Thursday, December 22, 2011

Green chemistry’s march of the ostriches

In an age of routine life-enhancing improvements, self-appointed public policy ostriches are spreading myths as divorced from reality as those surrounding the ostrich. The myths envelop man-made chemicals. Advocates wave an innocent-looking banner extolling “green chemistry,” which in reality involves government second guessing decisions made within the private sector to force industry to make more “environmentally sound” or “green” products. This movement has succeeded in pressing its anti-chemicals agenda in numerous state capitals, and is trying to take it nationwide.

Advocates of regulation to advance green chemistry suggest it serves the “precautionary principle,” which calls on companies to prove their products are safe before they are allowed on the market. It may sound reasonable, but since no one can prove 100 percent safety, precautionary policies grant government agencies the power to regulate arbitrarily, targeting products for elimination based largely on political, rather than scientific, grounds.

For decades, self-styled “public health” activist groups and the news media have fed Americans a diet of doubts and fears about the chemicals and substances that have made life better in the developed world. Contrary to their precautionary rhetoric, the level of danger that surrounds the modern American continues to decline across the board. U.S. life expectancy keeps rising—more than a year and a half over the last decade, according to the World Health Organization. Despite news that chemicals pose a serious risk, both cancer mortality and incidence levels have declined as mankind has increased their use.

Nonetheless, with their heads buried in the proverbial sand, lawmakers around the nation are responding to the hype with a host of laws and regulations. A November 2010 report by the Safer States Coalition, a leading green chemistry proponent organization, boasts: “In the last eight years, both the number of state chemical laws and the number of states passing toxic chemical reforms have tripled.” A major goal of these laws is the replacement of products that have stood the test of time and prevailed among others in the marketplace.

Government-directed green chemistry is based on the assumption that market processes fail consumers by releases of needlessly dangerous or environmentally damaging products. Green chemistry advocates argue that, with a little direction, government can fix this problem. Yet the assumption that regulators can find less risky alternatives is unrealistic.

Truly “green”—that is, efficient and safe—innovations rarely are driven by government. They are the natural outcome of the competitive market which “green” policies seek to control. The market development of chemical products is also naturally “green.” After all, chemical companies do not succeed if they poison their customers. They succeed by providing high-quality, safe products their customers want. The unique nature of chemicals demands that they conduct the research to ensure their products perform in a safe manner.

Given market incentives to ensure product safety, companies join associations of various kinds to share information and self-regulate. The ubiquitous nature of such standard-setting organizations underscores the role that incentives play in ensuring product safety and quality. Today, chemicals are covered under numerous voluntary regulatory programs for consumer products around the world including cosmetics, plastics, and chemicals in general. Unfortunately, government regulations can hinder such voluntary standards systems and replace them with fewer, less effective programs.

A complex society needs simple rules built on bedrock principles. With the green chemistry movement’s anti-chemical agenda proceeding in so many states, we have begun to overturn one of our cherished principles by giving government the authority to clog scientific inquiry without convincing evidence. At the heart of the matter, Americans must understand and tolerate reasonable amounts of risk. It is in our economic and ecological interest to let inventors make discoveries outside the widening orbit of legal and governmental overregulation.


Global warmers betrayed by bald-faced honesty

While barely reported in US mainstream media, which comes as little surprise to libertarians, two top US hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University admitted they "are quitting the practice of making a seasonal forecast in December because it doesn't work."

For 20 years William Gray, recently joined by Phil Klotzbach, has been preeminent at making December forecasts on how many named storms and hurricanes to expect during each official June-to-November hurricane season.

To punctuate their superlative work in the past the Ottawa Citizen gushed over the pair as "revered like rock stars in Deep South hurricane country" in their December 12 article but for unknown reasons rewrote the same linked lead-in the following day to "famous across Deep South hurricane country."

The article even said of Gray, "Southerners hang on his words, as even a mid-sized hurricane can cause billions in damage."

But now the prognosticators are saying, "Our early December Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts of the last 20 years have not shown real-time forecast skill." Put simply, their predictions are worthless.

"Fortunately, no major hurricanes made US landfall in 2011, despite a forecast of above-average probability. In fact, no major hurricanes have made landfall in the US in six years!"

This appears to be yet another blow to the politically-driven global warming aka climate change crusade following two different WikiLeaks data dumps that disclosed memos of government climate experts conspiring to manipulate scientific data and computer projections in order to publicize desired scaremongering results.

True Believer Global Changers and Climate Warmers will likely lash out at the pair as Traitors to the Cause while claiming that it still doesn't change the science.

