Friday, January 12, 2018

The truly alarming scale of the global ocean plastic crisis laid bare by Storm Eleanor

A big moan from Britain about floating plastic below.  Inevitably, they want "us" to do something about it.  I am going to be most unpopular and mention what DOES need to be done about it:  We need to dissuade Africans from using their rivers as a dump.  Rivers are the basic African waste disposal facility.  And what goes in the rivers ends up in the oceans.  Western countries by contrast are very fussy about proper disposal of their rubbish.  Floating plastic waste in the Atlantic is an AFRICAN problem, not "our" problem

The only thing "we" could do is to set up barriers at the mouths of the African rivers which would catch the rubbish before it went out to sea.  Nothing as realistic as that is likely to happen, however.  It would undoubtedly be "racist", of course

The masses of plastic dumped on the beaches of Cornwall by Storm Eleanor throws into stark relief the global crisis being caused by human rubbish in the world’s oceans.

As the storm passed, pictures emerged of the picturesque Cornish coast left strewn with waste and its rockpools clogged with plastic.

In recent years rising demand for single-use items such as food wrapping and bottled water has helped lead to us producing more plastic in the last decade than in the previous century.

Fleeting conveniences such as disposable coffee cups can outlive their use in minutes, but take up to 450 years to degrade once discarded. The result is the world’s oceans are now choking with billions of tonnes of plastic.

Public awareness of the impact of plastic waste has been growing in recent years, helped in particular by the graphic portrayal of its effect on the marine environment


'Raw Water'? Natural Isn't Synonymous With Better

Selling Americans the snake oil of "raw water" is the absurd conclusion of rabid environmentalism. It is a good way of contractingt giardia and other water-borne parasitic diseases. It would be great fun to see Greenie knowalls getting their just reward in the form of such diseases

A recently introduced product fad hitting store shelves might just prove to be the death of you. Popping up across the country and marketed as yet another “healthy” product in that genre of back-to-nature lifestyle craze — “raw water.” Using pseudo science and earthy, holistic jargon, these start-ups are even putting snake oil salesmen to shame. So what is raw water? Essentially, it is the raw milk trend only now applied to drinking water. You see, unfiltered, untreated water is better for one’s health because it is free from the polluted tampering of mankind and is therefore more “natural.” As an individual in a Live Water marketing campaign exclaims, “A surge of energy and peacefulness entered my being.”

These new companies claim to have tapped into ancient water sources untouched by human industry, and for a mere $16 a bottle you yourself can experience this rawest of water. But wait; there’s more. While this latest “nature” fad may sound funny, it is far from it. The Centers for Disease Control’s chief of Waterborne Disease Prevention, Vincent Hill, warns, “If you’re not filtering it, if you’re not disinfecting it, then you are creating a risk for yourself or anybody you give the water to of diseases and other illnesses that can come from the water.”

It is truly ironic that in the developed world, where scientific knowledge and developments have proven to raise living standards, life expectancy and quality of life, there are those who choose to vilify and distort these achievements as problematic, unhealthy and even dangerous, in order to sell Americans on the flawed concept that human technology equates to the unnatural and therefore unhealthy living. Meanwhile, much of the developing world is plagued with diseases that would have been easily avoided but for the lack of access to clean water technologies.


Utilities Coast-to-Coast Announce Customer Rate Cuts Due to Tax Reform

From Washington, DC to Washington state, utility companies are crediting passage of Republicans’ Tax Cut and Jobs Act for their plans to lower their retail customers’ monthly bills.

Company press releases announcing the rate-cut plans specifically cite “the decrease in the Corporate Tax Rate from 35 percent to 21 percent” as the reason for reducing energy rates.

The utility companies that have reported plans to cut rates, thus far, include:

Pepco plans to lower the bills of 296,000 electric customers in the District of Columbia,

Pepco and Delmava Power plan to pass on savings to their 500,000 electric customers in Delaware and Maryland and approximately 129,000 natural gas delivery customers in northern Delaware,

Baltimore Gas & Electric is passing on $82 million worth of tax savings, which it says will reduce the average customer’s monthly combined natural gas and electric by $4.27,

Pacific Power, which provides electricity to 740,000 customers in Washington, Oregon and California, announced a yet-to-be-determined rate cut due to lower corporate tax rate,

Rocky Mountain Power announced plans a rate reduction, which it says “will take several months to calculate” to its 1.1 million customers in Utah, Wyoming and Idaho,

Commonwealth Edison Company (ComEd) is passing on $200 million worth of tax savings to its four million customers in northern Illinois. “Residential customer can expect to see an estimated $2-$3 decrease on their monthly bill related to the tax reduction,” the utility says.

All rate cuts are dependent upon the approval of their respective state public service and commerce commissions.


Success: EPA set to reduce staff 50% in Trump's first term

The Environmental Protection Agency, seen by President Trump as a bloated bureaucratic whale, is on schedule to fulfill his promise to reduce its staff nearly in half by the end of his first term mostly through retirements, not cuts, according to officials.

