Friday, December 29, 2017

Trans fats:  A failure of logic?

Trans fats in food have long been a whipping boy for food faddists, Greenies and assorted attention-seekers. So the study below has been widely greeted with gladsome hearts.  It has been much-cited in the six months since it first appeared and seems to have won universal approval

And for once I don't think there is any obvious problems with the statistics.  It does however have the logical problem that seems to bedevil most epidemiological research.  Despite all the warnings from logicians, it decides that correlation is causation.  It assumes that because the data was segregated according to its exposure to trans fats that thereore the effects observed reflected exposure to trans fats.  What else could you conclude? I can hear some angry epidemiologist ask.  Well, I will answer that.

You need some history.  Why did dietary trans-fats come into use in the first place?  Answer:  To replace saturated fats, which, courtesy of Ancel Keys, were for decades demonized as bad for your heart.  But a couple of years ago there was one of those big backflips that occur far too often in medical "wisdom". Saturated fats are now good for you!  So did the ban on transfats cause a mass reversion to saturated fats?    It is certainly possible but a more likely outcome is that transfats were replaced by some combination of [good] saturated fats and palm oil.  So it's perfectly possible that the decline heart attacks described below was not due to transfats being bad for you but rather because what replaced them is good for you.  The authors of the article have not pinpointed the cause of what they observed at all.

Hospital Admissions for Myocardial Infarction and Stroke Before and After the Trans-Fatty Acid Restrictions in New York


Importance:  Trans-fatty acids (TFAs) have deleterious cardiovascular effects. Restrictions on their use were initiated in 11 New York State (NYS) counties between 2007 and 2011. The US Food and Drug Administration plans a nationwide restriction in 2018. Public health implications of TFA restrictions are not well understood.

Objective:  To determine whether TFA restrictions in NYS counties were associated with fewer hospital admissions for myocardial infarction (MI) and stroke compared with NYS counties without restrictions.

Design, Setting, and Participants:  We conducted a retrospective observational pre-post study of residents in counties with TFA restrictions vs counties without restrictions from 2002 to 2013 using NYS Department of Health’s Statewide Planning and Research Cooperative System and census population estimates. In this natural experiment, we included those residents who were hospitalized for MI or stroke. The data analysis was conducted from December 2014 through July 2016.

Exposure:  Residing in a county where TFAs were restricted.

Main Outcomes and Measures:  The primary outcome was a composite of MI and stroke events based on primary discharge diagnostic codes from hospital admissions in NYS. Admission rates were calculated by year, age, sex, and county of residence. A difference-in-differences regression design was used to compare admission rates in populations with and without TFA restrictions. Restrictions were only implemented in highly urban counties, based on US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service Urban Influence Codes. Nonrestriction counties of similar urbanicity were chosen to make a comparison population. Temporal trends and county characteristics were accounted for using fixed effects by county and year, as well as linear time trends by county. We adjusted for age, sex, and commuting between restriction and nonrestriction counties.

Results:  In 2006, the year before the first restrictions were implemented, there were 8.4 million adults (53.6% female) in highly urban counties with TFA restrictions and 3.3 million adults (52.3% female) in highly urban counties without restrictions. Twenty-five counties were included in the nonrestriction population and 11 in the restriction population.

Three or more years after restriction implementation, the population with TFA restrictions experienced significant additional decline beyond temporal trends in MI and stroke events combined (−6.2%; 95% CI, −9.2% to −3.2%; P < .001) and MI (−7.8%; 95% CI, −12.7% to −2.8%; P = .002) and a nonsignificant decline in stroke (−3.6%; 95% CI, −7.6% to 0.4%; P = .08) compared with the nonrestriction populations.

Conclusions and Relevance:  The NYS populations with TFA restrictions experienced fewer cardiovascular events, beyond temporal trends, compared with those without restrictions.

JAMA Cardiol. 2017;2(6):627-634. doi:10.1001/jamacardio.2017.0491

UK: 1,000 jobs at risk as Swansea Bay tidal power project is stranded

A thousand high-value manufacturing jobs are set to be lost in the Midlands because of the government’s continuing failure to decide whether to support tidal lagoon marine power.

