The first Earth Day in 1970 came to pass with a plethora of statements from the usual alarmist suspects (e.g., Paul Ehrlich, Dennis Hayes, U.S. Sen. Gaylord Nelson, et al) that, in hindsight, should make any sane person laugh out loud. The fact making these a lot less funny is that similarly outrageous statements are being made today by the likes of Al Gore & Co. A sampling of the 1970 stuff appears at the end of this commentary.
The fatal fault underlying much said by these disciples of Thomas Malthus is their apparent ignorance of history. Thus, they are oblivious to the wisdom in a metaphor coined, I think, by Sir Isaac Newton, circa 1675, while writing to another giant of science of his day, Robert Hooke: "If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants."
The Malthusian conceit leading to such as 1972's The Limits to Growth is that human progress cannot continue beyond the present so behavior must now be strictly controlled to avoid the disasters conjured up in the Malthusians' vivid imaginations. One might put it, "We midgets cannot contribute to growth of the giant on whose shoulders we stand (all accumulated human knowledge), so we must retreat."
A contemporary example I like to cite is the story of natural gas supply today vis-à-vis 1978, when Congress enacted, and Pres. Carter signed, the National Energy Act. That act comprised the Powerplant and Industrial Fuel Use Act and four other acts. The fuel use act commanded a rapid switch to coal, considered necessary mostly on account of imminent depletion of natural gas availability to zero (as well as the need—surprise, surprise—to reduce oil imports!). We now have a glut of natural gas on account of drilling and fracturing techniques undreamt of by the 1978 crowd.
This Malthsian scarcity stuff is manna for the socialist one-world government types. "Sustainability" is their code word of choice. A fairly extensive discussion of that appears here on my website.
Colorado's flagship public university at Boulder, like hundreds of other institutions of purportedly higher learnng all over the country, is all in to "sustainability." But don't ask for a working definition. I have, and the Chancellor's office either cannot, or is afraid to, provide it.
1970 Earth Day Predictions
“We have about five more years at the outside to do something.” • Kenneth Watt, ecologist
“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.” • George Wald, Harvard Biologist
“Population will inevitably and completely outstrip whatever small increases in food supplies we make. The death rate will increase until at least 100-200 million people per year will be starving to death during the next ten years.” • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“By… some experts feel that food shortages will have escalated the present level of world hunger and starvation into famines of unbelievable proportions. Other experts, more optimistic, think the ultimate food-population collision will not occur until the decade of the 1980s.” • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist
“It is already too late to avoid mass starvation.” • Denis Hayes, chief organizer for Earth Day
“Demographers agree almost unanimously on the following grim timetable: by 1975 widespread famines will begin in India; these will spread by 1990 to include all of India, Pakistan, China and the Near East, Africa. By the year 2000, or conceivably sooner, South and Central America will exist under famine conditions….By the year 2000, thirty years from now, the entire world, with the exception of Western Europe, North America, and Australia, will be in famine.” • Peter Gunter, professor, North Texas State University
“Scientists have solid experimental and theoretical evidence to support…the following predictions: In a decade, urban dwellers will have to wear gas masks to survive air pollution…by 1985 air pollution will have reduced the amount of sunlight reaching earth by one half….” • Life Magazine, January 1970
“At the present rate of nitrogen buildup, it’s only a matter of time before light will be filtered out of the atmosphere and none of our land will be usable.” • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
“Air pollution…is certainly going to take hundreds of thousands of lives in the next few years alone.” • Paul Ehrlich, Stanford University biologist “By the year 2000, if present trends continue, we will be using up crude oil at such a rate…that there won’t be any more crude oil. You’ll drive up to the pump and say, `Fill ‘er up, buddy,’ and he’ll say, `I am very sorry, there isn’t any.’” • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
“Dr. S. Dillon Ripley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institute, believes that in 25 years, somewhere between 75 and 80 percent of all the species of living animals will be extinct.” • Sen. Gaylord Nelson
“The world has been chilling sharply for about twenty years. If present trends continue, the world will be about four degrees colder for the global mean temperature in 1990, but eleven degrees colder in the year 2000. This is about twice what it would take to put us into an ice age.” • Kenneth Watt, Ecologist
(’76 Contributor) Last week, political, media and celebrity worlds converged to produce headlines worthy of “News of the Weird.” Sean Penn eulogized anti-American strongman Hugo Chavez as “a friend (America) never knew it had,” while Dennis Rodman declared North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un “an awesome guy.” Upon returning from the starving gulag-state, Rodman scored a Sunday interview with George Stephanopoulos, and CNN declared him a “diplomatic triumph.”
But perhaps the most captivating cause celebre — likely to transform advocates into media and campus darlings — is the crusade to halt the drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). However, if you expect those aspiring to star in the next “China Syndrome” to possess more scruples than Rodman or Penn, Think Again. Though fracking has opened up vast reserves of clean, cheap and reliable natural gas in shale deep underground, making America the world's largest natural-gas producer, it's a bete noire to enviro-stars such as Matt Damon.
In his new movie “Promised Land,” Damon doubled down on alarming claims made in Josh Fox's Oscar-nominated documentary “Gasland,” even copying the signature scene of a man lighting tap water on fire. Wanting another environmental blockbuster like “The China Syndrome” — whose release days before Three Mile Island's near-meltdown devastated the nuclear-power industry — Damon aimed to stoke natural-gas fears. However, not only has mass hysteria not materialized, his film is a box-office and financial bust for investors, including oil-rich United Arab Emirates.
Damon's conceit derives from the frenzy generated by “Gasland's” Fox, who claims that fracking causes “toxic streams, ruined aquifers, dying livestock, shocking illnesses and tap water that bursts into flames.” Media jumped on the anti-natural-gas bandwagon, including The New York Times, prompting its ombudsman to twice rebuke Times editors and staff for biased reporting and questionable ethics.
Meanwhile, aware that “natural” gas occurs naturally in water where there's methane-rich soil (as in Burning Springs, N.Y.) and of stories about George Washington lighting water on fire, former Financial Times reporter Phelim McAleer started an 18-month investigation to uncover the truth about fracking and “Gasland's” startling allegations.
