Thursday, August 13, 2009

Democrat climate bill could cost 2 million jobs

Add another climate bill cost estimate to the growing pile. The National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the American Council for Capital Formation (ACCF) released a study Wednesday that found under a high-cost scenario the House global warming bill could reduce economic growth by 2.4 percent and cost 2 million jobs by 2030.

Environmentalists were quick to criticize the study for underselling the development of climate-friendly sources of power and not releasing other assumptions NAM and ACCF fed into the computer model to get their economic forecast, which takes more of a glass-half-empty view than recent governmental reports.

But the business groups’ figures will likely provide opponents of capping carbon more ammunition and could add to the angst of senators from industrial states. One key finding is that the climate bill will hurt the manufacturing sector particularly hard. As much as 66 percent of the total job loss from the climate bill could come from manufacturers, the report notes.

And though the impact of the bill will grow over time, the economy will start feeling the effects of the carbon cap almost immediately. “Industrial production begins to decline immediately in 2012, relative to the baseline,” the report notes.

Tony Kreindler, a spokesman for the Environmental Defense Fund, which supports the climate bill, said the business study is overly pessimistic about the development of nuclear power plants and makes other assumptions that raise the costs of a climate cap. For example, the NAM-ACCF study assumes a relatively small amount of international offsets would be available to businesses to help them meet carbon caps.

Even so, Kreindler criticized the study for its lack of details about exactly what assumptions went into the model. The report’s executive summary, the only version released publicly, does provide some details about what assumption the study makes, relating to the development of wind and other renewable sources of power and the availability of offsets to help businesses meet their emissions reductions. Modelers also assumed that only 10 to 25 nuclear plants would be built in the next two decades.

The Energy Information Administration, however, assumed 95 plants would be built by 2030, under one scenario.

Margo Thorning, senior vice president and chief economist at ACCF, called that projection “ridiculous” given the expense of building a nuclear plant and the length of time it takes to get a permit from nuclear regulators to move forward with construction. She said the assumptions used in the NAM-ACCF study were based on information gathered from business leaders and energy experts. “We’ve bent over backward to be generous about how quickly new technology can be put in place” that would help minimize the costs of the climate bill, Thorning said.


If global warming equals more storms, where are they?‏

At the time of Hurricane Katrina, the Warmists universally assured us that Katrina was a sign of global warming. So now that we are having very few hurricanes we are now in global cooling? Warmists have to decide that they were wrong about Katrina or wrong about global warming. They will avoid even thinking about it of course

The now iconic image of murky dust rising from a smokestack in the shape of a hurricane on the cover of Al Gore’s global warming documentary draws a distinct correlation between rising temperatures and stronger storm patterns. But here’s an inconvenient truth: This year’s hurricane season has gotten off to the slowest start in 17 years. And yet global warming alarmists continue to ring their doomsday sirens.

The official start of the hurricane season is June 1. And not since 1992 — the year of Hurricane Andrew — has the Atlantic Ocean been silent past Aug. 4. Meteorologists have yet to name even a single tropical storm in the Atlantic in 2009. So is global warming really doing anything?

“While it is commonly thought that global warming would increase hurricane activity, that is far from a settled issue,” said Rob Eisenson, a meteorologist at Western Connecticut State University. “There are some research studies that suggest global warming would not have that effect.” But Eisenson cautions that looking at one season’s activity cannot determine whether a long-term trend is or is not happening.

“I don’t think the slow start to the hurricane season can be pointed to as an erosion of the claims of global warming or hurricane activity. Likewise, I don’t think a single especially active hurricane year is highly supportive of these claims. ... Anyone can claim anything in this debate — fact is, there is no way to prove or disprove any of it.” [An admirable admission]


Obama’s nuclear waste

President Obama claims he wants to transform America's energy economy away from the fossil fuels that presently provide the lion's share of our energy. He talks about investing tens of billions of dollars for renewable energy technology research and development and to create a "smart" electricity grid. He pushes for a costly cap-and-trade system, while promising the creation of millions of new green jobs. All of this is designed to curb the greenhouse gas emissions he claims imperil the planet.

