Excuse me for breathing

April 27, 2009

I heard over a week ago that the EPA has finally pulled the trigger and declared CO2 a pollutant that needs to be regulated. It’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. What gets totally neglected here is the fact that plants (that grass growing in your yard, for example) feed on CO2. It is actually healthy for the environment. It’s not like CO (carbon monoxide), which is poisonous to most living things. I feel like a broken record saying this, but CO2 is in such low concentrations in the atmosphere that it doesn’t really matter to the climate, and the observational data shows that at these levels it follows temperature. It does not cause temperature to rise. The EPA is acting on pseudo-science.

In addition the EPA has declared other greenhouse gases as pollutants that need to be regulated: methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride.

Methane is emitted by us humans when we “pass gas”. One of the largest sources of methane is animals: cows, pigs, etc. So I’m waiting with a bit of a chuckle to see what the EPA is going to do about that. The thing is of all the greenhouse gases, this is the most innocuous. It doesn’t stay in the atmosphere long and its concentration is extremely small, less than CO2.

I did some research on Wikipedia for the others.

Nitrous oxide is commonly referred to as “laughing gas”. It’s used in medical settings as a mild sedative. It’s also used in rocket engines.

Hydrofluorocarbons are the latest in a line of refrigerants used in air conditioners. We went from freon, a chlorofluorocarbon, to hydrochlorofluorocarbons (which were seen as more environmentally friendly, but are now being phased out), to hydrofluorocarbons. Now the EPA says this is bad stuff, since it’s supposedly a much more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. So who knows what’s going to happen with air conditioners. Well heck, they’ll probably come after our air conditioners just because of the amount of power they use (CO2, remember?)

Perfluorcarbons are used in medical applications, and in the production of aluminum.

Sulfur hexafluoride is used in electricity production facilities.

The EPA’s ruling recommends regulating “smokestacks” and “tailpipes”. I assume the latter refers to our vehicles. There’s been talk that even though the Senate took out Obama’s cap and trade program from the 2010 budget, that it may reconsider it given this ruling. I fully expect that some sort of tax is going to be placed on our vehicles for the CO2 we emit, whether it’s a gax tax or mileage tax, or something along those lines. They’re considering such a thing in Oregon right now.

I’m not surprised by this, just disappointed. Energy is going to get more expensive. That’s the bottom line. Other things we use may be affected, such as air conditioners, but it’s hard to say at this point.

I am suspicious of this ruling since at least a part of it I know is not based on sound science. There may very well be cause for concern about hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons, and sulfur hexafluoride. I don’t know anything about them except what I researched for this post. It seems to me that the ruling is targeted primarily at two things: factories and farming. And it would not surprise me if EPA guidelines end up reducing the number of both in the long run in this country. I read comments in the Christian Science Monitor article I link to saying that this will accelerate the movement of factories to Asia, particularly China. So much for Obama’s plan of saving jobs.

As Robert J. Samuelson recently wrote, the “new energy” economy Obama says he has planned does not look to be a net jobs creator. It is likely to reduce employment.

Another thing to get distressed over is a bill that was recently passed in congress, which allows those “affected” by global warming to sue corporations who have been deemed to have “contributed” to the problem. Low on cash? Sidle up and suck the teat of manufacturers and energy companies for some “carbon damages”. I see resort areas taking advantage of this one, just as my home town of Boulder did not too long ago when they sued the federal government for this.

Oh. My. God. They really are this crazy

April 9, 2009

I just heard that there is serious talk within the Obama Administration of setting up an “artificial volcano” to spew artificial pollution into the upper atmosphere in order to prevent global warming. The President’s science advisor is the one who said this. I said to myself, “Come on. This is a joke, right?” No, it isn’t. (h/t to Tammy Bruce)

I vaguely remember hearing about similar proposals in the 1990s, such as spewing dark particulate matter into the upper atmosphere to block the Sun’s energy, or spreading a sulphuric compound up there to reflect the Sun’s energy back into space. But then someone else said the latter would create acid rain, which has deleterious effects on plant life, and generally has a corrosive effect on stone and metal structures. So toss that one.

These people have no idea what they’re contemplating. The Earth is huge. The atmosphere has a massive volume. I feel like this is coming from people who have watched too many children’s cartoons where such solutions can just miraculously materialize in about a minute and take a minute to deploy. Creating something of the massive scale necessary to carry this off is mind boggling. It’s insane and megalomaniacal to seriously think that they can pull this off single-handedly.

