Monday, February 28, 2011

Shhsshh … don’t talk about the science

by Bob Carter, writing from Australia

Last Wednesday, February 23, Prime Minister Gillard announced, on behalf of her Multi-Party Committee on Climate Change, an in-principle commitment to introduce a carbon dioxide tax in Australia on July 1, 2012.

This despite the irreconcilable breakdown of the Copenhagen and Cancun meetings that were aimed at achieving international agreement on similar action, and despite it now being clear also that cap-and-trade measures are dead for the foreseeable future in the USA.

This representing, first, a broken election promise of some magnitude, and, second, a stupid policy, it is not surprising that the announcement provoked an immediate blizzard of public criticism and resistance. Yet as I write, and after almost 4 days of saturation press coverage, not a single mainstream media commentator appears to have discussed the real issue at hand.

That issue is, of course, supposedly dangerous global warming caused by human carbon dioxide emissions. And note the two adjectives “supposedly” and “dangerous”, for both are critically important to the debate that we are failing to have.

Instead of analysing the global warming issue – about which, more below – press commentary continues to endlessly recycle tired, stale, sanctimonious and entirely misleading clichés about carbon pollution, climate change and energy efficiency. Everyone, it seems, has a strong opinion, yet almost none of these opinions are grounded in the empirical science facts that society used to view as the essential basis for good public policy decisions.

So what about the famous global warming which occurred in the late 20th century, whatever happened to that? Well, not only did the gentle warming terminate in 1998, but in accord with natural climate cycling, that warming has been followed by a gentle cooling since about 2001. That’s ten years of no temperature increase, let along dangerous increase, over the same time period that atmospheric carbon dioxide increased by about 5%.

Run that past me again, Professors Garnaut and Flannery – your advice to government still remains that human carbon dioxide emissions are causing dangerous global warming?

Do you understand the meaning of the phrases “empirical science” and “hypothesis testing”? Do you understand that the correct null hypothesis is that gentle warmings, such as that which occurred between 1979 and 1998, and equivalent coolings, are to be viewed as due to natural causes unless and until evidence indicates otherwise. Gentlemen, where is that evidence, and why is it not presented in the voluminous reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that you and the government so often refer to?

Despite this lack of evidence for dangerous, or potentially dangerous, warming, and despite the lack of efficacy of cutting carbon dioxide emissions as a means of preventing the trivial warming that is likely to occur (cutting all of Australia’s emissions would theoretically prevent, perhaps, around one-thousandth of a degree of warming), the political course in Canberra is now set on carbon tax autopilot, and the plane is flying squarely into the eye of a storm that is labelled “let’s spin a regressive new tax as a virtuous environmental measure”.

For instance, the Prime Minister says:

I also want to be very clear with Australians about what pricing carbon does. It has price impacts. It’s meant to. That’s the whole point.

No, Prime Minister, that is not the point at all. The point is supposed to be attaining a meaningful reduction in future warming, which a carbon dioxide taxation policy will not achieve – even were it to successfully close down the entire industrial economy of Australia

Climate Minister Mr Combet believes that reducing “carbon pollution” to “drive investment in clean energy …. is fundamentally what a carbon price is about”.

No, Greg, the matter has nothing to do with either carbon or pollution, for the alleged dangerous warming is supposed to be produced by the atmospheric trace gas carbon dioxide. To call carbon dioxide a pollutant is an abuse of logic, language and science, given its pivotal role in the photosynthetic processes that underpin most of our planetary ecosystems. In essence, carbon dioxide is the very staff of life, and increasing it in the atmosphere helps most plants to grow better and to use water more efficiently.

And, so far as energy efficiency is concerned, the market itself will drive any needed changes in future energy supply, as hydrocarbon resources run down, without your wasting more billions of dollars of taxpayers funds in picking white elephant “winners”. If you want to encourage alternative energy then by all means subsidize the introduction of clean, green nuclear power in Australia rather than frittering away scarce public resources on uneconomic eco-bling like windmills and solar farms.

Minister Combet is also prone to saying: “We are committed to tackling climate change”. No, Minister, you are not. Instead, you are playing with ghosts in trying to “stop” a chimerical dangerous global warming, and that for entirely political reasons. Meanwhile, you are offering nothing by way of policy initiatives to deal with the actual and very real hazards that are associated with NATURAL climate events and change in Australia.

