Friday, December 29, 2006

My Problem with Eagles

Actually, my problem is not with the eagles but with the government. I own a piece of property, about 7 acres, in northern Minnesota, which has been in my family—and on which we have paid taxes—since the 1930s. Roughly half of the property is wetland and so cannot be developed because of government regulations to preserve wetlands. The remainder of the land is physically suitable for development, and I prepared a plan to plat five lots there. But government has prevented me from going through with the plan because of an eagle nest in the center of the property. The Endanger Species Act protects not only the eagles themselves but prohibits any habitat modification within 330 feet of an eagle nest. This encompasses all of the otherwise-buildable area of the proposed lots. Thus I am prohibited from using any of my property. I cannot cut firewood or plant corn or do anything whatever with the property. Still, I have to continue paying taxes on it.

In 1963 there were only 417 nesting pairs of eagles in continental U.S. Today there are well over 7,000. The population has been doubling every seven years since 1972, and there are now more than 1,400 nesting pairs in Minnesota alone. In 1999 the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service determined that the eagle had made such a comeback that it should be taken off the endangered list. Under the law, once that determination is made, the government must remove the species from the endangered list within one year or formally state why it still needs to be on that list. It would be very difficult for the government to maintain the bird needed to remain on the list when its own Fish & Wildlife Service said the opposite and when eagles were continuing to proliferate. In 1999 President Clinton got a lot of political mileage by appearing on the White House lawn with an eagle named Challenger, claiming it as a symbol of his administration's success with the Endangered Species Act, and announcing the eagle was being delisted from the ESA.

But the delisting never occurred. For six years the federal government continued to violate the Endangered Species Act by failing to do what it was required to do within one year of the F&W's report. Both the Clinton and then the Bush administration delayed in order to appease environmental groups that wanted to maintain the restrictions as a tool to stop development, rather than to protect a species that no longer needed it.

To stop the government from continuing to violate its own laws, I sought help from the Pacific Legal Foundation and brought suit against the government. In August we won the case in District Court in Minneapolis. The judge gave the government six months to comply, which its attorneys have said they will do by the February deadline. But they have stated that they intend to impose the same regulations under a different law that has been on the books for 65 years. So the battle is not over yet, and I can still do nothing with my property.

The government has been in violation of not only its own law but of the Constitution itself. Article V of the Bill of Rights of the Constitution states that private property shall not be taken for public use without payment of just compensation. If housing the eagles on my property is a public use, if their welfare is a public benefit appropriate for government action that precludes my use of my own property, then government should pay me just compensation. Yet the federal government, which is supposed to support and defend the Constitution, is denying me my Constitutional rights—and doing the same to thousands of other individuals similarly affected by the Endangered Species Act and other environmental regulations.

I am sometimes asked what will happen to the eagles on my property if it is subdivided and sold. My answer is, “Probably nothing.” According to the F&W Service, eagles typically have 3 to 5 nests in their territory and rotate among them every few years. So my proposed development would create no hardship for the local eagles, who would simply move to one of their other nests. They certainly aren't going to commit suicide by going down with the tree on my property if it were cut down.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Future Problems from Ethanol?

A previous posting (see Sept. 4, 2006) noted that ethanol has caused shocking, costly damage to boat motors. The ethanol blend common throughout the country can leach the resin out of the fiberglass gas tanks of as many as 15,000 boats. This results in a black goo that coats the engine's innards and hardens as the motor cools.

Remember MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether)? This was one of the two oxygenates that EPA required to be added to gasoline, allegedly to make it cleaner burning in order to comply with the Clean Air Act. In practice, it was the only choice for much of the country outside the Midwest, the major corn-producing region, because the other approved oxygenate, ethanol, cannot be transported by pipeline to other sections of the country. Ethanol attracts water, and small amounts of water vapor, which are always present in the pipelines, alter the fuel blend as the ethanol breaks down.

But MTBE was found to pollute groundwater, resulting from leaky gas tanks at filling stations. They had always leaked a certain amount of gasoline, but this had not been a significant problem. Ethanol, however, was found to penetrate much further and faster in the ground than regular gasoline, and it did not break down as regular gasoline does. By 2001, MTBE was found to have polluted the groundwater in 49 states. California alone had identified 10,000 sites of polluted groundwater, with some sites having 1,000 times the EPA limit for this chemical. New York identified 1,500 polluted sites, and 3 million people were exposed on Long Island alone, which was found to have 100 polluted municipal wells; and those people had no alternative source of water. And people even in Alaska were found to have MTBE in their blood. (See our blog of March 13, 2006)

Most shocking is that EPA knew about the problem ten years before passage of the 1990 Clean Air Act--which it favored--and made no attempt to warn Congress or the public. EPA quietly let the legislation pass—and then for 15 years did nothing to eliminate MTBE. Instead, it started requiring gas stations to replace their underground steel gas tanks with fiberglass ones.

Dr. Arthur Robinson is a former professor of chemistry at the University of California at San Diego and former president and research director of the Linus Pauling Institute. He is currently head of the Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine and has written recently in his newsletter Access to Energy: “Presumably automobile owners have not yet noticed the epoxy resins in their engines, since the surface to volume ratio of service station tanks is much smaller, leading to a lower concentration of ethanol-dissolved epoxy resin in the fuel. What, however, will be the long-term consequences of gradually dissolving these government-mandated service station tanks?”

So far, so bad. The stage is set for the problem to get worse. Ethanol production is rapidly expanding far beyond any economic demand, due to incessant promotional propaganda and a plethora of taxpayer subsidies; and politicians are ever alert to buying more votes from corn growers and industry—which is also a heavy financial contributor to both major political parties. Now politicians have a new tactic for expanding ethanol production: legislating higher ethanol content in gasoline. Minnesota, I believe, is the first state to so, requiring a doubling of the ethanol content of gasoline by August 30, 2013. No doubt other states will follow, likely with earlier deadlines for compliance, as every state wants to be first in line for the next ethanol plant. It will be interesting to see if the dissolved epoxy resins become a problem in automobile engines when the ethanol content is increased, if not before.

For more on ethanol, see our blog postings of Feb. 2, 2006 and Aug. 10, 2005.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Is Oil a Fossil Fuel?

The forthcoming issue (Dec. 8) of the scientific journal Nature will contain an article that abundant quantities of methane have been conclusively shown to exist on Titan, one of the moons of Saturn. “We have determined that Titan's methane is not of biologic origin," reports Hasso Niemann of the Goddard Space Flight Center, a principal NASA investigator. Methane, a key hydrocarbon and the principal component of natural gas, actually has been found throughout the solar system. If methane can be produced by an abiotic (or abiogenic) process, so can more complex hydrocarbons. Once you have methane, “the rest is easy,” says Stanford Penner, Ph.D.

Dr. Penner, who is an authority on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, notes that Russian and Ukrainian scientists have produced an elegant proof that abiotic oil production (from intense pressure and high temperatures at least 100 kilometers below the earth's surface) is entirely consistent with the Second Law of Thermodynamics, but that no such proof has ever been put forth for the fossil fuel theory. In fact, he states that there is no “fossil fuel theory,” merely a hypothesis for which no proof has ever been set forth.

Furthermore, oil has been discovered in the earth's Archeozoic rock formations. These are the most ancient of rocks, which were formed before any plants or animals existed on earth. So petroleum here must have had an inorganic origin, rather than being produced from dead dinosaurs and ancient forests, as is commonly believed.

Finally, some older oil wells previously regarded as depleted have been known to be replenished from below. This is certainly evidence that oil is being produced at depths in the earth (where there are no fossil remains) and being pushed upward by intense pressure from below. The best example of this is Green Island in the Gulf of Mexico. When all the oil that could profitably be extracted had been pumped out, the wells there were closed and forgotten about. Then, twenty years later, those wells were found to contain more oil than before any had been removed! If petroleum is constantly produced by an inorganic process, we are never going to run out of oil.

All of which shows that political policies based on the idea that the world is running out of oil are based on a false theory. Just like claims about man-made global warming ruining the earth (see our new chart on global warming). Both ideas depend on “consensus,” a popular belief that prevails because of constant repetition rather than scientific proof.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

New Links

We have added several new links to our homepage that we think our readers may find of interest. The Friends of Science website is excellent on global warming. It contains a marvelous, very professionally done five-part video that you can download, from which you can see and hear a half-dozen real experts in various aspects of climate science debunk the global warming nonsense. It also has a number of papers of varying lengths, all very readable for the layman, which are excellent.

The Science and Environmental Policy Project website (SEPP) is that of Dr. S. Fred Singer, one of the world's foremost atmospheric physicists. Here are some of his impressive credentials: Professor Emeritus of Environmental Science, University of Virginina; Distinguished Research Professor, Institute for Space Science and Technology; Distinguished Research Professor, George Mason University; received the First Science Award from the British Interplanetary Society; and was elected to the International Academy of Astronautics. He founded the astrophysics department at the University of Miami. He served as: Vice Chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and Atmospheres; Chief Scientist for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation; Deputy Assistant Administrator at EPA; Director of the Center for Atmospheric and Space Physics, University of Maryland; Research Physicist, Upper Atmosphere Rocket Program, Johns Hopkins University; and Visiting Scholar at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Calif. Inst. of Technology. And by the way, he founded the U.S. Weather Satellite Service and invented the device for measuring ozone in the stratosphere. He has also written fourteen books and hundreds of scholarly articles in professional journals. His website is mostly about global warming; in this, it is the most extensive, detailed, and lucid site we know of on this subject. The site occasionally comments on various environmental issues besides global warming. It is always worth reading. was attracted to our website by our several postings debunking the phony claims about secondhand smoke. We do not smoke or promote smoking; our interest is sound science and intelligent public policy—but these are not evident in the wave of state and local anti-smoking ordinances, which are based on junk science and the systematic violation of individual rights (specifically, property rights). As Dr. Michael Siegel, a medical doctor and public health official with 21 years experience in tobacco research, put it: “The anti-smoking movement is driven by an agenda—an agenda that will not allow science, sound policy analysis, the law, or ethics to get in its way.” Although was created to fight local smoking bans, the CEO of that organization has written, “It soon became clear that smoking was just the cutting edge of a general mentality that is repressive in nature and dishonest in essence. Junk science is but an excuse to forward agendas of social and economic control at a planetary scale: tobacco, industries, food and a thousand other issues.... It was clear then that the issues had to be expanded beyond the narrow band of smoking.” He also wrote: “Our group concerns itself not just with the passive/active smoke issue but, more in general, with the alarmist, health-obsessed, zero-risk, zero-tolerance mentality that seems to prevail today.” Amen.

