the Air Vent

Because the world needs another opinion

The Evidence of Failure

Posted by Jeff Id on January 14, 2011

By John Pittman

I think there is enough evidence to show that the IPCC has failed. I am not talking about the perceived tactical failure of Copenhagen or Cancun, but a more fundamental failure on their part. In Anticipating Failure, I wrote about how environmental issues have been successful resolved. One of the other dirty little secrets that is not proclaimed is that such programs based on Clean Water Act, “Superfund”-CERCLA, “Community-Right-to-Know”, Clean Air Act and Amendments, etc., is that they have been successful. Making sure that there was measurable harm, and a framework of doable activities fairly administrated has made the air, the water, the land, and the groundwater safer and cleaner. The system(s) does have its problems and costs, its successes and failures. However, in general, it has been a success.

I want to frame the conversation in terms of successful control. I think a general agreement we could entertain is that if control is not established, or obtainable, one cannot claim success. In a control situation, one common practice is to make sure that if you say X will happen, X will happen. If you determine that it is 2X or 0.5X, it should cause you to reexamine not only your methodology for the original determination, but also what you implemented as control. Pretty basic reasoning. You could frame it as a cost; you planned on spending one million dollars. Would it matter if you could get if for $500,000, or that halfway through, it gets changed to $2 million. Obviously, the magnitude is important.

Recently there has been what I consider evidence that the system has failed. Not Al Gore declaring the “science is settled”, right before it hit the scientific fan, not the PR fiasco of trying to declare what an acceptable scientist is rather than the science. I am talking about McShane and Wyner 2010 , McKitrick et al (2010), and Lucia’s graphs. What they agree with is the overestimation of the effect of CO2. Some more, some less, some change each month, some are papers. The important part is that they are different in methodology that gives us a Bayesian inference that estimates a factor that could be in the 2 to 4 range from reality that we would expect from environmental activists with out them fudging or defrauding, choose your pejorative verb, the data. Simply, the assumptions for conserving the environment would tend to do this.  But this is not the failure.

The failure is the response. If this was a scientific issue, an engineering control problem, or cost/benefit analysis, an adjustment would be made. Think about it. If we are off a factor of 2 as we would expect of the environmental activists, and we corrected this to a more realistic number what the effect would be.

We would have more time. The rule is cheap, fast, or good; you only can choose 2 of the 3. We would rid ourselves of the “we have 150 days to save the word” because we have up to a century. Or take solar and wind, with the time to develop to make them cheaper, the time to deplete fossil fuels such that they are more expensive, solar and wind could be economically viable. The world would have time to become rich. Rich nations can afford a clean environment; communists and the poor do not or cannot. The problem is smaller, more likely to be solvable or controllable. This should be a time of resolution that we can and will make a good, cheap solution to a problem.

However, the reality is that the silence is deafening. What the reality shows is that the supposed scientific environmental approach was hijacked for a political outcome. Whether it stays this way, or not, is the question. Even more amazing is that if you consider the low ball estimate already in the IPCC, it would indicate that we should definitely work on determining if the response to 2xCO2 were this low or lower. Yet, it appears that the contemplation of the catastrophic is the preferred course. As an engineer, believe me, small problems are better, easier to solve, and cheaper, especially environmental problems. The bigger the problem the more one should be tearing it down to make sure the conclusion is correct.

Note that this tearing down to the make the problem smaller is not to mean there is not a problem. Rather the reverse, the problem is real, but it is solvable. The solution is also more likely to be made into reality; the better you can solve it. A much more palatable outcome than “we are all going to burn” and go broke and starve while doing it.

So why I am I singling out the IPCC? Look at Copenhagen. The massive jetting of politicians expending huge clouds of CO2 to sign a document to limit CO2 emissions. The demonstrations of the NGO’s because they did not have a seat at the table at what was supposed to be scientific accomplishment, not advocacy. The lack of critical voices being given the authority, responsibility, and the grants to make sure the problem wasn’t smaller. The acclamation of a communist speech about other’s guilt, whom he, himself profited and profits from the fossil fuel consumption to a standing ovation. All of this, instead of professionals trying to limit economic damage and environmental damage, which would include scientists, engineers, politicians, activists, and yes, the public. Not the obvious errors in the IPCC work, themselves, but why they were there and why they were defended.

Yet for all these obvious problems, ones that you would think would need to be corrected or limited severely, this is what the Rio Declaration established. This is why I argue the problem is systemic, and not the emails, but rather, if the emails had not occurred, something would have to have been invented to explain the failure. Thankfully it was not a success. We can ill afford such “successes” as Copenhagen wanted to establish, and the Rio Declaration legitimized.


62 Responses to “The Evidence of Failure”

  1. M Simon said

    You think that is a failure? Look at the Drug War. Climate science is not the only place this happens.

    What is more outrageous about the Drug War is that in the last 5 years the scientific community and the medical community mostly get it right. So much so that the science is now embedded in medical protocols.

    And yet the general public is not getting the information.

    I like to call the Drug War the Climate “Science” of the Right in so far as public policy is concerned. It matters not how much evidence I can muster for failure and misunderstanding. Belief is unshakable.

    “A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” – Max Planck

  2. kim said

    Gaia my own Queen;
    Unimpressed with CO2,
    Scared to death of Sol.
    =========

  3. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: M Simon (Jan 14 11:30),

    Prohibition laws don’t work. They didn’t work for alcohol, they haven’t worked for prostitution, drugs, immigrants or the national 55 MPH speed limit. I don’t consider a trade-off of a small decrease in the behavior with a massive expansion of organized crime a good bargain. Not to mention the corruption of the governments and effectively civil war in our neighbors to the south.

  4. RB said

    The important part is that they are different in methodology that gives us a Bayesian inference …

    It seems to be a very casual use of the term Bayesian. Besides, a true Bayesian method was applied here .

  5. John F. Pittman said

    Yes RB, it was a very casual use. But consider this quote your link.

    “”When we combined some of the most credible and solidly-grounded (in our opinion) estimates arising from different observational evidence, we found that the resulting posterior pdf was substantially narrower than any of the observationally-based estimates previously presented. It’s inevitable that such a narrowing would occur, but we were surprised by how substantial the effect was and how robust it was to uncertainties in the individual constraints.””

    Kinda of a circular argument, isn’t it. The data we considered best gave the best result? I like the post. But my point in terms of Bayesian and frequentists, just because the odds are low does not mean that it does not happen. In fact it, means if you have done it correctly, you know it WILL occur. To me this is a frequentists type statement, but serves well for my next point. They may very well be correct, 3C. However, this “fact” does not change what should be done, such as have a tiger team, who takes their best data and see if they get a lower sensitivity to 2xCO2. Or see if their best data gave water vapor as negative.

  6. RB said

    John, its always possible that outsiders are correct although the odds are low – there are some examples here . In that context, the process of science itself across disciplines can be viewed to be frequently corrupt.
    Or see if their best data gave water vapor as negative.
    Even Lindzen does not expect to find that.

  7. John F. Pittman said

    The point was the procedure. Tiger teams, persons specifically looking for cheaper better, more correct, etc. is commomn accepted practice by those who want things to work , and to pay the most economical monies. Most economical is set by the assumptions made in the consideration by most often, management. Another point if the 3C is the best number, and they have done it, have we not eliminated those “scary” 6C to 10C scenarios? And, thus, need to concentrate on doable and realizable rather than pipe dream solutions? Further to keep the public’s trust or regenerate, come out and proclaim that yes, some of the activists played the scare game, and yes some of the critics played the doubt game, but that we are getting closer to offering better solutions based on better understanding? Or should each side just play the blame game?

