August 2013

Post image for Fuel Switching Plan Threatens Ratepayers in Oklahoma

Oklahoma has had a somewhat schizoid response to EPA’s war on coal. On the one hand, Attorney General Scott Pruitt and the state’s largest utility are fighting EPA in federal courts. On the other, the state’s second largest utility, PSO, sought a settlement.

Unfortunately, PSO’s settlement gave away the farm to EPA and the Sierra Club, which was involved in the negotiations. In order to achieve compliance with the agency’s ridiculous regulations, the utility agreed to shutter almost 1,000 megawatts of coal-fired electricity capacity, decades early.

Last week, Americans for Prosperity-Oklahoma published a study by me on the PSO-EPA-Sierra Club fuel switching plan. Relative to retrofitting existing coal units, PSO’s settlement will:

  • Increase costs to PSO ratepayers by $529 million in net present value and $3 billion in nominal dollars;
  • Reduce PSO system capacity by 210 megawatts, thereby stressing reserve margins—a key reliability metric—through at least 2021; and
  • Eliminate fuel diversity on the PSO system, rendering ratepayers vulnerable to rate shock.

I posted the entire study below. On Thursday last week, I spoke about the study in Oklahoma City at a panel discussion with Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt and Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.). Click here, here, and here for news accounts of the panel discussion.

What can PSO ratepayers do? At this point, the settlement agreement is in EPA’s hands. Last Wednesday, the Agency opened a public comment period on the fuel switching plan. Click here to comment. Meanwhile, Attorney General Pruitt continues to fight EPA’s nonsensical regulations in court. I wrote about the most consequential of his legal battles two weeks ago. The litigation remains in flux.

Ratepayers’ best hope is to win over Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin. She signed off on the settlement at the outset, before it became apparent how costly it would be. Given that PSO used a number of budget gimmicks to suppress the actual cost of fuel switching–this is the subject of the report below–Governor Fallin would have plenty of cause to change her mind.


William Yeatman – EPA Overreach: Higher Cost, Less Energy, Greater Risk


Post image for Gore Hijinks: Everyone’s Favorite Crazy Uncle Al Is On the Loose Again

Congress is in the middle of its August recess, so it was up to Al Gore to provide a little light relief in Washington this week.  He didn’t disappoint.  The Washington Post’s soft lefty blogger Ezra Klein asked the former Vice President some easy questions last week, and once again Mr. Gore made it clear why he’s seldom let out of his box without adult supervision. He claimed that “in quite a few countries in the world and some parts of the United States we’ve crossed that threshold” where electricity produced by windmills and solar panels is cheaper than from coal.  (Which is, I guess, why President Obama wants to make wind and solar tax subsidies permanent.)

Mr. Gore sees a number of signs and portents that the global warming debate is shifting in favor of the alarmists’ energy-rationing agenda.  For one thing, “The appearance of more extreme and more frequent weather events has had a very profound impact on public opinion in countries throughout the world.”

That may be true, but Mr. Gore doesn’t stop there.  He goes on to claim: “There has been a 100-fold increase in the number of extreme, high-temperature events around the world in the distribution curve.  And people have noticed for themselves — the rain storms are bigger, the droughts are deeper and the fires are more destructive…. Every night on the news, it’s like a nature hike through the book of revelations. Eleven states today are fighting 35 major fires!”

According to Mr. Gore, the “leading scientists” now agree that “every extreme weather event now has a component of global warming in it.”  Furthermore: “The extreme events are more extreme. The hurricane scale used to be 1-5 and now they’re adding a 6. The fingerprint of man-made global warming is all over these storms and extreme weather events.”

Even the Union of Concerned Scientists saw that “adding a 6” to the hurricane scale was making the fantasy a little too specific and thus open to contradiction by a simple fact check.  So UCS’s Gretchen Goldman gently corrected the former Vice President’s little mis-statement, while adding that “the rest of the interview included accurate and important information and it’s unfortunate that this blip made its way in.”

For the record, rather than a “100-fold increase” there has been no upward trend in hurricanes or other extreme weather events. The increased number of catastrophic fires in the West is due almost entirely to criminally negligent federal mismanagement of our National Forests.  See my CEI colleague Marlo Lewis’s recent summary of current climate science to see how very far from reality are Mr. Gore’s claims.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Why Did China Reject Binding Emissions Limits at Kyoto?

Earlier today I received an email out of the blue from a Russian journalist inquiring what the impact on the Chinese economy might have been if, at the Kyoto climate conference of Nov.-Dec. 1997, Beijing had agreed to limit China’s greenhouse gas emissions and actually implemented such limits. Here’s the gist of my response:

The average emissions limitation for Annex I (industrial) counties under the Kyoto Protocol is a 5% reduction below 1990 levels during a 2008-2012 commitment period. China’s CO2 emissions in 1990 were about 2.4 billion metric tons per year, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). China’s emissions in 2012 were 8.994 billion metric tons – 274% larger. China could not comply with the Kyoto Annex I target without de-industrializing its economy.

What about the impacts of milder versions of the Annex I target such as limiting China’s emissions growth to, say, 15%, 20%, or 25% above 2005 levels (the year Kyoto entered into force)? Even these ‘soft’ Kyoto targets, if actually implemented, would have devastated China’s economy.

A recent report (p. 16) commissioned by the U.S. Department of Energy notes that the increase in China’s coal consumption more than tripled from 3.6% per year during 1980-1999 to 12.2% per year during 2000-2012. Oil and gas consumption also increased dramatically. According to the EIA’s country report on China, oil consumption in China increased from about 6.5 million barrels per day in 2005 to 12 million barrels per day in 2012 — an 84% increase; gas consumption increased from 2.0 trillion cubic feet in 2005 to 4.6 trillion cubic feet in 2011 – a 130% increase.

Yes, China in recent years has also made large investments in hydropower, nuclear, and renewables. Nonetheless, as of 2009, fossil fuels accounted for 93% of the country’s energy consumption. China’s economic development is overwhelmingly fossil-fueled.

China energy_consumption_by_type [click to continue…]

Post image for Is Climate Change Causing Climate Models to Fail?

A visitor to Anthony Watt’s blog, Watts Up With That, who identifies himself simply as “Craig,” today posted one of the funniest comments I’ve ever seen in a debate where 97% of scientists seem to have no sense of humor. Enjoy!

STUDY: Climate change causing climate models to become less reliable

A groundbreaking new study has shown that climate change is the underlying cause of increasingly frequent and severe climate model failures. Researchers at Pennsylvania State Community College have discovered a critical link between atmospheric greenhouse gas concentration and general circulation model errors.

“Climate change has made it increasingly difficult to predict climate change,” says Dr. Manyard Michael, the lead scientist behind the study. “The current 16 year pause in global warming illustrates just how serious this situation has been; if not for climate change, we now know that we would have been able to accurately predict the current break in warming and clearly show that climate change is actually accelerating faster than forecast – not stopping as climate change is making it appear to those outside of the climate science community.” Dr. Michael also noted that they stumbled on this important finding almost by accident. “We just happened to notice that the higher carbon dioxide concentrations climbed, the more we had to adjust the data to get the results we knew to be right, and the more we adjusted the data, the bigger the error in the models. It’s a very strong positive feedback.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Inconvenient Truth Update: Was the Record-Breaking Mumbai Rainfall of July 2005 Evidence of Climate Disruption?

One of my favorite moments in An Inconvenient Truth (AIT) is when Al Gore blames global warming for a record-breaking downpour in Mumbai, India.

“July 2005, Mumbai, India, received 37 inches of rain in 24 hours—the largest downpour any Indian city has received in one day,” Gore wrote in the book version of the film (p. 110). Clear evidence (in his mind) that the world’s weather was going crazy and fossil fuel emissions were the culprit.

I looked into this back in 2007. Since it is unscientific to attribute any particular weather event to a gradual increase in global average atmospheric temperatures, I reasoned that if global warming were influencing rainfall in Mumbai, we would see it in long-term precipitation records. Through a quick Web search I found that Mumbai had not one but two weather stations, and each had a program allowing site visitors to access and plot historic weather data.

So for each station, I directed the program to plot rainfall in Mumbai for the month of July as far back as data were available (1959). In neither case was there any discernible precipitation trend over the previous 45 years.

Mumbai Santa Cruz July Rainfall

Mumbai Colaba Rainfall July

Why rehash this ancient history now? [click to continue…]

Greenwire reporter Emily Yehle this week broke the news that then-EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson intentionally used her private e-mail account to conduct official business, which is contrary to federal transparency and record-keeping laws.  In an e-mail to Alison Richards, a lobbyist for Siemens Corporation, Jackson wrote, “P.S. Can you use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly? Tx, Lisa.”

This e-mail was made public as part of the latest tranche of “Richard Windsor” e-mails released by the EPA in response to federal court order enforcing a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute last year.  Chris Horner, my CEI colleague who filed the FOIA request, commented that the e-mail to the Siemens lobbyist is the smoking gun that proves Jackson was deliberately evading the rules in order to conceal some of her official business from public scrutiny.

In another FOIA lawsuit against the EPA, federal District Judge Royce Lamberth ruled on 14th August that the Landmark Legal Foundation can question top EPA officials about their use of private e-mail accounts to conduct official business.  Lamberth wrote that, “The possibility that unsearched personal email accounts may have been used for official business raises the possibility that leaders in the EPA may have purposefully attempted to skirt disclosure under the FOIA.”

As Chris Horner told the Washington Times, “FOIA works on an honor system, and those systems only work with people of honor. So you see the problem.”

