Monday, November 04, 2013

Stock up on vacuum cleaners?

Bureaucrats in Brussels are trying to make it harder to clean your home by banning the sale of powerful vacuum cleaners, it emerged today.

New European Commission rules will outlaw any new machine with a motor that exceeds 1,600 watts from next September to make them more energy efficient.

Currently the average vacuum cleaner on the market has a wattage of 1,800, but by 2017 that figure will have to fall to 900W.

The 'ecodesign' regulations have been drafted after years of research by officials and external consultants.

Vacuum cleaners will also be graded from A to G on how much noise they make, the energy efficiency of their suction and the levels of dust pumped out by their 'exhaust air'.

Similar 'eco-labels' have been displayed on washing machines for more than 15 years.

Among the models that will be affected are Hoover's Dust Manager model, which uses a 2,200W motor and its Hurricane upright vacuum cleaner, which has a 2,100W motor.

The British-made Henry Xtra vacuum cleaner and the Vax U90-MA-R, which is currently the bestselling upright vacuum cleaner on, will both have to be updated because they use 1,200W motors.

Existing vacuum cleaners will not be affected by the new rules, but manufacturers will have to abide by them when making new appliances.

EC president Jose Manuel Barroso has said the new rules will save energy equivalent to that produced by four nuclear power stations.

But manufacturers claim the regulations are misleading and will make it more difficult for customers to clean their homes.

Justin Binks, director of Sebo UK, which produces a range of vacuum cleaners, told The Sunday Times: 'If the proposed regulations for vacuum cleaners come into force as planned next year, they could hugely frustrate anyone trying to clean their home.

'Presented initially as eco-regulations, the proposals now go way beyond the simple premise of reducing the power consumption of vacuum cleaners; they embrace issues such as noise and will limit performance using unrealistic criteria.'

Sir James Dyson, the billionaire entrepreneur who pioneered 'bagless' vacuums, has launched a judicial review at the European Court of Justice in an attempt to block the eco-labelling.

Sir James, whose firms does not produce any vacuum cleaners over 1,400W, claims the labels will not take into account the cost and waste of vacuum bags and filters.


Obama's Backdoor Ban on Ammunition  -- via the EPA

Without ammunition, guns are useless. Without lead, ammunition is ineffective and lead-free alternatives are more expensive. Thanks to new EPA regulations, the last lead smelting company in the country has been forced to close its doors.

Since 1892, the Doe Run Resources Corporation has served as the country’s primary lead refinery. Located in Southeast Missouri, within the state’s Lead Belt, Doe Run has developed in the largest lead producer in the Western World. Ammunition manufactures like Federal and Lake City (which also service the U.S. Military) deliberately set-up shop in the region in order to be close to the raw materials.

Thanks to the EPA’s new clean air regulations, Doe Run has been forced to close its doors. The EPA calls the shutdown simply a “business decision,” however given the fact that it would have cost the company over $100 million to comply with the regulations, there really was no other alternative.

The results are staggering. Despite being the world’s third-largest producer of lead ore, U.S. mines are now forced to transport their 444,000 metric tons of lead ore abroad for it to be refined.

This forces domestic ammunition manufacturers – servicing the world’s largest military and the majority of the world’s civilian gun owners – to pick up the tab on this international freight.

These new costs will inevitably become astronomical and will be passed on to the consumer.

Gun owners are well aware of the dangers of lead poisoning. But make no mistake: these new regulations aren’t about protecting the environment.  This is about forcing ammunition companies to import lead from abroad and increasing the burden on America’s already-encumbered gun owners.


The Supraterranean War On Sanity: Scientists Versus Civilians

Cast your mind back to 1980. Nobody, not a soul, knew that gaspers, coffin nails, and cancer sticks were bad for you.  Tobacco companies used an advanced form of mind control (the technology in now in the hands of the government) to envelope the nation in a smoky cloud of ignorance.  Yet somehow, mysteriously, people awakened from their nicotine-induced slumber.

Hop in your time machine and pop forward a decade to 1990. Remember how we are all going to die of that noble and brave disease, AIDS? Well, maybe not all of us, but most of us were going to kick over, horribly and soon. Everybody was at risk.

Yet somehow, most of us didn’t.

