Thursday, July 31, 2014

Fun!  With kidney stones!

AS soon as I had put up yesterday my demolition of the idiotic Warmist use of the latest kidney stone study, I tweeted a short  summary of it, with link.  Marc Morano retweeted my tweet,  as he often does.  And that generated further tweets.

One tweeter (Dennis Krupski @Dkrupski) tweeted that, instead of saying I had demolished the kidney stone claims, I should have said that  I *pulverized* the claims. That was rather witty.  Lithotripsy is the first line of defence against kidney stones and pulverizing the stones is what lithotripsy hopefully does.

But a much more amusing tweet was by a Solon going by the name of "Thetracker" (@IdiotTracker).  He is evidently a Warmist so wanted to disrespect my kidney stone comments. And he did it in a classic Warmist way:  By abusing me and appealing to authority.  He made absolutely no mention of the scientific points I had made.  And even his abuse was not clever.  He accused me of writing from "Mom's basement".  Since I am a 71 year old academic with a couple of hundred published academic journal articles behind me, that little speculation was way off.

It is rather saddening how often Warmists talk about "The science" as supporting their ideas but rarely mention one single scientific fact.  Actual science clearly freaks them. Skeptics, by contrast, post scientific facts about the alleged warming all the time.

And the appeals to authority which Warmists substitute for scientific debate are logically problematic anyway.  The "argumentum ad verecundiam" (appeal to authority) is well known to logicians as one of the classic informal fallacies in logic.  It is quite simply illogical. That Warmists rely on it is therefore pathetic.  They are poor souls indeed. Their pernicious cult is founded on speculation only -- JR

Report on racism and elitism in Greenie organizations

A direct quote from the report concerned: "Recruitment for new staff frequently occurs through word-of-mouth and informal networks.   This makes it difficult for ethnic minorities, the working class, or anyone outside of traditional environmental networks to find out about job openings and apply for those jobs"

For those who  have the patience, particularly worth looking at is Chapter 8 where they interview long term members of the environmental movement. There are comments (page 144) from insiders who belie the myth of environmentalism as a "grass roots" movement and paint a picture of a well-funded, top-down astroturf "movement"

A new report, released today, shows that the staffs of mainstream green groups have been overrepresented with white men despite the groups’ intentions to be more colorful. One of its most damning findings is that “the dominant culture of the organizations is alienating to ethnic minorities, the poor, the LGBTQ community, and others outside the mainstream.”

The report, called “The State of Diversity in Environmental Organizations,” is billed as “the most comprehensive report on diversity in the environmental movement.” It was compiled by a working group of thought leaders on environment and race called Green 2.0, led by University of Michigan professor Dorceta Taylor. The report explores the history of tension between green activism and racial justice, and the many attempts at rapprochement.

From Earth Day 1970 until today, the report says, the majority of the people directing, staffing, and even volunteering at green groups have not only been white men, but they also hail from wealthier households with elite educational pedigrees. A 1972 study of 1,500 environmental volunteers nationwide showed that 98 percent of them were white and 59 percent held a college or graduate degree. Compare that to Taylor’s more recent demographic profiling of environmental orgs where, based on data collected on 166 mainstream organizations from 2004 to 2006, she found that minorities comprised just 14.6 percent of their staffs.

People of color make up 37 percent of the U.S. population today. Census figures predict that white Americans will no longer be the majority as early as 2043.

The report also found a gap between white environmental leaders’ desires and their actions when it comes to diversity. Of the near-300 people surveyed — from major environmental groups, foundations, and federal environmental agencies — 70 percent expressed interest in ideas to include more people of color and low-income in the workforce, but only 50 percent of environmental org and foundation members said they’d actually act on such ideas if proposed. For federal government agencies, it was 40 percent.

This is far from the first indictment of the environmental movement on this front, but the Green 2.0 group says it plans to hold the movement accountable. Its recommendations for finally moving the needle on this problem include creating diversity assessment plans with transparency for tracking progress, and increasing resources for diversity initiatives (one finding of the report is that not one green foundation has a diversity manager).


2007: A great year for growing bad legislation like the ethanol mandate

President Obama and his administration have enacted so many foolish and cost-increasing energy policies, it is easy to think that they are his purview alone. But in 2007, Republicans were just as guilty. Seeds were planted and a garden of bad legislation took root in a totally different energy environment. At the time, the growth seemed like something worthy of cultivation. However, what sprouted up more closely resembles a weed that needs to be yanked out.

Last week, I wrote about Australia’s carbon tax that was pulled on July 17. Its seeds were also planted in 2007, though not germinated until 2011. Prime Minister Abbott promised to eradicate the unpopular plant — and after nearly a year of struggle, he did.

2007 was also the year of the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). Around that time, more than half the states put in a mandate requiring increasing amounts of wind and solar power be incorporated into the energy mix the local utilities provided for their customers. It was expected that the RPS would become a much-admired garden with wind turbines blowing in the breeze and solar panels turning toward the sun like sunflowers.

Instead, the RPS has been an expensive folly. Angering the ratepayers, electricity prices have gone up. Groups, like the American Bird Conservancy, have filed suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because it allows bald and golden eagles to be chopped up by wind turbines without punishment to the operators. Industrial solar installations are in trouble due to the massive land use and literally frying birds that fly through the reflected sunlight. The mandates have created false markets and bred crony corruption that has the beneficiaries squawking when legislatures threaten to pull plans that have grown like kudzu. Yet, many states have now introduced legislation to trim, or uproot, the plans that sounded so good back in 2007. Though none has actually been yanked out, Ohio just put a pause on its RPS.

The RPS was state legislation; the RFS, federal.

Enacted, in 2005 and strengthened in 2007, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) — also known as the ethanol mandate — had true bipartisan support (something that is difficult to imagine in today’s political climate). Both Republicans and Democrats lauded the RFS as America’s solution to U.S. dependence on foreign oil. In signing the Energy Independence and Security Act that contained the RFS, President George W. Bush promised it would end our addiction to oil by growing our gas. Although it was passed by Congress with the best of intentions, it, too, has become a costly, wasteful, and politically-charged fiasco that has created an artificial market for corn-based ethanol and driven up both fuel and food prices while threatening to damage millions of families’ most prized and essential possessions: their cars and trucks.

Times have changed. People are no longer lining up to view the garden of renewables as they do to stroll through the spectacular floral displays at Las Vegas’ Bellagio — where teams of specialized staff maintain the stylized gardens. At the Bellagio, you can gaze gratis. America’s renewable garden is costly at a time when our citizens are forced to cut back on everything else.

Compared to 2007, several things are different today. The big one is the economy. We, as a country, were still living large in 2007. We were also still dependent on oil from overseas and our purchases were funding terrorism. Plus, it was, then, generally believed by many that our globe was warming — and it was our fault because of burning fossil fuels. When presented with the idea of growing our gasoline, even though it might cost more, it seemed worth it—after all, what was a few cents a gallon to thumb our nose at the Middle East and save the planet?

But this is a different day. A few cents a gallon matters now. Thanks to the combined technologies of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, America is rich with oil-and-gas resources — and we could be truly energy secure if there were greater access to federal lands. Since 2007, the U.S. has trimmed our CO2 emissions — while they’ve grown globally. The predicted warming (and accompanying catastrophes) hasn’t happened. Instead, it appears that the increased CO2 has generated record harvests — despite predictions to the contrary.

But the seeds planted in 2007 have grown false markets that need the mandates — both for electricity generation and transportation fuels — to stake them up, as they can’t survive on their own. Talk of yanking the mandates is likened to cutting down the once-a-year blossom of the Queen of the Night. “How could you?”  “You’ll kill jobs!”  Elected officials, such as Congressman Steve King (R-IA), who are normally fiscally conservative, vote to continue the boondoggles that benefit his state.

When the Energy Independence and Security Act was passed in 2007, it was assumed that gasoline demand would continue to rise indefinitely so larger volumes of ethanol could be blended into gasoline every year to create E10, a motor fuel comprised of 90 percent gasoline and 10 percent ethanol. Rather than requiring a percentage of ethanol, the law mandated a growing number of gallons of ethanol be used.

Instead, due to increased vehicle efficiencies and a bad economy, gasoline demand peaked in 2007 and began to decline, reducing the amount of gasoline consumed in the U.S. Still, the law requires refiners to blend ever-increasing volumes of ethanol into gasoline every year until 36 billion gallons of ethanol is blended into the nation’s fuel supplies by 2022.

It is the mandate that allowed the ethanol tax credit (a.k.a. subsidy) to expire at beginning of 2012. The growing mandates gave the corn farmers plenty of incentive.

In the modern era, with ethanol no longer needed due to America’s increasing oil production and the mandates’ unreasonable requirements, an unusual collection of opponents has risen up against ethanol: environmentalists and big oil, auto manufacturers and anti-hunger groups.

Much to everyone’s surprise, last November the EPA came out with a proposal to use its authority to make a practical decision to keep the mandate from increasing that resulted in a cut in the amount of biofuels that refiners would need to mix into their fuels — a decision that was required to be made by the end of November 2013. To date, in the seventh month of 2014, the EPA still has not released the 2014 mandates. Refiners are still waiting.

On Thursday, July 24, White House Advisor John Podesta met with select Democrat Senators including Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) and Al Franken (D-MN) to discuss the EPA’s November 2013 proposal to lower ethanol targets — which, according to reports, Franken called: “unacceptable.” The Hill quotes Franken as saying: “White House adviser John Podesta has indicated the administration plans to raise the amount of ethanol and other biofuels that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply.” And, in another report, The Hill says: “That may mean Podesta’s signal — that the levels of ethanol, biodiesel and other biofuels will be increased in the EPA’s final rule — is as good as gold.” A decision from the EPA is expected to “be imminent.”

All of this amid new reports that ethanol has little if any effect on reducing greenhouse gas emissions blamed for climate change. A Congressional Budget Office report, released on June 26, states: “available evidensce suggests that replacing gasoline with corn ethanol has only limited potential for reducing emissions (and some studies indicate that it could increase emissions).”

It may have been Bush who planted the ethanol mandate, but it is the Obama administration that is fertilizing it and keeping it alive, when it should be yanked out by its roots.


Average Price of Electricity Climbs to All-Time Record

All the "environmental" burdens heaped on electricity producers are now hitting the consumer

For the first time ever, the average price for a kilowatthour (KWH) of electricity in the United States has broken through the 14-cent mark, climbing to a record 14.3 cents in June, according to data released last week by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Before this June, the highest the average price for a KWH had ever gone was 13.7 cents, the level it hit in June, July, August and September of last year.

