Friday, March 07, 2014
DC’s green-approved buildings using more energy
Washington, D.C. may have the highest number of certified green buildings in the country, but research by Environmental Policy Alliance suggests it might not be doing much good.
The free-market group analyzed the first round of energy usage data released by city officials Friday and found that large, privately-owned buildings that received the green energy certification Leadership in Energy Design (LEED) actually use more energy than buildings that didn’t receive this green stamp of approval.
LEED is the brainchild of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a private environmental group.
Washington, D.C.’s Department of Environment made the capital the first city in the nation to mandate LEED certifications in the construction of public buildings. The standards are now being phased in.
The results are measured in EUI’s, a unit that relates a building’s energy consumption to its size; the higher the number, the more energy is expended by a smaller building.
Take the Green Building Council’s Washington headquarters. Replete with the group’s top green-energy accolade, the platinum LEED certification, the USGBC’s main base comes in at 236 EUI. The average EUI for uncertified buildings in the capital? Just 199.
Certified buildings’ average comes in at 205 EUI, still less efficient than that didn’t take home the ultimate green trophy.
“LEED certification is little more than a fancy plaque displayed by these ‘green’ buildings,” charged Anastasia Swearingen, LEED Exposed’s lead researcher on the project. “Previous analyses of energy use by LEED-certified buildings have consistently shown that LEED ratings have no bearing on actual energy efficiency.”
Former Obama Scientist Now Favors Approval of Keystone XL Pipeline
Marcia McNutt, former head of the U.S. Geological Survey under President Barack Obama until 2013 and now top editor at Science magazine, is no longer opposed to the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline.
“I believe it is time to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil from the tar sands deposits of Alberta, Canada, and from the Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast,” McNutt wrote in a Feb. 21 editorial in the magazine.
Keystone is a proposed 1,179-mile 36-inch diameter pipeline that will transport crude oil from Hardisty, Alberta, Canada to Steele City, Neb., according to the website of TransCanada, the company in charge of the project.
“Along with transporting crude oil from Canada, the Keystone XL Pipeline will also support the significant growth of crude oil production in the United States from producers in the Bakken region of Montana and North Dakota,” the explanation on the company’s website stated.
A summary of McNutt’s commentary is available on Science magazine website, but subscription is required to access the whole article:
“I drive a hybrid car and set my thermostat at 80°F in the Washington, DC, summer,” McNutt wrote. “I use public transportation to commute to my office, located in a building given ‘platinum’ design status by the U.S. Green Building Council.
“The electric meter on my house runs backward most months of the year, thanks to a large installation of solar panels,” McNutt wrote. “I am committed to doing my part to cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and minimize global warming.
“At the same time, I believe it is time to move forward on the Keystone XL pipeline to transport crude oil from the tar sands deposits of Alberta, Canada, and from the Williston Basin in Montana and North Dakota to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast,” McNutt wrote.
In a Feb. 20 article in the National Journal, more of McNutt’s editorial is quoted, including her stating that the pipeline could be safer and more regulated than transportation of crude oil by rail or truck.
"No method for moving hydrocarbons can be considered completely fail-safe,” McNutt is quoted as saying in the article. “At least the current permitting process can, and should, be used to ensure that Keystone XL sets new standards for environmental safety.
“There is no similar leverage on the truck and rail transportation options, which produce higher GHG emissions and have a greater risk of spills, at a higher cost for transport," McNutt wrote.
When interviewed for a National Public Radio article on Feb. 21, McNutt said Canadian crude oil would be used one way or another.
NPR’s Morning Edition host David Greene asked McNutt why she had changed her mind.
“Just because there hasn't been a pipeline really did not stop the development of the Canadian tar sands,” McNutt said.
“They were going to be developed anyway, you're saying?” Greene said. “Yeah,” McNutt said. “In fact, they are developed anyway.
“Rather than putting the oil in a pipeline, they are now putting the oil on trucks and railway cars, and trucks and trains actually use more fossil fuels themselves to get that crude oil to market than a pipeline,” McNutt said.
