Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Focus On the Energy Bill: What Choices Do We Have on Clean Air?

Even among the most educated, there seems to be some debate over whether human activity, specifically the emission of greenhouse gases (or GHGs) is having an impact on global warming. Never absent from the discussion are the "“hockey stick"” graph, movement of algae in the oceans, and "natural" temperature variations. On one end of the spectrum are those who tell us it'’s already too late. On the other end are those who tell us that our global impact is nil. Then there are the climate "agnostics" who aren't willing to say one way or the other.

If you are anything like I am, you probably fall into the category of "“cautiously aware."”

On one hand, the optimistic in me says that no matter how hard we try, we cannot have an impact on our global environment.

On the other hand, the realist in me says that the emission of several billion metric tons of carbon into the air each year, which has been neatly sequestered beneath the ground for a staggering amount of time, cannot go completely unnoticed by mother earth. In these dog days of summer, it doesn'’t take a Ph.D. in environmental science to notice the clouds of haze hovering above our cities. Additionally, even if there is no GHG effect, then how can we ignore the emission of millions of tons of NOx, SOx, mercury, and other pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil?

There is no one-size-fits-all solution to this problem, but the proper use of renewable energy sources, plus conservation, plus non-carbon-emitting nuclear energy can provide a great deal of help in reducing it. But, until Congress can pass a national energy policy that supports nuclear energy, it appears that we will soon find out who is right about GHGs.

And, the pessimist in me says that the winner will not get any pleasure out of saying, "I told you so."”

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