It was Climate Action Day at the UN climate conference in Lima, Peru.  A three-hour “high level” session featured a number of prominent elected leaders, UN officials, and climate activists. It gave me a chance to hear former star of stage and screen Al Gore twice more.  Gore said that, “We are designing the future of humankind here in Lima and then Paris” next year.  If that isn’t scary enough, U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew in a few hours later to give a speech in the main press conference room.  It wasn’t an official speech to the COP, but was meant to show the delegates and the world that the Obama Administration is determined to make the negotiations succeed.

Chief State Department climate negotiator Todd Stern introduced his boss.  He said that Secretary Kerry as a Senator had attended nearly every important international climate meeting beginning with the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. It was at that summit that nations agreed to save the world from global warming by signing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. After President George Bush signed it in June 1992, the Senate ratified it with little debate that fall, thereby making the U. S. the first country to ratify it.  Stern went on to say that Kerry as Secretary of State pushes the climate issue with every foreign leader he meets with.  That meshes with Kerry’s claim that climate change is “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.”

Secretary Kerry then gave an articulate but intellectually sloppy speech.  He began by noting that Al Gore, who was seated in the front row, had been warning about global warming since 1992 and yet he woke up this morning to the news that California and Washington state were experiencing torrential, record-setting rains after a record drought.  Kerry said that the science is screaming at us, and it’s therefore astonishing that we have people in the Senate who continue to doubt it.  You don’t need a Ph. D., he said, to see that the world is changing.

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According to CNBC, Treasury Secretary Jack Lew today told an audience in New York that low oil prices are “like a tax cut to the economy” and that increased U.S. oil and gas production is a “great success story.”

However, only a few hours after Treasury Secretary Lew praised low oil prices, Secretary of State John Kerry championed an altogether different viewpoint in an address to the 20th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change in Lima, Peru. I don’t yet have a transcript of his speech, but per the Twitterverse:

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With the 1935 Federal Power Act, Congress sought to establish a “bright line” between federal and state jurisdiction over the electricity market. Generally, federal regulators (at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) have authority over the interstate transmission and sale of electricity, while States retain exclusive jurisdiction over the regulation of generation and also retail electric sales. See Federal Power Commission v. Southern California Edison Co., 376 U.S. 2015 (1964) at 215-216.

Of course, the electric industry has changed a great deal in the 80 years since Congress passed the Federal Power Act. Of particular note, FERC over the last 2 decades has sought to facilitate more robust interstate electricity markets. As a result of this and related dynamics, the “bright line” between state and federal jurisdiction has dimmed, such that it’s far less clear where lie the boundaries between these two co-sovereigns.

In a very smart segment during last Sunday’s Platts Energy Week with Bill Loveless, posted immediately below, Platts’s Bobby McMahon reports on a series of court cases that have the potential to dramatically clarify the limits of state and federal oversight of the electricity industry. After the break, I explain the matter further.

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Post image for RFS Deadlines: EPA Tardy by Cumulative 27 Months and Counting

Guest Post by Dave Juday*

Yesterday the Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements subcommittee of the House Oversight Committee held a hearing on the EPA’s implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) volumes for 2014.  The RFS is a schedule, which prescribes the volume of biofuels – corn ethanol, biodiesel, and so-called advanced biofuels, like cellulosic ethanol – that must be blended into the nation’s fuel supply each year.  The RFS was established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and greatly expanded by the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007.  EPA’s track record is abysmal, hence the hearing.

According to the statute, EPA’s confirmation of biofuels volumes is to be announced by November 30 of the preceding year – i.e. after the corn harvest and before the compliance year – in order to give some clarity to both the food and fuel markets.  Now in December, more than a year late, EPA has still not set the volumes for 2014.  And, according to Acting Assistant Administrator, Janet McCabe, probably won’t be until sometime 2015.

McCabe told lawmakers that “issuing rules every year has proven to be a significant implementation challenge.”  That’s an understatement.  Consider the agency’s record.

Each year since 2009, EPA has missed its deadline. In the 60 months since November 30, 2009 – the last time the deadline was met – EPA has been tardy in announcing the final volumes by a cumulative total of 27 months, so far.  By next year, the EPA will likely be 40 months late – or more – in meeting its annual deadline.  That means that for 72 months since 2009 when fuel blenders and refiners were to be in compliance they did not know the actual compliance target for more than half that time.  As the Government Accountability Office has reported, these late rulings “contribute to industry uncertainty, which can increase costs because industry cannot plan and budget effectively.”   Indeed, when the new 114th Congress convenes in January, RFS reform should be a pressing issue.

* Dave Juday is the principal of The Juday Group a commodity market and policy analytical firm in Washington, D.C. [click to continue…]

My colleague Myron Ebell’s third dispatch from COP-20 in Lima, Peru, is not only up over at the Daily Caller, it’s front and center on Drudge Report. Click here and here for his first two Lima reports. After the break, I’ve excerpted the third.

myron dc

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Post image for EPA Should Re-Examine Climate Rule’s Scientific Basis – John Christy

In recent comments submitted to EPA, University of Alabama in Huntsville atmospheric scientist John Christy challenges the physical science basis of the agency’s Clean Power Plan.