The Smokers Club, Inc. is another organization dedicated to fighting smoking bans because they violate individual rights. It is a resource for research studies exposing the junk science involved in secondhand smoke campaigns—which the activist/advocates of those campaigns pretend don't exist.

Dr. Mary Ruwart's website sells her books and audio and video tapes, which clearly explain how the libertarian philosophy applies to a spectrum of issues. She also writes a regular column for the Advocates of Self Government. Her best known book is Healing Our World, but all of her writings are highly recommended.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Ultimate Stupidity on Global Warming

On Sept. 28, after being introduced by U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, Al Gore told hundreds of U.N. diplomats and staff that cigarette smoking is a “significant contributor to global warming”(!) This is truly laughable. It is mind-boggling that someone who claims to be knowledgeable on this issue is so abysmally ignorant not merely of atmospheric science but of the truly insignificant magnitude of cigarette smoke compared to combustion from factories and automobiles—to say nothing of carbon dioxide production from natural sources. It is hard to believe he would say something so stupid.

Gore subscribes to the dubious theory that increases in carbon dioxide are causing global warming. But in the last 1.6 million years there have been 63 alternations between warm and cold climates and no evidence that any of them were caused by changes in carbon dioxide. And carbon dioxide is not the only greenhouse gas or even the most important one. Water vapor is a FAR more important greenhouse gas, accounting for at least 98 percent—and perhaps more than 99 percent—of any greenhouse effect. Carbon dioxide accounts for only about 1 percent, with other gases being the remainder.

Furthermore, of that one percent of greenhouse effect due to carbon dioxide, 97 percent of that is due to nature, not mankind. Scientists have calculated that termites alone produce ten times as much carbon dioxide as all the fossil fuels burned in the whole world in a year. Combining the factors of water vapor and nature's production of carbon dioxide, we see that nature is responsible for 99.9 percent of any greenhouse effect, while mankind contributes only 0.04 percent. So how much effect could regulating that 0.04 percent possibly have on world climate? And how significant can cigarette smoke possibly be in this insignificant human-caused total?

And that's not all. As I point out in my booklet on global warming (available from American Liberty Publishers, $3.95), clouds have a hundred times stronger effect on climate than does carbon dioxide. Even if carbon dioxide doubled, its effect would be canceled out if cloud cover expanded by a mere 1 percent. Yet in just three and one-half years, from 1998 to 1990, cloud cover (measured by satellites) changed by more than 3 percent.

So what causes global warming? It's the sun, through variations in cosmic rays and solar wind. The sun also sets the carbon dioxide level in the earth's atmosphere by the same process. In my booklet I quote British scientist Nigel Calder: “The sun sets the level of carbon dioxide in the earth's atmosphere by the cumulative effect of variations in the galactic cosmic rays reaching the earth, as modulated by the solar wind....My results leave no room for any effect on CO2 levels due to man-made CO2...nothing to do with emissions from factories or cars.” Much less cigarette smoke.

Moreover, the global warming alarmists claim that a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide will increase global climate in direct proportion. But the renowned atmospheric physicist Dr. S. Fred Singer writes: “If one assigns all of the observed 0.6 degC temperature increase of the 20th century to an anthropogenic increase in GH [greenhouse] gases (which together have gone about 50% towards a doubling), then the additional forcing from the next 50% will only add a little additional warming. This is so because the calculated temperature increases only as the logarithm of CO2 concentration.”

The global warming alarmists claim that the global temperature increase of 0.6 degree C. (about 1 degree Fahrenheit) of the past century was due to human activity. This assumes the climate would have been perfectly flat without human intervention. But Australian John McClean, who has spent more than 25 years studying global climate, says “No century has ever had such a stable climate, but for the [computer models to show anthropogenic forcing], this assumption must be made. The probability of a flat background natural climate is less than one in a million; hence, the statistical significance of these apparently successful models is also less than 1 in a million.”

Saturday, October 14, 2006

More Fraud, Misconduct at EPA

A recent report issued by the EPA Office of Inspector General (OIG) found “hundreds of weaknesses—missing data, no log books, falsified measurements—not noted by EPA. The office had found many of the same problems in 1999, and they were identified again by EPA in 2002,” according to Kate Raiford of Raw Story. But EPA did nothing about them and now tries to downplay the issue.

“Fraud in even just one lab can have a significant impact on several thousands, millions of people,” said a spokesman for the EPA OIG. “We think this is an area vulnerable and susceptible to fraud.” The fraud involves both drinking water and wastewater laboratory testing. It includes manipulating equipment to make it look like the experimental protocol was followed or the correct result was produced. EPA OIG also found evidence of altered signatures on reports, no maintenance records on instruments, and numerous quality control failures.

EPA has a long history of scientific malpractice. Both the General Accounting Office and the Congressional Research Service have been severely critical of EPA's policies and procedures on a variety of issues. EPA has violated its own risk assessment guidelines and debased scientific standards regarding secondhand smoke. It was found guilty of violating six federal statutes for using harassment and intimidation to try to compel employee support for its policy on secondhand smoke. It has fraudulently misrepresented the findings of other scientists in order to make it appear they supported conclusions EPA favored. A dozen career employees of EPA wrote a letter to the Washington Times “risking our careers rather than choosing to remain silent” about “egregious misconduct” at EPA. Internal documents available under the Freedom of Information Act show that EPA exaggerated claims and promulgated unwarranted policies. EPA has gone against the advice of it own Science Advisory Board (see, for example, its history of action on particulates.) EPA fraudulently manufactured fake “scientific” studies in order to support its views on sulfur dioxide (see my book MAKERS AND TAKERS for fuller explanation of this.) EPA has funneled taxpayer money to lobby groups that support political action on policies—even unscientific ones—that EPA wants to promote.

In this blog on March 13, 2006, I explained EPA's role in producing the largest groundwater pollution in U.S. history—the MTBE affair—and called for the abolition of EPA on the basis of this and other examples harmful to the environment and human health as well as violative of science and even basic honesty.

And don't forget EPA's decision to ban DDT. Since EPA banned it in 1972, 50 million people have died from malaria. Dr. Robert White-Stevens has called it “Authorized Genocide.” In my book, I state: “Several times as many human beings die every year because of bans on DDT and other pesticides as were killed by Hitler's holocaust, by both sides in all the years of the Viet Nam war, and by the atomic bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki combined.” At EPA's hearing on DDT some 300 technical documents were introduced and 150 scientists testified, all in favor of DDT. The world's major scientific organizations testified on behalf of DDT. The judge declared: “The uses of DDT under the regulations involved here do not have a deleterious effect of freshwater fish, estuarine organisms, wild birds, or other wildlife.” But EPA administrator Ruckelshaus—who never attended any of the hearings—nevertheless decided to ban DDT. He later admitted he made a political decision rather than a scientific one.

In MAKERS AND TAKERS, I also explain that Third World countries simply follow the lead of the U.S., not only because they lack the resources to do their own investigations but because they are under financial pressure to do so. They were told, for example, that continuing to use DDT would result in a loss of U.S. financial aid. And DDT isn't the only example. I point out that 300,000 Peruvians contracted cholera—and at least 3,156 died—when local authorities stopped chlorinating drinking water because EPA said chlorine might cause a slight increase in cancer.

Furthermore, banning DDT led to the substitution of far more dangerous chemicals, such as parathion. At the EPA hearing, no evidence was ever presented of even a single person ever dying from DDT. But, according to British entomologist Kenneth Mellanby, “hundreds of human deaths” resulted from the substitution of more dangerous chemicals that replaced DDT.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Government Creates Oil Shortages, Raises Prices

The politicians lament about how we are dependent on foreign oil and clamor that the government should do something about it. Consumers complain about the high price of gasoline, and demand the government should do something about it. But government has already done too much—and that's the main problem.

As noted in previous postings on this blog, our government has prevented oil drilling in large areas of the U.S., both on and offshore, and, even where it is allowed, has made it far more expensive than it need be through costly regulations. Refineries have had to pay more than $47 billion over the last 12 years to comply with environmental regulations that include, among others, the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the Toxic Substances Control Act, the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Oil Pollution Act, the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. And that's not even including the Sarbanes-Oxley law and similar laws that apply to general business practices, not just to environmental issues. Naturally, the cost of complying with these regulations must be passed on to the consumers in the form of higher prices. The tens of billions of dollars spent by the industry to comply with regulations did nothing to increase the supply of gasoline. And from 2006 to 2012, fourteen new major environmental programs will force additional costs on refineries.

Government regulations are also the reason not a single new oil refinery has been built in the U.S. in the past 29 years. Companies can't get the permits. One company has been trying to get a permit for 16 years. A shortage of refining capacity leads to a shortage of product—and higher prices. Last week the Wall Street Journal featured an article about an Indian billionaire who is building a gigantic oil refinery in India. It will employ an incredible 150,000 people. He expects the largest customer for the gasoline it will produce will be the United States. He believes the cost saving from not having to comply with U.S. regulations will far more than offset the cost of shipping the gasoline all the way from India. So profits and jobs go overseas. And we continue to complain about our dependence on petroleum imports and jobs going abroad.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Ethanol Damage

Yesterday's weekend edition of The Wall Street Journal has an article on the shocking costs of ethanol damage to boat motors. The damage has been increasing as politicians have increased the legal mandate to use ethanol. Yamaha Marine Group reports that ethanol problems have more than tripled this year, compared to the same period in 2005, and complaints “are coming from all over the country.” Refiners would like to offer a different product, but “legally we can't,” says a spokesman for the refiners. Government has phased out MTBE as an gasoline oxygenate because this previously federally required additive resulted in ground water pollution (see my blog of March 13, 2006.) This has left only ethanol as a way of meeting the federal oxygenate requirement.

