Reflections on Earth Day 2004
May 3, 2004
In recognition of Earth Day 2004 (April 22), we pause to consider the improvements the U.S. has made in the environment in the last thirty-one years. As Americans, we should be proud of the positive accomplishments we've made in cleaning our air and water, but we should also be concerned about obstacles that have been placed in the way of further improvement.
Below are some talking points on various Earth Day topics with endnotes. And, we close with some quotable quotes.
Comment 1. There is no evidence of global warming. Yes, there's been a rise in surface temperatures, which some mistake as a sign of global warming. However, the first indication of a greenhouse effect on global warming should be in the troposphere (lower atmosphere) where, according to satellite data, there has been no temperature change.[i]
Comment 2. Warming did occur between 1900 and 1945, but then the world cooled between 1945 and 1975. In fact, scientists were predicting massive problems due to global cooling in the 1970s. [ii]
Comment 3. Those who want you to believe in global warming want the U.S. to agree to reduce CO2 emissions even though such reductions would have no effect on the climate. What the Kyoto Protocol would do is put the U.S. at a huge disadvantage economically compared to Europe, China, and other countries. America would lose thousands of jobs, and our economy would suffer while other countries prosper. That's why Europe wants the U.S. to agree to the Protocol, and that is also why the U.S. Senate voted in opposition to the Kyoto Protocol 95-0 in 1997.
Comment 4. President Bush is correct in not signing the Kyoto Protocol, but instead agreeing to more studies to understand climate change.
Comment 1. With gasoline prices soaring and OPEC reducing oil output, it is critical we increase our domestic sources of petroleum and refining capacity. Congress can help by passing an energy bill that opens more domestic areas to exploration and reduces regulatory burdens on building more plants and refineries.
Comment 2. In order to keep our economy robust, we need to have an ample supply of energy and power plants. However, often when new power plants are proposed, many Americans say "not in my back yard" (NIMBY), even while they continue to use their air conditioners, TVs, computers, and other electric appliances. We can't have it all, and must make some energy choices if we want our economy to continue to grow.
Comment 3. We can't expect alternative energy such as wind power to replace coal, gas, and hydroelectric power anytime soon. Although using wind power sounds efficient, it actually costs three times as much as coal-generated power, kills birds, and causes people living near the turbines to suffer headaches and nausea. [iii]
Fuel economy standards
Comment 1. A National Academy of Sciences' (NAS) study shows that since 1975 when CAFE standards were imposed, an additional 2000 traffic deaths per year can be attributed to the downsizing of vehicles to meet those CAFE standards.[iv]
Comment 1. Historically, our nation's forests contained just 30 to 40 trees per acre. Through a century of mismanagement, they now contain 300 to 400 trees per acre. We must remove some of these trees to have healthy forests.
Comment 2. Failure to properly manage our nation's forests is bringing about a national environmental tragedy, where forests of dead and diseased trees are left to rot, while others are so full of underbrush and timber that one spark can start a firestorm. While the mismanagement occurred over the last century, today pseudo-environmentalists continue to delay and prevent sound measures to protect forest health.
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR)
Comment 1. The Energy Information Administration released a study in March 2004, that shows that opening just 2000 acres of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge would increase domestic oil production by 20 percent by 2025. This would allow our expenditures on foreign oil to decline by an average of $8 billion per year after production begins. [v]
Comment 2. The Clinton administration's own Department of Energy acknowledged that oil and gas exploration can be done, and leave the environment in "better-than-original" condition, leaving virtually no footprint on the tundra.[vi]
Cost of regulations/jobs
Comment 1. For firms employing less than 20 people, the cost of government regulations averages about $7,000 per employee. Ninety percent of all firms in the U.S. employ less than 20 people.[vii]
Comment 2. Complying with federal regulations costs each household in the U.S. $8,164. [viii]
Comment 3. Due in part to regulations against harvesting trees in national forests, the timber industry lost 53,000 jobs at 895 lumber mills, which were shut down.[ix]
Comment 4. Due in part to regulations against oil and gas exploration, 42,000 jobs were lost in this industry between 1992 and 2000. (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)
Air & Water Quality & Mercury
Comment 1. Our air is much cleaner than it was 31 years ago on the first Earth Day. That's not to say we shouldn't have goals to reduce pollution even further, but it must be balanced with common sense approaches so we do not harm our economy and cause the loss of jobs.
Comment 2. Most mercury emissions come from natural sources - not from power plant emissions.[x] President Bush's plan to reduce mercury and other emissions from power plants will clean our air while preserving jobs and economic growth.
