- The Washington Times - Monday, June 18, 2001

That certainly was an unhappy picture of an energy-starved nations capital that appeared in The Washington Times Friday. There stood Mayor Anthony Williams, mopping his brow against the heat in Georgetown following a series of manhole fires that have left area utility lines badly corroded and badly hampered in their ability to provide life-saving electrical power. D.C. government officials had to hustle out everything from air-conditioned buses to 10,000 pounds of dry ice to trailer-size generators to aid city residents.
Juxtaposed to the Georgetown news account was one detailing, of all things, European fury at the refusal by President George W. Bush to strap the United States to an energy-starvation diet with health hazards all its own. In particular, Mr. Bush refuses to sign onto a treaty that would commit this and other developed countries to reducing certain gas emissions below 1990 levels. Study after study has shown that passage of the treaty would raise the cost of energy in this country to the point that Americans would face declining living standards and have reduced access to such amenities as air-conditioning and oxygen pumps. That may be fine if your mother isnt an asthmatic, but lots of people dont have that luxury. More generally, increased energy prices could harm booming U.S. job creation and economic growth that help drive the adage that wealthier really is healthier. The better off one is, the less likely he is to have to depend on government assistance and dry ice for medical care.
Nominally, at least, the proposed international energy diet known as the Kyoto Protocol is supposed to forestall a health-care Armageddon that makes a few manhole fires in Georgetown look like back-page news. If the United States doesnt go along with the treaty and reduce its dependence on low-price fossil fuels like coal and oil, Europeans argue, the emissions from those gases may trap heat in the Earths atmosphere (i.e. the "greenhouse effect"), melt ice at the poles, set off floods not seen since the days of Noah, wipe out crops, aggravate plagues and worse. Under such circumstances, manhole fires would seem pretty tame stuff.
However, the fact is that in addition to the failure of European governments to ratify the treaty themselves, scientists have their doubts too. In the past quarter century, activists have gone from predicting an Ice Age because of "greenhouse gases" to climate-changing global "warming" caused by the exact same gasses. Go figure. U.S. health officials properly mindful on real threats better stay focused on the likes of D.C.s Dry Ice Age.

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