|The Week That Was
Mar. 19, 2005
The Week That Was (Mar. 19, 2005) brought to you by SEPP
But while the US spends around $5 billion annually on a phantom threat, there is a REAL threat out there: Supervolcanism. Geologists have called for a task force to be set up to consider emergency management in the event of a massive volcanic eruption
< http://news.bbc.co.uk/go/em/fr/-/1/hi/sci/tech/4326987.stm >
Hello! I have just voted for the first annual Flat Earth Award winner at http://www.flatearthaward.org/ .............and guess who I voted for: ME.
"The award recognizes the year's most prominent global warming denier. The nominees for the award -- Michael Crichton, Rush Limbaugh and Fred Singer -- are using their influence to sway the public about the growing scientific consensus that global warming is caused by burning fossil fuels. International consensus continues to increase, yet these naysayers remain, misleading the public. Vote for the nominee you think has done the best job of confusing the American people at www.flatearthaward.org We've reached over 3000 votes for the Flat Earth Award. Keep spreading the word! And make sure you join the good folks at the Climate Crisis Coalition, by signing the People's Ratification of the Kyoto Global Warming Treaty."
Friends of SEPP; I can't tell you how pleased I am to be nominated along with such two distinguished public figures. The score is now 36%... 45%... 19% -- with 3261 votes cast so far (3/19/05).
YOUR VOTE CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE. PLS VOTE FOR ME
If you click on my bio, you will find many untruths (is that the right word for lies?). For example, I have many publications in peer-reviewed journals; the latest two in the July 9, 2004 issue of Geophysical Research Letters. Also: SEPP is supported entirely by private donations (HINT!); we do not solicit support from industry or government.
And my picture is terribly sinister-looking. But hey, if it will get me votes
The award will be presented in Middlebury VT (where else?) on Earth
Day. See also
Enviros are gleeful that James Baker, close advisor to President George H. W. Bush as well as the current president, is "calling for the US to be proactive on global warming. This is great news for all of us who want to celebrate a clean energy future."
So what did Baker really say in March 3, acc to Reuters: "Baker said he agreed with the decision not to join Kyoto, calling it "a lousy treaty" because it did not include China and India." But he said he supported "a gradual and orderly transition" to new fuels.
Jim, that's why we have markets.
Enviros are disconsolate about their losses and angry with Al Gore.
See the essay "The Death of Environmentalism" by Michael Shellenberger
and Ted Nordhaus
But Robert Bidinotto disagrees (see Item #1)
Now that the Hockeystick is dead, there has been much backtracking by GW promoters -including even Michael Mann. (Item #2) Now they say they don't need the Hockeystick graph to prove the existence of manmade warming (and untold future catastrophes). Yeah sure! Tell this to the guys who wrote the Summary of the IPCC Third Assessment Report (2001). Meanwhile, the attacks on climate skeptics continue unabated (Item #3).
Turning now to energy issues, first, the Petroleum Industry Research Foundation's latest report on the status and future of the Diesel car by John Lichtblau, Ron Gold, Larry Goldstein (PIRINC). Go to www.PIRINC.org and view Publications.
The Japanese plan to install a small sodium-cooled 10-MW nuclear reactor in Alaska -an interesting development, both technologically and politically. (Item #4)
High natural gas price are hurting the chemical industry. Congress is blamed (Item #5). On the other hand, last week's Senate vote may finally allow oil production to proceed at ANWR (Item #6).
The new Clean Air Mercury Rule could reduce electric utility mercury emissions by nearly 70 percent from 1999 levels when fully implemented. (Item #7) While enviros still want 90% reduction (as promised but never delivered by the Clinton/Gore Administration), the difference is minute compared to total global emissions.
Germany's environment minister, Jurgen Trittin, believes in closing
down nuclear power plants and relying on wind turbines. He urges Britain
to do likewise. He doesn't believe in facts and will lead not just Germany
to economic ruin, if his philosophy is emulated.
A self-admitted former "environmental groupie" within the mainstream media now contends that the environmentalist movement has lost credibility because of its scare-mongering. I disagree.
