Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Global Warming 'Realists' Meet in New York

Jack Dini
Livermore, CA

(From Hawaii Reporter March 11, 2009)

We’ve all heard about carbon dioxide and its effect on temperature world-wide. But have you heard that temperature increases first, then hundreds or more years later carbon dioxide levels rise? My guess is probably not. A children’s book with a mislabeled graph shows temperature following carbon dioxide; a leading science journal took over ten years to set the record straight; Al Gore blames carbon dioxide. Yet, there has been no temperature increase in the last nine years in spite of increasing carbon dioxide levels. Clearly, we need to find another culprit.

Earth isn’t the only heavenly body that’s been heating up. The polar ice caps on Mars are melting. Jupiter is developing a second giant red spot, an enormous hurricane-like storm thought to be the result of warming in our solar system. Neptune’s moon Triton has heated up significantly since 1989. Parts of its frozen nitrogen surface have begun melting and turning to gas. Even Pluto has warmed slightly in recent years if you can call -230C warmer than -233C. The question has been asked, is there something all these heavenly bodies have in common? Some one thing they all share that could be causing them to warm in unison, like a giant self-luminous ball of burning gas with a mass more than 300,000 times that of Earth and a core temperature of more than 20 million degrees C, that for the past century has been unusually powerful and active? Hmm- perhaps the Sun should be taking more of the blame for increasing temperatures in the entire solar system.

What about temperature measuring stations? When the Soviet Union was falling apart from 1989 to 1992 folks there didn’t much care about keeping temperature monitoring stations. Thousands were ignored and it’s important to note that many of these were in cold regions—think Siberia. Others around the world were closed at the same time. Could this have contributed to the world-wide temperature increases in the 1990s?

Here in the United States we aren’t that great about keeping our weather monitoring stations in proper order. Anthony Watts, and his team of volunteers, have been checking the condition and placement of weather stations. They’ve now checked 75% of the 1221 United States stations and find only 11% meet standards. The concern is that objects near a station affect what thermometers record. Buildings, parking lots, air conditioners, and sewage treatment plants near weather stations may emit heat and ultimately skew readings.

All of this information and much more was covered at the Second International Conference on Climate Change hosted by the Heartland Institute and 60 cosponsoring organizations in New York City, March 8-10. Nearly 700 attendees from around the world heard opening remarks from Heartland Institute President Joseph Bast and keynote addresses from Vaclav Klaus, president of the Czech Republic and of the European Union, and Richard Lindzen of MIT. Other keynote speakers included John H. Sununu, former governor of New Hampshire and chief of staff under President George H. W. Bush, US Congressman Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Lawrence Solomon, author of The Deniers, and Willie Soon, chief science advisor at the Science and Public Policy Institute.

More than 80 presentations were available to attendees during the meeting. My only complaint as an attendee was that with four concurrent break-out sessions at all times, I missed many speakers I would have liked to hear. Fortunately, a lot of material was available in the form of hand-outs and books.

Although some of these folks have been labeled Holocaust deniers, skeptics, and other foul-sounding names, these were serious scientists with data that should be more open to the public. Jay Lehr suggests that these folks should no longer be labeled skeptics, but instead called Realists. I couldn’t agree more.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

An Environmental Lawsuit That's The Tip Of The Iceberg

Jack Dini
Livermore, CA

(From Hawaii Reporter February 27, 2009)

Our government recently took a giant step in helping environmentalist groups in their global warming crusade. Two agencies, the Export-Import Bank of the United States (Ex-Im) and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) settled a suit filed in 2002 by the radical environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, and four US cities. The suit contended that the agencies had failed to evaluate the global warming impacts of a coal-fired power plant in China, a pipeline in Africa from Chad to Cameroon and natural gas projects in Russia, Mexico, Venezuela and Indonesia.

The bottom line for the plaintiffs was simply that any power plant using fossil fuels—even clean-burning natural gas—was going to contribute to global warming. The lawsuit, Friends of the Earth, inc., et al. v. Spinelli (Case No. 3:02-cv-04106, sometimes referred to as Friends of the Earth v. Watson), is a fascinating read. After being educated on how activities on foreign soils will affect climate change and cause severe socio-economic disruption and significant adverse environmental impacts on the US, we are then given examples of folks in the US who will see their property values decline and/or their land washed away by rising seas. Then four US cities chime in with their concerns.

The plaintiffs say global warming from the emissions boost sea levels by melting glaciers, which threatens coastal cities and island vacation properties.

