Saturday, September 24, 2005


And the U.S. seems to be going along with it

This week, Bush-administration officials are meeting in Vienna to discuss a United Nations plan to globalize environmental regulation. Dubbed the "Strategic Approach to Global Management of Chemicals" or SAICM, the program is anything but strategic.

SAICM would attempt to regulate basically all substances in commerce - manmade and natural - and would attempt to manage all the world's solid and hazardous waste. And in time, it could easily spill into other areas - air and water.

If you read the documents published by SAICM negotiators, you might think you are reading Al Gore's 1992 book, Earth in the Balance, in which he proposed making the environment the "central organizing principle for civilization." In the chapter titled "A Global Marshall Plan," Gore outlines a utopian vision for a "Strategic Environment Initiative" through which world regulators could effectively "discourage and phase out" supposedly "inappropriate technologies and the same time develop and disseminate a new generation of environmentally benign substitutes."

This sounds an awful lot like SAICM's "Global Action Plan." Among 288 "concrete measures" proposed in SAICM's plan are intentions to "restrict availability" of "highly toxic pesticides;" substitute "highly toxic pesticides;" "promote substitution of hazardous chemicals;" "regulate the availability, distribution and use of pesticides;" "halt the sale of and recall products" that pose "unacceptable risks;" "eliminate the use" of certain "hazardous chemicals;" and so on.

Such policies would be pushed by an international chemicals bureaucracy and implemented by "stakeholders" - government, industry, and nongovernmental organizations. Somehow we are supposed to believe that these parties know better than the rest of us - the actors in the world marketplace who must live with the consequences of such decisions.

While SAICM negotiators don't want to acknowledge it, many products are valuable because they are toxic and even "highly toxic." These properties provide important advantages, and their risks can be managed. Pesticides, for example, should be highly toxic to the vermin they are supposed to kill, while having little impact on humans when used properly. Chlorine is caustic and dangerous if misused - and for that we can thank its Creator. Indeed, chlorine's potent properties will be crucial in helping control the spread of deadly pathogens in the hurricane-torn regions of Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama.

These states face risks that are all-to-common in poor nations - risks of cholera, dysentery, and other deadly water-borne diseases. The only difference is, the United States has access to disinfectants and many poor communities around the world don't.

In 1991, residents of Peru and surrounding nations learned about the dire impacts of following the advice of regulators who suggested reduced chlorine use because of alleged risks associated with the chemical. According to the scientific literature on the topic, inadequate chlorination was a key factor in a cholera epidemic that started in Peru and spread throughout the hemisphere, leading to about a million cases of cholera and thousands of deaths.

If the United Nations truly wants to do something to improve the human environment around the globe, it would not spend any time or money empowering regulators to make more such horrific mistakes. Instead, it would be working on policies to promote much needed economic development.

Most of the world's serious environmental problems are the effects of poverty in developing nations. On the top of the list according to a 2001 World Bank study-"Environment Strategy Papers: Healthy and Environment" - is inadequate sanitation. This is something that only economic growth can address through improved infrastructure and increased access to chemical disinfectants - such as chlorine.

Next on the list of problems is limited access to modern energy sources - including such things as electricity and fossil fuels. Lacking such amenities means that rural poor around the world rely on burning biomass fuels (such as cow dung) in their homes as an energy source. Resulting pollution leads to an estimated 1.7 million deaths annually associated with respiratory illnesses. And as international bureaucrats at the United Nations lament the potential that someone might consume trace levels of chemicals found in plastic packaging, the absence of such sanitary packaging and refrigeration in developing nations kills tens of thousands every year.

The solution is not more regulation - but less. Indeed, these nations are least able to afford such regulatory burdens. Economic freedom and resulting growth would do far more to improve the human condition. Indeed, the authors of a World Bank report document the fact that pollution and environmental problems decline as gross domestic product increases.

While the Bush administration has not officially endorsed SAICM, it does appear to be silently following along. In August, the administration held a public meeting in Washington at which officials basically outlined SAICM's progression. Perhaps the administration's excuse is that it needs a "seat at the table" to influence the outcome of any SAICM policies. But that's just plain dumb. Bush did not go along with the creation of a global court to get a seat on the bench. Bush knew that any involvement with that global bureaucracy spelled disaster for Americans. Hence he deflated the entire initiative by publicly withdrawing all U.S. involvement. It's time he did the same with SAICM and any other green globalony coming from the United Nations. After all, human-well-being should the central organizing principle for civilization



By Jeff Jacoby explains something that is obvious to economists but obvious to about no-one else

