Friday, November 13, 2009

The Huge Mistake

While the Senate is working on its version of the Cap and Trade Bill that passed in the U.S. House of Representatives last June, new criticism of Cap and Trade has emerged from a rather unlikely source: two lawyers for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Laurie Williams and Allen Zabel, the two EPA attorneys, have produced a YouTube video comparing passage of the Cap and Trade Bill to: “the ill-fated launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger.” Allen Zabel: The push to launch this climate bill reminds us of the ill-fated launch of the Space Shuttle Challenger. The people responsible for the launch refused to listen to the rocket designers with the experience to know the shuttle was fatally flawed. This failure to listen resulted in tragedy.

Naturally, the EPA is not thrilled with the idea of two of its attorneys speaking out against Cap and Trade. From Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman comes the following:
The Environmental Protection Agency is being accused of trying to silence two EPA attorneys who have publicly criticized a key component of the climate change legislation being considered by Congress. The EPA attorneys, Laurie Williams and Allan Zabel, have warned that a cap and trade plan will not accomplish its goals and will not effectively curb global warming. The couple posted a video on YouTube outlining their concerns and published an op-ed in the Washington Post. The EPA has since ordered them to remove or edit the video and to get approval for any future “outside writing projects.” In the video, Laurie Williams describes cap and trade as a big mistake.

Laurie Williams: Cap and trade will not create confidence that clean energy will become profitable, and so it will not ignite the huge shift in investment needed to begin the clean energy revolution. Cap and trade for climate change has been tried in Europe. It produced harmful volatility in energy prices and few greenhouse gas reductions. It raised energy prices for consumers and made billions in windfall profits for utilities.

For those of you unfamiliar with Cap and Trade, the concept is actually quite simple. Companies could ‘offset’ their own carbon emissions by buying or selling “emission credits” among themselves. Williams and Zabel argue that the offsets are unquantifiable and trading the credits will accomplish nothing. In fact, their conclusion leads them to refer to offsets as “The Big Rip-Off.”

As evidence of this, the attorneys point to Europe’s cap and trade program, already in use, which has drastically raised energy costs and has had no effect on greenhouse gas emissions. Europe’s emissions, in fact, have exceeded the caps put in place.

There will, however, be one person keeping his fingers crossed, hoping for the passage of Cap and Trade: Al Gore.

The former Vice President is a big proponent of carbon offsets, and he has himself purchased many of them to offset his own rather sizable carbon footprint. Fortunately, he is able to purchase them through a company on which he serves as chair: Generation Investment Management.

Al Gore will, quite possibly, become the first “carbon multi-millionaire” with the passage of Cap and Trade, thus making him (to paraphrase Williams and Zabel): “The Big Rip-Off Artist.”

SOURCE (Video at link)

If Cap and Trade Doesn't Work, Obama will Make it Work

All the talk in Washington is surrounding a government health insurance plan, but there's a little discussed insurance plan in the Boxer-Kerry cap and trade bill that's worth some attention. The Senate version of the cap and trade bill includes a section that grants the President the authority to "direct relevant federal agencies" to impose additional greenhouse gas regulations. Senators David Vitter (R-LA) and John Barrasso (R-WY) have been working assiduously to uncover the true costs of cap and trade legislation.

Greenhouse gas concentrations are measured in parts per million (ppm). Many global warming alarmists believe that upper limit on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions in order to prevent catastrophic harm is 450 parts per million (ppm). Once we reach that threshold, water will rise to the torch of the Statue of Liberty, California will be an island, the polar ice caps will cease to exist and island nations will no longer be nations but submerged pieces of land. To put the numbers in some perspective, Sharon Begley notes in her Newsweek column that the carbon dioxide concentration is currently at 386 ppm; we were at 280ppm before the Industrial Revolution. If you include the carbon dioxide equivalent greenhouse gases, we’ve arguably reached the 450 ppm threshold. The Boxer-Kerry legislation says that if global greenhouse gas concentrations exceed 450 parts per million of carbon dioxide equivalent:

Sec. 707 Not later than July 1, 2015, and every 4 years thereafter–

`(1) the President shall direct relevant Federal agencies to use existing statutory authority to take appropriate actions identified in the reports submitted under sections 705 and 706 and to address any shortfalls identified in such reports.

