Friday, April 25, 2008

Food Rationing Confronts Breadbasket of the World

The mad Greenie policy of diverting food crops into vastly inefficient "biofuel" production begins to hit home. Greenie hatred of dams has also been disastrous. Planned dams have not been built so prime rice-growing land in Australia, for instance, has been forced out of production because of the unavailability of water for irrigation. And Greenie opposition to GM crops has made many crops less productive than they should be. It all adds up and eventually comes to a head

Many parts of America, long considered the breadbasket of the world, are now confronting a once unthinkable phenomenon: food rationing. Major retailers in New York, in areas of New England, and on the West Coast are limiting purchases of flour, rice, and cooking oil as demand outstrips supply. There are also anecdotal reports that some consumers are hoarding grain stocks. At a Costco Warehouse in Mountain View, Calif., yesterday, shoppers grew frustrated and occasionally uttered expletives as they searched in vain for the large sacks of rice they usually buy. "Where's the rice?" an engineer from Palo Alto, Calif., Yajun Liu, said. "You should be able to buy something like rice. This is ridiculous."

The bustling store in the heart of Silicon Valley usually sells four or five varieties of rice to a clientele largely of Asian immigrants, but only about half a pallet of Indian-grown Basmati rice was left in stock. A 20-pound bag was selling for $15.99. "You can't eat this every day. It's too heavy," a health care executive from Palo Alto, Sharad Patel, grumbled as his son loaded two sacks of the Basmati into a shopping cart. "We only need one bag but I'm getting two in case a neighbor or a friend needs it," the elder man said.

The Patels seemed headed for disappointment, as most Costco members were being allowed to buy only one bag. Moments earlier, a clerk dropped two sacks back on the stack after taking them from another customer who tried to exceed the one-bag cap. "Due to the limited availability of rice, we are limiting rice purchases based on your prior purchasing history," a sign above the dwindling supply said.

Shoppers said the limits had been in place for a few days, and that rice supplies had been spotty for a few weeks. A store manager referred questions to officials at Costco headquarters near Seattle, who did not return calls or e-mail messages yesterday. An employee at the Costco store in Queens said there were no restrictions on rice buying, but limits were being imposed on purchases of oil and flour. Internet postings attributed some of the shortage at the retail level to bakery owners who flocked to warehouse stores when the price of flour from commercial suppliers doubled.

The curbs and shortages are being tracked with concern by survivalists who view the phenomenon as a harbinger of more serious trouble to come. "It's sporadic. It's not every store, but it's becoming more commonplace," the editor of, James Rawles, said. "The number of reports I've been getting from readers who have seen signs posted with limits has increased almost exponentially, I'd say in the last three to five weeks."

Spiking food prices have led to riots in recent weeks in Haiti, Indonesia, and several African nations. India recently banned export of all but the highest quality rice, and Vietnam blocked the signing of a new contract for foreign rice sales. "I'm surprised the Bush administration hasn't slapped export controls on wheat," Mr. Rawles said. "The Asian countries are here buying every kind of wheat." Mr. Rawles said it is hard to know how much of the shortages are due to lagging supply and how much is caused by consumers hedging against future price hikes or a total lack of product. "There have been so many stories about worldwide shortages that it encourages people to stock up. What most people don't realize is that supply chains have changed, so inventories are very short," Mr. Rawles, a former Army intelligence officer, said. "Even if people increased their purchasing by 20%, all the store shelves would be wiped out."

At the moment, large chain retailers seem more prone to shortages and limits than do smaller chains and mom-and-pop stores, perhaps because store managers at the larger companies have less discretion to increase prices locally.

Mr. Rawles said the spot shortages seemed to be most frequent in the Northeast and all the way along the West Coast. He said he had heard reports of buying limits at Sam's Club warehouses, which are owned by Wal-Mart Stores, but a spokesman for the company, Kory Lundberg, said he was not aware of any shortages or limits.

An anonymous high-tech professional writing on an investment Web site, Seeking Alpha, said he recently bought 10 50-pound bags of rice at Costco. "I am concerned that when the news of rice shortage spreads, there will be panic buying and the shelves will be empty in no time. I do not intend to cause a panic, and I am not speculating on rice to make profit. I am just hoarding some for my own consumption," he wrote.

