Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Gore does 180 on ethanol, blames “politics”

Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore reportedly has had a change of heart on ethanol, telling a conference on green energy in Europe that he only supported tax breaks for the alternative fuel to pander to farmers in his home state of Tennessee and the first-in-the-nation caucuses state of Iowa.

Speaking at a green energy business conference in Athens sponsored by Marfin Popular Bank, Gore said the lobbyists have wrongly kept alive the program he once touted.

"It is not a good policy to have these massive subsidies for first-generation ethanol," Reuters quoted Gore saying of the U.S. policy that is about to come up for congressional review. "First-generation ethanol I think was a mistake. The energy conversion ratios are at best very small.

"One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president," the wire service reported Gore saying.

Credits for corn ethanol subsidies expire at the end of the year unless Congress moves to renew the $7.7 billion annual program. Opponents of the corn subsidies say that it removes valuable food products from the table because the U.S. ethanol industry drives up the price of corn.

Reuters reported that Gore attributed a variety of factors to the food pricing crisis that has emerged, but that biofuels definitely have had an effect. "The size, the percentage of corn particularly, which is now being (used for) first-generation ethanol definitely has an impact on food prices," he said. "The competition with food prices is real."

Ethanol production this year will reportedly consume 41 percent of the U.S. corn crop and 15 percent of the global corn crop. Last month, the Agriculture Department said corn crop production would fall this year and attributed the decline to the increase in the price of corn.

More than half of all corn production in the U.S. goes to feeding livestock. On Monday, Agrinet news reported that the USDA's world outlook board has found that the quality of corn production, despite the lower production level, had improved livestock weights, making beef, pork and chicken healthier and therefore able to feed more people.

Reuters reported that Gore had less concern about second-generation ethanol production, which does not compete with food since it uses chemicals or enzymes to extract sugar from fiber in wood, waste or grass. "I do think second and third generation that don't compete with food prices will play an increasing role, certainly with aviation fuels," Gore reportedly said.

The Media Research Center's Noel Sheppard noted that as vice president, Gore was the tie-breaking vote in 1994 when the Senate voted to authorize ethanol production. Sheppard said that those who question Gore's motives behind the climate change movement that landed the former vice president a Nobel prize and Oscar should also look to his comments on ethanol.

"So more than 10 years ago, Gore supported an expensive, 'not good policy' because he thought it would help him get elected president. Yet media don't believe he'd misrepresent the threat of manmade global warming in order to become extremely rich," Sheppard wrote Monday.


An American Solution for Energy Independence

Bobby Jindal

In the wake of Republicans’ takeover of the House, many pundits are convinced that the federal government will be at a stalemate for the next two years, unable to get anything done. I believe we can—and should—do better. One area where I believe we can make significant strides with common sense solutions is in energy.

As governor of one of America’s largest oil producing states, you could reasonably assume that I’m a proponent of fossil fuels. Guilty as charged—and the 2010 oil spill off the Louisiana coast, awful as it is, hasn’t changed that.

But what may surprise you is that along with being a big supporter of fossil fuels, I’m also a big proponent of developing any and all methods of producing energy that works. I even support pursuing technologies that don’t exist yet. Not all of them will succeed, but we have to consider every option in order to make more America energy independent.

The problem is that many Washington decision makers are either seriously misinformed or willfully ignorant about energy. Republicans seem instinctively to oppose cultivating energy sources favored by the environmental movement, such as solar and wind power. Likewise, Democrats often stridently oppose the expansion of traditional energy sources such as oil, coal, and nuclear power. Here’s an idea: how about we do it all? That’s not a Republican or Democrat solution. That’s an American solution.

One green technology largely ignored by the Left is nuclear power. You heard me right, nuclear energy is in fact a green technology, and it’s one of the best options we have to simultaneously make our country’s economy grow and protect our environment. Nuclear power is safe, reliable, emission free, and can create a steady supply of energy. One reactor can produce on average as much power as thousands of wind turbines at a fraction of the cost.

There is no excuse for us to be lagging behind many other countries in nuclear power. Today we get about 20 percent of our electricity from America’s 104 nuclear power plants. But France gets 79 percent, Sweden 45 percent, South Korea 38 percent, and Belgium 56 percent of their electricity from nuclear reactors.

While conservatives need to embrace the possibilities of green energy, the Left has to also understand that the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge, ANWR, is not a four-letter word. The bottom line is this: scaling back domestic drilling, and preventing drilling in ANWR, won’t cut our use of oil and natural gas. It just means even more of our supply will come from foreign countries.

