July 2013

Post image for Climate Change ‘Deniers’ Not Welcome at Interior – Secy. Jewell

DOI Secretary Sally Jewell told employees today that combatting climate change is a “privilege” and “moral imperative,” adding: “I hope there are no climate change deniers in the Department of Interior,” E&E News PM (subscription required) reports.

Such moralizing would be funny were it not for the chilling effect it is bound to have in an agency already mired in group think.

What does she mean by “denier” anyway? Is it literally someone who denies that greenhouse gas emissions have a greenhouse (warming) effect? Or is a “denier” merely someone who thinks climate change is not a “crisis,” or who regards the usual panoply of climate policies — carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, other market-rigging interventions — as a ‘cure’ worse than the alleged disease?

In recent testimony before House Energy and Commerce, University of Alabama in Huntsville climatologist Roy Spencer unhesitatingly included himself among the alleged 97% of scientists who BELIEVE. He explained:

It should also be noted that the fact that I believe at least some of recent warming is human-caused places me in the 97% of researchers recently claimed to support the global warming consensus (actually, it’s 97% of the published papers, Cook et al., 2013). The 97% statement is therefore rather innocuous, since it probably includes all of the global warming “skeptics” I know of who are actively working in the field. Skeptics generally are skeptical of the view that recent warming is all human-caused, and/or that it is of a sufficient magnitude to warrant immediate action given the cost of energy policies to the poor. They do not claim humans have no impact on climate whatsoever.

Would Spencer, who challenges the climate sensitivity assumptions underpinning the global warming scare, be welcome at DOI? Not a chance on Jewell’s watch.

The problem with trying to turn climate activism into a moral imperative is that coercive carbon reduction poses risks of its own to public health, human welfare, and biodiversity.

Globally, poverty remains the leading cause of preventable illness and premature death. Poor countries require affordable energy to fuel their growth out of poverty. For the foreseeable future, that chiefly means carbon-based energy. Is eliminating poverty a moral imperative, Ms. Jewell? If so, then opposing the imposition of carbon caps or taxes on developing countries is a moral imperative.

Even in industrialized nations, carbon taxescaps, and renewable electricity mandates can destroy jobs and income, and an abundant literature confirms the widespread intuition that poverty and unemployment imperil life and health. Is improving public health and welfare a moral imperative? If so, then opposing domestic carbon suppression policies is a moral imperative. [click to continue…]

Post image for Bavarian Motor Works’ i3: Monster Spawn of Regulation

Sometimes, the sub-headline says it all.

The Wall Street Journal published a telling article yesterday, titled (online) “BMW Launches Its First Mass-Production Electric Vehicle.” That’s a good summation, but the true lede was buried in the sub-headline: “Auto Maker Needs to Boost Sales of Electric Cars To Meet Regulatory Requirements.”

As the sub-headline suggests, BMW didn’t build the i3–the titular electric car–because it plans on making money. In fact, according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal’s Joseph White, ‘The i3, which starts at €34,950 in Germany, could lose €197 million a year on an operating basis…’ So the car is a loser.

BMW’s launch of its new i3 is actually quite instructive on current events. This morning, we reported that newly confirmed EPA administrator Gina McCarthy believes that climate change regulations are an economic stimulus. The i3 is proof to the contrary.

Instead of meeting actual demand, BMW is selling the i3 to meet mandates. In the American market, President Obama’s EPA in 2010 established greenhouse gas regulations that effectively require fuel efficiency improvements. The European Union had already implemented the same sort of regulations. Thus, the international car market has been skewed by the hand of government. BMW, by building the i3, is reacting to this dirigisme. BMW Chief Executive Norbert Reithofer told the WSJ that, “If you look around the world, [at] the emissions regulations, in the United States, in the European Union, even in China…cars like the BMW i3 are a must.” Simply put, the BMW i3 is a real-world industrial response to EPA climate regulations.