For now, rice is available at Asian markets in California, though consumers have fewer choices when buying the largest bags. "At our neighborhood store, it's very expensive, more than $30" for a 25-pound bag, a housewife from Mountain View, Theresa Esquerra, said. "I'm not going to pay $30. Maybe we'll just eat bread."



An insect is killing Canadian forest trees that absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. But is the insect not part of nature? Is it not part of one of those beloved "ecosystems"? And don't new trees spring up to replace ones that die? So is not the overall effect nil?

The tiny mountain pine beetle has transformed British Columbia's vast pine forests into a major source of greenhouse gases, federal scientists say. By the time the unprecedented infestation ends, the rice-sized beetles will have killed so many trees that an extra billion tonnes of carbon dioxide will be wafting through the atmosphere, researchers from the Canadian Forest Service report in the journal Nature today. That is five times the annual emissions from all the cars, trucks, trains and planes in Canada, says lead author Werner Kurz, who warns the beetle's impact goes far beyond the B.C. border.

Forests, along with oceans and grasslands, are critical sinks that soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Carbon dioxide is one of the major heat-trapping gases linked to climate change. "This piece of real estate is no longer contributing to the uptake," Kurz says of B.C.'s central interior forests. "To the contrary, it is currently a net source." This is because dead trees release carbon as they rot and burn.

Kurz and his colleagues at the Pacific Forestry Centre say B.C.'s beetle infestation is of "unprecedented scale and severity", and an order of magnitude larger and more severe than any other outbreak on record. By the end of 2006, 130,000 square kilometers of forests had been attacked -- an area almost twice the size of New Brunswick. And by the time the infestation is over, the scientists estimate the pine beetle will have been responsible for the release of 990 million tonnes of carbon dioxide, or 270 million tonnes of carbon. The figures include the amount of carbon the dead trees are no longer taking up, as well as the carbon released as they decay.

Kurz predicts that within the next few years "the beetle will have eaten itself out of house and home" and the forest will begin to recover, at least in British Columbia. The pine beetle is already moving on to greener pastures. It has crossed the Rockies into western Alberta's forests. This year's cold prairie winter should have helped set the bug back in Alberta, says Kurz.

But given favourable conditions in future, such as mild winters, the beetle could spread across Canada's vast northern boreal forest, one of the most important stores of carbon on the planet. "I don't want to be alarmist [C'mon! Be a Devil!], but it is certainly feasible that a future outbreak later this century could go across the boreal," Kurz said in an interview. "Basically the warmer the climate gets, the greater the chances that this could occur."

The study in Nature focuses on the B.C. outbreak that took hold in 1990s. Several factors converged to set what Kurz describes as a "buffet" for the ravenous beetles. Large fires had swept across the western provinces and states in the late 1800s and early 1900s, making way for vast pine forests. Smokey the Bear's "Only You Can Prevent Forest Fires" message and other fire prevention programs were so effective the forests grew without major disruption.

"Nearly a century of fire suppression efforts allowed the forest to reach a greater age, over a greater area," explains Kurz, adding that low logging rates also helped the pine forests to mature and flourish.


Wake me up when Global Warming's over

Pollution, conservation bigger worries than climate

It looks like Al Gore is going to need every cent of the $300m war chest he's amassed for climate persuasion. Americans polled by Gallup for 'Earth Day' value "traditional", bottom-up environmental issues such as pollution and conservation as being more worrying than Global Warming. Remarkably, the level of concern about greenhouse gas emissions has barely wavered in a generation. Recklessness, or Huck Finn-style American common sense?

A third of Americans think "Global Warming" is a serious concern - a figure that's effectively unchanged since 1990, when the question was first asked. Ominously for the climate doom-mongers, it ranks 10th on a list of 12 environmental issues. OK, so what are Americans worried about?

