Tuesday, March 01, 2016
More harm done by the Green/Left
Tens of thousands of people are dying every year because repeated warnings about the dangers of diesel cars and wood-burning for heating were ignored by successive governments trying to make Britain ‘greener’, The Mail on Sunday can reveal.
Ironically, the policies have only made our air dirtier. They are accused of triggering a ‘public health disaster’, with the huge shift to diesel vehicles to try to cut greenhouse gas emissions denounced as a ‘con’.
Last week, a devastating official report said the drive for diesel and wood-burning are directly responsible for needlessly high incidences of a shocking list of conditions including diabetes, autism, lung cancer, cardiovascular disease, learning difficulties, asthma, low birth weight and kidney disease.
Professor Jonathan Grigg, vice chair of the report by the Royal College of Physicians and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, told this newspaper that the move to diesel vehicles in the mistaken belief this would cut greenhouse gas emissions is having catastrophic consequences.
The two worst types of pollution that diesel engines produce are nitrogen dioxide (NO2) and tiny particles less than 2.5 microns in diameter – called ‘PM 2.5’ particulates – that lodge deep in the lungs and can even cross into the bloodstream.
Prof Grigg said NO2 and the particulates are produced by a range of sources, which together are reducing the average life expectancy of every man, woman and child by a shocking eight months and causing 40,000 to 50,000 early deaths each year. He said a substantial amount of that pollution is caused by diesel and wood. Official figures show that diesel cars and vans alone are currently responsible for about two-thirds of roadside pollution.
‘This is a public health disaster,’ said Grigg, who is professor of paediatric respiratory and environmental medicine at Queen Mary University in London. ‘The tragedy is that people have bought diesel cars thinking they are protecting the environment, whereas toxic emissions from diesel engines are causing death and disease. It is understandable that buyers now feel they were conned.’
Former Chancellor Gordon Brown cut vehicle excise duty for fuel-efficient diesels in his 2000 budget. Since then the proportion of cars sold that are diesel has surged from 14 per cent to more than 50 per cent, with 14 million now on the road.
Last week Labour MP Geraint Davies launched a Bill to give the Environment Agency powers to curb diesel use in periods when the risk is highest, saying that successive governments, Labour included, had ‘ignored the warnings’ because of their ‘over-focus’ on cutting carbon dioxide (CO2) in the air.
He added: ‘Using diesel to combat climate change is no better – indeed, it is arguably worse – than petrol, but we are passively smoking diesel emissions that are costing £20 billion and 40,000 lives a year. Taxation levels on diesel and petrol are on a par and do not reflect the cost to the environment and to health.’
Meanwhile almost £400 million has been paid in subsidies to homes and businesses which install ‘biomass’ wood-burning boilers under the Government’s 2012 ‘renewable heat incentive’. These also emit large quantities of PM 2.5 pollution. Experts say wood smoke is already costing between 1,000 and 3,000 lives a year.
Prof Grigg said: ‘The idea that wood smoke pollution is somehow less toxic than fossil fuel is simply not tenable. The warnings were always there. But the narrative was, “We have to reduce CO2 in order to meet our targets – and here are ways we can do it”.
As a result, the warnings were overwhelmed.’
Those warnings started as early as 1986, when lung expert Dr Robin Russell-Jones, who successfully campaigned to remove toxic lead from petrol, gave evidence to a House of Lords select committee that diesel pollution was linked with asthma, cardiovascular disease and lung cancer.
Three years later, Margaret Thatcher’s Government was starting to become concerned about global warming. For the first time it considered creating cash incentives for drivers to switch to diesel cars, on the grounds that because they travelled more miles per gallon, their CO2 emissions would be lower.
Dr Russell-Jones wrote to Sir John Fairclough, her chief scientific advisor, saying he had ‘read with amazement that the government is thinking of introducing a tax break in favour of diesel fuel on the grounds that it is environmentally friendly.’ This might be true so far as global warming was concerned, he wrote, ‘but from every other point of view it is a disaster.’
