Tag: Environmentalism

The Roads Must Roll

The thing that amazes me about the environmentalist movement is how easily they embrace what turn out to be terrible ideas. Not just ideas that are bad for the economy, but often ideas that bad for the environment. Corn ethanol. Food miles. CFC bulbs. Carbon offsets. Geo-engineering. Zero Population Growth policies. Plastic bag bans.

Well, we have a new one: solar roads. The idea is that we replace a road with solar panels secured underneath safety glass. And this will … something.

Coyote Blog has the rundown on a prototype solar road that is a fiscal nightmare:

In the US, we pay about 12 cents a KwH for electricity (the Dutch probably pay more). But at this rate, in 6 months, the solar sidewalk has generated… $360 of electricity. Double that for a year, and we get $720 of electricity a year.

How much did the sidewalk cost? The article doesn’t say. You will find this typical of wind and solar articles. If they quantify the installation cost, they will not quantify the value of power produced. If they quantify the power produced, they will never quantify the installation cost. This article says the installation cost was $3.5 million, though I suppose one should subtract from that the cost to build a similar length concrete bike path, but that can’t be more than $100,000 for 230 feet. They say they are getting 70kwh per year per square meter, which is $8.40 worth of electricity per square meter per year. Since regular solar panels – without all the special glass overlays and installation in the ground and inverters and wiring – cost about $150-$200 per square meter, you can see this is a horrible investment.

He points out, quite correctly, that a road is one of the stupidest ways you can deploy a solar panel. First of all, the panel is pointed straight up, instead of south toward the sun, cutting its efficiency. Second of all, you literally have things passing over it all day, blocking out the sunlight (and, I note, causing large sudden voltage changes that can’t be good for the electronics). And I would add that having two layers of safety glass means you are blocking out some of the light the solar panel needs to absorb. And it’s not clear that a solar road will either be as durable as a regular road or as safe as one (do you want to ride your bike on glass during winter?). And you’ll have to find a way to keep the glass clean or your efficiency will drop even further.

The argument in favor is that it replaces asphalt, which is an energy-intensive product. Fair enough. But solar panels don’t just fall from the sky. They are also energy-intensive to produce. And they are energy-intense to maintain and replace, especially if you have fucking cars driving over them. They also point out that replacing our roads with solar panels (at a cost of about $50 trillion) would provide a enough energy to power the entire country since we have a huge number of roads. Again, fair enough. But lack of space isn’t the biggest problem with solar power right now. Energy storage is. They also make pie-in-the-sky claims that solar roads can power illumination at night or melt snow during winter. But that again gets into energy storage issue. I’m not sure how these road are supposed to collect enough energy to melt snow when they’re covered in … you know … snow.

Solar panels on roofs are a shaky enough prospect. I think they are gradually getting more feasible but are still hung up on the energy storage problem (and no, giant lithium ion batteries are not a solution). But putting solar panels in roads has to be one of the dumber ideas yet to emerge from the green mind. And yet a startup in the US has raised over $2 million for this nonsense.

Nazca Attack

Dear Greenpeace: I accept the reality of climate change. I think environmental protection is important. So understand where I’m coming from when I tell you to fuck off:

Peru says it will sue activists from the environmental pressure group Greenpeace after they placed a banner next to the Nazca Lines heritage site.

The activists entered a restricted area next to the ancient ground markings depicting a hummingbird and laid down letters advocating renewable energy.

Peru is currently hosting the UN climate summit in its capital, Lima.

A Greenpeace spokeswoman said the group was investigating but its activists had been “absolutely careful”.

Like hell they were. First of all, Greenpeace and other environmental radicals have made it abundantly clear that they have no regard for anything created by humans. If they thought it would save an endangered snail, they’d raze the Pyramids tomorrow. Second, you can check out video of Greenpeace activists bumbling around the Nazca site. Their smug self-satisfaction will radiate through your computer. And the Nazca lines are the sort of thing you have to be careful about:

[Peruvian Deputy Cultural Minister] said the Nazca Lines, which are an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 years old, were “absolutely fragile”.

