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also prone to mendacity

also prone to mendacity

On Wednesday morning, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before a joint hearing of two House Energy & Commerce subcommittees. The subject was the EPA’s FY 2016 budget proposal.

As readers of this blog know well, the EPA is out of control. Since the dawn of the Obama era, the agency has spurned all its rightful partners—i.e., States, Congress, industry, and even fellow federal agencies. In their stead, EPA has embraced a handful of green special interests that had spent considerable time and money getting Obama elected. On their behalf (the NRDC-set), the agency has been busy imposing bad policy. So you’d think that McCarthy’s would be a hot seat, when she testified before the Congress.

That said, Administrator McCarthy is a well-seasoned bureaucrat, who’s been doing this for a long time. Over the course of her career, she’s gleaned all the classic tricks of obfuscation, including (but not limited to) ‘The Big 3 R’s':

  • The refusal: When presented with a difficult question, one claims ignorance and says he/she’’ll get back to the questioner with an answer.
  • The rote: “The rote” is a close cousin of the filibuster; it entails the recitation of canned paragraphs about appealing subjects that are apropos nothing (e.g.., rambling about how ‘children are the future’).
  • The redirect: This occurs when the witness simply answers a question that is related but different to the query that was actually posed.

Administrator McCarthy deftly employed all of these techniques on Wednesday before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittees. And they (the rote, the refusal, and the redirect) were essential to her success in deflecting almost all of the hard questions directed her way. Yet they weren’t sufficient. In addressing the toughest questions, Administrator McCarthy relied on a technique that can’t be beat: She stretched the truth, often to the breaking point. [click to continue…]

Slate Whiffs on Cause of O’s Climate Authoritarianism; EPA Spokesman Reynolds Sounds Silly on “Special Interests”; Grist’s Unintentionally Hilarious Story; and More

  • Over at Slate, Alec MacGillis has a think piece titled “Why Obama Is So Autocratic about Environmental Policy.” At the outset, MacGillis concedes the authoritarian character of President Obama’s climate policy (i.e., his imposing hugely consequential climate measures that lack any electoral mandate whatsoever), which is a truthful start. But the author then proceeds to absolve the Obama of his “autocratic” ways, because….[wait for it]….those darned republicans won’t work with him on climate change mitigation. In fact, the Slate reporter is two-ways wrong:
    1. Contrary to what MacGillis (and others) would have you believe, opposition to climate policy is healthily bipartisan, rather than being solely a conservative cause; and,
    2. MacGillis treats elected Republicans like an independent entity, as if the congressional GOP caucus has policy goals that are distinct from the voters. In reality, it’s not that *Republicans* in the abstract are being unreasonable on climate; rather, the truth of the matter is that most Americans, across the political spectrum, lend low priority to AGW. This is why opposition to climate policy is robustly bipartisan. It’s also why Obama ran from climate change during the 2012 campaign.

[click to continue…]

CO2 tax: bad policy, bad politics (just as ex-Rep. Inglis)

CO2 tax: bad policy, bad politics (just ask ex-Rep. Inglis)

Those favoring larger government are finding it harder to finance them by raising taxes. Proponents have sought to reduce opposition by claiming that they’re not really raising taxes at all—their taxes will be “neutral.” Sure, we’ll take $50 billion or so in taxes from the economy, but we’ll then put it back again in the form of tax reductions or rebates. From a macro-economic perspective, they argue, there will be no impact at all! Why bother, you might ask?

The prime candidate advanced by those seeking to better plan our economy is the carbon tax. We’ll tax carbon and use the revenues to offset its impact. People will use less energy but retain the same income. We’ll change prices without changing income—a highly targeted incentive package! To tax energy users is feasible, although complicated. For example, would our statist central planner simply tax all energy materials? But farmers have traditionally escaped gas and diesel taxes for on-farm use. Will this exemption be repealed? [click to continue…]

waxman imageThis blog venerates former Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills), despite the fact that his position was opposite of ours on pretty much every energy/environmental policy ever. Though I disagree with him on everything, I admire Waxman because he is so damned smart and effective.

