent bankrupt, troubled, or incomplete taxpayer investments as of 2013.

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31 Responses to The Climate Caper. Crony science leads to crony capitalism.

  1. Token

    A key feature of the US scene is the Global Change Research Act of 1990 which established institutional structures operating out of the White House to develop and oversee the implementation of the National Global Change Research Plan and created …

    Poppy Bush again. He was a one termer for a good reason.

  2. egg_

    Crony Science – that’s a keeper.
    How many scientific institutions publicly came out in support of AGW?

  3. egg_

    Global Change Research Act of 1990

    A monster inadvertently of Thatcher’s creation (against the British coal mine unions)?

  4. gabrianga

    This Lowy guy Alan Dupont in the Weekend Australian today sets us all straight about Global Warming so you had just better stop querying these “experts” who just happen to be on the board of a hedge fund dabbling in renewables.

    Possibly the “busiest ” academic in Australia he also wrote a piece on “Turnbull’s opportunity” just yesterday.

    Looks as if “the Aus” has joined ranks with Fairfax, ABC and the “fair and balanced” SKY TV

  5. Herodotus

    I see the googleplex are in on the scam too.

    Climate change affects the things you love. #OursToLose

    They could be said to be on the side of evil with that one.

  6. egg_

    Possibly the “busiest ” academic in Australia

    Code for ‘writes reams of drivel’?

  7. Bruce of Newcastle

    So many have their noses in the trough, wow. All it takes is to consider what happens when it registers with the public that the scientific findings preclude CAGW: the defunding would be like Armageddon to these troughers. No wonder they keep spitting out lurid press releases.

    The public is walking away. All it will take is one President from the right who is concerned about the American debt pile and not concerned about a non-problem and the public sector mysticism sector will be wasted.

  8. Alfonso

    Well knock me down with a feather….

    “NOAA appears to pick and choose only data that confirms their bias. NOAA then disseminates this incomplete data to the media who manufacture alarming headlines but ignore the uncertainty of the conclusions.

    Earlier this year, NASA issued a news release stating that 2014 was the warmest year on record. Few media acknowledged the footnote: Scientists were only 38 percent sure this was actually correct. That is less than 50-50.”

  9. Robert O

    I note that Minister has just approved a new windfarm near Atherton: 63 wind turbines of 3MW each giving a nameplate capacity of 189 MW which is projected to provide 650,000 MWh annually, or enough electricity for 75,000 homes at a cost of $ 350 million. Potentially this farm could produce 1,655,640 MWh if it ran on a 24 hr. basis, but the 650,000 MWh estimate seems a little high at 39% since 25% is a good average figure . The Macarthur farm, Australia’s largest of 420 MW runs at about 26%.

    What is never mentioned with these press comments, where is the back-up going to come from for the 75% of the time these windmills are idle and what does this cost? This is a particularly relevant question when the current coal stations are on their way out and no replacements in sight. Black-outs in Adelaide are a sign of the future of green energy, unless we go nuclear in a hurry. But if we don’t, we still have to burn oil, diesel, or gas 75-80% of the time, so whats the real saving?

  10. kevin

    The idiot accepts the 97% thing

  11. egg_

    What is never mentioned with these press comments, where is the back-up going to come from for the 75% of the time these windmills are idle and what does this cost? This is a particularly relevant question when the current coal stations are on their way out and no replacements in sight. Black-outs in Adelaide are a sign of the future of green energy, unless we go nuclear in a hurry. But if we don’t, we still have to burn oil, diesel, or gas 75-80% of the time, so whats the real saving?

    From previous, what of the ongoing maintenance – where is that sourced from?

  12. Rob

    What should be of even more concern is the reality that wind turbines life expire 25-30 years after installation. Even more concerning is that major maintenance is hugely expensive and likely to be unjustifiable on an aging machine. Dismantling and replacement becomes the costly option.
    Since solar panels suffer the same serious failing, the ongoing cost of maintaining a reliable electricity supply will be horrendous.
    Thermal power stations are proven to have a life expectancy of 60 plus years and actually become more cost effective as they push into old age.

  13. nerblnob

    Invest in diesel generators.

  14. Leo G

    Even Alan DuPont appears to recognise that the ‘consensus’ scientists are those who have a personal financial stake in the game- they are “betting” climate scientists.

