It's mainly older people (including your present writer) who can afford to question the Warmist orthodoxy but unfortunately, older people are quite likely to die, as many valued critics have already done. It is sad to see another one go -- JR
It has been announced that Alexander Cockburn, a columnist for The Nation and co-editor of CounterPunch, died yesterday. Although Cockburn reflected a leftist viewpoint (mandatory if you write for The Nation) he displayed a refreshing iconoclasm on one topic sacred to the left: global warming. Cockburn didn't merely lightly criticize the global warming dogma worshipped by the left, he absolutely savaged it.
Cockburn's "heresy" has been noted in the past here at NewsBusters by both Matthew Sheffield and Noel Sheppard. As a tribute to Cockburn's willingness to smash certain idols of the left, here are some of his selected quotes on the topic of global warming. First up, Cockburn's charge of fraud and dogmatism by the global warming alarmists:
I began this series of critiques of the greenhouse fearmongers with an evocation of the papal indulgences of the Middle Ages as precursors of the "carbon credits"-ready relief for carbon sinners, burdened, because all humans exhale carbon, with original sin. In the Middle Ages they burned heretics, and after reading through the hefty pile of abusive comments and supposed refutations of my initial article on global warming I'm fairly sure that the critics would be only to happy to cash in whatever carbon credits they have and torch me without further ado.
The greenhouse fearmongers explode at the first critical word, and have contrived a series of primitive rhetorical pandybats which they flourish in retaliation. Those who disagree with their claim that anthropogenic CO2 is the cause of the small, measured increase in the average earth's surface temperature, are stigmatized as "denialists," a charge which scurrilously combines an acoustic intimation of nihilism with a suggested affinity to those who insist the Holocaust never took place.
Powerful stuff by Cockburn but, wait, there's more:
Since I started writing essays challenging the global warming consensus, and seeking to put forward critical alternative arguments, I have felt almost witch-hunted. There has been an hysterical reaction. One individual, who was once on the board of the Sierra Club, has suggested I should be criminally prosecuted. I wrote a series of articles on climate change issues for the Nation, which elicited a level of hysterical outrage and affront that I found to be astounding - and I have a fairly thick skin, having been in the business of making unpopular arguments for many, many years.
There was a shocking intensity to their self-righteous fury, as if I had transgressed a moral as well as an intellectual boundary and committed blasphemy. I sometimes think to myself, ‘Boy, I’m glad I didn’t live in the 1450s’, because I would be out in the main square with a pile of wood around my ankles. I really feel that; it is remarkable how quickly the hysterical reaction takes hold and rains down upon those who question the consensus.
This experience has given me an understanding of what it must have been like in darker periods to be accused of being a blasphemer; of the summary and unpleasant consequences that can bring. There is a witch-hunting element in climate catastrophism. That is clear in the use of the word ‘denier’ to label those who question claims about anthropogenic climate change. ‘Climate change denier’ is, of course, meant to evoke the figure of the Holocaust denier. This was contrived to demonise sceptics. The past few years show clearly how mass moral panics and intellectual panics become engendered.
It turns out that global warming wasn't the only dogma on which Cockburn sharply disagreed with most of the left. He also criticized their peak oil belief and advised the left to "Forget peak oil---America has a glut of the black stuff."
So farewell to Alexander Cockburn. Your humble correspondent has disagreed with most of your opinions but hails your incredibly refreshing willingness to brave criticism and smash sacred idols of the left.
Senator Harry Reid’s Pet Green Project Goes Solyndra on Him
Another federally subsidized green project bites the dust. The Amonix solar facility in Las Vegas, according to former employees, has been out of operation since May of this year. The solar facility was backed by $21.5 million in federal grants and tax breaks. Naturally, Harry Reid was an early and vocal supporter of this undertaking.
If solar panel production at the facility has permanently ceased, it could prove awkward for Reid, who touted the “permanent green jobs” that Amonix’s Nevada business supposedly represented. The company laid off 200 employees in January.
In May of 2010, Reid attended a groundbreaking ceremony for the facility. “Amonix is taking full advantage of a tax credit from the Recovery Act and is helping Nevada lead the way in producing clean energy,” Reid said at the time. “I’ve pushed hard to establish a clean energy industry in Nevada that will diversify our economy and protect us from future economic downturns.”
