There is general feeling in air that the American Dream is a thing of the past, unattainable due to an economy riddled with stagnation and strangling regulations. Environmentalists have striven to produce this nightmare in their relentless aim to handicap all industrial progress in this country that might have any element of risk to a “clean” environmental way of life. They want you to give up the dream. I am here to share with you that the story of America as the Land of Opportunity is still alive, but is at stake.
Eco-rhetoric has infiltrated all forms of media, consumer products, and political campaigns, fashioning a bias in effective energy sources. Renewable and non-renewable energy have been divided and labeled into opposing categories: “Conventional” or “unconventional,” “sustainable” or “unsustainable.” These categories have created energy associations that are contrived and deceptive.
Let’s start with the pejorative “unconventional.” The modifier “unconventional” has been associated with fossil fuels like tar sands, shale gas, and coalbed methane. What makes these resources unconventional is their past inability or difficulty to be accessed. Now, new but “unconventional” technology (hydraulic fracturing, open pit mining, etc.) has made these resources accessible. In eco-tease, however, “unconventional” has become synonymous with “dirty.” The Sierra Club’s “dirty fuels” page exemplifies the use of eco-rhetoric towards new non-renewables: “It’s one thing for society to be saddled with an existing energy strategy that could result in dangerous climate change; it’s another thing when new technologies are exploited that push us closer to climate disaster – and that is what the commercialization of unconventional fossil fuels would do.” Claims such as these hold no water; the efficiency of new technologies to expedite “unconventional” fossil fuels like shale gas and oil have made these non-renewables viable— that is, “conventional.”
The irony of this eco-rhetoric is that renewable energy is unconventional. Green power producers wouldn’t exist if they weren’t showered with subsidies, yet you rarely hear this slighting term associated with them in the mainstream.
There is no question that the controversial process of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”) for natural gas in New York State’s Marcellus Shale Formation is the current dividing issue among New Yorkers. There are those who spout environmental litanies of an outright ban on the process and those who lionize economic growth over such anti-risk hysteria. But amongst all of this potent polarization, Gov. Andrew Cuomo neglected the issue entirely in his second State of the State Address he made last week, leaving both groups dumbfounded.
Cuomo stated, “Our challenge for 2012 is this: How does government spur job creation in a down economy while limiting spending and maintaining fiscal discipline? The answer is forging public-private partnerships that leverage state resources to generate billions of dollars in economic growth and create thousands of jobs.” You would think fracking would be a no-brainer in his economic blueprint since itwould “spur job creation” without costing taxpayers a dime; however, fracking took form of the elephant in the room as Cuomo outlined his plans for “economic development:”
The question of whether the green energy industry can fight its own battles within the competitive energy market was answered Wednesday with the release of U.S. EPA’s Utility MACT rule. The unsurprising answer is no, it cannot. This rule, dressed with the façade of an earth-friendly health-protecting mandate, is a regulation intended to fade out the coal industry—one of the renewable industry’s strongest competitors.
The Utility MACT rule, announced by EPA Chief Lisa Jackson on December 21, 2011 at the choice location of the Children’s National Medical Center in D.C., has two rules for coal-fired power plants. The first rule curbs air pollution in states downwind from “dirty” coal-fired power plants. The second would set the first standards for mercury and other pollutants from power plant smokestacks, requiring plants to install “maximum achievable control technology” to reduce emissions of pollutants. EPA estimates this rule will cost $9.6 billion while the industry approximates the cost of $100 billion; between the two, this rule is one of the most expensive regulations to date. An analysis done by AP stated that these rules eliminate more than 8 percent of coal-fired energy nationwide. AP also found that more than 32 mostly coal-fired power plants in a dozen states will be forced to shut down and an additional 36 might have to close because of new federal air pollution regulations; together, those plants produce enough electricity for more than 22 million households.
