July 2010

In the News

Brownback Mountain
William Yeatman & Iain Murray, National Review Online, 30 July 2010

The Carbon Footprint of Obama’s Detroit Trip
Henry Payne, Planet Gore, 30 July 2010

NOAA To Skeptics: We’re Right, You Can’t Deny It
Richard Morrison, OpenMarket.org, 29 July 2010

Has the BP Spill Been Overblown?
Michael Grunwald, Time, 29 July 2010

Energy Bills Could Include Trans-Atlantic Tax
Iain Murray & Matthew Sinclair, Washington Times, 27 July 2010

Muir Russell Findings Are No Solace for EPA
Chip Knappenberger, MasterResource.org, 27 July 2010

Desperate Days for Warmists
Christopher Booker, Telegraph, 24 July 2010

News You Can Use

Moratorium Impact

According to a new study commissioned by the American Energy Alliance, President Obama’s six-month moratorium on new offshore drilling would cost 12,000 jobs and $2.8 billion in economic activity.

Inside the Beltway

House Passes CLEAR Act

By a vote of 209-193, the House of Representatives this afternoon passed H.R. 3534, the Consolidated Land, Energy, and Aquatic Resources Act (CLEAR). The legislation, ostensibly a response to the BP oil spill, would increase taxes on oil and natural gas, raising prices for all consumers at a time of recession and high unemployment. Its regulatory changes would also drive smaller operators out of business, threatening hundreds of thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in tax revenue at a time when many states are already considering taxes hikes to cover budget deficits.

The House passed an amendment to the bill, offered by Rep. Charles Melancon (D-Louisiana), which would lift the economically devastating moratorium on offshore drilling, but only under certain circumstances. Republicans objected to Melancon’s limited amendment, but their effort to send the bill back to committee with instructions for a more comprehensive end of the moratorium were defeated.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada) plans on taking up a BP spill bill on Monday.

[Myron Ebell will return next Friday]

Across the States


In an interview this week with the San Jose Mercury News, California Attorney General and Democratic candidate for Governor Jerry Brown said that global warming policy is the “defining difference” between him and Republican candidate Meg Whitman. Economists agree that costly carbon controls are economically harmful, which is why Whitman has called for a year-ling moratorium on the implementation of AB 32, California’s 2006 climate law. Brown, however, told the SJMN that AB 32 is “the key” to job growth.

This isn’t the first time that Brown has been wrong about “green” energy. When he was last governor of the Golden State, during the late 1970s, Brown pushed for laws and regulations that made it virtually impossible to build new conventional energy generation within the state. This misguided policy made California reliant on out of state power, which was a major cause of the electricity crisis that plagued California during the summer of 2000.

Around the World

Europe Slashes Green Subsidies

As a result of the global economic downturn, Spain, Germany, France, Italy and the Czech Republic have all announced subsidy cuts to green energy, according to Climatewire.

The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.globalwarming.org.

A recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which has received wide media attention, has come to the conclusion that evidence for anthropogenic global warming is “undeniable.” This has, of course, been seized on by alarmists as confirming that all of their proposed solutions to future warming must therefore be undeniably correct as well. The conclusions of the report are also being used in attempts to try to bury the Climategate scandal of recent months.

Fiona Harvey of the Financial Times reported on this story (reg. req’d.) for the front page of today’s print edition and has the good sense to quote our very own Myron Ebell for a rebuttal:

Sceptics remain unconvinced. Myron Ebell, of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said: “I think climategate is nowhere near done and people will become more sceptical as they find out more and more about how these conclusions were not based on science but were in fact based on political calculation.”

The repeated use of the term “undeniable”  by bloggers and activists commenting on the report is merely the latest attempt by the warmists to claim that there’s nothing more to be said about climate policy – that the debate is over. It’s like a boxer suddenly grabbing the announcer’s microphone after round three, announcing he has won, and telling everyone watching the match to go home. The only trouble with that strategy is that we’re still in the ring – and we’re not going anywhere.


Don Blankenship, Chairman and CEO of Massey Energy Company, gave a great talk at the National Press Club this week on energy realities versus global warming fantasy as well as some other topics.  It was broadcast on C-Span and can be viewed online.

