American Elephants

Plastic Bags Are a Great Modern Invention! by The Elephant's Child

bags2 As long as I’m on a roll, let’s address the plastic bag problem. Actually, there is no plastic bag problem, but a problem with aggressive Greens. I’ve written about plastic bags way too often. Just enter “plastic bags” in the search bar over Bob Hope’s head in the sidebar. You can learn how this all came about, the dangers of cloth bags, the cost-benefit effect, and all about City Councils’ overbearing regulations.

Seattle, always sensitive to ‘sustainability’ problems or sensitivity among their residents, essentially bans paper and plastic bags. They will charge you if you don’t bring your own cloth bag. Which may be fine and dandy for  a single person living in a small apartment just a few blocks from the grocery store.

I don’t particularly enjoy grocery shopping — it’s just another task, so I try to go no more than once a week. I load up something over 20 plastic bags. I’m supposed to buy 30 cloth bags and wash them (necessary for safety) between each use? I have ranted far too many times, but Katherine Mangu-Ward writing in Reason magazine says:

Plastic bags for retail purchases are banned or taxed in more than 200 municipalities and a dozen countries, from San Francisco to South Africa, Bellingham to Bangladesh. Each region serves up its own custom blend of alarmist rhetoric; coastal areas blame the wispy totes for everything from asphyxiated sea turtles to melting glaciers, while inland banners decry the bags’ role in urban landscape pollution and thoughtless consumerism.

But a closer look at the facts and figures reveals shaky science and the uncritical repetition of improbable statistics tossed about to shore up the case for a mostly aesthetic, symbolic act of conservation.

Her article is thorough and well done, and worth your time. She has traced the plastic bag back to it’s beginnings, and covers the dangers inherent in cloth bags, though I’m not sure she emphasizes them enough. But finally, she admits to cultural and economic pressures, and uses cloth bags herself.

I remain defiant and unreformed. The objections to modern plastic bags are ill informed, the dangers of unwashed cloth bags too severe, and besides I have two cats and I need plastic bags for the kitty litter, and the other noxious things that turn up around my house in the woods.

I’m also getting really tired of the ‘public service announcements’ that are designed to make me hew to the green agenda, and whatever new idea the EPA has this week.

Do You Recycle? Why? Does It Make You Feel Noble? by The Elephant's Child

Surely, if you live in a city in the United States, you recycle. If you are rural, or live in a small town, you are excused. I am suburban, and have 3 cans, one for yard waste, one for plain old garbage, and one for recycling. But there are rules. My Krups coffeemaker quit, but I cannot put it in the garbage, but must take it to a electronics recycling event, fortunately, this coming weekend. Batteries and lightbulbs go somewhere else. They aren’t supposed to go in the garbage either.

I pay a monthly bill for the privilege of recycling the yard waste, which the city turns into compost, which I then have the privilege of buying back for the garden. In neighboring Seattle, they will inspect your garbage to make sure you are not putting any food scraps in with the recycling or the garbage. If they find you guilty the fine is, I think, $50. Three cans, we get 3 different trucks to pick it all up. But is it worth it?

So — do you look for and buy recycled goods? Are you more likely to buy a product that brags on the percentage of recycled goods in their product? Thought not. And often, recycled goods are more expensive than their counterpart. The most desirable goods look as if they have been recycled. Gray-brown plastic bags, brown recycled paper. What use are recycled goods if they don’t show how admirable you are for buying recycled?

The original idea was that landfills were bad, and we were running out of room, which is absurd. Landfills are carefully constructed so there is no damage to the water table. If I remember correctly there was a famous barge of garbage that traversed the East Coast looking for somewhere, anywhere, that would accept their garbage, proving that landfills were all used up.

Recycled paper goods were supposed to save the trees. Catalog companies bought into a tree-planting scheme, assuring their customers that they would compensate for the tons of paper used by planting x number of trees. But most paper is made from tree farm trees raised specifically for the purpose of being turned into paper.

There are environmental groups that seduce cities with a big dog-and-pony show, and  offer them the chance to join a vast group of cities who are also coping with great masses of garbage. They offer pre-designed programs and expertise, posters and mailers, everything a with-it city might need to start their own program, and the opportunity to meet with other mayors in the club  and schmooze. So the correct position in the culture today is to have the very best recycling program. Sustainability is the au-courant buzz-word.

