September 2008

As Congress mulls egregious tax payer subsidies for wind power, it would behoove us all to learn more about this energy source that could eventually (and intermittently) suppy 20 % of our electricity, if a gaggle of special interests and their Congressional champions get their way.

To that end, check out this site on the basics of wind energy by avowed environmentalist John Droz, jr. While I disagree with Droz on the merits of “doing something” about global warming, his assessment of the wind energy boondoggle is spot-on.

Science Meets PR

by William Yeatman on September 30, 2008

Where was the press release from National Snow and Ice Data Center ?  In the past they had these breathless ones: “Arctic Sea Ice Reaches Lowest Extent for 2008”,  “Arctic sea ice extent at maximum below average, thin” and “Melt onset earlier than normal.”
However, yesterday’s statement was drearily entitled “Arctic Ice Begins Autumn Freeze Up.” On their website’s page with their list of “Milestones To Watch For”, they list the minimum sea ice extent date as important and whether it occurs earlier or later in the year, yet they don’t tell even tell us in their new press release when the minimum occurred or whether it was earlier or later this year. Yet from their graph, it was considerably earlier than last year. My sleuthing discovered that it was on September 12th.  And then with some more research I found this gem from an NSDIC press release in October of 2007: “In addition to the record-breaking retreat of sea ice, NSIDC scientists also noted that the date of the lowest sea ice extent, or the absolute minimum, has shifted to later in the year. This year, the five-day running minimum occurred on September 16, 2007; from 1979 to 2000, the minimum usually occurred on September 12.” So this year’s minimum occurred on the average minimum day from 1979 to 2000! You think their reporting is biased? Their new press release should have been titled: “Date of Minimum Sea Ice Extent Completely Normal.”
NSDIC does admit, though, that “perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 2008 melt season was the higher-than-average retention of first-year sea ice (see earlier entries, including April 7). Relatively thin first-year ice is more prone to melting out completely than older, thicker ice. However, more of this year’s first-year ice survived the melt season than is typical. Sea ice age maps from Sheldon Drobot, our colleague at the University of Colorado at Boulder , show that much more first-year ice survived in 2008 than in 2007. This is one of the reasons that 2008 did not break last year's record-low minimum. One cause of the high first-year ice survival rate was that this summer was cooler than in 2007.” I guess I shouldn’t hold my breath for articles on how those earlier alarmist reports were wrong.

Gore News

by William Yeatman on September 30, 2008

Albert A. Gore, Junior’s $300 million dollar advertising campaign peddling global warming alarmism and energy rationing must not be convincing too many people. It’s no wonder. Have you seen any of the ads? This week the former Vice President and Senator and Representative called on the nation’s youth to block construction of new coal-fired power plants through civil disobedience. According to a Reuters story, Gore told the rich and the powerful meeting at the Clinton Global Initiative in New York City: "If you're a young person looking at the future of this planet and looking at what is being done right now, and not done, I believe we have reached the stage where it is time for civil disobedience to prevent the construction of new coal plants that do not have carbon capture and sequestration."
The problem with Gore’s "leadership" is always the same: it’s do as I say, not as I do. I have a suggestion. Before trying to stop new power plants from being constructed, why don’t young people concerned about greenhouse gas emissions concentrate on the root of the problem—energy consumers. They could start at the top with people who are using the most energy. For example, take Al Gore. He must use at least fifty times as much energy as the average person. Protesters could picket the several large houses he owns and could meet him whenever the private jet he uses for most of his frequent trips takes off or lands.

The House and the Senate conceded Monday that they were in a stalemate over proposals to provide tax incentives for the production and use of renewable energy, leaving the future of the nascent industry in limbo.

The big debate over how to tackle climate change generally boils down to what kind of pain a climate plan will do to the economy; environmental benefits are generally assumed.

The House of Representatives is set to adjourn today without having yet agreed with the Senate on how to proceed with egregious federal subsidies for renewable energy projects. As a result, the subsidies are in jeopardy and so is the renewable energy industry, which cannot survive without federal handouts.

