Monday, March 11, 2019

Green Land Grabs on Steroids – Using Bees So Gov’t Can Take More Land

Green groups want to use bees to block human activities on land 15 times bigger than Virginia – or even more.

Special interest environmental groups got stung recently by an 8-0 U.S. Supreme Court opinion that held private landowners cannot be compelled to forego future economic uses of their property and at their own expense convert their land into suitable habitat for an endangered frog. Now radical greens are eyeing even bigger land grabs.

The Natural Resources Defense Council has sued the Department of the Interior for failing to designate “critical habitat” for the “endangered” rusty patched bumblebee. It’s the latest of many Endangered Species Act (ESA) lawsuits, abusive sue-and-settle litigation, and other actions involving insects, and it led to an eleventh-hour Obama Administration endangered designation for the rusty patched bee (“RPB”).

Interior points out that extremely limited knowledge about RPBs makes critical habitat determinations impossible. The NRDC counters that Interior must designate habitats based on “best available evidence.” The problem is, available information is so inadequate, conjectural, false or falsified that it must absolutely not be used to justify the astounding potential impacts of RPB habitat designations. 

Groups that have “bee”-friended them claim RPBs were “once common” in many Northeastern and Midwestern states. However, back then bees and other insects were studied for taxonomic purposes – not to assess species’ diversity and populations. So no one knows how many there used to be, or where.

The activists also claim RPB populations declined rapidly beginning in the mid-1990s, because of habitat loss, disease, climate change and especially the use of crop-protection pesticides. That’s not what they were saying a few years ago, before wild bees replaced honey bees in anti-pesticide campaigns.

Back in 2013, when it petitioned Interior’s Fish & Wildlife Service (“FWS”) for RPB endangered status, even the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation said the bee’s apparent decline was primarily due to habitat loss and multiple diseases that spread from domesticated honeybees to wild bees.

“The exact cause for the loss of the rusty patched is unclear,” says University of Virginia biology professor T’ai Roulston. “[B]ut it’s almost certainly related to disease,” especially a fungal gut parasite that “can shorten the lives of worker [bees] and disrupt mating success and survival of queens and males.”

Habitat loss is clearly another major factor. Over the past half-century, cities and suburbs expanded, and farmers increasingly emphasized large-scale monoculture crops like corn and canola for food and biofuels. That reduced underground RPB nesting sites and the varieties of flowers that wild bees prefer.

The Obama FWS ignored these facts, arbitrarily downplayed its earlier disease and habitat loss explanations, and began blaming disease, climate change, habitat loss, and pesticides, especially advanced-technology neonicotinoid pesticides, which became a scapegoat for wild bee health problems after it became obvious to everyone that fears of a honeybee apocalypse were unfounded. A busy, understaffed Department of the Interior let the last-minute Obama era RPB endangered species designation take effect in early 2017.

Little evidence supports the pesticide claims, and much refutes them.

For example, a wide-ranging international study of wild bees, published in Nature Communications, found that only 2 percent of wild bee species are responsible for 80 percent of all crop visits. Most wild bees never even come into contact with crops or the pesticides that supposedly harm them.

Even more compelling, the Nature study determined that the 2 percent of wild bees that do visit crops – and so would be most exposed to pesticides – are among the healthiest bee species on Earth.

Other studies found that neonic residues are well below levels that can adversely affect bee development or reproduction. That’s because most neonics are used as seed coatings that are absorbed into plant tissue as crops grow. They protect plants against insect damage – targeting only pests that actually feed on the crops – but are largely gone by the time mature plants flower. Neonics are barely detectable in pollen.

None of these facts will matter, however, once the FWS starts designating RPB critical habitats. The agency and environmentalists will be able to delay, block or bankrupt any proposed or ongoing project or activity within a habitat if they can make any plausible claim that it might potentially harm the bee. Building new homes or hospitals, laying new pipelines, improving roads and bridges – a farmer’s decisions about plowing fields, planting crops or using pesticides – could all be subjected to litigation.

The potential geographic reach of these critical habitat designations is enormous.

RPBs are likely to be found “in scattered locations that cover only 0.1% of the species’ historical range,” the FWS has said. That doesn’t sound like much. However, 0.1 percent of the bee’s presumed or asserted historical range is nearly four million acres – equivalent to Connecticut plus Rhode Island.

Even worse, that acreage is widely dispersed in itty-bitty parcels across 13 states where amateur entomologists have supposedly spotted rusty patched bumblebees since 2000. That’s some 380 million acres: 15 times the size of Virginia! That is green land grabs on steroids, and it’s just the beginning.