Americans for Prosperity’s New Jersey chapter is building support for legislation to withdraw New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a regional cap-and-trade energy rationing scheme. Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose introduced A3147, a bill to repeal the Global Warming Response Act of 2007. To learn more, including how you can help, click here.

In the News

Reasons To Worry
Chris Horner, Planet Gore, 23 July 2010

Gathering No Moss, Just Loss
Paul Chesser, American Spectator, 23 July 2010

Offsets Are Crucial in Cap-and-Trade
Iain Murray, Wall Street Journal, 22 July 2010

Son of Cap-and-Tax
Wall Street Journal editorial, 22 July 2010

Will the Party of No Foil the Half-Baked Machiavellis?
Marlo Lewis, GlobalWarming.org, 21 July 2010

One Person’s Oil Addict Is Another’s Intelligent Consumer
Michael Lynch, MasterResource.org, 21 July 2010

Global Warming’s Unscientific Attitude
Washington Times editorial, 21 July 2010

Climategate Inquiry Glosses over the Facts
Iain Murray, Washington Examiner, 20 July 2010

Climategate Fallout May Impact Legislation
David R. Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, 19 July 2010

End Boulder’s Unnatural Monopoly
Brian Schwartz, Daily Camera, 18 July 2010

Duke Professor’s “Consensus” Threatens To Shutter Coal Industry
Neal Thomas, NCCO2, 12 July 2010

News You Can Use

China Surpasses U.S. in Energy Use

The International Energy Agency this week announced that China has overtaken the U.S. as the world’s number one energy consumer.

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

Senate Abandons Cap-and-Trade

Senate Democrats met twice this week before Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced that he was pulling the plug on cap-and-trade.  He will instead bring to the Senate floor next week a more modest package of anti-energy provisions.

It’s not quite over for cap-and-trade, but it’s close.  Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) vowed that he would keep working to find the sixty votes necessary to pass some down-sized version.  Reid nodded and said that he would be happy to bring it up in September if Kerry has the votes.  That’s not going to happen.  Cap-and-trade is a sure political loser in November’s congressional elections.  Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) said in a press statement that he looked forward to a debate just before the election on raising energy prices and destroying jobs.

The only remaining chance is to try to pass cap-and-trade during a lame-duck session of the Congress after the November 2 elections.  The idea is that enough defeated Democrats (and a Republican or two, such as Rep. Bob Inglis of South Carolina) will be bitter enough and also eager enough to line up their next job in the Obama Administration or lobbying for rent-seeking corporations that they will vote for cap-and-trade.  The idea is that defeated Members will then not have to worry about representing the interests of their constituents and can instead stick it to them and follow their leadership and reward big business and environmental special interests.  Anything can happen in a lame-duck session, but this is a long shot.  I will discuss why it’s a long shot in future issues of the Digest.

Passing the blame for the demise of cap-and-trade has already begun.  The White House suggested that environmental pressure groups didn’t do enough.  Environmental pressure groups suggested that President Obama and his Administration hadn’t done enough.  Reid and Kerry blamed the Republicans.  And so on.  My own view is that reality got in the way.  Cap-and-trade has been dead in the Senate since the House passed the Waxman-Markey bill July 26, 2009.  Several Democratic and Republican Senators decided they couldn’t vote for it after they saw the overwhelmingly negative public response.  The Senate turned to healthcare reform last July instead of taking up Waxman-Markey because healthcare reform had much more public support.

Reid’s Anti-Energy Package

With this week’s abandonment of cap-and-trade, Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) now plans to bring a package of comparatively modest anti-energy measures to the Senate floor next week.  As has become common in the Senate and the House, what exactly is in the package will not be revealed to Republican Senators or the public until the last minute.  On Thursday, Reid said that there would be four titles: provisions to sock it to BP for the Gulf oil spill and guarantee that it won’t happen again; incentives to consumers to buy more energy efficient products that have gained the EPA HomeStar seal of approval; incentives to buy natural gas vehicles, especially heavy duty trucks, and funding to install natural gas outlets at service stations; and full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  Other titles could be added before the Senate takes up the package next week.

Besides dropping cap-and-trade, Reid has also dropped a renewable electricity standard for utilities, new building energy efficiency standards, and a low-carbon transportation fuel standard.  The industries that depend on subsidies and mandates and had been counting on Congress to enact cap-and-trade or at least a renewable standard for utilities are going to have to scramble to get something out of a House-Senate conference committee agreement.

