|The Week That Was
July 30, 2005
New on the Web: Read the Ethanol story by Alan Reynolds and weep. Less fuel at higher prices, plus more oil imports. (The Congressional Budget Office estimates the ethanol cost at $36 billion over the next 5 years.) Ethanol must be the worst item in the just-passed Energy Bill, which the President should veto -- but won't.
But there is more pork: subsidies to oil and gas producers (who certainly don't need most of them with today's high prices), tax breaks for purchasers of hybrid cars (which will most likely raise their price and allow greater profits for Japanese companies), --- and there is so much more (to quote a popular ad). The total cost, often quoted as $14 billion, is not really known, but one WSJ estimate is $66 billion. It's a heavy price for very little. We agree with Senators Feingold (D-WI) and Gregg (R-NH) that "this Bill is fiscally irresponsible." [Of course, so is the just-passed Transportation Bill.]
There are some nuggets of gold in the Bill -- very few, to be sure: More rationality for electric power and encouragement for nuclear energy (which is needed because of existing constraints that inhibit its use).
But it could have been worse: Requiring utilities to produce 10% of electric power from "renewables;" Caps on emission of CO2 to avert imagined "climate catastrophes;" and higher CAFÉ fuel-efficiency standards on cars. If these spineless legislators really want to cut oil consumption and imports, they should vote higher gasoline taxes instead of ineffective feel-good measures (of which this Bill has a great selection - from hydrogen and wind to "clean" coal (whatever that means).
Read more views in Item #1 below.
The other big event this week was more hyperventilating by the NY
Times, Wash Post, and assorted scientific organizations (that should know
better) against Congressman Joe Barton, who had the temerity to enquire
why underlying scientific information about the Hockeystick was being
withheld from scientists who tried to reproduce the result independently.
[Well, maybe his letters were a bit too intrusive; I would have written
them differently.] (More detail in Item #2 and in TWTW
of July 23)
Roger Pielke, Sr's new climate science blog is critical of the Senate
Hearing on Global Warming. http://ccc.atmos.colostate.edu/blog/?p=13
Item #4 brings you a miscellany about chemicals and their possible
toxicity and carcinogenicity, plus news about POPs (persistent organic
pollutants) Treaty and REACH (EU's chemicals testing and registration
program). Item #5 is the latest about CARB's extreme ozone standards.
And Item #6 reports on NAS support for LNT. As an antidote, to this pernicious
report with far-reaching economic consequence, read Prof Ed Calabrese's
review of Hormesis - why small amounts of poison or radiation are actually
good for you; they apparently stimulate the natural immune system.
US Climate Change Science Program (CCSP) director Dr Jim Mahoney is planning to retire - after signing a huge contract with the National Research Council-NAS to take over effective supervision of CCSP. An interesting question: Is there a conflict of interest for Panel members who get financial support from CCSP?
And finally, Stanford's perennially failed eco-prophet Paul Ehrlich
teams up with his old pal, Science editor Don Kennedy, to promote something
called Millennium Assessment of Human Behavior (Science, 22 July 2005).
MAHB is supposed to do for human behavior what the IPCC did for climate
science (I'm not kidding.) It would control population growth, "constrain
corporate power," and indulge in discussions of global governance.
Oh well, if these exercises soak up lots of foundation money, there will
be less left over for real mischief-making activities. But no tax money,
WASHINGTON, July 26 - After coming up short for years, Congress is preparing to enact a broad energy plan that would provide generous federal subsidies to the oil and gas industries, encourage new nuclear power plant construction and try to whet the nation's appetite for renewable fuels like ethanol and wind power.
Comments on Energy Bill from Tom Randall (Winningreen)
Oil and gas inventories in the outer continental shelf will be taken
and updated on a regular basis and tax breaks will be given for deep-water
exploration. However, although the bill authorizes expansion of oil and
gas exploration, the outer continental shelf is not included.
Nuclear energy is a virtually limitless source of clean, safe electricity.
WSJ Editorial 7/29/2005
Next to this highway extravagance, the energy bill seems almost a bargain at an estimated $66 billion or so. Minor highlights here include the repeal of a Depression-era law (Puhca) that will open up electricity sector investment; new reliability standards for the national power grid; more federal authority to settle siting disputes over much-needed natural gas terminals; and an inventory of offshore oil and gas resources that may someday encourage more exploration.
