The Hartnett Delusion

Continuing a review of the Kathleen Hartnett White book

As mentioned previously, I was so taken by a video featuring Kathleen Hartnett White‘s confirmation hearing that I felt compelled to  purchase her book. White and also Andrew Wheeler appeared at the same senate hearing,. In White’s case, she had been submitted by President Donald Trump to head the Council on Environmental Quality. From Wikipedia:

The CEQ produces an annual report for the president on the state of the environment, oversees federal agency implementation of environmental impact assessments, and acts as a referee when agencies disagree over the adequacy of such assessments. NEPA tasks CEQ with ensuring that federal agencies meet their obligations under the Act, granting the body a significant role in environmental protection. Through inter-agency working groups and coordination with other EOP bodies, CEQ also works to advance the president’s agenda on the environment, natural resources, and energy.

One would hope the person filling that slot would have some background related to environment (nature) or possibly human physiology as the matter relates to air and water quality. White seems to  have none of that, her academic exposure being in the humanities and religion with an emphasis on religion, spotlighting some time spent in a comparative religion doctoral program at Princeton University. She also completed a year of law school at Texas Tech University. Her previous work experience included Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for a period of six years, acting as chairwoman for part of that  time. None of this seemed to have prepared White for the grilling she was destined to receive before the Senate panel, which panel eventually declined to approve her appointment.

The book is an item to itself. The title is Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy, and it is co-authored by Stephen Moore, about whom we will learn more in due time. The title is a dead giveaway to the tone of the book. This is going to be about fuel (fossil fuel) and an off-kilter war on energy, the term used here to mean the production and consumption of energy. The cover art is suggestive.

I covered the book’s introduction in the previous posting. This is going to be an ankle-deep look at chapter 1, Energy at a Crossroads, subtitled Doomslayers vs. Doomsayers. Summarizing, White extols the benefit fossil fuel has heaped on humanity since its rise to prominence 200+ years ago, beginning with coal and going forward to include petroleum and natural gas. And she makes a passel of good points. We would not be where we are today without the advent of these cheap and accessible sources of energy. She also decries extremists on “the left,” many of whom demolish their own case by foolishly mishandling the facts.

White seeks to use the first chapter to lay out the benefits of fossil fuels and to expose the unthinking attacks on the fossil fuel industry. And this she does, but in a clumsy manner that damages her case. I will post some excerpts and add some discussion of my own. Start with this:

Emissions of carbon dioxide resulting from human activity are here used as a surrogate for consumption of energy derived from fossil fuels.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 202-203). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

My interpretation: energy derived from fossil fuels equates to additional carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, to be sure, but a sinister implication is detected.

Throughout history, a small group of privileged persons, of course, could afford expensive energy.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 206-207). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

I want to say, “Really?” That is one strange perspective. Let’s look back at energy sources and usage in the centuries prior to the Industrial Revolution. Just prior to 1800 there were these sources of energy available:

  • Muscle (human)
  • Muscle (animal)
  • Water moving under the influence of gravity
  • Wind

And that was it. How did the elite benefit more than the common worker? A serf working on the estate of his master was essentially a slave, and his muscle power drew the water from the well and hoisted the bricks to build his master’s house. If there was a horse, it likely was the master’s horse, and the serf used the horse to plow the master’s fields. If there had been a gasoline-powered tractor, it would still have been the master’s tractor and the master’s fields. It is hard to imagine how available mechanical energy sources would have changed the serf’s position.

Except… Except if they wanted to go into to town the master rode his horse, and the serf likely walked. Most likely the serf did not get to ride in the master’s coach.

Anyhow, whichever point White is attempting to make will need to be supplied by the reader’s imagination.

White brings up Malthusian economics and the foolish statements of Paul Ehrlich. Thomas Robert Malthus is noted for an economic model that influenced Charles Darwin. In a given environment, living things will increase in population until resources necessary to sustain life are exhausted, and then the increase will halt. More so, and this is what caught Darwin’s attention, a living organism that has an advantage over others would continue to increase in population to the detriment of the others.

