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Rachel's Democracy and Health News

Rachel's Democracy & Health News #916 "Environment, health, jobs and justice--Who gets to decide?" Thursday, July 19, 2007printer-friendly version

Featured stories in this issue...

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is Now Recognized as Real
Last month the federal Centers for Disease Control released survey data suggesting that the prevalence of chronic fatigue syndrome is far higher than previously thought. And nearly everyone now agrees that the syndrome is real.
Living Near High Traffic Raises Heart Risks
"Politicians, regulators and physicians need to be aware that living close to heavy traffic may pose an increased risk of harm to the heart. Potential harm due to proximity to heavy traffic should be considered when planning new buildings and roads," Hoffmann said
Persistent Organic Pollutants
Past scientific studies have failed to identify hazards associated with many chemicals: "Current risk assessments that classify a chemical as a persistent organic pollutant (POP) have based their conclusions primarily on science drawn from aquatic toxicology," says Lawrence Burkhard, an EPA research chemist. "This paper strongly suggests risk assessment methodologies need to be changed to include data on bioaccumulation in birds and mammals. If this is done, more chemicals may be classified as POPs [persistent organic pollutants, regulated by the Stockholm Convention] than have been in the past."
Conservative Pennsylvanians Pass Laws Defying U.S. Constitution
More than 100 largely Republican municipalities have passed laws to abolish the constitutional rights of corporations, inventing what some critics are calling a "radical" new kind of environmental activism.
Public Access To EPA Library Holdings in Jeopardy
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is closing its library system, making its unique collections inaccessible to agency scientists and to the public.
The Petroleum Industry Says Demand Will Soon Exceed Supply
"It is a hard truth that the global supply of oil and natural gas from the conventional sources relied upon historically is unlikely to meet projected 50% to 60% growth in demand over the next 25 years," says the [petroleum industry's] draft report.
Accidents Dim Hopes for Green Nuclear Option
The recent earthquake in Japan and accidents at two German power plants raise questions on the safety of nuclear energy as a cleaner alternative.

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From: New York Times
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CHRONIC FATIGUE SYNDROME IS NOW RECOGNIZED AS REAL

By David Tuller

For decades, people suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome have struggled to convince doctors, employers, friends and even family members that they were not imagining their debilitating symptoms. Skeptics called the illness "yuppie flu" and "shirker syndrome."

Donna Flowers, who became ill with chronic fatigue syndrome several years ago after a bout of mononucleosis, working out in her home in Los Gatos, Calif., while taking care of her twins.

But the syndrome is now finally gaining some official respect. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which in 1999 acknowledged that it had diverted millions of dollars allocated by Congress for chronic fatigue syndrome research to other programs, has released studies that linked the condition to genetic mutations and abnormalities in gene expression involved in key physiological processes. The centers have also sponsored a $6 million public awareness campaign about the illness. And last month, the C.D.C. released survey data suggesting that the prevalence of the syndrome is far higher than previously thought, although these findings have stirred controversy among patients and scientists. Some scientists and many patients remain highly critical of the C.D.C.'s record on chronic fatigue syndrome, or C.F.S. But nearly everyone now agrees that the syndrome is real.

"People with C.F.S. are as sick and as functionally impaired as someone with AIDS, with breast cancer, with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease," said Dr. William Reeves, the lead expert on the illness at the C.D.C., who helped expose the centers' misuse of chronic fatigue financing.

Chronic fatigue syndrome was first identified as a distinct entity in the 1980s. (A virtually identical illness had been identified in Britain three decades earlier and called myalgic encephalomyelitis.) The illness causes overwhelming fatigue, sleep disorders and other severe symptoms and afflicts more women than men. No consistent biomarkers have been identified and no treatments have been approved for addressing the underlying causes, although some medications provide symptomatic relief.

Patients say the word "fatigue" does not begin to describe their condition. Donna Flowers of Los Gatos, Calif., a physical therapist and former professional figure skater, said the profound exhaustion was unlike anything she had ever experienced.

