Thursday, August 30, 2018

Polluted air causes a ‘huge’ reduction in intelligence, study reveals (?)

Here we go again.  This is a typical air pollution study complete with the typical faults. It is a correlational study with no obvious causal chain between pollution and IQ, so the attribution of the IQ variations to pollution is entirely speculative.  And as usual the likely confounding factor -- income -- was not considered.  The likelihood is, as usual, that the poorer people lived in the most polluted areas and the poor are known to have lower IQs.  Pathetic!

It's a wonder after all these years that nobody has tackled this problem of control and done a study with a full range of socioeconomic controls applied. My guess is that there has been but the results were too embarrassing to report

I append the journal abstract

Air pollution causes a 'huge' reduction in intelligence, scientists say.

Shocking new research suggests air pollution has a serious impact on mental capabilities as well as physical health in human beings.

High levels of pollution can trigger a decrease in language and arithmetic skills – with the average impact of 'dirty air' equivalent to losing a year in education.

The United Nations has blamed air pollution for seven million deaths worldwide each year, while campaigners have urged local government to take more action.

An international team of researchers led by Beijing Normal University analysed language and arithmetic tests conducted on 20,000 people across China between 2010 and 2014.

However, the study is relevant worldwide, as the latest figures show around 95 per cent of the global population are now breathing unsafe air.

Scientists conducted the tests across China in areas with varied levels of pollution.

According to the latest findings, air pollution is a significant cause of loss of intelligence – roughly equating to the impact of losing a year of education.

Although previous research had found air pollution is capable of harming cognitive performance in students, this latest study is the first to examine people of all ages.

It also analysed the difference between men and women.

'Polluted air can cause everyone to reduce their level of education by one year, which is huge,' researcher Xi Chen of Yale School of Public Health told the Guardian.

'But we know the effect is worse for the elderly, especially those over 64, and for men, and for those with low education.

'If we calculate [the loss] for those, it may be a few years of education', he said.

Worse still, the researchers found that the longer people are exposed to dirty air, the greater the damage to their intelligence levels.

'We find that long-term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in verbal and math tests', researchers wrote in their paper, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

'We provide evidence that the effect of air pollution on verbal tests becomes more pronounced as people age, especially for men and the less educated.

'The damage on the aging brain by air pollution likely imposes substantial health and economic costs, considering that cognitive functioning is critical for the elderly for both running daily errands and making high-stake decisions'.

For the latest study, scientists accounted for the gradual decline in cognition seen as people age.

They also ruled out the possibility that people are more impatient or uncooperative during tests when the pollution levels were especially high.

Following the publication of the latest study, Aarash Saleh, a registrar in respiratory medicine in the UK and part of the Doctors Against Diesel campaign, told the Guardian: 'This study adds to the concerning bank of evidence showing that exposure to air pollution can worsen our cognitive function.

'Road traffic is the biggest contributor to air pollution in residential areas and the government needs to act urgently to remove heavily-polluting vehicles from our roads.'

Earlier this year, the World Health Organisation (WHO) released the results of its study into fine particle air pollution in nearly 110 countries.

These microscopic particles are invisible to the human eye – but can penetrate deep into the lungs, and also cause heart disease and cancer.


The impact of exposure to air pollution on cognitive performance

Xin Zhang, Xi Chen, and Xiaobo Zhang


This paper examines the effect of both cumulative and transitory exposures to air pollution for the same individuals over time on cognitive performance by matching a nationally representative longitudinal survey and air quality data in China according to the exact time and geographic locations of the cognitive tests. We find that long-term exposure to air pollution impedes cognitive performance in verbal and math tests. We provide evidence that the effect of air pollution on verbal tests becomes more pronounced as people age, especially for men and the less educated. The damage on the aging brain by air pollution likely imposes substantial health and economic costs, considering that cognitive functioning is critical for the elderly for both running daily errands and making high-stake decisions.


Ohio Man Gets Five Years For His Role In $47 Million Biofuel Scam

The owner of a New York-based renewable fuels trading company was sentenced to over five years in prison and fined roughly $26 million Monday for his role in a massive biofuel fraud scheme, according to the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Ohio resident Gregory Schnabel used his company GRC Fuels as cover to produce and sell fake Renewable Identification Numbers (RINs) worth over $47 million.

Schnabel also defrauded the IRS out of $12 million worth of renewable fuel tax credits. He pleaded guilty to the crimes in court.

“Today’s sentencing shows that the Department of Justice will continue to vigorously prosecute those who seek to defraud the federal government and the public through unlawful renewable fuel credit schemes,” DOJ acting assistant Attorney General Jeffrey Wood said in a statement. “This sentencing serves as a powerful deterrent to those who would consider participating in similar schemes in the future.”

Under the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), oil refineries are required to mix a certain amount of biofuels, such as ethanol or biodiesel, in every batch of fuel produced.

