Posts tagged ‘Harper Magazine’

Someone Else Joins the "Peak Whale" Bandwaggon

Katherine Mangu-Ward makes a point I have also made on occasion:

take a moment to thank the man who really saved the whales: John D. Rockefeller.

1846, Americans dominated the whaling industry with 735 ships. John D.
Rockefeller gets into the oil refining business in 1865. By 1876,
kerosene is routing whale oil, and the whaling fleet was down to 39 ships, because kerosene was just so darn cheap:

price of sperm oil reached its high of $1.77 per gallon in 1856; by
1896 it sold for 40 cents per gallon. Yet it could not keep pace with
the price of refined petroleum, which dropped from 59 cents per gallon
in 1865 to a fraction over seven cents per gallon in 1895.

This dynamic is also instructive for those fretting that we're going to run out of oil,
just as many undoubtedly worried that we were going to run out of
whales. (Note to self: Check historical record for instances of the
phrase "Peak Whale.")

I don't want to be overly self-referential here, but I actually "found" this reference to peak whale theory over two years ago when digging through the archives of this blog's 19th century predecessor, the Coyote Broadsheet:

As the US Population reaches toward the astronomical
total of 40 million persons, we are reaching the limits of the number
of people this earth can support.    If one were to extrapolate current
population growth rates, this country in a hundred years could have
over 250 million people in it!  Now of course, that figure is
impossible - the farmland of this country couldn't possibly support
even half this number.  But it is interesting to consider the
environmental consequences.

Take the issue of transportation.  Currently there are over 11
million horses in this country, the feeding and care of which
constitute a significant part of our economy.  A population of 250
million would imply the need for nearly 70 million horses in this
country, and this is even before one considers the fact that "horse
intensity", or the average number of horses per family, has been
increasing steadily over the last several decades.  It is not
unreasonable, therefore, to assume that so many people might need 100
million horses to fulfill all their transportation needs.  There is
just no way this admittedly bountiful nation could support 100 million
horses.  The disposal of their manure alone would create an
environmental problem of unprecedented magnitude.

Or, take the case of illuminant.  As the population grows, the
demand for illuminant should grow at least as quickly.  However, whale
catches and therefore whale oil supply has leveled off of late, such
that many are talking about the "peak whale" phenomena, which refers to
the theory that whale oil production may have already passed its peak.
250 million people would use up the entire supply of the world's whales
four or five times over, leaving none for poorer nations of the world.

I wrote more about John D. Rockefeller (including his role in saving the whales) in my praise of Robber Barrons several years ago.  In addition to Rockefeller, the article also discussed Cornelius Vanderbilt as the 19th century precursor to Southwest Airlines.  From the Harper's Magazine in 1859:

...the results in every case of the establishment of opposition lines
by Vanderbilt has been the permanent reduction of fares.  Wherever he
'laid on' an opposition line, the fares were instantly reduced, and
however the contest terminated, whether he bought out his opponents, as
he often did, or they bought him out, the fares were never again raise
to the old standard.  This great boon -- cheap travel-- this community
owes mainly to Cornelius Vanderbilt".

Suppresion of Scientific Enquiry

From the Boston Globe today:

"We do not understand the natural internal variability of climate
change" is one of Lindzen's many heresies, along with such zingers as
`"the Arctic was as warm or warmer in 1940," "the evidence so far
suggests that the Greenland ice sheet is actually growing on average,"
and "Alpine glaciers have been retreating since the early 19th
century, and were advancing for several centuries before that. Since
about 1970, many of the glaciers have stopped retreating and some are
now advancing again. And, frankly, we don't know why."

Lindzen published similar views in The Wall Street Journal this spring,
environmentalist Laurie David, the wife of comedian Larry David,
immediately branded him a "shill." She resurrected a shopworn slur
first directed against Lindzen by former Globe writer Ross Gelbspan,
who called Lindzen a "hood ornament" for the fossil fuels industry in
a 1995 article in Harper's Magazine....

For no apparent reason, the state of California, Environmental
Defense, and the Natural Resources Defense Council have dragged Lindzen
and about 15 other global- warming skeptics into a lawsuit over auto-
emissions standards. California et al . have asked the auto companies
to cough up any and all communications they have had with Lindzen and
his colleagues, whose research has been cited in court documents.

"We know that General Motors has been paying for this fake science exactly as the tobacco companies
did," says ED attorney Jim Marston. If Marston has a scintilla of
evidence that Lindzen has been trafficking in fake science, he should
present it to the MIT provost's office. Otherwise, he should shut up.

is the criminalization of opposition to global warming," says Lindzen,
who adds he has never communicated with the auto companies involved in
the lawsuit. Of course Lindzen isn't a fake scientist, he's an
inconvenient scientist. No wonder you're not supposed to listen to him.

My position on global warming and the state of global warming science is here.