Coal: there’s just no alternative!

“Ban coal!” demand those of the green persuasion, demonstrating once again that the gulf between warm-and-fuzzy thinking and real-world needs is darker than a candle-lit Third World hovel. As US author and energy specialist Robert Bryce noted this week in Melbourne, nothing banishes poverty like cheap, reliable power

kids with lightRobert Bryce at the Institute of Public Affairs in Melbourne on September 9 might have been stressing the ‘bleeding obvious’, as business-press guru Terry McCrann put it in his thank-you speech. Bryce’s HV McKay lecture at the RACV was titled “More Energy, Please: How Increasing Energy Use Promotes a Richer, Freer World.”

It is indeed bleeding obvious to the sapient that there is currently no viable substitute for coal-fired electricity generation. But throughout the Western world other people are campaigning to ‘save the planet’ by shutting coal-power down and thus reducing purportedly dangerous C02 emissions.

Bryce’s energy analyses have appeared in publications including the Wall Street Journal, Atlantic Monthly and National Review. Texas-based, he’s the author of five energy books, the latest being Smaller Faster Lighter Denser Cheaper: How Innovation Keeps Proving the Catastrophists Wrong. Bryce didn’t discuss the merits of the catastrophic human-caused global-warming hypothesis. He just delineated the irrationality of draconian global and national targets to cut CO2 emissions, given the developing world’s determination to use electricity to lift its people from poverty:

“I’m a resolute agnostic about the climate issue. Tell me CO2 is good, tell me it’s bad. I’m bored with the nastiness.

“The question that too few people are willing to ask is this one: where, how, will we find the energy equivalent of 27 Saudi Arabias and have it all be carbon-free?”

He began by remarking that Thailand, Vietnam and Indonesia have a total population of 400m. Since 1985, Indonesia and Malaysia have both piled on coal consumption by more than 5000%. Vietnam has increased electricity use by nearly 2500%; Thailand has had the world’s fastest growth of CO2 emissions at 603%. Yet their per capita GDP is still only $6000, one-eleventh that of Australia. “The residents of Thailand, Vietnam, and Indonesia don’t need less energy, they need more,” he said.

“It’s apparent to me from the levels of energy poverty and the continuing growth in global energy consumption, that the countries of the world, cannot, will not, ever agree to cut hydrocarbon use to the levels that the IPCC claims are necessary to prevent major climate change.”

Globally there are still more than 1.2 billion people without electricity at all.

Over the past decade alone, global energy consumption has increased by about 28 percent, or 56 million barrels of oil equivalent per day, that’s an increase of nearly seven Saudi Arabias. Total daily global energy use is now about 31 Saudi Arabias of oil production per day. About 21 Saudi Arabia’s worth, or 87%, is from hydrocarbons.

Despite the campaigns against CO2 in the past decade, global CO2 emissions have increased by about 29%. CO2 emission in the Middle East is up by 58%; Asia, up 74%; 
Africa, up 30%. But
Europe is down by 4% and US down 6.5%. The hard reality is that the path to electrification — the path to increased wealth — depends on hydrocarbons. Countries with cheap, abundant, reliable supplies of electricity can grow their economies and educate their citizens. They can build their manufacturing bases and export goods.

“The countries that lack electricity can’t. Period. Full stop,” he said.

Between 1990 and 2010, about 100 million Indonesians gained access to electricity – and coal provided more than half of that growth. Over that same time period:

Indonesia’s per-capita GDP rose by 442%.
Life expectancy increased by 8 years.
Infant mortality fell by 45%
Child malnutrition fell by 65%
Illiteracy declined by 77%
None of this is a coincidence. And yet, today the average Indonesian uses only about 630 kilowatt-hours per year. The average American uses that much electricity in three weeks, he said. The average Australian uses about 9,600 kWh of electricity per year — four times greater than the average resident of Thailand (2500 kWh/yr.) That’s eight times more than the average Vietnamese (1,125 kWh/yr). and fifteen times more than the average Indonesian (629 kWh/yr.)

Australia GDP: $1.5 trillion. Indonesia: $828B. Australia’s population: 23 million. Indonesia: 247 million.

“You have one-tenth of the people of Indonesia, and yet you have twice the GDP .Why?” Bryce wondered.

One clear factor is electricity use. in 2013, Australia generated about 245 TWh. Indonesia produced about 216 TWh. Electricity is a reliable proxy for wealth and wealth creation, as Bryce noted. “If I put a slide up here, showing the top 20 countries ranked by GDP and the top 20 ranked by electricity generation, the two columns would match almost identically,” he said.

Given the dire need for more electricity, it’s no surprise that Indonesia is building more generation capacity. Indonesia is planning to build at least four gigawatts of new coal-fired capacity.”

Texas has about one-seventh of Pakistan’s population, but four times as much generation capacity. That translates into wealth. The GDP of Texas is roughly $1.4 trillion. Pakistan’s GDP is one tenth of that figure: $138 billion. Pakistan is planning to build 15 new coal-fired power plants, with a total capacity of about 15 gigawatts. The new capacity is needed to alleviate dire electricity shortages and blackouts. Urban areas in Pakistan routinely have blackouts lasting ten hours per day; rural areas often face power outages lasting 15 hours per day. Shortages of electricity are imposing heavy costs on the Pakistani economy — as much as $12.5 billion per year, or 6% of the country’s GDP.

Africa is the dark continent. Why? Because it’s dark.

There are 1.1 billion Africans today. They use about the same amount of electricity as 35 million Canadians. The GDP of Africa is $2.3 trillion. Canada’s GDP is $1.8 trillion. Africa has 30 times as many people as Canada. And yet, Canada’s GDP is nearly as large as Africa’s.

“Moving beyond electricity, let’s look at natural gas and geopolitics. Ukraine is one of the poorest members of the old Soviet bloc and Putin and his band of kleptocrats want to keep them poor by making their energy more expensive.

Meanwhile, Germany has hitched its economic wagon to the Kremlin. At the same time, it has implemented a renewable-energy strategy that is crippling its economy.

Europe, needs more energy. More specifically, it needs more cheap energy, if it wants to remain competitive. But it is instead, largely doing the opposite.”

The global energy story of today is coal.
Since 1973, coal use has grown faster than any other form of energy. Indeed, in absolute terms, it has grown faster than oil and natural-gas consumption, and it continues to grow at a remarkable clip. In 2013 alone, coal use rose by 2 million barrels of oil-equivalent per day. That was about 50% more than the growth in petroleum and nearly three times the growth seen in natural gas last year.

Further, it was three times the contribution of ALL global solar.

“I’m adamantly pro natural gas. I’m adamantly pro nuclear.

But the global energy story is coal. And it has been the story for the last four decades.”

By 2018 or so, according to the IEA, coal consumption is likely to increase by about 12 MMbbloe/d. If that occurs, global coal use will total about 92 MMbbloe/d, or nearly 10.4 Saudis of coal.

If that occurs, coal could surpass oil in total share of global energy. “That’s a stunning development. The last time coal consumption in the US was greater than that of oil was in 1949.”

Coal demand is growing because the fuel is abundant, deposits are widely dispersed, supplies cannot be manipulated by any OPEC-like entities. And more than any other factor, it’s cheap. Between 1990 and 2010, about 1.7 billion people gained access to electricity. Of that number, about 800 million gained access due to coal, while some 65 million gained access due to solar and wind.

Coal will remain a major player in the global electricity mix for decades to come. And given that, we need to be encouraging the most advanced combustion technologies, super critical, ultrasupercritical and other techniques. The punchline is obvious, as Bryce noted:

“We cannot rely on renewable energy to supply the vast quantities of electricity that are needed to bring the billions of people who are now living in dire energy poverty in the modern world. We will need hydrocarbons. And lots of them.

And that takes me to the Big Fib. What is the big fib?

It’s the repeated claim by the big environmental groups and lead environmentalists that we can quit using hydrocarbons over the next couple of decades and replace them with renewables.”

Greenpeace claims that renewable energy, “smartly used, can and will meet our demands. No oil spills, no climate change, no radiation danger, no nuclear waste.”

Sierra Club has a campaign called “beyond coal,” another called “beyond oil” and another called “beyond natural gas.” has launched a campaign called “fossil free” and it is aiming to convince colleges, universities, and entities that have pension-type investments, to divest their portfolios of companies that produce hydrocarbons. They are welcome to push that agenda. But the reality is that renewables can’t even keep up with the growth in global electricity demand, much less displace significant demand for hydrocarbons. “That’s not an opinion,” said Bryce. “It’s a fact.”