Dr. Philip Dunstan, professor at the College of Charleston, is building a home on St. John’s Island, approximately 10 miles southwest of Charleston, SC. The home will be approximately 5.5 miles from the ocean and on land eight feet above sea level. Dr. Dunstan is building his home higher and stronger than required by current code, even though the home is over five miles from the ocean. This is costing him a significant amount of money. Additionally, his insurance rates for the new home will increase over time. Dr. Dunstan believes that the higher insurance costs are attributable to the effects of climate change.

Pam and Jesse Williford have a lot with an elevation of five to eleven feet on Emerald Island on North Carolina’s outer bank. They are concerned about rising ocean levels, increased storm surge, etc. They may have not bought the lot if, twenty-five years ago they had known the dangers of climate change. Mr. Williford states that, “I did not think that in our lifetime or our kids’ lifetime that a house in the middle of Emerald Isle would be so affected, but now we know otherwise.”

Arthur and Anne Berndt are concerned that there aren’t enough low temperatures below freezing necessary for maple syrup production on their farm in Sharon, Vermont. Note—remember this was in 2002. Wonder what they would say after the winter of 2009.

Need one point out that all three of these examples are from folks who are members of Friends of the Earth or Greenpeace, or both?

Then the lawsuit lists four cities; Boulder, CO, and the California cities of Arcata, Oakland, and Santa Monica who state they would feel the environmental impacts of those faraway projects.
•Boulder claimed warmer temperatures could affect the snowcap it relies on for its water.
•Arcata said warming could harm salmon migration and rising seas would cause flooding that would damage the city’s wastewater treatment system.
•Oakland claimed its airport next to San Francisco Bay could be damaged by sea-level rise associated with global warming.
•Santa Monica is worried their water supply could be influenced.

The case originally made headlines in August 2006 when the court determined that the plaintiffs had the legal right to bring suit against Ex-Im and OPIC for funding projects in other areas of the world because the United States cities could be affected by global warming effects from these projects. “This was the first court opinion that said greenhouse gas emissions in Chad and Saudi Arabia could have an adverse effect on the environment of the United States,” said Sue Ellen Harrision, the assistant city attorney for plaintiff city Boulder, CO.

Refusing to dismiss the case on summary judgment, the court determined that standing existed because plaintiffs had introduced evidence that: “1-increased greenhouse gases are the major factor that cause global warming in the twentieth century, 2-global warming has already occurred and has had significant environmental consequences, 3-continued increases in greenhouse gas emissions would continue to increase global warming with consequent widespread environmental impacts, 4-and that these impacts have and will affect areas used and owned by plaintiffs.”

In the midst of all the hype about global warming, the court that settled this suit obviously ignored the latest glitches in the global warming debate. First, let’s look at sea level rise. Predictions from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in 1980 assumed that the polar ice sheets would melt and cause a catastrophic 25 foot rise in sea level. The 25 foot increase then fell to 3 feet by 1985, and then to less than 1 foot by 1995. Patrick Michaels sums it up well, “Sea level has risen because of climate change, but it has risen only a few inches. In fact, there’s no evidence that the rate of sea level has changed at all, despite a surface temperature that has warmed, cooled, and warmed again in the last 100 years.”

Then there’s the issue of what’s really happened to temperature in recent times. After nine years of non-warming, the planet actually began to cool in 2007 and 2008 for the first time in 30 years. The net warming from 1940 to 1998 had been a minuscule 0.2 degree C; the UK’s Hadley Center says earth’s temperature has now dropped back down to about the levels of 100 years ago. As Dennis Avery points out, “There has thus been no net global warming within ‘living memory.’” So far, 2009 doesn’t look like another barn-burner for the warming advocates.

Surely you (and the court) have heard that nine of the ten warmest years recorded in the US lower 48 states since 1880 have occurred since 1995, with the hottest being in 1998. Well, that also has been shown to be wrong. Lorne Gunter reports, “A little less than a decade ago, the US government changed the way it recorded temperatures. No one thought to correlate the new temperatures with the old ones though—until Canadian researcher Steve McIntyre, that is. In many cases the changes are statistically minor, but their potential impact on the rhetoric surrounding the global warming is huge. The hottest year since 1880 becomes 1934 instead of 1998, which is now just second; 1921 is third. Four of the ten hottest years were in the 1930s, only three in the past decade. The 15 hottest years since 1880 are spread over seven decades. Eight occurred before atmospheric carbon dioxide began its recent rise; seven occurred afterwards. In other words, there is no discernible trend, no obvious warming of late.” Gunter adds, “There are two sides to the climate story. You’re getting one.”

Court decisions prompted by the lawsuit have established precedents in climate-related law. The case expanded the scope of NEPA, which requires impact statements for government projects, beyond local pollution issues to global warming. It was cited in a recent US Supreme Court decision that held that the EPA had the power to regulate greenhouse gases. Environmentalists are now looking to the Obama administration to extend climate considerations to all government actions.