The passed House version, Waxman-Markey, also contains language that grant the administration similar authority. So, for those who thought cap and trade legislation would pre-empt costly regulations, think again. This is more or less an insurance policy that would allow EPA officials regulate just about every aspect of the market and guarantees there will be economic pain. Even EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson said, “We get further faster without top-down regulation.” Added regulations on top of cap and trade would be a bureaucratic nightmare that could delay economic projects and tie them up in litigation and result in hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in compliance costs.

If we’ve learned anything from the health care debate, it’s that companies shouldn’t trust government promises that their bottom lines will not be affected. Proponents of a government-run option made repeated claims that private businesses would remain competitive but Karen Ignagni, president of America’s Health Insurance Plans, recently sent a letter to the White House and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi saying the plan “would bankrupt hospitals, dismantle employer coverage.

The same can be said for cap and trade. In order to garner business support, Members promised generous allowance revenue handouts for various industries and special interests. President Obama originally called for an auction of the emission allowances, forcing companies to bid on the right to emit. Businesses, knowing very well this would impose a severe cost on their bottom line, sent their lobbyists to Washington to protect them. And it worked – at least they thought it did. Sections 705-707 of the Boxer-Kerry cap and trade bill would pile costly regulations on these allegedly protected companies. And these costs would be passed onto the consumer, making the bill all that more painful.

Even if we are only at 386 ppm, the way China and other developing countries are growing and refusing to cap greenhouse gas emissions, global greenhouse gas concentrations could reach 450 ppm in no time. George Will writes, “On Oct. 21, China, the world’s leading emitter of greenhouse gases, and India, which ranks fourth — together they account for 26 percent of emissions — jointly agreed: They, with their combined one-third of the world’s population, will not play in what increasingly resembles a global game of climate-change charades. Neither nation is interested in jeopardizing its economic growth with emissions caps of a sort that never impeded the growth of the developed nations that now praise them.”

With the rate of growth of global greenhouse gas emissions, cap and trade paired with top down regulation assures economic pain for every part of the economy, especially the American energy consumer, with nothing to show for it.


Climate Bill Likely on the Shelf For Rest of the Year

Key Senate Democrats Tuesday said it is unlikely there will be any more major committee action on climate-change legislation this year, the strongest indication yet that a comprehensive bill to cut greenhouse-gas emissions won't be voted on until at least next year.

Although the Senate Environment Committee last week approved a version of the bill, the proposal will face strong revisions from moderate Democrats, particularly from senators on the Finance and Agriculture committees. "It's common understanding that climate-change legislation will not be brought up on the Senate floor and pass the Senate this year," Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus said on the sidelines of a caucus lunch.

Mr. Baucus, a Montana Democrat, said he planned to hold a number of hearings on climate legislation and eventually mark up a bill in his panel. "But I don't know that I can get a bill put together by this year, as important as climate-change legislation is," he said.

Mr. Baucus was the lone dissenting Democratic vote on the Environment Panel last week because he wanted weaker emission-reduction targets and stronger provisions to protect energy-intensive industries and encourage clean-coal technologies. "I wouldn't want to bet my paycheck that all the relevant committees will report out legislation by the end of this year," said Sen. Thomas Carper (D., Del.).

Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D., Mich.), who is leading an effort by moderate, heartland Democrats to protect manufacturing and agriculture industries, said committees were no longer under any timetables to produce legislation.

Ms. Stabenow said the Agriculture Committee—which has jurisdiction over climate provisions fundamental to containing costs and cutting emissions in the farming and forestry sectors--might not even debate or vote on any provisions for the bill. "The question is whether or not Agriculture actually marks up something or it gets done on the floor," she said.

Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark.), who chairs the Agriculture Committee, is facing a tough re-election campaign next year, and handling a highly controversial climate-change bill in her panel may risk alienating voters.

In the face of the hard-fought debate on health-care legislation--not to mention appropriations bills and finance-reform proposals—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D., Nev.) has dropped his earlier schedules for committees. A Reid aide said he hadn't drafted any new timetable for panel action on climate change.

