The Week That Was
March 9-15, 1998

The asteroid crisis has come and gone. The usual breathless press briefing. The usual alarmist remarks (We're "really scared"). The usual expectations of a new federal program to combat the crisis. Then, darn it all, the scientists find out they'd dropped a few zeros off their calculations. Fond as we are of things that go KABOOM! we were looking forward to the diversion of zapping asteroids in space. Alas, 'twas not to be.

According to news reports in The Australian, Greenpeace activists are now in Melbourne showing off the same solar-powered kitchen they displayed in Kyoto. "Most people are not aware that a daily activity such as boiling a kettle or frying an egg contributes to global warming," said Greenpeace "campaigner" Keith Tarlo, intimating that if given the choice, Aussies would obviously opt for clean solar over dirty coal or gas.

Well, maybe not. After all, the 15-foot-high, $20,000 solar panel that powers the Greenpeace "kitchen of the future" is already available; Aussies only need to write the cheque. The problem--as Greenpeace found out in Kyoto--is that three days of overcast skies and you can't even power your coffee pot.

Speaking of "renewable energy," the California-based Geothermal Resources Association, Biomass Energy Alliance, National BioIndustries Association, and American Wind Energy Association have joined together to form the American Renewable Energy Producers Alliance--the better to lobby Congress for more bucks.

In a letter just sent to California Congressman James Rogan, the Alliance complained that the $540 million in federal subsidies already allotted to them dries up after 2001--and, besides, it wasn't enough anyway! In their words, "the renewable energy industry in California is in a state of decline due to market energy prices which are much lower than project operating costs."

A few words come to mind here: "non-competitive," "parasitic," "sucking-sound." Let's just say that millions of dollars in federal subsidies for an industry that, after three decades, still describes itself as "emerging" sounds like an invitation to throw good money after bad. Fortunately for the Alliance, Congress has a lengthy history of doing that.

Meanwhile, for those curious to know where some of that $540 million in federal subsidies has been going, look no further. Green activists, working out of offices at the University of Maryland-College Park, are now organizing a million-person "March for Peaceful Energy," to be staged in Washington on October 24th, just in time for the November round of Climate Treaty talks in Buenos Aires.

Organizer Richard Laskin knows an opportunity when he sees one; and in Secretary of State Madeleine Albright's experience at Ohio State University during the Administration's face-off with Iraq, he definitely saw one. Says Laskin, "I have been receiving support from the renewable energy industry as well as anti-war organizations from around the globe. The number of supporters is growing by significant numbers every day."

Details are available on the Internet at Expect Al Gore to keynote.

Radio, TV, and print reporters from developing countries are being offered an all-expenses-paid, three-week trip to Kalmar, Sweden, this summer to attend a seminar on environmental journalism. The seminar is sponsored by the Institute for Further Education of Journalists and funded by the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. In a press release, the organizers said their plan is to "attract journalists in key positions" to meet with Swedish environmental reporters, politicians, and representatives of Green activist groups. Participating Third World reporters will learn about "news evaluation, investigative reporting, and ethical considerations," as well as systems of environmental legislation and the role and responsibilities of environmental NGOs. Wrapping up, the reporters will then get to apply everything they've learned to the "recycling" going on at Helsingborg Crematorium. (See "The Swedish Alternative," SEPP home page)

General Motors has announced its intention of selling automobiles in China without catalytic converters in order to make them more affordable to Chinese consumers. With all the boasting from GM executives over their collaboration with Green activist groups, selling every Chinese an Oldsmobile without pollution controls sounds, shall we say, insincere.

Elsewhere, growing dissent. In London two weeks ago, a quarter of a million Brits took to the streets to protest a proposed ban on fox hunting and other heavy-handed rural regulation. It was the largest turnout since the protest over the poll tax. Green activism in Britain has been more than a nuisance. In December, animal-rights activists attacked spectators waiting for the start of a fox hunt with baseball bats, sending six people to the hospital. Last May, "Swampy and the mole men" tunnelled under the site of a planned second runway at Manchester Airport, holding up construction for weeks. The Brits are signalling they've had it. The Labor government is reportedly backing off--at least on the fox hunting ban.

In Washington, D.C., the National Association of Home Builders has appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in its suit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Fish and Wildlife claims it has authority under the commerce clause of the Constitution to regulate public and private land use activities that might affect the Delhi Sand Fly (renamed the Delhi Sand "Flower-Loving" Fly because it sells better). NAHB says no. As we reported a few months ago, California's state EPA has already spent $4.5 million to protect the Delhi Sand Fly.

In Tennessee, Governor Donald Sundquist is threatening a Southern version of the Boston Tea Party; this time with the EPA's clean-air regulations going into the drink. The Environmental Protection Agency is demanding that Tennessee reduce smog emissions, which it claims create air pollution problems in the northeast. Sundquist and the governors of West Virginia, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Virginia, Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois have sent a letter to President Clinton expressing serious suspicions about the EPA's data and asking for more time to study pollution patterns. Tennessee's economic growth would grind to a halt under the new EPA regulations, says Sundquist.

This week, the ever-resourceful Vice President Albert Gore gets into a huddle with visiting Russian Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin to discuss using Russian spy satellite data to monitor the U.S. environment--forestation, land use, emissions, (my house).

As U.S. News & World Report revealed in its March 16th issue, "the CIA already monitors compliance with international environmental treaties," and, this year, discovering and analyzing the negotiating positions of other nations relative to December's Kyoto agreement on greenhouse gases has high priority. U.S. negotiators, it seems, want a peek at what is really driving their diplomatic counterparts--like the Chinese--and a spy satellite that can distinguish features just inches across is just the thing.

Turning satellite cameras on the United States is a logical next step, of course. Unfortunately, U.S. law forbids the CIA from using its spy satellites to photograph the United States. For the Vice President, that's where the Russians and their satellites come in. But it seems to us that the intent of the law was to forbid satellite photographs to be used to spy on U.S. citizens, not simply to ban them from a particular source. After all, U.S. access to other than CIA spy photos was not possible when that law was passed.

Not that we're ungrateful, mind you. Spy satellites mean that securing compliance with the Climate Treaty will not require an expensive new bureaucracy. Hooray.

When you look up, remember to smile.

TW2 is compiled by SEPP Research Associate Candace Crandall

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