  8. Steve Fitzpatrick said

    John,

    A thoughtful essay. Thanks. The “huge changes, now, and at any cost” meme has always been a weak point in the CAGW argument. The lack of evidence of fast approaching doom makes that weakness ever more obvious as time passes. Maybe in 5 or 10 years we (those of use who are still around!) can start a rational discussion of what to do; but as of now there is far too much hysteria for that discussion to take place.

  9. RB said

    John,
    I think everyone agrees that better sensitivity estimates are needed. The environment though will always take a backseat to economic growth – regulations relating to something less controversial such as diesel soot get eased in bad times – but it’s possible that we’ll take small steps to move in a different direction over the CO2 issue in the years to come.

  10. John F. Pittman said

    The point of the papers was that we did arrive at fair solutions. We did not waste capital better spent for growing the economy, and we have cleaned the environment. Your point of taking a backseat to economic growth perpetuates what activists say, not what the data about the environment says. I pointed out what was working and how it worked. It is not always perfect. There have been some notable successes, and some that activists say are failures. Yet, the environment here in the States is better. Another one of the dirty little secrets to contrast with your link, is that the estimates of pollution from our off sourcing to China have raised pollution on the global scale as much as 10%. But rather than get into a specific item argument that misses the point, the diesel even if a failure, does not mean the system is a failure. I would maintain that singling such a one line item is the equivalent of either side of the AGW issue using a one time weather event to make a point. I would also point out the subtitle, that California still has the toughest laws, which does put them in an economic disadvantage. I would maintain that if California loses diesel dependent to China because they did niot reduce the standard, that what you have accomplished is to make the total pollution burden of the world greater. And in that air is a world commons, I dare say it would make everybody worse off, if only a miniscule amount. It is hard for me to see this higher standard as an environmental victory of any sort.

  11. DeWitt Payne said

    The EPA worked in part because it created a level playing field for US industry. A company could not afford to spend money on pollution control if its competitors weren’t also required to do the same. We now have the same problem on a global scale that we had before the EPA in the US. If the US sets standards for emissions that are below our global competitors we shoot ourselves in the foot economically while possibly making the global situation worse.

  12. harrywr2 said

    DeWitt Payne said
    January 14, 2011 at 3:23 pm

    “If the US sets standards for emissions that are below our global competitors we shoot ourselves in the foot economically while possibly making the global situation worse.”

    The price of steam coal in Asia and Europe exceeds $5/mmbtu.
    The price of steam coal in Wyoming is 75 cents/mmbtu and the price of steam coal on the US Eastern Seaboard if $4/mmbtu.

    The rest of the world will find it’s way off the coal habit because it is in their economic interest to do so.
    They would like us to ‘lead the way’ as it is in their economic interest if we incur the same high costs for energy that they do.

  13. Mark T said

    Hehe, same reason Walmart supported the minimum wage increase.

    Mark

  14. Kenneth Fritsch said

    “I wrote about how environmental issues have been successful resolved. One of the other dirty little secrets that is not proclaimed is that such programs based on Clean Water Act, “Superfund”-CERCLA, “Community-Right-to-Know”, Clean Air Act and Amendments, etc., is that they have been successful. Making sure that there was measurable harm, and a framework of doable activities fairly administrated has made the air, the water, the land, and the groundwater safer and cleaner. The system(s) does have its problems and costs, its successes and failures. However, in general, it has been a success.”

    John Pittman, I think your unstated thesis here is that the while the EPA may have gotten and be getting CO2 regulation wrong it and other regulating agencies are doing OK in other areas and it has something to do with different methodologies. While we can always reply it would have been worse without XYZ regulation, I am not so sure this is the way to evaluate the success of a government regulation or regulating bodies.

    Instead of merely stating that the EPA and environmental regulation has been successful, I would think we should discuss alternatives and the inherent weakness in the EPA regulation and any with an alternative. From a purely economic point of view some would argue that regulation is inferior to correctly applying tort law.

  15. John F. Pittman said

    Kenneth, my first point is that measured success is a success. The environment is cleaner and is safer. It was not as you say could have been worse without XYZ regulation; it was measured worse, and after EPA regs and cleanups, measured better. My second point is that CERCLA or Superfund, and SARA was because of the demonstrated failure of the tort laws, in particular. Yes, one can argue that from a purely economic point of view regulation is inferior, but it pales to the historical argument I make that most, if not all, of these laws and regulations occurred due to failure of the tort system.

    The inherent weakness of those who oppose regulation lies in the commons. The tort system did not work. Businesses did apply the law for economic reasons to the detriment of the environment. Further, it was pointed out that if the businesses could not get past the short term economic mind set and answer the problem of the commons, legislation would. We also got these regulations because from a business point of view, the prisoner’s dilemma was their choice. But it was their choice. Importantly, it showed that typical market and legal remedies did not work. I find it disingenuous to say it would have worked if only, while ignoring why it did not work. I have not seen a credible discourse on how to make it work yet. The ones I have read are as altruistic, and as likely to work, as some of the really bad environmental activists’ spiels where they start off assuming that all business wants to do is rape the environment and rob their workers of pay. Even worse, they blame things rather than examine and admit it is a human failing, and thus there may not be an economic solution for that failing. And if they are going to offer it, it must answer how it will be administered, and what are the unintended consequences, or it is yet another experiment with unknown results. We already have a system that works, popular or not.

  16. Geoff Sherrington said

    15 John, You are well-meaning but wrong. The cases of regulated “success” that you give can not be regarded as success until and unless they are shown to be better than simultaneous circumstances elsewhere, not better than prior circumstances as you have done. There are many aspects of life that are improving with time, absent any regulation, like lesser examples of Moore’s law applied to electronics. Your examples could fall into this class of natural progressive improvement.

    Superfund, for example, was horrendously expensive. Can you quote any measured improvements of significance? There was a great deal of clean up of substances that were not really harmful, like the isolation of former gas station lots and the taking away of soil for treatment, in case gas had carcinogenic or teratogenic properties (that have not yet been shown to happen for humans in the gas station examples). The classic one in my experience is banning lead from petroleum products on the hypothesis that it reduced the IQ of youngsters. This has never been proven, yet the costs were immense. Have the IQs of children been measured as higher because of the banning of tetraethyl lead? You can’t tell me – because the USA did not run a double blind study where two population groups were compared after the ban was applied to one of them.

    Therein is a major objection to the precautionary principle. You seldom know if regulated remediation worked, or whether it would have panned out OK in the end. Like the CFC story and the ozone layer. Do you note any improvement to the human condition from the Montreal Protocol? We sure note depletion of our wallets.

    I won’t ramble on, because DeWitt Payne at 3. said what I was about to say, exquisitely succinctly, but beat me because of time zones. He’s quite correct.

    “Prohibition laws don’t work. They didn’t work for alcohol, they haven’t worked for prostitution, drugs, immigrants or the national 55 MPH speed limit. I don’t consider a trade-off of a small decrease in the behavior with a massive expansion of organized crime a good bargain…..”

