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Politics & Religion / WSJ: The Green Leap Forward in Action
« Last post by Crafty_Dog on Today at 11:25:38 AM »
The Best-Laid Energy Plans
The feds bet $737 million on a salt tower for solar power. You’ll never guess the result.
By The Editorial Board
Jan. 16, 2020 7:03 pm ET

Government planning and subsidies will make America the world’s green-energy superpower, create millions of jobs, and supercharge the economy—or so we’re told. The reality is closer to Crescent Dunes, a Nevada solar-energy plant that has gone bust after receiving a $737 million federal loan guarantee.

An inconvenient truth is that the sun sets each day, but the Obama Administration’s green planners had an app for that. They decided to invest in the Crescent Dunes facility that would use molten salt to store heat from the sun, produce steam, and generate electricity even at night. The utility NV Energy had already agreed to buy the electricity. Government support would carry the project to sunny success.

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In September 2011, the Energy Department described how the 110-megawatt facility would “be the first of its kind in the United States and the tallest molten salt tower in the world,” powering more than 43,000 homes a year. The precedent was Solar Two, a small pilot plant decommissioned in 1999 that had shown it was technically feasible to use molten salt to store and generate power. But in a 2006 report the Energy Department said the 10-megawatt facility “was never expected to be a viable commercial-scale plant and, in fact, did not validate economic feasibility.”

No worries. It’s only taxpayer money, and the feds jumped into Crescent Dunes anyway. The Department of Energy finalized its loan guarantee on Sept. 23, 2011, a week before the federal loan program expired. A month earlier Nevada had approved $119.3 million in tax abatements for Crescent Dunes over 20 years. The plant also received some $140 million in private investment.

Crescent Dunes began by missing the deadline established by its agreement with NV Energy, becoming operational months late. Commercial operations began in November 2015, but less than a year later the facility went offline because of a “massive leak in the hot salt tank,” according to SolarReserve, a partial owner of Crescent Dunes.

Through the first half of 2017 the plant generated no electricity and no sales, according to its disclosures to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. Yet in April 2017 the Department of Energy proclaimed Crescent Dunes a “success story” taken from “mirage to reality,” “a milestone for the country’s energy future,” and a global “blueprint for solar projects.”

In a fact sheet advertised as “up-to-date as of June 2017,” the Energy Department claimed Crescent Dunes was “operational” and projected energy generation of up to 482,000 megawatt hours a year. The plant never generated that much power in the entirety of its operations. An Energy Department spokesman declined comment.

Crescent Dunes resumed operations in the latter half of 2017, but problems persisted. In a June 2019 report to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada, NV Energy described how the plant “has experienced frequent and prolonged outages.” Crescent Dunes’ performance problems were so severe that they posed “the most significant risk” for NV Energy’s ability to meet its renewable portfolio standard obligations, the utility said.

Last summer Crescent Dunes’ hot salt tanks “suffered a catastrophic failure, which caused ground contamination and required the removal of the solar tower that is essential to the plant’s ability to generate any electrical power to function as designed,” SolarReserve said in recent court filings.

Operations halted again. The Department of Energy sent a formal default notice in September. Weeks later Crescent Dunes’ sole customer, NV Energy, terminated its power purchase agreement. The plant has no prospective clients and couldn’t supply energy even if it found a buyer. Even if the plant began running again, it would face competition from solar photovoltaic projects. Crescent Dunes’ average price was more than $132 per megawatt hour, but Techren Solar II in Nevada’s Eldorado Valley offered the same unit of power for $31.15 in the fourth quarter of 2019.

SolarReserve, which did not respond to requests for comment, is now suing for the equitable dissolution of Tonopah Solar Energy LLC, the entity created to run Crescent Dunes. In November SolarReserve told a federal court that “the plant is moribund—neither generating energy nor revenue” and that Tonopah is “insolvent,” has debt of more than $440 million with “assets of much less value,” and is “unable to pay its debts as they come due.”

