In previous columns, we’ve exposed that "renewable" technology is neither renewable, nor clean, nor green because it relies upon rare earth elements—it’s also neither cost effective nor efficient but that’s another column. Currently the Chinese have a stranglehold over all phases of rare earth production, including mining, processing, and refining. China accounts for ninety five percent of the world market in rare earth elements (REEs).
With virtually no regulations or concerns over worker safety, the Chinese monopoly has resulted in an ecological disaster. Sites such as those in Baotou, Inner Mongolia make the Love Canal, the impetus for the Environmental Protection Agency’s "Superfund," look like Rocky Mountain National Park.
Finally, we’ve been able to quantify the pollution of some green technology sectors in a way that makes sense to the average American family sitting at their kitchen table.
The Math of Pollution
The U.S. Department of Energy, in studying the reductions of REEs available in the world market due to Chinese cutbacks, has identified the seventeen elements as "key" and "critical" to ongoing technological development, including use in electronic components for defense purposes, but also for the "clean" green energy sector.
The DOE’s efforts prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to examine the development of REE resources here in the U.S., paying particular attention to the economic feasibility but also the more important question of—you guessed it—environmental impact.
In its August 2011 study, "Investigating Rare Earth Element Mine Development in EPA Region 8 and Potential Environmental Impacts," the EPA reported on several sites located in the intermountain West, from Idaho to Colorado, which could become only the second REE mining operation in the entire country.
The study also reported extensively on the possible sources of contaminants and waste byproducts associated with all mining, and especially those concentrated in REE-related extraction.
In the section titled "Potential Risks to Human Health and the Environment," the EPA reports that:
"…every ton of rare earth elements produced generates approximately 8.5 kilograms of fluorine and 13 kilograms of flue dust. Additionally, sulfuric acid refining techniques used to produce one ton of rare earth elements generates 9,600 to 12,000 cubic meters of gas laden with flue dust concentrate, hydrofluoric acid, sulfur dioxide, and sulfuric acid. Not only are large quantities of harmful gas produced, alarming amounts of liquid and solid waste also resulted from Chinese refining processes. They estimate at the completion of refining one ton of rare earth elements, approximately 75 cubic meters of acidic waste water and about one ton of radioactive waste residue are produced. The IAGS reports China produced over 130,000 metric tons of rare earth elements in 2008 alone (IAGS, 2010). Extrapolation of the waste generation estimates over total production yields extreme amounts of waste. With little environmental regulation, stories of environmental pollution and human sickness remain frequent in areas near Chinese rare earth element production facilities."
So for each metric ton of REEs produced, an equal amount of radioactive waste is also produced. At approximately 2,204 lbs, that’s about the weight of an average sedan. As for those 75 cubic meters of acidic waste water, just think of a swimming pool measuring thirty feet long by fifteen feet wide by six feet deep. That’s approximately 20,000 gallons of acid water. Just remember, China produces 95 percent of all REEs in the world—so that’s more than 130,000 swimming pools.
To further the perspective, each 3 MW wind turbine requires two tons of REEs for the permanent magnet that converts wind into electricity. So much for "clean."
The EPA report continues:
"As discussed, mining and refining processes can introduce radionuclides, rare earth elements, metals, and other potential contaminants into the environment at unnaturally high rates. Once introduced into the environment, the potential contaminants can be redistributed through the three ‘environmental mediums.’ These three mediums include air, soil, and water. Living organisms depend on environmental mediums with stable chemical properties for their survival. The release of the possible contaminants from rare earth element production could alter the properties of the three environmental mediums."
The Chinese have labeled areas around rare earth mines, like Baotou, as "cancer villages." To call the situation a "human sickness" is like calling Hurricane Katrina just another rainstorm. The toxic bi-products literally kill everything – animals, vegetation, and people by contaminating the air, soil, and water.
Toyota Prius and Chevy Volt, crimes against the environment
A hybrid-owning friend labeled Amy’s 2001 Jeep Cherokee "earth cancer." The assumption that a hybrid is eco-friendly has been one of the greatest propaganda campaigns of our time.
Let’s return to the EPA report:
"Permanent magnets represent the staple clean energy technology of future green economies. They constitute main components of lightweight, high powered motors and generators due to their production of a stable magnetic field without the need for an external power source. Permanent magnet motors power contemporary electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, while permanent magnet generators produce electricity from wind turbines (USDOE, 2010). The key element derived samarium-cobalt permanent magnets dominate rare earth technology because they produce a magnetic field in a much smaller size. The samarium-cobalt permanent magnet also retains its magnetic strength at high temperatures making it ideal for clean energy and even military applications, including precision guided munitions and aircrafts (IAGS, 2010).
