Tuesday, March 05, 2019

Rounding up Roundup:  The racket

Matt Ridley is always alert to corrupt "Science" and his latest blog post is a mine of valuable information on several current or recent frauds.  Below is just that part of his post dealing with glyphosate -- one of the safest chemical there are but which has a huge money turnover.  So it has become a glittering prize -- $$$$$ -- for people trying to find something wrong with it and get some of that money

This is the claim that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup weedkiller, increases the incidence of a particular, very rare cancer, non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL). ‘Exposure to weed-killing products increases risk of cancer by 41 per cent,’ said the Guardian’s headline.

Once again, this paper is not a new study, but a desktop survey of other studies and its claim collapses under proper scrutiny. According to the epidemiologist Geoffrey Kabat, the paper combined one high-quality study with five poor-quality studies and chose the highest of five risk estimates reported in one of the latter to ensure it would reach statistical significance. The authors highlighted the dubious 41 per cent result, ‘which they almost certainly realised would grab headlines and inspire fear’.

The background is important here. Vast sums of money are at stake. ‘Predatort’ lawyers have been chasing glyphosate in the hope of tobacco-style payouts. Unluckily for them, however, study after study keeps finding that glyphosate does not cause cancer. The US Environmental Protection Agency, the European Food Safety Authority, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation working with the World Health Organisation, the European Chemicals Agency, Health Canada and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment have all tried and failed to find any cancer risk in glyphosate.

The only exception is the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a rogue United Nations agency that has been taken over by environmental activists, which claimed that neat glyphosate was capable of causing cancer in animals if ingested. By the same criteria, IARC admits, coffee, tea and wine (which are indeed ingested) and working as a hairdresser are also carcinogenic; in fact, out of 1,000 substances and other risks tested, IARC has found only one to be non-carcinogenic. The IARC study also did the usual pseudo-science thing of citing some results but was reported by Reuters to have discounted contradictory results from the same studies.

This is what Reuters reported:

The edits identified by Reuters occurred in the chapter of IARC’s review focusing on animal studies. This chapter was important in IARC’s assessment of glyphosate, since it was in animal studies that IARC decided there was “sufficient” evidence of carcinogenicity.

One effect of the changes to the draft, reviewed by Reuters in a comparison with the published report, was the removal of multiple scientists' conclusions that their studies had found no link between glyphosate and cancer in laboratory animals.

Following that claim, another study by the Agricultural Health Survey of 45,000 people actually exposed to glyphosate again found no association between glyphosate and any cancer, including NHL. Nobody outside the predatort industry takes the IARC finding seriously.

Nonetheless, the study had a beneficial effect for lawyers. Last year, citing the IARC study but not its debunking, a jury in California awarded a $289 million jackpot to the family of a school groundskeeper who died of NHL. Meanwhile, an investigation by Reuters found that the conclusion of the IARC study had been altered shortly before the report’s release and that the specialist consulted, Christopher Portier, started working with law firms suing Monsanto soon afterwards. Another case is due to start shortly, this time in federal court. More than 9,300 people with various cancers have filed similar cases.

Reuters again:

Documents seen by Reuters show how a draft of a key section of the International Agency for Research on Cancer's (IARC) assessment of glyphosate - a report that has prompted international disputes and multi-million-dollar lawsuits - underwent significant changes and deletions before the report was finalised and made public.

One effect of the changes to the draft, reviewed by Reuters in a comparison with the published report, was the removal of multiple scientists' conclusions that their studies had found no link between glyphosate and cancer in laboratory animals.

In one instance, a fresh statistical analysis was inserted - effectively reversing the original finding of a study being reviewed by IARC.

In another, a sentence in the draft referenced a pathology report ordered by experts at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. It noted the report “firmly” and “unanimously” agreed that the “compound” – glyphosate – had not caused abnormal growths in the mice being studied. In the final published IARC monograph, this sentence had been deleted.

Kabat had this to say:

In view of the new revelations, it appears that, rather than being the objective scientist he has portrayed himself to be, he may have had a preconceived plan to use the IARC ruling, which he played a major role in shaping, to cash in on the ensuing litigation campaign.

