|The Week That Was
June 7-13, 1999
Whom should we believe? Oxybusters or EPA? In 1990, Congress required "reformulated" gasoline to which oxygenates had been added. It is mandated in nine cities that have smog problems, and has been adopted in 17 states. The oxygenate is either ethanol, distilled from corn or grain, or MTBE, a manufactured chemical. In any case, US Energy Information Administration data show that reformulated gasoline costs an extra 15 cents per gallon. (Oil companies claim a lower figure.)
Now the National Research Council has come out with a report that oxygenates don't work; they are "likely to have little air quality impact in terms of ozone reduction; in fact, ethanol might actually contribute to smog."
The Oxybusters, a group that opposes oxygenates, is delighted with this result. It believes that MTBE also causes various health problems. Two bills have recently been introduced in the Congress to phase out the federal requirement for fuel additives. The EPA, while supporting the NRC findings, is not ready to give up its reformulated gas program. More studies are required, they say. Good regulatory-agency thinking!
Turning to smog-avoiding nuclear power, complaints by enviros about deceptive ads have led the Better Business Bureau to get the Federal Trade Commission to investigate. What's all the fuss about? It seems that Nuclear Energy Institute ads "falsely" claim that reactors make power without emitting greenhouse gases. Apparently, the NEI didn't mention that the uranium fuel was made using electricity from coal plants. So what about the wind turbines that pack 150,000 pounds of steel, concrete, and fiberglass per turbine? How about that for "embedded carbon"?
But there is also some good news from Europe. The young professionals of the nuclear power industry are organizing themselves to fight the Green movements that want to abolish nuclear energy. Watch for their international conference next April in Bratislava, Slovakia.
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power [DWP] has launched a "Green Power for a Green LA" program. It offers customers the opportunity to buy "clean" energy from sun, wind, and water [not mentioning the fact that all of these sources contain embedded carbon in building wind turbines, preparing land for solar panels, and constructing dams]. The program is supported by a group of Hollywood actors, but the genius behind it is none other than S. David Freeman, who reintroduced wood stoves when he headed the TVA. [Much earlier, he produced the first-ever Green energy report in a study financed by the Ford Foundation.] Since electric power is produced far from Los Angeles, there will little improvement in air quality, DWP claims to the contrary. And it's difficult to believe that it will "improve system reliability [how do you keep the sun shining at night and wind blowing all the time?] and lower electricity bills." In the next breath, Green Power customers are told to pay a monthly premium to "offset the increased cost of Green Power." In return they'll get advice on how to save energy. But never mind the contradiction. Even if you missed the "Green Power for a Green LA Summit" on May 9 and the children's "Green Power Poster Contest," you can still sign up. Just call 1-800-GreenLA and ask for S. David.
Another backlash against the Kyoto Protocol. Last month, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association sent about 3,000 representatives to Capitol Hill to tell Congress that they oppose initiatives that are not cost-effective solutions to environmental problems and hurt rural electric consumers. The NRECA represents roughly 1,000 power co-ops, serving about 75% of the US land area, especially in the Midwest where coal is in wide use. As the primary suppliers of electric power to agribusiness, NRECA also threatened to rouse the farm vote. As David Wojick points out in Electricity Daily, a sparsely populated Midwestern state has just as many senators each as New York or California. Moreover, the co-ops are owned by voters. The NRECA has traditionally been a supporter of Democratic administrations, but Kyoto threatens their heavily mortgaged plants with bankruptcy. Gov. George W. Bush, take note!
Maurice Strong, the Canadian socialist capitalist (or is it Marxist millionaire? whatever) is in the news again. As the Special UN Advisor on the Environment, he launched a vicious attack on the head of Imperial Oil, one of the largest energy producers in Canada. He not only called him a dinosaur but compared him to those who were against abolishing child labor and slavery, and opposed to sanitation.
There you have it. Doubt global warming and you are in favor of child labor and slavery. Doubt global warming and you are even against soap. Things must be really going badly for Mr. Strong's crusade to save the planet by destroying the global economy. His proposal is a hefty tax on gasoline, say about $4 a gallon, but Ottawa has come out firmly against carbon taxes, although environment minister Christine Stewart says she is committed to "leadership, partnership, fairness, equity and balance." Al Gore, take note!