Category Archives: Environment

Ethanol: Not So Green After All

Ethanol is perhaps the biggest boondoggle in American history. Pushed forward by the farm lobby, we’ve been led to believe that its the clean, green alternative to gasoline. But we’ve already started seeing unintended consequences. Corn prices are higher than ever, because of demand from fuel producers for the raw material to make the ethanol that many states are requiring them to sell. Higher corn prices are themselves raising prices for everything from milk to tortillas in Mexico.

And, now, it seems that ethanol itself may not be all that great for the environment:

A surge in the demand for ethanol — touted as a greener alternative to gasoline — could have a serious environmental downside for the Chesapeake Bay, because more farmers growing corn could mean more pollution washing off farm fields, a new study warned yesterday.

The study, whose sponsors included the U.S. government and an environmental group, predicted that farmers in the bay watershed will plant 500,000 or more new acres of corn in the next five years. Because fields of corn generally produce more polluted runoff than those of other crops, that’s a problem.

“It’s going in the opposite direction from where we want to go,” said Jim Pease, a professor at Virginia Tech and one of the study’s authors.

Ethanol, a fuel made from processed and fermented plant matter, is an old invention with enormous new cachet. Proponents say that it offers an alternative to oil imported from overseas and that it emits fewer greenhouse gases than fossil fuels. In his State of the Union address in January, President Bush called for its use in motor fuels to be increased sevenfold by 2017. Already, 15 ethanol facilities are either planned or under construction in the mid-Atlantic, according to yesterday’s report.

But ethanol’s boom has also produced a variety of unintended, and unwanted, consequences. Because the primary ingredient at U.S. ethanol plants is corn, the price of that grain has shot up, making everything from tortillas to beef to chocolate more expensive.

In the Chesapeake area, according to the study, the drawback to ethanol’s boom is that more farmers have planted cornfields to take advantage of the prices. Corn harvests are expected to increase 12 percent in Maryland this year and 8 percent in Virginia, according to a forecast in March from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

(…)

More cornfields could be trouble, the study warned, because corn generally requires more fertilizer than such crops as soybeans or hay. When it rains, some of this fertilizer washes downstream, and it brings such pollutants as nitrogen and phosphorus, which feed unnatural algae blooms in the bay. These algae consume the oxygen that fish, crabs and other creatures need to breathe, creating the Chesapeake’s infamous dead zones.

Once again, the law of unintended consequences rears its head.

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Strange New State Global Warming Laws

California: Restrict oil supply by crippling alternative oil sources

Oil-sand, oil-shale, and coal-to-oil projects – alternative fuel sources that could enhance US energy security – have always faced one hurdle. They look good only when oil prices are high. Now, they have another challenge: global warming.

California has enacted new climate-change policies that make energy companies responsible for the carbon emissions not just of their refineries but all phases of oil production, including extraction and transportation. If that notion catches on – at least two Canadian provinces have already signed on to California’s plan – then the futures of oil-sand, shale, and coal-to-oil projects may look less attractive.

The reason: Extracting these alternative sources of oil requires so much energy that their “carbon footprint” may outweigh their benefits.

I hope Californians are happy that they’re saving the world when they become poor trying to scrounge money to afford the $6/gallon gas to take them to work each day. And I’d place money on the bet that when gas prices climb, it will be politicians blaming energy companies instead of their own policies for the high prices.

But hey, they’re politicians. Act now to fight the obscure calamity of the day, and damn the consequences! I’m just surprised they haven’t tripled gas taxes yet… That must be next week.

New Jersey: Curb emissions and kill business even more than NJ already does

New Jersey became the third state in the nation to enact a comprehensive greenhouse gas reduction law Friday, requiring the Garden State to significantly cut emissions of global-warming gases.

The legislation requires the state to reduce global warming gases to 1990 levels by 2020, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 2006 levels by 2050. New Jersey is the first state to set global warming targets so far into the future, environmentalists said, and the first to require that energy imports adhere to New Jersey’s standards.

“This is a very, very important day for the state of New Jersey,” said Corzine. “We are making a long-lived commitment today that will impact not just our generation but future generations.”

