December 2013

Post image for John McLaughlin on Global Warming: “Enough Already Award of 2013”

John McLaughlin, the eponymous host of the wonderful roundtable show The McLaughlin Group, gave global warming alarmism both barrels during last week’s broadcast, much to the delight of this regular viewer. The occasion was the 32nd annual McLaughlin Group year-end awards, 2013, part one.

The first salvo came during a segment given to the “most original thinker award of 2013.” The American Conservative’s Pat Buchanan gave this to Peter Higgs; Newsweek’s Eleanor Clift awarded Jeff Bezos; U.S. World & Report’s Mort Zuckerman recognized Pope Francis; and the Chicago Sun Times’s Clarence Page identified Google’s driver-free cars as the recipient of his most original thinker award of 2013. Finally it was John McLaughlin’s turn, and here’s what he said:

The most original thinker is Michael Fumento, an investigative writer and attorney living in Colombia. Fumento has painstakingly documented the unfulfilled and erroneous predictions of climate-change computer models. Now a growing list of scientists reject the so-called consensus that manmade climate change is real. Fumento’s patient debunking of the prevailing orthodoxy makes him the most original thinker of 2013.

Presumably, McLaughlin based this award on Fumento’s recent NY Post op-ed, Global Warming Proof Is Evaporating.

The second shot came shortly thereafter, during the “enough already award for 2013” segment. Buchanan chose Alec Baldwin; Clift went with the Tea Party; Zuckerman identified the Kardashian brood; and Page selected Anthony Weiner. On his turn, McLaughlin said,

The enough, already award goes to global warming, the theory that now masquerades under the pseudonym of climate change. Even its most honest supporters now admit that there has been no increase in the earth’s surface temperatures for 15 years. It’s time to admit the theory is flawed.

Hear, hear!

Watch the whole video below.

Post image for Is OIRA Taking EPA to the Woodshed over Carbon Pollution Standard?

Today marks three months and ten days since EPA transmitted the proposed Carbon Pollution Standard, a regulation that would effectively ban coal-fired power plants, to the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) for review. The unusual delay suggests that EPA’s signature climate policy is enduring the bureaucratic equivalent of a spanking. And if OIRA indeed is taking EPA to the woodshed over the agency’s flawed Carbon Pollution Standard, there’s a distinct possibility that the rule might change significantly when it is (finally) published in the Federal Register.

OIRA was created by the Congress with the enactment of the Paperwork Reduction Act in 1980. At the time, the American public was wary of intrusive government regulations. This widespread sentiment (best captured by pop culture in the form of Walter Peck, pictured left) was in part a natural reaction to stagflation, but a decade’s experience of the Great Society getting mugged by reality also played a big role. In this political context, OIRA’s broad mandate was help alleviate the paperwork burdens imposed by the federal regulatory state on American businesses and private individuals.

In 1981, President Ronald Reagan substantially increased OIRA’s authority with the promulgation of Executive Order 12291, which required that federal agencies submit their proposed and final regulations to OIRA for review. Thus, OIRA became a primary means by which the President could affect regulatory policy. President Clinton updated the terms of OIRA’s regulatory review in 1993 with the issuance of Executive Order 12866. The two Orders did not engender materially different procedures.

The exact authority exerted by OIRA’s regulatory review is somewhat murky. OIRA’s mandate, according to its authorizing executive order, is to review “significant” agency regulations, in order to ensure that they are consistent with the “applicable law” and “the President’s priorities.” The Office’s power is limited to returning flawed regulations to agencies, which must then reformulate the measures, presumably to better comport with “applicable law” and “the President’s priorities.” Yet Congress usually delegates regulatory authority to specific agencies, not to a certain agency AND the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. A Congressional delegation of rule-making authority is not akin to a “plus one” party invitation that affords the White House the opportunity to add a second rule-maker to an existing regulatory regime. It follows that if OIRA’s input were to alter the substance of a regulation, which it almost certainly does, such influence would likely be an impermissible encroachment on the exclusive regulatory power delegated to the agency in question. Nonetheless, the legal authority of OIRA’s regulatory reviews remains unclear, due to the simple fact that OIRA’s input is shrouded in secrecy. Rare is the instance when OIRA’s draft comments during regulatory review are leaked to the public. Even in the case when OIRA’s input becomes public knowledge, it’s still extremely difficult, if not impossible, to prove that OIRA’s unduly influenced the rule. (A regulatory agency must be afforded the discretion to speak for itself, so as long as the agency head does what the White House asks, there’s no way to prove that OIRA was the cause of any aspect of a final rule).

