Friday, March 9, 2007

INHOFE INTRODUCES DOMESTIC FUELS SECURITY AMENDMENT

For Immediate Release:    Contact: Marc Morano 202-224-5762 Marc_Morano@epw.senate.gov Matt Dempsey 202-224-9797 Matthew_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov  

INHOFE INTRODUCES DOMESTIC FUELS SECURITY AMENDMENT 

Washington, DC – Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) Ranking Member of the Environment & Public Works Committee, yesterday introduced the Domestic Fuels Security Amendment to the 9-11 bill, which seeks to improve U.S. national security.

Sen. Inhofe’s amendment recognizes that global security is tied increasingly to energy security and those security concerns extend far beyond the Middle East. Recently, Venezuela moved to nationalize U.S. oil interests while inking deals with Chinese companies to explore the oil-rich country. Last year, Fidel Castro signed an  agreement with China to permit their communist cousin to explore for resources in Cuban waters.

"My amendment lays out a coordinated plan to increase the production of critical clean transportation fuels for today and tomorrow in order to enhance energy security, job security and American security. The DFSA will increase our ability to provide fuel for our country from domestic resources in order to lessen our reliance on foreign supplies of energy," Senator Inhofe said.

"The DFSA requires the federal government to assist States - in consultation with the state and local officials - in the permitting process for domestic fuels facilities. The DFSA would look to the future and conduct a full environmental review of fuel derived from coal, which the U.S. has 27 percent of the world’s coal – the largest in the world – nearly 250 billion tons of recoverable reserves. It is critical that we learn to use what we have and do so in an environmentally responsible way. I look forward to a healthy debate on this issue," Senator Inhofe said.

The DFSA seeks to spur a viable coal-to-liquids industry in a comprehensive way. The amendment provides loan guarantees and loans for the start up costs. It provides incentives to some of the most economically distressed communities – Indian tribes and those affected by BRAC – to consider locating a facility in their backyard through Economic Development Administration grants. In addition, the amendment requires the Department of Defense to study the national security benefits of having a domestic coal-to-liquids (CTL) fuels industry – to comprehensively assess a new market.

DSFA is designed to counteract global energy instability. In December 2005, Russia decided to turn off the gas to Ukraine, affecting imports into Italy, Austria, Germany, Poland, and Slovakia. According to Congressional Research Service, global energy demand is expected to rise by nearly 60% over the next 20 years.

See Senator Inhofe’s floor statement on the DFSA.

Also, the chart by Energy Information Agency may be found at: http://www.eia.doe.gov/emeu/cabs/World_Energy_Hotspots/Overview.html

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Statement by Sen. James Inhofe introducing his Domestic Fuels Security Amendment

 

Contact:
Marc Morano 202-224-5762 marc_morano@epw.senate.gov
Matt Dempsey 202-224-9797 matthew_dempsey@epw.senate.gov
 

Statement by Sen. James Inhofe introducing his Domestic Fuels Security Amendment

March 7, 2007

See Energy Information Agency's Global Security Hot Spots Chart

· Today, I rise to introduce an amendment that seeks to improve the U.S.’s national security through increasing our ability to fuel our country from domestic resources.

· Americans are familiar with the violence, terrorism, and instability in the Middle East. But forms of that instability are spreading around the world, including to our own backyard.

· This chart by the Energy Information Agency summarizes some of the energy security hot spots around the world. Since September 2005 when this chart was made, U.S. security interests have gotten even worst in some regions. On February 26th, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez nationalized U.S. oil interests – the motivation for the Soviet-style move was to improve Venezuelan strategic interests.

· Adding insult to injury, while signing an agreement allowing Chinese companies to explore in Venezuela, Mr. Chavez stated that, "We have been producing and exporting oil for more than 100 years but they have been years of dependence on the United States. Now we are free and we make our resources available to the great country of China."

· China has recognized that energy is a true security interest and has inked deals with Russia and OPEC, along with Castro’s Cuba.

