Friday, October 01, 2010
Eating meat is good for the planet (and that's according to a militant vegan)
Lunch with Simon Fairlie is a carnivore’s nightmare. Around the communal table at Monkton Wyld Court — the ‘sustainable lifestyle community’ in the Dorset hills where Fairlie lives — our plates are filled with corn fritters and sprouting quinoa seed salad.
But although the diet is strictly vegetarian, the talk is all about beef. That’s because Fairlie — just in from milking his two cows, and every inch the hippie farmer with his beard and tatty embroidered waistcoat — is no evangelical vegetarian.
Rather, this former co-editor of The Ecologist is a rebel from within the environmental movement who says that the eco-establishment has got it badly wrong over animals: that farming them and eating meat is OK. In fact, he claims, moderate carnivores may be better for the planet than vegans.
He despises the urban Greens and their ignorance about the countryside
As a keeper of livestock, Fairlie was also struck by the endlessly repeated ‘facts’ used by vegetarians and environmental campaigners to prove the inefficiency of raising animals as human food. Chief among those is the notorious 10:1 ‘conversion rate’, which appears everywhere from scientific papers to school textbooks. This states that to produce 1kg of beef, you need to feed a cow 10kg of grain. If humans ate grain, then, instead of beef, there would be far more food to go around.
‘This figure has its origins in the 18th century,’ contends Fairlie, adding that it was publicised most dramatically in an essay by the poet Shelley, who in 1813 became one of the world’s first militant vegetarians. George Bernard Shaw and Paul McCartney were his heirs, and with them rose an ‘urban green agenda’ that Fairlie despises, because of its ignorance about the countryside. ‘Most rural Greens eat meat,’ he says.
And that 10:1 ‘conversion rate’ is an absurd exaggeration, Fairlie’s research shows. It would be true if you fed nothing but grain to cows — but no one does that.
Even in the mega-farms where cheap beef is produced in the U.S. — which do use huge amounts of grain to fatten animals — the ratio is perhaps 7:1.
On a traditional small farm, very little vegetable matter fit for human consumption is used for beef production and the real conversion ratio is perhaps 1.4 to 1 — for every 1.4kg of vegetable humans could have eaten, you can produce 1kg of beef.
‘And that’s a pretty good exchange, if you’re getting something different and nice to eat,’ says Fairlie. There are other benefits, too. A dairy herd is a highly efficient way of turning something humans can’t eat — grass — into things they can, such as milk, butter and cheese. What’s more, cows recycle nutrients back into the land as manure, and their grazing encourages grass to grow.
One of the great disasters of recent years, in Fairlie’s eyes, is the ban on feeding swill — waste food from restaurants and factories — to farm animals following the foot and mouth epidemic of 2001. Before that, many pigs on small farms happily ate kitchen waste, costing the planet and the farmer very little.
Now two-thirds of Britain’s pig feed comes from meal, which is expensive, or grain that humans might have eaten — much of it imported soya. Meanwhile, the 20 million tonnes of food we throw away each year is burnt or buried.
Fairlie thinks there is a worrying ideological agenda behind the dodgy statistics of the anti-meat lobby.
In his book, he quotes prominent vegetarian philosophers and campaigners in organisations like PETA (People for Ethical Treatment of Animals) who would like to do away with all animal-based food, instead producing genetically-engineered ‘cultured muscle tissue’ for humans in factories. He quotes one of these luminaries boasting that he insists on feeding his dogs and cats on soya protein, rather than meat.
So how does the ‘Fairlie diet’ work? He tells me he eats meat perhaps twice a week — the last was a steak and kidney pie at a friend’s birthday. ‘We should eat more of the animal — like the offal — and learn to cook with smaller amounts of it.’
That would make our diet more like that of our ancestors. They enjoyed animals like pigs and chickens which are cheap to keep, because they consume waste and surplus grain.
Ethanol: Following the E10 to E15 debate
The ethanol industry was patiently waiting for the EPA to approve an increase from 10 percent ethanol blends to 15 percent in gasoline. They are still waiting, but no longer patiently.
Numerous groups have voiced their opinion to keep the blend wall at 10 percent, or at least not to approve the increase until further testing is done. Despite the fact that the opposition comes from organizations such as the National Council of Chain Restaurants (this one is admittedly confusing), the Engine Manufacturers Association, and the Motorcycle Industry Association, the domestic ethanol industry is convinced this is an enormous big-oil conspiracy to keep the ethanol industry from succeeding. Did they just finish watching JFK?
