Last August, Frank Gannon wrote that it was significant that the new President of the Nixon Foundation — Ronald H. Walker — was also appointed to lead the National Parks Service in 1973.
Significant because a prominent part of RN’s legislative agenda included environmental protection and conservation.
In 1973, he signed the Endangered Species Act, protecting species and their habitats from extinction.
His first commitment to the people, he established the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to help insure that Americans could breathe clean air and drink clean water.
The same year, RN signed the General Authorities Act which required the whole national park system to be administered by the National Park Service — rather than by its constituent parts — effectively uniting the parks to reflect “a single national heritage” and to therefore “derive increased national dignity and recognition of their superb environmental quality through their inclusion jointly with each other in one national park system preserved and managed for the benefit and inspiration of all people of the United States.”
As Gannon also noted, in August 1971 RN announced that more than 5,000 acres would be turned over for a “full range of outdoor experiences” for its “dynamic” people.
Acclaimed documentary filmmaker Ken Burns’ newest PBS masterpiece, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, is full of exquisite footage of America’s preserved majesty — from Yellowstone to the Grand Tetons — and its dynamic people’s tribute to their national heritage.
President Obama and his family enjoyed and praised the beauty of Yellowstone and the Grand Canyon during their recent whirlwind western tour. And Douglas Brinkley has written a doorstopper celebrating TR’s role in creating our National Parks.
But it was RN’s Legacy of Parks program —officially announced thirty-eight years ago tomorrow, that gave the Park Service its late 20th Century legs and pioneered the Nixonian concept of bringing parks to places —especially urban places— where all people could enjoy them.
As a result of RN’s program, between 1971 and 1976, more than 80,000 acres of government property were converted to recreational use in 642 new parks.
PN launched the Legacy of Parks thirty-eight years ago today —on 18 August 1971— at the end of a four-day swing through several western states that ended on the US-Mexican border south of San Diego.
PN launches the Legacy of Parks at Imperial Beach, California, on 18 August 1971. She officiated at the turning over of a 370-acre former naval base as Border Field State Park.
Two years before [in the summer of 1969], my father had walked south on the beach in front of our house in San Clemente. The wide expanse of sparkling clean sand was deserted, peopleless because the beach was the property of the gigantic marine base, Camp Pendleton, which adjoined my parents’ property. It was then that he ordered an inquiry into the use of all federal land. The result was the Legacy of Parks program, which eventually turned fifty thousand federal acres into parklands, benefiting all fifty states.
On that first Legacy of Parks trip, Mother presided as a $3.75 million, six-thousand-foot oceanfront military tract was turned over to the state of California at Border Field. During the ceremony, hundreds of Mexicans stood behind a barbed-wire fence separating Mexico and the United States. When it was my mother’s turn to speak, she asked that the barbed-wire fence be cut because there was no need for a fence that “separates the people of two such friendly nations.” At the conclusion of the ceremony, she ignored the whispered protests of her Secret Service agents and crossed over the border, her entourage behind her. The two peoples, many of the Mexicans barefooted, the Californians in cool, brightly colored summer clothes, mingled. Some of the tiniest children wanted a good look at the First Lady. When ABC correspondent Virginia Sherwood picked up one of the youngsters and turned to find Mrs. Nixon, she too was holding a child. As she laughingly clasped hands and signed autographs, enjoying the moment, Pat Nixon was particularly aware on that day of the power and symbolism of being First Lady.
In March 1971, as a result of that early walk along the beach at La Casa Pacifica —the Nixons’new home in San Clemente— RN had announced his plans to open to the public three miles of the pristine beach that fronted or abutted his property (including the famous Trestles Beach that was considered to be some of the primo surfing territory on the West Coast). . And, in effect, he dared Congress to deny him. As he told reporters:
I am sending today to the Secretary of Defense a directive that he is to report to the House and Senate Committees on Armed Services that 6 miles of beach and 3,400 acres of upland, which presently are part of Camp Pendleton, will be declared excess and will become available for public use.
In the case of the beach property–and Mr. Ehrlichman will brief you later with regard to the technical details–in the case of the beach property, 3 miles of it will be available starting this Sunday, because there will be approximately a 30-day, and maybe a 45-day period, in which the two committees have an opportunity to veto the President’s declaration of the property being excess. If they do veto it, and I do not expect them to, that would mean that we would have to reconsider what we are doing.
