September 2007

Do Your Own Thing

by William Yeatman on September 28, 2007

Just back from the President’s speech discussing the ongoing, two-day Major Economies Meeting on Energy Security and Climate Change. My impressions are as follow:


I've long maintained that the administration’s greatest weakness on this issue – that is, after the habit of providing futile rhetorical overtures to appease the greens which are only used against them in ways never intended, but quite obviously invited – is the failure to tout U.S. emissions performance and/or burst our antagonists’ bubble about their purported superiority simply because they made a promise (that, someone official needs to note, they are spectacularly breaking while we reduce emissions growth to near zero). True to form, the President did not discuss comparative emissions other than to say unnamed countries have done similar things.

“Last year, the United States grew our economy, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions. Several other nations have made similar strides.”

Names please! Among the major economies? While the latter may be true I’ve not heard it before (though I don't keep close tabs on, say, Japan's emissions) and I fear it is another sop to the obvious constituency within his team (coughStateDepartmentcough) who insist that he not respond to Europe’s hypocritical attacks on him and U.S. performance, but instead keep trying to love bomb them.


This was followed by, “By setting this goal, we acknowledge there is a problem.”


Headline writers and pressure group lawyers demanding that EPA publish an “endangerment” finding under the Clean Air Act, phone your office!


Other than that, not too much was rhetorically given away, but for the hope-against-experience claim that “Wind power is becoming cost effective in many parts of America”, and that one day it could provide up to 20% of America's energy (sp? Even if he did say or meant electricity, this requires the willing suspension of disbelief).


Now, about the administration’s proposal that the major emitting economies get together to see what is it that they can agree on and go from there, the President confirmed that it will proceed under the UNFCCC (which Kyoto amended, a post-2012 successor to which is now being vainly sought), these fairly (by now) minor missteps and curiosities aside, this inescapably proposes a competing scenario to continuing Kyoto's approach after it expires, that is, the second of a two-track approach to "post-2012".


Bush summed it up with a soft pushback to his adversaries including in the media:

“What I'm telling you is we’ve got a strategy. And we've got a comprehensive approach”.

The bottom line of the plan is that each state promises to do what it wants. Which, of course, obviates any practical imperative for an international agreement, although it satisfied a political need.


The administration takes pains to argue that this is not an alternative to Kyoto, the threat of which sends the greens through the roof because heaven knows the thing wouldn't survive competition. And they have co-opted the UNFCCC’s head, Yvo de Boer into supporting it. Yet it is worth noting that such a Plan B is by no means inherently mutually exclusive with Kyoto. In fact, if Europe is so wedded to the rationing approach, they are fully able to continue going that route alone while others pursue the Bush approach. In all likelihood, the Kyoto approach will fall by the wayside as “do your own thing, baby” advances.


The problem remains, but continues to be compounded, of the rhetorical sops they promiscuously toss out in the vain hope that it will do anything but serve as fodder for a clever, lavishly funded, litigious anti-energy anti-growth anti-sovereignty industry riding this issue to their policy objectives.


So the good news is that the world, developed and developing, will thank Bush for having taken the fall allowing Kyoto to die. The bad news is that the lawyers of the U.S. will thank him for how he did it.

Time for a Green Divorce

by William Yeatman on September 28, 2007

After the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, environmental groups saw an opening. They realized that national-security hawks would be open to proposals to replace Middle Eastern oil, which they believed was financing terrorism, with alternative energy sources. Overtures were made. Then, slowly but surely, “bipartisan” coalitions began to produce reports aimed at killing two birds with one stone — the flow of dollars to terrorists and the risks of global warming. The proposals may sound compelling, but they will do nothing to strengthen America, and would weaken it instead.

There are reports from reliable sources that the Environmental Protection Agency is moving rapidly to propose new rules to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from new automotive vehicles.  This is being done in order to comply with the Supreme Court’s decision on April 2 in Massachusetts v. EPA. That 5 to 4 opinion ruled that greenhouse gas emissions fall within the Clean Air Act’s definition of air pollutants and that the EPA therefore had to consider a 1999 petition to regulate them. 


Two sources have told me that EPA will decide before January 1 that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare.  Such a finding of endangerment under the Clean Air Act triggers regulatory action. 


What might the EPA propose to do?  Again, the reports I’ve heard mention two proposals: first, higher Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFÉ) standards for new passenger cars and light trucks; and second, implementation by administrative action of President Bush’s “20 in 10” proposal that twenty per cent of America’s vehicle fuel consumption be provided from renewable sources (such as ethanol) within ten years. 


The Bush Administration is already moving to raise CAFÉ standards.  As part of its anti-energy bill, the Senate this summer passed higher CAFÉ standards and a version of the President’s renewable fuel mandate.  Thus EPA would be implementing two big chunks of the Congress’s anti-energy agenda without legislation. 


