|The Week That Was
Sept. 17, 2005
New on the Web: We have updated ten Frequently Asked Questions
about Global Warming. Little has changed. The Kyoto Protocol is still
a bad deal: ineffective and costly -- and probably on its way out (Item
#1). It is encouraging that a major lawsuit
to force electric powerplants to limit CO2 emissions has failed (Item
#2). Adaptation to climate change is still the best policy (Item #3).
Lessons of Katrina: It laid bare the deplorable state of US
oil refining capacity (Item #4), largely the result of extreme environmental
rules. David Brooks' account of government planning vs. failure should
be required reading (Item #5). John Berlau describes the environmental
obstacles to upgrading the levees protecting New Orleans (Item #6) and
Kenneth Haapala identifies the enviro-zealots responsible for the disaster
The long-awaited UN report on Chernobyl is an eye-opener (Item #8). After all the hype, there are only some 50 deaths among personnel involved in the immediate accident, and 9 deaths from thyroid cancer. The report talks about 4000 eventual cancer deaths, but these are statistical calculations based on the unrealistic "Linear-No-Threshold" hypothesis - and are more likely zero. (But even the 4000 number represents only a 3% increase in naturally occurring cancer deaths.) The most important after-effects were psychological and caused by fear of radioactivity.
Finally, Howard Hayden, author of "The Solar Fraud," puts
a damper on excessive solar energy enthusiasm with some realism. (Item
Kyoto Treaty RIP. That's not the headline in any newspaper this morning emerging from the first day of the Clinton Global Initiative, but it could have been -- and should have been.
Onstage with former president Bill Clinton at a midtown Manhattan hotel ballroom, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said he was going to speak with "brutal honesty" about Kyoto and global warming, and he did. And Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had some blunt talk, too.
Blair, a longtime supporter of the Kyoto treaty, further prefaced his remarks by noting, "My thinking has changed in the past three or four years." So what does he think now? "No country, he declared, "is going to cut its growth." That is, no country is going to allow the Kyoto treaty, or any other such global-warming treaty, to crimp -- some say cripple -- its economy.
Looking ahead to future climate-change negotiations, Blair said of such fast-growing countries as India and China, "They're not going to start negotiating another treaty like Kyoto." India and China, of course, weren't covered by Kyoto in the first place, which was one of the fatal flaws in the treaty. But now Blair is acknowledging the obvious: that after the current Kyoto treaty -- which the US never acceded to -- expires in 2012, there's not going to be another worldwide deal like it.
So what will happen instead? Blair answered: "What countries will do is work together to develop the science and technology. There is no way that we are going to tackle this problem unless we develop the science and technology to do it." Bingo! That's what eco-realists have been saying all along, of course -- that the only feasible way to deal with the issue of greenhouse gases and global warming is through technological breakthroughs, not draconian cutbacks.
Blair concluded with a rhetorical question-and-answer: "How do we move forward, post-Kyoto? It can only be done by the major players coming together and pooling their resources, to find their way to come together."
Interestingly, these words from Blair, addressing an audience of a thousand at the Sheraton just a few blocks north of Times Square, failed to get any pickup in the media. Even The New York Times, published just down the street, ran a story that dwelt on the star power in the room, including King Abdullah of Jordan, Jesse Jackson, and George Stephanopoulos. "Isn't this awesome?" said one participant, and those words seemed to reflect fully the Times' take on the event.
For its part The Washington Post offered this bland headline: "Clinton Gathers World Leaders: Nonpartisan Conference Focuses on Global Improvement," making no mention of Blair's global warming remarks. As for TV coverage, there wasn't much of that either; on CNN Headline News, Christi Paul said, admiringly, "former President Clinton is still looking to get things done," noting that Clinton garnered "more than $200 million in pledges" to address world problems.
Ironically, some of those pledges concerned global warming. The 42nd President kicked off his wonky-glitzy extravaganza by announcing that the event would be "climate neutral." That is, the CGI -- or, more precisely, a couple of fat cats who ponied up money to get some onstage face time with Clinton -- would "offset" the CO2 produced by this event by "investing in renewable energy projects in Native American lands and in rural Nigerian villages." But such eco-pious symbolism aside, the real news of the conference so far has come from Blair.
