The Week That Was
May 10-16, 1999

How did we ever miss it?  The Earth Day message for a "Sustainable Energy Future" from 300+ businesses and environmental groups addresses the White House and Congress, demanding a more aggressive energy strategy:  By 2020… reduce fossil fuel use by 30%, phase out nuclear power, and be at least 25% "renewable."  We looked at the alphabetically arranged list of signers… from ACR Solar International to Yellow Jacket Solar, Inc.  Why were we not surprised?  But suddenly we start to worry about our energy future in the next century.

These folks would just LOVE the NBC miniseries "Atomic Train," which airs on the evenings of May 16 and 17.  NBC has the train carrying both spent reactor fuel ("nuclear waste") AND nuclear weapons.  When the train crashes, the weapons explode ... natch!  Denver is devastated and mobs take over.  Well, you get the picture: Get rid of nuclear power; otherwise bombs will go off.  We don’t know whether to laugh, cry, or just throw up at this performance by NBC.  Let’s hope their electric power is cut off so that they are forced to run their transmitters on solar or wind energy.

And speaking of radiation, USA Today (5/10/99) carried an excellent article on food irradiation.  It should help stop 81 million illnesses and 9,000 deaths in the U.S. alone.  Now why doesn’t NBC latch on to that?  You should express your views to NBC’s CEO Bob Wright, by phone (212-664-4555) or by e-mail at  Or you could contact Jack Welch, chairman of GE and owner of NBC, and ask him if he agrees that GE’s nuclear reactors are a lethal hazard.

LATE NEWS: Apparently there is SOME adult supervision of NBC programs.  Rumor has it that they are substituting chemical waste for nuclear waste on the "Atomic Train."  The bomb still goes off, but NBC neglects to mention that the radiation of a nuclear explosion would destroy the toxic molecules of the chemical waste.  AP reports that the program will show a discliamer. There is a silver lining in every nuclear cloud, it seems.

In a forthcoming Cato Institute study, energy maven Robert Bradley reaches a startling conclusion: Fossil fuels don’t seem to be depleting rapidly (at least as judged by low prices), but "renewables" are being limited by environmental constraints.  The National Audubon Society is currently blocking a major wind farm project in Washington State, while Bruce Babbitt and the Department of Interior are blocking geothermal development on federal lands.  No wonder, Enron is trying to sell its wind subsidiary after having sold much of its solar investment to BP-Amoco.

And we read in Science (April 23, p.574) that the Army Corps of Engineers is considering breaching four hydro-dams on Washington’s Snake River to protect salmon runs.  According to the report, the Corps has spent years and hundreds of millions of dollars, capturing the salmon smolts and barging or trucking them to downstream locations; all to no avail.  Enter now the National Marine Fisheries Service, which endorses the $1.2 billion option of tearing out the dams and do away with 1200 megawatts of hydropower, about 5% of the supply in the Pacific Northwest, enough to power Seattle.  Fisheries biologists and conservation organizations have written the White House endorsing this most radical option.  But the Corps wants first to finish its $22 million study of all of the options.  If Al Gore is elected to the White House next year, it may be his call: More salmon or more CO2.

State legislatures are beginning to see some use for global warming scares and are imposing carbon taxes as a way of raising revenues.  Vermont figures that a $100-per-ton tax and a 30% increase in the gasoline tax would raise about $200 million a year.  Minnesota is considering a similar proposal, applied more gradually.  Of course, they all promise to cut taxes on property and income.  We’ll believe it when we see it. 

The sickness is catching: The European Union wants higher taxes on fossil fuels.  France initially favored a carbon tax (which would have exempted their nuclear powerplants); having failed to convince the rest, they now want a higher tax on transportation fuels including diesel.  The proposal may please finance ministers but is generating opposition elsewhere.  Spain recognizes that minimum tax levels would mean massive price hikes for its citizens.  All this feverish activity at harmonizing energy policy and taxes may slow down economic growth in Europe and harmonize it with that of Russia.  We’ll be watching with interest and compassion as our European friends contemplate committing economic suicide.

Meanwhile, the European Commission is indulging in grandiose plans and wishful thinking.  Their just-released White Paper calls for a Eu30 billion investment in "mature" renewables, mostly from private sources, based on "renewable energy partnerships" with local authorities and industry groups.  Their "kick-start" campaign aims to provide 12% of EU energy needs by 2010.  Targets are: One million solar collectors of 15 square meters each, 12,000 megawatts of wind power, biomass fuel heating for one million dwellings.  And perhaps also a little pie in the sky?

The Kyoto Accord uses 1990 as a base year.  Germany has already reduced its CO2 emission by 25% between 1990 and 1995, by shutting down inefficient power stations and industrial plants in East Germany.  During the same period, the UK switched a lot of coal power plants to natural gas.  We wonder whether they would still be enthusiastic supporters of Kyoto if the base year were changed to 1995? 

Late news from the White House:  The Clinton Administration is proposing legislation to stop the EPA from posting "worst-case" scenarios on the Internet, describing the consequences of natural disasters or terrorist attacks on plants that handle hazardous chemicals.  It also guides terrorists on how to find the most promising targets, the FBI points out.  Of course, the EPA has been in the business for years of hyping "worst-case" scenarios for every conceivable phantom problem: From Love Canal, Times Beach, Alar, radon… to sea level rise, floods and droughts (Yes, both!) from global warming… the list is endless.  We’re still waiting for the White House to curb the EPA.

And the latest anti-Gore ad from PETA, the animal rights group, shows a cuddly bunny rabbit being tested with megadoses of turpentine and rat poison, with the caption: "Republicans won’t be the only ones suffering through four years of Al Gore."  Their web site…

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