Sunday, May 28, 2006


California air regulators have voted to develop a plan to phase out a hazardous dry cleaning solvent. Thursday's move by the state Air Resources Board could make California the first state to ban perchloroethylene, or "perc," the primary chemical used in dry cleaning. The vote came despite protests from the industry and against the recommendation of the board's own staff.

State regulators have previously declared the chemical a toxic air and water contaminant that can cause serious health problems such as cancer. The board directed its staff to study the economic effects of the phase-out to find ways to provide incentives for small businesses to replace their expensive dry cleaning equipment. New cleaning machinery can cost up to $140,000. "They made it very clear they don't want this to happen overnight, but they want to send a strong signal to dry cleaners that they should not be buying any expensive new perc equipment in the next year or two," said board spokesman Jerry Martin.

The California Cleaners Association opposed the decision, citing a 20 year study of dry cleaning employees in four European countries it says showed no increased health risks. "California and the numbers they choose to use have regulators in the rest of the nation shaking their heads," said association spokeswoman Sandra Giarde. In 2002, the South Coast Air Quality Management District became the first regulators in the nation to ban perchloroethylene, forcing more than 2000 Southern California cleaners to give up use of the chemical by 2020.



The Imperial Japanese Navy tried to burn down Oregon. It failed. Sixty years later, radical environmentalists almost succeeded.

The Los Angeles Times' banner headline read "REPORT OREGON BOMBING. Jap Aircraft Carrier Believed Sunk." It was September 15, 1942. A seaplane had been spotted near Mt. Emily, Oregon, nine miles north of Brookings. A forest fire had been started near the mountain. Harold Gardner, a forest service lookout, rushed to the area and quickly extinguished the flames. Then a forest service patrol found a foot-deep crater. Nearby were forty pounds of spongy pellets and metal fragments, some of which were stamped with Japanese ideograms. A metal nosecone was also found. That same day a Japanese submarine was sited in the Pacific thirty miles off the Oregon coast due west of Mt. Emily. An Army patrol plane bombed the sub, but results of the bombing were unknown. Less than a year after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese had set out to strike a blow against the American mainland, but they failed to cause a massive fire in the dry Oregon forest.

Fast forward sixty years to July 13, 2002. An Oregon Department of Forestry pilot spotted a rising column of black smoke near Chetco Peak, not far from where the Japanese bomb had landed. The pilot immediately reported it to the dispatcher at Grants Pass. This fire would be named Biscuit 1. Thirty minutes later a California Department of Forestry pilot, who was directing fire fighting efforts at Six Rivers National Forest, saw a new column of smoke to the north, up in Oregon. He called in the fire to the Fortuna dispatch center. This blaze would be named the Carter Fire. A lightening storm was passing over southwest Oregon. Within thirty minutes the pilot would spot three more fires. Over the next two days, lightening would ignite hundreds more fires in the Siskiyou forest. The fires merged and spread into a vast conflagration that became known as the Biscuit Fire. It burned for the next five and a half months, destroying half a million acres of forest--60 miles north-to-south at its longest, and 35 miles east-to-west--causing $150 million in damage. The fire was not extinguished until New Year's Eve.

The Biscuit Fire was only one of many that season, such as the Rodeo-Chediski Fire in east-central Arizona (467,000 acres), and the Hayman Fire southwest of Denver (135,000 acres, 133 homes destroyed, 5,300 people evacuated). During the summer and fall of 2002, 88,000 wildfires charred seven million acres, an area the size of Massachusetts. More than 800 structures were destroyed. Fire fighting efforts cost $1.7 billion in addition to the lives of twenty-three firefighters.

The calamity prompted the Bush administration and Congress to act about as quickly as Washington ever does. In August, while the fires were still burning, the president proposed his Healthy Forests Initiative, which Congress soon passed as the Healthy Forest Restoration Act. The president signed it into law on December 3, 2003.

Agitation by extremists within the environmental movement had produced decades of misguided attempts at forest management. The new law will make our forests less susceptible to catastrophic fires. But because the remedy involves a concept that is anathema to extreme enviros-- logging-- they oppose it, and are actively working to maintain our forests as tinderboxes.

A hundred years ago, each acre of a ponderosa pine forest contained about 25 mature trees. A horse-drawn wagon could be driven through the forest without the aid of a road. Ponderosa pine is intolerant of shade, and the trees grow aggressively toward the sun, throwing shadows that discourage growth below. Today that same forest might have 1,000 trees per acre. Usually these are Douglas firs, which prosper in shade, and which grow in thick stands, often so dense that a hiker cannot pass between the trunks.

As a result of this fuel load (Forest Service terminology), forest fires today are entirely unlike those of a century ago. They are hotter, faster, and more destructive. Today, 190 million acres of public forests are at an elevated risk of fires, and twenty-four million acres are at the highest risk of catastrophic fire.