Relating to the El Nino-La Nina weather cycle, no part of Australia has escaped climatic hazard in the last two years. Events like the Victorian bushfires, the Queensland floods and landfalling tropical cyclones in northern Australia are of concern to every citizen, indeed some have been killed by these events and many others have sustained crippling personal or business costs.

Despite which, Mr Combet and PM Gillard and their expert climate advisers appear to have no interest in dealing with these only-too-real natural climate problems in a commonsense and cost-effective way, which is by preparing better for them in advance, and adapting better to them as and when they occur. Instead they are busy constructing a tornado of political spin about imaginary global warming.

Dragging another skeletal warhorse out of the cupboard, Mr Combet makes the highly original assertion that “Business needs the certainty of a carbon (sic) price”. Yes, it most certainly does, Minister, and as Terry McCrann has endlessly pointed out, that certainty should be a price for carbon dioxide emissions of zero dollars per tonne. Then the power utility companies can get on with planning the mix of new coal, gas and nuclear power stations that are now urgently needed to secure Australia’s future.

Never has an important national policy issue been so surrounded with public dishonesty and deliberate ambiguity of language as is the issue of dangerous, human-caused global warming.

Choreographed over the years by green lobby groups, politicians and commentators alike now participate like puppets-on-strings in an entirely faux public gigue involving words or phrases like “carbon” (when they mean carbon dioxide), “pollution” (when they are referring to an environmentally beneficial trace gas), “settled science” (when the science is hotly contested, and the onus of proof of danger still rests, unattained, with the climate alarmists of a discredited IPCC), “climate change” (when they mean dangerous global warming), “energy efficiency” (in the same breath that they rule out the environmentally friendly baseload energy source represented by nuclear power) and “international good citizen” (at a time when international action on climate policy has never been less certain).

It is therefore entirely unsurprising that there has been a swing in public opinion against alarmism on global warming, though nervous Labor politicians are doubtless already sucking in deep breaths of surprise at the apparent strength of the swing. One recent online poll, in The Age of all places, received an 89% NO in answer to the question “Would you support a climate tax?”; and another, in the Herald-Sun and with more than 30,000 respondents, received an 85% NO to the question “Do you support a price on carbon (sic)?”.

Plans are already being made for a series of public protest rallies in metropolitan centres on March 23rd, and other organized protests and resistance are inevitable. Any reader who wishes to help fight the introduction of Prime Minister Gillard’s new carbon dioxide tax is invited to send an email expressing such interest to An online petition has also been organised and can be viewed here…

As I wrote in Part I of this article last Thursday, the government’s intention to introduce a carbon dioxide tax represents “a ridiculous attempt to compulsorily reduce the living standards of all Australians, with especial impact on the poorer ones”.

In the interest of good governance and sound environmental stewardship, I urge readers to reject this costly, inefficient, ineffectual, inequitable and unnecessary tax.



Three current articles below

Carbon tax a pledge of suicide

Terry McCrann

JULIA Gillard is embarked on introducing two new taxes. he first is the big lie that last week was turned into a big tax: her Julia carbon tax, the tax you have when you promise not to have that tax. The second is the reworked resources tax.

One is designed to force us to cut our emissions of carbon dioxide. To stress, emissions of the life-enhancing gas, not the so-called carbon pollution of bits of grit subconscious image that Gillard and Co deliberately promote.

The other is based on the assumption that China, in particular, but also India will continue to increase exponentially their emissions of that very same carbon dioxide.

Needless to say, except it does apparently need saying repeatedly, the increase in their emissions will dwarf any reduction we achieve. Rendering any reduction by us utterly pointless.

Indeed, China for all its claimed commitment to aggressive world leadership in alternative energy, plans to get most of its electricity from coal-fired power. Not just today, but tomorrow and, indeed, the day after tomorrow.

Over the next 10 years, it plans to install net new capacity of coal-fired power equal to 10 times our entire power generation sector.

To stress, that's net additional generation. Its existing coal-fired power sector is already 14 times our entire power sector. To the extent it does close down any -- really -- grit-emitting old dirty coal-fired generation, that means even more replacement plants. All fired increasingly by coal from . . . you fill in the blank.

Our real "assistance" to increased Chinese CO2 emissions, though, won't be centred on shipping energy coals from Newcastle. But in pouring hundreds of millions of tonnes of iron ore and coking coal every year into Chinese, and increasingly, Indian mills. And not to forget our old customers in Japan and South Korea.

