Friday, August 01, 2014

'Chill out about GM food': We've been modifying crops for thousands of years, claims scientist

Supporters of genetically modified food claim they it help feed the world and eradicate disease, while their opponents believe they could contaminate natural food and even harm people.

Now, American astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, who presents the TV documentary Cosmos, has defended controversial genetically modified organisms (GMOs), saying that people should just ‘chill out’.

He claims that practically every type for food for sale is genetically modified in some way already and that there are few ‘wild’ crops and animals left.

The scientist, who has already spoken out against critics of evolution and climate change, gaves his opinion in a video first spotted by Mother Jones.

He can be seen answering a question about his views on GM food, to which he replied: ‘I'm amazed at just how much objection genetically modified foods are receiving.

'It smacks of the fear factor that exists at every new emergent science, where people don't fully understand it or don't fully know or embrace its consequences and are therefore rejecting it.

‘What most people don't know, but should, is that practically every food you buy in a store for consumption by humans is genetically modified food.

‘There are no wild seedless watermelons; there's no wild cows…You list all the fruit, and all the vegetables, and ask yourself: “Is there a wild counterpart to this?” If there is, it's not as large, it's not as sweet, it's not as juicy, and it has way more seeds in it.

‘We have systematically genetically modified all the foods, the vegetables and animals that we have eaten ever since we cultivated them. It's called artificial selection. That's how we genetically modify them. So now that we can do it in a lab, all of a sudden you're going to complain?’

He suggests that opponents to GM food should eat apples that grow in the wild that are small and sour, unlike the sweeter and larger types that are sold in supermarkets.

‘We are creating and modifying the biology of the world to serve our needs. I don't have a problem with that, because we've been doing that for tens of thousands of years. So chill out,’ he said.

It is not clear from the video at which event the scientist made his remarks and when it took place.

While government organisations and other top scientists may have stopped short of telling protestors to ‘chill out,’ many institutions, including the National Academy of Sciences and the European Commission say that GM food is not unsafe.

Some people question the wisdom of tampering with nature, but a number of prominent scientists believe that GM crops are the key to feeding the world's rapidly expanding population.

By manipulating the genes in wheat and potatoes, experts have managed to make them resistant to fungal infections, which leads to food shortages.

'Super bananas' laced with vitamin A could be on sale in 2020 in a bid to tackle deficiency in Africa, while scientists believe that GM mosquitoes could be the secret to wiping out dengue fever.


Testimony on EPA’s proposed rules for existing power plants — Atlanta, Georgia

Marita Noon

Today, I have come to address the EPA’s proposed rule regarding carbon emissions from existing power plants. I speak on behalf of myself and my personal views.

I also represent the Washington DC based group: Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and its 60,000 supporters. Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow has been working on issues of environment and development for more than twenty-five years with a board consisting of more than fifty scientists and academic advisors from leading universities, think tanks, and laboratories from around the world. I serve as a policy analyst for Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow.

I was here yesterday and earlier today. I’ve listened to the well intentioned pleas from many who have begged you, the EPA, to take even stronger action than this plan proposes. One even dramatically claimed; “You are the Environmental Protection Agency. You are our only hope. If you don’t protect us no one will.”

I heard a teary-eyed, young woman tell a tale about a man she knows who is dying of cancer, supposedly, because he grew up near a coal-fired power plant—he couldn’t be here, so she told his story. She also said: “I am fortunate enough to have not been around in the 1960s when there was real smog.” Her father has told her about it.

Another addressed how she gets headaches from emissions. She told how lung tissue can be burned. And, how particulates are why people can no longer see the mountain in her region.

An attorney’s testimony told about seeing “carbon pollution” every day from his 36th floor office “a few blocks from here” from where he looks “out over a smog covered city.”

The passion of these commenters supersedes their knowledge as none of the issues I’ve mentioned here, and there are many more, are something caused by carbon dioxide—a clear, colorless gas that each of us breathe out and plants breathe in.

Carbon dioxide is a natural, and essential, part of the environment—with massive, unknown, quantities of carbon dioxide emitted each year from natural sources such as volcanoes. Were you able to eliminate carbon dioxide from every industrial source in the United States, it will have virtually no impact on global carbon dioxide emissions.