Putting aside for a moment OIRA’s utter lack of transparency, there is ample reason to believe that OIRA is scrutinizing EPA’s proposed Carbon Pollution Standard.

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Post image for Supreme Court Global Warming Case: Does EPA Permitting of Greenhouse Gases ‘Deform’ the Statute?

In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, seven parties are petitioning the Supreme Court to overturn the EPA’s regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources through the Clean Air Act’s prevention of significant deterioration (PSD) preconstruction permit program and Title V operating permit program.

The sole question before the Court is:

Whether EPA permissibly determined [in its April 2010 Timing Rule] that its regulation of greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.

UARG v. EPA is a very big deal. Congress has never enacted a bill to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources, and it’s far from certain courts will uphold the EPA’s proposed “carbon pollution rule” to regulate just one type of stationary source — electric power plants. Yet the Timing Rule extends regulatory requirements to potentially all “major” greenhouse gas emitters of whatever type or description, throughout the entire economy, in one fell swoop.

The Timing Rule codifies the EPA’s legal theory that regulation of any air pollutant under any part of the Clean Air Act automatically makes major sources of that pollutant “subject to regulation” under PSD and Title V. Thus, according to the Timing Rule, major sources of carbon dioxide (CO2), the chief anthropogenic greenhouse gas, became subject to regulation on Jan. 2, 2011, the day the EPA’s greenhouse gas Tailpipe Rule took effect.

As even the EPA acknowledges, however, the Timing Rule leads straight to absurd results, because CO2 is emitted in much greater quantities and by many more sources than any pollutant that can cause “significant deterioration” of air quality.

The Clean Air Act defines “major” source as one with the potential to emit 250 tons per year of an air pollutant (PSD) or 100 tons per year (Title V). Only large industrial facilities emit air quality contaminants in those quantities. In contrast, upwards of 1 million small entities, including office buildings, churches, hospitals, schools, and commercial restaurants, combust enough heating oil or natural gas to emit 250 tons of CO2 annually. An estimated 6.1 million small entities, including some large single-family residences, emit 100 tons of CO2 annually.

The regulatory results of the Timing Rule are absurd in two main ways:

  1. Regulation of myriad small “major” sources conflicts with Congress’s intent to exclude non-industrial facilities from PSD and Title V regulation.
  2. Expanding by orders of magnitude the number of PSD/Title V-regulated sources would overwhelm permitting agencies’ administrative resources, causing ever-growing bottlenecks and delays that cripple environmental enforcement and economic development alike.

Rather than draw the obvious conclusion that Congress never intended for the EPA to apply PSD and Title V to greenhouse gases, the agency in June 2010 issued a Tailoring Rule, which effectively rewrites the statutory definitions of “major” source so that only facilities emitting 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases will be subject to regulation. The Tailoring Rule is itself an absurd solution, however, because agencies have no power under the U.S. Constitution to amend statutes.

All seven petitioner groups in UARG v. EPA argue that the Timing Rule conflicts with congressional intent. However, the brief submitted by the Energy Intensive Manufacturers Working Group on Greenhouse Gas Regulation and the Glass Packaging Institute catalogues several ways in which the Timing Rule ‘deforms’ the permitting provisions. I found much of this discussion new and compelling.

Excerpts from the brief follow.

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Post image for WUWT Launches Tornado Reference Page

The indefatigable Anthony Watts this week launched a Tornado Reference Page on WattsUpWithThat.Com (WUWT).

Further rebutting the “worse than we thought” mantra of the climate doomsters, Watts posts a graph from NOAA’s Storm Prediction Center:

Tornado  US Inflation Adjusted Annual Trend and Percentile Rating, Dec 22, 2013

The figure compares the 2013 tornado count as of Dec. 22 with those of the previous mininum and maximum years in the 58-year record from 1954 through 2012. As Watts observes, “the current tornado count of 790 for 2013 is 154 tornadoes below the historical minimum of 944, 497 tornadoes below the 50th percentile of 1287 and 1089 tornadoes below the historical maximum 1879.”

