The Week That Was
September 27, 2003
1. New on the Web: THE FALLACY OF HUBBERT'S PEAK - another manifestation of Malthusianism










2. The fallacy of oil tariffs

Letter to The Weekly Standard (published Sept. 1, 2003)

In discussing the financing of the Iraq operations, Irwin M. Stelzer ("A Foreign Policy Worth Paying For," TWS, 18 Aug. 2003) proposes the imposition of a $5-per-barrel tax on imported oil. While it would certainly please the powerful ethanol lobby, this tax is nothing but a tariff, and as such goes counter to policies of free trade. It would surely also lead to the imposition of a "windfall profit " tax on domestic producers and to political pressures for exemptions for stripper wells, Canadian tar-sands oil, and synthetic motor fuels. In other words, it would open the proverbial can of worms.

A far better scheme for raising revenues might be a sizeable increase in the federal tax on gasoline and other motor fuels, including diesel and ethanol. This would not only lower the level of oil imports, but also reduce driving and traffic congestion, and raise the demand for more fuel-efficient cars. It might even force SUVs off the roads, at least for commuting to work. And it would certainly please those who are concerned about global warming and sustainability of resources.

On the other hand, there may be a case for putting a different kind of import fee on the books, even though likely to remain unexercised. A variable fee - not a fixed tariff -- to establish a floor price for imported oil would guard against price manipulation by OPEC that drops the price for a short period only, say to $10 a barrel, but long enough to damage US oil production permanently.
Former deputy assistant secretary of Interior and co-author of "Free Market Energy"

3. The fallacy of bio-diesel fuel: Letter from a SEPP reader.

Here in Minnesota, the plants that produce ethanol pollute the surrounding atmosphere, forcing residents to move away. Clearly it is a negative political program for everyone except the large industrial farms that receive a subsidy. (You can no longer use the "save the family-farm" rhetoric since those farms are gone).

However, ethanol is not the end of it. Now they are promoting bio-diesel fuel, an even more dubious fuel. Here is my analysis of the bill that passed in Minnesota last year:
The Bill: Bio-diesel Mandate SF 1495 Murphy

This bill mandates that a bio-diesel fuel mixture of 2% by volume be sold in Minnesota by June 30, 2005. It exempts railroad locomotives, taconite and copper mining equipment, and motors at an electric generating plant regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The bill reimburses 80% of conversion costs accrued by bio-diesel fuel producers.
Vote: Senate: 53-11 Page 5252, House: 78-53 Page 6903
Bio-diesel fuel is made from animal and vegetable oils such as cooking grease, animal fat, and soybeans. Bio-diesel fuel (100%) can reduce toxic air pollution by 50% as compared to conventional diesel fuel.

A 20% mixture can run in all conventional diesel engines with little noticeable effect and reduce air pollutants by about 10%. The 2% quantity mandated in this bill will only reduce air pollution about 1%, a negligible amount for large state expenditures in reimbursing producers.

Bio-diesel fuel is more expensive than conventional diesel fuel. The amounts of feedstock available for the production of the 20% mixture of bio-diesel would not be available; making it unlikely that significant environmental impact could be realized. However, the 2% mandate would make bio-diesel a great market for soybean growers and recycling restaurant grease.

Further, the exemption of state-subsidized industries from the use of bio-diesel would give state industries an unfair financial advantage over private industry, and it would lead to state support for public pollution at a level higher than it allows for private industry.

We conclude that the bill is basically an agricultural subsidy, to be borne both by the taxpayer and the purchasers of diesel fuel, and will have little environmental impact. Further it undermines the productivity of a fair and competitive market. As such, it is not in the public interest.


