Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Using Earth’s Blessings To Better Mankind and Planet

David Legates

Although he has rarely been willing to discuss or debate energy or environmental issues with those who do not share his views, environmentalist David Suzuki frequently challenges them on other grounds. In his recent article, “Religious Right is wrong about climate change,” Suzuki claims that some US and Canadian scientists hold religious views that are anti-science.

Suzuki asserts that some climate scientists – including me, by name – put “misguided beliefs above rational thought.” His implicit assumption is that conservative Christian views are irrational and incompatible with science, and that I have replaced Almighty God with the “almighty dollar,” believing the economy matters more than the environment.

As a coauthor of the Cornwall Alliance’s Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science and Economics of Global Warming, which forms the basis for the Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming that Suzuki criticizes, I know the Cornwall Alliance fully and carefully integrates scientific, economic, ethical and theological reasoning to support its conclusions. There’s nothing at all irrational about it – unless you consider religion irrational per se.

However, Suzuki is correct regarding one aspect of my belief: the economy does matter as much as the environment. Good environmental stewardship requires sound financial footing – and improving and safeguarding human health and welfare requires maintaining a strong, vibrant, innovative economy that can sustain continued environmental progress.

When a country is in dire need of food, clothing, shelter and other necessities for life, it cannot possibly be concerned with environmental issues. The poor people of India pour untreated sewage into the Ganges River – and then draw their drinking and “cleaning” water from it. So poor that they’re desperate simply for survival, they cannot possibly concern themselves with environmental stewardship. Only when economic improvements allow technological advancements to increase the quality of life, provide ample food and clothing, house citizens, provide clean drinking water, and treat and eradicate diseases can a thus wealthier society turn its attention to caring for the environment.

That is precisely what has happened in more developed nations. As the United States and Canada advanced economically, we developed technologies and policies that increased our quality and length of life. In turn, this has led us to be more proactive with our environmental stewardship.

We emit far less pollution and waste today, both per person and per unit of production, than we did fifty years ago. We feed more people with every parcel of land, we get more energy from every drop of oil, we are more efficient at everything we do, and we are much better stewards of our environment. But none of that could have occurred without a strong and developing economy.

Unfortunately, some so-called environmentalists wish to keep Africa and other developing nations in perpetual underdevelopment. They pay them off to be “environmentally conscious,” by giving them handouts – food and monetary aid – to keep them alive and perhaps have little solar panels on their huts. But they also ensure that those poor families never prosper or become middle class – so as to perpetuate environmentalist notions of “noble natives,” supposedly “at one” with their environment and living a “sustainable” existence.

Equally harmful, much of that money is lost to corruption, while the people are forced to continue living in a state of poverty, disease, malnutrition and deprivation, as technologies that could enhance their length and quality of life are denied to them. Among the technologies denied are modern seeds, fertilizers, and high-tech, high-yield farming methods to increase food supplies; natural gas and electricity to heat homes and cook food, instead of cutting down forests and burning wood, thereby degrading indoor air quality and causing lethal lung infections; refrigeration so that people do not have to choose between eating spoiled food and going hungry; and the use of insecticides, including the powerful insect repellant DDT, to spare them from the agonizing illness and death brought on by malaria.

Each of these enhancements requires plentiful, dependable, affordable energy. Yet in the name of “saving the planet” or “preventing cataclysmic climate change,” environmentalists like Suzuki deny developing countries the modern technologies and energy they need to improve their lives and environment – thereby perpetuating high infant mortality, significantly shortened life spans, and greatly decreased quality of life.

Climate alarmism is the rationale for these deadly policies – and that is where political ideology mixes with the new religion of environmentalism. Overstated or non-existent threats to the environment, along with impractical or imaginary ways to prevent the purported threats, are the new scripture on which the adherents develop their theologies and policies for directing and micromanaging the course of human events. Unfortunately, these eco-religionists never encounter (or intentionally avert their eyes from) the misery and devastation that their policies dramatically inflict on the world’s poorest people. That is because they are too concerned with “saving the planet.”

