Marlo Lewis

From a citizen perspective, there are three main questions in climate change science: What happened? Who done it? How bad is it going to get? Those questions roughly correspond to the scientific issues of detection, attribution, and climate sensitivity.

All scientists, including skeptics, agree with the IPCC’s assessment that warming of the climate system since the 1950s is “unequivocal.” In contrast, IPCC climate sensitivity estimates are increasingly controversial due to the growing divergence between climate model projections and observed temperatures. The chart below by University of Alabama in Hunstville (UAH) atmospheric scientist Roy Spencer illustrates — and satirizes — the divergence:

CMIP5-90-models-global-Tsfc-vs-obs-thru-2013

Earlier this week, I reviewed a comment letter by Spencer’s colleague John Christy  on the scientific basis of EPA’s Clean Power Plan. To recap, EPA’s climate change endangerment analysis is largely based on IPCC climate models. Christy challenges not only the IPCC’s climate sensitivity estimates, but also the IPCC’s claim that most warming since 1951 is anthropogenic. That “attribution” assessment is the core of what IPCC-affiliated scientists and their allies call “the consensus.”

Today’s post offers an historical perspective on Christy’s critique of the consensus position. [click to continue…]

Post image for RFS Deadlines: EPA Tardy by Cumulative 27 Months and Counting

Guest Post by Dave Juday*

Yesterday the Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the EPA’s implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2014.  The RFS is a schedule, which prescribes the volume of biofuels – corn ethanol, biodiesel, and so-called advanced biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol – that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply each year.  The RFS was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and greatly expanded by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.  EPA’s track record is abysmal, hence the hearing.

According to the statute, EPA’s confirmation of biofuels volumes is to be announced by November 30 of the preceding year – i.e. after the corn harvest and before the compliance year – in order to give some clarity to both the food and fuel markets.  Now in December, more than a year late, EPA has still not set the volumes for 2014.  And, according to Acting Assistant Administrator, Janet McCabe, probably won’t be until sometime 2015.

McCabe told lawmakers that “issuing rules every year has proven to be a significant implementation challenge.”  That’s an understatement.  Consider the agency’s record.

Each year since 2009, EPA has missed its deadline. In the 60 months since November 30, 2009 – the last time the deadline was met – EPA has been tardy in announcing the final volumes by a cumulative total of 27 months, so far.  By next year, the EPA will likely be 40 months late – or more – in meeting its annual deadline.  That means that for 72 months since 2009 when fuel blenders and refiners were to be in compliance they did not know the actual compliance target for more than half that time.  As the Government Accountability Office has reported, these late rulings “contribute to industry uncertainty, which can increase costs because industry cannot plan and budget effectively.”   Indeed, when the new 114th Congress convenes in January, RFS reform should be a pressing issue.

* Dave Juday is the principal of The Juday Group a commodity market and policy analytical firm in Washington, D.C. [click to continue…]

Post image for EPA Should Re-Examine Climate Rule’s Scientific Basis – John Christy

In recent comments submitted to EPA, University of Alabama in Huntsville atmospheric scientist John Christy challenges the physical science basis of the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

EPA assumes that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2) from energy use, are the driving force behind recent climate change. It thus further assumes that regulating CO2 emissions can mitigate future climate change, providing substantial health benefits to the American people.

Christy does not dispute the reality of climate change. The climate is always changing on multiple time scales. However, the Earth has experienced climatic “fluctuations in the past centuries similar to and even greater than what has occurred in the past 50 years.” Scientific instruments measure what the climate is doing; they don’t tell us why it behaves as it does.

To understand what drives climate change, scientists must test hypotheses against data. EPA assumes CO2 emissions are the chief driver because that’s what state-of-the-art IPCC climate models assume.

But, Christy points out, data from six independent global temperature monitoring systems “demonstrate that the models do not yet have the ability to discern ‘why’ a climate variation may have occurred simply because they cannot even reproduce ‘what’ has occurred.” The chart below compares climate model projections with observed temperatures over 35 years in the tropical troposphere, the portion of the atmosphere where models project a “highly consistent and significant” warming response to rising CO2 concentrations.

Christy Models vs Observations 1979 - 2014

[click to continue…]

Post image for EPA Climate Rule’s Hypothetical Impact: Too Small to Detect

Dan Simmons of the Institute for Energy Research (IER) today posts a stinging rebuke to the Natural Resources Defense Council’s attack on the American Legislative Exchange Council and the “Reliable, Safe and Affordable Power (RASP) Act.”

