Thursday, April 5, 2007

In March 1857, in the famed Dred Scott decision, the U.S. Supreme Court declared that all blacks, slaves as well as free, were not and could never become citizens of the United States. It also declared the 1820 Missouri Compromise unconstitutional, thus permitting slavery in all territories and future new states. By 1861, the United States was fighting a Civil War.

Sometimes the Supreme Court makes spectacularly bad decisions and this was manifest on April 2 when five of its nine members yielded to the specious argument by 12 states and several environmental organizations that the science of “global warming” was so conclusive it could declare carbon dioxide (CO2) should be regulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as “a pollutant.”

CO2 is not a pollutant. It exists in the Earth’s atmosphere and every blade of grass and every great tree utterly depends on it. In that regard, other than the oxygen on which all living creatures depend, CO2 is the second-most essential gas for its ability to harness the sun’s energy and, through photosynthesis, maintain every form of vegetation on Earth.

The court’s ruling, however, ensures that the cost of every automobile, truck and tractor in America is likely to increase for no good reason. The many mandated formulations of gasoline that are part of its cost might also increase.

As William O’Keefe, the chief executive officer of the Marshall Institute, noted in December 2006, “Given current automotive technology,” the only way to further reduce CO2 emissions “would be via mandates for hybrid or diesel vehicles costing $3,000 to $5,000 more than gasoline counterparts.” Consumers are not buying hybrid cars. Their sales constitute just above 1 percent of the market.

Requiring the auto industry to manufacture hybrids and convert diesel engines would have, Mr. O’Keefe noted, “serious economic effects.” That’s a nice way of saying it would be a disaster any sane nation would avoid.

In March, the leaders of General Motors, Ford, Toyota and Chrysler, along with the head of the United Auto Workers, made a rare joint appearance before a House subcommittee. According to an Associated Press report, “They stressed that proposed increases in gas mileage standards would be extremely expensive and could have calamitous results.” The UAW leader, Ron Gettelfinger, noted it could include closing more facilities and the loss of tens of thousands of automotive jobs.

It’s not like CO2 even constitutes a problem. According to the Energy Department, CO2 represents a concentration in the Earth’s atmosphere of 368 parts per million or 0.0368 percent, i.e., 368 ten-thousandths of 1 percent. It once was even less, but in the past there weren’t 6 billion humans exhaling 21/2 pounds of it every day.

For a long time environmentalists and political fear-mongers who have been attempting to foist the strictures of the global warming theory on the world through the Kyoto Treaty were stymied by the legislative process. The Senate totally rejected it. Now they have found five members of the Supreme Court who decided to ignore its own 1993 standard for scientific evidence. At the time the court said, “The trial judge must insure that … all scientific … evidence is not only relevant, but reliable.” How reliable is the science of climate change when the U.S. government continues to spend billions of dollars every year just to study it?

But in the recent decision, Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens declared CO2 is “the most important … greenhouse gas.” There is no scientific proof of that. And there is no proof human activity has anything to do with the greenhouse effect.

What is the most significant greenhouse gas, accounting for an estimated 95 percent of Earth’s greenhouse effect? It is water vapor. Its origin is 99.999 percent natural. If you wondered where the snow goes when it melts, it becomes for a time, water vapor. The vast percentage of the Earth’s surface is water.

John A. Charles Jr., president of the Cascade Policy Institute, notes, “Emissions of hydrocarbons from cars and trucks in the U.S. have fallen 99.3 percent on a per-mile basis since 1968, and carbon monoxide emissions have declined by 96 percent.” We already have clean air and this despite increased motor vehicle and energy use.

Contrast that with a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization report that the global livestock sector is responsible for a higher share of greenhouse gas emissions than transport. The report says livestock account for 9 percent of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, 37 percent of methane emissions, 64 percent of ammonia emissions, and 65 percent of global nitrous oxide.

The Supreme Court decision suggests a global warming of significant and dangerous proportions is actually occurring, but that too is wrong. The Earth has not warmed significantly since around 1850 when a century of “warming” ended with an increase of just 1 degree Fahrenheit.

We will pay the price for this decision that empowers the Environmental Protection Agency to consider CO2 “a pollutant” worthy of regulation. The court had previously ruled that the EPA is forbidden to consider cost when setting national ambient air quality standards.

The court’s decision also affects many U.S. power plants dependent on inexpensive coal. They will have to increase their rates to customers to cover the cost of major renovations. Fully half of the all electricity generated nationwide relies coal.

The 12, mostly Northeastern states that brought the case argued that their air quality was adversely affected by these plants. An Associated Press report said, “The states want to reduce the current limit by 1 or 2 micrograms of soot allowed per cubic foot of air. The current maximum is 15 micrograms.”

A microgram is one-millionth of anything, such as soot, measured. Their idiotic lawsuit ignores the fact that particulates from as far away as the Sahara Desert routinely show up in the U.S. They might as well have sued several African nations.

The 2007 court has given its blessing to the environmental movement’s irrational hatred of all forms of energy that improves our lives. It’s a nasty world in which the environmentalists want us to live.

Alan Caruba writes a weekly column, “Warning Signs,” posted on the Internet site of the National Anxiety Center, and is the author of “Right Answers: Separating Fact from Fantasy” published by Merril Press.

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