Ron Shems, lead council for the plaintiffs, said, “This case was one of the very first climate change lawsuits and established the framework for other climate change cases. The claims here are no longer considered novel.” The settlement includes a provision that among other things, the agencies will take under consideration so-called greenhouse gas emissions when making investment decisions. In other words, the cumbersome—to be charitable, as Tim Hunt puts it—US environmental laws must now be applied to projects around the world.

Next on the docket—EPA is expected to regulate carbon dioxide, so this is just the beginning.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Electricity Turns Cheap Wine To A Fine Vintage

Jack Dini
Livermore, CA

We’re all aware of the story of Jesus turning water into fine wine at Cana. Well according to recent research you can become ‘Jesus-like’ with the proper use of electricity. You will not be able to turn water into wine but the claim is that with passage of the proper current, plonk (cheap wine) can be turned into a fine vintage.

Backed by a decade of research with results published in a peer-reviewed journal and having passed the ultimate test-blind tasting by a panel of wine experts, efforts by Xin An Zeng and his colleagues offer promise. (1) Stephanie Pain reports, “The food industry has experimented with electric fields as an alternative to heat-treating since the 1980s, and 10 years ago Xin An Zeng, a chemist at the South China University of Technology in Guangzhou, decided to see what he could do for wine. Early results were promising enough for Zeng and his colleagues to develop a prototype plant in which they could treat wine with fields of different strengths for different periods of time.” (2)

The researchers passed a raw red wine between a set of titanium electrodes to which they applied AC at 0-900 V/cm. The flow was varied to expose the sample to residence times from 1-8 minutes. They report, “An optimum treatment, with electric field 600 V/cm and treatment time 3 minutes, was identified to accelerate wine aging, which made the harsh and pungent raw wine become harmonious and dainty. HPLC and GC/MS combined with routine chemical analysis methods were used to identify the difference between the treated and untreated samples.” (1)

Analysis revealed some significant chemical changes. Most obviously, there was a marked increase in reactions between alcohols and acids to produce esters. This led to a reduction in concentrations of the long-chain alcohols known to be responsible for nasty odors and a burning mouth feel, while the increase in the concentration of esters boosted the aroma and the perception of fruitiness. Two other good things happened: the breakdown of proteins produced free amino acids that contribute to taste and there was a noticeable reduction in the levels of aldehydes, which are responsible for ‘off’ flavors. Too high a voltage and too long a time resulted in plonk worse that the original, so one has to be quite careful about operating conditions. (2)

Over the years, inventors have come up with dozens of widgets that they claim can transform the undrinkable or bring the finest wines to perfection without the long wait. There’s little scientific evidence that most of work. Here are some reported by Stephanie Pain:

*Ultrasound- Last October saw the launch of the Quantum Wine Ager which is based on ultrasonics. Experts say ultrasound might increase some reactions but a lot of rigorous experiments must be done before concluding that it works.

*Undersea Cellarage- Champagne house Louis Roederer has consigned several dozen bottles of champagne to the ocean floor, where it speculates the cool water and gentle rocking by currents will accelerate aging. The verdict on this is that by lowering the temperature you slow down chemical reactions, so storage in cold water will slow the aging process. Corks are permeable to oxygen which helps aging. While in water, no oxygen will enter the bottle.

*Gamma Radiation- According to Chinese researchers, an hour’s treatment improved the flavor of new rice wine. In Canada, the technique has been used to get rid of ‘ladybeetle taint’, nasty off-flavors that result form ladybeetles (ladybirds) being pressed along with the grapes. This sounds technically interesting, but it’s doubtful that consumers are ready for irradiated wine.

So, back to use of electricity. There are good commercial reasons why winemakers would love to get their hands on a speedier alternative, especially in places like China where the industry is young and booming. It would allow them to get their wine into shops faster to meet ever-increasing demand, and cut the cost of storage. Five Chinese wineries have begun trials using electricity and reportedly this has French and American wineries watching closely. China is the world’s fastest growing wine market and is trying to become a world-class wine maker as well. If the Chinese can figure out how to supply their own population with all the great wine they need, that leaves French and American wineries out of the picture, (3)

