Letter Articles on the Environment – 2004-2008
“Forest Danger” – November 1, 2004
According to the state Board of Equalization, harvesting on public lands is down more than 90 percent over the past 15 years. More than half of California's mills have closed and 15,000 forestry-related jobs have been lost in those same 15 years. Not only are our forests in greater danger of fires and disease because of overgrowth, the property tax on harvested trees is going down even while the overhead to collect this tax is going up. The disaster is upon us and there is less money to pay for the emergency expenses. A true tree lover would be encouraging a sustainable harvest of our state forests.
“A Good Read” – March 13, 2006
A recent popular best seller, Michael Crichton’s “State of Fear,” was remarkable for the author’s challenges of commonly accepted scientific “facts” like global warming. Many readers were surprised by the scientific evidence he offered that demonstrated that there may not be so much to worry about in the media frenzy about global warming. For those who enjoy learning the science that the mainstream media does not cover, I recommend “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Science” by Tom Bethell. Bethell takes on Darwin, the genome project and AIDS. He explains why DDT, radiation and nuclear power are not the evils we are lead to believe. He also offers several suggestions for books “you’re not supposed to read.” Bethell explains, “One reason that science has become so politicized is that the federal government has transformed itself from a government of limited and specified powers to an all-purpose caring agency…. Science hopped on board. If the discovery of emergencies and crises entitled you to a share of federal largesse, scientists could play that game….A problem is discerned, or invented, the government steps in, and then the problem seems to grow more serious even as more attention it paid to it. That suits many of the scientists just fine.” This book will open your eyes about many “facts” you have simply accepted and challenge you to question the next bit of science you encounter.
“Junk Science” – April 24, 2006
Governor Schwarzenegger has been working on his environmentalist credentials lately. He unveiled a new television ad highlighting his efforts to place land into conservancy, remove vehicles that cause air pollution from the roads, and reduce greenhouse gases.
The media coverage of that once again assumed the greenhouse effect on global warming without even examining the data. Steve Frank calls the media “gullible” about science issues and refers skeptics to this site:
Here you can find documentation about the cyclical nature of global temperatures that should cause you to question the media’s assumption media’s assumption about a permanent temperature change. Why should you question this? First, consider the disasters that have resulted from previous environmental hysteria. Frank cites the banning of the pesticide DDT, in which the media ignored evidence that it was not carcinogenic, mutagenic or teratogenic. The absence of DDT lead to a malaria outbreak in Africa that killed millions. Their deaths were preventable, but our acceptance of junk science stood in the way of reason. Second, you are no doubt concerned about how much more of your hard-earned money is going toward gasoline these days. Did you know that last December the California Climate Action Team recommended a “public goods service change” (that’s just another way to say “tax”) on all oil products? Unless you do not mind paying even more for gasoline, go read about junk science.
“Lessons From Katrina” – May 30, 2006
Recently one of my staff members traveled to the Gulf Coast of Mississippi to help Rotary District 5330 (Inland Southern California) build a community center for a city that had been 85% destroyed by hurricane Katrina and the floodwaters it brought. The photos, stories and lessons she brought back reminded me of our limited capacity to understand a natural disaster even so close to home. Since the Gulf Coast is not so much in the news anymore, we assume that the area has “gotten over” the devastation. However, to someone who did not go through the storm or see the immediate aftermath, the area looks as if it was hit yesterday. There are still mounds of debris and houses that look like so many piles of matchsticks even after nine months. The twisted metal, tall tree tips wrapped with wreckage and seashells that were dumped far inland speak to the continuing need for help in that region.
The people of the Gulf Coast are strong, resilient, hard working, faithful and grateful. Those who have remained or returned are doing everything they can to rebuild their lives there, and they are helped by private organizations and faith-based groups. The municipal governments in the region are rebuilding, too, but they struggle with loss of residents and tax bases that have been destroyed. In one city hall hit hard by storm surge, tax records still lay on the floor, soaked through and molded over. There was so much destruction and there are now so many things to do that salvaging those most basic of government records has not made it to the top of the priority list yet. People often turn to government in times of need, but life post-Katrina teaches us that government is not magic. When disaster strikes, preparedness only goes so far. In the immediate aftermath and recovery of a disaster of this magnitude, people must rely on themselves, turn to extended family and welcome the help of organizations like Rotary, the Red Cross, churches and the generosity of private companies. If you are feeling generous this summer, send more help to the people of the Gulf; it is much needed still.
“Global Warming vs. Air Pollution” – August 28, 2006
It appears that every politician from the Governor to our U.S. Senator is clamoring to draft the public into a war against global warming. You probably expect me to oppose these moves because: (a) global warming is natural and not much influenced by man, (b) even the most Draconian efforts will have only modest reductions in greenhouse gases, or (c) this really is not the highest priority for tax dollars when our infrastructure is collapsing around us. But what I am really waiting to hear is the responsible atmospheric scientists-- who seem to be muffled-- confirm the fact that many of the solutions to greenhouse gases will cause a rise in air pollution.
