Health News Digest

December 26, 2005

Enviro Whoppers For 2005Pinocchio

By  Michael D. Shaw

As 2005 recedes into memory, break out your favorite beverage, as we recall some of the more outlandish—and totally inaccurate—statements about the environment during these past twelve months. Consider this column my first annual “Whoppers of the Year,” where I review some of the more memorable doom and gloom positions of the environmental movement.

There certainly was a lot of source material to mine. This year, the propagandists waxed Utopian about hybrid automobiles and solar power, while forecasting the imminent destruction of Mother Earth by hurricanes and smog. In reality, 2005 was hardly an exceptional year; extreme weather patterns were not the norm, and even the destructive force of Hurricane Katrina, previously wrongly classified as a category four storm, had more to do with poor infrastructure and political incompetence than nature’s revenge.

With the notion of “If it bleeds, it leads” firmly entrenched in the collective mind of the mainstream media, it often looks like an endless stream of shocking news. From epidemics that MAY come, to global warming, horrific pollution, and the end of oil, the themes are generally large on the sensationalism and lacking on the hard science. Let’s take a look at some of the more egregious examples of these overblown non-stories.

More Frequent And Severe Hurricanes

Notwithstanding the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, 2005 was not an exceptionally bad year for hurricanes. As it happened, much of the damage in New Orleans had more to do with an antiquated system of levees and sheer political incompetence than an unprecedented storm. Of course, plans to upgrade the levees in the 1970’s were torpedoed by lawsuits from so-called environmental groups. And, the plans favored by these same groups to buttress the existing system of levees probably made the devastation even worse. Throw in looting and public graft, and we have the Katrina Trifecta, leaving New Orleans in chaos.

Los Angeles Is The Smog Capital Of The U.S.

Talk about a misleading statement! Despite an impressive record concerning improved air quality, environmental extremists were quick to make Los Angeles the poster child for smog in 2005. Rational minds would note that the entire Southern California region has better air today than at almost any point in recent memory, which itself its the result of increased regulation and the proliferation of cleaner automobiles on area freeways and street.

Secondly, making LA the country’s smog capital is no more instructive than, say, labeling Buffalo the land of blizzards and freezing weather. Geography matters. LA’s vast basin and intense sunshine create a natural breeding ground for smog, and this was noticed before any Europeans even settled in what was to become California.

Hybrid Cars Make Sense

This whopper truly reflects emotion eclipsing all reason. It is the triumph of successful marketing and press coverage over common sense. Besides their inflated sticker price, limited resale value, and social appeal among the glitterati, hybrid cars are far less attractive than their less expensive, simpler, conventional fuel competitors. Even Toyota, which manufactures the acclaimed Prius hybrid, would probably concede my point: that hybrids have relatively insignificant market share, and merely insulate some automakers from protests concerning their trucks or other cars that are not particularly fuel efficient. Don’t expect to see a hybrid revolution in the next year.

Solar Power Will Change Everything

Not unless we run out of oil and decide to work only in daylight. Solar power, like other equally heralded forms of alternative energy, will not replace fossil fuels in the foreseeable future. Nor is there any serious oil shortage, even though some extremists may wish otherwise. Solar, like fusion represents the ideal, so no one can be against them in principle. Right now, though, we are quite far from harnessing these wonderful and unlimited sources.

Other whoppers include the supposed dangers of water fluoridation and residential radon contamination, covered in earlier columns.

Let us resolve in 2006 to take on the alarmists and extremists. Our best weapons are science and vigilance. Stay informed and stay tuned.