Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Plastic pollution.  Is recycling the answer?

Plastic rubbish on land and sea is a big problem.  You can pick it up but what do you do with it then? That all discarded plastic should be recycled seems to be an article of faith -- as we see below.  But  nobody is saying why it should be recycled. What is wrong with just dumping it in landfill?  Digging a hole and filling it in again is not rocket science. Most plastic ends up in landfill anyway, so I am not proposing anything radical, unusual  or outlandish.

But how many holes can we dig for landfill?  What happens with all that landfill eventually?  Again the answer it not outlandish.  There is a fair chance that you are living on top of landfill already if your house is a recent newbuild.  As good urban land for home building becomes scarce, developers buy holes -- valleys in the landscape.  And they then fill up the holes to create flat land.

And what do they put in the holes?  Garbage, some of which will be plastic.  They then put in a layer of rocks to hold it down and then a layer of soil on the very top to facilitate people growing things in a garden. They will usually have to wait a year or two for everything to settle and then the "For sale" signs will go up.

It is a normal item in the precautions of conveyancing for buyers to hire a geologist to certify that the ground has settled into a stable state but the developers know that so will be sure to have sent in their own geologists before releasing the land for sale.

And the old method of dealing with garbage is still sometimes used -- particularly in small towns and cities.  The local authorities find a hole or small valley, use it as a general garbage dump and top it off with rocks and soil when it is full.  And what do they use the newly created flat "land" for?  It becomes parks, sportsgrounds and playing fields.  You would be surprised at how many of your local recreational areas originated that way.  A dump I used to go to is now a sportsfield.

So holes will become a valuable asset and urban areas will slowly become flatter.  That is the only penalty for putting plastic waste in landfill.

Plastic recycling enjoys ever-wider support among consumers: Putting yogurt containers and juice bottles in a blue bin is an eco-friendly act of faith in millions of households. But faith goes only so far. The tidal wave of plastic items that enters the recycling stream each year is increasingly likely to fall right back out again, casualties of a broken market.

Many products that consumers believe (and industries claim) are “recyclable” are in reality not, because of stark economics. With oil and gas prices near 20-year lows—thanks in large part to the fracking revolution— so-called virgin plastic, a product of petroleum feedstocks, is now far cheaper and easier to obtain than recycled material. That unforeseen shift has yanked the financial rug out from under what was until recently a viable recycling industry. “The global waste trade is essentially broken,” says Graham Forbes, head of the global plastics campaign at Greenpeace. “We are sitting on vast amounts of plastic, with nowhere to send it and nothing to do with it.”

This gargantuan overload is creating a conflict that industry and government can no longer ignore—one that pits the profitability and usefulness of plastic against its threat to public health and the environment. There are few places where that conflict is more visible than in Malaysia. Here, rock-bottom wages, cheap land, and a still-evolving regulatory climate have enticed entrepreneurs to build hundreds of factories in a last-ditch bid to stay profitable. The real economic and environmental costs of plastic recycling are on vivid display, as I discovered traveling across the country with photographer Sebastian Meyer. Over the course of 10 days, we visited 10 recycling factories—some of them, including Biogreen Frontier, operating without official registration, under threat of a shutdown—as they grappled with waste shipped by the boatload from across the world. And we saw how the consequences of the broken plastics economy spill over into waste dumps, container dockyards, private homes, and out into the ocean.

FOR HALF A CENTURY, plastics have seen rocketing growth, for good reason: They are cheap, lightweight, and virtually indestructible.

“There’s a great future in plastics,” a nervous young Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman) is told by a would-be mentor in the 1967 movie The Graduate. Acting on that tip would have yielded spectacular returns. Global production soared from 25 million tons a year in 1970 to more than 400 million tons in 2018.

Behind this polyethylene deluge is an economic colossus: a global plastics market worth about $1 trillion last year, according to U.K. data analysts the Business Research Co. Demand for plastics has doubled since 2000 and could double again by 2050. “We have a growing middle class around the world that needs to improve their quality of life,” says Keith Christman, managing director of plastic markets for the American Chemistry Council, an industry organization whose members include major producers like Dow, Dupont, Chevron, and Exxon Mobil. “Plastic is a part of that.” You can find plastic not just in your water bottles and sandwich bags, but in sweatshirts and wet wipes, home insulation and siding, chewing gum, tea bags, and countless other items.

