Environmentalists are trying to list such ubiquitous species as prairie chickens in order to halt oil and gas development in most of the west. Presumably, wind farms would be given a special exemption.
Dispatches from District 48
Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category.
Environmentalists are trying to list such ubiquitous species as prairie chickens in order to halt oil and gas development in most of the west. Presumably, wind farms would be given a special exemption.
Update: If you want to understand how deep the fraud runs, make sure to watch the 60 second video below with the US environmentalists caught on tape plotting their fraud.
U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan said today that the second-largest U.S. oil company provided enough evidence that a 2011 judgment on behalf of rain forest dwellers in the country’s Lago Agrio area was secured by bribing a judge and ghostwriting court documents. Kaplan oversaw a seven-week nonjury trial over Chevron’s allegations.
“The decision in the Lago Agrio case was obtained by corrupt means,” Kaplan said in an opinion that gave Chevron a sweeping victory. “The defendants here may not be allowed to benefit from that in any way.”
Chevron, based in San Ramon, California, was ordered to pay $19 billion to a group of farmers and fishermen by the Ecuadorean court. The award was reduced to $9.5 billion on Nov. 12 by the Ecuadorean National Court of Justice, the nation’s highest tribunal. That's almost half of its 2013 profit.
The Ecuadorean villagers, and activists working on their behalf, argued the oil producer should be held financially responsible for pollution of the Amazon rainforest by Texaco Inc. from the 1960s through the early 1990s. Chevron, which bought Texaco in 2001, claims the company already paid $40 million to clean up its share of the drilling contamination....
In its racketeering case before Kaplan, Chevron alleged that a U.S. lawyer leading the Ecuadoreans, Steven Donziger, and members of his team engaged in “repeated acts of fraud, bribery, money laundering” and obstruction of justice in pursuit of a multibillion-dollar payout.
I don't think there is any doubt that Chevron owed the Ecuadorans some clean up, since even they have agreed to doing work there. And it is not unreasonable to be skeptical that Chevron's actions were perhaps incomplete. But the $19 billion judgement always has smelled, particularly when the judge in the Ecuadoran case publicly admitted he had been bribed.
There was deep corruption in this case from the start, corruption that never will be adequately covered in the media because it "was for a good cause." Similar levels of corruption by Chevron would have led the front page of the New York Times for weeks.
As a reminder, let me quote from an earlier story. Please watch the short video, it is amazing:
The clip below is an outtake from the environmentalist movie "Crude", which purported to document the environmentalist's case against Chevron in Ecuador. Apparently, between takes of earnest and un-selfinterested environmentalists saving the world from greedy corporations, these self-same environmentalists discussed lying about the science and duping the courts in order to score a big payday for themselves.
The video is doubly interesting because, as Anthony Watts explains, the woman in the video taking money to make up untrue findings was recently confirmed to the NAS, where there is a good bet that we will see her as the source for "evidence" that fracking is contaminating groundwater. These three folks are all the subject of a civil suit from Chevron but all three should be subject to criminal charges for fraud and conspiracy.
Several of the environmentalists involved, including Dr. Ann Maest, have since recanted their corruption, sort of. They claim they were "misled" in this New York Times story, but the clip above certainly belies that. Donziger did not mislead her, he is seen convincing her that in Ecuador they can get away with lying. All for a good cause, of course.
Dispatches from the echo chamber: Mother Jones was on this story full force for years. Then suddenly stopped reporting at all when it became clear that allegations of fraud were credible. Check out the articles.
Update: More here
The new Bank of America building near me has all kinds of plaques inside about how it is LEED certified. How? Well, I don't know the whole plan, but out front there are four reserved parking spaces for electric vehicles. There are not any charging stations mind you -- those might cost money -- just parking spots for electric vehicles, right next to the handicapped spots. LEED is a points based system and you can score a lot of points doing mindless, useless, zero-value stuff like this.
ashington, D.C. may have the highest number of certified green buildings in the country, but research by Environmental Policy Alliance suggests it might not be doing much good.
The free-market group analyzed the first round of energy usage data released by city officials Friday and found that large, privately-owned buildings that received the green energy certification Leadership in Energy Design (LEED) actually use more energy than buildings that didn’t receive this green stamp of approval.
LEED is the brainchild of the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC), a private environmental group.
Washington, D.C.’s Department of Environment made the capital the first city in the nation to mandate LEED certifications in the construction of public buildings. The standards are now being phased in.