    Can you recall a Government that did not attempt to make new laws on prostitution? How many combinations have to be tried over and over before it finally dawns on regulators that none will work, as history has shown?

  17. John F. Pittman said

    Prostitution is the opposite of the problems with the commons. In prostitution both the Lady and the John have agreed to a mutually beneficial agreement. But in the commons, persons effected not only do NOT benefit, they the price. As we say around here, if I pay for it, I expect to get the benefits. To carry your analogy further, the commons and the common people get fucked (the wrong kind) while the industry gets to do the fucking (the right kind). The analogy and your argument are poorly conceived (pun intended).

    Your quote of things improving is either a call to shamanism, or a fallcy. I can’t tell because you did not elucidate. Why does Moore’s law work, will it always work, what does it have to do with measuring the bioacculation of lead or other substances?

    Yes I can quote measures of improvement. Sites that I personally designed the recovery treatment systems for went from phase layers about 100% organic to ppm in as little as 5 years. Streams that only grew biota that are indications of human waste pollution now support the original species that had died off. Streams that supported trout, did not, and then did once agian after clean water act laws were enforced.

    On the world scale: NOx decrease. In US, particulate decresae by clean air act. Endangered species taken off the list due to population increases and stability. On the multinational scale, decrease of acidic compounds as measured by air monitoring.

    You quote a supposed failure that was not just about human health for one item and argue that that means it did not occur in the areas I mention. I believe that is a logic fallacy that skeptics hit the AGW advocates on quite well.

    Both Payne and you quote a situation as I pointed out that both parties agreed and are happy with compared to a situation where the laws and regulations were passed because those effected were unhappy. Their pain, disease and unhappiness underline the bankruptcy of your argument.

    For argument sake I would agree Superfund was expensive. But your argument of expense is a logical disconnect about whether it was effective, that it was required, or that it was necessary.

    Your statement of former gas stations is incorrect. Benzene, toulene, and other ring compounds were shown to be carcingenic. I have a compendium of organic compounds and their relationships to biomagnification, bioaccculation, and carcinogen factors. I have this because at one time I had more accepted designs and more working installations for cleaning up leaking underground storage tanks (LUST) than any other engineer in my state. I was training PE’s, though I was not a PE, in states from Lousianna to Florida, and from Florida to new Jersey in how to properly design recovery and treatment systems.

    Your comment on lead about children may be correct but that was only part of the finding of harm. One of the other findings of harm was lead buildup in fish. One of the proofs of the effectiveness is that lead is now not the most common reason for fish advisories. It is PCB’s and mercury. I do not know of these double blind studies because that is not what was the concern of those of us who were measuring the impact of lead in the environment. In the environment, although lead though fossil fuel consumption, not as an additive, and metal fabrications increased, lead in the bioacculation and biomagnification studies decreased after lead additives were banned.

    You confuse past practices of finding harm with the precautionary priciple (pp). Harm was found. The problem with pp is that harm does not have to be found, only imagined. Older regualtions were based on finding of harm, not pp.

  18. michel said

    Thanks, a very wise and thoughtful piece. Its expresses exactly the point of view of lots of people more clearly than they have explicitly thought it out. The bottom line is, yes, we do think regulation of pollution is necessary, we simply cannot leave it to pollution control eventually working out to be in the self interest of lots of individual polluters. If it really were true that warming was disastrous in scale, due to CO2, and could be averted by limiting emissions, we’d be all for it.

    Our problem is, as the piece says, that there does not seem to be any evidence for this, and the costs are huge, and the advocates of the most draconian measures seem to prefer public hysteria to getting on with the science and engineering to show exactly what should be done and how the results should be measured. And also of course conceal the data that their hysterical alarm is based on.

    People who take this view are often abused in the AGW community, but its an entirely reasonable position. Its like, we think that hydrogenated vegetable fat should be regulated out of the food chain, it should not be left to industry to get around to it one of these days in response to consumer pressure. But no, we do not buy in to wholesale prescription of statins, we don’t buy in to the saturated fat – cholesterol – heart disease chain, and we especially don’t think that substituting a diet high in corn sugar and polyunsaturated vegetable oil is a sensible or proven solution to anything. And we are not anti-evolution, pro tobacco backwoodsmen, just a bunch of people looking at evidence cost and benefits.

  19. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: John F. Pittman (Jan 14 20:30),

    My comment in #3 above was in reply to M. Simon’s comment about the Drug War as should have been obvious from the Re: line. It was not in response to the main article. I think you’re too sanguine about Superfund, but the EPA originally was a science based organization. It’s become less so over the years, finally resulting in bowing to political pressure on CO2 regulation. Appointing ignorant political hacks like Carol Browner as Director didn’t help. But regulation of emissions was necessary. The evidence was overwhelming that a lack of regulation wasn’t working. Even better, the evidence is also overwhelming that the regulations worked.

    The EPA wasn’t banning activity, it worked with industry to minimize the pollution from the their processes. The standards were reasonable and the measurement procedures were workable.

  20. Geoff Sherrington said

    John at 17. Ok, I’ll meet you part way.

    There is benefit in regulation when the basis of the regulation is a proven advance in knowledge that will be of benefit only if it is widely adopted. If regulators decree that small children shall have smallpox vaccination, or that municipal water supplies shall be chlorinated, then there is less wriggle room for my argument.

    If there is emerging evidence of a potentially large problem, then regulation can be used if the solution to the problem is best achieved by the participation of many in a large experiment, some of whom might need coercion. This places a heavy burden on the instigators of the experiment to have a great deal of confidence that the outcome will be clear, in all usual senses, like those involving health, equity, postive benefit:cost outcome etc.

    This is where the IPCC approach to AGW fails. We are still not ready for the big experiment because there is not adequate surety and clarity among the instigators. I have yet to see a convincing benefit:cost analysis of contol of GHG. Mostly, I have seen carpetbaggers.

    BTW, the types of improvements you give as examples are quite capable of execution by the makers of the problems you describe. We no longer have dark satanic mills because the owners found better productivity from better conditions, not because some guy with a threatening piece of paper told them to clean up. In my personal experience, the capture of small leakages from our large uranium mines was quite successful via a natural biological uptake system designed and operated by the miners. We in industry commonly spend on R&D to ameliorate problems of our making for no reason other than being responsible citizens. I have a completely clear conscience that we never f…d anyone. To the contrary, when requests came in for donations to charities or because of disasters, the cheque book was generous. It would have been more generous if less was spent on mandated regulation of dubious benefit.

    The generators of wealth usually know how to spend it more wisely than the man from the government who is coming to help.

  21. Puzzled said

    Why is the media reporting on global warming so biased in favor of those supporting it? Shouldn’t there be two sides to every story? Why are all the western governments pushing for global warming taxes when the science remains unproven? Why do people still believe that hypocrite and snake-oil salesman Al Gore?

    Al Gore has no friends and is just using global warming to get attention. His own wife divorced him and his children are on drugs and booze because of him. I’m super cereal.

    By the way, there’s no possible way for America to pay back its debts. Even if Americans passed a carbon tax, they still couldn’t overcome their budget deficit. They can’t print money forever. I look forward to the day when China buys America and turns it into a sweatshop. Of course, America could always go rogue like North Korea and threaten everyone with nukes.

  22. Kan said

    From DeWitt #19:

    “The evidence was overwhelming that a lack of regulation wasn’t working. Even better, the evidence is also overwhelming that the regulations worked.”

