June 2015

Post image for IER Study: Existing Coal Much Less Costly than New Gas, Wind


The Institute for Energy Research (IER) has published a first of a kind study on the levelized cost of electricity from existing power plants. Although not discussed as such, the report corroborates concerns that EPA’s Clean Power Plan would significantly increase electricity prices by replacing low-cost existing coal generation with more costly new generation from natural gas and wind.

How much more costly? The authors, Tom Stacy and George Taylor, estimate that new natural gas combined cycle (NGCC) costs about twice as much as existing coal and new wind costs about three times as much.

IER levelized cost existing coal vs new natural gas new wind June 2015




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Post image for EPA’s Climate Action Flim-Flam Report



EPA last week released Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action. As summarized by the agency’s press release, the 96-page report “compares two future scenarios”:

a future with significant global action on climate change, where global warming [in 2100] has been limited to 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit), and a future with no action on climate change (where global temperatures rise 9 degrees Fahrenheit). The report then quantifies the differences in health, infrastructure and ecosystem impacts under the two scenarios, producing estimates of the costs of inaction and the benefits of reducing global GHG emissions.

The report has five main sections (health, infrastructure, electricity, water resources, agricultural and forestry, and ecosystems). At the end of each section, EPA cites to an underlying technical study. I may examine one or more of those in a later post. Here I will point out a few tricks EPA uses to make its case.

The core bias that predetermines all the alarming forecasts in EPA’s report is the assumption that, in the reference (“no action”) scenario, global temperatures will increase by 9°F (5°C) between 2010 and 2100 (the red line in the chart below).

EPA CIRA Global Temperatures References vs Mitigation









Average U.S. temperatures are projected to rise even higher. In the reference scenario, EPA projects a 14ºF increase above present temperatures in the Mountain West and a 12°F increase in the northern regions. In contrast, temperatures rise no more than 4ºF in any state under the “global action” scenario.

EPA CIRA US Temperatures References vs Mitigation





Unsurprisingly, in EPA’s assessment, unmitigated warming produces terrible and terrifying climate impacts whereas “global action” reduces such impacts to manageable and non-threatening levels. For example, EPA claims significant global action would reduce U.S. urban heat-related mortality by 93% in 2100, saving approximately 12,000 lives in that year.

EPA CIRA US Urban Heat Related Morality Reference vs Mitigation










How reasonable is it, though, to suppose that average global temperatures in 2100 will be 9°F higher than they are today? Not very. [click to continue…]

Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on the H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act. The bill well-deserves every vote it gets on the way to passage.

It’s a commonsense measure that basically codifies how EPA interpreted the Clean Air Act for three decades before the Obama administration. In the late 1970s, EPA promulgated a rule that allowed States to exempt sources from regulation under the “existing source performance standards” program, which is the same provision that authorizes EPA’s controversial Clean Power Plan. EPA, however, made no mention of these variances in its proposed Clean Power Plan. The Ratepayer Protection Act would reintroduce this practice by allowing Governors to opt out the rule if he/she determines it would have an unacceptable impact on energy prices or electric reliability.

In addition, the bill would delay implementation of the Clean Power Plan until judicial review ran its course. This is necessary to correct a potential injustice attributable to the slow wheels of justice. On the one  hand, capital-intensive businesses like utilities must plan on 4+ years horizons. On the other, it takes about three years for Clean Air Act rules to endure judicial review (brashly assuming SCOTUS grants cert). The unfortunate result is that utilities, in the name of certainty, may lock in implementation of the Clean Power Plan, before we know whether or not the rule is illegal.**The Ratepayer Protection Act would preclude this unfair outcome***

Below, find a coalition letter in support of the legislation. It’s signed by 14 organizations, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

Coalition Letter in Support of H .R. 2042 Ratepayer Protection Act – Jun 23 2015

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Post image for Computer-Aided Sophistry: My Power Point on the Social Cost of Carbon

Today I participated in a panel discussion at the Heritage Foundation titled “Social Cost of Carbon: A Controversial Tool for Misguided Policy.” Heritage Foundation economist David Kreutzer moderated the panel. He also introduced Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who spoke on climate science and policy for about 20 minutes before the panel began. Cato Institute scientist Patrick Michaels and Heritage Foundation economist Kevin Dayaratna also gave presentations as panelists.

