Marlo Lewis

EPA’s Clean Power Plan, its carbon “pollution” rule for existing power plants, proposes carbon dioxide (CO2) emission reduction targets that states can meet only by enacting (or tightening) three of the four main climate policies contained in H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009, popularly (or unpopularly) known as Waxman-Markey. Those policies are: cap-and-trade, renewable energy quota, and demand-reduction mandates.

The fourth Waxman-Markey policy, performance standards requiring new coal power plants to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, is the centerpiece of EPA’s carbon “pollution” rule for new coal power plants.

Clean Power Rule & Waxman Markey Compared

Waxman-Markey narrowly passed in the House in June 2009, but once exposed as ‘cap-and-tax,’ it became a major political liability. Senate leaders tried to rebrand the proposal as “pollution limits” and “linked fee,” but that fooled no one, so eventually they pulled the plug on all companion bills. Cap-and-trade was a critical issue in the November 2010 elections. In the House, “virtually every close race was lost by a Democrat” who voted for Waxman-Markey, observes Cato Institute scientist Patrick Michaels. In contrast, “every close Senate race was won by a Democrat,” in no small part because they mothballed cap-and-trade.

In a democracy, policy is supposed to derive from statutes, which in turn are supposed to derive from elections. Cap-and-trade remains in such bad odor that neither President Obama nor other Democratic leaders campaigned for it in the 2012 election cycle. Indeed, President Obama ran to the right of Mitt Romney on energy issues, even accusing his rival of being anti-coal. Yet Obama’s EPA now acts as if it has a legislative and popular mandate to implement the old Waxman-Markey agenda.

A somewhat unique feature of American democracy is federalism. This allows each state to be a “laboratory of democracy,” empowering Americans to “vote with their feet” for and against state policy regimes they like or dislike. The Clean Power Plan would stifle such choice and competition. [click to continue…]

As discussed here last week, the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System, located about 40 miles southwest of Las Vegas in the Mojave Desert, kills butterflies, dragonflies, other insects, bats, and birds.

Tens of thousands of large mirrors (“heliostats”) focus sunlight on boilers (“receivers”) perched atop 459-foot towers. The “solar flux” field surrounding the boilers can reach temperatures of 800ºF — hot enough to melt, singe, and burn the feathers of birds that fly through it.

Ivanpah Solar Tower Glare All Three

The intense luminosity of the boilers attracts insects, which attract insect-eating birds, which in turn attract raptors. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) officials investigating the site observed “streamers” — trails of smoke from birds transiting the flux fields – about once every two minutes.

Ivanpah injured bird

Update: Environmental journalist Chris Clarke, who’s been reporting on avian mortality at Ivanpah since September 2013, reports that a federal study confirms that glare from Ivanpah’s heliostat arrays may create safety hazards for commercial and private aviation in the area.

Ivanpah Glare pilot hazard

In March, Ivanpah co-owner NRG Energy told Nevada aviation officials that potentially-hazardous glare was a temporary problem likely to abate once all heliostats were “calibrated” for commercial operation. But, reports Clarke, Sandia National Laboratories finds that the heliostats cause intense glare when they are in “standby position” — their default position when not aimed at the boilers. From the article: [click to continue…]

So I’m headed back to California from Las Vegas on I-15 when my eyes are dazzled by the light. Immense rectangular objects on three gigantic towers shine brighter than the desert sky in the noonday Sun. I avert my gaze, finding the discomfort level about the same as staring at an oncoming car with the brights on at night.

Taking in the panorama, I notice that the summits of the towers seem to be caught in the crosshairs of energy beams. The sci-fi fan in me is thinking, ‘Cool!’ What is this scene out of a Hollywood CGI extravaganza?

Ivanpah three towers

Google instantly sets me straight. This is Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System – the controversial solar power project held up for years due to its potential adverse impact on the “threatened” Mojave desert tortoise. Relocation and private conservation may save the tortoise, but Ivanpah has another ecological downside: It incinerates birds.

Ivanpah began generating power in February of this year. Even before commercial operation commenced, news outlets reported accounts of singed, scorched, and possibly vision-impaired birds. In April, the National Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Forensics Laboratory published a preliminary analysis of avian mortality at three California solar facilities. Of those, Ivanpah was the worst offender.

FWS investigators found that cloud-like emanations near the rectangular boilers (see photo below) attract insects, which attract small birds, which attract birds of prey, creating a “mega trap” for both local and migratory winged creatures.