    And then, like all good regulatory bodies, they did not fade away, they find new battles to fight.

  23. Puzzled said

    Mark my words. The western nations will be punished for their arrogance and for pushing this global warming scam against the rest of the world. Jared Loughner is just a symptom of the cancers eating America from the inside. If this global warming scam is not stopped, and its perpetrators not punished, then prepare your family and kids for HELL ON EARTH. STOP THE UN before the fascists take over.

  24. Layman Lurker said

    There is no doubt that public goods, or the commons as John refers to them, need another mechanism besides the market to prevent real losses to society. The key to a proper solution (or not) in these situations lies in the politics surrounding the problem. If the politics are healthy and balanced, then I believe this gives rise to rational (if not perfect) policy solutions. IIRC then John is suggesting that if the political factors underlying climate science were healthy then the reaction of the community to reasonable issues and questions raised by skeptics would be one of healthy and rational debate. We would not see things like 88 page responses to reviewers for some papers and rubber stamps for others.

    I’ll offer some conjecture on one of the sources of the unbalanced politics – the UN. How have UN institutions come into existence? Are institutions such as the IPCC a product of balanced and competing political forces within the UN keeping each other honest? I think not. As a result of unchecked or unchallenged political power within the UN, the biases of the IPCC seem to have been institutionalized by the UN right from the get go.

  25. John F. Pittman said

    Sorry I missed that Dewitt.

    Geoff, I agree that business evolved in the span since the child labor days. But I would point so did our tort laws, as well as regulations. Whereas you see the evolution and the necessity of it for business, you seem to fail to appreciate it for regulations. The regs filled in the gap that our citizens noted and objected that business and tort had failed.

    Layman, I directly blame the UN, in particular the Rio Declaration. Reading and understanding that as a bureaucracy, this document revealed two things about the UN; both are common to bureaucracies. One is the establishment and expansion of their fief. The other is that typically the belief comes before the declaration. In other words, the declaration represents their world view and advertises the direction that their push is going. The Rio Declaration does not suborn the working environmental system we have as much as it replaces it with a failed model. As others have noted, there has been a push in Western environmental activists to go this direction. One of my points is that they claim environmental failure in the face of overwhelming evidence of success. I agree some was expensive. Yet few seem to realize the nature of the cost.

    So to better address both your comment and Geoff’s I am going to write a third post on a typical expensive half-assed environmental solution. It will have to be from my personal perspective since I was one of those involved in several aspects of it. It is about Superfund, which Geoff is right in that it is an easy target, but there are reasons why I think many would find this interesting.

  26. Kenneth Fritsch said

    John Pittman, I do not think that your simple measure of regulations success is correct unless you ignore the costs to get to some measured level and the costs in terms of what powers have been handed to the government that that government may apply in the future in a way you do not approve. Government regulations whether or not you consider them an essential way of operating are quite costly and amount to hundreds of billions of dollars a year. Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time.

    Tort law fails when it is improperly applied and depends in the case of the environment critically on the framework and view of private property rights by the courts. The problem of the commons occurs because it is assumed that no individual or group of individuals can own the commons and therefore it is “owned” by the government. Then, of course, failure of the commons is an inherent failure of common and diffuse ownership and not the market. How tort law and the commons problem could be remedied long term is for another discussion on another day and at another place.

    I do think that it is relatively easy to fall into the trap of defending regulations based on your method and the tendency to not acknowledge any alternative systems and therefore be satisfied with the only means we have – flawed as it may be. I personally do not see a change to an alternative to regulation any time in the near term future, but that means we must be ever aware of these systemic problems and not confuse them with some temporary aberration. In my eyes, you are attempting to defend the EPA in general and at the same time criticize it for what it has done with CO2 regulations. I think you are avoiding looking for any systemic problem. I see what the EPA has done with CO2 as very much within its framework. That regulations are very general and avoid going to the voting constituencies with many specific issues is why regulation agencies are established. That what these agencies do can escape the bureaucratic tendencies of other government agencies is wishful thinking. That what these agencies do is always reasonable (or as reasonable as the market would require) and free of politics is even more wishful thinking. Regulations always require a short cut to the pre-regulation rights that were in place prior. As I recall, the EPA and like agencies do not require a search warrant to come onto a place of business in order to fulfill the agency regulating duties.

    Perhaps, John, you could expand your several parts thread to include a discussion of the problems and successes of the EPA – be they inherent or aberrant. My personal experience with the Superfund was that business concerns were obligated to pay equal shares of compensation for remediation of landfills that were improperly (some of the improper was before the fact of the law – and yes I am aware that instituting laws and enforcing them after the fact is only unconstitutional with individuals and not business concerns) used by the waste disposal concerns that were in turn used by the business concerns. Most waste disposal companies at that time were either small (shallow pockets) or bankrupt and in the government’s, pursuit of deeper pockets, it did not appear to be concerned with expending any effort to establish proportionate responsibility for the chemicals that were landfilled. I guess that would not sufficiently distinguish regulation from tort law.

  27. John F. Pittman said

    Kenneth, it maybe my measurement of success is simple, your appraisement ignores the costs that were incurred. Some were medical. Some loss was the loss of use of private property by others, not the polluters. These costs were not being paid. You can claim that tort law failed for whatever reason. The historical record is that it did fail. The failure of the commons and the entrenchment of the prisoner’s dilemma for business are well documented. It was also recently re-affirmed. There was an attempt to head off the ozone requirements. In this case, the EPA showed that ozone was harmful. The deal that was attempted was based on the claim by industry that it would be cheaper to pay for the medicines for such diseases as asthma. It did not work because of another failure of the commons. In this case, business found that it was more expensive, since they could not separate their culpability with natural vectors such as pollens, dusts, etc. They did not do the alternative because of economic reasons, not medical, not environmental, not philosophical, but economic reasons.

    That the cost is billions is irrelevant if that is what it takes, because you need to ask yourself, if it costs so much why do the alternatives keep failing? The cost must be real. Why is there almost always a failure of the commons? The reason is economics, not environmental. Your interpretation of the failure of the commons does not agree with what was attempted and failed. The government stepped in because it was demanded of them by the public. They did not claim the commons; it was given to them. The decision of giving the EPA and government this authority was vehemently opposed by many. Your definition of the commons is why it is considered an area where market solutions fail. Whether it is because of one definition or another, I find moot. The problems were not remedied.

    What alternative? The opportunity has been there several times, and yet this supposed alternative has not happened. In what way can you claim they are a temporary aberration? They are a method for correcting a problem. Harm was found that was not being paid by those doing the harm. I am not defending them in one sense. I am re-iterating the history of what happened. The systemic problem cuts both ways in this case. There is the cost that the regulations represent, and it is definitely real. But there is a problem with harm that has been done, is being done, and since humans are not perfect, nor have they perfect understanding, the almost total certainty that there will be future harm. It is also definitely real in terms of harm and in costs.

    I do not know if your statement about CO2 and the EPA is correct. I am waiting for the finding of harm to be fought in court. I am defending the EPA for past successes that some would deny or ignore. I do not know about CO2, but what I read did seem to be based in large part on the precautionary principle. And yes, I disagree strongly that imagined harm, should be the basis of making environmental law.

