Post image for WaPo Wonkblog Makes Case that EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standard Is Illegal

On Friday, Washington Post Wonkblog published a notable article about “clean coal,” defined by reporter Max Ehrenfreund as “[t]he suite of technologies that the industry hopes could one day remove carbon dioxide from exhaust at coal-fired power.”

The most mature of these “clean coal” technologies is known as carbon capture and sequestration (“CCS”), although it has never been outfitted on a coal-fired power plant of even moderate size. The purpose of the Washington Post article was to throw cold water on recent media reports regarding the promise of clean coal. According to Mr. Ehrenfreund, the case for CCS in the U.S. is “weak,” because the technology is “exorbitantly expensive.”

Somewhat bizarrely, the Wonkblog reporter failed to mention that the Environmental Protection Agency in February proposed the Carbon Pollution Standard, a requirement for CCS on all new coal-fired power plants. Due to a unique provision of the Clean Air Act, the regulation goes into effect upon proposal. As a result, all new coal-fired power plants require “clean coal” technology—the very technology that is the subject of the Washington Post Wonkblog article. You’d think that this would qualify as “news.”

Whatever the reason for this rather conspicuous omission, I want to draw attention to the reporter’s use of language, which offers an important legal lesson. Mr. Ehrenfreund wrote that CCS is “exorbitantly” costly. This modifier is supremely apt; it is the exact word chosen by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals* to describe an impermissible requirement pursuant to the provision of the Clean Air Act that authorizes the aforementioned Carbon Pollution Standard. See Essex Chemical Corp. v. Ruckelshaus, 486 F. 2d 427 at 433 (D.C. Cir. 1973). As such, if the costs of carbon capture and sequestration are in fact “exorbitant,” then the regulation is illegal.

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People who are unfamiliar with science — like President Obama — have erroneously blamed hurricanes on greenhouse gas emissions, even though they do not trigger more hurricanes.

Ironically, hurricanes may actually diminish due to greenhouse gases and aerosols, as the Washington Post and Daily Caller note. As the Washington Post points out, research suggests that “by the end of the 21st century, greenhouse gases will reduce tropical storm frequency.”  Right now, other emissions — aerosols — are already reducing the frequency of tropical storms such as hurricanes, notes the the Daily Caller:

Stricter pollution controls may lead to an increase in tropical storms in the Atlantic Ocean, according to an article published Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience.

The article, written by scientists from the Met Office Hadley Center in the United Kingdom, suggested that environmental protection laws will lead to more hurricanes for at least 20 years, reports the New Scientist.

Nick Dunstone of the Hadley Center explained that man-made aerosols lead to longer low-level clouds over the ocean. The clouds keep the water temperature cooler and therefore less likely to birth hurricanes.

Dunstone specifically said that pollution controls that reduce aerosols will produce ”record numbers of tropical storms for the next decade or two.”

There also appears to be a direct correlation between the economy and hurricanes. During economic boom times, there is more pollution in the atmosphere due to industrialization, leading to lower numbers of hurricanes. Recession periods mean less aerosols and therefore more hurricanes.

This pattern has been seen with fewer hurricanes in the 1960s to the mid-1990s, versus higher numbers during 1930s through 1950s. The number drastically increased however in 1995 when aerosol bans went into effect. There were 28 hurricanes reported in 2008 and 19 every year since then.

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An Occupy Orange County protester decries mankind’s existence: “Our very existence is bad for the planet.”  “Another protester told” an interviewer “that human beings are parasites,” adding that “if you take humanity off this planet, the planet would explode with prosperity.”

In May, a group of Nobel laureates and others gathered to put humanity on trial, to decide whether humanity had breached its relations with the planet.  Representing “the planet” was none other than Obama science and technology advisor Mario Molina.

Delegates to a U.N. climate change conference signed a petition to ban water, which the petition referred to using an obvious chemical name for water that anyone who has studied science or taken a chemistry course would logically recognize (as “dihydrogen monoxide”).  The petition cited the fact that water can erode rock or metal over time.

The Washington Post gave a thumbs-down to the billions of dollars dumped into electric vehicles by the Obama Administration, noting that these electric vehicles are not a “solution to America’s dependence on foreign oil, or to global warming, in the near future. They simply pose too many issues of price and practicality to attract a large segment of the car-buying public.”  It pointed out that subsidies for electric vehicles are “trickle-down economics” that benefit a wealthy few at the expense of taxpayers.  (Each Chevy Volt costs taxpayers up to $250,000).

