William Yeatman

Breathlessly reports today’s E&E PM ($):

Political spending by the fossil fuel industry has soared in recent years, and companies have been rewarded with billions of dollars in federal subsidies for oil, gas and coal projects, according to a report released today by environmental groups.

Contributions from the oil and gas industry increased by a staggering 11,761 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to a report released today by the Sierra Club and Oil Change International.

Conspicuously absent from E&E PM’s article is mention of the fact that Sierra Club took millions from the natural gas industry to attack the coal industry, DURING THE SAME TIME PERIOD THAT IS COVERED BY THE REPORT!!!

As I noted in February 2012,

Bryan Walsh in Time Magazine this week broke the big story that the Sierra Club received over $25 million from the natural gas industry to serve as a corporate shill and attack the coal industry.  Walsh wrote: “TIME has learned that between 2007 and 2010 the Sierra Club accepted over $25 million in donations from the gas industry, mostly from Aubrey McClendon, CEO of Chesapeake Energy—one of the biggest gas drilling companies in the U.S. and a firm heavily involved in fracking—to help fund the Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. Though the group ended its relationship with Chesapeake in 2010—and the Club says it turned its back on an additional $30 million in promised donations—the news raises concerns about influence industry may have had on the Sierra Club’s independence and its support of natural gas in the past.”

For shame!

Last Friday, President Barack Obama again delayed a decision on whether the Keystone XL Pipeline is in the national interest.

Many have speculated that in doing so, the President is pandering to green special interests and their big-pocketed benefactors.

But not DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Shultz.

In an interview with David Gregory on Sunday’s Meet the Press, she said that politics “doesn’t factor into [the President’s] decision” on whether to proceed with the pipeline. Watch her response below:

 

However, two nights ago on Hardball with Chris Matthews, which is a functional outpost of the DNC, guest host Joy Reid adopted a perspective on the matter that is entirely at odds with that taken by party leader Wasserman Shultz.

According to Reid, the President’s decision, far from being apolitical, was in fact perfect politics, because it benefits ALL democrats.

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Here’s the lede to today’s Politico Morning Energy:

STEYER – I’M NOT THE KOCHS: Liberal billionaire Tom Steyer insisted Tuesday that he’s not the left’s version of the Koch brothers. “That is not something I embrace. I think there are real distinctions between the Koch brothers and us,” Steyer said in an interview with POLITICO and The Washington Post taped for C-SPAN’s “Newsmakers,” which will air on Sunday. Steyer, who hopes to use his vast personal fortune to make climate change a top priority in the upcoming midterm elections, said he’s not entering politics for personal gain. Charles and David Koch’s priorities “line up perfectly with their pocketbooks – and that’s not true for us,” Steyer said.

Steyer’s claims are, in fact, disputable. For starters, as I understand it, the Kochs have given scores of millions to the ACLU, public television, and hospitals, and I don’t believe it’s possible to logically argue that these priorities “line up perfectly with [the business interests of Charles and David Koch].”

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Remember President George W. Bush’s hydrogen car initiative? Or maybe you recall President Barack Obama’s pledge to create 5 million green jobs? Or O’s commitment to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015? You probably don’t remember any of these promises, because none of them came even close to fruition.

Yesterday, we were given a(nother) helpful reminder that government cannot create green energy industries from scratch, when the EPA revised its cellulosic ethanol production quota precipitously downward. That this lesson in limits occurred on Earth Day is apt.

cellulosic

Cellulosic ethanol is a transportation fuel made from anything other than food. Supposedly, it’s the next big thing in green energy: a “biofuel” with a lower carbon footprint than regular gasoline. There was no cellulosic industry in the U.S. in 2007, when Congress decided to create one. To this end, lawmakers simply mandated ever-increasing volumes of production, until 2022, when cellulosic ethanol is supposed to account for about 10% of the total market for transportation fuels.

Take a moment to appreciate how stupid this is! Politicians sought to overhaul a core market in the world’s biggest economy, and their primary method of doing so was to…command that the market bend to its will, stat! Evidently, Members of Congress think they’re genies.

