Thursday, August 08, 2013

Survey: Public Overwhelmingly Opposes Carbon Tax

American voters overwhelmingly oppose a carbon tax, according to a survey released by the Institute for Energy Research.

Only 35 Percent Support

According to the survey of 800 registered voters, 35 percent favor and 59 percent oppose a carbon tax. Democrats generally support a carbon tax (54 percent to 39 percent), while Republicans and independents strongly oppose the idea (80 percent to 16 percent and 62 percent to 29 percent, respectively).

Just 33 percent of respondents said they would be more likely to vote for a member of Congress who votes for a carbon tax, whereas 50 percent said they would be less likely to vote for a member of Congress who did so.

Suspicious of Motives

American voters are particularly suspicious of carbon tax supporters’ motivation. Only 34 percent say they believe improving the environment is the primary motivation behind a carbon tax, whereas 61 percent say carbon tax supporters are primarily interested in raising more money for government.

Even among respondents who support a carbon tax, many want only a very small tax. Only 20 percent of all respondents would support paying $100 or more per year in a carbon tax.

On a broader subject, 79 percent said Congress should focus more on the economy, versus only 17 percent who said Congress should focus more on the environment.

Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow with the National Center for Policy Analysis, said he is not surprised at the overwhelming opposition to a carbon tax.

“A certain portion of Americans might be willing to pay carbon taxes if they would do any good, but no one has proven that a carbon tax will do anything to mitigate global warming,” Burnett said.

Strong Message to Pols

Daniel Simmons, director of regulatory and state affairs at the Institute for Energy Research, says beltway politicians can learn much from the survey.

“The takeaway is that American voters are not in favor of increased taxes or higher prices for energy and are very willing to vote against their congressmen who vote in favor of a carbon tax,” he said.

“It’s really simple; people don’t want a carbon tax. It’s a political no-brainer, but every now and then, Washington needs to be reminded about why something is a political no-brainer,” he continued.

Simmons emphasized a carbon tax will raise prices on energy, which will punish consumers and businesses throughout the economy.

“President Obama and congressional Democrats are going to try hard and rebrand the notion of a carbon tax in order to get it passed here,” said Simmons. “Over 80 percent of our nation’s energy comes from coal, oil, and natural gas, the sources of energy that would be affected by a carbon tax. If President Obama and the Democrats enact a carbon tax, then we’ll be seeing the cost of everything go up.”


Obama’s Global-Warming Folly

No, Mr. President, we don’t need a war on coal

Charles Krauthammer

The economy stagnates. Syria burns. Scandals lap at his feet. China and Russia mock him, even as a “29-year-old hacker” revealed his nation’s spy secrets to the world. How does President Obama respond? With a grandiloquent speech on climate change.

Climate change? It lies at the very bottom of a list of Americans’ concerns (last of 21 — Pew poll). Which means that Obama’s declaration of unilateral American war on global warming, whatever the cost — and it will be heavy — is either highly visionary or hopelessly solipsistic. You decide:

Global temperatures have been flat for 16 years — a curious time to unveil a grand, hugely costly, socially disruptive anti-warming program.

Now, this inconvenient finding is not dispositive. It doesn’t mean there is no global warming. But it is something that the very complex global-warming models that Obama naïvely claims represent settled science have trouble explaining. It therefore highlights the president’s presumption in dismissing skeptics as flat-earth know-nothings.

On the contrary. It’s flat-earthers like Obama who refuse to acknowledge the problematic nature of contradictory data. It’s flat-earthers like Obama who cite a recent Alaskan heat wave — a freak event in one place at one time — as presumptive evidence of planetary climate change. It’s flat-earthers like Obama who cite perennial phenomena such as droughts as cosmic retribution for environmental sinfulness.

For the sake of argument, nonetheless, let’s concede that global warming is precisely what Obama thinks it is. Then answer this: What in God’s name is his massive new regulatory and spending program — which begins with a war on coal and ends with billions in more subsidies for new Solyndras — going to do about it?

The U.S. has already radically cut CO2 emissions — more than any country on earth since 2006, according to the International Energy Agency. Emissions today are back down to 1992 levels.

And yet, at the same time, global emissions have gone up. That’s because — surprise! — we don’t control the energy use of the other 96 percent of humankind.

At the heart of Obama’s program are EPA regulations that will make it impossible to open any new coal plant and will systematically shut down existing plants. “Politically, the White House is hesitant to say they’re having a war on coal,” explained one of Obama’s climate advisers. “On the other hand, a war on coal is exactly what’s needed.”

