Friday, April 30, 2004


Tim Worstall says the U.S. government is starting to build its Yucca mountain disposal facility for nuclear waste despite last ditch Greenie efforts to stop it.

In the same connection I got the following email from a reader:

"In the late 50's a number of fellows in Pittsburgh PA buried some spent rods in their poured concrete driveways. They never had to worry about ice and snow. In fact, that was how they finally got caught. Thirty-five years ago, a science teacher gave me a pellet of spent uranium. I carried it around in my pants pocket for years! - Maybe that's why my kids are so smart".

The reader is of course referring to hormesis -- the basis for low-level radioactivity actually being GOOD for you. See my posts below of 18th and 14th.


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Thursday, April 29, 2004


Excerpts from an article by Australian economist Alan Wood

WHAT'S wrong with urban sprawl? It's the way that Australia's cities have traditionally accommodated increasing populations for generations, and around most cities there is still plenty of land to go on doing so. Yet over the past decade state governments have increasingly sought to place limits on the expansion of their capital cities' urban areas and encourage higher density living.

In its submission to the Productivity Commission's inquiry into first home ownership, the NSW Government gave some figures for Sydney. They show that from the late 1970s until the early '90s more than 40 per cent of the additions to the dwelling stock each year in metropolitan Sydney were in greenfields sites on the fringes. But from 1996 to 2001 it dropped to 28 per cent and is projected to drop to 25 per cent during the following five years.

Sydney is something of a special case because physical barriers, such as the Blue Mountains to the west, place limits on its expansion that don't affect other capital cities. But even allowing for those limits, the supply of land on the fringe has been artificially constrained by government intervention. Urban growth boundaries have been established in Melbourne, Perth and Adelaide, where no similar physical constraints apply.

The aim, according to the Productivity Commission's draft report on first home ownership, is to encourage higher density redevelopments within established areas to achieve better use of existing social and economic infrastructure. However, these policies come at a cost; they push up the price of land, and they can push it up quite a lot. Undeveloped blocks on Melbourne's fringe reportedly more than doubled in price when its new growth boundary was declared last year....
During the past 30 years, the cost of building a 135sqm house has increased sevenfold. The cost of land during the same time has increased 70-fold. Thirty years ago, the land component of a house-land package represented 20 per cent of the total cost; today it is about 60per cent....

The motivation for this intervention isn't only more efficient use of the economic and social infrastructure. There is an ideological component to which Labor state governments are particularly prone. Day calls it an urban myth -- "that fringe growth is an economic, social and environmental burden on the community. Those of us who wish to build or buy houses on the urban fringe are portrayed as environmental vandals who do not appreciate the charm of cosmopolitan inner-city life."

It is not so much a myth as another example of the latte Left's contempt for ordinary Australians. Combined with the socialist instincts of urban planners and the greens' hatred of cars -- shared by Labor governments with a predilection to public transport -- it is a pernicious cocktail. Its effects won't be confined to the cost of land to first-home buyers and other young families wanting to buy cheaper house and land packages on the urban fringe....

The argument that this increased population density is warranted by the cost of extending economic and social infrastructure to the fringes is not convincing. One reason is that the cost of upgrading infrastructure in existing suburbs can exceed the cost of providing new infrastructure on the fringe in some areas. Another is that governments are increasingly moving to user-pays infrastructure charges on development.

And the hatred of suburbia is not limited to Australia. The following is an excerpt from an article by Stephanie Marsh that apparently appeared initially in the London "Times" and which also appeared on p. 37 of "The Australian" of April 28, 2004 under the heading: "Scholars stand up for the suburbs":

"George Orwell detested them and John Betjeman wished to see them bombed. Britain's suburbs, however, are no longer the enclaves of curtain-twitching conformity that they once were. In the streets where gin and tonics, Ford Cortinas and privet hedges once reigned, Ikea furniture, nail bars and a preoccupation with the latest fashionable restaurant have taken over, say researchers at the Centre for Suburban Studies, the first in Britain devoted to studying suburban culture. It opened at Kingston University, southwest London, last Friday.

The researchers say that the suburbs have long been neglected as a subject for serious scholarship. Although commuter belts are in the throes of an image crisis that prompts many of their inhabitants to refuse to admit where thev live, the suburbs no longer bear any resemblance to the suburbs of the popular imagination. says the new centre's Velna Goldsworthy.

The suburbs are unfairly maligned and misunderstood, despite more than half the population living in them.

"Today's suburbs are vibrant communities. often rejuvenated by ethnic communities," she says. "This idea of twitching net curtains. rows of identical terraced houses and the grind of the daily commute is an anachronism. The popular image is that people who live in the suburbs are chronically dissatisfied with their lives, bored and a bit prejudiced against strangers. But that is not the case. Suburbanites are much more fashionable, much more consumer conscious than they ever were. Even the notion of the commute is often no longer relevant, as many suburbs have become self-contained communities."...

However, if the suburbs are no longer defined by quiet gentility, a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation has found that assumptions about stability and untroubled lifestyles in suburbia are also wide of the mark. Health and community centres are run down and there is a gradual rise in unemployment. Public transport has failed to adapt to the changing needs of the mixed communities, which has led to a marked dependency on cars. The precious green space that prompts so many urban dwellers to move there is rapidly disappearing, the report says....

In September the centre will host a conference on the '70s British TV serial The Good Life. Goldsworthy says: "We have set up this centre because there is a need for the suburbs to be spoken for. City centres and the countryside are idealised by the urban fashionable elite".


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Wednesday, April 28, 2004


DDT did the job simply, effectively and safely 50 years ago -- until the Greenies got it banned. Any guesses about what the Greenie reaction to releasing millions of irradiated insects into the environment might be?

The United Nations is harnessing nuclear technology to try to eradicate the mosquitoes whose bite transmits malaria, a deadly disease devastating the African continent.

Sunday is Africa Malaria Day, when governments will focus attention on a disease which kills millions of Africans a year, most of them children, and costs the continent at least $12 billion in lost gross domestic product. Bart Knols, a Dutch entomologist at the U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), estimates there are "three to five hundred million cases of malaria every year on a world-wide scale, 90 percent of which occur in sub-Saharan Africa." "Sub-Saharan Africa also suffers the major burden... of mortality," he told Reuters during a tour of the IAEA's entomology laboratories. One African child dies of malaria every 20 seconds. People in poor, remote villages are usually unable to get treatment and so Knols's research aims to nip the problem in the bud by destroying the mosquito that transmits the malaria parasite.

The Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) is a simple idea. Scientists breed insects and expose the males to enough radiation to render them sterile. The males are then released into the environment to breed with the females, whose eggs are unfertilized and never hatch. "The whole idea or concept is that the population would actually start to crash and eventually may actually lead to eradication of the insect, and therefore eradication of the disease and less malaria," said Knols, who has personally suffered nine bouts of malaria through working with mosquitoes. Alan Robinson, the entomologist in charge of the IAEA's entomology unit, said the $4 million project was still in its infancy. He described it as a "high-risk project" with many hurdles to overcome before it is ready for field trials. Over the next five years, they need to reach a point where they can produce a million sterile male insects a day. The males they breed must be robust enough to survive when released from planes into the environment and tough enough to compete with fertile males during mating. The females, the ones which bite humans, only mate once in their two-week lives.

More here

DDT and West Nile: "The study, Pesticides and the West Nile Virus: An Examination of Environmentalist Claims, also illustrates the parallel between current opposition to pesticide spraying to counter West Nile and the calamitous results of banning the use of DDT for disease control in developing nations. Though no longer used agriculturally, DDT remains the most affordable and effective way to battle another mosquito-borne killer, malaria."


