The latest from our COLUMNIST SECTION:
02/01 at 10:35 AMMike S. Adams
Left State University
01/30 at 12:41 PMDoug Giles
Hey, Chris Matthews: I Like Big Guns and I Cannot Lie
01/29 at 09:16 AMMichael Coren
Defender to defendant
01/29 at 08:46 AMSalim Mansur
U.S. can’t afford to ignore world in crisis
01/23 at 07:37 AMDoug Giles
Rebellion to Tyrants is Obedience to God
01/22 at 08:32 AMMike S. Adams
Kermit the Dog
01/22 at 08:24 AMMichael Coren
Grief or glamour?
01/22 at 08:11 AMSalim Mansur
Tunisia just one Arab regime going stale
01/21 at 12:00 PMTheo Caldwell
The TSA Tea Party
01/15 at 07:48 AMMichael Coren
Forget blame game
01/15 at 07:38 AMSalim Mansur
Beware of China’s meteoric rise
01/11 at 09:12 AMMike S. Adams
Welcome to Personal Responsibility 101
01/10 at 08:12 AMDoug Giles
Snookie’s Smut or Cowboy Values?
01/08 at 09:44 AMMichael Coren
Tube for lefty boobs
01/08 at 09:42 AMSalim Mansur
Bloody start to New Year
PTBC Columnist Team
Columnists -- with bite! We feature conservative-friendly writers from Canada and the U.S. who help clarify the difference between liberals and conservatives. All have personally agreed to be a part of our team here at PTBC.
Editorial originally appeared in the Washington Times
Are academic scientists some special sub-species of humans who are beyond suspicion and above the law? That is the question now being played out in a drama between Virginia Attorney General Ken Cucinelli and the dead-end defenders of global warming’s poster junk scientist, Michael Mann.
Cucinelli is under assault by global warming alarmist brigades and the American Civil Liberties Union for launching an investigation into whether any fraud against taxpayers occurred with respect to Mann’s hiring by the University of Virginia and his receipt of government grants. Cuccinelli recently sent UVA a civil investigative demand (CID) requesting e-mails and other documents pertaining to Mann.
Cuccinelli’s rationale is simple to understand: Mann’s claim-to-fame — the infamous “hockey stick” graph — is so bogus that one cannot help but wonder whether it is intentional fraud.
Developed in the late-1990s while Mann was at the University of Massachusetts, his hockey stick graph purports to show that average global temperature was fairly stable over the past millennium and up until the 20 the century, when it spiked up impliedly because of human activity. The hockey stick was latched onto by the alarmist community, incorporated into government and United Nations assessments of climate science and held out to the public (particularly by Al Gore in “An Inconvenient Truth”) as proof that humans were destroying the planet.
But by the mid-2000s the hockey stick graph began to be revealed for what it was — pure bunk.
Critics of the hockey stick graph first became suspicious because it failed to show two well-known periods of dramatic swings in global temperature — the so-called Medieval Optimum and the Little Ice Age. Mann’s indignant refusal to share his data and methods with critics only added fuel to the fire. Eventually, it was discovered that the computer model that produced the hockey stick would produce a hockey stick graph regardless of what data was input. But it gets worse.
Mann apparently created the hockey stick by cherry-picking data he liked and deleting data he didn’t like. While the vast majority of the hockey stick is based on temperature data extrapolated from tree rings going back hundreds of years, the tip of the blade (representing the late 20th century) was temperature data taken from thermometers. Past the obvious apples-and-oranges problem, as it turns out, Mann appended the thermometer data to the hockey stick at a point at which the tree ring data actually shows cooling. This cooling trend data was then deleted. This is what is referred to by the now-famous Climate-gate phrase “Mike’s Nature trick to … hide the decline.”
Mann’s defenders characterize this deletion of data as an elegant statistical technique. There is, however, nothing sophisticated, much less innocent about it. Contrary to Mann’s defenders, the hockey stick has never been vindicated by anyone. If nothing else, proof of its discredit lies in the fact that no one, not even the ethically challenged United Nations, relies on it anymore as evidence of manmade global warming.
Mann’s name-making hockey stick work occurred while he was at the University of Massachusetts, after which he was hired by the taxpayer-funded UVA. Did UVA hire Mann under the illusion that his hockey stick was a legitimate scientific achievement? Did Mann receive taxpayer-funded grants based on what amounts to scientific misconduct? These are legitimate inquiries — but not to everyone.
Left-wing academics, global warming alarmists, and the ACLU object to Cucinelli’s probe. They cast aspersions such as “witch hunt,” McCarthyism,” and “abuse of office.” In their less hysteric moments, they claim Cuccinelli threatens academic freedom. This is all so much rot.
Some scientists have actually been known to commit scientific misconduct tantamount to fraud. A Tulane researcher was found guilty of misconduct by the federal Office of Scientific Integrity in the late 1990s for fabricating data about pesticides being dangerous hormonal system disrupters. Don’t forget the South Korean researcher that was indicted for claiming false advances in stem cell research. Only political correctness saved a University of Pittsburgh researcher from conviction during the 1990s of manipulating data allegedly linking lead-based paint with lower IQs.
Believe it or not, scientists are just like the rest of the population — a mixture of good and bad. Mann’s hockey stick is such bad science that it compels the question, “Why?” Would UVA have hired Mann and would government grants have been awarded to him had the truth about the hockey stick been known by university and state decision-makers at the time? Were they intentionally deceived?
As the Climategate scandal has revealed, the climate alarmist mob is, at the very least, devious and unethical. It has conspired to silence its critics and to dispense with the normal give-and-take of the scientific process — all the while trumpeting the junkiest of science in trying to frighten the public and politicians into keeping the grant money flowing.
Have some of the climate mob’s members acted criminally as well? No one knows at this point. But through his hockey stick shenanigans, Mann has certainly provided Cuccinelli with “probable cause” to consider the possibility. A thorough investigation by someone not in cahoots with the climate mob is the only way to answer legitimate questions related to the expenditure of taxpayer money.(Read more)
So President Obama says he’s for more offshore oil drilling. Does he really mean it? Would it matter if he did?
Addressing the latter question first, consider President George W. Bush called for offshore drilling in June 2008, when gasoline prices hit $4 per gallon and Congress was less Democrat-controlled than today.
Nothing happened — well, that’s not exactly true.
Offshore drilling advocates were ecstatic in July 2008 when they thought a deal had been reached with green groups to permit drilling off Santa Barbara, Calif. — the first since the January 1969 oil spill there.
New Hampshire Union Leader editor Andrew Cline gushed in a July 2008 Wall Street Journal op-ed: “When an environmental group formed for the sole purpose of opposing offshore oil drilling warmly embraces a plan to drill off its own coast, you know something important has changed in our culture; Americans have recognized that offshore drilling is largely safe.”
But less than a week later, the greens wrote the Journal to correct the record: “(T)o be accurate, the (op-ed’s) title should have read ‘Environmentalists Secure End to Oil Development’ ... The agreement struck ... is remarkable because it sets a fixed date for the termination of existing offshore and onshore oil production facilities in Santa Barbara County. We see this agreement as a direct complement to our support for the federal oil moratorium. Just as we need to say ‘no’ to new oil development, we must put an end to existing development if we are to protect our coast from the risks of offshore oil and gas development, and protect society from climate change.”
Despite the “agreement” and approval of offshore drilling by the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors, the greens subsequently got the California State Lands Commission to deny the offshore leases and then, in July 2009, got the California Assembly to block Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s proposal to revive offshore drilling.
Last December, the Obama administration actually granted Shell Oil leases to drill three exploratory wells in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea. But claiming a shoddy approval process, the leases are being challenged by green groups in the enviro-friendly 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. Without wondering whether the Obama administration set Shell up for frustration, my money is on the greens in that venue.
The lesson here is that the greens oppose, and will use every tactic possible on the local, state and federal level to prevent, offshore drilling, regardless of what emanates from the Oval Office.
But then, there are many reasons to question the sincerity of Obama’s rhetoric in the first place.
Despite campaign rhetoric about supporting more drilling, last fall the Obama administration canceled drilling leases in Utah previously granted by President Bush.
The leases were denied for the flimsiest reasons, including possible damage to the habitat of the sage grouse and avoiding the dust and noise pollution from drilling.
Next, and most important, President Obama needs both Republican and moderate Democrat support to get a much sought after cap-and-trade bill through the Senate.
Right now, South Carolina’s Lindsey Graham is the only Republican interested in cap-and-trade. He wants to include increased oil and gas production and nuclear power.
President Obama no doubt hopes pro-oil drilling rhetoric will also help him win the support of other Senate swing votes, including Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, and Mary “Louisiana Purchase” Landrieu, D-La.
Finally, while announcing his drilling proposal, Obama spent the bulk of his time talking about how we need to use less oil and wean ourselves off oil altogether.
He spent little time talking about producing more oil. He limited his remarks to a proposal merely for more oil “exploration” — not to increasing production and supply.
Talk is cheap and President Obama knows that. Let’s hope Senate Republicans and moderate Democrats know that too.
False promises about supporting oil drilling are bad enough, but it would be a travesty if they brought cap-and-trade.(Read more)
It’s a good thing Al Gore didn’t have to raise his right hand and take an oath to tell the truth before he testified on April 24 to the House Energy and Environment Subcommittee about the Waxman-Markey climate bill.
GreenHellBlog.com first reported that Al Gore lied to the subcommittee about his personal finances during questioning by Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn. It turns out that Gore also lied to Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, who had asked Gore about his connections with the Wall Street firm of Goldman Sachs.
While the connection between Gore and Goldman Sachs that Scalise probably was referring to involves David Blood, the former CEO of Goldman Sachs Asset Management who is the co-founder with Gore of the U.K.-based investment firm of Generation Investment Management, the April 27 issue of Fortune unearths a more appalling connection between Gore and Goldman Sachs.
In mid-2008 — six months after Gore joined the venture capital firm of Kleiner Perkins as a partner — Kleiner Perkins joined Goldman Sachs in financing a company called Terralliance — an oil exploration firm!
As Fortune reports:
Kleiner’s dirtying its hands in the oil patch was something of a head-scratcher. Back then the firm had recently hired Al Gore as a partner. But money is money, oil was trading for $140 a barrel, and Terralliance was said to have developed software that reduced the risk of drilling dry holes. It looked as if Terralliance could be a moneymaker for Kleiner, which had sunk a total of $65 million into the venture, an extraordinary sum for a VC firm — possibly its biggest single investment ever.
But less than one year later, Terralliance has faired poorly, burning through hundreds of millions of dollars, according to Fortune.
The salient facts, here, are not that one of Kleiner Perkins largest investments went south, but the following:
– Kleiner Perkins and Goldman Sachs had both invested in Terralliance.
– Given that Terralliance was venture capital-funded by Kleiner Perkins, Goldman Sachs and a few others, Kleiner Perkins and Goldman undoubtedly knew that they were essentially financial partners in Terralliance’s success.
– Al Gore joined Kleiner Perkins as a partner well before the firm entered into the Terralliance deal.
– As a Kleiner Perkins partner, Al Gore must have known, if not approved of the Terralliance deal, and that it involved Goldman Sachs. At the very least, under partnership law, such knowledge is legally imputed to him as a partner.
– Kleiner Perkins’ investment in Terralliance was not trivial, but perhaps its largest ever in any enterprise. Gore must have known about it.
Getting back to the April 24 House Energy And Environment Subcommittee hearing, when Rep. Scalise said to Gore,
“… and I know you’ve got interests with Goldman Sachs…”
To which, Gore made facial gestures that implied he had never even heard of Goldman Sachs. Gore then replied,
Rep. Scalise continued,
“… well, that’s been reported. If — is that not accurate?”
“No. I wish I did, but I don’t.”
There you have it. Al Gore flatly denying that he had interests with Goldman Sachs — when, clearly, he did.
The irony is that during Gore’s exchange with Rep. Scalise, he accused the fossil fuel industry of lying to Scalise and the American people for 14 years about the science of global warming. As it turns out, the part of the fossil fuel industry that lied to Rep. Scalise and the American people was none other than Terralliance-investor Al Gore himself.
President Obama wants to pay you to support global warming regulation. What he isn’t saying, however, is that his enticement won’t come close to covering what the regulations will cost you.
In his 10-year budget released this week, the President proposed a so-called cap-and-trade scheme to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under the proposal, 100 percent of the permits to emit greenhouse gases would be auctioned to coal and natural gas-burning electric utilities, industrial plants and other emitters-to-be-designated. The proceeds from the auctions would then distributed to individual Americans “to help the transition to a clean energy economy,” according to his budget proposal.
But what does this proposal mean for the average person in terms of actual dollars and cents?
It’s difficult to work out the precise financial impacts, but you can get an idea by doing some back-of-the-envelop calculations with some of the facts and figures that have recently been bandied about.
Based on past global warming legislation, like the Lieberman-Warner bill that failed in the Senate last June, a cap-and-trade plan would probably cover about 80 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions — about 5.8 billion tons based on a total of 7.3 billion tons emitted during 2007.
Assuming that permits are auctioned at a price of $12 per ton — a safety valve price included in past climate bills — the Obama plan would raise about $70 billion in its first year. Given that President Obama has proposed to spend about $15 billion per year of the auction proceeds on “clean energy” projects, about $55 billion would be leftover for distribution to individuals– in other words, every American with a Social Security number. Dividing the $55 billion among more than 300 million Americans, then, works out to about $180 per person and $720 per family of four per year.