Net effect: tens of thousands of jobs killed, entire states impoverished. This at a time of chronically and crushingly high unemployment, slow growth, jittery markets, and deep economic uncertainty.

But that’s not the worst of it. This massive self-sacrifice might be worthwhile if it did actually stop global warming and save the planet. What makes the whole idea nuts is that it won’t. This massive self-inflicted economic wound will have no effect on climate change.

The have-nots are rapidly industrializing. As we speak, China and India together are opening one new coal plant every week. We can kill U.S. coal and devastate coal country all we want, but the industrializing third world will more than make up for it. The net effect of the Obama plan will simply be dismantling the U.S. coal industry for shipping abroad.

To think we will get these countries to cooperate is sheer fantasy. We’ve been negotiating climate treaties for 20 years and gotten exactly nowhere. China, India, and the other rising and modernizing countries point out that the West had a 150-year industrial head start that made it rich. They are still poor. And now, just as they are beginning to get rich, we’re telling them to stop dead in their tracks?

Fat chance. Obama imagines he’s going to cajole China into a greenhouse-gas-emissions reduction that will slow its economy, increase energy costs, derail industrialization, and risk enormous social unrest. This from a president who couldn’t even get China to turn over one Edward Snowden to U.S. custody.

I’m not against a global pact to reduce CO2 emissions. Indeed, I favor it. But in the absence of one — and there is no chance of getting one in the foreseeable future — there is no point in America’s committing economic suicide to no effect on climate change, the reversing of which, after all, is the alleged point of the exercise.

For a president to propose this with such aggressive certainty is incomprehensible. It is the starkest of examples of belief that is impervious to evidence. And the word for that is faith, not science.


More on the Dutch Meteosat (European meteorology satellite) study

"Earth Surface Cooled from 1982 to 2006 According to Satellite Data"

As is now generally known, there has been no warming of the Earth's surface since 1998 at least.  Prior to that time, we were informed that there had been a rapid warming of the Earth's surface and that it was caused by increasing CO2 concentrations in the atmosphere due to man using fossil fuels.  The 2007 IPCC 4th Report still insisted that for 25 years the Earth had been warming.  A newly published study using satellite temperature sensing specifically for detecting the Earth's surface temperature and minimizing that of the atmosphere above the surface, shows that the Earth's surface, contrary to reports, actually cooled from 1982 to 2006!

The paper is entitled Meteosat Derived Planetary Temperature Trend 1982-2006 by Andries Rosema, Steven Foppes, and Joost van der Woerd and was published in Energy & Environment, Vol. 24, No. 3 & 4 2013.  They were very surprised to find the cooling trend they reported.

Earlier satellite data analyses, originated by investigators at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, used microwave sensors to infer the temperature from microwave emissions from oxygen molecules.  Microwaves of different energies originated from various layers of the atmosphere.  One set of data originated from an altitude of about 17 km.  Another at an altitude of about 3 - 4 km.  Then by looking at data taken at oblique angles of incidence, they inferred a temperature from an altitude of about 0.8 km.  However, none of this data actually the Earth's surface temperature.  Initially, this data on the lower atmosphere had shown a small cooling effect, but after many corrections were applied, the data yielded an increase of temperature of about 0.1 C/decade in the troposphere.  The troposphere is the bottom about 10 to 11 km of the atmosphere and its temperature is not at all necessarily in direct proportion to the surface temperature.  Indeed, increased cloud cover, water vapor, and CO2 in the atmosphere may cause an increase in the troposphere temperature even as it cools the surface temperature.

The Rosema, Foppes, and van der Woerd study used the infra-red radiation at 10.5 to 12.5 micrometers wavelength to directly measure the surface temperature of the Earth.  The copy of the paper incorrectly says mm instead of micrometers.  This infra-red radiation is in the mid-infra-red part of the electromagnetic spectrum, but close to the beginning of the far infra-red.  The atmosphere is highly transparent at these wavelengths, provided there are no clouds.  There is a minor effect due to water, but none due to CO2.  The minor water absorption does add a small temperature component from the lower atmosphere to the larger component directly from the Earth's surface.  This is nonetheless a huge improvement over the oxygen emission microwave emissions which have no surface component at all.  The effects of clouds were filtered out of the data.  The daily planetary temperature was approximated as the average of noon and midnight temperatures.

Such satellite measurements are critically important.  The land surface temperature record is highly contaminated by urban heat island effects and by the bad sites chosen for weather station measurements.  Very mysterious and undocumented changes to the raw data have been made to various time period sets of data.  See here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, for instance.  The authors of this study note that 10% of their own country, the Netherlands, is now hardened surface.  Changes to ground cover, vegetation, or water surface coverage do have local effects on the surface temperature.