What happened to the forests? Why did they degrade? Two main reasons: the suppression of small fires that destroy weak trees and underbrush and that create fire breaks, and a lack of thinning. Which is to say, logging. The failure to cull the forests has left them little more than kindling.

And why haven't the forests been thinned over the years? A vast maze of laws and regulations promoted by environmentalists had made it virtually impossible to enter the forest with a chain saw or a feller buncher. Laws and regulations effecting thinning of the national forests ran to the thousands of pages.

Prior to the 2003 law, preparing environmental documents for even a modest thinning of a patch of national forest took anywhere from six months to ten years. Then a review of plans to sell the removed timber would take another two to four years. Eight hundred requirements had to be reviewed for each forest thinning decision and a proposal to thin a few acres might be eight hundred pages long. This paperwork added up to forty percent of the Forest Service's total workload and cost $250 million each year.

In a June 2002 report, the Forest Service concluded that it "operated within a statutory, regulatory, and administrative framework that has kept the agency from effectively addressing rapid declines in forest health." The Service termed it "excessive analysis."

Even this standard of care wasn't sufficient for the extreme environmentalists. They routinely appealed any decision to thin national forests. A glimpse of the enviros at work: between January 2001 and July 2002 they appealed every single decision to thin by logging in northern Idaho and Montana. For example, the Forest Service determined that the Payette National Forest, near Hell's Canyon in Idaho, needed to be culled. Seven law suites were filed against the plan. Only one in ten of the Forest Service's decisions to thin a forest is reversed by a court on appeal.

The delays imposed by these environmentalists can be costly, and not just in Forest Service paperwork. Mark Flatten and Dan Nowicki of Mesa's East Valley Tribune give an example. In 1999, the Forest Service approved a plan to thin 7,000 acres in the Baca Ecosystem Management Area in Arizona. The Center for Biological Diversity filed a law suit in May 2000 alleging that the Forest Service didn't adequately analyze the effects of its plan on the pygmy nuthatch, among other claims. A court agreed with the environmentalists. Thinning was allowed on only 306 acres, and only trees with less than six-inch trunk diameters could be removed. In 2002 a fire swept through the Baca project area, destroying 90 percent of it.

Not too long ago, the typical environmental lawsuit raised three or four issues. Today, they may bring up twenty or more. Five thousand actions are pending against the Forest Service. Flatten and Nowicki quoted Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, who blamed "radical environmental groups" for creating a paralysis in the Forest Service's decision-making. "They [the Forest Service] end up doing so much paperwork that is redundant and unnecessary that they don't want to even put these things out because it just takes too much of their time and effort and all they do is get sued."

How does the new law work? The amount of required paperwork is reduced, but its most powerful provisions streamline the decision process. The law specifically directs courts "to expedite, to the maximum extent practicable, the proceedings. . . ." Suits can only be brought in the district court where the land is located, which prevents judge shopping. Preliminary injunctions are limited to 60 days and the court must now take into consideration the effects of doing nothing, and must specifically consider the risk of future fires. The law also puts a strict timeline to the appeals process. New regulations allow the Forest Service to take immediate action when public lands are at substantial risk of fire due to drought or fuel buildup.

Faced with a law that has made the courts less useful, the enviros have squealed like hogs caught in a gate. The Heritage Forests Campaign decried the law as "exploiting the fear of wildfires in order to . . . boost commercial logging." Matthew Koehler of the Native Forest Network said the Bush administration and some in Congress were "cynically using the wildfires in their never-ending quest to cut more trees . . ." The Alabama Environmental Council accused President Bush of trying to "'greenwash' his logging agenda." Wilderness Society president William H. Meadows called it "cynical politicking," and said the forest "is too valuable to be handed over to the logging industry." Gazing steadily into Alice's looking glass, the Sierra Club argued that logging can increase the risk of fires.

Does thinning work? In early May 2004, 35 acres of the Big Stone National Wildlife Refuge were given a "fuels treatment," as the Department of Interior calls thinning the stands of trees and removing dry brush. On May 11--a week later--lightening started a fire which the wind drove toward Ortonville, Minnesota. But the thinned forest provided the fire fighters with staging areas and fire breaks, and allowed them to quickly suppress the fire. Only 350 acres were burned.

Even reliable friends are deserting the extreme environmentalists on this issue. The liberal San Francisco Chronicle said that "leaving forests alone equates to watching them burn," and lamented that the enviros "still cling to no-action ideologies."

