Sunday, June 04, 2006


Environmental activists are teaming up with state attorneys general and trial lawyers to bankrupt the nation's livestock farmers - in the name of saving the environment. If the situation wasn't so serious, it would be hilarious. The activists - including the Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, and Union of Concerned Scientists - are trying to convince Congress that the nation's farms should be treated as industrial waste sites and therefore subject to severe penalties under the federal Superfund law. Some state attorneys general, supported by trial lawyers, have filed lawsuits toward the same end. Why? Because, they argue, animal manure is a hazardous substance.

They are now demanding that Congress refuse to clarify that the Superfund law was never intended to apply to natural animal waste. They are claiming - falsely - that without Superfund, animal waste would be unregulated. The fact is that manure already is heavily regulated under the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act and other federal and state regulations. They are claiming - falsely - that small family farms won't be affected. The reality is that under Superfund, huge penalties can be levied against small operations and even individuals. Tens of thousands of small family farmers could be affected.

Congress never intended the Superfund law to apply to the nation's farms - it was designed to clean up industrial waste sites like Love Canal. But because it did not specifically exempt animal waste, activists are now seizing on this lack of clarity to haul farmers before the courts and apply the draconian penalties permissible under Superfund. If the activists are successful, farmers could face penalties of many millions of dollars and thousands of small farmers could be forced off their land. "The domestic livestock industry would be driven from this country, the grain industry would be crippled, and farm families and communities would be devastated," Oklahoma Farm Bureau chief Steve Kouplen warned Congress last November. "If animal manure is found to be a hazardous substance under Superfund, then virtually every farm or ranch in the United States could be written off as a toxic Superfund site," says Missouri cattleman Mike John, who is also president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.

The activists' efforts are a deliberate distortion of the law, devised by some local authorities and a small army of trial lawyers seeking large settlements in which they - and the activist groups - would be the chief beneficiaries. "It's simply a shake-down," one dairy farmer told Congress.

"It would be a mockery of congressional intent," commented Bob Stallman, head of the American Farm Bureau Federation. He notes that farms and ranches that raise livestock are already among the most regulated business sectors for environmental quality, subject to extensive federal and state laws and regulations.

Farmers are by their nature pro-environment. Healthy crops and livestock depend on a healthy environment. None of this apparently matters to the activists, who may also see manure as a means to gain political sway over farmers.

Given that federal and state environmental regulators are often sympathetic to, if not in outright league with, environmental activists, and that the Superfund law provides regulators with much discretion as to how to identify and manage sites to be cleaned up, treating farms as Superfund sites would essentially provide activists a powerful political weapon to be used against farmers at the activists' discretion. Farmers who don't toe the environmentalist line may find their farms declared as Superfund sites.

Congress inadvertently caused this problem in the first place by not exempting animal manure from the original Superfund law. But who could imagine that such an exemption would be necessary? The good news is that Congress can quickly solve the problem by passing a simple amendment to the Superfund law, clarifying that farm manure is not considered a hazardous substance under the Act. A bipartisan bill to this effect has already been introduced in the House with nearly 160 co-sponsors. A companion bill with bipartisan support is about to be introduced in the Senate. Congress needs to get this done soon for the sake of this country's farmers, consumers - who would face escalating food prices and shortages - and just plain common sense. Cattleman Mike John says, "It's just plain insulting to suggest naturally occurring manure on our family farm deems us a Superfund site." Manure, it seems, is the appropriate word for this latest activist initiative.


Scientists Say Arctic Once Was Tropical

Scientists have found what might have been the ideal ancient vacation hotspot with a 74-degree Fahrenheit average temperature, alligator ancestors and palm trees. It's smack in the middle of the Arctic. First-of-its-kind core samples dug up from deep beneath the Arctic Ocean floor show that 55 million years ago an area near the North Pole was practically a subtropical paradise, three new studies show. The scientists say their findings are a glimpse backward into a much warmer-than-thought polar region heated by run-amok greenhouse gases that came about naturally.

