Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Green Goodies: It's payback time for another left-leaning lobby

First came Big Labor. Then the tort lawyers. What special interest lobby remains for the Democratic majority to reward for services rendered this past election? The answer rests in the ecstatic press releases tumbling out of the nation's largest environmental groups, as they oversee the House's pending energy legislation. That is, if "energy" is the right word for West Virginia Rep. Nick Rahall's green-payoff of a bill. Ostensibly the legislation is a rollback of any energy production advances of recent years. But also tucked deep in its heart is an extraordinary new tool to allow environmentalists to lock up private property across the country. Bill presented; bill paid.

Like union and trial-bar groups, the extreme environmental community forked over a hefty wad of cash last year to help put Democrats in the majority, as well as to keep key environmental allies in their seats. But they also went the extra mile, singling out Republicans viewed as most ideologically hostile to liberal green goals and targeting them in campaigns. Most Wanted was former House Resources Committee Chairman Richard Pombo.

The Californian was an environmental innovator, one reason he leapfrogged past far more senior members of the Resources Committee to take its helm in 2003. His subsequent successes lay in getting rural-state Democrats to come along with pioneering overhauls of outdated, 1970s-style environmental policy--from the Healthy Forests Act to reform of the Endangered Species Act and public-lands drilling. Those victories, and Mr. Pombo's commitment to property rights, enraged coast-state Democrats and environmental groups, who viewed him as slightly less progressive than Attila the Hun.

Their fury was unleashed in last year's campaign. By some estimates, a half-dozen environmental groups spent north of $3 million to get Mr. Pombo sacked. Defenders of Wildlife opened an office in his Stockton district, staffed with a dozen people, for that purpose. Since most of Mr. Pombo's constituents admired him for his environmental work, their tactic was character assassination. The Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund (a 527) sent out mailings with the jaw-dropping suggestion that since Mr. Pombo didn't hold a hearing about supposed abuses in the Marianas Islands (a U.S. territory) that he supported "forced abortion," "child prostitution" and "sweatshop labor." Nowhere was the word "environment" even mentioned.

The smear campaign worked. Mr. Pombo was ousted, along with other key environmentalist targets, including Arizona's J.D. Hayworth, Indiana's Chris Chocola, John Hostettler and Mike Sodrel, Kentucky's Anne Northup and North Carolina's Charles Taylor. The broader Democratic victory slipped the Resources chairmanship to Mr. Rahall, who may hail from rural West Virginia, but votes like a resurrected Rachel Carson. (Last year he earned a 92% voting score from the League of Conservation Voters, which takes effort.) With his most worthy ideological opponents banished, he's been largely free to pursue a pure green agenda, handing out goodies to the environmental crew that helped get him his job.

But first, housekeeping. In a little semantic poke to their opponents, Democrats quickly changed the title of Mr. Rahall's group to the Natural Resources Committee. This was accompanied by the heave-ho of moderate Democrats who had signed on to Mr. Pombo's reform agenda. California's Dennis Cardoza, who co-authored the species reform, was dropped, as was Louisiana's Charlie Melancon, who'd worked with Mr. Pombo on offshore drilling.

They were replaced with better spawn of Mother Earth, including Lois Capps (California), Patrick Kennedy (Rhode Island) and John Sarbanes (Maryland). Mr. Rahall also sprinkled staff jobs on greens, including from groups active in the 2006 campaign. Two of three senior policy advisers hail from Defenders of Wildlife and the Forest Service Employees for Environmental Ethics; others come from the Wilderness Society and the Sierra Club.

These are the folks who helped write the "energy" bill that passed committee this week. Broadly, the bill fulfills one big ambition of environmental groups in recent years: a rollback of any smarter use of public (or even private) lands for energy use. Gone are previous gains for more drilling, more refineries, more transmission lines. But the big prize was an unprecedented new power allowing green groups to micromanage U.S. lands. That section creates "a new national policy on wildlife and global warming." It would require the Secretary of the Interior to "assist" species in adapting to global warming, as well as "protect, acquire and restore habitat" that is "vulnerable" to climate change. This is the Endangered Species Act on steroids. At least under today's (albeit dysfunctional) species act, outside groups must provide evidence a species is dwindling in order for the government to step in. This law would have no such requirements. Since green groups will argue that every species is vulnerable to climate change, the government will be obliged to manage every acre containing a bird, bee or flower.