The durability that makes plastic so appealing, it turns out, also makes it an environmental time bomb. An estimated 90.5% of all the plastic produced since 1950 is still in existence, according to analysis by Roland Geyer, an industrial ecology professor at the University of California at Santa Barbara’s Bren School of Environmental Science &Management. Only 8.4% of plastic waste in the U.S. was recycled in 2017, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. An additional 15.8% was burned to generate energy; the rest wound up in landfills. Recycling rates are even lower in parts of Asia and Africa. Even Europe, with its stringent environmental laws, recycles only about 30% of plastics.

For decades, plastics producers and their biggest customers—consumer-goods giants like Coca-Cola, Nestlé, Pepsico, and Procter & Gamble—have argued that improving these recycling numbers is the solution to the plastic-waste crisis. They frame the problem as one of behavior—ours. “It’s a knee-jerk reaction to say the problem is with plastic,” Tony Radoszewski, president and CEO of the Plastics Industry Association, tells me. “The culprit is the consumer who does not dispose of products properly.”

It’s true that recycling rates are low. But to blame that fact on consumers alone is disingenuous. The bigger problem is a huge shift in energy markets. Prices for oil and natural gas have plummeted over the past decade. That in turn has made it far cheaper for petrochemical companies to produce virgin plastics than for factories to create recycled plastic. And with big profits to be made, companies have sharply increased virgin production, further driving down prices. Recycling used plastic is labor- intensive and therefore expensive—and the shifting economics now work against recycling in much of the world.

In 2018, this ecosystem endured another major blow when China halted the importation of almost all plastic scrap, saying that its own recycling industry was becoming an environmental hazard. The decision has caused chaos in the world’s plastic-resuscitation economy. Up until then, for example, the U.S. had been sending about 70% of its plastic waste to China. Now, “recycling is on life support,” says Mike Engelmann, solid waste coordinator for Smithtown, N.Y., a town of 120,000 people on suburban Long Island.

“Hopefully things will turn around. But I am not sure how.”


Greenland lost 600 BILLION tons of ice last summer raising global sea levels by almost 0.1 inches in two months as the Arctic experienced its hottest year on record

Note the dog that didn't bark below:  No claim that the melting was the rsult of global warming.  Both poles are subject to extensive subsurface vulcanism, which is why the warming is both uneven and out of sync with the rest of the world. As usual, the Antarctic melting was in coastal West Antarctica only

Greenland lost 600 BILLION tons of ice last summer raising global sea levels by almost 0.1 inches in two months as the Arctic experienced its hottest year on record.

In Antarctica, meanwhile, ice has continued to melt from both the Amundsen Sea Embayment and the Antarctic Peninsula.

However, the southernmost continent also saw some relief in its eastern side, with levels of snowfall increasing in Queen Maud Land.

Changes in the ice volumes were measured by two twin gravity measuring satellite missions operated by NASA and the German Aerospace Centre.

'We knew this past summer had been particularly warm in Greenland, melting every corner of the ice sheet, but the numbers are enormous,' said paper author and earth scientist Isabella Velicogna of the University of California, Irvine.

In fact, Greenland shed more than twice the ice last summer than it did each year on average between 2002–2019 — a period in which it lost 4,550 billion tons.

For context, the whole of Los Angeles County only consumes around one billion tons of water a year.

'In Antarctica, the mass loss in the west proceeds unabated, which is very bad news for sea level rise,' Professor Velicogna said.

'But we also observe a mass gain in the Atlantic sector of East Antarctica caused by an increase in snowfall.

This, she explained, 'helps mitigate the enormous increase in mass loss that we've seen over the last two decades in other parts of the continent.'

In their study, Professor Velicogna and colleagues studied data from NASA and the German Aerospace Centre's late Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites, as well as their successor, the GRACE Follow-On (GRACE-FO) mission.

The GRACE satellites — which operated as a pair — took extremely precise measurements of changes in Earth's gravity from March 2002–October 2017, operating for 15 years longer than they were originally intended to.

These readings have allowed scientists to monitor the planet's water reserves, including polar ice, global sea levels and groundwater.

The twin GRACE-FO craft — launched May 2018 — were based on similar technology, but incorporated an experimental laser interferometry device to gauge any minute changes in the distance between the two satellites, rather than using microwaves.

