Iain Murray

Green Jobs Fantasy

by Iain Murray on March 4, 2010

in Blog

I have a piece in National Review Online today outlining the fantasy behind Sen. Lindsey Graham’s latest attempt to keep cap-and-trade alive. Here’s the beginning:

After declaring energy cap-and-trade “dead” in the Senate, the Left’s new favorite Republican, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) has been working hard to resurrect it under another name. Working with Senators Kerry (D., Mass.) and Lieberman (I., Conn.), along with lobbyists for the major electric utilities (and, err, Big Oil), Senator Graham appears to have come up with a new boondoggle that would institute a cap-and-trade scheme for utilities only, thereby creating a carbon cartel. The plan would impose a carbon “fee” on transportation fuels, driving up the price of gas, that would be rebated in the shape of funding for highway projects — which the Big Oil lobbyists appear to believe would help offset the rise in gas prices. All of this, of course, amounts to a new tax on energy, so Senator Graham and his cohorts are cloaking their smash-and-grab raid in the mantle of investment in “green jobs.”

Read the whole thing here.

This fellow from New Zealand appears to think that Climategate proves that the big money is in climate skepticism. How does that work?

Here’s my attempt to follow his argument: The US Government has spent $79 billion in the past two decades on climate science. But Big Oil and Big Coal want a piece of this. They spend heavily on lobbyists to get it. They would be well served by certain provisions in bills and international treaties. [I agree with this so far…] But “the aims of the climate change lobby groups and the large industries they represent dovetail quite nicely with the arguments put forward by the sceptics.” So [he implies] therefore the skeptics have all the money.


Global warming skeptics don’t want carbon capture and storage. They don’t want targets for emissions reduction. They don’t want international treaties and thousand page bills that take money out of the productive class and spend it on vastly expensive ways of doing things we know how to do already. Global warming skeptics do not want “a seat at the table.” They don’t think there should be a table in the first place.

Our science blogger friend has confused skeptic with rent-seeker. We skeptics have a grudging respect for our ‘alarmist’ opponents. In most cases they have a sincere belief that there is a serious problem and want to solve it. (Part of the problem revealed by climategate was that many of them, however, want to solve the problem by any means necessary and are insincere in their methods). Rent-seekers, on the other hand, want to exploit such beliefs for personal/corporate gain*, at the expense of the rest of us. Therefore rent-seekers are a bigger problem than alarmists, because they do indeed bring the big bucks. That’s why rent-seeking businesses want carbon capture and storage, which they will be paid handsomely for. They want international treaties and thousand page bills that contains nice incentives for them, their executives and their shareholders. They want the free market distorted to their benefit. The ends they desire, however, are completely different from those desired by the skeptics. Their aims do not dovetail with the ends of the skeptics in the slightest.

That’s why the big money is with those looking to establish a regime for emissions reduction. Now those thieves have certainly fallen out, and there are still some honorable types who want no handouts to big energy companies at all, but the money is certainly on that side of the aisle.

If genuinely skeptical groups have gotten as much as $790 million total worldwide for global warming efforts since 1989 – 1 percent of that devoted to climate science – I’d be extremely surprised. A tenth of that amount is more likely in the right ballpark. You can’t change that by lumping rent-seeking industries in with skeptics. Rent-seekers really do follow the money.

* Rent-seekers are also only too happy to exploit belief in the free market, arguing for free enterprise up until they can see a benefit from government restricting market entry, and so on.

