Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Elon Musk.  Doom ahead?

As he is the chief prophet of electric cars, I think it is appropriate for me to say something about him here. To begin at the end, I think his bubble will burst quite soon.

The key question is how does he fund his activities?  As far as I can tell, none of his businesses makes a profit.  He is the profitless prophet.  So what keeps him afloat?


In his many activities he is seen as THE NEXT BIG THING.  He is seen as someone who will soon be a big success.  He is seen as someone who will soon start making money hand over fist.  And not only that, he is also seen as someone who will make big money in a Greenie way.

That has two outcomes: 1). Governments love him.  The 8 years of Obama were a golden era for Mr Musk and even Mr Trump may see him as helping to make America great again.  We shall see.  So Mr Musk only has to ask in order to be given government  money to fund his innovations. He is a brilliant fundraiser off governments, State and Federal.

2). And he is a brilliant fundraiser off the private sector too.  You can see that in the share-price for his car company.  The price is many multiples of what the shares of other car companies fetch.

And that happens because lots of investors believe that he is THE NEXT BIG THING.  It's the oldest fallacy in stockmarket investing that to make big money, you have to pick "up and coming" companies so that when the prices of their shares rise, you will make a bundle.  To many that is the sole principle guiding their share purchases.  They are always hoping to get "a jump ahead".  Mining investors are almost wholly of that breed. I know some of them.  And I know how sad they are.  They lose overall.

I am myself a rather successful investor. I am now 73 but I was able to retire when I was 39. And I follow a quite different strategy. I am an investor, not a gambler.

But given the current mood, if Mr Musk wants more money for something he just has to sell some more shares in his company.  People will snap up those bits of paper with great avidity.  He is very close to being able to print money.

But it is a bubble. At some stage people are going to be looking for results, for profits.  And I think that is now just about upon us.  He has made a big thing of the new "affordable" electric car that he will soon be releasing.  But there are already rumbles about troubles with that.  So if that car fails to generate a profit, hopes will begin to die. Even Mr Musk might not be able to spin his way out of that one.  And the crash from that will be enormous. There will be such a rush to get out of his shares that they could end up worth pennies only.

But by all means, buy one of Mr Musk's cars if you can afford it.  Electric cars drive nicely and Teslas will one day be treasured mementoes of a great dream

Prophecies are a mug's game and I am no prophet -- but I have mostly been a successful share market prophet.  Around two out of three of my picks work out. It will therefore be interesting to see if I have picked this one right -- JR

The crisis of integrity-deficient science: Anti-Pesticide mania trumps reality

Falsifying or ignoring data that don’t support conclusions or agendas is worse than junk science

Paul Driessen

The epidemic of agenda-driven science by press release and falsification has reached crisis proportions.

In just the past week: Duke University admitted that its researchers had falsified or fabricated data that were used to get $113 million in EPA grants – and advance the agency’s air pollution and “environmental justice” programs. A New England Journal of Medicine (NJEM) article and editorial claimed the same pollutants kill people – but blatantly ignored multiple studies demonstrating that there is no significant, evidence-based relationship between fine particulates and human illness or mortality.

In an even more outrageous case, the American Academy for the Advancement of Science’s journal Science published an article whose authors violated multiple guidelines for scientific integrity. The article claimed two years of field studies in three countries show exposure to neonicotinoid pesticides reduces the ability of honeybees and wild bees to survive winters and establish new populations and hives the following year. Not only did the authors’ own data contradict that assertion – they kept extensive data out of their analysis and incorporated only what supported their (pre-determined?) conclusions.

Some 90% of these innovative neonic pesticides are applied as seed coatings, so that crops absorb the chemicals into their tissue and farmers can target only pests that feed on the crops. Neonics largely eliminate the need to spray with old-line chemicals like pyrethroids that clearly do harm bees.  But neonics have nevertheless been at the center of debate over their possible effects on bees, as well as ideological opposition in some quarters to agricultural use of neonics – or any manmade pesticides.

Laboratory studies had mixed results and were criticized for overdosing bees with far more neonics than they would ever encounter in the real world, predictably affecting their behavior and often killing them. Multiple field studies – in actual farmers’ fields – have consistently shown no adverse effects on honeybees at the colony level from realistic exposures to neonics. In fact, bees thrive in and around neonic-treated corn and canola crops in the United States, Canada, Europe, Australia and elsewhere.