Amonix would be the second Nevada-based – and Reid-backed – green energy project to hit dire financial straits in recent weeks. Nevada Geothermal, which received a $98 million stimulus loan guarantee, announced in a recent SEC filing that “material uncertainties exist which cast significant doubt upon the company’s ability to continue as a going concern.”
Like Amonix, Nevada Geothermal received significant support from Reid before obtaining taxpayer backing. According to the New York Times, Reid “pressur[ed] the Department of Interior to move more quickly on applications to build clean energy projects on federally owned land and urg[ed] other member of Congress to expand federal tax incentives to help build geothermal plants, benefits that Nevada Geothermal has taken advantage of.”
Like so many big-government failures in recent years, this effort enjoyed bipartisan support. Amonix, the California based company that created the Las Vegas solar facility, received a $15.6 million grant from George W. Bush’s Department of Energy in 2007. Nevada’s Republican Governor, Brian Sandoval, joined Harry Reid in backing Amonix’s Las Vegas solar facility.
Imams of Islam and Environmental Imams
Ideology and affluence make it possible to ignore history — and destroy its monuments
In the Arabic media, there are reports that Muslim clerics — energized by the sudden emergence of Egypt’s new president, Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood — are agitating to demolish the Egyptian pyramids. According to the imams, the pharaohs’ monuments represent “symbols of paganism” from Egypt’s pre-Islamic past and therefore must vanish.
Don’t dismiss such insanity too easily. Islamists in Mali are currently destroying the centuries-old mausoleums of Sufi Muslim saints in the city of Timbuktu, the historic site of early Islamic scholarship and jurisprudence. But perhaps the most regrettable recent Islamist attack on the past was the Taliban’s 2001 dynamiting and shelling of the huge twin sixth-century statues of Buddha carved into a cliff at Bamiyan in Afghanistan. “We are destroying the statues,” Taliban spokesmen at the time bragged, “in accordance with Islamic law, and it is purely a religious issue.”
Ideologically driven and historically ignorant violence is not an Islamist monopoly. Sometimes postmodern, politically correct Westerners can be every bit as zealous — and as potentially destructive of the past — as premodern Islamists. One of the joys of visiting California’s Yosemite Valley is a series of historic arched bridges that span the Merced River on the valley floor. One, the 80-year-old Stoneman Bridge, is an architectural masterpiece and a tribute to Depression-era ingenuity and artistic elegance; the sister Ahwahnee Bridge and Sugar Pine Bridge were likewise designed to combine functionalism and beauty. All are used daily, are appreciated by thousands of visitors each summer, and now are listed as endangered treasures by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
Environmental zealots are now proposing to demolish all three bridges, motivated by pie-in-the-sky dreams of allowing the flood-prone Merced River to be freed to find its original course, without human contamination. To paraphrase the Taliban, these green fundamentalists probably believe that the bridges are “symbols of humanism” and their destruction is “purely an environmental issue.”
Again, don’t laugh. A petition circulated by an environmental group is forcing the city of San Francisco — in a state currently struggling with a $17 billion budget shortfall — to hold a November referendum on a proposal to blow up the historic O’Shaughnessy Dam that holds back the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir. That brilliantly engineered early-20th-century water-and-power project still supplies San Francisco and the South Bay with as much as 85 percent of their water, while providing the city with 400 megawatts of clean electrical power and providing Central Valley farms and towns with irrigation and flood control. Where the billions of dollars would come from to dynamite the vast dam and the penstocks, pipelines, and powerhouse complex and to clean up the ensuing mess; how the green electricity would be replaced; and where the Bay Area’s millions of residents would find their daily water are questions that matter little to ideologues who believe the aboriginal valley of Hetch Hetchy can be reborn without man’s baleful touch.
What do these present-day wars against the past have in common? One shared trait is the power of ideological zealotry, whether religious or environmental, to trump all questions of practicality, historic preservation, and reverence for prior generations. The zealot’s version of purity, and only his version, matters.
