Thursday, May 28, 2020

Coronavirus has more Americans rethinking plastic

One overlooked policy response to the coronavirus has been a changing of attitudes toward plastic. While plastic has drawn the ire of environmentalists in recent years due to concerns regarding pollution, some businesses are now being forced to use more plastic – as a matter of public health.

In the late 1980s, concerns over the environmental impact of logging for the production of paper products, and a belief that plastic bags were more sanitary, led to a widespread adoption of the material in the U.S. As a returning Navy veteran in 1989, after having been in Iceland for 18 months, I (Collier) remember going to California and being asked “paper or plastic” for the first time. While the past few years have seen a shift in environmental priorities, in 2020 plastic is reappearing many places out of necessity.

Starbucks, for instance, stopped allowing customers to use refillable cups (a previously encouraged practice) for fear of contaminating their stores with the coronavirus. The popular coffee chain offers only disposable cups now – and many of them, like those for iced tea and iced coffee, are made of plastic. Though the practice was well intentioned, Starbucks was correct in now acknowledging that “reusable” cups are germ factories.

Grocery stores have also had to rethink plastic in the age of coronavirus. In California, a state which had moved to ban single-use plastic bags several years back, customers are now being asked to leave their reusable shopping bags at home due to health concerns.

The shift toward plastic has also been extremely pronounced when considering the sale of water bottles. The Washington Post reports that Costco has seen a spike in bottled water sales as people stock up to ensure they have an adequate supply to self-quarantine. One cannot overlook the fact that in some places, like the infamous case in Flint, Michigan, the need for clean, storable drinking water is especially urgent when facing a stay-at-home-order and your tap water is compromised. In fact, a recent national poll showed that only 24% of Americans were “very confident” their tap water was always safe.

All of this should be kept in mind when lawmakers are considering policies to tax, regulate, or outright ban the use of certain plastics. Can Chicago really defend its 5 cents per bottle tax on water at a time when residents are stocking up out of necessity?

Moreover, once the coronavirus has been beaten back, shouldn’t we expect a similar surge during the next crisis?

It will be interesting to see what the public’s appetite for single-use plastic bans will be once fears of the coronavirus dissipate. After experiencing the biggest emergency we’ve faced in a lifetime, we may want to think twice about getting rid of the things we need most. While coronavirus fears will eventually fade, the underlying sanitary issues with reusable items will not.

While we share the concerns about plastic pollution in the ocean – the vast majority of which stems from nations other than the U.S. – and are fully supportive of private sector efforts to address this, such as Evian’s decision to shift to bottles made from 100% recycled plastic, the coronavirus has served as a reminder as to why we use plastic in the first place.

Lawmakers should address the environmental concerns by applying more pressure to the countries that are the predominant sources of pollution — not by instituting draconian bans or immoral Chicago-style taxes.

We sympathize with environmental interests, but the road to a lot of bad places is paved with good intentions.


The Renewable Fuel Standard is the gift that keeps on taking

By Rick Manning

As we approach Christmas it is time to take another look at one of the “gifts” Congress gave the U.S. and how it continues to be the gift that keeps on taking. It is a gift that has not only failed to do what it was supposed to do, it has had the exact opposite impact. Of course, that gift is the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). If Congress wanted to give the American people a gift this Christmas, they should repeal this un-environmental, expensive, job killing regulation.

The RFS was initiated to accomplish two main goals: Reduce foreign dependence on energy; and Improve energy efficiency and protect the environment.

Sadly, the mandate has failed at the two jobs it had.

Every year the amount of biofuel the federal government mandates be used goes up. It goes up regardless of the much-improved vehicle fuel mileage since its inception. The mandate continues to increase regardless of the number of electric cars on the road, or the increased amount of people taking public transportation in major cities. The RFS mandate has expanded so much it has now made the U.S. dependent on foreign sources of biofuel.

Yes, that’s right. The law passed by Congress in 2005, and “updated” in 2007, has turned one of its mandates, to reduce foreign dependency on energy, and increased it.

Thanks to a 15-billion-gallon biofuel mandate, the U.S. must import hundreds of millions of gallons of biofuel to meet, not the demand for the fuel, but the artificial requirement put on the U.S. consumer by the federal government. This happens because the U.S. does not have the infrastructure to produce more biofuels nor is there the demand. Primarily, the U.S. is importing the hundreds of millions of gallons of biofuel from nations that heavily subsidize their industries, like Brazil and Indonesia.

