Chris Horner

Headlines tout that the “U.S. and China have announced a landmark agreement to curb carbon emissions,” with the U.S. promising (to China) that it would emit 26% to 28% less carbon dioxide in ten years hence than it did ten years ago.  Naturally, under our system, for any such promise to be meaningful it requires Senate ratification under the Constitution’s Art. II, Sec. 2.  Therefore, some explanation is in order.

This promise — to China, recall — is not binding, is not intended to be binding, and will not be part of a binding promise to the rest of the world for the December 2015 Paris climate treaty talks.

This is the latest example of a new species of promise described as “politically binding”, a turn of phrase introduced in this context during the Bush years, in recognition of the fact that two-thirds of the US Senate will never agree to Kyoto-style constraints.  Shifting to “politically binding” promises also is an effort to circumvent that same reality by effectively introducing treaty commitments to the country without declaring them at customs.

Specifically, the Obama administration’s rhetorical vow is part of the shift in strategy recognizing that the successor to the 1997 Kyoto treaty must culminate with a series of “soft” commitments (those who doubt this might compare the rhetoric by pressure groups embracing Beijing with their insistence during the Bush era that nothing less than a binding pact would do).

In very short, the idea is to embed the Obama EPA’s proposed GHG rules in a series of promises to the world, mindful of “customary international law.”  Under that often gauzy notion, once commitments, however informal, rise to a certain level of recognition, a nation is bound to not violate their “object and purpose.”  So, post-Paris, options could include (according told draft pleadings produced under open records laws) activist state attorneys general turning to the court system to add law to otherwise non-binding commitments.  That would similarly afford an opening to compliant regulatory agencies enamored of the practice known as sue-and-settle.

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Post image for Algae: Forever the Fuel of the Future

I’m still thinking about this algae thing, having been on the road when the hilarity ensued. As I understand it, we’re talking about algae because those stupid Republicans keep saying we should produce more oil domestically if we want to lower the price, since we have so darned much of it. And the President responded, that’s stupid because it won’t be here tomorrow.

We instead should “invest in” algae (see, “invest in” Solyndra, “invest in” Beacon Power, “invest in Ener1″…need I continue?). Because algae will be here…um…well, don’t be a cynic.

Because the true engine of… fuels for your engine… will always be energy sources like algae (man, I just wish I was in the room when the consultants worried, “how do we avoid him telling people the real answer is properly inflating their tires,” and the response to this brainchild was “YESSSSSS!,” high fives all around!).

Of course, any insider fool knows that this is a big waste of money because the prez has “invested” a lot of our money in Fisker and the Volt. They don’t need no stinkin’ pond scum to get you where you’re going.

Anyway, flash forward using time travel, which, really, like anti-gravity boots and the rest, has never been more promising (technically, you have to admit he’s right), and enter the world when we pull up to the station and say fill ‘er up with algae! (Free packet of Sea Monkeys with each tank!). It’s just around the corner, as competitive wind and solar electricity have been just around the corner since the ’80s…the 1880s.

The price is 425 dollars and 9 10ths of a cent per gallon. Question for our economist in chief: if we produce more algae, does that bring the price down? Just a window into your thinking.

I sense somehow we’ll be told that we’re really captive to a world algae cartel and that the U.S. is powerless therefore to impact the price. And so stop asking that we produce more. We all know, by now, you can’t produce your way to lower prices.

So that’s stupid. We should instead be investing in…

Post image for Let’s Make a Bet, Mr. President

The president sneers at drilling for domestic oil. After all, it wouldn’t be to market for a few years. It won’t do anything to alleviate the pain you feel now.

Which is what the same crowd said when vetoing opening ANWR in 1995. And in opposing opening ANWR in 2000. And in 2002. And, per him in a speech in Miami the other day, in 2007. And again today.

So, here’s a challenge, Mr. President.

Let’s have a race.

