Saturday, December 31, 2005

Europe frozen in its tracks

if hot summers prove global warming, I guess this proves global cooling:

Europe shivered yesterday in the grip of an icy cold snap, with France hit hardest by blizzards that have cut rail and road links and left thousands of motorists stranded in subzero temperatures. Snowstorms caused hundreds of train cancellations in Britain and flight disruptions in Germany, Sweden and Portugal, and brought road chaos to Italy, Austria and the Czech Republic.

Worst hit was northeastern France, where 5,000 to 10,000 people spent a chilly night behind the wheel after traffic ground to a halt on a stretch of road between the towns of Toul and Nancy, regional authorities said. Emergency services were called in to provide them with food and drink for the night, and nearby sports centers and town halls were turned into makeshift shelters. Traffic gradually resumed yesterday, although it was hampered by ice and snow.

Below-freezing conditions have gripped northern Europe for several days, with nighttime temperatures falling as low as 5 degrees in places. Snowfall in the eastern half of England forced hundreds of trains to be canceled, spelling hassle for Britons traveling to work on the first day after the Christmas break. Sports fixtures were disrupted with several soccer matches and horse races called off, and forecasters predicted that up to 10 inches of snow could fall in eastern Scotland and northeastern England overnight.

In Germany, flights were delayed by up to 30 minutes out of the Frankfurt and Stuttgart airports, as the country was blanketed almost entirely in white, with more heavy snowfall expected in the coming days.

Sweden is accustomed to seasonal temperatures well below freezing, but Sturup airport in the southern city of Malmo was closed for several hours because of snow on the runways, forcing flights to be diverted to Copenhagen. More blizzards and strong winds were expected overnight in both Sweden and Denmark.

In the Czech Republic, the highway linking Prague to the country's second-largest city, Brno, was closed for several hours yesterday morning after a collision involving four trucks in thick snow.


Environmentalists wreck small businesses--and do ecological damage while they're at it

My friend Jim Hurst auctioned his sawmill in August. Jim's decision to pack it in after 25 years of beating his head on the wall made big news here in northwest Montana but, alas, not a peep from this newspaper or the New York Times. That's too bad, because the loss of our family-owned mills also signals the loss of technologies and skills vital to our efforts to protect the West's great national forests from the ravages of increasingly fearsome wildfires.

I was in Jim's office a few days before the auction. He told me he was at peace with his decision, but Jim has a good game face, so I suspect the decision to terminate his remaining 70 employees tore his guts out. They were like family to him. Jim's outfit was the economic backbone of tiny Eureka, Mont., a sawmill town since the early 1900s. I have a photo of my schoolteacher great-aunt standing on the front steps of the town's one-room schoolhouse in 1909. Although the town has grown some since then, its rural charm is still very much intact.

Thanks to the nation's housing boom, business has been good for the West's sawmills for the past three years. But Jim faced an insurmountable problem: He couldn't buy enough logs to keep his mill running. This despite the fact that 10 times as many trees as Jim's mill needed die annually on the nearby Kootenai National Forest. From his office window, Jim could see the dead and dying standing on hillsides just west of the mill. They might as well have been standing on the moon, given the senseless environmental litigation that has engulfed the West's federal forests.

Thanks to Jim's resourcefulness, his mill survived its last five years on a steady diet of fire- and bug-killed trees salvaged from Alberta provincial forests. Such salvage work is unthinkable in our national forests, forests that, news reports to the contrary, remain under the thumb of radical environmental groups whose hatred for capitalism seems boundless. Americans are thus invited to believe that salvaging fire-killed timber is "like mugging a burn victim." Never mind that there is no peer-reviewed science that supports this ridiculous claim--or that many of the West's great forests, including Oregon's famed Tillamook Forest, are products of past salvage and reforestation projects.

Jim shared his good fortune with his employees. Each received an average $30,000 in severance and profit sharing: a tip of the hat from him to a crew that set a production record the day after he told them he was throwing in the towel. Such is the professionalism--and talent--found among the West's mill workers. A few Oregon mills tried to recruit them, but most don't want to leave Eureka. I haven't the faintest idea how they'll make a living, but in the 40-odd years I've spent observing forests and people who live in them, I've learned never to underestimate the power of roots.

Although he's still a young man filled with creative energy and enthusiasm, I suspect the government has seen the last of Jim Hurst. Three years ago, I called nearly 100 sawmill owners scattered across the West and asked them if they would invest $40 million in a new small-log sawmill on the government's promise of a timber supply sufficient to amortize the investment. The verdict was a unanimous "No."

The never-reported truth is that the family-owned sawmills that survived the decade-long collapse of the federal timber sale program no longer have much interest in doing business with a government they no longer trust. Most now get their timber from lands they've purchased in recent years, other private lands, tribal forests or state lands. Some even import logs from other countries, including Canada, New Zealand and Chile.

You would think environmentalists who campaigned against harvesting in the West's national forests for 30-some years would be dancing in the streets. And, in fact, some of them are. But many aren't. Railing against giant faceless corporations is easy, but facing the news cameras after small family-owned mills fold has turned out to be very difficult. Everyone loves the underdog, and across much of the West there is a gnawing sense that environmentalists have hurt a lot of underdogs in their lust for power.