We can also say this for the bill: It doesn't pick energy winners or losers. Everyone who produces so much as a kilowatt hour is a winner in this subsidy-fest of tax credits and new federal mandates. There's $550 million for forest biomass, $100 million for hydroelectric production, and $1.8 billion for "clean coal." There are subsidies for wind, solar, nuclear and (despite $60 oil) even for oil and gas.
Most egregious is the gigantic transfer of wealth from car drivers to Midwest corn farmers (and Archer-Daniels-Midland) via a new 7.5-billion-gallon-a-year ethanol mandate, which will raise gas prices by as much as a dime a gallon on the East and West coasts. Oh, and don't forget the $15 billion (a 155% increase) in federal home heating subsidies, $100 million for "fuel cell" school buses, and $6 million for a government program to encourage people to ride their bikes--presumably along Mr. Oberstar's newly paved trail.
All of this points up the bill's underlying mortal failing, which is
that it abandons the lesson of the 1980s that the best way to ensure abundant
energy supplies is to let the price system work. At least the House-Senate
conferees dropped a Senate provision that would have mandated that 10%
of all electricity come from "renewable" sources by 2020, regardless
of supply and demand. Although in return for killing this, the House had
to drop its liability protection for producers of MTBE, a gas additive
that Congress itself mandated in 1990 but now wants to feed to the trial
From National Center for Policy Analysis
Your editorial ("Hunting Witches," July 23) faults Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), chair of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, for requesting information from Drs. Michael Mann, Ray Bradley and Malcolm Hughes (MBH) about their research. In 1998, they published a hockeystick-shaped graph of temperatures of the past 1000 years, suggesting that the 20th century was the warmest. Their result bolstered political demands to control emissions of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide.
With so many public-policy consequences involved, the research becomes a valid concern for Congress - especially after a number of respected scientists concluded that the MBH result is spurious. In trying independently to reproduce the MBH result - a traditional science task- two Canadian researchers, Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick (MM), discovered major problems with the MBH methodology and with the underlying data. But it was only after Mr. Barton's letter to MBH, that MM were given essential information that had been withheld earlier.
This episode affirms government policy that publicly funded research should be freely available to the scientific community for legitimate scientific purposes. Mr. Barton's requests were entirely proper and legitimate. It is an embarrassment to science that the matter had to be raised by a non-scientist.
S. Fred Singer July 25, 2005
On July 21, 2005, the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held a Full Committee Hearing entitled "Climate Change Science and Economics." The Hearing was:
"To receive testimony regarding the current state of climate change scientific research and the economics of strategies to manage climate change. Issues to be discussed include: the relationship between energy consumption and climate change, new developments in climate change research and the potential effects on the U.S. economy of climate change and strategies to control greenhouse gas emissions."
I am particularly interested in learning what testimony was given since I was called on July 11 and invited to present testimony at this Hearing. However, on July 13, I was e-mailed
"Dr. Pielke: we have had a change in plans. We have decided to ask NCAR to provide a senior scientist from that organization for the hearing. As a result we won't be asking you to drop everything and appear at our hearing. My apologies for the confusion."
When I read the testimony that was presented, Dr. Jim Hurrell of NCAR was my "replacement." He provided a much different perspective on the science issue than I would have given http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=1484&Witness_ID=4227
For example, he reported
The CCSP Report he refers to has not been finalized, nor has the final version been subjected to public comment (I am a Convening Lead Author on the chapter "What measures can be taken to improve our understanding of observed changes?"). The revised Executive Summary has not even been circulated to the Committee (in the draft version that was reviewed by the National Research Council there were major issues with the draft Executive summary (see http://books.nap.edu/catalog/11285.html), which were so serious that I authored a report of its deficiencies (Pielke Sr., Roger A., 2005: Minority Report, Comments Provided to the NRC Review Committee of the U.S. Climate Change Science Program's Synthesis and Assessment Product on Temperature Trends in the Lower Atmosphere).
His statements "that the surface and upper-air records of temperature change can now, in fact, be reconciled" and "the overall pattern of observed temperature change in the vertical is consistent with that simulated by today's climate models" oversimplify and mischaracterize the text as it currently exists. Moreover, these are not scientifically balanced conclusions. This testimony is an example of cherrypicking of information to promote a particular view of climate science.
