Sunday, January 28, 2007

Is Bush Policy an Impending Humanitarian Disaster?

In his State of the Union speech, President Bush announced one of the largest increases in corporate welfare in this country's history. With the goal of reducing our consumption of gasoline by 20% in the next ten years, President Bush called on Congress to increase the Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) from its current level of 7.5 billion gallons to 35 billion gallons over the next decade. President Bush's proposal will result in an unprecedented explosion of government welfare to big business and potentially spark a humanitarian disaster in Latin American.

The current RFS has already caused the price of corn to skyrocket, which is having a devastating impact on other users of corn products. The livestock industry, for instance. But a much worse "unintended consequence" of the massive increase in the RFS may be a humanitarian disaster in the making in Mexico, where the cost of corn has soared:

Facing public outrage over the soaring price of tortillas, President Felipe Calderón abandoned his free-trade principles on Thursday and forced producers to sign an agreement fixing prices for corn products.

Skyrocketing prices for corn on the world market have pushed up the price of the humble tortilla, the mainstay of the Mexican diet, by nearly a third in the past three weeks, to 35 cents a pound in Mexico City and even higher in other parts of the country.Half of the country’s 107 million people live on $4 a day or less, and many of them survive largely on tortillas and beans.

The price increases have riled the public to such an extent that it has created a political storm that threatens to swamp Mr. Calderón’s fresh presidency.

How far will this unrest in Mexico go if the President's proposed new standards are implemented? The industry claims it can keep up with demand, but that may just be wishful thinking. Even if they can, it will take time - and land. Land will be diverted either from the production of other human or animal feed crops, which will cause a general increase in the price of food, or it will be converted from fallow land or marginal wilderness that normally wouldn't be used for growing crops because it is not very good farmland.

Whatever the course pursued to increase the amount of corn needed for the new RFS, including long-term genetic research aimed at increasing the yield and producing plants that can more easily be converted to ethanol, the short-term impact is devastating the poor in Mexico. And I don't doubt that other Latin American countries that also rely on the world market to supplement their local corn production will also be impacted.

With their fragile hold on democratic government already slipping in many Latin American countries, and their historical tendency to turn to despotic tyranny in desperate times, this policy could have disastrous effects on the stability of a region with whom we share a common, mostly unguarded boarder.

This policy is all the more ironic since ethanol actually increases the amount of hydrocarbons emitted by automobiles -- a major factor in the formation of smog.

So what is the solution to high oil prices and our depency on unstable oil-rich countries? Get the Federal government out of the way and let domestic oil companies drill wherever the oil is:

His best ideas were to urge Congress to cut the red tape involved in building new refineries and expanding old ones (he pointed out that a new refinery hasn't been built here in 30 years) and to call for fewer boutique fuel mixtures (condemning an "uncoordinated and overly complex set of fuel rules") and for a slowdown in the timetable for mixing ethanol with gasoline, again to meet government mandates. It's clear that shortages and price spikes are the result of an inability to move ethanol, whose production is still a cottage industry, around the country.

Bush also made a forthright plea to open up a small part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for exploration, pointing out that, if such a move had been made 10 years ago, we'd be producing a million extra barrels a day (the U.S. uses about 16 million, of which roughly two-thirds is imported), and he said that "we can find crude oil in our own country in environmentally friendly ways."

But these ideas were mainly rhetoric. The right approach would have been to end the boutique fuels and ethanol nonsense once and for all. He should have pinned the blame where it belonged -- on Congress, for refusing to take steps to encourage drilling on the Continental Shelf and for pandering to the ethanol (that is, corn) lobby by forcing drivers to use a pricey fuel with little environmental value.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Global Warming Hysteria

A Reuters story about the recent American Meteorological Society's annual meeting in San Antonio, leaves you with the impression that almost no professional Meterologists "deny" that global warming is man-made:

"I think there's virtually no doubt that humans are a major player in warming the globe," said Robert Henson, author of the recently published "The Rough Guide to Climate Change."

"There are still people out there who will contradict that, but they are not part of the scientific mainstream," he said.

However, James Spann has had a very different experience:

I have been in operational meteorology since 1978, and I know dozens and dozens of broadcast meteorologists all over the country. Our big job: look at a large volume of raw data and come up with a public weather forecast for the next seven days. I do not know of a single TV meteorologist who buys into the man-made global warming hype. I know there must be a few out there, but I can’t find them. Here are the basic facts you need to know:

*Billions of dollars of grant money is flowing into the pockets of those on the man-made global warming bandwagon. No man-made global warming, the money dries up. ...

