Wednesday, June 04, 2014

Pointless Obama coal plan creates outcry on both sides of politics

President Barack Obama's plan to reduce carbon emissions is escalating environmental policy fights in energy-rich states, home to many of the marquee races that could determine which party controls the Senate after November's elections.

Democrats running in conservative-leaning states in Appalachia and other energy-producing areas quickly distanced themselves from the draft rule released Monday by the Environmental Protection Agency. The proposal aims to reduce carbon emissions from fossil fuel-fired power plants by an average of 30% from 2005 levels by 2030.

"When I'm in the U.S. Senate, I will fiercely oppose the president's attack on Kentucky's coal industry, because protecting our jobs will be my No. 1 priority," said Democrat Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state, who is challenging Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) in one of the year's most expensive races.

Even in areas less dominated by coal, vulnerable Democrats criticized Mr. Obama for acting without congressional approval to advance his agenda. They sought to do so carefully to avoid alienating the party's base, which generally supports efforts to combat climate change.

Republicans, who face little political risk from criticizing the president, labeled the proposed rule a job-killing reward to his environmental donors and a new "energy tax" that would drive up electricity prices.

"The president's plan is nuts," House Speaker John Boehner (R., Ohio) said in a statement, reflecting a GOP consensus that the rule would inhibit job creation and economic growth.

President Barack Obama disagreed, saying: "It provides a huge incentive for states and consumers to become more energy efficient."

The plan elicited the most heated attacks in Appalachian states, including Kentucky and in West Virginia, where a coal miner appears on the state flag. But even when Democrats criticized the president's plan, Republicans worked to tie their rivals to Mr. Obama.

Democratic state Secretary of State Natalie Tennant, who is running to replace the retiring Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D., W.Va.), vowed to work to block the plan.

Her GOP rival, Rep. Shelley Moore Capito, who also opposes the proposed regulations, stressed Ms. Tennant's past support for the president in a call with reporters Monday.

Ms. Tennant "has been very positive about him in terms of leading the country, and w"We very much differ in terms of that," she said.

Other Democrats in conservative-leaning states proposed taking legislative action to block the EPA from implementing the rule.

Rep. Nick Rahall (D., W.Va.), running for re-election in a conservative-leaning district, said Monday he would introduce a bill aimed at scuttling the proposal and preventing the government from issuing any similar rules without congressional approval for at least five years.

"There is a right way and a wrong way of doing things, and the Obama administration has got it wrong, once again," Mr. Rahall said in a statement.

Mr. McConnell has also said he plans to introduce legislation seeking to block the rule, though it stands little chance of advancing in the Democratic-controlled Senate.

The EPA proposal also is expected to stoke efforts by vulnerable Democrats to distance themselves from the president in other battleground Senate states, including Alaska and Louisiana.

"While it is important to reduce carbon in the atmosphere, this should not be achieved by EPA regulations," said Sen. Mary Landrieu, a Louisiana Democrat running for re-election.

Even before the EPA announcement, Ms. Landrieu was airing a TV ad touting her commitment to building the Keystone XL pipeline, and Sen. Mark Begich (D., Alaska) reminded voters in his own ad that he supports more oil drilling in the Arctic.

Some Democrats in tight races sought to avoid antagonizing the party's base voters, who are particularly important in midterm elections, when turnout is often lower.

In North Carolina, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan praised the EPA during a speech to local environmental activists last week, saying the agency's "ability to responsibly regulate greenhouse gas emissions is key to protecting our environment."

Her calculus is that voters will welcome an environmental push after coal ash spilled into the state's Dan River in February.

Still, Ms. Hagan, who is being challenged by North Carolina Republican state House speaker Thom Tillis, said she expected to ask for changes after reviewing the rule.

Republicans were quick to note Monday that Mr. Obama's latest push to rein in carbon emissions has strong support among Democratic donors, including California environmentalist Tom Steyer, who is helping to fund candidates who oppose the Keystone construction.

"Once again, President Obama is more concerned with the desires of billionaire campaign contributors and placating extremist special interests than helping American workers and families escape the failed Obama economy," said Sen. Ted Cruz (R., Texas).

Democrats in secure seats hailed what they called a landmark step in combating global warming.

"Thank goodness the president refuses to be bullied by those who have their heads in the sand, and whose obstruction is leading us off the climate change cliff," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D., Calif.).


EPA Admits Climate Rule Will Raise Electricity Prices

In 2008, Barack Obama said his energy plan would cause electricity prices to “necessarily skyrocket.” The Environmental Protection Agency’s latest power plant regulations seem designed to do just that.

The EPA’s own regulatory analysis of its rule to cut carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants says it will hike retail electricity by as much as 6.5 percent by 2020 — all while forcing 19 percent of the U.S. coal-fired capacity to shutdown and decreasing coal production by up to 28 percent.