    Your understanding of warrant’s and EPA are incorrect/incomplete. You can refuse their entry. But they can go get a warrant. Just as police can. The EPA does have a criminal section with lawyers and prosecutors, and as such, can get warrants. I would not claim that the EPA escapes their human nature of bureaucracies. But neither would I claim that police or military escape their human nature. I am not avoiding looking for a systemic error. I identified one, the commons. I do not care how it is paid. I do believe it should be paid. To me as an individual, I believe I should have the right to seek redress from those who harm me, my property, or the commons; I use or need for living.

    I sent an expanded Superfund post based on personal experience. JeffID should post it in a day or two if he is not tied up. As typical of human endeavors, it is a mixed bag. I hope you find it interesting, and perhaps even humorous.

  28. M Simon said

    Your quote of things improving is either a call to shamanism, or a fallcy.

    Uh. No. The drive for profits is a continual drive to do more with less. The invisible hand if you will.

  29. M Simon said

    I’m pro tobacco:

    Schizophrenia and Tobacco

  30. M Simon said

    Jared Loughner?

    It is amusing to see the rantings of a paranoid schizophrenic elevated to the level of rational discourse. Starts to make you wonder if there are enough sane people in the US to make it work.

  31. M Simon said

    The problem of regulatory capture is ever with us.

  32. John F. Pittman said

    M Simon, how do those invisible hands drive profits for cleaning the environment without regulations? It did not occur before the regulations, and the cleaning the environment does not generate profits, it costs.

  33. M. Simon said

    M Simon, how do those invisible hands drive profits for cleaning the environment without regulations?

    Pollution is an unused resource.

    Using “too many” resources to make a product drives you out of the market.

    If I was going to design a pollution reduction system I would do it as research: research in ways to utilize the pollution for some profitable purpose. The research would be the visible hand. The market result is the invisible hand.

    What do you gain from that? China can’t undercut you by polluting their country. i.e. you are not moving pollution around.

    I admit it is a tougher job than passing laws. But you don’t deed swarms of officers to make it work.

  34. M. Simon said

    deed = need

  35. M. Simon said

    The invisible hand at work:

    http://reason.com/archives/2007/05/30/wikipedia-and-beyond/1

  36. John F. Pittman said

    M Simon, as our host likes to point out, your proposal for “Pollution is an unused resource” is to deny the god of physics. The reason no one captures it to make money is that it is too dilute for industrial or other use, which is to mean it is uneconomical to put it in a usable form. It would be much more expensive than the current system.

  37. Kenneth Fritsch said

    Technically, John, you are correct and I am incorrect/incomplete about the search warrant, but knowing what transpires in these cases probably gives a more complete picture.

    From the following it is rather clear that a warrant is not required for a visit from OSHA, but unclear what happens when the visit is made without any advanced noticed. With advanced notice as I read it in the link below the employer could require a search warrant or “or its equivalent based on administrative probable cause”. Obviously what happens with these regulations is different than the rules applying to a search by police of a premises.

    The administrative probable cause from above, I would suggest, is as weak with regards to judicial review as what was required for some search instances covered by the Patriot Act and a cause of great concern by many civil libertarians and by some politicians who would somehow find a distinction between OSHA and those agencies covered by the Patriot Act.

    http://web.princeton.edu/sites/ehs/healthsafetyguide/F1.htm

    Under the Act, an OSHA compliance officer is authorized to:
    o “Enter without delay and at reasonable times any factory, plant, establishment, construction site or other areas, workplace, or environment where work is being performed by an employee of the employer”; and to
    o “Inspect and investigate during regular working hours, and at other reasonable times, and within reasonable limits and in a reasonable manner, any such place of employment and all pertinent conditions, structures, machines, apparatus, devices, equipment and equipment therein, and to question privately any such employer, owner, operator, agent or employee.”

    Nearly all inspections are conducted without any advanced notice. However, when advance notice of an inspection is given, the employer must inform his or her employees’ representatives or arrange for OSHA to do so. OSHA usually does not have a warrant for an inspection when they first arrive and may not conduct warrantless inspections without an employer’s consent. It may, however, inspect after acquiring a search warrant or its equivalent based on administrative probable cause.

    http://www.parkerpoe.com/news/fifth-amendment-does-not-prevent-execution-of-osha-administrative-warrant/

    From a practical perspective, employers should only refuse OSHA entry in highly unusual circumstances. If an investigator is forced to leave and return with an administrative warrant, the employer can expect that the inspection and any resulting citations and penalties will be greater than would be the case if the inspector is permitted immediate entry. A small delay (meaning an hour or less) to locate a responsible person to accompany the inspector is reasonable. However, absent extraordinary plant conditions, allowing OSHA to do their job is usually the best course of action.

    http://www.swlearning.com/blaw/cases/administrative/0608_administrative_01.html

    Petition denied. Administrative search warrants issued to OSHA differ from traditional criminal warrants in that the exhaustion-of-administrative-remedies doctrine applies, meaning that an employer who wishes to challenge a warrant cannot immediately file a motion in district court to suppress the evidence after the warrant has been executed. An employer has no constitutional right to a contempt hearing to challenge an administrative warrant prior to a search. There was no violation of any rights when the marshals forced Trinity to allow an inspection.

  38. Mark T said

    32.John F. Pittman said
    January 15, 2011 at 9:20 pm

    M Simon, how do those invisible hands drive profits for cleaning the environment without regulations?

    By ensuring that customers continue to buy your products rather than switching to a competitor that offers something similar but without pollution. The same way any capitalist venture works, actually.

    It did not occur before the regulations, and the cleaning the environment does not generate profits, it costs.

    Cleanup would have happened without regulations, probably in a more efficient manner in the interest of protecting profit – people won’t buy from a company that’s pooping in their back yard, no matter how badly they need the product producing the poop. All it takes is for another company to notice the vulnerability and then exploit it to their advantage. Before long, everyone is on the bandwagon. This is the basic mechanism of capitalism.

    It is worth noting that just as often (if not more often) as said regulations are used to “clean up the environment,” they are also used to provide a means for one business to succeed over another. The goal of such regulations is thus rather murky, a tool to reward favored businesses for any reason in the name of environmentalism. A means around normal capitalist processes which would have, ultimately, provided the “best” solution.

    The most common failure of anyone comparing isms is to simply ignore that there is a possibility that something could have occurred in a different manner that the way it did, i.e., to assume that the way it went down was the only way it could possibly have gone down. This is a rather common misunderstanding of capitalism, often coming from those that profess to be capitalists (or in favor of the free market.) Few understand the concept of the invisible hand (few would question it if they did.)

    Mark

  39. Kenneth Fritsch said

    To me as an individual, I believe I should have the right to seek redress from those who harm me, my property, or the commons; I use or need for living.

    We obviously agree that private properties rights are the key to any freedom seeking political system. Systemically you are defending the status quo and I think we could do better systemically. I also think that being content with what we currently have tends to forgive and defend the systemic problems where there is no defense.

    I believe the commons problem arose from individual sheep owners sheep grazing in a public park or the “commons”. The basic problem of the commons stems from no individual or group of individuals owning that property. The simple solution in this case is for the public land being sold to private concerns. You may counter that not having public property is not practical and I would disagree, but I would counter that the commons problem and the “remedies” are far from ideal in a practical sense.

