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April 16, 2008
When will former Vice President Al Gore and like-minded environmental activists get real?
Promoting wind power in the United States and “clean” coal-powered electricity-producing plants in the Untied States is not going to solve the problem of global warming about which Gore and his fellow activists are so passionately concerned.
Until China, and to a lesser extent India, can be pressured into cleaning up the pollution spewed forth by their coal-fired industrial plants, a successful campaign for so-called “cleaner” energy sources in the United States will do relatively little to address the global warming problem—a problem which some scientists say is considerably less than depicted or, in the case of a few scientists, doesn’t exist at all.
How do you clean up the international atmosphere? It’s not alone by promoting wind power and “cleaner” coal-burning plants in the United States. Real progress must target the major sources of global atmosphere pollution, those coal-burning industrial plants in Asia (where China is said to be building the equivalent of one-large coal-fired plant every week).
A friend of mine who spent time recently in the Far East said pollution is so pervasive in Chinese cities that you can’t see the sun at mid-day in Beijing.
America’s Olympic athletes will be fitted with special air filters (which they can’t wear during actual competition in Beijing) and will be brought into the polluted Beijing atmosphere as late as possible before the competition.
Certainly the United States can and should be doing more to reduce pollution of the atmosphere. Coal-powered plants, to the maximum extent practical, must be retrofitted with equipment to reduce emissions, and new coal-fired plants should be required to be so equipped. I’m told that some new electricity-generating capacity will be fueled by natural gas rather than coal. And most emphatically, nuclear-powered plants should be expanded or constructed to meet increasing electrical power needs—constructed, that is, if Jane Fonda will allow it.
Very importantly, pollution from automobile exhaust emissions should be reduced by federal legislation mandating more fuel-efficient engines in new cars.
But the international problem of atmospheric pollution will not be significantly improved—if improved significantly at all—by “progress” such as reported in a USA Today story which carried this headline:
“Wind power growth gusts strongly in USA in 2007.” The true significance of the increase in those giant windmills which despoil the landscape is reflected in the subheadline: “Currents generate more than 1% of country’s electricity.” A very long tax-subsidized way from a significant contribution to the nation’s energy needs.
The problem also won’t be alleviated by emotionally-worded editorials—something of a trademark of The New York Times—charging that “big coal” mining interests are building a “large war chest” to fight any federal legislation that would place a mandatory cap on pollution from coal-fired plants.
The Times editorial said that better than fighting cleaner ways to burn coal would be finding “alternative energy sources.” What alternative sources? You wouldn’t expect The Times to mention nuclear energy, would you?
The United States should, as I have indicated, be taking all reasonable steps to reduce pollution emissions. But to campaign for wind power without consideration of nuclear power is totally unrealistic. Even more unrealistic would be the expectation that a successful emission-control-reduction program in the United States would significantly improve atmospheric conditions around the world as long as China’s coal-fired plants continue their massive pollution of the global atmosphere.
* * *
My recent comments on a Nebraska wind power energy project drew criticism from a longtime reader who started by indicating approval of “many, many of your commonsense articles for many years.”
However, my Knox County reader took strong exception to the recent column in which I pointed out that a wind power project being developed in Knox County would mean that, for the first time in more than half a century, some of the electricity generated in Nebraska will come from privately-owned for-profit sources.
I did not address whether this was a good or a bad thing. I simply pointed out that it was happening with little or no public notice as plans go forward for the project, which would collect power generated by windmills on privately-owned agricultural land and sell it to the Nebraska Public Power District. (I also wrote: “Nebraskans—and Americans generally—would do well to keep in mind the downside of windmill-produced electricity.”)
My friendly critic argued that electrical energy produced in Nebraska from oil or coal-fired Nebraska plants means a profit for those who own the oil or the coal coming from out of state. But my point was that, for the first time since the middle of the last century, electricity produced within the state of Nebraska would be sold at a profit by the owners of the production facilities. And I noted that up to two-thirds of the profits could go to financiers, including those outside Nebraska, who are providing the funding to build the wind-powered production facilities.
