June 2000

High Gas Prices Explained

There has been an acrimonious debate over whether higher gasoline prices in the Midwest are due to environmental regulations or to industry collusion. The debate has reached all the way to the presidential campaign, with Al Gore accusing big oil companies of collusion and price fixing.

A new report the by the Library of Congresss Congressional Research Service has found no basis for the collusion charges, but instead points to significant regulatory impacts. According to the report, “It can be roughly estimated that 25 cents of the regional [Chicago/Milwaukee] price increase is due to transportation difficulties and another 25 cents, roughly estimated, could be due to the unique RFG [reformulated gas] situation in Chicago/Milwaukee[T]he fact that RFG prices are above conventional gas suggests that the difference is due to the supply of RFG uniquely.”

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), chairman of the House Science Committee, and Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) said, “This report presents a strong case for the EPA granting relief even on a temporary basis for consumers from the new RFG requirements. Such an action would give the public some respite from these untenably high prices without harming the environment.”

Technology Partnerships Praised

On June 27, The Global Climate Coalition and the US Chamber of Commerce hosted a conference, “Building a Path Forward – The Role of Technology in Addressing Climate Issues.”

Government officials and industry leaders, from Edison Electric, the American Forest and Paper Association, ExxonMobil, The National Mining Association, and others, extolled the many successes of public-private voluntary partnerships in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. According to Jay Hakes, administrator of the Energy Information Administration until this month, the Department of Energy is involved in over 1500 voluntary projects, giving companies the opportunity surf on the cutting edge of their respective fields.

A second panel discussed the role of technology in reducing greenhouse emissions. Although many uncertainties exist, all participants agreed that technology has been crucially important in the past and will continue to be so in the future.

Dan Reicher, Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency at the DOE, discussed his house, which can be heated and cooled for less than a dollar per day because of its efficient design. Reicher expects that similar technologies will soon be available to industry for use in reducing energy consumption.

The National Assessment on Climate Change, recently released for public comment, has come under fire for its alarmist tone and political bent. Much of that criticism, we now learn, comes from the technical reviewers of the report. A new report by David Wojick, himself a technical reviewer of the National Assessment, compiles comments from the technical reviews.

Two well known scientists, who support the global warming theory, are very critical of the report. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research argues that “There are major problems with the report, in terms of structure and the content.” He also notes that, “The two models used are quite different and give different results, so how can they both verify against the observed data?” Finally, “The article I referred to (elsewhere) on the use and abuse of climate models describes appropriate use of models. Here is a classic example of misuse and abuse of them.”

James Hansen of the International Research Institute for Climate Prediction points out that, “The projected 1% per year or 2- to 3-fold 21st century increase in CO2 assumed in this study may be pessimistic. From what I understand, it over predicts recent trends, and may not account for observed slowing of the rate of global population growth. I didn’t find supporting evidence in the accompanying technical paper. Therefore, I think that it is overstated. Either cite empirical evidence or acknowledge uncertainties in this and other projections.”

Some of the comments were appropriately flippant. John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville said the report seemed to be “written by a committee of Greenpeace, Ted Turner, Al Gore and Stephen King (for the horror lines). I saw no attempt at scientific objectivity.” Jae Edwards of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory commented that, “The current version of the report reads more like an advertising supplement to Time Magazine than a national assessment.” And later, “The example of flooding in New York is needlessly hyperbolic. If you want to go that route, and I dont recommend it, why dont you get out the old picture from the cover of Parade Magazine of the Statue of Liberty covered with water up to her arm pits.”

James Shuttleworth of University of Arizona said that, “Because the document retains the conventional looming gloom perspective throughout, it will likely be rejected by the majority of the population as just another tree huggers lobby piece. If its purpose is just to provide a further prop to the Kyoto agreement, so be it.”

The report, “Not a Pretty Picture,” can be downloaded at www.greeningearthsociety.org.

CBS Hot Air Watch

Remember when polls showed that CBS News anchorman Walter Cronkite was “the most-trusted man in America”? After his retirement, the avuncular Walter revealed that he believed in one-world government and lots of other leftist claptrap.