Some Final Notes

Reading the on-line comments to the Pain article provides some hilarity:
• Would a microwave do perhaps? –Only if you stick a fork in the toaster at the same time.
• Forget about complicated titanium electrodes. Eight seconds in the microwave achieves the same result. Try it yourself. I’ve fooled many a wine taster.
• I like copper electrodes, takes the sulfur taste out at the same time.
Does this mean that aging of wine is over? Probably not. Many wine drinkers are firmly entrenched in tradition and would not accept artificially aged wine no matter how good. However, the technology is going to continue to influence the way wine is made, stored and enjoyed. One day, wine drinkers may have to choose between decanting or giving their wine a couple of minutes between the ol’ electrodes, as one web site puts it. (4)

1.Xin An Zeng et al., “The effects of AC electric filed on wine maturation,” Innovative Food Science & Emerging Technologies, 9, 463, October 2008
2.Stephanie Pain, “How to make cheap wine taste like a fine vintage,: New Scientist, 200, 58, December 17, 2008
3.“Coming soon: vintage wine over night,”,December 29, 2008
4.“Aging wines with electric fields instead of cellars,”,
December 28, 2008

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Rich and Famous and Carbon Offsets

Jack Dini
Livermore, CA

(From Hawaii Reporter, January 22, 2009)

It’s OK to have a carbon footprint if you pay enough. You do this by buying carbon offsets. These are used by politicians, environmentalists, movie stars, athletes, and others to claim the impact of their high-consumption lifestyles on the environment can be canceled out by paying someone else to invest in carbon-reducing initiatives, reports Lorrie Goldstein.

Many famous people who are for sustainability and against global warming live in many very big houses, drive many very big cars, and fly in private jets. If you travel frequently by air, even on commercial flights, you can’t escape having a huge carbon footprint. Yet many of the most vocal advocates of cutting emissions—politicians, entertainers, environmentalists, journalists, scientists—are continually jetting off to campaign events and conferences and workshops. Are they going to change the way they operate? If not, how are they going to persuade anyone else to cut back emissions, asks John Tierney.

The World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, was ‘carbon neutral,’ despite all the folks flying to attend, because in large part, people donated money to third world countries to plant trees or build hydroelectric dams for electricity.

The Live Earth concerts held in 2007 created a huge carbon footprint on the globe in the name of climate preservation; an estimated 7,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions. This does not include the private jets of all the celebrities who attended or the thousands of people who drove their cars to each concert. An official volume, The Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook, presents 77‘essential skills for stopping climate change.’ Here are some guidelines from the book: “Let’s say that despite your best efforts, you still have to fly to your best friend’s wedding. You’re dumping 3,000 pounds of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and you’re wracked with guilt about your contribution to global warming. Relax, you can throw money at the problem. Go online, find a company that sells clean energy credits, and buy enough to make up for the greenhouse gases your trip created.” The book goes on to state that you must choose your offsets carefully and points out that trains are the most ecologically low-impact way to cover long distances. How many celebrities take Amtrak? And speaking of celebrities and their eco-friendliness, let’s look at a few.


Al Gore, academy award winner and Nobel Peace Prize recipient, has to be high up on the list. Bruce Nussbaum notes, “Gore deserves a gold statue for hypocrisy. Gore’s mansion, (20-rooms, eight-bathrooms) located in Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES). The average household in American consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average. Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. Gore’s extravagant energy use does not stop at his electric bill. Natural gas bills for Gore’s mansion and guest house averaged $1,080 per month last year. In total, Gore paid nearly $30,000 in combined electricity and natural gas bills for his Nashville estate in 2006.”

Like a good citizen, Gore buys carbon offsets to assuage his high energy lifestyle, and this is good. But here’s the rub. He buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management, a company he co-founded and serves as chairman. Through this company, he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe. As co-founder and chairman of the firm, Gore presumably draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he ‘buys’ his ‘carbon offsets’ from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself.

Madonna, who was the main attraction at the London Live Earth concert owns a collection of fuel-guzzling cars, including a Mercedes Maybach, two Range Rovers, Audi A8s and a Mini Cooper S. She flies everywhere in her private jet and her Confessions tour produced 440 tons of carbon dioxide in four months last year. This was just the flights between the countries, not taking into account the truckloads of equipment needed, the power to stage such a show and the transport of all the thousands of fans getting to the gigs.

John Travolta says, “Everyone can do their bit. Global warming is a very valid issue—we have to think about alternative methods of fuel.” Travolta once starred in a movie about bringing industrial polluters to justice. But in real life he has probably the biggest carbon footprint of any Hollywood star. He parks his personal Boeing 707 on his front lawn—next to his three Gulfstream jets and a Lear jet. Rather appropriately, he has called his home Jumboair.’

The Red Hot Chili Peppers produced 220 tons of carbon dioxide with their private jet alone over six months on their last world tour which was 42 dates.

