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CLEAR LIES 4: Freemarket Solutions:Buying Time, Trading Lives for Corporate Cash (english)
by Cheryl Seal
20 Nov 2003
PART 3 of "CLEAR LIES: The Dirty, Deadly Truth about the Clear Skies Initiative and the Catastrophic Bush-Cheney Energy Plan". Bush's alternative to the Clean Air Act calls for a "freemarket solution." Which, translated, means NO SOLUTION. It will, in fact, set the nation on course for disaster.
The entire Bush speech that introduced Clear Skies is so full of lies, manipulations, disinformation, and blatantly false promises that it would require a book to address each statement. In this article, I have selected 16 statements from the text of the speech and divided them into what I consider the Initiative’s five main issues: conservation (lack of), environmental health (devastation of), freemarket solutions (failure of), science (absence of), coal (dominance of), and nuclear energy (state sponsored terrorism).
Bush Clear Skies speech quotes in bold italics
"The Clean Air Act " led to confusing, ineffective maze of regulations for power plants."
An EPA analysis of the Clean Air Act, signed into law in 1970, shows that over the past three decades, through the Act's clearcut mandatory regulations, carcinogens such as lead and particulate matter (soot) have been cut by 98% and 71%, respectively. The Journal of the American Medical Association attributed a 30-year drop in carbon monoxide-related deaths to the Clean Air Act. That doesn't strike me as "ineffective." By contrast, the program's voluntary sulfur dioxide (SO2) emissions trading program (the one Bush is so thrilled by) reduced SO2 emissions by just one third since 1990. The success of the acid rain program (as it was called) is highly overrated.
Today, thanks to continuing high levels of SO2, every single state east of the Mississippi river is plagued by continuing acid raid.. Only four areas have conditions described as good to moderate in terms of acid rain. This hardly consitutes a glowing success. In fact, in November, 1999, following years of investigation, the DOJ and several states filed suits against 51 power plants in 10 states in the midwest and southeastern US. The suits assert the plants illegally expanded their operations and failed to install required pollution mitigation devices.
According to the pre-Bush DOJ and EPA, the failure of power plants to install new emissions controls when they increased capacity and pollution resulted in illegal emissions into the air of tens of millions of tons of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter. And, of course, thousands of deaths annually.
"Instead of the government telling utilities where and how to cut pollution, we will tell them when and how much to cut. We will give them a firm deadline and let them find the most innovative ways to meet it. We will do this by requiring each facility to have a permit for each ton of pollution it emits. By making the permits tradeable, this system makes it financially worthwhile for companies to pollute less, giving them an incentive to make early and cost effective reductions. This approach enjoys widespread support, with both Democrats and Republicans, because we know it works. You see, since 1995 we have used a cap-and-trade program for sulfur dioxide pollution. It has cut more air pollution, this system has reduced more air pollution in the last decade than all other programs under the 1990 Clean Air Act combined. And by even more than the law required. Compliance has been virtually 100 percent. "
This statement is so full of bald-faced lies and misinformation it is hard to know where to start. But, since the Clear Skies Initiative relies so heavily on emissions credits trading, here are the facts about the much-touted sulfur dioxide trading scheme, and trading schemes in general:
Trading schemes only APPEAR to work. In reality, there is no threat of government prosecution or fines if they fail, no method for measuring actual progress - it all gets lost in the accounting shuffle. As with ALL Bush schemes, the poorest, weakest of all Americans will shoulder the burden because trading schemes encourages environmental injustice. In the sulfur dioxide emissions trading scheme ("acid rain program") that Clear Skies is based on, an astounding 42% of all plants actually increased their sulfur dioxide emissions. Since 1995, 300 of the 500 dirtiest plants, which should have been the prime targets of real clean up, have gone from bad to worse. Most of these pollution gushers are in poor and/or nonwhite areas, where pollution was already disproportionately high. In 2002, 71% of African Americans lived in counties that violate federal air pollution standards, compared to 58% of the white population. Seventy-eight percent of African Americans live within 30 miles of a power plant - the distance within which the maximum effects of the smokestack plume are expected to occur. By comparison, about 56% of the white population live within 30 miles of a coal-fired power plant. Bush's energy plan is thus, at its heart, racism of the most murderous kind.