Take the catalytic converter that is now on every car. It successfully captures and neutralizes the poisonous elements of air pollution. How does it work? It works by using heat. The hotter the converter, the better is works. Now, according to the scare tactics of those against global warming we are all now to be against heat. We have come too far in our battle against air pollution to now even discuss removing these controls in the name of global warming.
In many ways, air quality and greenhouse gases are opposites. Today's environmentalists have forgotten this inconvenient fact. We have dramatically reduced man-made air pollution. Retreat is not an option.
“The P-Word Could Save Dying Delta” – February 13, 2007
UC Davis scientists and the Public Policy Institute of California have released a study on the California Delta and proclaim it to be sick unto death and recommend radical solutions.
One of those solutions goes by the name Peripheral Canal. Although voted down in a 1982 referendum it remains the most scientifically viable way of preserving the environment of the Delta where the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers meet, as well as sharing northern California's surplus of fresh water with central and southern California. I was elected to the San Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District in 1974, which was, and is, a state water contractor. That is, the property owners of the San Bernardino valley pay property taxes that are part of the bond repayments that built the State Water Project.
To get up to speed on water issues I spent days in the District library reading about water law and water projects. One of the most interesting I read was the 1972 Environmental Impact Report on the Peripheral Canal project. It is a model for such reports. It lays out the environmental degradation of the do-nothing option and explains the trade offs if the canal is built -- both the benefits and the liabilities. It convinced me then, and my opinion has not changed, that the canal should be built, if for no other reason than to protect the delicate brackish water conditions of the Delta. Too much fresh water and too much salt water are dangers to this area. The levees built mostly by Chinese slave labor are too old and not maintained for the crucial water handling work that they are now required to do each year.
So the new study confirms what responsible environmentalists have known for 40 years. Mankind made the mess when they built the levees. Mankind has the solution to fix the mess. It should be the end of the discussion and the start of action. Hopefully this new report will light that fire for action.
“How Much Gasoline Does It Take to Run a Bicycle Race?” – February 26, 2007
It was fun to watch the Tour of California bicycle race speed by under my window on Capitol Mall. A colorful and quick passing of the racers was followed by several minutes of chase cars, passenger vans, cargo vans, ambulances, CHP patrol cars, city police, and many motorcycles plus 5 helicopters circling overhead. The racers themselves may be environmentally correct but their support teams are burning fossil fuels at a rapid rate.
“Trees v. Homes: California Policies Encourage Development in Timberland” – March, 12, 2007
The Board of Equalization administers the Timber Yield Tax, so we are routinely faced with evidence of California's declining timber industry. Most people are unaware that timber production has declined by well over 60% since 1990 and the state’s timber industry is gradually disappearing. California was once a major timber exporter, but we now rely on imported timber for the vast majority of our timber needs. Every so often, a story reaches the mainstream media that illustrates this problem to the general public.
Recently, the Sacramento Bee published a story about a request by Sierra Pacific Industries to rezone 23,549 acres of forest land in Lassen, Plumas, Shasta and Trinity counties so that it will be available for residential development. Timber owners all over the state are doing the same thing and they all have the same story: California's taxes, restrictions, and regulations are so onerous that timber harvesting is rarely profitable. It is actually cheaper to buy timber from the other side of the world, transport it all the way here, and pay import duties -- rather than harvest the trees in our own backyard!
Of course, the irony is that environmentalists have relentlessly attacked the timber industry and proposed countless regulations, taxes, and fees in a misguided attempt to save the forests. Now, as a direct result of their successful attacks on forest industries, the forests are being replaced by development, ranchettes, and suburbia. As environmentalists should have predicted, landowners who cannot make a living selling timber are instead converting their property to housing subdivisions built with imported lumber. When forests are no longer profitable, they get replaced.
Timber is a renewable resource that once supported a robust industry with high-paying jobs and great benefits. Replacing local timber with imported timber not only puts Californians out of work, it forces us to rely on timber harvesting in foreign countries that do not share our commitment to safe and sustainable harvesting techniques.
“Global Warming More Widespread than Thought” – July 2, 2007
I admit to being skeptical that human beings cause significant global warming. But aside from speculating on what causes planetary warming I am forced to admit that the problem is far worse than I had imagined. According to NASA, Mars is warming too. Data from the Mars Odyssey orbiter indicates that Mars is warming even faster than the Earth.
[EXTREME SARCASM WARNING]: Clearly, something needs to be
done to mitigate Mars’ warming because environmentalists are certain that warm
is not good. As Al Gore and the mainstream media tell us, "The debate on
global warming is over." They assure us that there is no doubt that
it is caused by human activity and that human solutions are the key to
mitigating the problem.
