Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Plans to Turn ‘Politically Binding’ UN Climate Change Accord Into Federal Law

Obama administration officials who say they intend to sign a “politically binding” agreement to drastically reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions at the United Nations’ (UN) climate change conference in Paris next year already have a legal strategy to turn any non-binding accord into federal law, warns Christopher Horner, senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI).

Horner told CNSNews.com that the “name and shame” effort is an alternative to a new climate change treaty already being drafted by the UN that would have to be ratified by the U.S. Senate.

“Obama’s statement acknowledges that he cannot get a new climate treaty past China or U.S. voters,” Horner told CNSNews.com.

But he added that environmental activists are already planning to employ the same collusive sue-and-settle strategy they have used in the past to impose draconian energy restrictions on all Americans even though there’s been no global warming for nearly 18 years.

’It’s quite clear under Article 2, Section 2 of the Constitution that after the president signs it, any binding international law agreement has to be ratified by the Senate,” Horner explained.

But he noted that “activist green groups, in conjunction with the New York attorney general’s office, have already developed plans to use the federal courts to force Americans to drastically reduce their energy consumption whether or not Obama signs a new climate change treaty in Paris next year” to replace the expired Kyoto Protocol.

Horner predicted the White House strategy in a 2009 paper published by the Federalist Society, in which he wrote: “It appears that Kyoto will be the subject of a controversial effort to sharply revise U.S. environmental treaty practice…. waiving the Constitution’s requirement of Senate ratification by reclassifying the product of talks as a congressional-Executive agreement, not a treaty.” (See Kyoto II ...Emerging Strategy.pdf)

”You can’t just dismiss this if you know what they’re trying to do,” Horner said, pointing to a copy of a court pleading drafted by environmental activists that he received from the New York attorney general’s office under a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request two years ago .

The draft lawsuit argues that the federal government should be required to honor its international commitments even if they are not ratified by the Senate.

The strategy was confirmed in June by Yvo De Boer, the UN’s former climate chief. “If the U.S. feels that ‘internationally legally binding’ has little value, and that the real value lies in legally-binding national commitments, then these regulations can be the way for the U.S. to show leadership,” De Boer said.

“We know where this is going,” Horner told CNSNews.com. “As they intend, it will end up in the courts, not the Senate. The issue would come down to 'How do you implement it?' and that is where stunts like the NY AG's come in. You get a court to turn these gestures into law and/or a friendly administration to roll over and get a court's blessing by settling a ‘sue-and-settle’ case.”

“You can’t trust the courts not to do that, and it will be as good as ratifying” a climate treaty as far as Americans are concerned, added Horner, author of Red Hot Lies: How Global Warming Alarmists Use Threats, Fraud and Deception to Keep You Misinformed.

The Paris accord will primarily target Western developed nations such as the United States, Horner pointed out. ”The argument is: ‘The atmosphere is a pie, and you’ve already had your slice’.”

“We need another Byrd-Hagel Resolution,” he added, referring to a July 1997 resolution that passed the Senate unanimously. It stated that the United States would not be a signatory to any climate change agreement that did not include developing countries and that would “result in serious harm to the economy of the United States.”

Marlo Lewis, Horner’s colleague at CEI, believes that the strategy will also prevent future presidents and Congresses from rolling back burdensome Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations.

“Obama will use the climate action plan initiatives as a basis for demanding similar ‘pledges’ from other nations – but also use the hoped-for agreement to lock in his domestic climate agenda. If he pulls it off, future Congresses and the next president won’t be able to overturn EPA regulations, for example, without violating our Framework Convention ‘pledges’ to the ‘international community’,” Lewis predicts.

The UK’s Lord Christopher Monckton, who has attended all the UN climate change conferences, including the one held in Durban, South Africa in 2011, previously told CNSNews.com that “the next big moment of danger will be in Paris in December of next year.”

That’s because one of the publicly stated outcomes of the Durban conference was “a decision by Parties to adopt a universal legal agreement on climate change as soon as possible, and no later than 2015.”