Water pollution issues are three of the top four areas of concern, with over 80 per cent of people registering serious concern. Waste contamination comes third, and the loss of natural habitat for wildlife fifth, with 77 per cent expressing concern. Then there's rainforests (69 per cent), bio-diversity (68 per cent). Greenhouse emissions come in 10th - above urban sprawl and acid rain. And when's the last time you ever heard anyone mention acid rain?

(If you add up the "great deal" and "fair amount" worrywarts, then Global Warming comes even lower, 11th out of 12th prompted issues).

Maybe Americans don't trust dodgy computer models, on which the predictions of global catastrophe are based? Or maybe polar bears just aren't cute enough? Either way, it can't be for lack of "awareness", as the mass media goes on about little else.

But perhaps it shouldn't be surprising that traditional issues which affect one's children and family, such as pollution and conservation, are rated as more urgent. Grassroots, bottom-up environmental groups once built their support on bringing these issues into the media - before abandoning them in recent years for the "top-down" agenda of Global Warming. As Gallup shows, the groups have moved away from reflecting the everyday environmental concerns of citizens, onto an agenda largely been driven by a handful of scientists, expensively backed by powerful quangos. Perhaps if you're an NGO, this ensures a better Darwinian option for funding survival - but is this what citizens' groups are supposed to be about?

Today's climate warrior will have performed a 180 degree turn from twenty years ago: rainforests are now being felled in the rush to create biofuels, a strategy which is causing the world's poorest people to go hungry, and toxic substances banned from the home are creeping back in. The justification for each move is CO2.

No wonder Greenpeace's co-founder Patrick Moore wrote recently that "the environmental movement I helped found has lost its objectivity, morality and humanity." Moore frowns on using the term "environmental" for the Global Warming campaigners. I can see his point. Perhaps it's time hear from "traditional" environmentalism for a change, instead of its successor, the Carbon Cult?


The absurdities continue: Global warming blamed for 'extreme cold' that has killed 16 people in Peru

Climate change continues to wreck havoc in Peru's southern altiplano, where the arrival of freezing temperatures since March - almost three months earlier than usual - have killed more than a dozen people. The extreme cold has claimed the lives of 16 people so far in Puno, and 5,053 others are suffering from respiratory ailments, most of them children under 5,

Elsa Paredes, of Puno's Regional Health Institute, told Enlace Nacional.Moderate hail storms are predicted over the next several days over a wide area of the southern department of Puno, according to Senamhi, the national weather bureau, and temperatures are expected to drop in June, July and August to as low as -27§ C (-16§ F) in areas that lie above 4,000m (13,000 ft).

The cold is also affecting the departments of Cusco and Arequipa. There are reports of alpacas and guanacos, which are not protected in barns or sheds, dying in the higher areas of the altiplano. In Huancavelica, north of Puno and Cusco and one of the poorest departments in the southern highlands, 8,000 children are being inoculated against pneumonia by the Ministry of Health, in a program together with AmeriCare, the U.S.-based international disaster relief organization.

In Puno, rain has destroyed harvested potatoes and freezing temperatures as low as -13.5§ C (8§ F) have destroyed more than 50% of the quinoa crops, a staple food. Alipio Canahua, an agronomist and professor at the Universidad Nacional del Altiplano, told Radio RPP that quinoa prices will be higher this season because of the damage. Puno produces approximately 20,000 tons of quinoa.

Canahua believes, however, that "this problem could have been foreseen. In Puno, we permanently face emergencies because of cold temperatures and floods, but there are technological, genetic and traditional resources available to solve problems caused by the climate." Canahua mentioned quinoa varieties resistant to frost, drought or saline soil. "We also have the traditional knowledge of the campesinos, with which we can develop appropriate technology if the government provides investment."



By Dominic Lawson

When the political wind changes direction, it can leave a Prime Minister looking very silly - almost as if what mothers used to warn their children about not pulling faces was actually true. Thus Gordon Brown's last Budget, which removed the concession of a 10p in the pound tax rate for millions of the least well paid, was thought perfectly acceptable at the time, including by the vast majority of Labour MPs, who had cheered the then Chancellor in the House of Commons. Now - as its measures are just about to come into force - it is almost universally excoriated: how could Gordon have been so insensitive?

