“We buy organic food, put E10 in our gas tanks and switch to green electricity. Our roofs are covered in solar panels and our walls plastered with insulation. This makes us feel good about ourselves. The only question is: What exactly does the environment get out of all this?”
Der Spiegels’ Alexander Neubacher says: not much at all.
I have a more than 20-year history with Germany dating to about 1988, back when toxic chemicals in Germany meant nerve gas or sarin. From my perspective as a sometime resident of Deutschland for about six of those twenty years, there has been a real evolution (apparently the word of the week) of thought about the environment there.
Twenty years ago consumers sent everything out to the recycling bins. They still do. Twenty years ago some of the things they brought to their recycling centers just accumulated; it wasn’t economically feasible to recycle things like plastics. Twenty years later they no longer accumulate, but it still isn’t feasible:
My yoghurt container, which I’ve carefully rinsed and sorted, isn’t recycled at all. In fact, it’s dumped into an incinerator with all the rest of the garbage and burned.
Yes, this is allowed. By law, the dual system is required to recycle exactly 36 percent of plastic waste. Waste disposal companies can do what they want — and what is most cost-effective for them — with the remaining 64 percent. As a result, much of it ends up in waste incinerators for what’s called “thermal recycling,” bringing the cycle to a sudden end.
The economics there aren’t any different than they are here: except for aluminum, glass, and paper, recycling most waste materials doesn’t make sense. When I was in Germany, I did what I was supposed to do. In America I do what makes sense; we have three recycle bins in our pantry for only those materials.
Water is another interesting environmental bugaboo for Germans. I’ve lived in places where water is in short supply and comes therefore with a high cost: Texas, the Mojave Desert, Kuwait, Iraq. There you learn how to conserve water. Thirty-second showers are necessary when you live in the driest deserts. Germany is not that kind of place. Water is abundant; so it surprises me that so many Germans strive to save H2O. You’re not even allowed to wash your own car. In a land blessed with frequent rain throughout the year, saving water makes as much sense as eating your vegetables in Kansas because there are starving children in Africa. It’s a national non sequitur.
Speaking of rain . . . because it rains so often, and because it is so far north, I was surprised to find so many solar panels when I returned to Germany in 2010 after a 15-year absence. Frankfurt is further north than Winnipeg. It’s not exactly Phoenix, and even there–in the desert southwest with more than 300 sun-filled days a year, solar still isn’t economical. Plus, houses covered in dysfunctional black panels happen to be ugly as sin, which is quite the shame in a land whose villages were formerly celebrated for houses festooned with red tile roofs. Visual pollution is on the rise, unfortunately not counterbalanced by much solar power.
My latest time in Germany made me think that environmentalism there is less about saving the planet than it is about making Germans feel good about themselves. Apparently I’m not alone in that thought. So let me leave the last word to Herr Neubacher:
It would be nice if we would occasionally subject our certainties to a reality check. . . No one should be forced to bring toxic mercury-containing light bulbs into the house. It doesn’t make sense to shut down more nuclear power plants if it just makes us dependent on imported nuclear electricity from France. And as long as a disposal paper bag is worse for the environment than a plastic bag, the green morals police should think about whether it’s the plastic bag that they should be banning.
People who shop in organic grocery stores, eat a vegan diet or drive an electric car are free to do so. But this should not give them the right to lecture others on the environmentally correct way to live their lives. Things are sometimes more complicated than they seem at first glance.
(ht: Ed at Insty’s Place and Kate)
| Category: 2012
, 2nd Amendment
, Taxes & Spending
| Posted at: Thursday, 10 May 2012
I suppose I ought to say something about President Obama’s flip-flop on gay marriage. Instead, I’ll tell you what I wish Mitt Romney had said when he was asked about the President’s stance:
“That’s nice; now what about jobs?“
In fact, that should be Mitt Romney’s response every time he is asked about gay marriage, immigration, guns, Trayvon Martin, global warming, eating dogs . . .
Pretty much everything except the economy, taxes, and spending is a distraction from the issues that are really important. Mitt Romney should drive the point home that everything else is secondary and frivolous and that he is not going to allow the debate to come off that point.
P.S. If you’re really interested in what I think about gay marriage, here’s a couple recent posts that shed some light on that. But rather than expect you to read them, here’s a two-word summation: Don’t care.
MORE: Roger Simon concurs and offers a warning:
“The issue is a sideshow intended to distract. If our country goes the way of Greece – and writing this from the City of Los Angeles, it’s not so hard to imagine – you can forget any issue, whatever your favorite one is. You won’t be living in America anymore.”
UPDATE: Thanks to Ed at Insty’s Place for the links. While you’re here, this is a story that’s not directly about jobs, but I bring it around to that point: She deserves pity, not a punch in the throat. (There’s a bonus Blazing Saddles clip at the end.)
