Friday, May 03, 2019

Renewable Energy Mandates are a costly failure

Do Renewable Portfolio Standards Deliver??

Michael Greenstone et al.


Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS) are the largest and perhaps most popular climate policy in the US, having been enacted by 29 states and the District of Columbia. Using the most comprehensive panel data set ever compiled on program characteristics and key outcomes, we compare states that did and did not adopt RPS policies, exploiting the substantial differences in timing of adoption.

The estimates indicate that 7 years after passage of an RPS program, the required renewable share of generation is 1.8 percentage points higher and average retail electricity prices are 1.3 cents per kWh, or 11% higher; the comparable figures for 12 years after adoption are a 4.2 percentage point increase in renewables' share and a price increase of 2.0 cents per kWh or 17%.

These cost estimates significantly exceed the marginal operational costs of renewables and likely reflect costs that renewables impose on the generation system, including those associated with their intermittency, higher transmission costs, and any stranded asset costs assigned to ratepayers.

The estimated reduction in carbon emissions is imprecise, but, together with the price results, indicates that the cost per metric ton of CO2 abated exceeds $130 in all specifications and ranges up to $460, making it least several times larger than conventional estimates of the social cost of carbon. These results do not rule out the possibility that RPS policies could dynamically reduce the cost of abatement in the future by causing improvements in renewable technology.


EPA Press Office Under Fire for Releasing Politically Charged Resignation Letter

A politically appointed adviser to the Environmental Protection Agency submitted a vocal resignation letter last week praising President Trump and denouncing the political “left.” That put the agency’s press office in an awkward position.

Mandy Gunasekara, who since November 2017 had been principal deputy administrator in the EPA’s Office of Air and Radiation, wrote in a Feb. 7 letter to Trump saying she was leaving to “spend my time educating the public.” She bemoaned the "dangerous rhetoric from the far-left supportive of Venezuelan-style socialism, government take-overs, and crony 'green new deals,’ ” telling Trump that “ensuring eight years of your leadership is of utmost importance.”

The letter, according to news reports and confirmed by EPA to Government Executive, was provided to reporters by the press office. That prompted the nonprofit advocacy group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility on Monday to file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel seeking a probe of an alleged Hatch Act violation.

PEER asked the OSC, the chief enforcers of the Hatch Act, to “identify which EPA press office staff were involved in circulating or providing her letter and whether these actions were directed by more senior officials. Notably on the day of her resignation, acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler issued a statement commending Ms. Gunasekara's tenure at the agency,” PEER said in a release. 

"Federal offices should not be converted into Trump campaign centers," PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch said, noting that Trump became a formally declared candidate for reelection shortly after his inauguration.  "We are asking OSC to determine which officials and what official resources were involved in this patently partisan political activity." 

In a statement to Government Executive, EPA’s press office said it “has provided resignation letters and statements when asked by the press and with consent from former employees. Content of the resignation letters is the work of the former employees.”


UK: Climate change campaigners vow to appeal after Heathrow runway challenge quashed

A third runway at Heathrow will increase its capacity from 480,000 to 740,000 flights a year

A legal challenge over a third runway at Heathrow was rejected yesterday despite warnings that an expansion of the airport would worsen climate change.

High Court judges dismissed five separate cases against the expansion, insisting that ministers’ handling of the process had been legally sound.

The court upheld the government’s claims that increasing the airport’s capacity did not undermine its climate change commitments.

It had been argued that ministers acted unlawfully by not taking into account the Paris agreement — which seeks to limit increases in global average temperatures — when the decision was made. The judges said that, although the agreement has been ratified by the government, it does not yet form part of British law and has no impact on the Heathrow decision.


Study finds ‘biodegradable’ plastic bags can still hold shopping three years after being discarded

Shoppers who try to do the right thing for the environment and use biodegradable plastic bags might want to sit down for this.

Plastic bags that claim to be biodegradable, are anything but in some cases. A new research paper has revealed that in certain scenarios they can still carry a full load of shopping three years after they were thrown away.

Seen as a solution to the globe’s increasingly urgent plastic pollution problem, disposable bags are supposed to decompose if they are buried in landfill, or wash into the sea.

The study, published in Environmental Science and Technology, examined biodegradable, oxo-biodegradable, compostable, and standard plastic bags for a period of three years.

