Wednesday, March 05, 2008

A polar bear with attitude

Not so cuddly. Story here

Green radicals blamed for home arsons

The old Leftist politics of envy with a Green shirt on

ENVIRONMENTAL activists have been accused of setting fire to four new homes in an upmarket Seattle suburb in an act of 'domestic terrorism'. "There were no reported injuries in the three-alarm blaze that started around 4am local time Monday,'' Snohomish County fire department official Rick Eastman said. "Some of the houses were still under construction.''

The multimillion-dollar homes went up in flames in the Street of Dreams development near Woodinville, in northwest Washington state. Local media reported that the fire chief found signs with the initials of the Earth Liberation Front at the scene, and explosives were reportedly used to start the blaze. Mr Eastman declined to provide details about the suspected criminal origin of the fires, pending a statement by the county sheriff's office due later.

Fox News reported that the FBI was investigating the fire as a "domestic terrorism act''. The loosely organised radical environmental group has been accused by US authorities of using terror tactics in several arson attacks in western states to drive home their message on the damage being caused to the environment.


Cold Water on `Global Warming'

By Thomas Sowell

It has almost become something of a joke when some "global warming" conference has to be cancelled because of a snowstorm or bitterly cold weather. But stampedes and hysteria are no joke - and creating stampedes and hysteria has become a major activity of those hyping a global-warming "crisis." They mobilize like-minded people from a variety of occupations, call them all "scientists" and then claim that "all" the experts agree on a global-warming crisis. Their biggest argument is that there is no argument.

A whole cottage industry has sprung up among people who get grants, government agencies who get appropriations, politicians who get publicity, and the perpetually indignant who get something new to be indignant about. It gives teachers something to talk about in school instead of teaching. Those who bother to check the facts often find that not all those who are called scientists are really scientists and not all of those who are scientists are specialists in climate. But who bothers to check facts these days?

A new and very different conference on global warming will be held in New York City, under the sponsorship of the Heartland Institute, on March 2nd to March 4th - weather permitting. It is called an "International Conference on Climate Change" that will examine the question "Global Warming: Crisis or Scam?" Among those present will be professors of climatology, along with scientists in other fields and people from other professions. They come from universities in England, Hungary, and Australia, as well as from the United States and Canada, and include among other dignitaries the president of the Czech Republic, V clav Klaus. All told, there will be 98 speakers and 400 participants.

The theme of the conference is that "there is no scientific consensus on the causes or likely consequences of global warming." Many of the participants in this conference are people who have already expressed skepticism about either the prevailing explanations of current climate change or the dire predictions about future climate change. These include authors of such books as Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years by Fred Singer and Dennis Avery, and Shattered Consensus, edited by Patrick J. Michaels.

This will be one of the rare opportunities for the media to hear the other side of the story - for those old-fashioned journalists who still believe that their job is to inform the public, rather than promote an agenda.

Several films will be featured at the conference - including The Great Global Warming Swindle, a British television program that is now available on DVD in the United States. It is a devastating debunking of the current "global warming" hysteria.

Nobody denies that there is such a thing as a greenhouse effect. If there were not, the side of the planet facing away from the sun would be freezing every night. There is not even a lot of controversy over temperature readings. What is fundamentally at issue are the explanations, implications, and extrapolations of these temperature readings.

The party line of those who say that we are heading for a global warming crisis of epic proportions is that human activities generating carbon dioxide are key factors responsible for the warming that has taken place in recent times. The problem with this reasoning is that the temperatures rose first and then the carbon dioxide levels rose. Some scientists say that the warming created the increased carbon dioxide, rather than vice versa. Many natural factors, including variations in the amount of heat put out by the sun, can cause the earth to heat or cool.

The bigger problem is that this has long since become a crusade rather than an exercise in evidence or logic. Too many people are too committed to risk it all on a roll of the dice, which is what turning to empirical evidence is. Those who have a big stake in global-warming hysteria are unlikely to show up at the conference in New York, and unfortunately that includes much of the media.


Research of Hundreds More Scientists Supports a Natural 1,500-Year Climate Cycle

The co-authors of the best-seller Unstoppable Global Warming Every 1,500 Years today released a second list of more than 400 peer-reviewed scientists who have recently found physical evidence of the long, natural climate cycle -- bringing the total of such authors to more than 700.

Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute and S. Fred Singer of the Science in Environmental Policy Project presented the new list of scientists at the Heartland conference of man-made warming skeptics in New York City.

The Singer-Avery book assembled the historic and physical evidence of the long, moderate climate cycle -- including the Medieval Warming, the Roman Warming and six previous global warmings since the last Ice Age. For example, Suzanne Carbotte of New York's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory used side-scanning sonar to locate long-dead fossil oyster beds -- which were active in a warmer Hudson River 1000 years ago, 2000 years ago, and 6,000 years ago. (Carbotte, S., 2004, Geo-Marine Letters, Vol. 24.)

"Most of our modern warming occurred before 1940," said Avery, "before much human-emitted CO2. The net warming since 1940 is a miniscule 0.2 degree C -- with no warming at all in the last nine years. The Greenhouse Theory can't explain these realities, but the 1,500 year cycle does." "The warmings have been the good times, for both humans and wild species," said Singer, professor emeritus of environmental studies at the University of Virginia. "The world today has more vegetation, and a richer diversity of birds, bears, butterflies, and lichens than the planet had during the 550 years of the Little Ice Age. The cold times gave humanity famine, bubonic plague, fiercer storms, and clouded skies. People today don't understand their climate blessings."

The 1,500-year climate cycle was initially found in the first long ice cores scientists brought up in Greenland and Antarctica in the 1980s. Avery notes the original discoverers won the Tyler Prize ("the environmental Nobel") in 1996 "but now nobody mentions them." The cycle's evidence has also been found in such sources as seabed sediments, cave stalagmites, fossil pollen and ancient Chinese court records. Dozens of other researchers have also found links between the 1,500-year cycle and solar variations recorded in the sunspot index.

"We have known for 400 years about the strong correlation between sunspots and the earth's temperatures," says Singer. "There is no correlation between our temperatures and CO2."

Avery and Singer published an earlier list (Sept. 12, 2007) including more than 300 peer-reviewed scientists -- most cited in their book -- who had published evidence of the long climate cycle in such prestigious journals as Science, Nature and Climate Dynamics. The new list includes mostly peer-reviewed scientists who have published since the book was completed, cited both alphabetically and with their research studies, at


Britain: Turn your nose up at eco-snobs

What was it, this frisson that passed between the young woman behind the counter at Pret A Manger and me? It wasn't flirtation, exactly. It was more conspiratorial than that. A knowing look. A social judgment shared. As she asked me if I wanted a plastic bag for my two items - a (wild) salmon sandwich and a banana - the man at the head of the queue next to mine was asked the same question by another assistant. He had a sandwich and an apple. The point is, I said no. He said yes. That was when the look was exchanged

That, I am ashamed to admit, was the moment I felt superior, if only by one degree, if only for a second. The man had committed a faux pas. He had transgressed an unwritten ethical code. He had fallen foul of the new morality, which actually, if you think about it, is also the new snobbery. It is apparent everywhere. In a restaurant the other night our companions asked us if we wanted sparkling water or whether we were happy with a jug of tap. The clue to the correct answer was in the word "happy". We went with the tap. It wasn't that we were being cheap - but we probably were being a little smug. My wife and I are paid-up members of the enlightened middle classes, you see. Our consciousnesses have been raised. We are E, the modern equivalent of U.

Just as Nancy Mitford divided society into the upper classes and the aspiring middle classes - that is, into U and Non-U - so society is being divided into the environmentally aware and environmentally unaware, or E and Non-E. It satisfies a need we seem to have to judge one another. The modern equivalent of saying "toilet", "serviette" or "pardon" is leaving your television on stand-by, driving a Chelsea tractor [SUV], arriving at Waitrose [a supermarket that believes in "Corporate Social Responsibility"] without your own heavy-duty carrier bags, popping into Starbucks without your own reusable mug, walking past the shelves selling organic, Fairtrade and free-range, or flying long-haul when you don't really need to (and without offsetting your carbon footprint). I tell you, it's a social minefield out there.