Yesterday, EPA administrator McCarthy said the President’s climate plan was ‘an opportunity to “bend the curve” and could “fuel the complementary goals of turning America into a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.”’ As I explained in the previous paragraph, the agency already has “bent the curve” of the auto market, and the result of these market manipulations is a car company that builds a money-losing car for non-existent customer demand.

Does this sound like wise economic policy?

Post image for Administrator Gina McCarthy’s Orwellian Climate Speech Heralds Humungous EPA Mission Creep

EPA administrator Gina McCarthy gave her first public speech in her new role yesterday, before the Harvard Law School. In it, she explained that there’s a big misunderstanding among the American people about Obama’s authoritarian climate policies. A lot of us—myself included!—had presumed that the purpose of EPA regulations is to “do something” about global warming.


Administrator McCarthy told Harvard law students that EPA regulations to control greenhouse gas emissions have a purpose altogether distinct from global warming.  “The truth,” she said, “is we need to embrace cutting carbon pollution as a way to spark business innovation. We need to cut carbon pollution to grow jobs. We need to cut carbon pollution to strengthen the economy.”

OK….Climate regulations aren’t about the climate; rather, they’re about “growing jobs” and “strengthening the economy.”  Which makes sense only in newspeak.

As an aside, McCarthy’s use of Orwellian language is apt. Any cog of authoritarianism worth her salt will tell you that propaganda is paramount. In a June 25 speech unveiling an authoritarian climate plan, President Obama announced that Congressional inaction on policy is a pretext for the Executive to enact that policy by administrative fiat. Administrator McCarthy was quick to follow orders.

This economic stimulus, moreover, is to be executed not by the Federal Reserve, nor the Treasury Department, but by the Environmental Protection Agency. Talk about mission creep!

As reported by GreenWire’s Jason Plautz, McCarthy said the President’s climate plan was ‘an opportunity to “bend the curve” and could “fuel the complementary goals of turning America into a magnet for new jobs and manufacturing.”’

Of course, she’s got it backwards. Since 2009, EPA has been “bending” the curve in electricity markets by breaking the back of coal, thereby destroying jobs*and manufacturing.

*Jobs are a poor metric relative to wealth creation, but it’s always an affront to common sense whenever the executive branch imposes politicized regulations that destroy jobs.

Post image for D.C. Circuit Renders a Welcome Decision on Ozone NAAQS

In 1977 amendments to the Clean Air Act, the Congress created the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), a body of scientists whose job is to advise EPA on the setting of National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS).

NAAQS is the primary regulatory regime established by the Clean Air Act. The regulation does exactly what its name suggests–it establishes numerical nation-wide ambient air standards for “criteria” pollutants (sulfur dioxide, lead, particulate matter, ozone, nitrogen oxides, and carbon monoxide). There are two types of NAAQS: primary and secondary. Primary NAAQS are set at levels requisite to protect public health, with an adequate margin of safety, while secondary NAAQS are set at levels necessary to protect public welfare.

EPA is required to take CASAC’s advice into account, and, when it publishes any NAAQS, the agency must explain any differences it had with CASAC’s advice. In 2006 and 2008, George W. Bush’s EPA promulgated revised primary NAAQS for particulate matter and ozone, respectively. Both of the regulations were set at levels that were less stringent than the range recommended by CASAC.

In a 2009 ruling, American Farm Bureau Federation v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court rejected Bush’s 2006 primary NAAQS for particulate matter. The court reasoned that the agency had inadequately explained its differences with CASAC’s advice.

In a ruling announced last Monday, Mississippi et al. v. EPA, this same court upheld Bush’s 2008 ozone primary NAAQS, despite the fact that it was less stringent than what CASAC had recommended. This time, the court found that EPA had adequately explained the difference.