The results are measured in EUI’s, a unit that relates a building’s energy consumption to its size; the higher the number, the more energy is expended by a smaller building.
Take the Green Building Council’s Washington headquarters. Replete with the group’s top green-energy accolade, the platinum LEED certification, the USGBC’s main base comes in at 236 EUI. The average EUI for uncertified buildings in the capital? Just 199.
Certified buildings’ average comes in at 205 EUI, still less efficient than that didn’t take home the ultimate green trophy.
“LEED certification is little more than a fancy plaque displayed by these ‘green’ buildings,” charged Anastasia Swearingen, LEED Exposed’s lead researcher on the project. “Previous analyses of energy use by LEED-certified buildings have consistently shown that LEED ratings have no bearing on actual energy efficiency.”
Hilariously, the problem cited with the certification program by government regulators is not that it is ineffective - after all, they can't admit that after requiring LEED certification in DC buildings. Their only problem is that it is a private program outside of government control. I am sure the folks who gave hundreds of millions to Solyndra would do much better managing the program.
The problem with LEED is the same problem that many ISO 9000 programs had -- it puts too much emphasis on process an inputs, and not enough on results.
Postscript: One wonders why if there is a perfectly good "output" metric like EUI why people even bother with input-based systems like LEED. If the government really wants to regulate here, the lightest touch would be to require architects and builders to estimate EUI of buildings for clients. Then the owners themselves can decide if they are comfortable with their potential energy bills or want so more design work.
California is about to implement a new climate tax via a cap and trade system, where revenues from the tax are supposed to be dedicated to carbon reduction projects. Forget for a moment all my concerns with climate dangers being overhyped, or the practical problems (read cronyism) inherent in a cap-and-trade system vs. a straight carbon tax. There is one improvement California can and should make to this system.
Anyone who can remember the history of the tobacco settlement will know that the theory of that settlement was that the funds were needed to pay for additional medical expenses driven by smoking. Well, about zero of these funds actually went to health care or even to smoking reduction programs (smoking reduction programs turn out to be fiscally irresponsible for states, since they lead to reduced tax revenues from tobacco taxes). These funds just became a general slush fund for legislators. Some states (New York among them, if I remember correctly), spent the entire 20 year windfall in one year to close budget gaps.
If California is serious that these new taxes on energy should go to carbon reduction programs, then these programs need to be scored by a neutral body as to their cost per ton of CO2 reduction. I may think the program misguided, but given that it exists, it might as well be run in a scientific manner, right? I would really prefer that there be a legislated hurdle rate, e.g. all programs must have a cost per ton reduction of $45 of less -- or whatever. But even publishing scores in a transparent way would help.
This would, for example, likely highlight what a terrible investment this would be in reducing CO2.
We have never really been able to look at trees as the agricultural crop that they are. I am reminded of this fact from this forest watch site at Google, which purports to track deforestation around the world.
I have no problem calling activity in the Amazon where old growth is logged out in a tragedy of the commons "deforestation". But the map is odd to me in the Southeast US. While there likely is some reduction in forested lands around urban areas, overall the US has actually been increasing its forest cover since the early 1900's. But the Google map of the southeast shows lots of forest "loss". It also shows about as much forest "gain". (red is loss, blue is gain, click to enlarge)
Why is that?
Of late, I have spent a lot of time in the southeast and what I have observed are a lot of private forest lands that are harvested for timber. One plot is harvested one year, and fast growing trees are replanted. Then the next year a neighboring plot is harvest, etc, until it all starts over with the first plot. In a large sense this is no different than any other kind of farming, just with a 15 year growing season instead of a one-summer season.
Calling harvested lands in this area "forest loss" and new growth "forest gain" makes about as much sense as calling land held fallow for a season in Iowa as "corn loss" and newly planted land as "corn gain." There is a difference between farming trees and strip-mining them that gets lost in this data.
I have not written much about climate of late because my interest, err, runs hot and cold. As most readers know, I am in the lukewarmer camp, meaning that I accept that Co2 is a greenhouse gas but believe that catastrophic warming forecasts are greatly exaggerated (in large part by scientifically unsupportable assumptions of strong net positive feedback in the climate system). If what I just said is in any way news to you, read this and this for background.
Anyway, one thing I have been saying for about 8 years is that when the history of the environmental movement is written, the global warming obsession will be considered a great folly. This is because global warming has sucked all the air out of almost anything else in the environmental movement. For God sakes, the other day the Obama Administration OK'd the wind industry killing more protected birds in a month than the oil industry has killed in its entire history. Every day the rain forest in the Amazon is cleared away a bit further to make room for ethanol-making crops.
