Saturday, May 24, 2008

Remember acid rain?

Every once in awhile I will put up a comment on another blog that I feel would stand in its own right as a post.

And that is the case here. On Ann Althouse's blog (one of several I frequent where there are a range of views represented) she took some pictures of the forest and posted them in a post entitled, the view from the forest floor.

I thought about how great it is that liberals and environmentalists won a big battle a generation ago. The comment I posted was this:

I am reminded of how back in the late 1970's and early 1980's, many northern and especially Canadian forests were being destroyed by acid rain. So a campaign was launched to put in scrubbers in the smokestacks of power plants to sharply curtail emissions of sulfuric and nitric acid caused by the burning of sulfur-containing coal.

And opponents of the plan howled about how doing that would ruin the economy, and how all the power plants would go out of business, and how electricity would become so expensive that nobody could turn on their lights for more than a couple hours per day, and how America would lose out to the Soviet Union because the Russians cared nothing for the environment and somehow allowing our coal-fired plants [to] continue to be inefficient was supposed to put us at a competitive advantage. They called it all a matter of bad science and said that it was something else that was killing the forest and reducing power plant emissions of sulfuric and nitric acid would not change that.

Well, the opponents of the plan lost. The environmentalists won that battle. The new emissions standards were passed by Congress and mandated by law, and the scrubbers were installed by the local utilities.

And let's take a moment to look back at the results. The world didn't end. The economy did quite well during the rest of the 1980's and for most of the 1990's, thank you. The power plants did not go out of business. Electricity did not become unaffordable. The Soviet Union continued to be inefficient until it died and America prospered.

And the northern U.S. and Canadian forests are much healthier today than they were then.

Success is having the vision to think about what the future could look like, and then the persistence to make it so.

There are many things that still need to be done, and many battles to be fought and won against determined opposition. But every now and then it is worth appreciating progress that has been made, if only to raise our morale and realize that today's battles too, can be won.

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