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Thursday
Oct042012

Cooler Heads Digest 

Announcements

In the News

New Book Claims Officials Use Private Emails To Skirt FOIA Laws
Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner, 28 September 2012

Challenging Bill McKibben: The Environmental Case for Fossil Fuels
Alex Epstein, Master Resource, 28 September 2012

Matt’s Damon’s Anti-Fracking Movie Financed by OPEC Member
Lachlan Markay, Scribe, 28 September 2012

Matt Damon’s Troubled Anti-Frack Film
Phelim McAleer, New York Post, 26 September 2012

Cloud Computing: Friend or Foe of Kyotoism?
Marlo Lewis, GlobalWarming.org, 25 September 2012

NASA’s Rubber Ruler
Randall Hoven, American Thinker, 25 September 2012

Record Polar Bear Hunt in Alaska
Greg Pollowitz, Planet Gore, 24 September 2012

Where Are the Solar Panels, Mr. President?
Carrie Halperin, ABC News, 23 September 2012

Stimulus-Funded Green Energy Program Falls Way Short in California
David Baker, San Francisco Chronicle, 22 September 2012

News You Can Use
Terrible Week for Electric Vehicles

Events this week cast significant doubt on the viability of President Barack Obama’s big bet on electric vehicles.

  • Tesla Motors had to renegotiate the terms of its Energy Department loan, due to a cash crunch.
  • Consumer Reports reviewed the $107,000 Fisker Karma, and found that it is “full of flaws.”  Like Tesla, Fisker also received loan backed by the stimulus, but the Energy Department cut off its line of credit months ago.
  • Smith Electric Vehicles, a recipient of $32 million in stimulus grants, cancelled an initial public offering, in what financial analysts are calling “an astonishing disaster.”
  • Toyota announced that it has killed plans for a widespread launch of its second all-electric car, the eQ. The company said that the decision was made because, “The current capabilities of electric vehicle do not meet society’s needs.”

Inside the Beltway
Myron Ebell

Politico: “Browner: Obama has big plans for second term”

For environmentalists who have not gotten everything they dreamed of in President Barack Obama’s first term, Carol Browner had re-assuring words during a campaign conference call on Thursday evening, 27th September.  According to an article by Alex Guillen in PoliticoPro (subscription required), Browner said that Obama has big plans for a second term on environmental, climate, and energy issues.

According to the article, Browner said, “I can tell you, having spent two years in the White House with the president, that this is not a fad. The president believes deeply in these issues. At every turn he has looked at what are the tools available to him to really help build a clean energy future for this country and has been committed throughout his first four years in office, and there’s no doubt in my mind this will be a big part of his to-do list and he will remain committed in the next four years.”

Browner, who was a prominent member of Socialist International, served as White House climate and energy czar in the first two years of the Obama Administration and as EPA Administrator for the full eight years of the Clinton Administration.  She is now a senior fellow at the so-called Center for American Progress, a non-profit group that serves as a megaphone for Democratic Party and administration policies.  CAP’s roughly $25 million annual budget funds the hilarious web site Climate Progress as well as a communications staff of 46.  

House Conservatives Draw a Line on Wind Tax Credit

Forty-seven Republican Members of the House of Representatives sent a joint letter to Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) this week announcing that they oppose including a provision to renew the wind production tax credit for another year in any broader legislation.  The letter concludes, “We believe that the Solyndra scandal has demonstrated that it is time for the federal government to stop picking winners and losers in the energy marketplace.  Twenty years of subsidizing wind is more than enough.  Our nation can simply no longer afford to pick winners and losers in the energy marketplace.  The PTC should expire at the end of the year under current law.”

Wind installations completed before the credit expires at the end of this year will still receive the 2.2 cents per kilowatt hour subsidy for ten years.  The one-year extension voted out by the Senate Finance Committee in early August would actually expand the program by allowing wind investors to claim an immediate 30% investment credit instead of having to wait ten years for a full payout and by allowing projects started (but not finished) next year to qualify.  The Congressional Budget Office estimates that the Senate version will cost $12 billion over ten years.

