Politics

The DC Examiner yesterday reported on a “green” car sharing program in Montgomery County that is wasting taxpayer money hand over fist. Since January, the County has been paying Enterprise Rent-a-Car $1,100 a month per car for the use of 28 fuel efficient automobiles. As of April 24, the vehicles have been used a total of 83.5 hours, which means that Maryland taxpayers have paid more than $1,300 an hour to use the cars. For comparison, consider that a limo costs $60 an hour.

This is not the first lame brained green car scheme to go awry. A year ago, Bloomberg reported on a federal program to buy flex-fueled cars that can run on E-85, a fuel blend containing 85% ethanol. E-85 supposedly is less carbon-intensive than gasoline, so the program was meant to reduce greenhouse gases. However, there was one big problem: Federal employees found it more convenient to use gasoline than E-85, which isn’t availible in most fueling stations. As most flex-fueled cars are gas-guzzling sports utility vehicles, the program actually resulted in increased gasoline usage and higher greenhouse gas emissions. Whoops!

Two years ago, Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) refused to permit the construction of two coal-fired power plants in the southwestern part of the State because she is alarmed by global warming. Her constituents clearly disagreed with her decision-the State Legislature has passed four bills to overturn Sebelius and allow the coal plants. Each time, however, the Governor vetoed the will of the people, most recently this week. President Barack Obama chose Sebelius to become the Secretary of Human Health and Services, and she was confirmed by the United States Senate a week ago. Sebelius’s successor, Lt. Gov. Mark Parkinson, had said that he will veto any bill that allows the construction of the plants, but in a stunning reversal, he has decided to allow the construction of one 895 megawatt plant, according to the Kansas City Star.

Greenwire has a long lead story (subscription required) in today's edition by Daniel Cusick about the plans of the Navajo Nation to build three huge new coal-fired power plants totaling 5,300 megawatts in order to exploit their enormous coal resources.  These new plants could supply enough electricity for approximately four million homes in the rapidly growing cities of the Southwest.

In an interview accompanying the story, Navajo President Joe Shirley, Jr., responded to a question about whether he was concerned about all the greenhouse gas emissions that these plants would produce by saying:

“That's a resource that was put there by the Creator for us to use. … To have the Creator bring that about, and then to say, 'Hey, we don't want that,' I don't think that's right. We need to develop it.”

While many of the nation's major utilities advocate energy-rationing policies, such as cap-and-trade, that would price coal out of the market and thereby lead to rapid increases in electricity prices for consumers and manufacturers and probably to chronic regional blackouts, it's great to see the Navajos stepping forward to help supply the energy that America needs.

Andrew Revkin of the New York Times has just posted a piece on Dot Earth that discusses a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press that finds that global warming has dropped to the bottom of people's concerns.  Asked to rate their top priorities from a list of twenty issues, only 31% listed global warming as one of their top priorities.  That's down five percent from last year.  The biggest drop was for protecting the environment, which dropped fifteen points to 41%.  For comparison, the top concerns were the economy at 85%, jobs at 82, and terrorism at 76%.

That's the background for trying to enact energy-rationing programs that can only work if they raise energy prices considerably.  Perhaps Al Gore needs to raise more than the $300 million goal of his We can Solve It advertising campaign, which is designed to convince people that they agree with him that global warming is our most serious problem and demands immediate and radical action (such as replacing all the coal-fired power plants that supply half of America's electricity within ten years).  Although Mr. Gore has insisted that the American people already agree with him on global warming, this poll demonstrates that his mass media advertising campaign is going to be an uphill climb. 

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

Our friends at the Institute for Liberty and The Chilling Effect have cobbled together some “conservative” estimates of how much carbon will be emitted at next week’s swearin’ (in) of the green new president. They came up with a total of 575 million pounds of CO2 as the likely figure.

Will anyone of eco-conscience decide not to go now based on their principles?

Kyoto Veteran Has Deja Vu

by Iain Murray on December 18, 2008

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner was present at the Kyoto negotiations back in 1997, and predicted their failure because of the inability to get the developing nations like China to commit to emissions reductions.  He has recently returned from the Poznan Conference of the Parties aimed at drawing up Kyoto II, and is of the opinion that nothing has been learned from history.  He has set out his concerns in a letter to President-elect Obama (copy below).

