Friday, July 17, 2015
Fun! Is organic farming making climate change worse?
Both Greenies and food freaks are "wiser than thou" types. They have a desperate need to feel superior, even though they have just about zero originality. So it's neat to set one sort of false wisdom against another
It has a reputation for being better for us and the environment, but new research suggests organic food may actually be harming the planet.
Scientists have found that rather than reducing the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released, organic farming may actually be increasing them.
They found the shift to large scale organic farming in order to meet growing demand for organic products in shops has led to an increase in emissions for each acre of land.
They also argue that these changes have moved organic farming away from its original attempts to produce a sustainable form of agriculture.
Julius McGee, a sociologist at the Univeristy of Oregon who conducted the research, said: 'My analysis finds that the rise of certified organic production in the United States is not correlated with declines in greenhouse gas emissions derived specifically from agricultural production, and on the contrary is associated positively overall agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
'The big questions are what are we are doing when we shift from conventional to organic production and what are the environmental consequences.
'This study says that the organic farming industry is in the early stages. So far we don't see any mitigating effect on greenhouse gasses.
'We need to pay close attention to what processes in organic farming operations make them the sustainable alternative that we want them to be, and we are going to need to more strictly follow those.'
The study, which is published in the journal Agriculture and Human Values, analysed data in the US between 2000 and 2008 on organic and conventional agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.
Mr McGee also collected data on socioeconomic and agricultural indicators that may have been influencing industry growth trends.
Organic farming first emerged in the US in the 1940s and now makes up three per cent of agricultural land in the US.
He found that rather than causing greenhouse gas emissions to fall, organic farming was actually producing more intense levels of emissions.
He claims the move to large corporate organic farming operations has led to many organic practices being watered down and ignored.
He found many organic farms now use single rather than rotated crops, use more organic pesticides and herbicides and import manure based fertilisers from other locations.
This all contributes to the growing carbon footprint of organic farming.
Mr McGee says the organic farming sector must now take action to change its approach. He said: 'We're not going to solve all these problems with technology.
'The issue of agriculture and climate change doesn't derive only from technology. 'Sure, that's part of it, but a lot of the issue is the social context in which we relate to food — the idea that overproducing food at a level exceeding what we need — for both forms of agricultural production.'
Truth in jest
NOAA: Record 117-Month Major Hurricane Drought Continues
It has been 117 months since a major hurricane, defined as a Category 3 or above, has made landfall in the continental United States, according to 2015 data from the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
This is the longest span of time in which no major hurricane has struck the mainland U.S. in NOAA hurricane records going back to 1851.
The second longest time between major hurricane strikes was the eight years between 1860 and 1869—146 years ago.
A recent study published May 5 and co-authored by Tim Hall of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s (NASA) Goddard Institute for Space Studies entitled The Frequency and Duration of U.S. Hurricane Droughts also confirmed that the current "admittedly unusual" drought is “unprecedented in the historical record."
That study found that major hurricane droughts only occur every 177 years, and calculated that there is less than a 5 percent chance (0.39%) that the current drought will end this hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 to November 30.
Hurricane Wilma, the most recent major hurricane to strike the U.S., was a Category 3 when it made landfall in North Carolina on October 24, 2005—almost 118 months ago.
Since the end of the 2005 hurricane season, the U.S. has experienced a nine-year major hurricane “drought,” which is approaching 10 years at the end of the 2015 season this November.
Last month, Eric Blake, a hurricane specialist at NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, told CNSNews.com that this is “easily the record—with all the necessary caveats.”
Blake co-authored NOAA’s The Deadliest, Costliest, And Most Intense United States Tropical Cyclones from 1851 to 2010 report, which explains that “category assignment is based on wind speed from 1851-1930 and 1990-2010 and on a combination of wind, pressure and storm surge from 1931-1989.”
The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale assigns categories from 1 to 5 based on sustained wind speeds and potential for damage. The scale was developed in 1969, so storms before then were assigned categories retroactively, using the historical measurements on record.
Blake told CNSNews.com that measurements for storm categorizations have improved over time.
While a Category 3 or greater storm has not struck the U.S. since Wilma in 2005, several hurricanes of lesser wind speeds have still caused considerable damage, including Ike in 2008 (Category 2), Irene in 2011 (Category 1), and Sandy in 2012 (Category 1).