Whatever EPA proposes will be offered as a proposed rulemaking, which will then have to go through all the procedural hoops before it becomes final.  That could take a year or two.  Then we can expect several years of litigation by industry and environmental pressure groups.  This will not stop Congress from passing legislation in this area, nor will it stop the next President from proposing a different set of regulatory remedies. EPA’s next step will almost certainly be to consider how best to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants and other stationary sources.


Move Over Al Gore

by William Yeatman on September 28, 2007

Global warming is a complex issue to figure out, but one thing about it is actually quite simple — discerning which side dominates the debate right now. For the past year, those who view global warming as a crisis justifying a major federal response have had just about everything going in their favor.

Several years ago, Cape Wind Associates proposed the nation’s first offshore windfarm in Nantucket Sound. They sought to build 130 wind turbines several miles off the coast on Horseshoe Shoal. The Sound is an ideal location for offshore wind production. The surrounding land masses and relatively shallow water would protect the installation from storms and make it easier to erect and maintain the 258-foot turbine towers. Upon completion, the wind farm could provide approximately 75-percent of Cape Cod’s electricity, reducing the need to rely on nearby fossil-fuel-fired power plants. As good as it sounds, the project faces strong opposition.

Ever sense you were on to something?   


As noted in this space previously, it had come to my attention that state attorneys general were working behind the scenes with environmentalist pressure groups and trial lawyers on a strategy to replicate the tobacco litigation of the 1990s, which extracted enormous settlements for pressure groups and their programs, as well as paying off the trial lawyers quite handsomely. Internally, as well as on one nationally syndicated radio show, I noted that one result might be that the first round of AGs I requested documents under their freedom of information laws — CA, NY, VT, WA, CT, NY and NJ — might stall while moving up their time table and get things moving sufficiently to deny me records on the grounds that the documents related to ongoing law enforcement matters or pending litigation.I don't want to say that New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo is predictable, but…  That's right.  After some minor delaying tactics, we have received a letter denying us access to documents on the grounds that the otherwise responsive deliberations were now classified as "compiled for law enforcement purposes" and disclosure would interfere with said proceedings.


That is to say (and, actually, whether it is related to our nosy inquiry, we cannot know) they rushed out letters to 5 energy companies asking about disclosure of “climate change” risk (talk about taking this “science is settled!” ploy a little far), then denied us any documents seeking internal discussion of pursuing tobacco-style "global warming" litigation substituting "big energy" for tobacco and "global warming" for cancer.  I say rushed because they were sloppy.  All docs are now officially claimed as privileged as being related to ongoing law enforcement matters.  This is not the tobacco-style suit we have reason to believe is coming but is sufficient, in the mind of the office of the NY AG, to deny us access to their deliberations.


Meanwhile, readers might be amused to know that bureaucratic reactions to embarrassing exposure seems to know little bounds these days.  NOAA has demanded about $5,000 for them to conduct a Freedom of Information Act search of internal discussion over why to suddenly pull down from the internet the locations of U.S. surface measuring stations after embarrassing photos of their absurd placement (plopped down in Tucson asphalt parking lots, black tar roofs, next to air conditioning exhaust vents [heat source], and even over a Weber grill).


Bias and the instinct for self-preservation both run deep in the belly of the beast and when it comes to certain searches, groups that inarguably qualify for fee waivers must be impeded.  EPA has done this to me before when they didn’t want to reveal something, too, though a subsequent FOIA seeking past history of fee waivers granted did help clarify their thought process.

Corn farmer Jim Handsaker has found a slew of ways to ride the heartland boom in biofuels that is reshaping the economy of rural Iowa.

Russia: Kyoto Ineffective

by William Yeatman on September 28, 2007

The prolongation of the Kyoto Protocol on the reduction of carbon emissions, which expires in 2012, will be ineffective, the head of the Russian hydrometeorology service said.

The Bush administration has brought together most of the world's largest polluters for talks on confronting global climate change. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns has the story.

All Circuits Misloaded

by William Yeatman on September 27, 2007

We’ve been hearing a lot about Ronald Reagan from the Republican presidential field of late, but there is little trace of him in the position papers issued by the various campaigns thus far. Take energy. Whereas candidate Reagan proposed to solve the energy crisis of the 1970s by abolishing the Department of Energy, deregulating the energy sector, and letting free markets rip, candidates Giuliani, Romney, McCain, and the rest propose to solve today’s energy crisis with elaborate national energy plans, lavish subsidies for favored fuels and industries, mandatory renewable-energy consumption orders, and government dictates to manufacturers regarding how energy-related goods and services are made.