[env-trinity] WSJ editorial
mbelchik at snowcrest.net
Thu May 31 13:15:43 PDT 2007
I don't usually respond to these posting on the Trinity List Serve, but I
thought I'd weigh in here.
This error-filled editorial from the Wall Street Journal (see below), and
published on May 30, 2007, was written by the Reason Foundation.
The "Reason" Foundation is a corporate-funded group who's primary focus
before now was to debunk global warming and to argue against regulations on
corporations. Their primary funders are big corporations, and they have
received nearly $400,000 from Exxon-mobile in the past 10 years. (don't you
love the Internet?)
Ironic how the Reason Foundation now uses the threat of global warming to
argue against taking these dams out.
FYI: the dams produce methane as a result of anaerobic decay in the lower
water column, which is 20x as strong as CO2 as a greenhouse gas. Thus, this
Hydroelectric Project is not nearly as "green" as it appears. In fact, the
only thing that's "green" about the Klamath Hydroelectric Project is the
toxic algae that brews and festers in the summer sun before making its way
downstream to poison the Klamath River.
Also note that the effort to get the dams out is entirely attributed to the
radical left environmental movement (and Al Gore himself!!) rather than the
groundbreaking coalition of Tribes, farmers, and other citizen's groups in
the Klamath. This truth must have been too inconvenient for Ms. Dalmia.
From: env-trinity-bounces at velocipede.dcn.davis.ca.us
[mailto:env-trinity-bounces at velocipede.dcn.davis.ca.us] On Behalf Of Byron
Sent: Wednesday, May 30, 2007 12:17 PM
To: fotr at mailman.dcn.org; Trinity List
Subject: [env-trinity] Wall Street Journal May 30
Dam the Salmon
Wall Street Journal. (Eastern edition).
May 30, 2007. pg. A.19
Al Gore has been hectoring Americans to pare back their lifestyles to fight
global warming. But if Mr. Gore wants us to rethink our priorities in the
face of this mother of all environmental threats, surely he has convinced
his fellow greens to rethink theirs, right?
Wrong. If their opposition to the Klamath hydroelectric dams in the Pacific
Northwest is any indication, the greens, it appears, are just as unwilling
to sacrifice their pet causes as a Texas rancher is to sacrifice his pickup
truck. If anything, the radicalization of the environmental movement is the
bigger obstacle to addressing global warming than the allegedly gluttonous
American way of life.
Once regarded as the symbol of national greatness, hydroelectric dams have
now fallen into disrepute for many legitimate reasons. They are enormously
expensive undertakings that would never have taken off but for hefty
government subsidies. Worse, they typically involve changing the natural
course of rivers, causing painful disruptions for towns and tribes.
But tearing down the Klamath dams, the last of which was completed in 1962,
will do more harm than good at this stage. These dams provide cheap,
renewable energy to 70,000 homes in Oregon and California. Replacing this
energy with natural gas -- the cleanest fossil-fuel source -- would still
pump 473,000 tons of additional carbon dioxide into the atmosphere every
year. This is roughly equal to the annual emissions of 102,000 cars.
Given this alternative, one would think that environmentalists would form a
human shield around the dams to protect them. Instead, they have been
fighting tooth-and-nail to tear them down because the dams stand in the way
of migrating salmon. Environmentalists don't even let many states, including
California, count hydro as renewable.
They have rejected all attempts by PacifiCorp, the company that owns the
dams, to take mitigation steps such as installing $350 million fish ladders
to create a salmon pathway. Klamath Riverkeeper, a group that is part of an
environmental alliance headed by Robert Kennedy Jr., has sued a fish
hatchery that the California Department of Fish and Wildlife runs -- and
PacifiCorp is required to fund -- on grounds that it releases too many algae
and toxic discharges. The hatchery produces at least 25% of the chinook
salmon catch every year. Closing it will cause fish populations to drop
further, making the demolition of the dams even more likely.
But the end of the Klamath won't mean the end of the dam saga -- it is the
big prize that environmentalists are coveting to take their antidam crusade
to the next level. "This would represent the largest and most ambitious dam
removal project in the country, if not the world," exults Steve Rothert of
American Rivers. The other dams on the hit list include the O'Shaughnessy
Dam in Yosemite's Hetch Hetchy Valley that services San Francisco, Elwha
River dam in Washington and the Matilija Dam in Southern California.
Large hydro dams supply about 20% of California's power (and 10% of
America's). If they are destroyed, California won't just have to find some
other way to fulfill its energy needs. It will have to do so while reducing
its carbon footprint to meet the ambitious CO2 emission-reduction targets
that Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger has set. Mr. Schwarzenegger has committed
the Golden State to cutting greenhouse gas emissions 80% below 1990 levels
by 2050 -- a more stringent requirement than even in the Kyoto Protocol.
