May 2013

Post image for John Christy: Climate Change Overview in Six Slides

Yesterday, Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) hosted a climate change conference in a technology park in Fairmont, W.Va.

A mixed panel of warmistas and skeptics featured Marc Marano of Climate Depot, Scott Denning of Colorado State University, Jim Hurrell of the National Center for Atmospheric Research, Joe Casola of the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions, Annie Petsonk of Environmental Defense Fund, Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute, and John Christy of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, who participated by satellite link.

I emailed Dr. Christy and asked for permission to post his presentation on GlobalWarming.Org; he promptly sent me the files.

Dr. Christy’s Power Point presentation is available here. The accompanying text is available here. The main takeaway points:

  • Popular scare stories that weather extremes — hurricanes, tornadoes, droughts, floods — are getting worse are not based on fact.
  • In the U.S., high temperature records are not becoming more numerous.
  • Climate models significantly overestimated warming during the past 15 years.
  • Even if climate models were correct, a 50% reduction in U.S. CO2 emissions by 2050 would avert only 0.07°C of warming by 2100.
  • If a policy is not economically sustainable, it’s not politically sustainable.
  • The climate change impact of enhancing CO2 concentrations has so far been small compared to the public health and biospheric benefits provided by affordable, carbon-based energy.
Post image for Solar Panel Concerns Fuel Worries about Reliability

By Anthony Ward, CEI Research Associate

Solar industry executives are worried about the reliability of their own products. In an article this week, the New York Times reports industry executives are becoming increasingly concerned about the rising number of solar panel failures. The average expected operational lifetime of a solar panel is 25 years, but some are failing in only two years. Increasingly, it seems that solar panels are becoming defunct earlier than anticipated.

According to the article:

The solar panels covering a vast warehouse roof in the sun-soaked Inland Empire region east of Los Angeles were only two years into their expected 25-year life span when they began to fail. Coatings that protect the panels disintegrated while other defects caused two fires that took the system offline for two years, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars in lost revenues.

It was not an isolated incident. Worldwide, testing labs, developers, financiers and insurers are reporting similar problems and say the $77 billion solar industry is facing a quality crisis just as solar panels are on the verge of widespread adoption.

No one is sure how pervasive the problem is. There are no industry wide figures about defective solar panels. And when defects are discovered, confidentiality agreements often keep the manufacturer’s identity secret, making accountability in the industry all the more difficult.

But at stake are billions of dollars that have financed solar installations, from desert power plants to suburban rooftops, on the premise that solar panels will more than pay for themselves over a quarter century.

Subsidies and the associated pressures to reduce costs, boost sales, and reduce government debt are the principal cause of the decline in quality:

After incurring billions of dollars in debt to accelerate production that has sent solar panel prices plunging since 2009, Chinese solar companies are under extreme pressure to cut costs. [click to continue…]

Post image for Electric Vehicles: Is a “Better Place” Now in a Better Place?

Three factors limit the market penetration of electric vehicles. One is purchase price. For example, the average price paid for a gasoline-powered 2013 Ford Focus ranges from $16,500 to $24,176. In contrast, the average price paid for a 2013 Ford Focus Electric is $39,020.

Another drawback is range. Except for the Tesla Model S, with an EPA-estimated range of 265 miles, most battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) have EPA-estimated ranges of 62 to 99.8 miles — although motorists may go farther under actual driving conditions, Edmunds.Com reports. These range limitations diminish the utility and, thus, value of BEVs for many consumers, and may induce “range anxiety” — fear of being stranded between where you are and where you have to go. The Tesla Model S has an impressive range but, with a manufacturer’s recommended sale price of $69,900, most households cannot afford to buy one even with generous federal and state tax rebates.

A third and related barrier to consumer acceptance is recharging time. Of a dozen BEVs tested by Edmunds.Com, some recharged in ‘as little as’ 4 hours (2013 Fiat 500e, Ford Focus Electric, Honda Fit EV). But for some, the recharging time was as long as 5 hours (Tesla Model S), 6 hours (Volkswagon E-Golf), and 7 hours (Chevrolet Spark EV, Mitsubishi i MiEv). Buying a BEV means paying for the inconvenience of not being able to gas up and go in 5 minutes at the nearest service station the way ordinary folks do.