An Authoritarian Climate

by Iain Murray on January 6, 2010

in Blog

Certain influential forces in the environmental movement – most notably James Hansen of NASA – have expressed disquiet with the inability of democracies to deal with their imagined “climate crisis,” leading to sentiments like this one from Australian authors David Shearman and Joseph Wayne Smith:

We need an authoritarian form of government in order to implement the scientific consensus on greenhouse gas emissions

Climatologists Nico Stehr and Hans von Storch discuss this argument at Roger Pielke Jr’s blog.  Thankfully, the demands for an “Ecologocracy,” for want of a better term, are not yet universal in the environmental movement.  They conclude:

Finally, the growing impatience of prominent climate researchers constitutes an implicit embrace of now popular social theories. We think in this context especially of Jared Diamond’s theories on the fate of human societies. Diamond argues that only those societies have a chance of survival which practice sustainable lifestyles. Climate researchers have evidently been impressed by Diamond’s deterministic social theory. However, they have drawn the wrong conclusion, namely that only authoritarian political states guided by scientists make effective and correct decisions on the climate issue. History teaches us that the opposite is the case.

Therefore, today’s China cannot serve as a model. Climate policy must be compatible with democracy, otherwise the threat to civilization will be much more than just changes to our physical environment.

Indeed.  In fact, there may be another reason for those who despise greenhouse gas emissions also to despise democracy. and it is precisely linked to the threat to civilization.  We know that the best indicator of low greenhouse gas emissions is poverty.  As Daron Acemoglu shows, rejecting Diamond, poverty is strongly linked to the lack of market institutions that democracy protects:

People need incentives to invest and prosper; they need to know that if they work hard, they can make money and actually keep that money. And the key to ensuring those incentives is sound institutions — the rule of law and security and a governing system that offers opportunities to achieve and innovate. That’s what determines the haves from the have-nots — not geography or weather or technology or disease or ethnicity.
Put simply: Fix incentives and you will fix poverty. And if you wish to fix institutions, you have to fix governments.

To put it another way, the authoritarian solution to the global warming problem, in so far as it exists, is the imposition of poverty, for that is the inevitable result of the restriction of energy use that is the authoritarians’ sine qua non. Those of us who are trying to think of alternative solutions to the problem, however, are convinced that it is the same institutions that have delivered us from poverty that will deliver us from whatever ills a warmer world might impose. To see more on this, check out Marlo Lewis’ film Policy Peril, in particular this segment.

First published online at NRO

Senators from California and Massachusetts this week emulated their state colleagues in the House, Representatives Waxman and Markey, by introducing the Boxer-Kerry cap-and-trade bill. This may be it, although it is ever-changing. It contains the same basic content as the House bill, but aims to be “stricter” (read: more expensive) by asking for 20 percent reductions in emissions by 2020, rather than the 17 percent demanded by the House. (As an aside: Look for forthcoming economic analyses from EPA, etc., that will somehow conclude this will be cheaper than the House bill).

Here’s a quick summary from Greenwire of the main points and differences from the the House Bill. My comments are in italics.

Overall, the early draft of the Boxer-Kerry legislation includes four titles that take aim at greenhouse gas emissions across multiple economic sectors, as well as a “transition and adaptation” section aimed at helping the nation cope with the costs of a climate bill and the expected repercussions of global warming.

Note that the Bill explicitly recognizes that it has costs. The fact that they attempt to mitigate these costs through wealth redistribution doesn’t alter that fact. The money has to come from somewhere, as this bill certainly isn’t creating new wealth.

Both the early draft and the Boxer-Kerry bill due for release tomorrow will leave blank key information about how the senators intend to distribute hundreds of billions of dollars in emission allowances. Following the path of Democratic leaders of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, those figures will come next month when Boxer releases a chairman’s mark of the bill before an EPW Committee markup.

While this section is key to getting industries on board by buying them off, it isn’t key to the overall costs (except in so far as it increases them by adding inefficiencies). As Peter Orszag has said, the overall costs are the overall costs regardless of whether permits are auctioned or given away.

To deal with economic uncertainties, the draft Boxer-Kerry plan would establish a strategic allowance reserve that allows U.S. EPA to sell credits into the carbon market via an auction in the event credit prices rise faster than expected.

This is a “safety valve” that admits that the entire cap-and-trade concept could be catastrophic for the economy.

