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Jewish World Review June 22, 2000 / 19 Sivan, 5760

Walter Williams

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Consumer Reports

Environmentalist update --
MOST OF WHAT the radical environmentalists preach is wrong or exaggerated, and sometimes it's simply outright lies. Methyl tertiary-butyl ether (MTBE) is a gasoline oxygenate that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency forced oil companies to add to gasoline. For seven years, EPA Administrator Carol Browner, a former Gore campaign aide, claimed that MTBE was an important contributor to reducing auto emissions.

As reported in "Environment and Climate News," a publication of the Chicago-based Heartland Institute, the National Research Council has demonstrated that oxygenates have virtually no effect on air quality. The EPA's forcing oil companies to add a useless, costly additive isn't the end of the story, either. MTBE is a potent water pollutant and is having disastrous effects on the nation's water supply.

Under heavy pressure from state and local government officials, the EPA now admits that MTBE is polluting our water supply and making people sick -- something EPA's own scientists warned about in 1988. Browner, ignoring her agency's culpability says, "Threats posed by MTBE to water supplies in many areas of the country are a growing concern."

America's Chicken Littles constantly warn and offer "solutions" to one supposed danger or another caused by mankind's activities. For instance, they caution that overpopulation is leading to ruination and starvation.

First, there is no clear connection between population density and wealth. There are miserably poor countries such as the former Zaire with a population density of 39 people per square mile. Then there's Hong Kong, with hundreds of thousands of people per square mile, and there are cities like New York, with hundreds of thousands of people per square mile, that are rich.

Since 1950, the U.S. population has increased by 81 percent. For America's Chicken Littles, that has to be a prescription for disaster. But the fact of business is that, since 1950, the U.S. Agriculture Department reports that our food production has increased a whopping 189 percent.

That efficiency in food production translates into the world's lowest food prices. Moreover, we're producing more food, on less land and using fewer pesticides. With advances in bioengineering, the future foreshadows even greater efficiency in food production. Vice President Gore and others, in an attempt to dictate where we can live, whine about "urban sprawl" and loss of farmland. If farmland is a problem at all, it's that we have too much of it. Then there's the global warming hype about our use of fossil fuels.

According to reputable scientists like Patrick Michaels and Robert Balling, mankind's activities account for a minuscule 2 percent or 3 percent of atmospheric carbon dioxide levels. Geophysicists estimate that just three volcanic eruptions -- Indonesia (1883), Alaska (1912) and Iceland (1947) -- spewed more carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxides into the atmosphere than all of mankind's activities in his entire history. The November 1982 Science magazine reports that termites annually generate more than twice as much carbon dioxide as mankind does burning fossil fuels. One termite species annually emits 600,000 metric tons of formic acid into the atmosphere, an amount equal to the combined contributions of automobiles, refuse combustion and vegetation.

Thinking that mankind's activities can have significant effects on the environment is the height of arrogance. If you really believe mankind's activity can change the Earth's temperature, you probably also think that if all of us jumped up and down we'd change the earth's orbit, or if we all got out our paddles we could change the direction of the tides.

Political commentator H.L. Mencken explained today's hype, "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed, and hence clamorous to be led to safety, by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary."


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© 2000, Creators Syndicate