|The Week That Was
January 27, 2007
Quote of the week:
"Science is the belief in the ignorance of experts." Richard Feynman
1. Why Global Warming is Probably a Crock
2. Letter to Financial Times about Stern Report
3. Polar Bear Politics. Letter to WSJ
4. Global warming 'just a natural cycle’ -- Daily Telegraph
5. Global-warming alarmists intimidate dissenting scientists into silence—WSJ Opinion Journal
6. Will Al Gore Melt? -- WSJ
7. The Gorons (courtesy of Lord Monckton)
8. Letter to The Observer (London): IPCC Report
9. Senator Bingaman’s Carbon Caps
10. Capitalizing on Environmental Guilt: Another Eco-Scam
11. Book Review of “Eco-Freaks”
12. Decoding Climate Politics -- WSJ
13. Why our CEOs are warming to Kyoto Opinion Journal
14. Climate change seen fanning conflict and terrorism –Scientific American
15. Very, Very Big Corn Ethanol and its consequences.
16. Bush' Alternative Fuel Folly
"You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and industries," al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden wrote in a 2002 "Letter to the American people." [But see ITEM #13]
Was 2006 really the warmest year – or not? (See TWTW Jan 13)
Here is the temperature anomaly since the (true) warmest year of 1998:
In other words: 2006 was the coldest year since 2001
Wallace S. Broecker, winner of the 2006 Craaford Prize:
My lifetime study of Earth's climate system has humbled me. I'm convinced that we have greatly underestimated the complexity of this system. The importance of obscure phenomena, ranging from those that control the size of raindrops to those that control the amount of water pouring into the deep sea from the shelves of the Antarctic continent, makes reliable modeling very difficult, if not impossible.
"Will Our Ride into the Greenhouse Future be a Smooth One?" in GSA Today
Global climate change predictions are mostly mental masturbation in the final analysis. It is only the hubris of people with political motives who think and/or claim that they have the knowledge and comprehension of God who believe otherwise.
Across Japan, carbon emissions have actually grown more than 8% since 1990, a pattern reflected in Kyoto itself, where the number of cars increased from 1.3 million in 1990 to 2 million in 2002. The nation as a whole will need to slash emissions about 14% to achieve its targets. Which raises the obvious question: If ultra-efficient Japan can't wean itself from the carbon habit, what hope does the rest of the world have?
-Time Magazine, 19 January 2007
Meanwhile in California:
" 'We are the modern equivalent of the ancient city-states of Athens and Sparta. California has the ideas of Athens and the power of Sparta,' [Gov. Arnold] Schwarzenegger, who played Hercules in his first film role, told legislators at the capitol. 'Not only can we lead California into the future . . . we can show the nation and the world how to get there.' "-- Reuters http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070110/us_nm/california_schwarzenegger_dc_1 , Jan. 9
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger asked the federal government Tuesday for disaster aid because of an ongoing cold snap that has destroyed nearly $1 billion worth of California citrus. . . . Visiting a Fresno orange grove, Schwarzenegger said he was asking the U.S. government for disaster status, which would allow California to seek aid from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Small Business Administration to offset losses to growers and other businesses."-- Associated Press http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20070117/ap_on_bi_ge/citrus_disaster_9 , Jan. 16
And in Washington:
The battle among House Democrats over global warming heated up Thursday as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the formation of a special committee to hold hearings on climate change, a job that had been under the watch of U.S. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich... "We should probably name it the committee on world travel and junkets," Dingell told the Associated Press. "We're just empowering a bunch of enthusiastic amateurs to go around and make speeches and make commitments that will be very difficult to honor."
Pelosi announced Thursday that she would form a Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, which would hold hearings and seek suggestions for ways to address climate change. She said Congress needed the committee "to communicate with the American people on this important issue," and that Democrats would come up with bills by July 4.
--Justin Hyde, Detroit Free Press, 19 January 2007
From an insider-researcher
”Pork is definitely the biggest problem that R&D faces today. The hydrogen program has been destroyed by pork -- Harry Reid alone runs off with about $30 M out of our $100 M annual budget each year. No real research is getting done -- only planning and budgeting and management and meetings and symposia. This is because when a block of money goes off to earmarksville, it doesn't shrink the management or the lawyers or accountants, but eventually trickles down and comes out of the researchers at the bench, the grad students with the original ideas.
I think the most important words in last night's State-of-the-Union address were about earmarks. Clearing up that abuse will do much more to get us off foreign oil than merely talking up bio-fuels.”
And now for something different:
Prince Charles has been accused of hypocrisy for planning a 7,000-mile round trip to the US to pick up an environmental award later this month.
The prince, accompanied by the Duchess of Cornwall and 18 officials, will fly to the US to collect the Global Environmental Citizen Prize. Environmental campaigners said he should accept the award via video link: "Flying is the single most polluting way in which you can travel."
Last month Prince Charles announced plans to make his household's travel plans more eco-friendly. And later this year, he plans to publish details of his own carbon footprint in his annual accounts as well as targets for reducing his household's carbon emissions.
Story from BBC NEWS:
1. WHY GLOBAL WARMING IS PROBABLY A CROCK
By James Lewis
As a scientist I've learned never to say "never." So human-caused global warming is always a hypothesis to hold, at least until climate science becomes mature. (Climate science is very immature right now: Physicists just don't know how to deal with hypercomplex systems like the earth weather. That's why a recent NASA scientist was wildly wrong when he called anthropogenic warming "just basic physics." Basic physics is what you do in the laboratory. If hypercomplex systems were predictable, NASA would have foolproof space shuttles --- because they are a lot simpler than the climate. So this is just pseudoscientific twaddle from NASA's vaunted Politically Correct Division. It makes me despair when even scientists conveniently forget that little word "hypothesis.")
OK. The human-caused global warming hypothesis is completely model-dependent. We can't directly observe cars and cows turning up the earth thermostat. Whatever the human contribution there may be to climate constitutes just a few signals among many hundreds or thousands. All our models of the earth climate are incomplete. That's why they keep changing, and that's why climate scientists keep finding surprises. As Rummy used to say, there are a ton of "unknown unknowns" out there. The real world is full of x's, y's and z's, far more than we can write little models about. How do you extract the human contribution from a vast number of unknowns? That's why constant testing is needed, and why it is so frustrating to do frontier science properly.
Science is difficult because nature always has another surprise in store for us, dammit! Einstein rejected quantum mechanics, and was wrong about that. Newton went wrong on the proof of calculus, a problem that didn't get solved until 1900. Scientists are always wrong --- they are just less wrong now than they were before (if everything is going well). Check out the current issue of Science magazine. It's full of surprises. That's what it's for.
Now there's a basic fact about complexity that helps to understand this. It's a point in probability theory (eek!) about many variables, each one less than 100 percent likely to be true.
If I know that my six-sided die isn't loaded, I'll get a specific number on average one out of six rolls. Two rolls of the die produces 1/6 x 1/6 = 1/36. For n rolls of the die, I get (1/6) multiplied by itself n times, or (1/6) to the nth power. That number becomes small very quickly. The more rolls of the die, the less likely it is that some particular sequence will come up. It's the first thing to know in any game of chance. Don't ever bet serious money if that isn't obvious.