    The questions Turnbull should pose to contrarians and sceptics are these: are you prepared to bet against the consensus of the world’s most knowledgeable climate scientists that you are right and they are wrong? And, if so, are you also prepared to bet that future climate change impacts will be benign or that the risk can be managed solely by adaptation?

    If not, then the Paris summit will figure much more prominently in your thinking, because whatever we do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions lowers the risk of dangerous climate change outcomes. The higher the emissions, the higher the prospect of widespread species loss, water and food insecurity, energy disruptions, increased refugee flows, infrastructure failure and more conflicts. – Paris: Turnbull’s chance to build a new climate consensus, Alan DuPont in the Lowy Interpreter 27 November 2015

    Against the empirical evidence, DuPont makes the above claims and suggests that a new consensus is possible if people with views opposed to the “new consensus” can be excluded from the public debate. He stresses the importance of using a climate of fear approach- “an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources”- to achieve that political end.
    Alan Dupont’s idea of “a more constructive and informed public debate” reflects his eccentric personal philosophy of science.

  15. Boambee John

    gabrianga
    #1870426, posted on November 28, 2015 at 7:49 am
    This Lowy guy Alan Dupont in the Weekend Australian

    Ex-soldier, left early.

  16. Muddy

    One element that the ‘contrarian’ side of the debate desperately needs is accessibility. Against the emotional tugging and simplicity of the proponents, what is there? How can the average person be expected to understand even some of the data given upthread? The financial costs need to be relatable, i.e., this [insert amount in billions of dollars] could have funded X hospitals, subsidised childcare/education/ cut personal taxes etc. It’s a communication issue.

    Secondly, when it comes tumbling down, is there any possibility of legal recourse, either of the criminal or civil type? The trillions won’t be recouped of course, but neither must the fraudsters be allowed to melt away. My legal knowledge is practically non-existent, but surely there is a lot to be made by legal types in the aftermath?

  17. handjive

    COP21: Public support for tough climate deal ‘declines’

    Public support for a strong global deal on climate change has declined, according to a poll carried out in 20 countries.
    Just under half of all those surveyed viewed climate change as a “very serious” problem this year, compared with 63% in 2009.

    The findings will make sober reading for global political leaders, who will gather in Paris next week for the start of the United Nations climate conference, known as COP21.

    http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-34900474

  18. handjive

    @Muddy
    #1870617, posted on November 28, 2015 at 12:58 pm

    “…is there any possibility of legal recourse, either of the criminal or civil type?”

    There is a precedent:

    Taiwan: Man fined for dud doomsday warning

    “Wang Chao-hung, better known as “Teacher Wang”, stirred up a media frenzy after he “predicted” a giant quake and tsunami would hit Taiwan on May 11, urging people to move into makeshift shelters converted from cargo containers.

    Mr Wang later claimed that his remarks were misinterpreted by journalists when the catastrophe failed to materialise, but he was convicted by a district court in Nantou, central Taiwan, of spreading socially disruptive rumours.”

    http://www.couriermail.com.au/ipad/man-fined-for-dud-doomsday-warning/story-fn6ck55c-1226080950490

  19. john constantine

    The wind rort concern is simple.

    The profit was front end loaded, so building a dodgy wind rort with say, cheap low life bearings, then stripping out the upfront certificates and handballing the wind rort onto someone else is really profitable.

    The cheap bearings show how cheap they are when they catch fire.

    There is no incentive at all to build a windrort to last 20 years instead of 10.

  20. Fred Lenin

    Never mind ,when the Deialist Militia scour the Leftists and Warmies fron public funding ,we will make them pay for the removal of all warmist crap from their own money ,selling their homes ,confiscating their super and wives bank accounts ,things will be better ,and when tge nuclear power stations kick in ,we will wonder what it was all about at the annual reunios of the Denialist Militia ,at the DM Clubs .

  21. Rafe

    Muddy I like the idea of spelling out the wasted billions in units that convey the real cost (the opportunity cost as they say in the trade. Like fully staffed 500 bed hospitals, kms of x-lane highway because nowadays mere billions of dollars convey very little.

    We are past the point where a billion here and a billion there is regarded as resl money

  22. JakartaJaap

    Alan D, ex-dippo as well. Has caught the Climate Fear late in life. Pity he missed the filthy lucre once associated with embracing the Knowledge. I’ve always admired Rainman Flannery for his upfront brass in living the lie-fe at the taxpayer’s expense – well done Flanners! What a sweet cop it was when Krudd was Da Man.