The 14.3-cents average price for a KWH recorded this June is about 4.4 percent higher than that previous record.

Average Price for a KWH of Electricity

Typically, the cost of electricity peaks in summer, declines in fall, and hits its lowest point of the year during winter. In each of the first six months of this year, the average price for a KWH hour of electricity has hit a record for that month. In June, it hit the all-time record.

Although the price for an average KWH hit its all-time record in June, the seasonally adjusted electricity price index--which measures changes in the price of electricity relative to a value of 100 and adjusts for seasonal fluctuations in price--hit its all-time high of 209.341 in March of this year, according to BLS. In June, it was slightly below that level, at 209.144.

Back in June 1984, the seasonally adjusted price index for electricity was 103.9—less than half what it was in June 2014.

Electricity prices have not always risen in the United States. The BLS has published an annual electricity price index dating back to 1913. It shows that from that year through 1947, the price of electricity in the United States generally trended down, with the index dropping from 45.5 in 1913 to 26.6 in 1947.

Electricity Price Index 1913-2013
In the two decades after that, electricity prices were relatively stable, with the index still only at 29.9 in 1967—an increase of 12.4 percent over two decades.

However, from 2003 to 2013, the annual electricity price index increased from 139.5 to 200.750, a climb of almost 44 percent.

So far, overall annual electricity production peaked in the United States in 2007. Per capita electricity production also peaked in 2007, based on calculations made using data published by the Energy Information Administration and the Census Bureau.


UN and its Auspices Bear Responsibility for Global Warming Hysteria

President Obama has made 2014 his “year of action” and plans to use his executive authority to implement various actions of his agenda that are too divisive for Congress to consider. John Podesta, as White House adviser, was brought on board late last year to help Obama find ways to use executive orders to unilaterally push climate policies.

The EPA has already released emissions limits for existing coal-fired plant.  Early last month the EPA rolled out new proposed rules that would require power plants to slash carbon emissions by 30 percent over the next 15 years as part of the Obama administration efforts to curb air pollution and fight climate change.

Recently (July 23) a coalition of top business groups expressed rising concerns over the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to cut carbon emissions from existing power plants and demanded more time to respond.  The same business group coalition is also eying a legal battle against the Obama administration if called for.  According to the EIA (Energy Information Administration), if power companies are further mandated to comply with the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS) which limit mercury emissions and others pollutants, it is estimated that by 2040 this nation will have lost 15% of its coal-fired capacity.

Before drastic action is taken to curb CO2 emissions which would result in higher energy prices, the loss of jobs, certain electricity black outs, and an overall drag on this nation’s economy and productivity, shouldn’t both sides of the global warming argument be heard?  Given a fair and balanced approach, those Americans who accept Global Warming as settled science might not be so willing to go along with alarmists who are prepared to ruin the economy, sacrifice jobs, and our standard of living all for the sake of a crusade being promoted and conducted by politicians and world leaders seeking to tell everyone else how to live.

Undoubtedly Al Gore has done much to promote alarm and concern that catastrophic Global Warming is taking place through his 2006 Academy Award winning documentary film, An Inconvenient Truth.

UN as a Promoter of One World Government through social engineering

Understanding how the issue of Climate Change originated and why green energy vs. carbon-produced energy sources is now being pushed by nations all over the world (including the U.S.), requires some historical knowledge.  Social engineering has been the orchestrated role of the progressive-oriented United Nations since its founding in 1945, when 50 nations and several non-governmental organizations signed the U.N. Charter.  Today almost every fully recognized independent states are member states in the U.N.  If accepted for U.N. membership, member states must accept all obligations outlined in the Charter and be willing to carry out any action to satisfy those obligations.

An attempt at U.N. social engineering took place this week on Tuesday, July 22nd, when the U.S. Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee began discussion of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities(CPRD).  Should the Senate approve the UN CPRD treaty, it could threaten U.S. sovereignty and parental rights, putting this nation under international law when it comes to parenting our special needs children by giving the U.N. discretion over healthcare and education decisions for special needs kids.   Our nation already has laws to protect Americans with disabilities!

UN’s Rio+20 conference:  a blueprint for sustainable development worldwide, with emphasis on the environment

Operating within the U.N. is the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established in 1972, with its mandate “to promote the wise use and sustainable development of the global environment.”  This agency has become the leading global environmental authority that sets the global environmental agenda, that promotes the coherent implementation of the environmental dimensions of sustainable development within the United Nations system, and that serves as the authoritative advocate for the global environment.

Twenty years after the establishment of the UNEP, the UN Climate Change crusade began in earnest.  Initiated at the UN Rio+20 Conference (also known as the “Earth Summit”) held from June 3-14, 1992, the Conference themes were that of a green economy in the context of an institutional framework for “sustainable development” to eradicate poverty.  The two-week 1992 UN Earth Summit produced Agenda 21, adopted as a climax to a process that had begun in 1989 through negotiations among all U.N Member States.  Its intent was to serve as a wide-ranging blueprint for action to achieve sustainable development worldwide.  As written, Agenda 21 was a  Declaration on Environment and Development, the Statement of Forest Principles, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

172 governments participated in the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, 108 as heads of State of Government.  George H. Bush represented the U.S.  The UN Rio+20 “Earth Summit” set the agenda for further UN conferences, at which time the emphasis continued on the need for “environmentally sustainable development” — that which meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Subsequent U.N. Conferences included those held Copenhagen (2009), Cancun (2010), and Durbin (2011).

Sustainable government in the here and now

An example of sustainable development presently being enacted throughout the world under the guise of saving the planet from global warming, was brought home in a recent article titled, “Agenda 21:  Home Sweet Home in Freight Shipping Containers,” written by senior columnist for Canada Free Press, Ileana Johnson, and best-selling author of UN Agenda 21:  Environmental Piracy.  Ileana Johnson relates how damaged shipping containers are now being tuned into housing units in this nation and throughout the world

Writes Ileana Johnson:  These tiny spaces are expensive but they give the occupants a false sense of saving money and the planet by not using a car, walking or biking everywhere, just like the zoning environmentalists have been pushing for a while now, high density, and high rise living, five minutes from work, school, shopping, and play while the metro is nearby. Absolute heaven if you want to live like a rat in an 8-by-40-foot box! Who would not enjoy living in “lovingly repurposed steel husks” that have been previously sloshing across oceans.

So it is that the progressive UN-inspired social engineering projects of Sustainable Urbanism, Sustainable Development, and Equitable Communities are now being implemented around the world.  Having been adopted  at the UN’s Rio+20, the UN’s social engineering projects are not just aimed at destroying national sovereignty, language, and cultural identity.  Social engineering, as being imposed on entire neighborhoods, is resulting in a massive replacement of rural areas and suburban sprawl with high density, high rise urban dwellings, all in the name of green environmentalism as a way of saving the planet from the destruction of manufactured man-made global warming/climate change.

UN International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)

In tandem with the UN Conferences, which have colored the thinking of world leaders since 1992 and have led them to become advocates of Global Warming, is the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a scientificintergovernmental body under the auspices of the United Nations, set up at the request of member governments.  So far there have been five reports.  All of the IPCC reports assess scientific information relevant to:

1.  Human-induced climate change.

2.  The impacts of human-induced climate change.’

3.  Options for adaptation and mitigation.

The IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (WGII AR5) was the product of this year’s March 25-29 meeting in Yokohama, Japan. As with the other four assessment reports, the consequences of Global Warming were many and required the issuance of a thirty-two page report for policymakers!  The AR5 report reads like a bad novel with consequence after consequence stated unless human induced climate change is addressed without delay.

Evaluatng IPCC scientists

John Christy, Professor of Atmospheric Science, University of Alabama, describes the IPCC as a framework around which hundreds of scientists and other participants are organized to mine the panoply of climate change literature to produce a synthesis of the most important land relevant findings.  These finding are published every few years to help policymakers keep tabs on where the participants chosen for the IPCC believe the Earth’s climate has been, where it is going, and what might be done to adapt to and or even adjust the predicted outcome.

Although Christy refers to most IPCC participants as scientists who bring an aura of objectivity to the task, he does note two drawbacks which limit the objectivity of IPCC scientists:

1. IPCC is a political process to the extent that governments are involved.  Lead Authors are nominated by their own governments.

2. Scientists are mere mortals looking at a system so complex that it’s impossible to predict the future state even five day ahead.  It doesn’t help that it’s tempting among scientists as a group to succumb to group-think and the herd-instinct (now formally called the “informational cascade.”  Scientists like to be the “ones who know” and not thought of as “ones who do not know.

As far as process is concerned, IPCC scientist trust computer simulations more than actual facts and actual measurements.  Many times there are not exact values for the coefficients in computer modes.  There are only ranges of potential values.  By moving a bunch of these parameters to one side or the other, a scientist of computer modeler can usually get very different results — ones that are favorable to the individual or institution doing the study which, in turn, insures a continuance of government funding.

Moore co-founded the environmental activist group Greenpeace as a PhD student in ecology in 1971, but left Greenpeace in 1986 after the group became more interested in “politics” than science.   Patrick Moore has angered environmentalist groups after saying climate change is “not caused by humans” and there is “no scientific proof” to back global warming alarmism.

On February 28, 2014, Moore told a US Senate Committee:  “There is no scientific proof that human emissions of carbon dioxide are the dominant cause of the minor warming of the Earth’s atmosphere over the past 100 years,”  “If there were such a proof, it would be written down for all to see.  No actual proof, as it is understood in science, exists.”

Patrick Moore is critical of the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) for claiming “it is extremely likely” that human activity is the “dominant cause” for global warning, noting that “extremely likely” is not a scientific term.

Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible Environmentalist is Moore’s firsthand account of his many year as an ultimate Greenpeace insider.


Australia: Stopping farmers from farming leads to bloodshed

This is ultimately traceable to Greenie-inspired land use restrictions

An elderly man accused of murdering an Environment and Heritage officer near Moree in north-western NSW has been refused bail.

Ian Robert Turnbull, 79, appeared in Moree Local Court on Wednesday charged with murdering father-of-two Glendon Turner, 51, of Tamworth, on Tuesday.

The court was told Mr Turnbull fired a number of shots at Mr Turner before a bullet struck the victim in the back, fatally injuring him.

