Henry Waxman

Post image for Reps. Upton and Waxman Issue 2nd White Paper on Renewable Fuel Standard

Reps. Fred Upton (R-Mich.) and Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) yesterday issued their second white paper in a series intended as a first step to reviewing the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS). The first white paper, released March 20, 2013, addresses Blend Wall/Fuel Compatibility Issues. The second white paper, released April 18, 2013, addresses Agricultural Sector Issues. Both white papers are clearly written, carefully documented, and provide excellent overviews of their respective topics.

The second white paper poses nine questions for public comment, and requests that responses be sent to rfs@mail.house.gov by April 29.

Two of the questions deal with the EPA’s denial in 2012 of petitions from ten governors who, seeking to reduce corn prices and alleviate harm to their states’ livestock industries, asked the agency to waive (suspend) RFS blending requirements. I comment on those questions, which are enumerated in the white paper as follows:

3. Was EPA correct to deny the 2012 waiver request? Are there any lessons that can be drawn from the waiver denial?
4. Does the Clean Air Act provide EPA sufficient flexibility to adequately address any effects that the RFS may have on corn price spikes?

My comments develop the following points:

  • The EPA should have granted the waiver but the agency’s strained reading of the Clean Air Act virtually guarantees that petitions will be denied regardless of the RFS’s contribution to severe economic harm.
  • Congress should revise the statute to preclude the EPA’s deck-stacking interpretation and clarify that the threshold issue is whether, in the context of actual market conditions, the RFS makes a non-negligible contribution to severe harm. [click to continue…]
Post image for Ethanol Mandate: Proud Milestone in the Glorious History of Central Planning

Today on National Journal’s Energy Experts Blog, I post a comment celebrating the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) as a triumph of centralized economic planning. You think I’m joking? Far from it. The RFS is working at least as well as other central planning schemes!

Well, okay, the RFS would be funny if it weren’t so destructive. A new report by NERA Economic Consulting warns that the RFS is heading for a “death spiral” — a vicious circle in which rising fuel costs, declining sales, and dwindling biofuel credits make compliance increasingly “infeasible.”

In one scenario analyzed by NERA, the death spiral produces a 30% increase in gasoline prices and a 300% increase in the cost of diesel fuel in 2015. Potential adverse macroeconomic impacts include a “$770 billion decline in GDP and a corresponding reduction in consumption per household of $2,700.” Ludwig von Mises coined a term for such debacles: “Planned Chaos.” [click to continue…]

Post image for Obama’s Green Albatross

Stimulus spending on environmentalist policy is a green albatross around the neck of President Barack Obama. Inspectors General are having a field day auditing stimulus-funded programs for so-called “green jobs,” and the media LOVES stories about wasted taxpayer money. What started as a sop to his environmentalist base, now threatens to become a slow-drip nightmare of negative press. The timing couldn’t be worse for the President. It takes time to disburse scores of billions of dollars, so we are only now starting to scrutinize stimulus spending. By November 2012, we’ll be able to account for most of the money, and unless the current trend changes radically, the Executive in Chief is going to look conspicuously incompetent.

Here’s the back-story: In early 2009, the Executive and Legislative branches of government had a popular mandate to defibrillate America’s moribund economy with a huge injection of taxpayer dollars. Instead of limiting this “stimulus” to state bailouts and infrastructure spending, the Obama administration (led by climate “czar” and former EPA administrator Carol Browner) and the Congressional majority (led by House Energy and Commerce Chair Henry Waxman (D-Beverly Hills)) also sought to advance environmentalist policy.  As a result, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, a.k.a. the stimulus, included almost $70 billion in spending for green jobs and renewable energy infrastructure.

Every single link along the green energy supply chain was showered with subsidies. There was funding for green jobs training, funding for factories to make green products, and funding to incentivize demand for green goods and services. It was as like a green Gosplan!

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Post image for How Absurd Is Regulating Greenhouse Gases through the Clean Air Act?

Pretty darn near the height of absurdity. That’s not just my opinion. It’s a key premise of EPA’s “Tailoring Rule,” which exempts small greenhouse gas (GHG) emitters from regulation under the Clean Air Act’s (CAA) Prevention of Significant Deterioration (PSD) pre-construction permitting program and Title V operating permits program.

As EPA explains in a brief filed last week with the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, once the agency’s GHG emission standards for new motor vehicles took effect on January 2, 2011, “major stationary sources” of GHG emissions became “automatically subject” to PSD and Title V permitting requirements. A facility with a potential to emit 250 tons per year (tpy) of a regulated air pollutant is a “major source” under PSD. A facility with a potential to emit 100 tpy is a “major source” under Title V. Whereas only large industrial facilities emit 100-250 tpy of smog- and soot-forming air pollutants, literally millions of small entities — big box stores, apartment and office buildings, hospitals, schools, large houses of worship, Dunkin’ Donut shops – use enough natural gas or oil for heating or cooking to emit 100-250 tpy of carbon dioxide (CO2).

