And you thought global warming drove you crazy…

The Washington Post reported this morning of a Montgomery County, MD man who packed up his wife and twin 6-year-old girls and moved them to New Zealand — because of global warming.

The man told the Post,

I am not going to predict how the climate might change and how it might affect New Zealand… But quite honestly, I feel in 100 years, one of my daughters is still going to be alive and this planet is going to be a mess. If I didn’t have two daughters, I would not be doing this.

The Post further reported,

But he argued that people who do nothing in the face of risk are the ones who are being irrational: If even a fraction of the consequences of global climate change that scientists are forecasting come true, disasters such as Hurricane Katrina might become the norm, not the exception. In a world afflicted by overpopulation and environmental degradation, he asked, is the irrational person the one who acts or the one who says the future will look after itself?

The Post calls this “ecomigration.” Is that because “eco-insanity” is already taken?

Why doesn’t Al Gore get this question?

In its Feb. 22 interview of Dambisa Moyo, an African activist (the Anti-Bono) who condemns Western aid to Africa as perpetuating poverty, New York Times Magazine reporter Deborah Solomon asked Moyo whether she had a financial interest in a microfinance company mentioned in the interview.

Why is Al Gore never asked about his financial interests? He is, after all, a partner in UK-based Generation Investment Management and in the U.S.-based venture capital outfit, Kleiner Perkins. When Al Gore testified in the Senate in January, he never mentioned, and no Senator asked about the billions of dollars his firms stand to make off global warming regulations.

Are only politically incorrect activists suspected of profiteering?

Will Planet Earth sign a mercury emissions treaty?

The Washington Post reports that the Obama administration has embraced the idea of an international treaty to limit mercury emissions.

According to the EPA, the U.S. is only responsible for 3% of manmade mercury emissions — and U.S. emissions are on the decline. Let’s not forget that Mother Nature’s mercury emissions are thought to be on the same order as anthropogenic emissions.

Should we just let the world’s other emitters knock themselves out and leave us and our sovereignty alone?

Welcome to Green Hell….

… the blog, that is, as opposed to where we’ll be living if we let the environmentalists take over our lives.

Steve Milloy’s latest book Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them is being published by Regnery Publishing in March 2009.

This blog will keep you current on Green Hell-related news and doings, and recommend actions you can take to combat Big Green Brother. You’ll also be able to share your own tales of green woe and to comment on posts!

If we are going to avoid living in a green hell, we will need to save ourselves!

The Futility of Hybrid Cars

By Steven Milloy
February 05, 2009, FoxNews.com

By Steven Milloy

Could plug-in hybrid cars actually increase greenhouse gas emissions? Is energy efficiency being oversold as a greenhouse gas reduction measure? A new report from the research arm of Congress raises troubling questions about the direction in which President Obama is taking us.

Produced by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Carbon Control in the U.S. Electricity Sector: Key Implementation Uncertainties provides the lowdown on a variety of carbon control options for the electric power sector, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear power, advanced coal technology, carbon capture and sequestration, plug-in hybrid vehicles and small-scale power generation technologies.

President Obama has proposed that we reduce our CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. For the electric power sector, this goal translates to reducing what is projected to be 2.6 billion metric tons of CO2 emitted in 2020 to approximately the 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2 that were emitted in 1990 — a more than 30 percent reduction in emissions over a period of about 10 years.

Could this goal be achieved through gains in energy efficiency? Numerous private and government sources have claimed, after all, that 25- to 30-percent gains in efficiency are possible over a 5- to 15-year time horizon. But according to the CRS, “the diffuse nature of efficiency opportunity and the economic complexity of decision making” has historically made moving beyond the 5 percent to 7 percent electricity savings range “a persistent challenge to conservation proponents.” Although more aggressive policies could be attempted, the CRS says, there is “little track record upon which to base projections of future effectiveness.”

The CRS considered wind power and biomass as renewable energy sources. The main problem with wind, according to the report, is that while proponents assert wind could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs, the U.S. electricity transmission network is already much constrained, with wind power producing only 1 percent of those needs. As much as 19,000 miles of new transmission lines would be needed to make wind work. The price tag — a net present value of $26 billion — isn’t the showstopper so much as public challenges to transmission line projects, which the CRS describes as “among the most serious and intractable challenges in the U.S. energy sector.”

The prospects for biofuels are worse. The CRS report cites sources that say a significant increase in biofuel production “would require harvesting various energy crops at a scale that vastly exceeds current practice.” A 2007 study from MIT estimated that as much as 500 million acres of land would be required, which would displace so much cropland that the U.S. would have to become a “substantial agricultural importer.”

Heavy use of biofuels, it seems, would simply move us from depending on foreign oil to depending on foreign food.

