Brian McGraw

A major disagreement erupted this week in the British government over future onshore windmill installations.  The number two minister in the Department of Energy and Climate Change, John Hayes, MP, declared that “enough is enough,” and that no more wind farms needed to be built in the United Kingdom.  Hayes complained that wind turbines had been “peppered across the country” without regard for public opinion.

Hayes’s boss, Energy Minister Ed Davey, MP, quickly and angrily responded that Hayes’s views are not shared by the Cabinet and that there is no formal change in government policy towards renewable energy.

Davey is a member of the Liberal Democratic Party, which is the junior partner in the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government.  Hayes, a member of the Conservative Party, clearly speaks for the majority of MPs in his party.

In response to a question by Ed Miliband, MP, leader of the Labour Party opposition, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted that government policy had not changed, thereby apparently backing Davey.  But then Cameron said that it was time for a debate about future policy on onshore wind installations.

Official British government policy aims for 13 gigawatts of wind capacity by 2020. Current capacity is 7.3 gigawatts, with hundreds of wind turbines currently under construction.

A new report published in Greenwatch by the Capital Research Center documents the significant financial backing that Canadian groups have received in order to garner opposition to development of the Canadian oil sands and the Keystone XL Pipeline. Brian Seasholes, an adjunct scholar at CEI, writes:

Media accounts and policy discussions of oil sands and Keystone XL usually portray the adversaries as David vs. Goliath: small, underfunded environmental pressure groups taking on big, wealthy corporations. In reality, the activists, especially in Canada, look less like grassroots groups than like subsidiaries of large U.S. institutional donors, many with billions of dollars of assets—organizations that have funneled colossal amounts of money to anti-oil sands groups over the past decade.

While the U.S. media have paid scant attention to this funding stream, a handful of Canadians have picked up the slack. The first to blow the whistle were left-wing Canadian activists, who feared funding from U.S. donors would make “green” pressure groups less confrontational and more likely to cut deals with governments and corporations. Then in the mid-2000s left-wing journalists in Canada blew the whistle, most notably Peter Cizek, Dru Oja Jay, and Macdonald Stainsby, with the Pew Charitable Trusts as their favorite target.

He includes this helpful table, documenting grants from 1999 to present:

[click to continue…]

While I’ll be the first to admit I would prefer Mitt Romney’s energy policies to those of President Obama, especially his appreciation for increased energy production on public lands and the OCS, I found his newly released energy policy white paper slightly humorous in parts.

On the top of page 19:

• Focus government investment on research across the full spectrum of energy-related technologies, not on picking winners in the market;

• Support increased market penetration and competition among energy sources by maintaining the RFS and eliminating regulatory barriers to a diversification of the electrical grid, fuel system, or vehicle fleet;

On the bottom of page 19:

Instead of distorting the playing field, the government should be ensuring that it remains level. The same policies that will open access to land for oil, gas, and coal development can also open access for the construction of wind, solar, and hydropower facilities. Strengthening and streamlining regulations and permitting processes will benefit the development of both traditional and alternative energy sources, and encourage the use of a diverse range of fuels including natural gas in transportation. Instead of defining success as providing enough subsidies for an uncompetitive technology to survive in the market, success should be defined as eliminating any barriers that might prevent the best technologies from succeeding on their own.

I’m not sure what the Renewable Fuel Standard is other than a subsidy for an uncompetitive technology allowing it to survive in the market.

I guess you can’t win them all.

Yesterday The Hill‘s Energy Blog reported on a brief filed by the EPA in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia:

The documents filed Monday with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia reveal the reasoning behind EPA’s move to shoot down the American Petroleum Institute’s (API) challenge of the renewable fuel standard (RFS). EPA determined that enough advanced biofuels — generally understood to be made from non-food products — existed to meet that portion of the RFS for 2012.

“EPA reasonably considered the production capacity likely to be developed throughout the year, while API would have EPA rely narrowly and solely on proven past cellulosic biofuel production,” EPA said in its brief. “EPA reasoned that lowering the advanced biofuel volume in these circumstances would be inconsistent with EISA’s [the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007] energy security and greenhouse gas reduction goals, and decided to leave the statutory advanced biofuel volume unchanged.”

