Obama's clean energy boondoggle will be expensive for America
President Barack Obama uttered not a peep about global warming in his State of Union this year. No dire warnings about climate apocalypse. No calls for cap-and-trade. Has this cold winter convinced him to put his global warming agenda on ice? Hardly. Indeed, even in this age of deficits and debt, the president's budget is chock full of global warming items-except he wraps them around a new cause: clean energy. And that may be enough to get Republicans to sign on.
That "clean energy" is code for "anti-warming" is obvious, given that even Environmental Protection Agency numbers show that virtually all emissions have dropped dramatically in recent decades-except for greenhouse gases. To cut those, Obama's budget aims to hike Department of Energy spending by 12 percent from 2010 levels. He proposes $8 billion more for various clean-energy programs-on top of the $30 billion "invested" via the 2009 stimulus. Even that's only the tip of the iceberg.
To pay for it all, Obama would stick it to Big Oil. He wants to eliminate $43 billion in oil-tax breaks over 10 years. That would be fine if he were aiming for a "level" energy market, with the government playing no favorites; in fact, he's just looking to divert the subsidies to his favorites. (Even before Obama's stimulus binge on renewables, total U.S. energy subsidies were close to $16.6 billion and about 30 percent-the largest share-went to renewables.)
Despite his talk of promoting nuclear power, the president's budget cuts support for it by 0.6 percent from 2010 levels. The big winners are-surprise!-solar (88 percent rise), biomass and biorefinery (57 percent), geothermal (136 percent) and wind (61 percent).
Obama is also doubling the budget of the Advanced Research Projects Agency to encourage R&D on renewables. That's because progressives are suddenly convinced (thanks to "Where Good Technologies Come From," a paper by the Breakthrough Institute) that the basic research for nearly every major technological invention-blockbuster pharmaceuticals, high-yield crops, the Internet-has been the result of government funding.
Pumping money into pie-in-the sky energy projects has been a perennial presidential project since Jimmy Carter. But Obama has a new wrinkle: The White House believes that past pushes for alternative fuels failed (despite subsidies) because they did nothing to ensure a market for the new products. So Obama has decreed that he wants 80 percent of America's energy to come from clean sources by 2035.
That won't happen automatically, so the Center for American Progress (the Obama White House's unofficial think tank) argues for a federal "35 by 35" standard-mandating that 35 percent of America's energy come from renewables by 2035. This means the feds would force all utilities to generate more than a third of their electricity from renewables-a guarantee of far higher prices.
A Heritage Foundation study found that even a scaled-down version of the plan, a 22.5 percent renewable standard by 2025, would bump household-electricity prices 36 percent and industry prices 60 percent by 2035-producing a net GDP loss of $5.2 trillion between 2012 and 2035. So much for green growth and jobs.
Obama also means to make America's transportation oil-free to ensure a low-carbon future for mankind. To this end, he wants a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015. So, while low-income families face a cut in heating assistance from Uncle Sam (and higher electric bills), rich people would get $200 million for a $7,500 tax rebate to use toward each $40,000 Chevy Volt.
Obama also wants a $4 billion downpayment toward a six-year, $53 billion plan to give 80 percent of Americans access to high-speed rail. In fact, his own transportation secretary admits that this can't be done for less than $500 billion.
Cutting GHGs via Smart Growth: A California Update
Several years ago I reported rather skeptically about California legislation that aimed to bring about significant reductions in transportation-related greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by integrating transportation, housing, and land-use planning. AB 375, passed in 2008, requires MPOs to set GHG emission reduction targets for the four major metro areas (in which 87% of the population lives). Each MPO must develop a Sustainable Communities Strategy (SCS) as part of its fiscally constrained long-range transportation plan and demonstrate that it can meet the emission reduction target. If it cannot do that, it must develop an alternative plan showing how it could meet the target if funding were not at issue.
