Thursday, January 07, 2010

Japanese ship falsely accused of ramming anti-whaling vessel

This is the sort of crap that Israel has to put up with. Aggression provokes a strike-back and then the attacked party is blamed for striking back -- with the reliable collusion of a Green/Left media, of course. The whole episode was a blatant setup. The vessel rammed was a highly maneuverable diesel-powered (biodiesel, of course) trimaran that could easily have skated out of the way of the monohulled Japanese ship. They were only rammed because they wanted to be rammed. They want to be seen as the victims rather than the aggressors that they really are. It's just another Greenie PR stunt. The report below is from the Murdoch media, so gives some balance. Australia somehow seems to have been dragged into the affair -- probably because it is the nearest Western country

SEA Shepherd captain Paul Watson today accused Japanese whalers of a high seas hit-and-run, disputing claims a collision with one of its speedboats was accidental. Six crew members aboard the anti-whaling ship Ady Gil were rescued, one with broken ribs, after it and the Japanese whalers' ship the Shonan Maru 2 collided in remote Antarctic waters. The high-tech trimaran was ripped apart in the collision.

Japan's Fisheries Agency has blamed the Ady Gil for the crash, saying it slowed suddenly while crossing in front of the Shonan Maru.

But Mr Watson today labelled the claim ridiculous, saying the whaling ship deliberately rammed the boat in a high seas "hit and run". "The Ady Gil was stationary at the time it was struck," Mr Watson said on Macquarie Radio. "The Shonan Maru did a quick turn and came in real fast, they were aiming for the cockpit, where the crew were, and fortunately we got the engines in reverse and backed up just enough so that the front of the ship was torn off instead of hitting the cockpit. "They were trying to sink the ship. We put out a mayday distress signal and the Japanese refused to respond - it was a hit and run really."

Mr Watson said it would be impossible to salvage the Ady Gil, meaning a loss of $2 million for the Sea Shepherd organisation.

A spokesman for the Institute of Cetacean Research in Tokyo, Glenn Inwood, contradicted Sea Shepherd's account of the incident. "The (Ady Gil) skipper put the boat into full sting to try to cut the Shonan Maru off," he said on ABC Radio. "You can see that the Shonan Maru is moving to the port to try and avoid a collision and there's no avoiding the collision with the Ady Gil. "It's a fast boat, she heads off full steam in front of it and miscalculates. So it's no wonder that it came to the grief that it has."

Asked if the environmental group would press charges against the whalers, Mr Watson said: "There's no law down here, there's no way to bring charges against anybody. "Japan does what it wants, where it wants. They're killing these whales in violation of international law. And if they were to injure or kill any of us, their government will justify and defend their actions."

Before leaving, Captain Pete Behune said he was planning to take the fight right to the harpoon vessels. "We will be on the fleet the whole time. Once we engage them, every day we'll be looking to mess them over," Bethune said. "My first job is to get my boat down there and get my crew down there and back safely and look at the risk."

Mr Watson again called on the Federal Government to send naval ships to stop the whalers exploiting the southern ocean whale sanctuary, which falls in Australia's Antarctic Territory waters. "Peter Garrett promised before he was elected that he would come down here and stop the illegal Japanese whaling activities - we're still waiting for him to do so," Mr Watson said.

But the Japanese Fisheries Agency hit back in a statement, accusing the Ady Gil of causing the collision. "These acts of sabotage that threaten our country's whaling ships and crew were extremely dangerous," it said. "It is totally unforgivable."

Environment Minister Peter Garrett yesterday said he had no plans to send a vessel to police the situation, instead calling on both parties to exercise restraint.

Japan aims to slaughter nearly 1000 minke whales this summer as well as 20 rare fin whales and 50 humpbacks. "They are becoming increasingly desperate," Mr Watson said yesterday. "This is a war. It's a war to save the whales and it just got a lot uglier."


Another unusually realistic comment below, this time from "The Punch". "The Punch" seems to be intended as the "intellectual" (and hence generally Left-leaning) blog of

Do you reckon if Sea Shepherd captain Paul Watson was roaming the streets of Melbourne in a high-tech armoured car deliberately provoking drug dealers and putting his young acolytes in harm's way he'd be welcomed on to the national broadcaster to tout his particular brand of vigilantism? I doubt it.

We're not big on vigilantes in this nation, which has an imperfect but workable system of the rule of law, enforced by publicly funded police. Yet for some reason the ridiculous antics currently under way off the tip of Antarctica are allowed to carry on unchecked, and have prompted a frenzy of boys-own-adventure cheering here at home.

