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Not the Nobel for Literature



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Here’s Nobel laureate Steven Chu on the dangers of global warming (emphasis mine):

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — Caribbean nations face “very, very scary” rises in sea level and intensifying hurricanes, and Florida, Louisiana and even northern California could be overrun with rising water levels due to global warming triggered by carbon-based greenhouse gases, Energy Secretary Steven Chu said Saturday.

Whenever I string together a bunch of verys, they get edited out. I hope NRO changes its style manual accordingly now that it seems very, very acceptable to use the multiple-very construction.

Bad News for the Goracle



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In taking note of the surging anthropogenic-climate-change skepticism that Rasmussen reports, Lawrence Solomon (delightfully) lays the blame at Obama’s feet.

Climate change skepticism has soared under Obama’s presidency, with only one third of American likely voters now blaming humans for climate change, according to a Rasmussen poll released today. In contrast, 48% believe that long term planetary trends are responsible, 7% blame other non-man-made factors, and 11% aren’t sure.

The plummeting support for Al Gore’s thesis — the lowest ever — is a complete reversal from one year ago, when 47% blamed humans and only 34% saw long-term planetary trends as the culprits.

The rise in climate change scepticism, and decline in pinning the blame on humans, tracks Obama’s assumption of power. In December, one month after his defeat of John McCain in the presidential race, the number of Americans who blamed people dropped to 43%. By February, the figure had dropped to 38% and it now rests at 34%

Why has Al Gore’s position lost so much credibility with the American public? While the Rasmussen poll does not explore this question, two Obama factors could be at play.

First, public hostility toward George Bush and the Republicans likely expressed itself in part as hostility toward global warming scepticism, with which Bush and the Republicans were identified. As soon as the Republicans lost power, many in the public lost their fervour in opposing climate change scepticism.

Second, the recession, combined with proposals from the new Obama administration to start taxing carbon in one form or another, gave the public new reason to question whether carbon dioxide really is the demon that climate change doomsayers claim. Upon investigation, the public would have found little to support the doomsayer case.

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About that Shrinking Southern Ice Cap



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Antarctic ice is expanding. The Australian:

Dr Allison said there was not any evidence of significant change in the mass of ice shelves in east Antarctica nor any indication that its ice cap was melting. “The only significant calvings in Antarctica have been in the west,” he said. And he cautioned that calvings of the magnitude seen recently in west Antarctica might not be unusual.

“Ice shelves in general have episodic carvings and there can be large icebergs breaking off – I’m talking 100km or 200km long – every 10 or 20 or 50 years.”

Ice core drilling in the fast ice off Australia’s Davis Station in East Antarctica by the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Co-Operative Research Centre shows that last year, the ice had a maximum thickness of 1.89m, its densest in 10 years. The average thickness of the ice at Davis since the 1950s is 1.67m.

A paper to be published soon by the British Antarctic Survey in the journal Geophysical Research Letters is expected to confirm that over the past 30 years, the area of sea ice around the continent has expanded.

The Al Gore Effect, Vegas Style



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Al Gore was in Vegas in early April talking at the wireless show:

Speaking at the International CTIA Wireless 09 in Las Vegas Friday morning, former U.S. vice president Al Gore called for the wireless industry to take the lead in building a “green” infrastructure across several vertical industries including utilities.

And I saw this story up on Drudge today:

A chill moved across Las Vegas late Tuesday and Wednesday, bringing lower temperatures and strong winds to the valley.

Five inches of snow fell Tuesday night on Mount Charleston, and trace amounts of rain were recorded at McCarran International Airport.

The National Weather Service said Wednesday’s high was 59 degrees, which fell short of the record low high of 56 degrees set in 1998.

“This is definitely not your typical April day,” said Barry Pierce, weather service meteorologist.

Flurries were spotted in parts of Summerlin and Henderson, while in other parts of Las Vegas, high winds took shingles off homes.

