The Week That Was (March 22, 2008) brought to you by SEPP

Fred Singer speaking on March 30 noon at Georgetown Presbyterian Church 3115 P St, Wash, DC


Quotes of the Week:

When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.    --Arthur C. Clarke

Many obits for Arthur Clarke who died on March 18 at the age of 90:

I will always remember him as the man who invited me to join the British Interplanetary Society in 1952, encouraged me to give a lecture about the promise of instrumented satellites, and participated in naming it the MOUSE (Minimum Orbiting Unmanned Satellite of the Earth).

Much later, he wrote this blurb for my book on Global Warming:  Hot Talk Cold Science dares to point out that the Emperor has no clothes” -- Arthur C. Clarke (1997)


Sadly, we note the passing of Dr. Frederick Seitz on March 2 at the age of 96.  A most distinguished scientist, he had been chairman of SEPP since its founding.  The obit in the Wash Post hardly does him justice:



The Heartland Climate Conference March 2-4 in NY City [ITEM #1].

Stories about the Conference:  In the Wash Post:

In the Hawaii Reporter: International Conference on Climate Change: An Intellectual Feast. By Dr. Michael R. Fox

In Renew America: "Man-made Global Warming," thy name is fraud.  By Wes Vernon


NIPCC continues to reverberate and is already near the top of the Google list.  NIPCC  media  advisory -- #4 on Google

The full report is #5:   It can also be found at

A report on NIPCC from Holland is #6 on Google


Climate models have cloud problems: Roy Spencer at Heartland Conference [ITEM #2]

Battle Over Smog Rules Ramps Up.  For questions everyone should ask, see ITEM #3.
Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Calif.), plans to hold a hearing on allegations that the White House intervened to water down new smog rules issued last week by the Environmental Protection Agency, which are weaker than those recommended by the agency’s science advisors, The Wall Street Journal reports.
    The real problem is that EPA may not consider cost and feasibility in setting air-quality standards.  EPA administrator Stephen Johnson plans to ask Congress to amend the Clean Air Act; it's unlikely that Congress would make such changes.  But why should such a reform be a partisan issue?  )


Who’s profiting from carbon trading?  See

The high cost of cap-and-trade to households [ITEM #4]

Lord Monckton’s letter to Scientific American [ITEM #5]

Government funding breeds scientific conformity [ITEM #6]

Americans cool to Global Warming action, new poll finds [ITEM #7]

Nigel Lawson on optimum climate [ITEM #8]

Energy independence is a fantasy [ITEM #9].  Besides, the Senate just voted to raise oil imports.  The US Senate voted Mar. 13 to extend moratoria on federal oil and gas leasing on most of the Outer Continental Shelf as well as on developing oil shale resources.


News from the NorthEast:  States participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), an agreement among the Governors of ten Northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gases from power plants, announced today that the first ever CO2 allowance auction in the nation for a mandatory emissions reduction program will take place on September 10, 2008.


Clearly, some bloggers want to discredit the NIPCC result that GW is mostly natural, and try to 'link' me to the tobacco lobby, Big Oil, Rev. Moon,  Lyndon LaRouche, and even to the John Birch Society.  These bloggers are shameless liars, quote each other, and get paid for smearing skeptical scientists.  I hope some of you will take the trouble to straighten them out.

Here is some ammunition:

On Second-Hand Smoke: I am certainly no expert on lung cancer or on epidemiology.  My only 'offense' was to quote an official report by our Congressional Research Service and the extensive documentation by a federal judge that exposed the dubious way in which EPA cooked the data to come up with its claim of 3,000 cancer deaths from SHS.

BTW, I have never smoked and am on the advisory board of ACSH, a well-known anti-smoking organization. Personally, I hate SHS; but that does not affect my science -- nor should it.


On Ozone Hole:  Long ago, Igor Eberstein (NASA-Goddard) first pointed to the possibility that the UV-photolysis of the crucial molecule Cl2O2 might not go the way suggested by the lab work of Mario Molina (who snagged a Nobel prize in Chemistry, together with  Rowland and Crutzen).  My only contribution has been to keep reminding people of Eberstein's paper of ~20 years ago.  [I also published a paper (Eos 1988), predicting an eventual Arctic Ozone Hole, as the continuing rise of CO2 cools the polar  stratosphere.] Finally, as reported in Nature Sept 27, 2007, Eberstein's hunch has been vindicated by measurements at JPL.  It’s back to the drawing board

You will find more on this on my web site, using  the Search program.