Whomever is ultimately responsible for the sinking of the Ady Gil yesterday afternoon, it was highly irresponsible of the Sea Shepherd organisation to put the crew in such danger. But there was Mr Watson on the ABC this morning being hailed a hero for protecting the whales from the Japanese factory ships. He was also on Macquarie Radio, no doubt Fairfax radio, most TV stations and in every newspaper.

Politicians including the Deputy Prime Minister Julia Gillard have condemned the Japanese authorities, but not Sea Shepherd. Prominent Australians including Terri Irwin, and former environment minister Ian Campbell have proudly associated themselves with this group of adrenaline junkies.

How are they going to look if someone gets killed? The only person talking any sense on this is Environment Minister Peter Garrett, who has urged both sides to back off.

Let me be clear. I'm pro-whale. I think the Japanese should immediately disband the Institute of Cetacean Research and stop hunting whales in the Southern Ocean. I think the Australian Government should continue to put diplomatic pressure on Japan, and I think Sea Shepherd and other environmental organisations should continue to protest and raise awareness. I think we should refuse to fuel and supply the factory ships, and we should refuse to provide them with private air surveillance support.

But this is not "war". Splashing $1.5 million on a (not very well) armoured stealth boat that looks like something out of a James Bond movie, then sending it to the bottom of the earth to play chicken with a much larger ship is just stupid.

Demands from Mr Watson that the Australian Navy steam south to provide his boats with protection are offensive and his language is inflamatory. As an example: "We now have a real whale war on our hands and we have no intention of retreating." Mr Watson seems oblivious to the fact he's not authorised to declare war on anything, let alone on behalf of this nation and its military.

In the end it doesn't matter who rammed who. If someone gets seriously injured or killed Paul Watson will have to shoulder some of the blame. Maybe then we'll stop giving him free run to sprout his version of the war on whaling, when all he really is is a vigilante.


Regarding the American Chemical Society Public Policy Statement On Climate Change

A proposed Open Letter to Board of Directors of the American Chemical Society -- received by email from Peter Bonk []. The existing very Warmist ACS Public Policy Statement on Climate Change, issued in 2007, can be found here. I gather that there are already a large number of ACS members who are signatories to the open letter but more are sought

As chemists and engineers who are familiar with the science issues, and as current and past members of the American Chemical Society, we the undersigned urge the ACS Board of Directors to appoint a group of senior scientists, without vested interest, to revisit the science behind climate change in light of new scientific findings instead of relying on the report of the IPCC.

This group would share their conclusions with the members of the ACS in open forums, discussions and submit majority and minority reports (if so needed) to revise the current statement of the ACS on climate change. As counterpoint to the current statement, we recommend the change to as follows, so as to more accurately represent the current state of the science:
Greenhouse gas emissions, such as water vapor, carbon dioxide, methane, and nitrous oxide, accompany human industrial and agricultural activity. While substantial concern has been expressed that emissions may cause significant climate change, measured or reconstructed temperature records indicate that 20th -21st century changes are neither exceptional nor persistent, and the historical and geological records show many periods warmer than today. In addition, there is an extensive scientific literature that examines beneficial effects of increased levels of carbon dioxide for both plants and animals.

Studies of a variety of natural processes, including ocean cycles and solar variability, indicate that they can account for variations in the Earth's climate on the time scale of decades and centuries. Current climate models appear insufficiently reliable to properly account for natural and anthropogenic contributions to past climate change, much less project future climate.

The American Chemical Society supports an objective scientific effort to understand the effects of all processes - natural and human -- on the Earth's climate and the biosphere's response to climatic processes. The Society promotes technological options for meeting environmental challenges, regardless of cause.

We also are willing to accept a new statement that is based on the independent assessment being requested

Due diligence by the ACS Board of Directors on this issue is timely and important given the discovery of substantial scientific misconduct by senior practitioners of climate science and IPCC members, both in the UK and US which were uncovered in the past few weeks.

For Obama, Global Warming Trumps National Security

On Christmas Day, a Nigerian-born terrorist named Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab attempted to blow up a Detroit-bound passenger airplane. Only the bravery of a fellow passenger prevented the catastrophe. President Obama called the terror attempt a "systemic failure" on the part of American national security agencies. In particular, he blamed the CIA for the foul-up.

There is no doubt that the CIA should have done something more to prevent this attack. But, then again, President Obama has been keeping them busy: With global warming. Seriously.