It is not hard to see the problem on the horizon with this. Because fuel refiners must either produce the ethanol, buy the ethanol, or purchase the Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) to comply — RINs are how the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) tracks compliance with the RFS, the refiners are going to go with the cheapest option. The cheapest option is often going to be the government subsidized one. This will end up in a subsidy vs subsidy battle with the U.S. taxpayer coming out the loser.

The RFS was supposed to be more environmentally friendly but recent studies have proven that false. The Department of Energy even posts on its website that E10 and E15 get 3 to 5 percent fewer miles per gallon than regular gasoline. Flex fuel vehicles, E85 are even worse at an astounding 15 to 27 percent fewer miles per gallon. That’s the exact opposite of environmentally friendly.

Possibly even worse than the lower mileage, is the land use and lost opportunity costs. Because it is a mandate, farmers grow corn to be used in ethanol because they know it is a guaranteed consumer. That land is now not being used to grow other crops for human consumption, nor are the crops being used to feed other parts of the farm industry, such as beef, port, and poultry.

The RFS is so bad for the environment groups that once pushed for RFS are now calling it a failure. Scott Faber, Senior Vice President for Government Affairs of the Environmental Working Group, testified before the Senate Subcommittee on Clean Air and Nuclear Safety and the Senate Committee on Environment and Public works in 2013. He stated, “the RFS has delivered too many ‘bad’ biofuels that increase greenhouse gas emissions, pollute air and water, destroy critical habitat for wildlife and drive up the price of food. The corn ethanol mandate of the RFS, once promoted as a tool to combat climate change, has instead raised greenhouse emissions, exacerbated air and water pollution challenges and inflated the price of staple foods.”

If most of the oil industry and environmental groups can agree on the uselessness of the RFS, why can’t Congress?

Let’s take a final look at the RFS score card. Did it make the U.S. less dependent on foreign sources of energy? No. Did the RFS improve energy efficiency? No. Does the RFS protect the environment? No. The RFS is an abject failure on every level. It is a favorite of farmers that want the government to subsidize their crops instead of competing in the marketplace, and Wall Street speculators love it because the RINs it creates are another artificial product they can sell and get enormous fees for. It is time for Congress to give the American taxpayer and consumer a Christmas gift and end the Renewal Fuel Standard which has become just another example of government mandates turning into crony capitalism gone wild. It is a Christmas gift that only a Bad Santa would give and should be rejected by Congress.


‘Man-Made Warming’ Demolished In 500 Words

The United Nations IPCC says ongoing warming is due to man’s CO2 emissions, hence ‘Anthropogenic Global Warming’ (AGW). The 3 pillars on which they base this claim are unscientific and quickly disproved.

IPCC’s Three Pillars

PILLAR I: Earth’s average surface temperature and man’s CO2 emissions have both risen since 1850, so CO2 must have caused the warming

Five disproofs …

What else has risen? The Sun’s magnetic output, affecting cloudiness (Svensmark), more than doubled from 1901 to 1991 (Lockwood), to its highest peak in 10,000 years (Higgs 1).
In those last 10,000 years …

simple visual cross-correlation shows changes in temperature lagged 60-160 years behind solar-output changes, due to the ocean’s vast heat capacity and slow mixing (Higgs 1, 2) &
… temperature and CO2 were uncorrelated, until their joint rise from the late 1800s.

CO2 is still rising (NOAA), but Earth has cooled since 2016 (Met. Office). Every passing day not ‘warmest ever’ for that date, at multiple sites worldwide, embarrasses the IPCC.
Warming since 1910 paused 1945-75 (30 years) and 1998-2012 but CO2 kept rising

PILLAR II: Global warming’s continuance despite the Sun’s weakening after 1991 absolves the Sun and incriminates CO2

Disproof …

This mismatch is simply due to the oceanic time-lag, currently about 60 years. Thus global warming will continue (with ups and downs, mainly due to the Sun’s 11-year cycles) until around 2050, about 60 years after the Sun’s 1991 grand peak (Higgs 2).

Pillar II was asserted in IPCC’s 2013 ‘Fifth Assessment Report’, Chapter 10 (IPCC 1 p.887, co-author Lockwood [see (1) above], citing 4 of his own papers). But IPPC already knew about the lag, Chapter 3 having stated the “ocean’s huge heat capacity and slow circulation lend it significant thermal inertia” (IPCC 2 p.266).

