September 2007

Energy bills are a dime a dozen in Washington and many state capitals. They are the multipurpose solution reputedly solving every energy problem; they do everything from raising taxes for oil and gas companies, to subsidizing ethanol and plug-in hybrids, to threatening oil company executives with prison for “price gouging,” to promoting wind power (except, of course, when it might spoil Ted Kennedy’s sailing). Every gasoline price spike yields a cascade of proposed legislation and an outcry from politicians.

The Lessons of Kyoto

by William Yeatman on September 27, 2007

Later this week, President Bush hosts a summit of the world’s major economies on energy and climate change. The purpose is to hammer out some type of agreement to replace the Kyoto Protocol on global warming. The summit will take place after a United Nations conference on the same subject.

The European Union pressed world leaders this week to follow its lead in fighting climate change, but a battle looms at home over how to share the burden of cutting greenhouse gas emissions.

Here’s what we know: the climate-scold Europeans are increasing their carbon dioxide emissions at a faster rate than the purported rogue climate state, the US. They have also increased their CO2 emissions in greater volume than the US, at minimum over the past 6 years for which we all have official data (2000-2005). This is true not just for the EU-25, but the EU-15, which is “Europe” under Kyoto, and whose economy is smaller than the US, whose growth has lagged ours over the relevant period, and whose population increase has also not matched our own. [I will tally the various EU-15 and EU-25 performances when a schedule, which includes a new infant just brought home, permits].

This is very, very significant, and ever more so given the mythology that the EU perpetuates with assistance from the media about their supposed superiority and the horrible, unilateral US.

We also know that, despite these truths, the Washington Post is addicted to writing things like “The world’s understandable skepticism of the United States’ seriousness in dealing with climate change,” and the absurdity from yesterday. As the administration gears up to host a meeting for an approach very different from the failed Kyoto (failed in that no one new will join, after a whole decade of haggling, and no one is reducing emissions), the Post is pulling out all of its rhetorical weapons to pressure the US into shackling itself with a “binding” approach that, due to the curiosities of relative global legal systems, only we would actually be legally bound by. With today’s story, they have lapsed into self-parody.

Here’s the stew of evasions, double standards and outright hostility exclusive to the US that the Post offers its readers:

Although the piece is headlined “White House Taking Unearned Credit for Emissions Cuts”, the reader is left uninformed about these actual emission reductions, which are not otherwise mentioned, let alone discussed or put in the all-important context. Their only use is for the Post to say that these “reductions” (it’s actually just a reduction in the rate of growth to almost zero, though in the global context that is significant) – while still having never reported on them – are in spite of the Bush administration or otherwise just shouldn’t be associated with it. Possibly the Post is being consistent here, as it also never mentions that emissions grew much, much faster under Bill Clinton. Though the economic growth, well, that was his doing of course.

“The administration says it opposes ‘mandatory’ limits on greenhouse gases for the United States but is willing to back ‘voluntary’ limits and mandatory cuts on an industry by industry basis.” The Post doesn’t approve of this. (The “” marks are appropriate, by the way, as we shall see; one man’s voluntary is apparently another’s mandatory, or close enough, so long as that someone isn’t the US).

“‘We have a broad portfolio of measures, mandates, incentives and public and private partnerships,’ said James L. Connaughton, who chairs the White House Council on Environmental Quality, in an interview last week.”

Actually, that’s pretty much the whole world’s approach. But while that’s plenty good for them it’s not good enough here, because, as “British Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s special representative for climate change, John Ashton, said yesterday [] self-imposed targets are not enough. ‘We need to make commitments to each other, not just to ourselves,’ Ashton said.” And by “we” he means the US. And commitments that would bind only us. With a risibly arbitrary baseline year to favor the Brits and Germans, who can collectivize their emissions to let the rest of Europe ride that gift. Separated by a common language, indeed.

Yet promises among nations is precisely what Bush seeks in his attempt to bring together the world’s top emitters, as opposed to the Kyoto/Post approach of insisting that, e.g., Burkina Faso and the Maldives, et al., be included, whose inclusion in Kyoto (as free-riders, like China, India, Mexico, and 155 countries) has ensured that pact became nothing but a wealth (and growth) transfer. But something so possibly sensible is not what the Post has in mind.

