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Weekly John Locke Foundation
research division newsletter focusing on environmental issues.
The newsletter highlights relevant
analysis done by the JLF and other think tanks as well as items in the news.
1. DAQ points to
mercury emissions reduction as result of the Clean Smokestacks Bill
The North Carolina Division of Air Quality (DAQ) announced
last week that mercury emissions in North Carolina are down by 70 percent.
According to The
News and Observer:
attribute the decreased presence of the emissions to the 2002 Clean Smokestack
Act that forced the state's 14 coal-fired power plants to reduce their nitrogen
oxide and sulfur dioxide emissions by about three-fourths over a period of 10
For those who have followed these
issues, these claims should sound familiar. A few years back the DAQ said the following
with respect to reductions in ozone levels in North Carolina:
The decline in high
ozone days goes hand-in-hand with ... The Clean Smokestacks Act, adopted by the
legislature and signed by Governor Mike Easley in 2002. ...DAQ data show that
power plant emissions are declining significantly from new controls being
The problem is that B following
A doesn't necessarily mean that B was caused
by A. And, as it turns out, the reductions in ozone were experienced equally
by all of our neighboring states, none of whom adopted the costly regulations
of the Clean Smokestacks Bill. (Go here for our
JLF report on the subject.)
Now the 70% reduction in mercury emissions may or may not
have been due to the Clean Smokestacks Bill (CSB). Some questions that need to
be answered, but apparently have not been, or at least were not reported on by
the N&O, are:
- What would have been the
reductions in mercury emissions if the CSB had not been adopted?
- What was the rate of
mercury reduction prior to the adoption of the CSB as compared to after
- What have been the
reductions in mercury emissions in North Carolina compared over the same
time period to our neighbors who do not have such a law?
When these questions are asked and answered, they may very
well show that the CSB is substantially responsible for reductions in mercury
emissions. But until these questions are answered, the extent of the causal effect
cannot be established. It is important to know what proportion of the 70%
reduction is due to the CSB; it is very unlikely that the full 70% reduction is
due to these regulations, i.e., that there would have been no reduction
otherwise. In determining whether the CSB was worth the billions of dollars its
implementation has cost rate payers, it is important to know whether the CSB
was responsible for 5% of the reduction or 95% of it.
And finally, the ultimate question that needs to be asked
and answered is whether these reductions in mercury generated the expected benefits
in terms of health effects. Do the fish caught out of North Carolina's
waterways contain less mercury and, more importantly, are the positive health
effects that are supposed to be associated with the reductions actually
materializing. If the answers to these questions cannot be determined using
actual public health data, then it also cannot be demonstrated that this 70%
reduction means much at all.
2. "Arctic Sea Ice Gone
in Summer Within 5 Years?"
This was the headline of an article by well-known AP
environmental reporter Seth Borenstein in National
Geographic. When was the article published? December 12, 2007. And of
course, as is typical of NG's approach
to all things climate change, the headline did not reflect an honest inquiry on
the part of the author but a prediction that he was seeking to validate. As
part of the article, there was not a single voice heard or opinion expressed
that didn't support the idea that summer sea ice would be gone by, well, now.
Bordering on the hysterical, the article opened with the
An already relentless
melting of the Arctic greatly accelerated this summer -- a sign that some
scientists worry could mean global warming has passed an ominous tipping point. "The Arctic is screaming," said
Mark Serreze, senior scientist at the government's snow and ice data center in
This was followed up by the big prediction.
Just last year two top scientists surprised their colleagues (emphasis
added) by projecting that the Arctic sea
ice was melting so rapidly that it could disappear entirely by the summer of
This week, after reviewing his own new data,
NASA climate scientist Jay Zwally said: "At this rate, the Arctic Ocean
could be nearly ice-free at the end of summer by 2012, much faster than
previous predictions...The Arctic is
often cited as the canary in the coal mine for climate warming,"
course, if this were real journalism, the author would have sought out some of
the "colleagues" to query them about their "surprise." But, as is typical of
all agenda-ized journalism, there is no
genuine curiosity, only a relentless pursuit of the agenda.
what has happened to summer sea ice since 2007 when this prediction was made?
Here's the graph
that tells the story. And in case you're having trouble following the
lines, the answer is it's pretty much unchanged.
3. Ozone Report
The heat last once again affected high ozone
The 2012 ozone season began on April 1 and each week during
the ozone season this newsletter reports how many, if any, high ozone days have
been experienced throughout the state during the previous week, where they were
experienced, and how many have been recorded during the entire season to date.
The ozone season will end on October 31. All reported data is from the North
Carolina Division of Air Quality, which is part of the state's Department of
Environment and Natural Resources.
During the period July 9 to July 15 there was 1 reported
high ozone reading. It was recorded on the monitor in Union County. Since the
beginning of the ozone season there have been 105 high ozone readings on North
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