So why does his administration show hostility to the one technology that can provide reliable, industrial-size amounts of energy while emitting absolutely no carbon dioxide? If Obama is genuinely concerned about slashing emissions, then his antagonism toward nuclear power makes no sense.

Two examples have emerged recently giving credence to the notion that Obama's energy policies are crafted to appease certain constituencies rather than effect the transformation to a post-carbon economy.

The first came two weeks ago when the Department of Energy abruptly turned down USEC, Inc.'s application for a $2 billion loan guarantee to help it finish building an advanced uranium enrichment facility in Piketon, Ohio. The plant was already under construction. Officials had every reason to believe the federal loan guarantee that would help nail down additional private funding was coming. After all, during the campaign last year Obama pledged his "full support" to the enrichment facility project. He promised, "I will work with the Department of Energy to help make loan guarantees available for this and other advanced energy programs that reduce carbon emissions."

So much for campaign promises. In late July the Obama Administration instructed USEC to withdraw its application, saying the company had failed to prove the enrichment technology was commercially viable. As a result, USEC announced it was demobilizing the project, and many employees could lose their jobs.

The Obama team's explanation for its decision is mystifying. USEC's program was already well along, having secured the necessary construction and operating licenses from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in 2007. More than that, the project's centrifuges have already undergone more than 150,000 machine hours of tests to enable researchers to hone designs and improve reliability. These have been successful enough for the company to finalize design and begin seeking components from manufacturers. USEC had all its ducks in a row to help provide low-enriched uranium to the 21st century nuclear energy marketplace, yet Obama's Department of Energy (DOE) called its efforts "failed."

Even more insulting, one day after denying USEC's $2 billion loan guarantee request, DOE announced it will provide $30 billion in loan guarantees for extremely speculative renewable energy projects to harness wind and solar power. Considering the billions of dollars in additional subsidies DOE gives for alternative energy research and production, it seems anybody with a half-baked idea who goes hat-in-hand to Washington will get a check. But a proven commercial technology like that demonstrated by USEC gets the rug pulled out from under because it is associated with nuclear power. That may please anti-nuclear green activists who voted in droves for Obama, but it obviously won't help America solve its future energy problems.

The decision to deny the loan guarantee drew ferocious condemnation from USEC, which figured it should be able to count on the president's word. It also drew widespread public criticism from a range of Ohio politicians. Surprised by the blowback -- and realizing perhaps that a fair number of job losses in a critical swing state could be directly pinned on the Obama team -- the Energy Department relented and announced several days later that it will delay a final decision for six months. Expect to see an announcement half a year from now congratulating USEC for making the necessary improvements in the project to qualify for the loan guarantee. Given the reaction to the initial decision, it makes far less sense for Obama to continue with this particular sop to the green lobby. Better to save face -- and jobs -- and find other ways to appease the anti-nuclear left. That's how politics works. It's understandable, but it doesn't give much confidence that the president's team takes the nation's energy challenges all that seriously.

At roughly the same time the Obama Administration reneged on his campaign promise to USEC, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was crowing that the White House privately has assured him it will eliminate funding for the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository by 2011. The idea is to hamstring the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's ability to complete its independent scientific assessment of Yucca Mountain's suitability to store high-level nuclear waste.

Obama is trying to kill Yucca Mountain by a thousand cuts. Unfortunately, he has not proposed any alternative for secure waste storage, aside from a promise to convene a blue-ribbon panel of experts to study an issue which the government has already spent tens of billions of dollars studying. Spent fuel continues to accumulate in temporary pools outside the nation's 104 commercial nuclear reactors. Without any sort of resolution, some reactors eventually may be forced to shut down when their temporary facilities are filled. How that will help curb greenhouse gas emissions is unclear. But at least the White House has a happy Harry Reid on its side.

Obama promised at his Inaugural to restore science to its rightful place. When it comes to nuclear power, however, Obama's politics kick science to the curb.


U.S. Energy bill requires doubling nuke use

Low-cost solution unlikely, unpopular

To satisfy House Democrats' low-cost solution to global warming, Americans would have to double their reliance on nuclear energy by 2030 - a target the nuclear industry says is unlikely and that many environmentalists and Democrats dislike.

