Thursday, September 04, 2008


Security: The impact of prolonged high oil prices is moving well beyond economics. Russia now takes license to assault Georgia, and intends worse. John McCain's Alaska running mate has the only weapon. When Alaska governor Sarah Palin was chosen for the McCain vice presidential ticket, most attention was on her beauty-queen past and down-home North Woods family life. In reality, she's the powerful governor of Alaska, the most pivotal state in the union for energy.

John McCain understood well that it's the one state that can liberate the U.S. not just from high prices but from increasingly threatening enemies whose power derives solely from high oil prices. Alaska was purchased in 1867 explicitly to ensure America's energy future. Palin's leadership has done much to develop Alaska's energy resources, but the state is still stonewalled by Congress.

Palin's strong Alaskan presence in Washington will change that. It's got to because America is nearly helpless in the face of a resurgent Russia intent on reclaiming its czarist empire, an Iran hellbent on acquiring nuclear weapons, a China making common cause with dictators to acquire energy and a menacing Venezuela aligning with Russia and Cuba to control sea lanes in the Caribbean, where 64% of all U.S.-bound tanker traffic passes.

These are all emerging threats. That's why Alaska has never been more critical to U.S. security interests. "Alaska should be the head, not the tail, to the energy solution," Palin told IBD last month. Alaska contains some 18.5% of America's proven oil reserves, but is only our No. 2 state supplier. With 31 billion barrels in official reserves, it ought to be No. 1. Alaska alone could supply the U.S. with energy for seven years.

Palin told IBD that Alaska is the biggest reason for McCain's interest in her leadership. "I think any kind of elevation of (my) national profile is for Alaska itself. People are looking up here (and saying) we need you as leaders for energy policy," Palin said.

No one has fought to bring Alaska front and center like Palin. She's warned the U.S. that Alaska's North Slope reserves peaked in 1988 and has called on Congress to remove restrictions on new drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve, where 16 billion barrels of oil sit untapped. Palin knows that Alaska's 700-mile Trans-Alaska oil pipeline now flows at just one-third capacity due to Congress' refusal to lift the moratorium on new drilling.

Palin's also given Congress something it can do now - remove restrictions on drilling for 30 billion barrels in the Chukchi Sea and all the natural gas of Beaufort Sea in Alaska's offshore. As governor, she's already gotten the environmental impact work out of the way so shipments to the Lower 48 can start in as little as a year or two. "Congress can do that for us right now," she told IBD.

Palin knows energy. She's already figured out how to deliver energy to the U.S. without Congress - by championing state legislation to create a 1,712-mile natural gas pipeline across Canada to the U.S. It was a major feat, negotiating with the Canadian government, educating lawmakers and getting the public behind her. In a decade, the $30 billion project will ship 4.5 million cubic feet of gas a day from the North Slope to Houston's air conditioners, Iowa's farm machines and Boston's winter furnaces.

There's little doubt this is the kind of leadership the U.S. needs. Not only will getting serious about Alaska help the economy, it will also help our allies in Europe and the Far East whose economies are severely battered by high energy prices and who are seeing some of the most direct threats from the petrotyrants. John McCain's pick of Palin shows he's serious about energy - and about securing America's future. Congress mustn't ignore Alaska any longer. Petrotyranny is moving beyond economics and becoming a national security issue. Alaska is a big part of the answer.



When it comes to environmental concerns, more Americans are starting to think less about global warming and more about energy, according to a recent survey. The survey on environmental attitudes shows that 58 percent of Americans believe the environment is headed in the wrong direction.

Global warming has been a top environmental issue for many since the release of Al Gore's film "An Inconvenient Truth." However, with a lagging economy, many Americans priorities have shifted towards pushing energy issues to the forefront, the survey showed.

Scott Siff of Penn Schoen and Berland, the company that conducts the survey on Green trends each year, said that since the energy crisis has hit Americans in the wallet, it is also affecting their point of view. According to Siff, Americans are also shifting the blame for environmental woes. Siff said many used to blame private industry but more now blame the government.