Nuclear power? Given the facts of green opposition to nuclear power and the decline in U.S. nuclear infrastructure over the last 30 years, the optimistic view for nuclear power is that we could perhaps build as many as 30 new U.S. reactors by 2030 — fewer than half the number constructed during the 1963-1985 heyday of nuclear construction. The pessimistic view, as cited by the CRS, is that we aren’t likely to see a serious ramp up of nuclear power for 15 to 20 years.

Although advanced coal technology can reduce CO2 emissions, the plants “still burn coal and — absent carbon capture technology — still release large volumes of CO2 to the atmosphere,” observes the CRS. So what about carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)? Should we hold our breath waiting for it? Not according to the CRS. Hardly anyone expects the first CCS projects to be constructed before 2020. Then again, there are so many hurdles for CCS to overcome, “one just has to put a big question mark on it,” the CRS cited a Department of Energy official as saying.

What about plug-in hybrid vehicles? When he was running for president, Obama pledged to put 1 million of the vehicles on the road by 2015. Aside from the question of how popular they’ll be with a projected retail price of $40,000 (as compared to $23,000 for a conventional vehicle), will they actually reduce carbon emissions? Only if the power plants they get electricity from produce little if any carbon. But since most U.S. electricity production is not carbon-free, the CRS observes that the “widespread adoption of plug-in hybrid vehicles through 2030 may have only a small effect on, and might actually increase, net CO2 emissions.”

The final carbon control options addressed by the CRS are the so-called “distributed energy resources” like rooftop solar panels, fuel cells, natural gas microturbines, small scale wind turbines, and combined heat and power systems (CHP), which makes productive use of “waste” heat from electricity generation. Of these resources, only CHP is economical, accounting for nearly 9 percent of U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2007. But according to the CRS, even CHP often faces technical and utility infrastructure barriers to implementation.

Combined with the dubious reasoning behind calls to reduce CO2 emissions — check out this YouTube video produced by JunkScience.com — and repeated avowals by China and India to not make any special efforts to reduce their CO2 emissions, the CRS report makes clear that significant U.S. carbon reduction could very well be little more than an expensive and painful exercise in futility.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Al Gore and Venus Envy

By Steven Milloy
January 29, 2009, FoxNews.com

Al Gore has a new argument for why carbon dioxide is the global warming boogeyman — and it’s simply out of this world.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday with yet another one of his infamous slide shows, Gore observed that the carbon dioxide (CO2) in Venus’ atmosphere supercharges the second-planet-from-the-sun’s greenhouse effect, resulting in surface temperatures of about 870 degrees Fahrenheit. Gore added that it’s not Venus’ proximity to the Sun that makes the planet much warmer than the Earth, because Mercury, which is even closer to the Sun, is cooler than Venus. Based on this rationale, then, Gore warned that we need to stop emitting CO2 into our own atmosphere.

Incredibly, not a Senator on the Committee questioned — much less burst into outright laughter at — Gore’s absurd point. In fact, each Senator who spoke at the hearing, including Republicans, offered little but fawning praise for Gore. It’s hard to know whether the hearing’s lovefest was simply an example of the Senate’s exaggerated sense of collegiality, appalling ignorance and gullibility about environmental science, or fear of appearing to be less green than Gore.

It is true that atmospheric CO2 warms both Venus and the Earth, but that’s about where the CO2 commonality between the two planets ends. While the Venusian atmosphere is 97 percent CO2 (970,000 parts per million), the Earth’s atmosphere is only 0.038 percent CO2 (380 parts per million). So the Venusian atmosphere’s CO2 level is more than 2,557 times greater than the Earth’s. And since the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere is increasing by only about 2 parts per million annually, our planet is hardly being Venus-ized.

Gore’s incorporation of Mercury in his argument is equally specious because Mercury doesn’t really have any greenhouse gases in its atmosphere that would capture the radiation it gets from the Sun. As a result, the daily temperature on Mercury varies from about 840 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to about -275 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Mercury’s daily temperature swing actually belies Gore’s unqualified demonization of greenhouse gases, whose heat trapping characteristics tend to stabilize climate and prevent wild temperature fluctuations.

The significance of Gore’s testimony is that the Venus scenario seems to be his new basis for claiming that CO2 drives the Earth’s climate and, hence, his call that we must stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. At no time did he refer to his two An Inconvenient Truth-era arguments concerning the relationship between CO2 and global temperature — that is, the Antarctic ice core record that goes back 650,000 years and the 20th century temperature/CO2 record. There’s good reason for his apparent abandonment of these arguments — presented fairly, both actually debunk global warming alarmism. (Note: This YouTube video that I produced explains this point.)