No one knows just where those parcels might be. So environmental groups could pressure and sue government agencies to halt projects – or agencies could do it at their own volition, to delay or block gas pipelines, for example – while large areas are carefully examined for signs of rusty patched bumblebees.

New York regulators might be especially prone to doing that, considering the governor and legislature’s unbending opposition to “climate destabilizing” natural gas, even as gas and electricity prices climb ever higher in the Empire State.

More ominously, anti-pesticide and other environmental groups want yellow-banded, western and Franklin’s bumblebees designated as endangered. These species were supposedly once found in tiny areas scattered over a billion acres in 40 US states! Other anti-pesticide, anti-fossil fuel, pro-Green New Deal activists also want beetles and other bugs designated as endangered. It’s all about control.

The ultimate effect – if not their intent – would be to let radical groups use “threatened or endangered” insects to delay or veto countless projects and activities across nearly the entire United States.

Probably most Americans would say delaying or even scuttling certain projects and activities might be warranted when the threatened or endangered species holds a position of significance in the animal kingdom, and really is down to the last of its kind.

But bees, beetles and other bugs? Especially when we don’t know how many there ever were, or where? Or what might actually be threatening their continued existence, if it really is threatened? Highly unlikely.

Just as relevant, why aren’t the same eco-activist groups expressing the same concern – or any concern, really – about bald and golden eagles, other raptor and bird species, or multiple rare bat species that are being decimated by wind turbines? Whooping cranes are teetering on the brink of extinction, and yet their Canada to Texas flyway is now home to hundreds of bird-butchering turbine rotors.

The resulting carnage is ignored by greens and regulators alike, and Big Wind operators prohibit independent biologists from entering the killing grounds to get accurate counts of bird and bat carcasses.

Many of those wondrous and vitally important species would likely be wiped out entirely if anything like the Green New Deal sprouts hundreds of thousands of 400-foot-tall onshore turbines across the USA.

The Fish & Wildlife Service needs to bring further balance and sanity to the ESA, to ensure that conflicting and competing needs are examined and balanced – fully, carefully and honestly.

All this underscores why the Endangered Species Act must be revised. It also explains why radical environmentalists and their allies will fight any changes tooth and nail, along with any nominee who might try to make any changes in any Trump land use, environmental or agricultural agency or policy.

These are complex but vital policy issues, requiring rational, responsible discussions and decisions.


‘Green New Deal’ Would Hit Minorities the Hardest

The “Green New Deal” will fail for many reasons. One is that the people pushing it seem oblivious to the needs of poor and minorities families, who would be directly hurt by the plan.

By one estimate, that Green New Deal would cost $600,000 per household and eliminate the use of all fossil fuels in just 10 years. It would result in higher energy prices for all Americans, but would disproportionately hurt people of color and other minorities who are the most susceptible to energy poverty.

Energy poverty occurs when households are unable to afford their basic electric and heating needs due to high energy prices.

Yes, we need to protect the environment. But unrealistic proposals like the Green New Deal only contribute to energy poverty and won’t work for low-income families.

We need an energy approach that makes better use of what we have, especially if it can keep costs low and create jobs.

One of the answers is natural gas. Natural gas is abundant and affordable compared to most forms of energy, and it burns cleaner than other fossil fuels. In fact, shifting to gas-fired plant generators was the single greatest factor in the United States achieving a 28 percent reduction in CO2 emissions since 2005, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Right now, America needs better access to natural gas. This winter’s polar vortex exposed natural gas supply problems in the Northeast. We’ve certainly made progress—America is producing more natural gas than ever—but there isn’t enough pipeline infrastructure to move enough natural gas into the communities that need it most.

When temperatures dropped to the teens and single-digits, demand exceeded supply and forced prices to skyrocket. There’s simply no excuse for forcing low-income African-Americans and other minorities to choose between heating a home and putting food on the table. 

These pipeline shortages are bad enough, but they are made worse by the same activists who claim social justice in supporting the Green New Deal.

Where’s the social justice and compassion in blatantly opposing affordable, traditional energy resources that are becoming cleaner and more efficient every year?

Recently, I saw some of these “keep it in the ground” people in economically depressed Buckingham County, Virginia, protesting the construction of the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, where a pipeline compressor would create jobs and up to $1 million in tax revenues. That’s a desperately needed economic jolt to a county where every third person is African-American.

But the activists, with their bullhorns, T-shirts, and protest signs, ignored the potential benefits of this project and claimed to be fighting “environmental racism” by opposing the pipeline compressor. All of the protestors were white.

The Atlantic Coast Pipeline could save consumers in Virginia and North Carolina more than $377 million in electricity bills annually—states with disproportionately high black populations.