It's a green dream come true, carte blanche to promulgate endless regulations barring tree-cutting, house-building, water-damming, snowmobile-riding, waterskiing, garden-planting, or any other human activity. The section is vague ("protect," "assist," "restore") precisely so as to leave the door open to practically anything. In theory, your friendly Fish & Wildlife representative could even command you to start applying sunblock to your resident chipmunks' noses.

The draft of Mr. Rahall's bill was greeted by a glowing letter from 13 environmental outfits--EarthJustice, Environmental Defense, American Rivers, the usual crew--voicing their "strong support" for the legislation. As they might, since it appears they wrote it. A May 29 letter from Defenders of the Wildlife Executive Vice President Jamie Rappaport Clark--President Clinton's onetime wilderness guru--crowed that her group "worked with committee and congressional staff as they developed" the new global warming wildlife program. She also extols the big bucks that will flow to federal and state wildlife agencies as a result of that global warming initiative.

Mr. Rahall's bill still has a long way to go. Other sections of an energy policy are still mired in the House; the Senate has yet to weigh in; and President Bush, with any luck, will veto any legislation that grants a freeze of every dirt clod in America--publicly or privately owned. Still, when it comes to rewarding their friends in the green community, don't blame House Democrats for not trying.


Global warming obsession to create noise pollution

Targets for reducing aircraft noise will have to be sacrificed to halve the climate change emissions of a new generation of airliners, easyJet said yesterday. The budget airline unveiled a model of what it described as an "eco-jet", which would use open rotor engines invented in response to the oil crisis of the 1970s. It hopes that these engines will generate 50 per cent less CO2 than those used on its current aircraft.

Manufacturers abandoned the design in the 1980s because the oil price fell and fuel efficiency became less important. The engines would be much more efficient than existing ones, but also noisier because they would have no outer shell around the rotating blades. Rolls-Royce is among several manufacturers working on open rotor engines, which are double the diameter of existing engines and produce the same amount of thrust with half the fuel. The eco-jet would also be designed to fly more slowly to save fuel, adding five to ten minutes to most journeys within Europe.

Andy Harrison, chief executive of easyJet, said: "There is a trade-off between noise and carbon dioxide emissions. We think reducing CO2 should be the priority." The aviation industry has agreed a target with the European Commission to reduce noise from new aircraft by 50 per cent by 2020. Mr Harrison said that the new jet would not be able to meet this target, but could achieve a 25 per cent reduction in the noise perceived on the ground by attaching the engines at the rear of the aircraft and using the tailfin to direct the noise upwards.

Speaking at a conference in London, he said: "This is not Star Trek. This is the future. "We at easyJet think that global warming is a near certainty and that this generation need to take action now. "Aircraft technology is an important component to achieving improvements and efficiency, and particularly environmental efficiency." He said that the new jet could enter service by 2015 but airlines would first have to persuade the leading manufacturers, Boeing and Airbus, to develop it. "We are currently spending 4 billion on aircraft - they are listening to us," he said. Mr Harrison added: "The aircraft example we have unveiled today represents the next major step forward in airframe and engine technology."

The lightweight structure and open-rotor engines are based on technologies that are being developed by manufacturers. The wings of the eco-jet are swept forward rather than back in order to reduce drag. "This is realistic and it is achievable. If it were to be made available today, we would order hundreds of them for fleet replacement and to achieve the green growth that our industry has committed to." Airbus promised yesterday to increase its research budget by 25 per cent from next year and said that by 2020, all of its new aircraft would produce 50 per cent less CO2.

Budget airlines have been under fire recently from environmental groups and politicians for their contribution to global warming. According to figures from the Intergovern-mental Panel on Climate Change, airlines contribute only 2 per cent of global carbon emissions. But aviation is the fastest growing source of emissions and has no credible alternative source of fuel.

