|The Week That Was
August 23, 2003
NO TWTW ON AUG. 30 AND SEPT 6
1. New on the Web: CORK HAYDEN, AUTHOR OF SOLAR FRAUD, IVES A WRY
ACCOUNT OF THE RECENT ENERGY POLICY MEETING AT ASPEN GLOBAL CHANGE INSTITUTE
2. SENATE ADOPTS LAST YEAR'S ENERGY BILL: BIG SURPRISE, BUT WHO GAINS?
3. THE ULTIMATE HORMESIS EXPERIMENT - based on an incident in Taiwan: RADIATION EXPOSURE REDUCES CANCER RATES DRASTICALLY
4. Book Announcement:
5. Book Announcement:
6. GW=WMD? WHAT NONSENSE!
2. Senate rallies behind leadership deal, passes 2002 energy bill
Months of Senate haggling over energy policy came to a close on July 31 in stunning fashion when the body voted 84-14 to approve last year's omnibus energy bill, abandoning Senate Energy Committee Chairman Pete Domenici's (R-N.M.) legislation at the last minute to set up a House-Senate conference committee on energy this fall.
With the Senate all but stalled behind a long list of Democratic amendments and a partisan fight over judicial nominations, Senate leaders brokered a deal under which this year's bill (S. 14) was traded for last year's S-517. The unexpected compromise was proposed by Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD) and accepted by Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) just when it looked like the Senate would leave town for the August recess with energy unfinished.
The compromise gave Frist and the Bush administration a partial victory on energy since the Republican-led conference will almost certainly write the conference report to mirror the House bill. At the same time, the deal gives Daschle a bargaining chip headed into conference because last year's bill was shepherded through the Senate under his leadership and is favored by Democrats
Most surprising perhaps was the lack of objection to a unanimous consent (UC) agreement under which the bills were swapped. Many expected one of the 11 senators who voted against S-517 last year to object, thereby sinking the deal, but Daschle was able to keep Democrats in line and Frist convinced Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), a likely opponent of the UC, to support the Republican caucus.
In exchange for their support, McCain and Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) were guaranteed floor time for what would be the first-ever floor debate on climate change. McCain and Lieberman were granted the right to bring up their legislation during six hours of debate on the Environment and Public Works Committee's Climate Stewardship Act, meaning they will offer as an amendment a bill that sets a national goal of stabilizing U.S. greenhouse emissions for several major industrial sectors at year 2000 levels by the year 2010 That debate could occur as early as this fall. Under the UC, the McCain-Lieberman measure is the only amendment in order when the climate-change issue hits the floor.
Views split on bill movement. With the deal all but imminent, Republicans and Democrats spent the afternoon trying to convince reporters the deal favors their respective parties. Many lobbyists said the deciding factor was Daschle's unwillingness to let the ethanol mandate dissolve with the energy bill, while environmentalists blasted the Senate for "scraping the mold off an old energy bill" that differs little from the new one, as one source put it. The ranking member of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus (D-Mont.), said Democrats benefit because last year's bill was written by Democrats and is friendlier to the environment in several respects (see below). The author of last year's bill, Senate Energy Committee ranking member Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), agreed with this sentiment, saying S-517 gives conferees more balance between environmental interests and energy production headed into conference.
To this, Domenici offered a blunt analysis, saying Republicans win because they control the conference. "Don't be too quick to assume it's a bad deal," he said. "We're the majority. We write the bill in conference." Several lobbyists echoed Domenici's thoughts, expressing outright shock that Daschle would let Republicans have their way with energy in defense of ethanol. Daschle has long been a vocal advocate of a provision in both energy bills that would triple the amount of ethanol used as a gasoline additive, a position Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) said the minority leader was unwilling to compromise. "They were afraid they would lose their ethanol deal," Lott said.
Critics think Daschle may have given up too much. "What he did was take any control the Democrats had in crafting the bill and gave it to a conference run by Republicans," a utility industry lobbyist said.
Environmentalists, meantime, were caught between their opposition to S-517 and news that McCain and Lieberman have been guaranteed floor time to debate an issue -- climate change -- the Bush administration would like to see quietly shoved to the side until after the 2004 election. "We applaud Senators McCain and Lieberman for seeking assurances that their climate-change proposal will come to a vote once Congress returns," said Jim Lyon, senior director for congressional affairs at the National Wildlife Federation.
Senate energy bill breakdown:
The major points of difference between the Senate bills, S. 14 and S. 517, are:
* Renewable portfolio standards: Last year's bill would mandate electricity suppliers generate 10 percent of their power from renewable energy sources by 2020. This year, no RPS provision was included. [Note: Howard Dean's platform calls for 20%]
* Climate change: Last year's bill would keep greenhouse gas (GHG) reporting voluntary for at least five years, but included a trigger that would make the registry mandatory if after five years it accounts for less than 60 percent of U.S. GHG emissions. This year, no climate change provisions were included.