According to the New York Times on Jan. 5, just a few days after Obama excoriated the CIA publicly, "The nation's top scientists and spies are collaborating on an effort to use the federal government's intelligence assets -- including spy satellites and other classified sensors -- to assess the hidden complexities of environmental change." This project, the Times reports, "has the strong backing of the director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the last year, as part of the effort, the collaborators have scrutinized images of Arctic sea ice from reconnaissance satellites in an effort to distinguish things like summer melts from climate trends ." While missing a potentially catastrophic terror attack is problematic, it's good to know that we've got the inside dossier on the mating habits of polar bears.

This isn't a shock coming from the "watermelon" Obama White House -- green on the outside, red on the inside. The simple truth is that the Obama administration believes that the solution to global warming is the same as the solution to terrorism: Marxist-style global redistributionism.

When it comes to global warming, Obama feels that "as the world's largest economy . America bears our share of responsibility in addressing climate change." Therefore, America must pay for the "financing that helps developing countries adapt, particularly the least-developed."

Similarly, when it comes to terrorism, Obama sees global economic leveling as the answer. On Jan. 2, Obama described the Christmas Day bombing attempt: "[T]he investigation into the Christmas Day incident continues, and we're learning more about the suspect. We know that he traveled to Yemen, a country grappling with crushing poverty ." Yemen's poverty is obviously irrelevant to the situation; Abdulmutallab wasn't from Yemen, and he certainly wasn't poor. In fact, when he lived in London, Abdulmutallab lived in a $4 million flat.

But to Obama, Yemen's poverty is precisely the problem -- if Yemen were a rich country, no terrorist could have trained there. Poverty, in his view, causes terrorism. As Obama puts it in his Bill Ayers-written memoir, "Dreams From My Father," on 9/11 history "returned . with a vengeance," because of the "underlying struggle . between worlds of plenty and worlds of want." Terrorism, he says, springs from "the desperation and disorder of the powerless." The solution? Destroying America's economy in the name of a one-world utopian flat economic earth.

To Obama, a dollar spent rectifying the economic imbalances between America and poor countries is a dollar spent on a safer world, whether we spend that dollar on climate change or national security. Or, as a like-minded thinker once wrote, "The meaning of peace is the absence of opposition to socialism."

Sadly for Obama, the world is not that simple. No grand unifying theory of politics can provide a cure-all as easy as "give away your wealth." A dollar spent on the global warming hoax is a dollar not spent on national security, because redistributionism cannot buy national security. Curing all economic imbalances will not end the plague of Islamic bombers hoping to establish a Shariah-governed world, nor will it buy their love. But killing as many of them as possible can and will help our national security.

On Dec. 24, the U.S. launched an airstrike against radical U.S.-born cleric Anwar Awlaki. We missed him. The next day, Abdulmutallab, an Awlaki disciple, boarded an airliner with a bomb in his undershorts. There is little doubt that Awlaki directly authorized Abdulmutallab's strike.

A few CIA satellites might have come in handy the evening of Dec. 24. Killing Awlaki might even have stopped the Dec. 25 bombing attempt. But at least we now know at what rate the Arctic glaciers are melting. And according to President Obama, that should be enough to make us feel safe.


Copenhagen's Dodged Bullet

Modern men have lived through 20 sudden global warmings

Al Gore said the other week that climate change is "a principle in physics. It's like gravity. It exists." Sarah Palin agreed that "climate change is like gravity," but added a better conclusion: Each is "a naturally occurring phenomenon that existed long before, and will exist long after, any governmental attempts to affect it."

Over time climates do change. As author Howard Bloom wrote in The Wall Street Journal last month, in the past two million years there have been 60 ice ages, and in the 120,000 years since the development of modern man, "we've lived through 20 sudden global warmings," and of course this was before--long before--"smokestacks and tail pipes."

In our earth's history there has been both global warming and global cooling. In Roman times, from 200 B.C. to A.D. 600, it was warm; from 600 to 900 came the cold Dark Ages; more warming from 900 to 1300; and another ice age from 1300 to 1850. Within the past century, the earth has warmed by 0.6 degree Celsius, but within this period we can see marked shifts: cooling (1900-10), warming (1910-40), cooling again (1940 to nearly 1980), and since then a little warming. The Hadley Climatic Research Unit global temperature record shows that from 1980 to 2009, the world warmed by 0.16 degree Celsius per decade.

As for the impact of reducing global warming, Bjorn Lomborg, director of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, outlined in The Wall Street Journal that Oxfam concluded that if wealthy nations diverted $50 billion to climate change that "at least 4.5 million children would die and 8.6 million fewer people could have access to HIV/AIDS treatment." And if we spent it on reducing carbon emissions? It would "reduce temperatures by all of one-thousandth of one degree Fahrenheit over the next hundred years."