Permanent magnets work in conjunction with high efficiency rare earth based batteries to store energy in electric, hybrid electric, and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (USDOE, 2010). Current generation hybrid electric vehicles use a battery with a cathode containing a host of rare earths including lanthanum, cerium, neodymium, praseodymium, and cobalt (Kopera, 2004). Each hybrid electric battery may contain several kilograms of rare earth materials (USDOE, 2010). Plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles require even greater storage capacity and higher power ratings than typical hybrid vehicles. In light of this, automakers will likely use the lithium ion battery, increasing demand for yet another key element. Scientists at the Argonne National Laboratory estimated one lithium ion battery contains 3.4-12.7 kilograms of lithium depending on proprietary design (USDOE, 2010)."
Through November 2011, 237,707 hybrid vehicles were sold in the U.S. with the Toyota Prius leading the pack with 119,459 vehicles sold this year. Hybrid’s "green, clean" technology requires between 20 -25 pounds of rare earth elements, twice that of regular vehicles.
Thinking electric such as Chevy Volt? So far in 2011, auto manufacturers have sold 15,068 electric vehicles in the U.S., and each one requires 10 pounds of rare earth magnets.
That means that through the end of November, hybrids and electric vehicles sales consumed between 4,904,820 and 6,093,355 pounds of rare earths. That’s somewhere between 2,452 and 3,047 tons.
If processing one ton of rare earth elements produces approximately 75 cubic meters of acidic waste water and about one ton of radioactive waste residue, then hybrid and electric vehicles alone produce between 183,900 and 228,525 cubic meters of acidic waste water and between 2,452 and 3,047 tons of radioactive waste.
A little conversion: one cubic meter is roughly 264 gallons. On the low end, that’s enough to cover nearly 150 football fields with toxic waste water a foot deep. Or put another way, the more than 48,550,000 gallons of fouled water from alternative vehicles is equal to the annual household usage of 445 families of four. That’s just one toxic byproduct. There are many more.
To add insult to ecological injury, these cars are expensive and don’t perform or handle very well. And owners still need fossil fuels either to run them (oil, gasoline) or for the electricity to charge them (coal). So why on earth would anyone buy one?
In your face
Apparently hybrid vehicles owners don’t really want to save the world, they just want to look like they do.
The New York Times reported in 2007 that the number reason why people buy the Toyota Prius is "it makes a statement about me."
"‘I really want people to know that I care about the environment," said Joy Feasley of Philadelphia, owner of a green 2006 Prius. ‘I like that people stop and ask me how I like my car.’"
And Mary Gatch of Charleston, S.C., explained, "’I felt like the Camry Hybrid was too subtle for the message I wanted to put out there…I wanted to have the biggest impact that I could, and the Prius puts out a clearer message.’"
"The Prius allowed you to make a green statement with a car for the first time ever," said Dan Becker, head of the global warming program at the Sierra Club (and yes, a Prius owner).
Translation—what the fine folks quoted in the Times are really saying is, "My image as an eco-conscious consumer is more important than the actual images of environmental degradation no one ever sees."
Of course, it also helps when green Kool-Aid drinking Hollywood celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, Cameron Diaz, and Bill Maher make their planet-saving statements driving the Pacific Coast Highway in their eco-polluting hybrid.
It isn’t just hybrid owners that are sanctimonious eco-evangelicals. A study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology explains that being green is a status symbol of both wealth and altruism.
"Given the relationship between self-sacrifice and status, costly signaling theory suggests that people might engage in costly pro-social behaviors such as environmental conservation particularly when they are motivated to attain status. Because the purchase of green products enables a person to signal that he is both willing and able to buy a product that benefits others at a cost to his personal use, activating a motive for status might lead people to engage in conspicuous conservation—public pro-environmental acts."
It gets worse. Eco-evangelicals want to spend more not less. They simply can’t be trusted on cost effectiveness.
"Additional findings showed that status motives increased desirability of green products especially when such products cost more—but not less—relative to non-green products. In line with costly signaling theory, buying inexpensive green products can undermine a person’s ability to signal wealth. This finding suggests that green products such as the Toyota Prius might be selling well not despite their premium price tag but perhaps in part because such products are more expensive. Indeed, 40% of hybrid owners indicate that they bought a green car as an alternative to a traditional luxury car such as a BMW."
They’ll have to be prepared to pay given China’s decision to further reduce the world supply of REEs. The New York Times characterized the jump in prices for just one common "green" technology—compact fluorescent lightbulbs:
"General Electric, facing complaints in the United States about rising prices for its compact fluorescent bulbs, recently noted in a statement that if the rate of inflation over the last 12 months on the rare earth element europium oxide had been applied to a $2 cup of coffee, that coffee would now cost $24.55."
