Anthony Ward

Post image for Gone with the Wind: Is an Energy Technology Sustainable If It Cannot Sustain Itself?

If this past year is any indication, wind energy may become little more than a dream remembered. That is, unless the government continues to step in to support the industry. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), only seventy mw of wind power was added to the nation’s power supply; the slowest increase since recordkeeping began in 2005. The cause of the decrease in the rate of expansion is attributed to uncertainty building up at the end of last year over whether there would be an extension of the Federal Wind Production Tax Credit (PTC) in 2013.

Tom Kiernan, the CEO of AWEA, describes last year’s uncertainty as engendering a boom-bust cycle, delaying the planning of new projects for 2013. What Kiernan says, however, is misleading.  It is not the uncertainty over the wind PTC that created this problem. The problem comes from the wind energy boom generated by the cash grant program of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or section 1603.

As Lisa Linowes explains on

 We’ve long known that Section 1603, the cash grant program enacted under The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA), fueled a wind bubble that was certain to burst, and it did.

Under 1603, roughly 30,000 megawatts of new wind was installed, more than doubling the wind capacity in the country. As much as 90% of the 13,000+ MW of wind installed last year alone can be attributed to Section 1603, not the PTC.


In order to receive the grant, projects needed to be in-service by the end of 2012. Developers raced to meet the deadline which flushed the industry’s project pipeline.

This is a clear example of the knowledge problem; government inefficiently allocating resources (in this case, wind subsidies) when the market would provide a better solution. [click to continue…]

Post image for EPA Meetings on Coal Regulations Exclude Those Living in Coal Producing Regions

Following EPA’s  proposal to implement regulations forcing coal power plants to reduce emissions, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced that her agency would be holding eleven public listening sessions around the country to discuss EPA’s plans and to receive feedback from the public (Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, Chicago, IL, Dallas, TX, Denver, CO, Lenexa, KS, New York, NY, Philadelphia, PA, San Francisco, CA, Seattle, WA, Washington, DC). Coal power plant operators have repeatedly said these regulatory standards cannot be met without either adopting a technology (carbon capture ans sequestration) that doesn’t yet exist, or switching to another fuel. Notably, only one meeting is being held in a city located in a state ranked in the top ten coal producing state.

It would seem the administration has no intention of promoting legitimate debate as it excludes the very people who are affected most by these regulations.

Congress is outraged by the omission of impacted states from EPA’s listening tour destinations. Last Friday, 41 House representatives sent a letter to the EPA demanding to know why the proposed meeting sessions are not in the regions they affect.

These closed and existing power plants are not located in any of the areas you are holding these listening sessions. In all fairness, residents and businesses in rural areas deserve to be heard just as much.

There’s a simple reason EPA would prefer to not listen to people from coal-reliant regions: The agency’s regulations threaten jobs for no purpose, other than the placation of a special interest.

If the administration is sincere about addressing the concerns of the public, they should be holding these public listening sessions in cities located in states with the highest coal production such as Charleston, Cheyenne, Frankfort, Harrisburg, and Helena. These are the cities most accessible to people affected by the regulations and where people stand the greatest risk to lose their entire way of life.

Post image for Inspector General Satisfied After EPA Claims Innocence

Investigations usually bring to mind a picture of an in-depth collection of physical and tangible evidence, questioning of witnesses, cross-referencing those witnesses, and asking more questions to reach some conclusion about a past event to determine whether wrongdoing occurred. If a person accused of a crime claimed he was innocent, no reasonable and unbiased sleuth would stop his investigations based upon this admission alone. Unfortunately, such due diligence is not what the Inspector General undertook for its investigation of EPA’s use of secondary email accounts. The IG’s report concludes:

We found no evidence to support that the EPA used, promoted, or encouraged the use of private email accounts to circumvent records management responsibilities. Furthermore, EPA senior officials indicated that they were aware of the agency records management policies and, based only on discussions with these senior officials, the OIG found no evidence that these individuals had used private or alias  email to circumvent federal recordkeeping responsibilities.

For those unfamiliar with the ongoing saga, CEI Fellow Chris Horner, after conducting extensive research for his book, discovered a secondary email account for former EPA administrator Lisa Jackson – the birth of the so-called “Richard Windsor” scandal. The existence of this email prompted the question: Why would the EPA administrator have a secondary email account if not to hide information from the federal record? Moreover, having requested to see the contents of the private emails through the FOIA process, why has the government continued to hide information from the public through copious redaction?

