Monday, September 05, 2011

Obama running scared: Halts a damaging EPA regulation

President Barack Obama on Friday scrapped his administration's controversial plans to tighten smog rules, bowing to the demands of congressional Republicans and some business leaders.

Obama overruled the Environmental Protection Agency — and the unanimous opinion of its independent panel of scientific advisers — and directed administrator Lisa Jackson to withdraw the proposed regulation to reduce concentrations of ground-level ozone, smog's main ingredient. The decision rests in part on reducing regulatory burdens and uncertainty for businesses at a time of rampant uncertainty about an unsteady economy.

The announcement came shortly after a new government report on private sector employment showed that businesses essentially added no new jobs last month — and that the jobless rate remained stuck at a historically high 9.1 percent.

The withdrawal of the proposed regulation marks the latest in a string of retreats by Obama in the face of Republican opposition. Last December, he shelved, at least until the end of 2012, his insistence that Bush-era tax cuts should no longer apply to the wealthy. Earlier this year he avoided a government shutdown by agreeing to Republican demands for budget cuts. And this summer he acceded to more than a $1 trillion in spending reductions, with more to come, as the price for an agreement to raise the nation's debt ceiling.

A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, had muted praise for the White House, saying that withdrawal of the smog regulation was a good first step toward removing obstacles that are blocking business growth.

"But it is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to stopping Washington Democrats' agenda of tax hikes, more government 'stimulus' spending, and increased regulations, which are all making it harder to create more American jobs," Boehner spokesman Michael Steel said.

Obama had initially set out to correct a weaker standard set by President George W. Bush. Jackson had said in July that the standard would not survive a legal challenge because it did not follow the recommendations of the agency's scientific advisers.

In March, the independent panel said in a letter to Jackson that it was unanimous in its recommendation to make the smog standard stronger and that the evidence was "sufficiently certain" that a range proposed in January 2010 under Obama would benefit public health.

The White House, which has pledged to base decisions on science, said Friday that the science behind its initial decision needed to be updated, and a new standard would be issued in 2013.

Major industry groups had lobbied hard for the White House to abandon the smog regulation, and applauded Friday's decision.

"The president's decision is good news for the economy and Americans looking for work. EPA's proposal would have prevented the very job creation that President Obama has identified as his top priority," said Jack Gerard, president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute.

The withdrawal of the proposed EPA rule comes three days after the White House identified seven such regulations that it said would cost private business at least $1 billion each. The proposed smog standard was estimated to cost anywhere between $19 billion and $90 billion, depending on how strict it would be.

However, the Clean Air Act does not allow the EPA to consider how much it will cost to comply when picking a new standard.

Republican lawmakers have blamed what they see as excessive regulations backed by the Obama administration for some of the country's economic woes, and House Republicans pledged this week to try to block four environmental regulations, including the one on some pollution standards, when they return after Labor Day.

But perhaps more than some of the other regulations under attack, the ground-level ozone standard is most closely associated with public health — something the president said he wouldn't compromise in his regulatory review. Ozone is the main ingredient in smog, which is a powerful lung irritant that occasionally forces cancellation of school recesses, and causes asthma and other lung ailments.

A stronger standard, while it would cost billions, would also save billions in avoided health care costs and hospital visits.

Criticism from environmentalists, a core Obama constituency already battling him over a planned oil pipeline from Canada to the Gulf Coast, was swift following the White House announcement.

"The Obama administration is caving to big polluters at the expense of protecting the air we breathe," said Gene Karpinski, the president of the League of Conservation Voters. "This is a huge win for corporate polluters and huge loss for public health."

In his statement, the president said that withdrawing the regulation did not reflect a weakening of his commitment to protecting public health and the environment.

"I will continue to stand with the hardworking men and women at the EPA as they strive every day to hold polluters accountable and protect our families from harmful pollution," he said.

The decision mirrors one made by Obama's predecessor, President George W. Bush. EPA scientists had recommended a stricter standard to better protect public health. Bush personally intervened after hearing complaints from electric utilities and other affected industries. His EPA set a standard of 75 parts per billion, stricter than one adopted in 1997, but not as strong as federal scientists said was needed to protect public health.

The EPA under Obama proposed in January 2010 a range for the concentration of ground-level ozone allowed in the air — from 60 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion. That's about equal to a single tennis ball in an Olympic-size swimming pool full of tennis balls.

Jackson, Obama's environmental chief, said at the time that "using the best science to strengthen these standards is a long overdue action that will help millions of Americans breathe easier and live healthier."

