tMichaelB is the web site for Tom Bengtson, who writes about business, religion, family and politics.

Friday, June 01, 2007

The Greening of America

Environmentalism has grown into one of the most powerful cultural forces of our time and there are a lot of companies that are jumping on the “green” bandwagon. Along comes Dr. Jay H. Lehr, science director for the Heartland Institute; he calls it all a crock. The 71-year-old tri-athlete spoke to nearly 200 business leaders in Bloomington, Minn., on May 8.

“Global warming is the biggest scam ever perpetrated on society,” he declared. The sun, he said, controls the earth’s climate, not humans. He explained it like this: Human cultures produce CO2, but the carbon dioxide makes up just 4 percent of all greenhouse gases. Ninety percent of greenhouse gases, he said, are water vapor (“which we have no control over”). Two percent of greenhouse gas, he said, is methane from plants and animals, and the remaining 2 percent is nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide.

He acknowledged that the human population has increased the CO2 output by about one-third, but since that chemical makes up only 4 percent of the universe of greenhouse gases, its impact is inconsequential. He acknowledged that the climate is changing, but he denied that humans have much to do with it. Computer models, he said, predict an increase in the average surface temperature of 1.5 to 3.5 degrees in the next 100 years.

Many people are leveraging the global warming cause for their own interests, he said, referring to competing nations which would like to see the United States suffer with higher energy costs, or environmental groups which use climate change hyperbole to fundraise.

With so many people concerned about the environment, Lehr said large companies are “going green” in order to drive out smaller competitors that cannot afford to change to more environmentally friendly operations. He cited Wal-Mart as an example, saying the company had adopted environmentalism in order to repair its reputation on wages and labor practices. Twenty-two of Wal-Mart’s California stores, he said, are erecting solar panels which will supply a third of the stores’ energy. The State of California offers large tax incentives for such investments. “The California taxpayer is now going to pay for part of the Wal-Mart electric bill,” Lehr observed.

Whether there are greenhouse gases involved or not, practical use of resources seems like a good thing to me. I don’t know whether the planet needs saving, or whether we can do anything about it, but I do know you can save a little money by turning the lights out when there’s no one in the room. That’s incentive enough for me. One way or the other, call it “green.”