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WaPo Editors to Obama: Approve Keystone XL



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Do read their entire editorial, but here are some of the highlights:

  • “IF FOOT-DRAGGING were a competitive sport, President Obama and his administration would be world champions for their performance in delaying the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline.”
  • “We would rather see Canadian crude traveling a well-built, well-regulated pipeline in the United States than on the rail cars, barges and ocean tankers that will move it until cheaper options inevitably come online.

That does not mean we like burning dirty oil sands crude. But symbolic gestures will have no impact on climate change.”

  • “As for the pipeline’s routing, planners and regulators have already considered all sorts of options through Nebraska, and they already shifted the route once. Neither route posed environmental concerns of a sort that would justify concluding that Keystone XL is outside the national interest. It is bizarre to imagine that a new route from an even more careful process in Nebraska would significantly increase environmental concerns.”

And the conclusion:

  • “The administration’s latest decision is not responsible; it is embarrassing. The United States continues to insult its Canadian allies by holding up what should have been a routine permitting decision amid a funhouse-mirror environmental debate that got way out of hand. The president should end this national psychodrama now, bow to reason, approve the pipeline and go do something more productive for the climate.”

 

Climate Change Discussion Dominated by Men



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Why do climate alarmists hate women?

Via Media Matters:

REPORT: Eighty-Five Percent Of Climate Change Guests Are Men

Two Media Matters analyses suggest that over 85 percent of those quoted in the media about climate change are men. Several top women in the field denounced this disparity, noting that women will be disproportionately affected by the impacts of climate change.

A review of a recent Media Matters analysis of print and television coverage of the U.N. climate reports found that women made up less than 15 percent of interviewees. A look back at our analysis of broadcast coverage of climate change unearthed the same stark disparity: less than 14 percent of those quoted on the nightly news shows and Sunday shows in 2013 were women.

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Years of Living Dangerously Silent on Palm Oil’s Use As a Biofuel



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Last night was the second episode of the global-warming-alarmist propaganda, James Cameron–produced Years of Living Dangerously.

One of the storylines from last night, which continued over from episode one, was Harrison Ford taking on the palm oil industry in Indonesia. Ford and the documentary focused on the use of palm oil in food while ignoring the use of palm oil as a green, environmentally approved biodiesel fuel. Ford does take discuss corruption in Indonesia, but by ignoring “green” biodiesel and it’s growing importance to Indonesia’s economy, he misleads viewers. It’s the demand for biodiesel that analysts now say is the driving force in the palm oil market:

As much as 3.4 million tons of palm will be used for biodiesel this year in Indonesia, Hasan said on Feb. 24, after Southeast Asia’s biggest economy increased the blending rate to reduce import costs and narrow the current-account deficit.

Indonesia boosted in September the amount of biodiesel blended with fuel to 10 percent from 7.5 percent and power plants had to blend 20 percent from January. PT Pertamina has already secured 2.4 million kiloliters of biodiesel, 45 percent of the 5.3 million kiloliters it’s seeking for this year and next, the state oil and gas company said Feb. 16. Pertamina will hold more auctions to buy the remainder.

Malaysia is extending its B5 biodiesel program in the country which will result in consumption of 500,000 tons of palm methyl ester annually, according to the government.

“The demand side of the equation has been overtaken by biodiesel,” Dorab Mistry, director of Godrej International Ltd., said by e-mail. “It remains to be seen how much of the Indonesian mandate is actually fulfilled.”

Andy Revkin of the New York Times noticed the omission, too:

Planet Gore has already covered how the demand for palm oil as a fuel is causing environmental havoc, especially with orangutans:

How ‘Green’ Palm Oil Is Killing Orangutans

Now Showtime, Ford, Cameron, et al. have no problem using heartwarming shots at an orangutan nursery to help sell it’s anti-palm-oil message . . .

. . .but they won’t tell “the inconvenient truth” that it’s the environmental movement itself that shares significant blame for Indonesia’s deforestation crisis.

At some point we need to stop using food for gasoline. Years of Living Dangerously had a chance to advance this message and didn’t, out of what looks to be a desire to protect the environmental movement as a whole and to make the complex story of global warming as simple as possible. 

 

Settled Science: Corn Ethanol Worse for Global Warming than Gasoline



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AP:

Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change.

A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline.

While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel.

The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.

The rest here.

