Friday, September 13, 2019

It's Lightbulb Liberation Day

The Department of Energy is putting down its guns and withdrawing troops in the war on the incandescent bulb that began in 2007. It's pretty late in the day; the last factory to make them in the U.S. shut down in 2010. It's hard to find them in a store, in which case: thank goodness for Amazon!

Still, the damage can be reversed. Our houses can again be warm and beautiful, and legally. You can turn on the lights in the morning and not have your eyes lacerated by blindingly fake electric "light." As the Wall Street Journal summed up the current moment: "If you like old-fashioned incandescent light bulbs, you can keep buying them."

To be sure, the Trump administration is only rolling back the expansion of the ban to various specialty bulbs. The status quo ante is not yet restored. Still, this is a good move because it is a step toward consumer choice.

As a huge fan of Ayn Rand's short novel Anthem, the liberation of the light bulb means so much to me. It was published in 1937 but mostly drafted in the 1920s in Russia. In the dystopian story, a cruel government committee comes down hard on a young man who has re-discovered the light bulb. They condemn him for daring to think for himself and presuming to override the planned poverty of the social order. This society ruled by the total state is perfectly happy with its candles, and desires that no steps forward can be taken that are not explicitly approved by the ruling class.

Ayn Rand used the example of the light bulb because it is such a great symbol of the power of the human mind. It is within our power to harness the energy that comes from the heavens. "The power of the sky can be made to do men's bidding," observes the Anthem protagonist. "There are no limits to its secrets and its might, and it can be made to grant us anything if we but choose to ask."

As Murray Rothbard observed, riffing on Rand's insight, the light bulb finally freed humanity from having to defer to the earth's rotations to determine work hours. It allowed night baseball, made our highways safer, and put civilization on a 24/7 basis. The light bulb means much more than what it is in its physical essence. It was the dawn of humankind's mastery of the world.

A few years ago, I was contemplating Rand's novel and looked up at my ceiling fan. Three glorious incandescent bulbs were lighting up the room in a warm glow. These particular bulbs lacked blue and white frosting. The glass was clear and the curved filament burned like a miniature flame. And yet that flame is caged and is made to be a servant of human dreams and aspirations.

The deeper story is about a thoroughly insidious attempt by bureaucracies together with a gaggle of politicians to ban the light bulb as we've always known it. In other words, it's the plot of Anthem lived in real time.

It all began with the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007, which called for a phaseout of the incandescent bulb by 2012 (variously amended by Congress to push out the deadline). The law banned light bulbs by wattage but not by name. In practice, it meant death for the kind of light we've enjoyed since the 19th century.

Gone from the shelves were the incandescent bulbs of 100 watts. Then it got worse as 40- and 60-watt incandescent light bulbs were killed off. Factories that once produced them were shut.

Once you dig more deeply, you find something remarkable: there was no scientific basis for this ban at all. Consider the ten-years ago analysis of Howard Brandston, a fellow of the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America and the brains behind the refurbishment of the Statue of Liberty in the 1980s.

Brandston argued that the government's metric of lumens-per-watt was completely bogus. It doesn't consider the quality of light for a room. It doesn't consider the costs of making replacements or the environmental danger of more "efficient" bulbs (fluorescent bulbs contain mercury), and doesn't consider the whole reason we have lightbulbs to begin with: to light up a space. It focuses on one narrow point at the expense of all these broader considerations.

"The calculations used by the government and others promulgating or promoting the use of compact fluorescents," he said, "is strictly mathematical conjecture and has nothing to do with reality."

That rings true to me. So how can the consumer tell which are the best bulbs? Brandston says that a person's subjective judgment, tempered by a consideration of how long bulbs last, is more than enough. You don't need bureaucracies and you don't need experts.

But even if the new bulbs are awful, don't they save energy? Brandston said: "hoping that lighting is going to make a major contribution borders on ridiculous. .We'd be better off promoting occupancy sensors and dimming controls and recommending all dimmers be set to only provide 95 percent of the power to the light sources."

Why did the government do this to us? It fits with everything else about federal policy for the last 60 years. It seems to have put the goal of increasing human misery as a main policy goal. This is why our toilets, faucets, detergent, and washers have been wrecked with water-use controls-even though none of these policies make a significant difference in overall water usage. Just look at what government has done to our bathrooms.

It's why we are pushed to recycle even though no one has ever demonstrated that the mandates help the environment. It's why we are taxed on things we want to do like drive cars. It's why we can no longer medicate ourselves in normal ways without a doctor's permission. It's why we must endure hectoring lectures from public officials about fast food, sweets, and our trash generation.

