Sunday, December 28, 2008

The costs of environmental protection

How many plankton can fit on the head of a pin? And how much are they worth? In an environmental case argued this month, the Supreme Court was asked to consider whether any cost is too high for limiting damage to the environment. How the Justices decide will have important consequences for energy efficiency and the future cost of electricity. Entergy Corporation v. Riverkeeper deals with the interpretation of a provision of the Clean Water Act. Under the Act, power plants are required to use the best technology available for reducing their impact on the environment. It's up to the EPA to measure the cost of technological upgrades against their marginal benefits to the environment.

That, at least, has been the operating procedure for decades, whereby the EPA could decide against requiring fixes to power plants and manufacturing facilities when the cost of the new system was "wholly disproportionate to the benefits." During oral argument, Justice David Souter asked, "Are a thousand plankton worth a million dollars? I don't know."

In Entergy, a green lobby named Riverkeeper is seeking to make power plants go beyond what was judged necessary by the EPA's cost-benefit analysis. According to Riverkeeper's lawyer, Richard Lazarus, "The EPA has no authority in any circumstance to decide that fish aren't worth a certain amount of cost." In other words, while EPA may consider whether the industry is able to bear the costs, it should not weigh those costs against harm to the environment.

If it sounds fishy, that's exactly what the environmentalists have in mind. When power plants draw in water from lakes and rivers to circulate into coolant systems for power generation, some fish and marine life forms are harmed. To reduce the mortality rate, the enviros suggest, a better option would be cooling systems that recycle water or air within the plant. Small problem: The conversion cost can run to hundreds of millions of dollars per plant, while decreasing efficiency. According to EPA estimates, 20 new power plants would have to be built nationwide to compensate for the new cooling process.

As technology marches forward, there will be a great many improvements in the way companies are able to deflect their environmental impact. Already, using things like fish screens and barrier nets, companies are able to reduce the fish harm by 80% to 95%. That's a level of effectiveness approaching the fancier systems at a fraction of the cost.

Green groups have a history of rejecting cost-benefit analysis as a matter of ideology more than utility. They don't trust business, and they believe that their own specific environmental goals are a higher public good than whatever is lost to society from exorbitant costs. But there is a price for everything in life, and reasonable regulation ought to include a judgment about relative costs and benefits.

If anything the EPA considers costs far too little in writing its rules. Yet in Entergy, the greens want the High Court to demand an even higher standard. If it does, everyone will pay, and sooner or later so will the plankton as a poorer America has less ability to afford the investments that will kill fewer of them while generating electricity.


Obama may have committed environmental crime by pouring grandmother's ashes into the sea

A ceremony arranged for his grandmother, whom he lost during the election process, may end up causing quite a headache for Barack Obama. In a ceremony held in Hawaii, Obama, teary-eyed, poured his grandmother's ashes into the sea from the sand-lined shore.

Environmentalists were quick to stand up against the move. The reason behind the contention was the state's Department of Land and Natural Resources Protection Law, which prohibits ashes from being dropped into the ocean. According to the regulation in place, ashes must be poured at a distance of at least three nautical miles. It has not yet been determined whether Obama will receive a fine for his actions.


2008 was the year man-made global warming was disproved

Looking back over my columns of the past 12 months, one of their major themes was neatly encapsulated by two recent items from The Daily Telegraph. The first, on May 21, headed Climate change threat to Alpine ski resorts, reported that the entire Alpine "winter sports industry" could soon "grind to a halt for lack of snow". The second, on December 19, headed The Alps have best snow conditions in a generation, reported that this winter's Alpine snowfalls "look set to beat all records by New Year's Day".

Easily one of the most important stories of 2008 has been all the evidence suggesting that this may be looked back on as the year when there was a turning point in the great worldwide panic over man-made global warming. Just when politicians in Europe and America have been adopting the most costly and damaging measures politicians have ever proposed, to combat this supposed menace, the tide has turned in three significant respects.

First, all over the world, temperatures have been dropping in a way wholly unpredicted by all those computer models which have been used as the main drivers of the scare. Last winter, as temperatures plummeted, many parts of the world had snowfalls on a scale not seen for decades. This winter, with the whole of Canada and half the US under snow, looks likely to be even worse. After several years flatlining, global temperatures have dropped sharply enough to cancel out much of their net rise in the 20th century.

Ever shriller and more frantic has become the insistence of the warmists, cheered on by their army of media groupies such as the BBC, that the last 10 years have been the "hottest in history" and that the North Pole would soon be ice-free - as the poles remain defiantly icebound and those polar bears fail to drown. All those hysterical predictions that we are seeing more droughts and hurricanes than ever before have infuriatingly failed to materialise.

