January 2001 (vol. 17, #2)
1601 N Tucson Blvd #9, Tucson AZ 85716
c 2001 Physicians for Civil Defense
Even Science editor Don Kennedy now points out that the real reduction target of Kyoto-usually stated as 7% below 1990 levels-is 30% of the energy that would be required to meet the demands of population growth and increased per capita use (Science 2000;290:1091).
The price of electricity on the California Power Exchange, where most of the state's electricity is bought and sold, reached a record average of $611 per megawatt-hour in December, and $1,500 per megawatt-hour in January. Normally, nuclear power costs $30 per megawatt-hour.
Kaiser Aluminum resold the electricity it was to receive in December from the Bonneville Power Administration in Oregon, netting proceeds of $52 million, or nearly nine times its usual earnings. It plans to shut off its Mead, WA, smelter for 10 months and lay off 400 employees, due to the high cost of electricity in the Pacific Northwest (LA Times 12/11/00).
In a domino effect, a series of 18-hour shutdowns of electric pumps on oil pipelines drove supplies of gasoline, diesel, and jet fuel to dangerously low levels, in Nevada and Arizona as well as California (MoneyNews.com Wires, 1/23/01).
Press reports do not feature Amory Lovins touting the joys of ``negawatts'' (see Sept 1997 issue). Nor are all the roofs in foggy San Francisco, and every square meter of vacant land, being blanketed with solar cells. Instead, the press and politicians deplore ``profiteering'' and ``deregulation.''
The so-called deregulation scheme actually clamped tight government controls on everything except the wholesale price of electricity. Utilities were forced to sell generating facilities and buy power on the spot market, forbidden to enter long-term contracts with out-of-state suppliers, prevented from making needed capital investments, and forced to sell to customers at a low, controlled price. Buying low and selling high is a reliable prescription for bankruptcy: utilities are defaulting on bank loans and raiding pension funds.
The explanation for California's short-term problem is price controls. The long-term problem is lack of generating capacity. Both are explained brilliantly in the December 2000 issue of Access to Energy (Box 1250, Cave Junction OR 97523).
Human experience with price controls dates back 40 centuries, and the result is always the same: shortages, market distortions, corruption, and black markets. Dictators have resorted to the most draconian enforcement measures. Diocletian and Chiang Kai-shek staged public executions of ``profiteers,'' but still could not cause goods to materialize without, at some point, paying a market price. All competent economists oppose price controls. Yet politicians-and their constituents-are seduced by them, century after century.
Price controls are simply evil-a form of robbery. Producers are robbed of their compensation and ultimately their assets, and customers are robbed of the necessities of life.
So how are politicians responding to the crisis? California Governor Gray Davis may claim to protect ratepayers, but the piper is being paid-by taxpayers and stockholders. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) wants to force non-California utilities (and their ratepayers) to share the cost of California folly.
The rest of the nation is already paying, as Fred Singer points out (TWTW 1/20/01, www.sepp.org), in natural gas prices that are three to four times normal, largely due to burgeoning demand from gas turbines that replace less politically acceptable ways to generate electricity.
Reliable electricity will flow normally to Californians if price controls are lifted. But to assure adequate supply at an affordable price, California needs 10,000 additional MW of generating capacity in the next few years. It is far behind on construction: a decade ago, at a time of a 30% surplus, environmentalists confidently predicted that conservation would drop demand by half within 10 years. State regulations made it virtually impossible to construct a new facility. California now generates less power per resident than any other state and imports 25% of its energy from places as distant as Quebec (Investor's Business Daily 1/22/01).
While politically difficult, it is at least possible for California to reverse its destructive policy-or for industry to move to more hospitable States. The U.S. is not yet under the thumb of a tyrannical global bureaucracy empowered to shut down energy production throughout the world. AlGore did the best he could at the November climate conference in The Hague: he was willing to give up 90% of the initial position taken by the U.S. But the Europeans demanded total surrender (TWTW, ibid.).
With current energy prices, low-income Americans may already be forced to choose between eating and heating, stated Assistant Secretary of Energy Dan Reicher. The Kyoto Protocol would exact a $348 billion cost on the U.S. economy in 2010 alone, according to the US Energy Information Administration. Gasoline prices would increase by 50%, electricity bills by 85%, and heating oil costs by 75% or more (www.acton.org). A study by the National Black Chamber of Commerce and U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce estimated that the Kyoto Protocol would cost 3.2 million jobs, half now held by blacks or hispanics. The cost for an average American family of four would be between $3,684 and $6,400 per year (Burnett HS, Washington Times 10/20/00).
The scientific case for the Kyoto Protocol continues to self-destruct: one hopes rapidly enough to spare the less fortunate of the world worse consequences than those faced by Californians.
People in the Primorye region of Siberia are also without power for most of the day, during the coldest winter in three decades. Coal stockpiles are low, and mining machinery frozen. Hospitals are flooded with victims of frostbite, many requiring amputations. ``I cannot say we have had a crisis,'' said Vladimir Rodionov, head of the regional social welfare department. ``Yes, we have had certain incidents, but we didn't have a whole city or village frozen'' (Moscow Times 1/23/01).
Ironically, a transitory warming trend in areas of Siberia was pointed to by global warmers as ``proof'' of a need for rationing of the use of hydrocarbon fuels.
The Bush Administration intends to move rapidly to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) to oil drilling, citing California's electricity crisis as evidence of the nation's urgent need for more fuel. It is not the only evidence.
