Use my guestbook as a Gaia Brain and Cronkite Draft forum


NewsHour Forum posted my question, edited somewhat, on September 12th. Did they edit faithfully? I think so. Did the guests answer the questions? I think not. You decide.

My submission

Question to Carol Browner and Paul Beckner:

Don't we all own the air and water? Shouldn't everyone share in deciding what levels of pollution are acceptable? Whatever the actual level of pollution we decide to permit, wouldn't a fee-based system be the most efficient and fair way to acheive that goal?

I expected Citizens for a Sound Economy to be promoting pollution fees, because they were promoting 'free market mechanisms' as the best way to respond to environmental problems, but after reading the Environmental Reform section of their web site and searching on 'pollution fees', I saw that they either did not mention pollution fees at all, or seemed to be OPPOSED to this market-based method of emissions reduction.

The message I got from CSE was that we should wait until 'all the facts are in on global warming' before taking action to address that problem. This is a call to inaction. All facts will never be in. We are not God. We cannot know everything. (Some say God is Society. This is fitting. We come closest to omniscience by weighing the opinions of everyone.) What we need is to arrange our human affairs such that our activities do not make it impossible for other inhabitants of this earth and future generations of human beings to live their lives and enjoy a reasonably comfortable 'standard of living'.

From Citizens for a Sound Economy environmental principles:

Respect for private property must be reestablished. The Constitution requires that property owners be fairly compensated should the government take property for any purpose. Property owners whose land use is restricted for environmental reasons by the government must be fairly compensated.
Question for Paul Beckner:

When property owners do things that adversely affect others' property, is it appropriate to require them to pay compensation to those who are harmed? When property owners clearcut a forest or pave a portion of the earth's surface, their actions have repercussions beyond their property lines. The quality of water in a watershed is affected in either case. Air quality is adversely affected by anyone who burns fuel. Does the community have any claim against a property owner whose actions adversely affect community property--air and water?

Quoting CSE agaian:

"CSE supports regulatory reform that will enable Americans to regain control over the regulatory process. Federal agencies should be required to conduct risk assessments prior to issuing proposed regulations to ensure that benefits outweigh the costs. Reforming the process will help create jobs, help consumers, and improve U.S. competitiveness."
Because the value of a breath of fresh air is a highly subjective thing, we cannot hope to ever have a complete balance sheet of benefit vs. cost unless we are actually polling and weighing the opinions of everyone as to what we ought to allow in the way of pollution. When the people's expressed wishes dictate the number of pollution permits, (when the people REALLY control the regulatory procecss), and when the free market allocates those permits, we will acheive the greatest benefit at the lowesst cost.

CSE response to EPA Action plan on Global Warming:

"Conclusion:

The current lack of consensus within the scientific community concerning the impact of man-made emissions, as well as the significant economic impacts of binding mandates for greenhouse gas reductions, make it imperative that the federal government carefully weigh the levying of new taxes and the implementation of new regulations against any supposed environmental gains. Until all the facts are in on global warming, the Clinton administration should not pursue measures that threaten to export America's job market, add to an already crippling tax burden, undermine our industrial capacity, or downgrade our present standard of living."

Is it possible that we are maintaining our present standard of living only by consuming the resource base that future generations will need to rely on to sustain THEIR lives?


Article describing a fee-based system for allocating natural resources, and implications of such a system:

http://www.oocities.com/athens/1942/gaia.html

Shorter Gaia Brain version:

http://www.oocities.com/athens/1942/gaiap.html



My submission, (after NewsHour editing), and 'responses' from Carol Browner and Paul Beckner:

A question from John Champagne of San Antonio, Texas:

Don't we all own the air and water? Shouldn't everyone share in deciding what levels of pollution are acceptable? Whatever the actual level of pollution we decide to permit, wouldn't a fee-based system be the most efficient and fair way to achieve that goal?

Carol Browner of the Environmental Protection Agency responds:

All Americans have an interest in clean air and water, and everyone should and does share in deciding what levels of pollution are acceptable. Through our representatives in Congress, everyone's interests are taken into account and are reflected in the laws such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts.

The Clean Air Act, for example, requires that the EPA review the national ambient air quality standards every five years to ensure that they are based on the latest scientific knowledge. Based on such knowledge, the Act requires that these standards, such as the standards for ozone and particulate matter, protect public health with an adequate margin of safety, as well as protect the environment from adverse effects. The Act further requires that an independent science advisory committee, comprised of experts in various fields, review the science and the standards, and provide their advice and recommendations to me as to whether any changes are appropriate to ensure the protections required by the Act. This extensive scientific review process is open to the public, and provides an opportunity for all interested parties to have input into this decision making process. Further, once I propose a decision based on the science and the advice that I receive through this scientific review process, I encourage the public to comment on the proposal so that a full range of views can be taken into account in making a final decision.

