Candidates don't come clean on coal

By Steven Milloy
October 16, 2008,

A squabble about “clean coal” has broken among the presidential candidates. Neither side has leveled with voters.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden kicked off the controversy in September when he commented at an Ohio campaign stop that, “We’re not supporting clean coal.” He then had to back track since Barack Obama supports clean coal, as he reiterated in last week’s second presidential debate. Then, at a rally in Scranton, Pa. this week, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin jumped in the fray saying that, “So whether Joe Biden approves it or not, John McCain is going to develop clean coal technology here in America…”

It’s a lot of hot air about an idea that is unlikely to go anywhere fast.

The “clean coal” debate is about air emissions from power plants that burn coal to generate electricity. Nowadays when the candidates talk about “clean coal,” they’re not talking so much about power plant emissions of particulate matter (soot), sulfur dioxide (SOX) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) so much as they are that great global warming boogeyman, carbon dioxide (CO2). When the candidates say they support “clean coal,” they’re talking about technologies that would capture CO2 emissions before they are emitted into the air and then store them permanently underground. The shorthand for this process is “carbon capture and storage.”

But the technology for simply capturing carbon dioxide isn’t ready for prime time and won’t be anytime soon — if ever — on the sort of commercial scale that would need to occur for it to make any sense. The main problem is cost. The most promising technology for CO2 capture is called IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle). But the cost of building a power plant with IGCC technology to capture 90 percent of the CO2 generated is 47 percent higher than that for traditional power plant, according to a July 2006 study by the EPA.

Capturing CO2 imposes a cost amounting to about $24 per ton. At the largest U.S. power plant which emits about 25 million tons of CO2 annually, the extra cost would be $600 million per year. For all U.S. coal-fired power plants, which emit a total of more than 2.2 billion tons annually, the cost would be a staggering $52 billion per year. Passing along the capital and operating costs to consumers would raise electricity prices by almost 40 percent according to the EPA. And since the EPA is not known for overestimating costs, the actual cost is likely to be much higher and even more difficult to pass on to consumers.

So it’s no wonder that private investors have shunned IGCC technology, forcing its promoters to rely on government subsidies. But even those are vanishing. Earlier this year, the deep-pocketed federal government pulled out of the FutureGen project — a pilot effort to build and operate the first zero-emissions, coal-fired power plant — because of cost.

Capturing CO2 is hardly the end of the game, however. The gas has to be stored somewhere, after all. But where would you store the approximately 1.2 trillion cubic meters of CO2 produced annually produced by the nation’s coal-fired power plants?

Underground geological repositories, like saline formations and depleted oil and gas fields are being considered. But it’s not at all clear that these potential repositories could reliably hold vast and ever-increasing amounts of CO2 forever without leaking and without polluting surrounding groundwater. CO2 leaching into groundwater would acidify it. Then there’s the possibility of explosion. In August 1986, a natural formation of CO2 under Cameroon’s Lake Nyos exploded killing hundreds of people.

If repositories are identified, we’d need a nationwide network of pipelines to pump the CO2, oftentimes, hundreds of miles from power plants. This would be a massive project that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars factoring in the acquisition of rights of way, construction, operations, maintenance and environmental monitoring costs.

Keep in mind that much energy would be needed to pump CO2 long distances through pipelines which would have to be kept dry to prevent corrosion and leak-free to prevent groundwater pollution requiring expensive cleanup. Rest assured that environmentalists and trial lawyers would be monitoring for leaks.

Past the cost and technical challenges, there’s the public acceptance problem. A July 2008 report from the Congressional Research Service concluded that CO2 pipelines and storage may give local communities much gas.

Even if all the aforementioned problems were solved, perhaps the most daunting obstacle remains — the Greens. One of the most powerful special interest lobbies of our time, the Greens don’t like coal even if it is “clean.” Obama endorser and Natural Resources Defense Counsel attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for example, says that “there is no such thing as clean coal.” He alleges that the “true costs” of coal include “dead forests and sterilized lakes from acid rain, poisoned fisheries in 49 states and children with damaged brains and crippled health from mercury emissions, millions of asthma attacks and lost work days and thousands dead annually from ozone and particulates.” An e-mail alert from Greenpeace ahead of this week’s final presidential debate called clean coal a “myth” since coal mining “destroys mountains and forests and pollutes America.”

The irony is that coal — which is used to provide about one-half of our electricity — is already burned cleanly and safely in the U.S. with existing pollution control equipment and enforcement of government regulations, regardless of what hysterical Greens claim. There is no credible evidence to the contrary.

So beware of politicians talking about “clean coal” — it’s just another promise they couldn’t keep even if they tried.