For anything beyond aluminum cans, it’s probably a waste of time and money. Aluminum cans go right back into making new cans. Prices for recyclable materials have plummeted because of reduced demand overseas, the worldwide recession, the drop in oil prices. I think locally the price we pay to have our yard waste composted, and then buy it back at a cost comparable to brand-name composts, but slightly less, is probably reasonably cost-effective (or they would raise the price).

There is no shortage of landfill space. “All the waste generated  by Americans for the next next 1,000 years would fit on one-tenth of 1 percent of the land available for grazing. Landfills are typically covered with grass and converted to parkland,”according to John Tierney, writing in the New York Times.

Many on the Left have confused recycling with morality, rather than politics where it accurately belongs, and environmentalism with a form of religion. They don’t care if it is wasteful, unnecessarily costly, and accomplishes nothing at all. Saving carbon from entering the atmosphere where it would become a fertilizer for plants and help to feed the world is not a useful enterprise. We need more carbon, not less. Environmentalism is essentially a political ploy, designed to bring an end to capitalism and has nothing to do with saving the earth. They were sure the suckers would fall for it.

A Little Good News for a Change by The Elephant's Child

green-7 by anild sud courtesy eyeTraffic in the Seattle area was impossible yesterday, due to e visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and aside from his entourage, there must have been hundreds of newspeople. The rest of us still have our ordinary errands, which became hours long instead of minutes. Should have stayed home.

On the East Coast they have the same problems because of the visit of the Pope. Today, a horrible traffic accident in Seattle between a tour bus and the Duck Bus  (another tourist enterprise), four people killed, forty-four taken to hospitals. It’s clearly time for some good news and Ronald Bailey at the Reason Foundation supplies it, from their latest magazine.

Paul Erlich, notorious spreader of gloom and doom, was deeply concerned with overpopulation, along with his wife biologist Anne Erlich in the March 2013 Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Not only overpopulation, but overconsumption of natural resources, but “global toxification” which has “exposed the human population to myriad subtle poisons.

Hasn’t happened, for the greening of the earth caused by the natural fertilization of plants from increased amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere means more food. Fewer people across the world are going hungry.

Most people think that the risk of dying from cancer is going up because of chemicals and pollution, but even as the number of man-made chemicals has increased, your risk of dying from cancer has been decreasing for more than 40 years. Age-adjusted rates of cancer have been dropping largely because fewer people are smoking,  more Americans are having colonoscopies, and cancers are being diagnosed and treated earlier.

The overall incidence of cancer has been falling by about 0.6 percent a year. Modern medicine has increased the five-year survival rates of cancer patients from 50 percent in the 1970s to 68 percent today. That means that in recent years about 100,000 people each year who would have died are alive today.

Although President George W. Bush has been widely criticized for the Medicare Drug program because of the program’s cost, it has saved a lot of lives by getting needed medications to seniors at prices they could afford. It is the only program that came in at less than the estimated cost because of the “donut hole” incentive that encouraged seniors to use generics when they were as effective as more expensive brand-name medicines. Democrats, who simply do not understand incentives, eliminated the incentive, so costs are higher now.

The Erlichs are still going on about overpopulation and shortage of food, but in most societies women with more education have fewer children. Given current age, sex and education trends world population will most likely peak at 9.6 billion by 2070 and then begin falling. If education levels are pursued more aggressively, would population could top out at 8.9 billion in 2060 before starting to drop. Increased economic opportunities, more education, longer lives, more liberty are all trends that reinforce each other and accelerate the trend of falling global fertility.

In 1950 the average yield in the U.S. for a acre of corn was 51 bushels which would support 5 people for a year.  Today, the yield from an acre of corn is 166 bushels that would supply enough calories to support 16 people for a year. (Since we are a rich country, we’re putting a lot of it in our gas tanks) In India the average is 42 bushels that would support 4 people and in Africa, the yield is an average 32 bushels per acre per year to feed just 3 people. With lots of room for improvement.

Much of the increase in our food supply can be attributed to advances in biotech crops.

The board of directors of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) the largest scientific organization in the United States has, on October 20, 2012 point-blank asserted that “contrary to popular misconceptions, GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply. There are occasional claims that feeding GM foods to animals causes aberrations ranging from digestive disorders, to sterility tumors and premature death. Although such claims are often sensationalized and receive a great deal of media attention, none have stood up to rigorous scientific scrutiny.” The AAAS board concluded, “indeed, the science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe.”

The entire article is here, and offers some positive news for those who follow the IPPC’s version of fear about global warming as well.

