Think tanks wrap-up

Feb. 18, 2003 at 3:41 PM
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WASHINGTON, Feb. 18 (UPI) -- The UPI think tank wrap-up is a daily digest covering opinion pieces, reactions to recent news events and position statements released by various think tanks. This is the first of three wrap-ups for Feb. 18.

National Center for Public Policy Research

(NCPPR is a communications and research foundation dedicated to providing free market solutions to today's public policy problems, based on the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility. NCPPR was founded to provide the conservative movement with a versatile and energetic organization capable of responding quickly and decisively to late-breaking issues, based on thorough research.)

CHICAGO -- Ten Second Response -- Representative Markey and supporters: wrong on ANWR

By Chris Burger

Background: Congressman Edward Markey (D, Mass.) introduced a bill on Feb. 13 to designate nearly 1.6 million acres of the Coastal Plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, as wilderness, thus permanently banning oil and gas exploration in the area.

Ten Second Response: Oil exploration in ANWR can be done in an environmentally friendly manner will provide thousands of jobs and decrease our dependence on foreign oil.

Thirty Second Response: The U.S. Department of Interior estimates that ANWR can provide between nine and 16 billion barrels of recoverable oil. If oil exploration were approved, only 1.5 million acres (eight percent) of ANWR would be considered for environmentally friendly exploration and less than 2,000 acres (less than one percent) of the Coastal Plain would be affected.

Discussion: The following are charges and responses concerning oil exploration in ANWR:

-- Charge: Congressman Ed Markey: "The industry loves the (Arctic National Wildlife) Refuge so much that it wants to brand it with scars for a lifetime."

Congressman Raul Grijalva (D, Ariz.): "... keep the Arctic Refuge as it was meant to be -- pristine, sacred and enduring."

-- Response 1: Exploration in ANWR can be done safely and would not produce "scars for a lifetime." President Clinton's Department of Energy confirmed that current technology makes environmentally friendly drilling possible. Ice-based roads, bridges, drilling pads and airstrips have become the standard for drilling in the Alaskan North Slope. It leaves virtually no marks indicating it was on the tundra; ice structures simply melt in the spring.

-- Response 2: Congressman Markey claims the industry loves the Refuge, but does he himself love unemployment? Oil exploration in ANWR could provide between 250,000 and 735,000 new jobs and has a potential value between $125 and $350 billion (in 1998 dollars).

-- Charge: Gene Karpinski, executive director of U.S. Public Interest Research Group: "It makes no sense to destroy one of the most beautiful places in the world."

-- Response: Most people would not consider ANWR one of the most beautiful places in the world. The Coastal Plain, where exploration would occur, is a flat, treeless, nearly featureless plain where the temperature can drop to 40 degrees below zero in the winter. Nor would the proposed drilling "destroy" it.

-- Charge: Congresswoman Nancy Johnson (R, Conn.): "Our energy supply is not at stake, but if we drill in the refuge our environment will be."

-- Response 1: We know oil exploration will not put the environment in danger. After 20 years of oil exploration at nearby Prudhoe Bay, the population of caribou has grown from 3,000 to as high as 23,400. Furthermore, modern infrastructure already exists in ANWR. The Inupiat Native Americans who live there have an airstrip, power lines and an oil well.

-- Response 2: Oil exploration in ANWR could replace approximately what we currently import from Saudi Arabia for 30 years or replace one-half of what we import from the entire Persian Gulf for 36 years.

-- Charge: Sarah James of the Gwich'in Indian tribe: "The only right thing to do is to take care of that birthplace, that very special place."

-- Response: The Gwich'in tribe does not live in ANWR. The Inupiat Native Americans are the only people native to the ANWR region, and they support exploration by a margin of 78 percent to nine percent. Pro-drilling resolutions in the Alaskan legislature have received 100 percent support from both parties.

(Chris Burger is the program coordinator at the John P. McGovern, M.D. Center for Environmental and Regulatory Affairs at The National Center for Public Policy Research.)

The Cato Institute

WASHINGTON -- Is Europe returning to the Dark Ages?

