Τρίτη, Φεβρουαρίου 28, 2006

EEA - About us

EEA - About us: "Skeptical environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg visits the EEA

Persuasive: Bjorn Lomborg gives lecture at EEAWith the aptly titled lecture 'If we can't do it all, where should we start?', associate professor Bjorn Lomborg kicked off an afternoon of lively debate at the EEA Friday 29 April. The author of 'The Skeptical Environmentalist' and now 'Global Crises, Global Solutions' was himself met with some stiff questioning by the Agency staff. Lomborg has made international headlines with his views on environmental policy and was the man behind the Copenhagen Consensus project last year - also the subject of his lecture.
In this project, eight of the world's leading economists, with input from other experts, assessed how 50 billion dollars of extra money could be spent most cost-efficiently on major global challenges. On top of the resulting priority list of actions came fighting HIV/AIDS, providing food supplements and liberalizing trade - whereas actions aimed at limiting climate change came at the very bottom.
During the discussion following his lecture, Lomborg was challenged on several points by EEA staff. The project was criticized for not taking synergy effects into account. The need to supplement the strictly economic perspective with other views when deciding what problems to address was also stressed. Even so, an informal poll by the end of the session indicated that around 30 % of those present in the packed auditorium thought it would be interesting to test the Copenhagen Consensus methodology on European environmental policy.
Further reading:
On climate change http://themes.eea.eu.int/Environmental_issues/climate
On Copenhagen Consensus http://www.copenhagenconsensus.com/
BBC World Service debate on climate change from 12 February featuring among others Associate professor Bjorn Lomborg and EEA E"

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: What Is Wrong with Bjorn Lomborg?

Brad DeLong's Semi-Daily Journal: What Is Wrong with Bjorn Lomborg?

A commentor asks what I think is wrong with Bjorn Lomborg. Here's my answer, from the archives:
Skepticism Toward the Skeptical Environmentalist: Archive Entry From Brad DeLong's Webjournal : I cannot be the only economist who was disappointed by Bjorn Lomborg's column in the New York Times on Monday, August 26 [2002]. Lomborg makes a number of good points: it is definitely the case that we are pumping enough CO2 and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to warm the earth; that many of our environmental problems are the diseases of poverty, early industrialization, and the absence of democracy; that the Kyoto Protocol would be hideously expensive; that it would delay the warming trend for a decade at most; that projected temperature rises up to 2100 are bearable; and that it would almost surely be better to spend the resources that would be sucked up by the Kyoto Protocol on third-world public health and infrastructure instead.
But as I read I kept waiting for another shoe to drop, and it did not. It seemed to me that Bjorn Lomborg's argument was radically and dangerously incomplete. It seemed to me that there were three more critical points that Bjorn Lomborg desperately needed to make, but did not. And because he did not it seemed to me that the net effect of his piece was not to reveal wisdom, but to darkeneth counsel.
So let me make these three missing points:
First, climatologists' model-based central projections of the effects of global warming over the next century are just that: model-based central projections. There is enormous uncertainty about what will happen. It might be the case (although most scientists would bet heavily against it) that our pumping CO2 into the atmosphere will have little effect on climate--that the CO2 will be quickly absorbed into the oceans and terrestrial biosphere (making gardening much easier), and that any residual warming will be largely balanced out by the cooling effects of industrial soot. It is likely to be the case that the central projection of a 4 to 5 degree Fahrenheit warming over the next century will be roughly accurate. It might be the case that something horrible might happen--bubbles of methane trapped beneath the sea floor being liberated to greatly increase the greenhouse effect, global warming disrupting the Gulf Stream and causing a local cooling in Europe that would give Rome the climate of Oslo and produce 400 million Europeans anxious to move someplace else. The central projection of the effects of global warming over the next century looks bearable, but the extreme possibilities may well not be. Any approach to dealing with global warming that does not create the capability for massive and swift action should things be worse than currently expected is fatally flawed.
Second, those who will suffer from global warming are largely in the global south. If global warming does (say) increase the magnitude of major typhoons and does raise the sea level a bit, by the latter part of this century more than 100 million people in the Ganges delta will be at risk of drowning if a high tide accompanies the storm surge of a major typhoon in the Bay of Bengal. The managers and shareholders of companies like Halliburton that will gain from inaction on global warming are a different and distinct group from the tropical peasants who stand to lose their health and their lives. Any claim that "instead of Kyoto we should be doing X" has to be accompanied by a plan to actually do X. Otherwise, the claim that inaction on global warming enhances world welfare is likely to be very false indeed, as it is hard to believe that on the scale of human happiness higher incomes in the global north will outweigh nastier, more brutish, and shorter lives in the global south. It is one thing to say that the resources the Kyoto Protocol wants to use to fight global warming could be used to provide first-class public health and economic infrastructure to the global south. It is another to say that these resources, instead, will be used to get every American household a second DVD player and every tenth American household a power boat.
Third, global warming produced by a fossil fuel-burning civilization may be bearable and managable up to the end of the twenty-first century, but the warming trend is unlikely to stop there. Humanity will have to move to greenhouse gas-free industry at some point unless you want to see temperatures rising not by five but by ten or fifteen degrees. We need to start doing the research and industrial development now so that countries developing in 2050 can be offered an attractivge choice of greenhouse gas-free technologies as they industrialize. We don't want the climate in the twenty-second century to be shaped by an industrial China that in 2080 is still burning its brown coal, do we? So Lomborg's argument has to be a call not for inaction, but for rightly-directed action on global warming--which means a lot more money spent starting today on developing the technological alternatives we will need to have available for the end of the twenty-first century.
How do these three points change Lomborg's argument? He may well still be right that inaction on control of greenhouse gas emissions over the next twenty years is the best policy--but that claim needs a footnote warning that we need now to build the institutions and technologies necessary to take swift action if it turns out that things are worse than expected. He may well be right that the resources that Kyoto would suck up would do more for human welfare if spent creating a more human world by boosting public health and economic infrastructure--but that claim needs to be accompanied by a plan to make sure that these resources are devoted to their best alternative use in the global south. "Would" cuts no ice here. "Will" does.
And, most disappointing of all, is Lomborg's failure to even mention the importance of technological development. If it is the best policy to wait for a technological fix to the problem of global warming, then we need first to fix our technology so that it will be able to do what we ask of it when we need it.
It's not my field of expertise, but as a card-carrying economist I can't help but think that Lomborg is probably right when he condemns Kyoto as a low-value use of our precious wealth--as something that would be largely ineffective at fighting global warming and also so expensive as to foreclose options to do other things that would be more useful. Lomborg's flaw, however, is that he doesn't spell out what the "other things" we should be doing are. And that's what he needs to do if he wants to advance the ball.