EPA and its state counterparts lack the administrative resources to process millions of PSD and Title V permit applications. Thus, applying the CAA as written to GHGs leads to “absurd results” — an ever-growing backlog of permit applications that would cripple both environmental enforcement and economic development. Massive increases in the budgets and staff of environmental agencies would be required to handle the mountains of paperwork. From EPA’s brief:

EPA studied and considered the breadth and depth of the projected administrative burdens in the Tailoring Rule. There, EPA explained that immediately applying the literal PSD statutory threshold of 100/250 tpy [tons per year] to greenhouse gas emissions, when coupled with the “any increase” trigger for modifications under 42 U.S.C. §§7479, 7411(a)(4), would result in annual PSD permit applications submitted to State and local permitting agencies to increase nationwide from 280 to over 81,000 per year, a 300-fold increase. 75 Fed. Reg. at 31,535-40, 31,554. Following a comprehensive analysis, EPA estimated that these additional PSD permit applications would require State permitting authorities to add 10,000 full-time employees and incur additional costs of $1.5 billion per year just to process these applications, a 130-fold increase in the costs to States of administering the PSD program. Id. at 31,539/3. Sources needing operating permits would jump from 14,700 to 6.1 million as a result of application of Title V to greenhouse gases, a 400-fold increase. When EPA [in an earlier asssessment] assumed a mere 40-fold increase in applications – one-tenth of the actual increase – and no increase in employees to process them, the processing time for Title V permits would jump from 6-10 months to ten years. Hiring the 230,000 full-time employees necessary to produce the 1.4 billion work hours required to address the actual increase in permitting functions would result in an increase in Title V administration costs of $21 billion per year. Id. at 31,535-40, 31,577 [emphasis added].

For perspective, EPA’s budget request for FY 2012 is $8.973 billion. Hiring the 230,000 bureaucrats needed to process Title V applications from GHG emitters under the statutory definition of “major source” would cost more than twice as much as EPA’s total budget.

As expected, EPA fails to draw the obvious conclusion from its own analysis, namely: Regulating GHGs via the CAA leads to absurd results because Congress never designed or intended for the Act to regulate GHGs. [click to continue…]

Post image for Blame China for Solyndra’s Downfall?

Tomorrow, the House Energy and Commerce Committee will hold its second hearing on Solyndra, the manufacturer of innovative non-silicon-based solar panels that borrowed $527 million only to file for bankruptcy, shutter its brand new Freemont, Calif. factory, and lay off 1,100 employees on September 6. Expect Committee Democrats to blame China and the allegedly unforeseen fall in the price of conventional silicon-based solar panels for the debacle.

That’s the line the Department of Energy’s (DOE) witness, Jonathan Silver, took at the Committee’s first (September 14) Solyndra hearing, noting China’s provision of more than $30 billion in subsidized financing to its solar manufacturers, which rapidly dropped silicon prices, “taking Solyndra, and many industry analysts, by surprise.” DOE’s blog, Energy.Gov, had already adopted this explanation on August 31, the day Solyndra announced it would file for bankruptcy.

Similarly, Solyndra’s August 31 announcement coyly cited the “resources of larger foreign [i.e. Chinese] manufacturers” and a “global oversupply of [mainly Chinese] solar panels” as factors foiling the company’s business plan. Solyndra’s ex-employees have applied to the Department of Labor (DOL) for aid under the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program, claiming that China put them out of work. If DOL approves the application, Solyndra’s former workers will receive allowances for job retraining, job searching, and health care for up to 130 weeks, or about $13,000 per employee. Blogger Scott Linicom decries such double dipping:

So to recap: massive government subsidies created 1,100 “green jobs” that never would’ve existed but for those massive government subsidies.  And when those fake jobs disappeared because the subsidized employer-company inevitably couldn’t compete in the market, the dislocated workers blamed China (instead of what’s easily one of the worst business plans ever drafted) in order to receive . . . wait for it . . . more government subsidies. Behold, the Circle of Government Life.

Whether it’s Solyndra execs and DOE officials trying to save face, ”progressives” defending the honor of green industrial policy, or former employees looking for more taxpayer freebies, they all would have us believe that Solyndra’s $535 million loan guarantee was a good bet at the time it was made. They need a scapegoat for Solyndra’s crash, so they blame China. Indeed, some (e.g. Grist) claim Solyndra’s collapse shows that the U.S. government isn’t doing enough to help our “clean tech” companies “compete.” Balderdash.     [click to continue…]

Post image for My Excellent Journey to Canada’s Oil Sands

The United States imports almost half of its oil (49%), and about 25% of our imports come from one country — our friendly neighbor to the North, Canada. Today, Canada supplies more oil to the USA than all Persian Gulf countries combined. [click to continue…]

Post image for A Drive down Memory Lane on Memorial Day

Driving is an American pastime on Memorial Day weekend. Indeed, today’s holiday is THE road trip occasion in American culture. This acute association explains why American politicians choose the lead up to Memorial Day to trot out plans to address high gasoline prices.