It didn't take Hurricane Katrina to move the issue of fuel efficiency into the spotlight. For decades, automakers have been urged to produce, consumers have been urged to drive, and the government has been urged to mandate more fuel-efficient cars. If the vehicles on our roads got more miles to the gallon, we have been told again and again, we could dramatically reduce the amount of oil we depend on -- and from that would flow benefits equally dramatic:

America's foreign policy would be strengthened, it is said, since we would no longer have to appease the unsavory regimes that control most of the world's crude oil. The economy would surge as money now spent on fuel was channeled to more productive uses. Mother Earth would be better off, since less fuel would mean less pollution and less drilling for oil. And at a time of $3-a-gallon gasoline, motorists would have particular reason to rejoice: Higher-mileage cars would need fewer expensive fill-ups.

Late last month, with Katrina still days away, the Bush administration proposed new regulations mandating improved gas mileage for pickup trucks, minivans, and some SUVs. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said the plan would save 10 billion gallons of gasoline by 2011. Critics dismissed his proposal as either trifling (''almost embarrassingly inadequate" -- Eric Haxthausen, Environmental Defense), or dangerous (''higher fuel efficiency standards increase traffic deaths" -- Sam Kazman, Competitive Enterprise Institute). But the basic idea -- that higher fuel efficiency can mean lower American gasoline use -- no one seemed to challenge.

If better mileage had political sex appeal before the hurricane, it had even more of it afterward. In Boston, Mayor Thomas Menino called a press conference to announce that the city's 450 diesel-powered cars would be replaced with more-efficient vehicles that run on biodiesel fuel. He promised to trade in his mayoral SUV -- a Ford Expedition -- for something smaller and more fuel-efficient. Then, ''as television cameras rolled," The Boston Globe reported, ''he climbed into the Public Health Commission's new Ford Escape hybrid SUV and drove away across the plaza."

Lawmakers have gotten into the act too. A bill introduced in the Massachusetts Legislature would shower benefits on drivers of fuel-efficient vehicles. Among them: a $2,000 tax deduction, the right to drive solo in carpool lanes, and lower fees at parking meters. All of which might be worth considering if using fuel more efficiently really would result in less fuel being used. But it won't. It will result in *more* fuel being used.

If that sounds counterintuitive, think about it this way: Would lowering the price of operating an automobile -- i.e., making driving cheaper -- lead to higher or lower consumption? Higher, of course: The cheaper something is, the more of it we generally want. Cars that run more efficiently make transportation cheaper by getting more miles out of each gallon of gas. Result: more miles driven and more gasoline consumed.

If that still sounds counter-intuitive, think about computers. Consider how much more use you get from your computer today than you did from the far less efficient PC you owned 15 years ago. As the efficiency of computers has climbed, so has the demand for them. Today it costs less than ever to process a byte of data by computer -- but more resources are devoted to computing than ever before. Driving is no different. If American cars averaged 45 miles per gallon, it would take less fuel than it does now to move a car from point X to point Y -- but the total amount of driving in America would rise, and so would the amount of gasoline consumed.

In *The Bottomless Well,* a myth-busting new book on energy and how we use it, Peter Huber, a scholar at the Manhattan Institute, and Mark Mills, a physicist and technology expert, acknowledge that this paradox -- ''the more efficient our technology, the more energy we consume" -- strikes many people as heretical. But the numbers bear it out. Thirty years ago, the energy cost of transportation was nine gallons per 100 vehicle miles. Today it is six gallons -- a 33 percent drop. Yet over the same period, the total amount of fuel consumed rose 56 percent -- from 115 billion gallons a year to more than 180 billion gallons.

This ''paradox of efficiency" is as true of cars and computers as of light bulbs, jet turbines, and air conditioners, Huber and Mills write. ''The more efficient they grew, the more of them we built, and the more we used them -- and the more energy they consumed overall."

None of this is meant as a defense of gas-guzzlers. As the owner of a '99 Toyota Camry who has never driven an SUV, I certainly don't oppose the quest for better mileage. If you have your heart set on a Prius, don't let me dissuade you from buying one. After all, fuel-efficient cars do have their advantages. Reducing American dependence on oil just doesn't happen to be one of them.


Many people would like to be kind to others so Leftists exploit that with their nonsense about equality. Most people want a clean, green environment so Greenies exploit that by inventing all sorts of far-fetched threats to the environment. But for both, the real motive is to promote themselves as wiser and better than everyone else, truth regardless.

Global warming has taken the place of Communism as an absurdity that "liberals" will defend to the death regardless of the evidence showing its folly. Evidence never has mattered to real Leftists

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