Thursday, May 13, 2010

The battle over Senate climate bill begins

Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) will unveil a sweeping climate change and energy bill Wednesday that requires greenhouse gas reductions while offering major new incentives for nuclear power, coal, natural gas and offshore drilling.

The bill — which faced several delays en route to Wednesday’s unveiling — faces highly uncertain prospects given the Senate calendar, senators’ election year jitters, the lack of a Republican co-sponsor and outrage over the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

A summary of the bill was obtained by The Hill. The full legislation will be released Wednesday.

In the summary, the authors have included new protections to appease several coastal-state Democrats who ramped up their opposition in the wake of last month’s spill, including a provision that allows states to veto drilling plans under certain conditions.

“Mindful of the accident in the Gulf, we institute important new protections for coastal states by allowing them to opt out of drilling up to 75 miles from their shores. In addition, directly impacted states can veto drilling plans if they stand to suffer significant adverse impacts in the event of an accident,” according to the summary.

The proposal also provides and incentive for states to allow offshore drilling by allowing a 37.5 percent state royalty share. That could upset drilling opponents who see the royalties as an inducement for expanded offshore drilling.

The bill could face lukewarm reactions — or even outright opposition — from some environmental groups if the summaries circulating Tuesday reflect the full proposal.

The measure would block state cap-and-trade programs and creates new limits on the Environmental Protection Agency’s power to regulate greenhouse gases. Business groups say such measures are needed to provide regulatory “certainty,” but activists argue they curtail effective tools for limiting heat-trapping gases.

Kerry has expressed optimism the bill can gain traction but acknowledged uncertainties. “[Senate Majority Leader] Harry Reid (D-Nev.) wants to do it. The president wants to do it. Whether we can or not, we will wait and see,” he told reporters Tuesday.

The duo are setting sail with the measure despite the defection of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), which leaves them without GOP backing — at least for now.

Graham pulled back from the effort because, he argues, that Democratic plans to move immigration legislation and, more recently, the Gulf spill have made advancing the measure impossible.

“Getting the idea out there and letting people know that it is new and different, that is their belief, that that will help over time. My belief is that the environment has to be right to do something difficult,” he told reporters Tuesday.

But Graham also praised the package, although he cautioned that he didn’t know all the details because he wasn’t involved in the recent negotiations.

“The product is different and the product was a collaborative effort with industry and environmental groups like we have never had before. Now you have environmental groups attacking the drilling provisions. I don’t know what kind of environmental damage that will do,” he said.

Kerry and Lieberman may have made headway with some coastal-state liberal Democrats by adding new drilling protections.

“My objective is to be able to protect the Mid-Atlantic from offshore drilling, and I believe that during our discussions that that may in fact be achieved, but I want to read the language first,” said Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.).

But they nonetheless face major barriers, especially absent any GOP backing.

“I think there is probably too much going on. I think it is probably unlikely,” said Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.) when asked about the measure’s prospects. “This is going to be a bill that’s heavy on mandates and heavy on costs, and I just think it is going to be very, very difficult for them to try and move a piece of legislation like that this year.”

The bill breaks in a host of ways with a sweeping climate and energy bill the House approved last year that has not gained momentum in the upper chamber.

The addition of nuclear power and drilling incentives is aimed at corralling support from Republicans and centrist Democrats. Also, the Senate plan would not subject refiners — who strongly oppose the House measure — to carbon trading markets to address emissions from cars and trucks.

Overall, the bill aims to cut nationwide emissions by 17 percent by 2010 and 83 percent by 2050.

The legislation contains a number of provisions designed to attract business support.

For example, it will include a “hard price collar” that will keep carbon prices between $12 and $25 in the trading market created by the legislation, a significant win for electric utilities that sought more assurance the proposal would not lead to huge increases in energy costs.

It creates a cap-and-trade system for power plants and, eventually, large industrial plants. But, in a nod to oil industry concerns, it does not include transportation emissions in the carbon trading program.

It is likely to gain backing from energy companies seeking to build new nuclear plants. It authorizes an additional $54 billion worth of loan guarantees for new plants, aims to further streamline licensing procedures and expands a federal risk insurance program.

The measure also provides billons of dollars to develop carbon capture and storage for coal-fired power plants, a key issue to lawmakers from coal-reliant and coal-producing states.

It includes $2 billion a year to research and develop technologies to capture carbon before it reaches the atmosphere. Coal-fired power plants account for roughly one-third of the country’s annual carbon emissions.

The summary also states the legislation would provide “significant incentives for the commercial deployment of 72 [gigawatts] of carbon capture and sequestration.”

It could appease Democrats from manufacturing states by providing a delay until 2016 before industrial plants face emissions requirements. It also provides so-called energy-intensive, trade-exposed industries with free emissions permits to help keep down compliance costs.