The (main) question here is what the 2012 cellulosic biofuel requirements should be set at. The EPA is arguing that they took a reasonable look at capacity production and put out what they thought could be developed, while the American Petroleum Institute is only looking at historic cellulosic biofuel production. So who is being reasonable? [click to continue…]

Graph courtesy of Roger Pielke Jr.

The EPA announced yesterday that it would open a 30 day commenting period as it weighs requests from multiple state governors to use provisions in the Clean Air Act to temporarily suspend the corn ethanol mandate under the Renewable Fuel Standard:

The EPA asked on Monday for public comment on the need for an ethanol waiver. The 30-day comment period will begin once the notice is published in the Federal Register.

“This notice is in keeping with EPA’s commitment to an open and transparent process to evaluate requests the agency receives under the Clean Air Act, and does not indicate any predisposition to a specific decision,” agency spokeswoman Alisha Johnson said in a statement.

By law the agency has until November 13 to make a decision on the waivers, meaning EPA could act on the requests after national elections on November 6.

Aimed at reducing U.S. reliance on foreign oil, the Renewable Fuels Standard, or RFS, would require 13.2 billion gallons of ethanol to be made from corn this year. [click to continue…]

Post image for CFL Bulbs May Pose Risk to Skin

Via Kenneth Green and The Daily Caller, comes some research which suggests that ultraviolet rays from compact fluorescent bulbs may pose a risk to healthy skin cells.

From the studies abstract:

In this study, we studied the effects of exposure to CFL illumination on healthy human skin tissue cells (fibroblasts and keratinocytes). Cells exposed to CFLs exhibited a decrease in the proliferation rate, a significant increase in the production of reactive oxygen species, and a decrease in their ability to contract collagen. Measurements of UV emissions from these bulbs found significant levels of UVC and UVA (mercury [Hg] emission lines), which appeared to originate from cracks in the phosphor coatings, present in all bulbs studied. [click to continue…]

Post image for Consumer Preferences Versus Energy Efficiency Regulations

The Mercatus Center released a paper (PDF) this month co-authored by Ted Gayer (an economist at the Brooking Institution) and W. Kip Viscusi (an economics professor at Vanderbilt), titled “Overriding Consumer Preferences with Energy Regulations” which questions the economic justification for various government schemes implemented to force energy efficiency improvements in consumer household products, automobiles, lightbulbs, etc. The abstract is below:

This paper examines the economic justification for recent U.S. energy regulations proposed or enacted by the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The case studies include mileage requirements for motor vehicles and energy-efficiency standards for clothes dryers, room air conditioners, and light bulbs. The main findings are that the standards have a negligible effect on greenhouse gases and the preponderance of the estimated benefits stems from private benefits to consumers, based on the regulators’ presumption of consumer irrationality.

The paper walks through the basic economic understanding of consumer rationality, and explains why behavioral critiques of consumer rationality fail to undermine the general conclusion that consumers are overwhelmingly rational and tend to act in their own best interest, and that “in most contexts consumers are better equipped than analysts or policymakers to make market decisions that affect themselves.” [click to continue…]

From the Sunday talk show circuit, summary courtesy of Politico:

High energy costs, not the drought gripping more than half the country, may take a bite out of Americans’ grocery bills, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said Sunday.

With 26 states in drought conditions, CNN’s Candy Crowley repeatedly pressed Vilsack on “State of the Union: over a connection to jumps in the prices of some food items, but Vilsack resisted the connection.

“If [people] are using this drought to inappropriately raise prices, shame on them,” Vilsack said.

Typically, when it is discovered that in the future there will be much less of a certain commodity than previously expected, the price rises. While some energy prices have risen, they haven’t changed enough to warrant such a dramatic rise in the price of corn. The primary cause is lowered yields resulting from drought:

U.S. feed grain supplies for 2012/13 are projected sharply lower this month with lower production for corn on lower yields. Extremely hot weather and drought result in a 20- bushel-per-acre decline in the projected corn yield to 146 bushels per acre reducing projected production to 13.0 billion bushels, compared with 14.8 billion bushels last month. The June Acreage report increased planted acreage relative to March intentions but harvested acreage was reduced 249,000 acres. Corn supplies for 2012/13 are projected1.8 billion bushels lower. Forecast 2012/13 prices are increased for corn, sorghum, and barley and oats. With tighter supplies and higher price prospects, domestic corn use is projected down 755 million bushels as feed and residual and ethanol use prospects are lowered. [click to continue…]