The oil spill provisions that Reid is likely to include are not quite as draconian as a couple of the bills that House committees have passed.  The energy efficiency incentives are small potatoes.  The natural gas title is a payoff or bailout to T. Boone Pickens.  It will be difficult to stop because Pickens has a huge amount of clout with Republicans because of all the campaign donations he has made to them over the decades.  And the Democrats love him for supporting massive federal mandates and subsidies for commercially unviable wind power and natural gas cars.

Perhaps most interesting is the Land and Water Conservation Fund title.  I haven’t seen any details, but it is assumed that it will include full funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund.  The LWCF was created by Congress in 1964 to use federal offshore oil royalties to buy private land and turn it into federal land and to provide States with matching grants for land acquisition for conservation and recreation.  It is authorized at $900 million per year, but Congress typically only appropriates a couple hundred million.

Nearly thirty percent of the land mass of the United States is owned by the four federal land agencies.  Why we need more federal land instead of a lot less has always been a mystery to me.  Federal land acreage has increased in 46 States since the LWCF was enacted.  The result is to take productive land off the property tax rolls and turn it into unproductive land that requires federal taxpayer dollars to manage.   I think full funding for the LWCF is insane.

House Sub Committee Nearly Passes a Check on EPA Regulations

Representative Steven LaTourette (R-Ohio) offered an amendment to the FY 2011 Interior and Related Agencies Appropriations bill this week to block funding for implementing the EPA’s Endangerment Finding for two years.  The motion failed in the Appropriations subcommittee on a 7-7 tie vote.  Two Democrats joined the subcommittee’s five Republicans in voting Yes. I expect a similar amendment will be offered when the full Appropriations Committee takes up the Interior spending bill, which includes funding for EPA.  The EPA is starting the process of regulating greenhouse gas emissions using the Clean Air Act as a result of finding that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases endanger public health and welfare.

Around the World

Dafina Mulaj


Climate policies are a major issue in Australia’s federal elections, which will take place on August 21st.  New Labor Party Prime Minister Julia Gillard has restated her predecessor Kevin Rudd’s pledge to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but she has been much less committed to the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme (CPRS) than was Rudd.  That cap-and-trade program was a centerpiece of the Labor Party’s agenda, but it was defeated twice in Australia’s Senate and Rudd then shelved it.  Gillard has said that if elected her government will not consider setting a price on carbon dioxide emissions until 2012 at the earliest.  She has also vowed tough new pollution limits to clean up dirty coal-fired-power plants.

The opposition Liberal Party led by Tony Abbott has unified behind opposition to cap-and-trade and setting a price on CO2 emissions.  Abbott has attacked Labor’s CPRS as a “great big new tax” on consumers.  The Liberals are offering several alternative policies that will provide incentives to reduce emissions or store carbon in forests and in the soil.  The Liberal Party’s coalition partner, the much smaller National (or Country) Party, remains staunchly opposed to cap-and-trade.

Across the States

Dafina Mulaj


Fifteen thousand people filled the Cajundrome at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette on Wednesday to rally against President Barack Obama’s six-month moratorium on offshore oil drilling.  The Rally for Economic Survival featured Governor Bobby Jindal and a long list of other speakers.

Thousands of high-paying jobs are threatened by the Obama Administration’s moratorium.  It has already been announced that three drilling rigs will be pulled from the Gulf and sent to Africa.

The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.globalwarming.org.

Richard Morrison and Marc Scribner welcome guest co-host Alex Nowrasteh to Episode 102 of the LibertyWeek podcast. We take a special look at the prognosis for the Gulf of Mexico in the wake of the BP oil spill (segment begins approximately 8:20 in).

Many have already written the obituary for the Kerry-Lieberman bill and other cap-and-trade legislation in the current Congress. In today’s Politico, however, columnist Darren Samuelsohn quotes Sen. John Kerry’s rejection of that assessment: ”No, it’s not dead because we’re going to have a lame duck session and we have weeks ahead of us.”

Re-read the first part of Kerry’s explanation. Kerry is saying that even if the Democratic leadership does not hold a vote on cap-and-trade before the November elections, fearing the wrath of the electorate, the greenhouse gang might still enact cap-and-trade after the elections, when voters could no longer hold them accountable.

