March 2015

Cooler Heads Digest 6 March 2015

"Did you hear about Walter Peck?"

“Did you hear about Walter Peck?”

In January 2014, EPA proposed the Carbon Pollution Standards, a regulation that would require new coal-fired power plants to install carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) technology. Because CCS is not yet commercially viable, it is prohibitively expensive. As a result, EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards rule effectively bans the construction of new coal-fired power plants. Needless to say, the regulation is very controversial. It is expected to be finalized this summer.

However, for months in D.C. there’s been circulating a rumor, to the effect that EPA is second-guessing the wisdom of its CCS mandate. Per these whispers, EPA is thinking of dropping a CCS requirement because the agency recognized that the Carbon Pollution Standards’ precarious legality jeopardized the Obama administration’s #1 climate change priority—the Clean Power Plan. The two regulations share a sequentially consequential relationship under the Clean Air Act, such that the Carbon Pollution Standard (a *new* source standard) must precede the Clean Power Plan (an *existing* source standard). If the former gets struck down in court, then it undercuts the latter. By dropping the CCS, EPA also drops a legal liability for the Clean Power Plan.

Yesterday, the rumor finally went public, in an InsideEPA article ($) by the always reliable Dawn Reeves, the opening of which I’ve excerpted immediately below [click to continue…]

Post image for Is Climate Policy Sustainable? Sobering Slides on the EU’s 60-by-50 Climate Treaty Proposal


In the current round of climate treaty negotiations, the European Union (EU) advocates a legally-binding ‘protocol’ that would “put the world on track to reduce global greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by at least 60% below 2010 levels by 2050.” This is roughly equivalent to the EU’s longstanding goal to reduce emissions 50% below 1990 levels by 2050.

On the scale from piece of cake to economic suicide pact, how “ambitious” (or crazy) is the EU proposal?

U.S. Chamber of Commerce VP for climate and technology Stephen Eule kindly sent me two slides based on his analysis of the ‘scope of the challenge.’

To achieve a 60% reduction in carbon dioxide-equivalent greenhouse gases by 2050, the world as a whole must reduce emissions from 49 gigatons CO2e in 2010 to 19.6 gigatons in 2050. That may not seem like a big stretch at first glance until you realize that global emissions are projected to reach 87.0 gigatons in 2050 under current policies. In other words, to meet the EU target, global emissions must decrease by 67.4 gigatons or 77.5% below the baseline estimate for 2050.

Eule 2






The graph should immediately raise red flags. No country has ever powered its development out of poverty chiefly with solar panels, wind turbines, and biofuels. Developing country GHG emissions already exceed those of industrial countries, nearly all emissions growth over the next 35 years and beyond is expected to occur in developing countries, and billions of desperately poor people still lack access to modern commercial energy, nearly 87% of which comes from fossil fuels.

So under the EU’s “60-by-50” global emissions cap, how much additional CO2-emitting fossil energy would developing countries be allowed to use?

The answer, revealed in Eule’s next chart, is not much. [click to continue…]


EPA-approved, consumer-rejected

EPA-approved, consumer-rejected

During a hearing last week, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy claimed that the Obama administration’s fuel efficiency standards [a.k.a. “CAFE standards”] are evidently successful, because “you can’t a see a car commercial where they don’t talk about energy efficiency, because the car companies now know that everyone wants fuel efficient vehicles.”

At the time, I disputed her contention that “everyone wants fuel efficient vehicles,” with regard to American consumers. In fact, the recent drop in gas prices precipitated a big increase in the purchase of fuel inefficient cars and trucks in the U.S. The consumer rush to gas guzzlers in America was such that President Obama found it necessary to admonish his constituents for doing so.

Administrator McCarthy’s claim was further belied by a report in yesterday’s Financial Times ($), “Off Roaders Reach New Peaks as Market Shifts,” by Andy Sharman. According to Mr. Sharman, it’s not just ugly Americans flocking to SUVs, because the same holds true for supposedly super-climate-conscientious western Europeans: [click to continue…]

There are four primary components to your electricity bill: Generation, Transmission, Distribution, and Retail*.


When the wealthy greens among us install a solar panel system on their roofs, this power production represents only one of four components of your electricity bill: Generation.


Under “net-metering” billing regimes, solar power producers can sell their excess electricity (i.e., that which exceeds their demand) back to the utility, for which they [the rooftop solar owners] usually are credited the full-retail rate of electricity. So the value of the credit received by the solar panel owner is based on: [click to continue…]

The big story of the day is the news, broken last night by the New York Times, that Hilary Clinton exclusively used private email accounts to conduct official business while she was Secretary of State. This apparent gross violation of federal recordkeeping laws provides the perfect segue to….The Top Five Transparency Abuses at Obama’s EPA. I’d be remiss if I failed to note that all of these outrages were unearthed by my colleague Chris Horner, who literally wrote the book on how to use the Freedom of Information Act.

#5: EPA’s Routine Egregious Censorship

The Freedom of Information Act allows citizens to petition federal agencies for information. However, not all information is subject to these requests; the statute stipulates a number of exemptions. And of these exemptions, the broadest (and, therefore, most vulnerable to abuse) is known as the “b(5)” exemption, after its statutory provision (5 U.S.C. §552(b)(5)). Indeed, Obama’s EPA has broken new ground in the application of “b(5),” such that the censor’s pen renders entire FOIA productions black. I wish I were kidding—we post the evidence here. It’s a Kafkaesque. [click to continue…]

The Emptiness of EPA’s “Scientific Integrity” Program Is Laid Bare; Silly Story on Alleged AGW Roots of Syrian Civil War; Yet Again Climate Change Gets No Questions on Sunday Political Talkies, and Much More

  • EPA’s Scientific Integrity Officer Francesca Grifo yesterday took to EPA Connect (“The Official Blog of EPA Leadership”) in order to announce the rollout of EPA’s Fiscal Year 2014 Scientific Integrity Annual Report. By my cursory count, there are 22 sentences in the blog, and 21 total mentions of the phrase “scientific integrity.” And yet, despite this prevalence of the term in the blog, I was as ignorant of what “scientific integrity” means after reading Grifo’s piece as I was before having read her post. To my eyes, this suggests that “scientific integrity” is an empty shibboleth (akin to “environmental justice”), for which an office is maintained for no purpose other than the cause of appealing optics.  My intuition was confirmed when I read the first sentence of the Fiscal Year 2014 Scientific Integrity Annual Report, which states that “this report is part of the Agency’s ongoing commitment to transparency.” In reality, of course, EPA has demonstrated antipathy for the principles of transparency. It follows that “scientific integrity”—a function of the agency’s supposed commitment to transparency—is a sham.
  • Yesterday the media went nuts [see screenshot immediately below] with a study linking climate change to civil war in Syria, by way of AGW-induced drought. Of the scores of articles on the subject, I read only one, by Slate’s Eric Holthaus, and it was as ridiculous as one might think. It featured a George Washington professor Marcus King, who reportedly said that climate change was the “dominant factor” leading to the 4 million emigrants fleeing the conflict—a.k.a., “climate refugees” in the mumbo jumbo jargon of the academic. Imagine that! Climate change, rather than humankind’s unfortunate nature, is the “dominant” cause of the Syrian civil war. Incredibly, that wasn’t even the silliest thing in the article. That dubious honor goes to Colin Kelley, a climate scientist at the University of California–Santa Barbara and the study’s lead author, who reportedly suggested that the U.S. should be “proactive” about this issue because a western U.S. State is at risk of suffering Syria’s fate (i.e., climate change induced civil war). [click to continue…]