Πέμπτη, Φεβρουαρίου 23, 2006

China Toughens Stance on Environmental Protection

Los Angeles Times
February 22, 2006

By Ching-Ching Ni

BEIJING - Turning a blind eye to environmental degradation could now cost Chinese officials their jobs. However, environmentalists raised concerns about enforcement of the new regulations.

Link to the article

Δευτέρα, Φεβρουαρίου 20, 2006

Reach of Clean Water Act Is at Issue in 2 Supreme Court Cases

New York Times
February 20, 2006

More than half of the nation's streams and wetlands could be removed from federal protection if the court supports developers' claims that the government lacks authority.

Link to the article

Navigating the new court

Los Angeles Times
February 20, 2006


A LOT OF FOLKS ARE IN A TIZZY about Tuesday's Supreme Court session. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. will hear his first oral arguments. Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. will hear his first environmental cases. The Bush administration, hardly known for its enthusiastic enforcement of federal environmental laws, will argue vehemently in favor of one of the most comprehensive environmental laws on the books, the Clean Water Act. Most exciting of all, at least for court junkies, the cases could provide clues about the new justices' view of the Constitution's commerce clause, which established the federal government's power to regulate local matters that at least theoretically affect interstate commerce. Depending on its interpretation, the new court could decide to upend the balance of state and federal power as we know it.

Link to the article

Κυριακή, Φεβρουαρίου 19, 2006

Robert Frank on gas taxes in NYTimes

Robert Frank on gas taxes in NYTimes: "
SUPPOSE a politician promised to reveal the details of a simple proposal that would, if adopted, produce hundreds of billions of dollars in savings for American consumers, significant reductions in traffic congestion, major improvements in urban air quality, large reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, and substantially reduced dependence on Middle East oil. The politician also promised that the plan would require no net cash outlays from American families, no additional regulations and no expansion of the bureaucracy.
As economists often remind their students, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. So this politician's announcement would almost surely be greeted skeptically. Yet a policy that would deliver precisely the outcomes described could be enacted by Congress tomorrow — namely, a $2-a-gallon tax on gasoline whose proceeds were refunded to American families in reduced payroll taxes.