Now imagine that all the variables about global climate are known with less than 100 percent certainty. Let's be wildly and unrealistically optimistic and say that climate scientists know each variable to 99 percent certainty! (No such thing, of course). And let's optimistically suppose there are only one-hundred x's, y's, and z's --- all the variables that can change the climate: like the amount of cloud cover over Antarctica, the changing ocean currents in the South Pacific, Mount Helena venting, sun spots, Chinese factories burning more coal every year, evaporation of ocean water (the biggest "greenhouse" gas), the wobbles of earth orbit around the sun, and yes, the multifarious fartings of billions of living creatures on the face of the earth, minus, of course, all the trillions of plants and algae that gobble up all the CO2, nitrogen-containing molecules, and sulfur-smelling exhalations spewed out by all of us animals. Got that? It all goes into our best math model.
So in the best case, the smartest climatologist in the world will know 100 variables, each one to an accuracy of 99 percent. Want to know what the probability of our spiffiest math model would be, if that perfect world existed? Have you ever multiplied (99/100) by itself 100 times? According to the Google calculator, it equals a little more than 36.6 percent.
The Bottom line: our best imaginable model has a total probability of one out of three. How many billions of dollars in Kyoto money are we going to spend on that chance?
Or should we just blow it at the dog races?
So all ye of global warming faith, rejoice in the ambiguity that real life presents to all of us. Neither planetary catastrophe nor paradise on earth are sure bets. Sorry about that. (Consider growing up, instead.)
That's why human-caused global warming is a hypothesis, not a fact. Anybody who says otherwise isn't doing science, but trying to sell you a bill of goods.
James Lewis blogs at http://www.dangeroustimes.wordpress.com/
from: http://www.americanthinker.com/2007/01/why_global_warming_is_probably.html at Jan 16, 2007
2. LETTER TO FT ABOUT STERN REPORT
Arguments about the Stern Report have focused mainly on the economic portion of the Report (FT Jan 13). Perhaps this is to be expected since Sir Nicholas’ expertise in primarily in economics.
Nevertheless, the debate about which discount rate to choose in a cost-benefit analysis crucial and revolves more about ethics than the details of the putative damages of warming and costs of mitigation.
The ethical issue argued is what value to put on the welfare of future generations (or more emotionally the welfare of “our grandchildren.”). Here one is reminded of the cynical remark of a noted welfare economist KB, who shall remain unnamed: “What have these future generations ever done for us?”
Perhaps a more valid comparison is between the present world population that lives in poverty and a future population that will have a much higher income level – if historical data are extrapolated and economic growth continues.
Little attention has been devoted to the most basic assumption underlying the Stern Report --that current warming is mainly anthropogenic -- in spite of rather good evidence against it. I refer the reader to my discussion in World Economics (July-September 2006). http://www.sepp.org/Archive/weekwas/2006/October%2028.htm
S. Fred Singer
3. POLAR BEAR POLITICS
Letter to Editor
WSJ, Jan 18, 2007
Contrary to enviro-hype, listing polar bears as “threatened” (under the Endangered Species Act) does not endorse greenhouse warming or the need to control CO2 emissions. It means only a lengthy period of hearings and analysis, whose outcome is hardly in doubt. The government of Nunavut (northern Canada) plans to oppose such a listing – which would hurt its lucrative polar-bear hunting industry. Polar bears are doing well (WSJ Jan 3) and have survived many cycles of warming in the historic past. Thermometer records of the 20th century show that temperatures there do not follow global values but are controlled by an “Arctic Oscillation” with a period of decades.
But the polar bear has now become a symbol of global warming. So Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth,” plays up the animal’s plight. It shows a swimming bear with a desperate look on his face, searching in vain for an ice floe to rest on.. Needless to say, he was computer-generated; no real bear in his right mind would go swimming in the open Arctic Ocean.
An editorial in the Jan. 7 Washington Post opines that the “threatened” designation may be the first step to mandatory controls on fuel use and refers to polar bears as “cuddly, lovable animals.” Clearly, the writer has never come face to face with this relative of the grizzly bear. But furry seals and their cute, cuddly pups would be delighted if polar bears were to disappear. Ah, such are ecological realities...
S. Fred Singer
Professor emeritus of Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia. He co-authored “Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years” (Rowman & Littlefield, 2007)
4. GLOBAL WARMING 'JUST A NATURAL CYCLE'
By Charles Clover, Environment Editor, Daily Telegraph, Jan 18, 2007
Global warming comes and goes in 1,500-year cycles, which may have more to do with cosmic rays than fossil fuel emissions, according to a new book. If the genuine warming now being seen is caused by human emissions of carbon dioxide, it would have started earlier, according to the book by two veteran American climate sceptics, Fred Singer and Dennis Avery.
Mr Avery, who was in London yesterday, said: “If this were a CO2 driven warming it should have started in 1940 and risen strongly from there. In fact warming started in 1850 and rose sharply until 1940 then decreased for 35 years.” Mr Avery believes that only half the warming that has happened since 1940 - 0.2 degrees according to his measurements - can be ascribed to man-made emissions. The rest he says is natural variability. “If you factor in the warming from the cyclical trends, it is not very frightening.”
The authors of Unstoppable Global Warming - Every 1,500 Years, say that history, ice core studies, and stalagmites all agree on a natural cycle at roughly that interval that is superimposed on the longer, stronger ice ages and interglacial phases. They point as evidence of this natural cycle to the “Climate Optimum” - a period of warmer and wetter weather than the present Earth’s climate, which took place 9,000 to 5,000 years ago, and a cooling event 2,600 years ago.
During the Roman warming period from 200 BC to around AD 600, North Africa and the Sahara were wetter and supported crops. In more recent times they point to the Medieval warming of 900 to 1300, when Eric the Red’s descendants colonised Greenland, and the Little Ice Age of 1300 to 1850 which saw the Norse dairy farmers on Greenland grow short from malnutrition and eventually die out.
Mr Avery, a former US agriculture official whose celebrated earlier book was Saving the Planet with Pesticides and Plastic: The Environmental Triumph of High Yield Farming, suggests that the natural cycle of warming and cooling may come from variations in cosmic rays which have been linked to cloud formation. This theory was validated in a recent paper in a Royal Society journal by scientists from the Danish National Space Centre who showed that sub-atomic particles - cosmic rays from exploding stars - play a major role in making clouds. During the past century, cosmic rays became scarcer as vigorous activity by the sun forced them away. So there was less cloud cover to reflect away sunlight and a warmer world, according to the Danish scientists.
The book's authors say the 60 per cent reduction in fossil fuel emissions demanded from First World countries by international scientists working for the UN Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) would deliver a “crippling blow” to the world economy that could be avoided without damaging the planet.
Dr Richard Betts of the Meteorological Office’s Hadley Centre for Climate Change said: “The key argument among sceptics has moved away from denying that there is man-made climate change to saying that it is weaker than mainstream science has suggested.
