William Yeatman

Yesterday the Environmental Protection Agency lowered the nationwide limit for ground level ozone, known officially as a National Ambient Air Quality Standard, from 75 parts per billion to 70 parts per billion.

It will be a painful regulation to implement. Ozone pollution is notoriously expensive to mitigate. These costs, moreover, would be completely incommensurate with the putative benefits. However, as I explain below, the Obama administration had little discretion on the matter, and, within its limited room to maneuver, the EPA chose the least among harms. Moreover, if courts remain consistent (which is by no means a certainty), there’s a good chance this rule will be rejected for being insufficiently stringent. By contrast, there is little chance that the rule would be struck down for being too onerous.

So this is the first absurd environmental regulation issued since January 2009 for which the Obama administration isn’t to blame. Rather, fault for this rule lies with primarily with the legislative and judicial branches of government. The Congress established an inapt regulatory regime for setting the ozone standard. And subsequent court rulings made this ill-suited program even worse. As a result, the ozone NAAQS is a monster, over which the president has little control. [click to continue…]

Here’s the headline from an August 25th article by the Washington Post’s Juliet Eilperin and Michelle Boorstein:

“For Pope Francis’s D.C. Visit, Environmental Rally of up to 200k Planned”

And here’s the headline from a Think Progress post today by Natasha Geiling:

“Pope’s Visit to D.C. Inspires Hundreds To Rally for Climate Justice”

[click to continue…]

[Editor’s noteThis is the latest in a semi-regular series whose purpose is to correct the record whenever New York Magazine’s Jonathan Chait writes a story about climate change politics or policy]

Earlier this month, Jonathan Chait penned a cover story for New York Magazine on climate change, which he has since described thusly:

My story in the magazine describes how political pressure and technological innovation are feeding into each other, producing a virtuous cycle of affordable green energy and stronger willpower to reduce emissions.

As always, Chait’s climate change story is peppered with factual inaccuracies. For example, writes Chait:

[I]n 2010, President Obama, temporarily enjoying swollen Democratic majorities in both houses, tried to pass a cap-and-trade law that would bring the U.S. into compliance with the reductions it had pledged in Copenhagen. A handful of Democrats from fossil-fuel states joined with nearly every Republican to filibuster it.

For starters, President Obama did not “try to pass a cap-and-trade law.” In fact, the “cap-and-trade” in question never made it out of the democrat party caucus in the Senate. More to the point, the President effectively killed the effort by punting on a meeting about the measure with Senate democrat leadership. Also, while it’s true that opposition to the bill was bipartisan, there was never a filibuster. Again, the bill never made it out of the democrat Senate caucus, due to intra-party opposition. Republicans didn’t have to lift a finger. So Chait’s history is totally wrong (again).

Of course, there are more mistakes in the piece, but the two most prominent errors undercut his thesis altogether. Chait’s argument is that we should be optimistic because green energy is taking off, and also because China is fervently doing everything it can to reduce emissions. As fate would have it, both of Chait’s primary talking points were refuted by events in only the 17 days since he published his ill-destined article. [click to continue…]

In response to the 1973 OPEC oil embargo, Congress in 1975 passed the Energy Policy and Conservation Act, which directs the President “to promulgate a rule prohibiting the export of crude oil” produced in the United States. Congress’s oil export restrictions, like virtually all limits on international trade, are bad policy. Nonetheless, in this instance, the Congress at least was heeding the prevailing political winds (if not reason): the OPEC embargo caused public panic, and banning oil exports was a knee-jerk response to the political mood at hand.

As time passed from this initial panic, legislative prohibitions on oil trade made decreasing sense. And during the past five or so years, a time when American production has boomed thanks to a technological revolution colloquially known as “fracking,” the export ban has become downright stupid. It is, therefore, a welcome development that House of Representatives leadership today in Houston is expected to announce a strategy to advance H.R. 702, legislation that would forbid federal officials from imposing or enforcing restrictions on the export of oil. This *common sense* bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Barton (R-Tex.) and enjoys healthy bipartisan support.

During a briefing yesterday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest was asked whether the Obama administration has a position on H.R. 702, and his response says a great deal about the sorry state of energy policy in the age of Obama. I’ve reposted his answer below:

MR. EARNEST:  [W]e’ve got a position on this, which is that this is a policy decision that is made over at the Commerce Department.  And for that reason, we wouldn’t support legislation like the one that’s been put forward by Republicans.  And so this is — so for an update on our position, if one is necessary, you can consult with the Commerce Department.