Proposals of this sort have been advanced frequently in recent years by both liberal and conservative economists. Invariably, however, pundits are quick to dismiss these proposals as "politically unthinkable."
But if higher gasoline taxes would make everyone better off, why are they unthinkable? Part of the answer is suggested by the fate of the first serious proposal to employ gasoline taxes to reduce America's dependence on Middle East oil. The year was 1979 and the country was still reeling from the second of two oil embargoes. To encourage conservation, President Jimmy Carter proposed a steep tax on gasoline, with the proceeds to be refunded in the form of lower payroll taxes.
Mr. Carter's opponents mounted a rhetorically brilliant attack on his proposal, arguing that because consumers would get back every cent they paid in gasoline taxes, they could, and would, buy just as much gasoline as before. Many found this argument compelling, and in the end, President Carter's proposal won just 35 votes in the House of Representatives.
The experience appears to have left an indelible imprint on political decision makers. To this day, many seem persuaded that tax-cum-rebate proposals do not make economic sense. But it is the argument advanced by Mr. Carter's critics that makes no sense. It betrays a fundamental misunderstanding of how such a program would alter people's opportunities and incentives.
Some examples help to illustrate how the program would work. On average, a family of four currently consumes almost 2,000 gallons of gasoline annually. If all families continued to consume gasoline at the same rate after the imposition of a $2-a-gallon gasoline tax, the average family would pay $4,000 in additional gasoline taxes annually. A representative family with two earners would then receive an annual payroll tax refund of $4,000. So, if all other families continued to buy as much gasoline as before, then, this family's tax rebate would enable it to do so as well, just as Mr. Carter's critics claimed.
But that is not how things would play out. Suppose, for example, that the family was about to replace its aging Ford Explorer, which gets 15 miles per gallon. It could buy another Explorer. Or it could buy Ford's new Focus wagon, which has almost as much cargo capacity and gets more than 30 miles per gallon. The latter choice would save a whopping $2,000 annually at the pump. Not all families would switch, of course, but many would.
From the experience of the 1970's, we know that consumers respond to higher gasoline prices not just by buying more efficient cars, but also by taking fewer trips, forming carpools and moving closer to work. If families overall bought half as much gasoline as before, the rebate would be not $2,000 per earner, but only $1,000. In that case, our representative two-earner family could not buy just as much gasoline as before unless it spent $2,000 less on everything else. So, contrary to Mr. Carter's critics, the tax-cum-rebate program would profoundly alter not only our incentives but also our opportunities.
A second barrier to the adoption of higher gasoline taxes has been the endless insistence by proponents of smaller government that all taxes are bad. Vice President Dick Cheney, for example, has opposed higher gasoline taxes as inconsistent with the administration's belief that prices should be set by market forces. But as even the most enthusiastic free-market economists concede, current gasoline prices are far too low, because they fail to reflect the environmental and foreign policy costs associated with gasoline consumption. Government would actually be smaller, and we would all be more prosperous, if not for the problems caused by what President Bush has called our addiction to oil.
At today's price of about $2.50 a gallon, a $2-a-gallon tax would raise prices by about 80 percent (leaving them still more than $1 a gallon below price levels in Europe). Evidence suggests that an increase of that magnitude would reduce consumption by more than 15 percent in the short run and almost 60 percent in the long run. These savings would be just the beginning, because higher prices would also intensify the race to bring new fuel-efficient technologies to market.
The gasoline tax-cum-rebate proposal enjoys extremely broad support. Liberals favor it. Environmentalists favor it. The conservative Nobel laureate Gary S. Becker has endorsed it, as has the antitax crusader Grover Norquist. President Bush's former chief economist, N. Gregory Mankiw, has advanced it repeatedly.
In the warmer weather they will have inherited from us a century from now, perspiring historians will struggle to explain why this proposal was once considered politically unthinkable.