In other words, forget reason, forget economics, forget the environment; we’ll pay more for everything – energy, a car, light bulbs, or hair products – if we think the world will know that we can afford to be green. Not actually "green," mind you.
National security versus "green economy"
Pollution aside, the U.S. relies upon these rare minerals for everything, including iPods, laptops, solar panels, windmills, alternative fuel vehicles, and advanced military weaponry. While the demand and price have gone up, China has strategically limited the supply. It is building it’s own supply while cutting production to roughly 70 percent by 2015.
This situation has the federal government worried. The EPA reports that the Department of Energy is "concerned the rising demand for key elements in electronic and military sectors could hamper the growth of the U.S. ‘green economy,’ or an economy based on renewable energy."
The real worry should be whether or not the world believes we can afford to waste money on "green" technology. Our reputation is at stake. What will the rest of the world think of us?
Even though estimates put total U.S. reserves around 13 percent of known REE resources worldwide, the first (and only) U.S. mine expected to be anywhere near production of REEs, Mountain Pass, was only just granted permission by the U.S. government this month to begin exploration, with actual extraction not set to begin until 2012. A second possible site located in Wyoming has been identified by the EPA as holding production potential, but is many years away from completing the myriad required impact statements and permit approvals. Among the biggest concerns surrounding the Wyoming site? Airborne radionuclides and waste water associated with the chemical refining process.
So for the next few years at the very least, China will continue to control the REE market while other countries, including the U.S., ramp up exploration and possible production of the elements and their known pollutants and waste material byproducts.
The age of "conspicuous conservation" will have to compete with more important things such as national security, as much of our high tech weaponry requires rare earth minerals. The demand for "green" will also compete with our love of gadgets such as iPods and computers, and with those civilization-required things like lighting, batteries, and basic electricity.
The new "high efficiency light bulbs" require rare earths while old fluorescents did not—to make them more "visually pleasing." At least consumers face a temporary reprieve of that particular government mandate, with the ban on "non-green" incandescent light bulbs commuted for at least a little longer.
While alternative vehicle owners, solar panel supporters, and wind turbine advocates may feel better about themselves, they’re actually polluting the planet with their "clean/green" technology. Advancing these policies is beyond irresponsible, especially when the foundation of the "clean" scheme is revealed.
This green hypocrisy has Mother Nature crying out for a separation of earth and state.
Thou Shalt Not Question UN Experts
By physicist Kelvin Kemm
British Lord Christopher Monckton parachuting into Durban, South Africa, to challenge UN climate crisis claims, brought numerous journalists and onlookers to the beaches where he landed. A 20-foot banner across our press conference table gave the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow further opportunities to present realistic perspectives on the science and economics of climate change.
CFACT played by the rules, obtained the necessary permits beforehand, and ensured that its message was heard throughout the seventeenth annual climate conference (COP-17). Greenpeace, on the other hand, got no permits before staging an Occupy Durban protest in the hallway outside the plenary session – and got kicked out of the conference.
Shortly thereafter, however, Lord Monckton and another CFACT representative were summarily (though temporarily) ejected from Durban, for preposterous reasons that dramatize how thin-skinned and arrogant the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has become.
As a South African and delegate at the COP-17 conference, I witnessed more amazing and absurd exhibitions than one would find at a Believe It Or Not circus sideshow. Along with thousands of government delegates, scientists and journalists, we witnessed music and dance groups, Women for Climate Justice, the Alliance for Climate Protection, APEs (Artists Protect the Earth) and others pleading for "planetary salvation."
It took a truly nimble mind, and abiding sense of humor, to appreciate their often competing messages. One large official poster proclaimed "More climate change means less water," while the one next to it said "More climate change means more floods."
A socialist group sloganeered "One planet living is the new aspiration." I could only conclude that they were neo-Malthusians worried about speculative climate chaos and resource depletion – and promoting a roll-back of energy use and living standards, so that people can share "more equitably" in sustained poverty and misery, enforced by UN edicts.
Yet another group insisted that the world should "Stop talking and start planting." However, this group and countless others oppose profits and private enterprises. They apparently haven’t yet realized that large paper and timber companies plant the most trees and create the largest new-growth forests, which breathe in the most carbon dioxide and breathe out the most oxygen.
These and similar organizations also demanded that profit-making companies give more money to environmentalist NGOs – which might temporarily make the companies less reprehensible and more eco-friendly. Of course, if the activists succeed in further obstructing the companies, they will plant fewer trees, remove less CO2, create fewer jobs and have less money to give to NGOs.
