Fran Smith

Mr. “Ecomagination” — GE’s CEO Jeffrey Immelt — called on the U.S. to put a long-term price on carbon so this country could compete with China in being “green, green, green, green – four greens,” according to a news article today in Bloomberg.

In his speech, the article notes, Immelt said that a carbon pricing scheme would create jobs:

The U.S. needs to establish a “long-term price signal” on carbon emissions, in order for companies to provide “appropriate funding for innovation” regardless of fuel, as well as revive nuclear energy. Such moves would create jobs rather than shift them overseas, Immelt said.

So taxing energy use — raising the price of energy — will be a job stimulator.  Doesn’t sound like it, if he has in mind a cap-and-tax scheme. (Here’s also a useful primer on costs of global warming policies.)

Immelt seems to be emulating the fictional “thought bullet” leader Martin Lukes, who plunged to his death recently in the Financial Times. Lukes’ most notable contribution to corporate management was “creovation”-combining creativity and innovation, which, according to Lukes’ obituary (registration required) was the basis for GE’s “ecomagination” emphasis. (Satire, of course.)

According to some reports, Immelt may be a candidate to replace Larry Summers as chief economic advisor to President Obama (not a satire).  If so, expect lots of “thought bullets” a la Lukes.

Do green energy and green jobs mandates run counter to World Trade Organization rules?  Japan says “yes” in relation to Canada’s program for renewable energy generation and green jobs in Ontario. Japan is complaining to the WTO that Canadian measures that mandate domestic content requirements for renewable energy generation equipment are inconsistent with WTO rules because they discriminate against equipment produced outside of Ontario and also represent a subsidy prohibited by the WTO. The country has asked the WTO for a formal consultation with Canada on the issues it raises in its September 13, 2010 filing. Consultations are often the first step in trying to resolve an issue before a country opens an official case with the WTO’s dispute settlement body.

Primarily Japan’s complaint hits Canada’s domestic content requirements in its “feed-in tariff” (FIT) program for Ontario, which requires that the renewable energy equipment, such as solar panels, wind turbines, biomass, and waterpower generation equipment, be produced in Ontario in whole or in part. (Feed-in tariffs are renewable energy payments that electric grid utilities obligate themselves to pay to purchase electricity generated from renewable sources.)  Under the program guaranteed prices for renewable energy electricity production are provided through long-term contracts.

According to a provincial government backgrounder on FIT, the domestic content requirements are intended to support “new green jobs in Ontario”:

Domestic content requirements for both FIT and microFIT projects are intended to help support the creation of 50,000 new green jobs in Ontario. MicroFIT projects will help create new local businesses and green jobs as demand grows for technologies such as solar panels, wind turbines, biomass and waterpower generation equipment, and for Ontarians who can design, build, install, operate and maintain these technologies.

And the domestic content requirements can be very specific (and somewhat ridiculous).   Here, for instance, is the one for silicon ingots and wafers:

Silicon ingots and wafer, where silicon ingots have been cast in Ontario, and wafers have been cut from the castings by a saw in Ontario.

From my quick review of the Canadian program, Japan seems to have a real cause for its complaint. Other countries looking to follow Canada’s example for green jobs creation should be wary about including their own protectionist measures.

H/T/ Julie Walsh

In what has to be one of the most disgraceful examples of political, unscientific attacks, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published a report, “Expert credibility in climate change,” alleging to show that climate change “deniers” have less impressive credentials and haven’t published as much as those promoting anthropogenic climate change. With the billions in research money given to climate change advocates over the past 15 years, and the recent ClimateGate email disclosures about shutting skeptics out of key scientific journals, it’s no wonder there is a discrepancy. But, of course, neither of those issues is mentioned.

The article was researched and/or written by a biology professor, an engineer, a foundation executive, and the infamous Stephen H. Schneider, known for his advocacy of catastrophic global warming and his endorsement of duplicity and hyperbole in pushing the climate change agenda:

“. . . we need to get some broad based support, to capture the public’s imagination. That, of course, means getting loads of media coverage. So we have to offer up scary scenarios, make simplified, dramatic statements, and make little mention of any doubts we might have.”  (Discover magazine pp. 45-48, Oct. 1989)

What might be the purpose of this exercise?  One gets a clue in the conclusion of the article – that media coverage is contributing to public misunderstanding by giving an undeserved platform to climate skeptics:

“This extensive analysis of the mainstream versus skeptical/contrarian researchers suggests a strong role for considering expert credibility in the relative weight of and attention to these groups of researchers in future discussions in media, policy, and public forums regarding anthropogenic climate change.”