Fracking doesn't contaminate water supplies, faulty shale gas wells do

Leaks from faulty shale gas and oil wells have contaminated water supplies, but fracking itself is not to blame, according to new research.

Fracking involves drilling a well deep underground and then pumping water, sand and chemicals down it at high pressure to fracture the rocks, enabling shale gas or oil trapped within them to flow out.

Critics of the controversial process have often claimed that it pollutes water supplies, citing examples of contamination at shale gas sites in the US.

The 2010 film Gaslands showed residents near fracking sites who were able to set alight to the water from their taps, apparently due to methane contamination.

In a paper published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists analysed the origins of the gas in contaminated water by shale wells in Pennsylvania and Texas, two of the biggest drilling regions in the US.

They found that the fracturing of the rocks was not to blame for the leaks. Instead, botched construction of the wells led to gas or oil escaping through cracks in metal casing or through faulty cement seals.

Thomas H Darrah, assistant professor of earth science at Ohio State, who led the study, said: "Our data clearly show that the contamination in these clusters stems from well-integrity problems such as poor casing and cementing.

"The good news is that most of the issues we have identified can potentially be avoided by future improvements in well integrity."

Avner Vengosh, professor of geochemistry and water quality at Duke, said: "These results appear to rule out the possibility that methane has migrated up into drinking water aquifers because of horizontal drilling or hydraulic fracturing, as some people feared."

The distinction is important because it suggests fracking is not intrinsically polluting and should be able to take place safely if wells are constructed properly.

Problems of faulty well construction can also lead to leaks from conventional oil and gas wells.

However, extracting gas from shale requires a far greater intensity of wells than conventional drilling.

Ministers in the UK insist that the regulatory regime is far stricter in the US and should prevent such leaks.

But critics say there are insufficient safeguards to ensure the process is conducted safely and are likely to seize on the study as further evidence that shale gas exploration can be damaging.

Robert B. Jackson professor of environmental and earth sciences at Stanford and Duke, one of the report's authors, said: "People's water has been harmed by drilling. In Texas, we even saw two homes go from clean to contaminated after our sampling began."

The findings echo those of a study by Researching Fracking in Europe (ReFINE), backed by the British Geological Survey and published earlier this year, which also found that although shale gas wells can leak, fracking itself was not to blame. Problems with the structure of the wells – such as inadequate cement seals - were responsible.

ReFINE found that more than six per cent of wells in a major shale exploration region in Pennsylvania had reported some kind of leak.

Professor Richard Davies of Durham University, one of the report’s authors, told the Telegraph at the time: "We have not found any evidence that fracking is the problem. It’s the boreholes that could cause water contamination, and emissions into the atmosphere.

“Shale gas requires a lot of wells to be drilled; more wells to produce the same volume of gas from shale as from a conventional reservoir. That’s why well integrity is critical.”

The study found that of 143 wells that were in use in the UK in 2000, one had leaked. But it found this was “likely to be an underestimate of the actual number of wells that have experienced integrity failure” because of lack of data.


Don’t give up America’s economic and competitive advantage

War is upon us, ISIS is brazenly beheading American journalists—with a promise of more to come; Christian congregations have been bombed during worship, churches have been destroyed, monasteries attacked, entire cities purged, hundreds of thousands have fled, while others have been slaughtered; and cities, weapons, banks, and key infrastructures are being captured.

Surely, with all of these horrors playing out before our eyes, the crisis in Syria and Iraq is the “most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face.” No, the quote above was made about climate change by Hillary Clinton—the heavy favorite for the Democratic 2016 presidential nomination—before a standing-room-only crowd at Senator Harry Reid’s seventh National Clean Energy Summit (NCES 7.0) held in Las Vegas on Thursday, September 4.

We could almost forgive Secretary of State John Kerry for his similar statement made in Jakarta, Indonesia, on February 16, when he referred to climate change as: “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” ISIS hadn’t yet erupted onto the international stage. But now we know better. We know that the world isn’t less violent than it has ever been. We know that it isn’t more tolerant than it has ever been.

Apparently, Clinton hasn’t been following the news. Or, as Senator Rand Paul pointed out: she’s “battling climate change instead of terrorism.”