To overcome these battery-related inconveniences, an Israeli company called “Better Place” developed networks of battery-charging and -swapping stations in Israel and Denmark. Better Place hoped the stations would spark consumer interest in electric vehicles and spread globally. But on Sunday the firm announced “that it is shutting down, less than six years after unveiling an ambitious plan that promised to revolutionize the auto industry by reducing the world’s dependency on oil,” reports the Detroit Free Press. [click to continue…]

Post image for Are House Republicans Going Green?

National Journal published an article in their 18th May issue titled, “The GOP Energy Tent Is Slowly Getting Bigger.”  Reporter Coral Davenport, who is a reliable promoter of environmentalist views, writes a puff piece on House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) efforts to add a green tinge to the House Republicans’ wardrobe.

In the last Congress, McCarthy, who is number three in the Republican leadership, started the House Energy Action Team (HEAT) in order to develop messaging points for the 2012 election.  Now, he is trying to broaden HEAT’s messaging to include support for subsidies for renewable energy and energy efficiency measures.  That is no surprise: McCarthy is not a movement conservative, but he does have the country’s largest concentration of wind farms in his Bakersfield-area district.  McCarthy has received many major campaign contributions from the wind industry.

Davenport’s story includes a long quote praising McCarthy’s green turn: “‘I think it’s smart,’ Republican strategist John Feehery said of McCarthy’s new tactics. Republicans’ aggressive campaigning against Obama’s clean-energy agenda was ‘an overreaction,’ Feehery said. ‘It made us seem like enemies of the environment. The idea that government has absolutely no role, that the climate is absolutely not changing—it’s not smart,’ he said. ‘It’s also not smart if you’re talking about all the farmers in red states that make money off windmills. A lot of the base is there.’  Davenport does not mention that Feehery is a top lobbyist at Quinn Gillespie, who represents clients in the renewable energy industry and started a front group to lobby for the wind production tax credit and other subsidies called the Red State Renewables Alliance.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said last week that confirmation votes on several of President Obama’s nominees for top positions, including Gina McCarthy for EPA Administrator, would be delayed until July.  Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters that he wasn’t sure that McCarthy and Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez had the sixty votes necessary to invoke cloture and proceed to a final vote.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Senator Durbin also speculated that, “Unless we start seeing a more co-operative atmosphere around here … there’s going to continue to be speculation about changing the rules.”  This refers to the so-called “nuclear option”—changing Senate rules so that confirmation votes cannot be blocked by a 41-vote minority.

Heritage Action for America has joined eleven other non-profit groups officially opposed to McCarthy’s confirmation.

Post image for Boxer and Whitehouse Blame Republicans for Oklahoma Tornado

Senators Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) were quick to use the giant tornado that obliterated Moore, Oklahoma to chastise Republican members of Congress for failing to get on board the global warming bandwagon.  Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) noted that he has seen a lot of tornadoes during his lifetime in Oklahoma and called the attempt to make tawdry political points out of the Moore tragedy “outrageous” and “immoral.”

For the record, the Digest noted two weeks ago that tornado activity in the past twelve months had been the lowest in 60 years.  If the tornado that hit Moore can be attributed to global warming, then so too must the low level of activity across the U. S. in the past year.  Anthony Watts compiles the facts here, while James Delingpole tees off on Boxer in his Telegraph blog.

Post image for Q. What Do Rich States Have in Common?

A. Cheap electricity.

The American Legislative Exchange Council this week released the latest version of its “Rich States, Poor States” report, which compares the economic performance of the fifty States.  It finds that eight of the top ten States for economic growth are controlled by Republican elected officials, while eight of the ten bottom States are controlled by Democrats.  Not co-incidentally, electricity costs are lower in the States with the strongest growth.  Nine of the top ten States have lower electric rates that the average of the bottom ten.

