Friday, September 25, 2015

UK: It's an inconvenient truth, but the global warming zealots are to blame for the deadly diesel fiasco

Amid all the reporting of Volkswagen’s rigging of emission tests on its diesel cars, one inconvenient truth has been overlooked by the BBC and many media organisations. It is that we very largely owe the prevalence of these death-traps to the pernicious tyranny of the Green lobby.

That they are death traps can scarcely be denied. They spew out vastly more nitrogen oxide and nitrogen dioxide than petrol cars, both of which gases are potentially damaging, and 22 times more particulates — the minute particles that penetrate lungs, brains and hearts.

According to Martin Williams, professor of air quality research at King’s College London, diesel cars account for roughly 5,800 premature deaths a year in the UK alone. Other experts put the figure even higher.

Diesels are also mostly responsible for alarming increases in air pollution in our major cities, a particularly serious worry for the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer from asthma.

In a well-ordered society, you might expect the government to have discouraged the proliferation of diesel vehicles. In fact, egged on or bullied by the Greens and climate-change zealots, politicians over the past 20 years have been doing the precise opposite. It seems hard to believe, I know, but it’s true.


Twenty years ago, diesel cars constituted a tiny minority. But following the signing of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, most Western countries, including Britain, were legally obliged to reduce carbon dioxide emissions — alleged by some to cause climate change — by 8 per cent over the following 15 years.

Diesel cars produce slightly less — but only slightly — carbon dioxide than petrol ones. In 2001 the Labour government introduced a new tax regime whereby cars were taxed according to how much carbon dioxide they produce, a development that enormously favoured diesel over petrol. (Duty at the pump has been the same for petrol and diesel since 2000.)

Gordon Brown, then Chancellor, also introduced tax incentives to encourage company car buyers to plump for diesels. Across the EU, car manufacturers were encouraged to develop diesel models.

As a consequence, about half of new cars in Britain are now diesels. In some European countries such as France and Italy, where there have been similar inducements, the proportion is even higher.

When recently buying a new car, I was attracted to a diesel partly because its annual tax was only £40, in comparison to £150 for the petrol version, otherwise identical. Happily, my wife, who had read about the polluting effects of diesels, overruled me. Even I had been almost gulled by Green lobbyists and the blandishments of politicians into doing something that I would have regretted.

You may say ministers didn’t realise that diesels discharge dangerous emissions — but you would be wrong. A 1993 report published by the Department of the Environment was fully aware of the potentially lethal effects of diesel cars.

A senior civil servant, who worked for the Department of Transport at the time, is quoted in yesterday’s Guardian newspaper as saying: ‘We did not sleepwalk into this. To be totally reductionist [ie, in the simplest terms], you are talking about killing people today rather than saving lives tomorrow.’

In other words, if this mandarin is to be believed, it was thought preferable in Whitehall to accept the inevitable deaths of many thousands of people as a result of promoting diesels in return for the hoped-for long-term gain of saving an unknown number of lives at some time in the future as a consequence of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Isn’t this mad? And immoral? In the first place, Britain accounts for only 2 per cent of all global man-made carbon dioxide emissions, so a small reduction in that amount is hardly likely to avert the catastrophe which climate-change zealots believe is around the corner. And, in the second place, it’s by no means clear that any such Armageddon lies in store for mankind.


I am neither a climate-change zealot nor what is invidiously termed a ‘denier’. But the fact that there has been no recorded increase in global temperature over the past 17 years — a period during which carbon emissions have soared because of the rapid economic growth of countries such as China and India — suggests to me that we should treat the more hysterical claims of the Green lobby with caution.

But this is not an area of rational debate. If it were, politicians would not have given in to the bullying of the extremists who persuaded them to put the theoretical effects of climate change before the actual and proven damaging effects of pumping out nitrogen oxide and dioxide, and carcinogenic particulates.

It’s true, of course, that over the past decade or so car manufacturers have succeeded in reducing these nasty gases emitted by diesels, but they have not eliminated them. That is why Volkswagen found itself cooking the evidence, and trying to hoodwink the American authorities into believing that its cars discharge a lot less nitrogen oxide than they actually do.

