Monday, July 21, 2014

Warmists assume what they have to prove

There are a great number of models that have been put out out by Warmists  -- all with slightly different assumptions.  And the assumptions are the key.  With different assumptions you could predict cooling.  But there are only a small minority that come close to the temperatures actually observed.

So the latest effort by some well-known Warmists simply picks out those models that have done best and says:  "Aha!  The models are good after all!"

Read the abstract below and see for yourself.  They say: "only those models with natural variability (represented by El Niño/Southern Oscillation) largely in phase with observations are selected"  and then say "These tests show that climate models have provided good estimates of 15-year trends". It is just one huge cherry-picking exercise where they pick out models that have for some reason got close to the facts and then proclaim that they have predicted something.  It is a classical example of being wise after the event.  Newpaper article followed by the journal abstract below

A common refrain by climate sceptics that surface temperatures have not warmed over the past 17 years, implying climate models predicting otherwise are unreliable, has been refuted by new research led by James Risbey, a senior CSIRO researcher.

Setting aside the fact the equal hottest years on record - 2005 and 2010 - fall well within the past 17 years, Dr Risbey and fellow researchers examined claims - including by some members of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change - that models overestimated global warming.

In a study published in Nature Climate Change on Monday, the team found that models actually generate good estimates of recent and past trends provided they also took into account natural variability, particularly the key El Nino-La Nina phases in the Pacific.

“You’re always going to get periods when the warming slows down or speeds up relative to the mean rate because we have these strong natural cycles,” Dr Risbey said.

In roughly 30-year cycles, the Pacific alternates between periods of more frequent El Ninos - when the ocean gives back heat to the atmosphere - to La Ninas, when it acts as a massive heat sink, setting in train relatively cool periods for surface temperatures.

By selecting climate models in phase with natural variability, the research found that model trends have been consistent with observed trends, even during the recent “slowdown” period for warming, Dr Risbey said.

“The climate is simply variable on short time scales but that variability is superimposed on an unmistakable long-term warming trend,” he said.

While sceptics have lately relied on a naturally cool phase of the global cycle to fan doubts about climate change, the fact temperature records continue to fall even during a La-Nina dominated period is notable, Dr Risbey said.

The temperature forcing from the build-up of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere “is beginning to overwhelm the natural variability on even shorter decadal time scales”, he said.

“We will always set more heat records during an El Nino [phase] ... than we will during the opposite but we’re still setting records even during the cold phase because we’re still warming,” Dr Risbey said.

While climatologists are wary about picking when the Pacific will switch back to an El-Nino dominated phase, the world may get an inkling of what is in store if an El Nino event is confirmed later this year.

The Bureau of Meteorology last week maintained its estimate of a 70 per cent chance of an El Nino this year. It noted, though, that warming sea-surface temperatures in the central and eastern Pacific had yet to trigger the consistent reinforcing atmospheric patterns such as a stalling or reversal in the easterly trade winds.

Even without the threshold being reached, however, El-Nino-like conditions had already contributed to the warmest May and June on record and equal-warmest April. Australia too has continued to see well-above average temperatures, with last year and the 12 months to June 30 setting records for warmth.

Data out this week from the US may confirm early readings that June's sea-surface temperatures were the biggest departure from long-term averages for any month.


Well-estimated global surface warming in climate projections selected for ENSO phase

By James S. Risbey, Stephan Lewandowsky, Clothilde Langlais, Didier P. Monselesan, Terence J. O’Kane & Naomi Oreskes


The question of how climate model projections have tracked the actual evolution of global mean surface air temperature is important in establishing the credibility of their projections. Some studies and the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report suggest that the recent 15-year period (1998–2012) provides evidence that models are overestimating current temperature evolution. Such comparisons are not evidence against model trends because they represent only one realization where the decadal natural variability component of the model climate is generally not in phase with observations. We present a more appropriate test of models where only those models with natural variability (represented by El Niño/Southern Oscillation) largely in phase with observations are selected from multi-model ensembles for comparison with observations. These tests show that climate models have provided good estimates of 15-year trends, including for recent periods and for Pacific spatial trend patterns.


