As you may know, the parasitic bureaucrats and scheming NGO representatives that comprise the dying but still twitching climate change cabal are holding a fun filled, two week blow out in Cancun, Mexico. They have gathered to preach the gospel of global warming and attack those who would thwart their plans for remaking the world according to their own slanted social views. They are keeping a low profile, after the disastrous meeting they had in Copenhagen this past December. For many, the Cancun meeting is basically a time for AGW true believers to lick their wounds and lounge about in the sun with like minded fanatics. For others it is yet another roll of the dice, a gamble that something meaningful will come from the conference. Here are some of the highlights from the bungle on the beach.
Al Gore, the high prophet of ecological doom, has stunned the climate change faithful by recanting his support for ethanol fuel. Now he tells us that supporting corn based subsidies was a mistake and that it had more to do with his desire to cultivate farm votes in the 2000 presidential election than with what was good for the environment. This announcement comes at a time when the US Congress has an opportunity to set things right. The current $0.45 per gallon tax credit for adding ethanol to gasoline automatically expires December 31, and all senators and congressmen need to do is nothing. Continue to dither and taxpayers will save six billion dollars plus the air will be cleaner. Unfortunately, the corn ethanol lobby has its hooks well planted in the US Congress, including many Republicans who supposedly have seen the light of spending reduction. Will Congress betray the people yet again?
World wide emission of CO2 from fossil fuel burning decreased by 1.3% in 2009 owing to the global financial and economic crisis says a report in Nature Geoscience. Estimated CO2 emissions from deforestation and other land-use changes (LUCs) have also declined compared with the 1990s. The decrease in greenhouse gas emissions was blamed on the contraction of GDP owing to the global financial crisis that began in 2008. Not so fast, say warmist scientists. They claim that CO2 will rise by 4.8% in 2010, proving that what should be treated as good news is not welcome in climate change circles.
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.
After all the fanfare a few months back, when US President Obama announced government loan guaranties for a new nuclear power plant in Georgia, the truth is emerging—Obama is quietly letting the nuclear Renaissance die from neglect and broken promises. Trying to distract green critics and the public with its approval of plans to build the world's biggest solar-thermal power plant in the Southern California, the administration ignored the faltering plans to expand an existing power plant on the Chesapeake Bay. Constellation Energy sent a letter to the US DOE stating that the terms offered by the government to guaranty financing for expanding the Calvert Cliffs nuclear power plant were “unworkable” and that the project could not go forward. Despite paying lip service to reviving nuclear power by providing government backed loans, the extreme greens in the Obama administration are trying to kill the nuclear power industry.
One of the arguments used by critics of nuclear power is that there is not enough uranium to power a nuclear world for an extended time. The energy hungry world would just be trading looming oil shortages for uranium shortages, they claim. As with most anti-nuclear scare-mongering these charges are totally bogus. MIT has just released a major report on the nuclear fuel cycle that finds uranium supplies will not limit the expansion of nuclear power in the US or around the world for the foreseeable future. It suggests that nuclear power, even using today’s reactor technology with the wasteful once-through fuel cycle, can play a significant part in satisfying the world's future energy needs.
The 21st Century may well mark the beginning of the hybrid age. New and exciting developments in transportation propulsion systems promise to deliver higher performance, be more efficient and unshackle human energy consumption from the burning of fossil fuels. Once the realization that oil won't last for ever is accepted, all sorts of intriguing possibilities suggest themselves: hybrid jet planes with electric motors helping to drive their high bypass turbofans; diesel electric locomotives that no longer simply throw away the energy captured by dynamic breaking; and a new crop of super cars from Lotus, Ferrari and Porsche that don't take a back seat to any gas guzzler. The future looks green, efficient and even fun.
Evidently 2010 is the International Year of Biodiversity, a year long celebration of Earth's glorious variety of species and ecosystems. Unfortunately, the 1992 Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has failed to meet its ambitious goal: a significant slowdown in biodiversity loss by 2010. The AAAS journal Science has acknowledged this celebration with special News Focus section and a Review article. “After failing to meet its major conservation goal, the Convention on Biological Diversity is setting new targets for stemming the loss of species,” its lead article states. But the news is not all bad. In some countries, conservation efforts have helped species recover and reportedly large-scale deforestation in the Amazon has declined by 47.5% over the past 12 months. With eco-alarmists shifting their panicked attention from climate change to biodiversity, it is time to look at the facts.