We’ll have to defer to the judges on this one, but I think a snow storm roughly two weeks after the Goracle’s talk still counts as a Gore-Effect event.

Doing My Part



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A reader e-mailed to remind me of my contribution to the Department of Homeland Security’s effort to provide (undoubtedly, a fair and balanced) assessment of groups whose wingnut agenda and anger are driving them to violence.

The reader suggested that I call DHS’s attention to the book I recently published addressing a political movement that engages in precisely this sort of alarming behavior: death threats, physical attack, and other intimidation tactics aimed at silencing those who stand in their way.

I look forward to having Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed sent to local sheriffs and police departments across the country.

You’re welcome, Madame Secretary.

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Just What America Needs . . .



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. . . more ethanol in our cars. WSJ:

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has opened the door to allowing higher mixes of ethanol in gasoline, a potential boon to farmers and the struggling ethanol industry, but opposed by auto makers whose consumer warranties typically are tied to the current EPA standard.

Warranties are no longer a problem, however, now that President Obama is guaranteeing them.

Another Vetting Issue for Team Obama



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Steve Rattner, head of the auto task force, is in the news. And not in a good way (from over in the Web Briefing):

Steven Rattner, the leader of the Obama administration’s auto task force, was one of the executives involved with payments under scrutiny in a probe of an alleged kickback scheme at New York state’s pension fund, according to a person familiar with the matter.

A Securities and Exchange Commission complaint says a “senior executive” of Mr. Rattner’s investment firm met in 2004 with a politically connected consultant about a finder’s fee. Later, the complaint says, the firm received an investment from the state pension fund and paid $1.1 million in fees.

The “senior executive,” not named in the complaint, is Mr. Rattner, according to the person familiar with the matter. He is co-founder of the investment firm, Quadrangle Group, which he left to join the Treasury Department to oversee the auto task force earlier this year. Neither Mr. Rattner nor Quadrangle has been accused of any wrongdoing. Mr. Rattner did not return calls for comment.

A spokeswoman for the Treasury, which is in charge of the auto task force, said that “during the transition, Mr. Rattner made us aware of the pending investigation.”

In the long-running pay-to-play case, authorities allege that about 20 investment firms made payments in exchange for investments from the $122 billion New York State Common Retirement Fund. The case, being investigated by New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo and the SEC, has led to three criminal indictments and a guilty plea. The attorney general’s office and the SEC declined to comment.

Update on the Disneyland to Vegas Maglev Train



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Las Vegas Sun:

New life for high-speed train from California

WASHINGTON – Start talking about magnetic levitation trains and people quickly fall into two categories: dreamy-eyed futurists whose eyes widen with the promise of 300 mph travel or dismissive cynics who see the next boondoggle heading down the track.

When it comes to building a maglev train between Las Vegas and Southern California, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has remained a believer. This week, he is risking the wrath of the Senate anti-pork czars to secure $45 million to push the train project along.

The money was approved as part of a massive transportation bill in 2005, but no money was authorized. The House strengthened the bill last year to allocate funds, which would go toward completing an environmental review now underway.

Billions for High Speed Trains



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Gird your wallets:

WASHINGTON–President Obama on Thursday–before leaving for Mexico–highlighted his plans for a massive investment to develop high speed rail networks in the U.S.– a potential very big deal for Chicago.

Under Obama’s “vision” for high speed rail, Chicago is in the running to be the center of a hub network linking Chicago, Milwaukee, Twin Cities, St. Louis, Kansas City, Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Indianapolis and Louisville.

“What we’re talking about is a vision for high-speed rail in America. Imagine boarding a train, in the center of a city, no racing to an airport and across a terminal, no delays, no sitting on the tarmac, no lost luggage, no taking off your shoes,” Obama said.

(Yes, because Amtrak has never had a dealy or lost a piece of baggage?)

Obama discussed his high speed plans this morning with Vice President Biden and Transportation Sec. Ray LaHood. White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has also been involved in developing high speed rail policy.

