It’s time to apply endangered species, wildlife and economic laws fairly and equitably
“… gleaming white wind turbines generating carbon-free electricity carpet chaparral-covered ridges and march down into valleys of Joshua trees.” This is “the future” of American energy – not “the oil rigs planted helter-skelter in [nearby] citrus groves,” nor the “smoggy San Joaquin Valley” a few miles away."
The Forbes article’s poetic paean to Aeolian energy nevertheless voiced consternation that a 300-megawatt “green” turbine project might kill some of the magnificent California condors that are just coming back from the edge of extinction – and the project might be cancelled as a result.
Indeed, the US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) has asked Kern County to “exercise extreme caution” in approving projects in the Tehapachi area, because of potential threats to condors. The “conundrum will force some hard choices about the balance we are willing to strike between obtaining clean energy and preserving wild things,” the article suggested. Hopefully, it concluded, new “avian radar units” will be able to detect condors and automatically shut down turbines when one approaches.
All Americans hope condors will not be sliced and diced by giant Cuisinarts. But most of us are puzzled that so few “environmentalists” and FWS “caretakers” express concern about the countless bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, ducks, geese, bats and other rare, threatened, endangered and common flying creatures imperiled by turbine blades.
And many of us get downright angry at the selective, indeed hypocritical ways in which endangered species and other wildlife laws are applied – leaving wind turbine operators free to exact their carnage, while harassing and punishing oil companies and citizens.
In 2011, following an intensive million-dollar, 45-day helicopter search for dead birds in North Dakota oil fields by FWS officials, US Attorney Timothy Purdon prosecuted seven oil and gas companies for inadvertently killing 28 mallard ducks, flycatchers and other common birds that were found dead in or near uncovered waste pits. Under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the companies and their executive officers faced fines of up to $15,000 per bird, plus six months in prison. (They eventually agreed to plead guilty and pay $1,000 per bird.)
Also in 2011, an FWS agent charged an 11-year-old Virginia girl with illegally “taking” a baby woodpecker that the girl had rescued from a housecat, even though she intended to release the bird after ensuring it was OK. The threatened $535 fine was finally dropped, after the FWS was deservedly ridiculed in the media.
The mere possession of an eagle feather by a non-Indian can result in fines and imprisonment, even if the feather came from a bird butchered by a wind turbine: up to $100,000, a year in prison or both for a first offense. Poisoning or otherwise killing common bats that have nested in one’s attic can cost homeowners thousands of dollars in fines.
Wind turbine companies, officers and employees, however, are immune from prosecution, fines or imprisonment, regardless of how many rare, threatened, endangered or migratory birds and bats they kill. In fact, FWS data show that wind turbines slaughter some 400,000 birds every year. If “helter-skelter” applies to any energy source, it is wind turbines, reflecting their Charles Manson effect on birds.
The hypocritical Obama-Purdon-FWS policy certainly protects, promotes and advances an anti-hydrocarbon, catastrophic global warming agenda that is increasingly at odds with environmental, scientific, economic, job-creation and public opinion reality. It also safeguards wind turbines that survive solely because of government mandates, taxpayer subsidies … and exemptions from laws that penalize and terrorize the rest of us.
It may be true that housecats and reflective windows kill more songbirds than turbines do. However, that oft-cited defense of wind energy Cuisinarts is irrelevant to the birds and bats discussed here.
Even if avian radar and turbine shutdown systems do eventually work, and can actually and abruptly stop turbine blades before they butcher an approaching bird, should they be limited to condors? Shouldn’t they be required for eagles and falcons – and for hawks, ducks, flycatchers, bats and other protected species? Geese, for example, to prevent a repeat of the December 7, 2011 massacre of numerous snow geese by wind turbines along upstate New York Route 190, as reported by a motorist?
Why aren’t wind developers and permitting authorities required to consider the lost economic benefits of butchered birds and bats, which do so much to control rats and insects that carry diseases and destroy crops? Shouldn’t that analysis be made mandatory, as more wind projects are proposed, thereby posing an ever-increasing threat to numerous species – and even to the survival of some?
Of course, even condor protection alone could reduce affected turbine electricity output to 20 or even 10% of rated capacity, instead of their current 30% average. Adding other protected species would drive nearly all actual wind turbine electricity output down below 5% – making the turbines virtually worthless, and driving the exorbitant cost of wind energy even higher.