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Tuesday, April 27, 2004


"Smart Growth" lies: "Author Douglas Morris and other 'smart growth' advocates claim that suburban sprawl contributes to increased violent crime rates. But a comparison of crime rates among cities characterized as 'smart growth' and 'sprawlers' reveals a different story. ... In 2002, Los Angeles' violent crime rate of 1,349 per 100,000 was more than double that of the Riverside-San Bernardino metro area, considered the country's most sprawling area by Smart Growth America."


Keep out! Forests must NOT be used!

"Most of us who now have either retired from the Forest Service, or are darn close to it, vividly remember the environmental radicals from a couple or three decades ago. They were there, even then, and they had the same silly ideology they have today. We put up with them, back then, but we largely ignored their bleating complains or silly whining. They wanted us to quit making roads, for heavens sake, and to quit cutting trees. Back then we just rolled our eyes, winked, and gave each other meaningful glances while they sniveled on and on. Then we ignored them. It was great, and it was the way it should be.

It was easier then to be in favor of "multiple use." It was easier then to reject the illogical demands that were placed on us. It was easier then because the illogic complainer had no power. Today they do. Today they have power....

The changes in the way multiple-use attitudes were affected can be traced to just before the twinkie-twins hit the scene. Before Clinton/Gore gained political power and made damaging decisions, the radical environmentalists were being heard. In the 80s, they were having an effect on the sympathetic Democrat controlled Congress which, in turn, had an effect on the land management agencies. Wacko environmentalists were successful in holding the Forest Service budget particularly as a hostage. They were successful in convincing the Democratic leaders that no more roads should be built, unless they were "temporary." The ploy was that critters must be protected from the humans. The Forest Service did what they were told. They had no choice. They needed the budget.

The classification for Temporary Roads was invoked and low standard roads were built to remove timber. Temporary roads, however, were not actually temporary, but were rather gated to keep the general public from using them....

After the 1992 election, the door was open, and the greenies smelled the sweet sour of success. With a goof-ball elected as President and his dangerous partner drooling at the elimination of engines, the greenies shifted into overdrive. They easily got the support of Monica's moaner and convinced him to designate many million of acres as some valuable Monument. He liked the notoriety from the left, and gladly became the hope and prayer for radical enviros who wished to implement the closing of vast amount of National Forest lands, some 60 million more acres....

Why won't the greenies just go away? Because too many folks believe greenie lies. Because too many folks and companies give them lots of money so lots more money can be raised. Because the east coast and west coast citizens believe every environmental gratuitous assertion is a fact. Because the environmentalists have learned they can raise unlimited money by preaching fear, and using pseudoscience as support Because too many believe the sky will fall and the oceans will rise if the proven methods of capitalism are not stopped. They just won't go away because we have been too tolerant of them. I think it is time to be intolerant and call them on their phony claims. It's time to be intolerant. It's time."

More here


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Monday, April 26, 2004


Earth Day is now more about dire prediction than sober reflection and provides an opportunity for environmental extremists to hog the spotlight, dish anti-technology dirt and proselytize. A favorite target this year is biotechnology, which one activist has characterized as threatening 'a form of annihilation every bit as deadly as nuclear holocaust.'"


Tim Worstall has been working on the "problem" of high usage of petroleum products and has come up with a "modest proposal" to solve the problem that is almost cynical enough to come from a politician!


Are we running out of natural resources? "If something is running out, the price goes up. In 1980, the economist Julian Simon bet a prominent environmentalist, Paul Ehrlich, that after a period of ten years, a set of natural resources (decided upon by the Ehrlich) would be cheaper in constant dollars than they were at the start. He won the bet.

Scarcity of a resource encourages businesses to make their operations more efficient, to invest in new ways of finding the resource, or to develop new technologies to harness alternative resources. Over the last forty years, wheat production has increased from under 2 tons per hectare to over 6 tons. More efficient farming techniques, such as the use of genetically modified crops, will mean that food production will continue to grow and be more than enough to cope with increasing population. Improvements in technology will mean that natural resources in general will continue to be used more efficiently. Consequently, in 2050, the vast majority of natural resources will be much more plentiful and affordable than they are today. This has always been the case historically, and there is no reason to believe it will not be the case in the future.


A good comment from cold Finland: "One of the biggest misconceptions is that global warming can only be a bad thing; this is certainly not true, considering that even the IPCC report openly admits that benefits are likely to be gained at least in the form of lenghtened growing season, reduced energy needs and a more hospitable world in general. At the same time they admit that many of the negative issues related to this phenomenon are still very much in doubt. Eventhough global warming is likely to demand some adjustments in the short term, we must note that it is generally better to live in a warmer world than a colder one".


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Sunday, April 25, 2004


Where specious reasoning about non-existent scarcities and other myths can lead you:

The latest Greenie fad is "Diaperless babies". Yes. They actually see virtue in having babies shit all over the place!

"Scott Noelle, editor of the Continuum Concept website and a father, explained why he eventually stopped using diapers on his infant daughter Olivia, in a web essay titled "Going Diaperless."

"In my mind, diapers became the symbol of the Evil Empire of Western Parenting in which babies must suffer to accommodate the needs of their parents' broken-continuum culture: a controlled, sterile, odorless, wall-to-wall carpeted fortress in which to live with the illusion of dominion over nature," wrote Noelle, on the website Despite his concerns, Noelle continued to use diapers on his daughter, despite the fact that he "felt like a monster and a fraud."

Noelle finally chose to go diaperless and looked to traditional cultures for inspiration. "How I longed for a simple, dirt-floored, baby-friendly hut like that of a Yequana family," he wrote."


America has nearly one hundred million gallons of high-level nuclear waste and over 40,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel. It presently is scattered in 131 aging temporary surface storage sites located in 39 states. Since 1978, the federal government has been studying the best alternatives for safely storing this material. In 1982, Congress passed a law requiring the establishment of a used nuclear fuel repository. In 1987, Congress determined that the best location for a repository is Yucca Mountain, located in Nye County, Nevada, approximately 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas. On July 9, 2002, the Senate voted to approve development of Yucca Mountain. On July 23, 2002, when President Bush signed H.J. Res. 87, the final legal hurdle to development was overcome.

Or was it?

Anti-nuclear activists now are filing lawsuits in the hope of forcing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny the U.S. Department of Energy the construction permit it needs to complete the Yucca Mountain project. Some activists are Nevadans affected by the NIMBY (Not In My Backyard) syndrome, but others have an agenda that is far more significant: They believe that if they shut down Yucca Mountain, a nuclear power plant will never again be built in the United States....

Nuclear energy is probably the most environmentally-friendly major energy source we have. It also is one of the most reliable. Anti-nuclear activists claim to oppose the Yucca Mountain repository for safety reasons, but using Yucca would be safer than leaving nuclear waste scattered across the U.S....

If the Yucca Mountain complex is completed, nuclear waste and spent fuel will be secured in a single, deeply underground secure site in a geographically stable area further from any metropolitan area than any of the 131 temporary storage sites currently in operation. Presently, more than 161 million Americans live within 75 miles of one of the temporary storage sites.

The average American home operates five hours per day on nuclear-generated energy. Forty percent of our nation's warships operate on nuclear power. Twenty percent of our nation's electricity comes from nuclear power. It's time to build a safe spent fuel repository.

More here


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Saturday, April 24, 2004

What fun! I didn't realize that "Earth Day" is in fact an underhand celebration of Lenin's birthday. Very fitting.