Earthworks’s Oil and Gas Accountability Project has recently commissioned a report on behalf of anti-drilling special interests, and delivered it to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, donning the title: “A Human Rights Assessment of Hydraulic Fracturing for Natural Gas.” This flagrant instrument of green propaganda alleges that the “environmental damage” created by hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), the contentious natural gas extraction process that involves blasting a mixture of water, sand, and chemicals underground, poses “a new threat to human rights.” The basis of this accusation rests upon a citation of a recent United Nations Resolution that states, “environmental damage can have negative implications, both direct and indirect, for the effective enjoyment of human rights.” Again, the archetypal environmentalist assumes the posture of the humanitarian do-gooder, when in reality, their green agenda with the “at-all-costs” underpinnings will ravage the already depressed economies of those areas in upstate New York where natural gas development offers hope for impoverished people.
The report enumerates the possible (not affirmed) risks to air quality, ground surface waters, climate change, soils and ecosystems that qualify as “violations” of human rights (26 violations, to be exact), even though they admit that “the current state of knowledge about potential human health and environmental impacts of these airborne and waterborne contaminants, as well as of their mixtures and interactions, is poor.” It goes to the level of labeling fracking a “human rights” issue because it overrides all other possible policy tests. The report states, “Human rights standards are recognized as trumping other types of policy considerations such as utility, cost-benefit analysis, economic value, social policy, etc.” The cherry on top of this outrageous assessment is that the last two listed human rights accused of being violated by fracking pertain to the Nuremberg Code— a document that assures the rights of medical subjects that came out of the World War II Nuremberg Trials where Nazi doctors were rightly accused of performing atrocious experiments on prisoners in the concentration camps. As stated, there is no evidence that fracking poses a threat to the environment, let alone to human rights. To parallel real human suffering with an industrialized process that mitigates human struggle by creating wealth is insulting and absurd.
The Senate Finance Committee gathered this week to discuss whether the time has finally come to cut the umbilical cord of tax incentives from the mollycoddled alternative energy industry. This may sound childish, but many of the witnesses pushing for an extension of expiring tax incentives for renewable energy characterized their allegedly up-and-coming market in such terms. Venture capitalist Will Coleman for Mohr Davidow Ventures maintained that despite alternative energy’s “rapid growth,” such as in wind, “it is still in its infancy.” Paul Soanes, President and CEO of Renewable Biofuels, testified: “The industry is like a child that needs some nurturing.” The question then becomes: will a renewed tax extension fund a future pride-and-joy of profit or a prodigal embarrassment (I.e. Solyndra).
Multiple testimonies that lauded the progress of alternative industries like wind, solar, and ethanol as job creators and strong global competitors were belied by an overwhelming sense of immediacy. Coleman insisted that without continued subsidies, “We may in fact cripple America’s ability to compete.” Soanes urged, “Congress needs to act now to extend the PTC (production tax credit).” Martha Wyrsch, President of Vestas-American Wind Technoloy warned, “If the PTC is not extended immediately, we will have to make tough choices…Our future is in jeopardy.”
A recent article in the Huffington Post written by David Foster calls for a higher standard for the jobs created in the United States; if they’re not green, they’re not good enough. Foster writes:
On Friday, the Labor Department announced that the American economy had gained about120,000 jobs in November. A positive number is a good number. But we have to face facts: we aren’t going to put eight million people back to work with a piecemeal approach to our economy. It’s no longer acceptable to sit on the sidelines and hope that jobs will be created and that our economy will recover by returning to an unsustainable pre-2008 economic model. It’s no longer an option to deny the impact of climate change on our economy. We need action to build the industries that will drive our future economy in the United States, and we need it now.
In Durban this week, thousands of people from around the world are gathering to advocate for an agreement that will avert the worst impacts of climate change and help impacted nations adapt. Whether in South Africa or in the United States, the cost of climate change is deep and far reaching. It’s costing us money. It’s costing us economic growth. And it’s costing us jobs.