All of which brings us to the Copenhagen global warming conference. It involved 193 nations getting together to discuss the threat that global warming poses to our planet and what can be done about it. The goal was to create a global agreement that extended and expanded the Kyoto Protocol so that a global organization could influence and monitor all nations' efforts to reduce their CO2 emissions.

Global warming believers did not get their way, either in extending the Kyoto agreement or in forming any global organization to tell all of the world's people how to lead their lives. But developing nations did get something--a promise of support for $30 billion over the first three years and a goal of growing it to $100 billion annually by 2020.

The developing nations saw climate change as an enormous financial bonanza if, under the banner of the environment, they could get wealthy nations to transfer wealth to them. The wealthy nations of course saw this as a trap: Why would they want to depress their economic growth by giving money to developing nations? The truth of the Copenhagen agreement is that developing countries want cash from other countries with few strings attached.

So the final Copenhagen deal did not establish greenhouse gas emission targets or specifically address how nations must limit temperature increases to no more than 2 degrees Celsius, but it did agree that CO2 emissions could be measured, reported and verified by . . . well, someone. That, in China's terms, means "developed countries must take the lead" in making emission cuts and providing financial and technical support for developing countries.

As for the U.S., President Obama's, Sen. John Kerry's, and Rep. Edward Markey's support for global-warming control is very strong and long lasting. So passage of the Waxman-Markey or Boxer-Kerry cap-and-trade legislation will be high on their agenda. The problem is that most Americans are changing their mind about the global warming propositions: A recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that Mr. Obama's approval rating on the subject has dropped to 45% from 61% in April.

In truth, the world dodged a bullet in Copenhagen. There could have been significant damage to many nations' economies if the warming alarmists' full agenda had been adopted.

But of course the game has not ended. Here in America, Mr. Obama, Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency all seem committed to regulating our behavior and consumption under the guise of addressing a crisis that is not a crisis. They will do so in a way that will not meaningfully reduce global temperatures, but will substantially hurt the economies and opportunities of the world's people.


Skepticism from Russia

You will have to read the original to see why I have headed this article with a picture of a glamorous Russian lady getting off a glamorous Russian train

The "Climategate" over the alleged rigging of temperature data in support of global warming might not have contributed to the failure of the world summit in Copenhagen but it highlighted the need for a fresh look at the problem of climate change. Russia, for one, has pledged to undertake such a review. A new climate doctrine signed into law by President Dmitry Medvedev during the Copenhagen conference stresses the importance of making "independent assessments and conclusions on the basis of exhaustive, objective and authentic information on the current and possible future climate changes."

The objectivity of the data supporting man-made global warming was thrown into doubt when a thousand private emails were hacked in November from the computer of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (Hadley CRU) and posted on a Russian website in what came to be known as the "Climategate." In the emails, climatologists apparently discussed doctoring the raw temperature figures to show a relentlessly rising global warming trend and silencing dissenting scientists.

Russian researchers poured more fuel in the scandal, accusing British climatologists of manipulating weather data for Russia. In a report released last month, the Moscow-based Institute for Economic Analysis (IEA) said the Hadley Centre for Climate Prediction and Research of the British Meteorology Office used only carefully selected statistics from weather stations in Russia that fitted its global warming theory, and ignored those that did not.

The Hadley Centre ignored data from three quarters of the weather stations in Russian territory. This means 40 per cent of Russia's territory is not represented in the world's most important temperature database, on which the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others have relied for more than two decades.

Worse still, the British climatologists preferred data from warmer urban met stations in Russia to those in rural areas, especially Siberia, the IEA report said. All in all, the institute evaluated "the overstating of the scale of the warming" for Russia between 1870s and 1990s, at 0.64 degrees Celsius at the very least. Distorted temperatures for Russia, which accounts for 12.5 per cent of the global landmass, must have led to exaggerated global warming levels (estimated at 0.74 C over the past 100 years), the report said.

Discussing climate change with Russia's leading scientists in the run-up to the Copenhagen summit, Mr. Medvedev said politics, commercial interests and emotions "heavily weighed down on" climate predictions. He suggested that the human factor in climate change could be greatly overstated and drew parallels with the 2000 software scare that prompted governments and businesses to spend an estimated $300 billion to fight the non-existent "millennium bug." "When the clocks rolled over into 2000 nothing happened, but moneys were earned and pocketed," the Russian leader said.

