|The Week That Was
NOTICE: NO TWTW ON DEC 6, 2003
1. New on the Web: WITH THE KYOTO
PROTOCOL DYING OR DEAD, THERE ARE STILL SCHEMES BEING COOKED UP TO
IMPLEMENT SOME FORMS OF EMISSION CONTROL. Fred Singer presents a critical
review of the latest such effort, the Stewart-Wiener book Reconstructing
Climate Policy: Beyond Kyoto
2. DEMOCRATS CONSIDER THE EU'S "REACH" SYSTEM FOR CHEMICALS:
OPPOSED BY WHITE HOUSE
3. INDUSTRY TO PRESENT ENVIRONMENTAL CONCERNS TO CALIF. GOVERNOR SCHWARZENEGGER:
4. OMB PROPOSES GOVERNMENT PEER REVIEW OF SCIENTIFIC REPORTS FROM REGULATORY
5. EUROPEAN NUCLEAR NEWS: GERMANY STARTS HISTORIC NUCLEAR SHUTDOWN; France
Builds New Model Of Reactor
6. CHINA OIL CONSUMPTION SOARS
7. PROBLEMS FOR HYDROGEN TECHNOLOGY
8. MORE PROBLEMS WITH HYDROGEN
9. HOW TO SPOT AN ECO-WACKO: GORDON PRATHER TELLS US HOW
10. NO TWTW ON DECEMBER 6. WE WILL BE IN MILAN, FOR COP-9, BRIEFING
DELEGATES AND PRESS ON THE FOLLIES OF GLOBAL WARMING SCARES AND KYOTO
2. Democrats Consider REACH System for U.S.
[On 29 October, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new
EU regulatory framework for chemicals subject to some minor text clarifications
suggested by the Legal Linguists. Under the proposed new system called
REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals), enterprises
that manufacture or import more than one tonne of a chemical substance
per year would be required to register it in a central database.]
Several influential Democrats in Congress, including Sen. Frank Lautenberg
(D-NJ), are rumored to be considering a legislative overhaul of U.S. toxics
law based on the controversial EU REACH proposal. Democrats in both the
House and the Senate may introduce legislation next year that would overhaul
the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to align the law with the EU's
policy. According to Chemical Policy Alert, some lawmakers are waiting
to see how the legislation, which has been heavily criticized by Administration
and industry officials, will play out in the EU. The consideration of
a REACH-like bill would confirm fears that the EU legislation will set
a precedent in global chemical regulation. "There's good reason to
think the EU will work to push [REACH] on everyone else," says an
industry official. Senior aides in the California legislature also have
indicated they would consider state legislation resembling REACH.
In the meantime, the earlier version of REACH is being scaled back by
the EU because it would unduly crimp European competitiveness. Instead
of toxicological and environmental testing of 30,000 chemicals, the latest
draft would apply only to chemicals produced in amounts greater than 10
tons. But some 1500 chemicals -- including brominated flame-retardants,
phtalates used as plastic softeners, and perfluorinated compounds - might
be banned altogether.
3. Industry to Present Environmental Concerns to Schwarzenegger:
A coalition of industry groups is drafting an environmental briefing paper
for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) that is expected to raise concerns
about the state's environmental justice initiative and seek new incentives
for brownfields cleanups. The so-called Thursday Group -- which includes
representatives from the manufacturing, agricultural, petroleum, aerospace,
building and biotechnology industries --is expected to present a briefing
paper to Schwarzenegger officials within the next two weeks that will
provide the emerging administration with recommended guidelines on a number
of issues, Chemical Policy Alert reported. These issues include: the proposed
use of the "precautionary principle" by California's Environmental
Protection Agency (Cal/EPA); general regulatory reform; plastics waste
management and recycling provisions being considered by the California
Integrated Waste Management Board; the industrial waste classification
for treated wood; potential indoor air quality regulations; and brownfield
redevelopment and funding.