That is the conclusion of a new Energy Information Administration report that looked at the House Democrats' global warming bill. To produce enough clean energy at a reasonable cost would require construction of dozens of new nuclear power plants, even though no new plant has been built in decades.

The EIA, in its report last week, projected that to keep the costs of implementing the bill low for consumers - about $339 extra per household in 2030 according to their basic scenario - nuclear energy use would rise from 8 quadrillion BTUs a year to 16 quadrillion, or from 11.3 percent of total U.S. energy to 18.1 percent.

That's the largest projected increase of any source of energy, even topping renewable sources such as wind and solar power, which are supposed to be the hallmark of the bill, and would mean reliance on a controversial technology.

"What this shows is that when you fail to make necessary investments in clean and renewable technologies and in efficiency measures, you are left with using fossil fuels and other anachronistic and outdated technologies, and I include nuclear in that," said Damon Moglen, the climate campaign director at Greenpeace, which opposed the House bill as not laying out a clear enough road map to a clean-energy future.

Other environmentalists blasted the EIA report as "a fantasy."

"This thing is completely so buried in the 20th century it isn't even funny," said Arjun Makhijani, president of the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, which opposes expanded nuclear power. "To assume that nuclear and carbon sequestration are going to be the low-cost sources of electricity in the future are wrong."

He said EIA underestimated the ability of wind and solar power to expand quickly and cheaply.

But nuclear-energy proponents back the House bill and were pleased with the EIA analysis, saying it shows how critical nuclear energy will be if goals on climate change are to be met without creating massive new costs for consumers.

"You clearly cannot have a credible program to control carbon emissions without expanded nuclear power," said Richard J. Myers, vice president of policy for the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear power industry's advocacy arm.


Cash for climate

How to get your money's worth on climate change geoengineering

Let's say the world will spend $250 billion a year for the next 10 years to minimize the suffering caused by climate change. What's the best bargain we can get for the money?

The Copenhagen Consensus Center (CCC), a think-tank in Denmark headed by Skeptical Environmentalist Bjorn Lomborg, has commissioned 21 papers from leading climate experts and economists to answer that very question. Over the coming month, the CCC will be looking at the benefits and costs of proposed actions in four different areas: climate engineering, cutting future greenhouse gas emissions, economic growth, and green energy technologies. Each topic will feature a main research paper accompanied by a series of critiques by other experts called perspective papers.

At the end of the process, the CCC will assemble a panel of five leading economists, three of them Nobelists, to rank all of the proposed solutions as to their relative cost-effectiveness. This ranking process is the CCC's specialty—it has twice used this technique to rank order various proposals for solving some of the world's biggest problems, including disease eradication, sanitation, economic development, malnutrition, and the oppression of women.

This week, the CCC kicked off the process with the high-tech topic of climate engineering, starting with a paper by J. Eric Bickel, an assistant professor at the University of Texas at Austin in Operations Research and a fellow in the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy, and Lee Lane, a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., where he also serves as the co-director of the Institute's Geoengineering Project. Bickel and Lane accept that global warming poses some risks to humanity and use cost-benefit analysis to weigh various proposals for engineering global climate. The chief question that they address is how much research and development funding should be devoted to investigating the feasibility of climate engineering.

The two geoengineering options to manage climate change that Bickel and Lane consider are blocking sunlight or capturing carbon. They favor blocking sunlight—or solar radiation management—over taking carbon out of the atmosphere—or air capture. Bickel and Lane estimate the costs of various solar radiation management scenarios that would offset 0.6° C, 1.3° C, and 1.9° C of future warming, and find that the benefits of deploying some proposed solar radiation management techniques outweigh the costs by between $4 and $18 trillion. (Assuming the calculations of Dynamic Integrated Model of Climate and Economics developed by Yale University economist William Nordhaus, which suggests that the 200-year present value of climate damages would be about $22 trillion, are in the right ballpark.) Air capture involves technologies that would remove ambient carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and most likely bury it underground. Bickel and Lane argue that air capture technologies are too expensive and so do not spend a great deal of time on the topic.

The planet is warming because greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide re-radiate heat from the sun back toward the earth as it tries to escape into space. Solar radiation management techniques aim to increase the amount of sunlight radiated back into space in order to lower the globe's temperature. Bickel and Lane look at proposals that would purposely inject sulfur or other reflective particles into the stratosphere on an ongoing basis to counter the effects of man-made global warming.