But in that 30-day period, and particularly with the Easter vacation period coming up, we have arranged on a temporary basis to lease 3 miles of beach, the best beach, right in this area, so that starting Sunday all of the many people that like to go to the beach in the Easter vacation period will have 3 more miles of the best beach in the world to go to.
18 August 1971: While PN was in California, RN was at Jackson Hole, Wyoming, preparing the official announcement of his Legacy of Parks program.
The backstory to PN’s August event highlights the ambitious domestic goals and extraordinary accomplishments the administration set out and achieved in 1971. In his 1971 State of the Union Message —delivered to a joint session of Congress on 22 January— RN described his goal regarding parks:
Building on the foundation laid in the 37-point program that I submitted to Congress last year, I will propose a strong new set of initiatives to clean up our air and water, to combat noise, and to preserve and restore our surroundings.
I will propose programs to make better use of our land, to encourage a balanced national growth–growth that will revitalize our rural heartland and enhance the quality of life in America.
And not only to meet today’s needs but to anticipate those of tomorrow, I will put forward the most extensive program ever proposed by a President of the United States to expand the Nation’s parks, recreation areas, open spaces, in a way that truly brings parks to the people where the people are. For only if we leave a legacy of parks will the next generation have parks to enjoy.
On 8 February, in his Special Message to Congress Proposing the 1971 Environmental Program, RN put some appropriations flesh on those legislative words:
Merely acquiring land for open space and recreation is not enough. We must bring parks to where the people are so that everyone has access to nearby recreational areas. In my budget for 1972, I have proposed a new “Legacy of Parks” program which will help States and local government provide parks and recreation areas, not just for today’s Americans but for tomorrow’s as well. Only if we set aside and develop such recreation areas now can we ensure that they will be available for future generations.
As part of this legacy, I have requested a $200 million appropriation to begin a new program for the acquisition and development of additional park lands in urban areas. To be administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, this would include provision for facilities such as swimming pools to add to the use and enjoyment of these parks.
Also, I have recommended in my 1972 budget that the appropriation for the Land and Water Conservation Fund be increased to $380 million, permitting the continued acquisition of Federal parks and recreation areas as well as an expanded State grant program. However, because of the way in which these State grant funds were allocated over the past five years, a relatively small percentage has been used for the purchase and development of recreational facilities in and near urban areas. The allocation formula should be changed to ensure that more parks will be developed in and near our urban areas.
And on 19 August, at Grand Teton National Park, he issued a statement announcing the first fruits of his January proposal:
It has been estimated that some 75 percent of all outdoor recreation enjoyed by Americans takes place within a short distance of their homes. That is why I believe so strongly that we should be doing far more to bring our parks to the people. The Congress has thus far appropriated only $100 million for the HUD program.
Finally, I would point to my establishment of the Federal Property Review Board, which evaluates federally owned properties in order to determine whether they can be converted to park use. Close to 100 such properties have already been identified, and 24 of these, containing more than 5,000 acres, are now in the process of being conveyed by the Department of the Interior to local and State agencies. Mrs. Nixon has sought to encourage this important effort during her trip across the country this week.
Many of the properties which have been released under this program are within easy reach of our larger urban areas. To augment these efforts, we are also preparing a number of amendments to the Federal Income Tax Code which would facilitate charitable donations of property for conservation purposes. I hope to present these proposals to the Congress in the near future.
The combined effect of all these activities will be to provide that full range of outdoor experiences which our dynamic population requires. For some, this program will provide neighborhood parks in the city. For others, it will offer a pleasant setting for a weekend retreat, for an afternoon bike ride, or for a family vacation. For still others, it will provide the chance truly to escape into the wilderness.
I believe our Nation can afford to make these opportunities available. In fact, it is my view that we cannot afford not to provide them. For such a program can significantly enhance the quality of our Nation’s life and spirit–both now and for future generations.
It’s significant that the new President of the Nixon Foundation —Ron Walker— is the man RN chose to head the National Park Service in 1973. The appointment of this valued staff member and long-time friend was an indication of the importance RN continued to place on his parks initiative. (And it’s ironic that RN’s extensive biography on the National Park Service website doesn’t even mention the Legacy of Parks.)
Daniel Henninger’s “Wonderland” column today —”Obama vs. The Beach Boys – Daddy’s taking the muscle car culture away” — casts a gimlet eye on President Obama’s plans for America’s automobiles. And he doesn’t like what he sees. Not one bit.