Allow for more drilling. And, since you’re going to do so anyway, you go spend a bunch of our grandkids’ money on putting some algae in our tank.

Might work as well as Solyndra. Or Synfuels. Who knows?

First one there wins.

You’re a confident guy. That sarcastic speech in Miami, dripping with condescension at your fellow countrymen who would like to tap domestic resources indicates, wow, he must really know something. We’re impressed. We want to believe you.

Whaddyasay. Deal?

Post image for Hell, that’s just one month’s work for Sierra Club…

According to BusinessWeek, Chesapeake Energy is being fined $565,000 by the state of Pennsylvania over three separate incidents in 2010 and 2011.

For perspective, consider that Chesapeake Energy CEO Aubrey McClendon gave Sierra Club $26 million over 4 years or $6.5 mil per year or $541,666 (.666, for any of the faith out there wondering about this font of evil…) per month.

Unfortunate Sign of the Times

by Chris Horner on December 5, 2011

in Blog

Post image for Unfortunate Sign of the Times

Tomorrow night, Politico will name EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson as the most influential energy policymaker of the year, presumably for implementing a regulatory train wreck that will certainly make energy more expensive, and perhaps even turn out the lights.

What? Was the president of the Sierra Club unavailable?

In a blockbuster story soon to be swept under the carpet, Politico reports:

“The White House rewrote crucial sections of an Interior Department report to suggest an independent group of scientists and engineers supported a six-month ban on offshore oil drilling, the Interior inspector general says in a new report.

In the wee hours of the morning of May 27, a staff member to White House energy adviser Carol Browner sent two edited versions of the department report’s executive summary back to Interior. The language had been changed to insinuate the seven-member panel of outside experts – who reviewed a draft of various safety recommendations – endorsed the moratorium, according to the IG report obtained by POLITICO.”

In weasel words that even make this Washingtonian of twenty years blush, the Department of the Interior Inspector General writes:

“‘The White House edit of the original DOI draft executive summary led to the implication that the moratorium recommendation had been peer-reviewed by the experts,’ the IG report states, without judgment on whether the change was an intentional attempt to mislead the public.” (emphasis added)

One can certainly “lead to an inference“. But … “led to the implication”? Oh, right. You are trying not to say “implied“.

This is Exhibit A for why law schools drill into every first year’s head do not use the passive voice. It obscures meaning, begs questions, and diminishes confidence and credibility in the speaker. You come off as trying to weaselly avoid saying something. Like this guy.

And here is the, ahem, ‘implication’ placed in the administration’s twisted report before asserting the recommendations of engineers who in fact did not approve or recommend the moratorium. Prepare yourself to wade through the fog:

“the recommendations contained in this report have been peer reviewed by seven experts identified by the National Academy of Engineering”.

An implication that “led to”. A ‘lie’. Whatever. All good. (Except to the federal judge who caught…er, was led into… it, too; see p. 3).

So, the sexed up report implied something that wasn’t true — that ‘science’ and not ideology drove the numb-skulled left-wing fever dream of a drilling moratorium still effectively ravaging the Gulf Coast’s economy — an ‘implication’ which was nowhere to be found in the original report before the political and ideological spinmasters were called in late the night before the White House issued its sexed up document. They moved some language around…’implying’ a politically desirable conclusion that was patently untrue.

Contrast this with the allegedly scandalous toning down of unsupportable language in a legally meaningless climate report to the UN by former George W. Bush staffer Phil Cooney, who became the subject of a smear job in Al Gore’s silly sci-fi movie (treated in detail here). The Obama administration’s stunt entailed sexing up claims for political/ideological purposes. Where’s the outrage? (come to think of it…where’s Gore?)

Not toning hyperbole down. Sexing claims up unsupportably.

The former was scandalous — we were told. The other is being dismissed by the same crowd as, if anything, simply a result of people not reading the report objectively.

Which is where things get worse. Heads now really must roll.

