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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



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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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‘The Folly of Blocking Natural Gas-Exports’



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Robert Zubrin had a good piece in yesterday’s Washington Times arguing that U.S. interference with natural-gas markets “makes energy more expensive, not less.” An excerpt:

Like the makers of crops, airplanes and books, producers of natural gas create goods to meet the size of their available market. The larger the market, the more they can produce, and the more revenue they can obtain both to cover their fixed costs and invest in future development.

This is why, as the world’s population has gone up, nearly all goods have become cheaper and more plentiful, rather than the reverse. This is also why blockading another nation’s exports is generally considered to be a hostile act, rather than a form of economic assistance.

The federal government was created to defend the United States, not to wage war upon it. The Obama administration should lift its blockade of American natural-gas exports now.

The whole thing here.

The $100 Billion-Per-Year Omission from the IPCC



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When the IPCC’s latest report was released yesterday, it basically came in three parts:, the “press kit,” the 44-page “Summary for Policymakers,” and the 2,500-plus-page “Final Draft.” 

And the IPCC left out a pretty major detail, a $100-billion-per-year detail, from the press package and their summary. From the New York Times:

The poorest people in the world, who have had virtually nothing to do with causing global warming, will be high on the list of victims as climatic disruptions intensify, the report said. It cited a World Bank estimate that poor countries need as much as $100 billion a year to try to offset the effects of climate change; they are now getting, at best, a few billion dollars a year in such aid from rich countries.

The $100 billion figure, though included in the 2,500-page main report, was removed from a 48-page executive summary to be read by the world’s top political leaders. It was among the most significant changes made as the summary underwent final review during a dayslong editing session in Yokohama.

The edit came after several rich countries, including the United States, raised questions about the language, according to several people who were in the room at the time but did not wish to be identified because the negotiations are private.

The language is contentious because poor countries are expected to renew their demand for aid this September in New York at a summit meeting of world leaders, who will attempt to make headway on a new treaty to limit greenhouse gases.

Many rich countries argue that $100 billion a year is an unrealistic demand; it would essentially require them to double their budgets for foreign aid, at a time of economic distress at home. That argument has fed a rising sense of outrage among the leaders of poor countries, who feel their people are paying the price for decades of profligate Western consumption.

As I wrote yesterday, the summary specifically stated the importance of alleviating poverty around the globe, but never mentioned anything about how to do this or the amount needed. Now we know why: their science might be settled, but who pays and for what is not.

Total Recall: GM’s Chance for Rebirth



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Before the House Energy and Commerce Committee Tuesday, the CEO of America’s biggest auto company will apologize for her company’s negligence in pursuing a defective part that has been linked to the loss of 13 lives.  

“As soon as l learned about the problem, we acted without hesitation. Whatever mistakes were made in the past, we will not shirk from our responsibilities now and in the future,” Barra will say of the recall of 2.5 million vehicles with potentially faulty ignition switches, according to a copy of her written testimony released Monday. “That begins with my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by this recall. My management team and I . . . will hold ourselves fully accountable.”

Barra’a contrition is a jarring contrast to President Obama’s arrogant defense of his disastrous Affordable Care Act. America’s CEO lied about his product and has refused to recall it even as millions (including cancer patients) have suffered from the loss of their insurance and doctors. Calling for a full investigation by a U.S. attorney, Barra promises “we will be fully transparent with you, with our regulators, and with our customers.” Obama refuses anything of the sort. Such are the expectations of our political leaders vs. our business leaders.

For all GM’s troubles, “Switchgate” — named for the faulty ignition switch that can inadvertently stall cars made between 2005–2011 — could ultimately benefit Barra and her company.

As the first female CEO of an American automaker, Barra will benefit from enormous political  goodwill. She is assisted by the fact that none of the cars effected are still in production. They are relics of an old GM — a pre-bankruptcy GM that was burdened by excessive labor costs, pension overhead, and poorly designed sedan products.

With the massive recall, Barra can help sever Old GM from New GM, putting in place safety systems (she has already announced a new veep for Global Vehicle Safety) that will assure that Switchgate won’t be repeated. Indeed, the ignition snafu is an anomaly in a company — and an industry — that is quick to recall unsafe products. For example, the 2005 Chrysler Pacifica – of similar vintage to Switchgate star, the Chevy Cobalt — also had a mysterious stalling problem. It was recalled within two years of launch.