Now shift forward eight years. That’s 1998, for you Brown University graduates. We were all going to die of heat frustration, choking on our own exhaust; we were all going to drown in our own sweat. The end was nigh.

Yet somehow the heat went into hiding. Nobody knows where it is.

If there’s one thing you can count on in a scientist, it’s that he never lets his failures hold him back. How could they? He never remembers them. No matter how many mistakes the scientist has made, no matter how over-certain he has in the past proved to be, he will sally forth boldly in his newest venture chock full of assuredness.

And, boy, will he be angry if you don’t fall in at his heels chirping, “You’re so smart. We ought to listen to you.” If you have the temerity to remind him of his previous sins, he will boast, “Science is self-correcting!”, never realizing that this argument is fallacious. Self-correcting science may be, but this is not evidence that the theory in front of us does not need correcting. Tell a modern scientist this and he begins to babble about “deniers”.

Consider this silly whine—The Subterranean War on Science—from Stephan Lewandowsky, Mike Mann, Linda Bauld, Gerard Hastings, and, I’m sad to report, Elizabeth Loftus in the Association for Psychological Science’s Observer.

Lewandowsky in particular, like most who teeter on the leftmost fringe of thought, finds it unfathomable that anybody can differ from his opinion. He dismisses as ludicrous the idea his opponents hold reasonable arguments. No: it must be some deep-seated pathology, some psychological aberration that accounts for the deviant behavior he feels surrounds him, that is closing in on him, constricting his movements, tightening the noose…it’s a conspiracy of oil companies and nefarious corporations! Not corporations like Apple and Solyndra, of course; bad corporations.

He and his co-authors are amazed—amazed!—that after years of nannying the citizenry over how much pop they can drink, what time they should go to bed; that after decades of stridently insisting that citizens should stay away from deadly potato chips, ice cream, popcorn; after the increasing hectoring of citizens about the sacking in which they carry their groceries, of what type of water containers are forbidden and on and on and ever on, that citizens are beginning to push back and tell the experts to mind their own damn business.

The world views of the experts are being challenged, and the experts are aghast, unsure what to do about it. Lewandowsky, after all but labeling his opponents mentally ill dimwits, was horrified—he tells us this—I almost can’t bring myself to type it—that somebody called him a bad name. Oh, the humanity!

Mann is a pest, an intellectual lightweight who in his imagination sees himself sparring with the big boys, but who puts on his glasses and whimpers at the first sign of trouble. Somebody dared asked for proof of his statistical, government-funded ravings and the poor dear was reduced to a blubbering mess.

Bauld and Hastings never go out after dark because they fret that every glowing cigarette—there’s one in every bush—is attached to an assassin dispatched by Big Tobacco.

Loftus, whom I admire, took one in the neck, too. But from a rival, as it were, and not a vexed citizen.

Look, some of the challenges by citizens of science are sensible, some not so much. But then, some of what scientists say is sensible, some not so much. Neither side can boast of a record when it comes to those areas which affect people. Not all science attains the same level of veracity, either. People know the difference. This is why you never see marches for or against the Standard Model in physics, or agitations pro and con over the best doping agents in transistors.

We’re not done with this paper, not by far.


Rebellion over wind turbine plan for 320 year old English battlefield

Campaigners are fighting plans to build a wind turbine overlooking the site of the last pitched battle on English soil

Three centuries ago, it saw the last pitched battle to take place on English soil, the result ending the so-called “Pitchfork Rebellion” and securing the ruling dynasty, at least for a time.

Now, dividing lines are once again being drawn at the site of the Battle of Sedgemoor, on the Somerset Levels, where locals, heritage groups and the area’s MP are resisting attempts to build a 250ft wind turbine overlooking the battlefield.

Opponents argue the structure would ruin the setting of what is one of England’s best preserved battlefields.

It is one of only 46 registered battlefields in the country and, according to experts, is in the top ten in the country, in terms of significance and preservation, being largely undeveloped since the action was fought, in 1685.

The clash was the culmination of the Monmouth Rebellion, an attempt to usurp the crown of England by James Scott, the Protestant Duke of Monmouth, from the Catholic King James II of England and VII of Scotland.

The rebel, an illegitimate son of the previous king, Charles II, landed in Dorset on June 11 1685 and had gathered around him an army of 7,000 men by the time he was faced by the royal army near the village of Westonzoyland, almost a month later.

