Thursday, January 29, 2009

Some Greenie foot-shooting

A good comment below from Taranto:

Although America in 2000 passed up an opportunity to elect the man who invented global warming, eight years later we handed a decisive presidential victory to an avowed global warmist. And while the message of Barack Obama's candidacy on this subject was a bit muddled--he was for "change," while global warmists say they want to stop "climate" change--there is a widespread belief that the voters handed President Obama a mandate to "do something" about global warming. A poll released last week by the Pew Research Center, however, calls this into question. In the New York Times's "Dot Earth" blog, Andrew Revkin described the findings:
According to the survey of 1,503 adults, global warming, on its own, ranks last out of 20 surveyed issues. . . . Although the more general issue of protecting the environment ranked higher than climate (named by 41 percent of the poll subjects) that figure was 15 percentage points lower than in the same poll a year ago.

Revkin also links to a Rasmussen survey that finds Americans increasingly skeptical about the science behind global warmism:
Forty-four percent (44%) of U.S. voters now say long-term planetary trends are the cause of global warming, compared to 41% who blame it on human activity. . . . In July 2006, 46% of voters said global warming is caused primarily by human activities, while 35% said it is due to long-term planetary trends.

Why have global warmists lost ground with the public? One obvious reason is the recession. "The economy" and "jobs" top the Pew list of top priorities, and both have increased sharply over the past couple of years. People who are afraid of something real--losing their jobs or the value of their assets--have little energy left for esoteric and hypothetical terrors.

Another reason is that it is really cold out. Past Pew surveys were also taken in January, so that the figures can be construed as seasonally adjusted, but this has been an especially harsh winter, which seems to provide experiential evidence against the claims of global warmism.

Of course, this feeling is illusory: Weather is different from climate, and it is possible to have cold winters even amid a long-term trend toward hotter weather--just as, for example, the stock market has down days during a bull market.

Global warmists, however, have squandered their credibility in making this point, because they never fail to seize on a hurricane or a sweltering summer day as "evidence" to make their case. In fact, so cynical is the public about the claims of global warmists that the clich‚d response to a pleasant winter day is, "If this is global warming, bring it on."

An additional problem is that whereas global warmists are emotionally consistent--in a constant state of alarm, accompanied by contempt, even hatred, for those who dare ask questions--their claims are filled with logical inconsistencies. A reader spotted a hilarious example in this Los Angeles Times article:
Even if by some miracle of environmental activism global carbon dioxide levels reverted to pre-industrial levels, it still would take 1,000 years or longer for the climate changes already triggered to be reversed, scientists said Monday. The gas that is already there and the heat that has been absorbed by the ocean will exert their effects for centuries, according to the analysis, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Over the long haul, the warming will melt the polar icecaps more than previously had been estimated, raising ocean levels substantially, the report said. And changes in rainfall patterns will bring droughts comparable to those that caused the 1930s Dust Bowl to the American Southwest, southern Europe, northern Africa and western Australia.

"People have imagined that if we stopped emitting carbon dioxide, the climate would go back to normal in 100 years, 200 years," lead author Susan Solomon, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a telephone news conference. "That's not true." . . .

Solomon said in a statement that absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans and release of heat from the oceans - the one process acting to cool the Earth and the other to warm it--will "work against each other to keep temperatures almost constant for more than 1,000 years."

Is it absolutely crucial to the planet's future that we curtail greenhouse gases this instant, or would it not make any difference anyway? If the latter, what sense does it make to be alarmed? And that last quote by Solomon is a classic head-scratcher. We're supposed to worry that temperatures will be "almost constant for more than 1,000 years"? That's what they mean by global warming? Weather forecast for the year 3009: Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose.

SOURCE (See the original for links)

More Greenie foot-shooting -- this time from Australia

Imported biofuel a threat to trees and wildlife. Just about all Greenie policies these days are destructive in one way or another.

AUSTRALIA is contributing directly to the widespread destruction of tropical rainforests in Indonesia and Malaysia by importing millions of tonnes of taxpayer-subsidised biodiesel made from palm oil. Imports of the fuel are rising, undermining the Rudd Government's $200 million commitment to reduce deforestation in the region - a problem that globally contributes to 20 per cent of the world's carbon emissions. The bulldozing of rainforests to make way for palm oil plantations is also putting further pressure on orangutans and other endangered wildlife throughout Southeast Asia. And the Australian biofuels industry says it is struggling to compete with the cheap imports from Asia, which are touted as an environmentally friendly alternative to diesel.

