By Bob Ciminel
September 05, 2006
The Left Coast is at it again. Having terminated the state's nuclear industry - California will not let its investor-owned utility companies, or any other entity for that matter, build another nuclear power plant until the Federal government opens a spent fuel repository somewhere other than in California. Rest assured, if the Feds ever do open the Yucca Mountain repository, which probably will not occur in my lifetime, California's short-sighted politicians and environmentalist will find another reason to keep its citizens in the dark.
Already suffering from a lack of generating capacity, the state recently passed sweeping legislation to limit the release of greenhouse gases to levels that existed in 1990, thereby hamstringing the companies operating fossil-fueled power plants, as well as its petrochemical industry, most of whose output provides reformulated gasoline sold in California to meet the state's already tight emission standards.
First, let's get something straight; the term "greenhouse gas" is a misnomer, something the media insists on using just as they did when they adopted Ted Kennedy's term, "Star Wars," to describe President Ronald Regan's Strategic Defense Initiative. For some reason our elected representatives and the media, who await their every utterance no matter how mundane or idiotic, believe the public is too stupid to understand that the "gas" emitted by a greenhouse is simply water vapor and has nothing to do with keeping the greenhouse warm. Why hasn't the "public" asked the simple question: If warm, moist air is good for plants in a greenhouse, why is it bad for plants in the ecosystem?
There is no arguing the fact that large concentrations of certain gases in the atmosphere, carbon dioxide being one of the culprits, can cause the Earth's temperature to rise. In fact, it has been rising since man began burning wood. It's a self-sustaining process; trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere and store it in the form of wood. Man burns the wood, releasing carbon dioxide back into the atmosphere. Sounds like a plan to me. Oh, there is that one little problem; it takes about 20 years to replace a good-sized tree.
Fortunately, the Industrial Revolution showed us the benefits of replacing wood with coal, but we didn't take the hint and replant the forests. Just about the time we were turning day into night with coal smoke, the Spindletop gusher blew in and weaned us off of coal. Pollution-wise, I think we made progress as we moved to higher grades of fuel; the rub was we also created more carbon dioxide and water vapor.
As the world's 12th largest emitter of greenhouse gases, California believes it has a mandate to protect the Sierra Nevada snowcap. That makes sense because the snowcap is what recharges the state's aquifers - in Northern California. I'm pretty sure that everything south of Santa Barbara relies on augmentation from the Colorado River. Ostensibly, California's reason for concern about greenhouse gases is, if the Earth's temperature rises a few more degrees the snowcap might melt earlier in the year and cause flooding the Central Valley. Picture those humongous corporate farms getting more water than they need. Not a pretty picture, is it? However, if the snowcap waits until May to melt, as I think it normally does, why doesn't that cause flooding in the Central Valley?
Personally, I think the reason California doesn't want the Sierra Nevada snowcap melting too early in the year has nothing to do with flooding in the Central Valley and everything to do with keeping the ski slopes packed with skiers and snowboarders. Altruism seems to always take a back seat to making money.
Look, don't get the impression that I am anti-environment. I grew up in that industrial rust bucket known as Southwestern Pennsylvania. You can't tell me anything about pollution. Hell, I didn't know creeks were supposed to be clear and not have orange stream beds until we moved out of state for the first time. Fish swimming in a creek? You have got to be kidding!
Nope, we've got more pressing environmental problems to deal with than global warming right now. We can always wrap our arms around that tar baby later. Besides, the Kyoto Protocol coated the little fellow with Super Glue, so once we grab it, we're stuck. I think California has just given that "baby" a big hug.
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He assumes informed readers will be able to tell the difference. Bob lives in Roswell, Georgia, and works for the Institute of Nuclear Power Operations. He is also a conductor on the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway.
Contact Bob at email@example.com