“It is very well understood that greenhouse gases do cause radiative forcing. The work on cosmic rays is still quite speculative. The forthcoming report by IPCC next month will be the most reviewed document in the history of science. It is the IPCC process to review all the literature with an open mind. Many sceptics are involved in the process. “It is good to have the debate. It makes sure that the rest of us are certain about what we are doing.”
SEPP Comment: For compelling evidence for the theory of solar cycles (with carbon as an amplifier), check out: www.sciencebits.com/CosmicRaysClimate
5. CLIMATE OF FEAR:
GLOBAL-WARMING ALARMISTS INTIMIDATE DISSENTING SCIENTISTS INTO SILENCE.
BY RICHARD LINDZEN
WSJ.com Opinion Journal, April 12, 2006
There have been repeated claims that this past year's hurricane activity was another sign of human-induced climate change. Everything from the heat wave in Paris to heavy snows in Buffalo has been blamed on people burning gasoline to fuel their cars, and coal and natural gas to heat, cool and electrify their homes. Yet how can a barely discernible, one-degree increase in the recorded global mean temperature since the late 19th century possibly gain public acceptance as the source of recent weather catastrophes? And how can it translate into unlikely claims about future catastrophes?
The answer has much to do with misunderstanding the science of climate, plus a willingness to debase climate science into a triangle of alarmism. Ambiguous scientific statements about climate are hyped by those with a vested interest in alarm, thus raising the political stakes for policy makers who provide funds for more science research to feed more alarm to increase the political stakes. After all, who puts money into science--whether for AIDS, or space, or climate--where there is nothing really alarming? Indeed, the success of climate alarmism can be counted in the increased federal spending on climate research from a few hundred million dollars pre-1990 to $1.7 billion today. It can also be seen in heightened spending on solar, wind, hydrogen, ethanol and clean coal technologies, as well as on other energy-investment decisions.
But there is a more sinister side to this feeding frenzy. Scientists who dissent from the alarmism have seen their grant funds disappear, their work derided, and themselves libeled as industry stooges, scientific hacks or worse. Consequently, lies about climate change gain credence even when they fly in the face of the science that supposedly is their basis.
To understand the misconceptions perpetuated about climate science and the climate of intimidation, one needs to grasp some of the complex underlying scientific issues. First, let's start where there is agreement. The public, press and policy makers have been repeatedly told that three claims have widespread scientific support: Global temperature has risen about a degree since the late 19th century; levels of CO2 in the atmosphere have increased by about 30% over the same period; and CO2 should contribute to future warming. These claims are true. However, what the public fails to grasp is that the claims neither constitute support for alarm nor establish man's responsibility for the small amount of warming that has occurred. In fact, those who make the most outlandish claims of alarm are actually demonstrating skepticism of the very science they say supports them. It isn't just that the alarmists are trumpeting model results that we know must be wrong. It is that they are trumpeting catastrophes that couldn't happen even if the models were right as justifying costly policies to try to prevent global warming.
If the models are correct, global warming reduces the temperature differences between the poles and the equator. When you have less difference in temperature, you have less excitation of extratropical storms, not more. And, in fact, model runs support this conclusion. Alarmists have drawn some support for increased claims of tropical storminess from a casual claim by Sir John Houghton of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that a warmer world would have more evaporation, with latent heat providing more energy for disturbances. The problem with this is that the ability of evaporation to drive tropical storms relies not only on temperature but humidity as well, and calls for drier, less humid air. Claims for starkly higher temperatures are based upon there being more humidity, not less--hardly a case for more storminess with global warming.
So how is it that we don't have more scientists speaking up about this junk science? It's my belief that many scientists have been cowed not merely by money but by fear. An example: Earlier this year, Texas Rep. Joe Barton issued letters to paleoclimatologist Michael Mann and some of his co-authors seeking the details behind a taxpayer-funded analysis that claimed the 1990s were likely the warmest decade and 1998 the warmest year in the last millennium. Mr. Barton's concern was based on the fact that the IPCC had singled out Mr. Mann's work as a means to encourage policy makers to take action. And they did so before his work could be replicated and tested--a task made difficult because Mr. Mann, a key IPCC author, had refused to release the details for analysis. The scientific community's defense of Mr. Mann was, nonetheless, immediate and harsh. The president of the National Academy of Sciences--as well as the American Meteorological Society and the American Geophysical Union--formally protested, saying that Rep. Barton's singling out of a scientist's work smacked of intimidation.
All of which starkly contrasts to the silence of the scientific community when anti-alarmists were in the crosshairs of then-Sen. Al Gore. In 1992, he ran two congressional hearings during which he tried to bully dissenting scientists, including myself, into changing our views and supporting his climate alarmism. Nor did the scientific community complain when Mr. Gore, as vice president, tried to enlist Ted Koppel in a witch-hunt to discredit anti-alarmist scientists--a request that Mr. Koppel deemed publicly inappropriate. And they were mum when subsequent articles and books by Ross Gelbspan libelously labeled scientists who differed with Mr. Gore as stooges of the fossil-fuel industry.
Sadly, this is only the tip of a non-melting iceberg. In Europe, Henk Tennekes was dismissed as research director of the Royal Dutch Meteorological Society after questioning the scientific underpinnings of global warming. Aksel Winn-Nielsen, former director of the U.N.'s World Meteorological Organization, was tarred by Bert Bolin, first head of the IPCC, as a tool of the coal industry for questioning climate alarmism. Respected Italian professors Alfonso Sutera and Antonio Speranza disappeared from the debate in 1991, apparently losing climate-research funding for raising questions.
And then there are the peculiar standards in place in scientific journals for articles submitted by those who raise questions about accepted climate wisdom. At Science and Nature, such papers are commonly refused without review as being without interest. However, even when such papers are published, standards shift. When I, with some colleagues at NASA, attempted to determine how clouds behave under varying temperatures, we discovered what we called an "Iris Effect," wherein upper-level cirrus clouds contracted with increased temperature, providing a very strong negative climate feedback sufficient to greatly reduce the response to increasing CO2. Normally, criticism of papers appears in the form of letters to the journal to which the original authors can respond immediately. However, in this case (and others) a flurry of hastily prepared papers appeared, claiming errors in our study, with our responses delayed months and longer. The delay permitted our paper to be commonly referred to as "discredited." Indeed, there is a strange reluctance to actually find out how climate really behaves. In 2003, when the draft of the U.S. National Climate Plan urged a high priority for improving our knowledge of climate sensitivity, the National Research Council instead urged support to look at the impacts of the warming--not whether it would actually happen.
Alarm rather than genuine scientific curiosity, it appears, is essential to maintaining funding. And only the most senior scientists today can stand up against this alarmist gale, and defy the iron triangle of climate scientists, advocates and policymakers.
Mr. Lindzen is Alfred P. Sloan Professor of Atmospheric Science at MIT.
6. WILL AL GORE MELT?
If we are to embark on the costliest political project ever -- Al Gore's suggestions to combat global warming -- maybe we should make sure it rests on solid ground, say Flemming Rose, culture editor of the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten, and Bjorn Lomborg, a professor at the Copenhagen Business School.
