I suppose my perception of precisely who stood to benefit from the spreading fear about Global Warming comes into it. Anyone who hates technology, of course, or the present economic system. Also, hordes who will get rich from all of the asinine proposals to reduce Global Warming — anyone who makes solar panels or water heating systems or nasty little cars that go short distances very slowly, carrying almost nothing.
Most persuasive, I suppose, was an anthropological understanding I have (that being my principle field of interest and study in college) of what constitutes a religion. The planet gets transmogrified into a goddess in the minds of the faithful, and all of the entities upon it, the birds and bees and flowers and trees (to quote an old song) — all of the entities, that is, except humans — become sacred objects. Exhaling carbon dioxide becomes Original Sin. Better that a thousand human babies should die than one single snail darter or a furbish lousewort.
In fact, what the Earth needs, they often say, is a good plague.
L. Neil Smith, "This One's for Holly", Libertarian Enterprise, 2009-05-05
Ira Einhorn was arrested for murder March 28, 1979, the day the Three Mile Island nuclear plant accident occurred. Ira Einhorn, environmentalist, was charged with murder during the same period as one of the greatest environmental accidents in United States history.
But the real irony is that more people died in the apartment of Ira Einhorn, co-founder of Earth Day than at Three Mile Island. The environmentalist killed more people than the so-called environmental disaster.
Happy Earth Day.
Michael P. Tremoglie, "Earth Day Philly Style", The Bulletin, 2009-04-22
Some news on a possible use for Duckweed as a pollution control:
The tiniest flowering plant could prove well-suited to two very big jobs: cleaning industrial animal pollution and providing clean biofuel.
Able to thrive on nutrients in animal waste, duckweed produces far more starch per acre than corn, say researchers. It could be an alternative to corn-based ethanol biofuel, which is disfavored by environmentalists because of waste generated in farming it.
"Based on our laboratory studies, we can produce five to six times more starch per unit of footage," said Jay Cheng, a biological engineer at North Carolina State University.
More than a decade ago, Cheng and fellow NC State forestry professor Anne-Marie Stomp wondered whether fast-growing duckweed, commonly seen in shallow ponds, might remediate animal waste. Excrement from the billions of animals raised every year in America's factory farms has fouled watersheds, especially in the South, and fed oxygen-gobbling algae blooms responsible for rapidly-spreading coastal dead zones.
A real two-for-one deal: cleaning up animal wastes and producing cheaper ethanol than corn. Sounds great . . . until the corn lobby gets their legislative act into high gear.
I'd always suspected that there would be a higher cost for a new "green" job created than for an equivalent non-green one, but apparently I was being too optimistic:
[W]e find that for every renewable energy job that the State manages to finance, Spain’s experience cited by President Obama as a model reveals with high confidence, by two different methods, that the U.S. should expect a loss of at least 2.2 jobs on average, or about 9 jobs lost for every 4 created, to which we have to add those jobs that non-subsidized investments with the same resources would have created...
. . .while it is not possible to directly translate Spain’s experience with exactitude to claim that the U.S. would lose at least 6.6 million to 11 million jobs, as a direct consequence were it to actually create 3 to 5 million “green jobs” as promised (in addition to the jobs lost due to the opportunity cost of private capital employed in renewable energy), the study clearly reveals the tendency that the U.S. should expect such an outcome...
The study calculates that since 2000 Spain spent €571,138 to create each “green job”, including subsidies of more than €1 million per wind industry job...
Each “green” megawatt installed destroys 5.28 jobs on average elsewhere in the economy: 8.99 by photovoltaics, 4.27 by wind energy, 5.05 by mini-hydro.
These costs do not appear to be unique to Spain’s approach but instead are largely inherent in schemes to promote renewable energy sources.
Update: Related concerns about "green" products from Megan McArdle:
Er, industry also knew how to make low-flow toilets, which is why every toilet in my recently renovated rental house clogs at least once a week. They knew how to make more energy efficient dryers, which is why even on high, I have to run every load through the dryer in said house twice. And they knew how to make inexpensive compact flourescent bulbs, which is why my head hurts from the glare emitting from my bedroom lamp. They also knew how to make asthma inhalers without CFCs, which is why I am hoarding old albuterol inhalers that, unlike the new ones, a) significantly improve my breathing and b) do not make me gag. Etc.
In fact, when I look back at almost every "environmentally friendly" alternative product I've seen being widely touted as a cost-free way to lower our footprint, held back only by the indecent vermin at "industry" who don't care about the environment, I notice a common theme: the replacement good has really really sucked compared to the old, inefficient version. In some cases, the problem could be overcome by buying a top-of-the-line model that costs, at the very least, several times what the basic models do. In other cases, as with my asthma inhalers, we were just stuck.
A report in The Register on heating trends in the Atlantic Ocean reveals that airborne dust is a much greater factor than CO2 in the atmosphere:
American scientists say that variations in atmospheric dust levels affect the temperature of the Atlantic ocean far more than global warming. Research indicates that 70 per cent of the change in Atlantic temperature over recent decades has resulted from reduced dust, rather than climate change.
The new analysis comes from scientists in the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the University of Wisconsin. They say that the Atlantic temperature trend has been warmer by approximately a quarter of a degree each decade since 1980: but that most of this is actually because more sunlight is reaching the sea due to reducing levels of dirt in the air above it.
"A lot of this upward trend in the long-term pattern can be explained just by dust storms and volcanoes," says Amato Evan of Wisconsin uni. "About 70 percent of it is just being forced by the combination of dust and volcanoes, and about a quarter of it is just from the dust storms themselves."
James Lileks has the right attitude:
People who put bumper stickers like this on their car are looking for a new religion, whether they realize it or not. It's interesting that so many people today are abandoning "traditional" religions, but can't seem to get by without replacing it with some woo-woo, new age mumbo jumbo about Mother Gaia and her sweaty folds.