White wants us to know that a failure of Malthusian economic model is that people have the advantage of managing their environment and have therefore been able to increase their population far in excess of what would have been imaginable 200 years ago.

Paul Ehrlich is famous for his book The Population Bomb. Some predictions in the book turned out to be outrageously wrong, making him the punching bag for anti-environmentalists.

Throughout this chapter, White states the obviously true.

Never before has mankind been better nourished. As we shall show, you can thank fossil fuels for a global food supply that exceeds the demand of more than seven billion mouths.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 246-247). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

As Michael Kelly, a fellow of the Royal Society, reminds us, “A decarbonized global economy is going to have to outperform the achievement of fossil fuels.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 263-264). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

A number of statements appear to have either no basis or else no relevance:

Most green energy policies undermine human progress. They are regressive, disproportionately hurting low- and middle-income families by driving energy prices higher, thus eroding their standard of living.

As the Obama administration was drawing to a close, the lower end of middle-class income in the United States appeared to be sliding toward the poverty level. Numbers released by the Social Security Administration in the fall of 2015 revealed that 51 percent of all U.S. workers were making less than $ 30,000 a year— only twenty-five hundred a month after taxes. Income for middle-class families declined by 3 percent on Obama’s watch, and the average worker went ten years without a raise.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 289-294). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

She starts out stating that green energy policies are detrimental to low-income citizens, but then she attempts to lay this on President Obama’s environmental policies. No. Just no. A quick reading of history discloses the actual circumstances.

Statements are made in complete absence of corroboration.

For the Obama White House, it has been full speed ahead with this destructive agenda.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 296-297). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

To conclude that the Obama administration’s agenda was destructive you would have to accept that which White is attempting to demonstrate. Statements such as this do not stand alone.

Some of what is said requires unraveling.

Even before the Clean Power Plan took effect, many coal-fired power plants had closed and major coal companies had declared bankruptcy, at a cost of thousands of jobs. In response, President Obama, by executive action, froze coal production on federal lands, where 40 percent of total U.S. production is located.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 301-304). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The statement seems to be that coal-fired plants were closing already due to unprofitability and were not affected by the Clean Power Plan. I have no formal training in economics, but it would appear that if the government restricts the available source for mining coal, competition would increase for those not affected. These places would more likely become profitable. It’s difficult to figure out where White is going with this.

In addition to killing Americans jobs and raising utility bills by hundreds and perhaps thousands of dollars a year per family, shutting down the U.S. coal industry will actually harm the environment. Clean coal technologies have sharply reduced emissions of lead, sulphur, soot, and carbon monoxide. The air we breathe today is much cleaner than in previous decades. More importantly, U.S. coal is much cleaner than Chinese coal and that produced in other nations. The Clean Power Plan will reduce consumption of clean coal and increase the burning of dirty coal.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 309-313). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

If there is some rationale for the first part of this statement, it does not show prominently in the text or in the references. For the second part, we are left to  conclude that shutting down the American coal industry would boost the Chinese coal industry, which is multiply more polluting. No rationale is given for this conclusion.

Modern societies remain utterly dependent on fossil fuels. See Figure 1.2. The climate crusade is indeed a mad war on human welfare.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 315-316). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Again hyperbole has supplanted rational discourse. Climate management is not a crusade with people heading off to do battle. It is a reasoned approach to forestall a future calamity. Yes, modern society is dependent on fossil fuels. What White will not acknowledge is that this dependence is about to have consequences far in excess to any benefit. Throughout the chapter she reminds us that human ingenuity has been our ultimate salvation and that we should continue to apply it. The problem is, she puts her commitment to the fossil fuel industry ahead of any obligation to the truth, and the truth is that human ingenuity will be applied to  resolve our future energy needs while avoiding the destructive effects of fossil fuel consumption.

