Monday, March 22, 2021

States sue to block “social cost” of carbon

Twelve states have asked a Federal Court to keep federal agencies from using the so-called Social Cost of Greenhouse Gases to calculate the benefits of emission reduction regulations.

The new cost estimates, ordered by President Biden on day one, claim enormous distant future damages from today’s emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. Preventing these supposed damages could justify massive new regulations, but the States say this is illegal because Congress never authorized it.

The Social Cost of Carbon (SCC) has been around for some time. Obama introduced it as a policy measure, which Trump then canceled. Now Biden has brought it back and made it worse.

In a way SCC personifies the craziness of the climate scare. The whole scare is based on outlandish doomsday computer models and SCC is arguably the most absurd of all.

The fundamental absurdity of the Social Cost of Carbon is that it goes out 300 years to get the supposed economic damages due to today’s minor emissions of carbon dioxide. That’s right, these computer models claim to know what the world’s economy will be for the next 300 years. The claim is absurd because technological and economic progress make the future world unknowable.

Consider what America was like 300 years ago. To begin with America did not yet exist. George Washington had yet to be born. European settlement of North America was confined almost entirely to a band a hundred miles or so along the east coast or up some big rivers.

Power was by hand, horse and waterwheel. Travel by horse and water. Yet to come were the steam engine, electricity, motors, cars, airplanes and a billion other inventions that changed the world in unimaginable ways.

The fact that today we have computers does not make our next 300 years any more predictable than their 300 was in 1720. Given that the pace of technological change has increased our future is probably even less knowable.

Since the 300 year prediction claims of SCC are absurd, why do the alarmists make them? It is the only way they can get serious future damages out of the computer models. Even in these hot models, the annual adverse impact of our emissions is very small. But according to the models this small impact goes on for hundreds of years so it adds up. This extreme assumption itself is unproven.

Even worse, the damage is estimated as a fixed fraction of economic activity, so it increases every year as the economy grows. In 300 years the global economy grows tremendously, just as it did in the last 300 years. The near term damages are negligible. In some models the CO2 increase is actually beneficial in the short run.

This economic growth factor is an important part of the SCC scam, because it negates what is called the “discount rate”. In cost benefit analysis, future costs are discounted back to present value, sort of like reverse compound interest. The further into the future a given amount of damage is, the less it is worth today. The amount of this discounting is the discount rate, which is typically around 3 to 5% per year.

Normally this discounting makes distant future costs negligible. But SCC computer modeling gets around it by having the global economy grow faster than the discount rate.

They even claim to know the cumulative 300 year economic damages due to our emissions to an exact dollar per ton amount. I am not making this up. Given the scam it is no surprise that this amount corresponds to the amount of proposed carbon taxes. Moreover, it increases every year, just like the proposed taxes and carbon control regulations.

Biden widened the scam by adding the Social Cost of Methane (and Nitrous Oxide). Natural gas is mostly methane so this is part of the new war on gas. But cows are also a major source so now we have a war on cows. The Agriculture Department, which regulates cows, is included in the Social Cost executive order, so they are being sued along with EPA and a bunch of other regulatory agencies.

Skeptics argue that methane is a trivial greenhouse gas, especially because it competes with water which is by far the dominant GHG. Alarmist want us to stop eating beef and dairy products, as well as killing natural gas, so methane gets a big Social Cost estimate.

In its way the State’s lawsuit extends well beyond the incredibly stupid Social Cost issue. Biden has issued a raft of potentially punitive climate EO’s. Executive orders are only supposed to affect internal Executive Branch operations. In fact every one contains language saying this, so they are supposedly not subject to judicial review the way public regulations are.

The States point out quite correctly that requiring rule making federal agencies to use Social Cost will have a tremendously adverse effect on the American people. They argue that under the Constitution only such actions specifically authorized by Congress can be ordered. Thus the suit is not against the EO or the supposed science but against the agencies acting on it without authorization.

Here is how the States put it in their Complaint to the Federal Court:

“This quintessentially legislative policy has enormous consequences for America’s economy and people. In theory, the Biden Administration’s calculation of “social costs” would justify imposing trillions of dollars in regulatory costs on the American economy every year to offset these supposed costs. In practice, President Biden’s order directs federal agencies to use this enormous figure to justify an equally enormous expansion of federal regulatory power that will intrude into every aspect of Americans’ lives—from their cars, to their refrigerators and homes, to their grocery and electric bills. If the Executive Order stands, it will inflict hundreds of billions or trillions of dollars of damage to the U.S. economy for decades to come. It will destroy jobs, stifle energy production, strangle America’s energy independence, suppress agriculture, deter innovation, and impoverish working families. It undermines the sovereignty of the States and tears at the fabric of liberty.”

