Saturday, January 13, 2007

The New York Times Pushes the Green Party Line

The New York Times must have a guilty conscience about the continuous distortions of the news that appear in its pages. Evidence of this guilt is provided everyday in The Times' claim that its "news and editorial departments do not coordinate coverage and maintain a strict separation in staff and management." That claim is necessary only because The Times has become sensitive about the matter. And with good reason. Because even though there may not be formal meetings, strategy sessions, and the like to coordinate its news reporting with its leftist editorial slant, that leftist slant nevertheless very definitely does permeate its reporting.

Perhaps it's the result simply of the fact that The Times' editorial writers and its reporters were all educated in the same kind of universities, all promoting the same leftist ideas in economics, politics, history, and the various branches of philosophy. Whatever the explanation, the paper's editorial writers and reporters consistently come at things from the same perspective and, with only occasional exceptions, end up pushing the same party line.

A good example of this appears in today's (January 6, 2007) edition. On the first page of the business section, there is an article titled "The Land of Rising Conservation." The article is a pure puff piece for environmentalism/conservationism. Its theme is that Japan is the model country of energy conservation, pointing the way for the United States on the basis of the use of the latest technology. Indeed, the subtitle of the article, in the print edition, is "Japan Offers a Lesson in Using Technology to Lessen Energy Consumption." A leading illustration of this technology is an alleged futuristic "home fuel cell, a machine as large and quiet as a filing cabinet that.turns hydrogen into electricity and cold water into hot-at a fraction of regular utility costs."

The article compares Japan with the United States in terms of annual energy consumption per home and trumpets the fact that in Japan's it is less than half of that in the United States. It also declares that while Japan's "population and economy are each about 40 percent as large as that of the United States, yet in 2004 it consumed less than a quarter as much energy as America did, according to the International Energy Agency, which is based in Paris."

The article credits Japan's superiority in "energy efficiency" to the "guiding hand of government," which has forced "households and companies to conserve by raising the cost of gasoline and electricity far above global levels. Taxes and price controls make a gallon of gasoline in Japan currently cost about $5.20, twice America's more market-based prices." The same relationship apparently applies to energy prices in general. An advisor to the Japanese Parliament is favorably quoted as saying, "Japan has taught itself how to survive with energy prices that are twice as high as everywhere else." The sharply higher energy prices, the article explains, are the source of tax revenues, which "[t]he government in turn has help Japan seize the lead in renewable energies like solar power, and more recently home fuel cells."

Despite The Times' and its reporter's obvious enthusiasm for the Japanese government's energy policies, a careful, critical reading of the article results in a very different kind of appraisal. (Unfortunately, such a reading is not likely to be performed by many of The Times' readers.)

It turns out that that futuristic home fuel cell, that allegedly operates "at a fraction of regular utility costs," requires a government "subsidy of about $51,000" per unit. This is what makes possible its purchase "for about $9,000, far below production cost." (I hope I will be forgiven for failing to see the intelligence of a policy that makes people pay twice the price for energy in order to provide funds to make possible the production of electricity at a sharply higher cost.)

But there is more. It also turns out such technological advances are only part of the story. There is also a major "human interest"/cultural angle that contributes to Japan's "superiority" in "energy efficiency." This centers on a Mr. Kimura and his family. (He owns the futuristic home fuel cell that a Times' photograph shows standing in front of his house.) Without any apparent awareness of the significance of the information being revealed and certainly without any embarrassment about it, The Times' reporter writes this about the subject of his human interest.

Mr. Kimura says he, his wife, and two teenage children all take turns bathing in the same water, a common practice here. Afterward, the still-warm water is sucked through a rubber tube into the nearby washing machine to clean clothes. Wet laundry is hung outside to dry or under a heat lamp in the bathroom. The different approach is also apparent in the layout of Mr. Kimura's home, which at 1,188 square feet is about the average size of a house in Japan but only about half as big as the average American one. The rooms are also small, making them easier to heat or cool. The largest is the living room, which is about the size of an American bedroom.

During winter, the entire family, including the miniature dachshund, gathers here, which is often the only room heated. Like most Japanese homes, Mr. Kimura's does not have central heating. The hallways, stairwell and bathrooms are left cold. The three bedrooms have wall-mounted heaters, which are used only when the rooms are occupied, and switched off at night.

The living room is kept toasty by hot water running through pipes under the floor. Mr. Kimura says such ambient heat saves money. He says the energy bill for his home is about 20,000 yen ($168) a month. Central heating alone would easily double or triple his energy bill, he says. "Central heating is just too extravagant," says Mr. Kimura, who is solidly middle class.