“Steve Black, energy counselor to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, was the department’s point man for the safety report…Black said he didn’t have any issues with the White House edit; he and his staffer both told the IG it never occurred to them that an objective reader would conclude that peer reviewers had supported the six-month moratorium.”

Ah. Interior thinks White House did nothing wrong in…rewriting outside parties’ work to fit the ideology and agenda of Interior and the White House. So I assume BP can indeed clear itself, too?

But the smear of others never ends with people who are never wrong. Guess who the unobjective parties alluded to here are? The scientists who wrote the report that was re-written in the wee hours by an uncomfirmed (because she is unconfirmable) anti-energy czar’s ideologues!

That’s right: The White House is blaming the scientists for not recognizing their own report after the ideologues got through with it. It was they who read their bastardized work and complained. Two of the peer reviewers, upset about the ‘implication’, sent letters to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal. The DOI sent letters of apology for the misunderstanding.

Now, having been outed by one of their own, if with weasel-worded friendly fire, the administration blames the people they wronged, for not being objective in reading how people flagrantly mischaracterized their own conclusions.

Incredible. And to think, coming from Carol Browner’s office! Who knew? (well, I did, dedicating the better part of a chapter — “Van Jones Was No Accident:  The Obama Administration’s Radical ‘Green’ Activists” — to her and her M.O.). Orwell and Nixon both live on in the Obama administration.

Reconciling the various, final pre-election surveys of voter sentiment indicates a that “it’s the spending, stupid.” It is remarkable how quickly public consciousness has developed to know that debt equals taxes.

Cap-and-trade is now dead, having proven, as we predicted serially, to be the 1993 BTU tax, redux. Members in the House voted on both measures on the assurance the Senate would not leave them hanging out to dry, isolated with that difficult vote, only to see their trust misplaced. As opposition grew more intense from the people-who were not at the table when their wealth was redistributed to various interests-the senators realized that they wanted to save jobs. Theirs.

We also see that cap-and-trade’s ugly Plan B cousin, “green jobs,” is not only sure to be an obsession very soon. The public will equally soon come to understand the bankrupting expense of “green jobs” programs: in President Obama’s erstwhile model, Spain, it cost them $750,000 per (temporary) “green job,” placing the nation’s energy infrastructure and economy in peril leading to an ongoing political crisis.

All over Europe Obama’s previously touted model states are struggling to rein in the subsidy schemes which threatened to expand the Greek contagion. These are economic black holes paying small fortunes for each job created, crowding out private sector growth, displacing real jobs responding to market forces with temporary jobs that disappear when the subsidy does, as it must (see: “census jobs”). All the while they necessitate higher energy costs as part of the plan. That makes them much worse than other make-work programs like ditch-digging-and-filling.

Still, just last week Obama’s Energy Department claimed in the Washington Post that its own stimulus version of the scheme was an “unqualified success”-at a half a million dollars per temporary job created! Moreover, all parties acknowledged in the article that the bubble has to be renewed annually or it bursts. Somehow this disastrous failure proved to the Obama administration that ”clean-energy investments [sic] are ready for prime time.” Oh, dear.

The coming, attempted ’green jobs’ binge is no more than WPA-style spending, which FDR confidantes admitted as a flop, and the debt to underwrite which delays the recovery further, just as the public seems to recognize the Obama agenda has already done.

There is the coming “energy” debate in a nutshell, and how, in a rational world, it will play out. Fortunately, ‘green shoots’ of rationality do seem to be popping up. The public realize “it’s the spending, stupid” and grasp the illusory nature of economic activity predicated on such “stimulus”-style debt-spending.

An AB32 Primer

by Chris Horner on October 25, 2010

in Blog

So, we read that Hollywood, Al Gore’s group, rent-seeking industry and other green groups have been joined by the rest of the usual suspects-Google, Bill Gates-in opposing Proposition 23, a ballot initiative to delay their state’s energy rationing law which will soon take effect. That is, barring voter intervention putting a temporary stay on this economic suicide pact until the state’s economy recovers somewhat.