 For the record:  Singer testimony on IPCC and National Assessment before Senator McCain


Why 'Global Warming' is Not a Global Crisis

By Christopher Monckton, Special to the Hawaii Reporter, 1/22/2008 



By Marc Morano

The real truth is that the theory of man-made global warming, despite being virtually canonized in the UN and the minds of a slew of politicians and celebrities, and naturally in the mainstream media, remains one of the most contentious issues in science.

That contention was on full display in New York City last week.

Those who depend solely on the mainstream news media to keep them informed might have missed the headlines about the 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, sponsored by the Heartland Institute and featuring nearly 100 speakers and 500 attendees skeptical of man-made global warming. The highly successful three-day conference occurred in the wake of recent reports of global cooling and the release of a blockbuster U.S. Senate minority report featuring over 400 prominent scientists disputing the theory of man-made global warming.

Last week's conference testified to one towering truth in the world of science: Debate within the scientific community over global warming is far from dead and buried.

The high-water mark of the conference was the presentation of a report produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) claiming nature, not human activity, was the cause of climate change. The NIPCC is comprised of international scientists and was formed as a counterforce to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

International scientists, climate experts and policymakers at the event listened to lectures and panel discussions exposing the fraud of the global warming "truth," perused studies and reports showing stark division in the scientific community over global warming, and swapped stories about how they'd been "denied tenure, shut out of scientific conferences and rejected by academic journals because no matter how scrupulous their research," their conclusions contradicted the truth espoused by the climate change pharisees (National Post, March 10). Many attendees spoke of colleagues too afraid to attend the conference for fear of losing their jobs.

Many of the details at the conference can be found in this the blogs from the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works []. Those who take the time to investigate the links therein will experience an eye-opening expose of the staggering scale of the global warming scam. Take funding for global warming research, for example. Over the past decade, research intended to prove the veracity of man-made global warming has been funded to the tune of $50 billion, while global warming skeptic research has received a comparatively measly $19 million.



By Climatologist Dr. Roy W. Spencer, formerly a senior scientist for climate studies at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center where he received NASA's Exceptional Scientific Achievement Medal, and currently principal research scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville.

Excerpt: Why are ALL of the 20+ IPCC climate models more sensitive in their total cloud feedback than published estimates of cloud feedbacks in the real climate system (Forster and Gregory, J. Climate, 2006)? If the answer is that "there are huge error bars on our observational estimates of feedback", then doesn't that mean that it is just as likely that the real climate system is very insensitive (making manmade global warming a non-problem) as it is to be as sensitive as the IPCC models claim it is? [...] The fact is, we DON'T know how much of recent warming is natural, simply because we don’t have good enough global cloud observations back to the 1970s (and earlier) to measure any long-term changes in cloudiness to the required accuracy 1% or less. [...] I fear that the sloppy science that too many climate researchers have lapsed into could, in the end, hurt our scientific discipline beyond repair. The very high level of certainty (90%) claimed by the IPCC for their manmade explanation for warming can not be justified based upon the scientific evidence, and is little more than an expression of their faith that they understand the causes of climate variability which they clearly don’t. For those scientists who value their scientific reputations, I would advise that they distance themselves from politically motivated claims of a "scientific consensus" on the causes of global warming -- before it is too late.

   Don’t let five Norwegians on the Nobel Prize committee be the arbiters of what is good science.



The EPA has proposed tightening the ozone (smog) standard from its present 84 parts per billion to 75 ppb under its authority granted by the Clean Air Act, which charges the agency with setting the standard based on public health == without regard to cost.  According to newspaper reports (WashPost, March 13), the Agency’s scientific advisors had recommended a standard of about 65 ppb.  This has sparked a backlash from Democratic lawmakers and public-health advocates.  Senate Environment and Public Works committee chairman Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) called the move ‘outrageous.’  Congressman Henry Waxman (D-Calif), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has promised to hold hearings. 


Nearly a year ago, EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommended unanimously that the agency set the standard between 60 and 70 ppb.  EPA’s Children’s Health Protection Advisory Committee lobbied for the 60 ppb limit.  The Agency calculates the new standard of 75 ppb would prevent 1,300 to 3,500 premature deaths per year whereas a standard of 65 ppb would avoid 3,000 to 9,200 deaths annually.  A number of industries, including electric utilities and cement manufacturers, have urged the White House to keep the current limit, effectively 84 ppb, to avoid annual costs of the order of $8 billion.