Over the past three decades or so, global electricity generation has been increasing by about 450TwH per year. That’s the equivalent of adding one Brazil (which used 485 TwH of electricity in 2010) to the electricity sector every year. And the International Energy Agency expects global electricity use to continue growing by about one Brazil per year through 2035.

What would it take to just keep up with the growth in global electricity demand – 450 terawatt-hours per year — by using wind? The global wind industry would have to nearly match its current existing capacity in a year, and it would have to do so every year. That would mean covering a land area of about 240,000 square kilometers every year. That’s a land area roughly the size of the United Kingdom. And remember, it will have to do so every year. Put yet another way, in order to merely keep up with the pace of growth in global electricity use, the global wind industry will have to cover nearly 660 square kilometers, or about 11 Manhattan Islands — with wind turbines, and it will have to do so every day.

What would it take to just keep up with the growth in global electricity demand – 450 TwH per year — by using solar?

“Well, Germany has more installed solar-energy capacity that any other country, with about 36,000 megawatts of installed photovoltaic panels. In 2013, those panels produced 30 terawatt-hours of electricity.

Thus, just to keep pace with the growth in global electricity demand, the world would have to install 15 times as much photovoltaic capacity as Germany’s total installed base, and it would have to do so every year.

We have to move past the Big Fib and accept the reality that hydrocarbons are here to stay.”

Bryce says that iteration means innovation.
To improve something, you have to do it a lot. That’s true whether you are talking about a golf swing, a backhand in tennis, or manufacturing solar panels.

“Why did the shale revolution happen in the US? The shortest explanation is that the US is drilling lots of wells. Since about 1950, the US has been drilling an average of 41,000 wells per year.

Shale is the most abundant form of sedimentary rock on the planet.

Lots of other countries have shale. China, Argentina, Algeria, Canada, Mexico, and Australia have huge shale gas (and shale oil) resources.

But the rest of the world is a decade, or maybe two decades behind the US when it comes to shale because the US is drilling lots of wells.

With each well that’s drilled, the companies that do the prospecting are learning things and applying them to the next well. And they learn a little more, and they apply that learning to the next well.

The coal industry keeps improving its processes, cutting costs, because it has not just a decade of experience, but centuries of experience. It is iterating.

I’m adamantly pro-nuclear. But one reason why we aren’t seeing much improvement in nuclear technology is that we aren’t building reactors.”

Construction on the Watts Bar Unit 2 nuclear owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority, began in 1973. In 1988, work on the project was stopped. Bechtel resumed work on the reactor in 2007, with a projected cost of $4.2 billion to finish the reactor. The aim is to begin producing electricity at Watts Bar Unit 2 at the end of 2015. That’s 42 years from start to finish.

There are two other nuclear plants underway: Vogtle and Summer, in Georgia and South Carolina. They might be finished by 2018 or so.

“Thus, in the next four or five years, the US will finish five reactors. Over that same time, we’ll drill maybe 200,000 oil and gas wells.

And with each well, each iteration, the industry improves, just a little bit.”

Wind and biofuels both desperately need subsidies and/or mandates. And both take too much land. The power density of wind energy is only 1 watt per square meter.

“Here in Australia, you have roughly 30 gigawatts of coal-fired capacity. To replace that coal-fired capacity with wind, at 1 watt per square meter, would require 30 billion square meters, or 30,000 square kilometers. That’s a land area two and a half times the size of Greater Sydney.

“And here’s the kicker: because of the noise the turbines make, no people could live on that land.

“The energy sprawl that comes with wind has spawned a backlash in countries around the world.

“Despite what you hear from the wind industry boosters and groups like Friends of the Earth Australia, noise is a real problem.

“Biofuels? I’m a long time critic of corn ethanol. The fundamental problem with biofuels, besides the fact that their use means taking farmland out of food production and into motor-fuel production, is low power density. The power density of biofuels is fractions of a watt per square meter. The biofuel boom is over.

So what is the frontier for some type of disruptive energy innovation? Clearly, as Bryce observed, it’s in nuclear, solar and batteries.

“I am pro-nuclear. If you are anti-carbon dioxide and anti-nuclear, you are pro- blackout.

“I’m anti-blackout. I’m in favor of cold beer and air conditioning for everybody.

“But there are two key problems with nuclear: First and foremost: It’s WAY too expensive.

“Second, we aren’t building reactors.

“We have a multitude of promising designs – molten salt reactors, modular reactors, thorium-fueled reactors, integral fast reactors. And we are seeing new venture capital investment in the nuclear sector, with companies like Terra Power, NuScale, and Transatomic.”

The frontier area for renewable-electricity deployment will be solar and storage. If panel prices can be made far cheaper, and batteries get far cheaper, then the deployment of electricity to energy-poor economies will be accelerated.

Bryce is bullish on solar:

“I have 3,200 watts of solar panels on the roof of my house. I’m opposed to subsidies. Unless I am getting them.
Why did I put solar panels on my house?
 Because I got a big fat subsidy. The city of Austin paid 2/3 of the cost. The price of solar panels is falling dramatically.

Since 1980, we’ve seen the cost of photovoltaic panels decline from more than $20 per watt to less than $1/watt. The largest PV producer in the US, First Solar, claims that it will be producing solar panels for $0.40/watt by 2017.”

In a recent report, Bloomberg New Energy Finance projected that solar will be the fastest-growing form of generation capacity through 2030. BNEF expects some $2.5 trillion will be spent globally on renewables. And solar is going to be the big winner. Asia alone will add 800 GW of solar PV. The US and Japan alone are projected to spend about $350 billion on rooftop solar.

“Thanks to the ongoing boom in solar, we will see a lot of iteration. Thousands of homes and businesses will add solar panels to their roofs. And with that iteration will come innovation, which in turn, should allow better performance and lower costs.

“Batteries are still too finicky and their energy density is too low. On a gravimetric basis, gasoline contains about 80 times as much energy as the best lithium-ion batteries.

“Furthermore, batteries don’t like extreme hot or cold and they aren’t very durable.

“We can store large quantities of coal, oil, and natural gas with relative ease. But our ability to store electricity is laughably small.”

Globally, people are now consuming 22,000TwH every year.

“If we could somehow collect all of the world’s car batteries – there are about 1 billion automobiles on the planet – and string them all together, the amount of electricity they could hold would only provide about 30 minutes worth of our global electricity needs.”

The global market for batteries is huge because the global market for electricity is enormous. Global electricity sales are worth roughly $1.8 trillion per year. Given the value of the electricity market, we will see lots of iteration in batteries, big and small. And as solar improves, as batteries improve, we will be able to bring more people out of the dark and into the light.

“Over the past few years, we have been inundated by claims that we are using too much energy. This is wrong. If we are interested in promoting wealth and freedom, we should be focused on providing more energy to more people, everywhere.

“We have to move beyond this single-minded concentration on reducing emissions to one which recognizes that energy availability is the key to human fulfillment and freedom.”

That cheap and freely available energy is the cornerstone of wealth should not have to be stressed. Yet today, as green nostrums dominant policy, hike electricity prices and bring the threat of blackouts, it is a near-revolutionary idea. Strange days indeed.

Tony Thomas blogs at

Amid the Glenn Beck Phenomenon

Glenn Beck is one of those conservatives that US liberals love to hate. When you see, as I recently did, how his words and ideals resonate with Americans in what leftists sneeringly dismiss as ‘flyover country’ it is very easy to understand why the left has declared him a public enemy

old glory mikeIt was July 5, the day after Independence Day. We pulled into the parking lot of a community hall at Dayton, Idaho (population 450), for an evening with religious-Right media phenomenon Glenn Beck. I opened the car door and we were buffeted by a pig-manure stench from working barns nearby.

We came from Logan, Utah, a larger town thirty-five miles south in the beautiful Cache Valley, bordered by purple mountains running north–south on each side, home to occasional mountain lions. My car companions were Mormons. So is Beck (and so are failed presidential aspirant Mitt Romney and 2 per cent of Americans). Two nights before we’d also been part of Beck’s audience, that time at the “Freedom Fire” pre-Independence Day entertainment at Utah State University’s football stadium.

This article is largely about Glenn Beck (below), the apotheosis of religious-Rightism, but it’s also about ways of thinking in middle America, unfiltered through the “progressive” media, where sneer is the default mode.

glenn beck

To a normally sceptical Australian, US religious-Right ways can be confronting. But the locals would probably view Aussies as unpatriotic, lackadaisical and sacrilegious.

