Cooler Heads Digest

by William Yeatman on November 21, 2008

in Cooler Heads Digest


CEI’s Chris Horner, author of the New York Times bestselling Politically Incorrect Guide to Global Warming (and Environmentalism), has a new book out, Red Hot Lies, an exposé of the hypocrisy, deceit, and outright lies of the global warming alarmists and the compliant media that support them. Shocking, frank, and illuminating, Chris Horner's Red Hot Lies explodes as many myths as Al Gore promotes. To buy a copy, click here.

In the News

How To Kick Our Oil Habit Despite Plunging Prices
Wall Street Journal, 17 November 2008

Green Mandates Burden the Economy
David Ridenour, Washington Times, 20 November 2008

Clean Energy Confronts Messy Reality
Rebecca Smith, Wall Street Journal, 20 November 2008

Dining with the Green Glitterati
Claudia Rosett, Forbes, 20 November 2008

Soil Studies Muddle Climate Debate
CNN, 17 November 2008

Green Hysteria Loses
David Stirling and Steven Gieseler, Washington Times, 16 November 2008

Filmmakers Take on Global Warming Hype
Harry McGee, Irish Times, 16 November 2008

News You Can Use
2007 Coldest Since 1997

This week the National Climatic Data Center is reporting that through its first 10 months, 2008 is shaping up to be the coolest year in the United States since 1997.
Researchers from the Chinese Academy of Sciences and other major state-run institutes have concluded that China will double it’s carbon dioxide emissions by 2020.

Inside the Belyway
From Auburn Hills to Beverly Hills
Myron Ebell

The House Democratic Conference on Thursday voted 137 to 122 to replace Rep. John Dingell (D-Mich.) as Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee with Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).  This marks a huge change in legislative strategy for the Democratic majority on a wide range of issues, including energy and global warming.  Spokesmen for most major environmental pressure groups were ecstatic.  

Dingell was first elected in a special election in 1955 (upon the death of his father, who first won the seat in 1932) and in February will become the longest-serving Member of the House in history.  He served as Chairman of the committee from 1981 until the Republicans took control in 1995.  During that period, Dingell turned a major committee into the most powerful in Congress by stealing jurisdiction on issue after issue from other committees.  At the height of his powers, Dingell was the most formidable and feared Member of Congress.  Dingell returned as Chairman when the Democrats regained the majority in the 2006 elections. 
Dingell has always been a big government liberal.  He is also a serious legislator.  Over the decades, he put together enormous bills that created new government spending or regulatory programs.  He paid careful attention to the details and worked strenuously to build broad coalitions to pass with large majorities what was originally considered controversial legislation.  Just on environmental issues, Dingell was one of the chief sponsors or movers behind the Wilderness Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Clean Air Act of 1972, Endangered Species Act, Clean Air Act of 1977, Safe Drinking Water Amendments of 1986, and Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990.

But that was then.  Now, the Democratic majority in the House has moved far to the left of Dingell.  Dingell represents the western suburbs of Detroit, including Dearborn, where Ford Motor has its headquarters just outside the district, and Auburn Hills, where Chrysler has its headquarters.  Henry Waxman has represented Beverly Hills since the 1974 election, when Democrats won huge majorities following the Watergate scandal and President Nixon’s resignation.  Rather than representing members of the United Auto Workers, Waxman represents the interests and sensibilities of movie and teevee and pop music stars such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Britney Spears.  But he’s a lot smarter than the typical movie star turned environmental activist.  He is also one of the most dedicated, hardest working, toughest, and most aggressive legislators in Congress. 

Being intelligent, dedicated, hard working, tough, and aggressive is an admirable package, but it doesn’t guarantee success.  Waxman is also a hard left ideological purist who is completely out of touch with the concerns of most Americans. 

My own view is that the chances of enacting cap-and-trade legislation went down considerably when House Democrats chose Waxman over Dingell. Make no mistake, Henry Waxman is a formidable opponent, but he is not the heavyweight legislator that John Dingell is.  He is too rigid ideologically, which makes him less capable of conciliating the wide range of interests that must be brought together in order to pass big, controversial pieces of legislation.