By the Court’s own admission in the Mississippi et al. v. EPA opinion, there are no clear cut criteria by which EPA’s reasoning is judged. The primary standard seems to be derivative of whether CASAC’s advice is rooted in science versus policy considerations. The former (science considerations) is construed as pertaining to the component of the primary NAAQS that is requisite to protect public health. The latter (policy considerations) is the component of the primary NAAQS that represents an adequate margin of safety. The Court reasoned that EPA’s discretion rises along a decision-making continuum, from “science” to “policy” differences with CASAC. CASAC’s judgment matters more for science–in practice, determining a NAAQS level requisite to protect public health. EPA’s judgement matters more for policy–in practice determining the NAAQS level necessary to achieve an adequate margin of public safety. In this instance, the judges found that CASAC hadn’t explicitly stated which parts of its recommended ozone NAAQS were science-based reasoning, and which parts were policy-based reasoning. In the face of this uncertainty, EPA’s explanation met the low bar by which an agency’s decision is deemed reasonable.

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Post image for McCarthy Shows Her Cards

In a June 25 speech unveiling a new, authoritarian climate plan, President Obama explained that Congressional inaction was a pretext for his administration to fight global warming by executive fiat.

Newly-confirmed EPA Administrator McCarthy got the message loud and clear. According to InsideEPA, McCarthy said in a July 22 video memo to agency employees, “We have a clear responsibility to act now on climate change. That’s what President Obama has called on us, and the American people, so that we protect future generations.”

It is noteworthy that she didn’t mention the Congress. By significant bi-partisan margins, cap-and-trade policies have died repeatedly in the Senate. Of course, EPA’s authority to regulate climate change is derivative of the Clean Air Act. And yet, as my colleague Marlo Lewis has explained aptly,

EPA claims that its greenhouse-gas regulations derive from the CAA as interpreted by the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA*. But in the last Congress, after almost two decades of global-warming advocacy, Congress declined to give EPA explicit authority to regulate greenhouse gases, when Senate leaders mothballed cap-and trade legislation. A bill authorizing EPA to do exactly what it is doing now — regulate greenhouse gases under the CAA as it sees fit — would have been dead on arrival. The notion that Congress gave EPA such authority when the Clean Air Act was passed in 1970, years before global warming emerged as a public concern, defies both history and logic.

*[As an aside, the Supreme Court is now in the process of determining whether it will revisit Mass v. EPA by choosing to review the D.C. Circuit’s decision to uphold EPA’s climate regulatory regime.]

There’s another troubling aspect to McCarthy’s video memo. In it, she said that the agency will be taking an “all hands on deck” approach to implementing regulations to reduce greenhouse gases. Specifically, MCarthy was speaking about diverting EPA’s limited resources into a regulation known as the New Source Performance Standards for greenhouse gases. Here’s the problem: This regulation is a discretionary responsibility. That is, EPA chose to do it. The Agency didn’t have to.

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EPA’s power relative to the States increased last Friday when the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, by a 2-1 majority decision, ruled that the agency acted reasonably when it disapproved Oklahoma’s Clean Air Act plan to improve visibility. As I explain below, the court’s majority opinion in State of Oklahoma, et al. v EPA is questionable because it hinges on the credibility of an “independent” consultant hired by EPA. In fact, this consultant is biased and unqualified. She is a go-to, anti-coal litigation witness for environmental organizations like the Sierra Club, and, more importantly, her analysis is demonstrably wrong.

At issue is a Clean Air Act regulation known as Regional Haze. Amended to the law in 1977, the purpose of the Regional Haze program is to improve the view at National Parks and other federally-designated areas. Because it is an aesthetic regulation—and not a public health mandate—the Congress granted States a unique degree of power vis a vis EPA, relative to other regulatory regimes established by the Clean Air Act.

The Regional Haze rule’s most significant regulatory mandate is known as Best Available Retrofit Technology (BART). The Clean Air Act requires that States determine BART for all fossil fuel plants built between 1962 and 1977.