But why should wind turbines be above the law? In fact, why should we even worry about reducing their electricity output?
America’s environmentalists, legislators, judges and bureaucrats have already made hundreds of millions of acres of resource-rich land off limits – and rendered centuries of oil, gas, coal, uranium, geothermal and other energy unavailable. The Environmental Protection Agency’s anti-coal zero-pollution rules, intense opposition to the Keystone pipeline, and looming restrictions on hydraulic fracturing for natural gas are already further impairing electricity and other energy availability and reliability.
This government-imposed energy deprivation is already driving families into energy poverty and sending more jobs overseas.
Put bluntly, wind energy is unsustainable. It kills unconscionable numbers of bats, raptors and other birds. It requires billions in perpetual subsidies – and billions more for (mostly) gas-fired backup generators. It impacts millions of acres of scenic, wildlife and agricultural land – and depends on vast amounts of raw materials, whose extraction and processing further impairs global land, air and water quality. Its expensive, unreliable electricity kills two jobs for every one supposedly created.
A far more rational public policy would cut out the costly, unreliable middleman. It would forget about wind turbines, simply build more gas, coal and nuclear generators, to generate reliable, affordable, sustainable electricity – and apply the same laws fairly and equitably to all energy sources.
Plastic Bag Bans Hurt Shoppers, Retailers and Workers
A small but increasing number of cities are in a frenzy to ban plastic shopping bags. More than two dozen cities nationwide have either banned plastic grocery bags (and in some cases, paper bags) entirely, or have imposed a fee for using them in order to encourage the use of reusable bags. However, such policies have hidden costs few seem to recognize.
Anecdotal evidence indicates that cities with bag bans have lost commerce, while surrounding cities and neighborhoods benefit as shoppers choose to go elsewhere.
This is consumer choice – most people prefer the plastic bag option for their convenience, flexibility, strength and other obvious reasons.
Many consumers use plastic bags at home. They can be used to line bathroom trash bins, collect Fido’s waste and Kitty’s cat litter, to securely seal the baby’s soiled diapers, and more. I use them to carry donation items, transport dry cleaning and for storage in my garage and attic. Without them, we will likely buy more trash bags and baggies to compensate.
As to recycling, it is increasing. Bag bans will reduce the motivation for those recycling efforts.
The reusable bags that are being pushed as an alternative to paper or plastic in locales across the nation have other, rarely considered, drawbacks. On the economic front, China is the leading manufacturer of reusable bags, while plastic bags are made in the U.S. with the industry employing thousands of workers. Thus, cities banning plastic bags are helping China take over one more industry while putting American workers in the unemployment line.
There are also health concerns associated with reusable bags and these problems are already making people sick. When used to carry meats, poultry or fish, blood and other fluids can soak into the reusable bags. If not cleaned regularly and stored properly, bacteria – including e-coli — can take up residence and mold can form. Continued use can contaminate the users own food and even the food of others as the contaminated reusable bags come into contact with the grocery conveyor belt. It’s true that reusable bags can be washed, but doing so shortens their useful life considerably.
Sadly, much of the push to ban plastic retail bags is based on false or misreported data.
Ban proponents claim that plastic bags are rarely used more than once and that they make up a large portion of landfill content litter on roadways. In Austin, the city council seems to be particularly influenced by a presentation from Bob Gedert, director of city department Austin Resource Recovery, in which he stated that plastic bags comprise 2.2 percent of the city’s litter. Gedert cited a study whose lead author was Steven Stein as the source for his claim.
However, Stein’s study never said that. In fact Gedert exaggerates the percentage of plastic bag litter by 366 percent. What Stein’s actually found was that plastic bag litter comprised only 0.6 percent of litter volume, not the 2.2 percent claimed by Gedert. Stein asked Gedert to make a correction. Even the 0.6 percent figure is high since it includes other types of plastic waste, such as industrial wrapping, dry cleaner and trash bags. Indeed, the national 2009 Keep America Beautiful study does not even include plastic bags in its top ten sources of litter.
Bad data makes policy. In this case, the evidence shows that plastic bags are a miniscule waste problem and that every city that bans plastic bags costs its shoppers, businesses, the city government and workers across the nation with little or no benefit for the environment or economy.
