|The Week That Was
June 2, 2001
Economist Joe Bast, president of the Heartland Institute in Chicago, explains why a warmer climate would be good for us. The world would probably be greener and a little cloudier than our world today. And BTW, it is not too late to sign up for the spectacular one-day conference on June 9 at the Chicago Hilton and Towers, with lunch and banquet included. Check out www.heartland.org
REPORT FROM BRITAIN
The powerful nature of the grip that the Global Warming myth exercises in Europe in general and the UK in particular has become quite startling. Of particular note is the weapon it gives to Governments who wish to increase taxation by stealth. The Climate Change Levy in Britain is now widely recognised as having increased the rate of rise of manufacturing costs by a factor of at least three. New cars registered after March 1st, 2001 will now be taxed on the basis of their CO2 emissions. This substance, which is vital to life on earth, has now been officially branded a pollutant. The leaflet issued by the vehicle licensing authority has writ large on its cover "Thinking of buying a brand new car? The less it pollutes the less you pay". In addition to paying nearly double the tax for the most sinful cars, drivers are admonished to do their bit by:
The myth is assiduously fostered across the media. The BBC, once the by-word for disinterested reporting, maintains a torrent of propaganda. An edition of the long standing Any Questions on Radio Four had panellists representing the three major political parties and industry. All took as read the villainy of George W, in turning away from the non-science of the Kyoto treaty, before discussing the threat of climate change. Interestingly, this programme was followed by the wonderful Alistair Cooke's Letter from America, in which he gave an account of the way California ripped off the citizens of El Paso for their natural gas and then went into a sulk when the latter found alternative markets.
There are much subtler ways, however, in which the corporation continually hammers home the message. In a schools programme about calculating volumes, for example, the exercise given is based on a model of the polar ice and the oceans as cuboids. The student is required to calculate the rise in sea level if the ice should melt, and the parting message is that vast areas of low altitude will be inundated. In news coverage and "factual" programmes, the opportunity of mentioning global warming is never missed.
The dissenters among journalists, who naturally are easily able to dispose of the myth by rational argument, can be counted on the fingers of one hand, and are simply ignored by the establishment. The politicians subscribe to the fantasy without question (except the Conservatives, who are no longer sure what they believe, apart from the general malevolence of Europe). They squabble among themselves as to who has the "greener than thou" credentials. O brave new world, that has such people in 't.
For years, liberal environmentalists have insisted that only tough regulations on economic activity can prevent the climate catastrophe of human-induced global warming. So far, these activists' biggest policy success has been the 1997 Kyoto Protocols, which would have forced the United States to cut industrial emissions to seven percent below 1990 levels, or 30 percent lower than current levels. But if the gloom-and-doom predictions of environmental activists' are exaggerated or wrong, such severe cutbacks - which would have increased energy prices and drastically reduced economic growth - are not necessary.
This debate has been going on for years, of course, but it moved to the fore this spring with President Bush's rejection of the Kyoto treaty and its onerous economic regulations. To judge the networks' reaction, the MRC's Free Market Project (FMP) reviewed all of the 51 global warming stories that aired on five early evening cable and broadcast news programs - ABC's World News Tonight, CBS Evening News, CNN's Inside Politics, the Fox News Channel's Special Report with Brit Hume, and NBC Nightly News - from January 20 (Inauguration Day) through April 22 (Earth Day).
The view that human-induced global warming is leading to catastrophic climate change received six times as much attention as the views of scientific skeptics who argue that such gloom-and-doom scenarios are either exaggerated or wrong.
There were only seven references to the existence of global warming skeptics. Six of those were on the Fox News Channel, while the other was a single reference by a CNN correspondent to a statement by President Bush about "the incomplete state of scientific knowledge."
The three broadcast networks, ABC, CBS and NBC, totally excluded the views of global warming skeptics from their coverage.
In spite of unanimous opposition to the Kyoto treaty in the U.S. Senate, the networks provided Kyoto supporters with more than twice as much airtime as backers of Bush's decision to scrap the treaty (69% to 31%).
By a nearly two-to-one margin (65% to 35%), the networks also skewed the debate over Bush's decision not to regulate carbon dioxide emissions in favor of his critics.
Free market opponents of new restrictions on industrial activity such as those included in the Kyoto deal were outnumbered 20 to 3 by spokesmen for environmental groups, none of whom were ever labeled as "liberal."