Switchgate: Tort toadies seeding fear



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Americans can be excused if they are getting whiplash from the Democratic party’s sudden about face on General Motors. For the last five years, Government Motors was key to Democratic electoral success as President Obama bailed out the company to preserve the gravy train of UAW contributions to Democrats — and to ensure reelection for key politicians (including himself) in crucial swing states like Michigan and Ohio. As recently as this January, Obama invited GM CEO Mary Barra to the State of the Union address to celebrate Democrats’ close ties to GM.

That was then, this is now.

In the wake of revelations that a defective ignition switch in Chevy Cobalt, Saturn Ions, and other vehicles may have played a part in 13 deaths, the party’s tort lobby has taken over the driver’s seat from the UAW. Follow the money.

With the prospect of millions at stake in tort fees, trail-lawyer-fed Democrats are taking the lead in roasting GM (the government’s ownership conveniently ended a month before the Switchgate revelations emerged last year). On Tuesday, Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) grandstanded before the cameras that CEO Barra (No kind words for the first female CEO, senator? Are you a combatant in the War on Women?) must disclose when dealers will have replacement ignitions for recalled cars. Blumenthal – a veteran of the tobacco shakedown (as Connecticut AG) and global-warming hysteria – counts the legal lobby as his #1 campaign contributor.

GM has said it may be October before it has enough ignition parts to fix 2.6 million vehicles worldwide. In the meantime, the company is reassuring owners that the cars are safe to drive if only a key is on the keychain (a fact I confirmed in test-driving a 2006 Cobalt this week).

But rather than join the public service announcement, Blumenthal is panicking customers by declaring GM cars death traps.

“I have repeatedly called on GM to tell customers that recalled vehicles are unsafe to drive until they can be repaired,” he says.

That’s contrary to GM’s experts. And it would inconvenience thousands of low-income Cobalt owners who need their vehicles to get to work. But like his fellow tort toadies, Senators Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.) and Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.) Blumenthal would rather seed fear.

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Bjørn Lomborg: Stop ‘Applauding’ Alarmist Policies that Hurt the Poor



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Bjørn Lomborg has a good piece up on how the latest IPCC report actually shows that the costs of global warming have been exaggerated by the media and by politicians enamored with green policies that ultimately hurt the world’s poor. An excerpt:

US President Barack Obama promised that policies to combat global warming would create five million new green jobs. The EU claimed that green energy would help “improve the EU’s security of energy supply.”

With the completion of the latest report by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), we can now see that this narrative is mostly wrong. The first installment of the IPCC report showed that there is indeed a climate problem – emissions of greenhouse gases, especially CO₂, lead to higher temperatures, which will eventually become a net problem for the world. This result was highly publicized.

But the report also showed that global warming has dramatically slowed or entirely stopped in the last decade and a half. Almost all climate models are running far too hot, meaning that the real challenge of global warming has been exaggerated. Germany and other governments called for the reference to the slowdown to be deleted.

The second IPCC installment showed that the temperature rise that we are expected to see sometime around 2055-2080 will create a net cost of 0.2-2% of GDP – the equivalent of less than one year of recession. So, while the IPCC clearly establishes that global warming is a problem, the cost is obviously much less than that of the twentieth century’s two world wars and the Great Depression.

Again, not surprisingly, politicians tried to have this finding deleted. British officials found the peer-reviewed estimate “completely meaningless,” and, along with Belgium, Norway, Japan, and the US, wanted it rewritten or stricken. One academic speculated that governments possibly felt “a little embarrassed” that their previous exaggerated claims would be undercut by the UN.

The third installment of the IPCC report showed that strong climate policies would be more expensive than claimed as well – costing upwards of 4% of GDP in 2030, 6% in 2050, and 11% by 2100. And the real cost will likely be much higher, because these numbers assume smart policies, instantly enacted, with key technologies magically available.

And. . .

We live in a world where one in six deaths are caused by easily curable infectious diseases; one in eight deaths stem from air pollution, mostly from cooking indoors with dung and twigs; and billions of people live in abject poverty, with no electricity and little food. We ought never to have entertained the notion that the world’s greatest challenge could be to reduce temperature rises in our generation by a fraction of a degree.

The whole thing here.

Switchgate: Cobalt driving lessons



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Amid Washington’s media hysteria, General Motors has called in NASA engineers to verify its claim that recalled Chevy Cobalts are safe to drive — with only a key in the ignition — until owners get to a dealer to install a new ignition switch.

“In 2010, the space agency was (also) asked by the U.S. Transportation Department to investigate whether Toyotas . . . might have electronic defects that contributed to incidents of sudden, unintended acceleration,” reported USA Today. “The investigation found no electronic issue that could cause the problem.”

