Tuesday, November 23, 2021

Lessons From Boston Harbor and Beyond

The Pilgrims arrived at Cape Cod in what is now Massachusetts 401 years ago this November. After spending over a month scouting various potential locations for their settlement they chose Plymouth.

Ten years later another group of Puritan colonists arrived in North America and settled in what is now Boston, Massachusetts in 1630.

I recently came across a map that compares the Boston shoreline of 1630 with what it is today.

The dark green is the shoreline as it existed 400 years ago.

The light green is the the shoreline in recent days.

Source: https://www.reddit.com/r/MapPorn/comments/qvv279/boston_1995_shoreline_vs_1630_shoreline/

Do you notice anything?

The shoreline of Boston extends much further out into the ocean today than it did 400 years ago.

In fact, the site of the Boston Tea Party that took place on a ship in Boston Harbor at Griffin's Wharf in 1773 is actually about 1/3 mile inland today.

The arrow on the map below shows the approximate location of where Griffin's Wharf was at that time. 

Source: https://twitter.com/Pol_core/status/1462083646987378688

How could this be?

In 1630 there were almost zero carbon emissions caused by man beyond fires burning wood.

Coal had been discovered but it was rarely used because of difficulties in mining it.

The first modern oil well was not drilled until 1859.

It is estimated that only 500 million human beings populated the earth in 1630.

By contrast, 7.9 billion people inhabit the earth today.

We are told that the use of fossil fuels by humans is resulting in carbon emissions that are causing climate change that will cause catastrophic warming that will melt the ice caps and raise sea levels around the world.

If that is true how is it that the addition of 7.5 billion humans beings and ever increasing carbon emissions over the last 400 years has not already put Boston under water?

Growth in Carbon Emissions From Fossil Fuels Since 1750

Doesn't it seem logical that if human-caused carbon emissions were going to cause rising sea levels it would have occurred a long time ago?

Why does it always seem to be something that is going to happen in another ten years if we don't do something now?

It is true that the expanded shoreline in Boston that has evolved over the last 400 years has not been caused by receding sea levels.

It has been the result of human activity by which the shoreline has been extended outwards into Boston Harbor by the use of landfill.

The Back Bay area of Boston was literally a bay until it was decided to fill it in beginning in 1856.

By the 1800′s, the success of Boston’s shipping and manufacturing industries had led to intense overcrowding. Developers looked toward the Back Bay

.In 1856, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts decided to fill in the Back Bay and to construct a new neighborhood on top of the wasteland. By using new steam engine technology, land was hauled in from Needham, 25 miles outside of Boston.   After nearly 25 years of construction, the entire Back Bay was filled in, from the Public Garden to Kenmore Square.


Isn't that interesting?

Much of what we know of as Boston today would be under water if not for human activity and the use of technology powered by fossil fuels.

I can assure you that Boston Harbor would never have been filled in if it was going to require pitchforks, shovels and muscle power.

Consider this chart that shows how the shares of different forms of energy consumption have changed since 1860 when Back Bay in Boston was being filled in.

It shows a massive increase in the use of fossil fuels over that time. However, even the man-made landfills into Boston Harbor have not been swamped by the sea after over 150 years.

The reality in the world we live in today is that fossil fuels make up close to 85% of energy consumption. Nuclear is 4%.

Wind, hydropower, solar, biofuels and other renewables make up barely over 10% of what is powering the world right now. This is what the liberals believe we must power the world with within a decade or so to avoid having the world end as we know it.

The exact opposite is true. The world as we know it is going to end if we foolishly abandon available and affordable energy based on unproven models and dreams.

I am old enough to remember when many of the same "authorities" who are talking about global warming today were saying almost exactly the opposite 40 years ago.

By the way, 3.4 billion people have been added to the world population since this was written.

Source: https://twitter.com/Tony__Heller/status/1463120790753140749

Energy makes the world economy go. We need it for anything we want to do. It needs to be available and it needs to be affordable. The economy does not work without energy. The consumer cannot spend on other things in the economy if they are spending excessive amounts on energy. If the consumer doesn't spend, the economy does not grow. If the economy does not grow, more and more people go without jobs.

If you doubt there is a relationship between affordable, available energy and economic growth consider this chart that compares world GDP growth with energy consumption growth. 

Could there be a better correlation?

This chart was produced by climate scientist Mike Haseler. Haseler points out that this relationship exists because GDP is the sum total of what humans produce. When muscle power was the prime energy source in the world we could produce very little. Firewood and domesticated animals improved our ability to produce. However, the introduction of energy sources like coal, oil and gas allowed us to greatly leverage our productive capacity. Compare the dramatic increase in GDP beginning around 1950 with the great increase in fossil fuels beginning at the same time in the charts above.

I am all for developing newer and more sustainable sources of energy. Count me as someone who would love to see a perpetual motion machine to power everything man needs on the planet.

I have great confidence that given free market economies and human ingenuity we will find better sources of energy to power our lives. This has been proven time and time again over the course of human history.

