The Week That Was
July 5, 2003

1. New on the Web: Well, not exactly new. But this report of 5 years ago on MITIGATION OF CLIMATE CHANGE has stood the test of time very well. The Full Study is Available in PDF Format <>









2. Energy Bill May Be New Battleground for Chemical Security:

According to Chemical Policy Alert, Senator Corzine is looking to attach his proposed chemical security legislation to a pending comprehensive energy bill slated for Senate review. However, the Inhofe legislation, originally scheduled for committee review in May, has not yet gone to markup because there was not enough support. Inhofe has been trying to negotiate a consensus on whether facilities would be required to submit to the government the vulnerability assessments that are mandated both by his and Corzine's chemical security bills. Congressional aides say that while negotiations in the Senate Environment Committee over chemical security have stalled, Corzine's intention to attach his bill to the energy legislation could be the spark that committee lawmakers need in order to reach a compromise. Industry and congressional sources say that the Senate floor debate on the energy bill will likely begin after the July 4 recess.


3. A Toxin Twist: Hormesis
Bangor Daily News (Maine) February 20, 2003

A theory asserting that very low doses of many toxins are, in fact, beneficial has been around for several years and, while embraced by some, is viewed either as an interesting idea or doubted entirely by many toxicologists. But the theory, called hormesis, arrived for public consideration this week through the publication of a commentary in the highly respected journal Nature. If the theory is true, it would dramatically change the way scientists view risk from chemical exposure.

Edward J. Calabrese and Linda A. Baldwin, members of the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, wrote the Nature commentary called "Toxicology rethinks its central belief." They say the traditional ways of viewing risk as increasing linearly from either an initial presence of a toxin or from a threshold level is wrong. Instead, they say that low levels of dioxin, saccharin, X-rays and various gamma ray sources, for instance, actually reduce tumors in some species - that is to say, improve health. There is more: "Some anti-tumor agents (for example, suramin) that inhibit cell proliferation at high doses, where they may be clinically effective, become like a partial agonist at lower doses, where they enhance cell proliferation" - increasing the likelihood of tumors.

From other reports, examples of hormesis include reports that that those exposed to low doses of radon through granite house foundations have lower rates of lung cancer than those who have not been exposed. Low levels of toxic metals like cadmium and mercury are reported to promote the growth of marine algae. And very low doses of arsenic are said to have been shown to induce cell-protection mechanisms.

The implication of this work is enormous because it would mean that the way the nation's top regulators view risk would be changed. Instead of a straight line of increasing risk as the dose increases, hormesis produces a U- or J-shaped line with the dip down representing opposite effects of that expected, then returning to the expected reaction as the dose increased. As the authors point out, their theory "challenges the belief and use of low-dose linearity in estimating cancer risks, and emphasizes that there are thresholds for carcinogens. The economic implications of this are substantial." The last sentence is a monumental understatement - it could change carcinogen thresholds, certainly, and could also change how industry discharges are regulated and how pollutant cleanups are ordered.


4. What Global Warming? asks Russian Leader

By Sergei Blagov

MOSCOW, Jun 13 (IPS) The Russian government is having second thoughts about signing the Kyoto Protocol, which intends to reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.

Russia must weigh it pros and cons carefully before ratifying the Kyoto protocol, President Vladimir Putin's chief economic adviser Andrei Illarionov told journalists in Moscow earlier this month. "There are several important questions which are yet to be answered," he said. "There have been no serious studies confirming that global warming is taking place."

The third International Conference on Climate Change is due in Moscow in September, but it is not clear now what position Russia will take. "We are going to find out what is really going on this planet -- warming or cooling," Yury Izrael, chair of the organising committee for the conference said in a statement.

"The most important issue is whether ratifying the Kyoto protocol would improve the climate, stabilise it or make it worse," Izrael said. "This is not very clear."

Environmentalists have been taken aback by these remarks. "We believe that ratifying the Kyoto protocol would be beneficial for Russia in terms of protecting the environment and developing the country's economy," Yevgeny Schwartz, head of conservation programmes at WWF in Russia told IPS.

The September conference is likely to become "quite lively" in the face of the Russian position, Schwartz said. The conference is expected to bring 1,200 participants from 52 countries. Scientists have submitted more than 500 reports to the conference.

Signed in December 1997 in Kyoto, Japan, the Protocol to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change sought a 5 percent reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide and methane in industrialised nations from 1990 levels.

The Kyoto protocol as it came to be called, would take effect if nations that account for at least 55 percent of the 1990 emissions levels ratify the treaty. The European Union, other European states and Japan -- which are expected to ratify the protocol -- account for 39 percent. The U.S. walked away from the Kyoto protocol two years ago. Russia's share is 17 percent and ratification by Russia would mean that the Kyoto protocol could become effective straightaway.

Earlier pledges indicated that Russia would ratify the protocol soon. Putin said that Russia was "inclined" to approve it. Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov told the World Summit on Sustainable Development in South Africa last year that "ratification would take place in the very near future."

The United States argued that the protocol is too expensive to implement.. President George W. Bush rejected the pact in March 2001, saying it would adversely affect the U.S. economy. The United States accounts for about 35 percent of the world's carbon dioxide emissions.

Russia was among earlier supporters of the protocol who accused the U.S. of undermining the international drive against global warming. In the wake of U.S. withdrawal from the Kyoto Protocol, Russia's role was seen as increasingly important.

