Sunday, June 01, 2014

What the muck! Eco-friendly university power station explodes covering the area with stinking cows' poo

An eco-friendly power station suddenly exploded this morning showering the surrounding area with hundreds of tonnes of stinking cow dung.

The blow out in a slurry processing tank happened in the early hours at the plant outside Harper Adams University near Newport in Shropshire.

Onlookers said one side of the 30ft tall corrugated metal building was completely torn off while the roof and supporting wall collapsed.

Thousands of gallons of slurry spilled into a nearby farm flooding one road and leaving several fields waterlogged.

Fire crews and police arrived at the scene at 10am and sealed off the scene with tape while the buildings were inspected.

Environment Agency officials spent the day at the site assessing the damage and working to minimise the effect on the environment.

A university spokesman said: 'The University is working with them (The Environment Agency) to assess the damage and minimise any impact on the environment.'

Onlookers yesterday described the extent of the damage.  One said: 'The plant is made up of about six main structures and one, a 30ft high corrugated metal building at the back of the plant, has had virtually all of one side apparently blown out.

'There is a huge mountain of slurry piled up inside which has poured from the building onto a farm track and part of the roof has collapsed.

'It looks like there is tonnes of the brown slime that has spilt out in total, it will certainly take a while to clean up.'

The incident is the second time the £3million power plant has leaked sludge in the last year. In February last year thousands of gallons of waste flooded farmland and entered rivers after a storage tank was left unsealed for 36 hours.

Temporary dams were then put up to stop more pollution flowing into watercourse which feed the rivers Strine and Tern.

The anaerobic digestion plant was built in 2011 in a bid to offset carbon emissions and has saved 3.4 times the current emissions from campus buildings.

The plant takes food and farm waste and creates power to be used at Harper Adams University.

Named after a wealthy 19th century farmer, the university is the UK’s leading specialist provider of higher education for the agri-food chain and rural sector.


School Car Wash Fundraisers Banned in Virginia County

For years, car washes have been a fundraising staple for high school sports teams, marching bands and youth groups.

Just get some kids together with buckets and soap, rent out a parking lot, put up a sign and hope it doesn’t rain.

But in Arlington, Va., you also have to hope the government doesn’t catch you.

Charity car washes and car wash fundraisers are now banned on school property there, after the Department of Environmental Services issued new rules for stormwater and water runoff.

The county pins the blame on the Virginia General Assembly, which approved more stringent water regulations last year.

“There is an underlying reason why most types of car washing are not allowed under state and federal stormwater regulations,” DES spokeswoman Shannon Whalen told the Arlington News.

Those important reasons: washing cars can cause chlorinated water and soap to wash into local streams, which flow into the Potomac River and Chesapeake Bay.

But Whalen found a silver lining in the new regulations.

“There are educational and environmental benefits that come with finding new and environmentally friendly ways to raise money for extracurricular activities,” she said.

One of those educational benefits: high school kids get a first-hand civics lesson in how government shuts down just about any activity it doesn’t like. Try finding that lesson in any textbook.

Coaches told the Arlington News they’re concerned about how the ban will affect sports and other activities. After all, the market can only handle so many bake sales.

The new stormwater regulations in Virginia have consequences beyond Arlington.

By the letter of the law approved in July 2013, all car washes that aren’t for personal use require a permit from the state government, even charity car washes held on private property.


Fire Statistics Debunk Asserted Link to Global Warming

California Gov. Jerry Brown blamed global warming for recent wildfires in California, but objective data show a decline in wildfires as our planet modestly warms.

2013 was one of the quietest wildfire years in U.S. history, according to data from the federal government’s National Interagency Fire Center. The 47,000 wildfires last year may seem like a very large number – and it certainly gives global warming alarmists like Brown plenty of fodder for misleading claims – but the 47,000 wildfires was less than half the average number of wildfires that occurred each year in the 1960s and 1970s. Earth was cooling during the 1960s and 1970s when so many more wildfires occurred.

The unusually quiet 2013 fire season continued a long-term trend in declining wildfires. From 1962 through 1982, for example, at least 100,000 wildfires occurred in the United States every year. Since 1982, however, not a single year has registered 100,000 wildfires. During the past decade, an average of 73,000 wildfires occurred each year. During the 1970s, by contrast, an average of 155,000 wildfires occurred each year.