Gore seemed to “wow” the Senate Committee with images and projections of environmental and even political upheaval allegedly already caused and to be caused in the future by climate change, such as melting glaciers and the 2007 fires in Greece that, Gore says, almost brought down the government. Gore repeatedly said that global warming threatens the “future of human civilization” and could bring it to a “screeching halt” in this century. Gore said that we are on a fossil fuel “rollercoaster” that is headed for a “crash.” We are near a “tipping point,” he said, beyond which human civilization isn’t possible on this planet.

Such melodrama, of course, is necessary to conceal and distract from the fact that there is no scientific evidence indicating that manmade emissions of CO2 are having any detectable impact, much less any harm, on the Earth’s climate or its population.

During his testimony, Gore invoked the specter of James Hansen, NASA’s global warming alarmist-in-chief, to bolster his climate claims. But like the ice core and 20th century temperature records, Hansen may soon have to be dropped from Gore’s presentations.

Hansen’s former NASA supervisor — atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon, who recently announced that he is skeptical of global warming alarmism — recently wrote to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staffer Marc Morano that, “Hansen… violated NASA’s official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind’s effect on it) … [and] thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress.”

Commenting on another key deficiency in the manmade catastrophic global warming hypothesis, Theon also observed that “[climate] models do not realistically simulate the climate system… some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results… This is clearly contrary to how science should be done… Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy.”

The same could be said for Gore and his slide shows.

Venus envy? Yeah, why not? There’s no Al Gore there.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Zero-Calorie Sin?

By Steven Milloy
January 22, 2009, FoxNews.com

If you thought the food nannies’ appetite for dictating what beverages you may enjoy would be satisfied by their crusade against regular, sugar-sweetened soda, think again. Their new battle cry is shaping up to be, “None of the calories but all of the sin.”

Government-funded researchers led by the University of Texas’ Jennifer Nettleton analyzed diet and health data collected from 6,814 adults and reported in the journal Diabetes Care (Jan. 16) that daily consumption of diet soda was associated with “significantly greater” risks of type 2 diabetes and “metabolic syndrome.”

Although the researchers perfunctorily acknowledged that their study doesn’t prove a causal connection between diet soda and health problems, they nevertheless spent a great deal of space suggesting why their results might be plausible.

They hypothesized that artificial sweeteners may: “increase hedonistic desires for sweetness and more energy dense foods”; reduce dietary guilt and facilitate the overconsumption of other foods; and affect biological processes related to insulin resistance, glucose regulation and weight gain.

Though they acknowledged that “empirical data have not universally supported” the first two hypotheses and that studies are “lacking” concerning the last hypothesis, none of this seemed to dissuade them from proclaiming that their results were consistent with “accumulating evidence of the existence of these associations.”

But rather than hypothesizing — or fantasizing — about why their results might be plausible and consistent, they should have taken a harder, more objective look at their data and statistics.

First, their reported statistical correlations between daily diet soda consumption and diabetes and metabolic syndrome — 67 percent and 36 percent increases in “relative risk,” respectively — are too small to be considered as reliable indicators of any sort of real-life associations. As the National Cancer Institute once went to pains to point out in a press release, “In epidemiologic research, [increases in risk of less than 100 percent] are considered small and usually difficult to interpret. Such increases may be due to chance, statistical bias or effects of confounding factors that are sometimes not evident.”

That suite of deficiencies is precisely the problem with the study and, for that matter, the several prior studies the researchers generously referred to as “accumulating evidence.”

Diabetes and metabolic syndrome are common conditions that are multifactorial in origin and, therefore, difficult to study through epidemiologic analysis. The researchers admitted that not all risk factors were considered. Overlooked, for example, was the confounding factor of genetics, a key risk factor for both type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Data on the study subjects’ genetics, such as family medical history, wasn’t collected and factored into the statistical analysis. Could this omission be important?

It is clear from the study analysis that the more confounding factors the researchers considered, the weaker their statistical correlations became. Had a more complete and thorough data collection and analysis been undertaken, it’s quite possible that even their weak correlations would have entirely evaporated.

Another glaring problem is that the researchers don’t really know how much diet soda any study subject consumed during the 8-year-long study. Instead, they relied only on study subject guesstimates of consumption made at the beginning of the study period.

While the study doesn’t appear to add anything meaningful to what we know about diet and health, it will no doubt add grist to the growing campaign against diet soda that was launched by a 2005 report, also from University of Texas researchers.

That study reported that diet soda drinkers were at greater risk of obesity than sugar-sweetened soda drinkers and concluded that artificial sweeteners “might be fueling — rather than fighting — our escalating obesity epidemic.” It was an awfully big conclusion to be drawn from a study where, among other deficiencies, the study subjects’ consumption of diet beverages was once again guesstimated, rather than verified or validated by the researchers.

But if a study has been published, it must be true, right?