I understand the concerns over true smog and pollution. I grew up in southern California—graduating from high school in 1976. At that time, we had made a mess of our environment. We had polluted the air and water. Cleaning up our collective act was an important public policy issue. San Bernardino, California, where my family lived, was in a valley, surrounded by mountains. If was not uncommon for a family to move into the area in the summer, when the smog was the worst, and not even know the beautiful mountains existed. In the fall when the winds came in and blew the smog out to sea, newcomers where amazed to discover the mountains.

But that pollution, that smog, has largely been cleaned up. Utilities have spent hundreds of billion dollars on scrubbers, and other highly technical equipment, to, successfully, remove the vast majority of the particulates. People often see a billowing white cloud coming from the stacks at a coal-fueled power plant and confuse it with pollution when it is really H2O—water in the form of steam. Depending on the time of year, or the time of day, it may be more or less visible. The weather conditions may make it settle like fog until the sun burns it off. And this, I believe, is mistaken for pollution.

If you haven’t seen Randy Scott Slavin’s Bird’s-Eye-View of New York City, I encourage you to check it out as it shows an amazingly clean city—despite the more than 800 million people living in those compact 469 square miles. New York City is one of the most populated places on the planet, yet its air is sparkling.

This rule is not about pollution. It is about shutting down coal-fueled power plants and killing jobs and raising electricity rates—both of which punish people who can least afford it. But plenty of others have addressed the economic impact so I won’t take more of my time on that topic.

But, I do want to address the constitutionality of the proposed plan as it does exactly what the Supreme Court admonished the EPA about on June 23. Justice Antonin Scalia, for the majority, wrote this about the Tailoring Rule decision: “Were we to recognize the authority claimed by EPA in the Tailoring Rule, we would deal a severe blow to the Constitution’s separation of powers… The power of executing laws…does not include a power to revise clear statutory terms that turn out not to work in practice.” Yet, this is exactly what this proposed plan will do.

Later in the decision, Scalia says: “When an agency claims to discover in a long-extant statute an unheralded power to regulate “a significant portion of the American economy” . . . we typically greet its announcement with a measure of skepticism. We expect Congress to speak clearly if it wishes to assign an agency decisions of vast “economic and political significance.”

I believe on these grounds, this plan must not go forward.

I fear that if it does, America will pay a dear price. This hearing was scheduled to take place down the street at the Sam Nunn Federal Center. However, it was moved due to a power outage. Note: business cannot be done without power. You were able to move this hearing. In a reduced-power environment businesses will move to places where they have access to energy that is effective, efficient, and economical. They will move, as many have already done, to places with far-looser environmental policies and the perceived gain will be lost.

Thinking that what we do in the United States will have a serious impact on global carbon dioxide emissions is like thinking that declaring a “no pee” sectionin the swimming pool will keep the water urine free.

I’ll end with a quote from the smog-viewing attorney who closed with: “I am hopeful that my new grandchildren. Who will live into the 22nd century, will enjoy a world that my grandparents, born in the 19th century, would recognize.” If this plan is passed, he may get his wish. His grandparents’ world contained of none of the energy-based modern conveniences or medical miracles we consider standard and essential today—let alone those yet to be developed or discovered by the 22nd century.

Remember, the countries with the best human health and the most material wealth are those with the highest energy consumption. America needs energy that is abundant, available and affordable.


Carbon Rebates: Better than Carbon Regulations?

The New York Times is running today an op/ed, "The Carbon Dividend," by University of Massachusetts economist James Boyce touting a new bill by Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) that would set up a cap-and-dividend program that aims to limit U.S. emissions of globe-warming carbon dioxide. Boyce explains that the plan...

    "...would require coal, oil and natural gas companies to buy a permit for each ton of carbon in the fuels they sell. Permits would be auctioned, and 100 percent of the proceeds would be returned straight to the American people as equal dividends for every woman, man and child...

    The number of permits initially would be capped at the level of our 2005 carbon dioxide emissions. This cap would gradually ratchet down to 80 percent below that level by 2050. Prices of fossil fuels would rise as the cap tightened, spurring private investment in energy efficiency and clean energy. Energy companies would pass the cost of permits to consumers in the form of higher fuel prices. But for most families, the gain in carbon dividends would be greater than the pain. In fact, my calculations show that more than 80 percent of American households would come out ahead financially—and that doesn’t even count the benefits of cleaner air and a cooler planet.