Yeah, it will impact future generations… They’ll wonder why their electricity bill is $500/month paying for the air conditioning to mitigate the heat that that New Jersey’s law couldn’t prevent. Somehow I don’t think anyone will inform them that it was the laws in New Jersey that strangled the power producers and drove the price up. And they’ll wonder why they can’t find good jobs in their own state. Somehow I think the politicians will blame greedy capitalists for that one.

But Corzine knows what needs to be done, despite what detractor Sara Bluhm has to say about it:

“Instead of setting arbitrary goals, the governor could do something today to help businesses remain competitive by releasing funds for energy audits,” she said, adding that millions of dollars set aside for such audits 18 months ago have yet to be released by the state treasury.

Sara, don’t you understand? Setting arbitrary goals for 13 years down the road gets him reelected. Giving out government money today to corporations doesn’t. What part of the job of governing isn’t clear?

Environmentalism: The Biggest Threat To Freedom

Vaclav Klaus, the President of the Czech Republic writes in the Financial Times that he sees environmentalism as the biggest threat to individual liberty:

In the past year, Al Gore’s so-called “documentary” film was shown in cinemas worldwide, Britain’s – more or less Tony Blair’s – Stern report was published, the fourth report of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change was put together and the Group of Eight summit announced ambitions to do something about the weather. Rational and freedom-loving people have to respond. The dictates of political correctness are strict and only one permitted truth, not for the first time in human history, is imposed on us. Everything else is denounced.

The author Michael Crichton stated it clearly: “the greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda”. I feel the same way, because global warming hysteria has become a prime example of the truth versus propaganda problem. It requires courage to oppose the “established” truth, although a lot of people – including top-class scientists – see the issue of climate change entirely differently. They protest against the arrogance of those who advocate the global warming hypothesis and relate it to human activities.

As someone who lived under communism for most of his life, I feel obliged to say that I see the biggest threat to freedom, democracy, the market economy and prosperity now in ambitious environmentalism, not in communism. This ideology wants to replace the free and spontaneous evolution of mankind by a sort of central (now global) planning.

The environmentalists ask for immediate political action because they do not believe in the long-term positive impact of economic growth and ignore both the technological progress that future generations will undoubtedly enjoy, and the proven fact that the higher the wealth of society, the higher is the quality of the environment. They are Malthusian pessimists.

Though the environmentalists will no doubt denounce him, Klaus has a point. The leading lights of the environmentalist political movement are clearly, and explicitly, collectivist. They advocate measures that would subordinate individual liberty to political will or scientific consensus, often with only the flimsiest support for their theories.

Before we all march hand in hand into Al Gore’s Green Utopia, we need to be asking ourselves if it’s worth the price of our freedom.

Green Mountain Senate Punishes Utility For Producing Too Much Green Energy

I stumbled across this little tempest in a tea-pot going up in Vermont. I have a lot of affection for the state – away from the cities, they are a pretty self-reliant, likeable people. Plus, the manager of this fine store tried to sell me a rifle when I was 12 years old (my parents, being fanatical supporters of victim disarmament, refused his offer).

Vermont politics is pretty distressing, since it is in many ways a very socialist state. I won’t go into all the reasons (especially since I don’t understand them all), but it is a bizarre result of New Yorkers in the cities interacting with locals who are xenophobic about outsiders.

This article highlights one of those bizarre situations. There is a nuclear power plant in Vermont. Like all nuclear power plants, it is the product of the political economy, simultaneously subsidized and taxed by various governmental agencies, its fortunes weakly coupled with the free-market.

Recently the state senate was considering an attempt to make Vermont more “green”. In effect, some state senators feel that their neighbors use too much energy, and want to stop them. Rather than going after the consumers, though, they want to make it more expensive for everyone to purchase electricity. So, they want to tax energy producers.

Of course, telling people who live through the cold winters of Vermont that they should use less heat and light might get those people angry at the senators. The senators, though, decided to use an old political trick, one which can get people to support policies that harm them directly. They fan feelings of jealousy and envy: » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Save The Planet ! Kill The Humans !