The Prime Minister has long been pushing, of course, for a binding international treaty on climate change. It's one part of the Euro-lefty agenda he has traditionally kept faith with. In a policy-setting speech in September 2004, for example, he laid out an ambitious agenda, declaring that "Kyoto is only the first step but provides a solid foundation for the next stage of climate diplomacy."
Indeed, the widely held view was that Blair would "cash in" his geopolitical chits -- that is, those he gained with George W. Bush over his support for the Iraq war, in order to get the Texan to sign on to some form of Kyoto. But even before the Gleneagles G-8 summit in July, it seemed pretty clear that Bush was not going to go along with Blair's deal; in fact, Bush rebuffed Blair. Nonetheless, as recently as a September 4 op-ed in The Financial Times, Blair still sounded optimistic, declaring, "We made substantial progress on climate change at Gleneagles." But now Blair has buried Kyoto a little bit deeper. One of these days, the press will notice.
And there was some potentially significant news from Condi Rice, who was also onstage all this time, sitting with Clinton and Blair in an Oprah-like format. Speaking of world energy policy for the future, Rice said, "Nuclear power is going to have to be part of the mix." Imagine that -- nuclear power! That's been the Bush administration view all along, of course, but the W. folks haven't gotten very far in resuscitating the industry. Yet if Blair is starting to show realism on Kyoto, he and other leaders around the world will see that nukes have to be part of the energy solution.
Indeed, Rice added, "France generates something like 80 percent of its electricity from nuclear power." That's probably the first time in ages that a Bush administration official has had anything positive to say about France. Rice acknowledged "proliferation risks" from nuclear power, but made it also clear that something had to be done. "In the fast-developing world," she concluded, "we have to find a way to leverage all power [sources]."
For his part, Clinton was his usual self, declaring to Rice, "In general, I agree with you about that" -- without ever saying what he was agreeing with. And the 42nd President gave no reaction to Blair's provocative Kyoto revisionism.
In fact, nobody seems to have reacted to what Blair said. But that's OK. TCS readers have this significant scoop. And as for the rest of the world, it will soon understand that Blair has effectively pulled the plug on Kyoto.
Copyright © 2005 Tech Central Station - www.techcentralstation.com
White House press release, July 27, 2005
2. Court Ruling on Greenhouse Gas Lawsuit
(September 16, 2005 -- Chicago, IL) On Thursday, September 15, Judge Loretta Preska of the Southern District of New York rejected an attempt by eight states and several environmental activist groups to have the federal courts cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Preska ruled such "political questions are not the proper domain of judges."
The full text of Preska's decision in the combined cases, State of Connecticut et al. v. American Electric Power Company Inc. et al. and Open Space Institute et al. v. American Electric Power Company Inc. et al., is available online at http://www.heartland.org/article.cfm?artId=17722.
The following statement in response to Judge Preska's decision can be attributed to attorney James M. Taylor, managing editor of Environment & Climate News and a senior fellow of The Heartland Institute, a 21-year-old nonprofit research organization based in Chicago. Taylor can be contacted for further information by email at email@example.com.
"Rejecting the notion that a federal court in 'a simple nuisance claim' should set national and international policy by determining an appropriate level of greenhouse gas emissions, U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska wisely observed that greenhouse gas limitations are a political issue properly left to the legislative and executive branches of government.
"'Were judges to resolve political questions, there would be no check on their resolutions because the judiciary is not accountable to any other branch or to the people,' explained Preska. She noted Congress has many times addressed greenhouse gas emission matters and has opted not to impose the restrictions sought by the plaintiffs.
"Preska's decision is yet another severe blow to environmental activist groups and left-leaning state attorneys general who seek to implement their extremist agenda through an end-run around democratic processes. On July 15, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rejected a similar suit seeking to force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cap and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
"It is clear by the ongoing legislation that extremist activist
groups and their political allies value back-door judicial intervention
over sound science and democratic processes. Fortunately, the federal
courts have refused to take the bait and trample on other branches of
government and the will of the people on these matters."
