April 2014

Secretary of State John Kerry: “Climate change can now be considered the world’s largest weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even, the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” It is, moreover, “the greatest challenge of our generation.”

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy: “If we don’t start dealing with climate change, which is the biggest public health challenge we face, as well as the biggest economic challenge we face…then I think we’re losing for the next generation and also for our own, frankly.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: “Climate change is the worst problem facing the world today.”

Rolling Stone reporter Jeff Goodell: Climate change is “the greatest challenge human civilization has ever faced.”

MSNBC host Chris Hayes: “The scientific consensus is that human civilization cannot survive in any recognizable form a temperature increase this century more than 2 degrees Celsius.”

Last, but certainly not least:

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EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy kicked off a jet-fueled, week-long tour to raise alarm about climate change with an appearance Monday on Comedy Central’s Daily Show (video below the break).

Of course, it’s a comedy show, but the host famously skirts the line between real and fake, and near the end of the segment, he asked Administrator McCarthy a very topical question: What would she do to fix the climate, if she had her “druthers.”

Below is her answer:

We’re going to regulate [greenhouse gases] under the Clean Air Act…we’re going to make it [greenhouse gas regulations] flexible, but you’re going to get significant greenhouse gas reductions out of it…We’re not talking about taking any fuel out of the system, we’re talking about making things more efficient, we’re talking about investments in efficiency [and] renewable energy.

Our job is to try to drive those reductions nationally, but to make sure that every state is differently positioned. Some have already done really impressive energy efficiency work. You know what? They could do a lot more.

In her answer, Administrator McCarthy is discussing EPA’s pending Clean Air Act §111(d) guidelines to control greenhouse gases from existing coal-fired power plants. The guidelines are due in June (although there is mounting evidence that the rulemaking is in disarray), and its contents are the subject of heavy speculation. To this end, looking at McCarthy’s quote, I’m struck by how often she stresses “efficiency.”

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Breathlessly reports today’s E&E PM ($):

Political spending by the fossil fuel industry has soared in recent years, and companies have been rewarded with billions of dollars in federal subsidies for oil, gas and coal projects, according to a report released today by environmental groups.

Contributions from the oil and gas industry increased by a staggering 11,761 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to a report released today by the Sierra Club and Oil Change International.

Conspicuously absent from E&E PM’s article is mention of the fact that Sierra Club took millions from the natural gas industry to attack the coal industry, DURING THE SAME TIME PERIOD THAT IS COVERED BY THE REPORT!!!

As I noted in February 2012,

Bryan Walsh in Time Magazine this week broke the big story that the Sierra Club received over $25 million from the natural gas industry to serve as a corporate shill and attack the coal industry.  Walsh wrote: “TIME has learned that between 2007 and 2010 the Sierra Club accepted over $25 million in donations from the gas industry, mostly from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy—one of the biggest gas drilling companies in the U.S. and a firm heavily involved in fracking—to help fund the Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Though the group ended its relationship with Chesapeake in 2010—and the Club says it turned its back on an additional $30 million in promised donations—the news raises concerns about influence industry may have had on the Sierra Club’s independence and its support of natural gas in the past.”

For shame!

Last Friday, President Barack Obama again delayed a decision on whether the Keystone XL Pipeline is in the national interest.

Many have speculated that in doing so, the President is pandering to green special interests and their big-pocketed benefactors.

But not DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

In an interview with David Gregory on Sunday’s Meet the Press, she said that politics “doesn’t factor into [the President’s] decision” on whether to proceed with the pipeline. Watch her response below:


However, two nights ago on Hardball with Chris Matthews, which is a functional outpost of the DNC, guest host Joy Reid adopted a perspective on the matter that is entirely at odds with that taken by party leader Wasserman Shultz.

According to Reid, the President’s decision, far from being apolitical, was in fact perfect politics, because it benefits ALL democrats.

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Here’s the lede to today’s Politico Morning Energy:

STEYER – I’M NOT THE KOCHS: Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer insisted Tuesday that he’s not the left’s version of the Koch brothers. “That is not something I embrace. I think there are real distinctions between the Koch brothers and us,” Steyer said in an interview with POLITICO and The Washington Post taped for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” which will air on Sunday. Steyer, who hopes to use his vast personal fortune to make climate change a top priority in the upcoming midterm elections, said he’s not entering politics for personal gain. Charles and David Koch’s priorities “line up perfectly with their pocketbooks – and that’s not true for us,” Steyer said.

Steyer’s claims are, in fact, disputable. For starters, as I understand it, the Kochs have given scores of millions to the ACLU, public television, and hospitals, and I don’t believe it’s possible to logically argue that these priorities “line up perfectly with [the business interests of Charles and David Koch].”

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Remember President George W. Bush’s hydrogen car initiative? Or maybe you recall President Barack Obama’s pledge to create 5 million green jobs? Or O’s commitment to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015? You probably don’t remember any of these promises, because none of them came even close to fruition.

