Sunday, August 08, 2010

A new doctrine for the Methodist Church: Global warming

Who cares about that silly old Bible with its old-fashioned fairy stories? We want MODERN fairy stories!

Anyone who has observed the way the belief in man-made global warming has become for many a new religion might be intrigued by a lengthy document published by the Methodist Church, in the hope that next year it will become official Methodist policy.

Entitled Our Hope in God’s Future, it kicks off by proclaiming that “the theological task is to reflect on modern scientific accounts of the threats posed by climate change in the context of affirming the triune God as creator and redeemer of the universe”. “What is required of God’s people,” it goes on, “is repentance.” The first step must be “confessing our complicity in the sinful structures which have caused the problem”.

The document makes it clear that all good Methodists must take as their new Bible the latest report of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, along with the famous report by Lord Stern. Inspired by this holy writ, like any Old Testament prophet it reels off all those familiar apocalyptic warnings of the catastrophes sinful mankind is bringing on the planet – floods, droughts, hurricanes, killer heatwaves, melting ice caps, sea levels rising by 20 feet (although they did get that one from the prophet Gore).

One cannot imagine how they left out plagues and swarms of locusts, since they could have found biblical evidence for this in the IPCC report. But, of course, only the most devout disciple will still believe in all these apocalyptic predictions anyway, since in every case there is plenty of sound science to suggest they are no more than scare stories.

Quite what the Methodist faithful are supposed to do to avert all these disasters, the document doesn’t make clear, apart from droning on, just like Chris Huhne, about the need to work for salvation by creating a “low-carbon economy”.

But one thing that is clear is that the authors of this document have completely abandoned the core principle of Arminian theology that led John Wesley to set up the Methodist church in the first place — namely that “no works of human effort can cause or contribute to human salvation”. Perhaps if these Methodists want to start a new religion they should just join Greenpeace, which got there before them.


The Week That Was (To August 7, 2010)

Excerpts from Ken Haapala, Executive Vice President, Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)

Quote of the Week: “The report emphasizes that human society has developed for thousands of years under one climatic state, and now a new set of climatic conditions are taking shape.”

The quote of the week came from the NOAA report released on July 28, the day before EPA’s declaration that it will not reconsider its finding that carbon dioxide emissions are harmful to human health and welfare. Virtually weekly, physical evidence mounts that over the past 10,000 years the earth has experienced periods warmer than today – the last one was the Medieval Warm Period and cold periods such as the Little Ice Age. Yet, NOAA maintains that the earth’s climate has been virtually stable for thousands of years.

This goes to the crux of the political issue – the systematic disregard by publically funded scientists of contradictory physical evidence. Be it by hockey sticks, use of carefully selected time frames, calculation of past temperatures by computer models with highly speculative assumptions, or any other means, a code of silence infects publicly funded climate science.

The public has a right to know all the science not just selected parts of it, as in the NOAA report. A right ignored by publically funded scientists. (Please see the excerpt of Bob Carter’s article “Closing out dissent”)


The Number of the Week is +0.49°C. This is the temperature anomaly for July, 2010 from UAH Globally Averaged Satellite-Based Temperature of the Lower Atmosphere as reported by Roy Spencer. The temperature for July is 0.49°C above the mean for the past 32.5 years. Temperatures continue to be slightly below, but not statistically significantly so, than the record for the satellite measurements set in 1998, which was a strong El Niño year. The 2009 – 2010 El Niño appears to be over. Sea surface temperatures are falling. It remains to be seen if atmospheric temperatures will fall later this year.

We can all be thankful that Roy Spencer and John Christy adamantly believe that the public should be informed of the results of science – not selected parts of it.


With little or no government support, George Mitchell spent almost 20 years and his own money to develop a means of “fracking” shale to extract natural gas. If the method can be successfully applied elsewhere, then many areas of the world with no “recoverable” hydrocarbon reserves will have abundant reserves. The method is proving successful around Fort Worth, Texas and in the Eastern US.

The method uses water and sand mixed with small amounts of chemicals. Already the anti-energy groups are attacking the method because it uses millions of gallons of water per well and some questionable chemicals. Even though the process takes place thousands of feet below the water table and below aquifers for drinking water, these groups are playing on fear of contamination of drinking water. Clearly, proper treatment of surface waste water from the process is needed. But this should be determined by science, not by fear.

Also of concern is the role that the Federal Government, particularly the EPA, may decide to play. Continued success in this privately funded enterprise will render many alternative energy schemes of Federal and state governments even more financially impractical. Will governments allow it?