Quick background: RASP is a model bill for state lawmakers. It is likely to be considered this week at ALEC’s annual Washington, D.C. meeting. ALEC is the non-partisan association of state lawmakers dedicated to limited government, free markets, and federalism.

RASP instructs state agencies (1) not to prepare to implement EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP) until the rule’s legality has been fully resolved in courts, and (2) not to expend funds to execute a CPP implementation plan until committees of jurisdiction in the state legislature approve the plan.

The first of those restrictions is protection against government waste. The CPP is a legal mess, so it makes no sense for states to develop implementation plans until the judicial system resolves the many predictable legal controversies. The second restriction safeguards democracy by ensuring that state elected officials, not bureaucrats, have the final say in how the state implements the CPP in the unlikely event courts uphold the rule.

Yesterday, NRDC hosted a press conference call in which spokespersons for the group asserted that RASP would “paint states into a corner” and make it harder for them to shape their own policies, according to E&E News. NRDC’s point seems to be that if a state refuses to submit its own implementation plan, EPA will impose a federal plan without input from state officials.

That threat is an empty suit. Unlike all previous EPA rules requiring states to adopt emission performance standards for “existing” stationary sources under §111(d) of the Clean Air Act, CPP performance standards cannot be achieved by requiring installation of specific control technologies at “designated facilities” — a power clearly within EPA’s jurisdiction.

Rather, the standards can be achieved only by enacting or amending state electricity laws and regulations. Only state lawmakers and agencies acting pursuant to state statutes have such authority. If states ‘just say no,’ EPA is out of luck. EPA cannot impose its own plan, because the agency has no authority to enact or amend state renewable energy requirements, generation fleet dispatch policies, or demand-reduction incentives like rebates for programmable thermostats.

What’s more, as attorney Peter Glaser points out, EPA can’t even threaten to punish the state with loss of highway funding, because the Clean Air Act does not authorize sanctions for failure to comply with §111(d).

Wonderful news, though it’s not the main point of this post. Simmons provides new evidence (new to me, anyway) that the CPP’s hypothetical climate impact is too tiny measure or verify.

[click to continue…]

Post image for EU Climate Policy Boomerangs: Subsidizes Coal, Gas

As I write, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is holding a hearing on climate policy. In his testimony, Dr. Benny Peiser, director of the UK-based Global Warming Policy Foundation, argues that the European Union (EU) badly miscalculated when it decided, in the early 2000s, that development of a low-carbon economy based on renewable sources would make Europe the world’s most dynamic, competitive marketplace.

As a result of Europe’s climate policies, energy prices have risen sharply, putting European manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage in global markets.

Peiser Price Shock

 

 

 

 

 

European energy prices are now more than double those in the USA.

Peiser EU vs US Energy Prices

 

 

 

 

Peiser discuss the effects of EU climate policy on two industries, chemical manufacturing and steel production. “While Europe’s high cost policies have become an existential threat to the long-term survival of the chemical industry, cheap energy is reviving the fortunes of the industry in the US,” he contends.

Peiser U.S. Chemical Industry Cost Advantage

 

 

 

 

 

 

High energy costs contribute to Europe’s declining share of global steel production.

Peiser Steel Shares 2007 vs 2013

 

 

 

 

 

 

EU climate policies also inflate consumer energy costs, transfer wealth from low-income households to special interests, and intensify the problem of fuel poverty:

As wealthy homeowners and business owners install wind turbines on their land and solar panels on their homes and commercial buildings, low-income families all over Europe have had to foot the skyrocketing electric bills. Many can no longer afford to pay, so the utilities are cutting off their power. The German Association of Energy Consumers estimates that up to 800,000 Germans have had their power cut off because they were unable to pay the country’s rising electricity bills.

But at least EU policymakers are saving the planet, right? Nope. Energy-intensive goods EU countries can no longer afford to produce at home they increasingly import from overseas. When we factor in emissions ‘embedded’ in imported goods, EU climate policy has achieved no net reduction in CO2 emissions.

Peiser EU CO2 Emissions Embodied in Domestic Consumption

 

 

 

 

 

And now the best part of Peiser’s testimony. Peiser reveals that EU subsidies for renewable energy have led — via the iron law of unintended consequences – to subsidies for coal- and gas-generation.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Supreme Court to Review EPA’s Mercury (Utility MACT) Rule — We Told You So!