Despite steadily increasing demand for gasoline and diesel fuel in the US, the last domestic refinery was built in 1976. One reason is the substantial regulatory barriers and costs involved in constructing a new plant and operating it in compliance with the applicable Clean Air Act (CAA) regulations. With regard to the latter, the CAA places a double burden on refiners-strict motor fuel requirements that make gasoline more difficult to produce, and a slew of tough restrictions on refinery emissions. Even with today's high gas prices and strong industry margins, no serious proposal for a new refinery is on the drawing board, and few expect one any time soon. Until recently, most of the slack has been taken up by capacity expansions at existing refineries. But this has not been easy either, and in fact was made more difficult since 1999 as a result of a Clinton administration crackdown on numerous refiners, claiming violations of the CAA.....

Enter foreign refiners, who have been serving American markets for years but who now play a vital and growing role providing Americans with the additional gasoline that domestic refineries cannot. These refiners have the advantage of operating free of the CAA's requirements, though their products must meet all US specifications. As much as 25 percent of the Northeast's gasoline comes from abroad, making it the region most dependent on foreign supplies.

But, just as America is placing increased reliance on non-US refiners, some of those refiners are no longer up to the task. The reason is that federal gasoline requirements continue to get more complicated. In addition to the regulations already in place, the EPA is almost constantly phasing in new ones, such as the low sulfur requirements for motor fuels that took effect at the beginning of the year. As the US goes further and further down the path of complex, mandate-laden gasoline recipes, fewer offshore refiners are willing to make the investments necessary to produce these specialized blends. By one estimate reported in The Houston Chronicle, the new sulfur standards have taken as much as 150,000 barrels a day off the market, a small fraction of the 9 million barrels America uses each day but enough to make a difference when the market is already tight.

Looking ahead to summer, EIA forecasts a slight increase in imports that will only partially satisfy sharply higher demand, as compared to last summer. EIA concludes that "incremental foreign supplies may be hard to come by and are expected to be costly." This could contribute to higher summertime prices, particularly in the Northeast.

More here


Some things are sacred to scientists: Facts, data, quantitative analysis, and Nature magazine, long recognized as the world's most prestigious science periodical.

Lately, many have begun to wonder if Jayson Blair has a new job as their science editor. On page 616 of the April 8 issue, Nature published an article using a technique that they said, on page 593 of the same issue, was "oversold", was inappropriately influencing policymakers, and was "misunderstood by those in search of immediate results." The technique is called "regional climate modeling," which attempts to simulate the effects of global warming over areas the size of, say, the United States.

As reported by Quirin Schiermeier, scientists at a Lund, Sweden climate conference, "admitted privately that the immediate benefits of regional climate modeling have been oversold in exercises such as the Clinton administration's US regional climate assessment, which sought to evaluate the impact of climate change on each part of the country." Then, 23 pages later, Nature published an alarming and completely misleading article predicting the melting of the entire Greenland ice cap in 1,000 years, thanks to pernicious human economic activity, i.e., global warming, using a regional climate projection.

The lower 48 states comprise 2 percent of the globe. Schiermeier reported that the consensus of scientists is that climate models on such a small scale are inappropriate for policy purposes. Greenland covers 0.4 percent of the planet. If the models are no good over the U.S., they're worse over Greenland. Yet the authors "conclude that the Greenland ice-sheet is likely to be eliminated by anthropogenic climate change unless much more substantial emission reductions are made than those envisaged by the IPCC [a United Nations Panel]." The Greenland paper, by Jonathan Gregory and two others, was profoundly misleading, offering any climate alarmist an incredible sound bite attributable to our most prestigious science publication.....

It's not the first time, either. Just as scientists "admitted privately" that the models don't work, so have prestigious environmental journalists told me privately that they are concerned about Nature's handling of global warming stories, both in terms of increasingly shoddy reviews and timing clearly designed to influence policy. No one has forgotten that in 1996 Nature featured a paper, right before the most important U.N. conference leading to the Kyoto protocol, "proving" that models forecasting disastrous warming were right. The paper was subsequently found to have used data selectively to generate its dire result.

More here


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Friday, April 23, 2004


The new regime at USA Today seems to be lurching to the Left as proof of its new holiness. Not long ago they had this editorial in favour of nuclear power and noting the "regulatory delay" to building new power stations. In today's editorial they are saying that the cure for power demand from air-conditioning is more government regulation on power companies -- with not the slightest mention of Greenie-caused delay to the building of new power stations as being somehow involved.


The fraudulent "endangerment" industry : "Once again, the Florida Wildlife Commission is issuing statements about its panther 'reintroduction' program which they must know are scientifically untrue or deliberately deceptive. For those of us who aren't lawyers, such statements are usually called lies. According to the Florida Wildlife Commission press release of April 2, 2004, 'the panther reintroduction is working.' This program is working better for the 'crats than the cats. These bureau-scientists tapped into an ongoing source of your tax money by claiming to 'reintroduce' the allegedly 'endangered' Florida Panther....

The DNA analysis showed that all panther in North America are one cat. But the agencies kept quiet about this, and continued to claim the "Florida Panther" was a legitimate sub-species, and that it was "endangered". Based on this fraud, the agencies have spent hundreds of millions of your dollars. They condemned enormous amounts of land, allegedly for the benefit of the endangered Florida Panther. But the cat isn't endangered. Nor is it specific to Florida. It's just a panther, dear reader. It is the same cat as the ones shot as varmints in Texas."

They would prefer all non-elites to die, basically

"While outsourcing is a term that's on everyone's lips, there's little concern over something called "environmental justice." It's a policy advocated by elite environmentalists, and it is killing job prospects in minority communities. If outsourcing is considered bad, environmental justice is much, much worse...

In 1996, Shintech Inc. -- a Japanese chemical company -- wanted to build a $700 million facility in Convent, Louisiana to make the polyvinyl chloride that is used in building materials, upholstery and clothing. Shintech promised to hire hundreds of area residents for the construction of the plant and provide $500,000 in local job training. After the plant was built, it would employ 165 people with salaries beginning at $12 an hour - twice the average wage area residents made working in the region's sugar cane fields.

Shintech was never able to build the plant in this poor, job-starved community. Despite strong local support among residents, politicians and the NAACP, EPA officials in Washington, D.C. -- at the urging of environmentalists -- denied Shintech a permit based on concerns about environmental justice.

Environmental justice policies are supposed to keep businesses from inflicting a "disparate impact" on minority communities, but this vague definition does not weigh the costs against the benefits of introducing a job-producing industry to a poverty-stricken area. To the elitists in the environmental movement, it's a black and white issue where businesses are guilty until proven innocent. In reality, it's about black and white jobs. Those people who need jobs the most often find their prospects gloomier after environmental justice concerns are raised.

Former Detroit mayor Dennis Archer has complained that the EPA's environmental justice policies are "so vague and so broad that it nullifies everything that we have done to attract companies." It seems activists are willing to make an issue out of just about everything. When a formerly blighted neighborhood in Harlem was cleaned up and a Home Depot that created 400 area jobs moved in, it was criticized by environmentalists because it wasn't a "clean industry" like a school and increased area truck traffic..."

More here

Headlines in Britain last week claimed that genetically modified crops were proving disastrous in South America - but local farmers say they have transformed their lives

"Ricardo Martinez smiled with pride as he looked over the thriving fields of genetically modified soya and then denounced critics who claimed last week that such crops had been a "disaster" for his country, Argentina. "Back in the 1980s we had a lot of trouble with flooding, soil erosion and ever-present weeds," said Mr Martinez, who has been growing soya for seven years on his 3,200-acre farm 190 miles from the capital, Buenos Aires. "When Monsanto introduced GM soya to Argentina it was something of a miracle. It allowed us to increase production and manage our land far more effectively," he added, stressing that the crop had been of "huge benefit" to Argentina's economy.