His just-released documentary, “Fracknation,” was financed with donations averaging $64 and has won plaudits for exposing enviro-hucksters while championing their victims. Variety called it “a well-reasoned film ... (that) makes a good case against Fox's movie,” and The New York Times said it's “no tossed-off, pro-business pamphlet” but “methodically researched and assembled.”
Its pivotal scene is of McAleer questioning Fox at a 2011 screening of “Gasland” about his famous flaming faucets.
“Isn't it true,” McAleer asks, “there's reports, decades before fracking started, that there was methane in the water there?”
Aware of these scientific studies, and galled by the question's ethical implications, Fox declares contradictory evidence “not relevant,” as if documentarians enjoy the same dramatic license as makers of fictional films.
But if facts and scientific proof aren't relevant, what is? Are Fox and Damon intent on reverse-engineering arguments from pre-ordained conclusions or informing the public? Fracking involves legitimate risks; why not focus on assuring regulatory best practices?
The truth is that technological innovations such as fracking have spawned an energy boom, enabling both economic and environmental improvements, including the substitution of low-carbon gas for coal; cheaper energy (a rebate for the poor); cleaner air; new energy jobs; increased governmental revenues; greater energy independence; a drop in U.S. carbon dioxide emissions to a 20-year low, outpacing Europe, whose expensive renewable-energy strategies have underperformed; and improved energy efficiency — it takes 50 percent less energy to produce one dollar of economic output than it did in 1980.
Anti-frackers should learn this Keynesian lesson: “When my information changes, I alter my conclusions.” What's irrefutably relevant is that fracking has succeeded where renewable-energy subsidies, government stimulus and climate treaties have failed, potentially enabling cheap American energy to eventually offset China's cheap labor advantage.
These upside surprises come when entrepreneurial thinkers like Robert Kennedy “dream things that never were and say ‘why not?'” One dreamer, biologist Allan Savory, spoke at the TED2013 conference of his odyssey to reverse global desertification, which degrades the land's ability to absorb water and carbon, causing famine, war and climate change. Savory described how he challenged his assumptions — ones that led him to mistakenly recommend killing 40,000 African elephants — and centuries of conventional wisdom, deriving a counterintuitive low-tech strategy to use grazing livestock to reclaim the land. At first he met bruising academic scorn and then astonishing and indisputable success.
Savory predicts his soil-restoration strategy, if employed on half the available land, will enable enough carbon absorption to return to preindustrial carbon dioxide levels. Drawing a standing ovation, he said, “I can think of almost nothing that offers more hope for our planet, for our children, for their children and for all of humanity.”
Think Again. Aren't the real celebrities innovators who solve seemingly intractable problems, not eco-stars who peddle fiction?
Melanie Sturm writes biweekly for the Aspen Times. She reminds readers to “Think Again: You might change your mind.” Melanie welcomes comments at email@example.com.
(CCU Faculty) This past summer we rented a house along the California coast north of LA. The two things I remember most from our vacation were the shockingly high gas prices and the oil residue we had to scrub off our feet after going into the water. The landlord of our beach house had a can of turpentine and rags by the door to remind us not to track it onto their carpets. There is so much oil along the coast north of LA that it is seeping onto the beaches, but we are not allowed to drill? Why don’t we put that oil in our cars instead of on our feet?
During the past four years the Obama administration has made sure there has been no new drilling on public land. The last time a new oil refinery was built in our country Gerald Ford was president. Drilling and refining that oil would provide jobs, improve the economy, help struggling families make it through the month, stop all those US dollars from going overseas, and even clean up the environment! Imagine what would happen, if Californians got fed up with those high gas prices and decided to vote differently in four weeks?
('76 Contributor) As I write these lines, vast wildfires are sweeping through my home state of Colorado and other areas of the American west. Last week, two of my employees had to leave work early to rush home to evacuate their families from imminent danger. Hundreds of houses have already been destroyed, and thousands of acres of trees incinerated, and unknown myriads of wild animals burned alive.
This disaster was predictable, and promises to get worse. Over the past decade, from British Columbia to New Mexico, the world’s most rapid deforestation has been underway in the North American west, with an average of nearly six million acres of forest lost per year — roughly double the three million acres per year rate in Brazil. The culprits here, however, have not been humans, but Western Pine Beetles, whose epidemic spread has turned over 60 million acres of formerly evergreen pine forests into dead red tinder, dry ammunition awaiting any spark to flare into catastrophe.
Yet while the global green movement has made a cause célèbre of the Amazon rain forest, they have done nothing to oppose those destroying our woods. Quite the contrary, they have been doing everything in their power to assist the wreckers. Indeed, over the past decade they have launched over a thousand lawsuits to block every attempt by the National Forest Service or others to take necessary counter measures.
These facts are well-known, and in many places there are those who would be delighted to do the logging (not everywhere, unfortunately, as the shutting down of 90% of the American timber industry by the environmentalists over the past two decades has forced many local sawmills to shut down) because pine beetle kill wood is fine timber. Indeed, its striking blue stain endows it with beauty prized by many carpenters for ornamental purposes. Yet time and again, plans to allow controlled preemptive logging to proceed have been blocked by spurious lawsuits from a multitude of self-described environmentalist groups, who additionally have used these suits to bilk the taxpayers of billions of dollars.
There is one word that sums up the required course of action:logging. The beetles have been spreading uncontrollably because continuously connected and extremely thick forests densely populated with mature trees provide the ideal environment for their proliferation. Logging to thin the forests of mature trees that afford the beetles their favorite homes would slow their growth considerably. Logging out tree-free gaps between sections of forests would impose quarantine limits on the epidemic. Logging out trees that have already been killed would remove fuel for the otherwise inevitable conflagration.
The arguments that the putative environmentalists have used to justify their campaign have been risible. For example, in a legal brief filed August 29, 2011, on behalf of itself and several other groups, the South Dakota-based Friends of the Norbeck said:
Yes, bark beetles are killing many trees, but that won’t necessarily lead to large fires. Even if it did, there’s not much humans can do directly to forests to influence fire risk, except to begin reducing human causes of climatic change. Logging the forest will not significantly influence fire spread, and removal of dead trees has many negative impacts on forest ecosystems.