Gillard's proposed resources tax doesn't just assume huge increases in these exports but is designed specifically to encourage their maximum expansion. Along with -- dare I say it, carbon-based -- natural gas.

Does the Prime Minister have the slightest self-awareness of a certain hypocrisy, but even more an incongruity between her two taxes and the underlying hopes and realities they are based on?

That on the one hand, she has to turn every light switch in the country into a tax collection point, to cut emissions to save the Barrier Reef, if not indeed the planet? Yet, on the other hand, she says a silent, secular, prayer that China and India go gangbusters emitting, to utterly swamp any such domestic emissions cuts; to save her budget from deficit? And not just save her -- or her successor's -- budget; that the foundation of the entire Australian economy will rest increasingly on those increasing emissions?

There is a further point of damning intersection with reference to China that has utterly eluded the Prime Minister. To say nothing of the massed brainpower of Treasury and our down under 21st century da Vinci, Ross Garnaut.

There she was at it again on Wednesday, saying that we had to move to a post-carbon economy. That "the global economy is shifting". That "Australia is at risk of falling behind the rest of the world." That "the longer we wait, the greater the cost to the economy, and the greater the cost to Australian jobs".

Somehow this message seems to have escaped the Chinese. And the Indians. They are making every effort to move to a carbon economy. Indeed, that's precisely the reason argued for giving them a pass on their exploding emissions.

If indeed the future, and the jobs of the future, lie in a post-carbon economy, wouldn't the very canny Chinese go straight to "that bountiful future?" What idiots they are for trying to build the carbon economy that our down-under smarties Gillard, Garnaut and (Treasury secretary Ken) Henry want to discard like yesterday's worn-out snakeskin.

So what is Gillard "saying" with her two taxes? That we should feed the Chinese and Indian carbon addiction? We should profit from the destruction of the planet? Literally, in the case of the government's tax revenues?

The truth is that Gillard and Co have taken policy into the realm of the surreal. She and her cabinet have moved beyond incoherence. Guided you have to say by a Treasury that has lost utterly any semblance of rational analysis and advice.

She makes Kevin Rudd, who had firmly established himself as a prime minister worse than Whitlam, look like the very model of prudent thoughtful judgment in comparison.

His rush to lock in an Emissions Trading Scheme before the Copenhagen conference was ridiculous and mad. It would have left Australia right out there like the proverbial shag on the rock when Copenhagen collapsed without even the most basic binding commitments.

To say nothing of the whole bureaucratic imposition of the ETS. More complicated and more onerous than the GST and open to far more rorts [abuses] than the building insulation fiasco.

But at least before Copenhagen, you could argue the hope of some global agreement requiring an Australian commitment.

Not so now after both its failure and even more the gas-emitting farce of Cancun. Gillard doesn't even have that excuse. She embarks on this destructive absurdity knowing that the world -- read: China, India and the US -- are not going to follow.

If we had a Treasury that retained any of its traditional competence, it would be telling the government that an attack on carbon dioxide emissions is an attack on Australia's core and pervasive national comparative advantage.

Why are we among the biggest emitters per head of CO2? The biggest by far, if we include the indirect emissions from the use of our resource exports?

Because we benefit from our bountiful coal and iron ore. Gillard's attack on the so-called carbon economy is not just designed to hurt every Australian. Permanently. It is effectively a national suicide pledge. From the nation's leader. Incredible. Surreal. All-too real.


Conservative leader hints he'd roll back carbon tax if he wins the 2013 election

Tony Abbott has signalled he will scrap Labor's carbon tax if he wins the next election.

And in a blow to the Gillard government, the Greens have suggested they will not support cent-for-cent cuts to the petrol excise to compensate for petrol price rises under the tax.

The Opposition Leader declared this morning: "We are against this in opposition and we will be against this in government."

The next election is not due until August 2013 - a year after Julia Gillard's carbon tax is scheduled to come into effect.

Mr Abbott said voters should be "crystal clear" that he was opposed to the tax, but said he had to consult with shadow cabinet before announcing his formal policy response. "What I am not going to do is totally pre-empt due process, as Julia Gillard did," Mr Abbott told radio station 2UE. "She didn't send this off to her cabinet, she didn't send this off to her party room and I have to do all those things."

The approach flagged by Mr Abbott appears similar to that taken by Kim Beazley with the GST. The former Labor leader went to the 2001 election promising to "roll back" elements of the GST, but the pledge was dropped at subsequent elections.