Or should we use our resources to adapt to the consequences of warming? Climate change is projected to exacerbate existing problems -- but it is not expected to produce new ones. These problems are a particular concern for developing countries, which lack the economic and human resources needed to cope with them, says author Indur M. Goklany.
Adaptation would reduce society's vulnerability to, or help cope with, the consequences of global climate change due to higher emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas, says Goklany.
According to Goklany, whose analysis is based on impact studies sponsored
bythe British Government and cost estimates from various United Nations-affiliated
Halting climate change, if that were possible, would cost many more trillions of dollars.
Adaptation would help developing countries cope with major problems now,
and through 2085 and beyond, whereas generations would pass before anything
less than draconian mitigation would have a discernible effect, says Goklany.
For the nation's oil refiners, Hurricane Katrina was a disaster long in the making.
Analysts and industry executives had for years feared the consequences of a storm ramming into the country's largest energy hub - a complex infrastructure that spans most of the coastline between Texas and Alabama, where nearly half of the nation's refineries are located.
Hurricane Katrina confirmed the worst predictions. Wreaking havoc along the coastal states, drowning New Orleans and leaving many dead, the storm shut down nearly all the gulf's offshore oil and gas production for over a week. Racing to restore operations, the industry has brought about 60 percent of that back.
But even more crucially, it knocked off a dozen refineries at the peak of summer demand, sending oil prices higher and gasoline prices to inflation-adjusted records.
The events of the last two weeks have demonstrated how close to the edge the country's refining system had been operating, even before the storm. Because the last American refinery was built nearly 30 years ago - with only a single new one now in the works - the problem is unlikely to disappear quickly.
As a consequence, even though crude oil prices have fallen back to pre-Katrina levels, prices for gasoline, heating oil, diesel and jet fuel are expected to remain higher than they were before the storm for a much longer period of time.
"There is now a greater realization that we don't have much extra capacity," said Edward H. Murphy, a refining specialist at the American Petroleum Institute, a trade and lobbying group. "It doesn't take a Katrina, but even a smaller event can create a dislocation in the market. Disasters like this can give you a billboard on the need to address this. We need more capacity."
The rapid run-up in oil prices over the last two years has translated into a boon for refiners after many years of meager returns. This year, the refining margin - the difference between the cost of buying crude oil and selling refined end products - has exceeded $20 a barrel, far above the long-term average of $6. That has meant record profits for oil companies and refiners and above-average stock performance on Wall Street.
With profits soaring, the nation's refiners are now being blamed by many drivers and politicians for contributing to the run-up in prices. Indeed, to critics of the industry, the higher profits are evidence of a policy to intentionally limit refining capacity to improve the bottom line.
"Oil companies have jacked up gasoline prices through a simple mechanism: reducing inventories and refining capacity," said Jamie Court, president of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, an advocacy group, whose views are widely shared by industry opponents.
"They are supposed to compete and bring the lowest price to consumers," Mr. Court said. "But the truth is that a small number of oil companies cheat by working together by artificially reducing supplies."
But that argument misses the point, said Bob Slaughter, the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association.
"What's happened can be explained by the higher cost of crude oil, the difficulties in building new refineries and the disaster that cut right through the heart of the industry," Mr. Slaughter said.
Currently, four major refineries, owned by Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips and Murphy Oil, are either flooded or without power, and are likely to be out of commission for several weeks, perhaps months. Together, these refine 880,000 barrels a day, or 5 percent of domestic capacity. "It's very significant," said Colin McDermott, an oil analyst at John S. Herold Inc. The loss is equal to 1 percent of the world's refining capacity. "It's a global market and that's certainly enough to have an impact on a global level."
As many as 15 other refineries, also affected by the storm, are resuming production, but some are still operating at limited capacity.
"There's going to be a lot of pressure on these people to get things up and running and deal with the maintenance issues as they come up," said James W. Jones, a vice president at Turner, Mason & Company, a refining consultancy in Dallas.
