Thursday, August 16, 2012

Nutjob Maine mother terrorizes her children

Meteorologist Joseph D’Aleo has supplied the following graph of temperatures in Maine

My 12-year old has just asked to participate in another weekly activity thirty minutes away. I try a quick rebuff: “You’re already too busy and it’s too expensive.” With more than a bit of adolescent attitude, she replies, “You just don’t want to take the time to drive me.”

I look at the clock. It’s past 7 p.m. We haven’t eaten dinner, and unfinished homework clutters the kitchen table. There is never a perfect moment to get into the real nitty gritty of why and wherefore. Still, sometimes you have to take the time to give your kids an honest answer to their questions.

“Yes, you’re partly right,” I tell her, and her sister too, who has now wandered in. “I don’t especially want to spend more time carting you around. But there is another reason. Every time we get in the car we contribute to climate change. By the end of this century – and you may both still be around – climate change is likely to make conditions for life on earth drastically different from what they are today.”

I pause. It’s gloomy stuff, the state of the environment. Usually I try not to dwell on scientists’ pessimistic planetary forecasts. Nobody, including me, really wants to hear it. Nobody wants to read about it over morning coffee and a doughnut. Nobody wants to tell their kids about it.

I plunge ahead. I tell them that they have just lived through the hottest decade ever recorded. I tell them that recent flooding submerged one fifth of the land surface of Pakistan, washing away 7,000 schools.

I tell them that the Arctic is melting, that hurricanes are getting stronger, droughts are lengthening, and rainfall records are being shattered. Within their lifetimes, sea level could rise by 6 feet, or more, submerging the world’s coastal cities.

The children are quiet. Finally they ask if our house, a few miles inland from the Maine coast, will be okay. This question, in its innocent disregard either for the welfare of others, or for the fact that if the world disintegrates around them it won’t matter if their house is okay, seems to reflect a child’s perspective.

But it’s how us adults think too: Sure, catastrophic drought struck Texas last year and the Midwest this summer. But here in the Northeast global warming so far has mostly meant warmer winters. In other words, our house and family are fine.

Well then, my children ask, shouldn’t we do something about it?

I tell them they are already helping by riding their bikes and walking around town, by delighting in hand-me-downs rather than shopping trips, by eating local spinach rather than asking for processed foods from afar.

Although this cheers them up a bit, they are smart enough to know that a few leaves of spinach are not going to fix a whole lot. By the end of the conversation, they’re in tears.

Like every parent, I want my children to believe their futures are full of hope and promise. Yet at some point they also need to look with clear eyes at the world around them. Without that, where will the motivation come from to make anything better?


Hansen Is Wrong

In his recent press blitz, NASA’s James Hansen tries to tie extreme weather events, such the current drought affecting much of the central U.S., to anthropogenic global warming. But the real world argues otherwise.

The standard measure of drought—the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI)—has temperature incorporated into its equation. The higher the temperature, the greater the potential evaporation term, and thus the tendency towards drier conditions. But (obviously) precipitation amount is also included in the calculation of the PDSI. More precipitation pushes the index away from drought conditions. So just because temperature is on the rise does not mean that droughts must become more frequent—changes in precipitation could intervene and counteract the influence of a temperature increase.

Across the U.S., over the past century or so, both temperature and precipitation have been on the upswing. Figure 1 shows that U.S. annual PDSI from 1895 through 2011. The more positive the PDSI values, the wetter conditions are, the more negative the PDSI values, the drier things are. There is no statistically significant trend over the 117 period of record, although the non-significant tendency is upwards (towards wetter conditions), evidence that the increase in precipitation is more than offsetting the impact from rising temperatures in the U.S.

Figure 1. U.S. annual average palmer Drought Severity Index value, 1895-2011 (data source: National Climatic Data Center).

In other words, the situation is as it always has been. And the 2012 drought conditions, and every other drought that has come before, is the result of natural processes, not human greenhouse gases emissions.

Simply put, Jim Hansen is wrong.


