Reports Greenwire’s Robin Bravender ($),

First lady Michelle Obama will host a sea-level rise researcher at the State of the Union address tomorrow, a signal that climate change will be a major component of the president’s speech.

Nicole Hernandez Hammer, a sea-level expert in southeast Florida, was one of nearly two dozen guests announced today by the White House. The first lady typically invites guests to the event who embody the themes the president plans to highlight in his speech.

If history serves as a guide, President Obama would sound garbled were he to address climate change in tonight’s State of the Union address. [click to continue…]

Gullible Grist Goofs Again

by William Yeatman on January 16, 2015

in Blog

Recently, I’ve made a practice of cataloging mistakes and other oddities at Grist, a website which fancies itself a source of “independent green journalism.” In this fact-checking vein, I’d like to bring your attention to a post published on Grist two days ago, whose inaccuracies are remarkable even by the site’s standards. [click to continue…]

In Tuesday’s Federal Register, EPA proposed to modify its federal implementation plan for Arizona, pursuant to the Clean Air Act’s regional haze program. The occasion affords us the opportunity to remind readers that the Obama Administration has executed more Clean Air Act regulatory takeovers of state programs than ten times the sum of the previous three administrations.

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Post image for Global Warming and Grain Yields: Eve of Destruction?

As discussed a few weeks ago on this blog, a recent study in Nature Climate Change concludes that global warming “is already slowing yield gains at a majority of wheat-growing locations,” and forecasts absolute reductions in yields (tons per hectare) under +2ºC and +4ºC warming scenarios. I noted that despite the overall warming trend of the past half century and more, global average wheat yield increased every decade and during the past five years.

Specifically, compared to the preceding decade, average yield increased by 33% in the 1970s, 27% in the 1980s, 20% in the 1990s, 9% in the 2000s, and 10% during 2010-2014. Average yield was 149% higher in 2010-2014 than in the 1960s (my calculation based on USDA data).

Wheat Global Yields by Decade 1960-2014

 

 

Another relevant source I should have consulted is the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. An FAO analysis published in November forecast that world cereal production in 2014 would “surpass the record in 2013.” Two record-breaking years in a row. Clearly, we’re on the eve of destruction!

Cereal Production FAO November 2014

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“Sue and settle” refers to a phenomenon whereby environmental special interests leverage the legal process to dictate the EPA’s priorities.

GAO watchdogAt heart, sue and settle results from the Clean Air Act’s overabundance of deadlines. Simply put: Congress tasked EPA with far more date-certain duties than the agency can handle. This wouldn’t necessarily be a problem in a statutory vacuum, but the fact is that the Clean Air Act affords green groups the right to sue EPA to compel the agency to perform its non-discretionary responsibilities. As a result of these dynamics [i.e., EPA doesn’t meet any of its deadlines, and green groups can sue to force the agency to meet its missed deadlines], environmental litigation groups like the Sierra Club can use the courts to set the agency’s priorities.

Of course, priority-setting necessarily entails policymaking—after all, it’s a decision on the use of the agency’s limited resources. Opponents of “sue and settle” argue that EPA should make policy with elected officials in Congress or the States (the regulated entity), rather than through litigation or negotiation with special interests.

Factually speaking, there can be no doubt that greens are employing deadline suits to control the EPA’s regulatory reins. As I demonstrate here, EPA is out of compliance with virtually all its Clean Air Act deadlines, which number well into the hundreds, by an average of more than 5 years. And in this report, on which I collaborated, we list all the Clean Air Act rules and regulations that were galvanized by sue and settle lawsuits.

Nonetheless, despite the evident existence of sue and settle problems, House Republicans on the Energy and Commerce Committee asked the Government Accountability Office to investigate the matter further. Yesterday, the GAO’s December report was finally released to the public. The document’s unfortunate tone is aptly imparted by its title: “Impact of Deadline Suits on EPA’s Rulemaking Is Limited.”

In this post, I’ll detail the GAO report’s flaws, and why its title is misleading. [click to continue…]

 

  • In a recent post, I lamented the fact that the auto industry is basing its investment decisions on government mandates rather than consumer preference. We find more evidence of the same in today’s Financial Times. In a story ($) on GM’s new electric car, the Chevy Bolt, Sarah Gordon reports:

GM’s investment in the market also raises questions about why U.S. carmakers continue to devote substantial shares of their product development budgets to a vehicle class that accounts for a tiny share of sales…The reality for GM and other carmakers is that, as they face strict new fuel economy standards that provide incentives for the development of electric vehicles, they have little choice but to produce them.