The effect this might have on California's erratic and overpriced energy
supply has businesses running scared. Mike Naumes, owner of Naumes Inc., a
fruit packing and processing business, last year moved his juice concentrate
plant from Marysville, Calif., to Washington state and cut his energy bill
in half. With hydropower under attack, he is considering shrinking his
farming operations in the Golden State as well. "We can't pay exorbitant
energy prices and stay competitive with overseas businesses," he says.
Bruce Hamilton, Sierra Club's deputy executive director and a longtime
proponent of such a mandate, refuses to even acknowledge that there is any
conflict in closing hydro dams while fighting global warming. All California
needs to do to square these twin objectives, he maintains, is become more
energy efficient while embracing alternative fuels. "We don't need to accept
a Faustian bargain with hydropower to cut emissions," he says.
This is easier done in the fantasy world of greens than in the real world.
If cost-effective technologies to boost energy efficiency actually existed,
industry would adopt them automatically, global warming or not.
As for alternative fuels, they are still far from economically viable.
Gilbert Metcalf, an economist at Tufts University, has calculated that wind
energy costs 6.64 cents per kWh and biomass 5.95 kWh -- compared to 4.37
cents for clean coal. Robert Bradley Jr., president of the Institute for
Energy Research, puts these costs even higher. "Although technological
advances have lowered alternative fuel prices in recent years, these fuels
still by and large cost twice as much as conventional fossil fuels," he
But suppose these differentials disappeared. Would the Sierra Club and its
eco-warriors actually embrace the fuels that Mr. Hamilton advocates? Not if
their track record is any indication. Indeed, environmental groups have a
history of opposing just about every energy source.
Their opposition to nuclear energy is well known. Wind power? Two years ago
the Center for Biological Diversity sued California's Altamont Pass Wind
Farm for obstructing and shredding migrating birds. ("Cuisinarts of the sky"
is what many greens call wind farms.) Solar? Worldwatch Institute's
Christopher Flavin has been decidedly lukewarm about solar farms because
they involve placing acres of mirrors in pristine desert habitat. The Sierra
Club and Wilderness Society once testified before Congress to keep
California's Mojave Desert -- one of the prime solar sites in the country --
off limits to all development. Geothermal energy? They are unlikely to get
enviro blessings, because some of the best sites are located on protected
Greens, it seems, always manage to find a problem for every environmental
solution -- and there is deep reason for this.
Since its inception, the American environmental movement has been torn
between "conservationists" seeking to protect nature for man -- and
"preservationists" seeking to protect nature for its own sake. Although
early environmental thinkers such as Aldo Leopold and John Muir were
sympathetic to both themes, Leopold was more in the first camp and Muir in
the second. Leopold regarded wilderness as a form of land use; he certainly
wanted to limit the development of wild areas -- but to "enlarge the range
of individual experience." Muir, on the other hand, saw wilderness as sacred
territory worthy of protection regardless of human needs.
With the arrival on the scene of Deep Ecologists from Europe in the 1980s,
Muir's mystical preservationist side won the moral high ground. The emphasis
of Deep Ecology on radical species equality made talk about solving
environmental problems for human ends illicit within the American
environmental community. Instead, Arne Naess, the revered founder of Deep
Ecology, explicitly identified human beings as the big environmental
problem. "The flourishing of nonhuman life requires a decrease in human
population," his eight-point platform to save Mother Earth serenely
This ideological turn, notes Ramachandra Guha, a left-leaning Indian
commentator and incisive critic of Deep Ecology, has made American
environmentalism irrelevant at best and dangerous at worst for the Third
World, where addressing environmental issues such as soil erosion, water
pollution and deforestation still remains squarely about serving human
needs. By turning wilderness preservation into a moral absolute -- as
opposed to simply another form of land use -- Deep Ecology has justified
wresting crucial resources out of the hands of India's agrarian and tribal
populations. "Specious nonsense about equal rights of all species cannot
hide the plain fact that green imperialists . . . are dangerous," Mr. Guha
Besides hurting the Third World, such radicalism had made the environmental
movement incapable of responding to its own self- proclaimed challenges.
Since nature can't speak for itself, the admonition to protect nature for
nature's sake offers not a guide to action, but an invitation to inaction.
That's because a non- anthropocentric view that treats nature as
non-hierarchical collapses into incoherence when it becomes necessary to
calculate trade-offs or set priorities between competing environmental
Thus, even in the face of a supposedly calamitous threat like global
warming, environmentalists can't bring themselves to embrace any sacrifice
-- of salmons or birds or desert or protected wilderness. Its strategy comes
down to pure obstructionism -- on full display in the Klamath dam
Yet, if environmentalists themselves are unwilling to give up anything for
global warming, how can they expect sacrifices from others? If Al Gore wants
to do something, he should first move out of his 6,000 square-foot Nashville
mansion and then make a movie titled: "Damn the salmon."
Ms. Dalmia is a senior analyst with Reason Foundation
Senior Fisheries Biologist
Yurok Tribal Fisheries Program
Weitchpec Route PO Box 196
Hoopa, CA 95546
(530)625-4130 x 228 (office)
mbelchik at snowcrest.net
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