|The Week That Was
March 9, 2002
1. Lomborg's Lament. Matt Ridley celebrates Bjorn Lomborg, the environmentalist brave enough to tell the truth that the end is not nigh. (From The Spectator 23 Feb 2002)
2. Australian/US Climate Action Partnership (communicated to SEPP courtesy of Vince Gray)
3.The Solar Fraud: Why Solar Energy Will Not Run the World has rolled off the press and is ready for shipment. We recommend it strongly.
4 'Table-Top' Fusion Report Elicits Mixed Reaction: an interesting experiment, but a practical future doesn't seem likely.
5. European Union Agrees to Ratify Kyoto-but there are cracks in the Greenhouse
3.THE SOLAR FRAUD: Why Solar Energy Will Not Run the World has rolled off the press Written by Prof. Howard Hayden, publisher of the authoritative The Energy Advocate newsletter, the book has 176 pages in 13 chapters of text, 26 pages of appendices, three pages of references, a 4-page glossary, and a 7-page index. It has 60 figures and 15 tables.
For decades, solar proponents have predicted that we would soon get 20%
to 100% of our energy from solar sources - biomass, hydro, wind, solar-thermal,
photovoltaics and others.
4. POSSIBLE NUCLEAR FUSION EXPERIMENT
Washington (AP) -- A phenomenon that may be nuclear fusion was created in a laboratory bottle by researchers who zapped tiny dissolved bubbles with sound waves, which triggered a flash of light and a brief surge of superhigh temperatures. Using a device described as the size of three stacked coffee cups, researchers at Oak Ridge National Laboratory and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute say the phenomenon was like nuclear fusion in a bottle. Some scientists disputed the claim. The study appears this week in the journal Science and was released for publication by the journal on Monday.
Researchers at Oak Ridge said the experiment, which they called ``bubble fusion,'' created two signs of nuclear fusion: a burst of subatomic particles called neutrons and the production of tritium, an isotope of hydrogen.
In an unusual additional review, however, two other Oak Ridge researchers said the experiment's results were not accurate. This additional report was posted on the Internet by Science, along with a response by the original authors.
Harnessing nuclear fusion, the power that lights the sun, has long been a goal of researchers who view it as the ultimate energy source. Most researchers have concentrated on huge machines that mimic the sun by compressing hydrogen plasma and heating it to millions of degrees to force atoms to fuse. This reaction gives off heat and an isotope of helium, along with some subatomic particles. In the experiment reported in Science, researchers used the simple equipment to create and analyze a brief flash and burst of heat that may be fusion. R. P. Taleyarkhan of Oak Ridge, the first author of the study, said in Science that the experiment is true ``tabletop physics,'' using an apparatus ``the size of three coffee cups stacked on top of the other.''
Richard Lahey Jr., a Rensselaer professor and a co-author of the study, said in a statement it was not clear whether the technique could be used as an energy source. In the study, researchers used a beaker of a chemical called deuterated acetone. Normal acetone is a colorless, volatile liquid often used as a paint remover or chemical solvent. In deuterated acetone, the chemical's normal hydrogen atoms have been replaced with deuterium, a hydrogen isotope that is heavier than ordinary hydrogen and is capable of fusion reactions. When combined with oxygen, deuterium is sometimes called ``heavy water.''
The researchers introduced tiny bubbles, no bigger than the period at the end of a sentence, into the beaker. They then zapped the bubbles with sound waves. The bubbles rapidly expanded and then collapsed.
It's believed that the bubble collapse causes a momentary shock wave that creates high pressures, high temperatures and a flash of light, called sonoluminescence. F.D. Becchetti, a physicist at the University of Michigan, said in Science that the study by Taleyarkhan needs to be confirmed by other researchers.
``If the results are confirmed, this new compact apparatus will be a unique tool for studying nuclear fusion reactions,'' said Becchetti. He said the experiments appear to have been carefully done and analyzed by reviewers.``The results are credible until proven otherwise,'' said Becchetti.
In a repeat of the experiment, using slightly different equipment, D. Shapira and M.J. Saltmarsh of Oak Ridge claimed that the neutron emission they detected was too small to explain the tritium production reported by Taleyarkhan.
In a response, Taleyarkhan and his colleagues said Shapira and Saltmarsh misinterpreted their own results and that the level of neutron emission they detected was consistent with the original experiment.
The announcement of the Taleyarkhan tabletop fusion experiment is in sharp contrast to one that University of Utah researchers announced at a news conference in 1989. Unlike the Utah experiment, which was rejected by many other physicists, Taleyarkhan's experiment was reviewed by a committee of experts, selected by Science, before the study was accepted for publication.
Comment by Prof Robert Park, author of Voodoo Science:.
An editorial by Don Kennedy in the March 8 issue of Science, "To Publish or Not to Publish," describes his courageous stand in publishing a controversial paper even though "it had become clear that a number people didn't want us to publish this paper." Last week we revealed that Science would carry an article by Taleyarkhan et al. from Oak Ridge National Laboratory (WN 1 Mar 02), claiming evidence of d-d fusion correlated with sonoluminescence from collapsing bubbles in deuterated acetone. However, Shapira and Saltmarsh, also from Oak Ridge, using purportedly superior detection and analysis equipment, found no evidence for fusion. Kennedy, it turns out, was merely urged to delay publishing the Taleyarkhan result until it could be accompanied by the Saltmarsh finding. Instead, Science accompanied the Taleyarkhan paper with a glowing "Perspectives" article, a "News" report and an editorial. Worse, Science issued an embargoed press release. A press embargo is a device meant to suppress dissenting views the day a story breaks. We at WN are not press, however, nor did our information come from Science. After WN broke the story, Science dropped its embargo. Both sides, Kennedy's editorial concludes, "would do well to wait for the scientific process to do its work." But in the end, it was Science that refused to wait until it had a balanced report.