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

Five-Star Green Hypocrisy

By Steve Milloy
October 09, 2008,

Move over Al Gore. Swankier carbon charlatanism has come to town in the form of the World Wildlife Fund’s luxury getaway called “Around the World: A Private Jet Expedition.”

“Join us on a remarkable 25-day journey by luxury private jet,” invites the WWF in a brochure for its voyage to “some of the most astonishing places on the planet to see top wildlife, including gorillas, orangutans, rhinos, lemurs and toucans.”

For a price tag that starts at $64,950 per person, travelers will meet at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, Fla. on April 6, 2009 and then fly to “remote corners” of the world on a “specially outfitted jet that carries just 88 passengers in business-class comfort.” “World class experts — including WWF’s director of species conservation — will provide lectures en route, and a professional staff will be devoted to making your global adventure seamless and memorable.” Travelers will visit the Amazon Rain Forest in Brazil, Easter Island, Samoa, Borneo, Laos, Nepal, Madagascar, Namibia, Uganda or Rwanda, and finish up at the luxury Dorchester Hotel in London.

This is the very same WWF that says “the current growth in [carbon dioxide] emissions must be stopped as soon as possible” and that blames Americans for emitting 21 percent of global CO2 emissions even though the U.S. accounts for only 5 percent of the global population. In December 2007, the WWF launched its “Earth Hour” campaign, a global initiative in which cities and communities simultaneously turn out their lights for one hour “to symbolize their leadership and commitment to finding solutions for climate change.”

So how does this fantasy trip square with the WWF’s alarmist rhetoric?

Using the carbon footprint calculator on the WWF’s own web site, the 36,800-mile trip in a Boeing 757 jet will burn about 100,000 gallons of jet fuel to produce roughly 1,231 tons of CO2 in 25 days — that’s the equivalent of putting about 1,560 SUVs on the road during those three-plus weeks and that doesn’t even include emissions related to local air, ground and water transport and other amenities.

The WWF laments on its web site that the average American produces 19.6 tons of CO2 annually, which is nearly five times the world average of 3.9 tons per person. But during the WWF’s posh excursion, travelers will produce 14 tons of CO2 per person. That’s 71 percent of the average American carbon footprint and 360 percent of the average global footprint in a mere three-and-one-half weeks. But who’s counting — especially when you’re in “19 rows of spacious leather seats with full ergonomic support” enjoying “gourmet meals, chilled champagne [and] your own chef.”

I guess those are the rules when you’re one of WWF’s wealthy donors, but now contrast this with the how the WWF says the rest of us should live our lives. The group’s web site states that “It clearly is time for all Americans to roll up their sleeves, to take steps to reduce emissions, to prepare for climate change, and to encourage others to do the same.”

We, the masses, should — nay, must — use compact fluorescent light bulbs, reduce hot water use, turn thermostats down in the winter and up in the summer and use low-flow shower heads and faucets. We should pledge to commute by car pool or mass transit, switch to “green power,” and get more fuel efficient cars. We should make our lives more expensive and less convenient so that the Green elites don’t feel too guilty while jet-setting to exotic locales.

Maybe, you’re thinking, the WWF plans to makes its trip “carbon neutral” by purchasing carbon offsets — after all, the group does offer a carbon offset calculator on its web site under the heading “Join WWF in our mission to save life on Earth.” But neither the trip brochure nor the WWF web site mentions that any offsets will be purchased — and there seems to be good reason for that.

According to the WWF’s calculator, it would cost in excess of $44,000 to offset the carbon emissions from the jet travel alone. Then there’s the September 2008 report from the General Accounting Office which concluded that the carbon offset market lacked credibility. The Republican leader of the congressional committee requesting the report commented that “that the lack of standardization of offsets and fundamental problems assessing and verifying credibility, leave consumers in the dark and exposed to waste, fraud, and abuse.” Former Clinton official Joseph Romm wrote on his blog that, “the vast majority of offsets are, at some level, just rip-offsets.”

The Greens are apparently reluctant to fall for their own scams.

If you can’t make the WWF’s private jet expedition, the group offers a wide variety of other pricey, carbon-spewing tours. You might be interested in the WWF trip to the Galapagos or Fiji Islands, where you’re less likely to run into pesky downscale local tourists. The WWF has called for limitations on local tourism in the Galapagos and Fiji Islands saying that it causes greater environmental damage than “larger tourist operations” — like the WWF’s.

I’ve been thinking that WWF’s bandit-like panda bear was an appropriate logo given the group’s promotion of “rip-offsets.” But now, I think that a new logo may be in order — perhaps a hippo-crite?

