By Warren T. Brookes
        [From Human Events, 2 September 1989, pp. 12-13]

             [Kindly uploaded by Freeman 10602PANC]

   On Tuesday  evening, July  25, Ned  Potter of  ABC News  did a
three-minute segment purporting to show  how acid rain (caused by
sulphur dioxide  -- SO2  -- emissions  from Midwestern utilities)
was killing trees in Camel's Hump Mountain in Vermont.
   Aerial photos  showed a pattern  of dead or  dying tall spruce
trees.  We were informed acid  rain was sterilizing the soil.  An
environmentalist  guided  us  through  the  devastation.   It was
potent TV.
   It was also a hoax.
   When  the Camel's  Hump story  was  first brought  to national
attention in  Natural History  magazine in  1982, soil scientists
flocked to see it first hand.   But, in order to examine the dead
or  dying  trees,  they  had to  fight  their  way  up  through a
veritable  jungle  of  healthy young  red  spruce  trees  and new
   It was  immediately clear  there was  nothing toxic  about the
soil.   On   closer  examination,  soil   scientists  from  Yale,
University of Pennsylvania and the  U.S. Forest Service found the
dead or dying trees had one  thing in common: They all dated from
before  1962.  Trees  started  after that  period  were generally
   What  happened in  1962?  Yale's  forestry expert  Tom Siccama
told us, ``All  we know is  that suddenly in  1962, the trees got
very  unhappy,  and  it  was  probably  the  very  severe drought
followed by and especially killing winter.
        ``The one thing  it was not was  acid rain.  Look, you
     don't get that  sudden a change  from something like acid
     rain.   And why  didn't it  happen  in adjacent  areas or
     states? The people in Vermont who blame this on acid rain
     must think they live on an island or something,'' Siccama
   In  fact,  Siccama's  own  research,  corroborated  by  Andrew
Friedland of Dartmouth,  shows that over the  last few years tree
health in that whole region is improving, not getting worse.
   ``We cored hundreds of trees in the area in 1982, and again in
1987, and,  in that  period, the number  of sick  trees went down
markedly.  We just  got through coring about  90 trees at Hubbard
Brook in New Hampshire and discovered that the rate of growth has
more than doubled in the last two years alone,'' Siccama told us.
   Indeed, since 1952, total growing wood volume in the Northeast
and New England has risen faster than any other region, including
the softwoods the ABC report alleged were dying. (See Table I.)
   So the entire ABC  acid rain story was  a fraud, including Ned
Potter's  concluding statement  that ``doctors  say acid  rain is
responsible  for  50,000  deaths  a  year.''   But  not  even the
Environmental  Protection Agency  (EPA)  claims any  known deaths
from  sulphur dioxide  (SO2) emissions.   The 50,000  figure came
from one extreme  theoretical estimate in  an analysis where half
the experts estimated zero health effects.
      Sadly, this  is exactly  the kind  of nonsense President
   Bush  has  unleashed  with   his  embrace  of  the  ``Green
   Revolution'':  a  media  race  to  see  who  can  paint the
   grimmest pictures.
   He  also re-energized  the  EPA, which  has  a huge  power and
funding stake in doing the same.  These deadly incentives lead to
an awful lot of BS (bad science).
   There is no better example of this than the EPA's wildly scary
1980 report suggesting acid rain  was causing a kind of ``aquatic
silent spring'' in Northeast America and Canada:
   ``It  is in  the  lakes and  streams  where the  most dramatic
effects of acid rain have  been observed.  The increasing acidity
of lakes  in North  America and  Europe has  been documented. ...
This  has led  to a  decrease  in populations  of fish  and other
aquatic organisms.''
   This report led  to the establishment  of a 10-year scientific
study of the causes  and effects of acid  rain, or what is called
the National Acid Precipitation Assessment Program (NAPAP).
   Unfortunately  for  the   environmentalists,  this  assessment
actually  tried  to be  scientific,  that is,  to  avoid reaching
conclusions  first and  then  searching for  evidence  to support
   The result in 1987, after more  than $300 million was spent in
exhaustive study, was  to conclude essentially  that regional SO2
concentrations  were causing  no discernible  damage to  crops or
forests at present levels of acid rain emission (about 22 million
tons a year, down from 32 million in 1970).
   Also, the number of acid lakes  and streams was far lower than
the EPA had warned, affecting less than 2 per cent of the surface
water area  even in  the Adirondacks,  the most  heavily impacted
region.  And  the connections  between acid  rain and  acid lakes
were statistically too weak to correlate.