The 2014 wildfire season, moreover, has been relatively quiet so far. The total number of wildfires is well below the 1962–2013 average and is even below the average for the past decade. Even so, the below-average 22,000 wildfires so far this year give alarmists plenty of opportunities to mislead the public about the facts.

Droughts and wildfires have always occurred and will always occur. While global warming is reducing the frequency of droughts and wildfires, warming will not completely eradicate droughts and wildfires. They will continue from time to time despite their long-term decline.


Why Do These Well-Fed Anti-Science Activists Oppose Safe, Cheap Food For Poor People?

Nearly 2,000 studies about GMOs all say the food is safe

Take the panic over genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Ninety percent of all corn grown in America is genetically modified now. That means it grew from a seed that scientists altered by playing with its genes. The new genes may make corn grow faster, or they may make it less appetizing to bugs so farmers can use fewer pesticides.

This upsets some people. GMOs are "unnatural," they say. A scene from the movie Seeds of Death warns that eating GMOs "causes holes in the GI tract" and "causes multiple organ system failure."

The restaurant chain Chipotle, which prides itself on using organic ingredients, produces videos suggesting that industrial agriculture is evil, including a comedic Web series called "Farmed and Dangerous" about an evil agricultural feed company that threatens to kill its opponents and whose products cause cows to explode.

Michael Hansen of Consumer Reports sounds almost as frightening when he talks about GMOs. On my show, he says, "It's called insertional mutagenesis ... you can't control where you're inserting that genetic information; it can have different effects depending on the location."

Jon Entine of the Genetic Literacy Project responds: "We've eaten about 7 trillion meals in the 18 years since GMOs first came on the market. There's not one documented instance of someone getting so much as a sniffle."

Given all the fear from media and activists, you might be surprised to learn that most serious scientists agree with him. "There have been about 2,000 studies," says Entine, and "there is no evidence of human harm in a major peer-reviewed journal."

That might be enough to reassure people if they knew how widespread and familiar GMOs really are—but as long as they think of GMOs as something strange and new, they think more tests are needed, more warnings, more precaution.

Yet people don't panic over ruby red grapefruits, which were first created in laboratories by bombarding strains of grapefruit with radiation. People don't worry about corn and other crops bred in random varieties for centuries without farmers having any idea exactly what genetic changes occurred.

We didn't even know what genes were when we first created new strains of plants and animals. There's no reason to believe modern methods of altering genes are any more dangerous.

In fact, because they're far more precise, they're safer.

And since genetic modification can make crops more abundant and easier to grow, it makes food cheaper. That's especially good for the poor. Another life-changer is a new strain of vitamin A-enriched rice that has the potential to decrease the frequency of blindness that now afflicts about a half-million people a year, mostly children. But activists—who tend to be rich and well-fed—are pressuring countries in Asia and Africa into rejecting GMO rice.

Crusades against food are endless. First Lady Michelle Obama urges students to eat organic, even though that term has no real meaning in science besides "partly composed of carbon."

My nonprofit for schoolteachers, Stossel in the Classroom, offers free videos that introduce students to economics. This year, we ran an essay contest inviting students to write on the topic "Food Nannies: Who Decides What You Eat?"

I was happy to see that many students understood that this debate is about more than safety. It's really about freedom. Sixteen-year-old Caroline Clausen won $1,000 for her essay, which contained this sarcastic passage: "Congress shall have the power to regulate the mixing, baking, serving, labeling, selling and consumption of food. Did James Madison's secretary forget to copy this provision into the Constitution?"

Rising generations will have more food options than ever before. They face less risk of starvation or disease than any humans who have ever lived. Let's give them science instead of scare stories.


Environmentalists Cheer California's Latest Plan to Sink Its Economy

Getting oil out of the US’s largest reserve is going to be much harder than expected. So why are some people celebrating?

 Environmentalists are gleeful at the news reported last week by the U.S. Energy Information Administration that the amount of recoverable oil from California's Monterey Shale formation — predicted to be the nation's largest reserve of oil — is a whopping 96-percent below original production estimates.

In response, more than 100 environmental groups signed a letter to the California Legislature calling for a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing and other "stimulation" techniques that ultimately would be needed to develop this oil field. They say the new estimates are "undercutting the misguided rationale" for allowing fracking before more studies are done.