  • And yet, in contrast to the bullet point above, consumers continue to prefer gas guzzlers, especially during the recent period of ultra-forgiving gas prices. Indeed, President Obama last week admonished Americans to not buy fuel inefficient cars and trucks, despite sub $2 gas in much of the country. Evidently, they’re ignoring him. [click to continue…]

LeviathanEPA

This is part 3 of a 3 part series on EPA’s announcement last week that it will propose a model federal implementation for the Clean Power Plan. For Part 1, “Context of EPA’s Bombshell Announcement That It Will propose a Model FIP for the Clean Power Plan,” click here. For Part 2, “Why EPA Is Proposing a Clean Power Plan Model FIP (Because Otherwise It Can’t Impose Highway Sanctions),” click here.

In the first two parts of this series, I explained why EPA last week announced it would propose a model federal implementation plan (“FIP”) for the Clean Power Plan, the Obama administration’s marquee climate initiative. In a nutshell, the agency’s motive is to increase its bargaining leverage vis a vis States that don’t want to cooperate on the regulation. To be precise, the model FIP would enhance the constitutionality of financial penalties that the agency could impose on a recalcitrant State, in order to compel compliance, during a two-year window after EPA disapproved that state’s plan. Read all about it here and here.

In this post, I want to explore what this model FIP could look like. [click to continue…]

At 8 AM this morning, the Obama administration unveiled its multi-pronged strategy to control methane emissions from the oil and gas sector. The plan will involve proposals from the Interior Department, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Energy, and the EPA. This post focuses on what EPA intends to do.

It is being widely reported that EPA’s regulatory mandate will be limited to new and modified sectors within the oil and gas industry, pursuant to Clean Air Act §111b (“new source performance standards”). This is seen as a major loss for environmental special interests, which had pushed for the regulation of existing sectors in the oil and gas industry, pursuant to Clean Air Act §111d (“existing source performance standards”). THIS MEDIA NARRATIVE IS INNACURATE!

In fact, EPA snuck in a de facto nation-wide regulation of methane from the oil and gas sector. Here’s how: A press release from the White House lists as the second administration action to mitigate methane emissions the following: [click to continue…]

Post image for Some Free Market Talking Points on the Keystone XL Pipeline Amendments

On Monday, the Senate voted 63-32 to end a Democratic filibuster of S.1, The Keystone XL Pipeline Act. Today, Sen. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is trying to negotiate a deal with Democratic leaders on a rule for offering amendments to the bill.

According to Greenwire ($), The Hill, The New York Times, and Politico, Democrats are expected to offer amendments to ban exports of petroleum products made from Keystone crude (Sen. Ed Markey of Massachusetts), mandate the use of American materials during construction (Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon), require oil sands producers to pay into the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (Sen. Maria Cantwell of Washington), require the creation of an equal or greater number of “clean energy” jobs for every job created by the pipeline (Sen. Charles Schumer of New York), and require Senators to declare whether they agree with 97% of climate scientists that man-made global warming is real and dangerous (Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vt.).

KXL proponents should welcome debate on those amendments and look forward to offer some of their own. For example, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said he would offer an amendment to lift the 40-year-old ban on crude oil exports.

The amendment to ban Keystone-enabled petroleum product exports would violate U.S. treaty obligations under both the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Since the ban would not apply to petroleum imported from OPEC countries, the policy would, in effect, deny most favored nation status to Canada while retaining it for Saudi Arabia. And if preventing American products from competing in the global marketplace is a good way to lower prices and benefit consumers, why don’t we do it for all goods made in the U.S. of A? For more on this topic, see my Six Reasons Not to Ban Energy Exports. Sen. Markey, go put on a dunce cap and sit in the corner.

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[This is part 2 of a 3 part series on EPA’s announcement last week that it will propose a model federal implementation for the Clean Power Plan. For Part 1, “Context of EPA’s Bombshell Announcement That It Will propose a Model FIP for the Clean Power Plan,” click here. Part 3, on what a Clean Power Plan model FIP could look like, will be posted tomorrow]

In order to mitigate air pollution, the Clean Air Act establishes a State-Federal partnership known as “cooperative federalism.” Generally, under this regulatory arrangement, EPA sets nation-wide targets which States are then left to meet however they see fit (subject to EPA approval). Thus, States are primarily responsible for the actual implementation of the Clean Air Act.

So what happens when a State fails to heed the agency? As I explained in Part 1, the Clean Air Act gives EPA two tools to achieve its regulatory ends in the face of an uncooperative State:

  1. direct federal implementation of the regulation, also known as a “federal implementation plan” (42 U.S.C. §7410(c)); and
  2. conditioning state receipt of federal highway funds upon a state’s compliance with the regulation (42 U.S.C. §7410(m)).

These two options are very much germane to the Clean Power Plan—the Obama administration’s marquee climate change mitigation initiative—because a number of States have indicated that they won’t lift a finger to implement the rule.  [click to continue…]