Indeed, other testimony similarly cherrypicked information. For instance, while Dr. Ralph Cicerone in this testimony (http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=1484&Witness_ID=4225) included some information from the National Research Council report, he missed the opportunity to educate the Committee on the spectrum of newly recognized human climate forcings, as reported in the NRC (2005) report, and how this complicates our ability to achieve skillful climate forecasts. He should have summarized the findings of that report in his testimony. As President of the National Academy of Science, it is particularly important that he provide a balanced presentation of climate science. He did not do so.
If my invitation to present had not been withdrawn, I would have built on my 2002 testimony to the U.S. House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which is part of the Energy and Commerce Committee. This testimony was given in my capacity as President-Elect of the American Association of State Climatologists. I would have used the Findings in the National Research Council report, my invited essay, and other recent work in the science community to prepare my testimony.
Unfortunately, the Senators were not provided a balanced Hearing on climate
EPA Releases Chemical Data Sealed After 9-11: Under pressure from
a government watchdog group, EPA has re-released to the public risk estimates
posed by chemicals produced at industrial facilities. Regulators shielded
the data - mandated by Risk Management Plans (RMP) under the Clean Air
Act - in response to security concerns following the September 11, 2001
terror attacks. But environmental and other citizen groups have argued
that right-to-know laws require EPA to provide full access. Although EPA
has rejected claims filed under the Freedom of Information Act, the agency
complied when the organization OMB Watch filed a formal petition demanding
the data be reposted. "Rather than argue before the court, they just
gave us that data," says OMB Watch. According to BNA's Daily Environment
Report, the RMP debate could impact efforts in Congress to pass legislation
to establish chemical site security requirements.
Study Finds No Link Between Chlorine Byproducts and Miscarriages:
A new study by the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill concludes
that fears linking the chlorine byproducts known as trihalomethanes to
risks of miscarriages are unsubstantiated. The UNC findings, which are
national in scope, contradict a 1998 study from Northern California. "We
think our new work should be an important contribution to policy studies,"
says principal investigator David A. Savitz of the UNC School of Public
Health. "While it is not the final answer, what we found is largely
reassuring relative to what had come before." In the study, researchers
tested more than 3,000 women near three properly functioning water purification
facilities. It found "no clear-cut evidence that trihalomethanes
harmed women or their developing infants," says a UNC news release.
The study was sponsored by the American Water Works Association's Research
CDC Report Praises PUR, Bleached Water Treatments: The use of
Proctor & Gamble's PUR water treatment system, a combined flocculant
and chlorine disinfectant for household use, has significantly decreased
incidents of diarrhea and related deaths in villages of Kenya, according
to a new study from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
(CDC) and reported by the Associated Press. The study, published by the
British Medical Journal, found similar results using diluted bleach to
purify water. This research confirms previous findings that household
water treatment significantly reduces waterborne illnesses, and is the
first study to show a significant reduction in mortality. The evidence
suggests that "simple, affordable tools such as the PUR product or
diluted bleach can be used by people very inexpensively and very practically
even people who live in very remote areas who get their water from nasty-looking
ponds and streams," says Eric Mintz of CDC.
Green Group Releases "Body Burden" Report: In a study
released by the activist-driven Environmental Working Group (EWG), researchers
detected an average of 200 chemicals in tested blood from the umbilical
cords of newborns. Of the total, "76 cause cancer in humans or animals,
94 are toxic to the brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects
or abnormal development in animal tests," says The Palm Beach Post.
Chemicals that were found to be "pervasive" include 4,4'-DDE,
a byproduct of DDT; the former fungicide hexachlorobenzene; and PFOA and
PFOS chemicals used in Teflon and Scotchgard brands. However, many chemicals
were only detected at extremely low levels at which known adverse health
effects may not occur. "A typical EWG study is a pseudo-science ruse
meant to scare the ordinary American to death about the food we eat and
the air we breathe," says David Martosko, research director at the
Center for Consumer Freedom. "They never met a square on the periodic
table of elements that they couldn't turn into a sound bite."
California Biomonitoring Plan Spurs Tough Debate: A bill in the
California state legislature to set up a state-wide biomonitoring program
would, if passed, provide state officials with the information needed
to make difficult policy decisions on human health and the environment,
states The Daily Review (Bay Area). The sponsor of the bill believes this
is a basic right-to-know issue, allowing individuals to know what is in
their bodies and providing a better understanding of human exposure to
toxic substances. However, industry groups are concerned that the resulting
data on chemical "body burdens" could be misinterpreted by regulators
and the public and would lead to unnecessary restrictions on industry
and products. Scientists are raising questions about the biomonitoring
program outlined in the bill, particularly the inability to know the health
effects of the levels of chemicals found in program participants. However,
Richard Jackson, the state's top public health officer, says "Biomonitoring
is the future. We've got to do it, but we've got to do it right."