First, the costs associated with Gore's plan need to be explored, say the authors:
o The United Nations estimates that if we slowly change our greenhouse gas emissions over the coming century, we will live in a warmer but immensely richer world.
o However, the U.N. Climate Panel suggests that if we follow Al Gore's path, by 2100 the average person will be 30 percent poorer.
Given the huge costs, it would be paramount to look at Gore's facts, which seem more convenient than accurate, says Rose and Lomborg:
o In his movie, "An Inconvenient Truth," Gore shows sequences of 20-feet flooding in Florida, San Francisco, New York, Beijing and others; yet the U.N. climate panel expects only a foot of sea-level rise over this century.
o Gore also says global warming is bringing malaria to Nairobi; yet this is quite contrary to the World Health Organization's finding that Nairobi is considered free of malaria; but in the
1920s and 1930s, when temperatures were lower than today, malaria epidemics occurred regularly.
o In Antarctica, Gore presents pictures from the 2 percent of Antarctica that is dramatically warming and ignores the 98 percent that has largely cooled over the past 35 years; he also ignores U.N. panel estimates that Antarctica will actually increase its snow mass this century.
o He also says heat waves will cost lives, but says nothing about the fact that avoided cold deaths far outweigh the number of heat deaths.
o In the United Kingdom, for example, it is estimated that
2,000 more will die from global warming, but 20,000 fewer will die of cold.
Source: Flemming Rose And Bjorn Lomborg, "Will Al Gore Melt?" Wall Street Journal, January 18, 2007.
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB116909379096479919.html Courtesy NCPA
7. THE GORONS (courtesy of Lord Monckton)
Some of the errors in Al Gore's movie An Inconvenient Truth ·
Gore, aiming to undermine the significance of previous warm periods such as that of the Middle Ages, promoted the 1,000-year "hockey stick" temperature chart (debunked by McIntyre & McKitrick, 2005).
· Gore showed heart-rending pictures of the New Orleans floods and insisted on a link between increased hurricane frequency and global warming that is not supported by the facts (IPCC, 2001, 2007). · Gore asserted that today's Arctic is experiencing unprecedented warmth while ignoring that Arctic temperatures in the 1930s and 1940s were as warm or warmer (Briffa et al., 2004).
· Gore did not explain that Arctic temperature changes are more closely correlated with changes in solar activity than with changes in atmospheric CO2 concentrations (Soon, 2005).
· Gore did not explain that the Sun has been hotter, for longer, in the past 50 years than in any similar period in at least the past 11,400 years (Solanki et al., 2005).
· Gore said the Antarctic was warming and losing ice but failed to note, that this is only true of a small region; the vast bulk of the continent has been cooling and gaining ice (Doran et al., 2004). · Gore mentioned the breakup of the Larsen B ice shelf, but did not mention peer-reviewed research, which suggests the ice shelf, did not exist 1,000 years ago (Pudsey & Evans, 2001).
· Gore hyped unfounded fears that Greenland's ice is in danger of disappearing. In fact its thickness has been growing by 2 inches per year for a decade (Johanessen et al., 2005).
· Gore falsely claimed that global warming is melting Mt. Kilimanjaro's icecap, actually caused by atmospheric dessication from local deforestation, and pre-20th-century climate shifts (Cullen et al., 2006). · Gore said global sea levels would swamp Manhattan, Bangladesh, Shanghai and other coastal cities, and would rise 20ft by 2100, but the UN estimate is just 7in to 1ft 5in. (IPCC, 2007; Morner, 1995, 2004, Singer, 1997).
· Gore implied that a Peruvian glacier's retreat is due to global warming, failing to state that the region has been cooling since the 1930s and other South American glaciers are advancing (Polissar et al., 2006).
· Gore blamed global warming for water loss in Africa's Lake Chad, though NASA scientists had concluded that local water-use and grazing patterns are probably to blame (Foley & Coe, 2001).
· Gore inaccurately said polar bears are drowning due to melting ice when in fact 11 of the 13 main groups in Canada are thriving, and polar bear populations have more than doubled since 1940 (Taylor, 2006).
· Gore said a review of 928 scientific papers had shown none against the "consensus". In fact only 1% of the papers were explicitly pro-"consensus"; almost 3 times as many were explicitly against (Peiser, 2006).
· Gore showed a link between changes in temperature and in CO2 concentration in the past 500,000 years, but did not admit that changes in temperature preceded changes in CO2 concentration (Fischer et al., 1999).
BRIFFA, K.R., Osborn, T.J. and Schweingruber, F.H. 2004. Large-scale temperature inferences from tree rings: a review. Global and Planetary Change 40: 11-26.
CULLEN, N.J., Molg, T., Kaser, G., Hussein, K., Steffen, K. and Hardy, D.R. 2006. Kilimanjaro glaciers: Recent areal extent from satellite data and new interpretation of observed 20th century retreat rates. Geophysical Research Letters 33: 10.1029/2006GL027084.
DORAN, P.T., Priscu, J.C., Lyons, W.B., Walsh, J.E., Fountain, A.G., McKnight, D.M., Moorheat, D.L., Virginia, R.A., Wall, D.H., Clow, G.D., Fritsen, C.H., McKay, C.P. and Parsons, A.N. 2002. Antarctic climate cooling and terrestrial ecosystem response. Nature 415: 517-520.
FOLEY, Jonathan A., and Coe, Michael T. 2001. Decline of Lake Chad. Journal of Physical Research (Biogeosciences). Web: http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2001/04/0426_lakechadshrinks.html [reported in National Geographic News].
HOUGHTON, Sir John. 2002. Overview of the climate change issue. Presentation to "Forum 2002" at St. Anne's College, Oxford. www.jri.org.uk/resource/climatechangeoverview.htm.
IPCC. 2001. Climate Change, The Scientific Basis, Cambridge University Press, London, 2001.
IPCC. 2007. Climate Change, Fourth Assessment Report, Cambridge University Press, London [in press].
JOHANNESSEN, O.M., et al. 2005. Recent Ice-Sheet Growth in the Interior of Greenland, SciencExpress, 20 October 2005.
McINTYRE, Stephen and McKitrick, Ross. 2005. Hockey sticks, principal components, and spurious significance. Geophysical Research Letters, 32: L03710, doi: 10.1029/2004GL021750.
MORNER, N.-A. 1995. Recorded sea level variability in the Holocene and expected future changes. In: Eisma, D. (Ed.), "Climate Change: Impact on Coastal Habitation", CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, 17-28.
MORNER, N.-A. 2004. Estimating future sea level changes from past records. Global and Planetary Change 40: 49-54.
PEISER, B. 2006. Draft letter to Science (2005) re Oreskes (2004). Communication to Lord Monckton.
PETIT, J.R. et al. 1999. Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok Ice Core, Antarctica. Nature 399: 429-436.
POLISSAR, P.J., Abbott, M.B., Wolfe, A.P., Bezada, M., Rull, V., and Bradley, R.S. 2006. Solar modulation of Little Ice Age climate in the tropical Andes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 10.1073/pnas.0603118103.