Russian Academy of Sciences Vice-President Nikolai Laverov recalled the ozone depletion scare that led to an international ban on Freon gas in the 1980s and enriched a U.S. company that introduced an alternative refrigerant. "We have since proved that refrigerants do not destroy the ozone layer," the academician told Mr. Medvedev. He said the post-Kyoto climate debate amounted to "an attack on countries rich in oil and gas."

"The anti-hydrocarbons bias is there, of course," Mr. Medvedev agreed. "We must not allow them to pull the wool over our eyes." Analysts see Europe as the main driving force behind the anti-carbon campaign. "Europe's own hydrocarbon reserves are fast dwindling and hence it is actively promoting the idea of giving up oil and gas for ecological reasons," says Konstantin Simonov of the Russian Centre for Current Politics think tank.

Mr. Medvedev strongly warned against trying to tax hydrocarbons producers, calling such proposals "witch-hunting" that would kill any climate agreement. A growing number of Russian scientists - solar physicists, biologists, palaeontologists, geographers - believe that the world climate changes in recurring cycles are related to solar activity and many other natural factors (The Hindu, July 10, 2008).

The new Russian doctrine reflects the widespread scepticism in the Russian scientific community over climate change. "The doctrine mirrors the view of our scientists that the human impact on climate change is still unclear and hard to gauge," Mr. Medvedev's economic adviser Arkady Dvorkovich said. "In large measure, climate change is linked with long-playing global trends, and irrespective of what we do changes will persist due to natural causes; therefore, we will take measures to adapt to changes."

Yet in Copenhagen, Russia did nothing to undermine the talks. Addressing the conference, the President pledged to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 25 per cent or 30 billion tonnes by 2020 compared with 1990 so long as this was part of a global pact. His offer did not mean that he had become a climate change zealot. Rather he backed a global agreement in Copenhagen because it would facilitate access for Russia to energy saving technologies and thereby help advance his goal of modernising the Russian industry.

"We must be in the mainstream . in order to try and solve our economic problems and create an energy efficient economy," Mr. Medvedev said before travelling to Copenhagen. "The so-called global climate deal gives us a real chance to expand scientific innovation cooperation with our partners . an opportunity to switch to advanced technologies."

Russia, which is the third largest producer of carbon dioxide today, would strive to cut emissions by adopting energy efficiency measures rather than by slapping restrictions on industry, Mr. Medvedev said. He has promised to make Russia 40 per cent more energy efficient by 2020. "We will not make any emission reduction commitments that may negatively affect our economic growth," Mr. Dvorkovich said. This idea underlies the Russian doctrine. "The strategic goal of climate policy is to guarantee the secure and stable development of the Russian Federation," the doctrine declares. Russia will shape its climate policy "on the basis of national interests."

Over the next decade or so, emission cuts will not hamper Russia's growth. Its emissions declined so sharply when the industrial sector collapsed after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 that the 25-per cent reduction target Mr. Medvedev announced in Copenhagen would actually mean an increase of 13 per cent from 2007. Russia feels it has already made more than a generous contribution to the Kyoto process. "Our country accounts for half of all emission reductions in the world over the last 20 years," Mr. Medvedev said at the summit. "This has gone a long way towards offsetting increases in harmful emissions in other countries."

His use of the term "harmful emissions," instead of "carbon dioxide" or "greenhouse gases," is significant. Many Russian scientists believe that the anti-CO2 warriors are diverting attention from the real problem of air and water pollution. "We should fight real harmful emissions, such as nitrogen oxides and a range of other pollutants spewed by our industry and vehicles, not carbon dioxide, a perfectly harmless gas which is moreover essential for the life of plants and animals," said academician Andrei Kapitsa, a renowned Russian geographer.

Climatologists deliberately confuse the two issues, claiming that a low-carbon economy would kill two birds with one stone - save the world from global warming and improve ecology. However, if man is powerless to influence climate, as Russian scientists say, why throw away billions of dollars on burying carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels underground or combating methane emission from animal husbandry. Surely, not because corporate interests are salivating to create a carbon emissions credits market double the size of the oil market? Wouldn't it be more sensible, as the Russian doctrine proposes, to concentrate on measures to adapt to climate changes?

Russia's open mind on climate issues and emphasis on independent studies could pave the way for a truly objective international review of the causes and effects of climate change. "It is necessary to fund and organise climate research in such a way that scientists are protected from the state's political interference and even from fellow scientists," says Prof. Konstantin Sonin of the New Economic School in Moscow

A vast body of scientific evidence challenging the man-made warming theory has been accumulated in Russia and other countries. It shatters the myth of a Global Warming Consensus. The BRIC group, whose sustainable development plans would be derailed if the West imposes its selfish climate agenda on the world, could take the initiative in launching climate research outside the framework of the U.N. Panel on Climate Change, which has sought to exclude critics from the debate. The two-decades-old Indo-Russian Integrated Long-Term Programme (ILTP) of scientific collaboration could provide an initial basis for multination across-discipline studies of climate-related problems.