If the Court rules in favor of the States it might blunt Biden’s climate executive order onslaught. However, the absurd Social Cost calculations were done by an Interagency Working Group and the Court might be reluctant to rule that the agencies cannot implement their supposed science without legislative authorization. Agencies often do their own science on the way to rule making.

How this extremely important case will turn out is far from clear. Stay tuned!


Recycling’s Economic Realities, Now and Tomorrow

Americans like to believe our resources are as unlimited as the possibilities for our future.

That may be true. Ideas like “peak oil” – which seemed on the verge of winning acceptance just a decade ago – have petered out as science and engineering have pointed the way to discoveries of energy deposits so rich the nation has become a net energy exporter.

More than that though, America has made tremendous gains by learning to use the resources we already produce more efficiently. These gains are a winner for everyone, producers and consumers alike.

This is certainly true where recycling is concerned. Technology has progressed to a point where certain items such as plastics can be used again and again and again. The technology exists – and it's affordable. Unfortunately, in many cases it is still cheaper to use virgin materials to make new products than it is to use recycled materials, industry has not made the necessary transition.

When considering the costs, one not only has to consider how much is involved in producing something but also the expense of disposal. That is not an industry concern so much as it is a problem of the commons, that area in which no one person or group is specifically responsible because everyone is generally responsible.

Putting plastics in the ground forever after they’ve been used a single time is wasteful and inefficient. Recycling laws are supposed to cut down on that waste but, because companies – many of whom talk the talk but don’t walk the walk when it comes to being environmentally friendly – aren’t making the conversation to recycled materials in their production stream because of fluctuations in the price and inconsistency in the supply.

There is a solution. The introduction of minimum recycled content (MRC) standards is the kind of light-touch regulation that’s environmentally friendly and will create jobs as new industry develops without imposing confiscatory costs on consumers or producers.

Simply put, adding an MRC requirement ensures the demand for recyclable materials remains economically viable by maintaining a balance with our abundant supply and demand of recyclables – at a manageable cost while building resilience in recycling end markets.

In a March 2019 Gallup Poll, 65 percent of respondents said they agreed with the statement “protection of the environment should be given priority” over other concerns including cost. America is waking up to the need to do things differently. And no wonder. After rising for decades, U.S. recycling rates have plateaued, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says, because Americans are creating more trash. In 1990, the total generation of municipal solid waste was 208.3 million tons. By 2018, that amount had risen to 292.4 million tons, 23.7 million tons higher than the year before. This requires action.

To increase the demand for recycled materials in the manufacturing supply chain, California has already enacted legislation requiring minimum recycled content for plastic beverage containers. New Jersey is considering similar legislation with MRC standards for plastic beverage and rigid plastic containers.

The MRC approach is a step toward circularity, a concept many people believe is part of the economy of the future in developed parts of the world. In a circular economy, waste materials become inputs rather than outputs that government and industry can embrace as a revenue source while protecting the environment. Additionally, the adoption of recycled materials as a stable source of predictable revenue may give city and county governments the ability to avoid economically and socially damaging tax increases that send residents and businesses away.

The Manhattan Institute, a New York-based think tank that deals with urban issues from a free-market perspective, argues that rethinking municipal recycling will help local governments save money. Now, through the MRC approach, they can be transformed into an effort in which price signals assure taxpayer-diverted recyclables are beneficially reused again and again is the right step forward.

According to the Harris Poll, four in five Americans (80 percent) agree governments at all levels should prioritize the use of recyclable products/materials when making purchasing decisions. Recycling is demand-driven; thus, increasing the use of recycled content in manufacturing is critical to the success of recycling programs.

Recycling and composting also help reduce carbon footprints. Utilizing nearly 94 million tons of compostable materials in 2019 meant the equivalent of 42 million cars taken off the road. On average, recycling one ton of materials saves three tons of carbon emissions. The MRC approach saves energy and reduces greenhouse gas emissions as manufacturers and packaging producers will have to use recycled materials to make new products.