The reason for this near-180 degree shift in sentiment is not hard to find. Food prices have risen sharply since Brown's final Budget - and so, even more, has the price of heating a home. These are items which form a very significant percentage of the domestic budgets of the least well-off, so they now feel understandably furious to be faced with a government-imposed drop in take-home pay.

This bitter atmosphere lends particular piquancy to a long-arranged meeting later this week between the Business Secretary, John Hutton, and the country's six largest suppliers of energy - the so-called "fuel poverty summit". The Government is understandably concerned about further imminent increases in electricity bills, especially against the background of consumer groups such as energywatch loudly protesting that "an increase in utility bills of 25 per cent will consign another million households to fuel poverty".

Up until now, it has been possible to blame such increases in costs on the rise in the wholesale price of the main raw materials - oil and gas. Now, however, rather as in the style of Gordon Brown's tax changes, it is the Government which is becoming an active agent in the imposition of ever-higher costs on the consumer.

As part of an EU directive designed to combat climate change, Britain is committed to generating 20 per cent of its energy by 2020 through "renewables" - a tenfold increase in the current figure. Yet even the prevailing historically high prices of oil and gas provide domestic heating at between a half and a fifth of the cost of similar amounts of energy from renewables.

By chance, I spoke about this last week to the head of E.ON UK, the British arm of Europe's biggest supplier of wind power. Paul Golby explained to me that, because it was very hard to envisage much of a contribution from renewables for energy used by transport , this means that we would need to generate about 45 per cent of our domestic electricity bills from such sources - principally wind power - in order to conform with the EU directive known as the Renewables Obligation.

According to Mr Golby, meeting such a commitment will involve an increase in electricity generating costs of about 10 billion pounds per year; this is equivalent to almost 400 pounds per household - or, in the roughest terms, an increase of about 40 per cent in annual electricity bills. Try selling that to the British public; and, of course, the Government hasn't. As Mr Golby told me, with understandably diplomatic understatement: "The politicians have not been entirely honest about the cost of our renewables commitment, and so the public don't really know what's coming their way."

I told Mr Golby that I thought he was being somewhat naive if he genuinely expected any government to volunteer to the public that it was responsible for a swingeing increase in energy bills, especially if it thought it could get away with blaming the increase on anyone else - such as Mr Golby and his colleagues.

So far, the likes of E.ON - perhaps because they also stand to make what amount to large heavily-subsidised revenues from wind-power - have been very careful not to blame the Government. I forecast that this gentlemanly conduct will not last. Soon each side will be blaming the other, in a desperate attempt to avoid the full force of the public's anger.

The British public might become even more furious when it learns that one reason for the extra cost of wind power is that its inherent variability means that we will still need to retain our entire existing network of conventional power stations as back-up. That is because it is not a good idea for us to endure what happened two months ago in Texas, America's biggest wind-power producing state: a sudden drop in wind combined with a fall in temperatures led to what was described as "an electric emergency" - customers in west Texas were deprived of power for 90 minutes.

One thing is clear; the British public does need educating about this: even one of The Independent's most intelligent commentators wrote here last week that "The mini-windmill on David Cameron's new house is an economical way for an individual household to generate electricity, even contribute to the national grid". Well, that's if you consider it economical to spend thousands of pounds on a roof-top turbine that produces - even according to its supporters - no more than 1 megawatt hour per year, worth œ40 unsubsidised on the wholesale electricity market. As a contribution to reducing CO2 emissions it's about as cost-effective and meaningful as cycling to the House of Commons while having your chauffeur-driven car follow you with your briefcase, suit and black lace-up shoes.

If a serious economic downturn does hit this country, then such extravagant gestures, far from attracting praise, might begin to seem Nero-like in their irrelevance to an economy threatened by the flames of recession. Some Ipsos-Mori polling data published last week by the Financial Times showed that over the 12 months to January 2008, the proportion of those in Britain declaring "the environment" to be their biggest concern fell from almost 20 per cent to just 8 per cent.