Secondly they seem to forget the currently accepted science, which shows that because of the pollution that we and other industrialized/industrializing countries around the world are already putting into the atmosphere the Sun is “dimming”. This is causing a drop in humidity levels around the world, due to a drop in the evaporation of water, which is caused by photons hitting it. This in itself has the effect of somewhat cooling the planet. Water vapor is THE primary greenhouse gas. Even if the Obama Administration did manage to pull off this “geoengineering” experiment they would be making this problem worse.

A second, and I would say slightly more realistic proposal, is setting up “artificial trees” that would absorb CO2. I would say this proposal is probably friendlier to the environment, but again, seriously, how many of these “trees” would have to be “planted” to cause the kind of sequestration they’re looking for? Again, it sounds like a massive project. I bet it would be a boon to the manufacturer that got it! Hey, don’t knock it. It would create jobs for a while.

I’m just shocked that there are members of our elite who I am now convinced really believe the propaganda that human-caused global warming exists and is a real threat to the world. What a pathetic statement this is on the state of our civilization.

Insanity nets Boulder some bucks–Hey, we’ll take what we can get!

February 11, 2009

We’ve been hearing for years that Boulder is strapped for cash. It’s only going to get worse from here. But there’s some relief thanks to the insanity over so-called anthropogenic global warming (ie. the theory that it’s caused by people), now called “climate change”. You may have heard that a couple years ago Boulder joined with three California cities, along with Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth, in a lawsuit against the federal government for funding fossil fuel projects in foreign countries.

The cities claimed that global warming would negatively affect them, and that the federal government was irresponsibly contributing to it. Well guess what? The wackos won. I think it’s a tragedy. The court effectively agreed with the environmentalists that the government was negligently contributing to environmental degradation (in other words, the court ruled that AGW is real) without considering alternatives. The law that the court found was violated was the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), which was passed in 1970.

The plaintiffs were smart. The case was brought to federal court in San Francisco. So, yeah, what did you think was going to happen? This is similar to the kind of “venue shopping” plaintiffs and class action lawyers use when they’re suing drug companies. It was a slam dunk.

The federal government agreed to pay $500 million in a settlement this past Friday with the cities for renewable energy projects, which will “compensate” for the supposed global warming caused by the projects the government funded. Think of it as the government purchasing a big fat “carbon credit” (oy!).

I’ve long said (perhaps not on here, but elsewhere) that the alarmism over AGW, with the science in the state it’s in, is equivalent to the fable The Emperor’s New Clothes. The “tailors” claim that humans are causing global warming, and that if people can’t see this is true they are either stupid or unfit to be part of the elite. Not wanting to seem unfit the elite have fallen into line. And the skeptics are marginalized with the claim of “denier” and associations with “the Flat Earth Society”. We like to think we live in an age of reason…

Digest of articles on global warming

January 2, 2007

The holiday season has really put a crimp on my blogging. I’ve been collecting articles on topics of interest to talk about here. In an attempt to clean the queue, I’m just going to blast them out here. Many of these are going to seem like old stories, but all articles go in some depth on some stories you’ve probably already heard about, revealing details you probably had not heard.

Edit 1/3/07: Just wanted to comment on item #2, “UN downgrades man’s impact on the climate”. It is things like this that cause me to doubt the much hyped explanation for why the climate is warming: The proponents of the CO2-only theory keep revising their guesses. Since in their estimation nothing about our activity has changed (most of the countries that signed on to Kyoto have not met their targets), what’s changing is their models. Why do their models keep changing if these climate scientists know how the climate works? The answer is they don’t. They’re still figuring it out. They don’t want us to see that though. What they’re still telling us by subtle means is (in Wizard of Oz fashion) “Don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain. The climate is still warming and our carbon emissions are to blame for it. There is no doubt about it.” The only explanation for this non-scientific argument is there’s a political campaign going on. Since these people are guessing about the cause of global warming, I’ll guess as to their motivations, just for the heck of it.

I think there is a sense among these people, which is well-intentioned, that “for goodness sake, we’re in the 21st century. Let’s move forward.” They see the industrial revolution and its products as something that’s in the past, and of little value today. In fact, I’m willing to guess they’re disgusted by it. It’s old and it’s dirty. Let’s get rid of it! Yet they still see the West clinging to it. They want to give us a reason to give it up. They want to accelerate the move into the information/electronic age, where everything runs on electricity from one source or another, and where information technology is a part of that. There might even be some among them who were inspired by visions of the future from years ago, and are disappointed that we are not in futuristic cities with flying cars by now.