What do all these policies have in common? They target things that we enjoy and that make our life better, then force on us inferior products and services. It's the penance we must do in the interest of the common good - and never mind whether the common good is actually enhanced in real life.

Which gets us back to Ayn Rand and the light bulb. She had a prophetic way of seeing the truth about government. She grew up under a regime that promised heaven on earth but ended up making a hell for everyone not part of the ruling class. She saw that governments could not produce imaginative goods and would eventually fall back on celebrating the poverty and destruction they cause - and inventing an ethic of sacrifice for the whole as a means of covering up their crimes. If you don't go along, you are an enemy of the people.

It's rather incredible that we have come full circle. Just as in Anthem, the U.S. government actually almost banned the light bulb as we've known it. Just think about the awesome implications of that and ask yourself why we put up with it.

On a personal note, my own dear mother replaced all her incandescents with fluorescents several years ago. I was sitting in her house feeling vaguely irritated by the searing lights in the room-cold and dreary-and had to turn them off.

Sitting in the dimly lit room, my thought was: This is what the government has done to us. A great invention from the dawn of modernity is being driven out of use. Do I have to bring my own candles next holiday season?

Why should governments be in the position of deciding what technologies can and cannot be used, as if consumers are too stupid to make such decisions for themselves? Who is to decide what is efficient, and what the proper tradeoff should be between the energy expended and the light produced? More fundamentally, why should governments be in the business of picking right and wrong technologies at all?

There is a grave cost to regulation and it's not just about freedom itself. It's about experimentation and innovation. A vast regulatory apparatus on cell phone technology in 1990 could never have imagined something like a modern smartphone. Regulations on digital commerce in 2000 might have stopped the rise of peer-to-peer services like Uber. Bitcoin is another example of a technology that blasted through the nationalization of money to show us something entirely new.

Indeed, one of the reasons that the digital world was so innovative until a few years ago was precisely because the regulators were not yet caught up with the pace of innovation. That's probably changing with the new antitrust push.

Regulations on technology freeze the status quo in place and make it permanent. In government, a ban is a ban, something to be enforced, not tweaked according to new discoveries and approaches. Regulatory interventions stop the progress of history by disabling the limitless possibilities of the human imagination.

We live in times without much good news in politics. Let's at least take the weekend to celebrate the embrace of progress, acquiescence to the wisdom of markets, the new freedom found for this hugely important symbol of humankind's triumph over the poverty of nature.


Are Category 5 hurricanes such as Dorian the `new normal'?-Asks Michael Mann

By Paul Homewood

Category 5 Hurricane Dorian tore through the Bahamas like a buzz saw last week, killing dozens of people and leaving a ruined, broken landscape.

It was the fifth Category 5 hurricane in the past four Atlantic hurricane seasons, joining other monsters such as Matthew, Irma, Maria and Michael, each of which left its own trail of death and destruction.

Is this part of a new trend? Could this be the "new normal"?

"I fear it's worse than that," Penn State University meteorologist Michael Mann said. "As we continue to warm the planet, hurricane intensities will increase further. There's no new normal. It's an ever-shifting baseline toward more destructive storms as long as we continue to burn fossil fuels and load the atmosphere with carbon pollution."

Fortunately we don't have to rely on Mann's propaganda, as instead we actually have the facts:

While he makes a big play about the five Cat 5s since 2016, he forgets to mention that there were none at all between 2008 and 2015.

It is not uncommon to have two such storms in the same year, as we did two years ago with Irma and Maria. The same thing happened in successive years in 1932 and 1933.

And there were six Cat 5s altogether in the 1930s, compared to five since 2010. (Touch wood, there will be no more this season- the current outlook is hurricane free).

And, of course, this all assumes that we are comparing like with like. How many Cat 5s were missed in the pre-satellite period? The National Hurricane Center have attempted to re-analyse storm data from the past, but large gaps in knowledge still remain.

This is what leading hurricane researcher Chris Landsea, of NOAA's National Hurricane Center, found in his 2012 paper, "On the Classification of Extreme Atlantic Hurricanes Utilizing Mid-Twentieth-Century Monitoring Capabilities":

To re-emphasise:

"It is found that likely only 2 of these 10-both Category 5 landfalling hurricanes-would have been recorded as Category 5 hurricanes if they had occurred during the late-1940s period."

I strongly suspect that of the five recent ones since 2012, Matthew, Irma, Maria, Michael and Dorian, only Michael would have been recorded as a Cat 5, as it was the only one to make US landfall at peak strength.

Michael knows bugger all about hurricanes, or little else about climate for that matter. His claim to fame is his widely discredited Hockey Stick, itself based on shonky statistics..

