Friday, August 12, 2005

News notes: arguments of climate skeptics demolished; how are we handling record oil prices? and more

A few tidbits as the DC area and others face more “code orange” air pollution alerts [see at http://cfpub.epa.gov/airnow/index.cfm?action=airnow.national ] along with heat warnings, while oil prices continue bubbling upward, (And, yes, these items are related. Read on.)

OOPS – BAD NEWS FOR THE PROFESSIONAL GLOBAL WARMING “SKEPTICS” – As you know, for years, global warming “skeptics” (including all those alleged “think tank” types on the take from ExxonMobil and others) have asserted that global warming is “uncertain” because temperature trends in the lower atmosphere didn’t seem to be going up. Now, it turns out that the scientists who developed the original temperature records goofed. This revelation tends to shoot down one of the favorite arguments of the “skeptics.” New papers on this topic were published yesterday in the online edition of Science – and noted by, among others, science writer Chris Mooney’s blog [http://www.chriscmooney.com/blog.asp ] and by Andy Revkin in today’s NY Times.

MEANWHILE, MOTOR VEHICLES PUMP OUT MORE GLOBAL WARMING POLLUTION: Our friends at Environmental Defense released an important report this week noting that motor vehicles are pumping out more global warming pollution than they did 15 years ago. [http://www.environmentaldefense.org/documents/4715_CarbonBurdensUpdateFinal.pdf ]

This report deserves more attention than it received. The resulting global warming not only increases the likelihood of more “code orange” alerts well into the future [note: higher temperatures can mean more smog], but it is directly related to our bungling of the problem with oil imports.

AND OUR RESPONSE TO RECORD OIL PRICES IS… It’s no joke that higher oil prices are threatening our economy. It’s not just consumers paying through the nose at the pump. Oil prices boosted the price of an office chair I bought this week! And how are we responding? The combined clout of the oil and car companies persuaded Congress to sidestep the issue of reducing oil imports. The next shoe to drop on this issue may come as soon as next week, with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration due to release a new proposal regarding fuel economy for SUVs, minivans and pickup trucks. Will the proposal, as some believe, cut even more breaks for American manufacturers of big gas-guzzlers like General Motors? Stay tuned, and check in with us for a follow up.

FINALLY, NOT TO “CARP” ON THIS, BUT… Yesterday, the US EPA had a conference call to discuss a staff plan to set a new air pollution standard for bigger particles in the air – “coarse” particles according to the jargon. (There’s a good piece by Steve Cook about this in today’s BNA Daily Environment Report.) Our friends with the American Lung Association and Environmental Defense questioned EPA’s staff recommendation to limit any new standard to urban areas. (EPA is apparently afraid to challenge the political clout of the farm lobby.) But the whole notion of big-particle standards was challenged by an industry group which billed itself as The Coalition for Coarse Particle Regulation, which appears to be a front group for coal mining companies. Probably more appropriate to call them the Coalition Against the Regulation of Particles, or CARP.

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