Dubious Celebration

Today is Earth Day and millions of Americans will celebrate by doing something to improve the environment -- cleaning up trash in a local park, planting a tree, or making their home more energy efficient. Meanwhile, the Bush administration will celebrate Earth Day by inviting oil-industry officials to the Environmental Protection Agency to discuss a plan to relax pollution standards for gasoline. The plan would allow higher sulfur content gasoline to be sold during the summer months. According to Frank O'Donnell of Clean Air Trust "because sulfur is a prime contributor to both urban smog and soot, it could also result in an increase in health problems." That is a large price to pay for a plan that would only temporarily "trim oil prices by as much as a nickel a gallon" -- and not necessarily in all markets.

Also on the Earth Day agenda: the administration is pushing to exempt the Defense Department from "the Clean Air Act and from hazardous waste laws at thousands of firing and bombing ranges nationwide." If Congress grants the exemption, "state and federal authorities would be helpless to prevent more perchlorate contamination in Southern California drinking water" and other locations across the nation. The move would also make it harder to purify water supplies after they became contaminated because it would "make it more difficult for local governments to obtain reimbursements either from the Pentagon or local defense contractors." As a result, cash-strapped states would have to try to scrape together cash for cleanups.

California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is making Earth Day news in California. While a candidate, Governor Schwarzenegger responded to environmental critics by promising to retrofit one of his six "gas-swilling Hummers to run on eco-friendly hydrogen power." Seven months after the promise, " the high tech Hummer has yet to hit the road." David Caldwell, a Hummer spokesman, said the hydrogen Hummer is "not something that exists currently. It's not something you would expect to see in the near future." Caldwell added ominously: "We would never do a Hummer on any energy source that would not perform like a Hummer is supposed to perform." The latest version of the Hummer weighs 6400 pounds and gets 8 to 10 miles per gallon. Gov. Schwarzenegger has also yet to produce a strategy to meet his promise to reduce California air pollution by 50 percent. Meanwhile, the Bush administration pushed through a tax break actually giving consumers an incentive to buy bigger, more fuel-inefficient cars, according to the Washington Post.

Think you are not getting the straight story from the left? Just want the straight facts about the environment? Here's what you'll get from the right: Edwin J. Feulner, President of the Heritage Foundation, in a piece cleverly entitled " Down to Earth Day," comes to the stunning conclusion that cars "helped...clear our air." Feulner chides his readers "not [to] forget what autos replaced: horses." If not for cars, our streets would be "filled with manure." Also, "horses required tons of hay, which meant thousands of acres of farmland were needed to grow food for animal use, not human consumption." Another benefit: "cars enabled people to move out of crowded cities into suburbs where they are in closer contact with nature."

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