The bags were exposed to three natural environments: left in open-air, buried in soil, and submersed in seawater, as well as in controlled laboratory conditions. The range of environmentally friendly bags fared differently in each environment.

After nine months exposure in the open-air, all bag materials had disintegrated into fragments.

In the marine environment, the compostable bag completely disappeared within three months. The same compostable bag type was still present in the soil environment after 27 months but could no longer hold weight without tearing.

However two of the bags — technically known as oxo-biodegradable — were still able to carry shopping after spending three years in the ground or covered in seawater.

“It is therefore not clear that the oxo-biodegradable or biodegradable formulations provide sufficiently advanced rates of deterioration,” the researchers from the UK’s University of Plymouth wrote.

After three years, some bags were perfectly robust.
After three years, some bags were perfectly robust.Source:Supplied

There have been at least four reports of dead whales being found with huge amounts of plastic waste in their stomach, causing them to starve, in the last year.

Professor Richard Thompson, of the International Marine Litter Research Unit, who was involved in the study said it showed that certain bags might be polluting the ocean when consumers expect them to decompose.

“This research raises a number of questions about what the public might expect when they see something labelled as biodegradable. We demonstrate here that the materials tested did not present any consistent, reliable and relevant advantage in the context of marine litter,” he said.

He previously gave evidence to a government inquiry in the UK that led to a small levy on plastic bags in the country. He called for new standards to be imposed on bag manufacturers.

“Our study emphasises the need for standards relating to degradable materials, clearly outlining the appropriate disposal pathway and rates of degradation that can be expected,” he said.

Some have suggested that the manufacturers of the bags — many of which reside in China — could be skimping on the required biodegradable additives to make them truly compostable.

Research fellow Imogen Napper, who led the study as part of her PhD, said: “After three years, I was really amazed that any of the bags could still hold a load of shopping. For a biodegradable bag to be able to do that was the most surprising.

“When you see something labelled in that way, I think you automatically assume it will degrade more quickly than conventional bags. But, after three years at least, our research shows that might not be the case.”


'I'm not going to invent a number': Australian Leftist leader  refuses to say how much his renewable energy policy will cost – as experts estimate it would wipe $264BILLION off Australia's economy

Labor leader Bill Shorten, who is favourite to become Prime Minister later this month, has again refused to say how much Labor's climate change policy will cost the economy.

The Opposition Leader was asked several times on the ABC's 7.30 program about his plan to cut carbon dioxide emissions by 45 per cent by 2030 - which is much more ambitious than the government's 28 per cent goal.

To reach that goal, the required switch of power source from fossil fuels to renewables will come at a high price but Mr Shorten has repeatedly declined to say how much.

'I'm not going to get caught up in this government game of gotcha when you've got to invent a number which you can't possibly,' he told the ABC on Wednesday.

Leigh Sales, the host of 7.30, suggested there must be a short-term hit to Australia's gross domestic product and called on Mr Shorten to be frank about the cost.

'I accept your position that there's a long-term benefit,' she said. 'What I'm asking you to do is to square with the voters about exactly what the short-term cost is of getting to that position.'

Hours after that interview, BAEconomics released modelling showing Labor's climate change plan would cost the economy $264billion.

Dr Brian Fisher, the managing director of the Canberra-based consultancy, told Daily Mail Australia the 'economic consequences' would depend on a future government's willingness to accept international emissions trading permits. 'The impacts could be very severe,' he said.

BAEconomics released another report in March estimating Labor's climate plan would cost 336,000 jobs and cause an eight per cent plunge in lost wages by 2030.

In the 7.30 interview on Wednesday night, Mr Shorten argued no action on tackling climate change would cost more in the long-run. 

'You assume there is no cost to doing nothing and there is,' he said. 'If you don't change, then the cost will be far greater than any initial investments.

'If you're asking me to specify what a particular company and a particular factory will have to do, I can't do that, nor could you, nor can the government.'

On Thursday, Labor unveiled a $75million plan to create 70,000 renewable energy jobs.

The Opposition is also vowing to have 50 per cent of Australia's energy come from renewal sources by 2030.

In mid-April, Mr Shorten engaged in a tense stand-off with Channel 10 reporter Jonathan Lea, who repeatedly asked him to provide detail the economic effects of Labor's plan to reduce carbon emissions by 45 per cent within 11 years.



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