It has long been known that many small engines aren't designed to run on ethanol and, in fact, are destroyed by them. Owners of brand new outboard motors, lawn mowers, chainsaws, and snow blowers have had their engines burn out because of ethanol. Many of the manufacturers of these devices have cautioned in their owner's manuals against using ethanol in these machines. (Some states have recognized this and have allowed non-ethanol gasoline to be sold for these small engines as well as for antique cars, which are also damaged by ethanol.) But in many localities this accommodation is not available, and the costs that now involve larger boats far surpass the money which small engines owners have been forced to shell out for ethanol damage.

The 10 percent ethanol-gasoline blend common throughout the country can leach the resin out of fiberglass gas tanks found in as many as 15,000 boats. This results in a black goo that coats the motor's innards and hardens as the motor cools. Walter Kaprielian of East Hampton, N.Y., bought a 20-foot boat with a small cabin, but the damage from ethanol will now require him to pay $25,000 for a new motor. Erich Koch of Old Saybrook, Conn, spent nearly $40,000 to buy and restore a 34-foot boat. But then ethanol problems set in and he ended up selling it for $9,000. He says it was time to cut his losses.

Ethanol was foisted on the public by claims an oxygenate was necessary to improve air quality by reducing automobile air pollution. But automobiles since the mid 1980s have automatic sensors that regulate the oxygen/fuel mixture to provide the most efficient combustion, thus doing exactly what an oxygenate (ethanol or MTBE) is supposed to do and making it unnecessary.

And where is the improvement in air quality from ethanol? Forget those ads by Archer Daniels Midland (the largest producer of ethanol) about “cleaner burning ethanol.” Even EPA admits that ethanol produces more nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons (components of smog) than regular gas. Its vapor pressure also leads to greater evaporation even when the engine is not running. EPA initially refused to approve ethanol on the grounds it violated the Clean Air Act. EPA's position on ethanol was reversed only after a presidential waiver from the first President Bush, which, by coincidence, came in an election year when the votes of farmers in cornbelt states were important.

Study after study has shown no air quality benefit from ethanol. For example, a study by the National Academy of Science states that “using ethanol as a blending agent in gasoline would not achieve significant air-quality benefits, and in fact WOULD LIKELY BE DETRINMENTAL.” And an article in SCIENCE by J.G. Calvert of the National Center for Atmospheric Research states: “No convincing argument based on combustion or atmospheric chemistry can be made for the addition of ethanol to gasoline.” And NBC News, reporting on an 8-year study by the National Research Council, stated: “There is no evidence that special fuels do anything.” Professor Douglas Lawson, who headed the study, said, “We are not getting the effects the models predicted.” For more examples, see my book MAKERS AND TAKERS, available from American Liberty Publishers.

Ethanol is just one more example of government solutions to economic problems turning out to be less beneficial and far more costly than what would result if the government just stood aside and let the marketplace decide products and prices. Professor John Deutch, a professor of chemistry at MIT and former director of energy research and Undersecretary of Energy in the Carter Administration, states that federal ethanol subsidy is costing the taxpayers $120 for every barrel of oil displaced by ethanol. With the price of oil hovering around $70 per barrel, only the ethanol industry (or maybe a politician) would consider that a bargain.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Polar Bears and Global Warming

The CBS program “60 Minutes” a week ago had a large segment on polar bears being threatened by global warming. The same theme was featured in Al Gore's persuasive—but scientifically ridiculous—movie, “An Inconvenient Truth,” about global warming. Here are some inconvenient truths that CBS and Al Gore didn't tell their viewers.

There are 22,000 polar bears in 20 distinct population groups worldwide. Only two of these groups are declining—and these are in areas such as Baffin Bay where the temperatures have gotten colder! Two groups have been increasing—and these are in areas such as the Bering Strait and the Chukchi Seas, where temperatures have gotten warmer! The other groups are stable.

The climate in Alaska has been warming since 1976-77. Prior to this, there was a multi-decade cooling period. Recent warming merely returned the Alaskan climate to what it had been in the early 20th century.

Pictures of melting at the edges of glaciers in Greenland are misleading. The Greenland ice sheet has thickened by almost seven feet since it was first measured by laser altimetry in 1979. And air temperatures at the summit have decreased steadily since they were first measured 19 years ago.

Maximum air temperatures at Russian coastal stations were highest in 1938, when they were nearly four-tenths of a degree warmer than in 2000.

In just the past 3,000 years there have been five distinct periods, each lasting several hundred years, when the earth's climate was significantly warmer than today. And the polar bears survived all of them. For 95 percent of the last 100 million years the earth was warmer than it is today, and the warmer climate was not caused by man or carbon dioxide levels. Studies show that global warming precedes rising levels of carbon dioxide—not the other way around. Global warming can't be caused by increased carbon dioxide levels, because you can't have a cause-and-effect relationship where the effect precedes the cause.

Everyone knows that the sun warms the earth, but the sun's heat is not uniform. It is variations in solar output (evidenced by sunspot cylces) and galactic cosmic rays that determine variations in the earth's climate. And the same process—not human activities—determines the carbon dioxide levels of the earth's atmosphere. For more information, see my booklet “What 'Global Warming'?” from American Liberty Publishers.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Enron-type Bookkeeping in Government

The bookkeeping of Enron, Worldcom, and several other large companies deviated from standard accounting practices in order to hide enormous losses. But the federal government has been doing the same thing for years. According to an article this morning in USA Today by Dennis Cauchon, the government uses unaudited financial statements that do not follow standard accounting practices—which results in hiding enormous losses that dwarf those of Enron and all the other offenders that have been caught. Cauchon reports that if standard accounting practices had been followed, the federal deficit for 2005 would have been $760 billion instead of the reported $318 billion. That amounts to $6,700 per family for the year compared to $2,800. The running deficit since 1997 would equal $2.9 trillion, compared to the reported $729 billion. And the reported surplus of $559 billion for the last four years of the Clinton administration would instead have been a deficit of $484 billion.

Furthermore, these figures do not include the financial deterioration of Social Security or Medicare. Had these been included according to standard accounting principles, the deficits would be in the trillions of dollars annually. The government would have had to report losses of nearly $40 trillion just since 1997. And the public doesn't realize what is going on any more than Enron's employees and investors.

Why doesn't Congress demand audits that would require the government to follow standard accounting practices? Because Congressional members benefit from the public not knowing the extend of the losses. That way they can continue to vote for lavish spending measures that “buy” votes from their constituents and perpetuate themselves in office without causing much alarm. And they can continue to draw their Congressional salaries (currently $165,000 per year), which they frequently raise—and do so at rates faster than the rate of inflation or increases in average income in the private sector. Furthermore, they have the most lavish pension benefits in the world. Pension benefits in the private sector typically amount to 25 percent or less of a worker's salary. But Congressional pension benefits are adjusted so lavishly for cost-of-living increases that retirees frequently receive annual benefits greater than their salaries when they were in office. A study several years ago (the figure is probably higher now) found that nearly three-fourths of senators and more than half of the members of the House stood to be future “pension millionaires,” that is, they could collect a total of a million dollars or more from their pensions.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Surgeon General Trades Integrity for Advocacy

The U.S. Surgeon General recently appeared in a TV interview on PBS's News Hour on the day his new report on secondhand smoke was released. He stated repeatedly and emphatically that there was no safe level of exposure to secondhand smoke. (This is the “no threshold” theory.”) But the very report he was talking about doesn't support what he was saying. It draws no such conclusion, nor does it provide any data to support such a conclusion. The SG was simply not being honest.

The “no threshold” theory about cancer has never been shown to be true for ANY chemical, much less secondhand smoke. The theory that if something is carcinogenic at high doses it must also be proportionately so at small doses simply does not fit the real world. At least ten elements (including iron and oxygen) are carcinogens at high doses but essential to human life in small doses. And some carcinogens, such as selenium and Vitamin A, are proven anti-carcinogens at low doses. These facts contradict the “no-threshold” theory. Thresholds are a law of nature; the mere title of one treatise says it all: “Environmental Carcinogenesis—The Threshold Principle: A Law of Nature." The authors, Claus and Bolander, state that the no-threshold theory about any dose being dangerous ignores “all the fundamental principles of cell biology.”

Dr. Elizabeth Miller, former president of the American Association for Research on Cancer, has stated: “Chemical carcinogenesis is a strongly dose-dependent phenomenon.” This is opposite to the claim by smoking ban advocates—including the surgeon general—that it is not dose dependent, that any dose is a health hazard (no threshold.)

The no-threshold theory, when applied to secondhand smoke, “incorporates unsound assumptions that are not valid,” says an article by Drs. Huber (pulmonary specialist), Brockie (cardiologist), and Mahajan (a hospital director of internal medicine and professor of medicine.)

Furthermore, thresholds are known to exist for mainstream tobacco smoke in total as well as for each of the individual carcinogens known to exist in it. It is preposterous to claim, as the SG does, that secondhand smoke—which is more than 100,000 times more dilute than mainstream smoke—has no threshold, even though mainstream smoke does. This turns the dose-response principle of epidemiology on its head and means secondhand smoke can be more dangerous than actual smoking! Ridiculous!