“In the rest of the world [sic], mandatory limits on global warming gases take the form of a cap-and-trade program that sets nation-by-nation ceilings on emissions. It was the system set up under the 1997 Kyoto Protocol, modeled on a U.S. program to stop pollution that causes acid rain.” So, the rest of the world means 34 countries, which is how many Kyoto purports to “bind”, which is about 160 nations and most of its economic activity shy of “the world”. And readers who do not rely exclusively on the Post or New York Times know how Kyoto’s working out: an expensive, failed experiment to simply watch emissions continue to rise and rationalize one’s anti-Americanism.

Except that, upon scrutiny, the European Union is actually the only Party or Parties to Kyoto to have adopted that approach, so this is wonderfully revealing of the Post’s (rest of the) world view. Funny how George W. Bush seems to have a broader global horizon, what with all of the punch-lines and punches he’s taken. So, the Post merely uses cloudy language to tell us what is difficult to discern from their text: that is how the rest of the world views “mandatory” measures, if they are “binding” a la Kyoto.

Except that Kyoto is neither binding nor enforceable, shoddy reporting notwithstanding. Its Article 18 plainly states it could be made enforceable if the Parties amend it to be so. That was tried in Montreal in December 2005, and Canada and Europe teamed to block the move…yep, that Europe; or, should I say, “the rest of the world”? Article 18 is only one paragraph long, which is shorter than most pressure group media releases, so presumably even a journalist could read it. Unlike pretty much “the rest of the world”, thanks to our Supreme Court, however, the US would be the only country where pressure groups could march into court and demand that we comply with it, which otherwise remains “just words” (see below, for explanation of sneer quotes) for Europe, as their non-performance attests.

To dismiss Bush proposals and federalist positions (windmill conducive states should feel free to pursue windmill mandates) the Post cites, apparently with approval “‘These are just simply words,’ said Roland Hwang, the NRDC’s vehicle policy director.” OK, so “just words” is deserving of disapproval. And actual performance doesn’t deserve discussion.

So, one might ask, what does matter? Well, “just words”. That is, the Bush administration is mean for not doing something – actually, for opposing, for what that is worth – that which only Congress can adopt: the Kyoto Protocol (up to the Senate ever since it was signed on November 12, 1998…shoddy reporting to the contrary once again notwithstanding), and cap-and-trade legislation. Congress is finding the latter difficult to deal with because thieves tend to fall out, and all of the rent-seeking businesses picking up where Enron left off after the, ah, unpleasantness, can’t settle on whose scheme will choose which winners and losers, all of which schemes however which ultimately will fall on the ratepayer’s back. As Europe well knows and the Post ignores.

The Post is particularly duplicitous in advancing the rationalizations offered by Brazil and China as to why their approaches, which are decidedly not Kyoto’s cap-and-trade, are ok while our rather similar if far more effective – if actual emissions performance counted, which again it clearly does not – approach is not. First, of course, in China, everything is by definition mandatory; and Brazil is a country mandating massive use of ethanol derived from sugar, which ethanol is requiring the clearing vast swaths of rainforest to grow. Does the Post approve of our doing this in the least non-conducive to growing sugar here, say the Everglades and Southern swampland?

As Greenwire (password required) noted the delicate Chinese stance: “For example, China promoted their country’s efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions through energy efficiency, renewables, reforestation and family planning. The world’s largest producer of greenhouse gas emissions, according to some recent estimates, prevented 300 million births in its 1.3-billion person country since it developed a one-child policy in the late 1970s. That’s about 1.3 billion metric tons of avoided carbon dioxide emissions. And energy efficiency programs mean the country avoided releasing about 1.8 billion metric tons of carbon dioxides, while growth in renewables cut 380 million metric tons of emissions.

‘Through all these measures, we’ve made our due contribution to confront climate change,’ said Xie Zhenhua, vice chairman of China’s National Development and Reform Commission.”

As regards Brazil, “Sergio Serra, appointed in April by Brazil President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva as the country’s lead climate ambassador, ticked through biofuel and forestry programs that also have averted greenhouse gas emissions in his country.”

These approaches are not dissimilar to those of the US except that the US has slowed emissions growth to almost zero. Except for the one-child policy that is, although a cynic might note that, given that “Any child born into the hugely consumptionist way of life so common in the industrial world will have an impact that is, on average, many times [sic] more destructive than that of a child born in the developing world.” (Al Gore, EITB), might note that the US can similarly claim far, far greater “reductions” as a result of Roe vs. Wade. Though a purist must note that these are emissions avoided, not reduced.

Question: do the Post reporters even attend events that they purport to cover anymore?