That would be news to USA Today readers. And Washington Post, ABC News, and CNN viewers.

Cheering the Holder Justice Department’s punishment of Toyota last month with a $1.2 billion fine, not one of these news outlets — or dozens of others — mentioned that NASA had absolved the Japanese automaker of the primary charge that electronically malfunctioning accelerators caused Toyotas to careen out of control in 2010.

It’s deja vu all over again. Lacking concrete information, news outlets are once again jumping to conclusions about GM’s recalled vehicles by relying on trial-lawyer-fed safety advocates like Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety. “Our advice to consumers is, ‘park it now,”‘ Ditlow told a credulous Reuters reporter, challenging GM’s advice.

This is the same Clarence Ditlow who approved NBC News’ scandalous rigging of GM pickups to explode two decades ago. The same Ditlow who claimed that Toyota’s electronic throttles were at fault in sudden acceleration deaths.

Ditlow and his media parrots are likely to be proved wrong — again — when NASA reviews Cobalt ignitions. I drove a 2006 Cobalt SS this week with the original, faulty ignition. As advised by GM, I drove it with only a key in the ignition. Additional weight on the keychain can cause the ignition to rotate back into “accessory” position, thus causing the car to stall.

Contrary to frenzied claims that this causes the car to veer out of control, the car remains drivable. The brakes work, as does the steering. However, the steering loses its power making it more difficult to turn — which was surely disorienting for the many inebriated drivers among Switchgate’s victims. Regardless of the circumstance, GM should be held accountable for these incidents (the faulty ignition may well have its roots in GM’s acrimonious relationship with supplier Delphi in the mid-2000s, reports the Detroit News).

However, after a day driving the Cobalt with only a key in the ignition — over Detroit’s worst roads (and they are bad) — the ignition never faltered. My observation is that the switch’s quality is not on par with Japanese rivals of the same period (thus Detroit’s reputation gap) — it’s Off-to-Accessory-to-Start turns are soft while a Honda Civic ignition, for example, clicks sharply into place.

Nevertheless, the public should be reassured that Cobalts are safe and will not fly out of control. Just as electronic gremlins never caused Toyotas to suddenly accelerate.

Tags: Clarence Ditlow , Chevy Cobalt , Switchgate

EPA Wins Appeal on Power Plant Emissions and Mercury



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Politico:

The Environmental Protection Agency took home a sweeping victory Tuesday when an appeals court upheld the agency’s pollution limits for mercury and air toxics from power plants.

The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit upheld EPA’s rule, known as MATS, denying challenges from states, utilities and industry groups that argued the rules came out of a flawed regulatory process and illegally imposed exorbitant costs on power producers that will force dozens of power plants to shut down.

Tuesday’s decision, which also shot down arguments from environmental groups that it was too weak, was the latest chapter in a saga that began during the Clinton administration. Its strict pollution control requirements will push many of the nation’s oldest and dirtiest coal-fired power plants into retirement when it takes effect in 2015.

The court upheld EPA’s decision to take into account environmental damage from the pollutants, rather than just health-based harms, when it decided to regulate. And the agency based its decision on the impacts of hazardous pollution broadly, rather than just emissions from power plants — a “commonsense approach,” wrote Judge Judith Rogers, to “statutory ambiguity” that was within the bounds of EPA’s discretion.

The rest here.

Is Anybody Watching Years of Living Dangerously?



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Years of Living Dangerously, Showtime’s celebrity-filled, James Cameron–produced, documentary series is certainly garnering plenty of media praise: See here, here, here, and here for just a few examples.

But is anybody watching it? Years didn’t crack the Top 100 cable shows on Sunday April 13. For comparison purposes, the Showtime drama Shameless was No. 12 on Sunday April 6

As the goal of the series is to communicate the dangers of global warming to viewers, I’m not sure things are working out as planned. 

Eat Road Kill to Save the Planet



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What is it with environmentalists and eating meat by the side of the road? Grist:

[. . .] Some argue that salvaging road kill is actually the most ethical and environmentally responsible way to eat meat: It’s a way to maintain carnivorous habits while still opting out of highly questionable conventional means. “The meat industry is pretty extraordinary, particularly things like red meat. It takes something like 27 kilos of CO2 to produce each kilo [of beef],” Cummings says. “I think most people think about [the environmental impact of] jumping in their car, but they might not consider the environmental disaster of beef.”

Just Google “roadkill sustainable meat” to see how often this idea pops up.

