The COVID-19 Pandemic has made the objectives of climate change activists questionable, and the need to maintain traditional energy operations, including those for coal, paramount, both for the maintenance of cheap energy and good jobs, at a time when both are needed.
Rapid Change: A Brief Story Of A No-Coal Movement Fueled By A Fossil Fuel Investor.
The pace of change in our collective lives has been at a rate thought unthinkable as recently as just six months ago. Then, and over the past five years, climate change activists in Oakland and Richmond, California, and in the State of Washington, have realized relatively successful attempts to block the operation and development of terminals that were either specific to coal or had coal as part of a commodity mix.
The latter was certainly true for the Insight Terminal Solutions Oakland Bulk and Oversized Terminal. The bulk terminal nick-named “OBOT” started as a dream in the eyes of Port of Oakland officials in the early 90s, and was later resurfaced as a development idea in 2008 by Phil Tagami, the Managing Partner of California Capital Investment Group.
The City of Oakland, seeking a developer to build a replacement for the closed Oakland Army Base, picked Phil’s proposal for a bulk terminal, then hired The Tioga Group to identify a commodity that had a sufficient market size to allow the OBOT to be able to economically sustain itself. That commodity was coal.
But from the start, Phil Tagami did not want to build a common, old style, polluting terminal – he wanted to build a high-tech, state of the art, low emissions bulk terminal. So, after a failed relationship with a firm that refused to employ covered hopper cars, Mr. Tagami found a kindred sprit in John Siegel, the CEO of Insight Terminal Solutions. Unfortunately, Phil’s good fortune in meeting Mr. Siegel was countered by the bad fortune of the City of Oakland’s sudden reversal in its position and role in the project.
Pushed by the then-new-and-emerging political force that is Tom Steyer, a small cottage industry of non-profit activists groups formed, all committed to curbing the climate change threat via its own collective, relentless, logic: that the best answer was to shut down all fossil fuel use and production. The activists cared none about finding jobs for the workers in the fossil fuel use and production industry; their focus was shockingly simplistic, and described two words: “no coal.”
That view, that cry of “no coal”, wiped out any interest in applications of technology that would serve to reduce emissions at various points in the chain of energy production. It cared not for the plight of the coal workers in the United States. And it came with the idea, though no true proof, that alternative energy was both cheaper and more abundant than the use of coal to produce energy.
Armed with nothing but the two word battle cry and millions of dollars of Tom Steyer’s money, activists showed up both at political rallies and online to protest. But Steyer gave the climate change activists help by seeding his hard-earned, fossil fuel investment-generated money to Democratic politicians, particularly in California – and to the tune of a reported $60 million.
In Oakland, Steyer gave Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf $500,000 for her Oakland Promise effort. Meanwhile, The Daily Caller, a conservative blog ran by Fox News’ Tucker Carlson, asserted that Steyer made a deal with Schaaf to have Oakland form a multi-city lawsuit against “Big Oil” companies. Why? Because Steyer believed “Big Oil” was singularly responsible for the climate change problem. Not surprisingly, the lawsuit crashed and burned.
Then, the City of Oakland tried to pass something called “The Coal Ban” and it’s Oakland City Council did do that, only to be countered by a lawsuit filed by Mr. Tagami. Why? Because, as the City of Oakland was the co-developer of the OBOT, it had not only found coal for the OBOT project, it signed development agreements allowing Tagami and Siegel to build the OBOT.
The City of Oakland’s strategy was so under-handed, it even claimed it did not know coal was involved in OBOT to 2015 and tried to deny the existence of the Tioga Group Report. Not surprisingly, Phil won his lawsuit, but the City of Oakland then tried another under-handed tactic to stop OBOT: claiming that the whole effort was a violation of the land lease. That bogus claim is being challenged in court by Tagami as this is written.
Then Comes The COVID-19 Pandemic And The World Has Shifted
The COVID-19 Pandemic has shut down society as we know it. People can’t go out and visit each other or congregate for fear of contracting a virus that there is no cure for. Las Vegas, America’s most popular tourist city outside of Honolulu, has shut down. People from around America and the World have stopped going there.
Meanwhile, the once-vaunted worldwide renewable energy sector is taking a hit, as CSO Magazine reported “The virus may, in fact, be having a deleterious effect on the progress of renewables as a whole. Industry leader GE Renewable Energy reportedly confirmed that Covid-19 has struck off US$200mn to $300mn in profits across its business in Q1.. Meanwhile, solar projects in the US are being slowed to a crawl, with some considering cancellation as the only viable economic stance in the wake of such unforeseeable circumstances.”
And this dramatic slow down has caused many to look at the need to maintain our current energy grid; the calls to shut down that grid for emissions concerns have fallen. Moreover, this change has revealed some climate change activists to be something like the grim reaper, hoping for more businesses stoppages and layoffs under the idea that such reduced activity will cause a decrease in air pollution. While that’s true, it’s the work of pure evil to want others to die in a pandemic just to achieve lower emissions objectives. Yet, there are some who seem to be wishing for just that.
