September 2010

In the News

Green Jobs No Longer Golden in Stimulus
Patrice Hill, Washington Times, 9 September 2010

Eeyore Environmentalism
Steven Hayward, Planet Gore, 8 September, 2010

Kiss Your Ash Goodbye
Ben Lieberman,, 8 September 2010

Sword of Damocles
Wall Street Journal editorial, 8 September 2010

Salmon Runs, Global Warming As Clear As Mud
Jon Ferry, The Province, 8 September 2010

The Accidental Cap-and-Trade
Chris Horner,, 7 September 2010

Scarlet Letters for the Auto Industry
Vincent Carroll, Denver Post, 5 September 2010

News You Can Use

It Could Happen Here

As part of a last-minute lunge to make good on a pledge to reduce energy use per unit of economic output by 20 per cent over the five years ending this December, the Chinese government has ordered energy rationing, resulting in rolling blackouts across the country. More than 2,000 energy intensive industries have been ordered to close.

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

Obama’s New Stimulus Proposal

President Obama this week unveiled new proposals to stimulate the economy.  Included is at least one useful proposal-the immediate expensing of new capital investments.  CEI has long supported replacing multi-year depreciation with immediate expensing as good economic and environmental policy.  Increasing the turnover of manufacturing equipment will make industry more competitive while decreasing energy use and pollution.  That’s because new equipment is almost always more energy efficient and pollutes less than old equipment.  Unfortunately, the President isn’t proposing a permanent change in the tax code, but just a one-year gimmick to pump up the economy in the short term.

The proposed changes to increase taxes on the oil and gas industry are permanent, however.  This means that the one temporary benefit in the President’s package is far outweighed by the long-term damage to our economy.  These tax increases will put American oil producers at a competitive disadvantage with their foreign competitors.  One of the consequences will be less domestic oil production and more imports.  That means fewer high-paying American jobs and higher trade deficits.

This appears part of a broader plan by President Obama to force domestic petroleum production down.  Other elements include the six-month moratorium on offshore leases in the Gulf, cancelling planned oil and gas leases federal lands in the West, and opposing new production on Alaska’s North Slope and offshore in the Arctic Ocean.  Less energy and more expensive energy is extremely bad news for the American economy.

The President’s proposals to spend more taxpayer dollars on transportation infrastructure are a mixed bag.  One of the bigger chunks is to go to high-speed rail projects.  These are mostly colossally expensive boondoggles.  On the other hand, the President has dropped the green energy and green jobs nonsense entirely, as an excellent story by Patrice Hill in the Washington Times noted.

[This is a slightly-edited version of a piece published on Politico’s Energy Arena.]

White House Rebuffs Green PR Stunt

The White House has refused to accept one of the solar panels that President Jimmy Carter had installed on the White House roof in the late 1970s.  Bill McKibben, the extremist environmental writer and founder of, took one of Carter’s solar panels, which have been stored at Unity College in Vermont, and drove it to Washington this week in a bio-diesel powered truck.  The publicity stunt attracted a great deal of media attention on the way.  But the White House is apparently not ready to admit that President Obama is returning America to the Carter era of economic malaise and energy shortages, despite the obvious similarities in their policies.  President Ronald Reagan had the solar panels removed from the White House.  Not coincidentally, Reagan solved the Nixon-Ford-Carter energy crisis by ending price controls on domestic oil production and de-regulating the industry.

Greens Pushing Fuel Efficiency Fantasy

A large coalition of environmental pressure groups sent a letter to President Obama on Thursday that urges the President to set new Corporate Average Fuel Economy (or CAFÉ) standards of at least 60 miles per gallon by the 2025 model year (which starts in 2024).  The Administration earlier this year increased CAFÉ standards substantially for cars and light trucks to 35.5 miles per gallon by 2016.  There is little evidence that consumers will buy very many of the cars that meet the 35.5 mpg average.  There is a great deal of evidence that the 35.5 mpg average is wishful thinking by the Washington political establishment and the auto industry.  Sixty miles per gallon by 2025 is sheer fantasy.  It’s not clear to me why the environmental pressure didn’t think big and demand 100 mpg by 2025.