The Post also criticized the costly ethanol subsidies backed by the Obama Administration, noting that a recently-expired ethanol tax credit “badly distorted the global grain market, artificially raised the cost of agricultural land and did almost nothing to curb greenhouse gas emissions. A federal law requiring the use of 36 billion gallons of ethanol for fuel by 2022 still props up the industry, but the tax credit’s expiration is a victory for common sense just the same.”  The Obama Administration supports ethanol subsidies, even though they have a history of  spawning famines and food riots overseas. It has forced up the ethanol content of gasoline through EPA regulations, even though ethanol production results in deforestation, soil erosion, and water pollution.  Back in 2008, leading environmentalists lamented the devastating impact of ethanol subsidies on the global environment and the world’s poor in the Washington Post. They noted that thanks to ethanol mandates, “deadly food riots” had already “broken out in dozens of nations,” such as “Haiti and Egypt.”

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In Steven Pinker’s brilliant new book The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, he demonstrates that peace has actually increased over the course of human history, even over the past few centuries, and particularly the last few decades. In this excerpt, Pinker discusses the myth that resource scarcity increases violent conflict, and that climate change could contribute to more war, terrorism, and violence.

A 2007 New York Times op-ed warned, “Climate stress may well represent a challenge to international security just as dangerous–and more intractable–than the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War or the proliferation of nuclear weapons among rogue states today.” That same year Al Gore and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their call to action against global warming because, according to the citation, climate change is a threat to international security. A rising fear lifts all the boats. Calling global warming “a force multiplier for instability,” a group of military officers wrote that “climate change will provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror.”

Once again it seems to me that the appropriate response is “maybe, but maybe not.” Though climate change can cause plenty of misery… it will not necessarily lead to armed conflict. The political scientists who track war and peace, such as Halvard Buhaug, Idean Salehyan, Ole Theisen, and Nils Gleditsch, are skeptical of the popular idea that people fight wars over scarce resources. Hunger and resource shortages are tragically common in sub-Saharan countries such as Malawi, Zambia, and Tanzania, but wars involving them are not. Hurricanes, floods, droughts, and tsunamis (such as the disastrous one in the Indian Ocean in 2004) do not generally lead to conflict. The American dust bowl in the 1930s, to take another example, caused plenty of deprivation but no civil war. And while temperatures have been rising steadily in Africa during the past fifteen years, civil wars and war deaths have been falling.

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Below is an interesting excerpt from Daniel Yergin’s new book The Quest: Energy, Security, and the remaking the modern worldan epic 700-page journey through worldwide energy history. The passage describes how even the preeminent scientists from ages past have fallen for phony fears about energy.

The fear of running out of energy has troubled people for a long time. One of the nineteenth century’s greatest scientists, William Thomson–better known as Lord Kelvin–warned in 1881, in his presidential address to the British Association for the Advancement of Science in Edinburgh, that Britain’s base was precarious and that disaster was impending. His fear was not about oil, but about coal, which had generated the “Age of Steam,” fueled Britain’s industrial preeminence, and made the words of “Rule, Britannia!” a reality in world power. Kelvin somberly warned that Britain’s days of greatness might be numbered because “the subterranean coal-stores of the world” were “becoming exhausted surely, and not slowly” and the day was drawing close when “so little of it is left.” The only hope he could offer was “that windmills or wind-motors in some form will again be in the ascendant.”

Three quarters of a century after Kelvin’s address, the end of the “Fossil Fuel Age” was predicted by another formidable figure, Admiral Hyman Rickover, the “father of the nuclear navy” and, as much as any single person, the father of the nuclear power industry, and described once as “the greatest engineer of all time” by President Jimmy Carter.

“Today, coal, oil and natural gas supply 93 percent of the world’s energy,” Rickover declared in 1957. That was, he said, a “startling reversal” from just a century earlier, in 1850, when “fossil fuels supplied 5 percent of the world’s energy, and men and animals 94 percent.” This harnessing of energy was what made possible a standard of living far higher than that of the mid-nineteenth century. But Rickover’s central point was that fossil fuels would run out sometime after 2000–and most likely before 2050.

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A recent study by the Manufacturer’s Alliance/MAPI finds that EPA’s proposed revision of the “primary” (health-based) national ambient air quality standard (NAAQS) for ozone would have devastating economic impacts, such as:

  • Impose $1 trillion in annual compliance burdens on the economy between 2020 and 2030.
  • Reduce GDP by $687 billion in 2020 (3.5% below the baseline projection).
  • Reduce employment by 7.3 million jobs in 2020 (a figure equal to 4.3% of the projected labor force in 2020).

