February 2011

Post image for For Natural Gas, the Other Shoe Drops

For years, certain natural gas producers, led by Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon, have pursued a myopic strategy of demonizing coal in an effort to seize a larger share of the electricity generation market.

It started in 2008, when Chesapeake funded an unsigned “Dirty Coal” advertising campaign. It featured black and white photos of children, with coal smudged faces, looking sad. Having set the table with anti coal propaganda, McClendon then teamed up with the Sierra Club’s Carl Pope to implement a legislative strategy. The pair traveled around the country, pitching natural gas as the “bridge fuel” to a green energy future.

They scored one major success, in Colorado. There, ex-Governor Bill Ritter had made the “New Energy Economy,” the centerpiece of his administration. As such, he was receptive to fuel switching as a way to meet his Climate Action Plan, a non-binding mandate to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 2008 levels. As I’ve written about at length here, the Ritter Administration engaged in a number of deceptions to carry Chesapeake’s water.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Senator Al Franken’s Shakedown Undermined Energy Secretary Chu’s Defense

Energy Secretary Steven Chu today testified before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on the Obama administration’s  budget for the Department of Energy (DOE). Despite the fact that the DOE has yet to spend $21 billion in stimulus money (about 60% of its 2010 budget), the White House proposed a 12% budget increase.

Minnesota Senator Al Franken was unconcerned with the deficit implications of giving billions more taxpayer dollars to a bureaucracy that has yet to spend the billions of taxpayer dollars it already has. Instead, he had a much more parochial matter in mind.

His line of questioning for the Energy Secretary focused on Sage Electrochromic, a Minnesota-based window manufacturer. Senator Franken explained that the window company had received a $70 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy, which you’d think would be  pleasing to the Senator. After all, a federally backed loan is a taxpayer subsidy that allows recipients to obtain better financing.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Biofueling an Egyptian Uprising

Last week the New York Times Paul Krugman noted that near-record high food prices instigated the social instability in Cairo that has since led to overturning of Egypt’s government. However, Krugman went on to blame the rise in food prices on global warming, which is pure poppycock, as is explained by Roger Pielke Jr. In an editorial last Tuesday, the Washington Post identified a much more plausible explanation for the spike in food prices: ethanol.

This year, American farmers will divert a third of the corn crop into the production of corn fuels that are more expensive and environmentally harmful than regular gasoline. Naturally, this has increased demand for corn, which, in turn, has pushed prices to historic highs. American farmers set the global price for corn, so the impact of our foolish ethanol prices is felt worldwide. American corn is one of the largest crops in the world, and by displacing land given to other crops, the ethanol mandate also increases the price of wheat and soybeans on the international market.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Are Heavily Subsidized Wind, Solar, and Biofuels “Sustainable” Energies?

So-called “sustainability” advocates never tire of condemning fossil fuels as unsustainable. Their assessment is based on ideology, not facts, I argue in  “Sustainability: Some Free Market Reflections” over at MasterResource.Org, the free-market energy blog.

By any reasonable definition, modern commercial energy (except for heavily subsidized renewables) is sustainable. Whether we consider air pollution, life expectancy, health of the elderly, vulnerability to extreme weather, per capita food consumption, or access to safe drinking water, the long-term trends show dramatic — and continuing — global improvement. Abundant, affordable, reliable energy from fossil fuels is a key factor driving those improvements.

The truly unsustainable energy sources are those that cannot ‘compete’ without special policy privileges. Clearly, subsidy-dependent enterprises are not self-sustaining. Chronic subsidy-dependence is an indication the value of the resources an enterprise consumes exceeds the value of the products and services it provides.  So from both a business and environmental standpoint, wind and solar power do not deserve to be called sustainable.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Cooler Heads Digest 11 February 2011

In the News

Newt Gingrich and Nancy Pelosi: Energy Policy Partners
Al Kaman, Washington Post, 11 February 2011

“Sustainability”: Some Free Market Perspectives
Marlo Lewis, MasterResource.org, 11 February 2011

The High Speed Rail Boondoggle
Lou Dolinar, National Review, 11 February2011

No Arctic “Tipping Point”
David Whitehouse, The Observatory, 10 February 2011

What Happens When Economists Skip Econ 101
David Kreutzer, The Foundry, 10 February 2011

More Greenie “Con” Jobs
Chris Horner, American Spectator, 8 February 2011

Chrysler Super Controversy
Henry Payne, Planet Gore, 8 February 2011

The Trouble with the “Green Jobs” Approach
Debra Saunders, San Francisco Chronicle, 6 February 2011

News You Can Use

Cold Weather Kills

In the wake of record freezing temperatures and snowstorms that wreaked havoc across the American south again this week, it bears repeating that cold weather is a public health threat—much more so than any of the fantasy harms imagined by global warming alarmists. As noted by Indur Goklany, the empirical evidence clearly demonstrates that mortality in developed countries is significantly greater during winter months.

