As of January 2022, Koch Industries Had Invested $1.7 Billion into Renewable-Energy Infrastructure

(p. B10) Norwegian startup Freyr Battery and energy conglomerate Koch Industries Inc. are accelerating their plan to build a multibillion-dollar battery plant that will be among the largest to tap incentives in President Biden’s climate, tax and spending plan, Freyr said.

. . .

Koch has emerged as one of the biggest investors in batteries, a turnabout from its emphasis on fossil fuels. It has said it wants to benefit from the falling cost of renewable-energy technologies and help drive it down further. As of January [2022], it had invested a total of $1.7 billion into electric batteries, energy storage and solar-power infrastructure, according to its website.

The plan is unusual among battery projects in being dedicated primarily to the energy-storage market rather than electric vehicles.

For the full story, see:

Stephen Wilmot. “Koch Teams Up on Battery Plant.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 12, 2022): B10.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date November 11, 2022, and has the title “Koch Teams With Startup to Build Giant Battery Factory.”)

Philosopher Argues That Human Flourishing Has Grown With “Access to Fossil Fuels”

(p. C13) The brilliance of Alex Epstein’s recent “Fossil Future” is that he writes not as a scientific expert but as a philosopher.

. . .

What is the best course of action to improve human flourishing? His answer is clear and unapologetic: more plentiful, reliable, abundant access to fossil fuels. The climate-disaster-related death rate, he points out, is 98% lower today than it was just a century ago—largely owing to innovations powered by fossil fuels. The right way to handle climate change isn’t to reverse it but to master its effects—a thesis that is as provocative as it is intuitive.

For the full review, see:

Vivek Ramaswamy. “12 Months of Reading; Vivek Ramaswamy.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2021): C13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 8, 2022, and has the title “Who Read What in 2022: Thinkers and Tastemakers.”)

The book praised by Vivek Ramaswamy is:

Epstein, Alex. Fossil Future: Why Global Human Flourishing Requires More Oil, Coal, and Natural Gas–Not Less. New York: Portfolio, 2022..

Heat Deaths Rise Mostly Due to Rise in Fragile Aging Population

(p. A17) One recent and much-cited Lancet report appears deliberately deceptive.

The study offers a frightening statistic: Rapidly rising temperatures have increased annual global heat deaths among older people by 68% in less than two decades. That stark figure has been cited all over, from the BBC and Time to the Washington Post and the Times of India, the world’s largest-selling English-language daily.

. . .

Annual heat deaths have increased significantly among people 65 and older world-wide. The average deaths per year increased 68% from the early 2000s to the late 2010s. But that is almost entirely because there are so many more older people today than there were 20 years ago, in no small part thanks to medical innovations that keep us alive longer. Measured across the same time span the Lancet maps heat deaths, the number of people 65 and older has risen by 60%, or almost as much as heat deaths. When the increase in heat mortality is adjusted for this population growth, the actual rise that can be attributed to rising temperatures is only 5%.

It is hard not to see the Lancet study’s failure to adjust this figure as a deliberate act of deception.

For the full commentary, see:

Bjorn Lomborg. “The Lancet’s ‘Heat Death’ Deception.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, November 5, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 4, 2022, and has the title “Climate Change and the Lancet’s ‘Heat Death’ Deception.”)

Religiosity of Some Environmentalists Obscures Unsettled Science on Climate-Change Questions

(p. C13) The emerging religiosity in the climate-change debate obscures the diversity of questions at issue. Are global surface temperatures indeed rising to problematic levels? Are human beings principally responsible for this effect, and can they reasonably reverse it by altering their behaviors? Steven E. Koonin, in “Unsettled” (2021), has shown that the answers to these questions are far more complicated than we’ve been led to believe.

For the full review, see:

Vivek Ramaswamy. “12 Months of Reading; Vivek Ramaswamy.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2021): C13.

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 8, 2022, and has the title “Who Read What in 2022: Thinkers and Tastemakers.”)

The book praised by Vivek Ramaswamy is:

Koonin, Steven E. Unsettled: What Climate Science Tells Us, What It Doesn’t, and Why It Matters. Dallas, TX: BenBella Books, 2021.

“Woke” Bankman-Fried’s FTX Played “Dumb Game” of Virtue Signaling

(p. A17) There was a time when people engaged in doing good addressed problems that, so to speak, you could get your arms around, such as improving school performance, providing potable water or preventing malaria. But at some point, the impulse to do good transformed into a combination of moral tendentiousness and grandiosity.

. . .

. . ., inside the Bankman-Fried fairy tale rests a smaller tipping point, which suggests his generation senses that their preachy elders may have led them down a moral garden path.

In an exchange with Mr. Bankman-Fried, a writer for Vox asserts, “You were really good at talking about ethics.” He replied that “I had to be” because of “this dumb game we woke westerners play where we say all the right shibboleths and so everyone likes us.”

He is describing what has come to be known in our time as virtue signaling, . . .

For the full commentary, see:

Daniel Henninger. “WONDER LAND; The Moral Vanity of FTX.” The Wall Street Journal (Thursday, December 1, 2022): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date November 30, 2022, and has the title “WONDER LAND; The Moral Vanity of Sam Bankman-Fried.”)

