Sunday, April 29, 2018

Environmental activists ignore energy security realities

Ignoring reality is what the Green/Left are good at.  Comment below from New Hampshire

The willingness of environmental activists and their elected and appointed allies to ignore the drumbeat of bad news about the security and costs of the region’s energy supplies is a stunning abdication of responsibility for sound public policies to protect both the environment and the economy.

While responsible environmental policies are necessary, to assume that somehow New Hampshire and New England can quickly move from natural gas to 100 percent renewable energy, while avoiding any new transmission to deliver renewable energy, is naïve and dangerous.

This assumption ignores the fact that New Hampshire’s electricity rates are consistently 50 percent to 60 percent above the national average, year-round, making us one of the most expensive states for electricity in the country. This has forced employers to explore options outside New Hampshire and New England to obtain lower electricity prices.

To ignore the concerns voiced repeatedly over several years about the lack of natural gas capacity into the region, along with the value of new electric transmission through New Hampshire linking New England with Canadian hydropower, is short-sighted and jeopardizes the electricity supply of a region that depends on nearly 100 percent reliability.

Many recent events are being ignored by activists who are focused on absolute outcomes rather than a prudent transition. For example:

In just 13 days in late December and early January New England nearly ran out of power, spent nearly $1 billion in additional cost to turn on shuttered oil plants for power (adding 1 million tons of the greenhouse gases it is trying to avoid into the atmosphere) and was forced to import liquefied natural gas from a sanctioned Russian company.

In mid-January ISO-New England, responsible for the region’s electric power reliability, warned that by the winter of 2024-25 the region could face “rolling blackouts.”

We should not forget the more than $7 billion in higher energy costs incurred in New England over the three previous winters and the $1 billion of additional cost borne by ratepayers during the 13-day cold spell earlier this year. Those costs are the equivalent of a tax increase – $800 million for New Hampshire – with no benefit to energy consumers.

Despite these high costs, an appeal in Massachusetts effectively blocked regulatory authority to approve funding for natural gas pipeline plans that would have improved reliability and lowered costs. Efforts underway here in New Hampshire to do the same should be soundly rejected.

Not to be overlooked is the recent action taken by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee when it rejected, in a moment of irresponsible spontaneity, the proposed Northern Pass transmission line. This decision should be reversed immediately.

The impact of these reckless decisions undermines the case environmentalists make for a clean energy future. California, Texas and Oregon have dependable natural gas capacity and access to large hydroelectric projects that avoid the dramatic and dangerous price spikes that New England has experienced and will likely continue to experience.

To be clear, natural gas power plants and electric transmission lines do not compete with renewables, but instead work in concert with solar and wind. When the sun goes down and the wind stops, natural gas generation fills the gap. Someday, batteries or other storage technology may supplant natural gas generation, but it will not happen overnight.

Notably, the electric power generation sector in New England has made great progress in reducing emissions. Sulfur dioxide emissions are down 96 percent with nitrous oxides down 54 percent and carbon dioxide emissions down nearly 40 percent. Natural gas, along with wind and hydroelectric power delivered over transmission lines, are the driving factors behind this success.

For perspective, the electric power sector accounts for 20 percent of greenhouse gases while transportation and buildings account for 80 percent. Policymakers and influencers should focus more on the real causes of greenhouse gases and accept the glaring fact that unless New Hampshire finds a path forward to expand natural gas and electric transmission capacity they are jeopardizing the region’s economic vitality.

Those same policy makers and influencers would do well to listen to Dr. Ernest Moniz, former U.S. energy secretary and MIT Energy Initiative co-founder. Dr. Moniz noted recently that “natural gas has shown itself to be an important bridge to a clean energy future.”

They should also consider the experience of another major employer that supports Northern Pass, BAE Systems. They saw their energy costs in New Hampshire grow 24 percent from 2014 to 2016. A company representative stated, “There is no dispute that the best way to definitively lower electricity costs is to bring more reliable, affordable electricity into the New England power market.”


Climate Change Not The Key Driver Of Human Conflict And Displacement In East Africa

Over the last 50 years climate change has not been the key driver of the human displacement or conflict in East Africa, rather it is politics and poverty, according to new research by UCL.
Human displacement refers to the total number of forcibly displaced people, and includes internally displaced people — the largest group represented — and refugees, those forced to across international borders.