Nothing happens without legwork. Chicago’s Environmental Law & Policy Center, founded by Howard Learner has been doing extensive work in pushing the nation forward on high speed rail in Congress and in the Obama administration.

And now the cost . . .

” To make this happen, we’ve already dedicated $8 billion of Recovery and Reinvestment Act funds to this initiative, and I’ve requested another $5 billion over the next five years. The Department of Transportation expects to begin awarding funds to ready projects before the end of this summer, well ahead of schedule. And like all funding decisions under the Recovery Act, money will be distributed based on merit — not on politics, not as favors, not for any other consideration; purely on merit.”

The problem is nobody is talking about the total cost of the system. $13 billion gets the nation pregnant.  Raising this baby costs how much more?

Really Bad News For Africa



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A new study suggests that droughts in Africa, without any human causes, have been much worse than the present.  NY Times:

For at least 3,000 years, a regular drumbeat of potent droughts, far longer and more severe than any experienced recently, have seared a belt of sub-Saharan Africa that is now home to tens of millions of the world’s poorest people, climate researchers reported in a new study.

That sobering finding, published in the April 17th issue of Science, emerged from the first study of year-by-year climate conditions in the region over the millenniums, based on layered mud and dead trees in a crater lake in Ghana. Although the evidence was drawn from a single water body, Lake Bosumtwi, the researchers said there was evidence that the drought patterns etched in the lakebed extended across a broad swath of West Africa.

More such mega-droughts are inevitable, the research team that studied the patterns said, although there is no way to predict when the next may unfold.

The lead authors of the report, Timothy M. Shanahan of the University of Texas at Austin and Jonathan T. Overpeck of the University of Arizona, warned that global warming resulting from human-generated greenhouse gases was likely to exacerbate those droughts and that there was an urgent need to bolster the resilience of African countries in harm’s way.

The study said that some of the past major droughts appeared to be linked to a distinctive pattern of increases and reductions in surface temperatures of the Atlantic Ocean, known as the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.

Typically over the last 3,000 years, a severe drought developed every 30 to 65 years, they researchers said. But several centuries-long droughts in the climate record, the most recent persisting from 1400 to around 1750, are harder to explain, they said.

While that extraordinary drought occurred during a cool spell in the Northern Hemisphere called the “little ice age,” other extreme droughts appear to have hit West Africa at points when the world was relatively warm over all.

The article goes on to say how important it is to lower greenhouse gas emissions to try to smooth out these changes, but the real story is that when the Earth decides to start changing its temperature, there will not be a thing humans can do about it.

Broken record: More bad news for Suzlon



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I’ve posted (here and here) on the financial woes of India’s Suzlon Energy Ltd.  Well, add to them. The  Wall Street Journal reports:

The new concerns come as Suzlon is trying to raise funds, including through selling a stake to private-equity firms. The company may be at risk of breaking debt covenants and has to pay €205 million, or about $275 million, over the next six weeks to complete an acquisition.

The latest issues concern blades for a project in China’s Shandong province. Early last year, Suzlon won a contract with Germany’s REpower Systems AG to produce blades for 75 turbines for the China project and an option on 75 more. But REpower rejected Suzlon’s prototype for the initial blades for not meeting REpower’s quality standards and obtained them from other suppliers, according to people familiar with the matter.

The problems come at a difficult time for the Pune-based company. Suzlon already is spending $100 million to fix blade cracks on its turbines in the U.S., Europe and Brazil. Suzlon’s export-order backlog was down 38% at the end of last year from a year earlier.

New financing has been hard to come by, and as a result, Suzlon may be in danger of breaching its debt covenants, according to analysts and one of the people familiar with the matter.

Other recent efforts to raise capital haven’t borne fruit. Suzlon shelved a $360 million rights issue late last year because its stock price had fallen sharply. Its shares Wednesday were off 79% from a 52-week high reached last May, putting the company’s market value at $2.1 billion. Suzlon also has been attempting to sell a stake to private-equity firms.