America has tremendous energy resources, but a lot of them sit under federal land. And 94 percent of federal land has been put off-limits to energy development. We have more coal than any other country, but we’re prevented from accessing a lot of it. In Alaska’s vast and frozen ANWR, we could produce an estimated 15 billion gallons of oil annually from an area roughly the size of an airport. Within ANWR, that’s the equivalent of drilling on an area the size of a postage stamp placed on a football field. The new Congress must ease our reliance on foreign oil by opening up ANWR to drilling.

We also need to access our offshore oil reserves that are currently blocked by the federal government. The Interior Department estimates the U.S. continental shelf contains 115 billion barrels of oil and 633 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. That’s enough oil to fuel our country for sixteen years and enough natural gas for twenty-five years.

I’m not talking about putting oil rigs on Miami Beach—I’m simply calling for balance. Many people will point to the recent oil spill of the Deepwater Horizon rig off Louisiana as a reason to halt new offshore drilling. As one of the governors who has to deal with this mess, I’m not going to sugarcoat it—the oil spill was a tragedy, costing eleven people their lives. Thousands of square miles of ocean have been contaminated, hundreds of species may be affected, and countless fishermen have been cut off from their livelihoods. We will need to focus state and federal agencies to clean it up and make sure those responsible ultimately pay the bill. However, we shouldn’t overreact to the spill with a knee-jerk move to ban new offshore drilling.

I say let the people of each state choose whether they want offshore drilling, and let them share in the royalties if they do. We’ve been drilling off the Louisiana coast since 1947 and now produce 91 percent of the oil and 72 percent of the natural gas that comes from the Gulf of Mexico. Offshore drilling has its risks, as we’ve seen firsthand in my state. But for Louisiana it’s meant thousands of jobs and billions in revenue to help fund schools and to improve our residents’ lives in many other ways. And it’s meant more domestically produced energy for all of America. If we want to keep America strong and prosperous, we need a policy that aims for energy independence. Forget the self-serving cries from interest groups that want to favor one energy source over the other. The smart thing—the common-sense solution—is to pursue them all.


Even NPR sees that the climate debate is not about science

So they interview below Andrew Hoffman, a professor of sustainable enterprise at the University of Michigan. Hoffman thinks that psychology has a lot to do with it but, not being a psychologist, he is not sure what


Little debate persists in the scientific community on climate change, yet a Pew survey last month showed a major ideological rift. Seventy-nine percent of Democrats say there's solid evidence of global warming. Thirty-eight percent of Republicans agreed. When an issue becomes that polarized, discussion often turns into argument, and many decide to steer clear of the topic. Andrew Hoffman, a professor at the University of Michigan, believes his fellow social scientists have ignored this cultural divide over climate change and could contribute a lot more to the debate.

Andrew Hoffman is a professor of sustainable enterprise at the University of Michigan and joins us on the phone from Montreal today. Nice to have you with us.

Professor ANDREW HOFFMAN (Sustainable Enterprise, University of Michigan): Oh, it's a pleasure to be here.

CONAN: And if the public debate over climate change isn't really about the scientists - about the science, what is it about?

Prof. HOFFMAN: Well, we can say it's not about the science, but it's also a cultural issue, that the difference you described between Democrats and Republicans is a really interesting one, that there's something deeper at play here. And you can just focus on parts per million, but there's an underlying thread of issues about personal freedom, access to science, the role of big government. There's a lot of cultural underpinnings to this debate. And any kind of proposed policy changes are not - it's not politically inert. It does invoke cultural frames that are part of the debate.

CONAN: And the way you described those cultural frames, they are more or less mutually exclusive.

Prof. HOFFMAN: Well, you know, there are some that are places where people can talk about a common issue. But the one danger is a logic schism, or what Roger Pielke describes as abortion politics, where the two sides are talking about two completely separate issues and only look for information that confirms their opinion and disconfirms the other. And the danger is whether climate change will reach that level of schism.

CONAN: And it is beginning to approach that, at least according to some of your research.

Prof. HOFFMAN: Well, we're still working through the data and trying to answer that question. But there is - there are some sharp differences in terms of the logics, the frames and the culture, between the climate-skeptical, what we're describing, and also the climate-convinced.

CONAN: And the - part of the problem seems to be the attitude of some of those who argue strongly for the case for global warming. And they have the science on their side, it has to be admitted, but their attitude towards those who are skeptics suggesting that this conversation is not very productive if you begin with the attitude that your opponents are stupid.