“Terms such as climate migrants and climate wars have increasingly been used to describe displacement and conflict, however these terms imply that climate change is the main cause. Our research suggests that socio-political factors are the primary cause while climate change is a threat multiplier,” said Professor Mark Maslin (UCL Geography).

The study, published in Palgrave Communications, found that climate variations such as regional drought and global temperature played little part in the causation of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa over the last 50 years.

The major driving forces on conflict were rapid population growth, reduced or negative economic growth and instability of political regimes. While the total number of displaced people is linked to rapid population growth and low or stagnating economic growth.

However the study found that variations in refugee numbers, people forced to cross international borders, are significantly linked to the incidence of severe regional droughts as well as political instability, rapid population growth and low economic growth.

The UN Refugee Agency report there were over 20 million displaced people in Africa in 2016 — a third of the world’s total. There has been considerable debate as to whether climate change will exacerbate this situation in the future by increasing conflict and triggering displacement of people.

This new study suggests that stable effective governance, sustained economic growth and reduced population growth are essential if conflict and forced displacement of people are to be reduced in Africa, which will be severally affected by climate change.

A new composite conflict and displacement database was used to identify major episodes of political violence and number of displaced people at country level, for the last 50 years. These were compared to past global temperatures, the Palmer Drought Index, and data for the 10 East African countries represented in the study on population size, population growth, GDP per capita, rate of change of GDP per capita, life expectancy and political stability.

The data were then analysed together using optimisation regression modelling to identify whether climate change between 1963 and 2014 impacted the risk of conflict and displacement of people in East Africa.

The findings suggest that about 80% of conflict throughout the period can be explained by population growth that occurred 10 years ago, political stability that occurred three years ago and economic growth within the same year.

For total displacement of people, the modelling suggests that 70% can be predicted by population growth and economic growth from 10 years before.

While for refugees, 90% can be explained by severe droughts that occurred one year ago, population growth that occurred 10 years ago, economic growth one year ago, and political stability two years ago. This correlates with an increase in refugees in the 1980s during a period of major droughts across East Africa.

“The question remains as to whether drought would have exacerbated the refugee situation in East Africa had there been slower expansion of population, positive economic growth and more stable political regimes in the region,” said Erin Owain, first author of the study.

“Our research suggests that the fundamental cause of conflict and displacement of large numbers of people is the failure of political systems to support and protect their people,” concluded Professor Maslin.


Embattled but defiant, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt tells Congress he has 'nothing to hide'

Embattled EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt defiantly told lawmakers he has "nothing to hide" amid a flurry of probes into ethical and mismanagement allegations that he said were based on "half-truths."

In a contentious Capitol Hill hearing Thursday that lasted more than three and a half hours, Pruitt characterized the relentless criticism — some of it from his own party — as a politically motivated assault by individuals and groups unhappy with his work to aggressively undo regulations President Trump has said obstruct economic growth.

"I have nothing to hide as it relates to how I've run the agency the past 16 months," Pruitt told members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. Those attacking him, he said "want to derail (the deregulatory agenda) ... I'm simply not going to let that happen."

Pruitt also testified before members of the House Appropriations Committee Thursday afternoon.

As the Democratic drumbeat intensifies for his ouster, the EPA Administrator faced questions on a litany ofalleged ethical and spending missteps, including the awarding of pay raises to top aides, luxury travel accommodations, his below-market rental agreement with the wife of an energy lobbyist, and the installation of a secure phone booth.

But if Pruitt's critics were hoping the hearing would demonstrate broad, bipartisan disgust with the EPA administrator's conduct — and louder calls for his firing — they were disappointed.

Questioning at the hearing ping-ponged between Democrats who pressed him on specific allegations and broadly condemned the rollbacks of environmental protections and Republicans who said Pruitt was being pilloried by groups who want to stop deregulation.

"You have failed as a steward of taxpayer dollars and of America's environment," Rep. Paul Tonko, D-N.Y., who chairs the Environment Subcommittee where Pruitt testified Thursday morning, told the administrator. "You were never fit for this job.”