All this prompts Ginny Buckley and Max Flint to ask, “Is the hot air emitted by celebrities when they spout ecological platitudes a greenhouse gas?”

Enron and Lehman Brothers

There’s big money to be made in the carbon business. Enron and Lehman Brothers are two examples. Ken Lay became a celebrated corporate executive praised for his ‘21st century’ business visions. But Enron’s internal memos, leaked to reporters during its bankruptcy scandal, revealed other motivations. Christine MacDonald in her book, Green, Inc., notes that Lay had two meetings with President Bill Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore on a treaty capping carbon emissions. An internal Enron memo predicted this would ‘do more to promote Enron’s business than almost any other regulatory initiative outside of restructuring the energy and natural gas industries in Europe and the United States.’ MacDonald adds, “Enron also had plans for using its support among environmentalists, who cooed over Lay.”

Lehman Brothers was at the forefront of the vast trade created by the new worldwide regulatory system to ‘fight climate change’ by curbing emissions of carbon dioxide. Jane Orient notes, “In 2007 they released a long and highly publicized report about climate change in which they preached about decarbonization, trying to make their investors keep getting high profits from the Kyoto carbon trade scheme and the support of huge public subventions. They recommended to their investors what they considered a central value of the carbon ton 50 years into the future. All of this of course, with the applause of the usual choir of politicians, the entire media, and the Greens.”

Thousands of green militants have been using the Lehman report as a proof of global warming and impending chaos. The report is the basis for policies on climate change in Spain, Argentina, and several other countries, it is used by economy professors playing climatologists, and by newspaper editorialists. Yet in spite of their ability to predict the climate 50-100 years ahead, they couldn’t predict their own bankruptcy.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Regulations- Polar Bears, Solar Power, Lawnmowers, and Fast-Food Restaurants- What Next?

Jack Dini
Livermore, CA

(From, January 2009)

Polar Bears

“The Interior Department, bound by the Endangered Species Act, has declared polar bears a ‘threatened’ species because they might be endangered ‘in the foreseeable future,’ meaning 45 years. (Note: 45 years ago, the now long-forgotten global cooling menace of 35 years ago was not yet foreseen). The bears will be threatened if the current episode of warming, if there really is one, is, unlike all the previous episodes, irreversible, and if it intensifies, and if it continues to melt sea ice vital to the bears, and if the bears, unlike in many previous warming episodes, cannot adopt,” says George Will. (1)

Never mind that the overall polar bear population has increased from about 5,000 in the 1960s to 25,000 today, and that the only two populations in decline come from areas where it has actually been getting colder over the past fifty years. Also, ignore the fact that polar bears wee around 100,000 years ago, long before at least one interglacial period (Eeemian) when it was much warmer than our present Holocene. Clearly, they survived long periods of time when the climate of the Arctic was much warmer than at present. (2) But obviously, they aren’t expected to survive this present warming without help from the regulators.

George Will adds, “Now that polar bears are wards of the government, and now that it is a legal doctrine that humans are responsible for global warming, the Endangered Species Act has acquired unlimited application. Anything that can be said to increase global warming can—must—be said to threaten bears already designated as threatened. Want to build a power plant in Arizona? A building in Florida? Do you want to drive an SUV? Or leave your cell phone charger plugged in overnight? Some judge might construe federal policy as proscribing these activities.” (1)

The state of Alaska sued Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne, seeking to reverse his decision to list polar bears as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Governor Sarah Palin (now Vice-Presidential candidate) and other state officials fear a listing will cripple offshore and gas development in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas in Alaska’s northern waters, which provide prime habitat for the only polar bears under US jurisdictions. (3)

And they are right on the money. Roy Innis observes, “Federal land management agencies report that about 40 percent of their annual budget goes just to pay for lawsuits filed by environmentalists to stop development of your lands, your resources and your energy.” (4) Unfortunately, with new regulations coming along, this percentage will increase in future years rather than go down.

Solar Power

Are you in favor of alternate energy? How about solar power? Well, if this is your preference, do you realize that Washington has placed a moratorium on solar power projects on federal land? Yep. The Bureau of Land Management quietly decided in May that the development of solar plants in 119 million sun-soaked federally owned acres in the western states of Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah would have to wait at least two years while bureaucrats sorted out their environmental impact. (5)

Investor’s Business Daily reports, “The environmental groups are the reason the BLM made its decision. Had they not spent the past 30 years rabidly crusading against development, reflexively defending wildlife habitats from minor and imaginary threats, and demonizing economic progress, the solar projects would not have been interrupted.

Washington has become so overly sensitive to the possibility of vocal opposition on anything that has an environmental impact that it feels it must inoculate itself from the radicals—even when the project is one they should support without reservation.” (5)

Though a great deal of land has been set aside, it would take only 1% of the total area now off-limits to generate through solar plants enough energy to power more than 20 million homes, and this at a time when the price of a barrel of oil is going through the roof. No way is alternate energy going to help in the near future.

Carbon Credits

It gets worse. In a huge document released in July, the EPA lays out the thousands of carbon controls with which they’d like to shackle the whole economy. None of it is law yet, but watch out.

The Wall Street Journal reports, “The mess began in 2007 when the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 in Mass. V. EPA that greenhouse gases are ‘air pollutants’ under current environmental laws, despite the fact that the laws were written decades before the climate-change panic. The EPA was ordered to regulate if it decides that carbon emissions are a danger to the public. The 588-page ‘advance notice of proposed rulemaking’ lays out how the EPA would like it to work in practice. Justice Antonin Scalia noted in his dissent that under the Court’s ‘pollutant’ standard, ‘everything airborne, from Frisbees to flatulence, qualifies,’ which the EPA appears to have taken literally. It is alarmed by ‘enteric fermentation in domestic livestock’—that is, er, their ‘emissions.’ A farm with over 25 cows would exceed the EPA’ proposed carbon limits. So would 500 acres of crops, due to harvesting and processing machinery.” (6) If this becomes law, the increase in food costs because of ethanol will seem puny by comparison to those covered by this proposed regulation.

Just about everything with an engine would be regulated; farm tractors, autos, dirt bikes, snowmobiles, planes and trains, and even your lawn and garden equipment.

Eliminate Obesity—No Fast-Food Restaurants

A proposal that would place at least a one year moratorium on new fast-food restaurants in a broad swath of neighborhoods has been approved by a Los Angeles City Council committee. If approved by the full council and signed by the mayor, the law would prevent fast-food chains from opening new restaurants in a 32 square mile area in South Los Angeles. This is designed to help prevent obesity. (7) Will supermarkets and green grocers come in to replace the fast-food chains? I doubt it. And as Gilbert Ross points out, “banning so-called fast-food restaurants from specific zones will not ameliorate the problem. People will walk a few extra blocks to get the products they crave.”(8) Certainly people need to eat properly and have adequate exercise, but being told what to eat by the City Council will not empower anyone to make wise choices or change their preferences.

Lastly, California this year became the first state to ban artery-clogging trans fats in restaurants and in 2003 it banned the sale of soft drinks in middle and elementary schools. (9)

The Cato Institute sums it up well, “One of the most disturbing trends in government expansion over the last 35 years has been the collection of laws, regulations, and binding court decisions that make up the ‘nanny state.’” (10) Looks like things are continually getting worse in this aspect, rather than better.


1.George F. Will, “March of the Polar Bears,”, May 22, 2008
2.Bjorn Lomborg, Cool It, (New York, Alfred A. Knopf, 2007), 4
3.Dan Joling, “Alaska sues over listing polar bear as threatened,”, August 4, 2008
4.Roy Innis, Energy Keepers, Energy Killers, (Chicago, Illinois, The Heartland Institute, 2008), 73
5.“No Sun Intended,” Investor’s Business Daily, June 30, 2008
6.“The Lawnmower Men,” The Wall Street Journal, July 19-20, 2008, Page A8
7.Molly Hennessy-Fiske, “Panel OKs one year ban on new fast-food restaurants in South L.A.,” Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2008
8.Gilbert Ross, “No Quick Fast-Food Fixes,” Los Angeles Times, July 28, 2008
9.Lisa Baertlein and Dan Whitcomb, “LA’s fast-food ban draws skepticism,” Reuters Health Information, September 3, 2008
10.“The Nanny State,” The Cato Institute, December 4, 2004

Polonium- More Toxic Than Cyanide- Smokers Beware

Jack Dini
Livermore, California

(From, January 209)

What do polonium and cyanide have in common? Answer- both are toxic and both are inhaled by cigarette smokers. However, polonium makes cyanide look like a lightweight since it is 250 billion times as toxic as hydrogen cyanide. (1)

Yet, even non-smokers can’t get away from polonium. John Emsley reports, “We cannot escape having some polonium in our body because it is formed from radioactive radon gas. This gas may be chemically inert, but if breathing it in coincides with its decay to polonium, as can happen because of radon’s short life, the polonium may lodge in the lungs and from there move into the blood stream. Polonium targets no particular organ of the body but, because it is an alpha emitter, wherever it ends up has the potential to damage DNA and that can lead to cancer” (2)

Polonium had its fifteen minutes of fame in November 2006 in connection with its use as a poison to kill Alexander Litvinenko, an outspoken critic of the Putin regime. The odds of this happening to any of us are infinitesimally small. But here’s the rub—if you’re a smoker you get a dose of polonium every time you light up.

