Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Papal watchers are wondering what message Pope Benedict XVI was giving when he selected retired Bologna archbishop Cardinal Giacomo Biffi to preach the annual Lenten retreat to the Pope and the top members of the Vatican.

Rocco Palmo, expert Vatican reporter for The Tablet, the international Catholic weekly published in London England has noted the significance of the selection of the Lenten retreat preacher. "Since time immemorial -- or, at least, the retreat's heightened profile over the 20th century -- the selection of the preacher has become a closely-watched indicator of the prevailing winds in the papal apartment," said Palmo on his blog. "(T)he choice often falling to a voice the Pope might like to tout... and not just for a higher prominence on the preaching circuit."

Palmo added weight to his remarks noting that "Before their respective elections to the papacy, both Joseph Ratzinger and Karol Wojtyla were tapped to lead the annual exercises."

This year's selection when it became known created a stir since Cardinal Biffi, while he is known for orthodox faith and frank words, is most well known, at least in the secular media, for his preaching on the Antichrist. In fact, the Times of London reported in 2004 that the Cardinal described the Antichrist as "walking among us".

The Lenten retreat did not disappoint. Cardinal Biffi picked up on his oft repeated theme of the Antichrist, basing his remarks on the works of Vladimir Soloviev, a Russian theologian who has received praise from Pope Benedict prior to his elevation to the pontificate.

Quoting Soloviev, the Cardinal said "the Antichrist presents himself as pacifist, ecologist and ecumenist."

"He will convoke an ecumenical council and will seek the consensus of all the Christian confessions, granting something to each one. The masses will follow him, with the exception of small groups of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants," he said according to a Zenit translation of a Vatican Radio summary here: http://www.radiovaticana.org/it1/Articolo.asp?c=120479 .

In his "Tale of the Antichrist" Solovyov foresees that a small group of Catholics, Orthodox and Protestants will resist and will say to the Antichrist: "You give us everything, except what interests us, Jesus Christ". For Cardinal Biffi, this narrative is a warning: "Today, in fact, we run the risk of having a Christianity which puts aside Jesus with his cross and resurrection."

The 78-year-old cardinal added that if Christians "limited themselves to speaking of shared values they would be more accepted on television programs and in social groups. But in this way, they will have renounced Jesus, the overwhelming reality of the resurrection."

The cardinal said he believes that this is "the danger that Christians face in our days . the Son of God cannot be reduced to a series of good projects sanctioned by the prevailing worldly mentality."

The preacher of the Spiritual Exercises added that "there are relative values, such as solidarity, love of peace and respect for nature. If these become absolute, uprooting or even opposing the proclamation of the event of salvation, then these values become an instigation to idolatry and obstacles on the way of salvation."

Cardinal Biffi affirmed that "if Christianity -- on opening itself to the world and dialoguing with all -- dilutes the salvific event, it closes itself to a personal relationship with Jesus and places itself on the side of the Antichrist."

Cardinal Biffi's reflections, in fact, are very similar to remarks Pope Benedict made last Fall in a meeting with Swiss Bishops. While Pope Benedict did not speak of the Antichrist, he spoke of a new false or "substitute" religion, calling it also a "successor" of religion.

"Modern society is not simply without morality, but it has, so to speak, 'discovered' and professes a part of morality", the Pope told the Swiss bishops. "These are the great themes of peace, non-violence, justice for all, concern for the poor, and respect for creation."

However, the Pope warned that these "great moral themes" have "become an ethical complex that, precisely as a political force, has great power and constitutes for many the substitute for religion, or its successor."

"It is only if human life is respected from conception to death that the ethics of peace is also possible and credible," concluded the Pope. "It is only then that non-violence can express itself in every direction; only then that we truly welcome creation, and only then that we can arrive at true justice."


GE goes Green but likely to become unglued

Karl Marx once remarked, "The last capitalist we hang shall be the one who sold us the rope." However, Marx had no idea the rope would be corporate social responsibility (CSR) and not greed. In keeping with CSR doctrine, CEOs are opening their doors to activist groups with great fanfare in hopes of maximizing both "the social good" and corporate profits. Regrettably, these CEO's are maximizing neither.

Social activists are not concerned with corporate profits, shareholder returns or economic growth. Their sole mission is to transform corporations into agents to advance their social and political agenda. By allowing social activists to influence business decisions, CEOs are choosing socialism over capitalism and by doing so; they are undermining the very foundations of our free society.

General Electric's CEO, Jeff Immelt, is a classic example. His management of the $350 billion company using an outdated 1960's style conglomerate model is failing. Since Immelt took the helm in 2001, GE has significantly underperformed the market - GE's share price has not increased while the S&P 500 index is up 30%. On top of all this, he is under pressure to fill Jack Welch's shoes.