The data in the graph are “inflation-adjusted,” NASA explains, to offset “the increase in tornado reports over the last 54 years [that] is almost entirely due to secular trends such as population increase, increased tornado awareness, and more robust and advanced reporting networks.”

Even without inflation-adjustment, the preliminary tornado count “for 2013 year to date is 934, which is 544 tornadoes below the 2005 – 2012 average of 1478 and 134 tornadoes below the 2012 low of 1068 tornadoes,” Watts comments.

One might argue that U.S. tornado data may not show a link to global climate change because the U.S. comprises only 6.6% of the world’s land mass. However, if such a link exists, it ought to be discernible in the U.S. tornado record. As Watts points out, the U.S. “experiences approximately 75% of all the world’s tornados.”

The latter fact prompted one commenter to write:

You mean to say, that with only 5% of the world’s population, the United States consumes 75% of the world’s tornadoes? This over consumption of the Earth’s resources by the US, and particularly its unsustainable middle class lifestyle, has got to stop.
sarc  [click to continue…]

Regardless the ongoing environmental impacts of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear event in March 2011, which no doubt remain significant, the forced evacuation of more than a hundred thousand people in the region proximate to the power plant was an unmitigated disaster. As reported by the Wall Street Journal, there are a possible 194 excess cancers among the Fukushima population, while 1,600 persons died from the forced evacuation. That’s a terrible cost benefit ratio.

In fact, this was a policy mistake; only by government design were 130,000 people moved from their homes. To be sure, these measures were taken in the grip of hysteria. But that’s the point: hysteria seemingly always carries the day when it comes to policies that pertain to nuclear radiation, not just in Japan, but everywhere.  According to Reason’s Jon Utley, “Irrational fear of radiation permeates Washington’s civil defense and nuclear regulatory guidelines.”

Utley recently wrote an informative post about the extent to which unfounded alarmism permeates U.S. nuclear policy. In it, he elaborates on the costs of this misplaced fear. He also identifies environmentalist special interests as a key conduit through which is disseminated misinformation about the dangers of radiation. Of course, it will come as no shock to readers of this blog that green groups manufacture alarm as a means of expanding their own influence (See: Warming, Global). Read Utley’s entire, excellent post here.

Post image for Obama Names John Podesta as Counselor, Will Focus on Energy and Climate

President Barack Obama on 10th December named John Podesta as counselor to the president.  Podesta has reportedly agreed to help the President in his time of troubles for a year.  The White House announced that Podesta would advise the President on a range of issues, but specifically mentioned climate and energy.

Podesta was a co-chair of the Obama-Biden transition team in 2009 and has been an unofficial but highly influential outside adviser to the Obama Administration for the past five years.  In 2003, he founded and became president of the Center for American Progress, the leftist think tank and advocacy organization that provided much of the ammunition to oppose the policies of the George W. Bush Administration.  CAP continues as a major influence on the Democratic Party in Congress and on the Obama Administration.  This fall Podesta announced that he was founding the Washington Center for Equitable Growth, which will promote share-the-wealth and other class warfare policies.

Podesta served as deputy White House chief of staff and then chief of staff from 1998 to 2001 in the Clinton Administration.  Before joining the Clinton White House, Podesta was one of then-Senator Tom Daschle’s closest advisers and served in several high level committee and leadership staff positions in the Senate.   Podesta is from Chicago.  Although I don’t know whether Podesta has ever been active in Chicago politics, he knows how politics is played in Chicago.  He is extremely able, politically shrewd, and tough.

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Post image for Equality under Law and Energy Policy

Equality under law is a core principle of every free society. It means the law does not discriminate among persons based on irrelevant characteristics. It sets the ground rules for competition but does not seek to advantage one person or group at the expense of others.

Equality under law is not an arbitrary preference but the logical implication of a more fundamental, natural equality rooted in the unity of the human species. The Declaration of Independence, which proclaims the equality of all human beings in respect to certain unalienable rights, is the locus classicus of this philosophy. Thomas Jefferson concisely explained the natural basis for equality under law when he stated that, “the mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of god.”

Societies that reject (or do not recognize) the Declaration philosophy include not only those based on explicitly anti-egalitarian ideologies (Hitler’s master race, the feudal hierarchy of noble and serf), but also those based on the false equality of Marx and Lenin, who asserted that the human race is fundamentally bifurcated into two unequal classes — bourgeois and proletariat. Unsurprisingly, in Marxist-Leninist regimes all power ends up in the hands of a corrupt self-selected elite (nomenklatura) posing as the ‘vanguard of the proletariat.’