5. THE EUROPEAN UNION'S ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS AGREED ON MARCH 4 TO RATIFY THE KYOTO PROTOCOL. In 1997 the EU agreed to reduce its emissions of greenhouse gases to eight percent below 1990 levels, but so far has not ratified the agreement.
Although the move is being hailed as a major step forward, "the impact of the announcement was marred when EU member governments failed to set their own emission levels to meet Kyoto targets," according to the Guardian (March 5, 2002). "Individual targets will now be decided by the European Commission."
The move clears the way for the EU formally to approve Kyoto at its summit in Barcelona in a couple of weeks. As noted by Radio Free Europe (March 4, 2002), "Today's decision also commits all 15 EU member states to deposit their individual ratification instruments with the United Nations together with the communal EU decision by June 1." It remains to be seen whether the countries will follow through with the commitment made by their respective environment ministers.
The Netherlands is the only EU country to begin the ratification process, successfully piloting Kyoto through the lower house of parliament, but still needs to push it through the upper house for full ratification. The only Annex I countries to submit their ratification instruments to the United Nations are Romania and the Czech Republic.
From an editorial in the WSJ (Europe):
Further, what is happening in Europe is a microcosm of what has been
going on for years now at the semiannual negotiations that are supposed
to work out how to save the world through emissions control. For every
time the treaty's remaining parties come up against a hard question, like
how to enforce a global treaty on the release of carbon dioxide, a substance
that is emitted by lungs and trees as well as cars and factories, it's
By always treating the nitty-gritty of implementation as tomorrow's problem, the environmentalists behind the treaty have allowed the process to limp along far beyond its sell-by date. Even with this policy of perpetual procrastination on the points that count, however, problems continue to crop up.
In Marrakech last year, Russia held out for more concessions after being told none would be made, and got them. Australia is making noises about junking the treaty, and Canada faces internal opposition to ratifying it. Japan has remained quiet, but at least some are skeptical that Japan will prove willing to saddle industry with yet another burden as its economy stagnates and businesses increasingly outsource production to China - which is exempt from the emission-reduction requirements of the treaty.
Even in Europe itself, a similar process of dissension and brinkmanship has been playing out. Leading up to Monday's unanimous decision in Brussels, the Danes had been making noises about refusing to ratify. The threat had its desired effect, and concessions were quietly made to Denmark's demands that its share of the burden be lightened.
But while Denmark seemed to be trying to do the "right thing," just not so much of it, the truly subversive force within Europe may prove to be Italy. Asked whether the Berlusconi government supported the Kyoto Protocol and intended to ratify it, Corrado Clini, director-general of the Italian Environment Ministry, put it this way: "We will ratify [the treaty]. But the discussion inside the European Union on implementation will be a hard discussion." Why hard? "Frankly," Mr. Clini told us, "we have different visions about the future of this process."
Exactly how different are the different visions within Europe? Last month, when U.S. President George W. Bush released his own greenhouse-gas initiative, which aims at controlling emissions as a function of economic output rather than Kyoto's absolute targets, the EU's Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstroem said, "[T]he plan is no alternative to the Kyoto protocol, to which the E.U. remains fully committed." Ms. Wallstroem continued, "The protocol is the only effective international framework for combating global warming and we urge the United States to return to the Kyoto process."
But Italy is now singing a different tune. Speaking of the same proposal dismissed by Ms. Wallstroem, Director-General Clini said, "Italy considers that the plan submitted by President Bush on Feb. 14 could be a good basis for cooperation between the EU, Canada, [and] Japan. . ." He went on to say that Italy believed that it was not alone in its attitude toward Kyoto, and that the British, Spanish and Dutch were all open to a more market-based, less command-and-control-type model for dealing with greenhouse gases.
Of course, as encouraging as all this dissent is, no one in Europe seems quite willing to face up to the truth, which is that Kyoto is a monstrosity projected to cost billions, possibly trillions, of dollars to achieve a goal that probably will not avert a threat that no one is sure that the world faces.
Luckily, in political terms, the treaty now faces a massive obstacle, one that grows larger as more and more countries question the wisdom of going ahead. Kyoto only enters into force after 55 countries, representing 55% of so-called greenhouse-gas emissions, ratify it. With the U.S. out of the picture, Europe must convince every other sizable industrialized nation in the world to sign up. But this gives each one of those countries tremendous leverage, as Russia demonstrated in Marrakech, and Denmark did in Brussels this week. And as more countries go wobbly, the margin for error decreases and the leverage of the remaining countries increases, until, with a little luck, the treaty's requirements recede to the vanishing point.
As Kyoto recedes into the future, and as even stalwart Europe's defense
of the treaty is showing cracks, it's looking more and more likely that
we'll never have to find out whether it will work in practice."