The Week That Was
February 17, 2001


Soot is a major contributor (still unrecognized by IPCC) to a putative global warming, acc to an article in Nature (Feb. 8). But if soot cancels the cooling effects of sulfate aerosols, how does the IPCC now explain the climate cooling between 1940 and 1975?

Read Steve Milloy's op-ed in the Washington Times and a tongue-in-cheek reaction from India from the Climate Change Debate:

Subject: Soot and Dust
From: vinod <>
Date: Sat, 10 Feb 2001 11:11:08 +0530

indias soot and dust will be the bargaining chip
for a better deal from the developed world
beware all western powers
if we indians are not treated like the younger brothers we are
we will cover the world with soot and ash and dust
like the nagas at the kumbh
we will burn up all our coal (plenty of coal)
we will burn all our fire wood (not much left )
global warming here we come

The Week That Was February 17, 2001 brought to you by SEPP


Letter to Editor, Wash Post (published in severely edited form on Feb 12)

It is ironic that the attempt by two professional global-warming advocates to misrepresent my credentials (Wash Post, Feb 6) coincides with a sustained cold spell in the United States that set a 100-year record, while Siberia experienced temperatures down to -90 F. As for full disclosure: My CV, published on, clearly states that I consulted for several oil companies (and other entities, incl. government agencies) on the subject of oil pricing some 20 years ago, after publishing a monograph on the subject. My connection to oil during the past decade is as a Wesson Fellow at the Hoover Institution; Wesson money derives from salad oil. I realize that truth is a precious commodity and can well understand why the writers would use it sparingly and not waste it.

I also understand their anxious concern. Scientific support for global warming seems to be evaporating just as the UN-IPCC released its most pessimistic forecast yet for future warming and its imagined dire consequences. (Wash Post, Jan 23). Notwithstanding the claim that hundreds of scientists were involved, the anonymously authored Summary was approved by 100 participating governments, not by the scientists who wrote and signed the underlying IPCC report. Indeed, the politically inspired Summary bears only a faint resemblance to the 1000-plus-page report, which it "mined" selectively - another example of using the truth economically.

S. Fred Singer

The writer, professor emeritus at the University of Virginia, is an atmospheric physicist who occasionally publishes on energy economics and policy.


So---Arianna Huffington (in the LA Times) reveals that according to state records, Gov Davis has taken $500,000 from Cal utilities Southern Cal Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric since 1998. Does this influence his decisions? Hard to say, but it raises questions.

And another dirty little secret: The Green Power providers haven't been paid by the utilities for a few months and they are becoming annoyed. Of course, they have been ripping off the consumers and taxpayers for years now. The wind farmers and others (after having built facilities with public support and tax breaks) have generously agreed to reduce their rates from 17 cents per kWh to 7.8 cents. The biomassers and co-generators will get a special break to reimburse for higher prices of natural gas (to fire their boilers).

Most interesting is the reaction of Cal neighbors forced to pay higher rates. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee is loaded with Western Republicans and so is the Western Governors Association, which held an energy summit in Portland, Ore. Idaho senator Larry Craig likens Cal to a "virus" that could infect the Northwest.

Jerry Taylor, director of natural resource studies at the Cato Institute, offers the following comments:

"The call for price caps suggests that politicians are genetically incapable of learning from past regulatory mistakes.

"Wholesale electricity prices in the West are sky-high for a reason. Wholesale natural gas prices have risen sharply, and since 90 percent of the cost of gas-fired electricity is fuel cost, massive run-ups in electricity prices were sure to follow. A two-year drought has simultaneously reduced hydroelectric generation in the West by 20 percent compared to 1998 levels, further restricting the availability of power and increasing demand for gas-fired electricity. Finally, demand is up because of a hot summer followed by a very cold winter. Combine those supply and demand shocks and a wholesale electricity price explosion is inevitable.

"Imposing price controls would reduce incentives to add new generation. Moreover, it would falsely signal to consumers that electricity is more plentiful than it actually is. In essence, it would repeat the economic calamity caused by oil price controls in the 1970s. Politicians cannot simply 'regulate away' a supply shock, and attempts to do so always have and always will result in further shortages."


Read this tortured (and wrong) argument against deregulation by distinguished, brash, liberal (and ideological) Princeton economist in the NY Times (2/18/01).
Or …don't bother.


California's Gov. Gray Davis has suddenly discovered how daunting a task it is to get permission to build electric power plants in his state. To avert future blackouts due to electric power shortages, he wants to streamline the permitting process. There will be a lot of bad policy to reverse, experts warn.

As the state's population climbed 14 percent over the last decade and while peak demand of electricity jumped 19 percent, no new power plants have been built in the state.

While the California Electricity Commission has recently given the go-ahead to 10 new plants, it will be years before they come on line.

Applications take 12 months to work their way through the permit process in California, compared to 90 days in Texas -- where, incidentally, nine large power plants have been built since 1990.

The need to conduct as many as 17 assessments -- from historical significance to impact on fish and wildlife -- can require changes to plant blueprints resulting in ancillary costs of as much as $30 million for one project, compared to $1 million in Texas.

Electricity demand in Silicon Valley alone has shot up 33 percent since 1996. Experts say that California politicians should have been able to couple that fact with recognition of the state's notorious regulatory hurdles -- and realize that something had to give.

Source: Lynn Cook, "My Kingdom for a Building Permit," Forbes, February 19, 2001; courtesy of NCPA.


In 1989, the people of California's capital city, Sacramento, voted to close down their relatively new Rancho Seco nuclear power plant after much acrimonious debate. Greens want to unplug nuclear power plants everywhere. But now there's one turned off for safety reasons, and Public Citizen wants it switched back on.

Their press release complains that the temporary shutdown of a reactor between Los Angeles and San Diego "exacerbates California's energy crisis." What's worse, said the statement, "it will likely remain down for several weeks. The reactor generates approximately 1,100 megawatts, or enough to power 1.1 million homes." Policy analyst Jim Riccio elaborates: "Rather than providing relief to California's electricity crisis, the nuclear industry is contributing to it."

In November, however, Public Citizen called nuclear power a "failed technology," and insisted that "creating nuclear power is an inherently dangerous activity that is neither clean nor sustainable."

Has the group reassessed its blind hostility to nuclear power? Don't count on it. What the group said in November is what it really believes. Just imagine the press release Public Citizen would have put out if the San Onofre reactor had not gone offline when an electrical breaker sparked a fire. Here is a small piece of evidence that anti-nuclear activists will say anything to discredit nuclear power--whether it's off or on, during an energy crisis or not.


List the Cal energy projects that were aborted, stopped, curtailed, or closed down in the last few decades

Here is a list to get you started. Our correspondent, geologist Del Tucker, gets the ball rolling:

1. Oil exploration off Santa Barbara stopped 1969

2. LNG terminal, Oxnard aborted early 1970's

3. Kaiparowits (Utah) coal generating plant 1975-80? aborted by Robert Redford and friends

4. Page, AZ. Three large coal power plants forced to cut back because of haze over Grand Canyon 1990's

5. Coal slurry pipeline from Black Mesa basin 1990's

6. Removal of dams: small hydro projects closed down 1990's

7. Northern Cal curtailment of power output because of emission strictures 1990's

8. Barge generation in San Francisco Bay aborted

9. Curtailment of nuclear power generation

10. Rancho Seco nuclear plant closed down, Sacramento 1989

Can you correct the list, fill in blanks, and add more projects?


On Feb 8, at the Washington, DC, National Press Club, we witnessed a debate between John Gummer, a British MP, and Marlo Lewis, former staff member of the US Congress and now with the Reason Foundation in California.

Gummer served as Minster for the Environment in Margaret Thatcher's government and stressed his Conservative credentials. He also stressed what he believed to be the frightful consequences of a future warming , esp. of sea level rise.

Lewis took the place of Alan Keyes, a former Republican candidate for the Presidency and famed orator, strongly opposed to the Kyoto Protocol.

The debate was a draw. Lewis carried by logic, Gummer by emotion. Most questions went to Gummer , who skillfully evaded giving direct answers when cornered. It was fun.

For details, see

The discussion on the Kyoto Protocol, at the Council on Foreign Relations in NY City on Feb 12, was not a debate at all. The former US Under Secretary of State Frank Loy (who represented the US at COP-6 in The Hague) shared the dais with Jan Pronk, Dutch Minister for the Environment. [They had met earlier to respond to the White House request to postpone COP-6-1/2 by a few weeks to July 2001.]

Loy and Pronk explained to the audience why COP-6 negotiations collapsed. Loy explained why the US needed a low-cost solution with emission trading and carbon sinks (to get Senate approval). Pronk presented the European view that emissions had to be cut so that wasteful energy users would experience some suffering ( in almost these words). The US should not be allowed to buy its way out (a position advanced also by Gummer a few years ago in a newspaper interview).

In their discussion, three things became clear:

i) Kyoto, calling for a 5% emission reduction, by industrial nations only, is completely ineffective but would be a first step. Pronk mentioned the need for a 60-70% cut WORLDWIDE (with respect to 1990 levels). [The eventual goal would be a new "equity framework" based on equal per-capita rights to the atmosphere by every global inhabitant.]

ii) Pronk mentioned and apparently believes that warming would impose terrific costs that outweigh the costs of Kyoto or any of its successors. [UNEP has recently publicized an annual damage figure of $304.2 billion by 2050; they got this figure from the insurance industry and are using it also to justify a bigger UNEP budget.. Notice the precision , but note also that the best published economic study shows that a modest warming would produce benefits not losses.]

iii) And always, reducing CO2 emissions would be easy: Conservation and renewables, but never a word about nuclear energy.

My only question, to Gummer and then also to Pronk:

"The National Academy Report of Jan 2000 highlights the disagreement between theoretical models that predict a strong current warming and measurements from satellites that show little or no atmospheric warming. Let us assume (or stipulate) that the disparity is resolved in favor of the observations and that the theory is wrong, i.e., that future warming will be insignificant, do you still see any value to a Koto Protocol?

Answer from Gummer: We cannot permit you to make such a stipulation. I have faith in warming.

Answer from Pronk: "Scientists agree etc …."




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