Thursday, July 19, 2007

British recycling blues

The Government's strategy for reducing waste in landfill sites has been called "half-hearted and likely to fail" by a committee of MPs. Fortnightly rubbish collections are unsuitable for many areas and there is no proof they increase recycling, a report by the all-party communities and local government select committee claims. Its report says plans to charge householders who fail to recycle 30 pounds a year are too timid and too complicated and a reward of up to 30 pounds for "good" households is too low to encourage mass recycling

The committee, chaired by the Labour MP Dr Phyllis Starkey, says: "It is hard to see why any council will want to set up a complicated charging scheme that earns it no money and risks public disapproval." The report criticises some local authorities for "blundering" into fortnightly collections without proper consideration or consultation. Alternate weekly collections of food waste are "not appropriate" in many areas, particularly in highly populated areas with limited storage room for bins, the report says. Although recycling has increased in areas with fortnightly collections, MPs say that no direct link between the two has been proven.

Given the strength of public concern and anecdotal evidence about flies and other vermin, the report has called for more research into the health implications of fortnightly collections. The committee wants the Government to encourage councils to collect food waste separately once a week. The committee also points out that domestic refuse amounts to only nine per cent of national waste and that "far more can ultimately be achieved by recycling and reusing commercial, industrial and construction waste".

A spokesman from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said: "We are disappointed that on financial incentives the committee has not recognised the need to try out innovative ways of encouraging sustainable waste behaviour. "We are consulting on our financial incentives proposal and will not finalise our policy until this is completed."


Solar power still very dim

The trade association for the nuclear power industry recently asked 1,000 Americans what energy source they thought would be used most for generating electricity in 15 years. The top choice? Not nuclear plants, or coal or natural gas. The winner was the sun, cited by 27 percent of those polled. It is no wonder solar power has captured the public imagination. Panels that convert sunlight to electricity are winning supporters around the world - from Europe, where gleaming arrays cloak skyscrapers and farmers' fields, to Wall Street, where stock offerings for panel makers have had a great ride, to California, where Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Million Solar Roofs" initiative is promoted as building a homegrown industry and fighting global warming.

But for all the enthusiasm about harvesting sunlight, some of the most ardent experts and investors say that moving this energy source from niche to mainstream - last year it provided less than 0.01 percent of the country's electricity supply - is unlikely without significant technological breakthroughs. And given the current scale of research in private and government laboratories, that is not expected to happen anytime soon. Even a quarter century from now, says the Energy Department official in charge of renewable energy, solar power might account for, at best, 2 or 3 percent of the grid electricity in the United States.

In the meantime, coal-burning power plants, the main source of smokestack emissions linked to global warming, are being built around the world at a rate of more than one a week.

Propelled by government incentives in Germany and Japan, as well as a growing number of American states, sales of solar panels made of silicon that convert sunlight directly into electricity, known as photovoltaic cells, have taken off, lowering manufacturing costs and leading to product refinements. But Vinod Khosla, a prominent Silicon Valley entrepreneur who focuses on energy, said the market-driven improvements were not happening fast enough to put solar technology beyond much more than a boutique investment. "Most of the environmental stuff out there now is toys compared to the scale we need to really solve the planet's problems," Mr. Khosla said.

Scientists long ago calculated that an hour's worth of the sunlight bathing the planet held far more energy than humans worldwide could use in a year, and the first practical devices for converting light to electricity were designed more than half a century ago. Yet research on solar power and methods for storing intermittent energy has long received less spending, both in the United States and in other industrialized countries, than energy options with more political support. Indeed, there are few major programs looking for ways to drastically reduce the cost of converting sunlight to energy and - of equal if not more importance - of efficiently storing it for when the sun is not shining.

Scientists are hoping to expand the range of sunlight's wavelengths that can be absorbed, and to cut the amount of energy the cells lose to heat. One goal is to make materials to force photons to ricochet around inside the silicon to give up more of their energy.

For decades, conventional nuclear power and nuclear fusion received dominant shares of government energy-research money. While venture capitalists often support the commercialization of new technologies, basic research money comes almost entirely from the federal government. These days, a growing amount of government money is headed to the farm-state favorite, biofuels, and to research on burning coal while capturing the resulting carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping smokestack gas.


Global Warming now world's most boring topic: report

Global warming and the debate over whether man-made carbon gas emissions are having a detrimental influence on climate change has been ranked as the most boring topic of conversation on earth, according to a new report. The issue of global warming far out-performed other contenders for the title, such as the production of goat cheese, the musical genius of the artist formerly known as P Diddy and media speculation over the likely outcome of the upcoming federal election.

These topics still tracked strongly, according to the report, but global warming was identified as the topic most likely to prompt people into feigning heart attacks so as to avoid hearing the phrases "procrastination penalty", "precautionary principle" and "peer-reviewed analysis" ever again. The study, conducted by a non-partisan think tank located somewhere between the small township of Tibooburra and the NSW border, identified global warming as the current topic of choice for people who want their dinner party to finish early.

According to the parents in the survey, global warming has now replaced the traditional bedtime story when it comes to putting children to sleep. The study found the topic was also being used instead of water cannon by riot police around the world to disperse crowds. In a key finding, the survey revealed that the amount of damaging carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of discussing the global warming issue now exceeds the greenhouse gas emissions of northern China.

The survey also raised a number of important issues regarding the global warming debate. Of those surveyed, 83 per cent said that while they understood both sides of the issue, they did not understand Al Gore. Participants in the study were asked whether Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth had helped enlighten people to the importance of the global warming issue. The standard response was that if the issue of global warming is as important and urgent to Gore as he keeps saying every time he is on Letterman, then why didn't he make the movie during the eight years he was vice-president of the United States, the second most powerful position in the world? Why did he wait until his political career was dead?

