July 2011

Yesterday morning I reported on an intensifying showdown between two branches of government over a controversial loan guarantee issued to Solyndra, Inc., a California-based rooftop solar components manufacturer. In a nutshell, the House Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations (of the Energy and Commerce Committee) is looking into whether Solyndra’s $535 million loan guarantee had anything to do with the fact that the solar company’s chief financial backer was a major fundraiser for President Barack Obama’s campaign. Further casting suspicion on the loan guarantee was its suspicious timing, almost 10 months before the next such issuance. Only months after the loan guarantee was granted, Solyndra suffered major financial difficulties, and the company had to shutter a plant. Since January, the Subcommittee has been investigating whether taxpayer dollars were put at undue risk so that the President could reward a political friend, but the Office of Management and Budget has stonewalled the inquiry. The OMB has refused to produce documents, and also to send a representative to testify before the Subcommittee. After months of obfuscation, the Subcommittee got fed up, and voted on July 14 to subpoena documents from the OMB. These documents were due yesterday morning at 9:00 A.M.

Last night, Energy and Environment News PM reported that OMB failed to produce any information, and instead asked for until Friday to produce almost 300 pages of documents. E&E PM reporter John McArdle quoted this email reaction from a Subcommittee staffer:

[click to continue…]

Post image for Energy and Environment News

Wind Power: Politically Correct Environmental Damage
Tom Tanton, Master Resource, 26 July 2011

Green Cops Aren’t Better for the Planet
Dennis Byrne, Chicago Tribune, 26 July 2011

Exporting Gas Benefits America
Nicolas Loris, The Foundry, 25 July 2011

Global Warming Panel to Earth’s Rescue, on UN’s Dime?
Rachel Marsden, Human Events, 24 July 2011

Is EPA’s Purpose Protecting the Environment, or Shuttering Industry?
Bryan Shaw, Washington Examiner, 23 July 2011

Post image for Laundry Care Labels Grab the Regulatory Limelight

Great news–the Federal Trade Commission is reexamining its textile care labeling regulation!  This is the rule, first issued in 1971, that requires those little labels in clothing that tell you “dry clean only” or “wash in cold water” or whatever else is appropriate.  Some people find certain of these labels irritating—literally irritating, that is, like when they’re made of stiff fabric that rubs against your neck.  Personally, I find them pretty handy, though I’m not sure we need a federal rule to guarantee their presence.

The FTC says its reexamination is part of its systematic review of all its regs.  It’s not clear whether the end result will be better or worse.  Right now the rule actually prohibits any reference to “professional wetcleaning” in a label (that’s the allegedly eco-friendly water-based type of commercial cleaning, as opposed to traditional solvent-based drycleaning).  Perhaps that will change.  On the other hand, the FTC is also considering whether to mandate care instructions in foreign languages.  That’s sure to make those itchy labels even itchier.

Here’s my suggestion:  any label that states that an item can be home-laundered should also state the following, “If your washing machine is a newly-manufactured conventional top-loader, don’t even bother trying to wash this or any other article of clothing.”  This would reflect the fact that, as Consumer Reports found several months ago, these washing machine models are now “often mediocre or worse.”  

[click to continue…]

Post image for NYC Mayor Bloomberg Gives $50 Million to Anti-Coal Campaign

Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York City and billionaire founder of the Bloomberg financial news service, has announced that he is giving $50 million to the Sierra Club for their Beyond Coal campaign.  The gift over four years from Bloomberg’s charitable foundation will allow the Sierra Club to double their Beyond Coal staff to 200 and expand their efforts from 15 to 45 States.

The Sierra Club takes credit for stopping 153 new coal-fired power plants.  Now, they will be able to campaign to shut down existing plants.  Apparently, Mayor Bloomberg is happy to make billions of dollars supplying financial news to business and industry, but doesn’t care about restoring economic growth or about out-of-work people struggling to pay their electric bills and keep the lights on.

The local utility company had just released their report outlining how they’d met the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), passed by the legislators back in 2007. I posted the following on my Facebook page: “New Mexico Utility Company report outlining future energy plans = more expensive electricity facing all states with RPS.” A long series of posts followed including this one from Steve: “The sky is WAY too clean! Let’s get some Los Angeles-style haze going on. And our water? Way too clean… let’s dump battery acid in it! There’s not enough lung cancer in NM to support our private cancer clinics—let’s get some air pollution in this mother! If you want to live where you can see the sun and breathe the air, sorry, it might have to cost a little more.”

Next, Todd posted: “Are you arguing that the current environment is so bad that we have the cancer, the haze, the battery acid? Are you saying that people who violate the law will not be prosecuted? It seems so. I would also suggest that you have a burden of proof here. You would need to prove that the system is broken before requiring new laws.” Steve didn’t post again.

