Old Media Roadmap: Stories on the Environment Can Reveal Truth about the US Economy

May 27th, 2007 11:46 AM

Readers rarely get the truth about the US economy's performance from Old Media business reporters without having to sift through a litany of "yeah, buts" and "what ifs" designed to water down anything that might make the Bush economy appear successful. But if you look hard enough, you sometimes stumble across stories in other areas that indicate how things really are.

Stories on the environment are good candidates for finding economic truth, because the writer has to establish that continued economic growth without what the writer believes are appropriate environmental constraints is a bad thing. That means that the writer has to somehow acknowledge that economic growth exists.

Such is the case in a story buried on Page A14 of Thursday's Washington Post about lower CO2 emissions in the US last year (you read that right). In it, writer Juliet Eilperin let the reality of how the economy is performing slip in (bold is mine):

U.S. Carbon Emissions Fell 1.3% in 2006

U.S. carbon dioxide emissions dropped slightly last year even as the economy grew, according to an initial estimate released yesterday by the Energy Information Administration.

The 1.3 percent drop in CO2 emissions marks the first time that U.S. pollution linked to global warming has declined in absolute terms since 2001 and the first time it has gone down since 1990 while the economy was thriving. Carbon dioxide emissions declined in both 2001 and 1991, in large part because of economic slowdowns during those years.

Whoa. At what other time has the Post informed its readers that the economy is "thriving"?

Answer: Other than the above, not once in the last 60 days; none of the links found at the Post in a search on "economy thriving" (without quotes) refer to the US economy's performance.

Returning to form, Eilperin, after using the first four paragraphs to the hard news, gave the next two to an industry "more needs to be done" spokesman, and the final four to critical Democrats and environmentalists, including this sky-is-falling quote from Senator John Kerry:

"This is more proof that this President just doesn't get it when it comes to combating climate change," Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) said in a statement yesterday. "The house is on fire, and he's trying to douse the flames with a watering can. The science tells us that we need to reduce our emissions by 60-80% by 2050 in order to avoid catastrophic damage."

The news was carried in a brief blurb found on Page A20 in Thursday's New York Times. The item (may require free registration) helpfully reminded readers that "The United States remains the leading source of the carbon dioxide, the main emission linked to global warming." But according to this March 23 Reuters report, obviously written well before the just-announced reduction in US emissions during 2006, China "is on course to overtake the United States this year as the world's biggest carbon emitter." The latest news from the administration would appear to make China's ascendancy to Number One in carbon emissions this year a certainty.

It should be noted that the need to reduce CO2 emission is anything but "settled science" -- at least until someone refutes Fred Singer (described at the link as "an atmospheric physicist at George Mason University and founder of the Science and Environmental Policy Project, a think tank on climate and environmental issues"). Singer maintains that satellite temperature readings show that the earth is cooling not warming, and believes, with good reason, that "climate science is on its way to becoming pathological, to becoming abnormal in the sense that it is being guided by the money that’s being made available to people."

Getting back to Old Media coverage -- Try to imagine an administration of the other party announcing actual nationwide reductions in carbon emissions and seeing the news buried in the Post and the Times. No, neither can I.

Cross-posted at BizzyBlog.com.