Mr Harrison said that low-cost airlines were generally more environmentally efficient than other carriers, pointing to the low average age of easyJet aircraft and a higher number of passengers per flight. He also announced that easyJet would shortly introduce a carbon offsetting scheme and had already called for 600 of Europe's oldest aircraft to be banned from the skies. He said that easyJet's contract with Airbus ran to around 2014, and would be in the market for its next generation of aircraft from 2015. "The environmental performance will be a crucial consideration in the design that we select," he said.

Richard Dyer, Friends of the Earth's aviation campaigner, said: "It is important that the aviation industry looks at ways to significantly reduce its impact on climate change. "But unless this includes massive cuts in the anticipated growth in air travel, it is unlikely to be achieved


California goes dim on lightbulb ban idea

Thomas Edison can rest in peace -- his incandescent light bulb won't be banned by California lawmakers this year after all. Legislation to phase out the common bulb was shelved this month, elbowed aside by a competing bill that sends lighting makers an ultimatum: Conserve energy, or the party's over. Assembly Bill 1109 would require the state to set an energy-efficiency standard for light bulbs that Edison's nearly 130-year-old invention can't currently meet -- but might in the future.

"We've really worked hard to make sure that we're not playing that game of picking winners and losers," said Assemblyman Jared Huffman, who crafted the bill. Supporters hail AB 1109 as a national model that would reduce electrical demand, curb emission of 6 million tons of greenhouse gases annually, and save ratepayers $3 billion per year by negating the need for five new power plants.

But opponents blast the bill as a backdoor ban on incandescents and the latest link in a chain of bills that intrude upon consumer choice. "Sacramento keeps getting into people's knickers," said Assemblyman Chuck DeVore, R-Irvine. "We are getting into ever-increasing levels of detail in demanding how people live their lives."

Besides the light bulb bill, the Assembly voted this month to require toilets that use less water, ban restaurants from using trans fats, and to create a $250 million program to subsidize sales of solar water heaters costing $6,000 apiece. The Assembly considered, but rejected under pressure from the auto industry, legislation designed to benefit the environment by assessing a $2,500 surcharge on the the sale of gas-guzzling vehicles to fund rebates for fuel-efficient models. "Leave people alone, and let them make their own decisions," DeVore said.

Huffman, a San Rafael Democrat, said that creating a light bulb energy standard hurts nobody. California already requires products ranging from refrigerators to air conditioners to meet efficiency targets, he said. "If we can nudge the market in a positive direction that works for the environment and works for consumers, why not do it?" Huffman said. Under AB 1109, the California Energy Commission would create standards that by 2018 would reduce electricity consumption by 50 percent for indoor lighting and 25 percent for commercial and outdoor lighting.

All three of the nation's largest bulb makers -- GE, Sylvania and Philips -- offer both incandescents and energy-efficient models, so none would be placed at a competitive disadvantage, Huffman said. The lighting industry supports the bill. The most prominent opponent, California Chamber of Commerce, objects primarily to sidestepping existing recycling programs to create one specifically for bulbs. AB 1109 was passed by the Assembly, 49-29, with most Republicans voting no. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken no position.

Michael Siminovitch, director of the California Lighting Technology Center, a project of UC Davis, said creating an energy standard is more practical than banning incandescents. "You can't just eliminate a class of technology if there's not something ready and able to replace it that will give the kinds of benefits that people expect," he said.

For Californians, the issue targets one of their most widely used and vitally needed household products, depended upon for everything from reading to dining. The prime target of Huffman's legislation is Edison's 19th century invention, the low-cost but wasteful incandescent, which converts only 5 percent of the electricity it uses into light, the remaining 95 percent into heat. GE, formerly known as General Electric, has announced plans to retain the traditional incandescent but overhaul its technology to create bulbs that are twice as energy-efficient by 2010 and, ultimately, nearly four times more efficient.