Crucially, it allows “border adjustments” — also called carbon tariffs — on imports from countries that do not take action to limit emissions, which is aimed at protecting U.S. industries and preventing “carbon leakage,” a summary notes.

The measure also provides substantial consumer rebates, which could help blunt GOP allegations that the bill represents a huge new energy tax.

A Senate aide close to the bill declined to comment Tuesday afternoon when asked whether the leaked summaries reflect the plan that will be unveiled Wednesday.

“All I can tell you is that we will have all the final details tomorrow,” the aide said.


Talking Points Against Kerry-Lieberman

Ø It's Cap and Trade: Despite claims to the contrary, it's a Cap and Tax Bill designed to increase the cost of energy, the wrong approach during an economic recession.

Ø Obama Energy Tax: It's an energy tax, hitting the poor and middle-class the hardest, despite President Obama's promises to the contrary.

Ø Gas Tax: The transportation fees are nothing more than a gas tax. Companies must purchase allocations with some of the proceeds going to the Highway Trust Fund. If they are spending money then they must be raising money from increased gasoline prices.

Ø It Hits Everyone: They claim it only impacts the largest facilities, but anyone who purchases electricity or energy will pay more immediately including manufacturers, farmers, steel mills, concrete plants, and chemical facilities. Just because they delay the manufacturing cap for six years doesn’t mean manufacturers won't pay more for their electricity today.

Ø EPA Will Still Regulate: They only preempt certain EPA regulations; the Agency will still move forward. They did not do a blanket exemption of federal regulations which means businesses must comply with the climate law and the EPA regulations.

Ø Take-over of Economy: The Bill directly impacts 18% of the economy through new mandates on the Transportation, Electricity Production, and Manufacturing Industries. Plus it also impacts any business which consumes energy such as agricultural or service-based industries. This is far larger than the healthcare plan.

Ø Wall Street Give Away: While the Democrats are trying to rein in Wall Street, Kerry/Lieberman will create what could end up being a $2 Trillion Dollar Carbon Derivatives Market.

Ø It's Bad Procedure: The Senate Democrats are once again ignoring regular order, by-passing the Committees of jurisdiction and taking this massive Bill straight to the Senate floor.

Ø Jobs Killer: It's a jobs killer in the industrial Midwest and across the country.

Ø Zero Climate Impact: It will not have any impact on global climate temperatures.

Above received by email from Marc Morano []

Chumps at the pump

Liberals maneuver to raise your gas prices

We all remember how painful it was when gasoline prices surged past four bucks a gallon a couple years ago. The price is now around $3 a gallon. That steep sum will seem like chump change if global-warming alarmists in Congress have their way.

Long-anticipated climate-change legislation is scheduled to be unveiled in the Senate today. The ostensible purpose is to clean the air by cutting carbon emissions 17 percent below 2005 levels by 2020. If the bill becomes law, though, consumers will get smoked as they are forced to pay more for a fill-up.

Backers of this measure are more beholden to ideology than reality. As scientific data shows the Earth is actually cooling, the only thing heating up is alarmist rhetoric. On Friday, Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs said the president believes "now more than ever is the time to act," indicating White House complicity in the push for higher gas prices. Attempting to impose new burdens on American families struggling in a buckling economy in hopes of mitigating an unproven climate theory says a lot about the O Force's warped priorities.

The bill's sponsors had a hard time getting this one ready for prime time. Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and Sen. Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, planned to introduce their legislation last month but delayed it when co-sponsor Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, dropped out after Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to advance amnesty for illegal aliens instead.

Speculation about the costly details to the Senate measure range from adoption of the cap-and-trade provision contained in the House bill passed last summer to cap-and-dividend. Both schemes call for limits on carbon-dioxide emissions and would force companies to purchase or trade emissions permits. The widely reviled cap-and-trade plan would institute a Wall Street-type market for carbon permit exchanges. Cap-and-dividend would prohibit the marketing of carbon permits and instead collect revenues in a government account that would - in theory - be rebated to consumers. (Don't hold your breath waiting for that check.)

Whatever the taxing mechanism is called, the end result would be the same: the imposition of increased costs on all carbon-based energy products, which would be passed on to consumers. Americans would see steeper prices at the gas pump, the recent slide in crude oil prices notwithstanding. They also would pay higher utility bills, and products at the mall would be more expensive. Overall, each family would shell out an extra $800 a year for energy costs, according to a Heritage Foundation estimate.

Polls consistently show that taxpayers are opposed to the higher gas costs a climate-change bill would impose. The upcoming Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer travel season, and the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report currently pegs the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded gas at $2.91. That's up nearly 68 cents from a year ago. Additional carbon fees on fuel would jack up costs even more.

Politicians would be unwise to exacerbate the pain at the pump for families facing the worst economy in generations. Delegates at Utah's Republican primary convention waved yellow "Do not tread on me" flags as they ousted three-term Sen. Robert F. Bennett Saturday. Congressional incumbents, Democrat or Republican, had best take note.


Don't use oil spill as excuse to deep-six domestic drilling

The easy thing to do after the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico would be to kill President Obama's shiny new plan to expand offshore drilling. Many formerly pro-drilling coastal politicians, from California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, are calling for doing just that.

But parochial interests and short-term thinking are the traditional ruin of U.S. energy policy.

Decades of refusal to expand domestic drilling, or make gasoline more expensive, have left the nation addicted to foreign oil. As pretty much everyone knows by now, this is an invisible, slow-motion disaster that transfers tens of billions of dollars a year to unfriendly regimes and leaves the nation vulnerable to wars and oil shocks.

Meanwhile, decades of refusal to build more nuclear plants, or deal with the waste disposal issue, since the 1979 accident at Three Mile Island have left the U.S. overly dependent on electricity from coal that is dangerous to mine and contributes to climate change.

So as nice as it would be to halt oil exploration along the coastline or in the Alaskan wilderness, years of feckless energy policy have forfeited that luxury. The question now isn't whether to drill, but how to do so more safely, particularly in deep water, while developing clean-energy replacements such as wind, solar and biofuels.

If only that were easy or quick. Alternative energy provides about 6% of transportation fuel. The Energy Information Administration forecasts that 25 years from now, it will provide about 15%. Even if that doubled or tripled, the nation would still need substantial quantities of oil.

About one-third of U.S. oil production comes from the Gulf. Curbing or killing the plan to expand offshore drilling would take off the table an estimated 40 billion to 60 billion barrels of economically recoverable oil — about six to eight years of U.S. consumption at current rates. That oil is needed to help reduce imports and bridge to a time when more planes, trains and automobiles can run on alternative fuels. Currently, of the nearly 250 million cars and trucks on American roads, only about 700,000 run on alternative fuels. Phasing out gasoline-powered vehicles is going to be a long, slow process.

Being stuck with petroleum for now, however, doesn't mean pursuing a heedless "drill, baby, drill" policy. The Gulf of Mexico disaster exposed the oil industry's failure to anticipate, and develop a robust response to, a deep-sea blowout.

True, this is the first serious drilling-related spill in U.S. waters since the one off Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969.But when BP executives say they never could have imagined the sort of accident that occurred nearly three weeks ago in the Gulf, an assertion repeated at Tuesday's finger-pointing congressional hearing into the spill, they are either misinformed or ignorant about their business.

An industry study documented more than 100 cases of blowout-preventer failures in just two years in the 1990s— none as serious as this one, but warning signs nonetheless. Worse, a catastrophic failure in foreign waters should have sounded alarm bells. In 1979, a blowout preventer failed to cut the flow of oil at a Mexican offshore well near the Yucatan Peninsula. That one took about 295 days to control and spilled 140 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. (An estimated 4 million gallons have spilled from the Deepwater Horizon accident.)

Before offshore drilling expands, the industry should have to show that it is far better prepared than BP was to deal with accidents, and the government must beef up its oversight. On Tuesday, the administration announced plans to split the Minerals Management Services into one unit to enforce safety rules and a second unit to collect royalties. That would help eliminate the conflict of interest between the agency's dual missions, much as was necessary with federal oversight of the airline industry.

Just as one plane crash doesn't mean that the nation should stop building jetliners and airports, one horrific spill can't be allowed to dictate energy policy for decades. The nation needs the oil. But it can learn from the mess in the Gulf to minimize the chances of anything like it happening again.


Concerns over PG&E Lobbying for Cap-and-Trade Spurred Investor Action

The fate of a Political Contributions Shareholder Proposal being offered by Shelton Ehrich at the PG&E shareholder meeting Wednesday is being carefully monitored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, which applauds efforts to bring greater transparency to corporate political giving.

Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center for Public Policy Research's Free Enterprise Project, says, "All Americans would benefit from greater transparency regarding corporate political giving. According to the proposal, in 2008 alone, PG&E spent over $27 million lobbying for such things as cap-and-trade, an expensive global warming-related policy scheme that would enrich a handful of corporations while raising consumer prices and driving our jobs overseas."

PG&E is a member of the United States Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) - a lobbying coalition of corporations and environmental activist groups who are seeking a national law to limit carbon dioxide emissions. USCAP played a key role in passing the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill in the House of Representatives last year. Other USCAP members include troubled companies such as BP, GM and Chrysler.