I’ve been thinking about this lately, because ‘progressive,’ activist government continually seeks to rig energy markets to favor some industries (those deemed green) at the expense of others (those deemed dirty). Moreover, interest groups continually lobby for special privileges, usually based on some public-interest pretext (‘What’s good for General Motors is good for the country’).

In his treatise The Law, 19th century French economist Frédéric Bastiat, discusses how to tell when law is perverted into a system of legal plunder:

But how is this legal plunder to be identified? Quite simply. See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.

Then abolish this law without delay, for it is not only an evil itself, but also it is a fertile source for further evils because it invites reprisals. If such a law — which may be an isolated case — is not abolished immediately, it will spread, multiply, and develop into a system.

The person who profits from this law will complain bitterly, defending his acquired rights. He will claim that the state is obligated to protect and encourage his particular industry; that this procedure enriches the state because the protected industry is thus able to spend more and to pay higher wages to the poor workingmen.

Do not listen to this sophistry by vested interests. The acceptance of these arguments will build legal plunder into a whole system. In fact, this has already occurred. The present-day delusion is an attempt to enrich everyone at the expense of everyone else; to make plunder universal under the pretense of organizing it.

Imagine if we had a government today that lived by Bastiat’s maxims! Bye-bye bridges to nowhere, the wind production tax credit, the ethanol mandate, green jobs programs, and Obamacare.

To Bastiat’s simple test for identifying legal plunder, I would add another — presumably with his approval were he alive today: The law aims to pick market winners and losers by imposing unequal burdens and/or conferring unequal benefits on different industries or firms.

The ethanol mandate clearly falls into the legal plunder category, and so does the campaign to restrict natural gas exports for the benefit of the chemical industry. I discuss those policies as equality-of-law-violating plunder schemes in recent comments on National Journal’s Energy Insiders blog. My comments (lightly edited) appear below. [click to continue…]

Post image for EPA Administrator McCarthy’s Star Turn in “The Spy Who Duped Me”

The plot is thickening with regard to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s role in l’affaire Beale, the case of the phony spy who duped the agency out of almost a million dollars in undeserved bonuses and reimbursements.

John C. Beale—if that is his real name—will be sentenced this week in a federal court. He’s looking at a minimum of thirty months in prison, a stiff punishment that reflects the gravity of his crime. According to EPA’s press shop, Mr. Beale “went to great lengths to deceive and defraud the U.S. government.” The agency’s account, however, is belied by the evidence.

In fact, Mr. Beale fooled the EPA without much effort. He took fancy trips, and then charged EPA for reimbursements, and no questions were asked. He took paid leave time off, claiming that he was moonlighting for the CIA, and no questions were asked. These are not the devices of a criminal mastermind; rather, they are the markings of negligent oversight.

Imagine if you were a manager, and a high ranking official in your shop was receiving thousands of dollars of paid time while claiming to be working for the CIA. Wouldn’t you think: ‘Why isn’t he billing the CIA?’ That’s an obvious question, yet no one at EPA asked it. Again, this is oversight so lax that it borders, if not crosses into, negligence.

Absent spin, the Beale situation is an unfavorable mark on his superior’s record. Mr. Beale was a high ranking official at the EPA office of Air and Radiation. From February 2009 to February 2013, Beale’s boss was Gina McCarthy, who has since been promoted to EPA Administrator. Logically, Administrator McCarthy is where the buck stopped. As Beale’s boss, she shouldered some responsibility for his getting away with this outrageous ruse.

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Post image for EPA Permitting of Greenhouse Gases: A Breathtaking Absence of Congressional Intent

This post updates the analysis I presented last week in EPA Permitting of Greenhouse Gases: What Does Legislative History Reveal about Congressional Intent?

Petitioners’ merit briefs were due on Monday this week in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the first Supreme Court case to examine the legality of an EPA regulation addressing greenhouse gases. Amicus briefs on behalf of petitioners are due next week.

The narrow question before the Court is whether the EPA permissibly determined that its May 2010 greenhouse gas Tailpipe Rule automatically triggered Clean Air Act permitting requirements for major stationary sources of greenhouse gases. In other words, the Court is reviewing the agency’s Timing Rule.

