William Yeatman

Post image for President Obama’s Inaugural Speech: New Heat on Warming?

President Obama’s second inaugural speech featured climate change more prominently than did his first inaugural address. As Greenwire (subscription required) observed:

Gone was Obama’s roundabout reference to climate change through “the specter of a warming planet” from four years ago. This time, the president put the issue front and center.

Will that make any difference legislatively? Probably not. In the House, Republicans opposed to cap-and-trade, EPA regulation of greenhouse gases (GHGs), and carbon taxes are still in charge.

Is the President’s renewed emphasis on climate change just a sop to his environmentalist base? Doubtful. As a second termer, Obama has less reason politically to restrain his ‘progressive’ impulses. Several regulatory options are now in play:

  • The Department of Interior could list more species as threatened or endangered based on climate change concerns.
  • The President could finally veto the Keystone XL pipeline — a key objective of the climate alarm movement.
  • The EPA could issue GHG performance standards for existing (as distinct from new or modified) coal power plants, as well as GHG performance standards for other industrial categories (refineries, cement production facilities, steel mills, paper mills, etc.).
  • The EPA could finally act on petitions pending from the Bush administration to set GHG emission standards for marine vessels, aircraft, and non-road vehicles.
  • The EPA could finally act on a December 2009 petition by the Center for Biological Diversity and 350.Org to establish national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for carbon dioxide (CO2) and other GHGs.

I’ll make one prediction: If Obama does not veto the Keystone XL Pipeline after talking the talk on climate change, green groups will go ballistic (even though, Cato Institute scholar Chip Knappenberger calculates, full-throttle operation of the Keystone XL Pipeline would add an inconsequential 0.0001°C/yr to global temperatures). My colleague Myron Ebell reasonably speculates that Obama’s tough talk on climate was a signal to green groups to organize the biggest anti-Keystone protest ever.

Now let’s examine the climate change segment of Obama’s inaugural speech: [click to continue…]

Post image for Lung Association Poll: Another Attempt to Influence Public Opinion in the Guise of Reporting It

The American Lung Association (ALA) is hawking the results of an opinion poll that supposedly shows “American voters support the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) setting stronger fine particle (soot) standards to protect public health.” ALA spokesperson Peter Iwanowicz says the poll ”affirms that the public is sick of soot and wants EPA to set more protective standards.” Missy Egelsky of pollster Greenberg Quinlan Rosner says the survey “clearly indicates that Americans strongly back the EPA taking action now to limit the amount of soot released by oil refineries, power plants and other industrial facilities” (Greenwire, Nov. 29, 2012). This is all spin.

Most Americans probably have opinions about President Obama’s overall record and many have opinions about the Stimulus, Obamacare, the Keystone XL Pipeline, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the auto industry bailout, and whether Congress should cut spending and/or raise taxes. But how many even know the EPA is revising the national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for fine particles (PM2.5)?

So the first thing I notice in the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner poll is the absence of an appropriate first question: Please name or describe any major air quality rules the U.S. EPA is expected to complete in the near future? Starting with that question would likely show most people are unaware of the pending NAAQS revision. From which it follows they don’t have an opinion about it (though of course anyone can have an off-the-cuff reaction to anything).

The survey asks a bunch of demographic questions about respondents’ party affiliation, age, gender, and the like, but only two substantive questions. The first is as follows:

As you may know, the EPA is proposing to update air pollution standards by placing stricter limits on the amount of fine particles, also called “soot,” that power plants, oil refineries and other industrial facilities can release. Do you favor or oppose the EPA setting stricter limits on fine particles, also called “soot?”

Of total respondents, 63% were in favor, 30% were opposed. So according to the ALA, the public supports tougher standards by 2 to 1. But since most respondents have probably never heard or thought about the issue until that moment, the results simply confirm what everybody already knows: Most people think air pollution is a bad thing and would prefer to have less of it.

Since what the question elicits from most respondents is their general attitude about air pollution, it is remarkable that 30% answered in the negative. Note too that most of what the public hears about air pollution comes from organizations like the EPA and the ALA, which relentlessly exaggerate  air pollution levels and the associated health risks. [click to continue…]