January 1998

Contact: Consumer Alert 202-467-5809

Members of the National Consumer Coalition today denounced the Presidents comments on global climate change issues in last nights State of the Union Address. Following are statements of several groups.

“President Clintons State of the Union comments on global warming vastly overstate scientific consensus on the issue while overlooking the enormous threat to American consumers of drastic cutbacks on energy use. The Kyoto agreement would require about a 40 percent reduction in energy use by 2012. Throwing away $6 billion of taxpayers money for magic bullets wont do a thing to diminish this consumer impact, which will be felt disproportionately by the poor.”

Frances B. Smith — Executive Director, Consumer Alert

“I urge the Congress to study the Kyoto Treaty and familiarize themselves with the scientific debate on this issue. There is not a consensus within the scientific community on the causes or effects of global warming, despite the administration claims of an overwhelming scientific consensus. Congress must be very cautious before it commits itself to any programs that will assist implementation of this treaty.”

— Grover G. Norquist — President, Americans for Tax Reform

“Clinton seeks to bribe American companies into jumping on the Kyoto bandwagon. Super accurate satellite records, spanning nearly twenty years, show no global warming; and the modest warming that may occur over the next century would likely boost agricultural output and produce milder weather. The Clinton R&D proposals energy-efficient appliances, solar panels, hybrid cars, and the like are nothing more than a phony, all gain, no pain energy diet. Federally-sponsored energy R&D, from Synfuels to electric cars, has been a spectacular history of boondoggle and failure. The climate treaty is a grand pretext for reviving centralized economic planning. The subsidies are obviously an effort to co-opt consumer and business opposition to the treaty.”

— Fred Smith — President, Competitive Enterprise Institute

“Once again President Clinton has proposed a wrath of new federal programs and initiatives which greatly expand both the size and scope of government. Most of these intrusive proposals will fall on the backs of small business and our workers. Whatever happened to the end of big government? And how come American taxpayers can afford these expensive new programs, but cant afford a well-deserved tax cut?”

— Karen Kerrigan — President, Small Business Survival Committee

“The Kyoto treaty will stifle the very free market forces that created this unprecedented period of economic growth and clean environment. Lets not continue to careen down an unknown path to an uncertain destination. The members of The Seniors Coalition, like the US Senate, oppose this Treaty and any programs that seek to implement it.”

— Thair Phillips — CEO, Seniors Coalition

The National Consumer Coalition is a non-profit, non-partisan consumer coalition representing over 4 million Americans.

GM Sells Out?

General Motors Corporation has announced that it will collaborate with The World Resources Institute “to identify measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions while protecting the economy.”

“Global climate policies that are both environmentally compatible and economically sound is our goal, and this initiative will explore these opportunities. We recognize WRI as an influential thought leader on environmental issues worldwide working toward balanced solutions,” said Dennis Minano, GM Vice-President of Public Policy and Chief Environmental Officer. The press release can be read at www.junkscience.com/news/gmwri.htm.

Critics of the move claim that GM’s goal should be to produce the best automobiles (i.e., that satisfy consumer wants) it can as efficiently (i.e., lowest cost) as it can not lending legitimacy to half-baked environmental scares. Industry should recognize that “collaborating” with environmental groups is a no win situation. Industry appears to be admitting to environmental crimes while giving environmental organizations greater credibility and emboldens their attack on industry.

Kyoto Will Hurt Corn Growers

The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) warns that the Kyoto Protocol will raise production costs and lower the incomes of America’s corn growers. A study by Sparks Cos. found that implementing the Kyoto Protocol would raise gasoline costs will rise by 33 percent, natural gas by 130 percent and coal by 500 percent, leading to an 8.5 percent increase in the cost of corn production and a 46 percent decrease in net farm income.

“Corn is one of the most costly crops to produce when you take into consideration the costs of inputs such as fertilizer, fuel and irrigation,” says ACGA president Gary Goldberg. “With these kinds of added expenses being placed upon the farmer, it is likely that corn growers will find other, less expensive crops to grow, such as soybeans, wheat or grain sorghum.”

Goldberg also points out that the Kyoto protocol could spell the end of the domestic corn-for-ethanol market. “Even though ethanol is a superior fuel to burn to help reduce global warming, U.S. corn-based ethanol will not be part of the mix,” he said. This is because ethanol production will likely shift to developing countries like Brazil which produces ethanol from sugar cane (Tulsa World, December 7, 1997).