To watch the entire event, click on http://www.heritage.org/events/2015/06/carbon

My Power Point presentation includes a lot of material I did not have time to cover. So I am posting it here.

My argument may summarized as follows:

  1. Social Cost of Carbon — the cumulative damage allegedly inflicted by an incremental ton of carbon dioxide emitted in a particular year — is an unknown quantity, discernible in neither meteorological nor economic data.
  2. The SCC is a product of speculative climatology combined with speculative economics. By fiddling with inputs in complex computer models, SCC analysts can get just about any result they desire.
  3. What EPA and climate campaigners desire are ever-bigger SCC values to justify ever-more costly anti-carbon taxes and regulations.
  4. However interesting as an academic exercise, when used to guide policy, SCC analysis is computer-aided sophistry. Its political function is to make renewable energy look like a bargain at any price and make fossil fuels look unaffordable no matter how cheap.
  5. Even if SCC analysis were an exact science, it would still be biased unless paired with rigorous assessment of the social benefits of carbon energy and the social costs of carbon mitigation. It never is.
  6. The economic and social costs of carbon mitigation in all likelihood greatly exceed the social costs of carbon.
  7. By promoting regulatory excess, pseudo-scientific groupthink, and noble cause corruption, SCC analysis has become a menace to society.


from the gw.org poster archives

from the gw.org poster archives

Last week I had the privilege of addressing around two dozen academics, scientists, students, business- and other policy-interested people in Paris.  They gathered as climate realists to discuss the upcoming Paris Conference of the Parties (“COP-21”).

Here’s the background:  This winter’s 21st Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Convention on Climate Change is the preeminent annual climate confab. This year, like most, it will occur in a desirous city: Paris. There, thousands of diplomats will jet from all over the world. They will live well for two weeks. On the second Friday, they will stay up all night negotiating an agreement that promises to do something much later on, after everyone who’s currently in office is safely writing memoirs and giving lectures. They will declare greenpeace in our time. And then they will jet home.

This year, President Obama’s obvious intention is “politically binding” the U.S. to an international commitment in an effort to lock-in his Article II regulatory regimes. If the President can base the U.S. contribution on his administration’s regulations, then he can argue that said regs are “bigger than EPA” (and therefore inviolable) because at Paris we promised EPA regulations to the world. In the event his successor considers withdrawing EPA’s “global warming” regulations, this thinking posits, he or she risks polarization a la what George W. Bush experienced after asserting that he would not pursue Kyoto (with insufficient delicacy; he failed to instead emphasize that this continued the Clinton-Gore position).  The same putative threat implicitly would hang over Congress’s and even the courts’ heads.

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Probably a big carbon footprint

Probably a big carbon footprint

The Vatican released Pope Francis’s encyclical on climate change, Laudato Si’, on 18th June.  It is, in general, scientifically ill-informed, economically illiterate, intellectually incoherent, and morally obtuse.  It is also theologically suspect, and large parts of it are leftist drivel, albeit couched in the vocabulary of Catholic social teaching.

It has been reported that Vatican officials in the global warming debate want to make sure they do not put the Roman Catholic Church on the wrong side of science, as in the condemnation of Galileo in 1633 for believing that the Earth revolved around the Sun.  Laudato Si’ fails to get the science right (see paragrahps 2026), and although the Vatican can no longer prosecute heretics, Francis has no hesitation condemning those who oppose the alleged global warming consensus (see, for example, paragraph 54).

The encyclical is a diatribe against modern industrial civilization.  In this, it should be compared to the 1864 encyclical of Pius IX, Quanta cura, and its attached Syllabus of Errors, which constitute a much more impressive diatribe against modern intellectual culture.  Francis believes the industrialized economies are wrecking God’s creation by digging far too much stuff (coal, oil, natural gas) up.  The current level of resource consumption is exhausting and polluting the Earth.

