Picking on the Pickens Plan?

By Steven Milloy
September 25, 2008, FoxNews.com

Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens’ camp responded last week to this column’s multi-part analysis of the so-called “Pickens Plan.” Focusing on my most recent comments, Pickens Plan defender Warren Mitchell said he was “overwhelmed” by my “lack of logic” and wondered what plan I had to “wean ourselves from foreign oil.”

Mitchell first objected to my point that Iran isn’t switching to natural gas cars to sell more oil (as claimed by Pickens in a TV ad), but rather to reduce its gasoline imports and, thereby, reduce international pressure on its nuclear weapons program.

But as pointed out in a January 2007 congressional hearing by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), “[… squeezing Iran economically… is having an effect… Iran’s oil minister admitted that this financial pressure has stunted its oil industry. It now has to import 42 percent of its refined gasoline.”

An Iranian political analyst said in July 2007 that “We will greatly suffer if [foreign countries] suddenly decide not to sell us fuel… Fuel rationing [Iran’s initial strategy for reducing imported gasoline] is a security-economic decision to reduce fuel consumption.”

Even Iran’s main car maker admitted to the Associated Press that natural gas cars “will greatly help Iran reduce, and even stop in the long run, importing gasoline from abroad.”

Although some Iranian politicians aligned with the national oil company have previously pushed for higher gas prices to curtail domestic demand for subsidized gasoline so that the Iranian government could invest in more oil production over the long-term, there’s no evidence that this is driving Iran’s switch to natural gas cars.

Moving on, Mitchell claimed that I “assaulted America’s natural gas supply, acting as if natural gas is already a scarce commodity in the U.S… Reality dictates a very different picture when it comes to America’s oil and natural gas supply.” Mitchell went on to say that the U.S. imports about 70 percent of its oil, while it has only 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. In contrast, he says, 97 percent of U.S. natural gas comes from North America and these figures don’t account for the natural gas shale reserves that U.S. gas providers are able to access.

“Sleight-of-hand” is probably more appropriate than “reality” with Mitchell’s figures. When Mitchell talks about oil, he limits it to U.S. imports and sources. But when he talks about natural gas, he talks expansively in terms of North America — that is, the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Most of the oil used in the U.S. (53 percent), in fact, comes from North American sources, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). Next, the U.S. produces only about 83 percent of its natural gas. We import the rest, and this supply — just like our oil supply — is vulnerable to world events and market pressures.

Mitchell is wrong about known U.S. oil reserves — the actual figure is only about 1.6 percent (about a 3-year supply), according to the most recent DOE data. The good news — omitted by Mitchell — is that the U.S. reserve data excludes many known-but-not-counted domestic sources of oil, including the outer continental shelf (a 9- to 15-year supply), public lands like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (a 1.5-year supply in ANWR alone) and western oil shale (possibly an 800-year supply, according to the Department of Interior).

While Mitchell touts natural gas shale reserves as significantly adding to U.S. production, such “unconventional production” of natural gas is expected by the DOE to increase only from 44 percent of total domestic production in 2005 to about 49 percent by 2030 — not enough to reduce U.S. dependency on imported natural gas. The DOE says that liquid natural gas (LNG) imports will be the largest incremental source of natural gas for the U.S.

Readers should note that while Mitchell liberally engaged in ad hominem argument, he didn’t respond to my earlier comments on the Pickens Plan, including that Pickens: wants to profit at taxpayer and consumer expense; plays fast and loose with facts; lobbied the state of Texas turn him into a government entity so he could earn private profit; and fails to mention the hurdles, costs and inconveniences of switching to natural gas cars.

Readers should also be aware that Mitchell is more than merely the “former chairman of Southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas & Electric,” as he signed his column. He also serves along with Pickens on the board of Clean Energy Fuels — the largest provider of vehicular natural gas in North America, a company Pickens founded in May 2006.

Finally, Mitchell criticized me for not offering an energy plan to “save America from itself.” He must not be aware of my many columns in which I suggest that America’s energy path forward is to step-up development of domestic oil, natural gas and coal resources as well as to develop more nuclear power. Other energy sources could be used as they prove themselves in the marketplace — rather than as forced upon us by fast-talking special interests and their politician mouthpieces.

America has made it this far without Soviet-style, long-term central planning, where, regardless of the likelihood of changing circumstances in the future, the government arbitrarily picks society’s winners and penalizes the losers, leaving the nation stuck indefinitely with the high costs of bad decisions.

We don’t need to save America from itself, but it seems we will need to save it from energy hucksters.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Pickens' Natural-Gas Nonsense

By Steven Milloy
September 12, 2008, FoxNews.com

“Get this one,” says billionaire T. Boone Pickens in his latest TV ad, “Iran is changing its cars to natural gas and we’re not doing a thing here. They’re doing this to use less oil and sell it for $120 a barrel. We can switch our cars to natural gas and stop sending our dollars to foreign countries.”

Readers of this column know better than to take at face value the marketing of the so-called “Pickens Plan.”

So what’s the full story behind Iran’s move, and what would be the impact of switching our cars to natural gas?

Although Iran is a major oil and gas producer, it lacks oil-refining capacity and must import about 50 percent of its gasoline. To be less vulnerable to international pressure concerning its nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided to reduce Iran’s reliance on imported gasoline.

He started with rationing in May 2007. But that quickly led to violent social unrest.

Ahmadinejad then decided to convert Iran’s new car fleet to natural gas. So 60 percent of Iran’s car production this year — about 429,000 vehicles — will be dual-fuel-ready, capable of running on both gasoline and natural gas.

But contrary to Pickens assertion, Iran isn’t trying to use less oil:; It’s trying to use less imported gasoline — and only to thwart a possible international gasoline embargo.

Though hardly a role model for energy policy, should we nevertheless follow Iran’s lead with respect to natural-gas cars? Just what would that mean to you and to our economy?

While the natural gas sold for auto fuel is as much as 50 percent less expensive than gasoline — at least for now — the cover charge to get into a natural-gas vehicle can easily erase any savings.

A new natural-gas-powered car, such as the Honda Civic GX, for example, is almost 40 percent more expensive than a conventional Civic ($24,590 versus $17,700).

While tax credits can reduce the cost by thousands, somebody — either you and/or taxpayers — will be paying the difference.

If natural gas fuel saved you, say, $2 per gallon, then you’d have to drive 124,020 highway miles or 82,680 city miles to break even on fuel costs against the $6,890 purchase price premium.

You can convert an existing car from gasoline to natural gas, but the costs are daunting.

Converting a car to dual-use (as in Iran) costs between $6,000 to $10,000. Converting a car to run on natural gas only is about half as expensive.