4. Government peer review of scientific reports
The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information
and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA -- John Graham, director) has proposed extensive
new peer-review procedures for scientific reports from regulatory agencies.
The Sept 15 Federal Register calls for a mandatory external peer review
in order to alleviate potential conflicts of interest and reduce the number
of lawsuits challenging regulations, which make use of the Data Quality
Act of 2001.
The proposed standards would apply to research conducted by federally
employed scientists or grantees. It is likely therefore to cover also
federally funded research on climate change - a politically charged issue.
Publication in a peer-reviewed journal might be sufficient to satisfy
the proposed standards; but one could imagine challenges to such published
papers since publication by itself is no guarantee of correctness.
The public comment period ends Dec 15. The final standards are likely
to be issued in spring 2004.
SEPP Comment: Peer review for journal publication is generally not sufficient
for basing wide-reaching public policies. We have many examples of published
work that could not be replicated and was later proven to be wrong. A
recent example is the "hockeystick" paper that was shown to
be in error after a detailed audit of the underlying data. (see references
5. Germany Starts Historic Nuclear Shutdown
STADE, Germany (AP) -- Germany disconnected the first of its 19 nuclear
power stations this month, beginning an unprecedented phase-out that underscores
differences between some European nations and the United States on securing
future energy supplies.
Technicians at a 32-year-old nuclear plant at Stade near Hamburg switched
it off forever at about 8:30 a.m.
Germany is the first major industrialized nation to renounce the technology.
Under a deal negotiated after years of wrangling between the government
and power-company bosses, all Germany's nuclear reactors are to close
The plant's closing sparked celebrations among the environmentalist Greens,
the junior party in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government. "The
Stade nuclear power plant was an expensive dead end," Environment
Minister Juergen Trittin said before Greens party colleagues at a champagne
reception in a Berlin art museum. "Nuclear energy has no future in
Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are currently grappling with
how to diversify their energy sources and reduce their reliance on crude
oil from the Middle East. But while President Bush has sought to promote
nuclear power and eyed untapped oil reserves in Alaska, many European
nations are looking to gas and renewable sources such as wind and solar
The German phase-out deal, long-sought by the country's anti-nuclear lobby,
imposes a limit of 32 years on the average operational life of nuclear
plants, and bans reactor construction.
Nuclear power provides nearly one-third of Germany's electricity. The
government argues that eliminating it will spur utilities to spend billions
on new, cleaner-burning gas generators as well as wind turbines and solar
Trittin claimed the longer operating life of reactors in countries such
as the United States, which has over 100 licensed nuclear plants, was
economically shortsighted. "That doesn't secure supplies, it just
blocks necessary investments (in non-nuclear energy sources)," he
told German television.
In Europe, countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands have also begun
phasing out their nuclear plants. Austria mothballed a planned reactor
before it opened, and Italy and Denmark also have come out against nuclear
Not all European countries have joined the trend, though. France relies
heavily on nuclear energy - its 58 nuclear reactors provide more than
three-quarters of the country's electricity. Finland is planning to build
a new nuclear plant, its second, and Soviet-designed plants are still
key generators in several eastern European countries.
Some German observers say the slow pace of the phase-out means it could
be reversed. Opposition conservatives have pledged to scrap the anti-nuclear
legislation should they return to power, a policy that has support of
many industry leaders.
Walter Hohlefelder, the head of utility giant E.On, the Stade plant's
operator, said its closure could prove to be "just an episode"
in a more complicated story. "We should keep the option of nuclear
Plans call for the 660-megawatt Stade plant to be torn down starting 2005,
after spent nuclear fuel rods are removed and sent to France for reprocessing.
Demolition work is expected to take up to 12 years. Since Germany has
no reprocessing plants, spent fuel from its power plants is sent to France
and Britain for treatment. But the radioactive waste returns to Germany
for storage, triggering regular protests by anti-nuclear activists.