No Stealth Implementation

Rep. David McIntosh, R-Ind., directed his Government Reform and Oversight regulatory subcommittee to send letters to the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, and the Council of Economic Advisors warning them not to try and implement the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate confirmation.

A subcommittee aide said, “We believe they have no authority to regulate when they can’t get a treaty through the Senate.” Any signs of “backdoor” implementation of the treaty could trigger oversight hearings, warns the aide (Greenwire, January 14, 1998).

Byrd-Hagel Split

Greenwire (January 14, 1998) reported that though Sens. Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), co-authors of the Senate resolution which required the Kyoto Protocol to include developing nations and to avoid economic harm, agree that the protocol as it now stands does not meet the conditions of the resolution. However, they do not agree about the validity of the science behind the climate change hypothesis.

Byrd believes that the Kyoto Protocol is a good start. Hagel on the other hand is currently crafting an opposition strategy. A staffer with the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee says that, “Hagel is going to try his damnedest to hold Byrd . . . but I don’t think Byrd is going to throw his support behind it, this time.”

Was 1997 the Hottest Year to Date?

In December 1997, just in time to influence the Kyoto treaty negotiations, the British Meteorological Office predicted that 1997 would be the warmest year on record. On January 8, 1998 the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) confirmed that, according to the ground-based temperature record, 1997 did reach record high global temperatures.

Temperatures taken from U.S. Weather satellites, however, indicate that 1997 was the 7th coolest year since satellite measurements began in 1979.

Though no further evidence regarding man’s influence on the climate has come to light some scientists are proclaiming that 1997’s global temperature shows once and for all that man is warming the planet. “For the first time, I feel confident in saying there’s a human component,” said Elbert W. Friday, Jr., a meteorologist with the NOAA (Washington Post, January 9, 1998). It is very difficult, however, to pin 1997’s warmer temperatures on manmade greenhouse gases.

El Nio is responsible for most of the warming experienced in 1997. Sea surface temperatures were very high this year due to El Nio conditions, but land air temperatures were well below record highs. This year’s El Nio began in the spring of 1997 and will run its course by spring 1998. Normally El Nio begins around Christmas and lasts two years. Forecasters are predicting that La Nia, which will cool temperatures significantly, will predominate in 1998 (www.elnino.noaa.gov).

The urban heat-island effect strongly influences the surface-based global temperature record. In a paper published in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society in 1989, Thomas R. Karl, senior scientist at the National Climate Data Center, corrected the U.S. surface temperatures for the urban heat-island effect and found that there has been a downward temperature trend since 1940. This suggests a strong warming bias in the surface-based temperature record.

Notably, climate change proponents have stopped short of adding the final nail. Though Tom Karl said, “We believe this tendency for increased global temperature is related to human activity,” he recognizes the influence of El Nio. “Whether it would have been the warmest year this century is a matter of debate, but it certainly would have been in the top 10,” said Karl. James Hansen, the director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies said that the slight increase in global temperature is “not really significant” in determining the human impact on global climate (New York Times, January 9, 1998).

Warming May Be Natural

The fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union (AGU) featured new papers which demonstrate the extent of uncertainty in climate science. Joyce Penner, a climate modeler at the University of Michigan and a noted contributor to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, presented her most recent findings. She has found that carbon and sulfur emissions can cool down the planet. “Whereas greenhouse gases have led to a warming of 2.5 Watts per meter squared (W/m2), aerosols like soot particles and sulfuric acid reflect nearly twice as much energy under certain conditions,” said Penner.

Carbon aerosols, she explains, add between 0.16 and 0.20 W/m2, warming the planet. But Penner’s latest simulations at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory show that carbon aerosols trapped in clouds may cool the earth’s atmosphere by as much as -4.4 W/m2 or a net decrease of 0.7 to 2.1 degrees C. Since the models rely on uncertain estimates for natural sources of aerosols the actual number for negative forcing could be as low as -2.4 W/m2.

“I had not expected to get such a large negative forcing from carbon aerosols in clouds. If these results hold up, we are going to have to do a lot more work to understand how climate might change in the future,” said Penner. According to Penner, if her findings are confirmed then “the warming we’ve seen over the last 100 years may simply be due to natural variability.” A January 8 news release reporting on Dr. Penner’s work can be found at www.umich.edu/~newsinfo/.