People who actually read actual history may detect an echo of this tenuous grasp on "science" from the darkest distant past:

"Of course we can transmute base metals into gold and silver through the magic of alchemy. We just need the king to keep supporting us from His Majesty's treasury so we can develop better chants and spells as we pour our chemical potions upon our lead and iron ore specimens. We just need more study and research."

Truth is, science constantly changes based on testable and verifiable new data and discoveries. The political football of "earth sciences" today may become a real science in the future once all the social engineering, agenda-driven ideology and taxpayer-looted government subsidies and international wealth redistributions are washed out of it and scientists are allowed to act like scientists again.

As for William Gray and Phil Klotzbach, thank you for your honesty.


Warmist Ken Caldeira resigns as IPCC lead author, says "it is not clear how much additional benefit there is to having a huge bureaucratic scientific review effort under UN auspices"

New Directions for the Intergovernmental Climate Panel -

Clearly, at the outset, the early IPCC reports played an important role showing that there was a high degree of consensus around the reality and basic science of human-induced climate change. It was important to show that, despite a few climate-science deniers, the fundamental science was well-accepted by the mainstream scientific community.

But can anybody point to any important positive outcomes resulting from the IPCC AR4 process? [AR4 is shorthand for the panel's fourth assessment, which was published in 2007.] Is there reason to expect a greater positive impact from the IPCC AR5 process? [This is the forthcoming fifth assessment of climate science and policies, coming in 2013 and 2014]

I am all for scientific reviews and assessments, and I think the multi-model comparisons reviewed by the IPCC have been especially useful. However, it is not clear how much additional benefit there is to having a huge bureaucratic scientific review effort under UN auspices...

(As an aside, I recently resigned as a lead author of an IPCC AR5 chapter simply because I felt I had more effective ways of using the limited amount of time that I have to engage in scientific activities. My resignation was made possible because I believe that the chapter team that I was part of was on the right track and doing an excellent job without my contribution. Had I had a scientific criticism of my chapter team, you can be assured that I would have stayed involved. So, my resignation was a vote of confidence in my scientific peers, not a critique. It is just not clear to me that, at this point, working on IPCC chapters is the most effective use of my time.

Carnegie Department of Global Ecology

Caldeira is a lead author for the upcoming IPCC AR5 report and was coordinating lead author of the oceans chapter for the 2005 IPCC report on Carbon Capture and Storage. In 2010, Caldeira was elected Fellow of the American Geophysical Union.He was a co-author of the 2010 US National Academy America's Climate Choices report

About Ken Caldeira
KENNETH G. CALDEIRA joined the Laboratory's Atmospheric Chemistry Group as a physicist in 1993 and has been an environmental scientist in the Climate System Modeling Group since 1995. He received his Ph.D. and M.S. in atmospheric science from New York University in 1991 and 1988 and his B.A. in philosophy from Rutgers University in 1978. He also served as a postdoc at Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center. Caldeira has published many papers, for example, on climate stability of early Earth and the global carbon cycle as it has been affected by human activity over millions of years.


Europe fights to save cap-and-trade as crisis hits

Europe's main weapon in the battle against climate change is now fighting for its own survival.

In early January, investors in the continent's cap-and-trade system still had to pay some euro14 ($18.30) for the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide into the air. By last week, the price of one emission allowance had tumbled to a meager euro6.41 - making it much cheaper to pollute and slashing the financial incentives for companies to invest in low-carbon technologies.

Analysts warn that the prospect of another recession in the debt-ridden continent, and the accompanying decline in emissions, could push prices below euro2 by the end of next month.

The troubles in the carbon market, a system being watched closely from California to China, is linked to the struggles of Europe' other ambitious project, the euro. And just as financial investors have looked to the European Central Bank to save the currency through massive intervention in the bond markets, analysts say the emissions market may need similar centralized help.

Last week, 19 companies, including oil giant Royal Dutch Shell PLC, Philips Electronics NV and supermarket chain Tesco PLC, sent a letter to the European Commission urging it to reduce the number of emission allowances in the system and figure out how to protect the market from future economic shocks. The commission and national governments jointly manage the cap-and-trade system.

"The lower price is really undermining the development of technologies that will be needed in the decades to come," said David Hone, Shell's climate change adviser.

Shell, which is mostly known for selling oil and gas, has been one of the pioneers of carbon capture and storage, projects in which CO2 emissions are stored underground so they don't get released into the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. But investing in new technologies like carbon capture and storage only becomes commercially viable at a carbon price of between euro25 and euro30, Hone said.

