Jan 03

Web entrepreneur Olivier Chalouhi decribes the altruistic selfish reason he opted to by a Nissan Leaf:

“It all started,” Chalouhi says, “when I saw an ad for the Chevy Volt.” The Volt, which started shipping to dealers in mid-December, is the Leaf’s chief competitor in the green-car sweepstakes. It runs for about 40 miles on an electric charge before a small gasoline engine kicks in to recharge the battery. That gives the Volt more than 350 miles of range—unlike the Leaf, which runs for 60 to 100 miles, varying with weather and terrain and driving style, before needing a recharge that can take 30 minutes to 7 hours, depending on the strength of the charger. The Volt’s gasoline engine makes it less attractive to some eco-minded consumers like Chalouhi. “In all the articles I read about the Volt, the Leaf was discussed as well,” he says. “As soon as I found out about the Leaf, I forgot about the Volt. The Volt wasn’t going to project the image I wanted. It has a tailpipe.”

Green vanity is nothing new of course. Personally I’ve noticed that the only homes that I’ve ever seen a Smart Car parked in front of are homes of the wealthy. Smart Cars, the Nissan Leaf, and the like are hardly cars of the masses, their large price tags make them just cool gadgets that soothe eco-egos.

BTW, much like the leafy dashboard display on the Ford Fusion hybrid, has it occurred to anyone else that the name Nissan Leaf is a paradox, i.e. does not a fossil fuel gulping, CO2 (plant food) breathing SUV do more for leaves than a zero emission vehicle?

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Jun 15

This is definitely an inconvenient truth for the organic, buy local, farmer’s market crowd.

Scientific American reports on a new study from Standford University:

Modern high-yield farming lowered the amount of greenhouse gases pumped into the Earth’s atmosphere toward the end of the 20th Century by a massive amount, according to a surprising study from researchers at Stanford University.

Technological advances in agriculture helped reduce greenhouse gas output by reducing the need to convert forests to farmland, the study said. Such conversion involves burning of trees and other naturally occurring carbon repositories, which increases emissions of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide.

If not for yield improvement techniques, which have dramatically helped corporate farms produce more crops with less land, authors of the study said an additional 13 billion tons of CO2 would have been loosed into the atmosphere per year.

“Our results dispel the notion that modern intensive agriculture is inherently worse for the environment than a more ‘old-fashioned’ way of doing things,” said Jennifer Burney, lead author of a paper on high-yield farming to be published online by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Overall, the study estimated that new farming methods averted emitting as much as the equivalent of 590 billion metric tons of CO2. That translates into as much as a third of the world’s total greenhouse gas output since 1850, a date often cited as the start of the Industrial Revolution in the West.

The production and use of fertilizer has led to significant greenhouse gas emissions, Burney said, but that increase pales in comparison with what might have been had more forests and grasslands been shifted to agricultural uses.

“Every time forest or shrub land is cleared for farming, the carbon that was tied up in the biomass is released and rapidly makes its way into the atmosphere,” said Burney, who is a postdoctoral researcher at Stanford.

Not that I really think it’s necessary to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, but if we are going to do that the organic, buy local, farmer’s market model often pushed by those same folks going to see Al Gore’s slide show isn’t the correct path to take.

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Feb 05

A Utah legislative committee panel has OK’d a resolution that urges the EPA to halt it’s regulations aimed at GHG’s, including CO2, and cited cataclysmic impacts to the economy according to Deseret News:

“We are responsible to look at the big picture,” said Rep. Kerry Gibson, R-Ogden, sponsor of the measure. “The economy is as important as the environment.”

Fueled by concerns over devastating impacts to Utah’s farmers, ranchers, mining industry, businesses and consumers, HJR12 is intended to send a message to the federal government that the regulation of carbon dioxide as a greenhouse gas is fraught with economic impracticalities and based on unproven global warming theory.

“Sometimes when we don’t have all the answers, we need to have the courage to do nothing,” said Rep. Mike Noel, R-Kanab, arguing forcefully on behalf of the resolution. Making reference to the medical profession’s Hippocratic oath, Noel said, “As policymakers, we should first do no harm.”

The resolution itself is a wonder to behold as it lists in a very concise form every single argument the most vehement skeptic could make against regulating CO2 to supposedly solve man-made global warming, as follows:

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Jan 21

Obviously, this is fall-out from yesterday’s stunning Massachusetts special election.  Not only is government-run health care dead, but cap and trade and the EPA’s regulation of CO2 are also on their death beds.

ABC reports:

Three Democratic senators are joining an effort to block the Obama administration from taking steps to reduce the pollution blamed for global warming.

Democrats Ben Nelson of Nebraska, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas have signed onto a resolution introduced Thursday by Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. The measure, which must pass Congress and be signed by the President, would bar the Environmental Protection Agency from issuing regulations to control greenhouse gases.

Nelson, Lincoln and Landrieu seem to be attempting to save their political careers judging from this move.

Hat tip: @gl0bal_warming

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Jan 13

From The Akron Beacon Journal:

If Joseph Ortiz, the Kent State University geology professor who wrote the Dec. 7 letter ”Climate change is beyond denial,” really believes that it is time for a serious discussion regarding climate change, maybe he could start by framing the debate more honestly.

He states that ”the climate-change denier’s logic goes like this: There is evidence of natural climate change; therefore, humans can’t be the cause of the climate change seen in the last 200 years.”