The survey, which polls about 1,500 people nationwide, said more Americans have also changed their behaviors in response to the environment, with more people going green and women leading the way.

The survey found that women are drawn to certain kinds of eco-friendly products, such as organic hygiene products. The Organic Trade Association estimates that organic products will surpass $25 billion in sales this year, which is a 20 percent increase from last year. Experts said that while organic and green products cost a bit more, people are willing to spend the extra cash.


A bonanza in Wales

VAST swathes of the South Wales coalfields could be at the centre of a multi-billion-pound gas industry, according to a global energy firm hoping to extract a valuable energy source. Australian-based company Eden Energy has announced that the coalfield beneath Bridgend, Pencoed, the Llynfi Valley and parts of Port Talbot is saturated with valuable methane. While methane was once the miner's deadliest enemy, causing devastating underground blasts, it could now be at the centre of a major energy supply business.

The clean coal technology firm yesterday made the first resource estimate from drilling for coal seam methane. And the results have been astonishing. Perth-based Eden says the prospective recoverable resource from just one of its drilling areas - Port Talbot - could provide heat to every home in a town the size of Maesteg for the next 670 years.

Eden has a joint arrangement with Pyle-based Coastal Oil and Gas Ltd, run by Welsh businessman and energy expert Gerwyn Williams, to drill not only in Port Talbot but also in an area stretching to the Llynfi Valley above Maesteg to the north and Pencoed to the east.

Eden says the prospective recoverable methane in its Port Talbot area alone could raise 380 to 670 petajoules of methane energy. One petajoule is equivalent to a million gigajoules and the average, well insulated home can be heated using 50 gigajoules a year. At today's inflated gas prices, the value of the methane field in South Wales could run into hundreds of billions of pounds.

Eden Energy's executive chairman Greg Solomon said yesterday: "This initial estimate confirms what we have always suspected, that we are sitting on a major resource of coal seam methane at a time when prices for this commodity have never been so high.

More here

Australia: Leftist Federal government to support GM crops?

AUSTRALIA should accept that genetically modified crops will be crucial to meet the world food crisis, federal Agriculture Minister Tony Burke says. State governments have imposed bans on most GM food crops, with the exception of canola in NSW and Victoria. Scientists and environmentalists are concerned that GM crops are difficult to contain and the long-term health effects are unknown.

Mr Burke, addressing an agriculture science conference in Canberra, said GM food crops would be necessary to address global food shortages. "I don't believe we should be turning our back on any part of science, including what I believe is an inevitable situation over time, that there will be growing acceptance of genetically modified crops," Mr Burke said. "This is not a time where I believe the world will avoid the inevitable, and that is that genetically modified crops will find themselves as one piece of the jigsaw in meeting the challenges of food production."

Mr Burke said climate change and growing input costs for producers had led to the demand for food outstripping supply. He said the food crisis was global and all governments have a responsibility to come up with new ways to tackle the issue. "All these issues come together in one simple concept - around the world it is becoming harder for families to feed themselves," he said. "It comes down to families around the table, either in wealthy nations where the shopping bill is higher than it used to be, or families in poorer nations sitting around a table where there is just not enough food to feed the people sitting around it. "The nature of this being a global crisis means new policy responses."

Mr Burke said biofuels had resulted in a reduction of staple crops being harvested for food, but it alone could not be blamed for the food crisis. "The public commentary on world food shortage has disproportionately looked to focus on biofuels as though biofuels are the be-all and end-all of the problem. "It would be a mistake for anyone to think that a reversal of those biofuels policies will get us out of the challenge that we face with global food shortages, because they won't."

Mr Burke said as oil prices continue to rise, markets would be looking towards biofuels. "That means we have the responsibility to try to drive research and development in biofuels away from initial staple food crops."

Mr Burke made the comments during his address to the ATSE Crawford Fund conference in Canberra. The annual conference brings together scientists, economists, policymakers and politicians to discuss the agriculture sector in Australia and abroad.


