Tuesday, August 20, 2019

America's Big Issue With the Environment

Is a Red-Meat Tax on the Menu?

A European consulting firm is floating the idea of a sin tax targeting red meat.

This can’t be good news to Americans in the midst of grilling season, with a plethora of family picnics, tailgates, and other gatherings still to come: A European consulting firm is floating the idea of a sin tax targeting red meat.

It was an offhand remark, to be sure, and one not getting a lot of media play. But as a report from Fitch Solutions Macro Research tells us, “The global rise of sugar taxes makes it easy to envisage a similar wave of regulatory measures targeting the meat industry.”

Those who’ve taken the ball and run with it naturally point to the generally ineffective and underperforming taxes on sugary drinks, a pairing Fitch Solutions called “a policy sibling” because “over-consumption is a public health issue.” However, freelance journalist James Murphy connected some additional dots to reveal a more rancid motive: “The climate hysterics and animal-rights activists … want the price to be so high for meat that consumers will seek out other protein options.” As Murphy adds, “They want to social-engineer eating meat out of existence.”

In his piece, Murphy refers to a recent report by the dubious and discredited United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, contending that it “calls for humanity to vastly decrease the amount of meat we eat in order to help forestall the ginned-up menace of anthropogenic climate change.”

Murphy, who is definitely a skeptic on the subject, may be overstating the case, but he has a point. When we consider other consumer products — like alcohol and tobacco — whose consumption governments at all levels have tried to regulate, it’s not a big stretch to imagine significant taxes on red meat. And since we can’t pin the more obvious effects of drunk driving or secondhand smoke on the guy who likes his T-bone steak medium rare, a handy straw man for that argument is “climate change,” which has become a catch-all excuse for government to reach deeper into our pockets and regulate our lives further.

While the Fitch Solutions report also noted the unlikelihood of such a tax being implemented anytime soon in the U.S., it’s worth stating that less than five years have elapsed since the first sugary-drink tax was introduced in Berkeley, California, and these taxes have already spread to several of our largest jurisdictions, including Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco. Given all this, can a tax on meat really be far behind?


UK is one step away from a banana republic

I once said that only two things kept us from qualifying as a banana republic – the fact that we don’t have regular power cuts, and the fact that we don’t grow bananas.

It now emerges that the recent collapse of our electricity grid was not, as claimed, a fluke. There had been three ‘near misses’ in three months. These may well be connected with unwise reliance on wind.

I am not in the last bit surprised, and I have been predicting it for ages, warning that our dogma-driven closures of perfectly good coal-fired power stations were worthless even on their own terms.

I suspect that it is highly significant that the recent cuts came minutes after power companies were boasting that they were on the verge of achieving 50 per cent wind power for the first time. Did a dash to achieve this futile propaganda target blow the nation’s fuses? If so, don’t expect an official confirmation from our warmist establishment, where green dogma affects everyone right up to the First Girlfriend, Carrie Symonds. But I think a lot of people will be buying ungreen petrol-driven generators in the next few years, as power becomes less reliable.

And what is it all for? Green campaigners Coalswarm reported last year that China then had a giant 993 gigawatts of coal power capacity, but approved new coal plants would increase this by 25 per cent. These vast, innumerable, soot factories overwhelmingly cancel out any effect from our own daft closures of coal stations, microscopic compared to China’s huge CO2 output.


Huge organic food scam

Amusing that nobody could tell the difference

A judge on Friday sentenced the mastermind of the largest known organic food fraud scheme in U.S. history to 10 years in prison, saying he cheated thousands of customers into buying products they didn’t want.

U.S. District Judge C.J. Williams said Randy Constant orchestrated a massive fraud that did “extreme and incalculable damage” to consumers and shook public confidence in the nation’s organic food industry.

Williams said that, between 2010 and 2017, consumers nationwide were fooled into paying extra to buy products ranging from eggs to steak that they believed were better for the environment and their own health.

Instead, they unwittingly purchased food that relied on farming practices, including the use of chemical pesticides to grow crops, that they opposed.

“Thousands upon thousands of consumers paid for products they did not get and paid for products they did not want,” Williams said. “This has caused incalculable damage to the confidence the American public has in organic products.”

Williams said the scam harmed other organic farmers who were playing by the rules but could not compete with the low prices offered by Constant’s Iowa-based grain brokerage, and middlemen who unknowingly purchased and marketed tainted organic grain.