California regulators looks at reducing 'cap and trade' burden on businesses

Big business sees California's global-warming law as a job killer, a $1 billion tax that could force some of the state's heaviest industries to flee. Now state regulators, trying to ease the burden, are studying whether to give hardship breaks to dozens of companies.

Under the plan being considered, the state would dole out extra carbon credits – the precious allowances that will give industries the license to emit greenhouse gases starting in January. The proposal could save companies millions of dollars.

Like practically everything connected with Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act, the idea is controversial.

Some environmentalists say extra allowances would weaken a system they fear is already ripe for manipulation. "We're … concerned about the system being gamed," said Kathryn Phillips, director of Sierra Club California.

Businesses, however, say they need all the help they can get as they struggle with the complexities and costs of AB 32.

Handing out additional free credits "would provide much-needed relief. It won't solve the whole problem," said Ed Yates of the California League of Food Processors, a group whose members include Campbell Soup and Del Monte. Carbon credits are at the very heart of AB 32. This fall the state will allocate millions of them, each representing a ton of greenhouse gases, to approximately 430 factories, refineries and other industrial users.

In total, the credits will constitute a ceiling on California's annual carbon emissions. The allotment will be reduced 2 percent to 3 percent a year in order to gradually bring down the amount of carbon in the air.

The 430 affected companies will get most of their allowances from the state for free – 90 percent in each of the first two years. The percentage of freebies is scheduled to decline in future years.

The rest of the credits will cost money. Companies will be able to buy them directly from the state, which will hold regular auctions starting in November.

Or they can buy them from other companies on the state's "cap and trade" market.

The market is patterned after carbon markets that have been run for years by the European Union and a coalition of northeastern states.

It's making California businesses nervous. Even with loads of free credits, companies say the costs of purchasing the rest could be prohibitive. It won't help that the allotment will decline each year, they say, likely raising prices.

"It's going to be a huge economic burden, of course," said Brenda Coleman, policy advocate at the California Chamber of Commerce. "All industries are susceptible."

In the market's first full year, California industries are expected to pay $1 billion or more for allowances. The cost could grow to $6 billion a year in 2015. That's when the market will expand to include oil refiners paying for the greenhouse gases emitted by cars and trucks on California roads.

Mindful of the so-called "leakage" effect – the prospect of companies leaving California to escape the costs – the California Air Resources Board is looking to tweak the system.

One likely solution is to give more free carbon credits to companies deemed at risk. The total amount of credits available each year wouldn't increase – it would still fall 2 percent to 3 percent a year – but a greater percentage of them would be handed out for free. This would save some companies millions of dollars a year, although the extra freebies wouldn't kick in until 2015.

The ARB says it believes the extra carbon allowances would strike a balance between businesses' needs and the environment.

"Obviously we don't want industry to leave the state, but we want them to meet the emissions requirements," said air board spokesman David Clegern.

The ARB's proposal is the latest twist for AB 32, which survived a challenge at the ballot box in 2010 but is still struggling for acceptance. California was hoping to operate the cap and trade market via a multistate Western alliance, but that fizzled. Only the Canadian province of Quebec has committed to linking its carbon market with California.

While the market's opening bell won't ring for a few months, carbon traders are already jockeying for position. Industrial users and speculators are buying and selling the credits – known as California Carbon Allowances – on two futures exchanges. The going rate: around $19 a ton.


Obama's backdoor attack on fracking

When President Obama's regulatory apparatus takes the side of environmentalists against the workers and consumers who must bear the consequences of his decisions, his green enforcers are usually the U.S. Department of the Interior or the Environmental Protection Agency. In the rare instance, as with the Keystone Pipeline, it is the State Department that delivers the crippling blow. But where these agencies have failed to inflict sufficient damage on one of America's fastest-growing industries, the Department of Transportation has stepped forward, cudgel in hand.

Since Obama's inauguration in January 2009, overall employment in the U.S. has declined. In domestic oil and gas extraction, however, it has grown by 19 percent. With just under 200,000 employees, it is not one of America's largest industries, but it has helped take the edge off the lack of employment opportunities available in the Obama recovery. Thousands of jobs in other industries have sprung up in the oases that oil and gas have created, bringing rural ghost towns back to life. The reason is hydraulic fracturing or "fracking" technology, which has made vast amounts of natural gas profitably accessible, even at today's low natural gas prices.