Conspiracies will abound. Did GM bury Swtichgate because of pressure to keep a new vehicle launch on schedule? Did Chevy resist the recall expense because the company was in increasing financial straits?

Perhaps.

But GM insiders say there likely is no smoking gun — that the Cobalt’s (and Pontiac Solstice, and Chevy HHR, etc.) ignition was considered by engineers to be a mechanical issue that never rose to the level of safety defect (thus, its part number was never changed even after the ignition was fixed sometime around 2007).

The deaths associated with the ignition had muddying factors — drivers were alcohol-impaired or youngsters driving in wet conditions — preventing easy connection of the dots. By the time the ignition was definitively linked to air-bag deployment — circa 2009 – the part had been repaired.

Critics — my NRO colleague Jim Geraghty among them — will rightly question whether Switchgate was further buried by a government-run bankruptcy (would NHTSA embarrass its own White House with a recall?). Fair enough. But the White House Auto Task Force was uninterested in liability — only in quickly restructuring the company’s balance sheet so that the UAW could survive and continue to feed the Democratic Party campaign cash. It was a UAW bailout, not an auto bailout.

In crisis there is opportunity, and GM has a chance to redeem itself under the hot glare of public attention. With the best products it has ever produced in showrooms now (new Corvette, new Malibu, new Tahoe, new Caddies, etc.), a new focus on customer service would do a lot of good.

Tags: GM , Obama , Obamacare , Chevy Cobalt

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Taxpayers Funded a Climate-Change Musical



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The National Science Federation spent $700,000 on this:

Call it Climate Change: The Musical! 

The National Science Foundation has spent nearly $700,000 on a climate change-themed theatrical production, leaving some in Congress questioning if the organization’s grant funds could be put to better use. 

Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas, questioned White House science czar John Holdren in a hearing last Thursday about the way the NSF is using taxpayer money — including on the grants for the play, a New York production called “The Great Immensity.” 

“I support basic research, which can lead to discoveries that change our world, expand our horizons and save lives,” Smith, chairman of the House Science Committee, told FoxNews.com. “But NSF has funded too many questionable research grants. Spending taxpayer dollars to fund a climate change musical called ‘The Great Immensity’ sounds more like a waste of taxpayer dollars — money that could have funded higher priority research.” 

“All government employees and their agency heads need to remember they are accountable to the American taxpayer who pays their salary and funds their projects. It is not the government’s money; it is the people’s money,” he added. 

The play is being produced by New York-based activist theater group The Civilians with a grant award from 2010. According to a plot description on the theater company’s website, “The Great Immensity” focuses on a woman named Phyllis as she tries to track down a friend who disappeared while filming an assignment for a nature show on a tropical island. During her search, she also uncovers a devious plot surrounding an international climate summit in Auckland, New Zealand. 

So, what did we get for our money? Here’s one of the songs from the play:

What a waste.

About That New IPCC Report. . .



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Via Power Line, here’s what Barbara Boxer had to say about the new IPCC report titled “Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability​.” She can see global warming from her house:

“In California, we can just look out the window to see climate change’s impacts – from the driest year on record in 2013 to the increased frequency and intensity of wildfires. This new IPCC report identifies the serious threats to human health, vital infrastructure, and the world’s economy that will multiply as temperatures warm. It confirms that we must cut carbon pollution now to avoid lasting changes to our planet.”

Well, if she looks out the window today all she’s going to see is cold and rain.

Anyway, what she and most everyone else are missing from the report is how much the report ties poverty to those who’ll be affected if their climate models come true. For example, this:

The most effective vulnerability reduction measures for health in the near-term are programs that 
implement and improve basic public health measures such as provision of clean water and 
sanitation, secure essential health care including vaccination and child health services, increase 
capacity for disaster preparedness and response, and alleviate poverty (very high confidence). By 
2100 for the high-emission scenario RCP8.5, the combination of high temperature and humidity 
in some areas for parts of the year is projected to compromise normal human activities, including 
growing food or working outdoors (high confidence).

And this. . .