I am thus open to ideas how to stop Mars’ warming. A few ideas off the top of my head: We could proactively ban SUVs from other planets. The legislature could “send a message” condemning the sun’s solar storms that recklessly send more radiation than needed for temperatures to remain constant throughout the galaxy. Hollywood could heighten sensitivity by sending Bruce Willis and Denzel Washington into deep space to smite the sun for the harm done to Mars and Earth. But whatever solution the environmentalists come up with, the most important thing to remember is we have total control of the situation.
“Governor and Capitol Press Get Global Warming Wrong” – July 9, 2007
It was so disappointing to hear the Governor say to the Capitol press that “we have to clean up the air to reduce global warming.” This is not factual. It is bad science and bad chemistry and, unfortunately, it started not with the Governor but with the press and those who want global warming to be a bigger issue. Polluted air is unhealthy whether it is hot or cold. Warm air that melts glaciers can either be clean or polluted. Whether air is clean or whether it contributes to global warming are two separate issues. You drink hot coffee or tea because you like the taste but you do not drink hot bathtub water because it is dirty.
The California Air Resources Board has for its entire existence been a single purpose agency. Its mandate is to make the air quality healthy. Some of their mandates have improved air quality and others have simply followed technological changes. But today the air in California is healthier than when the Board was created. I pushed for clean fuels and fought the oil companies on this and was an ally of the ARB at the time. However, now its single purpose has been diluted. AB 32, the anti-global warming bill, has been assigned to the ARB to implement. This creates an unresolvable conflict within the Board. A mandate to clean up the air, like more industrial catalytic converters, would necessarily release more heat and carbon dioxide gases which are not poisonous but which do contribute to global warming. How does the Board resolve this? Who gets the blame when it is not resolved?
“Greenhouse Scam” – July 16, 2007
Last week was a key deadline week for the legislature, so many bills received hearings and votes to beat the clock. One bill that passed a key committee but deserves much more scrutiny is Senate Bill 375 (Steinberg). The bill ostensibly seeks to help the state meet the greenhouse gas emission reduction required by last year’s landmark Assembly Bill 32 (Nunez). The bill regulates development by having regional transportation agencies create “preferred growth scenarios” designed to reduce reliance on automotive use and vehicle miles traveled. Some may believe the stated intent of the bill, but there is more to it than that. Think about where significant growth is most likely to occur in California: the inland regions that still have unused, developable land. If this state law and regional “preferred growth scenarios” either keep that growth from occurring or impose financial sanctions when it does occur, then the state’s scarce transportation dollars can be redirected toward the areas where there is no more empty, developable land: the coastal and urban areas. It is yet another example of several California phenomena: big cities pushing around the rest of the state, the arrogance of Sacramento politicians thinking they know better than local leaders how their cities should grow, and the creative use of so-called “global warming” to achieve more practical political goals that would otherwise be untenable.
“Recycling Not Always Best for Environment” – August 13, 2007
I agree with the author’s conclusion in this article (see link below) that voluntary recycling is an essential part of the market system. When people respond to market incentives to conserve resources and make more money for themselves then everybody wins. However, when recycling is made mandatory and separated from market incentives, the gains are often dubious.
For example, Seattle has one of the strictest mandatory recycling programs in the country. Residents of that city can actually be fined if they put recyclable materials in their regular garbage. But what apparently has not occurred to those folks is this mandatory program requires twice the number of polluting vehicles to pick up the extra materials than otherwise would be needed if recycling was voluntary.
Bozeman Montana-based Property and Environment Research Center has more to say about this and other “Eight Great Myths about Waste Disposal.” Myth #1 on the list is that we are running out of landfill area to put garbage. PERC answers:
“In fact, the United States today has more landfill capacity than ever before. In 2001, the nation's landfills could accommodate 18 years' worth of rubbish, an amount 25 percent greater than a decade before. To be sure, there are a few places where capacity has shrunk. But the uneven distribution of available landfill space is no more important than is the uneven distribution of auto manufacturing: Trash is an interstate business, with 47 states exporting the stuff and 45 importing it. Indeed, the total land area needed to hold all of America's garbage for the next century would be only about 10 miles square.”
Read the whole thing: http://www.perc.org/perc.php?id=224
“Fire Season” – August 27, 2007
As of this writing, the Zaca fire, burning in the Ventura County portion of my district, has consumed nearly 223,000 acres. It is not expected to be fully contained until September 7th. And yet the worst of fire season may well be ahead of us. Yes, I know from personal experience.