But facts don't mean much to ideologues. In Montana, the first major plan under the Healthy Forests Restoration Act is to remove the fuel load from the Middle East Fork drainage area in the Bitterroot National Forest. The Missoulian reports that the plan calls for logging 6,400 acres out of the area's 26,000 acres. In April, the Missoulian cautioned, "Some people view commercial logging the way others might regard loan-sharking in a cathedral." Sure enough, earlier this month, Friends of the Bitterroot, the Ecology Center, and the Native Forest Network filed a suit against the Forest Service seeking an injunction.


Free markets, forests and ownership

A great deal of nonsense has been spouted about the economics of logging and of woodchips in particular. I take the stance that only the market can determine the true value of our resources, including forests, and the uses to which they should be put. Despite the dishonesty and emotional silliness of the greens and their allies in both major parties it must be remembered that trees, like cattle, only have value to the extent that they serve human needs.

Unlike cattle, however, trees can serve to a considerable degree as consumption goods, that is, people can directly derive pleasure from them. Alternatively, trees also serve as capital goods; they are cultivated, harvested and then converted through various complex stages of production into higher value goods such as furniture, housing, paper, etc.

The question is to which use should trees be put? The market solves this problem for forestry as neatly as it solves for the wheat farming, mining or manufacturing. In the market place trees are valued, as are all other economic goods, by the subjective evaluations of consumers. Let us say that because of a forest's location the owner only faces three choices

1. He can withdraw the forest from the market and keep it as it is for his own personal pleasure.
2. He can charge people to camp in it.
3. He can cultivate and harvest the trees.

Which one will it be? The first choice is one of pure consumption and there is absolutely nothing irrational about it. However, we shall assume he eschews 1 in favour of an income. Having done his calculations, he decides (horror of horrors) on logging. What is to stop him from logging every tree? The same thing that stops the cattle farmer from slaughtering all his cattle - and that is the loss of future income. The trees are now his capital and his future income depends on maintaining his capital stock, i.e., trees.

He does not need politicians, bureaucrats or Green activists to direct his actions to conserving his capital any more than does the wheat farmer, rancher or manufacturer. The value of the forest will be the discounted sum of its anticipated income. Therefore it is in the interest of the owner to maximise the present value of his forest by not exploiting its resources beyond the point where its capital value will be reduced. (Strictly speaking, it is the internal rate of return that is maximised). Whether the trees are chipped, used as weatherboard or transformed into furniture is totally irrelevant. What is relevant is that they are turned into higher valued goods to serve the needs of consumers.

It can be said that this is all well and good in theory but what about externalities? What if logging damages local agriculture by reducing water yields? Again, there is no real problem. It must be remembered that part of the local farmers' water supply is being produced by the forest owner's capital. Until he employs that capital, the farmers are really receiving a gift from him. It is only because of his trees that they get the present water yield. The farmers can calculate the estimated value of the output they will lose when the forest owner utilises his capital and then make him an offer.

The point is that the value of the farmers' lost output should at least be equal to the value of the forest owner's income from the trees. To prevent him from harvesting his trees (i.e., force him to withhold his capital from the market) in order to save the farmers' output is, in effect, forcing him to subsidise their activities thereby distorting production by misdirecting resources to the farmers thus lowering consumer welfare.

So long as all parties have property rights and are free to negotiate there is no real problem. The essence of the argument is that private ownership of forests is far more beneficial for the public interest than state control, meaning control by politicians, bureaucrats and pressure groups. Politicians tend to serve their own interests; to them, profit maximisation only equals the maximisation of votes. And the forest industry now knows what that means. In truth, if those who favour state ownership of our forests were consistent they would also apply the same logic to demanding state ownership of agriculture.

As for the greens, if they do not want to see trees used as capital goods then the solution is simple: they can compete with consumers for the trees by offering to buy the forest. But being socialists by temperament as well as conviction, they much prefer to pick the public's pocket rather than dip into their own. Whenever greens succeed in having forest production curtailed, the pockets of the general public become that much smaller and the tax burden that much bigger.


Gore Uses Religion to Attract Convert 'Global Warming' Converts

Former Vice President Al Gore used religious references Thursday night in New York City in an attempt to convince a "town hall" meeting that human-caused catastrophic climate change is real. Gore's "Town Hall on the Climate Crisis," held at a New York theater, was timed to coincide with the release of his "global warming" disaster film, "An Inconvenient Truth," distributed by a division of Paramount Pictures. Gore compared global warming skeptics to conspiracy theorists who believe the U.S. faked the moon landing in 1969. He also announced that he supports a "petroleum tax," and he suggested a boycott of the oil giant Exxon-Mobil for its allegedly poor environmental record.

Another panelist appearing with Gore compared the effort to combat "global warming" to the 19th century movement to end slavery in the U.S. "Every faith tradition has teachings that are directly on point [to climate change]," Gore told the packed audience, which included former first daughter Chelsea Clinton. "The Book of Revelations [says] God will destroy those who destroy his creation," Gore said, noting that some evangelical Christian leaders have expressed concern about climate change. "Whatever works," Gore added, prompting applause and laughter.