Indeed, they point to data for the area of the confluence of the Euphrat and Tigris Rivers in SE Iraq which showed a sudden warming when Saddam Hussein drained the extensive marshes there.  With less water in this warm area, less evaporative cooling occurred and water vapor absorbed less incoming solar insolation up in the atmosphere, so the average temperature increased.  They found another small area with warming in NW Tanzania.  There, they believe that major mining increases led to a decrease in vegetation and then a reduction in evapotranspiration.  The loss of that cooling caused surface temperatures to increase.  They also noted a cooling effect near Lake Chad and Lake Nasser in their data which they attribute to the growing size of those lakes.

From 1982 to 2006, an ocean location west of France showed a temperature decrease of 0.78 C/decade.  A location west of Senegal in the Atlantic showed a temperature decrease of 0.48 C/decade, which is less a decrease because of ocean upwelling in this area.  More generally, they report that the Atlantic Ocean, Africa, and Europe show a negative surface temperature trend from zero to 2 C/decade.  They observed that the greatest temperature decreases were in regions with greater cloud cover.  In particular, the temperature decrease over desert areas was smaller.

Increased cloud cover is correlated with increased humidity of the air.  More water vapor and more clouds both result in a lower surface temperature.  While it is harder to separate out the effect of CO2 from the overwhelming effects of water vapor, increased atmospheric CO2 probably will also increase the cooling of the surface, as I have argued.  In any case, the IPCC claim that a small surface temperature increase due to added CO2 will cause a much larger temperature increase due to more water vapor, is absolutely and clearly nonsense.


Fracked off? No, I'm thrilled they're drilling for oil in my beautiful corner of England

By Dominic Lawson

The coalition is an unlikely one. Bianca Jagger, Natalie Hynde (daughter of rock star Chrissie) and the odd grey-suited commuter — ‘Lloyd’s Broker Says NO’ reads his placard) — are all marching as one.

Their common cause: to obstruct and, if possible, prevent the drilling for oil near the West Sussex town of Balcombe. The slogans on some of the placards are less polite than that of the Lloyd’s man (and also less literate): ‘Get the Frack out of Sussex’ and ‘Frack you! You fracking frackers’.

Oddly enough, the exploratory well being drilled by the energy company Cuadrilla does not involve ‘hydraulic fracking’ — the breaking open of tight petroliferous rock formations by high-pressure injections of water and surfactants.

Fracking involves pumping water, sand and chemicals deep underground at high pressure to crack rocks and retrieve the natural gas trapped inside

It is a single 6 in diameter well down to a depth of 2,500 ft; and if the flow from it is good (which is by no means certain) then future production will not require ‘fracking’ either.

Yet such technical details will not deflect the demonstrators, whether motivated by sentimental soil-worship or a more hard-headed concern about the effect of drilling on local property prices.

They just believe passionately that it’s grossly inappropriate to have a major extractive industry doing its business in this lovely part of England, the High Weald. They believe it. But they are wrong.

I know a bit about this, as I have lived in the High Weald for the past 16 years.

The water running past our house has a distinctive rusty colour, caused by the high iron content in the clay subsoil. The Romans, being industrious fellows, started the iron-working industry in this part of England.

This extractive process grew in scale as the demand for iron expanded — most notably for making cannons and the balls which we fired at sundry European enemies (such as the Spanish Armada).

In eyeshot as I write this stands a derelict mill which harnessed the stream to power the furnaces.

Behind me is one of the Wealden forests — Dallington — which supplied the charcoal for smelting.

When I amble through it, I sometimes come across the hollows of the old charcoal pits. If I walk a mile or two further, I am at the heart of a still-active extractive operation, owned by British Gypsum.

This land, while part of a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, contains the country’s largest reserve of calcium sulphate, used to make plasterboard.

The company runs a 24-hour operation, although there are now only about 100 miners — a tenth of their number during the peak years of drilling.  Their controlled explosions 300 or so feet below the surface are just the sort of practice which, if newly proposed now, would bring the wrath of Bianca Jagger and Natalie Hynde down on us — and doubtless also demonstrations by City-bound commuter residents.

Yet there is not the slightest blight on local property prices, even if those nearest the British Gypsum mine complain occasionally about noisy machinery as the extracted rock is transported by conveyer belt and onwards via a dedicated railway (just as it has been since the 1880s).