My mom's house burned down when she was only seven years old. She has no photos, toys, or mementoes from before that fire. My niece's house burned in the 2003 disaster in San Bernardino. She and her husband escaped with their kids, their cars, their laptops, and the clothes on their back. Thank goodness. We “saved” some remodeled silverware and a crumbing tea cup, but everything else was gone, and I mean melted or combusted back to the molecular level. Much of their house and furnishings were unrecognizable. Their boat, including sections of the engine block, melted inside the garage.
Good fire insurance will give you the means to re-build if such a disaster strikes your home, so before Labor Day weekend arrives be sure to double check your fire insurance coverage. However, fire insurance will not bring back memories and fire insurance will not erase the horror of looking back and seeing your home consumed by fire. Certain homes do not catch fire as easily as others. Every fire department will advise you about defensible space, building techniques and property management that can minimize your risk. I urge you to take advantage of these resources before even more of California catches fire in the coming weeks and months.
“’11th Hour’ Movie Another Hollywood Shame” – September 4, 2007
There was another terrific article, this time by Greenpeace
co-founder Patrick Moore, in the Vancouver Sun last Wednesday. Moore whacks his old organization and Leonardo DiCaprio for bad science in their film, “The
11th Hour.” Moore points out that if DiCaprio and other
climate alarmists were really serious about combating global warming they would
not be advocating leaving forests to their own, unmanaged end. Moore agrees with the Hollywood crowd that trees are great carbon consumers, and are thus
a terrific weapon to combat whatever global warming is caused by carbon
dioxide. But Moore says DiCaprio’s call not to cut trees is based on bad
science. The reason is simple. Turns out that the older and larger
trees get, their capacity for taking carbon out of the air decreases.
Moore points out that trees harvested to make furniture during the Elizabethan age still contain the carbon those trees took from the air. In contrast, when trees are allowed to grow until they are diseased, struck by lighting, burned in fire, or die by other means, the carbon collected during the trees’ life is released back into the atmosphere.
So, if you want to get carbon out of the air, you really need lots of young trees. This is accomplished by cutting down older trees, thus capturing the carbon contained in them, and replacing them with a new crop. While there seems little chance of converting the millions of acres of federally protected -- but rotting -- old growth forests, we should acknowledge the great good private forestry management does, not just by providing us with wood products, but for also providing the world with more carbon-free air.
Having strong feelings about trees, or other natural things, does not in itself make one in tune with nature. Despite the assumed enlightenment of the modern environmental movement, I predict history will remember this age’s pop-science culture as being as intellectually dark as pre-Medieval times.
Hat-tip: Drudge Report
“Water Bonds” – October 15, 2007
My first elected office was as a Board Member of the San
Bernardino Valley Municipal Water District. What I learned as a director then
is still useful today. The State Water Project was not paid for by the state of
California. The bulk of the Project’s reservoirs, canals, and pumps were paid
for by the 29 local water districts like my SBVMWD. These districts in turn
passed along the costs to their constituents. Not every Californian paid for
the State Water Project, just the beneficiaries of the new water. The political
deal was that the Sacramento Valley would get flood protection that would be
paid for by others and in return they would permit excess water to flow to
central and Southern California as well as the Bay Area. It was still
controversial in 1960, but a majority of Californians agreed that everybody has
some benefit from the project and those who had the most benefit paid the most
money to build and operate it.
The principles for the plan are valid today: users pay, long term debt is spent on long term benefits, and consensus is possible if the plan is comprehensive enough.
Analyzing the Perata water bond bill by these criteria shows the following shortcomings: everybody pays, not just the users; long term debt is spent on short term local benefits; and the plan is not comprehensive. Democrats Pat Brown, Hugh Burns, and Carley Porter saw the wisdom in the water principles of 1960. Where have all our leaders gone?
“Examples of Green Gangsters” – October 22, 2007
A few weeks ago I wrote about a new model for politics in California and identified several groups that dominate the policy and political arena at
this time. I labeled one of those groups as the Green Gangsters and explained
that they are a small part of the environmental community who advocate extreme
actions and tactics and do not care about the consequences of their beliefs. I
said I was not talking about people who believe in recycling or drive hybrids
or even want me to use new lightbulbs, but those people who, for example,
oppose new energy sources, without offering alternatives. I was criticized for
that description, as I knew I would be, by environmentally conscientious people
who just do not want to believe that about fellow environmentalists. Yet, just
this week I was reviewing some data about nuclear power and came across these
quotes that I find representative of the Green Gangster mentality:
Greenpeace: “Nuclear power plants pose multiple threats to people and the environment from their operation…The solution to our future energy needs lies instead in greater use of renewable energy sources for both heat and power.” (Source: USA Today, Some Rethinking Nuke Opposition, March 22, 2007)
Friends of the Earth: Recently, the President of Friends of the Earth issued this statement about nuclear power was addressed in the July 2007 Democrat Presidential Debate. “I was disappointed to see Senator Obama embrace nuclear technology, and to see Senator Clinton express openness to the idea …nuclear power plants are vulnerable to natural disasters. More nuclear power plants could also be a terrorist’s dream come true.” The 2002 Friends of the Earth annual report mentioned that it helped stop an energy bill that would have subsidized the nuclear industry.