The government says no decision has been taken on whether petrol will be included in the scheme. But Greens deputy leader Christine Milne suggested this morning that compensation for petrol price rises should not be given across the board. "We need to be sure that we are compensating low income earners, the people who are most vulnerable," she said. "I want to make sure that we do that because our job is to make sure that they are not suffering because of this."

Selectively compensating voters for petrol price rises could prove difficult for the government, because of sensitivities over bowser prices.

Coalition MPs arriving at parliament this morning accused Ms Gillard of "lying" to the Australian people by reneging on a pre-election pledge not to introduce a carbon tax. "She's trying to weasel her way out of the fact she lied," Liberal MP Dennis Jensen said. "The simple point is she went to the election and quite explicitly stated on not just one occasion that there would be no carbon tax under her government."

But Labor MP Andrew Leigh accused Mr Abbott of running a fear campaign. "It's going to be a strong scare campaign and he's going to run hard on it, but it's not what I think the Australian people want," he said. "Direct action is very, very expensive. How do you pay for that? Probably a big new income tax rise."

Labor MP Janelle Saffin said the transition to a clean energy economy would create more jobs. A report to be released later today by the Climate Institute suggests a $45 a tonne carbon price could create almost 8000 permanent jobs in the electricity sector.

Another 26,000 temporary manufacturing and construction jobs would also be created, according to the research, which predicts billions of dollars would be invested in clean energy projects.


Unilateral action on carbon creates costs without benefits

Henry Ergas

"Hawke and Keating floated the dollar; we will price carbon," Julia Gillard said just prior to last week's deal with the Greens.

The comparison is inaccurate, however, for floating the dollar, like cutting tariffs, was desirable even if Australia acted alone; in contrast, a carbon tax can only yield benefits if major emitting countries do the same.

Moreover, the Hawke-Keating reforms, including floating the dollar and reducing protection, enhanced our long-standing comparative advantage, which is based on our resource wealth. So did those of the Howard government. This policy undermines it.

Indeed, in terms of Australia's national interest, it is difficult to think of a policy more harmful than such a unilateral tax.

This is because a high share of Australia's emissions are accounted for by export-oriented activities: some 33 per cent, compared with 8 per cent for the US. These activities include mining, where large fugitive emissions occur as resources are extracted.

Given the ready availability of alternative sources of supply, including Canada, the US and Brazil, a unilateral tax on these exports cannot cut global emissions: it merely alters their location.

But it would reduce Australian incomes, transferring overseas gains we would otherwise obtain from the resources boom. This policy therefore imposes costs without any obvious benefits.

In its defence, supporters of unilateral action make four claims. None of these stands up to scrutiny. The first is to deny our tax would be unilateral, pointing to carbon abatement policies elsewhere, notably Europe.

In reality, those policies are costly and ineffectual: the abatement they secure could be obtained by a carbon price well below that envisaged here. But even putting that aside, our export industries do not compete with the European economies. So whatever their carbon policies may be, they do not make our action any less unilateral in its consequences.

The second claim is that even if unilateral action did cause income losses, the creation of green jobs would offset them. The whole notion of a green job is confused: jobs are no more colour-coded than are people. And it is even more confused to think low-emission jobs are inherently preferable to those that are emissions-intensive: rather, what matters is each activity's contribution to wealth creation, assessed taking proper account of the social cost of emissions.

The extent of that wealth creation does not depend on whether a job is green, blue or purple; it depends on opportunity costs, that is, on what society gives up to generate a dollar of output in that activity. A well-functioning economy specialises in those activities in which its opportunity costs are lowest: that is what specialisation in line with comparative advantage means. Because we are so abundantly endowed with natural resources, Australia's opportunity costs are especially low in mining. That is why our share of world mineral exports is more than 25 times greater than our share of world exports overall.

And it is that specialisation in line with comparative advantage that makes us well off, as it allows us to import the many goods in which we have a comparative disadvantage from wherever their costs of production are lowest.

Given how pronounced our comparative advantage is in mining, shifting resources to other activities must make us substantially poorer. The claim that jobs tending windmills or speculating on emissions permits could offset those losses is implausible.

It is especially implausible as our pattern of comparative advantage is becoming more pronounced: in the nine years from June 2000, the net present value of Australia's mineral assets more than trebled. With the world placing ever higher value on our natural resources, relative to our other factor endowments (such as capital and labour), the income loss from unilaterally taxing mining exports must rise.

That loss is all the greater because the carbon tax acts like a supplementary royalty, as the amount to be paid rises with volumes produced. It therefore compounds the distorting effect of existing royalties and of the new mining tax. How the government can stridently criticise mining royalties because they tax production but want to aggravate their impact is yet to be explained.

The third claim defenders of the tax make is that by acting now, we increase the prospects of global agreement. That claim is also implausible. It accords Australia an influence at odds with the experience of international negotiations, not least at Copenhagen. Additionally and importantly, it ignores the fact that by undermining our own exports we make preventing agreement even more profitable for our rivals.

That the government has no plan for repealing the tax should international agreement not eventuate in a set time frame makes our rivals' incentive to delay even greater. To believe altruism will trump self-interest in determining their negotiating stance involves a considerable leap of faith. Fourth and last, supporters of a unilateral carbon tax claim it will bring certainty.

However, the only certainty for the community as a whole is that incomes will fall. What is left uncertain is just how great that fall will be, as that depends on what happens when the time comes to shift from a fixed carbon tax to a scheme based on emissions permits.

It is, for example, widely rumoured that the carbon tax will be around $20, increasing annually by 4 or 5 per cent more than inflation. Given that starting point, were the government, at the end of the three year period, to set the number of permits so as to cut emissions in 2020 to 15 per cent below 2000 levels, the implied carbon price would treble, causing enormous dislocations.

The government knows that; little wonder it is determined to postpone those decisions to a later date. But far from providing certainty, thus multiplying decision points, with fuzzy decision criteria at each juncture, compounds uncertainties and invites rent-seeking. Finally, would these problems be ameliorated were the tax only on domestic consumption, exempting exports but taxing imports, as Geoff Carmody has proposed?

Of course they would. But that is only because we are acting unilaterally, damaging our exports. Shifting the burden on to domestic consumption reduces the harm. But the harm does not go away: it is just diminished. The question remains, therefore, why we would act unilaterally, creating costs for so few environmental benefits. To that question, the community still awaits a sensible answer.


The Flip Side of Extreme Event Attribution

Any mitigation achieved by carbon reduction would be both minute and detectable only in the distant future

I first noticed an interesting argument related to climate change in President Bill Clinton's 2000 State of the Union Address: "If we fail to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, deadly heat waves and droughts will become more frequent, coastal areas will flood, and economies will be disrupted. That is going to happen, unless we act.

Taken literally, the sentences are not wrong. But they are misleading. Consider that the exact opposite of the sentences is also not wrong: "If we reduce the emission of greenhouse gases, deadly heat waves and droughts will become more frequent, coastal areas will flood, and economies will be disrupted. That is going to happen, if we act".

The reason why both the sentence and its opposite are not wrong is that deadly and economically disruptive disasters will occur and be more frequent independent of action on greenhouse gas emissions. If the sentences are read to imply a causal relationship between action on greenhouse gases and the effects on the impacts of extreme events -- and you believe that such a direct causal relationship exists -- the sentences are still misleading, because they include no sense of time perspective.

Even if you believe in such a tight coupling between emissions and extremes, the effect of emissions reductions on extreme events won't be detectable in your lifetime, and probably for much longer than that.

Why do I bring up President Clinton's 2000 State of the Union in 2011? Because I have seen this slippery and misleading formulation occur repeatedly in recent weeks as the issue of carbon dioxide and extreme events has hotted up. Consider the following examples.

First John Holdren, science advisor to President Obama: "People are seeing the impact of climate change around them in extraordinary patterns of floods and droughts, wildfires, heatwaves and powerful storms."

He also says: "[T]he climate is changing and that humans are responsible for a substantial part of that - and that these changes are doing harm and will continue to do more harm unless we start to reduce our emissions"

It would easy to get the impression from such a sentence that if we "start to reduce our emissions" then climate changes will no longer be "doing harm and continue to do more harm" (or more generously, will be "doing less harm"). Such an argument is at best sloppy -- particularly for a science advisor -- but also pretty misleading

Second, Ross Garnaut, a climate change advisor to the Australian government: "[T]he systematic, intellectual work of people who've spent their lifetimes studying these things shows that a warmer climate does lead to intensification of these sorts of extreme climatic events that we've seen in Queensland, and I think that people are wishing to avoid those awful challenge in Queensland will be amongst the people supporting effective action on climate change."

It would be easy to get the impression that Garnaut is suggesting to current Queensland residents that future Queensland floods and/or tropical cyclones might be avoided by supporting "effective action on climate change." If so, then the argument is highly misleading.

It is just logical that one cannot make the claim that action on climate change will influence future extreme events without first being able to claim that greenhouse gas emissions have a discernible influence on those extremes. This probably helps to explain why there is such a push to classify the attribution issue as settled. But this is just piling on one bad argument on top of another.

Even if you believe that attribution has been achieved, these are bad arguments for the simple fact that detecting the effects on the global climate system of emissions reductions would take many, many (many!) decades.

For instance, for an aggressive climate policy that would stabilize carbon dioxide at 450 ppm, detecting a change in average global temperatures would necessarily occur in the second half of this century. Detection of changes in extreme events would take even longer.

To suggest that action on greenhouse gas emissions is a mechanism for modulating the impacts of extreme events remains a highly misleading argument. There are better justifications for action on carbon dioxide that do not depend on contorting the state of the science.


The missing link in the global warming theory

Announcing a new book, John Quinn [] writes:

I have examined numerous scientific papers in a wide range of scientific journals concerning Global Warming. In fact, I was examining these articles with one question in mind: What are the fundamental links between greenhouse gas increases, particularly CO2, and Global Warming? This is the basic question. If such a connection can be shown to exist, then environmentalists and climatologists would then be well on their way to making the case that human activity is indeed responsible for Global Warming, since there is already ample evidence that human beings have in recent years increased their output of greenhouse gases.

So, the immediate question to be answered is: What evidence has been presented that increases in CO2 levels of either natural or anthropogenic origin have any connection with Global Warming. I found no substantive answer to my question in the literature. What I found in article after article were research providing evidence that the sea levels are rising, that glaciers are melting, that the polar ice caps are melting, and that global temperatures are steadily increasing, among other related facts. All of these articles then ended with the implicit assumption, base only on the Enhanced Greenhouse Theory itself and computer modeling based solely on that theory, that these climate-related effects were all human induced and concluded in many cases by saying just that.

This of course is nonsense, since such evidence only indicates that there is in fact Global Warming, nothing else. This sort of evidence does not point to the underlying cause and the conclusions based on such reasoning are incestuous.

My examination resulted in the recent publication of a book, titled: GLOBAL WARMING: Geophysical Counterpoints to the Enhanced Greenhouse Theory, published by Dorrance Publishing Co., Inc., Pittsburgh, PA. It is available from and from the Dorrance bookstore Web site:

I refer to my view as the Solar-Terrestrial Theory of Global Warming. My book clearly shows, using data rather than hand-waving, heuristic arguments, and unsupported opinion, that CO2 and other greenhouse gases have a negligible effect on Global Warming. Instead, Global Warming is the result of very complex set of actions, reactions, and interactions derived from an assortment of phenomenon stemming from the Sun all the way to Earth's core.

I believe that my book is just the first step in truly understanding Global Warming. It is by no means the last word. The book opens many new questions and points in many new research directions that hitherto should have by now have been thoroughly explored, but, due to scientific bias and functional fixedness (a psychology term), have largely been ignored.

A small EPA backdown

EPA eases pollution rules for industrial boilers

The Obama administration, responding to a changed political climate and a court-ordered deadline, issued significantly revised new air pollution rules yesterday that will make it easier for operators of thousands of industrial boilers and incinerators to meet federal air quality standards.

The new regulations represent a major step back from more demanding and costly rules proposed last spring that provoked an outcry from members of Congress from both parties and from thousands of affected businesses. One industry-financed study said the proposed standard would cost businesses $20 billion to comply and cause the loss of more than 300,000 jobs.

Environmental Protection Agency officials said the new rule was consistent with an executive order issued by President Obama in January calling for a broad review of environmental, health, safety, and financial regulations to ensure that they were not imposing too heavy a cost on the economy.

The softening of the boiler rule could foreshadow a less aggressive approach to air pollution rules due for power plants next month and a series of regulations of greenhouse gases to be rolled out over the next several years.

The rule issued yesterday affects roughly 200,000 boilers, small power plants, and incinerators operated by factories, chemical plants, municipalities, universities, churches, and commercial buildings.

