Features

Post image for Secretary Kerry Focuses on Climate Diplomacy While Russia Marches Into Crimea

U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry on 7th March 2014 issued his first official Policy Guidance to all Ambassadors and other heads of missions abroad.  It’s not about Russia’s aggressive takeover of the Crimea, a part of the sovereign state of Ukraine.  It’s not about China’s naval buildup.  It’s not about the implosion of Venezuela’s elected dictatorship.  It’s not about Iran’s ongoing program to build nuclear weapons.  It’s not about the continuing civil war in Syria.  It’s about what Secretary Kerry thinks is the major national security threat facing the United States—global warming!

Here is how Secretary Kerry introduces his Policy Guidance:

Leading the way toward progress on this issue is the right role for the United States, and it’s the right role for the Department of State.  That’s why I’ve decided to make climate change the subject of my first Policy Guidance as Secretary of State.  I have been deeply impressed by the way Secretary Clinton elevated global women’s issues as a top-tier diplomatic priority, and believe me, we’re committed to keeping them there.  When the opportunities for women grow, the possibilities for peace, prosperity, and security grow even more.  President Obama and I believe the same thing about climate change.  This isn’t just a challenge, it’s also an incredible opportunity.  And the Policy Guidance I’m issuing today is an important step in the right direction.

One thing’s for sure:  there’s no time to lose.  The scientific facts are coming back to us in a stronger fashion and with greater urgency than ever before.  That’s why I spoke in Jakarta about the threat of climate change and what we, as citizens of the world, can do to address it.  That’s why I raised this issue at our senior management retreat here in Washington, and why I’ll be raising it again at our Chiefs of Mission Conference next week.  This challenge demands elevated urgency and attention from all of us.

I’m counting on Chiefs of Mission to make climate change a priority for all relevant personnel and to promote concerted action at posts and in host countries to address this problem.  I’ve also directed all bureaus of the Department to focus on climate change in their day-to-day work.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Quadrennial Defense Review 2014: Lions and Tigers and ManBearPigs, Oh My!

Every four years the Pentagon publishes a Quadrennial Defense Review presenting its assessment of the nation’s “strategic challenges and opportunities,” and outlining DOD’s plans and budget priorities for protecting U.S. security interests. The just-published 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review calls the effects of climate change “threat multipliers,” much as the previous 2010 QDR called climate change an “accelerant of instability or conflict.”

These reports contain no trace of Secy. of State John Kerry’s hysteria about climate change being ”perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Nonetheless, the usual suspects frequently cite DOD’s assessments as proof that climate change is a national security threat (‘even the generals are worried’).

Let’s look at pertinent passages in the 2014 QDR, beginning with the Executive Summary:

The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities [p. VI].

Well, sure, if we make a long train of assumptions about climate change causing droughts and floods, and the latter causing crop failure, and the latter causing food riots, and the latter causing state failure or exacerbating regional conflict, then it “may” increase the “frequency, scale, and complexity” of future missions. But don’t bet money on it.

So far, the alleged link between global warming and extreme weather “exists” only in the virtual world of non-validated computer climate models. There has been no trend in the strength or frequency of land-falling hurricanes in the world’s five main hurricane basins during the past 50-70 years; no trend globally in accumulated cyclone energy since 1970; no trend in global weather-related losses since 1960 once impacts are adjusted for increases in wealth, population, and the consumer price index; little change in global drought over the past 60 years; and no trend in U.S. flood magnitudes over the past 85 years.

Plus, the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions allegedly responsible for the “climate crisis” added literally trillions of dollars to global agricultural output over the past 50 years, and will likely increase output by many more trillions over the next 35 years. The net impact of CO2 emissions on global food security and, thus, international stability and peace, is likely to be positive in coming decades.  [click to continue…]

Post image for Voting with Their Feet: Warmer Is Better

From 2007 to 2012, the GDP of Texas grew by 13%, compared to 2.5% for the nation as a whole, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman reports. Krugman, however, doesn’t want to give credit to Gov. Rick Perry, the shale boom, or “the more general miracle of free-market capitalism.”