The one thing that I would note is that this policy announcement is being made by Leader McCarthy in front of an organization in Houston that is largely funded by four or five of the biggest oil companies in the United States.  So it is pretty clear, once again, where Republicans in Congress and their political benefactors stand when it comes to their energy policy priorities.  

[Editor’s note: Here, Earnest is referencing how House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy is expected to announce leadership’s support for H.R. 702 today at an oil and gas trade association in Houston.]

The fact is I think Leader McCarthy has an opportunity to demonstrate some true political courage where he could go and stand before that organization and actually offer up something bold but also common-sense, which is to end the billions in subsidies that oil and gas companies in the United States already enjoy, and actually use that money to ensure the long-term success of our economy and the energy sector in this country by making important investments in things like wind energy and solar energy — investments that even some of those oil companies themselves have bragged about making.

Earnest’s extraordinary response has two components that warrant exploration.

First, he states that the administration will oppose H.R. 702, because the purpose of the legislation—ending export restrictions—is “a policy decision that is made over at the Commerce Department.” Let’s unpack this a bit, because it says a lot about this administration’s tendency to accrue power.

As I explain above, Congress in 1975 passed a law (EPCA) whose purpose is to restrict the export of oil produced in the U.S. Today, congressional leadership wants to pass a law that would lift such restrictions. Congress passes a law; Congress rescinds the law. That makes sense to me, but not to the President. According to the Obama administration, it’s not Congress’s place to amend its prior laws. Instead, any such alterations are properly “a policy decision that is made over at the Commerce Department.” That is, these decisions are best left to the Executive Branch. Of course, the administration’s “position” is totally impermissible from a constitutional perspective (separation of powers and all that). Nevertheless, Earnest’s response speaks volumes about Obama’s approach to governance. This administration thinks policy should originate in a second term president, by phone or pen, rather than Congress. [click to continue…]

International climate diplomacy is necessarily a joke.

Here’s the cold, hard set-up to the joke: The international system of world states is defined by self-help. This is because there is no global policeman to enforce lofty international goals set by high minded cosmopolitans. Nations of the world may one day by reason bind together and achieve perpetual peace and harmony, but we’re nowhere near there yet. And until then, nation states will conduct their relations with one another based on their selfish interests alone.

UNFCCC: Bigger carbon footprint than even the Pope

UNFCCC: Bigger carbon footprint than even the Pope

With this maxim in mind, now consider the scope of the climate diplomat’s task. According to the International Energy Agency, it would cost $45 trillion to control the world’s thermostat. And this is likely a lowball. Remember, 90% of the world’s energy production is derivative of combusting fossil fuels, the “cause” of supposedly terrifying global warming. Energy, in turn, is a necessary component of all acts of economic production. Therefore, in order to “do something” about climate change, the entire global economy would have to be reordered in accordance with the commands of some centralized entity. Global communism is not an inapt parallel for climate change mitigation policy.

Given the cold, hard truth set forth above, and accounting as well for the hugeness of the undertaking that is seeking to set planet’s temperature, and you are left with an inescapable conclusion: Not Gonna Happen. There is simply no precedent for interstate burden sharing on the order of $45 trillion, short of world war. While wrong-way Jon Chait deems AGW to be a threat as big if not bigger than Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, his ridiculous viewpoint is shared by no one save for environmental zealots, and perhaps climate diplomats.

What, for example, does Jon Chait and his ilk think could happen this December in Paris, which is hosting the latest UN-sponsored conference to “save the plant”? The U.S. position is set. President Obama can pledge emissions cuts commensurate with the regulations his administration imposed. Nor does the President have an independent kitty of cash he can put on the table. Similarly, the European Union position is set. They’ve committed to 40% reductions through 2030; that’s not going to change. Japan and Canada blew through their Kyoto Protocol targets, and have since embraced coal use and unconventional oil production, respectively.

So, what’s going to change? What could Paris accomplish? Will the developed countries, with their unmovable goals and priorities, browbeat rapidly developing countries like China and India into submitting to the west’s green demands?

Fat chance!

[As an aside, I’m here reminded of President Obama’s most humiliating moment abroad. In December 2009, at the last UN-climate confab to “save the planet,” President Obama made a dramatic and unexpected visit, the lowlight of which was his banging on the door of a meeting with Chinese and Indian delegations and demanding entrance, having to sneak in, and then being ignored in front of a gaggle of reporters.]