Sierra Club: “Although nuclear power produces less CO2 than fossil alternatives, nuclear power is not safe, affordable, or clean with currently available technology and practice. Mining uranium risks workers’ health and creates toxic residues. All current plant designs are complex, prone to accidents and have severe security vulnerabilities. Nuclear waste transportation, storage and disposal problems remain unsolved. The industry is heavily subsidized by public payments, incentives and liability shielding everywhere it operates, dependencies that dramatically increased in the 2005 Energy Policy Act. The nuclear fuel cycle increases weapons proliferation and risk among nations and non-state entities. The Sierra Club will continue to oppose nuclear power unless these deficiencies are eliminated.” (Source: 2006 energy resources policy report states)
“A Good Read: Michaels’s Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians, and the Media” – November 6, 2007
The article in the Wall Street Journal this week that I quote at the beginning of this newsletter got me thinking about the need for a more rational conversation about the climate change issue. As the topic permeates even corporate advertising these days, it would do us well to understand how we came to this point in communicating about the topic when the science is anything but resolved. “Meltdown: The Predictable Distortion of Global Warming by Scientists, Politicians and the Media” by Patrick J. Michaels debunks the hysteria that is associated with the earth’s temperature, including that generated by politicians claiming that “climate change [is] a far worse threat than to the world than terrorism.” Michaels is a climatologist, which gives him great credibility on this topic, but what is most compelling about his work is how he links the distortions to the imperative of federal funding, as well as his observations about the piling on of the media. You will find this book to be very informative, as well as entertaining, true to the reviewers who have praised his wit.
“Taking on Mr. Gore’s Folly” – November 12, 2007
In last week’s issue I included a quote and book recommendation aimed at restoring facts to the discussion about global warming. If you do not have time to read a book on this topic, I encourage you to take a few minutes to read this essay, which presents the facts needed to combat Al Gore’s propaganda. You may find Mark M. Alexander’s “Global Warming: Fact, Fiction and Political Endgame” at this link:
Alexander explains clearly the distinctions between global warming trends and the greenhouse gas effect. He then walks through several bits of scientific fact that you most likely have not heard from the media or even many elected officials. My favorite example was the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Mauna Loa Observatory’s records of worldwide CO2 levels in the atmosphere. He notes that in 2002 and 2003, NOAA showed increases in atmospheric CO2 of 2.43 and 2.30 parts per million. That was a 55 percent increase over the prior annual average, but then in 2004 the measurement returned to 1.5 ppm per year. Alexander asks, “Did human industrial output somehow increase 55 percent during those two years, and then decline by that amount in 2004? Of course not. For the record, NOAA concluded that the fluctuation was caused by the natural processes that contribute and remove CO2 from the atmosphere.”
Yet, Mr. Gore and his fans choose to ignore such natural processes and demand draconian CO2 reduction efforts by you and me. Why? Alexander’s take on the political motivations are fascinating. For example, he writes, “Clearly, some U.S. politicians understand the implications of Gore's folly. Don't expect that to stop Democrats from milking every last drop of political capital from this debate. Talk of carbon credits and other nonsense is really all about campaign coffers -- holding out the threat of regulation as a means of financing campaigns and perpetuating office tenures.”
Take a look at the entire essay. It is not long, but it is packed with information you will find useful as you combat the irrationality that not characterizes even water cooler discussion about climate change.
“Court Decision Not Good for Sierra Club Long Term” - December 17, 2007
The Sierra Club had short-term reason to celebrate last Wednesday. A Federal appellate court ruled in their favor that the Bush administration fire suppression plan that allowed the selective cutting of trees between national forest land and developed areas where people live is illegal.
The plan was adopted in 2003 to reduce the threat of catastrophic wildfires. It allowed cutting and disposing of combustible vegetation on parcels of 1,000 acres or less and controlled burns on parcels of 4,500 or less without further environmental review. And that was the stickler for the Sierra Club. They want a seat at the U.S. Forest Service table no matter what the size of the land affected by human activity.
So this decision allows the Sierra Club to slow or stop projects intended to keep people safe from fire. Can you say “boomerang”? Every professional forester will testify that without this work catastrophic wild fires are coming with tremendous loss of human life, human property, animal life, animal habitat, and forest fauna. Will the Sierra Club pay for these losses?
Hopefully, this poor decision will be appealed and wiser Justices will prevail if not then Congress should step up and amend these laws that are costing the environment plenty.
“Nature Produces and Reduces Greenhouse Gasses” – December 17, 2007
There are many insights in a small article in the October edition of Popular Science, “Garlic, Nature’s Gas Guzzler.” First, there is the incredible statistic that cows account for roughly 16 percent of worldwide emissions of methane, which Popular Science says is more than 20 times more potent greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.
Next is a remarkable solution. Researchers in Wales have begun with feeding cows garlic. Turns out the clove kills microbes in the cows’ stomachs that produce methane. The diet is reducing the daily gas emissions by up to 50 percent.
If you are thinking of being ecologically virtuous in the same way, some perspective is called for. Popular Science reports these cows pass up to 130 gallons of methane every day. Not even the holidays bring man to this level.
“Global Warming and Dams”
– January 17, 2007
Recently at the Public Policy Research Foundation conference I listened to a panel on global warming. What struck me is how corporate America has decided to make money by going green. In fact, the corporate expert panelists in many ways were to the left of the environmental organization representatives suggesting that humans could end global warming by making changes to reduce our carbon footprints. PG&E in particular bragged that due to its heavy investment in hydroelectric power that it was well positioned to pay less in global warming reduction mandates than other utilities.
This reminded me of a climate change conference where I had heard about experts suggesting that damming rivers for hydroelectric power had huge global warming impacts. <Check out the story at: http://www.newscientist.com/article.ns?id=dn7046 > The Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change makes the point that rotting vegetation in reservoirs releases methane gas, which is even more of a global warming gas than the carbon dioxide emitted by natural gas power plants. This means that PG&E is wrong.
While I remain a skeptic that mankind can reverse climate change trends, it is clear that huge costs are going to be mandated in attempts to try. Corporate America will pass those costs along to you and me every chance they get.
Jerry Brown Prepares to Admit Defeat on Global Warming – February 18, 2008
In the January/February cover story in California Counties Magazine, “The Journal of the California State Association of Counties,” there is a feature by Attorney General Jerry Brown warning that the timeframe in which we can have any effect on global warming is closing. The title is, “Window is closing fast on climate change. Scientists say the next two to three years are critical.” Brown even quotes the United Nations Panel on Climate Change (whatever that is): “If there is no action before 2012, that’s too late. What we do in the next two or three years will determine our future.”
Wow, maybe the war on global warming will soon be over. Is that a promise?
If the battle against global warming is as serious as the Attorney General says then threatening lawsuits against counties that do not revise their General Plans is not a very fast or effective way to end methane and carbon dioxide emissions in three years. His overblown language exposes the silliness of this one-sided debate.
Those who do believe that the world is ending in heat must find Jerry Brown’s lawsuit threats to be empty symbols that will not change anything.
Those who question the value of billions of people changing their behavior in a futile effort to halt a natural process must find Jerry Brown’s grandstanding to be a costly impediment to creating jobs, expanding highway and water systems, and improving the life of California’s citizens.
No Nonsense Nuclear News—March 10, 2008
I was pleased to read this common sense quote last week: “Anybody taking a realistic view of our country’s energy requirements knows nuclear has to be a big part of the global warming equation. These environmental groups are not doing that.” I was quite surprised to see who said it: Patrick Moore, co-founder of Greenpeace. Moore left Greenpeace, and is now with the Nuclear Energy Institute’s Clean and Safe Energy Coalition. He spends his time these days trying to convince environmental groups about the necessity for nuclear power to help accomplish other worthy goals, explaining the safety of nuclear power and trying to allay the fears that he once fanned about nuclear waste. I commend Mr. Moore’s change of mind and his efforts to educate others who are as misguided as he once was.
Kudos for Creativity –
April 28, 2008
For years now public policymakers have lamented the
challenges with the Delta, including the diminishing population of the Delta
smelt, a small minnow that is threatened by the water quality. Liberals have
used the smelt’s declining population as an excuse to ban development and claim
habitat, and conservatives have railed against denying denying property rights
to human beings because of a tiny fish. Now Sen. Dean Florez (D-Shafter)
has a creative idea that puts a stop to the finger pointing and meets the
idealism of both sides. Florez said simply, if the problem is that the
smelt is dying off, let’s build a hatchery to help them breed. Instead of
impeding water flow that humans need and preventing necessary projects like
power plants, we can help grow the species. One side may not like the
idea of paying for a hatchery and the other side may not like the idea of
helping a species unnaturally, but if everyone gives a little, we may just have
a common sense solution to what has been an intractable problem. Read
about Florez’s bill and initial reaction here:
Environmentalist, Meet Big Government – May 12, 2008
A situation that seems cut from a satirical movie treatment is laid out in Friday’s San Francisco Chronicle. A Half Moon Bay mechanic and local hero has been getting a lot of positive attention for his fleet of cars that run on disposed grease from a local chowder house. When he was contacted by BoE investigators, he thought the government wanted instruction on being greener. Not so, the government wanted taxes, and it wanted to see his diesel fuel supplier license as well as his license to pick up grease from the restaurant from the Meat and Poultry Inspection Branch. Turns out the poor guy also needs permission from the Air Resources Board to burn fat.