Yet the media regularly turn to him for any matters related to climate change. It was only a few months ago that he appeared on the BBC's Attenborough climate change programme, telling us how storms, floods and wildfires were worse than ever before. They were not and Mann had no especial knowledge about any of them.

If the BBC or US Today want to know about hurricanes, why don't they talk to proper experts in the field, such as Chris Landsea?

Maybe, it's because they won't get the answers they want.


Buckets of icy cold reality

Democrat presidential candidates and Green New Dealers need to face some hard energy facts

Paul Driessen

CNN recently hosted a seven-hour climate bore-athon. That climate cataclysms are real and already devastating our planet was not open to discussion. So host Wolf Blitzer and ten Democrat presidential contenders vied to make the most extravagant claims about how bad things are, and who would spend the most taxpayer money and impose the most Green New Deal rules to restrict our freedoms and transform our energy, economy, agriculture and transportation, in the name of preventing further cataclysms.

Cory Booker opened the bidding at $3 trillion. Kamala Harris and Julian Castro raised it to $10 trillion.  Bernie Sanders upped it to $16 trillion. Then they got down to the business of telling us which personal choices and living standards they intend to roll back the furthest. Among the proposals:

Ban all commercial air travel (ruling and privileged classes presumably excepted). Change our dietary guidelines or ban beef outright. "Massively" increase taxes. "Make polluters pay" for emitting greenhouse gases. Eliminate onshore drilling, offshore drilling, fracking, coal-fired power plants, internal combustion engines. No new pipelines. In short, ban the fossil fuels that provide 80% of America's energy! No new nuclear power plants either. And then somehow, amid all that insanity, ensure "climate justice."

They need to be doused with a few buckets of icy cold reality. The first bucket: We do not face a climate emergency. Computer models certainly predict all kinds of catastrophes. But both the models and the increasingly hysterical assertions of planetary chaos are completely out of touch with reality.

The second, even colder bucket of reality: Wind and sunshine may be free, renewable, sustainable and eco-friendly. But the technologies, lands and raw materials required to harness this widely dispersed, intermittent, weather-dependent energy to benefit humanity absolutely are not. In fact, they cause far more environmental damage than any of the fossil fuel energy sources they would supposedly replace.

Biofuels. US ethanol quotas currently gobble up over 40% of America's corn - grown on cropland nearly the size of Iowa, to displace about 10% of America's gasoline. Corn ethanol also requires vast quantities of water, pesticides, fertilizers, natural gas, gasoline and diesel, to produce and transport a fuel that drives up food prices and thus adversely affects food aid and nutrition in poor nations, damages small engines, and gets one-third fewer miles per gallon than gasoline.       

Replacing 100% of US gasoline with ethanol would require some 360 million acres of corn. That's more than twice the land area of Texas. But eliminating fossil fuel production means we'd also have to replace the oil and natural gas feed stocks required for pharmaceuticals, wind turbine blades, solar panel films, paints, synthetic fibers, fertilizers, and plastics for cell phones, computers, eyeglasses, car bodies and countless other products. That would require growing corn on almost four times the area of Texas.

Solar power. Solar panels on Nevada's Nellis Air Force Base generate a minuscule 15 megawatts of electricity, about 40% of the year, from 72,000 panels on 140 acres. Arizona's Palo Verde Nuclear Power Plant generates 760 times more electricity, from less land, 90-95% of the time.

Generating Palo Verde's electricity output using Nellis technology would require acreage ten times larger than Washington, DC. And the solar panels would still provide electricity only 40% of the year.

Generating the 3.9 billion megawatt-hours that Americans consumed in 2018 would mean we would have to completely blanket over twelve million acres - half of Virginia - with solar panels, and get the Sun to shine at high-noon summertime Arizona intensity 24/7/365, wherever we install those panels.

Wind power. Mandated, subsidized wind energy likewise requires millions of acres for turbines and new transmission lines, and billions of tons of concrete, steel, copper, rare earth metals and fiberglass.

Like solar panels, wind turbines produce intermittent, unreliable electricity that costs much more than coal, gas or nuclear electricity - once subsidies are removed - and must be backed up by fossil fuel generators that have to go from standby to full-power many times a day, very inefficiently, every time the wind stops blowing. Turbine blades already kill raptors, other birds and bats - perhaps a million or more every year in the USA alone. Their light flicker and infrasonic noise impair human health.

Modern coal and gas-fired power plants can generate 600 megawatts some 95% of the time from less than 300 acres. Indiana's Fowler Ridge wind farm also generates 600 megawatts - from 350 towering turbines, sprawling across more than 50,000 acres (much more than Washington, DC), less than 30% of the year.