The underlying problem for environmentalists is not that they typically engage in factual distortions and scare mongering for a good cause. The problem is that their cause isn't good.
Among the "unexamined assumptions" and "outdated concepts"
of environmentalism that ought to be challenged are its core philosophic
premises -- chief among them, the idea that "pristine nature"
has inherent or "intrinsic value" in itself, independent of
any usefulness to humans.
2. Requiem for the Hockeystick
Many climate researchers believe that it was premature of the IPCC to give the visually suggestive curve so much prominence. "Mann is a pioneer, whose 1998 study was then the best reconstruction that had ever been done," says Stefan Rahmstorf, a climate researcher at the Potsdam Institute of Climate Impact Research in Germany. But, he adds, the controversy it generates is now out of proportion to its scientific significance Proxy-based reconstruction of past temperatures are important for validating the models that researchers use to predict the future climate. But, he says, "The cause of any particular climate change must be investigated separately. It would be naive to conclude that the observed twentieth-century warming must have a natural cause just because previous warming events have had one."
"We need to understand the past, but some people become fixated," says Phil Jones, a climate researcher at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, UK. "For projecting the rate of climate change in the twenty-first century, it is somewhat irrelevant what happened in medieval times. What really matters is what happened in the twentieth century - and we can expect from that a much warmer climate."
Meanwhile, Mann concedes that it is plausible that past temperature variations
may have been larger than thought - although he insists that Moberg's
reconstruction is not free of methodological and statistical problems.
He says the issue deserves further investigation and must not be overshadowed
by political issues. "The contrarians would have us believe that
the entire argument of anthropogenic climate change rests on our hockey-stick
construction," he says. "But in fact some of the most compelling
evidence has absolutely nothing to do with it, and has been around much
longer than our curve."
The Central Research Institute of Electric Power Industry of Japan is
The sealed, fast reactor of around 10MWe would run almost unattended over its 30-year core lifetime and will not require refuelling.
The so-called 4S reactor, developed with Toshiba, will be installed
The NRC encourages pre-application reviews prior to a formal license
US natural gas prices are the highest in the world, making it increasingly
difficult for manufacturing industries to compete in global markets. Look
at the chemical industry. Its gas bill has increased by $10 billion in
two short years. The US chemical industry has lost $50 billion in business
to overseas competition and more than 90,000 good-paying American jobs
have disappeared. In the late 1990s, the US chemical industry posted the
largest trade surpluses in the nation's history. Today, it is a running
a $9 billion trade deficit. High natural gas prices are threatening the
continued viability of a great American industry.
DALLAS (March 16, 2005) - Approval of a budget amendment that would open Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling is a major step in reducing reliance on foreign oil and could become the centerpiece for a comprehensive national energy plan, according to scholars for the NCPA's E-Team project.
WASHINGTON, March 13 - The Bush administration this week will propose the first federal controls on mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants. The new rule will abandon the Environmental Protection Agency's original tilt toward a remedy favored by most environmental groups in favor of a system of tradable pollution allowances that is more congenial to industry.
The new E.P.A. rule is intended to cut emissions to 38 tons, a 21 percent reduction from 1999 levels, in 2010 and to as little as 15 tons, or about a 69 percent reduction, in 2018, according to the draft of the final rule sent to Bush administration budget officials this weekend for final vetting.
Under the rule, some utilities will be able to buy allowances rather than cleaning up emissions. Environmentalists and some state officials have argued that this approach will lead to so-called hot spots posing significant risks to local populations. The administration has tended to favor trading of pollution allowances as a regulatory tool that it believes is both effective and less prone to legal challenge, pointing to the success of such a program in curbing the pollution that causes acid rain.
The rule is certain to infuriate some environmental groups that have long called for stringent mercury regulation and argued that mercury was too great a health hazard to be an appropriate candidate for market-based regulation that, by its nature, results in uneven enforcement and protects some populations more than others.
Mercury, a commonplace of everyday life a generation ago found in home thermometers and school science labs, has in the past two decades been found to cause direct harm to the development of nervous systems in infants and young children. Infants have been exposed before birth to mercury consumed by their mothers, studies have shown.