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

Greens Exploit Wall Street Bailout

By Steven Milloy
October 02, 2008,

Will the Wall Street bailout be the beginning of the New (Green) Deal?

Environmental activists are trying to figure out ways to advance their global-warming-regulation agenda by exploiting the current financial crisis, including the Wall Street bailout bill to be voted on by the House.

The good news for them is that they may not need to succeed, since someone with a very Green agenda will be in charge of implementing the bill should it become law.

As reported by Carbon Control News (Sep. 24), “Environmentalists and some Democrats are seizing upon the financial sector crisis to call for major federal investments in energy efficiency and improvements in the electricity grid as a way to address climate change and spur a lagging economy.”

Michael Moynihan, former Clinton administration economic adviser and director of the Green Project for the New Democrat Network, has called for a national infrastructure bank to fund clean energy projects.

Following up on this idea, two house Democrats introduced a bill last week to establish a “Clean Energy Investment Bank.”

Although Moynihan claims this would be an improvement over the current earmark system, the bank seems to be little more than a permanent Green earmark.

The activist group Friends of the Earth (FoE) is lobbying for the Treasury Department to conduct global-warming impact reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) — the federal law requiring federal agencies to conduct environmental-impact studies of their actions.

Through its citizen-lawsuit provisions, the Greens often use NEPA to block energy, highway and logging projects that involve federal agencies and lands.

FoE claims that as the Treasury Department becomes a significant shareholder in financial institutions that it bails out, it would be obligated to carry out environmental impact studies since, to some extent, the activities of those financial institutions would also be activities of the Treasury Department.

“Subjecting entities that receive financial backing from taxpayers to NEPA could provide a hook for environmentalists to force greater scrutiny of actions by those entities that increase greenhouse gas emissions, including the underwriting of fossil fuel projects,” reported Carbon Control News (Sep. 26)

Anti-nuclear Greens are trying to use the recent bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers to block the construction of the first nuclear reactor built in the U.S. in 30 years.

This column previously reported on how the Greens are trying to stop Maryland from permitting the construction of a third reactor at Constellation Energy’s Calvert Cliffs power plant by arguing that emission-less nuclear power actually worsens global warming.

Lehman’s bankruptcy raised concerns about the financial health of Constellation, leading to a buy-out offer from the Warren Buffet-led Mid-American Energy Holdings Company.

The Greens called for the project to be halted “in light of the nation’s worsening financial crisis and serious concerns about the stability of the company building the project,” according to Carbon Control News (Sep. 26).

Monday’s rejection of the Wall Street bailout bill by the House has opened the door for the alternative-energy industry to again try to renew the tax credits about to expire for wind power projects such as the Pickens Plan.

The Senate bill passed Wednesday night extends the much-lobbied-for tax credit.

New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman called on Congress to “Green the Bailout” (Sep. 28).

Friedman quoted a green-collar jobs proponent who said, “You can’t base a national economy on credit cards. But you can base it on solar panels, wind turbines, smart biofuels and a massive program to weatherize every building and home in America.”

Finally, even if none of these provisions make it into the bailout bill, the Greens will likely be able to count on Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson to implement their agenda for them.

The former head of Goldman Sachs — who simultaneously headed up the Nature Conservancy and recently told Fortune magazine that action on global warming is crucial to the U.S. — is no stranger to using “other people’s money” to implement the Green agenda on land secured by distressed debt.

Paulson could use bailout money to purchase debt securities that are secured by property either coveted by Greens or targeted for energy or natural resource development projects that the Greens oppose.

Once the U.S. Government owns the securities (and, thereby, the property) an omnipotent Paulson could essentially take the land out of circulation by “preserving” it as public land.

He could even claim — through the economic device of “contingent valuation” — that the acquired land has more value as pristine public land than as, say, an energy or logging project.

Contingent valuation uses opinion surveys to value intangible assets for which there is no market, such as scenic views and crystal-clear air.

Respondents are asked hypothetical questions like, “How much would you pay to preserve a seashore view from oil drilling?” or “How much is it worth to keep a forest pristine and un-logged?”

Though the whole process is pretend — the respondents know they won’t actually spend any of their own money for this preservation — the government uses the method to establish monetary values of preserved lands.

It doesn’t take too much imagination to see how contingent valuation could be used to gin up phony bailout profits through land preservation.

Paulson has already said that he would bequeath the bulk of his fortune — in the neighborhood of $500 to $800 million — to Green causes.

Imagine what he would be willing to do with your money.

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

Picking on the Pickens Plan?

By Steven Milloy
September 25, 2008,

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 and 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,

“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 and 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,

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 and 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,

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, 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 and 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,

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 and 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,

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 and, 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,

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,

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 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 and He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.