This parallel universe aspect of the Durban extravaganza was troublesome enough. Another aspect of the conference was much more sinister and worrisome. Which brings us back to Lord Monckton, a renowned debater and expert in IPCC and climate science, economics and politics.
One day he and I were meandering through the halls, as advisors to CFACT and its official delegation to the conference. We were accompanied by CFACT project organiser Josh Nadal, who was using his video camera to film anything he liked, to make a video of "what we did at COP-17."
As we rounded a corner, we saw someone we didn’t know being interviewed for the in-house television information system that transmitted programs throughout the official venue. We were astounded by how biased and inaccurate his comments were. When atmospheric carbon dioxide levels rose, temperature also rose, he insisted – very simple. Of course, that is simply not true.
His interview over, he stepped off the dais and headed our way. I asked him whether he would agree that global temperatures had actually gone down during the early 1970s, even as CO2 levels continued to rise. He refused to acknowledge this universally accepted fact. I then mentioned the Medieval Warm Period of a thousand years ago. In response, he asserted that the MWP was merely a localized event of no consequence. Also simply not true.
At that point Monckton asked him to acknowledge that the science was nowhere nearly as clear cut as he had proclaimed. The official refused to do so, asserted "I have work to do," and walked off.
Josh had been filming the entire exchange, but now an aide put a hand over the camera lens. When I remarked that just walking off was bad manners, the aide said "You are not worth debating." I replied, "All he had to do was answer two simple questions." I was amazed when the aide responded, "He is the Secretary General of the World Meteorological Organisation. He does not have to answer your questions." The aide then walked off just as rudely as his boss had.
These unelected technocrats and bureaucrats want to decide the science and ordain the energy and economic policies that will determine our future livelihoods and living standards. And yet they are of the opinion that they can talk scientific nonsense and ignore anyone’s inconvenient questions. We had not known that he was Michel Jarraud, Secretary General of the WMO. But that is irrelevant. We were polite, and he should have been, as well. But it gets worse.
Two hours later, Lord Monckton and Josh were informed that they had violated ad hoc rules and were banned from further participation in the conference: Josh for filming without permission, Monckton for "unprofessional" conduct. Somehow I was spared. The next day, following negotiations between CFACT and UN officials, the two were reinstated.
A couple of days later, a TV interviewer asked IPCC Vice Chair Jean-Pascal van Ypersele whether there was now enough information to decide the next steps COP-17 should take. van Ypersele answered, "The body of knowledge was there already in the first [IPCC] report twenty years ago and was actually good enough to start the action which inspired the convention on climate change."
The interviewer then asked if the science was well enough understood. "Not only is there enough science" the Vice Chair replied, "but that science has been there, available and explained by the IPCC, already from the first report."
In other words, in the view of the IPCC, climate change science was settled even before the term "climate change" was coined – and all "research" and "findings," reports and conferences since then have been window dressing – inconsequential. Even new evidence about cosmic ray effects on cloud cover, and thus on the amount of the sun’s heat reaching the earth, is irrelevant in the view of the IPCC and other UN agencies, and thus may be intentionally ignored.
The imperious attitudes and intolerance of dissenting opinions displayed by these officials further underscores the wholly unscientific and politicized nature of the IPCC process. Even in the face of Climategate 2009 and 2010, The Delinquent Teenager, Marc Morano’s A-Z Climate Reality Check and other revelations, the UN and IPCC fully intend to impose their views and agendas.
At this point, in the view of the IPCC, the only thing left is for first world countries to pay up and shut up – and poor countries to develop in the way and to the extent allowed by the United Nations.
Warming denialism is in the political eye of the beholder
Robert Manne commences his essay on the human-caused global warming that he presumes to be dangerous with the statement: "For several decades I have engaged in ideological disputes".
And therein lies the problem, for ideology is the business of politics whereas global warming is the business of science.
From this ideological launching pad, Manne moves directly to the assumption that persons who support alarmism on global warming (and therefore dramatic and costly intervention) are associated with the political Left, and their opponents with the Right.
He couldn't be more wrong.
First, because science does not recognise political lefts or rights, or even centres. And, second, because across the world scientists of differing political persuasions can be found on all sides of the discussion, some supporting and some opposing warming alarmism, and that to a wide variety of degrees.
For example, two international climate policy organisations for which I act as a scientific advisor state the following on their websites:
Global Warming Policy Foundation (London): We are an all-party and non-party think tank and a registered educational charity which, while open-minded on the contested science of global warming, is deeply concerned about the costs and other implications of many of the policies currently being advocated.
International Climate Science Coalition (Ottawa): The ICSC is a non-partisan group of independent scientists, economists and energy and policy experts who are working to promote better understanding of climate science and policy worldwide.