Across the States

Fiorina Finally Supports Prop 23

Last week, the Cooler Heads Digest faulted California Senate candidate Carly Fiorina (R) for refusing to take a position on Proposition 23, the California ballot initiative to suspend AB 32, the State’s global warming law, until unemployment decreases to 5.5 %. As AB 32 is designed to raise the price of energy, which would harm the economy, Proposition 23 should be a political winner. On Friday, Fiorina announced that she supports Proposition 23 because AB 32 is a “job killer.”

Nichols Backs off California Cap-and-Trade

At a Silicon Valley panel yesterday, California Air Resources Board Chairman Mary Nichols said that California would not proceed with cap-and-trade-the most significant climate policy under AB 32-if other States do not contribute. In 2007, California formed a regional cap-and-trade, the Western Climate Initiative, with Arizona, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. They were soon joined by Montana and Utah. Since then, only New Mexico and California have decided to participate, and in New Mexico both candidates for governor are backing away from the WCI. As such, it appears that California will soon be the only State left, which is why Nichols is backing off a cap-and-trade. This is a stunning reversal.

Four States Planning Lawsuit if Prop 23 Fails

California Watch reports this week that the Attorneys General of Alabama, Nebraska, Texas and North Dakota are preparing to sue California if Proposition 23 fails this November, on the grounds that it violates the Constitution’s Interstate Commerce clause.

Two More States Challenge EPA Regulation of Greenhouse Gases

Three weeks ago, the Chairman of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Attorney General sent a letter last week telling the EPA why Texas will not change its laws in order to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and explaining why what the EPA was doing was illegal. If you didn’t read it, we have posted it on here. Today Greenwire (subscription required) reported that two more States have sent letters to the EPA protesting the pending regulations. Democratic Wyoming Gov. Dave Freudenthal told the EPA that his State doesn’t have the time to change its laws, while Ben Grumbles, director of Arizona’s Department of Environmental Quality, suggested that it would be a waste of resources to follow the EPA’s directives because they are likely to be thrown out by the courts.

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,

What could Rosh Hashanah have to do with environmental activism? My colleague Sam Kazman found out last year, listening to a sermon with a surprise twist. You can read about the incident in the book High Holiday Stories by Nancy Rips.


The Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate carbon dioxide as an air pollutant is currently garnering most of the attention from the agency’s critics, but it is far from the only problematic EPA regulation in the works. Another proposal that also deserves strong opposition is the agency’s attempt to label coal combustion byproducts (CCBs) as hazardous waste. Doing so is not only environmentally unnecessary but downright counterproductive, and would raise energy costs and kill jobs to boot.

Like several other Obama administration regulations, this extreme proposal goes well beyond anything contemplated under Bush or under Clinton. In fact, it was the Clinton administration EPA that concluded in 2000 that CCBs, chiefly the fly ash from burning coal to produce electricity, should be categorized as non-hazardous and handled in a manner not unlike municipal solid waste. The Obama administration has offered no convincing evidence that this determination was wrong and that CCBs pose a public health threat. Nonetheless, it is moving forward with the hazardous proposal.

A hazardous designation would not only raise CCB handling and disposal costs, but would put an end to their beneficial uses. Large volumes of fly ash are added to concrete, both stretching the supply of this ubiquitous construction material as well as improving its quality. Another kind of CCBs can be used in wallboard, taking the place of mined gypsum. Fully 44 percent of the 136 million tons of CCBs produced annually are put to good use, and the percentage has been growing. No actual problems have emerged with the use of recycled CCBs in these materials.

However, if EPA slaps the hazardous label — and attached stigma — on CCBs, such uses would very likely come to an end due to liability concerns — imagine the field day tort lawyers would have over supposedly toxic sidewalks and poisonous walls.

Thus, a hazardous designation would almost certainly preclude any productive uses of CCBs. As a consequence, more virgin concrete would have to be made, and more gypsum mined. All the attendant energy and other resource inputs as well as emissions associated with these processes would increase — a clear negative for the environment.