A German Report:
Nuclear reactor Stade was turned off on Nov 11, against the wishes of
the local population. Local branches of both major parties, CDU and SPD,
tried to stop the action, the Green party having lost votes. Experts claim
that the technology is safe and that the reactor could have operated till
2019. Industries that had located in the area (incl Dow Chemical) may
lose out and leave. Akzo has already left.
France has set the goal of a European Pressurized Water Reactor
(EPR), which Finland will put into operation in 2009, France in 2012.
After benefiting from this experience, they will start mass production.
6. China oil consumption soars
The International Energy Agency reports that in 2004 China will surpass
Japan as the world's second-largest consumer of oil -after the US. China's
demand will rise to 5.7 million barrels a day, accounting for some 30%
of the world's increase during 2003. During 2004, world consumption is
expected to be 79.7 mbd, the Paris-based IEA estimates.
7. Problems for Hydrogen Technology
A New York Times article on November 12 pointed out that, "Even
some hydrogen advocates say that use of hydrogen could instead make the
air dirtier and the globe warmer."
The paper points out that the most cost-effective way to produce hydrogen
involves the burning of coal, rather than using renewable energy sources,
and quoted Ronald Kenedi, Managing Director of Sharp Solar, as saying,
"It seems like hydrogen is the buzz word right now, with the president
talking about it, and maybe putting some money towards it. But the first
stop on the hydrogen trail will be coal."
According to the article, carbon dioxide emissions are a problem: "According
to the Energy Department, an ordinary gasoline-powered car emits 374 grams
of carbon dioxide per mile it is driven, counting the energy used to make
the gasoline and deliver it to the service station, and the emissions
of the vehicle itself. The same car powered by a fuel cell would emit
nothing, but if the energy required to make the hydrogen came from the
electric grid, the emissions would be 436 grams per mile, 17 percent worse
than the figure for gasoline."
The Times also found the cost problematic: "Reuel Shinnar, a professor
of chemical engineering at City College of New York, reviewing the options
for power production and fuel production, concluded in a recent paper,
'A hydrogen economy is at least twice as expensive as any other solution.'"
8. More problems with hydrogen
Phil Chapman reports:
Hydrogen exists in two forms, called ortho- and para- (in one, the spins
of the 2 hydrogen nuclei (protons) in the molecule are parallel, and anti-parallel
in the other). At room temperature, 75% of H2 molecules are ortho, and
25% are para. At the boiling point, however (-253 C), the equilibrium
is 0.3% ortho and 99.7% para. If you simply liquefy hydrogen, the liquid
is unstable, as the 75% ortho converts to para. This is an exothermic
process, releasing 50% more heat per mole than the heat of vaporization.
In other words, the liquid boils, without any external heat input. The
tank will explode, or vent, both of which are disasters.
To prevent this happening, it is essential to convert the ortho hydrogen
to the para form during liquefaction. Various catalysts can be used for
this purpose, but it complicates the process. We are not going to see
hydrogen liquefied at your friendly local gas station, whether it is produced
locally by electrolysis or arrives as a gas by pipeline, because the equipment
is too expensive and requires too much care and because the process is
It is impractical to ship liquid hydrogen over any significant distance
by pipeline (the insulation requirement is prohibitive, because of the
surface area of the pipe). Thus the hydrogen must be delivered to the
station as a liquid, by a refrigerated tank truck. Such a truck is an
immense bomb, much more dangerous than a tank truck of gasoline. NIMBY,
Hydrogen is not a liquid above its critical temperature, which is -240
C, no matter what the pressure (that's what critical temperature means).
An automobile using it thus requires a very well insulated tank, or perhaps
a cryogenic refrigerator on board. If you don't have a refrigerator, you
can't park your car in your garage, because any heat making it through
the insulation will cause boil-off. The gas is explosive in air in all
concentrations from 5% to 95% by volume. Goodbye, house.