Our neighbor to the south, by the way, noted the following “‘We are not and we will not be free riders in any regime that may be emerging out of the next negotiations,’ said Fernando Tudela, a top Mexican climate official. Mexico will weigh what sectors are ready for specific targets but will shy away from caps across the economy, he said.”

Sounds familiar, and that approach is called being a free-rider. I know it, because the Post tells me so about the US on a regular, shrill basis.

Here’s the Post’s reality: mere words are just bad, unless they’re from countries other than the US. Voluntary programs are bad, too, unless again we’re talking about someone else’s. Then, they actually are due for (repellent) praise or at least implicit approval. And voluntary programs aren’t mandatory unless you mean other countries under Kyoto. Actual emission performance, however, is so disproportionately a) contradictory to the rhetoric, and the Post’s own longstanding line, as to be b) embarrassing and c) unspinnable. As such, emissions – not words, semantics or double standards over mandatory or voluntary, etc. – shall not be discussed, but only elliptically alluded to.

Painting the Court Green

by William Yeatman on September 26, 2007

A specter is haunting the U.S. economy — the specter of an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), empowered by activist judges, attempting to implement Al Gore’s climate policies.

Today’s Washington Post story was replete with pompous and absurd proclamations – the pompous being the Danish Environment Minister claiming that she and her ilk “are getting a bit impatient, not on our own behalf but on behalf of the planet.” The condemnations of the US included “unusually blunt language” about how the rest of the world are waiting for the US to act, and that it is the US resistance to adopting a particular approach to addressing emissions that jeopardizes the climate. Not China, India, Mexico and 155 countries representing the vast majority of emissions seeing theirs skyrocket; certainly not the EU.

Although that specific assertion begs the question, no mention was made of actual emissions (sidebar: this story was written by Juliet Eilperin, who has this beat and is by no means new to the story. Putting aside that the administration has only once uttered something that can be called a robust comparison of US and EU performance, it remains baffling that she and her peers can continue writing as if what it is now well understood were never in fact revealed.)

givne that the European Environment Agency may play rhetorical games but it makes no secret of the fact that Europe is not lowering but increasing their emissions, which are up since Kyoto was agreed not down, this struck me as possibly clever groundwork-laying for that which ultimately must publicly come to pass: Europe explaining away the gaping chasm between global warming “world leader!” rhetoric and actual emissions performance. We would’ve cut them but we’re waiting on the US to do something. Don’t laugh, that wouldn’t be all that aberrant for Brussels, Berlin or Paris.

Regardless, yesterday’s vulgar display prompted me to tally the comparative, real emission increases in US and EU, given I have heard the counter “well, in percentage terms, but…” when I point out that EU emissions are increasing faster than the US’s under any modern baseline (that is, since Kyoto was agreed and the EU commenced its breast-beating).

We know that the US CO2 emissions are going up at a much slower rate than the EU-15 ("Europe" per Kyoto). We know that, as a result of the EU-15's obvious failure to reduce emissions, even Cf. 1990 (with the gift that that baseline was to them, for reasons of unrelated UK and DE political decisions), the EU-likes to redefine Europe. They do this to boast on the EU-25 doing this or that — usually, being on target to meet its [sic] Kyoto promise…there not being an EU-25 Kyoto promise, but one collective promise for the EU-15 and 10 different other individual promises, plus 2 countries that are exempt from Kyoto. They do this now as a way to ride the economic collapse of Eastern Europe, reclaiming the hoped-for benefits of the 1990 baseline that slipped away for the more developed EU countries.

However, having a higher percentage increase for even an economy smaller than the US's (EU-15) means that one might actually produce a larger real emission increase as great or greater than the US. One cost of redefining one's self as is convenient is that it allows others to do so, possibly guaranteeing that a larger real emission increase is the case.

It turns out that a quick review indicates that real EU-25 CO2 emissions have increased more than the US since, say, 2000, by a third as much (133.1%) in fact. If my numbers are right, that means +177.7 MMT for the EU-25 in 2005 Cf. 2000, as compared to the US's +133.5 MMT 2005 over 2000, per the Energy Information Administration numbers (I have only just done this and do not know how it holds for older baselines, e.g., 1997 being the only potentially relevant year).

And oh, dear, even without the EU-10, the EU-15, "Old Europe" – a smaller economy than the US's – increased emissions by 161.67 MMT to the US's 133.5 over the same period; that is our climate hectors have increased real emissions more than the US’s, in real terms, by 21%.