The EPA Tuesday provided to Secrets its first year staff results which show that the agency is below levels not seen since former President Reagan’s administration.

And if just those slated to retire by early 2021 leave, Administrator Scott Pruitt and his team will have reduced a staff of nearly 15,000, to below 8,000, or a reduction of 47 percent.

“We’re proud to report that we’re reducing the size of government, protecting taxpayer dollars and staying true to our core mission of protecting the environment,” Pruitt said in a statement

As of January 3, 2018, the EPA has 14,162 employees.

The last time EPA was at an actual employment level of 14,440 was in fiscal year 1988 when Reagan was president.

23 percent of EPA employees can retire with full benefits and another 4 percent can retire at the end of 2018.

Additionally, another 20 percent of EPA employees will be eligible for retirement in the next five years.

Taken together, 47 percent of the EPA will be eligible to retire with full benefits in the next 5 years.

Said an EPA official, “We're happy to be at Reagan-level employment numbers and the future retirements shows a preview of how low we could get during this administration. It would be fair to say anywhere from 25 to 47 percent of EPA could retire during this administration.”

Pruitt has used buyouts to spur some of the changes and attractive retirement benefits have also led many to leave the agency. He also instituted a hiring freeze.

Under Pruitt, the agency has gone the “back to basics” of protecting the environment while shucking former President Obama’s political agenda focused heavily on climate change.


Carbon trading is the great green gamble

Comment from Australia

It was dubbed the fraud of the century. A multi-billion-euro carbon trading sting which a French judge described as “unprecedented in the history of financial crimes”.

Investigators say a group defrauded billions of euros by purchasing emission allowances on the European market from abroad, using a complex network of shell companies and offshore accounts in Latvia, Cyprus and Hong Kong.

Because the allowances were purchased outside Europe, they were not subject to the European Union’s 19.6 per cent value added tax. According to French reports, frontmen acting as brokers then resold the allowances in Europe, taxes included. But instead of handing the VAT over to the correct authorities, gang members pocketed the cash to use in future trades.

The money was laundered before it was reinvested by placing it in a bank in China, where it was then handed over to businesses or transformed into playing chips at casinos.

French businessman Arnaud Mimran was sentenced last year to eight years in prison and fined €1 million ($1.5m) for his part in the 2008 swindle.

His co-mastermind, Israeli Sami Sweid, was gunned down in a motor scooter drive-by shooting before the trial commenced. Other gang members have fled to Israel in a bid to escape French justice.

The great carbon trading tax heist came in the heady days immediately before the global financial crisis, which swamped the world’s financial markets and crushed the nascent European carbon market.

It is one of many crimes that have dogged an industry which claims to have been founded on the highest of ideals: to help save the planet from climate change.

And it is one of the reasons that federal government attempts to allow Australian businesses to access international carbon dioxide emissions permits have been savaged by former prime minister Tony Abbott and his supporters.

Debate about the use of international permits rests on a series of assumptions: that action on climate change must be taken, that co-ordinated international action will be more cost-effective than countries acting alone, and that the international carbon trading community has finally got its act together.

The great French-Israeli carbon tax heist fits neatly into Interpol warnings about carbon trading markets issued in 2013.

“Unlike traditional commodities, which at some time during the course of their market exchange must be physically delivered to someone, carbon credits do not represent a physical commodity but instead have been described as a legal fiction that is poorly understood by many sellers, buyers and traders,” Interpol warns.

“This lack of understanding makes carbon trading particularly vulnerable to fraud and other illegal activity.

“Carbon markets, like other financial markets, are also at risk of exploitation by criminals due to the large amount of money invested, the immaturity of the regulations and lack of oversight and transparency.”

The international police agency listed the potential illegal activities including the tax scam played out in the French-Israeli heist.

The warning list comprises of:

* Fraudulent manipulation of measurements to claim more carbon credits from a project than were actually obtained.

* Sale of carbon credits that either do not exist or belong to someone else.

* False or misleading claims with respect to the environmental or financial benefits of carbon market investments.

* Exploitation of weak regulations in the carbon market to commit financial crimes, such as money laundering, securities fraud or tax fraud.

* Computer hacking/phishing to steal carbon credits, and theft of personal information.

However, despite the worrying criminal concerns, the biggest failings of the European carbon market have been by design.

Over-allocation of permits at a time of weakened economic activity following the global financial crisis saw prices plunge to a fraction of what was considered necessary to force businesses to change their greenhouse gas emitting ways.

Nonetheless, the industry has regrouped with revised rules, fresh markets and the first signs of a new attempt at international co-operation.

The Turnbull government signalled its intention to allow Australian businesses to buy international permits to cover their carbon dioxide emissions liabilities when releasing the final report of last year’s review of climate change policies on December 19.

“As flagged in 2015, the review considered the role of international units and as a result the government has now given in-principle support for their use,” according to Energy and Environment Minister Josh Frydenberg.

“The final decision on the timing and appropriate quantity and quality limits will be taken by 2020 following further consultation and detailed analysis.”