 

 

California Turns to Drought Expert Bibi Netanyahu



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Haaretz:

California is having its driest year in recorded history. Ten percent of the state is experiencing “exceptional drought,” the highest possible level, according to the United States Drought Monitor. Most of the rest of the state is suffering “severe drought,” and since California produces much of the fruits, vegetables, dairy and wine that Americans eat, the crisis will affect the entire U.S. food economy.

When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and California Governor Jerry Brown Jr. signed an agreement last month for Israel and California to collaborate on research and development, and joint projects in both countries – they were acknowledging how advanced Israel’s water technology has become.

“Israel has demonstrated how efficient a country can be,” Brown remarked at the signing ceremony. Indeed: How not to run out of water is apparently something California can learn from Israel.

The rest here.

Exit question: How will Governor Brown’s embrace of Israeli technology affect the boycott, divestment, and sanctions movement — BDS — of Israeli companies?

NYT Op-Ed: Climate Alarmism Doesn’t Work



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This is great op-ed by Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger of the Breakthrough Institute on how alarmist ”scare tactics” aren’t convincing more people of the threat of global warming. The opener:

IF you were looking for ways to increase public skepticism about global warming, you could hardly do better than the forthcoming nine-part series on climate change and natural disasters, starting this Sunday on Showtime. A trailer for “Years of Living Dangerously” is terrifying, replete with images of melting glaciers, raging wildfires and rampaging floods. “I don’t think scary is the right word,” intones one voice. “Dangerous, definitely.”

Showtime’s producers undoubtedly have the best of intentions. There are serious long-term risks associated with rising greenhouse gas emissions, ranging from ocean acidification to sea-level rise to decreasing agricultural output.

But there is every reason to believe that efforts to raise public concern about climate change by linking it to natural disasters will backfire. More than a decade’s worth of research suggests that fear-based appeals about climate change inspire denial, fatalism and polarization.

For instance, Al Gore’s 2006 documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth,” popularized the idea that today’s natural disasters are increasing in severity and frequency because of human-caused global warming. It also contributed to public backlash and division. Since 2006, the number of Americans telling Gallup that the media was exaggerating global warming grew to 42 percent today from about 34 percent. Meanwhile, the gap between Democrats and Republicans on whether global warming is caused by humans rose to 42 percent last year from 26 percent in 2006, according to the Pew Research Center.

Other factors contributed. Some conservatives and fossil-fuel interests questioned the link between carbon emissions and global warming. And beginning in 2007, as the country was falling into recession, public support for environmental protection declined.

Still, environmental groups have known since 2000 that efforts to link climate change to natural disasters could backfire, after researchers at the Frameworks Institute studied public attitudes for its report “How to Talk About Global Warming.” Messages focused on extreme weather events, they found, made many Americans more likely to view climate change as an act of God — something to be weathered, not prevented.

Some people, the report noted, “are likely to buy an SUV to help them through the erratic weather to come” for example, rather than support fuel-efficiency standards.

How funny is that? “Hey, honey? You know, this global warming looks really bad. We better get the bigger truck.”

The rest here.

Callous ‘old GM’? Cobalt was recalled multiple times



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In November, 2004, General Motors recalled 2005 model year Chevy Cobalts for faulty headlamps that could cause “additional glare, increasing the risk of crash” to oncoming drivers. In January, 2007, GM recalled more Cobalts to install energy-absorbing plastic in the headliner trim “to reduce the severity of head impacts in a crash.” And in March, 2010, GM again recalled Cobalts to replace crabby power steering motors that would fail “requiring greater driver effort (and) increasing the risk of a crash.”

So much for claims by politicians and their media chorus last week that the late Chevy Cobalt was Exhibit A of an “old GM” that put the bottom line above customer safety.

In fact the multiple GM recalls prove that Swtichgate — the latest, February, 2014 recall of Cobalts (and its sister Saturns and Pontiacs) for faulty ignition switches tied to 13 deaths –– is an anomaly in an industry that relentlessly tracks vehicle faults and recalls them in a timely manner. Last year, more vehicles were recalled than were sold — and this year the industry is on track to recall more vehicles than the record-setting year (30 million) of 2004. Such is the automakers’ obsession with satisfying customers in an intensely competitive market.

The truth is that last week’s Switchgate hearings were evidence not of a failed auto-industry culture but a sick Washington culture where trial-lawyer-funded pols grandstand before cameras about products they don’t understand, while witnesses clam up for fear of criminal gotcha probes by circling U.S. attorneys.