PUDSEY, C.J. and Evans, J. 2001. First survey of Antarctic sub-ice shelf sediments reveals mid-Holocene ice shelf retreat. Geology 29: 787-790.
SINGER, S.F. 1997. Hot Talk Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate (Independent Institute, Oakland, CA), pp.18-19.
SOLANKI, S.K., Usoskin, I.G., Kromer, B., Schüssler, M. and Beer, J. 2005. Unusual activity of the Sun during recent decades compared to the previous 11,000 years. Nature 436: 174 (14 July 2005) | doi: 10.1038/436174b
SOON, W. W.-H. 2005. Variable solar irradiance as a plausible agent for multidecadal variations in the Arctic-wide surface air temperature record of the past 130 years. Geophysical Research Letters 32.
TAYLOR, M. 2006. Eco-hysteria over polar bears is unjustified. Reported in Edmonton Journal, Canada, 31 December.
SEPP Comment: For additional critique of Gore movie see also "Skeptic's Guide to An Inconvenient Truth," and some related items: http://www.cei.org/pages/ait_response.cfm
8. LETTER TO THE OBSERVER (LONDON): IPCC REPORT
Sir, - Robin McKie (January 21) says the UN predicts warmer, harmful weather: its estimate of our climate impact since 1750 is down 25%.
He says oceans will rise 50cm this century: the UN draft says 13-43cm, halving its upper estimate.
He says oceans rise 2mm a year: unchanged since 1920.
He says 12 recent years were the warmest ever: temperature hasn’t risen since 1998.
He says the UN predicts worse storms: the UN projects unchanged hurricane frequency.
He mentions desertification: 300,000km2 of the Sahara has greened in 30 years.
He says temperature will rise 3C to 2100: calculations using UN methods give 0.6C.
He says the UN dismisses the Sun’s effect on warming: since its draft, papers from America, Sweden, Russia and China say the Sun (hotter for longer in the past 50 years than in the previous 11,400) caused ~70% of recent warming, but will cool by 2015.
He says Antarctica is melting: the Antarctic and Greenland plateaux have cooled and gained ice-mass this decade.
He says the UN talks of changes as almost certain: it misleads by using 90% confidence intervals, not the customary 95%, despite reviewers complaints.
Monckton of Brenchley, Rannoch.
9. SENATOR BINGAMAN’S CARBON CAPS
Winningreen Letter, January 22, 2007
Issue: Senator Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee, is just one of several who have proposed new legislation to require industry to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions. The Department of Energy's Energy Information Administration (EIA) has examined the proposed bill and written an analysis of its effects on electricity costs and energy use. Noting that legislation to reduce greenhouse gas emissions "is passed through to consumers, rais[ing] the price of fossil fuels," EIA forecasts such legislation would "encourage lower energy use and a shift away from fossil fuels." Here are more of its findings:
·By 2020 the cost of coal to power plants would rise 48%; 81% by 2030.
·Total coal use is expected to rise 23% with such legislation versus a 53% projected growth in the use of coal with no legislation
·Total energy costs would rise 8% more than otherwise projected by 2030
·This legislation would increase the use of nuclear power & renewables such as biomass and wind power
·This legislation would raise consumer energy prices 8% more than currently projected by 2030
Comment 1: This legislation is a "jobs cap" proposition because by mandating the capping of energy emissions you will automatically cost American jobs.
Comment 2: So these Senators want to hurt the coal industry that now supplies 50% of our electricity. Think of the jobs that may be lost and how we will get the electricity needed to supply the internet economy.
Background and links: This is basically an "anti-coal" bill. Senators Bingaman and Boxer (D-CA) have co-authored an opinion piece in the Dallas Morning News warning utilities that are planning new coal plants they should "think carefully about how to spend their funds so as to be part of the solution to climate change, not a part of the problem." Read more at: http://www.dallasnews.com/sharedcontent/dws/dn/opinion/viewpoints/stories/DN-bingaman_19edi.ART.State.Edition1.290de70.html
10. CAPITALIZING ON ENVIRONMENTAL GUILT: ANOTHER ECO-SCAM
By Jack Ward, January 11, 2007
I was recently entertained by a story of a of San Jose State University professor buying a TerraPass to ease her guilt. The good professor felt guilty about driving her Lexus. So to relieve her guilt, she bought a TerraPass from a San Francisco company that sells guilt reduction. In exchange, TerraPass gives her a sticker and says that they will invest the money in pollution-free industries.
The esteemed professor could have invested that money in the same pollution-free industries and received dividends from the investment.
She could have used the money to plant carbon dioxide-absorbing trees.
But, neither of those options would award her with a guilt-saving sticker that she could show her peers. We can only hope that this professor doesn't teach economics.
The TerraPass doesn't limit this opportunity to the guilt-burdened drivers of automobiles. To offset the carbon emissions created on a 2,200-mile airline flight, TerraPass will let you relieve your guilt for $5.99.
The TerraPass promotion says, "We all have a "carbon footprint," the total carbon-dioxide emissions we create when we drive or fly or use electricity ... and you can eliminate your carbon footprint with TerraPass." I have to hand it to TerraPass; this is a very inventive way to make money. Selling guilt is ingenious. It's like selling a handful of smoke. It exceeds the "Pet Rock," or anything that Charles Ponzi could have dreamed up. Ponzi is best known for his "Ponzi Scheme" investments that promised huge returns for investors. Ponzi criminally bilked investors, but there is nothing illegal or deceptive about getting gullible people to pay you money to sooth their environmental guilt. I'm jealous that someone thought of selling environmental guilt reduction before I did.
As I began doing research for this column, I found that TerraPass isn't the only organization that will relieve your environmental guilt for cash. The Carbon Fund, The Conservation Fund, and Sustainable Travel International, to name a few, will be glad to take you money.
The Carbon Fund will be glad to declare your family "carbon neutral" for a mere $99 per family member, per year. In return, you will receive a certificate, bumper sticker, and window decal to show your jealous neighbors. The following are the guilt reduction fees the Conservation Fund charges owners of the following classes of cars - "Green" car - $14.95/yr, "Efficient" cars - $19.91/yr, "Full size" cars - $29.92/yr, and "SUV/Mega" cars - $49.89/yr. Sustainable Travel International will "calculate the CO2 emissions released during your travels, from your home, or office energy consumption. You then neutralize this impact on climate change by investing in "MyClimate carbon offset projects." As long as you have money in your wallet, these "investments" should reduce your environmental guilt. The economy must be in real good shape when people willingly pay money to purge their souls of environmental guilt.
Starting this Spring, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) will begin ClimateSmart. ClimateSmart will calculate how much carbon dioxide households and businesses emit every month. Customers could either reduce their energy use, or pay a guilt-fee to PG&E to become "carbon neutral." Like the other Eco-Guilt companies, PG&E is capitalizing on environmental guilt. At least, all of these guilt reduction programs are voluntary.