From the reading I’ve done, it looks like 15 percent blends of ethanol aren’t going to have any negative effects on newer car engines — and EPA statements have hinted that the industry will get their 5 percent increase this year. But there is evidence that it can cause harm in non-automobile engines — like outboard engines used in boating, which explains why ESPN ran an article covering the issue.
Why is this confusing the ethanol industry? As the ESPN article says: "The lack of general public understanding of the differences between E10 and E15 increases the risk that boaters may misfuel their engines once E15 becomes readily available at gas stations."
The average citizen has no idea what E10 or E15 or E85 are. They might buy E15 rather than E10 and use it, potentially damaging very expensive equipment.
The underlying issue here is that the Renewable Fuel Standard is mandating huge blends of ethanol into our fuel supply, but the EPA isn’t permitting a high enough blend that will allow the mandate to be met. This highlights the absurdity of government energy policy. One government organization mandates a policy and another government organization sets policy making the original initiative impossible to obtain. This is one of the many reasons why consumers, not governments, should decide what they want going into their fuel.
And yes, the oil companies oppose the increase — as they should. They have absolutely nothing to gain from this, and will lose money as each gallon of gasoline sold now contains less refined oil and more ethanol. To some, it is downright shocking that a company would oppose policies that would have the direct effect of making their industry less profitable.
Will “clean energy” lead to an economic recovery?
Can pigs fly?
Keynesians and semi-socialists claim that “clean energy” will create jobs and net economic growth. From Al Gore to the New York Times, “green energy” is almost religious in scope, as advocates claim that not only will it give us better air and weather, but it also will be a fundamental building block of economic recovery.
To speak out against this is tantamount to treason in some quarters, and people who dissent are vilified in the media; organizers wanting California’s recent “clean energy” law repealed recently were attacked by the New York Times. Indeed, it almost seems to be self-evident that a “key” to economic recovery is government “investment” in “green technologies,” so anyone who might look differently at this new government-led venture not only opposes progress but new jobs as well.
The technologies leading the way in this effort include biofuels, such as corn-based ethanol and biodiesel; wind power; and solar photovoltics. Not surprisingly, Gore partners with a venture capital fund that helps to finance many of these things.
Of course, these are ventures are not profitable on their own. In other undertakings, entrepreneurs find new ways to apply existing resources in hopes of making a profit. They rarely have the luxury of being targeted for success by governing bodies; rather, they have to deal with all the roadblocks and difficulties that any business venture might find in its way.
With green technologies we have a situation in which entrepreneurs purchase various factors of production, put together a product, sell it, and then chronically fall short of making a profit. Then they lobby for subsidies or mandates. This is not the same kind of situation that faced a capital-intensive operation like Federal Express, which went five years without making a profit. The goal was to be profitable in the future, knowing the company would not receive special government benefits.
As Robert Bryce notes in his eye-opening book, Gusher of Lies, much of what proponents claim about these “new technologies” not only is untrue but will remain untrue because of the first and second laws of thermodynamics: The laws of science stand in the way of these projects ever becoming profitable on their own, and Congress cannot repeal either economic or scientific laws.
Some green energy proponents understand this, but counter that if governments limit consumer choices, people will be forced to purchase these products at prices that will make them appear profitable. That means government coercion is enlisted to create the illusion that “green technologies” are viable when in reality people must use them under threat of state-sponsored violence. One cannot build a prosperous economy on that footing.
Why can’t a good that must be subsidized be the basis of an economic recovery? The answer would seem obvious on its face, but people often don’t see it. The answer is based on this fact: The very presence of subsidies and targeted favors for a particular good means that the real value of the resources being used to create that good is greater than the value of the good itself. No economy can grow under such circumstances. The reality is that “green energy” actually causes the economy to contract.
Part of the misunderstanding comes because people see only one side – new jobs being created in the subsidized industry – but fail to see the entire picture. This hardly is limited to alternative energy — the “broken window fallacy” permeates our body politic and even more so when we suffer economic downturns, as governments seek “solutions” that only make things worse.
If there ever were an example of the “broken window fallacy” in energy, it is the notion that “green energy” in its present circumstances will help the economy grow. That is a logical impossibility, but governments (and, sadly, many economists) don’t do economic logic.
New U.S. Senate Report: EPA’s polices harming america’s maufacturing base
Washington, DC-Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, released today a new EPW Minority staff report titled, “EPA’s Anti-Industrial Policy: Threatening Jobs and America’s Manufacturing Base,” which chronicles a series of EPA proposals that could destroy hundreds of thousands of jobs, many in the industrial heartland, raise energy prices for consumers, and undermine the global competitiveness of America’s manufacturers.