Skeptics of man-made causes of global warming have nothing to rejoice over, however. The researchers say their studies appearing in Thursday's issue of Nature also offer a peek at just how bad conditions can get. "It probably was (a tropical paradise) but the mosquitoes were probably the size of your head," said Yale geology professor Mark Pagani, a study co-author. And what a watery, swampy world it must have been. "Imagine a world where there are dense sequoia trees and cypress trees like in Florida that ring the Arctic Ocean," said Pagani, a member of the multinational Arctic Coring Expedition that conducted the research.

Millions of years ago the Earth experienced an extended period of natural global warming. But around 55 million years ago there was a sudden supercharged spike of carbon dioxide that accelerated the greenhouse effect. Scientists already knew this "thermal event" happened but are not sure what caused it. Perhaps massive releases of methane from the ocean, the continent-sized burning of trees, lots of volcanic eruptions.

Many experts figured that while the rest of the world got really hot, the polar regions were still comfortably cooler, maybe about 52 degrees Fahrenheit. But the new research found the polar average was closer to 74 degrees. So instead of Boston-like weather year-round, the Arctic was more like Miami North. Way north. "It's the first time we've looked at the Arctic, and man, it was a big surprise to us," said study co-author Kathryn Moran, an oceanographer at the University of Rhode Island. "It's a new look to how the Earth can respond to these peaks in carbon dioxide." It's enough to make Santa Claus break into a sweat.

The 74-degree temperature, based on core samples which act as a climatic time capsule, was probably the year-round average, but because data is so limited it might also be just the summertime average, researchers said. What's troubling is that this hints that future projections for warming, several degrees over the next century, may be on the low end, said study lead author Appy Sluijs of the Institute of Environmental Biology at Utrecht University in the Netherlands. Also it shows that what happened 55 million years ago was proof that too much carbon dioxide - more than four times current levels - can cause global warming, said another co-author Henk Brinkhuis at Utrecht University. Purdue University atmospheric sciences professor Gabriel Bowen, who was not part of the team, praised the work and said it showed that "there are tipping points in our (climate) system that can throw us to these conditions."

And the new research also gave scientists the idea that a simple fern may have helped pull Earth from a hothouse to an icehouse by sucking up massive amounts of carbon dioxide. Unfortunately, this natural solution to global warming was not exactly quick: It took about a million years. With all that heat and massive freshwater lakes forming in the Arctic, a fern called Azolla started growing and growing. Azolla, still found in warm regions today, grew so deep, so wide that eventually it started sucking up carbon dioxide, Brinkhuis theorized. And that helped put the cool back in the Arctic.

Bowen said he has a hard time accepting that part of the research, but Brinkhuis said the studies show tons upon tons of thick mats of Azolla covered the Arctic and moved south. "This could actually contribute to push the world to a cooling mode," Brinkhuis said, but only after it got hotter first and then it would take at least 800,000 years to cool back down. It's not something to look forward to, he said.



U.S. power companies are rushing to build coal-fired plants, in part because they are hoping to get them on the books ahead of potential U.S. regulations on greenhouse gases, the author of a book on the coal industry said in an interview. "There's a dawning awareness in the coal industry that it is as good as it's going to get right now," Jeff Goodell, author of "Big Coal," to be published by Houghton Mifflin next month, said in a telephone interview. "Changing politics in America are not going to favor the coal industry," he said.

U.S. companies have submitted plans to build 120 plants that burn coal -- which emits more carbon dioxide than any other fuel -- though even the power industry says costs and permitting could pare that figure. Unlike the European Union, whose members signed the Kyoto Protocol, the United States has no market for emissions of CO2 and other gases most scientists believe cause global warming. President George W. Bush favors voluntary means of cutting heat-trapping emissions, and in 2001 he pulled the United States out of the Kyoto agreement. In its first phase, the pact requires rich countries to cut CO2 by about 5 percent under 1990 levels.

But politicians thought to be mulling a run for the White House in 2008, including U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton and perhaps former Vice President Al Gore -- both Democrats -- and Republican U.S. Sen. John McCain, support greenhouse gases regulations. "Once you get a price on carbon ... that changes the whole competitiveness of coal plants," said Goodell, a contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine, whose book stemmed from a 2001 cover story he wrote for the New York Times Magazine. "All of a sudden other things look more competitive and (coal plants) make less sense," he said about the potential for wind and solar power.