So what explains the Lone Star State’s strong economic performance? Krugman opines:

Partly we’re seeing the continuation of the long-term movement of U.S. population and jobs to the Sunbelt; Ed Glaeser likes to point out that the single best predictor of state growth is the number of winter degree days. On top of that, Texas does do one very important thing right: it has relaxed zoning, which keeps housing abundant and cheap.

In other words, the Texas economy benefits from warm weather and the absence of think-globally, act-locally climate policy — land-use restrictions misleadingly labeled “smart growth.”

In a recent column, Cato Institute scientists Pat Michaels and Chip Knappenberger find a long-term and accelerating increase in average U.S. experiential temperature — the average temperature Americans experience in their daily lives primarily because of how they vote with their feet.

This map shows population growth rates by state from 1900 to 2010:

Population Change U.S. 1900-2010

This map shows average temperature by state from 1900-2010:

U.S. Annual Temperatures by State 1900-2010

Comparing the two maps “reveals a pretty strong indication that people seem to be seeking out warmer states,” the two scientists write. But they do more than eyeball the relationship, they quantify it.  [click to continue…]

Post image for Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA: What’s Really at Stake?

Earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Utility Air Regulatory Group v. EPA. The case is the first since Massachusetts v. EPA (2007) to examine the extent of the EPA’s Clean Air Act authority to regulate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions.

The Court is limiting its review to one question:

Whether EPA permissibly determined that greenhouse gas emissions from new motor vehicles triggered permitting requirements under the Clean Air Act for stationary sources that emit greenhouse gases.

In other words, the Court is reviewing the agency’s April 2010 Timing Rule.

According to the Timing Rule, regulation of any air pollutant under any part of the Clean Air Act automatically requires anyone seeking to build or modify a “major” stationary source of that pollutant to apply for a Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) preconstruction permit from EPA or a state environmental agency. The EPA began regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) when its greenhouse gas Tailpipe Rule took effect (Jan. 2, 2011). To qualify for a PSD permit, an applicant must demonstrate that the proposed facility or modification will comply with “best available control technology” (BACT) standards.

Because of the narrow scope of review — the Justices have no intention of revisiting Mass. v. EPA, reviewing EPA’s greenhouse gas Endangerment Rule and Tailpipe Rule, or revisiting the Court’s opinion in American Electric Power v. Connecticut that EPA may adopt new source performance standards (NSPS) to regulate CO2 emissions from stationary sources — some observers conclude that UARG v. EPA is not very important and it really doesn’t matter what the Court decides. Not so.

Because BACT standards are facility-specific, they are more intrusive than NSPS, which apply to industrial source categories. Especially if the regulated “pollutant” is CO2, a byproduct of energy use, BACT is an invitation for bureaucratic micro-management of industrial design and operations. As I discuss in a recent Forbes column:

Because there are no bolt-on commercial technologies to reduce CO2 emissions from industrial processes, BACT for CO2 will consist mainly of facility-specific changes in work practices and equipment to improve energy efficiency. Thus, warns the Energy-Intensive Manufacturers Working Group, a petitioner in the case, BACT for CO2 will empower the EPA and its state counterpart agencies to meddle in “every aspect of a facility’s operation and design that affects either its emission of carbon dioxide or its consumption of energy, because the latter is the primary determinant of the former.” Options listed by EPA include everything from changing light bulbs in the factory cafeteria, to replacing draft fans and water heaters, to basic design changes that, in EPA’s words, “fundamentally redefine the nature” of the facility.

More importantly, overturning the Timing Rule could significantly narrow the scope and slow the pace of EPA regulation of CO2 from industrial facilities.

Consider how long it can take to adopt just one NSPS regulation. EPA committed to adopt CO2 NSPS for new coal-fired power plants and petroleum refineries in Dec. 2010. They still have not even proposed NSPS for refineries. Maybe they’ll finalize the NSPS (“carbon pollution”) rule for new power plants this year. But the rule is beset with legal problems (for example, it is based on the fiction that carbon capture and storage, a technology at least 10 years away from commercialization, has been “adequately demonstrated”). If litigants block the “carbon pollution” rule, then EPA won’t be able to move ahead with CO2 performance standards for existing coal plants.

So here’s the big practical difference. The NSPS route forces EPA to fight for regulatory turf one industry at a time. BACT permitting pursuant to the Timing Rule empowers EPA to impose CO2 regulation on ”major” sources throughout the economy in one fell swoop.