The EPA gives refineries a quota of biofuel to meet and tracks the amount of biofuel each uses through RINs, a 38-digit code attached to every gallon of biofuel.

Gallons of biofuel and their corresponding RINs are sold by producers to oil and gas refineries. If a refinery falls behind on its biofuel quota, it may buy RINs separately and leave the fuel to be distributed elsewhere. The purchased RINs will count toward its biofuel quota.

The market for selling RINs separate from the fuel produced has created firms such as Schnabel’s that operate on trading RINs separate from the fuel they made with.

The market has also attracted fraud as biofuel producers and RIN traders forge fake RINs and sell them to oil and gas companies.

Two brothers operating a Utah-based biofuel producer and a California businessman were recently charged by a grand jury for carrying out a similar scheme that involved defrauding the IRS of $511 million worth of renewable energy tax credits.


‘Green’ California Is More Reliant On Foreign Oil Than Ever Before

There’s a growing call for California Gov. Jerry Brown to stop issuing oil and natural gas leases in the state, with some even arguing that all state fossil fuel production should be shuttered.

Yet continuing the current trend of dwindling in-state crude production wouldn’t mean California stops using oil. The state, ranked as one of the “greenest” in the country, would still use lots of oil, it would just come from other countries.

In fact, more than 56 percent of the crude oil received by California refineries were extracted in foreign countries, according to California Energy Commission data. California, once the third-largest oil state, is now more reliant than ever on foreign oil.

The biggest share of California’s oil imports come from Saudi Arabia, which makes up 29 percent of foreign crude flowing into the state. More than 70 percent of foreign oil imports to the state come from OPEC members, including Iraq, Kuwait and Ecuador.

California’s share of oil coming from foreign sources has ballooned since the late 1990s. Decades of state policies restricting drilling played a role, as did declining production in Alaska.

The state legislature also completely banned new offshore drilling leases in 1994, decades after the massive Santa Barbara oil spill. Geological factors also make it expensive to pump out crude compared to other states.

While environmentalists have chastised California for its oil production, the state’s eschewing of crude extraction has contributed to its increased reliance on foreign oil. (RELATED: Three Times The Media Actually Silenced Global Warming Dissenters)

California’s oil production has fallen 56 percent since 1985, according to state data. Much of that is being replaced by oil imports from countries without the same level of environmental and public health protections that U.S. agencies require.

“The West Coast used to be the part of the country least dependent on oil imports, with heavy California and Alaska production meeting most of their needs,” said Dan Kish, a distinguished senior fellow at the free-market Institute for Energy Research.

“But as the U.S. becomes less dependent on foreign oil, California is racing to the bottom,” Kish told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

California refineries supply almost exclusively in-state because of the costly upgrades to facilities needed to comply with blending requirements. Refineries are also geographically isolated from facilities in other states, and pipelines connecting California plants to other states are meant for exports, not imports.

Experts expect the U.S. to become a net exporter of crude oil by 2022, thanks to abundant shale reserves and a boost in offshore drilling. The port of Houston-Galveston exported more fuel than it imported for the first time ever this year, federal data showed.

All in all, the U.S. is becoming less reliant on foreign energy, while California becomes more reliant on oil imports. And that’s a trend environmentalists want to continue in the name of fighting global warming.

“Although no one expects oil and gas drilling to end overnight, California doesn’t even have a plan for how to begin phasing it out,” Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune wrote in an op-ed, calling on Brown to shut down in-state oil and gas production.

Brune’s call is only one of many urging Brown to stop fossil fuel production in California. Activists have also urged state lawmakers to pass legislation mandating 100 percent green energy by 2045.

“In fact, under Governor Brown’s leadership, California has approved more than 20,000 new oil and gas wells,” Brune wrote in early August. “That’s leadership — in precisely the wrong direction.”

Two San Francisco Bay area officials wrote an op-ed calling on Brown “to make a plan to phase out oil and gas production in California, to clean up our cities, towns and agricultural lands, and protect our people.”

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson of Benicia and Vice Mayor Melvin Willis of Richmond joined 183 other local officials from 31 California counties asking Brown to end fossil fuel production in the state.

Those local officials joined environmentalists in demanding no new drilling permits be issued and no new refineries be allowed in California. They also want “a swift, managed decline of all fossil fuel production” by shutting down wells within 2,500 feet of “all occupied structures, public parks and farms.”

Their ultimate goal, however, is a state that runs completely on “renewable energy,” according to a public letter of demands.

However, this ignores an obvious criticism of environmentalists’ anti-fossil fuel campaign — California will still use oil, but it will come from overseas. In fact, that’s what state data clearly shows.

“It’s sad for a state that could use the oil and the money developing it would bring, especially since they have huge potential,” Kish said.