While as recently as this May, the allied “Native Forest Council” issued a statement saying,
Insects, fire and disease are part of nature. They keep our Commonwealth of forests healthy and alive. They did so until the white man came and began liquidating them, using them up because they were there. Nature’s insect, fire and disease don’t destroy forests. Man, chainsaws and greed destroy forests. Man, scientists, even foresters have never grown a forest, let alone a “like kind or better” forest. They don’t know how. They never have and they never will.
The illogic of the antihuman sentiments behind these, and endless numbers of similar statements put forth by the beetle’s Green apologists over the past decade, is incredible. Limited harvesting that would save the forest (and incidentally reduce damage to forests elsewhere, such as the Amazon, by driving down the global price of wood) is to be shunned — precisely because it would create jobs, useful products, and commerce. At the same time, vast depredations that destroy tens of millions of acres of wild habitat, kill countless numbers of terrified animals in the most horrible way, and throw millions of tons of smoke, pine-tar gas, and other pollutants into the atmosphere are discounted as irrelevant and unimportant by those who claim to care so deeply for nature and all its creatures.
Of course, there is another tactic that could be used to save the forests, and that would be to use pesticides. For example, as long ago as the 1940s, it was shown that DDT is extremely effective in countering the Western Pine Beetle. Thus on pages 287-288 of Biology and Control of the Western Pine Beetle, US Department of Agriculture Forest Service Miscellaneous Publication 800, 1960, authors J.M. Miller and F.P. Kern report on numerous studies done in the period from 1944 through 1951 that showed 90 to 96% mortality within hours among pine beetles that came into momentary contact with trees that had been sprayed with 5% dilute DDT solutions.
However, the same environmental groups that have halted western logging regard the idea of using DDT to stop the pine beetle with near hysteria. Rachel Carson’s 1962 tome Silent Spring (which falsely argued that the vital pesticide DDT should be banned because it was killing the birds, when actually it was protecting them — and us — from insect-borne diseases) is virtually sacred scripture to the greens, and the successful campaign to ban DDT that followed from its promotion serves as the core of their proudest creation myth. In enshrining this myth, the anti-technology cult has chosen to heartlessly turn its head away from the massive amount of human misery it has caused through its narcissistic sacrifice of millions of African children to malaria. It must perforce regard the very idea that its object of hatred might be used to save our forests and their wildlife from incineration as nothing short of outright heresy.
From DDT, to nuclear power, to fossil-fuel development, to genetically improved crops, the green movement has used the pretext of nonexistent or grossly exaggerated environmental hazards to block enterprises that would be of enormous benefit to people. However, when faced with a real and catastrophic threat to the wild they have taken the other side — precisely because allowing the necessary protective measures would not constrain human liberty, but expand it, in however limited a way, and this would undermine the central purpose of the “environmentalist” exercise.
To those seeking environmental pretexts for enhanced control over society, all changes to nature effected by humans, no matter how beneficial, must be portrayed as criminal. Thus global warming and carbon dioxide emissions are denounced, despite the fact that they lengthen the growing season, increase rainfall, and accelerate plant growth. Thus no actions may be taken to save the forests.
By the light of a burning wildness the truth may be perceived. The purpose of the green prosecution is not to protect nature, but to put shackles on humankind.
Dr. Robert Zubrin is president of Pioneer Astronautics, a Senior Fellow with the Center for Security Policy, and the author of "Energy Victory: Winning the War on Terror by Breaking Free of Oil". His newest book, "Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism" has just been published by Encounter Books.
(Centennial Fellow) The misinformation was so great in a recent guest op-ed in the Denver Post that it could not have been manufactured by one person alone. It took a consumer group organizer, a member of the Sierra Club and a trouper from George Soros's MoveOn.org to misrepresent a salvational technology known as fracking as a weapon of mass destruction.
You better have a cardiologist standing by, for what this committee said was that fracking has "caused livestock and crops to die from tainted water, people in small towns to black out and develop headaches from foul air, and flames to explode from kitchen taps."
My apologies to those of you already reeling in terror, but there is more. The chemicals used in fracking can cause cancer and heart disease.
Or maybe not. Maybe, by now, you have grown accustomed to the evangelical, fundamentalist faith of radical environmentalism. Maybe you would like to visit with science and actual experience before you go into 911 mode, screaming into the phone that the cops had better, by heavens, get to those fracking sites with guns drawn.
Let's set the record straight by first talking about what fracking is, namely, hydraulic fracturing, a means of forcing fissures in hard rock to let oil or natural gas seep its way to a well. The 64-year-old vertical technique using mostly water and sand under high pressure has been employed in about a million wells with no hullabaloo.
Something just a decade old has been added — similarly safe horizontal fracking. It allows vast reaching out in a bunch of different directions while taking up hardly any space above ground. What we get is the inexpensive, environmentally sound snatching of enough energy from deep-down solid stone to make us free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, free at last.
It's hard to overstate what's happened. Especially with the new access to U.S. mother lodes of natural gas that is now a cheaper source of energy than anything else, we have taken a giant step toward energy independence.
By itself, one fracking area in the East is said to have as much energy as Saudi Arabia. Tons more jobs are being created nationally. A truly significant reduction in greenhouse gases should result, along with a significant reduction in what it costs to make this industrialized, motorized nation go.
So does fracking murder cows? Bogus claim. For that to happen, you can learn from several articles, much diluted chemicals used in tiny amounts would have to rise thousands of feet and pass through solid rock without benefit of fracking to reach aquifers above.
And if you say that sounds easy, listen to an EPA administrator quoted as saying fracking has never been shown to poison water. The EPA also concluded in a study that the chemicals pose no threat to human health.
And even before fracking was a fact, kitchen taps have exploded from methane gas tucked in spots close to homes by nature herself, no help needed. Fracking has never been shown to be responsible.
The Denver Post op-ed is a tiny part of the campaign now being waged nationally by large numbers of other eco religionists and those they've influenced, but then there is actual research refuting the shock-and-awe assault on the civic psyche.
Review activist assertions, but then if you have time, do what I did — chat with an experienced geologist, check with a couple of other experts, find out through reading a dozen and more articles what the data truly reveal and tune in on some sane comment, such as a Denver Post staff columnist citing hard evidence of alert regulation in Colorado.
From varied written testimony, it appears alert in the rest of the nation, too, and should be because experts do agree such matters as well coverings can be and have been an issue. Care is obviously needed, but don't feel you need to call the cops.
(CCU Faculty) Bulletin: Harold Camping is alive and is now a columnist for the New York Times. Not really; it's just Thomas Friedman cranking out yet another jeremiad with warnings of apocalyptic doom.
“The earth is full….We have “crossed some growth/climate/natural resource/population redlines all at once.” Friedman then recites the usual Malthusian themes. Sana, the capital of Yemen, is running out of water. This, of course, is due to environmental irresponsibility.
Could it be more the case that Yemen is a violent, primitive country riven by tribal violence and descending into anarchy? Is political implosion more the problem than environmental scarcity? Is it because Yemen is “a distinctive culture of dagger-wearing men and most adults chewing qat?” (See Daniel Pipes’ description here.)
Is Friedman really suggesting that the world is running out of drinking water when more people have access to potable water than at any time in the history of the human race?
Then there is Friedman’s second example—China. “The conflict between humankind and nature has never been as serious as it is today….” What China is telling us is that, “the Earth is full. We are now using so many resources and putting out so much waste into the Earth that we have reached some kind of limit, given current technologies.” Since 1978 more than 100 million Chinese have been lifted out of poverty. Their economy has grown at nearly 10% a year—doubling every decade. Starvation is being replaced by food and by hope. A question for Mr. Friedman: How many people are you willing to lock into permanent poverty to achieve your environmental goals? A third example—rising food prices in the Middle East. “Population growth and more global warming together are pushing up food prices; rising food prices cause political instability in the Middle East, which leads to higher oil prices, which leads to higher food prices, which leads to more instability.”
Is Mr. Friedman seriously suggesting that the fundamental problem facing the Middle East is rising food prices? This is the source of unrest? Not autocratic, oppressive governments that deny basic human rights, subjugate women, and leave their citizens oppressed in every way?
Friedman ends his piece on a positive note—when we reach the crisis point he is hopeful that people will make the right choice. What is needed is ”a growth model based on giving people more time to enjoy life, but with less stuff.” (No doubt Friedman ponders all this while relaxing in his 11,400 square foot mansion, pictured here.)
I guess I am no longer surprised by eco-fear mongers who predict the end of the world, lecturing others on how to live, and totally unaffected in their own personal lives. But it is still annoying.
One last point. The implicit assumption in all apocalyptic environmental sermons is that there is no God. A generation ago Jean Paul Sartre asserted, “We are alone in a hostile universe.” No one believes him more than environmentalists. There is no God controlling man or nature. We are on our own. We cannot be saved by divine intervention but only by the elitists at the New York Times.
I want to end on a positive note. The God who is missing in Friedman’s pieces actually exists. He sovereignly rules the world He created. It will end all right but when he decides to end it, not man. In the meantime He has given mankind the marvelous ability to materially improve our world lifting countless millions of poor into a better life. They may not live in Thomas Friedman’s house but they are bettering themselves. And may God keep the Friedmans of the world from stopping this wonderful process.
(Centennial Fellow) There is not as yet – and may never be – a complete accounting of the human suffering and property losses that befell the people of Japan with the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, 2011.
One thing everyone knows is that a nuclear power plant emergency of historical proportion is on the list. Has it been reported fairly?
This essay is about exaggeration, and the absence of a fair perspective accompanied by useful technical information.
In context with the entire tragic picture, the consequences of events at the six-unit Fukushima nuclear power complex are small. Predictably – this being about things nuclear and radioactive – Fukushima has dominated news coverage and created unwarranted, widespread fear. Citizens all around the world have been badly served once again by press failure that has had little redemption.
Yes, the Japanese are going to lose several billion dollars worth of electric generating capacity, but that will be little more than rounding in comparison to their aggregate property losses and other economic disruption. Almost certainly, no one will ever be able to identify public health effects from radiation releases because, while there could be some, they will be too few and too diffuse for statistical verification.
Heroes. I cannot go forward from this point without pausing to note heroes. The nearly unbelievable calm and cooperation exhibited by the people of Japan make them all heroes. At Fukushima, though, there are several dozen who stand especially tall, men who have braved exposures to high radiation levels while performing emergency procedures intended to protect their fellow citizens. We should all pause and ask our Maker to save them from permanent harm.
Reporting. I don’t claim that fair, informed reporting of a nuclear power plant emergency is easy. However, among results of the Three Mile Island accident in 1979 was extensive focus on lessons learned by those in the industry and those regulating it. The news media were all over this, of course. But what about lessons learned by them from their awful reporting? Recall that TMI was further sensationalized on account of occurring just 12 days after release of a thriller movie, The China Syndrome. Despite all the nail-biting and hand-wringing at the time, I have never seen reported a single injury to anyone – plant worker or general public – in the intervening 32 years. More to the point, I have never seen in the press anything resembling a good news report of the spectacular safety record at TMI!
No lessons for the press from Chernobyl either? Unlike either TMI or Fukushima, there was prompt, uncontrolled release of an enormous inventory of radioisotopes. That was 25 years ago, and it is now well known (but, thanks to the underperforming press, not broadly known) that the dire predictions of human and property costs have not been experienced.
Wouldn’t one have to say the media has failed to learn any lessons? Of course one would. But then TMI and Chernobyl are old stories, useful in “the news” today not for factual illustration but only to conjure up bad memories and, thus, stir the pot.
Columnist Ann Coulter’s March 16 column was ironically titled “A Glowing Report on Radiation.” Read it here. Though her résumé shows no technical training, Coulter wrote a clear discourse on recent radiation effects research. This proves that a technically-complicated subject is amenable to solid reporting. It also feeds one’s suspicion that most in the news business are less interested in straight reporting than in sensationalism and – like too many utility executives – in keeping environmental activists happy.
Our household finds Fox News Channel generally more reliable than other televised news sources, and we respect its efforts to air different points of view in its commentaries. However, Fox on Fukushima was worse than useless.