“You walk there and the footprint is going to last hundreds or thousands of years,” he said.

The Nazca lines are delicate, created by the removal of pebbles to expose the lighter soil beneath. Simply walking around the site can destroy a 1500 year old monument. If radical Muslims did this — as they did Bamiyan or in Timbuktu — we’d call it an act of terrorism.

Greenpeace has issued one of the standard garbage “we’re sorry you were offended” non-apologies and are saying they will “take responsibility” for any damage. Good. I can think of no better way of taking responsibility than going to prison.

And just a reminder that Greenpeace is not some impoverished grassroots org:

Did this embattled scrappy activist group have no other means to get their message out other than casual vandalism of a historical site and the accompanying “earned media”? Guess not with their meager total assets, according to their financial reports for 2013, of just 54 million euros.

Organizations like Greenpeace are, by far, the biggest impediment in environmental policy. For all the “evil oil money” out there, nothing turns people off of climate policy faster than the rabid anti-capitalism and mindless destructive stunts of organizations like Greenpeace. Forty years ago, when Lake Erie was almost dead and the Cuyahoga caught fire, there was a need for environmentalist organizations. There isn’t any more. Everyone supports a clean environment, with their actions and with their votes. The Western world is cleaner and healthier than it has been in centuries. So what we’re left with is “evaporative cooling” where mainstream sensible environmentalists like Patrick Moore have left the environmental orgs and they’re left with radical watermelons who pull stupid stunts like marring a world treasure.

Go away, guys. We’ve got this.

Post-Memorial Day Quick Hits

My browers tabs are filling up faster than I can empty them. So here are some quick reads going into this week:

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George Will has a great piece on the Presidential candidate we need. The problem is that we’ve had people run like that. They don’t get as far as someone promising the American people the world for free.

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Bjorn Lomborg reminds us that Paul Ehrlich is a pathologically wrong doomsayer. We should continue to ignore anything he says.

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More on Operation Chokepoint. Money quote:

The ability to destroy legal industries through secret actions to deprive them of banking services has obvious political consequences. For example, it was reported last week that firearms shops are alleging that Operation Choke Point is being used to pressure banks into refusing to providing financial services. There are also reports that porn stars (and here) have had their bank accounts terminated for “moral” reasons related to the “reputation risk” of banking individuals in the porn industry. IRS officials must already be salivating about ways to apply Operation Choke Point to tea party groups.

In principle, of course, the logic of Operation Choke Point could be extended to groups not currently targeted. Notably absent from the FDIC’s hit list, for example, are abortion clinics, radical environmental groups, or, well, marijuana shops, for that matter. Something similar was done to cut off credit-card payments to support the operation of WikiLeaks.

The larger legal and regulatory issue here is the expansive use of the vague and subjective standard of “reputation risk” to target these industries. In a letter to Janet Yellen, the chair of the Federal Reserve, last week, House Financial Services Committee Chairman Jeb Hensarling expressed concern over the growing use of “reputation risk” as a vehicle for attacking legal businesses. Is there any discernible principle as to why, for example, a payday lender or firearms dealer poses a “reputation risk” and an abortion provider does not?

Nope.

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The White House has either deliberately or mistakenly outed the CIA’s top officer in Kabul. I was virtually alone on this blog in supporting to pursuit of the Valerie Plame affair. This should be pursued with similar fervor.

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One final thought. Over the weekend, we had a horrible mass killing in California by a 22-year-old. There was a lot at play here: clear mental issues and violent tendencies, social emotional and sexual isolation, an attitude of entitlement and narcissism. And it exploded in seven deaths.