Mr Turner had been serving a notice about 5.40pm on Tuesday near Talga Lane at Croppa Creek, relating to an inspection of a property after reports of illegal land clearing in the area.

His family said on Wednesday they would miss him greatly. Mr Turner, who was born near Port Macquarie, was married and had two children - Alexandra, 10, and Jack, 9.

"His passing comes at a time when his dreams of the farm and family, which he had planned and lovingly built together with Alison, were coming to fruition," a statement from the family said.

"Glen was an accomplished pianist, a gourmet enthusiast and cook, and appreciated a fine wine ... He always gravitated to the outdoor life and particularly loved taking his kids to the beach, whenever he returned to Port Macquarie - as well as enjoying his quiet time at home with the family and working together with Alison on their property."

Moree Plains Shire mayor Katrina Humphries said frustration over environmental issues around the Moree area had been so great in recent years that she had feared that it would erupt in violence, but that it "shouldn't get to this".

During the bail hearing, the court heard Mr Turnbull had been in a long running dispute with the Office of Environment and Heritage over illegal land clearing in the Croppa Creek area.

He was charged with illegally clearing native vegetation between November 2011 and January 2012 and pleaded guilty in the Land and Environment Court.

The prosecutor, the Director-General of the Office of Environment and Heritage, said Mr Turnbull used a bulldozer to clear 421 hectares of the property called "Colorado", owned by his son Grant Wesley Turnbull, and 73 hectares of the adjacent property, called "Strathdoon",  owned by his grandson Corey Ian Turnbull.

After contracts were exchanged but before the sales settled, Mr Turnbull and another unnamed man felled 2708 trees on Colorado and 694 trees on Strathdoon. Trees were pushed over and formed into piles and set alight. The family then raked out the ash heaps, ploughed the cleared land, applied herbicides to kill any emerging vegetation and sowed commercial crops of wheat and barley.

Mr Turnbull, who was arrested late on Tuesday night, appeared distraught and emotional when he was led into the dock on Wednesday.

Magistrate Darryl Pearce said there was an unacceptable risk that could not be mitigated by proposed bail conditions and the serious nature of the allegations meant imprisonment would be likely if Mr Turnbull was convicted.

Mr Turnbull will remain in custody until the case returns to court on August 5.



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


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Kidney stone nonsense demolished

Warmists are chortling over a recent report that associated increased kidney stones with higher temperatures.  A close reading of the  press release that announced the findings is interesting, however.  First note the following excerpt:

"A painful condition that brings half a million patients a year to U.S. emergency rooms, kidney stones have increased markedly over the world in the past three decades. While stones remain more common in adults, the numbers of children developing kidney stones have climbed at a dramatically high rate over the last 25 years. The factors causing the increase in kidney stones are currently unknown, but may be influenced by changes in diet and fluid intake. When stones do not pass on their own, surgery may be necessary."

The study team also found that very low outdoor temperatures increased the risk of kidney stones in three cities: Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia. The authors suggest that as frigid weather keeps people indoors more, higher indoor temperatures, changes in diet and decreased physical activity may raise their risk of kidney stones.

Then look at the international prevalence of stones  -- in Table 1.  We find that the USA in 1988-1994 had a kidney stone prevalence of 5.2% whereas Italy has a prevalence of 1.72% in 1993-1994.  We also find that Spain had an incidence of 2.0% in 1987 and a prevalence of 10.0% in 1991.

So what is going on?  It's hard to know where to start.  But let me draw attention to the statements highlighted in red.  They first admit that they DON'T know what causes stones.  Climate  change is simply a speculation.  Then they admit that LOW temperatures go with more stones in some cities.  Global warming does not affect Atlanta, Chicago and Philadelphia??  It's not very global in that case is it?

And, going to the statistics, why should the USA have a prevalence that is 3 times higher than Italy?  Is the USA 3 times warmer than Italy?  Obviously not.  And, finally, the Spanish statistics suggest that the whole thing is basically a mystery.  So the careful scientific conclusion by the authors that "The factors causing the increase in kidney stones are currently unknown" is well justified.  The Warmists have however ignored that scientific conclusion and hopped on to the speculations attached to it. -- JR


Increasing amounts of water in the upper troposphere are a direct result of human activity
Just more computer modelling. You can get any conclusion you want with modelling. The paper is "Upper-tropospheric moistening in response to anthropogenic warming"

Rising levels of water vapour high above the Earth are likely to intensify the effects of global warming in coming decades, say scientists.

The increasing amounts of water in the upper troposphere are a direct result of human activity, research suggests.

Computer simulations predict that as burning fossil fuels warms the climate, concentrations of water vapour will rise.

The moistening of the atmosphere in turn absorbs more heat and raises the Earth’s temperature further.

To investigate these effects scientists measured levels of water vapour in the upper troposphere, a region three to seven miles above the Earth’s surface.

Their findings were compared with climate model predictions of water circulation between the ocean and atmosphere.

The results showed that increasing levels of atmospheric water vapour could not be explained by natural forces such as volcanoes or changes in solar activity.

But they did appear to be linked to emissions of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.

Lead scientist Professor Brian Soden, from the University of Miami, US, said: 'The study is the first to confirm that human activities have increased water vapour in the upper troposphere.'

The findings are published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


Climate Alarmists Never Quit!

By Alan Caruba

In the same way Americans are discovering that the Cold War that was waged from the end of World War Two until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 is not over, Americans continue to be subjected to the endless, massive, global campaign to foist the hoax of global warming--now called climate change—on everyone.

The campaign’s purpose to convince everyone that it is humans, not the sun, oceans, and other natural phenomenon, and that requires abandoning fossil fuels in favor of “renewable” wind and solar energy.

“It is not surprising that climate alarmists, who desire above all else blind allegiance to their cause, would demand all school teachers toe the ‘official party line’ and quash any dissent on the subject of man-made global warming in their classroom,” says Craig Rucker, the Executive Director of co-founder of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT). “What is absurd is that any teacher or free-thinking person for that matter would listen to them.”

These days when I am challenged regarding my views about global warming, climate change or energy I send the individual to  and, two constantly updated websites filled with links to information on these topics. Both are maintained by CFACT.

It’s not just our classrooms where Green indoctrination goes on. It is also our news media that continue to distort every weather event to advance the hoax. Guiding and feeding them is a massive complex of organizations led by the United Nations—the International Panel on Climate Change—that maintains the hoax to frighten people worldwide in order to achieve “one world order.”

On September 23, heads of state, including President Obama, will gather in New York City for what the Sierra Club calls “a historic summit on climate change. With our future on the line, we will take a weekend and use it to bend the course of history” to save the world from “the ravages of climate change.” This is absurd. Suggesting that humans can alter the climate in any way defies centuries of proof they do not.

One of the leading Leftist organizations, the Center for American Progress, focused on the July 14 Major Economics Forum in Paris, offered four items for its agenda. Claiming that “the Arctic is warming two times faster than any other region on earth”, they wanted policy changes based on this falsehood. They blamed climate change for “global poverty” and wanted further reductions in so-called greenhouse gas emissions from energy use. The enemy, as far as they were concerned was energy use.

Mary Hutzler, a senior research fellow of the Institute for Energy Research, testified before a July 22nd meeting of the Senate Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Development and Foreign Assistance, that due to Europe’s green energy (wind and solar) policies, industrial electricity prices are two-to-five times higher than in the U.S. and that, by 2020, 1.4 million European households will be added to those experiencing energy poverty.

There are lessons to be learned, for example, from Spain’s investment in wind energy that caused the loss of four jobs for the electricity it produced and 13 jobs for every megawatt of solar energy. In Germany, the cost of electricity is three times higher than average U.S. residential prices. Little wonder that European nations are now slashing wind and solar programs.

Billions Wasted to Combat Global Warming

In the U.S., the Obama administration used its “stimulus” to fund Solyndra—$500 million dollars—and fifty other Green energy projects that have failed or are on their way to failure. Undeterred with this appalling record, on July 3 the Energy Department announced $4 billion for “projects that fight global warming.”

But there is no global warming. The Earth has been in a cooling cycle for seventeen years and it shows no indication of ending anytime soon. This is the same administration that has waged a war on coal, forcing the closure of many plants that produced electricity efficiently and affordably, and had throughout the last century.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2014 weather highlights showed that, from January to June, the temperature in the U.S. has risen by a miniscule 0.1 degrees Fahrenheit compared with the average temperature for the 20th century. NOAA also noted that recorded temperatures for the first half of 2014 are the coldest since 1993 when the cooling cycle began. The exception to this has been California.

Brainwashed for decades about global warming, 20% of likely voters, according to a July Rasmussen poll, still believe that global warming is not over, colder weather or not, 17% were not sure, but fully 63% disagreed!

The results of a Pew Research Center poll in June revealed that 35% of Americans say there is not enough solid evidence to suggest mankind is warming the Earth while another 18% says the world has warmed due to “natural patterns”, not human activity. Pew found that liberals remain convinced that humans are to blame, but the bottom line is that 53% disputed the President’s claims.

That means that a growing number of Americans are now skeptics.

In the months to come we will see marches and meetings intended to further the global warming lies. The good news is that fewer Americans are being influenced by such efforts.


Venezuela climate summit comes to far-Left conclusions

A UN-backed conference in Venezuela has ended with a declaration to scrap carbon markets and reject the green economy.

The Margarita Declaration was issued at the end of a four-day meeting of around 130 green activist groups, which the Venezuelan government hosted in order to raise the volume of civil society demands in UN discussions on climate change.

“The structural causes of climate change are linked to the current capitalist hegemonic system,” the final declaration said. “To combat climate change it is necessary to change the system.”

The declaration will be handed to environment ministers when they meet ahead of the UN’s main round of talks in Lima this year.

The meeting, called the Social Pre-COP, is the first time that civil society has been invited to participate with the UN at this scale at international climate talks.

Groups who participated in the meeting include WWF, CAN International, Third World Network and Christian Aid.

Venezuela said the purpose of the meeting is to “set the basis of an alliance between peoples and governments”.

While it is unclear who signed the declaration, it contrasts with the views of many national governments, which see the transition to a green economy as underpinning efforts to tackle climate change.

‘False solution’

The declaration also conflicts with the UN’s own schemes to tackle climate change.

It says carbon markets are a “false solution” to the problem of climate change and brands a UN-backed forest conservation scheme “dangerous and unethical”.

The forests programme, called Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Land Degradation (REDD), was first introduced into UN proceedings in 2005 at the request of the governments of Papua New Guinea and Costa Rica.