That’s what one radical environmentalist, a guy by the name of Paul Watson, is saying:

We should not be living in human communities that enclose tiny preserved ecosystems within them. Human communities should be maintained in small population enclaves within linked wilderness ecosystems. No human community should be larger than 20,000 people and separated from other communities by wilderness areas. Communication systems can link the communities.

In other words, people should be placed in parks within ecosystems instead of parks placed in human communities. We need vast areas of the planet where humans do not live at all and where other species are free to evolve without human interference.

We need to radically and intelligently reduce human populations to fewer than one billion. We need to eliminate nationalism and tribalism and become Earthlings. And as Earthlings, we need to recognize that all the other species that live on this planet are also fellow citizens and also Earthlings. This is a planet of incredible diversity of life-forms; it is not a planet of one species as many of us believe.

We need to stop burning fossil fuels and utilize only wind, water, and solar power with all generation of power coming from individual or small community units like windmills, waterwheels, and solar panels.

Sea transportation should be by sail. The big clippers were the finest ships ever built and sufficient to our needs. Air transportation should be by solar powered blimps when air transportation is necessary.

All consumption should be local. No food products need to be transported over hundreds of miles to market. All commercial fishing should be abolished. If local communities need to fish the fish should be caught individually by hand.

And if you doubted just how hardcore Paul Watson is, consider this:

Paul Watson is one of the fathers of environmental terrorism. The group he founded and leads, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS), is a pirate organization that sails around the world, terrorizing fishermen. Wearing a long bowie knife and carrying AK-47s on board, he threatens to ram any ship that won’t give in to his demands. Watson was a founder of Greenpeace, but the group banished him in 1977 in disapproval of his violent tactics. He is a board member of the Sierra Club.

(…)

Watson is a misanthrope who has said that “earthworms are far more valuable than people.”

And, unlike people, earthworms can’t blog about just how much of a nut you are.

H/T: Mises Economic Blog

China Set To Become World’s Biggest Polluter

In a few months, the People’s Republic of China will surpass the United States as the world’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases:

China could overtake the US as the globe’s biggest producer of greenhouse gases later this year, far earlier than expected, one of the world’s leading energy bodies warned today.

If left unchecked, within 25 years emissions from China will be double those of the combined output of the US, EU, Japan and all other industrialised nations, said Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency (IEA).

The Paris-based organisation, which advises wealthy countries on energy policy, had previously said China was on course to become the world’s biggest such polluter no earlier than 2009.

But such is the country’s untrammelled economic growth, much of it driven by coal-fired power stations, this could potentially happen within months, Mr Birol told Guardian Unlimited.

“If Chinese economic growth, and therefore coal consumption, continues to surprise us, this may well be this year or next year,” he said.

And China isn’t the only developing country set to become a huge polluter:

“Within the next 25 years, CO2 emissions which come from China alone will be double the CO2 emissions which will come from all the OECD countries put together – the whole US, plus Canada, plus all the European countries, Japan, Australia, New Zealand etc,” he said.

Over the same time period, India’s emissions were forecast to grow such that they were half the OECD total, Mr Birol added, calling this “very, very significant”.

This development is interesting on several levels. First, it will be interesting to see if the environmentalist lobby starts putting as much pressure on the PRC  as they do on the Western world to restrain economic growth and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Second, even if they do, the reaction of the Chinese government is likely to be less than sympathetic:

Those comments follow the weekend release of a Chinese government report detailing the costs of climate change but asserting that the country should focus on development before cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Higher than average temperatures meant spreading deserts, worsening droughts, shrinking glaciers and increased spread of diseases, said the report, compiled by more than a dozen government bodies. It said emission limits were unfair and would constrain China’s current energy and manufacturing industries.

China is a signatory to the Kyoto Protocol on reducing greenhouse gasses, but is exempt from its restrictions because it is a developing country.

The Chinese seem unlikely to agree to anything that would restrain economic growth anytime soon. Meaning that any effort to confront China on this issue could end up having foreign policy implications.