From the coal-fired utility standpoint, a hazardous listing would transform CCBs from a valuable byproduct to a costly liability. Many new disposal sites would have to be created and maintained. Half the nation’s electricity is generated from coal, thus the higher electricity generation costs would impact tens of millions of homeowners and businesses. Some coal-fired power plants would have to shut down completely – indeed, a hazardous designation for CCBs fits in perfectly with the Obama administration’s larger anti-coal agenda.

Employment would face a painful double whammy from a hazardous designation. The National Association of Manufacturers estimates that 2,000 of its member manufacturing companies may be involved in using CCBs in the products they make. For the rest, the resultant higher energy costs would further hamper competitiveness and growth. Either way, the rule would reduce manufacturing jobs.

Back in 2000, the EPA wisely concluded that it did “not wish to place any unnecessary barriers on the beneficial uses of these wastes, because they conserve natural resources, reduce disposal costs, and reduce the total amount of waste destined for disposal.” Too bad this kind of common sense has all but disappeared at the Obama EPA.

In the News

The Real Cost of Being Green
William Yeatman & Amy Oliver Cooke, Denver Post, 3 September 2010

Godzilla in the Mirror
George Will, Indianapolis Star, 3 September 2010

A True Green Believer
Richard Morrison, American Spectator, 2 September 2010

Drill, Baby, Drill Is Back
Ben Lieberman,, 2 September 2010

Green Cheese
Chris Horner, AmSpecBlog, 1 September 2010

“Cool It,” Rival to “An Inconvenient Truth,” Gets a U.S. Distributer
Dave Itzkoff, New York Times, 1 September 2010

“Clunkers” Classic Government Folly
Jeff Jacoby, Boston Globe, 1 September 2010

Obama Urges Court To Vacate AGW Decision
Marlo Lewis, Pajamas Media, 30 August 2010

The Greening of Godzilla
Walter Russell Mead, American Interest, 28 August 2010

USGS Perpetrates a Climate Science Fraud
William Yeatman, Big Journalism, 28 August 2010

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

Reid Outlines Lame Duck Strategy

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) this week said that he would still try to pass an anti-energy bill after the November 2 election in a lame duck session. He has given up on cap-and-trade, but is working to gain support for a 15% renewable electricity standard (or RES) for utilities.  Ben Geman of The Hill reports that in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday Reid said that two Republican Senators have expressed interest in an RES.  One is thought to be Sam Brownback (R-Ks.), who is retiring.

Anything is possible in a lame duck session, but my guess is that the atmosphere after the election is going to be so ugly that it will be hard to do anything in the Senate or the House.  That’s because a lot of Democrats in Democratic States and districts are in danger of being swept out of office.  They will be bitter and perhaps eager to exact some further damage on their way out the door, but on the other hand Republicans are almost certain to be united in wanting to block anything until the 112th Congress, which may have a lot more Republicans than the 111th does.

The Congress returns on 12th September.  They are scheduled to be in session for four weeks before recessing for the campaign.

Across the States

Fiorina, Whitman Disappoint on AB 32

Carly Fiorina, the Republican candidate for Senator in California, participated in a debate with incumbent Barbara Boxer (D) this week. Politico reported that Fiorina’s “major stumble” came on her waffling response to a question about Proposition 23, the California ballot initiative to suspend A.B. 32, the State’s global warming law, until unemployment decreases to 5.5 %. Fiorina said that she had not yet taken a position on the proposition. What is it with California’s high-profile GOP candidates this election cycle? Like Fiorina, Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman refuses to declare whether she supports Proposition 23. With unemployment in the state above 12 %, polls indicate that the economy is the priority for California voters. AB 32 is designed to raise the price of energy, which would harm the economy. Supporting Proposition 23 should be a political winner.

Climategate Update

A Conflict of Interest in the Cuccinelli Case

Chris Horner, from Planet Gore

On Monday, Judge Paul Peatross ruled that Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli cannot access the University of Virginia’s records in his inquiry into Michael “Hockey Stick” Mann’s claims made to obtain research funding.