A significant proportion of them were nonconformists who had suffered increasing persecution under Charles II, the king’s brother and predecessor.

Others were artisans and peasants disaffected by an economic climate which had hit the south west particularly hard, and the rising became known as the Pitchfork Rebellion.

The rebels included amongst their number Daniel Defoe, later to become famous as an author.

Monmouth decided to chance all upon a night attack. The battle began during the evening of 5/6 July, but a counter attack at dawn by the King’s men, commanded by John Churchill – who later, as Duke of Marlborough, would be responsible for some of Britain’s most famous victories – forced the rebels to flee.

Experts believe this chaotic retreat, during which Monmouth’s men were cut down, occurred over the ground where the developers want to erect the structure.

Survivors were rounded up and locked in a local church which is now still the most prominent feature on the landscape.

Three days after his defeat, Monmouth was captured and later executed. Hundreds of his supporters suffered at the hands of Judge Jeffreys in what became known as the Bloody Assizes.

However, James II himself lasted only another three years on the throne before he was ousted by William III in the Glorious Revolution.

Part of the registered battlefield, as defined by English Heritage, is within a Special Landscape Area. It is also an Area of High Archaeological Potential and was featured in the BBC show Two Men in a Trench.

The proposed turbine is just outside the battlefield boundary, within around 80 yards, although the fields immediately to the north and east are both within the zone.

However, the Government’s National Planning Practice Guidance states when considering proposals for wind turbines near to “heritage assets”, officials should consider not just their “physical presence” but their “setting”.

It adds: “Depending on their scale, design and prominence a wind turbine within the setting of a heritage asset may cause substantial harm to the significance of the asset.”

The application comes at a time of intense debate over the efficiency of wind turbines and controversial subsidies offered to developers behind the schemes.

It was originally lodged with Sedgemoor Council in September by the local landowner, Edward Heal, and a renewable energy firm, Mi-Grid.

The council had to reopen the consultation period late last month after it realised English Heritage had not been invited to take part in the process. Its officials are due to conduct a site visit before proving a response.

However, others have already responded, with a local wildlife trust and nearby residents among those raising a variety of concerns, ranging from fears over the impact on birds, and property prices in the nearby village, to the historical significance of the site.

Julian Humphrys, from the Battlefields Trust, which has lodged an objection, said: “Sedgemoor is a jewel in the crown. It is the last pitched battle fought on English soil, and one of the most undeveloped battlefields left in the country. Without doubt, it is one of the most evocative and putting in something like a turbine over it, changes the character of the area.

“We’re not involved in the debate over wind power itself. The point here is that even if you think they are the most beautiful and efficient structures, there are still appropriate places for them, and putting one here shows a lack of concern for the location and its historical significance. We're not nimbys - this is England's back yard”

Ian Liddell-Grainger, the local MP, added: “We’re proud of our history and it Sedgemoor. is an important part of who we are. In the Houses of Parliament, if you walk from the central lobby towards the chamber, the first painting you come to is one of the Battle of Sedgemoor. That is how important it is to us and I don’t agree at all with the idea that we should ruin the setting with a wind turbine.

“I am against onshore wind, in any case. We are about to build a new nuclear power station at Hinkley Point, in my constituency, which will produce real power on a scale not seen before. These turbines produce diddly squat.”

An historical “Environmental Impact Assessment” carried out for the developers conceded the site was of “very high significance” and acknowledged that the impact would be “negative/moderate” on the nearby heritage.

A spokesman for Mi-Grid said: “The historic visual impact assessment identified that the only physical elements of the battle to survive are below-ground remains and that the landscape has changed dramatically since the battle. The assessment concluded that the landscape of the battlefield has changed a great deal and it is no longer possible to appreciate the experience of the battlefield as it once was. As there are no visible assets of the battlefield remaining its setting cannot be impacted.”


Nebraska Moves Forward with Study of Natural Climate Change

The Nebraska Climate Assessment and Response Committee will proceed with a study on the effects of natural climate change on the state, despite vigorous opposition from global warming activists. The activists, including some state-funded scientists, pledged to boycott the study unless it includes or focuses on human-caused climate change in the state. Other scientists, however, noted the study represents an important effort to analyze the often overlooked effects of natural climate cycles.