Clinton’s speech on Thursday was presented to a “friendly crowd,” who cheered her on. In his introduction, Reid declared that Clinton is: “able to explain things in a way we all understand” and said that she was: “the first to identify the fact that there is something called climate change.” Her spot on the program has been referenced as: “her first energy and climate speech of a publicity tour that many believe is the springboard to a presidential campaign.”

While no one in the Mandalay Bay ballroom questioned the validity of her statements—and the Q & A session led by White House Senior Advisor John Podesta resembled a lovefest—there was more than her misperception about “the challenges we face as a nation and a world” to question.

For example, when addressing “unpredictable” subsidies for green energy projects, she claimed that $500 billion is spent every year subsidizing fossil fuels. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), in 2012, global fossil fuel subsidies did, in fact, total $544 billion, however, citing that figure in the same breath as U.S. tax incentives for renewable energy is deceptive at best.

The Institute for Energy Research (IER) did a study on global energy subsidies that revealed: “Fossil fuel consumption subsidies are most prevalent in the Middle East and in North Africa.” The IER report states: “On a per-person basis, fossil fuel consumption subsidies are highest for the United Arab Emirates at $4,172 per person, Kuwait at $3,729 per person and Saudi Arabia at $2,291 per person.” It concludes: “Many Americans are confused by the large amount of global fossil fuel consumption subsidies that the IEA calculates, not realizing that these subsidies have nothing to do with tax policy, research and development or loan guarantees, where most U.S. programs are directed.”

A white paper from the Independent Petroleum Association of America offered the following insights culled from a Congressional Research Service Memo titled Energy Production by Source and Energy Tax Incentives. “While fossil fuels (including oil, natural gas, and coal) accounted for 78 percent of domestic energy production, they received just 13 percent of energy related ‘tax incentives’ in 2009. Meanwhile, renewables accounted for more than 77 percent of the roughly $20 billion in ‘tax incentives’ that went to energy, but generated less than 11 percent of domestic energy production. Renewables have received additional boosts as part of Federal spending packages enacted under the banner of economic recovery.”

Let’s look at those “incentives” for renewables and why they are “unpredictable.” Germany and Spain led the world in green energy subsidies but have since considerably dialed back on them.

In Germany, after more than a decade of green-energy subsidies, its electricity rates and carbon-dioxide emissions have gone up. According to a September 4 Reuter’s report, Germany’s reliance on coal has gone up each of the past four years. Germany is looking at levies for residential photo-voltaic system owners—something also being considered (and, in some cases, implemented) in the U.S.

After nearly100 billion of U.S. taxpayer dollars have gone to green-energy projects, the stimulus-funded program has been plagued with failure, corruption, and illegal activity—though the Department of Energy recently announced a new round of loan guarantees for green-energy projects. Meanwhile—as has happened in Germany—utility bills have gone up and public support for subsidies has declined. After more than twenty years, the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy finally expired on December 31, 2013—though forces that benefit from it are still hoping to extend it retroactively. (Clinton did point out that wind energy is a very big part of farmers’ income in New York.) The PTC is “unpredictable” at best.

In her Q & A session, Clinton said: “One day last summer, Germany got 74 percent of its energy from renewables.” Like the comment about $500 billion in global subsidies for fossil fuels, her speech writers did their homework—but they plucked data without looking deeper and as a result made her look foolish. The 74 percent figure is fact. But it represents a fraction of only one day, not recent history, or even a pattern. One month later, Germany got 50 percent of its electricity demand from solar—but six months earlier, in the January cold, it got only 0.1 percent. In his post in the Energy Collective, Robert Wilson, a PhD Student in Mathematical Ecology at the University of Strathclyde, calls Germany’s situation: “more of a coal lock-in than a solar revolution,” as the need for electricity, especially in the cold, grey days of January, requires the steady supply of coal-fueled electricity.

One other item to question: Clinton clearly collaborates with her former boss on his Clean Power Plan, which has a growing coalition of opponents as diverse as the Exotic Wildlife Association, the Foundry Association of Michigan, California Cotton Growers Association, Texas Aggregates and Concrete Association, The Fertilizer Institute, Georgia Railroad Association, Nebraska Farm Bureau Federation, electric utilities and co-ops, and city and state Chambers of Commerce from coast-to-coast.