The SG should know that thresholds for all carcinogens in—or even assumed to be in—secondhand smoke have been identified. They have been calculated by the American Conference of Government Industrial Hygienists. Below these thresholds, the chemicals are considered safe. To reach the threshold for the carcinogen with the lowest threshold (hydroquinone) would require 1,250 cigarettes to be smoked in a sealed, unventilated room 20 by 22 feet within one hour. This would mean 30 people in that room each smoking slightly more than 2 PACKS of cigarettes per hour. And remember this is in a sealed room, where no one would enter or leave in that hour and where there would be no mechanical ventilation. Open a door or window or add mechanical ventilation, and the number of cigarettes needed to reach the threshold would be even higher. Of course, nobody—much less everyone in a room—will ever smoke 2 packs of cigarettes per hour. Thus it is essentially impossible for secondhand smoke to be a cancer risk despite the pathetic claims of the SG and smoking ban activist/advocates.

Notice that I began the last paragraph by speaking of all the carcinogens known “or even assumed” to be in secondhand smoke. This is because most of the carcinogens have never actually been found in secondhand smoke. If they exist there at all, they are in quantities too small to be measurable. They are simply assumed to be there because they are known to exist in the smoke from which secondhand smoke is derived. So calculations of their presence in secondhand smoke are based on their proportions in the parent smoke. But they may not exist at all in secondhand smoke because of physical, chemical and behavioral differences from the parent smoke. Secondhand smoke has extremely low concentrations of volatiles. Mainstream smoke is highly concentrated, and its higher gas phase concentrations favor larger respirable particles that condense and retain more volatile compounds. Evaporation is faster from secondhand smoke particles; within fractions of a second, they becomes 50 to 100 times smaller than their mainstream counterparts. Secondhand smoke quickly undergoes a variety of other changes: oxidation, polymerizations, photochemical transformations, and other changes. All these changes take place extremely quickly. So suddenly secondhand smoke is a very different collection of chemicals than the smoke from which it was derived, and carcinogens assumed to be there may, in fact, be absent. But even if present, they are in quantities far below the threshold levels. And secondhand smoke is “so highly diluted,” say Huber/Brockie/Mahajan, “that it is not even appropriate to call it smoke, in the conventional sense. Indeed, the term 'environmental tobacco smoke' is a misnomer.”

The SG also distorted science and misled the public by saying, “Even a short time in a smoky room causes your blood platelets to stick together. Secondhand smoke also damages the lining of your blood vessels. In your heart, these bad changes can cause a deadly heart attack.” This is untrue and irresponsible. Even in smokers, heart disease requires many years to develop. (Dr. Michael Siegel, a medical doctor and public health official with 21 years of tobacco policy research, estimates 25 years.) To claim even a brief exposure to secondhand smoke can result in bodily changes that can “cause a deadly heart attack” is dishonest sensationalism. And the SG was simply not honest enough to say that the blood platelet and blood vessel lining effects he talked about completely reverse themselves very rapidly after exposure to secondhand smoke ceases. In the case of the lining of blood vessels, this happens within 15 minutes.

The SG's report says “evidence indicates a 20 to 30 percent increase in the risk of lung cancer.” This means there is a "statistical association" between secondhand smoke and lung cancer that is 20 to 30 percent greater than the baseline, or “natural” level, of cases in a nonsmoking population not exposed to secondhand smoke. So, how many additional cases of lung cancer would be associated annually with a 20 percent increase in risk to 100,000 nonsmokers exposed to secondhand smoke? The answer is 2. That's two-thousands of one percent of the population! But you wouldn't scare many people with that number. You can scare a lot more by saying, “The risk increases 20 percent!” But they mean the same thing. Twenty percent of a very small number is still a very small number. Let me give you another example to illustrate this point.

Suppose a stock is selling for $20 per share, and you've just heard that its earnings last year increased 20 percent over the previous year. Wow! Sounds great, huh? But then you learn it earned 1.2 cents per share last year. That's a twenty percent increase over the previous year, when it earned one cent a share. The increase of two-tenth of a cent amounts to a mere two-thousands of one percent of an increase in the $20 invested in a share of the stock. That increase is the same percentage as in our previous example of increase in the risk of lung cancer. Again, the lesson is that 20 percent of almost nothing is still almost nothing.

Please note that an increased risk of 20% that would be “associated” with 2 additional cases of lung cancer in 100,000 nonsmokers does not show those 2 cases are caused by secondhand smoke. There are many other factors that have "statistical associations" with lung cancer among nonsmokers. At least twenty of these have been identified. These “confounders,” as they are called, include heredity, exposure to radon, prior lung disease, type of employment, vitamin consumption, alcohol consumption, cholesterol level, etc. Now, do you think heredity could account for 2 cases of lung cancer in 100,000 nonsmokers? Your darn right it could. How about prior lung disease? Exposure to radon? Type of employment? Any one of these could easily account for 2 or more cases of lung cancer among 100,000 nonsmokers and thus equal the entire number ascribed to secondhand smoke. Even mere chance could account for 2 cases of lung cancer. So you can see why a risk increase of 20 or 30 percent, though it may sound impressive, is really too small to be significant and why long-established scientific standards require much higher numbers for significance.

Relative risk (also called risk ratio, or RR) is the measurement epidemiologists use to quantify health dangers. A risk of 20 to 30 percent means a RR of 1.2 to 1.3. (RR of 1.0 is neutral, no effect.) According to classic statistical principles, RRs less than 2.0 or 3.0 are considered too low to be relied upon. The independent health consulting firm of Littlewood & Fennell, in their report to the National Toxicology Program's Board of Scientific Counselors on Carcinogens, characterized RRs less than 2.0 as “dancing on the tiny pinhead of statistical insignificance.” The report also states “a wealth of published literature supports the criteria that relative risks less than 100 % ( 2.0) are weak and easily altered significantly by bias (deliberate or inadvertent) or confounding factors.” Similar statements can be found in textbooks such as Breslow and Day's Statistical Methods in Cancer Research.

Huber/Brockie/Mahajan state: “A strong relative risk would be reflected by a risk ratio of 5 to 20 or greater. Weak relative risks, by conventional definition, have risk ratios in the range of 1 to 3 or so....No matter how the data from all of the epidemiological studies are manipulated, recalculated, 'cooked,' or 'massaged,' the risk from exposure to spousal smoking and lung cancer remains weak. It may be 1.08 or it may be 1.34 or it may be 1.42, but all of those still represent a weak relative risk.”

There is more. The Report on Comments on the Surgeon General's Report...EPA...and NIOSH (1992) states: “Risk estimates below 2.0 or 3.0 are described as 'weak' and thus any conclusions drawn from them are unreliable.” The summary of this 47-page document concludes: “...these reports [Surgeon General's, EPA, and NIOSH] do not provide a defensible basis for regulation of smoking in the workplace.” Comments in the report are supported by 113 references in the scientific literature.

A very recent article by John K. Sutherland, a health physicist with 40 years experience, states: “[The advocates] develop tables of data which show Relative Risk effects of less than 2 and suggest [these show] a significant health effect. Any scientist worth his qualifications knows that a RR of less than two or even three is unreliable and too shaky to place much credible reliance upon.”

Dr. Robert Temple of the FDA says, “My basic rule is if the relative risk isn't at least 3.0 or 4.0, forget it.” And EPA refused to regulate high voltage power lines because it said the “risks seldom exceeded 3.0.” So why should we regard secondhand smoke with a puny RR of 1.2 to 1.3 as dangerous? If it is as dangerous as we've been told, why doesn't it have a higher RR?

The public is scared by the word “carcinogen.” The smoking ban activists play on that fear, the public's ignorance, and its gullibility for believing propaganda that claims to deliver them from the dreaded carcinogens. But as I pointed out in my book MAKERS AND TAKERS, we live in a world of carcinogens. They are everywhere. They are in the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we walk on. They are produced by plants, trees, bacteria, fungi, and our own bodies. Human blood contains many carcinogens; if it were an industrial product, it would be classed as a toxic substance. Our saliva contains nitrates, which are carcinogens. All human sex hormones are carcinogens.

Here are some of the food carcinogens listed in my book: sucrose, the common sugar from sugar cane and sugar beets, is a reported carcinogen. So if fructose, which is found in all fruits. Orange, lemon, lime and grapefruit oils are carcinogens or carcinogen promoters. Corn oil, cottonseed oil and sunflower oil are carcinogens. Raisins and walnuts contain malonaldehyde, which is a carcinogen. Salt is a carcinogen. Black pepper, cinnamon, ginger and nutmeg contain saffrole, which is a carcinogen. All fruits and vegetables and animal feed contain terpenes, which are carcinogens. The Paris-based International Agency for Research on Cancer reports that “virtually every food stuff or food product is potentially susceptible to contamination by [carcinogenic] aflatoxin...Samples of nearly every dietary staple have been found to contain [it].” These staples include coconuts, sunflower seeds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, pecans, peanuts, corn, wheat, oats, barley, rye, sorghum, rice, black pepper, cocoa, wine, peas and sweet potatoes. Bread contains ethyl carbamate, a carcinogen. Yogurt and beer have it, too. Beets, celery and lettuce contain carcinogenic nitrosamines. Raw beef, pork, turkey and chicken contain carcinogens, and cooking makes things worse. Broiling, roasting, baking, braising, boiling, frying and smoking foods produce a variety of carcinogens. Mother's milk contains lactose. Lactose is a carcinogen. A cup of coffee contains over a hundred carcinogens, far more than secondhand smoke

Why aren't we all dead already from all these carcinogens? Because small amounts are not dangerous; they all have thresholds below which they are harmless. The same is true of the carcinogens in secondhand smoke. In fact, most of the carcinogens produced by burning tobacco are found throughout our environment, and we're exposed to them all the time. You can inhale more benzene from a few minutes of filling your car's gas tank once than you will ever get from several hours in a smoky bar. And you get 2,500 nanograms of benzo(a)pyrene every time you grill a steak. You also get the same carcinogen from lettuce, cabbage, leeks, tea, spinach and many other vegetables and even the municipal water supplies that tens of millions of Americans drink in thousands of U.S. cities every day. According to Medline, those water supplies have RRs 2.0 to 4.0, depending on locality, and we don't hear reports of people dying. So how dangerous can secondhand smoke be with a RR of 1.2 to 1.3

Claims that secondhand smoke causes many thousands of deaths every year from lung cancer and heart disease are derived from the RRs and population. If a RR is not statistically significant, estimates of deaths from it are meaningless. The 1992 EPA study claimed secondhand smoke had a RR of 1.19 and that this translated into 3,000 lung cancer deaths annually. This same number is quoted for lung cancer deaths for 2005 in the foreword to the 2006 SG's report. And cities, counties and states have been citing this same EPA number as a basis for passing smoking bans. But the Congressional Research Service, at the request of the U.S. Congress, looked at the same data as EPA and concluded: “It is possible that very few or even no deaths can be attributed to ETS [environmental tobacco smoke].” Further, it stated that nonsmokers exposed to pack-a-day ETS every day for 40 years have “little or no risk of developing lung cancer”—much less dying from it. The CRS is part of the Library of Congress and has all the resources of that esteemed institution at its disposal. It is highly respected, nonpartisan, accepted by both Republicans and Democrats as fair and impartial, has no ties to tobacco companies, no regulatory or other agenda, and accepts no outside funding.