Comment 3. Pregnant women should not listen to the scare tactics of some of the groups telling them to avoid eating seafood because of mercury contamination. Scientists say that limiting consumption of seafood may actually do more harm than good.[xi]
Comment 4. Since the Clean Water Act went into effect nearly thirty years ago, we've made remarkable progress in cleaning up our rivers and streams. States and local communities should be making more of the decisions in the future, since they will bear the costs.
Comment 1. Over 1,200 plants and animals are listed as threatened and endangered, and we spend over $3 billion per year protecting them, yet only about a dozen species (five of which were animals) have been removed from the list. [xii] We must examine whether the cost is worth it to our society.
Comment 2. When protecting the habitat of a fly or thistle prevents the building of a badly-needed school or hospital, we must demand that our representatives in Congress reform the Endangered Species Act so it doesn't harm humans while trying to protect animals and plants.
Comment 3. Of the animals that were removed from the endangered list, the American eagle recovered because of the banning of DDT, and the peregrine falcon recovered due to the efforts of a private foundation. Not one species was removed from the list due to the Act.
1. Norman Borlaug, 90, who was the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1970:
" Had we tried to produce the food of the year 2000 with the technology of 1960, we would have had to have much more than double the area under cultivation, which would have meant cutting down forests, plowing up lands that were marginal because of rainfall and would never have had sustainable production. So what would have happened to wildlife?"
"Without the proper use of chemical fertilizer, millions would have starved to death - hundreds of millions... Please, don't have the extreme greenies come to the developing nations, and tell their agriculture leaders that it's simple, all they have to do is use the organic fertilizer, and they can change production. This is nonsense. There's 83 million tons of active nitrogen fertilizer used in the world today, and the affluent nations are among the highest users."[xiii]
2. Michael Crichton, author, in his remarks to the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco, September 15, 2003:
"The greatest challenge facing mankind is the challenge of distinguishing reality from fantasy, truth from propaganda. We must daily decide whether the threats we face are real, whether the solutions we are offered will do any good, whether the problems we're told exist are in fact real problems or non-problems."
"Today one of the most powerful religions in the Western World is environmentalism. Environmentalism seems to be the religion of choice for urban atheists. Why do I say it's a religion? Well, just look at the beliefs. If you look carefully, you see that environmentalism is in fact a perfect 21st century remapping of traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs and myths. There's an initial Eden, a paradise, a state of grace and unity with nature, there's a fall from grace into a state of pollution as a result of eating from the tree of knowledge, and as a result, of our actions there is a judgment day coming for us all. We are all energy sinners, doomed to die, unless we seek salvation, which is now called sustainability."
3. The cooling world, printed in Newsweek:
"There are ominous signs that the Earth's weather patterns have begun to change dramatically and that these changes may portend a drastic decline in food production- with serious political implications for just about every nation on Earth. The drop in food output could begin quite soon, perhaps only 10 years from now."
"Climatologists are pessimistic that political leaders will take any positive action to compensate for the climatic change, or even to allay its effects. They concede that some of the more spectacular solutions proposed, such as melting the Arctic ice cap by covering it with black soot or diverting arctic rivers, might create problems far greater than those they solve. But the scientists see few signs that government leaders anywhere are even prepared to take the simple measures of stockpiling food or of introducing the variables of climatic uncertainty into economic projections of future food supplies. The longer the planners delay, the more difficult will they find it to cope with climatic change once the results become grim reality."[xiv]
[i] James Glassman and Sallie Baliunas, from an article in a June 2001 issue of The Weekly Standard.
[ii] "The Cooling World", Newsweek, April 28, 1975.
[iii] Eric Hubler, Electric co-op turns against wind power, The Denver Post, March 26, 2004.
[iv] National Academy of Sciences Study, "Effectiveness and Impact of Corporate Average Fuel Economy Standards, 2002."
[v] Energy Information Administration, March 16,2004.
[vi] Environmental Benefits for Advanced Oil and Gas Exploration and Production Technology, U.S. Department of Energy, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, Office of Natural Gas and Petroleum Technology, published October, 1999.
[vii] W. Mark Crain and Thomas D. Hopkins, The Impact of Regulatory Costs on Small Firms, U.S. Small Business Administration's Office of Advocacy, Washington D.C., 2001.
[ix] www.usconservation.org and U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
[x] "Analysis of the Sierra Club's Alarmist Claims about the Health Impacts of Mercury", Center for Science and Public Policy, 2004.
[xi] Science, 1997, vol. 278, 1904-1905.
[xii] "True Costs of the Endangered Species Act", published by the Property and Environment Research Center, April 14, 2004.
[xiii] Father of "Green Revolution" Decries Organic Movement, an interview with Borlaug on All Things Considered from National Public Radio, Wednesday, March 31, 2004.
[xiv] "The Cooling World", Newsweek, April 28, 1975.
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