The Week That Was
September 14, 2002

1. A DOUBLE WHAMMY ON CALIFORNIA FROM SEPP ASSOCIATE GORDON PRATHER. He explains why Cal Congressman Waxman fears the Pebble Bed Modular Reactor (PBMR); it will make nuclear electricity cheap! And how the Cal Assembly (legislature) and governor Davis propose to institute the Kyoto Protocol in spite of the federal government. caves on Kyoto.htm

2. SOLAR ENERGY TANKS IN CALIFORNIA'S CAPITAL. An object lesson on renewable energy, dependent on subsidies. Please check out TWTW of Feb. 26, 2000 and May 4, 1998


4. DEADLY ENVIRONMENTALISM: as the West Nile virus is spread by proliferating mosquitoes



2. Solar woes shock SMUD

The Sacramento Bee (September 6, 2002) revealed that the showpiece of Sacramento's municipal electric utility, an internationally known solar power program, is in shambles. It has fallen short of its goals, rocketed past its budget limits, lost its long-term chief, and left Sacramento Municipal Utility District directors scrambling to figure out how to salvage their commitment to renewable energy.

The disarray could have far-reaching implications. Other programs could face a harsher climate if SMUD starts faltering and stumbling. "Everyone with a real knowledge of the industry knows that SMUD's program is smoke and mirrors" and has promised solar systems at unrealistic prices, said Tim Townsend, a solar subcontractor who studied panel quality at a now-defunct research center in Davis.

Utility directors and managers say they remain committed to keeping some kind of solar program. But as internal audits showing the extent of the damage are completed, they are not sure just what will be left.

Already, SMUD has pulled the plug on any new installations of solar panels at commercial sites for the rest of 2002. It still will accept residential requests this year for the panels, which convert the sun's heat to electricity. But for 2003, nothing is certain -- neither the price of solar systems nor the pace of their installation.

"It's a really miserable situation," said Genevieve Shiroma, SMUD board president. "I'm really shocked to hear that the program is basically in arrears."

SMUD had planned to spend $3.2 million in 2002 to help homeowners, businesses, government offices and nonprofit groups install photovoltaic panels on their rooftops or their grounds. Instead, Thursday night the board authorized spending more than twice that, at least $7.6 million. It has been warned the tally may need to be upped to $9.5 million if SMUD cannot persuade the state to switch its stance on a solar subsidy.

Among the problems outlined for the board:

The benefits of the solar program were double-counted in budgeting, making the program appear $1.9 million cheaper than it actually is.

Solar panels cost far more than projected, partly because of delays and financial problems of a manufacturer that would have been SMUD's cheapest supplier. Higher prices from other manufacturers, sometimes up to 90 percent over budget, combined with delayed purchases, drove 2002 materials' costs $2.4 million over projections.

Solar installations outside SMUD's area were mistakenly priced below cost, in essence making SMUD customers subsidize people in Davis and elsewhere.

Contracts with suppliers were changed in violation of board policy and without board approval.

The district counted on qualifying for various grants and subsidies that it didn't ultimately qualify for, and that sometimes only existed as ideas outlined in pending legislation.

The controversy leaves SMUD in the uncomfortable position of having to re-assess what would have been a key piece of its landmark goal to get up to 20 percent of its power from non-hydroelectric sources of renewable energy by 2011.

It had been considering increasing its current 10 megawatts of solar power by as much as 30 to 40 megawatts over the next nine years. But that goal counted on far lower costs than SMUD now faces.

Today, with SMUD's $1 billion annual budget and the public's interest in solar power, several board members said they are willing to support a continued solar program even it costs more.


3. Ethanol Forges Ahead -- As Politics Trumps Economics

A number of factors are boosting the political prospects of ethanol -- the government-subsidized gasoline additive made from corn. The energy bill Congress will consider this fall has a mandate -- supported by leaders in both parties and the White House -- that 5 billion gallons of ethanol be added to gasoline within 10 years, up from 2 billion today.

There are signs the oil industry -- which has fought ethanol in the past -- may be coming around. And farmers and farm-state politicians like it.

Ethanol is now being seen as a possible stabilizer of world oil markets. It seems only economists are unconvinced, having protested as government subsidies poured in during the decades-long development effort.

Cornell University's David Pimentel calculated in 1979 that growing corn, fertilizing it, harvesting it and making it into ethanol consumes more energy than it produces -- and asks, "If it's so damned great, why do we need to subsidize it?"

Commenting on the political factors building in ethanol's favor, Brookings Institution economist Robert Litan comments, "You can't go to the Iowa primaries without supporting ethanol."

He adds that ethanol, "from an economic point of view makes no sense." Even some politicians from non-corn states are outraged with California's Sen. Dianne Feinstein complaining, "This is a ridiculously expensive way to subsidize farmers."