Utah and Idaho are among the “fly-over states” of the USA, states beyond the pale for the east- and west-coast liberal intelligentsia. Utah and Idaho are two of the most Republican states, with 73 per cent and 65 per cent support respectively in presidential voting. The philosophy in these parts is patriotism, piety, states’ rights and bearing arms. Utah and Idaho are second and third-ranked (behind Kentucky) for gun ownership. One of my Mormon friends owns sixty guns (including muskets)—but he hunts and traps for a living.

At the Deer Cliff family restaurant, a waiter turned out to be a young son, a US Marine machine-gunner on leave. We chatted about deployments, machine-gun types and grenade launchers. I wasn’t sure how much to tip him.

As for Beck, he talked about ninety minutes at Dayton, delivering the most accomplished oratory I’ve ever heard. He’s been living off his eloquence for more than thirty years. My friends warned me he’d cry, and he did, at least six times.

When we entered the hall, two formidable black-clad police were off to one side. “Why are you here?” I asked them. “Mr Beck requested it,” one of them replied, deadpan. It turned out that Beck was using a table-full of historic mementos worth more than $1 million as props for extempore history lessons, and they needed guarding.

Aged fifty, and six feet two inches, Beck is homely and bespectacled. He wore brown shirt, faded jeans and suede shoes. He held the audience of 700 spellbound, me included. No Australian speaker of any persuasion gets even near Beck’s magic.

Beck is much loved in the mid-West, and last year he bought a family ranch at nearby Weston, Idaho (population 440). When he lards his speeches with prayers for crops and tales of his neighbour’s horse eating Beck’s grass, it rings authentic.

Most of his long speech was ad-libbed, but he may have cued parts of it from an iPad. No hired speechwriter could come up with such personal stuff. He began with a parable about his family life. He was building a small mountain home and insisted on junking the planned $1500 doors and matching cabinetry. Instead he scrounged a dozen mismatched $100 doors from saleyards, along with tired old dressers and vanity units. Beck was recreating the emotional feel of his grandfather Janssen’s homestead, built from odds and ends: “Nothing matched, but in a way, everything did.”

Janssen, he continued, was illiterate but a top machinist at the Boeing plant at Seattle—he used tricks to read the blueprints. Beck as a kid would do unpaid work for Janssen all summer vacation, feeding chickens, gathering eggs and cleaning out the coops. He slept in the hot attic with Janssen, who would tell Beck wonderful stories.

Beck then cut to the present, describing how on a hot night on July 2 he and his son (adopted) Raphe chatted about the day’s events—rounding up cows, mending a fence, chasing badgers, Raphe trying his first ride on a horse. “I kissed my son good night as he snuggled close by my side, safe, content and sleepy. As I lay there smiling, I reflected on just how much I love and miss my grandfather.” Here Beck cried. “It was at that moment with the help of the moonlight I could just make out my mismatched door.” Here we cried.

Beck painted himself successfully as an everyman. He knows how to connect with a crowd. In reality, his main home in Dallas is on two acres and has seven bedrooms, and his childhood was not idyllic. But Beck at Dayton was inspiring his audience with the good stuff from his family life.

With his audience captivated, he moved on to messages of religion, morality and patriotism. He read from original letters penned by Abe Lincoln, flourished a Puritan’s Tyndale English-language Bible, held up a bogus Swedish citizenship certificate issued to a Jew by Raoul Wallenberg in Budapest in 1944, and a violet star worn by less lucky Bible scholars in the camps. He also showed us the map used by Apollo 11’s Neil Armstrong to pick a landing spot on the moon—it was covered in Xs for unsafe and Os for safe. (His point was that Neil Armstrong’s success was in the wake of selfless preparatory work by earlier Apollo teams.)

He had the microphone used by “Tokyo Rose” (Iva Toguri) to broadcast to US troops. It turned out that she was actually a patriot sending them coded warnings of Japanese bombing raids, and was secretly giving medicines to prisoners of war in Japan. But she was scapegoated by the US press and jailed for six years. When he first told this story on his broadcast channel last year, he actually used that seventy-year-old mike.

Beck was pushing back against the liberals’ harping on America’s dark past. Beck acknowledges the grim episodes—indeed, in 1866, only five miles from Dayton, US troops massacred several hundred Shoshones at Bear River, violence exceeded only by the massacre at Wounded Knee. But Beck emphasises the heroic and benevolent traits in America’s story. Beck’s history adviser is minister and Republican stalwart David Barton, whom Beck calls “The Library of Congress in shoes”. Barton runs a case that America was founded as an explicitly Christian nation. He lacks credibility among academic historians.

I’ll fast-forward to the ending of Beck’s speech, skipping an hour on an emotional rollercoaster. He had an easel on stage still covered with a white cloth. He praised the global role and bravery of the American armed forces. (Why in daily Australian life are our own troops and veterans so invisible and unremarked?) He spoke of the uncertainty of success as the first boats hit the Normandy beaches in 1944. He said only one American flag survived the landing, the one on LST 493. Then he whipped away the cloth from the easel, and on it, in a gold frame, was that flag, with about a third of it missing, shot away. We all gasped. (I later found he’d paid $350,000 for it at auction.) Beck grew tearful. “I’m such a girl!” he confessed, and the audience laughed with him.

Beck’s final words were the quotes from Lincoln’s second inaugural, “with malice toward none, with charity for all” and Beck produced a bloodstained piece of sheet from Lincoln’s deathbed.

Then aides with roving mikes took questions. The first was from a woman nearly 100 years old, who said her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren were all Beck fans. “Thank you for what you have done and showed us, for leading us and motivating us to think for ourselves about important things we need educating about to understand. Thank you!” she said.

Someone asked him when he would create a public museum for his historical items. He said when he had $20 million to spare, but it was slow going because he rated other charities higher priority, including charities based on loving children who are not born. The audience applauded. Beck, by the way, earns $90 million a year from his media outlets, even more than Oprah Winfrey.

On the other side of the hall, another woman took a mike. She had lost a son serving in Afghanistan, she said (here another tremor went through the audience), and she was grateful to Beck for his patriotic messages helping to unify her country. She had two copies of the book Lone Survivor signed by Navy Seal author Marcus Luttrell and she said, “I want you to have one of them.” Were those questioners pre-selected? I don’t know. But the whole hall was in a mood of inspiration.

Beck gave the proceeds of the evening ($28,000 gross) entirely to local arts charities, and didn’t charge either for his July 3 speaking stint at Logan. A year earlier, speaking at nearby Preston, Idaho (a metropolis of 5000) he raised $120,000 for local charities.

Beck has made foot-in-mouth comments in the past (much dwelt on by the media) but here’s a positive anecdote. Some 60,000 Central American children have poured into the USA illegally in the past year as a result of Obama offering amnesties against deportation—much as Kevin Rudd’s relaxing of border controls led to 50,000 asylum seekers flooding in here. Beck has condemned Obama’s amnesty, but in mid-July he organised and led a million-dollar relief effort for the interned children at McAllen, Texas, involving truck-trailer loads of food and toys.

It was heartfelt Beck, alienating some supporters who thought he should let Obama’s crisis fester. Mormons are by far the most anti-Obama religious group in the USA, giving Obama an 18 per cent approval rating, compared with 37 per cent approval by Protestants and 72 per cent by Muslims.

Another action example is that Beck, like many middle-aged Americans, loved Levi jeans. In 2011, Levi’s creative directors came up with a television commercial featuring teenaged males in Levi’s braving police riot lines, to the voice-over of poetry by Charles Bukowski: “Your life is your life, don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission … You are marvelous, the gods wait to delight in you.” Beck took the view that Levi’s was celebrating leftist rabble. He not only gave Levi an on-air pasting but launched his own US-made designer jeans, on patriotic themes and selling, online only, for $130. Levis quickly pulled its edgy ad. Beck’s critics overlooked the fact that Beck’s clothing profits go to his charity Mercury One.

The mainstream media is no friend of Beck. The Independence Day fireworks organisers at Logan invited him at the last minute as a ten-minute patriotic speaker. Several Logan councillors objected that Beck was too “divisive” for such a role, which became the lead story for the valley’s Herald Journal. The Journal painted Beck as a demagogue and twice in two days mentioned that Beck had got so angry on-air at his ranch that he once stepped outside to fire a gun in the air. The organisers responded by offering money back to any ticket-holder who objected to Beck. The day after, theJournal reported only three money-back requests. Then it ran a correction that even those three requests were unrelated to Beck.

As happens in small towns, we bumped into the Logan mayor Craig Peterson in the street, and he remarked that to have uninvited Beck to mollify three liberal councillors would have created a national furore.

At the event, Beck avoided speaking politically, apologising for every divisive statement he had ever made. The audience cheered his message about patriotism and unity.