The draft also mirrors the House on offset projects that allow industry an alternative compliance option to pay farmers and other landowners for environmentally friendly projects. Both the House-passed bill and this early Senate draft allow capped sources to collectively use emissions offsets to meet 2 billion tons of their obligations annually – divided evenly between domestic and international credits, with the amount of international credits allowed to increase if insufficient domestic offsets are available.

As the Breakthrough Institute has shown, even modest use of this provision could mean that domestic emissions don’t decrease at all.

The early draft of the Boxer-Kerry bill heeds environmentalists’ requests by removing a section of the House bill that would have restricted EPA’s ability to enact climate change regulations.

Which means that we could have a double whammy of cap-and-trade plus the admitted disaster of EPA regulation.  So much for the argument that we need cap-and-trade to save us from the zeal of the EPA.

Like the House bill, the Boxer-Kerry draft would provide emissions allowances to fund commercial deployment of carbon capture and sequestration, although it does not provide specifics. It also establishes performance standards for emissions of greenhouse gases from new coal-fired power plants.

As the environmentalists like to remind us, “clean coal” does not yet exist and there is no guarantee that it will be able to meet the requirements of the bill in practical fashion, despite the funding.

…There are also significant differences between the Senate draft and the House bill.

For example, Boxer and Kerry propose a different approach for oversight of the carbon market, which in the House bill is shared between FERC and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, with FERC regulating the cash market for allowances and offsets and CFTC handling the derivatives market. The draft Senate plan, in contrast, would place the carbon markets under a single regulator – the brief carbon market section would have CFTC regulate both markets. It also broadly empowers the regulator to prevent manipulation of these markets and eliminate “excessive speculation” that adds to price volatility. Lawmakers are likely to seek more detailed provisions that place controls on these markets.

At least they appear to have recognized that they’re setting up a subprime carbon market.  The only problem is that strict regulation removes the incentives that trading is supposed to bring in the first place.

Elsewhere, the draft Boxer-Kerry bill does not include House-passed language that would bar EPA – for six years – from considering greenhouse gas emissions from so-called international indirect land-use changes when implementing the national biofuels mandate.

I haven’t examined this directly, but this seems to imply that clearing away rainforest for biodiesel is fine by Boxer and Kerry.

The Senate draft also has a modest nuclear title, although pro-nuclear senators are likely to push for significant incentives in the final measure. The bill’s nuclear title would steer money to the Energy Department for implementing programs to expand expertise in the nuclear field. Advocates of expanding U.S. nuclear power say there are not enough nuclear engineers and other experts to work on the hoped-for buildout of new reactors.

The nuclear title also has a section titled “Nuclear Waste Research and Development,” but it is left blank, stating “to be supplied.”

This title is so modest that it is clearly an afterthought.

The bill of course raises several questions. Here are a few, courtesy of Senator Inhofe.

There will be many more, of course.

– Sen. Boxer, in the bill’s findings, you laud the merits of nuclear power, and seem to suggest supporting measures to encourage its expansion.  Yet the bill lacks several essential measures to make that happen.  Why?

– Sen. Boxer, why does your bill include “climate change worker adjustment assistance”?  Does this mean that your bill will cause workers to lose their jobs?

– Sen. Boxer, your bill allows the EPA to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, on top of your cap-and-trade mandate.   How is this conducive to regulatory certainty?  Does this conflict with your call for a “market-based” program?   – Sen. Boxer, by providing “rebates” to electricity consumers, are you acknowledging that, as President Obama said, electricity prices will “necessarily skyrocket” because of your cap-and-trade bill?

– Sen. Boxer, how does the “rebate” program work?  Does it mandate that local distribution companies cut checks to consumers?  Would those checks completely offset electricity price increases for consumers?  Or is that the local distribution companies could provide “rebates” through, say, energy efficiency programs?