*The climate of this planet has been changing since God put the planet here. It will always change, and the warming in the last 10 years is not much difference than the warming we saw in the 1930s and other decades.

Hat Tip: Junk Science

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

There's no place like home

Just like Dorothy in the Wizard of OZ, after years of chasing after alternative energy fantasies, we should finally realize that the answer was with us all along... "There's no place like home... (for plentiful, inexpensive sources of energy)... there's no place like home... there's no place like home..."

The more we look for oil and natural gas in the United States, the more we find. A new Department of the Interior (DOI) report concluded that there are substantial onshore deposits of energy on federal lands. A companion study of offshore energy reserves released earlier this year reached the same conclusion. But in both reports, DOI found that much of this energy is either explicitly off-limits or hampered by regulatory constraints that effectively make it so. At least part of the solution to high oil and natural gas prices lies right under our feet, but Congress has thus far failed to change the laws and regulations that keep this domestic energy locked up.

Maybe we should start a campaign - to send our representatives in congress a pair of (rhinestone) "ruby" slippers to remind them, "There's no place like home to get the energy our country needs to stay strong economically, reduce our dependence on dangerous, unstable foreign governments, and create long-term, good-paying jobs for Americans."

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Fish Farming Myths

Greenspirit's Patrick Moore debunks some of the common Fish Farming Myths

"Salmon farms are polluting the ocean with fish waste"

"Farmed salmon may escape and pollute the wild salmon and even take over from the wild fish"

"Salmon are fed large amounts of antibiotics that spread into the sea"

"Salmon farms spread disease to wild fish"

"Salmon farms are spreading sea lice to wild fish, causing their populations to plummet"

"The feed for farmed salmon contains fishmeal and oil from wild fish. This results in a "net loss" of protein for a hungry world because it takes 2-3 pounds of wild fish to make a pound of farmed salmon"

"Salmon are fed artificial chemical dyes to make them look pink like wild salmon"

"Farmed salmon contain high levels of cancer-causing PCBs and dioxins"

"In order to save the wild salmon we should boycott farmed salmon and only eat wild salmon"

I'll let you read Mr. Moore's piece to get his responses to these various myths, but I wanted to share this exciting little tidbit in the document linked to above about the future of fish farming:

While fish farm production can still increase considerably in sheltered inshore waters with the available feed supply there are three ways in which production could become much larger.

First, aquaculture operations can move offshore where the pens will be suspended below the surface to avoid the destructive power of storms. A float at the surface will be tethered to a submerged feeding tube that is pulled to the surface by a ship that could service tens of such cages along the continental shelves. The activists are so anti-fish farming that they have set themselves preemptively against open ocean fish farms, where all of the above claimed environmental harms have even less validity. In the US, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has proposed greatly expanding fish farming in the internationally recognized Exclusive Economic Zones that extend 200 miles from each nation's shoreline. The US wants to create privatized zones and sell multi-year leases to aquaculturists on a percentage of their sales. In these open waters, wastes from the fish are greatly diluted and wash away with the currents. Off-shore fish farms miles from shore have raised halibut, cod, red snapper, and tuna. The response from the environmentalist community has been predictable wailing over the "industrializing" of the seas by greedy big business. Anne Mosness with the anti-biotech, anti-development Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer that the US's open ocean proposal is "the equivalent of having a hog farm in a city park flushing its wastes into the street." Pure nonsense.

Speaking of off-shore pens, look at what this company is doing to help things along: OceanSpar

Check this out... awesome!!!

Here's a recent Popular Science article on offshore fish farms

ABC World News Tonight December 2006 report (video) on offshore fish farming

(Here's an article based on the video above, and here's the company, Snapperfarms, that was featured in the video.)

In addition to the really cool gigantic offshore fish pens, here's a company that has developed technology to successfully farm-raise millions of pounds of fish - on land! Check out the YouTube video presentation about their unique technology and company:

Another presentation about Virginia Cobia Farms

And finally, A list of articles on fish farming

Monday, January 22, 2007

Organics - worth the money?

Note: you'll have to scroll down to the bottom of the page to see the article, Organics? It's Not Worth The Money

Alex Avery's new book, The Truth About Organic Foods, exposes the lie that organics are better for you - they're not. And this insidious lie is threatening the health of many who simply cannot afford very many fresh fruits and vegetables when they pay the premium prices for organic produce. Why pay more? It's not worth it!