In March of this year the Nebraska legislature passed LB 583, directing the Climate and Assessment Response Committee to study the effects of climate change in the state. The study was the top priority of Democratic Sen. Ken Haar. At the urging of Republican Sen. Beau McCoy, however, the legislature specified the study should focus on the role of natural or cyclical climate change.

Wanted More Money, Manmade Focus
Haar and global warming activists protested the focus on natural climate change. State climatologist Al Dutcher claimed the scientific community does not recognize “cyclical” climate change and does not study it. Dutcher also said the $44,000 set aside for the study was woefully short of the $300,000 to $500,000 he and fellow scientists would expect for such a typical study.

Haar, while agreeing with most of Dutcher’s criticisms, supported the lower budget for the study, saying he envisioned the study being a straightforward overview of scientific research already conducted.

Scientists Applaud Challenge

Despite the complaints by global warming activists, some climate scientists applauded the study’s focus on natural climate change, while warning against a kneejerk reaction that would completely dismiss human influences on climate.

“I think a useful study should consider both natural and human influences on the climate. It would be a mistake to make the study a mirror image of establishment studies, which long trivialized the influence of natural influences on climate,” Princeton University physics professor William Happer said. “Poorly defined natural influences may well have been much more important than CO2 in determining the Earth's surface temperature.”

“More CO2 will be especially good for Nebraska, with its marginal rainfall, since plants in water-stressed environments are much better able to resist drought when the ambient CO2 levels are higher. A greening of the Earth has occurred during the satellite era, a greening which is probably due to more CO2. The greening of Nebraska, like other rainfall-limited parts of the Earth, has been especially pronounced,” Happer explained.

Happer said he is not surprised some government-funded scientists criticized the study proposal.

“The reaction of the ‘climate scientists’ in Nebraska is entirely predictable. Many of them have been generously funded for several decades at levels much higher than the paltry $40,000 the Nebraska Legislature set aside for the climate study. Researchers like myself, with excellent backgrounds in the science of climate but with no need to demonize CO2 to keep academic empires funded, are persuaded that the warming potential of rising CO2 levels is small and beneficial, and that natural factors will continue to dominate the earth's climate for centuries,” said Happer.

“The appropriate course, in my view, is to include what we know about anthropogenic effects -- including land surface changes as well as the effect of greenhouse gases (which is often ignored) -- but with a healthy dose of the uncertainties involved with forecasting the future using models,” said David Legates, a Ph.D. climatologist and professor at the University of Delaware.

Howard Hayden, emeritus professor of physics at the University of Connecticut, agreed with Happer that scientists should look not overlook natural or human influences. However, he said he understood why the legislature would specify natural climate cycles, given all the federal funding for studying asserted human-caused climate change.

“You can't leave out the human influence on climate, but you also can't emphasize it at the expense of ignoring others,” said Hayden.

Can Regional Study Justify Costs?
“The $44,000 price tag obviously would not be enough to do hands-on research, and one year is far too short a time to have any meaning. The $44,000 would be enough for somebody with scientific expertise to read a lot of papers and provide a summary. For the summary to be worthwhile, the investigator must not ignore any of the positive contributions or any of the negative contributions to temperature change,” Hayden explained. “The least reliable of all IPCC forecasts, by their own admission, are regional predictions. Discovering that single fact should make the researcher tell the legislature that the study would be pointless.”

Patrick Michaels, director of the Cato Institute’s Center for the Study of Science and past president of the American Association of State Climatologists, agreed any attempt to forecast Nebraska climate change, natural or human-caused, would be too speculative to justify the expense.

"In its legislative preamble, the bill should state that there is no scientific evidence that climate models can produce reliable forecasts for future climate for individual states and therefore it would be a disservice to the people of Nebraska to use such models to form state policy,” said Michaels.

“The Nebraska study would do better to note that there is simply no demonstrated skill in future climate projections at the regional level, and that making a forecast without a verified regional model borders on scientific malpractice,” Michaels added.


Burnout is no cause for alarm

Bjorn Lomborg, writing for an Australian audience

LAST week in this newspaper I pointed out that global warming is actually a net benefit for the world and for Australia, at least until 2050. This is because the benefits of agricultural CO2 fertilisation are much bigger than the costs of increased water stress, and because fewer cold deaths outweigh extra heat deaths.

This is documented in the latest and most comprehensive, peer-reviewed article, collecting all published estimates showing an overwhelming likelihood that global warming below 2C is beneficial.

This does not imply that global warming is not a long-run problem. Moreover, cost-effective solutions are still warranted for the adverse effects by the year 2100 and beyond.

But it shows we need less scaremongering in the climate debate.

To many, the information was genuinely new in a debate entirely focused on one-sided negatives. To others, the information was genuinely outrageous. Environment Victoria's campaign director suggested I was "shameless" for making my case while "NSW is burning". But while the bushfires are definitely detrimental, they simply do not cancel out everything else. Yet in the past weeks they have been used as the latest cudgel to showcase the dangers of global warming and argue for strong carbon cuts.

UN climate change chief Christiana Figueres told CNN that global warming and bushfires were "absolutely" connected, and former US vice-president Al Gore made it even clearer on the ABC: "When the temperature goes up and when the vegetation and soils dry out, then wildfires become more pervasive and more dangerous. That's not me saying it, that's what the scientific community says."

The problem is, that is simply not what the science says. The latest peer-reviewed study on global fire, run with a record 16 climate models, tells us that sometimes heat and dryness lead to more fire, but sometimes lead to less fire. This is because with less precipitation the biomass burns more easily, but with less precipitation there is also less growth and hence less biomass to burn.

For Mediterranean-type ecosystems, such as southwest and south Australia, it turns out that more than half the time, future drying means less fire. Gore's generalisation is simply wrong.

For now, the models give strongly contradictory results about climate impacts on future fire across the world, some finding more fire in the tropics and less in boreal areas, others the exact opposite. Even within a single fire model, the large discrepancies in precipitation from different climate models means we are unsure if there will be more or less fire on more than half the planet's surface. This is also why there is no established scientific link (a so-called climate attribution) between current fire frequency and climate change.

Even Figueres accepts that. "The World Meteorological Organisation has not established the direct link between this wildfire and climate change," she said, though she optimistically added a prophesying "yet" to her sentence. Instead she emphasised that we would see increasing heat waves (correct), and somehow looked satisfied, as if that were sufficient to link it to Australia's bushfires. However, it is likely that, in the long run, global warming will lead to more fire. Sixty per cent of the planet's surface will see a higher probability of fire by the end of the century, though more than one-fifth will see lower fire probability, including Mexico, most of South America, almost all of Africa below the Sahara, Southeast Asia, India and about half of Australia.

Moreover, global fire activity is estimated to have declined 10 per cent from its maximum around 1950. For the past 60 years we have seen less global fire activity, despite rising temperatures.

Even with global warming, the fire activity decline will likely continue until about 2025 and only then start going up.

It will still not reach current levels again before the second half of this century, and only later, possibly into the 22nd century, go above 1950s levels.

But Figueres argues that the Australian fires support the argument for substantial CO2 cuts. Somewhat undermining her argument with a "maybe", she insists that the pictures of bushfires are "an example of what we may be looking at unless we take actual vigorous action". Yet dramatic CO2 cuts would likely be one of the least effective ways to help fire. If we could get the entire rich world to cut emissions to the extent the EU has already promised for 2020, the cost would be at least $500 billion annually. Yet, towards the end of the century we would have spent more than $30 trillion, and reduced temperatures by only an immeasurable 0.1C. It would have virtually no impact on fire, even in 100 years.

Phil Cheney, a former head of CSIRO Bushfire Research, points out the main problem is the increasing fuel loads that dramatically increase fire danger. The obvious solution is "to increase the amount of prescribed burning and fuel management".

Such simple, smart and cost-effective solutions to bushfires don't negate the need to tackle global warming. But they underline how alarmist rhetoric often leads to bad policies. Bushfires are very poor arguments for climate policies, and strong, immediate carbon cuts are costly ways to achieve tiny temperature reductions.

Smart climate policies need to focus on the most cost-effective solutions because green policies will be sustainable only if they are economical. We need to focus on R&D to create innovations that will bring down the price of green energy so it can eventually outcompete fossil fuels.

It is not shameless to correctly point out that global warming will likely be a net benefit till after 2050. Hopefully that fact can cool the climate conversation, so we can choose the better solutions.



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.  

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1 comment:

Joseph said...

Is it time for depleted-uranium ammunition?