In another paper delivered at the AGU meeting, Harry Lins and James Slack of the U.S. Geological Survey reviewed U.S. flood records all the way back to 1914 and found no increase of flood activity. “We do not see any evidence of a change in large-scale national patterns,” says Lins.

Measuring Worldwide CO2

To implement the Kyoto Protocol scientists must figure out an acceptable way to measure carbon dioxide emissions. Scientists have not yet been able to locate the natural sink that absorbs about half of all carbon dioxide that enters the atmosphere. Some scientists think the ocean is the culprit while others believe it to be trees or soil. The bottom line is that scientists have very little understanding of natural sinks and it may be some time before they work out the details (Science, January 2, 1998).

Abrupt Climate Change

A new study in Nature (January 8, 1998) argues that there was an abrupt change in climate at the end of the Younger Dryas interval. Fractionated nitrogen and argon isotopes found in ice cores from Greenland have revealed that there was an abrupt warming about 11.6 thousand years ago. The warming (about 15 degrees C) occurred over a period of a few decades.


Somebody at the Calgary Herald is not happy about the Kyoto Protocol. Two articles appearing in the newspaper have lambasted the protocol. An article (January 8, 1998) in the business section titled, “Thank the U.S. for killing Kyoto,” begins, “Calgarians shivering in the dark in recent days have been getting a preview of what life would be like if last month’s disastrous international agreement to slash greenhouse gases were implemented.”

“The federal government’s treachery and breathtaking incompetence would not only leave us shivering in the dark, a lot of us would be out of work,” the article continues. “Take comfort in the fact that the absurd deal reached in Kyoto, Japan will never come to pass.” Article author Barry Nelson argues that the U.S. Senate will never ratify the treaty and Canada will follow suit. “The U.S. is saving us from ourselves,” says Nelson.

An editorial in the same edition titled, “Witch-doctor tactics won out at Kyoto” begins, “In primitive civilizations, political rulers sacrificed their people to mystical beliefs and deities. Egged on by priests or witch-doctors, the rulers ordered the construction of massive pyramids and temples with the blood, sweat and lives of their subservient masses. Mysticism served as an effective means of gaining and maintaining dictatorial power.”

“The recent UN Framework Conference on Climate Change in Kyoto indicates that nothing, in essence, has changed. Despite the fact that manmade global warming is an unsubstantiated hypothesis, the world’s political leaders worked frantically to reach a legally-binding treaty to cut greenhouse gas emissions, thus sacrificing our liberty and prosperity to environmentalist scaremongering.”

Natural climate fluctuations and changes in vegetation due to widespread human activities like grazing, deforestation and agriculture can make regions hotter and drier or cooler and wetter, say scientists.

Nearly 100 studies in recent years support the claim that improving the vegetation in drylands regions may cause significant cooling in some of the world’s hottest regions. In the eastern U.S., changes in land use may be overwhelming all other human effects, according to Gordon Bonan of the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo.

Among these studies’ findings:

  • Temperatures along the Mexican-American border between the states of Arizona and Sonora can be more than 8 degrees Celsius cooler on the undergrazed U.S. side than the overgrazed Mexican side.

  • The mean temperature on lands between the 10th and 50th northern latitudes warmed between 1901 and 1990 at a rate equal to 0.4 degrees C per century.

  • The warming rate has been greater in areas designated by the United Nations as overgrazed, 0.6 degrees C per century; whereas areas the U.N. designates as “not overgrazed” have warmed at a rate of only 0.3 degrees C per century.

  • Conversely, in the eastern U.S., the replacement of forests by agricultural crops has resulted in a 1.0 degree C cooling.

Thus some scientists say international efforts to rehabilitate vegetation on drylands, such as the Sahelian or sub-Saharan region of Africa, could significantly cool areas thought to be hotter due to global warming.

Source: Robert C. Balling (Arizona State University), “An Oasis of Cooling? Combating Desertification,” World Climate Report, January 19, 1998.

Following is a letter sent by grassroots leaders concerned about the implications of global warming policies to state level policy makers. Many people are concerned that the Clinton Administration, the EPA, and state-level government agencies will attempt to implement the treaty without the approval of Congress.

January 16, 1998

Dear Colleague:

We are writing to enlist your aid in preventing the sblackth implementation of an international climate change treaty by the Clinton White House; the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; and the Environmental Council of the States (ECOS), the national association of state environmental agencies.