How should one react to this disagreement?  What sensible questions might be asked?  Here are some examples:


■ How many premature deaths would be avoided if the standard were set at 55 or even 50 ppb?


■ How should one decide how far to go if technical feasibility and cost cannot be taken into account? 


■ Won’t there always be a few individuals sensitive to higher smog levels, who would be at risk even if the standard is tightened indefinitely?  Shouldn’t such individuals stop exposing themselves to outdoor air during ‘ozone alerts’ and prudently forego doing exercises like jogging?  Wouldn’t individuals at risk be spending most of their time indoors, preferably with air conditioning and air filters?


■ How should one handle the extreme variability in time and space of ozone pollution, its dependence on sunshine and winds, the often transient nature of ‘ozone events,’ etc


■ How relevant is outdoor air quality anyway when most urban dwellers spend something like 80 to 90 percent exposed to indoor air pollution or inside their automobiles?


■ What about the ambient background of smog/ozone levels from the emission of natural pollutants by trees?  There is a good reason why the Appalachians have the Blue Mountains and the Smokies. 


Finally, while the Clean Air Act indeed does not permit consideration of cost, inevitably the nation must make something like a cost-benefit comparison -- even if not expressed in quantitative form.  Indeed, the basic environmental law, the National Environmental and Policy Act of 1969, suggests such a comparison in Section 2(b).  NEPA may therefore override the prohibition against the use of cost considerations in the 1970 Clean Air Act.  This proposition might best be tested in a court-of-law.


S. Fred Singer is professor emeritus of environmental sciences at the University of Virginia.  He has served as a deputy assistant administrator (policy) of EPA.



By Gretchen Randall, Winningreen

The U.S. would lose between 1.2 and 1.8 million jobs in 2020 and between 3 and 4 million jobs in 2030 if pending climate change legislation is passed, according to a new study conducted by Science Applications International Corporation. The study conducted for the National Association of Manufacturers and the American Council for Capital Formation found “America's Climate Security Act of 2007" (S. 2191), introduced by U.S. Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-CT) and John Warner (R-VA), would lead to lower industrial output due to higher energy prices, the high cost of complying with required emissions cuts, and greater competition from overseas manufacturers with lower energy costs. 

The study examined the impacts of the Lieberman -Warner bill, which has the goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions 63 percent below their 2005 levels by the year 2050. The legislation would require companies to cap their emissions and would set up a mechanism for them to trade pollution credits to other companies who pollute less. The U.S. Senate is expected to debate the bill this June.

The study also found:
   Household income would drop $739 to $2,927 per year in 2020 and $4,022 to $6,752 per year in 2030     
  Electricity prices would increase 28% to 33% by 2020 and 101% to 129% by 2030
   Gasoline prices would increase 20% to 699% per gallon by 2020 and 77% to 145% by 2030
   Gross Domestic Product (GDP) would drop $151 billion to $210 billion in 2020 and $631 billion to $669 billion per year in 2030

Additionally, the study says enacting the Lieberman-Warner climate change legislation would mean motor vehicle manufacturing would be reduced by between 6% and 14%. The legislation would result in the use of less coal causing electricity production [to] fall around 12%.

Comment 1: Democrats want to pass this legislation when the economy needs job creation not job reduction.
Comment 2:  Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) said, If Democrats have their way, Americans will pay significantly more at the pump, in their homes, and in many cases, with their jobs. No matter how anyone attempts to spin the economic impacts, this bill is wrong for America.
Comment 3: Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) said at a press conference last week about those who have opposed the bill, We will hold those who weakened it accountable in November.  She continued, We will pull the bill and bring back the legislation after we have a new Congress and a new President.
By Drew Thornley, in Planet Gore, 17 March 2008
Stephen Power's "EPA Says Carbon Caps Won't Harm Economy Much," in today's Wall Street Journal (, discusses Friday's EPA report that the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill will not significantly harm the U.S. economy. I guess the truth of this depends on your definition of "significantly."