Even so, the conversion has to be done correctly or, in the worst case, you risk leaks that could turn your car into an improvised explosive device. And if your car is altered without proof of EPA certification, you might not get any of the all-important conversion tax credits.

Then there’s the inconvenience. Though their fuel tanks are larger — which, incidentally, reduces trunk space — natural gas cars have less range.

While a new Honda Civic can go as far as 500 miles on a tank of gasoline, the GX’s range is less than half of that — and, currently, there are only about 1,600 natural-gas refueling stations across the country, compared with 200,000 gasoline stations.

If your home uses natural gas, you could buy a home filling station at a cost of about $2,000 plus installation. While home filling stations can further reduce fuel costs to substantially below $2 per gallon, the devices take about 4 hours to replenish the fuel consumed by only 50 miles of driving. So much for gas-and-go.

Moving past the personal expense and inconvenience, the broader implications of natural-gas cars are worrisome.

The U.S. currently uses about 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year. Like all commodities, the price of natural gas is supply-and-demand dependent.

Switching just 10 percent of the U.S. car fleet to natural gas would dramatically increase our consumption of natural gas by about 8 percent (1.9 trillion cubic feet) — an amount that is slightly less than one-half of all current residential natural gas usage and one-quarter of all industrial usage.

The price ramifications of such a demand spike would likely be significant. The current cost advantage of natural gas over gasoline could easily be reversed. Our move toward energy independence could also be compromised.

Domestic production of natural gas has not kept pace with rapidly increasing demand. Consequently, about 15 percent of our natural gas must now be imported.

Without more domestic gas drilling, additional demand will need to be met with natural gas imported by pipeline and in liquefied form from the very same foreign sources that T. Boone Pickens rails about in the context of oil.

In its most recent annual outlook, the U.S. Department of Energy projects that the U.S. natural-gas market will become more integrated with natural-gas markets worldwide as the U.S. becomes more dependent on imported liquefied natural gas — causing greater uncertainty in future U.S. natural-gas prices.

The natural-gas supply problem will be additionally magnified if significant greenhouse-gas regulation is enacted.

Here’s how: Currently, when natural gas gets too expensive, electric utilities often substitute coal or cheaper fuels for power generation.

Under a greenhouse-gas regulation scheme, however, inexpensive coal might no longer be an alternative because of the significantly greater greenhouse-gas emissions involved with its combustion.

Utilities, and ultimately consumers, could easily find themselves at the mercy of natural-gas barons — like T. Boone Pickens himself, a large investor in natural gas.

Is that the real “Pickens Plan?”

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Cholesterol Drug Scare Shenanigans

By Steven Milloy
September 04, 2008, FoxNews.com

Why is the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine encouraging a cancer scare over the cholesterol-lowering drug Vytorin? Is he overcompensating for past bad behavior?

Prescribed for millions of patients, Vytorin is a single pill that combines the cholesterol-lowering medicines Zocor and Zetia. Its popularity declined in early 2008 after several studies questioned whether Vytorin produced any health benefit and a panel of cardiologists recommended that the drug be used only as a last resort.

Then, in July, a Norwegian researcher reported that, in a clinical trial known as SEAS, 102 patients taking Vytorin developed cancer, compared with 67 patients taking a placebo — a statistically significant result indicating that chance could be ruled out with some degree of confidence as the cause.

Drug companies Merck and Schering-Plough, the makers of Zocor and Zetia, respectively, subsequently commissioned famed epidemiologist Richard Peto of Oxford University to evaluate the SEAS results. Those findings were published this week on the Web site of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Based on his review of SEAS and two other ongoing Vytorin trials (called SHARP and IMPROVE-IT), Peto concluded that the trials provided no credible link between Vytorin and cancer risk, although follow-up would be needed to make a more reliable determination.

Peto based his conclusion on the fact that in the SEAS trial, there were no statistically significant increases in any specific type of cancer; the statistically significant result occurred only by adding all cancers together. Moreover, for the three specific cancers with reported risks closest to attaining statistical significance in the SEAS trial — skin, stomach and prostate — the results were precisely the opposite of what occurred in the SHARP and IMPROVE-IT trials. That is, in those trials, placebo patients had higher rates of cancer at those sites than did Vytorin users.

Additionally, Peto found no increase in risk of cancer over time in the three trials — generally, cancer risk increases with increasing exposure to a cancer-causing substance. This observation, he acknowledged, will also require more follow-up, since the patients in the trials have been followed for only a few years.

Although more Vytorin users than placebo patients died from cancer in all three trials, the result was only statistically significant in the SEAS trial. But Peto dismissed the SEAS result, since it was what had generated all the controversy in the first place and so couldn’t be used to verify the validity of a link between Vytorin and cancer. More telling than overall cancer deaths, however, was the lack of a statistically significant excess number of deaths from any specific type of cancer.

Though the available data don’t absolutely prove that Vytorin doesn’t increase cancer risk, there seems to be no good reason to think that it does — unless you’re the editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

In an editorial accompanying the Peto analysis, editor Jeffrey Drazen wrote that, “Although the Oxford group may ultimately prove to be correct, it is appropriate to raise a note of caution.” Without providing any back-up scientific data, Drazen then speculated that since Vytorin works by interfering with the gastrointestinal absorption of cholesterol, it might also interfere with the absorption of other unnamed molecular entities that “could conceivably affect the growth of cancer cells.” Drazen also was unwilling to cede that higher cancer death rate of Zetia patients was simply due to chance “until further data are in.”

But the main reason that Drazen is simply wrong about keeping the Vytorin cancer scare on life support is that there’s no evidence whatsoever that the drug is associated with any specific form of cancer at any specific site.

For example, excessive smoking is associated with lung cancer, and occupational asbestos exposure is associated with mesothelioma. But given a specific route of exposure, no potential carcinogen is known to cause cancer at multiple sites on a random or haphazard basis. Aggregating different cancers into a catch-all “all cancer” category simply lacks demonstrable biological plausibility.

Drazen’s insistence on waiting for more data on cancer deaths is similarly nonsensical. Vytorin would first need to be associated with an increased risk of a death from a specific form of cancer — a notion clearly contradicted by the data so far.

None of this should be controversial or new to Drazen. So what’s up with him?

Prior to becoming editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Drazen had close ties with many drug companies — and once got into trouble because of them.

In March 1999, the Food and Drug Administration found that Drazen made “false and misleading” statements about the safety and efficacy of the asthma drug levalbuterol made by Sepracor — a drug company that hired Drazen to review two studies on the drug and then to comment to a company interviewer. Needless to say, given this past, his NEJM appointment was somewhat controversial.

