“The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.”
—Daniel J. Boorstin

Ethanol and biodiesel: Guilty as charged

ethanol pumpTwo notorious crooks are helping us wrap up another sordid episode in the saga of the United States biofuel mandates, while further highlighting how bungled and long past its expiration date the program is.

Congress concocted the mandates over fears that US gasoline demand would rise forever and keep the United States dependent on foreign oil, as America’s supposedly limited reserves were depleted. The mandates currently require that we blend 15 billion gallons of ethanol with gasoline every year, and produce over a billion gallons of biodiesel. They hammer us consumers every time we fill our tanks.

Turning corn into ethanol requires vast amounts of land, fertilizers, pesticides, tractor and truck fuel, and natural gas for distillation. It enriches some farmers but raises animal feed prices and thus the cost of beef, pork, chicken, eggs, fish and international food aid. Biodiesel from restaurant waste oil makes some sense, but making it from palm oil or soybeans has similar negative ecological impacts.

EPA head: We don't need to justify our regulations with data

ginaEPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took a drumming yesterday when she refused to release the 'secret science' her agency used when drafting new regulations. Testifying before the House Science, Space and Technology committee, Rep. Lamar Smith (R) began the Q&A by asking McCarthy why she wouldn't release the studies and data in which her regulations are based. Rep. Smith told McCarthy that his 'secret science' reform act would make the data public without interfering in the EPA's primary job and maintain the confidentiality of third parties.

Rep. Smith also quoted Obama's science adviser, John Holdren, saying "The data on which regulatory decisions are based should be made available to the committee and should be made public. Why don't you agree with the president's science adviser?" McCarthy replied that while she supports transparency in the regulatory process, the bill would make public the personal information of the people working on the science.

Driving policies through fraud and fear-mongering

protestPropaganda tactics employed by the Environmental Protection and its activist allies increasingly employ emotion as a primary media tool. Mothers and children pose on the US Capitol steps, waving signs that claim they are fighting for clean air and their children’s health. Images of these “lovable lobbyists” for EPA’s Clean Power Plan and other rules are intentionally heart-tugging. 

It is maternal instinct versus scientific facts; emotions versus informed debate. If EPA issues dire warnings, that is all these moms need to hear. Indeed, it is hard to overcome such pleadings with cold facts alone.

The well-orchestrated “do something” demonstrations enable politicians and agencies to devise and implement new legislation and regulations. It is much like physicians who succumb to patients’ “do something” demands by prescribing antibiotics for common colds. It is a useless, if not dangerous practice.

It's the season for gas-price gouging claims

gas station californiaThe group Consumer Watchdog is barking again about higher gas prices in California. The activist group announced July 9, “California drivers, who have paid an average of 74 cents more per gallon at the pump than drivers nationwide, have shelled out $4.5 billion more for their gasoline than U.S. drivers from February to June.”

It pegged the extra cost per driver at $180. The group called this the “Gouging Gap,” charging the major oil companies with “artificially manipulating gasoline prices by leveraging their branded gasoline station contracts.”

Great Lakes Water Levels At High-Level Marks

greatlakesWater levels in all the Great Lakes are now above their recorded long-term averages. The rise has submerged portions of beaches and washed away past Internet postings proclaiming man-made global warming as the cause of low water levels.

On July 3, Lake Superior was two inches higher than its historic average for that date. Lake Ontario was three inches higher, and the other lakes were between 11 and 13 inches higher. The readings that day were also higher than the historic averages for the month of July. Lake Superior was seven inches higher, Lake Erie was 16 inches higher, and Lake Ontario was eight inches above its average. Lakes Michigan and Huron, or Lake Michigan-Huron, as hydrologists call the two, were 6 inches above the average.

Boston snow still melting in man-made glacier of ice and trash

Before and afterDuring Boston's record-breaking snowfall this past winter, officials used large empty parking lots that were devoted for one thing: snow piles. Officials called them "snow farms" and they rose to heights unseen in modern history. And now, in the sweltering heat of summer, one is still sitting in South Boston, dripping away and revealing a vast wasteland of trash underneath. When WBZ (CBS News) Boston went to check on the man-made glacier, what they found in that still-melting pile of snow was a bit of a shocker: a baby stroller, lottery tickets, part of a bicycle, laundry baskets, hubcaps, and more.

That's because the snow plows picked up virtually everything in their paths, which prevented them from simply depositing all that winter snow into the harbor. Ton after ton was moved from the city streets of Boston to this snow farm, where piles towered over 20 feet. It was one of seven such piles scattered throughout the city and this one still has snow left on it.