How exactly would cap-and-traders pull it off? Samuelsohn summarizes the strategy as explained by an unnamed spokesman for a “major advocacy group”:

But one source from a major advocacy group said Wednesday that another option is for the Senate to pass a pared back energy measure now and then go to conference during a lame-duck session with the House-passed climate bill that includes greenhouse gas limits across multiple sectors of the economy. At that point, the source said, anything is possible.

Clever, but perhaps not clever enough. As Machievelli infamously advised princes long ago, one should not say to someone whom one wants to kill, “Give me your gun, I want to kill you with it,” but merely “Give me your gun,” for once you have the gun in hand, you can satisfy your desire.

Kerry, the unnamed advocacy group spokesman, and others have let the cat out of the bag. They are saying in effect, “Give us an energy bill, any energy bill, we want to snooker you with it to get cap-and-trade. We’ll conference any energy bill passed by the Senate with Waxman-Markey in a lame duck session, and neither you nor the American people will be able to stop us. Hah!”

Except that loose-lipped schemers are half-baked Machiavellians. The Party of No can and should have the last laugh. All Senate Rs have to do is resist the temptation to “do something.” They now have a compelling and easily explained reason to postpone further consideration of energy legislation until the next Congress. It is simply that the greenhouse gang, by its own admission, does not intend to play fair or respect the wishes of the electorate.

Rs who strongly feel the impulse to “do something” need merely wait until January 2011, when they are widely expected to hold more seats in both the House and Senate, and when Waxman-Markey will no longer be in play.

Post image for Regarding the Gulf, What Is Obama Thinking?

Here’s something I didn’t expect: Quite a few “green” journalists on the energy policy beat have concluded that President Barack Obama’s moratorium on new drilling in the Gulf is seriously flawed. To be sure, the LA Times editorial board has come out in favor of an extended drilling ban, but among reporters who have spent time in Louisiana, there’s an acknowledgment that the moratorium is hurting livelihoods.

I was recently in Dallas, and there I had the opportunity to speak with a broadcast news journalist who had been reporting from the Gulf. He said the people of Louisiana hate BP, but they really hate the moratorium, and they are vocal about it. This is the same sense you get from the aforementioned liberal coverage. Evidently, it’s tough to be on location, and not come away with a sense that the moratorium is unjust.

With local reaction so strong, I wonder what’s going through Obama’s head. He’s been given two opportunities to back down-federal judges have nixed the moratorium twice. Yet the President plows ahead. The Interior Department is trying to re craft the drilling ban to pass legal muster.

He lost Louisiana by a wide margin, so maybe he doesn’t care. Perhaps this is part of a master plan to get a critical mass of oil rigs out of the Gulf, and force a demand response turn to a fuel efficient Ford Fiestas and GM Volts. That’s wacky, and mildly tongue in cheek, but still…

Last week, the House Energy and Commerce Committee unanimously approved H.R. 5626, Chairman Henry Waxman’s Blowout Prevention Act. Here’s the version of the bill as marked up and approved by the Committee. Here’s the earlier discussion draft on which the Energy and Environment Subcommittee held a hearing on June 30.

Like the discussion draft, the marked-up version of the bill is a Trojan Horse for restricting and, ultimately, shutting down deepwater oil production.

The most mischievous language is in the first substantive provision, Sec. (2).

Sec. (2)(a)(3) requires each applicant for a drilling permit to have an oil spill response plan ensuring “the applicant has the capacity to promptly control and stop a blowout in the event the blowout preventer and other well control measures fail” (p. 2). If the ongoing disaster in the Gulf has taught us anything, it is that once the blowout preventer and other well control measures fail, there may be no way “to promptly control and stop a blowout.” H.R. 5626 would establish a test no oil company can pass, a standard none can meet.

Nobody had the capacity to “promptly control and stop” the Macondo well blowout after the preventer and other well control measures failed — not BP, not the oil industry working as a team, not the federal and state governments working with the oil industry.