The Chinese government has ordered its international air carriers to refuse to pay a European Union “global warming” tax. The subtext of this decision is a strong message to an EU on the verge of bankruptcy and oblivion:
“You need us more than we need you.”
Expect the EU to cave. Expect also to see more of this as China converts its economic might into geopolitical strength.
Paul Krugman looks at yesterday’s 512 point drop in the Dow and recognizes that,
“To turn this [economomic] disaster around, a lot of people are going to have to admit, to themselves at least, that they’ve been wrong and need to change their priorities, right away.”
When I read that, there was just the tiniest inkling of a glimmer of a shred of hope in the back of my mind that the next words from Krugman’s pen were going to be a mea culpa. How silly of me.
“Of course, some players won’t change. Republicans won’t stop screaming about the deficit because they weren’t sincere in the first place: Their deficit hawkery was a club with which to beat their political opponents, nothing more — as became obvious whenever any rise in taxes on the rich was suggested. And they’re not going to give up that club.”
Republicans, apparently, are at fault for the last two years of a faux recovery even while “the Obama administration [has] insisted that the economy was on the mend.” That’s because during those two years, while Republicans hadn’t held the Presidency, hadn’t led the Senate, and hadn’t controlled the House except for a mere six months, the GOP nonetheless failed to stop Democrats from doing even more of what they were doing. This is likely the first time in American political history that a pundit supporting the majority party has attempted to blame the minority for failing to stop them.
Not content to blame the impotent for their powerlessness, Krugman claims that Ron Paul is at fault for “intimidating” Ben Bernanke. Ron Paul? Really? If there is any one long-serving member of Congress who has sponsored less successful legislation than Dennis Kucinich, it is Ron Paul. Oh, and by the way, Ron Paul doesn’t want to intimidate the Fed; he wants to eliminate the Fed. You’ll notice, that hasn’t happened, so I’m not sure what Krugman’s point is.
Actually, I do know what Paul Krugman’s point is. He’s right about the fact that “some players won’t change.” He and his coterie of hyper-Keynesian Democrats are those players who won’t change their methods even while the economy worsens on their watch. And he’s desperately afraid that you might notice.
Don Surber adds more pithily: “Krugman: the failure of my ideas proves I was right.”
And on the other side, Steve Benen at the Washington Monthly adds this:
Under ideal circumstances, President Obama would come up with an economic plan and execute it. If the agenda succeeded, he’d get the credit. If it faltered, Republicans would call him on it. Voters could evaluate the results and decide whether to keep the president around or go back to GOP economic policies.”
Ummm . . . Dude, that’s exactly what happened. Remember the $787 billion stimulus that, if not enacted would mean that unemployment could go as high as 8 percent? That was the president’s economic plan, developed while he was still President-elect. Fresh off his inauguration high, Obama got exactly what he wanted. That voters will “evaluate the results and decide whether to keep the president around or go back to GOP economic policies” is exactly what is going to happen.
Let me make a prediction that Krugman and Benen fear in their hearts is probably true: If unemployment is still in the 9% range, Stephen Green can throw away his battleground states map. When the national electorate moves 6 to 10 points, the battleground states aren’t what you’re accustomed to. Instead, the question will be, could it get even worse for Democrats than this map?
A Defense Department analyst who authored a report critical of a controversial multi-billion dollar weapon system, alleged that his analysis was ”buried” by senior DoD officials on the eve of a crucial Congressional vote to authorize funding for the new program.
Alan Carlin, an economist for nearly two decades with the Office of the Secretary of the Army, wrote a 95-page internal study this past spring that found that the planned weapon offered little–if any–improvement over existing platforms, was based on shaky science and immature technologies, and did so at a cost more than twenty times that of the weapon it is intended to replace. Knowledge of Carlin’s report might have swayed the close Congressional vote last week when the House of Representatives approved funding of the new program by a mere eight votes amidst a storm of protest.
According to internal emails, after Carlin produced his study he was “forcibly reassigned” to a different department and ordered not to discuss his findings. The emails only came to light pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act request by a defense watchdog organization.
In a written statement, Senator Coburn (R-OK) lambasted Army officials, in addition to many of his own colleagues, whom he says are “actively seeking to withhold new data in order to justify an unaffordable and unworkable pork barrel project.”
You would think that a story like this should deserve to break through the relentless onslaught of Michael Jackson coverage. That it does not just goes to show how much power the military-industrial complex has over Congress and the mainstream media.
| Category: Environment
| Posted at: Wednesday, 8 April 2009
Einstein once said that if he had an hour to save the world, he would spend the first 55 minutes trying to define the problem and only five minutes on the solution. So let’s look at global warming within that framework.