On the early evening news program he hosts, Shepard Smith gave us day-after-day regurgitation of emergency action at Fukushima, reported releases of radioactive material with no authoritative explanation as to consequent health effects, and the like. This got no better when Smith showed up to do his broadcast from Japan, apparently to give viewers the impression that Fox was on the ground giving us the straight skinny from up close. All hat and no cattle.
Coulter appeared March 17 on “The O’Reilly Factor” to discuss her writing about radiation effects. I’ll give Bill O’Reilly and his producer credit for the invitation, but not the content. The trouble was that O’Reilly was hell bent to make sure his guest didn’t come off as knowing more than he about her subject. What Coulter had to say was dismissed as pretty much irrelevant given the oh-so-urgent need to tell the alarming story of Fukushima and, as usual, it ended with O’Reilly shouting louder.
On April 13, The Denver Post carried a report that 0.17 picocurie per liter (pCi/l) of iodine-131 from Fukushima had been found in local water and in the water of other U.S. cities. That happens to be about 16,000 times below the conservative upper limit set by Japanese regulators for consumption by babies, and nearly 50,000 times below the limit for adults. The Post acknowledged that “authorities” considered this concentration harmless, and some useful context was provided.
But, I ask, why did the paper publish 400 words on this subject at all? I think you can bet the farm that no hazardous substance other than radioactivity, at 16,000 times below the standard for protecting babies, would have been reported. Few if any can even be detected at levels that low.
The Post missed a great opportunity to tell the real story in that 0.17 pCi/l, the beyond-astonishing ability science has developed to detect and identify radioisotopes in the environment. For iodine-131, that is the same concentration as one-fifth of an ounce (weight) dispersed in the Mediterranean Sea. Less than one-and-one-half parts per billion trillion.
While this wonderful metrical capability facilitates protecting people against harmful exposure – a blessing – it also opens the door to reports that lead to unwarranted public fear – a curse. We need to demand better from the press.
Environmental writer William Tucker has been a well-informed voice of sanity for decades. In an op-ed titled ”Japan Does Not Face Another Chernobyl” published March 14 in The Wall Street Journal, Tucker trenchantly noted, “With all the death, devastation and disease now threatening tens of thousands in Japan, it is trivializing and almost obscene to spend so much time worrying about damage to a nuclear reactor.”
Events subsequent vindicate striking “almost” from that sentence! It’s obscene, plain and simple.
John Dendahl is a Centennial Institute Fellow specializing in energy policy and mass media. This piece originally appeared at FamilySecurityMatters.org.
An overflow crowd packed the CCU Business School on August 9 as Centennial Institute resumed its Issue Monday series. "Energy Insanity and Its Remedies" was the topic. John Harpole, founder and president of Denver-based Mercator Energy, and Jim Felton, director of communications for the oil and gas heavyweight Bill Barrett Corporation, were the speakers.
I launched the discussion by noting that whereas fashionable opinion calls for ever less energy use, we at Centennial Institute see the increasing use of energy as a proxy for the increasing well-being of everyone -- a key to human flourishing. Among the questions we invited Felton and Harpole to address were:
How are Bill Ritter's anti-oil policies hurting the Colorado economy? How are Ken Salazar's anti-oil policies hurting the US economy? What's the real potential of renewables & the best way to get there? How well has our state's wind mandate lived up to promises? What are the policy priorities for this election and next year?
John Harpole (at right in photo) warned that a train wreck is impending as government-mandated wind energy collides with EPA pollution standards. His PowerPoint presentation is here. Jim Felton's remarks were based on the following text:
I'm asked to talk about energy a bit, But I see timing isn't the best right now, at least as the nation is concerned. After all energy is a topic a bit down the list of those issues of primary importance to Americans. The Pew Research Center recently found the economy, jobs, and terrorism to be the top three of 21 issues listed as their importance to the American commonweal these days
Of the 21 categories listed, energy was squeezed in the middle of the pack between the military and health insurance. Global warming, BTW, came in at 21.
Energy, however, certainly impacts those top three, and further impacts the military deficit spending, the environment as several other issues on the list. I'll try to cover that ground a bit in the next 15-20 minutes.
But first, a word from our sponsors: Thanks to Centennial Institute for this opportunity to introduce Bill Barrett Corp to many of you. For those not familiar with BBC, we are a Denver based exploration and production company who just this week completed its 8th year in business. You're a true local if you remember it was Barrett Resources back nearly 30 years ago that first solved the engineering and geology by getting natural gas to flow from the tight gas formations that provide the basis of energy development in the area today
Six years ago we bought the rights to some 19,000 acres South of Silt, and have since spent north of a billion dollars in developing the natural gas resource
We also hold a 90% in some 40 thousand acres atop the Roan Plateau, which is about 60 square miles. To put that acreage number in perspective, the Roan, defined geologically by the outcropping of the mesa Verde formation, is nearly a million acres, or 15-hundred square miles. Also known as the Naval oil shale reserve, you are TRULY a local if you remember when the federal government designated it as an energy asset of national importance- THAT happened nearly a CENTURY AGO.
SO LET'S EXAMINE ENERGY IN THE CONTEXT OF WHAT"S on AMERICA'S MIND TODAY
Top of the list, THE ECONOMY- some regarding energy and the economy in Colorado
Several years ago, the state legislature pursued an economic impact of oil and gas in Colorado. The School of Mines did the analysis, and it found oil and gas to be a $23 billion dollar industry.
The figure is interesting, by the way, because 23 billion is what the industry generated for the federal treasury in 2008.....in other words oil and gas production, which takes place on less than half a percent of all federal lands, was the second biggest source of income for the federal government after, you guessed it- IS and our friendly collection agency known as the IRS.
SO, if numbers give you indigestion after dinner, you might want to grab a Rolaid or two for a bit
90% ($21 billion) is directly tied to A DRILL BIT TURNING (D And c and extraction)
$61 K salary is 32% higher than state average (2003)
O and G accounts for 70% of state mineral royalties
O and G accounts for over three quarters of all federal mineral royalties
O and G account for nearly 90% of all severance tax (88.7%)
Over $1.2 B generated in mineral royalty and lease payments. Over 60% (approx. $550 million) is then re-spent in Colorado.
$640 MM (property tax on production and equipment, severance taxes, fed and state royalties, $30 million state royalties)
NOW IN THE PICEANCE
"PB has the most expensive overall investment for d and c in the state"
At about $1.6 mm to D and C, is about three times what it costs to D and C in the Northern DC
Reasons: tight sands need more intensive stimulation
Deeper wells (average > 8,000)
Over a quarter (27%) of D and C and re-completes stay in the basin; 43% stays in basin OR STATE
TOTAL D and C and Re-complete investment ins 2005 dollars was nearly $1.3 billion ($1,288,511,555)
BONUS AND LEASE PAYMENTS
Over $80,000 per well (5159 wells)
20% of all royalty and lease payments stay in the basin or over $83 million
Two thirds of that was considered disposable income, or some $58 million
Direct (f: D and C and Re-completes) + extraction is 3.1 billion (88% is from extraction- $2.7 billion)
Induced and indirect (as per IMPLAN guidelines) account for another $266 million for a total of
SO...ONTO TO JOBS,
As I look out and see business owners and entrepreneurs, I know the announcement this week by the Labor Department showing Grand Jct. lost more jobs per capita than anyplace else in the country is months of old news.
I consider anyone who creates a job for another person an American Hero, and I salute you.
SO , condolences to many in your area, who, it seems, have had to bear YOUR inordinate amount of pain this past year. My own company had two rounds of lay offs last year, and it's sad and scary.
Colorado lost 100,000 jobs in 2009 alone.
News from our state capital notes - our Unemployment office is getting 14,000 calls a week and the state is paying out $20 million a WEEK in unemployment benefits (lent to Colorado from the federal government lent by the Chinese) - compare that to 2007 when we paid out $300 million a year!
So what does Oil and Gas mean to EMPLOYMENT in Colorado
Again, the School of mines notes
Direct Multiplier is another 71,000 jobs
Indirect multiplier is 1.67
TOTAL: 190,000 direct and indirect jobs
WHERE THE JOBS COME FROM IN THE VALUE CHAIN
90% of those are derived directly from turning the drill bit (d and c and extraction)
D and C and Extraction pay the highest, and are the biggest multiplier (2 and 5.63, respectively)
Government is the biggest benefactor of the indirect jobs at 14% (approx.)
Payroll is $4.3 billion (2003)
Custom computer programming
Management of companies
Architectural and engineering
Scientific research and development
Health care (doctors/dentists)
Restaurants and bars
Moto vehicle and parts
Food and beverage stores
63% related to D and C and recompletions
PAYROLL: $399 million, 51% directly related to D and D and RC
SALARIES "earnings per work in the industries that DIRECTLY support oil and gas were $74,000 in 2005. INDIRECT earnings were $50,000, INDUCED were $31,000
SO, BOTTOM LINE IN THE PICEANCE:
School of Mines shows : 4092 direct
Financial impact of 3.4 billion
CONSERVATIVE FOR TWO REASONS: basin wide, NOT state wide. Did NOT contemplate big transmission or transportation projects like pipelines.
If you want more, google CERI, CSM and look for publications
KEEPING WITH THE UPBEAT TONE OF TODAY'S SPEECH, let's address Energy and TERRORISM
Does anyone really think we're spending nearly $10 billion a month to spread democracy in Iraq?
They don't like us because we are over there, and we are over their for their oil...
I mean, remember that just a few years before barack Obama was bowing before the Saudi prince last year, George Bush holding hands with another one when oil was over $130 barrel .
Our need for imported oil means $700 billion a year to fund madrassas, to brainwash a whole new generation of suicide bombers. That blood and treasure weakens our industrial base, weakens our dollar, and strengthens our enemies by giving them more resources with which to try to destroy us.
The peace dividend would not only include bringing more soldiers home, but it would mean using less energy. The DOD biggest energy consumer in the country ..
SO, some thoughts about foreign oil and reducing our dependency on it.
What if we replaced 25% OF OUR Oil consumption (we import well over half our oil) with domestic natural gas?
It would work like this- you may want to reach for the Rolaids again)
The latest is
19,489,000 a day equates to displacing 4,874,000 bbl
Over a billion and a half barrels displaced over a year
One barrel equals 6000 cubic feet of gas = roughly 8 TP TCF
Volume of natural gas necessary to displace 25% of domestic oil consumption = 8 tcf/yr perspective...produced 20.5 in 2008, the highest level in nearly 30 years.
Percent increase in natural gas production to achieve 25% displacement of oil = 39 %
Consumer savings associated with displacing 25% of domestic oil consumption with natural gas $59 billion (at $6 gas and $80 oil)
Additional jobs created NATIONALLY by increasing natural gas production by 39% = 1.4 million jobs (extrapolated from CERI study)...i.e. direct and indirect
Additional jobs created in COLORADO by increasing regional natural gas consumption by 39% = 120,000 jobs
Additional revenue to government (advalorum, severance, and government royalty) in COLORADO by increasing natural gas production by 39 % (based on $6/mcf) = $300 million/yr
It would take about FIVE years to get to 28 TCF a year
There are environmental benefits as well.
Electric Power Sector (4 TCF per Year to replace 75 Worst Coal Plants)
Reduce SO2 (sulphur Dioxide) Emissions by 55%
Reduce Mercury emissions by 32%
Reduce GHG emissions by 15%
Perhaps most promising of all, the last four years have seen a revolution in our ability to product clean burning, domestic, abundant affordable natural gas.
Technological advances have unleashed what many see is a century's worth of supply of this versatile and efficient (energy generated for energy consumed) fuel
Natural gas, I contend, is emerging as perhaps the most significant element in strengthening a balanced domestic energy portfolio than ever before...
Let's look at said Portfolio HANDOUT
Hand out cross hatch...
Here is a takeaway I want you all to have....it's energy policy on one page.
Each side adds up to 100% of the demand and supply equation....look at petroleum and natural gas in relation to transportation...the example I mentioned above gives you a sense as to what could happen if you adopt a strategy to decrease foreign imports, trade deficits, or greenhouse gasses.