Ronald Bailey reports on day 2 of the International Conference on Climate Change shindig:
From the Stern Review, Goklany took the worst case scenario, where man-made global warming produces market and non-market losses equal to 35 percent of the benefits that are projected to exist in the absence of climate change by 2200. What did he find? Even assuming the worst emissions scenario, incomes for both developed and developing countries still rise spectacularly. In 1990, average incomes in developing countries stood around $1,000 per capita and at aroud $14,000 in developed countries. Assuming the worst means that average incomes in developing countries would rise in 2100 to $62,000 and in developed countries to $99,000. By 2200, average incomes would rise to $86,000 and $139,000 in developing and developed countries, respectively. In other words, the warmest world turns out to be the richest world.
Looking at WHO numbers, one finds that the percentage of deaths attributed to climate change now is 13th on the list of causes of mortality, standing at about 200,000 per year, or 0.3 percent of all deaths. High blood pressure is first on the list, accounting for 7 million (12 percent) of deaths; high cholesterol is second at 4.4 million; and hunger is third. Clearly, climate change is not the most important public health problem today. But what about the future? Again looking at just the worst case of warming, climate change would boost the number of deaths in 2085 by 237,000 above what they would otherwise be according to the fast track analyses. Many of the authors of the fast track analyses also co-authored the IPCC's socioeconomic impact assessments.
Various environmental indicators would also improve. For example, 11.6 percent of the world's land was used for growing crops in 1990. In the warmest world, agricultural productivity is projected to increase so much that the amount of land used for crops would drop to just 5 percent by 2100, leaving more land for nature. In other words, if these official projections are correct, man-made global warming is by no means the most important problem faced by humanity.
He's back, and demographically feistier than ever:
Anything happen while I was gone?
Oh, yeah. The collapse of the global economy. Armageddon outta here. The ecopalypse is upon us. Down south, President Obama has abandoned the gaseous uplift of "the audacity of hope" and warns we're on the brink of the abyss. In the old New Deal, FDR warned that "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." For the new New Deal, President Hopeychangey says we have nothing but fear itself. Get used to it. In Russia, the nation's wealthiest oligarchs have seen their net worth decline by two-thirds. They can't steal it as fast as it depreciates. Even yard sales of Soviet nukes to chaps with Waziristani business cards won't make it up.
The only thing booming is declinism. In Britain, the Baby Boomers are now "Baby Gloomers," according to the Daily Telegraph's Elizabeth Grice, who gives the impression she's working it up into a book proposal for one of those slim volumes of contemporary manners one keeps in the guest "loo," amusingly illustrated with line drawings of once prosperous middle-class couples reduced to trawling the supermarket shelves for bargain "wine boxes" and microwaveable "Italian-style" focaccia. In the U.S., Steven Kotler thinks this is no time to get hung up on details. The planet is going to hell. So what's the big picture? The rooty-tootiest root cause of all?
Answer: motherhood and apple pie. If we didn't have so much motherhood, we wouldn't have all these people eating apple pies, manufactured in a plant in Guangdong and then shipped on some massive floating carbon footprint all the way to Price Chopper in Cedar Rapids. Motherhood is the root cause. As Mr. Kotler says:
"You don’t need to ask what you need to do for the world. You already know.
"Stop having children. It's that easy."
It really is! So he's calling for a five-year moratorium on having children, planet-wide. The Soviets had five-year plans but Mr. Kotler wants a five-year ban — "because a billion less people is a great place to start." Key word: "start." Experts agree that the carrying capacity for the planet is about two billion people. Actually, they don't agree: some of the earthier-than-thou eco-types say it's only 300 million. But Mr. Kotler doesn't want to sound like an extremist or anything, so he's starting with that best-case scenario. If the planet's carrying capacity is two billion tops, we need to unload a good 4½ billion. And, while no one outside of Dutch hospitals is arguing for compulsory euthanasia (yet), not adding to the total would be "a great place to start."
Do you sometimes think that perhaps Agent Smith's diatribe about humanity as a virus somehow got mislabelled as a biology lecture?
"I'd like to share a revelation that I've had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren't actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? — A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we . . . are the cure."
Roger Henry sent a link to some dramatic photos of the bush fires in Australia:
A fire truck moves away from out of control flames from a bushfire in the Bunyip Sate Forest near the township of Tonimbuk, 125 kilometers (78 miles) west of Melbourne, Saturday, Feb. 7, 2009.
A fire blazes during the bushfires that swept through the region on February 9, 2009 in Healesville, Australia.
Craig Kidd looks at the melted metal of alloy wheels from his burnt out vehicles after a bushfire swept through his property on February 9, 2009 in Bendigo, 160 km from Melbourne, Australia.
The Science and Public Policy Institute website has a summary of the most obvious errors in Al Gore's movie. While the report was issued in 2007, the errors are still in wide circulation as established scientific "facts", so there is clearly still a need for the other side to be heard:
A spokesman for Al Gore has issued a questionable response to the news that in October 2007 the High Court in London had identified nine “errors” in his movie An Inconvenient Truth. The judge had stated that, if the UK Government had not agreed to send to every secondary school in England a corrected guidance note making clear the mainstream scientific position on these nine “errors”, he would have made a finding that the Government’s distribution of the film and the first draft of the guidance note earlier in 2007 to all English secondary schools had been an unlawful contravention of an Act of Parliament prohibiting the political indoctrination of children.
Al Gore’s spokesman and “environment advisor,” Ms. Kalee Kreider, begins by saying that the film presented “thousands and thousands of facts.” It did not: just 2,000 “facts” in 93 minutes would have been one fact every three seconds. The film contained only a few dozen points, most of which will be seen to have been substantially inaccurate. The judge concentrated only on nine points which even the UK Government, to which Gore is a climate-change advisor, had to admit did not represent mainstream scientific opinion.