When the world is seen through the realist lens, climate diplomacy is rightfully identified as absurd theatre. There is no possible endpoint, so jet setting climate diplomats must get busy pretending to make progress. And because there’s only a limited number of ways to make believe diplomatic progress, these pretensions soon become hilarious. [click to continue…]

Amid much fanfare, the Obama administration on August 4th unveiled the “final” Clean Power Plan in a rollout that took place at the White House, before a crowd of environmentalists. To be sure, the rule is popular with the green set; however, it is also hugely controversial, due to the fact that it would subject the entire U.S. electricity *system* to EPA control, whereas before electricity markets were the exclusive preserve of States and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

States thus are faced with a usurpation of their authority, and, accordingly, they are champing at the bit to challenge the rule in court. Moreover, bipartisan majorities in both chambers of Congress are opposed to the EPA’s broad grant of power to itself, and GOP leadership appears to be keen on challenging the regulation using the Congressional Review Act, which allows simple majorities in the House and Senate to pass a legislative check on major agency regulations.

Here’s the thing: States can’t sue, and Congress can’t pass a legislative veto, until the Clean Power Plan is published in the Federal Register.

When the rule was announced, EPA said that the rule would be published in normal course. According to Politico:

“We’ll be publishing as soon as practicable,” EPA spokeswoman Melissa Harrison said in an email, explaining, “Typically publication can take anywhere from two weeks to a month. The bigger the print job, often times, the longer the time between signature and publication.” While EPA wouldn’t give an exact date, it has said it will not delay in publishing the rule, as some had previously speculated.

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy seconded this notion, saying that the rule’s publication in the Federal Register would “follow a standard process,” as reported by InsideEPA.

So…in early August, concomitant with the announcement of the pre-publication version of the Clean Power Plan, EPA officials publicly stated that the rule would be published in normal course (“anywhere from two weeks to a month”).

But when late August came around—right about the time EPA said the rule would be published and become final—the agency started singing a new tune. On August 31, the Department of Justice filed a court document, on behalf the EPA, regarding an ongoing effort by 15 States and a coal company to arrest the Clean Power Plan before it goes final. In fact, that controversy hinges on when the Clean Power Plan is published in the Federal Register. And Justice’s August 31 memo spoke to this dispositive matter by claiming that

“Consistent with the Agency’s customary practice, EPA is in the process of conducting a final review [of the rule]…prior to transmitting the rule to the Office of the Federal Register… EPA intends to complete this final review process and transmit the rule to the Federal Register no later than September 4…EPA expects, based on past experience with other large rules, that the final rule will be published in the Federal Register by late October.”

Obviously, Justice’s submission gels poorly with EPA’s prior statements. For starters, EPA claimed the rule would be published around late August. Then, when late August came, EPA claimed the rule would be published in late October—three months after the rule was announced at a White House ceremony, and two months after the agency initially said it would be published. EPA states that the cause of the delay is the agency’s “customary practice” of reviewing a final rule after it has been signed by the administrator, but why weren’t EPA’s top officials aware of this “customary practice” when they said the rule would be ready in a month? Also, doesn’t this customary practice raise the spectre of post hoc rationalizations? [click to continue…]

This blog repeatedly has stressed the phoniness of President Obama’s climate agenda.To wit:

  • During his 2012 reelection campaign, he conspicuously skirted mention of climate change. Now he calls global warming the most urgent threat in the world today, on par with war and terrorism.
  • During the 2012 debates, candidate Obama tried to outflank Romney’s right on energy policy. That Obama—the one who was trying to get elected—took credit for booming American oil and gas production. Last week, by contrast, 2nd term Obama claimed that Big Oil was conspiring with the Koch brothers to undermine his green goals.

In short, the President cares about climate change only insofar as he desires a legacy for which he has to pay no electoral price. o-tap

That’s the context for the President’s current itinerary. You might be forgiven for thinking the President is still on vacation (see below), but in fact, he’s in the midst of a “two-week global warming messaging sprint,” as described by Politico.; The Washington Examiner calls it a “climate change tour.”

It started in Las Vegas on the 24th of August, with an evening speech to extol a supposed green energy revolution. Then it moved to New Orleans, where the President talked up his administration’s efforts to render the country more resilient in the face of runaway AGW. The final leg of the trip is now unfolding in Alaska, where yesterday he “stare[d] down a melting glacier,” according to the AP, in a scene that evokes Reagan at the Brandenberg Gates (in bizarro world).