When Barack Obama announced that the government will use its fist to wave onto the highways of America cars that get 39 miles to a gallon of liquefied switch grass or something, he said, “Everybody wins.”
Everybody? What country has he been living in? This marks the end of the internal combustion engine as we knew it, and it is the way Americans have defined, designed and literally driven much of the nation’s culture for as long as anyone can remember. Car culture is America’s culture.
Mr. Henninger notes that the President likes to give iPods as gifts. So he proposes a playlist that might bring him back to his senses.
The first track would be the Beach Boys’ 1964 “Shut Down.”
The second would be their 1963 anthem “Little Deuce Coupe.”
“She’s got a competition clutch with a four on the floor, and she purrs like a kitten til the lake pipes roar.”
It’s 2016. Imagine a Brian Wilson ever thinking to write: “And she’ll have fun, fun, fun til her daddy takes her Prius away.”
At Mr. Obama’s “Everybody wins” announcement ceremony in the Rose Garden, no one knew better how much has been lost than the cowed auto chiefs arrayed behind him. CAFE, the fuel-mileage standards Congress mandated 34 years ago, gradually squeezed the size and life out of America’s cars. But something’s getting phased out here other than gas-fueled cars.
Some of the most famous celebrity converts to the politics behind this new, shrinking world of plug-ins once wrote and sang paeans to muscle cars and a more muscular culture.
The third track would be Bruce Springsteen’s 1975 hit “Born to Run.”
”Beyond the Palace hemi-powered drones scream down the boulevard.”
Time was Bruce Springsteen knew that “Jersey boys” mainly meant steel, chrome, rubber and auto tech. Check out the lyrics to “Pink Cadillac” (“but my love is bigger than a Honda”) or the car-crazy “Racing in the Street,” invoking Chevys with 396 Fuelie heads, Hurst speed-shifters and Camaros running “from the fire roads to the interstate.”
The fourth track would be Ronnie and the Daytonas’ 1965 hit “G.T.O.”
“Turn it on, wind it up, blow it out — GTOoooo.”
We are being offered a different world now. One designed, defined and driven by a new set of un-fun obsessions — carbon footprints, greenhouse gas and alternative energy. This large transition passes before us, barely seen, as the gray water of public policy. Hardly anyone notices how much is being changed.
To put a stop to the new sin of spending too much time out on Highway 9, we are getting the mark-up hearings this week in Washington for the Waxman-Markey climate bill. It’s 900 pages long, dripping with thousands of Mickey-Mouse rules to reorder how we live. A Senate Finance Committee document last week on the Obama health-care plan proposes “lifestyle related revenue raisers.” Lifestyles like drinking beer. This is the “taxing bad behavior” movement. They get to define what’s bad.
The fifth track would be Commander Cody’s 1972 cover of the 1955 “Hot Rod Lincoln.”
Mr. Henninger isn’t hesitate to pin his colors to the antennas of the glorious gas guzzlers that appear to be driving down the road to oblivion:
This tension over how we live arrived before the world began standing on its head over global warming. The guys in the hemi-powered drones used to mock the granola and Birkenstock crowd. Look who’s on top now.
“Everybody wins?” Not quite. What’s winning is a worldview that goes deeper than the data beneath global warming. The gasoline cars they want to turn into scrap were about a lot more than the thrill of roaring on.
The cars and their culture were a manifestation of what made the U.S. really different. The cars, like the country, were big, fast and unfettered. Their drivers were delirious with the possibility of finding something new in life. “It’s a town full of losers, and I’m pullin’ out of here to win!”
When Americans grew up, that’s just what a lot of them did — win. Now, it looks like we’re being asked to throttle down to government-approved survival. They’re even running the car companies, telling them what to build, and then they’ll pay people to buy the product. Save the planet and lose the nation’s heart.
Here is Mr. Henninger discussed his thoughts on the Wall Street Journal’s Digital Network.
National Geographic photographer Steven Winter gave a sold-out lecture last night at the Society’s Washington HQ about his six-month high-altitude high-adventure pursuit of the elusive (think pale-on-white above 12,000 feet) and endangered (probably only 3,500 left in the world) snow leopard.
His amazing shot of a snow leopard in a snow storm won 2008’s award for Best Wildlife Photograph.