Back in North America, some wish to have energy rationed or be made increasingly expensive, creating artificial fuel poverty for millions. Such policies will make food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care – in short, everything – more expensive and scarce, create more unemployed workers, push many people back into conditions of poverty and deprivation, and gravely impair human health and welfare. This strategy will not save the planet, as they hope, because one of its first casualties will be environmental stewardship. History and human nature both testify that, forced by economic limits to choose between a cleaner environment and food on the table, people always choose food.

In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus told of a master who gave one of his servants a single talent, and then condemned him for hiding it in the earth and not putting it to use. Often we think of the talent only as money or ability, but it really stands for every resource – including natural resources. How will the Master of all creation judge us if we hide our resources in the earth, and then on Judgment Day say, “Behold, you have what is yours”?

If we do not use the resources God has set before us in the earth to care for those in need, our Creator will likely condemn us, saying: “You kept buried what I gave you, instead of using and investing it. You failed to employ my gifts to care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, and those who were dying from disease. You have been worthless, irresponsible stewards of my creation.” We would deserve the same fate as the servant the master called “wicked and lazy.”

I fail to understand how anyone thinking rationally can argue that poverty and economic hardship will enhance environmental stewardship, or that the planet is more important than the people who live on it.


Guilt by Association

by Patrick J. Michaels

My friends on the left make much of the apparent correlation between creationism and skepticism about assured climate disaster. It is the “some–all fallacy” writ large. “Some” climate scientists who happen to believe in intelligent design, a variant of creationism, also question the high-sensitivity climate model. Therefore “all” who hypothesize that warming has been overblown must also question evolution; i.e., they are ignorant dolts.

Note to the Left on this one: No one — scientist or otherwise — has yet come up with the definitive explanation of the first life forms on earth. There is no conclusive bridge between self-replicating molecules capable of mutation (a definition of life) and the primordial, lifeless, dimly-lit planet Earth of some 3 billion years ago. So even the most erudite thinkers must resort to aliens, life-bearing comets, God — or, in my case, beats-the-heck-out-of-me.

My lefty friends are somewhat condescending towards skeptical climate scientists. Who hasn’t heard of Chris Mooney’s drivel that Republicans (in general), and those who think climate change isn’t horrible (in particular), are mentally ill? I guess it’s a good way to win an argument; after all, I think the people I disagree with are nuts, too.

The “some” of the fallacy is the University of Alabama’s Roy Spencer, a climate physicist who argues (as do I) that the “sensitivity” of climate to dreaded carbon dioxide has been overestimated in computer models. Spencer also believes in intelligent design.

Spencer’s chosen form of belief to explain the mystery of the first life on Earth is hardly germane to a rational discussion of his interpretation of climate findings. There are plenty of productive and successful scientists who go to church — most of which preach that God created man. And there are plenty of good scientists who don’t.

So far as I can tell, the percentage of climate skeptics who are also religious is about the same as among the entire population of climate scientists in general. Some apocalyptic warmists believe in God, too, you know. At the University of Virginia, where I spent 30 years in the Department of Environmental Sciences, most of my colleagues didn’t attend church, but some did. There was little correlation between their religious beliefs and their scientific success. While the atmospheric scientists in that department were known for their skepticism about the upcoming climate disaster, none were churchgoers.

Away from academia, some creationists are successfully pushing state legislatures to dictate that their point of view, as well as global-warming skepticism, be a part of the public-school curriculum. These people are not just skeptics about climate change, but, rather, skeptics about science itself, because it is inconsistent with their belief system. Biblical literalists don’t like the easy demonstration that the Earth is billions of years old — and that’s merely the beginning of their complaints about science.

The lesson is that in the civilian world, people with strong beliefs try to manipulate science. But in the universe of scientific professionals, belief has little bearing on science. (This does not mean that there are no inherent biases in environmental science, but that’s a separate topic.)

While literalists are uncomfortable with science, they (generally) will go to a physician for science-based treatment, and (most) will immunize their children. That’s because they obtain gain — relief from pain, prevention of disease — from accepting modern medical science. Scientific skepticism is suspended when it can cost your life.