The sponsors had to know they were demanding the impossible when they drafted the bill. Consider these excerpts from a colloquy between Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson at the June 15 Energy and Environment Subcommittee hearing:

Stupak: “So when these things happen, these worst-case scenarios, we can’t handle them, correct?”
Tillerson: “We are not well equipped to handle them. There will be impacts as we are seeing. . . .That’s why the emphasis is always on preventing these things from occurring, because when they happen, we’re not very well equipped to deal with them.”
Stupak: “. . . so no matter which one of the oil companies here before us had the blowout, the resources are not enough to prevent what we’re seeing day after day in the gulf, not only the loss of 11 people, but we’re on, what, day 56 or 57 of oil washing up on shores. There is no other plan. There is no way to stop what’s happening until we finally cap this well, correct?”
Tillerson: “That is correct. . . . There is no response capability that will guarantee you will never have an impact. It does not exist and it will probably never exist.”

The discussion draft’s permitting requirements apply to all “high risk” wells, defined expansively as any offshore well plus any onshore well having the potential to cause serious environmental harm in the event of a blowout. The marked-up version targets “covered wells” rather than “high risk” wells, but this is largely a distinction without a difference. Covered wells include all wells located on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), plus any other well that, “based on criteria established by rule … could, in the event of a blowout, lead to extensive and widespread harm to public health, safety, and the environment” (pp. 41-42).

The OCS is defined (by reference to Sec. 1301 of the Submerged Lands Act) as waters lying seaward of three geographic miles from the coastline (p. 43). So H.R. 5626 would cover any deepwater well plus any shallow-water and onshore well where a blowout could lead to widespread environmental harm. Very few large wells would be exempt.

Presumably, operators could “promptly control and stop” a blowout at any onshore well and most shallow-water wells. Nonetheless, H.R. 5626 could effectively ban new wells in deep water, and deep water is the future of offshore oil and gas production. As the Department of Interior notes in its May 27 report, Increased Safety Measures for Energy Development on the Outer Continental Shelf, U.S. deepwater offshore oil production surpassed shallow water oil production in 2001, and in 2009, 80% of offshore oil production and 45% of offshore gas production “occurred in water depths in excess of 1,000 feet.” 

The bill does not clearly state how its requirements would apply to existing wells. Would an operator’s permit be revoked if he cannot demonstrate the capacity to “promptly control and stop” a blowout after the preventer and other well-control measures fail? If so, then the bill would not only block new deepwater drilling, it would also create a vehicle for shutting down existing wells. 

Sec. (2)(c) requires the operator to obtain a revised permit if he makes a “material modification” in well design, the blowout preventer, his plan to promptly stop a blowout, or his capability to begin or compete drilling of a relief well for a covered well. Apparently, then, an existing well would be subject to the new permitting requirements if it undertakes a “material modification.” In that case, however, the bill could discourage operators from making material improvements in well safety. Some might avoid or delay making safety improvements in order to avoid or delay becoming subject to an impossible standard. If I am reading these provisions correctly, H.R. 5626 could actually make offshore drilling less safe!  

Federal officials may not be able to finesse Sec. (2)(a)(3), even if they want to, because H.R. 5626 would empower “citizens” to enforce its provisions and associated regulations via litigation:

Any person having a valid legal interest which is or may be adversely affected may commence a civil action in Federal district court of appropriate jurisdiction on such person’s own behalf to compel compliance with this Act, or any regulation or order issued under this Act, or any regulation or order issued under this Act, against any person, including the United States, and any other government instrumentality or agency (to the extent permitted by the eleventh amendment to the Constitution) for any alleged violation of any provision of this Act or any regulation or order issued under this Act. [p. 28]

The discussion draft did not include the qualifier “valid legal interest.” But how difficult is it for an environmental group to demonstrate a “valid legal interest” in enforcing environmental laws and regulations? Enact the Blowout Prevention Act, and environmental groups will be able to sue any agency that fails to hold an oil company to an unattainable standard.

A few concluding thoughts. The security risks of dependence on petroleum imports are often hugely exaggerated, as the Cato Institute’s Jerry Taylor and Peter van Doren explain. Nonetheless, the sponsors of H.R. 5626 view petroleum imports with alarm. If the bill kills the future of U.S. offshore production, our dependence on Saudi Arabia and OPEC will increase. Is that what the sponsors want?

Perhaps their core premise is that oil is so evil that any restriction on oil production is good, because it will hasten the arrival of a “beyond petroleum” future. Such thinking is dangerous folly.

Although oil spills are bad, oil is good. Without oil, there would be no modern commerce and no mechanized agriculture. Life for most of humanity, including most Americans, would be poor, nasty, and short. Indeed, many of us would not even be alive.