"I never saw so much glee from bad economic news," said Tupper Hull, spokesman for the Sacramento-based Western States Petroleum Association. "It does not change the dynamics or the debate about hydraulic fracturing." The oil industry's main point is a good one — there's no less oil in that vast geologic formation that largely lies underneath the Central Valley and parts of the Los Angeles basin.

The reduced production number "is the government's estimate of how much oil drillers can get out of the earth with existing technology and at current prices," said Sabrina Lockhart, spokeswoman for Californians for a Safe, Secure Energy Future, which promotes fracking.

Original estimates produced by a 2013 University of Southern California study assumed that tapping oil in the Monterey Shale would be similar to tapping it in other lucrative oilfields. But test wells were less productive than expected because of our state's twisted geology. Current fracking and horizontal drilling techniques can't get at the oil the way they can in other places.

This problem will fix itself. The oil may be too expensive to extract right now using current techniques, but if oil prices go up there will be increased incentive to figure out how to get it out of the ground.

Economists have been surprised that natural gas has become such an important part of the nation's energy mix in the past few years, but technological advancements have opened up those vast new resources and created an economic boom in economically depressed areas of North Dakota, Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Something similar could happen here with oil if the state doesn't squelch it.

"The fact that the technology doesn't exist today, doesn't mean that it won't exist tomorrow," said Tom Tanton, with the Energy & Environment Legal Institute, which advocates for "free-market environmentalism." Apparently, even the anti-fracking groups understand as much or they wouldn't still be pushing for a moratorium on accessing oil reserves that are not now available.

Last year, Gov. Jerry Brown signed tough new oil-exploration regulations that were nevertheless championed by the oil industry given that they set up a predictable framework that allows new oil-extraction technologies to proceed.

The governor had no response to the new federal estimates, but Brown recently said on national TV that California has been fracking for 50 years and that "we are not going to shut down a third of our oil production and force more oil coming from North Dakota." He has called for careful development of the state's oil resources while "hammering at the demand." Brown no doubt sees a future revenue boom, but it has no impact now.

"There's nothing built into either our economic or revenue forecasts related to fracking," according to Department of Finance spokesman H.D. Palmer. "So regarding EIA's lower estimate, the bottom line is that it isn't a hit to our bottom line."

So the new federal estimates warrant a giant shrug. California will not ban fracking or soon slap an oil-severance tax on producers. There's no effect on the state budget. All the oil is still in the ground. Environmental groups are still issuing dire predictions and letters to the legislature.

The only thing that changes is the rest of us know what many oil-industry experts had always believed: Efforts to fully tap the Monterey Shale will have to wait for the future.


Carbon dioxide won't cause famines

In fact, more atmospheric CO2 will spur crop growth – if we let it

Dennis T. Avery

Historian Geoffrey Parker is the author of Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the 17th Century. In a recent opinion piece, he suggested that the desperate climate from 1600 to 1700 is a template for human collapse in our twenty-first century. There are two massive flaws in his theory.

Almost all past agricultural and cultural collapses occurred during “little ice ages,” not during our many global warm periods. In addition, today’s seeds, fertilizers and modern farming techniques and technologies are far superior to anything mankind possessed during previous crises.

The seventeenth century was part of the 550-year Little Ice Age, the most recent of at least seven “little ice ages” that have befallen the planet since the last Pleistocene Ice Age ended some 13,000 years ago. Studying sediment deposits in the North Atlantic, Gerard Bond of the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory found such centuries-long “little ice ages” beginning at 1300 AD, 600 AD, 800 BC, 2200 BC, 3900 BC, 7400 BC, 8300 BC, and perhaps at 9100 BC. In fact, these worldwide Dansgaard-Oeschger disasters arrived on a semi-regular basis some 600 times over the past million years.

Each of these icy ages blasted humanity with short, cold, cloudy growing seasons, untimely frosts, and extended droughts interspersed with heavy and violent rains. Naturally, their crops failed. Humanity’s cities starved to death, repeatedly – with seven collapses in Mesopotamia, six each for Egypt and China, two for Angkor Wat and at several calamities in Europe.

The early cultures gave the illusion of continuity: the Nile and the Yangtze always had at least a little irrigation water. However, “little ice age” hunger and disease drove human and animal migrations across thousands of miles and over continents, led to major invasions like the Huns into Europe’s Dark Ages, and caused the collapse of kingships and ruling dynasties around the globe.