By refusing to show any of the thousands of scientists who are skeptical of environmentalists' belief that only regulatory schemes such as the Kyoto Protocol could halt the climate damage they say is being caused by industrial burning of fossil fuels, the networks - apart from Fox News - made the President's actions appear to be short-sighted economic decisions based on unsound science. Furthermore, by showcasing the President's critics in the aftermath of each decision, these networks created the impression that Bush's actions were environmental errors, not reasonable policy choices.
Complete Text of Special Report
(Letter to the Editor of the NY Times, from Lloyd Mielke)
Mr. Paul Leventhal wrote a piece in the New York Times on May 17, 2001 claiming that more reliance on nuclear power is too risky. He used the same old tired myths that have been used to attack nuclear power over the last 40 years. I am dismayed that these myths are still being presented as fact. Following are the myths followed by the facts.
MYTH: The public is concerned that the combination of human fallibility and mechanical failure can set off catastrophic accidents at nuclear power plants.
FACT: It is indeed remarkable that the combination of human fallibility and mechanical failure over the last 40 years has resulted in a nuclear safety record unsurpassed by any other industrial activity. The record is so outstanding that the comparisons are ludicrous. For example, commercial nuclear electricity in the United States has killed zero members of the public over the last 40 years. Compare this record with coal, which kills at least 10,000 members of the public EVERY SINGLE YEAR from respiratory ailments caused by the air pollution (World Health Organization). Nuclear electricity in the whole world (which includes Chernobyl) has killed less than 100 members of the public over the last 40 years (World Health Organization). That makes nuclear electricity (worldwide) at least FOUR THOUSAND times safer than coal. For Pete's sake, how much safer do we want it to be and how much are we willing to pay for such safety? Every time we build a natural gas plant instead of a nuclear plant, we are condemning at least 100 people to a premature death. Every time we build a coal plant instead of a nuclear plant, we are condemning at least 1,000 people to a premature death. This is what the public should be concerned about.
MYTH: The core at the Three Mile Island plant was within hours of an uncontrolled melt with Chernobyl-like consequences.
FACT: The core at TMI did, in fact, melt. Huge chunks of molten core were sitting on the bottom of the reactor vessel until cooling water could be restored. The worst case had already happened. Yet, no harmful amounts of radiation were released. There is no possibility of a Chernobyl-like failure at any Western power plant because the designs are completely different.
The maximum credible accident occurred at TMI and yet there were no deaths or injuries. This is a remarkable result considering that, every day, we accept deaths from natural gas explosions, gasoline explosions, the air pollution from burning fossil fuels, oil refineries blowing up, hydroelectric dams failing, and so forth.
MYTH: Older plants are more dangerous because of a rash of forced shutdowns due to equipment failures caused by aging.
FACT: The forced shutdowns are to repair the aging equipment so that it can be used for many more years to produce zero-pollution, zero-risk electricity. There's nothing wrong with that.
MYTH: Security is weak at nuclear plants because some plants have failed to repel mock attackers in N.R.C.-supervised exercises.
FACT: A would-be terrorist would be insane to attack a nuclear power plant. What would be the point? If it is to blow up the reactor and disperse radioactive material over a wide area, the consequences would not be terrible enough. Consider Chernobyl. In this case, the reactor DID blow up and disperse radioactive material over a wide area (excess radiation being measured as far away as Western Europe). But the actual consequences, although grim, were only 31 firefighters killed and 3 children dying from thyroid cancer. The major effect on the populace was millions of people exposed to excess radiation doses that were not any higher than natural background levels in many places of the world (World Health Organization). For example, Colorado has double the background radiation level of Florida because Colorado is higher in elevation and there is more cosmic radiation (200 mrems per year vs. 100 mrems per year). Such excess radiation has been shown to be harmless. After 40 years of study, the International Committee on Radiological Protection concludes that an acute exposure of 10,000 millirems or less has no harmful health effect. Furthermore, recent studies of radiation hormesis show that excess radiation stimulates the immune system such that it is beneficial to health at low levels. So there would be few civilian deaths and there is even a possibility that the health of the population would be improved. What kind of "terror" is that?
