Sunday, March 02, 2014

Virginia Congressman warns EPA regs could cause brownouts

“There is the possibility of some brownouts.”  That was U.S. Rep. Morgan Griffith’s (R-Va.) take on the impact of recent Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations against coal burning power plants in a brief conversation with Americans for Limited Government on February 27.

Rep. Griffith said in his district alone based in southwestern rural Virginia, Appalachian Power Co. was closing two coal-burning power plants, only one of which would be replaced by a natural gas facility.  But with a big downside — it would not produce as much electricity as the coal plant once did.

Griffith’s story in Virginia is emblematic of what is happening nationally to America’s shrinking electric grid.

Consider that coal as a percent of the net electricity generation has dropped from 49 percent in 2007 to 37 percent in 2012, according to the Energy Information Agency (EIA). For now, this is being partially offset by increases in natural gas.

But, that actually represents a smaller piece of a smaller pie, EIA data shows. While natural gas has increased electricity production by 330 billion kilowatthours (kWh) to 1.132 trillion kWh a year in 2012, coal production has dropped by 498 billion kWh to 1.5 trillion kWh.

Largely as a result of the coal plant closures, overall electricity generation in the U.S. has dropped from 4.005 trillion kilowatthours (kWh) in 2007 to 3.89 trillion kWh in 2012 meanwhile end use has only decreased from 3.89 trillion kWh in to just 3.832 trillion kWh.

The difference between electricity generation and end use, or implied spare capacity, has dropped from 115 billion kWh to 58 billion kWh from 2007 to 2012.

That’s a whopping decrease of 49.5 percent — leading to worries that very soon the ability to keep up with demand could be compromised and brownouts could be on the horizon.

Griffith echoed the concern, but, he said, “when that is, we don’t know.” He noted that if future winters are as cold as 2014 has been in the continental U.S., the odds of power shortages would go up, with more warnings from providers to curb usage.

According to, an industry group, the number of coal-burning power plants closing or converting on account of EPA regulation was 330 as of January, up from 285 in May 2013.

According to an American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity analysis, the hardest hit states by EPA policy are Ohio, Pennsylvania, Georgia, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, Kentucky, and Indiana. Nationwide, the number of actual plant closures is five times greater than EPA predicted would occur because of its regulations.

So, which regulations are harming this vital industry?

Perhaps the biggest one is the EPA’s 2009 carbon endangerment finding, which ruled that carbon dioxide, a biological gas necessary for the very existence of life, is a “harmful pollutant” under the terms of the Clean Air Act.

But then there’s also the regional haze rule, carbon restrictions on new and existing power plants, and the “National Emission Standards for Hazardous Air Pollutants” that restricts mercury emissions from plants.

Sue-and-settle arrangements the agency enters with organizations are a problem, too. This is where a group sues demanding that the EPA enforce the law in a new, expanded way and the agency enters into a consent decree with the party, which is signed by a judge. This leaves the agency with new powers under the Clean Air and Water Acts.

No agency possesses the power to make law, and yet that is precisely what the EPA has done by placing itself above Congress on all matters relating to energy production and consumption.

And until Congress does something about it by defunding the agency’s implementation of these regulations, or federal courts rein in this rogue entity, it appears all but certain that there will be brownouts.


Climate policy robs the world’s poor of their hopes

We need technologies that work in the US and in Pakistan, say Roger Pielke and Daniel Sarewitz

Having failed to stem carbon emissions in rich countries or in rapidly industrialising ones, policy makers have focused their attention on the only remaining target: poor countries that do not emit much carbon to begin with.

Legislation to cap US carbon emissions was defeated in Congress in 2009. But that did not prevent the Obama administration from imposing a cap on emissions from energy projects of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US federal agency that finances international development. Other institutions of the rich world that have decided to limit support for fossil fuel energy projects include the World Bank and the European Investment Bank.

Such decisions have painful consequences. A recent report from the non-profit Center for Global Development estimates that $10bn invested in renewable energy projects in sub-Saharan Africa could provide electricity for 30m people. If the same amount of money went into gas-fired generation, it would supply about 90m people – three times as many.

