February 2008

From FoxNews.com

All the presidential candidates say they’re for energy independence. So why didn’t they do something about it when they had the chance?

Hillary Clinton rails on her web site about Americans sending “billion of dollars to the Middle East for their oil.” Barack Obama warns that Middle East oil is the “lifeline of Al Qaeda.” Republican hopeful John McCain says that, if elected, his energy policy will “amount to a declaration of independence from our reliance on oil sheiks and our vulnerability to their troubled politics.”

But Clinton and Obama recently voted for a bill that can only promote dependency on oil from the Middle East . And John McCain, went AWOL, not voting on the bill at all.

A little-noticed provision of the ironically-named “Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007” that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Bush last December bars the federal government from purchasing fuels whose lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are greater than those from fuels produced from convention petroleum sources.

Before we get into the energy independence implications of this provision, it’s worth appreciating the obscurity of the provision and the fact that the media doesn’t seem to understand its import.

I only learned of the provision while thumbing through the Feb. 15 Financial Times, serendipitously noticing the egregiously mis-titled article, “US risks trade dispute with Canada on fuel.” A bit of research turned up no other media reports relating to this particular section of the bill.

The Financial Times article reported on how section 526 of the energy bill prohibits the federal government from buying oil that was produced from Canadian tar sands — a reserve that holds about two-thirds the amount of recoverable oil as compared to reserves in Saudi Arabia.

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Because it takes greenhouse gas-producing energy to extract oil from the tar sands, the article focused on the fact that the law could affect billions of dollars of trade in oil, particularly since the U.S. Department of Defense is the world’s largest single buyer of light refined petroleum.

But while I give the Financial Times credit for reporting this story, it really dropped the ball with respect to understanding it — this is yet another effort by environmentalists and their congressional henchmen to cause chaos in our energy supply.

Sure enough, it turns out that Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA) are already pressing the Department of Defense to comply with the provision. In a recent letter to the Secretary of Defense, Waxman and Davis asked how the DOD will ensure that the fuel it buys doesn’t come from Canadian tar sands or from domestic coal-to-liquid processing.

Waxman and Davis apparently expect the military to expend the Herculean effort of tracing the source of the fuel it purchases and then to refuse North American oil from unconventional sources apparently in favor of oil from OPEC sources like Saudi Arabia and Venezuela . How’s that for energy independence and security?

It gets worse if you’re one of those who believe that biofuels are the path to energy independence.

The plain language of section 526 would also seem to ban the federal government from purchasing biofuels like ethanol, since their lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions are greater than that of conventional petroleum.

“Turning native ecosystems into “farms” for biofuel crops causes major carbon emissions that worsen the global warming that biofuels are meant to mitigate,” researchers from the University of Minnesota and the Nature Conservancy reported in Science (Feb. 7). Another study in the same issue of Science projected that the lifecycle greenhouse gas emission from ethanol over 30 years are twice as high as from regular gasoline.

Interestingly, Reps. Waxman and Davis specifically excluded biofuels from their letter to the DOD. Not to worry, though, biofuels will likely soon become fuel-non-grata as the environmentalists have already started to demonize them.

Similar to the case of compact fluorescent lightbulbs discussed in this column last week, the New York Times editorial page this week signaled that biofuels will soon become as politically incorrect as the Canadian tar sands and domestic coal-to-liquid fuels.

The Times opined that, “Done right, ethanol could help wean the country from its dependence on foreign oil while reducing the emissions that contribute to climate change. Done wrong, ethanol could wreak havoc on the environment while increasing greenhouse gases.”

“Done right” for the Times is what’s required in the energy bill — a 20 percent reduction in lifecycle greenhouse gases as compared to gasoline. But of course this is a next-to-impossible goal since the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for ethanol currently are projected to be 100 percent greater than for gasoline.

It will likely require nothing short of technological miracle for ethanol to achieve the energy bill’s standards in the near, or even, distant future.

Now, if the federal government is barred from bio-, tar sand, coal-to-liquid fuels, how long will it be before such a ban spreads to contractors that do business with the federal government, to states and their contractors, and then, by default, to the nation as a whole?

It’s hard to take the presidential candidates, President Bush and Congress too seriously on the energy independence issue when none of them opposed a bill that actually makes us more dependent on OPEC.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

The article "Weather Singularities over Alaska?" by Jan Curtis of the Alaska Climate Research Center (21 December 2001) on John Daly’s website "Still Waiting for Greenhouse" includes two interesting comments. "So if there isn’t a physical explanation for these singularities, statistics might be able to answer this mystery" and "For a singularity to exist, a physical mechanism is needed."   The author speculates on reduction of solar heating in winter, an expansion of cold dense air and a subsequent surge across Alaska as a cause. "With the release of this pool of cold air over the Arctic, a temporary temperature rebound occurs. After about a month, this scenario is repeated and a month later repeated again." A reasonable speculation, but it simply describes the pattern of Rossby Waves. A 4 to 6 week cycle that causes shifts in the weather as the waves migrate through the mid-latitude regions. Changes in the amplitude of the Waves cause variation in the severity of the changes – a feature overlooked in the climate pattern of the last few years. The amplitude change results in increased variation yet the statistical focus remains close to long term averages. We have to distinguish between increased variability of cyclical events and real singularities. We also have to understand the distortion to hemispheric and global temperature averages created by the Wave pattern.