I don’t know that this could have prevented. But I would like, just once, for the Left Wing in this country to not to bathe in the blood of the slain every time this happens. Mass shooting are thankfully rare, despite the mathematically-challenged efforts of rags like Mother Jones to convince us otherwise. They constitute a tiny portion of the violence in this country. This kid stabbed three people to death, tried to run over others with his car and then shot a few more. In doing so, he used small arms with low-capacity magazines purchased in compliance with California’s strict gun control laws. This isn’t about gun control. Nor is it about Men’s Right or Pick-Up Artists or whatever other group of men you want to demonize. This isn’t about finding some group you’ve never liked and pinning this on them. This is about a deranged adult with severe issues and an unrelenting anger against women (and men, for that matter) who did something unspeakably evil.

Just for once, could we wait maybe a few hours before people start grinding whatever political ax they want to grind? Men’s rights, pick-up artists, gun rights, sexual harassment, men who feel “entitled to sex … come on. There are a couple of hundred million gun owners in this country. There are millions of men who have some sort of resentment toward women (and virtually all have gone through some stage where they were bitter about their relation with the fair sex). There are tens of millions who are sexually, romantically or socially frustrated. There are tens of millions who have untreated mental health issues. You know how many of them went on a murder spree this weekend? One.

In a nation of 3000 million people, there are inevitably going to be people where the right alchemy of mental illness, resentment, anger and lack of empathy will come together to produce this sort of thing. Sometimes they are caught before they happen; sometimes they aren’t. Blaming groups of millions of people for the actions of one is just stupid.

Cut it the fuck out.

Price the Rhino, Save the Rhino

One of the best things I saw on my trip to Disney last week was the safari at Animal Kingdom. Sal 11000 Beta, like most kids, loves animals and zoos and she was fascinated to watch them roam around without enclosures. Animal kingdom has a white rhino and a black rhino, both of which been tragically hunted near to the point of extinction.

But that may be about to change:

South Africa, where 75 percent of the world’s rhinos live, is also at the forefront of a counterintuitive move to legalize the rhino horn trade. If adopted, the new policy would promote safer rhino-horn farming: rhinos could be sedated while parts of their horns were cut off, and then the horns would grow back. A team of Australian conservationists signed on to the idea in March. As Kevin Charles Redmon explained at the time on Pacific Standard, lifting a trade ban would ideally increase the supply and lower the price, and thereby lower the incentive for poachers to slaughter the animals.

Legalization remains highly controversial among animal rights activists and wildlife conservationists. The World Wildlife Fund, the Environmental Investigation Agency, and the International Fund for Animal Welfare have all been critical of the idea. What if lifting the ban increases demand, as it did in fact following similar, previous experiments with the ivory market? Or what if a legal trade simply establishes a parallel but separate market, while illegal (whole) rhino horns and heads continue to sell underground?

My worry is that the rhino horn sale will go the same way as the elephant tusk sale — a one-off attempt to “flood the market” that simply increases demand. What they need to do is to establish a legal ongoing trade in rhino horn, with private or public/private ownership of the rhinos that will provide both the financial incentive and the financial resources to crack down on poaching.

Look, we use a lot of animals for food, for clothing, for medicine, for whatever. But the cow is not in danger of being extinct. The reason is because people own herds of cows, governments protect their rights to those cows and all of the incentives are aligned toward keeping the population of cows abundant. When you have a species that is useful to humans but is not protected by the firewall of ownership, capitalism and rule of law, the result is a stampede of people who care about grabbing everything around them rather than building a sustainable ongoing market. The bison was hunted near to extinction because no one really gave a shit.

I know the environmentalist don’ts like the idea of people owning magnificent wild animals like rhinos. But as P.J. O’Rourke pointed out, when you claim that something is “priceless” you are literally, as the word says, depriving it of value. Right now, people only protect rhinos out of the goodness of their hearts. That is rarely an effective defense against the reckless greed that makes people kill rhinos and rip out their horns.

Create a market for rhinos, create legal ownership of rhinos and use the power of the state to protect those interests. Then you align the interests toward growing the “herds”. Maybe it won’t be enough to save the rhino. Maybe it will create a market that drives their eventual extinction. But it has a better chance of working than simply hoping against hope that the world wises up.