See also David Zaruk:

During the same week that IARC had published its opinion on glyphosate’s carcinogenicity, Christopher Portier signed a lucrative contract to be a litigation consultant for two law firms preparing to sue Monsanto on behalf of glyphosate cancer victims.

This contract has remunerated Portier for at least 160,000 USD (until June, 2017) for initial preparatory work as a litigation consultant (plus travel).

This contract contained a confidentiality clause restricting Portier from transparently declaring this employment to others he comes in contact with. Further to that, Portier has even stated that he has not been paid a cent for work he’s done on glyphosate.

It became clear, in emails provided in the deposition, that Portier’s role in the ban-glyphosate movement was crucial. He promised in an email to IARC that he would protect their reputation, the monograph conclusion and handle the BfR and EFSA rejections of IARC’s findings.

Portier admitted in the deposition that prior to the IARC glyphosate meetings, where he served as the only external expert adviser, he had never worked and had no experience with glyphosate.


Green New Deal Dodge: Schumer Asks Dems To Vote “Present”

Senate Democratic leaders are grappling over how to vote on a controversial climate change proposal that is being championed by progressives and mocked by conservatives. …

Senate Democratic Leader Charles Schumer (N.Y.) has floated a plan with his caucus to vote "present" on the ambitious legislation. It remains to be seen if Senate Democrats will embrace Schumer’s strategy.

That’s not flying with at least one member of Schumer’s caucus. Joe Manchin (D-WV) told The Hill that he’s a “no” on the GND, and a hard “no” on present votes:

“I got to work with reality. I got to make sure we have the benefit of affordable energy,” Manchin said.

Asked about his colleague’s plan to vote present on the Green New Deal, Manchin responded, “They can do what they want to do. I’m not a present-type guy.”

The real sham is the Green New Deal itself, which Schumer’s attempting to distance from his caucus. So is this “present” vote, which directly contradicts Schumer’s attack on Mitch McConnell for calling the vote. In his two-minute speech on the Senate floor, Schumer demanded that McConnell take a stand on climate change and the need for congressional action:

If Republicans need to do all that, why doesn’t Schumer feel the need to make his colleagues take a stand on their own bill? These demands are a lame attempt to shift attention away from a ridiculous proposal that has much more to do with imposing government control on American lives than it does about the climate.

Besides, McConnell’s hardly the only one “knocking the Green New Deal,” as Schumer complained yesterday. Even Nancy Pelosi’s able to discuss it honestly in Rolling Stone magazine, for pity’s sake. Why not just admit it’s a mistake rather than vote “present”?

Now, in terms of the Green New Deal [as conceived], that goes beyond what our charge is. Our charge is about saving the planet. They have in there things like single-payer and . . .  what is it? Guaranteed income?

Pelosi Deputy Chief of Staff Drew Hammill: Guaranteed income, and then a jobs guarantee.

Pelosi: And then they have, I don’t know if it’s single-payer or Medicare for All. . . . It’s kind of, like, a broader agenda. All good values, but nonetheless, not what we hope to achieve with this focused, determined, decision-making.

The answer to the previous question is obvious — Pelosi’s not going to make her caucus take an embarrassing vote on the GND that will paint her members into tight corners no matter what they choose. If they vote no, progressive groups like the Justice Democrats will come after them in the primaries. If they vote yes, independent and moderate voters will abandon them in the general election.

Under the circumstances, “present” may be the best strategy possible. It’s craven and hypocritical, but with his party careening towards socialism, that’s all Schumer has left.


Green New Deal Hits A Road Block: Largest California County Bans Large Solar And Wind Projects

California’s largest county has banned the construction of large solar and wind farms on more than 1 million acres of private land, bending to the will of residents who say they don’t want renewable energy projects industrializing their rural desert communities northeast of Los Angeles.

L A Times reports:

Thursday’s 4-1 vote by San Bernardino County’s Board of Supervisors highlighted a challenge California could face as it seeks to eliminate the burning of planet-warming fossil fuels.

