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Sky Is Falling, At Your Cineplex By: William R. Hawkins
The Washington Times | Tuesday, May 06, 2008


Recently, my son and I went to see a movie. Before the trailers, most theaters run 20 minutes of advertising disguised as entertainment.

But that afternoon, we were bombarded by political propaganda orchestrated by Screenvision for Al Gore's Alliance for Climate Protection. It was about saving the planet from global warming by adopting a "do without" or "green" lifestyle. Among the segments shown was the 60-second "Sky Is Falling" cartoon. It shows elephants, symbolizing the 6.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide released into American skies each year, dropping back to Earth to crush people.

The cartoon reminded me of the fable where Chicken Little convinces a host of other dim-witted animals that the sky is falling because an acorn hit him on the head. They all rush off to warn the king. In their panic, they fall prey to a fox, who leads them to his lair claiming it is the way to the king's castle. This ancient story is a much more accurate way to describe the ill-fated adventures the Alliance would have Americans experience.

The Alliance was founded by Mr. Gore in 2006, and plans to spend $300 million over three years on ads like the Screenvision program to recruit 10 million chicken-activists. "It's important to change the light bulbs, but it's much more important to change the laws," Mr. Gore has said, "The path for recovery runs right through Washington, D.C." Watch out for the fox!

Another spot used black balloons coming out of household appliances to show how greenhouse gas is produced by items such as televisions and washing machines. We should retreat to a more "natural" era before such dangerous contractions were in use. It was also argued that instead of travel by car or plane, bicycles and virtual meetings via Internet (Mr. Gore's invention) should be used.

A spot narrated by actor William H. Macy claims Americans cannot wait for others to act. But, of course, we are not waiting. Nor is the United States the cesspool the Alliance alleges.

One of the targets of the Screenvision show is the coal industry, which the Alliance is trying to cripple. The United States has 27 percent of the world's coal reserves, which at present rates of use will last more than two centuries. The U.S. exports coal, and could easily increase use of this relatively cheap energy source. The country generates half its electricity with coal. But since the aim of the Alliance is not to provide plentiful, secure energy to improve American living standards, but to reduce the general level of affluence, blocking new power plants is a high priority.

When I lived in Knoxville, Tenn., my house was only a few miles from the Bull Run Steam Plant run by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Bull Run generates more than 6 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity a year, enough to supply about 430,000 homes. By 2010, TVA will have spent over $5.7 billion on emission controls at its coal plants to ensure power is generated as cleanly as possible, consistent with efficiency. To reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions, Bull Run burns a blend of low-sulfur coal. A scrubber is scheduled for completion in 2009. To reduce nitrogen oxides, the plant uses a selective catalytic reduction system as well as combustion and boiler optimization controls. I never saw anything ominous at Bull Run, unlike what I saw in China, where coal is used without regard to emission controls.

China generates 69 percent of its electricity with coal, and plans to build a new coal-fueled power plant ever week, on average, until 2012. When I first landed in Beijing, I thought there was a fire nearby because the area was shrouded in gray smoke. In Zhuhai, a coastal resort town next to Macao now designated an economic development zone, I could see the new international airport — but not the planes landing or taking off because of the smog.

According to the World Health Organization, China has 16 of the world's most polluted cities, and clouds of Chinese pollutants blow across the Pacific into North America. WHO's Michal Krzyzanowski said last year, "All of the cities are pretty highly polluted by European standards. But even by the standards of Asia, Chinese cities are pretty highly polluted." The real problem is respiratory ailments, not the delusion of global warming.

At the U.N. Climate Change Conference in Bali last December, Beijing argued that as a developing country it should be excused from adopting meaningful environmental standards. Only "rich" countries like the United States should cut back on industry and energy. Yet, according to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, China's carbon-dioxide emissions per unit of output are fivefold America's. So crippling the U.S. economy for the benefit of Chinese expansion will only make the global environment worse.

Mr. Gore's Chicken Littles have not thought through the consequences of their proposals.


William Hawkins is a consultant on international economics and national security issues.


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