Dr. Roy Spencer has a good article discussing what’s now known among skeptics as the “Black List.”  The Examiner’s Thomas Fuller writes an open letter to Schneider deploring the article:

Is this science you are proud of? Does damaging the reputation of some scientists by mistakenly (or vindictively) including them on a blacklist serve science well? Does establishing a climate of fear that will dissuade scientists from expressing their true opinion?

In a lengthy interview in The Guardian yesterday, James Lovelock, scientist and inventor, prominent global warming advocate, and originator of the Gaia theory, has some startling comments on recent scandals relating to the science of anthropogenic global warming, AGW skeptics, adaptation and global governance.

His view on the scandals:

“Fudging the data in any way whatsoever is quite literally a sin against the holy ghost of science. I’m not religious, but I put it that way because I feel so strongly. It’s the one thing you do not ever do.”

Lovelock has some surprisingly good words to say about climate skeptics – the good ones, of course:

Lovelock says the events of the past few months have seen him warm to the efforts of some climate sceptics: “What I like about sceptics is that in good science you need critics that make you think: ‘Crumbs, have I made a mistake here?’ If you don’t have that continuously, you really are up the creek.

“The good sceptics have done a good service – but some of the mad ones, I think, have not done anyone any favours. Some, of course, are corrupted and employed by oil companies and things like that. Some even work for governments. For example, I wouldn’t put it past the Russians to be behind some of the disinformation to help further their energy interests. But you need sceptics, especially when the science gets very big and monolithic.”

What probably is most startling in the interview is Lovelock’s call for a “more authoritative world” to deal with what he sees as the consequences of global warming:

“We need a more authoritative world,” he says resolutely. “We’ve become a sort of cheeky, egalitarian world where everyone can have their say. It’s all very well, but there are certain circumstances – a war is a typical example – where you can’t do that. You’ve got to have a few people with authority who you trust who are running it. They should be very accountable too, of course – but it can’t happen in a modern democracy. This is one of the problems.

“What’s the alternative to democracy? There isn’t one. But even the best democracies agree that when a major war approaches, democracy must be put on hold for the time being. I have a feeling that climate change may be an issue as severe as a war. It may be necessary to put democracy on hold for a while.”

It’s clear that Lovelock — in his nineties now — hasn’t changed his dystopian views, as were expressed in his book, “The Revenge of Gaia” and in an interview a few years ago – in 2006 – when the book was published:

“We are in a fool’s climate, accidentally kept cool by smoke, and before this century is over billions of us will die and the few breeding pairs of people that survive will be in the Arctic where the climate remains tolerable.”

See what CEI has previously written about Lovelock here and in an extensive and thoughtful article by Myron Ebell here.

“Is global warming the new apocalypse?” asks The Times of London in an article focusing on children’s fears about global warming in the context of a scare-mongering U.K. government advertising  campaign to promote climate-change awareness.

Recently the Advertising Standards Authority ruled that some of the campaign’s print ads using nursery rhymes overstated the risks of global warming and were to be banned. But it passed on a TV ad that got almost 1000 complaints that it was too scary.

Check out an earlier CEI post on global warming alarmists’ exploitation of children. Look again at CEI’s response to an earlier apocalyptic video shown at the COP15 Copenhagen meeting on climate change.

In today’s Financial Times, noted trade economist Jagdish Bhagwati strays again into the climate change debate – and he doesn’t apply his usually sharp analysis of some unintended consequences of his proposed government actions.

Bhagwati rightly rejects the Copenhagen approach to restricting carbon emissions, but then offers the World Trade Organization model to control both “stock” – previous emissions – and “flow” – ongoing ones.  He sees the WTO’s challenge and dispute settlement mechanism as a way to hold countries “feet to the fire” and force them to live up to their commitments.  In the WTO, when a dispute is settled against a country, the WTO mandates that the country within a reasonable period of time has to change its laws or policies to conform to its agreed-to obligations.  If no action is taken, the country that brought the complaint may take retaliatory action.

Just imagine the can of worms this would open up in the carbon emissions area.  Would the dispute-settlement body have the right to dictate how the offending country’s laws and policies should be changed?  Suppose a country wants to lower the competitiveness of a rival by constricting its energy use, wouldn’t bringing up a dispute be a logical way to go? And in what areas could a country retaliate? Could it get a wedge in the international trade area through border tariffs – instituting carbon taxes against the offending country?

Perhaps the most puzzling proposal in Bhagwati’s article is his recommendation to follow the Superfund model by introducing tort liability for past carbon emissions.