Greene then stated that the pipeline “might be the cleanest of the options.”
“Not only the cleanest, but potentially safer, because the pipeline is still to be permitted. Environmentalists can demand the pipeline be the safest ever engineered,” McNutt said. “One of the reasons for opposing the pipeline is the emissions of greenhouse gases when the tar sands are converted to a liquid to put into the pipeline.
“There actually could be some concessions in exchange for approving the pipeline that could require a limit on the carbon emissions in that process,” McNutt said, adding that the pipeline “is the very cheapest way” to transport crude oil, which could free up funding for “renewable energy.”
Chevron vs Big Green: Capitalism Finally Grows a Pair
This week the environmental movement suffered its biggest defeat since Climategate. And at the hands of its most hated enemy: Big Oil.
Here are the reasons why the court ruling by a US federal judge that Chevron should not have to pay $9.5 billion in damages to victims of oil pollution in Ecuador is a victory for common sense and justice which we should all be celebrating.
1. It's not about David v Goliath.
Though, of course, that's how it was spun by the left-liberal media: on the one hand, plucky maverick New York lawyer Steven Donziger, representing thousands of Ecuadorean natives whose forest lands had been polluted; on the other, the oil giant Chevron, America's third largest company.
But if anyone was being bullied here, it was Chevron. As Donziger well knew, it is almost impossible for an oil company to get a fair hearing in a world brainwashed by environmentalist propaganda. Chevron knew this too. It could have settled for much less out of court - and most oil companies in its position probably would have done. However, Chevron's chief executive John S Watson took the bold and principled decision to fight it all the way.
2. Chevron had done nothing wrong. No really.
The damage was done in the Sixties, Seventies and Eighties in the Oriente region of Ecuador by Texaco and the national oil company Petroecuador.
Texaco later reached a settlement with the Ecuadorian government whereby it paid $40 million to clear up the 37 per cent of oil damage for which it accepted responsibility; the rest were assumed to be the responsibility of the Ecuador national oil company (which didn't clear up its share).
Chevron has never drilled in Ecuador. But when a Chevron subsidiary absorbed Texaco in 2001 it became a target for environmentalists who still held Texaco partly responsible for the remaining pollution.
3. The case against Chevron was rigged.
In 2011, an Ecuadorian court ordered Chevron to pay $19 billion in damages to the native people allegedly poisoned by oil spills. This was subsequently reduced by the Ecuadorian National Court of Justice to $9.5 billion. Chevron appealed on the grounds that the case was fraudulent - extortion of "greenmail" masquerading as concern for the environment. This has now been confirmed by US District Judge Lewis Kaplan in a 500-page ruling.
4. Read the ruling: it's great entertainment!
As Judge Kaplan says in his highly-readable summary "This case is extraordinary. The facts are many and sometimes complex. They include things that normally only come out of Hollywood..."
Indeed. What Kaplan concluded beyond reasonable doubt was that Donziger's case was constructed on a web of lies, deceit and corruption.
The initial expert assessments of the damage had been conducted by a man driving past the pollution sites at 50 mph; the supposedly neutral and independent expert testimony had been in fact written by a US environmental company in the pay of Donziger; the presiding judge had been bribed with a promised $500,000; the judge's decision had been written for him by the plaintiffs; Ecuador's left wing president Rafael Correa - a close ally of the late Hugo Chavez of Venezuela - had cheerled the affair.
4. Donziger's dodgy past.
"I feel like I have gone over to the dark side" wrote Donziger in one incriminating email. What possibly could have caused this? I make no comment whatsoever on this biographical detail from a profile in The New Yorker. It seems that he belonged to the same Harvard Law School year group as one Barack Obama. Apparently they played basketball together.
5. Green Greed
Donziger stood personally to make $600 million from the litigation should it prove successful.
Other companies lured to the trough included an investment company called Burford Capital (which planned originally to invest $15 million to help fund the case in return for a 5.545 per cent share of the $9.5 billion proceeds - but pulled out, having only "invested" $4 million, after it smelt a rat); and also the large, left-wing Washington lobbying and law firm Patton Boggs which stood to make hefty contingency fees from the affair - and whose future now may be in jeopardy, no doubt causing tears of real sadness among Republicans across DC.