So how did the Dr. Ben Woodcock, et al. Center for Ecology and Hydrology (CEH) field studies reach such radically different conclusions? After all, the researchers set up 33 sites in fields in Germany, Hungary and England, each one with groups of honeybee or wild bee colonies in or next to oilseed rape (canola) crops. Each group involved one test field treated with fungicides, a neonic and a pyrethroid; one field treated with a different neonic and fungicides; and one “control” group by a field treated only with fungicides. They then conducted multiple data analyses throughout the two-year trial period.

Their report and Science article supposedly presented all the results of their exhaustive research. They did not. The authors fudged the data, and the “peer reviewers” and AAAS journal editors failed to spot the massive flaws. Other reviewers (here, here and here) quickly found the gross errors, lack of transparency and misrepresentations – but not before the article and press releases had gone out far and wide.

Thankfully, and ironically, the Woodcock-CEH study was funded by Syngenta and Bayer, two companies that make neonics. That meant the companies received the complete study and all 1,000 pages of data – not just the portions carefully selected by the article authors. Otherwise, all that inconvenient research information would probably still be hidden from view – and the truth would never have come out.

Most glaring, as dramatically presented in a chart that’s included in each of the reviews just cited, there were far more data sets than suggested by the Science article. In fact, there were 258 separate honeybee statistical data analyses. Of the 258, a solid 238 found no effects on bees from neonics! Seven found beneficial effects from neonics! Just nine found harmful impacts, and four had insufficient data.

Not one group of test colonies in Germany displayed harmful effects, but five benefitted from neonics. Five in Hungary showed harm, but the nosema gut fungus was prevalent in Hungarian beehives during the study period; it could have affected bee foraging behavior and caused colony losses. But Woodcock and CEH failed to mention the problem or reflect it in their analyses. Instead, they blamed neonics.

In England, four test colony groups were negatively affected by neonics, while two benefitted, and the rest showed no effects. But numerous English hives were infested with Varroa mites, which suck on bee blood and carry numerous pathogens that they transmit to bees and colonies. Along with poor beekeeping and mite control practices, Varroa could have been the reason a number of UK test colonies died out during the study – but CEH blamed neonics.

(Incredibly, even though CEH’s control hives in England were far from any possible neonic exposure, they had horrendous overwinter bee losses: 58%, compared to the UK national average of 14.5% that year, while overwinter colony losses for CEH hives were 67-79% near their neonic-treated fields.)

In sum, fully 95% of all the hives studied by CEH demonstrated no effects or benefitted from neonic exposure – but the Science magazine authors chose to ignore them, and focus on nine hives (3% of the total) which displayed harmful impacts that they attributed to neonicotinoids.

Almost as amazing, CEH analyses found that nearly 95% of the time pollen and nectar in hives showed no measurable neonic residues. Even samples taken directly from neonic-treated crops did not have residues – demonstrating that bees in the CEH trials were likely never even exposed to neonics.

How then could CEH researchers and authors come to the conclusions they did? How could they ignore the 245 out of 258 honeybee statistical data analyses that demonstrated no effects or beneficial effects from neonics? How could they focus on the nine analyses (3.4%) that showed negative effects – a number that could just as easily have been due to random consequences or their margin of error?

The sheer number of “no effect” results (92%) is consistent with what a dozen other field studies have found: that foraging on neonicotinoid-treated crops has no effect on honeybees. Why was this ignored?

Also relevant is the fact that CEH honeybee colonies near neonic-treated fields recovered from any adverse effects of their exposure to neonics before going into their winter clusters. As “super organisms,” honeybee colonies are able to metabolize many pesticides and detoxify themselves. This raises doubts about whether any different overwintering results between test colonies and controls can properly be ascribed to neonics. Woodcock, et al. should have discussed this, but failed to do so.

Finally, as The Mad Virologist pointed out, if neonics have negative impacts on bees, the effects should have been consistent across multiple locations and seed treatments. They were not. In fact, the number of bee larval cells during crop flowering periods for one neonic increased in response to seed treatments in Germany, but declined in Hungary and had no change in England. For another neonic, the response was neutral (no change) in all three countries. Something other than neonics clearly seems to be involved.

The honest, accurate conclusion would have been that exposure to neonics probably had little or no effect on the honeybees or wild bees that CEH studied. The Washington Post got that right; Science did not.

US law defines “falsification” as (among other things) “changing or omitting data or results, such that the research is not accurately represented in the research record.” Woodcock and CEH clearly did that. Then the AAAS and Science failed to do basic fact-checking before publishing the article; the media parroted the press releases; and anti-pesticide factions rushed to say “the science is settled” against neonics.