Scores of new businesses fail, but private investors lose their own money. Government investments turn on politics more than feasibility. Hand the energy economy over to the government in the name of climate change, and there will be countless more Crescent Dunes fiascoes.
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Politics & Religion / Re: Libya
« Last post by Crafty_Dog on Today at 11:20:31 AM »
second post

The Power Players in Libya’s Civil War
By: Caroline Rose

Just a few weeks ago, the crisis in Libya was on the verge of boiling over. On Jan. 2, the Turkish parliament had authorized the deployment of Turkish troops to support the U.N.-backed Government of National Accord and had begun to recruit Free Syrian Army soldiers to fight as mercenaries in Libya. The GNA’s adversary, the Libyan National Army, was accelerating its campaign against Tripoli, Libya’s capital and the GNA’s stronghold, taking over strategic outposts such as Sirte and penetrating Tripoli’s southern peripheral neighborhoods. And as Turkey began to show its teeth in Libya, so did Egypt, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, France and Russia, increasing armament shipments and aid to fortify the LNA.

Incrementally, new alliance systems were activated and fault lines widened. Gradual escalation in Libya was underway, with powers closely walking a line of brinkmanship. But last week, the situation changed as Turkey and Russia, backers of opposing sides in the conflict, initiated a peace process. Suddenly (and ironically), geopolitical opponents were leading a diplomatic charge together. Ankara and Moscow jointly pressured the GNA’s leader, Fayez al-Sarraj, and the LNA’s commander, Brig. Gen. Khalifa Haftar, to implement a temporary cease-fire and travel to Moscow to discuss de-escalation.

The abrupt change from escalation to tentative resolution is not coincidental, nor does it translate to warmed relations between Ankara and Moscow. Instead, it is indicative of an adjustment in Turkey’s and Russia’s strategic thinking. The dynamic between the two powers remains the center of gravity in Libya, but they aren't the only powers trying to shape the conflict. In order to understand the actions of different players and where things will go from here, it’s necessary to break down some of the constraints and impulses of Libya’s competing factions.
Turkish Impulses and Constraints

Turkey has two driving geopolitical impulses in Libya. First, it has an economic need for steady access to Libya’s energy resources. It also needs to protect existing business contracts in the country. After the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi, Libya was an easy target for Ankara, which seized on the opportunity to rebuild Libyan infrastructure with Turkish contractors. In recent weeks, Turkey has accelerated its strategy to secure business, oil and gas contracts. Ankara penned a memorandum of understanding with al-Sarraj’s GNA whereby Turkey would provide technical, advisory and armaments support in return for a delimited maritime zone in the Eastern Mediterranean, enabling Turkey to conduct seismic drilling projects off Libya’s gas-rich coasts and paving the way for future oil contracts with Turkish companies.

Second, Libya — particularly the GNA — offers a foothold for Turkey to expand its influence beyond its borders deeper into the Eastern Mediterranean. By backing the Islamist al-Sarraj against the LNA's secularist leader Haftar, Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party can promote its Islamist agenda and place itself diametrically opposed to its adversaries in the Gulf and Mediterranean. Additionally, Turkey sees Libya as a military asset to its growing regional power status. Turkey already has bases in Sudan and Somalia that give it to access the Red and Arabian seas, but it wants a base in the Eastern Mediterranean from which it can continue to challenge and pressure Greek, Cypriot, Egyptian and Israeli opposition.
 
(click to enlarge)

But Turkey still faces an array of obstacles in achieving these objectives. Al-Sarraj is rapidly losing ground to the LNA and is facing opposition in GNA-held territory. The LNA currently surrounds the southern area of Tripoli and controls most of the country’s gas and oil fields. Additionally, though the U.N. recognizes the GNA, and though Qatar has promised the GNA economic aid, Turkey remains the sole military backer of al-Sarraj's forces, providing $350 million worth of armed drones, trucks and equipment, as well as mercenary personnel from northern Syria. In contrast, the LNA is supported by the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Russia, Egypt, Jordan, Sudan and even, indirectly, France.

Then there is Turkey's willingness and ability. Weeks ago, Turkey’s offer to send its own forces to at least help the GNA defend Tripoli found resistance at home and abroad. The Turkish air force is incapable of sustaining such a mission, lacking jets capable of striking from its base in Northern Cyprus and unable to refuel its aircraft at such a distance. Turkey would ultimately struggle against its LNA rivals who possess far more adroit air power and sophisticated drone-jamming technology provided to the LNA by the Russians. Moreover, the effort is unpopular at home, with 58 percent of the Turkish population opposing Turkey’s intervention. These constraints meant Ankara could not immediately follow through on its threats to intervene decisively in Libya.