Sheryl Crow’s Dumb Idea

The BBC is reporting that singer Sheryl Crow has come up with her own solution to global warming:

Singer Sheryl Crow has said a ban on using too much toilet paper should be introduced to help the environment.

Crow has suggested using “only one square per restroom visit, except, of course, on those pesky occasions where two to three could be required”.\ “I have spent the better part of this tour trying to come up with easy ways for us all to become a part of the solution to global warming,” Crow wrote.

(…)

“Although my ideas are in the earliest stages of development, they are, in my mind, worth investigating.

“I propose a limitation be put on how many squares of toilet paper can be used in any one sitting.”

Aside from the laughably absurd idea of taking scientific advice from someone who sings songs for a living, there is the equally absurd idea that limiting toilet paper use is going to have a significant impact on the environment.

Do you know where most of the greenhouse gases come from these days Sheryl ?

From coal fired power plants. Given that, if you really want to help the environment you should be lobbying to have the restrictions on construction of nuclear power plants lifted so we can generate electricity with almost no carbon footprint.

But, don’t worry, Sheryl’s got another idea if that toilet paper thing doesn’t work out:

Crow has also commented on her website about how she thinks paper napkins “represent the height of wastefulness”.

She has designed a clothing line with what she calls a “dining sleeve”.

The sleeve is detachable and can be replaced with another “dining sleeve” after the diner has used it to wipe his or her mouth.

So instead of throwing out the napkin, we wash the dining sleeve in the washing machine, thus using more power from those coal fired plants. Bright idea Sheryl.

It’s stuff like this that makes it so hard for me to take the current environmentalist fad seriously. They come up with these ridiculous suggestions designed to make people think they are having an impact on the world and ignore the obvious solutions that are staring them in the face.

Update: It’s been suggested in a comment that Crow wasn’t serious. Well, below the fold is a lengthy quote from the blog entry in question: » Read more

Save The Planet! Oppose Ethanol!

Environmental science is one of those fields that I’ve always looked at with a fair amount of distrust. The planet’s ecosystem is an incredibly complex system, with a lot of inputs and outputs that we neither understand nor really predict. That’s why we went from 1970, when everyone was scared about global cooling, to 2004, when everyone was scared about global warming, to our current situation, where the shift is now to be scared of “global climate change”, because change is bad… (Odd that it’s the conservatives who accept that the climate changes, and it’s the “liberals” who are scared of that change, huh?)

So we hear all their prescriptions for a “problem” that they can’t even agree is occurring and can be fixed. We decide to move away from oil in favor of ethanol, which has all sorts of unintended consequences I described yesterday. Now we go one step farther. The magazine Scientific American reports that ethanol will actually cause more pollution than gasoline!

Environmental engineer Mark Jacobson of Stanford University used a computer model to assess how the air pollution in the U.S. would react if vehicles remained primarily fueled by gasoline in 2020 or if the fleet transferred to a fuel that was a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline, so-called E85. Under the latter scenario, levels of the cancer-causing agents benzene and butadiene dropped while those of formaldehyde and acetaldehyde rose: In other words, a wash.

Because burning ethanol can potentially add more smog-forming pollution to the atmosphere, however, it can also exacerbate the ill effects of such air pollution. According to Jacobson, burning ethanol adds 22 percent more hydrocarbons to the atmosphere than burning gasoline and this would lead to a nearly 2 parts-per-billion increase in ozone. This ozone, which has been linked to inflamed lungs, impaired immune systems and heart disease by prior research, would in turn lead to a 4 percent increase in the number of ground level ozone-related deaths, or roughly 200 extra deaths a year. “Due to its ozone effects, future E85 may be a greater overall public health risk than gasoline,” Jacobson writes in the study published in Environmental Science & Technology. “It can be concluded with confidence only that E85 is unlikely to improve air quality over future gasoline vehicles.”

So let’s see where our ethanol mandate has gotten us. Higher price for tortillas? Check. Higher price and less supply of meat? Check. Higher milk prices? Check. More air pollution? Check!