In what the Wall Street Journal calls a “setback for the Obama administration,” the Supreme Court today announced it will review a challenge by more than 20 states and industry groups to EPA’s Clean Air Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule, also known as the Utility MACT (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) Rule.

Petitioners argue that the Clean Air Act (CAA) required EPA to take implementation costs into account when deciding whether MACT regulation of hazardous air pollutant (HAP) emissions from power plants is “appropriate and necessary.” EPA did not do so.

By EPA’s own estimate, the MATS Rule will cost utilities $9.6 billion in 2016. Yet the HAP reductions that are the Rule’s ostensible purpose would yield only $0.5 million to $6 million in health benefits in the same year, even making outlandish assumptions in the rule’s favor.

My colleague William Yeatman predicted, back in April, that D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s powerful dissent in White Stallion Energy Center LLC et al. v. EPA et al. would persuade the Supreme Court to review the decision. Here’s the nub of the commentary I posted at the time:

Perhaps more importantly, §112 [of the Clean Air Act] tasks EPA to determine whether MACT regulation of HAPs is “appropriate and necessary” only for “electric steam generating units.” For all other major sources of HAP emissions, EPA has no discretion and is simply required to promulgate MACT regulations. The statute thus seems to contemplate that, in the special case of coal power plants, MACT regulation may not be appropriate even if the associated HAP emissions pose public health hazards. In other words, a less stringent form of Clean Air Act regulation (such as new source performance standards) or state-level regulation might be “appropriate.”

Yeatman opines that Kavanaugh’s dissent may persuade the Supreme Court to review the case. If so, the Court might rule that EPA is allowed or even required to consider costs when determining what is “appropriate” when regulating HAP emissions from power plants. That, in turn, could set the stage for litigation on whether the MATS Rule is too costly to be “appropriate” within the meaning of the statute.

 

Post image for U.S.-China Climate Deal: Who Snookered Whom?

In the recent U.S-China climate deal, who snookered whom? Let’s first review what happened and place it in historical context.

Two weeks ago, President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping announced a Joint Agreement on Climate and Clean Energy Cooperation designed to “inject momentum into the global climate negotiations on the road to reaching a successful new climate agreement next year in Paris.”

In the past, China had rejected U.S. and EU proposals to adopt legally-binding emission limitations, and demanded that industrialized nations make deep emission cuts and pony up billions of dollars (as much as 1.5% of their combined GDP annually) to help developing countries adapt to climate change.

Without formally repudiating those negotiating positions, Xi pledged that China’s carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions would peak by 2030, and he did not condition that commitment on U.S. financial assistance to developing countries. (Although Xi likely knew that, three days later, at the Nov. 14 G-20 Summit in Australia, Obama would pledge $3 billion in climate assistance for poor countries.)

President Obama, for his part, pledged that America would cut its CO2 emissions 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025. That goes beyond the President’s 2009 Copenhagen treaty proposal to cut U.S. CO2 emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020.

Some critics conclude that Xi outfoxed Obama, because, under the Joint Agreement, U.S. emissions must begin to decline immediately whereas China’s don’t have to plateau until 14 years after Obama leaves office. Some also argue that Xi simply promised to do what China intends to do anyway.

On the other hand, historian Rupert Darwall, citing the White House briefing memo, points out that the scope of China’s commitment is “truly staggering.” From the memo:

China’s target to expand total energy consumption coming from zero-emission sources to around 20 percent by 2030 is notable. It will require China to deploy an additional 800-1,000 gigawatts of nuclear, wind, solar and other zero emission generation capacity by 2030 – more than all the coal-fired power plants that exist in China today and close to total current electricity generation capacity in the United States.

Last Friday, Bloomberg News published an analysis confirming the colossal scale of China’s commitment under the Joint Agreement.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Renewable Fuel Standard: EPA Retreats from Cutbacks

Greenwire (subscription required) reports that EPA will pull back from its November 2013 proposal to reduce this year’s Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) blending targets. However, a final rule establishing RFS targets for 2014 is not expected until 2015.

By law, EPA was supposed to finalize the 2014 targets in November 2013.* EPA only proposed the 2014 targets last November, and things have been on hold since then.

