Quote of the Day 5/09/11

“In view of the fact that God limited the intelligence of man, it seems unfair that He did not also limit his stupidity.” – Konrad Adenauer

Carbon and carbon dioxide: Clearing up the confusion By Paul Driessen

Let’s restore common sense to our public policy debates on energy and climate.

We are constantly bombarded with information – much of it inaccurate, misleading, even deliberately so.

We are frequently told we must reduce carbon emissions, support “carbon disclosure” and invest in “carbon trusts” – to prevent catastrophic global warming, global climate change or global climate “disruption.” News stories, advocacy and lobbying activities, and corporate “ethics” promotions frequently use “carbon” and “carbon dioxide” almost interchangeably; some occasionally talk about “dangerous carbon monoxide emissions.”

Torn by misplaced hydrocarbon guilt, wanting to do right ecologically, and often scientifically challenged, people are naturally confused. Because so much is at stake – for our energy supplies and prices, jobs, economies, living standards, budget deficits and environment – clearing up that confusion is a high priority.

“Carbon” (chemical symbol C) is what we burn to get energy to power modern society.

Carbon is the molecular building block for wood, charcoal and coal, and hydrocarbons (HC) like oil and natural gas. Cars and power plants do not emit carbon, except in the form of soot. Thus, talk of “carbon disclosure” or “reducing our carbon emissions” is misleading, unless one is confessing how much charcoal was used at a picnic, or apologizing for not having pollution controls on a wood-burning stove.

“Carbon monoxide” (CO) is an odorless, deadly gas. A natural product of combustion, it increases when ventilation is poor, oxygen levels are low and burning is inefficient. It’s why we shouldn’t use charcoal grills indoors or operate cars in garages, unless we’re suicidal.

“Carbon dioxide” (CO2) is another natural byproduct of combustion, from power plants, factories, vehicles, homes, hospitals and other users of wood, coal, petroleum and biofuels. This is what many environmental activists, politicians and scientists blame for recent and future climate change.

(The other major byproduct is water vapor or steam – plus pollutants that reflect impurities in the fuel and are removed via scrubbers and other technologies, or reduced by controlling the temperature, airflow and efficiency of combustion processes: sulfur and nitrogen oxides, particulates, mercury and so on.)

Literally thousands of scientists vigorously disagree with the hypothesis that CO2 is responsible for climate change. It plays only a minor role, they argue, in a complex, chaotic climate system that is driven by numerous natural forces, cycles, and positive and negative feedback loops. They also note that CO2 increases have followed, not preceded, temperature rises, throughout Earth’s history.

CO2 constitutes a mere 0.0380% of our atmosphere. That’s 380 parts per million (380 ppm), which sounds much more threatening, especially when used in juxtaposition with the pre-Industrial Revolution figure of 280 ppm. But even that 100 ppm increase represents only 0.0100% of Earth’s atmosphere – equivalent to one penny out of $100.

380 is far below historical CO2 levels. During the Jurassic and Early Carboniferous periods, geologists calculate, our atmosphere contained 1,500-2,500 ppm carbon dioxide. However, even at today’s comparatively CO2-impoverished levels, this trace gas is vital to the health of our planet.

As every grade schooler learns, CO2 enables photosynthesis and plant growth: carbon dioxide and water in, oxygen and plant growth out, through complex chemical reactions. Without CO2, there would be no plants and no oxygen; life as we know it would cease. Carbon dioxide is truly the “gas of life” – and no attempt by Al Gore, James Hansen or EPA to brand it as a dangerous pollutant can change that.

The 100 ppm rise in CO2 levels came courtesy of two things. As oceans warmed after the Little Ice Age ended 160 years ago, they released some of their carbon dioxide storehouses. (As with beer and soda water, seawater is able to retain less CO2 as it warms.) The rest came from hydrocarbon fuels burned during the Industrial Revolution and modern era, and from billions more impoverished people still burning wood and animal dung in open fires.

Though vilified by radical greens and climate alarmists, hydrocarbon energy and the Industrial Revolution have hugely benefitted mankind. They doubled average life expectances in industrialized nations and increased prosperity, overall health and living standards, in proportion to the ability of poor communities to acquire electricity and modern technologies. Thus, telling poor countries to limit hydrocarbon use, and focus instead on wind and solar power, sharply limits their ability to modernize, create jobs, and improve health, living conditions and life spans.