But things are different when a belief extracts no cost, which is the case with creationism. It doesn’t get suspended. On the other hand, science should be vigorously questioned if it indeed leads to massive societal costs, as must be the case if global warming is portrayed by scientists as a calamity.

It should not be forgotten that scientific history is littered with discredited theories that were once universally accepted as truth. I and others hypothesize that we will one day add to that list the dogmatic beliefthat global warming will spell the end of humanity as we know it. On that day, the river of criticism about the dangers of blind faith will flow in the other direction.

Let’s stop conflating the creationist hoi polloi with skeptical climate scientists. The mystery about how life arose on earth is simply unrelated to global-warming science, no matter what those scientists might believe.


Wind Energy: The Next Green Black-Hole

The wind energy industry has been having a hard time. The taxpayer funding that has kept it alive for the last twenty years is coming to an end, and those promoting the industry are panicking.

Perhaps this current wave started when one of wind energy’s most noted supporters, T. Boone Pickens, “Mr. Wind,” in an April 12 interview on MSNBC said, “I’m in the wind business…I lost my ass in the business.”

The industry’s fortunes didn’t get any better when on May 4, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) wrote an editorial titled, “Gouged by the wind,” in which they stated: “With natural gases not far from $2 per million BTU, the competitiveness of wind power is highly suspect.” Citing a study on renewable energy mandates, the WSJ says: “The states with mandates paid 31.9% more for electricity than states without them.”

Then, last week the Financial Times did a comprehensive story: “US Renewables boom could turn into a bust” in which they predict the “enthusiasm for renewables” … “could fizzle out.” The article says: “US industry is stalling and may be about to go into reverse. …Governments all over the world have been curbing support for renewable energy.”

Michael Liebreich of the research firm Bloomberg New Energy Finance says: “With a financially stressed electorate, it’s really hard to go to them and say: ‘Gas is cheap, but we’ve decided to build wind farms for no good reason that we can articulate.’” Christopher Blansett, who is a top analyst in the alternative-energy sector in the Best on the Street survey, says, “People want cheap energy. They don't necessarily want clean energy.”

It all boils down to a production tax credit (PTC) that is set to expire at the end 2012. Four attempts to get it extended have already been beaten back so far this year—and we are only in the fifth month. The Financial Times reports: “Time-limited subsidy programmes…face an uphill battle. The biggest to expire this year is the production tax credit for onshore wind power, the most important factor behind the fourfold expansion of US wind generation since 2006. Recent attempts in Congress to extend it have failed.”

According to the WSJ, “The industry is launching into a lobbying blitz.” The “2012 Strategy” from the American Wind Energy Association includes:

* “To maximize WindPAC’s in?uence, WindPAC will increase the number of fundraisers we hold for Members of Congress.”

* “Continue the Iowa caucus program to ensure the successful implanting of a pro-wind message into the Republican presidential primary campaign.”

* “Respond quickly to unfavorable articles by posting comments online, using the AWEA blog and twitter, and putting out press releases.”

* “Continue to advocate for long term extension of PTC and ITC option for offshore wind.”

* “AWEA requested a funding level of $144.2 million for FY 2012 for the Department of Energy (DOE) Wind Energy Program, an increase of $17.3 million above the President’s Congressional budget request.”

A wind turbine manufacturer quoted in the Financial Times article says, “If the PTC just disappears, then the industry will collapse.” Regarding United Technologies plans to sell its wind turbine business, chief financial officer Greg Hayes admitted: “We all make mistakes.”

Despite twenty years of taxpayer funding, according to the Financial Times, “Most of these technologies are unable to stand on their own commercially, particularly in competition with a resurgent natural gas industry that has created a supply glut and driven prices to 10-year lows.” The WSJ opines: “the tax subsidy has sustained the industry on a scale that wouldn’t have been possible if they had to follow the same rules as everyone else.” A level playing field would mean that wind developers would lose the exemptions from environmental and economic laws.