Robert H. Frank, an economist at the Johnson School of Management at Cornell University, is the co-author, with Ben S. Bernanke, of "Principles of Economics." E-mail: rhf3@cornell.edu

Gas Fees versus Gas Taxes

Gas Fees versus Gas Taxes: "
Enviromental Economics Blog —
I had the following conversation at the local Blockbuster recently:
Employee: This is due back on Friday, but you know we don't have late fees anymore.
Me: So what happens if I bring it back after Friday?
Employee: You will be assessed a restocking fee of $1.25.
Me: So if I bring it back late, I am charged a fee.
Employee: Yes.
Me: Wouldn't that be a late fee?
Employee: [blank stare]
I was reminded of that conversation when I read this...
Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's administration is expected this month to release a plan to combat global warming that recommends raising petroleum prices and requiring industries to report, for the first time, their greenhouse gas emissions.
Sources at the state Environmental Protection Agency -- which is charged with writing the recommendations to achieve Schwarzenegger's goals -- say the proposal will call for a new charge on petroleum equal to less than a penny per gallon of gasoline. Conservative activists have begun to complain about the idea, branding it a gas tax.
Charge? Tax? Tomato? Of real interest here is the magnitude of the fee: Less than $.01 per gallon!
The added charge on gasoline would pay for research into alternative fuels and other ways to make cars more fuel-efficient.
Advocates for the idea and the report's authors note that a similar public goods charge is included in every Californians' energy bill and that money has gone to funding renewable energy and energy efficiency programs that have lessened pollution and saved consumers money.
"It's very appropriate to have a small charge on petroleum to mitigate its impacts,'' said Bill Magavern, a Sierra Club lobbyist.
Business groups say further driving up the price of fuel will hurt the economy.
Let's be generous and say that the price elasticity of demand--the percentage change in quantity of gas consumed due to a percent change in the price of gas--is .5. That's on the high side of most estimates I've seen. What effect will that have on gas consumption? At $2.00/gallon, the $.01 price increase represents a .5% increase in the price of gas. Quantity consumed will fall by a whopping .25%. If the average driver drives 1,000 miles per month and averages 20 miles per gallon, the $.01 increase will cost $.50 per month and the average driver will drive 2.5 fewer miles.
How much will the $.01 public goods charge...err gas tax...err carbon consumption fee raise? There are currently about 22,000,000 drivers in California. If each has to pay $.50 per month that's $11,000,000 per month to invest in alternative fuels research.
Gee, why can't we get a $2.00/gallon gas tax passed? Maybe it's because $.01/gallon will hurt the economy (sarc).

Πέμπτη, Φεβρουαρίου 16, 2006

Scorecard: The Pollution Information Site

Curious about what's going into your air and water? Just plug your Zip code into Scorecard.org -- a website that identifies the major polluters in your neighborhood. The site also contains valuable information on chemicals, watersheds, superfund sites, and animal waste.


Τρίτη, Φεβρουαρίου 14, 2006

Peak oil: Dec. 16, 2005

Peak oil: Dec. 16, 2005: "
Noted oil analyst Kenneth Deffeyes has put a new date on peak oil: "we passed the peak on December 16, 2005." That's it. I can now refer to the world oil peak in the past tense. My career as a prophet is over. I'm now an historian. Read the …

Παρασκευή, Φεβρουαρίου 10, 2006

Determinants of Environmental Innovation

Determinants of Environmental Innovation: "
It seems like The Economist has been overtaken by the anti-GDP lobby: GDP provides a "grossly distorted picture" of the economy, and "it's high time that economists looked at more than just GDP." And that's just the title and header.
The article goes on to laud Going for Growth 2006, a recent OECD report, that includes a whole chapter on what we ought to do to improve GDP. Not much new here, but "nevertheless, the OECD is to be congratulated for being the first mainstream organisation to challenge the conventional GDP numbers. Its task now is to encourage governments to start producing more relevant statistics." Good luck with that.…

Economist v GDP

Economist v GDP: "
It seems like The Economist has been overtaken by the anti-GDP lobby: GDP provides a "grossly distorted picture" of the economy, and "it's high time that economists looked at more than just GDP." And that's just the title and header.
The article goes on to laud Going for Growth 2006, a recent OECD report, that includes a whole chapter on what we ought to do to improve GDP. Not much new here, but "nevertheless, the OECD is to be congratulated for being the first mainstream organisation to challenge the conventional GDP numbers. Its task now is to encourage governments to start producing more relevant statistics." Good luck with that.....