Mark Murray of Californians Against Waste, which is sponsoring AB 1109, said passage likely would push most firms toward alternative technologies. Murray said he envisions incandescents being used a decade from now for specialty purposes -- ranging from light therapy to sun lamps -- but not routinely for home lighting.

Two potential alternatives for household lighting are halogen bulbs, currently used in headlights, and light-emitting diode bulbs, or LEDs, used in traffic lights and Christmas decorations. The leading candidate to replace the common light bulb is the compact fluorescent lamp, or CFL. Fifty-six percent of homes already use at least one CFL, records show. The California Energy Commission says CFLs can cost 10 times more than incandescents -- a gap often lowered by subsidies -- but that they burn so much longer and use so much less electricity that they save about $20 per bulb over a three-year period.

Driving the market toward compact fluorescents potentially could create disposal problems for millions of discarded bulbs, however. "You have the unintended consequence of favoring light bulbs that have (a neurotoxin) in them," DeVore said of AB 1109. Compact fluorescents contain trace amounts of mercury, which can cause respiratory, kidney or other health problems. Huffman said he takes the issue seriously, noting his bill would limit the quantities of mercury in each bulb and would require creation of recycling systems. Jim Metropulos, of Sierra Club California, said he is satisfied with the precautions. "It's setting up a system where we're now going to deal with the waste," he said


Al Gore is Right (About the Wrong People)

Post lifted from New Editor . See the original for links. I could fisk the nonsense myself but I hope the few comments below show how delusional the Greenie article is. With respect to the last point mentioned, I might add however that I was born and bred in tropical Australia, where dengue fever is endemic. And I can assure everyone that the population there is as healthy and as vigorous as any. Dengue is indeed a nasty illness -- like a bad flu -- but most people get over it, much as they do for any flu. That cold weather brings on all sorts of illnesses too is not of course mentioned.

From "The Assault on Reason":

It is simply no longer possible to ignore the strangeness of our public discourse. I know I am not alone in feeling that something has gone fundamentally wrong.

We're with you, Al. From livescience.com's Timeline: The Frightening Future of Earth:

Our planet's prospects for environmental stability are bleaker than ever...

When has the environment ever been "stable?" Is that even desirable? I thought evolution relied on change. But then, climate-screechers sound more like creationists these days, echoing fundamentalist Christians anticipating the apocalypse.

Epic floods will hit some areas while intense drought will strike others. Humans will face widespread water shortages. Famine and disease will increase. Earth's landscape will transform radically, with a quarter of plants and animals at risk of extinction...

Floods and water shortages. Why will famine increase if Canada and Siberia turn from tundra into growing climes? Why would we not figure out how to get more water from wet places to dry places?

2050 - In Australia, there will likely be an additional 3,200 to 5,200 heat-related deaths per year. The hardest hit will be people over the age of 65. An extra 500 to 1,000 people will die of heat-related deaths in New York City per year. In the United Kingdom, the opposite will occur, and cold-related deaths will outpace heat-related ones.

The Aussies won't buy air conditioners? How do people survive in Phoenix and Riyahd today? I know most homes in London are already heated, so I guess the over-65 set will be taking strolls during blizzards more in 2050.

2085 - The risk of dengue fever from climate change is estimated to increase to 3.5 billion people.

We can't figure out the epidemiology of avian flu today, but we've got 2085 covered!

The garden of good and evil

With its hectoring rhetoric, the green movement is in danger of becoming a quasi religion, writes Simon Castles. Note that this article appeared in Australia's most Leftist major newspaper! Progress?

CLIMATE change denial is something we'll hear plenty about in the coming months. Leading up to the election, Kevin Rudd will repeat ad nauseam his claim that John Howard is a rolled-gold climate change denier. And next month, the ABC broadcasts the controversial documentary The Great Global Warming Swindle, which will lead to further charges that the film-makers, the film's talking heads and the ABC board are in denial.

