The Week That Was
May 12, 2001


Even though climate science does not support the drastic policies of Kyoto, "no-regrets" policies of energy conservation and higher efficiencies may make economic sense.

The Week That Was May 12, 2001 brought to you by SEPP


President Bush has indicated that he will sign the recently negotiated treaty to curtail and in some cases eliminate the production of "the dirty dozen" chemicals, including DDT, dioxin and PCB's. The agreement has the backing of both environmentalists and the chemical industry and is expected to be approved by the Senate and signed by 122 nations next month in Sweden. The treaty, formally titled the Stockholm Convention on Persistent Organic Pollutants, would go into effect four or five years after its final approval. According to The New York Times, the treaty also calls for richer countries to provide $150 million a year for perhaps 10 years to developing countries to phase out their use of the 12 chemicals and find alternatives.

Comment: The chemicals in the treaty have already been severely restricted in the United States but not elsewhere (which is why the chemical industry calls the treaty "a testament to the principle that when responsible regulation is combined with conscientious product stewardship and technological progress, the environment benefits.")


While urging EPA to give its "best shot" at addressing concerns detailed in its report, EPA's Science Advisory Board is encouraging the agency to publish a final assessment of its conclusions about dioxin's health risks "in the very near future." According to BNA's Daily Environment Report, the committee made several changes to the April 16 draft version of its report during the April 23 editing session. For example, both the April 16 and March 13 draft reports stated, "most Panel Members do not support the classification of TCDD as a human carcinogen." The committee changed that statement to read: "about half the Panel Members do not support the classification of TCDD as a human carcinogen." That decision was based on a poll of dioxin committee members conducted prior to the teleconference.

Meanwhile, William Farland, EPA's acting deputy administrator for research and development, is defending the original draft of the agency's dioxin reassessment. According to Inside EPA, Farland says the SAB draft report on the reassessment "contains numerous errors and distortions of fact" and "misrepresents the scientific data on dioxin and belittles the risks the chemical poses to public health." SAB's Executive Committee is scheduled to review the dioxin committee's draft report May 15. If the Executive Committee approves the report, it would be submitted to EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman.


British scientists and environmental groups are warning that the burning of more than a million sheep, pigs and cattle slaughtered in the effort to control the spread of foot-and-mouth disease is releasing large levels of dioxins into the air. According to the Los Angeles Times, the Environment Ministry confirmed that the fires have released 80 grams of dioxins into the atmosphere in the two months since the epidemic was detected--about a quarter of the dioxin emissions Britain produced all of last year. But officials downplayed the figure, saying that was just twice the amount released on "bonfire night," the annual Guy Fawkes celebration when fires are lighted across the country to commemorate a 17th century plot to blow up Parliament. There have been 1,440 cases of the disease in Britain and 1.6 million animals have been slaughtered--about 3% of the nation's livestock.


In a five-part series, Tom Knudson, a Pulitzer Prize-winning environmental reporter for the Sacramento Bee, examines "the high-powered fund raising, the litigation and the public-relations machine that has come to characterize much of the movement today," looking at how "a movement established, in part, to combat the influence of the powerful has itself become big business." The articles look at changes in the structure and operations of environmental groups over the past 25 years, the fundraising and salary structures of leading organizations, the growing use of lawsuits to accomplish environmental goals, and the real environmental and economic impacts of environmental advocacy. The complete text of the articles can be found on the newspaper's Web site at <>.


A new poll conducted by the Gallup Organization indicates that the percentage of Americans who say protecting the environment should take priority over economic growth has fallen from a year ago. According to the Portland Oregonian, 57 percent of Americans support environmental protections even if they might hamper the economy, down from 67 percent who responded that way last year. Of those surveyed, 33 percent said they favor giving priority to economic growth "even if the environment suffers to some extent." The poll indicated that 57 percent of Americans think the quality of the environment in the United States is declining, while 36 percent said it's improving. Pollution of drinking water tops the list of environmental worries. Global warming ranked low on the "concerns" list. Only 2 percent of Americans mentioned the environment as the nation's top problem. Overall, it ranked 16th on the list of problems, well behind education, the economy, crime and health care. But the survey suggests that Americans think the environment will be the most important problem facing the nation 25 years from now. Fifty-five percent said the federal government is doing too little to protect the planet; 68 percent said U.S. corporations are doing too little.

Comment: And while the American public may express concern about global warming, a recent Time/CNN poll indicates that less than half would be willing to pay an additional 25 cents for a gallon of gasoline.


Or maybe just a rebirth of the Club of Rome, the failed movement of 30 years ago that predicted the imminent depletion of all resources, with pollution killing most of humanity. Its greatest achievement probably was to mobilize Julian Simon into opposing its ideology.

Now "a new field of SS is emerging," say 23 coauthors, including some of the usual suspects, in a prospectus published in Science (27 April). We can see it coming: University departments of SS, granting degrees in SS. Kids enrolling for SS rather than physics or chemistry to meet their science requirements.

And it will be politically correct. To quote the prospectus: SS "must be connected to the political agenda, in particular the "Rio+10" conference, the World Summit on SS to be held in South Africa in 2002.


Congressional Democrats made a short-lived foray into supporting voluntary restrictions on CO2 emissions as an alternative to Kyoto. But after pressure from environmental groups, Senate minority leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) quickly surrendered. (Wash Post, April 29)

Meanwhile, Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV), erstwhile cosponsor of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution against Kyoto, seems to have changed his mind. Will he now push for a cap on coal mining in West Virginia? Don't hold your breath.

Greenpeace-Europe calls for economic sanctions on Exxon and other US companies that oppose Kyoto. Should we now boycott BP-Amoco and Shell?

Meanwhile in Canada, about a dozen protesters, including a group of elderly women dubbed the Raging Grannies, wielded placards outside the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, protesting against Imperial Oil

Ford Motor Co. is trying to out-Green its competition -- at least in words -- in their forthcoming "corporate citizenship report." Meanwhile five senators introduced a bill to raise fuel efficiency for light trucks (SUVs, minivans, etc) up to the CAFE level of passenger cars, 27.5 mpg, by 2007.

If Ford is serious about the environment, they should try to beat the deadline voluntarily instead of fighting it.

News item (May 3) in the San Francisco Chronicle:

"Among the ideas being floated [to alleviate the Cal power crisis] are --- ordering nuclear-powered submarines to help provide energy."

It's the ultimate revenge on the Greens!



Go to the Week That Was Index