It’s not like winning the lottery, but it’s better than nothing — or is it?
The liberal think tank Center on Budget Priorities and Policy estimated this week that reducing greenhouse gas emissions would cost the poorest families in America $750 per year as higher energy prices ripple through the economy affecting all goods and services. So if the poorest families, who use far less energy than the rest of America, are in a financial hole under the president’s plan, one can easily imagine how the rest of us will end up. Consider the potential consequences on just your electric bill.
The proposed Lieberman-Warner bill would have auctioned only 25 percent of the permits — not 100 percent as President Obama is proposing. The remaining 75 percent of the credits would have been distributed for free to electric utilities and other designated greenhouse gas emitters. But even under that scheme, Duke Energy CEO Jim Rogers told The New York Times last summer that electricity rates would rise by 40 percent in the first year to cover his utility’s $2 billion outlay for credits. So a 100 percent auction could increase electricity bills for Duke’s 4 million customers by 160 percent — meaning a $100 monthly electric bill becomes, perhaps, a $260 monthly bill. Based on these calculations, a family of four that pays more than $40 per month for electricity — that is, every family — is a net loser under President Obama’s plan.
And those are the potential increases for just your electric bill. Not included are other likely price hikes for goods and services — gasoline, food, travel, etc. — that will necessarily be passed along to consumers. As you can readily see, your share of President Obama’s auction proceeds don’t come close to breaking even on greenhouse gas regulation.
Maybe you’re thinking that these extra costs are worth it as they will be dwarfed by the environmental benefits of tackling the much-dreaded global warming.
Think again. There will be no detectable or tangible benefits from reduced greenhouse gas emissions.
First, carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas targeted by regulation is invisible, colorless and odorless. Since it exists in the atmosphere at levels measured in the parts per million, unless you’re a plant that needs CO2 to live, you’re not going to notice it.
Next, there is no evidence that human emissions of carbon dioxide are causing detectable changes, much less any harm, to the climate. Check out my YouTube video on this issue:
This means, of course, that there is no evidence that reducing carbon dioxide emissions will have any detectable changes on climate.
Even assuming for the sake of argument that man made carbon dioxide emissions were changing climate, Obama’s cap-and-trade bill will still have no detectable impact. First, EPA projects that a maximum clamp down on future U.S. emissions would reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide levels by about 5 percent or less — a trivial change no matter what you believe about carbon dioxide. Moreover, China and India have vowed not to harm their economies because of global warming — so their emissions can be expected to soar as they develop and more than make-up for our reductions.
Maybe the economics of Obama’s cap-and-trade rip-off don’t bother you, but the fact that the rip-off will accomplish nothing should give you pause.
How can celebrity anti-nuclear power activists Alec Baldwin and Christie Brinkley try, in good conscience, to scare us about both carbon-free nuclear power and global warming?
In a February 12 press release about the relicensing process for the Indian Point nuclear power plant in Westchester County, New York, two anti-nuclear activist groups claimed that they were “not convinced” by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s preliminary determination of the plant’s safety.
The Radiation and Public Health Project and the Hudson River Sloop Clearwater pointed to data indicating that thyroid cancer rates in three nearby counties were higher than the national average and that strontium-90 was detected in breast milk samples taken from within 50 miles of Indian Point, with the highest results occurring in samples taken closest to the power plant. Not surprisingly, the activists concluded that, “This suggests that emissions from Indian Point may be compromising the health of local residents.”
Also not surprisingly, that’s not the entire story.
First, Indian Point’s radiation emissions are well within long-established safety levels. According to stringent standards set long ago by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the maximum allowable amount of radiation from Indian Point that could be absorbed by someone is 25 millirem per year. But according to the NRC, the hypothetical maximum dose that anyone could possibly have absorbed from Indian Point is only about 7 millirem per year — a dose dwarfed by what is typically absorbed from unavoidable natural and other manmade radiation sources.
The average person in the U.S. receives a dose of about 360 millirem per year, according to the EPA. About 80 percent of this dose comes from rocks and soils, mostly in the form of radon, and cosmic radiation from space. These natural doses can vary greatly depending on where you live.
People who live in Denver, for example, receive an extra 50 millirem per year of cosmic radiation simply because of the city’s mile-high altitude.
The other 20 percent of the typical annual radiation dose comes from man made sources — mostly mammograms and diagnostic x-rays.
Living near a nuclear power plant typically adds less than 1 millirem to annual radiation doses, according to the EPA. The 7 millirem figure calculated by the NRC for Indian Point doesn’t represent an actual dose received by anyone. It is calculated as a maximum possible absorbed dose if someone were to be exposed to maximum emissions at the plant’s boundary line for a year. Such exposures are obviously unlikely ever to occur.
Further, the 25 millirem regulatory level set by the EPA is more of an arbitrary standard than a true safety level. There is great debate in the scientific community as to whether such low-level doses of radiation are at all dangerous. Kerala, India, for example, has a relatively high-level of natural background radiation and many residents absorb as much of 2,000 millirem of radiation annually with no reports of increased cancer incidence.
JunkScience.com once measured the radiation emanating from granite statues in the U.S. Capitol Building and discovered that a person standing in statuary hall near the Senate Chamber would absorb 5 times more radiation than would be absorbed by standing at the fence line of a nuclear power plant.
So the radiation that someone could be hypothetically exposed to from Indian Point isn’t worrisome. So what’s the explanation for the higher thyroid cancer rates in the counties surrounding Indian Point? There isn’t one.
First, given the southerly direction of the region’s prevailing winds, two of the three counties (Orange and Putnam) are actually upwind of Indian Point. If plant emissions were increasing cancer rates, you would expect to find those cancers downwind of the plant. Although Rockland County, which lies to the south and west of Indian Point, has an elevated incidence of thyroid cancer, that rate is lower than in upwind Putnam. Next, the cancer rate in Westchester County — where Indian Point is located and where maximum radiation exposures would be expected as it is south and east of the plant — is lower than those in Rockland, Orange and Putnam. Also, there are several other New York counties, upstate and far away from Indian Point, that have thyroid cancer rates similar to the three counties near Indian Point. This geography, however, is largely academic since the maximum exposures to which the public could possibly be exposed are at the plant’s fence line and there is no evidence of a cancer cluster among those who live and work closest to the plant.
As to the strontium-90 allegedly found in breast milk samples, the NRC says that the low levels detected in the environment surrounding Indian Point “are consistent with decayed quantities of activity from historic atmospheric weapons testing.”
While thyroid cancer seems to be on the rise in the U.S. and New York State, no one really knows what exactly causes the disease. The New York State Health Department speculates that part of the reason for the increase may be the expanded use of radiation to diagnose and treat medical conditions. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that at least part of the reported increase in thyroid cancer rates is likely explained by improvements in detection and diagnosis. The good news is that deaths from thyroid cancer are not increasing.
What’s left, then, is a bunch of celebrity anti-nuclear power activists at the Radiation and Public Health Project — including the likes of Alec Baldwin and Christie Brinkley — seemingly bent on scaring people about nuclear power for no good reason.
Since they believe that man made carbon dioxide emissions drive climate change, you’d think that they would embrace nuclear power as a carbon-free form of generating electricity. Brinkley says that:
“unless we stop global warming in the next 10 to 20 years, our children face a future so bleak and frightening, it brings tears to my eyes just to think of it.”
Baldwin narrated a National Geographic documentary that likened global warming to “doomsday.”
If Baldwin and Brinkley really believe that humans are causing catastrophic global warming, it would seem that they ought to be scaring up, not scaring off support for nuclear power.
Could plug-in hybrid cars actually increase greenhouse gas emissions? Is energy efficiency being oversold as a greenhouse gas reduction measure? A new report from the research arm of Congress raises troubling questions about the direction in which President Obama is taking us.
Produced by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Carbon Control in the U.S. Electricity Sector: Key Implementation Uncertainties provides the lowdown on a variety of carbon control options for the electric power sector, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear power, advanced coal technology, carbon capture and sequestration, plug-in hybrid vehicles and small-scale power generation technologies.
President Obama has proposed that we reduce our CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. For the electric power sector, this goal translates to reducing what is projected to be 2.6 billion metric tons of CO2 emitted in 2020 to approximately the 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2 that were emitted in 1990—a more than 30 percent reduction in emissions over a period of about 10 years.
Could this goal be achieved through gains in energy efficiency? Numerous private and government sources have claimed, after all, that 25- to 30-percent gains in efficiency are possible over a 5- to 15-year time horizon. But according to the CRS, “the diffuse nature of efficiency opportunity and the economic complexity of decision making” has historically made moving beyond the 5 percent to 7 percent electricity savings range “a persistent challenge to conservation proponents.” Although more aggressive policies could be attempted, the CRS says, there is “little track record upon which to base projections of future effectiveness.”
The CRS considered wind power and biomass as renewable energy sources. The main problem with wind, according to the report, is that while proponents assert wind could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs, the U.S. electricity transmission network is already much constrained, with wind power producing only 1 percent of those needs. As much as 19,000 miles of new transmission lines would be needed to make wind work. The price tag—a net present value of $26 billion—isn’t the showstopper so much as public challenges to transmission line projects, which the CRS describes as “among the most serious and intractable challenges in the U.S. energy sector.”
The prospects for biofuels are worse. The CRS report cites sources that say a significant increase in biofuel production “would require harvesting various energy crops at a scale that vastly exceeds current practice.” A 2007 study from MIT estimated that as much as 500 million acres of land would be required, which would displace so much cropland that the U.S. would have to become a “substantial agricultural importer.”
Heavy use of biofuels, it seems, would simply move us from depending on foreign oil to depending on foreign food.
Nuclear power? Given the facts of green opposition to nuclear power and the decline in U.S. nuclear infrastructure over the last 30 years, the optimistic view for nuclear power is that we could perhaps build as many as 30 new U.S. reactors by 2030—fewer than half the number constructed during the 1963-1985 heyday of nuclear construction. The pessimistic view, as cited by the CRS, is that we aren’t likely to see a serious ramp up of nuclear power for 15 to 20 years.
Although advanced coal technology can reduce CO2 emissions, the plants “still burn coal and—absent carbon capture technology—still release large volumes of CO2 to the atmosphere,” observes the CRS. So what about carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)? Should we hold our breath waiting for it? Not according to the CRS. Hardly anyone expects the first CCS projects to be constructed before 2020. Then again, there are so many hurdles for CCS to overcome, “one just has to put a big question mark on it,” the CRS cited a Department of Energy official as saying.
What about plug-in hybrid vehicles? When he was running for president, Obama pledged to put 1 million of the vehicles on the road by 2015. Aside from the question of how popular they’ll be with a projected retail price of $40,000 (as compared to $23,000 for a conventional vehicle), will they actually reduce carbon emissions? Only if the power plants they get electricity from produce little if any carbon. But since most U.S. electricity production is not carbon-free, the CRS observes that the “widespread adoption of plug-in hybrid vehicles through 2030 may have only a small effect on, and might actually increase, net CO2 emissions.”
The final carbon control options addressed by the CRS are the so-called “distributed energy resources” like rooftop solar panels, fuel cells, natural gas microturbines, small scale wind turbines, and combined heat and power systems (CHP), which makes productive use of “waste” heat from electricity generation. Of these resources, only CHP is economical, accounting for nearly 9 percent of U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2007. But according to the CRS, even CHP often faces technical and utility infrastructure barriers to implementation.
Combined with the dubious reasoning behind calls to reduce CO2 emissions—check out this YouTube video produced by JunkScience.com—and repeated avowals by China and India to not make any special efforts to reduce their CO2 emissions, the CRS report makes clear that significant U.S. carbon reduction could very well be little more than an expensive and painful exercise in futility.
Al Gore has a new argument for why carbon dioxide is the global warming boogeyman—and it’s simply out of this world.
Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday with yet another one of his infamous slide shows, Gore observed that the carbon dioxide (CO2) in Venus’ atmosphere supercharges the second-planet-from-the-sun’s greenhouse effect, resulting in surface temperatures of about 870 degrees Fahrenheit. Gore added that it’s not Venus’ proximity to the Sun that makes the planet much warmer than the Earth, because Mercury, which is even closer to the Sun, is cooler than Venus. Based on this rationale, then, Gore warned that we need to stop emitting CO2 into our own atmosphere.
Incredibly, not a Senator on the Committee questioned—much less burst into outright laughter at—Gore’s absurd point. In fact, each Senator who spoke at the hearing, including Republicans, offered little but fawning praise for Gore. It’s hard to know whether the hearing’s lovefest was simply an example of the Senate’s exaggerated sense of collegiality, appalling ignorance and gullibility about environmental science, or fear of appearing to be less green than Gore.
It is true that atmospheric CO2 warms both Venus and the Earth, but that’s about where the CO2 commonality between the two planets ends. While the Venusian atmosphere is 97 percent CO2 (970,000 parts per million), the Earth’s atmosphere is only 0.038 percent CO2 (380 parts per million). So the Venusian atmosphere’s CO2 level is more than 2,557 times greater than the Earth’s. And since the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere is increasing by only about 2 parts per million annually, our planet is hardly being Venus-ized.