Indeed, it is one of the ironies of this story that America — which, to the outrage of the climate-change lobby, did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol because of a certain scepticism about man-made climate change — is far sterner about vehicle pollution than any European country, including our own.

Haven’t they got it the right way round? A baby being pushed by her mother in a buggy, a cyclist and even an ordinary pedestrian walking along the pavement of a busy street are being exposed to unnecessary risks as a result of the completely foreseen dangers of diesel vehicles.

And if you are the blameless owner of a diesel car, which is liable to cause damage to other innocent people, you are justified in feeling that you have been misled by weak-minded politicians, who have, in turn, surrendered their good sense to a raucous and unreasoning mob.

This mob have got their priorities in a serious twist. Surely responsible environmentalists should have concentrated on the here and now, and opposed the explosion in the number of diesel cars. But many in the Green movement have their eyes fixed on a threat over the horizon which may or may not exist, and care far less about present dangers.

That is also why most of them champion exorbitant wind farms, which are lethal to birds and scar the countryside, and why they induce pliable politicians to replace coal-burning power stations with far less efficient wood-burning ones. Vast forests are felled, and huge quantities of wood transported halfway across the world at a considerable cost to the environment.


In their deafness to different points of view — in fact, in their rank intolerance of opposing voices — these people often remind me of religious fundamentalists. They shout down, or seek to censor, those who don’t agree with them.

The pity is that mainstream media such as the all-powerful BBC are themselves cowed and meekly quiescent, so that a highly intelligent and well-informed climate-change sceptic such as the former Tory Chancellor Nigel Lawson is virtually excluded from the airwaves.

Volkswagen has emerged from this story as a devious and untrustworthy conglomerate. But the biggest lesson of this debacle is that successive British governments have sacrificed the interests of ordinary citizens as they have caved in to the demands of a dangerous bunch of zealots.


Warming on Venus

Since I have recently put up two posts on the surface temperature of Venus, I thought I should hand the discussion to an expert, my favorite Pilsener, astrophysicist Lubos Motl.  I am not going to reproduce the whole of his article below, just enough to give you the idea

Steve Goddard wrote an interesting article about the temperature of Venus. It essentially argues that the "extra warming" by hundreds of degrees that we see on Venus is mostly due to the adiabatic lapse rate - while the greenhouse effect contributes just a small portion (a dozen of percent at most).

Although I find his text somewhat sloppy about various "details", I had to independently agree with the broad and important conclusion - after some checks and self-corrections - and I will try to convince you about the conclusion. This conclusion does mean that people like Carl Sagan, James Hansen, and others who have been using Venus as the model for the Earth's greenhouse effect were wrong even morally.

Most of the warming is caused by things that have nothing to do with the absorption of infrared radiation, indeed. But as you might expect, most of my text will be about some of the "details" because they can be subtle and they include some elementary but interesting physics.

As I argued in an article about the importance of black bodies, the stable absolute temperature at distance "R" from the Sun goes like "1/sqrt(R)". Because Venus orbits 0.72 AU away from the Sun, the surface temperature should be something like 288 K / sqrt(0.72) = 339 K which is 66 °C if the albedo, the composition of the atmosphere, and details of the greenhouse effect were equal to those we know and love.

With a little bit greater albedo (reflectivity), and Venus indeed has a greater albedo than the Earth, Venus' surface temperature could actually be equal to the temperature on the Earth. However, in reality, it is the evil sister of the Earth: that's why Venus is the symbol of almost all women. ;-)

The surface temperature is about 300-400 °C warmer than what we calculated now. Because the atmosphere is almost entirely composed out of carbon dioxide, and this gas dominates all standard processes because it can do whatever the minor gases can do, we can attribute the whole additional surface warming by 300-400 °C to the carbon dioxide.

But what does the CO2 do to make the surface warmer? Is it the greenhouse effect?

