Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Is this the end of British wind farms? Finance Minister demands Government subsidies are slashed by a quarter

George Osborne is demanding huge cuts in government aid for wind farms – a step which could kill plans for the construction of hundreds of turbines across the country. The Chancellor has told the Treasury to draw up plans for a reduction of 25 per cent in subsidies for onshore wind farms.

The intervention will provoke widespread anger among his Lib Dem coalition partners, who strongly support plans to put up hundreds of turbines in the countryside.

Environmental groups say the cut in subsidy would put an end to the development of further wind power sites – an outcome that would be welcomed by thousands of campaigners who are opposing plans for turbines near their homes.

Only last week the campaigners scored a major victory when a High Court judge ruled that the right of villagers in Norfolk to preserve their landscape was more important than the Government’s energy targets.

Last night Tory backbenchers supported Mr Osborne’s determination to slash the amount spent on renewable energy by the Government at a time of austerity.

Douglas Carswell said: ‘Why has it taken so long? A centre-right government should be bringing an end to this. One of the reasons that the economy is not growing is because energy costs are so ridiculously high because of this wind farm scam which is adding hidden surcharges to our bills.’

In February more than 100 Conservative MPs wrote to the Prime Minister to demand cuts to the £400million a year public support for wind farms, which they say is evidence of too much Lib Dem influence over policy.

Mr Osborne’s position puts him at odds with Lib Dem energy secretary Ed Davey – a key supporter of renewable energy.

It could also cause friction with his boss David Cameron, who promised to lead the ‘greenest government ever’ after the election.

But his intervention could restore his popularity among Tory MPs such as Chris Heaton-Harris, who has led the charge against the subsidies. Many are angry at a series of U-turns on Budget measures in recent weeks.

Juliet Davenport, of renewable electricity supplier Good Energy, said the Chancellor was giving in to Tory backbenchers who do not want turbines built in their constituencies.


Obama's Interior Department stalls clean energy query

President Obama, confronted yet again by House and Senate investigators probing the cronyism in his green energy programs, did what he often does. He simply ignored Congress.

“Last November, a request was made of the Department of the Interior for information and answers about its role in the Department of Energy’s green energy loan guarantee program, as well as favorable loans and federal land-use deals provided to certain corporations,” wrote Sen. Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., and Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., in a letter to Obama’s Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week. “It is suggestive and troubling that more than half a year has passed without DOI providing the requested documents and information.”

The lawmakers fear that several politically connected green energy companies received special treatment from the Interior and Energy departments due to their relationship with Obama. They focused their inquiry on six companies in particular: Abengoa Solar, BrightSource Energy, First Solar, Nevada Geothermal Power, NextEra Energy Resources and SolarReserve.

Issa and Sessions suspect that Salazar initiated a “fast-tracking” process that allowed some companies to receive regulatory and environmental approval and permission to use government lands for clean energy projects without adequate vetting. Whereas the review process for establishing an oil or gas lease on federal land can take more than a decade, some of these favored projects were pushed through in less than a year.

The lawmakers asked Salazar months ago about SolarReserve – which received a $737 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy last year. SolarReserve is connected to the same Obama campaign bundler, George Kaiser, who invested heavily in Solyndra.

First Solar -– a company that is also using government subsidies to buy products from itself over international borders, as the Washington Examiner’s Tim Carney reported -– might soon follow Solyndra into bankruptcy. So might Nevada Geothermal, despite a $98.5 million federal loan guarantee.

Congressional investigators have uncovered some direct White House involvement in the loan process, particularly with respect to BrightSource. John Bryson, who now serves as Obama’s Commerce Secretary, once served on the board of BrightSource. He also co-founded the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC). which Republican committee staffers assert has secretly helped negotiate funding agreements between green energy companies and the federal government.

But that wasn’t the only contact between BrightSource and the Obama team. In 2010, BrightSource CEO John Woolard even asked a DOE official to review a drafted letter that Bryson intended to send to then-White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, asking for help securing a loan. “We need a commitment from the WH to quarterback loan closure between OMB [Office of Management and Budget] and DOE,” the drafted message said.

BrightSource received a $1.6 billion loan guarantee, but still had to cancel its initial public offering in April. “The continued market and economic volatility are not optimal conditions for an I.P.O.,” Woolard said in a statement.

Salazar, for the last six months, has followed the same playbook that Energy Secretary Steven Chu has followed with Solyndra investigators: Stall, and give Congress as little information and documentation as possible. Attorney General Eric Holder, who leads the Justice Department, has adopted the same tactic with investigators probing the gun-walking scheme, Operation Fast and Furious, to the point that contempt charges are being considered against him.