If the EPA is telling the truth about its activities, then why does it continue to stonewall serious investigation attempts? The kind of investigation which relies on hard evidence and not just the word of the accused.

New studies are raising doubts about the reliability of climate model forecasts. As far back as the 1970s, most climate models have anticipated a decline in Antarctic sea ice. However, instead of declining, Antarctic sea ice in 2013 has approached record levels not seen since the 1970s. Scientists are scrambling to find explanations for this anomaly, but one thing is clear – model projections are facing a crisis of credibility.  If actual conditions diverge from the predicted, then how can we trust the predictions? It seems we are as likely to arrive to the truth about the Earth’s future climate using models as we are from reading tea leaves or performing an augury to pagan gods.

In order to salvage their credibility, scientists have sought a variable to explain away the errors of their models – increased polar winds. According to a new study, increased polar winds have offset the effect of rising temperatures. Adjusting for higher polar winds, models were able to account for 80 percent of the increase in Antarctic ice cover. The author of the study, Dr. Jinlun Zhang, an Oceanographer at the University of Washington, describes the results:

“The polar vortex that swirls around the South Pole is not just stronger than it was when satellite records began in the 1970s, it has more convergence, meaning it shoves the sea ice together to cause ridging. Stronger winds also drive ice faster, which leads to still more deformation and ridging. This creates thicker, longer-lasting ice, while exposing surrounding water and thin ice to the blistering cold winds that cause more ice growth

While higher winds could be driving the increase in polar ice, the remaining 20 percent of the increase remains unaccounted. This suggests some other factor, or combination of factors, might be driving the decrease. Moreover, scientists admit they are uncertain why the models did not anticipate the increase in polar wind. Thus, the explanation for the model error is based on the admission the models were wrong about polar wind speed. If the models were wrong about polar wind speed, then criticism about model reliability still stands.

Accepting this explanation, however, raises another problem. According to the U.S. National Snow and Ice Cover Data Center, previous studies suggest increases in polar wind speed lead to a faster rate of sea ice melt. How can the wind both increase and decrease the extent of ice?

It is clear that models must be taken with a grain of salt. Scientists are often uncertain about the exact cause of long-term changes in the Earth’s climate. Numerous variables should be considered. As Zhang notes in the study,

Still unknown is why the southern winds have been getting stronger. Some scientists have theorized that it could be related to global warming, or to the ozone depletion in the Southern Hemisphere, or just to natural cycles of variability.

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.”

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In some cases, neither the spoken nor written word is able to capture the emotional destruction wrought through disastrous public policy as does a simple tune. Perhaps this is why America was captivated when Jimmy Rose, enthralled audiences with a resounding refrain– “Coal Keeps the Lights On”:

From the coal mines of Kentucky to the battlefields of Iraq, Rose’s life lends credence to the message in his lyrics to provide the country a profound glimpse into the plight of the Appalachian coal worker.

Now, performing before a national audience last week on America’s Got Talent, Rose used his Coal Song to raise the spotlight further – perhaps Washington will take heed. The song marks a clear outcry against the Administration’s war on coal, which has endangered the very livelihood of coal workers in Appalachia.

Sadly, this message, so far, has seemed to have failed to reach the ears of the Obama Administration whose reckless policies and continual output of regulations match the pace of the continual decline in coal output and jobs. For years coal miners have been expressing their displeasure with the Administration. And, while Rose has brought the issue to the national stage, the calls of “Coal Keeps the Light On” are familiar a sight in this corner of Appalachia.  In an article last year, the NYTimes reported:

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Post image for Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 Up for House Vote This Week

EPA has the most onerous regulatory agenda of all Federal Agencies. According to CEI’s Regulatory Report Card, EPA regulations cost the US economy $353 billion per year. Many of these costs are forced onto consumers in the form of higher energy prices. Such astronomical amounts are nearly double the second most expensive agency, Health and Human Services. Given the egregious results of unlimited regulatory authority, it comes as no surprise that the House of Representatives will this week debate and vote on the Energy Consumers Relief Act of 2013 to staunch the excessive burdens on consumers.

The Energy Consumer Relief Act requires EPA to submit the estimated costs and job impacts of all energy related regulations in excess of $1 billion. Moreover, the Act gives the Department of Energy authority to block any regulations deemed to have significant economic impacts.

EPA for far too long has had meager oversight. With the revelations of former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson’s false email accounts, as well as a significant power grab against state’s rights through regulatory disapproval, it is no surprise the House is likely to vote for stricter accountability.  Enacting inter-agency review to check the seemingly inexorable growth of EPA would be a strong step towards reasserting Congressional oversight over an out-of-control bureaucracy.