So since becoming editor, Drazen has seemingly gone out of his way to turn against the hand that once fed him. In a May 2005 Wall Street Journal article entitled, “Medical Editor Turns Activist On Drug Trials,” former NEJM editor Marcia Angell said that, “[Drazen’s] been converted. Through painful experience, Jeff is learning what these companies are about. He sees the ugly side that he hadn’t seen before — the bias that company-sponsored research contains, the suppression of results that they don’t like, the spin of unfavorable results.” Dr. Angell would apparently have us believe that Sepracor forced or tricked Drazen into saying “false and misleading” things about their drug.

So now it seems that instead of pro-drug company bias and spin, Drazen now leans toward anti-drug company bias and spin. Imagine if Drazen were just to stick to science in the first place. He wouldn’t have to worry about shifting alliances to atone for his mistakes.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Debunking Democrats on Drilling

By Steven Milloy
August 28, 2008, FoxNews.com

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last Tuesday dismissively referred to pro-oil-drilling demonstrators chanting “Drill here! Drill now!” as the “2-cents-in-10-years-crowd.” She may have to revise her insult strategy, since it seems that some mere pro-drilling posturing by President Bush has already helped reduce the price of gas.

The “2-cents-in-10-years” slam refers to the anti-drilling environmentalists’ primary argument that even if we expanded domestic oil production, it would have only a marginal impact on gasoline prices far into the future.

Increased worldwide oil demand, a weak dollar and increased oil futures speculation are among the leading factors that have caused crude oil prices to rocket upward since last summer, reaching a peak of about $136 per barrel in mid-July. Since then, the price of oil has backed off to about $110 per barrel, a decline of almost 20 percent. Gasoline prices have also fallen from mid-July’s national average of $4.11 per gallon to late-August’s $3.73 — a decline of more than 9 percent.

Why have the prices of oil and gasoline declined so much since mid-July? It’s hard to know for sure, but let’s consider the factors that caused the price to spike in the first place.

Americans, who drive about 3 trillion miles per year, do seem to be driving less and reducing demand for gasoline, according to the latest figures from the Federal Highway Administration.

Americans drove 4.7 percent fewer miles in June 2008 than June 2007, and 53.7 billion fewer miles between November 2007 to June 2008 than over the same period a year earlier — a time when gasoline prices rose from $3.06 to $4.13. So if less driving leads to lower oil and gas prices, the data don’t show that relationship.

How about the dollar’s 8 percent rally against the Euro since mid-July? Historically, the relationship between the dollar and the Euro has been only weakly correlated with the price of oil. That is, higher-dollar/lower-Euro and lower-dollar/higher-Euro movements have correlated only about 20 percent of the time with decreases and increases, respectively, in the price of oil. Recently, however, this correlation has increased to 57 percent, indicating “a reasonably high level of common movement,” according to David Gaffen, who writes the Wall Street Journal’s Marketbeat blog. So it is possible that the dollar’s rise against the Euro may have helped reduce oil prices somewhat — but to what extent is unclear.

The remaining factor is oil futures speculation — which can be gauged by so-called “open interest” in crude oil, the number of futures contracts open on a given day. Since mid-July, crude oil open interest has declined by 100,000 contracts, a sign of heavy liquidation, the president of an energy risk management firm recently told the Associated Press.

So what happened in mid-July to cause oil speculators to bail out of oil? Could it have been Bush’s July 14 announcement that he was lifting the 1990 executive order barring the Department of Interior from issuing leasing rights to explore and drill for oil offshore? If Bush’s announcement was the trigger — and there doesn’t appear to be any other significant event during that time that might have caused speculators to rethink their positions — then it’s all the more remarkable since Bush’s action itself will not lead to more drilling or a major infusion of new supply.

Not only is there a separate moratorium on offshore drilling that Congress renews every year — and, so far, the Democrat-controlled Congress has given little indication that it is seriously considering lifting it — but there’s “only” an estimated 18 billion barrels of oil in the offshore areas subject to the leasing prohibitions. At current consumption rates of 7.5 billion barrels of oil annually, that’s less than a three-year supply of oil for the U.S.

Getting back to Pelosi’s derogatory “2-cents-in-10-years-crowd” comment, it seems as if it was debunked before she uttered it. Bush’s revocation of the executive order — which without similar congressional action amounts to little more than a political statement in favor of increasing the oil supply — has possibly already reduced the price of gasoline by 38 cents in 30 days.

The mere prospect that the U.S. might get serious about increasing the supply of oil has sent speculators scurrying for cover. Imagine what would happen if we actually explored, drilled and produced some of that offshore oil — which, by the way, could be way more than 18 billion barrels. The U.S. Minerals Management Service estimated in 2006 that the quantity of undiscovered technically recoverable oil in the outer continental shelf is between 66.6 to 115.3 billion barrels of oil.

In any event, even if the offshore drilling only reduced the price of oil 2 cents over 10 years, as Pelosi would have us believe, isn’t that better than the alternative her no-drill policy offers — ever-increasing prices?

As reported by Politico.com, Pelosi’s retort to the protesters’ chant was, “Right here? Can we drill your brains?” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer then chided the protesters that “sophomoric chanting” won’t solve the energy crisis. That may be true as long as we allow petulant Democrats to run Congress and our energy future.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The Real Population Bomb

By Steven Milloy
August 21, 2008, FoxNews.com

It’s been 40 years since Stanford University population biologist Paul Ehrlich warned of imminent global catastrophe in his book “The Population Bomb.” As it turns out, the book was aptly, though ironically, named.

Ehrlich predicted that, “In the 1970’s, the world will undergo famines hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death.

“At this late date, nothing can prevent a substantial increase in the world death rate …”

Forty years later, no such mass starvation has come to pass. While there have been tragic famines resulting in millions of deaths since 1968, none occurred because global food production failed to keep pace with population growth the core of Ehrlich’s hypothesis. Per capita global food production has, instead, increased by 26.5 percent between 1968 and 2005, according to the World Resources Institute. The number of people who starve to death daily declined from 41,000 in 1977 to 24,000 today, according to The Hunger Project, an organization combating global hunger.

The roots of recent hunger generally lie in a combination of transient localized crop failures, political instability, and ill-conceived government policies. The U.N. attributes the current world food “crisis,” for example, to recent reduced harvests and crop failures in Europe and Australia, respectively; rapidly growing demand for subsidized grain-based biofuels; and lower surplus crop inventories due to reduced subsidies.

Ehrlich also fretted in “The Population Bomb” that we were depleting the world oxygen supply by paving terrestrial areas, burning fossil fuels and clearing tropical forests. Green party campaigner Peter Tatchell recently reasserted this claim in the U.K. newspaper, The Guardian. “Compared to prehistoric times, the level of oxygen in the earth’s atmosphere has declined by over a third and in polluted cities the decline may be more than 50 percent,” Tatchell wrote.