It is the fear of having to play by “the same rules as everyone else”—like the free market does— that must have propelled the anti-fossil fuel Checks and Balances Project to dig deep to unearth a “confidential” document. The brainstorming document was designed to trigger conversation during an initial meeting of grassroots folks with a common goal—the document’s author didn’t even join us and his ideas received little attention. The meeting was February 1 and 2. I was there. But suddenly, on May 8, our little meeting is in the news.

Many of us who were at the meeting received calls from a variety of publications including The National Journal, The Washington Times and Bloomberg News—none of whom ran with the story (after talking to a number of us, the Bloomberg reporter concluded “I don't think we're writing a story about this”)—and The Guardian who did. The Guardian story was picked up and expanded on in Environment & Energy (the reporter did talk to several of us), HuffPost, Tree Hugger, Think Progress’ Climate Progress, and others. (Note: Climate Progress and Tree Hugger remove any comment in opposition to wind energy as soon as it is posted.) From there, some form of the story is all over the Internet.

The wind energy industry panic explains the sudden interest, but why our little group?

Washington Examiner columnist, Timothy Carney, provides the answer: “AWEA plans ‘continued deployment of opposition research through third parties to cause critics to have to respond,’ the battle plan states. In other words: When people attack AWEA's subsidies, AWEA might feed an unflattering story on that person to some ideological or partisan media outlet or activist group.” We are the people who have attacked the subsidies and AWEA has, through a “third party” fed “an unflattering story” to a “partisan media outlet.” Our collaborative actions have helped block the PTC extension efforts.

A common thread in the news stories is that we are really an oil-and-gas funded entity. They’ve tied us to the Koch Brothers. We all wish. Apparently they can’t believe that individuals and local groups can think for themselves and impact public policy without a puppet master telling us what to do and say.

In fact, the group has no funding. As we began to email back and forth over the sudden reporter interest, one meeting attendee quipped: “My trip was funded, in part, by MY brother, Paul, who donated frequent flyer miles for my trip. I can assure you that my brother is not part of the Koch family. I paid for the rest of the trip out of my own pocket.” Yet, the reporters seemed determined to find a funding link. I told the Bloomberg reporter that we each paid our own way, that the meeting was held in a budget hotel outside of DC (unlike the AWEA meeting held at the prestigious La Costa Resort & Spa in Carlsbad, CA), and that we each had to pay for our own transportation, food, and lodging. My comments never made it into print. In the spirit of full disclosure, I am the executive director of companion organizations that do receive funding from oil and gas companies and individual donors. But I, like the others, was invited as an individual, not as a member of any organization.

Additionally, we are not even a formal group. We met to consider forming a group. The “leaked” memo, addresses finding a group that might absorb us, affiliate with us, or align with us.

Attendees brought their individual issues, observations, and successes. Each had valid insights to contribute. Some viewed health impacts as the most important ammunition. Others, economics. Some, setbacks or bird deaths or land use. Others, including the meeting’s organizer, John Droz, believe that the science—or lack thereof, is the best weapon. There are so many reasons to oppose wind that come down to government use of taxpayer money to support something that raises electricity prices based on the failed concept of man-made global warming. As a result of the meeting, we now know we are not alone, and we can call on one another for insight and advice.

We owe a debt of gratitude to Gabe Elsner, a co-director of the Checks and Balances Project. Without his discovery and subsequent exposure of the “document,” we’d still be just loosely affiliated individuals and small citizens’ groups. The attack has emboldened us and helped others find us! A representative from the Blue Mountain Alliance sent Droz an email stating: “I probably need to send them a thank you note for leading me to you and your efforts.”

After the murmurings became known, one of the meeting attendees, Paul Driessen, wrote a detailed and data-filled column, “Why we need to terminate Big Wind subsidies,” which has garnered more than 700 Facebook “likes” on (To give perspective, I am pleased if I get 50 “likes.” Each “like” generally represents thousands of readers.) In just a few days, his column is all over the Internet.