Cronkites successor, Dan Rather, is more impatient to share his political wisdom with the world. Not content with CBS News’s stream of ridiculous stories connecting storms, floods, and droughts to global warming, Dan has now taken his fascination with natural disasters to the op-ed page of the Houston Chronicle.

Surprisingly, it turns out that Dan is actually opposed to more storms and other extreme weather events. In a June 18 column, he opines that although the National Assessment is “not alarmist” (we think thats a joke), it nonetheless is “a sobering document, giving us a glimpse into a future where higher temperatures, drought and flooding will reshape the American landscape.”

He cites the National Assessment as giving compelling reasons why the United States should ratify the Kyoto Protocol. He blames the Republican-controlled Senate for not ratifying the treaty, apparently not aware that according the Constitution the president must submit treaties to the Senate before the Senate can ratify them.

Gore Plans to Implement Kyoto Protocol If Elected President

Vice President Al Gore has announced the first part of his sweeping proposal to “develop and deploy the best technologies in the world to reduce our dependence on unreliable and expensive imported sources of oil; protect the country from the threat of climate change and disruptions in electrical power; and make our air and water cleaner to stop the spread of health problems caused by pollution, such as asthma. To innovators everywhere, Al Gore is saying — if you invest in America’s future, we will invest in you.”

Or in other words, if you wont support the Kyoto Protocol well buy your support. The plan is pork barrel politics at its worst. It would “dedicate part of the expected budget surplus to create a new National Energy Security and Environment Trust Fund,” that would “support private and public efforts to develop and deploy technologies that will reduce Americas dependence on big oil companies and on unreliable energy, to clean up our environment, grow our economy, and create new jobs.”

The “trust fund” would provide tax incentives families and small businesses that purchase energy efficient automobiles, homes, appliances and industrial equipment. It would also give subsidies to auto manufacturers to develop “a new generation of clean cars, trucks, buses and sport utility vehicles.”

Other beneficiaries of taxpayer-funded largesse would be electric utilities, renewable energy producers, farmers, public transportation, and labor unions. Part of the trust fund includes an “Energy Security and Environment Trust,” that would provide $68 billion to energy companies for the development of clean energy projects. Further details can be found at www.algore2000.com.

The Global Climate Coalition, a coalition of trade associations that are opposed to the Kyoto Protocol, praised the initiative. In a press release GCC executive director Glenn Kelly said, “Were very pleased to see candidate Gore endorsing the GCCs positive agenda of market-based solutions, innovative new technologies and increased efficiency and conservation.”

Gores Conflict of Interest

Its not surprising that Vice President Al Gores initiative would be a major financial boon to energy companies. According to a UPI (June 28, 2000) story, “The proposalto pay power plants to cut pollution was developed with the assistance of a Gore adviser who also works for large power companies that could get millions in taxpayer subsidies under the plan.”

The adviser, Kathleen McGinty, is a former Gore staffer and chairman of the Presidents Council of Environmental Quality under President Clinton. She now works for Troutman Sanders, “a law firm that represents several major U.S. power companies,” notes UPI. “Two of those clients American Electric Power and Southern Company confirmed Tuesday that McGinty is one of their consultants on environmental issues.”

McGinty defended herself saying, “I provide advice and have provided advice to anyone who asks me. Does the vice president ask for my views? Absolutely. Do people in the business community ask for my views? Absolutely. And is that anything new? Absolutely not.” It may not be new but it certainly doesnt look good. Taxpayers might think it wrong for a person who represents the interests of energy companies to help devise a plan that would transfer billions of dollars from taxpayers to those companies.

Knollenberg Provision Passes House

On June 21 the House of Representatives passed the VA-HUD and Independent Agencies appropriations bill for FY2001. The bill once again includes the Knollenberg provision, which prohibits EPA from taking actions to implement the Kyoto Protocol. New report language clarifies the intent of the provision. An amendment offered by Rep. John Olver (D-Mass.) and adopted by the House on a 314 to 108 vote further clarifies that the provision does not prohibit any congressionally-authorized EPA programs.