* Electricity: Last year's bill would amend the Federal Power Act to give the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission authority over regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and the ability to approve reliability standards for RTOs. This year, no language was included giving FERC powers to authorize RTO formation, and FERC would be prevented from implementing its "standard market design" reform plan until 2005, an issue that was not addressed last year.
* Price-Anderson Act reauthorization: Last year's bill called for reauthorization of the Price-Anderson nuclear liability act until 2012. This year's version would reauthorize Price-Anderson permanently.
* Nuclear power industry funding: Last year's bill said the Energy Department should aggressively pursue construction of a new power plant by 2010. This year's legislation would go much further, authorizing $1.13 billion for construction of an Advanced Reactor Hydrogen Co-Generation Project at the Idaho National Engineering and Environmental Laboratory. This year's bill also would provide nuclear loan guarantees.
* Hydropower: Last year's hydropower language would create two new procedures for hydropower relicensing, as opposed to four this year. The previous Senate bill also would allow any stakeholder to submit alternative conditions for operations and give the licensee's proposal greater weight, but S. 14 would allow only license applicants to submit an alternative in a "trial-type" hearing. Another significant difference between the two bills is that this year's language would make an even more explicit change in the definition of fish passage that would allow dam owners to use hatcheries as a substitute.
* Indian energy: The Indian energy titles in S. 517 and S. 14 are similar, but one difference generated much debate this year. Last year's title would have let tribes approve contracts, leases and rights-of-way for electricity generation and distribution projects, without approval from the Interior secretary. This year's title would broaden that to other kinds of energy projects.
* Tax title: Though very close in total dollar amounts, last year's $14.5 billion tax package included no offsets. Both tax titles would include credits for the purchase of alternative motor vehicles and electric cars and incentives for the purchase of energy efficient appliances. This year's tax package was scored at $15.7 billion.
Click here <http://www.eenews.net/EEDaily/sr_sebchart.htm>
to view a comparison chart of last year's House and Senate energy bills.
The chart includes a complete description of S. 517.
* No CAFE Change. An amendment to significantly increase fuel efficiency
in all passenger vehicles, especially SUVs, was defeated by a 2-1 margin.
The same thing happened two years ago
Comment by David Wojick: It is not often Congress does something "stunning," but this counts. Looks like climate change will finally get a stand-alone debate, maybe. Bill Frist's promise is not binding and committee chairman James Inhofe (R- Okla) holds the bill. Dead of winter is a good time to debate global warming. Stay tuned.
3. The ultimate Hormesis experiment - continued (see TWTW of 26 July, 2003)
Abstract submitted for Pacific Basin Nuclear Conference-2004 session on "Adaptive Responses Following Low-Dose Radiation Exposures"
Title: "New Approach for Radiation Protection and Medical Treatments based on the Observed Effect of Radiation Exposure on the Health of the Residents Who Lived in the Co-60 Contaminated Apartments in Taiwan"
W. L. Chen, Y. C. Luan, S.H. Mong, J.T. Wu, C. P. Sun, M.C. Shieh, S.T.
National Yang-Ming University, Taipei, Taiwan, R.O.C
The conventional approach for radiation protection and medical treatments is based on the LNT theory in ICRP-60, which implies that ionizing radiation is always harmful, no matter how small the dose. But a different approach can be derived from the serendipitous Co-60 contamination of 1700 apartments in Taiwan. This experience indicates that chronic exposure of the whole body to a low dose rate of radiation, accumulated to high annual dose, is always beneficial to human health.
Approximately 10,000 residents lived in the Co-60 contaminated buildings and received quite high doses of radiation unknowingly during a period of 9-20 years. However, they did not suffer excess cancer mortality, as the LNT theory would predict. On the contrary, the incidence of spontaneous cancer deaths in this population was greatly reduced - to less than 5% of the cancer mortality of the general public in Taiwan (p < 00.1)! This observation contradicts the LNT theory; it supports the radiation hormesis theory.
We should therefore expect a beneficial health effect, similar to that observed in this Co-60 contamination incident, for low dose exposures in nuclear power operations and in medical applications. Information about this Taiwan experience should be communicated to the public to help transform its radiation phobia into a more positive impression of radiation. This would enable expenditures of billions of dollars to be saved in nuclear reactor operation, and it would enable important medical applications of low-dose irradiation to be employed to prevent and cure human cancers. Of course, thorough scientific studies of these beneficial health effects should continue. These will serve to increase confidence in the validity of radiation hormesis phenomena.
4. NATURALLY DANGEROUS: Constantly updated Internet supplement to the popular book by James P. Collman, Professor of Chemistry, Stanford University. See <www.naturallydangerous.com>
Every day we have to make informed decisions on a host of problems related to our health and the health of our children, the future of the environment and even the policies of our government. With so much contradictory information in the media, how can ever keep up? It seems that one would have to devote one's entire life to sieving through papers to find what can and can not be trusted.