The most common form of exposure is believed to be the consumption of fish - including tuna and swordfish - in which the metal has accumulated.
But agency officials point out that much of the mercury exposure of the United States population is out of reach of any federal regulation. Much airborne mercury deposited in the United States originates abroad, and most of the mercury-laden fish consumed by Americans as fish sticks or fish fillets is imported.
As expected, the new rule provides the last piece of a regulatory plan that in many ways mimics the blueprint laid out in the Bush administration's stalled Clear Skies legislation and accomplishes many of the legislation's goals for establishing market-based policies as a primary component in environmental regulation.
Accompanying the rule will be a document reversing the agency's formal conclusion of December 2000 that it was "appropriate and necessary" to require utilities to scrub as much mercury as possible from coal-fired power plants.
The long-awaited provision, which is officially named the Clean Air Mercury Rule, is expected to be released Tuesday. It is intended to work in tandem with an E.P.A. rule published last Thursday, which controls two chemicals that are building blocks for soot and ground-level ozone. The agency maintains that controls mandated under this Clean Air Interstate Rule will have the "co-benefit" of reducing mercury emissions to the levels set for 2010.
A draft of the proposed rule, dated March 10, was provided to The New York Times by a government official uncomfortable with the process the agency used to arrive at its conclusion. It differs somewhat from an analysis recently criticized by the E.P.A.'s inspector general as a rigged attempt to support a predetermined conclusion. But the latest version does not address the inspector general's criticisms that alternatives were not thoroughly studied.
From 1990 to 1999, total airborne emissions of mercury in the United States dropped from 209.6 tons to 113.2 tons, roughly 5 percent of worldwide manmade emissions. Mercury emissions from power plants are responsible for about 48 of the 113 tons. Even though large reductions in mercury emissions from municipal and medical waste incinerators and chemical factories have been achieved over the past decade, at least 44 states have issued advisories calling for limited consumption of fish from mercury-contaminated streams.
The rule would have limited effect on canned tuna, the single greatest contributor, per capita, to mercury in the diet of United States residents.
Contacted about the rule, Cynthia Bergman, a spokeswoman for the E.P.A., said on Sunday that it would make the United States "the first country in the world to regulate emissions from coal-fired power plants." Ms. Bergman added that the agency in the 1990's took "big steps" to regulate emissions from other sources, like municipal incinerators.
Felice Stadler, a mercury policy specialist at the National Wildlife Federation, was sharply critical when told on Sunday of the thrust of the new rule, saying that it was "the weakest air-toxics rule ever written for a major industry" by the E.P.A.
"This rule gives big energy companies an extra 10 years before being required to reduce their mercury air pollution," Ms. Stadler said. "To say we are disappointed is an understatement. This is an ill-conceived plan that puts the future of our children and natural places at risk."
The new rule, like the Clean Air Interstate rule that it complements, will set up a cap-and-trade system of negotiable pollution allowances that is administered by the states, each of which has its own mandated cap on emissions and each of which can develop its own system of distributing allowances, subject to the approval of the environmental agency.
Authority and responsibility for meeting these standards is given to the states, whose annual caps between 2010 and 2017 range from a high of 4.7 tons in Texas to lows of zero emissions in Idaho and Vermont.
Some states, like Connecticut, already regulate power plant emissions
of mercury. The new federal rule will not impede their ability to impose
stricter controls than those mandated by the E.P.A.
New Mercury Rules Out
By Ken Silverstein Director, Energy Industry Analysis
Both policymakers and utilities have been under pressure to do something about mercury. One of the results has been the introduction of new technologies that work to cut most pollutants, including mercury. Modern generators can limit those emissions but older plants are major polluters-a fact that leads green groups to demand that those plants be phased out. But, those facilities are not going anywhere for now. And so the question becomes the degree to which mercury should be decreased and under what time frame.