Diesel was ten times more carcinogenic than petrol, he added: ‘I only hope it is not too late to prevent this lunatic proposal.’
As Dr Russell-Jones pointed out yesterday, Mrs Thatcher had been a scientist: ‘You could get through to her: perhaps that’s why the idea – then – was dropped.’
The dangers were hammered home at the end of 1993 in a major report for the Department of the Environment by an expert panel, the Quality of Urban Air Review Group.
The report said that other policies, such as the ban on coal burning introduced by the Clean Air Act, had been slowly reducing PM pollution. If the proportion of diesels on the road stayed the same, then by 2005 the level of disease-causing particulates in the atmosphere would halve. But if the proportion of diesels rose to 50 per cent then there would be no reduction. Now the proportion of diesels is 50 per cent, that is exactly what has happened.
The 1993 report laid out the consequences in stark terms: ‘Diesel emissions are a potential health hazard. They contain compounds known to be carcinogenic and may cause impairment of respiratory functions. There is evidence that an increase in mortality and morbidity may be associated with an increased concentration of particulates in urban air.’
The 1993 report’s lead author, Prof Roy Harrison of Birmingham University, revealed yesterday that in the closing years of John Major’s government in 1996 and 1997, he sat on another committee that advised Whitehall on diesels and the environment.
He said: ‘We recommended that because of the health issues around diesel, instead of giving it tax breaks, duty on diesel fuel should be increased relative to petrol. The Government responded by saying it would be better to do this through vehicle duty. So when I discovered that its successor had done the reverse by effectively cutting duty for diesels, I was very concerned.’
The New Labour government decided to do that in the wake of a 1998 EU directive, which compelled Britain to cut CO2 emissions from vehicles by 25 per cent by 2020.
The warnings continued. In 2002, the American Cancer Society issued a major study suggesting diesels were so carcinogenic that, in the UK, they could be expected to cause 4,000 cases of lung cancer a year.
Britain’s Medical Research Council had planned to say that diesels caused a third of all lung cancers, but, according to reports at the time, toned down its warning to say only that diesels were a ‘relatively minor’ cause compared to smoking.
In 2007 came yet another major report. The Air Quality Expert Group showed that the aim of cutting carbon emissions by boosting diesels wasn’t working.
It said any gains were insignificant as diesel engines tended to bigger, refining diesel led to high emissions, and the other toxic substances pumped out from diesels’ exhaust pipes enhanced the fuel’s greenhouse effect.
The new Royal Colleges’ report supports this, saying that Japanese petrol technology has reduced carbon far more effectively.
Yet still the damage continued. In 2009, the Labour Government set out plans for what was to become the Renewable Heat Incentive subsidy for wood burning boilers.
Amazingly, in a parliamentary answer, Energy Minister Jim Fitzpatrick revealed that the Government’s own assessment showed this would cost lives – between 240,000 and 1.75 million ‘person years’ would be lost each year by 2020. Prof Harrison said yesterday that recent studies suggest that wood smoke in the atmosphere is costing up to 3,000 lives a year.
Working out exactly how many of the needless deaths due to pollution are the direct result of policies designed to curb carbon dioxide is difficult, but it is clear that their contribution is substantial.
Meanwhile, the new report’s conclusions are devastating: the air quality crisis is a ‘major public health problem deserving of multiple measures to drive down exposure in as many ways as possible… when our patients are exposed to such a clear and avoidable cause of death and disability, it is our duty as doctors to speak out’.
Warren Buffett on climate change
The American investor also dismissed the possibility climate change could prove a large risk to the Berkshire Hathaway portfolio. Berkshire is one of the world's biggest property insurers and insurers against catastrophic risks but given insurance policies are written for one year and repriced upwards to reflect growing risks, climate change may actually increase the firm's profitability.
"Worries might, in fact, be warranted if we wrote ten- or twenty-year policies at fixed prices," says Mr Buffett, who points out climate change has not produced more frequent weather-related events covered by insurance.