What would [insert your god] do about global warming?

What would [insert your god] do about global warming?: "
Some evangelicals, the wimpy ones, think that climate change is a moral issue (86 Evangelical Leaders Join to Fight Global Warming):Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative …

Nussbaum on the Animals

Nussbaum on the Animals: "
Martha Nussbaum has an essay in the Chronicle (sorry, subscription required) that draws on her new book Frontiers of Justice: Disability, Nationality, Species Membership. The essay concerns “The Moral Status of Animals”. On the one hand, she argues, “The fact that all Kantian views ground moral concern in our rational and moral capacities makes it difficult to treat animals as beings to whom justice is due.” On the other hand, utilitarianism, which does recognize the direct relevance of animal suffering, has other familiar problems, many of which have to do with aggregation. As an alternative, Nussbaum’s capability approach “starts from the notion of human dignity and a life worthy of it. But it can be extended to provide a more adequate basis for animal entitlements than the other two theories under consideration. It seems wrong to think that only human life has dignity.” …

Πέμπτη, Φεβρουαρίου 09, 2006

The Politics of Science

Washington Post
February 9, 2006


It is a rare thing for the biography of a 24-year-old NASA spokesman to attract the attention of the national media. But that is what happened this week when George C. Deutsch tendered his resignation. Mr. Deutsch had, it emerged, lied about his (nonexistent) undergraduate degree from Texas A&M University. Far more important, several New York Times articles over the past week or so have exposed Mr. Deutsch as one of several White House-appointed public affairs officers at the agency who tried to prevent senior NASA career scientists from speaking and writing freely, especially when their views on the realities of climate change differed from those of the White House.

Link to the article

Τετάρτη, Φεβρουαρίου 08, 2006

Evangelical Leaders Join Global Warming Initiative

New York Times
February 8, 2006


Despite opposition from some of their colleagues, 86 evangelical Christian leaders have decided to back a major initiative to fight global warming, saying "millions of people could die in this century because of climate change, most of them our poorest global neighbors."

Link to the article

EU Braces for Landmark WTO Ruling on Biotech Ban

Planet Ark : EU Braces for Landmark WTO Ruling on Biotech Ban

BRUSSELS - The European Union could be forced to open itself to more genetically modified products this week when a world trade panel rules whether its strict policy on biotech foods and crops amounts to protectionism.
Diplomats and industry watchers say the EU may come off worst in the case brought by Argentina, Canada and the United States, where they claim its unofficial 1998-2004 moratorium on GMO approvals hurt their exports and was not based on science.
The World Trade Organization verdict, keenly awaited on Tuesday by the world's biotech industry which would like to ship far more GMO’s to Europe, is expected to run to some 800 pages.

Trade Ruling Is Expected to Favor Biotech Food

Trade Ruling Is Expected to Favor Biotech Food: "
The W. T. O. is expected to render its verdict on charges by the U. S. that Europe is illegally restricting imports of genetically modified crops.

Biofuels: Think Outside the Barrel

Last week, President Bush announced in his State of the Union address that the United States is "addicted to oil." This realization comes not a moment too soon, as a peak in global oil production may be on the horizon, according to experts featured in this month's Peak Oil issue of World Watch magazine.
Luckily, there are alternatives. Biofuels, particularly ethanol, may be part of the answer. By fermenting plant material into ethanol, the U.S. and other oil-guzzling nations could grow a much larger share of their fuel domestically, offering them an opportunity to dramatically reduce reliance on oil imports and mitigate the release of carbon into the atmosphere. (See State of the World 2006, Chapter 4: Cultivating Renewable Alternatives to Oil.) As Worldwatch biofuels project manager Suzanne Hunt notes in a recent Reuters article, the biggest potential for large-scale production lies in cellulosic ethanol technologies—ethanol made from agricultural, forestry, and municipal wastes, not food crops.