"I slept for 12 to 14 hours a day but still felt sleep-deprived," said Ms. Flowers, 51, who fell ill several years ago after a bout of mononucleosis. "I had what we call 'brain fog.' I couldn't think straight, and I could barely read. I couldn't get the energy to go out of the door. I thought I was doomed. I wanted to die."

Studies have shown that people with the syndrome experience abnormalities in the central and autonomic nervous systems, the immune system, cognitive functions, the stress response pathways and other major biological functions. Researchers believe the illness will ultimately prove to have multiple causes, including genetic predisposition and exposure to microbial agents, toxins and other physical and emotional traumas. Studies have linked the onset of chronic fatigue syndrome with an acute bout of Lyme disease, Q fever, Ross River virus, parvovirus, mononucleosis and other infectious diseases.

"It's unlikely that this big cluster of people who fit the symptoms all have the same triggers," said Kimberly McCleary, president of the Chronic Fatigue and Immune Dysfunction Syndrome Association of America, the advocacy group in charge of the C.D.C.-sponsored awareness campaign. "You're looking not just at apples and oranges but pineapples, hot dogs and skateboards, too."

Under the most widely used case definition, a diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome requires six months of unexplained fatigue as well as four of eight other persistent symptoms: impaired memory and concentration, sore throat, tender lymph nodes, muscle pain, joint pain, headaches, disturbed sleeping patterns and post-exercise malaise.

The broadness of the definition has led to varying estimates of the syndrome's prevalence. Based on previous surveys, the C.D.C. has estimated that more than a million Americans have the illness.

Last month, however, the disease control centers reported that a randomized telephone survey in Georgia, using a less restrictive methodology to identify cases, found that about 1 in 40 adults ages 18 to 59 met the diagnostic criteria -- an estimate 6 to 10 times higher than previously reported rates.

However, many patients and researchers fear that the expanded prevalence rate could complicate the search for consistent findings across patient cohorts. These critics say the new figures are greatly inflated and include many people who are likely to be suffering not from chronic fatigue syndrome but from psychiatric illnesses.

"There are many, many conditions that are psychological in nature that share symptoms with this illness but do not share much of the underlying biology," said John Herd, 55, a former medical illustrator and a C.F.S. patient for two decades.

Researchers and patient advocates have faulted other aspects of the C.D.C.'s research. Dr. Jonathan Kerr, a microbiologist and chronic fatigue expert at St. George's University of London, said the C.D.C.'s gene expression findings last year were "rather meaningless" because they were not confirmed through more advanced laboratory techniques. Kristin Loomis, executive director of the HHV-6 Foundation, a research advocacy group for a form of herpes virus that has been linked to C.F.S., said studying subsets of patients with similar profiles was more likely to generate useful findings than Dr. Reeves's population- based approach.

Dr. Reeves responded that understanding of the disease and of some newer research technologies is still in its infancy, so methodological disagreements were to be expected. He defended the population-based approach as necessary for obtaining a broad picture and replicable results. "To me, this is the usual scientific dialogue," he said.

Dr. Jose G. Montoya, a Stanford infectious disease specialist pursuing the kind of research favored by Ms. Loomis, caused a buzz last December when he reported remarkable improvement in 9 out of 12 patients given a powerful antiviral medication, valganciclovir. Dr. Montoya has just begun a randomized controlled trial of the drug, which is approved for other uses.

Dr. Montoya said some cases of the syndrome were caused when an acute infection set off a recurrence of latent infections of Epstein Barr virus and HHV-6, two pathogens that most people are exposed to in childhood. Ms. Flowers, the former figure skater, had high levels of antibodies to both viruses and was one of Dr. Montoya's initial C.F.S. patients.

Six months after starting treatment, Ms. Flowers said, she was able to go snowboarding and take yoga and ballet classes. "Now I pace myself, but I'm probably 75 percent of normal," she said.

Many patients point to another problem with chronic fatigue syndrome: the name itself, which they say trivializes their condition and has discouraged researchers, drug companies and government agencies from taking it seriously. Many patients prefer the older British term, myalgic encephalomyelitis, which means "muscle pain with inflammation of the brain and spinal chord," or a more generic term, myalgic encephalopathy.