Inside the Beltway

Myron Ebell

House Energy and Commerce Committee Holds Hearing on EPA Pre-emption

The Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a day-long hearing on Wednesday on the Inhofe-Upton-Whitfield draft legislation (titled the Energy Tax Prevention Act) to block EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas regulations.  The star witnesses were Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) and EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.  They were followed by two panels of witnesses from the private sector plus the Attorney General of Texas, Greg Abbott.  I didn’t hear them all, but of the witnesses I did hear I was especially impressed by Abbott,  Mr. Steve Rowlan of steelmaker Nucor, and Mr. Peter Glaser of the law firm Troutman Sanders.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Political pressure to fix energy problems of the future

The coldest temperatures in the contiguous states created a “state of emergency” due to a disruption of natural gas delivery. Power plants were shut down, workers sent home, schools closed, and shelters set up for those without heat. This was Thursday, February 3. Many people remained without heat a week later while temperatures reached as low as thirty-degrees-below zero.

This was in New Mexico but other states in the southwest faced rolling blackouts and a variety of energy related emergencies. This same problem could face the nation if we continue down the path we’ve been pursuing for our energy supplies.

Businesses, residents and hospitals received word that there may be natural gas disruptions throughout the day. This did not mean that there was, as many believed, a shortage, but rather rolling blackouts in Texas were causing pressure problems in the pipelines-the delivery system. There may have been enough gas to fire up your cook top, but not enough pressure for a furnace. The cold weather and lack of heat combined to create a state of emergency.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Report Outlines State Strategies to Resist EPA Leviathan

In response to the growing tangle of regulations proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the American Legislative Exchange Council has published EPA’s Regulatory Train Wreck: Strategies for State Legislators. The report serves as a toolkit for states to use in combating these regulations, which both burdens finite state resources and legally impedes on the states’ role in our system of government.

EPA is in the process of rapidly tightening its existing regulations and expanding its reach in areas ranging from chemicals in plastic bottles to air quality to greenhouse gas emissions, creating a mess of duplicative and cumbersome rules.  The report highlights one small subsection of this emerging regime – the Agency’s attack on the use of fossil fuels, and particularly coal, for electric generation and other commercial and manufacturing processes – to illustrate the broader issues resulting from this agenda.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Energy & Commerce Hearing: Rep. Markey Waves the Flag

Rather than address the real issue of the hearing, namely, whether Congress or EPA should determine the content and direction of national policy, Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) accuses supporters of the Energy Tax Prevention Act of working to “disarm” America in the war on terror.

He reasons as follows. EPA greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations would limit U.S. oil consumption, hence reduce imports of foreign oil. That in turn would reduce the quantity of petrodollars flowing to the Mideast, which in turn would reduce Mideast governments’ support for Al Qaeda. Therefore, any bill blocking EPA’s regulation of GHG emissions from, say, heavy trucks, is objectively pro-Al Qaeda and can only be explained by the greediness of Oklahoma oilmen.

This is horsefeathers on many levels.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Energy & Commerce Hearing: Questions Energy Tax Prevention Act Supporters Should Be Asking

Rep. John Sullivan (R-Okla.) clarified that today’s hearing is not on climate science but on whether Congress or EPA makes climate policy and the cost of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations. Right!

Somebody though needs to ask Administrator Jackson questions that flesh out Sullivan’s point:

  1. When will EPA respond to the environmental groups’ December 2009 petition to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for CO2 set at 350 parts per million (ppm)?
  2. The Waxman-Markey “stabilization target” was 450 ppm by 2050. Yet the Clean Air Act requires states to attain NAAQS within 5-10 years. Wouldn’t a CO2 NAAQS thus require far more draconian cuts in fossil energy use than would Waxman-Markey, a bill Congress considered too costly to pass?
  3. Would EPA then have to issue a new “Tailoring Rule” re-imagining the Act’s 5-10 NAAQS timeline to mean, say, 50-100 years?
  4. What does it tell us about EPA and the Court’s reading of the Clean Air Act that EPA has to amend – or in bureaucrat-speak, “tailor” – the law in order to avoid “absurd results,” notably, an administrative quagmire that would both paralyze environmental enforcement and freeze economic development?
Post image for Energy & Commerce Hearing: Does the Clean Air Act Authorize EPA to Regulate Greenhouse Gases?

That’s the question Rep. Henry Waxman just asked EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson. She replied: “The Supreme Court said greenhouse gases fit into the Clean Air Act’s broad definition of ‘air pollutants.'” Or words to that effect.

Civics 101:

  • Congress, not the Supreme Court, wrote the Clean Air Act (CAA).
  • The Supreme Court is not infallible. If it were, Supreme Court decisions would always be unanimous. Massachusetts v. EPA, the case to which Administrator Jackson alludes, was a 5-4 decision.
  • Congress and the Supreme Court are co-equal branches under the Constitution. Every Member of Congress takes an oath to “uphold the Constitution.” Therefore, every Member has a constitutional duty to exercise his own judgment as to what the Constitution means, what statutes mean, and whether agency actions under enacted statutes comport with or flout congressional intent.
  • If Members think the Court messed up, or if they merely think that the Court’s decision leads to bad public policy, they have a constitutional duty to rectify the Court’s error by passing laws like the Inhofe-Upton-Whitfield Energy Tax Prevention Act.

As it happens, a strong case can be made that the Court erred when it decided, in Massachusetts v. EPA, that greenhouse gases are “air pollutants” within the meaning of the statute.

[click to continue…]