The Week That Was
November 29, 2003


1. New on the Web: WITH THE KYOTO PROTOCOL DYING OR DEAD, THERE ARE STILL SCHEMES BEING COOKED UP TO IMPLEMENT SOME FORMS OF EMISSION CONTROL. Fred Singer presents a critical review of the latest such effort, the Stewart-Wiener book Reconstructing Climate Policy: Beyond Kyoto










2. Democrats Consider REACH System for U.S.

[On 29 October, the European Commission adopted a proposal for a new EU regulatory framework for chemicals subject to some minor text clarifications suggested by the Legal Linguists. Under the proposed new system called REACH (Registration, Evaluation and Authorisation of CHemicals), enterprises that manufacture or import more than one tonne of a chemical substance per year would be required to register it in a central database.]

Several influential Democrats in Congress, including Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), are rumored to be considering a legislative overhaul of U.S. toxics law based on the controversial EU REACH proposal. Democrats in both the House and the Senate may introduce legislation next year that would overhaul the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to align the law with the EU's policy. According to Chemical Policy Alert, some lawmakers are waiting to see how the legislation, which has been heavily criticized by Administration and industry officials, will play out in the EU. The consideration of a REACH-like bill would confirm fears that the EU legislation will set a precedent in global chemical regulation. "There's good reason to think the EU will work to push [REACH] on everyone else," says an industry official. Senior aides in the California legislature also have indicated they would consider state legislation resembling REACH.

In the meantime, the earlier version of REACH is being scaled back by the EU because it would unduly crimp European competitiveness. Instead of toxicological and environmental testing of 30,000 chemicals, the latest draft would apply only to chemicals produced in amounts greater than 10 tons. But some 1500 chemicals -- including brominated flame-retardants, phtalates used as plastic softeners, and perfluorinated compounds - might be banned altogether.

3. Industry to Present Environmental Concerns to Schwarzenegger:

A coalition of industry groups is drafting an environmental briefing paper for Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (R) that is expected to raise concerns about the state's environmental justice initiative and seek new incentives for brownfields cleanups. The so-called Thursday Group -- which includes representatives from the manufacturing, agricultural, petroleum, aerospace, building and biotechnology industries --is expected to present a briefing paper to Schwarzenegger officials within the next two weeks that will provide the emerging administration with recommended guidelines on a number of issues, Chemical Policy Alert reported. These issues include: the proposed use of the "precautionary principle" by California's Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA); general regulatory reform; plastics waste management and recycling provisions being considered by the California Integrated Waste Management Board; the industrial waste classification for treated wood; potential indoor air quality regulations; and brownfield redevelopment and funding.

4. Government peer review of scientific reports

The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA -- John Graham, director) has proposed extensive new peer-review procedures for scientific reports from regulatory agencies. The Sept 15 Federal Register calls for a mandatory external peer review in order to alleviate potential conflicts of interest and reduce the number of lawsuits challenging regulations, which make use of the Data Quality Act of 2001.

The proposed standards would apply to research conducted by federally employed scientists or grantees. It is likely therefore to cover also federally funded research on climate change - a politically charged issue. Publication in a peer-reviewed journal might be sufficient to satisfy the proposed standards; but one could imagine challenges to such published papers since publication by itself is no guarantee of correctness.

The public comment period ends Dec 15. The final standards are likely to be issued in spring 2004.
SEPP Comment: Peer review for journal publication is generally not sufficient for basing wide-reaching public policies. We have many examples of published work that could not be replicated and was later proven to be wrong. A recent example is the "hockeystick" paper that was shown to be in error after a detailed audit of the underlying data. (see references in

5. Germany Starts Historic Nuclear Shutdown

STADE, Germany (AP) -- Germany disconnected the first of its 19 nuclear power stations this month, beginning an unprecedented phase-out that underscores differences between some European nations and the United States on securing future energy supplies.
Technicians at a 32-year-old nuclear plant at Stade near Hamburg switched it off forever at about 8:30 a.m.

Germany is the first major industrialized nation to renounce the technology. Under a deal negotiated after years of wrangling between the government and power-company bosses, all Germany's nuclear reactors are to close by 2020.

The plant's closing sparked celebrations among the environmentalist Greens, the junior party in Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's government. "The Stade nuclear power plant was an expensive dead end," Environment Minister Juergen Trittin said before Greens party colleagues at a champagne reception in a Berlin art museum. "Nuclear energy has no future in Germany."

Governments on both sides of the Atlantic are currently grappling with how to diversify their energy sources and reduce their reliance on crude oil from the Middle East. But while President Bush has sought to promote nuclear power and eyed untapped oil reserves in Alaska, many European nations are looking to gas and renewable sources such as wind and solar power.