Bonns Aftermath

According to the BNA Daily Environment Report (June 20, 2000), “no political breakthrough was reached,” at a week long meeting of the subsidiary bodies to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change in Bonn, despite claims of “significant progress.”

Michael Zammit Cutajar, general secretary of the UNFCCC said that the meeting was successful in identifying obstacles to completing negotiations in The Hague at COP-6 in November. “A lot of work lies ahead,” Cutajar said. “Political leaders throughout the world will have to work at full capacity for the completion of an international strategy against global warming in order to reach an effective agreement in The Hague.”

There are still several areas of disagreement. The European Union and the United States have still not resolved their dispute on the extent to which countries should be allowed to use flexible mechanisms. Moreover, Germany has come out against the use of sinks and the use of nuclear power under the Clean Development Mechanism. Saudi Arabia has “proved to be the most obstinate opponent of any climate control strategy,” notes BNA.

EU May Not Reach Kyoto Targets

An analysis published by the Pew Center on Global Climate Change of five European countries has found that only one of them will meet the targets agreed to under the Kyoto Protocol. The study was done by John Selwyn Gummer, MP, former UK Environment Minister and Chairman of the environmental consulting firm, Sancroft International Ltd., and Robert Moreland, also of Sancroft.

The five countries studied were Germany, United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, and Spain. Of the five, only the United Kingdom is expected to reach its target.

The study attributes the UKs success to “fuel switching from coal to natural gas.” The UKs Kyoto target is to lower greenhouse gases by 12.5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008 to 2012. Currently it is at 14.6 percent below.

Germany has also been successful in reducing its greenhouse gas emissions, but will not likely meet its target of 21 percent below 1990 levels. Current levels are at 17 percent below. Germany lowered emissions by closing heavily polluting East German industries that werent financially viable. The other countries are nowhere near complying with their targets.

Senate Compromises on CAFE

The freeze on raising the Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards will remain in place for now. The Senate reached a compromise that would continue the freeze but would allow the Department of Transportation and the National Academy of Sciences to study changes in CAFE standards.

Senator Spence Abraham (R-Mich.) said that the compromise was “a big victory for Michigan” and Dan Becker, of the Sierra Club called it “a major victory for consumers and the environment” (Associated Press, June 19, 2000).

SUVs: Popular as Ever

An article by Greg Easterbrook in the New Republic (May 15, 2000), with the subtitle, “Hooray for expensive oil!” joins a chorus of environmental activists hoping that high gasoline prices may be the signal Congress needs to begin weaning us of our dangerous addiction to oil. If youre hoping that the current gas prices will force Americans out of their gas guzzling SUVs and into tiny Metros, or even better, electric cars you are going to be disappointed.

According to an article in the Los Angeles Times (May 18, 2000), there has been no let up in demand for gasoline, even though prices have increased significantly over the last several months. According to the article, “Drivers thirst for fuel was such last year that the growth in demand nationwide was the size of Virginias entire consumption for 1999 at nearly 10 million gallons a day.” The AAA forecasts that “record numbers of Americans will hit the highways this summer.”

This is quite different from what economists were predicting ten years ago. They were claiming that “gasoline consumption would be shrinking right about now because of improvements in fuel efficiency,” noted the Times. This hasnt happened, according to David Cole, director of the University of Michigan Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, because, “People are feeling pretty affluent these days.”

Unless theres a major recession or large gasoline shortages, people are unlikely to change their fuel consumption and driving patterns, said Cole. He doesnt consider either scenario to be likely.

An Independent Review of the IPCCs Third Assessment Report

A dozen climate experts briefed a large audience in the U. S. Capitol on May 30 on flaws and problems in the IPCCs Third Assessment Report. The briefing, “Whats Wrong with UN Climate Science?” was sponsored by the Cooler Heads Coalition and the Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP).