And all that extra CO2 from electrical generation and other economic activities? As Drs. Craig and Sherwood Idso explain on their CO2science.org website and in their fascinating book, The Many Benefits of Atmospheric CO2 Enrichment, the extra carbon dioxide has blessed people and planet in at least 55 ways.

For example, increased atmospheric carbon dioxide increases the photosynthesis rates for plants. It enables plants to extract more moisture from the air and soil, thereby expanding root systems that stabilize soil, reduce erosion and help plants survive better during droughts.

Higher CO2 levels also reduce the need for plants to keep their stomata (pores in leaves) open to absorb carbon dioxide – and in the process release moisture from the plant – further increasing drought resistance. Because stomata don’t need to be open as much, plants also reduce their absorption of harmful pollutants that can damage their tissue. As with the air in greenhouses, rising atmospheric CO2 concentrations improves nitrogen fixation by soil bacteria, increasing the availability of this important chemical.

CO2-enriched air also increases plants’ ability to manufacture Vitamin C, antioxidants, and health-promoting substances in medicinal plants – while likewise improving plants’ immune systems and ability to withstand a wide variety of common plant diseases.

Many climatologists and astrophysicists believe recent sun spot, Pacific Ocean and global temperature trends suggest that our planet may have entered a cool phase that could last for 25 years. If that is the case, the additional carbon dioxide being emitted by China, India and other developing countries could bring a major additional benefit: helping to protect wildlife habitats, enhance oceanic biota and preserve crop yields under sub-optimal climatic conditions.

Attempts to coerce expanded wind and solar installations will require that we devote still more land, raw materials and taxpayer subsidies to these expensive, unreliable energy supplies. And trying to capture and store carbon dioxide from power plants and factories will require trillions of dollars and vast supplies of energy, to take this plant-fertilizing gas out of the atmosphere and inject it under high pressure deep into the earth – and keep it from escaping, to kill animals and people.

To get 1000 megawatts of net electricity from a power plant designed for CO2-capture-and-storage would require building (at minimum) a 1300-MW plant, burning at least one-third more fuel than a conventional plant does, using over one-third of the 1300 MW to power the CCS equipment – and paying much higher electricity prices. The impact on factories, shops, jobs, household budgets and fuel supplies would be significant.

Legislators and regulators need to focus on controlling unhealthy amounts of real pollutants (based on valid medical and environmental science) – and keep their pesky hands off our CO2!

Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow and Congress of Racial Equality, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Auction Off the State by Robert P. Murphy

Although it has been temporarily drowned out by the discussion of Osama bin Laden, the debate over the federal-government debt ceiling continues. On Monday, Treasury Secretary Geithner sent a letter to Congress explaining that the statutory debt limit would be reached around May 16, and therefore Geithner would implement “extraordinary measures” to postpone the actual crisis point.

As in his previous letters, Geithner reiterated that failure to raise the debt ceiling would lead to catastrophe for the nation. In this article I’ll explain the main issues and why Geithner is wrong.

The History and Current Status of the Debt Ceiling

The Constitution of the United States gives Congress the power of the purse strings. Before the federal government can spend money, Congress must authorize the spending. If the government ever tries to spend more in a certain period than it collects in revenues from taxes or other sources, then it must borrow the difference by issuing bonds.

Prior to World War I, Congress explicitly authorized bond issues. But because of the huge expense and need for quick action during the war, in 1917 legislators ceded the day-to-day financing decisions to the executive branch, so that the Treasury could issue new bonds to cover cash-flow gaps for the spending programs that the Congress had already authorized. In order to retain the power of the purse, however, Congress placed a statutory limit on the outstanding debt of the Treasury. This is what we now know as the “debt ceiling.”

Over the decades, Congress has always raised the debt ceiling as Uncle Sam’s indebtedness grew. On a few occasions (such as the present one), political squabbling prevents the ceiling from being raised in a timely fashion. (This CRS report provides a good overview of the origin and history of the debt ceiling.)

The current statutory limit is $14.29 trillion, which the Treasury currently estimates will be reached by May 16. Through various tricks, Geithner estimates that he can actually limp along until early August before he will no longer have the cash flow to meet the spending obligations of the US government. This drop-dead date for extending the debt ceiling is a few weeks later than Geithner’s previous estimate, because more tax revenue has come in than was expected.

The League of Extraordinary Measures

Geithner’s letter spells out exactly how he would continue to fund the government for another two-and-a-half months, if the statutory limit will supposedly be hit by mid-May:

Read more from Mises Institute

Another Tax On Gas?

Energy: Of all the ideas the White House has floated for taking more of your money, none is more pernicious than the latest: slapping a tax on you for every mile you drive. Isn’t that what our gas tax does already?

