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Examples of Rapid Response:
Environmentalist "Scare Tactics"

This Opinion piece, by a nationally syndicated columnist, appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Arizona Republic, Detroit News, and others

May 7, 1998, Thursday


LENGTH: 782 words


BYLINE: Tony Snow; Copyright Creators Syndicate Inc.



Every era produces at least one fad that future generations come to regard as sweetly idiotic. Ours has created environmentalism for this purpose.

Although this pagan religion retains considerable cachet among America's illuminati, it has become a pestilential bore for the rest of us.

Earth Day came and went this year, unfeted and unobserved, because we're fed up. After years of Chicken Little hysteria and annoying regulations, we've sent Gaia worshipers to the pillories to languish with such peers as tax collectors, child molesters and tobacconists.

America's Greens earned this obloquy by trying to prevent our eating what we wanted, doing what we enjoyed and living as we chose. They sneered at what we held dear and, in the name of public safety and health, threatened jail or fines if we didn't do as we were told.

Today's environmentalist harbors an infantile fear of the grown-up world. He believes that technology moves remorselessly forward, hastening our destruction; that mankind is hurtling blindly toward extinction, driven by brainless material appetites; that carbon dioxide is piling up beneath the stratosphere, converting our verdant planet into a Venusian hothouse.

Al Gore, high priest of the movement, captures the cult's saturnine ways when he warns that the internal combustion engine is an unparalleled menace, "more deadly than... any military enemy we are ever again likely to confront."

The solution: drastic federal intervention. Shut down the factories! Garage the cars! Set up HOV lanes for bicycles so our streets may look like Beijing's!

These days, Gore stands Joshua-like at the gate, commanding us to honor the Kyoto Protocol, a treaty that would require the United States to reduce its carbon dioxide emissions so that we spit out 7 percent less of the gas in 2012 than we did in 1990.

His commandment is based on the premise that global warming will get us. In truth, climatologists say it will be a decade before we have the technical means to know whether global warming is even taking place.

He produces similarly mysterious predictions of prosperity. Janet Yellen, chair of the president's Council of Economic Advisers, recently told Congress that the treaty would have minimal impact on American workers, households and businesses. When Rep. John Dingell asked her to produce the analysis that enabled her to draw this conclusion, she replied that her words were the analysis.

The environmental gospel has lost its sheen because of such nonsense. Today, our air is cleaner than it has been since the World War I, and our water hasn't been as pure since horse-and-buggy days. We have more timber than a century ago and more virgin forest. We add nearly 100,000 acres of wetlands annually. Ever since Hiroshima, we have been engaged in what amounts to a gigantic clean-up - or, more accurately, a consumer-driven ecological revolution.

Despite this, the administration proposes the economic equivalent of bleeding the patient. The American Petroleum Institute predicts a 75 percent increase in energy costs over the next 14 years (an overwrought forecast that underestimates the potential for innovation), and every major study projects rocky times if Kyoto becomes law. Congress is looking skeptically at the thing, feeding fears that the president will impose the treaty's edicts by regulatory fiat - trying, King Canute-like, to make an unimpressed planet bend to his will.

Yet, the most important dispute over Kyoto doesn't concern numbers; it concerns the soul of American civilization. The environmentalist looks at the human spirit as a wildfire in sore need of control. He regards every innovation with trepidation and demands the right to ban it before people can develop a taste for it.

This turns the traditional American ethos on its head. Not so long ago, we venerated captains of industry, who got rich by giving people what they wanted and needed. Environmentalists these days exalt the politician, who gets powerful by seizing our money and telling us what we should want.

Computer scientist and essayist David Gelernter has written brilliantly of this clash between cultures - one, a society imbued with the ideals of progress, and the other, a society hooked on control. Kyoto brings the war to a head.

The treaty will make us decide whether to place our faith in ourselves or in the Gore Brigades, whether to take pride in our growing ability to meld innovation, progress and ecological protection - or to look upon every sun-drenched Sunday as a harbinger of annihilation.

The fight, long overdue, ought to be fun. And if Earth Day was any indication, the good guys will win.

This response was quickly prepared and appeared in several of the same papers where the original, misleading column appeared.

May 15, 1998

Dear Letters Editor:

Hard to figure out if Tony Snow is joking or just naive ("Environmentalists' Scare Tactics Aren't Working," May 7, 1998), but treating concern for our environment, public health and safety as a form of quaint lunacy says more about Mr. Snow than about the millions of Americans who care about our environment.

The sole reason our air and water are cleaner now than 100 years ago is that a bi-partisan Congress enacted environmental regulations which made it so.

And that pesky Clean Air Act - which banned the use of lead in gasoline among other things - caused a 98% drop in air-borne lead, resulting in a 75% reduction of blood lead levels in kids. Lead is responsible for higher infant mortality rates, low birth weight, and childhood IQ loss. Is that what Mr. Snow sees as "sweetly idiotic?"

According to Wirthlin Worldwide, (headed by former Reagan pollster, Richard Wirthlin), Mr. Snow is way out of step with the majority. Sixty-five percent of Americans consider themselves environmentalists and believe that industry is more associated with causing environmental problems than solving them.

While Mr. Snow scoffs at the need to address global warming, consider just one economic by-product of greenhouse gas reduction. If Congress follows recommendations to boost fuel efficiency standards by 2008 to 45 mpg for cars and 34 mpg for trucks, Americans could expect to save $220 billion between 1999 and 2008, or $590 annually per household. The technology to increase fuel efficiency is available for less than $100 per vehicle. And - news flash - it is actually cheaper to save fuel than to buy and waste it.

Much of the discussion about the Kyoto treaty focuses on the very kind of innovation Mr. Snow applauds. In fact Dow Chemical, a leader in energy savings, increased profits by $110 million a year in its Louisiana division alone by implementing some 900 energy-saving ideas suggested by workers.

Mitsubishi, Interface, Xerox, Southwire, Toyota, Honda, Carrier and other forward-looking companies are discovering thousands of ways to re-think, redesign and re-engineer their products and industrial processes to save money by cutting energy waste.

And that is exactly what Kyoto is all about - capitalizing on our marvelous ingenuity to create new jobs, new products and new industries that the entire world will be using in the high-tech future.



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