· The fact is that our national security is linked with our energy security. Yet, even if we were to stop importing oil from the Middle East tomorrow our national security interests would still be at risk.

· And we are not alone.

· European Union countries as a whole import 50% of their energy needs, a figure expected to rise to 70% by 2030. A significant and increasing volume of those imports come from Russia.

· In December 2005, Russia decided to turn off the gas to Ukraine, affecting imports into Italy, Austria, Germany, Poland, and Slovakia. A similar dispute between Russia and Belarus affected Germany’s oil imports.

· According to the Congressional Research Service, global energy demand is expected to rise by nearly 60% over the next 20 years.

· In order to meet motorists’ demands today and tomorrow and the global struggle for energy security, I am introducing the Domestic Fuels Security Act.

· The Domestic Fuels Security Act lays out a coordinated plan to increase the production of critical clean transportation fuels for today and tomorrow in four significant ways.

· First, the amendment provides a coordinated process whereby the federal government – at the option of a Governor and in consultation with local governments – would be required to assist the State in the permitting process for domestic fuels facilities. These would include coal-to-liquids plants, modern refineries, and bio-refineries. And this voluntary, coordinated, from-the-grassroots-up process would do so without waiving any environmental law.

· Second, the amendment would look to the future and conduct a full environmental review of fuel derived from coal.

· The U.S. has 27 percent of the world’s coal supply – the largest in the world – nearly 250 billion tons of recoverable reserves. It is critical that we learn to use what we have and do so in an environmentally responsible way.

· Third, the amendment seeks to spur a viable coal-to-liquids industry in a comprehensive way. In order for a new fuels industry to develop three components are required - up front costs to design and build, a site to do it, and a market to sell the product.

· The amendment provides loan guarantees and loans for the start up costs. It provides incentives to some of the most economically distressed communities – Indian tribes and those affected by BRAC – to consider locating a facility in their backyard through Economic Development Administration grants. Last, the amendment requires the Department of Defense to study the national security benefits of having a domestic coal-to-liquids (CTL) fuels industry – to comprehensively assess a new market.

· I have to give credit to my colleagues Senators Bunning, Obama, Lugar, Pryor, Murkowski, Bond, Thomas, Craig, Martinez, Enzi, and Landrieu who together introduced a bill with similar language. I am hopeful that they will join me in moving this amendment.

· We can all agree that increasing domestic energy security is a vital objective. Yet, it also provides good jobs.

· According to the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity a CTL plant, with an output of 10,000 barrels per day, can support 200 direct jobs on site, at least 150 jobs at the supporting coal mine and 2,800 indirect jobs throughout the region. During construction, another 1,500 temporary jobs will be created.

· Fourth, cellulosic biomass ethanol – renewable fuel from energy crops like switchgrass – is a popular concept but faces financial barriers. Recently, the federal government has released some initial money to help develop the industry, but more could be done.

· In order to entice private sector investment, it is important for the collective fuels industry and motorists to know what our renewable resource base is, as well as traditional fuels. This amendment requires the Securities and Exchange Commission to convene a task force to assess how we should modernize our reserves – both traditional and renewable for cellulosic biomass ethanol feedstocks.

· Energy security, job security, American security - please join me in passing the Domestic Fuels Security Act.

· I ask unanimous consent that a full copy of my remarks be printed in the Record.

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SENATOR INHOFE OPENING STATEMENT - Hearing on EPA

Contact: Marc Morano 202-224-5762 marc_morano@epw.senate.gov
                 Matt Dempsey 202-224-9797 matthew_dempsey@epw.senate.gov
 
Watch Hearing: www.epw.senate.gov
 
 
SENATOR INHOFE OPENING STATEMENT
Hearing on EPA’s FY08 Budget Request
Thursday, March 7, 2007
 
Welcome Administrator Johnson.  I am pleased to have you testify before the Committee today on the President Bush’s Fiscal Year 2008 budget proposal for the Environmental Protection Agency.
           
The Administration has proposed $7.2 billion for the EPA for fiscal year 2008.  This is a $500 million cut from the 2007 level.  As I have said in years past, I am very concerned about EPA proposing large cuts to programs that are high priorities to Congress, like the Clean Water SRF and regional water programs.  While the Agency has not finalized all of the fiscal year 2007 budget numbers, it appears that EPA continues to use these budgetary tricks to create the appearance of fiscal responsibility. My criticism is two-fold: the programs are important and shouldn’t be cut and the Administration knows that in most cases Congress won’t follow these cuts.  When the nation is at war and running budget deficits, we simply must get more realistic about how we are spending taxpayers’ money.  The nation must make difficult choices and make real cuts to programs that are not absolutely essential.
           
For instance, one place to exercise some budgetary restraint would be with the voluntary programs EPA has created that have not been authorized by Congress.  Some of these may have very laudable goals, but at a time when the Agency is proposing cutting clean water funding by nearly $400 million, it may not be the time for Administratively-created programs.  I raised the same concern about the Agency’s international grants last year and while these programs may not add up to much money they are a good starting point.   
           
While I disagree with your cut to the SRF, I am pleased to see that the Administration has proposed an alternative to fill the gap.  The budget includes lifting the cap on private activity bonds for water and wastewater infrastructure projects.  This committee held hearings on this same proposal in the 106th Congress.  I look forward to working with the Administration to see if using the tax code through private activity bonds would help fill the infrastructure gap given the shortage of appropriated dollars.
           
I would like to address a few other issues of critical importance to my state. As you are well aware, solutions to the Tar Creek Superfund Site have long been on of my top priorities.  EPA has ranked Tar Creek as the most severe superfund site in the country on the National Priority List.  Parts of this superfund site are so heavily undermined that homes and roads are literally falling into the ground.  I appreciate the work of key EPA officials Richard Greene, Sam Coleman, and Susan Bodine along with many others working on this site.  Progress has been made, but much is left to do.  I want your continued commitment to work with me, Oklahoma state agencies, the Quapaw tribe and other area tribes, and the local residents to continue cleaning up Tar Creek.   
           
Further, the Agency is in the process of finalizing several policies that are very important to Oklahomans.  To begin, the Supreme Court issued its Rapanos decision in June.  It is now February and the Agency has yet to issue guidance to its regions on how to implement the decision.  The result of this delay is that the Corps of Engineers district offices have stopped making jurisdictional determinations, which is dramatically affecting the economic growth of this country.  This guidance is long overdue. 
           
Last year you proposed changes to the Agency’s affordability standard.  As I have mentioned in the past, we have a real crisis in Oklahoma with regard to the Disinfection Byproducts Rule.  Had the affordability standard accurately reflected the needs of small, rural towns, we might not be in such a dire situation.  Furthermore, the Agency will soon promulgate a new rule to again revise the Spill Prevention Control and Countermeasure Rule.  I have every expectation that the proposal will address the issues raised to you over the past several years by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and the Oklahoma Independent Oil Producers.  These groups represent the backbone of Oklahoma’s economy and there is simply no basis for much of the burden the SPCC rule imposes on them.
           
This year, the President’s budget requests the highest level of funding ever for the enforcement program, including its Compliance Assistance Centers to help people comply with the SPCC and Disinfection Byproduct rules.  I appreciate the Administration’s work to assist the regulated community to comply with often confusing and burdensome rules.  This year, the EPA has helped 878,000 entities with compliance assistance.  The users of EPA’s web-based compliance centers have reached nearly 1.9 million users, an increase of 436,000 over last year.  Each year, EPA has built on these kind of successes and is requesting an appropriate increase in funding for its Compliance Assistance Centers and compliance monitoring.
           