Winter’s biography begins with some attention-getting details: “I’ve been stalked by jaguars in Brazil, charged by an 11-foot grizzly in Siberia, trapped in quicksand in the world’s largest tiger reserve in Myanmar and slept in a tent for six weeks at 0 below zero tracking snow leopards. I have flown over erupting volcanoes and visited isolated villages whee residents had never before seen a blond foreigner —- or a camera.”
Inspired, like many, by the romance and adventure of Peter Matthiessen’s practical and mystical 1978 classic, Winter had answered an editor’s memo asking for “dream assignments” by requesting the rarely seen —and even more rarely photographed— snow leopard.
In addition to his photographic skills, Winter turned out to be an engaging and enthusiastic lecturer. Unfortunately an equipment glitch (“it worked this afternoon”) prevented the audience from seeing a short Nat Geo film he made about the snow leopard expedition.
But TNN readers can see it here.
Blog size and resolution can’t begin to do justice to Steve Winter’s striking photographs. Check out the snow leopard gallery at National Geographic’s website. And Winter’s own website introduces his wider body of work.
In a classic case of ostrich-think (who are you gonna believe, the auto task force report or your lying eyes?), GM blithely dismisses the news that the much-vaunted Volt is a taxpayer-subsidized dud-in-the-making.
In addition to being too far behind Toyota to catch up, the finished product will sell for $40K when —and if— it arrives on time, and still behind the times, in 2010. Renee Schoff reported for McClatchy newspapers:
The White House may have sounded a bit bleak on the Chevrolet Volt last week, but both the company and the Obama administration say don’t read that as early news of the much-advertised electric car’s demise.
President Barack Obama’s auto task force last week said in an assessment of General Motors’ viability that it was a full generation behind Toyota in “green powertrain development” and that “while the Volt holds promise, it is currently projected to be much more expensive than its gasoline-fueled peers and will likely need substantial reductions in manufacturing cost in order to become commercially viable.”
A White House official who worked on the assessment said on Wednesday, however, that the statements had been simply another way of saying what GM has said all along — it will be a challenge to bring the new technology up to scale and make it cost competitive.
GM will have to make its own decisions about the pace of its advanced technology, said the official, who requested anonymity because he wasn’t authorized to speak publicly.
“You should not expect the task force will say GM should discontinue the Volt,” he said.
GM spokesman Dave Darovitz said there was nothing new in the government statement on high costs. New technology is always expensive, he said.
The company has added money to building the Volt, and it’s still the “No. 1 product development program here at GM,” he said.
“We will make it happen,” Darovitz said. “There is no deviation in our focus and intent to bring the car to market in late 2010.”
Darovitz said the government report made an unfair comparison with Toyota because it was dealing with two different technologies — the Prius gas-electric hybrid and the battery-powered plug-in electric Volt.
Obama last week rejected GM’s restructuring plan and gave the automaker until June 1 to explain how it would reshape itself as a healthy company. GM seeks more than $16 billion in additional taxpayer funds.
GM reported in its five-year restructuring plan that it’s investing in hybrid and plug-in cars and trucks, including the Volt and two other models that will use its technology.
“With a majority of Americans driving their vehicles less than 40 miles per day, the Chevrolet Volt — providing up to 40 miles on a single electrical charge — should be attractive to those seeking to use little if any gasoline,” the GM plan said. “The development costs of high-technology vehicles like the Volt are significant, but so are the long-term benefits that come from increased energy efficiency and independence.”
Darovitz said the company expects state and federal incentives will help boost demand for the Volt, particularly a $7,500 federal tax credit. The Volt is expected to sell for around $40,000 because of the high cost of its batteries. The Energy Department has been helping with battery research to bring costs down.
What with Detroit suddenly all over the news, Neil Young’s new album Fork in the Road —awaiting release on 7 April— couldn’t be more timely.
Word has it that the CD has a real ripped-from-today’s-headline vibe that reflects its hasty recording just before Christmas.
Having dealt with foreign policy in Living with War, this time the subject matter focuses on economic catastrophe — particularly as viewed from an automotive perspective. The fork in this road will be open to many interpretations.
The first single is “Johnny Magic,” a song dedicated to Young’s Wichita auto mechanic buddy Jonathan Goodwin.
The single was debuted in two stages on the internet. The first, and by far the coolest, was a shot entirely in Young’s LincVolt while he sang to a track played on his laptop while driving around the streets of Wichita.