While acknowledging the existence of the cold, chaotic periods, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has barely factored them into its computer models. The IPCC seems to think it is just coincidence that our warm and relatively stable Modern Warming directly followed the latest awful Little Ice Age.

Moreover, our recent climate has been more stable than the chaotic “little ice ages.” Iraq has not had a three-century drought recently. The Volga River Valley has not been too flooded to farm for 700 years, as happened after 600 BC. British logbooks show the Little Ice Age featured more than twice as many major hurricanes making landfall in the Caribbean, compared to the twentieth century.

Parker mentions three possible driving forces for the seventeenth century collapse: volcanoes, El Niños, and the sun. There’s no cycle in the volcanoes, however, and the El Niños are too short – rarely lasting more than a year or two. That leaves the sun, and the powerful influences it has on Earth’s temperature and climate.

Indeed, Parker’s own book focuses on the Maunder Minimum (1645–1715 AD), the solar cold cycle that existed during and caused the depths of the Little Ice Age. During this time, the sun had virtually no sunspots for 70 years, significantly reducing the crop-growing warmth reaching our planet, while producing long periods of horrendous storms and floods that killed crops and ruined harvested grains.

We must compliment Parker for recognizing that the climate was the key to these global crises. He fails, however, to acknowledge that this has been a recurring pattern.

With this omission, Dr. Parker draws the wrong conclusion about the threat to future societies. There is no visible reason to expect famines today due to carbon dioxide, which improves plant growth for crops, forests, grasslands and algae, as atmospheric CO2 levels increase.

The danger is the cold, chaotic weather of the “little ice ages” themselves. That will shrink agricultural zones and shorten growing seasons. Another such icy period is inevitably coming, though not likely in the next two centuries, if past cycles are an accurate guide.

Regardless, for the next 20-25 years, humanity will likely be in another cooling period, caused by the sun’s reduced energy output and the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. We are about 150 years into the modern warming. Since the shortest of these warm periods during the Halocene was 350 years, and they generally last 350 to 800 years, it is unlikely that we will enter another Little Ice Age for a couple more centuries.

But even a prolonged cooler period (akin to what Earth experienced 1860-1900 and 1940-1975) could create problems for some crops in some areas: such as grapes in Washington, Wisconsin and Great Britain. Mostly, though, modern crops and agricultural practices can handle colder weather and shorter growing seasons reasonably well – and certainly much better than was the case for previous generations of humans during previous colder spells

Dr. Parker nearly redeems himself by making the most valid point of all. We now have science and transportation to deal much more effectively with that coming “little ice age.” Our biggest advantage is our modern high-yield agriculture. Today we harvest perhaps six times as much food per acre as the desperate farmers of the seventeenth century, and our yields keep rising, thanks to scientific breakthroughs like nitrogen fertilizer, pesticides and hybrid seeds.

We must also thank unfairly maligned biotechnology, which lets us grow many crops that are disease, drought and insect resistant; rice that can survive prolonged periods under water; plants that are resistant to herbicides and thus facilitate no-till farming that improves soils and reduces erosion; and specialty crops like “golden rice” that incorporate formerly missing nutrients into vital foods.

Our crop yields are also rising because of another surprising factor: more atmospheric carbon dioxide. This trace gas (400 ppm or 0.04% of Earth’s atmosphere) acts like fertilizer for plants, and thus for the animals and people who depend on them. Studies show that doubling CO2 in the air will boost the growth of herbaceous plants by about 30% to 35%; trees will benefit even more.

Indeed, satellites show that Earth’s total vegetation increased 6% just from 1982 to 1999, as CO2 levels increased. Famines in a CO2-warmed tomorrow are therefore less likely, not more.

If humans have food, they can do all the other things necessary for civilization. However, we must double food production per acre – again and rapidly – to feed the world’s oncoming peak population, and enable all people to enjoy the nutrition that Americans and Europeans already do.

Equally important, since 1960, higher yields have also saved wildlife habitat equal to a land area greater than South America from being plowed for more low-yield crops. The price of farming failure in coming decades will not be famine. Instead, it will be the loss of hundreds of millions of acres of wildlife habitats.

Misguided opposition to biotechnology, fossil fuels and increased atmospheric carbon dioxide could very well condemn millions of people to malnutrition and starvation, and numerous wildlife species to extinction.



For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

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