According to NOAA, Category 1 storms cause “some damage” with sustained winds between 74-95 mph, and Category 2 storms cause “extensive damage” with winds between 96 and 110 mph.
Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes are considered “major” because of their ability to produce “devastating” and “catastrophic damage” with wind speeds of 111-129 mph, 130-156 mph, and 157 mph or higher, respectively.
"Small differences today that we could detect, you couldn’t detect a long time ago,” Blake told CNSNews.com. “Given that we just see things a little better, we‘ve got more data and better satellite data, we can give a little better estimate than we could a generation ago.”
“But nonetheless, it is a record. It’s easily the record,” he continued.
That a 117-month pause in major hurricane activity follows the most active Atlantic hurricane season in history is “an unlikely event, so ascribing the significance of it is a challenge,” Blake told CNSNews.com.
“I like to think of it as Mother Nature giving us a little bit of a break after giving us a beating in 2004 and 2005. That’s my best guess, but I don’t know. [That is the most important sentence in the article. They really don't know -- despite the science being "settled"]
Japan restarting nukes
The fuel is now loaded into the reactor; following inspections, the switch will be flipped; and, around August 10, the reactor will be fired up. Three days later, transmission of electricity is expected to start, ramping up to full power and commercial operation in September. The same process is expected to take place at a second reactor in September/October.
Despite public protest, Japan is going nuclear — again.
Following the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami that caused the severe accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear reactor in northeastern Japan, all nuclear reactors were gradually switched off for inspections. No commercial reactor has been online in Japan for nearly two years. Due to safety concerns, the country’s nuclear power generation has been at a standstill. Meanwhile, new regulatory standards have been developed and reactors are undergoing inspections.
Prior to 2011, nuclear power provided nearly one third of Japan’s electricity. Lost power-generation capacity has been replaced by importing pricey fossil fuels. Japan has few natural resources of its own. The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, “Japan imports more than 90 percent of its fossil fuels, and is particularly dependent on the Middle East for oil and natural gas.”
The loss of nuclear power has, according to the CS Monitor, raised household utility bills in Japan by 20 percent. A survey of Japanese manufacturers, conducted by the Osaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry, found that increases in power rates represented the greatest burden for more than 40 percent of the 335 firms who responded, and that “chronic power outages” and further increases in power rates “would do serious damage to industries located in the Kansai region.” The WSJ confirms that “businesses say the rise in electricity costs without the nuclear reactors makes it harder to run a factory in Japan.”
The economic impact of shifting from nuclear power to imported fossil fuels is evident in Japan’s trade deficits. In OilPrice.com, John Manfreda sees a direct correlation. He says, “Before the Fukushima accident occurred, Japan’s economy was driven by its large trade surpluses, which it achieved year after year. However, since Fukushima, Japan reversed that trend, and began posting trade deficits on a yearly basis.”
Japan’s reliance on nuclear power began after OPEC’s 1973 oil embargo that caused a severe energy shortage and nearly derailed its economic progress. Manfreda reports, “When this embargo ended, Japan conducted a national energy study to find out how the country could implement an energy policy that would protect supplies from future embargoes and geopolitical turmoil. The ultimate conclusion of the study was that Japan needed to invest heavily in the use of nuclear power, which could supplant imported fossil fuels for electricity. After that study, the development of nuclear power was considered a national priority.”
Japan has, once again, reviewed its energy needs. The fourth Basic Energy Plan, approved in June 2015, concludes, “Nuclear power is an ‘important power source that supports the stability of our energy supply and demand structure.’” The plan increases nuclear from current levels by restarting most of the idle plants, while calling for an approximate 10 percent reduction from the pre-Fukushima level of 30 percent. WSJ adds, “Japan also plans to continue its use of coal, the cheapest of its energy imports. …Already this year, the nation’s utilities have announced the construction of seven new coal-fired power plants.”
Due to its need for power and its reliance on fossil fuels, Japan revised its emissions targets, saying, according to the New York Times, that “it would release 3 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than it did in 1990, rather than the 6 percent cut it originally promised or the 25 percent reduction it promised two years before the 2011 nuclear accident.” In 2012, Japan opted out of a proposed U.N. Kyoto Protocol extension. WSJ reports, “The government’s energy plan also seeks to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions, but doesn’t stop companies’ plans to spend billions of dollars on new plants powered by cheap coal from countries like Australia and the U.S.”
The Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI) favors nuclear power because it is a “quasi-domestic source” (four of the world’s top six manufacturers of nuclear plant technology are Japanese or Japanese-owned). Addressing Japan’s plan, World Nuclear News states, nuclear power “gives stable power, operates inexpensively and has a low greenhouse gas profile.”
Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government reportedly wants to operate as many nuclear plants as possible “to meet the nation’s energy needs and grow the economy.” Twenty-five reactors are seeking a restart.
The plant, fueled up on July 10 and scheduled to start commercial operation in September, is one of two reactors being restarted at the Sendai Nuclear Power Station, owned by Kyushu Electric Power Company. With all six of its reactors idle, Kyushu Electric has been “reeling from losses caused by hefty imported fossil fuel costs to run conventional power plants.” Likewise, Chubu Electric Power Company, according to the Japan Times, has applied to restart the Number 3 reactor at its Hamaoka nuclear plant and hopes to resume power generation as soon as possible “to reduce its reliance on expensive fossil fuels.”
“There is no greater issue for the health of the Japanese economy,” Robert Feldman, managing director of Morgan Stanley’s MUFG Securities Co., opined in WSJ, “than energy.” Echoing the sentiment, Masahiro Sakane, chairman of a panel sponsored by METI that has been debating the energy mix, said, “The most important thing is energy self-sufficiency.”
Regarding Japan’s energy plan, Makoto Yagi, Federation of Electric Power Companies of Japan chairman, stated, “We believe that energy policy is a core policy of a nation and must be approached from a medium to long-term standpoint.”
Japan is restarting its nuclear program. Iran, supposedly, wants nuclear power. Driven by the need for clean reliable power and the need to bolster energy security and to reduce dependence on imported fuels, many other countries are pursuing nuclear power. Russia has eight reactors under construction — which will double its nuclear capacity. China has 26 reactors in operation, with 24 under construction, and is now building identical power plants that allow for cost efficiencies that come with mass production. Many new plants, such as the reactors being built in the U.S., utilize “third-generation designs that improve safety and cut costs,” E&E News reports. Fourth-generation reactors, which use different coolants and fuels, are in the proposal stages.
The lesson here is less about nuclear power and more about the need for energy that is cost-effective, reliable, and secure.
In a country like Japan, with limited natural resources, nuclear power meets the need. In the U.S., where we are rich in coal, oil, natural gas, and uranium (the fuel for nuclear power), we have more options and should select the energy source that is right for specific needs and locales. As Japan has demonstrated, energy is one of the most important components of the economy, and expensive energy has hurt it.
Japan has an energy plan that is a “core policy” of the nation. In the U.S., instead of having an energy policy, we continue to drive up costs by regulating away our energy advantage and throwing money at expensive renewable energy — with the Clean Power Plan ignoring new nuclear. It is time for America to really evaluate our energy needs and maximize our advantage.
Billionaires Use Environmental Movement to Profit Handily
New Report Details New Definition of "Going Green"
From Tom Steyer to Nat Simons, billionaires have hijacked the environmental movement to line their own pockets. Hedge funds and billionaire investors with a line into government contracts, grants and loan guarantees have built relations with these lobby groups to influence government to ensure taxpayer largess flows to the green industries which they are invested in. A new report by the Energy & Environment Legal Institute examines some of the largest contributors to the Sierra Club and their self-interested dealing that gives new definition to the meaning of “going green.”
E&E Legal produced a report on the Sierra Club Foundation last fall, which showed how eight of the Foundation’s 18 directors own or operate organizations that directly benefit from its Beyond Coal campaign, the Sierra Club Foundation’s single most expensive program. This type of “self-dealing” is a violation of IRS; a clear case of a private individual receiving “goods and services” from the Sierra Club to their direct and personal benefit. In response, E&E Legal filed a referral with the IRS pointing this out.
In the latest report, E&E Legal documents similar benefits accruing to some of Sierra Club’s largest donors and, specifically, how they appear to use the Sierra Club for market manipulation. Such self-dealing by donors is prohibited by the IRS.
“What is apparent from this latest report is that very wealthy individuals and family foundations use the Sierra Club as hired guns to beat up the coal industry, and to push renewable energy while these same individuals stand to gain significantly from this market manipulation,” said E&E Legal General Counsel David Schnare. “This is a blatant violation of the IRS tax laws, and we will be filing a referral with the tax agency reporting several of the Sierra Club’s largest donors as we did last fall regarding the eight Sierra Club Foundation directors who engaged in similar activities.”