[click to continue…]

Post image for The Ethos of the Ethanol Industry

Bob Dineen, writing in Ethanol Producer Magazine:

This may seem a daunting task but the industry has no other choice than to do the hard work necessary to drive ethanol market expansion and accelerate this industry’s evolution.  As we have clearly seen, no one is going to do it for us.  The success of E15 and the future of this industry are firmly in our capable hands.

That about sums up their attitude. Wouldn’t it be easier if the government would do it for us? Because years of tax credits, foreign tariffs, loan guarantees, national mandates that require other companies to purchase your products, and state support have not been enough. No, they face the daunting task of actually having to convince consumers to buy more of their product than they’re already required to. Poor guys. After the EPA approved E15 for use in MY2001-present vehicles, the ethanol industry is charged with the difficult task of convincing gas stations to sell E15 (and for consumers to buy it) despite it providing lower fuel efficiency per dollar spent.


Post image for Federal Showdown over Solyndra Comes to a Head

A government showdown between the Congress and the President will come to a head this morning at 9 A.M. That’s the deadline set by the House Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee (of the Energy and Commerce Committee) for the Office of Management and Budget to produce  documents relating to the Department of Energy Loan Programs Office’s* issuance of a loan guarantee to Solyndra, Inc. The Subcommittee took the rare step of subpoenaing the executive branch agency on Thursday, July 14, by a party-line vote, 14-8.

Here’s the background. In late 2009, Solyndra, a manufacturer of solar rooftop components, was the recipient of the first loan guarantee issued by the Department of Energy pursuant to the “Section 1705 program” created by the 2009 stimulus. Only months after receiving the $535 million loan guarantee, Solyndra pulled back on a planned public offering after a PricewaterhouseCooper’s audit found that the company’s finances “raise substantial doubt about its ability to continue as a going concern.” In November 2010, the company announced that it would shutter a plant and lay off 170 employees. Last week, Solyndra CEO Brian Harrison made the rounds on Capitol Hill to perform damage control. I suspect that whatever rosy financial numbers he presented were influenced heavily by the billions of dollars in renewable energy subsidies that are still trickling out of the Department of Energy. (So much for the stimulus mantra, “temporary, targeted, and timely,” right?). As such, I wouldn’t trust any data put forth by any renewable energy company until after the stimulus money is (finally) spent.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Energy and Environment News

2011 U.S. Temperature Update: Alarmism Not
Chip Knappenberger, Master Resource, 25 July 2011

The Great CAFE Stick-up
Henry Payne, Planet Gore, 25 July 2011

Rhetoric on Renewable Energy Does Not Match Reality
Jon Ralston, Las Vegas Sun, 24 July 2011

If IPCC Seal Level Numbers Aren’t Bad Enough, Try Tripling Them
David Kreutzer, The Foundry, 22 July 2011

Inhibiting an Oil and Gas Boom
Paul Chesser, American Spectator, 22 July 2011

This Week in the Congress

by Myron Ebell on July 24, 2011

in Blog

Post image for This Week in the Congress

Bill Introduced To Block EU from Forcing U.S. Airlines into Cap-and-Trade Scheme

Representative John L. Mica, Chairman of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, has introduced a bill with strong bipartisan support that would prohibit U. S. airlines from taking part in the European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme.  The bill is an attempt to block the European Union from their latest attempt to extend their cap-and-trade scheme beyond the EU.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Update on EPA’s War on Coal: Trading Jobs for Bugs in Appalachia

The Environmental Protection Agency this week issued a final Guidance document directing Appalachian States and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to account for saline effluent when they issue Clean Water Act permits to surface mining projects, including so-called mountaintop removal mines. The EPA set the regulatory threshold for salinity “pollution” so low that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has said that “no or very few [surface mines] are going to meet this standard.” Obviously, this will have a severe negative impact on the Appalachian coal industry. EPA’s justification for the Guidance is to protect a short-lived insect that isn’t an endangered species.

Surface coal mining in Appalachia, which is sanctioned by the 1977 Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, is loathed by the President’s environmentalist base, but it is essential for the industry’s competitiveness. Since June 2009, the EPA has used precursor documents to the final Guidance to review permitting decisions made by Appalachian States and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. These EPA actions effectively created a “permitorium” on new mountaintop mines. On January 13 2011, the EPA went so far as to veto a Clean Water Act permit that had already been issued to Arch Coal for the Spruce No. 1 Mine in Logan County, West Virginia. It was the first time the EPA ever used this authority to veto a Clean Water Act permit that had been issued to a surface coal mine.

[click to continue…]