Gore’s incorporation of Mercury in his argument is equally specious because Mercury doesn’t really have any greenhouse gases in its atmosphere that would capture the radiation it gets from the Sun. As a result, the daily temperature on Mercury varies from about 840 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to about -275 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Mercury’s daily temperature swing actually belies Gore’s unqualified demonization of greenhouse gases, whose heat trapping characteristics tend to stabilize climate and prevent wild temperature fluctuations.
The significance of Gore’s testimony is that the Venus scenario seems to be his new basis for claiming that CO2 drives the Earth’s climate and, hence, his call that we must stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. At no time did he refer to his two An Inconvenient Truth-era arguments concerning the relationship between CO2 and global temperature—that is, the Antarctic ice core record that goes back 650,000 years and the 20th century temperature/CO2 record. There’s good reason for his apparent abandonment of these arguments—presented fairly, both actually debunk global warming alarmism. (Note: This YouTube video that I produced explains this point.)
Gore seemed to “wow” the Senate Committee with images and projections of environmental and even political upheaval allegedly already caused and to be caused in the future by climate change, such as melting glaciers and the 2007 fires in Greece that, Gore says, almost brought down the government. Gore repeatedly said that global warming threatens the “future of human civilization” and could bring it to a “screeching halt” in this century. Gore said that we are on a fossil fuel “rollercoaster” that is headed for a “crash.” We are near a “tipping point,” he said, beyond which human civilization isn’t possible on this planet.
Such melodrama, of course, is necessary to conceal and distract from the fact that there is no scientific evidence indicating that manmade emissions of CO2 are having any detectable impact, much less any harm, on the Earth’s climate or its population.
During his testimony, Gore invoked the specter of James Hansen, NASA’s global warming alarmist-in-chief, to bolster his climate claims. But like the ice core and 20th century temperature records, Hansen may soon have to be dropped from Gore’s presentations.
Hansen’s former NASA supervisor—atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon, who recently announced that he is skeptical of global warming alarmism—recently wrote to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staffer Marc Morano that, “Hansen…violated NASA’s official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind’s effect on it) … [and] thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress.”
Commenting on another key deficiency in the manmade catastrophic global warming hypothesis, Theon also observed that “[climate] models do not realistically simulate the climate system … some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results … This is clearly contrary to how science should be done … Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy.”
The same could be said for Gore and his slide shows.
Venus envy? Yeah, why not? There’s no Al Gore there.(Read more)
If you thought the food nannies’ appetite for dictating what beverages you may enjoy would be satisfied by their crusade against regular, sugar-sweetened soda, think again. Their new battle cry is shaping up to be, “None of the calories but all of the sin.”
Government-funded researchers led by the University of Texas’ Jennifer Nettleton analyzed diet and health data collected from 6,814 adults and reported in the journal Diabetes Care (Jan. 16) that daily consumption of diet soda was associated with “significantly greater” risks of type 2 diabetes and “metabolic syndrome.”
Although the researchers perfunctorily acknowledged that their study doesn’t prove a causal connection between diet soda and health problems, they nevertheless spent a great deal of space suggesting why their results might be plausible.
They hypothesized that artificial sweeteners may: “increase hedonistic desires for sweetness and more energy dense foods”; reduce dietary guilt and facilitate the overconsumption of other foods; and affect biological processes related to insulin resistance, glucose regulation and weight gain.
Though they acknowledged that “empirical data have not universally supported” the first two hypotheses and that studies are “lacking” concerning the last hypothesis, none of this seemed to dissuade them from proclaiming that their results were consistent with “accumulating evidence of the existence of these associations.”
But rather than hypothesizing—or fantasizing—about why their results might be plausible and consistent, they should have taken a harder, more objective look at their data and statistics.
First, their reported statistical correlations between daily diet soda consumption and diabetes and metabolic syndrome—67 percent and 36 percent increases in “relative risk,” respectively—are too small to be considered as reliable indicators of any sort of real-life associations. As the National Cancer Institute once went to pains to point out in a press release, “In epidemiologic research, [increases in risk of less than 100 percent] are considered small and usually difficult to interpret. Such increases may be due to chance, statistical bias or effects of confounding factors that are sometimes not evident.”
That suite of deficiencies is precisely the problem with the study and, for that matter, the several prior studies the researchers generously referred to as “accumulating evidence.”
Diabetes and metabolic syndrome are common conditions that are multifactorial in origin and, therefore, difficult to study through epidemiologic analysis. The researchers admitted that not all risk factors were considered. Overlooked, for example, was the confounding factor of genetics, a key risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Data on the study subjects’ genetics, such as family medical history, wasn’t collected and factored into the statistical analysis. Could this omission be important?
It is clear from the study analysis that the more confounding factors the researchers considered, the weaker their statistical correlations became. Had a more complete and thorough data collection and analysis been undertaken, it’s quite possible that even their weak correlations would have entirely evaporated.
Another glaring problem is that the researchers don’t really know how much diet soda any study subject consumed during the 8-year-long study. Instead, they relied only on study subject guesstimates of consumption made at the beginning of the study period.
While the study doesn’t appear to add anything meaningful to what we know about diet and health, it will no doubt add grist to the growing campaign against diet soda that was launched by a 2005 report, also from University of Texas researchers.
That study reported that diet soda drinkers were at greater risk of obesity than sugar-sweetened soda drinkers and concluded that artificial sweeteners “might be fueling—rather than fighting—our escalating obesity epidemic.” It was an awfully big conclusion to be drawn from a study where, among other deficiencies, the study subjects’ consumption of diet beverages was once again guesstimated, rather than verified or validated by the researchers.
But if a study has been published, it must be true, right?
In its January 2009 issue, the self-proclaimed “healthy lifestyle” magazine, Prevention, labeled diet soda a “health food impostor” and stated that, “Drinking just one can or bottle a day increases your risk of metabolic syndrome, which packs on heart-unhealthy belly fat. Sip flavored seltzer water instead. Steer clear of those sparkling waters that contain artificial sweeteners: they’re just diet soda in disguise.”
The Idaho-Statesman (Jan. 13) ran a column from the “YOU Docs”—Mike Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D.—that warned readers, “See those people in the soda aisle? They all have something in common: a higher risk of heart disease. And you may be one of them, even if you drink only one 12-ounce soft drink daily—be it regular or diet.”
New York Governor David Paterson recently proposed to tax non-diet sodas based on dubious claims about their role in weight gain. It’s not too hard to figure out where the junk science railroad may be headed next.(Read more)
Editor’s note: see the Canadian connection with the Socialist International group in the J-Log entry here (in item #3)
Incoming White House energy-environment czar Carol Browner was recently discovered to be a commissioner in Socialist International. While that revelation has been ignored by the mainstream media and blithely dismissed by her supporters, you may soon be paying the cost of Browner’s political beliefs in your electricity bill.
Socialist International is precisely what it sounds like—a decidedly anti-capitalistic political cause. Founded in 1951, its organizing document rails against capitalism, asserting that it “has been incapable of satisfying the elementary needs of the world’s population … unable to function without devastating crises and mass unemployment … produced social insecurity and glaring contrasts between rich and poor … [and] resorted to imperialist expansion and colonial exploitation.…” Socialist International also asserts, “In some countries, powerful capitalist groups helped the barbarism of the past to raise its head again in the form of Fascism and Nazism.” So Socialist International at least partly blames Adolph Hitler on capitalism.
According to its own principles, Socialist International favors the nationalization of industry, is skeptical of the benefits of economic growth and wants to establish a more “equitable international economic order.” In true Marxist form, it asserts that, “The concentration of economic power in few private hands must be replaced by a different order in which each person is entitled—as citizen, consumer or wage-earner—to influence the direction and distribution of production, the shaping of the means of production, and the conditions of working life.”
There’s much more in Socialist International’s principles, but you get the idea.
So what does all this have to do with your electricity bill? In late-December, Carbon Control News reported that Browner was a “strong backer” of utility “decoupling,” which had emerged as a “key climate policy priority for Obama.”
What is utility decoupling? The profits of electric utility companies have traditionally depended on the amount of electricity sold; basically, the more power that is sold, the more profit that is earned. The productivity-profitability link is a logical and standard business principle that is easy to understand, easy to implement and that has worked for, well, millennia in myriad business ventures—but no more for electric utilities, if Browner has her way.
Browner wants to sever, or decouple, a utility’s profits from the amount of electricity it sells. More electricity means more coal and natural gas burning, which, according to green dogma, means more greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. So Browner believes that less electricity production is, at least, a partial answer to climate change. But less electricity would mean less profitability for electric utilities, a powerful Washington lobby that Browner can ill afford to antagonize.
To date, the electric utility industry has aided and abetted the climate alarmist cause, if not by actually lobbying for global warming regulation, then at least by its willingness to entertain such regulation as public policy worthy of serious consideration. But since endangering utility profits would likely galvanize the industry once and for all against emissions regulation, the green dilemma boils down to figuring out a way to reduce electricity sales while guaranteeing utility profits. Enter decoupling.
How would decoupling actually function in practice? There are several different schemes for decoupling, but their tedious complexity precludes elaboration here. But the schemes all essentially amount to the same thing—sticking it to ratepayers and taxpayers. This should come as no surprise, when you stop to think about it.
Decoupling involves government guaranteeing electric utilities steady or steadily increasing profits for selling less electricity. That means implementing one of three basic scenarios: (1) consumers paying more for less electricity; (2) electricity prices remaining steady and taxpayers being called upon to subsidize the difference between the profits from actual electricity sales and the profits guaranteed by government; or (3) some combination of the two. There are no other possibilities.
Decoupling advocates assert that the consumers can avoid higher electric bills through “voluntary conservation measures”—that is, you can lower your bill by using less power. It’s a specious assertion since consumers will still pay higher rates for the electricity they use. Moreover, “voluntary conservation” is not necessarily without cost. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs, insulation, weather stripping, solar panels and other electricity conservation efforts all can entail significant added costs that can take many years to pay for themselves.
Getting back to Browner, what could be more anti-capitalistic than to disassociate profits from sales? It’s often difficult enough to determine profits when they are tied to sales—ask any author or recording artist. Imagine the difficulty, arbitrariness and potential for gamesmanship, if not just plain fraud, involved with government-dictated profitability based on reducing productivity. In the case of electric utilities, already a most heavily regulated enterprise, even greater government regulation of the industry will be required, which, of course, is what a good socialist like Browner would want.
Perhaps what’s most troublesome about all this is the stealthiness. Less than a week after Browner was outed as a Socialist International muckety-muck, the group scrubbed its web site of her photo and evidence of her commission membership. And in the larger picture, it’s intellectually dishonest for advocates of socializing electric utilities to promote the euphemistic “decoupling” as if it were some novel solution rather than what it really is—a subversion of our capitalistic system.
You know, one might get the impression that there’s actually something wrong with, and embarrassing about, a key White House adviser advocating the undermining of a basic principle of our economic system.
Editor’s note: see the Canadian connection with the Socialist International group in the J-Log entry here (in item #3)
President-elect Obama has reportedly chosen Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and one of People magazine’s “sexiest men alive,” for the post of surgeon general. Those aren’t the only reasons that the surgeon general’s position ought to be abolished.
The original version of the surgeon general position was created in 1870 to administer what was then known as the Marine Hospital System (MHS), which cared for sick and injured merchant seaman. The MHS, including a uniformed “Commission Corps” of physicians, was converted in 1902 into the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service, and its mission was expanded to medical inspection and quarantine of arriving immigrants, such as those landing at Ellis Island in New York.
In 1912, the Service was renamed the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) as its mission was further expanded to conduct investigations into infectious diseases (such as tuberculosis, hookworm, malaria, and leprosy), sanitation, water supplies, and sewage disposal. Between 1930 and 1944, the Commission Corps officers were expanded to include engineers, dentists, research scientists, nurses, and other health care specialists.
But in 1968, the surgeon general position fell victim to President Lyndon Johnson’s reorganization of the then-Department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW, or what is known today as the Department of Health and Human Services). The Office of Surgeon General that administered the PHS was scrapped, and responsibility for the PHS was assigned to the assistant secretary for health, who reported directly to the secretary of HEW. A position of “surgeon general” was then created to merely “advise” the assistant secretary on professional medical matters.
After almost two decades of more bureaucratic reshuffling — during which time the surgeon general was made a direct adviser of the secretary of HEW followed by the combining of the positions of surgeon general and assistant secretary for health in 1977 and their separation again in 1981 — the Office of the Surgeon General was re-established in 1987 with largely nominal responsibility for managing the PHS Commissioned Corps personnel.
The surgeon general doesn’t actually command all of the Commission Corps officers. Most of them work in other federal agencies — like the EPA, Coast Guard and Bureau of Prisons — and report directly to the various line managers in those agencies who may or may not be in the PHS.
Although C. Everett Koop attempted to revitalize the Corps in the late 1980s, the superfluous nature of the surgeon general position became glaringly obvious during the tenure of Jocelyn Elders, President Bill Clinton’s first surgeon general. Besides taking controversial positions on drug legalization and the distribution of contraceptives in schools, in early December 1994, Elders spoke in support of the teaching of masturbation. She was promptly fired by Clinton. The position of surgeon general remained vacant for three years, until Clinton nominated David Satcher.
At the time of Satcher’s nomination, the Cato Institute’s Dr. Michael Gough and I observed in a Wall Street Journal column, “We have not had a surgeon general for three years. Has anyone noticed? Is anyone’s health at risk?”