Environmentalists are determined to put a stop to this carbon profiteering. The EPA is still conducting studies that environmentalists hope will someday justify draconian regulations on fracking. Enter Obama's Transportation Department. By suddenly reinterpreting a 50-year-old rule that limits truck drivers to 11 hours on the work site at a stretch, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has delivered an unexpected victory for environmental activists.

Truckers on drilling sites spend hours each day waiting around until one rig or another needs water or sand. This is why, ever since the 11-hour trucking safety rule was adopted in 1962, truckers who haul water and sand to drilling sites have been exempted. There is no issue of road fatigue, the focus of the 11-hour rule. The Transportation Department's reinterpretation eliminates this exemption, disproportionately affecting sites where fracking is employed. Voila - environmental regulation without the hassles of justifying it scientifically, as would be required for an EPA action.

"This is clearly an indication that somewhere up in the top echelons of this administration, there is a constant battle -- a war going on -- to try to artificially level the playing field between the oil and gas industry and the renewable [energy] industry," Rep. Jeff Landry, R-La., told The Washington Examiner.

Whatever Obama's reasons, this crackdown on natural gas is irreconcilable with his praise for the industry's success. In this year's State of the Union address, Obama spoke of gas in a fashion that presaged his more recent "you didn't build that" campaign-trail argument in favor of higher taxes and bigger government. "[I]t was public research dollars, over the course of 30 years, that helped develop the technologies to extract all this natural gas out of shale rock," he said.

Obama's claim is untrue - the federal government spent little to research fracking and stopped altogether in 1992 - but leave that aside. Even as Obama hails the natural gas boom as a vindication of his philosophy, his administration is crippling it with a sudden backdoor rule change. It says a lot about how this president has subordinated the creation of good-paying, long-lasting jobs to the whims of environmentalist bundlers and donors in New York and Hollywood.


California attacks skeptics

It looks like the Democrats are losing their patience with those who deny the importance of climate change. Just last week, Senator Harry Reid told those assembled at the National Clean Energy Conference in Las Vegas that "It's time for us all... to stop acting like those who ignore the [climate] crisis or deny it exists entirely have a valid point of view. They don't." And today at the Tahoe Summit California Governor Jerry Brown unveiled a new website, maintained by his Office of Planning and Research, that takes on climate denialists in no uncertain terms.

The website, "Climate Change: Just The Facts," pulls few punches in its countering of those who would deny that our planet is warming, and that it is our release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere that is responsible for the majority of that warming.
The website introduces the topic by mentioning California's campaign to move the state to a renewable energy footing, and to prepare to mitigate the worst effects of climate change on the state. It then starts taking apart the opposition:
While California is taking action, some of those who oppose the move to renewable energy and cleaner transportation have mischaracterized the science of climate change in an effort to create artificial uncertainty about the existence and causes of climate change.

The fact is that on the key issues, the science is clear: climate change is real and happening now; human-made greenhouse gas emissions are affecting our planet; and we need to take action. Just as we reached a point where we stopped debating whether cigarette smoke causes cancer, we need to end the climate change debate and focus on how to solve the problem.

The site analyzes the motivation of many prominent deniers:
A small but vocal group has aggressively spread misinformation about the science, aiming to cast doubt on well-established findings and conclusions. Their goal is to create confusion and uncertainty, thereby preventing meaningful action to remedy the problem. The same strategy was used cynically for decades by the tobacco industry after research showed that cigarettes caused cancer. In fact, some of the same individuals who have spoken out against climate science also claimed that cigarettes were safe.


Carbon Tax? Sorry, I Already Gave at the Pump

Carbon tax advocates say Congress should slap a price penalty on fossil fuels to make consumers bear the “social cost of carbon” (SCC) — the damage carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions allegedly inflict on public health and welfare via their presumed impacts on global climate.