An Interview with Secretary Chu



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The Washington Post interviews Secretary Chu.  Here’s an excerpt on what he thinks of Al Gore’s coal plan:

Romano: Al Gore has launched a multimillion-dollar campaign against coal, against coal manufacturing plants. In fact, he’s encouraged civil disobedience in protesting them. What do you think about this?

Chu: The issue here is that if you consider, for example, the countries that have coal, two-thirds of the known coal reserves lie primarily in the United States, China, India and Russia. The United States actually has the most known coal reserves in the world, and over 50 percent of our electricity is generated by coal. Even if the United States turns its back on coal, China and India will not, given the state of affairs. I would prefer to say let’s try to develop technologies that can get a large fraction of the carbon dioxide out of coal. Start with 70, 80 percent and build up to over 90 percent, but start now and try to get it out.

Romano: So is it a little unrealistic for Vice President Gore to think that he can end coal production by protesting these plants?

Chu: Well, Al Gore is a friend of mine, and let’s just say that — I’ll go back to my original statement that we really have to take the lead, the technological lead, and see if this can get done.

EU Sees Easy Mark in Obama



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Juxtapose these statements in different media reports today out of Europe about their aspirations for our adopting measures that would eliminate us once and for all as an economic competitor.

 

First, brought to our attention by OpenEurope, is:

Swedish MEP: “EU climate plan will only achieve one third of what the US will achieve”

At a conference in Brussels on climate change policy, Swedish MEP Anders Wijkman said that the EU climate package which was approved in December will only lead to 4 or 5 percent reductions in emissions, while the US will manage at the same time to achieve a reduction of 16 to 17 percent. Wijkman commented that “us criticising them is possibly not the right thing to do”. He said he was “not convinced” by the EU’s Emissions Trading System, but said that “a lot of revenue and prestige has gotten into the ETS system, so it is not realistic to have another system”.

Then, from ClimateWire (subscription required):

Hope lingers for more ambitious U.S. emission targets
“Finally, [European policymakers] hope that the U.S. Congress will adopt more ambitious mitigation targets than those presented by Obama, and that the bill introduced in the House by Reps. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) will not be distorted by amendments.”

Meanwhile, Agence France Presse reports that EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas expects the U.S. to open its wallet to help lead the fight against climate change, which will require some 175 billion euros annually until 2020.

As noted previously in another context — about a different bunch who see the U.S. as suckers, ready to fall for anything in our desperate, post-Bush search for the world’s approval on slaying the Loch Nes . . . er, stopping climate change!: “Yeah. If you could just go ahead and make sure you do that from now on, that would be greeeaat.”   

Standing Athwart Waxman-Markey



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In today’s Wall Street Journal, Pete DuPont peels back the layers of the disaster-in-waiting that is the Waxman-Markey energy bill. His conclusion: massive government intrusion into our lives, unlikely new nuclear-energy projects, cap-and-trade permits that send trillions of dollars to the federal government to play with, and protectionist carbon tariffs. The main point: Waxman-Markey means higher energy and electricity prices. It means less energy, not more. 

If Americans don’t start paying attention to what Congress is up to, our nation’s energy policy may seriously change for the worse. A bill styled the American Clean Energy and Security Act, sponsored by Democrats Henry Waxman of California and Edward Markey of Massachusetts, soon goes before the House. The enactment of laws to combat global warming is an established priority of the new administration and Congress, and their impact on the lives and opportunities of America’s people would be substantial and detrimental.

As Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute noted last month, “Waxman-Markey would put big government in charge of how much energy people can use. It would be the biggest government intervention in people’s lives since the second world war, which was the last time people had to have rationing coupons in order to buy a gallon of gas.”