How a pipeline that would make life more affordable and create more prosperity is racist is beyond my comprehension. Sadly, the only environmental racism I see is actually “green energy discrimination” foisted upon minority households, who can least afford higher energy costs.

I’m all for renewable energy where it makes sense and where it doesn’t needlessly drive up our cost of living. If electric cars are attractive to consumers, let them compete in a free market without the help of government subsidies—our tax dollars.

The working poor and middle class need to rely on affordable energy, and no one should be vilified for using a fuel-efficient gasoline engine to get to work. That’s ridiculous.

More pipeline infrastructure projects are needed to transport oil and natural gas from where it’s refined to cities and towns where it’s needed. Lower fuel costs also keep prices for commodities—food, construction materials, and industrial goods—in check.

There is a practical, realistic path forward when it comes to modernizing our national infrastructure and pipeline grid. We can do it while improving energy efficiency and lowering greenhouse gas emissions.

But the Green New Deal, with its $93 trillion price tag, isn’t any viable plan at all. It’s a pipe dream—a bad deal for America.


Democrats’ Green Energy Crusades Are Always Catastrophic

As the march toward the 2020 presidential election begins to pick up steam, Democratic candidates are stumbling over themselves to embrace the next “fresh” and “exciting” big-ticket item on the progressive agenda. Today, that means renewable energy subsidies and a whole lot of them. Sen. Kamala Harris became the latest candidate to proclaim her love for government-mandated renewable energy production. She did so by courageously falling in line with fellow Democratic hopefuls Sen. Elizabeth Warren and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand in their support of the Green New Deal.

The problems with this plan are threefold: it’s neither green, nor new, nor a deal. Indeed, the left’s hot take on renewable energy is really anything but. Their proposal to spend countless tax dollars to prop up solar, wind and other renewable energy companies is a tried and true method for failure. Whenever liberals attempt to use green energy subsidies in their crusade to save the world from itself, the results have been unfavorable at best, catastrophic at worst. And while it is unsurprising that Democrats have a short memory — they’re embracing socialism outright — it’s clear they need a refresher in the myriad failures of green energy subsidies.

In reality, the left’s fresh take on environmental policy is over 40 years stale. In 1978, in the wake of the nation’s energy crisis, the Carter administration signed the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act into law. The purpose of this old regulation has quite a familiar ring: to promote conservation efforts and the production of renewable energy. It attempted to accomplish this goal through government mandates. The law forced utility companies to purchase power from renewable sources and offer that energy to consumers at “equitable retail rates,” similar to how government subsidies operate.

The last four decades have shown just how dangerous tampering with the free market can be. PURPA, once an obscure law regulating American utilities, has grown far beyond its original purpose. The regulation has become a significant driver pushing the development of solar projects within the energy sector, but for all the wrong reasons.

Essentially, PURPA hasn’t kept up with market progress. It still forces companies to engage in long-term, fixed-price contracts at costs well above market rates, even though renewable energy is much more plentiful than it was in 1978. As a result, utilities end up purchasing the PURPA-mandated power at a markedly higher price than other clean alternatives. This raises the cost for consumers while disincentivizing the proper use of renewable energy. In effect, the regulation accomplishes the opposite of what it set out to do.

Liberals had to swallow another dose of economic reality in 2010 when the Obama administration created the infamous Solyndra debacle. That year, President Barack Obama heralded the solar energy company Solyndra as “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” The company became the president’s exemplar of success in his initiative to expand renewable energy production and green jobs.

The company received over half a billion dollars in subsidies from the federal government in taxpayer-guaranteed loans. Using that money, Solyndra managed to create a meager 585 jobs at a cost to the American taxpayer of nearly one million dollars per head. It worked to develop solar panels for which there was no substantial demand. And just one year later, the company declared bankruptcy, shut down its plant and laid off those workers the government paid so much to hire.

The PURPA and Solyndra embarrassments are certainly a tragic waste of resources. Nevertheless, the failed experiment belies the flawed assumption in the left’s ongoing push for green energy subsidies. They mistakenly believe that the government can select winners and losers more efficiently than the free market can. Green energy subsidies are merely an expression of the belief that throwing government money at renewable energy companies will propel them toward success.

The Green New Deal is merely another iteration in this pattern of failure. Piggybacking off the same misconceptions that plagued both PURPA and Solyndra, the Green New Deal is on the fast track toward catastrophe. Liberals may argue that this most recent plan is different, special and fresh, but history disagrees. And Democrats would be wise to heed its warning.