Gore departed the event, sponsored by Wired Magazine, with his wife Tipper in a chauffeur-driven black Lincoln Town Car provided by a New York City limousine service. Gore noted that the Bible promotes good stewardship of the Earth. "Noah was commanded to preserve biodiversity," he said.

Lawrence Bender, the director of Gore's documentary, echoed the religious undertones when he described the conversion of his home to solar energy. "I have become evangelical basically," Bender said during the two-hour panel discussion. Joining Gore and Bender were NASA scientist James Hansen, celebrity activist Laurie David and former Dateline NBC correspondent John Hockenberry, who is currently a contributing editor to Wired Magazine. The panel discussion did not include any scientists who are skeptical about human-caused global warming.

An impassioned Gore employed apocalyptic language in urging the crowd to believe that Earth's climate is in crisis because of human activity. "If you believe what [NASA scientist] Jim Hansen said just a moment ago -- if you believe, if you accept the reality that we may have less than 10 years before we cross a point of no return -- if you believe that, this is a time for action," Gore said. He suggested that the current inhabitants of the Earth are facing a "collision between our civilization and the planet." "People [who] are alive today have been placed at a point in history that puts on us the burden of action that is almost unimaginable in the context of human history," Gore said. "We are the most powerful force of nature now. We are literally changing the relationship between the Earth and the Sun," he said. "It has the capacity to bring civilization itself to a dead halt."

Hockenberry compared the righteousness of combating "global warming" to the movement to abolish African American slavery in the 19th century. "We are here at a similar moment. We are witnesses to the emergence of an issue that could not be more urgent," Hockenberry insisted.

'Giant wake-up call'

Other panelists also used dire rhetoric to convince the audience that action must be taken to stave off what they believe is climate doom caused by the buildup of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. "I am hoping that [Gore's] movie will be a giant wake-up call for this country," Laurie David told Cybercast News Service before the event began. David, the wife of comedian/director/producer Larry David, served as the producer for "An Inconvenient Truth." "It's embarrassing that [the U.S. is] not leading on this issue," David said. "I don't even consider this an environment issue anymore. I really consider this a national security issue -- a public health issue," she added.

Despite the urgent call to action, Gore conceded that little can be done to combat what he termed a "planetary emergency." He said politics falls short of "the minimum necessary to really address this crisis." Gore dismissed the scientists who are skeptical of catastrophic human-caused climate change, comparing them to industry-funded tobacco scientists who denied a link between smoking and cancer. "There is no longer any debate. The consensus is as strong as it ever gets in science," Gore said. "[There is] still a percentage of people who think that the moon landing was staged," he added.

Gore also accused the oil and gas industry of attempting to mislead the public on the urgency of climate change. "Some of the executives of Exxon-Mobil will soon look back and feel ashamed of what they're doing by confusing the debate," he said. "I don't know why it's considered no longer acceptable to have a boycott of companies like Exxon-Mobil," he added to applause. Gore also said he supported a "petroleum tax" as long as it was "revenue neutral" and did not place an undue burden on poor Americans.

Legal liability?

Hansen, director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, agreed with Gore's characterization of climate science and wondered what culpability the U.S. will face from the consequences of "global warming." "When nations must abandon their lands because of rising seas, what will our legal liability be?" Hansen asked.

Gore praised Hansen as an objective scientist, ignoring his partisan Democratic Party ties. As Cybercast News Service previously reported, Hansen publicly endorsed Democrat John Kerry for president in 2004 and received a $250,000 grant from the charitable foundation headed by Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz Kerry. Hansen also has acted as a consultant to Gore's slide-show presentations on "global warming," on which the movie is based.

Hansen, who alleged in January that the Bush administration has been suppressing science for political purposes, previously acknowledged that he once emphasized "extreme scenarios" on climate change to drive the public's attention to the issue. In the March 2004 issue of Scientific American, Hansen wrote, "Emphasis on extreme scenarios may have been appropriate at one time, when the public and decision-makers were relatively unaware of the global warming issue. Now, however, the need is for demonstrably objective climate-forcing scenarios consistent with what is realistic under current conditions."

Hansen defended the $250,000 grant from the foundation run by Teresa Heinz Kerry, during an interview with Cybercast News Service following Thursday's panel discussion. "That was an environmental award," Hansen said. "I can't imagine anyone would turn down an environmental award. You don't check the politics of who provides the awards. I frankly don't understand the question," he added. Hansen bristled when Cybercast News Service asked him about his "extreme scenarios" quote. "It's pure horsesh**. That statement was taken out of context. I did not say that I had ever used extreme scenarios," Hansen insisted before ending the interview.



Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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