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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Candidates Fail Energy Independence Test

Thursday, February 28, 2008
By Steven Milloy

All the presidential candidates say they’re for energy independence. So why didn’t they do something about it when they had the chance?

Hillary Clinton rails on her Web site about Americans sending "billions of dollars to the Middle East for their oil." Barack Obama warns that Middle East oil is the "lifeline of Al Qaeda." Republican hopeful John McCain says that, if elected, his energy policy will "amount to a declaration of independence from our reliance on oil sheiks and our vulnerability to their troubled politics."

But Clinton and Obama recently voted for a bill that can only promote dependency on oil from the Middle East. And John McCain went AWOL, not voting on the bill at all.

A little-noticed provision of the ironically named "Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007" that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush last December bars the federal government from purchasing fuels whose life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions are greater than those from fuels produced from conventional petroleum sources.
Before we get into the energy independence implications of this provision, it’s worth appreciating the obscurity of the provision and the fact that the media doesn’t seem to understand its import.

I only learned of the provision while thumbing through the Feb. 15 Financial Times, serendipitously noticing the egregiously mis-titled article, "U.S. risks trade dispute with Canada on fuel." A bit of research turned up no other media reports relating to this particular section of the bill.

The Financial Times article reported on how section 526 of the energy bill prohibits the federal government from buying oil that was produced from Canadian tar sands, a reserve that holds about two-thirds the amount of recoverable oil as compared to reserves in Saudi Arabia.

Because it takes greenhouse gas-producing energy to extract oil from the tar sands, the article focused on the fact that the law could affect billions of dollars of trade in oil, particularly since the U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest single buyer of light refined petroleum.

But while I give the Financial Times credit for reporting this story, it really dropped the ball with respect to understanding it — this is yet another effort by environmentalists and their congressional henchmen to cause chaos in our energy supply.

Sure enough, it turns out that Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., and Rep. Tom Davis, R-Va., already are pressing the Department of Defense to comply with the provision. In a recent letter to the secretary of defense, Waxman and Davis asked how the DOD will ensure that the fuel it buys doesn’t come from Canadian tar sands or from domestic coal-to-liquid processing.

Waxman and Davis apparently expect the military to expend the Herculean effort of tracing the source of the fuel it purchases and then to refuse North American oil from unconventional sources apparently in favor of oil from OPEC sources such as Saudi Arabia and Venezuela. How’s that for energy independence and security?

It gets worse if you’re one of those who believe that biofuels are the path to energy independence.

The plain language of section 526 also would seem to ban the federal government from purchasing biofuels like ethanol, since their life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions are greater than that of conventional petroleum.

"Turning native ecosystems into 'farms' for biofuel crops causes major carbon emissions that worsen the global warming that biofuels are meant to mitigate," researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy reported in Science (Feb. 7). Another study in the same issue of Science projected that the life-cycle greenhouse gas emission from ethanol over 30 years is twice as high as from regular gasoline.

Interestingly, Waxman and Davis specifically excluded biofuels from their letter to the DOD. Not to worry, though, biofuels likely soon will become fuel-non-grata as the environmentalists have already started to demonize them.

Similar to the case of compact fluorescent lightbulbs discussed in this column last week, The New York Times editorial page this week signaled that biofuels soon will become as politically incorrect as the Canadian tar sands and domestic coal-to-liquid fuels.

The Times opined that, "Done right, ethanol could help wean the country from its dependence on foreign oil while reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change. Done wrong, ethanol could wreak havoc on the environment while increasing greenhouse gases."

"Done right" for the Times is what’s required in the energy bill — a 20 percent reduction in life-cycle greenhouse gases as compared to gasoline. But, of course, this is a next-to-impossible goal since the life-cycle greenhouse gas emissions for ethanol are projected to be 100 percent greater than for gasoline.

It likely will require nothing short of a technological miracle for ethanol to achieve the energy bill’s standards in the near or even distant future.

Now, if the federal government is barred from bio-, tar sand, coal-to-liquid fuels, how long will it be before such a ban spreads to contractors that do business with the federal government, to states and their contractors, and then, by default, to the nation as a whole?

It’s hard to take the presidential candidates, President Bush and Congress too seriously on the energy independence issue when none of them opposed a bill that actually makes us more dependent on OPEC.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Should Tax Dollars Pay to Teach Kids About Global Warming in the Classroom?