Whatever your views on global warming, the term "climate change denial", and the speed with which it has become part of everyday language, shouldn't be welcomed. The term is reductive, as well as offensive in its connotations. It encapsulates the way the environmental movement, for all its good intentions, is increasingly adopting the sanctimonious, hectoring and stifling attributes of organised religion. To question climate change today is to be cast as a denier of an absolute truth.

That people who used to be called "climate change sceptics" are now called "deniers" is quite deliberate. The aim is to suggest that climate change scepticism is somehow akin to Holocaust denial. The moral repugnance we feel for the latter, we should essentially feel for the former. The connection is subliminal mostly, but some commentators have been more than happy to spell it out. British journalist Mark Lynas wrote: "I put (climate change denial) in a similar category to Holocaust denial — except that this time the Holocaust is yet to come, and we still have time to avoid it. Those who try to ensure we don't will one day have to answer for their crimes." In Nuremberg-style trials, one presumes. Guardian columnist and author George Monbiot wrote: "Almost everywhere, climate change denial now looks as stupid and unacceptable as Holocaust denial."

Closer to home, Margo Kingston wrote: "David Irving is under arrest in Austria for Holocaust denial. Perhaps there is a case for making climate change denial an offence. It is a crime against humanity, after all."

Such attempts at moral equivalence are deeply repugnant and, frankly, stupid. The murder of 6 million Jews happened; the worst consequences of climate change are yet to happen, and we can't even say with certainty what they will be. To start judging people guilty for denying things that haven't happened yet — for having contrary thoughts — is surely to trump Orwell's nightmare vision.

It also corrupts the central tenet of science — that hypotheses are there to be tested; to be verified or falsified. As scientist Thomas Huxley said of his discipline, "scepticism is the highest of duties; blind faith the one unpardonable sin". The overwhelming majority of scientists believe in man-made climate change. No argument from me. But when you read or hear that "the jury is in" on climate change, or the "science is settled", alarm bells should ring. Science is never really settled. It can always be challenged. Science that isn't open to challenge isn't science; it's more like faith.

A group of 38 scientists recently wrote an open letter to the production company behind The Great Global Warming Swindle, insisting that the doco be altered before its release on DVD. "Free speech," they wrote, "does not extend to misleading the public by making factually incorrect statements." Really? We'd better do away with that internet thing then.

These scientists are no doubt passionate in their beliefs, and concerned about climate change and the content of the doco. But when any group starts telling us what free speech is and isn't allowed, we should be worried. As Brendan O'Neill quipped on the Spiked website: "What next, a House Committee on Un-Scientific Activities?"

I am not a scientist; I don't pretend to understand the science of climate change. And I'm certainly not arguing that global warming is a swindle. But like the novice in an art gallery, I know what I don't like, and that's a censorious culture, the demonisation of people and ideas, and the undermining of rational debate. The more the most zealous greenies argue that climate change is beyond debate, the science beyond interrogation, and that anyone who disagrees is no better than a Holocaust denier, the more they sound to me like religious extremists, and the more I don't want to listen to them.

Monbiot says that he wants to "make people so depressed about the state of the world that they stay in bed all day, thereby reducing their consumption of fossil fuel". Strewth. I spent my childhood under the tutelage of deeply repressed Christian Brothers and priests, but I don't recall ever hearing anything quite so fun-denying, guilt-inflicting and self-flagellating as that.

There is plenty that is good and positive about the green movement. But we need to be wary of the slippery slope between sensible environmentalism and environmentalism as a quasi religion. And boy, does the green movement seem like a religion sometimes. The similarities are there in the rhetoric. We must reject profligate ways or face climate doom (sinners must repent or go to hell). We ought to feel guilty when we're wasteful, but if our footprint is light on the earth, self-righteousness and superiority are the reward. If we are bad, we should buy carbon credits (aka, do penance). We should never seriously doubt or question the facts, and can demonise those who dare to.

Whatever your opinion on climate change, the undermining of debate by casting sceptics as little better than a bunch of David Irvings should be a cause for concern. It is anti-science and anti-intellectual. The planet may face many threats, but free speech, open debate and scepticism are not among them.



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

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, DISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For times when blogger.com is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here.


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