This picture demonstrates a great example of what I mean. Here is a recent photo from China:
You might reasonably say, well that pollution is from the burning of fossil fuels, and the global warming folks want to reduce fossil fuel use, so aren't they trying to fight this? And the answer is yes, tangentially. But here is the problem: It is an order of magnitude or more cheaper to eliminate polluting byproducts of fossil fuel combustion than it is to eliminate fossil fuel combustion altogether.
What do I mean? China gets a lot of pressure to reduce its carbon emissions, since it is the largest emitter in the world. So it might build a wind project, or some solar, or some expensive high speed rail to reduce fossil fuel use. Let's say any one of these actions reduces smog and sulfur dioxide and particulate pollution (as seen in this photo) by X through reduction in fossil fuel use. Now, let's take whatever money we spent in, say, a wind project to get X improvement and instead invest it in emissions control technologies that the US has used for decades (coal plant scrubbers, gasoline blending changes, etc) -- invest in making fossil fuel use cleaner, not in eliminating it altogether. This same money invested in this way would get 10X, maybe even up to 100X improvement in these emissions.
By pressuring China on carbon, we have unwittingly helped enable their pollution problem. We are trying to get them to do 21st century things that the US can't even figure out how to do economically when in actuality what they really need to be doing is 1970's things that would be relatively easy to do and would have a much bigger impact on their citizen's well-being.
We have all read the scare stories that tell us how many chemicals we are exposed to in X food or Y activity. No evidence of harm from exposure is given, but the very number of chemicals is used to scare us -- certainly something in there must be bad!
Well, prepare to be really frightened of this common food product:
What they found ...[were] over 4,000 different non-volatile compounds across the different samples, results which he presented today at the 246th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society. “It’s very complex,” Collins says of the chemistry.
California regulators have launched an investigation into offshore hydraulic fracturing after revelations that the practice had quietly occurred off the coast for the past two decades.
The California Coastal Commission promised to look into the extent of so-called fracking in federal and state waters and any potential risks.
Hydraulic fracturing has been a standard tool for reinvigorating oil and gas wells for over 60 years. While it gets headlines as something new, it decidedly is not. What is new is its use in combination with horizontal drilling as a part of the initial well design, rather than as as a rework tool for an aging field.
What California regulators are really saying is that they have known about and been comfortable with this process for decades**, but what has changed is not the technology but public opinion. A small group of environmentalists have tried to, without much scientific basis, demonize this procedure not because they oppose it per se but because they are opposed to an expansion of hydrocarbon availability, which they variously blame for either CO2 and global warming or more generally the over-industrialization of the world.
So given this new body of public opinion, rather than saying that "sure, fracking has existed for decades and we have always been comfortable with it", the regulators instead act astonished and surprised -- "we are shocked, shocked that fracking is going on in this establishment" -- and run around in circles demonstrating their care and concern. Next step is their inevitable trip to the capital to tell legislators that they desperately need more money and people to deal with their new responsibility to carefully scrutinize this decades-old process.
**Postscript: If regulators are not familiar with basic oil-field processes, then one has to wonder what the hell they are going with their time. It's not like anyone in the oil business had any reason to hide fracking activity -- only a handful of people in the country would have known what it was or cared until about 5 years ago.
After my post the other day on how new award-winning supposedly environmentally sustainable parks are far more resource intensive than the old parks they were replacing, I have gotten a lot of feedback -- this is obviously a topic that strikes a chord with folks. In particular, a reader (I always forget to ask if I can use their names) sent me this article on the new LEED Platinum-certified building in New York
When the Bank of America Tower opened in 2010, the press praised it as one of the world’s “most environmentally responsible high-rise office building[s].” It wasn’t just the waterless urinals, daylight dimming controls, and rainwater harvesting. And it wasn’t only the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Platinum certification—the first ever for a skyscraper—and the $947,583 in incentives from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority. It also had as a tenant the environmental movement’s biggest celebrity. The Bank of America Tower had Al Gore.