Unfortunately, the Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to consider this good-government legislation.

Post image for Q. What Do Rich States Have in Common?

A. Cheap electricity.

The American Legislative Exchange Council this week released the latest version of its “Rich States, Poor States” report, which compares the economic performance of the fifty States.  It finds that eight of the top ten States for economic growth are controlled by Republican elected officials, while eight of the ten bottom States are controlled by Democrats.  Not co-incidentally, electricity costs are lower in the States with the strongest growth.  Nine of the top ten States have lower electric rates that the average of the bottom ten.

Executive branch overreach involving deliberate attempts to silence critics of the administration has become a pressing issue. Several revelations have come to light this week threatening to further cloud the Obama Administration’s claim of being “the most transparent administration in history.”  With the IRS facing allegations of deliberately targeting conservative groups, and the Department of Justice facing intense scrutiny for secretly monitoring the Associate Press, the executive branch is finding itself under siege from an onslaught of scandals. Now, something new can be added to the pile. According to CEI Senior Fellow Chris Horner, EPA has, in a sign of political bias, denied FOIA Fee Request Waivers requested by conservative groups.

Horner has discovered a clear pattern of bias against conservatives at EPA. While left-wing organizations almost always receive Fee Request waivers, conservative groups have had no such fortune.

According to a CEI press release:

In a review of letters granting or denying fee waivers granted at the “initial determination” stage from January 2012 to this Spring, Horner found green groups, such as the National Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility and EarthJustice, had their fees waived in 75 out of 82 cases. Meanwhile, EPA effectively or expressly denied Horner’s request for fee waivers in 14 of 15 FOIA requests over this same time.

The administration’s actions are, perhaps, best described in a quote from Horner in the Washington Examiner. “This is as clear an example of disparate treatment as the IRS’ hurdles selectively imposed upon groups with names ominously reflecting an interest in, say, a less intrusive or biased federal government.”

Below, I’ve posted EPA’s response to the FOIA. (N.B., there were some formatting issues, which rendered pages 2 and 3 inverted.)


EPA Responsive Records FY 2013 by Competitive Enterprise Institute

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Post image for WSJ Op-Ed Explains Benefits of CO2

Harrison Schmitt and William Happer wrote an excellent op-ed last week in the Wall Street Journal titled, “In Defense of Carbon Dioxide.” In the op-ed, Schmitt and Happer build a solid case for the benefits, as opposed to costs, occurring from an increase in the much maligned carbon dioxide.  Schmitt, who is an Adjunct Professor of Engineering at University of Wisconsin-Madison, has a distinguished reputation as an Apollo 17 astronaut and was formerly a US Senator from New Mexico. Happer is a Professor of Physics at Princeton University and was also the former director of the office of energy research at the Deparment of Energy.

According to Schmitt and Happer, rising levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere have not led to the dramatic temperature increases some models have anticipated. In fact, the increase in carbon dioxide has been beneficial. Schmitt and Happer explain:

The current levels of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere, approaching 400 parts per million, are low by the standards of geological and plant evolutionary history. Levels were 3,000 ppm, or more, until the Paleogene period (beginning about 65 million years ago). For most plants, and for the animals and humans that use them, more carbon dioxide, far from being a “pollutant” in need of reduction, would be a benefit. This is already widely recognized by operators of commercial greenhouses, who artificially increase the carbon dioxide levels to 1,000 ppm or more to improve the growth and quality of their plants.

Despite the strong argument both authors have made, several climate change alarmists have excoriated Schmitt and Happer.  In attempt to discredit the op-ed, these alarmists have resorted to using hackneyed arguments and insults to reaffirm their opposition to what they see as a flawed and misleading op-ed.  Gavin Schmidt called the op-ed, “idiotic”, and Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy, in a reference to the discredited “Hockey Stick Graph” claims the op-ed ignores the graph’s depiction of rising temperatures.

Contrary to the claims of these detractors, Schmitt and Happer’s op-ed is well-supported. According to numerous peer-reviewed studies, increases in carbon dioxide will lead to a “greening of the planet” as plants absorb the carbon dioxide allowing them to flourish well-beyond their current state.

Therefore, as Schmitt and Happer so ably demonstrate, it is imprudent for policymakers to continue to classify CO2 under the category of harmful “pollutants”.  By implementing such policies, we are being steered towards a disastrous outcome for our economic future.