To tell you the truth, as far as the idea of running everything on electricity and computers goes, I don’t mind it, in concept. I just choose to look at things realistically, and what I see them asking everyone to do is very expensive. Sure, people who are wealthy can afford to upgrade to green technologies. It’s the middle class and poor I’m worried about in the scenario these people envision.

I saw a Charlie Rose episode recently with Charlie talking to a panel on the topic of alternative energy sources. One of the panelists made a salient point: With regards to energy, people are going to vote with their pocketbook, not their conscience, by and large. People are only going to invest in alternative energy modalities if they see that they can save money with it. Makes sense to me. I think the main barrier to even this working is typical consumer behavior. Most consumers look at short-term savings. For example, if the price tag of one solution, in a time frame they are familiar with, is less than the price of another, they are more likely to choose what they see is the less expensive solution. In many cases however they ignore the long-term costs, which may or may not be minimal. The solution that appears to be less expensive at first may cost them more in the long run than what appeared to be the more expensive solution. My own sense is people who are more wealthy tend to look more at long term costs because they feel less pressure to buy what appears to be the less expensive solution. They feel they can afford to look at quality products, no matter their price tag.

I have been critical of climate scientists who act like they know why the climate is warming, mainly because they are sounding the alarm before they have given themselves a chance to truly understand what is going on. I think that’s irresponsible. In my mind it’s equivalent to the FDA in the midst of a drug trial on a drug that purports to heal cancer saying, “This drug heals cancer!”, and releasing it to the public for them to buy and consume, before the trial is done. No one in their right mind would think that is responsible behavior, yet we seem to tolerate it from “most scientists” who “all agree” that our CO2 emissions are leading us to a global catastrophe.

Roger Pielke, a climate scientist at Colorado State University has a blog discussing global warming, and his exploration of what is causing it. I’ve done a little reading on what he’s found, and while I don’t completely understand everything he is saying, I can see he takes a level-headed approach to the subject, and I like that. He is approaching it as a scientist, not an advocate. He agrees with the notion that we humans are contributing to this phenomenon of global warming, but he does not accept the notion that CO2 emissions completely explain it. He says it is a piece of the puzzle, and there are other contributors to climate warming that are caused by what we are doing in our modern civilization. I encourage you to give him a read.

Personally I see this emphasis on CO2 as the cause of global warming as a harmful distraction from the truth that is staring us in the face. I have to admit I’m disappointed that more conservatives have not addressed this. The reason we should be focusing on trying to find an alternative to oil for fueling our machinery and transportation is that the places we get it from do not have our best interests at heart. In some cases they are working against us in various ways. We need energy independence. I put the emphasis on oil, because natural gas is a viable fossil fuel, and we can get it locally, and from friendly countries around the world.

I think the reasons that we pursue such a change are very important. Choosing to change our behavior in response to a theory that may not be true is harmful to the cause of making that change. Once the theory that supported changing our behavior proves to be less significant than everyone thought then people will discount the need to change their behavior. I’m referring to the “cry wolf” scenario. Let’s focus on a very real reason we should pursue alternative energy sources. I’ll be blunt. We should not be sending money to people, some of whom support a radical ideology that seeks to eradicate the Jews and conquer the West. I’m referring to the Wahhabist, Salafist, and radical Shia forms of Islam. Some who are promoting these forms of Islam, and by extension their terrorist activities, have been benefiting from the sale of oil to the rest of the world. I’m not saying they’re the only ones selling oil, but they are among the producers. Even Hugo Chavez, who now runs Venezuela, a major source of the world’s oil, is in effect an enemy of the U.S. Regardless of what may be going on with the climate, isn’t this reason enough to make a significant change in our behavior?

Leave it to a Brit to champion scientific debate

January 2, 2007

This is a bit of an old story by now. I noticed it around Christmas and didn’t think it was appropriate to bring up such a critical topic then. Anyway, I’m commenting on it now. I saw this on Slapstick Politics, “British Lord Chastises Sens. Rockefeller And Snowe Over Free Speech Denial”.

Background: Sens. Jay Rockefeller, a Democrat, and Olympia Snowe, a Republican sent a letter to ExxonMobil earlier demanding that they stop providing funds to groups that are skeptical of human-caused global warming, whom they called “deniers”, such as the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The term “deniers” has been circulating around, to smear the reputations of skeptics, who are deemed as equivalent to Holocaust deniers, a specious charge. I wrote about one of CEI’s campaigns here.