With all of the hype over CO2 emissions, one fact that is not usually addressed is where all the CO2 is supposed to come from. Most assume that, in order to avoid the ravages of global warming, we need to shut down all our fossil fuel electric plants, park our cars and take to planting trees 24x7. But the assumptions used in the IPCC scenarios are seldom examined in detail. In reality they are based on projected changes in population, economic growth, energy demand, and the estimated carbon intensity of energy over time. A new study in the journal Science calculated cumulative future emissions based on existing infrastructure and found a surprising result. The investigators concluded that sources of the most threatening emissions have yet to be built. In other words, they made the whole thing up—the IPCC's models are making predictions based on a future that will never happen.
Through generous subsidies from the US government, secured by corn-belt politicians, 25% of America's corn (maize) crop is turned into ethanol for use in automobiles. Ignoring the negative impact this has on food production, agricultural runoff and land use, there is new talk of raising government mandated fuel mixture proportions to use even more ethanol. At the same time, the idea of turning farm and forest wastes into "cellulosic" ethanol, a biofuel to power cars and trucks continues to languish. Because of the ongoing economic slump, a plentiful supply of ethanol made from corn, and uncertainty among policymakers, companies have delayed plans to build commercial-scale cellulosic ethanol plants, some canceling them altogether. Evidently, even the hundreds of millions of dollars on offer from the Department of Energy (DOE) are not enough to lure investors to participate in this latest biofuel boondoggle. Industry understands what biofuel advocates do not—biofuels make no sense in terms of energy policy: neither environmentally nor economically. Instead of propping up wasteful and nonviable biofuel schemes, Congress should stop all biofuel subsidies and kill all ongoing ethanol projects.
Much concern has been raised by climate scientists regarding ice loss from the world's two remaining continental ice sheets. Rapid loss of ice-mass from the glaciers of Greenland and Antarctica are cited as proof positive of global warming's onslaught. The latest measurements involve the use of satellite gravimetry, estimating the mass of terrain beneath by detecting slight changes in gravity as a satellite passes overhead. But gravity measurements of ice-mass loss are complicated by glacial isostatic adjustments—compensation for the rise or fall of the underlying crustal material. A new article in Nature Geoscience describes an innovative approach employed to derive ice-mass changes from GRACE data. The report suggests significantly smaller overall ice-mass losses than previous estimates.
Desperate to put the bad days of Climategate behind them, climate scientists are pronouncing the matter over and done with. After all of the revelations and disclosures surrounding Climategate, and all of the public mea culpas, a change in attitude by those in the climate science community would be welcome. A turn to greater openness regarding methods and data, along with less overt political boosterism. But evidently, that is not in the cards. Starting off with an editorial titled “Climategate closed,” the journal Nature Geoscience presents a number of troubling statements from people involved with climate change. Though calling for scientists to “be humble,” the tone of the commentaries is that no wrong was really done and nothing has changed. The only change that needs to be made is making a greater effort to “inform” the public and skeptics. Clearly, climate scientists just don't get it—they cannot simply return to business as usual.
After dominating the US domestic news for most of the summer, the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has disappeared as quickly as it first burst on the scene at the end of April. Though BP and the government are still working on the “final fix” for the previously leaking deepwater well, when the “static kill” plugged the gusher media interest soon faded. A report issued by the National Incident Command (NIC) found that about 26% percent of the oil released from the runaway well was still in the water or onshore, but federal scientists believe that it is breaking down rapidly in both places. Even so, a re-instated ban on deepwater drilling stays in place, blocking further exploration and bringing howls of protest from gulf area governors and oil executives alike. In a strange example of unexpected consequences, the drilling ban, backed by most green groups, may be leading to greater environmental damage by increasing oil imports from America's neighbor to the north—Canada. It turns out that producing a barrel of oil from Canadian tar-sands generates 82% more greenhouse-gas emissions than does the average barrel refined in the US. And then there is the mess that extracting it leaves behind.
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.