How to Think about Climate Change

By WILLIAM HAPPER (The Cyrus Fogg Brackett Professor Emeritus of Physics at Princeton University)

The best way to think about the frenzy over climate is to consider it a modern version of the medieval Crusades. You may remember that the motto of the crusaders was “Deus vult!”, “God wills it!” It is hard to pick a better virtue-signaling slogan than that. Most climate enthusiasts have not gone so far, but some actually claim that they are doing God’s work. After decades of propaganda, many Americans, perhaps including some of you here today, think there really is a climate emergency. Those who think that way, in many cases, mean very well. But they have been misled. As a scientist who actually knows a lot about climate (and I set up many of our climate research centers when I was at the Department of Energy in the early 1990s) I can assure you that there is no climate emergency. There will not be a climate emergency. Crusades have always ended badly. They have brought discredit to the supposed righteous cause. They have brought hardship and death to multitudes. Policies to address this phony climate emergency will cause great damage to American citizens and to their environment.

Climate frenzy is really heating up recently. On February 4th Senator Bernie Sanders, Congresswoman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez, and Congressman Earl Blumenauer introduced “legislation mandating the declaration of a national climate emergency. The National Climate Emergency Act directs the President of the United States to declare a national climate emergency and mobilize every resource at the country’s disposal to halt, reverse, mitigate and prepare for the consequences of this climate crisis.” (This is from Mr. Blumenauer’s website.) But this is utter nonsense. There is no climate crisis, and there will not be a climate crisis

It gets worse when you get to the state levels where there are fewer checks and balances. These are the remarks made last week by Charles Ismay, the Undersecretary for Climate Change in Massachusetts to the Vermont Climate Council:

So let me say that again, 60% of our emissions that need to be reduced come from you, the person across the street, the senior on fixed income, right . . . there’s no bad guy left, at least in Massachusetts to point the finger at, to turn the screws on, and you know, to break their wills, so they stop emitting. That’s you. We have to break your will. Right, I can’t even say that publicly.

A few days later Mr. Ismay resigned and had he not, his governor would have fired him. But, that’s the way crusades are. This is really not a question of science. This is a question of a secular religion for some. It is a question of money for others. It is a question of power for others. But whatever it is, it is not science.

Part of the medieval crusades was against the supposed threat to the holy sites in Jerusalem. But a lot of it was against local enemies. The medieval Inquisition really did a job on the poor Cathars, on the Waldensians of southern France, and on the Bogomils in the Balkans. Climate fanatics don’t know or care any more about the science of climate than those medieval Inquisitors knew or cared about the teachings of Christ.

Just about everyone wants to live in a clean environment. I do, and I am sure everyone here does. This is a photograph of Shanghai, and that’s real air pollution. You can just barely see the Bottle Opener Building in the back through all the haze. Some of this is due to burning coal. But a bigger fraction is due to dust from the Gobi Desert. They have had this type of pollution in Shanghai since the days of Marco Polo and long before. Part of it is burning stubble of the rice fields, which is traditionally done before planting next year’s crop. This is real pollution. I would not want to live in a city like that. If there is anything to do that would make it better, I would certainly support that.

But, none of this has anything to do with CO2. CO2 is a gas you cannot see, smell or taste. So, hare-brained schemes to limit emissions of CO2, which is actually beneficial, as I will explain a little bit later, will only make it harder to get rid of real pollutants like what I just showed you in Shanghai.

So, let’s talk about CO2. Number one, it is not a pollutant at all. We breathe out lots of CO2. Many people are surprised to learn that they exhale a little more than two pounds of CO2 a day. You people in this room are putting out a lot of CO2. I actually brought a CO2 meter here which I am going to turn on. It takes about 30 seconds to warm up, but we will see what the levels are. Before I came down here, my wife Barbara and I measured the CO2 on our balcony, and it is about 400 parts per million outside this building. The meter is warming up now. I will show what the results are in a minute. But our breath is not that different from the output of a power plant. Power plants take in normal air, and they consume most of the oxygen by burning coal, or natural gas, or oil. The exhaust that comes out of the stack is mostly the nitrogen that was already there—a little bit of oxygen that was not used up, along with water vapor and CO2. Our breath is similar, except it has a lot more oxygen. So, you can give mouth-to-mouth resuscitation, but you couldn’t if your breath was like the power plant exhaust. Your breath contains about four percent CO2, six percent water. The power plant has a bit more CO2 and correspondingly less oxygen. But our breath is definitely not a pollutant. In fact, our breathing reflex is determined by CO2. It is not determined by oxygen. It is not a lack of oxygen; it is too much CO2 that makes you take another breath of air.