The concentration of CO2 on Venus is something like 300,000-500,000 times greater than the same quantity on the Earth (92 times higher total pressure; 3,000-5,000 times higher a percentage, depending on whether we calculate the molar/mass percentage) - but the warming attributed to this gas is only 100-200 times greater than it is on the Earth (at most 3 °C from all the CO2, including the natural one).

Clearly, the warming increases much more slowly than linearly with the amount of CO2 when the concentrations get really large. However, it increases faster than logarithmically when they're large: 300,000 is equal to 2^{18} or so and 18 CO2 doublings should give about 18 x 1.2 °C = 22 °C (no water feedbacks on Venus): that would be a sensible calculation if the greenhouse effect were the cause.

The actual warming is more than 10 times as large, so if you believed that the extra 300-400 °C on Venus' surface are due to the greenhouse effect - a belief that will be addressed below -, you would have to conclude that the "climate sensitivity per doubling" in the context of the Venus (huge concentrations) has to be about 10 times bigger than it is on the Earth, at very low CO2 concentrations that we are familiar with. The logarithm would still be a relatively good enough approximation - much better than the linear curve - but the sensitivity would have to be pretty radically adjusted when we enter completely new physical regimes.

Now, Steve Goddard essentially wants to argue that the greenhouse effect plays no significant role on Venus: it's negligible relatively to the temperature differences from our black-body calculations that are caused by other effects (independent of the chemical composition). We will see that although he doesn't explain much physics of why the warming should be independent of the composition, he is essentially right.

Goddard claims that the surface of Venus would be equally warm if CO2 were replaced by nitrogen, N2. (Goddard only wants to replace 90% of the CO2, to keep most of its greenhouse effect which is created by the 10%, but even with the full replacement, the results won't change much.) That's the statement we will discuss in the rest of this article. Goddard writes:

9000 kPa atmospheric pressure would occur on earth at an altitude many miles below sea level.  No such place exists, but if it did – it would be extremely hot, like Venus. A back of the envelope estimate – temperatures on earth increase by about 80C going from 20 to 100 kPa, so at 9,000 kPa we would expect temperatures to be in the ballpark  of : 20C + ln(9000/(100-20)) *80C = 400C

This is very close to what we see on Venus.  The high temperatures there can be almost completely explained by atmospheric pressure – not composition. If 90% of the CO2 in Venus atmosphere was replaced by Nitrogen, it would change temperatures there by only a few tens of degrees.


To summarize, the adiabatic lapse rate is a key effect that drives the temperature difference between the tropopause - many kilometers above the surface - and the surface of a planet. In fact, a pre-existing lapse rate is an essential pre-requisite for the greenhouse effect, too (without it, the absorption and emission would be balanced): the greenhouse effect may be understood as a slight change of the pre-existing lapse rate.

The lapse rate has the capacity to add hundreds of degrees Celsius to the surface temperature of Venus, regardless of the composition of the atmosphere.

Even though I was originally critical about Goddard's text, I do think he has demonstrated - or we have demonstrated, assuming that you agree that many things were missing in his text - that the statement that the "extra hundreds of degrees of Venusian heat" are mostly due to the greenhouse effect is simply wrong.


New Marshall Institute Report: Connecting Climate and National Security

The George C. Marshall Institute is pleased to announce the publication a new study Connecting Climate and National Security.

This study examines the validity of the belief that a changing climate is intrinsically an issue of national security:

"The Obama Administration has proclaimed climate change to be a present and future threat to the security of the United States. Two different National Security Strategies articulate the case for environmental forces creating security challenges domestically in the U.S. and around the world and two successive Quadrennial Defense Reviews show that the U.S. military is shifting its strategic thinking as well as resource allocations to accommodate these new threats. Together, they demonstrate that the institutionalization of environmentally-induced conflict as a U.S. security concern is complete. Anthropogenic climate change, characterized by a rise in global temperature and projected effects thereof, is expected to lead to all sorts of calamities here and abroad.

"But is it true? These government documents and the bevy of think tank reports that echo this theme would leave one with the impression that the answer to this question is "yes." And, by saying yes, one is left with little choice but to accept changes in strategies, programs, and budgets to respond or reflect those challenges as well as likely agreeing to policies that demand the mitigation of greenhouse gas emissions in order to respond to the principal root of the problem."