The Journal led its report next day by saying that Beck received “an apparently warm welcome”—the first time I’d seen such an equivocal phrase. Running a ruler over the Journal’s report, I found there were twenty-three inches hostile, twenty-two inches “straight”, and under two inches positive. The Letters page and on-line comments ran hot with Beck defenders.

This slanted reporting is nothing unusual. On July 29, 2013, the Salt Lake Tribune ran a guest feature by arts academic Alexandra Karl headlined, “Glenn Beck’s nazi exhibit”. She had probably never attended Beck’s show, as she named the venue wrongly. Her conclusion was that because Beck owned and displayed Nazi memorabilia, he was part of the Hitler personality cult and “a sympathizer rather than a critic … It reveals more about Tea Party sensibilities and Beck’s personal values than I dared thought possible.” She highlighted one allegedly Beck-owned souvenir, “a satin handkerchief browned with Hitler’s blood”. This was in fact a napkin from the meeting room blown up by anti-Nazi plotter Count Stauffenberg in 1944, and Beck didn’t own it, he’d borrowed it. He never claimed it was Hitler’s blood.

More to the point, Beck was showcasing two themes of exhibits. One set involved seminal Americana from the country’s struggle for independence and freedom, such as Abraham Lincoln’s desk and a Bible brought to America on the Mayflower. The other set involved items related to tyrannies, as a “never again” moral lesson. The Tribune defended the indefensible by saying that Ms Karl was merely a guest columnist, as though her piece had appeared in the paper by magic.

The highlight of Beck’s career is his “Restoring Honor” rally at Washington Mall on August 28, 2010. Beck’s purpose was to honour US servicemen, who he considered were being disparaged by liberals. American conservatives—including my Mormon friends—swarmed to the event from all over the country. Beck and Sarah Palin (who prayed for ten minutes) spoke from the steps of the Lincoln Monument. They gave an award to (among others) Marine Sergeant James “Eddie” Wright, who lost both hands in a firefight in Iraq but now teaches hand-to-hand combat at the marines base at Quantico, Virginia. The rally raised $5.5 million for wounded veterans.

The crowd crammed the three kilometres of the Mall. The size of that crowd was the political take-home point, so how did the media handle that? I made my own estimate by comparing an aerial picture of an MCG grand final crowd (100,000) with the aerial of the mall crowd, and got a result something like four times, or 400,000. CBS News hired helicopter-borne crowd-count professionals and got a curious result of about 90,000. Associated Press ran an equally ludicrous figure of “tens of thousands”. NBC ran an irrational number of “tens to hundreds of thousands”, while the liberal New York Times was too embarrassed to mention any figure and settled for “enormous”. Top estimate (Sky News) was 500,000. Beck joked that there was “over a thousand people”.

A month later, US progressives staged a counter-rally called “One Nation”. Despite unions busing in their members, the rally gathered a far smaller crowd which, unlike Beck’s crowd, departed leaving the Mall covered in rubbish. Conservative blogger Michelle Malkin was the first person to notice that the rally organisers, which included the Communist Party of the United States, had later substituted, for their own rally, a picture online of the huge Mall crowd at the 1963 Martin Luther King “I have a dream” rally. The mainstream media didn’t pick up on that great scoop.

Beck has come to national fame from a troubled background. At eight he began self-training as a talk-show host by playing back his improvised radio shows. He went on-air for real at thirteen when he easily won a competition for an AM radio gig, and at seventeen he successfully applied for a weekend FM job in Seattle, to the surprise of his new employers who found that they had hired a schoolkid. By twenty-one he was on a salary of $70,000.

But his home life was mess. His mother suffered alcoholism and depression and divorced when Beck was thirteen. Her new lover, according to Beck, was an abuser. Mother and lover went out on a small boat on Puget Sound and both drowned. Beck, who was fifteen at the time, has claimed it was a suicide pact.

Beck moved back in with his father. Beck says that his paternal grandfather sexually abused Beck’s father, and Beck’s father was later abused by a series of carers, mentors and preachers. This made the father dysfunctional and unloving, but not a sexual abuser. “My family was a shipwreck,” he weepily told his radio audience.

Beck became an alcoholic and a drug addict, and says that he was high every day for fifteen years (allow for some hyperbole). His first marriage failed after producing two daughters. One suffered cerebral palsy. By the age of thirty he was washed up spiritually, a radio has-been, and suicidal. He was saved by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1994.

Beck met his second wife Tania in 1998 when she walked into the New Haven radio station to pick up a Sony Walkman prize. Here’s Beck’s description:

I apologize, but guys will understand this. My wife is hot and she wouldn’t have sex with me until we got married, and she wouldn’t marry me unless we had a religion. I’m like, ah, you’ve got to be kidding me! I’ve got to go to church for this?

The result was that they tested various religious creeds and settled on the Mormon faith. Their quest also brought them to militant conservatism. His polemical style, especially after 9/11 and the Obama election, took him to top rating at CNN, then Fox News.

He scandalised liberals by, for example, calling Obama an anti-white racist, which gave his opponents ammunition for a boycott of Fox advertisers. Beck and Fox separated in 2011. (Obama had butted in to take the side of a black professor, Henry Gates, arrested by a white police sergeant. Both Obama and Beck backed down.)

Instead of hawking his talent to a new employer, Beck created his own branded channels, with the motto, “The truth lives here”. These channels are run by his company Mercury Radio Arts, offering subscriber and streamed television, radio, publishing, stage and web content. Beck has also written twenty-two books, eleven of which have made the Times best-seller lists, half a dozen hitting the number-one spot. Typical titles include The Real America: Messages from the Heart and Heartland andCowards: What Politicians, Radicals, and the Media Refuse to Say.

His stage shows are his one-man-band tours. They are also filmed and run in 300 to 400 theatres nationwide, much as New York Met operas find a global audience via film. His movie Man in the Moon, with an historico-political message, sold out 20,000 seats at the launch.

Barely sleeping at nights, he arrives at work on any morning with enough philosophical, entrepreneurial and political energy to keep his staff in turmoil for a week. He tosses off hours of radio and television chatting and sermonising per day.

Beck’s a man to be loved or hated. There’s not much in between. I stayed nine days in Utah, survived a wine-free family barbecue, and, unusually, attended church on Sunday. I stayed with people who overtly take pride in their religion, their community and their country. It was just luck that I twice got to hear their favourite son Glenn Beck speaking and to feel his impact.

Tony Thomas, a retired financial journalist, is a frequent contributor to Quadrant.

We’re Doomed … Kittens and Puppies Too

If you have a bill of climate goods to peddle, as Naomi Oreskes always does, what better foil than ardent warmist and Science Show compere Robyn Williams? When flogging a book, it is handy to have a radio pal who has never encountered an alleged peril too silly to inspire a raised eyebrow — not even the mass extinction of household pets

Global warming is going to “wipe out” every Australian man, woman and child, according toNaomi Oreskes, the much-quoted Professor of the History of Science at Harvard. Revered by catastropharians the world over, she was a guest on a recent edition of Robyn Williams’ Science Show on Radio National.

The glum forecast is in her latest book, The Collapse of Western Civilisation (co-author Erik Conway). She is so globally famous that her previous book, Merchants of Doubt, about the great warming-denialist conspiracy, is now being made into a movie by Sony Pictures Classics. This film-to-be is being touted as the successor to Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth, which may be an ironically apt comparison, as Gore still hasn’t amended his flick to correct the nine howlers identified in a UK High Court judgment.

Robyn Williams doesn’t seem to have read Oreskes book about Western civilisation’s collapse, because its forecast of Australians’ extinction (at 464/1172 on my Kindle version) went unmentioned on his Science Show.

What Oreskes predicts is that some people in northern inland regions of Europe, Asia and North America, plus some mountain people in South America, wil survive the killer warming. These lucky ones are able to “regroup and rebuild. The human populations of Australia and Africa, of course, were wiped out,” she says, writing from a viewpoint some 400 years into the future.

I have to wonder: will some future Pat Dodson arrive and plant the Aboriginal flag on our climate-scoured terra nullius?

But Oreskes forecasts something much worse than the death by climate for every Australian human. She prophesises the climate deaths of puppies and kittens. One reader, she says, “started crying when the pets die, so I didn’t mean to upset people too much…I was just trying to come up with something that I thought people wouldn’t forget about, and I thought, well, Americans spend billions of dollars every year taking care of their pets, and I thought if people’s dogs started dying, maybe then they would sit up and take notice.”

I looked up that bit in the book, and found the Great Kitten & Puppy Extinction occurs in 2023, along with the incidental deaths of 500,000 people and $US500b financial damage. Oreskes writes,

“The loss of pet cats and dogs garnered particular attention among wealthy Westerners, but what was anomalous in 2023 soon became the new normal. A shadow of ignorance and denial had fallen over people who considered themselves children of the Enlightenment.”