Without action, the problem will only get worse, with demand for biodiesel imports likely to rise sharply when NSW legislates to introduce Australia's first biodiesel mandate - 2 per cent this year, rising to 5 per cent when sufficient supplies become available. But the Rudd Government is likely to come under pressure to follow the lead of other Western nations in banning imports of palm oil-based biodiesel. Biodiesel manufacturers in Australia use primarily tallow from abattoirs and recycled cooking oil.

Caltex, the biggest biodiesel customer in Australia, refuses to use palm oil-based fuel on environmental grounds, but it is being imported by independent operators. Federal Resources Minister Martin Ferguson, who is conducting a review of government assistance to the biofuels industry, declined to comment on whether he was aware of the Asian biodiesel imports.

Unlike imported ethanol, imported biodiesel is not subject to the 38.14c-a-litre fuel excise, so the biodiesel imports from Asia are effectively subsidised by Australian taxpayers. Rex Wallace, the chief financial officer of the Adelaide-based Environmentally Friendly Fuels, said his company had purchased five million litres of palm oil-based biodiesel in recent years. "We would not need to import it if people could produce a quality product on a regular basis in Australia," he said. "We would love to buy more local produce but it's just not there." Mr Wallace said his company imported from certified plantations in Malaysia that had been developed on land cleared historically for other purposes such as rubber plantations.

Australian Biodiesel Group chief executive Bevan Dooley said the industry estimated that 10million litres of palm oil-based biodiesel was imported a year. "Europe and the US are closing the gates on this product, but Australian taxpayers are subsidising its import," Mr Dooley said. He said it was difficult to establish if certified plantations were environmentally friendly, and Australian imports were helping to fuel demand worldwide for "environmentally destructive" biodiesel from Malaysia and Indonesia. "These imports are causing many Australian producers to suffer losses and are detrimental to the establishment of a biodiesel industry in Australia," Mr Dooley said. "Australia is seen as a dumping ground for palm oil-based biodiesel as there is no requirement for the fuel to be derived from sustainable resources." He said there was ample capacity in Australia to meet demand.

The Australian industry produces about 50million litres of biodiesel a year, but has the capacity to produce much more. About 80 million litres will be needed annually to meet a 2 per cent mandate in NSW. Indonesia has about 6 million hectares of palm oil plantation and Malaysia 4.5 million ha. Indonesia plans to double palm oil production by 2025 and is developing a plantation of 1.8 million ha in east Kalimantan. To make way for the plantation, the largest remaining area of lowland rainforest in Kalimantan is being bulldozed, with the loss of habitat for orangutans, clouded leopards and other rare animals.


Climate policy crash

Climate change remains at the top of President Obama's agenda, current economic woes notwithstanding. Obama recently inveighed against energy sources that "threaten our planet," and several of his early appointments-including Energy Secretary Stephen Chu, science adviser John Holdren, and White House energy czar Carol Browner-signal the importance of climate-change policy to this administration. During the campaign, Obama endorsed an 80-percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions by 2050, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said she hopes to move climate-change legislation before the end of the year. California Representative Henry Waxman's successful coup against longtime Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell of Michigan makes congressional action more likely

Even were Congress to have second thoughts, the climate-policy die is cast. In April 2007, the Supreme Court held, in Massachusetts v. EPA, that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. Thus no new legislation is required for the Obama EPA to begin crafting rules to control the emission of carbon dioxide and other gases from automobile tailpipes, power plants, boilers, and more. Like it or not, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson and her team have ample authority to impose controls on the most ubiquitous by-product of modern industrial civilization.

Indeed, they may not have a choice. Justice Stevens's majority opinion in Massachusetts did not command the EPA to begin regulating, but that is the practical effect of the Court's decision. At issue was Section 202 of the Clean Air Act, which requires the EPA to impose emission standards on new motor vehicles for any air pollutants which in the EPA's "judgment cause, or contribute to, air pollution which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." The Court decided that greenhouse gases are "air pollutants," and so the EPA must set standards if it believes climate change "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare."