I attended the hearing a week ago Friday. Beforehand, Peatross cited his wife’s 1982 degree in environmental science from UVA and asked counsel whether they believed it disqualified him from hearing the University’s motion. That fact, apparently, was relevant. But the fact that the judge’s wife previously worked in the Department of Environmental Sciences – the very department that stood to suffer had he ruled in favor of the attorney general – was somehow not worth disclosing to counsel. I learned of this only after the hearing from Ms. Peatross’s former coworkers, who were astonished that her husband would decide such a matter given his seeming lack of objectivity.

This series of events gives the appearance of the judge’s failure to disclose. Indeed, it seems to rise to the level of a basis for the judge to recuse himself.

IPCC Rapped

The Inter-Academy Council (IAC) this week released its report on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The IAC study was prompted by conspicuous errors contained in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report, which won the Nobel Peace Prize. According to the Telegraph, the report is “extremely damaging.” In particular, the IAC report concludes that IPCC’s mistakes-including the unfounded claim that the Himalayan glaciers would melt by 2035-were caused by shoddy standards and weak leadership.

Here’s a roundup of commentary:

Wall Street Journal editorial, Climate of Uncertainty, 2 September 2010

Dr. Roy Spencer, Dump the IPCC, 1 September 2010

Telegraph editorial, Flawed Science, 30 august 2010

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,

Unemployment went back up to 9.6%, as the nation shed 54,000 jobs in August.  Yet Obama calls this “Recovery Summer.”  This is the same Obama who complained about the economic recovery in 2004 being jobless because unemployment was at 6 percent.  If you include discouraged workers, unemployment may be as high as 17 percent.

Earlier, governors warned that ObamaCare will increase unemployment.  Indiana’s governor said it will wipe out thousands of jobs in his state by raising taxes on medical device manufacturers.  It will also kill jobs by imposing huge record-keeping burdens on small businesses, requiring them to file IRS forms over even small purchases.

Employers are afraid to hire new employees because of looming new burdens, such as the global-warming regulations being drafted by the EPA, which could wipe out at least 800,000 jobs in the short run, and far more in the long run.  They also worry about costly new Congressional mandates, such as global-warming legislation backed by liberal Senators, which would provide corporate welfare for some businesses, but impose heavy burdens on many others.  Capping greenhouse gas emissions isn’t cheap — Obama himself told the San Francisco Chronicle that under his cap-and-trade plan to fight global warming, Americans’ electricity bills would “skyrocket,” and coal power plants that now provide much of the nation’s energy would go “bankrupt.” Although Obama and other backers of this “cap-and-trade” concept claim it will cut greenhouse gas emissions, it may perversely increase them by driving industry overseas to places with fewer environmental regulations, resulting in dirtier air, and damage to forests and water supplies.

The Congressional Budget Office has repeatedly admitted that Obama’s $862 billion stimulus package will shrink the economy “in the long run.”  The stimulus contained welfare and repealed welfare reform.  Unemployment is higher now than if Congress had voted it down.  Countries that refused to adopt big stimulus packages have fared better than those that imitated President Obama.  The biggest-spending countries have suffered worst in the recession. The stimulus package wiped out jobs in America’s export sector, while giving “green jobs” funding to foreign firms.

As discussed in my recent post “Obama’s EPA: School Marms R Us,” EPA and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NTSHA) are proposing to revise the mandatory fuel economy label or “sticker” affixed to new cars to include letter grades based on the car’s fuel economy and carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids would get an A+; the biggest, heaviest, gas guzzling SUVs would get a D.

To view the current sticker, click here. To see what the tut-tutting scolds at EPA and NHTSA want to replace it with, click here.

 Among other rationales for the new sticker design, the agencies claim that adding letter grades will help consumers make smarter purchases by combating something called the “MPG Illusion.”

The MPG Illusion refers to the common misperception that fuel savings from mpg increases are linear. People often assume that each additional 1 mile per gallon increase in a vehicle’s fuel economy reduces fuel consumption and gasoline expenditures by the same amount. Hence, some may conclude, if they can’t afford (or simply don’t want) a Toyota Prius, Chevy Volt, or some other high-mpg vehicle, there’s no point in buying a car with only modestly better fuel economy than their current vehicle. In reality, fuel consumption avoided and dollars saved decrease as mpg increases. Which is to say, the biggest fuel savings come from modest fuel-economy improvements in the lowest mpg vehicles. Some hypothetical (indeed fanciful) examples will make this crystal clear.