Or would the attack be aimed at stealing the fuel to make a nuclear bomb? Assuming the terrorists could get to the fuel, they would then have to steal it without killing themselves from the radioactivity. (Used nuclear fuel, before being allowed to cool for a few years, is highly lethal if not properly shielded). Once they were able to steal the fuel safely, they would then have to spend millions of dollars to extract some usable weapons material. It would be much cheaper (and safer for the terrorists) to simply build their own nuclear production facility to make the weapons material from scratch or to steal an existing bomb from a country that had one. Or better yet, to just drop some poison in the city water supply. How many mock attacks have been performed to test the security at major city water supplies?
MYTH: Increasing reliance on nuclear power would not help global warming anyway since two-thirds of the emissions of carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas, are from transportation or other sources not related to power generation.
FACT: New nuclear power plants would certainly extend the lives currently being lost to the air pollution caused by non-nuclear plants. And if reducing carbon dioxide from transportation is a goal, then we could build electric cars and produce the electricity from pollution-free, risk-free nuclear energy.
MYTH: Building nuclear plants to replace coal plants would enormously expand the risk that materials from nuclear power plants would be applied to making weapons.
FACT: Using the commercial nuclear fuel cycle to extract usable weapons-grade material is a dumb idea. The plutonium from used nuclear fuel is not pure enough to make good weapons material. It is simply much easier to build a nuclear production facility for that purpose.
MYTH: Instead of more nuclear power plants, we should use energy conservation and increase energy efficiency.
FACT: According to this argument, all we need is a law that requires our air-conditioners to run on 100 watts (the same as one light bulb). Unfortunately, the laws of physics get in the way. There is only so much "efficiency" available. If you need 1,000 kilowatt-hours to heat your house during the snowstorm or to air condition it during the heat wave, it really doesn't matter that your furnace/air conditioner/utility are all supplying the 1,000 kilowatt-hours at 100% efficiency. Of course, you can always "force" people to use LESS than 1,000 kWh and suffer the consequences. This is now taking place in California and everyone there is very proud of their government for limiting how much energy is available to them.
MYTH: There are better alternatives, such as using hydrogen recovered from fossil fuels after removing carbon to provide new, clean ways to generate power.
FACT: It takes energy to remove carbon from fossil fuels to extract the hydrogen. This energy is not free nor is it always clean. People who believe that "hydrogen" is some sort of free fuel that can be obtained at little or no cost need to take a basic physics course.
MYTH: We should use renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, and biomass.
FACT: The used fuel from nuclear power plants can be processed to recover even more fuel and is, in fact, "renewable". By closing the nuclear fuel cycle, we would have enough nuclear fuel to make electricity for thousands of years. Nuclear electricity produces no air pollution, kills nobody, and produces wastes that can be stored and handled safely. Radioactive waste toxicity dies off all by itself to non-lethal levels after only a few hundred years, unlike toxic chemicals that stay hazardous FOREVER. Renewable sources such as solar panels, windmills, and biomass generate secondary wastes that must be disposed of. For example, the manufacturing process for making solar panels generate a lot of toxic metal waste, which stays dangerous forever and never goes away. The solar panels themselves must be disposed of eventually. It is impossible to guarantee that solar panel toxic wastes can be isolated from human populations for the next million years. Since the solar panel toxic waste problem cannot be solved, then solar panels should not be made in the first place.
We have already seen the environmental destruction caused by windmills. Not only are they an eyesore and a blight on the landscape, they kill birds and other flying wildlife that happen to go near them. They generate a pitifully small amount of electricity for their size. One clean, zero-risk nuclear power plant can generate the same amount of electricity as solar, wind, or manure using raw materials and land area (including waste disposal) that is at least HUNDREDS, if not THOUSANDS of times smaller. Nuclear energy is the most environmentally benign source of energy available to us.
MYTH: We should not use nuclear power because certain nations disguise their nuclear weapons program inside their electrical generation facilities.
FACT: This is like saying we should discontinue the use of all gas and oil because some terrorist uses these materials to make Molotov cocktails. As indicated earlier, using nuclear electricity power stations to produce weapons material is a dumb and unethical idea. But if certain nations want to build their own weapons production facilities, there is nothing we can do about it. Instead, we should turn our own swords into plowshares and reap nuclear energy's benefits.
NOTICE (especially to our European friends)
SEPP plans to be in Bonn from July 16 to July 23 for the COP conference and deliver several briefings. Our student group will be there from July 15 through 18. Pls let us know if your plans might take you there and we will give you individual responses and suggestions.