greenhouse gases

Post image for Scientists Offer New Reason to Curb GHG Emissions: Prevent Pre-Emptive Attack by Space Aliens (Updated 1:25 pm)

No, I’m not making this up, and it’s not a prank.

“A preemptive strike [by extra-terrestrials] would be particularly likely in the early phases of our expansion because a civilisation may become increasingly difficult to destroy as it continues to expand. Humanity may just now be entering the period in which its rapid civilisational expansion could be detected by an ETI [extra-terrestrial intelligence] because our expansion is changing the composition of the Earth’s atmosphere, via greenhouse gas emissions,” write researchers from Pennsylvania State University and NASA* in a study entitled “Would contact with extraterrestrials benefit or harm humanity? A scenario analysis.”

Science correspondent Ian Sample reviewed the study yesterday in the UK Guardian. A pearl from his article:

“Green” aliens might object to the environmental damage humans have caused on Earth and wipe us out to save the planet. “These scenarios give us reason to limit our growth and reduce our impact on global ecosystems. It would be particularly important for us to limit our emissions of greenhouse gases, since atmospheric composition can be observed from other planets,” the authors write.

Sample shows these speculations the proper respect by posting this picture at the top of his article:

Clearly, the IPPC climate impact assessments are too “conservative” and global warming poses a bigger threat than scientists previously predicted.

The only point I would add to Sample’s knee-slapper of a review is that the “green alien” scienario made its Hollywood debut in the 2008 remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, starring Keanu Reeves.

In the original 1951 film, Klaatu and his robot Gort come to Earth to deliver an ultimatum: Mankind must end the nuclear arms race and abandon its warlike ways or Earth will be destroyed. In the remake, Klaatu and Gort come to rescue plant and animal species endangered by global warming and to exterminate mankind as punishment for our fuelish ways. Gort pulverizes our fossil-fueled industrial infrastructure and is on the verge of wiping out humanity when Klaatu, moved by the beauty and purity of heart of astrobiologist Dr. Helen Benson (Jennifer Connelly), dies instead for our sins of emission.

* NASA is apparently taking some heat — or at least some good natured ribbing — for this paper. [click to continue…]

Post image for Northeast States Work to Raise Gasoline Prices

Yesterday’s Greenwire (subscription required) reports that 11 Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states are working on a plan, modeled on California’s Low Carbon Fuel Standard (LCFS) program, to cut the carbon intensitity (CI) of motor fuels by 5%-15% over the next 15 years. The Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management (NESCAUM), the association of Northeast air regulatory agencies, could release the framework for the plan “as early as this month,” writes Greenwire reporter Jason Plautz.

Plautz links to a NESCAUM-authored discussion draft for “stakeholders.” After a short introductory paragraph, the document states in bold italics:  “This document is not intended for distribution beyond the participating agencies and should not be cited or quoted.” Hey, I just did — so sue me!

The document never mentions the potential impact of the LCFS on fuel prices. But what else did you expect? In the “trust us, we know what’s best for the planet” world of carbon politics, affordable energy is despised, not prized.  [click to continue…]

Post image for On the California Waiver, Auto Dealers Get Left out in the Cold

Last Friday, April 29th, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit dismissed a challenge to EPA’s “California waiver”.  That waiver permitted California to set its own greenhouse-gas emissions for new vehicles.  Because CO2 was the major gas that California was seeking to control, its rules amounted to a new, more stringent automotive fuel-economy standard.  And because at least 14 other states had adopted California’s standard, its actions may well have effectively replaced the federal CAFE standard with a higher one set in Sacramento.

The California waiver has a complicated history.  CARB (the California Air Resources Board) originally filed its waiver request with EPA in late 2005, claiming that the state had a uniquely compelling need to control atmospheric CO2 levels.  (The fact that the alleged problem at issue is global warming, not California warming, apparently didn’t faze CARB.)  After deliberating for more than two years, EPA denied CARB’s request, finding that it hadn’t demonstrated any extraordinary conditions to justify the waiver.

But in January 2009, one day after President Obama was sworn in, CARB resubmitted its request, and EPA granted the waiver several months later.  Then, in April 2010, the Administration, California and the auto industry struck a deal which imposed a higher set of federal fuel economy standards through model year 2016.  During that time, California agreed to merge its own newly-approved standards into the federal program, giving the auto industry the national uniformity in standards that it dearly wanted.

