July 2010

Richard Morrison and Marc Scribner welcome back long-lost co-host Michelle Minton to Episode 101 of the LibertyWeek podcast. Among other issues, we discuss the IPCC’s latest attempt to muzzle its own advisory scientists (segment begins approximately 10 minutes in).

In the News

The Greenhouse Protection Racket
Marlo Lewis, Pajamas Media, 9 July 2010

Climate Change: A Collective Flight from Reality
Roger Helmer, Washington Times, 9 July 2010

Markets, Not Social Values, Should Determine Price of Electricity
William Yeatman & Amy Oliver Cooke, Denver Daily News, 9 July 2010

Climate Clique Looks after Its Own
Gerald Warner, Daily Telegraph, 8 July 2010

Austerity Green: EU Fatigue for Renewables
Matthew Sinclair, Master Resource.org, 7 July 2010

Oil Sands Push Tests U.S.-Canada Ties
Phred Dvorak & Edward Welsch, Wall Street Journal, 7 July 2010

Putting Wind Power into Perspective
Greg Pollowitz, Planet Gore, 7 July 2010

Maryland’s Smart Grid Fiasco
William Yeatman, Baltimore Sun, 5 July 2010

News You Can Use

Hefty Cost of Fuel Switching

Proponents of a carbon tax often claim that natural gas is a ready alternative to coal for the generation of electricity, but according to a new study by the American Public Power Association, the fuel switch would cost $680 billion.

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

Energy Rationers Still Can’t Get Their Act Together

The majority staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee have spent the week putting together an energy-rationing package to bring to the floor, which Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) planned to do next week.  But it has already been reported that the package won’t be ready by next week.  That is apparently because decisions on some key issues remain to be made.  This is not news.  The Democratic majority have been trying to put something together that can get 60 votes since last fall.

First, it was the Kerry-Boxer bill, which was similar to the Waxman-Markey bill passed by the House on 26th June 2009 by a 219-212 vote.  Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) moved that bill out of her Environment and Public Works Committee last November before the UN global warming pow-wow in Copenhagen.  But the public’s overwhelmingly negative reaction to Waxman-Markey meant that it was dead in the Senate.

Then Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) spent months working with Senators Joseph Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on an alternative described as less ambitious and capable of attracting bi-partisan support.  Graham eventually dropped out, most likely because of the blowback against him in South Carolina, and Kerry and Lieberman finally introduced their bill in May.  Like Kerry-Boxer, the Kerry-Lieberman American Power Act has no chance of gaining the 60 votes needed to pass the Senate.  I doubt that it could get 50 votes.

That leaves it up to Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.  In the spring of 2009, Bingaman passed several measures out of his committee with the support of ranking Republican Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska).  These include a renewable standard for electric utilities, new building energy efficiency standards based on California’s, and a variety of other lesser “clean energy” provisions.  That is reportedly the basis of the package now being put together.  Like most other big bills brought to the Senate (and House) floor these days, the bill is being put together in secret, so it’s hard to find out what might be in it.  However, it has been reported that it does not contain a cap-and-trade scheme or mandatory targets and timetables to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The obstacle remains how to get the 60 votes to invoke cloture and pass the bill.  The other major decision is whether to attach it to a bill addressing BP’s Gulf oil leak disaster or to replace the House version of Waxman-Markey.  If the latter, the Senate would then send H. R. 2454 back to the House in hopes of adding cap-and-trade in a House-Senate conference committee and passing it in a lame duck session after the November elections.

The fact that Senate Democrats have not been able to take the first step toward enacting energy-rationing legislation in the past year and still seem stymied is good news for American consumers, workers, and taxpayers.  With any luck, the Senate will not pass anything this year.  Even if it does, it’s not clear that the House would go along.

Climategate Update

Another Week, Another Whitewash

Only days after the Penn State University released its whitewash report on Professor Michael Mann’s involvement in the Climategate (which we reported on last week), a supposedly blue-ribbon panel did the same for University of East Anglia’s Phil Jones, the central figure in the scandal. Incredibly, the Muir Russell panel failed to address climate science, and lead investigators didn’t even bother to attend interviews of Jones. Needless to say, “This is another example of the establishment circling the wagons and defending their position,” as CEI’s Myron Ebell told the New York Times.