The Waxman-Markey plan intends to give the federal government near-total control of America’s energy supplies and usage. Depending upon how the allowances are organized, it may also create the largest redistribution of money from American families to the federal government since the creation of the American income tax. To keep America prospering, our economy growing, and jobs expanding, we need not less energy, but more of it; not higher energy prices but lower ones; and more energy generation through nuclear power, clean coal and offshore oil and gas as well as possible new energy sources. Waxman-Markey will take us in one direction, but to keep America prospering we need to go in the opposite one.

Planet More



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Bruce from Down Under sends along yesterday’s Bjørn Lomborg item from the Australian.

According to conventional wisdom, we are voraciously using the world’s resources and living way beyond Earth’s means. This narrative of decline and pessimism underlies much of today’s environmental discourse and is often formulated in a simple fashion: by 2030, we will need two planets to sustain us, owing to higher living standards and population growth. If everyone managed to live at American living standards today, we would need almost five planets. But this received wisdom is fundamentally wrong.

Environmental campaigners use the so-called ecological footprint – how much area each one of us requires from the planet – to make their point. We obviously use crop land, grazing land, forests and fishing grounds to produce our food, fibre and timber, and we need space for our houses, roads and cities. Moreover, we require areas to absorb the waste emitted by our energy use. Translating all these demands into a common unit of physical area gives us an opportunity to compare it with Earth’s productive area, and thus to get a sense of how sustainable we are.

For more than a decade, the WWF and several other conservation organisations have performed complicated calculations to determine individual footprints on the planet. Their numbers show that each American uses 9.4ha of the globe, each European 4.7ha, and those in low-income countries just 1ha. Adding it all up, we collectively use 17.5 billion hectares.

Unfortunately, there are only 13.4billion hectares available. So the WWF points out that we are already living beyond Earth’s means, using about 30 per cent too much. And it will get worse. It tells us that the recent financial crisis “pales in comparison to the looming ecological credit crunch”, which could presage “a large-scale ecosystem collapse”.

This message is being seared into the public consciousness. The British newspaper The Observer used the headline “Wanted: New Earth by 2050″; according to the BBC, Earth is “on course for eco-crunch”; and The Washington Post, horrified by the four extra planets needed, urges us to use more canvas shopping bags and energy-saving light bulbs.

The message has been received loud and clear. We are using up too much of the planet’s area.

But wait a minute. How can we do that? How can we actually use more area than there is on Earth?

Obviously, any measure that tries to aggregate many different aspects of human behaviour will have to simplify the inputs; the ecological footprint is no different. For example, when we talk about American lifestyles needing five planets, we assume that technology is frozen, whereas it is likely that worldwide land-use productivity will increase dramatically. Likewise, organic farming leaves a larger footprint than its conventional cousin.

Yet, despite such shortcomings, it is clear that areas we use for roads cannot be used for growing food and that areas we use to build our houses take away from forests. This part of the ecological footprint is a convenient measure of our literal footprint on Earth. Here, we live far inside the available area, using about 60per cent of the world’s available space, and this proportion is likely to drop, because the rate at which the world’s population is increasing is now slowing, while technological progress continues. So no ecological collapse here.

There is just one factor that keeps increasing: our carbon emissions. It is not at all obvious to anybody how to convert CO2 to area. The WWF and some researchers choose to get around this by defining the area of emissions as the area of forest needed to soak up the extra CO2. This now makes up more than 50 per cent of the ecological footprint and will grow to three quarters before mid-century.

In essence, we are being told that we ought to cut emissions to zero, and to plant trees to achieve that, meaning that we would have to plant forests today on 30 per cent more than all of the available land, and plant forests on almost two planets by 2030. This is unreasonable.

Read the rest here.

A New Way to Stop Global Warming



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If we could just get all those poor people from cooking their food, imagine the CO2 savings!

KOHLUA, INDIA — “It’s hard to believe that this is what’s melting the glaciers,” said Dr. Veerabhadran Ramanathan, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, as he weaved through a warren of mud brick huts, each containing a mud cookstove pouring soot into the atmosphere.