The former vice president wanted an office for his company, Generation Investment Management, that “represents the kind of innovation the firm is trying to advance,” his real-estate agent said at the time. The Bank of America Tower, a billion-dollar, 55-story crystal skyscraper on the northwest corner of Manhattan’s Bryant Park, seemed to fit the bill. It would be “the most sustainable in the country,” according to its developer Douglas Durst. At the Tower’s ribbon-cutting ceremony, Gore powwowed with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and praised the building as a model for fighting climate change. “I applaud the leadership of the mayor and all of those who helped make this possible,” he said.
Gore’s applause, however, was premature. According to data released by New York City last fall, the Bank of America Tower produces more greenhouse gases and uses more energy per square foot than any comparably sized office building in Manhattan. It uses more than twice as much energy per square foot as the 80-year-old Empire State Building. It also performs worse than the Goldman Sachs headquarters, maybe the most similar building in New York—and one with a lower LEED rating. It’s not just an embarrassment; it symbolizes a flaw at the heart of the effort to combat climate change...
“What LEED designers deliver is what most LEED building owners want—namely, green publicity, not energy savings,” John Scofield, a professor of physics at Oberlin, testified before the House last year.
I will go out and get a picture today of our local Bank of America branch. It is LEED certified at some level, proudly displaying the certificate in the lobby. Out front it has two parking spaces near the door for electric cars - it does not have a charger for them, just reserved preferred parking. I am sure they got their LEED points this way.
Postscript: I am not religious but am fascinated by the comparisons at times between religion and environmentalism. Here is the LEED process applied to religion:
It takes 3 points to get to heaven. Which path do you chose?
The wireless electric vehicle charger. Sure it's cool. And convenient. But as I understand it, the main selling point of electric vehicles is their energy efficiency (I personally like the driving feel of a torque-y electric motor, but that does not seem to be the advertised selling point). If this is the case, then why the hell would one accept a 30% energy loss (wireless charging is generally considered to be about 70% efficient) because they were too lazy to plug in a cable?
This is against the backdrop of most electric vehicle owners having no freaking clue if they are actually saving energy and money or not (all they know is that they see the costs to fill their gas tank but don't see little numbers spinning when they fill their electric car). As I have written before, they likely are not saving energy vs. a similar size gasoline engine car but may be saving some money due to the lower cost of fuels like natural gas and coal (vs. gasoline) used in electricity production.
The confrontation may be coming soon in the environmental community over wind power -- it certainly would have occurred already had the President promoting wind been Republican rather than Democrat. I might have categorized this as "all energy production has environmental tradeoffs", but wind power is so stupid a source to be promoting that this is less of a tradeoff and more of another nail in the coffin. As a minimum, the equal protection issues vis a vis how the law is enforced for wind companies vs. oil companies are pretty staggering.
“It happens about once a month here, on the barren foothills of one of America’s green-energy boomtowns: A soaring golden eagle slams into a wind farm’s spinning turbine and falls, mangled and lifeless, to the ground.
Killing these iconic birds is not just an irreplaceable loss for a vulnerable species. It’s also a federal crime, a charge that the Obama administration has used to prosecute oil companies when birds drown in their waste pits, and power companies when birds are electrocuted by their power lines.”
“[The Obama] administration has never fined or prosecuted a wind-energy company, even those that flout the law repeatedly. Instead, the government is shielding the industry from liability and helping keep the scope of the deaths secret.”
“Wind power, a pollution-free energy intended to ease global warming, is a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s energy plan. His administration has championed a $1 billion-a-year tax break to the industry that has nearly doubled the amount of wind power in his first term. But like the oil industry under President George W. Bush, lobbyists and executives have used their favored status to help steer U.S. energy policy.”
“The result [of Obama energy policy] is a green industry that’s allowed to do not-so-green things. It kills protected species with impunity and conceals the environmental consequences of sprawling wind farms.”
“More than 573,000 birds are killed by the country’s wind farms each year, including 83,000 hunting birds such as hawks, falcons and eagles, according to an estimate published in March in the peer-reviewed Wildlife Society Bulletin.
The Ecuadoran $18 billion court decision is turning out to be a monumental case of environmental fraud. I am willing to believe that early critics of Texaco (now Chevron) had legitimate beefs about the company's stewardship in its drilling operations in the 1970's in the Amazon. However, all semblance of principle has gone right out the window in a gigantic money grab.
A while back, it was reported that environmentalists (featured in the movie "Crude" were captured in the outtakes of the movie discussing how they lied about the science to the courts in order to score a big payday (bonus points for Obama appointing one of the fraudsters to the National Academy of Sciences). See the link for the video evidence.