For a two-pack-a-day smoker the radiation dose to bronchial epithelium from Po-210 inhaled in cigarette smoke is probably at least seven times that from background sources, and in localized areas may be up to 1,000 rem or more in 25 years. Radiation from this source may, therefore, be significant in the genesis of bronchial cancer in smokers, note Edward Radford and Vilma Hunt. (3) So what’s a rem? It’s the amount of energy deposited in the human body by ionizing radiation. For ease of understanding, Mark Hart of the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory equates 1 rem to 1 dollar, so 1 millirem is 0.1 cent or 1/10th of a cent. The yearly limit for safe exposure is 5 rem, or 5 dollars. (4)

Another way to look at this is in terms of X-rays. Conservative estimates put the level of radiation absorbed by a pack-and-a-half-day smoker at the equivalent of 300 chest X-rays every year. (5) Others report the equivalent of 800 X-rays and the National Institute of Health published a radiation exposure chart which shows that smoking 30 cigarettes per day is the equivalent of 2,000 chest X-rays per year. (6)

In spite of this you can’t lay all the health issues with smoking on polonium since no one is certain what causes the high death rate in smokers. The major culprits are probably dioxins, nicotine and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) contained in pitchy substances, and radioactive substances, mainly polonium-210, potassium-40, and lead-210. (7) But here’s an important point: polonium-210 is the only component of cigarette smoke that has produced cancers by itself in laboratory animals by inhalation. Tumors appear at a level five times lower than the dose to a heavy smoker. (8)

So, how does polonium get into tobacco? It’s not entirely understood, but uranium ‘daughter products’ naturally present in soils seem to be selectively absorbed by the tobacco plant, where they decay into radioactive polonium. High-phosphate fertilizers may worsen the problem since uranium tends to associate with phosphates, reports Robert Proctor. (5)

So, what’s the mechanism? When you light up a cigarette the polonium is volatilized, you inhale it, and it is quickly deposited in the living tissue of the respiratory system. The intense localized heat in the burning of a cigarette volatilizes the radioactive metals. While cigarette filters can trap chemical carcinogens, they are ineffective against radioactive vapors. (8)

The lungs of a heavy smoker (which may mean only 15 cigarettes per day) become coated with a radioactive lining which irradiates the sensitive lung tissue. Smoking two packs (40 cigarettes a day) gives an alpha particle radiation dose of around 1,300 millirems per year, over six-times the dose received by the average American from breathing radon (200 millirems). Furthermore, polonium-210 is soluble in body fluids and is this percolated through every tissue and cell giving levels of radiation much higher than that received from radon. (1) The proof is that it can be found in the blood and urine of smokers. The circulating polonium-201 causes genetic damage and early death from diseases reminiscent of early radiological pioneers: liver and bladder cancer, stomach ulcers, leukemia, cirrhosis of the liver, and cardiovascular diseases. (8) Concentrations of polonium-210 and lead-210 in rib bones taken form smokers were about twice those in nonsmokers. (9)

Some Final Words

There’s a fear of radiation that comes from the many doomsayers that have used the media and public to their advantage for decades. I’ve written about radiation on a number of occasions, trying to put it in good light (smoking pun intended).

Have you heard?
-Low levels of radiation are beneficial to humans.
-Mice exposed to low levels of radiation lived longer than mice that were not.
-Fish exposed to low levels of radiation grew faster than fish that weren’t.
-Low levels of radiation increase fertility and embryo viability, and decrease sterility and mutations.(10)

It’s more likely you’ve heard about Chernobyl and Three Mile Island. When radioactivity from the Chernobyl accident reached our West Coast, the press warned residents about the dangers of possible fallout; speaking of the number of picocuries of radioactivity detected in high clouds without ever explaining that a picocurie is one part per trillion. Nor did the press mention that you would have to drink 63,000 gallons of that radioactive rain water to ingest one picocurie of radioactivity. (10) With Three Mile Island, the most serious damage was from the psychological trauma and over-exaggeration from mishandling of the incident by politicians and the media. (11)

Yet, with polonium and cigarettes I have a different feeling. The facts that polonium can get into the blood stream of smokers and that polonium is the only component of cigarette smoke that has produced cancer by itself in laboratory animals make me thankful that I am not a smoker.