Warmists admit that skeptics are right

There is a big sulk from "Salon" below about the fact that the NYT printed a favorable story about skeptic John Christy.  But it is hard to fathom how Warmist minds work because towards the end of their screed below they admit exactly what Christy and most skeptics are saying.  I have highlighted the passage

The New York Times missed the mark big time in its new profile of John Christy, a professor of atmospheric science at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, and prominent climate skeptic who “finds himself a target of suspicion” — and derision, and sometimes even insults — from his peers. Ostensibly, it’s an examination of the way that climate science has become politicized, to the extent that those with dissenting views are silenced or attacked by the cult of mainstream climate science. In reality, it’s an overly credulous and sympathetic portrayal of someone who, his claims having been almost completely discredited, is trying to spin the story in a way that makes him out to be a victim.

Perhaps, writer Michael Wines speculates, the reason why other climate scientists are so mean to Christy (people drew mean cartoons about him!) is because he’s “providing legitimacy to those who refuse to acknowledge” that the consequences of climate change are likely to be dire. The use of the word “legitimacy” is questionable: Unlike those who contest the scientific consensus on climate change with little or no background in climate science themselves, Christy does boast a bevy of credentials, as Wines is careful to denote. Christy’s actual research, on the other hand, along with the data that he insists, in the profile, to be beholden to — well, that’s been deflated, disproven and debunked by all manner of other, highly qualified experts. A dispute over his inaccurate climate models that Wines dismisses as a “scientific tit for tat,” meanwhile, is seen by others as a conscious attempt to misinform the public, in the interest of promoting climate skepticism.

A difference in perspective, perhaps. But in downplaying the many and legitimate issues with Christy’s research, Wines fails to treat this “skeptic” with much skepticism of his own. And worse still, the profile plays into an image that Christy has been working to build — one not of an anti-science “denier,” but instead of a modern-day Galileo, one who dares to contradict mainstream opinion and who will be vindicated by history — in this case, when the effects of climate change turns out to not be so bad, after all. See, for example, the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed Christy authored this February with fellow skeptic Richard McNider. In response to comments by Secretary of State John Kerry, who accused climate skeptics of belonging to the “Flat Earth Society,” they wrote:

    "But who are the Flat Earthers, and who is ignoring the scientific facts? In ancient times, the notion of a flat Earth was the scientific consensus, and it was only a minority who dared question this belief. We are among today’s scientists who are skeptical about the so-called consensus on climate change. Does that make us modern-day Flat Earthers, as Mr. Kerry suggests, or are we among those who defy the prevailing wisdom to declare that the world is round?"

This interpretation of history, as Joe Romm pointed out at the time, is yet another misconception, as the flat Earth myth was a pre-scientific belief, disproven by — you guessed it — science. Christy and McNiders’ inflated perception of themselves only serves to further confuse the public’s understanding of the scientific consensus on climate change. Their rhetoric, while appealing, falls apart upon examination.

As for the contention, among environmentalists, that Christy may be “a pawn of the fossil-fuel industry who distorts science to fit his own ideology”? Wines dismisses that in a parenthetical comment from Christy (“I don’t take money from industries”), and leaves it at that. This, again, plays right into Christy’s desire to be seen as misunderstood — he’s been careful to avoid associations not just with polluting industries, but with most of the groups dedicated to spreading climate denial. He doesn’t attend the Heartland Institute’s annual climate denial conferences, he told the Times’ Andrew Revkin several years back, because he wants to avoid “guilt by association.”

Yet Christy’s perspective on global warming — that the effects will be mild, and potentially even beneficial — is more or less aligned with those voiced by the participants in Heartland’s most recent conference, which took place last week. Aside from a few remaining loonies, most deniers have by now conceded the two most basic facts of climate change: that the climate is changing, and that man-made emissions of greenhouse gases are at least partially responsible. Christy’s not special in this regard. Instead, he’s part of a growing movement that Will Oremus, writing in Slate, describes as an effort to rebrand climate denial as “climate optimism”: the idea that climate change, while real, isn’t something worth worrying about — and certainly not worth making an effort to mitigate. In some ways, this is even more dangerous than flat-out denial, which is at least easy to shut down; climate optimism, instead, conflates science with conservative political ideology, as Oremus explains:

    "In fact, it’s not unreasonable to see the climate fight as part of a much broader ideological war in American society, says Anthony Leiserowitz, director of the Yale Project on Climate Change Communication. The debate over causes is often a proxy for a debate over solutions, which are likely to require global cooperation and government intervention in people’s lives. Leiserowitz’s research shows that climate deniers tend to be committed to values like individualism and small government while those most concerned about climate change are more likely to hold egalitarian and community-oriented political views.