The answer, of course, was that no one’s health was at risk and, in fact, the U.S. public health had never been better. Life expectancy was at an all-time high. Death rates from cancer, heart disease and AIDS were falling. This trend continues today, no thanks to whatever it is that the surgeon general does. And, by the way, what exactly has the current surgeon general been doing?
Judging by 23 of the 32 press releases issued from his office during 2008, Acting Surgeon General Steven Galson has spent a great deal of time traveling coast-to-coast promoting the “Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future” project, which “focuses on recognizing and showcasing those communities throughout the nation that are addressing childhood overweight and obesity prevention by helping kids stay active, encouraging healthy eating habits, and promoting healthy choices.”
So let’s look at a few examples of Surgeon General Galson in action:
In Harrisonburg, Pa., Galson presented, “… the Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future Champion Award to the Girls Golf Program, a partnership between the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the United States Golf Association, James Madison University, and Mulligan’s Golf Center.” The media release continued: “This program is helping local girls and women stay physically active, gain self-confidence, and develop lasting friendships, while fostering an enjoyment for the game of golf.”
At Disney World, Galson honored the Walt Disney Company for removing trans fats from the foods on its menu and for making sure that the use of the Disney name and its characters is limited to kid-focused products that meet specific guidelines that limit calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar.”
In New Mexico, Galson honored a wellness center that “will help students stay fit and healthy using new tools such as exer-gaming and interactive stationary bicycles.”
So over the last 96 years, the Surgeon General has gone from working on genuine public health problems (infectious disease, clean water and sanitation) to advocating golf, Mickey Mouse-less food and beverage containers and video exercise games as public health measures.
It may very well be that Gupta’s celebrity — apparently his unique qualification to hold office — makes him the ideal nominee to continue the Office of Surgeon General’s downward trajectory into obscurity and oblivion. On the other hand, if Gupta were really serious about advising Americans on health matters, he would stay at CNN where he could reach more people on any given day than he could by traveling the country handing out dubious prizes that amount to little more than corporate public relations.(Read more)
Some astronomers seem to be willing to say and do just about anything just to get a better look at the heavens, including making city streets safer for criminals.
In a commentary in Nature magazine (Jan. 1) presaging the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, astronomer Malcolm Smith says that it’s time for cities to “turn off the lights” wo we can better see the Milky Way, conserve energy, protect wildlife and benefit human health. Smith is part of the so-called Dark Skies Awareness project, an international coalition of astronomers and related institutions that wants to “find allies in a common cause to convince authorities and the public that a dark sky is a valuable resource for everyone.”
“A fifth of the world’s population cannot see the Milky Way,” is Smith’s headline argument. “This has a subtle cultural impact. Without a direct view of the stars, mankind is cut off from most of the Universe, deprived of any direct sense of its huge scale and our tiny place within it,” he asserts.
That fuzzy mix of cosmology, sociology and psychology would seem to be an odd argument coming from someone who holds himself out to be a scientist. Odder still is Smith’s subsequent statement that, “Our relationship with artificial light is complicated and changing. Humans innately fear the darkness and modern society relies on light as a security measure, even though there is no evidence that controlling light wastage increases crime levels.”
Moving past the term “controlling light wastage,” which seems to be little more than a euphemism for darker city streets, plenty of data link dim urban areas with higher crime rates. A 2004 study in the Journal of British Criminology, for example, studied 13 U.S. and British cities and concluded that improved street lighting, on average, was associated with a 20 percent decrease in crime. In contrast, I could find no data linking the inability to see the Milky Way with any sort of harm to anyone.
Smith next asserts that skyscraper lighting kills millions of migratory birds in North America. An “unnecessary annual slaughter,” he calls it. But his source for that factoid, the Fatal Light Awareness Program, doesn’t even place building lighting in its “Top 13” risks to birds. Glass windows are first (purportedly killing more than 900 million birds per year), followed by power lines (174 million), hunting (more than 100 million), house cats (100 million), cars and trucks (100 million), pesticides and cutting hay (67 million), communications towers (4 to 10 million), oil and gas drilling (1 to 2 million), land development (unknown), livestock water tanks (unknown), logging and mining (unknown), commercial fishing (unknown) and power line electrocution (more than 1,000).
It seems that if Smith were genuinely concerned about birds he would also be promoting windowless buildings, catless homes, hayless farms and other similar “awareness” projects. But there’s more to Smith’s argument for making urban areas more dangerous in the name of enabling urbanite contemplation of the Milky Way.
Smith suggests that city lights increase cancer risk by reducing the normal production of the hormone melatonin, “a suppressant of cell division in cancer tissues,” he asserts. But alleging a link between melatonin levels and cancer risk is speculation, not fact. To support this conjecture, Smith cites a 2007 article in the Journal of Pineal Research that vaguely concluded, “The increasing prevalence of exposure to light at night has significant social, ecological, behavioral and health consequences that are only now becoming apparent.”
Putting millennia of nighttime candle and torch illumination aside, we’ve been lighting street and indoor lights with gas since 1807 and with electricity since the 1880s. If night lighting was a genuine and significant problem, you’d think someone would have noticed by now. Moreover, improved and increased night lighting in developed countries over the last 200 years has coincided with more than a doubling of life expectancy, the most objective indicator of public health. As you can readily see from this map image of nighttime lighting around the planet, it’s the darkest populated areas that tend to be the least healthy and poorest.
Although Smith only briefly mentions energy conservation and energy-efficient lighting in his article, a visit to the Dark Skies Awareness project Web page reveals that the project is partnering with the World Wildlife Fund to promote global warming alarmism. The precise point of intersection for the two groups’ agendas is the upcoming “Earth Hour” on March 29, when they hope “tens of millions of people around the world will come together once again to make a bold statement about their concern about climate change by… turning off their lights for one hour.”
Dark Skies states that, “Earth Hour symbolizes that by working together, each of us can make a positive impact in the fight against climate change. Here in the US, it sends a message that Americans care about this issue and stand with the rest of the world in seeking to find solutions to the escalating climate crisis.”
The term “escalating climate crisis,” however, can only justifiably be referring to global warming alarmism rather than manmade temperature increases. Average global temperature, after all, has trended downward over the last five years despite the ever-increasing output of manmade greenhouse gases.
If Smith’s article is what passes for scientific thinking among the Dark Skies crowd, perhaps they ought to consider renaming the group the Dark Ages Advocacy project.(Read more)
New York Governor David Paterson has proposed to levy an 18 percent tax on non-diet soft drinks under the guise of combating obesity. Government doesn’t get much more cynical than this.
After alleging that “almost one in four New Yorkers under age 18 are obese,” Paterson’s budget proposal for 2009-2010 asserts that, “Significant price increases should discourage individuals, especially children and teenagers, from consumption and help fight obesity which results in higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.” So the purpose of the tax, according to proposal, is to discourage people from drinking non-diet soft drinks.
The proposal then estimates that the tax will raise $404 million during 2009-2010 and — get this — $539 million during 2010-2011. Since tax revenues from non-diet soft drink sales are budgeted to increase rather than decrease — as one might expect from the alleged purpose of the tax — Paterson actually seems to be counting on the tax not working. Combating obesity is not grounds for the tax; it is, instead, camouflage for it — and not very good camouflage at that.
In his Dec. 18 New York Times paean to the tax, columnist Nicholas Kristof ominously intoned that, “The average American consumes about 35 gallons of non-diet soda each year and gets more added sugar from soda than from desserts.”
But that 35 gallons works out to about a can of non-diet soda (containing about 140 calories) per day. Is a can of non-diet soda per day something to worry about? If common sense is not enough to answer that question, then consider the food recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
In its dietary guidelines for Americans — a.k.a. the “Food Pyramid” — the USDA recommends the servings that should be consumed daily from different food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk and oils. The USDA makes these recommendations for different levels of individual daily calorie consumption, starting at a 1,000-calorie-per-day diet and going up to a 3,200 calorie-per-day diet.
In addition to fruits, vegetables, grains and the other food groups, the USDA also includes a category labeled, “Discretionary calorie allowance,” which constitutes the calories left over for each diet level after consuming the recommended amounts from the other food groups. Someone who should consume 1,000 calories per day and who ate the recommended portions of fruits, grains, meats, milk and oils would only have consumed 835 calories. That person would have 165 calories left over for discretionary eating — more than enough room for a 140-calorie can of non-diet soda. At the high-end of daily calorie consumption, someone who is on a 3,200-calorie-per-day diet would have a discretionary calorie allowance of 648 calories — more than 4.5 cans of non-diet soda.
The bottom line is that, all calories being equal, a can of non-diet soda per day — that is, Kristof’s ominous 35 gallons per year — is well with the guidelines of the USDA’s Food Pyramid for most people and so cannot be viewed as a persuasive factoid in support of Paterson’s proposed tax.
Kristof is also way off base in his effort to liken non-diet soft drinks to tobacco. “These days,” Kristof asserts, “sugary drinks are to American health roughly what tobacco was a generation ago.” Kristof then quotes long-time food nanny Barry Popkin, who says, “Soft drinks are linked to diabetes and obesity in the way that tobacco is to lung cancer.”
As this column has pointed out before, there simply is no scientific basis for concluding that non-diet drinks cause obesity or diabetes. The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2002 that, “There is no clear and consistent association between increased intake of added sugars and [body weight].” And this remains true today.
An August 2008 review of research on soft drinks and weight gain by Emily Wolff (Boston University School of Medicine) and Michael Dansinger (Tufts University) concluded, “Sugar-sweetened soft drink intake has increased dramatically during the past few decades, yet the magnitude of the weight gain and adverse health effects by soft drinks are poorly understood due to a paucity of clinical trial data… which would be necessary to demonstrate a causal link between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and weight gain.” The translation is that despite decades of research — including at least five clinical trials — into the health effects of soft drinks, scientists still can’t identify any specific harm with any certainty.
Public health scolds unfortunately often try to blacken and intimidate anyone who disagrees with them by likening them to the tobacco industry. But to the extent there is any deceit-in-the-name-of-money being practiced in the case of non-diet drinks, that charge is more appropriately laid at the feet of the New York Governor and his supporters in the media and public health industry. If this group was sincere about its concern for obese children, it would do something other than just exploiting them as a means of raising money for the state.(Read more)
It’s little wonder why the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list doesn’t include anyone accused of breaking federal environmental laws. It’s hard to argue that a father-son team accused of illegally importing Alfa Romeo sports cars that don’t meet U.S. tailpipe emissions standards is the criminal equivalent of the likes of Usama bin Laden or the other hardened sociopaths for whom the FBI warns the public to remain on the lookout.
But the Environmental Protection Agency has now cured its apparent case of outlaw-envy with the launch of its own “Wanted” list last week. Hoping to “track down environmental fugitives,” the agency wants to “increase the number of ‘eyes’ looking for environmental fugitives.”
In addition to the Alfa Romeo Gang believed to be hiding out in Italy (so remain alert on your next visit to Tuscany), the EPA wants us to keep an eye out for Mauro Valenzuela, an airplane mechanic criminally charged for improperly loading oxygen canisters thought to have caused the tragic 1996 crash of ValuJet flight 592.
But converting the crash into an environmental crime seems a stretch. The EPA apparently views the canister loading as “illegal transportation of hazardous material.” In any event, Valenzuela’s boss and co-worker were eventually acquitted of the same criminal counts. The only reason Valenzuela also wasn’t acquitted was because he panicked and fled to parts unknown before trial. He is, in effect, a fugitive from his own innocence—but he is wanted by the EPA nonetheless.
The rest of the EPA’s fugitives appear to be mostly hapless immigrants now believed to be “hiding” oversees in places like Syria, Mexico, India, Greece, Poland and China. They’re wanted for a variety of alleged infractions, including smuggling banned refrigerants, discharging waste into sewers, lying to the Coast Guard about a ship’s waste oil management system, transporting hazardous waste without a manifest, and creating false official documents.
While the EPA’s fugitives certainly appear to be a motley lot who may have broken a variety of environmental regulations, often unwittingly, one can’t help but wonder whether the EPA’s Wanted list is not only over-the-top, but where the agency is headed.
We, of course, don’t want people breaking environmental laws, however technical or trivial, but there’s hardly a moral equivalence between a food delivery man who, in a panic, drained 32 gallons of gasoline into a storm sewer and Islamic terrorists who have declared war on America.
The list’s creation seems a furtherance of the Greens’ larger campaign to plant the idea within the public’s mind that all environmental “transgressions” fall along a criminal continuum.
Unlike the FBI’s Wanted list, which spotlights a number of truly dangerous characters accused of causing actual harm to real people—murder, kidnapping, rape, child molestation, armed robbery and the like—the EPA’s fugitives are wanted for violations that seem to have caused little, if any, harm to anyone or the environment.
It’s too bad, however, that you can’t say the same thing about the EPA’s Enforcement Division.
In September 1988, the EPA had John Pozsgai indicted for removing more than 5,000 old tires from his property and spreading dirt where the tires had been. Although Pozsgai’s land was bordered by two major highways, a tire dealership and an automobile salvage yard, the EPA considered his land a federally protected “wetland” because of a drainage ditch running along the edge of his property. Though the ditch was mostly dry, it flooded during heavy rain, and the EPA considered it a stream. When Pozsgai filled the ditch without a permit, EPA undercover agents secretly filmed the dump trucks that delivered the topsoil. Though his actions didn’t create any pollution, endanger any species or water quality, Pozsgai was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $200,000.