"You can change people's attributions of the seriousness of the illness if you have a more medical-sounding name," said Dr. Leonard Jason, a professor of community psychology at DePaul University in Chicago.

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From: Scientific American
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LIVING NEAR HIGH TRAFFIC RAISES HEART RISKS

DALLAS (Reuters) -- Living near a busy highway may be bad for your heart.

Long-term exposure to air pollution from a nearby freeway or busy road can raise the risk of hardening of the arteries, which can lead to heart disease and stroke, German researchers reported on Monday.

"The most important finding of our study is that living close to high traffic, a major source of urban air pollution, is associated with atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries -- the blood vessels that supply the heart," Dr. Barbara Hoffmann, who led the study, said in a statement.

"This is the first study to actually show a relationship between long- term traffic exposure and coronary atherosclerosis," said Hoffmann, of the University of Duisburg-Essen in Germany.

The study is published in this week's issue of Circulation, an American Heart Association journal.

Previous studies have linked elevated levels of air pollution to an increased risk of heart problems, but this is the first to demonstrate that living near high traffic is associated with coronary atherosclerosis.

The study looked at 4,494 adults, aged 45 to 74, in three large cities in the industrialized Ruhr area of Germany.

Doctors examined the participants, looking especially for coronary artery calcification, which occurs when fatty plaques forming in the artery walls become calcified, or hardened.

Researchers found that compared with people who lived more than 200 meters (yards) from major traffic, the chance of high coronary artery calcification was 63 percent greater for those living within 50 meters (160 feet).

For people within 51 meters to 100 meters (164 feet to 328 feet) the chance was 34 percent higher. It was 8 percent higher for those within 100 meters to 200 meters (328 feet to 642 feet) of heavy traffic.

These percentages take into account age, gender, smoking and high blood pressure.

A five-year follow up study is set to be completed next year.

"Politicians, regulators and physicians need to be aware that living close to heavy traffic may pose an increased risk of harm to the heart. Potential harm due to proximity to heavy traffic should be considered when planning new buildings and roads," Hoffmann said.

Copyright 1996-2007 Scientific American, Inc.

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From: Chemical & Engineering News (pg. 6)
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PERSISTENT ORGANIC POLLUTANTS

By Celia Arnaud

Some persistent organic pollutants (POPs) can reach high concentrations in humans and other air-breathing animals even though they don't bioaccumulate in fish, according to a study by Canadian researchers (Science 2007, Vol. 317, pg. 236). The observation suggests that the regulatory criteria now used to flag potential POPs may need revision.

Some persistent organic pollutants can bioaccumulate in air-breathing animals such as polar bears even though they don't accumulate in the fish the bears eat. Bioaccumulative compounds are usually assumed to be hydrophobic and fat-soluble if they have an octanol-water partition coefficient (KOW) greater than 100,000. Screening of commercial chemicals to identify potentially bioaccumulative compounds is usually based on the KOW or laboratory tests with fish. But research by environmental chemist Frank A. P. C. Gobas, grad student Barry C. Kelly, and coworkers at Simon Fraser University, in Burnaby, British Columbia, shows that such an approach may overlook a significant fraction of pollutants that pose health risks to air-breathing animals.

The Canadian researchers show that even moderately hydrophobic compounds with KOW between 100 and 100,000 can increase in concentration at each step in the food chain, a process known as biomagnification. Biomagnification of such a compound can occur in food webs that include humans and other air-breathing animals, even when it doesn't happen in food webs that are limited to fish and aquatic invertebrates. To biomagnify in air-breathing animals, a compound must have a high octanol-air partition coefficient (KOA), and it must be metabolized slowly.

Gobas and his coworkers first hypothesized in 2001 that compounds with high KOA would biomagnify in air-breathing animals. At that time, they observed that certain substances with a relatively low KOW biomagnified significantly in the lichen-caribou-wolf food chain. They have now looked at a variety of food webs, including one with only water-respiring organisms, one with only air-breathing organisms, and one with both (including humans). All the food webs they studied are found in northern Canada.