The Green-Economy Mirage

If you got an email offering you the chance to invest in a business that would create new profitable industries, employ millions of people, reduce energy consumption without reducing quality of life, and improve environmental quality, would you be skeptical? And if the email went on to claim that the technologies to do all this exist now and could save existing businesses billions of dollars in just a few years by reducing waste and energy use, would you wonder why no one was already implementing all these "common sense" ideas? If the email went on to promise that you could do this all at no risk by investing borrowed money, you'd likely be reaching for the delete key.

If we substitute "the federal government" or "the United Nations Environment Programme" or "the European Union" for "you" and change the email to a proposed law, however, we discover that politicians from Washington to Brussels are embracing measures to "green" the economy and create "green jobs" with an almost religious fervor, despite weak empirical support for these proposals. The Obama administration included billions of spending and tax incentives for green initiatives in its budget, and last spring's "stimulus" bill poured $62 billion in transfers plus $20 billion in tax cuts into "green initiatives."

Unfortunately, the rhetoric about "greening the economy" or creating "green jobs" is just political window-dressing for some of the same central-planning measures proposed by the left for years. Behind that rhetoric are proposals built around government subsidies for favored technologies, measures to limit trade, and a great deal of wishful thinking about alternative energy measures not quite ready for prime time.

What Counts as Green?

The first problem in untangling the claims made by green-economy proponents is determining what counts as a "green" job or technology. Many times no definition at all is provided; even when the term is defined, different groups pick quite different definitions. For example, the U.S. Conference of Mayors' report Current and Potential Green Jobs in the U.S. Economy defines a green job as
any activity that generates electricity using renewable or nuclear fuels, agriculture jobs supplying corn or soy for transportation fuels, manufacturing jobs producing goods used in renewable power generation, equipment dealers and wholesalers specializing in renewable energy or energy-efficiency products, construction and installation of energy and pollution management systems, government administration of environmental programs, and supporting jobs in the engineering, legal, research and consulting fields.

Interestingly, the mayors count jobs in existing nuclear power plants but not in new ones.

In contrast the United Nations Environment Programme's Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World excludes all nuclear jobs, but includes all jobs said to "contribute substantially to preserving or restoring environmental quality."

If we take politics into account we can explain these definitions. The Conference of Mayors is concerned with building a coalition for spending to benefit its members. Those mayors with nuclear power plants in their cities want to claim credit for greening their economy through nuclear plants (which also pay lots of local taxes). The U.N. report, on the other hand, was aimed at gaining support from an international environmental movement that detests nuclear power, which explains why it didn't count any nuclear jobs.

Neither applies any objective criteria to the problem of defining which industries will gain and which will lose. For example, both define as "green" any jobs related to nonfossil-fuel technology, even if these energy sources (such as wood) release as much carbon dioxide per BTU of energy generated as fossil-fuel sources-or more. (Wood is much less efficient in terms of carbon emissions than either natural gas or gasoline on a per-BTU basis.) Moreover, burning many renewable fuels produces considerable particulate pollution, both inside homes and outside-a serious problem particularly for women and children in developing countries.

Green-economy proponents also disagree about how green hydroelectric plants are. Many who advocate government spending on alternative energy also want to dismantle existing hydro projects to restore rivers and improve fish habitats. (And many of those dams were built with subsidies by the Bureau of Reclamation and Army Corps of Engineers and would have flunked any serious cost-benefit analysis.) But small hydro, their preferred alternative, is by definition "small." As a result, it would take quite a few small hydro plants to produce sufficient energy to replace even a single large dam or coal-fired power plant. Not surprisingly, there is no evidence of a large-scale building boom in small hydro projects or even a serious effort to identify where such projects might be located.

Even more interestingly, both definitions are expansive enough to include "supporting jobs in the engineering, legal, research, and consulting fields." Indeed, the Conference of Mayors found that the top two U.S. jurisdictions for current green jobs are New York City and Washington, D.C., suggesting that the investment in green technology so far is producing a lot of consultants, lawyers, and lobbyists rather than engineers or factory workers. Another estimate found more secretaries, management analysts, bookkeepers, and janitors among "green jobs" than environmental scientists.

Defining terms is essential to a rational policy debate; without clarity we end up with a division between favored and disfavored technologies driven by interest groups rather than by either market forces or logical thinking. Unfortunately, so far the green-economy literature has mostly produced lists of "technologies we like" and "technologies we don't like" based on politics. We certainly shouldn't be spending billions of dollars promoting what we can't define.