Then there was the Congressional Investigation of EPA's findings by the U.S. House of Representatives. It found: “EPA could reach that conclusion [3,000 lung cancer deaths] only by ignoring or discounting major studies, and deviating from generally accepted scientific standards.” Further, it found EPA guilty of “conscious misuse of science and the scientific process to achieve a political agenda that could not otherwise be justified.” It also stated: “The agency [EPA] has deliberately abused and manipulated scientific data in order to reach a predetermined, politically motivated result.” Five similar studies (meta-analyses) of ETS were performed by other researchers who, unlike EPA, followed correct scientific procedures. The RRs of these studies showed a range of 0.98 to 1.03 and an average RR of 1.01, which is 18 percent less than the RR of 1.19 claimed by EPA.

In its own study, EPA violated not only many scientific standards but even basic honesty. It claimed various research studies by others were positive for ETS and lung cancer when the researchers themselves said the results were negative! And two internal documents from EPA's Environmental Criteria Assessment Office state that the agency exaggerated the effects of secondhand smoke and that its conclusions were unwarranted. EPA was found guilty of violating six federal statutes for using harassment and intimidation to force employee support for its position on ETS—the same position that smoking-ban activists ever since have enthusiastically and uncritically supported! And the latest SG report continues to utilize that figure of 3,000 lung cancer deaths and treat it as though it were valid. What does that tell you about the value of the SG's report and the integrity of the SG?

The SG's report also claims 46,000 deaths annually due to heart disease from secondhand smoke. But the American Heart Association website lists the following RRs for ETS: 1.25 for Cardiovascular disease, 1.18 for ischemic heart disease, and 1.13 for arrhythmic heart failure or coronary arrest mortality. None of these is statistically significant. If a RR is insignificant, estimates of deaths based upon it are meaningless. So the big scary estimate of 46,000 deaths is meaningless.

If ETS really was causing heart disease deaths, this should show up in heart attack statistics before and after the passage of smoking bans There should be a drop in heart attack statistics following smoking bans, but the exact opposite has happened! Michael McFadden and David Kuneman examined hospital admissions before and after smoking bans affecting bars and restaurants in four states, California, New York, Florida and Oregon. In 3 of the 4 states, heart attack admissions increased in the year following the smoking ban, compared to the year prior to the ban. California showed the largest difference: heart attack admissions increased to 43,044 in the year following the ban, compared to 40,608 in the preceding year, a 6.0% increase. In Florida, the only state to show a decrease, heart attack hospitalizations were 39,783 compared to 40,077 in the preceding year, a 0.7% decrease.

And Michael Siegel studied the trend in heart attacks in Massachusetts, where there was a huge proliferation of smoke-free bar and restaurant regulations between 2000 and 2003. He found that heart attack admissions increased by a whopping 31.8% during this time, compared to a 2.4% decline in comparison states and a 1.5% increase nationally. Dr. Siegel, who is adamantly against smoking, has been a statistical editor for a top tobacco control journal and has published over 50 peer-reviewed articles in major public health and medical journals. In the statistics just cited, there certainly is nothing to support the claims that ETS causes heart disease deaths or that smoking bans will reduce them. If anything, secondhand smoke seems to provide a beneficial (protective) effect. This is not as surprising as it may at first seem since a similar effect is often seen in regard to lung cancer.

Earlier we pointed out that substances such as selenium and vitamin A, which are carcinogens in high doses, in small doses are anti-carcinogens that act to prevent cancer. And it has been known for centuries that a small dose of a poison stimulates one's resistance to larger doses in the future. Later this was found to be true for bacteria and viruses. This is the basis of vaccines. When you get a flu shot or any other vaccine, you are getting a weakened form of a disease-bearing virus or bacteria. This stimulates your immune system to provide resistance to larger dangers of this type in the future. And we all know that sunlight can cause cancer, but modest amounts of sunlight actually protect against several forms of cancer, including breast cancer and bone cancer. So there is nothing new in the idea that small doses of a toxin or carcinogen are beneficial. A large number of studies show this protective effect from ETS in relation to lung cancer, particularly for children. A World Health Organization study of ETS, for example, found no adverse effect to adults and a protective effect for children. It found children were 22% less likely to get lung cancer if both parents smoked than if neither smoked. This is a far cry from the SG's assertions “there is no risk-free level to secondhand smoke” and “breathing even a little secondhand smoke can be dangerous.”

Dr. Siegel recently wrote: “The anti-smoking movement is driven by an agenda—an agenda that will not allow science, sound policy analysis, the law, or ethics to get in its way.” Surgeon General Richard Carmona is part of that movement. He has perverted science to advance an agenda by giving it a phony "legitimacy." By corrupting science he has revealed his true character—or rather the lack of it—and destroyed his own credibility. He should never again be trusted. About anything. He is a disgrace to himself, his office, and that impressive uniform he wears. He has shown himself to be not a man of science but rather part of what the Littlewood & Fennel report called the “activist/advocate effort determined to somehow prove that ETS is a human carcinogen in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary.”

Politicized science is no science at all. But it has allowed the anti-smoking movement to masquerade as a health issue and shift the debate away from the real issue. In terms of science, there never was a legitimate public health issue here, as this blog has shown. The real issue is a simple matter of property rights: bar and restaurant owners should be free to set the conditions for use of their property, and other people should be free to choose whether or not to go there. The property owners have no right to force unwilling people to be their customers, nor do customers have a right to force their choices on unwilling proprietors. But forcing their choices on others is precisely what the smoking ban activists want! If people have equal rights, both sides must have the same rights to chose to participate, or not, on terms acceptable to the other. It is amusing that the SG's report is titled "The Health Consequences of Involuntary Exposure to Tobacco Smoke.” The word “involuntary” here implies one has no choice about going to a bar or restaurant where smoking is allowed.

Rights is a political concept. Science is not. Rights are the proper concern of government at all levels. Governments should be protecting ALL people's rights. EQUALLY. It should not be taking away some people's rights in order to subject those people to other people's desires. When those desires masquerade under the guise of a public health issue, the debate shifts from the political concept of rights to science. And very, very, very few lawmakers at any level of government have the scientific expertise to evaluate scientific issues. So they tend to rely on sources like EPA and the SG, tend to trust them (which is undeserved), and are prevented by their own lack of scientific knowledge from evaluating whether what they are being told is valid or not. In a word, they are easily bamboozled by misrepresentations, debased standards, and some outright lies—and by the frenzied recycling of these by the media, other government officials, and a well-financed and well-organized anti-smoking movement. That movement has even managed to get taxpayer money from the government for its campaign, one which “will not allow science, sound policy analysis, the law, or ethics to get in its way.” Witness the large number of city and county smoking bans that cite the fraudulent EPA study as a basis despite its being discredited by the Congressional Research Service, a U.S. House of Representatives Congressional Investigation, and the General Accounting Office. Once the issue is politicized, it is not science and will not be settled on the basis of science. Which, of course, is what the smoking-ban activists want.

Once I was at a public hearing for a city's proposed smoking ban. In the discussion of the proposed ordinance, it appeared the issue had widespread support and would pass easily. This surprised me because I had sent each member of the council a sheet detailing a great deal of factual information I was sure they were unaware of but would find convincing. So during an intermission, I approached one of the councilmen, who I was told beforehand was against the proposed ordinance, and showed him a copy of the fact sheet I had mailed. I asked if he and other members of the council had received it and read it. He said, “I got it and I read it. The others got it too. But it doesn't make any difference what you wrote. It doesn't make any difference what the facts are. They've got the votes to pass it. That's all that matters. The science doesn't matter. Nothing else matters. They've got the votes. I'm against the ordinance, but I'm going to vote for it because it's going to pass anyway.” Democracy in action. Politics wins, science loses. And individual rights, which government is supposed to protect, lose too.

Incidentally, I've never been a smoker and recommend people do not smoke. I've never own stock in a tobacco company or received any money from the tobacco industry. And I've never owned a bar or restaurant or worked in one. My only interest is sound science and intelligent public policy.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Are CBS, ABC and NBC Dishonest?

Can the major networks be trusted to report news honestly? Last week all three of them reported on a global warming study by a 12-member committee of the National Academy of Sciences. The issue here is not global warming (we'll deal with that another time) but whether the networks accurately reported the content of the study. Did they instead slant their reports with a false picture of the study in order to reflect their own beliefs in global warming, evidenced many times in previous newscasts and special programs on the subject?

New anchors at CBS, ABC and NBC emphatically proclaimed that the new study definitively settled the issue, that there was no longer any basis for skepticism about global warming, and that human activities were largely responsible. Absolutely no doubt about it, said the networks' news. But the Wall Street Journal reported on the same study—under a headline titled: “Panel Study Fails to Settle Debate on Past Climates.” It noted that the study was “far from resolving the debate” and that “skeptics of global warming embraced the panel's findings.” And even the liberal Washington Post reported that the study “provides ammunition” to both sides of the argument, to those who say industrial activity is causing global warming “as well as those who see it as confirmation that significant uncertainty still exists in climate change science.”