Balancing Ankara and Moscow

Turkey also faced a more powerful competitor in Libya: Russia. Russia’s interests in Libya are nearly identical to Turkey's: oil and gas exploration contracts and building a defense strategy in the Eastern Mediterranean. Moscow began to participate in the Libyan civil war after the 2011 NATO mission primarily to curb U.S. and Western influence in the region. Ultimately, Moscow wishes to be seen to be a player in the region – as long as the risks do not outweigh the benefits. Like Ankara, it believes that its presence can translate into postwar domination. Russia also wants deals on Libyan resources (wheat, oil, gas) to mitigate its own economic problems, where a slowing economy is demanding new sources of revenue. With Russian expertise in the oil and gas market, Moscow saw an opportunity to commandeer lucrative energy contracts.

Finally, Russia sought to engage in Libya to achieve one of its greatest strategic objectives: holding a base on the southern rim of Europe. For Moscow, Libya’s instability proved an opportunity to construct a military base similar to Soviet-era naval bases in Tobruk and Tripoli, allowing Russia to build its presence in the Eastern Mediterranean (complementing a naval base already in Tartus, Syria) and mitigating Russian insecurity in the Black Sea, where access to the Mediterranean is controlled by Turkey via the Bosporus.

For Russia, the LNA was a means to an end; the LNA preferred strongman rule over Islamist governance, had control over most of Libya’s oil and gas reserves, and did not receive Western and U.N. support (excluding France). Russia became militarily involved with the LNA when the Kremlin-connected Wagner Group deployed about 300 or so mercenaries, a number that reportedly increased last week when two other Russian firms, Moran and Schit, sent more mercenaries to the LNA’s front. Russia has reportedly provided Sukhoi jets, missiles and precision-guided artillery, which has been a big boost to the LNA's capabilities. Of course, the Kremlin has denied such involvement.
After the Turkish parliament voted in favor of putting Turkish boots on the ground in Libya, the government in Ankara hesitated. While Erdogan continued repeatedly to threaten to send troops, other government officials began to backtrack, saying Turkey would deploy forces only if a political solution was not found. It's clear that Turkey recognized the situation its troops would be entering: Ankara would lose in a fight against the LNA's broadening alliance system, it would damage its regional credibility, and importantly, it would risk confrontation with Russia.

Moscow, too, conducted a cost-benefit analysis. While the LNA was gaining considerable ground, the plausible introduction of Turkish troops meant costly escalation. Russia could either pull out its mercenaries or acknowledge its involvement by augmenting its presence with Russian armed forces, committing itself to a mission in the Eastern Mediterranean that it could not logistically or financially sustain and attracting American attention that the Kremlin did not want. Before Turkey’s involvement, Russia believed it would be the sole benefactor of energy, infrastructural and defense contracts in postwar Libya. But Turkey's presence meant resource competition for the long-haul – and the war was far from over.

So Ankara and Moscow altered their strategies. Russia invited Turkey to broker a political solution. With limited cooperation, the two powers could pursue their interests by hastily injecting themselves into a political solution. This strategy heads off possible confrontation between Russia and Turkey and, if a cease-fire can be established and upheld, limits the additional damage to the Libyan oil infrastructure that both powers wish to preserve.
Italy, France and Middle Eastern Powers

But there were a few problems with Russia and Turkey’s new strategy. For one, they aren’t the only external actors in Libya. The European Union has for years been a bystander in the conflict. Italy and France have been quick to attempt to fill the EU’s shoes, but squabbles between them have hampered their efforts to broker peace. While Italy has been hesitant to implicate itself in the Libyan struggle, geography has demanded engagement.
Historically, Italy has maintained interest in Libya, which was an Italian colony from the beginning of the 20th century until the end of World War II. Today, its interest is shaped by its desire to prevent the instability created by the conflict from reaching Italy. Italy is separated from Libya’s coast by just over 1,000 miles, and the risk of violent overspill and waves of migration have compelled Italy to become more involved in the Libyan peace process.