Many parts of the industry are recovering rapidly. The most damage offshore was sustained by Royal Dutch Shell, which said Friday that its production, usually about 450,000 barrels a day, would be down by 40 percent through the end of the year.
But even as oil and gas production returns in the gulf, the time that it will take refineries to get back to full speed will be a key factor in determining how long product prices will remain elevated.
Under normal conditions, because of the close proximity of volatile materials, high pressure and fire, restarting a refinery is a dangerous process that can take anywhere between three to seven days.
In the refinery, oil is heated to around 1,110 degrees Fahrenheit, turned into vapor and then collected at various temperatures, creating products that are further refined to remove impurities, allowing for the production of gasoline, heating oil, diesel fuel and kerosene.
For the four damaged refineries - three are in the vicinity of New Orleans, and the fourth is in Pascagoula, Miss. - restarting will involve a much longer process. First, power must be restored. Once that happens, generators, pumps and other electrical equipment flooded by brackish water will need to be dried out. Removing salt sediments will add to the ordeal. Then the operators must check that none of their main systems have suffered any structural damage before firing them back up.
So far, none of the refineries have provided an estimate of how long all that will take. In its latest report, Chevron, whose 325,000 barrels-a-day refinery is the largest of the four, said "it will be days before a full estimate of damage is known or when operations can be safely brought back online."
Most Americans now pay more than $3 a gallon for gasoline - matching inflation-adjusted highs reached after the Iranian revolution in the late 1970's and early 1980's and the equivalent, on a per-barrel basis, to $126. Oil prices, which touched a high of $70.85 a barrel last week, now trade around $64 a barrel, still about $20 short of the record set in 1981.
"If we lose three or four refiners for two or three months, that shortfall is going to be very difficult to make up," said William E. Greehey, the chief executive of Valero, the nation's largest independent refiner. "I don't know how anyone can blame it on us when we've just had the worst natural disaster in the United States' history."
The refining outages prompted an international response from industrialized nations to send emergency stocks of oil and gasoline to the United States to plug the shortfall.
But that is only a temporary solution to a crisis that has been waiting to erupt for years.
Since the 1980's, the number of refiners in the United States has been cut in half. From a peak of 324 in 1981, the industry has shrunk to 149 as the smaller, less efficient and less profitable operators once protected by price controls closed, leaving mostly larger companies in place.
Refining capacity has fallen about 10 percent, to 17 million barrels a day, while oil consumption rose by 33 percent over the same 24-year period, to 20.8 million barrels a day.
Meanwhile, refiners have been increasing their skill in turning crude into useful products; efficiency improved by 27 percent between 1981 and 2004. Still, the difference must be made up by direct imports of refined products, with gasoline imports now at 1 million barrels a day.
As their numbers dwindled, most remaining refiners expanded their plants and added equipment to process more oil. Many refiners now typically run at 95 percent of capacity, a level that is dangerously high and that has led to a growing number of accidents in recent years.
In March, for example, a blast at BP's Texas City refinery, the country's third-largest, killed 15 and injured 170 people. The company was blamed by investigators with the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board for "systemic lapses." Following the agency's recommendation, BP appointed an independent panel last month to review the "safety culture" of its American refining operations.
Only one project to build a new refinery is currently under way. For the last six years, Glenn McGinnis said he has been struggling to line up the permits, funding and oil supplies to build a refinery from scratch in a remote patch in Southwest Arizona.
"The fundamental reason why there has not been a new refinery built for years is really two reasons - economics and uncertainty," Mr. McGinnis said.
Traditionally, the profit margin for refineries has averaged about 6 percent, a rate of return too low to encourage much new investment. Added to that is the lengthy process involved in securing the permits from state and federal agencies. "If you take permits, and engineering, and building," Mr. McGinnis said, "you're talking about a 10-year horizon from the time you decide to build to the day the refinery is completed."
Another issue that has slowed expansion, refiners said, was the cost of complying with environmental regulations set in the 1990's under the Clean Air Act. The American Petroleum Institute estimates that refiners have spent $47 billion over the last decade to meet carbon-emission standards and low-sulfur regulations, with more investments needed through 2007. That, refiners say, is money not spent to raise capacity.
