The Week That Was April 6-12, 1998

A weekly update from the Science and Environmental Policy Project

Oregon, the state that leads the nation in legalizing assisted suicide (with a little help from your friendly physician), has also jumped the gun on the rest of the United States of America by setting state standards for mitigation of carbon dioxide from fossil-fuel burning. Power-plant developers, to gain state approval, must offset CO2 emissions by at least 17% below the most efficient plant in operation. We have no idea how Oregon arrived at this magic figure; it may involve the use of higher mathematics beyond the ken of ordinary mortals.

Anyway, the Oregon Energy Facility Siting Council has just approved the Hermiston Power Project, which managed to meet the stringent state standard with a payment of $3.6 million to the Oregon Climate Trust, a non-profit environmental group. We're not exactly sure how the Trust was selected (competitive bidding?) or what it plans to do with the money. We do suggest that Oregon ratepayers, who are footing the bill, find out just how their money is spent and whether it will lead to any CO2 reduction. Meanwhile, industry might want to take another look at operating costs in Oregon and perhaps consider moving to where energy costs are less. And the rest of us might learn something from this exercise in enforcing the Kyoto Accord on climate change.

While on the subject of CO2, we saw a news item on a speech by an Enron Corporation official who wants strict limits on heavy-fossil-fuel-burning plant emissions, meaning perhaps that natural gas sold by Enron should take the place of coal. But since the Reuter report (3/24) comes from a conference on climate change supposedly held in Brussels, Germany, the rest of the story may be of dubious accuracy also.

Still, everyone has an axe to grind when it comes to implementing the Kyoto Accord. Developing countries oppose the U.S. proposal for emissions trading (which Enron would like to administer) because it would allow wealthy countries to evade energy rationing by buying their way out. And they all oppose the Canadian plan to use agricultural soils to absorb CO2: too easy; not enough suffering. But stolid Germany plods along and actually talks of really drastic cuts. With the European Union likely to enact mandatory emission caps, Germany wants to lead the pack by cutting CO2 as much as 25% below the 1990 level. German industry seems resigned to it all and unwilling to fight, but is just hoping for "flexibility." They might try prayer instead -- and so should we all: "Oh Lord, forgive them, for they know not what they signed in Kyoto."

Of course, the German government hasn't let on yet just how they'll achieve these drastic reductions. Perhaps they should take a leaf from the White House, which is doing it by stealth. Not daring to submit the Kyoto accord to the Senate -- where it would go down in flames -- Al Gore's minions are using various administrative and regulatory measures. The EPA is trying to label CO2 a pollutant -- under the guise of the Clean Air Act legislation. The Clinton budget submitted last February proposes to spend $6.3 billion on projects and subsidies designed to win over skeptical industries and consumers. Several federal agencies are bleeding off money from Congressionally authorized climate research into public relations ventures -- 18(!) regional workshops, no less -- to brainwash the American public into accepting the existence of global warming and convincing citizens that CO2 emissions pose a credible threat to welfare and health. (What's happened to Congressional oversight and appropriation committees?)

But here's at least one member of the public enjoying the warm weather in Boston, as shown on NBC TV-News on March 31: "I love El Nino and I love greenhouse warming."

Of course, El Nino has no obvious connection to greenhouse warming; it's a natural climate fluctuation that's been going on forever and ever. But since it's human nature to blame weather events on some kind of human intervention, here's our favorite candidate cause for the destructive features of the recent El Nino: "It's all the result of the French atomic tests in the Pacific -- yes, the French are to blame." Many of our friends seem to like this bit of fiction, particularly when they remember how bad weather in the 1960's was generally blamed on US atomic tests.

We don't want to leave El Nino without noting how climate models failed to forecast it, how they told us it would end by Xmas of 1997, and how they now predict its demise by the summer of 1998. Well, if their high-powered, coupled-atmosphere-ocean, 3-dimensional, general circulation models can't hack it for El Nino, how can we rely on them for climate forecasts 100 years into the future?

Gotta do more research on interactions of ocean circulation and the atmosphere, teleconnections, and all the rest. Somehow these climate models will have to be validated first before we build a complicated framework of regulations on a basis of sand --or is it jelly?

More on the subject of regulation next week...

TW^2 is compiled by SEPP staff.

Material presented on this home page constitutes opinion of the author.
Copyright © 1998 Steven J. Milloy. All rights reserved. Site developed and hosted by WestLake Solutions, Inc.