The polychlorinated biphenyl congener 153 (PCB153) is an example of a compound with high KOW and high KOA. As expected, it biomagnifies in all three food webs. In contrast, beta-hexachlorocyclohexane (the insecticide lindane) has a low KOW and a high KOA. It does not biomagnify in the food web that includes only water-respiring organisms, but it does biomagnify in both webs that include air- breathing animals.

Gobas hastens to point out that their model assumes that the chemicals are not metabolized. "The degree to which chemicals are transformed in organisms is difficult to predict at this point," he says.

Gobas hopes that environmental regulations will change as a result of this work. "For regulatory agencies and chemical manufacturers, it is important to recognize that chemicals with a high octanol-air partition coefficient have the potential to bioaccumulate in terrestrial and human food webs," he says.

Lynn R. Goldman, a professor of environmental health sciences at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, says that the paper suggests "a broader range of chemicals, with high KOA but lower KOW, should perhaps be considered to be persistent organic pollutants." Goldman served as assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Prevention, Pesticides & Toxic Substances during the Clinton Administration.

"Current risk assessments that classify a chemical as a persistent organic pollutant (POP) have based their conclusions primarily on science drawn from aquatic toxicology," says Lawrence Burkhard, an EPA research chemist. "This paper strongly suggests risk assessment methodologies need to be changed to include data on bioaccumulation in birds and mammals. If this is done, more chemicals may be classified as POPs than have been in the past."

Copyright 2007 American Chemical Society

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From: New York Sun
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CONSERVATIVE PENNSYLVANIANS PASS LAWS DEFYING U.S. CONSTITUTION

By Channing Joseph, Staff Reporter

Nearly 220 years after America's Constitution was drafted in Pennsylvania, scores of rural Keystone State communities are declaring the document null and void.

More than 100 largely Republican municipalities have passed laws to abolish the constitutional rights of corporations, inventing what some critics are calling a "radical" new kind of environmental activism. Led by the nonprofit Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund, they are attempting to jumpstart a national movement, with Celdf chapters in at least 23 states actively promoting an agenda of "disobedient lawmaking."

"I understand that state law and federal law is supposed to pre-empt local laws, but federal law tells us we're supposed to have clean air and clean water," the mayor of Tamaqua, Pa., Christian Morrison, told The New York Sun.

More than a year ago, the Lehigh Coal and Navigation Corporation stirred an uproar in Mr. Morrison's eastern Schuylkill County borough with a proposal to use a large strip mine as a disposal site for material dredged up from the Hudson and Delaware rivers.

But in May, the mayor, 37, cast a tie-breaking council vote to enact an ordinance that bans corporate waste dumping -- making his the first community in America to do so -- and abolishes all corporate rights within his borough.

"The state and federal environmental protection agencies... support the big corporations, and they really don't look after the safety of the people that I represent," Mr. Morrison told the Sun. Representatives at Lehigh Coal and Navigation did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

The legal defense fund's director of education, training, and development, Richard Grossman, has said that today's federal and state laws too often condone corporate practices that pose ecological and public health hazards, such as strip mining and toxic waste dumping. The solution, his organization suggests, is to deny corporations of all their rights, thereby denying them the ability to engage in any potentially dangerous practices.

The legal fund's strategy is not without critics, of course. The president of the conservative Eagle Forum of Pennsylvania, Fran Bevan, said the "whole process undermines representative government" and "harkens to 'radical environmentalism.'"

With nongovernmental groups such as Celdf, "elected officials... many times unknowingly give in to their agenda because it sounds like a good solution," Ms. Bevan told the Sun. Instead, she said, "I think that we need educated elected officials and need not depend on NGOs who are accountable to no one.... We certainly have enough agencies and laws that oversee sites where businesses and industries develop."

Celdf was founded in 1995 to provide legal services to environmental groups. Since that time, it has taken on the additional mission of working with rural governments to establish "home rule," the legal notion that small communities can exercise sovereignty at the local level.