“Under the provisions of this rule, EPA projects that approximately 46 to 49 GW of additional coal-fired generation (about 19% of all coal-fired capacity and 4.6% of total generation capacity in 2020) may be removed from operation by 2020,” the EPA says in its regulatory impact analysis of the Obama administration’s Clean Power Plan.

The decrease in coal-fired power will also cause natural gas prices to rise up to 11.5 percent as an additional 1.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is used to make up for the lack of coal power in 2020.

“Average retail electricity prices are projected to increase in the contiguous U.S. by 5.9% to 6.5% in 2020,” the agency reported. Prices will have increased by about 3 percent by 2030, the agency added. But the EPA added that electricity prices will fall by nine percent after 2030 because of lower energy demand and increased energy efficiency further cuts consumption.

Despite the energy price increases, the Obama administration and its environmentalist allies have hailed the regulation as a major step in tackling global warming and improving public health.

“The EPA’s proposal to limit carbon pollution from power plants for the first time ever is a giant leap forward in protecting the health of all Americans and future generations,” Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, said in a statement.

The NRDC released a study last week arguing the EPA’s power plant rule would save Americans $37.4 billion on their electric bills in 2020 and create 274,000 jobs — a much more optimistic prediction than even the EPA put forward.

But the U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported that EPA’s power plant rule would increase peoples’ energy costs by $17 billion per year. In total, the EPA rule would cost the U.S. economy $50 billion annually and kill 224,000 jobs per year.

Previous EPA regulations have already set the stage for skyrocketing electricity prices. The Mercury Air Toxics Standard (MATS), which comes in full effect in 2016, has already been predicted to force many coal plants to shut down and help drive up electricity costs.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says “low natural gas prices and slower growth of electricity demand” have hurt coal’s competitiveness as a power source. But a major reason why coal plants are shutting down is because they “must comply with requirements of the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and other environmental regulations.”

Closing coal plants will drive up natural gas prices by 150 percent over 2012 levels by 2040, this cost rise will cause electricity prices to jump seven percent by 2025 and 22 percent by 2040. EIA does not predict power prices declining after 2030 due to lower demand and increased energy efficiency.

EIA notes that “because natural gas prices are a key determinant of wholesale electricity prices, which in turn are a significant component of retail electricity prices. Accordingly, the cases with the highest delivered natural gas prices also show the highest retail electricity prices.”

EPA estimates the power plant rule to cost more than $7 billion in 2020 and nearly $9 billion in 2030, but will deliver $93 billion in “climate and public health benefits”.

Even with the ostensibly huge benefits of the rule, Republicans some Democrats have come out against it, saying it’s a backdoor energy tax on Americans.

“Make no mistake, the administration’s proposed rule is nothing more than a national energy tax that will be yet another sucker punch to middle-class families struggling to get by in the Obama economy,” said South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune.

“These regulations, which will increase electricity costs, will especially hurt low-income families and seniors who live on fixed incomes and already devote a large share of their income to electricity bills,” Thune said. “In addition to hurting families, the regulations will destroy jobs, while essentially doing nothing to improve our global environment. The president’s proposed regulations are lose-lose-lose.”


States Already Moving To Blunt Obama's Carbon Plan

As President Barack Obama prepares to announce tougher new air quality standards, lawmakers in several states already are trying to blunt the impact on aging coal-fired power plants that feed electricity to millions of consumers.

The Obama administration on Monday will roll out a plan to cut earth-warming pollution from power plants by 30 percent by 2030, further diminishing coal's role in U.S. electricity production in the process. The Environmental Protection Agency refused to confirm the details of the proposal Sunday. People familiar with the proposal shared the details on condition of anonymity, since they had not been officially released.

The opposition to Obama's new carbon emission standards has been strongest in some states that have large coal-mining industries or rely heavily on coal to fuel their electricity. State officials say the new federal regulations could jeopardize the jobs of thousands of workers and drive up the monthly electric bills of residents and businesses.

It remains to be seen whether new measures passed by the states will amount to mere political symbolism or actually temper what's expected to be an aggressive federal effort to reduce the country's reliance on coal. But either way, states likely will play a pivotal role, because federal clean air laws leave it up to each state to come up its own plan for complying with the emission guidelines.

The proposed EPA rules to be announced Monday could be the first to apply to carbon dioxide emissions at existing power plants. Coal is the most common fuel source for the nation's electricity and, when it's burned, is a leading source of the greenhouse gasses that trap heat in the atmosphere and contribute to climate change.

Without waiting to see Obama's proposal, the governors of Kansas, Kentucky, Virginia and West Virginia signed laws directing their environmental agencies to develop their own carbon emission plans that consider the costs of compliance at individual power plants. Similar measures recently passed in Missouri and are pending in the Louisiana and Ohio legislatures.

