Posts tagged ‘Penn Teller’

Well, It Is A Much Stronger Greenhouse Gas than CO2

For those who remember the Penn & Teller show where they had people at an environmental rally sign a petition to ban dihydrogen monoxide (water), you may enjoy seeing some CFACT interns doing the same among delegates to the COP16 climate change conference in Cancun, with predictable results.  Its all about the science!  Its pretty funny that the interns seemed to go out of their way to always have a cup of water in their hand when they discussed the petition.

Look at the Pollution! Oh, its Water, Never Mind

I think most of us are familiar with the clever movie poster for An Invconvinient Truth, with the smoke from a factory swirling into a hurricane:


In fact, this same picture of a white plume coming from a factory or power plant stack is often used to illustrate articles on pollution.  Just searching the first page of images googling "air pollution" gives us these relatively similar images illustrating air pollution articles:

Ap1 Ap2 Ap3 Ap4

Ap5 Ap6 Ap7 Ap8

Here is a big Roseanne Rosanadana Emily Litella moment for all of you using these images:  The big white cloud coming out of all those stacks is steam.  Water vapor.  H2O.  Though actually a much more powerful greenhouse gas than CO2, no one has had the temerity to label water a pollutant (except in that great Bullshit! issue when Penn & Teller get environmentalists to sign a petition banning dihydrogen monoxide).  All of these guys are using big plumes of water vapor to panic people about pollution.  That is because most pollutants emitted by combustion are invisible.  Visible smoke was licked by most plants decades ago (here is the only "factory" picture in the google search I could find with actual smoke). 

Just to avoid being misunderstood, my point is not that pollution is OK because it is invisible.  My point is that these scare pictures are yet another example of how environmentalists feel its OK to ignore science to advance their agenda in public.  Sometimes they even go further, as Small Dead Animals points out, resorting to photo-shopping to make things seem worse, but the dreaded steam plumes are still there front and center.  (I noticed that several of the pictures above where photographed at sunset.  I thought at first this was to make them look prettier, but maybe they liked the effect because it made the steam look browner without photo-shopping).

I did not go too deep into the Google search, but I went far enough to award my personal favorite for a scare picture that has nothing to do with the point being made:


This one is a classic, with the sad-faced little girl and her asthma** inhaler super-imposed over a scene of "industrial pollution."  Except, the scene is from a nuclear power plant!  The unique shaped cooling tower is almost exclusively used on nuclear power plants, but the ultimate proof is the small nuclear reactor containment dome you can see to the right.  That plume, which is supposed to represent pollution, has to be 100% water.  There are no combustion products at a nuclear plant, and even if there were, given the way the cooling tower works, this can only be water vapor coming out of the cooling tower.  The really sad and pathetic thing is that this illustration is from the air pollution site at Battelle, which is a world-renowned private scientific and technical organization. 

What's my point?   I think that scientists and academics, in their increasing arrogance, have no respect for the general public.  The only way I can consistently interpret scientist's actions, for example around the global warming debate, is to hypothesize that they consider truth and facts important when talking to other scientists, but irrelevant when talking to the public because, in their mind, the public is stupid and its OK to tell them anything.  I will leave you with this
from National Center for Atmospheric Research (NOAA) climate researcher and global warming action promoter,
Steven Schneider:

[In talking to the public about the climate] We have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements,
and make little mention of any doubts we have. Each of us has to decide what
the right balance is between being effective and being honest.

** By the way, there is growing evidence that increasing reported asthma rates are not correlated with outdoor air pollution. I wrote about this here, and hypothesized that the growth in asthma has coincided with the post-70s-energy-crisis steps everyone has taken to better insulate and seal up their houses and buildings, making indoor air pollution more of a problem.

Update: I started to think the dome I was calling a nuclear containment building might be telescope dome on the top of the building below.  It's not.

Hidden Energy Costs

I have long suspected, but can't prove, that most of the recycling we do is worthless.  I look in my recycling bin and think -- it's got to be cheaper to start with the raw material than what's in this bin.  The problem is hidden system costs.  For example, everyone thinks they are saving energy by recycling.  But in my town, as in most towns, recycling basically doubles the vehicle miles driven by the sanitation trucks to get all the waste out, because we get a visit from the "trash" truck and later in the week get a visit from the "recycling" truck.  Plus there is all that extra labor in the pickup and the sorting.  And that is all before the processing costs.  And all this is without even considering the staggering amount of "free" labor the recycling system gets from you and I as individuals.**

The Mises Blog has a link to the online video of a Penn & Teller Bullshit! show that takes on this very issue.  Since its Penn & Teller, its both funny and smart, and comes to the conclusion that only aluminum can recycling really makes sense.  All the rest is a big feel-good circle jerk that really saves no money or energy.  Its particularly funny when they put about 15 different colored cans in front of one guys home and tells him each is for a different type of material.  The one addition I would make is that reusing an object for its original use almost always saves money -- for example, we save Amazon boxes to use when we ship things out.

Along the same lines of hidden costs, this study sent to me by a reader looks at the total lifetime energy costs of automobiles, including their manufacturing and transportation as well as their fuel use.  I can't vouch for it's accuracy, but the results are somewhat surprising -- for example, most hybrids have lifetime energy costs higher than average for vehicles.

** But recycling is easy!  It hardly takes any time!  Well, let's say it takes only an incremental 1 minute a week from each individual in the country to recycle (a number that is lower than the actual, I think).  That translates to 260 million man-hours a year or the equivalent of 130,000 full time jobs.