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.

In a threepart post over at MasterResource.Org, my colleague Robert L. Bradley, Jr. shows that BP  has much in common with Enron. Both companies aggressively sought rents (politically-contrived profits) via global warming policies. Both aggressively marketed themselves as green. Both were highly regarded as progressive corporations within the environmental community. Both became disasters.

For both companies, global warming advocacy and greenwashing became a fatal distraction, Bradley argues:

Just imagine if John Browne had used the time and resources BP spent on climate alarmism and ‘beyond petroleum’ on real safety and environmental issues.

BP might still have a capitalization of $150 billion and not face a potential worst-case scenario of bankruptcy and ruin. And more importantly, the U.S. Gulf would not be in an environmental crisis.

Just imagine if Enron’s Ken Lay had used the time and resources spent on climate alarmism and forced energy transformation on accounting, risk control, and the real things that promote business sustainability.

Enron might still be with us today.

Diverted management attention has an opportunity cost. Left environmentalists lobbied and praised BP and Enron for putting form over substance. A few shouted ‘greenwashing’, but most applauded their coveted split within the fossil-fuel industry on climate and energy.

Enron is no longer around. Instead it has become the poster child of political capitalism run amuck. And the Deepwater Horizon accident–for which, in an effort to save about $5 million, BP will pay tens of billions of dollars–may sink BP as an independent company.

What an irony: fake environmentalism driving out real environmentalism.

In the News

The All-American Light Bulb Dims, as Freedom Flickers
Deroy Murdock, National Review, 2 July 2010

A Wellspring of Politics, Not Science
William O’ Keefe, Washington Times, 2 July 2010

Running out of Little Green Countries
Chris Horner, AmSpecBlog, 1 July 2010

Blowout Prevention Act Would Blow Out Domestic Production
Marlo Lewis, GlobalWarming.org, 1 July 2010

The Windsurfer’s Windfall
Max Brindle, American Spectator, 29 June 2010

Everyone Knows…Except the Experts
Henry Payne, Planet Gore, 29 June 2010

They Loved BP & Enron
Robert Bradley, MasterResource.org, 28 June 2010

Is Obama Putting Ideology above Science?
Detroit News editorial, 27 June 2010

News You Can Use

Price Tag of Obama’s Moratorium

According to a new analysis by the Heritage Foundation, President Barack Obama’s offshore oil ban, if extended through 2035, would:

  • Reduce GDP by $5.5 trillion
  • Reduce the average consumption expenditures for a family of four by $2,381 per year (and exceeds $4,000 in 2035)
  • Reduce job growth by more than 1 million jobs by 2015 and more than 1.5 million jobs by 2030

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

White House Convenes Climate Meeting

Twenty-three Senators finally met with President Barack Obama Tuesday morning to discuss how to move forward with energy-rationing legislation.  Darren Samuelsohn and Coral Davenport reported in Politico that the President made it clear that he wants the Senate to put a price on carbon dioxide emissions, but that he recognizes that it may be necessary to settle for something much more modest than the House Waxman-Markey bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) has indicated that he still wants the Senate to take up energy-rationing legislation when Senators return from the Fourth of July recess on 12th July.  Everything else remains to be decided.  First is the question of whether energy-rationing provisions should be attached to a bill to address BP’s Gulf oil leak or whether it should be a stand-alone bill.  If it is a stand-alone bill, then it will probably be brought to the floor as H. R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey bill which the House passed by a 219 to 212 vote on 26th June 2009.  That could keep alive the possibility of calling a conference committee and then trying to pass something in a lame duck session after the election.

What might be included in a Senate anti-energy package is still up in the air.

