The Week That Was
October 21, 2000



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The Thomas Sowell column presents a technique to inflict a measure of cost on harassment lawsuits from environmentalists. Thought you would be interested in reading it. We are told by a staffer that this measure was passed by Congress in 1995 as part of the Contract With America. Nobody knows it, however. Perhaps it is time to get the word out.

It is also possible to sue government bureaucrats as individuals (for harassment and infringement of First Amendment rights) and seek monetary damages. For the Ninth Circuit's opinion, see

For a press release by supporters of the Berkeley Three, the Center for Individual Rights, see "HUD Officials Declared Personally Liable..." at

The Week That Was October 21, 2000 brought to you by SEPP


Two British scientists say the level of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the Earth's atmosphere is higher than for 20 million years. But their study of levels over the last 60 million years suggests that the gas was once even more abundant than it is today.

Carbon dioxide is the main gas caused by human activity that has been linked to global warming. Concentrations now are about 360 ppm (parts per million), but will continue to rise as emissions increase.

Some claim that by 2030 the total climatic impact of rising levels of all greenhouse gases will be equal to that caused by the doubling of pre-industrial CO2 concentrations. By 2100, the effect would be trebled. But based on current trends, levels (and the resulting radiative climate forcing) may not even double by 2100. (See discussion by James Hansen below)

The research, by Dr Paul Pearson of the University of Bristol and Professor Martin Palmer, of Imperial College, London, is reported in the journal Nature (Aug. 17)

They used a new technique to establish CO2 levels in the ancient atmosphere, analyzing the shells of planktonic organisms that once lived near the surface of the ocean. This enabled them to establish past seawater acidity, which in turn was dictated by the amount of atmospheric CO2.

The researchers estimate that between about 60 and 52 million years ago, CO2 concentrations reached more than 2,000 ppm.

But from about 55 to 40 million years ago, there was "an erratic decline", which may have been caused by a reduction in CO2 emissions from ocean ridges and volcanoes, and by increased carbon burial.

Since about 24 million years ago, concentrations appear to have remained below 500 ppm and were more stable than before, although transient intervals of CO2 reduction may have occurred during periods of rapid cooling approximately 15 and 3 million years ago.

Commenting on the prospect suggested by climate models, that the 2100 CO2 level could be as high as that last seen in the Eocene period, 50 million years ago, they said: "This does not necessarily mean we will recreate Eocene-type conditions. There are still too many unknowns involved in climate prediction.

Environment correspondent Alex Kirby cautions that some researchers still doubt that human activities are inducing rapid climate change. They highlight the inconsistencies between the temperature records taken at the Earth's surface, which show rapid warming over the last century, and the data produced by satellite and balloon studies. He comments:

"These show little if any warming, in the last two decades, of the low to mid-troposphere - the atmospheric layer extending up to about 8 km from the Earth's surface. Climate models generally predict that temperatures should increase in the upper air as well as at the surface if increased concentrations of greenhouse gases are causing the warming recorded at ground level."

SEPP comment: CO2 levels were nearly 20 times present levels 600 million years ago, then declined dramatically. They increased to a peak value of about 5 times the present value 200 my ago and have been generally declining ever since. [Ref: Hot Talk, Cold Science]


"Therefore, from the electrolysis process, the 30 g of H2 generated from 1 kWh of electricity creates 0.981 kWh with the O2 being a waste gas. Given the 80% work efficiency presumed under most hydrogen-feed fuel-cell models, this gives an energy creation of less than 0.8 kWh from the 1 kWh electrical input. Simply put, it takes more energy to decompose water than it gives back in energy via an H2 air-breathing system from the decomposed water. Thus, it is impossible to create a viable source of power from water decomposition."

Comment: Well, it might be a way to store cheap electric power, say surplus power from a nuclear reactor.


In Europe and Japan, taxes are a larger component of gasoline prices than all other factors combined. In fact, French truckers went out on strike to obtain a 20 percent cut in taxes. But the country's socialist government would only agree to a 15 percent cut.

Speaking in New York recently, Saudi crown prince Abdullah advised Western countries to reconsider their high levels of gasoline taxation.

Fully $3.40 in taxes is built into Great Britain's $4.71 per gallon price -- while $2.82 in taxes adds to a total of $4.07 per gallon in France.

Italians pay the equivalent of $3.97 per gallon -- including $2.53 in taxes.

Germans pay $2.56 to the state every time they purchase a gallon at $3.91.

In Japan, a gallon costs the equivalent of $3.77 -- including $2.07 in taxes.

By contrast, taxes add an average of 39 cents to a $1.25 gallon of gas -- selling for a total of $1.64 in the U.S. And Canada's officials collect 78 cents out of every $1.90 gallon of gas sold.

Small wonder that as gasoline prices have jumped in recent months, protests have also broken out in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and a number of countries across Southeast Asia.

Source: Editorial, "The French Are on to Something," Investor's Business Daily, September 11, 2000.

Comment: There is one good thing about high fuel taxes: It makes OPEC price hikes seem less important-- percentage-wise.



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