Missouri lawmakers went even further in their defense of the coal industry. When activists proposed a ballot initiative barring local tax breaks for St. Louis-based Peabody Energy, state lawmakers quickly passed a measure banning such moves.

Some states have specifically empowered local regulators to develop emission plans that are less stringent than federal guidelines. According to measures passed recently, the state policies are to take into account the "unreasonable cost" of reducing emissions based on a plant's age and design and the "economic impacts" of shutting down particular power plants.

"The concern is that the federal standards — if they come out the way that most people expect them to — are going to drive the cost of electricity up for every single consumer in the state," said Missouri state Rep. Todd Richardson, a Republican.

Eighty-three percent of Missouri's electricity comes from coal-fired power plants, the fifth highest percentage nationally behind West Virginia, Kentucky, Wyoming and Indiana.

Federal emission regulations already allow flexibility for states if they can demonstrate costs would be unreasonable for particular facilities. But a spokesman for the EPA's Midwestern region, which oversees several states that rely predominantly on coal for their electricity, said he's unaware of that provision ever being used.

It's unlikely that the Obama administration would essentially undercut its new carbon emission standards by granting widespread exceptions, said Bill Becker, executive director of the National Association of Clean Air Agencies, which represents air pollution control agencies in 42 states and 116 metropolitan areas.

If a state doesn't comply with EPA guidelines, the federal agency can create its own plan for the state.

"This is not a standard that a state then can willy-nilly ignore," Becker said. "It's going to have to achieve at least that standard or more. Period."

In many Midwestern states, the drive to constrain the new federal emission standards has been supported by an electricity industry that has a large financial stake in coal.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback held a ceremonial signing in April for legislation allowing the state to set "flexible" standards for carbon dioxide emissions. He held the event in Holcomb at the proposed site of a new $2.8 billion, coal-fired power plant being pursued by Sunflower Electric Power Corp.

The legislation "is an effort by us to be able to handle issues at the state level, instead of being dictated, one size fits all, nationally," Brownback said. He added: "We will see how effective it is."


The EPA’s Political Futility

Its climate-change policies set up the administration for a fall on Election Day.

New rules for existing coal-fired power plants require a big  reduction in allowable carbon dioxide emissions. The only way this will be possible will be by upgrading almost all combustion units, and the ultimate cost of the upgrades will make coal noncompetitive with much-less-expensive natural gas–fired facilities.

EPA’s proposed new greenhouse-gas regulations are a campaign promise come true. In 2008, Senator Barack Obama announced that, if elected, his climate policies would “necessarily bankrupt” anyone who wanted to build a new coal-fired power plant.

Public comments on EPA’s proposal to do just that closed on May 9, and there is no chance that the president will renege — or that this policy will have any detectable effect on global temperature.

The EPA’s own model, ironically acronymed MAGICC, estimates that its new policies will prevent a grand total of 0.018ºC in warming by 2100. Obviously, that’s not enough to satisfy the steadily shrinking percentage of Americans who think global warming is a serious problem.

MAGICC tells us that the futility of whatever Obama proposes for existing plants will be statistically indistinguishable from making sure that there are no new coal-fired ones. In fact, dropping the carbon dioxide emissions from all sources of electrical generation to zero would reduce warming by a grand total of 0.04ºC by 2100.

This is hardly going to stop the crescendo of global-warming horror stories, perhaps best summarized by the government’s recently released “National Assessment” of the effects of climate change on our country.

For example, the assessment tells us that global warming will increase mental illness in our nation’s cities. The obvious implication is that people in Richmond are crazier than they are in Washington, 100 miles to the north. Or that people must really be loony in Miami.

But what about all the weird weather plaguing the country? What the alarmists don’t tell you is that not since records were kept in the 1860s have we have gone this long without a Category 3 hurricane’s crossing our shoreline. They omit that there’s no evidence of an increase in weather-related damages once you adjust for the fact that there are now more people with more expensive stuff to hit. Even the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, so often cited to justify our futile policies, acknowledges that one.

The politics of scaring people to death over climate change are probably more dangerous than the weather. And research suggests that the more people read that some “scientists say” the world is about to end, the less they believe them.

Chalk it up to apocalypse fatigue. By my best guess, global warming is the eighth environmental Armageddon I have lived through. Who even remembers that, according to some of our most esteemed scientists, “acid rain” was going to cause an “ecological silent spring”? Like so many global catastrophes, it was a bit exaggerated.