Who's afraid of radiation?

Our attitude to ionising radiation is irrational, and easing safety limits would do far more good than harm

The word "radiation" frightens people, and little wonder. Ever since the cold war, the prevailing view has been that ionising radiation can do real harm to us without being seen or felt - and should be avoided at all costs. In fact radiation is much less harmful than we feared. Given the availability of carbon-free nuclear power, this makes a sea change in our view of radiation rather urgent.

Fear of radiation grew alongside descriptions of what might happen in the event of a nuclear war. In earlier decades there was genuine scientific uncertainty about radiation's long-term health effects, and scientists were unable to be reassuring. So, driven by universal popular concern, tight regulation was imposed to minimise public exposure.

Since 1950, public dose limits have been tightened by a factor of 150. Currently, the internationally recommended limit is 1 millisievert per year above the natural background level of about 2.5 millisieverts per year. For comparison, a typical CT scan might give you a dose of 5 millisieverts and a simple dental or limb-fracture X-ray 1/100th of that.

Much has been learned over the past half century from clinical medicine, radiobiology and accidents like Chernobyl. There is no doubt that a very high single dose is fatal, as the fate of the initial 237 firefighters at Chernobyl illustrates. Within a few weeks, 28 died, and 27 of those had received doses in excess of 4 sieverts.

However, many people receive much higher doses than this, albeit under very different circumstances. When a cancer patient is treated with radiation in a radiotherapy clinic, the tumour dies after absorbing a dose of more than 40 sieverts. During the treatment, healthy tissue and organs near the tumour get an incidental dose of some 20 sieverts, which is 20,000 times the recommended annual limit and at least five times the dose that proved fatal at Chernobyl.

How can tissue survive this friendly fire? A radiation dose is the same in principle, whether received in a hospital or elsewhere. But the critical point is that the therapeutic dose is spread over four to six weeks, giving cells time to repair the damage. Each day the healthy cells receive about 1 sievert, and just manage to repair themselves. The tumour cells receive a higher dose, and just fail to do so.

So much for acute effects, but what about longer-term ones? Very rarely, the damage is misrepaired, and the resulting error may eventually lead to cancer. To find out how often this happens, we need to compare the lifelong health data of a large number of people, some of whom have received a significant radiation dose and some who have not.

The nuclear bombs dropped on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945 provide us with the data we need. About 66 per cent of the original inhabitants of the two cities survived to 1950, since when their individual health records have been extensively studied.

By 2000, 7.9 per cent of them had died of cancer, compared with 7.5 per cent expected from rates found in similar Japanese cities over the same period (Radiation Research, vol 162, p 377). This shows that the extra risk caused by radiation is very small compared with the background cancer risk, and less than the 0.6 per cent chance of an American citizen dying in a road traffic accident in 50 years.

Not surprisingly, those who received higher doses developed more cancers. But those subjected to doses less than 0.1 sievert showed no significant increase in solid cancers or leukaemias. Nor did they suffer an increase in the incidence of deformities, heart disease or pregnancy abnormalities. So there is a practical threshold of 0.1 sievert for any measurable effect due to a single acute dose.

Given what we now know, from radiotherapy to the legacy of the attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is clear that radiation safety limits are far too conservative. Evidently, our bodies have learned through evolution to repair or eliminate damaged cells, with a low failure rate. I suggest the upper limit might be reset at a lifetime total of 5 sieverts, at no more than 0.1 sievert per month. That would be a fraction of a radiotherapy dose, spread over a lifetime.

Such a revision would relax current regulations by a factor of 1000. This may seem excessively radical to some, especially those in the safety industry who have spent 60 years trying to reassure the public by regulating against all avoidable sources of radiation - which, after all, is what society asked them to do.

But common sense says that extra precautions are most needed when we know least, and in a reasoned approach to any new technology we should start with a cautious limit which may be relaxed later, as instrumentation improves and our appreciation of it grows. The regulation of ionising radiation has resolutely gone in the opposite direction, driven by fear.

Changing the limits would bring practical benefits. Radiation safety is a major contributor to the cost of nuclear power, so any relaxation should lead to big cost reductions. Given that we urgently need to develop carbon-free energy sources, that is hugely beneficial.

It should also lead to a more sensible attitude to nuclear waste. If treated properly, the quantities are small, it become harmless after a few centuries, and it may be buried at moderate cost. In any event, the effect of radioactive waste is a small matter compared with the global influence of carbon dioxide and leaked hydrocarbons. We should re-examine the environmental risks of radiation with the same radical attitude that is required for our own health.