Mr Martinez's remarks were prompted by an article in New Scientist magazine claiming that the introduction of GM crops in Argentina was proving an economic and environmental failure. The article, published in Britain last week, made national headlines when it said that Argentina's pioneering use of GM soya since 1997 had caused "superweeds" to overrun the country and had led to health problems.

The claims have prompted an angry reaction in the South American country, where GM crops have been embraced enthusiastically. Argenbio, Argentina's council for biotechnology, led the protests, arguing that GM soya had enabled farmers to avoid a cocktail of chemicals that threatened the crop and, in some cases, damaged the health of farm workers and livestock, causing skin rashes and respiratory problems....

New Scientist quoted experts who warned that GM crops could destroy the soil's natural micro-organisms and create "superweeds" - undesirable plants that mutate to be as resistant to herbicides as the main crop....

Many involved directly in Argentine agriculture said last week that they disagreed with that analysis. Eduardo Trigo, an agricultural consultant who carried out a study in 2002, jointly funded by the Argentine government and an international research centre, said that crops would be damaged only if glyphosate were used "negligently". He accused New Scientist of making "very liberal use" of one such example to paint a misleading picture of Argentine agriculture.... Eugenio Cap, the co-author of the study, said: "It is highly irresponsible to write an article describing the soya programme as a disaster when in effect it saved a society from economic catastrophe." Carlitos Quattordio, an agronomist who works on the 5,000-acre Molinari farm, one of Buenos Aires province's largest soya estates, said: "I am in the fields every day and I have seen no evidence of these 'superweeds'....

Gabriela Levitus, the executive director of Argenbio, said that her council had studied the environmental consequences.... She rejected claims that GM crops reduced the levels of bacteria and other micro-organisms in the soil as "a complete lie". GM soya was cultivated in such a way that the organic matter left after the harvest remained on the land, providing cover to maintain the soil's humidity and nutrient levels, she said."

More here


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Thursday, April 22, 2004


Recent postings on Robert Bidinotto's EcoNOT:
* "Environmentally correct" nuclear missiles?
* Pulitzer Prize-winning critic can't swallow food scares
* Jacques Cousteau's war on sea life


An essay: "Let's Make Earth Day A Religious Holiday" by Bidinotto. Some excerpts:

On April 22, millions will dutifully engage in the now-familiar rituals and incantations of America's fastest-growing religion. In public places, they will gather to listen to sermons...about the sins of human selfishness, about redemption through self-abasement, about the duty to exercise stewardship of the earth. In schools, they will indoctrinate their children in the gospel according to John...John Muir, that is. In their homes, they will engage in symbolic acts of digging through germ-laden garbage for recyclables, by denying themselves the pleasures of eating meat, and by setting their thermostats below the sinful level of human comfort. The cause for this mass religious outpouring is, of course, Earth Day. In just a few decades, it has become an unofficial holy day, displacing in the hearts of our countrymen (and in the memories of those who publish calendars) such reactionary occasions as Jefferson's birthday.

This once bothered me. As a journalist, I've investigated environmental scares, from ozone depletion to global warming to pesticides on food. All proved to be unconscionable bunkum. But fear is easier to peddle than facts. Today, carcinogenic corporations are the stock heavies in Julia Roberts films and children's cartoons. The rise of environmentalism isn't surprising. A culture taught to venerate Eden as its Ideal couldn't sustain sympathy for such icons of capitalism and technology as Manhattan or Microsoft.

So I've bowed to the inevitable triumph of faith over reason. Since environmentalism has become our national religion anyway, I now urge Congress to declare Earth Day an official religious holiday.


Brewing in Washington D.C. is a new public health scare that may soon reach beyond the beltway and into consumer and taxpayer pockets. At issue is the discovery of elevated levels of lead found in the district's drinking water, which has regulators poised to hike national drinking water regulations. While more stringent regulations won't improve public health much, they will cost some communities dearly.

Coverage in The Washington Post of the lead issue set policymakers and media in a tailspin. Congress is considering beefing up the nation's drinking water law, regulators are mobilizing and the General Accounting Office is launching an investigation. Craziest of all is coverage by a D.C. radio station, which at one point was broadcasting a "lead alert" every 30 minutes (and advertising this "alert" every 10 minutes or so) as if this were a national disaster.

But it's all a bunch of nonsense. The science and the history related to lead exposure strongly indicate that lead in drinking water- even at levels that are multiple times higher than federal standards- do not warrant this frenzied reaction. A recently released Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study reinforces these findings.... Exposure to lead through drinking water- even when lead levels are far above excessively cautious federally set standards- poses little risk.....

Ironically, a potential cause of increased lead in D.C. water might be federal drinking water regulations themselves. Congressional mandates and subsequent EPA regulations have encouraged water treatment plants to switch from water disinfectants. Many have replaced chlorine gas with liquid chlorine, which is more corrosive. If that's what caused lead levels to rise in D.C., we can expect the hysteria to expand around the nation since numerous other communities have made this switch, and the EPA has recently commenced a nationwide search for communities with lead "problems."

Bureaucrats and lawmakers will certainly use this situation as an excuse to flex their regulatory muscles. As a result, consumers will likely end up paying more for their drinking water without gaining any measurable benefit as a result.

More here. See also my post below of 11th.


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Wednesday, April 21, 2004


Some useful quotes to circulate:

[The Endangered Species Act] has the power to halt even important and emergency life-saving operations.... common sense has little to do with the implementation." - Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA), Shattered Dreams: 100 Stories of Government Abuse>, The National Center for Public Policy Research (2003).

"ANWR [the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge] provides expanded energy resources and increased work opportunities for Teamster members and their families. We cannot understand how so-called friends of working families can stand in the way of responsible job creation like ANWR, which already has bi-partisan support to pass on a straight up or down vote." - President of the Teamsters Union, Jimmy Hoffa, to The National Center for Public Policy Research, March 27, 2002.

"In the 1970s and 1980s hundreds of millions of people will starve to death in spite of any crash programs embarked upon now. At this late date nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate..." - Paul Ehrlich, The Population Bomb (1971).

"Rapid increase in household numbers, often manifested as urban sprawl, and resultant higher per capita resource consumption in smaller households pose serious challenges to biodiversity conservation." - Paul Ehrlich, Jianguo Liu (2003).

"The standard of living has risen along with the size of the world's population since the beginning of recorded time. There is no convincing economic reason why these trends toward a better life should not continue indefinitely." - Julian Simon, former Professor of Business Administration at the University of Maryland, as quoted by Freedom's Nest.

"Things are getting better and better despite what media and environmental organizations say." - Former Greenpeace activist Bjorn Lomborg, The Skeptical Environmentalist (2001).

"Any increase in CAFE [corporate average fuel efficiency standards] as currently structured could produce additional road casualties... these [CAFE] changes in the fleet were responsible for an additional 13,000 to 26,000 incapacitating injuries and 97,000 to 195,000 total injuries in 1993... the reductions that have occurred in passenger-vehicle size from model year 1970 to 1982 are associated with approximately 2,000 additional occupant fatalities annually." - National Academy of Sciences study "Effectiveness and Impact of Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards 2002."

"The leadership of the [environmental] movement... does tend to draw from the upper middle class, well educated part of the social spectrum. Few of them go bowling or to car races." - Denis Hayes, executive director for Earth Day 1970, in a 1999 Time magazine interview.

"The truth about climate change is that we don't know much about it... so far the scientific evidence does not support catastrophic warming, from any cause, human or otherwise." - James Glassman and Sallie Baliunas, The Weekly Standard.

"[The] Kyoto [Protocol] reductions [of industrial emissions] will have little effect [on global temperature] in the 21st century, and 30 Kyotos' may be needed to reduce warming to an acceptable level." - NASA's Dr. James Hansen, a longtime global warming theory advocate in the August 30, 2000 issue of Electricity Daily.