"As a citizen, you may understandably find climate change keeping you up nights," writes Mr buffett. "As a homeowner in a low-lying area, you may wish to consider moving. But when you are thinking only as a shareholder of a major insurer, climate change should not be on your list of worries."
That said, the firm has poured $US16 billion into renewables in recent years, and according to Mr Buffett, the company's electricity portfolio now consists of 7 per cent wind and 6 per cent solar.
Mosquitoes must be protected
One of the greatest fictions ever perpetrated on the American people is that liberals care about helping the poor. Indeed, they seem determined to advance policies that limit opportunities created by economic expansion and growth. The latest example of this can be seen in retail giant Ikea's decision to cancel plans for a 366,500-square foot store outside of Cleveland, due to environmental impact concerns. The store has no plans to pursue other locations in the Cleveland area.
After investing more than a year of effort in preparing for the store, Ikea chose to withdraw due to an anticipated rejection from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, charged with stewardship over the proposed building site, which includes 15 acres of wetlands. The Clean Water Act severely limits the private sector's ability to develop such land, as Ikea is finding out to its cost.
In the midst of one of the weakest economic recoveries in U.S. history, environmental concerns about the well-being of a patch of swamp (a perfectly good word the left has abandoned in favor of the banal euphemism "wetlands.") should take a backseat to the economic development created by hugely successful companies like Ikea.
Cleveland's economy remains fragile, its crime rate high; any efforts to grow the local economy should be met with open arms, not obstructed by government bureaucrats more concerned with protecting the habitats of potentially-deadly mosquitos than with helping actual human beings. It pains me personally to see these lost jobs. I may not live in Cleveland, but I still have Browns seasons tickets and love my hometown.
Meanwhile, Ikea employs more the 120,000 workers worldwide and stands as one of retail's greatest success stories, contributing more than $33 billion to the U.S. economy. The chain is not only good for workers, but for consumers as well, offering affordable furnishing options that otherwise may not exist. In fact, while inflation is making many consumer goods more expensive each year, Ikea has a history of lowering its prices by 2 to 3 percent annually on account of its increased efficiency.
This may seem like a small issue — after all, it's only one store — but it reflects the deeper problem of the restrictive regulatory climate gripping the whole country. In recent years, environmental regulators have attempted to seize greater and greater control over private property, the most egregious example being the expansive Waters of the United States rule that would give the Environmental Protection Agency jurisdiction over small ponds, gullies, ditches, and streams on privately held land. Last year, the Supreme Court temporarily blocked the rule, but that could easily change, especially given the recent passing of Justice Scalia and the ensuing vacancy. Such environmental overreach would add to the already $2 trillion cost of federal regulations nationwide.
Human civilization has flourished due to millennia of people mixing their labor with the land and building things; agriculture, manufacturing, research facilities, yes, even the humble retailer, raising the standard of living for consumers everywhere. Without these things, the amount of progress we have made as a species in terms of wealth, longevity, and knowledge would have been impossible.
Progressive squeamishness over mankind continuing to do as we have always done, build, helps no one, least of all the citizens of Cleveland. If we're truly interested in helping people succeed, instead of training them to depend on handouts, we have to get government out of the way and start building things again.
Next year, Ikea plans to open a store in Columbus, Ohio. When Clevelanders see the benefits of economic development enjoyed by that city, they will no doubt regret the missed opportunity to improve their own community. Swamps may be pretty, but they don't employ people, don't grow the economy, and are notoriously unreliable sources for flat-pack furniture.
Abolish the EPA and leave environmental protection to the States
Amid prolonged bickering with his rivals, Donald Trump outlined a fairly radical proposal during Thursday’s Republican debate: to scrap the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Typically there was little policy detail. But it was clear that the EPA – and its $8bn budget – would be on the chopping block should the Republican frontrunner become president.
“Environmental protection – we waste all of this money,” he said. “We’re going to bring that back to the states. We are going to cut many of the agencies, we will balance our budget and we will be dynamic again.”