“You don’t know anything about anything,” snapped Sen. Barbara Boxer, (D., Calif.), as GM CEO Mary Barra tip-toed through her testimony. Boxer was one of two women — Sen. Claire McCaskill, (D., Mo.) was the other — who led the Barra witch-hunt in part because they could grill the first female auto CEO without looking like bullies.

But the other part is that Boxer and McCaskill are stooges of the trial-lawyer industry — an industry that stands to make millions from Switchgate lawsuits.

Both senators are on the Top Ten list of trial-lawyer campaign contributions, according to OpenSecrets.org. In the last six years of available data, McCaskill was No. 2 (behind only Harry Reid) with $374,000 in tort lawyer contributions, while Boxer was No. 10 with nearly $200,000.

They are also among those legislators who have endorsed higher fuel-economy mandates (so-called CAFE laws) — even as the National Academy of Sciences found that CAFE standards cause 1,300 to 2,600 traffic deaths every year (a number that dwarfs Switchgate fatalities) by forcing manufacturers to build smaller and lighter cars.

This is not to excuse GM’s slow response to a ten-year-old defect. But the evidence points not to a corporate conspiracy but to product engineers who failed to classify the switch as a safety defect or who covered up the flaw with a circa-2007 fix that didn’t include a corresponding change in part number.

Such issues will be resolved by an internal GM investigation — and in court. In the meantime, Barra was dragged to Capitol Hill fully aware that any uninformed statement could be twisted into a criminal prosecution. Only last month, Toyota was fined $1.2 billion by the Justice Department. Toyota’s crime? Its Congressional testimony didn’t comport with internal documents expressing concerns about sticky gas pedals — even though NHTSA ultimately concluded sticky gas pedals were not a safety problem.

Saturday Night Live had a field day with Barra’s scripted answers. But Barra and her lawyers were guided by the Toyota precedent. Such is the farce of Congressional “fact-finding” hearings.

Barra even played along with the “Old GM-new GM” ruse in order to simplify the narrative. “We had more of a cost culture,” she said stressing that GM was “changing to a customer culture that focuses on safety and quality.” The media ate it up even as the evidence of the Cobalt’s three prior recalls shows the company has always been concerned about safety.

Quality? Well, according to JD Power, that’s where GM has some catching up to do.

Tags: Chevy Cobalt , McCaskill , GM

New Genetic Study Suggests Polar Bears Can Survive in a Warmer Climate



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Well, duh. An excerpt from the Alaska Dispatch:

The new genetic information raises questions about today’s polar bears, classified as threatened under the Endangered Species Act because of rapidly-changing conditions in their Arctic habitat.

If polar bears survived in the much-warmer conditions that existed in past millennia, Cronin argues, it is logical to assume that they could survive in future warming conditions – even in conditions without summer sea ice in the Arctic. 

“Our data suggests that polar bears have survived a long time, including past glacial and interglacial periods,” he said. “To say they’re not going to survive in the future is speculation.”

The threatened listing applied to polar bears in 2008, was a policy decision, not a scientific decision that accurately reflects polar bears’ likelihood of extinction, Cronin argues. “My interest is science. Can you ignore data from the past just because you don’t like it?” he said.

The whole thing here.

James Lovelock: Stop Trying to Save the World from Climate Change



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Via the Telegraph:

The scientist and inventor James Lovelock claims we should stop trying to save the planet from global warming and instead retreat to climate controlled cities

Saving the planet from climate change is ‘beyond our ability’ and we should stop wasting time trying to tackle global warming, a leading scientist has claimed

James Lovelock, who first detected CFCs in the atmosphere and proposed the Gaia hypotheses, claims society should retreat to ‘climate-controlled cities’ and give up on large expanses of land which will become inhabitable.

Lovelock, who has just published his latest book A Rough Ride To The Future, claims we should be ‘strengthening our defences and making a sustainable retreat.’

“We’re reaching an age in history where you can no longer predict the future with any hope of success.

“We should give up vainglorious attempts to save the world.

“Britain is no longer a world power and we need to leave such schemes to the USA, Japan or China. We should spend out efforts adapting Britain to fight climate change.”

The rest here.

U.S. Navy Can Turn Seawater into Fuel



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There’s an old episode of The Munsters where Herman is asked to invest in a scam-company that can turn seawater into uranium.

Um, it’s not uranium, but the U.S. Navy is claiming it can make a “liquid hydrocarbon” fuel for ships and planes from seawater. Via the AFP:

The US Navy believes it has finally worked out the solution to a problem that has intrigued scientists for decades: how to take seawater and use it as fuel.