No Correlation Between Acid Rain and Acid Lakes

   The   reaction    to   the    interim   assessment    by   the
environmentalists and their  allies in Congress  was fury and the
firing of  NAPAP's director,  Dr. Lawrence  Kulp, and  the demand
that the new director of NAPAP, Dr. James R. Mahoney, ``rewrite''
the report and  produce ``an implicit  repudiation of the interim
   Yet just last April,  Mahoney was handed a  study by the EPA's
own  Direct Delayed  Response Project  (DDRP)  with a  chart that
shows no statistical correlation between acid rain deposition and
acidic lakes.  For New England, the correlation between acid rain
and acid lakes  is less than  0.16 (statistically insignificant),
compared with a correlation of  acid lakes with soil chemistry of
nearly 0.80.
   That  data came  as no  surprise  to Dr.  Edward Krug,  of the
Illinois State Water  Survey, who authored  a 263-page April 1989
study  for  the  U.S. Department  of  Energy  (DOE).   This study
concluded that aquatic acidification  has little, if anything, to
do  with acid  rain  and everything  to  do with  land  use, soil
chemistry and geology.
   Lakes and  streams get  over 90 per  cent of  their water, not
from rain,  but from  the surface  runoff that  is filtered first
through very  acidic surface  soils and  organic matter  and then
through bedrock, which tends to neutralize that acidity.
   In those areas where the forest surface is allowed to develop,
uncut, unharvested and unburnt, surface soil acidity builds up so
much that the bedrock below is hard pressed to neutralize it all.
This is  especially true in  steep mountainous  areas where water
runoff goes more directly  from the soil into  the lake or stream
or in those areas  like Cape Cod where  the underlying surface is
not rock but acidic vegetation such as sphagnum moss.
      Paleolimnological  (lake sediment  analysis)  studies in
   fact show that 90 percent  of the presently acidic lakes in
   the Northeast and Scandinavia were acidic in pre-industrial
   times.   Even  the  NAPAP  report  indicates  that  aquatic
   acidification  is far  less  than thought.   Krug maintains
   most of that is re-acidification.
   What made some  of those lakes  become less acid  by the early
20th Century  was hundreds of  years of  clearcutting and burning
that  not  only  destroyed the  acidic  buildup  of  forest floor
organic material  but replaced  it with  ash, which  is alkaline.
Conversely, when those regions were then allowed to reforest, the
re-acidification process began.
   As Dr. Krug pointed out in a 1983 article in Science magazine,
``In New  England, the volume  of standing wood  has increased by
about 70 percent between 1952 and 1976.'' As recently as 1922, 90
per cent  of the  Adirondacks and  northern New  England had been
completely clear-cut.  Now they are virtually totally reforested.
   ``Given  the effects  of  vegetation of  soil acidification,''
Krug  noted,  ``there  is  little  doubt  that  this  recovery of
landscape from  earlier disturbances  can result  in increasingly
acid surface soil  horizons and the  thickening and acidification
of forest floors.
   ``Thus mountainous areas of the northeastern United States are
not pristine environments that are  acted upon only by acid rain.
These landscapes which were disturbed (cut over and burnt) in the
past are  undergoing soil  transformation processes  that produce
the greatest increases in natural soil acidity.''
   Krug also  cites controlled experiments  which repeatedly show
that  when highly  acid snow  melt is  leached through  less acid
soil,  the resulting  water  has the  same  acidity as  the soil,
showing that natural surface acidity is the controlling factor in
watersheds, while acid rain effects are at most trivial.
   A classic example is Hubbard Brook in New Hampshire, which has
remained  strongly  acidic  even  as  the  rain  acidity  in  New
Hampshire has in fact declined for 25 years.
   Dr.  Krug reports  that  ``The highest  percentages  of highly
acidic lakes in North America exist  in relatively low or no acid
deposition areas.   This suggests the  possibility that, contrary
to predictions  of the  acid rain  theory, highly  acidic surface
water can be a natural phenomenon of these regions.''
   For example,  12 per cent  of Florida lake  surfaces are acid,
but its rain is only one-sixth  as acid as the Adirondacks, which
have less than 2 per cent acid lake surfaces. (See Table II.)
   Krug's best example is southwest Tasmania off Australia, whose
climate and  topography most clearly  resemble Northeast America.
Southwest Tasmania enjoys pristine  nonacidic rainwater, yet over
28 percent of the lakes and  streams there are highly acidic, but
its rainwater is in fact quite alkaline.
      As Krug  told us,  ``In statistically  weighing possible
   causes of lake acidification, acid  rain does not even show
   up as a significant variable, let alone correlative.''
   No wonder EPA and environmentalists  have worked hard and with
some success to drum King out of his profession and to ignore his
valuable DOE study.