As women in ragged saris of a thousand hues bake bread and stew lentils in the early evening over fires fueled by twigs and dung, children cough from the dense smoke that fills their homes. Black grime coats the undersides of thatched roofs. At dawn, a brown cloud stretches over the landscape like a diaphanous dirty blanket.

In Kohlua, in central India, with no cars and little electricity, emissions of carbon dioxide, the main heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, are near zero. But soot — also known as black carbon — from tens of thousands of villages like this one in developing countries, is emerging as a major and previously unappreciated source of global climate change.

While carbon dioxide may be the No. 1 contributor to rising global temperatures, scientists say, black carbon has emerged as an important No. 2, with recent studies estimating that it is responsible for 18 percent of the planet’s warming, compared with 40 percent for carbon dioxide. Decreasing black carbon emissions would be a relatively cheap way to significantly rein in global warming — especially in the short term, climate experts say. Replacing primitive cooking stoves with modern versions that emit far less soot could provide a much-needed stop-gap, while nations struggle with the more difficult task of enacting programs and developing technologies to curb carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels.

From DDT to Dursban



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Detroit, Mich. – Greens can take a bow: Bedbugs are back with a vengeance.

Responding to the biggest bedbug outbreak since World War II, the Environmental Protection Agency hosted its first-ever “bedbug summit” Tuesday outside Washington to address a widening public outcry. Some of the most vulnerable communities are inner cities like Detroit, and the major culprit, as it turns out, was the summit host.

Nine years ago, the zealots at Bill Clinton’s EPA banned the pesticide chlorpyrifos (to widespread media and environmentalist hosannas), the most commonly available household product in the world to address bedbugs, cockroaches, and other nuisances. Better known by its trade name, Dursban, chlorpyrifos had been available for 30 years in some 800 products in 88 countries around the world.

But despite widespread protest in the scientific community, EPA Chief Carol Browner erased Dursban from the shelves. “EPA has gone to great lengths to present a highly conservative, worst case, hypothetical risk based in large part on dubious extrapolations . . . and exaggerated risk estimates,” said Michigan State University toxicologist J. I. Goodman in a typical response.

Even Dr. Alan Hoberman, the principal researcher whose data Browner cited, told the Detroit News he disputed the agency’s interpretation of his findings.

Such critics were also ignored by the press — as was evidence that the nation’s urban poor would be most vulnerable to a ban. Children insect-bite allergies and cockroach-induced allergens outnumber pesticide poisoning by 100:1. “Hardest hit will be lower-income families in cities like Detroit, who can ill afford a weekly house call from the Orkin man,” warned News writer Diane Katz, now with the Fraser Institute. “Yet that is precisely what the EPA is recommending as a substitute for a couple squirts from a can of bug spray.”

Nine years on, Greg Baumann — Senior Scientist at the National Test Management Association — confirms that the Dursban void has been largely unfilled, leaving millions to fight pests with less convenient preventative measures. Extermination, for example, costs between $400 and $900 — out of reach for low-income Detroit families.

And those accountable for this predictable disaster? The very media outlets who were cheerleading the EPA ban now feign ignorance. “Out of concern for the environment and the effects on public health, the EPA has banned many of the chemicals that were most effective in eradicating the bugs in the U.S.,” shrugs the AP in graph ten of its story.

And the EPA Administrator who approved the ban? Browner has been promoted to “climate czar” in the Obama administration.

On Spent Nuclear Fuel, What’s Plan B?



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The Heartland Institute’s latest Environment and Climate News has a pair of pieces on Yucca Mountain. And whether or not you think the storage facility there is now dead (Max Schulz certainly doesn’t think so), these items argue that it shouldn’t be.

Heartland’s Jay Lehr suggests that the Obama administration let the science — not Hollywood-driven fears of radiation exposure — drive our policy on nuclear-waste storage.

Meanwhile, our own Drew Thornley discusses spent-fuel reprocessing with fellow Planet Gore contributor Bill Tucker.