The development of a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is being hailed as “a game-changer” because it would signficantly shorten the supply chain, a weak link that makes any force easier to attack.

The US has a fleet of 15 military oil tankers, and only aircraft carriers and some submarines are equipped with nuclear propulsion.

All other vessels must frequently abandon their mission for a few hours to navigate in parallel with the tanker, a delicate operation, especially in bad weather.

The ultimate goal is to eventually get away from the dependence on oil altogether, which would also mean the navy is no longer hostage to potential shortages of oil or fluctuations in its cost.

Vice Admiral Philip Cullom declared: “It’s a huge milestone for us.”

“We are in very challenging times where we really do have to think in pretty innovative ways to look at how we create energy, how we value energy and how we consume it.

“We need to challenge the results of the assumptions that are the result of the last six decades of constant access to cheap, unlimited amounts of fuel,” added Cullom.

“Basically, we’ve treated energy like air, something that’s always there and that we don’t worry about too much. But the reality is that we do have to worry about it.”

US experts have found out how to extract carbon dioxide and hydrogen gas from seawater.

Then, using a catalytic converter, they transformed them into a fuel by a gas-to-liquids process. They hope the fuel will not only be able to power ships, but also planes.

The rest here.

This sounds too good to be true, no? But here’s a video from the Navy of an RC plane that flies on the stuff:

Who knows if they’ll ever scale the project up so that it actually becomes an alternative to oil? Stay tuned.

Government Motors Champions Turn on General Motors



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Democrats have the Government Motors bailout to thank for their party’s White House and Senate victories in 2012, as Detroit auto company rescues were crucial to holding swing manufacturing states like Ohio and Michigan.

But now that the federal government has exited GM, Democrats and their media cheerleaders are throwing the company under the bus as part of their 2014 War on Business campaign.

Appearing before a Senate Committee Wednesday investigating GM’s recall of 2.6 million vehicles over a faulty ignition switch linked to 13 deaths, GM CEO Mary Barra was harangued as a corporate murderer. Yes, the same Mary Barra who was President Obama’s State of the Union guest. The first female auto CEO! More evidence of why Democrats saved America’s jewel! As NRO’s Jim Geraghty notes in his must-read reporting on this issue, President Obama and his Auto Czar Steve Rattner are suddenly mute on their bailout triumph.

“Look at what happened to General Motors. We saved Made-in-America for domestic auto production. We saved thousands of jobs,” said Senator Claire McCaskill (D., Mo.), in 2010 on her way to reelection — re-election aided by contributions from the UAW, which was the focus of the auto bailout. No bailout, no union campaign funds for Democratic pols.

Yet on Wednesday, McCaskill accused  Barra of a “culture of cover-up” because “she would not talk about specifics at any of these hearings.”

That’s rich.

McCaskill media sympathizers covered up White House intimidation of secured bondholders during the auto bailout. They ignored White House favoritism towards Delphi retirees over white-collar retirees. And they don’t want to talk about the specifics of the curious timing of the feds’ selling their last GM shares in December — just weeks before the company declared its Switchgate liabilities.

“Insider trading?” asks NRO reporter Greg Pollowitz.

Democrats are unconcerned. As they have been of the daily casualties resulting from Obamacare’s stripping of millions of Americans of their insurance. What’s more, Democrats like Michigan Senate candidate Gary Peters (another UAW bailout beneficiary also mute on the Switchgate issue) have attacked cancer patients who have dared complain of their shoddy Obamacare treatment. Imagine if GM were to smear the casualties of Switchgate as drunks and liars.

Sadly, in today’s highly partisan Democrat and media circles, all that matters is defending Obama’s legacy. Any bad news that happened during government ownership of GM? What government ownership?

Tags: GM , Switchgate , Barra

Lomborg: Humans Will Adapt to Climate Change



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Here’s the latest from Bjørn​ Lomborg, in which he criticizes the IPCC for ignoring adaptation in their financial models. The opener:

THE media’s response to the latest installment of the UN Climate Panel report will inevitably dwell on the negative effects of global warming — how it will reduce agricultural yields, increase heatwaves and drown communities.

Those stories will be correct, if only in a limited sense of that word. So while reading them, it is worth stepping back and realising that they provide just a partial version of the global warming story.