In Nigeria, the UN Development Programme is spending $10m to help “improve the energy efficiency of a series of end-use equipment ... in residential and public buildings”. As a way of lifting people out of poverty, this is fanciful at best. Nigeria is the world’s sixth-largest oil exporter, with vast reserves of natural gas as well. Yet 80m of its people lack access to electricity. Nigerians do not simply need their equipment to be more efficient; they need a copious supply of energy derived from plentiful local sources.

Or consider Pakistan, where energy shortages in a rapidly growing nation of 180m have led to civil unrest – as well as rampant destruction of forests, mostly to provide firewood for cooking and heating. Western development agencies have refused to finance a project to use Pakistan’s Thar coal deposits for low-carbon natural gas production and electricity generation because of concerns over carbon emissions. Half a world away, Germany is building 10 new coal plants over the next two years.

These examples emerge from a larger, uglier background: a widely shared assumption that poor nations need not aspire to the sort of energy consumption seen in North America, western Europe and other wealthy regions. For example, the World Bank’s action plan for energy access fails to foresee that residents of a poor nation such as Chad might eventually aspire to use more than, say, a 10th of the energy consumption enjoyed by a middle-income nation such as Bulgaria.

Aspirations are critical here. If two lightbulbs, a fan and a radio are the goal – a standard measure of “energy access” used by the UN’s Sustainable Energy for All initiative – then a couple of solar panels or windmills might do the job. But if the rapidly urbanising poor are to have any chance of prosperity, they need access to energy on the same scale as all modern economies.

Climate activists warn that the inhabitants of poor countries are especially vulnerable to the future climate changes that our greenhouse gas emissions will cause. Why then, do they simultaneously promote the green imperialism that helps lock in the poverty that makes these countries so vulnerable?

If, in coming decades, Africa was to achieve rapid economic growth of the kind that China has experienced, it would lift hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. But as the rich world can attest, economic growth both requires energy consumption and leads to more of it – most of which must be provided by fossil fuels.

Last year China’s 1.4bn people were responsible for more than 10bn tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, while the 1bn people on the entire African continent emitted just a 10th of that amount. Africa’s population could exceed China’s within a decade; it could be double China’s by the middle of the century. The prospects of these billions of people depend in large part on growth in their energy production and consumption.

Nations such as China and Brazil have big aspirations. They have not accepted a future without fossil fuels. If we are to reduce emissions without condemning vast swaths of humanity to unending poverty, we will have to develop inexpensive, low-carbon energy technologies that are as appropriate for the US and Bulgaria as they are for Nigeria and Pakistan. Even this will involve sacrifice; it will require an investment of significant resources over many decades.

Until these technologies are brought to fruition, we must work with what we have. We in the rich world have chosen economic growth over emissions reductions. It is cruelly hypocritical of us to prevent poor countries from growing, too. If we are forced to adapt to life on a planet with a less hospitable climate, the poor should at least confront the challenge with the same advantages that are enjoyed by the rich.


Obama’s Interior Secretary to Dying Eskimos: “I’ve Listened to Your Stories, Now I Have to Listen to the Animals.”

 Obama with the old bag concerned

In one of Alaska’s most remote outposts, where a thousand hardy souls make their homes, the Obama administration has put the fate of birds and bears above the lives of people, blocking construction of an 11-mile gravel trail connecting a tiny fishing hamlet to a life-saving airport.

King Cove has a clinic, but no hospital or doctor. Residents must fly 600 miles to Anchorage, via Cold Bay’s World War II airstrip, for most medical procedures including serious trauma cases and childbirth. Frequent gale-force winds and thick fog often delay or jeopardize medevac flights.

According to local Aleutian elders, 19 people have died since 1980 as a result of the impossible-to-navigate weather conditions during emergency evacuations.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell on Monday rejected a proposal for a one-lane gravel road linking the isolated community of King Cove with the all-weather airport in Cold Bay some 22 miles away.

During an August visit to Alaska, Jewell was told that building a road that connects King Cove and Cold Bay was vital. But in December, Jewell rejected the road saying it would jeopardize waterfowl in the refuge.