Modern affluence and leisure also contribute to both the ability and the desire to destroy monuments of the past. Twenty-first-century technology allows premodern Islamists to have the weaponry, and the leisure time, for such destruction. If the statutes at Bamiyan are pagan, then so are the explosives that the Taliban used to obliterate them. And it is only because water so easily flows from San Francisco faucets, and power is a matter of flicking a switch — not the case in 1913, when a growing San Francisco was short on clean water and newfound electricity — that today’s green imams have the latitude to dream of their own version of a pure and uncontaminated paradise.
A general historical ignorance among the public at large plays a role, too. Just as fundamentalist madrassas pound dogma into the heads of students without any historical appreciation of the richness and variety of religions in the early Middle East, so too have politically driven courses in our universities crowded out broad classes in history. Students in our own versions of the madrassas can recite all the commandments of their sacred green texts, but they know very little about the nation’s past — and almost nothing about the constant poverty, physical ordeal, and, yes, early death that our forefathers struggled against to ensure that we might not.
Beware of the wages of professed purity, whether religious or environmental — whether it targets a mausoleum in Timbuktu or a stone arched bridge in Yosemite.
Western Wildfires- Horrific, Destructive...and Unnecessary
Millions of Americans watched their evening news in horrified fascination. The Colorado Springs wildfire had doubled in size overnight, to 24 square miles – half the size of San Francisco – as 50-mph gusts carried fiery branches from exploding treetops across fire breaks, down Waldo Canyon and into fresh stands of drought-dried timber. Flames crested the ridge above the beautiful Air Force Academy campus, 346 houses burned, hundreds more faced immolation, and 32,000 people were evacuated, through smoke and ash that turned daytime into a choking night sky.
130 miles north, another monster fire west of Fort Collins consumed 136 square miles of forest and torched 259 homes. By July 4, this year’s Colorado forest fires had devoured 170,000 acres – 265 square miles, nearly five times the size of Washington, DC. Across eleven western states, nearly 2,000,000 acres have already burned this year; imagine all of Delaware and Rhode Island ablaze.
People died. Many homes are now nothing but ashes, chimneys and memories. In the forests, the infernos exterminated wildlife habitats, roasted eagle and spotted owl fledglings alive in their nests, boiled away trout and trout streams, left surviving birds and mammals to starve for lack of food, and incinerated every living organism in the thin soils, presaging massive erosion that will clog streambeds during downpours and snowmelts. Many areas will not recover their foliage or biodiversity for decades.
Having hiked in many of these areas, I’ve been truly depressed by these infernos. Why were they allowed to happen? “We are doing everything possible to control these blazes,” officials insist. One has to wonder.
Put aside the insanity of letting horse-blindered environmentalists, bureaucrats and judges obstruct even selective cutting to thin dense stands of timber or remove trees killed by beetles, after decades of Smoky the Bear management. Forget for a moment that these policies turn forests into closely bunched matchsticks, waiting for lightning bolts, sparks, untended campfires or arsonists to start conflagrations.
Ignore the guideline that say fires in these areas can be extinguished if they are of human origin (if making that distinction is even possible in the midst of an inferno) – but must be allowed to burn if they are “natural” (caused by lightning, for example), even amid droughts, in the hope that they won’t become raging infernos that threaten homes. Disregard the crazy jurisdictional disputes that prevent aircraft from dropping water on a fire, because the crew cannot tell whether the blaze is on Bureau of Land Management or Forest Service land.
Once a fire erupts, there is no reason it should devastate homes, suburban developments or vast forest areas. The technology exists to stop these fires, long before they reach such intensities and proportions.
Two days before Waldo Canyon burst into flames, a revolutionary fire suppressant stopped a 300-acre fire north of Albuquerque, New Mexico almost in its tracks. Just nine single-engine planeloads of FireIce (about 7,200 gallons) were needed to douse the flames, prevent nearby trees and homes from igniting, and insure that the fire remained permanently extinguished.
Dutch Snyder, the independent 27-year veteran fire-fighting pilot whose airplane handled this successful mission, remarked afterward that he had “never seen a retardant hold a fire line” so well, or “any product knock down a fire so quickly.”
According to its inventor, GelTech Solutions chief technology officer Peter Cordani, FireIce smothers fires, by taking heat and oxygen away from combustible materials. It can be dropped directly onto a fire, penetrating through to burning trees and brush – rather than just being dropped far from flames, in often futile efforts to create fire breaks that hold.
