In the News
GM Will Buy Back Volts from Customers Worried about Fire
Rosanna Xia, Los Angeles Times, 2 December 2011
How Gingrich Landed on a Love Seat with Pelosi in Gore Ad
Julie Hirschfield Davis, Bloomberg, 1 December 2011
News You Can Use
Chinese Emissions Go Big
According to the 2011 World Energy Outlook, which was released recently by the International Energy Agency, China’s greenhouse gas emissions from 2010-2035 will match the 28-country European Union’s cumulative emissions from 1900-2009. Total Chinese emissions from 1900-2035 are projected to exceed U.S. emissions from 1900 to 2009.
Inside the Beltway
Congressional Republicans Move on Keystone Pipeline
President Barack Obama’s announcement last month that he would delay making a decision on the proposed Keystone XL pipeline until after the 2012 election is provoking strong opposition in the Senate and the House of Representatives. Senator Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and 36 Republican co-sponsors introduced a bill on Wednesday, 30th November, that would require the President to approve the project within sixty days unless he decides that it would not be in the national interest.
Representative Lee Terry (R-Neb.) introduced a bill on Friday, 2nd December, that would transfer the decision from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and give FERC a thirty-day deadline to issue the permit after final agreement has been reached between the State of Nebraska and Trans Canada Corporation, the company that would build the pipeline, on a new route that goes around Nebraska’s Sand Hills.
Terry introduced his bill at a press conference just before the House Energy and Commerce Committee held a hearing on it. He said that House Speaker John Boehner was considering including the bill in a larger package supported by President Obama and Senate Democrats that would extend unemployment benefits and the payroll tax cut. Including the Keystone bill in the larger bill would make it much harder for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to block in the Senate and for President Obama to veto.
Rep. Terry has been a strong backer of the 1,700 mile pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to U. S. refineries in the Gulf, even while most of his state’s political establishment has objected to the route. That dispute has now apparently been resolved. The pipeline would carry over 500,000 barrels of crude oil a day from the oil sands in northeast Alberta and from the Bakken field in North Dakota. Bakken production is going up rapidly, and much of the oil is currently being transported by rail to refineries in the lower Midwest.
Canada’s political and business establishment has been stunned by President Obama’s postponing a decision on the pipeline until after the presidential election. Faced with either a further two-year delay in building the Keystone XL pipeline or an outright rejection of the permit by a re-elected President Obama, Enbridge, the other major Canadian pipeline company, has proposed building an alternative pipeline to a port in British Columbia, from which the oil could be shipped to refineries in China. Support is now building in Canada to move forward with Enbridge’s pipeline.
For a sample, here is an op-ed by Frank McKenna, former premier of New Brunswick and former Canadian ambassador to the United States and now deputy chairman of one of Canada’s biggest banks. For my own view of the Keystone controversy and also that of Dan Simmons of the Institute for Energy Research, here is a twenty-minute video of a briefing that the Heritage Foundation held on Capitol Hill on Tuesday.
House Votes To Rein in Runaway Regulations
The House of Representatives this week passed two generic regulatory reform bills. On Thursday, 1st December, the House voted 263 to 159 to pass the Regulatory Flexibility Improvements Act, H. R. 527, that would give teeth to a law enacted in 1980 that requires federal agencies to analyze the possible economic effects of new regulations on small businesses.
On Friday, 2nd December, the House passed a far-reaching reform of the Administrative Procedures Act of 1946 by a vote of 253 to 167. Nineteen Democrats voted for the bill, and no Republicans voted against it. The Regulatory Accountability Act, H. R. 3010, if enacted, would make several major changes in the way regulations are developed and promulgated. For example, independent agencies, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission, would become subject to the same procedural requirements as cabinet departments. Another change would require agencies to hold formal quasi-judicial hearings with cross-examination of witnesses for really big proposed regulations (where the economic impact is estimated to be at least $1 billion per year).
The bill makes two other changes in the APA that potentially carry more bite. First, information and data used in the rulemaking process would become subject to judicial review. This fixes a problem with the Federal Information Quality Act (IQA), enacted in 2001. It was assumed that the IQA could be used to take the phony science regularly used by EPA to court, but a federal judge ruled otherwise. Another provision will allow regulated parties to challenge agency assessments of the costs and benefits of proposed rules in federal court.
