Monday, October 08, 2018

Switzerland is rapidly losing its snow -- and climate change is probably to blame (?)

Only someone who knows no history would fall for this tosh. One of the best known events in ancient history is when Hannibal marched elephants over the Alps for his invasion of Rome.  You would never even try it these days.

It was during the Roman warm period and the Alps were at that time largely snow free.  Clearly snow cover in that area is subject to large natural fluctuations.  So any reference to global warming is entirely supererogatory.

In any case reduced snowfall in recent years is the likely cause of the reduced snow cover and reduced precipitation is generally a sign of COOLING, not warming.  The fact that the winter of 2017–18 saw record snowfall may indicate that the cycle has just gone into reverse

A new study based on analysis of satellite images shows how much snow cover Switzerland has lost in the last 20 years.
Although Switzerland's mountain areas saw record snow fall in the winter of 2017–18, the country is rapidly losing its snow cover and global warming is probably the cause, a new study suggests.

While just over a third of Switzerland (36 percent) had a very low likelihood (less than 20 percent) of seeing snow in the two decades from 1995 to 2005, that figure jumped to 44 percent from 2005 to 2017.

That is an area of 5,200 square kilometres, or about the size of the canton of Valais.

The results are based on analysis of satellite images of Switzerland carried out by researchers at the University of Geneva and at the United Nations GRID-Geneva environmental data centre.

The study also shows that the area of Switzerland given over to eternal snow (where there is an 80 to 100 percent chance of snowfall) also shrank in the period studied – from 27 percent over the 1995–2005 period to 23 percent from 2005 to 2017.

The loss here is some 2,100 square kilometres, which is an area some seven times larger than the canton of Geneva.

The reduction in snow cover could be seen in the Jura region and in the Alps and was “particularly evident” in the Rhone Valley, said University of Geneva and GRID-Geneva researcher GrĂ©gory Giuliani in a press release.


The EPA Is Reportedly Going to Stop One of Its Costliest Abuses

If the Environmental Protection Agency decides to regulate emissions of a specific pollutant, should those emission reductions yield benefits that exceed the costs of doing so?

The commonsense answer to that question is: Of course.

But that’s not how things work with many EPA air pollution regulations. Instead, the EPA has found a way to game the regulatory process in order to impose some of the costliest regulations in U.S. history by using the “co-benefits” (i.e., indirect benefits) of emission reductions of another pollutant, fine particulate matter.

Through the use of these co-benefits, the EPA justifies rules even though there may be little, if any, benefits connected to the purpose of the rule.

Now, the Trump administration and the EPA reportedly are about to do something to curb this abuse.

The EPA is going to recalculate the costs and benefits of a controversial rule known as the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards Rule for Power Plants, the so-called “MATS rule.” As reported, this co-benefits abuse will not be employed in a new cost-benefit analysis.

When the EPA finalized the MATS rule in 2012, it didn’t bother to consider costs when deciding whether to regulate mercury emissions. This led to a Supreme Court case, Michigan v. EPA, challenging the agency’s failure to consider whether the rule was “appropriate and necessary,” as required under the Clean Air Act.

In 2015, the court held that the EPA, because of that “appropriate and necessary” language, must consider costs.

Justice Antonin Scalia, writing for the majority, explained, “[a]gainst the backdrop of this established administrative practice [consideration of cost], it is unreasonable to read an instruction to an administrative agency to determine whether ‘regulation is appropriate and necessary’ as an invitation to ignore costs.”

The EPA did estimate that the annual benefits of reducing mercury emissions was a mere $4 million to $6 million. The estimated costs, however, were $9.6 billion.

As Scalia pointed out, “[t]he costs to power plants were thus between 1,600 and 2,400 times as great as the quantifiable benefits from reduced emissions of hazardous air pollutants.”

As the court succinctly explained, “[n]o regulation is ‘appropriate’ if it does significantly more harm than good.”

The EPA has argued that the MATS rule, though, has co-benefits from reducing fine particulate matter and sulfur dioxide that amount to as much as $37 billion to $90 billion per year.

This abuse of co-benefits allows the EPA to regulate fine particulate matter without ever making the case that regulating the pollutant of concern (such as mercury) is truly warranted.

These co-benefits can become a cover for regulating whatever the EPA wants without ever justifying the regulation of the targeted pollutant, or for that matter, explaining why there are not far better (and direct) ways to address fine particulate matter.

There is also a specific Clean Air Act process for regulating fine particulate matter and other criteria pollutants (six major air pollutants). Using these non-particulate matter rules as justification to regulate fine particulate matter is an end run around this process. In fact, that was a point brought up by Chief Justice John Roberts in the Michigan v. EPA oral arguments.