The present study advances ideas and arguments made by the Marshall Institute in our 2012 report, Climate and National Security: Exploring the Connection, which concluded: "In summary, efforts to link climate change to the deterioration of U.S. national security rely on improbable scenarios, imprecise and speculative methods, and scant empirical support."

Connecting Climate and National Security is available for free download here.

Not all energy is created equal

The oil export ban is a relic of a bygone era during which ideas like “peak oil” and “energy scarcity” were the conventional wisdom.

Congress has taken action that actually advances free markets and limits government intrusion. I was in the room when, on September 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee–with bipartisan support–advanced legislation to lift the 1970s-era ban on crude-oil exports. HR 702, “To adapt to changing crude oil market conditions,” is expected to receive a full floor vote within a matter of weeks.

The export ban is a relic of a bygone era during which ideas like “peak oil” and “energy scarcity” were the conventional wisdom. Despite all those who cried “wolf,” the U.S. is now the world’s largest combined oil-and-gas producer.

Ending this obsolete ban would unleash America’s energy producers on the global market, increasing domestic production and creating jobs. Additionally, reports from experts at the non-partisan Energy Information Administration and Government Accountability Office, plus consultants at IHS, indicate that it will also lower prices at the pump.

Like everything that seems to happen in Washington, DC, these days, this initial victory may have a price tag that prevents its final passage.

Getting the Democrats on board with removing the barrier to exporting America’s abundance may likely require giving them something they want. Morning Consult recently reported: “Momentum is building in Congress to repeal the antiquated ban on exporting crude oil. Lawmakers and energy industry representatives are talking about other energy policies that could be swapped or combined to achieve that objective. Renewable energy tax credits are part of the equation.”

Those “renewable energy tax credits” are mainly two: the wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) and solar Investment Tax Credit (ITC). Like the oil-export ban, the wind PTC is an archaic policy that has no place in today’s modern reality of energy abundance.

Passed by Congress in 1992, the PTC pays the wind industry for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated over a ten-year period. No other mature energy source–natural gas, oil, or coal–can claim a similar carve out based on how much product they sell.

The subsidy is so lavish that wind developers can sometimes sell their electricity at a loss and still profit. The New York Times has described this as wind’s “cannibal behavior” on the power grid.

The PTC costs taxpayers like you and me billions of dollars each year. Americans pay for wind twice: first in their federal tax bills, then in their local utility bills. According to a new study, commissioned by the Institute for Energy Research, electricity generated from new wind facilities is between three and four times as expensive as that from existing coal and nuclear power plants.

The Senate Finance Committee claims a two-year extension would cost $10 billion over the next decade. After decades of subsidies and multiple PTC extensions, wind still generates less than 5 percent of our electricity.

Congressman Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS) 83% (R-KS), who has long opposed the PTC extension, told me: “With a skyrocketing $16 trillion debt and an industry that is more than capable of standing on its own, there is no reason why the federal government should continue to subsidize the wind energy industry. Proponents of the Wind PTC continue to call for an extension-for the umpteenth time. This handout costs taxpayers billions and has caused significant price distortions in wholesale electricity markets that translate into real costs for everyday consumers. If we want a robust economy, it’s time to stop picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace and finally end the wind PTC.

After two decades of pork, the wind looters need to stand on their own two feet. Most of the people in the wind industry I talk to know this, and I am confident that those individuals and others in the energy industry will enjoy many marketplace successes once we put a stop to the purely political policies that we have seen to date.”

Despite the mountain of evidence against wind subsidies-including increasing reports of health issues and concerns over bird kills–this summer, before the August recess, the Senate Finance Committee rushed through a package of expired tax provisions, including the wind PTC. Now, wind lobbyists are looking for a legislative “vehicle” to latch on to, preferably one with bipartisan support, to push through another PTC extension without a fair hearing, which is exactly why they’re eyeing the oil-export bill.

According to The Hill, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) said he could consider lifting the ban “only if it’s tied to a permanent extension of the wind and solar tax credits.”