Fox and Friends
February 23, 2008

David Asman: A California state lawmaker is proposing teaching global warming in California schools. But should taxpayer's dollars be used to teach kids about it?

Steve Forbes: Global cooling is the real problem. Schools are supposed to ban junk foods, now we're going to let in junk science – this thing is not settled. If you want to teach something in schools, how about something useful like economics, balance sheets, balancing a checkbook? Maybe we wouldn't get so much deficit spending if people got that kind of education.

Elizabeth MacDonald: There's no consensus yet on global warming. This whole thing about not teaching something in science makes me think of the saying a conclusion is where the mind comes to rest. I say teach it! I say teach music, evolution, Latin, etc. Bring it all back! That's how you're going to get off of this hamster wheel about whether or not global warming does exist. Maybe we'll find a student who discovers the truth. I say debate it just like we do here on Forbes on Fox.

Rich Karlgaard: Sometimes I think the California legislature exists solely to provide gag lines for comedy writers. This is the same group who taught sexual abstinence by pulling condoms over bananas. Self esteem more important than science. California public schools rank about 41st out of 50 states in the nation, so concentrate on the basics, California.

Victoria Barret: Of course we should be teaching our kids about climate change, but in a way that we discuss it here on the show – showing two sides. The reality is my 10-year-old niece goes to school and gets taught polar bears are going to go extinct because her mom drives her to school in a minivan every day. That's not good science, that's junk science. Also, I don't think legislators should be telling teachers what to teach at this level.

John Rutledge: The government there doesn't just want to teach about global warming, they want to teach a specific conclusion about global warming, which is baloney, by the way. Force-feed climate change to our children? Not on your life. The history of politicians driving agendas in the classroom is not very kind. Climate change is all about science. There's global warming every 1500 years for the last 900 million years. It's mostly the sun doing it. Warm periods are more prosperous than cold periods, and there's a huge money scam going on between the way taxes are credited against this stuff and how carbon trading works.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Looming Lightbulb Liability

Junk Science
Thursday, February 21, 2008
By Steven Milloy

The speeding freight train carrying toxic waste liability for makers, sellers and purchasers of compact fluorescent lightbulbs, or CFLs, was only faintly audible in the distance last spring when this column first warned of it. Now we’re beginning to see that environmentalist-stoked train speed toward its victims, whom President Bush and Congress just finished tying to the tracks.
CFLs and all other fluorescent lightbulbs require special clean-up and disposal procedures because they contain small amounts of mercury, which is neurotoxic at sufficiently high exposures. For example, you’re not supposed to vacuum breakage or toss used bulbs in household trash.

Despite these clean-up and disposal hassles, environmental groups, bulb makers and retailers relentlessly have promoted CFL use as a strategy for reducing electricity consumption and the power plant emissions allegedly causing global warming.

Eco-activist groups, such as Environmental Defense, which historically have agitated to banish toxic substances from homes, workplaces and the environment, surprisingly have said that the mercury in CFLs is nothing to worry about.

But this new posturing flies in the face of the multitude of scary activist-inspired studies that hyperventilate about potential health risks from the slightest exposures to mercury, not to mention a 1987 article in Pediatrics reporting real-life mercury poisoning of a 23-month old from a broken fluorescent light bulb.

Bush and Congress joined the CFL promotion racket, too. The energy bill enacted last December mandates that traditional incandescent bulbs be phased out starting in 2012. CFLs pretty much are the only alternative.

This activist-business-government marketing juggernaut has succeeded. Wal-Mart alone sold 100 million CFLs last year.

But the partnership is about to implode. As predictable as Lucy pulling away the football from a determinedly charging Charlie Brown, the environmentalists are preparing to turn the tables on the CFL businesses and consumers.

The signal came in a Feb. 17 New York Times editorial entitled "That Newfangled Light Bulb."
The editorial read, in part, "Across the world, consumers are being urged to … switch to [CFLs]. ... Now the question is how to dispose of [CFLs] once they break or quit working … each [CFL] has a tiny bit of a dangerous toxin … almost 300 million CFLs were sold in the U.S. last year. That is already a lot of mercury to throw in the trash and the amounts will grow ever larger in coming years … the dangers are real and growing."