The persistent refusal of multiple cabinet appointees to submit to congressional oversight regarding their decision-making processes raises grave concerns about what the Obama administration is hiding with regard to these projects.


Green/Leftist prophesies destruction of Israel

(Disguised as concern for Israel, of course) -- in the form of a novel written by an aptly-named Mr Laughter

I cannot see the future and I’m no prophet, but I have seen the future – so to speak — and it’s dank, dark and dystopian.
In 500 years, if we do not tame climate change and global warming worldwide, Israel will be no more and the entire Middle East will be unoccupied by human beings.

Yes, by 2500, Israel will be no more if we do not stop global warming in its tracks now. It’s written on the wind, and scientists, many of them Jewish, know it. Did you know that the Hebrew name for Al Gore’s climate change documentary An Inconvenient Truth is Emet Matridah? Yes, and it means “The Truth That Terrifies.”

Okay, not everyone wants to sit at Mr. Gore’s table, and not all Jews believe in global warming. Some are vociferous critics of the climate ideas of James Hansen and James Lovelock. But there are also many Jewish scientists and climate activists who “get it” and understand that the very fate of humanity is in question.

Will humans exist a thousand years from now? Will there be any Jews alive? Will the human species be extinct by then? These are deeply Jewish questions, and I pose them here as a deeply Jewish climate activist and journalist.

Okay, you don’t have to agree with me. You may even want to criticize me and ridicule me. That’s fine. I am all ears and all points of view are welcome at my home. But let me tell you this, as a modern-day Jeremiah: God’s creation, the Earth and His people, are at risk because of what we are doing to the His creation with excessive CO2 emissions and other man-made global warming impacts.

So what am I doing about all this? Well, to make a long story short, last year, as a newbie book producer, I commissioned novelist Jim Laughter in Oklahoma to write a book about mankind’s shaky future on this third rock from the sun, and he said yes.

The novel, titled Polar City Red, is out now, in paperback and on Kindle, and the entire story, from page one to the final paragraph, belongs to Mr. Laughter. His name is on the book cover, not mine, and all profits, if any, go to him. It’s his book. But it’s my vision.

Having read the book as it was being written chapter by chapter, and again as a completed paperback, I can tell you this: climate denialists are going to say it’s not science, and die-hard climate activists are going to say it’s just fiction.

Jews are going to be of two minds, too: Some will champion the novel and see it as a book of prophecy that we need pay attention to, and others, equally eloquent, will give the book a bad grade and send the author to the back of the room. Me? I support and champion Mr. Laughter’s vision completely, and I feel this small novel could be one of the most important novels ever written by a human being.

Laughter’s “polar Western” is set in Alaska just 60 years from now, and it poses a very important and headline-mirroring question: Will mankind survive the “climapocalypse” coming our way as the Earth heats up over the next few centuries? The end is not coming in 100 years, but it might happen by 2500 A.D.

What do the rabbis have to say about all this? They are listening to the climate debate and boning up on the science, and some are already giving sermons on the issue and writing their own blog posts about it.


Historical Imagery of Greenland Glaciers Lessens Sea Level Rise Alarm

A new study using historical images of glaciers in southeast Greenland to investigate glacier response to climate changes suggests that the recently observed acceleration of ice loss from Greenland may not be a long-term phenomenon. Instead, as marine terminating glaciers reach their grounding line and as the termini of land-terminating glaciers migrate upwards in elevation, ice loss rates from glacial discharge may slacken. According to Anders Bjork and co-researchers:

[T]he recent high rate of retreat may come to a slowdown when retreating marine-terminating glaciers reach their grounding line and become less sensitive to the influence of ocean temperature, or through positive or negative feedback mechanisms relating to the cold East Greenland Coastal Current.


Our results have implications for future estimations of sea-level rise as retreat rates for marine-terminating glaciers are likely to increase as temperature rises until glacier fronts reach the grounding line, or when cold ocean currents re-establish, whereas retreat rates for land-terminating glaciers are not likely to rise in the same order of magnitude.

Such results throw a bit of cold water on alarmist ideas that rising temperatures will lead to ever-accelerating ice loss from Greenland and accelerating sea level rise.

For example, Eric Rignot and colleagues (2011) last year documented an acceleration in the rate of ice loss from Greenland (and Antarctica) over the past two decades. They extrapolated this acceleration into the future, to arrive at potential future sea level contributions from the loss of ice sheets:

At the current rate of acceleration in ice sheet loss, starting at 500 Gt/yr in 2008 and increasing at 36.5 Gt/yr2, the contribution of ice sheets alone scales up to 56 cm [22 in.] by 2100.

