The Week That Was
April 26, 2003

1. New on the Web: WM O'KEEFE GIVES A SOBER APPRAISAL OF FUEL CELL CARS, USING THE SYSTEMS APPROACH [WELLS TO WHEELS]. They may be the vehicles of the future but not tomorrow's.

2. TV WEATHERMEN DO KNOW THE SCORE: UTx Study Reveals Investigator's Ignorance On Global Warming

3. MORE UK POWER PLANTS LOOK TO BURN OLIVES, PALM NUTS: with hidden subsidies, of course






2. TV Weathermen score on Global Warming

"Personal beliefs and attitudes are the primary influences on television weathercasters' reporting on the scientific facts about politically charged environmental issues such as global warming," according to a study by the School of Journalism at The University of Texas at Austin.

Journalism professor Kris Wilson, who spent 10 years in television news, including time as a TV weathercaster, and holds a doctorate in geography specializing in climatology and climate change, conducted the research.

"In order to influence public policy about global climate change, citizens need to be accurately informed," said Wilson. "The public's primary source of information about climate change is television. Identifying strengths and weaknesses in reporting may lead to a better informed public and eventually, better policy decisions."

"Results from this study challenge the assumption that those trained in science are apolitical and offer another new twist on the concept of journalistic objectivity," continued Wilson. "As important sources of information, many weathercasters let their own personal views about global climate change distort their accurate understanding of the science."

Most weathercasters (73 percent) were aware of the scientific consensus of a global temperature increase, yet only one third accurately identified the predicted temperature increase, as well as all models' agreement about increases in global cloud cover and precipitation that also result from increased greenhouse gases. According to Wilson, these statistics are startling given that all atmospheric models agree on these predictions and they represent basic atmospheric science that weathercasters work with daily.

SEPP Comment: The Wilson study reveals only that he has not kept up with ongoing research and blindly follows the politically claimed "consensus." To check his claim that "all atmospheric models agree on these predictions [of precipitation]," look at the National Assessment of Climate Change produced during the Clinton-Gore years. See

3. Biomass burning garners hefty subsidies

Two more British power stations have applied to burn olives and palm nuts mixed with coal which will earn green certificates, helping cushion them against low electricity prices, the plants' owners said. If they go ahead, this will bring the number of power stations involved in co-firing with biomass to around 10 - including some of the largest in the UK.

Drax, the biggest power station in Britain, has applied to the Environment Agency for permission to burn milled palm nuts, produced mainly in Malaysia and Indonesia.

Drax plans trials at one of its units burning a mix including up to 10 percent palm nuts and if this is successful, it could extend this to other units at the 4,000-megawatt plant.

Rugeley power station, owned by International Power, has applied to burn olive pulp - the same fuel being burned commercially with coal at AEP's Ferrybridge and Fiddler's Ferry plants in the UK.
Companies earn green certificates for the power they generate from the biomass. These have been trading around 48 pounds a megawatt hour, more than twice the price of wholesale electricity.

SEPP Comment: Aha!

4. Tokyo faces self-inflicted power shortage

Tokyo Electric Power Co, the world's biggest investor-owned power utility, suspended operation of its 17th and last working nuclear reactor this week after a series of safety scandals, raising fears of summer blackouts in one of the world's most energy-hungry cities.

TEPCO began successively shutting down its nuclear reactors for safety checks last September after acknowledging that officials had falsified safety data over several years.

A spokesman said he could not say when the company would restart the plants, which supply 40 percent of the power to the Tokyo area - a region of more than 37 million people.

Demand for power in Tokyo peaks in summer when households and offices switch on air conditioners to cope with stifling heat and humidity, adding to demand from heavy industry such as steel and car plants as well as the city's famous montage of neon signs. Whether those air conditioners or signs will have to be switched off to save power remains to be seen.


TEPCO has turned to thermal power plants, which use fossil fuel, to fill the supply shortage caused by the closure of the nuclear plants, but the company has said about 10 of its nuclear reactors must be back on line if it is to meet summer demand.

Katsumata said last month that Tokyo, as well as Yokohama, Japan's second biggest city, could face shortages this summer. "Without the restart of nuclear reactors, there will be a major power supply shortage in the summer," he said.

TEPCO's choices are limited. One of its 17 reactors will remain shut for one year after a government order issued in late October as punishment for what was considered the most serious offence. At this plant, TEPCO admitted that personnel had manipulated the air pressure of reactor containers to pass safety tests. In other instances, the company did not disclose the existence of cracks in the shrouds that cover the reactors.

Of the remaining 16 units, four will be closed beyond July due to scheduled maintenance checks. Theoretically, this leaves just 12 units that TEPCO can begin restarting to cover summer demand. The last major power outage to hit its service area occurred in July 1987 when some of its facilities were unable to keep up with a sudden surge in electricity demand. The power failure affected 2.8 million homes and lasted for a few hours.


The suspension of reactor operations, which forced the company to rely on thermal plants, has added to TEPCO's fuel procurement costs at a time of high crude prices. TEPCO, already the world's largest buyer of liquefied natural gas, has stepped up purchases of crude oil and fuel oil.

Thermal plants are more expensive to operate than nuclear reactors, and the company has said daily generating costs rise by about 100 million yen ($830,000) if a one million kilowatt nuclear reactor is closed and replaced by a thermal plant. TEPCO has said that extra fuel procurement costs amounted to 140 billion yen ($1.2 billion) in the year ended March.

Public confidence in Japan's nuclear industry has been badly bruised by a series of scandals to hit the industry, including Japan's worst nuclear accident, which occurred in September 1999.