What is clear from examining the large contributors to the Sierra Club is that these donors seek to use the Sierra Club to manipulate government policies in order to irrevocably alter the world’s energy portfolio in a manner that benefits the donors and their businesses. This strategy appears to have been put in place in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The Energy Foundation, for example, was launched in 1991 by three extremely wealthy family foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation.
“Looking back to the late 1980s, what emerges is that these influential elites, or ‘one-percenters,’ dedicated themselves to sounding alarms about ‘global warming,’ which morphed into ‘climate change’ as conditions demanded,” said Craig Richardson, E&E Legal Executive Director and author of the report. “Huge money followed from some of this country’s largest and most influential foundations, much of which ended up in the hands of groups like the Sierra Club.”
Other billionaires, all large contributors to the Sierra Club and including Michael Bloomberg, Nathaniel Simons, and Roger Sant, jumped into the fray. Their strategy is simple. Phase I targeted coal as the threat that must be arrested, claiming anthropogenic C02 emissions are the root cause of ‘climate change’ and threaten a catastrophic future, thus opening the door to non-coal technologies in which they have invested; and to create movement in the markets that these men can manipulate to their own hedge fund benefit. The group’s unprecedented contributions allowed them to engage in one of the most intense and thorough public relations, political, and grassroots assaults ever waged.
Phase II of their campaign was a heavy push on government policies promoting renewable energy – primarily wind and solar. These intermittent energy sources are not an alternative to what is known as “dispatchable” energy sources such as coal and natural gas-based electricity and thus cannot replace the older, cheaper coal and gas generation. In 2009, this second phase accelerated in earnest with the Obama Administration’s policies to prop up renewable interests, benefiting these donors, while disabling coal through regulatory policy. Similarly, states pushed renewable energy rules requiring a percentage of a state’s consumption be composed of wind and solar.
In addition to serving the obvious financial and generally ideological interests of Sierra’s donors, the Sierra Club’s policies also serve donors who succor population control. This includes the family foundation of William Hewlett, a Sierra Club supporter, which is dedicated to population control and view environmental issues as a means to curb and ultimately reduce human involvement in the world as well. This, of course, is nothing short of a war on the poor, the antithesis of a war on poverty.
“This report helps answer the mystery of why the Sierra Club abandoned the mission of its founder John Muir, which was to protect this country’s most sacred nature resources,” noted Richardson. “When you see the hundreds of millions of dollars pumped through the Sierra Club for its war on coal – an effort that clearly benefits the very same people who are donating the money – it’s clear the Sierra Club is now just a mercenary force beholden to the highest bidder.”
UK Government 'reckless' with consumer cash for green energy
Ministers have been "reckless and wasteful" in spending consumers' money on green energy subsidies, a leading think tank has said, urging them to slash “excessive” payments to households who install rooftop solar panels.
Household energy bills have risen by £120 as a direct result of “ill thought-through” climate change policies and the costs of running energy networks – together accounting for half the total bill increase over the period, Policy Exchange said in a report.
Subsidies for green energy are allocated by the Government but paid for through energy bill levies. They are subject to a Treasury-set spending cap, but the Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has exceeded the cap in each of the last three years and is likely to do so again, the report warns.
“This is reckless and wasteful spending of consumers’ money – the impact of which will be felt for decades to come given the duration of some of the commitments made,” it says.
The group has already warned that household bills will rise more than expected to fund the subsidies unless ministers change their policies.
The influential group said that subsidies paid to households for small-scale renewable energy projects such as rooftop solar panels were “excessive, and should be cut significantly to stem the increase in policy costs”.
Richard Howard, author of the report, said: “Household energy bills have soared in recent years. This is not, as some have suggested, due to “rip off energy companies”, but in fact in large part due to government policy.”
Official Department of Energy and Climate Change analysis suggests that bills were £90 lower in 2014 than they would have been without policies and regulations.
A spokesman for the Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “Reducing energy bills for hard working British families and businesses is this government’s priority. We’ve already announced reforms to remove subsidies for onshore wind, and that work to make sure bill payers are getting the best possible deal is going to continue.”