"From the tundra of Alaska to the wetlands of Louisiana, a host of advanced technologies enable the oil and gas industry to produce resources far beneath sensitive environments." - Bill Clinton's Department of Energy publication, "Environmental Benefits of Advanced Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Technology", published October, 1999 by the U.S. Department of Energy, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, Office of Natural Gas and Petroleum Technology.

"On land and offshore, oil and gas producers have developed innovative ways to restore sites to original - and sometimes better-than-original - condition, for diverse uses ranging from housing to agriculture to wildlife habitats." - Bill Clinton's Department of Energy publication, "Environmental Benefits of Advanced Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Technology", published October, 1999 by the U.S. Department of Energy, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, Office of Natural Gas and Petroleum Technology.

(Via The National Center for public policy research)


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Tuesday, April 20, 2004


There is a very comprehensive if thoroughly exasperated Australian site here about the global warming myth. Some excerpts:

"Dr Goebbels would be so very proud of the Greenies. They seized on the doomsday scenario that the burning of fossil fuels will cause the whole planet to overheat. They didn't need any definitive science. They just simply constantly bombarded the media with spurious little tidbits such as icebergs breaking off Antarctica and the shrinking snows of Kilimanjaro and the odd shrinking glacier, unaccountable computer models, and non corroborated ice cores. AND THEY SUCKERED THE WHOLE WESTERN WORLD INTO BELIEVING IT.

Antarctica has been cooling down for 20 years - accelerating the constant natural break-off of ice that has gone on for thousands of years. Kilimanjaro and the Glaciers were shrinking and advancing long before fossil fuels came along and the CO2 level in air varies in real time all over the earth, all over the centuries. Differing levels in Antarctic ice cores is hardly surprising - it changes all the time.

Greenhouse theory is fundamentally flawed because it assumes that the earth's climate is stable when it isn't - it never has been - it has got hotter and colder all by itself over the millennia - sometimes quite rapidly. We know it has always fluctuated but we don't fully understand why. Solar cycles, regular volcanic eruptions, meteors and comets, variations in our orbit and cycles in the earth's molten core are all possible influences. For all we know we should be worrying about a new Ice Age instead.


It assumes that the level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere will increase. Every plant on Earth breathes in carbon dioxide and breathes out oxygen and every animal on Earth does the opposite on a gigantic scale that dwarfs the human burning of fuels. The level of Carbon Dioxide in air changes naturally. It varies measurably in the northern hemisphere when trees drop their leaves in winter and it's solubility in the oceans varies with the earth's temperature, but we are a very long way from being able to scientifically predict the effects of perturbations to this active, dynamic, biological system. Attempts to do so quickly bog down.

An essential of the Global Warming Theory is that nature cannot absorb the human produced Carbon for many decades or even a century or two. Like the assumptions that human CO2 will hugely trigger more water vapour in the air, and that Greenhouse will exacerbate the weather and cause disease, this is just made up as they go along. It is not science.

He then refers to the fact that India and China are exempt from the destructive "Kyoto" treaty on global warming:

Here is another doomsday scenario. 1,000,000,000 Indians and 1,200,000,000 Chinese are going to laugh in their white European Greenie faces and just ignore them. China and India will simply let the poor white trash self destruct and will leave them far behind in the global economy. The Planet will not overheat. This century will belong to them."


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Monday, April 19, 2004


The rocky road to biotech's success: "For over two decades regulators around the world have crafted a patchwork of misguided rules and regulations specific to the most precise and predictable techniques of biotechnology. Their risk-averse, precautionary approach conflicts with the widely held scientific consensus that the new biotechnology is an extension, or refinement, of less precise technologies long used for similar purposes: except for wild berries, all of the grains, fruits, and vegetables in Canadian, American, and European diets are derived from plants genetically improved by one technique or another.

Regulatory regimes specific to gene-splicing have sharply inflated the costs of research and development and inhibited its application to many classes of agricultural products, including those—such as plants that grow with less water and smaller amounts of agricultural chemicals, and that promote no-till farming—that are extraordinarily environment-friendly."


A couple of days ago I noted the drastic water restrictions being suffered in Sydney, Australia -- partly as a result of Greenie opposition to dam-building and partly due to the irresponsibility of the Leftist State government there. Because it has considerable general interest, I reproduce below a much longer post on the same subject from the now defunct "PID" blog:

"Miranda Devine recently wrote in the SMH about the current visit to Australia of "The Skeptical Environmentalist" Bjorn Lomberg. The Greens of course will be upset by anything battlin' Bjorn has to say. What is of interest is her local angle. Here in New South Wales, Australia, the state Premier Bob Carr has just imposed water restrictions on us all with a $200 fine for "illicit sprinkling". You can even get slugged with a fine if you hose your car. Devine says: "The imposition of $220 fines for using a sprinkler to water your lawn has been greeted by the populace with a guilty shrug. After all, we know there has been a drought on the driest inhabited continent on earth and we ought to do our bit. But, judging by figures on water use from the Australian Bureau of Statistics, "our bit" is close to useless, apart from making us feel virtuous." "According to the ABS, Australian households used just 8 per cent of the 22,186 gigalitres of fresh water consumed in 1996-97, whereas agriculture used a whopping 70 per cent, with rice the thirstiest crop. What's more, NSW householders haven't increased their consumption for a decade."

I will leave aside the argument as to whether price hikes or rationing is likely to be the best way to actually encourage consumers to really reduce their water consumption, without the need for propaganda, rationing or neighbourhood snoops. Anyone interested should consult your nearest high school economics textbook for the answer. I will also leave aside the politically sensitive reports that leakages and waste by Sydney Water's own distribution system, equivalent to 10% of the total demand, often due to years of poor maintenance, represent a larger loss to the system than the planned conservation targets. I suspect the imposition of water restrictions on household consumers, who seem to have demonstrated a good track record as conservationists without government threats, and the unquestioning support of this bureaucratic bullying by the greens of all shades, reflects the "hairshirt" manifesto at the heart of environmentalism. "We must all cut back for the sake of the environment and future generations". It's the cutting back, if only symbolic, that is what is really important to them. Hence their 'religious' advocacy of recycling despite the growing mound of evidence that it has virtually no real world environmental benefit. It's a 'sacrament' in the religion of environmentalism. Will this become a state religion?

There are two more fascinating angles to this bit of NSW parish pump politics. When the Federal government forwarded all Australian homes a information pack on terrorism just after the Bali outrage, and set up a hotline for citizens to report suspicious stuff, many leftists applauded the large number of packs returned to the Post Office and there was all sorts of concern about busybodies spying on neighbours. This time. Zippo. So you can get away with attacking privacy and civil liberties on "sexed up" conservation grounds but not national security. The left and the usual civil liberties crowd won't raise a peep. Any wannabe Hitlers out there take note.

The other angle is Greenhouse. Bob Carr is blaming the need for water restrictions on "Global Warming". I find it interesting how the premier "knows" global warming is behind it all. Presumably he "knows" something the scientific community doesn't. Maybe he should get a Nobel prize for science ...or maybe for imaginative literature. These quotes show that the global climate modellers are even less certain about rainfall effects than they are about temperatures. And when it comes to predicting regional variations, as distinct from aggregate global effects, presumably the technical hurdles are tougher. "Precipitation has increased by about 1 percent over the world's continents in the last century. High latitude areas are tending to see more significant increases in rainfall, while precipitation has actually declined in many tropical areas.." (From U.S. EPA).