Even Sen. John Kerry (D., Mass.), a climate-bill champion who last week said committees should have climate legislation processed by the end of the year, Tuesday backed off such expectations. "I don't want to create artificial deadlines which get in the way of our being methodical about this," he said.

Instead, Mr. Kerry said he is focused on getting the 60 votes necessary to pass controversial climate legislation -- a higher margin than a simple majority and no mean feat. "The main thing to do here is to build the adequate base of support and consensus," he said.


The ‘corporatisation’ of environmental activism

In the first part of his new book, Peter Taylor scrutinises the scientific research that underpins concern about global warming and finds that it is unconvincing. This extract, taken from the second part of the book, looks at the political dynamics that have promoted global warming to the top of the international agenda. As a life-long environmental campaigner Peter is well placed to consider the role that activist organisations have played in this process.

In addition to the world of science institutions, governmental influence and media bias, there has also been a growing and powerful environmental lobby pressing for an unequivocal commitment from the scientists. NGOs well appreciated that governments will not move when there is major uncertainty and a lobby has evolved out of a coalition of interests on the part of environmental campaigners and those industries standing to gain from a shift in policy. Naturally, there is also an opposing lobby from oil, gas and coal interests. The nuclear lobby has remained somewhat hidden, but has benefited enormously from the climate issue. Some campaign groups have allied directly to renewable energy interests, especially wind turbine manufacturers and solar collectors, whereas others have remained independent of commercial interests but used the projections of technology and capability to underpin their campaigns.

In addition to these straightforward political alliances, there has been a growing corporatisation of the environmental sector. NGOS have grown from a few small back-street offices into a multi-million dollar international organisation - in the case of Greenpeace, with a fleet of ships, modern office suites, staff and pension funds. Such organisation requires a steady income stream and does not have the option, as for example at the end of a successful ocean pollution campaign to simply pack up and go home. When an organisation’s ethos is essentially combative, it seeks out problems and threats.

Which is fine, as long as there really are serious threats that cannot be dealt with by trusted government. But in my view, as a seasoned campaigner, the game changed significantly after Rio in 1992. The ‘enemy’ metamorphosed from being the dumpers and polluters ably supported by a science- industry alliance (including the modellers), to a more subtle menace. As a result of the shift to the Precautionary Principle, industry and the regulators began to move in another direction - Clean Development Mechanisms were set in motion and large amounts of money shifted toward preventative strategies. This shift required a different type of environmental organisation, and although the campaign groups made significant efforts to provide ‘solutions’, they were still ruled by the old ethos of campaign and combat.

The problem with combat is that there always has to be a threat, an enemy, something to be fought against. And such was the demand that campaigners became professionals, with books and manuals drawing from the expertise of the advertising industry and the experience of political lobby groups. Image and simplicity, together with achievable targets were essential tools of the trade. A corporate organisation answers to the shareholders, but an environmental pressure group answers to subscribers who need to feel something is being achieved, otherwise they remove their subscription.

This dynamic is not talked of openly and any suggestion that it has played a role in the climate debate is met with hostility. But to discuss this issue is not to impugn the integrity of any organisation, it is to draw attention to how a powerful and unacknowledged force can distort judgement. As in the case of Mark Lynas, if you have published a best-selling book on global warming and achieved some status as an environmental correspondent, you are not motivated to seek out those scientists who disagree with the IPCC orthodoxy. Likewise, if you are a large multi-national campaigning organisation with a decade long commitment to fighting climate change, you are going to listen more to the views of Mark Lynas and Al Gore, than to Dr Akasofu, Professor Christy and Professor Lindzen. And it helps that all of the world’s science institutions also (now) speak with one voice.

Thus, the environmental lobbyists become defenders of the orthodoxy, ably supported by all liberal-thinking environmentally conscious laypeople and journalists. And that leaves only the conservative, business-as-usual, economic optimists and free marketers to espouse the cause of the climate model’s dissenters!

It is with great sadness that I now witness the level of collusion operating within environmental NGOs. They had finally begun making an impression on the international process of environmental protection in the lead-up to the Rio Summit in 1992 and helped produce the ground-breaking Agenda for the 21st Century that supported connectivity and inter-dependence - a true ecology that included all aspects of human well-being and in particular, steps toward a global equity. Given the competitive nature of the world economy and the massive scale of inequity in wealth and economic power, these steps were never going to be easy, but I at least felt that environmental NGOs would be at the forefront of thinking.