Even going to Glastonbury [A mostly hippy festival which is supposed to be "spiritual"] has become Non-E. I know - that surprises me, too. I thought Glastonbury was the ultimate in environmental chic, a demonstration that you suckle at the teat of Mother Earth, that you are in touch with your inner solstice. But no - for the bien pensants, Glastonbury is ruled out this year. And this comes straight from the top: Thom Yorke, the lead singer of Radiohead. Why? Because it doesn't have "an adequate public transport infrastructure in place". Radiohead, he added in an article in the Sun on Thursday, "are doing everything we can to minimise our impact on the environment".

Hmm. Could this be the moment when the backlash starts? It is, after all, a scientifically verifiable fact there is nothing in this world more annoying than being lectured by a pop star. According to this premise, the blame for the Iraq war rests squarely on the shoulders of Ms Dynamite. Had she not argued in March 2003 the invasion should not be allowed to happen, it wouldn't have happened. Her annoying intervention was, for George W Bush and Tony Blair, the tipping point.

Being harangued by a newspaper comes a close second. The Independent has been banging the environmental drum for a few years now - ever since its editor-in-chief, Simon Kelner, had lunch with Laurie David, Hollywood's richest and most glamorous eco-warrior, the woman who holds "eco-salons" for Leonardo Di Caprio, Cameron Diaz, Angelina Jolie et al. But at least the Independent?'s heart is in the right place.

More disturbing is the come-lately arrival on the eco-worthy scene of the Daily Mail. About five years ago that paper's standard response to an eco story was merciless ridicule. Last week it dedicated its front page to a campaign to stop us using plastic bags. Perhaps its canny editor had tested the air and knew that Sainsbury's and Tesco were about to announce plans to reduce plastic bags by a billion a year anyway. Hmm, again.

Being lectured by a posh person comes third. I wonder how much longer the green revolution took to filter into the mainstream because the Prince of Wales was leading it. Don't get me wrong, I think he is a visionary, a true philosopher prince. But given that the other two leading figures in the green movement, the Eton-educated Jonathon Porritt and the Stowe-educated George Monbiot, are also pretty posh, there may have been some inverted snobbery in the slowness of the eco uptake.

On the other hand, perhaps in some subliminal way this association of greenness with poshness explains the current vogue for going green among the aspiring middle classes. David Cameron (Eton-educated, of course, and for once this seems relevant to the discussion) has been canny in the way he has exploited this fashion.

I hope there isn't a backlash, by the way. I'm all for recycling, sustainability, diversity, lowering carbon emissions and everything. But I do think the eco-awareness game has to be played more subtly than it is being played at the moment. When the BSE scare was at its height, there were those contrarians among us who made a point of ordering rare beef as a gesture of defiance. Others deliberately wore fur when that became the cause celebre.

When councils start preaching at us, that really winds us up. If people were allowed to use recycling bins when they needed to, I reckon they would. But we resent being treated like children and told we can't have collections every week because we don't know what's best for us.

And how galling it must be for my parents' generation to be told not to waste things when they have lived through rationing and know all about the benefits of frugality. If there is one thing the British hate more than having their environment needlessly destroyed, overheated or squandered, it is being preached at by busybodies, puritans and snobs.

The eco-snobs are the worst. It is not enough they get to feel better about themselves for doing the right thing environmentally; they have to make someone else feel worse. Make them feel small, vulgar, immoral. I caught myself doing it in that queue the other day. And shame on me for that.


Ethanol and water don't mix: New reasons to be suspicious of ethanol

OFFICIALS in Tampa, Florida, got a surprise recently when a local firm building the state's first ethanol-production factory put in a request for 400,000 gallons (1.5m litres) a day of city water. The request by US Envirofuels would make the facility one of the city's top ten water consumers overnight, and the company plans to double its size. Florida is suffering from a prolonged drought. Rivers and lakes are at record lows and residents wonder where the extra water will come from.

They are not alone. A backlash against the federally financed biofuels boom is growing around the country, and "water could be the Achilles heel" of ethanol, said a report by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The number of ethanol factories has almost tripled in the past eight years from 50 to about 140. A further 60 or so are under construction. In 2007 President George Bush signed legislation requiring a fivefold increase in biofuels production, to 36 billion gallons by 2022.