The Clean Power Plan is about reducing carbon-dioxide emission from existing power plants. In her speech, Clinton repeated a falsehood Obama likes to reference: reducing CO2 emissions will improve children’s’ respiratory health.

“Hillary apparently doesn’t know the difference between soot and CO2,” quipped Jane Orient, MD, and president of Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. She continued: “And the American Lung Association pretends it doesn’t. No one can claim that the tiny increase in CO2 from coal-fueled generating stations increases asthma—just being indoors with other breathing humans increases CO2 much more and doesn’t cause asthma.”

Orient went on to explain: “Some very bad studies of associations between high air pollution days and ‘premature’ deaths are used to extrapolate as with the liner no-threshold radiation hypothesis—lots of diesel exhaust may provoke an asthma attack, therefore a vanishingly small increase in soot affecting many people will cause some asthma. Some dust is soot, which is carbon, quod erat demonstratum.” She added: “Unemployment, poverty, high electricity bills don’t figure into the calculation.”

Dr. Charles Battig, a board certified anesthesiologist, told me: “asthma sufferers, just like individuals without any respiratory disease, have 4 to 5 percent CO2 in their lungs as a normal component of their exhaled air. The CO2 levels will vary during an asthma attack. The presence of CO2 in expired air is normal for all humans, and ambient CO2 is not a trigger for an asthmatic attack.  CO2 is not a pathological pollutant per se at levels 100 times that of ambient (inspired air); 400ppm ambient vs. 40,000 ppm in expired air.”

As Reid announced, Clinton may be able to “able to explain things in a way we all understand,” but she is creative with the data—using it to make the points she needed to curry favor with the NCES 7.0 audience.

In its review of her speech, the National Journal pointed out: “As expected, Clinton’s keynote address at the National Clean Energy Summit didn’t wade into much controversial territory.” She never touched on the Keystone pipeline that the State Department positively reviewed under her watch and which, in 2010, she stated that she was “inclined to approve.”

Clinton did, however, take a couple risks for which she deserves some credit. She strayed from the safe turf, when she admitted that Obama’s trajectory on climate change policy hit “a brick wall of opposition” at the 2009 United Nations climate talks in Copenhagen.

She also acknowledged: “Energy is a major part of our foreign policy.” As such, she supports development of American natural gas and oil, calling it an example “of American innovation changing the game.”

Addressing the benefits of producing and exporting natural gas and oil, she said: “Assuming that our production stays at the levels, or even as some predict, goes higher, I do think there’s a play there.” Noting it could help Europe and Asia, she added: “This is a great economic advantage, a competitive advantage, for us. …We don’t want to give that up.”

America does have an energy advantage—and Clinton is correct: “We don’t want to give that up.” Why then, does she (and President Obama) support policies that would take that away—or at least, not encourage our energy growth?

That fact that Clinton chose to start her publicity tour, the perceived springboard to her presidential campaign, with a speech on energy should signal to all of America how important the topic truly is. Energy makes America great!


The Ozone Hole Isn’t Fixed. But That’s No Worry

Matt Ridley

The risk from extra UV light is just one of the dangers that have been overplayed by the eco-exaggerators

The ozone layer is healing. Or so said the news last week. Thanks to a treaty signed in Montreal in 1989 to get rid of refrigerant chemicals called chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), the planet’s stratospheric sunscreen has at last begun thickening again. Planetary disaster has been averted by politics.

For reasons I will explain, this news deserves to be taken with a large pinch of salt. You do not have to dig far to find evidence that the ozone hole was never nearly as dangerous as some people said, that it is not necessarily healing yet and that it might not have been caused mainly by CFCs anyway.

The timing of the announcement was plainly political: it came on the 25th anniversary of the treaty, and just before a big United Nations climate conference in New York, the aim of which is to push for a climate treaty modelled on the ozone one.