“The US in addressing domestic pollution created the superfund after the Love Canal incident, where a successful tort action was filed against Pacific Gas & Electric in 1996 for leaking toxic chromium into the ground water. Under the superfund legislation, hazardous waste has to be eliminated by the offending company. This tort liability is also “strict”, such that it exists even if the material discharged was not known at the time to be hazardous (as carbon emissions were until recently). In addition, the people hurt can make their own tort claims.

Rejecting this legal tradition in US domestic pollution, Todd Stern, the principal US negotiator, refused to concede any liability for past emissions. This stand is even more astonishing given that Barack Obama, the US president, belongs to a party that thrives on contributions from tort lawyers.

Evidently, the US needs to reverse this stand. Each of the rich countries needs to accept a tort liability which can be pro rata to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change-estimated share of historic world carbon emissions.”

Perhaps Bhagwati isn’t that familiar with Superfund’s notorious history in arbitrarily finding anyone remotely connected with a declared site to be financially responsible for its cleanup. As CEI’s Angela Logomasini has written:

The federal Superfund law (also known as the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, or CERCLA) is allegedly designed to hold parties responsible for polluting property. Instead, the law arbitrarily holds anyone remotely connected to a contaminated site liable for cleanup. Responsible parties include waste generators (anyone who produced waste that eventually contaminated property), arrangers for transport of waste, waste transporters (anyone who simply transports wastes for legal disposal), operators (those who manage waste landfills), and property owners (anyone who owns the land). Under the law’s strict joint and several liability scheme, each party can be held liable for 100 percent of the cleanup costs. Liability also is retroactive, applying to situations that occurred long before Congress passed the law. Accordingly, parties ranging from small businesses, schools, and churches to large manufacturing plants have been held accountable for sites that were contaminated decades before Superfund became law.

Also, see what CEI adjunct fellow Jim DeLong had said:

The continuing possibility of Superfund liability makes it a leper from the standpoint of investors. The post-remediation liability threat is so great that no one will touch a site even though it is declared clean. Congress made every individual Superfund site into a tarbaby, exposing anyone with any connection to it to liability for all cleanup costs. No “potentially responsible party” (PRP) can defend on the grounds that it acted legally and responsibly. This regime gives PRPs strong incentives to engage in costly litigation, delaying cleanups and wasting financial resources.

Jagdish Bhagwati is rightly recognized as one of the most astute trade economists and has staunchly defended the importance of multilateral open trade without tying it to environmental and labor mandates.  His climate change proposals, however, may open the door to just that.

Scott Brown’s decisive victory in the Massachusetts Senate race has upturned the Democrats’ Progressive agenda.  Brown, “the people’s seat” senator, had a resonant message that tapped into the electorate’s disenchantment with ever-increasing government (with the health care proposals figuring strongly), huge deficit spending, and increased taxes to pay for the trillions of dollars in new government programs. Jobs and the economy were an overarching issue.

It was a populist victory that carried many of the themes of the “Tea Party” movement, which, so far, haven’t been promoted by either party.  If the Republicans don’t latch onto those themes with an agenda of their own, they really are the “dumb Party.”

What’s a cause for concern, however, is how the Democrats are likely to embrace people’s fear and anger by taking up their own populist cudgel to even more vigorously attack capitalism, consumer choice, and any and all Big Business entities.

There indeed is fierce popular anger at bank bailouts and big bonuses – Wall Street has become a synonym for greed and arrogance that caused the financial meltdown, with little recognition that government and quasi-government entities like the Federal Reserve and Fannie and Freddie contributed to the financial problems.

Though some banks deserve much of the public disapprobrium because of their mismanagement and sellout on TARP funds, even those banks that were healthy or fought their own way back to solvency are being asked to pick up the tab for their less-responsible brethren. Expect the Democrats to exact more such retribution from banks — in the name of the people.

In addressing the big issues of jobs and the economy, the Democrats will have a hard time spending more money on stimulus packages that seem to evaporate before any jobs are created. But there will probably be an even bigger push for “green jobs.” Democratic leadership may decide that a massive and economically destructive cap-and-trade bill isn’t feasible in this political climate.  They may look to more “green jobs” and “alternative fuels” boondoggles through taxes and fees on fossil fuel industries as a better way to sell the idea of restrictions on and higher costs for energy use. Yet those subsidized jobs themselves are costly, as the Wall Street Journal noted in mid-December 2009 about the 253,000 of direct jobs created:

The 253,000 direct jobs works out to a cost of about $90,000 a head-just for one year. Clean-energy manufacturing jobs are even more expensive to create, costing about $135,000 per job.