“She stood up in the gymnasium and told those kids, ‘I’ve listened to your stories, now I have to listen to the animals,” Democratic state Rep. Bob Herron told a local television station. “You could have heard a pin drop in that gymnasium.”

Della Trumble, spokesperson for the Agdaagux Tribal Council and King Cove Corp., called Jewell’s decision “a slap in the face” just in time for the holiday week.

The Interior secretary called her personally, Trumble said, but she was at the store and only got the message when she returned to the office.

“She says that she knows that I’m not going to like her decision and wishes me and my family a very merry Christmas,” she said. “I’ve not returned the call because I don’t trust myself.”

Etta Kuzakin, a 36-year-old King Cove resident who serves as Agdaagux tribal president, needed an emergency Caesarean section in March after going into early labor with her now 9-month-old daughter, Sunnie Rae. Giving birth in King Cove could have killed her and her baby, she said.

But with medevac flights grounded by ugly weather, Kuzakin waited in labor for 10 hours until the U.S. Coast Guard helicopter flew her out in the afternoon.

“If there had been a road, it would be two hours out,” she said. “I sat there in labor not knowing if I was going to die or my kid was going to die. Pretty traumatic.”

Back in 1997, Bill Clinton threatened to veto the King Cove Safety Act. Presumably Bill was also listening to the animals.

This is what environmentalists are like. They are constitutionally incapable of empathy for human beings. Instead they deploy a self-righteousness that masks an inner callousness and cruelty.


Crushing People Into Tight Housing Won't Cut CO2 Levels

'Smart growth" projects across the country aim to jam people into high-density housing near mass transit systems.

Proponents think this will make people abandon their automobiles, reducing greenhouse gas emissions. But new research shows "stack-and-pack" housing is an ineffective way to reduce carbon dioxide levels.

Researchers at the University of California Energy and Resources Group in Berkeley used Census, weather, economic and transportation data — 37 variables in total — to estimate greenhouse gas emissions from the energy, transportation, food, goods and services consumed by U.S. households.

They calculated "household carbon footprints" for more than 31,000 U.S. ZIP codes (of approximately 43,000 total) in all 50 states and found that a "10-fold increase in population density in central cities yields only a 25% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions."

In other words, the number of people living in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Miami, Philadelphia and New York would have to increase 10 times — from 1.5 million in Philadelphia, for example, to 15 million — to yield a 25% reduction in CO2.

As the study's co-author, Christopher Jones, put it: "(A 10-fold increase) would require a really extraordinary transformation for very little benefit."

Stack-and-pack living is a blueprint for misery in urban America. Few people would want to live in such conditions. Yet this is exactly the vision that smart-growth advocates and their political allies are pushing.

For example, the regional smart-growth plan for the San Francisco Bay Area, approved last summer, calls for jamming an additional 2 million people into just 5% of the Bay Area's land over the next 27 years.

Similar plans exist, or are being discussed, in metro Chicago, El Paso, Minneapolis-St. Paul and a seven-county area of South Florida — including Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties — to name a few locations.

These regional government master plans effectively eliminate local control of communities. They also run into the Law of Unintended Consequences.

As politicians force urban centers to embrace more high-density housing, people who still want the American dream of a single-family home with a yard must move to the suburbs and commute farther.

As Jones, the UC Berkeley researcher, explained: "High-carbon suburbanization results as an unintended side effect." Carbon emissions ripple out as dense suburbs emerge and, in turn, these suburbs spawn their own suburbs even farther out. The overall effect in large metropolitan areas is a net increase in total household carbon emissions.

And here lies the folly of government master plans to control growth. People are not chess pieces to be moved about at the will of politicians and bureaucrats. People have dreams and aspirations for themselves and their families.

Those dreams stand independent of planners' preferences, and are often at odds with them. People still want single-family homes and are willing to drive long distances, if they must, to have them.

It would come as no surprise if smart-growth promoters next try to ban gasoline-powered automobiles or tax commutes beyond a certain radius. The end result of smart growth is greater political control over our daily lives.