When it comes to the truth, you can't trust CBS, ABC or NBC.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Overkill: Regulating Lawn Mower Emissions

EPA expects to require catalytic converters for lawn mowers next year. Once again EPA will be forcing people to get less for their money than they would otherwise get; it will be forcing them to purchase a truly trivial environmental/”health” benefit instead of things on which they would prefer to spend their money if they were free to do so. And it will be diverting human energy, technology and manufacturing capabilities from enterprises that would be more useful to society.

It is a fairytale that the air was pristine before human intervention. The idea—which seems to be the basis of EPA policy—that we should constantly enact more and more restrictive regulations to try to “restore” the air to a fairytale purity, which never existed, is nonsense. There were times in the geologic past when vast dust storms created pollution forty times greater than anything human beings have ever done, and the human race survived. And, as I have pointed out in my book MAKERS AND TAKERS, the blue haze found over the Great Smoky mountains, the Blue Ridge Mountains and many other mountains is caused by hydrocarbons (terpenes) emitted by pine trees. And oak trees emit isoprene, another hydrocarbon that has been found to produce smog over oak forests. If these natural emissions occurred over cites, they would look the same as smog from automobile exhausts. And if you have an average-sized suburban lawn, your lawn emits more hydrocarbons every year than your automobile. Or your lawn mower. So the idea that a machine to mow your lawn needs federal regulation to control emissions is absurd.

The idea that any amount of “pollution” is somehow a health hazard is more nonsense. Every chemical has a threshold below which is is not dangerous. And Mother Nature has long been subjecting the human race to far greater amounts of hazardous substances than anyone will ever get from a lawn mower. Likewise, the environment has survived far greater natural emissions of hydrocarbons and other alleged pollutants than lawn mowers produce. The contribution of lawn mowers is truly trivial. The average homeowner uses his lawn mower 14 hours per year. His mower burns four gallons of gas per year. But leave it to EPA to try to create a crisis and talk this up as a serious problem that requires government regulation.

Making the air too clean can even be detrimental to health. There can be no question that the quality of air in the U.S. has improved greatly over the last 25 years, but asthma rates have doubled. How can this be explained? EPA—with blind adherence to its cleaner-makes-everything-better-doctrine blames asthma on air pollution and claims that without even more stringent regulations to reduce air pollution, asthma rates will increase even more in the future. But if one looks at the record of recent decades, one would have to conclude the exact opposite, namely, that additional, more stringent regulations will only increase asthma rates further. And that is exactly what asthma and allergy experts have concluded. This was the prevailing view of a major conference of such experts in March 2002 in New York.

NBC News, covering the conference, reported: “Most people assume asthma results from air pollution or other dirt in the environment. But it may be caused by just the opposite. The latest research shows the cleaner the environment, the more cases of asthma. It has to do with our immune systems. New studies show if children escape multiple infections as infants, their immune systems then overreact to dust or other things that cause allergies....Children in poor countries are often sick, but they seldom get asthma. In communist East Germany, asthma rates were low, but since the wall came down and the country has gotten cleaner and healthier, asthma rates have shot up....Another study shows kids with dogs in the house get less asthma; and other research shows kids who grow up on farms are less prone to the condition.”

Smoking is undoubtedly dangerous. But despite the claims about secondhand tobacco smoke also being dangerous, there is abundant evidence that it has a beneficial (protective) effect, particularly for children. A World Health Organization study, for example, found that when both parents smoked, their children were 22 percent less likely to get cancer than when neither parent smoked. And a large study in Sweden found that children of parents who smoked 15 or more cigarettes per day had sharply lower odds of rhino-conjuctivitis, asthma, and even food allergies.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Save Gas by Avoiding Hybrids?

Hybrids have become trendy because their two power sources—a gasoline engine and an electric motor—are touted as reducing carbon dioxide emissions and dependence on foreign oil. But do they? It depends a lot on your driving. If your driving is mostly around town, where the electric motor is most efficient and does most of the work, the Toyota Prius, which started the hybrid craze, really does get 40 or more miles per gallon. But Automobile Magazine found that Prius mileage “plummeted” on the Interstate, where it ran mostly on gasoline. If your driving is mostly on highways, you might save gas—as well as several thousand dollars—by buying a conventionally powered auto. According to Jamie Lincoln Kitman, a professional car tester, some hybrids, such as the Lexus 400H, do not even get mileage as good as conventional SUVs, and perform even poorer compared to regular passenger cars.

At highway speeds, hybrids are programmed to run mostly on their gasoline engines. They cannot be programmed otherwise because higher speeds quickly deplete the batteries. The two energy sources add extra weight, which not only diminishes the mileage obtained but also diminishes space for passengers and cargo.

Mr. Kitman concludes: “Pro-hybrid laws and incentives sound nice, but they might just end up subsidizing companies that have failed to develop truly fuel-efficient vehicles at the expense of those that have had the foresight to design their cars right in the first place.”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Is the Economic “Cure”worse than the Disease?

Stephen Schwarzman is chairman and CEO of the Blackstone Group, one of the largest factors in the private equity industry. His company buys public companies and takes them private again. In a recent interview, he was asked about the Sarbanes-Oxley corporate governance law. He replied that it was very good for his business but it was the worst thing that could happen to the U.S. economy. It has vastly increased the number of public companies desiring to go private in order to escape the costly documentation of accounting and policy procedures the law requires. Even some very large companies are going private. Last November the giant Georgia Pacific company went private in a $21 billion sale to Koch. So the American public is deprived of the opportunity of investing in this Fortune 500 company, thanks to a law that is supposed to protect American investors. The law has also hindered start-up companies from going public and led to many new companies listing their shares overseas, on exchanges in Europe or Hong Kong instead of the New York stock exchange or other U.S. markets. Last year, 23 of the largest 25 initial public offerings by U.S. companies were made in overseas markets.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Oil Prices and Taxes

Exxon’s first quarter profits of $8.4 billion received a lot of publicity. Not surprisingly, the media seized the opportunity to portray the oil industry, and Exxon in particular, as Public Enemy No. 1, for the high price of gasoline. What most media omitted in their reporting was that Exxon for this same quarter paid $7 billion in taxes and spent $4.8 billion on exploration and capital investment in order to increase future production. From the $7 billion the government got in taxes, what do the consumers get that would increase the supply of gasoline?

The media reports were intended to make it seem Exxon had suddenly gotten huge profits from the recent high prices at the gas pumps. What the media didn’t want to tell the public was that Exxon’s profits had actually dropped and were 10 cents per share lower than industry analysts’ estimates. In the fourth quarter of last year, profits were $10.71 billion. Although Exxon’s profits were down in the 2006 first quarter, its taxes actually increased, as its tax rate jumped to 47 percent.

While it is popular for the media and various politicians to blame Exxon and other oil companies for the high prices of gasoline, the real causes are largely ignored, such as our government’s failure to allow drilling in 85 percent of our coastal waters on both coasts and also in much of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska. Also, China’s demand for oil grew 41 percent over the past four years, while total world demand grew 8 percent. Hurricane Katrina contributed to the higher prices by knocking down refineries. And refiners have started mixing more ethanol in gasoline instead of MTBE. Ethanol is more expensive than MTBE.

Since 2003, the price of gasoline at the pump has risen 25 percent less than the global price of crude. And if all of the oil companies were forced to cut the pay of their CEOs to $500,000—and if all the savings were passed on to consumers—the price of gasoline would fall by less than a tenth of a cent.

Friday, April 28, 2006

More on Oil, Economics and Government

On April 24 a reader commented on a posting from way back in August. It is quite lengthy, as is my reply. But since much of my reply may be of interest to current readers, I am posting an abbreviated version below. Anyone interested in the reader’s comments as well as my complete reply should click on “August” in the Archives to get to the August 29 posting “Government Versus Economic Reality.” Then click on “Comments” at the end of that article. Here’s my abbreviated version:

I do not agree that “reliance on unreliable foreign sources of fuel poses a hazard to the security of the United States.” Over 80 percent of our total consumption comes from North America. The U.S. itself is our largest source of petroleum, and Canada is by far our largest source of petroleum imports, followed by Mexico. Canada and Mexico are not “unreliable” sources. Saudi Arabia, the kingpin of Mid-East oil, provides less than seven percent of our imports, and the rest of the Middle East another 7 percent.

On the evening news recently, a reporter was interviewing some Mexicans trying to cross into the U.S. He asked why they were risking their lives crossing the desert. They replied that, like thousands of others, they knew the risk of dying in trying to enter the U.S. but could not stay in Mexico because they had no money, no jobs, no food. With so many of its own people unemployed and lacking basic necessities, do you think the Mexican government is going to stop selling oil to the U.S.? Of course not. That would only make the plight of its own people even worse. The Mexican government cannot afford to stop selling oil to the U.S.

Our imports of Mid-East oil are far lower than the public realizes—and could be even lower but for government policies inimical to domestic oil and gas production. If Mid-East oil imports were disrupted or reduced, undoubtedly the price would go up. This, in turn, would stimulate U.S. production through capital investment, exploration, improved technology, and pressure to reduce government regulations and policies that “transcend” economic reality and are obstacles to petroleum production.

What are some of these “transcendent” obstacles in the form of “political/policy considerations”? One is the federal moratorium on offshore drilling —maintained since 1981 to appease the environmental lobby. This has put 85 percent of the Outer Contintental Shelf (OCS) bordering our entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts off limits. It has also put the eastern half of the Gulf of Mexico off limits, which is why the oil and gas industry was centered around New Orleans, where it was vulnerable to the Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. According to Minerals Management Services, the Gulf of Mexico is sitting on 50 percent more oil reserves than Alaska (which has more than the lower 48 states), but they are off limits. And you know, of course, that Congress voted not to allow drilling in any of the 19 million acres in ANWR in Alaska.