In 1997, nearly two dozen federal agents, armed with semiautomatic pistols, showed up at James Knott’s wire-mesh manufacturing plant in Massachusetts. Knott was indicted on two counts of violating the Clean Water Act for allegedly pumping acidic water into the town sewer system. The EPA publicly condemned Knott and warned that his conviction could result in up to six years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. The case was subsequently dropped when it was discovered that the EPA had omitted vital information from the search warrant information indicating that Knott wasn’t violating the law.
What is the future of eco-crime? A man in the U.K. was fined $215 for leaving the lid of his trash can ajar by more than three inches. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed last July to deputize garbage men to fine people as much as $1,000 for mixing trash with recyclables. Garbage cops, however, pale in comparison to the call earlier this year by NASA’s global warming alarmist, James Hansen, to put the CEOs of oil and coal companies on trial for “high crimes against humanity and nature”—a sentiment first broached in 2006 by a blogger for Grist magazine who called for a “climate Nuremburg” for those who have questioned the need for global warming regulation. Is this really the direction in which we want to go?
It could just be that the real threat to society comes not from a couple of guys selling a few European sports cars that don’t meet stringent U.S. tailpipe standards, but those who use the environment as an excuse to commit crime like, say, the elusive Earth Liberation Front (ELF) terrorists whose arson and vandalism targets have included homes, university buildings, a ski lodge, SUVs, SUV dealerships and more. What’s the EPA doing about ELF?
If the EPA needs a Wanted list, how about making it a “Help Wanted” list in search of Enforcement Division employees with some perspective?(Read more)
Has public health replaced patriotism as the new “last refuge of scoundrels”?
T. Boone Pickens’ self-enrichment plan to switch America into natural gas-powered cars and wind power was initially advertised as a means to wean America off foreign oil. When the plan was announced last July, oil had spiked to $147 per barrel, and Pickens’ TV ads blamed our oil “addiction” for a $700 billion annual “wealth transfer” to foreigners.
But what a difference five months makes.
Oil prices have since plummeted to below $50 per barrel, vaporizing any price advantage of natural gas over conventional gasoline. Frozen credit markets have blocked Pickens from the private financing needed to build wind farms. His own financial resources have suffered as many investors pulled out of Pickens’ hedge fund, BP Capital, after losses of as much as 60 percent.
But Pickens seems to have a “Plan B”: he’s re-casting wind power as a public health crusade, apparently hoping to obtain taxpayer financing from the Obama administration.
Toward that goal, the American Lung Association (ALA) endorsed the Pickens Plan this week. Chairman Steve Nolan claimed that “millions of Americans are consistently exposed to pollution levels that are scientifically proven to be harmful. [The ALA] applauds Mr. Pickens’ goal … because cleaner energy will make our air healthier to breathe.”
The ALA media release said that “Cars, trucks, heavy equipment, factories, power plants and other sources burn coal and oil and bombard the air with smog, soot, carcinogens, toxic chemicals and metals. Breathing dirty air causes hospitalizations, asthma attacks, heart attacks and lung cancer, as well as shortening the lives of tens of thousands of people in this country every year….”
Added Pickens: “The ALA tells me that well over 125 million people live in areas with unhealthy levels of air pollution.”
Also chiming in was New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg who, invoking the specter of childhood asthma, said, “Stopping the pollution that chokes out children’s lungs… will ensure a… healthier future for New York City.”
While a thorough debunking of the myth that current U.S. air quality levels are associated with health problems is beyond the scope of this column, we can examine Bloomberg’s indictment of New York’s air quality as a cause of asthma.
The city’s air quality has been cast as a health threat since at least the Great Depression. A 1931 report by the NYC health commissioner hypothesized that air pollution “played a large role in the production of asthma.” But this assertion was never proven true.
An October 1962 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association examined hospitalizations for asthma during a November 1953 spike in NYC air pollution. No increase in hospital visits was identified. After a November 1966 “air pollution emergency,” the New York Times editorialized that the city had “good fortune in escaping serious harm to the health of its residents.”
Amid a July 1970 spike in air pollution, the New York Times reported that, “There is no evidence yet to show that this week’s foul air in New York City has led to increased deaths or sickness, according to the city Health Department.” The Times also noted that, “while suspicions [that air pollution aggravates emphysema, bronchitis and arteriosclerosis] continue, there still is no direct scientific evidence that air pollution can initiate disease of the lungs or other organs in an otherwise healthy person.”
The Times’ report was published six weeks after the federal Clean Air Act of 1970 was enacted—since which time U.S. air pollution levels have dropped dramatically, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Yet the ALA, Pickens and Bloomberg apparently would have us believe that current air quality is “choking children.” This claim is not supported by Bloomberg’s own Department of Health and Hygiene, which acknowledges that it doesn’t know what causes or triggers asthma.
While the ALA is correct that many people live in areas that, for one reason or another, don’t meet strict federal air quality standards 24 hours per day, 365 days per year, it’s important to remember that these standards are designed as attainable regulatory goals, not scientifically based health standards. There is no evidence that typical violations of air quality standards endanger the public health whatsoever.
The ALA’s interest in air pollution may, of course, be more related to its own financial health than the public health. When the ALA began in 1904, tuberculosis was its concern. Later, smoking became its focus. But the ALA’s success on those fronts has left a mission void which, as this column reported in 2001, is being partly filled with environmental activism for which it has received financial support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
So far, Pickens has not made a donation to the ALA and was not asked to do so, an organization spokesman told me. My call to Pickens’ media person was not returned.
Pickens said in a Wall Street Journal op-ed last July that his plan could be implemented through private—as opposed to taxpayer—investment. But in a Reuters interview this week, he said, “‘Where’s the money?’ is the question. I don’t know how we’ll do it. I’m anxious to see what Obama comes up with. There’s no money to finance a wind project now.”
Pickens-the-billionaire apparently hopes to pick the taxpayer’s wallet through Obama’s promised public works stimulus package, which includes both green and infrastructure jobs. Pickens’ scheme would cover both bases, and he’s probably figuring that further coloring it as a public health measure can only help.
But air quality is not and never has been the public health culprit that some would like to make it out to be. That Pickens feels he needs to position his plan as a public health measure only further underscores its bankruptcy as public policy.(Read more)
One in three toys was found to have “significant levels of toxic chemicals, including lead, flame retardants and arsenic,” according to a new report from the anti-chemical industry. But don’t let the report’s political agenda distract you from very real toy safety issues.
In what is pitched as its second annual “consumer guide to toxic chemicals in toys,” the Michigan-based Ecology Center reported that, among the 1,500 toys that it tested: 20 percent contained lead, with 3.5 percent exceeding the current recall threshold for lead-based paint; 2.9 percent contained bromine at levels greater than 1,000 parts per million (ppm), indicating the use of brominated flame-retardants; 18.9 percent contained detectable levels of arsenic, with 1.4 percent containing greater than 100 ppm; 2.4 percent contained detectable levels of cadmium; 4.2 percent contained detectable levels of mercury, with 1 percent containing levels greater than 100 ppm; and 27 percent of toys were made with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic.
All these chemicals and ppm-levels may sound scary, but what’s the reality?
First, it’s important to keep in mind that there are no reports of any children being harmed by toys containing brominated flame retardants, arsenic, cadmium, mercury or PVC. Brominated flame retardants, in fact, help keep children safe by slowing the burn rate in case of a fire.
That no documented harm has been caused by these chemicals in toys comes as little surprise since, as the basic principle of toxicology goes, “it is the dose that makes the poison.” All substances even air, water, sugar and salt, are “toxic” at sufficiently high exposures. All of us come into contact with potentially toxic substances every day in our air, water, food, clothes, jewelry, and personal care products, for example, but not at levels that cause harm. The Ecology Center made no effort to explore whether and to what extent children are actually exposed to the chemicals detected—much less did it establish that any such exposure is harmful.
The Ecology Center aims to scare parents merely based on the mere detection of these chemicals in toys, which is nothing less than classic junk science. But what’s more interesting—and revealing about the Ecology Center’s motives in fomenting the toy scare—is that it entirely missed warning parents about a very real and deadly threat posed by some of the toys it tested.
Of the top ten lead-containing toys, six were jewelry (necklaces, charm bracelets and a pin) containing from 0.2 percent to about 41 percent lead, according to the Ecology Center. If you then go to the group’s web page to find out why you should be scared about lead in toys, you first, and foremost, get the old environmentalist myths about how there is no safe exposure to lead and that lead causes lower IQ scores and other development problems. While the Ecology Center does mention some real health effects of lead poisoning, including muscle weakness, anemia, and kidney damage, it omitted the big one, death, and then fails to mention a real death that parents might find instructive.
In February 2006, a 4-year old Minnesota boy was taken to the hospital because of vomiting. He was diagnosed with gastroenteritis and released. Two days later, he returned and was admitted to the hospital. Ten hours later he was placed on a mechanical ventilator. The next day, blood work revealed that the boy had an extraordinarily high blood lead level of 180 micrograms per deciliter, and studies indicated that his brain was receiving no blood flow. He was removed from life support and died.
An autopsy retrieved from his stomach a heart-shaped charmed imprinted with “Reebok.” His mother recognized the object as a charm that came with a pair of shoes belonging to another child whose home her son had visited, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. She was not aware that her son had ingested it, since he had no history of ingesting non-food substances. When tested, the charm was found to consist of 99.1 percent lead. Reebok voluntarily recalled the charms shortly thereafter and instructed parents to “immediately take the charm bracelets away from children and dispose of the entire bracelet.”
Did the Ecology Center spotlight this incident and its outcome on its lead information page? No—even though its “most dangerous” lead-containing toy is a Disney-brand Hannah Montana necklace with heart-shaped charms that are 40 percent lead. Study leader Jeff Gearhart told me that he had heard of the Minnesota poisoning case, but couldn’t explain why mention of it was omitted.
Blinded by its anti-chemical agenda—Gearhart told me that he was glad to see that companies were responding to the unwelcome spotlight of his research by reformulating their toys—the Ecology Center apparently can’t see the true dangers in the forest because it’s focused on the politically incorrect “chemical” trees. If a public interest group, which is what the Ecology Center holds itself out to be, is really concerned about toy safety, how about alerting parents to real and specific dangers—like swallowing small lead trinkets? But that’s not all.
In 2007, there were 232,900 toy-related injuries among all ages, including 18 toy-related deaths among children under age 15, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). Riding toys, including non-motorized scooters, and small toy balls were associated with most of the deaths. Most of the 232,900 injuries were lacerations, contusions and abrasions, most frequently to the face and head. Notably, there were no reports of injuries from chemicals in toys.
The Ecology Center seems to be worried about toy safety only to the extent that it helps the anti-chemical political agenda. But there are plenty of genuine toy safety concerns for consumers to consider. They ought not to be distracted from those realities by trumped-up, bogus scares.
The activist group Environmental Defense got a taste of what it used to dish out this week when its Washington, D.C., offices were invaded by another green group, the Global Justice Ecology Project.
The Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) essentially accused Environmental Defense (ED) of collaborating with the enemy—big businesses that want cap-and-trade global warming legislation. Noting that her father was one of ED’s founders, GJEP head Rachel Smolker said she was now “ashamed” of ED because it advocated cap-and-trade. Smolker said that the European version of cap-and-trade, the Kyoto Protocol, had “utterly failed” to reduce emissions and served “only to provide huge profits for the world’s most polluting industries.”
“Instead of protecting the environment, ED now seems primarily concerned with protecting corporate bottom lines. I can hear my father rolling over in his grave,” Smolker said.
The GJEP activists who took over ED’s offices rearranged the furniture to illustrate how cap-and-trade is “like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” and sported signs that read “Keep the cap, ditch the trade” and “Carbon trading is an environmental offense.”
While this column’s position is that global warming alarmism is the ultimate in junk science and that the proposed solutions to this non-problem amount to economic and social suicide, for those who believe in the need for global warming regulation, the GJEP activists do indeed have a point—cap-and-trade is a charade.
If you subscribe to climate alarmism, you can view cap-and-trade only as too little, too late. Last August, the head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, R.K. Pachauri, told the Voice of America that the clock is running out on the amount of time left to reverse global warming. “I would say about six or seven years. We need to think about change rather quickly because unless we do that, then the impacts of climate change are going to get more and more serious,” he said.
Assuming for the sake of argument that manmade greenhouse gases are the climatic culprit that the U.N. and CO2-phobes make them out to be, how much progress toward Pachauri’s goal of reversing global warming will cap-and-trade have made in seven years? None.
First, NASA’s CO2-phobe-in-chief, James Hansen, says that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels need to be stabilized at about 350 parts per million (ppm) to avert harmful climate change. But atmospheric CO2 levels are already at 380 ppm and growing. So the CO2 horse has already left the climate barn.
Next, the schedule of emissions reductions in the Lieberman-Warner climate bill—the legislation that died in the Senate last June because it was too onerous—would only have reduced annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 11 percent by the seventh year of its implementation. Since the Lieberman-Warner scheme covered only 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, in the first place, the actual reduction in annual emissions after seven years would have been less than 8 percent from current levels. As the U.S. would still be emitting more than 6 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere annually, it’s pretty obvious that a measly 8 percent reduction would not “reverse” global warming, as Pachauri says needs to happen.