This is as absurd as stating that the climate-change zealot’s logic goes like this: There is evidence that human activity has increased carbon dioxide levels in the past 200 years; therefore, humans must be causing the climate to change. It is a cheap debating tactic to state an opposing view in a weak and unconvincing manner, and then denounce that position as a ”badly flawed conclusion.”

I am an environmental geologist, and I am skeptical of the climate-change hysteria because of the daunting magnitude of variables that influence the impact of chemicals when they are released to our environment. Many of these variables are poorly understood, many others have probably not yet been identified, and the complexity of the interactions on a scale as large as the global climate is almost certainly beyond our current levels of scientific understanding.

It is simply not logical that controlling a single (and miniscule, by volume) variable such as atmospheric carbon dioxide will allow us to bend the entire global climate to our will.

I am also skeptical because models used to predict environmental impact, while useful tools, are prone to calibration problems, manipulation and can produce results with little or no semblance to real-world outcomes.

Finally, I am skeptical because climate change is, contrary to the assertion by Ortiz, a political question at the bottom line.

The proposed solutions currently in search of a global warming problem involve enormous (and likely unachievable) alterations to world economies, drastic changes in lifestyles that most people will simply not accept and a redistribution of wealth that would make the most devout communist giddy.

By all means, Ortiz, continue your good research. We need your contribution to our overall understanding of the climate. But please forgo statements such as the evidence of human-induced climate change is beyond denying — it is not.

Determining when evidence is sufficient and if debate should begin or end on a topic of such universal importance is not the purview of you, Al Gore or the Beacon Journal editorial board.
Jim C. Smith

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Dec 11

The Oregonian reports on a tragedy that struck in Southeast Portland on Wednesday:

Firefighters responded to an apparent carbon monoxide poisoning in Southeast Portland late Wednesday that left a man dead and a woman severely injured.

Investigators think the incident was caused by carbon monoxide leaking from a natural gas heater that was not properly ventilated.

Although it went unreported in the web edition of this story, my dead tree edition included the sobering irony:

According to neighbors, the [victims] were friendly but private, and concerned for the environment: [the male victim] had recently announced he would give up his vehicles in an effort to reduce his carbon footprint.

This tragedy illustrates the absurdity of where this world is headed with its demonization and regulation of molecules.   The environmental alarmists have waged a mostly successful campaign to smear the good reputation of carbon dioxide (CO2), a harmless trace gas which is essential for life to exist on earth, and convinced many well-meaning citizens (such as the above victim) that it is mandatory to reduce their emissions of CO2 lest we unleash an imagined climatic apocalypse.  As a result, last week the EPA designated CO2 as a “pollutant”.

Meantime, there’s another molecule with one less oxygen atom, carbon monoxide (CO), that is indeed deadly to humans, in fact it’s “the leading cause of accidental poisoning deaths in North America.”

Which begs the question: If we are going to spend our tax dollars protecting citizens from deadly molecules wouldn’t it be smarter to spend more money on providing carbon monoxide alarms than spending that same money on subsidizing alternative energy in the name of limiting emissions of another molecule that is plant food?

My condolences and prayers are with the family of the victim, and his wife.

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Dec 07

On the same day that the EPA is set to falsely accuse the atmosphere’s CO2 molecules of being an “endangerment”, I hereby unofficially nominate the humble CO2 molecule for the Nobel Peace Prize. Hey, it makes more sense than calling this beneficial trace gas an “endangerment”. In his own Nobel acceptance/lecture, Al Gore has gone so far as to call CO2 “global warming pollution”, and insisted that man’s emissions of it were akin to treating our atmosphere like an “open sewer”. He couldn’t be more wrong.

When it comes to molecules that are necessary for life to exist on earth, with the possible exception of H20, you’d be hard-pressed to find one more beneficial than good old carbon dioxide.

CO2 is good for plants:

Literally thousands of laboratory and field experiments have conclusively demonstrated that enriching the air with carbon dioxide stimulates the growth and development of nearly all plants. They have also revealed that higher-than-normal CO2 concentrations dramatically enhance the efficiency with which plants utilize water, sometimes as much as doubling it in response to a doubling of the air’s CO2 content. These CO2-induced improvements typically lead to the development of more extensive and active root systems, enabling plants to more thoroughly explore larger volumes of soil in search of the things they need. Consequently, even in soils lacking sufficient water and nutrients for good growth at today’s CO2 concentrations, plants exposed to the elevated atmospheric CO2 levels expected in the future generally show remarkable increases in vegetative productivity, which should enable them to successfully colonize low-rainfall areas that are presently too dry to support more than isolated patches of desert vegetation.

Elevated levels of atmospheric CO2 also enable plants to better withstand the growth-retarding effects of various environmental stresses, including soil salinity, air pollution, high and low air temperatures, and air-borne and soil-borne plant pathogens. In fact, atmospheric CO2 enrichment can actually mean the difference between life and death for vegetation growing in extremely stressful circumstances. In light of these facts, it is not surprising that Earth’s natural and managed ecosystems have already benefited immensely from the increase in atmospheric CO2 that has accompanied the progression of the Industrial Revolution; and they will further prosper from future CO2 increases.

Join us as we explore these and other important benefits that rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations are bestowing on plants. Carbon dioxide emissions resulting from the burning of fossil fuels should not be feared; they are something to be celebrated!

CO2 is good for humans:

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