The promise was an echo of recent statements from Trump on the EPA. He has said there is “tremendous cutting” to be done because the EPA “aren’t doing their job, they are making it impossible for our country to compete”.
He has also accused the EPA of “going around causing damage as opposed to saving damage”, leading to “a tremendous amounts of money, tremendous fraud, tremendous abuse”.
Trump’s plan to dissolve the EPA and hand environmental protection duties to the states goes further than his main rivals for the GOP nomination, but anti-EPA sentiment appears to run deep in both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio.
Cruz has called the EPA a “radical” agency that has imposed “illegal” limits on greenhouse gases from power plants. “I think states should press back using every tool they have available,” the Texas senator has said. “We’ve got to rein in a lawless executive that is abusing its power.”
Rubio has said the EPA’s plan to curb emissions would have a “devastating impact” on jobs; he has also vowed to scale back the Clean Water Act.
“Regulations in this country are out of control, especially the Employment Prevention Agency, the EPA,” Rubio said in January.
Trump would appear to have some support for abolishing the EPA within Congress – Iowa Republican senator Joni Ernst, for example, has said the regulator should be scrapped because “the state knows best how to protect resources”.
Scrapping the EPA, however, would cause an unravelling of basic protections of air and water. Environmental law experts argue it would also be difficult to achieve anyway.
The agency, formed in 1970 under Richard Nixon, is empowered to administer federal standards under the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act. It has also been responsible for controlling or banning chemicals such as the pesticide DDT.
Robert Percival, director of the environmental law program at the University of Maryland, said ditching the EPA was a “ridiculous idea”.
“It reflects a lack of understanding over the US legal system, you’d have to fundamentally repeal or change all our environmental laws,” he said.
Trump is demagoguing. It plays to the far-right base but it would have enormous consequences for people’s health
Robert Percival, University of Maryland
“The EPA sets national standards and then the states come up with a plan on how to implement them. One reason this is done is to avoid a race to the bottom, so that states don’t relax regulations over air or water to attract industry.
“California could do a decent job maybe because it has such a large environmental agency but smaller states wouldn’t be able to perform those functions.
“Trump is demagoguing. It plays to the far-right base but it would have enormous consequences for people’s health.”
Supporters of the EPA point to evidence that the agency has helped save a huge amount of money, as well as prevented many deaths. A 2012 study estimated that the Clean Air Act alone has saved $22tn in healthcare costs during its lifetime.
“The EPA pays for itself and our environmental laws have been enormously successful,” said Percival.
“We don’t have the environmental problems China does, with its smogs and its polluted drinking water. China doesn’t have a centralized regulator like theEPA, with 15,000 employees to enforce national standards. We’d be setting ourselves up for an environmental disaster.”
EPA “overreach” has been a long-held bugbear of some Republicans, some of whom believe the toxic water crisis in Flint, Michigan, is evidence that the agency is failing.
Congressional hearings into Flint are being used to put pressure on Gina McCarthy, the EPA’s administrator. But the idea of shutting down the entire agency may be a step too far for some Republicans.
No traction for climate change
Tom Steyer’s priorities are at odds with America
Billionaire climate activist Tom Steyer has spent millions of dollars trying to make climate change a major issue on the 2016 campaign trail. But neither the candidates nor the voters seem to notice.
After one of the Democratic presidential debates, Mr. Steyer issued a statement lamenting that the focus on climate change was “far too brief.” Following a Republican debate, he expressed outrage that “not a single Republican presidential candidate took this threat seriously,” to which he added, “And that’s why not a single one of these candidates is qualified to get anywhere near the Oval Office.”
To be fair, Mr. Steyer does appear to hold sway over the Democratic presidential candidates. Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have, at Mr. Steyer’s insistence, pledged to achieve at least 50 percent “clean” energy by 2030. Mr. Steyer, who has yet to throw his support behind a candidate, appears to be dangling his wealth and endorsement over the Democratic candidates to cajole them to do even more.