Foster’s unsettling statements, though elitist and alarmist, are unfortunately vivid in the design of the current administration’s biased behavior. While federal agencies under the Obama administration have supported industries that create the chic new-wave “green jobs,” other jobs are treated as inferior within industries that are “unsustainable.” The obvious targets are the gas and oil industry (i.e. the punting of the Keystone pipeline, hostility towards hydraulic fracturing, “quitting coal” initiatives). However, these jobs that lack environmental sex appeal actually provide sustainable incomes and benefits for the masses. The Wall Street Journal reported an 80% increase from 2003 in the jobs of the oil and gas production, now employing some 440,000 workers. These jobs account for more than one in five of all net new private jobs in that period (Wall Street Journal). The Journal also details North Dakota—the state with the lowest unemployment rate (3.5%)—as having more than 16,000 current job openings in the oil and gas industry, and places like Williston having available jobs that often pay more than $100,000 a year.
A rare moment of common sense rang supreme in the bill markup with the bipartisan approval of Kristi Noem’s (R-SD) Farm Dust Regulation Prevention Act of 2011 (H.R. 1633) by the House Energy and Commerce committee on 33 to 16 vote. This bill prevents EPA from regulating particulate matter (PM) with an aerodynamic diameter greater than 2.5 micrometers under section 109 of the Clean Air Act, limited to one year starting from the date the bill is passed. EPA’s regulation would be exempt where this PM standard is already regulated by the state or local government. The agency would have to prove coarse particulate matter poses a serious health risk; if EPA were to initiate a new PM standard related to farm dust, it would have to pass a cost-benefit test.
However, leading up to this triumph in the interest of rural America, several of the Democrats’ platforms were armed with ironic and ignorant castigation, regardless of the amendment made in the name of the “overly broad” term of “farm dust,” or “nuisance dust.”
From the genesis of the bill’s introduction, Democrats have had issue with the definition of “farm dust.” In the Section 3(c) of the initial bill, “nuisance dust” is defined as particulate matter “(1) generated from natural sources, unpaved roads, agricultural activities, earth moving, or other activities typically conducted in rural areas; or (2) consisting primarily of soil, other natural or biological materials, windblown dust, or some combination thereof.” To appease the concern over the vague language, an amendment was successfully passed, sharpening the term so that nuisance dust “(3) is not emitted directly into the ambient air from combustion, such as exhaust from combustion engines and emissions from stationary combustion processes.” This addition clearly excludes fossil fuel combustions such as coal combustion residuals from the definition of farm dust.
In the wake of EPA’s announcement that it intends to regulate how drillers dispose of the millions of gallons of wastewater (or flowback water) created by shale gas production, the Water Resources and Environment Subcommittee’s recent hearing on the issue focused on how such added regulation will negatively impact the American economy: “Ensuring Regulatory Approaches That Will Help Protect Jobs and Domestic Energy Production.” This added federal regulation can only be seen in the wasteful light of a phantom problem.
According to E&E News, there are currently no national standards set for the disposal of shale gas drilling wastewater; dumping it into rivers and streams is prohibited. States currently have the jurisdiction of choosing what drilling regulations to adopt. To Representative Tim Bishop’s (D-NY) question of why a national minimum standard would not succeed, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection Michael Krancer shot back: “Because of our long history of oil and gas development and comprehensive regulatory structure, Pennsylvania does not need intervention to ensure an appropriate balance between resources development and environmental protection is struck.”
Paul Krugman’s recent article in the NY Times is a weak attempt to convince those who have been led astray by our “fossilized political system” that solar power is somehow becoming a rising star of reliability since, as he claims, it is now “cost-effective.” This pipedream is of course followed by a casual alarmist condemnation of hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”). It seems Krugman has gotten a little too solar-happy based on his overt distortion of both solar and fracking facts.
First, let’s get the sun out of our eyes and the buzzing Krugman out of our ears so the reality of solar energy can come into focus. Holman W. Jenkins’s op-ed in the Wall Street Journal shatters Krugman’s application of solar energy under “Moore’s Law,” explaining the real reasons behind the decrease in solar energy price, which Krugman claims was actually the “technological success” of Solyndra’s failure. In Jenkins’s piece, he uses a fictitious acceptance letter from Herbert M. Allison, a former chief financial officer of Merrill Lynch, recruited by the White House to counsel on the Department of Energy’s “green” loan program, who was recruited after the collapse of Solyndra. He states: