Friday, March 25, 2011

The American Lung Association: Bought and paid for

This is an interesting supplement to my comment of 22nd.. I pointed out how amazingly poor their science was and now we get as clue as to why

The Environmental Protection Agency is giving funds to charitable organizations to attack GOP members of Congress. Did you know telling the truth about climate change causes childhood asthma?

We have heard the litany of horrors that climate change is said to bring about — retreating glaciers, rising sea levels, drought and flooding, disease and famine. Now we are told that fighting the EPA's power grab to regulate greenhouse gases will lead to an increase in childhood asthma.

The American Lung Association, considered one of America's most credible and worthy charities, has placed four billboards in Michigan's 6th Congressional District — including one outside the office of Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., who heads the House Energy and Commerce Committee — that feature a sickly looking girl with an oxygen mask and read, "Rep. Fred Upton, protect our kids' health. Don't weaken the Clean Air Act."

But what Upton and the Republican House majority that most voters elected in November are trying to do is restore the Clean Air Act to its true meaning and congressional intent. The act was created to clean the air, not to fight mythical climate change and regulate down to our lawn mowers the so-called greenhouse gases — including that product of human respiration, carbon dioxide.

This relationship between the EPA and the ALA goes back to at least the early 1990s. As John Merline reported in IBD way back in 1997, from 1990 to 1995 the EPA gave the American Lung Association some $5 million. reports that the EPA has given the ALA an additional $20 million the past decade.

In return, the ALA is putting up billboards in opposition to reining in an EPA that is guilty of at least mission creep and at worst of accumulating power not authorized by our elected representatives in Congress. This incestuous back-scratching arrangement demeans the ALA's noble mission.

The Upton bill, dubbed the Energy Tax Prevention Act, passed the Energy and Commerce Committee this month. Meanwhile, a companion bill in the Senate introduced by Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Inhofe has been attached as an amendment to a small-business bill.

At a recent mark-up of the Upton-Inhofe bill to strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases, Rep. Lois Capps, D-Calif., tried to defend the agency by offering a recent American Lung Association poll that purports to show public opinion favoring the EPA.

But the questions related to the public's attitude on pollution, not climate, and did not ask if the public felt the EPA should be free to regulate every aspect of our lives based on a flawed finding that carbon dioxide, the basis for all life on earth, was a dangerous pollutant.


Energy Fantasyland

Gas is well over $4 a gallon in most places in California -- and soaring elsewhere as well. But are such high energy prices good or bad?

That should be a stupid question. Yet it is not when the Obama administration has stopped new domestic offshore oil exploration in many American waters, curbed oil leases in the West, and keeps oil-rich areas of Alaska exempt from drilling. Last week, President Obama went to Brazil and declared of that country's new offshore finds: "With the new oil finds off Brazil, President (Dilma) Rousseff has said that Brazil wants to be a major supplier of new stable sources of energy, and I've told her that the United States wants to be a major customer, which would be a win-win for both our countries."

Consider the logic of the president's Orwellian declaration: The United States in the last two years has restricted oil exploration of the sort Brazil is now rushing to embrace. We have run up more than $4 trillion in consecutive budget deficits during the Obama administration and are near federal insolvency. Therefore, the United States should be happy to borrow more money to purchase the sort of "new stable sources of energy" from Brazil's offshore wells that we most certainly will not develop off our own coasts.

It seems as if paying lots more for electricity and gas, in European fashion, was originally part of the president's new green agenda. He helped push cap-and-trade legislation through the House of Representatives in 2009. Had such Byzantine regulations become law, a recessionary economy would have sunk into depression. Obama appointed the incompetent Van Jones as "green jobs czar" -- until Jones' wild rantings confirmed that he knew nothing about his job description "to advance the administration's climate and energy initiatives."

At a time of trillion-dollar deficits, the administration is borrowing billions to promote high-speed rail, and is heavily invested in the federally subsidized $42,000 Government Motors Chevy Volt. Apparently the common denominator here is a deductive view that high energy prices will force Americans to emulate European centrally planned and state-run transportation.

That conclusion is not wild conspiracy theory, but simply the logical manifestation of many of the Obama administration's earlier campaign promises. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu -- now responsible for the formulation of American energy policy -- summed up his visions to the Wall Street Journal in 2008: "Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe." I think Chu is finally figuring out the "somehow."

A year earlier, Chu was more explicit in his general contempt for the sort of fuels that now keep Americans warm and on the road: "Coal is my worst nightmare. ... We have lots of fossil fuel. That's really both good and bad news. We won't run out of energy but there's enough carbon in the ground to really cook us."

In fairness to Chu, he was only amplifying what Obama himself outlined during the 2008 campaign. Today's soaring energy prices are exactly what candidate Obama once dreamed about: "Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket." Obama, like Chu, made that dream even more explicit in the case of coal "So, if somebody wants to build a coal plant, they can -- it's just that it will bankrupt them, because they are going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that's being emitted."

There are lots of ironies to these Alice-in-Wonderland energy fantasies. As the public become outraged over gas prices, a panicked Obama pivots to brag that we are pumping more oil than ever before -- but only for a time, and only because his predecessors approved the type of drilling he has stopped.

The entire climate-change movement, fairly or not, is now in shambles, thanks to serial scandals about faked research, consecutive record cold and wet winters in much of Europe and the United States, and the conflict-of-interest, get-rich schemes of prominent global-warming preachers such as Al Gore.

The administration's energy visions are formulated by academics and government bureaucrats who live mostly in cities with short commutes and have worked largely for public agencies. These utopians have no idea that without reasonably priced fuel and power, the self-employed farmer cannot produce food. The private plant operator cannot create plastics. And the trucker cannot bring goods to the consumer -- all the basics like lettuce, iPads and Levis that a highly educated, urbanized elite both enjoys and yet has no idea of how a distant someone else made their unbridled consumption possible.


Monbiot discovers reality

The original moonbat himself

You will not be surprised to hear that the events in Japan have changed my view of nuclear power. You will be surprised to hear how they have changed it. As a result of the disaster at Fukushima, I am no longer nuclear-neutral. I now support the technology.

A crappy old plant with inadequate safety features was hit by a monster earthquake and a vast tsunami. The electricity supply failed, knocking out the cooling system. The reactors began to explode and melt down. The disaster exposed a familiar legacy of poor design and corner-cutting(1). Yet, as far as we know, no one has yet received a lethal dose of radiation.

Some greens have wildly exaggerated the dangers of radioactive pollution. For a clearer view, look at the graphic published by It shows that the average total dose from the Three-Mile Island disaster for someone living within 10 miles of the plant was one 625th of the maximum yearly amount permitted for US radiation workers. This, in turn, is half of the lowest one-year dose clearly linked to an increased cancer risk, which, in its turn, is one 80th of an invariably fatal exposure. I’m not proposing complacency here. I am proposing perspective.

If other forms of energy production caused no damage, these impacts would weigh more heavily. But energy is like medicine: if there are no side-effects, the chances are that it doesn’t work.

Like most greens, I favour a major expansion of renewables. I can also sympathise with the complaints of their opponents. It’s not just the onshore windfarms that bother people, but also the new grid connections (pylons and power lines). As the proportion of renewable electricity on the grid rises, more pumped storage will be needed to keep the lights on. That means reservoirs on mountains: they aren’t popular either.

The impacts and costs of renewables rise with the proportion of power they supply, as the need for both storage and redundancy increases. It may well be the case (I have yet to see a comparative study) that up to a certain grid penetration – 50 or 70% perhaps? – renewables have smaller carbon impacts than nukes, while beyond that point, nukes have smaller impacts than renewables.

Like others, I have called for renewable power to be used both to replace the electricity produced by fossil fuel and to expand the total supply, displacing the oil used for transport and the gas used for heating fuel. Are we also to demand that it replaces current nuclear capacity? The more work we expect renewables to do, the greater the impacts on the landscape will be, and the tougher the task of public persuasion.

But expanding the grid to connect people and industry to rich, distant sources of ambient energy is also rejected by most of the greens who complained about the blog post I wrote last week(3). What they want, they tell me, is something quite different: we should power down and produce our energy locally. Some have even called for the abandonment of the grid. Their bucolic vision sounds lovely, until you read the small print.

At high latitudes like ours, most small-scale ambient power production is a dead loss. Generating solar power in the UK involves a spectacular waste of scarce resources(4,5). It’s hopelessly inefficient and poorly matched to the pattern of demand. Wind power in populated areas is largely worthless. This is partly because we have built our settlements in sheltered places; partly because turbulence caused by the buildings interferes with the airflow and chews up the mechanism. Micro-hydropower might work for a farmhouse in Wales; it’s not much use in Birmingham.

And how do we drive our textile mills, brick kilns, blast furnaces and electric railways – not to mention advanced industrial processes? Rooftop solar panels? The moment you consider the demands of the whole economy is the moment at which you fall out of love with local energy production. A national (or, better still, international) grid is the essential prerequisite for a largely renewable energy supply.

Some greens go even further: why waste renewable resources by turning them into electricity? Why not use them to provide energy directly? To answer this question, look at what happened in Britain before the industrial revolution.

The damming and weiring of British rivers for watermills was small-scale, renewable, picturesque and devastating. By blocking the rivers and silting up the spawning beds, they helped bring to an end the gigantic runs of migratory fish that were once among our great natural spectacles and which fed much of Britain: wiping out sturgeon, lampreys and shad as well as most seatrout and salmon(6).

Traction was intimately linked with starvation. The more land that was set aside for feeding draft animals for industry and transport, the less was available for feeding humans. It was the 17th-Century equivalent of today’s biofuels crisis. The same applied to heating fuel. As EA Wrigley points out in his new book Energy and the English Industrial Revolution, the 11 million tonnes of coal mined in England in 1800 produced as much energy as 11 million acres of woodland (one third of the land surface) would have generated(7).

Before coal became widely available, wood was used not just for heating homes but also for industrial processes: if half the land surface of Britain had been covered with woodland, Wrigley shows, we could have made 1.25 million tonnes of bar iron a year (a fraction of current consumption(8)) and nothing else(9). Even with a much lower population than today’s, manufactured goods in the land-based economy were the preserve of the elite. Deep green energy production – decentralised, based on the products of the land – is far more damaging to humanity than nuclear meltdown.

But the energy source to which most economies will revert if they shut down their nuclear plants is not wood, water, wind or sun, but fossil fuel. On every measure (climate change, mining impact, local pollution, industrial injury and death, even radioactive discharges) coal is 100 times worse than nuclear power(10,11). Thanks to the expansion of shale gas production, the impacts of natural gas are catching up fast(12).

Yes, I still loathe the liars who run the nuclear industry. Yes, I would prefer to see the entire sector shut down, if there were harmless alternatives. But there are no ideal solutions. Every energy technology carries a cost; so does the absence of energy technologies. Atomic energy has just been subjected to one of the harshest of possible tests, and the impact on people and the planet has been small. The crisis at Fukushima has converted me to the cause of nuclear power.


Nature Itches: Not all it's cracked up to be

Sandy Ikeda

I remember P.J. O’Rourke saying, “Nature itches,” on a television program a few years ago about his experience in getting back to nature. I don’t mean to diminish in any way the enormity of the multiple tragedies that Japan is currently experiencing because of the earthquake and tsunami, but I thought of that remark when a Japanese friend told me he hoped the Japanese people would now depend less on imports and live closer to the land.

For the vast majority of us in the developed world, getting back, or at least closer, to nature means a day or two in the mountains or at the beach with plenty of sunscreen and insect repellent on hand. Most of us wouldn’t think of doing either of these things without a tankful of gas and a fully charged mobile phone.

More serious practitioners try in one way or another to lower their “carbon footprint” by cutting back on fossil fuels and electricity, believing they can do this by using less heating or air conditioning, taking public transport or bicycling to work, or growing some of their own food. Some advocate living in small houses – very, very small houses – which I find appealing. Because the numbers of these practitioners is now pretty small, their impact is also small. For the most part they are simply pursuing a lifestyle choice or a personal philosophy; or they’re trying to set an example for the rest of us to follow.

But that’s not my main point here. My main point is that the history of civilization has been mostly a steady movement away from the perils of depending directly on nature. Hunter-gatherers in the Paleolithic era lived closer to nature than the first city dwellers in Neolithic times, and by some estimates the world population grew from one million to five million inhabitants. If we go purely by urbanization rates, Charlemagne lived closer to nature than Henry VIII (although your average Joe in both eras lived comparable lives), and Henry lived closer to nature than almost anyone in the developed world today. Indeed, if you had a time machine and wanted to live closer to nature, all you’d have to do is dial back a few years, to say 1975, and you’d have achieved your goal. There would be fewer stages of production and a less extensive division of labor — and you’d be materially worse off.

Those in the developed world who are living closest to nature right now are small farmers who make their living from the land. My father was one of them. Economic development means fewer of them in 2011 than in 1975 because increasing economic opportunities have made it very costly to be in that profession. (Indeed, instead of farming, my father’s son is teaching and writing.) But while running a farm has its own rewards, what all farmers know is that nature can be a harsher, more relentless, and less forgiving master than any flesh-and-blood boss the rest of us can imagine.

The Dangerous Margin

Living closer to nature, whatever that may mean to you, today seems to be possible or even desirable only at the margins of civilization; that is, before this can happen, a lot of other people have to be working to provide the many things we take for granted. Thus spending some time where trees outnumber people can refresh the mind, body, and spirit; but except for the very hardy few, this requires a reliable source of electricity nearby to light the darkness and recharge our phones. Living off the grid is a hard, grungy business, and it can’t be done entirely anyway. (See my earlier column on this topic.) To do it to any degree, in other words, means not living off the fat of the land, but rather using our incomes to purchase the creative output of generations of entrepreneurs.

We tend to accentuate the positive side of nature: its beauty, bounty, and breathtaking vastness. As the tragedies from hurricanes and earthquakes in Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, and now in Japan remind us, there are negatives too: the dirt, the discomfort, and the destructive power. If you want to live closer to nature, be prepared to die closer to nature.

Perhaps at the margin it might do many of us some good to sweat and shiver a bit more and to shower and consume a bit less. But keep in mind that it has been our species’ relentless drive to achieve ever greater comfort and convenience that has, where the rules of the game have permitted it, enabled us to distance ourselves from the dangerous uncertainties of nature. It has populated our world today with seven billion souls, the overwhelming majority of whom are very, very glad to be alive.



Four articles below

A public service broadcaster propagates some strange economics

On the ABC "Green" site, unsurprisingly. The writer obviously has some grasp of economics but makes some elementary blunders. Take the first sentence in the excerpt below: If that were true, why are forests and stands of trees bought and sold?

And take the last paragraph reproduced below, the claim that burning down cities would benefit the GNP. It is an old fallacy. The writer has obviously never read Bastiat. In summary, the available economic energies (labour etc.) would not change. It would produce much the same in sum with or without a conflagration. Instead of building new houses (say), it would have to rebuild old ones. There would be no necessary impact on GNP at all -- but there would of course be a great loss of assets. See also here for a another refutation of this old fallacy

I suspect that the writer just liked the idea of burning down houses. Greenie forest management policies frequently accomplish just that -- via their opposition to bushfire prevention

A tree growing in a forest has no standing in economics. As far as conventional economics is concerned, it has no "economic" role. Of course, it provides a vital role in the earth's life support system, but this is of interest to scientists and not economists.

As soon as the tree is cut down, it acquires status in economics. Its significance grows as the tree is broken up into smaller components, such as paper or match sticks. The more it is destroyed, the more important it becomes to economic calculations.

Gross National Product (GNP)

Economic and political life revolves around the GNP or Gross National Product. GNP is the measure of financial transactions within a country's economy - the total flow of goods and services produced by the economy over a specified time (usually a year) - and it is derived from calculating the total income of a country's residents, whether the incomes come from production in that country or from production abroad. There is also a calculation of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but this distinction is not very important for the main argument here: the inadequacy of conventional economics to take the environment into account.

The GNP is simply a measure of financial transactions; it makes no value judgment on whether the transactions were socially useful or what impact there may have been on the environment.

Crime and car accidents increase the GNP because of the increased work for police, ambulances and prisons. A reduction in crime reduces the GNP. Similarly, a good way to increase Australian GNP would be to burn down Sydney and Melbourne each year. GNP would grow because of the extra work for fire brigades, undertakers, architects, builders, and plumbers. There would be little to show for all this annual effort - but there would be a higher GNP.


Thousands of angry ordinary Australian​s turn up to an anti-tax rally -- and the usual Green/Left smears begin

Jo Nova

In Canberra YESTERDAY over 3,000 people went out of their way, coming in on 30 buses from more than 1000 km away, to let Julia Gillard know that Australians do not want her Carbon Tax. The news made every major broadcast for several minutes. Protesters were referred to as “climate skeptics” (mostly).

Other rallies around Australia got hundreds of people even though they were organized in a hurry, with no advertising, and with no pre-formed coalition of networked groups. There was a very good crowd at the Perth rally on a hot day during business hours, and one heckler (John Brookes). The mood was striking.

This is random shoe-string grassroots action at the last minute and look what it can achieve. It’s just beginning.

The photo gallery at the Australian makes it clear how decidedly normal most people were and what their main messages are. This is mainstream Australia rising up, yet already the Big-Green-PR machine is at work, doing all it can to deny the undeniable.

As I drove home in Perth after our rally, ABC news-radio didn’t mention that 3,000 people had gathered, nor that protests had happened all over the country, they may have said that earlier, but all I heard was how Tony Abbot was under a “cloud” for having spoken at a rally with “extremists” — The Telegraph headlined it too.

Labor MP Nick Champion, Labor Party backbencher, gets press time for his free shot at calling them “extremists“. It’s just another form of name-calling, and if the media had any standards they would not propagate the namecalling without demanding he substantiate it. (Do write and tell me if any journalist asked Champion to explain why it’s extreme to ask for major policies to be put to an election first, or why we ought to expect some achievable outcome when we pay billions — other than earning brownie-points for the UN). Does the word “extreme” mean anything?

Fans of the big scare campaign are masters at avoiding the substantive issues, and filling the available media time with trivialities and name calling. The protesters are obviously angry ordinary Australians. That there are a few odd people or marginal hanger-on-ers among thousands is predictable, and green rally’s have their own variety.

The “witch” and “bitch” signs were unfortunate. The unstatesmanlike anger expressed in those messages is a byproduct of the long suppression of these voices. That anger needs better direction. That will come.

But as much as Labor might wish that today’s rally was a minority group of extremists, this is the start of the pendulum swinging. I stopped to shop at a butchers on the way home inadvertently wearing a No Carbon Tax shirt, and the business-man’s eyes lit up “Were you at the protest?” He’s angry and he’s one of tens of thousands who couldn’t be there today.

Many people I spoke to after the rally were keen to help. We need to start networking, with lists. The message was that many people wanted to put posters up and spread the word.

On another front, many businesses are still afraid to speak out against the Carbon Tax (what business — apart from solar and wind — would benefit from it?) But Bluescope Steel’s Graham Kraehe is pulling no punches. Finally, at least some businesses are stepping forward. If they all said the obvious, the carbon tax would be dead tomorrow.


Leftist group attacks broadcaster over climate

How much of the CO2 in the atmosphere is the product of human activity is moot. Molecules don't have fingerprints on them. There have been much higher levels of CO2 in prehistoric times so the best guess is that human activities are unimportant.

ACTIVIST group GetUp is taking on Sydney shock jock Alan Jones, demanding the broadcaster withdraw comments disputing the science of human-induced climate change.

The organisation is launching proceedings with the broadcast watchdog, demanding Jones publicly and immediately revoke what it calls fabricated statements.

"It's wrong for ultra-conservative shock-jocks like Mr Jones to deliberately mislead their audience," GetUp's acting national director Sam Mclean said today. "We have standards in this country which demand the truth from our broadcasters."

Action is also planned against another Macquarie Radio broadcaster, Chris Smith, organiser of today's anti-carbon tax rally in Canberra.

Under the Australian Communications and Media Authority's (ACMA) code of practice, broadcasters are required to make reasonable efforts to ensure that current affairs material, presented as factual, is reasonably supportable and to correct errors of fact at the earliest opportunity.

GetUp has set its sights on Jones over his comments that nature produces nearly all of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Jones has said that human beings produce .001 per cent of the carbon dioxide in the air.

GetUp argues that statement is factually inaccurate and prominent climate scientists have agreed that humans have contributed at least 28 per cent of atmospheric carbon dioxide.

"Alan Jones' complete disregard for providing a balanced view of climate change on his show is unacceptable," Mr Mclean said, adding that his organisation's research indicated the broadcaster had not interviewed any climate scientists who believe in the concept of human-induced climate change. "This is completely unhealthy for public discourse and a perfect example of why the ACMA code was created in the first place."


Getting Greenies to compromise: An unenviable task

FORESTRY peace broker Bill Kelty has warned that green groups must strike a deal on the Gunns Tamar Valley pulp mill - or miss out on the permanent protection of 565,000 hectares of native forests.

The former union leader, appointed to "facilitate" a negotiated peace between loggers and green groups, also yesterday warned that Gunns should submit to a new, independent mill assessment.

Stepping up pressure for a compromise, Mr Kelty said there had to be agreement on a plantation-fed mill to allow Gunns to exit native-forest logging and free up enough wood to allow an industry transition out of old forests. "That is almost the biggest game in town in terms of getting an industry settlement together with an environmental settlement," he said. "A proposal by Gunns to have a pulp mill at Bell Bay in the Tamar Valley is the only essential proposition that is on the table."

However, he revealed all sides to the historic talks - unions, industry and green groups - now backed the appointment of an independent person to assess whether the mill met environmental guidelines.

Gunns has been strongly resisting the move, arguing it has already secured full state and federal approvals, but managing director Greg L'Estrange yesterday began a round of further talks with Mr Kelty.

Mr Kelty said it was "easy to conclude that there will be no agreement" due to ongoing differences on the $2.3 billion pulp mill. However, his interim report, to be passed to state and federal governments by week's end, would recommend that the talks to find a solution to 30 years of conflict continue.

The two substantive issues to be decided were a logging moratorium with agreed security of wood supply - and the pulp mill.

The moratorium was agreed earlier this month, temporarily protecting 565,000ha of high conservation value forests from logging, while allowing up to 12,000ha to be harvested. Only the mill remained unresolved, he said. However, peak group, Environment Tasmania, yesterday said that while green groups had an "open mind" about a new independent assessment, they remained opposed to the mill.

ET director Phill Pullinger said conservationists also wanted to see state and federal governments respond to Mr Kelty's report by acting to fully implement the agreed moratorium.

ET and other green groups involved it the talks - The Wilderness Society and the Australian Conservation Foundation- have welcomed improvements to the mill to reduce chlorine emissions and guarantee a 100% plantation feed-stock.

However, they have been holding out against endorsing the project because of ongoing hostility to it in the Tamar Valley, north of Launceston, and what Mr Kelty agreed was "considerable cynicism" about its state fast-track approval.

However, it is still possible the groups could agree to a form of words on the mill that would satisfy Gunns' needs to reassure joint venture partners and financiers that it has environmental support.

Mr Kelty expressed "uncertainty" about Gunns' "economic position" and confirmed he had held talks with potential joint venture partners for the project.



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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