Monday, April 10, 2006

Al Gore: The End is Near

The world's greatest sore loser is still trying to justify the nonsensical Kyoto treaty that he negotiated

Former vice president Al Gore is predicting the end of all human life on the Planet Earth if Washington doesn't do something to stop Americans from causing global warming. "If we allow this to happen, we will destroy the habitability of the planet," Gore told a group of environmentally minded corporate executives in California on Thursday. "We can't do that, and I am confident we won't do that," he added, according to Oakland's Bay Area Argus. But the former VP warned: "We have been blind to the fact that the human species is now having a crushing impact on the ecological system of the planet."

Gore said global warming "is really not a political issue, [but] it's disguised as a political issue. It's a moral issue, it's an ethical issue." The former number two Clinton official pointed to last year's devastating hurricanes Katrina and Rita, saying: "This is the first foretaste of a cup that will be offered to us again and again and again until we regain our moral authority."


Want Clean Air? Try This

Environmentalists gained an important victory last month when a federal appeals court rejected a Bush administration effort to amend key provisions of the Clean Air Act. The administration sought to rewrite the "New Source Review" program, which requires power plants and other industrial polluters to install state-of-the-art air pollution control equipment whenever they build a new plant or modify an existing one.

The current law provides no clear explanation of what constitutes a modification, creating both uncertainty and the opportunity for regulatory mischief. The Bush administration wanted to create a bright-line rule that the a modification would be considered major only if it cost at least 20 percent of the plant's original cost. Environmentalists justifiably opposed the rule as being too broad -- industry could break up major renovation and expansion projects into stages that individually would not cross the 20 percent threshold, and old plants would never become subject to the Clean Air Act's equipment mandates.

The environmentalists -- both environmental organizations and state attorneys general -- should be pleased with their victory, but they should not ignore the fundamental problem with New Source Review. The problem is not that the modification threshold is unclear or that it could be construed too broadly -- the problem is that the exemption exists at all.

The 1977 Clean Air Act Amendments "grandfathered" plants that were built before August 7, 1977 and allowed those plants to replace equipment and undergo minor modifications without triggering the new pollution control requirements. While this seems like a fair approach, it is actually grossly unfair in that it creates a two-tier regulatory environment that disadvantages the owners of new plants. It also is environmentally disastrous because it creates an enormous incentive for industry to keep old plants up and running. Grandfathering slows the turnover of polluting capital, locking in archaic technologies and keeping alive power plants built during Herbert Hoover's presidency. Old, patched-up, grandfathered plants account for an enormous percentage of U.S. air pollution.

Environmentalists display an unfortunate stubbornness when they remain committed to fighting the modification battle. Last month's decision was only the latest (and not the last) round in a decades-long legal fight over New Source Review. Thousands of work-hours have been spent litigating the issue of how significant a modification must be before it triggers pollution control requirements.

There is a better way to fight air pollution. For decades, economists have argued for the levy of pollution taxes to provide economic incentives to reduce pollution. If set stringently enough, pollution taxes can accomplish all of the environmental objectives that pollution control requirements are meant to accomplish. Moreover, by not forcing industry to employ the specific (and often extremely expensive) pollution control equipment designated state-of-the-art, a pollution tax would encourage industry to explore and develop new technologies that could be more effective and less expensive.

Perhaps most importantly, a pollution tax would be much easier politically to apply to all sources, old or new, thereby doing away with grandfathering. Because of the presumptive universality of taxes, people expect them to apply to everybody, not just new polluting sources. By contrast, the U.S. has never really embraced the notion that equipment regulations should apply to all pollution sources. That is why, for example, the nation has a relatively small number of old cars on the road that account for a large portion of our vehicle pollution problem, and why we allow a large number of old, outdated industrial pollution sources to enjoy a huge regulatory advantage over new plants.

The expensive and talent-consuming litigation over New Source Review has gone on long enough. Wholly apart from economic efficiency concerns, there are the thousands of people who die prematurely from air pollution annually who deserve better than the fruitless legal wrangling. The public, as well as the environmental movement and industry, would be better served by less fighting and more thinking about reducing air pollution.


The Best Way to Reform CAFE is to End It

While the Department of Transportation touts higher fuel economy standards for light trucks, including SUVs, a fuel economy expert with the Competitive Enterprise Institute says the increase makes zero sense at a time of rising gasoline prices. "The public has responded far more effectively than the government ever could to the recent gasoline price hikes, by changing their driving habits and their car-buying decisions," says Sam Kazman, CEI's general counsel and a fuel economy standards expert. "Environmentalists, on the other hand, are engaging in knee-jerk complaints that the standards should be raised even more. Higher standards would make driving even cheaper, a goal directly at odds with environmentalist complaints that we already drive too much."

CEI has long contended that the CAFE program (for Corporate Average Fuel Economy) is lethal because it has forced the downsizing of passenger cars, which makes them less crashworthy.

A National Research Council study in 2001 found that CAFE's downsizing incentive contributes to 2,000 deaths annually. In 1992, CEI won a federal appeals court ruling that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had illegally concealed the lethal effects on highway safety of its auto fuel economy standards. The decision marked the first judicial overturning of a fuel economy standard in the program's history



British climate wackiness

Not being native to these isles, I used to have trouble understanding what people meant by the word drought. "It's terribly worrying, isn't it, the drought?" they would say. Perhaps, I thought to myself, they're talking about some obscure livestock ailment, or maybe they just pronounce "draft" funny. But I know they can't be talking about that other thing, the not having enough water thing, because it's raining frigging sideways.

Even today when people say, "It's been so dry these last two winters, hasn't it?", I nod in vague agreement, but I think, "What are you talking about? Compared with where?" This week, hosepipe bans came into effect across the south-east, making it illegal for 10 million people to water their gardens or wash their cars with a hose. I have more or less accepted that England is a country where adequate water supplies are maintained only through unrelenting, round-the-clock rain, and that any gap in the clouds spells doom, followed by standpipes in the streets. I also know it's no use pointing out that it's raining right now. I know it's the wrong kind of rain. It's too wet, or something.

This is nevertheless my first official hosepipe ban, and in a panic at the prospect of it I rushed out and spent a hundred quid on a giant water butt made out of an old whisky barrel. After I installed it I got a bit worried because I read that if you let a barrel dry out it will collapse into a pile of staves and hoops. Even my precaution seemed like a form of moronic optimism. Why didn't I just get the ugly green plastic kind of water butt? Didn't I realise there was a drought on?

Well here it is, the first week in April, and my barrel runneth over. The lid is floating on its brimming surface. I've got more water than I know what to do with, presuming I can attach a hose to my barrel without breaking the law. But I still have many questions about the details of the ban. For example, can I wash my car with the water that flows under its wheels from the broken main up the road? It's been running like a babbling brook all winter, excepting the day the men from Thames Water came to fix it, when it exploded like a geyser and shot mud and gravel into the neighbour's open third-storey window, after which the men ran away. Sometimes I think it would be nice to have a standpipe instead, so we could at least turn it off.

This is of course just a small part of the 915,000 litres a day - 17 Olympic swimming pools an hour - that Thames Water loses through leaks, representing a third of the total supply. They say they're currently spending o500,000 a day repairing London's network of 150-year-old Victorian pipes, but I am not very impressed with them leaving it so long. I blame their complacency on the relative harmlessness of water. You don't see the gas people letting a third of their product leak away in transit. If you want any water this summer, see me. I'll be giving it away, and mine tastes faintly of whisky.



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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