What is the SCC? Depends on who you ask. Climate “hot heads” like Al Gore think the SCC is huge. “Lukewarmers” like Patrick Michaels think the SCC is less than the cost of the tax or regulatory burden required to make deep cuts in CO2 emissions. “Flatliners” like Craig Idso think the SCC is negative (i.e. CO2′s net impact is beneficial), because a moderately warmer climate is healthful and CO2 emissions nourish the biosphere.

In February 2010, the EPA and 11 other agencies issued a Technical Support Document (TSD) on the SCC. The TSD’s purpose is to enable federal agencies to incorporate the “social benefit” of CO2 emission reductions into cost-benefit estimates of regulatory actions.

The TSD recommends that agencies, in their regulatory impact analyses, use four SCC estimates, ranging from $5 per ton to $65 per ton in 2010:

For 2010, these estimates are $5, $21, $35, and $65 (in 2007 dollars). The first three estimates are based on the average SCC across models and socio-economic and emissions scenarios at the 5, 3, and 2.5 percent discount rates, respectively. The fourth value is included to represent the higher-than-expected impacts from temperature change further out in the tails of the SCC distribution.

Here’s where it gets interesting. Both the federal and state governments levy taxes on motor fuel. Motor fuel taxes are not called carbon taxes but their economic effect is the same – impose a price penalty on consumption. Moreover, via simple arithmetic any carbon tax can be converted into an equivalent gasoline tax and vice versa.

The point? Americans in every state except Alaska already pay a combined federal and state gasoline tax that is higher than a carbon tax set at $5, $21, or $35 per ton. Americans in five states pay a combined gasoline tax that is higher than a $65 per ton carbon tax. Americans in several other states pay a combined gasoline tax that is nearly as high as a $65 per ton carbon tax.

Carbon taxes are assessed per metric ton of CO2 emitted. Carbon taxes convert into gas taxes as follows. One gallon of gasoline when combusted yields 8.91 kilograms of CO2. One metric ton = 1,000 kilograms. Therefore, the quantity of CO2 emitted by a gallon of gasoline is 0.891% of a metric ton. If a carbon tax is set at $5, $21, or $35 per metric ton, then the carbon tax for gasoline, reflecting the estimated SCC, is about 4¢, 19¢, or 31¢ per gallon, respectively.

At 18.4¢ per gallon, the federal gasoline tax alone exceeds the TSD’s $5 per ton (4¢ per gallon) SSC estimate and nearly equals the $21 per ton (19¢ per gallon) SCC estimate. The U.S. average combined state and federal gasoline tax is 48.9¢ per gallon, 57% higher than a fuel tax (31¢ per gallon) based on the $35 per ton SCC estimate.

A carbon tax set at $65 per ton translates into a 58¢ per gallon gasoline tax. Motorists in five states pay more: California (67.7¢ per gallon), New York (67.7¢ per gallon), Hawaii (66.7¢ per gallon), Connecticut (63.4¢ per gallon ), and Illinois (62.8¢ per gallon). Americans in several other states (the other red states in the map) pay a combined gasoline tax that is nearly as high.

Motor vehicles, of course, are not the only source CO2 emissions in the U.S. economy. The transport sector as a whole accounts for about 29% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. Nonetheless, as motor fuel consumers, almost all Americans already pay a de facto carbon tax exceeding three out of four U.S. Government estimates of the social cost of carbon, and tens of millions of Americans pay an effectual carbon tax exceeding the government’s high-end social cost of carbon estimate.

Carbon tax proponents might say the foregoing analysis is not relevant because the purpose of gas taxes is to pay for roads while the purpose carbon taxes is to limit environmental impacts. This criticism is itself irrelevant. Whether the tax on motor fuel is called a carbon tax or a gasoline tax, it has the same effects on consumer behavior and business investment. What the revenues are used for — roads & bridges, green tech R&D, health care, deficit reduction — is a separate issue.

So the next time a warmista says we should pay a carbon tax, cheerfully reply, “Been there, done that, each time I fill up at the pump.”



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


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