The Week That Was
October 7, 2000


The rapid price rise for all forms of energy has produced an angry popular response. The issue may well enter the election debates. Instead of dealing with energy policy and factors that determine price directly, the Administration has been putting billions into corporate welfare programs through failed (or failing) technologies to force-feed conservation and "alternative" energy development.

The Week That Was October 7, 2000 brought to you by SEPP


According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the people most at risk from air pollution live not in the industrial world, but in developing countries. By WHO estimates, as many as one billion people around the world are exposed regularly to pollution levels up to 100 times higher than recommended levels. However, WHO points to individual sources as the cause of a majority of problems, rather than industrial emissions. According to WHO, "a deadly combination of solid fuel, inefficient stoves and poor ventilation [creates] a complex mix of health-damaging pollutants in homes." Women and children in developing countries are seen as most vulnerable because they spend more time indoors, where they are exposed to pollution from indoor cooking and heating fires using fuel materials such as wood, coal, crop wastes, or dung. According to a report from BBC News, WHO is using the release of this information to call for an international database on air pollution and its health effects. The database will document the health effects of air pollution in developing countries and aid in the development of a strategy to reduce the disease burden in a cost-effective way.


(Reuters) The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is growing at an unprecedented rate and could reach a record depth this year, United Nations meteorologists said.

Comment: But then again, it might not. By the way, have you noticed that every September there is this press release from the same guy at the World Meteorological Organization promising that come October the hole will be deeper, wider, faster-growing, or whatever makes news. And this in spite of the ban on CFCs and falling atmospheric chlorine levels. Someone ought to research the NY Times archives and expose the hype.

Jonathan Leake, Science Editor
The Sunday Times (London) of September 24th.

SCIENTISTS have dismissed claims that taxing fuel will stop global warming, because new evidence shows it is caused mainly by the sun. The temperature rise, previously blamed on the burning of fossil fuels, results primarily from an increase in solar radiation, according to studies to be released this week. The research, some of it by the European Space Agency (ESA), uses satellite and other astronomical data to show that earlier computer models severely underestimated the sun's impact.

The potential political impact is huge. Governments worldwide have accepted scientists' warnings that they must cut carbon dioxide emissions and used them to justify tax increases and road charges. The new studies say the main reason [for the temperature rise of the past century] is a solar energy surge and a particularly big increase in ultraviolet (UV) light. This has coincided with a doubling in strength of the sun's magnetic field.

Much of the data on the sun's role in global warming was gathered by the ESA's sun-watching Soho satellite. Paal Brekke, Soho's deputy project scientist, said the results could change thinking on climate. "Taxing carbon-based fuels may be good for other reasons but our evidence suggests it will not be much help in keeping the Earth cool," he said.

The main cause [for warming] had seemed to be the 30% rise in carbon dioxide levels since pre-industrial times from fossil fuels burnt by motor vehicles, power stations and other activities. The sun's role was considered secondary. Scientists previously calculated that the sun radiates only 0.7% more energy than 150 years ago, causing about a tenth of global warming. Brekke and others say the models underestimated the 3% UV light increase over the same period, generating extra ozone that locks more heat into the atmosphere.

Comment: The scientific accuracy of this report is uneven. A scientific conference in Tenerife (Sept 25-29) discussed the evidence for a substantial solar influence on climate variations on a time scale of decades to centuries. Such fluctuations could also be internally generated by atmosphere -ocean interactions (like El Nino). The problem is that solar variability is quite small - although it could be amplified if the solar UV component is also considered. The appended abstract submitted to the Tenerife conference suggests one possible mechanism.

Tenerife, Spain , Sept. 25 -29, 2000
(Abstract of paper by S. Fred Singer)

The Direct and Indirect Climate Effects of Stratospheric Ozone Changes

Changes in solar activity produce well-recognized changes in stratospheric ozone through changes in solar extreme UV (EUV) radiation. Observations show a 2 to 3 percent variation of total ozone during the solar cycle, outside of the tropical belt. (Angell) The maximum occurs near the peak of the sunspot cycle; amplitude increases with latitude, from near zero in the tropical zone.

Stratospheric ozone produces a positive radiative forcing, which is a large fraction of the forcing from GH gases. (Tett et al 1996) Thus, the direct climate effects of the ozone solar-cycle variation should amplify the solar-cycle changes in solar irradiance.

We also discuss the indirect effects of ozone changes on the terrestrial climate:

1) Changes in ozone can affect tropospheric circulation (Haigh). We suggest that this may lead to changes in cloudiness and /or the vertical distribution of water vapor, either one would have strong climate effects. No quantitative estimates are as yet available.

2): Changes in UV-B affect the concentration of the hydroxyl radical OH, and therefore the concentration of atmospheric methane.

We also discuss the possible effects of longer-term changes in ozone:

(1) Anthropogenic ozone depletion: The decline has been quite small, about 4% between 1979 and 1992; there has been a slight increase since 1993. (WMO 1999) Thus, the climate effects should be of the same order as the sunspot-cycle variation.

(2) Volcanic depletion: During Pinatubo (1992) the total ozone levels fell by about 2%. It may be difficult, however, to disentangle any climate effects of ozone changes from the direct effect of the volcanic dust.

(3) Longer-term solar changes: It is likely that stratospheric ozone reached quite low values during the Maunder Minimum. It would be important to find "fingerprints" in the climate or geochemical record that might be related to this event. One needs to find markers; perhaps a minimum in global methane as measured in ice cores.


On September 22, President Clinton announced plans to sell a small amount of oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to help elect Al Gore. However, the move will do nothing to relieve the shortage of home heating oil in the Northeast.

The problem is that 85 percent to 90 percent of the oil being released from the SPR will not be converted to heating oil, but to gasoline, kerosene and a variety of other products that are refined from crude oil because only so much heating oil can be refined from a barrel of crude.

Since U.S. refineries across the country are already operating at peak capacity, their ability to produce heating oil isn't limited by a lack of crude oil, but by refining capacity.

Finally, because of the heavily liberal orientation of most Northeast politicians, there are neither refineries in that region nor pipelines to carry heating oil there if it were available, thanks to state environmental laws and regulations. Politicians from these states have also been in the forefront of national environmental laws that have closed most of the nation's prime oil-bearing land to drilling and exploration.

Treasury Secretary Lawrence Summers strenuously opposed releasing oil from the SPR, saying in an internal memo reported by the Wall Street Journal on Sept. 21 that such action would "set a dangerous precedent" by using the SPR to "manipulate prices" rather than adhering to its original purpose of alleviating an oil cutoff. Since every person who joins the Clinton Administration checks his principles at the door, Mr. Summers quickly reversed himself and praised using the SPR to drive down the price of oil between now and the election.

Source: Bruce Bartlett, senior fellow, National Center for Policy Analysis, September 27, 2000.

Final comment: If this is the level of understanding of economics of our Treasury Secretary, may heaven help us.



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