Enter the Chron interviewing one frustrated environmentalist: “‘It is ridiculous that we live in what is presumed to be one of the greenest states in the nation, yet we have the most antiquated laws to deal with green energy,’ said Josh Tickell, an alternative-fuels advocate and filmmaker.”
Well, I suppose if repressive big government is “antiquated” then limited government can perhaps become the new “progressive” policy. We can dream anyway.
Terrific headline, BTW: “Veggie oil burners get burned by state's regulatory red tape”
Environmentalists Have a Price, Thank Goodness – May 19, 2008
Two mega-deals have transpired in the past two months that bode well for the future of the economy and energy production. Even two years ago it would have been unimaginable seeing the headline, “Santa Barbara Planning Commission Approves Offshore Oil Drilling.” Since the infamous 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara, it has been very hard -- and since the 1980s, virtually impossible-- to expand oil production off our coast. Never say never. In April it was announced that three key environmental groups worked out an agreement with Plains Exploration and Production Co. that will allow the company to expand its drilling operations off the coast of Santa Barbara County near Lompoc. The drilling sites could yield 200 million barrels of oil and 50 billion cubic feet of natural gas. The environmental groups agreed to help lobby the state’s Coastal and Lands commissions, as well as the federal government. With this backing it appears the deal will go through. In exchange, the exploration company agreed to give 3,900 acres of land to the Trust for Public Land, $1.5 million for locals to buy hybrid busses, and to be done drilling by 2022.
This month another incredible deal between a private company and environmentalists was announced. It, too, solved a bitter dispute over development. The Tejon Ranch Company has been trying for years to get approval for three projects that include tens of thousands of new homes, plus offices and hotels on their property spanning both sides of the Grapevine. Five major conservation groups have stepped out in support of the plan that calls for the Ranch setting aside nearly 240,000 acres (375 square miles) for preserved open space.
Some object to oil drilling with the charge that neither the Santa Barbara channel, nor the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR), can provide enough oil to make a difference considering the huge amount of oil that we import. This is a shortsighted perspective. The United States is the world’s third largest producer of oil behind Saudi Arabia and Russia. The cause of higher oil prices is worldwide demand that is outstripping worldwide production capacity. The cost reflects the very thin line between demand and supply, with some fear built in as well. The market is saying that a lower price per barrel will result in shortages. Increasing supply and restraining demand through less consumption are the only things we can do to combat oil’s continued rise.
There is another downside to foreign oil. We send our money overseas in exchange for a product we literally burn. The economic effect is basically burning money. Domestic oil production preserves dollars by pumping the proceeds into domestic profits, jobs and tax revenues. With gas at $4 a gallon, Republicans should be doing everything they can to remind the public that policies that restrict domestic production mean more money burned.
Earth Day Revisited—May 27, 2008
Dr. Walter Williams is a brilliant economist who has a knack for explaining policy questions with common sense. His piece on Earth Day and the decades of catastrophic warnings from environmentalists was one of his best plain-English explanations of the trouble with clamoring to stave off what the leftists believe is inevitable. Williams poses the issues here in question form.
“Here are my questions: In 1970, when environmentalists were making predictions of manmade global cooling and the threat of an ice age and millions of Americans starving to death, what kind of government policy should we have undertaken to prevent such a calamity? When Ehrlich predicted that England would not exist in the year 2000, what steps should the British Parliament have taken in 1970 to prevent such a dire outcome? In 1939, when the U.S. Department of the Interior warned that we only had oil supplies for another 13 years, what actions should President Roosevelt have taken? Finally, what makes us think that environmental alarmism is any more correct now that they have switched their tune to manmade global warming?
“Here are a few facts: Over 95 percent of the greenhouse effect is the result of water vapor in Earth's atmosphere. Without the greenhouse effect, Earth's average temperature would be zero degrees Fahrenheit. Most climate change is a result of the orbital eccentricities of Earth and variations in the sun's output. On top of that, natural wetlands produce more greenhouse gas contributions annually than all human sources combined.”
For the whole column, go here:
Global Warming Hysteria: Start ‘Em Young --- July 28, 2008
The Heartland Institute is a think tank I have used for good research for many years. I have been impressed by their clear thinking, solid principles, and straightforward approach to ticklish issues. Thus, I enjoyed a recent issue of their School Reform News in which Maureen Martin relates a dispute between the Institute and a class of sixth graders from David A. Brown Middle School in Wildomar, California. Martin encourages readers to looks at the letters as evidence that “some teachers are trying to brainwash schoolchildren with global warming alarmism.” Indeed. Read the students’ letters here:
Martin summarizes: “The students said they learned about global warming by reading 10 articles about it. None of the articles, however, was about the science of global warming. Many described terrifying consequences that supposedly will result, convincing the students all living things--including all human beings--will be dead in 10 years.” The students believe that Heartland is actually encouraging the destruction of the earth’s climate by examining the scientific claims of global warming activists.