In 1999, the Clinton administration EPA promulgated rules for establishing BART. These rules were challenged by States and industry for being insufficiently deferential to States’ unique prerogatives under the Regional Haze program. In a 2002 decision, American Corn Growers v. EPA, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed with the petitioners, and remanded the rule to the agency. The court’s opinion explained that, “states…play the lead role in designing and implementing Regional Haze programs” generally, and that, in particular, the Clean AirAct “giv[es] the states broad authority over BART determinations.”

The legal history is clear: Congress wanted States to choose BART.

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Post image for Are Weather Extremes Getting Worse? Roger Pielke, Jr. Shares the Data with Senate Panel

When it comes to extreme weather, climate activists want to have their cake and eat it. Many acknowledge that it is unscientific to attribute any particular weather event to global warming. But then, in the same breath, they’ll say that this or that drought, flood, or hurricane is “consistent with” the types of weather “scientists” predict will become more frequent in a warming world.

Or they’ll say that such weather is “exactly what global warming looks like.” Or they’ll say that because “all weather events are affected by a warming planet,” the burden of proof is now on skeptics to show that climate change did not cause or contribute to a particular weather-related disaster.

Some activists, though, simply come right out and assert what others insinuate. Plaintiffs in Comer v. Murphy Oil, a case that made it all the way to a federal appeals court, claimed that carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from ExxonMobil, American Electric Power, and other U.S. energy and power companies contributed to global warming, which intensified Hurricane Katrina, which in turn wrought death and destruction upon the citizens of New Orleans.

There was a major “anthropogenic” component to the New Orleans disaster — but it was not the emissions. Decade after decade, policymakers failed to improve a levee system “predicted to fail in a major hurricane,” as Cato Institute climatologist Patrick Michaels noted at the time.

Although always a staple of global warming advocacy, climate activists have turned up the rhetorical heat on extreme weather in recent years. The reasons aren’t hard to fathom. The 15-year pause in global warming makes it harder to scare people about warming itself. The two greatest terrors featured in An Inconvenient Truthrapid ice sheet disintegration leading to catastrophic sea-level rise and ocean circulation shutdown precipitating a new ice age — have no credibility. Nobody takes seriously the prospect of warming-induced malaria epidemics either. If you want to scare people, extreme weather is the only card left in the climate alarm deck.

In addition, a rationally-ignorant public can easily be fooled into confusing climate change risk with plain old climate risk (the nasty surprises Mother Nature generates all on her own). Part of the reason is psychological. Due to their sheer magnitude and terror, natural catastrophes have an almost supernatural aspect. People are naturally inclined to imagine that natural disasters have non-natural causes. Thus, each time disaster strikes, pundits, especially those with scientific credentials, can plausibly blame fossil fuels — just as in earlier ages political or religious authorities blamed “sinners” (i.e., their adversaries) for floods, plagues, crop failures, and the like.

Perhaps the leading debunker of extreme-weather hype on the scene today is University of Colorado Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr., who testified last week before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee at a hearing titled “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now.”

As his testimony notes, Pielke, Jr. is not a climate change skeptic. He affirms, for example, that “Humans influence the climate system in profound ways, including through the emission of carbon dioxide via the combustion of fossil fuels.” However, he regards the oft-asserted linkage between global warming and recent hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and drought as “unsupportable based on research and evidence.” Highlights of his testimony appear below. [click to continue…]

Post image for IER’s Robert Murphy on the Social Cost of Carbon

Last week the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee (EPW) held a hearing titled “Climate Change: It’s Happening Now.” That’s right folks, global warming is not going to strike “The Day After Tomorrow,” as alarmists previously predicted. It’s going to happen “Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow” — today. 

But before you sell the beach house, move to North Dakota, or join a survivalist group, you might want to read the testimonies by University of Colorado Prof. Roger Pielke, Jr., University of Alabama in Huntsville Prof. Roy Spencer, and Institute for Energy Research scholar Robert Murphy.