Take the words of Clare Nullis, the World Meteorological Organization Spokesperson, who told UN News, the United Nations Publication “2020 has started out where 2019 left off, with record temperatures. It was the warmest January on record in Europe). Obviously, the impact on carbon dioxide emissions will depend on the global economic slowdown as a result of the coronavirus,” Ms. Nullis added, noting that it was still “early days. A lot depends on…the repercussions on international transport. The international aviation industry is reportedly facing a $113 billion loss in sales due to the virus this year, according to projections. Any sort of depression in economic activity…reduction in electricity production from coal-powered plants, a reduction in transport, will make a difference”, Ms. Nullis said. “But we also need to look at efficiency gains. If these plants are running at half-capacity, or if you’ve got planes flying which are a quarter full, that’s not really going to make a big impact.”
Note there was not a word of concern for the people behind the “global economic slowdown as a result of the coronavirus”. It comes off as if she’s cheering for the economic world to collapse and for people to die, all just to realize a drop in carbon emissions. And in case you’re wondering, the entire UN News article was called “COVID-19: countries, businesses must safeguard human rights as virus spreads: Bachelet.” But the article had nothing to do with human rights concerns – say for gay rights in Brunai – and everything to do with climate change and the presentation of the “grim reaper” view of Clare Nullis.
What Happens To Our Economy And Energy Supplies During A Pandemic? A Paper Answers That Question.
What happens to our economy during a pandemic is answered in a 2008 paper called “Pandemic Influenza, Electricity, and the Coal Supply Chain : Addressing Crucial Preparedness Gaps in the United States”, written by Nicholas S. Kelley, MSPH, and Michael T. Osterholm, PhD, MPH, at the Center For Infectious Disease Research And Policy at the University of Minnesota.
The University of Minnesota researchers explained that:
This paper is the first attempt to conceptualize the potential impact of an influenza pandemic on electricity in the United States, specifically on the supply of coal, and the subsequent danger to public health.
The world has never experienced a pandemic during the just‐in‐time global economy. Today’s supply chains lack surge capacity—the ability to quickly scale-up to meet demands. During an influenza pandemic, the number of illnesses and deaths worldwide will inevitably cause problems throughout supply chains. Worker
absenteeism (whether from illness, fear, need to care for dependents or loved ones, or lack of ability to
travel) and disruptions in international and domestic travel will affect every facet of supply chains that
deliver the critical products we depend on for immediate health and safety, such as electricity and, in turn, water supplies and sewage systems, food, prescription drugs, and community safety. So interwoven are these products and services in our lives today, their availability is simply taken for granted.
Most of the critical lifesaving drugs found in every hospital, for example, are produced outside of the United States, particularly in China and India. A pandemic will likely seriously disrupt the international supply chain of these pharmaceutical products, from the synthesis of an active ingredient in a facility in Asia to delivery of the finished drug to a hospital pharmacy in the United States.
We can also expect to run short of supplies of products used to prevent and control the spread of infectious agents . During the 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), for example, there were shortages of medical products such as N‐95 respirators (Lim 2004). The problems with medical supply shortages during the SARS epidemic, which did not spread beyond a few countries or continue for a long period, will pale in comparison to what can be expected during an influenza pandemic, as regions will not be able to resupply one another during waves of outbreaks in which no area will be spared. Clearly, the just‐in‐time supply‐chain dynamics have made pandemic preparedness a complicated issue in the 21ˢᵗ century.
The importance of electricity
Electricity is the underpinning of society in developed countries. But our dependence is rarely recognized, except during occasional electrical blackouts when production lines at manufacturing plants shut down, computer systems go offline, and cities grow dark. Fortunately these events are very rare and short‐lived in most developed countries. While the consequences of any power outages can bebroad, this paper focuses on the public health effects.
We recognize that approximately 2 billion people in the world do not have access to a stable supply of electricity. However, these people still use products or services that come from parts of the
world that do have electricity. For example, many regions of the world in which electricity is intermittent
or unavailable depend on vaccines produced in factories that use electricity.
When one considers public health preparedness, the availability of electricity generally is not considered a factor of concern for public health planners. Electricity is typically regarded as reliable and is, in most instances, available for all public health needs. Whether planning for influenza vaccination clinics, investigating outbreaks of a foodborne disease, or responding to a bioterrorism event, public health workers almost always assume that the lights will be on and power available. For disaster scenarios that would compromise electricity, such as after a hurricane, planning activities take into account the loss of power. Most pandemic planning activities, however, do not consider the potential for the loss of electricity.
In Short, A Healthy Coal Supply Chain Is Necessary If America Is To Recover From A Pandemic.
In short, the 66-page report explains that any disruption in the supply of coal will harm America’s ability to fuel coal-fuled power plants, thus resulting in energy disruptions and possibly more loss of life.
In other words, it’s a good idea to drop the coal ban, and a better idea to make sure our current supply chain is functioning properly.
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