Just days before the New Hampshire primary, Mrs. Clinton was asked if she would support banning the extraction of natural gas, oil, and coal on public lands. “Yeah, that’s a done deal,” was her reply. Clarifying her position to another activist, she said, “No future extraction. I agree with that.” Similarly, Mr. Sanders has co-sponsored legislation in the Senate that would block the development of these resources on federal lands. According to a recent study commissioned by the Institute for Energy Research, of which I am president, these “keep it in the ground” proposals would forgo millions of jobs, trillions of dollars in higher wages, and $20.7 trillion in economic activity.
Fortunately, on the whole, Mr. Steyer’s campaign to restrict affordable and reliable energy isn’t getting many converts. Mr. Steyer spent $73.7 million of his own money in a failed effort to make climate change a major issue in the 2014 elections. He wasted millions of dollars on ads that often didn’t even address climate change and whose truthfulness was disputed by fact-checking organizations like Poltifact and Factcheck.org. After his nearly yearlong campaign, climate change actually dropped as a priority among voters, ending up near the bottom of their list of concerns.
Mr. Steyer shouldn’t be entirely surprised if presidential hopefuls aren’t jumping through his hoops with enthusiasm. In a recent Gallup poll of the most important problems facing the United States, climate change was not even listed. The broader “Environment/Pollution” was in 18th place as a concern of just 2 percent of the respondents. The political reality is that candidates must attract the mainstream electorate, who prioritize the economy, jobs and poverty — issues that are in direct conflict with Mr. Steyer’s goals.
Mr. Steyer’s own state of California is ripe with examples of his agenda clashing with the people’s needs. Due in part to regulations that require non-hydroelectric renewables to represent 33 percent of the state’s electricity supply by 2020, residential electricity bills are nearly 40 percent higher than the national average and the ninth highest in the nation. Nevertheless, last year, Mr. Steyer testified in favor of legislation that would have bumped the current 33 percent renewables target up to 50 percent by 2030.
Mr. Steyer also supports California’s cap-and-trade program, which could raise gasoline prices by anywhere from 16 cents to 76 cents per gallon. Meanwhile, he’s pushing a ballot measure that would impose a 10 percent tax on oil extraction. This tax would, of course, raise gasoline prices for the state’s motorists, who already pay a 59 cents per gallon gas tax — one of the nation’s highest and about 11 cents more than the national average. Even without new taxes, California already has some of the highest gasoline prices in the country.
Higher energy costs have created a serious problem in California. According to a report by the Manhattan Institute, one million California households live in energy poverty, which is defined as a household in which 10 percent or more of the residents’ income is spent on household energy costs (excluding gasoline and other transportation-related costs). Higher energy costs leave these families with less money to spend on other necessities like groceries or proper healthcare.
Candidates seeking the presidential nomination — particularly in the Democratic camp — can’t square their rhetoric with their policies. They claim to help the poor, but they support energy policies that will make it harder for low-income families to make ends meet. Meanwhile, poll after poll shows Americans are more concerned about growing the economy and creating jobs than sacrificing their economic futures at the altar of Tom Steyer’s climate agenda.
Australia: Green/Left waste followed by Green/Left self-indulgence
Centuries from now future citizens will pick through the remnants of 21st century Australia. Some discoveries may puzzle them.
Why, for example, did Australians spend so much time and money building facilities for the purpose of turning salt water into fresh water?
Presumably these future folk will know that Australia didn’t actually need these devices at the time, given our usual abundant rainfall. So what was the use of all those desalination plants? Were they merely experimental? Did they have another, more practical application?
Or, like Stonehenge or Egypt’s pyramids, were they quasi-religious or spiritual monuments to some form of mystical deity?
The last answer will be close enough. Australia’s desalination plants were built in panic following warnings from former Climate Commission chief Tim Flannery that we were in danger of running out of water. “In Adelaide, Sydney and Brisbane, water supplies are so low they need desalinated water urgently, possibly in as little as 18 months,” Flannery claimed in 2007.