In this incident, two workers at a uranium processing plant at Tokaimura, northeast of Tokyo, died and hundreds of residents, plant workers and emergency personnel were exposed to radiation. Japan, the world's second biggest economy, has virtually no domestic sources of crude oil or coal and relies on nuclear power for more than 30 percent of its power needs.

SEPP Comment: The problem is largely self-inflicted and represents the extreme fear of radioactivity by the Japanese public and the willingness of politicians to cater to it. The nuclear accident occurred at a reprocessing pant (not at a reactor) as a result of workers ignoring published safety procedures.

5. China builds nuclear breeder reactor

China furnishes $120 mill for the completion of China' first experimental Fast Breeder Reactor, a Joint Venture with Russia. The construction of the 65 MWt-reactor began in 1999.


6. Senate approves loan guarantees for new nuclear reactors

The Senate Energy Committee has approved a provision in its broader energy bill that offers loan guarantees for the construction of six new power plants to produce 8,400 megawatts.

Chairman Pete Domenici, R-N.M., led the effort last week that seeks to guarantee about $30 billion in loans to nuclear power plant developers. Those voting for the effort reasoned that nuclear energy would play a role in America's energy policy but that high, upfront capital costs would prevent developers from bearing the risks-necessitating the loan guarantees to augment revenues.

"Nuclear energy is a critical component of the diverse energy supply this country needs," says Domenici. "The scientific and political climate is prime for expanded use of nuclear power. In the current environment of soaring prices, unstable supply and the debate about climate change, nuclear energy will provide affordable, clean and reliable power with no airborne emissions. I consider it a cornerstone of our energy future."

In 2001, the National Energy Policy recommended the expansion of nuclear energy in the United States, noting that it is a low-cost and environmentally friendly fuel source. More recently, President Bush has called for a national strategy to deal with carbon emissions and as such has backed the expansion of nuclear projects. Now, the Department of Energy (DOE) is working to understand the business risks associated with the design, development and operations of new nuclear power plants.
Currently, 103 nuclear reactors operate and have a combined generating capacity of 98,000 megawatts. That provides about 20 percent of this country's electricity. But no new nuclear power projects have been constructed since 1979, when Three Mile Island in Pennsylvania suffered a partial meltdown of the reactor's core.


7. EPA rolls out emissions plan for off-road diesel vehicles
By Eric Pianin, The Washington Post

WASHINGTON - The Bush administration yesterday announced tougher restrictions on harmful emissions from off-road diesel-powered vehicles, fashioning a compromise with strong appeal to environmentalists despite some concessions to industry.
The proposed rules, unveiled by EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, would slash off-road diesel emissions by as much as 95 percent and bring them in line with recently adopted standards for heavy-duty diesel trucks and buses. They would reduce dangerous emissions from bulldozers, tractors, irrigation equipment and other diesel-powered machines that for decades have been held to a weaker standard than on-road vehicles.

While debates over air quality have often focused on automobiles, many environmentalists and scientists have grown worried about the health threat from off-road diesels. The Bush administration took note, and some environmentalists hailed yesterday's announcement as a major step toward saving lives and improving health.

The proposal is "the biggest public health step since lead was removed from gasoline more than two decades ago," said Richard Kassel, senior attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
After power plants, off-road diesel engines are among the largest sources of pollutants that scientists have linked to premature deaths, lung cancer, asthma and other serious upper respiratory illnesses, according to the EPA. Agency officials estimate that within 30 years, the new rule will prevent more than 9,600 premature deaths annually.

Administration officials have been leery of the cost-effectiveness of many environmental regulations, but the data provided by the EPA impressed even skeptical White House budget officials.
Officials concluded that the projected savings in lives and medical-related costs - more than $80 billion a year - would far outweigh the estimated $1.5 billion in annual increased costs to industry.

SEPP Comment: We will judge after they publish their cost-benefit analysis


8. Climate Change Skepticism on the Rise in Russia

Global warming skepticism seems to be increasing in Russia as that country wrestles with the decision of whether to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. Russia has become the linchpin in the Kyoto debate. Failure to ratify on Russia's part would prevent the treaty from coming into legal force.

The Moscow newspaper, Pravda, recently published a strongly worded article, entitled "Kyoto Protocol Is Not Worth a Thing," which questioned the wisdom of ratification. Another Russian newspaper, Nezavisimaya Gazeta, published an article written by two Russian climate scientists, Sergey Dobrovolsky and Vyacheslav Naydenov, entitled "The Warming That Never Existed."

The Pravda article highlighted the words of an ecologist who questioned global warming science. "This trouble is coming from the Russian Arkhangelsk region," according to Pravda. "This region is celebrated for it's... implementation of the Kyoto protocol. There was a briefing held there recently to discuss climate questions. Young ecologist Alexander Shalarev dared to say [what] Moscow scientists are afraid to say. He declared that there was actually no [manmade] greenhouse effect at all. Shalarev added that the Kyoto protocol was simply a far-fetched idea, a political action that was meant to show the 'care' for the climate of the Earth."

Pravda also noted that Shalarev believes that the Kyoto protocol was signed without adequate scientific analysis and in order to satisfy the political goals of a Democratic administration (as it was back in those days). He said that the Clinton administration loved grand ecological schemes with the maximum federal involvement. When a Republican administration was elected, the U.S. backed away from the Kyoto protocol.

Dobrovolsky and Naydenov are equally dismissive of the Kyoto Protocol. "We would like to mention that the Kyoto protocol was formally based on the [work of the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change].... However, neither the conclusions of that research, nor science as it is can support the measures of the Kyoto protocol." (Electricity Daily, April 14, 2003; Courtesy of Cooler Heads newsletter)



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