Swapping the PTC for oil exports is a bad deal, as lifting the ban deserves to pass in its own right. But what many don’t realize is that trading the PTC for oil exports is also a Faustian bargain that furthers President Obama’s destructive climate-change agenda.

The PTC and the president’s climate agenda are related because Obama’s sweeping new carbon regulations, known as the “Clean Power Plan”-finalized in August-require states to drastically cut carbon dioxide emissions. It does this by shuttering low-cost coal plants and building new wind and solar facilities. The problem: wind and solar are uneconomic without massive taxpayer handouts like the PTC and ITC and market-distorting mandates like state Renewable Portfolio Standards.

This scheme is the centerpiece of Obama’s climate legacy, which he hopes to cement in December at the United Nations climate conference in Paris.

These carbon regulations will inflict severe burdens on American families–especially the poorest among us who can least afford to pay higher energy prices. A recent study by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, for instance, found that Obama’s carbon rule would increase Black and Hispanic poverty by 23 and 26 percent, respectively. For all that pain, the regulations will, perhaps, reduce global temperature rise by 0.018 degrees Celsius in 2100-an undetectable amount.

Buried in hundreds of pages of “analysis,” the Environmental Protection Agency projects the wind industry will add more than 13 GW of electrical capacity each year from 2024-2030. For context, 13 GW is exactly how much capacity wind added in 2012, a record year. It is also the year in which rent-seeking wind barons rushed to build as many new turbines as possible to qualify for the PTC, which expired at the end of the year. The following year, after the PTC expired, wind additions collapsed by more than 90 percent–which highlights the fact that the wind industry cannot survive in a free market.

This makes the wind PTC vital to Obama’s carbon regulations. His plan depends on exponential wind growth, and the wind industry depends on government handouts like the PTC to avoid total collapse, let alone grow.

By not accepting a wind PTC tradeoff, Congress can deal a blow to corporate wind welfare and Obama’s carbon regulations in one shot. Congress must strip the PTC out of tax extenders and refuse to use wind subsidies as a bargaining chip. The two are totally unrelated. One is a liquid fuel used primarily for transportation.

The other: a way to generate electricity, albeit inefficiently, ineffectively and uneconomically. One helps our trade deficit problem and increases revenues as FuelFix reports: “liberalizing crude trade spurs more domestic production, with a resulting boost in government revenue from the activity.” The other: a hidden tax that hurts all Americans.

By rejecting an extension of the wind PTC and lifting the ban on oil exports, Congress would end corporate welfare for wind lobbyists, deal a blow to Obama’s costly carbon regulations, and free America’s entrepreneurs to provide abundant, affordable, and reliable energy for all.


Francis Confuses Corporatism and Capitalism

Pope Francis arrived Tuesday for his first visit to the U.S. He will not only tour a Philadelphia prison and a Harlem school to showcase his trademark concern for the poor and downtrodden, but he will give the first-ever papal address to Congress Thursday on a range of topics. The political angle is that Democrats have finally found a pope with whom they can agree on the issues of climate and poverty — all while ignoring traditional Catholic teaching on marriage and the sanctity of life.

Francis arrived here by way of the Communist paradise poverty-stricken totalitarian island known as Cuba, where he spent four days and met not with dissidents but with Fidel Castro — whom he reportedly thanked for his contributions to world peace. Notably, Francis arrived by plane, not by homemade raft on the shores of Florida as do many of the poor people fleeing Cuba's oppressive regime for the Land of Liberty.

Indeed, if Francis truly cares for the poor, he showed it quite poorly in this instance.

Of capitalism in general, he said in his recent apostolic exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, “Today everything comes under the laws of competition and the survival of the fittest, where the powerful feed upon the powerless. As a consequence, masses of people find themselves excluded and marginalized: without work, without possibilities, without any means of escape. ... Such an economy kills.”

It's no wonder he has an eager audience in the Democrats and Castros of the world.

But it's important to understand that Francis' views on capitalism are informed by his experience in his home country of Argentina — a nation beset with powerful families and businesses influential in government. In other words, it's not the free market and it's not capitalism. It's cronyism and corporatism.