Ivanpah the glow

Environmental journalist Todd Woody ably summarized the FWS study in The Atlantic: [click to continue…]

After three fun-filled days at Heartland Institute’s 9th Annual International Climate Conference at the beautiful Mandalay Bay hotel in Las Vegas, I moseyed on over to Planet Hollywood, site of the libertarian jamboree known as Freedomfest.

I gave a 20-minute presentation on a Heritage Foundation-sponsored panel discussion of the Obama administration’s energy policies.

Having come of age in the wild and wooly ’60s, I’ve encounted and debated lots of Lefty spin and progaganda over the years. However, I can’t recall an ideological campaign as thoroughly devoid of substance as the green crusade against the Keystone XL pipeline.

Hence the title of my talk: “Bogus Keystone Controversy — Fabrication of Green Politics.”

Below, I’ve posted my Power Point presentation.

Marlo Keystone Presentation by freedom1001

So I’m here in Las Vegas, in beautiful Mandalay Bay Hotel, at Heartland Institute’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change. This morning I gave a Power Point presentation titled “Carbon Tax: A Conservative Idea Whose Time Has Come?”

A ‘conservative’ carbon tax is so loopy that at times I half believe it must be a passing fad, a bad joke, or a piece of blackboard econometric foppery rather than a grimly-determined political agenda.

But shortly after my presentation, a colleague forwarded an email he received from MIT’s Climate CoLab. The message begins:

FRIDAY: U.S. Carbon Price Webinar with former U.S. Secretary of State George Shultz and former Members of Congress Bob Inglis and Phil Sharp. . . . The Webinar will consider “How could a national price on carbon be implemented in the United States?”

The email goes on to describe the Webinar as “an exciting opportunity” for entrants in Climate CoLab’s Carbon Price Contest “to ask questions and get feedback from advisors who will also be serving as judges.” Winners can earn up to $10K in prize money. These folks mean business, and they’re putting some donor’s money where their mouths are.

Most ‘conservative’ carbon-taxers claim they want a tax that is ‘revenue neutral’ (offsets other taxes dollar-for-dollar) and replaces EPA greenhouse gas regulations, federal fuel-economy standards, state renewable energy mandates, etc. But Washington’s big spenders have no interest in tax ‘reform’ that does not ‘enhance’ revenues, and Big Green has no desire to trade away its capture of regulatory agencies — especially not for a tax that couldn’t be used to fund green-energy programs.

A revenue-neutral, regulation-dismantling carbon tax is a pipe dream.

To view my Power Point, click here.

Marlo Lewis Slide Show Carbon Tax

Post image for The Unbearable Lightness of UARG v. EPA

Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Supreme Court global warming case decided on June 23, 2014, gave EPA a slap on the wrist and then sent the agency on its merry way to dictate national policy on climate change. As a check on EPA’s ambition, it has all the weight of a feather pillow. As a defense of the separation of powers, it is unbearably light.

Justice Antonin Scalia assembled a bare majority in favor of a face-saving political compromise. Two sharply opposed views vied for the Court’s approval:

  1. The Clean Air Act (CAA or Act) authorizes EPA to regulate greenhouse gases from stationary sources through the Act’s Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) preconstruction permit program and Title V operating permit program, as Justice Breyer (joined by Justices Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan) argued in dissent.
  2. The CAA does not authorize PSD and Title V permitting for greenhouse gases, as Justice Alito (joined by Justice Thomas) argued in dissent.

Instead of endorsing one of those alternatives, the Court opined, 5-4, that PSD and Title V permitting do apply to greenhouse gases – but only for sources already subject to the permitting programs as “major” emitters of other (“conventional”) air pollutants.

Winner: EPA

This half-way house ruling, authored by Justice Scalia, allows both sides to claim victory. “In Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA, the Justices feed several major climate regulations into the wood chipper,” the Wall Street Journal crowed. “Today’s ruling upholds the heart of EPA’s program for regulating carbon pollution from large new industrial facilities under the [PSD] provisions of the Clean Air Act,” stated Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).

Alas, Rep. Waxman is correct. UARG v. EPA is a big win for the agency. As the Court states on p. 10, EPA sought to regulate carbon dioxide (CO2) from facilities accounting for 86% of U.S. stationary-source greenhouse gas emissions. The Court trimmed back EPA’s reach to facilities accounting for 83% of stationary-source emissions.