    For an alternative view on property rights and air pollution you might want to read the following link. Some of Murray Rothbard’s views might not be agreeable to many reading here and even to other libertarians, but he does do a good dissection of tort law and its applications to pollution.

    http://mises.org/rothbard/lawproperty.pdf

    A quick question for you, John, if regulation were completely successful in controlling chemical pollution would we be seeing any toxic tort cases? Would the tort approach, which is claimed not to work, be employed at all in cases of chemical pollution?

  40. John F. Pittman said

    Re: Mark T (Jan 16 16:42), You say

    By ensuring that customers continue to buy your products rather than switching to a competitor that offers something similar but without pollution. The same way any capitalist venture works, actually.

    How does this knowledge get transmitted? The exchange of money is the communication. If the polluter, as has been historical true for the reason it is cheaper to make without pollution, makes it cheaper what do the buyer or the seller, who are not the persons necessarily who suffer, care? This statement can only be assumed to be faith based; it is not based on the description of invisible hands in the economic books.

    Cleanup would have happened without regulations, probably in a more efficient manner in the interest of protecting profit – people won’t buy from a company that’s pooping in their back yard, no matter how badly they need the product producing the poop.

    This is unsupported speculation and does not have a basis in economic history. Exactly the opposite. As a practicing engineer, I can tell business pays a lot of money to keep things clean, and would not spend this money except as required. At this time, China is putting industry in the US out of business. A significant part of the reason is that they can produce cheaper by polluting. Before you say I can’t know this, when we retired a boiler, it was inspected for a Chinese industry. It was desired because it is the type that burns the cheapest, however the most polluting. Present reality says this statement of yours is baseless. Then you go on about how persons are using the regs to secure an advantage. This is exactly what those who pollute do. It is either take advantage of a lack of regulations or it is take advantage of regulations. This is why the business economic model is described as amoral. It is about the money, not some misconception of altruism, which by the way, I have yet to see.

    The most common failure of anyone comparing isms is to simply ignore that there is a possibility that something could have occurred in a different manner that the way it did, i.e., to assume that the way it went down was the only way it could possibly have gone down. This is a rather common misunderstanding of capitalism, often coming from those that profess to be capitalists (or in favor of the free market.) Few understand the concept of the invisible hand (few would question it if they did.)

    As you point out it did not occur. I have not a misconception of capitalism that you have pointed out, since my point was historical. But there is no invisible hand that responds to cleaning the environment if most of the people desire cheap goods and don’t care if the innocent are harmed. It is not printed on the dollar or the receipt. This is unfounded speculation. You have yet to show a provable mechanism to transmit the knowledge as the methodology of the invisible hands model has.

  41. Mark T said

    40.John F. Pittman said
    January 16, 2011 at 6:12 pm
    Re: Mark T (Jan 16 16:42), You say

    How does this knowledge get transmitted?

    When your sales drop and your competitor is suddenly reporting record gains? Sorry, but this is a rather silly question.

    If the polluter, as has been historical true for the reason it is cheaper to make without pollution, makes it cheaper what do the buyer or the seller, who are not the persons necessarily who suffer, care? This statement can only be assumed to be faith based;

    You are confusing short term and long term costs. In the long run, it will (would have) cost more to continue to pollute. When people stop buying your products you can no longer compete. When your legal bills make it impossible to compete with the companies offering the same product, but clean, you go out of business.

    it is not based on the description of invisible hands in the economic books.

    From this statement I can infer you do not understand the concept. I am not here to explain to you how or why it works, nor will I continue to debate something you do not understand.

    This is unsupported speculation and does not have a basis in economic history.
    Um, actually, you speculated that it would not have occurred without said regulations. How is my assertion any less supported than yours, which does not have anything for support other than the fact is we have these regulations?

    A significant part of the reason is that they can produce cheaper by polluting.

    Again, you are failing to recognize any other alternative. In your world “it is this way now, therefore this is the only way it could be.” Talk about unsupported, you have one data point and that is your truth.

    Before you say I can’t know this,…

    Do not put words into my mouth. I have never said anything of the sort. What I have said, and you seem to lack an understanding of, is that you cannot know that your solution is the only solution. Period.

    Present reality says this statement of yours is baseless.

    You have one data point. That is hardly disproof of my claim.

    Then you go on about how persons are using the regs to secure an advantage This is exactly what those who pollute do.

    Now you’re talking nonsense. Everyone “pollutes” in some fashion, simply by expending energy. It is a direct consequence of producing goods. This is exactly what those who would rather not compete in the free market do, whether they “pollute” or not.

    This is why the business economic model is described as amoral.

    Capitalism is described as “moral” by any definition. It is the only one in which the seller has a choice.

    You have yet to show a provable mechanism to transmit the knowledge as the methodology of the invisible hands model has.

    I have, actually, and this mechanism is very well documented (it is just a metaphor, I hope you realize.) That you do not understand the concept and then claim it does not exist is the definition of argumentum ad ignorantium.

    Mark

  42. John F. Pittman said

    Re: Kenneth Fritsch (Jan 16 17:42), From the link

    Legal and political theory have committed much mischief by failing to pinpoint physical invasion as the only human action that should be illegal and that justifies the use of physical violence to combat it.

    Kenneth, the problem with pollution is that it is a physical invasion. That is what the finding of harm that allows the promulgation of regs. I have not read the whole thing, it is quite long. You may well think we can do something better. I do not argue what you think, I argue about the historical, the present (see the above about China), and I argue I have not seen a credible alternative. The ones I have seen are either altruistic speculation, or stealth non-working non-reg non-solutions, or are stealth regs that support the advantages and disadvantages the author wishes, rather than the current set.

    Your belief as to commons and private property is speculative, because that is not what happened. As to the environment, how does any one person or government own the air, water, the ground and not just all that is this world, but the interactions and dependencies as well? Until you can answer that in an equitable way, which means that physical invasion by the polluter into the innocent or the innocent’s property, what are you proposing? Just the little I read invalidates your speculation.

    Do I think perfection of chemical processes would mean no more toxic tort cases? Let me ask you, if humans were perfect, would we have to use toxic tort cases to protect the innocent or have someone pay for the physical invasion of their property that pollution commits? If you are going to invite me to count angels on the head of a pin, I will ask you to do the same. I know I have better things to do; don’t know about you.

  43. Mark T said

    This is unsupported speculation and does not have a basis in economic history.

    Um, actually, you speculated that it would not have occurred without said regulations. How is my assertion any less supported than yours, which does not have anything for support other than the fact is we have these regulations?

    I should point out, too, that to state there is no basis in economic history is rather short-sighted. There are numerous examples of things people “predict” about capitalism that are actually untrue. So-called “monopolies” were actually in decline long before the government applied anti-trust legislation. The UL has a far better track record regarding product safety than OSHA and it is entirely funded by private entities.

    There was no problem with pollution until massive industrial expansion occurred, so we really only have one data point. And, as noted by Kenneth, it is impossible to really make a claim that the regulations have “worked” except in the most general sense.

    So, for you to say my claims are baseless is, well, a baseless claim. Indeed, history supports my opinion quite well; eventually, companies would have been brought to bear the results of pollution. The evidence, of course, is every other instance in which it was seemingly not in a company’s best interest to implement something yet they did it anyway. As it turns out, these things are ultimately in the best interest of business though rarely are the reasons as out in the open as someone like you would expect.

    Mark

  44. Mark T said

    “It is the only one in which the seller has a choice.”

    Should be buyer, not seller.