According to the Timing Rule, anyone seeking to build or modify a major source of greenhouse gas emissions must first obtain a “prevention of significant deterioration” (PSD) preconstruction permit. An applicant must conduct a multi-step analysis to determine the proposed facility or modification’s “best available control technology” (BACT) requirements. PSD permitting and BACT determinations are components of the Clean Air Act’s New Source Review (NSR) program.

As detailed in my post last week, I found a BREATHTAKING ABSENCE OF CONGRESSIONAL INTENT for the regulatory path prescribed by the EPA’s Timing Rule:

  • During the 101st through the 111th Congress, senators and congressmen introduced 692 bills containing the term “greenhouse gas” and 55 bills containing the term “best available control technology.”
  • Of those, only the SAFE Climate Act, introduced in the 109th and 110th Congresses, appears to contemplate a broad application of NSR/BACT to greenhouse gases (the terms NSR and BACT don’t occur in the statute). And then only at the EPA’s discretion, not, as per the Timing Rule, by automatic operation of the statute.
  • More importantly, although the SAFE Climate Act garnered 155 co-sponsors in the 110th Congress, the bill never got beyond the introduction stage of the legislative process. No committee approved it, and the House did not vote on it.
  • The bill’s chief sponsor, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), did not reintroduce the SAFE Climate Act in the 111th Congress. Instead, he co-sponsored the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACESA), the only cap-and-trade bill ever to pass in a chamber of Congress. ACESA specifically prohibited the application of NSR to stationary sources based on their greenhouse gas emissions.

In short, there is not a shred of evidence in the legislative history that Congress as a whole, the House or Senate separately, or any congressional committee ever intended for the EPA to broadly apply NSR/BACT provisions to greenhouse gases.

Just to make sure nothing fell through the cracks, I today did a search of all legislation introduced during the 101st through the 111th Congresses containing the term “prevention of significant deterioration” (PSD) — the specific type of NSR permit that is the focus of the Timing Rule.

Of 35 bills introduced containing the term, only one was a climate-related bill (S.1168 — the Clean Air/Climate Change Act of 2007). Significantly, it does not propose to apply PSD permitting to greenhouse gases.

The table below summarizes the results.

PSD Table [click to continue…]

Post image for What Happens to the U.S. Economy If ‘Progressives’ Kill Coal?

A new study by Heritage Foundation analysts Nicholas Loris, Kevin Dayaratma, and David Kreutzer clarifies the economically-devastating potential of the war on coal.

In effect, the study asks: What if anti-coal ‘progressives’ get everything they wish for?

Using the Heritage Foundation Energy Model, which is based on the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s National Energy Model System (NEMS), the three researchers analyze the economic impacts of a regulatory agenda phasing-out coal electric generation between 2015 and 2038. They find that by the end of 2023:

  • Employment falls by nearly 600,000 jobs.
  • Manufacturing loses over 270,000 jobs.
  • Coal-mining jobs drop 30 percent.
  • A family of four’s annual income drops more than $1,200 per year, and its total income drops by nearly $24,400 over the entire period of analysis.
  • Aggregate gross domestic product (GDP) decreases by $2.23 trillion over the entire period of the analysis.

What accounts for those losses? First, phasing out coal generation will dramatically increase demand for natural gas, boosting gas prices by 28%. Gas is a key feedstock for several manufacturing industries:

Natural gas is not only a critical source of electricity generation; natural gas and liquids produced with natural gas provide a feedstock for fertilizers, chemicals and pharmaceuticals, waste treatment, food processing, fuel for industrial boilers, increasingly used as a transportation fuel, and much more.

The main reason, though, is simply that killing a major source of affordable electric power will increase business and household energy costs:

It will cost more to heat, cool, and light homes, and to cook meals. These higher energy prices will also have rippling effects throughout the economy. As energy prices increase, the cost of making products rises. Higher operating costs for businesses will be reflected in higher prices for consumers. Because everything Americans use and produce requires energy, consumers will take hit after hit. As prices rise, consumers buy less, and companies are forced to shed employees, close entirely, or move to other countries where the cost of doing business is lower. The result is fewer opportunities for American workers, lower incomes, less economic growth, and higher unemployment.

Two maps in the Heritage study should remove any doubt that the war on coal is an attack on a vital component of the U.S. economy and, thus, a danger to public health and welfare. [click to continue…]