Immelt desperately needs a new strategy for growth. Enter CSR. In 2002, a group of Catholic nuns filed a shareholder proposal asking the company for a report on GE's greenhouse gas emissions and ways for the company to address climate change. According to The New Capitalists: How Citizen Investors are Reshaping the Corporate Agenda, the nun's proposal made Immelt recognize the reputation and revenue opportunities by addressing climate change. Three years later, GE announced Ecomagination - a marketing campaign that promotes environmentally friendly fuel-efficient products including engines, locomotives, wind turbines and clean coal processing technologies.

Not taking any chances with the free-market system, Immelt wants government regulation to guarantee Ecomagination's success. GE is a member of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) - a coalition of corporations and environmental activist groups "that have come together to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions." Immelt's rent seeking math is simple: limits on carbon dioxide will drive sales for his products and the Left will adore him like Al Gore. Unfortunately, for his employees and shareholders, Immelt's statism strategy is backfiring.

While global warming fears may aid one part of GE's business, the macroeconomic impact of high-energy prices and the hysteria surrounding climate change is harming its other businesses. For example, last years' high-energy prices gave us a preview of the business impact of future global warming regulations on the company. GE's most recent earnings were hurt because the high cost of oil-based raw materials squeezed margins from its plastics business. Because of its drag on earnings, GE is looking to sell its plastics unit.

Then there is the legislative threat posed by politicians looking to exploit the global warming frenzy by banning the incandescent light bulb. Ironically, not only is the incandescent light bulb a GE product, it was created by GE's founder Thomas Edison. A worldwide movement to require fluorescent bulbs because they use far less energy and reduce the amount of carbon dioxide emissions is gaining momentum. A California legislator introduced legislation to ban incandescent bulbs; Australia plans to ban traditional light bulbs by 2010; and Greenpeace wants India to follow Australia's lead.

Making matters worse, Wal-Mart is looking to use its muscle to score global warming public relations points by pushing florescent bulbs into 100 million homes. By doing so Wal-Mart is putting GE's traditional bulb business in jeopardy. According to a New York Times story a "meeting with executives from General Electric, Wal-Mart's largest bulb supplier, the message from G.E. was, `Don't go too fast. We have all these plants that produce traditional bulbs' ."

Finally, GE's clean coal technology for power plants is also in question. So far, utility companies are unwilling to gamble on the new technology because of its expense and questionable reliability.

Immelt's scheme of leveraging climate change for both profit and popularity is flawed. His quest to create new markets by fueling global warming fears has unleashed the uncontrollable force of politicians, media and activists. Immelt's lobbyists are now working at cross-purposes: his federal agents are lobbying for global warming regulations while his California lobbyists are trying to save the light bulb.

However, on the popularity front, Immelt is winning the hearts and minds of the Left. At the 25th anniversary dinner of the World Resources Institute (WRI), Al Gore presented Immelt with the "Courage to Lead Award" for his leadership on tackling global warming.

Like James Taggart, the villain in Ayn Rand's classic Atlas Shrugged, Immelt will discover that relying on government favors and appealing to "the social good" is the path to destroy both his business and capitalism - leaving everyone in the dark.


Experts: California bulb plan no simple switch

The compact fluorescent models may save energy but don't always work as well as incandescents.

Assemblyman Lloyd Levine holds two compact fluorescent lights he hopes will replace incandescent bulbs like the one in the center. Levine's bill would phase out the sale of the common light bulb by 2012 in California. Supporters say the change would save energy and help the environment, but critics say fluorescent lights have drawbacks.

Californians have screwed them in, turned them off, read by them and depended on them for everything from showering to dining to changing diapers.

So Assemblyman Lloyd Levine, D-Van Nuys, has sparked a firestorm by proposing to dump common light bulbs.

Levine's proposal to phase out the sale of general-purpose incandescent bulbs in California by 2012 has been characterized as everything from a bright idea to a dim mistake.

Lee Kasten, a nuclear operator from San Luis Obispo, claims the change would save energy and help the environment.

"It's a slam-dunk," he said.

But John Clark, a Roseville retiree, said lawmakers should leave the market alone.

"We didn't have to ban the dial telephone," he said. "We just worked into a better technology, and people accepted it."

Controversy has focused largely on whether the common bulb's most likely replacement, compact fluorescent models, would work just as well.

The answer from experts? Not always.

"We do need to move to much greater use of low-energy light bulbs," said Severin Borenstein, director of the University of California Energy Institute. "But there are a number of uses in which they're not economic or not appropriate."

Michael Siminovitch, director of the California Lighting Technology Center at the University of California, Davis, said the state should push for more energy efficiency in incandescent bulbs rather than ban them.