As many news outlets, like Fox 21 KXRM-TV in Colorado Springs, have documented in recent years (visit the GelTech website for video clips), this product can be dropped by plane to suppress wildfire intensity, or sprayed by homeowners on houses and landscaping to protect them from heat and flames. Even a 2,000-degree F blowtorch cannot ignite a wood board (or burn a human hand) coated in FireIce.
The product is non-toxic, non-corrosive and environment-friendly, Cordani says in the news stories. It’s been tested, certified and approved by the US Forest Service, which has FireIce and GelTech on its “qualified products list” of fire-battling chemicals and professionals. The company maintains its own state-of-the-art mixing equipment and is ready at a moment’s notice to assist aerial and ground fire-fighting operations anywhere in the USA. It can fill trucks and airplanes of any size, including 3,000-gallon Air Force C-130s and even 10,000-gallon DC-10 supertankers.
Duly impressed, I called the company to ask what role it was playing in fighting the Colorado blazes and why its technology apparently was not working. The answer shocked me. It had not been asked to help!
Despite all the news stories about FireIce, its certification by the USFS, and frequent communications between GelTech and federal, state and local officials – no one had contacted the company.
How is that possible? What will it take to persuade officials to break from traditional (and obviously inadequate) wildfire tactics and retardants, and use FireIce to combat what Colorado Springs Fire Chief Rich Brown called fires of “epic proportions” – to protect homes, habitats, wildlife and human lives?
New Mexico has now used FireIce with great success against several forest fires. With a long fire season still ahead, perhaps US Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell, Rocky Mountain Regional Forester Dan Jiron, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper, Fort Collins and Colorado Springs Mayors Karen Weithunat and Steve Bach will now follow the example set by Governor Susana Martinez and her colleagues in the Land of Enchantment.
If they do not, responsible legislators and environmentalists should find out why – so that tragedies like these Colorado fires never happen again.
The Paradox of Energy Efficiency
How more efficient cars and appliances often lead to more energy use
Automobile manufacturers have been hard at work, figuring out new technologies to improve fuel efficiency. So why aren't the cars we drive today getting dramatically improved gas mileage? Fuel economy actually increased by 60 percent between 1980 and 2006, but at the same time the average curb weight of vehicles increased 26 percent, while their horsepower rose 107 percent. Consequently, most of the gains in fuel economy have gone into compensating for weight and horsepower. A recent study from Massachusetts Institute of Technology economist Christopher Knittel found that average fuel economy actually rose since 1980 from 23 miles per gallon to only 27 miles per gallon.
And cars aren't the only place where greater efficiency has failed to translate to reduced consumption. Looking at even longer time scales, lighting efficiency has improved by more than many thousand-fold from sputtering candles to modern LEDs over the past three centuries. The result of this vast improvement in lighting technologies, writes Jeffery Tsao from the Sandia National Laboratory and his colleagues, “has been an increase in demand for energy used for lighting that nearly exactly offsets the efficiency gains.” They note, “When lighting become cheaper, economic agents become very creative in devising new ways to use it.” In fact, they predict that as lighting efficiency improves, say, with LED lighting, over the coming decades that the increased demand for lighting will again likely swamp any gains in energy efficiency.
Another study looked at trends in space heating efficiency [PDF] over the past 50 years in Melbourne, Australia. Modern houses are up to 10 times more energy efficient, yet the study found that modern Australians are collectively using just as much energy to heat their houses. Why? Modern houses are much bigger, people heat larger areas for longer, and fewer people live in each dwelling. The study notes, “The result that per-capita heating consumption has remained remarkably stable over the last 50 years.” However, modern Australians are much more comfortable in the winter than their grandparents were.
Similar results were reported in a 2006 study done for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency that found that Energy Star homes in Phoenix, Arizona use 12 percent more energy than homes without an Energy Star label. The Energy Star houses actually use 16 percent less energy per square to heat and cool, but on average they are larger than non-Energy Star houses. In other words, people consumed their savings from energy efficiency by buying bigger houses.
These are all examples of the energy rebound effect where increased energy efficiency is offset by increases in energy use because increased fuel efficiency lowers the relative cost of consumption. The magnitude of energy rebound effects has important implications for strategies aimed at restraining climate change through energy conservation requirements. For example, a variety of studies suggest that improvements in energy efficiency could reduce energy consumption enough to cut global carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 by as much as 25 percent.
In a 2007 article in Science, two Princeton University researchers, Robert Socolow and Stephen Pacala, calculated that seven “stabilization wedges” could prevent global carbon dioxide atmospheric concentration from rising to more than twice its pre-industrial level by 2050. “Improvements in efficiency and conservation probably offer the greatest potential to provide wedges,” they argued. One wedge (a seventh of necessary reduction) could be achieved by doubling the miles per gallon from 30 to 60 of a fleet of two billion automobiles, or by cutting half the number of miles they travel annually. Another wedge could be achieved by boosting the efficiency of coal-burning electric generation plants from 40 to 60 percent.
Wouldn’t such energy efficiency improvements result in rebounds in which consumers demand more energy, perhaps more than the amounts “saved” by increased energy efficiency? This is a highly controversial area of scholarship. Proponents of energy efficiency regulations argue that rebounds are trivial in comparison to the overall reductions in both energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. On the other hand, rebound theorists believe that economy-wide demand for relatively cheaper energy can “backfire,” ultimately outstripping the efficiency gains.
A new report, The Rebound Dilemma, for the Institute for Energy Research (IER) by California State University, Fullerton economist Robert Michaels analyzes the implications of depending on energy efficiency improvements to reduce carbon dioxide emissions as a way to mitigate future climate change. Michaels looks at studies of direct, indirect, embedded energy, and economy-wide rebounds. The Melbourne heating case is largely an example of direct rebound effect in which better insulation and more efficient heaters apparently resulted in no reduction of energy use. An indirect rebound occurs when efficiency improvements raise the productivity of other goods and inputs that, in turn, boost the demand for relatively cheaper energy. Embedded energy is the energy used to produce, distribute, and maintain more energy-efficient capital goods. And economy-wide rebounds result from the ways in which people use their savings on energy to purchase other goods and services that also consume energy to produce. For example, cheap gasoline enabled suburban living.
Proponents of energy efficiency [PDF] point to studies of direct rebound effects that often find that they are rather small in comparison to the energy saved by increased efficiency. One classic 1992 study reported a 5 to 15 percent rebound effect for increased automobile fuel efficiency, i.e., people boosted their annual mileage only by that percentage in response to their lower fuel bills with the result that they burned a lot less gasoline. Maybe people aren’t driving all that much more, but the new MIT study finds that most of the rebound came from consumer preferences for bigger and more powerful cars.
So what did the IER report find? There are lots of studies of direct rebound effects that look at the effect of more energy efficient appliances on household energy use. The results of the studies vary considerably, but eyeballing the reported results the rebound appears to hover around 30 percent. Assuming an appliance that uses 100 kilowatt hours (kwh) per month to operate is replaced by one that uses just 50 kwh, a 30 percent rebound implies that the actual reduction in energy consumed would be 35 kwh per month. Still not bad at all since the consumer gets the extra services from the new appliance while saving cost of energy.
Indirect rebounds are much harder to calculate. One way to think of them is that whatever a consumer saves from using less energy at home can now be spent on other products and services that themselves consume energy. The money saved from driving a fuel-efficient car may now be spent on flying to a Caribbean beach vacation. Compounding these indirect rebounds throughout the economy can lead to even more energy consumption than that initially saved by introducing energy efficiency measures. The IER study cites the results of 11 econometric models that find economy-wide rebounds ranging from a low of 23 percent to a high 177 percent. Five of the studies report economy-wide rebounds of more than 100 percent. The implication of these studies is that “if energy becomes more productive, history often shows that new energy-using technologies and business models will follow.” In other words, the long-run net result is that eventually more energy is consumed than is saved.
The upshot is that energy efficiency mandates advocated by environmental activists with the aim of mitigating future man-made global warming will likely fall far short of their goals. As Michaels concludes, “Instead of imposing energy efficiency mandates, energy policy should embrace market prices and disruptive innovations to guide energy to its most valuable uses.” After all, the point of improved energy efficiency is not to forgo its use but to boost its productivity as a way to provide people with more of the goods and services they want.