We have just seen how well solar farms and windmills work in Texas in last week’s cold spell. They never did work terribly well. We have to be grateful to Nature. She seems to have a sense of humor, and she has taught us a good lesson—I hope. People seem to be slow learners. A major problem with renewable energy sources (solar, wind) is that they take up a lot of space. I preferred this field when it was nice and green instead of weedy panels. It is quite weedy now. This was soon after it was built. The panels do not work at all at night. You need something else to provide electrical power at night. Solar panels do not work if it is a cloudy day. They do not work terribly well in the winter when the Sun is low. So, it is pure virtue signaling. Solar power makes no economic sense unless you are massively subsidized by the state and federal governments.


How to End Biden’s Fake Climate Apocalypse

If there’s no pushback against the Left, we’ll see a dramatic drop in our standard of living.

With the wave of executive orders and legislation coming from the Biden administration, and the cultural antics of his woke supporters, Biden’s war on fossil fuels has received insufficient attention. Yet energy is the lifeblood of our economy, and making traditional energy sources vastly more expensive is the single most destructive aspect of Biden’s policies. If this country does not successfully mobilize against these policies, the vast majority will experience a dramatic drop in their standard of living.

Supposedly the assault on fossil fuels — via regulation; cancellation of pipelines; concocting a huge, wholly imaginary “social cost of carbon”; taxes; and solar and wind mandates — is necessary to save the planet from imminent catastrophe produced by man-made global warming.

But genuine climate scientists, as we know from those who dare to speak up, are amazed and horrified. Richard Lindzen, long at the top of the field as a former professor of atmospheric sciences at MIT, laments that the situation gets sillier and sillier. He told the recent CPAC conference (his message was read by the Heartland Institute’s James Taylor):

One problem with conveying our message is the difficulty people have in recognizing the absurdity of the alarmist climate message. They can’t believe that something so absurd could gain such universal acceptance. Consider the following situation. Your physician declares that your complete physical will consist in simply taking your temperature. This would immediately suggest something wrong with your physician. He further claims that if your temperature is 98.7F rather than 98.6F you must be put on life support. Now you know he is certifiably insane. The same situation for climate is considered “settled science.”

So how did an absurd message gain such widespread acceptance? The answer is something people find it hard to wrap their heads around: we aren’t dealing with science at all. We confront an apocalyptic movement, the kind of movement, recurring across time and space, that Richard Landes describes in Heaven on Earth: Varieties of the Millennial Experience. Its scientific veneer makes it credible to a modern audience. If today a charismatic leader cried, “Repent. Sacrifice your goods. The end of the earth is nigh,” at best he might attract a few dozen oddball followers. But when essentially the same message is clothed in the language of science, it sweeps the world.

In Roosters of the Apocalypse I point out the uncomfortable similarities between the global warming apocalypse and the apocalypse that led the Xhosa tribe (in today’s South Africa) in 1856 to destroy their economy, which was based on cattle as ours is on energy. Relying on the vision of a 15-year-old orphan girl, the Xhosa killed an estimated half million of their cattle, ceased planting crops, and destroyed their grain stores. In return the girl promised the Xhosa’s ancestors would drive out the British and bring an even greater abundance of cattle and grain. By the end of 1857 a third to a half of the population — between 30,000 and 50,000 souls — had starved to death.

Even the age of the “prophetic” girl suggests a modern parallel. Greta Thunberg didn’t start the global warming apocalypse, but she was 15 when she began spending her school days in front of the Swedish Parliament carrying a sign reading “School Strike for Climate,” heralding the international children’s crusade against global warming she would lead a year later.

In some ways the current apocalypse is surprising. Landes reports that to be successful, an apocalypse needs to bring elites on board, and elites tend to be a hard sell, especially when prophecies demand a society self-mutilate. But in this case not only have elites been won over with breathtaking ease, but they have proved more susceptible over time than the man in the street. A recent Gallup poll found only 3 percent of the public citing climate as a key concern.

If people understand the menace that global warming policies pose to their way of life, there should be a huge pool of followers.