In its January 2009 issue, the self-proclaimed “healthy lifestyle” magazine, Prevention, labeled diet soda a “health food impostor” and stated that, “Drinking just one can or bottle a day increases your risk of metabolic syndrome, which packs on heart-unhealthy belly fat. Sip flavored seltzer water instead. Steer clear of those sparkling waters that contain artificial sweeteners: they’re just diet soda in disguise.”

The Idaho-Statesman (Jan. 13) ran a column from the “YOU Docs”– Mike Roizen, M.D. and Mehmet Oz, M.D. — that warned readers, “See those people in the soda aisle? They all have something in common: a higher risk of heart disease. And you may be one of them, even if you drink only one 12-ounce soft drink daily — be it regular or diet.”

New York Governor David Paterson recently proposed to tax non-diet sodas based on dubious claims about their role in weight gain. It’s not too hard to figure out where the junk science railroad may be headed next.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Browner: Redder than Obama Knows

By Steve Milloy
January 15, 2009, FoxNews.com

Incoming White House energy-environment czar Carol Browner was recently discovered to be a commissioner in Socialist International. While that revelation has been ignored by the mainstream media and blithely dismissed by her supporters, you may soon be paying the cost of Browner’s political beliefs in your electricity bill.

Socialist International is precisely what it sounds like — a decidedly anti-capitalistic political cause. Founded in 1951, its organizing document rails against capitalism, asserting that it “has been incapable of satisfying the elementary needs of the world’s population … unable to function without devastating crises and mass unemployment … produced social insecurity and glaring contrasts between rich and poor … [and] resorted to imperialist expansion and colonial exploitation.…” Socialist International also asserts, “In some countries, powerful capitalist groups helped the barbarism of the past to raise its head again in the form of Fascism and Nazism.” So Socialist International at least partly blames Adolph Hitler on capitalism.

According to its own principles, Socialist International favors the nationalization of industry, is skeptical of the benefits of economic growth and wants to establish a more “equitable international economic order.” In true Marxist form, it asserts that, “The concentration of economic power in few private hands must be replaced by a different order in which each person is entitled — as citizen, consumer or wage-earner — to influence the direction and distribution of production, the shaping of the means of production, and the conditions of working life.”

There’s much more in Socialist International’s principles, but you get the idea.

So what does all this have to do with your electricity bill? In late-December, Carbon Control News reported that Browner was a “strong backer” of utility “decoupling,” which had emerged as a “key climate policy priority for Obama.”

What is utility decoupling? The profits of electric utility companies have traditionally depended on the amount of electricity sold; basically, the more power that is sold, the more profit that is earned. The productivity-profitability link is a logical and standard business principle that is easy to understand, easy to implement and that has worked for, well, millennia in myriad business ventures — but no more for electric utilities, if Browner has her way.

Browner wants to sever, or decouple, a utility’s profits from the amount of electricity it sells. More electricity means more coal and natural gas burning, which, according to green dogma, means more greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. So Browner believes that less electricity production is, at least, a partial answer to climate change. But less electricity would mean less profitability for electric utilities, a powerful Washington lobby that Browner can ill afford to antagonize.

To date, the electric utility industry has aided and abetted the climate alarmist cause, if not by actually lobbying for global warming regulation, then at least by its willingness to entertain such regulation as public policy worthy of serious consideration. But since endangering utility profits would likely galvanize the industry once and for all against emissions regulation, the green dilemma boils down to figuring out a way to reduce electricity sales while guaranteeing utility profits. Enter decoupling.

How would decoupling actually function in practice? There are several different schemes for decoupling, but their tedious complexity precludes elaboration here. But the schemes all essentially amount to the same thing — sticking it to ratepayers and taxpayers. This should come as no surprise, when you stop to think about it.

Decoupling involves government guaranteeing electric utilities steady or steadily increasing profits for selling less electricity. That means implementing one of three basic scenarios: (1) consumers paying more for less electricity; (2) electricity prices remaining steady and taxpayers being called upon to subsidize the difference between the profits from actual electricity sales and the profits guaranteed by government; or (3) some combination of the two. There are no other possibilities.

Decoupling advocates assert that the consumers can avoid higher electric bills through “voluntary conservation measures” — that is, you can lower your bill by using less power. It’s a specious assertion since consumers will still pay higher rates for the electricity they use. Moreover, “voluntary conservation” is not necessarily without cost. Compact fluorescent lightbulbs, insulation, weather stripping, solar panels and other electricity conservation efforts all can entail significant added costs that can take many years to pay for themselves.

Getting back to Browner, what could be more anti-capitalistic than to disassociate profits from sales? It’s often difficult enough to determine profits when they are tied to sales — ask any author or recording artist. Imagine the difficulty, arbitrariness and potential for gamesmanship, if not just plain fraud, involved with government-dictated profitability based on reducing productivity. In the case of electric utilities, already a most heavily regulated enterprise, even greater government regulation of the industry will be required, which, of course, is what a good socialist like Browner would want.

