Thursday, November 28, 2013

Meteorologist's poll finds no consensus on climate change & those with liberal political views far more likely to believe in man-made global warming

Meteorologists’ views about global warming:  A survey of American Meteorological Society professional members

Meteorologists and other atmospheric science experts are playing important roles in helping society respond to climate change. Members of this professional community are not unanimous in their views of climate change, and there has been tension among members of the American Meteorological Society (AMS) who hold different views on the topic.

In January 2012, the AMS surveyed its members via email and found 52 percent believe global warming is happening and is mostly human-caused, while 48 percent do not. The survey also found that scientists with professed liberal political views were far more likely to believe global warming is human-caused than others.

Authors of the survey recommended that the AMS should “acknowledge and explore the uncomfortable fact that political ideology influences the climate change views of meteorology professionals; refute the idea that those who do hold non-majority views just need to be “educated” about climate change; [and] continue to deal with the conflict among members of the meteorology community.”


A detailed discussion of the survey results can be found here.

Why greens love high fuel bills

Ever-rising energy prices are the product of green attacks on our consumption habits

Fuel Poverty Action (FPA) reacted angrily when the UK prime minister, David Cameron, said he would act to cut fuel bills. Why?

FPA campaigns against higher fuel bills that hurt the poor – or does it? Cameron said he would ‘cut the green crap’, meaning the ‘green levies’ that are added by law on fuel bills. Fuel Poverty Action, supposedly the friend of the poor, denounced the proposed cut.

FPA is organising protests against high prices in central London on 26 November, but its own policy seems to support higher prices. How did it tie itself in these knots? The answer is that FPA’s campaigners support the green levies on fuel bills.

Green levies on fuel bills were brought in by the New Labour government to finance the transition away from fossil fuels to renewable energy. They make up nine per cent of the cost of the average fuel bill, currently running at £1,300 a year.

It is easy to see how FPA and other defenders of the green levies have painted themselves into this corner. The levies are supposed to fund investment in wind power and other renewables, and also to pay for government schemes to insulate people’s houses so that they can cut their fuel use.

The problem is that both of these are long-term goals which – it is hoped – will cut the cost of fuel for households. But in the here and now they are adding to the cost of electricity bills. Green campaigners like FPA end up calling for higher fuel bills so we can have lower fuel bills. In 1947, the then president of France, Charles de Gaulle, said something similar: ‘We must all tighten our belts if the standard of living is to rise.’ A few days ago, the Guardian wrote about ‘green levies, which go towards… helping the poor cut their usage’.

Green campaigners have long known that there is a problem with their goal of reducing consumption, namely that it is unlikely to be popular with the vast majority of people, who are also consumers (it was a point that was hotly debated at the ‘climate camps’ – the annual green get-togethers – until they stopped in 2011). The point is sharply drawn in the green policy on fuel bills. Environmentalists want to see less fossil fuel burned, which means less electricity generated and higher prices. Moreover, environmentalists have long argued that prices are artificially low, and should include the cost of pollution.

The green levies on energy bills are based on those arguments. Higher fuel bills will cut consumption, and lead to smaller carbon emissions. To make their point, green protesters succeeded in blocking a proposed coal-fired power station at Kingsnorth in 2008, and won a moratorium on future coal-burning plants – and cutting back on electricity generation in turn leads to higher prices.

The problem for the greens, and for their Labour Party allies, is that higher prices are very unpopular. Green activists, grappling among themselves with the charge that they are responsible for higher prices, have tried to explain the problem away. No, they say, we are not responsible for higher prices. Our policies are going to make prices lower because of the money earmarked for insulation schemes and alternative energy sources. Such is the appeal of green groupthink.

This argument might be convincing in an entirely abstract world. But in Britain in 2013, it is just wrong. The reason is that even if these changes could happen, they cannot happen immediately, before a great deal of time and energy is spent making those changes.

Take alternative energy sources. The most important of these is wind power, which, it is claimed, provides around five per cent of the country’s energy (though these statistics are almost certainly an exaggeration of the extent of UK wind power). That would mean that to push up alternative energy’s share in electricity generation, wind power would have to double in capacity. Right now, wind power is causing problems across the country, and its finances are questioned. Clearly wind power is not going to be Britain’s main source of energy for generations.

Second, there is insulation. Better insulation does reduce energy consumption. So far, 1,000 of the 26million households in Britain have taken up the government’s insulation scheme (which is paid for out of the green levy). Two hundred and nineteen homes have been insulated. Like the subsidies to wind power, those to home insulation have been criticised for being unrealistically costly. In any event, it seems unlikely that the home insulation scheme is going to make much impact before Christmas. At the current rate of progress, it would take 5,000 years to insulate half of British homes.

Assuming that the shift to alternative energy and investment in home insulation are good ideas, why are they not financed out of general taxation? The answer is that these schemes were brought in with the specific intent of pushing energy prices up.

The green levies are not the only reason that prices have gone up. It is the failure to match energy demands with energy generation that is forcing the price up. The failure to build enough electricity-generation plants – like the one at Kingsnorth – means that the UK is forced to buy the shortfall on the open market. Campaigners think that they are hitting the energy suppliers with these actions, but E.ON and the others can just as easily make money selling less electricity at a higher price as they can selling more at a lower price; indeed, judging by their profits it is a very successful business model. Cutting back supply can only make things worse.

You can see greens’ problem. Rising energy prices are the only policy ever introduced with the intention of cutting CO2 emissions that has actually worked. (The replacement of coal-fired plants with gas - the so-called ‘dash for gas’ - achieved substantial cuts in the Nineties and Noughties, but CO2 emissions were not the reason for the policy.) Overpriced energy actually does make people cut back their use. Historically, this is a great challenge to environmentalists. Only once in most people’s lives does the chance come actually to make a difference. Here, for the first time, the greens have succeeded in reducing carbon emissions.

So why will they not defend the policy? Instead of targeting the Big Six energy producers for raising prices, green protesters should be applauding them, or perhaps demanding that the prices go up even more. To do so, of course, would mean coming clean about the meaning of environmentalism – that it means cutting back people’s consumption. That is something that the environmental campaigners are too cowardly to say.

FPA highlights the economic hardship that higher prices cause, and also points to the increase in winter fuel deaths that come when prices rise. But just as many of those problems can be laid at the door of the supporters of the green levies.

FPA will be campaigning against the Big Six energy producers tomorrow – but that is just a smokescreen. Their main demand is that energy prices should rise, so that we can use less.


Senator Schatz is wrong about wind energy

A TV ad started last week shows U.S. Senator Brian Schatz promoting “energy that’s moving Hawaii forward. Senator Brian Schatz is leading the effort to harness our incredible wind energy potential with tax credits to grow wind energy production that would create thousands of new jobs and clean energy.”

Hawaii residents from Waianae to Kahuku, from Molokai to Lanai, and everywhere in the between dislike wind turbines. Senator Schatz promotes more taxpayer monies for special interests who are peddling a technology that cannot make it on its own. He is wrong for the following reasons.

Independently from any politics, a Punahou and UH-Manoa graduate student and I conducted detailed research on cost effective energy solutions for Hawaii, by examining all major energy sources available to Hawaii. A summary of our work was accepted by Pacific Business News last month, and was published this week: Making the Case for Liquefied Natural Gas.

Our research concluded that wind and solar power plants are ineffective; they require multimillion dollar subsidies. The solar energy in our research was the power plant type that consumes land in order to produce some daytime electricity, similar to the 36 acres wasted by the Pohoiki plant at Kalaeloa to produce only 5 MW.

On the other hand, solar photovoltaic panels have been locally accepted by thousands of homeowners and businesses. Rooftop PV is an incremental, distributed power source with near zero visual or other negative impacts for Hawaii, as I explained here: Big Rooftop Solar Panels Make Sense in Hawaii - without Any Subsidies! Rooftop PV supports dozens of local small businesses.

Recently BMW decided to locate its electric vehicle chassis assembly in a region of Washington State because the local electricity rate is 3 cents (!) per kilowatt-hour. HECO’s rate on Oahu is over 33 cents and thanks to Senator Schatz’s flawed advocacy, our electricity costs will increase, and Hawaii will become increasingly uncompetitive.

I urge Senator Schatz to review the three page summary of our research titled The Next 100 MW Power Plant for Oahu and modify his views about renewable energy. America’s future cannot be supported by intermittent, unreliable and expensive energy.

Hawaii does not need unsightly turbines and cannot afford their cost and flaky reliability. And please stop bragging about the jobs. Hawaii has fewer than 50 turbines and fewer than 50 people are located here to manage them … that is, when the turbines are not down due to fires or other self-inflicted damage.


Ethanol Mandate: ‘Little More Than Soviet-style Production Quota’

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision last week to reduce the amount of ethanol in the nation’s fuel supply for the first time is a welcome acknowledgment that the regulation was little more than a “Soviet-style production quota,” according to Marlo Lewis, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).
“Like all central planning schemes, there comes a point where even the commissar has to admit that it’s just not working,” Lewis said in a statement.

On Nov. 15, EPA announced that it “is proposing a cellulosic biofuel volume for 2014 that is below the applicable volume specified in the [2007 Energy Independence and Security] Act,” due in part to the fact that only 20,000 gallons of cellulosic biofuels were produced last year, “in lower volumes than foreseen by statutory targets,” according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Those “statutory targets” required “1 billion gallons in 2013, increasing to 16 billion gallons by 2022,” EIA reported. But actual production of ethanol from wood, grass and inedible plant material didn’t even come close.

EPA scaled back its Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) program, which has been in effect since 2007, from 18.15 billion gallons to 15.21 billion gallons in 2014 after an Associated Press investigation revealed that “even as environmental policy, the RFS is a bust.”

“As farmers rushed to find new places to plant corn, they wiped out millions of acres of conservation land, destroyed habitat and polluted water supplies. Five million acres of land set aside for conservation — more than Yellowstone, Everglades and Yosemite National Parks combined — have vanished on Obama's watch,” AP reported. “The consequences are so severe that environmentalists and many scientists have now rejected corn-based ethanol as bad environmental policy.”

Instead of scaling back the ethanol mandate, Lewis says, Congress should just repeal it.

“Even if the RFS did not inflate food prices, increase pain at the pump, exacerbate world hunger, expand aquatic dead zones or contribute to habitat loss, Congress should still repeal it because the RFS flouts the core constitutional principal of equality under the law,” Lewis said. “The RFS literally compels one industry to purchase, process and sell other industries’ products.”


Keystone Cops Oppose Rail, Too

As we have reported on numerous occasions, the Keystone XL pipeline -- meant to transport Canadian oil sands to the U.S. Gulf Coast for refinement -- has been stalled by ecofascists who hold sway with the Obama administration. The White House has repeatedly stalled to grant the proper permits for the pipeline, appeasing those ecofascists but displeasing constituent unions who want the thousands of new jobs building and operating the pipeline would create.

We have also recounted how delaying the pipeline won't accomplish anything but deprive the U.S. of the oil. The Canadians will find a market for their product, most likely in China. In fact, according to The New York Times, "Suncor Energy, Canada's top petroleum producer, announced on Thursday that it would expand its oil production in 2014 by 10 percent, another sign that the Obama administration's delays are not holding back growth in the western Canadian oil sands fields."

The other option for import to the U.S. is rail, which means opponents have a new target. Indeed, they're pushing for heavy regulation of rail terminal projects in California, Washington state and elsewhere to block import of these oil sands. Of course, pipelines are safer and more efficient than rail, so perhaps it would make sense to relent on building the Keystone pipeline. But that would require leftists to think with their heads.


Another cost of EPA regulation:  Price of Chicken Reaches All-Time High in U.S.

The price for fresh whole chickens hit its all-time high in the United States in October, according to data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

In January 1980, when BLS started tracking the price of this commodity, fresh whole chickens cost $0.69 per pound. By this October 2003, fresh whole chickens cost $1.54 per pound.

In the last decade alone, the price has gone up 51 percent, from $1.02 in October 2003 to the current price of $1.54 per pound.

One factor contributing to the increasing cost of chicken, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation, is increased regulation of chicken farmers.

In 2003 and 2008, the Environmental Protection Agency used the Clean Water Act to impose new regulations on “Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs),” targeting the manure they produce.

In 2003, the EPA issued a final rule in the Federal Register to “ensure that CAFOs take appropriate actions to manage manure effectively in order to protect the nation’s water quality.”

In 2008, the EPA published another final rule to further “the statutory goal of restoring and maintaining the nation’s water quality by ensuring that CAFOs properly manage manure generated by their operations.”

CNS News asked the American Farm Bureau Federation, which represents farm and ranch families, to ask if such regulation had impacted the price of chicken.

“It’s hard to establish direct cause and effect in a situation like that, but obviously the greater the regulatory burden, the higher production costs are going to be,” said John Anderson, deputy chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation.

“As production costs go up, that’s going to reduce the amount that farmers are able to produce at any particular price point and eventually that works its way through the system in terms of higher prices,” said Anderson.

“So, yeah, in terms of quantifying how much effect it would have, or exactly the timing of those effects, you know that would be very difficult, but certainly, as a general principle, increased regulation brings increased costs, and that brings higher prices to the ultimate consumer. There’s no question about that,” he added.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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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