– Sen. Boxer, your “price collar” is tied to a “strategic reserve fund,” in which a limited number of allowances could be issued at the collar (ceiling) price.  This is not a true “safety valve.”  David Montgomery with CRA International wrote that, “Without a true safety valve based on an open window and unlimited sales and purchases, there will continue to be significant risks that allowance prices will uncontrollably exceed the collar, in one direction or the other. The result will be a system in which price volatility increases the difficulty of long term investment planning, with the additional uncertainty of how legislation itself will change if a period of unexpectedly high (or low) prices occurs.”  Why is he wrong?

-Senator Boxer, because this is a global issue, how does your draft ensure that other developing countries, such as China and India, will make binding emissions cuts that are as strict as those that are required for the United States under this Act?

Fisking Paul Krugman

by Iain Murray on September 25, 2009

in Blog

In today’s New York Times, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman preens about intellectual dishonesty while presenting the most intellectually dishonest case about the cost of climate change policies I have seen this side of Joe Romm.  It moved me to do something I have not done for some time, and Fisk the entire article.  Krugman’s words are in italics.

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.

And Mr Krugman is about to demonstrate his level of civility and intellectual honesty in what only can be described as a pre-emptive strike.  Is this the Krugman Doctrine?

The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sharp reductions? The Breakthrough Institute, which strongly champions action on global warming, says that the way the bill is structured “U.S. emissions in capped sectors could rise for much–if not all–of the next two decades.” Krugman protects himself against the accusation of outright lies by using the word “eventually,” but without disclosing the ineffectiveness of the bill over the next 20 years, Krugman is already being intellectually dishonest.

But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.

Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive. But that argument is wearing thin – as thin as the Arctic pack ice, which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.

Krugman condenses a very complex argument over the nature of global warming into one statement and then dismisses it out of hand.  There are very few who deny the heat-trapping properties of greenhouse gases.  There are many who suggest that the influence of these gases on the climate as a whole has been significantly exaggerated.  For instance, I wonder what Mr. Krugman thinks of the recent research of Lindzen and Choi, published in August, which uses actual observations to find that climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases has been overestimated by a factor of six.

As for the Arctic, it has been melting since the end of the Little Ice Age two hundred years ago.  In fact, The Washington Post published a story on a government report that described “a radical change in climatic conditions,” “unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone,” and the melting of ice as long ago as November 2, 1922.  The fact that the North-East Passage, a holy grail for traders for hundreds of years, is now open might also warrant some balancing mention of its benefits.

Even corporations are losing patience with the deniers: earlier this week Pacific Gas and Electric canceled its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest over the chamber’s “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality” of climate change.

PG&E made an odd member of the Chamber of Commerce to begin with, as its profits come about not by commerce but by government regulation.  PG&E’s profits are “decoupled” from the amount of energy it sells.  There are suggestions, by the way, that companies are coming under pressure in the way of threats of activism directed against them if they continue to support the Chamber’s efforts to protect the interests of its members.

So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”

If the estimated costs rise, that is because people like the bloggers at Climate Progress keep persuading politicians to go for more ambitious programs, which of course cost more. Auctioneers only respond to bids, and it is the bidders who are out of control.

It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.

Here we are getting to the nub.  Having succeeded in chilling the speech of those who are doubtful about the effect of greenhouse gases on the climate, Mr. Krugman now wants to make it unacceptable to say that policies designed to raise the cost of energy will have any detriment to the economy.

How do we know this? First, the evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now. That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living – a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.” The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.

Well of course there is waste involved in generating energy.  If there wasn’t so much regulation of energy generation right now, which has the perverse effect of locking in old technology, then we’d actually be a lot more efficient than we are.  However, being more energy efficient does not mean we use less energy.  Mr. Krugman’s own newspaper just recently published an excellent story about the Jevons Paradox, first formulated in 1865, which states, “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.”  This really is Energy 101.

Second, the best available economic analyses suggest that even deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would impose only modest costs on the average family. Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income. That’s roughly the cost of a postage stamp a day.