Williams ordered Constant, a 60-year-old farmer and former school board president from Chillicothe, Missouri, to serve 122 months in federal prison, as his wife and other relatives sobbed.

Earlier in the day, Williams gave shorter prison terms to three Overton, Nebraska, farmers whom Constant recruited to join the scheme.

Williams described the three as largely law-abiding citizens, including one “legitimate war hero,” who succumbed to greed when Constant gave them the opportunity.

Michael Potter, 41, was ordered to serve 24 months behind bars; James Brennan, 41, was sentenced to 20 months; and his father, 71-year-old Tom Brennan, was given a three-month sentence. Williams said the shorter sentence for the elder Brennan reflected his heroism as a decorated platoon leader in the Vietnam War.

All four farmers sentenced Friday had pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges and cooperated with a two-year investigation that isn’t over.

A fifth farmer has also pleaded guilty in the case and is awaiting sentencing.

The farmers grew traditional corn and soybeans, mixed them with a small amount of certified organic grains, and falsely marketed them all as certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Most of the grains were sold as animal feed to companies that marketed organic meat and meat products.

The farmers reaped more than $120 million in proceeds from sales of the tainted grain.

The scheme may have involved up to 7 percent of organic corn grown in the U.S. in 2016 and 8 percent of the organic soybeans, prosecutors said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Jacob Schunk said that end consumers conservatively paid at least $250 million for fraudulent organic products — and perhaps $1 billion or more.

He said that Constant for years exploited an organic certification system that relies on the honesty of farmers and private certifiers.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              “He saw the weakness in the system and he exploited it over and over again,” Schunk said.

He noted that Constant had admitted in a court filing to spending some of the money on vacations and repeated trips to Las Vegas.

Constant, whose wife of 39 years was in the courtroom Friday, acknowledged in the filing that he spent $2 million supporting three women there with whom he developed relationships.

Constant said that he took full responsibility for his crime and he apologized to his family and the grain merchants, farmers, ranchers and consumers whom he ripped off. “The organic industry in this country is built in trust and I violated that trust,” he said.

Constant’s lawyer, Mark Weinhardt, described his client as a pillar of the community in Chillicothe, where Constant was known as generous with his money and time.

But Williams said that Constant was similar to the grain that he marketed. “He is not what is advertised,” the judge said. “Below the surface, he was lying and cheating.”


How recycling is a massive con job and an environmental disaster in the making - and why everyday Australians are wasting their time sorting rubbish

Australians think they are doing the right thing when they throw their empty milk bottles, beer cans, and junk mail into their yellow bin.

They roll the bin out to the kerb every week and assume they have helped the environment by having their waste recycled with 90 per cent saying it's very important.

But millions of tonnes is instead shipped to Southeast Asian countries where much of it is burned, buried, or just dumped in landfill.

Millions more is piling up in huge storage facilities of Australian councils and their contractors - or sent to the tip - because they can't sell it.

Only 12 per cent of the 103kg of plastic waste generated per person in Australia each year is recycled, mostly overseas, according to research cited by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

He pointed out last week that there was an 'implied promise' that when people put their recycling out it would actually be turned into something else. 'People think [plastic] is going to be recycled but only about 12 per cent of it is,' he said.

Australia used to ship enormous amounts of waste to China, sell it for up to $150 a tonne, and then wash its hands of it. Much of it was recycled to fuel the country's boom, but the industry was largely unregulated and dozens of dodgy operators burned or dumped it. Then in January 2018 the Chinese Government decided enough was enough and banned the importing of 99 per cent of recycling.

Australia's worst waste was usually palmed off to China, much of it too contaminated or low quality to be worth anything.

Now only a 0.5 per cent contamination rate is tolerated and the vast majority of Australian sorting facilities just can't meet that.

India, Malaysia, and the Philippines followed suit over the past year so Australia turned to Indonesia, Bangladesh, and Vietnam.

They each receive tens of thousands of tonnes of supposed recycling - Bangladesh alone took 51,400 in May, up 270 per cent from last year's average. Indonesia is about the same.

However, these countries don't have anything like the capacity China did, and aren't any more scrupulous about what they do with it.

Around Indonesia, the streets and rice fields of villages are now used to harvest piles of rubbish as they are laid out to dry in the sun by locals.

The waste is then sorted and sold to tofu factories where it is burned in their furnaces as a cheap alternative to wood.