But as physicist Luboš Motl points out in his blog, the oxygen scare is nonsense. Atmospheric oxygen has been at 20.94 percent or 20.95 percent for thousands of years, amounting to about 150,000 tons of oxygen per capita. Motl estimates that, at most, any atmospheric oxygen drop due to the combustion of fossil fuels might — at most — be 0.02 percent, a loss that could easily be offset by natural oxygen-producing processes.

Ehrlich also warned in “The Population Bomb” that manmade emissions of carbon dioxide would cause catastrophic global warming. He suggested that a few degrees of heating could melt the polar ice caps and raise sea level by 250 feet, even out fear-mongering Al ’20-foot tidal wave’ Gore on his best worst day.

“Gondola to the Empire State Building, anyone?” Ehrlich asked.

But average sea level rise between 1961 and 2003 was only about 0.007 inches per year, according to the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and no one can offer more than mere speculation as to the cause of that barely noticeable increase.

Ehrlich’s proposal to avert global catastrophe was to limit or stop population growth. The most efficient way of doing this, he suggested, was for the government to add chemicals to the water or to food to temporarily sterilize people.

“Those of you who are appalled at such a suggestion can rest easy,” he wrote, “the option isn’t even open to us, thanks to the criminal inadequacy of biomedical research in this area.”

So, instead, he proposed a Department of Population and Environment to implement population control laws.

Ehrlich’s goal was to maintain world population at “one or even two billion,” which he suggested “could be sustained in reasonable comfort for 1,000 years if resources were husbanded carefully.” He did acknowledge that we might “still have a chance” if the population stabilizes at four or five billion, but “of course, mankind’s options will be fewer and people’s lives almost certainly less pleasant than if the lower figure is attained.”

But world population in 1968 exceeded 3.5 billion already way over Ehrlich’s goal. Today, world population exceeds 6.6 billion almost double what it was in 1968 and past the point of even having a “chance” of survival, according to Ehrlich.

Have we run out of food? Has population become unsustainable? According to U.N. statistics, the number of people in the developing world who were considered to be undernourished in 1968 was estimated at about 900 million. That estimate is on track to be reduced by more than 50 percent by 2015, according to the U.N. So while world population has just about doubled, global hunger will just about have been cut in half. Tremendous worldwide economic growth and technological advances ignored or not foreseen by Ehrlich have made this achievement possible.

Given how Ehrlich’s predictions turned out, you might think that he vanished into the dustbin of Chicken Little history or at least revised his ideas, right?

Wrong. The Stanford professor is a member of the prestigious National Academy of Sciences and has been honored by the United Nations, MacArthur Foundation, Sierra Club, World Wildlife Fund, Ecological Society of America and the American Institute of Biological Sciences to name a few. Worse, he’s still at it.

In 1968, Ehrlich helped form the group Zero Population Growth (ZPG), which was euphemistically renamed “Population Connection” in 2002. In the 40th anniversary issue of the official publication of Population Connection, Ehrlich warns that “ZPG’s 1968 message that [global population] must stop growing is now more urgent than ever.”

“Each additional person in the population puts disproportionate stress on our life support systems … And Americans have the heaviest resource and environmental ‘footprints’ of all,” he claims.

Contrary to Ehrlich-think, however, more people have been a boom, not a bomb. They’ve led to an economic boom rather than a bust. In any event, who should decide who is to be born free-willed individuals or Ehrlich’s population police?

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Environmentalists Prompt Nuclear Power Wake-Up Call

By Steven Milloy
August 14, 2008, FoxNews.com

What did the nuclear power industry get for playing footsie with the “greens” on global warming? A knife in the back, it looks like. The greens now are saying that emission-free nuclear power may actually contribute to climate change.

After decades of having its growth entirely stymied by anti-nuclear environmentalists, the industry decided to help the greens lobby for global warming regulation in hopes of easing opposition to the expansion of nuclear power. Companies like Exelon, FPL Group and NRG Energy, for example, helped the greens form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) — a coalition of big businesses and green groups that has been leading the charge on Capitol Hill for global warming regulation.

But as the saying goes, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

A case in point is the proposed addition of a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in southern Maryland. The greens formed a group euphemistically called the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition (CSEC) to oppose the new reactor. Members of the CSEC are hardcore anti-nuclear activists including the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Maryland Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Maryland Green Party and the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.

A June 2007 report by Maryland PIRG lays out the standard anti-nuclear objections against the proposed reactor, including that nuclear plants are expensive to build, radiation is inherently dangerous, uranium mining is environmentally destructive, and that nuclear waste “remains dangerous for thousands of years and no nation on earth has developed an acceptable solution for safely disposing of it.”

But in this era of global warming hysteria, the standard arguments apparently aren’t working.

Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley — who is well-regarded by environmentalists for consuming and metabolizing the green Kool-Aid on global warming — supports the Calvert Cliffs expansion. O’Malley apparently realizes that Maryland needs the electricity given the fact that the state is facing rolling blackouts on summer days starting as early as 2011. Moreover, nuclear power is emissions-free, another plus for Maryland’s warmer-in-chief. His support is even more remarkable since he recently barred the installation of wind turbines on public lands.

The governor’s picking nukes over wind must have sent the greens into meltdown. So in response, the desperate greens came up with a bizarre new argument: nuclear power causes global warming.

That’s right, nuclear is the latest form of “dirty” energy. How can that be, you ask? Nuclear power doesn’t produce greenhouse gases, does it? Well, not directly, the greens argue. But nuclear power “worsens climate change,” says prominent environmentalist Amory Lovins in a new paper, because it diverts money away from alternative energy and efficiency efforts that would otherwise reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Adding insult to injury, Lovins also says that nuclear power is “grossly uncompetitive, unneeded and obsolete” and “weakens electric reliability and national security.”

The head of Maryland PIRG picked up on Lovins’ line of thinking, telling Carbon Control News (Aug. 8) that “efficiency programs and renewables such as wind and solar can provide more carbon-abatement per dollar while avoiding the downsides of nuclear power.”

The movement to block the Calvert Cliffs plant also has an international component. Greenpeace has taken its anti-nuclear jihad to Flamanville, Finland, where a private utility company is currently building a European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) — a safer, more reliable and cheaper next-generation reactor. But Greenpeace has alleged technical and safety problems with the EPR and misconduct in the Finns’ safety approval process. Though the Finnish regulatory authority has rejected the misconduct claims, it nevertheless announced that it plans further studies on the EPR’s safety.

This, of course, has delighted the opponents of the Calvert Cliffs expansion since the reactor that has been proposed to be built is an EPR.