Rep. David McKInley, R-W.Va., called the criticisms "a massive display of innuendo and McCarthyism."

Most Republicans on the committee applauded Pruitt for his agency's direction, though a couple — Ryan Costello of Pennsylvania and Leonard Lance of New Jersey — said they were troubled by some of the allegations and pressed him for explanations.

Two weeks ago, Pruitt's former deputy chief of staff came forward with allegations that his ex-boss overspent his office allowance, demanded security measures that weren't warranted, and insisted on exorbitant travel arrangements — including the rental of a $100,000-per-month private jet.

Last week, the Government Accountability Office — Congress' watchdog agency — concluded the EPA broke the spending laws when it failed to tell lawmakers that it was allocating more than $43,000 to install the soundproof phone booth in Pruitt's office last year.

Pruitt acknowledged that there have been "very troubling media reports" over the past few weeks.

"I promise you that I more than anyone want to establish the hard facts and provide answers to questions surrounding these reports," he said, dismissing many of he allegations as false. But "facts are facts and fiction is fiction. And a lie doesn’t become true just because it appears on the front page page of a newspaper."

Pruitt went on to tell lawmakers that responsibility for what happens at the EPA "rests with me and no one else."

But "let’s have no illusions about what is really going on here: those who attack the EPA and attack me are doing so because they want to attack and derail the president’s agenda and undermine this administration's progress," he said.

Pruitt has kept his job in the face of withering criticism from most Democrats and a small but growing number of Republicans because President Trump continues to have confidence in him and his attempts to aggressively dismantle Obama-era environmental rules that industry leaders say hamper economic growth.

Pruitt and his aides have refuted some of the allegations and downplayed others, often saying previous administrations spent similar amounts, especially when it came to travel. The high costs of protecting Pruitt were due mainly to the unprecedented level and volume of threats against him, they said.

On Thursday Pruitt responded to some of the allegations:

— On the installation of a secure phone booth costing more than $43,000 that was found to violate congressional spending laws thatrequire he inform appropriations committees.

Pruitt said he installed the secure line for confidential calls with President Trump and other high-ranking officials on sensitive topics. He said he was not aware of the price tag and his agency has since complied with the law by informing congressional committees of the expense.

"If I'd known about it, I would have refused it," he said.

— On whether he approved large raises for two top aides over White House objections:

"I was not aware at any time of the amount or the process that was used," he told members of the Appropriations Committee during a hearing Thursday afternoon. He said he has since rescinded the raises.

— On the upgrade of his official vehicle to a luxury SUV:

He said the purchase "was something in process prior" to his arrival. He said he did not ask for the vehicle and did not offer "direction" to buy it.

— On whether he retaliated against employees who questioned his spending or conduct, including a former top aide who was placed on unpaid administrative leave after he refused to retroactively approve first-class airfare for a senior Pruitt aide on a return flight from Morocco in December.

Pruitt repeatedly denied ever punishing punished aides who may have challenged his decisions regarding travel or other conduct.

— On flying first class.

Pruitt said he did so at the recommendation of his security detail. He said he has since returned to flying coach because "from an optics and perception standpoint (his first-class travel) was creating a distraction."

Despite Pruitt's explanations, White House officials indicated the volume of alleged missteps is trying their patience.

"We're evaluating these concerns, and we expect the EPA Administrator to answer for them," White House Spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said during a briefing Wednesday when asked about Pruitt.

Environmentalists from the start have been against Pruitt, the former Oklahoma Attorney General who sued the EPA 14 times to undo a myriad of regulations.

His efforts to roll back rules limiting carbon emissions, regulating bodies of water, and auto emissions have earned him the enmity of environmental groups and public health advocates.

On Tuesday, Pruitt announced a proposed rule that would limit the scope of scientific studies the agency uses as the foundation underpinning many of its regulations. The move that could fundamentally reshape the way science supports environmental protections.


EPA removes 'international priorities' page from site

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) removed an "international priorities" page from its website in December, according to a report released this week by the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI).

The page had listed climate change, clean air, clean water, e-waste, toxic chemicals, and strong environmental institutions among its international priorities.

