In the News
Congress Should Let the Market Take Care of the Energy Industry
Daniel Kish, Energy Intelligence, 29 September 2011
How Absurd Is Regulating Greenhouse Gases with the Clean Air Act?
Marlo Lewis, GlobalWarming.org, 27 September 2011
If Christie’s the Answer, There Must Be a Different Question
Chris Horner, AmSpecBlog, 26 September 2011
News You Can Use
Stimulus-Funded Solar Projects: $2 million Taxpayer Money Per Job
On Wednesday, the Department of Energy approved federal loan guarantees of $337 million for the Mesquite Solar project in Arizona and of $737 million for the Solar Reserve project in Nevada. The projects would create a total of 52-55 permanent jobs, according to the Investors Business Daily. The direct cost to the taxpayer is almost $1.9 million per permanent job. If these loans default like Solyndra, then each job would cost about $19 million.
Inside the Beltway
Watchdog: EPA Cut Corners on Climate Science
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Inspector General this week released a report requested by Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, on the scientific assessment that is the basis for the agency’s Endangerment Finding. The IG found that the EPA had disregarded and violated its own rules and procedures in preparing the scientific case for finding that greenhouse gas emissions endanger public health and safety and therefore can be regulated under the Clean Air Act.
Specifically, the IG’s report found that the EPA had incorrectly decided that the scientific assessment was not a Highly Influential Scientific Assessment (HISA). This allowed the EPA to disregard record-keeping requirements and avoid a review by an impartial panel. The idea that it didn’t qualify as an HISA is preposterous.
The EPA also ignored the agency’s own Federal Information Quality Act (IQA) guidelines. If the EPA’s assessment of climate science does not meet the minimal standards for objectivity required by the IQA, then the assessment cannot legally be disseminated or used as the basis for making policy decisions. Senator Inhofe, CEI, Dr. Patrick Michaels of the Cato Institute, and others have claimed that the EPA’s reliance on the Fourth Assessment Report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change did not meet the IQA threshold. Or put more bluntly, that the EPA has used junk science as the basis for its energy-rationing regulations.
The IG’s report confirms that the EPA did not bother to apply the IQA to the IPCC assessment. To quote from the report: “U.S. government acceptance of the documents (that is, the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report) did not relieve EPA of its responsibility to determine whether the data met EPA’s information quality guidelines before disseminating the information.”
That would appear to pull the legs out from under the Endangerment Finding. Plaintiffs in the case to overturn EPA’s decision to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will no doubt now ask to have the IG’s report entered into the record and considered by the D. C. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Watchdog: NOAA Cut Corners on Climate Science
The Government Accountability Office on Friday, 30th September, released a report requested by Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, on the siting of weather stations in NOAA’s U. S. Historical Climatology Network (USHCN). The GAO’s report found that 42% of the weather stations in its sample did not meet all the siting standards required.
This is no surprise to anyone familiar with the superb work undertaken and led by Anthony Watts to survey and photograph the stations in the USHCN. So far, over 1000 of the 1221 stations have been surveyed. The GAO took a smaller sample. Watts and his volunteer team have found that many of the stations flagrantly violate most or all of the siting standards. For example, stations are frequently sited next to air conditioning vents and parking lots. Anyone interested should consult www.surfacestations.org.
The GAO did not consider what its findings mean for the reliability of the USHCN’s temperature record, but it would seem to provide strong evidence for Watts’s conclusion that the data is hopelessly compromised and cannot be trusted.
Solyndra Scandal Keeps Rolling
The Solyndra scandal has generated a lot of news in the past week. On 23rd September, CEO Brian Harrison invoked the Fifth Amendment to refuse to testify before the House Energy and Commerce Committee on the grounds that it might incriminate him. A bankruptcy judge in Delaware on 27th September ordered the company to sell its assets as quickly as possible. An auction on 27th October has been set tentatively.
