Thursday, May 04, 2006

Politicians Should Quit Grandstanding; Focus on Long-Term Energy Solutions

As public anger over soaring gas prices continues to build, members of Congress have noticed that their re-elect numbers continue to go down. And so they are scrambling to find someone or something to blame. Big oil companies are the favorite scapegoat, but the President, China, automakers, the Iraq War, and speculators are also popular targets.

Most senators and representatives should be looking in the mirror in order to find who is really to blame. Those who are complaining the loudest have voted again and again over many years for policies designed to constrict energy supplies and thereby raise energy prices. To take just one example, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D.-N.D.) recently said oil companies should be required to invest their record profits in new energy production in the United States. Yet Dorgan opposes opening federal lands and offshore areas to new oil production and supports ever higher government mandates and subsidies for ethanol, which will raise rather than lower gas prices (but will also benefit his state's corn industry).

President Bush, noticing that his own poll numbers decline as gas prices rise, jumped into the blame game on April 25 when he ordered federal investigations into oil price manipulation and directed the attorney general to urge the 50 state attorneys general to conduct separate investigations.

While demagoguery and grandstanding is all that can be expected from the likes of Senators Chuck Schumer (D.-N.Y.) and Arlen Specter (R.-Pa.), Bush knows better. Until he told us in his State of the Union speech in January that we are addicted to oil, his proposed energy policies recognized that if we are going to continue to use a lot of energy we need to produce more of it in the United States.

The President needs to get back on the right track because the current situation presents a rare opportunity. Real leadership now could channel public anger into achieving important long-term solutions to America's energy needs that have been stymied for decades by environmental pressure groups. Here is what I think the President should do.

* He should explain that current high gas prices are the result of high economic growth (no apologies necessary), which increases demand, and continuing supply problems, some of which are caused by government.

* The President should defend profits. The only alternative to prices as a way of reconciling supply and demand is rationing (and rationing is why gas prices are so low in Cuba and North Korea). When demand is high and supplies are low, producers make large profits. This is good. If oil companies weren't making profits, then investors would have no reason to invest in increasing supplies. As for a windfall profits tax on oil companies, it cannot be repeated too often that if you want less of something then raise taxes on it.

* He should barnstorm the country to build support for legislation to increase domestic energy production. Opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska to oil and gas production is at the top of this list. If ANWR has as much oil as the U.S. Geological Survey's mean estimate, this would increase America's proven domestic oil reserves by approximately 50 percent. Within a few years, an additional million barrels a day could be flowing to West Coast refineries. And if President Clinton hadn't vetoed ANWR legislation in 1995, that oil would be flowing today. Opening ANWR enjoys majority support in both the House and Senate, but was blocked last year by a determined minority. A strong push from the President now could overcome that opposition.

* Bush should direct the Department of the Interior to re-open its new five-year plan for offshore oil and natural gas production. The current draft includes very little new production. This is crazy. While the western Gulf of Mexico is now the U. S.'s largest producing oil and natural gas field, the eastern Gulf of Mexico and entire Atlantic and Pacific Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas are closed to production. OCS reserves are potentially enormous. Environmental concerns are unwarranted. The last significant offshore oil spill in the U. S. was in 1969. Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last summer destroyed many oil rigs and platforms in the Gulf, but did not cause any significant oil spills. To overcome opposition to OCS production in coastal States such as California, Congress should share the royalties 50-50 with the States, just as it does with royalties from production on federal lands.

It is true that these are long-term policies that will not drop prices this summer. But grandstanding to score short-term political points isn't going to lower prices at the pump either-now or in the future.



Three middle school children band together, sabotage a construction site, gag a land developer and take him hostage. But their criminal conduct, aimed at saving the habitat of burrowing owls from "greedy land developers" isn't reality-based. It's the subject of a new movie that one entertainment reviewer labels "soft core eco-terrorism" for kids. The movie, "Hoot," opens Friday May 5. It features environmentally conscious teenage characters vandalizing heavy machinery by stealing parts off of them and flattening tires in order to hinder a development project.

The teens, who ultimately succeed in halting the project, spray paint a police car that is providing security, trespass, rip up surveyors' stakes, place alligators in portable toilets, release poisonous Cottonmouth snakes at the construction site and evade the police. The teenagers also debate stealing the construction trailer and sinking it into a nearby canal to further delay the project. The teenagers in the PG-rated movie face no repercussions for the illegal acts and instead are portrayed as heroically preventing the construction of a pancake house in South Florida to save the owls' habitat.

There are consequences, however, for the pancake company. In addition to facing construction delays and cost overruns because of the kids' actions, the company's project manager is arrested at the end of Hoot for violating environmental protection laws. The film's trailer urges viewers to "break the rules" and features one of the lead characters saying "You gotta start thinking like an outlaw."

Wil Shriner, the movie's director, dismissed the notion that the movie portrays eco-terrorism and instead called the teenagers' vigilante actions on behalf of the owls "mischievous." The teenagers in the film are merely reacting to the illegal behavior of adults, said Shriner, who hopes Hoot will inspire kids to take a stand to protect the earth from too much development.......