Where Do Estimates Come From?

Even if we don't quite know what a green economy looks like, its advocates assure us there will be lots of jobs and other benefits from converting to it. Not surprisingly, most green-economy proposals predict huge benefits at low cost, making them politically appealing. Jobs will appear in economically depressed areas, and energy efficiency will soar, saving firms, consumers, and governments billions. Unfortunately these benefits are largely due to inappropriate economic forecasting methods. In particular, most estimates are produced via "input-output analysis," the same technique used to produce outlandish claims for the benefits of municipal stadium projects.

In an input-output analysis a vast matrix is calculated from economic data as they exist today, tracing connections between firms in different industries. For example, an automobile plant uses steel, aluminum, plastic, batteries, paint, tires, and other materials to produce cars with a particular amount of labor per car under current technology. If we thought that the plant would begin producing more cars, the input-output matrix could be used to calculate how much more steel, aluminum, and other inputs would be demanded by the car industry and how many more workers would be hired to work in it.

There is a role for such calculations in industry forecasts (predicting steel demand from auto production helps steel plants decide about investing in new capacity, for example). But using them to predict the impact of government programs to green the economy is problematic because the method rests on two assumptions that green proposals violate: constant prices and constant technology.

By definition, efforts to change energy technology are going to change technology and prices. The relationships in an input-output matrix based on using coal to generate electricity and gasoline to fuel cars simply aren't applicable to an economy where substantial amounts of energy come from high-cost sources like wind and solar and the cars are hybrids or run on ethanol.

Worse, the green-economy predictions rest on extremely optimistic estimates of the impact of spending on new technologies. Almost no advocates of these policies deduct the jobs lost from replacing existing technologies with the new, green ones. Refinery workers, coal miners, fossil-fuel power plant workers, and many others will all lose their jobs if the proposed shift to nonfossil fuels takes place. Some of those workers may find jobs insulating public buildings or bolting together windmills, but many will not. Because all that public spending to produce these new technologies comes from taxes (whether today or in the future), it reduces private spending and so eliminates the jobs that would have been created by the higher private spending displaced by the taxes.

Any estimates of major changes are likely to be imprecise even if all these factors are taken into account because of the considerable uncertainty surrounding these relationships. Ignoring all the downsides, as green-economy proponents do, suggests that they are less interested in accurate predictions than in creating political pressure for policies regardless of their impact.

Labor Productivity

Even if we set aside these technical issues, however, there are still some serious problems with green-economy plans. Perhaps most important, the literature mistakenly glorifies low-productivity jobs on grounds that more employment is better. For example, the UN Environment Programme criticizes modern agriculture because "labor is extruded from all points in the system," argues wind and solar are better technologies because producing each BTU of energy requires more labor than in fossil-fuel industries, and argues that the steel industry has evolved to use too little labor.

To see why this is a problem, let's consider ethanol. Although even many environmentalists now recognize ethanol's problems, it was the darling of alternative-energy proponents for many years, and hundreds of millions of dollars in subsidies have produced a substantial corn-based ethanol industry in the United States. (Despite these subsidies, the fuel remains uncompetitive with gasoline at current gas prices.) Corn-based ethanol requires more labor to produce than gasoline does, largely because growing and processing corn is more labor-intensive than pumping and refining oil. As a result, green-economy advocates score ethanol higher than gasoline since each BTU of energy in ethanol takes more labor to make than a BTU of gasoline.

But lower labor productivity is a bad thing not a benefit. Not only does more labor mean higher costs, but higher-productivity jobs (generally those that involve working with greater amounts of capital) can pay higher wages precisely because they are more productive. Low-productivity jobs are low-paying jobs because employers cannot afford to pay their employees more than the employees generate. If more labor were the metric, we'd all be better off using quills and parchment in place of computers.

Rejecting Trade

The advocates for greening the economy reject more than basic labor economics. They also believe that a green economy is one with relatively little trade. The literature emphasizes buying locally produced goods over those from other areas, both to save the transportation costs and to promote self-sufficiency. Not surprisingly, the UN Environment Programme criticizes Walmart for its global supply chain:
Companies like Wal-Mart (with its policy of global sourcing and especially its policy of searching for cheap products, with potential negative impacts for labor and the environment) are major drivers and symptoms of [increased global trade]. . . . Ultimately a more sustainable economic system will have to be based on shorter distances and thus reduced transportation needs. This is not so much a technical challenge as a fundamental systemic challenge.