And the greens aren’t just going after the Calvert Cliffs plant, they are turning their sights on the entire nuclear industry. No doubt this is a direct result of the industry’s effort to expand in the wake of global warming hysteria, which has taken the form of more than 20 applications to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency for new plant licenses.

Lovins claims “the nuclear industry’s sales pitch is false” and that “the supposed nuclear revival is a carefully manufactured illusion that seeks to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” The Natural Resources Defense Council has a “fact sheet” on its web site entitled “New Nuclear Power Plants Are Not a Solution for America’s Energy Needs.”

Environmental Defense ominously intones on its web site that, “Serious questions of safety, security, waste and proliferation surround the issue of nuclear power. Until these questions are resolved satisfactorily, Environmental Defense cannot support an expansion of nuclear generating capacity.”

The World Resources Institute says, “And while it can be argued that the actual risks of nuclear power are far lower than the perceived risks, and that coal-fired power plants have killed a far greater number of people than nuclear energy, most communities do not want nuclear plants nearby.”

While the nuclear industry has no reason to expect better treatment from activists like Lovins, shouldn’t it get at least a little friendly lip service from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the World Resources Institute — its lobbying partners in USCAP?Instead, these groups are happy to exploit the influence and resources of the likes of Exelon, FPL Group and NRG Energy to promote global warming regulation, but then feel no compunction about trying to tear down the partners it exploited.

Is the industry OK with such two-facedness? Will anyone complain or drop out of USCAP? We’ll see.

Meantime, it’s ironic and disturbing that the nuclear industry can figure out how to safely and productively harness the power of the atom, but it can’t figure out that lobbying with the enemy is a bad idea.

Steven Milloy, who publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com, is an advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

'Poisoned Profits': Recycled Junk Science

By Steven Milloy
August 7, 2008, FoxNews.com

Former New York Times environmental reporter Phil Shabecoff is so green he even recycles debunked health scares.

Shabecoff’s new book, “Poisoned Profits: How Corporate America Is Poisoning Our Children With Toxic Chemicals,” claims to “reveal the frightening and expanding dimension of children’s chronic illnesses in the U.S. and link this epidemic to industrial toxins.”

In attacking virtually every sort of industrial chemical, Shabecoff implies that almost all childhood illnesses, failed pregnancies and birth defects are attributable to the “42 billion pounds of chemicals per day” either made in or imported into the U.S.

Shabecoff asserts that industrial chemicals are barely regulated, companies “have knowingly put and kept toxic products on the market,” children are more vulnerable to chemicals, “no one is safe,” the health care costs attributable to chemicals exceed $100 billion annually, and that the solution is to go “chemical free.”

If Shabecoff’s book were turned into a movie, however, it would have to be titled, “The Night of the Living Dead — Chemical Boogeyman Edition.” Scares about all these substances have been debunked over and over during the last few decades.

This column has addressed most of the scares that Shabecoff tries to resurrect, including those about phthalates; bisphenol-A; flame retardants; triclosan; volatile organic compounds; PVC; PCBs; dioxin; pesticides; lead; mercury; rocket fuel; arsenic; antibiotics; and steroids.

Shabecoff’s attempted resurrection of these scares isn’t surprising given the usual suspects he digs up for interviews. They constitute a veritable Who’s Who of Junk Science, many of whom have been featured at one time or another in this column including: Charlotte Brody (Health Care Without Harm); Carol Browner; Richard Clapp; Devra Davis; Lois Gibbs; Lynn Goldman; Tyrone Hayes; Michael Jacobson; Philip Landrigan; Bruce Lanphear; John Peterson Myers; Herbert Needleman; Ellen Silbergeld; Shanna Swan; and Walter Willett.

And if Shabecoff didn’t personally interview a junk scientist, he cited their anti-chemical activism. Some of these individuals include: Erin Brockovich; Rachel Carson; Theo Colburn; Ken Cook (Environmental Working Group); David Michaels; Arnold Schecter; and Neils Skakkebaek.

And if these sources aren’t enough to cast doubt on “Poisoned Profits,” then there’s Shabecoff, himself, whom the uber-liberal New York Times reassigned from environmental reporting in 1991 because he was too green.

Then-Times Washington bureau chief Howell Raines told Shabecoff, “New York is complaining. You’re too pro-environment and they say you’re ignoring the costs of environmental protection. They want you to cover the [Internal Revenue Service],” according to a 1998 report in The Nation.

Shabecoff subsequently quit the Times. “Poisoned Profits,” therefore, is precisely what one might expect from a biased journalist who depends on dubious and discredited sources to breathe life into alleged “problems” that have escaped scientific detection despite more than 40 years and tens of billions of dollars of research.

When you think about it, Shabecoff’s hypothesis is really incredible. He suggests that, because we make or import more chemicals than ever before, emissions, exposures and risks to health are greater than ever before.

“There is abundant evidence that the trillions of pounds of hazardous pollutants that have been poured into the environment are, in all likelihood, responsible for much of the sickness, suffering and, too often, death of America’s children,” he writes.

And in the grand environmentalist tradition of hyperbolic imagery, his media release states, “The effect on children’s health is like a World Trade Center in slow motion.” But the facts don’t match up with Shabecoff’s hysterics.

First, industrial emissions and the public’s exposure to them have declined over the past few decades. Air emissions declined 67 percent between 1993 and 2002, emissions of volatile organic compounds declined by 50 percent from 1980 to 2007, and overall industrial releases to the environment declined 59 percent between 1988 and 2006, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

Contrary to Shabecoff’s claim of deteriorating public health, life expectancy, the most objective standard for measuring health, is the highest it has ever been across all race, age and gender groups, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall cancer incidence and death rates are declining, and childhood cancer rates are stable, according to the National Institutes of Health. Most importantly, there is not a single study that credibly links typical or legal industrial emissions to the environment as a cause of any disease in anyone, including children.

Shabecoff wrestles with this fact early in his book when he writes that “Often … the scientific evidence is cloudy.” But he quickly resolves his dilemma by suggesting a conspiracy among the chemical industry, politicians and government officials to ignore children’s health.

What follows are 200-plus pages of innuendo and half-truths. An example of Shabecoff’s penchant for omitting key facts arises when he praises environmental groups working “for” the children. He laments that “there is no sheriff leading this posse.”

He then nominates Mt. Sinai School of Medicine’s Philip Landrigan, “called by some the father of environmental pediatrics,” to assume the role. Landrigan chaired the National Research Council Committee that produced the 1993 “landmark” report Pesticides in the Diets of Infants and Children, a study that was used by activists to scare politicians into enacting the Food Quality Protection Act in 1996.

But anyone who actually read that report knows that it utterly failed to make any link between pesticides in food and health risk to children. Shabecoff’s hero was forced to publicly acknowledge in the wake of the report that “no disease has ever been documented that stems from legal applications of pesticides.”