This gaming of the system is misleading to the public. For example, it gives the misimpression that reductions in mercury will yield significant benefits, when in fact, the alleged benefits are almost entirely derived from reductions in fine particulate matter.

Such gaming is also not transparent to the public, and it’s susceptible to double counting of alleged co-benefits.

The MATS rule is not an aberration when it comes to co-benefits abuse.  According to NERA Consulting data, based on 26 EPA regulatory impact analyses of major rules between 1997 and 2011, 21 of the rules derived most of their benefits from fine particulate matter co-benefits.

In six of those EPA analyses (from 2009 to 2011), the co-benefits accounted for all of the benefits.

Fortunately, it sounds like the EPA and the Trump administration are going to address this abuse. As reported by The Washington Post:

[A]cting Administrator Andrew Wheeler said the EPA is focused on producing analyses that capture the specific impact of a rule—in this case, mercury—rather than the accompanying benefits that stem from installing new pollution controls on equipment.

“I just think it’s a little fuzzy math when you say, ‘Reduce mercury, and we have all these other benefits over here,’ as the shiny object,” Wheeler said, adding that the agency could still consider other benefits, but should categorize them separately.

While concerns over EPA overreach often focus on the agency exceeding its statutory authority, these hidden games that impose billions of dollars in regulatory costs shouldn’t be forgotten.

The EPA should stop this gaming of the regulatory process for all air pollution rules. Congress should pass legislation to that effect.

To its credit, it appears the EPA may be on its way to doing so, and as a result, helping to improve the integrity and transparency of the regulatory process.


Will California Dictate National Emissions Standards?

Golden State regulators are fighting Trump to keep Obama's standards on cars.

The State of California seems bent on forcing the rest of the nation to adopt its emissions standards and buy more electric cars.

Fortunately, the Trump administration is trying to revoke the state’s power to not only exempt itself from federal guidelines but, because of its size and influence, practically dictate those guidelines to the rest of us. Reuters reports, “California has long been allowed under a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency waiver to set its own, stricter vehicle emissions rules to fight heavy smog in Los Angeles and other urban areas.”

Part of California’s approach to stricter emissions standards stems from the state’s microclimate, which allows smog to flourish, particularly in heavily populated southern California. The state’s strict emissions standard thus addresses a very local issue. So why should residents of other states have to pay more to clean up Los Angeles pollution?

It’s no wonder that California regulators voted last Friday to ignore the Trump administration’s decision to weaken the standards and instead follow those put in place by Barack Obama. The California Air Resources Board, which regulates the state’s air quality, reaffirmed its commitment to these Obama-era federal standards, but the Trump administration is trying to roll them back due to higher costs for consumers.

Automotive News reports, “The Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, a trade group representing General Motors, Volkswagen AG, Toyota Motor Corp., Ford Motor Co. and others, again urged California and the Trump administration to reach agreement to retain nationwide emissions rules and avoid a prolonged legal battle.” The AAM is a powerful lobbying organization that represents many major automakers. Unfortunately, they want the Trump administration to side with California and impose the state’s strict standards on the rest of the country.

Eric Peters, writing at The Federalist, believes, “If [the Trump administration] does so, it would have the effect of making California the boss of the rest of us, because the car industry can no longer afford to build one set of cars for California and another for the rest of the country. Thus, what a handful of bureaucrats in the California apparat decree threatens to bind the whole country.”

Now, it’s no surprise that car manufacturers would embrace tougher emissions standards; the California car market is simply too significant to ignore. Simply put, they’d rather have Americans foot the bill for expensive fuel-efficient cars and electric cars than lose money themselves. And now that taxpayers are actually subsidizing car manufacturers (Tesla made $800 million from emissions credits over the last three years), it’s no wonder that we’re seeing more electric cars on the roads. Those generous federal and state tax credits for people who buy electric cars? Yep, they’re subsidized by taxpayers as well.

But aren’t electric cars worth the price of reducing air pollution? Not so fast, says Robyn Beck writing at Politico: “Widespread adoption of electric vehicles nationwide will likely increase air pollution compared with new internal combustion vehicles. You read that right: more electric cars and trucks will mean more pollution.” Beck adds that proponents of electric vehicles “fail to consider just how clean and efficient new internal combustion vehicles are.” And remember that the energy needed to charge electric cars often comes from power plants fueled by coal, something that’s likely to remain unchanged for several decades. Consider, too, the environmentally suspect nickel mining that’s required for electric-car batteries.