Yesterday, we were given a(nother) helpful reminder that government cannot create green energy industries from scratch, when the EPA revised its cellulosic ethanol production quota precipitously downward. That this lesson in limits occurred on Earth Day is apt.


Cellulosic ethanol is a transportation fuel made from anything other than food. Supposedly, it’s the next big thing in green energy: a “biofuel” with a lower carbon footprint than regular gasoline. There was no cellulosic industry in the U.S. in 2007, when Congress decided to create one. To this end, lawmakers simply mandated ever-increasing volumes of production, until 2022, when cellulosic ethanol is supposed to account for about 10% of the total market for transportation fuels.

Take a moment to appreciate how stupid this is! Politicians sought to overhaul a core market in the world’s biggest economy, and their primary method of doing so was to…command that the market bend to its will, stat! Evidently, Members of Congress think they’re genies.

By statute, cellulosic ethanol was to appear (magically?) in the following increments: 100 million gallons in 2010; 250 million gallons in 2011; 500 million gallons in 2012; and 1 billion gallons in 2013. Thereafter, the mandate continues to grow, albeit in a less geometric fashion, until it hits 16 billion gallons a year in 2022.

And here’s a corresponding list of what’s actually been produced: 0 gallons in 2010; 0 gallons in 2011; and 20,000 gallons in 2012. While we still don’t know the 2013 figures, KiOR Inc., a cellulosic biofuel company on which EPA had counted to meets its 2013 cellulosic standard, recently announced it had idled production. So it doesn’t appear as if there’s been a breakthrough.

Alas, it gets stupider. Congress tasked EPA with implementing its production quotas, and the agency has the authority to adjust the target. Obviously, this is a tough job. On the one hand, there are pie-in-the-sky statutory targets; on the other, none of the stuff is being manufactured.

Nevertheless, EPA’s execution of this difficult duty leaves much to be desired. Instead of relying on actual data (such as cellulosic production data through a few months of the year for which EPA is choosing a target), the agency has acted on the word of what cellulosic ethanol producers claim they can make. Of course, these are the very businesses that benefit from the cellulosic mandate. They have a financial incentive to be unrealistically optimistic.

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CEI’s Myron Ebell this afternoon participated on an Earth Day panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation. Other panelists were: Daren Bakst, Heritage Foundation; Steve Milloy, Murray Energy Corporation and David Schnare, Energy & Environmental Legal Institute.

Here’s how Heritage described the event:

There is a lot to celebrate this Earth Day. The environment continues to get cleaner. Air and water quality are much better. Human achievement and development are helping to create a more prosperous nation that can better address environmental challenges. This important success story often gets lost in the misinformation campaigns that try to paint a picture of a country with dire environmental conditions. This panel will highlight environmental trends, dispel environmental myths, and demonstrate how human progress is critical to the well-being of humans and the environment.

Below, I’ve posted video of the panel.

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Energy In Depth (EID), a project of the Independent Petroleum Association of America, has posted an informative Earth Day Video: U.S. Slashes CO2 Emissions, Thanks to Shale.

The video includes comments from EPA’s Gina McCarthy, the IPCC, the International Energy Agency, and other analysts and policymakers, all of whom credit fracking and shale gas for reducing U.S. carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to a 20-year low.

Although eco-activists claim CO2-induced climate change is the greatest environmental peril facing humanity, they have only scorn for EID’s call to celebrate fracking on Earth Day.

The NRDC called the video “beyond offensive,” while the green blog EcoWatch said the video was “appalling.”

NRDC offers no argument, so their reaction is just name-calling. EcoWatch says the “remarks and data” from Gina McCarthy, IPCC, etc. are “out of context.” That’s an argument, sort of, but completely baseless. Watch the video and judge for yourself.

“Biofuels made from left-overs of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global-warming in the short run, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration’s conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will combat climate change,” reports the Associated Press.  “A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released Sunday in the peer-reviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline. . .the study says they won’t meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel. The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue.”

This is disappointing, because cellulosic biofuels are far less destructive to the environment than traditional ethanol, which is a special interest boondoggle that harms the environment while enriching politically-connected companies at the expense of taxpayers, consumers, and hungry people in the Third World.

The Obama Administration has clung to ethanol mandates, backing them despite growing evidence that they increase world hunger and mortality, and harm the environment.

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Post image for Pollution Control Executive: Carbon Pollution Standard Suppresses Innovation in Carbon “Pollution” Control

Among social scientists, this is called an “unintended consequence.”  Below, I’ve excerpted the money quote, as reported by Greenwire’s Manuel Quiñones. Read the whole thing here.

“We’ve pulled way back on carbon capture [research and development],” said Kip Alexander, an executive at Babcock & Wilcox Co. He cited “the way the rules are being written, the rules are being made” for the strategic decision to scale back.”