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TAKING SIDES: CLASHING VIEWS IN ENERGY AND SOCIETY presents current controversial issues in a debate-style format designed to stimulate student interest and develop critical thinking skills. Each issue is thoughtfully framed with an issue summary, an issue introduction, and a postscript. An instructor’s manual with testing material is available online for each volume. USING TAKING SIDES IN THE CLASSROOM is also an excellent instructor resource with practical suggestions on incorporating this effective approach in the classroom. Each TAKING SIDES reader features an annotated listing of selected World Wide Web sites and is supported by our student website, www.mhcls.com/online.
TAKING SIDES: Clashing Views in Energy and Society
Table of Contents
TAKING SIDES: Clashing Views in Energy and Society
• Unit 1 Fossil Fuels
• Issue 1. Can the United States Continue to Rely on Oil as a Major Source of Energy?
YES: Eric Gholz and Daryl G. Press, from “U.S. Oil Supplies Are Not at Risk,” USA Today Magazine (November 2007)
NO: Mimi Swartz, from “The Gospel According to Matthew,” Texas Monthly (February 2008)
Eric Gholz and Daryl G. Press argue that predictions that global oil production must slow are based on scant evidence and dubious models of how the oil market responds to scarcity. Mimi Swartz argues that the coming peak in global oil production and the subsequent decline is a worse threat to civilization than is global warming.
• Issue 2. Is It Realistic for the United States to Move Toward Greater Energy Independence?
YES: Richard N. Haass, from Testimony on “The Geopolitical Implications of Rising Oil Dependence and Global Warming” before the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming (April 18, 2007)
NO: Paul Roberts, from “The Seven Myths of Energy Independence,” Mother Jones (May/June 2008)
Richard N. Haass argues that energy independence cannot be achieved if it means being able to do completely without imports of oil and gas. We can, however, move toward energy independence by raising gasoline taxes, making cars more fuel-efficient, and developing alternative energy sources. Paul Roberts argues that despite its immense appeal, energy independence is unlikely to succeed. We have no realistic substitute for the large amount of oil we import, many of the alternatives to oil come at substantial environmental and political costs, and even if we had good alternatives ready to deploy, it would take decades—as well as energy from present sources—to replace all the cars, pipelines, refineries, and other existing infrastructure.
• Issue 3. Should Cars Be More Efficient?
YES: David Friedman, from “CAFE Standards,” Testimony before Committee on Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation (March 6, 2007)
NO: Charli E. Coon, from “Why the Government’s CAFE Standards for Fuel Efficiency Should Be Repealed, Not Increased,” Heritage Foundation Backgrounder #1458 (July 11, 2001)
David Friedman, research director at the Union of Concerned Scientists, argues that the technology exists to improve fuel efficiency for new cars and trucks and requiring improved efficiency can cut oil imports, save money, create jobs, and help with global warming. Charli E. Coon, senior policy analyst with the Heritage Foundation, argues that the 1975 Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program failed to meet its goals of reducing oil imports and gasoline consumption and has endangered human lives. It needs to be abolished and replaced with market-based solutions.
• Issue 4. Should the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Be Opened to Oil Drilling?
YES: Dwight R. Lee, from “To Drill or Not to Drill?” Independent Review (Fall 2001)
NO: Jeff Bingaman et al., from ANWR Minority Views from Senate Energy Committee (October 24th, 2005)
Dwight R. Lee argues that the economic and other benefits of Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) oil are so great that even environmentalists should agree to permit drilling. The minority members of the Senate Energy Committee objected when the Committee approved a bill that would authorize oil and gas development in the ANWR. They argued that though the bill contained serious legal and environmental flaws, the greatest flaw lay in its choice of priorities: Wilderness is to be preserved, not exploited.
• Issue 5. Should Utilities Burn More Coal?