My staff has continued to investigate EPA regions and how they vary in their implementation and enforcement of environmental regulations.  We have learned that of the ten EPA regions, there is often little uniformity in how the same program is managed in different regions.  This concerns me because it appears that regions have the ability to advance their own agendas without any consequences. For example, bureaucrats in Region 9 have been interpreting a Memorandum of Agreement with the Corps as a license to manage the Corps 404 permitting process.  These career bureaucrats in San Francisco want to “federalize” all development in Arizona and are misusing a procedural agreement to do so.  It is not the role of EPA Regions to dictate all urban growth and development across the United States.  I will continue to monitor such Regional abuses and hope my colleagues will join me in this effort.
           
Finally, Mr. Administrator, I am deeply interested in the EPA's implementation of the renewable fuel standard, in part because I moved that legislation through this Committee while chairman, and also because I am committed to improving our energy security.  On that note, I look forward to working with you to make sure that the Agency takes steps to maximize fuel supply and reliability, and in particular provide flexibility to small refiners that provide critical fuel to many rural communities across the country.
           
Administrator Johnson, I look forward to your testimony.
 
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EPW FACT OF THE DAY: Clearing up Myths About EPA Library Modernization - Makes Information MORE Accessible, Not Less

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is being accused by Senate Democrats of cutting the flow of information and limiting access to information in its agency run libraries. The EPA’s library modernization program is being portrayed as restricting the public’s right to know about environmental issues and EPA administrative actions.

At a February 6, 2007 EPW hearing, Administrator Steve Johnson was asked to respond to emails he had not had the opportunity to review from EPA employees critical of EPA’s library plan. One email alleged that the EPA Region 4 Library in Atlanta had closed. Another email alleged that the EPA library at Ft. Meade, Maryland had closed.

FACT: The truth is the EPA Region 4 library in Atlanta remains fully open to the public and EPA employees with regular operating hours each day. The EPA facility at Ft. Meade is not part of the EPA library network. The facility at Ft. Meade is an EPA laboratory which contained a 10ft. by 20ft. reference room. Although this information is now available online, all reference information physically remains available through the EPA Region 3 Library located in Philadelphia.

EPA library modernization makes information MORE Accessible, not less. The EPA’s new library modernization process will make information available to the public, with an emphasis for online availability.

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From Blog: MORE INFORMATION ON INHOFE'S FISH AND WILDLIFE SERVICE CONSERVATION LEGISLATOR OF THE YEAR AWARD

Posted by Matthew_Dempsey@epw.senate.gov (12:30pm ET)

Link to Press Release

Last week, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service honored Senator James Inhofe, Ranking Member of the EPW Committee, as the Conservation Legislator of the Year for his work in enacting the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act (Public Law 109-294) in the 109th Congress. 

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program is an example of Cooperative Conversation that protects private property rights and achieves important conversation goals.

President Bush issued Executive Order 13352 on August 26, 2004 which directed federal agencies to implement laws relating to the environment and natural resources in a manner that promotes Cooperative Conservation by collaborating with state, local, and tribal governments, private for-profit and nonprofit institutions, nongovernmental entities, and private individuals.

The Partners Program is a primary example of the President’s call for Cooperative Conservation creating positive incentives to protect species and while protecting private property ownership. 

The Program is a successful voluntary partnership program that helps private landowners restore fish and wildlife habitats on their own lands.  This Program has worked with over 37,700 private landowners establishing individual agreements with interested private landowners to restore 753,000 acres of wetland, 1.86 million acres of native grasslands and other uplands, and 6,806 miles of riparian and in-stream habitat throughout the country.  Each Partners Program agreement is funded through contributions from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service along with the vast majority of funding from cash and in-kind contributions from participating private landowners.   

The Partners for Fish and Wildlife Act secured statutory authority for the Partners Program for the first time and provided additional funding and added stability for the program.  The President’s Fiscal Year 2008 Budget Request contains a net programmatic increase of $5.7 million for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife Program.

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Prominent French Scientist Reverses Belief in Global Warming - Now a Skeptic - IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

Prominent French Scientist Reverses Belief in Global Warming - Now a Skeptic

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...

Allegre's second thoughts
Financial Post
By LAWRENCE SOLOMON,
Friday, March 02, 2007

Link to Article

Claude Allegre, one of France's leading socialists and among her most celebrated scientists, was among the first to sound the alarm about the dangers of global warming.

"By burning fossil fuels, man increased the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which, for example, has raised the global mean temperature by half a degree in the last century," Dr. Allegre, a renowned geochemist, wrote 20 years ago in Cles pour la geologie.." Fifteen years ago, Dr. Allegre was among the 1500 prominent scientists who signed "World Scientists' Warning to Humanity," a highly publicized letter stressing that global warming's "potential risks are very great" and demanding a new caring ethic that recognizes the globe's fragility in order to stave off "spirals of environmental decline, poverty, and unrest, leading to social, economic and environmental collapse."

In the 1980s and early 1990s, when concern about global warming was in its infancy, little was known about the mechanics of how it could occur, or the consequences that could befall us. Since then, governments throughout the western world and bodies such as the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have commissioned billions of dollars worth of research by thousands of scientists. With a wealth of data now in, Dr. Allegre has recanted his views. To his surprise, the many climate models and studies failed dismally in establishing a man-made cause of catastrophic global warming. Meanwhile, increasing evidence indicates that most of the warming comes of natural phenomena. Dr. Allegre now sees global warming as over-hyped and an environmental concern of second rank.

His break with what he now sees as environmental cant on climate change came in September, in an article entitled "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" in l' Express, the French weekly. His article cited evidence that Antarctica is gaining ice and that Kilimanjaro's retreating snow caps, among other global-warming concerns, come from natural causes. "The cause of this climate change is unknown," he states matter of factly. There is no basis for saying, as most do, that the "science is settled."

Dr. Allegre's skepticism is noteworthy in several respects. For one, he is an exalted member of France's political establishment, a friend of former Socialist president Lionel Jospin, and, from 1997 to 2000, his minister of education, research and technology, charged with improving the quality of government research through closer co-operation with France's educational institutions. For another, Dr. Allegre has the highest environmental credentials. The author of early environmental books, he fought successful battles to protect the ozone layer from CFCs and public health from lead pollution. His break with scientific dogma over global warming came at a personal cost: Colleagues in both the governmental and environmental spheres were aghast that he could publicly question the science behind climate change.

But Dr. Allegre had allegiances to more than his socialist and environmental colleagues. He is, above all, a scientist of the first order, the architect of isotope geodynamics, which showed that the atmosphere was primarily formed early in the history of the Earth, and the geochemical modeller of the early solar system. Because of his path-breaking cosmochemical research, NASA asked Dr. Allegre to participate in the Apollo lunar program, where he helped determine the age of the Moon. Matching his scientific accomplishments in the cosmos are his accomplishments at home: Dr. Allegre is perhaps best known for his research on the structural and geochemical evolution of the Earth's crust and the creation of its mountains, explaining both the title of his article in l' Express and his revulsion at the nihilistic nature of the climate research debate.

Calling the arguments of those who see catastrophe in climate change "simplistic and obscuring the true dangers," Dr. Allegre especially despairs at "the greenhouse-gas fanatics whose proclamations consist in denouncing man's role on the climate without doing anything about it except organizing conferences and preparing protocols that become dead letters." The world would be better off, Dr. Allegre believes, if these "denouncers" became less political and more practical, by proposing practical solutions to head off the dangers they see, such as developing technologies to sequester C02. His dream, he says, is to see "ecology become the engine of economic development and not an artificial obstacle that creates fear."

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Claude Allegre received a Ph D in physics in 1962 from the University of Paris. He became the director of the geochemistry and cosmochemistry program at the French National Scientific Research Centre in 1967 and in 1971, he was appointed director of the University of Paris's Department of Earth Sciences. In 1976, he became director of the Paris Institut de Physique du Globe. He is an author of more than 100 scientific articles, many of them seminal studies on the evolution of the Earth using isotopic evidence, and 11 books. He is a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the French Academy of Science.