Once again, Mr. Krugman is being economical with the truth.  The government studies most emphatically did not find that the bill will cost a postage stamp a day in 2020.  They can only arrive at that figure of $160 a year by discounting twice.  They took the nominal cost – the actual out-of-pocket cost – of the increases in energy prices and worked out what that would be in today’s dollars.  Then they discounted back to find the present value of that figure.  In other words, $160 a year is what you’d have to lock away in a bank account with a guaranteed interest rate today in order to pay your bills in 2020.  If you didn’t do that, the figure from the EPA’s study in today’s dollars (ie not accounting for inflation) is above $2700 a year for a family of four.  The CBO study, meanwhile, admits that it did not attempt a comprehensive study of lost income.

Mr. Krugman also ignores polling evidence that finds that only 10 percent of respondents would be willing to pay more than $100 a year to achieve the supposed benefits of the Waxman-Markey bill.  So even if the cost was just a postage stamp a day, people would still find that cost expensive.

By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income. But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent. The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth. And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.

The same argument can be made about global warming itself.  Even with all the supposed dramatic effects of global warming, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that people all over the world – even in the poorest countries – will be many times richer than they are today as a result of the economic activity sustained by fossil fuels. This demonstrates that a warmer-but-richer world is better off than a cooler-but-poorer world, and we will in fact be best off in the warmest world.  Krugman’s argument here in fact suggests that we shouldn’t do anything about emissions at all.

So where do the apocalyptic warnings about the cost of climate-change policy come from?

Are the opponents of cap-and-trade relying on different studies that reach fundamentally different conclusions? No, not really. It’s true that last spring the Heritage Foundation put out a report claiming that Waxman-Markey would lead to huge job losses, but the study seems to have been so obviously absurd that I’ve hardly seen anyone cite it.

The Heritage Foundation has updated its report and recently defended its methodology in a panel of other modelers, who did not raise significant objections to it (so much for its obvious absurdity).  If Mr Krugman hasn’t seen it cited it is the same way that Pauline Kael didn’t know anyone who voted for Nixon.  But the Heritage Report is not the only one.  The American Council on Capital Formation found job losses of 1.8 to 2.4 million in 2030.  The research of the left-leaning Brookings Institution has found that “Achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is a costly endeavor.”  Once one strips away the discounting tricks, even the government studies demonstrate the truth of this statement.

Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.

Thus, last week Glenn Beck – who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of the G.O.P. – informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.

Once again, Mr. Krugman is being economical with the truth.  He is correct only in so far as the recently revealed documents simply summarize the real effects of the other studies that have been disguised using economic trickery.  Here is what the Treasury documents say will be the effect of the President’s policies:

Given the administration’s proposal to auction all emission allowances …a cap-and-trade program could generate federal receipts on the order of $100 to $200 billion annually. … Economic costs will likely be on the order of 1% of GDP, making them equal in scale to all existing environmental regulation. …One advantage of auctioning allowances is the potential for generating large revenues (perhaps $300 billion annually). … Domestic policies to address climate change and the related issues of energy security and affordability will involve significant costs and potential revenues, possibly up to several percentage points of annual GDP (i.e., equal in size to the corporate income tax).

These documents are available for viewing here.  The fact that the Treasury initially redacted the most embarrassing sentences suggests strongly that they wanted to hide this.  That sounds like burying the truth to me.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar – and similarly false – claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.

The claims are the claims of the US Treasury Department, available now for all to see.  We show, while Mr. Krugman tells.

A year ago I would have been shocked by this behavior. But as we’ve already seen in the health care debate, the polarization of our political discourse has forced self-proclaimed “centrists” to choose sides – and many of them have apparently decided that partisan opposition to President Obama trumps any concerns about intellectual honesty.

So here’s the bottom line: The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax. The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green.

Mr. Krugman is hoist by his own petard.

Obama Speech to the UN: The Data

by Iain Murray on September 22, 2009

in Blog

Myron has already pointed out how most of what the President claimed were the threats from global warming are exaggerated.  Here’s the data to back that up.