Michigan Dioxin Ruling Draws Industry Praise: A recent ruling
by the Michigan State Supreme Court that removed half of a dioxin related
lawsuits against Dow Chemical Company is winning praise by industry representatives,
who say it will prevent "a flood of frivolous suits." In a 5-2
decision, the court rejected claims by plaintiffs who sought to make Dow
responsible for the costs of monitoring the health of residents along
the Tittabawassee River, which was found to contain dioxin. Justice Maura
D. Corrigan wrote in the majority opinion that liability should not be
based solely on potential exposure "without a requirement of present
injury," says The Saginaw News. The majority observed that the Legislature
is better equipped to address such issues. "This is a terrific decision
and a very well-reasoned one," says Robin Conrad, senior vice president
at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce litigation center, which supported the
Dow position in a friend-of-the-court brief. Though the decision prevents
plaintiffs from suing Dow for medical monitoring, the remainder of the
case on property damage will proceed.
Environmental Activists Set Up EU Watchdog Group: Environmentalists
in Europe have set up a new watchdog group to monitor how corporations
are lobbying the decision-making process in the European Union (EU). The
group, called the Alliance for Transparency and Ethics Regulation (ALTER-EU),
claims industry is having "far too much political influence"
on legislators, according to the Inter Press Service. One of their alleged
examples is the polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics industry. "Eight
years after the EU started addressing the environmental problems caused
by 4.1 million tonnes of PVC plastic waste annually, the PVC industry
has succeeded in preventing any real progress," says Jorgo Riss of
Greenpeace Europe. The establishment of ALTER-EU also follows environmentalist
charges that the industry has unduly influenced the European Commission's
decisions on the proposed REACH chemical testing and registration plan.
Overzealous Security Officials Threaten Chlorinated Drinking Water:
An op-ed by Steven Milloy on the Fox News Web site warns that the extraordinary
worldwide health benefits of chlorinated drinking water are threatened
by an "unfortunate alliance between junk science-fueled environmentalists
and overzealous homeland security officials." Milloy states that
environmentalists have attacked the chlorine industry since the 1970s
using scare tactics. The author cites a newly published article by Fred
Reiff, a Pan American Health Organization official during the Latin American
cholera outbreak of the 1990s. In his personal account, Reiff documents
how press releases and published scientific studies on the cancer risk
due to chlorine disinfection by-products were widely distributed by environmental
agencies to Latin American officials. In the minds of these well-intentioned
officials, the low, potential public health risk of cancer took on a higher
level of importance than the significant, immediate risk of cholera. Reiff
describes encounters with local officials who expressed concerns that
they could be subject to lawsuits if they chlorinated or raised the level
of chlorine in their water supplies. The preventable cholera outbreak
eventually took 10,000 lives and caused 1,000,000 cases of illness. Milloy
concludes that the new scare tactic of environmentalists consists of generating
fears of terrorist attacks on water treatment facilities that disinfect
with chlorine gas. He points out that this concern has "been picked
up by some in our ever-expanding homeland security industry."
States Challenge New EPA Rule Designed to Reduce Mercury Emissions:
Fourteen states are petitioning the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
to reconsider a new final rule that the states argue will lead to a much
weaker regulatory scheme to reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power
plants. According to BNA Daily Environment Report, EPA argues the new
rule will help reduce mercury emissions from power plants by more than
70 percent when the rule is fully implemented after 2020. The states,
along with five environmental groups and four Indian tribes that have
filed similar petitions, also believe the new rule allows coal-fired power
plants to avoid technology based emission limits called for in an EPA
regulatory determination released in 2000 that was withdrawn by the agency.
Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council,
reacted to the rule challenge, saying, "Unbelievable. The activist
community has been behind every substantive effort to delay the mercury
rules. Arguing for delay while demanding faster rules is hypocritical
at best, schizophrenic at worst."