Farther afield, nearer Tunbridge Wells, stood the vast High Brooms Brickworks, where the rich reddish Wealden clay was fired to provide the basic physical structure of countless housing booms.

The point is that the High Weald was never more than marginal in what people seem to regard as the sole traditional role of the countryside: farming. Its contours and villages, now seen as purely bucolic, are in fact the legacy of a vibrant industrial past. So what seems ‘natural’ in the landscape is in fact anything but.

The visible pattern of the Wealden communities, with their churches, post offices and filigree criss-crossing of roads, is the residual superstructure of the human exploitation of natural resources harnessed for the sole benefit of man. Just like the oil and gas which Cuadrilla is working to find.

Nowadays, of course, the High Weald of Kent, East and West Sussex is no longer the industrial heart of the country — as it had been before the coal revolution. Now, the great majority of working residents commute to their place of employment: London, most obviously.

This is an energy-intensive process, especially if they are using cars to get to the ‘big smoke’; or trains, using electricity, which is reliant on fossil fuels for its generation.

The City-commuting residents demonstrating against the Balcombe oil well are therefore singularly lacking in economic self-awareness. Their way of life depends on cheap, secure and plentiful energy — exactly what Cuadrilla is in the business of providing. That used to mean coal — conveniently located, for the most part, hundreds of miles from the London commuter belt. Yet if oil and gas (which, incidentally, produce much less Co2 than coal per unit of energy produced) are plentiful in the South, why should the country as a whole be denied its benefits?

The outraged of Balcombe are put to shame by an 11-year-old local called Phoebe, who told a visiting reporter that she was ‘For Fracking’ having ‘done a project on it’ at primary school: ‘I want energy for TV and internet,’ she said.

The protesters doubtless imagine that a gas or oil field would somehow blight the entire region, and will not be dissuaded by the pictures in Tuesday’s Mail which showed that the entire site is little more than the size of a football pitch.

And they will dismiss as self-interested propaganda the insistence last week by Cuadrilla chief executive Francis Egan that 100 shale gas production sites of the sort his firm aims to build could produce enough to supply one-third of the UK’s annual gas demand while occupying ‘a total area of just two square kilometres’.

Mr Egan added that ‘screened by trees, the sites would be invisible to passers-by’.

Hard though it might be for the likes of Bianca Jagger and Natalie Hynde to believe, this is the truth. If you doubt it, consider that the largest onshore oil field in Europe has been discreetly situated in an area much more ecologically sensitive than the High Weald.

Wytch Farm oil field, discovered by the British Gas Corporation in 1973 in the Purbeck district of Dorset, has production facilities hidden in a coniferous forest on the southern shore of Poole Harbour.

Its reservoir, which at peak output in 1997 was producing 110,000 barrels of oil a day, extends below the exquisite Studland peninsula. So this monster of an oil field has been inconspicuously exploited at the heart of a World Heritage site, a Designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and of several nature reserves.

It should reassure anxious Balcombe residents that house values around Poole Harbour have not been in the tiniest bit depressed by the presence of the Wytch Farm oil production facilities. Indeed, apart from the stucco terraces of Kensington and Chelsea, this is the most expensive stretch of real estate in the whole country.

Besides, it would be fitting for the High Weald to get back to its old business.


Fracking gets boost as British treasurer bangs drum for 'energy revolution'

Chancellor says it would be shame for UK to miss out on shale gas boom and the jobs it would create for communities

Chancellor George Osborne has sent a strong message to the Conservative rural heartlands, warning that he will fight any Tory backlash against fracking and saying that it would be a real tragedy if Britain allowed the shale gas energy revolution to bypass the UK.

Research conducted by Greenpeace has shown that 38 out of 62 MPs in the south have land with existing oil and gas drilling licenses – and 35 of them are Conservatives, including many cabinet ministers.

It raises the prospect that many Tory backbenchers in the run-up to the 2015 election will find themselves conflicted by the demands of the UK economy and business to exploit the reserves, and opposition from environmental groups as well as many of their anxious constituents.

Until recently there has been a consensus on Tory benches and in the Conservative press that fracking should start as soon as possible.

Osborne said: "There is an an energy revolution underway in the US and China that has dramatically reduced energy costs meaning manufacturing businesses are returning to the US."

"I want to see that kind of thing in Britain. I want to see families with lower energy bills". Osborne added.

"The Conservative party understands you have to balance your policy, but the new regime for fracking has very clear community benefit so we have designed a regime that is very generous for local communities where this activity might take place.

"It would be a real tragedy for Britain to allow this energy revolution to bypass our country. It would mean we would have much higher energy costs than other countries, it would mean jobs would go to other countries and we would lose out".

Osborne has already provided healthy tax breaks for the industry, asserting shale gas was "a resource with huge potential to broaden the UK's energy mix", and saying that he wanted Britain to be a leader of the shale gas revolution.

Shale gas production has boomed in the US, growing from less than 1% of domestic production in 2000, to 23% in 2010. By contrast, President François Hollande of France has ruled out exploration for gas during his presidency on environmental grounds.

The prime minister's spokesman has insisted that fracking will be environmentally safe. But Friends of the Earth's policy and campaigns director, Craig Bennett, said: "Fracking poses a real threat to the local environment and causes more climate-wrecking pollution.

The recent ministerial statement on local planning and shale states: "The coalition government believes shale gas has the potential to provide the UK with greater energy security, growth and jobs … The government is creating the right framework to accelerate shale gas development in a responsible and sustainable way."

The government has said it intends to amend existing secondary legislation in relation to application requirements and fees for onshore oil and gas development.


Hawaii Is at the Forefront of Genetically Modified Crops

When people think of Hawaii, they probably imagine beautiful sunsets over white sand beaches, bountiful waves, colorful clothing, and spasmodic volcanos. For the average person, what probably doesn’t leap to mind when thinking about Hawaii is the food they eat and Hawaii’s agriculture industry. It should, however, because Hawaii is at the forefront of modern, high-output agriculture: biotech farming.

Salvation after Sugar Collapse

Biotech agricultural companies took advantage of the collapse of Hawaii’s sugar industry in the 1980s to buy land and introduce genetically modified crops for research and ultimately commercial seed sale. Hawaii’s climate makes it ideal for biotech experimentation and new varietal development because it allows biotech companies to get three or four planting seasons in every year.

From tiny acorns, mighty oaks grow, and so it has been with Hawaii’s seed industry. Companies including DuPont, Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow, BASF, and Monsanto all operate in Hawaii. From humble beginnings, the seed industry, at more than $243 million annually, is the largest segment of Hawaii’s agricultural sector. In 2010, the agriculture companies exported more than 9.7 million pounds of seed, half of which was genetically modified. The seed industry alone employs approximately 1,400 people.

Seed companies point out genetically enhanced crops both provide employment and keep land in agriculture at a time when fertile farmland elsewhere is being developed for other uses.

Biotech’s Environmental Benefits

Environmental activists have raised a variety of objections to the planting of biotech crops in Hawaii, including that they are harmful to human health and encourage the indiscriminate use of chemicals. The answer to these charges in Hawaii, as elsewhere, seems to be, “where’s the evidence?”

Despite hundreds of studies, none have found legitimate evidence of harm to public health from genetically modified crops that have gone into commercial production. Instead, genetically modified crops are improving human nutrition by increasing crop yields and making food less expensive.

Similarly, genetically modified crops are improving the environment. Improving crop yields means less land is developed for food production. Also, some genetic modifications allow farmers to reduce the amount of pesticides needed—the plants are engineered to either enhance their own natural defenses against insects and weeds or to use defenses imported from other subspecies or species. A second type of modification enables a crop to withstand higher doses of certain pesticides when such pesticides are needed for crop protection.

“Study after study shows that the development of biotech crops has improved the environmental performance in agriculture,” said Greg Conko, executive director of the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “It has reduced the need to spray chemical insecticides and reduced the amount of older, more environmentally harmful herbicides, replacing their use with more benign, less toxic herbicides with limited persistence in the environment.”

“Genetic modification has enhanced food production in the United States and throughout the world while simultaneously improving environmental conditions,” said Jay Lehr, science director for the Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News. “Genetic modification breakthroughs are among the greatest scientific advances of the past century.”

More Viable Papaya Crop

In Hawaii, seed crops are not the only things that are being bioengineered. Along with corn (which is the largest crop), wheat, soybean, sorghum, and canola are also benefiting from genetic modification. In addition, in the late 1980s, the University of Hawaii began developing a papaya strain resistant to the Papaya Ringspot Virus. The new, genetically modified papaya plants are no longer susceptible to infection, allowing farmers to cultivate the fruit even when the historically debilitating virus is widespread.

Hawaiian farmers began commercially growing the first virus-resistant papayas in 1999.  Bioengineered papayas now cover approximately 2,400 acres, three quarters of the total Hawaiian papaya crop.

These papayas have been approved for consumption both in the United States and in Canada, and several Asian countries are developing genetically modified papaya varieties resistant to their local virus strains.

What happens in Hawaii does not stay in Hawaii, it would seem.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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