Urban areas 

Many global risks of climate change are concentrated in urban areas (medium confidence). 
Steps that build resilience and enable sustainable development can accelerate successful 
climate-change adaptation globally. Heat stress, extreme precipitation, inland and coastal 
flooding, landslides, air pollution, drought, and water scarcity pose risks in urban areas for 
people, assets, economies, and ecosystems (very high confidence). Risks are amplified for those 
lacking essential infrastructure and services or living in poor-quality housing and exposed areas. 
Reducing basic service deficits, improving housing, and building resilient infrastructure systems 
could significantly reduce vulnerability and exposure in urban areas. Urban adaptation benefits 
from effective multi-level urban risk governance, alignment of policies and incentives, 
strengthened local government and community adaptation capacity, synergies with the private 
sector, and appropriate financing and institutional development (medium confidence). Increased 
capacity, voice, and influence of low-income groups and vulnerable communities and their 
partnerships with local governments also benefit adaptation.

Rural areas

Major future rural impacts are expected in the near-term and beyond through impacts on 
water availability and supply, food security, and agricultural incomes, including shifts in 
production areas of food and non-food crops across the world (high confidence). These 
impacts are expected to disproportionately affect the welfare of the poor in rural areas, such as 
female-headed households and those with limited access to land, modern agricultural inputs, 
infrastructure, and education. Further adaptations for agriculture, water, forestry, and 
biodiversity can occur through policies taking account of rural decision-making contexts. Trade 
reform and investment can improve market access for small-scale farms (medium confidence).

The report is crystal clear and says that even in wealthy nations, it’s the poor who will be hurt the most:

Distribution of impacts: Risks are unevenly distributed and are generally greater for 
disadvantaged people and communities in countries at all levels of development. Risks are 
already moderate because of regionally differentiated climate-change impacts on crop 
production in particular (medium to high confidence). Based on projected decreases in 
regional crop yields and water availability, risks of unevenly distributed impacts are high for 
additional warming above 2°C (medium confidence).

In summary, the IPCC says that we need reduce poverty to protect people from global warming. But saying you’re in favor of reducing poverty around the globe and actually implementing policies that will reduce poverty around the globe are not the same thing. To make the actual infrastructure improvements that the IPCC writes about will need one common input: cheap energy.

Environmentalists like Bjørn Lomborg​ and James Lovelock (and us) have been saying this for years now. The world needs more CO2 emissions, not fewer, as Sen. Boxer desires. Here’s Lomborg, for example, writing about the need for cheaper electricity:

​. . .a new analysis from the Center for Global Development finds that by investing $10 billion in renewable energy, we can pull one person out of poverty for about $500. Using gas electrification instead would be more than four times as efficient. By insisting on renewables, we deliberately choose to leave 60 million people in darkness and poverty. This seems hypocritical, as the rich world gets just 0.8% of its energy from hugely expensive solar and wind technologies, which remain unreliable. Even with optimistic assumptions, the International Energy Agency estimates that by 2035, we will produce just 2.6% of our energy from wind and under 1% from solar.

And here’s a recent Guardian piece on Lovelock’s views:

Environmentalism has “become a religion” and does not pay enough attention to facts, according to James Lovelock.

The 94 year-old scientist, famous for his Gaia hypothesis that Earth is a self-regulating, single organism, also said that he had been too certain about the rate of global warming in his past book, that “it’s just as silly to be a [climate] denier as it is to be a believer” and that fracking and nuclear power should power the UK, not renewable sources such as windfarms.

Sen. Boxer, the IPCC, the UN, and the other energy-deniers just don’t get it. The way best way to mitigate the affects of their global warming is with more nuclear, natural gas, and coal-fired power-plants. To say otherwise locks billions in poverty. 

Spider-Man Endorses Earth Hour



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White House Wants New EPA Rules on Methane Emissions



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The White House today released it’s ”comprehensive, interagency strategy to cut methane emissions.” Full report — a PDF file – here.

And here’s the (long) summary and Fact-Sheet from the White House Blog:

In June 2013, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University where he laid out both the case for action on climate change and the steps his Administration will take to address it. The Climate Action Plan that the President announced includes steps to cut carbon pollution, help prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that are already on the way, and continue American leadership in international efforts to combat global climate change.

In his Climate Action Plan, President Obama directed the Administration to develop a comprehensive, interagency strategy to cut methane emissions. Today, the White House released the Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions. Learn more about the strategy in the fact sheet below, and check out the full Strategy here.