Johnny Magic had a way with metal
Had a way with machines
One day in a garage far away he met his destiny
In the form of a heavy metal Continental
She as born to run on a proud highway
Then the whole world starting running out of money
People losing their jobs
Right here in Wichita
Wichita the home of the heavy metal Continental
Where the Motorhead Messiah was tuning the system in
Johnny Magic, Johnny Magic
She burst from the garage in a blaze of silence
Disappearing down Douglas at lightning speed
Befre the big metal door cam e crashing down in Wichita
She was born to run on a proud highway
Now she goes long range on domestic green fuel
100 miles per gallon is the Continental Rule
Out on the Kansas two-lane flats near Wichita
The Motorhead Messiah went to Washington
To show them what he’d done
The senators and congressman came down in Washington
And they rode in the heavy metal Continental
She was born to run on a proud highway
Johnny Magic the Motorhead Messiah was tuning the system in
The other video, released a few days later, carried on the same DWS —driving while singing— motif, this time with a passenger and some more lively visuals. You can see it here.
Neil Young has a longstanding interest in cars. He is competing for the $10 million Automotive X Prize for developing a vehicle that gets 100 miles or more to the gallon. Along with uber-mechanic Goodwin, he has been transforming his 1959 Lincoln Continental into a 2009 green fantasy of sustainable technology.
Several months ago he weighed in with an op-ed for HufPo: “How To Save A Major Auto Company.”
Find a new ownership group. The culture must change. It is time to turn the page. In the high technology sector there are several candidates for ownership of a major car and truck manufacturer. We need forward looking people who are not restricted by the existing culture in Detroit. We need visionary people now with business sense to create automobiles that do not contribute to global warming.
It is time to change and our problems can facilitate our solutions. We can no longer afford to continue down Detroit’s old road. The people have spoken. They do not want gas guzzlers (although they still like big cars and trucks). It is possible to build large long-range vehicles that are very efficient. People will buy those vehicles because they represent real change and a solution that we can live with.
The government must take advantage of the powerful position that exists today. The Big 3 are looking for a bailout. They should only get it if they agree to stop building autos that contribute to global warming now. The stress on the auto manufacturers today is gigantic. In order to keep people working in their jobs and keep factories open, this plan is suggested:
The big three must reduce models to basics. a truck, an SUV, a large family sedan, an economy sedan, and a sports car. Use existing tooling.
Keep building these models to keep the workforce employed but build them without engines and transmissions. These new vehicles, called Transition Rollers, are ready for a re-power. No new tooling is required at this stage. The adapters are part of the kits described next.
If reading the above gets your engine racing, you can find the next-described kits —and a great deal more— here.
On March 12, the touring production of Peter Morgan’s play Frost/Nixon with Alan Cox and Stacy Keach in the title roles opens at the Ahmanson Theatre in Los Angeles, and this weekend Keach talked about the experience of portraying RN with the Orange County Register’s Paul Hodgins. The acclaimed actor acknowledges that “I’ve always been biased against Nixon – ever since the ’70s and Watergate,” but points out that since signing on to the production, “I’ve really come to understand him a little better [...] I find myself having a lot more sympathy for him than when I first took this role.”
Keach also reveals that he has avoided seeing Ron Howard’s film of Frost/Nixon, and says of the play:
“It’s designed to work in the theater. It’s so much about how the media affects our lives and how image is such an important part of being on TV [...] When you see it in the theater you get the live image and the projected image simultaneously as if you’re at a concert or a sporting event. I think it makes the experience much more dynamic.”
And, having seen both play and film, I can confirm that the use of a giant TV screen onstage to display Keach’s close-ups, as he works his way through the drama’s cathartic confrontation over Watergate, has a power that is missing from the film, where the juxtaposition of TV monitors with Frank Langella sitting in the living-room set somewhat detracts from the effectiveness of his performance.
Keach also expresses a fondness for the wholly invented scene in which an inebriated RN phones David Frost at his hotel. This is rather understandable, since the scene, as much as it varies from what President Nixon would have said or done, gives Keach a chance to do a virtuoso turn on the boards.
Instead of all those costly boring textbooks written by the professor and/or his friends, the kids can learn how Washington really works by simply studying Kimberly Kindy’s lively savvy piece about FutureGen in today’s WaPo.
Deep inside the economic stimulus package is a $1 billion prize that, in five short words, shows the benefits of being in power in Washington.
