Two views on the regional environmental initiative

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(Host) Commentators John McClaughry and Ruth Page offer Two Views of a Regional Environmental Initiative being considered by leaders in Northern New England and Quebec. First, John McClaughry.

(McClaughry) On August 26 New England’s governors will meet with their Eastern Canadian counterparts in Quebec to agree to force on their states and provinces a sweeping environmentalist agenda. It is based on the suspect premise that our planet is experiencing dramatic warming caused by human activity namely, burning carbon fuels to produce energy.

So at this month’s meeting Governor Howard Dean will put his signature to a resolution committing our state to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to 75% below current levels.

How will we do this? By imposing the entire enviro agenda: Stop our utilities from buying fossil fuel-produced electricity. Subsidize or require renewable energy sources . Crack down, through regulation or taxes, on people buying SUVs and pickup trucks. Force the adoption of smart growth zoning codes to produce dense, congested urban centers. Spend more millions of taxpayer dollars on supposedly energy efficient mass transit, like the celebrated Champlain Flyer.

The rationale for this sweeping government action to force the enviro agenda on everybody else is simply that We despicable humans are cooking our planet and our governments must stop us! bunk.

Human produced greenhouse gases constitute less than 2% of Mother Nature’s contribution. Carbon dioxide concentrations have risen steadily 42% since 1900. But global ground station temperatures rose steadily until 1940, then went back down for 40 years, and then started to slowly rise again at the rate of three quarters of one degree F per century. No real scientist would conclude cause and effect from this data record.

How fine it would be if Vermont had an independent-minded governor with the brains and courage to go to Quebec, lay out the real science, defend the freedom of his state’s people to make their own decisions about energy use, and get in his taxpayer-friendly 52mpg Toyota Prius and drive back to Montpelier.

(Ruth Page) Political boundaries mean nothing to nature. If we in Vermont want to work for cleaner air, rivers, lakes, and soil, we’d better work with folks on the other side of our Canadian border, as well as with those in surrounding states. And we do. The New England governors and the eastern Canadian premiers meet yearly to pool ideas on dealing with environmental and other shared challenges.

Governor Dean will be attending the 27th meeting of the group, starting August 26. Environmental challenges are high on the agenda. The warming earth causes Vermont’s spring planting time to start ten days earlier, our maple sap is running weeks earlier and for shorter times, and we’re even having ozone alerts. Ozone causes smog and destroys lung tissue.

Coal-burning power plants are the worst polluters. Globally, countries still developing their industries rely on coal; it’s the cheapest fuel they can get. So it’s vital for the industrialized nations to require power producers to use the latest technology to clean up releases from existing plants; that can reduce 100 pounds of coal-pollution to as little as 16 ounces. Ultimately we must reduce our dependence on coal.

Here’s what happens when coal burns: releases of CO2 contribute to global warming. Sulfur dioxide hazes the atmosphere and increases the acidity of lakes Nitrogen oxide causes ground level ozone that can destroy lung tissue. And mercury, a nerve toxin, endangers both people and wildlife. The EPA estimates that coal-burning plants in the U.S. emit 51 tons of mercury every year. International Wildlife magazine says that cities downwind from coal-burning plants have mercury concentrations up to 65 times the level the EPA terms “safe” for surface waters.

With a president whose administration has eased the restrictions on coal-burning power plants, it’s up to the states and regions to set some limits. At the very least, states can provide incentives for the energy industry to increase use of renewables.

Ruth Page is a writer and former editor of a weekly newspaper and a national gardening magazine. John McClaughry is president of the Ethan Allen Institute, a Vermont policy research and education organization.

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