For its part, the U.S. power industry doesn't see the coal rush related to a potential CO2 regime. "It's far more a response to... natural gas prices and concerns about fuel diversity, than ... companies trying to predict what the future may look like in terms of CO2 regulation," said Dan Riedinger, spokesman for the Edison Electric Institute.

To be sure, many things are sparking interest in coal. While U.S. oil imports have been rising since the 1970s, the country won't have to ship in coal any time soon. It has more coal than any other country, more than double China's, and nearly eight times Western Europe's. And a rush in the 1990s to build power plants that run on natural gas have led to record prices for the fuel in each of the last three years.


The planned U.S. plants could lead to greater emissions of greenhouse gases especially as few of them would be equipped with a new, more efficient technology, Goodell said. The technology, called integrated gasification combined cycle, trims CO2 emissions, but costs about 10 percent more. Even so, equipment that captures the gas can be added to it more cheaply than traditional coal plants. American Electric Power Co Inc. and Cinergy Corp. are planning to build IGCC coal plants. But the lion's share of the plans call for dirtier conventional plants, including TXU Corp.'s (TXU.N: Quote, Profile, Research) plans for eight of them in Texas.

How any new U.S. coal plants would fit into a U.S. carbon scheme is anybody's guess. To create a market the EU handed down emissions allocations to power plants. Companies that cut emissions under set limits sell credits to those who could not cut them. The market traded $7 billion in credits last year and is expected to grow much more. If a market operates in a similar way in the United States -- the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases -- utilities that squeeze in plants now instead of after the regulations are set up could save money. "The question is how plants will be grandfathered in and what kind of allowances will be made for plants under construction and in permitting stages, " said Goodell. "That's going to be a huge battle."



Al Gore's movie, An Inconvenient Truth, is already making waves, not surprisingly. Lately, you cannot pick up a newspaper or watch the news without some headline about greenhouse gases, global warming or efforts to combat it.

Despite many questions, governments around the globe seem to be in a frenzy to respond to a public that seems to want something done and to growing pressure from green groups that demand that something be done. People may like the idea of government mandates to curb greenhouse gases, but they won't like the sticker shock that comes from many of the proposed solutions. Those who are frustrated by rising gas and energy prices will be outraged when they see the price tag for Mr. Gore's proposed solutions.

Despite the lack of scientific consensus over global warming, there are factual economic conclusions that can be drawn from government mandates to curb greenhouse gases.

To date, Mr. Gore continues to advocate U.S. involvement in the Kyoto treaty or its successor. In 1997, the Senate voted 95-0 to reject signing the treaty, citing the harm that the treaty could cause the economy.

Nearly a decade later, the European Union, Canada and other ratifying countries have failed to make a dent in emissions growth under the emissions trading system (ETS) of the Kyoto Protocol. What have been affected are the economies of countries struggling to meet their targets.

European Environmental Agency data show that the 15 EU ratifying countries are expected to be 4 percent above their emissions target in 2010 instead of 8 percent below 1990 levels, as required under the protocol. An association of British engineers and manufacturers recently reported that part of the 34 percent increase in British electricity prices in 2005 was because of the ETS.

Studies by the recognized macroeconomic research firm of Global Insight show a significant rise in energy costs for consumers and businesses if Britain, Italy, Spain and Germany meet their Kyoto emissions reduction targets in 2010.

These costs are already being recognized as several European companies have announced that they will shift production to non-Kyoto countries, taking with them thousands of jobs. Norsk Hydro, a Fortune 500 energy and aluminum supplier, closed several production sites in Germany because of higher costs related to emissions trading and electricity prices.

All of these economic pains have led to many changed sentiments in Europe. British Prime Minister Tony Blair, once an ardent Kyoto supporter, stated, "The truth is no country is going to cut its growth or consumption substantially in the light of a long-term environmental problem. To be honest, I don't think people are going, at least in the short term, to start negotiating another major treaty like Kyoto."