The report reviewed the following proposals:
* New standards for commercial and industrial boilers: up to 798,250 jobs at risk;
* New standards for Portland Cement plants: up to 18 cement plants at risk of shutting down, threatening nearly 1,800 direct jobs and 9,000 indirect jobs;
* The Endangerment Finding/Tailoring Rules for Greenhouse Gas Emissions: higher energy costs; jobs moving overseas; severe economic impacts on the poor, the elderly, minorities, and those on fixed incomes; 6.1 million sources subject to EPA control and regulation; and
* The revised National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone: severe restrictions on job creation and business expansion in hundreds of counties nationwide.
Sen. Inhofe: “I have great personal respect for EPA Administrator Jackson, but we disagree fundamentally on EPA’s policies and the economic and financial harm they pose for consumers, workers, and small businesses. The record as outlined in this Minority report, which includes EPA’s own analysis, is very clear: EPA will make consumers pay more for electricity, shut down the local factory, and give Chinese firms a decisive advantage over America’s manufacturers, which are struggling to meet the agency’s bureaucratic mandates.
“The irony of EPA’s agenda is that, along with higher costs, it will fail to provide the American people with meaningful environmental benefits. In some cases, it will actually impose environmental harm, as EPA’s ever-increasing mandates shift production to China, where technology and standards don’t measure up to our own.
“Our task ahead is to bring balance back to federal clean air policy, so that economic growth, job creation, and environmental progress can coexist, rather than be in conflict with each other.”
U.S. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.): “The regulatory obligations under the Obama administration’s EPA are set to kick the legs out from an already limping economy. It will be almost impossible for Congress to compensate for the jobs that will be lost under the regulatory burden of an ambitious and ever-growing EPA bureaucratic scheme that is crushing every sector of American business.”
U.S. Sen. Kit Bond (R-Mo): “When we ask ‘Where are the jobs?’ this report answers that by showing how the Obama Environmental Protection Agency is killing American jobs and sending them overseas.”
U.S. Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio): “During my tenure on the Senate EPW Committee, I have worked hard to enact common sense environment and energy policies that protect our environment while enhancing our economic competitiveness.Time after time, these efforts have been met by firm resistance from environmental zealots and an out-of-touch federal bureaucracy.
“Now, when America families are struggling under the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression, EPA has launched an aggressive campaign of regulations, red tape and backdoor energy taxes that will undercut our efforts to create jobs and further erode America’s global competitiveness. We should be doing everything we can to create jobs and grow our economy - that includes stopping unelected bureaucrats from raising energy costs and using regulatory red tape to stifle our economy. We must put our nation’s environment and energy policy back into Congress’ hands.”
America Needs Coal
But Obama is intent on stopping coal mining
Those who are in line to receive a heap of coal in their stocking from Santa this year might want to hang on to it. The EPA recently gave “further guidance” to the mountaintop mining industry. Using the Clean Water Act, coal mine plans must meet various expectations and guideposts before new projects or add-ons can begin.
Oddly enough, these standards set by the EPA only apply to six states that house the Appalachian Mountains and only apply to coal miners. “The Administration is singling out coal miners by reinterpreting a law and tilting it in favor of Obama’s environmentalist agenda,” says Bill Wilson, president of Americans for Limited Government (ALG).
Coal miners are now required to keep streams cleaner and to a higher standard than that of tap water. Sound impossible? It is for most mountaintop coal miners in the states of Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, Pennsylvania and as far as southern Ohio.
Why does the new interpretation of the Clean Water Act only apply to six states affecting only one industry? When EPA’s Administrator Lisa Jackson says, “the goal is a standard so strict that few, if any, permits would be issued for valley fills,” it makes one wonder the true motive behind the guidelines.
The coal industry in U.S. provides almost half of America’s electricity. Surface mining, which includes mountaintop mining and the use of valley fills, removes the top soil and brush and extracts entire coal seams from below the surface.
This type of mining runs vast through the states of the Appalachian Mountains. All of these states employ coal miners and all of their jobs and businesses are slowly being picked off by near-impossible guidelines they must follow.
“Coal mining is such a backbone industry in the Appalachia,” says Gene Kitts, senior vice president of mining services for the International Coal Group (ICG). “It employs tens of thousands directly, and if you simply say you can’t mine anymore, there aren’t a lot of options.”
Bill Raney, president of the West Virginia Coal Association, says, coal mining jobs are already being threatened. “Companies are doing all they can to keep people working,” he says. “There have been some layoffs. There is an overwhelming cloud of uncertainty. You go to work today, but you don’t know if you’ll go to work tomorrow.”
Since Obama took office, the coal mining industry has been under attack. In a 2009 video interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Obama said, “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.”