On January 21-22, ECOS will hold a conference in Baltimore, Maryland, to make plans for implementing the Kyoto Protocol to the 1992 Framework Convention on Climate Change, also known as the Rio Treaty. The conference, funded in part by the Federal EPA, smacks of bureaucratic arrogance and presumption, since the Kyoto Protocol has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate.

In its conference brochure, ECOS declares that, the Kyoto Protocol having set mandatory targets for the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions, the United States “must now begin designing policies and programs to meet this goal.” Says who? Since when “must” the United States carry out a treaty that has not ratified by the Senate? By what authority do non-elected bureaucrats decide for the American people, and their elected representatives, which proposed treaty shall, or shall not, be the law of the land?

The ECOS conference brochure continues, “The U.S., a strong proponent of the emissions trading language included in the Protocol, will pursue a package of options that will include the establishment of a domestic and international trading system to move us in the right direction.” ECOS confuses the position of the Clinton Administration with the policy of “the U.S.” The United States is not a proponent of emissions trading or any other element of the Kyoto Protocol, and cannot be until and unless the Senate ratifies the agreement. And the Senate has already expressed its overwhelming disapproval of the kind of agreement negotiated in Kyoto.

Last July, the Senate, by a vote of 95 to 0, adopted a resolution (S. Res. 98) that the U.S. should not be a party to any agreement which would (a) exempt developing countries from similar emissions reduction requirements or (b) do serious harm to the U.S. economy. The Kyoto Protocol fails on both counts. Developing countries are completely exempt, and the agreement would compel Americans to cut their energy use by about one-third.

Asserting that “States and localities will be affected both environmentally and economically by climate change,” the ECOS brochure says the conference will help state environmental agencies develop “cost-effective” “compliance strategies” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But this begs all of the serious questions at issue.

Is the world actually getting warmer? The satellite record of global temperature, spanning nearly twenty years, shows no global warming – much less one of the magnitude predicted by the computer models on which the climate treaty is based.

Would warming be catastrophic? A modest warming that occurs mostly during winter, at night, and in the higher latitudes (as greenhouse theory predicts) would likely produce positive net benefits – greater agricultural productivity, a reduction in severe storms, even a slowing down of sea level rise (a warmer, wetter atmosphere would increase snowfall in the polar regions, transferring water from the oceans to the ice sheets).

Is energy rationing a sensible way to deal with the potential problems of climate change? Thousands of America’s senior citizens adapt to climate change every year when they move from relatively cold places like Chicago and St. Paul to warmer places like Miami and Phoenix. Since the wealth and creativity of a dynamic market economy are the mainstays of public health and safety, a policy of adaptation to climate change should be the preferred option, not coercive restrictions on people’s access to affordable energy.

The ECOS brochure completely ignores the Kyoto Protocol’s risks and costs. Giving government coercive power over private resources and business decisions is always a risky proposition. The Kyoto Protocol would give participating governments the power to control the energy budgets of countries, industries, perhaps even households. How possibly could that make the world a safer place? Putting government in charge of energy production and consumption would create vast new opportunities for wasteful spending, special-interest regulation, and political mischief.

A related problem is what role the UN would play in monitoring and enforcing compliance with the agreement. Logic suggests that the UN would have to assume massive new powers and responsibilities. Whereas the benefits of emissions reduction are distant, speculative, and diffuse, the costs are immediate, real, and concentrated. Hence every party to the Kyoto Protocol will have strong incentives to cheat. Without an international authority to conduct surprise inspections, keep the books on emissions trades, and punish emissions violators, the whole Kyoto edifice would quickly come crashing down. The bureaucrats at ECOS may feel at home in a new world order of ‘global governance’ under UN auspices. But we believe the potential surrender of American sovereignty implicit in the Kyoto accord is both dangerous and unacceptable.

At a minimum, the Kyoto Protocol would reduce average American household income $2,000 a year by 2010, while increasing energy prices 30% to 55% percent above baseline projections, according to WEFA (formerly Wharton Economic Forecasters Associates). For low-income families and persons (such as seniors) on fixed incomes, the costs of Kyoto would be devastating.

ECOS may claim they are only trying to do what government planners are supposed to do – anticipate the future and plan for it. But the conference transparently has another purpose – to lay the groundwork for implementing a treaty which has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate. The game plan is to make eventual ratification of the Kyoto Protocol more likely, or even unavoidable, by putting in place, beneath the Senate’s radar scope, the policies required to implement that agreement. This strategy is clever – but it is an abuse of taxpayer dollars; it is wrong.