To make sure no-one misses the pet die-off, she repeats it in a bold-type breakout.

Radio National’s Williams was delighted with Oreskes’ pet-panic strategy. He chimed in,

“Yes, not only because it’s an animal but it’s local. You see, one criticism of the scientists is they’re always talking about global things…And so if you are looking at your village, your animals, your fields, your park, your kids, and the scientists are talking about a small world that you know, than it makes a greater impact, doesn’t it.”

Oreskes responded:

“Well, exactly. It was about bringing it literally home, literally into your home, your family, your pet, the dog or cat that you love who is your faithful and trusted companion.”

As I type this, I look down at my faithful (but not always trusted) spaniel companion, Natasha, and let my own tears fall.

Oreskes doesn’t think she’s writing fiction. She told the admiring Williams, a Fellow of the Australian Academy of Science, no less:

“Well, it’s all based on solid science. Everything in this book is based on the scientific projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. All we did was to add to the social and human aspects to it … and to ask the question; what does this really mean in terms of what its potential impacts would be on people and its potential impacts on our institutions of governance?”

Oreskes starts The Science Show by reading from her book. Be afraid:

“By 2040, heatwaves and droughts were the norm. Control measures—such as water and food rationing and Malthusian ‘one-child’ policies—were widely implemented. In wealthy countries, the most hurricane- and tornado-prone regions were gradually but steadily depopulated…

“In poor nations, conditions were predictably worse: rural portions of Africa and Asia began experiencing significant depopulation from out-migration, malnutrition-induced disease and infertility, and starvation…

“Then, in the northern hemisphere summer of 2041, unprecedented heatwaves scorched the planet, destroying food crops around the globe. Panic ensued, with food riots in virtually every major city. Mass migration of undernourished and dehydrated individuals, coupled with explosive increases in insect populations, led to widespread outbreaks of typhus, cholera, dengue fever, yellow fever, and viral and retroviral agents never seen before.

“Surging insect populations also destroyed huge swaths of forests in Canada, Indonesia and Brazil. As social order began to break down in the 2050s, governments were overthrown, particularly in Africa, but also in many parts of Asia and Europe, further decreasing social capacity to deal with increasingly desperate populations.

“As the Great Northern American Desert surged north and east, consuming the High Plains and destroying some of the world’s most productive farmland, the US government declared martial law to prevent food riots and looting. A few years later, the United States announced plans with Canada for the two nations to begin negotiations toward the creation of the United States of North America, to develop an orderly plan for resource-sharing and northward population relocation.

“The European Union announced similar plans for voluntary northward relocation of eligible citizens from its southernmost regions to Scandinavia and the United Kingdom…”

The ever-credulous Williams, instead of asking Oreskes, “Mmm, you’re smoking something good?” merely observeds that all of the above is “fairly shocking”, further wondering why it is only Western civilization that collapses, leaving the Chinese in charge. Oreskes gave two reasons. One, Chinese civilization is more durable, and two, authoritarian regimes are better able to deal with climate catastrophes.

It’s no surprise that Oreskes is a fan of our very own Professor Clive Hamilton, ethicist and leading public intellectual. In Collapse, she cites approvingly his book Requiem for a Species, in which he says that combating climate change will impose moral obligations superior to mere obedience to the law. Hamilton has also welcomed the prospect of emergency measures, such as the suspension of democratic processes. If you are as smart as Hamilton thinks he is, what need to take the views of lesser mortals into account?

Oreskes’ other Australian bestie is former Greenpeace International CEO Paul Gilding, of Tasmania, author of The Great Disruption. Gilding doesn’t quite forecast the extinction of all Australians, but he does say:

“I do believe it’s going to be catastrophic by today’s standards. Potentially, billions will die in famine, there will be conflict between nations, there will be a dramatic change in lifestyle enforced by a war-like effort in response…We should be on a war-footing…”

Oreskes seems to share the same authoritarian yearnings. She said last February that sceptic groups ought to be prosecuted via the Racketer-Influenced Corrupt Organisations (RICO) statutes that have been wiely used in the US to convict leaders of criminal syndicates for helping third parties to commit crimes. In Merchants of Doubt, she notes with approval how RICO, conceived to de-rail the Mafia, was later used to prosecute tobacco-industry executives for suppressing knowledge of health impacts.

Oreskes, the frequent object of Williams’ gushing admiration, — insists ‘no one’ in the ‘scientific community’ now thinks global warming can be confined to 2degC.

“Things that only a few years ago scientists thought were unimaginable, almost unspeakable, like a four-degree or a five-degree temperature range, now we realise we have to speak about them because that is where we are heading.”

Given there’s been a warming halt of between 14 years and 18 years, depending on whose charts you consult, it’s hard to see why her climate scientists are suffering such rising panic. The halt even seems to have penetrated Williams’ warm brain, since his next (excellent) question was:

Williams: How much sympathy do you have for the ordinary person who picks up bestselling daily papers and sees that there hasn’t been a temperature rise in 15 years, who sees that the IPCC is quoted as predicting that sea level will hardly change at all, that the temperatures won’t go up beyond two degrees and they are quoting all this stuff, as if (and you use the word in your book) people like yourself are just alarmists?

Oreskes: “Well, I have tremendous sympathy for the ordinary citizen…. We have been victims of two things really; a systematic and organised disinformation campaign … and then we’ve also been the victims of a tremendous amount of false equivalence in the media…

“There are hundreds of millions of people around the globe… who will say to me, ‘Well, I read in the New York Times‘ or ‘I read in The Australian’ and then they will spout some nonsense, something that we know is factually incorrect, and yet it has been presented in the media as if it were somehow equivalent to actual scientific data…The media has done a huge disservice by perpetuating what are really lies—lies, misinformation, disinformation—that ordinary people read and think are true.”

Well said, Naomi, except that you’re now calling the IPCC crowd liars, since they’ve acknowledged the 15-year hiatus. (5AR, Policymakers Summary).

Williams, or the ABC (the official website isn’t specific) introduced the Oreskes episode on the Science Show with a big fib:

“The Earth’s climate is changing at the highest of predicted rates.”

In its draft for its Fifth Report, the IPCC showed actual temperatures running below the lowest bound of the IPCC forecasting. This graphic conveniently disappeared from the published report, replaced by this account:

However, an analysis of the full suite of CMIP5 [modeling] historical simulations … reveals that 111 out of 114 realisations [forecasts] show a GMST [global mean surface temperature] trend over 1998–2012 that is higher than the entire HadCRUT4 [actual temperature] trend ensemble …” Chapter 9, WG1, Box 9.2

In other words, actual temperatures are running lower than 97% of the forecast runs, not at “the highest of predicted rates” as claimed by The Science Show. Expect a correction from Robyn Williams any day (as I’ve put in an official complaint).

Oreskes finished her interview by claiming, improbably, that some readers of her Collapse wanted her bok to be longer. She explains,

“We didn’t want it to be too depressing, we didn’t want to go on and on and on, like 300 pages of misery, that really wouldn’t be any fun. So we are sort of hoping that the book, despite the fact that it’s a depressing topic, it’s actually we think kind of a fun read.”

Apart from the dead kittens, she means.

Flannery Rattles His Climate Cup


Remember how the Climate Council was going to work pro bono to counter sceptics, deniers, carbonistas and all the other planet-fouling monsters in the warmists’ bestiary of evildoers? It seems volunteer efforts now come with a price tag


beggarMore than a million dollars raised by crowd-funding late last year was clearly not enough for the non-taxpayer-funded Climate Council. The Council is successor to the taxpayer-funded Climate Commission, which ran on about $1.6m a year. Hence former Chief Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery now stars in an expensive-looking video for the Climate Council, rattling the can for more donations.

His goal, he says, is to counter the ‘unprecedented rise in climate denialism’ and respond with ‘the facts to call out these fringe views’. That’s why, he says, he wants urgent public donations “to support me and discredit deniers in the media”. Here is the full transcript of Flannery’s cup-rattling spiel:

“Right now we are witnessing an unprecedented rise in climate denialism in  the Australian media and politics. [Cuts to shot of ex-ABC chair Maurice Newman saying,  ‘I just look at the evidence. There is no evidence’.] Personally, I have never seen anything like it. [Montage of skeptic-looking press headlines]. Which is why the most powerful thing I can do is respond with the facts.