As I wrote in a statement for the press: “This should provide a loud wake-up call to American business leaders that the 111th Congress is not going to play nicely with them on energy rationing policies.  I hope that those who have counseled that ‘if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu,’ will now realize that they are on the menu and they’d better get as far away from the table as quickly as they can.  The cap-and-trade bill that Chairman Dingell proposed this fall would dramatically raise energy prices for American consumers and producers. Chairman Waxman introduced a cap-and-trade bill in this Congress that would send us back to the Stone Age.”

Environmental pressure group leaders may be excited now, but I won’t be surprised if they’re disappointed with the results.    

Over on the Senate side, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, announced that she will introduce two major bills  that would fulfil major parts of President-elect Barack Obama’s campaign agenda.  The first, which Obama barely mentioned in the general election campaign, is a new cap-and-trade bill.  Unlike the Lieberman-Warner bill that crashed on the Senate floor in early June, Boxer’s bill will simply direct the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a cap-and-trade program.  The Congress will let EPA figure out the messy details.  The second is the “green jobs” bill that Obama talked a lot about in the campaign.  It would provide for up to $15 billion a year for a decade to subsidize renewable energy technologies and energy efficiency measures, and to train people for promising careers, such as replacing incandescent with compact fluorescent light bulbs. 

Obama Watch

This week President-elect Barack Obama promised to “lead the world toward a new era of global cooperation on climate change" at an international climate change summit in California. In a previously-recorded video message to the 800 attendees, Obama repeated his campaign pledge to push for a cap-and-trade scheme that would reduce U.S. emissions to 1990 levels by 2020, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050. Obama also promoted his plan to spend $15 billion annually for ten years to create 5 million green jobs.

Obama faces an uphill battle to meet these promises. The economic crisis will be a major impediment to Obama’s vision of an era of global cooperation on climate change. Countries are increasingly reluctant to commit to economically harmful climate mitigation policies during what appears to be a global recession (see “Around the World, below).

The economic downturn also will impede Obama’s cap-and-trade plans. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif) this week announced that she will introduce a cap and trade bill in January (see Inside the Beltway, above), but the Senate rejected the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade bill last summer because of its adverse economic impact, and the economy is much worse now. Just last week, Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, told reporters that the financial crisis has forced the Congress to relegate cap and trade legislation to the backburner. He said that he didn’t expect the Congress to address cap and trade until 2010.

Obama’s plan to spend billions in taxpayer money to create green jobs is much more plausible in the short term. Members of Congress are likely to embrace an opportunity to spread around $15 billion among constituents.

Around the World

This week German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the global financial crisis could cause leaders to renege on their environmental pledges, according to AFP. In 2007, the European Union pledged to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 1990 levels by 2020, but member states have yet to agree on how to share the burden. Germany and Italy, which have large manufacturing sectors, are refusing to submit to emissions controls that would “weigh” on industry. Coal-dependent central and eastern European countries have threatened to veto any EU climate policy that would force them into dependence on Russian natural gas by making coal uneconomic.

What a racket
Julie Walsh

California’s Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a declaration this week with Indonesia and Brazil to develop efforts to reduce emissions from deforestation. This treaty-lite will make it cheaper for California businesses to purchase emission credits abroad than reduce their emissions.

Tropical forestry is a natural choice for carbon offsets because nothing has to be produced. As in California, the trees are merely left to grow a little longer before they are logged. No hassles trying to produce “clean” energy in developing countries for this bunch; these projects don’t accomplish something helpful like building natural gas fired power plants for Nigerians currently using their forests for fuel, for instance.
But guilt-laden Californians could also be doing more harm than good. The countries where they will supposedly be investing in forests have proven records for corruption. Brazil tied with China and India at 72 on the 2006 Transparency International Perceptions of Corruption Index. And Indonesia tied with that paragon of virtue, Russia, near the bottom at number 143.
Regular charities disclose the percentage of their donations that are spent on administrative costs and executive salaries. Yet the companies affiliated with these projects typically don’t release information on what percentage of their funds actually goes to the owners of tropical forests.

One of the primary companies supplying tropical forestry offsets is Sustainable Forestry Management, whose principal revenues are “derived from supplying and trading emission credits and offsets, the harvest of environmentally certified timber, agro-forestry, bio-fuels, biomass energy and agricultural products,” according to their website. Yet they’ve spent $280,000 already this year lobbying the House, Senate and White House.

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