In public policy controversies, it is often helpful to have a motto which sums up what you are fighting for. In the debate over the Kyoto Protocol, our rock-bottom, absolute minimum demand must be, “No Implementation without Ratification!” This is a position both Democrats and Republicans, Liberals and Conservatives, should be proud to support. For it is the position of the U.S. Constitution, as well as being a self-evident requisite of good government.

We urge you to take all appropriate action to ensure that costly and controversial climate change policies are not adopted by stealth and bureaucratic fiat. To that end, we encourage you to ask hard questions of your state’s environmental agency head. Is ECOS going to consider all sides of the climate change debate, or is it going to act as a lobbyist for the Clinton Administration, the UN, and the apocalypse industry? What state law, program, or authority justifies efforts to implement a treaty which has not been ratified?


Fred L. Smith, President
Competitive Enterprise Institute

Karen Kerrigan, President
Small Business Survival Committee

Grover G. Norquist, President 
Americans for Tax Reform

Thair Phillips, CEO
The Seniors Coalition

  • Gave up its plan to exempt U.S. military training and overseas operations from fuel cutbacks that would be needed for the United States to reach its target.
  • Gave up its opposition to the so-called EU bubble — jargon for a plan that would allow massive increases in greenhouse gasses by Portugal, Spain, Greece and Ireland to be offset by reductions in Germany and Britain.
  • Offered steeper cuts in U.S. emissions — 7 percent below 1990 levels instead of its initial plan to cut pollution to 1990 levels, but not below.
  • Conceded to U.N. bureaucrats some control over U.S. agriculture and forestry policies. Livestock and rice paddies are among the biggest emitters of methane while trees offset the effect by absorbing carbon dioxide, the main greenhouse gas.
  • In the draft treaty, only overseas military actions approved by the United Nations would remain exempt as would training and combat in international waters.
  • China flatly refused to join, telling visiting Rep. John D. Dingell, Michigan Democrat, that it would accept no limits within the next 50 years.

You Think One Kyoto is Bad? Try Thirty

Jorge Sarmiento of Princeton University told Science (December 19, 1997) after the completion of the Kyoto accord that “It is a laudable and reasonable first step, but much deeper emissions cuts will be needed in the not too distant future if we are going to meaningfully reduce the rate of warming.” Indeed, as the treaty now stands increases in developing country emissions will swamp emission reductions by the industrialized countries.

According to Thomas Wigley, a climate researcher at the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in order to stabilize emissions (a major objective of the 1992 U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change) the developing countries would have to freeze emissions at current levels while the industrial countries would have to cut emissions in half. This, according to Jerry Mahlman, director of the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory at Princeton “might take another 30 Kyotos over the next century.”

But, says Sarmiento, “you have to start somewhere, and the protocol at least provides a framework for revisiting the issue as our understanding improves.”

Treaty May Be Moot

The European Union’s Environment Commissioner, Ritt Bjerregaard, told the European Parliament that the Kyoto treaty may not come into force because of opposition from the United States Senate.

The treaty requires ratification by 55 participants to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change which corresponds to 50 percent of carbon emissions in developed countries. Since the U.S. accounts for 35 percent of the total and Russia accounts for 15 percent, at least one of them would have to ratify the treaty for it to take effect.

Bjerregaard said that “To facilitate U.S. ratification, it is crucial that the [European Union] moves ahead as quickly as possible to maintain the highest possible political pressure” (BNA Daily Environment Report, December 22, 1997).

Global Warming and the Spread of Disease

Among the many predicted effects of climate change the least plausible is an increase of vector-borne diseases. The British medical journal, The Lancet (December 20, 1997) discusses these predictions in two articles.

In an open letter signed by physicians, and distributed in Kyoto, warned that a rise in temperature of 1-3.5 degrees C would result in a public health disaster from the spread of diseases such as malaria, dengue and yellow fever.

Paul Epstein, the foremost advocate of this hypothesis, admits that public health programs, poverty and other factors are important, but insists that global warming is also responsible. He also claims that higher temperatures have increased the number of disease-carrying rodents which he believes may have caused the 1993 US hantavirus infection outbreak. Andrew Haines, a London physician, said, “There are some early signs of malaria and other vector-borne diseases being experienced at higher altitudes than was previously the case.”