This year, it was dueling votes in the Senate. Roughly speaking, the Republicans tried to increase the supply of oil by ending the Obama administration’s de facto moratorium on domestic drilling, wrought by bureaucratic foot-dragging. The legislation already had been passed by the Republican-controlled House. On the other hand, the Democrats wanted to raise taxes on “Big Oil” companies, by eliminating tax breaks enjoyed by many—and in some cases, all—businesses. Neither party wooed enough votes to survive a filibuster, so they both failed. Of the two, the Republicans’ ideas were better this time, but there have been instances in the past when both parties were equally bad in the run up to Memorial Day weekend.

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Post image for Cap-and-Trade Setback In California

California Superior Court judge Ernest Goldsmith ruled on Friday that the state’s Air Resources Board (ARB) must halt “any futher rulemaking and implementation of cap-and-trade” until the agency examines alternatives policies to meet the greenhouse gas-reduction targets established by Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act. ARB must also, pursuant to the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), complete a review of the environmental impacts of its preferred regulatory strategy before adopting it.

Note: The ruling does not challenge AB 32 itself, and petitioners in the case are greenies who think ARB’s plan to curb greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions doesn’t go far enough. Nonetheless, this is a setback to California politicians and cap-and-taxers throughout the land. ARB has 15 months to provide the requisite analyses. ARB says it will appeal the decision. Rots of ruck! [click to continue…]

“California is experiencing the fastest rate of of companies relocating to out-of-state or out-of-country locations since a specialized tracking system was put into place two years ago,” reports business relocation coach Joseph Vranich. Seventy companies completely or partly moved their operations out of California since Jan. 1, 2011 for reasons other than business expansion. 

Vranich says the 70 “disinvestment events” understate the exodus of capital and jobs from California: ”It’s estimated that only one out of five losses becomes public knowledge, if that.”

Why are companies leaving the Golden State? As you might expect, California’s out-of-control spending, high taxes, and burdensome regulations figure among the top 10 reasons. Vranich, however, recently added high energy costs to the list:

The #10 Reason (New!) – Unprecedented Energy Costs: The California Manufacturers and Technology Association states that commercial electrical rates here already are 50% higher than in the rest of the country. However, a law enacted in April 12, 2011 requires utilities to get one-third of their power from renewable sources (e.g., solar panels, windmills) within nine years. Look for costs to increase by another 19% in many places to a whopping 74% in Los Angeles. Such new burdens along with upcoming regulations stemming from the “California Global Warming Solutions Act” set potentially overwhelming obstacles to companies here as they try to meet competition based in other states and in foreign nations.

 For many years, California Democrats — notably Rep. Henry Waxman and Sen. Barbara Boxer — have been at the forefront of congressional efforts to enact cap-and-tax and promote EPA’s greenhouse power grab. Waxman and Boxer have worked tirelessly to export California’s energy (or anti-energy) policies to the rest of the nation. They continue to push the “California model” as the path to a “clean energy future.” Vranich’s report is a sobering reminder of how foolish it would be for the nation to take their advice.

Post image for H.R. 910: Seizing the Moral High Ground (How to Foil Opponents’ Rhetorical Tricks)

Yesterday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved H.R. 910, the Energy Tax Prevention Act, as amended, by 34-19. The bill would stop EPA from ’legislating’ climate policy through the Clean Air Act. All 31 Republicans and three Democrats (Mike Ross of Arkansas, Jim Matheson of Utah, and John Barrow of Georgia) voted for the bill.

Opponents introduced several amendments, all of which were defeated.

Ranking Member Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) offered an amendment stating that Congress accepts EPA’s finding that “climate change is unequivocal.” Rep. Diana DeGett (D-Colo.) offered an amendment stating that Congress accepts as “compelling” the scientific evidence that man-made greenhouse gas emissions are the “root cause” of climate change. Rep. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) offered an amendment stating that Congress accepts EPA’s finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and welfare. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-Ill.) offered an amendment limiting H.R. 910′s applicability until the Secretary of Defense certifies that climate change does not threaten U.S. national security interests. Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) offered an amendment allowing EPA to issue greenhouse gas regulations that reduce U.S. oil consumption. Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) offered an amendment limiting H.R. 910′s applicability until the Centers for Disease Control certify that climate change is not a public health threat. Rep.  Inslee also offered an amendment limiting H.R. 910′s applicability until the National Academy of Sciences certifies the bill would not increase the incidence of asthma in children.

These amendments had no chance of passing, but that was not their purpose. The objective, rather, was to enable opponents to claim later, when the full House debates the bill, that a vote for H.R. 910 is a vote against science, public health, national security, energy security, and children with asthma. This is arrant nonsense, as I will explain below. [click to continue…]