The environmental scare movement started in 1962 with Rachel Carson’s anti-chemical screed, “Silent Spring.” It’s comforting to know that 46 years later the alarmist case against industrial chemicals remains evidence-free.

Pickens Gives New Meaning to 'Self-Government'

By Steven Milloy
July 31, 2008, FoxNews.com

The more you learn about T. Boone Pickens’ plan to switch America to wind power, the more you realize that he seems willing to say and do just about anything to make another billion or two.

This column previously discussed the plan’s technical and economic shortcomings and marketing ruses. Today, we’ll look into the diabolical machinations behind it.

Simply put, Pickens’ pitch is “embrace wind power to help break our ‘addiction’ to foreign oil.” There is, however, another intriguing component to Pickens’ plan that goes unmentioned in his TV commercials, media interviews and web site — water rights, which he owns more of than any other American.

Pickens hopes that his recent $100 million investment in 200,000 acres worth of groundwater rights in Roberts County, Texas, located over the Ogallala Aquifer, will earn him $1 billion. But there’s more to earning such a profit than simply acquiring the water. Rights-of-way must be purchased to install pipelines, and opposition from anti-development environmental groups must be overcome. Here’s where it gets interesting, according to information compiled by the Water Research Group, a small grassroots group focusing on local water issues in Texas.

Purchasing rights-of-way is often expensive and time-consuming — and what if landowners won’t sell? While private entities may be frustrated, governments can exercise eminent domain to compel sales. This is Pickens’ route of choice. But wait, you say, Pickens is not a government entity. How can he use eminent domain? Are you sitting down?

At Pickens’ behest, the Texas legislature changed state law to allow the two residents of an 8-acre parcel of land in Roberts County to vote to create a municipal water district, a government agency with eminent domain powers. Who were the voters? They were Pickens’ wife and the manager of Pickens’ nearby ranch. And who sits on the board of directors of this water district? They are the parcel’s three other non-resident landowners, all Pickens’ employees.

A member of a local water conservation board told Bloomberg News that, “[Pickens has] obtained the right of eminent domain like he was a big city. It’s supposed to be for the public good, not a private company.”

What’s this got to do with Pickens’ wind-power plan? Just as he needs pipelines to sell his water, he also needs transmission lines to sell his wind-generated power. Rights of way for transmission lines are also acquired through eminent domain — and, once again, the Texas legislature has come to Pickens’ aid.

Earlier this year, Texas changed its law to allow renewable energy projects (like Pickens’ wind farm) to obtain rights-of-way by piggybacking on a water district’s eminent domain power. So Pickens can now use his water district’s authority to also condemn land for his future wind farm’s transmission lines.

Who will pay for the rights-of-way and the transmission lines and pipelines? Thanks to another gift from Texas politicians, Pickens’ water district can sell tax-free, taxpayer-guaranteed municipal bonds to finance the $2.2 billion cost of the water pipeline. And then earlier this month, the Texas legislature voted to spend $4.93 billion for wind farm transmission lines. While Pickens has denied that this money is earmarked for him, he nevertheless is building the largest wind farm in the world.

Despite this legislative largesse, a fly in the ointment remains.

Although Pickens hopes to sell as much as $165 million worth of water annually to Dallas alone, no city in Texas has signed up yet — partly because they don’t yet need the water and partly because of resentment against water profiteering.

Enter the Sierra Club.

While Green groups support wind power, “the privatization of water is an entirely different thing,” says the Sierra Club. Moreover, the activist group has long opposed further exploitation of the very groundwater Pickens wants to use — the Ogallala Aquifer.

“The source of drinking water and irrigation for Plains residents from Nebraska to Texas, the Ogallala Aquifer is one of the world’s largest — as well as one of the most rapidly dissipating… If current irrigation practices continue, agribusiness will deplete the Ogallala Aquifer in the next century,” says the Sierra Club.

In March 2002, the Sierra Club opposed the construction of a slaughterhouse in Pampa, Texas, because it would require a mere 275 million gallons per year from the Ogallala Aquifer. Yet Pickens wants to sell 65 billion gallons of water per year — to Dallas alone. In a 2004 lamentation about local government facilitation of Pickens’ plan for the Ogallala, the Sierra Club slammed Pickens as a “junk bond dealer” who wanted to make “Blue Gold” from the Ogallala.

But while the Sierra Club can’t seem to do anything about Pickens’ influence with state legislators, they do have enough influence to make his water politically unpotable. This opposition may soon abate, however, now that Pickens has buddied up with Sierra Club president Carl Pope.

As noted last week, Pope now flies in Pickens’ private jet and publicly lauds him. The two are newly-minted “friends,” since Pope needs the famous Republican oilman to lend propaganda value to the Sierra Club’s anti-oil agenda and Pickens needs Pope to ease up on the Ogallala water opposition.

This alliance isn’t sitting well with everyone on the Left.

A TreeHugger.com writer recently observed, “… I am left asking myself why the green media have neglected [the water] aspect of Pickens’ wind-farm plans? Have we been so distracted by the prospect of Texas’ renewable energy portfolio growing by 4000 megawatts that we are willing to overlook some potentially dodgy aspects to the project?”

It shouldn’t sit well with the rest of us either. Pickens has gamed Texas for his own ends, and now he’s trying to game the rest of us, too. Worse, his gamesmanship includes lending his billionaire resources, prominent stature and feudal powers bestowed upon him by the Texas legislature to help the Greens gain control over the U.S. energy supply.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Is T. Boone Pickens 'Swiftboating' America?

By Steven Milloy
July 24, 2008, FoxNews.com

Liberals have done a U-turn on conservative billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens.

Formerly reviled for funding the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” campaign against Sen. John Kerry, he’s now adored by the Left — unfortunately, for trying to gaslight the rest of us on energy policy.

This column recently spotlighted Pickens’ proposed plan to get America off foreign oil by substituting wind-generated electricity for natural gas-generated electricity and then using the natural gas to replace gasoline.

Already having addressed the proposal’s flaws — and Pickens’ plan to profit at taxpayer expense from it — let’s consider how Pickens’ marketing shades the truth.

On his Web site and in TV commercials, Pickens tries to frighten Americans about being “addicted to foreign oil.”

“In 1970, we imported 24 percent of our oil. Today, it’s nearly 70 percent and growing,” he intones.

Aside from the fact that the Department of Energy (DOE) puts the import figure at a more moderate 58 percent, Pickens gives the impression that imported oil is scary because it all comes from the unstable Mideast.

His TV commercials feature images of American soldiers fighting in Iraq and he likens the annual $700 billion cost of foreign oil to “four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.”