    As the cap tightened, prices of fossil fuels would rise faster than quantity would fall, so total revenues would rise. The tighter the cap, the bigger the dividend. Voters not only would want to keep the policy in place for the duration of the clean energy transition, they would want to strengthen it.

    The net effect on any household would depend on its carbon footprint—how much it spent, directly and indirectly, on fossil fuels. The less carbon it consumed, the bigger its net benefit. But why would a vast majority emerge as winners?

    There are two reasons. First, among final consumers, households account for about two-thirds of fossil fuel use in the United States. Most of the remainder is consumed by government. In Mr. Van Hollen’s bill, households would receive these other carbon dollars, too.

    Republicans should welcome this feature, since over the years it would return billions of dollars from the government to the people. Unlike a carbon tax, which brings in more revenue for the government, Mr. Van Hollen’s bill is, in effect, a tax cut."

Boyce likens the proposal to the popular Alaska permanent fund that divvies up oil and gas royalties to each Alaskan citizen. (To get a better idea how the Alaska fund works, see my colleague Jesse Walker's "One State Already Has A Basic Income Plan.")"

Given that the bastards in Washington and various statehouses are going to "do something" about climate, this proposal could be thought of as a least bad policy alternative policy. After all, our policymakers have already screwed up the economy with ethanol mandates, EPA coal regulations, CAFE standards, feed-in tariffs, renewable portfolio standards, tax credits for solar, wind, and electric cars, and on and on and on. So what about a deal? Get rid of all of those regulations, mandates and requirements in exchange for this straigtforward carbon dividend plan.


Obama Invited to Meet Coal Miners Losing Their Jobs Because of EPA Regulations

As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) holds public meetings this week on its latest round of proposed regulations to limit greenhouse gas emissions from the nation’s fossil-fuel-fired power plants, Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.) said President Barack Obama should trade a trip to the golf course for a visit with coal miners across America who are losing their jobs.

“I’ve got an invitation here. This is a letter I sent to the president of the United States,” Kelly said on Wednesday at a press conference outside of the Capitol. “And this is an invitation for him to come to the coal nation.

“I want him to get off of the back nine and come into the mines,” Kelly said. “I want to get his golf cap off and get his hard hat on.”

On June 2, the EPA announced its Clean Power Plan “to cut carbon pollution from existing power plants.”

"Climate change, fueled by carbon pollution, supercharges risks to our health, our economy, and our way of life,” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said in the press release announcing the plan. “EPA is delivering on a vital piece of President Obama's Climate Action Plan by proposing a Clean Power Plan that will cut harmful carbon pollution from our largest source – power plants.

"By leveraging cleaner energy sources and cutting energy waste, this plan will clean the air we breathe while helping slow climate change so we can leave a safe and healthy future for our kids,” McCarthy said.

On Monday, EPA announced a series of public meetings on the proposed rule, with the comment period before it becomes finalized ending on Oct. 16.

The executive summary of the rule states: “This rule, as proposed, would continue progress already underway to lower the carbon intensity of power generation in the United States (U.S.). Lower carbon intensity means fewer emissions of CO 2, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change. This proposal is a significant step forward in the EPA and states partnering to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions in the U.S.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) opened the Wednesday’s press conference by saying the EPA’s rules have already hurt people in his state.

“In Eastern Kentucky we’ve lost 7,000 coal mining jobs during the Obama years,” McConnell said. “It hasn’t always been that way – we actually gained over 3,000 during the Bush years.”

Then McConnell introduced Jimmy Rose, a finalist on season eight of the television series “America’s Got Talent,” who sang his hit song “Coal Keeps the Lights On.”

“They went plumb down crazy in Washington.

They're talking about closing the mines.

They're gonna bleed us all dry from the inside out.

They don't care that much about the little man or the calloused hands.

It's a way of life 'round, just like it's always been.

Coal keeps the lights on.

My hometown keeps food on the spoon in my youngin's mouth.

Tires on the truck and a sundress on my baby girl.

Coal keeps the bills paid, the clothes on the backs,

and shoes on the feet in the high school halls of the Mountain Lions

and the Bill County Bobcats on the hill.”

Rose, who is also a military veteran, got a rousing response to his song from both lawmakers and others at the press conference.

