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Keynote Address

David Garman

Professional Staff Member, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources

In thinking about how to establish our environmental goals for the next 25 years, I settled on some core concepts which I believe are fundamental to the exercise. I'll briefly outline these core concepts, lay the groundwork for their defense, then get on with an outline of some goals I believe we ought to pursue in the next 25 years.

The first core concept is one that seems obvious to me, but is often lost to the activists of orthodox environmentalism:

  • Environmental values are important, but they are neither absolute nor intrinsically superior to all other values, and they cannot and should not be pursued at the expense of all others. As Lynn Scarlett writes in a paper that will soon be published by the Reason Foundation: "The challenge we face is how to give robust expression to environmental values among the many values individuals hold and pursue in their daily choices about how to allocate their (and society's) scarce resources … and how to allocate rights and responsibilities to enhance overall quality of life, including environmental quality."

My second core concept:

  • The "spaceship earth" paradigm that holds that we are rapidly running out of key natural resources—conventional wisdom at the very foundation of the original Earth Day in 1970—is wrongheaded and detrimental to our efforts to achieve a cleaner, healthier environment for the majority of the planet's inhabitants.

  • Let me say it again and say it bluntly: The Club of Rome-Limits to



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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Keynote Address David Garman Professional Staff Member, Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources In thinking about how to establish our environmental goals for the next 25 years, I settled on some core concepts which I believe are fundamental to the exercise. I'll briefly outline these core concepts, lay the groundwork for their defense, then get on with an outline of some goals I believe we ought to pursue in the next 25 years. The first core concept is one that seems obvious to me, but is often lost to the activists of orthodox environmentalism: Environmental values are important, but they are neither absolute nor intrinsically superior to all other values, and they cannot and should not be pursued at the expense of all others. As Lynn Scarlett writes in a paper that will soon be published by the Reason Foundation: "The challenge we face is how to give robust expression to environmental values among the many values individuals hold and pursue in their daily choices about how to allocate their (and society's) scarce resources … and how to allocate rights and responsibilities to enhance overall quality of life, including environmental quality." My second core concept: The "spaceship earth" paradigm that holds that we are rapidly running out of key natural resources—conventional wisdom at the very foundation of the original Earth Day in 1970—is wrongheaded and detrimental to our efforts to achieve a cleaner, healthier environment for the majority of the planet's inhabitants. Let me say it again and say it bluntly: The Club of Rome-Limits to

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Growth-End of Affluence-Small Is Beautiful world view that we are running out of resources is not only wrong, it stands in the way of environmental improvement in most areas of the world. The third core concept: Technology, long held by orthodox environmentalism to be the curse through which man has despoiled the "natural" environment (whatever that is!), has instead turned out to be the blessing through which environmental gains have been and will be achieved. Moreover, the wellspring of environment-friendly clean technology will be the old "enemies" of orthodox environmentalism—industry and market mechanisms. The fourth core concept: Market mechanisms can't do it all, and environmental regulation will necessarily continue to play a key role. Many environmental regulations are reasonable allocations of responsibilities, but we have to use them cautiously. They are like "headless nails," easy to put into place but nearly impossible to remove. Regulation can also result in gross misallocations of society's resources. (The $8 billion "cleanup" at Hanford that has yet to really clean anything up and hazardous waste cleanups under the Superfund program come to mind.) The fifth core concept: We must recognize—and celebrate—the environmental successes of the first 25 years since the first Earth Day. We have come a long way. The air we breathe and our lakes and rivers are far cleaner than they were at the time of the first Earth Day in 1970. This success has left us with a new and exciting fundamental choice: We can continue to allocate political and financial resources in the pursuit of marginally diminishing levels of "environmental success" here in the United States, or we can adopt a broader, more global view that achieves a greater good for the health and safety of a majority of the Earth's inhabitants. And finally, my sixth core concept: Perhaps the greatest tools that we can employ for the sake of the global environment are democracy and the promotion of economic prosperity, even if new economic prosperity in the Third World is accompanied by increases in resource consumption. Now let me highlight and expand on just a few of these key concepts. Because time is short I'll skip directly to key concept number two:

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Earth Day 1970 was greatly influenced, perhaps even inspired by, notions that we were running out of key resources. This "declinist" point of view was predominant in the 1960s and 1970s, and it continues to have a following among orthodox environmentalists. This view holds that natural resource scarcity and rising commodity prices require that we undertake a crash program of government intervention to reallocate and preserve resources for the sake of the environment. This view is wrong. In their 1976 book The End of Affluence, Paul and Susan Ehrlich predicted that mineral supplies would be largely depleted by 1985, and referred to the 1980s as "the catastrophic decade" in terms of resource consumption. In fact, as Harvard's Roger Stavins points out, for nearly every mineral resource predicted by Ehrlich to be gone by the year 2000, "reserves have increased, demand has changed, substitution has occurred, and recycling has been stimulated." Another example: A popular 1972 book entitled The Energy Crisis projected 30 years of gas reserves and 20 years of oil reserves. It was not out of line with prior "official" estimates: In 1939 the Department of the Interior projected that the United States would run out of oil in 1952. In 1947 the State Department pronounced that no more oil would be discovered on U.S. territory. In 1951 the State Department declared that global petroleum supplies would be exhausted by 1964. In 1979 the International Energy Agency predicted that global petroleum reserves of 645 billion barrels would be exhausted by 1985. The fact is, proven oil and gas reserves have risen over 700% since 1950. In 1990, we had 1 trillion barrels of global reserve. Natural resources are today half as expensive relative to wages as they were in 1980; three times less expensive today than they were 50 years ago; eight times less costly than they were in 1900. Jane Shaw of the Political Economy Research Center claims that there "has never been a nonrenewable resource that has actually disappeared, because in a market system people start looking for substitutes when prices rise." Gregg Easterbrook, in his recent book A Moment on the Earth, generally agrees. He writes that "wood, coal, rubber, oil, copper, tungsten, chromium and platinum have all been subject to pronouncements of eminent exhaustion during the industrial era. … All now exist in greater supplies, selling at lower real-dollar prices, than they were when they were supposedly about to exhaust." We will get to why this is so important a little later on, particularly as we take a more global view.

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Expanding a bit on core concept number three: Technology, long held by orthodox environmentalism to be the curse through which man has despoiled the "natural" environment, has instead turned out to be the blessing through which environmental gains have been and will be achieved. The fact is, the real heroes behind our environmental successes are not the environmental activists in Washington, New York, and San Francisco. Instead, they are the engineers in hundreds of businesses and R&D shops in places such as Detroit, Seattle, and Albuquerque. Why do I say that? In 1976, the best selling sedan was a high-emission Chevy Caprice. At 4,424 pounds it got 16 miles to the gallon. In 1993, the best selling sedan was a low-emission Ford Taurus. At 3,420 pounds it got 29 miles to the gallon. The Boeing 757 I rode out here on burned 30% less fuel per passenger-mile than jetliners of just a decade ago. When I finally get to ride on a 777, I will take comfort in the fact that it burns 50% less fuel per passenger-mile. The old dilemma of "paper or plastic" we all confront in the grocery line is no dilemma to me: 1,000 paper sacks require 140 pounds of material; 1,000 plastic sacks require only 40. New technology and techniques, coupled with market demands and, yes, environmental regulations, are driving a materials revolution where knowledge, rather than brute force, is enabling the manufacture of new materials and products with fewer resource inputs. After this conference, I'm off to Sandia National Laboratory to see what I'm told are some new technological breakthroughs in materials development that were achieved through private sector partnerships. These materials technologies represent the frontier of our future environmental success, enabling us to enjoy economic growth and the creation of wealth without ever-increasing resource inputs. The orthodox environmentalists may be uncomfortable with the fact that some of their old enemies—industry and market mechanisms—have been and will be the wellspring of environment-friendly clean technology, but that's the way it is, and the way it will be. The deregulation of electrical generation, for instance, will result in market imperatives to seek least-cost power, achievable in part by minimizing fuel input. A few weeks ago I met with inventors of a patented technology that promises to achieve steam cycle efficiency gains, as well as the attendant lower emissions and fuel savings those gains will bring.

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals Unfortunately, they were having problems signing up a utility to demonstrate the technology. Why? Because the utilities had little incentive to take the risk. PUCs would pass any savings back to ratepayers in a regulated environment, so why bother? Market forces at work in a deregulated environment will be good for the planet. Skipping ahead to the fifth core concept: We must recognize and celebrate the environmental successes of the first 25 years since the first Earth Day. Here are just a few examples: In 1970, only 25% of U.S. rivers met current Clean Water Act standards for fishing and swimming. That number is up to 56 % today. Ozone concentrations in Los Angeles have declined 40% overall since 1970, notwithstanding a tripling in the automobile population in the basin. Los Angeles hasn't violated federal standards for sulfur dioxide emissions since the 1970s. Nationally, sulfur dioxide emissions have declined 20% during the 1980s, even as electrical generation from coal has increased. These are stunning successes. However, many orthodox environmentalists seem uncomfortable with that success. In fact, many endeavor to deny it: Our Vice President says the U.S. environmental situation is "extremely grave ... the worst crisis our country has ever faced." The former Senate Majority Leader, George Mitchell, declared that "we risk turning our world into a lifeless desert." The "father" of Earth Day, Gaylord Nelson, said in 1990 that our current environmental problems "are a greater threat to Earth's life-sustaining systems than nuclear war." According to Gregg Easterbrook, a self-described "liberal environmentalist," these statements are not only demonstrably wrong, they are fundamentally counterproductive to the environmental movement in the long-term. Orthodox environmentalists, according to Easterbrook, are on the "right side of history" but on the "wrong side of the present, risking their credibility by proclaiming emergencies that do not exist." The fact is, we can't afford to allocate greater and greater political and financial resources toward a marginally diminishing level of environmental success here in the United States. We can't have more dollars chasing fewer results here at home. Instead, we should adopt a more global view that achieves a greater good for the health and safety of a majority of the Earth's inhabitants.

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals That brings me to the last of my guiding principles: Perhaps the greatest tools that we can employ for the sake of the global environment are the promotion of democracy and economic prosperity. Let's take a look at the pressing environmental problems that affect human health globally: 1.3 billion people in the developing world live in areas with "dangerously unsafe" air; according to the World Health Organization, in 1993, four million Third World children under age five died from preventable respiratory diseases brought on by air pollution, mainly from the dung and wood smoke of cooking fires—that's roughly the number of people of all ages who died of all causes in the United States and the European Union in that same year; in 1993, another 3.8 million developing world children under the age of five died from diarrhea diseases caused by impure drinking water. Again, to quote Easterbrook: Institutional environmentalism focuses on the real but comparatively minor problems of developed nations in part to support a world view that Western material production is the root of ecological malevolence. The trough of such thinking was reached at the Earth Summit in Rio in 1992. There, having gotten the attention of the world and of its heads of state, what message did institutional environmentalism choose to proclaim? That global warming is a horror. To make Rio a fashionably correct event about Western guilt tripping, the hypothetical prospect of global warming—a troubling but speculative concern that so far has harmed no one and may never harm anyone—was put above palpable, urgent loss of lives from Third World water and smoke pollution. Western, orthodox environmentalists oppose zero-emission hydropower in China and India, seemingly indifferent to the benefits to human health that would result if electricity replaced wood and dung fires for cooking. They oppose expansion of propane and kerosine, fearful that we will be setting the Third World on the "consumptive pathway." In truth, there is an ecological need for more resource consumption in the Third World. The "consumptive pathway" will be good for the environment—and good for the humans, particularly if it is done with technology transfers that make industrialization smarter and cleaner than what was experienced in the West. Coupled with democracy, industrialization results in citizens who are freer, better educated, less fertile, less sexist, more environmentally aware, and yes, richer. And there is nothing wrong with that. And as we've seen, there is no resource crisis that requires that the developing world be denied these advantages, even if we were inclined or empowered to do so.

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Linking Science and Technology to Society's Environmental Goals China is going to continue down the pathway toward industrialization, and there's nothing we can do about that. But we can assist them in choosing hydro over lignite. So it's easy to see where I'm headed: The activists among us must endeavor to raise the public consciousness about the environmental problems that really matter to human health. And they ought to shed the doomsday pronouncements aimed at the proposition that consumption is evil. The politicians among us must be more courageous and wise in allocating the dollars where they can best make a difference. The scientists among us must endeavor to refute the doomsday exaggerations of the orthodox environmentalists if the science and data don't support it. Finally, all citizens should promote the spread of democracy, democratic institutions, and economic prosperity around the world. The absence of democracy and economic prosperity breed environmental indifference. Thank you for allowing me to share these thoughts with you, and I'm happy to take any questions in the time we have left.

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