While we welcome contributions from all sources, including corporations, foundations and government... ICSC operates as a non-partisan entity, not left or right and independent of political or commercial vested interests. We will not accept donations that are contingent on ICSC promoting a point of view in favour of, or against, any philosophical, political or commercial interest.
Manne continues his faulty analysis with the comment that
With the Right and climate change, the problem is the unwillingness or incapacity to accept the truth of an argument of almost embarrassing simplicity.
He then promises to "outline the bare bones of that argument". One reads on with a sense of foreboding. It proves to be justified.
Manne's skeleton of climate truth turns out to have as its backbone the well traversed and sound scientific understanding that carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas, which means that adding more to the atmosphere (as human activities do) has the potential to cause mild, and perhaps even measurable, global warming. But as the skeleton building proceeds from here, many needed bones are substituted by the flimsy straw of special pleading arguments casuistically set up for later routing. When Manne has finished we are confronted not with a single climate skeleton, but instead by an army of straw climate men.
Demonstrating his incomprehension that science works on logical and not democratic principles, Manne intones the activists' psalm that "almost all climate scientists", "many governments", "many models" and "tens of thousands of climate scientists" "believe that global warming is caused primarily by human activity, and that unless human beings change their behaviour, the Earth is headed for disaster".
Never mentioned is the fact that an equivalent army of scientists is firmly of the opposite opinion (e.g., Carter, 2010, Chapter 9); nor that thousands of refereed scientific papers contain information that conflicts with the dangerous human-caused warming hypothesis; nor that even the most rudimentary cost-benefit analysis demonstrates that it is far more cost-effective to adapt to, rather than to try to prevent, any possible human-caused climate changes.
"Evidence" that is advanced in favour of taking action to combat dangerous warming includes the following:
Average global temperature has risen by 0.7°C in the last 100 years. (Prima facie, perhaps; but (i) the accuracy of the figure is under challenge, a conservative possible error range being 0.7 ± 0.7°C, and (ii) that some warming may have occurred says nothing whatever about the likelihood of human causation).
A further increase of 0.5°C is guaranteed even without further emissions. (Such computer model projections conflict with the fact that no warming has now occurred for the 15 years since 1995 despite an increase of carbon dioxide of 10 per cent – an increase that of itself represents 34 per cent of all the extra carbon dioxide contributed since the start of the industrial revolution. Remembering that the radiative effects of extra carbon dioxide occur at the speed of light, and that both the ocean and the atmosphere are currently cooling, just where is this 0.5°C. of "pipeline" heat supposed to be hiding?).
An increase of 2°C in global temperature above pre-industrial levels will be "dangerous".(Another fable of Arthurian proportions, the figure being plucked out of the air at a 2005 meeting of the climate faithful in Exeter in response to a belief that "if politicians are to take action, then they need a number"; no sound empirical evidence existed then, nor exists now, that 2°C of warming will be harmful, and indeed from a human perspective any such warming is most likely to be beneficial).
Warming of 7°C is possible by 2100. (Anything is possible, the question is whether it is probable; and the answer is "no". Such extreme warmings are projected only by unvalidated computer models that conjure future virtual realities, or gedankenwelt; by no stretch of the imagination can such projections be viewed as accurate forecasts; see Carter et al., 2009, Appendix D).
Sea-level rise will displace hundreds of millions of persons from coastal regions. (If global sea-level rise continues at its current, natural rate of about 1.7 mm/yr, then in several thousand years many persons doubtless will be displaced from present coastal locations. But such an occurrence will have nothing to do with human carbon dioxide emissions, the rise being a natural environmental change that humanity will simply have to adapt to, as the Dutch and many others have done for similar rises in the past.
There will be more or more intense droughts, floods, cyclones/hurricanes, heat-waves and forest fires; a melting of Himalayan glaciers; and mass extinctions of species. (Selective computer models may specify so, but empirical evidence stubbornly refuses to endorse such theoretical projections as reality. To date, and despite an intensive research effort, not a single paper exists that demonstrates modern variation in any of these processes to lie outside of their natural range (Carter, 2010, Chapter 6). In reality, variations in all of these processes, including their intermittent extreme manifestations, are part and parcel of the dynamic natural planet on which we happen to live. For as the IPCC itself concluded in 1996: "overall, there is no evidence that extreme weather events, or climate variability, has increased in a global sense, through the twentieth century".)
Ninety-seven per cent of scientists accept dangerous warming is occurring. (How gullible can you be? Figures such as these are simple fantasy, based on selective or biased studies. In reality, no-one can actually know what "most scientists" think, but there is overwhelming evidence that at least hundreds of accomplished scientists are lined up on all the main sides of the debate. Any idea that "the science is settled" is simply banal).
