Tuesday, 13 November 2018

California’s Paradise Lost | WSJ

I was a touch tough on greenies yesterday. It's a bit more complex than I said, although the basic story remains the same: well-meaning policies to protect the environment have had the unintended consequence of fuelling raging wildfires in California.
A follow-up problem is that the greenies won't learn from this. They won't admit consequences even if they're unintentional. They are already excuse-finding. It's the fault of Trump because he pulled out of the Paris climate accord and so: global warming. And global warming, so: forest fires, hurricanes and floods. And never mind that if we hadn't had the greenies, in the shape mainly of Greenpeace, stop the development of nuclear power in the 70s, we wouldn't have had the rise in CO2 and consequent global warming, in the first place.
Greenies never admitted that the 1970s nuclear scaremongering was wrong. Even if the science says it's wrong. And remember they always say they believe in science. Like the science of global warming. We must all accept it.  But the science, if it's about nuclear, or GMOs, fuggedaboutit.
So, even if Trump's tweet on the fires was wildly inappropriate, it's true. But to greenies, it's Trump, so... wrong.
Here's the WSJ on the issue:

One prob­lem with Pres­i­dent Trump's bul­ly­ing rhetor­i­cal style is that he gives his crit­ics rea­son to ig­nore him even when he has a point. Con­sider his week­end threat to yank fed­eral funds from Cal­i­for­nia amid its hor­rific wild­fires.
Three fires are raging across the state, killing at least 31 peo­ple and scorch­ing more than 200,000 acres, in­clud­ing the town of Par­adise in the Sierra Nevada foothills. "There is no rea­son for these mas­sive, deadly and costly for­est fires in Cal­i­for­nia ex­cept that for­est man­age­ment is so poor," Mr. Trump tweeted. "Bil­lions of dol­lars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all be­cause of gross mis­man­age­ment of the forests. Rem­edy now, or no more Fed pay­ments!"
Mr. Trump has no em­pa­thy gene even if he is right about forestry ills. Relent­less winds and low air mois­ture make Cal­i­fornia's fires harder to contain while de­vel­op-ment is putting more peo­ple in dan­ger. But also fuel­ing the fires is an over­grown gov­ernment bu­reau­cracy that frus­trates proper for­est man­age­ment.
About 57% of Cal­ifor­nia forest­land is owned by the fed­eral gov­ern­ment while most of the rest is pri­vate land reg­u­lated by the state. Nearly 130 mil­lion trees died in Cal­i­for­nia be­tween 2010 and 2017 due to drought and a bark bee­tle in­fes­ta­tion. Dense forests put trees at greater risk for par­a­sitic in­fec­tion and en­able fires to spread faster. When dead trees fall, they add more com­bustible fuel.
Once upon a time the U.S. For­est Service's mis­sion was to ac­tively manage the fed­eral gov­ern­ment's re­sources. Yet nu­merous laws over the last 50 years, in­clud­ing the En­dan­gered Species Act and Na­tional Enviromental Pol­icy Act, have ham­pered tree-clear­ing, con­trolled burns and tim­ber sales on fed­eral land.
Cal­i­for­nia also restricts tim­ber har­vest-ing and re­quires myr­iad per­mits and en­vi­ronmen­tal-im­pact statements to prune overgrown forests. As the state Leg­isla­tive An­alysts Of­fice (LAO) dryly noted in April, "project propo­nents seek­ing to con­duct ac­tiv­i­ties to im­prove the health of Calfornia's forests in­di­cate that in some cases, state reg­u­la­tory requirements can be ex­ces­sively du­plica­tive, lengthy, and costly."
One prob­lem for landown­ers is dis­posing of dead­wood. Dozens of biomass fa­cil­i­ties that burn tree parts that can't be used for lum­ber have closed due to emis­sions reg­u­lations and com­pe­ti­tion from sub­si­sized renewables and cheap nat­ural gas.
To burn leaves and tree limbs, landown­ers must ob­tain air-qual­ity per­mits from "lo­cal air dis­tricts, burn per­mits from lo­cal fire agen­cies, and potentially other per­mits de­pend­ing on the lo­ca­tion, size, and type of burn," the LAO ex­plained. "Per­mits re­strict the size of burn piles and vege­ta­tion that can be burned, the hours avail­able for burns, and the allowable mois­ture lev­els in the ma­te­r­ial."
The LAO rec­ommended that Cal­i­for­nia prune its reg­u­la­tions, fa­cil­i­tate timber sales and ease per­mit­ting for burn­ing bio­mass. En­viron­men­tal­ists oppose this, but one irony is that de­struc­tion from fires im­per­ils species far more than does reg­u­lated treeclear­ing.
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