Further, government regulations are the reason not a single oil refinery has been built in the United States for 29 years. (One company has been trying for 16 years to get the necessary permits.) The oil industry has spent $47 billion on refineries in the past decade—but it has all gone to meet environmental requirements, not to increase the availability of fuels. The constant apocalyptic pronouncements that we are running out of oil and government must “do something” to prevent catastrophic shortages invariably ignore the fact that past government actions that “transcend” economic realities are largely responsible for today’s precarious supplies—as well as for the prevention of measures for expanding those supplies.

The doomsayers always view petroleum or any other resource as a static quantity, without relevance to technology or economics. But it is technology and economics that make resources available for human use—and those are the fields which government policies prevent, inhibit or misdirect. There is a long history of predictions of shortages that never occurred, because the prophets of doom failed to account for changes in technology or comparative economics. And there is a long history of shortages caused by government policies inhibiting technological advances and forcing political “solutions” upon economic problems.

In the late 19th century there was a great scare that the industrial age would soon grind to a halt because of a shortage of coal. Today coal is superabundant. In 1914 the U.S. Department of Interior said there was only a ten-year supply of oil left. In 1952 it warned that oil wells would run dry by the mid-1960s. And in the 1970s President Jimmy Carter solemnly told us that “we could use up all of the proven reserves of oil in the entire world by the end of the next decade.” (For more on the current abundance of oil, see our posting on this blog of November 30, 2005.)

Scarcely a half century ago the idea of drilling for oil deep beneath the oceans seemed technologically impossible and economically infeasible even if it were possible. Yet now deep-sea rigs drill the ground beneath 10,000 feet of water—and the cost of doing so is approaching the cost of drilling 100 feet down on lands in the riches fields of Texas or Saudi Arabia 40 years ago!

The U.S. Dept. of Energy now predicts that carbon sequestration technologies—an innovation of industry, not government—could soon add 89 billion barrels of oil (BBO) to our existing total of 21.4, and eventually add 430 BBO, giving us a total approaching that of Saudi Arabia. Max Schulz of the Manhattan Institute says new discoveries and production methods will raise Saudi Arabia’s reserves to 461 BBO compared to 261at present. Then there is Canada’s Athabasca tar sands, where 180 BBO—a fraction of the deposit—are already economic at today’s price of oil, making Canada’s reserves second only to Saudi Arabia’s current reserves of 261. The Canadian sands are now said to contain between 1 and 4 TBO—that’s TRILLION barrels of oil. And oil shale, which is widely distributed across the globe but not yet economic to develop, can meet our needs for 40,000 years at the current rate of oil consumption. Still we hear the same old economic garbage almost every day about how the world is running out of oil and how we have to reduce our dependence on oil from the Middle East. And so more government programs are proposed by the idiots in Washington and the voting public, neither of whom have learned anything from the past. Or from free-market theory, i.e., economic reality.

An increase in the gas tax—300 percent was mentioned—would be terrible. It would increase the role of government, which is largely responsible for the problem, and do nothing to solve it. A “windfall profits tax” on the oil companies is another stupid idea. Both would do nothing to increase the supply of oil. Instead of increasing taxes, the government should eliminate the gas tax and forget about the windfall profits tax. The higher prices would lead to conservation of supplies and, more importantly, would provide huge incentive for oil companies to increase production—which would lower prices. And industry would have the additional funds needed for exploration, devising innovative technologies, and building refineries. So there would be no need for subsidies or other favors from Washington.

Who knows more about increasing oil production?—the industry or the government? So why funnel money to the government? How would it use the money to increase supplies? Through subsidies? How would it know which companies to subsidize? Is the government better at choosing which company to support through subsidies than the marketplace is in “choosing” which company will be best supported through profits from the buying public?

Would government even subsidize the oil industry?—or would it instead funnel the money to build windmills and subsidize ethanol or other uneconomic energy sources? In a free market, the best product, the most efficient producer, the company that best provides what the buying public wants is the most successful. But government subsidies go to those with the most effective lobbyists, those who make political contributions, and to causes most likely to ensure a politician’s re-election. Which of these funding patterns is more likely to increase oil availability and be more beneficial to the economy? Government should have as little to do as possible with the economy. And if we had a free economy, one where government can offer no economic handouts, there would be no incentive for companies to try to curry favor and influence policy; they would have nothing to gain. Rewards would be determined by the marketplace, not by politicians for political reasons having nothing to do with economic realities.

A free economy is the only economy appropriate to a free society. The dirty little secret of the economic interventionists is that they really don’t want a free society, one where economic choices are determined freely by individuals in the marketplace instead of by collectivist solutions forced upon some people by others, namely, those possessing political power. They want a controlled society, the kind that has failed throughout history to advance either living standards or individual rights. The two go together.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Fossil Confounds Global Warming Alarms

You probably heard about the recent discovery of a fossil that is an important missing link between fish and land animals. The creature was a fish with a crocodile-like head and fins that had begun evolving into limbs, enabling it to lift itself out of shallow water. The fins show arm joints and the beginnings of a wrist.

The find was made on Ellesmere Island, at the uppermost reaches of the North American continent, hundreds of miles north of the Arctic Circle and only 887 miles from the North Pole. Due to the extreme weather at that remote location, fossil excavations were limited to the month of July.

Now, this creature, like all fish and reptiles, was cold-blooded. So it could not have survived were it lived unless the earth was VERY much warmer at that time. Which shows that the earth has been subject to VERY large temperature variations over a long time without human activities. In fact, perfectly natural climate changes in the past dwarf the one degree temperature rise of the past century that the public has been panicked into believing is a cause for alarm.

The effect of human activities on climate is trivial compared to the scale of changes wrought by nature all by itself. In the last 10 million years there have been 17 ice ages, which alternately formed and melted ice sheets hundreds of feet thick and covering much of the continents. Most centuries have had climate changes of a degree or more, either warmer or colder. And there have been centuries when atmospheric carbon dioxide increased at least three times faster the current rate. At the time of the dinosaurs, the carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere was 3 to 5 times what it is today. 500 million years ago, it was twenty times what it is today.

The long range threat to life on earth is not from too much carbon dioxide but from too little. The earth’s atmosphere has been gradually losing its carbon dioxide as the carbon has become tied up in fossil fuels. If this continues, eventually plants will be unable to reproduce and the earth will become as barren as mars. We should be glad if we can recycle some carbon from fossil fuels back into the atmosphere!

For more on global warming, see my 3,000 word booklet “What Global Warming”? available from American Liberty Publishers (

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Cancer, Health, Government and Markets

At a recent policy forum sponsored by the Independent Institute, world-renowned cancer researcher Dr. Bruce Ames explained that the public has a distorted view of what causes cancer, thanks largely to media “scare” stories. He said the leading cause of cancer was bad diets (about 35 %), followed by smoking (about 30 %), chronic infection and hormonal disorders (about 20 % each), occupational hazards (about 2 percent), and pollution—less than 1 percent!

The media scare stories invariably carry the message that people need government to protect them from occupational hazards and pollution, that these are consequences of capitalism and people being left free. The message: people can’t be left free!—their activities must be controlled by Big Government—and capitalism inherently creates conditions harmful to people and environment and, therefore, must be controlled. But if, instead, these cancer hazards are really very small, then we don’t need massive programs financed by massive government spending (and the politicians and bureaucrats promoting them would be out of a job.) Big Government simply channels the resources of society into programs that are of less benefit to the people who pay for them than the alternative allocation of human resources that would occur in a free market.

The allocation of financial and other resources that occurs under capitalism provides not only unequaled economic benefits but health and environmental benefits—as a consequence! Economic growth is not the enemy of human health and the environment but works silently—and automatically—to achieve them, just like Adam Smith’s “invisible hand” works in the economic sense. Here are some facts documented in my book MAKERS AND TAKERS (American Liberty Publishers,, which shows the progress made in healthful conditions by the free market, before the federal government decided to protect us, and the consequences of government intervention:

In the half century before OSHA, accidental worker deaths dropped 67 percent. Fewer workers lost their lives in 1971 than in 1912, even though there were twice as many worker and they produced seven times as much. Two full years after OSHA regulations were introduced, job-related injuries and illnesses had INCREASED from 5.6 million to 5.9 million and lost workdays in manufacturing increased 7.1 percent. The U.S. Labor Department reported a 14 percent increase in job injuries and illnesses from 1975 to 1988.

Cars were becoming safer, not more dangerous, as Ralph Nader and others championing auto safety regulations claimed. There were actually fewer total highway deaths in 1960 than in 1939, even though in 1960 there were 3 times as many vehicles, traveling 3 times the mileage and at much higher speeds. Highway deaths per number of registered vehicles decreased steadily from 1913, when the government first began keeping track, until 1960. The 1960s, when we got the first federal auto safety regulations, became the first decade in history when auto accidents FAILED to decrease, whether measured by accidents per registered vehicle or mileage traveled.

Prior to the Federal Coal Mine Health and Safety Act of 1969, mining accidents had been steadily decreasing for decades. Because of the regulations imposed by that act, hundreds of coal mines were forced to close, thousands of workers lost their jobs, and coal was more expensive for the consumer. And coal mining wasn’t any safer. In 1980 there were 32 percent more accidents in coal mining than in 1970 even though less than half as much coal per worker was being produced, due to the regulations.

On the environmental side, automobile exhausts were reduced more in the 20 years before passage of the Clean Air Act than in the 30 years following that legislation. The automakers didn’t make cleaner-burning cars because of concern about the environment; that was simply a byproduct of their capitalistic desire to sell more cars. They achieved that by devising more efficient engines that provided better mileage and faster cars by burning fuel more efficiently, which incidentally meant sending less of the fuel components out the exhaust pipe. This economic incentive of the marketplace proved to be far more effecting in reducing auto emissions than all the laws that have been passed. When advocates of the regulations credit them with reducing air pollution, it should be remembered that automotive air pollution was being reduced faster before the regulations, simply as a consequence of the marketplace.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

U.S. Autos Downward Spiral—and the Lesson

This month Consumer Reports issued its annual automobile ratings based on reliability and safety. For the first time, the top ten picks were all Japanese cars.