Is manmade global warming a problem? Not necessarily. If the climate is warming due to completely natural causes there might still be cause for concern. An analogy might help to explain. If the International Space Station were to fall out of the sky and head straight for Manhattan, should we be more or less alarmed about that than we would be if it were a similar sized meteor on the same trajectory? If my friends and family are incinerated beneath a fiery comet, I don’t think my reaction is going to be any different if they died of “natural” causes. After all, we take enormous precautions against hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and other naturally-occurring catastrophes. We should, therefore, be just as concerned about the possibility of global warming due to natural causes as we are to its anthropomorphic cousin.
So if man-made global warming isn’t the problem, what is? Is it simply that the globe might be warming? Again, not necessarily. One could certainly imagine that Canadian farmers might welcome a warmer environment. International trade might also benefit from the opening of more warm water ports in currently cold waters. Simply saying that the temperature of the earth might rise by x degrees tells us nothing about the problem. That’s just a condition. The problems, if there are any, are in the effects of that warming, and they must be compared against the benefits of any warming before we can really say whether or not there is a problem in the aggregate, or if there are only isolated problems that might require isolated mitigation strategies.
Further complicating the problem of global warming is the question of whether or not it is even occurring at all? Through the end of the last decade most evidence indicated a warming trend. Since 1998, however, there is evidence that the trend is in retreat. So could the whole issue be one of much ado about nothing?
Unfortunately, not all scientists heed Einstein’s advice to focus first and foremost on problem definition:
The president’s new science adviser said Wednesday that global warming is so dire, the Obama administration is discussing radical technologies to cool Earth’s air.
Those radical technologies under discussion include launching pollution into the upper atmosphere and creating artificial volcanoes. Those seem to be rather drastic measures to take against a problem that (a) might not be occurring, (b) might not be a problem, (c) might not be focused on the right problem, or (d) might create more problems of their own. All rhetoric aside, when it comes to global warming, we really don’t even understand the problem, much less whether or not it is “dire”.
I submit that the entire question of global warming needs to be considered in the context of these three simple questions:
1. Is global warming occurring?
2. Are global warming’s negative consequences worse than its positive ones?
3. Do proposed solutions remedy or mitigate the negative consequences without affecting the positive ones or creating more problems of their own?
Jumping straight into number 3 before we have sufficient evidence of the answer to the first question and a better understanding of the second, is akin to a cowboy who shoots first and asks questions later.
The quesitons outlined above offer a rational and scientific approach to the “problem” of global warming, and what actions (if any) to take. Science would be well advised to take such a scientific approach to problem solving.
| Category: Environment
| Posted at: Friday, 27 March 2009
As in, for one hour tomorrow night thousands of people around the world will demonstrate a dearth of common sense.
How am I participating? Exactly the way the World Wildlife Federation told me to:
“We are asking people to vote with their light switch,” said Dan Forman, a spokesman for World Wildlife Fund.
“For every light they turn off, it is in effect a vote for action on climate change.”
I had intended to ignore this inanity, political stunts being so vacuous and all. But now that I’ve been informed that this is an election, I have to vote. So I’m voting “no”. Or, in Forman’s words, I’m casting 70 votes against action on climate change. Since there are 70 light switches in our house and more than 250 individual light bulbs, that’s a total of more than 15,000 watts of light, more than enough to offset the savings of a small block of houses. (But still less than neighbor Al Gore uses just to find the bathroom in the middle of the night.)
So don’t worry. While you stumble through the blackness tomorrow night, Casa del Krumm will be your beacon of brilliance in a dark and ignorant world.
For the sake of argument let’s assume that there really is such a thing as anthropogenic global warming and that the burning of fossil fuels is a large contributor.
If government raises significant receipts from a high level of taxation on an undesirable activity, does not the government then become reliant on that activity even as it predictably declines under a punitive tax burden? In other words, is Cap and Trade the new cigarette tax?
What does government do after the undesirable activity falls or, in this case, moves offshore?
And if that isn’t bad enough, can we expect that government will do for out-of-work oil drillers, coal miners, and power plants exactly what it does for tobacco farmers hit by the higher tax? Subsidies.
The lead story above the fold in today’s Pittsburgh Tribune Review is about the fact that area gas prices haven’t fallen as quickly there as they have nationwide. Couple that story with Obama’s I’ll bankrupt the coal industry story and those aren’t very good stories for him in this region of a key state he has to win.
| Category: Environment
| Posted at: Monday, 20 October 2008
A British study found that disposable diapers are better for the environment than are old-fashioned cloth diapers. They’re a hell of a lot more convenient too.
But since the findings contradict global warming conventional wisdom, the government has sought to suppress the report and eliminate funding for further research of the subject.
The findings themselves are much less troubling than is the government’s censorious reaction to them.