Much Ado About Ethanol.... and other Biofuels


Filling up on ethanol isn't new. Henry Ford's Model Ts ran on it. What's changing is the cost of distilling ethanol and the advantages it brings over rival fuels. Energy visionaries like to dream about hydrogen as the ultimate replacement for fossil fuels, but switching to it would mean a trillion-dollar upheaval--for new production and distribution systems, new fuel stations, and new cars. Not so with ethanol--today's gas stations can handle the most common mixture of 85% ethanol and 15% gasoline, called E85, with minimal retrofitting. It takes about 30% more ethanol than gasoline to drive a mile, and the stuff is more corrosive, but building a car that's E85-ready adds only about $200 to the cost. Ethanol has already transformed one major economy: In Brazil nearly three-quarters of new cars can burn either ethanol or gasoline, whichever happens to be cheaper at the pump, and the nation has weaned itself off imported oil.

How to Beat the High Cost of Gasoline. Forever! FORTUNE 24/01/06

Κυριακή, Φεβρουαρίου 05, 2006

(Corporate) environmental economics at the World Economic Forum

(Corporate) environmental economics at the World Economic Forum: "

The World Economic Forum Annual Meeting wrapped up on Sunday (1/29). Here are some environmental highlights.
From the Environment and the Bottom Line session:
Faced with very real environmental risks, Annual Meeting participants sought to tackle concern for the environment as a bottom-line issue. “We know what the problems are, but how are we going to bring them down to this bottom line?" noted John Elkington, Chairman, SustainAbility, United Kingdom.Klaus T?pfer, Executive Director, United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, advocated price regulation as a possible solution, specifying that “If there is no price regulation, then you have overuse.” Environmental standards should be linked to law enforcement because of presently insufficient accountability, according to Paul J. Ostling, Global Chief Operating Officer, Ernst & Young, United Kingdom.
From the Climate Change session:
The business leaders, academics, scientists and government policy-makers in this session reached the same "painful" conclusion on the state of the world: society is in a race against time to stop climate change and the inevitable damage to the environment – and more importantly the world's economy. The overarching goal has to be to become "carbon-neutral" in the way the world lives. ... Panellists called for a diversification of energy supplies, ranging from geothermal, wind, solar, biofuels and cleaner coal. The world's economy must wean itself from its dependency on oil, given the impact the burning of fossil fuels is having on the environment and the growing insecurity of oil supplies largely from an extremely limited number of sources: the Middle East, Russia and West Africa.
From China as a Green Lab:
Participants generally agreed that, in China, there has been, as Elizabeth C. Economy, C.V. Starr Senior Fellow and Director, Asia Studies, Council on Foreign Relations, USA, put it,"a sea change in the central government's commitment"to environmental protection."The Chinese government regards environmental protection as a basic state policy,"Zhu Guangyao, Vice-Minister of the State Environmental Protection Administration of People's Republic of China, asserted. The government, he explained, is implementing a multifaceted programme to promote environmental protection that includes strengthening environmental legislation, increasing public awareness, reducing pollutant emissions and implementing preventive measures. While China must maintain high growth to create adequate jobs, it does realize that it must do so in a sustainable way."We are trying to build a resource-saving society,"Zhu added. Gone, he vowed, is the"old approach of 'pollute first, repair later'.""