State lawmakers passed a bill last year requiring utility companies to get 60% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030, and 100% from climate-friendly sources by 2045. But achieving those goals will require cooperation from local governments — and big solar and wind farms, like many infrastructure projects, are often unpopular at the local level.

Representatives of national solar developers including First Solar and Clearway Energy urged the supervisors to consider the economic benefits of solar projects, including jobs and tax revenues. They were joined by union members, who told the supervisors that solar farms create hundreds of high-paying construction jobs.

“They’re temporary construction jobs, but that’s what we make our livelihood off of. And to put language in there that strictly prohibits these projects from going forward would be irresponsible,” said Justin Lanford, president of the San Bernardino County chapter of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Dozens of local residents spoke in support of the proposed ban, known as Renewable Energy Policy 4.10. They came from high desert communities such as Daggett, Joshua Tree and Lucerne Valley, where existing solar projects are seen by many as eyesores that destroy desert ecosystems and fuel larger dust storms.

Sara Fairchild, a resident of Pioneertown, said she’s been working with a group trying to get California Highway 247, which runs from Yucca Valley to Barstow, designated as a state scenic highway. Supporters say the designation would draw tourists and boost local economies. But Fairchild is worried that several solar projects proposed along or near the highway would ruin the pristine desert landscapes that make the area so attractive.

“These vast open areas are precious for their natural, historical and recreational qualities. But they are fragile, and no amount of mitigation can counter the damage that industrial-scale renewable energy projects would cause,” Fairchild told the supervisors. “Once destroyed, these landscapes can never be brought back.”

The policy approved by the supervisors prohibits utility-oriented renewable energy projects — defined as projects that would mostly serve out-of-town utility customers, rather than local power needs — within the boundaries of Community Plans that have been adopted by more than a dozen unincorporated towns. Construction of utility-oriented solar and wind farms would also be banned in so-called Rural Living zones. Solar projects that are already going through the permitting process would still be allowed to proceed.

Supervisor Robert Lovingood said residents “spoke clearly about what they want to see.”

“If we don’t adopt this, that’s just spitting in their face,” he said, adding that the county has already designated several smaller areas where renewable energy projects could be approved.

Curt Hagman was the only supervisor to vote against the restrictions. He said he doesn’t want to preclude new renewable energy technologies that might have less of an impact on rural areas, while still bringing economic benefits to the county. And he said the supervisors already have the ability to reject bad projects.

V. John White, a Sacramento lobbyist who leads the Center for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Technologies, said before Thursday’s vote that there’s still a lot of land where solar and wind projects can be built in California, including retired farmland in the Central Valley and Imperial County. But the backlash against big solar projects in San Bernardino County, he said, shows that state officials “will have to involve local governments more directly than what we’ve done up through now” as they work to achieve higher renewable energy targets.


Mass. running out of gas as pipeline opposition builds up

The municipal utilities that serve Holyoke and Middleborough just imposed separate moratoriums on new natural gas hookups, citing supply constraints. Is your community close behind?

Probably not. The two biggest gas providers in Massachusetts, National Grid and Eversource, say their supplies are adequate for now.

But some in the industry speculate that we’re approaching a major inflection point, as the region’s strained pipeline system shows signs of failing to keep up with demand. Pipeline expansions get more difficult to build politically every year. To the anti-gas forces in the environmental community, the moratoriums reaffirm their arguments about the need to wean Massachusetts off the fossil fuel.

That won’t be easy. Natural gas remains a dominant fuel source for New England’s power plants. It also remains the preferred heat source for any new developments — except in the growing list of communities with moratoriums in place.

These bans on new hookups started popping up in Western Massachusetts about four years ago. Berkshire Gas imposed moratoriums in an eight-town region stretching from Greenfield to Amherst; Columbia Gas did the same next door, in Easthampton and Northampton.

Northeast Energy Direct, the controversial Kinder Morgan pipeline proposal, could have helped ease the pain there. But resistance was too strong, and Kinder Morgan nixed it. Berkshire informed its waiting list of 300-plus potential new customers last fall that no help would be coming soon.

The capacity issues in that area eventually caught up with Holyoke Gas & Electric, which imposed its own moratorium on new service on Jan. 28. Columbia Gas is pursuing projects to increase circulation in the Springfield area. But those, too, face formidable opposition.