Freezing the coal mining industry is a big step towards Obama’s cap-and-trade plan. From the Appalachia states of West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky and Tennessee, 269 million tons of coal was produced, nearly 25 percent of the nation’s entire production, Kitts says. By stopping, or even slowing down production in these areas, customers will soon be paying more for their electricity with a demand far exceeding the supply.
“This Administration is not friendly to coal by any means — mining or the use of coal,” Kitts says. “Using the Clean Water Act has been effective in stopping the mine permitting process. It’s managed to bring it to a halt.”
Luke Popovich of the National Mining Association (NMA) says the EPA uses “bad science” and only focuses on the results most beneficial to them.
“The studies the EPA cites show no comparison between mountaintop mining and the streams below,” Popovich says. “The studies don’t consider rainfall or the building of roads. They are cherry-picking what they want instead of looking at a range of data.”
Raney agrees and adds, “They will get anything they can and use it to support their anti-coal agenda.”
A press release by the NMA highlights analyses done by outside groups, GEI Consultants, Inc. and Norwest Corporations, on the studies the EPA is using to restrict mountaintop mining.
Some of the key findings by these groups include:
• The study (Pond-Passmore) EPA relied upon to set new water quality standards for valley fills at coal mining operations in Appalachia found no direct correlation between changes in water quality and aquatic life and the number or location of valley fills;
• EPA failed to establish cause and effect relationships by relying on field data from uncontrolled settings rather than laboratory data — in violation of its own methodology guidelines;
• EPA used too few organisms and relied on those rarely found under any condition to determine that a species is absent from an ecosystem; and
• EPA incorrectly characterized the findings of scientific research and selectively used conclusions to support various presumptions.
Popovich says a lawsuit was filed in July against the EPA’s science. Furthermore, Kitts says the EPA cannot prove the water quality in the Appalachian Mountains around mining sites is hurting humans and/or fish. Instead the EPA is only focusing on aquatic insects, like the Mayfly, that is sometimes found in streams in the Appalachia not near mining sites.
EPA has also enforced that the conductivity number in the water below mining operations must carry a rate of 500 or less. A conductivity rate measures how well typical water conducts an electric charge. The more minerals or solids in the water will give the water a higher conductivity rate.
Kitts says the conductivity in tap water is often at a rate between 600 and 750. “The conductivity rate is not based on good science,” Kitts says. It is not an appropriate measure of impact on the environment.”
Kitts has many permits that have been in limbo for more than a year due to the heavy involvement of the EPA. “Complying with the EPA standards is nearly impossible,” he says.
A mining operator in West Virginia has been waiting for a green light to begin work for 13 years.
Arch Coal met all regulations to get a permit for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia, to mine in the Appalachian coalfields. The operation finally received a fully valid permit in 2007. Now that permit is being questioned by the EPA.
A press release from Arch Coal states, “the Spruce permit is the most scrutinized and fully considered permit in West Virginia’s history.” After 13 years of waiting to begin the project, the EPA could quite possibly revoke the permit.
“At a time when the U.S. economy is still hurting, now is not the time to end coal production,” says Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association. “By harming coal you will damage the economy of the entire nation.”
Bissett estimates that the U.S. will increase electricity demands by 40 percent by 2025. “We will need every form of energy to meet that demand,” he says. “Coal should remain.”
For these Appalachia states it needs to remain. Kentucky alone gets 92 percent of its energy from coal, Bissett says. To pull the rug out from under these economies dependent on the production and use of coal would be a blow to the entire nation.
An Administration under heavy scrutiny for failing to provide job opportunities for almost 10 percent of the U.S. population is unfazed by the fact that it will soon add tens of thousands more to the unemployment lines. “The EPA guidelines are nothing more than a plot to end coal production in the U.S.,” says ALG’s Wilson.
As coal miners and operators wait to hear their verdict from the EPA, you might want to plead Santa for some coal in your stocking this year. It might prove useful.
Dreams in Denmark
Entirely without foundation
The falling cost of renewable energy and rising cost of oil and gas will allow Denmark to develop an energy network entirely free of fossil fuels by 2050, according to a report published by the government's climate commission.
The committee predicted that wind and biomass energy could meet the bulk of the country's energy requirements. It also argued that switching to renewables would be cheaper than continuing to use fossil fuels, particularly if predictions of soaring oil and gas prices are borne out.
The report recommended that the government immediately start devoting 0.5 per cent of the country's annual GDP to renewable energy investment in order to help achieve the 2050 target, resulting in a total spend of 17bn kroner (£1.9bn) by 2050.
The Danish climate and energy minister will now consider the commission's report ahead of the release of the government's official climate strategy proposal in November.
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Posted by JR at 3:42 PM