Sunday, February 25, 2007


In a sad world first, the Australian government has decided to burnish its Green credentials by banning ordinary light globes. In 3 years time, Australians will be able to buy compact fluorescents only. The idea is that the fluoros use electricity more efficiently. That much is true. But the drawbacks of the fluoros are many.

A major one is that they tend to blow up if you use them in conjunction with dimmer switches. That little detail aside, here is a full list (so far) of the problems:

1. Compact fluorescent bulbs are almost always Edison (screw) type, whereas most Australian lighting uses bayonet fittings. This could no doubt change but may push up costs because the lights would have to be made for just the Australian market.

2. They are often physically larger than the incandescent bulbs they replace and simply may not fit the lamp or fixture conveniently or at all. People often have very fancy light-fittings that cost hundreds of dollars. Millions of those may have to be abandoned.

3. The funny elongated or circular shape may result in a less optimal lighting pattern.

4. Many models have light output claims that are only achieved at the optimum operating temperature and/or in some optimum burning position that achieves an optimum internal temperature. Many light output claims are outright exaggerated, often by about 15 percent and in a few extreme cases by 25 percent.

5. Compact fluorescent lamps usually do not produce full light output until they warm up for a minute or two. A few models require about three minutes to fully warm up and produce as little as 20-25 percent of their full light output when first started.

6. Some types may produce an annoying 120 Hz (or 100 Hz) flicker.

7. There are many small incandescent lamps (e.g. in refrigerators) that could not conceivably be replaced by the bulky fluoros we have today. Technology MAY be able to solve that but the costs will probably be large. The compacts we have today are already the endpoint of a big effort at downsizing.

8. May produce Radio Frequency Interference (RFI).

9. The up-front cost is substantial (unless there is a large rebate): $10 to $20 for a compact fluorescent to replace a 60W incandescent bulb that costs 40 to 70c.

10. Due to the high up-front cost, the pay-back period may approach infinity.

11. While their life may be 20,000 hours, a wayward ball will break one of these $10 to $20 bulbs as easily as a 40 cent incandescent.

12. Few commonly available compact fluorescent lamps designed to fit into 240 volt ordinary light bulb sockets match or exceed the light output of a 100 watt standard incandescent lamp.

13. Lots of people just don't like the type of light they get from fluoros -- to glary, too white, too flickery etc.

What Wal-Mart have done in the USA -- make compact fluoros cheaper -- is all that reasonably should be done to promote energy savings from lighting. The new Australian policy is a classical example of how Green "alternatives" are generally very poor alternatives to what they replace.

For most of the info above I have drawn on this post. And Gust of hot air has some satirical comments on the matter.


A reader adds:

"The untold story here is that it is a tax grab by the gubmin. There are approx 7.4 million households in Australia and I would guesstimate there are on average 10 light bulbs per household. With the average cost of the fluoro replacement being $15.00 this generates $1.50 GST per unit fluoro to the gubmin x 10 x 7.4 million = $111 million tax grab. Added to this is the number in all other locations likely doubling the number of light bulbs. Since these fluoros are manufactured mainly overseas you can most likely double the tax take due to import tarrifs. We are looking at a half Billion Dollar rip-off by the gubmin."

Climate preoccupation unethical

On a scale of human misery, poverty is a bigger threat than climate change -- says Mirko Bagaric from Australia

How worried do you reckon people in developing nations -- who are dying from hunger and other causes at the rate of 30,000 a day -- are about global warming? It seems like a stupid question because the answer is so obvious. But the answer is all important. It demonstrates why the supposed No.1 ethical concern of our generation (global warming) is in the main misguided self-interest dressed up as a moral crusade.

Hundreds of millions of people are already living in environmental conditions that are far worse than anything that will occur as a result of greenhouse warming, even according to the grimmest projections by green groups. And our response? As a nation, we are now obsessed with fussing about speculative future harm while failing to come anywhere close to meeting the international benchmark of donating 0.7 per cent of gross national income to the developing world.

