American Elephants

Worried About Radiation? by The Elephant's Child

“A banana-equivalent dose is a concept used occasionally by nuclear power proponents to clarify the dangers of radiation by comparing exposure to radiation to the radiation generated by the common banana.

Many foods are naturally radioactive, and bananas are particularly so, due to the radioactive potassium -40 they contain.  The banana equivalent dose is the radiation exposure received by eating a single banana.”

Anthony Watts of Watts Up With That, one of the best science blogs ever, explains cosmic rays and radiation and worries over a “plume of radiation from Japan.”  Put your mind at ease, and understand all the radiation talk, and the excesses of the media.  Worth your time.


Tilting at Windmills. by The Elephant's Child

—President Barack Obama has said that by 2035 we will be producing 80% of our electricity from renewable resources.  Nice fantasy, but to have a wind turbine operate, you need full-time backup 24/7 from a conventional power plant.  So why not skip the wind and use the power the backup conventional power plant is producing?

—The British wind farm industry has been forced to admit that the environmental benefit of wind power in reducing carbon emissions is only half as big as it had previously claimed.   The British Wind Energy Association (BWEA) has agreed to scale down its calculation for the amount of harmful carbon dioxide emission that can be eliminated by using wind turbines to generate electricity instead of burning fossil fuels such as coal or gas.

—High school biology class—photosynthesis—we exhale carbon dioxide, plants take it in as fertilizer and produce oxygen; surely you remember.  Carbon dioxide is not a harmful emission. It is merely a trace gas in the atmosphere which mostly rises from the seas. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is, at around 390 ppm at a low point. It has been  much higher in the past, and somewhere around 1,000 ppm would be more desirable. We need more.  Stop trying to eliminate it.

—No matter, the British are planning hundreds of wind farms across the country, adding to the 198 onshore and offshore farms—a total of 2,389 turbines already in operation.  Another 40 farms are currently under construction, and with their new smart meters, power bureaucrats will decide when you can wash your clothes and dishes, and when you have to simply do without power at all.

—A physicist at Cambridge University  pointed out that wind turbines would need to cover an area the size of Wales to supply a sixth of the country’s energy needs. Wind farms would need five times more land than had been previously estimated.  He said “The average energy used per person in the UK is 125 kilowatt hours per day.  Current plans to build wind farms with a capacity of 33 gigawatts offshore would produce only enough energy to provide each person in the UK with 4.4 kilowatt hours of energy per day.  I guess you need a physicist to do the necessary math.

—Offshore wind farms are one of the main reasons why whales strand themselves on beaches, according to scientists at the University of St. Andrews who are studying beaked whales, a species that frequently becomes beached in England. They are extraordinarily timid creatures that are scared by unusual sounds despite being the size of a rhinoceros and weighing the same as a London bus.  As the number of offshore wind farms multiply, an increase in whale strandings can be expected.

—It seems to be a massive international case of the king not wearing any clothes.  Or perhaps it is a worm in the brain, contagious, transmitted at a G-20 meeting or at Copenhagen.  It would be impossible for governments to collectively slap themselves upside the head and confess that they have been stupid, falling for promoter’s snake oil, wasting billions of taxpayers hard-earned money in pursuit of an ephemera.

Imagine the consequences—administrations shamed, thrown out of office,  Miscreants sent to prison. Quite impossible. No one will ever admit anything. It will continue, at least until they are all out of office and gone. Just don’t let them damage or shut down the conventional power plants.  We’re going to need every kilowatt they can produce.

Food Prices Up, Gas Prices Up, Confidence Down. by The Elephant's Child

Wholesale prices rose 1.6 percent due to the biggest jump in food costs in more than 36 years, and higher energy costs. Food prices soared 3.9 percent last month, the biggest gain since November of 1974.

Those who shop for groceries are already well aware of the rise.  Some producers are keeping the price steady or less, but the packages are smaller. I have, for as long as I can remember, purchased granulated sugar in 5 lb. packages, now they are 4 lb.  In many cases, boxes are the same height and width,  just thinner.  Producers hope to create the illusion that you are getting the same amount for your money.

A business column in the Wall Street Journal from February 25, said that food prices will jump between 3% and 4% this year according to Agriculture Dept. forecasts.  The cost of processing food is soaring partly because foreign demand for U.S. agricultural commodities is surging at the same time that the rising price of gasoline is encouraging the biofuel industry’s appetite for corn to make ethanol. Prices of corn (up 88%), wheat (up 76%), and soybeans (up 37%) have surged from just 12 months ago.  These basic commodities are in most processed food. Transportation costs are obviously up, as you can see at the pump.

Food companies want to raise prices and supermarkets don’t.  The article says “The stubbornly high unemployment rate is still casting a shadow over many consumers, who are pinching pennies despite the recession’s end.

In another article from the same source, New York Fed President William Dudley tried to explain the Federal Reserve’s monetary policy.  The Fed doesn’t thing food and gas prices matter to its policy calculations because they aren’t part of “core” inflation.  Mr. Dudley tried to explain that other prices are falling. “Today you can buy an iPad 2 that costs the same as an iPad1 that is twice as powerful,” he said. “You have to look at the prices of all things. Someone in his audience said “I can’t eat an iPad.” Another asked “When was the last time, sir, that you went grocery shopping?”

In the Middle East, women in Tunisia and Egypt in TV interviews screamed about the cost of food.  Food price inflation was a factor, but no one knows how much.  Egypt imports more than 50% of its wheat.  Several countries went on a grain buying spree to avoid fears of famine among their people.

Global food production may have to double by 2050, say some agricultural economists.  Since 1900, corn yields have quintupled and wheat yields quadrupled because of improved seeds, more fertilizer, irrigation and better farming practices. Today biotechnology can make crops more resistant to weeds, bugs and drought.  Sub-Saharan African agriculture lags so far behind state-of-the-art farming practice that there are immense opportunities for catching up.

Confidence? Just 22% say that the U.S. is headed in the right direction.

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