The German phase-out deal, long-sought by the country's anti-nuclear lobby, imposes a limit of 32 years on the average operational life of nuclear plants, and bans reactor construction.
Nuclear power provides nearly one-third of Germany's electricity. The government argues that eliminating it will spur utilities to spend billions on new, cleaner-burning gas generators as well as wind turbines and solar panels.

Trittin claimed the longer operating life of reactors in countries such as the United States, which has over 100 licensed nuclear plants, was economically shortsighted. "That doesn't secure supplies, it just blocks necessary investments (in non-nuclear energy sources)," he told German television.
In Europe, countries such as Sweden and the Netherlands have also begun phasing out their nuclear plants. Austria mothballed a planned reactor before it opened, and Italy and Denmark also have come out against nuclear power.

Not all European countries have joined the trend, though. France relies heavily on nuclear energy - its 58 nuclear reactors provide more than three-quarters of the country's electricity. Finland is planning to build a new nuclear plant, its second, and Soviet-designed plants are still key generators in several eastern European countries.

Some German observers say the slow pace of the phase-out means it could be reversed. Opposition conservatives have pledged to scrap the anti-nuclear legislation should they return to power, a policy that has support of many industry leaders.

Walter Hohlefelder, the head of utility giant E.On, the Stade plant's operator, said its closure could prove to be "just an episode" in a more complicated story. "We should keep the option of nuclear power open."

Plans call for the 660-megawatt Stade plant to be torn down starting 2005, after spent nuclear fuel rods are removed and sent to France for reprocessing. Demolition work is expected to take up to 12 years. Since Germany has no reprocessing plants, spent fuel from its power plants is sent to France and Britain for treatment. But the radioactive waste returns to Germany for storage, triggering regular protests by anti-nuclear activists.
A German Report:

Nuclear reactor Stade was turned off on Nov 11, against the wishes of the local population. Local branches of both major parties, CDU and SPD, tried to stop the action, the Green party having lost votes. Experts claim that the technology is safe and that the reactor could have operated till 2019. Industries that had located in the area (incl Dow Chemical) may lose out and leave. Akzo has already left.
France has set the goal of a European Pressurized Water Reactor (EPR), which Finland will put into operation in 2009, France in 2012. After benefiting from this experience, they will start mass production.

6. China oil consumption soars

The International Energy Agency reports that in 2004 China will surpass Japan as the world's second-largest consumer of oil -after the US. China's demand will rise to 5.7 million barrels a day, accounting for some 30% of the world's increase during 2003. During 2004, world consumption is expected to be 79.7 mbd, the Paris-based IEA estimates.

7. Problems for Hydrogen Technology

A New York Times article on November 12 pointed out that, "Even some hydrogen advocates say that use of hydrogen could instead make the air dirtier and the globe warmer."

The paper points out that the most cost-effective way to produce hydrogen involves the burning of coal, rather than using renewable energy sources, and quoted Ronald Kenedi, Managing Director of Sharp Solar, as saying, "It seems like hydrogen is the buzz word right now, with the president talking about it, and maybe putting some money towards it. But the first stop on the hydrogen trail will be coal."

According to the article, carbon dioxide emissions are a problem: "According to the Energy Department, an ordinary gasoline-powered car emits 374 grams of carbon dioxide per mile it is driven, counting the energy used to make the gasoline and deliver it to the service station, and the emissions of the vehicle itself. The same car powered by a fuel cell would emit nothing, but if the energy required to make the hydrogen came from the electric grid, the emissions would be 436 grams per mile, 17 percent worse than the figure for gasoline."

The Times also found the cost problematic: "Reuel Shinnar, a professor of chemical engineering at City College of New York, reviewing the options for power production and fuel production, concluded in a recent paper, 'A hydrogen economy is at least twice as expensive as any other solution.'"

8. More problems with hydrogen
Phil Chapman reports:

Hydrogen exists in two forms, called ortho- and para- (in one, the spins of the 2 hydrogen nuclei (protons) in the molecule are parallel, and anti-parallel in the other). At room temperature, 75% of H2 molecules are ortho, and 25% are para. At the boiling point, however (-253 C), the equilibrium is 0.3% ortho and 99.7% para. If you simply liquefy hydrogen, the liquid is unstable, as the 75% ortho converts to para. This is an exothermic process, releasing 50% more heat per mole than the heat of vaporization. In other words, the liquid boils, without any external heat input. The tank will explode, or vent, both of which are disasters.

To prevent this happening, it is essential to convert the ortho hydrogen to the para form during liquefaction. Various catalysts can be used for this purpose, but it complicates the process. We are not going to see hydrogen liquefied at your friendly local gas station, whether it is produced locally by electrolysis or arrives as a gas by pipeline, because the equipment is too expensive and requires too much care and because the process is too dangerous.