Another article, however, casts doubt on the claims of Epstein and others. At a symposium on climate change and vector-borne disease at the American Society for Tropical Medicine and Hygiene annual meeting Paul Reiter of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Puerto Rico said that “it is simplistic and misleading to say that climate change will necessarily bring an increase in all these diseases.”

He pointed out that malaria, dengue and yellow fever were all once common in temperate regions, but have disappeared as a result of better housing and sanitation. Duane Gubler of the Center for Disease Control claims that a breakdown of mosquito control, increased mobility and other factors are to blame for increases in these diseases.

Yellowstone Park: Environmental Criminal

Cindy Werner, a geoscience graduate student at Penn State, has found that the Mud Volcano area of Yellowstone National Park emits about 176,300 tons of carbon dioxide each year. Extrapolating these numbers to the entire park Werner estimates that it emits as much as 44 million tons of carbon dioxide per year. That’s equivalent to about ten medium-sized power plants that burn fossil fuels. “We believe,” concluded Werner, “that geothermal systems are significant contributors to global estimates of carbon dioxide” (The New York Times, December 26, 1997).

Another Modeling Error

In an article appearing in Earth Interactions (Vol. I, 1997), a publication of the American Geophysical Union, researchers Y.C. Sud and G.K. Walker look at possible simulation errors that may occur as a result of ignoring the effects of oceanic salinity on the near-surface specific humidity gradient, a primary determinant of oceanic evaporation. All of the general circulation models (GCMs) used at the Goddard Laboratory for Atmospheres ignore oceanic salinity.

A 5-year-long salinity simulation revealed “discernible systematic errors” in the way the models handled “global evaporation, boundary layer specific humidity, and several key parameters that affect the onset of moist convection . . .” The researchers state that “we infer that coupled ocean-atmosphere models that ignore the influence of salinity on ocean evaporation might also benefit from the salinity correction. Indeed, the correction is so trivial to include, its neglect in the modern state-of-the-art GCMs is unwarranted.”

Another Mitigation Option

The atmosphere is not the only place where carbon could end up. The most obvious way to sequester carbon dioxide is in trees. Others possibilities also have been suggested. One option is to pump carbon dioxide in to the deep ocean. Some may balk at transferring “pollution” from medium to another, but given that the ocean already contains 50 times more carbon than the atmosphere the impact would be proportionally smaller.

The most practical option may be putting the gas underground. Oil companies already inject carbon dioxide from underground deposits into deep-seated formations to flush oil from depleted reservoirs. Indeed, a new offshore oil rig constructed by Statoil, a Norwegian oil company, will separate carbon dioxide from natural gas returning the carbon dioxide to a nearby underground formation. By doing this the company will avoid the Norwegian carbon tax (Scientific American, January, 1998).


An article in The Economist (December 20, 1997) with the subheading, “Forecasters of scarcity and doom are not only invariably wrong, they think that being wrong proves them right,” pooh-poohs environmental scare stories propagated by the greens. About global warming the article notes: “Today the mother of all environmental scares is global warming. Here the jury is still out. . .” According to The Economist, “Just one environmental scare in the past 30 years bears out the most alarmist predictions made at the time: the effect of DDT (a pesticide) on birds of prey, otters and some other predatory animals. Every other environmental scare has been either wrong or badly exaggerated.”

The story continues, “Environmental scare stories now follow such a predictable line that we can chart their course.” The first year a “scientist discovers some potential threat.” The second year a journalist “oversimplifies and exaggerates it.” In the third year the environmentalists “polarize the issue.” “Either you agree that the world is about to come to an end and are fired by righteous indignation, or you are a paid lackey of big business.” The fourth year a conference is called which keeps bureaucrats “well supplied with club-class tickets and limelight,” moving the debate from science to politics. “A totemic ‘target’ is the key feature.” Fifth year, “pick a villain and gang up on him.” Sixth, the skeptics, who say the fear is exaggerated, come on the scene, “driv[ing] greens into paroxysms of pious rage.” Seventh, “the year of quiet climbdown.” The population explosion went from a maximum of 15 billion to less than 10 billion. “Greenhouse warming was originally going to be ‘uncontrolled’. Then it was going to be 2.5-4 degrees in a century. Then it became 1.5-3 degrees.”