Perhaps what’s most troublesome about all this is the stealthiness. Less than a week after Browner was outed as a Socialist International muckety-muck, the group scrubbed its web site of her photo and evidence of her commission membership. And in the larger picture, it’s intellectually dishonest for advocates of socializing electric utilities to promote the euphemistic “decoupling” as if it were some novel solution rather than what it really is — a subversion of our capitalistic system.

You know, one might get the impression that there’s actually something wrong with, and embarrassing about, a key White House adviser advocating the undermining of a basic principle of our economic system.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Time for a Surgeon General-ectomy?

By Steven Milloy
January 08, 2009, FoxNews.com

President-elect Obama has reportedly chosen Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s chief medical correspondent and one of People magazine’s “sexiest men alive,” for the post of surgeon general. Those aren’t the only reasons that the surgeon general’s position ought to be abolished.

The original version of the surgeon general position was created in 1870 to administer what was then known as the Marine Hospital System (MHS), which cared for sick and injured merchant seaman. The MHS, including a uniformed “Commission Corps” of physicians, was converted in 1902 into the Public Health and Marine Hospital Service, and its mission was expanded to medical inspection and quarantine of arriving immigrants, such as those landing at Ellis Island in New York.

In 1912, the Service was renamed the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) as its mission was further expanded to conduct investigations into infectious diseases (such as tuberculosis, hookworm, malaria, and leprosy), sanitation, water supplies, and sewage disposal. Between 1930 and 1944, the Commission Corps officers were expanded to include engineers, dentists, research scientists, nurses, and other health care specialists.

But in 1968, the surgeon general position fell victim to President Lyndon Johnson’s reorganization of the then-Department of Health Education and Welfare (HEW, or what is known today as the Department of Health and Human Services). The Office of Surgeon General that administered the PHS was scrapped, and responsibility for the PHS was assigned to the assistant secretary for health, who reported directly to the secretary of HEW. A position of “surgeon general” was then created to merely “advise” the assistant secretary on professional medical matters.

After almost two decades of more bureaucratic reshuffling — during which time the surgeon general was made a direct adviser of the secretary of HEW followed by the combining of the positions of surgeon general and assistant secretary for health in 1977 and their separation again in 1981 — the Office of the Surgeon General was re-established in 1987 with largely nominal responsibility for managing the PHS Commissioned Corps personnel.

The surgeon general doesn’t actually command all of the Commission Corps officers. Most of them work in other federal agencies — like the EPA, Coast Guard and Bureau of Prisons — and report directly to the various line managers in those agencies who may or may not be in the PHS.

Although C. Everett Koop attempted to revitalize the Corps in the late 1980s, the superfluous nature of the surgeon general position became glaringly obvious during the tenure of Jocelyn Elders, President Bill Clinton’s first surgeon general. Besides taking controversial positions on drug legalization and the distribution of contraceptives in schools, in early December 1994, Elders spoke in support of the teaching of masturbation. She was promptly fired by Clinton. The position of surgeon general remained vacant for three years, until Clinton nominated David Satcher.

At the time of Satcher’s nomination, the Cato Institute’s Dr. Michael Gough and I observed in a Wall Street Journal column, “We have not had a surgeon general for three years. Has anyone noticed? Is anyone’s health at risk?”

The answer, of course, was that no one’s health was at risk and, in fact, the U.S. public health had never been better. Life expectancy was at an all-time high. Death rates from cancer, heart disease and AIDS were falling. This trend continues today, no thanks to whatever it is that the surgeon general does. And, by the way, what exactly has the current surgeon general been doing?

Judging by 23 of the 32 press releases issued from his office during 2008, Acting Surgeon General Steven Galson has spent a great deal of time traveling coast-to-coast promoting the “Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future” project, which “focuses on recognizing and showcasing those communities throughout the nation that are addressing childhood overweight and obesity prevention by helping kids stay active, encouraging healthy eating habits, and promoting healthy choices.”

So let’s look at a few examples of Surgeon General Galson in action:

In Harrisonburg, Pa., Galson presented, “… the Healthy Youth for a Healthy Future Champion Award to the Girls Golf Program, a partnership between the Ladies Professional Golf Association, the United States Golf Association, James Madison University, and Mulligan’s Golf Center.” The media release continued: “This program is helping local girls and women stay physically active, gain self-confidence, and develop lasting friendships, while fostering an enjoyment for the game of golf.”

At Disney World, Galson honored the Walt Disney Company for removing trans fats from the foods on its menu and for making sure that the use of the Disney name and its characters is limited to kid-focused products that meet specific guidelines that limit calories, fat, saturated fat and sugar.”

In New Mexico, Galson honored a wellness center that “will help students stay fit and healthy using new tools such as exer-gaming and interactive stationary bicycles.”