"These models have also predicted an increase in global precipitation and facilitation of the hydrological cycle. The range of predicted values within the models, however, is far larger than that of the temperature, due to many unresolved problems and uncertainties in the hydrological processes, such as interactions between cloud/precipitation systems and land/ocean surface processes." (From Dr. Yasunari, Program Director of Hydrological Cycle Research Program, who received the 2002 Meteorological Society of Japan's Fujiwara Award).

So according to the global climate modelling community, precipitation should increase world wide due to global warming. So how do local greens, who seem to have great faith in the global climate models, just "know" rainfall will decrease over Australia due to global warming? The case would seem to be based on nothing much more than hot air at this stage. I am not confident that the global warming advocates have got it right, but then again I'm not a climatologist. There are authorities I respect on both sides of this complex argument. But I can confidently predict, even without a crystal (or is it silicon?) ball, that politicians will exploit Global Warming to the hilt to escape responsibility for mismanagement if we let them get away with it."


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Sunday, April 18, 2004


Teen gets three years for "ecoterrorism": "A member of a radical environmentalist group was sentenced [Wednesday] to three years in prison for damaging 25 sport utility vehicles, fast-food restaurants and other property. U.S. District Judge James R. Spencer sentenced John B. Wade, 19, of suburban Henrico County, for acts committed in 2002 with two other teenagers. Judge Spencer sentenced Aaron L. Linas on Monday to 3.5 years in prison. They were members of the Earth Liberation Front, which has taken responsibility for dozens of actions since 1997 that have caused more than $30 million in 'economic damage on those profiting from the destruction and exploitation of the natural environment.'"


Readers of my three blogs may not be aware of it, but they have at their service when they read anything I write some very careful fact-checkers. And who are those fact-checkers? Other readers! I am very pleased to say that my blogging has attracted lots of readers who are very careful about their facts. If ever I say something that readers think is not quite right, I immediately get emails telling me so. My shorthand reference two days ago to Depleted Uranium as "(the NON-radioactive form of uranium)" is a case in point. There is of course a lot of ionizing radiation normally present in our environment -- generally known as "background radiation" -- and, like many normal substances that we take for granted (such as granite), DU does have SOME radioactivity. Its radioactivity is so low, however, that it has for many years been used as SHIELDING against stray radiation in X-ray machines and in scientific devices that use radiation. It's not the form of uranium you make atom bombs out of. I reproduce below one of the emails I received on the subject:

"Although I totally agree that Dr Caldicott is round the bend, DU is mildly radioactive. With half lives of 4.5 billion years for 238 and .7 billion years for 235, neither one is a serious radiation threat. For both it's the heavy metal that's bad, not the radiation. See this fact sheet. By the way, the fact sheet mentions that DU is used for radiation shielding. I worked on radiation therapy machines for 30 years, and given the choice of working with lead or DU, I'll take DU any day. Lead is so soft that possibilities of metallic uptake are MUCH more than DU. But then, I've noticed that the Caldicotts of this world get themselves so wound up that I can almost see them frothing at the mouth. Your views of Helen are almost mild compared to some remarks I've seen and heard.

And blogger Bill Keezer wrote to similar effect:

"Need to make a technical correction. Depleted uranium is has all the easily fissionable U-235 removed. It is still radio-active, but at a very low level with a very weak emission. One cannot make small nuclear weapons from it, or use it in nuclear reactors. However, it was used in some of the early hybrid bombs where a casing of U-238 around a fusion bomb could be induced to fission because of the intense neutron flux from the fusion process. Needless to say it was quite dirty. This woman obviously doesn't know what she is talking about, the same as most anti-nuclear types. Just like environmentalists, they have no science or cherry-pick out of context a few tidbits to support their pre-determined positions."

DU as a chemical hazard

In my various past posts on DU I have usually confined myself to ridiculing ignorant claims about its alleged radiological hazards. I have not usually dwelt on the claim that is also a chemical hazard (though my post of 31 March, 2003 pointed out a crucial weakness in the claim). There is however some case to say that DU is a chemical hazard so I think I should say a few more words about that.

The criticism one hears most is that uranium is a heavy metal and that it is dangerous to ingest heavy metals. Such a criticism treats all heavy metals as the same in their biological activity -- which is pretty nutty to start with -- but let's accept that assumption for a moment and see where it leads: The best-known case of heavy-metal damage is Minamata disease -- named after some unfortunate Japanese who unknowingly ingested very large amounts of mercury many years ago and who suffered undisputable nerve damage as a result. And the term "mad as a hatter" comes from the same phenomenon. Many years ago, hatters used mercury in their trade and many suffered conspicuous neurological damage as a result of constant heavy exposure to it.

So ingesting mercury is bad for you -- right? Not necessarily. The idea that because a lot of a thing is bad for you, therefore any amount of it is also bad has always been ridiculous. You could for instance suffer a lot of damage from ingesting too much common table salt -- if you had enough of it -- but in normal use it is a perfectly safe part of our diet. So there CAN be safe dosages of things that are dangerous in large doses. But the "no safe dosage" brigade may be missing something even more important: Hormesis -- where something that is poisonous in large doses is actually GOOD for you in small doses. And mercury could well be an example of that. As one of my readers pointed out (see my post below of 14th), if there is any truth at all in what some scientists tell us about there being lots of mercury in large fish such as tuna, the Japanese (who eat huge amounts of tuna and other seafood) should all be dying like files according to the Greenies. Yet the Japanese are of course the longest-lived national population there is. Mercury hormesis at work? It could be. It certainly tends to show that a SMALL (or even a medium) amount of heavy metal ingestion is at least not dangerous.

"Dr". Caldicott

Helen Broinowski (married name "Caldicott") seems to gain some credibility from having a medical degree. So I guess I should point out that gaining ANY university degree shows only two major things: 1). Persistence and, 2). That you were capable of regurgitating the set of facts and attitudes that you were taught in one narrow field. Particularly in the present era of Left-dominated universities, it is no guarantee of common-sense, honesty or reasoning ability. In fact, it has never even been a guarantee of sanity -- as the example of the unfortunate John Nash (seen in the film "A beautiful mind") clearly shows us.


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Saturday, April 17, 2004


The reality in Sydney (Australia) today: Orange trees are now "water criminals" while parks and sports fields are allowed to go brown

"Plants, shrubs and trees could soon be environmentally rated like fridges and washing machines in an attempt to encourage people to plant gardens which use less water. The Minister for Energy and Utilities, Frank Sartor, said the Government was looking at a Perth scheme where plants are given a one, two or three "drop" rating - one being water misers like gums and hakeas and three being water criminals such as citrus trees, birches and willows.

He also signalled an end to Sydney parks and ovals using drinking water. "Within five years, certainly 10 years, there will be no outdoor playing field or golf course that will be using potable water. It will be all reuse stuff. That's for certain."....

Des Hewitt, director of engineering at Sutherland Shire, said the council had decided not to water playing fields when restrictions were introduced. "They are not looking as good as they did two years ago, but we're looking at strategies to try to resolve it," he said. "We are looking at alternative water supplies for ovals, we are looking at alternative uses patterns. "We are probably using it twice as much as it can physically stand. Honestly, if our grounds looked like the Sydney Cricket Ground they wouldn't be able to stand the amount of wear and tear we give it."

The council was talking to sport organisations about limiting their use of fields, especially as sports were now played all year round. "Maybe in the past we have been spoilt that we can use our playing fields seven days a week, 24 hours a day." Mr Hewitt said the council was investigating the use of recycled, bore and stormwater for use of its gardens and parks.

The director of botanic gardens and public programs at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Alistair Hay, said a horticultural change of fashion was necessary, with brown becoming the new green. "There's a perception that if a lawn goes brown it's dead. It's not. What I do think we have to change is the expectation that lawns should be green year round. We are all going to have to get more tolerant of having brown lawns during drought periods." Throughout the long dry summer of 2002-03 the Botanic Gardens had not watered most of its grass, he said. Although it had browned off, it survived, and had gone green again after rain."