Transportation/air quality consultant Sarah Siwek wrote an informative article about this process in AASHTO's Weekly Climate Change Brief, published January 6, 2011. My eye was immediately drawn to a colorful pie chart, depicting how much this whole transportation smart growth effort (i.e., what SB 375 mandates) will contribute to California's GHG emission reduction goal. If it accomplishes what is intended, SB 375's measures would contribute only 1.7% to the statewide 2020 GHG reduction target. Other transportation-related measures, such as increased fuel-efficiency for both light and heavy vehicles, and the low carbon fuel standard, dwarf the smart-growth impacts.
But is it realistic to think that the smart-growth measures can achieve even that? Siwek points out several problems. First, the adopted SCSs all rely mainly on infill development. But land and housing costs are generally much lower in the outer suburbs, raising the question of whether there will be a market for enough of the costly infill housing. But to make it "affordable" would require subsidies of some sort (tax abatements, grants, etc.) for which funding is far from certain.
Second, she points out that local governments in California rely heavily on sales tax revenues, so if suburbs are discouraged from expanding, their revenues will not grow as projected. So those governments may not choose to curtail their own growth.
Third, there is no funding provided by SB 375, and nearly all projected transportation money in the adopted long-range transportation plans is needed to maintain and operate the existing transportation system, with only modest scope for expansions.
Finally, California is still recovering from the collapse of the housing market, and with "an abundance of existing housing inventory," it's not clear how much scope there is for a strategy that depends on shaping new-housing development.
Siwek closes with a sentence worth quoting: "If our history in reducing criteria pollutants is a guide, the technology-related measures to reduce transportation-related GHG emissions are the best and only real hope of achieving meaningful GHG reductions from the transportation sector."
A small spasm of realism from the BBC
Says carbon tax 'may not reduce CO2'
When the government changed the terms of a new tax on the carbon emissions of large companies in last year's Spending Review, it was accused of hitting firms with a "green stealth tax".
Money raised through the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC) will now go to the government, rather than to those firms who cut their bills the most, as had been originally planned. The business group, the CBI, is calling on the government to turn the tax back into an incentive-based scheme or scrap it altogether.
And a report by Carbon Retirement has said that the tax, which is due to come into force next month, may fail to reduce overall pollution levels. The report draws on data from the government and its independent committee on climate change which suggests overlap between this and other emission reduction schemes may limit its effectiveness. The report forms part of responses to the government's consultations on the measures.
The CRC applies to large companies which are not currently covered by the European emissions trading scheme. It forces firms to measure and report their emissions - mostly the result of gas and electricity use - and then pay œ12 per tonne of carbon dioxide they emit.
The problem is the number of schemes. Companies buy their electricity from power providers who themselves hold permits under the European carbon trading scheme for every tonne of carbon they release. These permits are limited - if someone needs more permits in the UK, someone else, somewhere else, must pollute less. As demand for them varies, so does the price.
If companies reduce their electricity demand it could simply free utilities to give their permits to someone else, perhaps another power provider or a cement works, allowing them to increase their carbon emissions.
The report estimates that "between 2011 and 2020, the 90m tonnes of carbon dioxide savings the CRC participants are expected to achieve will be emitted instead by heavy industry".
The problem may be fixed in future as the European scheme is itself reformed, but accountants Ernst and Young suggest it is not the only issue with the new tax. "The CRC assumes a fixed carbon intensity for electricity and doesn't reward sourcing electricity renewable energy under green tariffs," says Ben Warren, partner at Ernst and Young. "This is starting to have an impact on green tariffs as companies resent getting no benefit for this under the CRC."
The Department of Energy and Climate Change accepts there is a problem, and told the BBC: "We are looking at a range of measures to try and simplify the scheme and recognising the overlap with some other schemes is one of the areas of complexity for it."
The wages of green spin
Former Bush administration chief of the Council on Environmental Quality James Connaughton is now the government affairs head for an electric utility, Constellation Energy. But more than that, he is a media darling for his willingness to push the climate agenda on behalf of his company, which is hoping to profit from it - at your expense - via wealth transfers, taxes and other inefficiencies in the name of schemes that no one actually claims would detectably impact the climate.
As such, it is unreasonable to believe that the whole mess is about the climate, particularly when you toss in the rest of the admissions by Gang Green when they slip off-message. But, still, when you rob Peter (you) to pay Paul (Constellation, et al.), you can count on Paul's enthusiastic support.
Better yet, with Mr. Connaughton the press gets to run the green cheerleading as coming from a "former Bush official."
And so it comes to this. Today, we see ClimateWire's story "SCIENCE: Former Bush official defends IPCC," with the gag-inducing subhead, "Connaughton calls IPPC [sic] findings `fabulous.'"
The story is referring to the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, which has suffered under revelations that its supposedly cutting-edge, peer-reviewed science includes unsupportable twaddle cut and pasted from green group press releases, student theses, popular magazine articles and telephone interviews with alarmists who now deny their own musings.
But then there is this:
Connaughton also criticized attacks on the East Anglia scientists, whose e-mails showed some hostility toward research that questioned the link between human emissions and global warming (ClimateWire, Nov. 17, 2010).
"The left's attack on the Bush administration for manipulating the science was as overwrought as the right's attack on East Anglia, because it didn't go to the science," he said.
Except that it did. The East Anglia scientists called for records to be destroyed, said that they were "hiding the decline" in temperatures to declare a warming that wasn't, made computer code annotations about insert[ing a] very artificial adjustment here, and so on. And this week, as I understand things, we will see some more rather disturbing evidence, affirming just how absurd that already silly effort at rationalization and denial is. For now I will simply tease the document being sent to Capitol Hill as coming from a federal inspector general who affirms what is already clear to anyone who read the self-exonerations of "ClimateGate": the scandal was whitewashed.
Records were indeed destroyed by one principal at the request of another; the latter of whom was, to put things mildly, deceptive about this fact while the former somehow managed to go without being asked about it. Some things were apparently better left unsaid, in the eyes of those charged with looking into the matter.
Except that someone has finally gotten around to asking the obvious. And the specific reply implicates both the investigators and the investigated. Not only was ClimateGate never investigated, there appears to be a new name on the list of the complicit.
But even before this coming bombshell, we saw in the ClimateWire story that there may be no lower boundary beyond which the rent-seekers, the new tax collectors for the green welfare state, are unwilling to stoop.
Warren isn't serious
Warren Buffett is one hell of a smart guy so he knows that getting Green/Left cred is important in ensuring that his businesses are unmolested by the jealous Green/Left. Hence his first claim below about his railroad:
Last year BNSF moved each ton of freight it carried a record 500 miles on a single gallon of diesel fuel. That's three times more fuel-efficient than trucking is, which means our railroad owns an important advantage in operating costs. Concurrently, our country gains because of reduced greenhouse emissions and a much smaller need for imported oil. When traffic travels by rail, society benefits.
But we know that he doesn't believe it all when he also brags about his company's ownership (and his own heavy use) of a private jet business
... NetJets has long been an operational success, owning a 2010 market share five times that of its nearest competitor...My family and I have flown more than 5,000 hours on NetJets (that's equal to being airborne 24 hours a day for seven months) and will fly thousands of hours more in the future...Whichever the plane or crew, we always know we are flying with the best-trained pilots in private aviation.
The hypocritical Waxy is still waxing on about climate being a 'Moral Issue'
The moral claims have died down a lot lately so Waxy is behind the curve. And who are Leftists to talk about morality? That "there is no such thing as right and wrong" is one of their favourite lines
During a speech at the Center for American Progress Monday, Rep. Henry Waxman claimed that climate change is a "moral issue" while criticizing the GOP for their attempts to eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions.
The ranking member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said Republicans have adopted "anti-science views" and compared the climate change issue to the debate in America on civil rights.
"Climate change is an environmental issue, it's an economic issue, but it's also fundamentally a moral issue. We have an opportunity to act now to forestall great harm to our nation and to the world. We had that kind of issue at other times in our history, we had it during the civil rights debate," the member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said.
Waxman added, "If we don't act on this challenge we will not meet our moral ability to shape our future. We will not meet our moral obligation to our children and future generations."
Waxman's comments come as members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are considering legislation that would permanently eliminate the EPA's climate authority. Several Democrats are joining a Republican effort to block the Environmental Protection Agency from reducing heat-trapping gasses that have been blamed for global warming.
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