Nestle blames biofuels for high food prices
The head of the world's largest food producer believes high prices are due to the growing of crops for biofuels. "The time of cheap food prices is over," says Nestle chairman Peter Brabeck-Letmathe.
He is highly critical of the rise in the production of bio-diesel, saying this puts pressure on food supplies by using land and water that would otherwise be used to grow crops for human or animal consumption.
"If no food was used for fuel, the prices would come down again - that is very clear," he says. "We are now in a new world with a completely different level of food prices because of the direct link with fuel," he says.
He says biofuels are only affordable because of the high subsidies they receive, particularly in the US. "It is absolutely unacceptable and cannot be justified," he says. "There is one demand that I have, and that is not to use food for fuel."
Mr Brabeck-Letmathe says politicians have not understood that the food market and the oil market are the same - they are both calorific markets.
"The only difference is that with the food market you need 2,500 calories per person per day, whereas in the energy market you need 50,000 calories per person," he says.
When politicians said they wanted to replace 20% of fossil fuels with biofuels, it meant increasing the production of crops threefold, according to Mr Brabeck-Letmathe.
And most of the world's sugar production now goes into making biofuels, he says.
Agriculture uses 70% of world's water consumption and the public must be made aware of the inefficient usage of this precious resource, Mr Brabeck-Letmathe adds.
"It takes about 4,600 litres of water to produce one litre of pure ethane oil if it comes from sugar, and it takes 1,900 litres of water if it comes from palm oil," he says.
"This is not a crisis which might arise in 100 years, it is something which is already here today."
Astronomers ignore data they don't like too
ASTRONOMERS have discovered a planet that may be capable of supporting human life, and it's right at Earth's front door.
"It's not just in our backyard, it's right in our face," lead researcher Professor Steven Vogt said.
The planet is 22 light years away, previously thought to be 20 light years, and is formally known as Gliese 581g, but Professor Vogt told news.com.au that he has since named it after his wife. "I called it 'Zarmina's world'," Professor Vogt said.
While his claims have been previously reported, a new study, released to News.com.au this week, dismisses calls of balderdash by the international science community.
The study - by astronomers at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and the Carnegie Institution of Washington - shows the planet is twice the size of Earth. It is known as a "super Earth" due to its ability to hold on to its gassy atmosphere, which increases its chances of retaining liquid.
Whether this liquid is frozen and stored under the surface or flowing freely across the planet, the researchers can't say.
The planet exists in a band of perpetual twilight near its orbiting star known as the "Goldilocks zone" - an area near earth that isn't too hot, or cold but is just right for sustaining life.
These findings are not without controversy, however.
This isn't the first time Professor Vogt has claimed the existence of a habitable planet. His findings back in 2010 sparked a scientific cat fight between the US researchers and a rival team of Swiss astronomers, known as "HARPS" (High Accuracy Radial Velocity Planet).
HARPS published research saying it had found four planets that orbited the same star as Gliese 581g (which at the time had not yet been confirmed).
Prof Vogt's team questioned the team's data and suggested two more planets existed in the Goldilock's Zone and published its findings in the US’s Astrophysical Journal.
HARPS claimed that Vogt's research was nonsense, creating waves in the scientific community.
The international media then seized on HARPS and Vogt's data, reporting problems with both team's research.
A year later the HARPS team released expanded data on its findings confirming the existence of four planets but not Vogt's extra two.
Vogt's team then analysed HARPS data and tried unsuccessfully to replicate the findings.
Prof Vogt told news.com.au that they discovered that the Swiss team omitted five points of data which related to the radial velocity of the planets because it didn't fit their data model or modes of thinking.
“Such setting of eccentricities introduces biases and personal choices into the model that inappropriately affect the resulting solution,” Prof Vogt wrote in the study, which was provided to News.com.au.
"You're basically deliberately deleting information in your data that's telling you there's more in the system than you're telling people about. You're hiding that stuff,” he told News.com.au.
Prof Vogt's study will be published in European astrophysics journal, Astronomisch Naschrischten tomorrow (AEST).
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