YES: Nina French, from “Clean Coal,” Testimony before the Senate Finance Committee (April 26, 2007)
NO: Susan Moran, from “Coal Rush!” World Watch (January/February 2007)
Nina French argues that the continued use of coal is critical for sustainable, inexpensive, secure, and reliable power generation. Coal meets these needs, and the technology exists—and is being improved—to ensure that coal is “clean,” meaning that it emits less sulfur, mercury, and carbon. Susan Moran argues that U.S. utilities are building and planning to build a great many coal-burning power plants, often hoping to get them in operation before legislation restricting carbon emissions forces them to find alternatives.
• Unit 2 Global Warming
• Issue 6. Are Global Warming Facts Too Uncertain to Guide Government Policy?
YES: Roy W. Spencer, from “How Serious Is the Global Warming Threat?” Society (September 2007)
NO: Ralph J. Cicerone, from Testimony on “Questions Surrounding the ‘Hockey Stick’ Temperature Studies: Implications for Climate Change Assessments,” before the Committee on Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, U.S. House of Representatives (July 27, 2006)
Roy W. Spencer argues that the science of global warming is not as certain as the public is told, but even if predictions of strong global warming are correct, it is not at all clear what the best policy reaction to that threat should be. Ralph J. Cicerone argues that though it may be hard to pinpoint the magnitude of future climate changes, there are multiple lines of evidence supporting the reality of and human roles in global climate change. We must decide how best to respond to climate change and associated global changes.
• Issue 7. Is Global Warming Skepticism Just Smoke and Mirrors?
YES: Union of Concerned Scientists, from “Smoke, Mirrors & Hot Air: How ExxonMobil Uses Big Tobacco’s Tactics to Manufacture Uncertainty on Climate Science,” http://www.ucsusa.org/global_warming/science/exxonmobil-smoke-mirrors-hot.html (January 2007)
NO: Ivan Osorio, Iain Murray, and Myron Ebell, from “Liberal ‘Scientists’ Lead Jihad Against Global-Warming Skeptics,” Human Events, http://www.cei.org/gencon/019,05908.cfm or http://www.humanevents.com/article.php?id=20573 (May 8, 2007)
The Union of Concerned Scientists argues that opposition to the idea that global warming is real, is due to human activities, and is a threat to human well-being, has been orchestrated by ExxonMobil in a disinformation campaign very similar to the tobacco industry’s efforts to convince the public that tobacco was not bad for health. Ivan Osorio, Iain Murray, and Myron Ebell, all of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argue that the Union of Concerned Scientists is a liberal-funded partisan organization that distorts facts and attempts to discredit opponents with innuendo.
• Issue 8. Are the Potential Costs of Global Warming Too High to Ignore?
YES: Nicholas Stern, from “Stern Review: The Economics of Climate Change, Executive Summary,” http://www.hm-treasury.gov.uk/independent_reviews/stern_ review_economics_climate_change/sternreview_index.cfm (October 30, 2006)
NO: John Stone, from “‘Global Warming’ Scare-Mongering Revisited,” National Observer (Autumn 2007)
Sir Nicholas Stern, head of the British Government Economics Service, reports that although taking steps now to limit future impacts of global warming would be very expensive, the economic and social impacts of not doing so will be much more expensive. John Stone finds the Stern report deeply flawed and argues that it would be unforgivable to destroy the world’s economic welfare in accord with its charlatanism.
• Issue 9. Can Carbon Trading Help Control Carbon Emissions?
YES: James Allen and Anthony White, from “Carbon Trading,” Electric Perspectives (September/October 2005)
NO: Brian Tokar, from “Trading Away the Earth: Pollution Credits and the Perils of ‘Free Market Environmentalism,’” Dollars & Sense (March/April 1996)
James Allen and Anthony White describe the European Union’s Greenhouse Gas Emissions Trading Scheme and argue that it encourages investment in carbon-abatement technologies and depends on governmental commitments to reducing emissions despite possible adverse economic effects. Brian Tokar, recalling the application of pollution credit trading to sulfur dioxide, not carbon dioxide, argues that such “free-market environmentalism” tactics fail to reduce pollution while turning environmental protection into a commodity that corporate powers can manipulate for private profit.