So there is no need to rely on the "in percentage terms" qualifier when noting that Europe's emissions have risen faster than the US's (as Kyoto defines Europe). Instead, it appears that Europe's emissions (as Kyoto defines Europe, and certainly as Europe defines Europe, including for these purposes) have not only increased much faster than the US's but also that the EU has increased CO2 emissions much more than the US.

It seems the only thing standing between Europe and a reality check is a White House calling them on their bluster.

Trade—voluntary exchange—is the essence of economic activity. Trade leads to specialization, which increases productivity. As trade expands so does the arena of economic competition, which spurs innovation. Greater trade also means more economic cooperation across distances, which makes societies less vulnerable to local crop failures and other shortages. Thanks to trade, a tiny island nation like Japan, with virtually no natural resources, can be a major economic power.


A long-standing worry of free-market advocates is that global warming will become a pretext for launching a new era of protective tariffs, non-tariff barriers, and trade wars. Former French President Jacques Chirac called the Kyoto Protocol the “first component of an authentic global governance.” Governing without penalties, punishments, or sanctions is a fiction. A Kyoto without teeth is doomed. The treaty asks countries with mandatory emission limits to bear relatively large costs in the short term for relatively small or speculative benefits 80 to 100 years hence. Moreover, any county that cheats on its obligations or does not agree to limit emissions gains a competitive advantage vis-à-vis emission-limited countries in global trade.


Europe, Canada, and Japan are finding it hard to comply with Kyoto’s initial obligation to reduce emissions 5 percent below 1990 levels by 2008-2012. Just staying within that limit will become progressively more difficult if their populations and economies grow. Yet Canada, the European Union, and Japan are calling for much deeper reductions—emissions cuts of 50 percent below 1990 levels by mid-century. Clearly, Kyoto is unsustainable unless somebody acquires the power to penalize individual countries for non-compliance or for refusing to participate. The most likely enforcement mechanism is trade sanctions—either “carbon tariffs” to offset the cheaper energy costs of non-Kyoto-complying countries or bans on imports from such countries.


Okay, the protectionist logic of Kyoto is clear. But here is where it starts to get weird. President Bush has taken many slings and arrows for opposing U.S. ratification of the Kyoto treaty. Tomorrow, the President hosts a two-day conference of the world’s 16-largest carbon dioxide emitters to discuss climate policy in the post-2012 period. All indications are that President will continue to oppose economy-wide emission caps of the Kyoto variety.


Yet, according to Reuters, C. Boyden Gray, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, endorsed “retaliatory” trade sanctions as a means of pressuring China and India to reduce their emissions. “You could probably find a WTO-compliant way—for example you could require goods to have to pay a fee related to the carbon expended in manufacture," he said.


Doesn’t the Administration know that what is sauce for the goose is also sauce for the gander? If carbon tariffs to compel China and India to adopt mandatory emission reductions are legal, then so are carbon tariffs to compel U.S. compliance with the Kyoto Protocol. It gets even stranger, because in the same speech, Mr. Gray argued against the legality of a European Union plan to force all airlines flying into European airspace to abide by new caps on carbon emissions. Allowing U.S. airlines to serve European passengers without complying with the EU caps would allow them to offer cheaper fares than their EU competitors.


The only principled way to oppose the EU carbon cap on U.S. airlines is to oppose all trade discrimination based on the carbon content of goods and services. The world is too energy poor to afford Kyoto—and too poor simply to afford a new era of green protectionism and trade wars.

Hummers and Hybrids

by William Yeatman on September 26, 2007

The Hummer is the bane of the greens’ existence. It is big and loud, so it makes an easy target for those so keen on reducing greenhouse gas emissions that they would, if they had their way, force all Americans to drive Ford Fiestas.


So it should surprise the enviros that the new H3 gets basically the same gas mileage as….a hybrid. That’s right. The H3 gets 20 mpg, just 2 mpg less than the new Lexus Luxury LS Hybrid 08 sedan, whose engineers used hybrid technology not to make the car more fuel efficient, but bigger and louder.

New EU legislation aimed at having green energy account for 20 percent of the Union's overall energy consumption by 2020 is facing a delay, with EU energy commissioner Andris Piebalgs admitting that member states are being "cautious" in contributing too much to the target.

Despite the UN secretary general's upbeat characterization of the summit — which was attended by 150 countries, more than 80 of them at the level of head of state or government — divisions were clear.