But did the President’s staring contest with a giant block of ice inspire Americans to drop everything and fight climate change? After all, that’s the idea behind his trip—to draw attention to the urgency of solving the climate “crisis.” My limited purpose with this post is merely to demonstrate empirically that the President’s PR tour has changed few to zero hearts, due to the simple fact that no one seems to be paying any attention. [click to continue…]

On Tuesday, August 11, the EPA Administrator, Gina McCarthy, will present a talk entitled “The Promise of the Clean Power Plan” at a Resources for the Future Policy Leadership Forum at 12:15 pm at the RFF auditorium at 1616 P Street, NW, Washington, DC.  Regarding the talk, former EPA official Alan Carlin has prepared the following handout on behalf of  the Cooler Heads Coalition:

You are unlikely to hear today why the EPA so-called “Clean Power Plan” (CPP) needs to be rescinded, so this is an alternative view for your consideration concerning the Plan:  [click to continue…]

Tomorrow, the House is expected to vote on the H.R. 2042, the Ratepayer Protection Act. The bill well-deserves every vote it gets on the way to passage.

It’s a commonsense measure that basically codifies how EPA interpreted the Clean Air Act for three decades before the Obama administration. In the late 1970s, EPA promulgated a rule that allowed States to exempt sources from regulation under the “existing source performance standards” program, which is the same provision that authorizes EPA’s controversial Clean Power Plan. EPA, however, made no mention of these variances in its proposed Clean Power Plan. The Ratepayer Protection Act would reintroduce this practice by allowing Governors to opt out the rule if he/she determines it would have an unacceptable impact on energy prices or electric reliability.

In addition, the bill would delay implementation of the Clean Power Plan until judicial review ran its course. This is necessary to correct a potential injustice attributable to the slow wheels of justice. On the one  hand, capital-intensive businesses like utilities must plan on 4+ years horizons. On the other, it takes about three years for Clean Air Act rules to endure judicial review (brashly assuming SCOTUS grants cert). The unfortunate result is that utilities, in the name of certainty, may lock in implementation of the Clean Power Plan, before we know whether or not the rule is illegal.**The Ratepayer Protection Act would preclude this unfair outcome***

Below, find a coalition letter in support of the legislation. It’s signed by 14 organizations, including the Competitive Enterprise Institute:

Coalition Letter in Support of H .R. 2042 Ratepayer Protection Act – Jun 23 2015

[click to continue…]

Both chambers of Congress appear likely to pass appropriations bills amended with policy riders that would check EPA on a number of fronts.

Mainstream media reports stress that these policy riders are GOP initiatives, but the fact is that all of them assuredly will enjoy robust bipartisan support. In fact, members of both parties are wary of the President’s multiple power grabs. And once these riders are attached to a spending bill, they’ll enjoy even more bipartisan appeal. After all, spending is the sine qua non of parochial politics, on which all lawmakers—regardless of political party—rely for reelection. The bipartisan support for these bills, in turn, will pressure Obama. It will be harder for the President to justify a veto (and, by extension, a shutdown of some or perhaps all federal agencies) on the grounds of GOP intransigence if his own party is in on the act.

Thus, these bills are viable politics. Which means that green groups are sharpening their knives.

As I’ve explained here, here, and here, green special interest have become very active in the business of slimy attack ads. Whenever one of their ideological ends is threatened, these groups spend millions of dollars on tasteless and mendacious media campaigns that portray their opponents as murderers hellbent on polluting babies to death. Alas, I’m not making this up.

So here’s a prediction you can take to the bank: Green groups will soon announce a new “hard hitting” television, radio, and online media campaign whose purpose is to influence the Congress’s vote on the appropriations bill. The ads will feature wheezing babies or toddlers in oxygen masks. They will blatantly infer that any Member of Congress who sides with “polluters” (by voting for the spending bill) will have the blood of children on his or her hands.

All of this brings me to my purpose today, which is twofold:

First, I want to sound the alarm that these duplicitous green ads are coming, and thereby afford any interested parties (i.e., American business or giant pools of “dark money,” wherever they may collect) the opportunity to produce a rebuttal.

Second, I’ve generously shown the way, by producing the advertisement below, which I hope will provide an example as to how these things can be done. In it, I play the role of legendary HOFer Pittsburgh Steeler running back Franco Harris. He was the only famous bearded athlete I could think of. This would function well as a regional spot in the Keystone State; for a national spot, I’d use Phil Mickelson. And so…without further ado… [click to continue…]