The RES is a hoax, a fraud, and a rip-off

By S. Fred Singer, President, Science and Environmental Policy Project

The US Senate’s proposed Renewable Electricity Standard (RES) would force electric utilities to generate a large and increasing percentage of their power from wind and solar – rising to 15% by 2021. These goals resemble those of the Waxman-Markey bill that barely passed the House in June 2009. It’s disturbing that some Republicans on the House Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted for ACELA (American Clean Energy Leadership Act). If the Senate were to take up an energy bill, it is likely that Sen. Brownback (R-KS) will introduce an amendment for RES.

Now, it is quite clear that wind and solar are not economic -- and probably never will be competitive, even when fuel prices rise significantly. So the RES mandate would mean that all of us taxpayers would support even more the RE rent-seekers and lobbyists, who are already milking the government for subsidies and tax-breaks for the construction of wind farms and solar energy projects.

In addition, electricity users (rate payers) would pay more for electric power to cover the higher cost. The so-called “feed in tariff” would force utilities to buy expensive wind and solar electricity and average the cost into the rest of the power produced. The consumer, meaning all of us, would pay for this boondoggle. It’s just a huge transfer of money, yet another regressive tax on consumers, with the electric utilities forced to become tax collectors.

The hoax part of the RES is that “clean electricity” is being advertised as a way to save the earth from the ‘dreadful fate’ of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). To accept this outlandish proposition, one would have to believe that the carbon dioxide generated in the burning of fossil fuels has a noticeable influence on climate.

The data argue against it. The constantly advertised “scientific consensus” is phony; it does not exist. The evidence that the UN climate panel, the IPCC, puts forward in support of AGW is pitifully inadequate—and wrong. It is easy to show that no credible evidence exists; just look at the summary of the NIPCC report “Nature, not human activity, rules the climate.” It is available for free on the Internet here

The fraud relates to the idea that energy produced without CO2 emission is “clean.” This word ‘clean’ is being misused, and that’s a huge part of the problem. Of course, removing genuine pollutants like sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides and mercury from smokestacks is a real clean up. It is already mandated by the Clean Air Act and being pursued adequately. But CO2 is not a pollutant – in spite of the claims of the EPA in its ‘Endangerment Finding’ – which has yet to be tested in court. CO2 is neither toxic nor irritating nor visible—nor a climate forcer of any significance, so the idea that we have to stop emitting CO2, or capture and sequester it, is a pure fraud.

And finally, the whole scheme is a financial rip-off. We all know that wind and solar energy are intermittent. If their use should rise beyond the present few percent, we would require either on-site storage of electricity or large standby capacity, probably fueled by expensive natural gas, to kick in when the wind kicks out. Either scheme would impose huge additional costs.

The biggest part of the swindle is that the RES is being sold on the basis of creating “green jobs.” But since when does wasting money create productive jobs? Why not leave it with consumers who can save and invest it to create real jobs. A study conducted in Spain, which has gone overboard on renewable energy, shows that each so-called green job displaces between two and three real jobs.

In any case, the manufacture of wind turbines and photovoltaic cells is now in the hands of lower-cost Chinese industry. So the green jobs in the US would consist of sweeping the mirrors clean from dust and dirt and fixing the blades and gearboxes of the turbines when they fail.

In all of this, the proposed legislation ignores nuclear power, which is not only “clean” in the sense of not emitting carbon dioxide, but is also competitive in price with most fossil fuels. Nuclear is most likely to become the major source of electric power once low-cost fossil fuels are depleted. Yet ACELA explicitly says that new nuclear power and updates to existing nuclear facilities and generation from municipal solid waste incineration are not included in the base quantity.

The hypocrisy of the RES advocates is appalling. It’s OK for the taxpayer to subsidize low-carbon energy that doesn’t work (wind, solar) but not low-carbon energy that does work (nuclear).

SEPP SCIENCE EDITORIAL #24-2010 (Aug 7, 2010)

Dumb Policies Just Keep Coming: Ethanol

Paul Driessen

If 10% ethanol in gasoline is good, 15% (E15) will be even better. At least for some folks.

We’re certainly heading in that direction – thanks to animosity toward oil, natural gas and coal, fear-mongering about global warming, and superlative lobbying for “alternative,” “affordable,” “eco-friendly” biofuels. Whether the trend continues, and what unintended consequences will be unleashed, will depend on Corn Belt versus consumer politics and whether more people recognize the downsides of ethanol.