So over the last 96 years, the Surgeon General has gone from working on genuine public health problems (infectious disease, clean water and sanitation) to advocating golf, Mickey Mouse-less food and beverage containers and video exercise games as public health measures.

It may very well be that Gupta’s celebrity — apparently his unique qualification to hold office — makes him the ideal nominee to continue the Office of Surgeon General’s downward trajectory into obscurity and oblivion. On the other hand, if Gupta were really serious about advising Americans on health matters, he would stay at CNN where he could reach more people on any given day than he could by traveling the country handing out dubious prizes that amount to little more than corporate public relations.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Let There Be Dark?

By Steven Milloy
December 31, 2008, FoxNews.com

Some astronomers seem to be willing to say and do just about anything just to get a better look at the heavens, including making city streets safer for criminals.

In a commentary in Nature magazine (Jan. 1) presaging the 2009 International Year of Astronomy, astronomer Malcolm Smith says that it’s time for cities to “turn off the lights” wo we can better see the Milky Way, conserve energy, protect wildlife and benefit human health. Smith is part of the so-called Dark Skies Awareness project, an international coalition of astronomers and related institutions that wants to “find allies in a common cause to convince authorities and the public that a dark sky is a valuable resource for everyone.”

“A fifth of the world’s population cannot see the Milky Way,” is Smith’s headline argument. “This has a subtle cultural impact. Without a direct view of the stars, mankind is cut off from most of the Universe, deprived of any direct sense of its huge scale and our tiny place within it,” he asserts.

That fuzzy mix of cosmology, sociology and psychology would seem to be an odd argument coming from someone who holds himself out to be a scientist. Odder still is Smith’s subsequent statement that, “Our relationship with artificial light is complicated and changing. Humans innately fear the darkness and modern society relies on light as a security measure, even though there is no evidence that controlling light wastage increases crime levels.”

Moving past the term “controlling light wastage,” which seems to be little more than a euphemism for darker city streets, plenty of data link dim urban areas with higher crime rates. A 2004 study in the Journal of British Criminology, for example, studied 13 U.S. and British cities and concluded that improved street lighting, on average, was associated with a 20 percent decrease in crime. In contrast, I could find no data linking the inability to see the Milky Way with any sort of harm to anyone.

Smith next asserts that skyscraper lighting kills millions of migratory birds in North America. An “unnecessary annual slaughter,” he calls it. But his source for that factoid, the Fatal Light Awareness Program, doesn’t even place building lighting in its “Top 13” risks to birds. Glass windows are first (purportedly killing more than 900 million birds per year), followed by power lines (174 million), hunting (more than 100 million), house cats (100 million), cars and trucks (100 million), pesticides and cutting hay (67 million), communications towers (4 to 10 million), oil and gas drilling (1 to 2 million), land development (unknown), livestock water tanks (unknown), logging and mining (unknown), commercial fishing (unknown) and power line electrocution (more than 1,000).

It seems that if Smith were genuinely concerned about birds he would also be promoting windowless buildings, catless homes, hayless farms and other similar “awareness” projects. But there’s more to Smith’s argument for making urban areas more dangerous in the name of enabling urbanite contemplation of the Milky Way.

Smith suggests that city lights increase cancer risk by reducing the normal production of the hormone melatonin, “a suppressant of cell division in cancer tissues,” he asserts. But alleging a link between melatonin levels and cancer risk is speculation, not fact. To support this conjecture, Smith cites a 2007 article in the Journal of Pineal Research that vaguely concluded, “The increasing prevalence of exposure to light at night has significant social, ecological, behavioral and health consequences that are only now becoming apparent.”

Putting millennia of nighttime candle and torch illumination aside, we’ve been lighting street and indoor lights with gas since 1807 and with electricity since the 1880s. If night lighting was a genuine and significant problem, you’d think someone would have noticed by now. Moreover, improved and increased night lighting in developed countries over the last 200 years has coincided with more than a doubling of life expectancy, the most objective indicator of public health. As you can readily see from this map image of nighttime lighting around the planet, it’s the darkest populated areas that tend to be the least healthy and poorest.

Although Smith only briefly mentions energy conservation and energy-efficient lighting in his article, a visit to the Dark Skies Awareness project Web page reveals that the project is partnering with the World Wildlife Fund to promote global warming alarmism. The precise point of intersection for the two groups’ agendas is the upcoming “Earth Hour” on March 29, when they hope “tens of millions of people around the world will come together once again to make a bold statement about their concern about climate change by… turning off their lights for one hour.”

Dark Skies states that, “Earth Hour symbolizes that by working together, each of us can make a positive impact in the fight against climate change. Here in the US, it sends a message that Americans care about this issue and stand with the rest of the world in seeking to find solutions to the escalating climate crisis.”