Environmentalists also face a problem they never anticipated. Recent polling reveals some 80% percent of Americans approve of the kind of methodical thinning that would have produced small diameter logs in perpetuity for Jim's sawmill. We Americans seem to like thinning in overly dense forests because the end result is visually pleasing, and because it helps reduce the risk of horrific wildfire--a bonus for wildlife and millions of year-round recreation enthusiasts who worship clean air and water.

Many Westerners wonder why the government isn't doing more thinning in at-risk forests that are at the epicenter of our Internet-linked New West lifestyle. I don't. Until the public takes back the enormous power it has given radical environmentalists and their lawyers, the Jim Hursts of the world will continue to exit the stage, taking their hard-earned capital, their well-developed global markets and their technological genius with them.

Fifteen years ago, not long after the release of "Playing God in Yellowstone," his seminal work on environmentalism's philosophical underpinnings, I asked philosopher and environmentalist Alston Chase what he thought about this situation. I leave you to ponder his answer: "Environmentalism increasingly reflects urban perspectives. As people move to cities, they become infatuated with fantasies about land untouched by humans. This demographic shift is revealed through ongoing debates about endangered species, grazing, water rights, private property, mining and logging. And it is partly a healthy trend. But this urbanization of environmental values also signals the loss of a rural way of life and the disappearance of hands-on experience with nature. So the irony: As popular concern for preservation increases, public understanding about how to achieve it declines."



The same environmental groups that lobby and sue the government over protecting air, water and human health also are collecting federal grant money for research and technical work, documents show. More than 2,200 nonprofit groups have received grants from the Environmental Protection Agency over the past decade, including some of the Bush administration's toughest critics on environmental policy. "It may be confusing to the public that with the right hand we're accepting government money and with the left hand sometimes we're beating up the government," said Charles Miller, communications director for Environmental Defense. The group has received more than $1.8 million from the EPA since 1995. "But the government is a complicated beast. Some of the things they're doing we think are wrong. A lot of the things they're doing we think are right. We're using the grant money to further the environmental cause," Miller said.

One recipient, the Natural Resources Defense Council, recently was cited by auditors for failing to properly document more than one-third of the $3.3 million it received in three EPA grants. The group used the money to conduct research and education on storm water pollution, and to develop and encourage energy-efficient technology, according to the EPA's inspector general, the agency's internal watchdog. The council acknowledges record-keeping errors dealing with benefits, timesheets and indirect costs. It cited in part erroneous direction from the EPA about what was required. "We're not running away from that and that's why we've offered to pay back the money," amounting to some $75,000, once the documentation was corrected, said the council's lawyer, Mitch Bernard. He noted there was no criticism of NRDC's research. The case is not finalized.

Groups such as the council, with their stables of scientists and extensive monitoring of environmental policy, often are seen as helping shape opinion on important issues. Asked about potential conflicts between their watchdog role and their financial connections to EPA, the groups say grants for specific technical, research and education projects do not interfere with their advocacy, which they conduct with separate funds.

Others see such grants posing at least an appearance problem. "It raises the specter of a conflict of interest. It's an ethical question," said Roberta Baskin, executive director for the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity, an investigative organization that accepts no government, union or corporate money. "They're supposed to be watchdogs. Does it make you a lap dog if they're funding you? Is your loyalty to - the environment _or is it to the bottom line?" Baskin said.

The grants have drawn fire in recent years from conservatives, including Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee. Last year, he said environmental groups were "simply Democrat political machines."

The EPA does not turn away grantees because of their criticism or lawsuits, spokesman Bob Zachariasiewicz said. A new policy requires competitive bidding for any grant over $15,000 and the money cannot be spent on lobbying, political or litigation work.

NRDC spokesman Jon Coifman said there has been no dilemma for his $65 million a year organization whose government grants were less than 1 percent of its budget. He said that is "far too small to have any effect one way or the other on NRDC's broader policy decisions." The council has sued the EPA 35 times the past two years, he said. "We don't feel that we've given up an inch of our integrity on this," Coifman said.

Other recipients made the same point, but acknowledged potential perception problems. "It's a legitimate question," said Ben McNitt, spokesman for the National Wildlife Federation, recipient of $292,620 from the EPA. He said government grants in 2004 accounted for less than 1 percent of the federation's annual revenues, and the group's suits and vigorous criticism of EPA policies on wetlands, mercury emissions and other issues prove it is not co-opted.

The Pesticide Action Network, which advocates for reduced pesticide use, received a $97,000 grant to develop online information on pesticide use and water pollution, co-director Steve Scholl-Buckwald said. "In every case we're asking the question: Is this money allowing us to do something we want to do and it or is it something someone else wants us to do?"

The EPA conducts about half of its work, or $4.3 billion in 2004, through grants, mostly to state, local and tribal governments. Nonprofit groups account for about 7 percent of the total. Besides the environmental groups, many recipients are agriculture and industry allies with keen interest in EPA regulatory policies, along with academic, civic and other groups that advocate on health, the elderly and consumer issues. Overall, the inspector general has cited grant oversight as an EPA weakness. In a September report, it said the EPA has improved but still needs to pursue greater accountability from project managers. Zachariasiewicz said that process is ongoing through new performance measurements.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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