    That doesn’t mean, of course, that the evidence on both sides is equal. There’s a reason the climate deniers are losing the scientific debate, and it isn’t because academia is better funded than the energy industry. All of which helps to explain how climate optimism might be a more appealing approach these days than climate denial. Models of how climate change will impact society and the economy are subject to far more uncertainty than the science that links greenhouse gas emissions to the 20th-century warming trend. The costs of mitigating those emissions are more readily grasped: higher energy bills, government spending on alternative energy projects, lost jobs at coal plants."

Accepting climate change, but not accepting that we should do anything about it: It’s that ideologically driven belief, and not a debate over science itself, that is the real way in which climate change has become politicized.

None of this is to suggest that there shouldn’t be a debate about science, or that all climate science is settled. Most of what we know about the future effects of climate change, including just how severe they will be, remains decidedly unsettled, and will remain so until they actually come to pass. Because 97 percent of scientists agree that human activity is contributing to changes in our climate, the debate now can and should be about what the evidence suggests, and what we ought to do about it. But the reason why Christy has attracted so much vitriol is because he’s on the radical fringe of both of those conversations: he’s using error-laden research and misleading claims to advocate for some adaptation and zero mitigation. The American Association for the Advancement of Science compares such a strategy to barreling down the highway without the benefit of seat belts or airbags; more colorfully, in Wines’ article, MIT professor Kerry Emanuel suggests “It’s kind of like telling a little girl who’s trying to run across a busy street to catch a school bus to go for it, knowing there’s a substantial chance that she’ll be killed. She might make it. But it’s a big gamble to take.”

Christy’s supporters are already up in arms about that one. But the comparison is apt, and it’s the reason why, even if history does turn out to vindicate Christy, he won’t be remembered as an anti-establishment hero. He’ll just be someone who, against all evidence to the contrary, got really, really lucky, and put not just a little girl, but the entire world at risk in the process.


One of the sadder examples of what the human race produces


German scientists show that constant alarmist messages about dramatic and dangerously rising sea levels cannot be confirmed by raw tidal measurements. According to expert Klaus-Eckart Puls “measurements are actually showing the opposite.” Only "mysterious" government computer models show rises in sea levels, says the report.tidal measure

Making the announcement on behalf of the European Institute for Climate and Energy Klaus-Eckart Puls says:

“Worldwide, neither tidal gauge data (200 years) nor satellite data (20 years) show any acceleration of sea level rise. That is in stark contrast to all past and current statements by the IPCC and several climate (research) institutes and climate-models. Moreover, there are indications that the satellite data (showing a higher [double] rate of increase) are significantly “over-corrected.”” [See ref 28 in the report]

‘Mysterious Case’ or Data Rigging?

The European Institute for Climate and Energy expressed their concerns about the reliability of certain official computer models adding, “Instead of adjusting the satellite data to those actually measured on the ground and correcting them downward, the discrepancy between gauge and satellite measurements continue to this date. Somehow, that does not appear to bother anyone. A mysterious case.”

Wilhelmshaven coast scientist, Karl-Ernst Behre from the Lower Saxony Institute for Historical Coastal Research (NIHK ) explains that the best evidence shows sea levels have only been rising naturally “since the end of the last ice age we have good knowledge of the sea level changes on the German North Sea coast.”

The latest German research shows that sea level has risen naturally due to global warming by more than 50 meters in the past 10,000 years, says Behre. It has been nothing to do with humans.

"The increase has increasingly slowed when one considers the overarching trend of the last 3000 years. In the "youngest" 400 years (1600-2000) there have been (without the GIA correction) an increase of 1.35 m, in the past 100 years, only one such 25 cm, thus slowing it down further."

No Evidence of Increased Floods

The European Institute for Climate are also able to confirm there is no evidence that the floods are getting worse. 'We have measured the flood levels for 100 years, during which time the mean high water is up by 25cm which fits the natural rise in sea level. There is no evidence of more frequent floods. "

Sea levels alone are not the only factor – changes in the landmass due to the rise and fall of geological movements, especially plate tectonics, volcanism and glacial processes can superficially affect sea levels (Isostasy and Eustasie).

Not helping the cause of alarmism is the fact well-known German land subsidence should be making any supposed sea level rise look even more pronounced, as the report shows.

As for the German North Sea coast Behre explains that in 2011, a work was published on the trends of 15 coastal levels in the German Bight. A graph  detailing the findings shows the actual extent of sea level rises, proving no human signal.

This was part of a wider range of studies dealing with the ongoing Holocene vertical land movements of the last millennium in southern Scandinavia, Jutland, the North Frisian Islands, the south arch over Denmark and the middle Baltic Sea. It proved:

"The North Sea basin is already a very long time an area of subsidence, tectonic subsidence and this holds true even today. The German coast lies on the upper part of this reduction area. In the area of the German Bight there is shown to be a tectonically induced mean decrease from 0.64 cm / century, in the West it is 0.54 cm / century as in the east and consequently is overall a small amount.”

As such, the authors are able to confirm there is no trend. All measured changes in sea levels can thus be attributed only to a natural origin conistent with the ongoing glacial retreat our planet has been experiencing since the onset of the Holocene Period around 11,000 years ago.



Killing marine life with ethanol

Ethanol damages your cars, small engines, food budget – and kills Gulf of Mexico animals

Paul Driessen

Ethanol and other biofuel mandates and subsidies got started when politicians bought into claims that we are rapidly depleting our petroleum, and fossil-fuel-driven global warming is boiling the planet.

Hydraulic fracturing destroyed the depletion myth. It also reminds us that “peak oil” applies only if we wrongly assume that resource needs and technologies never change. The 18-year “hiatus” in planetary warming has forced alarmists to change their terminology to climate change, climate disruption and extreme weather mantras – which allow them to continue demanding that we stop using the hydrocarbons that provide 82% of the energy that makes our economy, jobs and living standards possible.

In recent years, people have discovered that ethanol harms lawn mowers and other small engines. The fuel additive also drives up gasoline prices, reduces automotive mileage and corrodes engine parts.

Corn-for-ethanol growers make a lot of money. But meat, egg and fish producers pay more for feed, driving up family food bills. Biofuel mandates also mean aid agencies pay more for corn and wheat, so more malnourished people go hungry longer. This is not what most would call “environmental justice.”

The 10% blends are bad enough. 15% ethanol is much worse, and truckers say a highly corrosive 20% blend will be needed to meet California’s looming low carbon fuel standards.

US law mandates that ethanol production must triple between 2007 and 2020 – even though motorists are driving less and thus using less gasoline, which then means refiners need less ethanol to produce 10% blends. That “blend wall” (between what’s needed and what’s produced) is driving the push to allow 15% ethanol blends, which would void most car engine warranties.

The guaranteed income incentivizes farmers to take land out of conservation easements, pasture land and wildlife habitat, and grow corn instead. Just to meet current ethanol quotas, US farmers are now growing corn on an area the size of Iowa. Growing and harvesting this corn and turning it into ethanol also requires massive quantities of pesticides, fertilizers, fossil fuels and water.

Corn-based ethanol requires 2,500 to 29,000 gallons of fresh water per million Btu of energy – compared to at most 6.0 gallons of fresh or brackish water per million Btu of energy produced via fracking. Across its life cycle, ethanol production and use also releases more carbon dioxide per gallon than gasoline.

Now we learn that ethanol is bad for the environment in another way. It kills marine life.

A large portion of the nitrogen fertilizers needed to grow all that corn gets washed off the land and into streams and rivers that drain into the Gulf of Mexico, where they cause enormous summertime algae blooms. When the algae die, their decomposition consumes oxygen in the water – creating enormous low-oxygen (hypoxic) and zero-oxygen (anoxic) regions.

Marine life cannot survive in those “dead zones.” Fish swim away, but shrimp, oysters, clams, mussels, crabs, sea cucumbers and other stationary or slow moving bottom dwellers cannot escape. They just die.

Thousands of square miles of water off the coast of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas as far southwest as Corpus Christi can remain blanketed by a dead zone until fall winds or tropical storms or hurricanes come through. These events cool the water down, churn up the anoxic zones, bring in new oxygen supplies, and restore livability.

In 2012, nearly 2,900 square miles (about the size of Delaware) turned into a dead zone. Last year, because of much greater water flow from the Corn Belt, the region of animal cadavers covered nearly 8,560 square miles (New Jersey). This year, the zone of death could cover a more average Connecticut-size 4,630 to 5,700 square miles, say Louisiana State University, Texas A&M and other researchers, due to lower water flows; strong eddy currents south of the Mississippi Delta could also be playing a role.

A friend of mine recently observed vast stretches of green algae blooms in the normally “blue water” areas beyond the 15-mile-wide region where fresh Mississippi River waters mix with Gulf of Mexico salt water, in the Mississippi Canyon area south of Louisiana. The green zone extended to some 40 miles from shore, he said. As the algae die, they will create huge new suffocation zones, rising up into the water column, invisible from the air and surface, but deadly to millions of creatures that cannot swim away.

The dead zones also mean fishermen, crabbers, shrimpers and other recreational and commercial boaters must travel much further from shore to find anything, putting them at greater risk in the event of storms.

“More nitrate comes off corn fields than it does from any other crop, by far,” says Louisiana State University zoologist Gene Turner. The nitrogen drives the formation of dead zones, and the “primary culprit” driving the entire process is corn-based ethanol, adds Larry McKinney, executive director of the Harte Research Center for Gulf of Mexico Studies at Texas A&M University in Corpus Christi.

The US Geological Survey estimates that 153,000 metric tons of nitrogen fertilizer and other nutrients flowed down the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers in May 2013. That was 16% more than the average amount over the previous three decades. The enormous nutrient runoff is primarily the result of feeding just one crop: corn for ethanol, the USGS affirms. The lost seafood is worth tens of millions of dollars.

Fertilizer and pesticide runoff is substantially higher in wet years. But in dry years much of the excess chemical application just builds up in the soil, waiting for the next big rainy season to unleash it. The more acreage we put in corn for ethanol – and soybeans for biodiesel – the worse the fertilizer and pesticide runoff, algae blooms, dead zones and eradicated marine life become in wet years.

Water use is also skyrocketing to grow these biofuel crops. And if it weren’t for biotechnology, the problems would be far worse. GMO corn is engineered to need less water, and to kill insects that feed on the crops with far lower pesticide use than for traditional, non-biotech varieties. However, the same greens who hate hydrocarbons and promote ethanol and biodiesel also detest biotechnology. Go figure.

Some biofuel advocates tout cellulosic ethanol as a partial solution – because switchgrass requires less fertilizer, and this perennial’s roots help stabilize the soil and reduce runoff. But no one has yet been able to turn this pipedream source into ethanol on a commercial scale. Another potential manmade fuel could be methanol from natural gas produced via hydraulic fracturing, but greens continue to oppose fracking.

This algae boom, bust and dead zone phenomenon may not be an ecological crisis, and it’s been going on for decades. But why make it worse, with an expensive, engine-wrecking fuel that eco-activists, politicians and ethanol lobbyists pretend is better for the planet than fossil fuels? Why don’t biofuel boosters at least include this serious, recurring environmental damage in their cost-benefit analyses?

And why do we continue to tolerate the double standards? Environmentalists, politicians and bureaucrats come down with iron fists on any private sector damages involving fossil fuel or nuclear power. They have different standards for the “natural” and “eco-friendly” “alternatives” they advocate. Ethanol from corn is just one example. An even more grotesque double standard involves wind turbines.

Big Green activists and Big Government bureaucrats (especially Fish & Wildlife Service) let Big Wind companies kill eagles and other raptors, conduct deliberately insufficient and incompetent body counts, hide and bury carcasses, and even store hundreds of dead eagles in freezers, away from prying eyes. Using German and Swedish studies as a guide, Save the Eagles International experts calculate that the real US wind turbine death toll is probably 13 million or more birds and bats every year, slaughtered in the name of saving the planet from computer-concocted ravages of manmade global warming.

