Originally published years ago.
By James Bob Gresham
Acid rain does exist, but evidence also shows that it provides nitrogen and other nutrients required to fertilize forests and increase growth. Despite all the complaints of extremists, there is not enough evidence to prove that a man’s feeble efforts cause acidity problems with lakes and forests in the northeast.
Most of us simply assume our actions and/ or industrial development are the cause and sit quietly while the federal government requires us to spend $4 billion to $7 billion per year to “correct a problem” that a 10-year $500,000,000 federal study (requested by Congress) said did not need correcting. We in the Midwest will be paying most of this cost in lost coal-mining jobs and higher utility rates.
Lee M. Thomas, former head of the Environmental Protection Agency said in 1986, “Current scientific data suggest that environmental damage would not worsen materially if acidic emissions continued at present levels for 10 to 20 years. Acid rain may be a problem, but is not an emergency.”
Dixy Lee Ray, in Trashing the Planet wrote: “Any federal funds that will be spent on acid rain should be spent on research, not on boondoggles to satisfy the mindless ones to do something from those would substitute passion for reason.”
Most of the assertions that acid rain has increased in the past few years are based on writing by G.E. Likens in the 1970’s. Environmental Research and Technology organization found that Liken’s work suffered from problems in data collection, errors in calculations, questionable averaging of data, and selection of results to support the desired conclusions, and failure to consider all the available data.
The National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP) at the direction of Congress spent $540 million to study the problem. Congress must have been displeased with the “politically incorrect” results because it ignored them. Some of the findings were reported by a participant, Dr. Edward C. Krug, in a lecture at Hillsdale College. The environmental lobby wishes his comments had not been made public.
Dr. Krug: “There are over 7,000 lakes in the northeast and rather than the thousands reported to be acidic there are only a little over 200. The average acidity of the lakes is about the same as before industry became widespread, rather than 100 times more acidic as claimed. Ironically, the most acid lakes are in Florida where the rain is less acidic by factor of three under the average of the northeastern lakes.”
The EPA itself, under Director William Reilly, resorted to altering the testimony of NAPAP Director James Mahoney and blocked the release of its findings until July 1990, after the 1990 Clean Air Act was all but wrapped up.
The liberal media and the political activists passing themselves off as environmental experts claim that the NAPAP study was a waste of time since they (the media) already knew that there was a problem. In other words, the truth in this case cannot be expressed in politically correct language. Armed with the “truth,” Congress passed the 1990 Clean Air Act and now is trying to hide the fact that its action may cost the public as much as $40 billion. For about $500,000 a year the acidic lakes (probably that way before industrialization) could be limed to reduce the acidity.
The use of the term “acid rain” is also a clever dodge. We think of acid like we used in school labs, aids plant growth. Acid rain in some states is about the same pH factor as carrots and bananas.
Samples of the soil deep under some lakes and in Arctic ice packs show that many times in history, even before coal was burned, high acid conditions were found. Glaciated soils, such as in the Northeast have always been acidic. Soils along the Pacific Northwest, also a glaciated area, are acidic and no source of acid rain is present. Could it be that “Mother Nature” is again the culprit?
There is also the possibility that man, in his quest for clean air, has removed much of the alkaline particulate emissions that use to fall to the earth with the rain.
Many Paducah residents remember when coal soot was on almost every flat place. Coal was used for heating, trains, and boilers. The desire for clean air resulted in removing fly ash from the flue gases and placing tough emission controls on all industry including the making of iron, steel and cement. Forests were usually left to burn themselves out, but now they are put out quickly, resulting in less ash. The material that used to be in the air and on the ground was alkaline and mixed with rain to naturally reduce the acidity.
Despite alarmists’ claims, the EPA reported that from 1978 to 1987:
Emissions of sulfur dioxide fell by 35 percent.
Airborne lead declined 88 percent.
Carbon monoxide fell 32 percent.
Dust, soot and particulate fell 21 percent.
Ground level ozone declined 16 percent.
U.S. Industry is already spending about $33 billion per year on air pollution control, some of it unnecessary. Increasing that by two thirds would trigger a more serious recession. Dale Jogenson, Harvard economics professor, says that the new clean air bill will have a fairly substantial negative influence on business resulting in slow growth in output and productivity and place many U.S. Companies at an even greater disadvantage with foreign competitors. The capital that should be spent on research and development is spent on regulations that reduce the industry’s ability to produce new products and create new jobs.
The 1990 Clean Air Act was based on 1988 records for ozone “exceeding days” as per California regulations. Even though 1989, 1990 and 1991 statistics show large reductions for most pollutants, Congress refuses to take off the blinders and reconsider their unwise decision.
An Amoco Company refinery in Wyoming has chosen to close because the cost of implementing the law is estimated at $150,000,000 or six times the value of the plant. More than 200 employees will be out of work. Based on the governments own cancer risk data, this expenditure will prevent 0.04 cancer cases at a cost of $2.5 billion each. To prevent one cancer case, 25 similar plants would have to close or be modified.
The obscene 1990 Clean Air Act will also close many small businesses, the backbone of our economy, because they will not be able to afford such nonsense.
Dr. Krug again: “As America struggles to decide how we are going to power our nation into the next century, we must keep in mind that not all the voices in this debate are seeking constructive solutions. Environmental zealots have already demonstrated their willingness to silence those who dare challenge their ‘green dogma.”
It is time for the American public to tell Congress that enough is enough. We should refuse to pay for all this wasted gross national product that is diverted from new homes, schools, medical care, research and development, new industries, and jobs.
James Bob Gresham is an architect-engineer in Paducah, KY .