Of course, perhaps this is what we should expect when we decide to elect a bunch of lawyers (no offense, Doug) to Congress to create regulations on environmental science, economics, technology, and all the other things they’ve stuck their grubby fingers into. As Walter says in The Big Lebowski, “You’re out of your element.”

I’m Suing The X Prize Foundation

Because they stole my idea:

The competition requires significant energy and emissions goals (most importantly, fuel economy) with at least 100 mpg or its equivalent. The guidelines are replacing the outdated MPG with this new standard, MPGe, which takes into account energy equivalents, no matter what the energy source.

Production capability is another important requirement: Vehicles will be judged on specific market production criteria detailed in key areas such as safety, cost, features and business plan. So this X Prize will only open to practicable cars capable of reaching the marketplace—no concept cars or science projects.

You may remember that I posted almost the exact same idea here in December 2006, but that was a cross-post of an August 2005 piece I wrote at The Unrepentant Individual.

Mine was structured slightly differently, but nonetheless it was an identical idea. And I didn’t even get mentioned in this news article. Jerks. Any lawyers want to represent me?

Al Gore’s Exaggerated Truth

This morning New York Times reports that many scientists are concerned that Al Gore’s movie An Inconvenient Truth exaggerates many aspects of the global warming debate:

Hollywood has a thing for Al Gore and his three-alarm film on global warming, “An Inconvenient Truth,” which won an Academy Award for best documentary. So do many environmentalists, who praise him as a visionary, and many scientists, who laud him for raising public awareness of climate change.

But part of his scientific audience is uneasy. In talks, articles and blog entries that have appeared since his film and accompanying book came out last year, these scientists argue that some of Mr. Gore’s central points are exaggerated and erroneous. They are alarmed, some say, at what they call his alarmism.

For example, there are Gore’s five-alarm warnings about the link between global warming and hurricanes:

Still, Dr. Hansen said, the former vice president’s work may hold “imperfections” and “technical flaws.” He pointed to hurricanes, an icon for Mr. Gore, who highlights the devastation of Hurricane Katrina and cites research suggesting that global warming will cause both storm frequency and deadliness to rise. Yet this past Atlantic season produced fewer hurricanes than forecasters predicted (five versus nine), and none that hit the United States.

 And then there’s the fact that, even though it is warmer now than it has been in the recent past, we really don’t know what that means:

[A] report last June by the National Academies seemed to contradict Mr. Gore’s portrayal of recent temperatures as the highest in the past millennium. Instead, the report said, current highs appeared unrivaled since only 1600, the tail end of a temperature rise known as the medieval warm period.

Roy Spencer, a climatologist at the University of Alabama, Huntsville, said on a blog that Mr. Gore’s film did “indeed do a pretty good job of presenting the most dire scenarios.” But the June report, he added, shows “that all we really know is that we are warmer now than we were during the last 400 years.”

Are we in the middle of a recurring cycle or is this a long-term trend ? After all, as recently as the 18th Century, the Northern Hemisphere was in the middle of what has been referred to as a “mini ice age”, with blizzard-like storms a common occurrence in New England as last as April. As these scientists point  out the fact is that we really don’t know what we’re dealing with.

That doesn’t matter to Al Gore, though, it’s clear that, for him, global warming is a political crusade, not a scientific inquiry. Seen in that light, his shrill alarmism is entirely understandable.

Accept Global Warming — Or We’ll Kill You

So, some scientists called into question the religion of Global Warming, suggesting that those who were putting forward the narrative were “stifling” debate. In a show of tolerance by those in the “movement”, those scientists have started receiving death threats:

Scientists who questioned mankind’s impact on climate change have received death threats and claim to have been shunned by the scientific community.

They say the debate on global warming has been “hijacked” by a powerful alliance of politicians, scientists and environmentalists who have stifled all questioning about the true environmental impact of carbon dioxide emissions.

Timothy Ball, a former climatology professor at the University of Winnipeg in Canada, has received five deaths threats by email since raising concerns about the degree to which man was affecting climate change.

One of the emails warned that, if he continued to speak out, he would not live to see further global warming.

Voltaire said it best:

It is dangerous to be right in matters on which the established authorities are wrong.