    Mark

  45. John F. Pittman said

    Re: Mark T (Jan 16 18:37),

    When your sales drop and your competitor is suddenly reporting record gains? Sorry, but this is a rather silly question.

    You do not propose a mechanism for the measurement, generation of consequence, and transmission of this information. Your statement is the one that is essentially unreal and as stated unrealizable.

    You are confusing short term and long term costs. In the long run, it will (would have) cost more to continue to pollute. When people stop buying your products you can no longer compete. When your legal bills make it impossible to compete with the companies offering the same product, but clean, you go out of business.

    You have now jumped to longrange speculation without your mechanism. Propose the mechanism so we can discuss whether it will work, how it will work, and what are its problems. If you think it will not have problems them I will use your words slightly changed but with the original intent

    this is rather silly

    When your legal bills make it impossible to compete with the companies offering the same product, but clean, you go out of business.

    This is what the regs are about. Without the regs people had no standing in court. You appear to be confused on the history of regs. I happen to live in the state that has what is considered the first environmental suit in history. The cotton mills started damming the small rivers in South Carolina. This prevented sturgeon from spawning. The fishers took the mills to court and lost because they had no standing. 1830’s.

    From this statement I can infer you do not understand the concept. I am not here to explain to you how or why it works, nor will I continue to debate something you do not understand.

    In that you have not provided a mechanism, hand waving about invisible hands that I have argued with facts as to why it does not work as you claim, it is you that has at least demonstrated the fact you don’t seem to know how a discussion works. Propose your mechanism, otherwise it is expressed as an article of faith, thus can’t be discussed by a heretic as I am apparently am.

    Um, actually, you speculated that it would not have occurred without said regulations.

    This is in response to your speculation that it would have occurred; I pointed to the historical record. If you can speculate to something that did not happen; and try to make a point that I am speculating when discussing history and claim that it happened for a reason because it did not happen (cleaning the environment) until the regs were passed, you missed my point that the regs were the mechanism, and you are not providing a mechanism, because my claim is that the invisible hands methodology does not support you, but me. This is born out in the historical record as I have claimed.

    Do not put words into my mouth. I have never said anything of the sort. What I have said, and you seem to lack an understanding of, is that you cannot know that your solution is the only solution. Period.

    I have not said it was the only solution, I have asked for you to make your case. You are are putting words in my mouth. I have stated what I have seen, I have not claimed that my solution is the only solution. You are the one that claim that cleanup would have occurred if without regulations. It did not happen and was not happening, but state something that people are disproving every day by making China the manufacturing leader of the world, and I quote you

    people won’t buy from a company that’s pooping in their back yard, no matter how badly they need the product producing the poop.

    People are buying it, and even if the Chinese who are having the shit put in their water, land and air don’t buy, it matters not and disproves your hypothesis.

    You have one data point. That is hardly disproof of my claim.

    I have the only data point. The historical record is that pollution was not addressed until it was regulated. You seem to offer no proof.

    Now you’re talking nonsense. Everyone “pollutes” in some fashion, simply by expending energy. It is a direct consequence of producing goods. This is exactly what those who would rather not compete in the free market do, whether they “pollute” or not.

    This is incorrect. One can have emissions that are not pollution. You labor under a misconception.

    Capitalism is described as “moral” by any definition. It is the only one in which the seller has a choice.

    Not when it poisons the innocent as the historical record shows, and that is why we have regulations. It is not your position, but mine that is recognized as “moral.” The poisoning of others water, land, or air, or their person is a physical violation and is recognized as immoral, if not with permission. In fact, even with permission it can be immoral.

    That you do not understand the concept and then claim it does not exist is the definition of argumentum ad ignorantium.

    Again you are putting the words in my mouth, I am claiming you are not explaining your mechanism, and that is what I claim to not exist. Show the mechanism whereby the invisible hands work for this case. You claimed that it would have been cleaned anyway.

    In the long run, it will (would have) cost more to continue to pollute. When people stop buying your products you can no longer compete. When your legal bills make it impossible to compete with the companies offering the same product, but clean, you go out of business.

    This is your claim. Show it that it will happen without regs. What is the mechanism that legal bills (will) make it impossible to compete? State it. Develop it. Or it is the hand-waving I claim it is. This does not mean I am claiming a case can’t be made, I haven’t seen it in our discussion. My claim is that the invisible hands did not work, the regs did. It is not an argument from ignorance. That I have not seen an argument that provided enough information that the methodology is believable is a statement of fact. It does not extend to the point that you have stretched it. I made no such claim except as sotto voice to explain my position or respond to yours. But I have asked for such from you.

  46. John F. Pittman said

    Re: Mark T (Jan 16 18:51),

    Indeed, history supports my opinion quite well; eventually, companies would have been brought to bear the results of pollution.

    And if the time you speculate is past the life span of those harmed, just how would the polluters have been brought to bear the results of pollution? What you propose is then by definition ineffective for those harmed. That is the moral imperative of regulations. Further your claim is as simplistic as I state, there are companies that went bankrupt who caused damage. They did not and cannot bear the results of pollution, and they did not go out of business due to pollution. History does not support your contentions.

  47. Fed Up said

    Here’s a new term for global warming climate change climate disruption climate challenges climate snake-oil terminology:

    Climate @$$hole: A fake scientist who promotes the fraudulent theory of global warming while attacking genuine scientists with ad hominem attacks, such as calling them “deniers”.

  48. M. Simon said

    M Simon, as our host likes to point out, your proposal for “Pollution is an unused resource” is to deny the god of physics. The reason no one captures it to make money is that it is too dilute for industrial or other use, which is to mean it is uneconomical to put it in a usable form.

    The reason no one captures it to make money is that no one has figured out a low cost way to capture it (bacteria?) and/or there is no profitable use. The God of Physics precludes nothing. After all uranium had few uses in 1850. All you can definitively say is as of today we don’t know how.

    Clarke’s Three Laws are three “laws” of prediction formulated by the British writer and scientist Arthur C. Clarke. They are:

    1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right; when he states that something is impossible, he is probably wrong.

    2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.

    3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.

    =====

    I’d say you were in violation of the first law.

    **********************************************************

    There is some gold in the oceans, but it would be hard to get rich by processing it. There are only ten grams of gold in each cubic kilometre of the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans. However, the Mediterranean Sea is three times more concentrated in gold (probably because it is landlocked, and the gold washed in from the rivers takes longer to get diluted).

    ==

    Now some scientists believe that bacteria might have actually laid down some of the gold deposits in the first place. After all, when a bacteria called Pedomicrobium lives in water rich in dissolved minerals, it will actually build up layers of iron or manganese oxide around itself – like a shell. Scientists from Macquarie University have suggested that many gold deposits in Venezuala might have been laid down by bacteria. And just recently, John R. Watterson of the US Geological Survey, claims to have found proof in Alaska.

    Now when most people find a lump of gold in their gold-panning dish, they quickly turn it into cold hard cash – and have a party. But when John R. Watterson got his gold, he looked at it with a scanning electron microscope. To his surprise, most of the tiny particles of gold that he had collected from nine Alaskan rivers were not solid little lumps. Instead, they looked like gold-plated bacteria.

    What he saw was a lacy pattern of tiny cylinders joined by thin rods. The cylinders were the same size as the Pedomicrobium bacteria.