Wind energy has more opposition than most people realize, and Elsner, who has served as the “third party” in the AWEA strategy, has allowed us to find one another. While a few attendees at the DC meeting were concerned about all the publicity, attorney Brad Tupi, who has represented citizens victimized by wind energy projects, responded: “I would plead guilty to participating in a meeting of concerned citizens opposed to wasteful, unproven, inefficient wind energy. I would agree that we are interested in coordinating with other reputable organizations, and I personally would be honored to work with Heartland Institute and others.”

If you do not support industrial, tax-payer-funded, wind-energy projects that are promoted based on ideology and emotion rather than facts and sound science, you can benefit from our affiliation. Droz has a wonderful presentation full of helpful information. A few of the websites from the meeting attendees include: Illinois Wind Watch, Coalition for Sensible Siting, Energy Integrity Project, and Citizen Power Alliance.

The lesson to be learned from the attack on these hard-working citizens is that the little people can make a difference! We’ve got the subsidy-seeking, wind-energy supporters running scared—along with the crony capitalism that accompanies them. Remember, “If the PTC just disappears”—meaning if we do not keep giving them taxpayer dollars—“then the industry will collapse.” Your phone call or email to a Senator or Congressman, such as Steve King or Dave Reichert who recently came out in support of the PTC, can make a difference. Tell them, as the WSJ said, “If the party is serious about tax reform…it will vote to take wind power off the taxpayer dole.”

It is time for the AWEA and the politicians who support the PTC to explain why higher electricity costs, human health impacts, substantial loss of property values in rural communities, dead bats and birds, and increased national debt are good for America and her taxpayers.


Peak oil debate is over, say experts

THE debate about peak oil is over and the world has used just a fraction of the petroleum it will be possible to extract, an expert believes.

Speaking at the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (APPEA) 2012 conference in Adelaide, oil major Total's chief executive Christophe de Margerie said new sources of petroleum, such as tight gas and shale oil, meant that the world had ample supplies of petroleum.

Mr de Margerie said while there were economic and environmental issues which would affect how quickly resources were exploited, there was "definitely not a concern about reserves''.

His comments were echoed by Saudi Arabia's Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Ali I. Naimi, who told the conference new technology would continue to drive the petroleum sector.

"It is estimated that the world has consumed something like one trillion barrels of oil since the industry started in the nineteenth century,'' he said.

"It is thought there are at least five trillion barrels of petroleum potentially recoverable.

"But it is not just that oil continues to be discovered. It is that technology, partly driven by prices, enables ever greater reserves to be booked, and eventually recovered.

"The world has plenty of reserves, and they will continue to fuel prosperity and growth around the world for many decades.''

Mr I. Naimi said the petroleum sector sector did need to be supplemented with other forms of energy such as solar and other renewable sources.

"The challenge for all of us is to use our technology and ingenuity to create a low carbon future,'' he said.

"I call for greater collaboration between Saudi Arabia and Australia on this, but also among all countries.''


Old-fashioned water-pumping windmills no good (They actually work as intended)

Ken Spring of Longview says he does everything by the book. He said all the buildings on his neatly tended property in Cowlitz County are permitted and he always tries to abide by the law.

But he also said he is willing to fight to keep a newly built, 30-foot tall windmill on his land. “You'll find this hard to believe, but I'll die for that,” he said as the windmill spun around overhead. “I am fed up.”

The windmill, which is the old-fashioned type found on farms for centuries, is connected to a small pump that draws water out of a well as the blades turn. The water is stored in a big tank next to the windmill.

Spring said he's going to use the well water to take care of the fruit orchard on his sprawling property. He said he built it to avoid paying Longview’s expensive water and sewer bills.

Spring claims the City of Longview has no statutes covering the use of windmills and now that the windmill is working, the city is trying to charge him for $3,000 so planners can investigate how windmills might be permitted within the city.

“I tried every legal way I could think of to get a permit” for the windmill, Spring said.

"It's not a matter of us not wanting him to do it. There's just a process that has to be gone through to allow it," John Brickey, Longview Community Development Director told KATU News.