It’s also ironic, writes Thomas Sowell, considering “Argentina was once among the leading economies of the world, before it was ruined by the kind of ideological notions [Francis] is now promoting around the world."

God does warn His people about loving money, and greed and inequity are part of sinful human nature no matter the economic system. But which country's poor are better off — Cuba's, Argentina's or America's? The truth is that no economic system has done more than capitalism to lift the poor out of poverty.

Tyranny kills, not Liberty.

Furthermore, Jesus never told his followers to perform charity by giving their money to the Romans instead. Contrary to the assertions of far too many, Jesus was not a socialist — He always preached individual responsibility for our brothers and sisters, not collective statist mandates.

In many respects, Francis' care for the poor is welcome. All Christians ought to see every opportunity to help the disadvantaged among us. But it's the pope's methods we object to. He is a proponent — at least tacitly — of liberation theology, a synthesis of Marxism and Christianity born in South America in the 1970s and 80s. Liberation theology embraces collectivization, the subordination of the individual in favor of the group, and the forced redistribution of wealth and property without fair compensation. Furthermore, Marxism is profoundly anti-religion, making its blending with Christian teaching like mixing oil and water.

It's noteworthy that Francis has thus effectively reversed the position of John Paul II, who was a staunch opponent of such noxious theology, and, together with Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher, brought down the Soviet Empire. Try to imagine John Paul glad-handing Fidel Castro while dissidents languished in prison.

On the subject of climate change, the onerous regulations and top-down government solutions favored by Francis and his fellow alarmist travelers (and we do mean travelers in fuel-burning jets all over the world) are exactly the policies that will hurt the poor the most.

In his recent encyclical, Francis declared, "The earth, our home, is beginning to look more and more like an immense pile of filth." He blames the problem on consumerism, corporate greed, overreliance on technology and the poisonous political atmosphere in and among many nations. He called for a radial change in how people conduct their political and economic affairs and suggested that the time has come for each of us to alter our individual lifestyles in response to climate issues.

But The Wall Street Journal retorts, "Well, he should have seen East Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall, or the air in Beijing today. Coercive governments are the worst befoulers of the environment. Democratic capitalism has created the wealth and electoral consent to clean the air and water, and only continued economic growth will create the resources to deal with climate change if it does become a serious threat to the Earth."

Francis says, “Humanity is called on to be aware of the need to change lifestyles, production and consumption” because the world is filled with a “culture of waste.” We're all for using energy judiciously and curbing waste, but not under the pretense of a UN-Vatican mandate, which is essentially the prescription Francis gives.

In short, while Francis has authority over doctrinal issues in his own church, his message on climate and economics is dead wrong and it should be rejected.


Hillary Flip-Flops on Her Keystone Pipeline Legacy

On Tuesday, Hillary Clinton expounded a bit on the legacy she formed while secretary of state. She’s previously boasted of playing a “leading role” in starting the review process for building the proposed Keystone pipeline, which was designed to transport crude oil from Canada to American refineries in the Gulf of Mexico.

It’s been gummed up in bureaucratic review since 2010, though Clinton said then she would be “inclined” to approve it. But now, she wants the pipeline buried. “I think it is imperative that we look at the Keystone pipeline as what I believe it is — a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change,” Clinton told a crowd in Iowa. “Therefore I oppose it.”

Clinton’s decision was not based on principles good for the economy, but rather political gain with her ecofascist base. Fellow Democrat candidate Martin O'Malley said, “On issue after issue, Secretary Clinton has followed — not forged — public opinion. Leadership is about stating where you stand on critical issues, regardless of how they poll or focus group.” (The ironic thing is the public supports the Keystone pipeline by an overwhelming margin.)

The result of Clinton’s inaction as secretary resulted in lost jobs and lost economic activity. Now, after the Left has stonewalled the project for years, Clinton wants to simply sweep it aside. Furthermore, she had the “courage” to make this announcement while the media focused squarely on Pope Francis' visit.



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


No comments: