The Week That Was
March 30, 2002

1. Junk Science Judo (by Steve Milloy) garners an excellent review by Jim Glassman

2. Antarctic ice shelf collapses not linked to global warming. Researchers and scientists who study the Antarctic Peninsula cautioned that there was little evidence to directly link the ice shelf collapse to the effects of global warming, which is induced by carbon dioxide and other man-made "greenhouse" gases. Rather, they are blaming a localized warming period that allowed melt water to seep into cracks and trigger massive fracturing of the ice when temperatures dropped.

3 Asteroid impacts on the earth are a real threat. But first we must learn to detect - which is not an easy problem.

4. TVA Lawsuit Challenges EPA Restrictions on Coal-Fired Generation
[News item from Reuters] The outcome of a federal anti-pollution lawsuit could be a bellwether for the utility industry's eagerness to cut emissions from coal-burning plants. The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals is expected to soon rule on a lawsuit in which the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is challenging tighter emission control rules ordered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). At issue is how far a U.S. utility can go in enlarging or upgrading an old plant before it must invest in expensive new air-pollution technology to control smog, acid rain and soot.

5. Electric utility asks for donations to support unprofitable wind power

6. Renewable energy legislation deserves a White House veto



Recent satellite imagery analyzed at the National Snow and Ice Data Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder has revealed that the northern section of the Larsen B ice shelf, a large floating ice mass on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula, has shattered and separated from the continent in the largest single event in a 30-year series of ice shelf retreats in the peninsula.

Ice shelves are thick plates, fed by glaciers, which float in the ocean around much of Antarctica. Experts said the loss of the ice shelf would not result in a rise in sea level because the ice was already floating. [One of the most significant predicted results of global warming is a rise in sea level as ice on land melts.]

Some environmental groups seized on the breakup to renew their plea to President Bush to take more aggressive action to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming. Bush has disavowed the Kyoto global warming treaty. Instead he recently announced proposals to encourage industry to reduce emissions voluntarily. "This stunning development warns of the dangers of governments doing too little to halt global warming," said Lara Hansen, a climate scientist for the World Wildlife Fund.

But John-Daly reports [] : The panic mongers are in full cry, from CNN to the Australian Broadcasting Corp (ABC). An ice shelf, `Larsen B', on the eastern side of the Antarctic Peninsula has broken up into a mosaic of smaller icebergs. The ABC incorrectly claimed the Antarctic had warmed 2°C during the last century. Wrong! Only the 2% of the Antarctic poking out into the Southern Ocean warmed (the part where this ice shelf is located). The other 98% has actually been cooling and accumulating ice. Then the ABC claimed that `scientists' blamed it all on `global warming' - and gave a filmed comment by one just to prove their point - the British Environment Minister! So environmental politicians are now regarded as `scientists'?



Richard Stenger (CNN) reports that a sizable asteroid zipped near our planet this month without anyone noticing because it traveled through an astronomical blind spot. The space boulder passed Earth within 288,000 miles (461,000 kilometers) -- or 1.2 times the distance to the moon -- on March 8, but since it came from the direction of the sun, scientists did not observe it until four days later. The object, slightly larger than one that flattened a vast expanse of Siberia in 1908, was one of the 10 closest known asteroids to approach Earth, astronomers said. "Asteroid 2002 EM7 took us by surprise. It is yet another reminder of the general impact hazard we face," said Benny Peiser, a European scientist who monitors the threat of Earth-asteroid collisions. If it pierced the atmosphere, the approximately 70-meter-long rock could have disintegrated and unleashed the energy equivalent of a 4-megaton nuclear bomb, researchers said. The rock is considerably smaller than dozens of potential planet killers with 1-kilometer in size or larger, which lurk in the inner solar system. Like its larger siblings, asteroid 2002 EM7 follows an elliptical orbit with an extremely low risk of Earth collision in the coming decades or centuries. Nonetheless, astronomers maintain that constant surveillance is necessary to identify more killer rocks in our neighborhood and ensure that none take our planet by surprise, in particular those traveling near the blinding light of the sun. The key is to detect them when they are outside the Earth's orbit and predict whether they might hit us in the future from the sunside. Even lesser rocks such as 2002 EM7 could do serious damage by plunging into the ocean and unleashing monster tsunamis on coastal cities. According to NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, 2002 EM7 could smack into Earth in 2093. But don't tell the grandchildren to head to the hills just yet. The odds of a collision are currently 1 in 10 million and could become even more remote with more refined calculations.



This case affects a utility's ability to upgrade or expand existing coal plants before adding anti-pollution technology. The case also challenges the policy known as "New Source Review," a rule that exists in conjunction with the Clean Air Act that has attempted to govern the expansion efforts for plants built before 1977. The TVA case, regardless of the ultimate ruling, should set an important precedent. TVA, the nation's biggest public-power producer, which supplies electricity throughout the Southeast, is arguing that it conducted routine maintenance on seven old coal-burning power plants and was justified in not installing modern anti-pollution equipment on the plants. The EPA says that TVA's expansion efforts on the plants should have been accompanied with the anti-pollution upgrades. The case is important because, along with TVA, companies such as American Electric Power, Cinergy Corp., Duke Energy, FirstEnergy Corp., Illinois Power, and others also were included in lawsuits initiated under the Clinton administration in 1999 over alleged infractions of the New Source Review rule. However, the transition from the Clinton administration to the Bush administration has brought about a different federal approach toward the enforcement of the New Source Review ruling. The Bush administration is far less aggressive with regard to enforcement than the Clinton administration was. Thus, the case involving TVA may likely set the tone for when and how the federal government intervenes into the operations of coal-fired generating plants to enforce policies related to the Clean Air Act.


by David Wojick

Faced with mounting losses in its renewable electric power program, the Lincoln (Nebraska) Electric System is trying the charity approach. Participants are asked to simply make donations that have nothing to do with their own electricity usage.

Under the present LES program, which is fairly typical nationally, participants commit to paying a $4.30 per month premium for renewable power for three years. LES built two wind turbines, with a combined capacity of 1.32 MW for the program but are losing an estimated $12,000 per month on the deal. Participation has leveled off despite continued promotion.

Under the new charitable program, four levels of participation are offered: Friend of the Environment for $4.30 to $20 per month; Supporter of the Environment for $21 to $60; Conserver of the Environment for $61 to $125, and Protector of the Environment for a whopping $126 or more per month. LES declined to comment on whether these donations are tax deductible



Mar 19 -Editorial in Las Vegas Review - On Thursday, the U.S. Senate wisely rejected a call to require utilities in every state to produce at least 20 percent of their power from "renewable" sources -- solar, wind, biomass or geothermal -- by 2020.

SEPP Comment: But unfortunately, the Senate then settled on a 10 percent mandate - on investor-owned utilities only. Publicly-owned ones and co-ops are exempt. Some compromise!



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