Here’s a statement that should convince readers of the nefarious intent of environmental regulation.

The Clean Power Plan is not merely another heavy-handed, expensive environmental regulation. It is nothing less than a federal take over of our nation’s entire electric sector.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 337-338). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

The problem is, this statement is made without substantiation. There is a link to a reference. It is reference number 18. Here is the refrence:

Laurence Tribe, “The Clean Power Plan Is Unconstitutional,” Wall Street Journal, December 22, 2015.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 4416-4417). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, the justification for saying the Clean Power Plan is a federal take over of the nation’s electric sector is a commentary piece in The Wall Street Journal:

As a law professor, I taught the nation’s first environmental law class 45 years ago. As a lawyer, I have supported countless environmental causes. And as a father and grandfather, I want to leave the Earth in better shape than when I arrived.

Nonetheless, I recently filed comments with the Environmental Protection Agency urging the agency to withdraw its Clean Power Plan, a regulatory proposal to reduce carbon emissions from the nation’s electric power plants. In my view, coping with climate change is a vital end, but it does not justify using unconstitutional means.

Although my comments opposing the EPA’s proposal were joined by a major coal producer, they reflect my professional conclusions as an independent legal scholar. I say only what I believe, whether I do so pro bono, or in this case having been retained by others. After studying the only legal basis offered for the EPA’s proposed rule, I concluded that the agency is asserting executive power far beyond its lawful authority.

That’s right. Not a court ruling or a finding of fact. Instead, an opinion piece published in a newspaper and supported by “a major coal producer” gives truth to the statement that the Clean  Power Plan “is nothing less than a federal take over of our nation’s entire electric sector.” We are beginning to see what was behind Kathleen Hartnett White’s faltering testimony at her Senate confirmation hearing.

Even the architects of these schemes admit that the green plans don’t work. According to the calculations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the so-called national pledges at the heart of the Paris climate agreement of December 2015 don’t add up to enough reduction of carbon dioxide to control warming.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 340-343). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes. Yes! The best we can do right now is not good enough. I think I have mentioned this before. We have gone too far down the road, and we cannot avoid the coming consequences. We are screwed, and the best we can  do is to begin to extricate ourselves from the hole at the same time we make preparations for the consequences. White appears to believe we should increase our reliance on fossil fuels.

By now I’m coming to believe this is a book written for the enjoyment of believers needing to  confirm what they already know. And those believers may not include Kathleen Hartnett White and Stephen  Moore.

There are additional indications this is an incestuous work, not to be confused with an objective treatment of a serious subject. Here is an interesting excerpt from the chapter.

Even the architects of these schemes admit that the green plans don’t work. According to the calculations of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the so-called national pledges at the heart of the Paris climate agreement of December 2015 don’t add up to enough reduction of carbon dioxide to control warming.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 340-343). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

There is a reference cited to  bolster this claim, whether true or not. Here’s the reference:

Stephen Moore, Washington Times A Times, November 8, 2015.

Moore, Stephen; White, Kathleen Hartnett. Fueling Freedom: Exposing the Mad War on Energy (Kindle Locations 4411-4412). Regnery Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Yes, to back up what he says in his book, Stephen Moore cites something he previously penned for The Washington Times.

Founded on May 17, 1982, by Sun Myung Moon, the Times was owned by News World Communications, an international media conglomerate associated with the Unification Church, until 2010, when Moon and a group of former executives purchased the paper. It is currently owned by diversified conglomerate Operations Holdings, which is a wholly owned subsidiary of the church.

I’m going to have to move on to chapter 2, “How the Shale Revolution is Changing Everything.” That will be sometime late tomorrow. Keep reading.

2 thoughts on “The Hartnett Delusion

  1. Pingback: The Hartnett Delusion | Skeptical Analysis

  2. Pingback: The Hartnett Delusion | North Texas Skeptics

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