• Issue 10. Is Carbon Capture Technology Ready to Limit Carbon Emissions?
YES: David G. Hawkins, from “Carbon Capture and Sequestration,” Testimony before the Committee on House Energy and Commerce, Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality (March 6, 2007)
NO: Charles W. Schmidt, from “Carbon Capture & Storage: Blue-Sky Technology or Just Blowing Smoke?” Environmental Health Perspectives (November 2007)
David G. Hawkins, director of the Climate Center of the Natural Resources Defense Council, argues that we know enough to implement large-scale carbon capture and sequestration for new coal plants. The technology is ready to do so safely and effectively. Charles W. Schmidt argues that the technology is not yet technically and financially feasible, research is stuck in low gear, and the political commitment to reducing carbon emissions is lacking.
• Issue 11. Is “Geoengineering” a Possible Answer to Global Warming?
YES: Roger Angel, from “Feasibility of Cooling the Earth with a Cloud of Small Spacecraft near the Inner Lagrange Point (L1),” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (November 14, 2006)
NO: James R. Fleming, from “The Climate Engineers,” Wilson Quarterly (Spring 2007)
Professor of astronomy Roger Angel argues that if dangerous changes in global climate become inevitable, despite greenhouse gas controls, it may be possible to solve the problem by reducing the amount of solar energy that hits the Earth, using reflective spacecraft. James R. Fleming, professor of science, technology, and society, argues that climate engineers such as Roger Angel fail to consider both the risks of unintended consequences to human life and political relationships and the ethics of the human relationship to nature.
• Unit 3 Nuclear Power
• Issue 12. Does Nuclear Power Need Government Help?
YES: John J. Grossenbacher, from “Nuclear Power,” Testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology Hearing on Opportunities and Challenges for Nuclear Power (April 23, 2008)
NO: Thomas B. Cochran, from Testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science and Technology Hearing on Opportunities and Challenges for Nuclear Power (April 23, 2008)
John J. Grossenbacher argues that there is no realistic alternative to nuclear power as a reliable producer of massive amounts of cost-effective and carbon-emission-free electricity and process heat and that the challenges of high costs, waste disposal, and proliferation risk associated with nuclear power can be managed. Thomas B. Cochran argues that nuclear power is part of the “energy mix.” But it is a mature, polluting industry that needs no federal subsidies. New nuclear power plants are not economical in the absence of strong carbon controls.
• Issue 13. Should the United States Continue to Focus Plans for Permanent Nuclear Waste Disposal Exclusively at Yucca Mountain?
YES: Spencer Abraham, from Recommendation by the Secretary of Energy Regarding the Suitability of the Yucca Mountain Site (February 2002)
NO: Gar Smith, from “A Gift to Terrorists?” Earth Island Journal (Winter 20022003)
U.S. Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham argues that the Yucca Mountain, Nevada, nuclear waste disposal site is technically and scientifically fully suitable and its development serves the national interest in numerous ways. Environmentalist writer Gar Smith argues that transporting nuclear waste to Yucca Mountain will expose millions of Americans to risks from accidents and terrorists.
• Issue 14. Should the United States Reprocess Spent Nuclear Fuel?
YES: Phillip J. Finck, from Statement before the House Committee on Science, Energy Subcommittee, Hearing on Nuclear Fuel Reprocessing (June 16, 2005)
NO: Frank N. von Hippel, from “Rethinking Nuclear Fuel Recycling,” Scientific American (May 2008)
Phillip J. Finck argues that by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel, the United States can enable nuclear power to expand its contribution to the nation’s energy needs while reducing carbon emissions, nuclear waste, and the need for waste repositories such as Yucca Mountain. Frank N. von Hippel argues that reprocessing nuclear spent fuel is expensive and emits lethal radiation. There is also a worrisome risk that the increased availability of bomb-grade nuclear materials will increase the risk of nuclear war and terrorism.