Pickens Payoff Plan, RIP

by Brian McGraw on June 27, 2012

in Blog

Post image for Pickens Payoff Plan, RIP

Representative John Sullivan (R-OK) lost a Republican primary last night to Jim Bridenstine, who is likely to win Sullivan’s seat in November. Sullivan was the main sponsor of the T. Boone Pickens NAT-GAS Act, which would have funneled money into subsidies for building out infrastructure for natural gas vehicles, specifically fueling stations throughout the country and providing tax credits for large truck fleets that converted to natural gas. While the past few years have seen significant anti-incumbent sentiments, one notable difference between Sullivan and Bridenstine was their stance on subsidizing natural gas:

On only one issue, energy policy, did Sullivan and Bridenstine substantially disagree. Sullivan touted his bill to promote natural gas vehicle fuels, while Bridenstine supports an alternative proposal.

“Let’s get cars, trucks and buses running on natural gas,” Sullivan said. “We have an abundance of it here in the United States. It’s cheap and abundant and … it also addresses a national security issue by lessening our dependence on foreign oil.”

Bridenstine calls Sullivan’s NatGas Act a “big-government” boondoggle because it creates a short-term subsidy to convert vehicles to natural gas.

“We ought not let Washington, D.C., control free markets with tax subsidies,” he said.

Bridenstine said he supports the Domestic Jobs, Domestic Energy, and Deficit Reduction Act, which is backed by Oklahoma’s U.S. Sens. Jim Inhofe and Tom Coburn. That measure is intended to more directly stimulate oil and gas exploration in the United States.

Neither bill, as it turns out, is expected to win approval in Congress.

Now, this was only one “town-hall” type meeting, but perhaps voters in Oklahoma are tired of crony capitalism. It will certainly make the legislation harder to pass, as Sullivan was the primary sponsor, and was on the Energy & Commerce committee.


Post image for CEI’s Myron Ebell Discusses the Utility MACT Vote

CEI’s Myron Ebell appeared on E&E-TV this morning to discuss the upcoming vote on Senator Inhofe’s (R-OK) CRA vote to end the EPA’s mercury and air toxic’s rule. You can watch the video here. Here is a snippet of the conversation:

Monica Trauzzi: Myron, the Senate is expected to take up a measure this month that would change the future of EPA’s mercury and air toxics rule. There are two proposals that are actually being discussed on the Hill right now and the first is by Senator Inhofe and that would scrap the rule entirely. The second is by Senators Alexander and Pryor, and that would give utilities a little extra time to comply with the rule. What’s your take on the proposals and the overall impact on industry?

Myron Ebell: Well, first, the House has already passed legislation with a quite significant majority to block the utility MACT rule. Senator Inhofe’s resolution is brought under the Congressional Review Act and, therefore, it only requires a majority of those voting and it cannot be blocked by the Majority Leader or require a 60 vote, procedural vote. So, his is actually doable in the Senate. The Alexander Pryor legislation, I think Senator Alexander, who we might think of as the next Dick Lugar, is trying to provide cover for Democrats in tough election races to say that they’re voting for something that has absolutely no chance of passage, because their bill would take 60 votes, whereas Senator Inhofe’s much better resolution, which would block the rule entirely, only takes 50. The Alexander-Pryor legislation would only delay the implementation by a couple of years. So, instead of giving utilities four years, they would have six years in order to shut down their coal-fired power plants essentially.

Monica Trauzzi: But isn’t that a good thing? I mean couldn’t that help industry if they had a little extra time to comply and apply some of these technologies?

Myron Ebell: Sure, it could, but the fact is that there is no technology that will help these coal-fired power plants comply. So, we’re just essentially extending the killing off of coal-fired power plants. This bill has no chance of passage. That’s the key thing. It’s only being introduced to try to peel votes off of the Inhofe resolution.

Monica Trauzzi: So, you’re talking about the Alexander-Pryor bill?

Myron Ebell: Yes, it has, it would require 60 votes and there aren’t, if there aren’t 50 votes for the Inhofe resolution, there certainly aren’t going to be 60 for the Alexander bill.

Watch the rest here, or read the entire transcript here.