Yes, global warming is real, it is partly man-made and it’s a long-term problem we must address. But describing it in one-sided, vaguely apocalyptic terms won’t help us find solutions. For example, a previous edition of the UN Climate Panel summary told us rising sea levels, which are indeed happening, would deliver “potential damages to infrastructure in coastal areas …” projected to cost “tens of billions of dollars for individual countries, for example Egypt, Poland, and Vietnam”. Yet while laying out the possibility, they neglect to tell us that these losses will not occur.

Why not? The summary ignored the role of adaptation. For Egypt, the $35 billion estimate came from simply allowing 30 per cent of Egypt’s second biggest city, Alexandria, to be inundated over a 100 years, without the government taking action. That isn’t realistic.

For Poland, $28-46 billion equally came from allowing cities and farmland to be flooded by an extreme 100cm rise in sea level. The Polish analysis, however, showed that even full protection against the extreme flooding would cost much lower than $6.1 billion and with a lower sea level increase of 30cm, the full protection cost would total $2.3 billion.

Will Poland spend $2-6 billion to avoid $28-46 billion in damages? Of course they will. They will adapt just as we have done for most of humanity’s history. This does not mean there are no problems — sea level rise will cause problems, but at $2-6 billion, not $48 billion.

The rest here.

What did the Treasury Dept. Know About GM’s Problems and When did they Know it?



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Here’s a timeline from NPR of the ignition-switch issue at GM. Check out the fortuitous timing of the Treasury Department’s sale of its remaining stake in the company in December 2013:

June 1, 2009: GM files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

July 10, 2009: The U.S. Treasury purchases GM assets, giving the government primary ownership of the company.

February 2010: NHTSA again recommends a probe looking into problems with air bags in Cobalts; ODI again decides that there is no correlation and drops the matter.

Oct. 26, 2010: Consumer Reports says GM is considered “reliable” based on scores from road tests and performance on crash tests.

2012: GM identifies four crashes and four corresponding fatalities (all involving 2004 Saturn Ions) along with six other injuries from four other crashes attributable to the defect.

Sept. 4, 2012: GM reports August 2012 sales were up 10 percent from the previous year, with Chevrolet passenger car sales up 25 percent.

June 2013: A deposition by a Cobalt program engineer says the company made a “business decision not to fix this problem,” raising questions of whether GM consciously decided to launch the Cobalt despite knowing of a defect.

Dec. 9, 2013: Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew announces the government had sold the last of what was previously a 60 percent stake in GM, ending the bailout. The bailout had cost taxpayers $10 billion on a $49.5 billion investment.

End of 2013: GM determines that the faulty ignition switch is to blame for at least 31 crashes and 13 deaths.

And it’s not just the sale of the final piece of equity that looks suspicious. Here’s a timeline from the Treasury Department. Note the activity by the Treasury Department occurring after the NHSTA’s second warning to GM in February 2010, including GM’s IPO:

On April 20, 2010, GM made its final loan repayment, leaving the remaining investment 
in the form of common and preferred stock. 
 
On November 18, 2010, Treasury recovered approximately $13.5 billion in conjunction 
with the new company’s IPO. The IPO reduced Treasury’s stake from approximately 61 
percent to 33 percent, or 500 million shares of GM common stock. 

GM going public was necessary for taxpayers to get paid back. Here’s the prospectus. I did a quick search for ”ignition” and received two hits, neither in regard to the switch defect. Cobalt, the model at the center of the problem, is not mentioned at all. And here’s the “Risk Factor” dealing with recalls:

The costs and effect on our reputation of product recalls could materially adversely affect our business.

From time to time, we recall our products to address performance, compliance, or safety-related issues. The costs we incur in connection with these recalls typically include the cost of the part being replaced and labor to remove and replace the defective part. In addition, product recalls can harm our reputation and cause us to lose customers, particularly if those recalls cause consumers to question the safety or reliability of our products. Any costs incurred or lost sales caused by future product recalls could materially adversely affect our business. Conversely, not issuing a recall or not issuing a recall on a timely basis can harm our reputation and cause us to lose customers for the same reasons as expressed above.

Is this statement sufficient to cover GM for the size of the problem that was reportedly known since 2005 and has resulted in the recall of 2.6 million cars? Would GM ever have gone public if this switch issue and the corresponding deaths were public? I highly doubt it.

Continuing with the timeline from Treasury:

On December 15, 2010, GM repurchased all of the preferred stock Treasury held for 
approximately $2.1 billion. Treasury’s remaining investment consisted solely of GM 
common stock. 
 
On December 21, 2012, GM repurchased 200 million shares of common stock for 
approximately $5.5 billion in net proceeds to taxpayers. At that time, Treasury announced 
its intent to exit the GM investment in 12-15 months through a series of pre-defined 
trading plans that began in January 2013 and sold shares into the market daily. 
 