The domestic oil industry is in a shambles, having lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and more than a million barrels a day of production. This must be replaced by 10,000 tankers full of imported crude oil. The U.S. is approaching 60% dependence on foreign oil, in contrast to 42% only 10 years ago. Moreover, 50 of 200 refineries have been shut down. Still more will be lost as a result of new EPA regulations on the production of diesel fuel.
With the oil crisis is an impending natural gas crisis. More than 90% of the gas is produced domestically, with few potential sources for imports. According to Denise Bode, Vice Chairman of the Oklahoma Corporation Commission, the U.S. is two years behind in replacing reserves, to say nothing of meeting new demand. While 96% of electrical generation facilities now planned are to be gas-fired, there has been little demand for policies to assure availability of fuel. Alaska does have a huge supply, but there is no pipeline to bring it to the lower 48 states (Heritage Lectures #692, 11/16/00).
Environmentalists are enraged at the thought of developing oil supplies in the ANWR, and an effort is underway to get 1,000 physicians to voice objections. Yet, only 2,000 acres out of 19 million in the ANWR would need to be used in order to recover up to 16 billion barrels of oil. At Prudhoe Bay on Alaska's North Slope, 60 miles west of ANWR, 1.4 million barrels of oil per day are recovered although drilling rigs, production facilities, and roads cover only 2% of the 250,000-acre Prudhoe Bay field. Not a single polar bear has been killed, and the caribou herd has increased in size since the 1970s (National Center for Public Policy Analysis #324, 1/23/01).
The meeting of representatives of 160 nations at the COP-6 in November at the Hague was supposed to ``work out the details of one of the boldest attempts at international diplomacy ever: reining in the gusher of gases threatening to warm the planet. Taking their cue from the successful Montreal Protocol for the control of ozone- destroying emissions, governments crafted a `big bang' approach to controlling greenhouse emissions at a meeting in Kyoto in 1997.'' It was recognized before the conference that prospects for ratification were dim, because of the ``wrenching'' and ``disruptive'' reductions that would be required on the part of the U.S.-and the vehement opposition of the United Kingdom to allowing the U.S. to ``buy its way out'' through emissions trading. Such is the spin from the News Focus section of the prestigious journal of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (Science 2000;290:920)-while other articles in the journal reveal the great uncertainties in climate science and the carbon cycle.
No agreement has even been reached on what constitutes a carbon sink. Yet, the U.S. would have to report land use changes to the U.N. for determining their effect on emissions restrictions (Heritage Backgrounder #1401, 11/17/00).
The most memorable result of the conference for most participants was, appropriately, the picture of U.S. negotiator Frank Loy with a berry-filled pie all over his face (Glassman, Tech Central Station, 11/27/00).
The proceedings were ``this year's most elaborate expression of both the vanity of politics and the hubris of science.... It provided an opportunity for politicians such as John Prescott and Jacques Chirac to leave behind the pressing domestic issues of the day-respectively rail chaos and BSE [bovine spongiform encephalopathy]-in order to strike dramatic poses on the subject of global warming; on which they knew that they could never effectively be held to account'' (The Sunday Telegraph 11/26/00). The Telegraph concludes that ``the real subtext of the conference was an attack on the alleged economic hegemony of the United States''-without regard to the suffering that a slowing of the U.S. economy imposes on every nation that exports to the U.S. or receives U.S. investments.
With the failure to achieve agreement at The Hague on emissions restrictions, the environmental pressure groups are working toward a unilateral carbon control program by the United States. This is outlined in a book by the Aspen Institute, U.S. Policy and Global Environment: Memos to the President, which has been distributed to everyone in the new Administration and Congress, courtesy of Texaco.
Jay Lehr of Environmental Education Enterprises writes: ``If nothing else, socialists are known for their patience.... Climate planners know that just by starting the process, they can move on to achieve their goals (including full employment for the intellectual class), and that even the Bush Administration can be very useful.... (See www.E3power.com.)
The book ... is a real-time view of the environmental planning intellectual class. In reality they probably would not mind seeing a billion people starve if as a result the world's population were to decline. This is the ultimate target toward which all wrongheaded action relating to the fiction of global warming is actually aimed.''
The first global agreement to ``abolish a class of dangerous industrial chemicals'' was finalized in Johannesburg, South Africa, in December, along with a process to determine the next chemicals to be proscribed. Eight ``persistent organic pollutants'' (POPs) are to be banned immediately, including aldrin, dieldrin, endrin, chlordane, heptaclor, hexaclorobenzene, Mirex, and Toxaphene. DDT was given an exemption, thanks to the efforts of Africans Fighting Malaria. However, nations must report their DDT use in a special register, raising its cost and revealing all users (Science 2000;290:2053).
In May, crews resumed work spraying houses in KwaZulu-Natal province of South Africa. Malaria was nearly controlled there in 1995, but rapidly increased by a factor of 10 when DDT use was suspended (Inquirer 12/18/00). By November, monthly malaria cases had fallen to the level of previous years, suggesting a significant impact (a ProMED post, 1/3/01).
In a novel for the New Millennium, the fate of the Earth is not in question: it's the fate of mankind that is threaten- ed, when those who think that humanity is a parasite on the beloved Planet get their way.
Read Part I of Moonshine by Jane Orient and Linda Wright free of charge at www.janeorient.com