Suppose that your current car gets only 1 mile per gallon, you drive 100 miles per week, and gasoline costs $3.00 per gallon. This means you consume 100 gallons and spend $300.00 per week. If you replace that car with a 2 mpg vehicle, you’ll consume 50 gallons and save $150.00 per week. At the very bottom end of the scale, even a 1 mpg increase in fuel economy yields big savings.

Suppose now that your current car gets 99 mpg, you drive 100 miles per week, and gas costs $3.00. This means you consume 1.01 gallons and spend $3.03 per week. If you replace that car with a 100 mpg vehicle, you’ll consume 1 gallon and save 3 cents per week. At the very top of the fuel economy scale, the fuel and cost savings from an extra 1 mpg are negligible.

Turning to more realistic examples, EPA and NTSHA calculate (p. 28) that replacing a 10 mpg vehicle with a 15 mgp vehicle saves 33 gallons of gas for every 1000 miles driven whereas replacing a 30 mpg vehicle with a 35 mpg vehicle saves only an additional 5 gallons of gas for every 1000 miles driven. The same increase in fuel economy — in this case, an extra 5 mpg – saves more than six times as much fuel if the vehicle replaced gets 10 mpg rather than 30 mpg.

Professors Rick Larrick and Jack Soll of Princeton University put the MPG Illusion on the map when they published an article about it in Science magazine. They clearly explain the basic arithmetic in this Youtube video. Their illustrative case assumes a motorist who drives 100 miles per week. If the motorist has a 10 mpg vehicle and switches to a 20 mpg vehicle, he’ll cut his weekly fuel consumption from 10 gallons to 5 gallons — a savings of 5 gallons. If the motorist has a 25 mpg vehicle and switches to a 50 mpg  vehicle, he’ll cut his weekly fuel consumption from 4 gallons to 2 gallons — a savings of only 2 gallons.

“The key insight,” says Larrick, “is that improving inefficient cars, that have low mpgs, by even low mpg increases, saves a lot of gas.” Soll elaborates: “If you’re comparing two vehicles, one that gets 12 miles per gallon and the other that gets 15 miles per gallon, if you drive 10,000 miles in a year, you’ve saved about 170 gallons of gas [in the 15 mpg vehicle], and that comes out to be about $700.00 at $4.00 a gallon. So this [savings] is a significant amount even though the jump from 12 to 15 [mpg] may look pretty small.”

To counter the MPG Illusion, Larrick and Soll advise policymakers to express fuel economy in terms of the amount of fuel consumed per unit of distance traveled. Expressing fuel economy in the conventional way, as miles per gallon, leads people to “undervalue small improvements on inefficient vehicles” and “underestimate the value of removing the most fuel inefficient vehicles,” the researchers argue in Science magazine.

This, of course, is music to the ears of the anti-SUV crowd. Greenies would love to believe that the market for SUVs is sustained by an “illusion.” Because if that is so, then EPA and NHTSA can depress SUV sales just by making simple changes in how fuel-economy information is presented — just by redesigning the sticker

Years of SUV-bashing, fuel-economy prosyletizing, climate-change scaremongering, and high gasoline prices have failed to kill SUV sales. Could that have something to do with the attributes of the vehicles — their size, safety, and utility? I mean, there are objective differences between SUVs and cars greenies insist are “smart.” Just have a look! Nothing illusory about that.

If the MPG Illusion has anything to do with SUV sales, then you gotta ask: Who’s responsible for foisting the illusion on the public? Answer: the very people who’ve tried to brow beat us into believing that the only vehicle attribute worth considering is its mpg — the preachers and proselytizers of fuel economy! There’s no escaping the law of unintended consequences.

EPA and NHTSA  propose to combat the MPG Illusion in two ways. First, the sticker will estimate how many gallons of fuel the car will consume per 100 miles (as per Larrick and Soll’s advice). Second, the sticker will carry a letter grade. Presumably (the agencies don’t spell it out), EPA and NHTSA expect that bad grades will stigmatize gas guzzlers and discourage people from buying them.

Although the first option may counteract the MPG Illusion, the second will enhance it. As Larrick and Soll show, there is only a small difference in fuel savings between a 25 mpg car and a 50 mpg car. However, in the proposed EPA/NHTSA ratings (p. 37), the 25 mpg car gets a B and the 50 mpg car gets an A-. As anyone knows who has ever applied to college, an A- GPA is way better than a B GPA. The grading system implies that the biggest fuel savings are achieved at the top end of the scale.

On the other hand, a 14 mpg vehicle gets a C- whereas a 17 mpg vehicle gets a C. That 3 mpg increment is a big deal in fuel savings, according to Larrick and Soll. Yet how many car buyers will be impressed because a particular vehicle is rated C rather than C-? Except in jest, I’ve never met anyone who boasted of getting solid Cs in high school or college.

In short, the proposed EPA/NHTSA grading system perpetuates the MPG Illusion, which, unfortunately for fuel-economy zealots, cuts both ways. The illusion of linearity not only under-values savings from fuel-economy improvements in low-mpg vehicles, it also over-values savings from fuel-economy improvements in high-mpg vehicles.

EPA and NHTSA, apparently, want to manipulate the MPG Illusion rather than actually dispell it. They don’t like the illusion when (as they believe) it promotes SUV sales, but they like it when (as they hope) it promotes hybrid, plug-in hybrid, and electric vehicle sales. But the attempted manipulation fails, because the grading system, like the MPG Illusion, both over-values high-end mpg improvements and under-values low-end mpg improvements.

Grading cars actually means grading the people who buy them. People who buy cars with super-low or zero emissions are A or A+ people. Those who buy gas guzzlers wear dunce caps. The South Park spoof on the “Toyonda Pius,” Smug Alert, all-too-accurately depicts the greener-than-thou pretension of EPA and NHTSA’s proposed grading system.

Last week, the Obama Administration filed a brief  on behalf of industry petitioners urging the Supreme Court to vacate an appeals court decision (State of Connecticut et al. v. American Electric Power et al.) that would allow States and private parties to sue coal-burning electric utilities for their alleged contribution to global warming-related “injuries.”

The brief clearly lays out the absurdities of attempting to regulate greenhouse gases via common-law public nuisance litigation. Because global warming is, well, global, practically anyone on Earth could claim to be a victim. And because companies emit carbon dioxide (CO2) only as a byproduct of providing goods and services (electricity, cars, food, medical care, bites of information, etc.) to people, practically everyone on the planet could be sued as a contributor to the alleged injuries. In the memorable words of South Park’s hilarious global warming episode, Two Days Before The Day After Tomorrow, “We all broke the dam!”

In addition, the Obama brief points out that, “Establishing appropriate levels for the reductions of carbon dioxide emissions from power plants by a ’specified percentage each year for at least a decade’ (as Plaintiffs request), would inevitably entail multifarious policy judgments, which should be made by decision-makers who are politically accountable, have expertise, and are able to pursue a coherent national or international strategy — either at a single stroke or incrementally.”

Yet the brief stops short of reaching the obvious conclusion implied by its argument, namely, that climate policy is a “non-justiciable political question.” Instead, it advises the Supreme Court to direct the court of appeals to reassess its decision on “prudential” grounds. Rather than seek a decision that would preempt all future CO2 litigation, the brief instead seeks to put one particular CO2 lawsuit on ice.

I smell a rat. The Administration, I suspect, does not want the Court to rule that the political question doctrine precludes public nuisance litigation against CO2-emitters, because it wants the only solid, durable shield against litigation chaos to be the EPA’s “displacement” of common-law injury claims via the agency’s endangerment rule and the ensuing regulatory cascade.

Just as the Administration used the endangerment rule to try and spook Congress and industry into supporting cap-and-trade, it is now using CO2 litigation to try and spook them into supporting — or at least not aggressively attacking — EPA regulation of greenhouse gases via the Clean Air Act. 

In short, as I discuss in a column this week in Pajamas Media, the Administration needs to keep the prospect of CO2 litigation alive in order to sustain the ”greenhouse protection racket” — the strategy of regulatory extortion — on which warmists increasingly rely to promote their agenda.