The AAAS and Science need to retract the Woodcock article, apologize for misleading the nation, and publish an article that fully, fairly and accurately represents what the CEH research and other field studies actually documented. They should ban Woodcock and his coauthors from publishing future articles in Science and issue press releases explaining all these actions. The NJEM should take similar actions.

Meanwhile, Duke should be prosecuted, fined and compelled to return the fraudulently obtained funds.

Failure to do so would mean falsification and fraud have replaced integrity at the highest levels of once-respected American institutions of scientific investigation, learning and advancement.

Via email

Presidents have reduced national monuments 18 times before Bears Ears controversy

The Trump administration’s “unprecedented” effort to break up and shrink a national monument has been done at least 18 times before, with presidents of both parties exercising power to significantly reduce the size of U.S. landmarks established by their predecessors.

Environmentalists and congressional Democrats are framing the current battle — the Interior Department’s proposal to resize Bears Ears National Monument in Utah — as a first-of-its-kind expansion of executive power, a move that stretches to the breaking point the century-old Antiquities Act, which gives presidents authority to create monuments.

The resizing of Bears Ears is just one piece of the administration’s broader review of nearly two dozen national monuments.

The Sierra Club, one of the nation’s most powerful environmental groups, issued a fundraising email last week calling the Bears Ears proposal a “legally unprecedented action.”

Congressional Democrats voiced similar objections. Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon called the entire monument review “legally dubious,” and Sen. Ron Wyden, also of Oregon, said the president’s executive order calling for the review “flies in the face of a century-old bipartisan tradition.”

The reality, however, is much different. If anything, there is a tradition of presidents making major changes to monuments. In 1915, President Wilson cut the size of Washington’s Mount Olympus National Monument by more than 300,000 acres.


Energy Department Looks at Green Impact on Power Grid

Energy Secretary Rick Perry said the upcoming Department of Energy study on power grid’s reliability is needed to address the facts after the Obama administration placed a premium on politics—but green energy is reportedly ready to push back.

The study, set to be released in the coming weeks, will look at the effect of green energy subsidies on the electrical grid.

“We need to know we have a reliable electric grid from a national security standpoint and an economic standpoint,” Perry told The Daily Signal Friday.

The American Wind Energy Association launched a campaign against the study immediately after Perry announced it in April, according to a leaked memo obtained by The Daily Caller News Foundation. The association stated it was concerned the study would favor “baseload sources such as coal and nuclear.”

The memo also showed the association’s plans for working with lawmakers, other green energy industries such as solar, and pushing stories into friendly outlets such as The New York Times to simultaneously undermine the study and influence the findings.

Perry said he never expected lobbyists would try to intervene and had no criticism.

“In my previous life as a governor, a statewide elected official, and an appropriator I know people have lobbied,” Perry said. “Everyone wants their position to be heard and represented. It is your job as the governor or legislator to ask the right questions because a lobbyist is going to give you their side of the story. That’s why I asked for an educated observation on the reliability of the grid.”

Perry said he’s had concerns that the federal push behind some forms of energy over others could create danger.

“I’ve thought the previous administration had its thumb on the scale, really its whole hand on the scale, for certain industries and was willing to put our electric grid in jeopardy for a desired political outcome,” Perry said.

Bloomberg first reported on the 60-day review in April. In a memo to his chief of staff, Brian McCormack, Perry wrote that grid experts “highlighted the diminishing diversity of our nation’s electric generation mix and what that could mean for baseload power and grid resilience.”

He further asked for an evaluation of what extent regulation, subsidies, and tax policies “are responsible for forcing the premature retirement of baseload power plants.”

On Thursday, the American Wind Energy Association praised President Donald Trump and his administration for seeking energy independence for the United States.

The Daily Caller News Foundation reported the association’s memo said it would reach out to its contacts in the Energy Department and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. It also said it would reach out to New York Times reporter Diane Cardwell, who shortly thereafter did a story on the importance of wind energy that raised concerns about Travis Fisher, an Energy Department staffer overseeing the study who was previously an economist for the Institute for Energy Research.

The memo talked about the need to “debunk” reports from the institute.

This is an unusual strategy to use before the report has even been released, said Nick Loris, a research fellow in energy and environment at The Heritage Foundation.

“It seems premature for screaming and fear mongering when the results haven’t even been published,” Loris told The Daily Signal. “If the renewable energy industry has confidence in its technology, they shouldn’t worry about a government-funded study looking at the grid.”