EPA assumes that anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide (CO2) from energy use, are the driving force behind recent climate change. It thus further assumes that regulating CO2 emissions can mitigate future climate change, providing substantial health benefits to the American people.

Christy does not dispute the reality of climate change. The climate is always changing on multiple time scales. However, the Earth has experienced climatic “fluctuations in the past centuries similar to and even greater than what has occurred in the past 50 years.” Scientific instruments measure what the climate is doing; they don’t tell us why it behaves as it does.

To understand what drives climate change, scientists must test hypotheses against data. EPA assumes CO2 emissions are the chief driver because that’s what state-of-the-art IPCC climate models assume.

But, Christy points out, data from six independent global temperature monitoring systems “demonstrate that the models do not yet have the ability to discern ‘why’ a climate variation may have occurred simply because they cannot even reproduce ‘what’ has occurred.” The chart below compares climate model projections with observed temperatures over 35 years in the tropical troposphere, the portion of the atmosphere where models project a “highly consistent and significant” warming response to rising CO2 concentrations.

Christy Models vs Observations 1979 - 2014

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RenewableEnergyWorld.com (“The World’s #1 Renewable Energy Website”) on Monday reported that the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System was named the 2014 Renewable Energy Project of the Year at the PennWell Annual Awards Gala.

I greet this news with a query: Are you serious!?!

Southern California-based Ivanpah, which uses 350,000 heliostat mirrors that focus sunlight on several centralized power towers in order to power steam turbines, was completed in April, and has since suffered a spate of awful news. For starters, the project is exorbitantly expensive. And upon becoming operational, certain unintended consequences came to light, including the project’s propensity for incinerating birds midflight and also blinding pilots. The final insult is that the power plant is on pace to generate only 40 percent of its year-one goal.

Simply put: Ivanpah is an expensive, bird-frying, under-performing mess…and also the “2014 Renewable Energy Project of the Year.”  If this is the best that renewable energy had to offer in 2014, then the industry is in deep doo-doo.

There were official sessions at COP-20 in Lima on Saturday and Monday to assess the progress made by seventeen developed nations to implement policies and programs to address climate change. The seventeen governments earlier submitted written reports, which were then open to questions and comments by all the member parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change.  Then here at COP-20, each of the 17 gave a short slide show summarizing its efforts and plans. Each presentation was followed by an oral question and answer period.  Surprisingly, this is the first such multi-lateral assessment of national climate programs since the UNFCCC was signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992.

myron's cop image

I wasn’t here on Saturday, but listened to several of the presentations on Monday by New Zealand, Portugal, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States. New Zealand’s slide show had the prettiest photos (of new Zealand’s breathtaking scenery), but the U. S. presentation by Rick Duke of the White House Council on Environmental Quality was the most detailed and impressive.  But it did attract several highly critical questions.  To Mr. Duke’s claim that one of three key parts of President Obama’s Climate Action Plan was the the U. S. would lead international efforts, South Africa questioned how the U. S. Could lead when it’s own domestic efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions had been so insufficient.

But no questions were raised about what I consider to be two highly misleading points in the U. S. presentation.  First, Mr. Duke listed the EPA’s proposed rules to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from new and existing power plants without mentioning that they are both subject to serious legal challenges and to serious attempts to block them in the 114th Congress. Second, Mr. Duke attributed significant future reductions in fossil fuel use to the increasing use of cellulosic ethanol.  He then went on to claim that federal government investments in technology research and development had lowered the cost of producing cellulosic ethanol from $13 a gallon to $2.  This claim was backed up on the slide by noting that the $2 per gallon figure was based on modeling projections. [click to continue…]

My first day at the twentieth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP-20) in Lima, Peru was pleasant, but a little dull.  The energy level of leaders, delegates, and environmental NGOs seems a little low.  And I missed what sounds like the most interesting event of the day–a side event on carbon capture and storage (CCS).

350.org,  other environmental pressure groups, and indigenous people’s groups from Colombia, Peru, and Canada staged a protest that delayed the event.  They called on the UNFCC to ban fossil fuel lobbyists from attending the COP and all future climate negotiations. Spokesmen for indigenous communities accused Shell and Chevron of environmental crimes and human rights violations.  350.org’s point is that fossil fuels should not be used even with carbon capture and storage.

The event was sponsored by the Global Carbon and Capture Storage Institute.  Speakers from the World Coal Association and Shell were—astonishingly and amusingly—joined by Nicholas, Lord Stern (of Stern Review infamy).  The protesters tried unsuccessfully to convince Stern not to speak.  Perhaps he was being paid.

The session on CCS was part of a series sponsored by the International Emissions Trading Association, whose corporate members hope to get rich off of energy-rationing policies that impoverish people.  IETA is a strong supporter of the UN climate agenda. Shell Oil supports a carbon tax in the U S.

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