The political significance is obvious. If the Court nixes BACT for CO2, EPA will be able to establish far fewer regulatory beachheads between now and Obama’s departure. That would facilitate efforts by future Congresses and the next president to halt or even roll back EPA’s greenhouse gas regulatory agenda. [click to continue…]

Post image for Menace to Society: Commentary on the Social Cost of Carbon

Yesterday was the deadline for filing comments with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on the Obama administration’s social cost of carbon (SCC) estimates. I submitted a comment letter on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, Americans for Tax Reform, CFACT, Freedom Action, FreedomWorks Foundation, Frontiers of Freedom, George C. Marshall Institute, Heartland Institute, Rio Grande Foundation, Science & Environmental Policy Project, and Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council.

We argue that carbon’s social cost is an unknown quantity; that SCC analysts can get just about any result they desire by fiddling with non-validated climate parameters, made-up damage functions, and below-market discount rates; and that SCC analysis is computer-aided sophistry, its political function being to make renewable energy look like a bargain at any price and fossil energy look unaffordable no matter how cheap.

One point we emphasize that may come as a complete shock to OMB is that there are potentially very large social costs of carbon mitigation.

Those include:

  1. The public health and welfare risks of policies that raise business and household energy costs.
  2. The economic, fiscal, and energy security risks of policies that endanger the shale revolution.
  3. The economic development risks of policies that limit poor countries’ access to affordable energy.
  4. The risks to international peace and stability of impeding developing country economic growth through carbon caps or taxes and carbon-tariff protectionism.
  5. The proliferation risks of policies that increase developing country demand for fissile materials and nuclear technology.
  6. The risks to scientific integrity when government is both chief funder of climate research and chief beneficiary of “consensus” science supporting a bigger role for government in economic decisions.
  7. The risk to the democratic process when governments promote “consensus” climatology to justify bypassing legislatures and marginalizing opponents as “anti-science.”

Here I will excerpt* the discussion addressing point 7 — the risks climate policy poses to democratic self-government.

“Perhaps the biggest casualty [of the global warming movement] is science,” author Rupert Darwall opines. Climate models produce long-term forecasts that cannot be validated in our lifetimes. Inevitably, “consensus” and “expert judgment” displace reproducibility as tests of scientific validity. Government grants and appointments reward researchers whose findings support the consensus. Since the politicians and agencies funding the research and invoking “consensus” are the same ones seeking greater control over energy markets and energy production, researchers face continual pressure or temptation to cross the line between policy relevance and policy advocacy. Groupthink becomes the norm.

A related casualty is the democratic process. The Obama administration’s M.O. is to “enact” climate policies through regulations Congress has not approved and would reject if introduced as legislation and put to a vote. Such policies include the 54 mpg fuel-economy standard, application of best available control technology standards to major stationary greenhouse gas emitters, and a “carbon pollution rule” that effectively bans construction of new commercial coal generation. Administration officials and their allies invoke the “consensus of scientists” to explain why they “can’t wait” for the people’s representatives to act. [click to continue…]

Post image for Who’s the Real Flat-Earther? McKnider and Christy Respond to Secy. Kerry

In today’s Wall Street Journal, atmospheric scientists Richard McKnider and John Christy respond to Secy. of State John Kerry’s Feb. 16 pejorative-laden climate change speech in Jakarta, Indonesia.

Kerry lambasted so-called climate skeptics as members of the “Flat Earth Society” for doubting the reality of anthropogenic climate change. He declared, “We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists” and “extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts.”

McKnider and Christy note that they “embrace many of the facts” people like Kerry claim they deny (for example, greenhouse gases trap heat in the atmosphere, greenhouse gas concentrations are rising due to industrial emissions). What skeptics deny is that there is solid evidence – scientific or economic – of an impending climate catastrophe. Many also argue that because global economic development is overwhelmingly fossil-fueled, abandoning carbon energy before commercially-viable alternatives are available is perilous and likely a “cure” worse than the alleged disease.

Kerry opines that “climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Big picture data suggests otherwise. A century and more of rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions and global temperatures has also seen unprecedented improvement in the abundance of human life (population), health (average life expectancy), and per capita income.