Now, I can’t say who is right. But it’s always dangerous to go against the beliefs of powerful and entrenched interests, whether or not you’re right. Just ask Galileo.

Global Warming…..On Mars

The National Geographic reports on evidence of warming on Mars, which suggests that there may be a non-human cause to similar events on Earth:

Simultaneous warming on Earth and Mars suggests that our planet’s recent climate changes have a natural—and not a human- induced—cause, according to one scientist’s controversial theory.

Earth is currently experiencing rapid warming, which the vast majority of climate scientists says is due to humans pumping huge amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

Mars, too, appears to be enjoying more mild and balmy temperatures.

In 2005 data from NASA’s Mars Global Surveyor and Odyssey missions revealed that the carbon dioxide “ice caps” near Mars’s south pole had been diminishing for three summers in a row.

Habibullo Abdussamatov, head of the St. Petersburg’s Pulkovo Astronomical Observatory in Russia, says the Mars data is evidence that the current global warming on Earth is being caused by changes in the sun.

“The long-term increase in solar irradiance is heating both Earth and Mars,” he said.

Or maybe it’s just because of all the SUV’s  those selfish Martians are driving.

Hypocrisy, Thy Name Is Al Gore

Al Gore, environmentalist.

Or maybe not:

Last night, Al Gore’s global-warming documentary, An Inconvenient Truth, collected an Oscar for best documentary feature, but the Tennessee Center for Policy Research has found that Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy.

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh-more than 20 times the national average.

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh-guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

Since the release of An Inconvenient Truth, Gore’s energy consumption has increased from an average of 16,200 kWh per month in 2005, to 18,400 kWh per month in 2006.

Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year.

“As the spokesman of choice for the global warming movement, Al Gore has to be willing to walk the walk, not just talk the talk, when it comes to home energy use,” said Tennessee Center for Policy Research President Drew Johnson.

In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.

But don’t you see, energy conservation is for the little people.

H/T: Drudge

Funding Government Through Externality Payments

In most of the libertosphere, you’ll likely hear the statement “Taxation is theft.” The general implication of this, of course, is that for us to right this wrong, we must have no government, or government financed entirely by voluntary contributions. But what if there was a third way?

What if we could fund government entirely through the externality of pollution?
» Read more

The Debate is Over

Global warming alarmists have cleverly come up with a term for those who are skeptical of their position as ‘global warming deniers.’ Because, as they say, ‘the debate is over,’ anyone who disagrees is a denier by definition. And what about scientists who disagree? They are of course being compensated by either the Bush administration, BIG OIL or both. Scientists who believe global warming is man made who receive government grants and funds from environmental activist groups on the other hand, well their motivations are pure.

Those who are promoting the global warming agenda may be onto something. Why bother debating your position when you know your position is right? This is brilliant! After all, there are several issues I know I am right about. Ending the war on (some) drugs: the debate is over. The war on drugs is completely ineffective, un-winnable, and a threat to personal liberty. I shall henceforth call anyone who supports the war on drugs a ‘war on drugs failure denier.’ The debate over capitalism vs. socialism, communism, and other competing economic systems has also been settled once and for all. I shall henceforth call those who disagree with the moral superiority of capitalism over these inferior systems as ‘free market deniers’ or better yet, ‘economics deniers.’

There are so many other debates I could, perhaps with ‘consensus’ of my fellow contributors here at The Liberty Papers, declare as over. We don’t need to waste our time with ‘deniers’ here. We are right, you are wrong, and the debate is over.

Politics and Science Don’t Mix

It seems there is a bit of a fight between the global warming intellegentsia (which includes the governor) in Oregon and a heretic who managed to get himself into the position of “State Climatologist”. So what does the governor want to do? Strip the heretic’s title and make his position appointable by the Governor, not as a position within the “state climate office” at Oregon State University, as is currently done.

Taylor has held the title of “state climatologist” since 1991 when the legislature created a state climate office at OSU The university created the job title, not the state.

His opinions conflict not only with many other scientists, but with the state of Oregon’s policies.