Two of GE’s British plants, at Rugby and at Stafford, had been designated to construct the underwater turbines and to provide the complex electrical power systems needed for the pioneering Swansea Bay tidal lagoon and similar marine energy projects around the coast of Britain.

However, with the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy showing no sign of making a decision on whether to go ahead with the £1.3 billion project in south Wales, it has emerged that the American industrial giant is likely to decide that the plants have little future


How the Ethanol Mandate Is Killing the American Prairie

America's long war on fossil fuels is destroying the famed American prairie.

According to a report by the Organic Consumers Association, 95% of the 240 million acres of prairie land that once blanketed the middle of our country, from Texas to North Dakota, already is gone. Only isolated pockets of prairie tall grass, some 35 million acres set aside for soil and wildlife conservation, remain. And that — largely in the Great Plains — is at risk of being destroyed.

Among the factors most responsible for this tragic loss of our prairie heritage is the federal renewable fuel standard, a congressional mandate requiring refiners to mix renewable fuel (mostly corn-based ethanol) with U.S. gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and heating oil products.

The renewable fuel standard has generated a huge surge in ethanol production, increasing from 9 billion gallons in 2009 to 15.9 billion gallons per year today, according to the Energy Information Administration. By 2022 the total is projected to reach 36 billion gallons.

Ethanol per se is not the problem, however; Washington’s lack of common sense is the problem.

For decades now, ever since the Arab oil embargo of 1973-74, U.S. policymakers have been preoccupied with oil scarcity. That, along with environmental concerns, is what led to the renewable fuels mandate, which triggered huge increases in corn production at the expense of other crops and prairie grasslands.

Currently, roughly half of the entire U.S. corn crop—which topped more than 15 billion bushels last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture—winds up in biofuels.

The trouble is this: When prairie is plowed under to grow corn it becomes a barren landscape. Without the grasses, the environment supports little wildlife. With the grasses, it is home to ducks, pheasants and some 800 other varieties of birds, as well as monarch butterflies and honey bees.

Instead of damning oil as evil, politicians and pundits should start questioning their blind faith in ethanol. In 2005, when the Energy Policy Act introduced the renewable fuel standard, requiring oil companies to blend ethanol with gasoline and diesel may have seemed like the right thing to do for energy security.

Today, thanks to the shale revolution, it makes little sense.

As a result of technological innovations enabling producers to extract hard-to-reach oil from shale formations, domestic crude-oil production has increased to more than 7 million barrels a day, compared with 5 million barrels a decade ago.

Meanwhile, oil imports, especially from OPEC countries, have plunged. The domestic economy is no longer hostage to OPEC and others, such as Russia and Venezuela, which use exports to achieve geopolitical goals.

Remarkably, the amount of technically recoverable oil in the United States available for long-term development now exceeds 100 billion barrels—more than 20 times the current level of annual production, according to IHS, a global research company.

It’s not too late to do something about the renewable fuel standard’s negative impact on wildlife habitat and the prairie ecosystem. A good place to begin is by taking a critical look at government support for corn production.

Nationally, corn growers received some $94.3 billion in subsidies from federal commodity, crop insurance, disaster relief and conservation programs between 1995 and 2014. Corn subsidies in Ohio alone totaled $4.2 billion, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Such subsidies—along with the ethanol mandate itself—provide a powerful incentive for growers to continue clearing prairie to produce corn for ethanol, even as it destroys the prairie ecosystem.

It’s time for common sense. The ethanol mandate has triggered an environmental disaster. Kicking the ethanol habit should be as much of a no-brainer as buckling up before starting a car.


Report: Renewable Energy Is Bigger ‘Scam’ than Bernie Madoff and Enron

The greatest scam being perpetrated against taxpayers and consumers is renewable energy, according to a new analysis published by the Australian, greater even than Ponzi, Madoff and Enron.

While sinking enormous financial resources into propping up renewable energy prospectors, national governments are providing no perceptible benefits to their citizens, writes Judith Sloan, a renowned Australian economist who has served on the Australian government’s Productivity Commission.

“With very few exceptions, governments all over the world have fallen into the trap of paying renewable energy scammers on the basis that it is necessary, at least politically, to be seen to be doing something about climate change,” Sloan writes, before providing readers with an avalanche of economic data to back up her assertion.