Finally, as former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, it’s called “global warming” not “America warming.” China is either close to passing, or has already passed, the U.S. as the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter. As it builds a new coal-fired power plant every week, China is increasing its emissions by as much as 10 percent per year. China, then, will increase its emissions more in one year than the U.S. would cut in seven years. Now that’s a carbon offset—one that renders any U.S. cap-and-trade efforts as futile as King Canute trying to command the tides.
The Global Justice Ecology Project is entirely correct that cap-and-trade is a system that will “rake in profits” for Environmental Defense’s big business buddies. ED’s cohorts in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership lobbying effort expect that taxpayers will award them more than $1 trillion in free carbon credits over the first 10 years of a cap-and-trade scheme. After all, USCAP members like Alcoa, Dow Chemical, Dupont, and General Electric are not lobbying for global warming regulation just so they can operate under an even more onerous regulatory regime. Cap-and-trade is the latest in corporate rent-seeking—getting paid for being regulated.
Hardcore Greens like the GJEP are understandably upset at supposed allies “sleeping with the enemy.” But large activist groups like Environmental Defense went mainstream long ago and are now more like the big businesses they used to scorn rather than the than grassroots groups they started out as. In contrast to GJEP’s hand-scrawled 2006 tax return showing revenues of a mere $103,349, ED’s neatly typed out 2006 tax return showed revenues of $83,827,034.
Environmentalism has become an industry of sorts. According to a recent Forbes report, the 11 largest environmental groups have combined annual revenues of about $1.8 billion and own billions of dollars of assets. By selling out, Big Green has cashed in.
It will be interesting to see whether the hardscrabble green groups that seem to really believe in a coming climate apocalypse will succeed in pressuring the limousine Greens to return to the fold, or whether the haves will make the have-nots an offer they can’t refuse.(Read more)
President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to combat unemployment by creating 2.5 million public works jobs could only be loved by someone ignoring the economic and political realities of public works, alternative energy and the Greens.
“Rebuilding roads and bridges, wind farms and solar panels, fuel efficient cars and alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead” is what Obama said he intends to accomplish.
It’s true that road building can contribute to economic growth, but not like Obama seems to think. The road building boom of the 1950s and 1960s did boost U.S. economic growth, according to Federal Reserve economist John Fernald. But this was because mass expansion of the interstate road system facilitated growth-producing economic activity. While necessary for keeping traffic moving safely and smoothly, simply re-building roads and bridges doesn’t spur commerce and, so, isn’t a strategy for economic growth.
While appropriate expenditures on new roads can produce high economic returns, according to a 2002 study published by George Mason University transportation experts in Public Works Management Policy, this isn’t what Obama is proposing. His reticence on new construction is likely due to his indebtedness to the Greens, who oppose new roads. The Natural Resources Defense Council testified before Congress last June, for example, that “footprints,” or new and existing road construction, should be “minimized.”
Moreover, capital spending on infrastructure doesn’t seem to work fast enough in economic hard times. The U.S. has only “limited experience with capital spending as a countercyclical device” and “the results have been largely negative,” according to the George Mason study. Capital expenditures on infrastructure take four to six quarters to implement because of the necessary planning, contract bidding and construction phasing.
The public works programs of the Great Depression, the historical event with which our current economic crisis is being compared, failed to stimulate the economy. As described in Jim Powell’s book, FDR’s Folly, the Civilian Conservation Corps spent $2 billion between 1933 and 1939 working in wilderness areas and parks planting trees, controlling tree diseases, and building paths, picnic areas and firefighting infrastructure.
Not only did the Public Works Administration only build roads, bridges, schools, dams and naval ships, it tended to employ architects, engineers and skilled workers rather than the unskilled people who needed work. Newspaper columnist Walter Lippman concluded that the PWA was “worse than a failure” when it came to jobs creation and economic stimulus.
Other New Deal infrastructure public works programs, including the Federal Emergency Relief Act, Civil Works Administration and the Works Progress Administration, “do not appear to have had the strong effect on productivity” in the areas where the money was spent, concluded National Bureau of Economic Research economists in 2001.
Then there are the Greens, who tend to oppose any sort of construction, even for so-called renewable energy projects. Prominent Greens such as Maryland Gov. Marvin O’Malley and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have opposed wind farms as eyesores. Canadian Greens oppose a wind farm in British Columbia because it allegedly will “wipe out” migratory birds. A wind farm proposed for the Georgia coast cannot proceed without a multiyear study of its impacts on whale calving grounds. Green activists currently oppose dozens of applications for solar farms across more than 518,000 acres of public lands in the Southern California desert because of alleged concerns for tortoises, squirrels and other wildlife.
What about the fuel-efficient cars and alternative energy to which Obama referred? A Washington Post headline this week said it all, “Hybrid vehicles are popular, but making them profitable is a challenge.” Batteries that add $8,000 to sticker prices and $7,500 tax credits that about one-half of Americans can’t take advantage of because they don’t earn enough money didn’t make economic sense when gas cost $4; they make much less sense with $2 gas. Hybrid and plug-in cars may use less fuel, but they are light years away from economic efficiency. If the cars aren’t cost-effective—which is the only reason to buy them—they won’t be flying off the assembly line and won’t be creating jobs in the flagging U.S. car industry.
One great green alternative energy hope is cellulosic ethanol, which uses biomass (like switchgrass) rather than food (like corn) as a feedstock. But there are no commercially viable cellulosic ethanol plants because the technology is expensive. The Department of Energy is spending $385 million to build six plants over the next four years in hopes of producing 130 million gallons of ethanol per year. The purpose is to show that the plants can be run profitably once their construction costs are covered by taxpayers.
But not only will these test plants be too small and not be built in time to provide economic stimulus, the long-term feasibility of cellulosic ethanol itself is questionable. Americans consume about 140 billion gallons of gasoline annually. Will the Greens—who oppose the 149 gasoline refineries now operating—really permit the construction of hundreds of cellulosic ethanol refineries that make greenhouse gas-producing fuels? And what about the environmental impacts of the plants themselves?
Finally, let’s keep in mind that, for most of us, energy is an expense that we like to minimize. How does forcing consumers to buy expensive “green” energy contribute to economic recovery and growth?
If Obama wants to solve the economic crisis when he’s president, he’s going to have to promote policies that encourage real economic growth, rather than regurgitating green talking points that are a recipe for making a bad situation worse.(Read more)
Looking for the root of the impending car industry debacle? Look no further than the failure of the Big Three and the United Auto Workers to challenge the Green attack on cheap gasoline.
Since the 1980s, the golden goose of the U.S. auto industry has been SUV and light truck sales. Those vehicles were so popular and so profitable that the Big Three could afford to meet UAW demands for high wages and generous benefits. The golden goose even enabled the Big Three to afford the infamous UAW Jobs Bank where thousands of laid-off auto workers were kept on the payroll for years, costing the automakers billions of dollars.
But for decades, the Big Three and the UAW overlooked the linchpin of all these “good times”—the cheap gasoline that fueled SUV sales. For some strange reason, neither the companies nor the UAW had the foresight or courage to challenge the Green chokehold on our gasoline supply.
While the Greens blocked oil drilling offshore and on public lands, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Big Three and the UAW looked the other way. When the Greens worked to block the expansion of gasoline refineries through both direct opposition to plant expansion and through stringent EPA regulation that made refinery expansion expensive and unprofitable, the car industry snoozed. Only Ford CEO Wiliam Clay Ford Jr. was active on the Green issue—but not in a helpful way. He advocated higher gas taxes to incentivize the public away from buying SUVs.
It wasn’t until September 2008 that the CEO of General Motors finally got around to calling for increased offshore oil drilling—almost 20 years after the offshore drilling moratorium began. The UAW has yet to make the connection between cheap gas and its members’ jobs.
But let’s not give GM too much credit yet. In a full-page advertisement in the New York Times this week, entitled “There’s a belief that GM is not doing enough,” GM boasts that, “We have aggressively addressed our North American manufacturing footprint, shifting our production from trucks and SUVs to smaller cars and crossover vehicles.” What?
Amazingly, as gas prices plummet to levels not seen since early 2005 and SUV and light truck sales start to rebound, GM is “aggressively” shifting out of the hugely profitable vehicles that the public loves into less-profitable eco-boxes that are loved only by the Greens. Moreover, foreign carmakers can make better ecoboxes and sell them for less money, since they aren’t burdened by the UAW legacy costs that add about $2,000 to the cost of a car. Smaller cars were losers for Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s, and little has changed.
GM has also let the Greens goad it into betting much on the production of the electric car known as the Chevy Volt. “The future is electrifying,” is GM’s marketing pitch for the Volt. Touting the car as an “Extended-Range Electric Vehicle that is redefining the automotive world,” GM says that the Volt “is designed to move more than 75 percent of America’s daily commuters without a single drop of gas.
That means for someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.” Should you decide to drive more than 40 miles, then the Volt has a “gasoline-powered, range-extending engine that drives a generator to provide electric power when you drive beyond the 40-mile battery range.”
But as Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins pointed out last week, “We’re talking about a headache of a car that will have to be recharged for six hours to give 40 miles of gasoline-free driving.” If you use the car as intended, that is, never going beyond 40 miles between charges and so never using the gasoline engine. Even then, you’ll have to periodically drain the tank, since gasoline goes bad after a couple of months. And then you’ll have to make a special effort to dispose of the old fuel in an environmentally safe manner, just as for used motor oil.
The alleged advantage of the Volt is that, while it’s running on its battery, it produces no emissions. But it can hardly be assumed that consumers will flock to the Volt for that dubious reason.
Detracting from this alleged benefit is the fact that India’s Tata Motors is preparing to sell its $2,500 Nano car as low-cost transportation in developing nations. The millions of carbon dioxide-emitting Nanos to be sold in the developing world will more than offset whatever emissions are avoided by the many fewer Volts sold in the U.S. Moreover, there is the overriding reality that both China and India, the fastest growing emitters of carbon dioxide, have vowed not to cut their emissions. So the Volt’s alleged emissions benefit is quite illusory in the context of global warming.
Although the Big Three and the UAW didn’t set out to kill their golden goose, they didn’t do anything to protect it, either. It’s not too late for them to figure out that cheap gasoline is their friend and the Greens are the enemy. The future may be electrifying one day, but for today, the Big Three and UAW need, “Drill, baby, drill” and the equally important “Refine, baby, refine.”(Read more)
If congressional Republicans—or what’s left of them—are looking for the path out of the political wilderness following last week’s electoral drubbing, there’s a shortcut to victory in 2010 being paved for them by the Greens.
Last weekend on Fox News Sunday, Barack Obama’s transition chief, John Podesta, said the Obama administration would act quickly to reverse a recent Bush administration move opening up public lands in Utah to oil and gas drilling. Podesta said that it was a “mistake” for the Bush administration to allow drilling “in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah…”
So, GOP, the battle lines are drawn. Since declining oil and gas prices are likely only temporary, we remain in an energy crisis. The problem could be solved by increasing domestic oil and gas production, but the Obama administration apparently aims to stand four-square against this.
The time has passed for Republicans to fret about being painted by the Greens as “pillagers of the Earth” for supporting drilling in allegedly fragile environments. Let’s get real. While such demagoguery is a standard Green tactic to block the development of natural resources, the notion of a “fragile” environment is a canard.
We routinely alter local environments. Any time you stick a shovel in the ground, you’ve permanently altered the environment. But in a rational world, mere environmental change is not the same as environmental destruction—and if we are going to pretend that it is, then we’re going to have a hard time justifying any development whatsoever.
Moreover, modern oil and gas drillers aim to minimize their environmental impact, out of self-interest if nothing else. The potential legal and reputational liabilities are too great if they don’t. Last spring, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) even commended three oil and gas drillers (BP America, Devon Energy and Questar) for reducing their footprint on public lands.
Of course, local environments will be disrupted to some limited extent by drilling, but most probably to a much lesser extent than most other sorts of development, whether they be new or expanding suburban communities, roads, farming or a green energy projects—like wind farms, solar panel fields, and cellulosic ethanol plants.
Consider, for example, how much “fragile” environment would be disturbed by T. Boone Pickens’ plan to build the largest wind farm in the world on 400,000 acres in the Texas panhandle. While the Greens say they support Pickens’ effort, in what way is the Texas panhandle less fragile than the Utah desert?
Last spring, the BLM placed a moratorium on solar power projects to be built on public lands, pending environmental impact studies. The necessary transmission lines and water use might disturb the native vegetation and wildlife, says the BLM. But the solar power industry screamed bloody murder and the moratorium was soon rescinded.
Given that the Greens oppose oil and gas drilling everywhere, the rest of us—especially congressional Republicans—must adopt the solar industry tactic of outspoken outrage if we want to end the Green-induced energy crisis. There is at least one congressional Republican who understands the Greens’ no-drilling-anywhere game—Arizona’s John Shadegg.
In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in September, Shadegg spotlighted the Greens’ “dead-ender” mentality on drilling with respect to leases in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, which holds an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil (a two-year supply) and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (a three-plus-year supply).
Not only have groups like the Sierra Club and EarthJustice challenged the legality of all 748 government-issued leases in the Chukchi, they’ve challenged the legality of the entire outer continental shelf leasing program itself. Shadegg wrote that the Greens’ “incessant legal and administrative challenges make true the Democrat claim that oil from newly opened [public lands] will not reach the market for years.”