PILLAR III: Sea level (SL) for the last few thousand years varied less than 25cm, so the 30cm SL rise since 1850 proves abnormal warming by CO2

Disproof …

The 25 cm claim (only “medium confidence”; IPCC 3 p.385) is based on selected evidence (Higgs 3) and on dismissal of the famed 1961 SL curve (Fairbridge; Wiki) with SL oscillations of 2 to 5 metres in the last 6,000 years, confirmed by dozens of later geologists worldwide, and lately with very strong archaeological support (Higgs 4, 5, 6).


That’s it. That’s all they have. Be surprised.

The Sun was by far the main driver of global temperature for the last 10,000 years.

CO2 is innocent; it has no climate effect; the simultaneous rise in temperature and CO2 is pure accident; CO2’s residual ‘greenhouse effect’ is effectively nil (Higgs 7, 8).

The IPCC urgently needs to consult geologists (Higgs 9, 10).
Another Sun-driven large sea-level rise is predictable (Higgs 11).



Australia: The coal, hard fact is we must put jobs first in this economic climate

As the biblical saying goes, you can’t serve two masters. For a decade we have been trying to con ourselves we could. We thought you could serve the master of ­climate change and keep a strong manufacturing sector.

The data doesn’t lie. You can’t.

While we have reduced our emissions by 5 per cent (largely by making it illegal for farmers to clear their own land), our manufacturing industry has gone backwards for the first time. During the past decade Australian manufacturing has declined in real, absolute terms. The 1990s and 2000s were not boom times for manu­facturing but the sector still managed to grow by 10 per cent each decade. Since 2010, it has shrunk by 5 per cent.

During that time, our pursuit of climate change and renewable ­energy policies helped double the cost of energy, despite our abundant reserves. The COVID-19 pandemic shows what a mistake this has been.

Now everyone wants to secure our supply chains and start making things again. None of this talk will lead to renewed manufacturing strength, however, if we do not get serious about reducing energy costs. And to do that we need to make tough choices about what is important in a post-COVID, economically depressed world.

Talk of the immediate importance of reducing our small carbon footprint now sounds like a dis­cordant echo from a bygone era. With millions are out of work, and our major trade partner threatens our economic security, why would we continue to self-flagellate by imposing the additional costs of reducing carbon emissions for no environmental benefit?

China’s recent actions demonstrate beyond a doubt that there is no hope a global agreement to reduce carbon emissions will lead to any meaningful global action. If we can’t trust China to keep faith with a trade agreement signed just a few years ago, and can’t trust it to be upfront on the pandemic, how can we trust China to honour a global agreement to reduce carbon dioxide emissions?

I do not make these points to critique others. I made the mistakes too. I have been a supporter of the Paris Agreement because Australia has benefited from international agreements. But things have changed. With the need to secure our manufacturing industry and the clear breakdown of international co-operation, we must face the fact that era is over.

We should end our participation in the Paris Agreement, given the more immediate need to secure our manufacturing jobs. And we should rule out any moves to net-zero emissions or a future global agreement on carbon until other countries, much larger than us, demonstrate real reductions in their carbon emissions.

Our future targets continue to restrain our ability to make the tough choices to rebuild Australian manufacturing. Because of those targets, many are rushing to promote gas over coal. Gas in eastern Australia is not a pathway to globally competitive energy prices any time soon. The geology of our gas is not the lucrative shale seams from which the US has benefited.

At best we might hope to get the wellhead energy cost of Australian onshore gas down to $6 a gigajoule. That is still double the mining costs of most Australian black coal (and more than 10 times the cost of brown coalmining). It is also more than double the cost of US shale gas.

If we are not going to pursue and fight for the cheapest energy costs, then we are not serious about rebuilding an Australian manufacturing industry.

Some say the politics of building a coal-fired power station is too tough. I am a big supporter of gas developments but I drove to Canberra last week and I saw about 20 “no coal-seam gas” signs in western NSW. But I didn’t see a single “no coal” sign. Sure, lots of inner-city greenies oppose coal, but all politics is local. As last year’s federal election showed, if you have the locals supporting a project (such as Adani), that is a political fight you can win.

The political battle we should engage in is the one to return manufacturing jobs to Australia. To pursue naive policies that reduce our carbon emissions, regardless of what other countries are doing, hurts our ability to win that battle. To recover from this pandemic we must recognise that the era of rampant globalism is over and put Australian jobs first.



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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