Italy also has economic interests in the country. Libya used to be Italy’s main source of crude oil, but the war has slowed its oil exports over time, and today Libya stands as Italy’s fourth-highest oil supplier. The largest oil and gas company in Italy, ENI, secured a joint agreement with the Libyan National Oil Corp. to create Mellitah Oil and Gas in 2008. Since then, Italy has become more involved in Libya to protect its oil interests and assets among warring factions. And as Libya's top export destination, Italy has weight to throw around in the Libyan peace process. Italy has behaved more as a neutral actor, preferring to deal both with al-Sarraj’s and Haftar’s governments to protect its oil interests, seeing itself as uniquely positioned to balance out pro-GNA Turkey and pro-LNA Russia in finding a diplomatic solution. This is a card that Rome is willing to play to secure its energy sources, avoid a resumption of war in its near abroad and salvage its diplomatic credibility, particularly at a time when the government of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte faces growing domestic unpopularity.

France, on the other hand, has established an indirect but decisive role in Libya. It has invested its efforts in Haftar’s LNA for three primary reasons: to support its counterterrorism campaign in Africa, to seek out energy resources, and to assert French leadership in the Libyan power grab. Since 2015, France has built up the LNA as part of a larger regional strategy it employs on the continent (consider its G5 Sahel joint force) to counter extremist groups, aligning with Haftar because of his anti-Islamist stance. France has been accused of supplying the LNA with U.S.-made Javelin anti-tank missiles and has been heavily involved in backdoor discussions, advising Haftar on grand strategy against the GNA and Turkey. Armaments and political support have enabled France to lay the groundwork for future oil and gas contracts. For example, the French multinational company Total S.A. forged an agreement with Libya’s National Oil Corp. to exchange technical expertise for oil concessions in the Sirte Basin.
France’s involvement became more visible during the recent cease-fire proposal and meeting in Moscow, where France (and the UAE) reportedly persuaded Haftar to leave Moscow without signing the peace agreement, in an attempt to curb Turkish and Russian influence while enhancing France’s hand in shaping the war’s outcome.
Brokering a Libyan peace deal has been an agenda item for France, with President Emmanuel Macron inviting both Haftar and al-Sarraj to a chateau outside Paris soon after his 2017 election to discuss potential de-escalation. However, France and Italy have clashed over Libya. France often excludes Italy from diplomatic discussions, creating the impression in Rome that a new European power may challenge its energy interests in the country.

The UAE, Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia have been more visible supporters of the LNA. For these Arab League members, particularly Egypt, a potential spillover of the Libyan conflict is too serious for it to stay on the sidelines. However, while countries like Italy have been concerned about Libyan refugees, Egypt, Jordan, the UAE and Saudi Arabia’s concerns are different. These Middle Eastern countries not only engage in Libya as regional neighbors but as a front to deter Libyan Salafist fundamentalist groups and Muslim Brotherhood cells, which they see as having the potential to galvanize their Sunni populations and threaten authoritarian and monarchial governmental control. Particularly for Egypt, securing Eastern Cyrenaica as a buffer zone between Islamist groups in the GNA-controlled west and the Egyptian border is crucial to its national security strategy. While Saudi Arabia has offered economic support, the UAE, Jordan and Egypt have consistently provided Haftar’s forces with modern weapons and were indispensable in supporting the LNA’s assaults and air raids in Benghazi and Tripoli. These countries’ support of the LNA has only intensified in the wake of Turkish threats to enter the conflict, as they perceive Ankara as an emerging regional rival. After Turkey announced it intended to send troops to Tripoli, Cairo began a campaign in the Gulf and Arab League to garner further financial and military support for Haftar, and joined the UAE in reinforcing Haftar’s forces with military cargo planes, weapons and armored vehicles.

Stalemate, Political Solution or Confrontation

Russia and Turkey have rushed to make sure they are the kingmakers of postwar Libya. Their impulse isn't necessarily to preserve the seat of power for a particular government anymore but to secure their oil, economic and strategic interests in the country's postwar landscape. Russian and Turkish interests are compatible – to a point. Their support of the opposing LNA and GNA is just a different means to the same end. Both powers wish to avert an ugly conflict between the GNA and LNA’s array of allies that could damage the country’s infrastructure, hurt their long-term resource interests and disrupt their grand strategies to establish a defensive presence in the Eastern Mediterranean.