In-state refineries still took in nearly 623 million barrels of oil in 2017. That can’t be phased out overnight.

California also gets a small amount of foreign imports from Canada, but state refiners have been using less Canadian oil in recent years. Even if that trend were to reverse, state planners still see refiners offsetting Canadian crude “with other types of oil to maintain consistent average blended properties.”

California’s demand for gasoline declined from 2004 to 2009, but has since been on the upswing as the economy continues to recover from the recent recession and because of population growth.


Conservatives Call On EPA To Go Even Further In Limiting Its Own Power

Conservatives applauded the Trump administration’s proposal to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) power plant regulations, however, many want this to be a stepping stone to strip the agency of its authority to regulate greenhouse gases.

“The one Obama era rule that still needs to be revisited is the endangerment finding that labels life-giving carbon dioxide as a threat to public welfare,” former Trump transition official Steve Milloy told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Milloy is referring to an EPA regulatory document from 2009 that found greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide and methane, indirectly harm public health through global warming. That endangerment finding gave EPA the legal cover it needed to issue global warming regulations.

The endangerment finding authority underlies sweeping regulations on power plants, vehicles and oil and gas operations estimated to cost billions of dollars, including the Obama-era Clean Power Plan.

Milloy and others want EPA to put the CO2 genie back in the bottle by reopening the 2009 endangerment finding. The hope is re-examining the evidence would show flaws in the 2009 finding

The Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and Concerned Household Electricity Consumers Council (CHECC) petitioned EPA in 2017 to reconsider the endangerment finding. CEI hopes EPA will consider its petition.

Moreover, CEI argues the Trump administration’s Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, a more lenient alternative to the Clean Power Plan, will likely be challenged in court.

“We think that granting the petition remains the best option if the court decides that the new rule doesn’t do enough to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal and natural gas power plants,” said Myron Ebell, director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment.

Oklahoma Sen. James Inhofe, a Republican, gave conservative groups some hope on Tuesday when he said “the issue is still alive,” referring to considerations over reopen the endangerment finding.

“I think we’ll eventually see changes there, but that hasn’t happened yet,” Inhofe said, E&E News reported.

Acting EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler announced ACE on Tuesday, rolling back the Obama administration’s plan to cut emissions from coal-fired power plants. Twenty-seven states challenged the 2015 regulation, scoring a legal victory in early 2016 when the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay against implementation.

“The ACE proposal establishes breathing space for the endangerment finding rollback to occur in the future,” said Milloy, a lawyer and policy expert who runs the website

However, the head of EPA’s air and radiation office suggested the agency had no plans to reconsider the endangerment finding any time soon.

“We are not proposing to rescind to the endangerment finding. We are not proposing to find that power plants do not contribute to that endangerment,” EPA’s Bill Wehrum told reporters Tuesday on a call about the ACE rule.

Instead, Trump’s EPA seems content with scaling back or repealing Obama-era climate regulations that target coal plants, vehicles and oil and gas operations.

Environmentalists oppose revisiting the endangerment finding, going with the oft-used argument that the “science is settled” when it comes to global warming. Some attorneys have also been vocal about how difficult it would be to nix the 2009 finding.

Wheeler told The Washington Post in July he saw no “compelling reason” to review the endangerment finding.

“There would have to be a major, compelling reason to try to ever reopen that. I don’t think that’s an open question at this point,” Wheeler said.

However, Ebell said leaving the endangerment finding in place left the door open for future administrations to impose sweeping regulations over the economy.

“The ‘Clean Power’ Plan was a key part of the Obama administration’s war on affordable energy and based on the finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare,” Ebell said in a statement.

“However, the best and most recent science undermines that claim and therefore reconsideration is warranted,” Ebell said.


Australia: It was climate policy that sank PM Turnbull

Turnbull was a Global Warming believer.  Most of his party were not

Chris Kenny

Readers of The Australian will not have been surprised that Malcolm Turnbull ran into internal strife over climate and energy policy. The media voices Turnbull and his supporters blame for fuelling moves against him surely were the ones warning him. His handicap was not in having critics but in ­ignoring them.

Political commentary is abuzz as journalists, especially from the public broadcasters, offer the absurd proposition that this crisis was about nothing, came out of nowhere and failed because Peter Dutton, the original challenger, didn’t get the leadership.

As with any leadership coup, a range of factors was at play, including resentment, ego, polling and ambition. Turnbull failed the Newspoll test he set, making him vulnerable from the day he lost his 30th in a row. The Longman by-election, where a Liberal National Party primary vote below 30 per cent put the fear of obliteration into Queensland MPs, supercharged anxieties.

All the while, Tony Abbott and his loyalists had worn their sense of injustice like blue ties pulled too tight around their necks. With flushed faces and bursting veins, they were always going to erupt if an opportunity arose.