Prof. HOFFMAN: Mm-hmm. I think that if you draw a bell curve of the debate, it's the tails that are dominating our conversation. And that's true with many debates, whether it's climate change or abortion, gun control or health care, and that rational dialogue or a thoughtful dialogue occurs in the middle. And somehow we have to get it out of the polarizing positions on the two tails of the bell curve and try to focus on what are the real issues at play here.

CONAN: And have you, in your effort to bring social science to - have you done research on this?

CONAN: There was an interesting piece in The New York Times that quoted, among others, you. But one of the people they quoted was Christopher Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who was less than impressed by this proposed field of research. He said: From this confusion they pretend to play Jane Goodall peering in on a strange culture standing in their way. He wrote to the Times in an email: Sorry I'm too busy to give something like that a whole lot of thought right now.

Some of the skeptics' objections are that science - these are elite, elitist scientists and they would put you in that same category.

Prof. HOFFMAN: I guess they would. This is the kind of polarizing language, you know, demonizing one side versus the other. You know, the idea of studying cultures, studying values systems, studying beliefs, this is what the field of sociology and organizational theory does. And it's not, you know, to set it up as studying some culture that's standing in their way. That's not what this is about. It's about promoting understanding of the complex debate that's before us.

CONAN: Are you studying both sides or just...

Prof. HOFFMAN: Yes. Yes. We're studying the differences. We're trying to understand what frames and logic are used on one side, what frames and logic are used on the other side, and are they talking a similar language and similar frames or are they talking different frames.


Another Top International Scientist Jumps off Global Warming ‘Titanic’

By John O'Sullivan

A top East European climatologist, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with UN global warming colleagues, jumps a sinking ship as ocean data signals a cooler climate.

Dr. Lucka Kajfež Bogataj left cold clear water between herself and her former UN shipmates by declaring that rising levels of airborne carbon dioxide probably don’t cause global temperatures to rise. The news scuppers hope for a change in fortune for the beleagured UN climate agency.

The Slovenian climate professor made the chilling announcement last month in an obscure foreign language journal that has only now been translated into English. The lambast came in the publication Delo Polet (18/11/2010), translated into English as, “Inconvenient Truth.”

Buried in an otherwise drab study on paleo - and proxy methods, Dr. Bogataj admitted to what skeptics have long been saying and what the ice core proxy data shows: that rises in atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) are proven to mostly, if not always, occur AFTER rises in temperature.

The eminent Slovenian expert is also key climate change adviser to her nation’s president, Danilo Turk. Bogataj’s article, translated into English by her countryman, Miso Alkalaj, makes a startling admission:

“A detailed comparison of temperature data and the quantity of carbon dioxide captured in the ice shows, that sometimes it warmed up first and then the concentration of carbon dioxide increased, and sometimes vice versa, but on average the temperature changed first and some 700 years later a change in aerial content of carbon dioxide followed.”


Eastern Europe Puts Emergency Brakes On Solar Energy

In order to avoid higher electricity prices, Prague is slowing the solar power boom and is slapping a new tax on it. It will be the death knell for smaller operators - up to 1450 companies are seriously affected by the new tax

A change in the law with radical implications for solar energy investors is stirring controversy in the Czech Republic. While the world is trying to increase the share of renewable energy, the Czech Republic is increasingly concerned about renewable energy, especially with regards expensive solar power. A solar boom has raised fears that electricity prices could explode and networks could become unstable.

As a result, the lower house of the Czech parliament has voted, by a large majority, for a new law put forward by the center-right government. It has been welcomed almost universally by the media as necessary “photovoltaic breaks.” The law slaps a 26 percent tax on any revenue from the operation of solar energy projects put into operation since last year.

Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek expects more than four billion kronor (160 million euros) in additional tax revenues. He will, however, pass on the revenue to energy distributors so that they will not pass on the expected increase in electricity prices to consumers. For solar installations that will be available from next year, feed-in tariffs will be reduced by more than half.

President Klaus: "Promotion was nonsense"

The operators of solar energy consider the legal amendment as a death sentence: "What my father and I have invested in our system, we will never recuperate during my life time" one of the smaller private operators complained on television. Especially for smaller investors, the new solar tax will certainly be disastrous, complained another.

In order to make the construction of new solar energy projects less attractive in the future, the MPs also decided to increase the fee for the conversion of farmland for the purpose of generating renewable energy.