White House Pushes Again on POPs Treaty: The White House is again
planning to urge Congress to pass legislation that would allow the United
States to implement the international treaty to ban or restrict persistent
organic pollutants (POPs), including dioxins and furans. According to
Risk Policy Report, the push is a response to complaints by unidentified
legislators, who say the bill continues to languish nearly four years
after President Bush officially signed the treaty. The Department of State
is now preparing a letter to Congress, which would be jointly signed by
top administration environmental officials, asking that partisan differences
be resolved and an agreement be reached. Before the Senate can ratify
the POPs treaty, Congress needs to approve relevant legislative changes
to the federal Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). The bill has been
delayed because of a dispute over how new chemicals would be added to
REACH Feared Because of Europe's Power: The European Union's proposed
REACH chemicals testing and registration program is a primary example
of Europe's potential power to set policies and reshape the behavior of
major U.S. companies, according to Fortune magazine. "REACH takes
a sledgehammer approach," says American Chemistry Council managing
director Mike Walls. "It's unworkable, it's unwieldy, and it will
be very difficult to administer." But if REACH eventually takes effect,
it will be "impossible to ignore" and could end up costing 8
billion Euros (more than $9.7 billion USD) over the next 11 years to implement.
General Electric Chairman and CEO Jeffrey Immelt remarks that, "Europe
in many ways is the global regulatory superpower."
Radiocarbon Dating Used to Distinguish Natural Halogenated Organics
from Synthetics: Using radiocarbon dating on polybrominated diphenyl
ethers (PBDEs) isolated from whale blubber, Woods Hole chemists have found
the persistent compounds to be of natural origin, possibly from marine
sponges. According to a June 6, article in The Scientist, the chemists
developed a technique to distinguish between fossil fuel-derived, industrial
organohalogens and their natural analogs. The method is based on the fact
that fossil fuel-derived compounds are radiocarbon-dead, while burning
wood, for example, is characterized by a recent, biological carbon-14
signature. The researchers showed that both natural and industrial PBDEs
accumulate in blubber in the same way. The article concludes with speculation
that the radiocarbon dating technique "might prove invaluable for
assessing the relative contributions of industry and nature for many compounds."
Dartmouth Professor Gordon Gribble, who has documented over 4,000 naturally-occurring
organohalogen compounds, is quoted as saying that dioxins should be a
priority in this effort, given their variety of known sources..
The California Air Resources Board (CARB) is using shaky science to propose costly, new ozone standards for the state, says Joel Schwartz (Heartland Institute). Meanwhile, researchers question the effect of ozone pollution on public health, and whether reductions will provide much of a health benefit.
CARB used an analysis of several single-city studies by the World Health Organization, but even WHO admits it likely overestimated the benefits of ozone reduction due to publication bias -- that is, there are more rewards for publishing significant positive findings than negative ones.
Several studies dispute the effects of ozone on mortality. For example:
o A 2004 study in the Journal of Environmental Economics concludes an indistinguishable effect of ozone on mortality rates.
o Researchers for the National Morbidity, Mortality and Air Pollution Study (NMMAPS) examined 95 U.S. cities and found that the relationship between ozone and mortality was 70 percent lower than the analysis of single-city studies.
o CARB's own estimates show that more stringent standards would produce a mere .06 percent reduction in premature deaths, a .28 percent reduction in respiratory hospital admissions and a .49 percent reduction in asthma-induced emergency room visits.
Furthermore, the cost to Californians would be prohibitive:
o CARB's new eight-hour ozone standard -- which is stricter than the EPA's standard -- would cost about $16.6 billion a year in the South Coast.
o Risk analysts estimate that each $17 million in cost would actually induce one additional death since resources would be diverted from other risk-reduction measure.
CARB's proposed standard would kill more lives than it saves, says Schwartz.
Source: Joel Schwartz, "California Considers Stringent Ozone Standard," Heartland Institute, May 1, 2005; Gary Koop and Lisa Tole, "Measuring the Health Effects of Air Pollution: To What Extent Can We Really Say that People are Dying from Bad Air?" Journal of Environmental Economics, vol. 47, no. 1; JM Samet, et al., "The National Morbidity, Mortality, and Air Pollution Study. Part II: Morbidity and mortality from air pollution in the United States," Research Report, Health Effects Institute 2000, June 1994; and World Health Organization, "Health Aspects of Air Pollution with Particulate Matter, Ozone and Nitrogen Dioxide," January 2003.
For text: http://www.heartland.org/Article.cfm?artId=16901 Courtesy
6. NAS stands by "no-threshold" theory for radiation damage