Ms. Kreider then states, incorrectly, that the judge himself had never used the term “errors.” In fact, the judge used the term “errors,” in inverted commas, throughout his judgment.
Next, Ms. Kreider makes some unjustifiable ad hominem attacks on Mr. Stewart Dimmock, the lorry driver, school governor and father of two school-age children who was the plaintiff in the case. This memorandum, however, will eschew any ad hominem response, and will concentrate exclusively on the 35 scientific inaccuracies and exaggerations in Gore’s movie.
This is still relevant, as shown by this alarmist headline on the Yahoo.ca home page yesterday:
It will come as little surprise to find that the report dovetails nicely with the agenda of Gore's film. It's also amusing that the page editor couldn't manage to find an appropriate photo of a car in North America driving through floodwaters and had to substitute a European image instead.
When some time ago a friend of mine told me that Thomas Friedman's new book, Hot, Flat, and Crowded, was going to be a kind of environmentalist clarion call against American consumerism, I almost died laughing.
Beautiful, I thought. Just when you begin to lose faith in America's ability to fall for absolutely anything — just when you begin to think we Americans as a race might finally outgrow the lovable credulousness that leads us to fork over our credit card numbers to every half-baked TV pitchman hawking a magic dick-enlarging pill, or a way to make millions on the Internet while sitting at home and pounding doughnuts — along comes Thomas Friedman, porn-stached resident of a positively obscene
114,00011,400 square foot suburban Maryland mega-monstro-mansion and husband to the heir of one of the largest shopping-mall chains in the world, reinventing himself as an oracle of anti-consumerist conservationism.
Where does a man who needs his own offshore drilling platform just to keep the east wing of his house heated get the balls to write a book chiding America for driving energy inefficient automobiles? Where does a guy whose family bulldozed 2.1 million square feet of pristine Hawaiian wilderness to put a Gap, an Old Navy, a Sears, an Abercrombie and even a motherfucking Foot Locker in paradise get off preaching to the rest of us about the need for a "Green Revolution"? Well, he'll explain it all to you in 438 crisply written pages for just $27.95, $30.95 if you have the misfortune to be Canadian.
I've been unhealthily obsessed with Thomas Friedman for more than a decade now. For most of that time, I just thought he was funny. And admittedly, what I thought was funniest about him was the kind of stuff that only another writer would really care about — in particular his tortured use of the English language. Like George W. Bush with his Bushisms, Friedman came up with lines so hilarious you couldn't make them up even if you were trying — and when you tried to actually picture the "illustrative" figures of speech he offered to explain himself, what you often ended up with was pure physical comedy of the Buster Keaton/Three Stooges school, with whole nations and peoples slipping and falling on the misplaced banana peels of his literary endeavors.
Matt Taibbi, "Flat N All That", New York Press, 2009-01-14
Steve McIntyre pulls out the old story of how Al Gore saved Christmas for Toronto back in 2006, when it looked like snow was a thing of the past:
Nobody knew what do. Except for one little girl. (Hey, it's a story.) She wrote to a famous ju-ju man in the South asking him to come north and cast a magic spell and make the snow return.
The ju-ju man heard the plea of the little girl. He quickly decided that the situation was far worse than even the little girl thought. This needed his most powerful magic and, so in 2007, he visited Toronto not just once, not just twice but three times.
The magic worked! Soon Toronto was covered up in winter snow. The ju-ju man could only save part of the 2007 winter, but by 2008, his magic was in full force. Yesterday's snow made 2008 snowfall the highest since 1883, with a few days still on the clock.
And we owe it all to Al, the southern weather wizard!
H/T to Tom Kelley for the link.
. . . er, oops:
Green campaigners called police after discovering an illegal logging site in a nature reserve — only to find the culprits were a gang of beavers. Environmentalists found 20 neatly stacked tree trunks and others marked with notches for felling at a beauty-spot in Subkowy, northern Poland.
[. . .]
A police spokesman said: "The campaigners are feeling pretty stupid. There's nothing more natural than a beaver."
H/T to Radley Balko, who writes that "they may have violated some wetlands regulations, too."
Unfortunately, it's not a production model, but the first of 200 Scorpions made an appearance at the SEMA show:
The Scorpion gets its sting from a hydrogen delivery system the company calls H2GO. While cars like the Honda FCX Clarity and Chevrolet Equinox use hydrogen fuel cells to drive electric motors, the Scorpion uses electrolysis to convert water into gaseous hydrogen. The hydrogen is mixed with 91-octane gasoline to improve the fuel economy and reduce the emissions of the car's 3.5-liter internal combustion engine.
Maxwell, a 40-year auto industry vet and lifelong gearhead who holds several patents, is using the limited production — just 200 will be built — Scorpion to prove the technology works and legitimize the H2GO system the company will begin selling for $1,000 early next year. The way he sees it, if H2GO works on the Scorpion, it'll work on your Civic.
Maxwell didn't offer much in the way of specifics, saying the publicly traded company is still dotting the i's and crossing the t's on the venture. But he says H2GO is good for a 15 percent to 33 percent improvement in mileage, a noticeable increase in power and a significant reduction in overall emissions. The company is pursuing EPA certification of the Scorpion so people can get a better idea of what the system is capable of. Maxwell insists the 40-mpg figure is the real deal.
This is a better approach to popularizing alternative fuels . . . for the non-city-core car-buying public. If their next trial model is an SUV or a pickup truck, they'll have to hire a whole bunch of order-takers for middle America.
As if the ethanol movement didn't have enough problems, now comes a report that diesel fuel can be produced by naturally occurring fungus:
A fungus that lives inside trees in the Patagonian rain forest naturally makes a mix of hydrocarbons that bears a striking resemblance to diesel, biologists announced today. And the fungus can grow on cellulose, a major component of tree trunks, blades of grass and stalks that is the most abundant carbon-based plant material on Earth.