In this climate, Turnbull must have known he needed to avoid provocations. Yet he walked into this conflagration in the most predictable way. A party voted into office largely on a pledge to repeal costly carbon emissions reduction policy (axe the carbon tax), led by a man who previously had lost the leadership for trying to do a deal with Labor on climate policy and was trying to bed down another costly emissions reduction plan by striking a deal with Labor — this was ­always going to end in tears.

This is not hindsight. On radio, television and in the pages of The Australian, Turnbull was warned his national energy guarantee would test internal accommodations. The NEG was conceived in the wake of such a fright, almost two years ago, when environment and energy minister Josh Frydenberg floated an energy intensity scheme. Turnbull had to move quickly to repudiate it and reassure MPs.

Editorials in The Australian have long warned of potential disruption over the NEG. “The prime minister and his team must act decisively to put solutions in place — which, to be fair, they are working towards — as they battle disunity within the Coalition on this issue,” the paper said in April. In July concerns were raised about the leap of faith involved: “Regardless of the former prime minister’s personal motivation, it is alarming but true, as Mr Abbott said on Monday, that the Turnbull government will be relying on the support of Labor states to back its national energy guarantee at next month’s crucial COAG meeting.”

Early this month I wrote that the Coalition was in dire strife and that “government MPs are torn between enjoying the ride as they go over the cliff and mustering the courage to do something about it”. The main problem was obvious. “In a twist of self-harm difficult to believe given Turnbull’s history on the issue (in 2009 he lost the leadership over climate activism), the Coalition is shrinking from a ­potential contest with Labor over climate and energy; preferring to appease the gods of Paris rather than reclaiming the nation’s cheap energy mantle.”

Turnbull’s media boosters at the ABC and elsewhere either didn’t see the looming problem or underestimated it because they supported the policy — wishful thinking. My columns were not informed by any plotting but, rather, assessments of policy and political trajectories. Given I worked for Turnbull when he lost the leadership in 2009 over climate policy, perhaps I was more sensitive to the dynamic. But a clutch of commentators was vigorously attacking the policy and Abbott and his backbench ally Craig Kelly were openly opposing it.

As far back as April 7, I wrote: “The prime minister has been given an opportunity to retreat in the name of common sense, economic sanity and political advantage. But he stands in a no man’s land of stranded coal assets and stored hydro schemes where he risks another insurrection on the same futile battleground.”

Nine days before he called last week’s first spill, my column said Turnbull would “face open revolt over his national energy guarantee; the outstanding questions are how widespread it will be, whether it derails the policy and/or his prime ministership”. A week later I wrote about the “climate and energy debate that is so volatile it could yet destroy Turnbull’s prime ministership and/or the Coalition government”.

On that day this newspaper’s editorial warned: “Malcolm Turnbull needs a circuit-breaker to rescue his national energy guarantee, revive his government’s direction and protect his leadership … The Coalition was elected in 2013 largely on a promise to defend electricity prices from conceitful climate gestures. (Turnbull and Frydenberg) will abandon that policy and political ground at the grave peril of their own positions and that of the Coalition.”

Turnbull and his cabinet persisted with the policy too long. Even after the Coalition partyroom approved it a fortnight ago, MPs’ concerns deepened as they realised Australia would become the only country to write the Paris targets into law. It became an issue of economic sovereignty.

The policy fell apart and on ­August 20 Turnbull effectively shelved it, saying he would not put the legislation to parliament, ostensibly because it wouldn’t pass but more likely because it might pass with Labor support while a dozen or more government MPs crossed the floor to oppose it.

Announcing this capitulation, the prime minister looked broken and a challenge suddenly appeared inevitable. Until a few days earlier, it had been all about changing the policy, not the leader. Now it would be both.

This week the ABC’s Media Watch portrayed the event as a media-driven panic. Host Paul Barry failed to mention the critical energy conflict that triggered the crisis or report the detailed warnings about Turnbull’s perilous path. Barry, in line with much of the gallery, drew other lessons that entirely missed the point. “Well, one is not to let a cabal of conservative commentators persuade the Liberal Party to do something the public hates — knifing an elected prime minister.”

This is an extraordinary distortion. Media Watch argues loud ­voices antipathetic to Turnbull from the moment he seized the prime ministership from Abbott — Andrew Bolt, Alan Jones, Peta Credlin, Ray Hadley and others — killed off a prime minister by spooking his party. Other commentators have promoted media conspiracy theories. This not only insults the MPs and grossly exaggerates the role of open and honest opinion, it also ignores the majority of media voices at the ABC, SBS, Fairfax Media, commercial TV and radio, online publications and many in News Corp papers who have been supportive of Turnbull and sympathetic to his energy and climate aims. Turnbull’s problem was not (admittedly aggressive and relentless) conservative commentators polluting the minds of his MPs but green-left journalists insulating him from reality.




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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