"I think we need to have multiple technologies," he said. "Multiple arrows in our quiver."

Consumers have numerous complaints about compact fluorescent bulbs, some real, some exaggerated, some a hangover from old products sold years ago, some stemming from buying the lowest-quality models on today's market, and some caused by unfamiliarity with specialized bulbs designed for specific functions, experts said.

"Compact fluorescents have gotten kind of a bad rap," said Siminovitch, whose center at UC Davis conducts lighting research. "Some of it was well-deserved, but I think we've come out of that."

Widespread frustration persists over using compact fluorescents with dimmer switches.

Unlike the common household bulb, most compact fluorescents are not dimmable -- and many consumers don't know that, don't check the label and end up buying the wrong model, Siminovitch said.

"They get it home, and the thing doesn't work," he said. "Know what I mean?"

To complicate matters, even dimmable compact fluorescents do not always provide the same range of low light that incandescents do, he said.

"Compact fluorescents are a tremendous, energy-efficient lighting source, but they're probably not ideal for certain applications," said Kim Freeman, spokeswoman for GE, formerly known as General Electric Co., a leading manufacturer of traditional and fluorescent bulbs.

Freeman, citing one example, said compact fluorescents may not provide the sparkle desired from many dining-room chandeliers.

"Consumer choice is very important," she said. "(Offering) as many energy-efficient choices as possible is our goal."

Levine said fluorescent technology is improving rapidly.

"In elementary school, I used to get headaches if I didn't sit near a window, because of the fluorescent lights," he said. "Now, my bedside reading light is a compact fluorescent light bulb."

Levine's Assembly Bill 722 has prompted many consumers to share their frustrations.

Separate legislation takes a different tack.

Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, is proposing a light bulb efficiency standard and a statewide recycling program. Compact fluorescents contain tiny amounts of mercury, a toxic chemical.

Jeff Aran of Sacramento said compact fluorescents burn out relatively quickly in recessed lighting at his home.

Bob Boyer of Sacramento said not all compact fluorescents fit his lampshades.

Siminovitch agreed that heat from recessed lighting fixtures can damage the performance of compact fluorescents, but he said specialty bulbs can be bought for hot environments.

Boyer's complaint about fitting compact fluorescents into lampshades was common years ago, but the problem largely has been solved by producing multiple sizes and shapes, Siminovitch said.

Siminovitch, public utility officials and three Sacramento-area lighting stores said compact fluorescents produce a wide range of light and tend to work well with timers, and that past problems of flickering or humming have been largely or completely eliminated.

But several potential drawbacks with the energy-efficient bulbs continue to exist, they said, including:

• Turning compact fluorescents off and on frequently can shorten their life.

• They don't always work perfectly with photocell devices that activate a light at nightfall.

• Some bulbs can take a few seconds -- perhaps a minute -- to reach peak brilliance.

• Depending on bulb quality and type, compact fluorescents can distort the color of clothing in a closet or interfere with operation of a cordless phone or television.

Compact fluorescents can cost several dollars more than a traditional bulb, but subsidies from utility companies often drop their price below $1.

Because compact fluorescents consume less energy and burn much longer, using one instead of a 100-watt incandescent can save about $60 over the life of the bulb, Freeman said.



An interesting article from the heart of America's academic Left

The world is getting warmer, the high priests of science intone. No legitimate dissent is possible, we are told, since the science is effectively conclusive.

I am not a climatologist, and so I will take these scientists at their word that the warming is real, and that human action in particular, industrial emission of carbon dioxide has made the world somewhat warmer than it otherwise would be. Therefore, so the environmentalists tell us, the United States needs to implement the Kyoto treaty and cut our national CO2 emissions to 5 percent below 1990 levels.

But the same science that demonstrates the reality of global warming demonstrates the futility of the Kyoto treaty, and of the whole emissions-cuts approach. The Kyoto treaty caps CO2 emissions from the developed world slightly below their 1990 levels. The nations of the "developing world", including China (the number two emitter of CO2) are under no obligations even though their CO2 emissions are rising rapidly. China and India have both made clear that they do not intend to impose emissions caps to control CO2 output at any time in the foreseeable future. Indeed, China is building a large number of new coal power plants to keep up with rapidly rising power demand. By the most conservative estimates, the new emissions from these plants will offset all of the emissions cuts imposed by Kyoto. That's China alone. Add in the rest of the developing world, and it's pretty clear that even if Kyoto were implemented perfectly, world CO2 emissions would still rise for some time to come.

