August 2011


Last Friday, the New York Times reported that California has spent half of $186 million in stimulus money earmarked for energy efficiency, in order to create 538 full time jobs, at a cost of almost $173,000 per job. For more on the dubious economics behind the President’s push for green jobs, read this testimony by Ken Green of the American Enterprise Institute.


In 2008, buoyed by $58 million in subsidies from the Massachusetts government, Evergreen Solar opened a solar power components manufacturing plant in Devens. A year later, the company moved operations to China. Last week, it announced it was bankrupt, with more than $450 million in debt. Massachusetts is owed more than $40 million, but it is unlikely to recoup any money.

Gulf Coast

At Master Resource, Kevin Mooney reported last Thursday that ten oil rigs have left the Gulf of Mexico since the Obama Administration imposed a moratorium on deepwater oil and gas drilling in May 2010.  There were 33 rigs in operation at the time of the BP disaster, which means that 30 % of rigs have departed. And they aren’t coming back. The rigs left the Gulf for locations in Egypt, Congo, French Guiana, Liberia, Nigeria and Brazil.

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Lessons from Evergreen Solar’s Bankruptcy
Gary Hunt, Master Resource, 24 August 2011

Sea Level Declined in 2010
Greg Pollowitz, Planet Gore, 24 August 2011

Green Economy Is Hope over Experience
William O’Keefe, National Journal, 22 August 2011

If a Tree Falls: A Story of the Earth Liberation Front
James Bowman, American Spectator, 22 August 2011

Louisiana Says No to Renewable Mandate
Robert Ross, The Pelican Post, 22 August 2011

The EPA’s Giant Green Job Killer
Michael Walsh, New York Post, 22 August 2011

Evergreen Solar: Or, Why Government Shouldn’t Be Picking Winners in Energy Industry
Adam Peshek, Reason, 22 August 2011

Post image for How Many Hybrid Cars Were Sold Last Year in that Awakening Green Giant, China?

‘Clean-tech’ advocates depict China as a model for U.S. policymakers, because Beijing subsidizes the manufacture of wind turbines, solar panels, and electric vehicles.

In February, China announced plans to manufacture 1 million electric vehicles by 2015. To make green cars affordable, Beijing would pay automakers to cut the price of a battery car by $8,785 and a plug-in hybrid by $7,320. Of course, the announcement did not mention that millions of Chinese people who are still too poor to own cars would be taxed for the benefit of their wealthier brethren.

Not to be outdone by this visionary plan, President Obama, in his State of the Union Address, also called for incentives to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

Neither prognostication is likely to come true.

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The Green Jobs Fumble

by Brian McGraw on August 19, 2011

in Blog

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Coming out of The New York Times of all places, “Number of Green Jobs Fails to Live Up to Promises.” Unsurprisingly, it has the green groups riled up.

A study released in July by the non-partisan Brookings Institution found clean-technology jobs accounted for just 2 percent of employment nationwide and only slightly more — 2.2 percent — in Silicon Valley. Rather than adding jobs, the study found, the sector actually lost 492 positions from 2003 to 2010 in the South Bay, where the unemployment rate in June was 10.5 percent.

Federal and state efforts to stimulate creation of green jobs have largely failed, government records show. Two years after it was awarded $186 million in federal stimulus money to weatherize drafty homes, California has spent only a little over half that sum and has so far created the equivalent of just 538 full-time jobs in the last quarter, according to the State Department of Community Services and Development.

The weatherization program was initially delayed for seven months while the federal Department of Labor determined prevailing wage standards for the industry. Even after that issue was resolved, the program never really caught on as homeowners balked at the upfront costs.

(Note that it took seven months, as in 210 days or almost 60% of a year, to figure out wage standards for an industry. Good enough for government work.)

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Post image for The EPA Cannot Be Trusted to Keep the Lights on

While campaigning for the Presidency, then-Senator Barack Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle that he would “bankrupt” the coal industry. Today, the Environmental Protection Agency busily endeavors to fulfill the President’s pledge by imposing unnecessary regulations that are virtually impossible for coal-fired power plants to achieve.

Consider the Utility MACT rule, which seeks to cut US power plants’ emissions of mercury from 29 tons a year to just five. Yet EPA itself estimates that cutting even as much as 41 tons out of total emissions of 105 tons “is unlikely to substantially affect total risk.” In order to achieve these non-existent benefits, the EPA set emissions thresholds that no power plant currently meets.

Then there’s the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Texas was excluded from the proposed rule. In the final rule, however, Texas was included, due to the supposed need to slightly reduce emissions as monitored 500 miles away in Madison County, Ill.—a locale that meets the EPA air-quality standards in question. The EPA ordered the Lone Star State to reduce sulfur-dioxide emissions 47 % within 6 months, despite the fact that it takes 3 years to install sulfur “scrubber” retrofits on coal-fired power plants.

Already, the electricity industry is sounding the alarm that the regulatory burden is going to take a big toll on power production. Earlier this month, Southern Power, the largest American utility, reported that the EPA’s proposed regulations would necessitate the closing of 4,000 megawatts of coal-fired power, and also $10 to $18 billion for new emissions reductions equipment. In June, American Electric Power, the third largest utility, announced that its plan to comply with pending air quality regulations would shutter 6,000 megawatts of coal power, and spend $6 billion to $8 billion on emissions controls.