British Government Scraps Climate Change Levy Exemption

BudgetUK Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne confirmed Wednesday that his previously announced financial initiatives to revitalise the UK North Sea oil and gas industry will go ahead, and also said he would remove the climate change levy [exemption] in his first budget since the Conservatives won the UK general election in May. --Alliance News, 8 July 2015

Drax Group Plc, the utility converting the biggest U.K. coal station to burning wood pellets, plunged to its lowest ever after the government said clean power will have to start paying a climate-change tax. The stock tumbled 28 percent in London to the lowest since it started trading in 2005. Shares of Infinis Energy Plc, a Northampton-based developer of clean power listed in London, also slumped 8 percent to the lowest since November 2013. --Louise Downing, Bloomberg, 8 July 2015

The Dark Green Shoes of the Fisherman

francis popeWhile the infallibility of the Pope is a matter of debate and doctrinal subtlety, the fallibility of whoever wrote the Pontiff’s encyclical, On Care for Our Common Home, is irrefutable. In incorporating an undigested, evidence-free regurgitation of alarmist hype and misinformation, it does no service to the Church or humanity. While the document’s general  concern for our planet’s environment is laudable, the focus on threats and problems, while largely ignoring the numerous successes and improvements, serves more to proclaim the authors’ conspicuous righteousness than to encourage further betterment.

The following is a sample of some of the false or misleading statements, found on pages 18 to 37 — the Encyclical section dealing with “pollution and climate change”. Statements from the Encyclical are in italics. My comment follow in plain-face text.

Nobel-winning physicist who backed Obama: Prez ‘dead wrong’ on global warming

"<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ivar_Giaever.jpg#/media/File:Ivar_Giaever.jpg">Ivar Giaever</a>" by <a href="//commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?title=User:Silin2005&amp;action=edit&amp;redlink=1" class="new" title="User:Silin2005 (page does not exist)">Silin2005</a> - <span class="int-own-work" lang="en">Own work</span>. Licensed under Public Domain via <a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/">Wikimedia Commons</a>."Ivar Giaever" by Silin2005 - Own work. Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.A Nobel laureate who supported President Obama in his first presidential campaign now says the Democratic president is "dead wrong" on global warming.

Ivar Giaever, a scientist who shared the 1973 Nobel Prize in Physics, challenged Mr. Obama in a July 1 speech at the 65th Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting in Lindau, Germany.

"I say this to Obama: 'Excuse me, Mr. President, but you're wrong.' He's dead wrong," Mr. Giaever said in a video of his 30-minute speech posted on the website Climate Depot, which first reported the story.

His speech, "Global Warming Revisited," came in sharp contrast to the effort by another Nobel laureate, Brian Schmidt, who introduced the Mainau Declaration 2015 on Climate Change.

"We believe that the nations of the world must take the opportunity at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris in December 2015 to take decisive action to limit future global emissions," said the declaration, which was signed by 36 laureates, according to Time magazine.

Obama and EPA imperil minority welfare

electric meterThe Obama Environmental Protection Agency and environmental activists frequently claim that climate change will disproportionately affect poor and minority communities. In their view, this justifies unprecedented environmental regulations, like EPA's pending “Clean Power Plan” (CPP) to reduce carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions from coal and gas-fueled power plants 30% by 2030. 

But what effect will the regulation itself have on poor and minority communities? 

The plan will result in higher electricity costs for businesses and families, lost jobs, lower incomes, higher poverty rates, reduced living standards, and diminished health and welfare, our exhaustive recent study found. This damage will be inflicted at the national level and in all 50 states. The CPP will impact all low-income groups, but hit America’s 128 million Blacks and Hispanics especially hard.

Polar bears fine now but give us more money: US Fish & Wildlife Management Plan subtext

polar bearsBetween-the-lines message of the recently released (and hyped to death) Conservation Management Plan for polar bears by the US Fish & Wildlife Service is that the bears really have nothing to worry about except human-caused global warming but it will cost tens of millions of dollars over the next five years to study and manage them.

So filled with double-speak, misinformation, and obfuscation [including the newly-invented term, “quasi-extinction floor”] that it’s no wonder some news outlets got it wrong (nowhere in this document does it say that “polar bears might go extinct within ten years“). The document does, however, lay out the FWS budget for polar bears over the next five years – and it’s a real eye-opener.

NOAA's estimate of coral bleaching likely two times too high

coral bleachNOAA sounded the alarm yesterday that coral reefs are dying off at an unprecedented rate, even though a recent paper shows that these statements may be more alarmist than accurate. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said multi-year warm ocean temperatures are creating conditions that are causing corals to die off and turn white (bleached), and they believe that global warming is the culprit. But a new paper, published in Marine Biology in April 2015, shows that even though some corals appear bleached, it doesn't mean they are dead, as conventional tracking methods can't distinguish between white and bleached (dead) colonies.

The paper, by Cruz et al, says that "although bleaching leaves the coral skeleton visible under its transparent tissue, not all white coral colonies display this feature," which "raises the question as to whether all 'white'-shaded colonies are indeed bleached." To answer that question of whether bleached coral is actually dead, Cruz et al studied different colored specimens of the coral M. cavernosa sampled off the east coast of Brazil, and found that white corals exhibited the same lifelike features as their multi-colored cousins.