Thursday, April 25, 2013
The EPA Snake Pit
By Alan Caruba
Under President Obama, two women have been the director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Carol Browner, who served in the Clinton administration and was one of the "czars" Obama appointed; her acolyte Lisa Jackson, and up for the post is Gina McCarthy. Browner and Jackson went out of their way to conceal their internal communications from Congress and McCarthy lied to the committee considering her nomination.
How bad is the EPA? The Society of Environmental Journalists, on the occasion of the April 11 hearing on McCarthy’s nomination, released a statement that said, “The Obama administration has been anything but transparent in its dealings with reporters seeking information, interviews and clarification on a host of environmental, health and public lands issues.” The SEJ accused the EPA of being “one of the most closed, opaque agencies to the press.”
Apparently, the primary consideration for the job of EPA Director is an intense desire to destroy the use of hydrocarbons, oil, coal and natural gas, for transportation and all other forms of energy on which our economy depends. Obama, when campaigning in 2008, made it clear he wanted end the use of coal to generate electricity. At the time, fifty percent of all electricity was produced by coal and now that figure is in decline as coal-fired plants are being forced to close thanks to EPA regulations.
If Ms. McCarthy has her way, the cost of driving cars and trucks will go up in the name of protecting the health of Americans. As Paul Driessen, a senior policy advisor for the Committee For a Constructive Tomorrow, recently noted, “Since 1970, America’s cars have eliminated 99% of pollutants that once came out of tailpipes.” Joel Schwartz, co-author of “Air Quality in America”, points out, “Today’s cars are essentially zero-emission vehicles, compared to 1970 models.” The EPA’s latest attack on drivers is the implementation of “Tier 3 rules” intended to reduce sulfur levels to achieve zero air quality or health benefits.
Suffice to say that the air and water in America is clean, very clean. Whatever health hazards existed in the 1970s no longer exist. Like all bureaucracies, the EPA now exists to expand its budget and its control over our lives. The Heritage Foundation has calculated that Obama’s EPA’s twenty “major” regulations—those that cost $100 million or more annually—could cost the U.S. more than $36 billion per year. Obama’s EPA has generated 1,920 new regulations.
Don’t think of the EPA as a government agency. It is a weapon of economic destruction.
This has not gone unnoticed. A recent Wall Street Journal opinion by John Barrasso, a Republican Senator from Wyoming, noted that “During President Obama’s first term, EPA policies discouraged energy exploration, buried job creators under red tape, and deliberately hid information from the public.”
“Many EPA regulations,” said Sen. Barrasso, “chased microscopic benefits at maximum cost,” noting for example that “The EPA has proposed dropping the acceptable amount of ozone in the air from the 75 parts per billion allowed today to 60 or 70 parts per billion. The agency concedes that the rule would have a minimal effect on American’s health, but says it would cost as much as $90 billion a year. A study by the Manufacturers Alliance for Productivity and Innovation estimated it would eliminate up to 7.3 million jobs in a wide variety of industries, including refining.”
The other sector in the EPA’s bull’s eye is agriculture. Not content with laying siege to auto manufacturers, oil refineries, coal-fired plants, and all other energy users that might generate carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases, Barrasso noted that the EPA “has gathered personal information about tens of thousands of livestock farmers and the locations of their operations” which it then shared with environmental groups.
Writing in The Daily Caller, Henry Miller, a physician and molecular biologist and currently the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution, characterized the EPA as “a miasma populated by the most radical, disaffected and anti-industry discards from other agencies,” adding that there was “entrenched institutional paranoia and an oppositional world view.”
“Unscientific policies and regulatory grandiosity and excess,” wrote Dr. Miller, “are not EPA’s only failings; neglecting to weigh costs and benefits is shockingly common, noting that “The EPA’s repeated failures should not come as a surprise because the agency has long been a haven for scientifically insupportable policies perpetrated by anti-technology ideologues.”