I’ll discuss Murphy’s testimony today and Pielke, Jr.’s later this week. (I covered the basic argument of Roy Spencer’s testimony in a previous post: Climate Models: “Epic Failure” or “Spot on Consistent” with Observed Warming?)

Murphy challenges the intellectual bona fides of the Obama administration’s May 2013 Technical Support Document (TSD) on the social cost of carbon (SCC). Climate activists increasingly invoke SCC estimates to justify the imposition of carbon taxes, fuel economy mandates, Soviet-style production quota for wind farms, fracking bans, and other interventions to rig the marketplace against reliable, affordable, fossil energy. They speak as if SCC estimates disclose an objective reality like the boiling point of water or the specific gravity of iron. In fact, SCC estimates are assumption-driven hocus-pocus or, as my colleague Myron Ebell prefers to say, “hogwash.”

SCC analysts purport to measure the damage, in monetary terms, that an incremental ton of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions inflicts on humanity and the biosphere. As discussed previously on this blog, SCC estimates depend on assumptions about highly speculative issues such as climate sensitivity (how feedback mechanisms, positive or negative, will amplify or damp down the direct warming effect of rising greenhouse gas concentrations), climate impacts (how projected warming will affect weather patterns, ice-sheet dynamics, and eco-system services), economic impacts (how projected changes in global temperature, weather, and sea-level rise will affect agriculture, forestry, tourism, and other climate-related activities), and technological change (how adaptive capacities will develop as climate changes).

Each layer of the analysis is fraught with uncertainty and is educated guesswork at best. By adjusting the assumptions, the SCC analyst can get pretty much any result he desires.

Murphy zeroes in on the simplest part of the analysis: Which discount rates federal agencies use to estimate the present value of future projected climate change damages.   [click to continue…]

In some cases, neither the spoken nor written word is able to capture the emotional destruction wrought through disastrous public policy as does a simple tune. Perhaps this is why America was captivated when Jimmy Rose, enthralled audiences with a resounding refrain– “Coal Keeps the Lights On”:

From the coal mines of Kentucky to the battlefields of Iraq, Rose’s life lends credence to the message in his lyrics to provide the country a profound glimpse into the plight of the Appalachian coal worker.

Now, performing before a national audience last week on America’s Got Talent, Rose used his Coal Song to raise the spotlight further – perhaps Washington will take heed. The song marks a clear outcry against the Administration’s war on coal, which has endangered the very livelihood of coal workers in Appalachia.

Sadly, this message, so far, has seemed to have failed to reach the ears of the Obama Administration whose reckless policies and continual output of regulations match the pace of the continual decline in coal output and jobs. For years coal miners have been expressing their displeasure with the Administration. And, while Rose has brought the issue to the national stage, the calls of “Coal Keeps the Light On” are familiar a sight in this corner of Appalachia.  In an article last year, the NYTimes reported:

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Post image for Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 Up for House Vote This Week

EPA has the most onerous regulatory agenda of all Federal Agencies. According to CEI’s Regulatory Report Card, EPA regulations cost the US economy $353 billion per year. Many of these costs are forced onto consumers in the form of higher energy prices. Such astronomical amounts are nearly double the second most expensive agency, Health and Human Services. Given the egregious results of unlimited regulatory authority, it comes as no surprise that the House of Representatives will this week debate and vote on the Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 to staunch the excessive burdens on consumers.

The Energy Consumer Relief Act requires EPA to submit the estimated costs and job impacts of all energy related regulations in excess of $1 billion. Moreover, the Act gives the Department of Energy authority to block any regulations deemed to have significant economic impacts.

EPA for far too long has had meager oversight. With the revelations of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s false email accounts, as well as a significant power grab against state’s rights through regulatory disapproval, it is no surprise the House is likely to vote for stricter accountability.  Enacting inter-agency review to check the seemingly inexorable growth of EPA would be a strong step towards reasserting Congressional oversight over an out-of-control bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, the Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to consider this good-government legislation.