Then Kelly echoed Rose’s sentiments in his song by saying that coal is vital not only to coal miners and their families, but the U.S. economy.

“This is coal’s day in court,” Kelly said. “This is our chance to stand up and say what we believe in, what we know is right and what we know is true.

“And we know what is truly American about this,” Kelly said. “The workhorse of this nation’s economy has always been coal.”

Both McConnell and another Kentucky lawmaker - Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) – spoke at the press conference about the EPA’s unilateral actions on U.S. energy policy.

McConnell said even if coal production is increasing at rapid rates and without regulation in places like China and India, the United States is suffering under EPA rules.

“And yet here we are in our native country suffering from the policies of this administration and this EPA that’s out of control – as the federal courts have said – and leaving our people in desperate straits,” McConnell said. “It’s time for that to stop.”

Paul said Obama needs “to understand that in our country the legislature passes laws.

“The greenhouse law or regulation won’t pass Congress so he’s going around Congress,” Paul said.

“I say to the president, Come to our state and see the despair,” he added. “But also read the Constitution – this isn’t the way that it should be.”


The Carbon TAX Scam

By Alan Caruba

In a recent appearance before a congressional committee, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told them that the agency’s proposed sweeping carbon-regulation plan was “really an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control.”

If the plan isn’t about pollution, the primary reason for the EPA’s existence, why bother with yet more regulation of something that is not a pollutant—carbon dioxide—despite the Supreme Court’s idiotic decision that it is. Yes, even the Court gets things wrong.

Carbon Tax

What the Greens want most of all is a carbon tax; that is to say, a tax on CO2 emissions. It is one of the most baseless, destructive taxes that could be imposed on Americans and we should take a lesson from the recent experience that Australians had when, after being told by a former prime minister, Julia Gillard, that she would not impose the tax, she did. They get rid of her andthen got rid of the tax!

As Daniel Simmons, the vice president of policy at the American Energy Alliance, wrote in Roll Call “Australia is now the first country to eliminate its carbon tax. In doing so, it struck a blow in favor of sound public policy.”  Initiated in 2012, the tax had imposed a $21.50 charge (in U.S. dollars), increasing annually, on each ton of carbon dioxide emitted by the country’s power plants.” At the time President Obama called it “good for the world”, but Australians quickly found it was not good for them or their economy.

Favored by several Democratic Senators that include New Hampshire’s Jeanne Shaheen, Alaska’s Mark Begich, and North Carolina’s Kay Hagan, the Heritage Foundation, based on data provided by the Energy Information Administration, took a look at the impact that a proposed U.S. carbon tax would have and calculated that it “would cut a family of four’s income by nearly $2,000 a year while increasing its electricity bills by more than $500 per year. It would increase gas prices by 50 cents per gallon. It could eliminate more than a million jobs in the first few years.”

Simmons noted that “It only took (Australians) two years of higher prices, fewer jobs, and no environmental benefits before they abandoned their carbon tax.”

We don’t need, as Gina McCarthy told the congressional committee, “investments in renewables and clean energy” because billions were wasted by Obama’s “stimulus” and by the grants and other credits extended to wind and solar energy in America. They are the most expensive, least productive, and most unpredictable forms of energy imaginable, given that neither the wind nor the sun is available full-time in the way fossil fuel generated energy is. Both require backup from coal, natural gas, and nuclear energy plants.

In addition to all the other White House efforts to saddle Americans with higher costs, it has now launched a major effort to push its “climate change” agenda with a carbon tax high on its list. A July 29 article in The Hill reported that “Obama is poised to sidestep Congress with a new set of executive actions on climate change.”

If we don’t jump-start our economy by tapping into the jobs and revenue our vast energy reserves represent, secure our southern border, and elect a Congress that will rein in the President, the U.S. risks becoming a lawless banana republic. Carbon taxes are one more nail in the national coffin.


Hostages to a renewable ruse

Comment from Australia

IF there is a sound more pitiable than the whine of a pious environmental activist, it is the wail of a ­financier about to do his dough.

The mournful chorus now wafting from Greg Hunt’s waiting room is the sound of the two in unison, pleading with the Environment Minister to save the life of their misshapen bastard child, the renewable energy target.

You have to hand it to Hunt, who either has nerves of steel or is stone deaf, for he has retained both his cool and his fortitude.