Climate Crusaders Are Wrong To Cheer Norway’s So-Called Oil Divestment Proposal

Climate crusaders celebrating Norway’s proposal to divest its sovereign wealth fund from oil and gas stocks should pause before popping the carbon-neutral champagne.

In fact, the proposed divestment is limited to only include companies solely involved in oil and gas exploration, not integrated majors like BP, Exxon, and Equinor, Norway’s state-owned oil giant. Norway’s proposal would affect about $40 billion in holdings out of a $1 trillion fund.

Also, Norway’s government said Friday the decision was to “reduce the vulnerability of our common wealth to a permanent oil price decline,” and not environmental considerations.

Basically, the country doesn’t want to hold too many oil and gas stocks should the price tank like it did in 2014.

Environmental activists are spinning this as a victory in their war against fossil fuels. Activists said it shattered the “illusion” that fossil fuels would continue to be used for decades, despite global warming.

Norway is trying to insulate itself from price volatility — the country is heavily reliant on petroleum exports and oil revenues. Norway’s sovereign wealth fund is the largest in the world and funded through oil and gas revenues.

“The oil business will be a major and important industry in Norway for many years to come,” said Norwegian Finance Minister Siv Jensen, according to The Financial Times.

Jensen did, however, say Norway was looking to capitalize on expected growth in renewable energy. Paradoxically, Jensen suggested the growth in renewables, mainly wind and solar, would be driven by oil majors like BP.

“Everything indicates that almost the entire growth in listed infrastructure for renewable energy over the next 10 years will be driven by companies that do not have renewable energy as their main activity. It is a growth the fund should be able to take part in,” Jensen said.

Norwegian lawmakers will vote on the proposal to divest from oil and gas companies later this year.


A rich elitist might have trouble getting to represent the Australian Greens

Greens readily put out their hands for billionaire money but having a rich establishment lawyer actually represent them in parliament might not be the desired image

The federal seat of Kooyong in Melbourne’s eastern suburbs is the bluest of blue-ribbon seats. It has existed since Federation and is one of only two original electorates in Victoria never to have been held by the Labor Party. Seven representatives have served there, all white males who were on average 43 years old when first elected to the seat.

To the Greens, the seat symbolises everything the party supposedly despises — a white patriarchal gerontocracy, the accumulation of wealth to the detriment of the masses, and the absence of diversity. The last thing you would expect of a party that thrives on identity politics would be to nominate an affluent, ageing, white Anglo-Saxon male. But that is exactly what it did this week when it announced Julian Burnside AO QC as its candidate. That’s right, a man who turns 70 this year and was born when Ben Chifley was Prime Minister and the White Australia Policy still operated. Who came second in preselection, Sam Newman?

Burnside is a long-time resident of Hawthorn, where the median house price is around $2.3 million. The suburb features grand mansions, old money, and Scotch College, one of the most prestigious and wealthiest private schools in the country. He was born into privilege, the son of a prominent Melbourne surgeon, and educated at Melbourne Grammar. As a barrister, he grew rich from representing wealthy clients such as corporate fraudster Alan Bond.

But according to the Greens’ website, the party speaks “on behalf of those who wouldn’t otherwise get much of a say inside parliament: children, refugees, students, individuals and families living in poverty…” Honestly, it is almost as if the party’s constituency was not society’s marginalised, but instead those insufferable types who publicly wail for the wretched in the hope it shifts attention from their bourgeois lifestyle.

Perhaps Burnside, in order to counter the perception he is just another pious toff, will highlight that, if elected, he would be foregoing the millions he earns as a barrister for the relatively paltry parliamentary base salary of $207,100. All very well, but he still carries elitist baggage. Commenting in 2007 on judicial appointments in Victoria, he said one of the problems in attracting suitable candidates was that the “pay is not great”. To put that in perspective, a lowly magistrate in Victoria has a base salary of $317,930, while a Supreme Court judge is paid $458,840 a year. If that is an example of what constitutes hardship, Burnside has much work to do if he is to give the appearance of empathising with the great unwashed.

Having long professed no interest in entering politics, he was asked this week on Sky News to explain his turnaround.

“Because,” he began theatrically, gazing upwards as if expecting celestial endorsement, “the situation is desperate”. Climate change is Burnside’s burning issue. “I think if we are worried about our children and our grandchildren, let’s save the planet for them,” he added, sounding very much like the environmental messiah. You could be excused for thinking ‘QC’ stands for quixotic clichés.

Given Hawthorn’s elevation is around 42 metres above sea level and not about to be flooded soon, I’m not sure Burnside is making the right pitch to his would-be constituents. Perhaps he would be better off stressing their coastal weekenders are threatened, or at least they will be in 100 or so years if the alarmists’ predictions are correct.