You’d think the administration would see not just how futile these policies are in addressing climate change but also how costly they are politically. Some compelling analysis of polls shows that the Republicans gained control of the House of Representatives in the 2010 election because, under Democratic leadership, it passed cap-and-trade, which the Senate wisely stopped short of. In Australia, similar policies favoring cap-and-trade cost the Liberal party its leader in 2009 and subsequently sacked two Labour prime ministers, Keven Rudd and Julia Gillard.

Is this really the road the administration wants to go down in 2014? If history is any guide, a pretty steep price will be paid on Election Day — all for policies that will have no measurable effect on climate change.


Stop feeding renewable energy beast, urges E.On

German energy giant's chief says technologies such as wind and solar are no longer in their infancy so must not be given special treatment

European governments must stop handing generous subsidies to green energy technologies, the head of energy giant E.On has warned.

Johannes Teyssen said that renewable power sources, such as wind and solar, were no longer in their infancy, so to continue to hand them special treatment had a distortive effect.

Speaking in London at the annual conference of Eurelectric, the European electricity industry body of which he is president, Mr Teyssen said: “10 years ago renewables were in an immature state and needed to be nurtured.

“Today they are the biggest animal in the zoo and if you continue to treat them as imbeciles and feed them baby nutrition you will just get a sick big cat.”

He claimed the only people blocking debate about ending financial aid for renewables were those who “just want to harvest subsidies without accountability”.

Mr Teyssen has argued that Europe must scrap all “green levies” that are used to subsidise renewables. He has said he supports such technologies but that the funding model is wrong and Europe should instead install a proper carbon price to drive the market to find the most cost-effective ways of going green.

E.On, like most European utilities, is losing money from its gas-fired power plants as expansion of renewable energy and cheap coal prices mean they are only called upon to run for short periods of time. It has already mothballed some plants and experts warn more closures could leave Europe at risk of power cuts at times of peak demand when the sun doesn’t shine or the wind doesn’t blow.

In the UK, the Conserative party has pledged to end subsidies for onshore wind power if it wins the next election. However, it appears committed to offshore wind, which is a newer technology but still significantly more expensive.

The Government has already announced it is closing a subsidy scheme for large-scale solar farms two years early and take-up exceeded expectations.

Mr Teyssen also warned that the energy industry must do more to attract employees at a time when some companies were seeing “whole management teams leaving” and it was “difficult to attract young people to this industry”. “We have been under fire for years and years,” he said. “We need to rebuild confidence.”


No "consensus" among Australian Earth scientists about "climate change"

This may be the first learned society to desert the Warmist ship

AUSTRALIA’S peak body of earth scientists has declared itself unable to publish a position statement on climate change due to the deep divisions within its membership on the issue.

After more than five years of debate and two false starts, Geological Society of Australia president Laurie Hutton said a statement on climate change was too difficult to achieve.

Mr Hutton said the issue “had the potential to be too divisive and would not serve the best interests of the society as a whole.”

The backdown, published in the GSA quarterly newsletter, is the culmination of two rejected position statements and years of furious correspondence among members. Some members believe the failure to make a strong statement on climate change is an embarrassment that puts Australian earth scientists at odds with their international peers.

It undermines the often cited stance that there is near unanimity among climate scientists on the issue.

GSA represents more than 2000 Australian earth scientists from academe, industry, government and research organisations.

A position statement published in 2009 said the society was concerned about the potentially harmful effects of carbon dioxide emissions and favoured “strong action to substantially reduce current levels’’.

“Of particular concern are the well-documented loading of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, which has been linked unequivocally to burning of fossil fuels, and the corresponding increase in average global temperature,’’ it said.

“Risks associated with these large-scale perturbations of the Earth’s fundamental life-support systems include rising sea level, harmful shifts in the acid balance of the oceans and long-term changes in local and regional climate and extreme weather events.”

Publication of the position statement caused an uproar among members and led to a revised statement, after wide consultation. The revised statement said: “Geological evidence clearly demonstrates that Earth’s climate system is inherently and naturally variable over timescales from decades to millions of years.

“Regardless of whether climate change is from natural or anthropogenic causes, or a combination of both, human societies would benefit from knowing what to expect in the future and to plan how best to respond.

“The GSA makes no predictions or public policy recommendations for action on climate beyond the generally agreed need for prudent preparations in response to potential hazards, including climate change.”

The revised statement was criticised as being too vague.

In a short statement published in the latest edition of the society newsletter, Mr Hutton says: “After a long and extensive and extended consultation with society members, the GSC executive committee has decided not to proceed with a climate change position statement.’’

“As evidenced by recent letters to the editor … society members have diverse opinions on the human impact on climate change. However, diversity of opinion can also be divisive, especially when such views are strongly held.

“The executive committee has therefore concluded that a climate change position statement has the potential to be far too divisive and would not serve the best interests of the society as a whole ,” the statement says.



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