"When we looked at the gas analysis, I was flabbergasted," said Gary Strobel, a plant scientist at Montana State University, and the lead author of a paper in Microbiology describing the find. "We were looking at the essence of diesel fuel."
While genetic engineers have been trying a variety of techniques and genes to get microbes to create fuel out of sugars and starches, almost all commercial biofuel production uses the century-old dry mill grain process. Ethanol plants ferment corn ears into alcohol, which is simple, but wastes the vast majority of the biomatter of the corn plant.
What's even more interesting is this thought: "because the fungus can manufacture what we would normally think of as components of crude oil, it casts some doubt on the idea that crude oil is a fossil fuel."
The federal government's ethanol policies have driven up the price of corn [. . .] But rather than reforming the policies that have caused a spike in corn prices, the federal government wants to bail out ethanol producers who speculated on the price of corn. Only the U.S. Department of Agriculture could dream up a policy like this. [. . .] The high price of corn has had a ripple effect over our entire economy. Instead of trying to bail out every industry hurt by it, the federal government needs to take a serious look at reforming our ethanol policies.
Rep. Jeff Flake, quoted by Mike Sunnucks, "Flake blasts proposed ethanol bailout", Phoenix Business Journal, 2008-10-22
Katherine Mangu-Ward looks at the messy issue of diapers and the environment:
At the tender age of 22, I was sitting at my desk, working diligently on some task for my first real job when an older colleague, who happened to be a new father, walked by. "I invented a new word this morning," he said. "Crapnel. It's a fusion of crap and shrapnel. Think hard before you have kids."
In related news, cloth diapers are bad for the environment, and the government doesn't want you to know about it. The pleasingly labor intensive and disgusting practice of using cloth diapers because they're better for the environment than those awful disposables manufactured in China by multinational corporations turns out to be a big lie. A government report showing that cloth diapers are bad for the environment was (God forgive me for this) leaked to a newspaper
New parents — especially first-timers — are the easiest target for snake oil salesmen, both commercial and political. When Victor was born, we tried using a diaper service for the first few months . . . partly for vague environmental reasons, but mostly because we were given the service as a baby shower gift by one of Elizabeth's close friends. It seemed like the "right" thing to do.
Fast forward three months, and we couldn't get out of the contract soon enough. The diapers were significantly less effective than the disposables, leading to more frequent cleaning of other clothes, they were not as comfortable for the baby, and the smell was inescapable in our small apartment. We'd been using disposables whenever we were away from home for more than a few hours (diaper bags are unwieldy luggage at the best of time, but when you're also carrying around cloth diapers, they become ticking time-bombs of odour, mess, and embarassment.
We got a lecture from several people after we switched, but there was no contest between the two from our experience. Now that the evidence shows that the claimed environmental benefit to cloth diapers is bogus, there's no reason other new parents should have to suffer the hard learning experience.
Ronald Bailey looks at the potential devastation of the insurance industry as the claims pour in from the Texas coast:
The fact that insurance companies refused to insure property located on storm-wracked coasts is not an instance of market failure. A market failure supposedly occurs when the price of goods and services do not reflect the true costs of producing and consuming those goods and services. That's clearly not what happened here. The market is practially shouting at people, "Don't build something you can't afford to lose where hurricanes periodically crash ashore."
Instead the state "insurance" scheme is an example of government failure which occurs when a government intervention causes a more inefficient allocation of goods and resources than would occur without that intervention. In this case, it's the government that's telling people that it's OK to build in dangerous areas and then not charging them enough for the "insurance."
It's one of the biggest omissions from media coverage of hurricanes . . . the largest reason for the increasing damage toll isn't that the storms are necessarily more powerful or more frequent, but that many more people have been moving into areas that are subject to greater risk from those storms. Government meddling in the insurance market distorts the necessary pricing signals to property owners . . . usually forcing insurance companies to provide below-cost policies in high-risk areas or requiring private insurers to underwrite the losses of quasi-public or public insurers.
Ronald Bailey isn't expecting royal honours after Prince Charles ascends the throne:
His Royal Highness, the Dunce of Wales, Speaks Against Biotech Crops
[. . .] There's a tremendous amount of anti-biotech misinformation packed into this interview. First and foremost, farmers in both developed and developing countries will not adopt biotech crops unless they benefit from them, either from greater productivity, fewer input costs, improved sustainability or all three.
Let's consider just a few cases: Biotech insect-resistant corn in the Philippines boosted yields by 37 percent, reduced the costs of insecticide spraying by 60 percent, maintained populations of beneficial insects in the fields, and increased farmers' profits by 88 percent. With regard to sustainability, herbicide-resistant biotech crops make soil saving no-till farming more possible and new varieties of biotech rice reduce the run-off of nitrogen fertilizer that can damage waterways. Finally, His Royal Witless ignores the fact that of the 12 million farmers who have adopted biotech crops, 11 million of them are resource-poor farmers working in developing countries.
For all that some might say that Prince Charles has his heart in the right place, he's clearly got his facts from some alternate universe . . .
Update: Commenter "ChrisH" wraps it up wonderfully well:
Posted by Nicholas at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)
Who'da thunk? Diana was the sharp tool in that toolshed.
I like the "peasants — back to your farms!" tone of some of it. Uh, I think you lost that argument 200 years ago.
But then, this:
dysfunctional conurbations of unmentionable awfulness
My gawd, the man is a poet. I don't even know what it means, but I want to set it to music.
There are very few people who could have played "Yo Mama so..." with Bill Buckley, but apparently Prince Chuck is one of them.
Decent watercolorist, as well, I hear...