This gross distortion in our ethical priorities is so acute that it can't simply be explained as a judgment problem, something that will be corrected as we become more enlightened. It goes deeper than that. It highlights the overwhelmingly self-interested nature of the human species, which is exactly the reason, if climate warming projections are right, why we managed to mess up the planet. Scientists, social commentators and politicians are increasingly engaged in the complex process of sifting through the conflicting climate data to ascertain how much environmental degradation will occur in the foreseeable future.

The report by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change states that increased temperatures will result in more storms, heatwaves and rises in the sea level. This might lead to geographical dislocation as millions of people move inland, and of course require a more expansive summer wardrobe.

The likes of Australian of the Year Tim Flannery are talking down the supposedly conservative nature of the UN report. But the debate is piffle. Will the sea level go up 18cm, 43cm or even 59cm? Is it going to get 1.1C hotter or up to 6.4C? From the perspective of net human suffering, the answers are close to immaterial.

Take the most catastrophic global warming outcome possible, and on a scale of human misery it is negligible compared with the abject destitution that hundreds of millions of (albeit distant) people are experiencing. Their environment is already largely incapable of supporting human life. Flannery says that climate change is the most pressing issue confronting humanity. That might be so for affluent misguided Australians, but the reaches of moral concern don't stop at the territorial seas of the Australian coastline.

There are lots of ethical theories doing the rounds of philosophy departments. Some ethicists prefer theories based on abstract notions such as rights; others, such as myself, are only concerned about maximising good consequences, even if it means trumping the occasional right.

Irrespective of which theory one endorses, there is one incontestable ethical truth: the interests of each person count equally. There is no logical or normative basis for ranking the interests of one person higher than those of another. An argument along the lines of "I am more important than you" is inherently discriminatory and morally vacuous. Moreover, it is incontestable that certain harm carries more weight than speculative harm in any moral calculus. These universal moral truths, coupled with the fact that present-day preventable suffering grossly exceeds the direst predictions of climatologists stemming from global warming, exposes the intractable ethical shortcomings of the environmental movement.

The predictable response to my argument is that we should multi-task and fix both: world poverty and the environment. This is code for moral nihilism. It is a sure-fire way of continuing to consign more people to early unmarked graves because of readily preventable causes. Concern for others, like economic resources, is finite. We have to be very strategic in how we empty our sympathy gland.

The history of humankind shows this. To avoid charges of moral bankruptcy, the green movement has to do more than make the glib statement that we should fix everything. To underpin its principal cause, it needs to spell out in definite terms the argument that will move self-obsessed Westerners to take seriously the pitiable plight of distant people so that the 1 per cent of gross domestic product that the Stern report stated was necessary to fix the environment is more than matched by money flowing to hungry parts of Africa.



"What is global warming?", asks Samuel Mauthike, a small scale vegetable farmer in Kirinyaga, Kenya's central province, as he crouches down compressing the moist soil around his green bean plants. "Is it something caused by us in Africa?" Mr Mauthike, 32, like so many of the two million Kenyans who rely on the western world to import their flowers, fruit and vegetables for their livelihoods, has never heard of a carbon footprint either. He points to the simple gravitational water irrigation system that flows through his smallholding, admitting he has never been in a plane, rarely travels by bus and uses nothing but his hands to grow, fertilise and harvest his top quality green beans, which then appear on a supermarket shelf in Europe.

Yet he and his fellow Kenyan farmers, whose lifelong carbon emissions are negligible compared with their counterparts in the West, are fast becoming the victims of a green campaign that could threaten their livelihoods. A recent bold statement by UK supermarket Tesco ushering in "carbon friendly" measures - such as restricting the imports of air freighted goods by half and the introduction of "carbon counting" labelling - has had environmentalists dancing in the fresh produce aisles, but has left African horticulturists confused and concerned.

