In the News
EPA’s Benefit-Cost Estimates (30 free lunches for the price of 1?)
Garrett Vaughn, MasterResource.org, 31 March 2011
When Will Media Report That Corporate Cash is Behind Green Activism?
Paul Chesser, National Legal and Policy Center, 31 March 2011
Gallup: Global Warming Least Concern of Least Concern for Voters
Ed Morrissey, Hot Air, 28 March 2011
News You Can Use
Good News on Sea Level Rise
Drs. Sherwood, Craig, and Keith Idso, at the Center for Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, have posted an editorial at CO2science.org on sea-level rise that reviews a new study based on global tide gauge data. The study, Houston and Dean (2011), finds that the rate of sea-level rise over the past 80 years has not accelerated and, in fact, has slightly decelerated.
Inside the Beltway
House Ready To Pass Upton Bill Next Week
The House has scheduled H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, for floor debate and passage on Wednesday, 6th April. This could still slip given the wrangling that is going on between the House and the Senate over the Continuing Resolution to fund the federal government for the rest of FY 2011 after the current CR runs out on 8th April.
Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton’s (R-Mich.) bill will pass easily with over 250 votes. That most likely includes all 241 Republicans and 12 to 20 Democrats.
The Rules Committee has not yet met to decide which amendments will be in order. Conservative Republicans in the Republican Study Committee are considering offering several amendments to strengthen the bill.
H. R. 910 as marked up by the Energy and Commerce Committee prohibits the EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions, but does not prohibit the Administration from using other existing statutes to regulate emissions. Nor does it ban common law nuisance lawsuits against emitters of greenhouse gases, such as power plants, manufacturers, railroads, airlines, and cement producers.
Thus one obvious amendment would be to ban common law nuisance suits. The Supreme Court is currently considering such a case. It may find that such suits may proceed, but even if it does not it could do so for the wrong reason—namely, that the EPA is regulating emissions and has thereby pre-empted common law.
Democrats led by Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills) will undoubtedly offer some of the same silly, irrelevant grandstanding amendments that they offered in committee. Waxman was reported this week as expressing confidence that the bill has no chance in the Senate.
That was certainly true of his Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in the last Congress. One significant difference is that Waxman-Markey barely passed the House, 219-212. The Upton-Whitfield bill will pass by a much wider margin.
Moreover, cap-and-trade was swimming against strong public opposition, while blocking EPA’s attempt to achieve cap-and-trade through the regulatory backdoor is swimming with public opinion. That’s why, for example, Senator Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) is still undecided about voting for the McConnell amendment (which is identical to the Senate version of H. R. 910) in the Senate. She doesn’t want to vote for it, but she’d like to be re-elected in 2012.
Will the Senate Ever Vote on the McConnell Amendment?
The Senate spent another week without voting on Senator Mitch McConnell’s (R-Ky.) amendment to block EPA from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions or either of the two Democratic alternatives. It is quite possible that there will be votes next week. It is also quite possible that Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) will work out a deal with McConnell to dispose of many of the amendments to the underlying bill without votes and proceed to passage of the Small Business Innovation Research Re-Authorization Act. Or Reid may keep stalling.
McConnell originally introduced his amendment (#183 if you’re keeping track) to S. 493 on 15th March. It is identical to Senator James M. Inhofe’s (R-Okla.) Energy Tax Prevention Act, S. 482, which is identical to the House bill of the same name, H. R. 910.
Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced an amendment to try to provide cover for fellow Democrats and thereby siphon support from McConnell’s amendment. Rockefeller would delay EPA regulations for two years.
That hasn’t gained much support, so Senator Max Baucus (D-Mont.) introduced another amendment that would codify EPA regulation of major emitters, but permanently exempt minor emitters, such as small businesses, farms, and ranches. The American Farm Bureau Federation’s strong opposition has discredited the case for Baucus’s amendment.
The wrangling has gone on for so long that a third Democratic amendment, combining some of the worst aspects of the two other Democratic amendments, was introduced this week by Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.). Her amendment has fallen flat, too.
Should the Senate vote on the McConnell amendment, it looks to have the support of all 47 Republicans and three Democrats—Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, and Ben Nelson of Nebraska. That makes 50. Because of the Senate rules on non-germane amendments, passage requires 60 votes.
That’s not going to happen, but I think it’s important that they get at least 51 votes. That would demonstrate majority support and would give Reid problems in trying to keep it from being introduced as a germane amendment to other bills. There appears to be only a couple more possible Democratic votes in favor—Claire McCaskill of Missouri and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan. Both are up for re-election in 2012.
Obama’s Energy Speech: Deeply Confused
Faced with rising gas prices (which tend to correlate inversely quite closely with presidential approval ratings), President Barack Obama on Wednesday gave a major speech at Georgetown University on energy policy. Obama set one major goal—to lower oil imports by one third by 2025.
As my CEI colleague William Yeatman notes in a post on www.GlobalWarming.org and Doug Powers on Michelle Malkin’s web site here, the President may have a goal, but his plan for getting there makes little sense. He proposes three steps to reducing oil imports: first, produce more oil domestically. Obama claims that that has been the policy of his administration, but that is clearly untrue.
If the President really wants to produce more oil, he would have endorsed the three bills introduced on Tuesday by Rep. Doc Hastings, Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. But in fact, the purpose of those three bills is to undo the Interior Department’s decisions to lock up federal offshore areas from oil exploration and force Interior to raise offshore oil production by three million barrels a day within fifteen years. Three million barrels a day would just about achieve the President’s goal of cutting our oil imports of 11 million barrels a day (in 2008) by one third.
But President Obama claimed that producing more oil couldn’t be a long-term way to reduce oil imports because we consume 25% of the world’s oil, but have only 2% of the world’s proven reserves. This is a ridiculous canard. The reason the United States has only 2% of the world’s proven reserves is because the federal government has prohibited oil exploration in most of our offshore areas around the continental U. S. and around Alaska and in areas of high potential on land, most notably the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
More fundamentally, proven reserves is a misleading statistic, which is why President Obama and environment pressure groups like to use it. As Jeffrey Hubbard points out on the Institute for Energy Research blog (and thanks to Dan Simmons of IER for calling this to my attention), “In 1980 the U.S. had oil reserves of 29.81 billion barrels. From 1980 through 2009, we produced 75.36 billion barrels of oil. In other words, we produced 250 percent of our proved reserves over the last 30 years.”
The second step is to move to alternatives to oil. The President seems unaware that the alternative fuels mandated and subsidized by the federal government are all more expensive than oil.
And the third step is to mandate reductions in energy use through methods such as Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards. Obama promised that he would soon be proposing new higher CAFE standards on top of the new higher CAFE standards enacted by Congress in 2007. The number that has been floated by the Administration is 62 miles per gallon by 2025. That would be the average vehicle.
Around the World
Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard suffered a major setback last week over her proposal to vote as early as June on legislation that will tax and limit carbon emissions. A significant state election loss in New South Wales last week left Australia’s Labor Party with only about a quarter of the 93 elected state officials and a historically low popularity among voters. On the election, Opposition Leader Tony Abbott commented: “’The message that is coming loud and clear from the struggling families of NSW is that the carbon tax is toxic.” Along with a recent report finding the new climate proposals will cost the average Australian family $863 per year (~$890 U.S.), the chance of passing a carbon tax in Australia is looking less likely.
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