The Climate Council is the best placed group to call out these fringe views on all sides of the debate firmly and publicly. Which is why I am asking you to make an urgent donation to support me and discredit deniers in the media. It means we can add more capacity to our small group of staff and volunteers to rapidly respond  to misinformation in the daily media cycle with press releases, calls for corrections, fact based responses and briefings for journalists. We are at such a critical time, our action now will decide the kind of world our children will grow up in and as a father, this is what  drives me to keep fighting and this is why I am asking you to join me to make a difference.”

At first glance, the phrase ‘support me’ seems innocuous. He doubtless means, ‘support my cause’.  After all, Climate Council  councilors are working pro bono, according to Flannery last September. Notice him in the video below, gesturing to Climate Council offsiders Will Steffen and Gerry Hueston, and saying, “My two colleagues here, sitting on the bench –  three ugly mugs — we are volunteering our time to make all this happen.”

It’s an act of selflessness referenced on Wikipedia:

“In a YouTube video released on 24 September, Flannery revealed that the Council members were working pro bono. Flannery had previously been criticised for his $180,000 a year salary from the old Climate Commission.”

I am only a young-at-heart, perpetually naïve reporter for Quadrant Online, and it never crossed my mind that Flannery might be seeking your money for any but the most altruistic purposes. However, trolling through the Climate Council’s website, I came across this update (emphasis added):

“8. Are the Councilors volunteers or do they get paid for their time?
When the Climate Council was first set up, all Councilors committed to volunteer their time for six months, to ensure we could continue to produce authoritative, independent information about climate change following the abolition of the Climate Commission.

After the first six months, our Board decided that Councilors would receive remuneration for time spent on Council activities. This ensures we can continue to draw on the knowledge and experience of world-class experts to provide Australians with the best possible information on climate change.”

So there  it is. When Flannery asks you to support “me [Flannery]” he seems that he really does mean “me, Flannery.”

So what might Flannery be worth, or more correctly, what might he be paid by the Climate Council? As Chief Climate Commissioner, he trousered $180,000 a year from the Labor Government for three days work a week. Back-of-envelope calculation  and allowing for holidays etc, that’s $1300 a day.  And well deserved, too. As a climate celebrity/entertainer/all-round, world-class expert, he has entertained us with statements like,

The Australian Academy of Science was so impressed by these and other of the paleontologist’s climate-related revelations that it immediately made Flannery a fellow.

I admit, I don’t know what pay and expenses Messrs Flannery, Steffen and Hueston are drawing from the Climate Council. Nor do I know what percentage of supporters’ donations go towards keeping the councilors in the style to which they were accustomed under the Rudd/Gillard/Rudd regime. But to coin a phrase, your donations are fungible.

I hate to be self-referential, but this Quadrant Online piece is exactly the sort of misinformation that Flannery needs to combat with crowd-funded ‘fact based responses and briefings for journalists’.

Tony Thomas is available for climate briefings at the Flower Drum in Market Lane, Melbourne, any lunchtime well-wishers care to pay his bill. He blogs

A Letter From Naples: on graffiti

A trio of vandals deface a crowded train platform, raising neither eyebrow nor protest from the Italian commuters who watch them do it. Australians have reason to admire Italian culture — the museums, the history, the gilded palaces — but let us hope such indifference is one aspect we choose not to ape

naples train smallYesterday I was returning to our nice flat in a very run-down part of Naples near Garibaldi Square, after half a day at the Naples National Archaeology Museum. I decided to detour via the subway system to Montesanto because my map insisted there were some nice palaces there. This detour proved a damp squib because those palaces had disappeared centuries ago, although their names remained.

Eventually, I arrived at the right Montesanto platform for the trip home. It was packed with commuters, as it was about 5pm, and the subway trains are not at all frequent, every 20 minutes or so. The platforms on both sides were  clean, but youths were using my platform edge as seating, dangling their legs above the tracks. After a while one of them,  in his late teens and with red hair, pale skin, a New York University sweater and baggy pants, stood up and joined two mates. One was thin but very tall, the other swarthy and clad in a camouflage top. They were all only a metre or two from me.

The redhead was clutching some tubes, about half the size of a relay runner’s baton. One tube was giving him trouble as he tried to do something with the lid. Was something edible inside? Apparently not, as I next noticed a wad of cotton fall to the platform. He put it back in the tube. I was standing against the station’s  light-green Perspex-style wall. There were dozens of other would-be commuters around me, some standing and others filling seats against the wall.

Still struggling with the cap, the redhead moved to a rubbish bin inches from where I stood  and ground the top of the tube against it. He looked pleased when something blue came out. He took two steps towards the wall, between the bin and the first row of seated commuters.  This was a wall gap of only a metre.

With practised movements, he waved his arm at the wall (I couldn’t quite see what he was doing), stepped back, admired the wall, and took a few steps to the left to rejoin his two friends. They all seemed quite merry and animated.

Someone moved and I could see the wall. Previously pristine for the whole length of the platform, on it now was one of those mindless ‘tags’ — the scribbled letters P,W and C, in a squiggly pattern about half-a-metre square. I now saw that at least two of the trio were carrying handfuls of these tubes, king-sized felt-tip markers.  They made no attempt to conceal them.

I looked at the commuters to see how they were reacting to the wall being defaced at peak-hour right next to them. They would all be fully aware of what had happened but they studiously minded their own business, and acted as though the trio of graffitists was invisible. The trio was clearly on a graffiti mission, and my surmise was that they had been active for an hour or two. Surely, I thought, some of those studying their smartphones would tap out an alert to the station police? Obviously this wasn’t happening.

At that moment the train arrived and those still sitting on the platform edge pulled up their legs.

I found myself sandwiched among the three youths as we boarded. Thankfully they moved down-carriage a bit. From there they kept up a loud banter. I tried unsuccessfully to work out from their talk if they were native Napoli citizens or just visiting. I did make out some variant on ‘chi uccide’ — croaker, killer, zaps or some other unpleasant jargon.

When I stood up to get out at Central Station, once again I was sandwiched among the trio. They ignored me and formed a knot in the crowds heading for the stairs.

naples train

A typical Naples train carriage.

Even now, at Naples’ main station, they flourished their graffiti tools of trade. They moved purposefully, I guessed to some other line where they would continue their evening’s fun. Whatever police or officialdom was present, the trio obviously had no fear of them.

I wonder about it all. They did not seem particularly tough or threatening, although that’s not to say the other train-goers weren’t intimidated: who knows what else besides giant Textas they were armed with? Or were my fellow train-riders utterly indifferent to vandalism on their subway, in broad daylight among crowds?

Melbourne also has its train graffiti vandals, daubing their horrid tags on platforms and carriages and rigorously scratching train windows into an opaque mess. I recall a case a year or two ago where three  such vandals were caught and prosecuted — they had come from Adelaide on a spree  — and in a week or two, had vandalised hundreds of places on our train system. They had operated late at night.

Let’s hope Melbourne never gets to the pass where graffiti vandals do their work openly.

Tony Thomas, frequent contributor to Quadrant Online, is jaunting about Europe, More of his dispatches will follow

A Heathrow Horror in My Roamin’ Sandals


Travel broadens the mind, they say, but lost luggage, a broken ticket machine, and marathon dashes in stinky sandals through an airport’s obstacle course aren’t grist for an uplifting experience, as our roaming correspondent reports from London


luggageIt’s not like cancer, divorce or losing my home in a bushfire. It’s just that AirBerlin left my bag  at Frankfurt, and I’ve arrived at Heathrow. One day my bag and I will surely meet again. But on the personal-inconvenience scale, a missing bag rates very high. It’s as bad as a filling falling out,  or crumpling a tail-light on the spouse’s car, or barracking for St Kilda.

No-one else cares about me and my bag. Wordsworth summed it up: “But oh! The difference to me!

Many book and movie plots involve a suitcase full of cash or drugs that gets swapped with an innocent party’s luggage containing shirts and undies, but we all know that’s not real life. This is real life:

I’ve reached Baggage Claim at Heathrow Terminal 5. It’s 7.30pm on a Sunday and the terminal is no longer busy. I’ve been in taxis, airports and planes all day. My brain and body are sluggish. I’m worried about how to get to my budget hotel, somewhere in Paddington, before dark.

You know how it goes. Long wait, then a silent ‘Hooray!’ as your flight’s luggage trundles out from behind the black flappy curtain and onto the carousel. The first bags come in dribs and drabs, then cheerful clumps. The crowd steadily thins, while a small herd of unclaimed bags just goes round and round.

