December 1999

Editorial Comment

Report says U.S. plan to alleviate global warming will be ineffective

December 1999 Vol. 220 No. 12 

Thomas R. Wright, Jr., 
Editorial Director  

Injudicious initiative

Although the U.S. Senate refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, which calls for mandatory reductions of so-called greenhouse gases, the federal government is obstinately proceeding with a billion-dollar-a-year program to cut industrial emissions that may contribute to global warming.

Called the Climate Change Technology Initiative (CCTI), the plan "is little more than a sham," according to the Cato Institute, a conservative, public-policy research foundation in Washington D.C. In fact, Cato’s Jerry Taylor, who authored the report, Energy Efficiency: No Silver Bullet for Global Warming, says that "even if one believes in the importance of taking immediate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, the CCTI is nothing but an empty and expensive political gesture." Goal of the program is to blend tax credits, R&D, product labeling, demonstration projects, subsidies and regulations to improve energy efficiency and raise the economic attractiveness of renewable energy.

Taylor says tax credit provisions alone would cost $3.64 billion in lost revenue to the government over five years, but would reduce energy consumption and CO2 emissions by only a fraction of a percent over the next 10 years. While the full report may be ordered by calling 800-767-1241 (, some examples of the program’s boondoggles include:

  • Energy efficiency may actually hinder carbon efficiency – The entire premise of CCTI is that increased energy efficiency will reduce energy consumption and, in turn, greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the government is promoting use of advanced electric heat pumps to heat water, and these pumps have an efficiency of 1.65, compared to only 0.54 for a gas water heater. However, the electric version would generate 4,872 lb of CO2 per year, compared to 3,862 lb/yr for the gas-fired heater. That’s because more electricity is generated using coal, which produces more CO2 than the less efficient gas heater.
  • Tax credits are too short-lived – Biomass gasification is assumed to become commercial in 2005, but its tax credit expires in 2004. Similarly, tax credits for fuel cell vehicles run through 2006, which, incredibly, is when they are assumed to become commercially available.
  • Government R&D, based upon past experience, will not be successful – DOE spent $19 billion on non-hydrocarbon renewable energy R&D between 1978 and 1996, but those technologies secured only about 1.5% of the electricity market. Another example is the $88-billion synfuels debacle of the 1980s.
  • Administration economic benefit estimates are highly misleading and incomplete – Cost of a conventional heat pump is about $4,400, while cost for one that would qualify for a tax credit is $5,500. DOE estimates the newer pump would save 1,676 kWh per year, for a savings of only $927 over the pump’s 11-year life. Even with a tax credit, spending $1,100 to save $927 isn’t too bright.
  • Even if every nation meets its commitments under Kyoto, the climate model predicts that temperatures in 2050 will be 0.07°C cooler than they would be under a business-as-usual scenario. Taylor projects that CCTI can contribute about 65% of the required U.S. emission reductions. This then implies that CCTI will reduce temperatures by 0.0091°C (or 16/1000 of a degree Fahrenheit) by 2050.

Science lesson. The Washington Times ran a story recently arguing that global warming wouldn’t cause flooding anytime soon. And subsequent reader response to the article shot some more holes in the flooded world theory.

One John Paul Jones (we’re serious) said, "One way to get a feel for the lack of knowledge of that (environmental) group is to ask for an estimate for sea-level rise if the North Pole ice cap melts. The correct answer is zero since the cap is floating."

Another reader recalls a fourth-grade science class demonstration in which a cylinder containing ice was allowed to thaw. After warming, the resulting liquid required less space, which might lead one to speculate that global warming could cause sea levels to fall rather than rise.

Mmmmm, what’s that smell? As if we humans don’t already have enough trouble staying fit and avoiding unhealthy foods, now comes the U.S. DOE with an idea that could make it harder to resist temptations.

It seems the agency, always on the lookout for environmentally friendly fuels, has come up with a process to convert french-fry oil to diesel fuel. And to test it, the National Park Service was asked to use it in tour busses. Problem was that when burned in engines, the biodiesel smells like fried chicken, and the Park Service was concerned that the odor would attract bears.

So, if they don’t use it in park busses, why not use it for urban transportation? We can see it now – every time a city bus passes, everybody hurries off for a quick fix at the nearest fast food emporium.

He’s a travelin’ man. A report from the General Accounting Office (GAO) requested by several Republican senators points to the distinct possibility that President Clinton will end up as both the most traveled president and the one who spent the most tax dollars per trip.

GAO only audited three trips taken in 1998 because the trips have been so often and large. But the three jaunts to Africa, China and Chile cost an incredible $72 million. Admittedly, there is a huge amount of preparation required when a president takes an overseas trip. Included are at least three advance trips made by such agencies as the Defense Dept. (DOD) or Secret Service. However, Clinton’s meanderings seemed to require hundreds of more people than needed by Reagan or Bush. An astounding 1,300 folks accompanied Clinton to Africa, while 592 and 510 tagged along to Chile and China, respectively. And these figures include only government personnel. Also, Clinton has thus far spent 186 days out of the country, compared to 86 for Bush and 84 for Reagan. WO

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