Current weather patterns have extremes of hot and cold round the world – what appear to be singularities. The pattern is most noticeable in the Northern Hemisphere because of differences in land/water ratios, especially in the middle latitudes. Advocates of global warming due to human actions use the patterns as support for their argument. The problem is the Rossby Waves offer a natural explanation.

Climatology is a generalist subject struggling with the dominance of specialization. It requires a wide grasp that links all the factors, but that’s a great challenge. Computer models offered a chance to handle large volumes of information and make many linkages, but General Circulation Models (GCM) only illustrate the limitations and underline the linkage problem.

More available here. 


Some members of the European Parliament are suggesting the European Commission has overstepped its powers by proposing that car-makers in the future be fined for exceeding EU-set limits for vehicle carbon dioxide emissions.

A preliminary expert opinion prepared for the legal affairs committee in the parliament, obtained by German daily Financial Times Deutschland, says that such fines give the appearance "of a tax for the benefit of the community which the community has absolutely no competence to charge."

The 2008 International Conference on Climate Change, scheduled for March 2-4 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York City, has been sold out.

Joseph Bast, president of The Heartland Institute, said: "We have literally been overwhelmed with the response and interest of people from all parts of the world wanting to attend this one-of-a-kind conference."

Next week the House Committee on Energy and Commerce will be trying to figure out how to square climate-change policies and economic competitiveness, a road the Senate’s already been down. On the Hill, a lot of people look to Europe for lessons on how to do battle with climate change. It’s certainly instructive.


It ain’t easy being green

Today, the 27 nations of the European Union took their first whack at Europe’s more ambitious climate and energy proposals. The new rules call for a big increase in the amount of renewable energy and would sell—not give away—pollution rights to big industry. Surprise: No country seems very satisfied with the tougher talk.

Europe's metal and paper industries may be given free emission allowances during the post-2013 phase of the EU carbon market, the Commission indicated in two communications announced this week. Brussels is hoping to prevent energy-intensive sectors from fleeing the EU as the bloc's carbon market becomes tighter.

"It is not in the interest of the European Union that in the future production moves to countries with less strict emissions limits," the Commission notes in its communication in support of the metals sector, announced on 25 February.

Puff the Magic Dragon

by Julie Walsh on February 29, 2008

More proof that wind power is no panacea for the nation’s looming electricity crisis. The wind dropped in Texas, and caused blackouts:

ERCOT said the grid’s frequency dropped suddenly when wind production fell from more than 1,700 megawatts, before the event, to 300 MW when the emergency was declared.

In addition, ERCOT said multiple power suppliers fell below the amount of power they were scheduled to produce on Tuesday. That, coupled with the loss of wind generated in West Texas, created problems moving power to the west from North Texas.

ERCOT declares a stage 1 emergency when power reserves fall below 2,300 MW. A stage 2 emergency is called when reserves fall below 1,750 MW.

At the time of the emergency, ERCOT demand increased from 31,200 MW to a peak of 35,612 MW, about half the total generating capacity in the region, according to the agency’s Web site.

Meanwhile, in Denmark, wind turbines are exploding. Dramatic video (provenance uncertain, so may not be genuine) here. This follows the fatal collapse of a wind tower in Oregon last summer. They also come with environmental costs of their own.

Now, of course, all energy production comes with risks, but wind power has such a positive image that people think of it as completely safe, environmentally-friendly and reliable. That’s not the case.

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

That's what describes the bulk of the proposals that are coming out of (mostly gubernatorial) state-level climate commissions these days, as pushed by global warming alarmists and their consultancy vehicle, the Center for Climate Strategies. My John Locke Foundation colleague Daren Bakst has reviewed all 56 recommendations that came out of the commission in North Carolina, the Climate Action Plan Advisory Group, and he analyzes them in a policy report titled, "Taxes, Subsidies and Regulation: A Guide to North Carolina's Proposed Global Warming Policies."

CAPAG’s proposals assume reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions will affect climate change, Bakst said. “This assumption should surprise no one who’s skeptical of this process,” he said. “It’s well-established that there is nothing the United States — or an individual state — could do to have any measurable effect on temperature. Rather than admit that fact, CAPAG tries to get around the ‘temperature problem’ by ignoring the goal of reducing temperature. Reducing CO2 becomes the goal, and reducing temperature is simply never mentioned again.”

Again, these commissions are sprouting up in states everywhere, but the outcomes they produce are almost always identical: Anti-freedom, anti-consumer, and pro-government control.

To big rounds of applause, three of the world’s richest men — Richard Branson, Ronald W. Burkle and Vinod Khosla — trooped onto a New York ballroom stage with former President Bill Clinton to pledge support for renewable energy projects to combat global warming and create jobs.

It was September 2006, and the Clinton Global Initiative, the annual star-studded networking event for philanthropists and investors, had generated commitments to spend billions on ethanol and other alternative fuels. Cast as good works, many were also investments by businessmen hoping for a profit.


Despite Veto Threat, Bill to Boost Renewable Energy Is Sent to Senate

The House of Representatives brushed aside threats of a White House veto yesterday and voted 236 to 182 in favor of an $18 billion tax package that would rescind a tax break for the five biggest oil companies and use the revenue to boost incentives for wind and solar energy and energy efficiency.

The measure now heads to the Senate, where Democrats face a challenge in getting enough support to bring the bill to a vote. This is the fourth time in the past year that Democrats have tried to get the package adopted.