On 29th September, Secretary of Energy Steven Chu took responsibility for approving the restructuring of the loan in February 2011 after Solyndra was in default and for agreeing to put private investors ahead of the federal government in line to be paid back if the company went bankrupt. The White House on 30th September expressed full confidence in Secretary Chu. That’s a sign that he should start packing his bags now.
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the factory that Solyndra built with its 528 million taxpayer dollars was far more costly and luxurious than most factories. One employee compared it to the Taj Mahal. The Washington Post detailed the lavish spending by company executives that began as soon as the Department of Energy approved the loan.
While the FBI investigates Solyndra for accounting fraud, Rep. Henry Waxman, ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, sent a letter claiming that he had no involvement in approving the DOE loan to Solyndra. Waxman didn’t mention that as Chairman of the committee in 2009, he put the loan program into the stimulus bill.
It has been widely reported that George Kaiser, a major donor to the Obama presidential campaign, was the chief private investor in Solyndra. Kaiser has denied that he ever talked to anyone in the White House about approving the loan, but he did have four meetings in the White House before the loan was approved. Obama’s press secretary Jay Carney said that the meetings were to discuss Kaiser’s charitable work.
Another top donor and fundraiser to Obama’s campaign, Steven Spinner, became an adviser to Secretary Chu on the loan program. Spinner’s wife, Allison, was a lawyer at a firm that made $2.4 million representing companies applying for DOE loans, including Solyndra. Steve Westly, who raised half a million dollars for the Obama campaign, was appointed to a DOE loan advisory committee. It has now been reported by ABC News that Westly had investments in five companies that got DOE loan guarantees.
Perhaps the most troubling news is the Department of Energy’s rush this week to hand out billions of dollars more in loan guarantees to solar energy projects before the stimulus program expires at midnight 30th September. Loan guarantees of $1.5 billion, $1.4 billion, and $646 million have been announced so far. These projects are for solar installations rather than manufacturers.
Across the States
New York Jettisons Great Lakes Wind Project
The Buffalo News reported this week that New York Power Authority has pulled the plug on a planned 150 megawatt wind farm off the coasts of Lakes Erie and Ontario, due to high cost of the government giveaways the project needed to compete with conventional energy. According to the Power Authority’s staff, the project would have required an annual state subsidy between $60 million and $100 million, for 20 years. Jill Anderson, the Power Authority's director of supply acquisition and renewable energy, told the paper that, “It's not fiscally prudent at this time to select a proposal and pursue a project in the Great Lakes.”
Fracking Brings Big Benefits to Texas
A report by the Perryman Group published last month by the Fort Worth Chamber of Commerce estimates that natural gas development in the Barnett Shale, which was made possible by the technological breakthrough in drilling known as hydraulic fracturing, has increased Texas’s 2011 gross domestic product by almost $13.7 billion and also created 119,216 jobs.
Around the World
Wikileaks Uncovers Kyoto Farce
A diplomatic cable made available last month through Wikileaks has piled onto criticism of the Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) established under the Kyoto Protocol. It allows wealthy countries to obtain carbon credits used in European carbon trading programs via investing in “climate-friendly” projects in foreign countries, akin to the purchase of carbon offsets which is well known for having similar problems.
According to the cable, the majority of projects certified in India – which currently accounts for over 20 percent of the CDM credits -- should not have been counted as they didn’t achieve additional emissions reductions. It seems likely that similar issues with the CDM program exist in other countries, such as China, which accounts for almost 50 percent of the credits.
Nothing Major Expected From Durban
No major agreements in international policy are likely to be reached this December at the 17th United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP17) in Durban, South Africa. Larger, immediate world problems such as the ongoing debt crisis in Europe have dominated recent gatherings of the U.S. General Assembly, with little attention paid to climate change. With little expected from Durban, the Rio+20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in June 2012 would be the next likely target for future negotiations, as formal commitments to the Kyoto Protocol expire in December of 2012.
The Cooler Heads Digest is the weekly e-mail publication of the Cooler Heads Coalition. For the latest news and commentary, check out the Coalition’s website, www.GlobalWarming.org.