Chaos over carbon plans hits Australian Leftist leader
Bill Shorten faces a destructive Coalition carbon tax scare campaign through to the next election after the damaging leak of draft Labor plans for an emissions trading scheme and an extra tax on electricity generators further undermined his leadership credibility.
The Opposition Leader and his frontbench colleagues were forced to play down the importance of an internal Labor proposal to introduce a carbon price and limit greenhouse gas emissions from power generators after Tony Abbott accused the ALP of wanting to revive a “triple whammy” carbon tax.
Senior Labor sources said the document was a discussion draft, there had not been any decisions on electricity or vehicle emissions schemes and carbon policy had not yet been the subject of a meeting of shadow cabinet.
“Labor will not introduce a carbon tax,’’ Mr Shorten said, dismissing suggestions to the contrary as “complete rubbish’’.
Sources conceded the leak, whether a deliberate attempt to undermine Mr Shorten or an accident, was damaging.
The leak came a week before an ALP national conference, where the Left and Right factions will battle for control amid looming contentious debates on asylum-seeker boat turnbacks, the Israel-Palestine question, a binding vote on same-sex marriage and climate policy.
While it had been widely expected the opposition would take a revived emissions trading scheme to the next election, the Prime Minister yesterday leapt on the chance to tar Mr Shorten with a carbon tax after successfully using such campaigns to help bring down Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard as Labor prime ministers in 2010 and 2013.
“Now we find out that if Labor were to come back, the carbon tax would be back,” Mr Abbott said. “Not just the carbon tax that we had before, but a carbon tax which is going to have a triple-whammy effect; a carbon tax that will act as an emissions trading scheme on households, a special carbon tax on power generation, and yet another carbon tax on cars. This just shows that Labor can’t learn and hasn’t changed. And it shows that Bill Shorten is, in every respect, a carbon copy of Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard.”
Mr Shorten responded to the disclosure with an emphatic denial that Labor would introduce a carbon tax and the accusation that Mr Abbott “hates to talk about climate change”.
“But I tell you what we will do, we won’t stick our heads in the sand, bury ourselves in the past and ignore climate change,” he said. “The Labor Party I lead believes in climate change.
“The choice is clear in Australia. You’ve got Mr Abbott, who doesn’t like solar power, doesn’t like wind power, is walking away from investing in it, jeopardising business certainty and the thousands of jobs that go with it, or you’ve got my Labor team. We believe in climate change, we don’t believe in passing the problems of pollution to future generations, and our focus will be on renewable energy, and there is going to be no carbon tax.”
Despite the quick response from Mr Shorten, the Labor leadership team knows the carbon tax attack will further hurt his standing in the polls and continue to pose a political challenge.
Mr Shorten’s public approval has suffered after the ABC’s Killing Season revisited his role in the demise of Mr Rudd and Ms Gillard and last week’s appearance at the trade union royal commission.
The document, prepared by environment spokesman Mark Butler, was relatively tightly held, having been distributed to about 10 MPs, although sections had been given to experts for consultation. There had been several different drafts of the discussion, which had been circulated to various groups within the party but not taken to shadow cabinet.
The leaked document discussed a modified version of the original carbon tax that would be resurrected in the first-term of a Labor government with a separate scheme for the electricity sector and another for other sectors.
Although businesses would be offered “no upfront cost’’ in the first phase between next year and 2019, firms that exceeded the cap would have to buy international credits to offset their emissions. A second post-2020 phase with tougher requirements would be worked out in government.
The draft also canvassed Canadian and US-style regulations to limit the emissions intensity and operating life of power plants, and an intermediate energy efficiency target. Adopting European and US vehicle emissions standards was also canvassed, with forecasts this could add $1500 to the cost of a new car by 2025 but this would be offset by fuel savings of $830 in the first year and $8500 over the life of the vehicle.
Mr Butler said Labor had not finalised its climate policies but it would not introduce a carbon tax and would instead take to the next election an emissions trading scheme. He said the leaked document was one of a series of discussion papers “to guide the thinking of the leadership from the shadow cabinet in this area’’.
Energy Supply Association of Australia chief executive Matthew Warren called for an end to the politicisation of climate change policy. He said the effect of a decade of chronic climate policy failure had been to render the electricity generation sector virtually unbankable, and to exhaust the patience of businesses and consumers.
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
Posted by JR at 12:37 AM