|The Week That Was
March 3, 2001
Read the SEPP Annual Report for 2000 (It is mercifully brief.)
The Week That Was March 3, 2001 brought to you by SEPP
U.S. SUPREME COURT UPHOLDS EPA'S CLEAN-AIR AUTHORITY:
On Feb. 27, the Supreme Court unanimously upheld the way EPA sets clean-air standards. The 9-0 decision rejected industry arguments that officials must balance compliance costs against the health benefits of cleaner air. The Clean Air Act "unambiguously bars cost considerations" from the process of setting air-quality standards, "and thus ends the matter for us as well as the EPA," Justice Antonin Scalia wrote for the court. According to the Associated Press, the justices also ruled 9-0 against industry arguments that the Environmental Protection Agency took too much lawmaking power from Congress when it set tougher standards for ozone and soot in 1997. But the Court ordered the EPA to reconsider the standards it set for ozone, saying the agency's interpretation of a section of the Clean Air Act was unreasonable. Industry groups that challenged the clean-air rules included the American Trucking Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and the National Association of Manufacturers. The groups were joined by three states -- Michigan, Ohio and West Virginia.
What does this mean? SEPP advisors will have comments soon on three
ways to respond: science, legislation, and/or a different legal argument.
EDITORIAL WARNS AGAINST "POLITICIZING" HEALTH PROBLEMS:
In a recent editorial column, the Atlanta Constitution condemned
environmental activists for "the politicization of diseases and illnesses
to achieve political objectives, whether it is to 'improve' air quality
or mandate medical insurance benefits or to justify politically correct
assaults on out-of-favor industries
" While paying particular
attention to activist attempts to link children's asthma to environmental
conditions, the editorial cautioned that "too many groups have been
only too willing to fill that role, piling on junk science to gain the
sympathy, funding and following to increase their power and push their
agendas --- anti-growth, anti-automobile, anti-industry, you name it.
"Environmental racism is a Trojan horse," the article said.
"There is no statistically significant difference in the asthma rate
between blacks and whites
In spite of these facts, we're watching
government agencies expand past mission critical and become pawns of environmental
extremists and environmental justice advocates." The editorial criticized
EPA, saying the agency "lost credibility and earned lawsuits from
industry groups questioning its science and the minimal benefits compared
to the high costs of tougher regulations." Calls by the Pew Environmental
Health Commission for the creation of a nationwide tracking center at
the CDC to identify and prevent environmental health problems were also
criticized. "Supporting the Pew proposal is foolish. It raises the
specter of a quixotic CDC carrying out 'environmental justice' as it seeks
out mythical cancer 'clusters' and asthma epidemics, spurring emotional
but unjustifiable lawsuits against industry and corporations."
BBC ACCUSED OF MANUFACTURING SALMON SCARE:
Britain's Food Standards Agency is accusing the BBC of generating a health
scare over farmed salmon in order to plug a television documentary. The
program suggests that potentially dangerous levels of toxic chemicals
(including dioxins and persistent organic pollutants) were contained in
the feed given to farmed salmon in Canada and Scotland. The documentary
claimed that farmed salmon contained 10 times the levels of cancer-causing
chemicals as wild salmon. BBC based its reports on a study conducted in
Canada by the David Suzuki Foundation in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency. However, according to the London Independent,
the scientist who conducted the study denied the figure and has complained
to the BBC over what she claimed was a "misinterpretation" of
her findings. The British government sought to downplay the suggestion,
acknowledging that farmed salmon, like most foods, can contain trace amounts
of many substances, but noted that "the BBC has hyped this up an
awful lot to advertise a programme going out this Sunday." The BBC
admitted that its Web site had made an error but said the mistake was
corrected as soon as it was identified.
THE SNOW-JOB OF KILIMANJARO
The NY Times has been bemoaning the gradual melting of the ice cap of Mount Kilimanjaro in East Africa. It started with a story by science correspondent Andy Revkin, based on a paper presented by Lonnie Thompson of Ohio State University at a recent meeting of the AAAS. It ended with an editorial on Feb 26, warning George Bush that the end was near and that he must take action on greenhouse warming.
A self-serving letter to the editor (March 1) from a climate researcher agreed and complained that the increase in the NSF budget was too small. Our letter (below) took exception to the editorial:
Mount Kilimanjaro is not a thermometer
Before putting pressure on the White House to act ("A Global Warning to Mr. Bush," Feb 26 editorial), shouldn't we be asking whether global warming is really happening? The Kilimanjaro ice cap is not a thermometer. It may well be melting, but this is simply a delayed consequence of a natural climate warming during the early part of the 20th century. Moreover, it will continue to melt as long as the climate doesn't return to the temperatures of the Little Ice Age of past centuries.
The National Academy of Sciences published a report* last year that defines
the geographic regions of warming and cooling during the last 20 years.
Surface measurements of East Africa show no warming trend (Fig. 6.2, p.
34). Weather satellites show a pronounced cooling trend of the atmosphere
there (Fig. 7.1, p.43). No one has questioned these data.
THE WHITE HOUSE, GLOBAL WARMING, AND CAPS ON CO2 EMISSIONS
Bush is as Green as Gore!
While the nation's attention was focused on President Bush's speech, the Global Warming hoax was being given renewed life by his administration. Those that thought the departure of the "Ozone-Man" Al Gore would diminish the prospect of more blather about the melting of the North Pole, rising oceans, droughts, and other scary scenarios can expect more.
Bush's new head of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christie Whitman, let it be known the afternoon prior to his speech that she thought global warming is "a real phenomenon" and, according to an Associated Press report, "the administration is considering limits on carbon dioxide emissions as part of a broader anti-pollution strategy."
Whitman is saying that Al Gore's treasured 1997 Kyoto Protocol is on the agenda for the new administration as well. Writing in the February 20 edition of the Washington Times, Dr. S. Fred Singer said, "Kyoto had a deceptively simple formula: Cut greenhouse gas emissions by five percent. Sounds easy, except that it refers to a 1990 base. By 2010, this would have meant a reduction of 30 to 40 percent for the United States by rationing fuels or by raising energy prices sharply." Forget about a budget surplus under such conditions.
Whitman's assertion that "There's no question but that global warming is a real phenomenon, that it is occurring," is abysmally wrong. It is criminally ignorant of the science involved. It spells crisis on many levels, but most certainly with regard to the provision of the energy this nation will need in the years upon which President Bush is so confidently counting to produce a surplus. You can't produce anything if the lights won't go on!
Putting controls on carbon dioxide ignores the reality of the energy crisis in California and one that will spread to every State if a concerted effort isn't made to find and extract more natural energy resources while increasing the construction of new power plants.
"This president is very sensitive to the issue of global warming," said Whitman. That means we are looking down the same garden path of catastrophic harm to our economy that existed in the Clinton-Gore administration. Global warming is a zombie. It won't stay in its grave. Bush and Whitman have just exhumed it.
# # # # # #
Alan Caruba is the founder of The National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse
for information about scare campaigns at <www.anxietycenter.com>
Christine Todd Browner? -
Carol M. Browner's reign as Queen of the EPA was terminated by the election of George W. Bush. Apparently, though, Browner can now channel herself through new EPA Queen, Christine Todd Whitman.
In response to the disappointing Supreme Court decision on the air quality rules that Browner imposed on us, Whitman called the decision, "a solid endorsement of EPA's efforts to protect the health of millions of Americans from the dangers of air pollution."
Adding insult to injury, Whitman commented after an appearance before a Senate committee, "There's no question but that global warming is a real phenomenon, that it is occurring...And while scientists can't predict where the droughts will occur, where the flooding will occur precisely or when, we know those things will occur."
Whitman also said the Bush administration is considering imposing limits on carbon dioxide emissions from the nation's power plants.
These pronouncements are amazing considering her lack of expertise on the environment. When asked for her thoughts on global warming several months ago, Whitman responded, "Still somewhat uncertain. Clearly there's a hole in the ozone, that has been identified. But I saw a study the other day that showed that it was closing. It's not as clear, the cause and effect, as we would like it to be."
As if confusing global warming with ozone depletion wasn't bad enough, she also endorsed the precautionary principle:
We must acknowledge that uncertainty is inherent in managing natural resources, recognize it is usually easier to prevent environmental damage than to repair it later, and shift the burden of proof away from those advocating protection toward those proposing an action that may be harmful.
Though it's not too late for Christie to exorcise the demon spirit of Carol Browner, don't hold your breath.
Even if Christine Todd Browner nee Whitman knew right from wrong on the environment, she likely wouldn't have the political courage to do the right thing.
The environment is a throwaway issue for most Republicans. They're typically
unwilling to spend their limited political capital to fight eco-political
A Trail of Hot Air
"This weekend, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman will travel to Italy as the leader of the U.S. delegation to a meeting of G-8 environmental administrators.
"As she does so, Mrs. Whitman would do well to rethink her recent remarks on global warming. According to Mrs. Whitman, 'There's no question but that global warming is a real phenomenon, that is occurring. And while scientists can't predict where the droughts will occur precisely or when, we know these things will occur.'
"On the later point, Mrs. Whitman is undoubtedly correct. Floods and droughts, and for that matter, tornadoes and hurricanes, will continue to occur at imprecise places and times - just ask any weatherman. Yet whether the occurrence of any of these events has anything to do with global warming is a much more dubious proposition.
"Scientists still do not know the identities of all the players on the global climate stage, and they have only a limited understanding of the roles they play. Cato Institute Scholar Steven Milloy has noted that, 'The IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] explicitly admits a lack of knowledge about climate factors, stating there is 'low' or 'very low' scientific understanding for 9 of the 12 factors thought to affect global climate.'
"For that reason, dramatic predictions of global climate change, such as those enshrined in the IPCC's recent report, are of dubious value. One could undoubtedly receive auguries of equal value from psychic weather hotlines.
"Beliefs are best left to one's conscience, but Mrs. Whitman may well be making decisions on emissions that affect the lives of millions of Americans. She should make such decisions on tangible scientific facts, rather than global warming phantoms."
From a SEPP letter to White House staff, warning about mandatory CO2 caps:
My colleagues and I agree that the proposal to cap CO2 emissions from electric utilities is a bad idea and should not be supported by the White House.
1. It causes problems that lower the installed capacity, esp. for coal-fired boilers. Do we really want to duplicate the Calif crisis nationally?
2. It greatly raises the cost of electric power to the consumer. Coal is and has been the primary utility fuel and its price has remained steady and low. The US is a net importer of natural gas and of course oil. Their price has gone sky high and will undoubtedly trend upwards.
3. Ridding coal of sulfur, both pre-combustion and from flue gases, requires energy and thereby increases CO2 emissions substantially. Has anyone considered the trade-offs between Clean Coal and more CO2?
4. And why just utilities? What about CO2 from industrial boilers, road transportation, and home heating? They are the same molecules; why should they be exempt?
Sincerely, S.Fred Singer
Note: The final Bush speech before Congress contained no references to CO2.
LAST WORD: ASTEROID DEFENSE