This phenomenon sometimes occurs naturally. Volcanoes occasionally inject sulfur particles high into the stratosphere 8 to 12 miles above the earth's surface where they reflect sunlight back into space cooling the planet. For example, when Mount Pinatubo erupted in 1991 in the Philippines, it injected huge amounts of sulfur particles into the stratosphere lowering the globe's average temperature by about 0.5° C for the next year.

The priciest option that Bickel and Lane analyze is a proposal to install a sunshade involving about 4 trillion autonomous "flyers" placed at about 1 million miles in space to dim the sunlight before it reaches the earth. To offset temperatures by 0.6° C, it would take 4 trillion flyers, each about 400-inches square, and weighing a total of 5 million tons. Assuming each launch could carry 800,000 flyers up at a time, that would mean 5 million launches. If a launch occurred every 5 minutes, the entire sunshade could be in place in about 50 years. Using current numbers for launch and satellite manufacturing costs, the sunshade would cost $135 trillion to make and $395 trillion to get it into space. These costs greatly exceed mainstream estimates of the damages that might be caused by climate change. In fact, those figures add up to about 10 times the size of the current world GDP.

Stratospheric aerosols are next up for consideration. Bickel and Lane report that one recent study suggested it would be possible to use a fleet of 167 F-15 airplanes flying three times per day to inject about 1 billion million tons of sulfur particles into the stratosphere each year. This would cost about $4.2 billion per year. The same study calculated firing 8,000 artillery shells daily loaded with sulfur into the stratosphere would cost about $30 billion annually or launching 37,000 stratospheric balloons daily would cost between $21 billion and 30 billion per year. Bickel and Lane calculate that the benefit-cost ratio for using artillery shells to loft aerosols into the stratosphere is 27 to 1. The F-15 option's benefit-cost ratio would be even more favorable.

The third solar radiation management technique Bickel and Lane consider is marine cloud whitening, a proposal that involves hundreds of ships cruising the world's oceans spewing salt water as a mist into the atmosphere. The salt particles would function as cloud condensation nuclei which would increase the extent and brightness of low level clouds over the oceans. These clouds would reflect sunlight back into space cooling the earth's surface.

In this case, to offset 0.6° C of warming would involve 284 ships spewing salt water into the air at a cost of $1 billion per year. To reduce future temperatures by 1.9° C, 1881 vessels would have to be deployed at a cost of $5.8 billion annually. Bickel and Lane calculate that the benefit-cost ratios for cloud whitening range from 7,000-to-1 to 2,500-to-1.

On the strength of these high benefit-cost ratios, Bickel and Lane argue that the Copenhagen Consensus panel of economists should allocate an average of 0.3 percent of its $250 billion climate change budget ($750 million per year) to solar radiation management and air capture research over the next decade.

To help the final panel in their evaluations, the CCC commissioned two critiques of the Bickel and Lane paper. In her perspective paper critiquing Bickel and Lane's assessment of climate engineering, Anne E. Smith, an economist who heads up the climate and sustainability practice at the consultancy Charles River Associates, delves deeper into the uncertainties about the benefits and costs of solar radiation management. One important goal of R&D into solar radiation management is to reduce uncertainties about its risks.

A remarkably interesting observation by Smith is that such research will have no value to people who are inclined to have positive views about climate engineering. This is because partisans of the technique will tend to dismiss research that suggest that it poses higher risks as false alarms. On the other hand, research might also have no information value because it will never be good enough to convince hyper-cautious people that geoengineering is safe. Finally, Smith opines that Bickel and Lane have given air capture too short shrift and that it could serve as a backup option should new costly risks emerge after solar radiation management has been deployed.

The second perspective paper, from University of Colorado environmental studies professor Roger Pielke, Jr. takes a harder look at the costs and benefits of air capture of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Among other reasons, Pielke favors air capture over solar radiation management because it meets the three rules for technological fixes, which are quite useful and worth examining in more detail here.