Past fraud revelations have cast doubt on the key scientific report submitted to the court as part of the proceedings, a report that is now known to have been ghost-written by the plaintiffs. However, supporters of the judgement against Chevron have argued that the judge has always claimed that this study did not sway his decision in the case. Now we know what did sway his decision:
Today new allegations of deceit and wrongdoing were leveled against the plaintiffs' lawyers bringing the already deeply troubled environmental suit against Chevron in Lago Agrio, Ecuador, which stems from Texaco's oil drilling in the Ecuadorian Amazon between 1964 and 1992. (Texaco was acquired by Chevron in 2001.)
In Manhattan federal district court this morning, Chevron filed the declaration of a former Ecuadorian judge, Alberto Guerra, who describes how he and a second former judge, Nicolás Zambrano, allegedly allowed the plaintiffs lawyers to ghostwrite their entire 188-page, $18.2 billion judgment against Chevron in exchange for a promise of $500,000 from the anticipated recovery.
Here is a recent example of the sorts of ways that this success has been enabled. Rather than entirely depending on the political process to get things done, environmental advocacy groups, recreation groups, conservation groups and private interests have frequently put their money where their mouths are and taken up the role of conservation themselves. Private landowners on a famous canoe carry to Raquette Lake around the Marion River rapids were planning on selling property for development purposes (why is another story). Rather than use the town zoning thugs or some obscure environmental law to prevent the sale and development, concerned groups who claimed the land was more valuable in recreation use took it upon themselves to purchase the land and keep it in its natural state:
The Open Space Institute has acquired the historic Marion River canoe carry and 295 surrounding acres in Hamilton County. There has been concern about preserving access to the canoe carry in recent years, after the owner announced plans to build several homes along Utowana Lake. The acquisition will ensure the carry remains open to the public.
“The potential for development made the Marion River Carry a higher, more immediate priority for conservation,” said Kim Elliman, president and CEO of the private non-profi t land preservation organization.
The OSI is paying $2 million for the land …
A couple of months ago a local resident was going to tear down a Frank Lloyd Wright house for development. Outrage poured from all quarters of this town that was once Wright's winter residence. We have got to stop this! So seemingly everyone in the area rushed to the city council to force this guy to keep his house intact.
I am a fan of the old master, though I also think (gasp!) he built a lot of crap, too. I personally would never live in one of his houses. Not even Falling Water, which is beautiful but not very liveable (and FLW definitely had a bias against tall people).
My argument all along was, well, if this house's continued existence is so valuable to so many people, why don't you buy it? After all, shouldn't the people who value the house pay for the cost, including the opportunity cost, of its preservation? Why should this guy who does not value the house be forced to bear a lot of the cost of its preservation? Most people looked at me as if I was from Mars.
Eventually, someone who wanted to preserve the house made an offer for $2 million. The buyer rejected it as less than what he would make from development. Everyone went nuts again - they said the $2 million was more than the owner paid for the house, he should accept it. Why? He's held this house through the downturn and born the holding costs to make a profit, not just get his money back. If supporters can't come up with another half million, is it really worth saving?
I actually missed the ultimate resolution. A few weeks ago the city council was gearing up to "protect" the house, meaning that supporters could have the house without actually paying for it, a sort of eminent domain seizure this guy likely will never be compensated for.
PS- I love FLW's theaters. He had a home theater in Taliesen West where all the chairs are skewed facing a bit right of the screen. He observed people like to put their legs off to the side when they face the screen and tilt at the waist a bit. He built the theater to match this position. It is a very comfortable way to watch a film. ASU's Gammage auditorium, originally designed for Bagdad I think, is not very attractive from the outside but is an incredibly comfortable place to see a show. It has the widest spacing between rows of seats I have ever seen in a theater. You do not have to stand up for people to move down the aisle. Acoustics there are not great, but a lot of auditoriums of that era screwed up their acoustics. LOL, until a recent renovation it had about 2 women's bathroom stalls for the whole place. The lines for the women's room were the worst I have ever seen. My son and I used to sing a song there (to the tune of the Village People's YMCA): "I'm glad I have a Y chromosome...." I wonder if this was due to the original specs being from Iran?
This is one of the more amazing things I have read of late. Environmentalist recants his opposition to GMOs. Good, I hope Greenpeace is listening and will reconsider its absurd and destructive opposition to golden rice.
As an environmentalist, and someone who believes that everyone in this world has a right to a healthy and nutritious diet of their choosing, I could not have chosen a more counter-productive path. I now regret it completely.