Ethanol's day should have come and gone several years back . . . it's painfully obvious that it's not the panacea it was presented as being a decade ago (and even then, it was problematical). Reason TV features a discussion of the whole sordid mess:
Ethanol advocates claim that the biofuel is a cheap, renewable energy source that reduces pollution and our dependence on foreign oil. It sounds too good to be true — and it is.
Ethanol, especially the corn-based variety, is bad for taxpayers, bad for consumers, bad for the environment, and horrible for the world's poor. In fact, even environmentalists are critical of ethanol subsidies these days. The ethanol craze has distorted markets and increased the price of food worldwide. The only people who still support ethanol subsidies are the ethanol producers — and politicians from both sides of the aisle. Together, they make sure the subsidies keep coming.
Bishop Hill pulls together the story about the famous "hockey stick" graph for the non-mathematically inclined:
There has been the most extraordinary series of postings at Climate Audit over the last week. As is usual at CA, there is a heavy mathematics burden for the casual reader, which, with a bit of research I think I can now just about follow. The story is a remarkable indictment of the corruption and cyncism that is rife among climate scientists, and I'm going to try to tell it in layman's language so that the average blog reader can understand it. As far as I know it's the first time the whole story has been set out in a single posting. It's a long tale - and the longest posting I think I've ever written and piecing it together from the individual CA postings has been a long, hard but fascinating struggle. You may want to get a long drink before starting, and those who suffer from heart disorders may wish to take their beta blockers first.
H/T to Brian Micklethwait.
By way of Tim Blair, a link to the article in which John Tierney declared himself a target for hate mail from schoolchildren, environmentalists, and municipal workers by pointing out the origins and true costs of the recycling hoax:
Believing that there was no more room in landfills, Americans concluded that recycling was their only option. Their intentions were good and their conclusions seemed plausible. Recycling does sometimes makes sense — for some materials in some places at some times. But the simplest and cheapest option is usually to bury garbage in an environmentally safe landfill. And since there's no shortage of landfill space (the crisis of 1987 was a false alarm), there's no reason to make recycling a legal or moral imperative. Mandatory recycling programs aren't good for posterity. They offer mainly short-term benefits to a few groups — politicians, public relations consultants, environmental organizations, waste-handling corporations — while diverting money from genuine social and environmental problems. Recycling may be the most wasteful activity in modern America: a waste of time and money, a waste of human and natural resources.
The obvious temptation is to blame journalists, who did a remarkable job of creating the garbage crisis, often at considerable expense to their own employers. Newspaper and magazine publishers, whose products are a major component of municipal landfills, nobly led the crusade against trash, and they're paying for it now through regulations that force them to buy recycled paper — a costly handicap in their struggle against electronic rivals. It's the first time that an industry has conducted a mass-media campaign informing customers that its own product is a menace to society.
I've always had my doubts about the modern recycling movement . . . and how it seems to have become more a replacement religion than an economic or even environmental concern. I knew the stated economics were dodgy, in that it seemed that the claimed benefits from recycling more and more "stuff" seemed ever smaller, while the actual costs clearly were growing. People now recycle as a moral imperative much more than as an economic necessity, and municipal governments everywhere are just as trapped in a no-win situation as J. Winston Porter (the former US government official who set the ball in motion back in 1988):
"People in New York and other places are tilting at recycling windmills," says Porter, who left the E.P.A. in 1989 and is now president of a consulting firm, the Waste Policy Center in Leesburg, Va. "There aren't many more materials in garbage that are worth recycling." Porter has been advising cities and states to abandon their unrealistic goals, but politicians are terrified of coming out against recycling. How could they explain it to the voters? How could they explain it to their children?
Indeed, how do you gracefully admit that you've brainwashed an entire generation with nice-sounding nonsense? The scariest thing is that this article was published in 1996! Not only has nothing changed, but things have gotten worse, as more municipalities have insisted on moving further and further in a pro-recycling direction.
John Tierney tries to quell some fears:
For most of the year, it is the duty of the press to scour the known universe looking for ways to ruin your day. The more fear, guilt or angst a news story induces, the better. But with August upon us, perhaps you're in the mood for a break, so I've rounded up a list of 10 things not to worry about on your vacation.
Now, I can't guarantee you that any of these worries is groundless, because I can't guarantee you that anything is absolutely safe, including the act of reading a newspaper. With enough money, an enterprising researcher could surely identify a chemical in newsprint or keyboards that is dangerously carcinogenic for any rat that reads a trillion science columns every day.
What I can guarantee is that I wouldn't spend a nanosecond of my vacation worrying about any of these 10 things.
Of course, the human mind is optimized for worry so having a mere ten knocked off the worry list only makes room for more concerns to occupy us.
. .. as I did in yesterday's lament about not being able to watch P&T's take on climate change . . . because through the kind efforts of Tom Kelley, I got to watch this episode of Bullshit! . . . and (with the right plug-ins) you can too.
Thanks, Tom! But I'm still going to buy the DVD set when it comes out.
It was probably inevitable that Penn & Teller would get around to doing an episode of Bullshit! on climate change:
[. . .] Thursday's episode on environmentalism opened with a morose-looking Penn Jillette waving a magazine as he recited one ecotastrophe after another — drought in Africa, flooding in Pakistan and Japan, snowless winters in New England and Northern Europe — I snapped to attention. ''It says right here in Time magazine — the weather's gone nuts and we humans are to blame!'' Teller wailed. "We have bleeped up the environment and now we're going to pay for it!''
Yeah, that global warming is pretty bad. You know, Al Gore says — oops, never mind. Turns out Penn's not reading from the infamous Time cover story of 2006 on global warming, the one headlined BE WORRIED. BE VERY WORRIED. No, this Time is from 1974, and the headline is, ANOTHER ICE AGE? And all those violent paroxysms of nature are the pernicious work of global cooling.