Tuesday's rule limits mercury emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants, and creates a market-based cap-and-trade program that will permanently cap utility mercury emissions in two phases: the first phase cap is 38 tons beginning in 2010, with a final cap set at 15 tons beginning in 2018. These mandatory declining caps, coupled with penalties for noncompliance, will ensure that mercury reduction requirements are achieved and sustained, the administration says.
Opponents of that idea say that it is too little and too late. They want such emissions reduced by 90 percent by 2008. They say that the technology is available to do so-a fact disputed by the Bush administration and many utility industry groups. In 2000, before the current administration came to Washington, the EPA's revised interpretation of the Clean Air Act required that the nation's 600 coal plants install "maximum achievable control technology" by 2008.
Coal-burning power plants remain the largest unregulated source of mercury air pollution, adding 48 tons of mercury into the air each year, contributing more than 40 percent of all mercury emissions in the United States. The pollutant is released when coal is burned and flows out of facilities' smoke stacks, then it falls into the ground and water. Forty-three states and one territory have issued advisories warning people to limit their fish consumption because of mercury contamination. Nationwide, more than 10 million lake acres and 400,000 river miles are under mercury advisories.
In large doses, mercury contamination can affect the health and populations of fish and wildlife, as it harms their central nervous and reproductive systems. People who eat fish infected with mercury, especially children, can suffer from a myriad of developmental problems. Mercury is particularly insidious because it stays afloat and it can be spread globally. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that about 50 percent of the mercury deposits in the United States emanate from local sources while another 40 percent comes from outside the country's borders, mostly Asia.
"We remain committed to working with Congress to help advance the president's Clear Skies legislation in order to achieve greater certainty and nationwide emissions reductions," says Steve Johnson, acting administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency that wrote the new rules. "But we need regulations in place now." Clear Skies recently failed a key Senate committee vote needed to move it to the floor of that chamber.
The White House had argued that mercury reductions could be achieved through the same technologies that would be used to cut nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. But some experts say that such efforts to curtail mercury with prevailing techniques vary from site to site. That's why members of the administration have indicated they are flexible, noting that achieving the overall cuts by 2018 is more reasonable.
The Bush administration policy is different from the environmental approach in that it allows a more flexible cap-and-trade program. Such a blueprint permits companies that produce less than the limits to sell "credits" to those plants that produce more than the allowable limits. The administration defends its approach, saying that there has never been an attempt before now to control mercury from power plants.
"There is no mercury control technology that exists today that can achieve the reduction levels finalized in the Clean Air Mercury rule, let alone the 90 percent reductions advocated by some activists," says Scott Segal, director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council, which represents power generating companies. "There is ample authority within the Clean Air Act to allow for the establishment of a cap-and-trade program to address mercury emissions."
Conversely, many environmental groups say that greater cuts can be made and that the reductions should start immediately. Those critics furthermore oppose the market-based approach endorsed by the president, noting that while national mercury levels may drop, specific places will suffer from hot spots unless maximum allowable levels are set by individual plants. A cap-and-trade program raises the possibility that any utility could choose to buy credits rather than implement modern pollution controls. Individual communities could therefore suffer harm.
The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention estimates that 8 percent of women of childbearing age in the United States have mercury levels in their blood that are considered unsafe. Accordingly, it says that puts 300,000 newborns a year at risk of brain damage and learning disabilities. Some of the problems, however, are the result of mercury having been dumped into water from industrial complexes decades ago.
At the same time, critics note that while the Bush administration highlights the actions it has taken regarding mercury, its rules reverses an earlier one taken by the Clinton team that would have also required cuts in a variety of toxics such as lead and arsenic. "Sadly, the Bush administration's (rule) appears to do little to protect public health, especially in the short term," says Sen. James Jeffords, I-Vt. "Cap-and-trade is not an option for toxics."
Needless to say, utilities are already feeling the heat. Take Public Service Co. of New Mexico and eight other owners of the San Juan Generating Station there: Together, they will spend $200 million to install technologies that don't just serve to cut mercury emissions but others like particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. While the decision is the result of a lawsuit filed in 2002 by environmental groups, the action will nonetheless help those entities comply with the new mercury rules.