“…[T]he threat from climate change is serious, it is urgent, and it is growing.”  Reality: global mean temperatures increased slightly from 1977 to 2000.  Temperatures have been flat since then.

“Rising sea levels threaten every coastline.”  Reality: sea levels have been rising on and off since the end of the last ice age 13,000 years ago.  The rate of sea level rise has not increased in recent decades over the nineteenth and twentieth century average.



“More powerful storms and floods threaten every continent.”  Reality: there is no upward global trend in storms or floods.


“More frequent drought and crop failures breed hunger and conflict in places where hunger and conflict already thrive.”  Reality: there is no upward global trend in major droughts.  Reversals in large-scale cycles have meant that the southward march of the Sahara Desert into the Sahel has been reversed in recent years and the Sahara is now shrinking.

“On shrinking islands, families are already being forced to flee their homes as climate refugees.”  Reality: some Pacific islanders may want to emigrate to New Zealand or Australia and are claiming that their islands are disappearing as the reason, but shrinkage has been minimal in recent decades because sea level rise has been minimal.

droughts-atollsCharts from SPPI’s Monthly CO2 Reports and from Indur Goklany, “Death and Death Rates Due to Extreme Weather Events: Global and U.S. Trends, 1900–2006,” 2007.

While this speech is mostly hogwash, I am surprised and delighted to be able to find one thing to praise in it:

Later this week, I will work with my colleagues at the G20 to phase out fossil fuel subsidies so that we can better address our climate challenge

This is the right thing to do, for reasons I explained in my recent paper co-written with Sterling Burnett of NCPA (extract follows jump).

While many governments of developed nations argue for a worldwide reduction in fossil fuel use in order to combat climate change, those same governments also subsidize energy use and production.

In 2001, the countries of the EU-15 (the “old Europe” nations in the European Union) spent $16.77 billion (in 2009 dollars) subsidizing coal and $11.23 billion subsidizing oil and gas.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) estimates that developing countries spend around $220 billion annually on subsidies for energy production and consumption, of which $170 billion subsidizes fossil fuels [see Figure I]. Including developed countries, subsidies for energy production and consumption worldwide amount to around $300 billion, the majority of which are for fossil fuels.

Such subsidies reduce energy prices below what the market would set, encouraging greater use and raising emissions levels. Direct subsidies include grants to producers and consumers, government investment in research or infrastructure and preferential loans or tax treatment. Indirect subsidies include trade restrictions, price caps and market regulations that guarantee sales volume and restrict competition.

Many signatories to Kyoto subsidize carbon-based fuel use and production. Such subsidies “tilt the playing field,” discouraging research expenditures by private energy companies in developing alternative energy sources. Producers and consumers of other energy sources then demand subsidies to “level the playing field.” Thus, government intervention causes significant distortions in energy markets.

British Petroleum estimates that countries that subsidize transportation fuel use accounted for 96 percent of the increase in oil demand in 2007.13 Many of them are less-developed nations that subsidize both production and consumption of fuels. The IEA estimates that removing domestic price subsidies in China, India, Indonesia, Iran, Russia, Kazakhstan, South Africa and Venezuela would reduce global energy use 3.5 percent and reduce global CO2 emissions 4.6 percent.

U.S. Energy Subsidies.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) calculates that federal energy subsidies amount to $16 billion annually [see Table II]:

In 2007, the federal government spent approximately $5.5 billion on subsidies for the coal, oil and natural gas industries— principally tax breaks for investment — including $3 billion for coal and natural gas, and more than $2 billion for research and development of clean-coal technology to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from coal.

The government spent an additional $1.2 billion for electricity production and use (not fuel specific), and $2.8 billion to increase the energy efficiency of homes and businesses.

It spent an additional $5 billion for renewable energy production and use, mostly in the form of tax breaks.

Finally, $1.2 billion went to the nuclear industry.