Paul Krugman: State of Delusion

Paul Krugman: State of Delusion: "
Paul Krugman looks below the surface of the administration's policy announcements and finds little substance to back them up:
State of Delusion, by Paul Krugman, Commentary, NY Times: So President Bush's plan to reduce imports of Middle East oil turns out to be no more substantial than his plan — floated two years ago, then flushed down the memory hole — to send humans to Mars. But what did you expect? After five years in power, the Bush administration is still — perhaps more than ever — run by Mayberry Machiavellis, who don't take the business of governing seriously. ...
In the State of the Union address Mr. Bush suggested that "cutting-edge methods of producing ethanol" and other technologies would allow us "to replace more than 75 percent of our oil imports from the Middle East." But the next day, officials explained that he didn't really mean what he said. "This was purely an example," said Samuel Bodman, the energy secretary. And the administration has actually been scaling back the very research that Mr. Bush hyped Tuesday night...
Why announce impressive sounding goals when you have no plan to achieve them? The best guess is that the energy "plan" was hastily thrown together to give Mr. Bush something positive to say. For weeks administration sources told reporters that the State of the Union address would focus on health care. But at the last minute the White House might have realized that its health care proposals, based on the idea that Americans have too much insurance, would suffer the same political fate as its attempt to privatize Social Security. ("Congress," Mr. Bush said, "did not act last year on my proposal to save Social Security." Democrats responded with a standing ovation.)
So Mr. Bush's speechwriters were told to replace the health care proposals with fine words about energy independence, words not backed by any actual policy. What about the rest of the speech? The State of the Union is normally an occasion for boasting about an administration's achievements. But what's a speechwriter to do when there are no achievements?
One answer is to pretend that the bad stuff never happened. The Medicare drug benefit is Mr. Bush's largest domestic initiative to date. It's also a disaster ... So drugs went unmentioned in the State of the Union. Another answer is to rely on evasive language. In Iraq, said Mr. Bush, we've "changed our approach to reconstruction." In fact, reconstruction has failed. ... So now, having squandered billions ... America's would-be Marshall Plan in Iraq, reports The Los Angeles Times, "is drawing to a close this year with much of its promise unmet ..." I guess you can call that a change in approach.
There's a common theme underlying the botched reconstruction of Iraq, the botched response to Katrina (which Mr. Bush never mentioned), the botched drug program, and the nonexistent energy program. John DiIulio, the former White House head of faith-based policy, explained it more than three years ago. ... "There is no precedent in any modern White House for what is going on in this one: a complete lack of a policy apparatus. ... I heard many, many staff discussions but not three meaningful, substantive policy discussions. There were no actual policy white papers on domestic issues."
In other words, this administration is all politics and no policy. It knows how to attain power, but has no idea how to govern. That's why the administration was caught unaware when Katrina hit, and why it was totally unprepared for the predictable problems with its drug plan. It's why Mr. Bush announced an energy plan with no substance behind it. And it's why the state of the union — the thing itself, not the speech — is so grim.

The War on Science Continues...

The War on Science Continues...: "

The administration is up to its usual tricks on the science front, this time with health standards on soot and dust. Why worry about "thousands of more deaths" when mining and agricultural trade associations are opposed to the new rules?:
EPA Panel Advises Agency Chief to Think Again, by Janet Wilson, LA Times: In an unprecedented action, the Environmental Protection Agency's own scientific panel ... challenged the agency's proposed public health standards governing soot and dust. The Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee, mandated by Congress to review such proposals, asserted Friday that the standards put forward by EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson ignored most of the committee's earlier recommendations and could lead to additional heart attacks, lung cancer and respiratory ailments. ...
In December, Johnson proposed to slightly tighten the health standards that state and local governments must meet in regulating industries and other sources of pollution. But those standards, governing the smallest and most hazardous particles of soot, were substantially weaker than the scientists' recommendations. Johnson also proposed to exempt rural areas and mining and agriculture industries from standards governing larger coarse particles, and he declined to adopt the panel's proposed haze reduction standards. ...
Some panel members called the administrator's actions "egregious" and said his proposals "twisted" or "misrepresented" their recommendations. ... It was the first time since the committee was established under the Clean Air Act nearly 30 years ago that the committee had asked the EPA to change course ... "We're in uncharted waters here," acknowledged committee Chairwoman Rogene Henderson, an inhalation toxicologist. She said their action was necessary because "the response of the administrator is unprecedented in that he did not take our advice. It's most unusual for him not to take the advice of his own science advisory body." ...
Cal/EPA's air pollution epidemiology chief, Bart Ostro, charged during the teleconference that the EPA had incorporated "last-minute opinions and edits" by the White House Office of Management and Budget that "circumvented the entire peer review process." ... In an interview later, Ostro said he was referring to marked-up drafts of Johnson's proposals that showed changes by the White House budget office and language that was "very close to some of the letters written by some of the trade associations."
He said the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee's seven-year review of data on health risks of particulate matter had been replaced with inaccurate conclusions about the science that could lead to "thousands more deaths," especially from fine particulates that lodge deep in the lungs. ... Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) wrote to Johnson on Friday afternoon requesting that the EPA provide her with documents related to the EPA's ... contacts with ... representatives of the mining and agricultural industries. "These changes benefit mining and agricultural interests at the expense of public health," she wrote. ..."

Πέμπτη, Φεβρουαρίου 02, 2006

Turning Green?

by Bennett Gordon

From McDonald's to Nike, companies are trying to grow their sales by marketing greener, eco-friendly products. But how much truth is there behind these marketing campaigns? And do they actually help the environment?

Link to the article