About 187,000 of these are relatively small sources of the target pollutants — lead, mercury, soot, and toxic gases — and their operators will have to do little more than perform routine “tuneups’’ every year or two to meet the new standard.

They will be allowed to achieve the cuts using readily available control technology at what the EPA said was a reasonable cost. The agency said the earlier version, which would have required boiler operators to apply “maximum achievable control technology,’’ set too high a bar.

“The original standards for these have been dramatically refined and updated to ensure maximum flexibility for these sources,’’ the agency said in a press release.

The 13,800 larger facilities, including refineries, chemical plants, and large factories, will have to meet numerical targets for pollution reduction, although the agency said it had narrowed the standards to lower compliance costs.

The government will provide technical assistance in meeting the new standards and grant incentives for switching to cleaner-burning fuels such as natural gas.

The power plant rules are being reviewed by the White House Office of Management and Budget.

EPA officials said the altered rule would cost half as much as the previous proposal while achieving virtually the same health benefits. The agency pegged compliance costs for the new version of the rule at $2.1 billion a year and said it would generate more than 2,000 new jobs.

Gina McCarthy, director of the agency’s air and radiation office, said the pollution reductions would save 2,600 to 6,600 lives a year by 2014 and avert 4,100 heart attacks and 42,000 asthma attacks annually.

“These health protections will save between $23 billion and $56 billion in health-related costs,’’ McCarthy said in a conference call for reporters. “They are realistic, they are achievable and they are reasonable, and they come at roughly half the cost to comply compared to that in the proposed rule in May 2010.’’

The EPA withdrew the earlier rule in December, saying it needed an additional 15 months to rewrite it to respond to complaints and new data. A federal judge rejected the extension, saying the agency had already spent three years developing the regulation, and ordered it to produce a new rule by this week.

The agency grudgingly met the deadline but said it would remain open to comments and proposals for changes from lawmakers, businesses, and citizens.


Britain's £25,000 eco-classroom that can't be used because solar panels don't provide enough heat

Eco-campaigners who built a classroom powered by the sun believed they were paving the way for the future. Instead they have been taught a valuable lesson - there is not enough sun in North London to sufficiently heat their building.

The much feted zero-carbon Living Ark classroom was opened three months ago to great fanfare. It boasts laudable green credentials and is made from sustainable wood, sheep’s wool and soil. The roof is made of mud and grass and it has its own ‘rain pod’ and solar panels.

But there is snag - its solar panels only provide enough energy to power a few lightbulbs. As a result the classroom is bitterly cold and uninhabitable for lessons. Parents have branded it ‘useless’, an ‘expensive piece of wood’ and a ‘great idea for the Caribbean’.

The Living Ark was built at Muswell Hill Primary School, North London, at the cost of £25,000. Local councillors, at Labour run Haringey council, who were behind the initiative, opened it with great fanfare in December as a beacon of their climate change policy.

But today a local parent at the 419-pupil school said teachers weren't allowing pupils into the classroom because it was too cold. ‘What is the point of a classroom that can’t be used when it’s a bit cold outside? My kids have been told it’s too cold for them to use as nobody can figure out how to heat it,’ said the parent, who did not want to be named. ‘This is just an expensive piece of hollowed out wood and no use to anyone. We are living in Britain, not the Caribbean.’

The ‘waste’ of money comes as councils across the country are facing a severe shortage of school places. By 2018 they will need to find an additional 500,000 primary places due to a population surge.

Charlotte Linacre, Campaign Manager at the TaxPayers’ Alliance, accused the council of wasting money on pet projects which do not benefit pupils. She said: ‘It’s an awful waste that so much money has been ploughed into this eco-mistake. ‘This project fails to meet the needs of staff and pupils by giving them a classroom that is most useful when the kids are on their summer holidays.

‘Lessons have to be learned at the local authority. They must stop spending taxpayers’ hard earned cash on expensive pet projects that do nothing to improve pupils’ education. ‘All this will teach kids is how poorly planned and costly local authorities projects can be.’

Lib Dem Councillor Gail Engerts said: ‘It is such a shame that, considering the fanfare, it emerges that this facility cannot be used by the children all year round.’

Headteacher Jill Hughes defended the project and said she hoped classes would be held in the classroom when the weather gets warmer. She said: ‘We’re delighted to have the Living Ark - its a tremendous resource both for the school and the local community and is an important part of the Muswell Hill low carbon zone initiative.’



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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