It is very difficult to prevent hydrogen leaks, and they are very explosive,
so I for one would not go anywhere near a gas station where consumers
or ordinary gas jockeys were transferring the liquid into cars. Goodbye,
The density of liquid H2 is only about 0.07 gm/cc (depending somewhat
on the temperature), 10 times less than gasoline, but burning a kilo of
H2 produces about 25% more energy than burning a kilo of gasoline. This
means that, everything else being equal (engine efficiency, etc), the
volume of the fuel tank on a hydrogen-powered car will have to be about
8 times that of the tank on gasoline-powered car, for the same range.
If the giant LH2 tank in your car is ruptured in a collision, the result
will be a shockwave and fireball that could destroy everything within
hundreds of meters. I suppose this means that we can save on ambulance
and funeral expenses, since there will be nothing left of the people involved.
This whole idea is so ludicrous that I cannot believe it is serious. Could
the hydrogen-powered car, like global warming, be just one more attempt
to solve a non-problem by imposing costs on the US economy (so as to make
capitalism less conspicuously successful, compared to socialist disasters
around the world)?
If we want to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, we can drill
in ANWR. If we don't want to do that, we can convert cars quite easily
to natural gas, of which we and Canada have copious supplies. If we want
to avoid nitrogen oxides and other pollutants, we can manufacture saturated
hydrocarbons such as methane (CH4) or (better) propane (C3H8) from natural
gas, from coal, or from CO2 and hydrogen. Propane is storable as a liquid
at room temp, as for a gas barbeque. Its density is 0.53 gm/cc, about
2/3 that of gasoline, so it needs a tank about 50% larger (for the same
Burning saturated hydrocarbons makes water and CO2, which in my opinion
is a Good Thing. There is no evidence that global warming exists; if it
does, it will improve the world climate, making northern winters more
tolerable, freeing lots of arable land in Canada and Siberia (as the permafrost
retreats), and delaying the inevitable reversion to the next Ice Age.
There is no evidence, however, that anthropogenic CO2 makes any significant
difference to climate trends, but increased CO2 is unequivocally good
for agriculture and the greening of the planet. CO2 is not a pollutant;
it is plant food, as essential as oxygen to all life.
If however we worry about the greenhouse, we can make propane from hydrogen
and atmospheric or anthropogenic CO2. In that case, powering cars with
propane would produce no net releases of CO2. The power needed to make
these fuels can come from nuclear power plants or solar power.
Dr. Phil Chapman is a former NASA scientist-astronaut and a systems
engineer with extensive experience in many areas of research and technical
management. He was awarded the British Polar Medal for services in Antarctica.
9. How to Spot an Eco-wacko: Gordon Prather tells us how
It's relatively easy to distinguish authentic, card-carrying eco-wackos
from sane citizens, even those citizens concerned about the possibility
of global warming. Upon encountering a suspected eco-wacko - someone running
around in circles of diminishing radii, screaming something incoherent
about the earth going to hell in a wheelbarrow if mankind doesn't quit
burning fossil fuels by Tuesday of next week - apply this simple test:
Keeping at a safe distance - he might turn out to be an ordinary citizen,
frightened out of his tree by the media elite, but he might also be a
dangerous eco-wacko - ask him to sign a petition urging an immediate shift
from fossil fuels to nuclear power as a solution to the global-warming
If he is really concerned about global warming, allegedly caused by man's
burning of fossil fuels, if he's basically sane and can appreciate the
fact that nuclear power is the only viable alternative to coal, oil and
natural gas, and if he quits circling long enough to sign - even if reluctantly
- the "Go Nuclear" petition, then he is not an eco-wacko. If,
on the other hand, he gets even more hysterical and not only refuses to
sign the "Go Nuclear" petition but perhaps even tries to choke
you for suggesting it, then you have definitely found an authentic, card-carrying
10. No TWTW on December 6. We will be in Milan, briefing delegates
to COP-9 and press on the follies of global warming scares and Kyoto protocol.
Go to the Week
That Was Index