By Patrick J. Michaels

What's going in Europe? Are we witnessing another historic retreat into scientific barbarism?

How else to explain three disturbing irrationalities in recent times: distortion of genetic science resulting in massive African starvation; preservation on a global warming treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, which Europe knows will have no effect on climate; and the public show trial of Danish statistician Bjorn Lomborg, for writing a book that reveals what they already knew about Kyoto.

A glance at a world map shows Europe to be a pretty small place compared to the rest of the world that is chomping genetically engineered corn and soybeans or their by-products (like that plate of ribs) with reckless abandon. On Kyoto, Europe lost a critical referendum last year when radical green Robert Watson was voted out as head of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. On Lomborg, well, Denmark is even smaller than Europe.

Each of these stories merits elaboration, as each represents a triumph of irrationality in the face of some pretty obvious science-all with disastrous consequences.

In response to pressure from the European Community, and in the face of a terrible famine, Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa refused to allow the distribution of 27,000 tons of genetically modified corn. Mwanawasa chose to starve his people because Europe was afraid that some of the corn would be planted, and the genes would "escape," contaminating subsequent corn that could then not be exported to the Continent.

Never mind that "outbreeding" is extremely rare and that it doesn't matter anyway. Europe eschews genetically engineered corn to protect its own, more inefficient varieties, propping up the local price.

U.S. trade representative Robert Zoellick minced no words, calling Zambia's action "immoral" and "Luddite." Not being diplomatic, I'll add another: "murder." The main genetic modification is the insertion of genetic material from Bacillus thuringensis, which is lethal to the European Corn Borer, requiring much less use of much more expensive (and, to some, distasteful) pesticides. Organic gardeners in the United States sprinkle this bacterium everywhere as a natural pest control.

While genetic scare stories abound, hyped by European Greens, the experiment has already been run. American agriculture and consumers prosper because of genetic engineering, with no demonstrable negative effect (except lower corn and soybean prices because of abundant production).

The Kyoto and Lomborg stories are related. In his book, "The Skeptical Environmentalist," Lomborg demonstrated that planetary warming is likely to be at the low end of projections, and that Kyoto wouldn't do anything measurable to stop it. Every serious scientist knows the basis of his argument: Kyoto really doesn't reduce atmospheric carbon dioxide much, observed increases in this gas are falling far beneath the dire predictions made only 10 years ago, and warming has been modest.

Because the tendency of most sophisticated climate models is to produce a constant (not increasing) rate of warming, we therefore have a good idea of how much it will warm, a mere three-quarters of a degree Celsius in the next 50 years. Variants of this calculation have been repeated in at least three separate instances in the refereed scientific literature.

In response, the Danish "Committees on Scientific Dishonesty" accused Lomborg of "scientific dishonesty." Did they cite one fact that he had gotten wrong? No. His crime? He failed to endorse the pro-Kyoto insanity. He refused to act irrationally.

One Kyoto would reduce U.S. GDP by about two percent per year, depending upon assumptions. The 20-or-so Kyotos that European Greens say are necessary? Do the math. U.S. capital is precisely what is required for investment in the miserable, starving, death-ridden world of Africa. As an example, the less we invest in things like clean power plants and water treatment facilities, the more they die from the complications of indoor smoke inhalation from cooking fires and water-borne diseases. Together, these kill millions -- while Kyoto does nothing and takes away that capital.

The Danish "Committees" cited not one scientific finding against Lomborg. Instead, they referred to four anti-Lomborg essays published in Scientific American by known environmental ideologues, which themselves have been heavily criticized. Lomborg was allowed no defense.

He's got an issue now. He's been blackballed. No more government research money for him. The Danish "Committees" citing Scientific American as evidence have irrevocably damaged his reputation.

Should Lomborg sue Scientific American as the ultimate cause of this damage? The result would be a highly publicized trial that would reveal for all the descent of Europe into yet another scientific Dark Age, as well as the bullyboy tactics that are now rising in America to quash rational scientific dissent.

He may have a case.

(Patrick J. Michaels is a senior fellow in environmental studies at the Cato Institute and author of "The Satanic Gases.")

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