The Times piece continued, "Businesses and government recyclers need to start working on more efficient ways to deal with that added mercury. Ellen Silbergeld, a professor of environmental health at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, is raising the cry about the moment when millions of these light bulbs start landing in landfills or incinerators all at once. The pig in the waste pipeline, she calls it."

Aside from the editorial’s implicit targeting instructions for eco-agitators and trial lawyers, I could only chuckle at the editorial’s nod to, and partial disclosure about, Silbergeld. For many years, she was a "senior scientist" with Environmental Defense who, before moving on to left-wing academia, excelled at fomenting dubious scares about "toxic" substances in the environment.

During Silbergeld’s days with Environmental Defense in the 1990s, the group’s pitch to the media was "when fluorescent bulbs are crushed, traces of mercury vaporize and enter the atmosphere. If the lamps are buried, the toxic element seeps into the soil."
Until the Times editorial, the activists and the media had been holding back their customary attacks against mercury-containing fluorescent light bulbs.

In lamenting the bulbs, Clean Water Action told the media in 1997, for example, that the mercury level in tuna is so high that a 35-pound child eating more than 2 ounces a week would exceed the EPA’s "safe" level.

But while CFL-mandating legislation was pending in Congress, the enviros did a temporary flip-flop: Environmental Defense began pooh-poohing mercury concerns stating, "In short, the exposure from breaking a CFL is in about the same range as the exposure from eating a can or two of tuna fish."

Two ounces of tuna used to be a horror, but in the name of CFLs, two cans became no problem.
The Associated Press reported in 1992 that fluorescent light bulbs were helping to "poison the Everglades with toxic mercury, threatening humans [and wildlife]."

In December 2000, a Massachusetts newspaper reported in an article entitled "Environmentalists Call for Mercury Product Ban" that the Massachusetts governor had proposed that trash-burning incinerators develop plans to separate fluorescent light bulbs and other mercury-containing consumer products from waste.

The business fantasy is for the nation’s 4 billion-plus light sockets to sport CFLs. There’s much more ka-ching in selling 4 billion $5 light bulbs as opposed to incandescent bulbs costing $0.75. But what about the mercury problem that may impose substantial liabilities on businesses and consumers faster than CFL light bulbs turn on?

Today’s business leaders apparently have forgotten the infamous Superfund program that needlessly and retroactively imposed tens of billions of dollars of costs for pre-1980 waste disposal practices regardless of whether they were legal at the time. CFL-maker GE, in particular, is involved in a senseless $500 million clean-up of industrial chemicals known as PCBs buried long ago in Hudson River sediments.

Imagine the clean-up costs from billions of CFLs disposed in landfills and burned in incinerators across the country. Superfund even imposed bankrupting liability on mom-and-pop businesses. Imagine the peril of home-based businesses that casually toss CFLs in the household trash.
First mercury was dangerous. Then, temporarily, it became no big deal. Now that the Greens have caught us in the CFL trap, they’re reverting to form on mercury — all to cause the sort of chaos resulting in increased government control of our lives.

As Johnny Cash sang, "I hear the train a-comin’, it’s rollin’ round the bend. …" The question is: Will President Bush and Congress just leave us on the tracks?

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

So Much for Global Warming

By Phil Brennan

NewsMax.com

2/20/2008

Are the world’s ice caps melting because of climate change, or are the reports just a lot of scare mongering by the advocates of the global warming theory?

Scare mongering appears to be the case, according to reports from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) that reveal that almost all the allegedly “lost” ice has come back. A NOAA report shows that ice levels which had shrunk from 5 million square miles in January 2007 to just 1.5 million square miles in October, are almost back to their original levels.
Moreover, a Feb. 18 report in the London Daily Express showed that there is nearly a third more ice in Antarctica than usual, challenging the global warming crusaders and buttressing arguments of skeptics who deny that the world is undergoing global warming.

The Daily express recalls the photograph of polar bears clinging on to a melting iceberg which has been widely hailed as proof of the need to fight climate change and has been used by former Vice President Al Gore during his “Inconvenient Truth” lectures about mankind’s alleged impact on the global climate.

Gore fails to mention that the photograph was taken in the month of August when melting is normal. Or that the polar bear population has soared in recent years.