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Post image for EPA Imposes $370 Million Regulation on New Mexico, for Invisible Benefits

There is a regional dichotomy to the Environmental Protection Agency’s war on coal demand. East of the Mississippi River, the EPA is cracking down on coal using the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule. Thanks to lower population density, an abundance of low sulfur coal, and newer plant stock, most states west of the Mississippi are not subject to this regulation.

In order to target western coal, the Environmental Protection Agency is leveraging a long ignored provision of the Clean Air Act designed to improve visibility, known as the Regional Haze rule. Notably, this is an aesthetic regulation, not a health-based regulation. Another facet of the rule is the unique discretion it affords states. According to the EPA’s 2005 Regional Haze guidelines, “Congress evinced a special concerning with insuring that states would be the decision-makers.” Also in the 2005 guidelines, the EPA established recommended emissions controls to comply with the visibility regulation. These recommendations are known as “presumptive limits.”

In a recent oped for the Albuquerque Journal, I explain how the EPA is abusing the Regional Haze rule to run roughshod over elected officials in New Mexico. Here’s the gist:

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Post image for Scientists Offer New Reason to Curb GHG Emissions: Prevent Pre-Emptive Attack by Space Aliens (Updated 1:25 pm)

No, I’m not making this up, and it’s not a prank.

“A preemptive strike [by extra-terrestrials] would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI [extra-terrestrial intelligence] because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions,” write researchers from Pennsylvania State University and NASA* in a study entitled “Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis.”

Science correspondent Ian Sample reviewed the study yesterday in the UK Guardian. A pearl from his article:

“Green” aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. “These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets,” the authors write.

Sample shows these speculations the proper respect by posting this picture at the top of his article:

Clearly, the IPPC climate impact assessments are too “conservative” and global warming poses a bigger threat than scientists previously predicted.

The only point I would add to Sample’s knee-slapper of a review is that the “green alien” scienario made its Hollywood debut in the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Keanu Reeves.

In the original 1951 film, Klaatu and his robot Gort come to Earth to deliver an ultimatum: Mankind must end the nuclear arms race and abandon its warlike ways or Earth will be destroyed. In the remake, Klaatu and Gort come to rescue plant and animal species endangered by global warming and to exterminate mankind as punishment for our fuelish ways. Gort pulverizes our fossil-fueled industrial infrastructure and is on the verge of wiping out humanity when Klaatu, moved by the beauty and purity of heart of astrobiologist Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), dies instead for our sins of emission.

* NASA is apparently taking some heat — or at least some good natured ribbing — for this paper. [click to continue…]

Post image for A Bad Week for Obama’s Anti-Energy Policies

It’s only fair. That’s the principle I’ll be fighting for during the next phase of this process.” President Obama, August 2, 2011

What if you paid $38,000 to lease a house and were then told you cannot move in until some studies are done to determine if it is safe, but you do not get your money back? Years go by while the landlord is holding your money. That’s not fair!

But this is exactly what the Obama administration has been doing to the oil and gas industry since May of 2010. The same Obama who is crisscrossing the country touting “fair.”

On Friday, a US District Judge, appointed by Obama, decided that the administration wasn’t playing fair.

In October 2010, the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), representing more than 400 independent natural gas and oil producers in the western states, filed a lawsuit against the federal government to force action on oil and gas leases that companies had already paid for. The leases had been purchased at Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lease sales. But because of environmental protests and uncertainty over endangered species, the BLM has a backlog of leases needing additional examination.

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Post image for Update on Polar Bear Biologist Investigation

Last week on this site I cautioned skeptics not to jump to conclusions about the Department of Interior’s (DOI’s) suspension of polar bear biologist Charles Monnett, who is also under investigation by the department’s inspector general (IG).

Monnett, you may recall, was lead author of a 2006 study on drowned polar bears that helped turn the bear into an iconic victim of global warming. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) cited Monnett’s study four times in its Jan. 2007 proposed rule to list Ursus Maritimus as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act.

Skeptics are supposed to insist on seeing the evidence before making up their minds. I was concerned that some of our brethren were too quick to pronounce Monnett guilty when it was not even clear why he was suspended or on what charges he is being investigated. Claims that the scientific rationale for listing the bear is “melting away” have no basis in any information released by DOI or its IG.

What puzzled me in particular was the fact that a DOI spokesperson asserted the agency’s suspension of Monnett had “nothing to do with scientific integrity,” yet two IG agents interrogating Monnett told him they were investigating “allegations” of “scientific misconduct” having to do with “wrong numbers . . . miscalculations.”

Earlier this week, IG Special Agent David Brown sent Monnett a letter that seems to clear up what the investigation is about — a potential violation of federal conflict-of-interest rules. [click to continue…]

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Chesapeake Energy: A Free-Market Restart?
Robert Bradley Jr., Institute for Energy Research, 18 August 2011

Collateral Damage: Lost Rigs from Obama Obstructionism
Kevin Mooney, Mater, 18 August 2011

Big Brother Goes Green
Audrey Hudson, Human Events, 18 August 2011

Harsh Lessons from Evergreen Solar Flare out
Martin LaMonica, CCNET, 17 August 2011

Climate Models Not So Good for Climate Prediction
World Climate Report, 15 August 2011