GIVE THEM A MINUTE
SO what about our environment?
Well, you're all aware of the new COGCC rules, whose adoption of an additional 177 pages of additional rules led the Wall Street Journal to refer to them as the most far-reaching drilling restrictions in the nation.
But in the west, the feds are the landlord.
*Roughly 50% of the land in the west is owned by Federal and state governments
-The Energy Information Administration of the Dept of Energy notes that:
??Multiple agencies have regulatory and permitting requirements
-10 Agencies and over 100 regulations have to met to drill one well
»Department of Energy
»Department of Interior
»Bureau of Land Management
»National Forest Service
»National Wildlife and Fisheries
»Environmental Protection Agency
»Department of Transportation
»State Oil and Gas Commissions
»County Planning Commissions
»State Wildlife Agencies
State Historical Preservation Office and more.
Just SOME of the federal laws are............
Minerals leasing Act
Federal Land Policy and Management Act
National Environmental Policy Act
Clean Water Act
Clear Air Act
Safe Drinking Water Cat
Endangers Species Act
National Historic Preservation Act
The clean air act itself occupies over 12,000 pages in the federal register.
Back to Policy on a Page
I contend policy should be strategic and forward looking, not a reaction to past developments.
That's what the Nature Conservancy has done. The organization has tackled the idea of energy sprawl, in other words, a kind of kilowatt per acre comparison.
Here's some examples:
America has one million MW of installed capacity. Because U.S. demand for electricity has been growing at about 2% per year - we need to build 10-20,000 MW of new capacity every year to keep pace with growth.
I'm sure most of us have seen the 7.5 acres of solar panels at DIA. That array, for $13 million dollars, supplies the facility with just TWO percent of the airport's energy needs. Sadly, that that 2% is a LOT higher than the overall percentage contribution solar is currently making nation wide
Multiplying everything by 50 to get to the 100%, a rough calculation shows then that you would need 350 acres at a cost, then, upwards of half a BILLION dollars, just to power DIA with solar.
Duke Energy's 51-megawatt Kit Carson Windpower Project will occupy 6,000 acres near Burlington
The Kit Carson project will consist of 34 GE wind turbines, each capable of generating 1.5 MW of electricity, Duke said. Given today's wind generally operates at 33% capacity, that translates to half a megawatt a day from what, at 300 foot high each, looks like a futuristic city landscape covering OVER NINE SQUARE MILES for 17 megawatts...
REMEMBER...we need 10 to 20 thousand megawatts of additional power A YEAR for the U.S....that's 6 million acres of wind A YEAR.....that covers our entire state in 11 years
And finally- What is needed on calm days and cold nights for back up? Only natural gas provides the immediate back up power to
Until electricity can be stored, wind and solar can realistically be considered supplements, not replacements. After all, in 2008, old fashioned, dirty, inefficient WOOD produced more energy for America than wind and solar combined.
What the Nature Conservancy ultimately determined is that, within the next 20 years, the nation will need land the size of Colorado to accommodate energy infrastructure, production and transmission facilities.
Again, one last string of numbers for perspective
66 million in Colorado
23 acres are federal
8 are either wilderness or de facto wilderness: Areas of Critical Environmental Concern, Road less, Wilderness Study Areas and the like
Nearly 1 million for the Roan
Who is going to allow? Where? When everything proposed is litigated....HOW
Remember, the census bureau projects 100 million more Americans by 2050
A growing population and growing (hopefully by 2050 then) economy makes conservation and efficiency more important than ever. That said, I think it nearly impossible to reverse demand through conservation.....I think you can merely slow it tho
So back to our policy on a page: My point is we need it all, we have what we need, but in what ratios?
We need it all, and we'll need more of all of it
Still, we haven't allowed anyone to build a new refinery in the U.S. in over 30 years. We expect the lights to come on when we flip the switch, but we don't like coal, the source of 40% of our electricity - it's dirty and mining scars the earth. We also don't like nuclear power, the source of nearly 20% of our electricity -- it's clean, but we're afraid of it. Hydropower, the source of about 6% of our electricity is clean and renewable. But it has also been blacklisted - dams hurt fish.
SO with that, some closing thoughts;
There is no energy panacea: renewables are inefficient, have big footprints, and require fossil fuel back up. Nuclear has its waste issues. Ethanol burns a lot of gas, and requires four gallons of water for every gallon of fuel produced. Fossil fuels emit carbon.
Self determination for rural communities, even entire states in the west, is becoming increasingly difficult. There are literally BILLIONS of dollars from out of state foundations focused on limiting the multiple use charter that is the mandate of managers of public lands.
If you don't actively chart your own destiny as a state or community, someone else will
FINALLY : our ability to control our own energy destiny is MORE RELIANT ON POLICY THAN GEOLOGY- we are legislating deepening dependence at our own peril. There are those who say Russia, because of its energy reserves, is more powerful than any time in its history. There are those who say China and India are striking energy alliances around the globe to compete with the U.S. for resources and economic power.
Energy is too important to our national and economic security to be politicized. Much has been made of Geo Bush allowing oil and gas to lease wherever industry wanted, but Bill Clinton allowed 50 percent more acreage to be leased than George Bush, and it was Bill Clinton who signed into law the transfer of the Roan from the DOE (which had drilled a few dozen wells up there) to the BLM for the expressed purpose of developing what many geologists say is the most prolific undrilled on shore natural gas province in the country on a per acre basis at nearly 9 trillion cubic feet.
I suggest Mark Twain's advice: respect those who seek the truth, be wary of those who claim to have found it. You've been very generous with your time....thank you.
BILL BARRETT CORPORATION
1099 18th Street, Suite 2300
Denver, CO 80202
T- 303.293.9100 | F- 303.291.0420
(Denver Post, May 16) Wind velocity abated in Colorado last week when the legislature adjourned for 2010. Noxious air masses continue moving across the state, however, flattening better judgment. Hang onto your hat and your wallet.
“Cleaner air and cheaper energy” was the slogan when voters mandated wind and other renewable sources for 10 percent of the state’s electric generation with Amendment 37 in 2004. Democratic legislators liked the idea so much that they upped the mandate to 20 percent in 2007 and boosted it this year to 30 percent.