About 43 states currently provide for some level of municipal home rule. According to its Web site, Celdf assists those municipalities "that are ready to take this bold step in local self-governance" by helping to draft the necessary legislation.

But in doing so, some members of these communities are going so far as to say their local laws ought to supersede federal authority, defying the Supreme Court's long-standing view that corporate entities are legal persons entitled to due process, equal protection, free speech, and other rights. Their aim is to use one or more of the anti- corporate ordinances they have passed to establish a Supreme Court test case disputing corporate personhood.

Abolitionists in the early 19th century could "have ended up demanding a slavery protection agency -- you know, the equivalent of today's Environmental Protection Agency -- to make slaves' conditions a little less bad," Mr. Grossman said in a 2000 speech comparing corporations to slave owners. Instead, "they denounced the Constitution" -- which permitted slavery at the time -- "and openly violated federal and state laws by aiding runaway slaves."

Just as judges and juries slowly changed their minds about the slave trade, Mr. Grossman said, today's public eventually will come to see corporations in a different light.

Through decades of work, abolitionists "built a political movement ... with the clout to get their three constitutional amendments enacted," he added, referring to the 13th through 15th amendments.

But the young mayor of Tamaqua has less lofty goals.

"I'm trying to protect the community that voted me in," Mr. Morrison said. "Both my parents are riddled with cancer."

Several members of his 7,000-person community have been diagnosed with rare forms of the disease, and the dumping at several nearby superfund sites is to blame, Mr. Morrison said.

Schuylkill County is heavily Republican, and voters there strongly supported President Bush in the last two presidential contests, according to the Pennsylvania Department of State Bureau of Commissions, Elections, and Legislation.

Mr. Morrison, however, is a Democrat. "It's not too often you see a Democrat get elected to anything in Tamaqua," he told the Sun. Still, Mr. Morrison said he is willing to stand behind his community's new ordinance, and go to prison if necessary. The ordinance is "set up so it can be done civilly," he said. "If not, criminally."

The young mayor's spirit of civil disobedience extends beyond his rural community in eastern Pennsylvania. With active chapters in states from Alaska to Arizona, including New York, Celdf is spawning a nationwide movement with weekend workshops that cost between $300 and $400 and that are designed to encourage attendees to push for anti- corporate legislation in their communities. Called the Daniel Pennock Democracy Schools, the 10- to 20-person classes began in 2003 at Wilson College in Chambersburg, Pa., and are named in honor of a 17- year-old boy who died after exposure to sewage sludge.

Shireen Parsons, who has organized several of the courses in Virginia, became involved with Celdf several years ago, when members of her mostly Republican community in Christiansburg, Va., began organizing against a proposed highway project.

She received a telephone call from Celdf's executive director, Thomas Linzey, who told her, "We want to litigate this for you."

After three lawsuits and three appeals, Ms. Parsons said, the courts finally ruled in favor of the corporate highway project. It was at that point that she and other Celdf members decided to change their strategy and challenge the legal system rather than work within it, she said.

State and federal laws are "set up so that we will always fail," Ms. Parsons told the Sun. "We have been working with these regulators for 40 years, and everything is worse. So we haven't gained anything from working within the system."

Lyn Gerry, the host of "Unwelcome Guests," a weekly radio show based in Watkins Glen, N.Y., has aired excerpts of Democracy Schools on her two-hour program, which is broadcast to at least 20 stations in 12 American states, Canada, and New Zealand. According to the New York State Board of Elections, residents of Schuyler County, to which Watkins Glen belongs, voted strongly in favor of Mr. Bush in both the 2000 and 2004 elections.

Ms. Gerry said her neighbors in her village of about 2,100 people have been abuzz about the Democracy Schools after recent proposals to dig a quarry and to dispose of toxic waste on nearby farmland. She added: "We've got some issues here that lend themselves" to Celdf's project, which she refers to on her show as "disobedient lawmaking."

"What underlies the Democracy School, what makes it so powerful is that it's an organizing model," she said. "The community comes to a consensus and says, 'We have the right to decide how it is here. We're making a legal right to do it.'"