Though this movement started out with great integrity of purpose, something has been lost. NGOs have embraced science to a greater extent but in the climate debate at least, have come to rely upon and uncritically accept the authority of scientific institutions. In no other area have NGOs been so uncritical - there is a long history of former critical analysis - on the risks of low level radiation; nuclear reactor hazards and waste disposal options; toxic discharges to the marine environment; incineration of toxic wastes at sea; the impact of acid rain; the deployment of GMO technology - in all these areas science institutions were part of the problem rather than the solution.

It was precisely the collusion between government, corporations and the science establishment that motivated NGOs to develop critical science expertise. The institutional science community has proven all too willing to accommodate government and business agendas and suppress or distort scientific assessments (there are many examples from pesticide studies, pharmaceutical trials, impact of GMOs, nuclear accident hazard analysis, the modelling of ocean dumping of nuclear waste and discharges of toxic chemicals such as PCBs). It was critical science, funded by the NGOs and supported by a very few progressive governments, that led to the crucial changes in the ‘burden of proof’ that led to the ‘precautionary principle’ being written in to international conventions.

I played a role in that work - and had the privilege to work closely with some of the best environmental scientists of our day. I hope therefore that the assessment I now make of the current situation will cause some reflection among my former allies. I have always held that we should work with the cutting edge of scientific truth - that whatever the short-term goals or campaign advantages, truth would ultimately serve our cause.

I am concerned now that - a ‘corporate creep’ has taken place whereby environmental NGOs have begun to behave like the large corporations we hitherto held to account. It is not hard to understand why this might happen - NGOs have grown in size and now command considerable resources. This requires a whole suite of corporate skills - from professional personnel management to accounting and investment, the handling of press, media, publicity and public relations, as well as lobbying and strategic development of policies. This requires specialist training and hence recruitment of staff from business schools and organisational realms not known for being well-attuned to the ethos of sustainability, nor for a commitment to scientific truths. Such specialists have to be represented at many levels of decision-making within the organisation - and it would be an act of naivety or denial to pretend this creeping effect cannot or does not now influence policy. This is not to say that anyone recruited from professional management and business circles lacks integrity, or feeling for the natural world, or concern for the overall well-being of humanity, rather it is a question of how these concerns are transformed into action and whether professional training can create blind-spots, particularly with regard to the ‘group-mind’ that evolves within corporate entities.

Corporate ‘creep’ and the culture of targets

I would argue that this corporate creep affects the kind of targets chosen and the simplicity of the messages put out by the campaigners. Targets are selected that are visibly achievable and because they convey a simple message that can have effect in the ‘market place’ of parliaments and government policy. Complex issues are avoided.

One such complexity can be illustrated by renewable energy developments - almost all of which require industrial development in the countryside. These locations affect rural communities, national recreational resources, and are often in wildlife rich and remote places. At present, almost all such operations are ‘developer-led’ - that is, the industrial developer selects the technology and the site. No alternatives or strategic assessments are available to the communities that must assess the proposal. This situation has changed little from the 1970s when the drive for more nuclear stations, chemical installations and motorways all benefited from the lack of strategic planning and the piecemeal approach to the great disadvantage of communities that bore the impact. In this age, environmentalists should be embracing a paradigm that supports and empowers local communities, not the same old developer-biased ‘trade-off’ that operated in the past - yet this would require campaigning for planning reforms and the empowerment of local communities - not an easy sell to the subscribers, nor welcomed by government agencies with whom modern NGOs do a lot of business.

In the latest proposals for ‘planning reform’ in the wake of the UK government’s most recent White Paper on energy policy there are disturbing announcements of the curtailment of individual and local democratic rights to both question government policy and, most disturbingly the appropriateness of the sites chosen by developers. Thus, the apparent urgency of tackling climate change is used as an argument to give developers greater power to select sites and technologies that reflect their reduced costs and profitability rather than considering the impact upon local communities.