The funding, for “fossil energy research and development,” is likely to go to a power plant in a small Illinois town, a project whose longtime backers include a group of powerful lawmakers from the state, among them President Obama.
The Republican Party has a lengthy record of environmental accomplishments, which stretch back to Abraham Lincoln’s protection of Yosemite Valley in 1864 and include Theodore Roosevelt’s forest and wildlife conservation, Richard Nixon’s creation of the EPA, and Ronald Reagan’s leadership in addressing ozone depletion….
Republicans must start staking out more defensible terrain on environmental issues and be a constant and constructive force for stewardship. In doing so, we must draw a positive contrast to Democrats by exposing their shortcomings and exploiting their areas of vulnerability.
Environmentally conscious voters, particularly young people, have come to associate the Republican Party—and conservatism—with short-sighted opposition to responsible environmental protections. In last year’s election, Barack Obama captured the youth vote by a 2-to-1 margin. Republicans cannot hope to be politically competitive again without getting a larger share of the youth vote.
I’m with the “Economist“: Economic recovery shouldn’t take the back seat to environmental reform:
Utilities, carmakers, oil firms and the like will have an integral role to play in reducing America’s emissions. Congress should not pander to them when crafting legislation, but it should not ignore them either. The relevant committees in both the House and the Senate are now headed by Californians, who have few energy-intensive, metal-bashing factories in their constituencies. The symbolism of Beverly Hills usurping Detroit in the legislative pecking order will not be lost on workers and firms in the rust belt who fear that aggressive curbs on greenhouse gases will deal a fatal blow to America’s already ailing heavy industry.
The Supreme Court rules 5-4 to allow the United States Navy to continue the use of Sonar in their training exercises in light of lawsuit from environmental groups fearing for the safety of wildlife. Chief Justice John Roberts cites the plainly indisputable:
We do not discount the importance of plaintiffs’ ecological, scientific and recreational interests in marine mammals. Those interests, however, are plainly outweighed by the Navy’s need to conduct realistic training exercises,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion. “We see no basis for jeopardizing national security.”
Who knew that Senator Biden’s mini-megalomaniacal monologue captured on a videocam during a routine walkabout in Ohio last week would turn out to be the gaffe that keeps on giving?
An editorial in today’s Wall Street Journal —nicely titled “Biden’s Coal Slaw”— keeps the coal fire burning:
The classic definition of a gaffe is when a politician accidentally tells the truth, and specialists like Joe Biden can work wonders with the form. On Tuesday Barack Obama’s running mate blew an easy question about coal, revealing volumes about liberal energy politics.
Working the rope line in Maumee, Ohio, the Senator was asked by an environmentalist why he and Mr. Obama support “clean coal.” “We’re not supporting clean coal,” Mr. Biden responded. Then, riffing on China’s breakneck construction of new coal plants, he continued, “No coal plants here in America. Build them, if they’re going to build them, over there.”
Coal happens to be the indispensable workhorse of the U.S. power system, providing about 50% of the country’s electricity. Many Democrats nonetheless despise coal — because of pollution before the era of scrubbers, but especially now because of carbon emissions. Al Gore favors an outright moratorium on coal-fired power in the name of climate change. Meanwhile, any scheme to tax and regulate carbon — like the cap-and-trade program backed by Mr. Obama and John McCain — would hit coal first and hardest, effectively banishing it from the U.S. energy mix.
Mr. Biden, then, only stated an obvious if politically unutterable truth. The real costs of green ambitions won’t be paid by well-heeled coastal liberals, but will fall disproportionately on the Southern and Midwestern states that depend on coal for jobs and power. The blue-collar voters of Pennsylvania, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and so forth will get hurt most — notwithstanding Mr. Biden’s campaign reinvention as the scrapper from Scranton.
As for “clean coal,” the Obama campaign actually supports it. But this too is a political bait-and-switch, perhaps explaining Mr. Biden’s confusion. In theory, clean coal would require capturing greenhouse gas emissions, compressing them into liquid and then pumping it underneath the earth. Even if the technology were ready for commercial deployment tomorrow, to sequester just 25% of yearly U.S. CO2 emissions would mean moving volumes more than twice as large as the world’s current oil pipeline system can handle. That will require an enormous amount of money, and generations to build.
That an eminence like Mr. Biden is clueless about coal suggests how little official Washington has thought through the consequences of its anticarbon agenda. His blunder is also notable because it exposed the realities that politicians prefer not to voice amid an election campaign. Coal-state voters should be watching what their politicians really have planned for them come January.