"If all you had was emissions trading, you could pile up all the pollution in one place," observes David D. Doniger, a former E.P.A. official who now sets policy at the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental advocacy group. The "hot spots" of elevated emissions caused by the acid rain program are responsible for at least 5,000 premature deaths per year in the areas around these plants. Trading not only makes pollution a "commodity" and polluting a "right," it sanctions murder as a cost of doing business.
Even today, several sulfur dioxide hot spots still persist. Among these are the area east of Erie, Pa.; west of Kingston, N.Y. in Catskill Park; and around Oswego, N.Y., and Oak Ridge, Tenn., according to the National Atmospheric Deposition Program. Since 1995, 300 of the 500 dirtiest plants have actually increased sulfur dioxide emission." (NY Times, May 31, 2002)
Doniger, suggests that instead of having companies trade emissions credits with each other, they should give citizens the allowances, and make companies buy from them."It's the public's air that's being used as a waste dump," he said. "There's a good argument that you ought to pay to use the dump."
Here are some very revealing findings from a study by Curtis Moore, former Republican counsel to the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (and an unsung public hero)
("Marketing Failure: The Experience with Air Pollution Trading in the United States" a 2002 (updated 2003)]
***Trading relies on the continuation of unacceptable pollution levels: if no company is exceeding the limits, there are no credits to trade. Thus pollution is, in fact, encouraged. In addition, the system encourages companies to focus on single pollutants - the one or ones that make the most lucrative trading medium
Industries actually failed to implement existing sulfur dioxide reducing technologies because there was simply no incentive. Coal is still burned, and in fact is increasing, thanks in part to the trading program. Worst of all, today, STILL, incredibly enough, onkly 1 in 3 coal-fired power plants are equipped with SO2 scrubbers.
***Thanks to a trading scheme, phasing out leaded gas in the US took 23 years. In China, where regulations are mandatory, phasing out leaded gas took just three. Germany reduced power plant pollutants by 90% in 6 years. The US will have taken 30 years (1980-2010) to reduce power plant emissions by 65%.
***As to the success of trading emissions: In the end only a Congressional ban ended the use of leaded gas, while RECLAIM, a pollution trading scheme tried in Southern California, had to be scrapped as useless. Worse, the EPA inspector general found widespread fraud in the leaded gasoline and RECLAIM programs. Very significantly, the acid rain program was never even investigated, though it is believed by many to have been rife with fraud.
***All emission trading info is kept strictly secret - the usual "proprietary secrets" scam companies always use to hide their rip off of the public.
"Our immediate goal is to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of our economy. "
There is no relationship between economy size and ability to reduce greenhouse emissions. During the recession of the early 1990s, some of the biggest water and air pollution reductions were achieved in the US, while through the flushest years of the 1980s under Reagan, some forms of air pollution worsened. By contrast, Bolivia, one of Earth's poorest nations, recently won a global conservation award for its aggressive conservation programs. China, with 10 times the population of the US, has curbed greenhouse emissions by 17% in just four years (1997-2001), while Bush is calling for a pitiful 18% reduction in 10 years. It is now predicted that by 2020, China will be far ahead of the US in pollution reduction.
"This new approach is based on this common-sense idea: that economic growth is key to environmental progress, because it is growth that provides the resources for investment in clean technologies…. Affluent societies are the ones that demand, and can therefore afford, the most environmental protection.