Here’s the Waxman I know through observation. For starters, he showed up to every Energy & Commerce Committee hearing. If you occasion these sorts of things, you’d know that congressional attendance is terrible, yet Waxman would show up even to hearings convened by E&C subcommittees on which he wasn’t a member. (The only other Members of Congress I know of who do this are Sen. Ed Markey and Rep. Darrell Issa). And wherever Waxman showed up, he was supremely effective. He’d ask the toughest questions, blunt the opposition with procedural mechanisms, and generally control the proceeding–even if he was in the minority.

To my knowledge, Waxman was the finest practitioner of parliamentary hand-to-hand combat (although I’m too young to have witnessed Rep. John Dingell in his prime, and I understand he was something to behold). Unfortunately, environmental policy was Waxman’s bailiwick, and no one benefited more so from his acumen than the green movement.

So when I heard that Waxman, upon retiring at the close of the 113th Congress, wrote and circulated a business plan to all the top lobbyist outfits in D.C., I would have thought that he’d have immediately fielded a number of offers at an annual salary that K St. normally reserves for just-retired Senators (~$1 million). I thought this for two reasons: (1) Waxman is a master of congressional process; (2) the green movement, his closest ally, is spending evermore on elections and lobbying.  [click to continue…]

Grist.org describes itself as “independent green journalism.” Keeping this self-description in mind—with an emphasis on the modifier *green*—consider the following Grist stories that were promoted on the blog’s twitter feed in the previous 8 hours:

Why is Grist, “independent green journalism,” writing *serious* posts on subjects like student loan debts and feminism, which have nothing at all to do with the environment? The answer to this question reflects the rise of green special interests as big time political players. [click to continue…]

peeweeWhenever EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy talks about the Clean Power Plan, the word of the day is always “flexibility.”

Pursuant to her telling, the regulation was crafted by EPA so as to give States a near-boundless freedom to choose what they believe is the best path for achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions. As she told the National Governors Association this past weekend,

We have designed this rule to allow States to design their own pathway forward that is consistent with where they want to see their future in their state and their economy…So we are continuing with collaborating with the States, recognizing that the glue that holds us all together is the flexibility that we have offered.

Later, the f-word popped up again as McCarthy responded to questions about the rule:

Because we’ve provided so much flexibility, every state gets to dictate for themselves [their compliance strategy]

Finally, Administrator McCarthy intimated that EPA granted so much flexibility to the States, that Governors could somehow leverage the Clean Power Plan into a central plan that would create wealth and reduce unemployment: [click to continue…]

Last April, EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jointly proposed a regulation that would “clarify” federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act. Both agencies—rather than EPA alone—administer the Act, which is why both agencies proposed the jurisdictional rule.

On February 4th, EPA administrator Gina McCarthy told a congressional committee that her agency was working on a number of revisions to the rule. However, her suggested alterations were news to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, EPA’s supposed partner, according to a report last Friday by Inside EPA ($):

Moreover, the industry source says the Corps does not does appear to have seen a draft of any revised changes since November, and a second industry source similarly says that Corps staff have “expressed frustration” that they’ve had limited involvement in the rulemaking.

Thus, EPA reportedly has sidelined the U.S Army Corps of Engineers. Unfortunately, this is only the latest instance of EPA refusing to cooperate with a sister federal agency.*

EPA’s repeated spurning of federal agencies within the same administration raises an important question: Is there anyone with whom Obama’s EPA will work, besides the green lobby?

[click to continue…]

Sunday Shows Shun AGW (yet again); Apple’s Solar Deal Confuses Reporters; the Willie Soon “Conflict of Interest” Comet Makes Another Pass; and More

  • *question second-guessed President's alarm over AGW

    *question second-guessed President’s alarm over AGW

    Last weekend, there were again no questions about climate change on any of the four Sunday morning political talk shows (i.e., NBC Meet the Press, ABC This Week, CBS Face the Nation, and Fox News Sunday). In the five weeks since the SOTU–during which President Obama announced that “no challenge poses a greater threat to future generations than climate change”–these shows collectively have fielded exactly one question about AGW. And the purpose of that lone query, asked last week by ABC This Week’s Jon Karl, was to second-guess the President’s belief that AGW is no less a threat than *violent extremism* or Russian aggression. As I’ve previously explained, the absence of climate questions “is notable insofar as these shows are the embodiment of the political establishment. By ignoring the putative AGW threat to national security, they suggest that conventional wisdom on the issue rests well to the right of the President.”