© National Post 2007

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...Canadian Survey Reveals Polar Bears Populations Increasing - Nearly Tripled Since 1980's (Ottawa's National Post - March 6, 2007)

Canadian Survey Reveals Polar Bears Populations Increasing - Nearly Tripled Since 1980's
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...
 
Polar bear numbers up, but rescue continues
By Don Martin Ottawa's National Post
Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Their status ranges from a "vulnerable" to "endangered" and could be declared "threatened" if the U.S. decides the polar bear is collateral damage of climate change.

Nobody talks about "overpopulated" when discussing the bears' outlook.

Yet despite the Canadian government 's $150-million commitment last week to fund 44 International Polar Year research projects, a key question is not up for detailed scientific assessment: If the polar bear is the 650-kilogram canary in the climate change coal mine, why are its numbers INCREASING?

The latest government survey of polar bears roaming the vast Arctic expanses of northern Quebec, Labrador and southern Baffin Island show the population of polar bears has jumped to 2,100 animals from around 800 in the mid-1980s.

As recently as three years ago, a less official count placed the number at 1,400.

The Inuit have always insisted the bears' demise was greatly exaggerated by scientists doing projections based on fly-over counts, but their input was usually dismissed as the ramblings of self-interested hunters.

As Nunavut government biologist Mitch Taylor observed in a front-page story in the Nunatsiaq News last month, "the Inuit were right. There aren't just a few more bears. There are a hell of a lot more bears."

Their widely portrayed lurch toward extinction on a steadily melting ice cap is not supported by bear counts in other Arctic regions either.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is collecting feedback on whether to declare the polar bear "threatened" under its Endangered Species Act, joining the likes of the rare red-cockaded woodpecker, the lesser prairie chicken and the Sonoran pronghorn, which are afforded official protection and species recovery management. The service held its first public hearing on the polar bear project last night in Washington D.C.

But background papers for the debate hardly justify a rush to protect the bear from extinction if its icy habitat fades to green.

The service identifies six Arctic regions where data are insufficient to make a call on the population, including the aforementioned Baffin shores area.

Another six areas are listed as having stable counts, three experienced reduced numbers and two have seen their bears increase.

Inuit also argue the bear population is on the rise along western Hudson Bay, in sharp contrast to the Canadian Wildlife Service, which projects a 22% decline in bear numbers.

Far be it for me to act as a climate- change denier, but that's hardly overwhelming proof of a species in peril in Canada, which claims roughly two thirds of the world's polar bear population.

Reading international coverage of the bear, it's obvious Canada has become home to the official poster species for extinction by climate change.

Everywhere you look, the "doomed" polar bear's story is illustrated with the classic photo of a mother and cub teetering on an fragile-looking ice floe, the ice full of holes and seemingly about to disappear into the sea.

"The drama is clear: This is truly the tip of an iceberg, the bears are desperately stranded as the water swells around them," according to a recent article in The Observer magazine carrying the photo.

Something's always bothered me about that photo, which has been vilified on the Internet as a fake.

Even if it's the real thing, the photographer was clearly standing on something solid not far from his forlorn looking subjects.

For a species that can swim dozens of kilometres to find a decent seal dinner, a few hundred metres to shore is a leisurely doggie paddle to safety. So much for the optic of a doomed global warming victim on ice.

Of course, tracking polar bear populations is an inexact science.

They roam about, which lends itself to double counting, and they're not easy to identify from any distance.

Besides, polar bears do live on ice and satellite photos show the sea ice is down 7.7% in the last decade. So something is happening up there.

But while Prime Minister Stephen Harper has embraced the religion of climate change and vows to combat it with billions of new dollars, the bear facts suggest the challenge facing our great white symbol may be more about too many bears than too little ice.