Federal laws currently require that fuel suppliers blend more and more ethanol into gasoline, until the annual total rises from 9 billion gallons of EtOH in 2008 to 36 billion in 2022. The national Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) also mandates that corn-based ethanol tops out at 15 billion gallons a year, and the rest comes from “advanced biofuels” – fuels produced from switchgrass, forest products and other non-corn feedstocks, and having 50% lower lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions than petroleum.

These “advanced biofuels” thus far exist only on paper or in laboratories and demonstration projects. But Congress apparently believes passing a law will turn wishes into horses and mandates into reality.

Create the demand, say ethanol activists, and the supply will follow. In plain-spoken English: Impose the mandates and provide sufficient subsidies, and ethanol producers will gladly “earn” billions growing crops, building facilities and distilling fuel.

Thus, ADM, Cargill, POET bio-energy and the Growth Energy coalition will benefit from RFS and other mandates, loan guarantees, tax credits and direct subsidies. Automobile and other manufacturers will sell new lines of vehicles and equipment to replace soon-to-be-obsolete models that cannot handle E15 blends. Lawmakers who nourish the arrangement will continue receiving hefty campaign contributions from Big Farma.

However, voter anger over subsidies and deficits bode ill for the status quo. So POET doubled its Capital Hill lobbying budget in 2010, and the ethanol industry has launched a full-court press to have the Senate, Congress and Environmental Protection Agency raise the ethanol-in-gasoline limit to 15% ASAP. As their anxiety levels have risen, some lobbyists are suggesting a compromise at 12% (E12).

Not surprisingly, ethanol activism is resisted by people on the other side of the ledger – those who will pay the tab, and those who worry about the environmental impacts of ethanol production and use.

* Taxpayer and free market advocates point to the billions being transferred from one class of citizens to another, while legislators and regulators lock up billions of barrels of oil, trillions of cubic feet of natural gas, and vast additional energy resources in onshore and offshore America. They note that ethanol costs 3.5 times as much as gasoline to produce, but contains only 65% as much energy per gallon as gasoline.

* Motorists, boaters, snowmobilers and outdoor power equipment users worry about safety and cost. The more ethanol there is in gasoline, the more often consumers have to fill up their tanks, the less value they get, and the more they must deal with repairs, replacements, lost earnings and productivity, and malfunctions that are inconvenient or even dangerous.

Ethanol burns hotter than gasoline. It collects water and corrodes plastic, rubber and soft metal parts. Older engines and systems may not be able to handle E15 or even E12, which could also increase emissions and adversely affect engine, fuel pump and sensor durability.

Home owners, landscapers and yard care workers who use 200 million lawn mowers, chainsaws, trimmers, blowers and other outdoor power gear want proof that parts won’t deteriorate and equipment won’t stall out, start inadvertently or catch fire. Drivers want proof that their car or motorcycle won’t conk out on congested highways or in the middle of nowhere, boat engines won’t die miles from land or in the face of a storm, and snowmobiles won’t sputter to a stop in some frigid wilderness.

All these people have a simple request: test E12 and E15 blends first. Wait until the Department of Energy and private sector assess these risks sufficiently, and issue a clean bill of health, before imposing new fuel standards. Safety first. Working stiff livelihoods second. Bigger profits for Big Farma and Mega Ethanol can wait. Some unexpected parties recently offered their support for more testing.

Representatives Henry Waxman (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Joe Barton (R-TX) and Fred Upton (R-MI) wrote to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson, advising her that “Allowing the sale of renewable fuel … that damages equipment, shortens its life or requires costly repairs will likely cause a backlash against renewable fuels. It could also seriously undermine the agency’s credibility in addressing engine fuel and engine issues in the future.”

* Corn growers will benefit from a higher ethanol RFS. However, government mandates mean higher prices for corn – and other grains, as corn and switchgrass incentives reduce farmland planted in wheat or rye. Thus, beef, pork, poultry and egg producers must pay more for corn-based feed; grocery manufacturers face higher prices for grains, eggs, meat and corn syrup; and folks who simply like affordable food cringe as their grocery bills go higher.

* Whether the issue is food, vehicles or equipment, blue collar, minority, elderly and middle class families would be disproportionately affected, Affordable Power Alliance co-chairman Harry Jackson, Jr. points out. They have to pay a larger portion of their smaller incomes for food, and own older cars and power equipment that would be particularly vulnerable to E15 fuels.

