Op-Ed by John Addison (4/5/12)
From Silent Spring to Decisive Leadership
Fifty years ago my folks drove a gas-guzzler that got 10 miles per gallon. The air we breathed in the LA area damaged our lungs with the same impact as smoking a pack a day. We did not realize that our drinking water included DDT sprayed on local orange groves and traces of other dangerous toxins.
In 1962, biologist Rachel Carson published Silent Spring. Her book inspired newspapers and magazines to inform us that we were being polluted and poisoned. The TV nightly news showed us our choking cities and burning rivers. The majority of Americans insisted that we protect our health.
In 1967, California Governor Ronald Reagan established the California Air Resources Board. Automakers started cleaning-up what came out of tailpipes and our fuel economy improved. Coal power disappeared from California.
Oil companies warned of economic ruin. Now their profits are up over tenfold, even if they don’t pay taxes on the profits. Chemical companies warned of crop failures. Now we feed the world but face a new danger of lost crops due to a greenhouse gas fueled climate crisis. Energy power producers warned of no substitutes for coal. Now we have efficient natural gas plants and renewable energy supplying energy efficient buildings.
In 1969, a massive oil spill from offshore drilling covered 800 miles of coastline. Pictures of tar covered beaches and dying sea birds outraged the nation. In 1970, our first Earth Day captured the public imagination. In 1970, President Richard Nixon established the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Dr. Charles Keeling gathered massive data showing the correlation between fossil fuel emitted CO2 accumulations in the atmosphere and global warming. Taking a science course from Dr. Roger Revelle at Harvard, Al Gore, got the message. Dr. Sherwood Rowland and colleagues published the correlation between CFC emissions and a hole in the ozone. As one of his students, I got the message.
In 1997, Dr. Rowland was awarded the Nobel Prize. In 2002, President George W. Bush awarded Keeling the National Medal of Science, the nation’s highest award for lifetime achievement in scientific research.
Ronald Reagan Signs Global Climate Treaty
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan signed the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer calling for a global phase-out of dangerous CFC chemicals. Reagan did not wait for all nations to agree, only 24 signed the climate treaty. It worked. Now 190 nations have agreed and the dangerous CFC greenhouse gases are being eliminated globally. The chemical industry screamed of ruin. Reagan overruled them. They created substitutes for CFC that made the industry more money than ever.
By law, the U.S. EPA is required to protect our health and the environment. The EPA has brought us energy-efficient appliances and cars that use a third of the oil-refined gasoline formerly used. The EPA enforced lead being removed from gasoline and thereby from the air that our children breathe. DDT and a number of toxins no longer poison our water.
United States Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA has also made powerful enemies. Our nation’s use of coal peaked 16 years ago. Our nation’s use of petroleum peaked 7 years ago. The coal and oil industry loses thousands of jobs. Energy-efficient buildings, renewable energy, hybrid and electric cars, rail and transit create millions of jobs. Oil companies are asked to cleanup their spills and pay for the damage. The chemical industry is asked to make safer chemicals.
Yet, the oil, chemical, and fossil fuel industry have well funded lobbyists and powerful friends. Republican Congressmen keep trying to shutdown the EPA. So far, they have not succeeded but they have cut EPA funds and crippled EPA effectiveness with endless hearings and restrictive bills.
In the face of endless congressional attacks, the EPA continues to defend our health and future. The coal industry is now asked to stop just talking about “clean coal.“ Electric utilities aren’t waiting as they shift to more cost-effective natural gas power plants, energy efficiency, time-of-use pricing, demand response and smart grid. Instead of blowing-up mountain tops we are building wind farms.
Combustion of coal is middle school science: C + O2 = CO2. Combustion of fossil fuels adds 35 billion tons of CO2 to our atmosphere each year. CO2 traps heat for 100 years, so were adding 3.5 trillion tons of a heat-trapping gas that creates a climate crisis for our children and grandchildren.
One person who can reduce these dangerous emissions is Lisa Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Time Magazine includes her in the “100 Most Influential People in the World.” She has a masters degree in chemical engineering from Princeton. She is also a mother. She and her EPA team, understand science and are committed to protecting the health of our children. It’s time to end the attacks on the EPA and let them do their job. We all deserve a safe, healthy, and secure future.
(c) Copyright 2012 John Addison. Permission to post 200-word summary with attribution and link to full article.