The American Lung Association, which sued the EPA over the Bush standard, said it would continue its legal fight now that Obama is essentially endorsing the weaker limit. The group had suspended its lawsuit after the Obama administration vowed to correct it.


New paper on Solar-climate connection just published‏
A. Mazzarella and N. Scafetta, "Evidences for a quasi 60-year North Atlantic Oscillation since 1700 and its meaning for global climate change", Theor. Appl. Climatol. (2011) DOI 10.1007/s00704-011-0499-4


The North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) obtained using instrumental and documentary proxy predictors from Eurasia is found to be characterized by a quasi 60-year dominant oscillation since 1650. This pattern emerges clearly once the NAO record is time integrated to stress its comparison with the temperature record.

The integrated NAO (INAO) is found to well correlate with the length of the day (since 1650) and the global surface sea temperature record HadSST2 and HadSST3 (since 1850). These findings suggest that INAO can be used as a good proxy for global climate change, and that a ~60-year cycle exists in the global climate since at least 1700.

Finally, the INAO ~60-year oscillation well correlates with the ~60-year oscillations found in the historical European aurora record since 1700, which suggests that this ~60-year dominant climatic cycle has a solar–astronomical origin.

Further comment from Prof. Scafetta:

In this paper we use a climate record made of several instrumental European records that date back since at least 1700. And other climatic and astronomical records based on actual direct observations.

Note also, that the cosmic ray-cloud mechanism is just part of the story. In fact, by itself it does not say anything about the observed cycles and there would still be the necessity to investigate the physical conditions that originate and make this cycles possible. The paper just published suggests that by linking the 60 year climatic cycle to a particular kind of 60-year aurora cycle, the evidences for an astronomical-induced 60-year climate cycle are clearly growing.

"Science writer" for AP Displays His Spectacular Ignorance Once Again

Disasters in US: An extreme and exhausting year
By SETH BORENSTEIN, AP Science Writer – 16 hours ago
WASHINGTON (AP) — Nature is pummeling the United States this year with extremes.

Unprecedented triple-digit heat and devastating drought. Deadly tornadoes leveling towns. Massive rivers overflowing. A billion-dollar blizzard. And now, unusual hurricane-caused flooding in Vermont.

Borenstein has no idea what he is talking about.

In June, 1934 the entire country had triple digit heat. We didn’t come anywhere close to that this summer.

Severe drought in 1934 covered 80% of the country, compared with 25% in 2011

Flooding in 1927 was worse. Are these reporters too lazy or too dumb to do any research?


Shortest Arctic Melt Season On Record?

New ice is starting to form in the Arctic, and it looks like 2011 has a possibility of becoming the shortest melt season (time from peak to minimum) on record. Longer polar melt seasons are a fundamental tenet of global warming theory.


Fred Singer At Suppressed SEII Presentation: 1976 To 2000 Warming – “That’s Fake, It Doesn’t Exist”…

We recall the climate discussion that had been planned to take place at the European Society of Engineers and Industrialists (SEII) in Brussels on September 1-2, 2011, and how IPCC vice president Jean-Pascal van Ypersele attempted to suppress it. Eventually it was relocated and took place somewhere else not far away.

The following is an uneditted raw clip of the discussion (sorry, not a professionally made film). It features distinguished scientists S. Fred Singer and Claes Johnson (see outline below in case you wish to skip to other parts).

First, before discussing the above clip, I’d like to point out that Francis Massen, coordinator of the discussion, sent a letter to the SEII to express his dismay that it had bowed to van Ypersele’s pressure and prevented the discussion from taking place at the SEII location. Here’s the letter he sent:
Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very disappointed about your decision to cancel the discussion (in response to the intervention by Prof. Jean-Pascal Van Ypersele) on the questions of climate change where presentations by professors Fred Singer and Claes Johnson had been planned. It is shocking to watch a respectable society like SEII fold before an authority of censorship, one that cannot accept opinions that diverge from its own, and for whom scientific integrity and openness appear to be obselete qualities.

With deep regrets, Francis Massen

Indeed under van Ypersele and the IPCC, climate science has been catapulted back to the Dark Ages.

More HERE (See the original for links, video etc.)

Intensive farming is found to be better than organic methods for protecting the environment

ORGANIC farming can be less effective at protecting wildlife than intensive methods, according to research that undermines its claim to be the most environmentally friendly form of agriculture.

Farming systems such as organic that seek to share land between crops and wildlife inflict greater damage on biodiversity than conventional approaches that maximise crop yields, a major study has revealed.

Such "land-sharing" methods typically deliver lower yields than intensive farming and they require much more land to produce the same amount of food, scientists at the University of Cambridge and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds found. This means that important wilderness habitats must be destroyed to create extra farmland, which easily outweighs any small benefits of making fields friendlier to wildlife.

The research, conducted in Ghana and India, found that most species of birds and trees, common or rare, would have higher populations if farms were kept as small as possible and managed to produce maximum yields. This strategy must be combined with measures to protect wilderness habitats.

Scientists behind the study, which is published in the journal Science, said that organic farming can play a part in land-sparing, provided it generates high yields. They also warned that the findings may not apply to different parts of the world, and they have begun new research in Poland to evaluate European conditions.

The findings, however, question claims that the organic method is the most sustainable approach to farming, and that intensive systems are bad for biodiversity.

"Environmental benefit has been one of the selling points of organic farming, but frequently what we see is lower yields, and benefits for wildlife that are not that great," said Ben Phalan, who led the Ghanaian study.

"It sells the message that you can do both conservation and food production together, that they can co-exist. But our research would suggest that this is probably optimistic and might be wishful thinking."

His colleague Malvika Onial, who led the Indian research, said: "It would be nice to think that we could conserve species and produce lots of food, all on the same land. But our data from Ghana and India show that's not the best option for most species."

The findings could also have implications for European Union agricultural policies.

Martin Harper, conservation director of the RSPB, said: "The European Commission is proposing to rebrand a third of farm subsidies in Europe as green payments. This paper in Science suggests that unless the proposed green measures really deliver significant and lasting environmental benefits it would be better to use this money directly on nature reserves and saving threatened species."

He added, however, that there was still a strong case that resources should be used to help farmers make space for wildlife in all farmed countryside: "Agri-environment schemes have a good track record in saving farmland birds like the corncrake and cirl bunting and have the potential to reverse the decline of the skylark."


Australia: renewable schemes face axe

THE state government has flagged the winding up of renewable energy schemes in NSW if the federal government introduces a carbon tax, which it concedes is all but inevitable.

It also warned the state relies too heavily on electricity and gas from other states. The Energy Minister, Chris Hartcher, is keen to boost gas supplies in NSW.

The government is also studying a report outlining how to merge the three state-owned distribution companies - Ausgrid, Endeavour Energy and Essential Energy - into two, which is expected to result in the loss of hundreds of jobs. This merger is to be in place by the middle of next year.

An inquiry into the electricity industry being undertaken by Justice Brian Tamberlin is expected to recommend the sale of the distributors when it reports to the government next month.

While warning about over-reliance on renewable energy, Mr Hartcher indicated existing programs will need to be reviewed.

"Once the carbon tax comes into force, it's certainly going to come into force, I don't think there is any doubt about that, there's going to be a need for a reassessment of the various programs," he told a business lunch yesterday.

"The carbon tax is designed to do only one thing . to force up the price of electricity from coal-fired power and, if that's the case, how you implement other renewable energy targets needs to be subordinated to it."

Buying too much energy from interstate is leaving NSW exposed to disruptions, he said, referring to the period in February when electricity demand peaked at 14,820 megawatts, and NSW was forced to import 12 per cent of the total from other states.

"What happens when there are simultaneous midsummer heatwave demands in the eastern states, and what may that mean for NSW businesses and households?" he said. "The impact could be exacerbated by unplanned generation outages or transmission failure. This would see us managing blackouts."

Gas-fired power generation in NSW is forecast to triple over the next two decades with around 7000 megawatts of new peaking gas generation, 700 megawatts of new baseload gas generation and 400 megawatts of renewable generation to come on line, he said.

This will occur as gas supplies from both the Cooper Basin and Bass Strait are in decline. "It is prudent NSW develop a gas industry to support its needs locally - both for energy generation - and for household use," Mr Hartcher said.

As a result, the state government was to launch a gas industry development plan to ensure its evolution, both as a fuel source for electricity generation, as well as industrial and residential uses, he said.



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1 comment:

John A said...

A bit more about the EPA "smog" proposed reguulation and fines, another blogger (when will I learn to keep links?) pointed out that the EPA itself stated that the technology to accomplish the reduction does not exist, even on paper never mind in the lab and certainly not as installable hardware. Yet the EPA "scientists" proposed the new regulations and who-knows-what fines. This sort of thing, which seems insane, is possibly actually required by the legislation which established the EPA in an "unintended consequence" effect, though given decades of this sort of thing the legislation should have been altered years ago, perhaps when DDT was forbidden.