The speakers, many of whom are technical reviewers of the IPCC report, challenged key areas of the 1000-page draft report and the main conclusions of the seven-page Summary for Policy Makers.

Vincent Gray, an atmospheric scientist from New Zealand, criticized the IPCC’s reliance on the surface temperature record, which Gray has concluded is unreliable. Large urban areas consistently show warming over the last 100 years, whereas rural areas show no temperature increases, which suggests that cars, heated buildings, air traffic and other human factors have skewed the ground data upward. Moreover, Gray argued, even rural areas are not free of increased human activity that can corrupt temperature readings.

Hugh Ellsaesser, a climatologist now retired from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, said that the water vapor feedback effect, which the IPCC claims is magnifying global warming, is actually causing cooler temperatures over the tropics and subtropics.

S. Fred Singer, president of SEPP and organizer of the briefing, contradicted the often-repeated claim that the past century was the warmest in 1000 years. Singer summarized the findings of Wibjorn Karlen, a paleoclimatologist from the University of Stockholm, who had been scheduled to speak. The “warmest in a thousand years” claim is based on a highly selective use of tree ring data, which is contradicted by much other data, including recent bore holes in the Greenland and Antarctic ice caps.

Norwegian Paal Brekke of the European Space Agency showed how the IPCC report underestimates the effects of solar fluctuations on temperature variability.

Peter Dietze, a consulting engineer from Germany, argued that “The IPCC assumes carbon dioxide concentrations that are at least 50 percent too high, and effects for CO2 that are at least three times too high.” He asked, “If the actual CO2 increase is just 0.4 percent annually, why does the IPCC assume a 1 percent increase and then expect us to accept its computer model conclusions as valid?”

Gerd-Rainer Weber, a climatologist from Germany, concluded that relying on the predictive capability of computer models was a “wild gamble.”

Tom Segalstad, a geochemist at the University of Oslo, showed that the preindustrial level of carbon dioxide of 280 parts per million was not the natural level, but was very low compared to most past eras. And plant and animal life has prospered at much higher CO2 levels.

Keith Idso of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change in Arizona argued that hundreds of agricultural and biological experiments have confirmed that increased levels of carbon dioxide lead to much higher levels of plant growth and food production and increasing biodiversity.

Finally, Ross McKitrick, an economist at the University of Guelph in Canada, pointed out that the Kyoto Protocol would not reduce global warming measurably, yet would impose tremendous costs on society. This makes no sense because it wastes money on relatively benign global warming concerns that could be spent on real environmental problems. His solution would be to create a global warming fund of $1 billion. Assuming average earnings from investments, by 2050 the amount would increase to about $30 billion and by 2100 to nearly $900 billion. Anyone who could prove damages from global warming could then seek compensation from the fund.

National Assessment Under Fire

The U.S. National Assessment on the Impacts of Climate Change, to be released this summer, is coming under increasing criticism. An article in the Detroit News (May 28, 2000) gives a good overview of the reports fundamental weakness the attempt to predict regional and local impacts of global warming.

According to the article, the report attempts to show “the effects of global warming in the United States, predicting droughts, floods and extreme weather region by region.” Critics argue that we dont know enough to make such predictions, however.

A draft of the forthcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change notes that, “Despite recent improvements and developments, regionalization research is still a maturing process and the related uncertainties are poorly known. Therefore, a coherent picture of regional climate change via available regionalization techniques cannot yet be drawn.”

“We simply cant forecast well enough on a continental or smaller scale to say that we know what will happen,” said William Gutowski, a meteorologist at Iowa State University and a contributing author of the UN report. “Policy should not be made based on predictions that Iowa will have heat waves or floods.”

Linda Mearns, a scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and a participant in the National Assessment process, defended the report: “Sure, uncertainties increase as you go to a finer scale, but I don’t think the report is on any shakier ground than any other analysis.” Good point.

Sinks: A Short-term Fix?

