Securing energy for America’s future

Posted June 28, 2009, at 7:07 p.m.

Does Mother Nature play jokes? All four agencies that track the Earth’s temperature report that our planet cooled about 0.7 degrees Fahrenheit in 2007. The year 2008 was the coldest in a decade, and this temperature drop was the fastest change, in either direction, on record. China has just had its coldest winter in a century in a year of record-breaking cold and snow virtually everywhere.

The Arctic Climate Research Center at the University of Illinois reports that the area of arctic sea ice has expanded to 1979 levels and the same was recorded in south polar seas. While ice, over the past decade, has melted around the edges of Greenland and Antarctica and thinned in some regions, much of the ice pack in both interiors has thickened recently due to increased snowfall. Some students of sun spot activity (currently very low) postulate that we may be on the verge of another “little ice age,” like the one that lasted from roughly 1100 to 1850. And the “endangered” polar bears? Their population has increased, by most estimates, two or three times over the past 40 years.

Think about it: Greenhouse gases comprise 1 to 2 percent of the atmosphere. Water vapor is 95 percent of these gases, and carbon dioxide (CO2) is only 3.6 percent. More than 96 percent of this CO2 is of natural origin, leaving just more than 3 percent to be of human origin, meaning that humanity is responsible for about one-quarter of 1 percent of the atmosphere’s greenhouse effect. For the past 400,000 years the Earth’s temperature has risen and fallen hundreds of years before increases and declines in CO2 levels. Vegetation loves CO2 and sucks it up. We have very little to do with it.

Given these “inconvenient truths,” where are the voices questioning the steady diet of global warming fed to us by our media, government and much of the academic community? The voices are there, plenty of them, just not reported by our major sources of news. In 2007, the late Dr. Frederick Seitz, past president of the National Academy of Sciences, president emeritus of Rockefeller University, recipient of 32 honorary degrees, the Franklin Medal and numerous other awards, organized a petition which has been signed by 31,072 well-qualified scientists, 9,021 with doctorates. This petition to the U.S. government opposed limits on greenhouse gases, stating that such restrictions “would harm the environment, hinder the advance of science and technology, and damage the health and welfare of mankind.”

In a 2008 Senate Minority Report 650 scientists echoed the same doubts. The Heartland Institute concluded in March its second annual conference on climate change, with 80 experts from around the world voicing their well-founded skepticism that there is no climate crisis. The United Nations has not permitted global warming skeptics to join its Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, of which we hear regularly and which is discredited as entirely political by any who question their conclusions.

But there is a crisis of a different sort. It’s the Waxman-Markey bill (American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009) or “Cap and Trade.” This amounts to a huge tax on CO2 emissions, which will dramatically increase energy costs for everyone. Not incidentally it also will increase the power and presence of the federal government, and the potential for favoritism (corruption). Remember, ethanol was the darling of the environmental lobby a short while ago. Are we ready for more unintended consequences?

The future of energy supply in this country is all-important. It should be guided by wise use of all our resources, in “renewables,” nuclear and, yes, fossil fuels, the supply of which is dictated by honest science and basic economics. There should be no place for energy ideology, or eco-religion.

We should protest this misguided legislation and not allow ourselves, and our children’s future, to be led off the group-think cliff like a bunch of lemmings. Such all-reaching legislation inevitably will lead to a decline in our standard of living, “spreading poverty around.”

And it’s so unnecessary. I think of a couple of favorite quotes in this context. Gen. George S. Patton said, “When everybody’s thinking the same thing, someone isn’t thinking!” But my favorite is from the inimitable Yogi Berra: “It’s not what you don’t know that gets you in trouble, it’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

Dr. Alan W. Boone is a retired physician and a former principal investigator of a National Cancer Institute clinical research grant. He lives in Bangor.

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