Under this mechanism, rich countries pay developing nations to preserve their forests, removing some of the financial incentive to chop them down.

Deforestation is a significant contributor to climate change as it releases the carbon that is stored in trees.

Similarly, the UN has set up its own carbon market, called the Clean Development Mechanism, which allows developed countries to pay for projects that will reduce the carbon footprint of poor countries.

The latest set of proposals for a global climate treaty recently released UN officials explicitly includes references to market-based solutions aimed at tackling environmental degradation and raising investment capital.

Maria de Pilar García-Guadilla, a professor at the Simon Bolivar University in Venezuela, said that there was an underlying assumption in the declaration that capitalism was the cause of climate change – a position maintained by the Venezuelan government in its own development plan – but that this was a “fallacy”.

“Venezuela relies heavily on the use of hydrocarbons, or the extractive economies, to support their anti-neoliberal socialist policies. The extractive economy has a severe negative social and environmental impacts in the indigenous communities and in the most biodiverse areas,” she said.

She added that the Margarita Declaration is “very discursive and the real issues are not inside.”

Mixed opinions

Objections to the concept of a “green economy”, which encourages green growth through carbon markets and clean energy investments, prompted a walkout at the Rio+20 summit in 2012.

Some developing countries are concerned that this model could put them at a commercial disadvantage, and that rich countries should instead focus on how to transfer cash and sustainable technologies to poorer nations.

Venezuela, a staunchly socialist government, has long opposed the “green economy” concept, alongside other Latin American countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Ecuador, and Nicaragua.

But the opinions of civil society are more mixed. CAN International, a coalition of green NGOs which was present at the Social Pre-COP, said that REDD is “key to emissions reductions” in the manifesto that it released before the UN’s last climate conference, in Warsaw last year.

One participant at last week’s meeting told RTCC on condition of anonymity that: “In terms of being a neutral observer, [the Venezuelan government] do have their views and they definitely have their ways”.

He added that most of the Venezuelan groups present at the meeting were supportive of the government’s position, in contrast to the 34 Venezuelan NGOs who rejected their invitation to the gathering, due to concerns that it would provide an opportunity for the government to push their socialist agenda.

“That made Venezuela not need to actively push for things, letting the movements propose their views instead,” he said.


GMO Scare Mongering -- more from Rich Kozlovich

Mike Adams, who publishes Natural News and styles himself as the Health Ranger recently posted an article entitled, The Agricultural Holocaust explained: the 10 worst ways GMOs threaten humanity and our natural world on July 27, 2014.

He claims "genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a serious threat to humanity and the environment? The reasons span the realms of science, social justice, economics and the environment, and once you understand this, you'll readily understand why so many environmentalists, humanitarians, responsible scientists and social justice advocates are strongly opposed to GMOs", and lists ten reasons why?

His second claim is - GMOs have never been safety tested for human consumption, and goes on to say;

"Although GMO advocates ridiculously claim GMOs have been "proven safe in thousands of studies," what they don't tell you is that those were all short-term studies on animals, not humans.

In fact, GMOs have never been shown to be safe for long-term human consumption. What happens when a child eats GMOs for two decades? Does it substantially increase their risk of cancer, diabetes, kidney failure or future Alzheimer's? Nobody knows, exactly, because the tests haven't been done.

As often happens with other chemicals, GMOs are simply let loose into the world with an attitude of "let's see what happens!"

Although I’ve largely addressed this in my previous post, I will add this. Nothing can be proven safe; it’s called proving a negative. Scientifically impossible! You can only prove what things do, not what they don’t do. It’s like demanding someone “prove” they’re “not” cheating on their spouse. Can’t be done! And these people know this, making it another lie of omission.

Since these products have been used for decades, and there’s no indication that GMO’s cause anything, including “cancer, diabetes, kidney failure or future Alzheimer's” why does he say it? Because speculation is easy! He might just as well make the claim – “we don’t know if GMO’s causes AIDS!”

You can make any accusation and frame it in the form of a question and not have to prove anything one way or another. But the thought is planted in people’s minds there’s something nefarious about GMO’s, and the companies producing them. This has been the scare tactic activists have been using going back to Silent Spring and the mother of junk science, Rachel Carson.

Dr. Madeleine Pelner Cosman, Ph.D. notes that there are seven steps to this process and usually follow this pattern:

1.      Create a "scientific" study that predicts a public health disaster
2.      Release the study to the media, before scientists can review it
3.      Generate an intense emotional public reaction
4.      Develop a government-enforced solution
5.      Intimidate Congress into passing it into law
6.      Coerce manufacturers to stop making the product
7.      Bully users to replace it, or obliterate it

One more thing that needs to be addressed and that’s exactly what pesticide is he talking about? Since GMO Bt cotton is his theme later in his article, we need to see what the EPA thinks:

"Bt products are found to be safe for use in the environment and with mammals. The EPA (environmental protection agency) has not found any human health hazards related to using Bt. In fact the EPA has found Bt safe enough that it has exempted Bt from food residue tolerances, groundwater restrictions, endangered species labeling and special review requirements. Bt is often used near lakes, rivers and dwellings, and has no known effect on wildlife such as mammals, birds, and fish.

Humans exposed orally to 1000 mg/day for 3-5 days of Bt have showed no ill effects. Many tests have been conducted on test animals using different types of exposures. The results of the tests showed that the use of Bt causes few if any negative effects. Bt does not persist in the digestive systems of mammals.

Bt is found to be an eye irritant on test rabbits. There is very slight irritation from inhalation in test animals which may be caused by the physical rather than the biological properties of the Bt formulation tested.

Bt has not been shown to have any chronic toxicity or any carcinogenic effects. There are also no indication that Bt causes reproductive effects or birth defects in mammals.

Bt breaks down readily in the environment. Because of this Bt poses no threat to groundwater. Bt also breaks down under the ultraviolet (UV) light of the sun."

We have to get past this outrageous scare mongering and realize they're big argument is that GMO's are "unnatural" because of how the genes are implanted. That's completely the wrong take. Our only concern should be what the genes are supposed to do, not how they got there. More to come.


2 Charts Show Why Wind Power Won't Solve the Carbon Problem

When discussing electricity, the words "carbon dioxide" invariably come into play. The utility industry's use of carbon based fuels is responsible for roughly 40% of the generation of this greenhouse gas domestically. Alternative power options are often held up as the solution to this problem. But wind turbines are a great example of why this isn't true—and these two graphs show why.

Getting into wind

Xcel Energy (NYSE: XEL  ) has made a big commitment to wind power. This mid-western utility got just 3% of its power from wind in 2005, which happens to be the backdated starting date for CO2 emission regulations being proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). By 2020, however, wind is projected to make up 22% of the company's generation.

That's a huge increase, with coal taking most of the hit. However, even after the rapid wind power growth coal will still account for 43% of Xcel Energy's power pie. Natural gas, which is cleaner than coal but still emits carbon dioxide, and nuclear power will throw in another 30%. And the Texas experience with wind power shows why:

According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), "At 8:48 p.m. on March 26, wind generation on the electric grid covering most of the state of Texas reached a new instantaneous peak output of 10,296 megawatts (MW). At that moment, wind supplied almost 29% of total electricity load." While that's impressive, note the use of the word "instantaneous" as you look at the graph above.

The power generated by wind turbines is anything but constant. It juts up and down with often severe moves. For example, before and after hitting that peak, wind turbines in Texas were only producing around 2,000 MW of power. It's not because someone in Texas turned the turbines off, it's because the wind stopped blowing. That's why Xcel Energy isn't giving up on the base-load trio of coal, gas, and nuclear.

I have the power!

This trio is controlled by the utility and can be run as hard as needed. Nuclear, for example, is usually run between 80% and 100% of capacity. Coal and natural gas tend to run at lower levels, but could easily be pushed higher if needed. The important thing is that how hard these power sources are worked is within the control of the utility.

In fact, the next graphic shows how important the interplay between nature-controlled wind and man-controlled power is. Look at the lines for wind and coal. When wind is up, coal is down. And when wind is down, coal is up. The same dynamic is true for natural gas.

This isn't a fluke -- it's because utilities like Excel need to have a reliable power source to offset the peaks and valleys of an inherently unreliable fuel source. It's the same reason why Southern Company (NYSE: SO  ) is building 1.5 gigawatts of nuclear and coal plants right now. It wants to maintain its flexibility.

For example, in 2020, the company expects to have the option to generate as much as 50% of its power from coal or gas, whichever is cheaper. Nuclear, meanwhile, is expected to run at a steady state of around 18%. Renewables? Well, they are just small slice of the pie at 8% of total capacity in 2020.

Note, however, that renewable sources provided 4% of Southern Company's power last year, despite coming in at 6% of the utility's total capacity. And the 4% is elevated by the fact that hydro, which tends to run at high capacity rates, is a big part of the mix. Despite investing in solar and wind, Southern Company isn't willing to give up the control offered by natural gas, coal, and nuclear power plants.

Good and bad

Renewable power like wind turbines is a wonderful thing. However, it isn't an answer to the CO2 problem. The generation profiles of Xcel energy and Southern Company prove this out. Expect the wind to become an increasingly important utility player, but don't expect it to kill coal, gas, or nuclear anytime soon.

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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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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Climate change and air pollution will lead to famine by 2050, study claims

Garbage predictions like this are common, even though they run against all plant science.  To put it in simple language, plants LIKE warmth and they REALLY like CO2.  If there ever is global warming, plantlife, including crops, will boom!  I grew up in the tropics, which are really warm, and I know how plantlife flourishes there.   Creepers almost reach out and grab you, for instance.  And glasshouse farmers deliberately pump up the CO2 content in their glasshouses to more than double the general atmospheric level.  CO2 is plant food.

And warming should open up more of Canada to agriculture, and Canada is already a major producer of grain crops.  Give Canadian farmers more usable land to work with and Canada will be a cornucopia.

And there is an area in Australia, Cape York peninsula, that is about the size of Britain but which produces no food crops at the moment because most crops are usually in glut worldwide.  But the rain there is adequate and Chinese farmers in the goldrush days grew all sorts there

The world is expected to need 50 per cent more food by 2050, with around four billion more mouths to feed.

But this food could soon be in short supply due to increasing temperatures and ozone pollution, according to a U.S. study.

As a result, rates of malnourishment in the developing world could increase from the current 18 per cent to 27 per cent within the next four decades.