Of course, in many ways the developing nations are right to object to the imposition of emissions restrictions.  Emissions represent the fastest way out of poverty for their peoples.  That's why, as I argue here, we need to think again and move away from the emissions reduction paradigm as the only solution to the global warming risk. Nevertheless, Rep. Sensenbrenner is to be congratulated for calling attention to at least one reason why the current approach is doomed to failure.

Letter follows.

 +++++

The Honorable Barack Obama

President-Elect of the United States

451 6th St., N.W.

Washington, D.C.  20002

 

 

Dear Mr. President-Elect:

 

On November 18, speaking by videotape to the Bi-Partisan Governors’ Global Climate Summit, you invited Members of Congress who would be attending the 14th Conference of Parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Poznań, Poland to report back to you on what they learned there.   I have just returned from serving as the only Member of the U.S. House of Representatives to observe the negotiations and the only Member of Congress to observe the entire final week.  I am happy to accept your invitation. 

 

By way of background, I currently serve as the Ranking Republican Member of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, a committee created by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in the 110th Congress to study policies, strategies and technologies to substantially and permanently reduce emissions that contribute to global warming.   I have attended three prior UNFCCC Conferences of Parties and led the U.S. House delegation to Japan, which observed the 1997 negotiations that produced the Kyoto Protocol.  

 

I am deeply concerned that the current negotiations, which are intended to lead to a new international treaty to replace the Kyoto Protocol next year in Copenhagen, are recreating Kyoto’s fatal flaws.  Specifically, any treaty that does not include legally binding and verifiable greenhouse gas emissions reductions from developing countries will not be ratified by the U.S. Senate because it will not accomplish the fundamental goal of reducing global emissions.

 

You are aware of the Byrd-Hagel Resolution, which the U.S. Senate adopted by a 95-to-0 vote on July 25, 1997, expressing the sense of the Senate that the U.S. should not be a signatory to an agreement that does not include specific scheduled commitments to limit greenhouse gas emissions for developing countries or will result in serious harm to the U.S. economy.  Because the Kyoto Protocol failed to satisfy these requirements, neither President Clinton nor President Bush submitted the treaty to the Senate for ratification.  At a meeting in Poznań, Senator John Kerry and Vice President Al Gore agreed that an international treaty must include mandatory emissions reductions from developing countries. 

 

The current negotiations seem to be leading toward a similarly flawed outcome.  At another meeting in Poznań, I met with negotiators from foreign countries, including China and India.  These countries, the first and third largest CO2 emitters in the world, clearly stated that they would not accept legally binding emissions reductions. 

 

The impasse that international negotiators have reached indicates that a new strategy is necessary.  I am eager to assist you in emphasizing that, without legally-binding,  verifiable commitments from all nations, global reductions in greenhouse gas emissions are neither scientifically nor politically achievable.

 

I look forward to scheduling a more detailed briefing. 

 

My best wishes to you and your family during this holiday season.

 

 

Sincerely,

 

F. James Sensenbrenner         

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

Over at my Web site I've posted a long, blow-by-blow account of how Colorado Gov. Bill Ritter and his administration repeatedly enlisted the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation to pay for his global warming alarmist agenda (a "new energy economy") and for his efforts to keep the federal Bureau of Land Management from leasing for oil and gas exploration on the Roan Plateau. It's sometimes a dry recitation but there are a ton of documents linked that I obtained from the governor's office and from CDNR.

The quick-'n-dirty summary: Almost immediately after he took office Ritter had a "Climate Action Plan" he wanted to pursue, which included two new positions in his administration: a cabinet-level climate policy adviser to create "a bold and visionary climate action policy," and a liaison to the Public Utilities Commission to "develop a climate-wise utility policy." He asked for, and got, two annual grants from Hewlett for $200,000 ($400,000 total) to fund the positions. Ritter worked through Hewlett's environmental program director Hal Harvey — a far-left, Obama-supporting (and -contributing) environmental extremist who founded the Energy Foundation and is president of the crackpot enviro/population control-advocating New-Land Foundation — to pay for his climate people. I guess the state budget process would not come up with the money fast enough for Ritter.

Within a few months Ritter had another environmental cause to fight: obstructing and delaying the Bureau of Land Management from leasing the rights to oil and natural gas exploration on the rich Roan Plateau. It had been ten years already since BLM was given the mandate to lease the Naval Oil and Shale Reserves, and it was finally ready to start doing so after years of environmental study and review. But that still wasn't long enough for Ritter, his eco-cronies, Reps. Mark Udall and John Salazar, and Sen. Ken Salazar (pictured). All got involved in trying to further delay BLM.

Part of the strategy was for Ritter's administration to make the case for much slower "phased leasing" of acreage on the Roan, as opposed to the BLM's somewhat quicker but still limited and methodical approach. The governor's Department of Natural Resources sought out (and found) a cheap economist who would be willing to put together a vague case that showed phased leasing was a better idea that would reap better revenues for the state. And can you guess who they asked to pay for said cheap economist? Yep — the Hewlett Foundation, with Hal Harvey more than happy to help out. In fact, Harvey wanted to help so much that he gave campaign contributions to both Salazars and Udall as well.

The congressmen worked at the federal level to implement Ritter's phased leasing goals, with Sen. Salazar's legal counsel begging for the suspect economic analysis to buttress his case. But the congressmen's and Ritter's efforts fell short of their goals, as BLM moved forward with the leasing, which netted nearly $114 million for both the federal and state governments — "the highest grossing onshore oil and natural gas lease sale in BLM history in the lower 48 states."

Nevertheless, it's a sorry tale of how environmental extremists will fight together to the death for measures that would cripple our access to our own sources of affordable energy.

On Monday, the British House of Commons passed the Climate Change Bill, marking a solemn undertaking to reduce British emissions by 80% by mid-century (unless decided otherwise) by the clear majority of 403 to 3.

Today, the British Chancellor of the Exchequer (finance minister) demanded that oil companies reduce the price of gasoline.

There's "joined-up government" for you.

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

I plan to address this more in a future post, but it's important to get this information out now, and we have my colleague David Bass at the John Locke Foundation to thank. What is happening is an ACORN-ification of state air quality regulators, where directors of those agencies are hassling the businesses and industries they regulate into reporting their greenhouse gas emissions (and to pay for the privilege of doing so) to The Climate Registry. What is then created is an atmosphere of pressure, even though these air quality regulators claim participation is "voluntary."

In his story today David illustrates how the scam works, focusing on North Carolina's role:

The N.C. Division of Air Quality paid $100,000 to help fund The Climate Registry, a California-based group, and aggressively recruited companies to join as pollutant reporters, public records show.

Records also show that Brock Nicholson, deputy director of DAQ, played a key role in launching the nonprofit. Nicholson, who is on The Climate Registry’s board of directors and executive committee, traveled on behalf of the registry, charged all his costs to DAQ, and tried to recruit surrounding states to join and pay membership fees….

In addition, air quality officials conducted a recruitment seminar last year at (the NC) [Department of Environment and Natural Resources’] offices in Raleigh aimed at persuading companies to join. Nicholson also sent a letter on DENR stationery to more than 3,000 entities in North Carolina, many of them DAQ-regulated companies, asking them to sign on.

So, even though greenhouse gases are not regulated, state air quality agencies are pressuring businesses to report their emissions anyway because of the expectation (and hope) that they soon will be regulated. As the Locke Foundation's vice president for research, Roy Cordato, said, "These are companies that, in may cases, the Division of Air Quality holds the power of life and death over through its emissions permitting process." Think these businesses might believe they get greater favor by signing on to the Climate Registry?

Getting companies to join also turns up the heat on the federal government to implement such regulations, with another environmentalist's justification chit being, "Well, we're already doing it anyway, so you might as well…" The strategy also helps in the case that businesses "voluntarily" turn over otherwise irrelevant data for their environmentalist opponents to use (with the Clean Air Act? The Endangered Species Act?) as a litigation club against them.