I should think that’s about all one needs to know about Proposition 23.

Still, all of that money to protect the global warming industry’s gravy train seems to be having an effect among telephone survey respondents. But it remains a close one. And that’s why they suit up and play the game.

The people who will be hurt most by this costly gesture by elites who for the most part will not feel the pinch of California sinking further down the drain, particularly Hispanic voters, support reclaiming voter sovereignty on an issue the political class has proven an inability to responsibly manage.

I suppose this is just fodder for so much more hand-wringing by the Left about the regular voter being too stupid for the elites to stomach. How dare those imbeciles not wildly fall for it! Remember, AB 32 was passed as a global warming law. When it began to dawn on people that now was not the time for foolish gestures, even in California, and since no one actually posits that AB 32 would ‘do something’ to the climate in any detectable way (or even close, accepting all of the alarmists’ assumptions), the party line promptly switched to it being a jobs bill. Yeah, that’s it.

And, now, as the truth is making the rounds that this “world’s first” scheme has in fact proven to be a job-killing bog in many places already, the global warming industry has now done its usual late-hour race to the bottom. One pressure group is blitzing the airwaves with shameful ads saying this is about (of course) childhood respiratory function. Not a word in the ad about global warming. Huh. This comes from the California chapter of a group long having had a difficult relationship with being straight on such matters (including, as Reason’s Joel Schwartz has pointed out on many occasions, about California-specific issues and, as I detailed in Red Hot Lies, about global warming).

Which begs the question, unless they are just torturing the facts and being alarmist (again), why wasn’t that the reason AB 32 was passed to begin with? Instead, it was (risible) state-specific computer-modeled scenarios of doom unless the people allowed the political class to strip them of ever more freedoms. It was the faddish “global warming” pony they sought to ride to the long-held desire to price energy out of the reach of the same average voters whose proliferation and attainment of automobility, vacations and the like the elites just couldn’t tolerate.

You will know them by their deeds, and the global warming industry’s have a pretty miserable record.

Today’s exhibit about Spain’s economic miracle — you could call it a sector-specific collapse — comes from Bloomberg, a heartbreaking tale of the gravy inevitably running out. It is a tale that, pre-collapse, President Obama expressly sought to emulate and California is still actively pursuing, as is typical for the equally bankrupt California. Obama is now silent about Spain as his model and California claims its law is, er…the “world’s first!”

As happened in Spain, California’s bill is certain to come due long before the preening political class expected. The U.K.’s Global Warming Policy Foundation has a roundup with the top six stories in today’s update being relevant, as well.

So, yes, dear, these “green economy” schemes grow the economy. Of course, then so did Mr. Ponzi’s scheme. And, naturally, the plaintiff’s bar grows the economy, too, because we need a bigger court system and people to craft the instructions on shampoo bottles. Except upon slightly more scrutiny than the statists would like, they actually kill jobs. But if you only focus on this part I’m waving my hands at over here

And upon such scrutiny, their approach of name-calling and fabrication instead of arguing the merits begins to look pretty good.

A Climate Dictatorship?

by Chris Horner on November 13, 2009

in Blog

The Chamber of Commerce recently bowed to pressure from big member companies which have crafted schemes to pick your pocket under cap-and-trade, and cravenly pleaded for some form of global warming legislation. It defended this with the argument distilled as “we merely restated our position. A different way.” So it is with Congress, in a fashion, with its controversial Sec. 707 identically stuck in both the Waxman-Markey and Kerry-Boxer bills.