These statements are pure corporate propaganda/fantasy/lies. The new pattern in the US is the total opposite. Since the Reagan years, whenever corporations are making the largest profits, that's when the heaviest layoffs and environmental corner cutting occurs. Pick up a copy of Michael Moore's "Downsize This!" or rent "Roger and Me" or "The Big One" for a real eye-opener. When GM (as an example) was making record profits, they fired over 30,000 workers, then moved their operations to Mexico where they pay workers less than a dollar per hour and do not have to adhere to strict pollution regulations. Edison International is siting new, coal-fired, pollution-belching plants in Thailand. So much for the connection between affluence and concern for humans or their environment. Throughout the 1990s, corporate profits went into litigation against, not purchases of, pollution-mitigating measures. They also went into buying up favorable legislation and legislators (who do you think funded the 1994-96 takeover of Congress by "NeoCons"?). CO2 levels in the atmosphere, throughout the affluent 1990s rose steadily by 2.2% per year.
Countless studies have shown that affluent societies create more pollution per capita than poor nations. Boom times have led to suburban sprawl, which is one of the most environmentally degrading processes currently known. Recent studies show that ozone levels in the new suburbs are actually WORSE than in the hearts of cities, while the added roads, congestion, and SUV-laden traffic represents one of the fastest growing sources of air pollution. Dr. Samuel Wilson, deputy director of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, says that the effects of suburban sprawl now represent a major health crisis. (Cincinatti Enquirer, July 9, 2003)
Study after study has shown that economic growth CAUSES pollution, it does not mitigate it, especially when that growth is based on "business as usual." To wait until you are maximally polluting to get around to investing in clean technologies will at best only help level off pollution, not decrease it.
"The Clean Skies legislation will reach our ambitious air quality goals through a market-based cap-and-trade approach that rewards innovation, reduces cost and guarantees results. Instead of the government telling utilities where and how to cut pollution, we will tell them when and how much to cut. We will give them a firm deadline and let them find the most innovative ways to meet it."
The "market-based approach" has been proven NOT to work, over and over. "Firm deadlines" always become litigated pleas for extensions, paying out nominal fines as a cost of doing business, and the deferred easing up of restrictions. It has been shown repeatedly, and in fact now conclusively documented in two 2003 studies, that without strong federal and state regulations, corporations cost taxpayers more money and do less toward meeting any prescribed goal except profit. The White House Office of Management and Budget study found that air pollution regulations saved between $120 billion and $193 billion from October 1992 to September 2002 in sick days, health care costs and premature deaths. This is a pretty good return for the cost to states and municipalities of complying with new clean-air standards - just $23-26 billion.
The other study, from the University of California at Berkeley, shows that regulations spur change far more efficiently than any other incentives. Even when the technology is available, corporations won't use it unless forced to. A prime example: Today, 30 years after the dangers of SO2 and acid rain were made widely known, still, only one in three US power plants is fitted with a scrubber system that extracts SO2 from flue gases. Why? Because power plants enjoy regulatory loopholes under the Clean Air Act. If Clear Skies represented a step forward, it would immediately close these loopholes, not widen them.
A major study on the electrical power industry in the US shows that plants that maintain the highest environmental standards also enjoy the highest profits - 30% higher, on average. The reason? Because the connection between profits and regulations is one of mindset: the more conscientious the company is in environmental issues, the more conscientious it tends to be in ALL of its business dealings.
"Marketing Failure: The Experience with Air Pollution Trading in the United States" a 2002 (updated 2003)
Global Pollution Trends
Brazil's economic growth fueled accelerating environmental degradation
Tragedy of the Commons: Land-Based Marine Pollution
Here's a link that proves my point about how small the rightwing stable of "science experts" is spread. This glowing review of a book that "proves" that poverty, not affluence drives pollution, was reviewed by none other than "climate expert" S. Fred Singer. (see "Sound(s like) Science (but isn't)" section above)
"Scientific solutions are spurred by government regulation." Nature Magazine, Sept 17 2003 http://www.nature.com/nsu/030915/030915-4.html
New OMB Study Shows that Environmental Rules Have Net Benefit to Economy
The US Electric Utility Industry: www.ahcgroup.com/pdfs/ US%20Elec%20Util%20Report%206-02%20Excerpt.PDF
"Suburban Sprawl is Bad for People and the Planet."Environmental News Network 9/16/2003: