Post image for Arnold Revisits Judgment Day

Depending on where you live, April 21, 2011 may have already faded into yet another non-apocalyptic win for humanity. If not, you may still have about 12 hours to be worried.

Arnold Schwarzenegger has taken to The Wall Street Journal op-ed pages to warn of the potential future termination of humanity:

Today, I have tears in my eyes again, but for a very different reason. Some in Washington are threatening to pull the plug on this success. Since January, there have been more than a dozen proposals in Congress to limit enforcement of our clean-air rules, create special-interest loopholes, and attempt to reverse scientific findings. These attacks go by different names and target different aspects of the law, but they all amount to the same thing: dirtier air.

This is not an abstract political fight. If these proposals are passed, more mercury, dioxins, carbon pollution and acid gases will end up in the air our kids breathe. More Americans will get sick, end up in the hospital, and die from respiratory illness.

Don’t cry, Arnold! Much of this is an abstract political fight. The major push back and political grandstanding against the proposed EPA rules is what, if anything, should be done about the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. The only proposal floated by Congress was found to be horribly ineffective, even by many environmentalists. During that fight, the Obama administration threatened opponents to accept it, because EPA regulations would follow if the legislation didn’t pass, and the EPA wasn’t capable of providing efficient or even effective “solutions.”

And here we are, with the EPA moving forward on costly regulations (during a recession) that, according to their own estimates, will reduce temperatures in 2100 by anywhere from 0.0015 to 0.006 degrees centigrade. Remember, Arnold, whatever your opinion on the historical benefits of the EPA, past performance is no guarantee of future success.

Finally, Arnold points to California as a model economy:

And, as I know from California’s experience, clean-air rules have led to innovation and new technologies that have created hundreds of thousands of new jobs and billions in clean-energy investment.

I’m not sure California ought to be cited as the model of anything, given their inability to budget and the steady exodus of business from the state.


On April 6, 2011, 50 Senators voted for S. 482, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, a bill to stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy under the guise of implementing the Clean Air Act. Supporters needed 60 votes to pass the bill. “Senate Definitively Beats Back Efforts to Restrict EPA Climate Rules,” declared the title of Inside EPA’s column (April 8, 2011) on the vote. That is spin masquerading as news.

Let’s review some not-so-ancient history. In 2003, Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (D-Conn.) introduced S. 139, the Climate Stewardship Act, a carbon cap-and-trade bill. It was defeated by a vote of 43-55. In 2005, McCain and Lieberman introduced a revised version, S. 1151, the Climate Stewardship and Innovation Act. It went down in flames by a bigger margin: 38-60. In 2007, McLieberman introduced yet another iteration (S. 280), which never even made it to the floor for a vote.

In three different Congresses, the McLieberman bill died in the Senate. After these continual defeats, did Inside EPA, the bill’s sponsors, or any environmental group declare that the Senate “definitively” rejected cap-and-trade?

Of course not. Yet S. 482 garnered more votes than any cap-and-trade bill the Senate has ever debated. Sponsors of S. 482 say they will press for other opportunities to hold additional votes. The day after the Senate vote, the House passed an identical measure (H.R. 910) by a vote of 255-172, a large victory margin that should improve prospects for eventual passage in the Senate. 

Another vote could occur as early as next month when Congress debates whether to raise the national debt ceiling. House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) suggested last week that legislation to raise the debt ceiling — a key priority for Team Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reed (D-Nev.) — might have to include curbs on EPA’s regulatory authority (The Hill, April 16, 2011). 

Since reports of S. 482’s demise are greatly exaggerated, it is useful to examine the tactics of leading Senate opponents. Previous posts review California Sen. Barbara Boxer’s tirade against S. 482 and Montana Sen. Max Baucus’s alternative legislation to codify EPA’s ever-growing ensemble of greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations. Today’s post offers a running commentary on New Jersey Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s floor statement opposing S. 482 (Congressional Record, April 6, 2011, pp. S2170-71). If Lautenberg’s rant is the best opponents can do, they have “definitively” lost the debate. [click to continue…]

Post image for Reviews of the Cornell Natural Gas Study

As was widely reported this week,  a new study has just come out concluding that, compared to coal, shale gas fracking is anywhere from just as bad to much worse in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. Despite the holy-grail of peer-revision, there appear to be some very obvious methodological problems and reliance on very poor data (which the researchers have admitted, and wish they had access to better information).

Here is a piece of a review from Matt Ridley, entitled “Black Propaganda.” (Read the whole thing):

So, in other words, shale gas has greater global warming potential than coal only if you rely on lousy data, misunderstood accounting categories, quadrupled assumptions about methane’s relative greenhouse potential — and then only in the short term, when people like Black are always telling us it is the long term we should worry about.

A review from Michael Levi of CFR (again, the whole thing is worth reading):

First, the data for leakage from well completions and pipelines, which is where he’s finding most of his methane leaks, is really bad. Howarth used what he could get – figures for well completion leakage from a few isolated cases reported in industry magazines, and numbers for pipeline leakage from long-distance pipelines in Russia – but what he could get was very thin. There is simply no way to know (without access to much more data) if the numbers he uses are at all representative of reality.

Second, Howarth’s gas-to-coal comparisons are all done on a per energy unit basis. That means that he compares the amount of emissions involved in producing a gigajoule of coal with the amount involved in producing a gigajoule of gas. (Don’t worry if you don’t know what a gigajoule is – it doesn’t really matter.) Here’s the thing: modern gas power generation technology is a lot more efficient than modern coal generation, so a gigajoule of gas produces a lot more electricity than a gigajoule of coal. The per kWh comparison is the correct one, but Howarth doesn’t do it. This is an unforgivable methodological flaw; correcting for it strongly tilts Howarth’s calculations back toward gas, even if you accept everything else he says.

One last comment: I worry about what this paper says about the peer review process and the way the press treats it. This article was published in a peer-reviewed journal that’s edited by talented academics. It presumably got a couple good reviews, since its time from submission to publication was quite short. These reviewers don’t appear to have been on the ball. Alas, this sort of thing is inevitable in academic publishing. It’s a useful caution, though, against treating peer review as a mark of infallibility, as too many in the climate debate – both media and advocates – have done.

The weak data and unorthodox methodology should make one question its ultimate conclusion, and it doesn’t help that the author is apparently an anti-fracking advocate. The EPA has already called this study an “important piece of information” and it has been reported on without mentioning the critiques in a number of media outlets (and here). Some outlets were better:

Mark D. Whitley, a senior vice president for engineering and technology with Range Resources, a gas drilling company with operations in several regions of the country, said the losses suggested by Mr. Howarth’s study were simply too high.

“These are huge numbers,” he said. “That the industry would let what amounts to trillions of cubic feet of gas get away from us doesn’t make any sense. That’s not the business that we’re in.”

Most business models don’t include plans to allow billions of dollars of your product to escape into the atmosphere.



Post image for House Passes Energy Tax Prevention Act, 255-172

The House of Representatives this afternoon passed H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, by a vote of 255 to 172.  Nineteen Democrats voted Yes.  No Republicans voted No.  This is a remarkable turnaround from the last Congress when on 26th June 2009 the House voted 219 to 212 to pass the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill.

The Energy Tax Prevention Act, sponsored by Rep. Fred. Upton (R-Mich.), the Chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions and thereby put a potentially huge indirect tax on American consumers and businesses.   Coal, oil, and natural gas produce carbon dioxide, the principal greenhouse gas, when burned.  Those three fuels provide over 80% of the energy used in America.  Thus regulating carbon dioxide emissions essentially puts the EPA in charge of running the U. S. economy.

This is just the first step in stopping the Obama Administration’s attempt to raise energy prices .  The House bill now heads to the Senate, where yesterday an attempt to add the Energy Tax Prevention Act (introduced in the Senate as S. 482 by Senator James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma) as an amendment to another bill was defeated on a 50-50 vote.  Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s amendment would have required 60 votes to be attached to S. 493.  Four Democrats joined 46 Republicans in voting for the amendment–Senators Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Mary Landrieu of Louisiana, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, and Mark Pryor of Arkansas.  Senator Susan Collins of Maine was the only Republican to vote No.

The strong House vote in favor of the Energy Tax Prevention Act should build new momentum to pass it in the Senate later this year.  Of course, the White House has already issued a veto threat, which shows that President Obama is not interested in creating new jobs and restoring prosperity to America.  Congress has now rejected cap-and-tax resoundingly, but the President still hopes to achieve through backdoor regulation his goals of skyrocketing electric rates and gasoline prices at the $10 a gallon European level.

Post image for If Al Gore Can Outgrow the Ethanol Fad, Why Can’t Conservatives?

The Senate is expected to vote on S. 520, a bill to repeal the 45 cents per gallon volumetric ethanol excise tax credit (VEETC). The bill is co-sponsored by Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Benjamin Cardin (D-Md.). Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Jim Webb (D-Va.) have also introduced S. 530, which would limit the VEETC to “advanced biofuels,” thus ending the subsidy for conventional corn ethanol. S. 530 would also scale back the 54 cents per gallon ethanol import tariff commensurately with the reduction in the tax credit.

The VEETC adds about $6 billion annually to the federal deficit. Unlike many other tax credits that reduce a household’s or a business’s tax liability, the VEETC is a “refundable” tax credit. That means the VEETC is literally paid for out of the U.S. general fund with checks written by the Treasury Department. The protective tariff, for its part, prevents lower-priced Brazilian ethanol from competing in U.S. markets. It increases the price of motor fuel at the pump.

Now, you would think supporting S. 520 and S. 530 would be a no-brainer for conservative lawmakers. But some are reportedly getting cold feet. To remind them of their duty to put the general interest of consumers and taxpayers ahead of the special interest of King Corn, I offer the following observations. [click to continue…]

Post image for S. 482: A Skeptical Review of Boxer’s Tirade

Yesterday, Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) mounted a tirade (Congressional Record, pp. 1955-57) against the McConnell amendment (a.k.a. S. 482, the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act) to the small business reauthorization bill (S. 493). The amendment would stop EPA from ‘legislating’ climate policy under the guise of implementing the Clean Air Act (CAA), a statute enacted in 1970, years before global warming emerged as a public policy issue.

The Senate is expected to vote later today on S. 493, so it worthwhile examining Boxer’s speech, which opponents of the bill will undoubtedly recycle in today’s debate.

I discuss the rhetorical traps S. 482 supporters should avoid in an earlier post. Stick to your moral high ground, namely, the constitutional premise that Congress, not an administrative agency with no political accountability to the people, should make the big decisions regarding national policy. The fact that Congress remains deadlocked on climate and energy policy is a compelling reason for EPA not to ‘enact’ greenhouse gas (GHG) controls. It is not an excuse for EPA to substitute its will for that of the people’s representatives.

Okay, that said, let’s examine Boxer’s rant. It is lengthy, repetitive, and often ad homonym, so I’ll try to hit just the main points. [click to continue…]

Post image for How Many Agencies Does It Take to Regulate Fuel Economy?

How many agencies does it take to regulate fuel economy?

Only one — the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) — if we follow the law (1975 Energy Policy and Conservation Act, 2007 Energy Independence and Security Act); three — NHTSA + EPA + the California Air Resources Board — if law is trumped by the backroom, “put nothing in writing,” Presidential Records Act-defying deal negotiated by former Obama Environment Czar Carol Browner.

Tomorrow, the Senate is expected to vote on S. 493, the McConnell amendment, which is identical to S. 482, the Inhofe-Upton Energy Tax Prevention Act. S. 493 would overturn all of EPA’s greenhouse gas (GHG) regulations except for the GHG/fuel economy standards EPA and NHTSA jointly issued for new motor vehicles covering model years 2012-2016, and the GHG/fuel economy standards the agencies have proposed for medium- and heavy-duty trucks covering model years 2014-2018. The legislation would leave intact NHTSA’s separate statutory authority to regulate fuel economy standards for automobiles after model year 2016 and trucks after model year 2018.