Dissent is drowned out as educational, political, media, cultural, and business elites speak with one voice. Even fossil fuel companies have thrown in the towel. The American Petroleum Institute, the oil industry’s top lobbying group, is set to propose setting a price on carbon emissions. Children are being indoctrinated in global warming doctrine from kindergarten on, in humanities as well as science classes. My granddaughter, in sixth grade in a Manhattan public school, has a class in “Clifi” (Climate Fiction), where the children read stories on the dreadful aftermath of a climate apocalypse. Politicians at the state and local level pass mandates for expensive (and unreliable) renewables to replace fossil fuels at ever earlier dates. Even conservatives are caught up in the fever. At the most recent CPAC a group urged Republicans to “get in front” on the issue and outflank the Democrats.

What can be done to prevent the global warming locomotive from steamrolling over our economy? Thus far efforts have focused on countering global warming science with better science. The Chicago-based Heartland Institute has organized 13 international conferences since 2008. The media has all but blacked out coverage, so neither the conferences nor the steady stream of climate research the Institute publishes receive any notice. The CO2 Coalition, which emphasizes that CO2, far from being a pollutant, is a nutrient vital for life, is given similar short shrift. For example, although the coalition includes distinguished scientists, Wikipedia defines it as “a climate change alarmist denial advocacy organization,” whose claims “are disputed by the vast majority of climate scientists.”

There are also excellent websites, such as Climate Depot, offering space to scientific research casting doubt on apocalyptic claims. Marc Morano, who runs the site, had the distinction in 2009 of being chosen by news outlet Grist as one of only five “criminals against humanity, against planet Earth itself” and in 2012 of being named “Climate Change Misinformer” of the Year by Media Matters.

Pitting one scientific study against another hasn’t worked. That’s because most climate scientists are on the global warming grant gravy train, the public can’t follow the abstruse language of academic studies of climate, and the apocalypse is only superficially about climate anyway. Under the circumstances, a mass movement against this folly would seem to be the only way to get through to a larger public. If people understand the menace that global warming policies pose to their way of life, there should be a huge pool of followers. Texas might be a good place to start, given its recent unexpected stay in the freezing dark, and the stark failure of its wind turbines. One advantage of such a movement is that it would cross party lines. Democratic-voting union members stand to lose their well-paid jobs in fossil fuel industries, with workers in China cornering much lower-paid jobs in solar and wind (despite pie-in-the-sky promises by President Biden and newly appointed climateer-in-chief John Kerry).

The new movement could be titled “Lights On.” Participants should have fun. There was never a claim of “settled science” more ripe for ridicule. How about contests for college students rewarding those who can document the largest number of disproven prophecies of global warming doom (for example, the end of snow, no more Arctic glaciers, U.S. coasts under water, all with specified dates now long past)? In Breitbart, John Nolte recently claimed to have found 44 of them. There can be no shortage of candidates for an award of “False Prophet of the Year.” Or “Global Warming Hypocrite of the Year,” for which John Kerry would be an outstanding candidate with his private jet, yachts, multiple mansions, and cars. And what about an award to a prominent media figure for the most absurd claim for global warming causation? One of Lindzen’s favorites is the Syrian civil war.

And how about reviving the chronicle of Climategate, which almost wiped out faith in the apocalypse before the media buried the scandal? In 2009, a hacker downloaded candid emails among top climate scientists in England and the United States that bemoaned recalcitrant data, described the “tricks” (their term) used to coax the data, reported efforts to keep the views of dissenters out of reputable journals and UN reports, and boasted of deletion of data to make it unavailable to other researchers. “If science is on your side, why do you need to make it up?” would make a good bumper sticker or t-shirt slogan.

There could be a bumper sticker with comedian George Carlin’s line: “The Planet has been through a lot worse than us.” There could be t-shirts that proclaim, “Wind Is for Sailboats.” There should be songs and cartoons (many of these can already be found on the website

The movement can have fun, but it must also be serious: members will only back politicians prepared to fight to maintain our access to cheap, reliable energy. To the extent solar and wind can someday compete on an even playing field, without subsidies and mandates, they are welcome to the energy mix.

For the current apocalypse to come to an end, the notion that man-made global warming poses an existential threat must come to be seen as ridiculous. Otherwise the policies of shutting down our traditional energy supplies to stave off this absurd end of days will themselves become an existential threat.




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