And in related news, Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), Chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has sent a letter to IRS official Lois Lerner asking her to turn over all e-mails from her private account in which official government business was conducted. Lerner is a central figure in the scandal over IRS targeting of Tea Party groups.  The committee’s investigation turned up evidence that Lerner was forwarding official IRS documents to her “Lois Home” account at

The White House Council of Economic Advisers and Department of Energy have released a report titled, Economic Benefits Of Increasing Electric Grid Resilience to Weather Outages. The report calls for increased public and private spending on infrastructure aimed at hardening power lines from wind damage. In addition, the report argues in favor of increased funding towards the expansion of the nation’s energy storage capacity, and recommends the construction of sensors to monitor power fluctuations.

While some of the suggestions mentioned in the report are positive such as the hardening of existing power lines to protect from storm damage, many of the recommendations raise serious concerns. The Obama Administration claims to want to improve grid resiliency, but their anti-energy agenda and support for renewable subsidies show otherwise.

Last year, CEI Policy Analyst William Yeatman described the problems that would arise should renewable energy be incorporated into the grid:

There is no economy of scale for renewable energy. The electricity grid is a humongous, complex engineering project. At any given time, the electricity flowing into the grid must equal that consumed from the grid. The sun doesn’t always shine, the wind doesn’t always blow, and when these unreliable energy sources crap out, it sends grid operators scrambling to purchase backup power from reliable sources of power like coal and gas

What is the report’s solution? Energy storage.

If this were possible it might indeed solve the problem. However, there is a significant obstacle in the way. Energy storage technology of utility-scale energy does not exist. In addition, the report offers no suggestions as to how it might be developed demonstrating that the proposed solution is merely wishful thinking of government bureaucrats.

The report also claims:

“Since 1980, the United States has sustained 144 weather disasters whose damage cost reached or exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these 144 events exceeds $1 trillion. Moreover, seven of the ten costliest storms in U.S. history occurred between 2004 and 2012. These “billion dollar storms” have rendered a devastating toll on the U.S. economy and the lives of millions of Americans.”

[click to continue…]

Last week I wrote about a wonderful interview conducted by Platts Energy Week’s Bill Loveless with Devon Energy CEO Larry Nichols. In the course of celebrating the life of entrepreneur George Mitchell, the father of fracking, Mr. Nichols put the lie to the notion that the federal government was the primary impetus in the development of the drilling technologies that led to the American oil and gas boom. In addition, he posits that George Mitchell could never have perfected hydraulic fracturing had he operated in today’s regulatory environment. Watch the whole interview here. Below, we’ve provided a transcript.

MR. BILL LOVELESS: Hello, I’m Bill Loveless. Welcome to Platts Energy Week.

He was called the father of fracking, a man who found the way to blast natural gas from shale deposits using water, sand, and a mixture of chemicals. George Mitchell died recently at 94, but not before leaving a legacy as a man who put hydraulic fracturing on the map and paved the way for today’s resurgence in U.S. gas and oil production.

Joining me to discuss this industry pioneer is a man who knew George Mitchell well. In fact, his company bought Mitchell Energy Development in 2001. Larry Nichols, executive chairman of Devon Energy, joins us from Oklahoma City. Welcome to the program, Larry.

MR. LARRY NICHOLS: Glad to be here.

MR. LOVELESS: Larry, fracking has been around for decades, but Mitchell began to draw more attention to it in the 1980s when he experimented in the Barnett Shale in Texas. What difference did he make?

MR. NICHOLS: Well, yeah, fracking has been around for about 60 years. Clumsily done when it was first done, but over time, people experimented with it. And George Mitchell had this almost fanatical belief that he could frack the Barnett Shale and get gas out of it. We all knew the gas was there, but could not produce it, and he relentlessly over years and years kept pounding away, experimenting with different techniques, different refinements until he finally started making it work.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Can Climate Models Explain the 15-year Slowdown in Warming?

“Can climate models explain the recent stagnation in global warming?” That is the title of a new discussion paper by Hans von Storch, Professor at the Meteorological Institute of the University of Hamburg.

Storch stated the problem his paper explores in a recent (June 20, 2013) interview with Der Spiegel:

SPIEGEL: Just since the turn of the millennium, humanity has emitted another 400 billion metric tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, yet temperatures haven’t risen in nearly 15 years. What can explain this?

STORCH: So far, no one has been able to provide a compelling answer to why climate change seems to be taking a break. We’re facing a puzzle. Recent CO2 emissions have actually risen even more steeply than we feared. As a result, according to most climate models, we should have seen temperatures rise by around 0.25 degrees Celsius (0.45 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past 10 years. That hasn’t happened. In fact, the increase over the last 15 years was just 0.06 degrees Celsius (0.11 degrees Fahrenheit) — a value very close to zero. This is a serious scientific problem that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) will have to confront when it presents its next Assessment Report late next year.

The abstract of Storch’s new paper outlines three possible causes of the divergence between observations and model projections of near-surface global annual mean temperatures:

Of the possible causes of the inconsistency, the underestimation of internal natural climate variability on decadal time scales is a plausible candidate, but the influence of unaccounted external forcing factors or an overestimation of the model sensitivity to elevated greenhouse gas concentrations cannot be ruled out. The first cause would have little impact of the expectations of longer term anthropogenic climate change, but the second and particularly the third would. [click to continue…]