EPA Analysis of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008

From Junk Science

On November 9, 2007 Senators Lieberman and Warner requested that EPA estimate the economic impacts of the S. 2191, the 'Climate Security Act of 2007' (now the 'Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2008').  . The EPA analysis is available online at:

Their conclusions ain't pretty.  EPA estimates that LW may reduce GDP by $2.9 trillion in 2050 while reducing atmospheric CO2 by around 25 ppm by 2095.

What a bargain - reduce GDP by an estimated 6.9 percent for no meaningful change in atmospheric CO2!



3/19/2008, Christopher Monckton wrote:

Gentlemen - Of course your vested interest is to further the financial advantage of the overwhelmingly taxpayer-funded scientists who are your audience. And of course, any pseudo-science scare, such as "global warming", will greatly increase the income of those scientists who back it, for as long as the politicians who dole out the cash can be persuaded to believe in the scare. However, powerful constraints entirely ignored in your unscientifically one-sided coverage of this issue prevent CO2 from occupying more than a bit-part in the warming that stopped in 1998. Indeed, our own Hadley Center shows that since the phase-transition in temperature trends at the end of 2001 global temperatures have been falling at a rate equivalent to 0.4 degrees C per decade. Even Rajendra Pachauri, the IPCC's chairman, has accepted that the IPCC must now review its calculations. It might like to start by explaining to us why it has rounded the value of the no-feedbacks climate sensitivity parameter from 0.265 (implicit in Hansen, 1984) up to 0.3 (explicit in Colman, 2003, cited in Bony et al., 2006, cited in IPCC, 2007). In passing, why no error-bars and no Level of Scientific Understanding for this key variable? The IPCC's apparently harmless 13% rounding-up directly causes a 50% increase in the IPCC's central climate-sensitivity estimate, already inflated by an undeclared 70% increase since 1995 in the IPCC's central estimate of the feedback factor. Wentz et al. (2007) point out that the IPCC fails to allow for some two-thirds of the cooling effect of evaporation when it calculates the water-vapor feedback. Spencer (2007) says the cloud-albedo feedback must be negative, not (as the IPCC bizarrely assumes) strongly positive. As if these flagrant exaggerations on the part of the IPCC were not bad enough, Douglass et al. (2007) have established that the models on which the IPCC relies fundamentally misunderstand the interaction between radiant-energy flux, CO2, and water vapor in the tropical mid-troposphere, with the consequence that all of the IPCC's climate sensitivity estimates are at least threefold exaggerations (Lindzen, 2008). Combine all of these elements and it is difficult to make out a case for a climate sensitivity of more than 0.5 degrees C for a CO2 doubling, not the 3.2 C fancifully imagined by the IPCC. Dozens of papers such as those which are briefly cited here cast the gravest of doubt upon the central calculations of the IPCC: but your journal simply chooses to look the other way. May I offer to write you a full-length piece, properly referenced in the peer-reviewed literature, that explains these and numerous other errors on the part of the IPCC, and draws a conclusion opposite to that which you have so far printed? In the interest of scientific objectivity, would that not be a proper and responsible course? You can preface the article with a disclaimer if you like, stating that you don't agree with my conclusions but that in the interest of balance and impartiality you're allowing the other side to be heard just for once. Audiatur et altera pars. –

    Monckton of Brenchley


By Bruce Ramsey Seattle Times, 29 March 2008
Here is a list of beliefs in the biomedical and climate sciences that must not be questioned if you're applying for a government grant:
* That global warming is caused by humans;
* That AIDS is caused by a virus;
* That radiation, cigarette smoke and other toxins are dangerous in proportion to their strength, no matter how small the dose;
* That heart disease is caused by saturated fats;
* That cancer is caused by mutations.

This is part of a list offered by a University of Washington professor of surgery, Donald W. Miller, who is a heart surgeon at the VA Medical Center in Seattle. Miller believes that all the above ideas may be false, and ought to be tested. Whether they are false, I don't know. I have thought they were true, but that is only a belief - and it is the business of science to test such beliefs.

But much of science runs on government money. Some people find the stink of bias only in private money, and see government as free of it, but they are mistaken. Government likes certain beliefs. To get its money, you have to get the approval of the scientists it selects, and you are less likely to get it if they think your idea wrong.

What that means, Miller says, is that "If you say low doses of radiation aren't bad for you, or that global warming is due to variations in the sun, you can't get funded."