The term “escalating climate crisis,” however, can only justifiably be referring to global warming alarmism rather than manmade temperature increases. Average global temperature, after all, has trended downward over the last five years despite the ever-increasing output of manmade greenhouse gases.

If Smith’s article is what passes for scientific thinking among the Dark Skies crowd, perhaps they ought to consider renaming the group the Dark Ages Advocacy project.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

New York's Soda Tax Scam

By Steven Milloy
December 24, 2008, FoxNews.com

New York Governor David Paterson has proposed to levy an 18 percent tax on non-diet soft drinks under the guise of combating obesity. Government doesn’t get much more cynical than this.

After alleging that “almost one in four New Yorkers under age 18 are obese,” Paterson’s budget proposal for 2009-2010 asserts that, “Significant price increases should discourage individuals, especially children and teenagers, from consumption and help fight obesity which results in higher risk for diabetes and heart disease.” So the purpose of the tax, according to proposal, is to discourage people from drinking non-diet soft drinks.

The proposal then estimates that the tax will raise $404 million during 2009-2010 and — get this — $539 million during 2010-2011. Since tax revenues from non-diet soft drink sales are budgeted to increase rather than decrease — as one might expect from the alleged purpose of the tax — Paterson actually seems to be counting on the tax not working. Combating obesity is not grounds for the tax; it is, instead, camouflage for it — and not very good camouflage at that.

In his Dec. 18 New York Times paean to the tax, columnist Nicholas Kristof ominously intoned that, “The average American consumes about 35 gallons of non-diet soda each year and gets more added sugar from soda than from desserts.”

But that 35 gallons works out to about a can of non-diet soda (containing about 140 calories) per day. Is a can of non-diet soda per day something to worry about? If common sense is not enough to answer that question, then consider the food recommendations made by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

In its dietary guidelines for Americans — a.k.a. the “Food Pyramid” — the USDA recommends the servings that should be consumed daily from different food groups, including fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, milk and oils. The USDA makes these recommendations for different levels of individual daily calorie consumption, starting at a 1,000-calorie-per-day diet and going up to a 3,200 calorie-per-day diet.

In addition to fruits, vegetables, grains and the other food groups, the USDA also includes a category labeled, “Discretionary calorie allowance,” which constitutes the calories left over for each diet level after consuming the recommended amounts from the other food groups. Someone who should consume 1,000 calories per day and who ate the recommended portions of fruits, grains, meats, milk and oils would only have consumed 835 calories. That person would have 165 calories left over for discretionary eating — more than enough room for a 140-calorie can of non-diet soda. At the high-end of daily calorie consumption, someone who is on a 3,200-calorie-per-day diet would have a discretionary calorie allowance of 648 calories — more than 4.5 cans of non-diet soda.

The bottom line is that, all calories being equal, a can of non-diet soda per day — that is, Kristof’s ominous 35 gallons per year — is well with the guidelines of the USDA’s Food Pyramid for most people and so cannot be viewed as a persuasive factoid in support of Paterson’s proposed tax.

Kristof is also way off base in his effort to liken non-diet soft drinks to tobacco. “These days,” Kristof asserts, “sugary drinks are to American health roughly what tobacco was a generation ago.” Kristof then quotes long-time food nanny Barry Popkin, who says, “Soft drinks are linked to diabetes and obesity in the way that tobacco is to lung cancer.”

As this column has pointed out before, there simply is no scientific basis for concluding that non-diet drinks cause obesity or diabetes. The National Academy of Sciences concluded in 2002 that, “There is no clear and consistent association between increased intake of added sugars and [body weight].” And this remains true today.

An August 2008 review of research on soft drinks and weight gain by Emily Wolff (Boston University School of Medicine) and Michael Dansinger (Tufts University) concluded, “Sugar-sweetened soft drink intake has increased dramatically during the past few decades, yet the magnitude of the weight gain and adverse health effects by soft drinks are poorly understood due to a paucity of clinical trial data… which would be necessary to demonstrate a causal link between sugar-sweetened soft drink consumption and weight gain.” The translation is that despite decades of research — including at least five clinical trials — into the health effects of soft drinks, scientists still can’t identify any specific harm with any certainty.

Public health scolds unfortunately often try to blacken and intimidate anyone who disagrees with them by likening them to the tobacco industry. But to the extent there is any deceit-in-the-name-of-money being practiced in the case of non-diet drinks, that charge is more appropriately laid at the feet of the New York Governor and his supporters in the media and public health industry. If this group was sincere about its concern for obese children, it would do something other than just exploiting them as a means of raising money for the state.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

EPA Goes Man-Hunting

By Steven Milloy
December 18, 2008, FoxNews.com

It’s little wonder why the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list doesn’t include anyone accused of breaking federal environmental laws. It’s hard to argue that a father-son team accused of illegally importing Alfa Romeo sports cars that don’t meet U.S. tailpipe emissions standards is the criminal equivalent of the likes of Usama bin Laden or the other hardened sociopaths for whom the FBI warns the public to remain on the lookout.

