Confusion and consternation about Obamcare is not limited to what’s happening in Washington. A lot of questions also remain unanswered about the health-care policy’s Medicaid expansion in the states, including Kentucky.
Respected Journal of Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers: Electric Cars – Unclean at Any Speed
Here’s an article that is already driving up the discussion about the true pollution-fighting value of electric cars: Unclean at Any Speed, Electric cars don’t solve the automobile’s environmental problems.
No, this isn’t coming from some radical anti-green group’s blog. It just appeared in the respected IEEE Journal, the primary monthly publication of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers. This article explores a potentially amazing and unfortunate truth that the total life-cycle construction and operation of electric cars is essentially no more environment-friendly than conventional, petroleum-fueled vehicles.
A major part of the problem is production of the special materials required to make electric cars (rare earth magnets and lithium-based batteries) poses significant climate problems. Both mining the raw materials and manufacturing the finished machines is apparently much harder on the environment that the manufacture of a conventional auto.
Along the way, author Ozzie Zehner points out something that needs to be fully understood about research in the climate area. In talking about how conclusions in reports on the environmental friendliness of electric cars vary so widely, Zehner says:
“Why is the assessment so mixed? Ultimately, it’s because this is not just about science. It’s about values, which inevitably shape what questions the researchers ask as well as what they choose to count and what they don’t. That’s true for many kinds of research, of course, but for electric cars, bias abounds, although it’s often not obvious to the casual observer.”
I suspect that the same concern applies much more widely in the climate/environmental studies area. Values can overshadow the science.
Climate study doesn’t lend itself to truly random sample type research. We simply do not have another “world” where we can go pump up the Carbon Dioxide levels to see what happens when everything else stays constant. Instead of random studies, much climate work relies on correlations (Carbon Dioxide levels go up, earth temperatures go up, so we assume the first causes the second). However, it’s a fundamental rule of statistics that correlations can never prove cause and effect relationships (maybe something else also changed, like sunspot activity, that is the real cause of the temperature change).
In any event, proving he is not afraid to go where few have gone before, Zehner points out that most electric power station emissions occur away from upscale urban/suburban areas. Likewise, the environmental problems from mining nuclear and fossil fuels mostly occur in rural areas, too. Thus, asks Zehner:
“Do electric cars simply move pollution from upper-middle-class communities in Beverly Hills and Virginia Beach to poor communities in the backwaters of West Virginia and the nation’s industrial exurbs? Are electric cars a sleight of hand that allows peace of mind for those who are already comfortable at the expense of intensifying asthma, heart problems, and radiation risks among the poor and politically disconnected?”
This is potent, class warfare “stuff.” And, I must re-emphasize, this isn’t coming from some wacko organization’s blog, either.
It makes you wonder what else we are being told about green issues that might just not be right, either.
In any event, a lot of the great things you’ve heard about electric cars could be wrong. The primary journal of the nation’s leading organization for electrical engineers was willing to publish an article that says so.
Family Foundation points to deficiencies in the proposed Kentucky Core Academic Standards for science
Family Foundation spokesman Martin Cothran makes important points in this Herald-Leader Op-Ed.
Cothran doesn’t cover all the issues regarding the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) which the Kentucky Board of Education voted earlier this month to incorporate as the science standards portion of the Kentucky Core Academic Standards.
For example, Page 31 of a June 13, 2013 review of the standards from the Fordham Foundation says:
“…it would be impossible to derive a high school physics or chemistry course from the content included in the NGSS.”
Comments in the Next Generation Science Standards’ own web site seem to support Fordham’s claim. The NextGen’s own materials talk about additional preparation needed for careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM):
“The NGSS do not define advanced work in the sciences (emphasis added). Based on review from college and career faculty and staff, the NGSS form a foundation for advanced work, but students wishing to move into STEM fields should be encouraged to follow their interest with additional coursework.”
If Fordham is right, it looks like the new standards cut off looking at science at the 10th grade level, omitting major portions of high school chemistry and physics. If so, and if key concepts needed to be mastered in those upper high school science courses are not included in the standards, then these courses could even be dropped in our schools. Now, that’s a strange way to push careers in science, technology, engineering and math.
For still more on the problems with the proposed new science standards, check out the Fordham Institute’s new report.
I strongly suggest that Kentucky’s real scientists, engineers, technicians, as well as our chemistry and physics teachers, need to take a very careful look at these new standards. Because if the new standards omit regular high school chemistry and physics, if these professionals don’t get involved, they might just be the last of their breed to come from the Bluegrass State.
Though most of the controversy between Kentucky’s energy sector and the Environmental Protection Agency has been framed in a way that pits Kentucky coal against the commonwealth’s beautiful wildlife and waterways, a Supreme Court ruling this week reminds us that there’s actually a much more fundamental issue at stake.