Some on Team Liberty insist there’s nothing to see here, because you’ll notice that the language says the President “shall” exercise “existing statutory authority”. QED. My former CEI colleague Jonathan Adler adopts Ed Morrissey’s position posted on Hot Air, phrasing it on Volokh:

“The above provision grants no new powers to the federal government, let alone the President. Zero. Zilch. Rather, it directs the President to have agencies use “existing statutory authority” to ensure greater greenhouse gas emission reductions.  In other words, it requires the President to ensure that agencies are using all the tools Congress has already delegated to them to reduce greenhouse gas emissions – tools that such agencies could use even if the section is not triggered – and demands the President “submit to Congress” a request for additional authorities the President believes are necessary to ensure greater emission reductions.  Moreover, insofar as this provision constrains the Executive Branch’s discretion over what emission-reduction measures it wants to take, it actually reduces executive authority.”

That first part is true. It says use all existing authority. All of these tools. But, um, a (often radically) different way, that is, for a (often radically) different purpose. That “shall” thing is big, too. Leaning too heavily on “existing authority” to say there’s nothing new here has several perils, including that it ignores that this phrase is read by the courts as meaning existing laws, not existing applications of these laws. Jonathan is correct. Existing tools. This provision mandates using them in new ways.

It says use all existing authority – the Clean Water Act, NEPA, Endangered Species Act, and any federal law requiring a permit for any economic activity that does or could lead to GHG production – in a way that (to be charitable) is not at all clear is consistent with the legislative intent, design or otherwise (before this bill) feasible use.

This asserts on Congress’s behalf that these laws are now legislatively intended to serve as GHG suppression regimes. After establishing, in an earlier provision, causation by and harm from each and every existing or new increment of economic activity that uses or produces resources.

That’s new. That’s big. Both on its face and taken in context. All laws intended for purposes A, B, and C are now also expressly intended to be used – mandated – to chase an elusive global GHG concentration downward by emission avoidance. This is not the IRS getting Capone on tax evasion because the Feds couldn’t nail him for his racketeering, murder, etc. Tax evasion laws were intended to be used against tax evaders no matter what else those people did, and were employed for the purpose of prosecuting tax evasion.

Not every law on the books was intended to keep CO2 from being emitted. Now, everything in an enormous suite of laws intended to (again, being charitable) manage interstate commerce in the name of ensuring free-flow of goods, services, and other economic activity turned into an environmental law seeking, in practice, the rationing of permitted interstate commerce in the name of the atmosphere.

I have a book to write, right now. My earlier foray was not as short or concise as one prefers and pursues when one has the time. I didn’t, and still don’t. But the conclusion and argument there was still clear enough when read:

“My point, truncated, is that this provision at issue clears out any legal clutter possibly standing in the way of ongoing attempts to treat the ESA, CWA, NEPA, and in fact all other laws on the books as carbon dioxide suppression/ avoidance laws. These laws, particularly ESA, are sweeping in their power even to shut down, but particularly to block anything new. That is in many ways a game-changer for the greens, is why it is being fought, and saves years in the courts fighting over whether such authority actually exists….

The first paragraph at issue tells the executive branch to use all existing laws (and all authorities in this bill) to do whatever it thinks necessary to try and lower atmospheric GHG concentrations below where they are the day the law goes into effect; this of course goes far and beyond “cap-and-trade” quotas and timetables. The second paragraph says you can also ask Congress to spell it out if you think you are lacking authority despite “(a)”. But “(b)” is a complement to, not a condition precedent for, aggressive action under “(a)”.

This language approves the idea of implementing all federal statutes as GHG suppression measures. How huge that is is impossible to overstate. There is nothing on the books today supporting that proposition. ..Adopting such authority as that at issue here is not smart. The provision is not an accident. …This language is a license to steal. It is a serious threat. Arguing whether it creates new authority argues a distinction without a difference.”

So all remains the same. Just radically different. “But these laws could’ve been used as such, before!” Hmm. “Could’ve”, maybe, but that’s a stretch. But now they must. NEPA and ESA, with language and regulatory extensions sympathetic to that use, have been slouching there for some years and are just about there to different degrees but aren’t there yet. They, and every other law on the books – every one – now immediately are, if this passes. That’s new. That’s a big tool.