Yes, back in the days of disco, the news media echoed with predictions of the world's imminent demise from ice rather than fire. Newsweek warned that temperatures had already dropped ''a sixth of the way toward the Ice Age average.'' By 1985, Life declared, "air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching the earth by one half.''
Too bad I won't get to see it until this season's episodes come out on DVD . . .
James Lileks gets all screedy about the oil situation:
I've heard some people yearn for a windfall profits tax that would reinvest the money in alternative energy, or rebate it back to the consumer. Fine. Apply that to your business. Here's the acceptable profit level. You don't get to make any more than that. If you do, the state will confiscate the property and divide it among your competitors, or give it back to your customers. Have a nice day. But oil is different. It's necessary! So is food. Farmers are doing well. Let us therefore set the acceptable level for corn farmers, take away the excess profits, invest it new forms of sweeteners or biofuels farmers cannot yet produce, and give people rebates for Splenda to compensate for the price of high fructose corn syrup.
It's not that we cannot produce any more oil; you suspect that some are motivated by the belief, perverse as it sounds, that we should not. We should not drill 50 miles off shore on the chance someone in Malibu takes a hot-air balloon up 1000 feet and uses a telephoto lens to scan the horizon for oil platforms. Also, there are ecological concerns. (The ocean is a wee place, easily disturbed.) There's something else that may well be my imagination, but I can't quite shake the feeling: high gas prices and shortages of oil make some people feel good. This is the way it has to be. Oil is bad. Cars are bad. Cars make suburbs possible. Suburbs are the antithesis of the way we should live, which is stacked upon one another in dense blocks tied together by happy whirring trains. So some guy who drives to work alone has to spend more money for the privilege of being alone in his car listening to hate radio?
Yes, I know, projection and demonizaton and oversimplification. But this is true: there's a side of the domestic political structure that opposes expansion of domestic energy production, be it drilling or nukes or more refineries.
But remember, just like George Bush, James Lileks has family ties to the [dum, dum, duuuuuum!] oil industry.
I missed it last year when it was first published, but Paul's Ecophobe Checklist is a useful idea. If you really believe that we are facing a true ecological catastrophe, then you'll be trying to do as many of the following things as humanly possible:
1. Live in as small an abode as possible
2. Bath or Shower only once a week
3. Have only one or two hot meals per week
4. Don't use Restaurants, coffee shops, or bars
5. No carbon emitting recreation
6. Drive an electric car (only if grid is Hydro or Nuke)
7. Car pool or use public transit only
8. Do not purchase imports (food, dry goods, hardware etc.)
9. Refuse to have children
10. Read only in the daytime or
11. Use only one fluorescent light at a time; live in the dark
12. Have no freezer or refrigerator
13. Ride a bike or walk
14. No vacation travel . . . ever
15. Don't use electrical products (blow-dryers, shavers, toasters etc.)
16. Keep house temperatures at plus 10C in winter
17. No AC in the summer (home, car)
18. No powered yard equipment
19. No air travel . . . ever
20. Buy Carbon Credits and/or donate all surplus savings to Africa
21. Live in a Cave
Since we were here to do things we had not done before, we decided to take in "The Circle of Life," a show about the interconnectedness of man, nature, and anthropomorphic cartoon characters. I hate to be a killjoy grump about these things, but oy, what a load of sanctimonious rubbish. The actual Circle of Life, as applied to animals, consists of birth, killing, consumption, excretion, copulation, and solitary death from small predators in the blood or nasty ones with big teeth. Sometimes there's death by fire, for variety's sake. It takes consciousness on the human level to extract the metaphorical weight in the whole Circle of Life thing, and while I think it's wonderful to appreciate and marvel at the intricate ecosystems of the planet, and tread as lightly as necessary, wordless choirs voicing ecstatic vowels over footage of wildebeest herds does not really equal a High Mass for spiritual impact or depth. All of which I kept to myself, of course. But I felt like the village atheist.
The plot was hugely ironical: Timon and Roomba or whatever the warthog is named were building a resort in the jungle, and damning a stream to create a water feature. Simba showed up to demonstrate the error of their ways. The hilarity of any manifestation of the Disneyverse criticizing an artificial lake to build a resort goes without saying. And it did go without saying, of course. Simba said that Timon and Roomba or whatever were acting like another creature that did not behave in tune with nature, and that creature was . . . man.
BOO HISS, I guess. Jaysus, I tire of this. Big evil stupid man had done many stupid evil bad things, like pile abandoned cars in the river, dump chemicals into blue streams, and build factories that vomited great dark clouds into the sky. Like the People's State Lead Paint and Licensed Mickey Merchandise Factory in Shanghai Province, perhaps? Simba gave us a lecture about materialism and how it hurt the earth — cue the shot of trees actually being chopped down, and I'm surprised the sap didn't spurt like blood in a Peckinpah movie — and other horrors, like forests on fire because . . . well, because it was National Toss Glowing Coals Out the Car Window Month, I guess. I swear the footage all came from the mid-70s; it was grainy and cracked and the cars were all late-60s models. Because I'm pretty sure we're not dumping cars into the rivers as a matter of course any more. You're welcome to try to leave your car on the riverbank and see how that turns out for you.
At the end Timon and Phoomba decided to open a green resort, and everything's hakuna Montana.
James Lileks, The Bleat, 2008-05-20
It's true! Of course, it pales in comparison to the 21.1% increase notched by those smug Kyoto signatory nations, of course.
H/T to Nick Packwood, who writes:
The average global increases in so called "greenhouse gas" emissions 1997 - 2004 has been 18%. The average decrease in greenhouse emissions amongst signatories to Kyoto is... let's see here... you are saying it is a 21% increase? But that is impossible. They signed an agreement.
The biofuels debacle is global warm-mongering in a nutshell: The first victims of poseur environmentalism will always be developing countries. In order for you to put biofuel in your Prius and feel good about yourself for no reason, real actual people in faraway places have to starve to death. On April 15, the Independent, the impeccably progressive British newspaper, editorialized: "The production of biofuel is devastating huge swathes of the world's environment. So why on earth is the Government forcing us to use more of it?"
You want the short answer? Because the government made the mistake of listening to fellows like you.
Mark Steyn, "Chickenfeedhawks: Global warm-mongering", National Review Online, 2008-04-26
I'd wondered about this . . . getting rid of broken compact fluorescent bulbs:
As long as the mercury is contained in the bulb, CFLs are perfectly safe. But eventually, any bulbs — even CFLs — break or burn out, and most consumers simply throw them out in the trash, said Ellen Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health sciences at Johns Hopkins University and editor of the journal Environmental Research.
“This is an enormous amount of mercury that’s going to enter the waste stream at present with no preparation for it,” she said.
Manufacturers and the EPA say broken CFLs should be handled carefully and recycled to limit dangerous vapors and the spread of mercury dust. But guidelines for how to do that can be difficult to find, as Brandy Bridges of Ellsworth, Maine, discovered.
"It was just a wiggly bulb that I reached up to change," Bridges said. "When the bulb hit the floor, it shattered."
When Bridges began calling around to local government agencies to find out what to do, "I was shocked to see how uninformed literally everyone I spoke to was," she said. "Even our own poison control operator didn’t know what to tell me."
The sidebar to the article includes an 11-step process to clean up a broken CFL bulb.
H/T to Jon, my virtual landlord, for the link.
The automotive chaps at The Times take a Prius out for a real-world driving test against a BMW sedan. The results weren't as clear-cut as you'd imagine:
The next day it became clear my Prius did not like motorways, at least not at 75mph into a headwind. My trip meter informed me I was now averaging about 45mpg; the Prius was not going to make it to Geneva on just one tank.
I took the precaution of buying a 10-litre can and filling it with petrol. Sure enough, the dashboard soon informed me the fuel tank was empty, the petrol engine stopped and for two surreal miles I coasted along on battery power. Only when I approached a long steep uphill stretch did I finally drift to a halt. As I filled the tank I consoled myself with my last chocolate bar.
Coasting down the mountain into Geneva my Prius averaged 99.9mpg for a full 10 minutes. It was the highlight of my journey and improved my overall average fuel economy by a full 2mpg. But it was not enough. For all my defensive driving, slippery bodywork and hybrid technology, my average fuel consumption was 48.1mpg. I’d lost to a Beemer and I was disappointed; I had never driven so slowly or carefully for so long in my life. I’m considering buying a V8 Range Rover and opening my own oil well in protest.
Lest it be said that the Prius is not intended to be used for long-distance travel, the writers arranged for a portion of the trip to be conducted in urban areas — where the Prius should shine on the fuel economy front — so that the test was more like a real-world trip than something concocted by advocates either for or against the Prius.
H/T to Mark Allums.
I believe in Gore, the Prophet All-Knowing, the Creator of the Internet, and in Global Warming, his brain-child:
Which was conceived from Global Cooling, born of his lust for power, after he suffered a stolen election and was considered dead politically.
He descended into Obesity.
The third year He rose again from the obscure, He ascended into media prominence, and sits at the right hand of Bono the Annoying, from whence he shall come to sell carbon credits to the suckers with guilty consciences.
I believe in the Mother Gaia, the holy Ecological Church, the communion of Hollywood stars, the forgiveness of consumerism, the recycling of all things, and life so miserable it seems everlasting.
Chris Claypoole, "The Global Warming Creed", Libertarian Enterprise, 2008-03-09
Declan McCullagh interviews Cypress Semiconductor CEO T.J. Rodgers:
Why the antipathy toward McCain?
There's an article in Reason magazine about McCain. He's anti-free speech. He's a war guy. Those are about as bad as you can get from a libertarian perspective.
I got turned off by him in a personal meeting. I made a presentation to him that the government is wasting hundreds of millions of dollars in (technology-related) pork barrel spending. I showed that the pork barrel spending is not only fundamentally bad, but also harmful to the people getting the money, the semiconductor industry. When I got done with the presentation, he labeled the pork barrel spending "peanuts." He poked his finger in my chest and said that he's "going to get rid of your big fat stock options."
He's in favor of stifling free speech. He's in favor of the war. He doesn't truly care about lean government. You'd have difficulty picking between him and George W. Bush.
[. . .]
You're making libertarian points. Why aren't there more libertarians, or at least out-of-the-closet libertarians, in Silicon Valley?
First of all, I think Silicon Valley people, if you gave them the world's smallest quiz, my belief is you'd find that people in Silicon Valley are highly libertarian but they don't even know what that phrase means. It's not part of their vernacular. Silicon Valley people are highly apolitical. They're worried about their businesses, they're worried about growth, they're worried about technology. Sometimes they get involved in politics. They get involved on both sides of the fence...
If you would look at the people in Silicon Valley who identify themselves as Republicans, you'll find that they're free-market Republicans. What I think you'd find is that Silicon Valley Democrats have an economic free market base to them, and therefore look a lot like libertarians. Silicon Valley Republicans... aren't restrictive on social issues. You're not going to find any anti-gay, redneck Republicans in Silicon Valley.
Because they don't care that much about politics, they don't get beyond the nuances. But if you took the next layer of detail, you'll find that regardless of how they identified themselves, both sides are libertarian-ish in their leanings.
You know the current campaign against plastic bags, urging people to avoid using them because they contribute to the deaths of millions of birds and sea mammals? Not so fast:
Campaigners say that plastic bags pollute coastlines and waterways, killing or injuring birds and livestock on land and, in the oceans, destroying vast numbers of seabirds, seals, turtles and whales. However, The Times has established that there is no scientific evidence to show that the bags pose any direct threat to marine mammals.