Last week, Shadegg trounced his Democratic opponent, garnering almost 80 percent of the vote. His success stands in stark contrast to Green-friendly Republicans who were defeated, including New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu and North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Then there’s Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who may very well lose in a recount against comedian Al Franken. Let’s not forget that John McCain’s embrace of global warming alarmism garnered him no visible Green support while simultaneously alienating many Republican voters.
Earth to Republicans: the Greens don’t and never will support you. That should come as no surprise since they’re all about left-wing politics—not the environment, which they use only as a battering ram/shield for their political agenda. Kowtowing to the Greens is a fool’s errand, if not political suicide. In contrast, most Americans want and need energy security and independence. They would vociferously support you in that endeavor.
The Greens plan to make an all-out push for their agenda in 2009, knowing that 2010 is an election year in which politicians, even Democrats, get cautious and avoid radical legislation. Since anything could happen in 2010—including the election of a Republican-controlled Congress—the Greens have no choice but to grab what they can, while they can.
All that stands between America and energy policy disaster in 2009 is the Republican minority in Congress. Averting that disaster and championing domestic production is the path to victory in 2010. If the Republican leadership needs help in getting its arms around the problem, a visit to Rep. Shadegg’s office would be a good start.(Read more)
President-elect Barack Obama could be the nation’s first green president—whether he likes it or not. The Greens’ early investment in Obama’s political soul has matured, and they’re already angling for—and even demanding—payback.
Though the financial crunch should place economy-harming global warming legislation on the back burner, the Natural Resources Defense Council is pushing for it within the first 100 days of the new Congress, supposedly as a means of easing the credit crisis and financing renewable energy projects, according to a report in the November 3 issue of Carbon Control News.
Under the NRDC proposal, credits covering as many as six billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions would be issued in the program’s first year. The credits would be guaranteed a minimum value of $15 per ton by Obama’s Treasury Department, magically converting all that hot air into a $90 billion asset. The guarantee would allow the credits to be used as collateral for loans to green energy projects.
Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell, a key Obama supporter and rumored Secretary of Energy candidate, lobbied on behalf of the green energy industry the morning after the election. Responding to a question from a CNBC interviewer about the merits of “undivided government,” Rendell said, “[Undivided government] is going to allow us to act quickly. We need… to send a message to the renewable energy economy, to the [20 to 25] companies in Pennsylvania and… in New Jersey who are hanging in the balance and, if that tax credit is not renewed or made permanent, they’re done in the next three to four months. This government is going to be able to move in the first weeks of the new Congress.”
Then there’s wannabe green-energy billionaire and Obama supporter Al Gore. Not only did Gore’s climate campaign group place full-page ads in national newspapers on Nov. 5 asking “NOW WHAT?,” in a same-day Wall Street Journal op-ed, Gore argued for carbon-free electricity within 10 years and electrification of the automobile fleet. Both are areas in which Gore has significant financial interests through his UK-based investment firm, Generation Investment Management, and his U.S.-based venture capital firm, Kleiner Perkins.
The Greens are more to Obama than just one of many constituencies. He credits the early endorsement of his candidacy by the Sierra Club and League of Conservation Voters (LCV) in February 2004 for his rise from the Illinois State Senate to the U.S. Senate. “I had no money, had no organization, it was unlikely that the Democrats would nominate a skinny guy from the Southside with a funny name like Barack Obama,” he told the National Journal’s CongressDaily publication.
Momentum began to shift his way “when we got the support of the League of Conservation Voters,” he said. “Not only did they provide us financial support, not only was [LCV head] Deb Callahan’s gorgeous face on television saying I was a pretty good guy—and that sold some tickets right there—more importantly the League, along with the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations, signaled to those who are considered swing voters in the state of Illinois, Republicans and independents who may sometimes veer toward that side of the aisle.” Obama was the first non-incumbent member of Congress to be included on the LCV’s list of “environmental champions.”
The LCV said it made an early decision to invest heavily in Obama’s race, “largely because of his support for environmental issues during his tenure in the state Senate.”
“Early on, we recognized Barack’s leadership on these issues, and made a substantial investment in helping him win the Democratic primary,” Callahan said. Not surprisingly both the LCV and Sierra Club endorsed Obama in 2008. The Obama web site emphasized that “The League of Conservation Voters has given Barack Obama the highest lifetime rating of anyone currently running for president.”
When a reporter asked Sierra Club head Carl Pope whether expectations for Obama have been set too high, Pope responded: “We are not electing the archbishop of Canterbury or a saint. We’re electing an American politician. Is he susceptible to pressure? He damn well should be.…We’re not going to go away when he’s elected. We and other forces that are supporting him are going to stay organized. And as he told the environmental community when he met with us, we’re going to have to keep his feet to the fire.”
It’s little wonder, then, that the Sierra Club program director for global warming told the media after this week’s election that a federal renewable energy mandate—that is, compulsory use of expensive and unreliable, but Green-supported, wind and solar power—“is almost a certainty.”
Obama has selected (or perhaps had thrust upon him) former Gore staffer and Clinton administration EPA head Carol Browner to advise on the environmental aspects of the transition. Browner was perhaps the most ruthlessly green EPA administrator ever. In 1997, she issued the most expensive EPA air pollution regulations ever—even over the objections of Gore. Now that’s green.
Finally, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Hollywood) is moving to oust closet global warming skeptic Rep. John Dingell (D-General Motors) from the chairmanship of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee, so that Waxman can play a lead role in climate and other green legislation.
Exit polling indicates that Obama triumphed over John McCain because of the economic crisis. Though he wasn’t elected to be the first green president, the Greens are set to call in their chits and, if necessary, to force that mantle on him.(Read more)
Seventy-six American Nobel laureates in science endorsed Barack Obama this week. Despite their scientific successes, their political analysis just doesn’t make the grade.
Featuring signatories such as James Watson—the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA who shocked the world in 2007 with his assertion that blacks were not as intelligent as whites—the Nobelists praised Obama in an Oct. 28 letter as a “visionary leader who can ensure the future of our traditional strengths in science and technology and who can harness those strengths to address many of our greatest problems: energy, disease, climate change, security, and economic competitiveness.”
Although the election is between Obama and John McCain, the letter first criticized President Bush for “stagnant or declining federal support” of science and politicizing the scientific advisory process.
But in 2007, Bush asked Congress to double the funding for AIDS programs from $3 billion per year to $6 billion per year. During the Bush administration, the budget for the National Institutes of Health increased by 38 percent from $17.1 billion to $23.7 billion. Bush increased funding for climate change research by 15 percent from $1.75 billion to $2.02 billion. The National Science Foundation budget went from $4.4 billion in 2001 to $6.0 billion budget in 2008. The budget for the National Institute of Standards and Technology increased by 34 percent from 2002 to 2008 ($692 million to $931).
In August 2007, Bush even signed the so-called “America Competes Act,” a law that would double federal funding for basic science research by 2016. Ironically, it is the Democratic-controlled Congress that so far has failed to appropriate funds to implement the law.
Although the Obama Web site says,“Barack Obama and Joe Biden support doubling federal funding for basic research over ten years…,” there’s no indication they’ve made any progress in convincing their fellow congressional Democrats on this point.
While the Nobelists claim that “Senator Obama understands that Presidential leadership and federal investment in science and technology are crucial elements in successful governance of the world’s leading country,” they overlook the fact that McCain also supported the America Competes Act and, on his web site, says he “will fully fund” the law.
The Nobelists’ assertion about the Bush administration politicizing science is also a canard that boils down to their political differences with Bush on subjects like embryonic stem cell research and global warming.
The Nobelists wrote that, “We have lost time critical for the development of new ways to provide energy, treat disease, reverse climate change, strengthen our security and improve our economy.” But what does any of this really mean?
Shouldn’t the 48 signatories who won their Nobels for chemistry and physics return their prizes for signing a letter that calls for climate change to be “reversed”? Just how would that be physically accomplished? And, then, reverse the climate to what point? What it was in, say, 1750, 1850 or 1950? Let’s say, for the sake of argument, that they actually did reverse climate change; how would they keep climate from changing the moment after they got it where they wanted it?
On the other hand, there’s not a single climate expert among the letter’s signatories—so maybe they really didn’t understand what they were signing.
The “treat disease” comment in the letter is undoubtedly aimed at the embryonic stem cell research controversy. But despite limitations in the U.S., the rest of the world was free to conduct such research. Has there been any progress? There’s been nothing to speak of except a lot of fraud—remember South Korean researcher Hwang Woo-suk?
Is Obama really a science “visionary” as compared to McCain? As liberal-leaning Associated Press reporter Seth Borenstein wrote on Oct.16, “Both presidential candidates… offer policies farther from the president than they are from each other. They advocate mandatory caps on the main global warming gas and favor federal funding for embryonic stem cell research—positions opposite the Bush Administration.”
A quick review of the political contributions of the 76 Nobelists revealed that at least 28 of them have contributed to Democratic politicians, including Barack Obama. There seems to be no recent record of any of the signatories contributing to any Republicans.
Contrary to the Nobelists positioning themselves as independent geniuses looking out for the nation’s best interests, the group appears to be nothing more than a collection of liberal academics who rely on their elite status rather than well-reasoned argument to promote a political candidate.(Read more)
If you need more evidence that the Greens intend to destroy our standard of living, you need not look further than the Oct. 18 issue of New Scientist magazine — the cover of which reads, “The Folly of Growth: How to stop the economy killing the planet.”
The issue features eight articles that New Scientist editors believe justify their editorial entitled, “Why economic growth is killing the planet and what we can do about it.” Presented below the editorial is an ominously drawn graph purporting to show how global temperatures, population, carbon dioxide concentrations, GDP and loss of tropical rainforest and woodland have dramatically spiked upward since 1750, and how species extinctions, water use, motor vehicle use, paper consumption, fisheries exploitation, ozone depletion and foreign investment spiked during the 20th century.
The editorial concludes that “the science tells us that if we are serious about saving the Earth,” economic growth must be limited.
In the first essay, University of Surrey (UK) sustainable development professor Tim Jackson doubts renewable energy technologies will work without reduced consumption. Rather than buying an energy efficient TV, he says, you ought to consider not buying a TV at all.
Next, prominent Canadian Green David Suzuki says that nothing is more important than the environment and that we need to lower our standard of living. You need to judge your standard of living by “quality of life, your relationships with other people and your community,” Suzuki says. Stores filled with food, record longevity and wealth are an “illusion,” he asserts, because we’re using up our children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance.
University of Maryland ecological economist Herman Daly claims that we’ve passed the point where economic growth provides benefits and that we need to “transform our economy from a forward-moving aeroplane to a hovering helicopter,” but that such a “steady-state” economy “doesn’t have to mean freezing in the dark under a communist tyranny.” In trying to explain his latter comment, he says that “Most of the changes could be applied gradually, in mid-air,” by which he apparently means replacing the income tax with a tax on goods to “encourage people to use them sparingly.” Although he acknowledges that this regressive policy would hurt the poor, he says taxes could be used to provide welfare.
James Gustave Speth — Yale University dean, co-founder of the Natural Resources Defense Council and former adviser to President Jimmy Carter — says that green values stand no chance against market capitalism. Economic growth “creates barriers to dealing with real problems,” he says. While we need to spend more money on social services and environmental protection, he is “not advocating state socialism,” he claims, but rather a “non-socialist alternative to today’s capitalism,” whatever that means.
Andrew Simms of London’s New Economics Foundation describes as “disingenuous” the argument that global economic growth is needed to eradicate poverty. He says that “we have to overcome knee-jerk rejection of the ‘R’ word — redistribution” and that we need a “Green New Deal” that controls capital and raises taxes to create environmental jobs.
Susan George of the Amsterdam-based Transnational Institute advocates developing a World War II-type mentality toward life including rationing, “victory” or home gardens and the government run by wealthy elites who would work for a salary of $1 per year.
London Metropolitan University “environmental philosopher” Kate Soper says that the tourist industry, food service industry, dating services and gyms are evidence that we need to shift to a less work-intensive economy. “Of course, we would have to “sacrifice some conveniences and pleasures: creature comforts such as regular steaks, hot tubs, luxury cosmetics and easy foreign travel,” she says, but “human ingenuity will surely contrive a range of more eco-friendly excitements.”
What’s missing from the New Scientist compilation of Green-think, of course, are essays from Thomas Malthus, Karl Marx and, perhaps, Al Gore. Malthus, a prominent 19th century economist, famously predicted that a geometrically expanding human population would outpace the arithmetically expanding food supply. Unable to foresee the improvements in agricultural technology, he turned out to be entirely wrong.
Karl Marx could have chimed in with his communist slogan, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” — where the government gets to determine what your needs are. As implemented in the Soviet Union and Communist China, Marxism resulted in the starvation and murder of perhaps more than 100 million people and the political and social repression of the survivors.
Al Gore could have contributed an essay reassuring Green elites that none of this wealth redistribution and standard of living contraction would affect those who, like him, can already afford home indoor heated pools or those who can could afford to spend $65,000 and three weeks jetting around the world with the World Wildlife Fund.
The New Scientist essays reveal how the Greens aim to eviscerate life as we know it. They want to take us from 200 years of “more-bigger-better” to a future of “less-smaller-worse.” Won’t happen, you say?