The green energy companies were so heavily subsidized, they were often able to offer very low rates on the grid, pricing out competing coal or nuclear power companies that don’t have the subsidies, Loris noted. This has the potential to harm the energy market and make the electric grid reliant on fewer sources of energy.

American Wind Energy Association spokesman Evan Vaughan told The Daily Caller News Foundation the memo was “old news” and that the association’s leaders “had some good meetings with the Department of Energy team working on the study, and we’re making sure they have all the facts about how cost-effective and reliable wind has become.”

Vaughan didn’t provide a comment for this story, but referred The Daily Signal to a Thursday statement by American Wind Energy Association CEO Tom Kiernan.

The statement said:

We support President Trump’s strategic vision to seek American energy dominance. The wind industry—America’s largest source of renewable energy capacity—stands ready to do our part implementing the president’s vision to deliver American jobs, investment and prosperity … The administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, including resources like wind, can work to make America safer and more self-reliant while growing the economy.


Court rejects Trump's delay of EPA drilling pollution rule

The Trump administration cannot delay an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rule limiting methane pollution from oil and natural gas drilling, a federal court ruled Monday.

In an early court loss for President Trump’s aggressive agenda of environmental deregulation, the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit said the EPA didn’t meet the requirements for a 90-day stay of the Obama administration’s methane rule.

The decision means the EPA must immediately start enforcing the standards.

EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt’s decision to delay enforcement of the provision was based on arguments that when the Obama administration wrote the rule, it violated procedures by not allowing stakeholders to comment on some parts of what became the final regulation. The agency used that reasoning to formally reconsider the rule and to pause enforcement.
But the court said the argument doesn’t withstand scrutiny.

“The administrative record thus makes clear that industry groups had ample opportunity to comment on all four issues on which EPA granted reconsideration, and indeed, that in several instances the agency incorporated those comments directly into the final rule,” two of the judges on the three-judge panel wrote.

“Because it was thus not ‘impracticable’ for industry groups to have raised such objections during the notice and comment period [the Clean Air Act] did not require reconsideration and did not authorize the stay.”

Environmental groups led by the Environmental Defense Fund had sued the EPA after its delay, asking for quick emergency action from the court on the matter.

An EPA spokeswoman said the agency is reviewing the court’s opinion and evaluating its options.

Tim Ballo, an attorney at Earthjustice who represents some of the groups involved, cheered the decision as a resounding victory.

“This is a big win for public health and a wake-up call for this administration,” he said in a statement. “While Scott Pruitt and Donald Trump continue to bend over backwards to do the bidding of Big Oil, Earthjustice and our clients and partners will use every tool at our disposal to hold them fully accountable for their actions.”

The decision could spell trouble for the Trump administration, which is working to dismantle nearly all of former President Obama’s major environmental rules.

In many cases, Trump officials are unilaterally delaying regulations such as the EPA’s rules on ozone pollution, safety plans for chemical plants and methane pollution from landfills.

But the D.C. court, the main court for hearing challenges to regulatory decisions, warned the administration it would take a hard look at such delays and would allow them to proceed only if they are specifically required under the law.

Judge David Tatel, appointed by former President Clinton, and Judge Robert Wilkins, appointed by Obama, wrote the decision.

Judge Janice Brown, a George W. Bush appointee, wrote a dissenting opinion. She argued the court has no authority to rule in the case because it is not a final action by the EPA.

The 2016 rule by Obama was part of a regulatory strategy to reduce emissions of methane, a greenhouse gas about 80 times more powerful than carbon dioxide.

Pruitt, who was Oklahoma's Republican attorney general at the time, was one of dozens of parties to sue the EPA in a bid to have the rule overturned.

The EPA has proposed to delay the methane regulation by two years while it formally considers repeal. Since that delay has not been made final, the decision Monday does not affect it.

The Trump administration is working to undo all of Obama’s methane rules, including the landfill rule and one from the Bureau of Land Management.




Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


1 comment:

C. S. P. Schofield said...

"In 1915, President Wilson cut the size of Washington’s Mount Olympus National Monument by more than 300,000 acres."

Probably not an example you want to quote to show that re-sizing a National Monument isn't an abuse of Executive power, since practically Wilson's entire Presidency was an abuse of Executive power.

OK, it might defang some of the hysterics, if they would listen. But, seriously, Wilson was a goddamned awful President. His continued high reputation with people outside the usual Progressive "All State Power is wonderful if one of ours is using it" pillocks baffles me.