One small problem: neither half of the slogan is true. You know what’s already happened to your rates from Xcel. Will costs level off with more reliance on renewables? Not according to the Energy Information Administration, which says in the coming decade wind will cost about 75 percent more than natural gas, 50 percent more than coal, and 25 percent more than nuclear. And solar will be twice the cost of wind.
But pollution is a different story, right? Surely a silently whirring wind turbine (never mind the bird fatalities) is better for air quality than a plant burning fossil fuels and belching carbon. You’d think so, but you’d be wrong.
During the years 2006-2009 here in metro Denver (designated a non-attainment area for special monitoring of our air pollution by the EPA), forcing wind into the electric-generation mix actually resulted in HIGHER emission levels of sulfur dioxide and nitrous oxide, the principal components of ozone and smog – as well as higher emission levels of CO2, widely feared as a greenhouse gas. Oops.
Two obvious questions follow: How so? And says who? The “how” is a consequence of wind power’s intermittent reliability (online only about a third of the time), which requires coal-fired plants to cycle on and off more frequently and burn much dirtier as a result. The “who” is a consultancy called BENTEK [sic, all caps] Energy, based in Evergreen and nationally respected for such research as the wind study I’m citing.
“How Less Became More: Wind, Power, and Unintended Consequences in the Colorado Energy Market” is their report, commissioned by Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States and available at www.ipams.org. The methodology looks solid to this layman, though potential bias stemming from the study’s natural-gas sponsorship was fairly noted in the industry press after its April 19 release.
To cross-check the research, sponsors are seeking peer review from such institutions as MIT, Stanford, and the Colorado School of Mines. On the other hand, as a savvy oilman reminded me, “those guys are all on big federal grants for green research,” so their scientific impartiality can’t be taken for granted either. After East Anglia and Climategate, peer review isn’t what it was.
“How Less Became More” takes a sensible tone emphasizing tradeoffs instead of silver bullets or gotcha points. It recommends that electric utilities can avoid the wind-related emissions spikes by shifting generation from coal plants to natural gas as soon as possible. And this takes on national significance amid the current discussion of a federal mandate for renewables.
The trouble with mandates is that they beget more mandates, which beget more still. The meddling worsens and liberty weakens. So this year’s misbegotten generation conversion bill, HB 1365, sweetening the deal for Xcel at the expense of electric consumers for a speedy switch from coal to gas, was far from the clean green winner that some of my Republican friends believed. More mischief will follow.
Conservatives, so-called, who attempt to engineer kilowatts and particulates, forfeit credibility in criticizing liberals who attempt to engineer health care. Legislators trying to micromanage an industry will never get it right. Never. They’re delusional, like the Indiana House years ago when it decreed the value of Pi.
Markets yes, mandates no. Amendment 37 was backwards from the start.
(CCU Faculty) Jeffrey Sachs is one of the world’s leading public intellectuals with his special chair at Columbia University’s Earth Institute and his years of leading the U.N. Millennium Project. So I was a bit surprised to see him accusing me of being on the payroll of Exxon and among those who deny the link between smoking and cancer. He did not name me specifically but he broad-brushed everyone like me in a recent column. “We are witnessing a predictable process by ideologues and right-wing think tanks and publications to discredit the scientific process.” He acknowledges a few small problems—like Climate-gate and the thousands of leaked emails showing the fraudulence of climate-change scientists, and an IPCC report full of errors—but brushes them aside to congratulate the “great scientific minds” who have learned to “read” earth’s history. And we had better heed their warnings or we are all going to die. Well, Professor Sachs, you need to graduate from middle-school kinds of ad hominem attacks. As one of your critics I can assure you I am not on the payroll of Exxon. (But would love to be. Message to Exxon—please send large amounts of money to my address in care of CCU.) And I tell my children there is a link between smoking and cancer. But you and your ilk have big scientific problems with your greenhouse-catastrophe rhetoric and I will sum them up in four questions that have always been at the heart of the global-warming debate and that you have trouble answering. The questions are in ascending order of importance. Question #1: Is the earth really warming? Probably not. Even the apocalyptic warmers agree there hasn’t been any in the last dozen years and one of them even called this a “travesty.” But even if it is warming a bigger issue is….Question #2: Are humans causing the warming? Even more probably not. In a recent column http://www.ocregister.com/opinion/-236562--.html Michael Landsbaum pointed out that “all greenhouse gases worldwide make up 2 percent of the atmosphere. Only 3.6 percent of that 2 percent is carbon dioxide. Only 3.4 percent of that 3.6 percent is man-made. If California shut down every man-made CO2-emitting source the result would be atmospherically unnoticeable.” The earth is a big place. People are really small. As I point out to my classes the entire human population of the planet could stand inside Boulder County, Colorado, and the rest of the world would be empty. Our footprint is negligible. But, let’s say humans are a big factor. This brings us to…. Question #3: Is warming a bad thing? Emphatically it is not. As a historian I can tell you that warm is good and cold is bad. The crash of the High Middle Ages was brought on in part by the end of the Medieval Warm Period. Cold weather is hard on crops—ask Colorado’s peach growers. I grew up in Laramie, Wyoming. Global Warming is not a threat, it is an answer to prayer. But even if warming is bad we come to the most important question of all…. Question #4: What will be done about it? And the answer clearly is….nothing. We got a good look at all this in Copenhagen. This summit to end all summits ended in confusion and ended in a very cold winter. The Chinese—the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases plan to do jack and squat about global warming. And for good reason. In his brilliant essay, Bound to Burn, Peter Huber asks a simple question. If the world’s poor had 40 trillion dollars worth of gold buried on their property would the rich nations be able to talk them out of digging it up? When pigs fly. And that’s what they have. It’s all they have. The Chinese add a U.S.’s worth of coal generating capacity every three years. And they will continue to do it. So, Professor Sachs, it’s not cancer-deniers like me you need to be talking to. Head over to Beijing to do your missionary work. In the meantime I’m going to sit here and wait for the end. And wait for those checks from Exxon to start rolling in.