On the other hand, he thinks that the wealthy industrialized countries are doing far too little to help the poor in the unindustrialized Third World.  Paragraphs 48-52 discuss the ills caused by global inequality.  But Francis does not emphasize the need for the rich to share their wealth with the poor.  That is because Francis’s thinking on these issues, as he makes clear in paragraphs 10-12, is based on the teachings of Saint Francis of Assisi (1181-1226).  It isn’t until paragraph 82 that the Pope mentions the name of Jesus. [click to continue…]

Both chambers of Congress appear likely to pass appropriations bills amended with policy riders that would check EPA on a number of fronts.

Mainstream media reports stress that these policy riders are GOP initiatives, but the fact is that all of them assuredly will enjoy robust bipartisan support. In fact, members of both parties are wary of the President’s multiple power grabs. And once these riders are attached to a spending bill, they’ll enjoy even more bipartisan appeal. After all, spending is the sine qua non of parochial politics, on which all lawmakers—regardless of political party—rely for reelection. The bipartisan support for these bills, in turn, will pressure Obama. It will be harder for the President to justify a veto (and, by extension, a shutdown of some or perhaps all federal agencies) on the grounds of GOP intransigence if his own party is in on the act.

Thus, these bills are viable politics. Which means that green groups are sharpening their knives.

As I’ve explained here, here, and here, green special interest have become very active in the business of slimy attack ads. Whenever one of their ideological ends is threatened, these groups spend millions of dollars on tasteless and mendacious media campaigns that portray their opponents as murderers hellbent on polluting babies to death. Alas, I’m not making this up.

So here’s a prediction you can take to the bank: Green groups will soon announce a new “hard hitting” television, radio, and online media campaign whose purpose is to influence the Congress’s vote on the appropriations bill. The ads will feature wheezing babies or toddlers in oxygen masks. They will blatantly infer that any Member of Congress who sides with “polluters” (by voting for the spending bill) will have the blood of children on his or her hands.

All of this brings me to my purpose today, which is twofold:

First, I want to sound the alarm that these duplicitous green ads are coming, and thereby afford any interested parties (i.e., American business or giant pools of “dark money,” wherever they may collect) the opportunity to produce a rebuttal.

Second, I’ve generously shown the way, by producing the advertisement below, which I hope will provide an example as to how these things can be done. In it, I play the role of legendary HOFer Pittsburgh Steeler running back Franco Harris. He was the only famous bearded athlete I could think of. This would function well as a regional spot in the Keystone State; for a national spot, I’d use Phil Mickelson. And so…without further ado… [click to continue…]

Post image for Does EPA’s Clean Power Plan Endanger Manatees?


The law of unintended consequences is a harsh mistress. The Clean Power Plan (CPP), a policy touted by EPA and others as mitigating climate change impacts on species, imperils the Florida manatee, a species listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

To grasp the CPP threat to manatees, one does not need complex computer models or a Ph.D. in climate science. Cold stress is a leading killer of manatees. Coal power plants discharge heated water that keeps marine environments comfortably warm where thousands of manatees live (or rather, thousands congregate where power stations warm the surrounding waters). The CPP is a strategy to put the kibosh on coal generation. QED.

Manatees Florida Power and Light

Photo: Manatee refuge courtesy of Florida Light and Power

House Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT) and Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe (R-OK) spell out the CPP threat to manatees in a letter sent yesterday to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy. Because EPA failed to consult with the Fish & Wildlife Service about potential impacts of the CPP on manatees, the lawmakers conclude that the CPP flouts EPA’s obligations under section 7 of the ESA. [click to continue…]

Post image for Renewable Fuel Standard: Can EPA Regulate America Beyond the ‘Blend Wall’?

American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) has released four fact sheets on EPA’s proposed Renewable Fuel Standards (RFS) for 2014, 2015, and 2016, and the biomass-based diesel standard for 2017:

Today’s post discusses two key points developed in the Fact Sheets:

  • The Blend Wall — the practical limit on how much biofuel can actually be sold in a given year — is EPA’s chief reason for exercising its authority to adjust the statutory RFS blending targets for 2014-2016. However, EPA plans to breach the blend wall in 2016.
  • In conceptualizing how the blend wall may be breached, EPA drastically overestimates how much biofuel can be sold as E85 (motor fuel blended with up to 85% ethanol).

First, some quick background on the RFS and EPA’s proposal. [click to continue…]

Cooler Heads Digest 12 June 2015