Because the statutory blending target for 2014 exceeded the amount of ethanol that could actually be sold as E10 (motor fuel containing 10% ethanol, the maximum blend millions of vehicles can use without risk of engine damage and voided warranties), the agency proposed to trim the 18.15 billion gallon statutory target to 15.21 billion gallons, a 16% cutback. That ignited a firestorm of protest from the biofuel lobby, and EPA has been dithering ever since.

What’s the policy significance of today’s news?

It’s common knowledge that the RFS is a textbook study in the law of unintended consequences. The program inflates food and fuel costs, exacerbates world hunger, contributes to political instability and violence in developing countries, expands aquatic dead zones, accelerates wetlands conversion and habitat loss, and likely increases net greenhouse gas emissions.

EPA’s more-than-year-long delay in finalizing the 2014 targets reveals what may be the most damning unintended consequence yet: market unpredictability. [click to continue…]

Post image for EPA Air Regulations: 15% Real-Dollar (35% Nominal-Dollar) Increase in Utility Bills by 2020, Study Finds

A new study by Energy Ventures Analysis for Peabody Energy examines the cumulative impacts on electricity and natural gas costs from 2012 to 2020 due to recent and proposed EPA regulations.

Regulations examined include: new national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for ozone and particulate matter; the Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR) to address interstate transport of air pollution; Mercury Air Toxics Standards (MATS) Rule; regional haze regulations; and the Clean Power Plan (CCP), proposed in June 2014, to reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from state electric power sectors.

The study, Energy Market Impacts of Recent Federal Regulations on the Electric Power Sector, forecasts the following real-dollar (inflation-adjusted) impacts in 2020 compared to 2012:

  • Annual power and gas costs for residential, commercial, and industrial consumers will be $173 billion higher—a 37% increase.
  • Average annual household gas and power bills will increase by $293 or 15%.
  • Residential power bills increase the most in Texas, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Rhode Island. Families in those states will pay $566 more annually for electricity in 2020 than in 2012.

Because “income growth is being outpaced by inflation for many Americans (the lower earning half of U.S. households experienced a 25% decline in real income from 2001-2014),” the report’s authors believe “it is more appropriate to focus on the results in nominal terms.”

Here are the results presented above in actual (non-inflation-adjusted) dollars: [click to continue…]

Post image for No Brainer: Senate Should Approve Keystone XL

On Friday, the House passed H.R. 5682, Louisiana Republican Rep. Bill Cassidy’s bill to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline, by 252-161. On Tuesday, the Senate takes up North Dakota Republican Sen. John Hoeven’s identical legislation, S. 2280. As of Friday, 59 senators had publicly committed to support the bill — one vote shy of the 60 required to send the measure to the President’s desk.

The President should have approved the KXL long ago. The Keystone controversy is completely artificial — a fabrication of green politics

The State Department is the lead agency in determining whether to grant the TransCanada Corporation permission to construct the pipeline for one reason only — the project crosses the U.S.-Canada boundary line, making it technically an issue of international relations. State’s job is to determine, on behalf of the President, whether the project would serve the U.S. national interest.

TransCanada filed its first application for a cross-border permit in September 2008. It has taken State more than six years not to render a decision. Yet the issue is a no-brainer.

  • Do modern commerce and transport chiefly run on petroleum-based products? Yes.
  • Are pipelines the most economical and safe way to transport large volumes of petroleum? Yes.
  • Is Canada our staunch ally and biggest trading partner? Yes.
  • Is Canada already the largest single source of U.S. petroleum imports? Yes.
  • Would the KXL enhance the efficiency of oil transport from Canada to U.S. markets? Yes.
  • Would the KXL support tens of thousands of American jobs and add billions to the GDP during the construction period? Yes.
  • Would all the financing be private and not cost taxpayers a dime? Yes.

So how could building the KXL not be in the national interest?

According to anti-Keystone protest leader Bill McKibben, “If this thing gets built, it’s game over for the planet.” In reality, the KXL is climatologically irrelevant. As Cato Institute scientist Chip Knappenberger shows, using EPA climate sensitivity estimates, even under the unrealistic assumption that all 830,000 bpd of Canadian crude coming through the pipeline is additional oil in the global supply that would otherwise remain in the ground, the warming contribution works out to about 1/100th of a degree Celsius by century’s end. “So after nearly 100 years of full operation, the Keystone XL’s impact on the climate would be inconsequential and unmeasurable.” [click to continue…]