And while critics warn food prices will rise if more corn goes into gas tanks rather being fed to cattle, years of artful lobbying and overlapping ethanol subsidies and mandates seem to have confused even some experts as to its true costs.

Source: John J. Fialka, "Years of Subsidies Now Put Ethanol on Verge of Victory," Wall Street Journal, August 23, 2002. As quoted by NCPA


4. Deadly Environmentalism

(from newsletter)

All but 7 of the 48 mainlands United States now report outbreaks of the West Nile virus, being spread by proliferating mosquitoes. The death toll is rising. In past years when public policy was motivated by rationality and not by extremist ideology, we used to drain the swamps that served as mosquito breeding grounds, and we sprayed with pesticides, including DDT. Now we can't drain swamps, we call them "wetlands" and we are harangued to save them. To appease environmental extremists, past presidents proudly proclaimed how many acres of swamps they added to the nation every year.

DDT has been illegal in this country since 1972, and is on the verge of being banned worldwide by the U.N. All this thanks to radical environmentalists.

Are you concerned about the West Nile virus? How will you react when malaria and other mosquito-borne diseases start reappearing in this country? Malaria is already on the upsurge in much of the rest of the tropical world. India, which used to see millions of cases of malaria every year, cut those cases to a few thousand by the use of DDT. Now India is seeing cases of malaria numbering in the millions again. Likewise South and Central America, Africa, and the rest of the world's tropical regions. Sri Lanka saw malaria fall from 2.8 million cases and 7300 deaths before DDT spraying, to 17 cases and no deaths just before DDT spraying was stopped. A few years later, the reported cases of malaria were over a half million again in Sri Lanka. An estimated 300 million people worldwide contract malaria every year, and 3 million die from it.

Do you think the United States is immune? Last year, mosquito-borne dengue fever appeared in Hawaii for the first time in 60 years, and now it's West Nile virus. Perhaps we can give the environmentalists the benefit of the doubt and suggest that they meant well when they pushed the DDT ban, so they can't be held responsible for the unintended (although predicted) consequences. Or can they?

Now that the consequences of the DDT ban are known, and people are dying, have the environmentalists altered their stance regarding DDT? No. So perhaps we should take a less charitable view of their motivations. It is undeniable that they see human beings as a scourge on the planet.

The environmentalist sect called the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement claims, "the hopeful alternative to the extinction of millions, possibly billions, of species of plants and animals is the voluntary extinction of one species: Homo". What if the deaths from mosquito-borne diseases are not unintentional? Perhaps we've at last found a useful purpose for the International Criminal Court. The ICC claims jurisdiction over "Crimes against humanity", defined as "a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population…intentionally causing great suffering, or serious injury to body or to mental or physical health." Since the United Nations is contemplating mandating a ban of DDT worldwide, perhaps it is time for the Secretary General of the U.N. to be hauled before the ICC.

The typical radical environmentalist views human activity and even human life with disdain. The deaths from West Nile virus are irrelevant and no justification to resume mosquito-control pesticide spraying; military training is curtailed to protect animals and plants, but if enemy civilians are killed accidentally by bombing during wartime because pilots were inadequately trained, leftists who toe the environmentalist line are the first to demand punishment. Hospital construction is delayed because of bugs; forest fires destroy communities and kill firefighters because enviro lawsuits block tree thinning; thousands die on our highways because fuel economy standards force people into driving tin coffins; the ideology of "sustainable development" (this week being pushed by another U.N. summit in Johannesburg) will impoverish and kill millions across the globe.

Yet a hoodwinked public continues to support ever more radical environmental policies; Constitutionally protected property rights are nullified. How many lives will have to be sacrificed on the altar of radical environmentalism before people begin to distinguish between a desire for a clean environment, which we all share, within the context of property rights and free markets; and the misanthropic agenda of the radical environmentalists that drive much of America's, and the world's, public policy?


5. Is Britain's Environment Program in Good Hands?

Britain's Environment Minister Michael Meacher, who likes to berate the U.S. for its backward stance on global warming, made a fool of himself in the August 9 issue of the London Sunday Times. Here's an excerpt from the interview:

Meacher: "I mean floods in Britain is one we are having to explain, rising sea levels, but in America quite serious things are happening, certainly stronger hurricanes on the east coast which are to do with, what is the name of that hurricane that comes every 2-3 years?"

Interviewer: "They call them different names." Meacher: "No, no, there is a name which is the Spanish word for a young child, what is it called?" Interviewer: El Niño." Meacher: "The El Niño is becoming more frequent and more violent...."

[El Niño, of course, is not a hurricane, nor is it becoming more frequent or more violent.]





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