The EPA would have a hard time claiming not to believe that, even if the Obama administration were so inclined: In numerous documents and statements, the agency has reiterated its belief that climate change is a significant concern, and that a gradual warming could have deleterious effects on health and welfare. Even during the Bush administration, the EPA endorsed federal action to "reduce the risk" of global warming. The EPA has done everything short of publishing a formal statement that climate change "may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare," and no court would readily let it off the hook. Thus, Massachusetts effectively requires the imposition of carbon-dioxide controls on new cars and trucks.

But that's not the only regulation affected by the Court's conclusion that greenhouse gases are air pollutants under the act. Section 111 of the act, for instance, requires the agency to set standards for some stationary sources of emissions "which may reasonably be anticipated to endanger public health or welfare." So if the EPA must regulate automotive emissions under Section 202, it must regulate emissions from power plants and factories under Section 111 as well.

And there's more. The act requires the issuance of permits and the imposition of technological controls on facilities that emit more than 250 tons of regulated pollutants annually. For traditional pollutants, such as sulfur oxides, these provisions capture only the really big emitters-large power plants and the like. Applied to carbon dioxide, however, the 250-ton standard could encompass many commercial and residential buildings, increasing the number of regulated facilities tenfold, if not more.

A plain reading of the Clean Air Act would also seem to require that the EPA set a National Ambient Air Quality Standard (NAAQS) for carbon dioxide, and then force state pollution-control agencies to develop plans to ensure that metropolitan areas comply. This is a fool's errand. There is simply no way for state and local regulators to ensure that individual cities, or even larger regions, meet an air-quality standard for a globally dispersed atmospheric pollutant. Local emissions could be reduced to zero, and a given city could still violate the NAAQS because of emissions elsewhere. It would be a pointless regulatory exercise, but after Massachusetts v. EPA it is the law.

The regulatory train thus set in motion by the Supreme Court will move apace unless Congress stops it through legislative action. What should such legislation look like? Some who would prefer to replace existing Clean Air Act rules with a cap-and-trade emissions-control regime have labored under the delusion that such a regime could be adopted by administrative fiat. Unlikely. Last year a federal court struck down the Bush administration's effort to create a regional cap-and-trade system for traditional air pollutants. If the Clean Air Interstate Rule was invalid under the Clean Air Act, there is little hope for implementing a greenhouse-gas trading system.

More here


President Obama is moving quickly to act on the environmental promises that were a centerpiece of his campaign. But tackling global warming will be far more difficult - and more costly - than the new emissions standards for automobiles he ordered with the stroke of a pen on Monday. Already, the Congressional Democrats Mr. Obama will need to carry out his mandate are feuding with one another.

By coincidence or design, most of the policy makers on Capitol Hill and in the administration charged with shaping legislation to address global warming come from California or the East Coast, regions that lead the country in environmental regulation and the push for renewable energy sources. That is a problem, says a group of Democratic lawmakers from the Midwest and Plains States, which are heavily dependent on coal and manufacturing. The lawmakers have banded together to fight legislation they think might further damage their economies.

"There's a bias in our Congress and government against manufacturing, or at least indifference to us, especially on the coasts," said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio. "It's up to those of us in the Midwest to show how important manufacturing is. If we pass a climate bill the wrong way, it will hurt American jobs and the American economy, as more and more production jobs go to places like China, where it's cheaper."

This brown state-green state clash is likely to encumber any effort to set a mandatory ceiling on the carbon dioxide emissions blamed as the biggest contributor to global warming, something Mr. Obama has declared to be one of his highest priorities. Mr. Obama has said he intends to press ahead on such an initiative, despite opposition within his own party in Congress and divisions among some of his advisers over the timing, scope and cost of legislation to curb carbon emissions.

The centrist Democrats who urge a slower-paced approach represent states that are crucial electoral battlegrounds and that stand to lose the most from such regulation. They say they believe that global warming is a serious threat and they will support legislation to address the problem - but not at the expense of their already-strained workers and industries.

More here


Car industry groups are gearing up for a long fight and the likelihood of legal action against proposals by President Barack Obama to allow California and other states to set their own regulations on greenhouse gas emission from vehicles. Though none are yet committing to fight the plans in court, the US Chamber of Commerce said it was "100 per cent sure" that a challenge would be launched if the Environmental Protection Agency gives the go-ahead to California.