It has been cheaper to add refining capacity through acquisitions rather than new projects. Valero recently bought Premcor for $10,000 a barrel of capacity, a price many analysts deemed high. But that is well below the $16,000 a barrel that Arizona Clean Fuels, Mr. McGinnis' project, expects to invest.
Elsewhere in the world, some oil producers are planning to build new refineries. Saudi Arabia is one of them. "We cannot keep producing oil with no refineries," Ali Al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister, told the industry newsletter Petroleum Argus a few months ago. "There is a limit."
While helpful, such moves abroad would mostly serve to shift the country's increasing reliance on foreign oil producers to a greater dependence on refiners abroad.
"We are going to be importing more products," Mr. Murphy of
the American Petroleum Institute said. "That is a certainty if we
don't expand our capacity. But the problem there is that you've changed
one form of dependency for another."
Among the many achievements of the human race - Chartres Cathedral, the Mona Lisa - surely the New Orleans emergency preparedness plan must rank among the greatest, and the fact that this plan turned out to be irrelevant to reality should not detract from its stature as a masterpiece of bureaucratic thinking.
The plan ( at www.cityofno.com/portal.aspx?portal=46&tabid=26)
The plan lays out a course of action so that all personnel will know exactly what to do in case of a hurricane. The Office of Emergency Preparedness will coordinate with the Louisiana Office of Emergency Preparedness in conjunction with the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan by taking full advantage of the courses offered by the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association and other agencies "as well as conferences, seminars and workshops that may from time to time be available, most notably state hurricane conferences and workshops and the National Hurricane Conference."
In addition, the plan continues, the administrative and training officer of the Office of Emergency Preparedness will maintain close communication with the state training officer of the L.O.E.P., making sure workshops are conducted at the Emergency Support Function level, reviewing Emergency Operating Center/E.S.F. standard operating procedures and undertaking more "intensive work sessions with elements of the emergency response organizations in order to enhance unified disaster planning."
One can imagine the PowerPoint presentations! The millions of cascading bullet points! The infinity of hours spent planning a hurricane response that would make a Prussian officer gasp with reverence!
Furthermore, the plan instructs the O.E.P. director to execute Mass Casualty Incidents scenarios; work with the Association of Contingency Planners and other groups to coordinate disaster organization responses; coordinate, facilitate and encourage other agencies to conduct emergency self-assessments; engage in assessment processes in preparation for the Agency Disaster Report; and produce after-action reports with the O.E.P. shelter coordinator in conjunction with the Louisiana Statewide Hurricane Exercise.
The paper flow must have been magnificent! The quality of the facilitating must have been surpassed only by the magnificence of the interfacing!
The New Orleans emergency preparedness plan offers a precise communications strategy, so all city residents will know exactly where to go in times of crisis. It recommends that two traffic-control officers be placed at each key intersection. It recommends busing the thousands of residents unable to evacuate themselves to staging areas prestocked with food.
In short, the plan was so beautiful, it's too bad reality destroyed it. The plan's authors were not stupid or venal. They are doubtless good public servants who worked in agencies set up to prepare for this storm. And yet their elaborate plan crumbled under the weight of the actual disaster.
But of course, this illustrates the paradox at the heart of the Katrina disaster, which is that we really need government in times like this, but government is extremely limited in what it can effectively do.
Katrina was the most anticipated natural disaster in American history, and still government managed to fail at every level.
For the brutal fact is, government tends toward bureaucracy, which means elaborate paper flow but ineffective action. Government depends on planning, but planners can never really anticipate the inevitable complexity of events. And American government is inevitably divided and power is inevitably devolved.
For example, the Army Corps of Engineers had plenty of money (Louisiana received more than any other state), but that spending was carved up into little pork-barrel projects. There were ample troops nearby to maintain order, but they were divided between federal and state authorities and constrained by regulations.