© National Post 2007

Solar Physicist Rejects Belief in Man-Made Global Warming - Says

Solar Physicist Rejects Belief in Man-Made Global Warming - Says 'The Heat's in the Sun' 
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT...
The Heat's in the Sun
The Financial Post
March 9, 2007
By LAWRENCE SOLOMON, Financial Post

Link to Article
We live in extraordinarily hot times, says Sami Solanki of the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. In 2004, he led a team of scientists that, for the first time, quantitatively reconstructed the sun's activity since the last Ice Age, some 11,400 years ago. Earth hasn't been this hot in 8,000 years and, he predicts, the hot spell will carry on for a few more decades before the sun turns down the heat.

The 19th and 20th centuries are especially noteworthy. "The sun is in a changed state. It is brighter than it was a few hundred years ago and this brightening started relatively recently -- in the last 100 to 150 years," he says. "The sun has been at its strongest over the past 60 years and may now be affecting global temperatures."

Dr. Solanki gives cold comfort to those who claim that global warming took off with the Industrial Revolution, and that the warming we've seen over the last century is mostly man-made. To demonstrate how unlikely this is, Dr. Solanki shows an almost perfect correlation between solar cycles and air temperatures over the land masses in the Northern hemisphere, going back to the mid 19th century.

For example, when the length of solar cycle increased dramatically, as it did in from 1910 to 1940, so did the temperature on Earth; when it decreased, as it did from the 1940s to the 1960s, so too did Earth temperatures. Dr. Solanki's startling correlation marked a pivotal point in the climate change debate: Its publication, more than any other single event, caused researchers around the world to examine the role that the sun plays in heating and cooling our planet.

Not that Dr. Solanki discredits the role of man-made greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide. These have probably played a large role in Earth's climate, he believes, but only since 1980 or so, when the sun's almost perfect correlation with Earth temperatures ended. He also believes that evidence that greenhouse gases have played a larger role in climate change may some day turn up, because his near-perfect correlation does not constitute proof. To date, however, he hasn't seen anything compelling that undermines his own findings.

The answer to most of the global warming we have seen over the past century, Dr. Solanki believes, will likely be somehow associated with the sun, and involve one or more of its parameters. It could be the sun's total irradiance, he states, citing work by others that he respects, or it could be the solar spectral irradiance, in particular with regard to ultraviolet radiation in the stratosphere. Or it could be the sun's open magnetic flux, which modulates the galactic cosmic-ray flux. Or it could be other factors -- many potential solar drivers of our climate exist.

Dr. Solanki is especially taken with the work of the Danish National Space Agency, which demonstrated the dramatic effect that cosmic rays can have on cloud formation, and thus temperatures -- "the mechanism is just too beautiful to ignore," he offers.

Among the factors that he believes hold great promise, and that cry out for investigation, are the sun's irradiance and its magnetic field, which underlie all solar activity. "Unfortunately, regular and detailed measurements of the sun's surface magnetic field are only available for a few decades, not long enough for comparison with climate," he says on his Web site. "Records of the solar irradiance are available for an even shorter length of time" -- accurate measurements began in 1978 using instrumentation aboard spacecraft. With knowledge of these fundamental determinants of Earth's climate still in their infancy, we cannot act with confidence on climate change.

Dr. Solanki's recommendation: more research, and lots of it. To uncover a possible connection between solar irradiance and magnetic-field variations and climate, he thinks it necessary to extend the irradiance record to earlier times with the help of models. To understand the mechanisms responsible for variations in solar brightness, it is necessary to study solar variability on time scales of days to centuries.

Until the research is in, he believes, the story of what drives climate change remains unknown.

LawrenceSolomon@nextcity.com

- - - - Lawrence Solomon is executive director of Urban Renaissance Institute and Consumer Policy Institute, divisions of Energy Probe Research Foundation.

CV OF A DENIER:

Sami Solanki is director and scientific member at the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany. Previously, he was appointed professor of astronomy at the University of Oulu in Finland in 1998 and Minnaert Professor at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands in 1999. Among his research interests are solar physics, the physics of cool stars, radiative transfer and astronomical tests of theories of gravity. Dr. Solanki obtained his doctorate from the ETH in Zurich in 1987. His Web site is www.mps.mpg.de/homes/solanki.