"Over the last few months, we have seen some of these projects disappear," he added.

In October, the U.K. government shut down the carbon capture project in Longannet in eastern Scotland in which Shell was one of the partners.

While the prospect of another recession is the main reason for the recent drop in carbon prices, experts say that - just like with the euro - serious flaws in the system are exacerbating the problems and could lead to its failure if they can't be fixed.

The economic crisis has lowered emissions and thus hit the price of carbon allowances. But the drop has been so dramatic because there were too many allowances in the system to begin with.

To get industry and skeptical governments on board, the Commission set a very high cap for emissions when it launched the carbon market in 2005.

Since then, most allowances have been given out for free to the 11,000 power stations and factories covered by the system based on their historical emissions. Companies that emit less carbon dioxide than they are allowed can sell their spare permits to firms that exceed their limit. As of next year, airlines will also be included in the system.

But the big test for Europe's carbon market - and whether it can provide the financial incentives for cutting emissions - will come in 2013, when governments start selling a growing number of allowances at auctions.

It is before then that the Commission has to intervene, say the companies that wrote last week's letters.

There are signs that their calls are being heard. On Tuesday, the environment committee of the European Parliament voted to withdraw some 1.4 billion allowances, about 15 percent of the total, from the carbon market between 2013 and 2020. At the same time, the committee said, the annual cap should be cut by 2.25 percent per year, rather than the 1.74 percent currently planned.

While the committee vote is the first step in a long process of changing the system and few industry watchers expect the figures to survive negotiations among EU states trying to protect their national industries, it caused carbon prices to jump more than 18 percent.

"It opens up a much deeper discussion about what does the intervention look like and when is it going to happen," says Sanjeev Kumar, an expert on carbon trading at environmental watchdog E3G in Brussels.

"Without intervention," warned Kumar, "not only the ETS is over, but Europe's climate policy is over. It will put Europe back into the dark ages."

Apart from failing to encourage the necessary cuts in emissions and technological innovation, the collapse in the carbon price could also worsen Europe's debt crisis.

Between 2013 and 2020, when companies have to pay for more and more of their allowances, the cap-and-tade system could raise as much as euro190 billion for governments across the EU if prices recover.

"This is a pretty important revenue stream for most member states," says Rob Elsworth, of climate campaign group Sandbag in London. "And they are watching revenues just disappear."

Experts like Kumar and Elsworth are hopeful that states will garner the political will to save the carbon trading system, which has pioneered the market-based approach to saving the environment.

"If you take away this green-economy narrative," asked Elsworth, "what's really left of Europe?"


Unsafe wind power

1,500 accidents and incidents on UK wind farms

The wind energy industry has admitted that 1,500 accidents and other incidents have taken place on wind farms over the past five years. The figures – released by RenewableUK, the industry's trade body – include four deaths and a further 300 injuries to workers.

The scale of incidents – equivalent to almost one a day – emerges following the publication of dramatic photographs showing one turbine which had crashed to the ground in a field near a road and another exploding into flames, caused by 150mph winds which buffeted Scotland and northern England last week.

Charles Anglin, RenewableUK's director of communications, stressed that last week's incidents were caused by "freak weather". The organisation said that no member of the public had ever been hurt as a result of a wind turbine accident.

A dossier of incidents, compiled by a campaign group opposed to wind farms, includes cases where blades, each weighing as much as 14 tonnes, have sheared off and crashed to the ground.

Residents living near a wind farm have reported sheltering in their homes when lumps of ice were thrown from blades from a 410-ft high turbine near Peterborough, Cambridgeshire.

One manufacturer of wind turbines admitted one of its models had a defect – understood to be caused by a faulty braking system that meant the blades could fly off – that led to hundreds of turbines being ordered to be shut down in September by the Health and Safety Executive. The company, Proven Energy Ltd, based in Scotland, went into receivership shortly after.

Blades attached to smaller domestic wind turbines have also become detached and hit buildings – in one case penetrating the roof of a cabin used as an office.

Campaigners claim that the incidents show that "some parts of the country are too windy for turbines". Most turbines automatically shut down when the wind speed rises above 56mph because at that speed they can become unsafe.

In September a blade flew off a wind turbine on the roof of a new car park at Lister hospital in Stevenage, Hertfordshire, hitting a staff member’s car.

Last year a 140-turbine wind farm near Glasgow was temporarily shut down after a 14-tonne fibreglass blade broke off in windy conditions and landed at the base of its tower.