Bill Kovacs, vice-president for environment and regulatory affairs, said the Chamber was "likely" to sue the EPA itself if lobbying and persuasion failed. "There will be continuing controversy over this. This is not going to go away," he said. "We will argue that this is a dangerous course of action."

A memorandum signed by Mr Obama on Monday directed the EPA to reconsider granting California and 13 other states waivers to set their own emission standards, after the Bush administration had denied permission. The move was given a rapturous welcome by Arnold Schwarzenegger, the Republican governor of California, and by environmental groups, who assume that the EPA will grant the waiver when its decision is announced in a few months.

Industry groups will endeavour to find a compromise with the new administration, which is putting cleaner energy at the heart of its agenda. However they claim that the waivers would lead to a patchwork of regulations that will drive up costs for the industry and ultimately the consumer in what is already a depressed market. Estimates have said that between $1,500 and $3,000 would be added to the cost of passenger car. Industry groups will argue that the president should stick to a strong national emissions standard of 35 miles to the gallon by 2020 that has already been agreed to.

"We are concerned that if states take off on their own then the economy will be Balkanized into regulatory fiefdoms," said Hank Cox, vice president of communications at the National Association of Manufacturers. "The car industry is on the ropes right now. This would be economic folly of the first order."

More here


Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry said Tuesday that it was "not critical" for the U.S. to begin regulating power-plant emissions in advance of renewed talks toward a global climate-change treaty. The Massachusetts Democrat will be an influential player in efforts to forge such a treaty and reshape U.S. policy on climate issues.

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Sen. Kerry said that an $825 billion economic-stimulus bill making its way through Congress should include more money for low-carbon technologies and less for "nontargeted tax cuts" that would, he said, do little to create jobs quickly. "We're staring at an incredible economic opportunity," he said of the stimulus bill, "let's spend it on the right things."

Some environmental activists have said that the U.S. can't credibly participate in the climate-change talks scheduled for December in Copenhagen unless it takes new steps to reduce its own emissions, such as using the Environmental Protection Agency's authority under the Clean Air Act to regulate power-plant greenhouse-gas emissions. But taking that step would risk a confrontation between the Obama administration and major industries, as well as fellow Democrats from coal-rich states.

Sen. Kerry said he thought it would be "great" if the EPA regulated power companies' greenhouse-gas emissions before the Copenhagen meetings, but that such a step was not critical. He cited President Obama's recent directive to the EPA to consider letting states regulate automobile greenhouse-gas emissions, as well as decisions by some states, cities and businesses to enact voluntary emissions-reduction programs, as evidence that the U.S. is "moving forward" on such matters. "People have to get beyond the Bush mentality and realize it's a very different ball game" under Mr. Obama, he said. Mr. Bush resisted committing the U.S. to economywide curbs on greenhouse-gas emissions, whereas Mr. Obama has called for legislation to cut U.S. emissions 80% from 1990 levels by 2050.

Sen. Kerry planned to brief Senate Democrats Tuesday on new scientific evidence that global greenhouse-gas emissions are increasing at four times the rate they were in the 1990s. "It's critical we begin now" to forge consensus on climate-change policy, he said. "There's a great deal of evidence that we're behind the curve on where we should be" in controlling emissions.

Sen. Kerry plans to hold a hearing Wednesday where former Vice President Al Gore is expected to testify on the status of United Nations-led global-warming talks. Sen. Kerry's committee, which oversees the State Department, gives him a platform from which to influence the U.S. negotiating position in the Copenhagen talks, which are aimed at forging a successor to the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that requires many industrialized nations to reduce their greenhouse-gas emissions.

The outcome of the talks is expected to hinge on whether developing nations such as China and India can be persuaded to commit to binding cuts in their own emissions. The countries' refusal to do so has been a major reason why the U.S. has not committed to similar binding cuts.

A spokesman for the Sierra Club, John Coequyt, said Sen. Kerry appeared to be trying to lower expectations ahead of Copenhagen, so that "if we can't get one of these things out of EPA, we can still go ... and make a solid claim that we're acting."



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