It is impractical to ship liquid hydrogen over any significant distance by pipeline (the insulation requirement is prohibitive, because of the surface area of the pipe). Thus the hydrogen must be delivered to the station as a liquid, by a refrigerated tank truck. Such a truck is an immense bomb, much more dangerous than a tank truck of gasoline. NIMBY, guys, NIMBY.

Hydrogen is not a liquid above its critical temperature, which is -240 C, no matter what the pressure (that's what critical temperature means). An automobile using it thus requires a very well insulated tank, or perhaps a cryogenic refrigerator on board. If you don't have a refrigerator, you can't park your car in your garage, because any heat making it through the insulation will cause boil-off. The gas is explosive in air in all concentrations from 5% to 95% by volume. Goodbye, house.

It is very difficult to prevent hydrogen leaks, and they are very explosive, so I for one would not go anywhere near a gas station where consumers or ordinary gas jockeys were transferring the liquid into cars. Goodbye, gas station.

The density of liquid H2 is only about 0.07 gm/cc (depending somewhat on the temperature), 10 times less than gasoline, but burning a kilo of H2 produces about 25% more energy than burning a kilo of gasoline. This means that, everything else being equal (engine efficiency, etc), the volume of the fuel tank on a hydrogen-powered car will have to be about 8 times that of the tank on gasoline-powered car, for the same range. Goodbye, trunk.

If the giant LH2 tank in your car is ruptured in a collision, the result will be a shockwave and fireball that could destroy everything within hundreds of meters. I suppose this means that we can save on ambulance and funeral expenses, since there will be nothing left of the people involved.

This whole idea is so ludicrous that I cannot believe it is serious. Could the hydrogen-powered car, like global warming, be just one more attempt to solve a non-problem by imposing costs on the US economy (so as to make capitalism less conspicuously successful, compared to socialist disasters around the world)?

If we want to free ourselves from dependence on foreign oil, we can drill in ANWR. If we don't want to do that, we can convert cars quite easily to natural gas, of which we and Canada have copious supplies. If we want to avoid nitrogen oxides and other pollutants, we can manufacture saturated hydrocarbons such as methane (CH4) or (better) propane (C3H8) from natural gas, from coal, or from CO2 and hydrogen. Propane is storable as a liquid at room temp, as for a gas barbeque. Its density is 0.53 gm/cc, about 2/3 that of gasoline, so it needs a tank about 50% larger (for the same range).

Burning saturated hydrocarbons makes water and CO2, which in my opinion is a Good Thing. There is no evidence that global warming exists; if it does, it will improve the world climate, making northern winters more tolerable, freeing lots of arable land in Canada and Siberia (as the permafrost retreats), and delaying the inevitable reversion to the next Ice Age. There is no evidence, however, that anthropogenic CO2 makes any significant difference to climate trends, but increased CO2 is unequivocally good for agriculture and the greening of the planet. CO2 is not a pollutant; it is plant food, as essential as oxygen to all life.

If however we worry about the greenhouse, we can make propane from hydrogen and atmospheric or anthropogenic CO2. In that case, powering cars with propane would produce no net releases of CO2. The power needed to make these fuels can come from nuclear power plants or solar power.

Dr. Phil Chapman is a former NASA scientist-astronaut and a systems engineer with extensive experience in many areas of research and technical management. He was awarded the British Polar Medal for services in Antarctica.

9. How to Spot an Eco-wacko: Gordon Prather tells us how

It's relatively easy to distinguish authentic, card-carrying eco-wackos from sane citizens, even those citizens concerned about the possibility of global warming. Upon encountering a suspected eco-wacko - someone running around in circles of diminishing radii, screaming something incoherent about the earth going to hell in a wheelbarrow if mankind doesn't quit burning fossil fuels by Tuesday of next week - apply this simple test: Keeping at a safe distance - he might turn out to be an ordinary citizen, frightened out of his tree by the media elite, but he might also be a dangerous eco-wacko - ask him to sign a petition urging an immediate shift from fossil fuels to nuclear power as a solution to the global-warming problem.

If he is really concerned about global warming, allegedly caused by man's burning of fossil fuels, if he's basically sane and can appreciate the fact that nuclear power is the only viable alternative to coal, oil and natural gas, and if he quits circling long enough to sign - even if reluctantly - the "Go Nuclear" petition, then he is not an eco-wacko. If, on the other hand, he gets even more hysterical and not only refuses to sign the "Go Nuclear" petition but perhaps even tries to choke you for suggesting it, then you have definitely found an authentic, card-carrying eco-wacko.

10. No TWTW on December 6. We will be in Milan, briefing delegates to COP-9 and press on the follies of global warming scares and Kyoto protocol.


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