The Kyoto target is 5 percent below 1990 emissions levels; recall that even in the late 1980s, quite a number of environmentalists were hysterical about global warming. More fundamentally, atmospheric CO2 levels will keep rising even if emissions start to fall. Emissions cuts that are deep enough to really tackle the problem would dwarf the Kyoto regime in cost and difficulty. Kyoto is a very small step towards solving the problem. Indeed, according to the most frequently cited study on the topic, published in Geophysical Review Letters by Wigley in 1998, the Kyoto treaty would reduce warming by around 7 percent, with most of the benefit taking decades to become apparent.

As Greenpeace and most other major environmental groups freely admit, Kyoto is a purely symbolic first step. It is, however, a very costly symbol. The vast bulk of CO2 emissions are from energy and transportation. Reducing CO2 emissions will put significant strain on the economy, and is projected to have an astronomical cost. One estimate by Nordhaus and Boyer of the Yale economics department, published in The Energy Journal a few years ago, puts the cost to the U.S. at half a trillion dollars. That's a lot of money diverted from other worthy causes such as poverty and disease for a benefit that will not even be detectable for decades. Kyoto represents a level of emissions cuts that was too high to be politically feasible in the U.S., and too high for China and India to even consider. Kyoto promises too little and asks too much.

If the emissions-cut route were the only imaginable path forward, environmentalists might be justified in straining every muscle to convince the U.S. to start down it, no matter what the cost. In fact, however, there is another way. Our understanding of climatic science is improving rapidly, and as models become more sophisticated, it is becoming increasingly apparent that a number of variables strongly affect climate. The earth is a very complicated system, and we have, or will have, more tools at hand to influence it than trying to limit civilization's CO2 output.

Atmospheric dust, surface land use and methane and other gas emissions all have substantial influence on world climate. Whereas CO2 is an inevitable byproduct of combustion, these other emissions are essentially waste products from inefficient processes. Consequently, they are likely easier to reduce than CO2 emissions. As long as we're turning civilization upside down to prevent future global warming, we should examine alternatives to emissions cuts.

There has been promising research into a number of options. The most obvious is to remove CO2 from the atmosphere and sequester it in some stable form. This might be done by promoting plant growth, perhaps through large-scale fertilization of barren ocean regions. Another and still bolder approach would be to reduce the solar radiation falling on earth with stratospheric aerosols or orbital mirrors and diffraction gratings. These approaches are as of yet unproven; however, the savings from not embarking on a futile emissions control regime ought to more than cover the necessary research and development costs.

The environmental movement is gravely remiss in failing to forcefully advocate this sort of research, which offers a good chance of preventing the many damaging consequences of global warming. Carbon sequestration and reduction of solar radiation would require ambitious engineering and large expense.

Of course, reducing CO2 emissions globally would require vast re-engineering of transportation, energy production, and the whole global economy. This would also be fabulously expensive. As long as we're doing mega-scale engineering, we might as well pick the approach that has the best chance of working.

Environmentalists cannot have it both ways. If they demand that the world unhesitatingly follow the current best predictions of climatic science, then they cannot in good conscience demand that the world implement a treaty that has been scientifically shown to be utterly inadequate for preventing global warming yet so expensive as to strangle the search for better approaches. The environmental movement is right to push for alternatives to oil, but it should also push for alternatives to Kyoto.



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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Sean said...

Your comments are relevant regarding fluourescent bulbs but I feel that there is more to the story. Saving energy is simply a smart thing to do for geo-political reasons. It costs an enormous amount of money for new power plants and no one wants them in their backyard. We need to use our resources efficiently simply to better utilize our investment capital.


Anonymous said...

re: "Experts: California bulb plan no simple switch"

I'll say!

"CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury sealed within the glass tubing – an average of
5 milligrams (roughly equivalent to the tip of a ball-point pen)."

And how is that good for the environment? Can you say landfill superfund cleanup? ... or how about government hazerdous waste management beurocrocy?

In 12/00 the population of CA was 33,871,648

So, if the average useage of light bulbs per household is say 10, with an average household of 4 people, that works out to roughly 8,500,000 bulbs with 0.005 grams each, or 425,000 grams of mercury, which is about 937 pounds, nealy half a ton per the avg lifetime of the bulbs. So, at best that works out to about 300 pound per year (bulbs allegedly last for 3), but that's without considering large buildings, so the real amount would really be many more times that

And where does it go when the bulb burns out and is thrown into the trash?

Oh, wait, you can't do that in CA .
"California has tightened up its regulations," says Safety Coordinator David Hinton of The Scripps Research Institute's Environmental Health and Safety Department. "Now, products containing even small amounts of mercury or heavy metals need to be recycled or disposed of through special county programs."

But, I suppose if the good we do ends up outweighing the good we could do . . .

"DUH!" -- the Simpsonator