But hold the phone. Only 16 percent of our imported oil comes from the Persian Gulf — barely up from 13.6 percent in 1973, according to the DOE. Imports from OPEC countries are actually down — from 47.8 percent in 1973 to 44.5 percent in 2007.

Contrary to Pickens’ assertion that oil imports are growing, the DOE expects oil imports to decrease by 10 percent by 2030.

Pickens tries to shame Americans because, “America uses a lot of oil … That’s 25 percent of the world’s oil demand, used by just 4 percent of the world population.”

Some might think these figures make us sound greedy and wasteful.

But what Pickens omitted to mention is that the size of the U.S. economy in 2007 was about $13.8 trillion and the size of the global economy was $54.3 trillion.

This means that the U.S. economy represents about 25.4 percent of the global economy. So what’s the problem if a nation that produces 25 percent of the world’s goods and services needs 25 percent of the world’s oil output?

Would he prefer that we shrink our economy by 84 percent to match our share of world population?

Pickens plays the hope-squasher.

“Can’t we just produce more oil?” he asks. “The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone,” he responds.

But there are hundreds of billions of barrels of oil in the form of oil tar sands and oil shale in North America, not to mention the more than one hundred billion barrels of oil in the outer continental shelf of the U.S. and on public lands like the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve (ANWR).

And don’t forget that coal-to-liquids technology can convert our 268 billion tons of coal into 20 times the nation’s current crude oil reserves, according to investment analysts. We have liquid fuels to burn.

While producing this oil may not be as easy as it was in 1859, when crude oil bubbled out of the ground in northwest Pennsylvania, it is much more feasible and far less expensive than Pickens’ fantasy of replicating the entire existing U.S. wind supply system every year for the next 15 years in addition to building the national infrastructure for natural-gas filling stations.

Finally, Pickens laments the $700 billion (less at current oil prices) “wealth transfer” from America to foreigners every year because of our “addiction.”

But is he also concerned about our “addiction” to other imports?

In 2007, the U.S. merchandise trade deficit — the difference between imports of goods from and exports of goods to foreign countries — exceeded $815 billion.

Contrary to Pickens’ demagoguery, “wealth transfer” is a term generally used in the context of estate planning, where money is simply “gifted” to heirs.

Our purchases of foreign oil, in contrast, are more reasonably known as “trade” — and trade is good.

Americans are not simply petro-junkies who mainline crude oil for the masochistic high of watching gas pump numbers spin faster. We produce goods and services with imported oil more than any other people on this planet.

Pickens’ bad-mouthing of our use of oil sounds like it comes from Al Gore and his fellow Democrats and extreme Greens — and guess who Pickens’ new friends are?

Pickens told the National Journal that, “I think I would be for Al Gore for energy czar [in an Obama administration].”

Pickens said that he and Gore agree on about 95 percent of their respective energy plans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Pickens to speak before the Democratic Caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that, while Pickens was once a “mortal enemy,” they are now friends because of the oilman’s conversion to alternative energy.

Then there’s Carl Pope, the head of the Sierra Club, who not only flies in Pickens’ private jet but writes paeans about him on the liberal Huffington Post blog.

“T. Boone Pickens is out to save America,” Pope wrote on July 3.

It would have been more accurate, perhaps, for Pope to write that “Pickens is out to make billions of dollars for himself and to save the Sierra Club’s anti-coal, anti-oil, anti-natural gas agenda.”

Lastly, the New York Times rhapsodized about Pickens in an editorial this week.

Pickens’ involvement in the alleged swiftboating of John Kerry seems to have been forgiven and forgotten by the paper. But the Times went absolutely over-the-top when it observed that the billionaire Pickens wasn’t in it for the money because “he doesn’t really need it.”

It’s too bad we can’t generate electricity from such hilarity, half-truths and hypocrisy. Pickens and his new friends could power us — as Buzz Lightyear might say — to infinity and beyond.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Conservation Nation?

By Steven Milloy
July 17, 2008, FoxNews.com

President Bush almost got it right this week when he declined to call on Americans to conserve energy. Sadly, he still seems to think that conservation is a win-win proposition; worse, so do both major presidential candidates.

A reporter, saying the energy debate will continue into the next administration, told President Bush that “one thing nobody debates is that if Americans use less energy the current supply/demand equation would improve. Why have you not sort of called on Americans to drive less and to turn down the thermostat?”

Bush responded: “They’re smart enough to figure out whether they’re going to drive less or not … it’s interesting what the price of gasoline has done, is it caused people to drive less. That’s why they want smaller cars, they want to conserve. But the consumer is plenty bright. … The marketplace works.

“Secondly, we have worked with Congress to change CAFE standards and had a mandatory alternative fuel requirement,” he continued. “One way to correct the imbalance is to save, is to conserve. … I talked about good conservation. And people can figure out whether they need to drive more or less; they can balance their own checkbooks.”

“But you don’t see the need to ask? You don’t see the value of your calling for a campaign?” the reporter persisted.

“I think people ought to conserve and be wise about how they use gasoline and energy … and there’s some easy steps people can take. You know, if they’re not in their home, they don’t keep their air-conditioning running,” Bush said, adding that “it’s a little presumptuous on my part to dictate to consumers how they live their lives.”

While muddled thinking thrives on both sides of this exchange — the current crisis is about $4-plus gasoline, not electricity, and while Bush says he won’t tell Americans to conserve, he still boasts of mandatory fuel efficiency standards — it should tee up the issue of conservation for debate.

The reporter positioned conservation as an indisputable virtue. But is it? Is conservation good public policy?

For individuals, conservation is better described as a “necessity” rather than a “virtue.” People use less gasoline not because they want to or because it makes them feel good or so that someone else can use more, but because prices have spiked and they’ve been forced to drive less or drive smaller cars. Need is not virtue.

Conservation also isn’t necessarily a virtue for those consumers who are unfazed by $4 gasoline, but nevertheless vainly choose to conserve to achieve some imagined “greater purpose,” such as “saving the planet” or “reducing our dependence on foreign oil.” This is, in fact, where conservation becomes, if anything, an anti-virtue.

In our modern society, using less gasoline means doing less and, most importantly, it means spending less. It means fewer shopping trips, less eating out, fewer pleasure trips and less employment in those businesses to where you drive.

It means fewer cars, pleasure boats and airplanes, and fewer jobs in the industries that manufacture those goods. Using less gasoline means engaging in less economic activity.

If you don’t remember the 1970s and very early 1980s, the last time conservation was all the rage, consider that every economic slowdown of the last 35 years, that is, the recessions of 1973-1975, 1979-1980, 1981-1982 and 1990-1991, has been associated with, if not caused by, a decline in oil consumption.