President Vaclav Klaus makes no secret of his support for the new law: "Everyone knows that we all are going to pay for decades for the nonsense to promote photovoltaics." The opposition is largely supportive of the government’s action, but points to a risk: Because the law is going to apply retroactively in some cases, operators are threatening to take legal action. This could result in fines of several billion euros, warned Social Democrat MP David Rath.

Up to 1450 companies are going to be affected by the new tax, according to estimates by the association of solar energy operators. Thanks to a 2005 law, investors in solar energy, but also of other forms of renewables, were promised a guaranteed price above the market price, calculated on the basis of what was then still high construction costs.

Rapidly falling construction costs, however, turned especially photovoltaic energy projects into a lucrative business. According to media reports, they already reach a total capacity of 1034 MW, more capacity than one block of the nuclear power plant in Temelin.

Guaranteed market remains

The amount of solar energy generation is increasing fast, but it is more expensive compared to nuclear power and conventional energy. Because utilities are still obligated to buy solar energy, Czech electricity prices would have increased by up to 20 percent this year, according to the government. This would have triggered a consumer uprising.

It would have been easier to ditch the renewables obligation altogether instead of the legal amendment now chosen. But this would have posed a greater risk of billions of euros in compensation claims against the Czech Republic, says the energy law specialist, Austrian lawyer Bernhard Hager.

In the neighbouring country of Slovakia, an amendment to the Energy Law was adopted in May which has severely curtailed the potential for solar energy investment.


Costly Greenie energy fanaticism killing old people in Britain

All Brits have to subsidize the vast windmill craze through their power bills

Nine elderly people died every hour from cold-related illnesses last winter against a background of soaring energy bills. Official figures show the number of deaths linked to cold over the four-month period reached 25,400 in England and Wales, plus 2,760 in Scotland.

Charities and energy company critics claim the UK has the highest winter death rate in northern Europe, even worse than much colder countries such as Finland and Sweden.

There are fears the toll could rise this year following a recent barrage of price rises that may frighten elderly people into not turning on their heating.

While the UK death rate is high, the total was down by around 30 per cent compared with 2008/9 because there were fewer flu outbreaks, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Dot Gibson, of the National Pensioners Convention, said: ‘Since 1997 we have lost more than 300,000 pensioners during the winter months because of cold-related illnesses, yet the Government seems incapable of acting. No other section of our society is so vulnerable and treated so badly. ‘Pensioners see rising fuel bills and are constantly worried about whether or not they can afford to put their heating on.’ She added: ‘Around 3.5million pensioner households are spending more than 10 per cent of their income on fuel bills and are living in fuel poverty.’

The Coalition government has kept the last administration’s Winter Fuel Allowance payments of £250 for pensioners and £400 for those over 80. But the allowance should be raised, said Miss Gibson, adding: ‘What these people need now is more money so they can avoid having to decide whether to heat or eat.’

Maria Wardrobe, of the charity National Energy Action, said: ‘Britain still has the highest number of excess winter deaths in northern Europe which is a national disgrace, and more needs to be done to tackle the problem of fuel poverty. ‘Those most at risk to the effects of cold weather must not have to make a choice over whether to heat their homes or end up ill and in debt to their energy supplier.’

Dave Timms, from Friends of the Earth, said: ‘Living in a cold, damp house can make heart disease and strokes more likely. It’s a disgrace that millions of vulnerable people in Britain live in homes lacking basic insulation.’ He said the Government’s Energy Bill, which is to be published next month, should include a programme to insulate all the nation’s homes.

Michelle Mitchell, director of the charity Age UK, said:'It’s still unacceptable that in this day and age tens of thousands more older people die in this country every winter from the effects of the cold weather.

'As another winter sets in, plummeting temperatures will once again spell misery, ill-health and, in some cases, even death for too many people in later life across the country.

'The simple fact that the UK has one of the highest winter mortality rates in Europe – higher than even Sweden or Finland – makes it clear this is very much a home-grown problem. 'These are avoidable deaths due not just to the cold weather in itself but to the country’s inability to meet the challenge of dropping temperatures.'

Public health minister Anne Milton said: ‘Information to help vulnerable people keep warm and well will be made available to GP surgeries and local organisations. 'The elderly, and those who are ill, are particularly vulnerable during cold weather. 'We all have a role to play in remembering the needs of friends, relatives and neighbours who could be at risk especially at this time of year.’



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, 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


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