|The Week That Was
August 11, 2001
Christopher Horner provides an insightful and acerbic eyewitness account of the Bonn negotiations on the Kyoto accord. For pictures of our students in Bonn, see TWTW of August 11.
The Week That Was August 11, 2001 brought to you by SEPP
This White House decision should be a no-brainer. Soviet-era nuclear weapons now provide more than half the uranium for American nuclear power plants, at relatively low cost, while at the same time taking nuclear weapons out of circulation, according to a 1993 agreement. Russia gets hard currency and we get their warheads - nearly 5000 so far.
The only domestic company that carries out enrichment of isotope U-235 from natural uranium is the United States Enrichment Corporation. Its 50- year-old factory uses the World War II technology of gaseous diffusion that cannot compete with Russia and Western Europe. Modern alternative technology uses only a faction of electric power and has lower operating costs.
The question is how much is self- sufficiency in uranium fuel worth?
Current law requires the president to certify annually that the domestic industry is "viable." But we've already lost self-sufficiency. The domestic mining industry has been withering away for years, largely because of lower-cost producers in Canada, Australia and elsewhere, as prices of uranium ore declined.
Coal, the Industrial Revolution-era fuel, seems to have reclaimed a 21st-century future, despite being reviled as recently as a year ago by environmentalists. Power disruptions and an administration that has put a greater focus on energy security than environmental protection has given coal a new lease on life.
About 52 percent of the nation's electricity is generated by coal.
That figure has remained fairly consistent for five years, but is a big increase over 10 years ago.
This year the nation's coal production is expected to reach a record of more than about 1.1 billion tons, about a quarter of which comes from Wyoming, where coal is low in sulfur and close to the surface.
Of the new electric generation planned for the United States from now to 2005, as much as 16 percent is to come from coal according to the Edison Electric Institute -- a major increase from a year ago when no coal-fired plants were on the drawing board.
In the past year, natural gas prices have soared, frightening those who saw it as a panacea for electricity. The energy crisis facing California, with a quadrupling in the cost of natural gas, has been a major factor in the utilities' decisions to shift their plants from gas to coal.
And political support has been formidable, with Congressional Democrats from coal states in Appalachia and Republicans from the Rockies joining forces to against the fuel's foes. The Bush administration has also backed away from imposing restriction on carbon dioxide, which would have dealt new setbacks to the industry.
Source: Douglas Jehl, "Fuel With A Dark Past Has A Bright Future," New York Times, June 16, 2001.
Comment: [We changed carbon monoxide, in the last sentence of the original NYT article, to carbon dioxide.] Reportedly, 34 new coal plants are being planned, with clean-coal technologies that reduce the amount of environmental pollutants associated with coal. [NB: CO2 is not a pollutant. In fact, the cleaning process will result in more CO2 emission.]
There was nothing in President Bush's energy proposals in the spring to directly assist oil and gas companies, which were enjoying record profits. Yet by the time the House finished work on the president's plan this week, Big Oil was the beneficiary of $13 billion in new tax credits and spending. (Washington Post).
The energy bill includes $33.5 billion over ten years in subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives for various energy industries and for encouraging conservation. This compares to around $10 billion proposed by the Bush administration.
Congress does not go along with a substantial increase in mandatory fuel efficiency standards for SUVs. Perhaps they recognize that it's not possible to increase CAFE for SUVs on a short time frame. And technology will certainly do this over the longer one.
If Congress really wants to increase fuel efficiency fast , it should raise the gas tax by at least $1. Let's see if they are willing to touch the third rail. We'll bet they won't.
SOUTH AFRICA TURNS TO DDT TO AID IN WAR AGAINST MALARIA:
The Wall Street Journal reports that, faced by a resurgence of malaria
afflicting scores of thousands of its citizens, South Africa last year
resumed the use of DDT in its campaign to eradicate this dread disease.
Malaria, one of the world's deadliest diseases, is affecting more than
300 million people a year and killing about a million of them. From the
mid-1940s until the mid-1990s, South Africa routinely used DDT to control
the malaria-bearing Anopheles Funestus mosquito, causing disease
rates to plummet throughout that country. But, in 1996, the government
stopped using DDT, out of deference to arguments that the pesticide damaged
the environment. Almost immediately, malaria cases skyrocketed to roughly
50,000 cases per year, outstripping even HIV infection rates in certain
regions of South Africa. Since renewing the use of DDT, levels of malaria
infection have once again declined to negligible levels. Instead of massive
spraying of this pesticide throughout the countryside, DDT is now sprayed
in much smaller quantities within homes and on bedclothes, thus substantially
reducing its alleged environmental impact
Clinton's EPA bequeathed a "tar-baby" to George Bush: An impossibly tight standard on arsenic in drinking water, which has no scientific backing. Yet last week, the Senate adopted it by a vote of 97:1, after the House had passed a similar measure.
It will likely become law - even though Clinton did nothing about it for 8 years of his presidency. But it could turn into a win-win situation for George Bush:
1. The forthcoming National Academy of Sciences report almost certainly won't support the tight standard of 10 parts per billion, but a more reasonable value. After all, the old standard had been around for nearly a century and did no harm. The NAS report and empirical evidence may then force a Congressional review that will cancel the tight standard.
2. In the meantime, the tight standard, properly enforced by EPA, will
raise severe problems for small communities. It may backfire on Democrats
in elections in New Mexico and Nevada (where natural arsenic levels tend
to be high).
American students show their support for President George W. Bush against
the Kyoto Protocol at the international climate conference in Bonn, Germany,
July 18, 2001. The U.S. looked isolated as Bush made defiantly clear that
he would not bow to European and Japanese pressure to embrace the Kyoto
agreement. (Michael Dalder/Reuters)