It will be difficult to relate the Democrats’ health care proposals to jobs and the economy when the costs are projected by the Congressional Budget Office at $1 trillion in additional federal spending over the next 10 years. But that figure – while astronomical — doesn’t include the states’ mandates, which will cost $25 billion more over 10 years or the unknown costs of the mandates for individuals and employers to buy insurance. Those costs will be paid for by increased yet hidden taxes – and not just on the so-called rich.

Plus, the closed-door negotiations on the bills have resulted in deals that most people consider unfair and outrageous, for instance, Nebraska is the only state that won’t have to pay future unfunded Medicare and Medicaid mandates; Louisiana gets $300 million for agreeing to support the Senate bill; and union members don’t have to pay “Cadillac-plan” taxes on their generous health care plans. These proposals will actually hold back job creation by causing uncertainty among both small and large businesses and thus reluctance to expand jobs. And taxpayers rightly understand that they will bear the increased costs.

In the wake of Scott Brown’s election, whether the Democrats will continue their shenanigans on their health care proposals isn’t yet clear.  Right now, they’re damned if they do and damned if they don’t.

Recently, CEI’s president Fred Smith wrote an article titled “Change we can really believe in,” which sets out a blueprint to stimulate the economy by liberating it.  Fred must have been prescient when he wrote this on January 4 — before the surge for Scott Brown:

This year holds promise for a new start for America. As 2010 begins, we may be teetering on a cliff, but Americans aren’t lemmings. Support for statist policies is dropping, and taxpayer anger is growing. There is a renewed understanding that the limitations on government of the Constitution are the best protections of our liberties. Their restoration should be the primary hopeful change advanced by all friends of liberty.

Accuweather’s meteorologist Joe Bastardi has a new video titled “Worldwide Cold not Seen Since 70s Ice Age Scare.” Bastardi points out that the frigid conditions affecting significant parts of the world today – North America, Europe, and Asia – are very similar to the patterns in the 1970s, when fears of a new Ice Age were hyped by the media. He repeatedly compares maps of the cold spots from January 1-10, 1977 and current ones and notes the strong similarities:

Here’s what we had then, here’s what we have now.  Then, now.  Then, now.

In referring to the current global warming alarms, Bastardi asks:

How could this be global warming, but 34 years ago, that was an Ice Age coming?

Good question.

I was intrigued with a reference in Wes Pruden’s Washington Times column today that the Copenhagen COP15 delegate from Tuvalu, weeping while pleading for energy restrictions (and money) to keep the tiny Pacific island from sinking into the sea, is really a Ph.D. student in Australia, who lives in New South Wales.  The source for this information is The Australian newspaper, which carried an article about the Tuvaluan representative, Ian Fry, on December 17.  Here’s an excerpt:

But the part-time PhD scholar at the Australian National University actually resides in Queanbeyan, NSW, where he’s not likely to be troubled by rising sea levels because the closest beach at Batemans Bay is a two-hour, 144km drive away. Asked whether he had ever lived in Tuvalu, his wife told The Australian last night she would “rather not comment”.

A career environmentalist who once worked as a Greenpeace political liaison officer, Mr Fry has found his niche in global climate change talks over the past 10 years, representing small Pacific nations and running the climate negotiations for the Association of Small Island States.

What’s also interesting is that Tuvalu is the poster child for rising sea levels caused by global warming, but as this article in Science magazine notes, the sea level around the island has actually been declining for nearly 50 years.

Is there no shame among global warming zealots?

Cato’s Pat Michaels, one of the scientists attacked in the Climategate emails, has an excellent editorial in the Wall Street Journal today with examples of how the scientists promoting catastrophic global warming shut out dissident voices in supposedly peer-reviewed journals.

Michaels notes that the EPA finding of endangerment from CO2 emissions, based on the tainted research of the Climategate emailers, should be called into question.  He writes:

The result of all this is that our refereed literature has been inestimably damaged, and reputations have been trashed. Mr. Wigley repeatedly tells news reporters not to listen to “skeptics” (or even nonskeptics like me), because they didn’t publish enough in the peer-reviewed literature—even as he and his friends sought to make it difficult or impossible to do so.

Ironically, with the release of the Climategate emails, the Climatic Research Unit, Michael Mann, Phil Jones and Tom Wigley have dramatically weakened the case for emissions reductions. The EPA claimed to rely solely upon compendia of the refereed literature such as the IPCC reports, in order to make its finding of endangerment from carbon dioxide. Now that we know that literature was biased by the heavy-handed tactics of the East Anglia mob, the EPA has lost the basis for its finding.