In June 2013, President Obama gave a speech at Georgetown University where he laid out both the case for action on climate change and the steps his Administration will take to address it. The Climate Action Plan that the President announced includes steps to cut carbon pollution, help prepare the United States for the impacts of climate change that are already on the way, and continue American leadership in international efforts to combat global climate change.

In his Climate Action Plan, President Obama directed the Administration to develop a comprehensive, interagency strategy to cut methane emissions. Today, the White House released the Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions. Learn more about the strategy in the fact sheet below, and check out the full Strategy here.

Dan Utech is the Special Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change.

FACT SHEET: Climate Action Plan – Strategy to Cut Methane Emissions

With an all-of-the-above approach to develop homegrown energy and steady, responsible steps to cut carbon pollution, we can protect our kids’ health and begin to slow the effects of climate change so we leave a cleaner, more stable environment for future generations. That’s why last June, President Obama issued a broad-based Climate Action Plan, announcing a series of executive actions to reduce carbon pollution, prepare the U.S. for the impacts of climate change, and lead international efforts to address global climate change.

Since June, the Administration has made substantial progress in meeting the ambitious goals laid out in the Climate Action Plan in a way that advances our economy, our environment, and public health. In just the last few months:

  • The Department of the Interior (DOI) announced permitting the 50th renewables-related project on federal lands during the Administration – bringing us closer to meeting the goal of siting enough wind and solar projects on public lands by 2020 to power more than 6 million homes.
  • President Obama directed the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Transportation to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil and fuel consumption.
  • The Department of Energy (DOE) has issued two proposed energy conservation standards for appliances and equipment and finalized two energy conservation standards. That’s on top of the five proposed and two final energy conservation standards DOE has already issued since June. These standards will help cut consumers’ electricity bills by billions of dollars.
  • The Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced seven new “climate hubs” to help farmers and ranchers adapt their operations to a changing climate and the President’s Budget proposed a $1 billion in new funding for new technologies and incentives to build smarter, more resilient infrastructure to help communities prepare for a changing climate.
  • The Administration announced the Climate Data Initiative, an ambitious new effort bringing together extensive open government data and design competitions with commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors to develop data-driven planning and resilience tools for local communities. This effort will help give communities across America the information and tools they need to plan for current and future climate impacts.
  • The Administration has continued the work of the U.S.-China Climate Change Working Group that’s working to promote clean energy and transportation solutions in both countries. And we’re working closely with India to accelerate its clean energy revolution and address the impacts of climate change in vulnerable communities.

Today, the Administration is releasing another key element called for in the President’s Climate Action Plan – a Strategy to Reduce Methane Emissions. The strategy summarizes the sources of methane emissions, commits to new steps to cut emissions of this potent greenhouse gas, and outlines the Administration’s efforts to improve the measurement of these emissions. The strategy builds on progress to date and takes steps to further cut methane emissions from landfills, coal mining, and agriculture, and oil and gas systems through cost-effective voluntary actions and common-sense standards. Key steps include:

  • Landfills: In the summer of 2014, the EPA will propose updated standards to reduce methane from new landfills and take public comment on whether to update standards for existing landfills.
  • Coal Mines:  In April 2014, the DOI’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will release an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) to gather public input on the development of a program for the capture and sale, or disposal of waste mine methane on lands leased by the Federal government.  
  • Agriculture: In June, in partnership with the dairy industry, the USDA, EPA and DOE will jointly release a “Biogas Roadmap” outlining voluntary strategies to accelerate adoption of methane digesters and other cost-effective technologies to reduce U.S. dairy sector greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020.
  • Oil and Gas: Building on success in reducing methane emissions from the oil and gas sector through voluntary programs and targeted regulations, the Administration will take new actions to encourage additional cost-effective reductions. Key steps include:
    • In the spring of 2014, EPA will assess several potentially significant sources of methane and other emissions from the oil and gas sector. EPA will solicit input from independent experts through a series of technical white papers, and in the fall of 2014, EPA will determine how best to pursue further methane reductions from these sources. If EPA decides to develop additional regulations, it will complete those regulations by the end of 2016.
    • Later this year, the BLM will propose updated standards to reduce venting and flaring from oil and gas production on public lands. 
    • As part of the Quadrennial Energy Review, and through DOE-convened roundtables, the Administration will identify “downstream” methane reduction opportunities. Through the Natural Gas STAR program, EPA will work with the industry to expand voluntary efforts to reduce methane emissions.