The Berkeley study unintentionally offers strong support for the idea that local housing, transportation and land-use decisions should be made locally — not by regional governments, not in state capitals and certainly not in Washington.

CO2 emissions would fall in metro areas if people could get the housing they want close to where they work, not miles and miles away.

If governments ended their war on home construction, builders could buy the land they need to construct the housing that local people want, not housing that politicians and smart-growth activists want. That would increase the stock of affordable housing and help the environment too.



 The Spanish government said it plans to end all price subsidies for wind capacity online before end-2004, while slashing remuneration for younger capacity.

The full 1,700-page regulation, a summary of its long-awaited renewables regulation, was sent to regulator CNMC for a 20-day consultation period. It has not yet been made public. wind turbine burnsThe summary alone, nonetheless, discloses an act of institutional "retroactive looting", Spanish wind association AEE told Windpower Monthly.

Investors behind all of Spain's 22.6GW of online wind capacity were drawn by the state's promise of maintaining feed-in tariffs for 20 years.  Just over 8.4GW was online by end-2004. Under the new regulation, all that capacity will now only receive the wholesale power market price.

The proposed regulation, to take immediate effect, establishes 1,600 parameters for calculating renewables remuneration. It fleshes out a June 2013 law replacing all renewables feed-in tariffs with a remuneration based, instead, on a "reasonable profit" of 7.5% across plant lifecycle.

"It is the most harmful policy dictated against wind in any country," said the AEE, which is calling for EU intervention.


Australia:  Move to limit ideological objections to Qld mining projects

The Queensland Government is looking to restrict who can object to mining applications, in a bid to crack down on what it calls philosophical opposition to projects.

Currently any group or person can object to applications, potentially sending the decision to the Land Court.

Deputy Premier Jeff Seeney said it was "frustrating" for the Government.  "It's obvious that the current process allows individuals or groups who are fundamentally opposed to the coal industry - for whatever reason - to use the objection process to frustrate and delay those projects," he said.

"The people of Queensland have elected us as a Government based on developing our coal industry to supply the world markets and our processes need to allow us to do that."

In the next few weeks, the State Government will release a discussion paper looking at who can object to applications.

"What we're looking at is a process that will have an assessment process that is relative to the risk the project poses," Mr Seeney said.

"So for the really big projects I think it should be open to almost anyone, but for the smaller projects and for the lesser approvals ... there is a much different requirement."

Mr Seeney declined to spell out the definition of a big project.

The changes in the latest paper are broadly similar a 2013 discussion paper called Reducing Red Tape for Small Scale Alluvial Mining.

It suggests restricting objections to mining leases to "affected landholders" and local governments.

EDO chief solicitor voices reservations about changes

Environmental Defenders Office Queensland principal solicitor Jo Bragg says she has grave concerns about the impact this could have.  "It's hard to see what the Government means, but it appears to mean just a person where the mine is on their land," she said.

"But the community ... concerned about endangered species, groundwater - they should also be able to object as they can now."

As the discussion paper has not been publicly released, the Deputy Premier also declined to define an affected landholder.

In the Darling Downs community of Acland, some locals are concerned about how any potential changes could affect them.  The New Acland Coal Mine wants to expand to export up to 7.4 million tonnes of coal a year.

Veterinarian and farmer Nicki Laws is a member of the Oakey Coal Action Alliance and lives 30 kilometres away from the mine itself.

She says she wants to make sure her voice is heard.  "These ecosystems underpin us all, they underpin our communities, our living, our health, our prosperity as a district - so if we're threatening it, anyone should be allowed to comment on that," she said.

Mr Seeney said he would encourage everyone to participate in the discussion once the discussion paper is released.

"This proposal is about reviewing the assessment process, understanding the Government has a mandate from the people of Queensland and ensuring that the process allows us to fulfil that mandate," Mr Seeney said.

He did not provide specific examples of philosophical or vexatious objections.  "This review is not about any particular circumstance," he said.

"It's part of a broader commitment that we've given to the people of Queensland to review the assessment processes to ensure the projects the Queensland economy needs can proceed and respond in a responsible and appropriate way."



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