He says this happened to University of California scientist Peter Duesberg, who challenged the viral theory of AIDS, and to Harvard's Willie Soon, who challenged the pollution theory of global warming, and to others. In a paper published in 2007 in the Journal of Information Ethics, Miller argued that conformity is built into the system of government grants.

Another critic of the grants system is Gerald Pollack, UW professor of bioengineering. Pollack's work in muscle contraction, cell structure and the molecular properties of water has challenged the reigning view in his field.  In 2005, in the scientific journal Cellular and Molecular Biology, Pollack made an argument similar to Miller's. American science, he wrote, has become "a culture of believers" whose rule is, "just keep it safe and get your funding."

For science, the result has not been good.
"A half-century ago, breakthroughs were fairly common events in science," Pollack said in an interview. But who today are the equivalents of Linus Pauling in molecular biology, Jonas Salk in vaccines, Richard Feynman in physics, or James Watson and Francis Crick in the study of DNA? Said Pollack, "Where are the heroes of the past 30 years?"

In his paper, Pollack wrote, "Einstein's challenge of orthodoxy would probably fail in today's grant system." Today's committees of scientists demand that an individual predict what he will accomplish at the end of year one, year two, etc., all of which amounts, Pollack says, to "an implicit admission that no breakthroughs are to be anticipated."

If science is likened to a skeleton, the grant system sets out to pay a multitude of scientists each to add a tiny bit of flesh. But what if the skeleton itself is misdesigned?  "I think a lot of the skeleton is erroneous," Pollack says.

Thomas Kuhn, the philosopher of science, argued famously that science progresses in revolutionary bursts, in which the "dominant paradigm" is overturned. But what if the supporters of the dominant paradigm are the people vetting your application?

The grant system needs to be changed, Pollack says. Short of that, there are ways around it. One, he says, is "to get the money for something else, and do your work on the side."

Miller predicts that at some point, a major belief like one of those listed above will come tumbling down. "And when it's acknowledged," he predicts, "a lot of other science will be called into question."

Copyright 2008, Seattle Times                       Hat  tip to CCNet


Nearly Half Wouldn't Be Willing to Pay Even a Penny More for Gasoline;
Opposition to Taxes Especially Strong Among Minorities

Washington, D.C. -  Forty-eight percent of Americans are unwilling to spend even a penny more in gasoline taxes to help reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, according to a new nationwide survey released today by the National Center for Public Policy Research. 
    The poll found just 18% of Americans are willing to pay 50 cents or more in additional taxes per gallon of gas to reduce greenhouse emissions.  U.S. Representative John Dingell (D-MI), chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce, has called for a 50 cent per gallon increase in the gas tax.
    According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation accounts for 33% of the U.S.'s man-made carbon dioxide emissions.  Over 60% of these emissions - or about 20% of all U.S. carbon dioxide emissions - result from burning gasoline in personal automobiles.



"Is it really plausible that there is an ideal average world temperature, which by some happy chance has recently been visited on us, from which small departures in either direction would spell disaster? Moreover, while a sudden change would indeed be disruptive, what is at issue here is the prospect of a very gradual change over a hundred years and more. In any case, average world temperature is simply a statistical artefact.
The actual experienced temperature varies enormously in different parts of the globe; and people, whose greatest quality is their adaptability, have successfully colonised most of it. Two countries at different ends of the earth, both of which are generally considered to be economic success stories, are Finland and Singapore. The average annual temperature in Helsinki is less than 5C, that in Singapore is in excess of 27C, a difference of more than 22C.
If humans can successfully cope with that, it is not immediately apparent why they should not be able to adapt to a change of 3C, when they are given a hundred years in which to do so. Indeed, the more one examines the current global warming orthodoxy, the more it resembles a Da Vinci Code of environmentalism. It is a great story, and a phenomenal best seller. It contains a grain of truth and a mountain of nonsense. And that nonsense could be very damaging indeed.
We appear to have entered a new age of unreason, which threatens to be as economically harmful as it is profoundly disquieting. It is from this, above all, that we really do need to save the planet."


By William Grimes, The New York Times, 7 March 2008

After motherhood and apple pie, energy independence probably qualifies as the most popular political slogan in the land. It is, as they say, a no-brainer. Robert Bryce agrees: You have to have no brain to think it is possible or even desirable.