But the Environmental Protection Agency has now cured its apparent case of outlaw-envy with the launch of its own “Wanted” list last week. Hoping to “track down environmental fugitives,” the agency wants to “increase the number of ‘eyes’ looking for environmental fugitives.”

In addition to the Alfa Romeo Gang believed to be hiding out in Italy (so remain alert on your next visit to Tuscany), the EPA wants us to keep an eye out for Mauro Valenzuela, an airplane mechanic criminally charged for improperly loading oxygen canisters thought to have caused the tragic 1996 crash of ValuJet flight 592.

But converting the crash into an environmental crime seems a stretch. The EPA apparently views the canister loading as “illegal transportation of hazardous material.” In any event, Valenzuela’s boss and co-worker were eventually acquitted of the same criminal counts. The only reason Valenzuela also wasn’t acquitted was because he panicked and fled to parts unknown before trial. He is, in effect, a fugitive from his own innocence — but he is wanted by the EPA nonetheless.

The rest of the EPA’s fugitives appear to be mostly hapless immigrants now believed to be “hiding” oversees in places like Syria, Mexico, India, Greece, Poland and China. They’re wanted for a variety of alleged infractions, including smuggling banned refrigerants, discharging waste into sewers, lying to the Coast Guard about a ship’s waste oil management system, transporting hazardous waste without a manifest, and creating false official documents.

While the EPA’s fugitives certainly appear to be a motley lot who may have broken a variety of environmental regulations, often unwittingly, one can’t help but wonder whether the EPA’s Wanted list is not only over-the-top, but where the agency is headed.

We, of course, don’t want people breaking environmental laws, however technical or trivial, but there’s hardly a moral equivalence between a food delivery man who, in a panic, drained 32 gallons of gasoline into a storm sewer and Islamic terrorists who have declared war on America.

The list’s creation seems a furtherance of the Greens’ larger campaign to plant the idea within the public’s mind that all environmental “transgressions” fall along a criminal continuum.

Unlike the FBI’s Wanted list, which spotlights a number of truly dangerous characters accused of causing actual harm to real people — murder, kidnapping, rape, child molestation, armed robbery and the like — the EPA’s fugitives are wanted for violations that seem to have caused little, if any, harm to anyone or the environment.

It’s too bad, however, that you can’t say the same thing about the EPA’s Enforcement Division.

In September 1988, the EPA had John Pozsgai indicted for removing more than 5,000 old tires from his property and spreading dirt where the tires had been. Although Pozsgai’s land was bordered by two major highways, a tire dealership and an automobile salvage yard, the EPA considered his land a federally protected “wetland” because of a drainage ditch running along the edge of his property. Though the ditch was mostly dry, it flooded during heavy rain, and the EPA considered it a stream. When Pozsgai filled the ditch without a permit, EPA undercover agents secretly filmed the dump trucks that delivered the topsoil. Though his actions didn’t create any pollution, endanger any species or water quality, Pozsgai was sentenced to three years in prison and fined more than $200,000.

In 1997, nearly two dozen federal agents, armed with semiautomatic pistols, showed up at James Knott’s wire-mesh manufacturing plant in Massachusetts. Knott was indicted on two counts of violating the Clean Water Act for allegedly pumping acidic water into the town sewer system. The EPA publicly condemned Knott and warned that his conviction could result in up to six years in prison and a $1.5 million fine. The case was subsequently dropped when it was discovered that the EPA had omitted vital information from the search warrant information indicating that Knott wasn’t violating the law.

What is the future of eco-crime? A man in the U.K. was fined $215 for leaving the lid of his trash can ajar by more than three inches. San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom proposed last July to deputize garbage men to fine people as much as $1,000 for mixing trash with recyclables. Garbage cops, however, pale in comparison to the call earlier this year by NASA’s global warming alarmist, James Hansen, to put the CEOs of oil and coal companies on trial for “high crimes against humanity and nature” — a sentiment first broached in 2006 by a blogger for Grist magazine who called for a “climate Nuremburg” for those who have questioned the need for global warming regulation. Is this really the direction in which we want to go?

It could just be that the real threat to society comes not from a couple of guys selling a few European sports cars that don’t meet stringent U.S. tailpipe standards, but those who use the environment as an excuse to commit crime like, say, the elusive Earth Liberation Front (ELF) terrorists whose arson and vandalism targets have included homes, university buildings, a ski lodge, SUVs, SUV dealerships and more. What’s the EPA doing about ELF?

If the EPA needs a Wanted list, how about making it a “Help Wanted” list in search of Enforcement Division employees with some perspective?

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.