As I write this another Earth Day has come and gone. It began in Philadelphia in 1970, supposedly started by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson and has, over the years, grown into a worldwide movement. I say supposedly because a man by the name of Ira Einhorn, a sixties radical–hippie, guru, anti-war activist and darling of the left–claimed to be the founder himself. He was at least a key organizer and MC of the first event, but was later disowned by the movement for his inconvenient killing of his girl friend, Holly Maddux. This was discovered 18 months after he had stuffed her body in a steamer trunk and stored it in his apartment. The neighbors finally complained about the smell and liquid dripping through the ceiling. Talk about an environmental issue. Ira had plenty of defenders on the left and managed to get out on $40,000 bail whereupon he promptly disappeared. In the 80s he turned up in France and avoided extradition until the late 90s when he was convicted and sent off to jail.
I would be the last to dispute that Earth Day and the raising of concern about the environment has done a lot of good over the decades. Much has been accomplished: the air and water have been cleaned up, sewage issues dealt with, spills of noxious chemicals stopped, mining waste controlled and landfills better managed. Although from the crap you see strewn along the highways and the graffiti on every flat surface in major cities (like this river in Manila), you get the feeling that not everyone has gotten the word.
I have always thought of myself as a “conservationist”. Indeed, my major in college (marine biology) fell under the supervision of the Conservation Department at Cornell. But, who doesn’t support clean air and water as well as the wise stewardship of our natural resources? I would not like to be called an “environmentalist” however. They have gone off the deep end with another agenda. As Stephen Hayward of the Pacific Resources Institute and author of the annual “Leading Environmental Indicators” states, “The environmental movement has been taken over by anti-capitalists and extremists. The agenda is now pulling down market economics, raising up central planning for egalitarian goals, forced lifestyle changes and the vilification- in hopes of eliminating- signs of wealth. Ironically, the creation of wealth allows the resources to invest in clean up.”
Indeed, the constant drumbeat that the environment is in grave danger from the left and the media has been effective. A poll commissioned by Habitat Heroes and conducted by Opinion Research found that 75% of blacks and 65% of Hispanics believe the planet will be irrevocably damaged by the time they reach adulthood. The schools have been drenching the children in eco-propaganda, laments Meghan Cox Gurdon in a piece for the WSJ (Taste Page, 4/17/09). This, she asserts, “causes stress that their smallest decision could have catastrophic effects on the globe.” [Another great article by the same author.]
She points out that children’s books have gotten in on the act. One of my favorite funny authors, Carl Hiaasen, has written several children’s books (Hoot, Flush, Scat) that feature eco-themes where young eco-warriors thwart fat, evil businessmen who damage the environment. Trite, but effective.
Mark Levin in his runaway best seller “Liberty and Tyranny” explains the motivation of the modern environmental movement in clear concise terms. He calls them “enviro-statists”. BTW, everyone should read this book… even my liberal friends (maybe especially my liberal friends). He explains a great deal about where we are and how we got there.
While the “Green” movement has followed the trajectory of many other fads and been championed to the point of nausea, the radical environmentalist have clearly gained the upper hand in promoting their agenda. Obama has loaded his cabinet with true believers starting with “Energy Czar”, Carol Browner. She served as a Gore protégé and once worked for Ralph Nader. She was also one of 14 leaders of Socialist International’s Committee for Sustained World Society that calls for “global governance”. Ken Salazar at Interior is slowly but systematically shutting down any hope of drilling for more oil. Stephen Chu, Energy Secretary and Lisa Jackson at EPA are both global warming firm believers and are actively promoting the proposed Cap and Trade legislation and/or advocating the restrictions on carbon emissions through EPA mandates.
They are not much interested in this just in from the four agencies that track the Earth’s temperatures: Hadley Climate Research Unit in Britain, NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies in NY, Christy Group at the U of Alabama and Remote Sensing Systems in CA. All four report that the Earth cooled in 2007 by 0.7C, the fastest drop on record. There has been no warming for the last 9 years. Last week Gore testified before Congress still claiming that the oceans will rise 20 feet and we are all doomed. Geeze, Al, get a grip. According to the latest poll, only about 30% of the US populace now believe that human activity has any impact on climate change.
Despite predictions from government and private sources that draconian restrictions on carbon emissions will result in huge increases in electricity and energy costs with concurrent job losses, the Administration persists in promoting their “renewable energy” (Solar and wind. Nuclear does not count even though it emits no CO2) program. Conservative estimates show that electricity prices will increase by 30% by 2020 and 101-120% by 2030. Job losses come in at 1.5 million by 2020.
Obama touts Germany as the poster child on how we should employ a renewable energy program. OK, let’s take a look.
Alex Alexiev in a NR article (“Green Bubbles Bursting”) points out that Germany achieved 15% of their electricity needs from renewables by offering that source seven times the wholesale price from conventional producers. Electricity prices went up 38% in one year. (2006-07) This, of course, does not include the infrastructure cost borne by the government. Part of the problem of renewables is the intermittent nature of the wind and sun. (News flash: the sun does not shine at night). These sources need to be backed up by conventional, usually gas fired, plants to provide energy to the grid.
There are other examples of European countries trying the green route but seeing the costs and irrationality, are now backing off. In Spain, another example cited by Obama, the Universidad Ray Juan Carlos calculates that for every “green job” created by their renewable program there were 2.5 jobs destroyed elsewhere in the economy.
There are also significant signs that Europeans have cast off their anti-nuclear hysteria and are planning on relying on nuclear energy for their future. Sweden has changed course, as has Italy that plans to get 25% of its future power from 8 new nuclear reactors. Great Britain will build 10 new reactors and even the Ukraine, site of the infamous Chernobyl disaster, plans 11 new reactors by 2030. Poland, Finland, Bulgaria and Romania are either planning or building new reactors. India plans to go from 3% to 45% nuclear with 40 new reactors, China plans a seven-fold increase and Japan wants to double from 30% nuclear.
Meanwhile, here in the USA nuclear is off the table while the agenda remains controlled by the hysterical environmental lobbies. Even as the Republicans timidly promote nuclear they know their suggestions fall on deaf ears. The primary tool of the environmentalists is litigation and the “citizen lawsuit provisions” of environmental law allow well-funded groups to bring lawsuits in the public’s name. They can and will hold up any project that does not fit their narrow theology.
A few Democrat Senators have been getting cold feet over the Cap and Trade legislation. As Duncan Currie points out in his NR piece, “Robbing Bismarck to Pay Boston”, many states get most of their electricity from
coal fired plants, from a high of 97.8% in W. VA to 85% for many Midwestern states. Some states like CA get none or nearly none. These Senators realize that their states will be disproportionately impacted. Not good for re-election to vote for this turkey. The recent decision by the EPA declaring CO2 a hazard to health is meant to browbeat these reluctant Senators into line. Senator Boxer recently declared that if the Senate does not pass C & T, she would urge the EPA to act to regulate carbon.
Just what we need: economic and energy policy by fiat.