We still have our worries about the economy, national security, wars and trials and tribulations, education, and the general messed-up state of humanity, but really, there is good news.

Obama Went to Alaska to See a Glacier, Make a Speech, And Talk a Lot of Nonsense. by The Elephant's Child

www.usnews.comPresident Obama likes to make a speech or two in appropriate places to give him a little more authenticity for whatever program he is pitching. In this case, there was a Conference on Global Leadership on the Arctic, in Anchorage. As a sign of  the importance the United States placed on the Alaska forum, the president attended.  He used the conference as a platform to urge swifter action to combat climate change.

Our understanding of climate change advances each day.  Human activity is disrupting the climate, in many ways faster than we previously thought.  The science is stark.  It is sharpening.  It proves that this once-distant threat is now very much in the present.

In fact, the Arctic is the leading edge of climate change — our leading indicator of what the entire planet faces.  Arctic temperatures are rising about twice as fast as the global average.  Over the past 60 years, Alaska has warmed about twice as fast as the rest of the United States.  Last year was Alaska’s warmest year on record — just as it was for the rest of the world.  And the impacts here are very real.

Thawing permafrost destabilizes the earth on which 100,000 Alaskans live, threatening homes, damaging transportation and energy infrastructure, which could cost billions of dollars to fix.

The president is an ideologue, and he knows many things that just aren’t so. The globe is actually cooling. Arctic ice is growing and has been in greater extent this year than last, as has Antarctic ice. There has been no warming at all for the last 18 years. There is no such thing as “carbon pollution.” He referred to our forest fires here in Eastern Washington, and said “even the rainforest is on fire.” Oh?

They had a big signing ceremony affirming “our commitment to take urgent action to slow the pace of warming in the Arctic.” But Russia, China and India refused to sign. A bit embarrassing.

Obama added:

“If we do nothing, Alaskan temperatures are projected to rise between six and twelve degrees by the end of the century ”

Climate politics, a religion, is one thing, climate science is something quite different. It’s actually expected to get somewhat colder.

Obama also announced that he is changing the name of Mt. McKinley to Denali, the Inuit name for the mountain. He really has no authority to do so. The name of the mountain was created by an act of Congress, and can be re-named the same way. The president is feeling cocky, and intent on overruling Congress at every opportunity.


Is the Left Stealing the Coal Industry? No Morals Or Honor? by The Elephant's Child

I’m not particularly interested in conspiracies. I do my share of speculating about cause and results, but in general I want evidence, trusted sources, and some kind of proof. But I found this particular post from Tom Lifson at American Thinker intriguing.

Now comes the shocking news, via Steve Milloy writing on Breitbart, that following President Obama’s use of CO2 emissions as a weapon to drive major coal companies near bankruptcy, the ultimate politically connected speculator George Soros is buying up stock in major coal producers on the cheap.

I predicted in this column last week that the left wasn’t going to kill off the coal industry so much as it was going to steal it. That prediction is already becoming true courtesy of billionaire George Soros.

U.S. Securities and Exchange Act filings indicate that Soros has purchased an initial 1 million shares of Peabody Energy and 553,200 shares of Arch Coal, the two largest publicly traded U.S. coal companies. As pointed out last week, both companies have been driven perilously close to bankruptcy by the combination of President Obama’s “war on coal” and inexpensive natural gas brought on by the hydrofracturing revolution.

Well, isn’t that interesting. Are Democrats just fixated on doing what they want, and never mind the law or propriety? It would seem so. The same George Soros apparently paid protesters from Ferguson to go to Baltimore and try to stir up trouble — at least according to the protesters who were complaining about not getting paid. Al Gore has used Global Warming to amass a fortune, yet does not observe any of the rules that he espouses to save energy himself. Tom Steyer made his fortune in oil and natural gas, and now tries to manipulate federal policy to stop the Keystone pipeline. Lots of conspiracy material.

The Clean Power Plan Is Not So Clean by The Elephant's Child

blobPresident Obama is embarked on his Clean Power Plan, in an effort to fulfill the last of his campaign promises, and put in place some kind of legacy — so he has something to put into the billion dollar presidential library he is planning.

You remember the megalomaniacial claim — “this was the moment when we began to provide care for the sick and good jobs to the jobless; this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal; this was the moment when we ended a war and secured our nation and restored our image as the last, best hope on Earth.” It just hasn’t gone well. Health Care costs are spiraling out of control, we are in the most sluggish recovery ever, millions have just dropped out of the job market.  The oceans rise only in millimeters, not the feet that Obama seems to fear.