Fresh flowers, fruit and vegetables make up 65% of all exports from Kenya to the European Union (EU), according to the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya (FPEAK). Half of this produce goes to the UK's supermarkets, generating at least 100 million pounds per year for this developing country. The dependence on the UK market cannot be underestimated, says Stephen Mbithi Mwikya, chief executive of FPEAK. For Kenya, horticulture is the country's second biggest foreign exchange earner after tourism. "This announcement from Tesco is devastating", says Mr Mbithi. "I think if things continue in this one-sided sensationalist way, purely targeting air freight, labelling our produce with aeroplanes and not looking at other aspects of production, it will cripple Kenya, it will cripple the economy," he says.



I read in the newspapers that the new Democratic Congress is going to hold hearings, call in oil company executives, and yell at them. I've testified before congressional committees (the hardest part is waiting for a bathroom break), and I used to write a lot of speeches. And I'm totally in love with the oil companies because they power my great cars and cool my house in the desert and get me where I want to be. So, completely unbidden, here's what I would say if I were the head of a giant oil company called to testify:

"Hello, honorable ladies and gentlemen. I am the chairman of Brigid Oil, a large, publicly held oil and gas producer, refiner, and distributor. I am here to talk a bit about our business. "Perhaps the easiest way to get into this subject is by noting that a beautiful environmentalist woman, who shall remain nameless, recently compared other oil executives and me to the heads of the tobacco companies back in the days when those folks denied tobacco was addictive or a threat to health."

"Nothing could be a more farfetched comparison, with all due respect to a conscientious woman like my critic. If the world suddenly lost all tobacco products tomorrow, we would have some very irritable people for a few weeks. After that, the world would work much better with less lung cancer, emphysema, and heart disease. "If we lost all oil and gas products tomorrow, however, the world would simply collapse. There would be an immense depression beyond anything we saw in the 1930s -- the economy would go back to a primitive state. There would simply not be a functioning society. It would be as if there had been nuclear war, minus the casualties from blast and radiation.

"In a word, we cannot as a modern society or even a modestly industrial society live without oil and gas. That is, we do not supply a luxury or a narcotic. We supply a basic necessity of life, as basic as almost any commodity there is."

"Not only is oil a vital commodity, but it's supplied with extreme efficiency and without the slightest serious hint of price-fixing. We buy the raw material at a world market price, refine it, and sell it at a market price. This is not the days of the Rockefellers. No one is sitting in a smoke-filled room fixing the price at monopoly levels far above the cost of production.

"When market forces move our way, we make money. When market forces move against us, or when political forces move against us, we lose money or make less money. "We at Brigid Oil and as an industry go to very considerable trouble and risk to bring oil to this country and to the world. We do our exploration and production in areas that are often dangerous in regards to climate and environment and politics and crime. Real people, real Americans who may be related to you and certainly live in your districts, put their lives on the line to bring you the oil you burn in your cars and your furnaces and your factories.

"We go to considerable economic risk to bring you oil. We need to -- and do -- invest vast amounts to explore for oil underwater and in hostile areas climatically and politically. When it works, we are paid for it, and when it doesn't -- when hostile political forces stymie us -- we lose money."

"There is little doubt that burning as much carbon-based product as is burned has some effect on the environment. We do not object to people saying it. But we believe that there are perfectly intelligent, open-minded people who question how much effect this burning has, whether it is all bad, and what the smartest way to deal with the problem is.

"We note that while there is something like a scientific consensus on carbon burning causing global climate change, there was once a lot of opinion that we were heading toward a new ice age -- and this was only within the past 40 years or so. We would like to be allowed to express our views about the whole subject, just as the environmentalist is allowed to express her views.

"If curbs on carbon are to be the law of the land, and if they are discussed and debated and enacted after full thoughtful consideration, of course we will obey them. We are citizens and bound to obey the law. We would just like free speech for us, as there is free speech for our critics."