This is controversial for several reasons. There are doubts about how green ethanol really is (some say the production process uses almost as much energy as it produces). Some argue that using farmland for ethanol pushes up food prices internationally (world wheat prices rose 25% this week alone, perhaps as a side-effect of America's ethanol programme). But one of the least-known but biggest worries is ethanol's extravagant use of water.

A typical ethanol factory producing 50m gallons of biofuels a year needs about 500 gallons of water a minute. Most of that goes into the boiling and cooling process, which is similar to making beer. Some water is lost through evaporation in the cooling tower and in waste discharge. All this is putting a heavy burden on aquifers in some corn-growing areas.

Residents went to court in Missouri to halt a $165m facility being built by Gulfstream Bioflex Energy LLC which was projected to draw 1.3m gallons of water every day from the Ozark aquifer. Projects are being challenged in Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Kansas and in central Illinois, where eight ethanol facilities are situated over the Mahomet aquifer. Demand for corn is such that more land is also being ploughed up in drier regions of the Great Plains states to the west of the corn belt, where irrigation in required, increasing water demand further.

The good news is that ethanol plants are becoming more efficient. They now use about half as much water per gallon of ethanol as they did a decade ago. New technology might be able to halve the amount of water again, says Mike Fatigati, vice president of Delta-T Corp, a Virginia company which has designed a system that does not discharge any waste water. But others are sceptical. "There are things you can close loop [ie, recycle efficiently] and things you can't," says Paul Greene, a senior director for biofuels with Siemens Water Technologies, designers of the water-purification technology used in ethanol factories. Perhaps ethanol just isn't as bio-friendly as it looks.



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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

There are a few other issues about alcohol as a fuel that I have not heard mention of. At 100%, or mixed with gasoline, alcohol (ethanol) it is "hygroscopic", meaning it sucks up water from the air. If you distill alcohol you only get 191 proof (95.5%) alcohol, as the water it has sucked into itself forms what is called an "azetrope" (a mixture of two liquids that distill together as a single boiling point liquid). As as aside, laboratory grade alcohol not only contains water (which you can remove by adding a granular water-reactive mineral that you then easily filter off after a minute of shaking), but another liquid it forms an azetrope with, which you *cannot* easily remove, namely the horrendous toxin methanol. So if you drink laboratory grade alcohol, even the equivalent of one Bloody Mary, you go blind, permanently. That works a lot better than passing a law against it. If, for research purposes, you need dried, pure 100% alcohol, you can buy it with no paperwork involved if you are a college or even small chemical or cosmetics company, except it comes taxed, just like normal alcohol, with an official paper sticker across the screw-cap. You can also buy 200 proof alcohol at the liquor store, oddly enough, but it's much more expensive than a caseload of laboratory stuff. What this all makes me wonder about alcohol as a fuel, is underage drinking, and how the biofuel industry will prevent kids from just boiling drinkable vodka from it using a few kitchen chemistry tricks such as my father said they did in WWII with standard issue anti-freeze, namely chromatographically pouring it through a loaf of bread or two. One way, like they do now, is to make it impossible to detoxify by using an azetropic toxin. But then, if you burn this stuff in millions of cars and planes, wont some amount of that uncombusted toxin go into the air and poison living things like humans, who prefer to not slowly go blind?

Another issue is that biofuels (which I usually assume to be ethanol) may have a lower energy density than gasoline, since two-carbon ethanol, unlike pure straight and cyclic hydrocarbons, is already about one fourth "burned", already having reacted with an oxygen atom. Ethanol can only react with four more oxygen atoms, whereas octane (as in the expensive "high octane" version of gasoline) can react with something like sixteen of them. That's how cars turn gasoline into carbon dioxide and water vapor, by sucking in atmospheric oxygen. So fuel tanks would need to be bigger and thus heavier. Low energy density along with heavier cars would mean lower gas mileage, and agricultural land turned into fuel crops would cause inflation, so it wouldn't be cheap fuel either.

This is about the most scientifically informed utter guesswork I've ever written, so take it with a grain of salt.