In "Gusher of Lies," Mr. Bryce, a freelance journalist specializing in energy issues, mounts a savage attack on the concept of energy independence and the most popular technologies currently being promoted to achieve it. Ethanol? A scam. Wind power? Sheer fantasy. Solar power? Think again. For the foreseeable future, which is to say the next 30 to 50 years, fossil fuels will reign supreme, as they have for the last century. Deal with it.

With all the gusto of a hunter clubbing baby seals, Mr. Bryce goes after one cherished green belief after another, but he is an equal-opportunity smiter. Having kicked the props from under every green technology in sight, he goes after the political right.

The current administration and its neoconservative allies, he argues, have made energy independence part of the war on terror, a moral and tactical blunder. "Energy independence, at its root, means protectionism and isolationism, both of which are in direct opposition to America's long-term interests in the Persian Gulf and globally," he writes.

Mr. Bryce begins coolly, then heats up and eventually approaches core meltdown. In a perspective-setting opening chapter, he reviews the history and current state of energy needs in the United States, whose situation is not nearly as desperate, he argues, as one might think. Yes, the United States depends on foreign oil and natural gas, as it has for many decades, but only 11 percent of its oil came from the Persian Gulf in 2005. It imports 80 percent of its semiconductors and 100 percent of strategic minerals like bauxite and manganese.

Oil, Mr. Bryce argues, is simply a commodity. It also costs about the same, in real terms, as it always has. Oil producers need to sell just as badly as customers need to buy. It is undoubtedly true, as President Bush declared, that "America is addicted to oil." To which Mr. Bryce answers, So what? Besides, he writes, "America's appetite is simply too large and the global market is too sophisticated and too integrated for the U.S. to secede."

After clearing the ground, Mr. Bryce gets to work demolishing cherished green beliefs about alternative energy sources. Ethanol, in particular, drives him wild. Fuel derived from corn has channeled billions in subsidies to Midwestern farmers and agribusiness, he writes, despite glaring shortcomings. It is expensive to produce and requires enormous amounts of water when irrigation comes into play. It produces much less energy than gasoline while emitting more pollutants into the air.

Detroit loves ethanol because it can use it to inflate fuel-efficiency ratings on their cars artificially. The mammoth Chevy Suburban, produced as a flex-fuel vehicle capable of burning both ethanol and gasoline, magically boosted its fuel efficiency to 29 miles per gallon from 15, since under federal rules only a vehicle's gasoline consumption need be factored into the equation. Ethanol, in other words, has allowed American car manufacturers to produce more gas guzzlers and contribute to increased imports of foreign oil.

The problem with corn and other alternative fuel sources boils down to cost and output. Fuel made from switchgrass, another potential solution to the energy problem, costs a lot to produce, delivers a lot less energy than petroleum and would require, like corn, vast areas of farmland to meet a meaningful percentage of current energy needs.

Wind power and solar power have the added drawback of being intermittent and unpredictable. A town that relied entirely on solar or wind power would suffer constant service interruptions and wild fluctuations in output, which is why both technologies must be used in conjunction with traditional fossil-fuel generators.

Mr. Bryce lands one telling blow after another, but he favors a slashing, ad-hominem style of attack that can undercut his credibility, especially when he moves away from economics and technology and ventures into politics, an arena to which he brings no particular expertise. He employs a peculiar, almost actuarial assessment of the risk posed by terrorism, which he compares to random events like lightning strikes. This completely misses the point about the threat posed by radical Islam. Using the word "neocon" seems to be enough, for him, to discredit an argument or an opponent.

Fortunately, the book steers back to the high road at the end, when Mr. Bryce suggests that there is some light at the end of the tunnel, some of it solar-powered. Within modest limits, he argues, solar power can play a bigger role in meeting energy needs, especially with new technology that transforms infrared light into electricity. Algae look promising as a source of biodiesel. The major environmental groups may even, eventually, see the point of nuclear power, "the only sector that has enough momentum and enough capital behind it to make a significant dent in the overall use of fossil fuels."

Mr. Bryce's pet idea, though, is something that does not exist, a superbattery capable of storing large quantities of electricity. As the magic wand to bring this "silver bullet" into existence Mr. Bryce proposes a Superbattery Prize awarded either by the Energy Department or private foundations: $1 billion, say, for a compact, affordable system that can store multiple kilowatt-hours, and $10 billion for a system that can store megawatt-hours. The hard-nosed Mr. Bryce reveals himself in the end as something of a visionary and perhaps even a revolutionary. Power to the people.