Previous research has shown that both higher temperatures and ozone pollution can damage plants and reduce crop yields, but until now, nobody has looked at these together.

And while rising temperatures are widely studied, the impact of air quality on crops is less recognised, the study's authors claim.

The latest research looked in detail at how both these changes affect global production of four leading food crops - rice, wheat, corn, and soy.

These crops currently account for more than half the calories humans consume worldwide.

It predicts that effects will vary considerably from region to region, and that some of the crops are much more strongly affected by one or the other of the factors.

For example, wheat is very sensitive to ozone exposure, while corn is much more adversely affected by heat.

A separate study by the the IPCC warned that as well as lack of food supply, climate change would cause storm surges, flooding and heatwaves in the coming decades.

In the U.S, tougher air-quality regulations are expected to lead to a sharp decline in ozone pollution, mitigating its impact on crops.

But in other regions, the outcome 'will depend on domestic air-pollution policies,' Professor Heald said. 'An air-quality cleanup would improve crop yields.'

Overall, with all other factors being equal, warming may reduce crop yields globally by about 10 per cent by 2050, the study found.

The research was carried out by Colette Heald, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering (CEE) at MIT, former CEE postdoc Amos Tai, and Maria van Martin at Colorado State University.

Ozone pollution can be tricky to identify, Professor Heald says, because its damage can resemble other plant illnesses, producing flecks on leaves and discoloration.

And while heat and ozone can each damage plants independently, the factors also interact.

For example, warmer temperatures significantly increase production of ozone from the reactions, in sunlight, of volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides.

Because of these interactions, the team found that 46 per cent of damage to soybean crops that had previously been attributed to heat is actually caused by increased ozone.

Under some scenarios, the researchers found that pollution-control measures could make a major dent in the expected crop reductions following climate change.

For example, while global food production was projected to fall by 15 per cent under one scenario, larger emissions decreases projected in an another scenario reduce that drop to nine per cent.

Agricultural production is 'very sensitive to ozone pollution,' Professor Heald says, adding that these findings 'show how important it is to think about the agricultural implications of air-quality regulations.

‘Ozone is something that we understand the causes of, and the steps that need to be taken to improve air quality.'

Earlier this year, the IPCC warned that as well as lack of food supply, climate change would cause storm surges, flooding and heatwaves in the coming decades.

It argued that rising temperatures will exacerbate poverty and damage land and marine species.

It also claimed that the world is in ‘an era of man-made climate change’ and has already seen impacts of global warming on every continent and across the oceans.

And experts warned that in many cases, people are ill-prepared to cope with the risks of a changing climate.


New paper finds 'high correlation between solar activity and Earth's temperature over centuries'

The article is in Chinese but there is an English abstract. On the longer time scales, the correlations are quite high.  The Warmist dismissal of solar influence is thus absurd

Periodicities of solar activity and the surface temperature variation of the Earth and their correlations

By ZHAO XinHua  & FENG XueShang


Based on the well-calibrated systematiCmeasurements of sunspot numbers, the reconstructed data of the total solar irradiance (TSI), and the observed anomalies of the Earth’s averaged surface temperature (global, ocean, land), this paper investigates the periodicities of both solar activity and the Earth’s temperature variation as well as their correlations on the time scale of centuries using the wavelet and cross correlation analysis techniques. The main results are as follows. (1) Solar activities (including sunspot number and TSI) have four major periodic components higher than the 95% significance level of white noise during the period of interest, i.e. 11-year period, 50-year period, 100-year period, and 200-year period. The global temperature anomalies of the Earth have only one major periodic component of 64.3-year period, which is close to the 50-year cycle of solar activity. (2) Significant resonant periodicities between solar activity and the Earth’s temperature are focused on the 22- and 50-year period. (3) Correlations between solar activity and the surface temperature of the Earth on the long time scales are higher than those on the short time scales. As far as the sunspot number is concerned, its correlation coefficients to the Earth temperature are 0.31-0.35 on the yearly scale, 0.58-0.70 on the 11-year running mean scale, and 0.64-0.78 on the 22-year running mean scale. TSI has stronger correlations to the Earth temperature than sunspot number. (4) During the past 100 years, solar activities display a clear increasing tendency that corresponds to the global warming of the Earth (including land and ocean) very well. Particularly, the ocean temperature has a slightly higher correlation to solar activity than the land temperature. All these demonstrate that solar activity has a non-negligible forcing on the temperature change of the Earth on the time scale of centuries.


Developers To Clear 850,000 Sq M Of Virgin Forests On UNESCO Nature Reserve To Make Way For 700-Foot Turbines

The days of an open welcome to “environmentally-friendly” wind parks in Germany are over.

When the turbines were small-scale and novel, people were generally open to them. But now that they have reached skyscraper dimensions, have proven to be unsightly, and have demonstrated poor performance, they are not welcome anymore.

Palantinate Forest

German developers plan to install 60 wind turbines, each 700-foot tall, in one of Central Europe’s last remaining untouched regions, the Palantinate Forest, a UN designated natural monument.

Nowhere is this better illustrated than in the picturesque southwest German region of Palatinate, where the online Die Welt here reports on the mounting fierce opposition that wind turbine developers are facing. The developers have their sights aimed at the hilltops of Germany’s fairy-tale-like Palatinate forest…an area that has been designated by UNESCO as a natural treasure and biosphere reserve. Here they hope to install wind parks with skyscraper-dimensioned turbines. Die Welt writes of the area:

It was the first cross-border natural reservation of this type in all of Europe because it also includes the Alsatian mountain range. Not very many Germans know that it is the largest uninterrupted landscape in Central Europe. Whoever wishes to see it, had better hurry up.”

850,000 sq m of virgin forest to be cleared

According to Die Welt, hungry wind park developers with deep pockets plan to install 60 wind turbines, each 209 meters (700 feet) tall in the area. Unsurprisingly this looming large-scale green industrialization of this particularly idyllic landscape has become too much to take, even for the most avid climate activist groups. Die Welt writes that for the first time all ten local environmental groups have closed ranks against the project, says Bernd Wallner of the Pfälzerwald-Verein (Palantinate Association). Opponents are rallying, calling it a matter of “homeland defense”.

Die Welt provides the technical details of the monster-size turbines: Each blade is 60 meters long and they will need elaborate roads to allow their transport to the site where they are to be installed. Each turbine will require 3000 tonnes of concrete and 100 tonnes of steel. In total 200,000 tonnes of concrete and 130,000 cubic meters of gravel will have to be hauled in by 60,000 trips by heavy cargo vehicles, which will involve the burning of 600,000 liters of diesel fuel and the clearing of 850,000 square meters of virgin forest.

Like putting turbines on Ayer’s Rock!

Environmentalists are fuming. Opponents accuse the wind turbine developers and the local and state authorities of covering up the environmental costs and impacts of the project and misleading the public. Critics say the senselessness of the project is tantamount to putting wind turbines on Ayers Rock.

Unrealistic profit projections used to “bait the public”

Opponents also accuse the wind park developers of putting out overly optimistic figures for expected wind turbine performance in order to bait the public. Die Welt writes:

Ernst Gerber believes the promises of profitability, with which investors and local representatives are being baited, are estimates from a naïve milkmaid: ‘Despite the subsidies, things are moving towards the lower limits of profitability.’”

Die Welt itself characterizes the promise of profitability made by the wind park developers as “rotten”, and that the region is one that is “low in wind”.

Threat to wildlife…violates the law

The wind park opponents also say that the monster turbines are a threat to wildlife and birds. What’s more, turbine critic Rainer Becker thinks they would violate the law, “The construction of the wind parks are clearly in violation of the existing laws and the international species protection act“.

Other opponents claim that big business and power companies in Luxemburg are ramming the projects through and ignoring the wishes of the local inhabitants, Die Welt writes.


Wind and solar power are even more expensive than is commonly thought

SUBSIDIES for renewable energy are one of the most contested areas of public policy. Billions are spent nursing the infant solar- and wind-power industries in the hope that they will one day undercut fossil fuels and drastically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being put into the atmosphere. The idea seems to be working. Photovoltaic panels have halved in price since 2008 and the capital cost of a solar-power plant—of which panels account for slightly under half—fell by 22% in 2010-13. In a few sunny places, solar power is providing electricity to the grid as cheaply as conventional coal- or gas-fired power plants.

But whereas the cost of a solar panel is easy to calculate, the cost of electricity is harder to assess. It depends not only on the fuel used, but also on the cost of capital (power plants take years to build and last for decades), how much of the time a plant operates, and whether it generates power at times of peak demand. To take account of all this, economists use “levelised costs”—the net present value of all costs (capital and operating) of a generating unit over its life cycle, divided by the number of megawatt-hours of electricity it is expected to supply.

The trouble, as Paul Joskow of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has pointed out, is that levelised costs do not take account of the costs of intermittency.* Wind power is not generated on a calm day, nor solar power at night, so conventional power plants must be kept on standby—but are not included in the levelised cost of renewables. Electricity demand also varies during the day in ways that the supply from wind and solar generation may not match, so even if renewable forms of energy have the same levelised cost as conventional ones, the value of the power they produce may be lower. In short, levelised costs are poor at comparing different forms of power generation.

To get around that problem Charles Frank of the Brookings Institution, a think-tank, uses a cost-benefit analysis to rank various forms of energy. The costs include those of building and running power plants, and those associated with particular technologies, such as balancing the electricity system when wind or solar plants go offline or disposing of spent nuclear-fuel rods. The benefits of renewable energy include the value of the fuel that would have been used if coal- or gas-fired plants had produced the same amount of electricity and the amount of carbon-dioxide emissions that they avoid. The table summarises these costs and benefits. It makes wind and solar power look far more expensive than they appear on the basis of levelised costs.

Mr Frank took four sorts of zero-carbon energy (solar, wind, hydroelectric and nuclear), plus a low-carbon sort (an especially efficient type of gas-burning plant), and compared them with various sorts of conventional power. Obviously, low- and no-carbon power plants do not avoid emissions when they are not working, though they do incur some costs. So nuclear-power plants, which run at about 90% of capacity, avoid almost four times as much CO{-2} per unit of capacity as do wind turbines, which run at about 25%; they avoid six times as much as solar arrays do. If you assume a carbon price of $50 a tonne—way over most actual prices—nuclear energy avoids over $400,000-worth of carbon emissions per megawatt (MW) of capacity, compared with only $69,500 for solar and $107,000 for wind.