EDGI also reports the agency removed its “International Grants and Cooperative Agreements” and “International Cooperation” pages.

The "International Cooperation" page said the EPA sought to "promote sustainable development, protect vulnerable populations, facilitate commerce, and engage diplomatically around the world” with “global and bilateral partners.”

An EPA spokesperson told Think Progress that the agency continually updates its website to reflect new initiatives.

“Of course the site will be reflective of the current administration’s priorities – with that said, all the content from the previous administration is still easily accessible and publicly available through the banner across the top of the main page of the site,” the spokesperson said.

This is not the first time the agency has removed references from its website, with the EPA under the Trump administration removing various references to climate change from its website in the past.


Scott Pruitt’s Effort to Expose ‘Secret Science’ Has Environmentalists Scared Stiff

A proposed rule announced Tuesday by Scott Pruitt, administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, is intended to bring much-needed transparency to agency rule-making.

The environmental lobby is positively apoplectic about the proposal (naturally), even though it aligns perfectly with its long-held commitment to the public’s “right to know” principle.

The proposed regulation would require the EPA to ensure that the scientific data and research models “pivotal” to significant regulation are “publicly available in a manner sufficient for validation and analysis.”

Despite existing rules on government use of scientific research, federal agencies routinely mask politically driven regulations as scientifically-based imperatives. The supposed science underlying these rules is often hidden from the general public and unavailable for vetting by experts. But credible science and transparency are necessary elements of sound policy.

The opposition from greens and much of the media greeting Pruitt’s announcement is, frankly, hypocritical in the extreme. Opponents claim that the EPA’s regulatory power would be unduly restricted if the agency is forced to reveal the scientific data and research methodologies used in rule-making.

But that is precisely the point. The EPA should no longer enjoy free rein to impose major regulations based on studies that are unavailable for public scrutiny.

Their claim that research subjects’ privacy would be violated is groundless. Researchers routinely scrub identifying information when aggregating data for analysis. Nor is personal information even relevant in agency rule-making.

Meanwhile, the EPA and other federal agencies are duty-bound to protect proprietary information.

Transparency in rule-making is vital to evaluating whether regulation is justified and effective. It is also essential to testing the “reproducibility” of research findings, which is a bedrock principle of the scientific method.

It takes real chutzpah for the champions of environmental “right-to-know” laws to now claim that the EPA should not be required to make public the scientific material on which regulations are based.

The public’s “right to know” was their rallying cry in lobbying for a variety of public disclosure requirements on the private sector as well as state and local governments, including informational labeling; emissions reporting; workplace safety warnings; beach advisories; environmental liabilities; and pending enforcement actions, to name a few.

The proposed rule is hardly radical. It aligns with the Data Access Act, which requires federal agencies to ensure that data produced under grants to (and agreements with) universities, hospitals, and nonprofit organizations is available to the public through the Freedom of Information Act.

However, the implementation guidance from the Office of Management and Budget has unduly restricted application of the law.

Moreover, the Information Quality Act requires the Office of Management and Budget “to promulgate guidance to agencies ensuring the quality, objectivity, utility, and integrity of information (including statistical information) disseminated by federal agencies.”

However, the law’s effectiveness has been limited by a lack of agency accountability. Courts have ruled that it does not permit judicial review of an agency’s compliance with its provisions. The proposed rule is also consistent with the Office of Management and Budget’s Information Quality Bulletin for Peer Review.

The proposal also mirrors legislation passed by the House last year to prohibit the EPA from “proposing, finalizing, or disseminating a covered action unless all scientific and technical information relied on to support such action is the best available science, specifically identified, and publicly available in a manner sufficient for independent analysis and substantial reproduction of research results.”

A Senate companion measure failed to advance to a vote.

The EPA regulation has expanded exponentially every decade since the 1970s at tremendous expense to the nation. Secret science underlies some of the most expansive regulatory initiatives.

President Donald Trump has focused significant attention on re-establishing the constitutional and statutory boundaries routinely breached by the agency. The special interests that thrive on gloom and ever-increasing government powers are attempting to block the administration’s reforms at every turn.

But their opposition to the proposed transparency rule sets a new low for abject hypocrisy.




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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