In Australia, more than 2 billion taxpayer dollars a year are funneled to renewable energy handlers by virtue of the operation of the renewable energy target and the associated renewable energy certificates, Sloan observes.

At the same time, the Australian Renewable Energy Agency “shovels out hundreds of millions of dollars annually to subsidise renewable energy companies, many of which are overseas-owned,” she states, and the Clean Energy Finance Corporation was given $10 billion in equity by the Gillard Labor government “to lend or grant money to renewable energy companies.”

Despite this enormous taxpayer “investment,” so-called renewable energy has yet to pay any dividends or to suggest it will be economically viable for the foreseeable future.

Sloan’s grim analysis of the state of renewable energy as a financial sinkhole in Australia is mirrored by other countries such as the United States.

According to Forbes, on a total dollar basis, wind and solar together get more from the federal government than all other energy sources combined, despite the fact that neither is anywhere close to self-supporting. Wind has received the greatest amount of federal subsidies. Solar is second.

Based on production (subsidies per kWh of electricity produced), however, solar energy “has gotten over ten times the subsidies of all other forms of energy sources combined, including wind,” writes energy expert and planetary geologist Dr. James Conca.

During the Obama years from 2010 through 2013, federal renewable energy subsidies increased by 54 percent—from $8.6 billion to $13.2 billion—despite the fact that total federal energy subsidies declined by 23 percent during the same period, from $38 billion to $29 billion.

In absolute terms, between 2010 and 2013 solar energy alone saw a 500 percent increase in federal subsidies from $1.1 billion to $5.3 billion.

In this same period, subsidies for fossil fuels decreased by 15 percent. from $4.0 billion to $3.4 billion, and subsidies for nuclear energy fell by 12 percent, from $1.9 billion to $1.7 billion.

One of the more pernicious side-effects of the enormous government subsidies for renewable energy, Conca found, is that they actually increase the cost of energy. This cost, however, is transferred from the energy consumer to the taxpayer, “and so goes unnoticed by most Americans,” he stated.

While during the period between 2010 and 2014 nuclear energy cost about 4¢ and 5¢ per kWh to produce, solar energy cost between 80¢ and 100¢ per kWh, or 20 times as much to produce. This despite the fact that nuclear energy is “as renewable as wind” but doesn’t enjoy the same star status among environmental activists.

Returning to the case of Australia, Sloan argues that if one were to sum up all the taxpayer-funded subsidies, grants, concessional loans, guarantees and the like the aggregate amount “dwarfs any other government industry assistance aid.”

Something similar has happened in Germany, Sloan states, where Chancellor Angela Merkel decided to shut down all the country’s nuclear power plants, to be replaced with “renewable energy.” The target for 2030 is for 50 percent of the nation’s power to come from renewables.

The ill-fated Energie­wende, the country’s program for energy transition, has hit serious hurdles, Sloan notes, not least the extraordinary cost that now totals some €650 billion.

In an odd twist of fate, late last year the wind simply didn’t blow for several days and a thick fog surrounded many parts of Germany, and thus the output from renewables fell to just 4 percent of total demand. It was Poland, “with its black coal-fired electricity plants,” that came to rescue Germany from its self-induced energy crisis.

The best approach for the future, Sloan concludes, entails “acknowledging that enough is enough when it comes to subsidising renewable energy.”

The sector has been showered with favors with little to show for it, she observes, and it is high time “it stood on its own two feet without any preferential treatment or financial assistance.”


Brrrrr…. It’s Cold! Where’s My Global Warming?

On Christmas morning, as I scraped ice from the sidewalk and shivered, with the outside temperature hovering close to zero, I just had to ask myself: Where’s all this global warming we’ve been promised?

Climate alarmists tell us that anecdotal evidence is useless when talking about climate change. “You can’t simply look out the window and see the long-term trends of the climate” is a typical argument. And it would be a decent argument if they didn’t use such anecdotal evidence all the time themselves. 