My friendly critic wrote: “I would think you would be praising people for attempting new ventures to help America and Nebraska in particular…Why would you think it wrong for Nebraskans to make a profit on something?”
I don’t think it’s wrong for Nebraskans to make a profit. I would simply point out that, with the help of federal tax subsidies which encourage wind power development will be making a profit by ending Nebraska’s tradition of being an all-public-power state and in the process making it possible for financiers from outside the state to collect up to two-thirds of the profits.
* * *
It comes as no surprise but it is heartwarming nonetheless to read in the spring issue of a Lauritzen Gardens publication that more than a thousand persons who honored the late much-loved Kim Lauritzen with memorial contributions to beautiful Lauritzen Gardens.
Most of the contributions were from a husband and wife. They are listed as “Tributes To Kimball L. Lauritzen.” She was the wife of First National Bank chairman Bruce R. Lauritzen, and died January 14 after a courageous eight-year battle with cancer.
Further thoughts on the subject of the Nebraska Legislature passing—over Governor Heineman’s veto—a bill to increase the state gasoline tax by approximately 1.2¢ per gallon:
One commentator who opposed the tax increase said that other states have found or are seeking ways other than gas tax increases to meet the need for highway funds.
In Texas, this commentator observed, there has been fierce debate over a proposal to build toll roads, while the governor of Arkansas indicated he would seek a state bond issue. In Georgia, the state House of Representatives approved a proposal allowing local governments to levy an additional 1-cent sales tax to fund regional transportation projects.
Singled out for special praise was Virginia, which was described as taking creative legislative action to solve the highway revenue problem. Virginia lawmakers increased vehicle registration fees and also agreed to boost highway revenues by imposing an “abusive driver fee,” whatever that is.
I fail to see why a 1.2% increase in Nebraska’s gasoline tax—translating into an increase of less than 4/10 of one percent in current prices of gas at the pump—isn’t at least as appealing as toll road proposals, state bond issues, a 1-cent increase in local sales taxes, an increase in vehicle registration fees or an “abusive driver fee.”
* * *
Could it be that Michelle Obama, well-known as a strong-willed woman with an occasionally tart tongue, is on what might be called a shorter leash since an unfortunate remark in late February was considered more than a little damaging to her husband’s presidential candidacy?
You may recall that Mrs. Obama told a Milwaukee audience: “For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change.”
The barrage of critical reaction included this from columnist Michelle Malkin, who wrote that she is “a woman of color” like Michelle Obama and “I can’t keep track of the number of times I’ve been proud—really proud—of my country since I was born and privileged to live in it.”
I follow political news closely, and I can’t recall seeing any additional controversial quotes from Mrs. Obama. In fact, I can’t recall seeing any additional quotes from her at all.
* * *
A recent column praised Margre and Chuck Durham for the gracious way in which they responded to speeches praising them for their multi-million-dollar contributions to the University of Nebraska Medical Center.
Chuck Durham’s recent death (Margre died in 1999) sparked also a recollection on the lighter side of my acquaintance with the Durhams. Margre enjoyed telling this story:
In the kitchen looking for milk for cereal or whatever (I don’t recall that detail), Chuck asked Margre, “Where’s the milk”? Her rejoinder: “If you were the milk, where would you be?”
Chuck went to the refrigerator and got out the milk.
* * *
Two recent columns have reproduced cartoons from a delightful dog-cartoon book—“They Moved My Bowl”—by New Yorker magazine cartoonist Charles Barsotti. In one of the columns I invited readers to submit a story about why your dog is so special to you.
Longtime friend John D. (Jack) Campbell of Lincoln reacted by sending a collection of copies of his favorite cartoons involving man’s best friend. My favorite of the ones which Jack sent my way is reproduced here.
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