Russian officials now seem to echo the U.S. argument. Illarionov said there was still no idea what it would cost to implement the protocol. "I'm not sure that Russia can afford to spend what the U.S., the richest country on earth, cannot afford," he said.

Russia had expected earlier to benefit from the treaty. Its supporters had tentatively proposed setting up a market where countries could sell unused pollution quotas to defaulting nations that pollute more. The trade in emission quotas was designed to reward clean industries and to serve as an incentive for polluting industries to invest in environment-friendly technologies.

Russia did not expect to use all of its polluting quota under the Kyoto deal, because Russian industry now produces only about half as much as it used to in the late 1980s. This has led to a 30 percent drop in emissions since 1990.

Russia had hoped to earn anywhere from 500 million dollars to four billion dollars a year by selling emission quotas to other countries, according to the energy ministry. But the U.S. withdrawal from the treaty came as a blow to these plans because the U.S. was expected to be a major buyer on the quota market..

Illarionov now says an expected industrial upturn could cut the country's unused emissions quota, and Russia may even have to end up as a buyer of quotas if the protocol came into effect.



5. Offshore Wind power faces insurance problems

Re-insurer Munich Re sees big problems ahead for offshore wind power: Damage to underwater cabling by ship anchors; damage to foundations by wave action; collision with ships that have lost steering; corrosive marine climate; repair problems and delays during high sea state.. (HAZ 26.5.03)


6. New Zealand's Methane Gas Tax: Two Reports

As reported in the New York Times June 21, 2003
Farmers reacted angrily to a government proposal to tax the flatulence emitted by their cattle and sheep in an effort to reduce the nation's contribution to global warming. Last year New Zealand signed the Kyoto Protocol, agreeing to reduce greenhouse gases. Livestock emissions of methane and nitrous oxide, caused by the complex process of digesting grass, account for more than half the country's greenhouse gases, and the government wants the tax to help pay for research on the emissions. It would cost the average farmer up to $300 a year. Tom Lambie, the president of Federated Farmers, told The New Zealand Herald that the tax was unfair. "As far as I'm aware, we're the only country in the world to impose a levy like this," he said.


As reported in Space Daily, 21 June 2003

A tax on farting, belching livestock to be introduced by New Zealand to help combat global warming is creating a stink among the country's farmers.

Methane emissions created by grass-munching cows, sheep, deer and goats are believed to account for about half of New Zealand's emissions of greenhouse gases.

Now the country is attempting to clear the air by introducing a levy on pungent emissions by mid-2004. The tax will fund a new Agriculture Emissions Research body to meet commitments to the Kyoto Protocol global environment agreement.


7. The Burning Debate over Ethanol
Letter by Howard Hayden

I have a little trouble believing that Ken Silverstein (UtilityPoint/IssueAlert) is as naive about ethanol as he appears.

In the first place, most of the ethanol used in the world comes from petroleum, not from corn or any other farm product. (I exclude alcoholic beverages from this discussion.)

In the second place, the production of ethanol from biomass requires more energy input (usually from petroleum products) than the ethanol contains. That is, ethanol is a net consumer of energy. (There are claims that with the most efficient stills, and if one includes the energy in the dried biomass [that could be burned] that results, there is a net 24% gain. This is the strongest claim that EtOH advocates can actually make.)

Silverstein: "Meanwhile, Michael Graboski of the Colorado School of Mines who was hired by corn farming interests, says that Pimentel's investigation uses obsolete farming and ethanol processing statistics. Corn-to-ethanol production is now far more efficient, which means the fuel additive results in less energy consumed and therefore a cleaner environment." Numbers, please!

Third, the production of ethanol from (say) corn requires a huge amount of land. If you ignored the energy that needed to be used to produce ethanol from corn, the gross yield is about 0.2 watts (thermal) per square meter (800 watts thermal per acre). By comparison, wind farms produce about 5000 watts of electricity per acre, albeit of the lowest quality power on the planet.

Fourth, the entire ethanol-from-biomass scenario exists only because of massive subsidies. According to James Bovard, "Archer Daniels Midland: A Case Study In Corporate Welfare" (Policy Analysis #241, Cato Institute, September 26, 1995): "Every $1 of profits earned by ADM's corn sweetener operation costs consumers $10, and every $1 of profits earned by its ethanol operation costs taxpayers $30."

Fifth, a few years ago during the Clinton administration, the oil companies brought suit against the EPA, because the EPA, backed by ADM, was demanding that ethanol from corn be added as an oxygenate to gasoline. The oil companies wanted to use ethanol from petroleum. The Supreme Court (yes, it took the Supreme Court to stop the folly) ruled that while EPA could demand oxygenates, they could not legally specify where the product had to come from.

Sixth, modern engines are so well designed that oxygenates are no longer necessary. Moreover, the presence of oxygenates produces NOx, the stuff of brown smog. The easiest way to get brown smog out of the air in places like Denver and Phoenix is to ban oxygenates. (This information comes from Don Stedman, professor of chemistry at the University of Denver, who has invented a device for roadside exhaust testing of automobiles.) Howard Hayden


8. Kyoto quote of the day:

"Fact is, most greenhouse gases - which is what Kyoto is all about - leak from homes and apartment buildings. They leak out windows and doors, through attics, out cracks in the wall, from open, unused fireplaces."

Source ... the CBC!
Check it out:
Those internal combustion homes are the worst. How many miles does yours get per gallon?

PS No trees were killed in the sending of this E-mail message. However, a large number of electrons were terribly inconvenienced.



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