Marlo Lewis, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, writing in Forbes magazine, pointed out Gina McCarthy, the nominee to direct the EPA, “has a history of misleading Congress and the public about her agency’s greenhouse gas regulations. “At a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in October 2011, McCarthy denied motor vehicle greenhouse gas emission standards are “related to” fuel economy standards. In doing so,” said Lewis, “she denied plain facts she must know to be true. She did so under oath.”
“The EPA has no statutory authority to regulate fuel economy. More importantly, the federal Energy Policy and Conservation Act prohibits states from adopting laws or regulations ‘related to’ fuel economy.”
The point of this exercise is demonstrate that the EPA is the very definition of a “rogue agency” for which neither laws, nor science, are of any consequence as it pursues policies that do incalculable harm at a time when the nation is deep in debt and in need of economic growth, not regulatory strangulation.
Understanding the Political and Economic Realities of a Carbon Tax
New Report to be Released: On May 3, the George C. Marshall Institute will release a new study considering efforts to create a national carbon tax.
Authored by James DeLong of the Convergence Law Institute, the study summarizes the political and economic forces that undermine the case for a carbon tax. DeLong presents five reasons to reject carbon taxes:
* Lack of Effect on Temperature - A carbon tax is assumed to have the effect of reducing temperature, but DeLong argues the evidence shows the impact "would be tiny" at the tax levels being advanced.
* Lack of Specificity About Future Energy Sources - Tax advocates fail to show what energy sources will emerge to replace current sources of supply or how this transformation of a capital-intensive energy sector would be accomplished.
* Neglect of Benefits from Fossil Fuels and CO2 Emissions - The carbon tax debate is solely focused on the "damages" wrought by CO2 emissions, but a fair evaluation must account for the benefits associated with production of CO2.
* Problems with Models - The carbon tax relies on the veracity of two rounds of complex computer models - one modeling the environment and humanity's purported impact on it and the other modeling the economy and the impact of imposing a carbon tax. Both sets of models have significant limitations.
* Political Pressures and Practical Problems - DeLong summarizes the regressive nature of a carbon tax, the negative impact on GDP and jobs, the effects on manufacturing in highlighting some of the consequences of a tax. Further, he points to managing the interactions with other taxes and regulations, as well as international issues as practical obstacles to the construction of an efficient carbon tax. Added to these are the inevitable tensions that will arise from the uneasy alliance of "Bootleggers" and "Baptists" (i.e., crony capitalists and environmentalists) that must unite to pass a carbon tax.
"The tax will not be implemented in the politically aseptic world of academic modelers, but in the real world of intense political pressures," DeLong argues. "Its assumed purity will not survive the onslaught."
On May 3, DeLong will discuss his findings. A panel discussion will follow.
Get ready for shale in Britain
The prospects for hydrocarbon production on the British mainland seem stronger than ever. On 10 April, Professor Richard Davies of Durham University's Energy Institute published a paper stating that fracking is not a significant source of detectible seismic events. Meanwhile, over the last year, there has been a series of leaks of the forthcoming report by the British Geological Survey which is to raise the UK’s estimated reserves of shale gas by some 300 times.
This is welcome news as it paves the way for a secure, domestic, low-cost solution to the thorny problem of replacing the UK’s obsolescent capacity to generate electricity, with a low-carbon footprint feedstock. Many of the deposits are in the North, which would benefit from the investment; but they are also present in the south. In order to make the most of the opportunity, new policy is in order.
HMG is trailing plans to share revenues to incentivise local authorities to welcome oil development. This is very much on the right track, though I would go further: let programs be configured to encourage local authorities to compete for funding, so that they share (say) ten percent of incremental tax receipts; and bid against each other for a further ten percent for development or remediation.
The Petroleum Act (1934) appropriated subterranean hydrocarbon rights from the land-owner to the Crown, at odds with other mineral rights. This anomaly was theoretical until now, as no substantial deposits had been discovered. In light of new technologies we need to reverse this policy which was recapitulated in the Petroleum Act (1998). The clauses concerned should be repealed so that the interests of land-owners are aligned with the public interest in low-cost energy.