Rising Costs from Hurricane Damage Reflect Rising Development in Hurricane-Prone Areas

(p. A10) Stephen Strader, who studies the geography of disasters at Villanova University, calls the increased development in areas vulnerable to hurricanes the “expanding bull’s-eye effect.” As the target — the number of people, homes and businesses in a vulnerable area — grows, the potential for storms to cause costly damage increases. “There’s more things in the path of these hurricanes than there’s ever been,” he said.

. . .

In 2017, Hurricane Harvey lingered over the Houston area for days, dropping more than 50 inches of rain in some places. The storm ultimately cost an estimated $149 billion — more, in inflation-adjusted dollars, than any other hurricane since 1980 besides Katrina in 2005.

This ongoing property development in the parts of the U.S. that are most at risk of hurricane damage also created an additional risk, destroying the natural barriers that would otherwise help protect coastal areas from the storms. In Florida, “hardened” waterfront properties have replaced “spongelike” wetlands and mangroves that were more able to absorb storm surges and rainfall, as Strader has explained.

For the full commentary, see:

Ian Prasad Philbrick and Ashley Wu. “Population Growth Makes Hurricanes More Costly.” The New York Times (Monday, December 5, 2022): A10.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 2, 2022, and has the title “Population Growth Is Making Hurricanes More Expensive.”)

Entrepreneur Kerns’s Internal-Combustion-Engine Electric Generators Gave Power to the People

(p. A21) Robert D. Kern, a mechanical engineer who in the mid-1950s started a company in a garage making portable backup power generators and then transformed the business into an industry leader known as Generac, selling it in 2006 for an estimated $1 billion, died on Nov. 8 [2022] in Waukesha, Wis.

. . .

“The company is way beyond anything we dreamed about,” Mr. Kern said in an interview with the Grainger College of Engineering at the University of Illinois, his alma mater. “My vision was incredibly small compared to what it became, but tenacity is what it is all about.”

He and his wife and a few investors started the business after the rise of the airline industry had cost Mr. Kern his job making motors for railroad cars. Generac became a leading developer, manufacturer and marketer of portable and backup electric generators for homes and industry.

Today, Generac, based in Waukesha, about 18 miles west of Milwaukee, accounts for roughly 75 percent of standby home generator sales in the United States.

. . .

Mr. Kern was hired by the Waukesha Motor Company to design generators for combustion engines to be used on railway passenger cars. With the growth of the jet airline industry, rail travel in the United States plummeted, and Mr. Kern’s division was eliminated.

But remaining passionate about internal combustion engines, he decided to adapt developing technologies in generators for potential new markets and establish his own company to reach them.

In 1954, with his wife as the new company’s bookkeeper, he began making portable generators for recreational vehicles and for farmers and construction crews out of a garage in the village of Wales, Wis., about 28 miles west of Milwaukee. The business, originally called Electric Controls Inc., marketed the gear through Sears under the Craftsman brand. It became Generac in 1959, combining the word generation with AC.

. . .

Generac also developed an affordable backup generator for home emergencies and then expanded the business to produce permanent emergency generators for the commercial and industrial markets.

In 1967, the Generac factory in Waukesha burned to the ground, but with help from the local community, production resumed six days later, and the plant was rebuilt in seven weeks, without layoffs.

For the full obituary, see:

Sam Roberts. “Robert D. Kern, 96, Engineer Whose Idea For Portable Generators Produced Riches.” The New York Times (Thursday, November 24, 2022): A21.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the obituary has the date Nov. 22, 2022, and has the title “Robert D. Kern, 96, Whose Emergency Generators Produced Riches, Dies.”)

Corrupt and Bankrupt FTX Got Higher ESG Rating for “Leadership and Governance” Than Exxon Mobil

(p. A14) Crypto dark knight Sam Bankman-Fried may have deceived investors, customers and various journalists and politicians. But now the FTX founder is at least telling the truth about a few things. Lo, he says that environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing is a fraud, and so was his progressive public posturing.

. . .

“Problems were brewing. Larger than I realized,” he tweeted. “In the future, I’m going to care less about the dumb, contentless, ‘good actor’ framework,” he added. “What matters is what you do—is *actually* doing good or bad, not just *talking* about doing good or *using ESG language*.”

Mr. Bankman-Fried is also acknowledging that he genuflected to regulators and Democratic lawmakers to win political protection. ESG ratings company Truvalue Labs even gave FTX a higher score on “leadership and governance” than Exxon Mobil, though the crypto exchange had only three directors on its board.

For the full editorial, see:

The Editorial Board. “Sam Bankman-Fried, ESG Truth-Teller.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Nov. 18, 2022): A14.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the editorial has the date November 17, 2022, and has the title “Sam Bankman-Fried Becomes an ESG Truth-Teller.”)