This preparedness plan is government as it really is. It reminds us that canning Michael Brown or appointing some tough response czar will not change the endemic failures at the heart of this institutional collapse.
So of course we need limited but energetic government. But liberals who
think this disaster is going to set off a progressive revival need to
explain how a comprehensive governmental failure is going to restore America's
faith in big government.
With all that has happened in the state, it's understandable that the Louisiana chapter of the Sierra Club may not have updated its website. But when its members get around to it, they may want to change the wording of one item in particular. The site brags that the group is "working to keep the Atchafalaya Basin," which adjoins the Mississippi River not far from New Orleans, "wet and wild."
These words may seem especially inappropriate after the breaking of the levee that caused the tragic events in New Orleans last week. But "wet and wild" has a larger significance in light of those events, and so does the group using the phrase. The national Sierra Club was one of several environmental groups who sued the Army Corps of Engineers to stop a 1996 plan to raise and fortify Mississippi River levees.
The Army Corps was planning to upgrade 303 miles of levees along the river in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Arkansas. This was needed, a Corps spokesman told the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate, because "a failure could wreak catastrophic consequences on Louisiana and Mississippi, which the states would be decades in overcoming, if they overcame them at all."
But a suit filed by environmental groups at the U.S. District Court in New Orleans claimed the Corps had not looked at "the impact on bottomland hardwood wetlands." The lawsuit stated, "Bottomland hardwood forests must be protected and restored if the Louisiana black bear is to survive as a species, and if we are to ensure continued support for source population of all birds breeding in the lower Mississippi River valley." In addition to the Sierra Club, other parties to the suit were the group American Rivers, the Mississippi River Basin Alliance, and the Louisiana, Arkansas and Mississippi Wildlife Federations.
The lawsuit was settled in 1997, with the Corps agreeing to hold off on some work while doing an additional two-year environmental impact study. Whether this delay directly affected the levees that broke in New Orleans is difficult to ascertain.
But it is just one illustration of a destructive river-management philosophy that took hold in the '90s, influenced the Clinton administration, and had serious policy consequences. Put simply, it's impossible to understand the delays in building levees without being aware of the opposition of the environmental groups to dams, levees, and anything that interfered with the "natural" river flow. The group American Rivers, which leads coalitions of eco-groups on river policy, has for years actually called its campaign, "Rivers Unplugged."
Over the past few years, levees came to occupy the same status for environmental groups as roads in forests - an artificial barrier to nature. They frequently campaigned against levees being built and shored up on the nation's rivers, including on the Mississippi.
In 2000, American Rivers' Mississippi River Regional Representative Jeffrey Stein complained in a congressional hearing that the river's "levees that temporarily protect floodplain farms have reduced the frequency, extent and magnitude of high flows, robbing the river of its ability to sustain itself." Similarly, the National Audubon Society, referring specifically to Louisiana, has this statement slamming levees on its website, "Levees have cut off freshwater flows, harming fishing and creating salt water intrusion." The left-leaning Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, in describing a grant it gave to Environmental Defense, blasted "the numerous levees and canals built on the lower Mississippi River" because "such structures disrupt the natural flows of the Mississippi River's sediments."
Some went beyond opposition to building or repairing levees. At an Army Corps of Engineers meeting concerning the Mississippi River in 2002, Audubon official Dan McGuiness even recommended "looking at opportunities to lower or remove levees" from the river.
The groups argued that the "natural" way would lead to better river management, but it was clear they had other agendas in mind besides flood control. They were concerned because levees were allegedly threatening their beloved exotic animals and plants. In his testimony, American Rivers's Stein noted that the Mississippi River was home to "double-crested cormorant, rare orchids, and many other species," which he implied were put at risk by man-made levees.
So far the environmental movement's role in the events leading to the flooding has been little discussed. One exception is former Rep. Bob Livingston (R., La.), who told Fox News on Saturday that environmentalists were one of the major reasons levee projects were held up.
At this point, there are still questions about the particular levees that broke in New Orleans. Care should be taken about drawing direct conclusions about the causes until there are more facts. But there are some important points that are clear that should put in perspective about levee funding and flood control.