By statute, cellulosic ethanol was to appear (magically?) in the following increments: 100 million gallons in 2010; 250 million gallons in 2011; 500 million gallons in 2012; and 1 billion gallons in 2013. Thereafter, the mandate continues to grow, albeit in a less geometric fashion, until it hits 16 billion gallons a year in 2022.

And here’s a corresponding list of what’s actually been produced: 0 gallons in 2010; 0 gallons in 2011; and 20,000 gallons in 2012. While we still don’t know the 2013 figures, KiOR Inc., a cellulosic biofuel company on which EPA had counted to meets its 2013 cellulosic standard, recently announced it had idled production. So it doesn’t appear as if there’s been a breakthrough.

Alas, it gets stupider. Congress tasked EPA with implementing its production quotas, and the agency has the authority to adjust the target. Obviously, this is a tough job. On the one hand, there are pie-in-the-sky statutory targets; on the other, none of the stuff is being manufactured.

Nevertheless, EPA’s execution of this difficult duty leaves much to be desired. Instead of relying on actual data (such as cellulosic production data through a few months of the year for which EPA is choosing a target), the agency has acted on the word of what cellulosic ethanol producers claim they can make. Of course, these are the very businesses that benefit from the cellulosic mandate. They have a financial incentive to be unrealistically optimistic.

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CEI’s Myron Ebell this afternoon participated on an Earth Day panel hosted by the Heritage Foundation. Other panelists were: Daren Bakst, Heritage Foundation; Steve Milloy, Murray Energy Corporation and David Schnare, Energy & Environmental Legal Institute.

Here’s how Heritage described the event:

There is a lot to celebrate this Earth Day. The environment continues to get cleaner. Air and water quality are much better. Human achievement and development are helping to create a more prosperous nation that can better address environmental challenges. This important success story often gets lost in the misinformation campaigns that try to paint a picture of a country with dire environmental conditions. This panel will highlight environmental trends, dispel environmental myths, and demonstrate how human progress is critical to the well-being of humans and the environment.

Below, I’ve posted video of the panel.

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Post image for Pollution Control Executive: Carbon Pollution Standard Suppresses Innovation in Carbon “Pollution” Control

Among social scientists, this is called an “unintended consequence.”  Below, I’ve excerpted the money quote, as reported by Greenwire’s Manuel Quiñones. Read the whole thing here.

“We’ve pulled way back on carbon capture [research and development],” said Kip Alexander, an executive at Babcock & Wilcox Co. He cited “the way the rules are being written, the rules are being made” for the strategic decision to scale back.”

The quote in the title comes from Laborers International Union of America president Terry O’Sullivan, a top union official, as reported today by The Washington Free Beacon’s Lachlan Markay.

Here’s more outrage from O’Sullivan over the President’s decision to (again) kick the Keystone can down the road:

“Once again, the administration is making a political calculation instead of doing what is right for the country. This certainly is no example of profiles in courage. It’s clear the administration needs to grow a set of antlers, or perhaps take a lesson from Popeye and eat some spinach.”

Read the whole thing here.

In other Keystone XL news…

  • Remember last week, when a group of 11 Nobel Peace Prize winners sent a letter to the President asking him to “do the right thing” and “reject” the Keystone XL Pipeline? It turns out that one of the signatories is a 9/11 Truther. Read all about it at Big Green Radicals.
  • Larry O’Connor, over at The Washington Free Beacon’s Editors Blog, makes a great point about the allegedly dire direct environmental threats posed by the pipeline.

The U.S. portion of Keystone will consist of 1,078 miles of 30″ pipeline. Sounds like a major environmental issue, right? Not when compared to the already existing 2.3 million miles of pipeline already in the U.S. pumping petroleum, gas, and chemical products every day.

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Platts Energy Week with Bill Loveless: On yesterday morning’s Platts Energy Week with Bill Loveless, Platts Associate Editor Bobby McMahon reported that utility industry sources are claiming that “80% of the [coal-fired power] plants that were relied upon in the winter months will be shut down next year” due to the EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, a.k.a. the “utility MACT.” If true, this is a big deal.