The story concludes with, “Environmentalists are quick to accuse their opponents in business of having vested interests. But their own incomes, their advancement, their fame and their very existence can depend on supporting the most alarming versions of every environmental scare.”

The Magic Solution

Most of us have seen the infomercials in which a hyperactive salesman pitches a “no exercise, no dieting” weight-loss program. Most of us are also smart enough to know that losing weight requires some sweat and pain.

The Department of Energy (DOE), however, will have none of that. It is now pitching its own version of the all gain, no pain diet. Joe Romm, DOE’s principal deputy assistant secretary for energy efficiency and renewable energy said in a panel discussion sponsored by the Environmental Media Services, that the U.S. can achieve the reduction targets agreed to at Kyoto without reducing energy use and may even be able to increase energy use. “We can get the reductions not by using less energy, but by using cleaner energy,” he said.

Also on the panel was Nancy Kete, director for climate, energy and pollution programs at the World Resources Institute, pitching her own “eat more, weigh less” program. She admits that some jobs will be lost as a result of the Kyoto treaty, but overall there will be net gain in jobs if the U.S. becomes “more carbon efficient” (BNA Daily Environment Report, December 19, 1997).

Renewable Energy Mandates

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) has estimated in its report, Annual Energy Outlook 1998, that requiring utilities to derive 5 percent of their energy output from renewable energy sources would reduce emissions by 26 million metric tons between 1996 and 2020. A 10 percent mandate would reduce emissions by 62 million metric tons.

According to EIA Administrator Jay Hakes a renewable energy mandate “would require somewhat higher prices, but the impact does not appear large.” Hakes said that wind, geothermal, and biomass would benefit from such a mandate. Solar energy, however, would probably not benefit as a result of its relatively higher cost (BNA Daily Environment Report, December 19, 1997).

Taxes and Fuel Efficiency Standards Cannot Be Avoided

At a briefing for congressional staffers on Capitol Hill, Steve Plotkin, transportation analyst at the Argonne National Laboratory, stated that, “Without further market intervention, we are not going to achieve the goals” of the Kyoto protocol.

The Clinton administration has maintained that the U.S. can comply with the treaty at little cost using new technologies. This claim is based on a study completed last year by the five national laboratories. But, revealed Plotkin, “the study assumed all along that government would have to impose energy taxes or raise fuel economy standards to attain treaty goals.” Plotkin also said that he was “very pessimistic” that the U.S. can reduce emissions to 7 percent below 1990 levels by 2010 (Automotive News, December 22, 1997).

Ethanol Flop

A five-year experiment with ethanol-powered buses by the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District flopped. The Peoria government had purchased 14 ethanol buses to replace about one-third of its diesel-powered fleet. The transit district paid for fuel and maintenance.

The buses, however, were too expensive to operate. “When a part, such as a pump, goes down, you’ve got a one-of-a-kind engine, said Steve Tartar, spokesman for the transit district. “If we can’t get it, that bus sits.” Ethanol also costs about twice as much as diesel fuel.

The National Center for Alternative Fuels at West Virginia University analyzed 32 different ethanol projects, and concluded that “it’s not appropriate at this time to convert fleets to ethanol and too expensive to have multifuel fleets.” Ron Miller, vice president of Pekin Energy Co., who supplied ethanol to Peoria, said that ethanol competes with petroleum products which have “a lot of hidden subsidies which keep those prices artificially low” (Chicago Tribune, December 21, 1997).

Frederico Pena, Secretary of the Department of Energy has said that ethanol will play an important role in greenhouse gas reduction. “We are at the point where ethanol is ready to emerge as a major force in the market,” Pena said. Maybe the Clinton administration should reconsider wasting further subsidies on the ethanol boondoggle (21st Century Fuels, November 1, 1997).

Japan’s Compliance Plan

The Japanese government has announced the breakdown of how it will of lower greenhouse gases by 6 percent below 1990 levels by 2010. Carbon sinks such as forests and vegetation will account for 3.7 percent; helping developing countries through technology transfers and cooperative projects, 1.8 percent; and emission reduction measures, 2.5 percent (Mainichi Daily News, December 31, 1997).

Japan’s Ministry of International Trade and Industry also plans to give subsidies to consumers who purchase “hybrid” cars. Consumers who choose to buy the Toyota Prius, the only hybrid on the market, will receive about 350,000 yen or about $2,700 (Asahi News Service, December 22, 1997).