Even the more cautious scientific acolytes of the official orthodoxy now admit that, thanks to "natural factors" such as ocean currents, temperatures have failed to rise as predicted (although they plaintively assure us that this cooling effect is merely "masking the underlying warming trend", and that the temperature rise will resume worse than ever by the middle of the next decade).

Secondly, 2008 was the year when any pretence that there was a "scientific consensus" in favour of man-made global warming collapsed. At long last, as in the Manhattan Declaration last March, hundreds of proper scientists, including many of the world's most eminent climate experts, have been rallying to pour scorn on that "consensus" which was only a politically engineered artefact, based on ever more blatantly manipulated data and computer models programmed to produce no more than convenient fictions.

Thirdly, as banks collapsed and the global economy plunged into its worst recession for decades, harsh reality at last began to break in on those self-deluding dreams which have for so long possessed almost every politician in the western world. As we saw in this month's Poznan conference, when 10,000 politicians, officials and "environmentalists" gathered to plan next year's "son of Kyoto" treaty in Copenhagen, panicking politicians are waking up to the fact that the world can no longer afford all those quixotic schemes for "combating climate change" with which they were so happy to indulge themselves in more comfortable times.

Suddenly it has become rather less appealing that we should divert trillions of dollars, pounds and euros into the fantasy that we could reduce emissions of carbon dioxide by 80 per cent. All those grandiose projects for "emissions trading", "carbon capture", building tens of thousands more useless wind turbines, switching vast areas of farmland from producing food to "biofuels", are being exposed as no more than enormously damaging and futile gestures, costing astronomic sums we no longer possess.

As 2009 dawns, it is time we in Britain faced up to the genuine crisis now fast approaching from the fact that - unless we get on very soon with building enough proper power stations to fill our looming "energy gap" - within a few years our lights will go out and what remains of our economy will judder to a halt. After years of infantile displacement activity, it is high time our politicians - along with those of the EU and President Obama's US - were brought back with a mighty jolt into contact with the real world.


'Dear Mr. Obama,' Why are our Kids so Brainwashed?

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette has launched a wonderful little feature that will run until Barack Obama takes the oath of office next month. They are calling it "Dear Mr. Obama" and it is a heartwarming exercise in child indoctrination and brainwashing. The Post-Gazette will be publishing letters from local students to Obama asking him for all sorts of global warming fixes, Iraq war enders, and big government programs.

Sadly, it appears that the government schools these kids have been subjected to have failed to teach their charges about anything like the American system, federalism, even science seems neglected. But they SURE taught their kiddies that government is there to spend, spend, spend, that government is to be treated like our collective parents, and that the war in Iraq is obviously an evil venture. Obviously.

And, yes little kiddies, The One, your very own Obamessiah, is flying to the rescue like a super hero. Cue the theme music -- I'd suggest the theme to 2001, like Elvis used, is appropriate for the sentiment here. The Obamessiah has entered the building!

The tykes are all about the alternative energy these days. They are full of exhortations to The One that he should force upon us all a reliance on wind power and solar cells. Obviously these youngsters have not been taught that no alternative energy source has thus far been found that is cheaper than oil and the fossil fuels. These kids are under the illusion that just instituting a government program is all it takes to overcome the science of the matter and make them cost effective and feasible. Yes, all we need is a word from our new religious icon in Washington DC cum Obamalot.

The first letter was amusing for its complete fraud. It is supposed to be from a ten-year-old child, yet it talks about alternative energy, the war in "Irak" and lays out a fairly detailed idea for a new method of education. It is painfully obvious that no ten-year-old ever wrote this letter.

Also we see little Neil Pandya, age 10, who asked Obama to lower the age limit on driving. Apparently, Neil was not told that states are supposed to legislate that restriction, not the federal government. Sadly, states' rights is not a subject taught to our young Mr. Pandya.

Several of the children are worried about mythical man-made, global warming and have been indoctrinated that Obama can control such things from the Mount Olympus of Washington. Here, for instance, are the worries of little Anna Devinney.
The first one is pollution. A lot of animals are dying because of pollution. Fish are dying from garbage being dumped into their habitat. People are dumping barrels of toxins into the oceans and many sea animals are losing food. Another problem in the U.S. is global warming. In the future, all the land will be flooded with water because the icebergs are melting and the sea level is rising.

To be so misled by one's teachers is so disheartening. The thing we can take from this is that who ever said kid's can't learn is way off base. Unfortunately, what they are learning is a thorough left-wing agenda. To paraphrase a famous saying, it isn't that our kids don't know anything. It's that what they know is all wrong. Unfortunately, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, thinking it's cute, is all too willing to display for all to see what a failed education looks like.


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