Imagine the potential income of these programs. Al Gore is traveling the globe hyping carbon dioxide emissions and global warming in his apocalyptic environmental horror movie, An Inconvenient Truth. The mainstream media constantly warns the public about the global warming.
And Britain's Prince "Chuck" has described climate change as the "biggest threat to mankind." All of this free advertisement could attract millions of Liberals overwhelmed with environmental guilt.
Just think: a completely new industry was created based solely on environmental guilt.
Ain't America great?
11. BOOK REVIEW OF “ECO-FREAKS”
by John Berlau (Nelson Current, 2006). 250 pp. Hardbound. $25.99 ($17.93 from Amazon)
Alternately alarming, enlightening, ironic, and entertaining, award-winning journalist John Berlau explores the myriad ways in which shortsighted environmentalism actually endangers trees, wildlife, and people. Here's a quick overview.
·The Hoover Dam saves lives & prevents flooding. Environmentalists (Eco-Freaks) would like it blown up. ·There is no evidence DDT kills or even harms hardly anything. It can and has saved millions of lives. Eco-Freaks support its ban.
·Asbestos is a fire prevention wonder and its few negatives can easily be controlled. Eco-Freaks are against asbestos use.
·Trees put way more hydrocarbons into the atmosphere than cars. Eco-Freaks love trees and hate cars.
·The Netherlands has a wonderful life-saving system of water & flood control. Eco-Freaks pursue lawsuits rather than allow a system like that to save lives in New Orleans.
The book points out many other examples. Environmentalists are amazing in their consistent ability to be wrong on everything. Being stubbornly wrong in the face of mountains of contrary evidence propels them to honorary status with the liberal left. The brainlock that will not budge in the face of logic is the hallmark of the liberal left. The author presents the scientific backup that Eco-Freaks have chosen to ignore for decades. Here's hoping a few finally see the logic.
As Berlau writes, "America . . . is still mighty prosperous, but environmentalism is putting us on the brink of danger as well. As technology after technology that our grandparents put in place is being banned, and new technologies never even come to market, we risk a public-health disaster. Environmentalists have promoted all sorts of doomsday scenarios about population explosions and massive cancer crises from pesticides, which have been shown to be false. But now, because we have done away with so many useful products based on those scares, we are in danger of an old-fashion doomsday returning, because we've lost what protected us from the wrath of nature. Indeed, as we will see throughout this book, public health hazards caused by environmental policies are already on the scene."
12. DECODING CLIMATE POLITICS
Wall Street Journal, Jan. 24, 2007
Pundits tell us the mood shift, with Democrats now in control, favors action on climate change. Don't bet on it. It's still going to be hard for the legislative process to get past the fact that nothing on the table or capable of commanding majority support would make the slightest difference to climate change. Even a complete ban on burning fossil fuels in the U.S. wouldn't halt progress to the next milestone, a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide since the advent of industrial civilization. No joke to say the only live question for congresspersons and their voters back home is: How much are we going to spend to have no impact on global warming, and why?
Politics is a business of symbolism, but not without its pull toward the rational. The game in Washington today is how to turn global warming policy toward some other purpose that serves somebody's idea of self-interest or the national good. Let's rank these in order of the narrowness of the interests involved.
General Electric, DuPont, Alcoa, Caterpillar and other industrial pigpens this week endorsed cap-and-trade limits on carbon dioxide, which would turn their established habit of using the atmosphere as a free waste disposal into a property right, worth billions. Talk about a low-hanging fruit. They are accustomed to treating carbon dumping as a gimme. Now they'd at least be in a position to get paid for dumping less.
Their hero is retiring BP chief John Browne, who turned his little oil company into a big oil company, engaged in cost cutting (which he called "emissions cuts") and set about using public policy to get his shareholders compensated twice for these cuts (net, of course, of any deductions for oil spills, plant explosions, etc.)
Next up on the enlightenment scale, with straightened vertebrae and the first inkling of a "larger good," are Nancy Pelosi, George Bush and others who want to use climate change to advance a goal of "energy independence."
They may be praying to a false god, but their devotion is possibly sincere. And some public good might come from policies designed to encourage a "cellulosic" ethanol industry, which has the potential to be carbon-neutral as well as to improve the nation's "energy security" (a non-false god) by spurring a global market in biofuels to compete with OPEC.
However, to the extent that global warming becomes an excuse to shovel more subsidies and protectionist favors at the corn ethanol industry, neither energy security nor carbon reduction would be served.
Finally, walking upright, with knuckles no longer in proximity to the ground, are advocates -- mostly economists -- of a carbon tax. A carbon tax would be the efficient way of encouraging businesses and consumers to make less carbon-intensive energy choices. Government would not have to exercise an improbable clairvoyance about which technologies will pay off in the future. There'd be less scope for Congress to favor some industries over others purely on the basis of lobbying clout.
The most enlightened of the enlightened (love note to Kevin Hassett) are those who see how a carbon tax might be used to overhaul the tax system and make it more pro-growth in its treatment of savings and investment.
There's your scorecard. Unfortunately, because a carbon tax would lead to a direct (rather than surreptitious) increase in the cost of gasoline, the path of enlightenment will not be the path of politics. Of one other thing you can also be sure -- the impact on climate change of any policy issuing from Washington will be nil.
By common (if fudgy) estimate, the biosphere can take up less than three billion tons of atmospheric carbon a year. Human industry produces 7.5 billion tons, a volume that continues to grow rapidly as China, India, Brazil and Indonesia (not covered by Kyoto) develop their economies, and as European countries and Japan (covered by Kyoto) blow past their limits. Consider too that carbon is hardly the sole, and perhaps not even the dominant, force behind the ostensible warming of the past century.
The only thing that will save us now is the likelihood (very high) that the most dire forecasts of climate change are wrong; the chance (not improbable) that the biosphere will evolve to make use of a slightly more carbon-rich atmosphere; and the prospect (nearly certain) that mankind will seek to adapt to whatever climate it finds itself confronted with.
Our private bet, of no relevance for the politics, is that real knowledge being so skimpy, today's "consensus" on climate change will turn out to be a perishable fruit. And those like Rep. John Dingell who are still willing to profess public doubts about whether any of us know what we're talking about when we talk about climate change will end up looking pretty good in retrospect.
Polls say the public has heard Al Gore and believes a climate disaster is just around the corner, with rising sea levels and killer hurricanes. Yet Manhattan real-estate values increased 17% last year and the stock market is at all-time high. The same cognitive dissonance is guaranteed to be reflected in policy, which will consist of symbolism on global warming but nothing so costly and radical as to require true climate worrywarts to brighten up.
Rest assured, the great planetary chemistry experiment will continue. If you're curious about how the Earth might react to a myriad of human activities whose net effects are still far from reliably assessed, you only need to stick around. At least until science figures out how to harvest the gazillions of watts of free energy the sun sheds on the planet everyday, which will fix old problems but surely introduce new ones.