Here’s what was actually announced last week, in the words of a Nasa scientist, Paul Newman: “From 2000 to 2013, ozone levels climbed 4 per cent in the key mid-northern latitudes.” That’s a pretty small change and it is in the wrong place. The ozone thinning that worried everybody in the 1980s was over Antarctica.

Over northern latitudes, ozone concentration has been falling by about 4 per cent each March before recovering. Over Antarctica, since 1980, the ozone concentration has fallen by 40 or 50 per cent each September before the sun rebuilds it.

So what’s happening to the Antarctic ozone hole? Thanks to a diligent blogger named Anthony Watts, I came across a press release also from Nasa about nine months ago, which said: “Two new studies show that signs of recovery are not yet present, and that temperature and winds are still driving any annual changes in ozone hole size.”

As recently as 2006, Nasa announced, quoting Paul Newman again, that the Antarctic ozone hole that year was “the largest ever recorded”. The following year a paper in Nature magazine from Markus Rex, a German scientist, presented new evidence that suggested CFCs may be responsible for less than 40 per cent of ozone destruction anyway. Besides, nobody knows for sure how big the ozone hole was each spring before CFCs were invented. All we know is that it varies from year to year.

How much damage did the ozone hole ever threaten to do anyway? It is fascinating to go back and read what the usual hyperventilating eco-exaggerators said about ozone thinning in the 1980s. As a result of the extra ultraviolet light coming through the Antarctic ozone hole, southernmost parts of Patagonia and New Zealand see about 12 per cent more UV light than expected. This means that the weak September sunshine, though it feels much the same, has the power to cause sunburn more like that of latitudes a few hundred miles north. Hardly Armageddon.

The New York Times reported “an increase in Twilight Zone-type reports of sheep and rabbits with cataracts” in southern Chile. Not to be outdone, Al Gore wrote that “hunters now report finding blind rabbits; fisherman catch blind salmon”. Zoologists briefly blamed the near extinction of many amphibian species on thin ozone. Melanoma in people was also said to be on the rise as a result.

This was nonsense. Frogs were dying out because of a fungal disease spread from Africa — nothing to do with ozone. Rabbits and fish blinded by a little extra sunlight proved to be as mythical as unicorns. An eye disease in Chilean sheep was happening outside the ozone-depleted zone and was caused by an infection called pinkeye — nothing to do with UV light. And melanoma incidence in people actually levelled out during the period when the ozone got thinner.

Then remember that the ozone hole appears when the sky is dark all day, and over an uninhabited continent. Even if it persists into the Antarctic spring and spills north briefly, the hole allows 50 times less ultraviolet light through than would hit your skin at the equator at sea level (let alone at a high altitude) in the tropics. So it would be bonkers to worry about UV as you sailed round Cape Horn in spring, say, but not when you stopped at the Galapagos: the skin cancer risk is 50 times higher in the latter place.

This kind of eco-exaggeration has been going on for 50 years. In the 1960s Rachel Carson said there was an epidemic of childhood cancer caused by DDT; it was not true — DDT had environmental effects but did not cause human cancers.

In the 1970s the Sahara desert was said be advancing a mile a year; it was not true — the region south of the Sahara has grown markedly greener and more thickly vegetated in recent decades.

In the 1980s acid rain was said to be devastating European forests; not true — any local declines in woodland were caused by pests or local pollution, not by the sulphates and nitrates in rain, which may have contributed to an actual increase in the overall growth rate of European forests during the decade.

In the 1990s sperm counts were said to be plummeting thanks to pollution with man-made “endocrine disruptor” chemicals; not true — there was no fall in sperm counts.

In the 2000s the Gulf Stream was said to be failing and hurricanes were said to be getting more numerous and worse, thanks to global warming; neither was true, except in a Hollywood studio.

The motive for last week’s announcement was to nudge world leaders towards a treaty on climate change by reminding them of how well the ozone treaty worked. But getting the world to agree to cease production of one rare class of chemical, for which substitutes existed, and which only a few companies mainly in rich countries manufactured, was a very different proposition from setting out to decarbonise the whole economy, when each of us depends on burning carbon (and hydrogen) for almost every product, service, meal, comfort and journey in our lives.