The gap in time between the operation of the GRACE and GRACE-FO missions meant that Professor Velicogna and colleagues had to undertake tests to see how well the data gathered by the different missions matched up.

'It's great to see how well the data line up in Greenland and Antarctica, even at the regional level,' Professor Velicogna said. 'It's a tribute to the months of effort by the project, engineering and science teams to make the endeavour successful.'


The real reasons Africa has another locust plague

The UN, environmentalist pressure groups and their financial backers have a lot to answer for

Paul Driessen

The ChiCom coronavirus and COVID-19 outbreaks, deaths and responses continue to dominate US, European and Asian news. Meanwhile, a very different infestation is devastating East African crops and leaving tens of millions at risk of starvation and death. If COVID hits these weakened populations, amid their malaria and other systemic diseases, it would bring tragedy on unimaginable scales.

“Across Somalia, desert locusts in a swarm the size of Manhattan have destroyed a swath of farmland as big as Oklahoma,” the Wall Street Journal’s Nicholas Bariyo reports. “In Kenya, billions-strong clouds of the insects have eaten through 800 square miles of crops and survived a weeks-long spraying campaign. They have “swept across more than 10 nations on two continents.” In parts of East Africa they “are destroying some 1.8 million metric tons of vegetation every day, enough food to feed 81 million people.”

East Africa has a Desert Locust Control Organization. But it, the region and the individual countries were totally unprepared for the onslaught, unaware the hordes were coming, irresponsibly underfunded, with almost no pesticides or aircraft to spray them. By the time they acted, it was too little, too late.

The massive swarms are hardly unprecedented. Locusts “covered the face of the whole earth, so that the land was darkened; and they ate every herb of the land and all the fruit of the trees which the hail had left. So there remained nothing green on the trees or on the plants of the field throughout all the land of Egypt.” [Exodus 10:15] Locusts pillaged long before that, and have returned hundreds of times since.

The 1986-87 plague was calamitous. As the late entomologist Dr. J. Gordon Edwards noted in 1988, four major locust species hatched simultaneously in 15 countries, and the crops were so totally devastated that the UN Food and Agricultural Organization predicted 50 million Africans and Asians might starve to death. Malnourished survivors would suffer reduced mental capacity and have greater susceptibility to diseases. Other near-biblical infestations have ravaged Africa with predictable regularity and results.

The obvious, burning, essential question is this: In this era of amazing modern agriculture, aviation and pest control technologies, how could Africa have reached this frightening precipice yet again?

These 2019-2020 swarms originated in the vast deserts of Oman, Somalia and Yemen, parts of which are lawless and war-torn. That made it difficult and dangerous to monitor them for the emergence of billions of “hoppers,” following tumultuous downpours two years ago – or to spray them with insecticides when they were most vulnerable, before their wings matured and they could fly thousands of miles. But it also means East African countries needed to work together, despite these obstacles, to prevent such plagues.

These are horrifically poor countries, where bureaucrats live relatively well largely on outside donor funds, often corrupt top-gun politicians live very well on the same money, and some 90% of the people exist on a few dollars a day, on the edge of starvation and debilitating disease, tilling tiny patches of land.

Too often their governments’ ability to plan for recurring crises like this are minimal, their priorities are skewed to whatever the donors want, and funding for insect control is minimal at best. Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda didn’t even pay their Locust Control membership dues for years, or decades – much less acquire the aircraft and pesticides they would need for the inevitable next locust plague. Their focus was on elections (getting reelected), essential or just showy infrastructure projects, and climate change.

Indeed, it seems nothing will be allowed to get in the way of the UN, EU and environmentalist obsession with climate change as the single greatest threat facing humanity and planet. But climate cataclysms exist in models and headlines, are decades away, are hardly unprecedented for East Africa, and can hardly be worse than these recurring locust cataclysms. But UN, EU, World Bank and eco-centered foundation money drives the agenda and pays Africa’s leaders and bureaucrats. So recurring real-world crises get short shrift.

When it comes to insect control, the driving force is aid money totally skewed to agro-ecology and its perverse focus on “food sovereignty,” and “traditional subsistence farming” with wood plows and oxen, “in harmony with nature,” free from Western seeds, fertilizers, tractors and, above all, pesticides.