Whenever oil consumption increased, GDP did, too. The same goes for total energy consumption.

Additionally, conservation policies have undesirable side effects. Higher fuel efficiency standards result in lighter, more dangerous cars. Airtight, energy-efficient buildings — like the ones constructed during the 1970s — produced a host of indoor air quality problems such as “sick building syndrome” and asthma-causing cockroach allergens in public housing.

But if we keep burning more and more gasoline, won’t we run out or become even more dependent on foreign oil? That can only happen if we continue to permit the greens to dictate national energy policy.

Not only does the United States have vast reserves of oil offshore and on public lands, our Western state oil shale holds twice the oil as the Mideast. Although Canadian oil counts as “foreign oil,” our neighbor to the north is the Saudi Arabia of oil from tar sands.

There is plenty of oil at home and nearby that we can access to fuel vital economic growth — but the greens won’t let us.

But shouldn’t we conserve our oil resources for future generations?

Well, as Barack Obama might say — that is, if he could break away from the maximum security prison of green-think — “We are the generation that we’ve been waiting for.”

First, if the greens won’t let us use our oil now, why would they in the future? Won’t they always tell people to conserve or to wait for some fantasy alternative fuel or magical car battery?

Next, future generations are very likely to have improved energy technologies that are less or not at all dependent on oil.

Finally, if you think conservation will lead to less oil being used worldwide, think again. China, India and other rapidly developing countries plan to use all the oil they can get. If we don’t buy Canadian tar sands oil, India will buy it to fuel their $2,500 Tata cars.

If we don’t drill off the coast of Florida, others will, like the foreign oil companies working with Cuba.

Despite the self-defeating nature of conservation, both Sens. Obama and McCain are all for it. McCain calls it a “critical national goal.” Obama wants to give incentives for it.

These two ought to remember the sweater-wearing Jimmy Carter and think twice about promoting a national policy of malaise.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The Wind Cries 'Bailout!'

By Steven Milloy
July 10, 2008, FoxNews.com

Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens launched a media blitz this week to announce his plan for us “to escape the grip of foreign oil.” Now he’s got himself stuck between a crock and a wind farm.

Announced via TV commercials, media interviews, a July 9 Wall Street Journal op-ed and a Web site, Pickens wants to substitute wind power for the natural gas used to produce about 22 percent of our electricity and then to substitute natural gas for the conventional gasoline used to power vehicles.

Pickens claims this plan can be accomplished within 10 years, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, reduce the cost of transportation, create thousands of jobs, reduce our carbon footprint and “build a bridge to the future, giving us time to develop new technologies.”

It sounds great and gets even better, according to Pickens. Don’t sweat the cost, he says, “It will be accomplished solely through private investment with no new consumer or corporate taxes or government regulation.” What’s not to like?

First, it’s worth noting Pickens’ claim made in the op-ed that his plan requires no new government regulation. Two sentences later, however, he calls on Congress to “mandate” wind power and its subsidies. Next, Pickens relies on a 2008 Department of Energy study claiming the U.S. could generate 20 percent of its electricity from wind by 2030.

Setting aside the fact that the report was produced in consultation with the wind industry, the 20-by-2030 goal is quite fanciful.

Even if wind technology significantly improves, electrical transmission systems (how electricity gets from the power source to you) are greatly expanded and environmental obstacles (such as environmentalists who protest wind turbines as eyesores and bird-killing machines) can be overcome, the viability of wind power depends on where, when and how strong the wind blows — none of which is predictable.

Wind farm-siting depends on the long-term forecasting of wind patterns, but climate is always changing. When it comes to wind power, it is not simply “build it and the wind will come.” Even the momentary loss of wind can be a problem. As Reuters reported on Feb. 27, “Loss of wind causes Texas power grid emergency.”

The electric grid operator was forced to curtail 1,100 megawatts of power to customers within 10 minutes. Wind isn’t a standalone power source. It needs a Plan B for when the wind “just don’t blow.”

This contrasts with coal- or gas-fired electrical power, which can be produced on demand and as needed. A great benefit of modern technology is that it liberates us from Mother Nature’s harsh whims. Pickens wants to re-enslave us with 12th century technology.

Then there’s the cost of the 20-by-2030 goal — $43 billion more than the cost of non-wind assets, according to the DOE — and this doesn’t include many billions of dollars more for additional transmission lines. Could the 20-by-2030 goal even be accomplished?

According to Electric Utility Week on June 9, a DOE official informed attendees at a June wind industry meeting that reaching the goal would entail replicating the entire existing U.S. wind system (about 17,000 megawatts of capacity constructed over the past decade) every year starting in 2018.

What about Pickens’ plan to shift us into natural gas vehicles? Well, they cost a lot more: an extra $3,000 to $6,000 for cars and $30,000 to $40,000 for buses and trucks. There are only about 1,300 natural gas refueling stations in the U.S., as compared with about 180,000 conventional gas stations — that’s a lot of infrastructure to build and finance. Will Pickens’ plan reduce our dependence on foreign oil? Doubtful.

Even if the fleet of natural gas-powered vehicles is enlarged, the bulk of existing and new vehicles will continue to depend for the foreseeable future on gasoline. Americans own about 260 million vehicles, a total that grows by more than 3 million vehicles every year.

Turnover is low as about 60 percent are owned for more than seven years. Besides, as demand for natural gas increases, so will prices. In the Washington, D.C., area, natural gas is already about two-thirds as costly as gasoline — and that’s with hardly any demand.

None of these facts and circumstances are new to Pickens. So what’s up with him?

Not only does Pickens’ firm, BP capital, have significant investments in natural gas, but last June he announced plans to build the world’s largest wind farm in west Texas, capable of producing 4,000 megawatts of electricity.

The federal government subsidizes wind farm operators with a tax credit worth 1.9 cents per kilowatt hour — potentially making for a tidy annual taxpayer gift to Pickens based on his anticipated capacity. But all is not well in Wind Subsidy-land.

Since Congress didn’t renew the wind subsidy as part of the 2007 energy bill, it will expire at the end of this year unless reauthorized. Subsidies are perhaps more important to the wind industry than wind itself. Without them, wind can’t compete against fossil fuel-generated power.

As pointed out by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on July 9, “In 1999, 2001 and 2003, when Congress temporarily killed the credits, the number of new turbines dropped dramatically.”

It’s little wonder that Pickens is waging a $58 million PR campaign to promote his plan. If it works, his short-term gain will be saving the tax credit and his wind farm investment.

In the long-term, he stands to line his already overflowing pockets with hard-earned taxpayer dollars. What will the rest of us get from this T. Boone-doggle? That’s anybody’s guess, but it probably won’t be cheaper energy, energy independence or a cleaner environment.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.