In response, Lord Monckton in the UK wrote an open letter to Sens. Rockefeller and Snowe. I excerpted quotes from the story on PR Newswire, below:

“You defy every tenet of democracy when you invite ExxonMobil to deny itself the right to provide information to ‘senior elected and appointed government officials’ who disagree with your opinion.”

“Sceptics and those who have the courage to support them are actually helpful in getting the science right. They do not, as you improperly suggest, ‘obfuscate’ the issue: they assist in clarifying it by challenging weaknesses in the ‘consensus’ argument and they compel necessary corrections … “

“You acknowledge the effectiveness of the climate sceptics. In so doing, you pay a compliment to the courage of those free-thinking scientists who continue to research climate change independently despite the likelihood of refusal of publication in journals that have taken preconceived positions; the hate mail and vilification from ignorant environmentalists; and the threat of loss of tenure in institutions of learning which no longer make any pretence to uphold or cherish academic freedom.”

Concludes Lord Monckton, “I challenge you to withdraw or resign because your letter is the latest in what appears to be an internationally-coordinated series of maladroit and malevolent attempts to silence the voices of scientists and others who have sound grounds, rooted firmly in the peer-reviewed scientific literature, to question what you would have us believe is the unanimous agreement of scientists worldwide that global warming will lead to what you excitedly but unjustifiably call ‘disastrous’ and ‘calamitous’ consequences.”

The PR Newswire story went on to say:

Some voices on the political left have called for the arrest and prosecution of skeptical scientists. The British Foreign Secretary has said skeptics should be treated like advocates of Islamic terror and must be denied access to the media.”

This is really getting to be too much. Calling skeptics “deniers” is harmful name-calling, but calling for the arrest and prosecution of skeptics is downright fascistic. And it appears the British Foreign Secretary is batty. To equate skeptical scientists with those who advocate “Islamic terror” is beyond the pale, and hypocritical. Just this past week A couple weeks ago Winston S. Churchill, the grandson of the famous PM of Britain said on Glenn Beck’s program on CNN:

CHURCHILL: Well, I`m not sure that history is repeating itself, but there are some of the same suspects around. I mean, just last week, the British Foreign Office issued an injunction to Mr. Blair and British ministers that they mustn`t anymore refer to the war on terror, because that might give offense to the Muslims.

(my emphasis in bold)

Just for your information, the Foreign Secretary is the head of the Foreign Office. So the Foreign Secretary feels comfortable using the term “Islamic terror” to smear the good names of skeptics who challenge global warming orthodoxy, but denies the ability of other government officials from using the term “War on Terror” when referring to our battle against the jihadists. Doesn’t make a lot of sense, does it, unless of course the Foreign Secretary has drunk the Kool Aid and believes that climate change is a greater threat to our existence than the jihadists.

Boulder’s gonna solve global warming

November 8, 2006

I saw the stats early this morning that the Climate Action Plan measure placed on the ballot by the City Council passed. Starting next year businesses and homeowners in the Boulder city limits will have a special carbon tax applied to their electric bills if they get their power through conventional electricity (coal or natural gas). If they convert to solar or wind power, they will be exempt from the tax. The city will use the revenue to promote energy efficiency to the same homeowners and businesses, among some other activities that I can’t remember related to promoting the use of alternative energy sources. The city government is also moving forward with a plan to reduce its carbon emissions, to try to meet the goals of the Kyoto Protocol. More power to ’em.

The City Council has had serious discussions about possibly having the city government run its own electrical utility, but that’s been tabled for now. Expect it to come back up again down the road.

Pundits here, liberal and conservative, predicted that Boulder citizens would pass this measure, because it’s a do-good thing to do. We’re suckers for that kind of stuff. In my opinion what this will do is continue to drive businesses out of town. They can go to Longmont, Lafayette, Louisville, Superior, or Broomfield–just over the hill, be close to Boulder, and not have to pay the tax. It kind of spoils the whole business incentive thing we had going just a couple months ago. It’s redundant, because Xcel Energy regularly offers its customers wind power…at an increased rate. It also regularly offers tips and consulting services, showing homeowners and businesses how to be more energy efficient. They offer purchasing plans for people who want to buy energy-efficient appliances. They’ve been doing this for years. The price of power is a motivator for people to be more energy efficient.

What this does is increase the city’s tax revenue, so it can raise the wages of city workers, and hire more people. The city government is already the #1 employer in Boulder. Has been for years, perhaps decades. There was even a provision in the ballot measure that said if the city raises excess revenue, more than what’s needed for the program, the city gets to use it for whatever it wants.