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Friday, April 16, 2004


What would you think of some one who called depleted uranium (the NON-radioactive form of uranium) a "nuclear weapon"? Would you think that such a person was as mad as a hatter? Helen Caldicott calls it that. She is often described as one of the world's leading "anti-nuclear campaigners" so she gives us an idea of the irrationality behind such campaigns. How did she get so nutty? Her biography tells us how rather clearly: "Dr. Helen Caldicott is one of the world's leading anti-nuclear activists. With persistence and passion she has roused people around the planet to reject nuclear weapons... At school, Helen found the work easy, but making friends was difficult. "I was a loner. I think being alone as a child made me very independent and that I could handle any situation that arose." Helen's hero was 'Robin Hood' because he took from the rich and gave to the poor." So she was weird from the beginning but rather than try to understand and fit in with ordinary people she decided that she would get applause for herself by hook or by crook -- and the guise of "saving" the world was simply a means to that end. Pretty simple really. Her "campaigning" is an unhinged solution to her personal problems, not the result of any balanced view of reality.


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Thursday, April 15, 2004


I thought my post of 9th on the latest rubbish about the Greenland icecap was pretty acerbic but I have just discovered The Swordsman's post on the same subject. By comparision, I was a model of politeness. He really fisks the whole thing.


Garrett Hardin was something of a pioneer of merging biological insights with ethics (see here) ...something he saw as essential for mankind's long term ecological survival. Hardin was a staunch advocate of population control, abortion on demand and an opponent of immigration, refugee settlement and foreign aid. Hardin's "tough medicine" policy prescription depends on whether or not Hardin's diagnosis of the world facing a critical population resource crisis is valid -- which is dubious to say the least -- but he was consistent in the deductions he drew from it.

Our Green politicians echo the diagnosis but baulk at the prescription. Today "Greens" and "environmentalists" also make the same rhetorical demand as Hardin for a new environmental ethic but somehow all they ever seem to come up with is recycled left-liberalism with a slapdash coat of green paint. They never seem to produce an environmental ethic as challenging or as consistent as Hardin's. The truth is that despite their rhetoric the so-called "Greens" aren't interested in formulating a new ecologically sound social consciousness. Indeed by rejecting the high value conservatives place on personal responsibility, border protection and patriotism -- factors Hardin sees as essential for long term ecological sustainability -- the Greens are taking the lead in undermining whatever 'ecology ethic' we already have. The Hardin Society website is here.

If our "Green" politicians were honest in believing their own doom and gloom stories, the logical position for them to take would would be a line similar to Hardin's. Of course, they would not win many votes. In practice, instead of the being the principled politicians they claim to be, they exploit "the environment" opportunistically as another avenue for dictating to others and making themselves appear wise in the process -- a good racket!


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Wednesday, April 14, 2004


The EPA's anti-pollution rules are behind some really absurd spending. The US is replacing the rocket motors on its nuclear missiles (at great taxpayer expense) because the older motors polluted the air. And the new fuel reduces the range of the rockets. How anybody thinks we would have clean air after a nuclear war is beyond imagining

Mercury Hormesis?

An email from a reader. Note that the Japanese have the longest lifespans of any nation on the planet:

I've happened lived in Japan for the past few decades. I've found it interesting to read about US scientists' dire fears of mercury in tuna and other large fish, not to mention gloating by antiwhalers about the possible health effects of eating mercury-laden whale meat. At the same time, Japanese eat a huge amount of fish, and tuna is the most common ingredient in sushi/sashimi.... so most Japanese seem to eat tuna numerous times each week, but there doesn't seem to be any comment in the media (yet) on the US mercury scares that I've noticed.. nor any evidence of detrimental effects among the population.

I did notice an article a few weeks ago on a population in some island group --- the Solomon islands or that group of islands near India that is always considered to be the first place to be swamped when ocean levels rise... --- I can't remember the island group, but the recent study found no harm to those people, who eat mercury laden fish each and every day from morning to night. Why aren't they mad hatters? The articles quoting "no safe level" or "excessive levels vis a vis a theoretical safe level" never seem to mention the real-life situations of Japanese and other islanders who eat much more fish than Americans, but it might be interesting to question why Japanese are not all mercury addled by now.

This is a similar situation to the one you mentioned of the Taiwanese who have actually been living in buildings constructed with high-radiation steel. Also in this vein, it's interesting to note that the Japanese still enjoy numerous popular hot springs that are proud to note that they have high radioactivity levels, which are considered traditionally to be curative....

On the other hand, the youngest of the Japanese who was recently kidnapped in Iraq had been focusing on the threat from depleted uranium munitions used by the US, which are described as "mini nuclear bombs" rather than "mini therapeutic hot springs".

My theory is that the same potentially hazardous materials are usually viewed in two ways. One way is viewing something potentially threatening that's been incorporated into traditional lifestyles with no apparent danger over time, and the other is viewing the same potentially threatening thing incorporated in some new technology that they don't personally value so highly. Perhaps to Americans (even scientists), who don't eat much fish to begin with, it seems more plausible that the mercury in fish is a severe threat, since giving up fish doesn't seem so bizarre to them and high fish consumption is as unfamiliar as a new technology that they haven't seen to be harmless in real life.


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Tuesday, April 13, 2004


DDT was of course the original Greenie hate-object -- with Rachel Carson's totally unfounded "Silent Spring" claims

The New York Times has an article called "What the World Needs Now Is DDT": "DDT is a victim of its success, having so thoroughly eliminated malaria in wealthy nations that we forget why we once needed it. But malaria kills Africans today. Those worried about the arrogance of playing God should realize that we have forged an instrument of salvation, and we choose to hide it under our robes." But if millions of Africans and other poor people die for want of DDT, what do the Greenies care? They welcome it! Unlike Leftists, they don't even pretend to "care".

GLOBAL WARMING: Why Can't the Mainstream Press Get Even Basic Facts Right?

Some excerpts from a National Center article. See the full article for detailed references on each point made:

"The Associated Press ran a global warming story this past weekend that makes the following statements:

"Carbon dioxide, the gas largely blamed for global warming, has reached record-high levels in the atmosphere after growing at an accelerated pace in the past year..."

"Carbon dioxide, mostly from burning of coal, gasoline and other fossil fuels, traps heat that otherwise would radiate into space."

"Global temperatures increased by about 1 degree Fahrenheit (0.6 degrees Celsius) during the 20th century, and international panels of scientists sponsored by world governments have concluded that most of the warming probably was due to greenhouse gases."

Fact: Carbon dioxide is not the major greenhouse gas (water vapor is). Carbon dioxide accounts for less than ten percent of the greenhouse effect, as carbon dioxide's ability to absorb heat is quite limited. Only about 0.03 percent of the Earth's atmosphere consists of carbon dioxide (nitrogen, oxygen, and argon constitute about 78 percent, 20 percent, and 0.93 percent of the atmosphere, respectively). The sun, not a gas, is primarily to "blame" for global warming -- and plays a very key role in global temperature variations as well.

Fact: Most of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere does not come from the burning of fossil fuels. Only about 14 percent of it does.

Fact: Most of 20th Century global warming occurred in the first few decades of that century, before the widespread burning of fossil fuels (and before 82 percent of the increase in atmospheric CO2 observed in the 20th Century).

If the AP is referring to the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the AP should become aware that the IPCC report itself (the part written by scientists) reached no consensus on climate change. What did reach a conclusion was an IPCC "summary for policymakers" prepared by political appointees. Most reporters quote only the summary, being either too lazy or too undereducated to understand the actual report.