As part of the deal, the automakers agreed not to litigate the California waiver.  The Chamber of Commerce and NADA (the National Auto Dealers Association), however, filed their own lawsuit, and it was this case that the D.C. Circuit dismissed last week.  The court did not reach the merits of the case, ruling instead that neither party had standing to bring the action because they had not shown injury to their members.

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Post image for Congressional Update: Votes Likely for Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011 [Updated 5:45 PM]

The House of Representatives is scheduled to debate and vote on final passage of H. R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act.  The Rules Committee is allowing the Democrats to offer twelve amendments to weaken or gut the bill.  (It is worth recalling that on 26th June 2009, the Democrats allowed only one Republican amendment and couldn’t even provide an accurate copy of the bill, since 300 pages had been added in the middle of the night, but the new sections hadn’t been put in their proper places in the 1200 page bill that had been released four days before.)  No Republican amendments to strengthen to the bill will be allowed.  The rule can be found here.  It is quite possible that the vote on final passage will be delayed until tomorrow.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has scheduled votes on amendments offered by Sens. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Max Baucus (D-MT), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) amendments to S. 493, a re-authorization bill for small business subsidies, for some time after 4 PM today.  The McConnell amendment is the Senate version of the Energy Tax Prevention Act, S. 482.  The other amendments are attempts to give some ground without blocking EPA regulation of greenhouse gas emissions permanently (that is, until Congress authorizes such regulations).  This shows how far the debate has shifted.  It appears that the three straddling amendments may each get fifteen to thirty votes.  It appears that the McConnell amendment (#183) will get 51 or perhaps even 52 votes, but will not be adopted because it is not a germane amendment and therefore requires 60 votes to survive a point of order.  All 47 Republicans are expected to vote for it plus Sens. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Mary Landrieu (D-LA), Ben Nelson (D-NE), and Mark Pryor (D-AR).  Maybe one more Democrat, such as Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO).  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid could of course still change his mind.

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Unscientific American

by William Yeatman on March 29, 2011

Post image for Unscientific American

I almost choked on a complimentary pretzel during a recent flight when I read the final page of the April edition of Scientific American, this country’s premier science periodical for mainstream audiences. The page was titled “Clean Tech Rising” and the subtitle read, “China outshines the U.S. as the top investor, while Europe is a close third.” It featured bar graphs indicating what different nations are spending on so-called clean energy, like biofuel, wind, and solar power. The attendant text warned that “The U.S. has been a major player in clean energy technologies, but China is now the leader.” It recommended that, “…stepping up U.S. investment could enhance the country’s competitiveness…”

Now, it might or might not be true that China is spending more than the U.S. on “clean” energy. The ruling Communist government is not known for openness and transparency, so I take “official” investment data with a grain of salt. However, it is unequivocal that the Chinese are building coal power plants at an unprecedented rate. Estimates vary, from 4 new coal plants every week to 1 plant every week. All we know for sure is that coal, and not renewable energy, is powering the Middle Kingdom’s meteoric economic growth. This is why China, which became the world’s number one emitter of greenhouse gases only three years ago, now has a carbon footprint 40 percent bigger than the next largest emitter (the United States).

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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.

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Post image for California Judge Halts Implementation of Climate Change Policies

Via the Los Angeles Times.

Ironically, the cap-and-trade program has been temporarily halted due to a lawsuit brought forth by other environmental groups, concerned that the CARB did not sufficiently consider alternatives to a C&T program such as a direct carbon tax:

The groups contend that a cap-and-trade program would allow refineries, power plants and other big facilities in poor neighborhoods to avoid cutting emissions of both greenhouse gases and traditional air pollutants.

“This decision is good for low-income communities like Wilmington, Carson and Richmond,” said Bill Gallegos, executive director of Communities for a Better Environment. “It means that oil refineries, which emit enormous amounts of greenhouse gases and contribute to big health problems, cannot simply keep polluting by purchasing pollution credits, or doing out of state projects.”

This logic is odd, as even under a cap-and-trade program, oil refineries won’t simply disappear. It’s possible that they might be required to reduce their own pollution rather than buying permits, but this speaks mainly to the design of the cap-and-trade program. A small carbon tax would likely have the same effect, and if the design of the cap-and-trade program is any hint, it would be difficult to pass a significant carbon tax.