One Possibility:  Utility-only Energy Rationing

One possibility that has been floated and was reportedly suggested by Senator Olympia Snowe (R-Me.) at the meeting with President Obama is a cap-and-trade scheme that covers electric utilities only.  I’m not sure why a utilities-only cap-and-trade scheme would be any easier to pass than an economy-wide one, since everyone understands that it would only be the first step and that for the first ten or fifteen years an economy-wide cap-and-trade really only hits coal.

Another Possibility: Bingaman’s Anti-energy Bill

Another possibility that has been the most likely for a couple months is that the Senate will take up the anti-energy provisions passed out of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee last year.  These include a renewable standard for utilities, new building energy efficiency standards modeled on California’s, and several other “clean energy” provisions.  If that is the way Reid decides to go, then it will put Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), the Chairman of the Committee, in charge of the legislation.

That makes sense for several reasons.  First, Bingaman is not Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), a legislative lightweight who is not much more popular with Senate Democrats than he is with Republicans.  Nor is he Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), who is even more of a lightweight than Kerry.  Second, Bingaman passed these provisions out of his committee with the support of the ranking Republican, Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), so he starts with Republican support and has every prospect of gaining more.  And third, Bingaman’s package does not put a price on CO2 emissions.  This makes it much harder to build public opposition to it as an energy tax.

The death of Senator Robert Byrd (D-WV) complicates the situation.  Majority Leader Reid is short one vote until a successor is appointed by West Virginia’s Governor, Joe Manchin.  But Reid might be worse off after a new Senator is appointed.  That’s because Manchin is the most ferocious opponent of anti-coal policies among high-ranking elected Democrats.

Across the States

What Is EPA Doing in West Virginia?

On April 1st, the Environmental Protection Agency promulgated new Clean Water Act regulations for the discharge of conductivity (i.e., salinity) from surface coal mining operations in West Virginia. The regulations were established in order to protect the Mayfly, a short-lived insect that isn’t even an endangered species. At the press conference to unveil the new standards, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson conceded that the new regulations were stringent enough to outlaw mountain top removal mining. Last week, however, the EPA notified Arch Coal Inc.’s Coal-Mac subsidiary that its MTR project at the Pine Creek Surface Mine in Logan County, West Virginia, would receive a Clean Water Act permit. EPA’s coal crackdown engendered a bipartisan rebuke from almost every state and federal politician in West Virginia, so perhaps the EPA is signaling that it intends to be flexible. Tellingly, the EPA did not make the permit approval public.

ClimateGate Update

Mann Exonerated by Penn State Panel Designed To Exonerate Mann

To the surprise of no one, Professor Michael Mann, (creator of the debunked Hockey Stick global temperature reconstruction), was cleared by a Penn State University investigation prompted by Mann’s involvement in the ClimateGate scandal. PSU initiated the investigation in November, 2009, at the behest of alumni. It appointed a panel and tasked it with answering these questions:

I. Did Mann engage in, or participate in, directly or indirectly: any actions with the intent to suppress or falsify data?;
2. any actions with the intent to delete, conceal or otherwise destroy emails, information and/or data, related to AR4,as suggested by Phil Jones?;
3. any misuse of privileged or confidential information available to you in your capacity as an academic scholar?;
4. any actions that seriously deviated from accepted practices within the academic community for proposing, conducting, or reporting research, or other scholarly activities?

In January, the panel exonerated Mann on the first three charges. After learning of PSU’s decision, Dr. Richard Lindzen, the Alfred Sloan Professor of Meteorology at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, told PSU investigators, “It’s thoroughly amazing. I mean these are issues that he explicitly stated in the emails. I’m wondering what’s going on?” Hear, hear!

That January ruling left little doubt that the “investigation” was a showcase to clear Mann, even though the panel decided that the fourth charge necessitated further inquiry, the results of which were released yesterday. As CEI’s Myron Ebell told the New York Times, “It’s no surprise that it’s a whitewash of Dr. Mann’s misconduct, because it was designed to be a whitewash.”

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.

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Energy and Environment held a hearing on H.R. 5626, the Blowout Prevention Act of 2010. Although the sponsors claim their intent is simply to prevent a disaster like the blowout of BP’s Macondo deepwater well from ever happening again, the bill would establish, as a precondition for obtaining a permit to drill, a test no oil company can pass.

Let’s look at the bill’s first substantive provision:

Effective one year after the date of enactment of this Act, the appropriate Federal official shall not issue a permit to drill for a high-risk well unless the applicant for such
permit demonstrates, the Chief Executive Officer of the applicant attests in writing, and the appropriate Federal  official determines that—
(1) the blowout preventer and other well control measures will prevent a blowout from occurring;
(2) the applicant has an oil spill response plan that ensures that the applicant has the capacity to promptly stop a blowout in the event the blowout preventer and other well control measures fail; and
(3) the applicant has the capability to begin drilling of a relief well within 15 days, and complete such drilling of a relief well to control a blowout within 90 days of the well control event that causes such blowout.

The unattainable standard is in Section 2(a)(2). Under this provision, no oil company may obtain a permit to drill for a high-risk well unless it demonstrates the ”capacity to promptly stop a blowout in the event the blowout preventer and other well control measures fail.” But, as is painfully obvious, the Macondo well has been gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico for more than two months with no clear end in sight. Nobody has the capacity to “promptly stop” the 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.

In short, the bill would hold applicants for drilling permits to a standard that none can meet. Moreover, as fully documented here, the sponsors of the Blowout Prevention Act know very well that once the blowout preventer and other well control measures fail, physics takes over and there is no way to stop oil from spilling into the ocean environment. Consider these excerpts from a colloquy between Oversight and Investigation Subcommittee Chairman Bart Stupak (D-Mich.) and ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson:

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.

Now, you might suppose that although Section 2(a)(2) would effectively bar all drilling of “high-risk wells,” it would not affect offshore wells that are low-risk. Alas, no. Sec. 16(12)(A) defines “high risk” to include any “offshore oil or gas exploration or production well within 200 nautical miles of the coast of the United States.”

At yesterday’s hearing several members criticized this language as indiscriminate, because it ignores the site-specific circumstances (such as oil pressure, temperature, and geology) that would affect the risk level of a particular drilling operation. Chairmen Waxman (D.-Calif.), Markey (D-Mass.), and Stupak may thus agree to define “high risk” more narrowly — for example, offshore wells in water deeper than 1000 feet.

Even with this modification, however, the bill would still wreak havoc on offshore oil 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 future of offshore oil is in deep water. Even if “high risk” applies only to deepwater wells, H.R. 5626 would sabotage the industry’s future.

Sec. 16(12)(B) also defines ”high risk” to include any ”onshore oil or gas exploration or production well in the United States . . . that, in the event of a blowout, could lead to substantial harm to public health and safety and the environment.” Is there anyone in the environmental movement who does not think an oil spill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) “could lead to substantial harm to . . . the environment”? Let’s call this provision the ANWR Prohibition Clause. Of course, it could effectively prohibit onshore drilling in many places besides ANWR.

Federal officials won’t be able to finesse these strictures, even if they want to, because the bill would empower “citizens” to enforce the Act and its associated regulations and orders via litigation:

Any person 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. [Sec. 16(a)]

Enact the Blowout Prevention Act, and every eco-litigation group will be able to sue any agency that fails to hold any oil company to an unattainable standard.

All of this would be okay if oil were evil and abolishing U.S. oil production could not happen too soon. That seems to be an unstated premise of the Blowout Prevention Act.

That premise, however, is outrageously false. 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, brutish, and short. Indeed, many of us would not even be alive.

Banning offshore drilling would increase consumers’ pain at the pump, destroy tens of thousands of high-paying jobs, cripple the economy of the Gulf coast states, and make America more dependent on OPEC oil. Presumably, those are not results most Members of Congress want to bring about. Yet Congress will set the stage for just such a policy disaster if, applying the so-called Precautionary Principle to domestic oil production, it demands proof of absolute safety as a precondition for approving the operation of offshore and onshore wells.