The first rule is that the technology must largely embody the cause-effect relationship connecting problem to solution. In this case, solar radiation management fails because it addresses the effect of higher average global temperatures rather than the cause, which is accumulating concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. On the other hand, air capture aims to remove the cause—e.g., greenhouse gases—from the atmosphere thus preventing an increase in temperature.

The second rule is that the effects of the technological fix must be assessable using relatively unambiguous or uncontroversial criteria. Air capture clearly meets this criterion. Pielke notes, "If the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is judged to be a problem, then its removal logically follows as a solution."

The third rule of technological fixes is that research and development is most likely to contribute decisively to solving a social problem when it focuses on improving a standardized technical core that already exists. In this case, Pielke argues that air capture technologies have been developed now that can be refined and deployed with no risk to the climate system.

To assess the costs of air capture Pielke points out that various estimates for reducing the emissions of carbon dioxide might cost between 1 to 3 percent of total global GDP over the next century. Assuming about 3 percent global GDP growth to 2100, Pielke calculates that the cost of air capture at even $500 per ton of carbon would cost 2.7 percent of global GDP if the goal is to make sure that carbon dioxide concentrations do not exceed 450 parts per million. Pielke concludes, "My bottom line is that the geoengineering of the earth system as a way to adapt to increasing concentrations of greenhouse gases is a losing proposition."

Despite the cautions of Smith and Pielke, it is hard to disagree with Bickel and Lane's conclusion on climate engineering: "The results of this initial benefit-cost analysis place the burden of proof squarely on the shoulders of those who would prevent such research."


Australian Senate kills Warmist laws

The Senate has defeated legislation to establish an emissions trading scheme, forcing the Government to negotiate with the Opposition or persist with its bill with the threat of an early election. Just after 11am, the Opposition, Greens, and the independents, Nick Xenophon and Steve Fielding, voted to defeat the package of 11 bills that sought to establish a scheme from 2011 onwards.

If the Government waits three months to reintroduce the bills, and they are defeated again, it would serve as a trigger for a double dissolution election. [An early election which dissolves both the Senate and the lower house]

Before the vote, Climate Change Minister Penny Wong called it a "day of reckoning" on climate change. "This is a reform that is long overdue, that is in the national interest, that both major political parties said they would implement when they went to the last election," she said. In summing up the Government's case before the vote, Senator Wong said: ''This bill may be going down today but this is not the end. We will press forward, we will press on with this reform for as long as we have to. ''We will bring this bill back before the end of the year."

Opposition Leader Malcolm Turnbull said he was willing to negotiate amendments to pass a scheme in the event the Government reintroduces the bills. But his party room is divided and he faces a tough test ahead, even though he has majority support to negotiate.

Senator Wong said again this morning she would consider amendments "when Mr Turnbull has serious and credible amendments that have the support of his party room". Debate on the scheme began about 10am but there were few speakers left to make a contribution. Family First Senator Steve Fielding told the Senate of his concerns that humans were not the cause of global warming.


But early election trigger won't work

KEVIN Rudd's plans for an early double dissolution election have been sunk, with the discovery of a legal defect in his Emissions Trading Scheme. The Clerk of the Senate, Harry Evans, is understood to have confirmed that even if Mr Rudd were to go to a double dissolution election to get his ETS through Parliament, the scheme could still be blocked by the Senate.

Mr Evans an expert on Senate practice is understood to have based his argument on the fact that most of the ETS relies not on law, but on regulation. The Standing Orders of the Parliament state those regulations could still be struck down by the Senate even if the laws establishing the ETS were passed at a joint sitting of Parliament following a double dissolution election.

Mr Evans' views are based on the 1987 precedent of the failed Australia Card. Then Prime Minister Bob Hawke went to a double dissolution election using the Senate's obstruction of the ID card as a trigger. He won the election and was preparing for a joint sitting of the Parliament when it was discovered by the Opposition that the start-up date for the card was governed by regulation and a hostile Senate would vote it down. In a humiliating backdown, Mr Hawke had to abandon the ID card.

Mr Evans believes Mr Rudd is now in the same position.

When contacted yesterday, Mr Evans declined to comment publicly. It is understood that shadow attorney-general George Brandis shares Mr Evans' opinion. It is likely Mr Evans' view will be confirmed in writing this week when Senator Brandis approaches him for confirmation of his opinion.



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