Two years ago, a 50ft turbine collapsed in the playground of a school on the Island of Raasay off the coast of Scotland, and in the same year a blade on a 190 ft wind turbine in Rotherham owned by Sheffield University broke in strong winds, prompting an investigation by its manufacturers.

The incidents were compiled by the Caithness Wind Farm Information Forum, which campaigns against turbines in Scotland and publishes accidents - backed up by media reports - on its website. RenewableUK said the deaths had been recorded in 2009 and 2010.

One involved a maintenance worker in Scotland who had become 'tangled' with the driveshaft of a turbine while the other three deaths took place during construction of onshore and offshore wind farms.

Chris Streatfeild, RenewableUK's director of health and safety, said: "No members of the public have ever been injured or harmed in the reports we have received.

"The risk to the public is one in 100 million. You are much more likely to be injured by a lightening strike than by a wind turbine."

Mr Streatfeild said RenewableUK had recorded 1,500 incidents over the past five years, many of which were very minor. Of those, about 18 per cent - or close to 300 incidents - led to an injury, again usually very minor.

He said planning and safety rules meant turbines were always at a certain minimum distance from roads and homes, reducing further the risk to the public. He said the number of fires and structural collapse each amounted to just a ‘handful’.

Mr Anglin said last week that wind farms had an “excellent health and safety record”, adding: “In stressful situations any power equipment may develop faults, and that’s true of gas, nuclear, oil, and is also true of wind.”

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) said last week it was “extremely difficult” to assemble a “complete picture of reported incidents at wind farms” because accidents are not recorded by industry type.

The HSE said its figures showed three fatal accidents between 2007/08 and 2009/10 and a total of 53 major or dangerous incidents in the same time frame.

An HSE spokesman said wind turbines were classed as machines rather than buildings or structures and that there was no obligation to report mechanical failures.

Angela Kelly, chairman of the Country Guardian, a national network of anti-wind farm campaigns, said: “We have been aware of accidents on wind farms for years but the new figures released by the industry’s own trade body are particularly alarming. “Developers seem to have ignored the fact that some parts of the country are too windy for turbines.”


More oppressive Green insanity coming to Australia

THE cost of cooling your home and cooking dinner could double under a new Gillard government power proposal. Charging consumers more for electricity during the evening peak, and less at other times, is among a raft of "policy options" contained in a discussion paper made public yesterday.

The plan would involve a statewide rollout of so-called "smart meters", which have caused anger among some consumers whose bills have risen sharply. Other proposals put forward in the paper include minimum energy standards for appliances, rebates and green building regulations.

There is also a bizarre plan allowing energy companies to remotely control home airconditioners in high-demand periods in return for a discount at other times - a move experts say would hit western Sydney hard.

After the Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency released the consultation paper for a proposed national energy savings initiative, acting Greens leader Christine Milne claimed it was "another great Greens idea coming to fruition".

The push for a new green scheme would, according to the paper, "complement" the carbon tax, which will add $171 to power bills and would come on top of the existing renewable energy target scheme which added $100 to power bills this year. Smart meters monitor electricity usage in 30-minute intervals and feed information back to the energy company.

Some families in new homes with so-called smart meters are already on time-of-use tariffs where, between 2pm and 8pm, they pay 44c a kilowatt hour - twice the flat rate.

Energy Australia was forced to allow 200,000 households in NSW to revert to a flat rate if they wanted to after time-of-use charging hurt those who were at home during the peak period - new parents, pensioners and the disabled.

Energy Australia claimed 70 per cent of households were better off with smart meters. But research by St Vincent De Paul has shown time-of-use charging imposes double-digit increases on young families and the welfare-dependent.

Senator Milne said: "For too long, governments, businesses and householders haven't tackled our hugely wasteful use of energy because there has been no clear and urgent driver to do so." She said a target for energy use reduction should be set at 3 per cent a year.

Energy Users Association executive director Roman Domanski said similar schemes in Australia and overseas had produced limited benefits. He said time-of-use pricing would be more pronounced in hotter areas of Sydney - the west. "If the government introduces a scheme like that, it is going to increase bills," he said.

"We're now going to have a carbon price that is going to encourage people, supposedly, to lower emissions and also reduce the amount of energy people use so we wonder why you need one of these sorts of schemes to push electricity prices up even more."

A spokeswoman for parliamentary secretary for climate change Mark Dreyfus said a national energy savings initiative was aimed at "helping households and business save money on energy costs".



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