Fortunately, now we do not have to. "NATURALLY DANGEROUS: Surprising Facts About Food, Health, and the Environment" is a little book written by James P. Collman, a renown Professor at Stanford University and a member of the National Academy of Sciences. In a no-nonsense style targeted to someone without any science background, Collman summarizes the science behind the issues of food, health and the environment.
The book will not tell you what to do, but it does provide the reader with enough facts and background for him or her to make more informed decisions.
Are fats bad for you? Is the diet suggested by the USDA food pyramid healthy? What are the dangerous of herbal remedies? Is margarine healthier than butter? Is the blood cholesterol level a good predictor of heart disease? Will "hydrogen economy" solve the problem of global warming, or exacerbate it?
If you find yourself looking for answers to these and similar questions, this site and the corresponding book may be of interest to you
ISBN 1-891389-09-2, 2001, 280 pages, illustrated with color figures, clothbound. List Price US$29.00. Publisher's Discount Price US$26.10
5. POLITICIZING SCIENCE: THE ALCHEMY OF POLICYMAKING.
Edited by Michael Gough. Published by Hoover Institution Press (Stanford, Cal) and George C. Marshall Institute (Washington, DC). 2003. 313 pp. Softbound. $15.00
6. GW=WMD? A response to John Houghton by Wm O'Keefe
The British paper, The Guardian, recently ran an article by Sir John Houghton asserting that "human-induced climate change is a weapon of mass destruction". He also charged that the "United States, in an epic abandonment of leadership, was largely responsible for this threat".
His allegations are as wrong as they are outrageous. Terrorism and the use of weapons of mass destruction are a real and demonstrated threat. Dangerous climate change decades or a century hence is a hypothesis produced by mathematical models.
To make his case, Houghton cites statistics on this year's heat wave in India and tornados in the United States. This is disingenuous since he well knows that one year's weather is not a proxy for climate. He also knows that projections of human-induced climate change are based on mathematical models that have not been validated and cannot replicate past climate without the introduction of "fudge factors".
What we know about the climate system is meager compared with what we don't know. We know that over the past century the earth's temperature has increased about 1 degree Fahrenheit; we know that levels of CO2 have increased about 35%; and we know that human activities have had some indeterminate influence on climate. Beyond those few facts, almost everything else is hypothesis and speculation, which is a questionable basis for actions that have negative economic impacts and extend the world's current level of poverty.
Far from abandoning leadership, the United States is doing more than any other nation to address any long-term risk of climate change. The fact that the U.S. has rejected the ill-conceived Kyoto Protocol, which imposes energy rationing as a means to lower emissions, does not mean that the U.S. is doing nothing. U.S. expenditures for climate-related actions will be about $4.5 billion in 2004. The Bush Administration has recently released a strategic research plan to fill gaps in our state of knowledge that have been widely acknowledged and documented by the National Academy of Sciences and the scientific community. Those gaps are not trivial. They include understanding natural variability, cloud formation, the influence of ocean currents, solar influences, water vapor, aerosols and climate feedbacks. These gaps help to explain why estimates of temperature increases associated with doubling CO2 concentration in the atmosphere vary by a factor of at least 3. In addition to investing in climate science, the U.S. has a major effort to develop new energy technologies, over a dozen bi-lateral agreements with other nations to better manage emissions, and voluntary agreements with major industries that will produce substantial reductions in emissions growth.
The difference between the approach being taken by the United States and that favored by Houghton is the difference between action based on facts and due regard for consequences and actions that are driven by sophisticated but invalidated computer models.
These realities lead to the obvious question of why a climate scientist would use such extreme rhetoric when he knows that science does not support his allegations? Only he knows the actual answer to that question. However, it is fair to point out that his past claim --that the science of climate change is settled -- has not been borne out by the facts. That is clearly demonstrated by reports prepared by the National Academy of Sciences. Also his claim that there is a scientific consensus on human impacts is bogus, since science doesn't operate by polling. It is also fair to point out that John Houghton was Co-chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which provided the questionable underpinnings for the rush to judgment that produced the Kyoto Protocol. Kyoto's many flaws are becoming more apparent with the passage of time. While Houghton is wedded to the Kyoto process, which would lead to ever more stringent constraints on energy use, several distinguished climate scientists demonstrated in an article in Science last November that the technology needed to significantly reduce CO2 emissions without causing unacceptable economic harm did not currently exist.
All of this leads me to the conclusion that John Houghton is desperately trying to defend the indefensible and to promote a political agenda. A politician who used such extreme rhetoric would be dismissed as pandering to a special interest. A scientist who does the same thing should also be dismissed. The greatest threat to wise policy is extreme ideology and blind commitment to bad policy. Those flaws may really be weapons of mass destruction.