Bear in mind that GHG emission standards and fuel economy standards are largely duplicative. As EPA acknowledges, 94-95% of all GHG emissions from motor vehicles are carbon dioxide (CO2) from the combustion of motor fuels. And as EPA and NHTSA acknowledge, “there is a single pool of technologies for addressing these twin problems [climate change, oil dependence], i.e., those that reduce fuel consumption and thereby reduce CO2 emissions as well” (Joint GHG/Fuel Economy Rule, p. 25327).

The National Auto Dealers Association (NADA), whose members know a thing or two about what it takes to meet the needs of the car-buying public, sent a letter to the Senate today urging a “Yes” vote on S. 493. NADA stresses three points. S. 493 would:

  • End, after 2016, the current triple regulation of fuel economy by three different agencies (NHTSA, EPA, and California) under three different rules.
  • Restore a true single national fuel economy standard under the CAFE program, with rules set by Congress, not unelected officials. Ensure jobs, consumer choice, and highway safety are considered according to federal law when setting a fuel economy standard.
  • Save taxpayers millions of dollars by ending EPA’s duplicative fuel economy regime after 2016.

Let’s examine the first two points in a bit more detail. The NADA letter says: [click to continue…]

Post image for Washington Post Chides Obama Over Energy

In an editorial cleverly titled, “Drill, Brazil, Drill says the U.S.The Washington Post joined in the growing public displeasure over President Obama’s public support for the Brazilian oil industry, which seems to be rising at the expense of administration support for the oil industry in the United States.

As CEI’s Myron Ebell pointed out last week:

This is the same President who has spent the last two years doing everything he can to reduce oil production in the United States.  Cancelled and delayed exploration leases on federal lands in the Rocky Mountains; the re-institution of the executive moratorium on offshore exploration in the Atlantic, the Pacific, most Alaskan waters, and the eastern Gulf of Mexico; the deepwater permitting moratorium and the de facto moratorium in the western Gulf.  The result is that domestic oil production is about to start a steep decline.

The editorial also mentions the tariff on ethanol. Trade restrictions are bad policy. However, the case for Brazilian ethanol is slightly more complicated than that. If Brazilian ethanol were imported to the U.S., it might displace some ethanol production that is occurring in the U.S. as historically Brazilian ethanol has been cheaper. This would be fine.

[click to continue…]

Post image for Endangered? “U.S. Death Rate Falls for 10th Straight Year” – CDC

“U.S. Death Rate Falls for 10th Straight Year,” the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) announced in a recent press release.  The release goes on to note that the “age-adjusted death rate for the U.S. population fell to an all-time low of 741 deaths per 100,000 people in 2009 — 2.3 percent lower than the 2008, according to preliminary 2009 death statistics released today [March 16, 2011] by the CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics.” This news is so good it bears repeating: The U.S. death rate fell for the “10th straight year” and is now at “an all-time low.” [click to continue…]

Post image for EPA Provides the Cash, American Lung Association Hits Upton and the Energy Tax Prevention Act

The American Lung Association is right up there with the Union of Concerned Scientists as a leftist activist organization pretending to be a professional association with high-minded objectives.  In fact, the American Lung Association is a bunch of political thugs.  Their latest hit job is putting up billboards in Rep. Fred Upton’s district in Michigan that urge him to “protect our kids’ health. Don’t weaken the Clean Air Act (PDF).” The billboard has a photo of an adolescent girl with a respirator.

The American Lung Association is opposing a bill, the Energy Tax Prevention Act (H. R. 910), that is sponsored by Rep. Upton, the Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.  Upton’s bill, which is expected to be debated on the House floor in early April, does nothing to weaken the Clean Air Act.  It simply prevents the Environmental Protection Agency from using the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.

Congress never intended the Clean Air Act to be used to enforce global warming policies on the American people.  As my CEI colleague Marlo Lewis recently noted, attempts to add provisions to the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 that would allow the EPA to regulate greenhouse gas emissions were defeated in the Senate.  A similar attempt in the House went nowhere.

[click to continue…]