The EIA found that subsidies doubled from 1999 to 2007, due mainly to expanded subsidies for renewable energy and clean-coal technology.

Policy Recommendations. There are a number of neutral energy policies that could be implemented at the national or international level to reduce subsidized production and use:

International trade talks should include eliminating subsidies for fossil fuel production and consumption.

National budgets should be reviewed with the goal of eliminating programs that encourage energy use.

Subsidies and tax breaks, or tax penalties, for specific energy technologies should be eliminated to remove price distortions in energy markets.

A neutral energy tax policy, for example, would include replacing the federal tax-depreciation schedule for investment in new capital stock with immediate expensing. New equipment almost always produces fewer emissions per unit of output than older equipment.

Changing the depreciation schedule so that new investments could be written off immediately would make it profitable to replace old equipment at a much quicker pace. This simple change could do more to increase energy efficiency throughout the economy than the current complicated expensing regime.

Unfortunately, given the President’s praise for loan guarantees and tax credits elsewhere in the speech, he is failing to pursue a neutral energy tax policy, but I’ll give him due credit for at least addressing half of the market distortion.

An Independent Analysis

by Iain Murray on September 18, 2009

The Greens keep trying to change the subject when it comes to what the released Treasury documents about cap-and-trade actually show.  They’ve got a bunch of talking points and, by Jove, they’re sticking to them.  One of them is this one, from the Environmental Defense Fund’s spokesman:

In terms of the Waxman-Markey bill, “Every one of the independent analyses out there show small costs,” Kreindler added.

Really?  Every one?

What about this one? (”The annual cost of emissions permits to energy users will be at least $100 billion by 2012 and could exceed $390 billion by 2035″)

Or this one? (”High energy prices, fewer jobs, and loss of industrial output are estimated to reduce U.S. Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by between $419 billion and $571 billion by 2030″)

Ah, but they aren’t independent, are they?  After all, they weren’t, err, produced by, erm, arms of the Federal Government like the Congressional Budget Office, Energy Information Administration or Environmental Protection Agency.

Meanwhile, even using the figures of those “independent” government estimates, the Waxman-Markey Bill is still a terrible deal for Americans.

Firing Blanks on FOIA Part II

by Iain Murray on September 17, 2009

In his update to his post, Declan McCullagh notes an objection by the Center for American Progress:

The fourth objection is the most compelling. The Center for American Progress writes: “The potential benefits of clean energy legislation far outweigh the modest costs.” That’s a reasonable cost vs. benefit calculation, and it includes the claim that even with the extra taxes, cap and trade is so vital to America, it’s still worth it.

That’s the right approach to take: it would be a very good thing if all federal regulation were subject to a cost vs. benefit analysis. For example, if rising temperatures are significantly harming the planet, and cap and trade would reduce greenhouse gases enough to slow the rise, that would be a real benefit. But the Center for American Progress never actually makes that argument, and as CEI senior fellow Christopher Horner says: “Nobody has ever said this will change the temperature. It won’t.”

Well, we’ve already covered that one.  Even taking the most favorable analysis to WaxKey, the costs to Americans massively outweigh the benefits to them.  Here’s my post from a week ago:

There’s a new cost:benefit study from New York University Law School’s Institute for Public Integrity that, its authors claim, shows that, “From almost any perspective and under almost any assumption, H.R. 2454 [Waxman-Markey] is a good investment for the United States to make in our own economic future and in the future of the planet.”  A good investment for the US? Really?

The authors recognize that the benefits they find are global, while the costs are located in the US.  So let’s see what benefits accrue to US citizens and at what cost. (I am working with the authors’ figures here, which derive from the EPA, and are significantly different from the figures provided by such groups as the Heritage Foundation or the American Council for Capital Formation, which find much, much higher costs.)

Highest possible benefit = $5.2 trillion / 6 billion people = benefits of $866 per person

Cost to US citizen = $660 billion / 300 million people = cost of $2200 per citizen

That means a best possible benefit to cost ratio for a US citizen of 0.4:1.