These policies are unsustainable and intolerable. The same environmental and endangered species standards must be applied to all our energy alternatives – and the ethanol quotas must be terminated.

Via email

Iowan’s USDA appointment raises concern

The appointment of Iowa’s Angela Tagtow, a controversial “environmental nutritionist” and local food activist, to head the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion is causing more headaches for the agency, already facing criticism about politicization of federal nutrition advice and its consequences for public health.

By using the government’s official dietary guidelines as a tool to advance her well-established environmentalist agenda, Tagtow would undermine the USDA’s mandate — to provide families with science-based, impartial nutrition advice.

The USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services administer the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, which makes recommendations regarding the dietary guidelines mandated by Congress. The guidelines, now being revised, are the basis for federal food and nutrition programs and welfare benefits such as SNAP and educational campaigns, including MyPlate (formerly the food pyramid). The USDA touts them to be “authoritative advice for people 2 years and older about how good dietary habits can promote health and reduce risk for major chronic diseases.”

The fourth meeting of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee started Thursday and will conclude today.

According to Politico, recent advisory committee meetings raised eyebrows because “hot-button issues, such as diet and climate change,” are being discussed in an unprecedented way. The committee has even dedicated one of five subcommittees to “food sustainability and safety” to discuss how the food we eat contributes to climate change and how the government should recommend changes to our diets based on those concerns.

Sustainable food systems and environmental protection may be important, but these issues don’t belong in discussions of healthy eating.

That hasn’t stopped the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee from delving deeply into them over the past year. In the January meeting of the committee, member Miriam Nelson gushed about the importance of promoting foods that have the “littlest impact on the environment” and invited testimony from sustainability expert Kate Clancy, who argued it would be “perilous” not to take global climate change into account when dispensing dietary advice.

In April, a USDA spokesperson seemed to back away from the row by minimizing the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s role in policy-making, saying, “The committee is still in the early stages of its work, so it is premature to guess what their recommendations might be, and even more premature to speculate about what will be included in the final dietary guidelines.”

But the appointment of Tagtow to the USDA office responsible for not only developing and promoting the dietary guidelines, but advancing prominent programs such as MyPlate, suggests that the USDA is doubling down on raising the profile of our diet’s alleged effect on the climate and other issues that have more to do with political science than nutritional science.

For instance, Tagtow boasts that the mission of her consulting firm, Environmental Nutrition Solutions, “is to establish healthier food systems that are resilient, sustainable, ecologically sound, socially acceptable and economically viable.”

This isn’t nutrition. This is code language for politically charged activism. In what amounts to her policy platform statement, Tagtow writes that we should select meat and dairy products from animals that have been fed only grass diets.

She also repeats the myth that meat is an environmentally reckless form of protein, suggesting a plant-based diet instead. She says we should reduce our consumption of meat, lean or not, not because of any potential health benefits, but in order to “conserve natural resources and energy.”

Tagtow has suggested that Iowans could improve the state’s economy by eating only food grown in the state, at least part of the year.

She touted a Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture study, claiming that ” if Iowans ate five servings of fruits and vegetables per day, and Iowa farmers supplied that produce for three months of the year, these additional crops would add $300 million and more than 4,000 jobs to the Iowa economy.”

She fails to mention that in her utopian Iowa, residents wouldn’t likely enjoy the benefits of staples like oranges or pineapples for those months. Nor does she consider the devastation to Iowa’s agricultural community if her agro-protectionist ideals were implemented in other states.

Well, now she’s headed to the federal government to promote her narrow ideology.

The maxim that in government, “personnel is policy,” is especially true here, given Tagtow’s policymaking role. The priorities she’s spent her career advancing are far from the consensus among mainstream nutritionists.

Her appointment is a slap in the face to thousands of men and women in nutrition who daily work tirelessly and impartially to help Americans eat better. And it casts doubt over whether USDA is willing to dispense nutrition advice based on science rather than an activist agenda.