However, given that the program involves distributing initial permits to many companies for free (which, according to Wikipedia, will cover 90% of their emissions), a pure carbon tax would involve less corporatism.

Do recall the CARB press release touting the economic benefits of this program:

The economic analysis compares the recommendations in the draft Scoping Plan to doing nothing and shows that implementing the recommendations will result in:

  • Increased economic production of $27 billion
  • Increased overall gross state product of $4 billion
  • Increased overall personal income by $14 billion
  • Increased per capita income of $200
  • Increased jobs by more than 100,000

and subsequent commentary offered by peer review (many of whom support the program, none of whom buy into the free-lunch aspect):

Professor Robert Stavins, the Director of Harvard’s Environmental Economics Program:

I have come to the inescapable conclusion that the economic analysis is terribly deficient in critical ways and should not be used by the State government or the public for the purpose of assessing the likely costs of CARB’s plans. I say this with some sadness, because I was hopeful that CARB would produce sensible policy proposals analyzed with sound scientific and economic analysis.

 

Post image for Update on CEI’s Lawsuit against the EPA over Climate Regulations

This post was written by Competitive Enterprise Institute General Counsel Sam Kazman

EPA’s global warming regs are being challenged in a complex set of cases pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.  At issue are rules ranging from EPA’s underlying endangerment ruling to its decrees on stationary and vehicle greenhouse gas emissions.  A number of petitions for reconsideration were filed with the agency as well, several of them based on the Climategate materials.  EPA denied those petitions last summer in a voluminous document which is also part of the litigation.

Among those suing EPA are states, trade associations, public interest groups (including CEI) and individual companies. If you count each separate action brought by each petitioner (including CEI) against each rule, there are 85 cases.

The petitioners tried to have the regulations put on hold until the court decides the cases, but their motion was denied back in December.  Both sides have filed suggestions on how the briefing of the cases should proceed, since the court will require almost everyone to file joint briefs.  Once the court issues its schedule and format for the briefs, the cases will start moving forward again.

Post image for EPA Reform Bill Clears First Hurdle

Yesterday morning, the Energy and Power Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee met to mark up H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act of 2011, but the results was a foregone conclusion. As they say in poker, Republicans had the “nuts.” The legislation, which would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act, was co-written by Committee Chair Fred Upton (MI), and it enjoyed the support of all the Rs on the panel. Subcommittee Chair Ed Whitfield (KY) didn’t even bother with a roll call, and the Democrats on the panel didn’t object, so the bill passed by a voice vote alone.

Indeed, the only mystery to yesterday’s vote was whether any of the Subcommittee Democrats would side with the majority party. Already, senior House Democrats Colin Peterson (MN) and Nick Rahall (WV) have sponsored H.R. 910. The most likely Democratic defection, heading into yesterday’s markup, was Utah Rep. Tim Matheson, but he stayed in lock step with his party.

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Update on the States

by William Yeatman on February 28, 2011

Post image for Update on the States

Louisiana

Three weeks ago, a federal judge in Louisiana found the Department of the Interior in contempt for its moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico enacted in the wake of last year’s BP spill. As a result of the ruling, the government will have to pay the plaintiff’s legal fees, but it didn’t impact the moratorium, which was lifted on October 22, 2010. Despite the end of the de jure moratorium, the Obama administration has kept in place a de facto moratorium through bureaucratic foot-dragging.

Two weeks ago, the same U.S. District Judge, Martin Feldman, lifted this de facto moratorium, by granting a preliminary injunction requiring that the Interior Department act within 30 days on five pending permit applications. According to Judge Martin’s ruling, “Delays of four months and more in the permitting process, however, are unreasonable, unacceptable and unjustified by the evidence before the court.”

New Hampshire

By a 246 to 104 vote, the New Hampshire House of Representatives last week passed HB 519, legislation that would withdraw New Hampshire from a regional energy-rationing scheme known as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. Governor John Lynch (D) promised to veto the bill before it was introduced, but this week’s vote is veto-proof. The State Senate is expected to pass HB 519 with enough votes to overturn the Governor’s promised veto.

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