Rignot et al. (2011) were quick to note that this rather na‹ve extrapolation was probably less than reliable:

While this value may not be used as a projection given the considerable uncertainty in future acceleration of ice sheet mass loss, it provides one indication of the potential contribution of ice sheets to sea level in the coming century if the present trends continue.

The new Bjork et al. (2012) study (as well as a slew of other recent studies which we have discussed: see here, here, here, here, here , and here for example) strongly suggests that "present trends" will not continue-and thus the Rignot et al. extrapolation is grossly inaccurate (i.e., far too large).

Bjork and colleagues came to their conclusion by studying some recently unearthed historical photographs of the coast of southeastern Greenland that had been taken by early 20th century Danish expeditions to the region. The earliest photos were from the early 1930s. Combining those photos with a set of U.S. WWII military photos and modern satellite imagery, Bjork and fellow researchers were able to build a photographic database of the behavior of the glaciers in the region for much of the 20th and early 21st centuries, and related that behavior to climate changes observed across southeast Greenland.

They found that the glaciers respond rather quickly to climate changes. The well-known warmth of the region during the early 20th century was accompanied by relatively rapid retreat of both marine-terminating and land-terminating glaciers. As temperatures cooled from the 1950s through the 1980s, many glaciers advanced, and the warming of the past two decades has again been marked by rapid glacier retreat (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Behavior of glaciers along Greenland's southeastern coast during different periods during the past 80 years. Glaciers generally retreated during the relative warmth of the 1930s-1940s and again in the early 21st century. Some glacier advancement was observed during the relatively cool conditions of the 1960s-1970s. (source: Bjork et al., 2012)

This pattern of behavior of glacial dynamics is exactly like that of surface ice melt in Greenland that we documented in our paper (Fraunfeld et al., 2011) from last year and discussed here. In that paper, we concluded the following:

The forces acting in concert with ice melt across Greenland to produce higher global sea levels currently, should also have been acting during the extended high?melt conditions from the mid?1920s to the early 1960s. There is some qualitative indication of an observable influence of the variations in input from Greenland in the decadal rates of sea level change over the course of the past century… However, there is no indication that the increased contribution from the Greenland melt in the early to mid 20th century, a roughly 40 year interval when average annual melt was more or less equivalent to the average of the most recent 10 years (2000-2009), resulted in a rate of total global sea level rise that exceeded ?3 mm/yr. This suggests that Greenland's contribution to global sea level rise, even during multidecadal conditions as warm as during the past several years, is relatively modest.

The implications of the new results reported by Bjork at al. are in accordance.

Bjork at al. note that in the early 20th century warmth, both marine- and land-terminating glaciers increased their rates of retreat, but during the relative warmth of the early 21st century, the marine-terminating glaciers retreated at a greater rate than the land-terminating glaciers. They speculated that the reason the land-terminating glaciers did not respond as much to the recent warmth was that they had retreated to higher elevations during the warmth of the early 20th century and thus were less sensitive to further warming. Bjork et al. further speculated that even though the marine-terminating glaciers may continue their increasing rate of retreat with further ocean temperature increases, that this increase will not continue indefinitely, but will begin to slow as the marine-terminating glaciers reach their grounding line. Together, their results indicate the potential for only modest increases in the annual amount of ice loss as condition warm (similar to our findings reported above).

Currently, ice loss from Greenland contributes about one-to-two hundredths of an inch per year to the global average sea level-that's a total of 1-2 inches by the year 2100. So, even if the rate of ice loss doubles or triples, the resulting sea level rise falls far short of being catastrophic. And the more evidence that comes in, the more confidence we have that as temperatures rise, Greenland will shed ice only gradually and through somewhat self-limiting processes-rather than catastrophically through rapid acceleration and "slipping into the sea" as Al Gore so indelicately described his (incorrect) vision of the future.


Poverty Pollutes: Lomborg on the Rio+20 Conference

The current United Nations response to environmental concerns is doing more harm than good

A great article by Bjorn Lomborg appeared last week in Newsweek magazine. The author has a different analysis than I do with respect to whether significant global warming is currently being caused by humans – and whether that warming is likely to be a problem decades hence (backup link).

But despite his contrary analysis, Lomborg argues persuasively that the UN-led response to poverty and environmental issues is still fundamentally flawed. His piece examines the Rio+20 conference scheduled for later this month. Between June 20 and 22, a self-selected group of people will discuss – on behalf of all of us and prior to any meaningful consultation with most of the world’s citizenry – “The Future We Want.”