As I mentioned earlier, North Carolina is not the only state doing this. In fact, all but a handful are participating — just look at the Climate Registry's list of board members, which includes the air quality regulation official from every state (and Canadian province) that is participating. And what do you have to do to become a board member? Among the requirements (PDF):

  • …encourage entities in [state, province or tribe] to voluntarily report their emissions to The Climate Registry…
  • Work with The Climate Registry to identify a set of greenhouse gas emissions minimum data quantification standards to be recognized by member states, provinces and tribes in both voluntary and mandatory reporting and emissions reduction programs
  • Work to incorporate these minimum data quantification standards into any mandated greenhouse gas reporting and emissions reduction program
  • Develop a nationally recognized platform for credible and consistent greenhouse gas emissions reporting
  • Broad Engagement: Conduct outreach to other states and tribes and potential reporting entities

The stage is being set for a fight on this front in all three branches of government, and private businesses are turning over ammunition to their enemies unnecessarily. In North Carolina, already our two largest investor-owned utilities — Progress Energy and Duke Energy — have signed on. They are doing their investors and their customers a disservice.

Paul Chesser, Climate Strategies Watch

I was not surprised when I received documents from the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science this week that showed a cozy relationship with their publicity arm at the Baltimore Sun. To remind you, over a month ago a report (PDF) with alarming supermodeled conclusions about future global warming in the state was leaked to the newspaper. A day after the Sun's unbalanced (after all, critics are only fringe "deniers") and strategically limited article (the UMCES leakers, as well as four environmental activist groups, were not identified), I requested immediately from UMCES a copy of the report that they had provided for the news story. UMCES's Dave Nemazie denied my request, stating it would be released publicly in conjunction with the Maryland Commission on Climate Change's recommendations in a few weeks. As I wrote at the time, this information that is the citizens' property was withheld from all but UMCES's compliant mouthpiece.

Well, I decided then to request under Maryland's Public Information Act all correspondence between UMCES and the Sun's reporters with regard to the alarmist report. The documents provided consisted of a string of emails (PDF), mostly between the Sun's environmental reporter Timothy Wheeler and UMCES's communications director Chris Conner. They begin with a request (at the end of the day on July 31) from Wheeler for graphics information based on the report, which likely followed a phone conversation the two had. Excerpts:

Wheeler: I have 2-3 specific graphics we'd like more on.

Conner (answered toward the end of the business day): Still here. Which ones do you need?

(Wheeler explains what he needs)

Conner: Thanks Tim. I'll add them to the list. BTW – when do you think it'll run?

Wheeler: Looking at this [weekend].

Conner: Thanks…I"ll get our graphics folks crackin.' (Within a half-hour Conner had the graphics Wheeler wanted (PDF), and Nemazie delivered them to him the following morning)

Wheeler: Great, thanks again, Chris. Since you're off tomorrow, is there someone I can be in touch [with]?

Conner: Please feel free to try me first — I'll have my cell and blackberry on me most of the day.

If I don't get back to you quick enough, please try Dave Nemazie at [number redacted by me, although I don't know why I'm being so nice]…

Wheeler: I'll try not to be too much of a noodge. Enjoy your day off.

Quite a contrast between that friendly exchange and the one I had with Nemazie. Quite a difference between the obvious service-with-a-smile from Conner, who bent over backwards to deliver everything Wheeler wanted within hours so as to get their friendly story out, compared to how Nemazie responded to me when I simply requested a copy of the report. And it's quite impressive that the Sun published its story so quickly — on Sunday, August 3, following rapid-fire information exchanges that started only Thursday — and so helpfully (to UMCES) omitted the fact that far-left enviro groups both co-wrote (World Wildlife Fund and National Wildlife Federation) and funded (the Town Creek Foundation and the Keith Campbell Foundation for the Environment) the report.

The Axis of Weasels named in the title of this blog post have become so predictable that they make my job way too easy, but I do appreciate that they help keep me employed.

Update 5:10 p.m.: It was brought to my attention that Wheeler is president of the Society of Environmental Journalists, where the extent of reporting balance among their members is to track down those who fund global warming skeptics but ignore the overwhelming amount of government and leftist dollars that pay for alarmist research.