Up to twenty-five perfect of the nation’s coal-fired power plant fleet is set to retire rather than comply with the Utility MACT. Because these power plants are all subject to the same deadline, we’re talking about a wholesale shift in the electricity industry, occurring literally overnight. Somewhat troublingly, we don’t really know what to expect when the rule kicks in. EPA performed a reliability analysis of the Utility MACT, but the agency’s work was shredded by an informal analysis conducted by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

McMahon’s interview, reposted below, is eye-opening, insofar as it demonstrates the looming uncertainty that now plagues the electric industry as a result of the Utility MACT. As McMahon tells Platts Energy Week, the pipeline network for natural gas is limited in many markets, particularly in the northeast. These logistical constraints, in turn, engendered natural gas scarcity during last winter’s ‘polar vortex’ events, which precipitated price spikes. In the face of exorbitantly priced (or even unavailable) natural gas, utilities turned to coal. Next year, that might not be an option.

Perhaps EPA could justify such a threat to electric reliability, if the agency was actually protecting public health. Alas, this is not the case. The direct justification for the Utility MACT is the protection of a population—pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen—that does not exist. Aware that this original rationale for the Utility MACT is extremely weak, EPA suggests that the regulation’s “co-benefits” render it cost-effective, but this data also is dubious.

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Post image for AAA: Electric Vehicles’ Range Is 57% Lower in Cold and 33% Lower in Heat

Read all about it at The Reflector.

As we’ve noted before, demand for electric vehicles is supported by a $7,500 tax credit. Because EVs tend to be green status symbols for the wealthy, these tax breaks are, in practice, regressive.

Post image for Is EPA Panicking over Pending GHG Regulations for Coal-Fired Power Plants?

Evidence is mounting that the EPA’s greenhouse gas regulations for coal-fired power plants are in disarray.

The agency is working on two separate rules: (1) the Carbon Pollution Standard for new coal-fired power plants and (2) Clean Air Act section 111(d) “guidelines” for existing coal-fired power plants.

The Carbon Pollution Standard was proposed in January, and would effectively ban the construction of new coal-fired power plants. This gives you an idea of what EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy means when she talks about “flexibility.” Energy developers can either spend 500% more on a coal plant, by installing carbon capture and sequestration, or they can build a gas plant. The “choice” is theirs alone.

The Carbon Pollution Standard was announced in September, yet it wasn’t until January that the rule was published in the Federal Register. In between, it was subject to an interagency review coordinated by the Office of Management and Budget. During this review, OMB asked EPA a very simple question: What is the rationale for promulgating the Carbon Pollution Standard?

Here’s EPA’s answer,

On June 25, 2013 President Obama issued the “Presidential Memorandum — Power Sector Carbon Pollution Standards” directing the EPA to issue a new proposal by no later than September 20, 2013 and to issue proposed carbon pollution standards, regulations or guidelines, as appropriate, for modified, reconstructed and existing power plants by no later than June 1, 2014. By statute, in order to issue emission standards for existing sources, the Agency must first propose standards of performance for new sources.

This is an amazing response. EPA basically concedes that the only reason it issued the Carbon Pollution Standard (for new power plants) was so that it could get to regulating existing power plants, in accordance with the President’s climate policy. That is, the Carbon Pollution Standard is merely a means to an end. And because there is no genuine purpose for the rule, other than to beget a subsequent rule, EPA had to fabricate a rationale out of whole cloth, which is really hard to do. I detailed the rule’s many mortal flaws in a post earlier this week, “The Top 6 Reasons EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standard Is Illegal.”

Yet there has also been a spate of news raising doubts about the implementation of the agency’s 111(d) guidelines to regulate greenhouse gases from existing coal-fired power plants. Yesterday, for example, Politico’s Morning Energy reported that there’s confusion regarding the rule’s timing at the highest ranks of the Agency.

Per Politico,

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