I am rational man, but by that stage I’m Emotional Man. (If you’re a female, treble the emotion).  I feel hope. My bag won’t be long now! Envy: look at that old bloke grabbing his sack of stuff. Great for him. GrrrRationality: AirBerlin MUST have transferred my bag, they had two hours at Frankfurt. Denial: Why me! No, not a second time on this trip! (Alitalia lost our bags at Naples for 18 hours). Regression: I so love my baggie-waggie. So soft and tied with a darling purple bow.Terror: the lost bag drama begins!

I  droop at baggage collection far longer than makes sense, then slouch to Baggage Inquiries. A gent is officially sympathetic. What’s my address?  he asks. I rootle through scads of papers. “Alexander Hotel, Paddington,” I say. No, he says, where am I from? That’s easy: Australia. No, where in Australia? Melbourne. No, Melbourne’s a big place, he explains patiently, do you have an address in Melbourne?

Oh, yes, I do…

After formalities and computer searching,  twilight becomes night. He brightens and tells me my bag has been discovered in Frankfurt and will be at Heathrow tomorrow morning. “Good,” I say, “keep it at Heathrow and I’ll collect it in two days because I’m flying then to Utah.” Just come straight to this desk and get it, he replies.

Only bother to read on if you can imagine yourself in my shoes, or to be exact, in my travel-worn and smelly sandals. At this stage, I wear a straw hat, a short-sleeved shirt, denim shorts originally from an op-shop, and a set of low-quality underwear. My school backpack contains stuff like tourist brochures, a baglet of electrical cords and a half-packet of cracker biscuits. I have planned a big day out in London’s high spots tomorrow.

I am already impressed by the British know-how that located, if not produced, my  bag. Days ago, I  booked  and paid for my Heathrow Connect train online and now I just need to punch a code in a machine at the platform to get my ticket. I have even done a virtual-reality trip to the machine on my iPad.  After some confusion, I find the actual platform and even find the actual machine, with ten minutes  before the  train goes. It only runs half-hourly and in my frazzled state I don’t want to miss it.

The machine has a sign, “Out of Order”. I rush about in all directions, not being hampered by a suitcase. I am told  to climb various levels, take various tunnels, avoid minotaurs and find the only human ticket office still open. Like an athlete, I achieve this feat, return and catch the train with a minute to spare.

My big day out in shorts and sandals is the National Gallery, the BP Portrait Prize at the National Portrait Gallery and an evening choral concert at St Martin’s in the Fields. St. Martin’s has a special sympathy for London’s misfits – they sleep on the pews nightly –  and I seem to be typecast as such. No-one looks at me oddly.

Next morning at Paddington, I am on the Heathrow Connect at 6.03 a.m., primed to grab my bag at the terminal and with time for all the US-dictated security checks for an A380 to Los Angeles, departing 9.40am.  At Heathrow, I realise that my Baggage Inquiry counter is now inside the security area and inaccessible, but I follow a sign to Lost Property. The entry door is shut till 7am, though my baggage gent had sworn it was a 24-hour facility. At 7 a.m. I burst in, waving my lost-bag  document. “You want Baggage Inquiries, not Lost Property,” the man says. “Go to the  far end down there.”

Down there, security is really tight. I provide my documents and bag code, and they phone someone from Baggage Inquiries who is to  become my minder and escort. My backpack fails the security check and is emptied to the last cracker biscuit. Any liquid at all must be isolated. A tube of blister ointment is the culprit.

By this time I fear the A380 boarding deadline. Bag Inquiry lady keys my code and frowns. I again become Emotional  Man. This can’t be happening to me! It is. There is no record of my bag reaching Heathrow.

She brightens. “See if it’s among last night’s unsorted bags near Unit 11.”

I find 50 luggage trolleys, each randomly stacked with bags, and jammed in several interlocked clumps. Of course, most bags are barely visible. I try to be methodical but speedy (not easy), dragging trolleys around and inspecting bottom layers. Another seeker is even more crazedly emotional  than I. We literally climb over the clumps. Every bag in the world is here except my soft beauty with its purple sash and his ordinary bag.

I now have less than an hour for my A380 check-in. I decide against re-directing my bag to the US. For sure, just as I get home to Melbourne, the bag will turn up at Salt Lake City. Send it to Tullamarine, I tell bag lady. She promises better: it will go all the way to my home.

I  expect to borrow enough cladding from my Utah friend to see me through there. But Size 11 shoes will be a problem for a globe-trotting sandalista.

On the A380, I have murderous thoughts towards my travel agent for that tight connection she gave me in Frankfurt. But chatting to the friendly A380 hostie, she mentions that there was a baggage computer hiccup just at the time my bag went missing. All the BA hosties had been warned, so none of them lost their bags. That hiccup probably created those 50 trolleys of lost luggage I had searched at Heathrow.

If fate so decrees, you too will lose your bags one day. With apologies to Shakespeare:

As flies to wanton boys are we to th’ baggage computers,
They kill us for their sport.”

UPDATE: On July 10 at Tullamarine, Qantas missing-bag lady informs me that my bag took an unauthorised vacation from Frankfurt to Dusseldorf. There, my bag enjoyed the ambience so much that it defeated two attempts by Baggage Computer to return it to London. It was reluctantly en route to London today, to be forwarded thence to my sweet home in Melbourne.

Tony Thomas blogs at

Big Green Hypocrites — Part I


When you next notice a green group waging war on some or other Big Carbon outfit don’t for a moment believe that the motive is altruism. Follow the money and you’re likely to find that donations from one vile corporate polluter are underwriting those eco activist assaults on a competitor


greenpeaceGroups like Greenpeace ooze virtue.  They save whales, pet the pandas and strive to lift the world’s poor out of poverty. Oh, better strike that last bit.

India’s federal Intelligence Bureau has reported that Greenpeace-led anti-development activists are currently harming that nation’s economy to the tune of 2-3% of GDP, or $US125 billion, per annum. There are about 370m Indians living in poverty, and they are hardly being helped by Greenpeace campaigns against cheap coal-fired power, nuclear power, giant new industrial complexes, genetically modified foods, palm oil imports, and Indian (but not American) IT firms, as described by the Intelligence Bureau.

The government responded last month by effectively stopping foreign money coming in to fund Greenpeace. The   Intelligence Bureau report was  headed, “Concerted efforts by select foreign funded NGOs to ‘take down’ Indian development projects”. In the first paragraphs, the Bureau highlights Greenpeace International as a leading instigator. “The negative impact on GDP growth is assessed to be 2-3% p.a.,” the Bureau says in bolded type. The text suggests that Greenpeace and its allies are knocking India’s GDP growth down from 8-9% to the actual 6-7% p.a.

The Bureau accuses Western NGOs of pretending to be care about poverty, human rights etc., while noting that Greenpeace  openly devotes its whole agenda to campaigns that wreak economic harm. “Anti-coal activism is spearheaded by US-based ‘green’ organisations and Greenpeace, which have formed a ‘Coal Network’  to take-down India’s 455 proposed Coal-Fired Power Plants (520GW),” the Bureau alleges. For comparison with that 520GW, know that total Australian capacity is about 60GW.

As well as attacking industry, Greenpeace in 2014 moved to attack India’s thriving information technology sector by campaigning against IT firms e-waste disposals. According to the Bureau, Greenpeace first campaigned against IT firms e-waste in 2007, but that effort failed in terms of both PR and eroding the companies’ earnings. “Greenpeace has now renewed its campaign … in order to internationally highlight that Indian IT firms are yet to be on par with global standards with regard to e-waste management and disposal…”

Big Green Hypocrites — Part II

Interestingly, as the report continues, Greenpeace Bangalore has focused its attention only on Indian IT firms, while raising no fuss in regard to MNC (multi-national) IT firms such as Dell, Cisco etc, which also generate e-wastes of similar magnitude in India.

The Bureau describes a complex, India-wide web of anti-nuclear GOs as “one ‘Superior Network’ prominently driven by Greenpeace and renowned activists.” It continues: “Greenpeace has been growing exponentially in terms of reach and impact, volunteers, movements it supports and media influence. Activists have been focused on ways to create obstacles in India’s coal based energy plans and methods to pressure India to use only renewable energy.”

As a curiosity, the Bureau alleges that the anti-GM-food campaign in India was initiated in 2003 by a Greenpeace Australia consultant.

Greenpeace worldwide is  such a giant that one “well-intentioned, if reckless” employee  lost $US5 million of Greenpeace funds last year on currency speculation. So what? Greenpeace last month spent $US22m on a new mega-yacht. Its fleet of six ocean-going ships is bigger than the navies of some island states.

Greenpeace has 3 million supporters/donors. Over 12 years, it has raised $US2.4b, or $US200m a year. Its 2013 global income was $USD400m.