Much more HERE

British homeowners to be slugged £15,000 to comply with government's Green mania

The head of Britain's climate change watchdog predicted today that households will need to spend up to £15,000 on a full energy efficiency makeover if the government is to meet its ambitious targets for cutting carbon emissions. Warning that Britain needs to step up its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases after picking all the "low-hanging fruit", Adair Turner said radical steps would be needed for electricity generation, cars and homes.

Amid growing concern that next month's Copenhagen climate change summit could end in bitter failure, the chairman of the government's climate change commission warned against using the drop in emissions caused by the longest recession since the 1930s as an excuse to relax in the fight against climate change.

The government has pledged to cut carbon emissions by 34% from their 1990 levels by 2020 but slipped off course during the economic boom earlier this decade. "When we get the figures for 2008-09 we may look to be on target, but only because we have had a thumping recession," Lord Turner said. "There is a danger of the government saying "look, we are back on target". We will be back on target for the worst possible reason."

Turner said that the UK had made "pretty rapid progress" on cutting emissions during the "dash for gas" in the 1990s, but had not maintained the progress during this decade. Tough decisions were now needed because there were limits to improvements to the internal combustion engine and Britain was running out of "easy things" to do in the home. "After home insulation and more efficient boilers, we now need more intrusive things – double glazing, cavity wall insulation, solid wall insulation." He added: "We need much more of a whole house approach – one-stop shops where people can get a total report on what they need to do to their homes. It may be expensive – between £10,000 and £15,000."

The CCC believes that the cost of the scheme would be paid for by a combination of government subsidy and higher electricity bills.

Turner said there was a case for greater state intervention in helping to reduce carbon emissions from the motor industry. Arguing that there were "limits" to what markets could achieve, the CCC chairman said: "We need support for the initial wave of electric cars."

The government has allocated £250m to hasten the arrival of electric cars but Turner said the CCC would like to see £800m of public money spent on setting up a network of charging points. "It's chicken and egg. Motorists won't buy the cars unless there are enough charging points; the government is reluctant to put in the charging points while there are no electric cars."

Ministers have accepted the CCC's recommendation that carbon emissions should be reduced by 80% from their 1990 levels by 2050, and the first three carbon budgets covering the period up to the early 2020s were made legally binding earlier this year. Turner said his organisation was now working on a tough fourth budget. "The 2020s will have to see the radical decarbonisation of electricity, " he said. "That means more renewables, a significant expansion of nuclear or carbon capture and storage plants."

He warned ministers that they would need to contemplate curbs on the expansion of air travel unless there was a way of increasing the supply of biofuels without affecting the ability of countries to feed growing populations. The government has pledged that emissions from aviation will not be above 2005 levels in 2050 and the CCC will provide a range of options for aviation in a report next month.

Turner said experts should look at the possibility of using a financial services transaction tax to help poor countries develop low-carbon growth strategies. "Any tax would have to be agreed at the global level because it would be difficult to enforce in one country. That's why people have tended to think that the proceeds should be used for global common goods, such as the environment."

Power stations that do not have carbon capture and storage will be taken out of commission, Turner said.


Green levies to drive UK data centres abroad

Carbon-neutral Iceland courts British mission-critical facilities. Existing taxes have already chased many big British firms out of Britain but the Labour government is still intent on destroying as much of Britain's prosperity as it can while it can

The Invest in Iceland Agency, which exhibited at DatacenterDynamics London earlier this week, reported massive interest from a wide range of UK businesses, anxious to divest themselves of data centre carbon-tax woes.

One of the greatest attractions about Iceland is that it is carbon-neutral, explained Einar Hansen Tomasson, a project manager with the agency. The country boasts carbon-neutral energy sources, such as geothermal electricity. Its cold climate lends itself to many days of free cooling per year, further reducing a data centre’s carbon footprint. “If you port your data centre in Iceland, you can forget all those carbon tax worries,” Tomasson said.

Dale, director of sales at data centre builder and host Verne Global, said there has been a lot of interest at the show among UK companies. “Even the geographical distance isn’t a problem. We’ve had banks, which obviously have latency issues with trading systems to worry about, talking to us,” he said. “One bank estimated it could still port 95 percent of its data onto an Icelandic data centre.”



For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCH, SOCIALIZED MEDICINE, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here. For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there are mirrors of this site here and here


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