Friday, 3 December 1999 Washington, DC
1. BAD NEWS: LOOKS LIKE WE NEED AN ENERGY REVOLUTION.
to a Science magazine article this week, the accelerating decline
of Arctic ice over the past 46 years is most likely the result of
human activity, rather than normal climate cycles. Based on the
most advanced computer models available, the authors put the
chance that the 46-year trend could be entirely due to natural
fluctuations at less than 0.1%. Not only is the ice area
declining, the remaining ice is thinning rapidly, according to
another article. Since ice does not absorb solar energy as
efficiently as open water, there is a strong positive feedback.
2. GOOD NEWS: WE MAY BE ON THE THRESHOLD OF AN ENERGY REVOLUTION.
A report released on Capitol Hill yesterday by the Northeast-
Midwest Institute argues that utility deregulation, combined with
replacement of aging power generators, provides a unique chance
to convert to more efficient technologies and reduce greenhouse
emissions. Lacking incentive to increase efficiency, regulated
monopolies rely heavily on highly-centralized steam turbines with
fuel efficiency of only about 30%. Combined cycle gas turbines
(CCGTs) can double efficiency with far lower emissions. CCGTs
now supply a mere 3% of U.S. demand, but they account for 88% of
planned power plants. However, the full benefit will not be
realized if centralized gigawatt power plants are simply replaced
with CCGTs, for which the optimum size is only about 100
megawatts. Energy in the form of natural gas is about three
times cheaper to transport than electrical energy. Rather than
focusing on a particular technology, however, the report calls
for incentives to be built into deregulation that will encourage
innovation in generation and distribution.
3. OKLAHOMA: WHO CAME FIRST, THE GOVERNOR OR BABOONS?
As WN reported last month
(WN 12 Nov 99),
eleven biblical literalists
appointed by Gov. Frank Keating to the Oklahoma State Textbook
Committee, mandated that stickers be affixed to biology texts
warning students that evolution is only a theory, since "No one
was present when life first appeared on Earth." WN went straight
to Genesis to check this assertion. Alas, we were quickly in
over our heads. "And out of the ground, LORD God formed every
beast of the field and every fowl of the air; and brought them
unto Adam..." (Genesis 2:19:25). It sort of sounded like Adam was
there first, but we called the Institute for Creation Research
for clarification. "We're not biblical scholars," the spokesman
explained, "we're scientists, but that's an easy one. The animals
and man were all created on the sixth day, but the animals came
first." In any case, WN believes no sentient beings were present
when the textbook committee made its decision. Meanwhile, Gov.
Keating declared he doesn't think he is descended from a baboon.
!!FLASH!! The Mars polar Lander is down, but no signal yet.