The RET review by Dick Warburton on the government’s behalf has brought the rent-seekers out in force, for billions of dollars of corporate welfare is resting on its outcome.

As it stands, the RET will produce a bounteous return for a small group of investors shrewd enough to get into the windmill game while the rest of us are slapped with four-figure power bills.

Wind farms may be ugly but they are certainly not cheap, nor is the electricity that trickles from them. No one in their right minds would buy one if they had to sell power for $30 to $40 a megawatt hour, the going rate for conventional producers.

But since the retailers are forced to buy a proportion of renewable power, the windmill mafia can charge two to three times that price, a practice that in any other market would be known as price gouging.

As if a $60 premium were not reward enough, the transaction is further sweetened with a renewable energy certificate that they can sell to energy producers who insist on generating power in a more disreputable manner.

The going rate of $40 a megawatt hour means the total income per megawatt for wind farms is three to five times that of conventional power, and unless the government changes the scheme that return is only going to get better.

In an act of rent-seeking genius, the renewable lobby managed to persuade the Rudd government to set the 2020 target as a quantity — 41 terawatt hours — rather than 20 per cent of overall power as originally proposed.

Since the target was set, the energy generation forecast for 2020 has fallen substantially, meaning the locked-in renewable target is now more like 28 per cent.

That will send conventional producers scrambling for certificates, pushing up their price beyond $100. It’s a mouth-watering prospect for the merchant bankers and venture capitalists who were smart enough to jump on board, and brilliant news for Mercedes dealerships on the lower north shore, but of little or any benefit to the planet.

The cost of this speculative ­financial picnic will be about $17 billion by 2030 or thereabouts, ­according to Deloitte, which produced a report on the messy business last week.

Since the extra cost will be added to electricity bills, the RET is a carbon tax by another name, a regressive impost that will fall most heavily on those with limited incomes, such as pensioners.

The lowest income households already spend 7 per cent of their disposable incomes on energy, according to the Australian Council of Social Service. Energy takes just 2.6 per cent of the budget of those on high incomes.

Thus under the cover of responding to climate change — “the greatest moral, economic and social challenge of our time” — billions of dollars are taken from the poor and given to the rich investors in the unsightly industrial turbines that are blighting the lives of rural communities and stripping value from the properties of people who just wish to be left to live in peace.

If the anti-Abbott budget bashers who are squealing about a minor adjustment to pension indexation were serious, they would demand the end of the RET’s iniquitous transfer of wealth.

Yet ironically they find themselves on the side of crafty merchant bankers in the romantic expectation that this complex ­financial ruse is doing something to assist the planet.

To speak up in opposition to this social injustice is to find oneself condemned as a climate change denier, right-wing ideologue, apologist for the coal industry or, worse still, to be ignored altogether, as the ABC’s Four Corners managed to do in its renewable energy special last month.

The corporation flew reporter Stephen Long to California to tell us how wonderful the renewable energy bonanza is going to be and how foolish Tony Abbott’s government is to even question the proposition that too many windmills are barely enough.

“This government has an ideological agenda,” insisted John Grimes, chief executive of the Australian Solar Council.

“They want to carve out the impact of renewable energy on the network and they want to stop renewals in their tracks.”

Jeremy Rifkin, author of a book called The Third Industrial Revolution, told Long: “Australia’s the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy. There’s so much sun; there’s so much wind off the coast, and so it makes absolutely no sense when you have an abundance of renewable energy, why would you rely on a depleting supply of fossil fuels with all of the attendant ­consequences to society and the planet?”

Fatuous arguments of this kind are rarely challenged on the ABC, nor are the purveyors of renewable energy subjected to the degree of scepticism that others with corporate vested interests can expect. Instead they find themselves in the company of a cheer squad.

“The new developments with renewable energy and storage seem to have passed the Prime Minister by,” Long editorialised halfway through his dispiriting ­report.

Finally, however, as Long was about to run out of time and throw back to Kerry O’Brien, he let slip the awkward truth he had managed so far to avoid.  “Yes, it costs money to create the infrastructure for renewable energy,” he says. “A lot of money.”

Indeed it does, and if the arbitrary, inefficient and regressive mechanism of the RET is all that is left to overcome that hurdle, we may as well give up.

It is through this complicated method that the consumers are forced to pay a subsidy to wind farms without the need for a ­carbon tax.



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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