Back in Pennsylvania, not everyone is convinced.

"Our environment is the only one we have, so we need to be conscientious about our use and non-use," Ms. Bevan of the Eagle Forum said. "The question that I have concerning Celdf... is, 'Do we need them?' Do we have problems that are not being addressed, or are we creating problems that do not exist?"

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From: Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility
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PUBLIC ACCESS TO EPA LIBRARY HOLDINGS IN JEOPARDY

Washington, DC -- The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is finalizing procedures that may lock away a large portion of its library collections from access by the public, according to agency documents released today by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). Compounding the inaccessibility of physical collections, the public's ability to electronically search digitized EPA holdings is problematic as well.

Over the past 18 months, EPA has closed large parts of its library network, including regional libraries serving 23 states, as well as its Headquarters Library and several technical libraries. The holdings from these shuttered facilities have been shipped to one of three "repositories" -- located in Cincinnati, North Carolina's Research Triangle Park and D.C. How the public, and even EPA's own staff, access these growing repositories has been uncertain.

Even as Congress moves to reverse EPA's library closures, the agency is now racing to cement new procedures restricting the ability of the public to locate or read technical documents in the agency's possession. A new proposed policy circulated internally for comment on July 11, 2007 provides:

"Repository libraries are not required to provide public access to their collections..."

In the interim, public requests are funneled into a "frequent questions" web page that yields balky and incomplete answers to patrons' questions.

Meanwhile, the remaining libraries are directed to provide public access but may tailor or reduce that access depending upon resource limitations:

"Available public access choices from a member library shall be based on its capacity to provide them."

"EPA claims that its libraries are designed for the twin purposes of improving the quality of information for agency decision-making as well as raising public environmental awareness, but right now the libraries are not serving either purpose very well," stated PEER Associate Director Carol Goldberg. "Significantly, EPA is not even bothering to consult the public who paid for these collections."

In addition to the public, EPA's own scientists have not been consulted either. A union grievance filed on August 16, 2006 protesting the closure of libraries as making it harder for scientists and other specialists to do their work. EPA ignored the grievance. On Monday, February 5, 2007, the American Federation of Government Employees National Council of EPA Locals filed an unfair labor practice complaint before the Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA). On June 26, 2007, the FLRA upheld the complaint and ordered EPA into binding arbitration with a hearing slated for August 14, 2007.

"Not only is the public locked out of the libraries, but the agency's own scientists are having trouble getting needed information as well," Goldberg added. "EPA claims that it plans to make more information more readily available, but judging by the results so far it has failed miserably."

Read the new proposed EPA repository policy

View the proposed EPA public access policy

See the hurry-up schedule for these policies

Test EPA's public access by submitting a search question

Look at the unfair labor practices arbitration order against EPA

Trace the dismantlement of the EPA library system

Contact PEER

Ph: (202) 265-7337 o Fax: (202) 265-4192 o email: info@peer.org

Copyright peer.org 2007

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From: Wall Street Journal (pg. A2)
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THE PETROLEUM INDUSTRY SAYS DEMAND WILL SOON EXCEED SUPPLY

By Bhushan Bahree

World oil and gas supplies from conventional sources are unlikely to keep up with rising global demand over the next 25 years, the U.S. petroleum industry says in a draft report of a study commissioned by the government.

In the draft report, oil-industry leaders acknowledge the world will need to develop all the supplemental sources of energy it can -- ranging from biofuels to nuclear power to oil extracted by unconventional means from the oil sands of Canada -- to meet soaring demand. The surge in demand is expected to arise from rapid economic growth in such fast-developing countries as China and India, as well as mounting consumption in the U.S., the world's biggest energy market.

** Tight Times: World oil and natural-gas supplies are unlikely to keep up with rising demand over the next 25 years, the U.S. petroleum industry says in a draft report.

** Needed Alternatives: The world will need supplemental sources like biofuels and nuclear power to meet demand, the report says.

** Price Pressure: The findings suggest high energy prices are likely for decades to come.The findings suggest that, far from being temporary, high energy prices are likely for decades to come.