It’s not exactly a novel notion. This is the third time President Obama has pushed the idea of a “vehicle miles tax” — a tax on every mile you drive. Like a bad meal, it just keeps hitting the table.

“Bad ideas never die in Washington,” wrote Nicolas Loris in the Heritage Foundation’s blog, The Foundry. “They don’t even fade away.”

Even so, Obama and other Democrats love this concept. It taxes those they loathe the most — the successful and the middle class, who often live in the deep suburbs and have the most hellishly long commutes.

They’re the ones who will see their taxes rise most — though even the poor and working classes will also take a hit. It’s a tax mother lode, a potential revenue gusher.

This is the kind of thing Democrats love. It takes money from you and gives it to Washington, and it’s really social engineering — forcing people who don’t want to live in big cities to move closer, or pay a price.

They’ll tell you it’s all about creating a “green” tomorrow, or conserving oil, or even balancing the budget. But it has nothing to do with that.

It’s about changing your behavior, making you live in smaller homes closer to big cities.

And it’s about taking away your privacy. Because to monitor this kind of tax, you must have some kind of in-car meter that will tell them how far you’re driving — and, maybe not coincidentally, where you are.

Read more from IBD Editorials

Time for Daylight: U.S. Weapons Reaching Cartel Hands a Huge Scandal by Bob Owens

The U.S. government has effectively allowed weaponry to reach cartels, and now uses the violence they helped cause as a gun control argument.

The U.S. government is the top supplier of the most effective weapons in the narco-terrorist arsenal, a story that much of the U.S. media is trying hard to ignore.

Fox News has reported that the U.S. government is the ultimate source for the majority of cartel machine guns, as well as hand grenades and plastic explosives. These munitions have been used to kill law enforcement officers, government officials, and civilians. According to sources, the weapons get from our government to the cartels via three routes:

    U.S. Defense Department shipments to Latin America, known and tracked by the U.S. State Department as “foreign military sales.”

    Weapons ordered by the Mexican government, tracked by the State Department as “direct commercial sales.”

    Aging but plentiful arsenals of military weapon stores in Honduras, Guatemala, and Nicaragua.

Firearms such as M16 and M4 assault rifles — real, selective-fire weapons that can fire as machine guns — are sold directly to cartels by corrupt soldiers in the Mexican military, some of the weapons in new or like-new condition. Anecdotal evidence suggests that at least some of these firearms are sold to the cartels by Mexican soldiers that have gone AWOL with individual weapons, but many more are coming directly from corrupt government and military officials with armory access.

Some AK-pattern rifles and other Russian-designed automatic weapons can be traced to Latin American nations where the U.S. provided the governments these weapons as military aid.

Many of the grenades recovered from the cartels came from U.S. military assistance to central American countries decades ago, where aging stockpiles are being sold to cartels.

American weapons in cartel hands range in age from decades-old to nearly new. The exact age and point of ingress for these weapons is generally obscured by the U.S. and Mexican governments, who would rather not reveal how and why these weapons are leaving government armories to arrive in extremely violent hands.

This reality is a far cry from claims made by the Obama administration and echoed by Mexican President Felipe Calderon, the false narrative dubbed the “90 percent lie.” President Obama has long pushed the fiction that U.S. gun stores catering to civilians in border states are responsible for supplying up to 90 percent of the firearms used by Mexican cartels. In this fantasy scenario, straw purchasers buy firearms by the gross from corrupt gun dealers and then ship them over the border to Mexico. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder peddled this tale as early as February of 2009, just one month after the president was sworn in.

The claim was quickly revealed to be an incontrovertible falsehood.

Read more from Pajamas Media

From the comment line:

Holder should have been impeached a long time ago. Another major scandal he is part of is that he is STILL trying to find ways to prosecute former and current CIA members for their part in the “Enhanced Interrogation Program” under the Bush Administration. Holder is STILL wasting time, money, and resources on that rather than concentrating on this gun issue, let alone the Black Panther’s case. I’m really wondering what an Attorney General needs to do to get impeached these days.

And I’ll also NEVER forget that Alberto Ganzales under Bush was forced to resign over the firing of some Federal Attorneys, something that Bush had the complete right to do. And yet Holder has screwed up so many times and nobody in Congress is saying much (especially after that insane idea of putting terrorists on trial in New York City, let alone trying to stop the military tribunals at Guantanamo Bay). This guy really, really, needs to go. I hope Congress is listening.