Similarly, the new government under Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has expressed concerns over the growing economic pains it has experienced as a Kyoto member. This month, Mr. Harper released his new budget and dropped most if not all of the Kyoto-based environmental programs.

Despite the lessons from our neighbors, many in the United States still insist on some Kyoto-style domestic agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Democratic Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut have introduced legislation to reduce U.S. emissions to 2000 levels in 2010.

The economic consulting firm CRA International analyzed the economic impact of the McCain-Lieberman cap-and-trade proposal and found that it would cost average U.S. households $450 to $720 a year. The United States would lose as many as 840,000 jobs in 2010 and up to 1.3 million jobs by 2020.

The greater risk for the United States under a fixed cap on emissions is the collision it would face with rapid population growth. The 15 EU countries are having difficulty meeting their Kyoto targets with negligible population growth. In sharp contrast, U.S. population is projected to grow more than 20 percent from 2002 to 2025. More people means more energy and at least some additional greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Gore's movie will spark a new round of discussion about global warming, and policymakers from state houses to the United Nations will have choices about how to respond. They can learn from the lessons of the past under Kyoto and look to curb greenhouse gases through policies that will encourage research and development in cleaner technologies.

They can look to remove economic barriers that hinder investment and market reform to facilitate new technologies. Global solutions such as the new Asia Pacific Partnership on Development focus on economic growth and technology transfer that can truly be a catalyst to change.

Countries in the APP include India, China, South Korea, Japan, Australia and the United States. Their annual carbon dioxide emissions were nearly 50 percent of the global total in 2002. By reducing the barriers to the adoption of new energy efficiency technology and cleaner, less-emitting energy sources in developing countries, the APP can reduce energy poverty in developing countries as well as energy intensity (the amount of energy used to produce $1 of output). Slowing the growth of emissions in developing countries is a cost-effective approach to addressing the potential threat of climate change.

The other choice is to follow Mr. Gore and tinker with failed policy that would lead to sharp increases in already high energy prices, lost jobs and reduced revenue. That's an inconvenient truth that we cannot afford.


Nuclear power push for desalination plant in Australia

Australia should tackle a shortage of power and water by embracing nuclear power plants that also desalinate water. As John Howard prepares to announce an inquiry into nuclear energy, Foreign Minister Alexander Downer argued yesterday for building desalination facilities alongside nuclear power plants. The call came as academic and former Labor prime ministerial adviser Ross Garnaut suggested China's demand for energy meant all greenhouse gas emission-friendly technologies, including nuclear, would have to be supported. "Developments using coal are going to be very important in the Chinese future. The main constraint on that will be what I would see as the inevitable, eventual place of China in effective global greenhouse regimes. The alternative to that - greenhouse anarchy on a global scale - doesn't bear thinking about," Professor Garnaut said.

Mr Downer, warning that the threat of climate change would force Australia to consider new technologies, has predicted that one desalination plant powered by nuclear energy could deliver half of South Australia's water requirements and replace three-quarters of the water currently delivered by the Murray River. "Such a project would have two enormous environmental advantages, large-scale electricity supply with no CO2 emissions, and keeping much-needed water in the Murray," he said yesterday. "I believe this is an idea we cannot afford to dismiss, and certainly not on ideological grounds. It deserves serious study."

The NSW Government still keeps plans for a desalination plant on the books for Sydney although it was scrapped after a range of protests. Then NSW premier Bob Carr also raised the need to consider nuclear energy as a means to supply clear electricity until renewable energy sources improved. Western Australia has announced plans for a desalination plant but is implacably opposed to nuclear power as well as uranium mining.

In his speech to the Energy Supply Association of Australia, Mr Downer predicted the post-Kyoto reality was that the world needed to look to new technology to tackle climate change and allow China and India to pursue continued economic growth. Dismissing "the conventional view" that nuclear power was too expensive, Mr Downer said Australia should examine the potential for complementary processes such as desalination. "This could make nuclear very attractive in areas facing both power and water shortages," he said. "For example, it may be possible to build a nuclear plant in South Australia, supplying 1000 megawatts an hour of electricity and 75 gigalitres a year of water, at a cost in the order of 2.5 to three billion dollars.



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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