On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “extortionate demands for property in the land-use permitting context run afoul of the Takings Clause not because they take property but because they impermissibly burden the right not to have property taken without just compensation.” In a nation where government agencies – including the EPA – tend to get rather creative when it comes to extorting your property, such a ruling is an important protection.
And this news comes right on the heels of a West Virginia chicken-farmer demanding that a federal judge make a ruling on whether the EPA has the authority to force farmers to obtain permits for storm-water runoff associated with their operations, another instance of government agencies playing fast and loose with individuals’ property rights.
Property rights are the foundation of a free society, and when bureaucracies like the EPA attempt to encroach on them to further their political goals, the free society is threatened. Just last year, the EPA threatened an Idaho couple in just such a manner, claiming that the couple had no right to question its unilateral mandates forbidding the couple from developing their legally-acquired property. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled otherwise, granting the Idaho couple their day with the EPA in court to protect their land.
If individual property rights are too much to ask, at least allow the states – not a politically-motivated national bureaucracy – to determine how best to weigh the costs and benefits of a property-owner’s land improvements. Instead what we have today is a federal behemoth hell-bent on imposing its will on any and all decisions from property-owners to improve their land as they see fit.
So as you see, Kentucky’s issue with the EPA goes way beyond the mayfly or alleged wetlands. It’s about the fundamental right of property-owners to manage their own legally-acquired land.
Trouble at the Top: Long Term Trend federal testing shows high schools not making progress in education
New results are out from a long term trend tracking version of the federal National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP LTT), and the results are puzzling, at best.
Unlike the “Main NAEP,” which provides state level results, the NAEP LTT only provides an overall, nationwide look at education. However, unlike the Main NAEP, the LTT version of the test has remained fairly stable since the early 1970’s permitting an extended view of educational trends in reading and mathematics in the United States.
It should be noted that a NAEP LTT change in 2004 to allow use of testing accommodations to improve participation of students with learning disabilities did cause some small score shifts downward. However, the drops are considered small enough that comparison to earlier years is still considered acceptable.
This first graph summarizes the trends in NAEP LTT reading scores over time.
Note on this graph and the one for math that follows that the appearance of an asterisk next to a score means that score is considered to be statistically significantly different from the score in 2012. For example, the Age 9 score (nominally 4th graders) of 208 in 1971 is statistically significantly lower than the 221 score for 2012.
You can also see the Age 13 score (nominally 8th graders) of 255 in 1971 is also statistically significantly lower than the 263 score this age group achieved in 2012. However, the 2012 score for Age 13 students is not notably different from the score in 1992.
But, now examine what happened to the Age 17 students (nominally in the 12th grade). The score in 2012 is not statistically different from the score in either 1971 or most of the following test years, either. Worse, 12th grade reading scores were actually a little higher in the period from 1988 to 1992 for these high school age students.
Why was the performance increase seen at the lower grades not maintained at the graduation end of the school cycle?
You might think that increasing high school graduation rates could explain the flat scores. You’d probably be wrong.
This graph shows Average Freshman Graduation Rates (AFGR) for the United States reported by the National Center for Education Statistics.
The graph shows the early 1970’s experienced some of the best high school graduation rates of any time during this entire period. Furthermore, the AFGR rates around 1975 were essentially identical to those in 1984 through 1988, 1992, 2004 and 2008 (the 2012 rate has not yet been reported by NCES, unfortunately). So, for the most part, much of the flatness in scores is matched by relatively constant graduation rates for these years.
In fact, a reverse effect seems apparent between 1992 and 1999. Graduation rates fell notably in this period while the NAEP LTT reading scores essentially stayed stable. One might expect the scores to rise under these conditions, not fall.
So, the generally flat NAEP LTT reading scores for Age 17 students are puzzling, and problematic. Why are we consistently losing gains supposedly being made in the lower grades in our public schools?
The reading situation is repeated for math.
The Age 17 scores in 2012 are not notably different from scores in 1973 or any year from 1990 on.
Now, how’s that again about all the education progress in this country? If it doesn’t “stick” to graduation, maybe it really isn’t there at all.
This past Monday on KET’s Kentucky Tonight, Bill Goodman revisited a timely topic given President Obama’s recent announcement of his executive orders to launch a campaign against carbon emissions – and Kentucky’s energy sector.
Guests included Bill Bissett, president of the Kentucky Coal Association; Elizabeth Crowe, executive director of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation; Paul Thompson, chief operating officer of LG&E and KU Energy; and Stephen Sanders, director of the Appalachian Citizens’ Law Center.
Notable is a question taken by e-mail from the Bluegrass Institute around the 25-minute mark. Though Sanders admitted that the current administration provided no cost-benefit analysis for its new carbon standards, standards likely to prevent any new coal-fired power plants in the country and which threaten the existing ones, he did not go on to say that ignoring the costs to our energy sector was unacceptable. This is right in line with the thinking that any smidgen of economic benefit that comes along with a new regulation is worth any costs.