The World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) has recently released a report that claims that the United States, Canada, and Russia could meet 90 percent of the total developed country Kyoto targets through unlimited use of plant and soil sequestration. “A total of 260 million tons of CO2 would be absorbed per year by the use of sinks in the three countries, thereby achieving about 90 percent of the targets imposed on the worlds industrialized countries,” notes the Japan Weekly Monitor (May 22, 2000).

WWF spokesmen have reservations about the use of sinks, however. “While preventing the emission of carbon dioxide is permanent, sequestering carbon pollution is a cheap, short-term fix that fails to address a long-term problem,” said Jennifer Morgan, director of WWFs Climate Change Program. “The scientific uncertainty of sequestration makes sinks unreliable and dependence on them for meeting Kyoto targets unsound.”

According to three new studies in Nature (April 20, 2000), carbon sequestration may not just be a short-term fix after all. Trees, for example, both absorb and release CO2. The absorbed CO2 is stored in the trees tissues. Expiration mainly occurs with the bacterial decomposition of organic matter in soil, notes the World Climate Report (May 22, 2000).

Currently, forests are net sinks of CO2. But it is thought that increasing temperatures would accelerate respiration to the point where forests actually become net contributors to the greenhouse effect, a positive feedback that would accelerate global warming.

One of the Nature studies found that, “Decomposition rates were remarkably constant across a global-scale gradient in mean annual temperature, [that] decomposition rates for forest soils are not controlled by temperature limitations to microbial activity, and that increased temperature alone will not stimulate the decomposition of forest-derived carbon in mineral soil.”

Another study found, “For single sites our datashow a significant relationship between temperature and ecosystem respiration for both short and annual time series. However, when a plot of [respiration] versus temperature is drawn across all sites the relationship is not significant, indicating that mean annual air temperature may not be an important contributing factor to forest ecosystem respiration on a broader scale.”

The third study uses an ecosystem model for coniferous forests to conclude that under a scenario where there is no long-term effect of temperature on respiration, forests may become more effective CO2 sinks in the future. The study asks, “Does this [new research] mean that the doomsday view of runaway global warming now seems unlikely? We hope so.”

CBS Hot Air Watch



May 31, 200

Dan Rather, anchor: Tonights Eye on America is a hard-news look at a global corporate giant in fossil fuels. Protesters including some stockholders are accusing ExxonMobil of a corporate dinosaur attitude about the dangers of global warming that may be linked to fuel emissions. CBS Jim Axelrod has been sorting the facts from the smoke on this.

Protesters: (In unison) No planet, no dividends!

Jim Axelrod reporting: In Dallas this morning, a couple of dozen protesters tried to get the ear of one of the biggest and most powerful corporations on earth.

Unidentified Man: When should ExxonMobil stop global warming?

Protesters: (In unison) Now!

Axelrod: If theres a growing consensus that greenhouse gases are raising global temperatures, these people say executives at ExxonMobil are not about to embrace it. Is ExxonMobil any different on the issue of global warming than any other of the big oil companies?

Sister Pat Daly (ExxonMobil Shareholder and Activist): Theyre incredibly different. They have absolutely isolated themselves on this.

Axelrod: Pat Dalys not a tree-hugger. Shes a shareholder and a nun who represents clergy-based pension funds with a $ 15 million stake in ExxonMobil.

Sister Daly: Global warming is happening.

Axelrod: Today, she and a small chorus of critics asked ExxonMobil to join the growing number of companies saying global warming is here, its real and we need to act now.

Sister Daly: Theyre saying that theres not enough science. They will tell you, “Were concerned about global warming,” but theyre not going to admit that its actually happening.

Mr. Lee Raymond (CEO, ExxonMobil): Were going to follow the science. Were not going to follow what is politically correct.

Axelrod: Other oil giants like Shell and BP Amoco have pledged to operate more efficiently and reduce their greenhouse gas emissions to 10 percent below their 1990 levels. Dupont Chemicals has gone even further, promising a 65 percent reduction. ExxonMobil, on the other hand, has no such targets.

Professor Michael McElroy (Harvard University): They simply leave the public with the view that, “Gee, we don’t know enough to do anything.”