The issue was also raised as to why Gore personally came out to promote his film in Australia - a relatively insignificant market - and then make a big deal about all the carbon off-setting he had done to counter the pollution his trip had generated. Over 95 per cent of those who took part in the survey wanted to know why he didn't just do it all from his house via satellite. Other key findings of the survey were:

* 89 per cent wanted to know how it was possible for humans to control the climate, given that they have enough trouble forecasting it;

* 96 per cent believe those who use the term "climate change denial" are attempting to equate it with "Holocaust denial";

* 100 per cent of these respondents also believe such people should receive lengthy prison terms for crimes against the English language;

* 79 per cent of the bands that took part in the Live Earth event did so because they feared the planet would be destroyed by global warming before they had a chance to receive free worldwide television exposure;

* 87 per cent only tuned in to watch the lead singer from Sneaky Sound System, who is hot;

* 92 per cent of those same people watched her on mute because they didn't want to hear that song again;

Of all the issues raised in the survey, most common was whether the global warming debate was all just an elaborate ruse designed to sell stuff. The study highlighted how those who subscribe to the prophecy of global warming automatically commit themselves to purchasing a vast array of expensive products, whereas sceptics don't have to buy anything to support their point of view. Over 98 per cent of people surveyed also predicted that the standard response from global warming proponents to that last statement would be: "yeah, it won't cost anything - except the future of your planet".


Global cooling hits Melbourne too

IT WAS cold, so very cold. Then came the rain, the wind and in some parts of the state, the snow. Melbourne yesterday recorded its coldest day in nine years. The temperature hovered around six degrees for most of the afternoon, dipping to 5.4 degrees at 6pm. The top was 9.2 degrees at 9.48am, well below the July average top of 13.7 degrees. Weather bureau forecaster Dean Stewart said a cold front hit Melbourne around the morning peak hour, bringing hours of rain and blasts of cold Antarctic air in its wake. The previous coldest maximum Melbourne temperature came on July 9, 1998, with a top of 8.9 degrees.

The State Emergency Service took 150 storm damage calls across the state, mostly in metropolitan Melbourne. SES spokesman Tim Wiebusch said Emerald, Hastings and Sorrento were the busiest units, with 15 to 20 calls for help in each area, mostly for fallen trees. In other areas, the weather brought joy. Sean Robertson, manager of the SkyHigh restaurant and lookout at Mount Dandenong, welcomed a light snow that blanketed the centre, car park and terraces from 4pm. "If it's going to be cold, it may as well snow."

Ballarat City Council media officer Nicole Gillard said Ballarat's main street, Sturt Street, resembled a movie set when it was frosted with snow yesterday morning. "Lots of people were taking photos of snow in their backyards, on cars and the white streets," she said. "It actually put a smile on everybody's face." Snow and ice forced VicRoads to close roads in Ballan, Daylesford, Trentham, Woodend and Mt Macedon for hours due to snow and ice. There were no complaints on the Victorian ski fields, which continue to enjoy the best start to the ski season in seven years.


Narrow-minded pundit thinks Europe is the world

Excerpt from Magnus Linklater

You might imagine, therefore, that the Swiss, for whom the mountains are the very soul of the country, would be impassioned in their defence of the environment. That combination of stern efficiency and national diligence which ensures that their trains run silently and on time, their streets are swept clean and even their mountain paths are carefully mowed, must surely place Switzerland in the forefront of the campaign to cut carbon emissions.

You would be wrong. High on the slopes above Zermatt, we came upon evidence that, even here, the defence of a profitable tourist industry takes precedence over the need to protect the natural environment. In the midst of a complex network of brilliantly engineered hydroelectric systems, designed to keep the towns and villages of the southern Alps supplied with power, stood row upon row of brand new snowmaking machines, ready for the next skiing season. Sometime in late autumn they will be transported to the fashionable ski resorts of Verbier, Zermatt and the rest, where early snow is desperately short, and used to manufacture a few more hectares of the white stuff so that this year’s tourists can be gulled for one more year at least into imagining that global warming is just an illusion and that the slopes will forever remain glistening and pure.

As an example of chronic and pig-headed frivolity, the snow machine has a lot to answer for. It is wasteful, energy-inefficient and environmentally indefensible. A single ski resort needs as much electricity as a small village just to keep its snowmaking systems going... It would be hard to conjure up a more potent symbol of environmental perversity than the use of carbon-spewing fossil fuels to help to dispose of millions of gallons of carefully extracted water in order that a few thousand tourists can slide down a slope for an extra week....

Yet if we take the warnings about climate change with any degree of seriousness, we have to change our terms of reference. Instead of hailing the inventiveness of the ski resort that makes its own snow, we should accept the harsh reality that nature has terminally curtailed the skiing season [In Europe maybe but quite the opposite in Australia. Our thicko pundit cannot distinguish local phenomena from global phenomena. No wonder he is so credulous. And the arrogance of thinking that what he sees on one trip to Switzerland is "terminal" is truly breathtaking. He is obviously quite unaware that Alpine glaciers undergo cycles of advance and retreat but he still thinks he knows it all. How wonderful to be a famous British pundit! He is the sort Australians would call a blowhard]

Much as we cherish our birds of prey, we should remember that their prospects of survival are threatened not so much by a freak collision as by the three-degree rise in global temperatures that will occur in the next 50 years if we do not manage to wean ourselves off a reliance on oil and gas. Stuff the skiers, sink the canoeists, gag the bird-lovers; this is a battle for survival, not an exercise in self-indulgence.

More here


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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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