Now let's suppose we're going to use wind power to replace those 3.9 billion megawatt-hours of US electricity consumption. Let's also suppose we're going to get rid of all those coal and gas-fired backup power plants, natural gas for home heating, coal and natural gas for factories, and gasoline-powered vehicles - and replace them all with wind-powered electricity. We'll also use wind turbines to generate enough extra electricity every windy day to charge batteries for just seven straight windless days.

That would require a lot of wind turbines, as we are forced to go into lower and lower quality wind locations. Instead of generating full nameplate power maybe one-third of the year, on average, they will do so only around 16% of the year. Instead of the 58,000 turbines we have now, the United States would need some 14 million turbines, each one 400 feet tall, each one capable of generating 1.8 megawatts at full capacity, when the wind is blowing at the proper speed.

Assuming an inadequate 15 acres apiece, those monster turbines would require some 225 million acres! That's well over twice the land area of California - without including transmission lines! Their bird-butchering blades would wipe out raptors, other birds and bats across vast stretches of America.

But every turbine really needs at least 50 acres of open space, and Fowler Ridge uses 120 acres per turbine. That works out to 750 million acres (ten times Arizona) - to 1,800 million acres (ten times Texas or nearly the entire Lower 48 United States)! Eagles, hawks, falcons, vultures, geese and other high-flying birds and bats would virtually disappear from our skies. Insects and vermin would proliferate.

Manufacturing those wind turbines would require something on the order of 4 billion tons of steel, copper and alloys for the towers and turbines; 8 billion tons of steel and concrete for the foundations; 4 million tons of rare earth metals for motors, magnets and other components; 1 billion tons of petroleum-based composites for the nacelle covers and turbine blades; and massive quantities of rock and gravel for millions of miles of access roads to the turbines. Connecting our wind farms and cities with high-voltage transmission lines would require still more raw materials - and more millions of acres.

All these raw materials must be mined, processed, smelted, manufactured into finished products, and shipped all over the world. They would require removing hundreds of billions of tons of earth and rock overburden - and crushing tens of billions of tons of ore - at hundreds of new mines and quarries.

Every step in this entire process would require massive amounts of fossil fuels, because wind turbines and solar panels cannot operate earth moving and mining equipment - or produce consistently high enough heat to melt silica, iron, copper, rare earth or other materials.

Not once did CNN's hosts or any of the Green New Deal presidential candidates so much as mention any of this. To them, "renewable" energy will just happen - like manna from Gaia, or beamed down from the Starship Enterprise.

They must no longer be allowed to dodge these issues, to go from assuming the climate is in crisis, to assuming "reliable, affordable, renewable, sustainable, eco-friendly" alternatives to fossil fuel (and nuclear) energy will just magically appear, or can simply be willed or subsidized into existence.

Citizens, newscasters, debate hosts and legislators who are more firmly grounded in reality need to confront Green New Dealers with hard questions and icy cold facts - and keep repeating them until candidates provide real answers. No more dissembling, obfuscation or incantations permitted.

Via email

'Progressives' Worship Nature at Altar of Climate Church

The only time progressive Democrats take a break from mocking, vilifying, and persecuting Christians is when they attempt to use the Bible to justify some element of their radical leftist agenda. In truth, though progressives claim to shun religion as the opiate of the masses (to quote their idol, Karl Marx), as a collective they actually practice a much more primitive form of religion than Christianity - a paganistic neo-Gaiaism in which they worship the Earth itself, rather than its Creator.

The earth is their goddess and their prophets are drawn from the political class. Remember Barack Obama claiming his nomination to the presidency would itself mark the day when the oceans would begin to recede and the earth would begin to heal? Please [ignore the hypocrisy of climate prophets like Al Gore and Obama living in massive mansions and traveling by private jet.

Recently, Democrat presidential candidate and self-proclaimed devout homosexual Christian Pete Buttigieg attempted to use scripture to justify Democrats' radical global-warming agenda, declaring, "To me, environmental stewardship isn't just about taking care of the planet; it's taking care of our neighbor. . And the biggest problem with climate change isn't just that it's going to hurt the planet . it's that we are hurting people."

He continued, "The way I see it, I don't imagine God's going to let us off the hook for abusing future generations, anymore than you would be off the hook for harming someone right next to you. With climate change, we're doing both."

God will punish us for "abusing future generations"?

Really? If God is going to punish us for driving gas-powered cars, cooling our homes with air conditioning, and drinking from plastic straws, we shudder to think how His wrath will be kindled when we are punished for the 60,000,000 (and counting) preborn children we've slaughtered in abortion clinics since 1973.