Axelrod: Mike McElroy isnt an activist. Hes an academic and a Harvard professor of environmental studies.

Prof. McElroy: In terms of honest assessment of the science, yeah, this is a serious problem, time to act. Exxon is leaning to the side of inaction.

Mr. Frank Sprow (Vice President, ExxonMobil): This is complicated. Dont believe statements that say its clear that things are warming. Its not clear.

Axelrod: The company is taking this idea to the public in a series of ads, saying views on warming are, quote, “just as changeable as your local weather forecast.”

Your assessment of the threat, the credibility of the threat, has that evolved?

Mr. Sprow: Id say thats unchanged over the last several years.

Axelrod: Todays attempts to change the companys views on global warming were turned back, leaving a small band of critics with little to do but shout. In Dallas, Im Jim Axelrod for Eye on America.

House Rejects CAFE Increases

The annual fight over whether U.S. auto companies should be forced to increase the average fuel efficiency of their fleets is once again underway. The Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards (CAFE) currently require an average of 27.5 mile per gallon for cars and 20.7 miles per gallon for trucks, but environmental activists have been pushing for higher standards for several years now.

On May 19, House supporters of higher CAFE standards realized they didnt have the votes and dropped their bid to end the freeze, according to the Detroit Free Press (May 20, 2000). The debate will now move to the Senate. “The Senate is where the real fight will be,” said Diane Steed, president of the Coalition for Vehicle Choice. “Were glad reason prevailed and the House is listening to consumers and constituents rather than special-interest groups.”

Environmental groups were upset by the outcome. “The Sierra Club is outraged that the Republican leadership has yet again prevented action to cut auto pollution. We are profoundly disappointed that the Democratic leadership didnt fight back,” said Daniel Becker, director of the clubs Global Warming and Energy Program. “With fuel economy at its lowest level since 1980, action is clearly needed.”

Emerson Amendment Survives House Appropriations Committee

On May 11, the House Appropriations Committee approved the agriculture-funding bill for fiscal 2001. Contained within the bill is an amendment, written by Rep. Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), prohibiting implementation of the Kyoto Protocol prior to Senate ratification. The Amendment strengthens the original prohibition against backdoor implementation formulated by Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI).

The amendment prohibits the use of funds “for the Kyoto Protocol, including such Kyoto mechanisms as carbon emissions trading schemes and the Clean Development Mechanism that are found solely in the Kyoto Protocol and nowhere in the laws of the United States.” It also bars funds to “propose or issue rules, regulations, decrees or orders for implementation” of the Kyoto Protocol.

The committee report notes “with disapproval that the administration exhibited disdain for the will of the Senate” when it signed a protocol that did not meet the conditions of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution that set conditions on what it would accept. The Byrd-Hagel resolution, which passed the Senate by a 95-0 vote, stated that it would not ratify any agreement that would cause economic harm in the U.S. and that did not require commitments from developing countries to reduce greenhouse gas emissions (Green Sheets, May 11, 2000).

Has China Really Agreed to Cut Energy Emissions?

A high level meeting in Beijing between officials of the United States Ambassador Joseph Prueher and Chinas minister of science and technology, Madame Zhu Lilan, resulted in a joint statement on cooperation on environment and development. The agreement, signed on May 18 has been touted by the White House as “an important step forward” in Chinas “new willingness to work with us in the international effort to address climate change” (AP Online, May 19, 2000).

The joint statement, however, says nothing about a commitment from China to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. It does state that the two countries “commit to further their cooperation in the fields of clean energy, environmental protection, science and technology and commercial cooperation.”

A clue to what this may mean is found in the next item. “The United States and China recognize the potential of Chinese accession to the WTO (World Trade Organization) to broaden and accelerate the transfer of environmentally-sound technologies, goods and services, thereby advancing clean energy and environmental protection of goals.” In other words, the U.S. agrees to give and China agrees to take. This is the idea behind the Clean Development Mechanism in the Kyoto Protocol, which the joint statement claims, “could offer opportunity for mutually beneficial cooperation between developed and developing countries.”