Reuters and others are reporting that General Motors is seeking buyers for the Hummer brand and other assets to raise up $4 billion to keep the company afloat. The problem is that GM’s market capitalization is only $6.5 billion — which leads one to wonder how company executives think they can get $4 billion and still have much left after losses of over $50 billion in the last three years. One must also ask whether the stubborn refusal to develop and sell more fuel-efficient vehicles in recent decades may have already doomed GM and the rest of the former Big Three American car manufacturers and we just don’t know it yet because their bodies are still moving. (Note to Congressional Republicans: sometimes greater regulation can actually be in companies’ long-term interest, whether they know it or not.)
Equally striking are two more facts. First, GM’s total worth is just one-fifteenth that of Toyota, and roughly on par with India’s Tata Motors and Russia’s Avtovaz — companies unknown to the vast majority of Americans. This is another illustration of how the once-mighty company has fallen. Second, reports on GM’s talks with possible buyers identify Indian, Russian, and Chinese firms — not the Japanese or the Europeans — as potential suitors. Expect more of the same as the balance of power in the global economy shifts increasingly in favor of these rapidly growing economies. The Russian and Indian economies are still small compared to America’s, and Russia’s in particular will probably stay that way for some time, but they are also clearly new players — and new players with high growth rates and ambitious goals. This is also cause for reflection.
TNN’s painstaking efforts on behalf of the historical reputation of the 37th President could be set back substantially now that the Orlando Business Journal is reminding its readers of one of his most unpopular policies (at least among long-haul, open-road westerners): The 55-mile-per-hour speed limit. A new plan, put forward by a Democratic congresswoman from California, is for a national 60 mph limit. Cast your vote today.
From veteran California-watcher Daniel Weintraub, a reminder about the depths of the state’s aversion to off-shore drilling — and yes, there’s a Nixon angle:
Perhaps as the price of gas climbs toward $5 per gallon some people will be tempted to follow Bush’s lead. But it will probably have to double again before Californians agree to more drilling off the coast.
That’s how indelible the Santa Barbara spill became in the state’s collective civic psyche. And the effect reached far beyond California’s borders. The disaster is credited with helping to start the modern environmental movement. The first Earth Day was just a few months later, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency was formed the following year.
President Richard Nixon said the incident “touched the conscience” of the American people.
“The Economist” confirms your worst fears about certain (of course not all or even most) federal bureaucrats: Some of those in charge of our national parks would appreciate your staying home, eating potato chips and playing on your computer. Reflecting a national trend, Yosemite National Park attendance has dropped nine out of the last 13 years and looks as though it will be low this year as well. Fishing and hunting are also down. You’d think the feds would be thinking of new ways to drum up business — but noooo:
[I]t is not clear to everyone in the National Park Service that the lack of visitors is a problem, admits Dean Reeder, its tourism director. Some rangers, indeed, seem to view visitors as an impediment to the smooth running of the parks. Wiser heads know this is folly. As Americans lose interest in the national parks, they will become less willing to pay for them through taxes. Some worry about Hispanics, a fast-growing group that seems resistant to the call of the wild.
It’s not all the feds’ fault. A 1997 flood destroyed half of the Yosemite Valley’s campsites. Local environmentalists have blocked the Park Service’s plans to replace some of them:
And they have opened a broader front in the battle against development. Earlier this year a federal court ruled that the National Park Service must limit human use of Yosemite Valley. That may mean a daily cap on visitor numbers. If the park imposes one, the example is likely to spread across America. This will create pressure to solve environmental problems by turning more people away.
This is a shame, and a self-defeating exercise. America’s environmental movement emerged in the 19th century to push for national parks. In the 20th century it sold them to the public through photographs and writing. It now seems bent on driving people away from them.
Perhaps that recent program on cable about what the world would look like without people is someone’s grand exercise in wishful thinking.
John Taylor correctly pointed out yesterday that as unpopular as high gas prices may be, they are not all bad: high prices typically encourage conservation and efficiency technologies that should help us both to limit our oil dependence and to stem the growth in greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, for a variety of reasons, both of these impacts have been marginal so far in the United States and are unlikely to result in big changes before we (and others around the world) face an energy and climate train wreck.