Goklany Global Progress 1760-2009 population GDP life expectancy CO2

 

Name-calling used to be considered beneath the dignity of the Secy. of State. But if it works for President Obama (“We don’t have time for a meeting the Flat-Earth Society”), who is Kerry to abstain from slinging snark?

The Flat-Earth hypothesis was once the “scientific consensus.” So who’s the real Flat-Earther in today’s climate debate? Someone, like Kerry, who exaggerates the “findings” of flawed climate models, or someone who is skeptical of climate models because of their growing failure to replicate climate reality?

McKnider and Christy post a chart that is one those pictures worth a thousand words.

Models v Observations Christy McKnider, WSJ Feb 20, 2014

Post image for State Department Assessment Blows Away Keystone Pipeline Foes’ Objections

If you want to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and oil spill risk, you should support the Keystone XL Pipeline.

Last week the State Department issued its Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (FSEIS) for the Keystone XL Pipeline. Environmental activists are outraged.

Before construction can begin, State must determine that the proposed 875-mile pipeline serves the “national interest” and grant a “Presidential Permit” to builder-owner-operator TransCanada Corporation. Green pressure groups have pushed President Obama to base the national interest determination on a single issue – whether Keystone XL would increase incremental greenhouse gas emissions above the no-project baseline.

Keystone foes assumed this single-factor test would give them a slam dunk. How could expanding petroleum infrastructure not increase oil production, consumption, and the associated greenhouse gas emissions?

The FSEIS, however, concludes that Keystone XL is “unlikely to significantly affect” the rate of Canadian oil sands development. Most U.S. refineries are “optimized” to process heavy crudes such as those imported from Latin America, the Mideast, and Canada. If the Presidential Permit is denied, delivery via rail lines, tankers, barges, and other pipelines will increase, and roughly the same amount of Canadian crude will reach U.S. refineries.

Rail transport of Canadian oil, for example, has increased from practically zero barrels per day in January 2011 to 180,000 bpd in November 2013. Rail loading facilities in the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin currently have a capacity of 700,000 bpd, and by year’s end capacity is expected to exceed 1.1 million bpd.

Rail Transport Canadian Crude

Here’s the kicker. Those other modes of delivery also produce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Total annual GHG emissions associated with alternative delivery scenarios are 28% to 42% greater than those for the proposed project.

Keystone GHG compared to alternative scenarios

What about oil spill risk, another common complaint of Keystone opponents? [click to continue…]

Post image for Senate Holds First Congressional Hearing in 25 Years on Crude Oil Export Ban

Yesterday the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee held the first hearing in 25 years to “explore opportunities and challenges associated with lifting the ban on U.S. crude oil exports.”

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reiterated her call for President Obama to end the prohibition against exporting crude oil produced in the United States. “The prohibition on crude oil and condensate exports threatens record-breaking U.S. oil production and American jobs by creating inefficiencies, gluts, and other dislocations,” Murkowski said in her opening statement.

Lifting the ban would “send a powerful signal to the world that the United States is ready to reassert its role as a leader on energy,” Murkowski stated. In addition, she argued, opening up global markets to U.S. producers would spur production, contributing to an overall expansion in global petroleum supply, which in turn would lower the price of petroleum products.

All things equal, the American consumer will benefit from this interaction, as will those Americans employed directly and indirectly as a result.

Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), who once opposed U.S. exports of petroleum products made from imported Canadian crude oil, took no position for or against lifting the crude oil export ban, stating he wanted to hear the arguments pro and con and would “not be making any judgments today.”

Sen. Murkowski agreed that no decisions would be reached in the Senate or the administration in the next few weeks. But, noting that congressional debate on the ban would have been unthinkable only two years ago, she said the hearing should advance the conversation on how to renovate America’s “antiquated energy trade architecture.”

In a comedic moment indicating just how far the conversation has come, Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) made a plea to Sen. John Hoeven, Republican of North Dakota, home of the Bakken shale boom, to “please discover some oil in Minnesota.”

As discussed previously, Sen. Murkowski recently released a white paper, A Signal to the World: Renovating the Architecture of U.S. Energy Exports. On visiting her Committee Web page today, I found that she has commissioned 11 studies from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) on various energy export issues. In short, she is providing intellectual leadership and serious legislative deliberation on these important issues. Brava!

I may review other testimonies in a later post. Here I’ll provide highlights from the testimony of Harold Hamm, Chairman and CEO of Continental Resources, Inc., “the company that co-developed the first field ever drilled exclusively with horizontal drilling and the company that is the largest leaseholder and most active driller in the Bakken Play.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Europe’s Wind Rush: A Mid-Term Assessment

Rupert Darwall, author of The Age of Global Warming: A History, writes today in the Wall Street Journal about Europe’s infatuation with renewable energy mandates.

In 2007, the European Union adopted a package of legally binding targets known as “20-20-20.” The EU committed to achieve the following objectives by 2020:

  • Reduce EU greenhouse gas emissions 20% below 1990 levels.
  • Increase the share of EU energy consumption produced from renewable resources to 20%.
  • Improve the EU’s energy efficiency by 20%.

Darwall comments on a recent European Commission analysis, which finds that the U.S. is reducing greenhouse gas emissions almost as fast as Europe but much less expensively, placing EU manufacturers at a competitive disadvantage:

In a clear-eyed analysis last week, the European Commission published its proposals for the follow-up period from 2020. The Commission notes that since 2005, the U.S. cut its CO2 emissions by more than 12% (a little less than the EU, which cut emissions by just under 14%), thanks largely to shale gas. EU firms and households, the commission says, are increasingly concerned by rising energy prices and widening cost differentials with the U.S. Between 2008 and 2012, the average electricity price paid by European industrial firms rose by 16.7% while American firms are paying 2.3% less, so prices paid by American firms are 45% lower than EU firms.

As the U.S. powers into an era of cheap, abundant energy, across the Atlantic the European Commission reckons electricity prices will rise 31% before inflation by 2030 from 2011, and will consume an increasing share of European GDP. Widening energy-price disparities may reduce production and investment and shift global trade patterns, the commission concedes. However, it adds, if other countries outside Europe agreed to cap their greenhouse-gas emissions, they would help Europe’s energy-intensive industries—hardly an inducement for them to do so. [click to continue…]

Post image for More on the Social Costs of Carbon Mitigation

As discussed yesterday on this site, a new report by economist Roger Bezdek demonstrates that carbon energy has immense social benefits, and, consequently, carbon pricing schemes can have devastating social costs.

Today’s post takes a closer look at Bezdek’s discussion of the health risks of policies, such as carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, renewable energy quota, and carbon capture and storage (CCS) mandates, that raise household energy costs.

Although fuel poverty is typically discussed as a European problem, millions of Americans also face harsh tradeoffs between paying their utility bills and purchasing other necessities. The relevant concept here is energy burden, defined as the “percentage of gross annual household income that is used to pay annual residential energy bills” for electricity, heating, motor fuel, and cooking fuel. More simply, energy burden is the “ratio of energy expenditures to household income.”

For low-income households, small increases in energy bills translate into large increases in energy burden:

For example, consider the case where one household has an energy bill of $1,000 and an income of $10,000 and a second household has an energy bill of $1,200 and an income of $24,000. While the first household has a lower energy bill ($1,000 for the first household compared to $1,200 for the second), the first household has a much higher energy burden (10 percent of income for the first household compared to five percent of income for the second).

In other words, carbon taxes or their regulatory equivalent are regressive, because energy expenditures consume a larger portion of the budgets of low-income households than high-income households. The regressivity of high energy costs is greater than you might suspect. According to Bezdek:

  • Families earning more than $50,000 per year spent only 4% of their income to pay energy-related expenses.
  • Families earning between $10,000 and $25,000 per year (29% of the U.S. population) spent 13% of income on energy.
  • Those earning less than $10,000 per year (13% of population) spent 29% of income on energy costs.

These percentages are higher still when energy expenditures are compared to after-tax income. For the 8.7 million Americans earning $10,000 a year and less, energy costs consume more than 69% of after tax income:

Estimated U.S. Household Expenditures as a Percentage of Income, 2010 Bedzek Jan. 2014

Even without carbon taxes, cap-and-trade, or national renewable energy quota, the energy burden of all U.S. households has increased significantly over the last decade, especially for low-income households: [click to continue…]