But Buttigieg says that abortion until birth is morally acceptable because "there's a lot of parts of the Bible that talk about how life begins with breath."

Really? What parts might that be? Certainly not the Book of Jeremiah, where the Lord declares, "Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee."

And it is hard to fathom God approving the death and dismemberment of an in utero John the Baptist, who "leaped" in the womb of Elizabeth, cousin to the Virgin Mary, when the preborn prophet heard the voice of the mother of the Son of God.

Democrats have long invoked Christ's admonition to care for the poor as justification for their massive income-redistribution programs. Yet Christ's exhortation that His disciples be charitable is an individual commandment, not a call for government programs.

Indeed, by definition, charity must be a voluntary individual act, done with cheerfulness. When the rich young ruler approached Christ, asking what he must do to have eternal life, Christ initially told him to keep the commandments. When the young man declared he had done so since his youth, Christ exhorted him to "go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor . and come and follow me." The young man, unwilling to give up his wealth, "went away sorrowful."

What didn't happen next? Christ didn't direct His disciples - or the Roman soldiers with legal authority - to accost the young man and take his wealth by force, and redistribute it to the poor and needy.

Democrats cheered heartily when the progressive Pope Francis claimed a religious imperative for open borders, but cast him aside when he condemned abortion.

This is why attempts by the "progressive" Left to co-opt the Bible to advance their political agenda fall flat. They not only don't truly believe what it says, they are actively hostile to its teachings. They use it simply as a political tool against religious conservatives.

The Bible teaches us that man is God's greatest creation, formed in His image. The Left believes we are an accident of evolution; the latest in a series of mutating species who once crawled out of the primordial slime. The Bible teaches us that man was given dominion over the earth, including the animals. The Left teaches human subjugation to nature.

The Bible commands us to "go forth, and multiply, and replenish the Earth." The Left calls for the self-annihilation of mankind so that the other species may thrive.

Mankind is God's greatest creation. God gave us self-awareness, reason, and emotion. He gave us an incredible intellect that has, in just a thousand years (a blink of an eye compared to the age of the earth), taken us from living in caves and huts, with lifespans of just a few decades, to a world where more information than is contained in all the earth's libraries fits in the palm of our hands; where we travel around the world in less than a day, and have lifespans now approaching a century.

If climate change is truly a problem, we'll solve it the same way we solved hunger, disease, and exposure to nature's fury - by harnessing the collective power of the God-created human mind.

The Bible is given to man for his salvation, a guide to eternal life in the kingdom of God. Those who seek to twist it for political gains should heed the words of Simon Peter, who declared, "They that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."


Australian grape grower feels squeeze of the water traders

But there's plenty of water to send straight out to sea for "environmental" reasons

Third-generation farmer Peter Barry has raised citrus and grapes in South Australia's Riverland all his life, and the decision he made last week broke his heart.

He turned off irrigation water to 10 of the 100ha he farms with his wife, Mary, near Loxton, being patches of vines that produce -cabernet sauvignon, gordo and chardonnay.

"They'll die," Mr Barry said, his voice quavering. "It's quite an emotional thing because we are at the end of our tether."

Mr Barry said he had spent $500,000 replanting in recent years, but there was just no way he could make a profit off those vines with irrigation water prices where they are, at $800 a megalitre on the spot market, compared with a long-term average of about $135 a megalitre.

"I spend $10,000 to water a section of chardonnay, and that chardonnay returns me $8000 or $9000," he said. "I would not get a return on those patches."

Mr Barry has some entitlements to what is known as high-security water, but needs to buy much more on the tradeable secondary market to keep his horticulture going.

Drought, the federal government buybacks of water from irrigators and large plantings of permanent crops such as almonds have all reduced the amount of tradeable water in the Murray-Darling system, and pushed up prices. Like many farmers, Mr Barry thinks there's more than that going on, something sinister perpetrated by water investors who don't own land and don't grow a radish, but play the market, hoard water and, he says, push up prices.

"It's shocking," Mr Barry said. "People are owning this water and are just using it to make money, while we won't make a cent.  "We are at the beck and call of investment companies."

With water prices as they are, many cotton farmers are just not putting in a crop, and some are selling their water to other farmers such as Mr Barry who have permanent crops that may die if not watered.

"He just leaves his tractor in the shed and earns a million -dollars selling water to me," Mr Barry said of such a cotton-grower scenario.

More tough decisions face Mr Barry.

He said he might soon have to also "turn off" young citrus trees he planted only a couple of years ago that are too young to produce fruit because he can't afford to water anything that doesn't produce an immediate return.

He may also have to put the two full-time employees who have worked for him for 30 years on to part-time work.



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


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