"It is a hard truth that the global supply of oil and natural gas from the conventional sources relied upon historically is unlikely to meet projected 50% to 60% growth in demand over the next 25 years," says the draft report, titled "Facing the Hard Truths About Energy."

"In geoeconomic terms, the biggest impact will come from increasing demand for oil and natural gas from developing countries," said the draft report, a copy of which was reviewed by The Wall Street Journal. "This demand may outpace timely development of new supply sources, thereby pressuring prices to rise."

The study, which was requested by U.S. Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman in October 2005, was conducted by the National Petroleum Council, an industry group that advises the secretary.

The conclusions appear to be the first explicit concession by the petroleum industry that it alone can't meet burgeoning global demand for oil, which may rise to as much as 120 million barrels a day by 2030 from about 84 million barrels a day currently, according to some projections. (U.S. gasoline prices are on the rise. See related article.)

These conclusions follow hard on the heels of a medium-term outlook by the Paris-based International Energy Agency this month, which suggested a supply squeeze will hit by 2012. The fact that the American petroleum industry is warning of a crunch could have an even greater impact on the debate over energy policy.

The draft report proposed that the U.S. work not only to increase output of oil, gas and other fuels, but to cut energy use by improving car and truck mileage standards and implementing stricter building and appliance requirements. "Whether we are effort-constrained or resource-constrained won't become clear until it is too late," said Larry Goldstein, director of the Energy Policy Research Foundation, an industry-funded, nonprofit research organization based in Washington. Policy makers must assume supply constraints, Mr. Goldstein said, declining to comment directly on the study.

The National Petroleum Council has about 175 members, picked by the energy secretary, with extensive participation by the energy industry and other industries and government officials and with help from foreign countries and institutions. The NPC is slated to vote on adopting the draft, which runs more than 450 pages, including annexes, at a meeting Wednesday in Washington to be led by Exxon Mobil Corp. former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Lee R. Raymond.

Some people who participated in the report declined to comment on the findings until the results were published. Besides Mr. Raymond, leaders of the study included David J. O'Reilly, chairman and chief executive of Chevron Corp.; Andrew Gould, chairman and CEO of Schlumberger Ltd.; and Daniel H. Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

Michael Lynch, president of Strategic Energy and Economic Research, said this is perhaps the first time the NPC, which was founded at President Harry Truman's request in 1946, has taken a global overview. The conclusion seems to be "the situation is serious, but not critical," Mr. Lynch said.

Still, drastically increasing the supply of oil and gas could be difficult. "The oil industry was gutted between 1985 and 2000 because of low prices," said J. Robinson West, chairman of PFC Energy, an industry consulting concern in Washington. "It will be difficult now for it to meaningfully increase its production capacity."

"The fact is there is lots of oil in the world, but the industry and international capital can't reach it," Mr. West said, noting limits imposed on Western companies by holders of oil reserves in the Mideast and elsewhere.

Houston investment banker Matthew Simmons takes a pessimistic view. He believes the world should be preparing for sharply lower oil production. He points out the NPC study didn't squarely address one important issue raised by Mr. Bodman in requesting the study: the point at which global oil production will plateau and then begin to decline, often referred to by the shorthand term "peak oil."

"We should be preparing for a time when, in 10, 15 or 20 years, oil production is likely to be 40 million barrels a day to 60 million barrels a day, not 120 million," he said.

The NPC study noted that total global endowment of fossil fuels appears to be huge, but only a fraction of those estimated volumes can be produced, because of technical constraints. It said the Earth's underground stores of oil were estimated at 13 trillion barrels to 15 trillion barrels.

--Jeffrey Ball contributed to this article.

Write to Bhushan Bahree at bhushan.bahree@wsj.com

Copyright 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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From: Christian Science Monitor
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ACCIDENTS DIM HOPES FOR GREEN NUCLEAR OPTION

By Brad Knickerbocker, Staff writer

As concern about global warming has swelled in recent years, so has renewed interest in nuclear energy. The main reason: Nuclear plants produce no carbon dioxide or other greenhouse gases tied to climate change, at least not directly.