So I guess you’ll be wondering – what happened between 1995 and now that made me not only change my mind but come here and admit it? Well, the answer is fairly simple: I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist....
So I did some reading. And I discovered that one by one my cherished beliefs about GM turned out to be little more than green urban myths.
I’d assumed that it would increase the use of chemicals. It turned out that pest-resistant cotton and maize needed less insecticide.
I’d assumed that GM benefited only the big companies. It turned out that billions of dollars of benefits were accruing to farmers needing fewer inputs.
I’d assumed that Terminator Technology was robbing farmers of the right to save seed. It turned out that hybrids did that long ago, and that Terminator never happened.
I’d assumed that no-one wanted GM. Actually what happened was that Bt cotton was pirated into India and roundup ready soya into Brazil because farmers were so eager to use them.
I’d assumed that GM was dangerous. It turned out that it was safer and more precise than conventional breeding using mutagenesis for example; GM just moves a couple of genes, whereas conventional breeding mucks about with the entire genome in a trial and error way.
Bravo Mr Lynas. It is hard to admit one was wrong. It is even harder, though, for a man like Lynas to declare himself on the "wrong" side of a "progressive" issue like this. He has now likely put himself into a category along with black Republicans who will incur special wrath and disdain from progressives.
Speaking of the need for a little science in the environmental movement, I was channel surfing over Bill Moyer's show yesterday on PBS (actually I was navigating to our local PBS station to make sure Downton Abbey was set to record later in the day) when I heard Moyer whip out a stat that even with a carbon tax, the world will warm over 6 degrees this century. Now, I don't know if he was talking in degrees F or C, but in either case, a 6 degree number far outstrips the climate sensitivity numbers used even by the IPCC, which many of us skeptics believe has exaggerated warming estimates. It is constantly frustrating to be treated as an enemy of science by those who display such a casual contempt for it, while at the same time fetishizing it.
It is probably a bad sign when your EPA administrator is better at hiding her email tracks than the CIA director.
A number of times in the past I have pointed out that government bodies in the US tend to be among the worst polluters. While we sit around and argue about parts per billion of CO2 in the atmosphere, billions of gallons of raw sewage are being dumped into rivers. I remember when I lived in Boston, the city just piped sewage out into the harbor. When it got to disgusting and finally garnered a bit of negative media attention, they solved the untreated sewage problem by ... building a longer pipe and dumping it further out in the ocean. I worked at an Exxon refinery for a few years and it was always frustrating the regulatory attention we got on the smallest discharge (in general, the water we discharged had to be cleaner than the body of water we were discharging into) when local municipalities were dumping untreated sewage during storms into the same water, without consequence.
Anyway, here is a post from John Hanger via the Unbroken Window blog
A main goal of this blog is to help its readers prioritize the biggest threats to water quality and to understand that, though gas drilling impacts are real, they are well down the list of the most serious causes of pollution of Pennsylvania’s waters. A must read is yesterday’s Pittsburgh Post Gazette front page story about the massive amounts of sewer overflows that reach rivers in the Pittsburgh region multiple times each year.
http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/local/region/alcosan-sewer-project-gets-little-public-input-653713/.The annual volume of untreated sewage reaching rivers and streams is reported as 9 billion gallons per year and occurs in 30 to 70 storms annually, according to the Post Gazette. And the bill for stopping this pollution and cleaning up is a staggering $2.8 billion.To make matters worse, the same problem of untreated sewage flowing into rivers and streams that the Pittsburgh region is confronting is found in many communities across Pennsylvania as well as in New York and other states. While America’s sewage overflow problem dwarfs the impacts of gas drilling on water quality, it normally attracts little media attention or sustained public concern. There are no Hollywood stars campaigning to stop these huge amounts of sewage from going into rivers. There are no HBO movies on the problem.
Normally, this huge source of pollution that threatens public health and safety is ignored or draws a yawn.
Good risk prioritization is virtually impossible in the current state of the media and political dialog. Mike Rizzo, writing at the blog, makes a good point:
if you asked people if the government should allow an odorless, tasteless, highly explosive gas to be piped into your house, where a small leak in a pipe could cause the entire house to explode, they would surely say No Way! But then ask them if natural gas stoves should be permitted in their homes and to a man they’d all say, “Of Course.”