Two years ago, partner James E Tyrrell Jr told a Washington district court: "If someone seriously suggests that [the] 50-year-old law firm of Patton Boggs would wreck, would risk its professional reputation for a group of Ecuadorans whose case we feel strongly about, that we would be involved in a broad fraud, I suggest whoever might believe that: I have a bridge in New York I might like to try to sell them."
Take us to the bridge, James. Where's that confounded bridge?
6. Green parasites.
Among the other organisations shown in a deeply unflattering light by the court ruling is a Colorado-based environmental consultancy - regularly employed by various branches of government - called Stratus Consulting. The original Ecuador legal case required an independent environmental expert to present the court with impartial advice on how much pollution had been caused by Texaco and how much ought to be paid in damages.
Supposedly this was the work of an independent local expert named Cabrera. In fact however, on Donziger's instructions, Cabrera's testimony was in fact written for him by Stratus - which went to the trouble of disguising this fact by writing in the first person and then having its words translated into Spanish. It was Stratus which came up with an arbitrary damages figure - $16.3 billion.
Then, in a further act of deception calculated to make Cabrera's "independent" assessment look more plausible, Stratus prepared a series of criticisms of the report (which it had itself written) which could then be put to Cabrera by the plaintiffs, so that they could pretend to attack him in court for not going far enough...
Anyone familiar with the myriad environmental consultancies which have sprung up to take advantage of the lucrative green money machine will know that this kind of behaviour is par for the course. Really, the only unusual thing about this particular example is that Stratus were found out in a court of law.
7. The complicit media: if it's green it must be good.
There have been several long articles about the Chevron/Ecuador story - one in The New Yorker, one in Vanity Fair, one in Bloomberg Business Week - each one more sympathetic to Donziger than to Chevron.
The same has been true virtually everywhere the story has been reported in the media from The New York Times and the Telegraph to the Guardian and The Huffington Post.
This isn't just lazy journalism. It's a salutory reminder of the degree to which our media, not just on the left but in corners of the centre right, is in thrall to the green propaganda machine.
8. The usual rent-a-celeb suspects weigh in...
Among those who championed Donziger's cause were Mia Farrow, Sting, Trudy Styler and Darryl Hannah. Pop stars and rich people who've been in movies: is there ANYTHING they don't know about the environment?
9. Big Green sticks its oar in too.
No green campaign is complete without a few ad hoc, allegedly grassroots campaign groups there to give the illusion of diverse and committed support: Amazon Watch and Rainforest Action Network both supported the campaign against Chevron. So too, inevitably, did the Sierra Club.
"I have tremendous professional respect for Steven," says Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club. "He is the driving force behind what's probably the most important environmental lawsuit in the world seeking to hold an oil company accountable for its actions."
10. Green hubris.
Almost none of this information would have come to light in court if Donziger had not made one fatal mistake. In a supreme act of arrogance, he decided to turn his legal adventures into a Michael-Moore-style documentary with himself as the crusading hero negotiating his way through a corrupt legal system, battling a powerful and heartless oil giant, on behalf of the ordinary people of Ecuador. The movie - inevitably - was premiered at the Sundance Festival.
Donziger was under the illusion that this supposedly independent (though not really) movie could not be used in evidence. Judge Kaplan thought differently and subpoenaed 600 hours of footage.
This enabled the court to demonstrate some entertaining contrasts between what Donziger said about the Ecuadorean legal system in court - ie that its decision was reliable - and what he said about it in the various outtakes from Crude.
"They're all corrupt! It's - it's their birthright to be corrupt."
"These judges are really not very bright."
"I've never seen such utter weakness. It's the same kind of weakness that leads to corruption."
It was, as we now know, Donziger himself who was doing all the corrupting in this case.
The reason this case is so important is because it very nearly didn't happen. Though environmental activists like Michael Mann, James Hansen and Al Gore often like to claim that their enemies are in the pay of Big Oil, the truth is the exact opposite.