Certainly, valid discussions are taking place as to whether the timetable
to reduce mercury emissions should be faster or more flexible. The reality
is that the rules just implemented represent the first time mercury has
been regulated. The goal then is to motivate companies to bring the level
of those pollutants down. The Bush administration is convinced that its
two-pronged approach that limits such emissions and then allows utilities
to trade credits within those boundaries will work.
UNEP to Address Global Mercury Reductions:
At its recent Global Ministerial Environment Forum held in Nairobi, the
United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) announced that it will analyze
the amounts of mercury being traded and supplied around the world and
seek to develop partnerships to reduce mercury releases to the environment.
According to BNA's Daily Environment Report, environmental ministers from
around the world agreed to develop partnerships between governments, international
organizations, NGOs and industry to reduce mercury pollution. Industries
targeted for partnerships include coal-fired electric utilities, mercury-cell
chlor-alkali facilities and gold-mining operations
Re: Your editorial of Dec 17 ("Mercury Falling")
Greens criticize the new EPA plan for controlling mercury emission from power plants as doing less than the Clinton proposal. Some perspective is necessary here.
Mercury pollution is a global problem; China is one of the largest contributors. Measurements show a vast atmospheric reservoir to which US plants contribute approx. 1 percent. Thus the original EPA plan of 90 percent emission control would have reduced the reservoir content to about 99.10 percent; the new plan of 70 percent control reduces the atmospheric level to 99.30 percent.
But while this difference in levels is small, the cost burden - ultimately borne by US households that use electricity - is huge. Therefore, a rational cost-benefit analysis supports the new EPA plan of Michael Leavitt.
By the way, did Greens criticize Clinton's EPA for proposing only a 90 percent reduction instead of 99 percent? No need to answer this question.
S Fred Singer
March 15, 2005
Guardian: Will Germany reconsider using nuclear power, given the fact
that alternative energy sources such as wind don't deliver enough power?
Guardian: How does this make sense, given that nuclear power produces
fewer greenhouse gasses that other forms of energy?
Guardian: Germany has exceeded the commitments it made in the Kyoto
protocol. Will Germany take even further measures to reduce greenhouse
Guardian: Wind turbines have sprung up across Germany in recent years
from Rostock, on the north coast, to Lake Constance, in the south. Don't
wind farms destroy the environment and a landscape that has grown up over
hundreds of years?
Guardian: At the G8 meeting in July in Scotland of the world's leading
industrial nations will there be joint British-German measures to protect
Guardian: Can you give us more details of the new initiative, announced
by the German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder and President George Bush during
Bush's visit to Germany, for Germany and the US to cooperate on the environment.
What does this mean?
Guardian: Were you surprised by the report last month by Germany's
energy agency, the Deutsche Energie-Agentur, which suggested that wind
energy wasn't as efficient as previously believed?
UK Urged To Turn To Wind Power
March 15, 2005 Germany's Green party environment minister said yesterday that Britain should emulate Germany's example and build thousands more wind turbines if it wanted to prevent climate change.
Speaking in an interview with the Guardian ahead of a meeting in London today of the G8's environment ministers, Jurgen Trittin said that Britain should consider expanding its wind farm programme. "This would be a good way for Britain to build up its so far very marginal use of wind energy," he said. Asked whether wind farms wrecked the environment, he replied: "Landscapes have always been affected by changing demands, like the erection of electricity pylons or the building of motorways ... It is important to have the support of the population before you proceed."
Mr Trittin's remarks are likely to fuel the growing debate over how far
Britain should adopt the German model of building thousands of new wind
farms in an attempt to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Over the past
15 years Germany has constructed more than 15,000 turbines - a number
which is set to double again by the end of the decade. Britain has agreed
to increase dramatically its own wind farm programme, as a means of achieving
10% of energy needs from renewable sources by 2010. Yesterday, Mr Trittin,
whose Green party governs in coalition with the Social Democrats, said
that he supported Tony Blair's decision to put climate change at the top
of the agenda during Britain's presidency of the G8 this year.