    Now gold stops most bacteria dead in their tracks – with suffocation. It blocks up the tiny holes in the cell walls through which food comes in and wastes go out. But Pedomicrobium, has an unusual way of reproduction. Most bacteria make babies just by splitting into two separate cells. But Pedomicrobium reproduces by budding. It stretches out a narrow stalk which rises above the gilded cage closing around the parent bacteria. This narrow tube then opens up (at the end) to make a new bacteria. So new baby bacteria are continually being born just on the outside of an expanding ball of golden death. It’s a slow process – it takes over a year to ‘grow’ a gold grain roughly the thickness of a human hair (about 0.1 mm). It would take a long time to ‘grow’ a 70 kg nugget. (Maybe we could speed the process up, by genetically engineering the Pedomicrobium bacteria.)

    http://www.abc.net.au/science/k2/trek/4wd/Over44.htm

    It may violate the God of Physics. The God of Biology has a different opinion.

  49. M. Simon said

    BTW it took me more time to cut and paste the gold info in #48 than to find the information. That hurts your credibility John. A LOT.

    Now I’m a mere Computer Engineer. My Chemistry is rusty and my Biology worse. And yet a minute with Google and I had a plausible answer. What is your excuse?

    We have a natural bacteria that collects heavy metals. Why not go to work on modifying it for metals other than gold? Or be on the lookout for other bacteria in nature that might be suitable? It will be hard work. It will be VERY useful if successful.

    Or let us take another tack. Polywell Fusion. Suppose the scientists working on it get it to work? Process heat will be VERY cheap. Electricity as well. Something like 100 MW units could be mass produced. So even the God of Physics may be soon appeased.

    ===

    So what is the answer for contaminated sites? Close them off and wait for technology to improve. What is the hurry?

  50. M. Simon said

    I’m beginning to understand you John. Heinlein had your number.

    A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.

    -Robert A. Heinlein

  51. M. Simon said

    Of course, our failures are a consequence of many factors, but possibly one of the most important is the fact that society operates on the theory that specialization is the key to success, not realizing that specialization precludes comprehensive thinking.

    R. Buckminster Fuller, Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, 1963

  52. John F. Pittman said

    Your use of bacteria underlines several of your problems. Your misuse of Heinlein and Clarke another.

    As sted in your article the 70 gram nugget takes a huge amount of time a single person does not have to wait for the result; they will be dead. You have yet to offer more than just speculation, Can you genetically modify the bacteria for other metals, or for something that is not metal and make it happen where it protects those harmed. So far neither the god physics nor biology have answered. As as Heilein would point out prayers are for the priest, they do not change the physics. Clarke would have no problem with me poiting out that I quoted history, nor that what you offered was specualtion. And Heinlein had a problem with those who would read, but refuse to understand, or answer repeated requests. Of course you could point that this is speculatio on my part while ignoring the speculation you made that these authors would agree with you.

    By the way, with my biology degree, engineering degree, math minor and chemistry minor, I am far less speciaized than you who are a computer expert.

  53. M. Simon said

    As sted in your article the 70 gram nugget takes a huge amount of time a single person does not have to wait for the result; they will be dead

    I see reading is NOT one of your specialties.

    (Maybe we could speed the process up, by genetically engineering the Pedomicrobium bacteria.)

  54. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: M. Simon (Jan 17 15:23),

    If you’re talking about harvesting gold from the ocean, genetic modification of the bacteria won’t do squat. The rate will be limited by mass transport. At 10 ppq (10E-15), that will be really slow. I can assert with high confidence that if the hypothesis of nugget formation by those bacteria is correct, then the concentration of gold in the environment of those bacteria was many orders of magnitude higher than in any ocean.

  55. John F. Pittman said

    Thanks Dewitt.

    M simon: The real problem is this. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t speed it up. Maybe means maybe. You still have the issue of whether speeding it to the maximum is enough to answer the problem with the timelines I outlined in my post with the sentence that you quoted. Just speeding it up does not mean it necessarily meets the time limits required to solve the problem. It is you who offered this as a potential solution to the problems with your other arguments. It also is speculation that it could be sped up to requirements to justify it meeting the criteria. And finally, at what cost, it may not be economical. It would be speculative to claim much of anything about the total costs such a successful implementation would require to be spent.

  56. M. Simon said

    DeWitt Payne said
    January 17, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    Re: M. Simon (Jan 17 15:23),

    If you’re talking about harvesting gold from the ocean, genetic modification of the bacteria won’t do squat. The rate will be limited by mass transport. At 10 ppq (10E-15), that will be really slow. I can assert with high confidence that if the hypothesis of nugget formation by those bacteria is correct, then the concentration of gold in the environment of those bacteria was many orders of magnitude higher than in any ocean.

    Agreed. But if you read what my suggestion was about (God – do they teach reading in schools any more?) it was about reengineering the bacteria for bioremediation of heavy metal contaminated sites.

  57. M. Simon said

    M simon: The real problem is this. Maybe you can, maybe you can’t speed it up. Maybe means maybe. You still have the issue of whether speeding it to the maximum is enough to answer the problem with the timelines I outlined in my post with the sentence that you quoted. Just speeding it up does not mean it necessarily meets the time limits required to solve the problem. It is you who offered this as a potential solution to the problems with your other arguments. It also is speculation that it could be sped up to requirements to justify it meeting the criteria. And finally, at what cost, it may not be economical. It would be speculative to claim much of anything about the total costs such a successful implementation would require to be spent.

    How will you know the answers to those questions unless you do what I suggested?

    RESEARCH

    Jeeze. Try reading what I wrote.

    And what is the time frame? Given that lawyers are chewing up time and money without result, maybe holding off on DOING SOMETHING and researching better methods might be profitable.

    Or maybe instead of bacteria a plasma torch run by a Polywell (if it works) is the way to go.

    Now I understand that what I’m saying is probably not politically feasible. That is not my point. What I’m simply saying is that the way we are doing it is not to only possible way from an engineering perspective.

  58. John F. Pittman said

    I will post about feasibility studies and remedial action plans so I can answer some of the questions and comments. It will be this weekend though.

  59. DeWitt Payne said

    Re: M. Simon (Jan 18 05:17),

    it was about reengineering the bacteria for bioremediation of heavy metal contaminated sites.

    Could have fooled me. There is no mention of heavy metals in that post other than gold and only mention of pollution once. Bioremediation of heavy metal contaminated sites as opposed to effluent streams isn’t going to work either. What are you going to do, spread the bacteria on the ground? Then what? You’ll still have to dig up the site and process the soil, which you already had to do anyway. Where’s the money in that? It’s like recycling. Recycling is almost always more expensive than using virgin material. Aluminum cans are an extremely rare exception. Recycling of everything else is done because it makes people feel better about themselves, not because it’s cost effective. Scrap polyester can be used to make things like park benches and fiberfill at a profit. Recycling scrap polyester back into polyester bottles is much more expensive than making the bottles from virgin polyester.

    The bugs in chemical waste water treatment plants remove a lot of metals. But the point is that no company had anything more than rudimentary waste water treatment plants until they were forced to build them by the EPA. The water usually went straight into the nearest river. Now the much cleaner water goes into the river and the sludge may have to be dealt with as hazardous waste. You don’t seriously think anyone outside academia would even consider doing the research to determine the feasibility of recovering a few ppm of lead from that sludge do you? Rhodium maybe. Lead, no.

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