Few corporate entities pump quite so much money into environmental causes as the Big Oil companies - Shell sponsored the Guardian's environment pages; BP invested heavily in renewables as part of its Beyond Petroleum rebranding under the card-carrying greenie CEO Lord Browne - because for years they have been running scared of the green movement, because they're big enough to wear the additional costs of green regulation and because it suits them to "greenwash" their image.
What none of them seems to have learned is that when you pay Danegeld to your natural enemy it only makes him greedy for more of the same.
This is why we should all be applauding the decision by Chevron's CEO John S Watson (no relation of Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson, it seems likely) to fight this case. It represents a victory not just for the Chevron shareholder, but for all those who believe in the capitalist system and are sick and tired the way so rarely it seems prepared to grow a pair and stand up for itself.
For too long it has been held hostage by a minority of hard left, deep green activists whose anti-capitalist agenda has been given a veneer of respectability by the intervention of high end law firms, glossy environmental consultancies, Hollywood campaigners, "caring" grassroots pressure groups, expert scientific witnesses, "independent" moviemakers and sympathetic mainstream media coverage.
It happens all the time, all around the world, and usually they get away with it. This time they didn't. The good guys fought back - and won.
Ex-Greenpeacer Patrick Moore questions climate change, challenges liberals
As a former Greenpeace insider, Patrick Moore wasn’t surprised by the heated reaction from the left on his explosive testimony about climate change last week before a Senate committee.
Mr. Moore drew headlines for disputing the environmental movement’s doomsday scenario, depicting climate change over the past century as “minor warming” and arguing that “there is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause.”
As a result, Mr. Moore came under fire for “climate denial” from the liberal group Media Matters for America. He has been persona non grata at Greenpeace for years.
Mr. Moore dismisses such criticism as an “ad hominem personal attack that doesn’t have anything to do with the subject at hand.” At the same time, he doesn’t mind taking a swipe at those who advocate drastic emissions reductions in the name of stopping climate change.
“I describe the climate change movement as a combination of an extreme political ideology and a religious cult all rolled into one,” said Mr. Moore. “It’s a very, very dangerous social phenomenon. It causes them to think they have the right to dictate what we do.”
The Canadian ecologist has long been a thorn in the side of Greenpeace, which carries two statements on its website disputing his credentials as an environmentalist.
“While it is true that Patrick Moore was a member of Greenpeace in the 1970s, in 1986 he abruptly turned his back on the very issues he once passionately defended,” says a Greenpeace statement. “He claims he ‘saw the light’ but what Moore really saw was an opportunity for financial gain.”
Mr. Moore often is described as a Greenpeace co-founder, which Greenpeace officials dispute, but it’s safe to say that he was there almost from the start. The group that became Greenpeace was founded in 1970; Mr. Moore joined a year later and quickly assumed a leadership role.
“I don’t claim that has necessarily any overwhelming importance, whether I was a founder or not, but the fact is I was there at the beginning, even before it was called Greenpeace,” said Mr. Moore. “I was on the first voyage, and I played a very central role in the organization for 15 years.”
He said he left because he was alarmed by the shift in the organization’s goals. Greenpeace was originally about saving the environment and ending the threat of nuclear war. Over time, he said, the “green” overtook the “peace.”
“By the time I left in ‘86, Greenpeace had drifted into a position of characterizing humans as the enemies of the Earth, a cancer on the planet,” said Mr. Moore. “One of my main contentions is that to see humans as separate from nature and the ecology and the environment is defying the most important first law of ecology, which is that we are all part of nature.”
Teaching children that “the human species is a separate, evil thing from nature is extremely damaging to their orientation of life,” he said.
He said environmentalists have attempted to discredit him because his remarks are devastating to the climate change movement. The path to significantly lowered emissions in the name of combating climate change leads to some alarming places, he said, namely a world with greater poverty and less democracy.
The climate change argument “gives them an overarching policy framework to dictate human civilization,” said Mr. Moore. “It basically allows them to say what the energy policy should be, which is the key policy underlying the whole of modern civilization.”