Senators John Kerry (D-MA) and Joseph Lieberman (D-CT) are expected to introduce a Senate version of a cap-and-trade bill this week.

"With California's unemployment rate at 12.5 percent, the state can't afford cap-and-trade. Tragically, PG&E is trying to bring President Obama's cap-and-trade dream to reality, despite the economic cost. Recall Obama said during his presidential campaign, 'Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket,'" said Deneen Borelli, full-time fellow of Project 21.

Economic studies on cap-and-trade have consistently found this regulatory regime would result in higher energy prices and slower economic growth.

PG&E's annual shareholder meeting will be held May 12 at 10:00 AM PT at the San Ramon Valley Conference Center, 3301 Crow Canyon Road, San Ramon, California.

Mr. Ehrlich is expected to present the proposal at the meeting.


The wickedness of the climate change deniers

By Roger Helmer, MEP

I have just been reading a Reuter’s report from India, about the suffering endured by poor, honest, hard-working climate scientists, as they seek to warn a careless world of looming climate disaster, only to be attacked, threatened and vilified by the “climate deniers”. My heart bleeds.

Leave aside for a moment the fact that “climate deniers” do not exist — or if they do, I’ve yet to meet one. It is a self-evident fact that the earth’s climate has changed, often rapidly and substantially, over geological time. It is well-known that we have had a series of warm and cool cycles over the last two thousand years. We have all seen the paintings of Ice Fairs on the frozen Thames in the seventeenth century, when oxen were roasted on great fires on the ice. Anyone who denies the clear fact that the climate changes is either ignorant or mad.

There is of course a legitimate debate to be had about why the climate changes. Until recent years, everyone understood that climate was multifactorial, and it was clear that the primary drivers were solar activity and astronomical cycles. It is only in recent years that the good and the great have decided we were wrong, and that the only significant cause of climate change is atmospheric CO2 (which is merely a trace gas in the atmosphere, and is not even the most significant greenhouse gas — which is water vapour). They seem to have lost sight of the fact that there is almost zero correlation over time between atmospheric CO2 levels and temperature, or that over geological time CO2 levels have sometimes been well over ten times higher than today. Or that the highest concentrations of atmospheric CO2 occurred during a major Ice Age.

Two lines from the Reuters report caught my eye. The first was from Michael Mann: “The attacks against climate science represent the most highly coordinated, heavily financed, attack against science that we have ever witnessed”. Michael Mann was, of course, the progenitor of the infamous “Hockey Stick” graph, one of the most discredited artefacts in the history of science. He is the man who resisted scrutiny of his data and his methods, and fought tooth and nail against releasing details of his work, which might have enabled others to check it. He was the man who (in effect) relied on a few rather atypical trees in California to construct climate scenarios that defied reason. He was the man who grafted together two wholly unrelated data series to support his case, because neither series alone supported his hypothesis. But he failed to make it clear that he had done so. He was also a close associate of those splendid guys at the University of East Anglia, those of the e-mails scandal, who worked so hard to “hide the decline” in late twentieth century data. Then he seems hurt when people challenge his findings.

But “heavily financed”? Reuters mention a Greenpeace report released last month, saying that “ExxonMobil gave nearly $9 million to entities linked to the climate denialist camp between 2005 and 2008″. Wow. $9 million. How does that compare to the literally Billions of dollars that have been poured into the Warmist cause? The research funding for people like Michael Mann, and the UEA’s CRU, from governments and foundations and institutions? The vast market created in trading carbon credits, which is being fraudulently used and abused to generate profits on the back of imaginary trades in a virtual commodity, and which is siphoning off vast sums from developed countries to Russia and China and India and developing countries through the UN’s “Clean Development Mechanism”? What about the millions that Al Gore has personally made through his espousal of the Warmist cause?

Look at the companies (including major oil companies) who are profiting from green hysteria, whether through emissions trading schemes, or by becoming rent seekers in heavily-subsidised green energy programmes. In the UK alone climate mitigation measures put in place by this Labour government (which pray heaven will be gone between my typing these words and publishing the piece) will cost tens of billions of pounds. Look at the businesses and scientists and researchers whose jobs depend on Warmism. Look at the environmental journalists, like the odious Geoffrey Lean at the Daily Telegraph, who depend on Warmism for their pay-cheque — never mind the Climate Change Managers and Global Warming Awareness Officers on every local council, that you pay for through your council tax, and the DEFRA advertising campaigns, and the massive propaganda programmes designed to terrify the children in our schools.

The truth is that climate alarmism has become the most expensive, and the most wasteful, project in the history of the world. It is junk economics built on junk science. It amounts to no more than hot air, yet it looks set to beggar our grandchildren.



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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