Auto Experts Are Skeptical of EVs, but Are Afraid “So They Can’t Speak Out Loudly”

(p. A1) “People involved in the auto industry are largely a silent majority,” Mr. Toyoda said to reporters during a visit to Thailand. “That silent majority is wondering whether EVs are really OK to have as a single option. But they think it’s the trend so they can’t speak out loudly.”

. . .

(p. A6) The world’s biggest auto maker has said it sees hybrids, a technology it invented with the debut of the Toyota Prius in the 1990s, as an important option when EVs remain expensive and charging infrastructure is still being built out in many parts of the world. It is also developing zero-emission vehicles powered by hydrogen.

“Because the right answer is still unclear, we shouldn’t limit ourselves to just one option,” Mr. Toyoda said. Over the past few years, Mr. Toyoda said, he has tried to convey this point to industry stakeholders, including government officials—an effort he described as tiring at times.

Global car companies have made a sharp pivot to electric vehicles within the last few years, driven in part by the success of EV-only maker Tesla Inc.

. . .

At the same time, the legacy auto makers have a much broader base of customers, including many living in rural areas and developing economies with unreliable electricity supplies.

And their gas-engine businesses are still driving the bulk of profits needed to fund the costly shift to electric vehicles, which not only requires the development of new models but also construction of new facilities and battery plants.

The infrastructure to charge electric vehicles is meanwhile still lacking in the U.S. and many other parts of the world, making owning an EV still a challenge for many types of consumers.

. . .

Ryan Gremore, an Illinois-based dealer, who owns several brand franchises, said he gets a lot of customers inquiring about EVs, in part because of limited supplies.

That might give the impression of robust demand, but it is unclear how it will materialize when inventory levels at dealerships normalize, he added. “Is there interest in electric vehicles? Yes. Is it more than 10% to 15% of our customer base? No way,” Mr. Gremore said.

Mr. Toyoda’s long-held skepticism about a fully electric future has been shared by others in the Japanese car industry, as well.

Mazda Motor Corp. executives once cautioned that whether EVs were cleaner depends largely on where the electricity is produced. They also worried that EV batteries were too big and expensive to replace gas-powered models and better suited to the types of smaller vehicles that Americans didn’t want.

For the full story, see:

River Davis and Sean McLain. “Toyota Skeptical of Going All-EV.” The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Dec. 19, 2022 ): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was updated Dec. 18, 2022, and has the title “Toyota Chief Says ‘Silent Majority’ Has Doubts About Pursuing Only EVs.”)

Smil Shows How Fossil Fuels “Are Indispensable to Feeding the World”

(p. C6) In “How the World Really Works” the distinguished Canadian environmental scientist Vaclav Smil distills a lifetime of erudition.

. . .

Mr. Smil describes the massive extent to which fossil fuels are required to extract and produce the core materials—ammonia-based fertilizers, steel, cement and plastics—that are indispensable to feeding the world and building the machines and infrastructure on which modern economies depend.

. . .

Within the realm of the possible, he writes, “one thing remains certain” about transitioning to renewable energy: “It will not be (it cannot be) a sudden abandonment of fossil carbon, nor even its rapid demise—but rather its gradual decline.”

For the full review, see:

William Barr. “12 Months of Reading; William Barr.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 10, 2021): C6.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date December 8, 2022, and has the title “Who Read What in 2022: Political and Business Leaders.”)

The book praised by William Barr is:

Smil, Vaclav. How the World Really Works: The Science Behind How We Got Here and Where We’re Going. New York: Viking, 2022.

How to Resist the Heat Death Implied by the Second Law of Thermodynamics

When I was a young philosophy student I sometimes worried that the Second Law of Thermodynamics ultimately made meaningless all human perseverance toward progress. Physics Nobel laureate Frank Wilczek gives young philosophers reasons for hope.

(p. C4) The capstone of thermodynamics is its so-called Second Law, . . ., which states that entropy, a measure of disorder, increases over time—distinctive structure erodes. Featureless equilibrium is the state of maximum entropy, toward which the Second Law drives us.

The inexorable logic of the Second Law leads, in the long run, to a bland universe wherein nothing changes—that is, heat death.

. . .

There are several ways that our distant descendants, or other embodiments of mind in the universe, might resist heat death. Here are some ideas that occurred to me . . .:

First, it is probably possible to burn matter further than stars do. Stars rearrange protons and neutrons but do not change their overall number. Burning those particles would give access to hundreds of times more energy. Another (barely) conceivable form of fuel is “dark matter.” At present, nobody knows what it is, but there’s lots of it in the universe.

Second, future engineers also might be able to arrange controlled collisions of planets or dead stars, to tap into the energy the crashes liberate.

Third, future minds themselves might be able to run on very limited power. Recent theoretical work on reversible and quantum computers, and on time crystals, has shown that there’s no lower limit to how little energy they need to keep making progress, or at least to keep moving.

Fourth, since we don’t really understand what triggered the Big Bang, it’s conceivable that someday we’ll be able to engineer something similar, and thereby rejuvenate the universe.

For the full commentary, see:

Frank Wilczek. “WILCZEK’S UNIVERSE; Delaying the Heat Death of The Universe.” The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022): C4.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date September 1, 2022, and has the same title as the print version.)