The Week That Was
April 12-18, 1999

COUNTDOWN: Just ONE more week to go for the celebration of Resourceful Earth Day on April 22

Big split among the environmentalists -- this time over legislation on “Early Action.” The Senate bill is designed to spur voluntary cuts in GH gas emissions, in return for credits that could be worth mucho dinero IF the Kyoto Protocol is ratified and IF emissions trading is established. The “moderate” groups, like the Environmental Defense Fund, see this as a way of splitting the industry and getting industrial support behind Kyoto. The extremists oppose it, but not for the same reason we do. The executive director of Ozone Action testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee [on March 24] that the bill “rewards our biggest polluting companies, even if they make no changes whatsoever.” Ozone Action, National Environmental Trust, Greenpeace, World Wildlife Fund they all believe in atonement and suffering for past sins like providing consumers with the energy they need.

Ozone Action is at its schizophrenic best, however, stirring up students about Global Warming at Stanford, Harvard, and the University of Washington. They want these institutions to stop investing in companies that contribute to Global Warming. [isn’t that just about everyone?] unless they sign up for “Early Action.” How’s that again?

At Stanford, they are getting help from Paul Ehrlich, and much publicity. Of course, Stanford’s investment in targeted oil companies (Exxon, Mobil, and Texaco) and General Motors, the companies Ozone Action is most concerned about, makes up just 0.03 % of the University’s $4.7 billion endowment. We note that BP and Shell are not being targeted. These companies had made all the right noises about Global Warming and Climate Change. But as we recall, in a protest in Buenos Aires, the activists wanted them to do more like stop exploring for oil.

Fuzzy thinking of this type seems to be shared also by titans of industry. ARCO chairman Mike Bowlin (at a Houston conference) described ARCO as moving toward a new energy model: “Our challenge is ….to plan for a future in which hydrocarbons are just one of a wide variety of clean fuels …” Just what fuels did he have in mind? He’ll have to drill deep to develop a hydrogen well probably all the way to Jupiter.

Always politically correct, Bowlin also decried the fact that increased economic and population growth will demand 50% more energy use in the next two decades. And this from the head of an energy company? He should get a job with Greenpeace; but he’ll be ingratiating himself with BP, which may be taking over ARCO.

Canadians, the highest per-capita users of energy in the world, are finally coming to grips with the economic impacts of Kyoto. Canada agreed to reduce emissions by 6% below 1990 levels, but will likely be at 19% above 1990 levels by 2010. Trying to meet its target, Canada could put its economy at risk, according to the Business Council on National Issues. As reported in the National Post (Canada), a federal advisory group will urge the government to go for emission trading, with a carbon tax on fossil fuel producers as a secondary option. None of the choices are palatable. Trading of emission permits depends on intrusive verification and enforcement. Carbon taxes, easier to implement, are bitterly resented in Alberta and other energy-producing provinces.

Energy taxes, however, are the preferred choice of the prestigious Resources for the Future group (which the enviros refer to as Resources for the NEAR Future). At the Annual Energy Outlook Conference of the Energy Information Administration of the US Department of Energy, RFF president Dr. Paul Portney stated, for the record, that all environmentalists, politicians, and think-tank types were in private agreement that the Kyoto Protocol was a dead letter and it was time to move on. He then unveiled a new approach, authored by RFF economists--an auction program for CO2 emission, with a price cap administered at $25 per ton of carbon. The RFF program would raise gasoline prices by 6 cents a gallon. Does anyone really believe that this will make a difference? It gets worse. The RFF program is unilateral--other countries can go on their merry way while the U.S. “leads by example.” We’d have to set the gas tax at $3-4 per gallon to set an example for much of the world.

Looking around the world, we note that Dr. Gro Harlem Brundtland is at it again. The former Norwegian prime minister and Green activist is now the director of the World Health Organization. Not surprisingly, she has been rearranging WHO priorities, focusing on the health effects of climate change and ozone depletion, instead of diseases. “We can see increasingly clearly the profound changes that climate change will have for public health and for the world economy,” quoth she.

Absolutely correct, but not quite the way she views it. If indeed funds are siphoned off to fight imaginary disasters and phantom threats, then less will be available for public health and more poor people will die. With UNEP’s campaign to ban DDT worldwide, and going after crop protection chemicals and other “persistent organic pollutants,” it sounds like a perfect program to do away with people and achieve negative population growth -- if not by malaria, then by starvation. That grim scenario ought to take care of ARCO’s concern about increasing energy demand! And finally, for some comic relief. We are quoting here from the executive summary of the latest IPCC publication “The Regional Impacts of Climate Change: An Assessment of Vulnerability” [1998]. We have emphasized certain words and inserted comments:

“Rising global temperatures are expected to raise sea level [NO, A MODEST WARMING WILL DO JUST THE OPPOSITE], and change precipitation and other local climate conditions. Changing regional climate COULD alter forests, crop yields, and water supplies. It COULD also threaten human health, and harm birds, fish, and many types of ecosystems. Deserts MAY expand into existing rangelands, and the character of some of our National Parks MAY be permanently altered. [AND NOW THE CLINCHER:] Unfortunately, many of the potentially most important impacts depend upon whether rainfall increases or decreases which cannot be reliably projected for specific areas [TOO BAD, ISN’T IT?].

Don’t forget to do your bit for Earth Day. Reuse your dirty towels, sort your waste paper by fiber content, and don’t flush!

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