1.Chris Rhodes, “Polonium-210, Russian Spies and Safe Tobacco,” Energy Balance, December 1, 2006
2.John Emsley, Nature’s Building Blocks, (Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2001), 332
3.Edward P. Radford, Jr. and Vilma Hunt, “Polonium-210: A Volatile Radioelement in Cigarettes,” Science 143, 247, January 17, 1964
4.Mark. M. Hart, “Disabling the Terror of Radiological Dispersal,: Nuclear News, 46, 40, July 2003
5.Robert N. Proctor, “Puffing on Polonium,” New York Times, December 1, 2006
6.“Radioactive Polonium in Tobacco,”; July 26, 2005
7.Bogdan Skwarzec, et al., “Polonium 210Po in Cigarettes Produced in Poland,” J. Environ. Sci. Health, A36, 465, 2001
8.“Health effects of polonium,”, July 26, 2005
9.Richard B. Holtzman and Frank H. Ilcewicz, “Led-210 and Polonium-210 in Tissues of Cigarette Smokers.” Science 153, 1259, September 9, 1966
10.Dixy Lee Ray, “Radiation Around Us,” in Rational Readings on Environmental Concerns, Jay H. Lehr, Editor, (New York, Van Nostrand Reinhold, 1992), 589
11.Edward G. Remmers, “Nuclear Power: Putting the Risks Into Perspective,” Issues on the Environment, (New York, American Council on Science and Health, 1992), 68

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Planting Trees May Not Cancel Out Your Carbon Footprint

Jack Dini
Livermore, CA

(From Hawaii Reporter January 5, 2009)

Carbon credits or offsets are a theoretical way for you to assuage your guilt for all those awful greenhouse gases you’re releasing into the air whenever you heat your house, drive your car, or even breathe.

Carbon offsets are used by politicians, environmentalists, movie stars, athletes and others to claim the impact of their high-consumption lifestyles on the environment can be canceled out by paying someone else to invest in carbon-reducing initiatives. Some folks have reported that they plant 500 trees to offset one of their private jet trips. What they didn’t say is that it may take 20 years for the infant trees to make up for their 2-hour Lear Jet outing.

Lorrie Goldstein likens carbon offsets to the equivalent of a fat person claiming he’s losing weight by paying a thin person to go on a diet. Or, it’s like paying someone to agree to not commit adultery so you can sin at will.

The planting of trees is one of the more highly touted offsets. Some folks claim that carbon offsets from this activity are nonsense because the emissions are instant, whereas the tree’s absorption is over many years. You can’t offset carbon emissions. Burning fossil fuels adds carbon dioxide to the carbon cycle. Trees merely store some of it for a while before releasing it once they rot or burn. They’re not an offset, merely a delaying device. Plus, the Earth would eventually have to be nothing but trees to even theoretically counter the impact of all man-made emissions.

There are other problems. It’s impossible to say how much carbon a tree will store, so you can’t know how many to plant for your emissions. Beyond that, you can’t tell what your emissions are; figures on offset websites for miles driven don’t take into account your miles per gallon or how many passengers to divide it among. Figures for a train journey would surely be different if it’s a packed rush hour train compared to a late afternoon one with only half a dozen passengers on board.

Besides this, a number of investigations have revealed tree planting to be largely if not entirely, a scam notes Nigel Lawson in his book An Appeal to Reason. He says, “The trees that have allegedly been planted may not have been; if they have been, they may well have been planted in any event, and either way their carbon absorption is notional, unverified, and at best, some way into the future.” Some tree-planting projects in Guatemala, Ecuador and Uganda have been accused of disrupting water supplies; evicting thousands of villagers from their land; seizing grazing rights from farmers, and cheating local people of promised income, reports Nick Davies. In some cases the trees may not live. One example; many of the 10,000 mango trees planted to offset the carbon produced by the music group Coldplay died.

You can even plant the wrong kind of tree in the wrong place. Trees affect the reflectivity of the Earth and its ability to bounce some of the sun’s heat back into space. Covering large swatches of light ground with dark trees could lead to more heat being absorbed, boosting temperatures. Researchers Gregory Asner and his colleagues report that only trees planted in equatorial regions are likely to produce a net benefit. Those planted further away—especially in high latitudes where snow is common—are likely to lead to increased global warming. Also, non-native trees invading a rainforest can change its basic ecological structure, rendering it less hospitable to the myriad plant and animal species that depend on its resources.

Alan Zarembo, in a Los Angeles Times article, sums this up well, “Beneath feel-good simplicity of buying your way to carbon neutrality is a growing concern that the idea is more hype than solution.” And, from Nigel Lawson, “In many ways , it resembles nothing so much as the sale of indulgences by a medieval church. This is nowadays regarded as a reprehensible practice; but perhaps bearing in mind its 21st century equivalent, that is too harsh a verdict.”