Australia: Greenie meat pies rejected

Meat pies are often said to be Australia's national food and I certainly am a fancier of them.  The ones I buy have chunks of steak in them and cost around $3.50

Sustainable. Organic. Locally sourced. These four words bulldoze us at every supermarket corner, on every menu and during many a MasterChef ad break. But how happy are we to pay a higher price for such produce?

A Victorian bakery has removed a meat pie from its menu because of complaints the price was too high.

At RedBeard Bakery in Trentham, about an hour north-west of Melbourne, a conversation similar to the following took place at least 10 times a week:

“One pie, thanks mate.”

“No worries. That'll be $8.”

“You're bloody kidding me! That's highway robbery!”

“Our ingredients are sourced locally and we know the farmers. The meat is grass-fed and sustainable. The pastry is made with organic butter and hand-rolled. The pie is put together by hand and cooked in our 19th century Scotch oven. It actually costs us $8 to make, so we're really providing a community service.”

“Whatever, mate. I didn't ask for a sermon.”

Fed up with explaining the price to tourists and tradies alike, RedBeard co-owner and baker Al Reid ceased making the pie in June.

“Every day there were embarrassing, stilted conversations with customers trying to justify why you're charging what is actually quite a reasonable price given the quality of the product and the labour input,” Reid says. “Customers' perceptions of what a pie should cost seem to be based on what you pay at a footy match. Pies ain't pies, just like oils ain't oils.”

Reid says cheap, mass-produced factory pies are often just gravy, corn starch and pastry made with margarine and transfats. They're cheap for a reason.

The removal of RedBeard's pie ignited a flutter of comments on its Facebook page. Most of these lamented the loss and suggested the complainers buy their frozen pies elsewhere.

But where does popular opinion lie?

An article this writer penned about Sydney's best dumplings attracted a wealth of comments on the theme that prices at high-end dumpling houses are absurd when you can purchase 12 dumplings for $4 “down the road”.

This is true. The Chinatowns of Melbourne and Sydney are rife with dumpling houses that trade potstickers by the pound. However, for the most part these little parcels of (admittedly delicious) mystery meat are in no way organic or sustainable. This is why you'll pay more “up the road”.

At Mr Wong, dim sum master Eric Koh uses Alaskan king crab in his noodle wraps (one for $12) and dumplings. It's not cheap, but then, Alaskan king crab fishing isn't easy: it takes place only in autumn; specific size requirements must be met, and only males can be kept.

“I think that in the past many dim sum chefs did not necessarily appreciate the importance of quality ingredients,” Koh says. “It required a vast amount of research to develop my knowledge about the individual ingredients and the skills needed to make the best quality dumplings possible. In the last five to 10 years more people are appreciating the value of dumplings and understanding that you pay for what you get.”

If RedBeard Bakery was selling $8 organic pies in Surry Hills or Collingwood, would it have attracted the same daily criticism? Probably not. Mary's burger bar in Newtown sells cheeseburgers for $14 – and not the type of baby-elephant-sized cheeseburgers that even a Texan would struggle to finish. They're not much bigger than one from Macca's but Mary's is packed to its exposed rafters every night with punters scoffing them down.

The price is justified: Mary's burger patties are made from a mix of high quality, house-smoked brisket, chuck and rump. But a takeaway store charging $14 for a burger this size in country NSW would be unthinkable.

Then there are the hand-cut chips at Hooked Healthy Seafood in Melbourne. Made from locally grown potatoes that are delivered fresh and unfrozen, the chips are big, fat and incredibly tasty. They will also set you back $7.95 for a large serving. That price would be laughed at in a palm-oil-using fish-and-chippery, but at Hooked (which has shops in Fitzroy, Windsor and Hawthorn) the chips have a status approaching legendary.

Despite justified prices and no shortage of customers, user review sites for Hooked host a good deal of “overpriced” and “rip-off” rants – especially comparing it to chippies (again) “down the road”.

Will Australia reach a point where we can all agree that $8 for a pie made from local, organic ingredients is justifiable? Signs are promising. But while buzzwords like "organic" and "sustainable" are bandied around without wider education on the processes and costs associated with producing organic and sustainable food, that day seems some time away.

And Coles selling four frozen pies for $4 doesn't help.



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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