The government has tried to foster a culture of conservation with regular campaigns like this winter's Warm Biz, a call to businesspeople to don sweaters and long johns under their gray suits so that office thermostats could be set lower.

So there you have it: the Green party line presenting poverty as technologically advanced, as the wave of the future, and as morally virtuous. We can supposedly all look forward to the day when we will be as advanced as the Japanese and energy will cost us twice as much as it now does. When we too will be unable to afford central heating and will have to live in houses half their present size. When we will have to gather our entire family into the one heated room in the house. When we will have to follow one another into the same bathwater, and then use that bathwater to wash our clothes, which we will have to dry outdoors, as our great-grandparents did. When we will have to wear long underwear and sweaters to keep warm indoors. What a glorious, green future! What green slime The Times pours on the readers of its alleged news reports.


What Kind of Global Warming Skeptic?

Post lifted from Arnold Kling

'Jane Galt' writes:

As I read it, the Stern Report basically assumes that there are low diminishing returns to income (it sets the elasticity of marginal utility of consumption, or η, to 1). It strikes me as odd to see the left half of the blogosphere supporting this proposition; I'm fairly sure that John Quiggin, who is a social democrat, thinks it is higher than that.

Once again, I feel the urge to try to get rid of the jargon and the Greek letters and explain what's going on. If person A has $1 million in wealth and person B has $10,000 in total wealth, and you can increase "total" wealth by doing something that takes $10 from B (the poor chap) and giving $11 to A (the rich guy), should you do so?

The position of someone on the Left would ordinarily be, "No." But when it comes to the issue of how much environmental damage we should leave it for our wealthy descendants to clean up, the Stern report is saying "Yes, increase total wealth." See my earlier post. And many on the Left are cheering them on.

My worst fear is that instead of using restructuring the economy as a means to fight global warming, the left aims to use the global warming issue as a means to restructure the economy. The rush to defend the Stern report's discounting approach, at what seems to me a huge cost of overall intellectual inconsistency, serves to reinforce this fear.

'Jane Galt' does seek to distance herself from me on the issue of global warming skepticism.

I got into this defending Arnold Kling from scurrilous charges of hackery. I was not, as my opponents mistakenly assumed, defending him because we agree on Global Warming. we do not. I think global warming is happening...

"Global warming is happening" is too broad a statement. There are a number of propositions that one might buy into.

1. Average global temperatures in the past decade are higher than for any other ten-year period since 1900.

2. Climate models explain this rise.

3. The cause of the rise is CO2.

4. Temperatures will rise further in the coming decades.

5. Given the consequences predicted, we need to reduce CO2 emissions, even at a very high cost of lower economic growth.

This is not an exhaustive list, but it is sufficient to spell out where I am a skeptic and where I am not. I am not a skeptic about the temperature data. I am a skeptic about climate models, because of the nature of the statistical problem (too many potential model specifications, too little data, too much trouble coming up with an appropriate way to time-aggregate the data), and because of the frequent use of the word "calibrated" as in "the models have been calibrated to fit historical climate data." (The Stern report used the c-word.) I am allergic to the word "calibrated." Whenever I see a paper in the American Economic Review that uses a "calibrated" model, my instinct is to skip it.

It troubles me that in order to connect CO2 to global warming, you pretty much need the models. If you just fit a simple bivariate model using CO2 and global average temperature, you would not be particularly confident that you had found a stable, well-fitting relationship. The climate modelers reassure themselves that when they add more subtle features they are getting better fits. That does not do as much for me as it does for them.

I think that if CO2 is a main causal variable, then we will see temperature increases going forward. Even if something else is the cause, that something else may be tending upward. So, suppose we had to bet on whether average global temps in 2010-2019 will be higher or lower than 2001-2009. I think if you gave me even odds, I'd bet on an increase. Maybe if you gave me 3 to 1 (I win $3 if I bet against a temperature rise and I win, I lose $1 if I lose), I'd bet against an increase. Hard to say.

Where I really get off the train, however, is at point 5--drastically reducing emissions at a high cost of economic growth. My slogan would be "Backwardness kills." I think that people in Bangladesh (or New Orleans, for that matter) are at least as threatened by economic and political backwardness as they are by coastal flooding.