However, we have never voluntarily abandoned something that is accessible and affordable for something that is speculative and expensive as the global elites and Democrats want us to do.

We are already seeing the effects of this in November, 2021 after an election one year ago that put people in power who believe that humans are the problem on earth rather than the solution.

A year ago the United States was a net exporter of oil. It was the first time the United States had been in that position in the over 75 years when records were first maintained.

It is truly amazing what shutting down oil and gas pipelines, demonizing oil companies and threatening to jail the executives of these companies will do in such a short time.

Source: https://climatechangedispatch.com/biden-crowd-oil-execs-jailed/

We are now begging OPEC to pump more oil and are raiding the Strategic Petroleum Reserve which was created in 1975 in the event of oil supply disruptions that could endanger our national security and economy.

Source: https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/white-house/biden-administration-tap-oil-reserves-bid-tamp-down-rising-gas-n1284415

The Strategic Petroleum Reserve has generally only been accessed in the past because of supply disruptions in the aftermath of hurricanes in the Gulf Coast region (Hurricane Ivan, Katrina) or when Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm were being conducted in the Middle East in the early 1990's.

It was not meant to be used as a tool to reduce prices and counteract poor Presidential approval ratings.

50 million barrels of oil will be released under the Presidential order. That is the largest drawdown ever of our strategic oil reserves. If you doubt whether this is just more theatrics from Biden, consider that is about a 3-day supply for the United States (about 18 million barrels of oil are consumed per day per the Energy Department). It is like spitting in Boston Harbor.

You also now know more than Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm who was asked on Tuesday how much oil the U.S. consumes per day.

She did not know.

These are the people in charge?

Even if we assume that climate change may result in rising sea levels I am confident that human ingenuity and innovation will find a way to deal with the problem.

Look no further than the map at the top of this blog post to see what humans can do when they want to do something.

In fact, humans are the ULTIMATE RESOURCE on the planet.

I wrote about this a couple of years ago and the work of Julian Simon who wrote a book by that name in 1981.

Simon argued that population growth is actually the solution to resource scarcities and environmental problems since people and markets innovate and solve problems. 

That was a very contrarian position at the time because severe shortages in the coming years were predicted in oil, copper, food and everything else. The view was that unless population growth was immediately halted around the world people would starve and would die the from elements due to lack of food and other resources (see the Chicago Tribune article above from 1981).

Simon made a wager in 1980 with the leading doomsayer in the media at the time, Paul Ehrlich, on whether the price of five key metals would increase in price over the next decade. Simon said that costs would come down and was willing to put money on his prediction.

NPR did a story on the bet a few years ago.

Simon proposed that they bet on what would happen to the price of five metals — copper, chromium, nickel, tin and tungsten — over a decade.

And the logic was that these metals were essential for all kinds of stuff — electronics, cars, buildings. So, if Ehrlich was right, more people on the planet would mean we would start running out of stuff, and the price of these things should go up.

But, if Simon was right, the markets and human ingenuity would sort things out, and the prices would stay the same or even go down.

Those next 10 years, from 1980 to 1990, crept by. The world population grew by 800 million people. Then it was 1990. And they tallied it up. Simon, the economist, decisively won. Prices for the five metals went down by an average of 50 percent.

One of the reasons the prices dropped was just what Simon said. The catastrophe Ehrlich was predicting just did not happen. People invented substitutes, like companies switching from aluminum to plastic for packaging.

Human ingenuity and innovation also brought about new technologies and methods to extract more key metals and grow more food.

The Cato Institute recently updated the Simon story using a longer timeframe-1960 to 2016. It also looked at many more commodity items.

What did they find?

Despite the fact that the population had increased by more than 145% over those 56 years, inflation-adjusted GDP had increased by 183%. In other words, incomes grew 26% faster than population, just as Simon predicted it would due to human ingenuity and innovation.

In addition, even though there were more people, they were richer, and they consumed much more. Despite this, prices on almost all commodities fell relative to income growth adjusted for inflation.

The ultimate resource has solved many problems and improved life for humans on this earth.

There is no reason that should not continue forever.

History has shown that the only thing that can keep the ultimate resource from achieving that is when government starts to interfere in significant ways. Look at North Korea and Venezuela as prime examples.

We are living in such a time right now.

All of this may be interesting food for thought over your Thanksgiving dinner with any relatives who believe the climate change narrative.

Unfortunately, that narrative does not withstand consideration of the most basic rules of logic, the lessons of history or the ingenuity of mankind.

You now have the necessary resources to carry on that conversation if you dare.

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my BeeLine readers.

1 comment:

  1. A few years ago, we were traveling through the Fjords of Norway as the guide was pointing out where the glaciers had been umpteen thousand year ago, and how the fjords had been formed Just as you say, there was obviously warming well before humans could be to blame. Michael Schellenberger wrote a great book about what logical steps we can take to be better environmental stewards without ruining human development. I highly recommend Apocalypse Never.