More importantly, the Court’s ruling allows EPA to impose greenhouse gas controls on many diverse sources (power plants, industrial/commercial boilers, pulp and paper mills, cement production facilities, iron and steel mills, refineries, nitric acid plants, and landfills), all in one fell swoop.

In contrast, had the Court nixxed PSD for greenhouse gases, EPA could regulate CO2 from stationary sources only one industry at a time by establishing new source performance standards (NSPS), such as its proposed carbon “pollution” rule for new fossil-fuel power plants. The expansion of EPA’s greenhouse gas regulatory program would have slowed to a crawl. Now, thanks to UARG v. EPA, the program will continue to grow at breakneck speed.

Consider that the carbon “pollution” rule has been more than three years in the making and is still not final. Litigation might put it and other planned greenhouse gas NSPS on hold for several more years.

UARG authorizes EPA to impose CO2 controls on multiple industries between now and President Obama’s departure. This will affect the politics of energy policy. After spending millions on regulatory compliance, industries subject to PSD for greenhouse gases may not want to see their investments go for naught. Worse, some may want EPA to impose CO2 controls on other industries to ‘level the playing field.’ UARG v. EPA will make it harder for future Congresses and the next president to re-limit EPA and roll back Obama’s anti-carbon agenda.

What the Court decided

In UARG, the Court came to the following conclusions: [click to continue…]

Post image for American Lung Association Manipulates ‘Maternal Instinct’ to Sell EPA Power Grab

The American Lung Association (ALA) has launched a TV and digital ad campaign touting EPA’s Clean Power Plan, also called the carbon “pollution” rule for existing power plants.

ALA’s Facebook page offers a brief explanation:

Power plant pollution is a serious threat to our health, especially to kids. Check out our new television commercial to see what we’re doing to standup for little lungs vs. big polluters.

The commercial, titled “Mother’s Instinct,” features a baby boy in a crib with a monitor that lets Mom (and us) hear him breathing.

Here’s the text:

The Clean Air Act stops polluters from poisoning his [the baby's] air with arsenic, lead, and mercury. Now the loophole that let’s them pump unlimited carbon pollution into his air is closing too . . . if polluters and their friends in Washington don’t interfere. Don’t let polluters weaken our clean air protection.

As the narrator says the words “if polluters,” the baby disappears from the screen and instead we see what looks like smoke billowing out of the stack of a coal power plant.

Fact check time. First, mercury emissions from power plants do not poison anyone’s air. When mercury emissions deposit in soils and water bodies, bacteria can transform inorganic mercury (Hg) into methylmercury (CH3Hg), an organic compound that can bioaccumlate in aquatic food webs. In theory, American women who consume hundreds of pounds of self-caught (non-commercial) fish from the most contaminated water bodies can damage the cognitive and neurological development of their unborn children. However, in the 24 years since Congress tasked EPA to study the health risks of mercury, the agency has not identified a single child whose learning or other disabilities can be traced to prenatal mercury exposure due to maternal fish consumption. But even if mercury in fish were a significant health hazard, it would still be false to claim that power-plant mercury emissions poison the air kids breathe.

The case is somewhat similar for arsenic. Inhalation is a “route of exposure” but mainly as an occupational hazard at certain types of industrial facilities that emit arsine gas. For the general population, which includes children, the main route of exposure is ingestion of contaminated food or water.

More importantly, carbon dioxide (CO2), the substance targeted by EPA’s Clean Power Plan, is non-toxic to humans and animals at multiple times today’s atmospheric concentration (~400 parts per million) or any level reasonably anticipated for centuries to come. [click to continue…]

Fossil energy production was a large contributor to fast GDP growth in five states in 2013, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) reports:

Although mining was not a significant contributor to real GDP growth for the nation, it did play a key role in several states. This industry was a large contributor in five of the fastest growing states: North Dakota, Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Colorado. In North Dakota, the fastest growing state in 2013, mining contributed 3.61 percentage points to the state’s 9.7 percent growth in real GDP. By contrast, Alaska was the only state where real GDP decreased in 2013, primarily due to a decline in mining that resulted from lower output on the state’s North Slope.

GDP

Okay, the BEA doesn’t actually say “fossil energy production” and instead uses the less descriptive term “mining.” But what’s mostly ‘mined’ in those states is fossil fuels:

For more detail (albeit with somewhat dated info), see EIA charts and table below the break.

Note, too, 2013 GDP growth was strong in Texas (3.7%), the nation’s top oil and gas producing state, and also strong in Utah (3.8%), a state with significant coal and gas production. Idaho was the only non-fossil energy producing state with fast GDP growth (4.1%) in 2013.

At the risk of belaboring the obvious, policies promoted by the Obama administration and/or its allies — carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, drilling/fracking moratoria, energy export bans — are designed to suppress or even ban fossil energy production.

[click to continue…]

Post image for How Can EPA’s ‘Clean Power Plan’ Deliver $Billions in Climate Benefits If It Has No Detectable Impact on Global Temperatures, Sea-Level Rise, or Other Climate Indicators?

EPA’s carbon “pollution” rule for existing power plants, dubbed the Clean Power Plan, requires states, on average, to reduce power-sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030.

EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis projects significant incremental annual compliance costs — $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion in 2030 (RIA ES-7) — but also much larger air quality and climate benefits. EPA’s Clean Power Plan “By the Numbers” Fact Sheet estimates the public health and climate benefits at $55 billion to $93 billion. The RIA projects net benefits of $46 billion to $84 billion in 2030 (RIA ES-23).

Reductions in premature fatalities attributed to coincidental reductions in ozone and fine particulate (MP2.5) pollution account for more than 90% of the estimated $23 billion to $59 billion in health benefits in 2030 (RIA ES-22). Those gigantic air quality “co-benefits” should be taken with several handfuls of salt.

Claims that PM2.5 pollution currently kills thousands of Americans annually are based on cherry-picked studies and extrapolation of health effects below the lowest PM2.5 concentrations associated with mortality in epidemiological studies. Such claims also conflict with toxicological studies, which indicate that current PM2.5 concentrations in U.S. cities are too low to cause significant disease or death.

As for ozone pollution, the rule’s purported health benefits are even less plausible, since asthma prevalence – especially childhood asthma rates — increased since 1980 while ozone concentrations declined by 25%.* The Clean Power Rule will reduce ozone precursor emissions chiefly by forcing states to shift base load generation from coal to natural gas. But the state with the worst ozone pollution is California, which obtains only 0.4% of its electricity from coal.

Those are my preliminary reactions to the rule’s co-benefit claims. I turn now to the main topic of this post — whether the rule’s alleged climate benefits justify the estimated costs.

EPA estimates that in 2030 the rule will deliver climate benefits of $9.5 billion to $94 billion, with a mid-range estimate of $31 billion (RIA ES-23). This seems to suggest that, just as the rule will impose $7.3 billion to $8.8 billion in compliance costs on the power sector in 2030, it will also spare Americans tens of billions of dollars in climate change damages in the same time frame.

Obama administration officials are only too happy to foster that impression. When announcing the rule, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy said:

In 2030, the Clean Power Plan will deliver climate and health benefits of up to $90 billion dollars. And for soot and smog reductions alone, that means for every dollar we invest in the plan, families will see $7 dollars in health benefits.

Implication: U.S. climate benefits (CO2-related damages avoided) in 2030 will exceed $30 billion.* That is nonsense for three reasons. [click to continue…]

Post image for EPA’s Carbon “Pollution” Rules: War on Coal by the Numbers

How will EPA’s existing-source carbon “pollution” rule, released last week as a pre-publication document, affect U.S. power markets between now and 2030? The rule requires all states, on average, to reduce their power-sector carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions 30% below 2005 levels by 2030. Each state is, however, assigned a different “standard” (calibrated in pounds CO2 per megawatt hour), and the level of effort required to meet the standards will vary from state to state.

Two variables in particular affect both a state’s 2030 standard and the expense required to meet it: (1) how much of the state’s current generation comes from coal, and (2) how much idle natural gas combined cycle (NGCC), renewable, and nuclear generation capacity exists to meet consumer demand as the state ramps down and phases out coal generation.

The chart below presents some of the relevant data used to compute each state’s standard. It also confirms — despite EPA’s protestations to the contrary – that the agency is waging a war on coal.

As EPA reads the Clean Air Act, it must first propose emission performance standards for new sources under §111(b) before it may propose performance standard guidelines for existing sources under §111(d). Arguably, this means a court decision invalidating new source standards would invalidate existing source standards as well. EPA published its carbon “pollution” rule for new coal power plants in January. My colleague William Yeatman identifies six legal flaws in EPA’s new source carbon “pollution” standard.

Data in the accompanying chart make it even clearer that EPA’s new source rule is a de-facto fuel-switching mandate — a policy Congress has not approved and which would be dead on arrival if introduced as a bill. [click to continue…]