Taking action to curb methane waste and pollution is important because emissions of methane make up nearly 9 percent of all the greenhouse gas emitted as a result of human activity in the United States. Since 1990, methane pollution in the United States has decreased by 11 percent, even as activities that can produce methane have increased. However, methane pollution is projected to increase to a level equivalent to over 620 million tons of carbon dioxide pollution in 2030 absent additional action to reduce emissions.

Reducing methane emissions is a powerful way to take action on climate change; and putting methane to use can support local economies with a source of clean energy that generates revenue, spurs investment and jobs, improves safety, and leads to cleaner air. When fully implemented, the policies in the methane strategy will improve public health and safety while recovering otherwise wasted energy to power our communities, farms, factories, and power plants.   

Birds Attack Another Jet out of JFK



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It’s only a matter of time until the suicidal birds claim a kill, but luckily, not today.

The Port Authority has come under fire for shooting the birds (and other animals) that put the jets at risk, but it looks like actual changes to the environment near the airports, such as the marshes around JFK, might be necessary.

Marijuana vs. The California Drought



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You’d think California would have thought about issues like water use, pollution, and enforcement before making marijuana legal, but, nope. McClatchy:

Growers of thirsty pot are under fire in drought-struck California

WASHINGTON — In drought-hit California, marijuana growers are feeling the heat, accused of using too much water for their thirsty plants and of polluting streams and rivers with their pesticides and fertilizers.

State officials say a pot plant sucks up an average of 6 gallons of water per day, worsening a shortage caused by one of the biggest droughts on record. They say the situation is particularly acute along California’s North Coast, where the growing pressure to irrigate pot threatens salmon and other fish.

“This industry _ and it is an industry _ is completely unregulated,” said Scott Bauer, a fisheries biologist with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. “What I just hope is that the watersheds don’t go up in smoke before we get things regulated and protect our fish and wildlife.”

California is also the most popular state for pot producers to grow crops in U.S. forests, accounting for 86 percent of the nearly 1 million plants federal officials seized in 2012.

“Those are lands that you and I own,” said Rep. Mike Thompson, a California Democrat. “And when people are growing dope there and guarding their operations with guns and the likes, and sometimes with booby traps, we can’t use the land that we own. It happens all over.”

The situation is a complicated one in California, which passed the nation’s first medical marijuana law in 1996, allowing people to possess and grow pot, even though the federal government still bans the drug.

Medical growers who tend their crops on private property object to getting lumped in with the illegal growers who are trespassing on federal lands.

They say they’re a scapegoat in the debate.

“It’s really easy to point fingers at a very large cash crop that’s completely unregulated. It’s one of the main cash crops of the state,” said Kristin Nevedal of Garberville, Calif., the founding chairwoman of the Emerald Growers Association. She doesn’t grow marijuana herself but she’s the spokeswoman for the group, which has about 400 members.

Public officials are taking aim at both the legal and illegal growers in many ways.

In pot-rich Mendocino County, the sheriff’s department is cracking down on growers who steal water.

In Sacramento, Democratic Gov. Jerry Brown proposed in his January budget to spend $3.3 million to enforce pot cultivation rules to protect water and endangered species.

The rest here.

Study That Helped Get Polar Bears Listed as Threatened Now ‘Invalidated’



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Watts Up With That has the details, but in summary, the scientists didn’t account for – get this — polar bears moving from place to place. 

Brrrr: More Global-Warming Snow for the Northeast



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The Lights Stay On



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The Obama administration’s War on Carbon rages, but the good news is the incandescent light bulb still lives.

For the third year in a row, the federal ban on the popular incandescent light bulb — the choice of most Americans — was postponed by Republican House intervention that defunded EPA enforcement of the law.

“None of the funds made available in this Act may be used . . . to implement or enforce the standards with respect to incandescent reflector lamps,” reads section 322 of the $1.1 trillion budget signed by the president in January. The language was cheered by Appropriations Chair Hal Rogers (R., Ky.) and endorsed by Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R., Mich.) who has become a champion of the common bulb after infamously teaming with Lame Duck Bush and then-speaker Pelosi to kill the bulb in a 2007 global-warming-fighting energy bill.

After a firestorm of criticism from consumer groups led by Freedom Action’s Myron Ebell, Upton & Co. stayed the bulb’s sentence hours before its January 1, 2012 execution. The law eliminates the common bulb by capping the energy that bulbs can draw — effectively a mpg law for bulbs that only CFLs can meet.

The Obama EPA, greens, and their corporate-crony allies have continued to push the ban, however. As in so many of its transformation-of-America ventures, the White House has teamed with Big Business — in this case GE, Philips, and Sylvania — as they use regulation to gain higher profit margins on alternative energy and expensively energy-efficient products. Hundreds of jobs have already been lost as these companies shuttered U.S. incandescent plants to begin CFL production in China – part of the process of “transforming the global lighting industry,” as GE put it.

A ban would come at considerable cost to consumers. In the run up to the 2012 ax, retailers tried to mask the inconvenience to buyers by advertising CFLs at huge discounts. They were short-lived. These days an 8-pack of 60-watt incandescents sells at Lowe’s for $2.98, while equivalent CFLs sticker for six times more: $8.78 for a 4-pack.

Now we know why the president wants that $10 minimum wage — to help low-income workers pay for his bulb ban.

The 40W-60W bulbs not only make up over 50 percent of the market, but CFLs are not the energy-savers greens promised. CFLs are fragile — particularly when turned on and off multiple times. Meanwhile, thanks to general media silence, recent polling indicates only 28 percent of the public is aware that their primary bulb source hangs by a thread. Keep the lights on, GOP.

Tags: light bulb , Obama , Upton

The Obama Administration’s Defective Toyota Shakedown



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“The verdict is in. There is no electronic-based cause for unintended high-speed acceleration in Toyotas,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood in February, 2011 upon releasing an exhaustive study by NHTSA and NASA absolving Toyota of allegations its vehicles were unsafe.

Three years later, the U.S. Justice Department this week fined Toyota a record $1.2 billion for failing to warn customers of unsafe vehicles.

Huh? Americans can be excused if they feel they’ve fallen down Alice’s rabbit hole.

“The problems gained public attention (in 2009) when a highway patrolman and his family were killed in an accident in San Diego,” reported a Reuters story typical of media coverage. “Toyota responded with a recall of millions of vehicles but left on the road some vehicles. . . having among the worst problems with floor mats that trapped acceleration pedals.”

Like pictures Photoshopped of their most critical details, these reports rewrite history. As such they are cover for a Justice Department kangaroo court that handed down fines bearing little relation to the original allegations against Toyota.

In truth federal probes were part of a massive effort by the trial-lawyer community, the safety advocates they fund, and Democratic politicians to open a broad new litigation front against Toyota (and by extension all automakers) claiming that buggy electronic throttle controls cause deadly, unintended acceleration.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.) called 2010 House hearings to take “a serious look at the possibility that electronic defects could be causing the problem.”

And tort lawyer–funded safety advocate Clarence Ditlow of the Center for Auto Safety told a Senate hearing that “the Toyota unintended acceleration crisis” had been caused by “electronic controls.”

The circus hearings paralleled a media panic that featured almost daily claims of electronically induced sudden acceleration accidents — including footage of a “runaway” Toyota Prius in San Diego that gripped cable news and a faked report by ABC’s Brian Ross alleging how Toyotas could accelerate without warning.

Toyota denied any electronic defects, instead claiming — to widespread Washington snickering — the incidents were caused by faulty floor mats, a sticky plastic pedal piece, or pedal misapplication (i.e., mistaking accelerator for brake). In late 2009 and early 2010, Toyota announced two recalls totaling nearly 7 million vehicles to replace floor mats and the plastic piece. The company also revamped its U.S. safety management admitting it had grown complacent in the face of customer concerns.

A year later, the NHTSA/NAA study of Event Data Recorders (a.k.a., the “black boxes” found in modern cars) confirmed Toyotas were mechanically sound.

While a handful of incidents involved accelerator-trapping floor mats, NHTSA said it “believes that the most likely cause of (most) incidents was pedal misapplication.” The tragic death of the officer and his family? The result of a dealer having installed the wrong floor mat in a loaner Lexus ES350 sedan. The family makes up four of five confirmed Toyota vehicle deaths (the fifth also allegedly floor mat related).

Yet Holder & media have ignored this history.

Incredibly, this week’s coverage approvingly quoted discredited former NHTSA chief Joan Colebrook – whose Carter-era airbag mandate for front seat passengers led to dozens of child deaths – who told Reuters that the Justice fine “means at the highest levels of the auto company, they have to worry about going to jail if they don’t report a defect.”

Having invested so much into charging Toyota with fictional electronic gremlins, Washington’s Iron Triangle — Justice, media, and safety lobby — convicted the company anyway.

Significantly, Toyota admitted no wrongdoing in an opaque public statement accepting Holder’s penalty. Profitable and with its Lexus and Toyota brands ranked Nos. 1 and  2 by Consumer Reports for reliability, the company has made a calculation to put Justice’s Inquisition behind it.

Legal experts were troubled by the fine, seeing it as part of a larger, anti-business Obama administration campaign narrative.

“The timing of the original (2010) investigation seemed a bit suspicious, because it was in the midst of the American car companies’ woes,” David Skeel, Professor of Corporate Law at the University of Pennsylvania Law School, told me. “As for the new fine one possible explanation is a desire to appear tough on global corporations in the wake of the Attorney General’s much criticized suggestion that some of the big banks are ‘too big to jail.’”

Whatever the motivation, Holder’s action sets a disturbing precedent for auto companies whether they are guilty or not. “Sentence first, verdict afterwards,” said the Queen in Alice in Wonderland.

Tags: holder , toyota , ditlow

Israel No Longer Has a Water Shortage



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Thanks to desalinization plants:

Israel has gone through one of the driest winters in its history, but despite the lean rainy season, the government has suspended a longstanding campaign to conserve water.

The familiar public messages during recent years of drought, often showing images of parched earth, have disappeared from television despite weeks of balmy weather with record low rainfalls in some areas.

The level of the Sea of Galilee, the country’s natural water reservoir, is no longer closely tracked in news reports or the subject of anxious national discussion.

The reason: Israel has in recent years achieved a quiet water revolution through desalination.

With four plants currently in operation, all built since 2005, and a fifth slated to go into service this year, Israel is meeting much of its water needs by purifying seawater from the Mediterranean. Some 80 percent of domestic water use in Israeli cities comes from desalinated water, according to Israeli officials.

“There’s no water problem because of the desalination,” said Hila Gil, director of the desalination division in the Israel Water Authority. “The problem is no longer on the agenda.”

Last time I checked, there was a large body of water available to water-hungry California in case they decided to copy Israel’s model. Just a thought. 

The rest here.

 

President Obama in Miami Today for Two Fundraisers



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Given that Miami is ground-zero for much of the alarmism on rising sea-levels, I assume the president will bring up climate change at his two fundraisers tonight. And when he does, here’s hoping somebody in the audience asks him why he continues to fly around the country on non-essential trips like the one today if climate change is such a huge problem. 

Who can blame the president for wanting to come to Miami from D.C.? But I wonder why didn’t schedule the trip for next week – when global warming is supposed to strike D.C. yet again this year. Welcome to Spring, Washingtonians! Don’t forget your mittens!

The Success of GM Crops in India



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Here’s the latest from Bjørn Lomborg, celebrating the success of GM crops in India and debunking the idea that such crops are tied to increased suicides among India’s small farmers:

Too often, we let emotion crowd out the facts of a news story. We base our opinions on the most attention-generating headlines, and deeply held convictions are shaped by only a few highly publicized stories. Recently, I was at a major New England university discussing the state of the world when we touched on nutrition. I made the point that the Green Revolution from the 1970s was a technological solution which has reaped huge benefits for both mankind and the environment.

First a bit of history: Spearheaded by Norman Borlaug, the Green Revolution found ways to make the yield of staple crops much higher, so we could grow much more food on the same agricultural land. The Green Revolution made food cheaper, and allowed countries like India to shift from imminent starvation to surplus food production. Higher yields also reaped environmental benefits, as there was less need to cut down forests and intrude on nature. For his work, Borlaug earned the nickname “The Man Who Saved a Billion Lives” and was awarded with the Nobel Peace Prize.

And yet, at this discussion, a college professor remarked that is was debatable whether the Green Revolution had been an overall good for India, since “there are so many suicides.”

The Indian farmer suicides the professor alluded to tie into the controversy around genetically modified (GM) crops. While not part of the original Green Revolution, the advent of GM crops became possible because of the legacy of agricultural technological innovation. In recent years these stories have generated numerous headlines and follow a now-familiar pattern.

Opponents claim that the proliferation of GM crops like Bt cotton has placed enormous financial strain on India’s smallholder farmers, driving them to suicide. A popular proponent of this narrative is Vandana Shiva, a prominent Indian environmentalist. Shiva and others argue that “corporate seeds” were foisted upon Indian farmers during India’s liberalization in the 1990s. Whereas farmers had once saved seeds from season to season, the need to buy new seeds every year, plus the additional costs of fertilizers and pesticides, drove impoverished Indian farmers into a spiral of debt. This eventually has led to an epidemic in which a quarter million of them have taken their own lives since the mid-1990s.

No one wants to trivialize the tragedy of families who have lost loved ones, but this narrative doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. Several academics have undertaken studies to get to the heart of the suicide “epidemic,” and their findings paint a far different picture.

The rest here.

Nate Silver Hires Roger Pielke Jr.



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And the alarmists are angry! Think Progress:

Nate Silver’s New Science Writer Ignores The Data On Climate Science

Nate Silver’s highly anticipated data-driven news site FiveThirtyEight launched on Monday, with a controversial figure covering science issues. Silver has brought on Roger Pielke, Jr., a professor of environmental studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, as a contributing writer – a political scientist who comes with a long history of data distortion and confrontations with climate scientists.

“Given Nate’s professed obsession with rigorous statistical analysis, it is rather disappointing to see him hire for his new venture an individual who has displayed a pattern of sloppiness when it comes to the analysis of climate data,” said top climate scientist Michael Mann via email. Pointing to a chapter in Silver’s recent book that addresses climate change (for which Mann was interviewed) he adds, “Sadly, this isn’t the first time Nate has been led astray when it comes to dealing with the science of climate change.”

Pielke routinely seeks to minimize the impacts and severity of climate change and in the process, has been repeatedly criticized as inaccurate and misleading by some of the nation’s foremost climate scientists.

Most recently, Pielke tangled with Obama science advisor and former president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, John Holdren, over the relationship between the severity of California’s epic drought and climate change. In February, Pielkeslammed Holdren for offering a scientifically-grounded explanation of how climate change is worsening western drought. As Joe Romm observed, “Holdren’s views are right in the mainstream of climatologists’ view of drought. I can think of no climate scientists who share Pielke’s startling assessment of Holdren’s views as ‘zombie science.’”

Holdren responded to the jabs with an unprecedented six-page response debunking Pielke’s muddling statements and detailing how climate change is in fact exacerbating drought in the west. “Dr. Pielke’s statements about global drought trends, while irrelevant to my comments about drought in California and the Colorado River Basin, are seriously misleading,” Holdren wrote.

The rest here.

More Alarmism in Leaked IPCC Draft



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From the Sydney Morning Herald:

Food security, economy to be hit by climate change, leaked IPCC draft report shows

Global warming will displace millions of people, trigger falling crop yields, stoke conflict and cost trillions of dollars in lost economic output, a United Nations report will warn.

A draft of the report to be finalised later this month by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) and obtained by The Independent in Britain, says “hundreds of millions of people” will be forced to move because of coastal flooding and land loss as sea levels rise.

Food security will increasingly be threatened, with median crop yields to drop by as much as 2 per cent per decade for the rest of the century. Demand, though, is on course to rise 14 per cent per decade until 2050, the Independent cited the IPCC draft as saying.

Poverty and economic shocks from climate change will have a significant impact on migration, increasing the risks of violence from protests and from civil or international conflicts, according the draft version of the report on Impacts, Adaptation and Vulnerability states.

Among the projections likely to attract scrutiny from reviewers when the final report of the IPCC’s Working Group II is settled on in Japan later this month is the draft’s estimate that annual global gross domestic product will drop by 0.2-2 per cent if temperatures rise 2.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels.

The rest here.

If the alarmists are serious about food scarcity, we better start worldwide rationing, no? Maybe even a calorie-credit scheme where skinny people can sell their extra calorie-credit to those with larger appetites? 

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