Climate Change Doubts Heat Up the Classroom
Teachers reportedly are getting push-back on middle and high school curricula that fuel the speculation that man is warming the planet. Their frustration is almost worthy of a celebration.
Earlier this week, the Los Angeles Times recounted teachers' experiences with global warming instruction. The Washington bureau noted that "scientists and educators report mounting resistance to the study of man-made climate change in middle and high schools" and declared that "a flash point has emerged in American science education."
Frank Niepold, identified as "climate education coordinator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, who meets with hundreds of teachers annually," described for the Times what he has seen in these exchanges.
"Any time we have a meeting of 100 teachers, if you ask whether they're running into push-back on teaching climate change, 50 will raise their hands," Niepold said. "We ask questions about how sizable it is, and they tell us it is (sizable) and pretty persistent, from many places: your administration, parents, students, even your own family."
Apparently, teachers expected to be free to indoctrinate their students. But they have run into dissent. And this is encouraging: If Niepold's observation is representative of the nation as a whole, then roughly half of Americans are apparently skeptical of the global warming claim.
Considering how the public has been bombarded by a press that believes in and is wedded to the man-made global warming tale, this actually borders on the remarkable.
With the science as unsettled and divided as the public, teachers should cover both sides of the debate if they insist on teaching about greenhouse gases and climate. Man-made global warming isn't the law of gravity, the boiling point of water or any other indisputable scientific fact. It's a hunch that hasn't panned out, a possibility but not a foregone conclusion.
Students, whose minds are impressionable, deserve to know that there is no scientific accord on the question, that skeptics indeed exist and, no, they're not subhuman monsters on Big Oil's payroll. Millions of parents, who too often have to deprogram heads that have been filled with left-wing nonsense in the schools, would be grateful if the facts were given a full airing.
Would a warmer world lead to more warfare?
Colder periods have certainly led to population movements and conflict as people try to escape food shortages caused by failed crops -- so if we take history as a guide, a warmer world would lead to LESS war. But in their airy disregard for the facts, the Greens have been saying the opposite. Climatewire reports:
Two years ago, the Defense Department made headlines when it deemed climate change a “threat multiplier” for the nation’s armed forces — an X factor that could exacerbate existing tensions and threats in unpredictable ways.
That unpredictability has been challenging for physical and political scientists trying to understand how shifting weather patterns, rising seas and more extreme weather will affect conflict in coming decades, experts said yesterday at a conference sponsored by the National Center for Science Education.
What appears to be an intuitive link between climate change, resource scarcity and conflict may be illusory, said Kaitlin Shilling, who recently completed a Ph.D. at Stanford University, where she studied the relationship between climate, agriculture and conflict in sub-Saharan Africa.
“We’re already committed to a certain amount of climate change in coming decades,” she said. “But we need to move beyond the idea that conflict is the inevitable result of climate-driven resource scarcity” to investigate the mechanisms by which shifting climatic conditions may influence human behavior…
Some of the strongest evidence linking climate and conflict concerns so-called communal conflicts, tensions on a smaller scale than civil wars or wars between nations, said Cullen Hendrix, a professor of international relations at the College of William and Mary.
That category includes studies that have concluded climatic conditions are “highly influential” on the frequency of cattle raids in Africa’s Sahel and played a role in post-election rioting in Kenya in 2007 and 2008. Other research suggests that, in some agriculture-dependent areas, “better” climatic conditions can actually increase violence.
“Climate variability can have impacts that are not in any obvious way resource wars,” Hendrix said.
Why Everybody Seeing Climate Changes Now Is Uninformed Or A Liar
Lots of Warmists are shrieking about disasters already taking place as a result of climate change and making dire predictions for the near future -- but even the IPCC models now predict nothing of the sort. They predict temperature stasis for at least the next 20 years
In its latest “Special Report on Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)”, whose “Summary for Policymakers” is dated November 18, 2011, the IPCC writes:
(p9) “Projected changes in climate extremes under different emissions scenarios generally do not strongly diverge in the coming two to three decades, but these signals are relatively small compared to natural climate variability over this time frame. Even the sign of projected changes in some climate extremes over this time frame is uncertain”
Therefore people trying right now to discern/portray climate change of the extreme variety, (“disasters [that] produce widespread damage and cause severe alterations in the normal functioning of communities or societies“, according to the IPCC – in other words the only changes of actual practical interest), are placing themselves outside mainstream science, perhaps out of naivety, perhaps due to personal gain.