The Clean Power Plan is one of the most controversial mandates ever to be attempted. The EPA has received over 1.6 million comments on the proposed rule which attempts to reduce CO2 emissions from conventional power plants by 30 percent from 2005 levels by 2030. But the American power sector’s CO2 emissions are now at their lowest level since 1988, and this is with a larger population and increase energy use. In 1988 we had a population of 245 million,  today there are 319 million energy consumers. Roughly 50 percent more electricity is generated, yet emission levels are low.

So will the Clean Power Plan have a significant impact on global carbon dioxide emissions? No. The expected reductions in emissions would reduce global temperatures by about 0.03 degrees Celsius by 2100. An analysis of the proposed ruling by NERA Economic Consulting estimated that the Clean Power Plan could cost the electric sector between $41 billion and $73 billion per year, and accomplish nothing, nothing at all.

The Reason Foundation takes on the Clean Power Plan’s main claims and finds them wanting. The White House claims that the plan will “Save the average American family nearly $85 on their annual energy ill in 2030, reducing enough energy to power 30 million homes, and save consumers a total of $155 billion from 2020 -2030.”Sounds like a lot like the expectations for ObamaCare. In reality, Reason says, the rule will almost certainly spend more in total on energy and energy saving devices than without the rule. Do read the whole thing, it’s a significant debunking.

Britain, Canada and Australia are all cutting back on subsidies for renewables, as is Germany as well. Spain ended their subsidies some time ago.

Anthony Watts at wattsupwiththat writes about a report “exposing coordination between Governors, the Obama White House and the Tom Steyer-“Founded and Funded” network of advocacy groups to advance the “climate” agenda, revealing a vast, coordinated, three track effort by public officials and private interests to promote EPA’s expansive, overreaching and economically devastating greenhouse gas rules, specifically the section 111(d) regulation to shut the nation’s fleet of existing coal-fired power plants, as well as the December Paris climate treaty President Obama is expected to sign to replace the Kyoto Protocol.”

The exposé details a campaign to use public offices, in very close collaboration with wealthy benefactors, to advance and defend President Obama’s climate change regulatory and treaty agenda. This quasi-governmental campaign involves more than a dozen governors’ offices with a parallel advocacy network and political operation funded and staffed by activists paid through ideologically and politically motivated donors.

So there you go. In spite of the attractive sounding name, the Clean Power Plan is just not what it is cracked up to be. It has been suggested that the States can just refuse to go along.

Thanks, Obama! U.S. Drops to Number 20 In The Human Freedom Index. by The Elephant's Child
August 21, 2015, 8:20 pm
Filed under: Bureaucracy, Capitalism, Environment, Freedom, Health Care, Progressivism, Regulation, Taxes

The Cato Institute, the Libertarian think-tank, publishes an annual Human Freedom Index, ranking 152 countries in the world according to the level of liberty enjoyed by its citizens.

The index represents a broad measure of human freedom. which can be understood as the absence of coercive constraint. It uses 76 distinct indicators of personal and economic freedom in these areas:

Rule of Law
Security and Safety
Association, Assembly, and Civil Society
Size of Government
Legal System and Property Rights
Access to Sound Money
Freedom to Trade Internationally
Regulation of Credit, Labor, and Business

This reflects the degree to which people enjoy the freedom to engage in voluntary exchange and enjoy major liberties such as freedom of speech, religion and association. Also measures freedom of movement, women’s freedoms, safety and security and the rule of law.

Hong Kong and Switzerland top the list, followed by Finland, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada, Australia, Ireland, United Kingdom, Sweden, Norway, Austria, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, Malta, Luxembourg, Chile, Mauritius —and finally, The United States at Number 20, followed by the Czech Republic, Estonia, Belgium, Taiwan and Portugal.

The U.S. was 17th in 2014. but think of EPA regulations, scheduled speakers disinvited, the government confiscating a big chunk of a raisin farmer’s crop, ObamaCare regulations, you might try tallying up the new constraints you have seen or felt. Swat teams breaking into the wrong house, Lois Lerner, the attack by the Left on anything connected to the South and it’s Civil War history. The attack on free speech has been not only notable, but widespread — things you cannot say. So we are at number 20 and declining. We talk a lot about the Left’s drive for increased regulation and increased control — and just look at where that’s got us!



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