New reactor designs make plants safer than those operating in the days of the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island decades ago, advocates say. And there's no group of OPEC countries in unstable parts of the world controlling the main raw material -- uranium.

But that was before an earthquake in Japan this week rattled the Kashiwazaki nuclear power plant. The plant's operator "said it had found more than 50 problems at the plant caused by Monday's earthquake," The New York Times reported, adding:

"While most of the problems were minor, the largest included 100 drums of radioactive waste that had fallen over, causing the lids on some of the drums to open, the company said.... The company said that the earthquake also caused a small fire at the plant, the world's largest by amount of electricity produced, and the leakage of 317 gallons of water containing trace levels of radioactive materials into the nearby Sea of Japan."

Meanwhile, accidents at two German nuclear reactors last month prompted German Environment Minister Sigmar Gabriel to call for the early shutdown of all older reactors there, reports Bloomberg News.

Concern about the safety of Germany's 17 reactors has grown after a fire at Vattenfall's Kruemmel site June 28 and a network fault at its Brunsbuettel plant on the same day. Der Spiegel online adds:

"It took the fire department hours to extinguish the blaze. Even worse, the plant operator's claim that a fire in the transformer had no effect on the reactor itself proved to be a lie.

In short, the incident made clear that nuclear energy is by no means the modern, well-organized, high-tech sector portrayed until recently by politicians and industry advocates. Indeed, the frequency of problems occurring at Germany's aging reactors is on the rise. Just as old cars succumb to rust, nuclear power plants built in the 1970s and '80s are undergoing a natural aging process.

On Wednesday, the chief executive of Vattenfall Europe AG stepped down. Klaus Rauscher was the second manager to depart this week amid mounting criticism for the utility's handling of a fire at a nuclear plant in northern Germany, reports the AP.

"When it comes to security at nuclear power plants, I can only say, that when it comes to the information policy, this really has not been acceptable and therefore my sympathy for the industry is limited," Chancellor Angela Merkel said.

Merkel, a physicist by training, normally favors nuclear power, but the June 28 fire at the Kruemmel plant, near Hamburg, has put the industry in a bad light.

Still, nuclear power has won some powerful allies in the environmental community, writes E Magazine editor Jim Motavalli on the website AlterNet.

He quotes Fred Krupp, president of Environmental Defense, as saying, "We should all keep an open mind about nuclear power." Jared Diamond, best-selling author of "Collapse," adds, "To deal with our energy problems we need everything available to us, including nuclear power," which, he says, should be "done carefully, like they do in France, where there have been no accidents."

Stewart Brand, who founded The Whole Earth Catalog and Whole Earth Review, concludes, "The only technology ready to fill the gap and stop the carbon dioxide loading of the atmosphere is nuclear power."

Environmentalists continue to push for more benign sources -- wind, biomass, geothermal, and solar, as well as greater conservation -- to power the world.

But The Washington Post reports that "Most of the technologies that could reduce greenhouse gases are not only expensive but would need to be embraced on a global scale...." The article continues:

"Many projections for 2030 include as many as 1 million wind turbines worldwide; enough solar panels to cover half of New Jersey, massive reforestation; a major retooling of the global auto industry; as many as 400 power plants fitted with pricey equipment to capture carbon dioxide and store it underground; and, most controversial, perhaps 350 new nuclear plants around the world." That kind of nuclear expansion in the US seems unlikely. The country hasn't licensed a new plant in more than 30 years, and the devilish political and scientific subject of radioactive waste disposal has yet to be fully addressed.

But that hasn't stopped other countries from pushing ahead. Russia "hopes to export as many as 60 nuclear power plants in the next two decades," The Christian Science Monitor reported this week, including what would be "the first-ever floating atomic power station" at sea.

But noting an estimate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, The Salt Lake Tribune in Utah reports that "at least 1,000 new nuclear plants would be needed worldwide in the next 50 years to make a dent in global warming."

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  Rachel's Democracy & Health News (formerly Rachel's Environment &
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