In June, Greenpeace’s  international programme director, Pascal Husting, was outed for flying several times a month from his home in Luxembourg to offices in Amsterdam, a distance of 360km, equivalent to Melbourne/Swan Hill. UK Greenpeace head John Sauven defended Husting, saying it was a justified compromise to emit some  extra CO2 emissions “in your efforts to try to make the world a better place.”

Greenpeace donors probably don’t comprehend how much their dollars fund politics, rather than animal conservation. An  example of Greenpeace’s political  influence involves how the BBC presents its climate coverage. In January, 2006, BBC reps met with 28 supposed “best scientific experts” who persuaded the Beeb to abandon the impartiality enshrined in its charter and dump all skeptic views.  There followed a seven-year struggle by BBC lawyers to prevent the public learningwho those 28 scientific “experts” were. The names finally emerged by accident. They included Greenpeace’s Blake Lee-Harwood, head of campaigns, and Li Moxuan, another of the organisation’s professional campaigners. The others represented a heap of activists (e.g. from “Stop Climate Chaos”) and conflict-of-interest candidates (such as BP and traders in CO2), and even a rep from the US Embassy (blush, Great Britain). Only three of the 28 were climate scientists. Is it any wonder the BBC had put so much effort into the attempted cover-up of the influence Greenpeace and other green groups exerted on its news coverage and operations.

Until the Climategate email saga of 2009, the Climate Research Unit of the University of East Anglia was a top player in the warmist world, but has had a lower profile since its director Professor Phil Jones was exposed for his curious ways of doing science. In a neat pairing, British Petroleum and Greenpeace International are both acknowledged on the unit’s website as funders. Greenpeace makes a show of rejecting and condemning  government and corporate money. Greenpeace does, however, take licks of money from the Rockefeller Foundation, beneficiary of the Standard Oil fortune.

Greenpeace also has no objection to working in tandem with the World Wildlife Fund and WWF’s government/corporate money. The stock accusation thrown at climate sceptics is that they’re funded by the Fossil Fuel Barons. By contrast, or so the stock line goes, people saving the planet from carbon dioxide work selflessly while shunning money from dastardly Big Oil.

Let’s look a little deeper. The main sceptic think-tank in the US is the Heartland Institute. The accounts of this Goliath, “the heart of the climate denial machine” were exposed in 2012 by environmentalist Dr Peter Gleick, chair of a science ethical taskforce, who got the internal documents by fraudulent emails in which he impersonated a Heartland board member. He also distributed an extra Heartland “document” which proved to be a forgery. Gleick issued a groveling apology and was reinstated to his day job by a forgiving employer, the Pacific Institute, of which he happened to be a co-founder.

Heartland’s 2011 revenue proved to be $US4.6m, of which maybe a third, or $US1.5m,  was spent on climate-skeptic issues — Heartland also deals with many topics like health, education and deregulation. US Government budget funding alone for the Catastrophic Human-Caused Global Warming Hypothesis   totaled $US131 billion in the period between  2001-14 (as reckoned in 2012 constant dollars), and tax breaks for anti-CO2 energy initiatives totalled $US176 billion (in constant 2007 dollars), according to the Congressional Research Service. Budget spending is now running at $US11 billion a year, and tax breaks at about $US20 billion a year.

Global spending on CO2 abatement is now about $US1 billion per day — repeat, per day — which green group Climate Policy Initiative says is “far below even the most conservative estimates of investment needs”. Comparing these various numbers, could anyone seriously suggest that Heartland’s $1.5m a year promoting sceptic views is significant?

But what’s this? The venerable US anti-CO2 and environmental group Sierra Club took $US25 million in gas-industry funding just from 2007-10, mainly from gas-fracker Chesapeake Energy. So, why would Chesapeake donate to a premier US green group? To help the Sierra Club campaign against Chesapeake’s rivals in the coal industry, that’s why. Oer roughly the same period, BP  donated $US10m to The Nature Conservancy environmental group.

These days Royal Dutch Shell is proud to say it is  lobbying the World Bank and US Export Import Bank against coal-fired power  for developing countries, in favor of its own plentitude of natural gas. It justifies this commercial agenda – which directly attacks poor people needing cheap power – on the basis that gas  power will reduce CO2 emissions. The two banks in turn have cut back their subsidies to coal-fired plants – a great success for the Big Oil/Big Green alliance.

WWF, headquartered in Gland, Switzerland, is the most powerful environment group in the world, hauling in revenues of about $A720m a year. The US head of WWF, Carter Roberts, was paid $US486,394 in 2008, and we can probably assume he has pocketed more pay rises since. WWF has 5 million members, including 80,000 in Australia, who give their savings to the organisation with the cuddly-panda logo. But don’t get dewy-eyed. Prince Bernhard of the Netherlands was WWF founding president. According to Der Spiegel, the Prince recruited oil multinational Shell as his first major sponsor, getting 10,000 pounds, or $US663,000 in today’s money. In 1967, thousands of birds died after a tanker accident off the coast of France, and yet the WWF forbade all criticism. That could “jeopardize” future efforts to secure donations from certain industrial sectors, WWF officials said during a board meeting.

In 1970 the Prince established the WWF’s “1001 Club”. Each of  the 1001 donated $US10,000,  creating a $US10m WWF trust.

Ann O’Hanlon, of the Washington Monthly, wrote: “The secret list of members includes a disproportionate percentage of South Africans, all too happy in an era of social banishment to be welcomed into a socially elite society. Other contributors include businessmen with suspect connections, including organized crime, environmentally destructive development, and corrupt African politics. Even an internal report called WWF’s approach egocentric and neocolonialist.” Der Spiegel helpfully named arms dealer Adnan Khashoggi and former Zairian dictator Mobutu Sese Seko as 1001 Club donors.

WWF took oil money for the next 40 years. Worth noting: John Loudon was president of Shell for 15 years, then moved on to become  president of WWF International for four years. In addition, WWF got so much in grants from the German government that, in the 1990s, it decided to limit its government funding, lest people think it part of the public service. All the same, WWF in the two years between 2007-08 received $US212m  from governments and aid agencies. Companies pay million-dollar-plus fees just to use the WWF logo on their ‘green’ products. One backer is agri-chemical giant Monsanto, a great Satan to eco activists, which has kicked in $US100,000.

WWF raised $US3.1b just between 2003 and 2008, equal to $US500m a year.   It employs armies of lawyers, IT and PR people, ad agencies and strategists, and operates from glitzy buildings. Last year it hired Clear, a strategy consultancy owned by M&C Saatchi, “to focus on developing its brand in Australia.” According to its Australian  website, WWF employs Marni Ryan as “National Manager of Brand, Marketing and Innovation”. In Canada, WWF ran an ad last year featuring a four-year-old child, Quinn, whose parents gave him, as a  birthday present, a $C110 WWF voucher  to help animals. Investigator Donna Laframboise doubts the kid or his activist parents knew they were indirectly contributing to the salary of a “WWF National Manager of Brand, Marketing and Innovation”.

WWF cash also goes to the private research institute, TERI, of IPCC chairman Rajendra Pachauri, TERI’s founder and chief executive. Pachauri is meant to run the IPCC as an impartial arbiter of science. Yet his institute took the WWF money even after the IPCC’s 2007 report came out containing the melting Himalayan glaciers howlers based on a WWF report which, in turn, was based on third-hand speculation.

Some green organisations practice hypocrisy on stilts. One of them is the curiously-titled Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), which has 400,000 members. These members comprise anyone prepared to pay $US35   (at least one dog, named Kenji Watts, has been signed up – UCS wrote to Kenji saying, ‘Your passion about the issues helps motivate policymakers and business leaders to take positive steps…”).

In 2012 UCS issued a 72-page report, “A Climate of Corporate Control: How Corporations Have Influenced the U.S. Dialogue on Climate Science and Policy”. The report lambasted GE among others, for funding four skeptic groups, including the Reason Foundation.  It turned out that GE – latest net earnings $US13 billion –  merely had a policy to match employees’ charity donations. In the case of Reason Foundation, GE’s total subsidy in 2008 was $US225 and in 2009, $US100. Wow. However, similar GE matching money to the tune of $US6,980 went to UCS itself,  21 times more than   Reason Foundation received.

It gets better. The UCS report was a project of its ‘scientific integrity program’, part-funded by the Grantham Foundation. This foundation is the child of hedge-fund tycoon Jeremy Grantham, whose fund, as of 2011, owned $1.5 billion of fossil-fuel shares, along with another swag of stock in tobacco giant Phillip Morris.

So, what we have here is a critique of corporations, such as GE, influencing politics, but written by a group taking funds from Big Oil and Big Tobacco and GE.