On June 6, 2013, Treasury sold 30 million shares of GM common stock when GM was 
included on the S&P 500 index for approximately $1.0 billion. 
 
In total, Treasury launched four pre-defined written trading plans, completing the sale of 
its shares of GM common stock on December 9, 2013. The proceeds from the four 
trading plans totaled $9.2 billion. 

Taxpayers have recovered $39 billion on the investment in General Motors, but had we 
not acted to support the automotive industry, the cost to the country would have been 
substantial — in terms of lost jobs, lost tax revenue, reduced economic production, and 
other consequences. 

Here’s the chart of GM’s stock for the last six months. Did the Treasury Department get lucky with it sales or is the government guilty of insider trading? Is GM guilty of securities fraud for not mentioning the switch defect in their IPO prospectus? Did the Treasury Department know about the switch defect and still let GM go public without the proper disclosures?

At the very least, the SEC should start asking questions, treating the Treasury Department as if it were any other investor — there’s more than enough here to merit an investigation.

Urine Alarmism at Time



Text  



Here’s a real headline from Time. How can you not click on it?

No, It’s Not Safe to Pee in the Pool, Says Science

Oooh, science — it must be true then. Time continues with this explanation:

A new study says chlorine doesn’t, in fact, kill the contents of our urine, but rather reacts with it to create potentially dangerous byproducts. The research, published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology, used a technique called membrane introduction mass spectrometry to measure the presence of dangerous byproducts in pools. Uric acid from human urine mixes with chlorine to create the cyanogen chloride (CNCI) and trichloramine (NCl3). CNCI is a toxic compound that can harm organs like the lungs, heart, and central nervous system. NCl3 has been linked with acute lung injury.

“A common misconception within the swimming community is that urination in pools is an acceptable practice, although signs and placards are posted in many pools to encourage proper hygiene. It is also well known that many swimmers ignore these warnings, particularly noteworthy among these are competitive swimmers,” said study author Ernest R. Blatchley III, a professor of civil engineering at Purdue University, in a statement.

Time writer Alexandra Sifferlin, however, never questions the validity of what she just wrote, however. The first question that I asked myself was how many people relieving themselves in the pool would it take to kill a swimmer? That really should be in her piece. The answer, not surprising to me at least, makes the Time piece idiotic and irrelevant: Via Ars Technica:

According to the National Institute of Health, cyanogen chloride poisoning creates “mild effects” in humans at concentrations of 500-1,000 micrograms per liter. Beyond the concentration threshold of 2,500 micrograms per liter, it can cause “coma, convulsions, and death.” (Delightful—these are just the figures we’re looking for.)

As it turns out, the concentration of uric acid in pee is, to our calculation, about 112 times that of the uric acid concentration used in the experiment. If we could assume a proportional yield of cyanogen chloride just from using more uric acid, we could actually achieve toxic levels of cyanogen chloride for an Olympic pool of 10mg/L chlorinated water… for an equivalent quantity of urine. That means if each person is peeing 0.8L of the highly concentrated urine, their entire day’s yield, into this pool, you’d need about three million people peeing in that pool. If you could get at that pool without dying of either suffocation or drowning in other people’s urine, you could probably pull off death by cyanogen chloride poisoning or at least a pretty good coma.

3,000,000 people. Oh, and it gets better. More science:

However, there’s a problem. The researchers in the paper showed that for a concentration of 0.33 millimoles of chlorine per liter (about 15 mg/L), the dilute concentration of uric acid (5×10-5 moles per liter) eliminated all of the free chlorine. Hence, if we want chlorinated water that can actually turn all of the uric acid we’re peeing in it into cyanogen chloride, we need a more concentrated chlorinated solution.

If an approximately one-hundredth-strength-of-pee concentration of uric acid uses up 15mg/L chlorinated water, we need super chlorinated water-—on the order of 1500mg/L, or roughly half a liter of chlorine per liter of water.

In the end, we need a pool that is two parts water to one part chlorine and would probably burn the eyeballs out of your sockets and make your skin peel away from your bones (this calls for a pool boy who can only be criminally sadistic). If you and three million other people could get at this pool and unload your pee into it before your bodies melted, before the crowd crushed you to death, and before you drowned from the massive tidal wave of pee… yes, you could feasibly die of cyanogen chloride poisoning originating from chlorinated water and pee.

And that’s why, boys and girls, we don’t trust everything we read in the MSM.

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