To be sure, the tax credits enjoy broad bipartisan support. After all, the taxpayer funded favors, which were created in large part by a drawback of the domestic production tax credit for oil producers, would be spread among many special interests in many congressional districts in many states. It’s a political winner.

But the House and the Senate could not agree on how to package the renewable energy tax measures. The Senate, after much debate and negotiation, cobbled together a tax plan that includes a number of non-energy related tax provisions that aren’t fully offset (i.e., deficit neutral). The House, however, passed the renewable energy tax legislation in a separate bill and neither the House nor the Senate is willing to budge.

The upshot is that $14 billion in renewable tax credits are being lost in the shuffle of a inter-cameral dispute.

That’s great news for the taxpayer because renewable energy subsidies are a huge waste of money. When the government meddles in any emergent industry like renewables with tax favors, it is picking and choosing winners. But bureaucrats and politicians cannot be expected to invest well; instead they are prone to awarding constituents or pleasing superiors. This is the dynamic that produced synfuels, ethanol, futuregen, and a host of other government backed energy boondoggles.

The Week in D. C.

by William Yeatman on September 29, 2008

The mad rush to pass lots of bad bills at the end of the Congress has been made even more hectic and difficult this week by all the time taken up with the Wall Street bailout.  The House and Senate this week both passed a broad bill extending a wide range of tax credits, including credits for renewable energy.  Both bills would extend refundable tax credits for solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass energy and for energy-efficient appliances and buildings and for plug-in hybrid cars.  A proposal to extend the credit for ethanol was not included, but it doesn’t expire until 2010, so Big Ethanol has plenty of time to convince Congress to keep the tax dollars flowing.  It isn’t clear whether the House and Senate will be able to agree on the tax bill because of major differences in other areas.  If they cannot agree, then wind and solar installations will plummet.
Since the House and Senate have given up on passing appropriations bill for the various departments, a continuing resolution, or CR, must be sent to the President before the new fiscal year starts on October 1st. The House on Wednesday overwhelmingly passed a CR funding the government until March 2009.  It did not include the moratorium on offshore oil and gas exploration in 85% of federal waters surrounding the lower 48 States that has been in place since Fiscal Year 1982.  Nor did it include the moratorium on production from oil shale in the Rocky Mountains .  This is a significant victory for House Republicans, who vowed to vote against any extension of the annual moratoria.  It has been reported that what convinced House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to drop the moratoria was a clear veto threat from the White House.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senator Ken Salazar (D-Colo.) are trying to continue the oil shale moratorium by including it in a new economic stimulus package.  The House on Friday morning passed their version of a stimulus bill, which does not contain any oil shale language.  A vote to invoke cloture on the Senate stimulus bill, with the oil shale moratorium, failed on Friday by a vote of 52 to 42, with 60 votes needed.  Again, it’s not clear what the House and Senate may be able to agree on to send to the President in the next few days.
As for lifting the offshore moratorium, liberal Democrats in the House, led by Representatives Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Frank Pallone (D-N. J.), have already vowed to put the moratorium back in place when the Congress returns next year.  Even if they fail, the offshore moratorium victory will be a symbolic one for several years.  The next President will have to decide whether to allow the Interior Department to prepare any offshore areas for leasing by competitive auction.  If he decides to go ahead with some lease sales, it will then take time to prepare them and for the winning bidders to start drilling exploratory wells.

News You Can Use

by William Yeatman on September 29, 2008

The Guardian reports on a study that has found that those people who are trying to lead the greenest lifestyles tend to be responsible for much higher than average carbon emissions. That’s because they tend to be higher income people who take lots of airplane flights. Sadly, therefore, as David Adams writes, "People who believe they have the greenest lifestyles can be seen as some of the main culprits behind global warming." Al Gore, take note.

Eastern members of the European Union said on Friday its tough plans to tackle global warming could force them to rely more on Russian gas and the bloc should be equally ambitious in ensuring their energy security.

California lawmakers enjoy a perk not available to their colleagues in any other state: unchecked use of gasoline charge cards that stick taxpayers with the bill.