Nuclear power plants, however, are vastly expensive. A new plant at Hinkley Point, in south-west England, for example, is likely to cost at least $27 billion. They are also uninsurable commercially. Yet the fact that they run around the clock makes them only 75% more expensive to build and run per MW of capacity than a solar-power plant, Mr Frank reckons.

To determine the overall cost or benefit, though, the cost of the fossil-fuel plants that have to be kept hanging around for the times when solar and wind plants stand idle must also be factored in. Mr Frank calls these “avoided capacity costs”—costs that would not have been incurred had the green-energy plants not been built. Thus a 1MW wind farm running at about 25% of capacity can replace only about 0.23MW of a coal plant running at 90% of capacity. Solar farms run at only about 15% of capacity, so they can replace even less. Seven solar plants or four wind farms would thus be needed to produce the same amount of electricity over time as a similar-sized coal-fired plant. And all that extra solar and wind capacity is expensive.

A levelised playing field

If all the costs and benefits are totted up using Mr Frank’s calculation, solar power is by far the most expensive way of reducing carbon emissions. It costs $189,000 to replace 1MW per year of power from coal. Wind is the next most expensive. Hydropower provides a modest net benefit. But the most cost-effective zero-emission technology is nuclear power. The pattern is similar if 1MW of gas-fired capacity is displaced instead of coal. And all this assumes a carbon price of $50 a tonne. Using actual carbon prices (below $10 in Europe) makes solar and wind look even worse. The carbon price would have to rise to $185 a tonne before solar power shows a net benefit.

There are, of course, all sorts of reasons to choose one form of energy over another, including emissions of pollutants other than CO2 and fear of nuclear accidents. Mr Frank does not look at these. Still, his findings have profound policy implications. At the moment, most rich countries and China subsidise solar and wind power to help stem climate change. Yet this is the most expensive way of reducing greenhouse-gas emissions. Meanwhile Germany and Japan, among others, are mothballing nuclear plants, which (in terms of carbon abatement) are cheaper. The implication of Mr Frank’s research is clear: governments should target emissions reductions from any source rather than focus on boosting certain kinds of renewable energy.


German Utilities Bail Out Electric Grid at Wind’s Mercy

Germany’s push toward renewable energy is causing so many drops and surges from wind and solar power that the government is paying more utilities than ever to help stabilize the country’s electricity grid.

Twenty power companies including Germany’s biggest utilities, EON SE and RWE AG, now get fees for pledging to add or cut electricity within seconds to keep the power system stable, double the number in September, according to data from the nation’s four grid operators. Utilities that sign up to the 800 million-euro ($1.1 billion) balancing market can be paid as much as 400 times wholesale electricity prices, the data show.

Germany’s drive to almost double power output from renewables by 2035 has seen one operator reporting five times as many potential disruptions as four years ago, raising the risk of blackouts in Europe’s biggest electricity market while pushing wholesale prices to a nine-year low. More utilities are joining the balancing market as weak prices have cut operating margins to 5 percent on average from 15 percent in 2004, with RWE reporting its first annual loss since 1949.

“At the beginning, this market counted for only a small portion of our earnings,” said Hartmuth Fenn, the head of intraday, market access and dispatch at Vattenfall AB, Sweden’s biggest utility. “Today, we earn 10 percent of our plant profits in the balancing market” in Germany, he said by phone from Hamburg July 22.

Price Plunge

In Germany’s daily and weekly balancing market auctions, winning bidders have been paid as much as 13,922 euros to set aside one megawatt depending on the time of day, grid data show. Participants stand ready to provide power or cut output in notice periods of 15 minutes, 5 minutes or 30 seconds, earning fees whether their services are needed or not.

German wholesale next-year electricity prices have plunged 60 percent since 2008 as green power, which has priority access to the grid, cut into the running hours of gas, coal and nuclear plants. The year-ahead contract traded at 35.71 euros a megawatt-hour as of 3:54 p.m. on the European Energy Exchange AG in Leipzig, Germany.

Lawmakers last month backed a revision of a the country’s clean-energy law to curb green subsidies and slow gains in consumer power prices that are the second-costliest in the European Union. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s energy switch from nuclear power aims to boost the share of renewables to at least 80 percent by 2050 from about 29 percent now.

Power Premium

Jochen Schwill and Hendrik Saemisch, both 33, set up Next Kraftwerke GmbH in 2009 to sell power from emergency generators in hospitals to the power grid. Today, the former University of Cologne researchers employ about 80 people and have 1,000 megawatts from biomass plants to gas units at their disposal, or the equivalent capacity of a German nuclear plant.

“That was really the core of our founding idea,” Schwill said by phone from Cologne July 21. “That the boost in renewable energy will make supply more intermittent and balancing power more lucrative in the long run.”

Thomas Pilgram, who has sold balancing power since 2012 as chief executive officer of Clean Energy Sourcing in Leipzig, Germany, expects the wave of new entrants to push down balancing market payments.

“New participants are flooding into the market now, which means that prices are coming under pressure,” Pilgram said. “Whoever comes first, gets a slice of the cake, the others don’t because prices have slumped.”

Increased Competition

German grid regulator Bundesnetzagentur welcomes the increase in balancing market participants.

“That’s in our interest as we want to encourage competition in this market,” Armasari Soetarto, a spokeswoman for the Bonn-based authority, said by phone July 18. “More supply means lower prices and that means lower costs for German end users.”

The average price for capacity available within five minutes has dropped to 1,109 euros a megawatt in the week starting July 14, from 1,690 euros in the second week of January, Next Kraftwerke data show. Payments for cutting output within 15 minutes dropped to 361 euros from 1,615 euros in January.

The number of participants has increased as the country’s four grid operators refined how capacity is allocated. In 2007, the grids started one common auction and shortened the bidding periods. Since 2011, power plant operators commit their 5-minute capacity on a weekly basis instead of a month before.

Balance Payments

Balancing-market payments to utilities totaled 800 million euros last year, similar to the amount in 2012, grid data show. Utilities were asked to reserve 3,898 megawatts this week, which compares with Germany’s total installed power generation capacity of 183,649 megawatts as of July 16. One megawatt is enough to power 2,000 European homes.

Tennet TSO GmbH, Germany’s second-biggest grid operator, told power plant operators to adjust output 1,009 times to keep the grid stable last year, compared with 209 times in 2010. The interventions, used alongside the balancing market, are expected to be as frequent this year as in 2013, Ulrike Hoerchens, a spokeswoman for the Bayreuth, Germany-based company, said by phone on July 23.

To adapt to volatile supply and demand, RWE invested as much as 700 million euros on technology for its lignite plants that allow the units to change output by 30 megawatts within a minute. The coal-fired generators were originally built to run 24 hours a day.

RWE’s lignite generators, which have a total capacity of 10,291 megawatts, are flexible enough to cut or increase output by 5,000 megawatts on a sunny day, when power from solar panels floods the grid or supply vanishes as skies turn cloudy, according to Ulrich Hartmann, an executive board member at RWE’s generation unit.

“Back in the days, our lignite plants were inflexible, produced power around the clock and were always earning money,” Hartmann in Bergheim, Germany, said in a July 9 interview. “Now they are as flexible as gas plants.”


Australia: Giant new coal mine gets approval

The federal government has approved a giant Queensland coalmine that it says will generate as much as $300 billion for the economy, but which environmental groups say will contribute to a “carbon bomb” and risk causing significant damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt on Monday said that he had approved the Carmichael Coal Mine in the Galilee Basin and its associated rail link to the coast with “the absolute strictest” environmental conditions.

The 36 conditions, which include offsets of about 30,000 hectares for habitat destroyed, water returns for the Great Artesian Basin and $1 million for further research in protecting threatened species, will ensure the mine owner, India’s Adani, “meets the highest environmental standards”, Mr Hunt said in a media statement.

At full capacity, the Carmichael mine would produce as much as 60 million tonnes of coal a year, with a “resource value of $5 billion per annum over 60 years”, the statement said.

Apart from the boost to the local economy to the tune of 3920 jobs for operations and 2475 during construction, the mine will also “provide electricity for up to 100 million people in India”, Mr Hunt said.

Environmental groups including Greenpeace, though, warn the mine’s output would generate almost 130 million tonnes of carbon dioxide when burnt each year, or equal to about a quarter of Australia’s current annual emissions.

Billionaire MP Clive Palmer also owns two Galilee coal reserves that may produce as much as 80 million tonnes of coal a year if those mines get developed. Australia’s richest person, Gina Rinehart also holds a minority stake with India’s GVK in mines with a similar annual capacity.

“History will look back on the Abbott Government’s decision today as an act of climate criminality,” said Greens Senator Larissa Waters, the party’s environment spokeswoman.

“The proponent, Indian-owned Adani, is in financial dire straits and has already faced complaints about breaches of environmental laws in its home country

“There’s no guarantee Adani will be able to pay for the environmental conditions attached to the approval and with the Abbott and Newman governments slashing environment department staff, there’s no capacity to enforce them."

'Coffin' for the Reef

The mine, if it proceeds, would also increase the number of ships entering the Great Barrier Reef by about 450 a year, according to Felicity Wishart, a spokeswoman for the Australian Marine Conservation Society.

“This is yet another nail in the coffin for the Great Barrier Reef,” said Ms Wishart, adding that Carmichael and other proposed coal mines and gas plants in the region would likely increase the number of ships entering the reef area from about 4000 a year to 7000 by 2020.

Paul Oosting, campaigns director at social organising group GetUp!, said the approval was an “outrageous decision”.

“GetUp! will fight tooth and nail to make sure it will never occur,” Mr Oosting said. He said campaigns had succeeded in discouraging the involvement of banks such as Deutsche Bank, Barclays and RBS in the Abbot Point coal export terminal that will link to Carmichael.

The government should also have taken greater account of Adani’s “proven and documented track record of bribery, corruption and environmental degradation” in India, Mr Oosting said.

Water watch

One of the government’s conditions is that the mine will return a minimum of 730 megalitres of water to the Great Artesian Basin every year for five years.

However, Lock the Gate’s Central Queensland spokeswoman, Ellie Smith, said the mine would do “great damage to ground and surface water systems and the communities that depend on them”.

“Environment Minister Greg Hunt has ignored his own panel of top water scientists and is putting the Great Artesian Basin at further risk by allowing mine dewatering to drain the Basin,” Ms Smith said.

Adani has said the Carmichael mine would extract as much as 12.5 gigalitres of water every year, Lock the Gate noted.