With Barack Obama leading in the polls, one of his advisers recently issued an ultimatum to Congress regulate carbon dioxide emissions in 18 months, or an Obama EPA will do it unilaterally. And then there’s Obama’s famous colloquy with “Joe the Plumber,” where he said he was for redistributing the wealth. And let’s not forget Obama’s comment in May that “We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times…”
Obama has said he’s for economic growth, yet he’s willing to force-feed us Green policies that would crush it. And as it turns out, that’s what the Greens are really after in the first place.(Read more)
A squabble about “clean coal” has broken among the presidential candidates. Neither side has leveled with voters.
Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden kicked off the controversy in September when he commented at an Ohio campaign stop that, “We’re not supporting clean coal.” He then had to back track since Barack Obama supports clean coal, as he reiterated in last week’s second presidential debate. Then, at a rally in Scranton, Pa. this week, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin jumped in the fray saying that, “So whether Joe Biden approves it or not, John McCain is going to develop clean coal technology here in America…”
It’s a lot of hot air about an idea that is unlikely to go anywhere fast.
The “clean coal” debate is about air emissions from power plants that burn coal to generate electricity. Nowadays when the candidates talk about “clean coal,” they’re not talking so much about power plant emissions of particulate matter (soot), sulfur dioxide (SOX) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) so much as they are that great global warming boogeyman, carbon dioxide (CO2). When the candidates say they support “clean coal,” they’re talking about technologies that would capture CO2 emissions before they are emitted into the air and then store them permanently underground. The shorthand for this process is “carbon capture and storage.”
But the technology for simply capturing carbon dioxide isn’t ready for prime time and won’t be anytime soon — if ever — on the sort of commercial scale that would need to occur for it to make any sense. The main problem is cost. The most promising technology for CO2 capture is called IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle). But the cost of building a power plant with IGCC technology to capture 90 percent of the CO2 generated is 47 percent higher than that for traditional power plant, according to a July 2006 study by the EPA.
Capturing CO2 imposes a cost amounting to about $24 per ton. At the largest U.S. power plant which emits about 25 million tons of CO2 annually, the extra cost would be $600 million per year. For all U.S. coal-fired power plants, which emit a total of more than 2.2 billion tons annually, the cost would be a staggering $52 billion per year. Passing along the capital and operating costs to consumers would raise electricity prices by almost 40 percent according to the EPA. And since the EPA is not known for overestimating costs, the actual cost is likely to be much higher and even more difficult to pass on to consumers.
So it’s no wonder that private investors have shunned IGCC technology, forcing its promoters to rely on government subsidies. But even those are vanishing. Earlier this year, the deep-pocketed federal government pulled out of the FutureGen project — a pilot effort to build and operate the first zero-emissions, coal-fired power plant — because of cost.
Capturing CO2 is hardly the end of the game, however. The gas has to be stored somewhere, after all. But where would you store the approximately 1.2 trillion cubic meters of CO2 produced annually produced by the nation’s coal-fired power plants?
Underground geological repositories, like saline formations and depleted oil and gas fields are being considered. But it’s not at all clear that these potential repositories could reliably hold vast and ever-increasing amounts of CO2 forever without leaking and without polluting surrounding groundwater. CO2 leaching into groundwater would acidify it. Then there’s the possibility of explosion. In August 1986, a natural formation of CO2 under Cameroon’s Lake Nyos exploded killing hundreds of people.
If repositories are identified, we’d need a nationwide network of pipelines to pump the CO2, oftentimes, hundreds of miles from power plants. This would be a massive project that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars factoring in the acquisition of rights of way, construction, operations, maintenance and environmental monitoring costs.
Keep in mind that much energy would be needed to pump CO2 long distances through pipelines which would have to be kept dry to prevent corrosion and leak-free to prevent groundwater pollution requiring expensive cleanup. Rest assured that environmentalists and trial lawyers would be monitoring for leaks.
Past the cost and technical challenges, there’s the public acceptance problem. A July 2008 report from the Congressional Research Service concluded that CO2 pipelines and storage may give local communities much gas.
Even if all the aforementioned problems were solved, perhaps the most daunting obstacle remains — the Greens. One of the most powerful special interest lobbies of our time, the Greens don’t like coal even if it is “clean.” Obama endorser and Natural Resources Defense Counsel attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for example, says that “there is no such thing as clean coal.” He alleges that the “true costs” of coal include “dead forests and sterilized lakes from acid rain, poisoned fisheries in 49 states and children with damaged brains and crippled health from mercury emissions, millions of asthma attacks and lost work days and thousands dead annually from ozone and particulates.” An e-mail alert from Greenpeace ahead of this week’s final presidential debate called clean coal a “myth” since coal mining “destroys mountains and forests and pollutes America.”
The irony is that coal — which is used to provide about one-half of our electricity — is already burned cleanly and safely in the U.S. with existing pollution control equipment and enforcement of government regulations, regardless of what hysterical Greens claim. There is no credible evidence to the contrary.
So beware of politicians talking about “clean coal” — it’s just another promise they couldn’t keep even if they tried.(Read more)
Move over Al Gore. Swankier carbon charlatanism has come to town in the form of the World Wildlife Fund’s luxury getaway called “Around the World: A Private Jet Expedition.”
“Join us on a remarkable 25-day journey by luxury private jet,” invites the WWF in a brochure for its voyage to “some of the most astonishing places on the planet to see top wildlife, including gorillas, orangutans, rhinos, lemurs and toucans.”
For a price tag that starts at $64,950 per person, travelers will meet at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, Fla. on April 6, 2009 and then fly to “remote corners” of the world on a “specially outfitted jet that carries just 88 passengers in business-class comfort.” “World class experts — including WWF’s director of species conservation — will provide lectures en route, and a professional staff will be devoted to making your global adventure seamless and memorable.” Travelers will visit the Amazon Rain Forest in Brazil, Easter Island, Samoa, Borneo, Laos, Nepal, Madagascar, Namibia, Uganda or Rwanda, and finish up at the luxury Dorchester Hotel in London.
This is the very same WWF that says “the current growth in [carbon dioxide] emissions must be stopped as soon as possible” and that blames Americans for emitting 21 percent of global CO2 emissions even though the U.S. accounts for only 5 percent of the global population. In December 2007, the WWF launched its “Earth Hour” campaign, a global initiative in which cities and communities simultaneously turn out their lights for one hour “to symbolize their leadership and commitment to finding solutions for climate change.”
So how does this fantasy trip square with the WWF’s alarmist rhetoric?
Using the carbon footprint calculator on the WWF’s own web site, the 36,800-mile trip in a Boeing 757 jet will burn about 100,000 gallons of jet fuel to produce roughly 1,231 tons of CO2 in 25 days — that’s the equivalent of putting about 1,560 SUVs on the road during those three-plus weeks and that doesn’t even include emissions related to local air, ground and water transport and other amenities.
The WWF laments on its web site that the average American produces 19.6 tons of CO2 annually, which is nearly five times the world average of 3.9 tons per person. But during the WWF’s posh excursion, travelers will produce 14 tons of CO2 per person. That’s 71 percent of the average American carbon footprint and 360 percent of the average global footprint in a mere three-and-one-half weeks. But who’s counting — especially when you’re in “19 rows of spacious leather seats with full ergonomic support” enjoying “gourmet meals, chilled champagne [and] your own chef.”
I guess those are the rules when you’re one of WWF’s wealthy donors, but now contrast this with the how the WWF says the rest of us should live our lives. The group’s web site states that “It clearly is time for all Americans to roll up their sleeves, to take steps to reduce emissions, to prepare for climate change, and to encourage others to do the same.”
We, the masses, should — nay, must — use compact fluorescent light bulbs, reduce hot water use, turn thermostats down in the winter and up in the summer and use low-flow shower heads and faucets. We should pledge to commute by car pool or mass transit, switch to “green power,” and get more fuel efficient cars. We should make our lives more expensive and less convenient so that the Green elites don’t feel too guilty while jet-setting to exotic locales.
Maybe, you’re thinking, the WWF plans to makes its trip “carbon neutral” by purchasing carbon offsets — after all, the group does offer a carbon offset calculator on its web site under the heading “Join WWF in our mission to save life on Earth.” But neither the trip brochure nor the WWF web site mentions that any offsets will be purchased — and there seems to be good reason for that.
According to the WWF’s calculator, it would cost in excess of $44,000 to offset the carbon emissions from the jet travel alone. Then there’s the September 2008 report from the General Accounting Office which concluded that the carbon offset market lacked credibility. The Republican leader of the congressional committee requesting the report commented that “that the lack of standardization of offsets and fundamental problems assessing and verifying credibility, leave consumers in the dark and exposed to waste, fraud, and abuse.” Former Clinton official Joseph Romm wrote on his blog that, “the vast majority of offsets are, at some level, just rip-offsets.”
The Greens are apparently reluctant to fall for their own scams.
If you can’t make the WWF’s private jet expedition, the group offers a wide variety of other pricey, carbon-spewing tours. You might be interested in the WWF trip to the Galapagos or Fiji Islands, where you’re less likely to run into pesky downscale local tourists. The WWF has called for limitations on local tourism in the Galapagos and Fiji Islands saying that it causes greater environmental damage than “larger tourist operations” — like the WWF’s.
I’ve been thinking that WWF’s bandit-like panda bear was an appropriate logo given the group’s promotion of “rip-offsets.” But now, I think that a new logo may be in order — perhaps a hippo-crite?
Will the Wall Street bailout be the beginning of the New (Green) Deal?
Environmental activists are trying to figure out ways to advance their global-warming-regulation agenda by exploiting the current financial crisis, including the Wall Street bailout bill to be voted on by the House.
The good news for them is that they may not need to succeed, since someone with a very Green agenda will be in charge of implementing the bill should it become law.
As reported by Carbon Control News (Sep. 24), “Environmentalists and some Democrats are seizing upon the financial sector crisis to call for major federal investments in energy efficiency and improvements in the electricity grid as a way to address climate change and spur a lagging economy.”
Michael Moynihan, former Clinton administration economic adviser and director of the Green Project for the New Democrat Network, has called for a national infrastructure bank to fund clean energy projects.
Following up on this idea, two house Democrats introduced a bill last week to establish a “Clean Energy Investment Bank.”
Although Moynihan claims this would be an improvement over the current earmark system, the bank seems to be little more than a permanent Green earmark.
The activist group Friends of the Earth (FoE) is lobbying for the Treasury Department to conduct global-warming impact reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) — the federal law requiring federal agencies to conduct environmental-impact studies of their actions.
Through its citizen-lawsuit provisions, the Greens often use NEPA to block energy, highway and logging projects that involve federal agencies and lands.
FoE claims that as the Treasury Department becomes a significant shareholder in financial institutions that it bails out, it would be obligated to carry out environmental impact studies since, to some extent, the activities of those financial institutions would also be activities of the Treasury Department.
“Subjecting entities that receive financial backing from taxpayers to NEPA could provide a hook for environmentalists to force greater scrutiny of actions by those entities that increase greenhouse gas emissions, including the underwriting of fossil fuel projects,” reported Carbon Control News (Sep. 26)
Anti-nuclear Greens are trying to use the recent bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers to block the construction of the first nuclear reactor built in the U.S. in 30 years.
This column previously reported on how the Greens are trying to stop Maryland from permitting the construction of a third reactor at Constellation Energy’s Calvert Cliffs power plant by arguing that emission-less nuclear power actually worsens global warming.
Lehman’s bankruptcy raised concerns about the financial health of Constellation, leading to a buy-out offer from the Warren Buffet-led Mid-American Energy Holdings Company.
The Greens called for the project to be halted “in light of the nation’s worsening financial crisis and serious concerns about the stability of the company building the project,” according to Carbon Control News (Sep. 26).
Monday’s rejection of the Wall Street bailout bill by the House has opened the door for the alternative-energy industry to again try to renew the tax credits about to expire for wind power projects such as the Pickens Plan.
The Senate bill passed Wednesday night extends the much-lobbied-for tax credit.
New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called on Congress to “Green the Bailout” (Sep. 28).
Friedman quoted a green-collar jobs proponent who said, “You can’t base a national economy on credit cards. But you can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart biofuels and a massive program to weatherize every building and home in America.”
Finally, even if none of these provisions make it into the bailout bill, the Greens will likely be able to count on Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to implement their agenda for them.
The former head of Goldman Sachs — who simultaneously headed up the Nature Conservancy and recently told Fortune magazine that action on global warming is crucial to the U.S. — is no stranger to using “other people’s money” to implement the Green agenda on land secured by distressed debt.
Paulson could use bailout money to purchase debt securities that are secured by property either coveted by Greens or targeted for energy or natural resource development projects that the Greens oppose.
Once the U.S. Government owns the securities (and, thereby, the property) an omnipotent Paulson could essentially take the land out of circulation by “preserving” it as public land.
He could even claim — through the economic device of “contingent valuation” — that the acquired land has more value as pristine public land than as, say, an energy or logging project.
Contingent valuation uses opinion surveys to value intangible assets for which there is no market, such as scenic views and crystal-clear air.
Respondents are asked hypothetical questions like, “How much would you pay to preserve a seashore view from oil drilling?” or “How much is it worth to keep a forest pristine and un-logged?”
Though the whole process is pretend — the respondents know they won’t actually spend any of their own money for this preservation — the government uses the method to establish monetary values of preserved lands.
It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how contingent valuation could be used to gin up phony bailout profits through land preservation.
Paulson has already said that he would bequeath the bulk of his fortune — in the neighborhood of $500 to $800 million — to Green causes.
Imagine what he would be willing to do with your money.(Read more)
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