Earlier this year, the intensity of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria were all quickly blamed on climate change by sources such as Scientific American, Climate Central, and even noted climate scientist (sarcasm alert), Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, who said during Irma’s landfall in Florida, “If this isn’t climate change, I don’t know what is.” It made no difference that prior to 2017 there had just been a decade-long dearth of such mega-storms in the Atlantic Ocean. Global warming, they told us, could be the only culprit for the ferocity of these storms.

More recently, the catastrophic wildfire season in California was blamed on anthropogenic global warming , most notably by California Governor Jerry Brown.  In a December 9 statement, Brown called the recent fires “a new normal,” and went on to say of his state, “We dwell in this very wonderful place — but a place that’s getting hotter.”

Everything from Brexit to brain-eating amoeba has been blamed on global warming.                                                                                                         

So, being what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, here is some anecdotal evidence to the contrary:

Between Christmas Day and dawn on December 26, Erie, Pennsylvania, received an amazing snowfall total of 53 inches, a two-day record for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. By way of reference, the previous snowfall record in Erie for seven days was a mere 39.8”. As of Tuesday, snow was still falling intermittently with snow expected through Wednesday, Dec. 27.   

Bitter cold conditions swept across the northern tier of states from Montana all the way to Wisconsin on Christmas Day. Wind chills were -40 degrees in many places. In Minneapolis, wind chill temperatures were reported to be -35 degrees, one of the coldest Christmas Days on record.

The same weather system that caused the incredible snow fall in Erie made for a snowy Christmas for New York State and New England as thundersnow, high winds. and white-out conditions were reported all the way up to Maine.

For only the sixth time since 1884, Portland, Oregon received measurable snowfall on Christmas Day this year.

On December 8, a giant snowstorm raged through the American South with measurable snowfall recorded from the southern border of Texas all the way to Georgia in the east. Georgia was especially hard hit with six inches falling in the Atlanta area and up to 12 inches in other parts of the state. Even Northern Mexico saw measurable snow from this storm.

Isn’t it obvious that we’re entering a dangerous global cooling period?

Of course, the previous sentence was tongue-in-cheek. People with common sense understand that unusual weather happens because weather itself happens. Anomaly is in the very nature of weather and climate.

One such climate anomaly was the Medieval Warm Period (MWP), which lasted approximately 300 years around the turn of the first millennium A.D. The Northern Hemisphere, at least, was significantly warmer during this period, much of which was considered a time-of-plenty historically speaking. Grape vineyards abounded in England. Vikings settled in Greenland and Iceland during the period. Humanity was able to extend to more northern climes due to the milder climate.

Looking at my thermometer struggling to reach zero today, that sounds pretty good.

Recently, climate alarmists have even begun a smear campaign against the MWP. When climate alarmists start coming out of the woodwork to say that something isn’t true, you know that it’s scoring rhetorical and, more importantly, scientific points. Alarmists have claimed that the MWP wasn’t global, and to their credit, the best evidence of the MWP is in the Northern Hemisphere (so only half the Earth may have been warmer). They also claim that the “time-of-plenty” aspects of the MWP have been “mythologized” by climate change “deniers” in order to make rhetorical points.

Perhaps, but don’t climate alarmists routinely mythologize events to suit their own purposes? Don’t they routinely show polar bears stranded on ice floes even though a 2016 study by the Scientific Working Group, as well as eyewitness accounts of the Inuit population, claim that the polar bear population is growing or, at worst, stable? Don’t they show dramatic footage of large pieces of ice breaking off from glaciers and imply that this is evidence of global warming, even though they know that such ice breakage is a yearly and completely natural event? Haven’t they produced the truly awful film Day After Tomorrow and Al Gore’s two error-filled documentaries?

None of this proves or even suggests that global warming is not occurring. But it is relevant to talk about with all of the recent climate alarmist rhetoric over the Paris Accord. It is also important to remember exactly what is being discussed in the climate change debate. Over the last 100 years, the overall global mean temperature has risen by approximately 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit. It is hypothesized that mankind may have a small role in that increase.

So, when climate alarmists tell you that we must act now or face dire consequences in the coming years, what they’re really telling you is that we must capitulate, use less fossil fuels, curtail our lifestyles. and accept their socialist agenda, all because of a hypothetical tiny fraction of 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit.




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


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