Hoot is already ruffling the feathers of at least one expert on eco-terrorism. "Hoot is not just pushing eco-terrorism. It's pushing social and political terrorism as well," Ron Arnold, author of "EcoTerror: The Violent Agenda to Save Nature: The World of the Unabomber," told Cybercast News Service. "Hoot's so-called harmless 'mischief' is training a generation to look cute while burning homes and cars and stores. Eco-terrorism is serious. Eco-terrorism is arson and pipe bombs and hate that hurts people and destroys lives," Arnold said. He had not yet seen the film when interviewed by Cybercast News Service. "Hoot's Hollywood producers wouldn't think it was so cute if it was their studio the kids destroyed," Arnold added.

But Shriner sees the movie inspiring kids to take positive action. "If you don't send a positive message to young people to care about the environment, then there is really no chance. Our ice caps are melting. Our cities are grossly over-polluted. We are way too dependent on oil. They're the ones that are gong to have to do something about ozone depletion and all these elements. The answers will come from the education and awareness of the generation that follows us," said Shriner.

More here


Analysing: Young, S.S. and Harris, R. 2005. Changing patterns of global-scale vegetation photosynthesis, 1982-1999. International Journal of Remote Sensing 26: 4537-4563.

What was done

The authors analyzed, for the majority of earth's land surface, a near 20-year time series (1982-1999) of a vegetation indicator - the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) - calculated from data obtained from the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) carried aboard U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration satellites. In doing so, they employed two different datasets derived from the sensor: the Pathfinder AVHRR Land (PAL) data set and the Global Inventory Modeling and Mapping Studies (GIMMS) dataset.

What was learned

Based on their analysis of the PAL data, Young and Harris determined that "globally more than 30% of land pixels increased in annual average NDVI greater than 4% and more than 16% persistently increased greater than 4%," while "during the same period less than 2% of land pixels declined in NDVI and less than 1% persistently declined." With respect to the GIMMS dataset, the two scientists report that "even more areas were found to be persistently increasing (greater than 20%) and persistently decreasing (more than 3%)." All in all, they say that "between 1982 and 1999 the general trend of vegetation change throughout the world has been one of increasing photosynthesis."

As for what has been responsible for the worldwide increase in photosynthesis - which is the ultimate food source of nearly all of the biosphere - the researchers mention global warming (yes, it's a very good thing), as well as "associated precipitation change and increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide," citing Myneni et al. (1997) and Ichii et al. (2002). In addition, they say that "many of the areas of decreasing NDVI are the result of human activity," primarily deforestation (Skole and Tucker, 1993; Steininger et al., 2001) and urbanization Seto et al. (2000).

What it means

As the air's CO2 content continues to rise, the biosphere should become ever more productive and the earth should get greener and greener (if we do not destroy great parcels of it), not only in spite of rising temperatures and precipitation, but often because of them.

CO2 Science Magazine, 26 April 2006


(From Philip Stott, 25 April 2006)

I have to say that David Cameron, as the Green Guru, makes me wince. He is embarrassing, a kind of middle class Coriolanus dinner party 'See my wounds' type of party host, with yummy mummy in tow. Melanie Phillips is just the right sort of commentator to out the red-faced Boy Wonder on his sled: 'Even greener than he thinks' (April 24):

"I have returned from holiday to find that the British Conservative party has passed beyond parody. While lesser political beings were doing tedious things like preside over the disintegration of the health service, have their collars felt by the police over political corruption, fail to deal with the fact that people are being murdered by those notionally being supervised by state-funded officials and other boring little things like that, the Tory party leader David Cameron dressed as a polar explorer and posed with a sled drawn by huskies on the Scott-Tuner glacier in Svalbard in Norway to show how cool he was... er, sorry, the grievous effects of global warming in shrinking the Arctic ice. Alas for Mr Cameron - he was indeed sledging on thin ice, but not in the way he thought..."

By contrast, back at The Gloomiad, 'Savonarola George', our very own Monbiot, has started to get it (if only a bit), going for gas and carbon storage: 'This is embarrassing, but I've become a fossil fuel supporter' (The Guardian, April 25):

"So in two respects, the future seems to lie in the seabed. Our natural gas supplies will be secured and our carbon dioxide buried in old gas fields and salt deposits. All my instincts rebel against this prospect, but there don't seem to be any other answers..."

Mind you, George can't yet bring himself to accept the return of King Coal:

"Even in my confessional mood, I cannot bring myself to support coal. I defy anyone who knows what open-cast mining looks like to say the words 'clean coal' without blushing. This leaves only gas..."

But, at least, the thought is there. Watch this space. The only viable mid-term future for the UK is a sensible mix of gas, coal, and nuclear, plus so-called 'renewables' at the edges. Thankfully, elements of this reality are beginning to dawn in the least likely of media worlds.....

.....meanwhile, back in Tory Toy Town, Cameron flies a private jet to be drawn by huskies to see a melting glacier in a land where many glaciers are expanding while he espouses tiny wind farms on the roof of his house.... Cameron is just risible. This is such a disaster for British politics. We desperately need brave politicians who can talk sense about climate change.


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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