Thursday, April 22, 2010

Earth Day round up

Some items of interest:

The Wall Street Journal:
Green Energy Rush Hit by Headwinds

A phalanx of sleek white windmills, rising nearly 400 feet out of the North Sea, is just the start of one of the world's most audacious green-energy programs.

The turbines are part of a project expected to be the world's largest offshore wind farm when it is completed later this year. But only for a while, because it's a prelude to something much bigger. In a few years, its developer, Swedish energy company Vattenfall AB, plans to start a new project farther offshore, in deeper waters, with turbines as tall as London's 580-foot Gherkin skyscraper.

Just one problem: Vattenfall has no idea how it's going to build it. "The equipment we need to operate in such rough waters doesn't exist yet," says Ole Bigum Nielsen, the project manager.
New Energy Powers Up Lobbying

Alternative energy used to be just a speed bump on K Street.

In 1998, the entire sector spent only $2.4 million lobbying the federal government, compared with $142 million spent by the oil and gas, electrical utilities and mining industries, according to the Center for Responsive Politics, a nonpartisan group that tracks political spending.

A little more than a decade later, the advocacy class for wind, solar, ethanol and a host of other alternative and renewable energy sources is growing exponentially — much as the sector hopes its market share will in the coming decades. In 2009, alternative energy spent $30 million on lobbying, 12 times its 1998 amount.
Washington Examiner:
Too Much Green? Millions Spent on Recycling
Governments across the Washington region spend millions of dollars on recycling each year, but national recycling experts say a lot of that taxpayer cash is going to waste.

Maryland, Virginia and the District require residents and businesses to recycle, and localities pay millions of dollars to enforce those laws and hit recycling targets.

But some national recycling experts have begun calling for government restraint in trash recycling, which can be more costly and environmentally damaging than dumping.
Bjorn Lomborg:
Earth Day: Smile, Don't Shudder

Given all the talk of impending catastrophe, this may come as a surprise, but as we approach the 40th anniversary of the first Earth Day, people who care about the environment actually have a lot to celebrate. Of course, that's not how the organizers of Earth Day 2010 see it. In their view (to quote a recent online call to arms), "The world is in greater peril than ever." But consider this: In virtually every developed country, the air is more breathable and the water is more drinkable than it was in 1970. In most of the First World, deforestation has turned to reforestation. Moreover, the percentage of malnutrition has been reduced, and ever-more people have access to clean water and sanitation.

Apocalyptic predictions from concerned environmental activists are nothing new. Until about 10 years ago, I took it for granted that these predictions were sound. Like many of us, I believed that the world was in a terrible state that was only getting worse with each passing day. My thinking changed only when, as a university lecturer, I set out with my students to disprove what I regarded at the time as the far-fetched notion that global environmental conditions were actually improving.

To our surprise, the data showed us that many key environmental measures were indeed getting better. We also found a disturbing gulf between the chief concerns of rich countries and the problems that actually do the most damage to the world.
David Boaz:
Ms. Weaver Goes to Washington

Today in Washington: actress Sigourney Weaver testifies before the Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries, and Coast Guard of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee on the topic of ocean acidification. Because, you know, she played an environmental scientist in Avatar. It’s the best fit since Jane Fonda, Jessica Lange, and Sissy Spacek — all of whom had played farm women — testified on America’s agricultural crisis.

Congress doesn’t have time to vote on presidential nominations. It doesn’t bother engaging in serious oversight of presidential power and civil liberties abuses. It looks at the ceiling and whistles as the national debt approaches Greek levels. But members of Congress have time to listen to an actress discuss the topic of ocean acidification.

This seems like a topic for “Really!?! with Seth and Amy” on Saturday Night Live. Really, Senate Commerce Committee? You think Sigourney Weaver has important information that you need to know? Really? And you’re not just doing this to get yourselves on television? Really!?! And you think the most important thing members of Congress could be doing today is getting their pictures taken with Sigourney Weaver? Really!?!

Laura Huggins:
Earth Day: 40 Years of Imminent Catastrophe

On this 40th anniversary of Earth Day, prepare to be bombarded with apocalyptic tales of disaster. But don't let the gloom-and-doom-fest get you down. Odds are the doomsters will be wrong.

To help "celebrate" the first Earth Day in 1970, biologist Barry Commoner wrote, "We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation."

In a speech at Swarthmore College that year, ecologist Kenneth Watt said, "If present trends continue, the world will be about 4 degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but 11 degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age." And a New York Times editorial proclaimed: "Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction."

Time has not been gentle with these prophecies. Four decades later, the world hasn't come to an end. Most measures of human welfare show the Earth's population is better off today than at any other time in human history. Life expectancy is increasing, per-capita income is rising, and the air we breathe and the water we drink are cleaner. And, of course, concerns about climate change have shifted from cooling to warming.
Lastly, is it any coincidence that Earth Day falls on Lenin's birthday?

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