Market hurdle

Getting government approval may be easier than winning over markets that have soured on coal, with prices of the commodity dropping about 50 per cent over the past five years.

Concerns about over-supply as nations such as Russia, Indonesia and Mongolia join Australia in preparing to ramp-up production have lately been complemented by signs that global action on climate change will see carbon costs imposed on coal to curb its usage.

South Korea, for instance, this month slapped a coal tax of about $18 per tonne of coal and will introduce a broad carbon price from 2015. Neighbouring China, easily the world’s largest producer and consumer of coal, has also unveiled plans for a national carbon emissions market and may aim to curb coal consumption within coming years.

Tim Buckley, a former Citibank analyst and now a director at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis, said the environmental approval itself was no surprise.

“I never expected [Mr] Hunt to go against Premier [Campbell] Newman nor Prime Minister [Tony] Abbott's desire to promote foreign firms trying to sustain Australia's coal industry,” Mr Buckley said.

“Ironically, should the Galilee proceed, it will actually accelerate the longer-term destruction of our coal export industry by dramatically expanding the capital invested, whilst at the same time taking coal prices globally down another 10-20 per cent.”

Adani, though, said it was standing by its longstanding guidance that the first coal from the mine will be produced in 2017

"The Carmichael mine, together with North Galilee Basin Rail and Abbot Point, will be an enduring provider of more than 10.000 jobs, ongoing partnerships with our small and medium business suppliers, and long-term export opportunities for Queensland," an Adani spokesman said.

"All commodity prices are by their nature subject to volatility," the spokesman said. "Having said that, Adani is an integrated mining, infrastructure and power company that is both the miner, infrastructure owner and operator, and eventual customer for the cost efficient and high quality coal exported from our Carmichael mine."



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


Monday, July 28, 2014

American Farmers Just Love Their GMOs and You Should Too

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has released its latest data on farmers planting of crops genetically enhanced to tolerate herbicides (HT) crops and to resist insect pests (Bt).

HT soybeans went from 17 percent of U.S. soybean acreage to 94 percent in 2014. Plantings of HT cotton expanded from about 10 percent of U.S. acreage in 1997 to 91 percent in 2014. The adoption of HT corn reached 89 percent of U.S. corn acreage in 2014.

Plantings of Bt corn grew from about 8 percent of U.S. corn acreage in 1997 to 80 percent in 2014. Plantings of Bt cotton also expanded rapidly, from 15 percent of U.S. cotton acreage in 1997 to 84 percent in 2014.

Why are modern biotech crops so popular with farmers?  Earlier this year, U.S. News reported the views of Illinois farmer Katie Pratt:

According to Pratt, her family uses GMO crops because of the clear value they bring to their family business. They have greatly reduced the amount of insecticide that needs to be sprayed, and they only need to treat the weeds at one point, not several times over a growing season. Her soil has now improved, because she and her family don't have to tromp through the fields as often. The family also uses less fuel, because they spend less time in the tractor. “No one is more aware than the farmer of the impact we have on the environment, in addition to the urgency to feed and fuel a growing population, while reducing our footprint on the planet,” she maintains.

And remember folks, biotech crops are not only good for the environment, eating them as caused not so much as a cough, sniffle, sneeze or bellyache. For example, a statement issued by the Board of Directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the largest scientific organization in the United States, on October 20, 2012 point blank asserted that “contrary to popular misconceptions, GM [genetically modified] crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply. There are occasional claims that feeding GM foods to animals causes aberrations ranging from digestive disorders, to sterility, tumors and premature death. Although such claims are often sensationalized and receive a great deal of media attention, none have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.” The AAAS Board concluded, “Indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”


GMO's: Scare Mongering at Its Worst!

By Rich Kozlovich

Mike Adams, who publishes Natural News and styles himself as the Health Ranger recently posted an article entitled, The Agricultural Holocaust explained: the 10 worst ways GMOs threaten humanity and our natural world on July 27, 2014.

He claims "genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a serious threat to humanity and the environment? The reasons span the realms of science, social justice, economics and the environment, and once you understand this, you'll readily understand why so many environmentalists, humanitarians, responsible scientists and social justice advocates are strongly opposed to GMOs", and lists ten reasons why?

 He starts out with - "Every grain of GM corn contains poison", and goes on to say;

"GM corn is genetically engineered to develop a deadly pesticide in every grain of corn. When this corn is harvested and turned into Corn Flakes, corn tortillas, corn syrup or other corn-based foods, that same poison remains in the corn.

What is the effect of human children eating all the poisons grown in GM corn? Nobody knows for sure because the tests haven't been conducted on human consumption. That's why GMOs remain an untested experiment that exploits humans as guinea pigs."

First of all, this “deadly” pesticide isn’t deadly to anything except the targeted insect pests because it's the dose that makes the poison – basic chemical science! When they use this kind of language it’s a lie of omission, because presence doesn’t mean toxicity, and they know it. Furthermore it’s more likely that cooking will destroy what minute amounts exist in it anyway but even if it didn't just because some chemical is detectable it doesn’t mean it’s harmful.  We can test down for parts per quadrillion and even lower in some cases.  As a health issue those numbers are meaningless because the molecular load will be so small cells won’t react to it.

As for "no tests being conducted on human beings", there’s a reason for that. We’re not allowed to test human beings, and these eco-activists know it, yet they continue to use this same lie of omission over and over again. In the real world everything - and I mean everything - gets its final testing when its released to the public, and GMO’s have been used for decades in this country without one iota of evidence of harm.

What they fail to tell you – making another lie of omission – are the benefits of GMO’s, including less total land needed to plant the needed food to feed a growing world population, less pesticide use (including herbicides) because they’re now more resistant to insect pests and weeds, and can even allow for planting in soil that has high levels of salt, expanding usable acreage numbers substantially. Since the plants are healthier because they're disease resistant, all of this allows for higher better quality yields.

Without modern agricultural tools, including GMO’s, according to Norman Borlaug 25 years ago, we would need all the land east of the Mississippi with the exclusion of three states to generate the same level of crop production they had then.  With the world's growing population how much more land would be needed.   Picture that as a worldwide dilemma.


Lawsuit Seeks Damages From EPA, ‘A Toxic Waste Dump of Lawlessness’

A conservative legal group is asking a federal judge to punish the Environmental Protection Agency for destroying or failing to preserve emails and text messages requested in August 2012 under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Landmark Legal Foundation believes the requested -- but never delivered -- messages to outside groups would have revealed EPA attempts to influence the 2012 presidential election.

"The EPA is a toxic waste dump for lawlessness and disdain for the Constitution,” said Landmark Legal President Mark Levin.

His legal group wants the federal court to fine the EPA “in an amount sufficient to deter future wrongdoing.”

Landmark Legal also is asking the judge to appoint an independent monitor to ensure that EPA is properly preserving and searching for all records that fall under Landmark’s original FOIA request.

“EPA cannot be trusted,” the lawsuit states. “The appointment of an independent monitor is essential to ensure that EPA complies fully with its obligation to preserve documents…”

And finally, the lawsuit asks the judge to direct the EPA to inform parties in other lawsuits that it may have destroyed or failed to preserve records they had a legal right to receive in their litigation.

“When any federal agency receives a FOIA request, the statute says it must preserve every significant repository of records, both paper and electronic, that may contain materials that could be responsive to that request,” Levin said. “When an agency gets sued it must also notify everyone who might be involved in the suit to preserve everything in their possession that could be discoverable in the litigation.

"But the people at the EPA, from the Administrator on down, think they’re above the law, that no one has the right to question what or how they do their jobs. Well, they’re wrong. The laws apply to everyone, even federal bureaucrats.”

The lawsuit says EPA should have searched the personal emails and text messages used by top EPA officials, including then-Administrator Lisa Jackson, to conduct official business, but it failed to do so.

"EPA didn’t and doesn’t care, an attitude that it has carried into every aspect of its dealings with Landmark," the lawsuit says. "EPA has treated Landmark as an adversary from the receipt of its FOIA request, not as a rightful participant in a FOIA regime as enforcing principles of open government subject to oversight by its citizens."

This is the second time Landmark Legal has sought sanctions against the EPA in FOIA litigation.

In 2003, the Agency was held in contempt by a federal judge for destroying email backup tapes in a similar suit over “midnight” regulations hurried into law in the final days of the Clinton Administration. In that case, the EPA was fined nearly $300,000.

"The EPA has to learn that you can’t save the planet by destroying the rule of law,” Levin said. “It also must understand that some of our most precious resources are the principles of limited government and official accountability enumerated in the Constitution. If we don’t protect those, saving the snail darter or the spotted owl won’t mean a thing.”

Landmark Legal isn’t the only information-seeker to be frustrated by EPA stonewalling: EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy recently informed Congress that EPA was unable to obtain requested records because of a computer crash.

According to Landmark Legal’s current lawsuit, “Imposition of these sanctions will also deliver a larger message to the EPA and the entire federal bureaucracy to take its data preservations obligations seriously.”

Landmark Legal Foundation is a nonprofit, public interest law firm with offices in Kansas City, MO. and Leesburg, Va.


Gov't Spends $156,493 to Identify Species Vulnerable to Climate Change -- in Maine

 The National Park Service is awarding $156,493 to the Schoodic Education and Research Center (SERC) Institute to fund an award to “identify species vulnerable to climate change at Acadia National Park.”

According to the grant, “Climate change is a serious threat to national areas. SERC Institute will develop and communicate stories describing local impacts of climate change on well-known species in Acadia National Park. The results from this project will provide valuable tools to communicate to the public and interested audiences how species are responding to climate change and which species might be most vulnerable to climate change.”

Acadia National Park is on the coast of Maine, about halfway up the length of the state next to Bar Harbor.

As part of the grant, SERC will develop and communicate stories describing impacts of climate change on well-known species; develop a curriculum for a training course that will provide an introduction to citizen science and include lesson plans; organize and hold a climate change workshop that includes a discussion of stories on the impacts of climate change; and work with the National Park Service staff to hold a workshop on the vulnerability of archaeological resources to climate change, as well as many other initiatives.

The National Park Service lists research and education activities as some of the SERC Institute’s qualifications. (See  Park Service Grant (1).doc)

“Much of SERC Institute’s work has specifically focused on supporting research and education related to long-term changes in Acadia National Park and the surrounding area,” the grant states. “They have developed innovative methods, such as citizen science and data literacy, inquiry-based learning, and storytelling techniques to support these activities and integrate science and education.”