As winter roars in across the Northern Hemisphere, Mother Nature seems to have joined the ranks of the skeptics.

As the Express notes, scientists are saying the northern Hemisphere has endured its coldest winter in decades, adding that snow cover across the area is at its greatest since 1966. The newspaper cites the one exception — Western Europe, which had, until the weekend when temperatures plunged to as low as -10 C in some places, been basking in unseasonably warm weather.

Around the world, vast areas have been buried under some of the heaviest snowfalls in decades. Central and southern China, the United States, and Canada were hit hard by snowstorms. In China, snowfall was so heavy that over 100,000 houses collapsed under the weight of snow.
Jerusalem, Damascus, Amman, and northern Saudi Arabia report the heaviest falls in years and below-zero temperatures. In Afghanistan, snow and freezing weather killed 120 people. Even Baghdad had a snowstorm, the first in the memory of most residents.

AFP news reports icy temperatures have just swept through south China, stranding 180,000 people and leading to widespread power cuts just as the area was recovering from the worst weather in 50 years, the government said Monday. The latest cold snap has taken a severe toll in usually temperate Yunnan province, which has been struck by heavy snowfalls since Thursday, a government official from the provincial disaster relief office told AFP.
Twelve people have died there, state Xinhua news agency reported, and four remained missing as of Saturday.

An ongoing record-long spell of cold weather in Vietnam’s northern region, which started on Jan. 14, has killed nearly 60,000 cattle, mainly bull and buffalo calves, local press reported Monday. By Feb. 17, the spell had killed a total of 59,962 cattle in the region, including 7,349 in the Ha Giang province, 6,400 in Lao Cai, and 5,571 in Bac Can province, said Hoang Kim Giao, director of the Animal Husbandry Department under the Vietnamese Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, according to the Pioneer newspaper.

In Britain the temperatures plunged to -10 C in central England, according to the Express, which reports that experts say that February could end up as one of the coldest in Britain in the past 10 years with the freezing night-time conditions expected to stay around a frigid -8 C until at least the middle of the week. And the BBC reports that a bus company’s efforts to cut global warming emissions have led to services being disrupted by cold weather.

Meanwhile Athens News reports that a raging snow storm that blanketed most of Greece over the weekend and continued into the early morning hours on Monday, plunging the country into sub-zero temperatures. The agency reported that public transport buses were at a standstill on Monday in the wider Athens area, while ships remained in ports, public services remained closed, and schools and courthouses in the more severely-stricken prefectures were also closed.
Scores of villages, mainly on the island of Crete, and in the prefectures of Evia, Argolida, Arcadia, Lakonia, Viotia, and the Cyclades islands were snowed in.

More than 100 villages were snowed-in on the island of Crete and temperatures in Athens dropped to -6 C before dawn, while the coldest temperatures were recorded in Kozani, Grevena, Kastoria and Florina, where they plunged to -12 C.

Temperatures in Athens dropped to -6 C before dawn, while the coldest temperatures were recorded in Kozani, Grevena, Kastoria and Florina, where they plunged to -12 C.
If global warming gets any worse we’ll all freeze to death.

Phil Brennan is a veteran journalist who writes for NewsMax.com. He is editor and publisher of Wednesday on the Web (http://www.pvbr.com) and was Washington columnist for National Review magazine in the 1960s. He also served as a staff aide for the House Republican Policy Committee and helped handle the Washington public relations operation for the Alaska Statehood Committee which won statehood for Alaska. He is a trustee of the Lincoln Heritage Institute. He can be reached at pvb@pvbr.com

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Greenhouse Affect

Wall Street Journal

February 13, 2008

The ink is still moist on Capitol Hill's latest energy bill and, as if on cue, a scientific avalanche is demolishing its assumptions. To wit, trendy climate-change policies like ethanol and other biofuels are actually worse for the environment than fossil fuels. Then again, Washington's energy neuroses are more political than practical, so it's easy for the Solons and greens to ignore what would usually be called evidence.

The rebukes arrive via two new studies in Science, a peer-reviewed journal not known for right-wing proclivities. The first, by ecologists at Princeton and the Woods Hole Research Center, reviews the environmental consequences of increased biofuel consumption, which had never been examined comprehensively. Of course, that didn't stop Congress and the Bush Administration from jacking up the U.S. mandate to 36 billion gallons by 2022, a fivefold increase from a mere two years ago. Such policies are supposedly justified because corn-based ethanol and other "alternatives" result in (very modest) reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions when mixed with gasoline.