The report talks about thinking of the Waxman-Markey costs as a “highly effective, highly leveraged form of foreign aid.”  One has to doubt that, given that the benefits that accrue to the developing world do so mostly in the far future, while the developing world is in desperate need of greater wealth – and better access to energy – today.  Even if it were true, however, one wonders whether the American public will accept a de facto tax increase of around $1300 per person, or $400 billion total, to pay for such climate aid.

Yet that’s assuming that the “high end” benefits scenario is what occurs.  The global low end benefits are actually far outweighed by the American costs, leading to a benefit:cost ratio to America of something in the order of 0.05:1 (or a cost:benefit ratio of 20:1).

And, of course, there’s no guarantee that a reduction in American emissions will amount to a reduction in global emissions.  We have seen the response to European cap-and-trade schemes being the relocation of facilities to other jurisdictions.  If so, the effective foreign aid program of Waxman-Markey might actually be a loss of American jobs to be replaced by developing world jobs, with no emissions reduction at all.  That would be very generous of us, but not quite what the authors of this study have in mind.

To summarize, the authors of the study have conclusively demonstrated that the Waxman-Markey bill is actually a very bad deal for the United States, and their attempts to claim otherwise are just spin.

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, CEI has used the Freedom of Information Act to find out what the administration thought its proposal to introduce cap-and-trade would cost the economy. CBSNews’s Declan McCullagh can fill you in on the details:

A previously unreleased analysis prepared by the U.S. Department of Treasury says the total in new taxes would be between $100 billion to $200 billion a year. At the upper end of the administration’s estimate, the cost per American household would be an extra $1,761 a year.

A second memorandum, which was prepared for Obama’s transition team after the November election, says this about climate change policies: “Economic costs will likely be on the order of 1 percent of GDP, making them equal in scale to all existing environmental regulation.”

Politico’s Ben Smith posted a story on this, to be greeted by an angry harrumph from the League of Conservation Voters:

Specifically, the original White House plan had 100% of emissions permits being distributed by auction; the plan that passed has just 15%.  “Can you say ‘irrelevant analysis’? It would be like pricing the health care bills currently in front of Congress based on a single-payer system,” he writes.

Well, CEI never said that the documents refer to the cost of cap and trade as it passed the House (for the record, the 15% is a bait-and-switch payoff to industry, with the percentage moving to 100% over a number of years), but the figure accurately reflects the likely cost of the president’s proposal, which is, amazingly enough, also the actual position of none other than the League of Conservation Voters:

By embracing a mandatory cap-and-trade program, the Obama energy plan would provide incentives to cut production of carbon dioxide and other pollutants that cause global warming.  In addition, because this program is a 100% auction, this system will generate significant revenues for reinvestment in job-creating, clean energy industries.

So what’s going on here? Is the LCV now fully behind the 15% plan? Or is it annoyed that it has been established that its favored 100% plan is actually just as expensive as everyone now realizes it is?

Oh, and the LCV spokesman added the “postage stamp” canard (the idea that the cost of cap and trade will be less than a postage stamp a day). That only works if you deposit your postage stamp cost in a guaranteed interest account today and withdraw it when the bill comes due in 2020, and even then it will only pay for the real cost, not the nominal cost (see here for a full analysis of the postage stamp claim). One thing even the current bill will not cost is just “a postage stamp a day per household . . . in 2020.”

But the real problem with the postage stamp claim is that even that figure is more than people are willing to pay. Polls show that only 10% are willing to pay more than $100 a year for cap and trade. That’s considerably less than a postage stamp a day.

Even the LCV’s Doublethink won’t get it past that one.

Of course, even the basic premise of the “irrelevance” argument can’t stand when the Administration is still projecting massive revenues (p33) as a result of cap-and-trade.

Meanwhile, how does the Huffington Post repsond?  EXXXXXOOOOOONNNNNN!!!!