Next week, the House is expected to debate and pass the REINS (which stands for Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny) Act. H. R. 10 would require Congress to vote to approve or disapprove all major proposed regulations.
Phil Kerpen of Americans for Prosperity (a member of the Cooler Heads Coalition) argues strongly in favor of the REINS Act in a recent op-ed. Environmental pressure groups are dubbing these bills the “final corporate takeover of Congress.” A remarkable Washington Post article essentially regurgitates leftist propaganda against these regulatory reforms and calls it an “in depth” news analysis.
The Democratic-controlled Senate is unlikely to vote on any of these three bills. The White House has threatened to veto all of them. This is how Washington works.
Obama’s Newest Green Boondoggle
Former President Bill Clinton joined President Barack Obama on Friday, 2nd December, to tour an office building in downtown Washington and announce $4 billion in new funding for energy efficiency upgrades to federal and commercial buildings. The White House was careful to point out that the $2 billion commitment in federal funding to retrofit federal buildings will avoid all of the risks of the Department of Energy’s loan guarantee program.
A number of private companies have agreed to spend $2 billion as part of Clinton’s Global Initiative on energy efficiency improvements in their own buildings. The White House predicts that the “Better Buildings Challenge” will lead to retrofitting over 1.6 billion square feet of private commercial (and a large but unspecified amount of federal) space, pay for itself through lower electric bills, and create tens of thousands of jobs.
EPA Updates Another Job-Killing Regulation
The Environmental Protection Agency on Friday, 2nd December, released its latest version of the boiler MACT (for Maximum Achievable Control Technology) rule that will require industrial boilers and incinerators to reduce air emissions of mercury, lead, and a bunch of other substances. The final rule was originally published last March and then withdrawn in the face of strong political opposition and a lawsuit filed by industry.
According to an Associated Press story by Dina Cappiello, the slight changes in the new rule will lower compliance costs by requiring “new pollution controls at the 5,500 largest and most polluting boilers nationwide…. [while] …another 195,00 smaller boilers would be able to meet the rule through routine tune-ups.” Over a million smaller boilers would be exempt from the rule.
The House of Representatives in October passed a bill to delay the boiler MACT rule for fifteen months, extend the compliance period by an additional two years, and lower the emissions reduction requirements.
Around the World
From Durban to the Dustbin
No notable progress has been made on any sort of agreement at COP-17 in Durban to extend the Kyoto Protocol, set to expire at the end of 2012. Conflicts remain over the lack of commitments for developing countries as well as the financing and administration of $100 billion in annual climate “aid” for developing countries. The U.S., Japan, and now the E.U. have ruled out joining a second commitment period under the current Kyoto Protocol.
China and other major developing countries are still unwilling to limit total emissions, though China continues to claim progress on lowering its emissions per unit of GDP. Amidst a sea of disagreement, the negotiators have found one area of agreement: they will meet again next year, at COP-18 in Qatar.
According to Bloomberg, twelve U. S. environmental pressure groups sent a letter to President Obama that urges him not to become “a major obstacle to progress” in the Durban negotiations. Most of these groups said for many years that the only obstacle to international progress on reducing emissions was President George W. Bush.
Japan, China Clash with E.U. Over Airline Emissions
China and Japan are feuding with the European Union over its decision to require foreign airlines flying to or departing from Europe to participate in the E.U. Emissions Trading Scheme as early as January 1, 2012. A number of Chinese airlines plan to file a lawsuit in a European Union court prior to the end of the year, while U.S. airlines have already filed a similar lawsuit. The E.U. plan is opposed by the Obama Administration. Some have suggested it could spark a larger trade war, which is the last thing the European economies need.
Canada to Withdraw From Kyoto
Canada has decided that it will formally withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol in January of 2012 rather than wait for the Protocol to expire at the end of 2012. Environment Minister Peter Kent claims that the decision was in part because of the lack of binding commitments from China, India, and Brazil. Prior to its decision to withdraw, Canada was not on track to comply with its agreement to lower emissions by 6% below 1990 levels. Recent data shows that Canadian greenhouse gas emissions are roughly 30% higher than they were in 1990.
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.