Organic food is neither more nutritious or safer than conventionally-grown products, a leading scientist claims in a new book. And the more expensive food grown without man-made chemicals and fertilises could even be more harmful, says biologist Alex Avery.

His book, The Truth About Organic Foods, has been backed by British experts. Last night Professor Anthony Trewavas, a plant expert at Edinburgh University, said: "People are being conned. It's not worth spending all that extra money on organic produce"

Starbucks perpetuates myth

Note: you'll have to scroll down to the bottom of the page that comes up to see the WSJ article.

Starbucks is switching to milk free of artificial growth hormones (rBGH). Which is a mis-nomer, actually, since milk from cows given rBGH is indistinguishable from milk that came from cows who did not recieve rBGH. Myths about cancer and early puberty from drinking milk from cows that received rBGH - spread by the organic industry and misinformed eco-puritans - only serve to line the pockets of "organic" dairy farmers and eco-shakedown groups like Center for Science in the Public Interest (a doubly ironic oxymoron since it neither promotes science nor cares about the public interest). Convincing those who have little enough money as it is to spend what little they have on "better" milk that is indistinguishable from cheaper milk is the crassest form of charlatantism.

From the WSJ article:

The affluent in America can afford to pay higher grocery bills and buy $3 coffee every morning as they wage war against biotechnology. But they do so at the expense of the world's poor, who benefit most from cheap, more abundant food. "There are often fatal consequences to these groups' Luddite philosophy," notes Fred Smith, president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

As for Starbucks, its spokesman Brandon Borrman told us "we are only responding to the desires of our customers." It's hard to see how Starbucks can absorb the higher costs of hormone-free milk without off-loading them onto their customers' lattes. And maybe there's a kind of justice in that. As to "social responsibility," it's hard to see where the responsibility lies in promoting a scientifically discredited fear.

Some good information can also be found here: The Milk Myth

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Feds Freeze Out Antidote, Costing Billions

Once again, opposition to a benign and highly beneficial application of genetic engineering costs all of us - a lot. It was a very cold winter here in CA - I froze my tail off! - so it came as no surprise to find out the unusually cold weather (somehow due to Global Warming, no doubt) damaged BILLIONS of dollars worth of crops. That's a lot of oranges! Dr. Henry Miller informs us of a wonderful solution to this problem - one which our all-wise overlords have seen fit to quash with their unique, all-powerful weapon: Byzantine over-regulation.

Although the ice-minus bacteria proved safe and effective at preventing frost damage in field trials, further research was discouraged by the combination of onerous government regulation, the inflated expense of doing the experiments and the prospect of huge downstream costs of pesticide registration. As a result, the product was never commercialized, and plants cultivated for food and fiber throughout much of the nation remain vulnerable to frost damage. We have the EPA to thank for farmers' livelihood in jeopardy, jobs lost, and inflated produce prices for consumers.

When will the EPA re-think its policies? Probably not before hell freezes over.

We've never had it so good

Another great article explaining once again the obvious: development is good. It enhances human welfare and improves the environment. Eco-marxists would disagree. They want us to view humans as the problem, as a cancer of the Earth. So choose who you want to believe: the eco-marxist elitists who believe only they are wise enough, intelligent enough, and good enough to rule the rest of us with an iron fist, or Indur Goklany:

The combination of economic growth and technological development is not just beneficial to human well-being in a narrow sense. Goklany also argues strongly that the environment becomes better fit for human beings as a result of progress. For example, his book starts by quoting a passage from Charles Dickens’s The Old Curiosity Shop (1841) which describes London mired in coal dust and factory smoke. At that time, diseases such as cholera and typhoid were rife as London’s water supply was grossly polluted. But the building of London’s sewage system and the implementation of public health measures cleaned up the city. Londoners now enjoy a cleaner environment than ever despite – or rather because of – the greater level of economic development.

What is true of London also applies more generally. Greater prosperity makes it possible to clean the air and rivers. Biodiversity can also increase, and the amount of forested land can expand. Higher agricultural productivity means there is often less pressure on land than in the past. ‘If you look at the data, richer countries are generally better off environmentally than poor countries,’ says Goklany.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Mine Your Own Business!

Finally! A documentary that tells the truth about eco-fanaticism and the terrible impact it is having on the poor around the world. I hope this is the start of a trend. I'd love to see the floodgates open and a deluge of documentaries, movies, novels (ala "State of Fear") come pouring out that tell the stories of the poor and powerless thoughtlessly trampled by these supercilious eco-quakers.