The first problem is that while Americans have somewhat reduced their use of gasoline with higher prices, the difference has been small. Why? As Robin West, Chairman of the energy consulting firm PFC Energy and others have pointed out, our communities and infrastructure force people to drive. More and more people live in the suburbs, have long commutes, and have no viable public transportation options.
A second problem is that the technologies currently in use and in the pipeline (so to speak) also don’t make a big difference. Hybrids help, but are rare. Electric and fuel cell vehicles aren’t really commercially viable yet and–even when they are–will still result in significant carbon emissions because they will depend heavily on electricity generated by fossil fuels. Making hydrogen for hydrogen cars, which are even further away, will produce emissions too. (Yes, we could use nuclear power, but good luck building enough plants in the necessary time frame.)
And even if we do develop a breakthrough technology, how long will it take to become widespread? Hybrids have been available for years and still have a low market share. It could take two decades to replace the U.S vehicle fleet. It could take four or five decades to replace our power plants. Consumers and companies will only do what makes economic sense and generally will not replace existing assets until they live out their useful lives.
The third problem is that according to most analysts, global oil production capacity will peak at around 100 million barrels per day. But demand will keep growing and is expected to reach 130 million barrels per day by 2015. (The problem isn’t the amount of oil in the ground, but our ability to get it out.) So if you think prices are high now, you ain’t seen nothing yet.
At the same time, notwithstanding the fact that Senators Clinton, McCain, and Obama have all announced plans to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions that far exceed those of the Bush Administration, those hoping for global action to prevent climate change are likely to be disappointed. We had a thorough discussion of some of the reasons here at The Nixon Center last week. Technology (see above) is one. The other two are China — which surpassed the U.S. in emissions last year, and could double its emissions in the next decade or so, far overwhelming any reductions (or more likely, any reductions in the growth of our emissions) we might make — and (ironically) Congressional Democrats. As Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin noted during our session, the single biggest obstacle to major U.S. action on climate change in the Congress will be Michigan Democrat John Dingell, Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Senator Robert Byrd — the Senate’s senior-most Democrat and a powerful advocate for coal-rich West Virginia — may also have some views on the issue. He was the Democratic co-sponsor of the Senate’s 1997 Byrd-Hagel resolution, a 97-0 vote that effectively killed the Kyoto Protocol and persuaded President Bill Clinton not to attempt Senate ratification.
The energy-climate picture in the coming years is a bleak one, and we would do well to start preparing for the consequences.
The greenest former CIA director in history, neocon James Woolsey, is profiled in “Mother Jones”:
As Woolsey explains it, there is a seamless connection between his strategic worldview and energy-independence convictions. In an op-ed he coauthored for National Review last September, he wrote of ending our reliance “on the whims of opec’s despots, the substantial instabilities of the Middle East, and the indignity of paying for both sides in the War on Terror.” He still thinks the United States should continue its global military role even as it untangles itself from the Middle East, standing by the decision to depose Saddam Hussein. “I’d support his ouster again if there weren’t a drop of oil in Iraq,” he explains. “If all that had been at issue was the oil, the simple thing to do would have been to just buy it.” Woolsey recalls the moment he started thinking seriously about energy as both an environmental and strategic issue. “I was sitting in my car in a gas line in Washington in ‘73, after the Saudis had declared an oil embargo on us and Israel was attacked,” he says. “And I got mad.” Energy issues have captivated him ever since. In the early ’80s, he joined the Jefferson Group, an alternative-fuel salon founded on the Jeffersonian ideal “that the future of America is determined by the independent yeoman farmer.”
Mike Thomas at the Orlando Sentinel calls President Nixon “America’s greatest environmentalist”:
His accomplishments include the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. He started the Council on Environmental Quality and the Environmental Protection Agency. Nixon rewrote the federal government’s role in protecting natural resources. He created the regulatory framework now in place, the one that subsequent Republican presidents have tried so hard to dismantle. His administration organized the first worldwide effort to crack down on international trade in endangered species. That effort now includes 172 nations and protects 30,000 species, ranging from orchids to whales. Under Nixon, DDT was banned and eagles flourished….I could go on and on. The list of what Nixon accomplished dwarfs that of any other president. Liberals say all this was a cold, political calculation designed to exploit the growing environmental movement. How pathetic. They can’t question results, so they attack motivation….He was a visionary. And whatever led him in that direction, I don’t care. On Tuesday, this Earth Day is for you, President Nixon. The Earth is a much better place because of you.