Nearly all flood-control projects - even relatively small ones - are subject to a variety of assessments for effects on wetlands, endangered species, and other environmental concerns. These reviews can be costly and delay projects by years In the '90s, for instance, the Clinton administration's Environmental Protection Agency required a comprehensive environmental impact statement just to repair a few Colorado River levees that had been destroyed in the floods of 1993.
The Clinton administration would frequently side with environmentalists on flood-control projects, even against local Democrats. The Army Corps of Engineers under Clinton began implementing a planned "spring rise" of the Missouri River that would raise water levels on the Missouri River during part of the year. This was supported by eco-groups, who argued that this restored the river's natural flows and protected a bird called the piping plover. But farm groups and others said that combined with the ice melting from winter, the project could increase the risk of flooding in river communities and affect more than 1 million acres of productive farmland. Nearly all the Republicans and Democrats in Missouri's congressional delegation opposed the plan, as did Missouri's late Democratic governor, Mel Carnahan. But the Clinton administration refused to budge, and this was a major factor in Bush's carrying of Missouri in 2000.
The Bush administration's flood-control efforts were often relentlessly opposed by environmental groups, and this opposition was frequently echoed by liberal activists and in the press. Bush kept his promise, and his appointees at the Corps of Engineers have stopped the "spring rise" plan that concerned so many about flooding. Environmentalists launched a barrage of criticism and a series of lawsuits. This was also the case with Bush's moves to stop the Clinton administration's plans to breach the dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers in the northwest. Even though the dams greatly help to control flooding in the region, American Rivers blasted the administration for failing to do enough to save the sockeye salmon native to the region.
Ironically, among those criticizing Bush for his actions to prevent flooding of the Missouri River was the ever-present anti-Bush environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He chastised Bush in 2004 for "managing the flow of the Missouri River." If, before Katrina, Bush had proceeded full-speed ahead and fortified the levees of the Mississippi for a Category 5 hurricane, Kennedy and others of his ilk would very likely have criticized Bush for trying to manage the natural flow of the Mississippi. And it's a good bet that many of the lefty bloggers now critical of Bush for not reinforcing the levees would have cited Bush's levee fortification as another way he was despoiling the natural environment.
AUTHOR'S NOTE: Since this article's posting, I have been told that the Sierra Club Louisiana webmaster "is currently unaccounted for in New Orleans." I wish him only the best.
- John Berlau is the Warren T. Brookes Journalism Fellow at the Competitive
The article "U.S. law blocked storm barrier" (Wash Times 9/13/05, p.A3) touches on an issue that should be of great concern to all law makers but is largely ignored. Well intentioned, but poorly written "feel good" laws are killing Americans by stopping prudent programs that save lives. This is clearly illustrated by the disaster in New Orleans.
After the hurricane of 1965 the Corps of Engineers developed a plan to prevent a storm surge caused by a category 4-5 hurricane from entering Lake Pontchartrain. The plan was a scaled down version of what The Netherlands successfully implemented following the great flood of 1953 to keep the North Sea out of the two-thirds of that country that is below sea level. Basically, the Corps' plan called for large barriers to be constructed along I-10. Some of these would be moveable. Normally, they would be open to allow for the flow of water, aquatic animals, and commerce, but would be closed during a major storm event.
In 1977 environmental groups successfully stopped the plan through litigation by claiming the Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) required under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) was inadequate. The law is so vague that any impact statement could be called inadequate.
In his December 30, 1977 ruling, Judge Charles Schwartz, Jr. for the US District Court, Eastern District of Louisiana, decided: "that plaintiffs herein (those who sued to stop the project) have demonstrated that they, and in fact all persons in this area, will be irreparably harmed if the barrier project based upon the August, 1974 FEIS is allowed to continue." (Emphasis added) A Federal Judge ruled that a project that would prevent a storm surge from flooding New Orleans through Lake Pontchartrain will irreparably harm all persons in New Orleans! He effectively stopped all such projects in Eastern Louisiana. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune the plan has re-surfaced occasionally but the Corps thought it unlikely it can overcome the ruling. This deplorable ruling is the disaster of New Orleans.