• Unit 4 Alternative Energy Sources
• Issue 15. Is Wind Power Green?
YES: Charles Komanoff, from “Whither Wind?” Orion (SeptemberOctober 2006)
NO: Jon Boone, from “Wayward Wind,” Speech Given in the Township of Perry, near Silver Lake, Wyoming County, New York ( June 19, 2006)
Charles Komanoff argues that the energy needs of civilization can be met without adding to global warming if we both conserve energy and deploy large numbers of wind turbines. Jon Boone argues that wind power is better for corporate tax avoidance than for providing environmentally friendly energy. It is at best a placebo for our energy dilemma.
• Issue 16. Do Biofuels Enhance Energy Security?
YES: Bob Dinneen, from Testimony before Committee on Senate Energy and Natural Resources (April 12, 2007)
NO: Robbin S. Johnson and C. Ford Runge, from “Ethanol: Train Wreck Ahead,” Issues in Science and Technology (Fall 2007)
Bob Dinneen, president and CEO of the Renewable Fuels Association, the national trade association representing the U.S. ethanol industry, argues that government support of the renewable fuels industry has created jobs, saved consumers money, and reduced oil imports. The industry’s potential is great, and continued support will contribute to ensuring America’s future energy security. Consultant Robbin S. Johnson and Professor C. Ford Runge argue that the U.S. government’s bias in favor of corn-based ethanol rigs the market against more efficient alternatives. It also leads to rising food prices, which particularly affects the world’s poor.
• Issue 17. Can Hydropower Play a Role in Preventing Climate Change?
YES: Alain Tremblay, Louis Varfalvy, Charlotte Roehm, and Michelle Garneau, from “The Issue of Greenhouse Gases from Hydroelectric Reservoirs: From Boreal to Tropical Regions,” United Nations Symposium on Hydropower and Sustainable Development, Beijing, China (October 2729, 2004)
NO: American Rivers, from “Hydropower: Not the Answer to Preventing Climate Change,” (http://www.americanrivers.org) (2007)
Alain Tremblay, Louis Varfalvy, Charlotte Roehm, and Michelle Garneau, researchers with Hydro-Quebec and the University of Quebec in Montreal, argue that hydropower is a very efficient way to produce electricity, with emissions of greenhouse gases between a tenth and a hundredth of the emissions associated with using fossil fuels. American Rivers, a nonprofit organization dedicated to the protection and restoration of North America’s rivers, argues that suggesting that hydropower is the answer to global warming hurts opportunities for alternative renewable energy technologies such as solar and wind and distracts from the most promising solution, energy efficiency.
• Issue 18. Will Hydrogen Replace Fossil Fuels for Cars?
YES: David L. Bodde, from “Fueling the Future: The Road to the Hydrogen Economy,” Statement Presented to the Committee on Science, Subcommittee on Research and Subcommittee on Energy, U.S. House of Representatives (July 20, 2005)
NO: Michael Behar, from “Warning: The Hydrogen Economy May Be More Distant Than It Appears,” Popular Science (January 2005)
Professor David L. Bodde argues that there is no question whether hydrogen can satisfy the nation’s energy needs. The real issue is how to handle the transition from the current energy system to the hydrogen system. Michael Behar argues that the public has been misled about the prospects of the “hydrogen economy.” We must overcome major technological, financial, and political obstacles before hydrogen can be a viable alternative to fossil fuels.
• Issue 19. Is There Any Such Thing as “Free Energy”?
YES: Thomas Valone, from “Introduction to Zero Point Energy,” Infinite Energy, http://www.integrityresearchinstitute.org/ (July/August 2007)
NO: Robert Park, from Voodoo Science (Oxford University Press, 2000)
Thomas Valone argues that the solution to the world’s need for large amounts of energy lies in “zero-point energy” (ZPE), a sea of energy that pervades all space. We need but develop means to tap this energy. Physicist Robert Park argues that though many inventors have claimed to have working “free energy” devices, none of them work or can work. Their proponents are guilty of “voodoo science.”