The researchers break new ground by exposing a kind of mega-accounting error: Prior studies had never credited the carbon-dioxide emissions that arise when virgin forests, grasslands and the like are cleared to grow biofuel feedstocks. About 2.7 times more carbon is stored in terrestrial soils and plant material than in the atmosphere, and this carbon is released when these areas are cleared (often by burning) and the soil is tilled. Compounding problems is the loss of "carbon sinks" that absorb atmospheric CO2 in the bargain. Previous projections had also ignored the second-order effects of transferring normal farm land to biofuels, which exerts world-wide pressure on land use.

So, incredibly, when the hidden costs of conversion are included, greenhouse-gas emissions from corn ethanol over the next 30 years will be twice as high as from regular gasoline. In the long term, it will take 167 years before the reduction in carbon emissions from using ethanol "pays back" the carbon released by land-use change. As they say, it's not easy being green.

The second study comes out of the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy and explores what the authors call the "carbon debt" when native ecosystems are converted to biofuel stock. Until the debt is repaid, biofuels from those fields will be greater net emitters than the fossil fuels they replace. The authors find that the debt for corn ethanol in the U.S. is between 48 and 93 years. In Indonesia and Malaysia, which have a 1.5% annual rate of deforestation to produce palm oil for Western European biodiesel, the debt is as high as 423 years. Yep, that's four centuries. Even Fidel Castro won't last that long.

If all this doesn't lead to a great awakening among policy makers, we don't know what will. The studies are even more damning because they examine the issue with the theories of the global warmists and conclude that biofuels actually exacerbate the problem they're supposed to solve. On top of that, they're creating new environmental troubles like deforestation and a reduction in biodiversity that may be worse over time than whatever the importance of observed climate change. In either case, or both, they're damaging the planet more than they're helping it.

Ethanol and biofuel proponents always point out that current options are little more than placeholders, temporary fixes until the technology advances and "second-generation" options emerge: "It's just around the corner," we're told. "No, really, this time it's real." That's why the Congressional energy bill put a cap on corn ethanol and, with lavish subsidies and tax credits, essentially legislated the creation of a speculative new biofuel industry from scratch. One hitch is that the technology never seems to turn that corner. Another is that, as the blockbuster Science studies imply, the unintended consequences of such divination matter more than the self-congratulation that "doing something" provides.

Yet special blame also belongs to the environmentalists, who are engaged in a grand bait-and-switch. They stir up a panic about global warming, and Washington responds to the political incentives. Then those policies don't work and the greens immediately begin pushing a new substitute, whose outcomes and costs are equally uncertain. But somehow, that never seems to discredit the entire enterprise and taxpayers keep footing the subsidy bill. Our guess is that these new revelations will also be ignored. They're too embarrassing.

My Rant

The claim that climate change is direct result of man's energy consumption is simply unproven and politically motivated. While they propound lies that certain lightbulbs or cars will destroy the earth and raise ocean levels as much as 20 feet within the next century, fascists, like Al Gore, fly around in their Gulfstream jets and live in homes that use 22 times the energy of an average American's home! Their propaganda is outrageous and potentially catastrophic for the economies of United States, the developed world and developing world.

The proof of global warming or man's influence on climate change is not settled science. Just consider the source of the big lie: the proselytizing hypocritical high priest of the pagan environmental religion Al Gore or the other Kool-Aid drinking climateers from the left such as Learjet liberals, Hollywood high school drop-outs, billonaire elitists, the left-leaning mainstream media, the United Nations, academia, environmental radicals, socialists, other anti-capitalists and so called "researchers", "experts" and/or "scientists" whose paychecks depend upon the apparent existence of the "issue".

United States energy conservation and independence is a worthy goal that should be supported by Republicans, the Democrat Party, true Democrats, Independents and environmentalists. Energy independence is a major national security concern. However, lying to our people, implementing the cap & trade boondoggle which will crush our economy or doing anything that will cause the United States to transfer an portion of its sovereignty to the United Nations is idiotic. Not in my name!