Unusual snow in New Zealand

Mt Taranaki has its thickest coating of snow in more than 25 years, says alpine guide Ian McAlpine. "There is heaps of snow up there. Bluffs that are usually visible are well under snow," Mr McAlpine said. At the weekend the summit was beautiful, with a cover of ice boulders caused by high winds. "Later in the year, when summer arrives people will need to take caution," Mr McAlpine said. "Conditions can change quickly if we get warm rain."

Things are looking good on the lower mountain, too. The Manganui skifield has exceeded last year's dismal three-day season, by clocking in 22 days on the bottom tow and more than 30 on the top. The skifield's area manager Todd Cations-Velvin says they have had a fantastic season. "Even though the weather hasn't been that good, we have still managed to get in some good days up the skifield," Mr Cations-Velvin said. "We are well ahead and people are taking advantage of the great conditions and snow coverage," he said. The season will last well into October.


Warmism and basic science

Every scientist, every science teacher, and possibly every gardener in the world knows that applying the terms `greenhouse effect' and `greenhouse gases' to the atmosphere, and to climate, is the most basic bunkum. Why then do we continue to propagate these two terms which are scientifically wrong and so misleading? Or, for some, does their propaganda value make the science irrelevant? It is no wonder that a physics teacher whom I met recently at one of our top schools was in despair: "How can we teach the kids real science if such nonsense is allowed into the curriculum?"

Wot No Convection!

So, back to basics. The atmosphere does not work like a garden greenhouse. In the simplest of terms, a greenhouse functions because the in-coming solar radiation - the sun - warms the soil, the tables, the plants, and the pathways inside it, which then, in turn, warm the air trapped within the closed greenhouse environment [remember that there is very little direct solar heating of the air]. The air then continues to remain warm because it is trapped within the closed greenhouse so that the heat cannot be lost through the process of convection, unlike in the air outside the greenhouse and in the atmosphere, where free convection is uninhibited. If you want to test this, or to cool your greenhouse, you must open the door, or, preferably, a window or two in the greenhouse roof, to permit convection to occur. Greenhouses work, first and foremost, because they prevent the normal processes of convection, not because of radiative forcing, precisely the opposite of what happens in the open atmosphere.

Our Radiative-Convective Atmosphere

Thus, the down-to-earth greenhouse effect does not, and can not, apply to the atmosphere, which experiences free convection. Indeed, so true is this fact that any complex model relating to climate must take it into account, so that we are not even dealing with a purely radiative effect, but with a much more complex, and still very little understood, set of radiative-convective effects. In essence, the `opacity' of the atmosphere to outgoing infrared radiation determines the height from which most photons will be emitted into space. The more `opaque' the atmosphere, the more the escaping photons will be emitted from higher in the atmosphere, and, because the emission of infrared radiation is a function of temperature, it is the temperature of the atmosphere, at this emission level, that will be determined by the requirement for the emitted flux to balance the absorbed solar flux.

We must further take into account the standard fact that the temperature of the atmosphere decreases with height at a rate of c. 6.5 øC per kilometer (on average), until the Stratosphere is attained (between 8 - 16 km above the surface) [we can assume for this purpose that the lapse rate is fixed by non-radiative energy fluxes]. If we then determine the temperature (and height) at the emission level of the infrared flux escaping into space, the surface temperature can be computed by increasing temperature at the rate of 6.5 øC per kilometer - the above-mentioned environmental lapse rate, reversed - until one reaches the surface. Thus, the more `opaque' the atmosphere, the higher will be the emission level of the escaping infrared radiation, and, consequently, the warmer the surface, since the lapse rate will occupy a longer distance in the vertical.

But, all this is going much farther than I need. The point is ever so simple. The atmosphere - carbon dioxide, methane, whatever - does not function like a greenhouse in our gardens. I must thus return to my initial question: "Why do we continue to propagate the nonsense of the `greenhouse' analogy?" Unfortunately, I think we know the answer all too well.

But, more worryingly, if such fundamental scientific bunkum is allowed to flourish in science itself, in public reports, and in the media, surely we must begin to wonder what other rubbish is being tolerated and employed for propaganda purposes? What else is being `trapped' by the emissions of bad science? This is a Green gobbledygook too far.



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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