This takes us to taxation. Oil prospecting is beset by a complex of penal taxes, compensating exemptions plus a history of opportunistic impositions. All of this adds to investment uncertainty. HMG should set itself to remove fiscal risk from the investment equation, by introducing a regime of simplified tax treatment for newly-lifted deposits of land-based hydrocarbons, to which it commits itself for at least the next ten years.
The real deniers of climate change: Foolish doom-criers stand fast despite a chill
By David Deming
The Northern Hemisphere is experiencing unusually cold weather. Snow cover last December was the greatest since satellite monitoring began in 1966. The United Kingdom had the coldest March weather in 50 years, and there were more than a thousand record low temperatures in the United States. The Irish meteorological office reported that March “temperatures were the lowest on record nearly everywhere.” Spring snowfall in Europe was also high. In Moscow, the snow depth was the highest in 134 years of observation. In Kiev, authorities had to bring in military vehicles to clear snow from the streets.
Cold-weather extremes are a natural climatic variation, and this is exactly the point. If the world were experiencing a climate crisis owing to global warming, there shouldn’t be a single record low temperature anywhere in the world. The Associated Press has assured us, though, that this cold spell is not only consistent with a warming globe, it is actually caused by global warming. The proffered explanation is that cold weather in Europe is a result of melting sea ice in the Arctic. If this special pleading strikes you as unusually tendentious, it is all in the best tradition of explaining away ex post facto any weather event that appears to contradict the ruling paradigm.
In 2000, British climate researcher and Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change contributor David Viner told the Independent that “within a few years, winter snowfall will become a very rare and exciting event.” Sadly, he predicted, “children just aren’t going to know what snow is.” In 2008, environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. wrote in the Los Angeles Times that “snow is so scarce today that most Virginia children probably don’t own a sled.”
On Feb. 6, 2010, the eastern United States was hit by a blizzard (“Snowmageddon”) that produced from 20 to 35 inches of snow. Three days later, a second blizzard added 10 to 20 more inches of snow. In Washington, D.C., it was the highest seasonal snowfall since record-keeping began in 1888. According to the National Climatic Data Center, there were “hundreds of record snowfall accumulations” across the United States during the 2009-10 winter season. Within a few days, the blizzards in the eastern U.S. were dismissed as the natural consequence of global warming. On Feb. 12, National Geographic News informed us that “global warming is the main culprit behind this month’s eastern U.S. snowstorms.”
On Feb. 8-10 of this year, the eastern United States was again struck by a blizzard that produced record snowfall, hurricane-strength gusts of wind, and left 700,000 people without electric power. On Feb. 18, the Associated Press provided the oxymoronic excuse that global warming produces “less snow and more blizzards.” You can’t make this stuff up.
Portraying cold weather as the result of global warming is only one aspect of the circus. Gems that stand out include claims that earthquakes, tsunamis and volcanoes are caused or will be made worse by global warming. Last year, we were told that global warming could “turn us all into hobbits,” the mythical creatures from J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels.
Confronted by an endless avalanche of such nonsensical drivel, it seems almost foolhardy to argue facts. There has been no increase in mean global temperature for 15 years. Drought is not increasing, nor are wildfires. Tornadoes are not increasing in frequency or intensity. Routine hurricanes such as Sandy and Katrina have been offered as evidence of climate change, but worldwide hurricane activity is near a 40-year low. Over the past 20 years, sea level has risen by about 5 centimeters an ominous trend unless you’re aware that since the end of the last Ice Age, global sea level has risen 120 meters.
At the end of March, the areal extent of sea ice in the Arctic was 3 percent below the 30-year average. Sea ice in the Antarctic, however, was elevated 24 percent. Global sea ice was above the 30-year mean and higher than it was in March 1980. Only the naive can be so logical as to reason that “global” warming, or lack thereof, should be evaluated in terms of “global” conditions rather than local. A study published in Nature Geoscience on March 31 concluded that the increase of Antarctic sea ice is caused by you guessed it global warming.
With each passing year, it is becoming increasingly clear that global warming is not a scientific theory subject to empirical falsification, but a political ideology that has to be fiercely defended against any challenge. It is ironic that skeptics are called “deniers” when every fact that would tend to falsify global warming is immediately explained away by an industry of denial.
Senators highlight climate change on Earth Day; Inhofe not impressed
Democratic senators marked Earth Day yesterday by taking to the floor to discuss the threat of climate change and lament Congress' inability to curb it through legislation.
Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) said his state is particularly affected by sea-level rise because its low average elevation puts more of its land at risk of disappearing.
"The water is rising, Mr. President, and for those of us from coastal states, and in particular for those of us in Delaware, it's rising fast," he said.
The amount of sea-level rise Delaware will have to grapple with this century varies from estimate to estimate, but most predict the Atlantic Ocean will rise by at least half a meter, which Coons said would be enough to submerge Dover Air Force Base. If higher estimates prevail, whole towns could be underwater, he said.
Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) decried congressional inaction on climate change, especially in light of storms like last year's Superstorm Sandy, which required more than $50 billion in aid to affected states.
"A number of my colleagues in Congress don't believe that human activities contribute to climate change," he said. "Many others, I suspect, don't talk about climate change because addressing it requires making some difficult choices. But let's be clear about this: Climate change is already costing us."
Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) said he had spent part of the weekend attending Earth Day events in his home state.
"It is very clear that the planet is getting warmer," Wyden said. "The fires are getting more serious and catastrophic, the storms increasingly brutal, and it's very clear that now Democrats and Republicans have to come together around this issue."
Not everyone was fired up about the Earth Day messages.
"They just don't give up, do they?" said Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) when asked about the floor speeches. The chamber's most vocal skeptic of the science of climate change, Inhofe said again that he believed man-made global warming had been discredited by events like the so-called Climategate incident of 2009. Furthermore, he said, history had shown that climate change legislation was and would remain a no-go in the Senate.
"I think all these people who are going crazy on Earth Day need to take a deep breath and say, 'Wait a minute, there must be some reason that not even a third of the U.S. Senate would support this thing, because they don't think that it's true,'" Inhofe said.
Hold Fast, South Dakota – keep facile and destructive climate alarmism out of your schools!
An informative article in South Dakota's Argus Leader presents the dilemma facing education administrators in that State as they prepare to debate and decide on whether to adopt 'The Nest Generation Science Standards' as released earlier this month..
The Argus Leader article notes
"A core idea in the standards is that “human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming).”
“That idea is not controversial among the 41 scientists and educators who wrote the standards. But many politicians consider man’s influence on global climate change to be unresolved.”
And goes on to note:
“Three years ago, the South Dakota Legislature passed a nonbinding resolution that urged public schools to take a “balanced approach” when teaching climate change. It asserted the science on the subject is unsettled, open to interpretation and prejudiced by politics.”
There is wisdom here. But it is under threat from the new curriculum being offered to all States. It may or may not be adopted in South Dakota:
"Mary Stadick Smith, deputy secretary for the Department of Education, said there is no timeline for the agency’s review of the standards.“We need to review them carefully and we’re going to move forward cautiously to make sure these are the right things for our students,” she said."
She is being reasonable.
The simple-minded view that human contributions in particular, and rising CO2 levels in general, are major drivers of ‘global warming’ has received criticism for decades from scientists, and Mother Nature has helped them along by refusing to cooperate with the dramatically rising temperature plots produced, after a great deal of pampering, by global climate models (GCMs), and widely promoted by such as the IPCC.
For more postings from me, see DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL and EYE ON BRITAIN. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.
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Posted by JR at 1:46 PM