There exists no plausible alternative theory to explain global warming. (A statement of scientific farce, equivalent in intellectual merit to "the dog ate my homework, Miss". The statement also grotesquely misrepresents scientific reality.
The scientifically preferable null hypothesis regarding observed modern climate change (because it is the simplest consistent with the known facts) is that it has a natural causation unless and until factual evidence indicates otherwise (Carter, 2010, p.144). Literally tens of thousands of scientific papers describe facts that are consistent with this null hypothesis; in contrast, not a single credible paper yet provides factual information that substantively conflicts with it).
Readers who survived reading this wearisome catalogue of hypothetical disasters may have experienced the same uncomfortable feeling that I had, which can be summarised as: "This all sounds very familiar, haven't I heard it somewhere before?" To which the answer is yes, a million times yes, in multifarious scientifically illiterate and prejudicial global warming reports that the self-anointed "mainstream media" has now been streaming for more than a decade.
Indeed, Manne's list of imaginary woes scarcely differs in any way from those that were listed by Mr. Al Gore in his infamous 2006 book and film An Inconvenient Truth. Thank goodness, then, that Manne apparently has yet to discover John Brignell's wonderful web page that catalogues a mind-numbing list of 862 similar such scares, many of which are beyond parody.
Can Manne really be unaware that a London High Court judge has identified nine fundamental errors of fact (out of 35 identified by expert witnesses) in Gore's film? Alternatively, if he is aware of the court judgement then why does he simply replicate many of Gore's errors in his own list of assertions?
There is therefore nothing new, and much that is both old and discredited, in the list of hypothetical warming scares that Manne presents, so why is he so mystified that public opinion remains unmoved? Mystified, what's more, to the degree that a large part of his article is devoted to trying to account for the public's perceived recalcitrance about warming alarmism. Well, according to Manne the explanation goes like this.
The fault lies with "an army of climate change denialists", scattered worldwide, who are funded by the fossil fuel industries to serve their selfish and devious ends (which, obviously, include the provision of cheap and convenient energy of all types to consumers: how naughty is that). Then, wouldn't you know it, the views of these denialists are spread by Fox News, the rest of the evil Murdoch media empire and various - you guessed it - right wing think tanks and blogs.
Goodness, the denialists have even gone so far as to claim that much warming alarmism is based upon post-modern science (which it is), and that it represents a suffocatingly strong paradigm of political correctness (which it does).
In Manne's make-believe world, and in such fashion, "climate change denialism" (whatever that is) becomes "legitimised" (whatever that might mean).
Stop it, please; if you tickle me any more I shall explode! If all of this were perhaps more plausible, or better written, it would be just like reading a Robert Ludlum (or should that be Michael Crichton) novel. But it isn't and so the polemic presents instead as the type of deadly dull repetition that is the time-honoured basis of successful propaganda.
Unfortunately, rather than stopping, as he works up to his peroration, Manne manages to depart even further from reality.
First, by generously acknowledging Clive Hamilton's inspired analysis that the fight against warming alarmism is led by "ageing white males of science, engineering and technology backgrounds", to whom
The conclusions of the [alarmist] climate scientists are experienced as a shock, as a challenge, but most deeply of all as an affront to their deepest and most cherished basic faith: the capacity and indeed the right of "mankind" to subdue the Earth and all its fruits and to establish a "mastery" over nature.
Not content with thereby having assassinated the characters of hundreds of highly qualified and meritorious scientists around the world, Manne concludes by turning his attention once more to the obstinately recalcitrant public. His intended triumphant, but actually lame, conclusion is that
Citizens of the consumer society are unwilling to risk the loss of any of their comforts. However they wish to feel good about themselves. The climate change denialists... offer them the alibi for doing nothing they so desperately need.
Well, as someone who presumably counts as both a citizen and a reprehensible denialist, you can sure count me in on that. For as Lord Monckton so memorably put it, the correct response to a non-problem – which is what the threat of dangerous human-related global warming has turned out to be - is indeed to have the courage to do nothing.
Of course, that still leaves us with the all-too-real climate elephant that Manne's article remarkably manages to ignore, which is the hazard posed by natural events and change - and that nowhere more so than in Australia, with our deadly cyclones, floods, bushfires and droughts.
Like most knowledgeable commentators, including now even the rusted-on alarmist, Bjorn Lomborg, I urge that preparation and adaptation are the most effective ways to deal with (all) climate risk. Australia's national climate policies urgently need reshaping towards that end.
I used to wonder what it was about the scientific method that is so difficult for commentators like Robert Manne to grasp, for as long ago as the fifth century BC the Greeks had worked out that scientific technique involved observation, experimentation, induction, deduction and hypothesis testing.
