Leader Blues

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

EDITORIALS>>State studies global warming

Arkansas now has an official agency commissioned to do something about global warming on our small province of the planet, the Governor’s Commission on Global Warming. Gov. Beebe, who appointed 17 of the 21 members, had some hopeful things to say about it on its send-off.

But we all know, don’t we, that nothing much ever comes from these study commissions. This one will suggest some small energy-saving steps, talk about encouraging the development of clean-burning biofuels and renewable energy sources, and what else? Once finished, the report will take up a little shelf space in the state archives.

Could this commission be different? After all, the sponsor of the act creating the commission, the indefatigable idealist Rep. Kathy Webb, also will be on the commission, having been appointed by House Speaker Benny Petrus Jr. Webb gets things done and she may be able to get a workable consensus from the corporate bureaucrats and nonprofit representatives on the commission and then get the legislature to implement some of the solutions. We’d like to hope.

Arkansas is a tiny part of this rapidly heating planet and it can do no more than make a barely discernible reduction in the greenhouse gases that are heating the atmosphere and melting the polar icecaps. But it can do that, and it might set an example for others.

The commission and Gov. Beebe could do one thing immediately that would contribute far more than anything else it is liable to do. They could intervene at the Public Service Commission and urge the commissioners not to grant a certificate for the construction of the big coal-fired generating plant in Hempstead County sought by Southwestern Electric Power Co.
Once in operation, the plant will send more warming carbon dioxide into the air every year than all the automobiles and commercial machinery in Arkansas combined.

The environmental hearing looks almost exclusively at mercury, sulfur dioxide and other emissions that tend to have immediate and localized effect on the streams, forests and air.

It could jeopardize the verdant and pristine Grassy Lake region. But the carbon dioxide that the plant will produce rises into the atmosphere to affect the whole planet for hundreds of years. Arkansas’ existing three coal-burning plants pump nearly 30 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere every year. That is enough from us.

Time may be too short for the new commission to intervene effectively (the PSC will make its decision this fall), but it would be an energizing start.