Liming Could Solve Acid Lakes' Problem

   The  astonishing part  of the  Bush acid  rain program  is the
weakness of both its economics and its science.
   Even if you accept  the premise that all  of the Northeast and
Canadian acid lakes resulted from acid rain (which they did not),
you could lime all those lakes  back to alkalinity for about $250
an acre by helicopter or $50 an acre by boat.
   The National Acid Precipitation Assessment Project (NAPAP) has
identified only 15,124 acres of acid  lake area (under 2 per cent
of the total) in  the Northeast and Midwest.   You could lime all
of these  lakes every  year for  under $4  million by helicopter,
under $800,000  by boat,  or about  1/10th of  1 per  cent of the
$3-$4 billion cost of the Bush program (Table III).
   And,  unlike the  Bush sulphur  dioxide removal  program, this
would actually ensure de-acidification of lakes.
      Environmentalists oppose this  solution because it would
   undermine  their  bureaucratic and  ideological  agenda and
   would  expose   the  weak   science  on   which  acid  rain
   remediation is based.
   In  1987,  the  National Park  Service  refused  the  state of
Massachusetts' offer to lime the lakes  and ponds in the Cape Cod
National Sea Shore, 40 per cent of which are acidic.
   The  trouble is  those ponds  and  lakes are  naturally acidic
(like over 90 per cent of all  acidic lakes).  In this case it is
because of the sphagnum moss  that lines their bottoms.  The Park
Service  explicitly   didn't  want  to   disturb  that  ``natural
   As  Superintendent  Herbert  Ohlsen  wrote  the  Massachusetts
officials in  1987, ``As you  know, all  of the paleolimnological
evidence indicates a 12,000-year  history of predominantly acidic
lake conditions on outer Cape Cod.  We know of no data to support
your  Division's assumption  that  significant impact  (i.e. pond
acidification) is occurring due to current acid rain.''
   In short,  cutting SO2  emissions will  have no  effect on the
acidity of Cape Cod lakes which  comprise over half of all acidic
lakes in southern  New England.  Ohlsen  told the Audubon Society
that ``Such acid conditions can  result from natural processes in
the watershed involving local soils and vegetation, and have been
well known for many years.''

Acid Rain Might Impede Any `Global Warming'

   Ironically, there  is now  growing evidence  that removing SO2
emissions could actually contribute to global warming.
   As  Dr.  Patrick  Michaels,  chairman  of  the  Department  of
Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia details in a
new paper, SO2 emissions ``serve to `brighten' clouds, reflecting
away  increasing   amounts  of  solar   radiation,  and  possibly
compensating for greenhouse warming.''
   To  oversimplify  it,  while carbon  dioxide  (CO2)  helps the
atmosphere hold more heat in, SO2 helps reflect it away.
   Temperature data suggest  that in areas  downwind of the major
SO2 emission sources, the warming trend has been lessened, due in
part to this  ``cloud brightening'' effect.   As Michaels argues,
``Perhaps this can explain  the cooling of the  U.S. [in the last
100  years]  in  the  face of  the  trace  gas  [CO2  and others]
   Michael's  thesis  was supported  in  the June  1989  issue of
Nature magazine by a leading British climatologist T.M.L. Wigley,
who warned, ``If  we were successful in  halting or reversing the
incrase  [sic]  in  SO2  emissions   we  could  as  a  by-product
accelerate the rate of greenhouse-induced warming. ...''
   Be that as it may, taking that risk isn't necessary.  For less
than $10 million a year the  unproven effects of acid rain can be
neutralized (limed) out of existence.

                             Table I
              U.S. Forests -- Growing Stock Volume
                    (Millions of Cubic Feet)
                               1952     1977     1987    % Change
U.S Total ...................   610      725      755      23.8
   Softwoods ................   430      465      450       4.7
North Total .................   106      166      190      79.2
   Softwoods ................    28       46       49      75.0
Northeast Total .............    61      100      109      78.7
   Softwoods ................    18       31       31      72.2
New England Total ...........    24       42       44      83.3
   Softwoods ................    14       23       22      57.1
Source: U.S. Forest Service; U.S. Statistical Abstract.

                            Table II
           Acid Rain and Acid Lakes -- No Correlation?
                        Acid Rain Index    Per Cent of Lakes Acid
                      (Adirondacks = 100)   Number           Area
Adirondacks                   100            10.1             1.7
Upper Peninsula,
   Michigan                    50             9.4             2.4
Florida                        15            12.4            12.0
Nova Scotia                    20            47.3            N.A.
Western Tasmania                0            28.0            N.A.
Frazier Island, Australia       0            79.0            98.0

Sources: EPA  -- Department of  Energy; Assessment  of the Theory
and Hypotheses  of the  Acidification of  Watersheds, April 1989;
Dr. Edward C. Krug.

                            Table III
                Economics of De-Acidifying Lakes
                        Acid Lake Area    Annual Cost of Liming
                            (acres)     By Helicopter     By Boat
Adirondacks                  4,846        $1,211,500     $242,300
Southern N.E.
   Massachusetts/Conn.       5,669         1,417,200      283,400
Central N.E.
   New Hampshire/Vt.           480           120,000       24,000
Total Northeast             12,496         3,124,000      625,000
Upper Midwest                2,628           657,000      131,000
Total Impact Area           15,124        $3,718,000     $756,000
Cost of Bush's Acid Rain Program .................. $3-$4 billion
Source: NAPAP Interim Assessment 1987; Living Lakes Data.

                           *     *     *

Return to the ground floor of this tower
Return to the Main Courtyard
Return to Fort Freedom's home page