Why, then, cannot Manne and other similar commentators understand that the number of scientists or governments that support a proposition is simply irrelevant to determining the truth of a scientific issue? That science is based upon evidence, not opinion. That simply asserting something is true does not make it so. That correlation does not indicate causality. That circumstantial evidence never constitutes proof, no matter how loudly or ceaselessly it is repeated? And that each and every environmental scare that has been erected within the global warming meme relates to something that varies quite naturally as our planet majestically traverses through space and time.
But some time ago now, the penny dropped for me. That penny is the fact that most big environmental scares, including especially the global warming one, are not about science, nor even about the environment. Rather, they are about politics.
And that is an art that is undeniably practised with great skill by both the IPCC and by Latrobe University's Professor of Politics, Robert Manne.
North Carolina utilities say "No" to expensive wind power
Documents obtained by the Civitas Institute suggest Gov. Bev Perdue is attempting to strong-arm North Carolina’s three major utility companies into supplying more expensive energy to their customers in the northeastern part of the state. In a political power-play to reward big business reminiscent of the handling of the Solyndra debacle that embarrassed the Obama administration, Perdue is urging for special treatment that would secure a $200 million federal government subsidy for a multi-billion dollar Spanish company.
Perdue recently sent a letter to the heads of Duke, Dominion, and Progress Energy stressing the importance of the proposed Desert Wind Power Project in Elizabeth City to be built by Iberdrola Renewables (to see copies of the letters, click the links below). The Project involves the development of a 300 megawatt wind energy farm. In her letter, Perdue stated: "I urge you to give serious consideration to partnering with Iberdrola Renewables to make the Project a reality." Perdue also added that it is urgent that a major utility provider agree to purchase power from the wind farm in order for it to be a "long-term success."
Small problem: North Carolina’s major utility companies already said no to purchasing electricity from the wind power project because the rates Iberdrola were demanding are so much more expensive than the conventional energy currently being used by the utilities. As quoted in a recent Raleigh News & Observer article, Duke spokeswoman Betsy Alley Conway said, "What we are looking for is wind energy at a price that is cost-effective for the company and our customers. If we receive a proposal from developers that is a good value for our customers and our company, we would execute the contract."
Translation: Iberdrola’s expensive wind energy would force us to hike rates on our consumers too much – so no thanks.
Perdue’s urging utility companies to provide even more expensive energy to consumers appears particularly out-of-touch in light of recent protests of a moderate rate increase approved by Duke Energy. State Attorney General Roy Cooper also publicly denounced Duke’s rate increase in a press release, declaring: "Now is not the time to ask North Carolina consumers to pay significantly more for electricity."
Iberdrola Renewables is the U.S. arm of the Spanish "renewable energy" corporation, Iberdrola, S.A., a massive company with a presence in more than 40 countries and global revenue exceeding $40 billion.
Despite such massive revenue, in order for the new Desert Wind Power Project to be a "long-term success," Iberdrola is counting on a $200 million federal subsidy to help finance the $600 million project. In order to be eligible for this handout, Iberdrola needs to begin work on the project before the end of this calendar year. Without an agreement from a large utility company to purchase the energy generated by the wind farm, however, Iberdrola will not proceed with construction.
In short, Perdue’s letter is meant to apply political pressure on the utilities to purchase expensive energy from the wind farm. As a result, the highly profitable foreign energy company would collect nearly a quarter billion of taxpayer dollars and impose more expensive energy bills onto northeastern North Carolina homeowners and businesses.
According to North Carolina Secretary of State records, Iberdrola has three active registered lobbyists in the state, two of whom registered earlier this year. No doubt, these agents have spent countless hours applying pressure on state lawmakers and the Governor to gain support for the Elizabeth City wind farm.
In Perdue, it appears they found another politician willing to use her political power to further enrich a highly-profitable, giant corporation at the expense of average taxpayers and ratepayers.
With these letters, Gov. Perdue yet again shows her true crony capitalist colors. Time and again, she uses political power to benefit politically-connected corporations – at the expense of taxpayers, small businesses and in this case, energy consumers. Anytime she attempts to position herself as being in favor of "the little guy," remember the case of Iberdrola. Perdue will gladly throw the little guy under the bus if it means an opportunity to shower deep-pocketed corporations with more taxpayer money. Making matters worse in this instance, her actions would also force up the bills of struggling energy consumers.
When asked via email if Perdue’s actions indicate her disagreement with Cooper’s stance that "now is a bad time to raise rates on energy consumers", the Governor’s office did not respond. Her silence speaks volumes.