4. New Research Questions Dioxin Assumptions:

New research emerging from the Dioxin 2003 conference raises questions about the potential carcinogenicity of dioxin and could challenge conventional assumptions that underlie EPA's draft dioxin reassessment and a host of other environmental policies. According to an article in BNA, the model shows that the rate of which TCDD is eliminated depends on the amount of chemical in the human body, in contrast to the prevailing assumption that TCDD is eliminated at a constant rate. Studies conducted by Exponent®, a widely recognized team of scientific consultants for businesses and government agencies, show that at high body levels, humans eliminate from their bodies traces of dioxin (2,3,7,8-TCDD-the most toxic of the dioxin compounds) more than three to five times faster than previously thought. Co-authors of the findings include researchers from the University of Montreal, University Milano and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC )


5. Industry Pushes Revised Classification of Cancer-Causing Chemicals:

Industry officials are urging EPA to revise the terms it uses to classify the cancer-causing potential of chemicals in an effort to reduce toxic tort claims, stop over-regulation, and limit public misperceptions. According to Chemical Policy Alert, many in the chemical industry have raised concerns that the current descriptor phrases, taken out of context, could be misused or misunderstood by both regulators and the public. EPA cancer classifications are often cited by state officials and other countries in setting air, waste and water regulations or exposure limits. CropLifeAmerica has recommended that "carcinogenic to humans" be rephrased as "known or presumed to be carcinogenic to humans" and "suggestive evidence of carcinogenic potential" be rephrased as "possibly carcinogenic to humans." However, environmental groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council want to see the classifications move in an opposite direction, with the removal of the classification of "not likely to be carcinogenic."


6. White House Proposes Reviews for Studies on New Regulations:

Starting next year, the White House budget office plans to require government agencies to employ panels of independent experts to review the quality of scientific analyses used in developing regulations. The Office of Management and Budget will propose a standardized process that requires all agencies each year to list planned scientific studies and describe how each will be reviewed. The "adequacy" of the plans would then be reviewed and those with the most potential impact on regulations will be subjected to a more comprehensive review. The goal of the new regulations, which will go into effect next February, is to reduce the number of lawsuits and provide a more consistent regulatory environment, reported the New York Times. Scientists and officials at scientific organizations have been generally supportive of the idea, as long as the review process remains independent of politics. Some scientists, however, are skeptical that such a separation of peer review and policy is possible.


7. EPA lifts ban on selling PCB sites:

The Bush administration has ended a 25-year-old ban on the sale of land polluted with PCBs. According to an internal memo issued last month, EPA has decided the ban is "an unnecessary barrier to redevelopment (and) may actually delay the clean-up of contaminated properties". The memo says the change is needed to resolve cases in which buyers want to clean up PCB-contaminated sites that are owned by people who lack the money or ability to do it. As reported in USA Today, the policy shift does not affect cleanup standards and liability rules for PCB sites, although some environmental groups have expressed concern that the rule change will make it more difficult to monitor ongoing cleanup efforts. The full article is available at
Contact: David Fischer, 703-741-5179.


8. U.S. Cancer Deaths Decline:

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, death rates from cancer are declining, and the number of new cases is leveling off -- solid progress that appears to be the result of longstanding national efforts at prevention, screening and early treatment. The new Annual Report to the Nation on the Status of Cancer, 1975-2000, shows that after increases during the 1970s and 1980s, the death and incidence rates for most cancers declined steadily throughout the 1990s and have now begun to level off. While the study did show increases in the incidence rates for breast and prostate cancers, according to USA Today, researchers believe the jump is due to increases and improvements in screenings, such as mammograms, rather than an actual increase in cases. The complete story is available at


9. Fighting enviro whackos: Suggestions from a TWTW-SEPP subscriber. We solicit more

We are in a street fight with the enviro-whackos. Within the restraints of decorum, there still exist ways to get combative:

1) Insist on using ALLEGED Global Warming (AGW) as the generic designator of the "Kyoto Issue". NEVER allow 'global warming' to stand alone, as if it were a fact.

(I got extreme joy, sometime after your [SFS] appearance with Brit Hume (on Fox News) when, in a group discussion, he interrupted [columnist] Mort Kondracke with, "Don't you mean ALLEGED global warming?")

It would be neat if research reports would use AGW as casually as ENSO or THC.

DESTROY the ability to create headlines such as "Global Warming shown to cause XXXX"

2) (A bumper sticker?)
CO2 is NOT a dirty word.

If you believe in cutting CO2 emissions, keep holding your breath!

All the sun-power and chlorophyll on earth won't grow food --- without CO2.

CO2 guilty of an alleged warming crime? Where's the smoking gun?
Weather satellites say there is no warming

CO2 is a greenhouse gas, but so is Water Vapor - and much more so. Let's stop evaporation from the oceans!



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