So the governor wants to take that title from Taylor and make it a position that he would appoint.

In an exclusive interview with KGW-TV, Governor Ted Kulongoski confirmed he wants to take that title from Taylor. The governor said Taylor’s contradictions interfere with the state’s stated goals to reduce greenhouse gases, the accepted cause of global warming in the eyes of a vast majority of scientists.

“He is Oregon State University’s climatologist. He is not the state of Oregon’s climatologist,” Kulongoski said.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Nor is this something confined to the environmentalists, if you’ve seen some of the idiocy over “intelligent design”, it’s just as bad. Bush hasn’t had a strong history of listening to people who believe differently from him on scientific matters, with stem cells being an obvious example.

This just illustrates the problem with government getting involved in science. Politicians usually have very little expertise in anything scientific. Whether it’s Ted Steven’s thoughts on internet technology (a series of tubes), or Bill Frist’s ability to diagnose PVS from a few seconds of video. While many of them are intimately familiar with the law (since so many are lawyers), the ability to argue your position effectively isn’t the basis for the scientific method.

Science, to really progress, needs to be given freedom. Unfortunately, politicians like to pick winners prematurely and silence losers before they’ve lost. In the process, they make scientists spout what the politicians want to hear as they chase government research grants. This is just one more example of what happens when a scientist tells a politician something he doesn’t want to hear.

UPDATE: Wired Magazine yesterday skewered Bush for interfering with federal climate change scientists. We’ll be waiting— with bated breath— for them to condemn Kulongoski for doing the same…

Hat Tip: The Pubcrawler for the original story, and Catallarchy for the Wired Piece

Why Focus On Global Warming?

Part of my personal skepticism causes me to discount the validity of dire predictions. When someone’s telling me only about the worst case scenario, I immediately think they’re trying to scare me into going along with their wishes. It’s probably not true, but as the race doesn’t always go to the strongest, it’s worked out well to bet that way.

I don’t believe much in global warming. But I do believe in smog. I don’t particularly want to live somewhere where the air is nearly chewable. When I look up at the sky and see brown, I have to think it can’t be good. My wife’s parents live east of LA, in a town right below the mountains. I look at the air in the summertime, and it’s absolutely disgusting. I’ve been told that 20 years ago, it was far worse, but even as it is now, I’d never live within 10 miles of an area with brown sky.

And you know what? Smog has been proven as a health risk that affects human respiratory systems. It seems to me that it would be a lot less politically charged to try to do something that is proven to reduce health risks than to try to cripple our economy in order to forestall potentially catastrophic effects that we don’t know we’re causing and barely are sure we can stop.

When I see things like this, I think that the people that refer to modern environmentalists as watermelons, “green on the outside, red on the inside”, might be on to something. I’m a big fan of finding effective ways to help preserve the environment. In fact, the idea of “internalizing the externality” of pollution is regularly debated by libertarian in order to find ways to help cut pollution in a way consistent with libertarian values.

If the environmental movement worked to show people how their policies would improve their day-to-day lives, they might find a receptive audience. But when they’re asking people to drastically change their behavior in order to solve a problem that they can barely prove exists, and which won’t manifest itself for 50-100 years, why do they think we’ll listen?

More Evidence Of Global Warming

Early Spring? We need Kyoto!

A new pair of hands pulled Punxsutawney Phil from his stump this year, so it was only fitting that the groundhog offered a new prediction.

Phil did not see his shadow on Friday, which, according to German folklore, means folks can expect an early spring instead of six more weeks of winter.

Since 1886, Phil has seen his shadow 96 times, hasn’t seen it 15 times and there are no records for nine years, according to the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club. The last time Phil failed to see his shadow was in 1999.

However, not everyone was convinced. One Global Warming Denier had this to say:

Rick McFerron, an administrator at Indiana University of Pennsylvania some 30 miles away, walked the whole way to the ceremony to celebrate his 60th birthday and to raise money for breast cancer research.

He said he was skeptical of the groundhog’s prediction.

“It’s supposed to get bitter cold this weekend,” McFerron said.

Just how much did Exxon pay you, McFerron?

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