In the case of the ozone and particulate matter national ambient air quality standards, the decision to strengthen these standards was based on hundreds of peer reviewed scientific studies, the advice and recommendations of my scientific advisors, and consideration of more than 55,000 comments from the public. I believe that these decisions, and the process that we use to reach these decisions, reflect the interests of the public in deciding upon appropriate heath standards, both through direct comments and indirectly through the law passed by Congress which guides our actions. This scientifically sound and fair approach helps achieve the best public health and the environmental protection for all Americans. Fee-based systems, where companies or individuals are charged according to how much they pollute, are one of many economic tools that states can choose to reduce air pollution. Emission trading systems, another market-based approach, have significantly reduced sulfur dioxide emissions which cause acid rain. EPA used a fee-based system to phase-out Chloroflurocarbons (CFCs), chemicals that harm the earths protective ozone layer.


A question from John Champagne of San Antonio, Texas:

Quoting Citizens for a Sound Economy:
Federal agencies should be required to conduct risk assessments prior to issuing proposed regulations to ensure that benefits outweigh the costs.
Isn't the value of a breath of fresh air is a highly subjective thing? How do you incorporate it into a complete balance sheet of benefit vs. cost?

Quoting CSE response to EPA Action plan on Global Warming:

Until all the facts are in on global warming, the Clinton administration should not pursue measures that threaten to export America's job market, add to an already crippling tax burden, undermine our industrial capacity, or downgrade our present standard of living.
Is it possible that we are maintaining our present standard of living only by consuming the resource base that future generations will need to rely on to sustain THEIR lives?

Paul Beckner of "Citizens for a Sound Economy" responds:

The science is far from certain that the earth is warming, or if it is that we humans are responsible. NOAA satellites, the most accurate measuring instruments currently available, have shown a global cooling trend over the last 18 years. The satellite findings are verified by radiosonde temperature readings from weather balloons that are launched twice daily throughout the world. Most of the claimed one-half degree Celsius of warming occurred before 1940, while the intensity of man-made GHG emissions was greater after 1940. In other words, the cause-and-effect simply isn't there.

Although specific proposals for the United Nations' Global Warming Treaty are still in the works, target proposals are for CO2 reductions to 1990 levels by 2010 for developed nations like the U.S. It should be noted that developing countries (such as China, Mexico, Brazil and Korea) will not be bound to the same terms of the treaty, even though such countries will soon be emitting the most CO2. The one and only way to reduce such emissions is by restricting our use of fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, crude oil and petroleum products (by the way, man-made CO2 sources account for roughly 10 billion metric tons a year, an amount that pales in comparison to the almost 200 billion metric tons Mother Nature releases into the atmosphere annually).

It is conservatively estimated that for Americans such reductions would result in a loss of nearly $350 billion annually from our economy by the year 2010, and destroy an average of 600,000 jobs annually through the year 2020 (if the EPA wants to dispute these figures, they should make public their economic impact findings).

So why are we being asked to sacrifice millions of jobs and hamstring our economy based on unproven climatological speculation? In plain English, the UN's global warming treaty is a solution in search of a problem that would unfairly wreak economic and financial havoc on America's families.

Second, before we can have a debate about the most efficient way to regulate a pollutant, we must first have sound scientific evidence that a substance poses a real risk to public health -- and whether regulating it will provide significant health benefits.

In the case of the new ozone and particulate matter standards, the EPA has yet to prove that its new standards will provide any better protection of the public's health beyond those offered by current standards. While the EPA cited some 250 studies to promote its standards, the details of those studies are much less convincing than the number suggests. In the case of particulate matter, there are only four studies that examined the relationship between fine particles and mortality. Only one of those studies, which has been shown to contain inaccurate data, showed even a very small risk of mortality associated with fine particle exposure to healthy individuals.

As for ozone, the EPA's own Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee did not support setting a standard that was more stringent than the current standard, because the current ozone standard adequately protects the public from dangerously high levels of ozone. There are certain sensitive individuals, however, such as severe asthmatics, who will respond to ozone almost any exposure level, which makes setting a standard to protect that group virtually impossible. To put it into perspective, the new ozone standard is estimated to reduce annual asthma hospitalizations in New York City by less than 100. Thus, the benefits from the ozone standard are minimal at best while the potential side effects may have disastrous consequences (more on that in a moment).

Knowing the benefits were so small, the EPA resorted to misleading us about the costs in order to sell the proposed standards. The EPA has failed to produce a complete cost-benefit analysis, estimating only the cost for partial attainment of the new standards at $8.5 billion. This figure was widely reported in the media as the true cost of the new standards. However, after the proposals were made final, the EPA revealed that the standards were so tight that 47 areas could not comply with the standard at all, and that the true cost of the new standards was actually more than four times higher at $46 billion! Some say that even this cost estimate is still too low. The Reason Public Policy Institute believes the EPA is underestimating the cost of compliance, putting the cost of both standards at $150 billion annually.

Such massive reductions in our economy can have serious consequences. By reducing access to health care, increasing the cost of air conditioning and other life saving technologies, the exorbitant cost of the new standards could actually kill people. In fact, the Reason Public Policy Institute also found the costs of the new standards were so high that the resulting decreases in personal income would actually induce up to 22,000 deaths annually.



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