For the party he now represents, belief in man-made climate change is not so much an affirmation of science as it is an article of faith, and Burnside’s pronouncements on that subject have not always accorded. For example, in 2011, he stated: “I’m prepared to say that I accept as fairly accurate the science of global warming. But I’m prepared to start from the assumption that the science may be wrong. We don’t know.”

Only fairly accurate? Operate from the premise that the science may be wrong? This leaves him open to charges of denialism, and even if he recants the anti-rightists of the party will closely examine his historical utterances for signs of deviationism.

However, there is one tenet of Greens ideology in which Burnside has always maintained the faith, and that is the party’s ludicrous open borders policy in respect to asylum-seekers.

“The idea that we’re going to be flooded with boat people is one of the boogies that ... [shadow immigration minister] Scott Morrison tries to bring out, but it’s never happened in the past,” Burnside told ABC in 2011.

“Now I don’t see any reason why it will happen in the future. It’s a dangerous voyage.” This was both naïve and obtuse. Less than a year before in one incident alone, 48 asylum-seekers died in the Christmas Island boat tragedy.

In July 2010 — two years after the Howard government’s Pacific Solution had been dismantled, resulting in the arrival of nearly 200 illegal boats — Burnside denied there was a problem. “It is absurd to suggest that we have ‘lost control’ of our borders,” he wrote in the Sydney Morning Herald. “Our borders are close to watertight”. In the years following Burnside’s assurance, the flow of illegal boats would turn into a flood, resulting in the unauthorised arrivals of 800 vessels, 50,000 asylum-seekers, and the deaths of around 1200 people.

Just as Burnside cannot acknowledge the Pacific Solution was an effective deterrent to the people-smuggling trade, neither can he admit the Coalition’s success with Operation Sovereign Borders. His ‘nothing to see here’ tactic during the chaotic period when people smuggling resumed between 2008-13 later shifted to maintaining the problem can be easily managed.

In 2013, pressed by Sky News host and Associate Editor of The Australian Chris Kenny, he claimed that Australia could cope with 50,000 boat people per year.

Later that year he proposed the entire state of Tasmania should be an open detention centre for asylum-seekers while their claims were processed. And this is the man who, if elected, will likely hold the party’s immigration portfolio.

As one who carefully cultivates a goody two shoes image, Burnside argued in 2009 that politicians who mislead or deceive the public in their official capacities should be subject to sanctions, including imprisonment. Presumably he would say that he himself maintains these high standards. With that in mind, let’s examine his reaction to the shrill and uncorroborated reports by the ABC in January 2014 that members of the Navy had beaten asylum-seekers and inflicted severe burns by forcing them to hold on to engine pipes.

These reports were false. Host Paul Barry of ABC’s Media Watch said the organisation’s news service had “over-reached by essentially endorsing the allegations of Navy mistreatment on radio, TV and online throughout the day”. A mealy-mouthed media release from the ABC later conceded “the initial reporting needed to be more precise”.

So how did Burnside react? “Notice that reports of navy abuse of refugees came just after govt said military personnel would not be personally liable for misconduct,” he tweeted.

This was a vile and slanderous insinuation against the Navy made even worse by the fact that it came days after the ABC’s mea culpa. That tweet remains online. And just this week he tweeted his prediction that Prime Minister Scott Morrison would “send a whisper to the Navy to let a couple of asylum seeker boats through before the election”.

"Prediction:#Scomo will send a whisper to the Navy to let a couple of asylum seeker boats through before the election. Then he will try to terrify the nation that we are under attack. Could he be that dishonest?"

Who was the pompous windbag decrying those who mislead and deceive the public?

In deciding to enter the political race, Burnside may have taken too much comfort from the fawning receptions given by Melbourne’s bien-pensants. Outside the bubble his patience is tested when ill-bred and impertinent types question the wisdom of St Julian.

Last August, during a question and answer session for high school students, he told Simon Breheny of the Institute of Public Affairs to “’shove your freedom of speech up your arse, and f**k off”.

Last year I wrote of his nasty disposition when attacking Coalition members, including his comparing them with Nazis and retweeting an image of Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s face superimposed on the uniform of a German SS officer. Yet Burnside constantly tweets homilies about the importance of good manners.

Get used to the intense scrutiny that campaigning entails, Mr Burnside. You might want to reflect on the words of the great Benjamin Franklin when he observed “A learned blockhead is a greater blockhead than an ignorant one”.



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.  

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:

Anonymous said...

How the Rusty Patched Bee endangerment finding got snuck in under the radar.