* Ethanol mandates also drive up the cost of food aid – so fewer malnourished, destitute people can be fed via USAID and World Food Organization programs.

Biotechnology will certainly help, by enabling farmers to produce more biofuel crops per acre, using fewer pesticides and utilizing no-till methods that reduce soil erosion, even under drought conditions. If only Greenpeace and other radical groups would cease battling this technology. However, there are legitimate environmental concerns.

* Oil, gas, coal and uranium extraction produces large quantities of high-density fuel for vehicles, equipment and power plants (to recharge batteries) from relatively small tracts of land. We could produce 670 billion gallons of oil from Arctic land equal to 1/20 of Washington, DC, if ANWR weren’t off limits.

By contrast, 15 billion gallons of corn-based ethanol requires cropland and wildlife habitat the size of Georgia, and for 21 billion gallons of advanced biofuel we’d need South Carolina planted in switchgrass.

* Ethanol has only two-thirds the energy value of gasoline – and it takes 70% more energy to grow and harvest corn and turn it into EtOH than what it yields as a fuel. There is a “net energy loss,” says Cornell University agriculture professor David Pimental.

* Pimental and other analysts also calculate that growing and processing corn into ethanol requires over 8,000 gallons of water per gallon of alcohol fuel. Much of the water comes from already stressed aquifers – and growing the crops results in significant pesticide, herbicide and fertilizer runoff.

* Ethanol blends do little to reduce smog, and in fact result in more pollutants evaporating from gas tanks, says the National Academy of Sciences. As to preventing climate change, thousands of scientists doubt the human role, climate “crisis” claims and efficacy of biofuels in addressing the speculative problem.

Meanwhile, Congress remains intent on mandating low-water toilets and washing machines, and steadily expanding ethanol diktats. And EPA wants to crack down on dust from livestock, combine operations and tractors in farm fields.

“With Congress,” Will Rogers observed, “every time they make a joke it’s a law, and every time they make a law it’s a joke.” If it had been around in 1934, he would have added EPA. Let’s hope for some change.


Argentina Has Colder Winter Than Antartica, Spurring Record Power Imports

Argentina is a large country with a population mostly of European origin. I'm guessing that they won't be convinced to sign on to any global warming treaty any time soon

Argentina is importing record amounts of energy as the coldest winter in 40 years drives up demand and causes natural-gas shortages, prompting Dow Chemical Co. and steelmaker Siderar SAIC to scale back production.

Electricity supplied from Brazil and Paraguay rose to a daily combined record of about 1,000 megawatts on July 12, while consumption peaked at 20,396 megawatts three days later, according to Buenos Aires-based energy broker Cammesa. Shipments of liquefied natural gas are set to double this year.

Dow, Siderar and aluminum maker Aluar Aluminio Argentino SAIC are among companies closing plants, cutting output or seeking alternative energy sources after temperatures in parts of Argentina fell below those of Antarctica on July 15. Rising demand is exacerbating a shortage that began six years ago as economic growth accelerated and energy investment fell. The shortage is boosting costs as companies spend more to guarantee supplies.

“The situation is getting worse, because the shortage period is growing every year,” Gerardo Rabinovich, a director at the General Mosconi Energy Institute in Buenos Aires and an adviser to the opposition Radical Party, said in a telephone interview. “When this started in 2004, it lasted for about a week, then it was two weeks and now it’s more than a month.”

In July, temperatures in Buenos Aires were, on average, 1 degree Celsius below the usual low and high of 8 and 14 degrees (46 and 57 degrees Farenheit), with temperatures plummeting to about 2 degrees Celsius on July 15.

Renewed Cold

Also on July 15, temperatures in Mendoza, the wine- producing region in western Argentina, fell as low as -8.9 degrees Celsius below the temperature registered that day in the Argentine-controlled area of the South Pole, according to a national weather institute report.

Argentina is bracing for a renewed polar front this month. On Aug. 1, almost half of the country’s 23 provinces registered temperatures below zero, while the northern city of La Quiaca on the border with Bolivia fell to minus 10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit.) The average low predicated through Aug. 5 is 1 degree, according to the National Weather service.

Dow closed a polyethylene plant in July and reduced operations at another facility to minimum capacity after gas supplies were rationed by the government, said Soledad Echague, a spokeswoman for the Midland, Michigan-based company in Buenos Aires. The cuts were more severe than the company had expected, she said.



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