Dirtbags

Oh, savor the irony:

Recently, many jurisdictions have implemented bans or imposed taxes upon plastic grocery bags on environmental grounds. San Francisco County was the first major US jurisdiction to enact such a regulation, implementing a ban in 2007. There is evidence, however, that reusable grocery bags, a common substitute for plastic bags, contain potentially harmful bacteria. We examine emergency room admissions related to these bacteria in the wake of the San Francisco ban. We find that ER visits spiked when the ban went into effect. Relative to other counties, ER admissions increase by at least one fourth, and deaths exhibit a similar increase.

Now it’s just one study. But no one can pretend to be surprised by this. You see, there is a reason people do the things they do. This is something the environmentalists have never understood. People don’t do “bad” environmental things because they hate cute little fishies; they do it because it’s the least bad option facing them. So environmentalists, for example, ban styrofoam cups in favor of paper cups and then are shocked when it turns out paper cups cost more energy to produce and create more waste. They go on about food miles and then are blindsided when it turns out that flying in your lamb from New Zealand is better for the environment than growing it locally.

People dispose of grocery bags for a reason: to get rid of the dirt, bacteria, blood, etc. that comes off of raw food. This problem can be overcome by washing reusable bags. But … that cuts into the supposed environmental benefit. If you wash it every time, it would taken hundreds of uses before a reusable bag would match the environmental impact of a plastic bag.

This lacuna in environmental thinking — the assumption that their opponents are motivated by either malice or a lack of concern — is the biggest problem the environmentalists have right now. And the people getting sick and getting killed by reusable bags is just the latest iteration of this idiocy.

Mind the Algae

Yuck:

Less than a month after reopening, the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool is full of algae, a sea of green overshadowing the nearly two-year, $34 million renovation of the famous site.

The National Park Service anticipated a “break-in period” in which problems would need to be addressed, spokeswoman Carol Johnson said, but no one expected the amount of algae that is there now.

The reason this is happening? It’s a green project that uses tidal basin water instead of tap water. The greens never do seem to cotton onto to the idea that there’s usually a reason why we do things the way we do.

Earth Day

Is it Earth Day again? I was planning to be in DC on unrelated business today, but I’m just as glad I missed it this time. I was in the DC area a couple of years ago and found the Earth Day protesters to be loud, uninformed and a bit silly. And the mess they left behind afterward was ridiculous.

I don’t want to rehash The Topic for the moment. But I will say this. People who are legitimately concerned about the environment are not marching on the mall today or backing an ill-informed anti-corporate agenda. They are in labs and offices all over this country, inventing new sources of energy and new ways to do old things with less mess, less energy and better results. Don Boudreaux has an entire series called “Cleaned by Capitalism” detailing how the free market has made our world cleaner and healthier. Occasionally, some guidance is needed from government — companies weren’t going to stop using lead out of the goodness of their heart. But mostly this happens because we the consumer demand a cleaner world.

If you want to know the kind of world the collectivists would leave us, read up on the environmental disaster that was the Soviet Union — Chernobyl, the Mayak explosion, Lake Karachay, the Aral Sea, the entire western portion of the Czech Republic. Hell, look at China right now. Even the beloved welfare states of Europe, for all their faults and the billions they’ve burned on cap and trade, have refused to embrace the anti-capitalism, anti-corporate bandwagon.

If we ever develop an energy technology that can replace fossil fuels, we won’t need a government mandate to get billions to stampede to it. Cleaner cars and energy-efficient computers don’t need laws; they are already wildly popular. We the consumers do not object to a clean, sustainable planet; we love it. What we object to is a bunch of people who take it upon themselves to command and control society, thinking they have the knowledge and wisdom to guide us to a smarter greener future. They have been consistently foolishly ridiculously wrong again and again. And all the marches and protest signs in the world aren’t going to change that.