To be fair, the benefits of trade are sometimes hard to understand. Nobel Prize-winner Paul Samuelson said the theory of comparative advantage was a contribution of economic theory that was both "nonobvious and nontrivial," and generations of Econ 101 instructors have proved his point by struggling to get students to understand it. But the libertarian case for trade is remarkably simple and clear: Voluntary exchanges must make people better off or they wouldn't occur, so a world with more voluntary exchange is preferable to one with less. Even the person most confused by trade theory can understand that autarky (producing everything locally) is a recipe for disaster by examining the record of Albania under communist dictator Enver Hoxha or North Korea today, two examples of societies where the rulers reject virtually all trade.

Moreover, the idea of locally grown food (a key component of the green economy) is hard to accept for those of us living far enough north to lack a year-round growing season. From my home in rural Illinois, I can see miles of soybean and corn fields. I am delighted that my neighbors can trade their corn and soybeans to people living elsewhere and that people in countries from France to Honduras to Israel to New Zealand send agricultural products here in return. I can buy French wine, Honduran bananas, Israeli citrus, and New Zealand lamb in my local grocery store because of trade, enriching both the variety and healthfulness of my diet. Even if it didn't make us better off, the freedom to trade would be an important liberty. Since it does, it is indispensable to the vastly better lives we live today compared to our ancestors.

Ignoring Incentives

Those advocating for a green economy often appear to believe that no one will undertake any measures to improve environmental quality or conserve resources without a government program to show them the way. We know this is false because we have over a hundred years of experience with market incentives for both providing environmental quality and reducing resource use.

Studies of income levels and environmental quality have found what is termed the "environmental Kuznets curve," a U-shaped relationship between national income and environmental quality. As very poor countries begin to develop, environmental quality often falls as energy production and use increase, factories appear, and people begin to consume more. But once per capita gross domestic product (GDP) reaches about $5,000, people can afford to spend more on improving the environment. Not surprisingly they do, and environmental quality improves after that point with respect to most pollutants for which we have data. In short, richer is greener.

The Environmental Kuznets Curve

Environmental quality also improves because market incentives spur firms to reduce energy and resource use. Any firm that cuts its energy use can devote the savings to undercutting its competitors' prices. This has happened on an economy-wide basis. For example, from the 1970s to 2000, energy use per dollar of real GDP fell by 36 percent as firms economized on energy without reducing output.

Each unit of energy input yielded four times as much useful heat, moved people 550 times farther, provided 50 times more illumination, and produced 12 times as much electricity in 2000 compared to 1900-a stunning success story. Major energy-using industries like steel, aluminum, and paper have all become more energy- and resource-efficient, while consumer goods like refrigerators have become larger, more feature-rich, and cheaper to operate. It doesn't take a government program to make firms more efficient, but it does take a market economy.

According to its proponents, the green economy will run on biofuels, wind, and solar power, ushering in a new age of clean energy. Unfortunately, this is mostly wishful thinking. The Department of Energy (DOE) says wind currently contributes less than 0.6 percent of total U.S. energy production. (Usually green-energy advocates note that it contributes 7 percent of renewable electricity generation, ignoring the less flattering total energy numbers.) Moreover, wind is both expensive and unreliable, as wind turbines produce energy only when the wind blows. Plus the massive wind farms green-energy advocates envision would require building what DOE estimates are $60 billion of new transmission lines (which many environmentalists oppose) and offshore wind farms like the Cape Wind project (blocked for years by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, who objected to its impact on the view from his sailboat). There are also important questions about wind turbines' effects on bird populations and the impact of "shadow flicker" from the turbine blades on neighbors. Similarly, solar power (mostly solar thermal and hot-water production) currently produces only 0.05 percent of U.S. energy consumption and is projected by DOE to rise to just 0.13 percent by 2030. Solar panel arrays take a great deal of land, usually in sensitive desert environments where endangered-species issues have already blocked some proposed photovoltaic sites. And both solar and wind power require expensive backup plants for when weather conditions aren't right (such as at night and on days without wind).

None of these problems are insurmountable, and it is quite possible (and perhaps likely) that as the prices of natural gas and oil rise in the future, an entrepreneurial inventor will find ways to make these technologies viable. The problem is that they are not viable today and will not become so in an environment of subsidies.



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


1 comment:

NikFromNYC said...

"Japanese ship falsely accused of ramming anti-whaling vessel"

Little toy ship broke in two boo hoo.

'T was made of carbon paper!

Two million dollars of 't.

Whales are big fish:

In other news "Bag of Teeth Link Man to Dental Burglaries":