I can see it now. Since the city is focusing on carbon emissions, why not go after another large source of carbon emissions–cars and trucks? Could we be looking at a municipal gas tax down the road? Seeing this, it wouldn’t surprise me one bit.

Edit: By the way I found this on Slapstick Politics. Good one!

Was hydrogen the cause of the Hindenburg fire?

October 22, 2006

The Hindenburg explosion, from Wikipedia.org

I saw an episode of “Secrets of the Dead” on PBS last weekend, called “What Happened to the Hindenburg?” It was very interesting. It’s the story of Dr. Addison Bain, a retired NASA scientist, researching the disaster. He knows it’s the cause of people’s fears of hydrogen as a potential fuel. He calls it “the fuel of the future”.  The investigation that was conducted in the U.S. at the time blamed free hydrogen, presumably from a leak in one of the hydrogen cells in the ship, and possibly a static electricity discharge on the ship, for the explosion. Bain worked extensively with hydrogen during his tenure with NASA, and understands its properties. Something in the official story didn’t sit right with him. He presents a convincing case that hydrogen was not the initiator of the fire, but rather it was the doping mixture put on the outer skin of this particular airship.

According to Bain’s theory, a combination of chemistry, and the physics of electricity initiated the fire. It started with the skin, and spread to the hydrogen cells, which then caused the hydrogen to ignite. Bain likened the doping material used on the Hindenburg to solid rocket fuel, since it contained iron oxide and powdered aluminum, among other chemicals. Both of these metal compounds are used in the solid rocket boosters of the space shuttle. He coupled this with the weather conditions on the day of the landing. The atmosphere in the area was likely electrically charged, due to nearby thunderstorms, and a thunderstorm which had produced precipitation had just passed. He postulates that the airship frame, and the outer skin had become electrically charged. The outer skin was probably wet. Bain claims that the wetness caused the skin, which was made up of fabric panels and had been painted in the doping material, to be unevenly grounded when the landing lines were dropped in preparation for landing. The frame was designed to be grounded, because the engineers knew that it was possible it might become electrically charged in the atmosphere. Bain claims the engineers did not anticipate these conditions, however. The theory goes that some of the panels did not ground their static charge easily when the frame was grounded, due to some panels being wet, and others not. This created an uneven charge between these charged panels and the rest of the ship, which probably caused one or more of the panels to electrically discharge via. arcing, which would’ve produced a lot of heat, igniting the doping material on the panels. The fire started in the tail and made its way to the front of the ship in less than 1 minute.

As is documented in this article on Wikipedia, there are those who disagree with this theory, saying that the doping material, while combustive, doesn’t burn very long, and they estimate it would’ve taken an hour for the skin to burn from back to front. I haven’t read their work, but my guess is they’re just considering the skin by itself, not the hydrogen gas, which contributed to the fire after it started, according to Bain’s theory. As was documented in the show, an interesting twist emerged in Bain’s research. It turns out one of the Hindenburg’s engineers did a test on two small zeppelin models shortly after the disaster. One was fashioned after an earlier airship model, and one was modeled after the Hindenburg, using identical materials as were used on the full size ships. He made both airships wet, and caused them to become electrically charged, creating the conditions that he suspected existed at the time of the accident. He grounded both of them. The older model, which did not use the volatile doping material on its skin did nothing. The Hindenburg model immediately caught fire. This would seem to confirm Bain’s theory. The reason this test did not become known is that the Zeppelin company chose not to make it public. Bain offered up the idea that perhaps this was done for insurance reasons. It was less damaging to them to let hydrogen take the blame. The thing was, the airship industry died as a result. No one felt safe flying in them after this incident. It may have died anyway, because airplanes were beginning to take civilian passengers at this point. They provided faster transport.

But now the stakes have changed. Hydrogen offers the possibility of an alternative fuel source for electrically-powered and combustion powered machinery. Personally I don’t see hydrogen as a rosy scenario. It will hopefully allow us to be more fuel efficient, but I think people have misconceptions about where hydrogen for fuel comes from. All means of generating hydrogen involve using energy. Currently we can extract hydrogen from water, or crude oil. It’s my understanding that most of it now comes from oil, and currently, getting it from water uses up more energy than it creates. Any carbon-based material is a potential source of hydrogen. Anyone who has taken organic chemistry knows this.

Anyway, it was a fascinating story. I applaud Dr. Bain on his research. The debate on this is not over yet, but I find his research convincing.