In a companion report, the Senate Republican Policy Committee estimates the job losses and  “energy tax” burden (compliance cost + GDP reduction) each State will incur if EPA picks the most stringent ozone standard it is considering.

The costs of tightening ozone standards are likely to overwhelm the benefits, if any, as Joel Schwartz and Steven Hayward explain in chapter 7 of their book, Air Quality in America: A Dose of Reality on Air Pollution Levels, Trends, and Health Risks

So let’s see — we have emission regulations that function as de-facto energy taxes, and the costs far outweigh the putative benefits. Sound familiar? The resemblance to Waxman-Markey is more than superficial, because if stringent enough, air pollution regulations can restrict fossil energy use no less than carbon taxes or greenhouse cap-and-trade schemes.

For more information on EPA’s proposed ozone NAAQS and the MAPI study, see my post today on CEI’s Open Market.Org.

Harold Lewis, Emeritus Professor of Physics at UC Santa Barbara, sent a resignation letter to the American Physical Society last week. He had been a member of the APS for 67 years. Lewis called Global Warming the “greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life.”

An excerpt:

For reasons that will soon become clear my former pride at being an APS Fellow all these years has been turned into shame, and I am forced, with no pleasure at all, to offer you my resignation from the Society.

It is of course, the global warming scam, with the (literally) trillions of dollars driving it, that has corrupted so many scientists, and has carried APS before it like a rogue wave. It is the greatest and most successful pseudoscientific fraud I have seen in my long life as a physicist. Anyone who has the faintest doubt that this is so should force himself to read the ClimateGate documents, which lay it bare. (Montford’s book organizes the facts very well.) I don’t believe that any real physicist, nay scientist, can read that stuff without revulsion. I would almost make that revulsion a definition of the word scientist.

The appallingly tendentious APS statement on Climate Change was apparently written in a hurry by a few people over lunch, and is certainly not representative of the talents of APS members as I have long known them. So a few of us petitioned the Council to reconsider it. One of the outstanding marks of (in)distinction in the Statement was the poison word incontrovertible, which describes few items in physics, certainly not this one.

Lewis accuses the APS of ignoring the very valid concerns of its members over their official statement on climate change (which ignored what Lewis believes to be numerous uncertainties) and being corrupted by financial interests in the global warming debate.

The APS responded, denying Dr. Lewis’ accusations, most vehemently that they had been captured by financial interests. They did, however, agree to create a topical group to further discuss their position on the issue. This was one of Dr. Lewis’ primary complaints – that he had been not been allowed to convene a group on this issue, so despite his resignation, he was successful in that regard.

Hosts Richard Morrison and Jeremy Lott welcome guest William Yeatman to Episode 94 of the LibertyWeek podcast. We examine Chris Horner’s recent freedom of information requests to the University of Virginia, over key Climategate figure Michael Mann. Segment starts approximately 5 minutes in.

The University of East Anglia’s carefully selected “International Panel” released their report on the ClimateGate scientific fraud scandal today.  At eight pages, it’s not even a thorough whitewash.  They don’t even make a minimal effort to rebut the obvious appearance of widespread data manipulation, suppression of dissenting research through improper means, and intentional avoidance of complying with Freedom of Information requests.  It appears that they concluded that the only way they could produce a whitewash and protect the interests of the establishment was by making only the most superficial investigation.  Perhaps they realized that doing more than taking the representations of Phil Jones and the others on trust would involve them in the moral difficulty of having to choose between being honest and maintaining their exoneration.

The seven panel members only looked at eleven published articles from CRU selected on the advice of the Royal Society.  And all eight panel members didn’t read all eleven papers.  Instead, “Every paper was read by a minimum of three Panel members at least one of whom was familiar with the general area to which the paper related.  At least one of the other two was a generalist with no special climate science expertise but with experience of some of the general techniques and methods employed in the work.”  Perhaps the third reader was a chimpanzee.  Yes, they have done a thorough and professional whitewash.

However, the report makes one concession, which is quite damning: “We cannot help remarking that it is very surprising that research in an area that depends so heavily on statistical methods has not been carried out in close collaboration with professional statisticians.”  In fact, the handling of the historical temperature data and production of the Hadley/CRU temperature record by Jones et al. and the handling of the paleoclimatological data and fabrication of the hockey stick by Michael Mann et al. was only possible because they hid their data and methods from professional statisticians.  When professional statisticians were able to look at Mann’s methods and data, the result was the Wegman report, which was devastating.