“This expertise makes SERC Institute uniquely qualified to lead and work with NPS on the project described in this Task Agreement,” reads the grant.  “Their qualifications exceed those of any other potential partners.”

The grant was posted on July 10, 2014 and had a closing date for applications of July 15, 2014. contacted Jennifer Fleming, the National Park Service’s NER Agreements Officer to question whether the grant was a good use of taxpayer dollars, but Fleming did not respond by press time


Green Group Under Scrutiny for Trespassing, Harassment at Woman’s Farm

Robert Marmet knew he was supposed to inspect Martha Boneta’s farm, but he didn’t know exactly what for. He knew there were limits on what he could inspect, but he had no idea where they were.

So when Marmet, a senior energy policy analyst with the Piedmont Environmental Council, and his partner Mike Kane, a conservation officer with the group, turned up June 12 to inspect Boneta’s Liberty Farm in Paris, Va., they more or less inspected what they wanted to inspect.

They walked through the upstairs and downstairs portion of the barn that sits on the property. They inspected every room within—bathrooms, closets, storage rooms and offices. They looked over the farmer’s personal effects and even toured the basement area of the barn that housed some of the animals. They inspected “The Smithy,” an historical structure on the property that was once a blacksmith shop. They stood on chairs to peer into the loft area.

What were they looking for? They were there on behalf of the PEC to enforce an easement on Boneta’s property. Easements are documents property owners sign that compensate them for agreeing to withhold land from commercial development. In Boneta’s case, the PEC accused her in a previous lawsuit of violating the agreement in a number of ways, the main one of which was to operate apartments on the property.

An agreement to settle that suit required PEC to acknowledge the accusation was false and Boneta did not have apartments on the property, but it permitted PEC to “measure for the size of an apartment.” This inspection obviously went far beyond that.

Boneta claims in a lawsuit filed last month in Fauquier County Circuit Court the inspections are part of a pattern of harassment. Her case accuses Peter Schwartz, a member of the elected Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and former member of the PEC board of directors, of, among other things, telling zoning officials he wants the rules “aggressively enforced” with regard to the farm.

She also claims PEC should not be allowed to be involved in the enforcement of the easement. She said before the PEC sold her the farm in 2006, it owned both the property and the easement, which is illegal under Virginia law.

Almost all property owners with easements must endure routine inspections by the land conservancies or other organizations that enforce the easements. Usually, they are low-key and friendly. Landowners are apprised of violations, and the sides work together to address them.

This is not the case with Martha Boneta.

She told Marmet and Kane when they entered her property in June they could inspect only what the easement language allows. “It’s very clear,” she said. And if they “exceed what the language says, it is considered trespassing. In the past, you have demanded to inspect my closets and have photographed my personal private possessions, and this exceeds your authority.”

Marmet replied that, yes, he is an attorney—and a former judge, according to his bio on the PEC website—but he is not licensed to practice law in Virginia and is not familiar with the terms of the easement. If he was about to violate any of its terms, he told Boneta, “I ask that you give me notice.”

At which point, Mark Fitzgibbons, an attorney and neighbor who has supported legislation to protect traditional farming practices from intrusive zoning rules, stepped in. “The PEC has been placed on notice,” Fitzgibbons told Marmet. “The obligation is on you, not Martha Boneta, to know what the easement terms are.”

Fitzgibbons told The Daily Signal the inspections have gotten out of hand. “From what I’ve observed, these inspections are being conducted with an agenda greater than ensuring fidelity to the easement,” he said.

It does seem to me the PEC has crossed a line. They are going anywhere and everywhere across Martha’s property, and it does seem excessive. So, either they do not know what the easement terms really say, or they do know and are pushing boundaries of their easement authority. Also, if the terms of easement are vague, they are to be construed against the inspector, which opens the issue of trespassing.

Fitzgibbons is not alone in thinking the PEC has gone too far with its handling of Boneta. Several recent events suggest frustration with the organization and what many view as its heavy-handed tactics may be reaching critical mass.

There is Boneta’s lawsuit, in which she claims the PEC “attempted to convince the [county] zoning administrator and other local government officials” to issue zoning citations against her farm—and plenty of email and written correspondence obtained through Freedom of Information Act requests to support her version.

There is something called the Boneta Bill, signed into law by Terry McAuliffe, Virginia’s Democratic governor, and effective July 1. The legislation, which prevents local authorities from requiring special-use permits for conventional farming activities outlined in the law, proves members of Virginia’s General Assembly recognize the problem and have sympathy for Boneta.

And there is the audit of Boneta’s 2010 and 2011 tax records that some suggest may amount to using the IRS against Boneta. A former IRS director sits on PEC’s board.

Tom DeWeese, president of the American Policy Center, a non-profit, free-enterprise group based in Virginia, is circulating a petition that calls on House Speaker John Boehner and other congressional leaders to investigate the PEC, its relationship with the county government and the actions the group has taken against Liberty Farm.

DeWeese said the documents reveal Schwartz, the county supervisor, knew about Boneta’s audit before she received the notice in the mail, and Fitzgibbons said he learned of the audit during a meeting with Schwartz in the supervisor’s private home on July 21, 2012—a few days before Boneta received her IRS letter.

“Martha [Boneta] stood up and resisted, and so now she is being targeted,” DeWeese said in an interview. “But this is not just Fauquier County. We see this happening all over the country. The PEC is one of many quasi groups operating behind the scenes. There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of green groups just like the PEC pulling the strings of government.”

DeWeese also said he is talking to state lawmakers about placing a “five-year opt out” provision on easements that would give property owners some flexibility.

“Right now the easements exist in perpetuity, and this is a problem because there is no real oversight for how they are managed,” DeWeese said. “The PEC can move the easements around to the government and other land trusts, and it’s a profit for them. But the landowner is stuck forever with the easement.”

If there is a congressional investigation, DeWeese would like to see the PEC’s non-profit 501(c)(3) status come under scrutiny.

“The PEC was given an IRS designation as a non-profit educational institution and this comes with restrictions,” he said. “Given how they have interacted with the Fauquier County government and how they have treated Martha, I think this calls out for an investigation. If you cut off the PEC’s 501(c )(3) status, you can cut off PEC at the knees.”

The PEC has moved to dismiss Boneta’s suit in its entirety because it “has failed to set forth valid claims,” said Heather Richards, vice-president of conservation and rural programs, wrote in an email.

The group also released a detailed post on its website that presents its side of the story.

“PEC and other land trusts across the country take our responsibility to uphold conservation easements in perpetuity seriously, and work hard to maintain positive relationships with landowners,” the post says. “We are saddened by the public misrepresentations about both the terms of this conservation easement and the facts surrounding the court case and its ensuing settlement, which was agreed to by all parties.”

But questions remain.

Why was Boneta singled out for an audit, and how did Schwartz and others know about it beforehand? What does it say about the relationship between the PEC and Fauquier County government that a supervisor can encourage “aggressive enforcement?” How much inspection is needed to determine whether there are apartments in the barn?

Bonner Cohen, a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, has studied conservation easements for decades. He said what began as a laudable effort to provide financially stressed landowner with tax breaks in exchange for setting aside land for conservation has been converted into a vehicle for government land grabs. The actions taken against Liberty Farm appear to bolster these concerns, he said.

“Mr. Marmet showed an appalling ignorance of the terms of the conservation easement he, representing the PEC, was on Martha Boneta’s property to enforce,” said Cohen, who witnessed the inspection in June. “One is left with the impression that the inspection was little more than a fishing expedition to find out how much he could get away with. That’s not right.”


EPA Chief: 'This Is Not About Pollution Control...It's an Investment Strategy'

She wouldn't know an investment if she fell over one

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy told Congress on Wednesday that the EPA's sweeping carbon-regulation plan "really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control."

Spouting warnings about "climate change" ("The science is clear. The risks are clear...We must act."), McCarthy described and defended the EPA's plan to reduce pollution from existing power plants by setting various carbon-reduction goals for each state to meet by the year 2030.

"And the great thing about this proposal is it really is an investment opportunity. This is not about pollution control. It's about increased efficiency at our plants...It's about investments in renewables and clean energy. It's about investments in people's ability to lower their electricity bills by getting good, clean, efficient appliances, homes, rental units," McCarthy told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

"This is an investment strategy that will really not just reduce carbon pollution but will position the United States to continue to grow economically in every state, based on their own design," McCarthy added.

In her opening statement, McCarthy said the Clean Power Plan "paves a more certain path for conventional fuels in a clean energy economy." But in the course of her testimony, it became clear that the EPA actually is paving a more certain path for clean energy in what is now a fossil-fuel economy.

Under the plan, it's up to each state to figure out how to arrive at the federally prescribed carbon-reduction goals by 2030. But "clean" energy and "efficiency" (reducing demand for fossil-fuel sources) would certainly have to be part of the mix.

Sen. John Barroso (R-Wyo.) said the proposed regulation may cause Americans pain by raising electricity prices, but it "can't make a dent" in terms of global pollution.

"Sir, what I know about this rule is that I know it will leave the United States in 2030 with a more efficient and cleaner energy supply system -- and more jobs in clean energy, which are the jobs of the future," McCarthy responded.

McCarthy said the EPA, whenever it issues a new rule, "always" hears criticism from "some small groups" about harm to the economy.

But she said she doesn't expect any adverse impact from this rule -- "other than to have jobs grow, the economy to grow, the U.S. to become more stable, the U.S. to take advantage of new technology, innovation and investments that will make us stronger over time."

The EPA says it derives its authority to steer the economy toward "clean" energy from Section 111 of the Clean Air Act.

But Republican Sen. Jeff Sessions argued that the agency has "not been given explicit statutory power to do what you're doing. You've achieved it by, I guess, a 5-4 ruling some years ago  by the Supreme Court. And it ought to be viewed with skepticism."

Asked to explain what consumers can expect from the new rule, McCarthy said EPA expects people to see lower energy bills "because we're getting waste out of the system." In other words, if electricity costs more, people will use less of it.

Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who supports the proposed rule, asked McCarthy is she is considering stricter carbon reduction targets for states that already have achieved the levels set out in the proposed rules.

"Well, Senator, we are looking at all comments that we receive. We have a very long coment period, 120 days. We're looking forward to four public hearings next week. So we will be certainly listening to those and making appropriate changes, one way or another," McCarthy replied.

The public comment period on the proposed rule runs through October 16, 2014.



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