"Two final points. Years ago, under the Clinton administration, we were given incentives to drill for oil and gas in very deep water in federally owned areas. Today, some say we were erroneously given more incentives than was originally intended. Specifically, such critics say that these incentives should have stopped if oil reached a certain price on world markets.

"We do not know if this was a mistake or not. We do know that it's the law, and we're following it as it was laid down to us. If some are now proposing that we be punished for obeying the law as the government dictated it, that is a Bill of Attainder pure and simple, and barred by the Constitution. We do not feel we have to give back money beyond what the law requires. Few taxpayers pay extra taxes, and we do not feel we have the right to do that with our stockholders' money.

"Finally, the oil business is a big business. For some of us, lately it has been a good business after many lean years. But we are not princes of heredity and blood. Anyone who wants to can go to work at an oil company. We have serious labor shortages and we welcome you. "More important, anyone who wants can buy stock in us can be an oil company owner. This business is open to anyone. If you think we make obscene profits, buy our stock. You'll soon find that our profits are not only not obscene, but far from certain or predictable."

"In conclusion, we sell a vital product within the law, at prices determined in the open market. We insist upon our rights of free speech and due process, and we welcome any of our critics to become our owners. And we ask you to consider what just one day without the stuff we sell would be like before you damn us for all eternity. "We also ask that you ask yourselves whether it is us or our critics -- the oil companies or the Sierra Club (of which I am a member) -- that gets you where you need to go each day, powers your furnace when it's cold, and cools your apartment when it's hot. "We all want a future that works, and together we can have it. Or we can just yell at each other and accomplish nothing. Thank you."



February has been a tough month for Global Warming doomsayers. First, their cataclysmic worst-case scenarios were debunked by the IPCC, which cut its own 2001 projections for temperature increase by a third and sea level rise completely in half. Then, just five days later, they learned that the environmentally irresponsible U.S was actually doing a better job of cutting CO2 emissions than their Kyoto-signing European Union heroes. And to top it off, attendees of a February 16th DC meeting of GLOBE nations agreed to abandon their adored Kyoto's economy-killing, energy-rationing, short-range, mandatory CO2 targets in favor of more realistic long-term goals.

The Valentine's week gathering of policy-makers from around the world was primarily the initiative of Britain's Global Legislators Organization for a Balanced Environment (GLOBE). And, coming just 2 weeks after the announcement of a proposed EU carbon tax on non-Kyoto aligned nations from that French prince of pomposity, Jacques Chirac, it was a breath of lukewarm fresh air. After all, the nations meeting at the Washington Legislators Forum on Climate Change, the so called G8 Plus Five, were discussing an early retirement for the flawed and failed Kyoto protocols.

Ultimately, the group signed a declaration which established a long-term goal of stabilizing "greenhouse gas" (GHG) concentrations in the atmosphere at a level of between 450 and 550 parts per million (ppm). Most GHG advocates promote this as the range necessary to maintain their dream of a 2 degree Celsius maximum variance with pre-industrial temperatures. Of course, as the new goals conform more or less to Kyoto, fans of one should eagerly welcome the other, right? Not quite.

There's resistance brewing over this proposed post-Kyoto approach, which calls for a policy of measurable milestones addressing climate change over not the next 15 years, but rather the next century. Additionally, in the opposite corner, there remain many who disagree with the need for any action whatsoever and see the new plan as a design to bait otherwise unconvinced nations into nebulous indentures.

Superficially then, this month's revelations wouldn't appear to have brought conflicting sides of this ostensibly endless debate any closer to harmony. Yet, beneath the reputedly industrially polluted surface, hope glimmers. You see, while non-binding, this new agreement will form the foundation of an upcoming June G8 summit on the subject and, likely, a new accord. Granted, its aspirations are based upon the still unsettled science of anthropogenic Global Warming. Still, there are many benefits to the projected pragmatic 2009 alternative to a 2012 Kyoto renewal for lucid believers and skeptics alike. As to alarmists - the plan has something to offer them too - a long overdue reality check.



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 generally 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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