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Addressing consequences not environmentalists’ strength | Guest column
Environmental activists claim they want to reduce production of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide. If so, they’re going about it in a very strange way.
Take forest management, for example. Anti-forestry activists oppose salvaging dead and diseased trees, saying the forests should be left in their natural state. But that debris is volatile tinder for raging wildfires that pump an average of 67 million tons of carbon into the atmosphere each year, according to a 2013 report by the National Climate Assessment Development Advisory Committee, or NCADAC.
Salvage logging actually enhances forest health while producing building materials and jobs in the process.
For example, when the 1980 eruption of Mount St. Helens destroyed nearly 68,000 acres of the Weyerhaeuser Tree Farm, the company set about restoring the area. They salvaged useable downed trees, removing 600 truckloads of logs each day. By November of 1982, 850 million board feet of salvaged timber was milled into enough lumber to build 85,000 three-bedroom homes.
Today, Weyerhaeuser’s tree farm is a lush canopy of vigorously growing fir trees while the nearby publicly managed forests, left to reseed naturally, are recovering more slowly. As younger, growing trees absorb more CO2, the Weyerhaeuser forest is the better environmental model.
Another example: biofuels.
Despite their avowed support for recycling and alternative fuels, environmental groups have consistently blocked construction of biofuel boilers that recycle agricultural and wood waste into energy.
According to NCADAC, bioenergy from all sources could theoretically replace up to 30 percent of U.S. petroleum consumption.
Yet, environmental activists block biofuel boilers at every turn.
The next example: hydropower.
Hydropower produces 75 percent of the electricity in Washington state — affordable, clean, renewable energy that powers millions of businesses, hospitals, factories and homes. Zero greenhouse gas emissions. Yet environmental groups are engaged in a long-term campaign to eliminate hydropower, citing the impact of dams on salmon.
Some even want to tear out the dams and return the rivers to their natural state.
Taxpayers and electricity customers have invested billions of dollars to enhance fish survival. Those efforts are working.
The Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife is predicting another record-breaking salmon run on the Columbia and Snake rivers this year, the largest return of fall chinook in nearly 40 years.
Despite this success, some environmental extremists continue to relentlessly pursue their goal of tearing out the dams.
But, without those dams, deadly flooding will once again ravage the region, and with irrigation halted, nearly two million acres of farmland in Eastern Washington will revert to desert.
Their vision is a future filled with brownouts, billions in flood losses and skyrocketing food prices.
So far, the environmentalists have not explained how they will deal with those consequences.
In addition, some environmental groups are targeting water flows on the Columbia River, a major highway for barge traffic carrying hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of grain and other products to market. If the activists get their way, the Columbia will be impassable to barge traffic much of the year, bringing commerce to a halt.
One has to wonder if that is their ultimate goal.
Rather than reducing CO2, the one thing all these campaigns have in common is shutting down economic and human activity, regardless of its environmental impact. How else to explain opposing actions that create healthier forests and reduce polluting forest fires?
How else to explain blocking energy production from biofuels? Or an agenda for the Columbia River that will virtually halt river commerce, gut renewable energy production, allow deadly floods to return or turn productive farmland back into desert?
It seems like their real target is us.
• Don Brunell is president of the nonprofit Association of Washington Business.