Guest opinion by David Archibald
“Men” said Charles Mackay in 1841,”go mad in herds, while they only recover their senses slowly, and one by one.” Recovering from groupthink is a slow process, as evinced by Section 311 of the National Defense Authorisation Act for Fiscal Year 2017 which was passed on 18th May, 2016.
Section 311 on page 139 simply says:
Rule of Construction Regarding Alternative Fuel Procurement Requirement
This section would amend section 526 of the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 (Public Law 110–140) to clarify that this section shall not be construed as a constraint on any conventional or unconventional fuel procurement necessary for military operations.
The Section 526 referred to says:
Prohibits a federal agency from entering into a contract for procurement of an alternative or synthetic fuel, including a fuel produced from nonconventional petroleum sources, for any mobility-related use (other than for research or testing), unless the contract specifies that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with the production and combustion of the fuel supplied under the contract must, on an ongoing basis, be less than or equal to such emissions from the equivalent conventional fuel produced from conventional petroleum sources.
This section was included in the 2007 bill largely to thwart the Defense Department’s intentions to acquire coal-based jet fuels. So a bill with a title that suggests it is about promoting energy independence and security was doing the opposite of that. Section 526 was the work of Congressman Henry Waxman representing California’s 30th District. Wiser heads wanted to repeal Section 526 straight away via amendments to the 2008 National Defense Authorization Bill. That didn’t happen. Efforts to repeal were ongoing and the White House noted the totemic importance of Section 526 in 2011.
Back in 2011 the oil price might have been conducive to a synthetic-fuel-from-coal effort. A cheap start might have been to convert the Great Plains synthetic natural gas plant in North Dakota to making diesel and jet fuel. Instead that plant is now being converted to make 380,000 tpa of urea. Now a synthetic liquid fuels plant will have to be built from scratch with the big capital cost items being the liquid oxygen plant and the coal gasifiers.
Nevertheless, Section 526 has been repealed after eight years of trying. A couple of other attempts in the National Defense Authorisation Act of 2017 to undo the madness of prior years did not get up. Roll call vote no. 2 (page 644) would have:
Description: Prohibits funds for executive order mandates from 2013 and 2015 related to green energy benchmarks, climate change boards, councils, and working groups and inclusion of climate change review throughout DOD operations, acquisition, logistics, and planning.
That was lost 29 to 30. Roll call vote no 3 (page 646) would have:
Description: Prohibits DOD from using FY17 funding for the construction or refurbishment of a biofuels facility, subject to a national security waiver.
That was lost 29 to 32.
The good news is that attempts to undo the damage are ongoing. This is in an environment in which President Obama has directed that commanders of naval bases be rated upon how much they promote global warming in their commands. And there are also reversals in the march of progress. In Australia the government-funded CSIRO had fired 61 climate scientists because “the science was settled” and therefore there was no use for them. The recently re-elected government has ordered the CSIRO to rehire 15 of these witchdoctors. Geopolitical events might sweep all such nonsense away before the year is out.
David Archibald is the author of Twlight of Abundance.