It is a terrible irony that some of the people who express the most concern about the world’s poorest communities are advocating costly, unworkable solutions that will impoverish even more of us. Wealth saves lives. It pays for hospitals, doctors, and medicine. Desperate people with sick children need all of those. The last thing they have time for is well-fed bureaucrats who tell them their poverty equals sustainable living.

Until well-intentioned green activists address these sorts of inconvenient truths, gushers of money will continue to be totally wasted. Here are a few sobering quotes from Lomborg’s piece:
As long as wind turbines and solar panels remain more expensive than fossil fuels while working only intermittently, they will never contribute much to our energy supply. Germany, the world’s largest per capita consumer of solar energy, produces just 0.3 percent of its energy this way. And to achieve this No. 1 status, the country has paid $130 billion for $12 billion worth of energy.

…The truth is that while we mull green initiatives, approximately 900 million people remain malnourished, 1 billion lack clean drinking water, 2.6 billion lack adequate sanitation, and 1.6 billion are living without electricity. Every year roughly 15 million deaths – a quarter of the world’s total – are caused by diseases that are easily and cheaply curable.

…for most of the 1.6 billion people who live without electricity, we should opt for the tested, simple, and cheap solution: hook them up to generators or power plants, which, just like ours, run mostly on fossil fuels. When the sun goes down, it’s literally lights out for those people. What makes us think they should have technologies that are more expensive, less reliable, and much feebler than the ones we rely on?

…If your family is freezing, you will cut down the last tree for fuel; if they are starving, you will strip the land bare to feed them. And if you have no certainty about the future, you will provide for it in the only way possible: by having more children to care for you in your old age…Recent history suggests that when living standards go up, people and societies reduce their pollution…helping people to emerge from poverty is one of the best things we can do for the environment.

Lomborg raises an absolutely critical idea. Is it not bizarre that UN bureaucrats want to toss the world’s current economic system into the dustbin? There’s no question it has flaws and shortcomings. But in recent decades it has nevertheless lifted hundreds of millions out of poverty. No other economic approach has ever achieved these kinds of real-world results. Writes Lomborg:
the U.N. [has] itself declared the world’s current economic model a failure…Let’s pause for a minute and consider the latest figures on global absolute poverty, which came out this year. Contrary to the U.N.’s dire assessment, humanity has never seen a clearer reduction in poverty worldwide. The proportion of people living in absolute poverty has dropped massively, from 52 percent in 1981 to 22 percent today.

With the current economic model, the U.N.’s own climate panel is forecasting an extreme reduction of poverty worldwide over the coming century: per capita income in what we now call the developing world is projected to soar to more than 23 times the 2000 level by the year 2100. So how can the U.N. argue that such economic growth needs to be overturned and replaced…?

The fact that the UN isn’t trumpeting this stunning progress, but is instead advocating that we experiment with totally unproven economic approaches tells us a great deal.

It says this organization is now run by political activists rather than pragmatic problem solvers.

While Rome burns these people are impeding the firefighters. Why? Because UN documents call for them to be organized in ten squadrons rather than five.


Australia: Women are not so green behind the wheel

Are they the modern-day equivalent of witches?

WOMEN aged between 25 and 49 have been rated the worst on the road when it comes to eco-friendly driving. A new study has found they scored poorly on everything from car-pooling, braking, airconditioning use and driving in the right gear.

At the other end of the scale, a panel of experts studying the green credentials of Australian drivers scored women over 50 as the nation's most environmentally sensitive.

The national survey of 3000 drivers was conducted for car insurer AAMI. The impact of driving behaviour on the environment was ranked to produce a "green score" out of 10. Factors taken into account included whether a driver removed unnecessary weight from the car boot, how often they serviced their vehicle and their willingness to use public transport. Key findings include:

DRIVERS of both sexes over 50 have a lower environmental impact than those aged 18-24.

OLDER motorists are most likely to service their car.

VICTORIAN drivers have the highest impact on the environment.

AAMI spokesman Reuben Aitchison said the fact that women over 25 were worse for the environment than equivalent male drivers came as a surprise.

"In particular, they were less likely to avoid high speeds or drive in a higher or lower gear than needed, and were far less likely to car-pool," Mr Aitchison said.

"The much maligned older driver sets the best example, with smoother, slower driving and attention to servicing," he said.

Greenfleet chief Sara Gipton said car manufacturers had reduced the environmental impact, but technology went only so far. "Drivers must take advantage of these improvements to get the greatest benefit," Ms Gipton said.

The release of the findings coincides with World Environment Day today.



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 blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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