According to recently disclosed e-mails from a National Academies of Science listserv, prominent climate scientists affiliated with the U.S. National Academies of Science have been planning a public campaign to paper over the damaged reputation of global warming alarmism.  Their scheme would involve officials at the National Academies and other professional associations producing studies to endorse the researchers’ pre-existing assumptions and create confusion about the revelations of the rapidly expanding “Climategate” scandal.

The e-mails were first reported in a front-page story by Stephen Dinan in the Washington Times today. The Competitive Enterprise Institute has independently obtained copies of the e-mails.  A list of excerpts, with descriptive headlines written by me, can be found below.  The entire file of e-mails has been posted as a PDF and can be read here.

In my view, the response of these alarmist scientists to the Climategate scientific fraud scandal has little to do with their responsibilities as scientists and everything to do with saving their political position.  The e-mails reveal a group of scientists plotting a political strategy to minimize the effects of Climategate in the public debate on global warming.

Selected Excerpts.

Note that the descriptive headlines in italics are by me. The statements in quotation marks are excerpts from the e-mails.

Can we get corporate funding for some splashy ads in the NY Times?
Paul Falkowski, Feb. 26: “I will accept corporate sponsorship at a 5 to 1 ratio….”

But our ads will be untainted by corporate influence.
Paul Falkowski, Feb. 27: “Over the past 24 h I have been amazed and encouraged at the support my proposal has received from Section 63 and beyond. We have had about 15 pledges for $1000!  I want to build on that good will and make sure that the facts about the climate system are presented to a very large section of the public—unfiltered by the coal, oil and gas industries….”

What is it about the New York Times?  Aren’t Paul Krugman and Thomas Friedman enough?
Paul Falkowski, Feb. 27: “Op eds in the NY Times and other national newspapers would also be great.”

Scientists should be effecting social and political change.
Paul Falkowski, Feb. 26:  “I want the NAS to be a transformational agent in America.”

Snow in Washington is anecdotal, but no snow in Vancouver is proof.
Paul Falkowski, Feb. 27: “…the coal, oil and gas industries (who, ironically, are running commercials on NBC for the winter Olympics, while the weather is so warm that snow has to be imported to some of the events.)”
Robert Paine, Feb. 27: “The beltway’s foolishness about climate change seems especially ironic given the snowless plight of the Vancouver Olympics.”
David Schindler, Feb. 27: “I’d add that Edmonton is near snowless….”

This is a political fight, and we’ve got to get dirty.
Paul R. Ehrlich, Feb. 27: “Most of our colleagues don’t seem to grasp that we’re not in a gentlepersons’ debate, we’re in a street fight against well-funded, merciless enemies who play by entirely different rules.”

Top scientists adore Al Gore.
David Schindler, Feb. 27: “I recall an event at the Smithsonian a couple of eons ago that I thought did a great job, & got lots of media coverage. AL Gore spoke….”
Paul Falkowski, Feb. 27: “Al Gore has a very well written article in the NY Times.”

Forget the science, we want energy rationing!
William Jury, Feb. 27: “I am seeing formerly committed public sector leaders backing off from positions aimed at reducing our fossil fuel dependence.”

They’ll forget Climategate if an authoritative institution repeats the same old line.
Paul Falkowski, Feb. 27: “An NRC report would be useful.”
Steve Carpenter, Feb. 27: “We need a report with the authority of the NAS that summarizes the status and trends of the planet, and the logical consequences of plausible responses.”
David Tilman: Feb. 27: “It would seem wise to have the panel [writing the report] not include IPCC members.”
Stephen H. Schneider, Mar. 1: “National Academies need to be part of this….”
Stephen H. Schneider, Mar 1: “It is imperative that leading scientific societies coordinate a major press event….”

The last academic defense: It’s McCarthyism!
Stephen H. Schneider, Mar. 1: “…Senator Inhofe, in a very good impression of the infamous Joe McCarthy, has now named 17 leading scientists involved with the IPCC as potential climate ‘criminals’.  ….  I am hopeful that all the forces working for honest debate and quality assessments will decry this McCarthyite regression, and by name point out what this Senator is doing by a continuing smear campaign.  ….  Will the media have the fortitude to take this on–I’m betting a resounding ‘yes!'” [Note that Schneider has already sent this e-mail to the media asking for their help.]

To read all the e-mails that CEI has obtained, go to the PDF posted here.