As the article points out, in the early 1990's the Corps planned to upgrade and fortify the levees around New Orleans. In 1996 the Sierra Club and other environmental groups successfully sued under NEPA and stopped the needed upgrade.
It is time that Congress recognizes that its primary duty is to protect
the citizens of the United States, not pass laws that are used to deny
A total of up to 4,000 people could eventually die of radiation exposure from the Chernobyl nuclear power plant (NPP) accident nearly 20 years ago, an international team of more than 100 scientists has concluded. As of mid-2005, however, fewer than 50 deaths had been directly attributed to radiation from the disaster, almost all being highly exposed rescue workers, many who died within months of the accident but others who died as late as 2004.
The new numbers are presented in a landmark digest report, " Chernobyl's Legacy: Health, Environmental and Socio-Economic Impacts", just released by the Chernobyl Forum. The digest, based on a three-volume, 600-page report and incorporating the work of hundreds of scientists, economists and health experts, assesses the 20-year impact of the largest nuclear accident in history. The Forum is made up of eight UN specialized agencies, including the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, United Nations Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation, and the World Bank, as well as the Governments of Belarus, Russian Federation and Ukraine.
Major Study Findings
Dozens of important findings are included in the massive report:
-- Approximately 1,000 onsite reactor staff and emergency workers were heavily exposed to high-level radiation on the first day of the accident; among the more than 200,000 (as registered by 1996 in the national registries of Belarus, Russia and Ukraine) emergency and recovery operation workers exposed during the period from 1986 to 1987, an estimated 2,200 radiation-caused deaths can be expected during their lifetime.
-- About 4,000 cases of thyroid cancer, mainly in children and adolescents at the time of the accident, have resulted from the accident's contamination and at least nine children died of thyroid cancer; however, the survival rate among such cancer victims, judging from experience in Belarus, has been almost 99 per cent.
-- Most emergency workers and people living in contaminated areas received relatively low whole body radiation doses, comparable to natural background levels. As a consequence, no evidence or likelihood of decreased fertility among the affected population has been found, nor has there been any evidence of increases in congenital malformations that can be attributed to radiation exposure.
-- Poverty, "lifestyle" diseases now rampant in the former Soviet Union, and mental health problems pose a far greater threat to local communities than does radiation exposure.
-- Relocation proved a "deeply traumatic experience" for some 350,000 people moved out of the affected areas. Although 116,000 were moved from the most heavily impacted area immediately after the accident, later relocations did little to reduce radiation exposure.
-- Persistent myths and misperceptions about the threat of radiation have resulted in "paralysing fatalism" among residents of affected areas.
Alongside radiation-induced deaths and diseases, the report labels the mental health impact of Chernobyl as "the largest public health problem created by the accident" and partially attributes this damaging psychological impact to a lack of accurate information. These problems manifest as negative self-assessments of health, belief in a shortened life expectancy, lack of initiative, and dependency on assistance from the State.
Otherwise, the team of international experts found no evidence for any increases in the incidence of leukaemia and cancer among affected residents."
The international experts have estimated that radiation could cause up to about 4,000 eventual deaths among the higher-exposed Chernobyl populations, i.e., emergency workers from 1986 to 1987, evacuees and residents of the most contaminated areas. This number contains both the known radiation-induced cancer and leukaemia deaths and a statistical prediction, based on estimates of the radiation doses received by these populations. As about quarter of people die from spontaneous cancer not caused by Chernobyl radiation, the radiation-induced increase of only about 3 per cent will be difficult to observe.
Source: United Nations
Sometimes a true statement is the biggest lie of all. It is true that
if we could take a large part (the size of France) of the Sahara Desert
and use it for producing solar energy with photovoltaics, solar/thermal/electric,
wind machines or whatever, we could generate as much energy every year
as the world uses. It is equally true that if we could extract all the
geothermal heat from a mere 200 km deep in the earth, we could provide
all the world's energy essentially forever. And if my mother were a truck,
she'd have wheels.