They "don't figure" in the majority of cases where animals die from marine debris, said David Laist, the author of a seminal 1997 study on the subject. Most deaths were caused when creatures became caught up in waste produce. "Plastic bags don't figure in entanglement," he said. "The main culprits are fishing gear, ropes, lines and strapping bands. Most mammals are too big to get caught up in a plastic bag."
He added: "The impact of bags on whales, dolphins, porpoises and seals ranges from nil for most species to very minor for perhaps a few species. For birds, plastic bags are not a problem either."
The central claim of campaigners is that the bags kill more than 100,000 marine mammals and one million seabirds every year. However, this figure is based on a misinterpretation of a 1987 Canadian study in Newfoundland, which found that, between 1981 and 1984, more than 100,000 marine mammals, including birds, were killed by discarded nets. The Canadian study did not mention plastic bags.
Fifteen years later in 2002, when the Australian Government commissioned a report into the effects of plastic bags, its authors misquoted the Newfoundland study, mistakenly attributing the deaths to "plastic bags".
The figure was latched on to by conservationists as proof that the bags were killers. For four years the "typo" remained uncorrected. It was only in 2006 that the authors altered the report, replacing "plastic bags" with "plastic debris". But they admitted: "The actual numbers of animals killed annually by plastic bag litter is nearly impossible to determine."
But don't worry . . . I'm sure that there'll be another scare along really soon to replace the "plastic bags are evil" meme.
As we contemplate another 30cm of snow starting later today, I had to agree with Den Lippert, who sent this highly appropriate winter greeting (NSFW):
Jon, my virtual landlord, sent along this BOFH link:
"So we'll end up with machines which'll slow themselves down at weird and inconvenient times and lose processing power while they ramp up in response to need?"
"No, I'm sure the bloke said you can tune them to only reduce to a certain point and to speed up recovery time. And with virtualisation you can tune them to consolidate virtual servers onto the least number of machines and shut the rest down till they're needed."
"Still sounds like Nancy-Boy boxes," I concur.
"A REAL computer has ONE speed and the only powersaving it permits is when you pull the power leads out of the back!" I blurt. "In fact, a REAL computer would have a hole in the front to push trees into and an exhaust pipe out the back for the black smoke to come out of."
"AND," the PFY adds. "they run so hot - even on screensaver - that they keep the room nice and toasty when you're not there - saves on heating."
"All that is a thing of the past though." the boss burbles. "The bloke was telling me that using mobile processor technology the..."
"What bloke?" I ask.
"Mmm?" the PFY says.
"Bloke... from... uh..."
"...the... green consultancy..."
"So you and the IT Director talk to some yoghurt-eating fruitcake in a hemp suit and sandals and the next thing we know you're planning to replace our high power server environment with a poor imitation of it?"
That is, now that it's official that last year was the coldest in a long time. Ron Bailey has the details:
It's getting cold outside. How cold? As Daily Tech reports:
Over the past year, anecdotal evidence for a cooling planet has exploded. China has its coldest winter in 100 years. Baghdad sees its first snow in all recorded history. North America has the most snowcover in 50 years, with places like Wisconsin the highest since record-keeping began. Record levels of Antarctic sea ice, record cold in Minnesota, Texas, Florida, Mexico, Australia, Iran, Greece, South Africa, Greenland, Argentina, Chile — the list goes on and on.
No more than anecdotal evidence, to be sure. But now, that evidence has been supplanted by hard scientific fact. All four major global temperature tracking outlets (Hadley, NASA's GISS, UAH, RSS) have released updated data. All show that over the past year, global temperatures have dropped precipitously.
I've been a "denier" on the Global Warming/Climate Change issue for quite some time: it's not that man's contributions to climate change don't exist, but I believe they are still miniscule compared to the natural phenomena which have always played their role in climate change. As I've been in the habit of saying over the course of this (bloody cold) winter: "Global warming? Sounds like a good idea to me!"
I strongly suspect, but don't have the formal data to back up my suspicion, that we're actually overdue for an ice age, not a warm period, geologically speaking.
Whether you're a Global Warming True Believer or an evil Climate Change Denier, you'll find lots of stuff to keep your blood pressure up at Climate Debate Daily, an aggregator of posts on both sides of the Climate Change holy war. It's run by New Zealand philosophy professor Denis Dutton (who also created the Arts & Letters Daily aggregator site).
For the record, I incline to the heretical side of that particular Jihad/Crusade/Inquisition.
Perry de Havilland finds that California is hoping to become even more intrusive into the lives of private individuals:
According to American Thinker, there is a move afoot to nationalise the ability of people to control the temperatures of their own homes (yes, really!) in, where else, the People's Republic of California:
What should be controversial in the proposed revisions to Title 24 is the requirement for what is called a "programmable communicating thermostat" or PCT. Every new home and every change to existing homes' central heating and air conditioning systems will required to be fitted with a PCT beginning next year following the issuance of the revision. Each PCT will be fitted with a "non-removable " FM receiver that will allow the power authorities to increase your air conditioning temperature setpoint or decrease your heater temperature setpoint to any value they chose. During "price events" those changes are limited to +/- four degrees F and you would be able to manually override the changes. During "emergency events" the new setpoints can be whatever the power authority desires and you would not be able to alter them.
In other words, the temperature of your home will no longer be yours to control. Your desires and needs can and will be overridden by the state of California through its public and private utility organizations. All this is for the common good, of course.
Just remember . . . once you've accepted that government has a role in setting energy prices, they've got a foothold into controlling energy usage, too. And in this proposal, they're creating an even greater incentive for folks to go "off the grid". Wait and see how they choose to address that leak, should enough people attempt to take advantage of it.
Visitors since 17 August, 2004