Every single time that wind power installations are evaluated based on their actual performance, they turn out to make no economic sense. Consumer Reports comes to the same conclusion for their wind power trial (and this does not even include the issues of standby power that make even small wind power savings irrelevant to CO2 production).
But if you're considering a wind turbine to supplement your home's power, consider our experience with one product, the Honeywell WT6500 Wind Turbine, a cautionary tale....
A tool on Windtronics' website had calculated we'd get 1,155 kWh per year at the 12-mph average it predicted for our area of Yonkers, New York. And the authorized installer, during his initial visit, didn't say the roof of our headquarters might generate any less, but that rating is at a height of 164 feet, not the 33 feet WindTronics requires for rooftop installations.
In the 15 months since the turbine was installed, though, it has delivered less than 4 kWh—enough only to power a 12,000 btu window air conditioner for one afternoon. A company representative in charge of installations worldwide recently visited our offices and confirmed that our test model was correctly installed. What's more, he told us that while the WT6500 should start generating power at about 3 mph, the initial juice goes just to power the system's inverter, which must be running before it supplies any AC power elsewhere. The true wind speed needed to start producing AC while the inverter is on is 6 mph, not far from the 7.5 mph needed by a traditional gearbox wind turbine....
At the rate the WT6500 is delivering power at our test site, it would take several millennia for the product to pay for itself in savings—not the 56 years it would take even with the 1,155 kWh quote we received.
The Environmental Protection Agency has slapped a $6.8 million penalty on oil refiners for not blending cellulosic ethanol into gasoline, jet fuel and other products. These dastardly petroleum mongers are being so intransigent because cellulosic ethanol does not exist. It remains a fantasy fuel. The EPA might as well mandate that Exxon hire Leprechauns.
As a screen shot of EPA’s renewable fuels website confirms, so far this year - just as in 2011 - the supply of cellulosic biofuel in gallons totals zero.
“EPA’s decision is arbitrary and capricious. We fail to understand how EPA can maintain a requirement to purchase a type of fuel that simply doesn’t exist,” stated Charles Drevna, president of American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), the Washington-based trade association that represents the oil refining and petrochemicals industries.
I will remind Republicans thought that ethanol is a bipartisan turd, this particular requirement having been signed into law by President Bush.
For years, one of the problems I have had with the way CO2 cap and trade systems were structured was a fear that these systems would devolve into cronyism, with the companies best able to lobby the government getting allocations while less connected companies had to pay. It seems this is already occuring in California:
The California Air Resources Board (ARB), the regulator of the forthcoming program, held a workshop in Sacramento on Monday where it discussed plans to give away more free permits to prevent leakage in “trade-exposed” industries like cement production, oil refining and food processing.
Over the first three allowance auctions, which begin in November, the state will sell 48.9 million allowances and give away 53.8 million allowances, according to ARB.
Any company deemed to have either a high, medium or low risk of leaving the state will receive all the allowances they need to comply with the program during the first two-year compliance period, from 2013-2014, rather than have to buy the permits at regular auctions.
But those in the low and medium risk groups are currently scheduled to see their allotment of free allowances start to decline in 2015 by as much as half.
ARB officials on Monday said they are conducting studies examining the leakage risk of companies based on their historical energy costs and trade flows.
Don't be fooled by the quasi-scientific-sounding language here about categories of "trade exposure." The reality will be that companies with political clout will get the permits, and companies without such clout will not. This is a system that will favor large manufacturers over smaller companies. It will also, oddly, apparently shift the burden of compliance from large manufacturers to service companies (since service companies are the least likely to be "trade exposed.") Of course, any manufacturer still operating plants in California is crazy anyway.
Recent study on spotted owls, the protection of which was the ostensible reason for shutting down the northwest timber industry:
Whatever short-term drawbacks there may be from logging, thinning, or other fuel reduction activities in areas with high fire risk would be more than offset by improved forest health and fire-resistance characteristics, the scientists said, which allow more spotted owl habitat to survive in later decades.
Decades of fire suppression and a "hands-off" approach to management on many public lands have created overcrowded forests that bear little resemblance to their historic condition – at the expense of some species such as the northern spotted owl, researchers said.
The findings were published in Forest Ecology and Management, a professional journal, by researchers from Oregon State University and Michigan State University.
"For many years now, for species protection as well as other reasons, we've avoided almost all management on many public forest lands," said John Bailey, an associate professor in the Department of Forest Engineering, Resources and Management at Oregon State University.