However, when a cease-fire is implemented and Libya’s civil war comes to an end (whenever that is), competition between Russia and Turkey will further increase. It’s clear that Turkey and Russia did not believe that escalating the civil war on opposite sides could guarantee their national interests, and therefore sought to pressure the GNA and LNA to a solution. But even if the two sides sign a cease-fire, a political solution must still deal with the tribal patronage systems, militia networks, independent city-states and divergent allegiances that complicate Libya’s civil war. The conflict is far from over.

And at the same time, Turkey’s threatened intervention has drawn in more players and forced others to step up their involvement. This weekend, the peace process will add even more actors into the framework, as Germany hosts the two Libyan factions as well as representatives from Turkey, the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Russia, the EU, the Arab League and African Union members at a peace conference in Berlin. However, despite the internationalization of the war, Russia-Turkey relations remain its center of gravity. An interruption or miscalculation in their limited cooperation could throw Libya off-balance, reviving the risks for escalation.
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Politics & Religion / Libya Peace Talks
« Last post by Crafty_Dog on Today at 09:48:48 AM »
By: GPF Staff

Libyan peace talks. The leaders of Libya’s two rival governments, the Government of National Accord and the Libyan National Army, will meet for the second time this year at a peace conference in Berlin this weekend, nearly a week after cease-fire talks were held in Moscow. Representatives from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, Russia, the Republic of Congo, the U.K., France, Italy, the U.S., the U.N., the EU and the African Union will also attend. Notably, Greece was not invited, causing some tension between the Greek and German governments. Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said that Khalifa Haftar, leader of the LNA, had already visited Athens to discuss the situation in Libya and that Greece was prepared to send forces to help monitor a cease-fire and the arms embargo. Foreign leaders who are scheduled to attend the Berlin conference have already started making preparations. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will meet with his Italian counterpart, Luigi Di Maio, prior to the event, and diplomats from Egypt and Italy, as well as Greece, have reportedly discussed Turkey’s decision to send troops to Libya. Meanwhile, after agreeing to a cease-fire this week, the LNA has accused pro-Turkey Syrian militants who have joined the GNA of “flagrant violations” of the truce. LNA forces have also reportedly shelled GNA-held crude oil storage facilities in the capital, Tripoli.
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Politics & Religion / Starr and Dershowitz officially on the Trump team
« Last post by ccp on Today at 09:00:55 AM »
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Politics & Religion / Re: 2020 Presidential election
« Last post by ccp on Today at 06:39:27 AM »
enthusiasm FOR a candidate is no doubt a tail wind for any candidate

Trump has that for a fixed number of the electorate
it remains to be seen how much in the undecideds

But he also has unusually high numbers of people who are repulsed by him - more than normal without any doubt - this effect may tough to predict - but Bloomberg - or anyone will get the benefit of "anyone but Orange Man" crowd.

Probably the only candidate in my personal history of voting who I was really enthusiastic about was Ronald Reagan

Maybe Bush 1 too . I don't recall .

I guess one could say I am enthusiastic to vote again for Trump
   for his policies and fight spirit .   and distaste for liberals .........

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Interesting point here:

Biden, on the surface, would have a good chance of beating Trump, recent presidential elections have shown that the candidate with the ability to generate more enthusiasm among their base fares better than a candidate chosen by default. Just think of the failed candidacies of John Kerry, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Hillary Clinton. In contrast, Trump enjoys a passionate following and the GOP is more unified around him than when he won the first time around.
https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/opinion/columnists/its-looking-more-like-trump-will-be-reelected-in-2020
-------------------------------------------
Same would apply to Bloomberg if he is chosen for his supposed competence and ability to defeat Trump.  Will the AOC-Sanders wing with all its ground support be motivated to get out the vote for the other billionaire - who defeated them with his ill-gotten (in their view) money?  The energy in the Dem party is built around ideology.  Bloomberg lacks that and has "zero personality".  If Bloomberg reaches out in policy positions to the far Left, he loses his natural support in the center.  A billion dollars or two won't change that dynamic.
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Politics & Religion / Re: DOJ investigating Comey
« Last post by G M on January 16, 2020, 11:02:37 PM »
https://townhall.com/tipsheet/bronsonstocking/2020/01/16/justice-department-investigation-into-leaks-focusing-on-james-comey-n2559664

Don't be too shocked when the "No reasonable prosecutor can be expected to hold the deep state accountable" standard is invoked.
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Politics & Religion / Epstein's bloody eyes
« Last post by G M on January 16, 2020, 08:06:37 PM »
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