At one time, three out of every four vehicles sold in America were made by the Big Three U.S. automakers. GM, the largest manufacturer in the world, had 358,000 employees. Today it has less than half the market share it once had and about 145,000 employees. But only about 137,000 actually work. The others are in a “Jobs Bank,” which pays people their full salaries for not producing automobiles. According to both company and union sources, the Jobs Bank annually costs $100,000 to $130,000 per person for wages and benefits. GM and other U.S. auto manufacturers will pay $1.4 to $2 billion this year for the Jobs Bank, which was supposed to be a stopgap measure until workers could go back to the factories. But the Jobs Bank has twice the number of attendees it did last year, and next year its enrollment is expected to exceed 17,000.

Workers in the Jobs Bank must perform some company-approved activity. This may include volunteer work, attending classes, or simply going to a “rubber room,” where nothing other than one’s presence is required. Classes that are offered include learning crossword puzzles, trivial pursuit, and how to deal blackjack and poker for those who might want to work in casinos.

Besides the enormous direct waste of money and the corrosive effects on individuals, the Jobs Bank creates huge indirect costs for the industry. It encourages the companies to build more vehicles than consumers want. Companies figure it is better to build more cars—even with little or no profit—than to pay people for doing nothing. They also may keep work in-house even though it would be cheaper to outsource it.

The Jobs Bank was actually proposed by GM itself in September 1984 in order to end a strike. GM proposed a 3-year program for employees with 10 years experience. The union sent back a demand for a six-year program for six-year employees. Later, even one-year workers could join. And now there is no limit for how long a person can be in the program and collect benefits. The costs went in only one direction, up.

While the U.S. auto industry’s costs for the Jobs Bank were expanding, its costs for health benefits were growing even faster. Now GM has 137,000 workers, but it is responsible for the health care of 1.1 million current and former employees and their families. Its cars now cost $2,500 more than equivalent Japanese models—even before the cars begin to be built. Through decades of escalating costs and steadily declining market share for U.S. cars, no one seemed overly concerned whether U.S. auto manufacturers could cope in the long run. The long run is now arriving, and future bankruptcy is not out of the question. In 2005 GM lost $10.5 billion, and its credit rating has plummeted to “junk bond” status.

There is a lesson here. The U.S. government has for decades been pursuing a financial trend not unlike that of GM. It has been expanding its expenditures and future obligations without due consideration of how or whether these responsibilities can be met in the future. This month Congress raised the government’s limit on borrowing by $781 billion, then voted to spend well over $100 billion with no offsetting budget cuts. With no brakes on spending, the national debt is now rising at an unprecedented rate. As the government bumped up against the statutory $8.18 trillion spending limit, the Treasury was forced to borrow from employee pension funds to keep the government operating. This led to increasing the debt limit to just under $9 trillion ($896,000,000,000,000), which amounts to $30,000 for every man, woman and child in America. This was the fourth increase in the statutory debt limit in five years.

On March 23rd, President Bush had been in office 1,889 days without exercising his veto power. He approved every one of the 1,091 bills Congress sent to him—costs be damned. Federal spending has grown twice as fast under Bush as under Clinton. Inflation-adjusted federal spending exceeds $22,000 per household, the highest since World War II. And 65 percent of the increase under Bush has been unrelated to national security. Educational spending has increased 100 percent just since 2001. No president had gone so long in office without using his veto power since James Monroe, our fifth president, went 1,888 days before vetoing a toll on the first federal highway. By contrast, President Bush in 2005 signed a $286.4 pork-laden highway bill. He had threatened to veto the bill if it exceeded his proposed $256 billion but then “compromised” by signing the $286.4 bill (See our posting of August 13, "No Politician Left Behind".) Later he said, “One reason I haven’t vetoed any appropriations bills is because they met the benchmarks we’ve set.” (What’s another $30 billion?) The statutory debt limit has risen by more than $3 trillion since Bush took office.

By surpassing Monroe’s record, President Bush’s veto-free performance is exceeded by only that of Thomas Jefferson, who never vetoed a bill in his entire eight years in office.

Like the automobile Jobs Bank, the federal government pays workers not to produce. It spends billions of dollars every year paying farmers not to produce crops. And, just like the Jobs Bank, its $60 billion in subsidies to corporations leads to producing goods and services that consumers don’t want and to keeping people doing work that would be more efficiently outsourced. And just as with GM and the rest of the U.S. auto industry, due consideration is not being given to how or whether future financial obligations created by current policies can be met.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Ethanol and MTBE—Shoud EPA be Abolished?

At long last EPA has lifted its requirement that corn-based ethanol or MTBE (methyl tertiary butyl ether) be added to gasoline, allegedly to fight pollution, in compliance with the Clean Air Act of 1990. But, as I pointed out in my book MAKERS AND TAKERS, as far back as 1997 EPA was receiving reports of adverse health consequences from MTBE, and some states were already banning its use. EPA officials admitted they were surprised to find MTBE in blood samples from people even in Alaska. So why did it take almost another nine years for EPA to take action?

By 1999 sixteen states had banned MTBE. Still, EPA would do nothing for another seven years. By 2001, MTBE was found to have polluted the ground water in 49 states, including 20 percent of the nation’s urban water wells. California alone had identified 10,000 sites of polluted ground water, with some sites having 1,000 times the EPA limit for this chemical. Santa Monica found MTBE in its municipal water supply. You could no longer drink the water in beautiful Santa Monica. By 2002 the city had imported water continuously for four years at a cost of $3 million per year. New York identified 1,500 MTBE-polluted sites, and 3 million people were exposed on Long Island alone, which was found to have more than 100 polluted municipal wells, and those people had no alternative source of water.

Perhaps the most shocking aspect of the whole story is that EPA knew about the danger of MTBE for ten years before the 1990 Clean Air Act but made no attempt to alert Congress or notify the public. In 2001 the popular CBS program “60 Minutes” displayed official documents from EPA itself showing the EPA was aware of the problem as far back as 1980. Yet EPA quietly let legislation pass in 1990 that would increase the use of MTBE—and then for another 15 years did nothing about the problem it had precipitated. It claimed the additive was necessary to improve air quality from automobile exhausts and was required by the Clean Air Act of 1990, which it wanted passed.

That law required an “oxygenate” to be added to gasoline, and the only two available were ethanol and MTBE. Ethanol breaks downs in water, which is found in small amounts in pipelines and large storage facilities. Ethanol itself entrains (attracts) water, and the ethanol-water mixture alters the blend of the fuel as the ethanol breaks down. So gasoline with ethanol must be transported by truck, which means it is impractical to use ethanol instead of MTBE outside the corn-growing states of the Midwest, despite the clamor of the ethanol industry for a larger share of market.

EPA maintained it had to continue to allow MTBE to be used in order to protect the nation’s air quality and comply with the 1990 law. But the National Academy of Sciences said the fuel “oxygenates” had little impact on air quality. (Further, it said that ethanol was of even less benefit that MTBE. It said “using ethanol as a blending agent in gasoline would not achieve significant air-quality benefits, and in fact would likely be detrimental.”) So, for a dubious air quality benefit, the government produced a catastrophic pollution of the nation’s ground water. This government-caused water pollution is so great it far outweighs all the benefits EPA has ever achieved. The role of EPA in this unnecessary disaster—which polluted ground water in 49 states and placed 100 million people at risk—should be reason enough to abolish EPA and end the myth that government regulations on balance improve our environment. MTBE has been identified as cancer-causing in rat studies that are comparable to the kind of rat studies that EPA has used to attack all sorts of food additives and agricultural chemicals, but EPA raised no alarm about this regarding MTBE. When EPA declares industry to be the culprit in allegedly cancer-causing chemicals, it demands immediate correct action—but when EPA itself is the guilty party, it takes many years before something is done.

Furthermore, it has long been known that the “oxygenates” have no benefit at all in modern cars. For many years now cars have been built with computer systems that regulate the fuel-air mixture and duplicate what the ethanol and MTBE are supposed to do. So the only possible benefit has been from much older cars, which have been steadily disappearing from our roads simply because of age.

EPA in 2006 has now said it can eliminate the 1990 oxygenate mandate simply by announcing new rules on the grounds that refineries now have other ways to blend cleaner-burning fuel. Yet as far back as 1999, several oil refineries said they could make cleaner-burning gasoline without using MTBE or any other oxygenate. Chevron Corp. and Tosco Corp., for example, said they would substitute alkylate, a byproduct of the gasoline refining process.

The MTBE issue is not the only case of inappropriate action by EPA. The nonpartisan General Accounting Office and the Congressional Research Service have been severely critical of EPA’s policies and behavior regarding secondhand smoke and a variety of other issues. EPA has been guilty of violating its own risk assessment guidelines. It has been found guilty of violating six federal statutes for using harassment and intimidation to try to compel employee support for its policy on secondhand smoke. It has fraudulently misrepresented the findings of other scientists in order to make it appear they supported conclusions EPA favored. A dozen career employees of EPA wrote a letter to the Washington Times “risking our careers rather than choosing to remain silent” about “egregious misconduct” at EPA. Internal documents available under the Freedom of Information Act show that EPA exaggerated claims and promulgated unwarranted policies. EPA has gone against the advice of it own Science Advisory Board (see, for example, its history of action on particulates.) EPA fraudulently manufactured fake “scientific” studies in order to support its views on sulfur dioxide (see my book MAKERS AND TAKERS for fuller explanation of this.) EPA has funneled taxpayer money to lobby groups that support political action on policies—even unscientific ones—that EPA wants to promote (for example, a million dollars a year to the American Cancer Society). EPA should be a scientific agency, not one that funds political activism. For all these reasons and many other examples of scientific malpractice, deception, and incompetence, EPA should be abolished.