"The problem is that fire doesn't respect the boundaries we create for wildlife protection," Bailey said. "Given the current condition of Pacific Northwest forests, the single biggest threat facing spotted owls and other species is probably stand-replacement wildfire."
Next, we will find out that spray cans are needed to save the ozone. hat tip
John Stossel has a great link-filled round up of failed and failing solar and green energy programs funded by the Obama Administration with our money. Check out the extensive list.
Here, for laughs, is Ray Lane of Kleiner Perkins rhapsodizing about Obama as the greatest government venture capitalist ever, and using for his prime example ... Solyndra!
I suppose at one point Kleiner Perkins used to take private risks with private money, but it seems to have found out it can make higher returns leveraging its investments with taxpayer money, and then using political influence to mandate business for the companies in which it invests. Thus the hiring of Al Gore, among other moves, to the KP board. Lane, by the way, is Chairman of serial government trough-feeder Fisker automotive, which make admittedly very cool-looking cars that require a lot of taxpayer subsidies.
Certainly Mr. Lane knows something about marketing, including that age-old tactic the "bait and switch." The taxpayer subsidies of Fisker were made on the theory that electric cars were somehow greener than gasoline cars because they use less energy. But looking at the fuel at the power plant it takes to make the electricity that goes into a Fisker Karma, the car gets worse gas mileage than an SUV (only an EPA equivalent MPG standard that breaks the second law of thermodynamics hides this fact). Congratulations Mr. Lane, green subsidies for sub-SUV gas mileage. All those checks KP partners wrote to Obama in the last election certainly got a good return.
Why should we worry about 5c or 10c on a gallon of fuel down the local gas station when the US Navy (in all her glory) is willing to pay a staggering $26-a-gallon for 'green' synthetic biofuel(made we assume from the very same unicorn tears and leprechaun nipples that funded the ESM). AsReuters reports, the 'Great Green Fleet' will be the first carrier strike group powered largely by alternative fuels; as the Pentagon hopes it can prove the Navy looks just as impressive burning fuel squeezed from seeds, algae, and chicken fat (we did not make this up). The story gets better as it appears back in 2009, the Navy paid Solazyme (whose strategic advisors included TJ Gaulthier who served on Obama's White House Transition team) $8.5mm for 20,055 gallons on algae-based biofuel - a snip at just $424-a-gallon.
In its defense, the Navy Secretary said, ""Of course it costs more. It's a new technology. If we didn't pay a little bit more for new technologies, we'd still be using typewriters instead of computers." Of course, the switch from typewriters to computers proceeded without government mandates (or taxes, as they are called now) and in fact was led by the private sector -- the government trailed in this transition. Further, people paid the extra money for a computer because they found real value in it (document storage, easy editing, font flexibility). What real value is the Navy getting for the extra $22 a gallon? How much better will this task force perform? The answer, of course, is zero.
Several years ago I wrote a post about how frequently steam plumes are used as illustrations to articles on pollution. In the US, if you see a cloud coming out of a smokestack, adds are about 100:1 its steam, not smoke. Look how many of the results today in Google images for "air pollution" are actually plumes of water vapor.
One trick environmental sites will play is to Photoshop the contrast and darkness of the steam plume to try to make it look smokier. Here is a good example
This photoshopping of steam plumes to make them look like smoke is prevalent enough that I have written about it a few times. That is why this image tickled me. I don't know the artist. He may be making the opposite plea (e.g. turning smoke to steam) but I'll interepret it the way I like:
Postscript: This is my all-time favorite image in this category:
This image was used by Battelle labs (update: still is) to illustrate their air pollution expertise. The sad-faced girl with the inhaler is classic, but what makes this my favorite is the water vapor plume from the nuclear plant (you can see the nuclear reactor dome). The water vapor from a nuclear plant cooling tower has only pure water -- it has no combustion products and no particulates that might give this poor girl asthma. It does not even have any CO2 in it, if that is your particular bogeyman.
Unfortunately, the combination of April being our busiest month every year (when all our seasonal operations start up), the addition of operations in two new states (which requires a myriad of registrations, permissions, licenses, etc), and several unusual very late bid packages for the operation of parks means that I am working on Sunday.
I spent my first hour of Earth Day, appropriately enough, fiddling with my building's computer HVAC system, trying to get the air conditioning (normally off on a Sunday) turned on. I was finally successful, so I can now enjoy a comfortable Earth Day even in nearly 100 degree Phoenix weather, thanks to modern technology and a generous helping of fossil fuel combustion.