Like solar power and wind farms, the dream of charging up an electric car while grabbing a latte seems too good to be true. And it is. The reality is that the electric car movement is propped up by taxpayers, government policies, and environmental lobbyists rather than being driven by the free market or by the realities of new technologies.

The battle over emissions standards is getting serious, and California isn’t letting up. The state’s Democrat governor, Jerry Brown, wants to ban internal combustion engines by 2040 (as do Great Britain and France, by the way). If the Trump administration isn’t able to roll back these extreme environmental regulations on vehicles, the rest of us will be paying a hefty price. More ominously, we’ll be giving one state the power to determine national environmental policy and tell us what kind of cars we can drive.

Now that’s un-American.



Trash the Fifth Amendment Over Frogs?

The Supreme Court hears a case involving a ridiculous Obama-era power grab.

The Supreme Court heard its first cases of the upcoming judicial session on Monday, unfortunately with former Justice Anthony Kennedy’s seat still vacant due to the ongoing Democrat-created circus surrounding Brett Kavanaugh. So some of these case may end up with 4-4 split decisions. One case in particular on its face appears to deal with an animal known as the Mississippi dusky gopher frog. The frog in question was designated by the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) as an endangered species back in 2001. As per the Endangered Species Act, the FWS has the authority to determine and “designate any habitat of such [an endangered] species” as “critical habitat” and “essential for the conservation of the species.” In other words, the FWS has the authority to both determine and designate whether land (public or private) should be listed as protected habitat.

The case before the Supreme Court regarding the dusky gopher frog deals with a Barack Obama-era expansion of the FWS’s definition of habitat. As SCOTUS Blog explains, “This case will rule whether the Endangered Species Act prohibits designation of private land as unoccupied critical habitat that is neither habitat nor essential to species conservation; and (2) whether an agency decision not to exclude an area from critical habitat because of the economic impact of designation is subject to judicial review.”

Clearly, the core of the issue is a question over Fifth Amendment protections. The big problem in the case of the dusky gopher frog is one of property rights. Back in 2011, the Obama administration decided to designate as protected habitat over 1,500 acres of Edward Poitevent’s land (he’s the plaintiff in the case), on which his company, Weyerhaeuser, depends for his timber business. However, there was one glaring problem that even the FWS noted — there were no dusky gopher frogs living on Poitevent’s land. The Obama administration even acknowledged this fact, listing the property as a “potential backup habitat” for the endangered frog. Based upon that definition couldn’t almost any land be designated as “potential backup habitat?”

As Investor’s Business Daily notes, “The land in question doesn’t have the frog living on it, and the land isn’t even suitable for the frog. Nonetheless, in 2011 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declared his land "critical habitat” because, with modifications, it could potentially serve as a home for the endangered dusky gopher frog.“ Like the Obama administration’s redefinition of navigable waters, this is a case of clear government overreach. But unfortunately, the High Court’s decision may end up being split.


Australia: 'The impact will be huge': Experts warn power prices are set to skyrocket over summer

Ordinary people will be paying heavily for the Greenie-motivated closures of big coal-fired generators such as Hazelwood. Losing 1,600 MW from Hazelwood alone leaves a big gap that can only be filled by expensive gas generators

Experts have warned electricity prices will skyrocket over summer, claiming 'the impact will be huge' on domestic households.

The average annual bill for Australian households is $1500, but Victoria and South Australia were closer to $2000 - a 63 per cent jump for all states in the past decade.

According to a report released by the ACCC, gas prices will go up another 40 per cent.

The cost is predicted to peak at around $15 a gigajoule over the warmer months and won't go lower than $10.70, the Australian reported.

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) released a report this week which detailed the expected power prices.

Australian Power Project chief executive Nathan Vass said the prices will be four times higher than the historical prices which rested at $3.

Referencing the report, Mr Vass warned 'the impact on electricity prices will be huge'.

The chief executive explained for every $1 rise in gas prices, the wholesale price of electricity will go up to $11 per megawatt-hour.

'So if gas jumps to $15/GJ you could see the average wholesale price hit $140/MWh,' he told the publication.

'The closure of cheap and ­reliable coal-fired generators and the shift to gas-peaking plants has left South Australia more vulnerable to gas price shocks than any other state.'

In 2015/16 the average annual Australian electricity stood at $1,524, with network costs making up 48 per cent of the bill, followed by wholesale costs (22 per cent), environmental costs (7 per cent), retail costs (16 per cent) and retail margins (8 per cent).




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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