The true lesson of the ozone story is that taking precautionary action on the basis of dubious evidence and exaggerated claims might be all right if the action does relatively little economic harm.

However, loading the entire world economy with costly energy, and new environmental risks based on exaggerated claims about what might in future happen to the climate makes less sense.


Cross-Party Alliance in N.E. England: Punishing ‘Green’ Taxes Threaten UK’s Energy Intensive Industries

TEESSIDE’S “proud industrial heritage” faces further decline because of punishing ‘green’ taxes, the Government was warned yesterday (Thursday, September 11).

A cross-party alliance of the region’s MPs used a Commons debate to urge ministers to ease the pain for energy intensive industries, including steel and chemicals.

The plea follows the introduction of a ‘carbon tax’ – a minimum price for the energy produced, to cover the cost of pollution and to stimulate new, renewable forms of energy.

Earlier this year, the Chancellor capped that price floor at £18 per tonne of CO2 from 2016, instead of allowing a rise to £30 by 2020 – saving industries around £4bn over three years.

But Alex Cunningham (Lab; Stockton North) argued the move did not go far enough, saying: “The Tees Valley has long been synonymous with heavy industry and the thirst for energy that it necessarily entails.

“The cooling towers and chimney stacks that still adorn, if not dominate, parts of the region’s skyline are testimony to Teesside’s proud industrial heritage.

“But the decline of those industries will be hastened if actions are not taken to lessen the burdens imposed by carbon taxes and levies.”

The Labour MP raised the “struggles” of GrowHow, a fertiliser company in his constituency, which had to pay three times as much for gas as its Russian competitors.

And he added: “Similarly, German electricity prices on a delivered basis for very large users in 2013 equated to €38 per MW, against £70 per MW in the UK.

“The situation is set to get much worse over the next decade. UK energy and climate change policies will add around £30 to every megawatt of electricity by 2020, substantially more than for any other country.”

The plea was echoed by Ian Swales (Lib Dem; Redcar), who pointed out how the Tata beam mill in his constituency made beams for the new World Trade Centre.

He said: “Their beams are in nine of the ten tallest buildings in the world. Steel beams cannot be made without using a great deal of energy - there are physical and chemical limits.

“When I see the UK’s attitude to these sorts of policies, I often feel like we are playing cricket, while other countries are playing rugby, boules or other sports that we do not recognise.”

In reply, Treasury minister Priti Patel insisted the Government was committed to ensuring that manufacturing was able to remain competitive during the shift to low carbon production.

And she stressed that ministers were pressing the European Commission for a review of the sectors of industry eligible for compensation.

That followed Labour criticism that, of the £250m promised by the Chancellor in 2011, only £31m has been paid out – with no companies compensated for domestic carbon taxes.


Welcome To Green Britain: Poor Face ‘Heat-Or Eat’ Problem


Do households cut back on food spending to finance the additional cost of keeping warm during spells of unseasonably cold weather? For households which cannot smooth consumption over time, we describe how cold weather shocks are equivalent to income shocks. We merge detailed household level expenditure data from older households with historical regional weather information. We find evidence that the poorest of older households cannot smooth fuel spending over the worst temperature shocks. Statistically significant reductions in food spending occur in response to winter temperatures 2 or more standard deviations colder than expected, which occur about 1 winter month in 40; reductions in food expenditure are considerably larger in poorer households.

More at Journal of the Royal Statistical Society: Series A (Statistics in Society) Volume 177, Issue 1, pages 281–294, January 2014


For more postings from me, see  DISSECTING LEFTISM, TONGUE-TIED, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, POLITICAL CORRECTNESS WATCH, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC and AUSTRALIAN POLITICS. Home Pages are   here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  

Preserving the graphics:  Most graphics on this site are hotlinked from elsewhere.  But hotlinked graphics sometimes have only a short life -- as little as a week in some cases.  After that they no longer come up.  From January 2011 on, therefore, I have posted a monthly copy of everything on this blog to a separate site where I can host text and graphics together -- which should make the graphics available even if they are no longer coming up on this site.  See  here or here


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