Germany's conservative-led coalition government is poised for a U-turn on a national commitment to phase out nuclear power within the next two decades. The reconsideration has come in the light of energy scares, most recently the ongoing disruption of oil supplies to Europe's largest economy caused by the dispute between Russia and Belarus. The socialist-Greens administration of Gerhard Schroeder took the decision seven years ago to shut down Germany's nuclear plants under pressure from environmentalists. Now that policy is seen as too narrow and restrictive in an economy heavily reliant on energy imports. As senior Belarusian officials arrived in Moscow yesterday for crisis talks with Russia regarding the oil row, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, stressed the need for diversifying energy resources. "We must think about the consequences of shutting down nuclear power plants," Mrs Merkel said on Tuesday in an interview with Germany's public broadcaster, ARD. Insiders at her cabinet say that a public renunciation of the go-green policy may come within weeks.

According to Mrs Merkel the latest incident regarding the transit of Russian oil supplies through Belarus demonstrated "that we need a comprehensive, balanced energy mix in Germany". Mrs Merkel did not directly criticise Moscow but said Berlin would engage in "intensive discussions" about the energy issue. Mrs Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU) and their coalition partners, the Social Democrats (SPD), have been divided over nuclear power. While conservatives near Mrs Merkel have repeatedly demanded that Germany slash a scheduled nuclear energy phase-out, the SPD remains in favour of the plan to close nuclear power plants. "Those who use oil shortages in order to propagate nuclear energy are not capable of intellectually comprehending the topic of energy supplies," said Ulrich Kelber, the deputy president of the SPD parliamentary bloc. Members of the opposition Greens also protested the idea of making changes to the nuclear phase-out. "With uranium, you can neither heat your homes nor fuel your cars," said Juergen Trittin, a Greens politician.

But industry wants nuclear power to stay and, in the world's third largest economy, the views of big business carry weight. Meanwhile, Russia's president, Vladimir Putin, intervened last night to try and restart the flow of oil supplies to Europe as his country's energy row with Belarus over the Druzhba "Friendship" pipeline deepened. Until now, president Putin has distanced himself from the row in the hope it could be solved at official level. Russia said Belarus had taken oil from the pipeline to secure payment in kind for a transit tariff imposed last week. Russia had earlier slapped an oil export duty on Belarus to staunch annual losses of up to $4 billion it says it was suffering because Belarus has been refining duty-free oil at a steep profit, in violation of their customs union. Yesterday, Mr Putin told his government "to discuss with Russian companies the possibility of reducing oil output in connection with the problems arising from transit through Belarus".


Beijing talks tough to home-grown polluters

Thank goodness! They've got REAL pollution to deal with

The biggest industrial polluters in China have been ordered to halt all new projects in an effort to force them to take immediate action to meet environmental standards. The companies include four of China's six biggest energy groups, with strong links to some of the most powerful Communist Party leaders. The order follows China's failure to meet its targets for saving energy and controlling pollution for last year, a failure that the Government has admitted.

Energy consumption per unit of gross domestic product rose by 0.8 per cent in the first half of last year. China's environmental record has been severely criticised by signatories of the Kyoto Protocol on emissions. The country is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases behind the United States.

Now China's environmental watchdog has launched an unprecedented crackdown. In addition to imposing strict controls on the power industry, the State Environmental Protection Agency has suspended approval for all new projects in four industrial cities. The four hit are Tangshan in the northern Hebei province, Luliang in the coal-rich Shanxi province, Liupanshui in the impoverished southern Guizhou and Laiwu in the northern Shandong province. The agency accused the cities of causing serious pollution and said that they had approved projects that violated environmental laws.

Pan Yue, the agency's deputy head, has become one of the most outspoken members of China's traditionally secretive government. He said that he remained committed to enforcing measures that would improve the country's environmental record, despite the pressure being brought to bear to curtail the powers of his agency. Mr Pan said: "We have moved step by step, but it's difficult. Nevertheless we are determined. And as for my own personal gains and losses, I gave up thinking about that a long time ago." Mr Pan singled out Tangshan - near Beijing - for building more than 70 steel plants of which 80 per cent lacked mandatory environmental assessments. He pulled no punches in criticising city leaders. "Some local authorities and industries have defied the Government's macro-regulation policy and pursued their own interests by blindly and illegally developing high-energy-use and high-pollution sectors," he said.

After years of promoting economic growth at any cost, Beijing is still struggling to change the attitudes of local officials despite a range of new policies that tie the career prospects of civil servants to their energy- saving achievements. Experts said China needed to move away from its traditional communist-style top-down management approach since these results showed officials would not respond to edicts.

Local governments, however, see little incentive to fall into line with Beijing's goal of what it calls a "green GDP" since officials are usually appraised on the economic performance of the regions for which they are responsible. And it was far from clear that Mr Pan would succeed in the administration's third attempt in as many years to exercise some authority over powerful regional governments withe powerful incentives to ignore the rules.



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 generally 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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