A couple of years ago, at the 2014 Mudgee Readers’ Festival, Flannery recalled those warnings. “Here in eastern Australia we’ve got much more variable rainfall, and I remember being asked about this at times, even by the government. I said, ‘what you should do is build a desalination plant; that’s really your last resort. Build it as an insurance policy’.
“Instead, treasury departments across eastern Australia said, ‘That’s a waste of money’.”
Desalination plants were constructed in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, the Gold Coast and a couple in Perth, at a total cost of around $12 billion. Most of that money was completely squandered, because — just like Flannery’s government-funded Climate Council — half of our nation’s desal plants have since been shut down, or at least reduced to standby status. Perth’s are still supplying water, and so is Adelaide’s, although it doesn’t need to following dam-filling rains. As of last month, the plant is running at just 10 per cent of capacity — at a cost of $1 million per day.
Sydney’s desal plant hasn’t spat out a drop since it was put on standby in 2012, only two years after it was opened. It is presently costing more than half a million dollars per day just to sit there like the world’s fattest disability pensioner while Sydney’s dams remain at more than 90 per cent of their capacity. The Gold Coast’s desal plant opened in 2009 and closed in 2010.
Thanks for all that, Professor Flannery. Undaunted by the outcome of his ridiculously expensive water worries, the great global warming hysteric has lately moved on to another field. He’s swapped desal for diesel — thousands of litres of the stuff.
Recently the Climate Council — a privatised, donation-funded version of the old Climate Commission, still with Flannery at the helm — invited concerned Australians to join the professor on a cash-raising cruise along Western Australia’s Kimberley Coast. “As part of this adventure, you will join renowned scientist and former Australian of the Year, Professor Tim Flannery — the Climate Council’s Chief Councillor — on the adventure of a lifetime,” the Council promises.
“Over eight days you’ll sail the breathtaking Kimberley coast in the award-winning charter vessel, Kimberley Quest, on an expedition of archaeological discovery. Best of all, by taking part in this expedition, you’ll be stepping up to help provide Australians with a vital source of correct and informed information on climate change.”
There’s no better information than informed information. As part of their climate crusade, Flannery’s ecotourists will also be supplied with a “courtesy vehicle to/from your Broome accommodation”, a “light aircraft from Broome to Mitchell Plateau” and a “return helicopter flight from Mitchell Plateau to Hunter River”, which is what you’d expect for a total cost north of $7500.
Lap of luxury and a fuel bill to boot with a scenic flight returning to the Kimberley Quest. Picture: Supplied
All of that fossil fuel incineration doesn’t exactly sit well with Flannery’s climate change message, however. And then there’s the vessel he and his mates will travel aboard. The Kimberley Quest II, to give the ship its full name, is “equipped with a helipad, spa, [and] large en-suited cabins” that “feature private ensuites, individual air-conditioning, viewing windows, mini-refrigerators and are serviced daily by your hostess.”
This sucker’s carbon footprint must be sensational. All of those airconditioners, spas and fridges don’t run on wind chimes, so the Kimberley Quest II is fitted with no fewer than four diesel-burning engines — two massive 450 horsepower Caterpillar 3406Es for propulsion and a couple of smaller Cat generators to keep the champagne chilled as you discuss the terrible threat of global warming. Get them all cranking at once and the diesel consumption rate might be around 320 litres per hour, which is why this floating Gaia-eater needs a total fuel capacity of 36,000 litres.
To put that fuel capacity into perspective, 36,000 litres of diesel is enough to run a poor African village’s electricity generator for nearly five years. The fastest Audi at last year’s Le Mans 24 hour race made it all the way to the podium after using less than 1500 litres of diesel during the entire event.
Still, I suppose Flannery’s diesel drainage is all worth it. You can never put a price on the “correct and informed information on climate change.” Unless that price is more than $7500 per customer, not including return flights to Broome, personal expenditures for laundry and tipping, compulsory travel insurance and meals not outlined in the itinerary
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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Posted by JR at 1:26 AM