Post image for CBO Kinda Likes Carbon Tax

The Congressional Budget Office this week released a study on the “Effects of a Carbon Tax on the Economy and the Environment.”  CBO admits that a carbon tax would raise the costs of producing goods and services and raise consumer prices.  On the other hand, some of the negative effects could be offset by using the revenues generated to lower the federal deficit and to lower marginal rates of other damaging taxes, such as corporate and individual income taxes.

In terms of reducing greenhouse gas emissions, the best the CBO can come up with is this: “Given the inherent uncertainty of predicting the effects of climate change, and the possibility that it could trigger catastrophic effects, lawmakers might view a carbon tax as a reflection of society’s willingness to pay to reduce the risk of potentially very expensive damage in the future.”

Professor Robert Murphy commented on the CBO study for the Institute for Energy Research here, and Dr. David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation posted his comment here.

Another contribution to the carbon tax debate from earlier in the month has just come to my attention.  On 2nd May, fifty-four trade groups sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee explaining why they are opposed to a carbon tax.  Attached to their letter is a study produced by NERA Consulting earlier this year for the National Association of Manufacturers that details the negative economic effects of a carbon tax.

A team of independent filmmakers is raising funds through crowd funding to produce a short film depicting the irrational basis for climate change mitigation policies. “50 to 1” will show that “it is 50 times more expensive to try and stop global warming than it is to adapt to it as (and if) it happens.” To learn more, click here, where you can also donate to the project.

Post image for No Fine If Wind Farm Kills Endangered Condors — Fish and Wildlife Service

Should industrial wind facilities have to pay a $100,000 fine — as oil and gas companies do — if they kill an endangered species? Many environmental activists think so. The Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) does not.

In a reversal of its official opinion, the FWS recently announced “it will not penalize the operator of a Southern California wind operator if its turbines kill or injure one California condor,” reports environmental journalist Chris Clarke in ReWire.

With fewer than 250 birds in the wild, the condor is one of the world’s most critically endangered animals, and industrial wind is encroaching on the bird’s range in the Tehachapi Mountains. From the article:

FWS biologist Ray Bransfield told ReWire that FWS has completed its Biological Opinion (BiOp) on condors for Google and Citicorp’s Alta East project, which would be built and operated by wind developer Terra-Gen. Occupying 2,592 acres, mostly on public lands, near the intersection of state routes 14 and 58 in Kern County, Alta East would generate a maximum of 318 megawatts of electrical power with 106 wind turbines, each with 190-foot-long blades.

FWS’s BiOp for Alta East includes an “incidental take statement” that in effect allows one “lethal take” of a California condor. “Incidental take” of a protected species is a term of art covering any kind of injury, harassment or disturbance, or even habitat damage that a project causes inadvertently. “Lethal take” is when the species in question dies.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has yet to approve the project. If it does, and a single condor is killed during the 30-year operating life of the facility, the FWS would have to undertake a “formal review” of the project’s impact on condors. Recent history suggests this safeguard is unlikely to be worth much, Clarke argues:

Endangered species advocates were hoping for a “jeopardy” finding when solar developer BrightSource started finding hundreds more federally threatened desert tortoises on the site of its Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System than were forecast in that project’s BiOp. The original BiOp and take permit allowed BrightSource to kill, harm, harass, or disturb no more than 40 tortoises. Once it was clear there were a lot more tortoises than that onsite, BLM estimated as many as 2,862 tortoises (including eggs) could be harmed by the project. Despite the 70-fold increase in potential “takes,” FWS merely required a few changes to the project’s tortoise relocation plan and issued a revised BiOp that allowed construction to proceed.

The Alta East project may “take” many more than one condor in 30 years. Condors, notes Clarke, “fly slowly, their 9-foot wingspans making them somewhat slow to maneuver. They tend to soar while watching the ground, searching for activity of other scavengers. This habit makes them vulnerable to injury from blade tips approaching from above, often at speeds exceeding 150 miles per hour.”

In addition, condors are “intensely social animals.” Where one goes to feed on carrion, others quickly assemble in “huge flocks,” as Clarke shows in photos taken just minutes apart.  [click to continue…]