  23. Lem

    We are past the point where a billion here and a billion there is regarded as resl money

    Particularly when US debt is 17 trillion or thereabouts.

    Anyway, once people experience enough power outages, whether through an inability of consumers to pay for electricity, or failure to generate enough, the politicians will find out what the electorate think.

    This doesn’t give me any comfort because they will long be gone on their generous pensions.

  24. john constantine

    Lot of pensioners just go to bed at sunset in winter because they can’t afford to stay warm enough to keep living otherwise.

    The country is a clogged cesspit.

  25. Speedbox

    “Lot of pensioners just go to bed at sunset in winter because they can’t afford to stay warm enough to keep living otherwise.

    The country is a clogged cesspit”.

    Once upon a time we (Australians), had it all. This country was genuinely the lucky country.

    We can all point to the various causes of the country’s financial and social demise and yes, some of it is not (directly) our fault. And yet, under a succession of miserable and self-interested “leaders” and rent-seekers, this nation and others continue to march along a path that is often socialistic in its outcome whilst howling down opposing viewpoints. We only need look to the rise of social media and those who seem to be in a permanent state of outrage. Aided by a willing mass media, the opinions of a few are accorded the status of “popular opinion”.

    Sadly, I can only agree that this country is a clogged cesspit. And isn’t it a damn shame because it didn’t have to be that way.

  26. Fred Lenin

    When someone buys a “karbin Kredit ” who do they pay ,and where does the money go ?
    Denialist Militia Member 345678921.

  27. Boambee John

    handjive
    #1870658, posted on November 28, 2015 at 1:42 pm
    COP21: Public support for tough climate deal ‘declines’

    Public support for a strong global deal on climate change has declined, according to a poll carried out in 20 countries.
    Just under half of all those surveyed viewed climate change as a “very serious” problem this year, compared with 63% in 2009.

    The findings will make sober reading for global political leaders, who will gather in Paris next week for the start of the United Nations climate conference, known as COP21.

    Surely you don’t seriously think that they care what the peasants think?

  28. Robert O

    It is indeed unfortunate that the politicians we have, mainly ex lawyers, unionists or party staffers, are not up to understanding the implications of renewable energy which they espouse. Take Richard di Natale for example on Insiders a week or two ago, the greens plan is 90% renewable by 2030, and that solar and wind energy are now cheap!

    Both solar and wind energy have high maintenance costs. Solar panels lose efficiency slowly and keeping the panels clean is never ending task. Apparently because of the size of turbine blades there are problems with bearings due to the effects of gravity and the down swing of the blades, and 15-20 years use is probably the limit before expensive replacement. These sort of details are not mentioned in the PR about these projects: a win-win scenario as Minister Hunt says.

  29. nerblnob

    I go to a renewables conference and exhibition every year and from talking to engineers there, my impression is that they can only DREAM of average 15-20 years use from big wind turbine bearings. More like 2-5 years in reality.

    I started going to these things in hope, believing all the uncritical hype in the media, thinking maybe I could find some business or even employment in that sector.

    Meeting the actual engineers was a sobering experience. The most valuable skill turns out to be writing grant applications.

  30. Robert O

    Therein lies the problem with governments, the politicians by trade have little expertise to offer , they are advised by either public servants, their own political advisors, or by lobbyists representing various vested interests pushing various types of snake oil. The public service is a closed shop these days with very little inflow from the outside apart from the original recruitment, and as well little exodus.

    OK, climate change, where is any contrary advice coming from for the Minister, CSIRO, BOM, Universities, the Public Service, the media? To hold a contrary view on the subject is career threatening. Where did PM Rudd the Ist. get his 100 odd advisors from to go Copenhagen with him? Paris, the same scenario plus an enormous number of NGO’s who are also on the public purse either directly, or as some sort of beneficiary.

    Talking of defence spending and submarines in particular, just think of various groups peddling their wares.

    So when we come to renewable energy who is going to tell the Minister it really isn’t economic as wind and solar have severe limitations, and who is going to give him advice that carbon dioxide hasn’t got much to do with global temperatures, it’s the sun!

  31. AP

    Robert, the bearings experience wear due to the fact the wind is blowing faster at the top of the blade path and more slowly at the bottom, due to friction against the ground. That’s one of the reasons they build the damn things so tall.

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