The new moniker is clever, but the ideology and donor-driven attitudes are nothing new. Dr. Edwards documented them in his 1988 article. The FAO, USAID, USEPA, World Bank, Environmental Defense Fund and other organizations were pushing “all-natural, biological, integrated pest management” practices back then, too. They were totally opposed to the use of dieldrin and other insecticides that actually work. They keep families, communities, clinics and hospitals dependent on minimalist wind and solar electricity.

Just as today, their focus back then was on alleged, possible side effects from modern insecticides, which used properly by trained applicators are safe for people, livestock, wildlife and most non-target insects. The key is having the necessary staff, equipment and chemicals ahead of time. Under pressure by all these external forces, East Africa failed to do that – and now it is reaping the proverbial whirlwind.

The donor agencies and pressure groups’ attitude is akin to demanding that chemotherapy for cancer be banned, because the chemicals impair patient’s immune systems and cause hair to fall out. Saving their lives is inarguably far more important than these side effects – just as saving millions from starvation and associated diseases, and preventing total crop and habitat annihilation, is inarguably far more important than the temporary loss of some insects or even slight risks to cattle, wildlife or people from the sprays.

(An upcoming article will document who is behind the eco-manslaughter today, and who is funding them: from US, EU and UN organizations to their Swiss, Swedish, pseudo-African and other counterparts.)

Back in 1987, Dr. Edwards noted, Senegal requested and received the loan of four American DC-7 transport aircraft that could hold 18,400 pounds of cargo (8.4 metric tons). They sprayed two million acres and killed 95% of that country’s immature locusts. But elsewhere FAO anti-pesticide ideologies prevailed, and billions of locusts matured, flew off, mated and produced tens of billions of locusts the following year. They destroyed croplands, wildlife habitats, communities and lives in a dozen other African countries.

This year’s efforts are far too little, far too late. Kenya has eight small crop-spraying aircraft operating around the clock; the Locust Control consortium has four antiquated little planes. They’re apparently spraying fenitrothion (an effective locust killer), pyrethroids (somewhat effective) and malathion (also somewhat effective though it breaks down within a few hours under Africa’s hot, humid conditions).

But they didn’t get the hoppers. They waited until swarms the size of Manhattan were upon them. Against those countless billions of voracious locusts, ground-based equipment is useless. A dozen small crop dusters makes almost no difference. And traditional methods like banging on pots are a sick joke.

However, there could still be hope. A single Lockheed KC-130 Hercules tanker plane equipped with Modular Aerial Spray Systems can cover up to 150,000 acres a day. Each plane can carry 2,000 gallons of the most appropriate pesticide-water mixture. The benefits would be immediate and tremendous.

President Trump could order the Air Force to provide a KC-130 or two and enough fenitrothion, Lorsban or other effective insecticide for a few weeks of locust-eradication spraying. He could save millions of lives – and help change attitudes, policies and practices across Africa and the world.

The President could also order his US Agency for International Development (USAID), State Department and other agencies to end their funding of climate and agro-ecology programs, and start making the East Africa Desert Locust Control Organization the forward-thinking, effective operation it was meant to be.

He could have blunt discussions with the heads of EU nations about their agro-ecology, anti-pesticide and anti-biotechnology policies, funding practices and import restrictions toward Africa – which are an undeniable crime against humanity. Finally, he could direct the Treasury Department and Internal Revenue Service to review (and terminate) the tax-exempt status of organizations and foundations engaged in lethal, eco-imperialistic lies and pressure campaigns in Africa, Asia and South America.

The locust plagues, starvation and deaths from readily preventable diseases like malaria must end – now. The poorest people in these impoverished countries should not be the ones paying the price, too often with their lives. This president is one of the very few politicians who could make these changes happen.

Via email

Banning Fracking Would Be Bad News for Ohioans

A report released in December 2019 by the Global Energy Institute at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce details how a ban on hydraulic fracturing (colloquially known as “fracking”) would have devastating consequences for the Ohio economy and would displace “hundreds of thousands of jobs” throughout the state.

According to the study, if a fracking ban took place, the Buckeye State would experience the cumulative loss of 700,000 jobs thanks to higher residential and business energy costs and upstream production losses, as well as $245 billion in lost gross domestic product (GDP) and a $20.6 billion loss in state and local tax revenues by 2025. Over that same period, Ohio households would experience a $119 billion loss of income and Ohioans would suffer a per capita cost-of-living increase of $5,625.