In any case, not one of the usual suspects will lament such a manipulation of the best evidence we have. Who needs skeptics when believers are so determined to sustain each other through long-distance charades?
Obama's jobs council report says 'drill, baby, drill'
President Obama’s jobs council called Tuesday for an “all-in approach” to energy policy that includes expanded oil-and-gas drilling as well as expediting energy projects like pipelines.
“[W]e should allow more access to oil, natural gas and coal opportunities on federal lands,” states the year-end report released Tuesday by the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness.
The report does not specifically mention the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but it endorses moving forward quickly with projects that “deliver electricity and fuel,” including pipelines.
“The Council recognizes the important safety and environmental concerns surrounding these types of projects, but now more than ever, the jobs and economic and energy security benefits of these energy projects require us to tackle the issues head-on and to expeditiously, though cautiously, move forward on projects that can support hundreds of thousands of jobs,” the report says.
The report retreats slightly from an interim report released in October that addressed the Keystone XL pipeline directly. The interim report appeared to offer cautious support for Keystone, calling on officials to “balance” environmental protections while realizing what it called the benefits of the pipeline.
But Keystone supporters will point out that the year-end report released Tuesday argues that energy projects like pipelines will result in economic and security benefits. It even echoes a common refrain from Republicans and the oil industry: that such energy projects "can support hundreds of thousands of jobs."
White House press secretary Jay Carney insisted Tuesday that the jobs council report does not endorse the Keystone pipeline.
"Well, first of all, the Jobs Council wasn't talking about Keystone specifically," Carney said at his daily briefing. "The Jobs Council was talking about the importance of expanding domestic oil and gas production, a goal this president shares and has expounded upon at length, and has taken action as a policy matter to demonstrate his commitment to."
The Keystone XL pipeline would carry oil sands crude from Alberta, Canada, to refineries on the Gulf Coast.
“The Council recognizes that providing access to more areas for drilling, mining and renewable energy development is controversial, but, given the current economic situation, we believe it’s necessary to tap America’s assets in a safe and responsible manner,” the report says.
“Additionally, policies that facilitate the safe, thoughtful and timely development of pipeline, transmission and distribution projects are necessary to facilitate the delivery of America’s fuel and electricity and maintain the reliability of our nation’s energy system.”
Stakeholders should work together to develop “best practices” aimed at ensuring safety, while also expediting energy projects, according to the report.
“[R]egulatory and permitting obstacles that could threaten the development of some energy projects negatively impact jobs and weaken our energy infrastructure need to be addressed,” the report says. “Speedy adoption of best practice standards would allow government officials to reduce regulatory and permitting obstacles to important energy projects.”
Under a payroll tax cut packaged signed into law in December, the president must make a decision on the pipeline by Feb. 21. White House and administration officials have said they will have little choice but to reject the pipeline under the deadline, arguing they will not have enough time to adequately review the project.
The looming deadline has set off an aggressive lobbying campaign. Republicans and industry officials argue that the project has been subject to sufficient review and is essential for boosting the ailing economy and creating jobs.
But environmental groups and other opponents of the pipeline have raised concerns about greenhouse gas emissions from oil sands production, as well as potential oil spills.
House Republicans quickly pounced on the jobs council report Tuesday, noting that the recommendations echo their "all-of-the-above" energy strategy.
"The President’s Jobs Council today confirmed what House Republicans have known all along, that American energy production will spur job creation and strengthen our national security," House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) said in a statement. "Unfortunately, it appears President Obama is ignoring his Council’s recommendations, much as he has ignored the views of House Republicans on energy production, economic growth and job creation."
More broadly, the jobs report calls for expanded oil-and-gas drilling, as well as “safe and responsible” natural-gas extraction from shale formations.
The report notes that the Obama administration has called for new lease sales and said it will consider opening up new areas to drilling. But it says “further expanding and expediting the domestic production of fossil fuels both offshore and onshore (in conjunction with more electric and natural gas vehicles) will reduce America’s reliance on foreign oil and the huge outflow of U.S. dollars this reliance entails.”
Beyond oil and gas, the report calls for policies that improve energy efficiency, encourage private investment in energy research and development and expand renewable energy.
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