Australian companies are slowly waking up to the reality that this state of affairs is not sustainable.

An Environment and Energy Department report painted a dire picture of Australia's predicament should more Asian countries close their doors.

'Australia would need to find substitute domestic or export markets for approximately 1.29 million tonnes (or $530 million) of waste a year, based on 2017-18 export amounts,' the report said.

So easy was it to palm off Australia's waste on the developing world that the domestic industry is now in full-blown crisis.

The situation was made even more dire when one of the biggest companies, SKM, collapsed last month and is now in liquidation.

Then on Monday, Phoenix Environmental Group was banned by the Environmental Protection Agency from accepting more waste as its stockpiles were already dangerously high.

Councils, particularly in Victoria where those two companies are based, are at a total loss as to what to do with tens of thousands of tonnes of recycling.

The City of Melbourne is dumping about 45 tonnes of recyclables into landfill every day, along with about 30 other councils.

Other councils are stockpiling recycling in storage units in desperate hope of finding a buyer - as the stock degrades in value and is attacked by scavenging vermin.

This can have disastrous consequences, such as when stockpiled recycling bales at an SKM facility caught fire.

Australian companies are also accused of rorting the system themselves - trucking building site waste to recycling facilities where it is picked up and dumped in landfill.

Numerous companies allegedly do this to tick the boxes required to avoid waste levies - as high as $138 a tonne in NSW and $66 in Victoria.

Such practices, and the overstocking crisis, is only going to get worse as China's new policy has obliterated the price of many recyclables.

Almost overnight, mixed paper scrap crashed from $124 a tonne to next to nothing, and low-grade plastic is also effectively worthless.

The costs of recycling the scrap plastic in particular are now so high that it is basically not worth it and in many places no longer considered recyclable.

The airport in Memphis, Tennessee, has abandoned recycling altogether and only keeps its recycling bins to keep the 'culture' of recycling going - everything in them goes straight to landfill.

Manufacturers are also giving up on buying recycled materials because it is now much cheaper to make its from virgin components.

The recycling industry, which claims to employ more than 50,000 Australians and generate up to $15 billion in value, has tried to downplay the crisis. It pointed to the government's National Waste Report 2018 claim that 37 million tonnes of Australia's 67 million tonnes of waste was recycled in 2018. The report found just 4 million tonnes was exported, half of it metal.

Ten to 15 per cent of kerbside recycling cannot be recycled because it is contaminated with nappies, soft plastics, garden hoses, bricks and batteries.

'We encourage householders to continue to separate and sort their recycling correctly to reduce contamination and realise the environmental and economic benefits of recycling,' National Waste and Recycling Industry Council chief executive Rose Read said.

The Federal Government has belatedly decided to try propping up the Australian recycling industry with $20 million worth of grants to domestic operators.

'We are committed to protecting our nation's environment while also building our capacity to turn recycling into products that people want and need,' Mr Morrison said on Tuesday.

'By engaging industry and researchers we can make sure we're seeing these changes introduced in a way that cuts costs for businesses and ultimately even creates jobs.'

Mr Morrison said the funding was an effort to get the local industry into a position where shipping recycling overseas could be banned.

'This stuff won't change until we set a date where you can't put this stuff on a boat any longer,' he said.

The industry wants a labelling scheme, similar to the country of origin stamps, that shows how much of a product and its packaging came from recycled materials.

Analysts and recycling industry figures also said there needed to be incentives or quotas for businesses to use recycled material, and councils and government needed to lead the way.

'Recycling only works when people, corporates and government buy products made with recycled content,' Plastic Forests boss David Hodge said.

'As we know, the options to send our waste or a misallocated resource overseas will come to an end.'

The Australian Council of Recycling recycling advocacy group Boomerang Alliance proposed five priority actions for the federal government.

They included a Plastic Pollution Reduction Strategy and a $150 million investment in a national industry development fund.

'With Asian markets for recyclable materials from Australia closing down and local governments confronted with potentially sending their kerbside recycling to landfill, it's time to recognise that the system Australians value is greatly under threat,' the ACOR said.

'The National Waste Policy, recently agreed upon with all states, tries to set out an agenda for the future, but its aims cannot be achieved without investment and policy support.'

Boomerang Alliance director Jeff Angel added: 'Without concerted and effective action, Australia is set to go back 50 years to the days when waste was dumped or burned and the only things recycled were the bottles collected for a refund.



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.  

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