  • There is much misplaced media optimism over Apple’s announcement this month that it would pay $850 million to purchase 25 years of output from 130 MW of solar power nameplate capacity (with an estimated 30% capacity factor) to be built in Monterey County, California.
    1. Bloomberg’s Tom Randall wrote that the deal will be “profitable” for Apple. It’s unclear how he could know this given that the full contract terms haven’t been disclosed, as Randall himself concedes. More importantly, what little that is known about the deal suggests that it will be far from “profitable” for Apple (see next point).
    2. Slate’s Daniel Gross wrote that the deal is proof that solar power “can compete on or near equal footing with other sources of power.” Yet initial analysis of the deal’s terms by Forbes’s Christopher Helman, based on the announced sale price and the likely capacity factor of the planned solar power plant, suggests that Apple will pay roughly $100/MWhr for electricity; by comparison, wholesale electricity on the California spot market now costs about $34/MWhr. [click to continue…]

Comment Opportunity! Be heard!

That there are three kinds of untruths—“lies, damned lies, and statistics”—is an apocryphal phrase of great relevance to the modern regulatory state. For it is with ease that regulators manipulate math in order to legitimate their otherwise unjustifiable actions.

EPA's top statistician

EPA’s top statistician

Of course, these sorts of shenanigans wouldn’t be necessary if the system worked as intended. If federal agencies were full of disinterested civil servants toiling on behalf of the public interest, then there’d be no need for fuzzy math. But that’s not what exists, alas. Instead, federal agencies have become political chips to be doled out to special interests,* in exchange for their having helped elect a given President. Having thus captured federal agencies, these special interests employ the power of the state to advance their narrow causes. And this is why statistical lies are necessary: They obfuscate the unsavory quid pro quo politics that undergird the modern regulatory state.

Consider, for example, the extreme degree to which EPA now serves NRDC and Sierra Club, rather than the American people. Over the last five election cycles, such green groups have become an increasingly important cog in the progressive political campaign machinery. As a result, they’ve enjoyed unprecedented access at the EPA. They dominate the ranks of political appointees, and have had an inordinately heavy hand in reg writing. From the fact that no agency has been as thoroughly captured as EPA, it follows that the agency long has excelled in the black arts of conjuring quantitative “benefits” from thin air.

Take EPA’s bedrock bullshit statistic: the value of a life “saved” by one of the agency’s air quality rules. Whenever you hear EPA administrator Gina McCarthy talk about the trillions of dollars in economic activity *created* by the Clean Air Act, her point is founded upon the value of a statistical life. There is no greater proffered justification for EPA’s existence than the statistical value of life. And how does the agency achieve this crucial figure? Here’s how EPA describes its calculation: [click to continue…]

how quickly they forget

how quickly they forget

The UK Climate Coalition announced on Saint Valentine’s Day that British Prime Minister David Cameron, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, and Leader of the Opposition Ed Miliband had signed a joint agreement on climate policy. The leaders of the three main political parties—Conservative, Liberal Democratic, and Labor—pledge to work together on three key areas: achieving a new legally-binding UN climate agreement that limits global warming to two degrees Celsius; agreeing on a “carbon budget” that achieves the targets set in the Climate Change Act of 2008; and enacting policies that “accelerate the transition to a competitive, energy efficient low carbon economy” and that shut down coal-fired power plants unless they are equipped with carbon capture and storage technology.

London’s political establishment has been in full agreement on global warming and energy-rationing policies for many years.  The Cameron-Clegg-Miliband pact seems to me a potentially significant step beyond the existing consensus for at least two reasons.  First, it means that climate policy will not be an issue between the three parties in the upcoming general election campaign.  It will be up to the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) to challenge the establishment consensus.  Polling has shown that most Britons, like most Americans, don’t believe global warming is a crisis that warrants the ruinously costly policies supported by the three major parties. [click to continue…]