It is Earth Day today, a chance for all tree huggers, green activists and other self absorbed eco-types to feel good about themselves by disparaging their neighbors. There was a time when environmental issues were rightfully at the top of people's concerns—the skies above our cities were brown and noxious, our rivers and streams poisoned with pollution, lead was accumulating in the environment and our children. The problem is, though most major problems have been addressed, the bureaucracy that was created to fix the environment cannot help but look for new problems that demand solutions, even if the problems are slight and the solutions draconian. Chief among these new problems is “carbon pollution” by which the eco-enforcers mean CO2 emissions. The tragedy of Earth Day is that governments spend billions of dollars on meaningless efforts to curb carbon dioxide while billions live in poverty and squaller around the world.
Just when it seems that public figures can sink no lower, be more cynical, act more duplicitous, a news story comes along that plumbs new depths in ideological betrayal. And so it was this week when the shocked staff at Current TV was called to an all hands staff meeting. They were informed that the Current TV network, supposedly a bulwark of liberal green thought holding back the barbarian hoards from FOX and talk radio, had been sold to those leading mideast liberals at Al Jazeera. Former Vice President and self styled eco-prophet Al Gore has made himself a much, much richer man by doing what the political class has done since the dawn of human history—sell out to the other side.
The Resilient Earth Press is happy to bring you an interesting interview with the well known economist Ed Dolan. Courtesy of Oilprice.com, Dolan gives his perspective on oil prices, the prospects for cheap energy, Russia's growing uncertainty and how the natural gas boom is hindering renewable energy efforts. We think you will find a number of thought provoking statements and ideas to ponder in the views expressed in the interview, which appears in its entirety below.
Precaution is now an established tenet of environmental governance, law, and public policy at the international, national and local levels. When it comes to pollution, toxic chemicals, genetically modified organisms, endangered species and climate change, the so called precautionary principle has become the guiding doctrine for timorous souls everywhere. But more than that, it is a codification of the idea that before anything new is allowed, it must be proven, beyond a shadow of a doubt, to cause no harm to anything in anyway, under any conditions, anywhere—period. It is “look before you leap” on steroids and a major legal weapon used by environmentalists and neo-Luddites everywhere to hamstring human progress. Raising angst to an art form, progress hating activists have managed to block needed energy and industrial expansion at a critical time in humanity's development.
Breakthrough Institute co-founders Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus returned to Yale University last month for a retrospective on their 2004 essay, “The Death of Environmentalism.” Rarely does a critical assessment of an inflamed public debate so clearly shine the light of reason on why a cause was lost. In their speech Shellenberger and Nordhaus, bloth life long environmentalists, argued that green politics and the climate change crisis were destroyed from within, by exaggerated scientific claims, fantasies about green jobs and “An Inconvenient Truth.” After detailing how climate change alarmists managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, the authors go on to offer some advice for the green movement: 12 theses for a post-environmental approach to climate change. In effect, they are saying that the world needs to concentrate on solving the problems that matter to people—food, energy, economic development—and the environment will be fixed as a side effect.
The Alpha Ventus Wind Park is the first of its kind: a deep water wind farm in the stormy North Sea. It is composed of 12 turbines that together will generate 60MW of electrical power. When fully operational, the farm will be able to power 50,000 households. But barely two months after the ceremony opening Germany’s first deep water wind farm, six of the newly installed wind turbines were idle. This was not due to a lack of wind but because of gearbox damage: two turbines had to be replaced entirely, the other four repaired on site. Problems with Alpha Ventus highlight a series of poor decisions—a precipitous move to shut down working nuclear plants, rampant installation of solar cells, and a headlong rush into offshore wind generation among them—that could well have Germany facing blackouts in the not too distant future.
If advocates for green, renewable energy are to be believed, wind farms do not threaten endangered bird species like eagles, hawks and owls. A recent article in Science implies that problems at the Altamont Pass Wind Resource Area (APWRA) in California have been reduced by spacing turbines farther apart and removing turbines from problematic sites. But on-site scientific studies have revealed that the kill rate for all birds, and for birds of prey in particular, have not been reduced and may have even increased. It seems that some eco-activists are so committed to expanding wind power as a way to fight global warming that they are turning a blind eye to the slaughter in the skies. How can these duplicitous greens be trusted if they are willing to drive endangered species to extinction in the name of reduced CO2 emissions?