On a more long-term sweep, it was fascinating - though perhaps not surprising - to see that concern about the environment rose and fell in direct inverse proportion to concern about the domestic economy. The headline on the FT's article was: "Greens fear voters will turn selfish in difficult times". That's one way of looking at it; but I don't think any mainstream politician will risk calling the electorate "selfish" if the public rise up against a state-imposed increase of up to 40 per cent in the cost of their domestic electricity bills.

In fact, after his taxing experience of the past few weeks, I imagine that Gordon Brown will be wondering just how to get out of the Government's commitment to do exactly that, as part of the EU Renewables Obligation. He'll be in company, of course - the company of every other European leader. The only uncertainty is whether they'll admit it - even to each other, in private.


Warmist prophecies all washed up

Comment by Andrew Bolt in Australia

RAIN sure is falling this week on the parade of our global warming alarmists. Wettest of all is Tim Flannery, who was made Australian of the Year last year for wailing the world was doomed. We were making the planet heat so fast with our filthy gases, Flannery insisted, that the ice caps were vanishing and we had to "picture an eight-storey building by a beach, then imagine waves lapping its roof". No scare seemed too absurd for this Alarmist of the Year. "I think there is a fair chance Perth will be the 21st century's first ghost metropolis," he groaned. But buy his The Weather Makers before you flee.

Reporters solemnly reported even this: "He (Flannery) also predicts that the ongoing drought could leave Sydney's dams dry in just two years." And when did he say that? Oh, three years ago? Yet what do I read in my papers yesterday but this: "Sydney's run of rainy days in a row - 11 - is the most in April for 77 years." And Sydney's dams? Above 65 per cent capacity now, and rising.

How embarrassing for Flannery and others in the scary weather business. No wonder the NSW Bureau of Meteorology yesterday complained "the rain was getting people down". I bet. So it was probably no surprise Flannery didn't turn up at the Rudd Government's ideas summit last weekend to talk more about how warming was dooming Sydney, despite being issued a gold-edged invitation.

He flew to Canada instead to tell their yokels to cut gases like the ones he just blew out the back of his jet, and talked warming with British Columbia's Premier and businessmen. But once again Flannery picked the wrong time and place to preach his warming gospel. A local paper reports: "In some regions of usually balmy British Columbia, many were caught by surprise by a storm that moved in late Friday and set snowfall records in Nanaimo, Victoria and Vancouver."

How the weather mocks Flannery. He's flooded in Sydney, where he predicted drought, and snowed in in Canada when he predicted heat. It turns out, in fact, that Flannery is a metaphor for a wider phenomenon - in which our most honoured warming alarmists are finding the weather not conforming to what they predicted. Most significantly, the world has failed to warm above the record of 1998, and last year cooled dramatically, according to all four big monitoring centres.

And with solar activity now unusually low, a small but growing number of scientists is speculating we may be entering a period of cooling - far more dangerous than warming. Indeed, geophysicist Phil Chapman, the first Australian astronaut with NASA, this week put the likelihood of global cooling at 50-50.

Even Rajendra Pachauri, head of the UN panel that shared the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore for whipping up global warming panic, says he'd check the apparent pause in warming so far this century, asking: "Are there natural factors compensating?" Natural factors may indeed be at play, drenching Flannery in Sydney, chilling him in Canada, and giving a cold shower to the rest of us, warning us to at least check the predictions of a Flannery with the facts outside. Verdict? Cool it on the overheating.



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.


1 comment:

OBloodyHell said...

> How the weather mocks Flannery. He's flooded in Sydney, where he predicted drought, and snowed in in Canada when he predicted heat.

I predict this man has a long and prosperous future in the environmental movement. Ehrlich is getting old, it's time someone stepped into his shoes and became "Mr. Never Right".

The Swartzberg Test:
The validity of a science is its ability to predict.

By this measure, so-called "Environmentalists" -- not scientists at all:

* “By 1985...air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth by one half” – Life magazine, January 1970

* By 1995, “...somewhere between 75 and 85 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.” Sen. Gaylord Nelson, quoting Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, Look magazine, April 1970.

* “Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make,” Paul Ehrlich, interview in Mademoiselle magazine, April 1970.

Lots more in the article... it would be comical if these people weren't taken seriously regarding policy.

People still listen to Ehrlich and he's never been right yet.