UPDATE (12/15/11): According to a report in the Charlotte Business Journal, Iberdrola has announced they will not begin construction on the Desert Wind Power Project in Elizabeth City due to their inability to come to a purchase agreement with a major utility provider.
Australian Households could be forced to find an extra $1400 for non-electric hot water under Labor Party green scheme expansion
I have had experience with both types of gas hot water systems and they are all prone to blowing out when it is windy -- which is hugely pesky
HOUSEHOLDS could be forced to find an extra $1400 for hot water under a massive expansion of another federal Labor green scheme.
The state government has warned that some families could struggle to comply with the little-known scheme, which bans electric systems in favour of expensive solar units and other systems.
NSW families will most likely have to pay $1.7 billion over the 10-year life of the scheme.
Under the second phase of the plan, about 70 per cent of NSW households will have to find up to $1400 for new solar, heat pump or gas systems if their energy-intensive electric hot water units break down and can't be repaired.
A spokeswoman for the Parliamentary Secretary for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency said the scheme would help the "hot water industry to move to a low emission future" within 10 years.
Phase one of the scheme started last year, when electric water heaters were banned from being installed in new detached, terrace or town houses.
Phase two, which extends the ban to existing homes, was slated for next year but is likely to be delayed because the majority of households that rely on electric hot water systems do not have access to reticulated natural gas and only 7 per cent have solar.
The scheme was greeted with caution yesterday. "Before making a decision on implementation in NSW we need to be satisfied that the industry has a clearly demonstrated capacity to supply and install alternative technologies and that there are means available to assist lower income householders to manage the higher upfront costs of a solar or heat pump systems, where gas is unavailable," a NSW Office of Environment and Heritage spokeswoman said.
Industry bosses said plumbers need more training before the program is fully rolled out. "You can't just remove hot water systems without there being greater access and availability of gas as a cheaper alternative to going solar," Master Plumbers Association chief executive officer Paul Naylor said.
The Clean Energy Council said substantial rebates would need to be provided, backed by a strong educational campaign, to ensure households did not simply install the cheapest system with no environmental benefits.
Carbon trading dead on its feet
With progress slow on climate talks, banks withdraw from the industry
Greenhouse gases aren’t rising to the top of most agendas right now. Emission caps established under the Kyoto Protocol are set to expire at the end of 2012, and a United Nations-led effort to forge a new global compact is inching forward. The European Union, which runs the world’s biggest carbon trading market, has other things on its collective mind. One side effect of all this is a 47 percent drop this year through Dec. 12 in the value of C0₂ allowances issued under the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme. The permits, which mostly go to utilities and other industrial companies, can be banked or traded.
The biggest banks, trying to recover from trading losses and a regulatory clampdown on using their own money to make bets, are scaling back their carbon trading operations. "People are leaving the industry because they’ve been fired or because they see no prospects," says Emmanuel Fages, head of energy research for Europe at Société Générale (SCGLF) in Paris. "That is the sad story."
The latest casualties include Odin Knudsen, managing director for environmental markets at JPMorgan Chase (JPM), who in October left his New York post after his team was shrunk. The previous month, UBS Securities (UBS) fired Vice-Chairman Jon Anda and the rest of his Stamford (Conn.)-based climate policy team. Anda and Knudsen confirmed their departures in interviews. JPMorgan would not comment. UBS spokesman Christiaan Brakman said in an e-mailed response to questions that UBS "remains committed to address climate change." Fages’s employer, Société Générale, announced on Nov. 25 that it had agreed to sell its 50 percent stake in carbon trading joint venture Orbeo to partner Solvay Group (SVYZY), a chemical maker.
In Europe, demand for emissions permits has been crimped by the economic slowdown, which has forced industry to idle plants. The value of carbon trading fell 8 percent, to €23.7 billion ($32 billion), in the third quarter from the previous three months as the price of permits tumbled, according to Bloomberg New Energy Finance data.
A carbon offset program operated by the UN is in jeopardy as a result of the expiration next year of greenhouse gas caps set by the Kyoto Protocol. Under the UN program, companies and nations can earn credits to offset fossil-fuel emissions by sponsoring renewable-energy projects. A follow-up treaty to Kyoto won’t come into force until 2020 at the earliest. Japan, Russia, and Canada have refused to accept new limits in the meantime.
The carbon trading industry’s dimming outlook can be seen in the thinning membership rolls of the International Emissions Trading Assn. About 10 institutions have quit the Geneva-based trade group this year, cutting membership to around 150 companies. "There are shakeouts and departures happening as you would expect to be the case during any market that was a little bit unsure about where it was going," says Henry Derwent, the organization’s president. Carbon trading "is currently suffering, as so many other markets are, from low economic activity in the main area, which is the European Union."
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