13. WHY OUR CEOs ARE WARMING TO KYOTO
Kimberly A. Strassel
Wall Street Journal, Jan 26, 2007
Washington this week officially welcomed the newest industry on the hunt for financial and regulatory favors. Big CarbonCap may have the same dollar-sign agenda as Big Oil or Big Pharma, but don't expect Nancy Pelosi to admit to it.
Democrats want to flog the global warming theme through 2008 and they'll take what help they can get, even if it means cozying up to executives whose goal is to enrich their firms. Right now, the corporate giants calling for a mandatory carbon cap serve too useful a political purpose for anyone to delve into their baser motives.
The Climate Action Partnership, a group of 10 major companies that made headlines this week with its call for a national limit on carbon-dioxide emissions, would surely feign shock at such an accusation. After all, their plea was carefully timed to coincide with President Bush's State of the Union capitulation on global warming, and it had the desired PR effect. The media dutifully declared that "even" business now recognized the climate threat. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who begins marathon hearings on warming next week, lauded the corporate angels for thinking of the "common good."
There was a time when the financial press understood that companies exist to make money. And it happens that the cap-and-trade climate program these 10 jolly green giants are now calling for is a regulatory device designed to financially reward companies that reduce CO2 emissions, and punish those that don't.
Four of the affiliates Duke, PG&E, FPL and PNM Resources are utilities that have made big bets on wind, hydroelectric and nuclear power. So a Kyoto program would reward them for simply enacting their business plan, and simultaneously sock it to their competitors. Duke also owns Cinergy, which relies heavily on dirty, CO2-emitting coal plants. But Cinergy will soon have to replace those plants with cleaner equipment. Under a Kyoto, it'll get paid for its trouble.
DuPont has been plunging into biofuels, the use of which would soar under a cap. Somebody has to cobble together all these complex trading deals, so say hello to Lehman Brothers. Caterpillar has invested heavily in new engines that generate "clean energy." British Petroleum is mostly doing public penance for its dirty oil habit, but also gets a plug for its own biofuels venture.
Finally, there's General Electric, whose CEO Jeffrey Immelt these days spends as much time in Washington as Connecticut. GE makes all the solar equipment and wind turbines (at $2 million a pop) that utilities would have to buy under a climate regime. GE's revenue from environmental products long ago passed the $10 billion mark, and it doesn't take much "ecomagination" to see why Mr. Immelt is leading the pack of climate profiteers.
CEOs are quick learners, and even those who would get smacked by a carbon cap are now devising ways to make warming work to their political advantage. The "most creative" prize goes to steel giant Nucor. Steven Rowlan, the company's environmental director, doesn't want carbon caps in the U.S.--oh, no. The smarter answer, he explains, would be for the U.S. to impose trade restrictions on foreign firms that aren't environmentally clean. Global warming as foil for trade protectionism: Chuck Schumer's dream.
What makes this lobby worse than the usual K-Street crowd is that it offers no upside. At least when Big Pharma self-interestedly asks for fewer regulations, the economy benefits. There's nothing capitalist about lobbying for a program that foists its debilitating costs on taxpayers and consumers while redistributing the wealth to a few corporate players.
This is what comes from Washington steadily backstepping energy policy into the interventionist 1970s, picking winners and losers. In ethanol, in biodiesel, in wind farms, success isn't a function of supply or demand. The champs are the ones that coax out of Washington the best subsidies and regulations. Global warming is simply the biggest trough yet.
Both Republicans and Democrats understand this debate is increasingly about home-state economics, even as they publicly joust about environmental rights or wrongs. The softening Republican stance on a mandatory program is one result. New Mexico's Pete Domenici appeared to undergo an epiphany about global warming in 2005, voting for a Senate resolution supporting caps. The switch might have more to do with remembering that his state is nuclear-power central, and will win big under a new program. Just ask his fellow New Mexican, Jeff Bingaman, who introduced the resolution.
Economic interests also motivate those Democrats who won't play nice. The senators who have voted against previous bills represent those industries that will suffer most under Mr. Immelt's agenda. Louisiana's Mary Landrieu (oil); Montana's Max Baucus (coal); West Virginia's Robert Byrd (ditto). House Energy & Commerce Chair John Dingell remains a skeptic, since the last thing his Michigan auto-makers need is yet another reason for people to not buy their cars.
Which is fine with Ms. Pelosi. The Democratic leadership ran out of the winner's circle last November promising to tackle climate. And much was made this week of Madam Speaker's decision to wrest control of the debate away from Mr. Dingell's purview, handing it instead to a new "select" committee on climate change.
But read the fine print. The new vaunted committee will have no legislative authority, but exists solely to hold hearings and to "communicate with the American people." Ms. Pelosi and Harry Reid want to talk about this issue . . . and talk, and talk and talk. But not necessarily anything more.
That's because Democrats want global warming as an issue through 2008. With Al Gore getting his Oscar nod, they've got a "problem" that captures the public imagination, as well as an endless supply of cash from thrilled environmental groups. No need to spoil it with a solution. And a Democratic president in 2009 would be more open to any ultimate legislation.
Best yet, they've got the "support" of the business community, or at least the savvier elements of it. Welcome, Big CarbonCap; we're likely to be hearing a lot from you.
Ms. Strassel is a member of The Wall Street Journal's editorial board, based in Washington. Her column appears Fridays. Copyright 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
14. CLIMATE CHANGE SEEN FANNING CONFLICT AND TERRORISM
ScientificAmerican.com January 24, 2007
By Mark Trevelyan, Security Correspondent
LONDON (Reuters) - Global warming could exacerbate the world's rich-poor divide and help to radicalize populations and fan terrorism in the countries worst affected, security and climate experts said on Wednesday. "We have to reckon with the human propensity for violence," Sir Crispin Tickell, Britain's former ambassador to the United Nations, told a London conference on "Climate Change: the Global Security Impact." "Violence within and between communities and between nation states, we must accept, could possibly increase, because the precedents are all around."
Experts at the conference hosted by the Royal United Services Institute said it was likely that global warming would create huge flows of refugees as people tried to escape areas swamped by rising sea levels or rendered uninhabitable by desertification.
Tickell said terrorists were likely to seek to exploit the tensions created. "Those who are short of food, those who are short of water, those who can't move to countries where it looks as if everything is marvelous are going to be people who are going to adopt desperate measures to try and make their point."
John Mitchell, chief scientist at Britain's Met Office, noted al Qaeda had already listed environmental damage among its litany of grievances against the United States. "You have destroyed nature with your industrial waste and gases more than any other nation in history. Despite this, you refuse to sign the Kyoto agreement so that you can secure the profit of your greedy companies and industries," al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden wrote in a 2002 "letter to the American people."
15. VERY, VERY BIG CORN ETHANOL AND ITS CONSEQUENCES.
Opinion Journal, January 27, 2007
President Bush made a big push for alternative fuels in his State of the Union speech Tuesday night, calling on Americans to reduce gasoline consumption by 20% over 10 years. And as soon as the sun rose on Wednesday, he set out to tour a DuPont facility in Delaware to tout the virtues of "cellulosic ethanol" and propose $2 billion in loans to promote the stuff. For a man who famously hasn't taken a drink for 20 years, that's a considerable intake of alcohol.