Industry has welcomed the move.

Australian Industry Group chief executive Innes Willox says business has been advocating for access to international credits as a cost-effective way to achieve Australia’s commitments under the Paris climate change agreement.

“It makes absolutely no sense to rule out this option by insisting that our commitments can only be fulfilled within our borders,” Willox says.

David Byers, interim chief executive of the Minerals Council of Australia, says it is “an important step forward in developing a long-term sustainable approach to climate change policy’’.

Byers says access to international carbon units will give Australia more avenues for reducing emissions, including supporting carbon abatement projects in developing countries, such as reducing deforestation, combating illegal logging and restoring coastal and marine environments.

“This will ensure our emissions reduction efforts are environmentally effective and economically efficient, helping to meet Australia’s Paris commitments at the lowest cost,” Byers says.

“This is critical for securing long-term investment in the Australian resources sector.”

Abbott says his position on international carbon credits remains the same as it was when he was prime minister and Liberal Party leader.

“I don’t support carbon trading which is a carbon tax under a different name and I certainly don’t support overseas carbon credits being available to Australian businesses,” Abbott tells The Australian. “That just means that Aussie consumers end up shovelling our money to foreign carbon traders and we all know the potential for rorts there.”

Abbott’s concerns are shared by many green groups, which have reached the conclusion they were comprehensively outmanoeuvred by big business on carbon trading in the past. Their preference is now for strict carbon pricing at such a high level that it forces companies to change behaviour.

There are signs, however, that carbon trading is returning to international favour. After years of painful negotiation, the European Parliament and EU governments have agreed to reforms to put the market on a more solid foundation. Excess permits have been cancelled and a reserve system introduced to stop the market becoming saturated.

China has launched an emissions trading system that brings together existing regional schemes covering the power sector. Electricity accounts for almost half of China’s emissions, which means the new market is already bigger than the entire EU scheme.

A new Carbon Pricing in the Americas initiative was launched in Paris in December. It may eventually link emissions trading schemes in Canada, Colombia, Chile and Mexico, and include individual US states such as California and Washington. In total, there are now 42 national and 25 sub-national jurisdictions putting a price on carbon dioxide emissions, eight of which were launched last year.

Some commentators are saying that for the first time it looks as if a “global coalition for carbon pricing”, which was advocated at the 2015 Paris summit by former French president Francois Hollande, is a real possibility.

But not everyone thinks a linked global trading system is a good idea.

In an article in Nature magazine last March, Jessica Green from New York University argued a global network of cap-and-trade systems would deliver greater complexity and fewer emissions cuts. At this point, Green warns, carbon trading is more a political fix than an effective way to mitigate climate change.

“Without stringent caps and careful management, cap-and-trade systems have scant effect on net emissions,” she says.

Green argues that policymakers should first limit links to other markets. Carbon trading policies should be designed to avoid over-allocation and ensure rising prices. And policymakers should eliminate loopholes that limit the environmental effectiveness of cap and trade, she says.

“The worst possible outcome of linked markets is a set of policies that appear to address climate change but allow emissions to continue to rise,” Green says.

In theory, linking markets together should promote trading, smooth financial flows and lower the overall cost of reducing emissions. But Green believes the reality is more complicated.

“Initial attempts to join up trading schemes in Europe and in California and Quebec have led to price crashes and volatility, not stability,” she says.

Opening the way for international permits would certainly undercut the carbon farming market nurtured by the federal government’s Emissions Reduction Fund. The price of carbon abatement under the ERF achieved an average price of $13.08 per tonne, much higher than international prices but still considered too low to build a significant domestic offsets industry.

David Hone, chief climate change adviser for Royal Dutch Shell, says price volatility has been a curse for the international market. Over 20 years more than 8000 projects had been registered, representing some $US300 billion ($382bn) of clean energy and emissions reduction investment under the Clean Development Mechanism of the Kyoto Protocol. About 1.6 billion certificates are now virtually worthless.

“One estimate claims that the CDM has had a material impact on global emissions, with reductions of nearly 500 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2014, or 1 per cent of global emissions,” Hone says. “But the CDM has been fraught with problems, the most dramatic being a substantial fall in demand for the emissions reductions that it offers.”

This had led to the collapse of many project developers, the failure of hundreds of projects and a backlog of certificates that could still be issued for further trading.

“A great deal of time, money and political capital has been invested in getting the CDM to where it stands today, so not surprisingly there is some ill feeling over its demise and some attempts to recoup losses before moving on to something new,” Hone says.

Fraud and incompetence has made carbon trading a buyers’ market, which makes international permits attractive to companies wanting to offset emissions at least cost. The buyers’ market makes cheap international permits an obvious attraction for companies seeking a least-cost way to cover their emissions liabilities as the Paris Agreement goals tighten.

Australia’s political focus is firmly driven by runaway electricity prices. International permits may have a role to play.

But the withdrawal of the US from the Paris Agreement makes a truly international market more difficult to achieve. Fraud and cross-border swindles can only add further heat to the climate change conundrum.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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