New Report: Climate Less Sensitive To CO2 Than Models Suggest
Oversensitive: How The IPCC Hid The Good News On Global Warming
A new report published today by the Global Warming Policy Foundation shows that the best observational evidence indicates our climate is considerably less sensitive to greenhouse gases than climate models are estimating.
The clues for this and the relevant scientific papers are all referred to in the recently published Fifth Assessment report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
However, this important conclusion was not drawn in the full IPCC report – it is only mentioned as a possibility – and is ignored in the IPCC’s Summary for Policymakers (SPM).
For over thirty years climate scientists have presented a range for climate sensitivity (ECS) that has hardly changed. It was 1.5-4.5°C in 1979 and this range is still the same today in AR5. The new report suggests that the inclusion of recent evidence, reflected in AR5, justifies a lower observationally-based temperature range of 1.25–3.0°C, with a best estimate of 1.75°C, for a doubling of CO2. By contrast, the climate models used for projections in AR5 indicate a range of 2-4.5°C, with an average of 3.2°C.
This is one of the key findings of the new report Oversensitive: how the IPCC hid the good news on global warming, written by independent UK climate scientist Nic Lewis and Dutch science writer Marcel Crok. Lewis and Crok were both expert reviewers of the IPCC report, and Lewis was an author of two relevant papers cited in it.
In recent years it has become possible to make good empirical estimates of climate sensitivity from observational data such as temperature and ocean heat records. These estimates, published in leading scientific journals, point to climate sensitivity per doubling of CO2 most likely being under 2°C for long-term warming, with a best estimate of only 1.3-1.4°C for warming over a seventy year period.
“The observational evidence strongly suggest that climate models display too much sensitivity to carbon dioxide concentrations and in almost all cases exaggerate the likely path of global warming,” says Nic Lewis.
These lower, observationally-based estimates for both long-term climate sensitivity and the seventy-year response suggest that considerably less global warming and sea level rise is to be expected in the 21st century than most climate model projections currently imply.
“We estimate that on the IPCC’s second highest emissions scenario warming would still be around the international target of 2°C in 2081-2100,” Lewis says.
Australia: Shark-loving Greenies
Sharks do what Greenies would like to do: Reduce the human population. Greenies are would-be super sharks so no wonder they like sharks
SEA Shepherd has failed to secure a court injunction to force the suspension of the West Australian government's shark culling program, with its lawyer saying the "heart" has been ripped from the case.
The marine activists launched the fast-tracked legal challenge on Wednesday last week, seeking to have dozens of baited drumlines off Perth and the South West region removed.
Their argument questioned the validity of an exemption under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act, granted by federal environment minister Greg Hunt, which allowed the state government to kill any protected great white, tiger or bull shark bigger than three metres caught in certain zones.
The exemption runs until the end of the trial program on April 30, but Sea Shepherd wanted it stopped immediately.
Their lawyers argued the exemption was not valid as it was not published in an official government gazette.
But on Wednesday, Judge James Edelman disagreed and decided against granting the injunction.
Patrick Pearlman, principal solicitor for WA's Environmental Defender's Office, who led the action for Sea Shepherd, said hopes of a judicial review had been extinguished.
"In ruling on the preliminary question of whether the exemption is valid, he has in essence taken the heart out of the case," Mr Pearlman told reporters. "We're obviously disappointed. We thought we had a very good argument. It's a very legal, technical argument."
Mr Pearlman maintained the exemption should have been gazetted so parliamentarians had the chance to examine, debate and vote upon it. "Then, I think, every member of parliament would be able to be on the record and say whether they think this program is a good idea."
He said an appeal would be considered.
There was still a chance the state government could be forced to remove the drumlines before the trial ended, Mr Pearlman said, with the WA Environmental Protection Authority still considering whether to assess the program.
With the WA government's lawyers now seeking to slug Sea Shepherd with court costs, the activist group faces a bill of up to $19,000. But it was worth it, Mr Hansen said. "We had to have a shot at this," he said. "We will continue no matter what because we have right on our side."
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Posted by JR at 8:26 PM