A bit of sobriety would go a long way in discussing this moonshine of the energy world, however. Cellulosic ethanol--which is derived from plants like switchgrass--will require a big technological breakthrough to have any impact on the fuel supply. That leaves corn- and sugar-based ethanol, which have been around long enough to understand their significant limitations. What we have here is a classic political stampede rooted more in hope and self-interest than science or logic.
Ostensibly, the great virtue of ethanol is that it represents a "sustainable," environmentally friendly source of energy--a source that is literally homegrown rather than imported from such unstable places as Nigeria or Iran.
That's one reason why, as Jerry Taylor and Peter Van Doren note in the Milken Institute Review, federal and state subsidies for ethanol ran to about $6 billion last year, equivalent to roughly half its wholesale market price. Ethanol gets a 51-cent a gallon domestic subsidy, and there's another 54-cent a gallon tariff applied at the border against imported ethanol. Without those subsidies, hardly anyone would make the stuff, much less buy it--despite recent high oil prices.
That's also why the percentage of the U.S. corn crop devoted to ethanol has risen to 20% from 3% in just five years, or about 8.6 million acres of farmland. Reaching the President's target of 35 billion gallons of renewable and alternative fuels by 2017 would, at present corn yields, require the entire U.S. corn harvest.
No wonder, then, that the price of corn rose nearly 80% in 2006 alone. (See the chart nearby.) Corn growers and their Congressmen love this, and naturally they are planting as much as they can. Look for a cornfield in your neighborhood soon. Yet for those of us who like our corn flakes in the morning, the higher price isn't such good news. It's even worse for cattle, poultry and hog farmers trying to adjust to suddenly exorbitant prices for feed corn--to pick just one industry example. The price of corn is making America's meat-packing industries, which are major exporters, less competitive.
In Mexico, the price of corn tortillas--the dietary staple of the country's poorest--has risen by about 30% in recent months, leading to widespread protests and price controls. In China, the government has put a halt to ethanol-plant construction for the threat it poses to the country's food security. Thus is a Beltway fad translated into Third World woes.
As for the environmental impact, well, where do we begin? As an oxygenate, ethanol increases the level of nitrous oxides in the atmosphere and thus causes smog. The scientific literature is also divided about whether the energy inputs required to produce ethanol actually exceed its energy output. It takes fertilizer to grow the corn, and fuel to ship and process it, and so forth. Even the most optimistic estimate says ethanol's net energy output is a marginal improvement of only 1.3 to one. For purposes of comparison, energy outputs from gasoline exceed inputs by an estimated 10 to one.
And because corn-based ethanol is less efficient than ordinary gasoline, using it to fuel cars means you need more gas to drive the same number of miles. This is not exactly a route to "independence" from Mideast, Venezuelan or any other tainted source of oil. Ethanol also cannot be shipped using existing pipelines (being alcohol, it eats the seals), so it must be trucked or sent by barge or train to its thousand-and-one destinations, at least until separate pipelines are built.
Even some environmentalists cry foul. Steve Sanderson, president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, tells us that intensive, subsidized sugar farming in Brazil--where the use of ethanol is most widespread--has displaced small tenant farmers, many of whom have taken to cutting down and farming land in the Amazon rain forest.
In the U.S., there is now talk of taking the roughly 40 million acres currently tied up in the Agriculture Department's conservation reserve and security programs and putting them into production for ethanol-related plants. "The land at risk under this ethanol program is land that's shown by the USDA to have had great results for the restoration of wildlife," Mr. Sanderson says, pointing especially to the grasslands of eastern Montana and the Dakotas. Hello ethanol, goodbye bison.
But what about global warming, where ethanol, as a non-fossil fuel, is supposed to make a positive contribution? Actually, it barely makes a dent. Australian researcher Robert Niven finds that the use of ethanol in gasoline--the standard way in which ethanol is currently used--reduces greenhouse gas emissions by no more than 5%. As Messrs. Taylor and Van Doren observe, "employing ethanol to reduce greenhouse gases is fantastically inefficient," costing as much as 16 times the optimal abatement cost for removing a ton of carbon from the atmosphere.
It's true that scientific advances will probably improve and perhaps even transform the utility of ethanol. Genetic modification will likely improve corn yields. And the President insists we are on the verge of breakthroughs in cellulosic technology, though experts tell us the technical hurdles are still huge. We'd be as happy as anyone if DuPont researchers finally discover the enzyme that can efficiently break down plants into starch, but betting billions of tax dollars and millions of acres of farmland on this hope strikes us as bad policy. If cellulose is going to be an energy miracle--an agricultural cold fusion--far better to let the market figure that out.
Not that any of these facts are likely to make much difference in the current Washington debate. The corn and sugar lobbies have their roots deep in both parties, and now they have the mantra of "energy independence" to invoke, however illusory it is. If anything, Congress may add to Mr. Bush's ethanol mandate requests.
So here comes Big Corn. Make that Very, Very Big Corn. Sooner or later, our experience with this huge public gamble may make us yearn for the efficiency, capacity, lower cost and--yes--superior environmental record of "Big Oil."
16. BUSH' ALTERNATIVE FUEL FOLLY
With a combination of alternative fuel mandates and increased fuel-economy standards, President Bush, in his State of the Union, urged Congress to reduce gasoline usage in the United States by 20 percent in the next 10 years. The problem is this has been tried before, with little success, says the National Review Online (NRO).
o In a similar political climate in the early 1970s, Congress enacted the regulatory regime known as CAFE (Corporate Average Fuel Economy).
o Today passenger cars are more efficient than ever -- up 114 percent since 1974. But gasoline is so cheap -- despite perpetual Middle Eastern crises -- that on average, Americans are driving twice as many miles as before.
o As a result, U.S. oil consumption has increased from 17 million barrels a day in 1976 to 21 million barrels today, and oil imports as a share of U.S. consumption have risen from 35 to 59 percent.
This time around it is the so-called Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS), namely ethanol, which will save America from foreign oil, says NRO. But in reality, the RFS exists -- not due to market demand -- but to satisfy the auto and farm lobbies:
o For the Big Three, manufacturing "flex-fuel" vehicles allows them to exploit a huge loophole in the aforementioned CAFE laws; at minimal cost, converting vehicles to flex-fuel allows automakers to skirt the fatuous fuel rules -- even though consumers only fill up the vehicles with gas.
o For the farm lobby, to make ethanol price-competitive, the federal government subsidizes its production to the tune of 51 cents a gallon, costing U.S. taxpayers $4.1 billion a year.
Ironically, the president's call echoes a more severe proposal by his 2004 campaign opponent John Kerry -- a recommendation that a National Center for Policy Analysis study found would not "reduce future U.S. dependence on foreign oil."
Source: Henry Payne, "Bush's Alternative Fuel Folly," CBS News, January 24, 2007; and H. Sterling Burnett and Todd Gabel, "Kerry's Energy Plan: Inconsistent, Expensive, Leaving America Less Secure," Brief Analysis No. 492, October 21, 2004. Courtesy NCPA