Spring claims it’s just a move by the city to milk more money out of homeowners and he is not about to pay.

Spring said the windmill conserves Longview’s water, makes very little noise and he is ready to fight city hall over it.

“This was just my line in the sand here,” he said. “If this windmill is down, you’ll know that I’m dead.”


Wasteful U.S. public-land policy must change

Like much else in government, U.S. public-land policy is a vestige of the past, established around 1910 when America's population was just 92.2million, Nevada had only 81,000 residents and Arizona, with 200,000 people, was still a territory.

Today, our needs are both much different and much greater. The United States can no longer afford to keep tens of millions of acres of "public" land locked up and out of service.

Some of these lands have great commercial value; others are environmental treasures. We need policies capable of distinguishing between the two.

Few Easterners realize the immense magnitude of the public lands. The federal government's holdings include about 58 million acres in Nevada, or 83 percent of the state's total land mass; 45million acres in California (45 percent of the state); 34million acres in Utah (65 percent); 33million acres in Idaho (63 percent); and more than a fourth of all the land in Arizona, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Oregon and Wyoming. Today, Arizona is still 45 percent federal land.

Most public-land decisions are made by two federal agencies, the U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management, and involve matters such as the number of cows that will be allowed to graze, the areas available to off-road recreational vehicles, the prevention and fighting of forest fires, the building of local roads, the amount of timber harvesting, the leasing of land for oil and gas drilling, mineral rights and other such details.

Outside the rural West, most such decisions are made by private landowners or by state and local governments. In the West, Washington acts as if it knows best.

Like other grand designs of the "progressive" era, public-land policy has failed the test of time.

Public lands have not been managed efficiently to maximize national benefits, but instead, in response to political pressures.

Past mismanagement has turned many national forests into flammable tinderboxes where intense crown fires reaching to the top of the trees -- once a rarity -- consume entire forests.

Rural Westerners receive significant financial benefits when the federal government pays for many of their local roads, and conservation services provide many high-paying local federal jobs.

Increasingly, however, Westerners are questioning the tradeoffs involved.

Daniel Kemmis, a former Democratic speaker and minority leader of the Montana House and one-time mayor of Missoula, the state's second-largest city after Billings, laments that "our public lands ... are burdened by a steadily more outdated regulatory and governing framework," which he describes as a "frustrating, alienating, bureaucratic paternalism."

Professor Sally Fairfax of the University of California-Berkeley observes that the creation of the national forests established "a relationship between the national government and the Western states that is usefully described as colonial."

Little has changed, even as the federal system has become more and more dysfunctional.

The fact is that probably no more than 20 percent of the tens of millions of acres of public lands is nationally important, requiring federal oversight and protection.

This includes 45 million acres of Forest Service and BLM lands included in the national wilderness system and other environmentally special areas such as the BLM's Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument in southern Utah.

An additional 60 percent, perhaps, is made up of more-ordinary lands, used principally for recreational purposes, such as hiking, hunting, fishing and off-road vehicle use.

Most of the remaining public lands are useful primarily for commercial purposes, such as intense recreational or mining uses in Arizona or timber-rich federal forests in the Pacific Northwest.

A rational public-lands policy in Arizona and other Western states that is more suited to current and future needs would put the nationally important lands into a newly reorganized federal environmental protection system.

Ordinary recreational lands would be managed at the state and local level, perhaps by transferring them to local counties. What better steward of a local recreation area than the people who live in the area?

The commercially most valuable lands, meanwhile, would be transferred to new ownerships or put under long-term federal leases.

Lands that have real commercial value can produce a double benefit: revenue from leases and land sales and additional revenue from the jobs, minerals, oil, gas, lumber and other commodities the freed-up lands would produce.

It is time to end the outdated federal land policies, which are draining our country's wealth, tying up valuable resources in red tape and bureaucracy and harming the environment.

Transitioning to a new system would take time, but it might reasonably be completed over a 10-year period, the same time frame Washington is using for deficit-reduction planning.



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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