The Middleborough Gas and Electric Department moratorium this month was more of a surprise, the first true supply-related ban in the eastern part of the state. General manager Jackie Crowley told utility commissioners that a lateral pipeline that feeds Southeastern Massachusetts has been at capacity for some time. The utility’s system load has continued to grow, but there are no new projects on the horizon to address its need for more gas. Crowley says she wanted to get the word out before the spring construction season starts, so builders could seek alternatives.

As a small utility, it’s difficult financially for Middleborough to build liquefied gas storage tanks, to sock away gas for cold days when it’s in short supply. Crowley says she is talking to Algonquin pipeline owner Enbridge about increasing capacity, but a long-term solution could be years away.

Several Cape Cod towns already face similar bans on hookups, but a National Grid spokeswoman says those were imposed a few years ago to ensure system reliability while the company upgraded a mid-Cape pipeline. They are on track to be lifted this spring. But she also concedes the company could face challenges serving new natural gas customers given how hard it is to get a pipeline expansion approved.

Tamara Small, chief executive of developer group NAIOP Massachusetts, can’t help but feel the chill. NAOIP members already suffered through a lockout by National Grid of union workers and a state-imposed, safety-related moratorium last year. Those are over, but the backlog is considerable. The emergence of new moratoriums, she says, sends the wrong message to businesses looking to expand here.

The natural gas industry’s foes see these moratoriums as a sort of vindication. Environmental advocates say it’s time to get more serious about other, greener options: rolling out heat pumps for warmth, and turning to cleaner sources of electricity such as Canadian hydropower and offshore wind.

Maybe the industry is indeed reaching an important tipping point. But which way it will tip depends on who you ask.


Australian conservatives claim household energy bills could soar by HUNDREDS of dollars under the Left's plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions

Households would be forced to fork out hundreds of dollars more on their energy bills under Labor's commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, according to recent modelling.

A comparison of the two major parties revealed Labor's plan to cut down on emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 would cost households in NSW an additional $600 on average on their power bill.

By the time the policy is fully implemented, power bills could cost an extra $480 per household on average in Victoria.

The analysis was brought to light by Coalition-associated Menzies and Page Research Centres who claim power bills would soar between six and 30 per cent by 2030 under a Labor government, News Corp reported.

By comparison, the Coalition policy would see a 40 per cent decline in the average household power bill by the same year.

The Coalition is planning to reduce emissions by 26 per cent, almost half of Labor's commitment, by 2030.

An average annual power bill in Victoria in 2017-18 is about $1208 a year but is expected to drop to $796 by 2030 amid the Coalition's proposed plans to reduce emissions.

Under the Coalition in NSW, the average annual bill would drop from about $1368 to $804.

By comparison, the annual household power bill in Victoria under Labor is forecast to jump six per cent to $1276.

Labor has committed to cutting down on emissions by 45 per cent by 2030. The Coalition is planning to reduce emissions by 26 per cent by 2030.

Power bills would soar between six and 30 per cent by 2030 under a Labor government - while the Coalition would see a 40 per cent decline, according to the findings.

According to the economic modelling, it would rise three per cent in NSW to $1404 a year by 2030.

Small and medium businesses with annual consumption of 16,000 kWh should expect the same electricity prices under Labor, the report found.

An Australia-wide drop of an average of $1,500 in electricity prices for small and medium businesses is anticipated under the Coalition.

Under the more conservative emissions policy employed by the government small and medium sized businesses would be $2164 better off a year in NSW and $1892 in Victoria.

With polling day three months around the corner, the cost of household power bills is expected to be draw-card for voters who could be willing to swing.

Labor's energy spokesman Mark Butler would not guarantee whether energy bills under his party would drop when asked last week. 

Nick Cater the Executive director of the Menzies Research Centre said the research proved that Labor's commitment to renewable energy would not necessarily bring down the costs. 'The inconvenient truth is that there are huge costs to reducing emissions from energy production, and these are paid for by all of us, either as consumers or taxpayers,' he said.



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