With the Cap & Trade bill dead in Congress, the EPA continues to promote new regulations to control carbon emissions. The left is claiming the moral high ground and the right a new popular mandate, with environmental and energy policy a part of the new political battleground. While House Republicans take aim at federal bureaucrats a number of states, led by California, the left-coast champion of all things green and illogical, are creating their own version of Cap & Trade. Citizens beware, eco-activists are working at the state level to implement cap & trade through the backdoor.
Though most of the debate among US politicians preparing for the midterm elections on November 2nd is about the economy, supporters of the warmist agenda are awakening to the fact that a sea change in the American Congress could leave climate change legislation high and dry. A list compiled by the left-leaning Wonk Room website suggests that 31 out of 37 Republican Senate candidates have recently disputed the science. This includes nine out of ten sitting senators and five of the remaining six actively oppose existing climate bills. If there was ever any doubt as to which end of the political spectrum belief in anthropogenic global warming lies on, this should make it clear that climate change is a political lever for the socialist left. There is scant support from conservatives for radical environmentalist notions. Indeed, skepticism about climate science has become a litmus tests for candidates backed by the resurgent right.
That humans can alter the natural environment is well known. We have been hunting, fishing and clearing land for agriculture for tens of thousands of years. More recently humans have gained the ability to drain swamps, dam rivers, level mountains and pave over darn near anything. Environmentalists think this kind of activity is abhorrent, and go so far as to claim that H. sapiens are responsible for a new major wave of extinctions. In general, animal species can either move, go extinct or adapt to human caused environmental changes. Many biologists will tell you that species just can't evolve fast enough to deal with rate of human induced change. As it turns out, this isn't exactly true.
Even with all of the recent scandal surrounding the purveyors of climate change pap, many in the “news media” continue to crank out party-line articles blaming all of Earth's ecological woes on humanity. After decades of trying to alarm the public over a human caused “sixth mass extinction” and more recently, dwindling diversity, some in the media just can't let go of AGW as the root of all evil. A perfect example of this appeared recently in the font of misinformation that is Yahoo News. Blaming every human activity from hunting to climate change, science writer Jeremy Hsu has once again raised the specter of that old shibboleth, the Anthropocene Epoch. This is all a part of a developing trend to elevate falling species diversity to crisis level, mainly because the world's eco-activists need a replacement issue for climate change.
Driven by a constantly expanding need for electricity, Chile is considering building seven new dams and a transmission line through its southern wilderness. This isolated land of condors and monkey puzzle trees is home to the third largest reserve of frozen freshwater in the world—the Southern Ice Field. Critics say the environmental risks have not been fully examined, and the risk to southern Chile's unique ecosystems is unacceptably high. Proponents of the dam project argue that hydroelectricity is a clean source of energy, just waiting to be tapped. Chile needs the 3500 MW/yr of power to meet its development goals and lacks indigenous oil or coal reserves. Moreover, the electricity from the dams would displace dirty generation, greatly reducing Chile's greenhouse gas emissions. Give all the benefits, why are so many people, within Chile and without, so opposed to the dams—opposed to the point of preferring new coal plants?
In news that signals a sea-change in European nuclear energy policy, Finland's parliament has voted to build two additional nuclear reactors to augment the four they already operate. When this expansion is complete, nuclear power will provide half of Finland's electricity. Following in Finland's footsteps, their Nordic neighbor Sweden has announced that it will also build new reactors. The intention being to replace the reactors at their 10 existing nuclear power plants when the old ones are shut down. This reverses a 1980 referendum that called for them to be phased out entirely. Sweden and Finland have concluded that greenhouse gases can only be cut and energy security guaranteed with continued or greater reliance on atomic power.
There is another contender in the alternate energy, renewable fuels sweepstakes that combines aspects of solar energy and biofuels. Most solar technologies are aimed at producing electricity, but a new class of solar chemical reactors aims to make liquid fuels from air, water, and sunshine. This could, in theory, provide a carbon neutral replacement for liquid fossil fuels. The catch? The process is costly and unlikely ever to compete with gasoline produced from fossil fuels without a punishing tax on carbon emissions.
Coming on the heals of the EPA and CARB decisions, to include all production emissions when evaluating biofuels, a new study from the Carnegie Institution's Department of Global Ecology says that it may be better to burn crops than turn them into biofuels. The UN has reported that world food prices are rising due to competition with government subsidized biofuel programs. Combined with new concerns over nitrous oxide production from agricultural crops, this may signal the death of America's foolish foray into crop based ethanol.