For example, one student wrote: “I do not think that what you are doing is right because you are telling people that global warming is not a crisis. If this is not a crisis, how come floods have occurred in asia, Mexico, and India. Plus, how can you explain why the glacier glaciers are melting. They can’t melt themselves, because they are in the coldest region in the world.” Needless to say, Heartland reproduced the students’ letters without correcting grammar, spelling, etc. Martin cites California’s science framework that directs teachers to explain to students that “Scientists are deeply knowledgeable about their fields of study but typically are willing to admit that there is a great deal they do not know. In particular, they welcome new ideas that are supported by evidence.” The parents of these students may also wish to avail themselves of the state’s language arts framework to discover whether it is reasonable to expect that their children should be able to capitalize and punctuate sentences by the sixth grade.
The students should also be directed to additional articles about global warming, including news like this:
“A former global warming alarmist and creator of the model that measures Australia's compliance with the Kyoto Protocol says that while global warming is real, there is no evidence that the main cause is carbon emissions. David Evans says that C02 emissions play — at most — a minor role.
“Evans writes in The Australian newspaper that if global warming was caused by C02, scientists would have found hot spots about six miles up in the earth's atmosphere over the Tropics. Evans describes those hot spots as the signature of the greenhouse effect. He says scientists have been trying to locate them for years using thermometers attached to weather balloons.
“But he says years of research ‘show no hot spot — whatsoever’ adding that ‘an increased greenhouse effect is not the cause of global warming.’”
Wired’s Inconvenient Solutions for Global Warming--- August 18, 2008
I have been meaning to share with you Wired Magazine’s suggestions for addressing global warming from the June issue. Wired is a wonderful magazine on information technology. I am not much in the alarmist camp when it comes to global warming, but I credit Wired for bucking the prevailing wisdom on this issue with these shockingly common-sense prescriptions:
A/C is OK. Wired points out it takes a lot less energy cool down a house in Arizona than to keep a house warm in Massachusetts. It turns out that heating a home releases eight times more CO2 gasses than cooling a home does.
Organics are not the answer. When modern science is not brought to bear on food production, you get less food. Thus, it takes 25 organic cows to make as much milk as 23 industrial ones. And that is not the worst part. Organic cows’ flatulence is 16 times worse than gasses emitted by industrial cows.
Farm the forests. A tree absorbs roughly 1,500 pounds of CO2 in its first 55 years. After that, it takes on less and less carbon until it dies, rots and all that carbon is re-released in the atmosphere. Since young tree-farms are like factories that suck CO2 out of the atmosphere, Wired says the most climate friendly approach to forests is to cut them down and replant them. Using lumber commercially keeps the carbon in the wood. When these new trees reach their point of maximum carbon sequestration, cut them down, use them to build houses and start again. I will add to this that young trees provide better forage for wildlife.
China is the solution, not the problem. Who is the leader in alternative energy hardware? Yep, China. In 2007 China produced 35% of the global photovoltaic market. Whether batteries, or windmills, or solar -- China will soon be the world leader. By 2010 China is projected to generate 10 gigawatts of green power annually—that is more than half the capacity the world installed in 2007.
Accept genetic engineering. Food production is said to cause more global warming than all the world’s trucks, cars, trains, ships and planes put together. Genomics has been optimizing food crops for a long time. Genetically modified plants need less herbicide and produce much higher yields.
Embrace nuclear power. Coal fired electricity generation releases 520 times the greenhouse emissions than the nuclear alternative (CO2 per kilowatt hour). Going forward we are going to need more energy, not less. This means solar and wind will not bridge this gap for a very long time, if ever. When it comes to clean energy, nuclear power is very hard to beat.
Used cars, not hybrids. Wired says it would take 100,000 miles before a Prius achieves the carbon savings that come from driving a 1998 Tercel.
Bottom Line, We Need More Energy --- August 18, 2008
Television and Internet commentator Don Luskin has a wonderful blog that featured a bit of math wizardry from a reader who tried to do a better job than Luskin did calculating how much electricity will be needed if all our gas powered automobiles ran on electricity instead of gas. (Senator Obama says he wants one million plug-in electric cars by 2015.) Making several assumptions, the reader concludes we would need – conservatively – 3,698 nuclear power plants to provide the energy for all our cars to run on electricity.
While I am all for nuclear power, it also seems true we will be looking for oil for a long, long time.