These losses would naturally begin taking effect immediately. In 2021 alone, the study estimates 155,000 job losses, $18 billion in lost GDP, $1.49 billion in lost state and local tax revenue, and a $9 billion loss in household income.

A 2020 report from the American Petroleum Institute (API), with modeling data from the consulting firm OnLocation, has unemployment numbers in Ohio due to a fracking ban that mirror GEI’s study, with 500,000 lost jobs in 2022 alone.

The development of the Utica shale play in Ohio has turned the state into the fifth-largest producer of natural gas in the United States. This massive increase in domestic shale development, led by fracking, has caused natural gas prices to plummet in Ohio, saving state residents and businesses more than $40 billion from 2006 to 2016, according to a September 2018 study from the Consumer Energy Alliance. This is backed up by a September 2019 report prepared by Kleinhenz & Associates for the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program, showing total savings thanks to fracking for Ohio residents from 2008 to 2018 amounts to $45 billion.

Additionally, the oil and natural gas industries supported more than 262,000 jobs in Ohio in 2015, according to a 2017 API study prepared by PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Hydraulic fracturing activity delivers $1,300 to $1,900 in annual benefits to local households, including “a 7 percent increase in average income, driven by rises in wages and royalty payments, a 10 percent increase in employment, and a 6 percent increase in housing prices,” according to a 2019 study conducted by researchers at the University of Chicago, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Princeton University, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Hydraulic fracturing enables the cost-effective extraction of once-inaccessible oil and natural gas deposits. These energy sources are abundant, inexpensive, environmentally safe, and can ensure the United States is the world’s largest energy producer well beyond the 21st century. Therefore, Ohio policymakers should refrain from placing unnecessary burdens on the natural gas and oil industries, which are safe and positively impact the Buckeye State economy.


WaPo Fact Checker: Biden ‘Misspoke’ About His Fracking Ban

A Washington Post fact-checker ruled Thursday that Joe Biden hadn’t lied when he said he supported a fracking ban during Sunday’s Democratic presidential debate. Rather, Biden had simply “described his fracking stance inaccurately.”

The Post gave Biden “Zero Pinocchios” for saying during the most recent Democratic debate that he opposed fracking entirely.

Instead, the paper pointed to the Biden campaign’s explanation that the candidate had “misspoken” and that “his position was the same as ever,” opposing fracking only on public lands.

Meanwhile, the Post criticized those who quoted Biden’s remarks verbatim. “Critics pounced,” the fact-checker wrote.

“Republican operatives cut a short video of Biden’s remarks, to use as a cudgel in races against moderate House Democrats. Sanders supporters accused Biden of misleading voters about his policy, which doesn’t ban fracking outright, as Sanders would.”

During Sunday’s debate, Sanders said that he was pushing for a ban on future fracking. “So am I,” Biden responded.

“Well, I’m not sure your proposal does that,” Sanders replied. Later, the Vermont senator said, “You cannot continue, as I understand, Joe believes, to continue fracking.”

“No more—no new fracking,” Biden said in response.

“The Trump campaign also used a Biden video snippet from the debate in a tweet claiming he would ‘ban fracking,'” the Post complained. “Right-wing media outlets including the Washington Free Beacon, the Daily Caller and Fox News all reported on Biden’s remarks as though he had adopted a tougher line.”

The Free Beacon article quoting Biden’s remarks, to which the Post did not link, covered Biden’s statement during the debate that there’d be “no more drilling” under his administration and only mentioned the fracking comments as an aside.

The Free Beacon accurately wrote that “Biden, confronted by Sanders for not taking dramatic enough steps to combat climate change, also said there would be no ‘new fracking’ and ‘not another coal plant will be built’ under his administration.”

Biden’s drilling comments, another instance of the candidate “misspeaking” in a way that made his environmental platform more palatable to his party’s left-wing base, was not acknowledged in the Post fact-check.

Biden previously said he “misspoke,” avoiding a bad rating from the Post fact-checker, after he was caught falsely claiming on two separate occasions that he opposed the Iraq war from the moment it started.

“Regular readers know that we withhold Pinocchios when a politician admits error. Biden was on his way to Four Pinocchios until his staff acknowledged that he misspoke,” the Post wrote. “So we will leave this unrated and let readers make their own decision.”



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


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