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Monday, April 12, 2004


How awful for the Greenies. Excerpts from an editorial in "USA Today":

"Twenty-five years after the nation's worst nuclear-power accident at the Three Mile Island plant in Pennsylvania, the atomic energy business is attempting a comeback. A group of seven companies has responded to a government request for proposals to build new nuclear plants — 30 years after the last viable application.

In applying, the companies are expressing their willingness to spend millions to design the next generation of reactors and comply with a new licensing process by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). But jump-starting the nuclear industry also requires laying to rest some of the expensive economic obstacles and daunting safety questions that led to its three-decade stall.

The Bush administration is taking on at least part of the challenge. The Department of Energy plans to spend up to $350 million during the next five years in a cost-sharing arrangement with the nuclear industry. The money will go toward application and start-up costs for new reactors.....

The timing is right for a national conversation about expanding nuclear power. The nation's demand for energy will increase 50% by 2025. The price of natural gas, used to power most new electricity plants, has doubled in just two years. Coal-fired plants, which account for half the electricity produced in America, emit pollutants and face stiff environmental requirements. Nuclear power, which now provides 20% of the nation's electricity, produces cheaper emissions-free energy and can reduce U.S. dependence on fossil fuels...

If the nation is to meet its future energy needs with clean, affordable power, nuclear has to be part of the equation."


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Sunday, April 11, 2004


EPA's lead heads: "The ongoing hysteria about lead in D.C.'s drinking water is much ado about nothing, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Though that's no surprise, the controversy does have some value as it demonstrates the potential unintended consequences of implementing junk science-based environmental policy. The Environmental Protection Agency requires that D.C.'s Water and Sewer Authority test the tap water in residences annually. Test results released in January 2004 indicated a majority of the homes tested had water lead levels above the EPA's action level of 15 parts per billion."


It costs more than it saves

"The effort to get Britain recycling has taken another step forward, with the news that a London council is introducing fines for those who don't separate their rubbish. Barnet Council is threatening fines of up to £1000 for around 25,000 residents in four selected wards who do not put glass, tins, cans and paper into a separate box for the binmen. Defending the scheme, councillor Brian Coleman said: 'Compulsory recycling is a radical and innovative approach which will help us reach the challenging targets we have been set. We want to create a cleaner greener borough and I am confident that residents will want to do their bit and get the recycling habit.'

This sounds quite sensible. Simply burying waste seems like a missed opportunity - after all, many of the components in that waste are things that could be used again in the future. Landfill is always discussed as smelly, polluting and potentially unhealthy. But the question is whether recycling actually makes economic and social sense at the moment. Is it appropriate to devote more of society's energy to recycling waste on this proposed scale? It is still cheaper in the UK to landfill or incinerate most waste, despite the levying of a landfill tax to skew the market in favour of other forms of disposal. Apart from the south east of England, there seems to be little difficulty in finding land suitable for landfill. And even with recycling, landfill will still be required for the residue.

Recycling is not the cheapest alternative for reusing materials - and may not even be the least polluting. Incineration that uses the energy produced to generate electricity is much more straightforward and cost-effective, and could replace to some extent newly extracted carbon fuels. The much-overstated pollution from such plants can be greatly reduced with new designs, such that a group of Swedish experts has suggested that incineration may be better for the environment than recycling.

Even the gases produced by landfill can be used in a similar manner. For example, according to one source, 'Landfill gas currently provides approximately 250 megawatts (MW or million watts) of electricity in the UK, about 21 per cent of all electricity produced by renewable sources. This figure is set to increase further in the coming years.' (3)

Recycling only makes sense if there is a demand for the goods and materials produced. If those prices are higher than for newly created goods, then most companies and individuals will not want them. In the future, it may be that more efficient methods may make recycling more viable, but that isn't the case yet.

It seems that recycling household waste is a costly distraction from more useful social priorities, and will actually make little difference to the amount of waste we produce. So why the obsession with promoting it in the UK?

The discussion about recycling has far more to do with a moral message than with economics. In the absence of any widespread belief in God, Queen or Country, the need to 'save the planet' is one of the few certainties that society has left. If we accept that human beings are wasteful and polluting, as we are clearly supposed to, then who could disagree with the notion that we should all do our bit to undo the damage we do? Recycling is a physically tangible way that individuals can express this outlook. By separating out our waste paper, cans and bottles, we offer some kind of penance for our sinful consumption (and, better still, be seen to do so)."

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Saturday, April 10, 2004

Recent posts on EcoNOT:

* Green complaint: "In Bush's world, human desires trump environmental protections"
* New York Times blows smoke about Bush's record on air pollution
* California environmentalists aim "to put large ocean areas off limits to human activity"
* Environmentalist professor: "being green means reducing the 'human footprint' on nature"
* Yosemite National Park to spend nearly half a billion dollars for 'a smaller human footprint'
* PLUS: misanthropic environmentalist quotations of the week


"Mark Jerome Walters's book Six Modern Plagues: and How We Are Causing Them is relatively new, but its ideas are far from original. Instead, the book more closely resembles an age-old religious pronouncement- and a misguided one at that. With credentials in veterinary science, Walters offers disappointingly little scientific insight and still less constructive advice for addressing some genuine human concerns.

Like many modern-day Greens, Walters expounds a Romantic view of nature reminiscent of Jean Jacques Rousseau's Discourse on the Sciences and the Arts in which the philosopher deemed civilization the source of society's perils. ... Walters's version reads more like a pagan myth in which mankind is punished for a sin against a different deity: Mother Nature. In the name of "efficiency and profit," "the financial gain of the few," or "progress," mankind has assaulted nature with such sins as globalization, urban sprawl, hunting, and modern agriculture. By upsetting nature's balance, we have spawned diseases and created a pagan version of "paradise lost." Walters calls for atonement though preservation of our "ecosystems" and establishing "greater social equity."......

Walters makes readers almost believe that his prescriptions make sense by never bothering to consider the benefits of civilization and its technologies, or the tradeoffs of not having them. Thanks to globalization, economic growth, and human ingenuity, the average lifespan is now longer than anytime in history.

Accordingly, progress in the battle against disease has been remarkable. Aggressive human action has removed smallpox from the menu of diseases in the transmission cycle (only an act of terrorism could bring it back). Determined efforts, rather than passive responses, have made the last decade less disease-ridden. Mankind not only passes along germs, civilized man successfully controls many of them.

That is not to say the challenges don't continue. In addition to emerging infections in the Western world, people in developing nations suffer from diseases on a catastrophic scale. Consider the simple fact that people living in huts lack things that most people have in those "sprawling" neighborhoods that Walters dubs "shortsighted efforts to make the world more hospitable for humans." They lack, for instance, barriers to mosquito entry such as screened windows-leaving them exposed to malaria-carrying insects that produce several hundred million illnesses and several million deaths every year. Most of malaria's victims are children.

The spraying of DDT on the walls of these homes-one of the most affordable options for the poor-could act as an alternative barrier to mosquitoes. But Walters never offers such advice or even bothers to acknowledge the millions who die owing to primitive living conditions.

Free trade and civilization may contribute to disease transmission, but these activities also create the economic growth that grants access to the essentials of healthy living: food, pesticides, sanitation, and water disinfectants. Those suffering the most from disease epidemics need more trade and economic growth to escape from-not return to-the life of the primitive."

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Comments? Email me here or here. My Home Page is here or here. For times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site (viewable even in China!) here


Friday, April 09, 2004


When will they give up recycling these discredited old theories as news?

And pigs might fly: "Greenland's icy mountains and ice cap could disappear in the next 1000 years because of global warming, European scientists warned yesterday". For facts as distinct from maybes, see here.