Killing the future of offshore production would increase consumers’ pain at the pump, destroy tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, and undermine the economy of the Gulf Coast region. A “beyond petroleum” future would likely be just as distant — or even more so, because a poorer America would have fewer resources to invest in technological innovation.

Petrophobes overestimate their ability to predict and control the future. Consider these examples. 

  • In 1990, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) adopted a zero emission vehicle (ZEV) mandate requiring 10% of all new cars sold in California be electric vehicles by 2003. Ten percent of the California new-car market is about 150,000 vehicles. CARB had to backpeddle several times as it became apparent that consumers were not buying these costly, limited-range vehicles. In 2008, CARB reduced the mandate to 2,500 all-electric vehicles – a rollback of about 98%.
  • Congress in 2007 enacted a Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) requiring refiners to sell 250 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2011. Earlier this week, EPA announced it would reduce the 2011 target to 5 – 17 million gallons per year –  a 94-98% rollback.

It is not surprising that veteran petrophobes like Reps. Waxman and Markey (D-Mass.) drafted H.R. 5626. It is surprising that every Republican member voted for it too. Do any of them have buyer’s remorse? If not now, when?

In the News

Beyond the Oil Spill
Mario Loyola, National Review, 2 August 2010

A Free Market Energy Vision
Robert Bradley, MasterResource.org, 16 July 2010

Another Rig Leaves the Gulf
Greg Pollowitz, Planet Gore, 15 July 2010

In Contempt of Court
William Murchison, American Spectator, 15 July 2010

Killing the Green Wave
Lorrie Goldstein, Toronto Sun, 14 July 2010

Climategate and the Big Green Lie
Clive Crook, The Atlantic, 14 July 2010

For Left, Gore Still Matters
Darren Samuelsohn, Politico, 14 July 2010

Senate Majority Leader Reid: Cap-and-Trade Is Not in My Vocabulary
Marlo Lewis, GlobalWarming.org, 13 July 2010

Virginia AG Defends Climategate Suit
David Sherfinski, Washington Examiner, 13 July 2010

Alarmism Not Working for Environmentalists
David A. Fahrenthold & Juliet Eilperin, Washington Post, 12 July 2010

News You Can Use

Sea Ice Growing

The Reference Frame this week noted that the total global sea ice anomaly is positive, that is, current sea ice coverage exceeds the historical average.

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

Energy Rationing Mired in Senate

The comprehensive energy-rationing bill that the Senate was supposed to take up this week could now be ready to go to the floor as early as the week of 26th July.  That was the news that Darren Samuelsohn of Politico reported on Tuesday.  Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) is working on three titles: one containing oil spill provisions; another on measures to promote and require more energy efficiency; and a third with lots of provisions to mandate various types of clean energy and create green jobs.

Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) is still trying to put together a fourth title on cap-and-trade.  His latest efforts are aimed at putting together a cap-and-trade program for electric utilities only.  The Edison Electric Institute (the trade association representing investor-owned utilities) supports Kerry’s effort, but even here problems have arisen this week.  In negotiations with EEI and environmental pressure groups, EEI said that in return for supporting a cap-and-trade program the bill would need to relax some other Clean Air Act standards.  That would help them lower the costs of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  The environmental pressure groups immediately objected to gutting the Clean Air Act.

Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will only allow Kerry’s cap-and-trade title into the bill if Kerry can show that he has the 60 votes necessary.  Right now, I don’t think he has 50, so my guess is that the Senate will not consider cap-and-trade in the three weeks remaining before the August  recess starts.  Nor is it likely that the Senate will take it up this fall before the November 2 congressional elections.  That leaves some small chance that Congress will convene in a lame duck session after the election and try to sneak cap-and-trade through in the face of intense and widespread public opposition.

A more immediate question is whether Reid will be able to bring the three other titles of an energy-rationing package to the floor before the August recess.  If he does, it’s not clear that they have the 60 votes required for passage of a bill that doesn’t have cap-and-trade in it.  We shall see.  The Senate calendar is all jammed up with other big items (such as the Kagan nomination), so it may be that the Senate will not be able to get around to it.

Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee, clearly isn’t going to give up without a fight.  Here’s what she said: “It’s so critical to start fighting the global warming threat right now. We can’t afford to wait another year or two and hope for the best.”  Of course, that was in a column in the Huffington Post on June 2, 2008.

House Committee Votes To End Oil Production

The House Energy and Commerce Committee marked up and passed out Chairman Henry Waxman’s (D-Beverly Hills) “Blowout Prevention Act” on Thursday without a single No vote.  Representative John Shadegg (R-Az.) voted Present.  All the Democrats and all the other Republicans voted Yes.  I emphasize this point because it’s incredible that anyone could vote for Waxman’s bill.  They should be deeply ashamed.

H. R. 5626 contains provisions that can be used to stop all new oil production in the United States-onshore as well as offshore; on private land as well as public.  My CEI colleague Marlo Lewis explains why here.  To summarize the details in non-technical language, the bill would put all “high-risk wells” under new federal regulations and allow environmental pressure groups to sue in federal court to prevent licensing such wells if they could lead “to extensive and widespread harm to public health, safety, and the environment.”

Harm is not defined, but could certainly include global warming.  EPA after all has already determined that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare.  The fact that the Republicans went along with this monstrosity should start alarm bells ringing across America.  My understanding is that the House Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over this particular provision of the bill, so it will be interesting to see if Chairman Nick Joe Rahall (D-WV) exercises his jurisdiction or takes a pass and allows the bill to come to the House floor as is.

Here is what Dan Kish, senior vice president for policy at the Institute for Energy Research, said to me about H. R. 5626 after the committee vote: “This bill federalizes every oil and gas well in the United States, and forces States to accept the Federal oversight of all permitting, either directly or by the States doing the Fed’s bidding.  It is a huge Washington power grab of both onshore and offshore wells, including on State and private lands.  This is a poor remake of the Beverly Hillbillies, where Jed Clampett would have been in violation of federal law for discovering oil on his own property without a federally-sanctioned permit.  And Jethro would be sitting in congress voting Aye on it.”  Kish was chief of staff of the House Natural Resources Committee and a professional staff member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  He knows as much as anyone about federal regulation of oil production.

Across the States

West Virginia

The Environmental Protection Agency this week postponed the deadline for the Region 3 Administrator’s recommended determination whether or not to veto Arch Coal’s Spruce Fork mountain-top removal coal mining project in Logan County, West Virginia. The delay is further evidence that the EPA is unsure how to proceed on its regulatory crackdown on surface coal mining in Appalachia. Last April, the EPA proposed new conductivity (ie, salinity) effluent standards under the Clean Water Act, designed to protect the Mayfly, and order of insect that isn’t an endangered species. EPA administrator Lisa Jackson conceded that the new regulations would effectively outlaw future mountain-top removal mining, despite the fact that coal mining is the largest industry in West Virginia, and a significant industry in Virginia and Kentucky. Two weeks ago, however, the EPA gave a conditional Clean Water Act permit to Arch Coal’s proposed mountain-top removal mine at the Pine Creek Surface Mine in Logan County, which would seem to violate its earlier assurances that the practice would be banned. So it’s unclear how EPA is proceeding.

New Jersey

Americans for Prosperity’s New Jersey chapter is gearing up to support a legislation to withdraw New Jersey from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI)., a regional cap-and-0trade energy rationing scheme. Assemblyman Michael Patrick Carroll and Assemblywoman Alison Littell McHose introduced A3147, a bill to repeal the Global Warming Response Act of 2007. To learn more, click here.

Around the World

Energy Rationing in Retreat in Pacific

The Democratic Party of Japan came to power promising the most stringent emissions reduction target of any industrialized economy – 25 per cent below 1990 levels by 2020. That pledge is now in doubt after the DPJ last week lost its majority in the upper house. The climate push had proven very contentious and contributed to the DPJ’s setback. This follows developments in Australia in late June, when Prime Minister Julia Gillard replaced Kevin Rudd after campaigning on a vow to review plans for a carbon-trading system.

The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.globalwarming.org.

“Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will bring a sweeping energy and climate bill to the floor as early as the week of July 26, including a controversial cap on emissions from power plants,” environmental reporter Darren Samuelsohn writes today in Politico.

Except that Reid — like Sens. John Kerry (D.-Mass.), Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) – won’t call a spade a spade.

“I don’t use that,” Reid said, referring to the term cap-and-trade. “Those words are not in my vocabulary. We’re going to work on pollution.”

For years, so-called progressive politicians clamored for cap-and-trade — the Kyoto Protocol, the McCain-Lieberman bill, the Lieberman-Warner bill, the Waxman-Markey bill, etc.

No longer. Thanks to the educational efforts of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Prosperity, Americans for Tax Reform, National Taxpayers Union, American Conservative Union, FreedomWorks, the Heritage Foundation, National Center for Public Policy Research, and other free-market/limited government organizations, the public came to understand that cap-and-trade is a hidden tax on energy. By the end of 2009, cap-and-”tax” had become a political liability, and this year proponents fear even to speak its name – especially as the November elections approach.

So what’s a poor progressive politician to do? Why, dissemble, obfuscate, and prevaricate to fool the voter. 

The problem with this strategy — beyond the sheer dishonesty of it — is that people aren’t as dim as progressive politicians assume. Most people do not spend their time monitoring Congress, but they don’t need to. Numerous watchdog groups are ready to pounce on every ploy to steal our liberty and prosperity, and in the Age of the Internet, information travels fast.

Reid and company are fooling themselves if they believe rebranding cap-and-trade as “pollution limits” will blunt public opposition to energy taxes.

No, Sylvester, not even close! As noted in a previous post, on Earth Day (April 22), a Navy F/A-18 Hornet fighter jet became the first aircraft to “demonstrate the performance of a 50-50 blend of camelina-based biojet fuel and traditional petroleum-based jet fuel at supersonic speeds.”  Camelina is a non-edible plant in the mustard family.

Navy Secy. Ray Mabus crowed that the biofueled fighter demonstrates “the Navy’s commitment to reducing dependence on foreign oil as well as safeguarding our environment” and to being “an early adopter of alternative energy sources.”

Secy. Mabus neglected to mention that camelina-based fuel costs $65 a gallon (ClimateWire, 6/28/10, subscription required) – about 30 times more than commercial jet fuel. Only an organization funded with your tax dollars could afford to ignore so much pain at the pump.

Plain and simple economics — not the alleged machinations of Big Oil or Congress’s unwillingness to put a price on carbon – explains why America remains dependent on petroleum.

More evidence (as if any were needed) that politicians cannot mandate and subsidize us into a beyond petroleum future comes from an unlikely source — EPA.

SugarcaneBlog.Com reported yesterday:

Once again, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has had to rollback the ambitious nationwide mandate for cellulosic biofuels that Congress created in the 2007 energy bill. EPA announced today proposed regulations to implement the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS2) for 2011 but said the goal of 250 million gallons of cellulosic biofuels cannot be met. EPA is proposing to set the standard in the range of 5 to 17 million gallons.

This means that next year, somewhere between 0.004% and 0.015% of our motor fuel will come from cellulosic ethanol. I feel more energy independent already, don’t you?

By way of background, in the 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA), Congress mandated that importers, blenders, and refiners sell 36 billion gallons of renewable motor fuel by 2022, with 16 billion gallons classified as cellulosic. As you may recall, President G.W. Bush touted ethanol made from plant cellulose such as switchgrass in his 2006 state of the union address.

Five to 17 million gallons is a very long way from 16 billion gallons.  Of course, some miracle may happen between now and 2022. But as for 2011, EPA is in wholesale retreat on cellulosic ethanol. If refiners actually sell 17 million gallons of cellulosic in 2011, the RFS program will fall short of EISA’s 250 million gallon target by 94%. If refiners sell only 5 million gallons, the program will fall short by 98%.

EPA says it “remains optimistic” about the commercial potential of cellulosic ethanol. Well, did you expect EPA to badmouth a mandate that expands its control over the  transport sector?

Bloomberg Businessweek explains more clearly than EPA does why the agency had to back-peddle so furiously: “The Environmental Protection Agency proposed requiring less cellulosic ethanol to be blended into gasoline next year than sought under U.S. law because production of the alternative fuel hasn’t reached commercial scale.”

The lesson should be obvious. It was well and memorably expressed by three MIT scholars in their retrospective on the Carter era energy programs:

The experience of the 1970s and 1980s taught us that if a technology is commercially viable, then government support is not needed and if a technology is not commercially viable, no amount of government support can make it so.