President Obama has a tough choice ahead of him. He can lift the ban on reprocessing — France seems to be managing its plutonium adequately enough; on the other hand, it would be a shocking development for Obama to govern in any way different from Jimmy Carter. Or he can disturb the anti-nuke portion of his base and open Yucca Mountain. (Or he can pull a Gitmo, and make a big show of closing Yucca and find another place to store spent fuel rods.)

But the fact remains: if nuclear-plant waste doesn’t start taking up less room — soon — it’s going to have to be stored somewhere.

Reached grillside at his home in Texas, Drew Thornley adds:

So, what’s it gonna be? How many years and how many billions will it take — and how much will our energy supply and economy be damaged as a result of the foot dragging — to come up with anything remotely as promising as Yucca? Simply saying Plan A isn’t good enough isn’t . . . well, good enough.Give us Plan B. President Obama has yet to do so.

Or is this even about Yucca? Is the real goal simply to put the brakes on a safe, clean power source that gives us roughly 20 percent of our electricity?

Socialism, Plain and Simple



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In the old Soviet Union, factories were measured not by the quality of what they produced, but by the quantity. With the state economy organized under Gosplan production targets, a successful factory was one that met its quota — not whether the product it produced was desired by consumers. Television assembly plants, for example, would rush out worthless televisions at the end of a production period lacking crucial parts just to meet quota.
 
Goodbye, Gosplan. Hello, Obamaplan.

With the recession and $2-a-gallon gas, hybrid car sales have tanked this year, with sales falling at a greater rate than gas-powered vehicles (-44 percent vs. -36 percent). Ford’s Escape and Mariner hybrid sales, for example, are down 33 percent compared to 12 percent for conventional model sales.

Consumers don’t want them, but Washington pols demand them. Regardless of market conditions, President Obama has determined hybrids are the car of the future. So on April 9, the Obama administration announced that it is buying 17,600 fuel efficient vehicles from Detroit’s Big Three by June 1, using $285 million from the $787 billion stimulus bill. April’s quota order is 2,500 hybrid sedans. Total 2008 hybrid sales for GM and Ford (Chrysler offers no hybrids) amounted to 34,000 units.

While $285 million is pocket change in this age of trillion-dollar deficits, it is worth noting that the bill should be a lot less — since hybrids typically cost $5,000 more per vehicle than the gas-powered cars, a premium that will not be made back from fuel savings. For example, a 30-mpg Chevy Malibu hybrid costs $4,000 more than the27.5 mpg gas-powered model, meaning it would take 20 years to make up the gas savings even at $4 a gallon.

“You know the truth,” the president fibbed. “It will . . . save the government significant money over time.”

Michigan lawmakers, however, were clear that the government buying program is all about producing products that guarantee jobs and meet government demands.

“The federal government’s purchase of thousands of hybrids and other fuel efficient vehicles from the Big Three shows that our domestic auto industry will weather this current crisis and build the cars of the future,” said Rep. Sander Levin (D., Mich.).

Your tax dollars at work. Happy April 15.

High Speed Trains to Nowhere



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Get your pencils ready, pork watchers. Team Obama is set to release tomorrow the details on how he’s going to waste our money on high-speed trains:

WASHINGTON (Reuters) — The Obama administration is expected to unveil its plans on Thursday for accelerating development of high-speed rail, a concept that in the past has had mixed political support and little public funding.

“It will be broad and strategic,” Karen Rae, acting head of the Federal Railroad Administration, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday about the initiative described by officials as President Barack Obama’s top transportation priority.

“It’s going to talk about how we begin to create this new vision for high-speed and intercity rail,” Rae said.

White House and transportation officials have spent the past several weeks weighing plans for developing at least six high-speed corridors.

High-speed rail initiatives are in various planning stages in California, Florida, Nevada, the Carolinas and the Northeast. States are already formulating how to use the large appropriation for high-speed rail projects in the economic stimulus act.

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