The joint letter was organized by freshman Representative Mike Pompeo (R-Ks.), who has led the effort against all energy subsidies and mandates in this Congress, including the T. Boone Pickens Payoff Plan to subsidize natural gas trucks and filling stations.  Crony capitalists have hit back with numerous ads attacking him in his Wichita-centered district.

Support for the wind and solar tax credits is pretty uniform among Democratic Members of Congress.  Among Republicans, it tends to split along State lines.  Republican Members representing the 29 States with renewable portfolio standards (RPS) for electric utilities tend to support the tax credits because the subsidies lower the cost of renewable electricity.  Republican Members representing States without renewable requirements generally oppose the credits because taxpayers from their States are subsidizing the use of renewable energy in other States.  Here’s a map that shows the various state renewable requirements.  

There are notable exceptions, however.  For example, Kansas has a 20% RPS by 2020.  Kansas’s Republican Governor Sam Brownback and Republican Senators Pat Roberts and Jerry Moran support extending the wind PTC, while Kansas Republican Representatives Pompeo and Tim Huelskamp actively oppose it.

Similarly in Colorado, which has a 30% by 2020 RPS, Rep. Doug Lamborn recently wrote an op-ed titled “Why the wind energy tax credit must go,” while freshmen Republican Reps. Cory Gardner and Scott Tipton signed a joint letter in June, along with fourteen other Republican freshmen, supporting an extension.

Gardner and Tipton are both members of the conservative House Republican Study Committee and enjoyed significant Tea Party support when they ran for Congress in 2010.  Members like Gardner and Tipton oppose crony capitalism in principle, but not in practice when their own crony capitalists are the target.

The wind PTC has become a prominent minor issue in the presidential campaign.  President Barack Obama has repeatedly attacked Republican nominee Mitt Romney in Iowa and Colorado for opposing its extension.  Vestas, the world’s largest wind turbine manufacturer, announced this week that they think the U. S. market for wind turbines will shrink by 95% if the credit is not renewed.  This is curious since 29 States still have RPS requirements that must be met in the next decade.

Senate Passes Bill to Prevent EU from Imposing Carbon Tax on U.S. Airlines

Before leaving town on Saturday, 22nd September, the Senate passed by voice vote a bill sponsored by Senator John Thune (R-SD) that gives the Secretary of Transportation authority to prevent U. S. airlines from complying with a European Union law that requires airlines to pay for their carbon dioxide emissions by participating in the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme.  The House passed a similar bill earlier this year.  It is expected that the House will pass the Senate version when it comes back for a lame duck session after the election and send it to President Obama for his signature.  The legislation enjoys strong bipartisan support in both chambers.   

Drumbeat Continues for Carbon Tax

The drums continue to beat for a carbon tax.  Last week, the Congressional Research Service released a report that ties adoption of a carbon tax to deficit reduction.  The study says that a carbon tax starting at $20 per metric ton of carbon dioxide-equivalent could raise $88 billion in its first year and $154 billion by 2021 if the tax was increased automatically by 5% each year.

Across the States
William Yeatman

California Governor Signs 19 Renewable Energy Bills

California Governor Jerry Brown yesterday signed into law 19 bills to promote renewable energy. The legislation is largely symbolic. Still, the Golden State has a $16 billion deficit, and it already has the most pro-green policies of any State in the country, by a long shot. Don’t the State’s policymakers have more pressing concerns than renewable energy puffery?

EPA Appeals Appalachian Coal Rulings

The Obama administration today appealed a decision by federal judge Reggie Walton to vacate EPA Clean Water Act regulations that had effectively outlawed new surface coal mining in Appalachia. The regulations, which were issued in June 2011, set first-ever standards for saline effluent from surface coal mines in West Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, and Virginia. The regulatory justification for the regulations was to protect a short-lived insect, which isn’t an endangered species. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson conceded that the salinity standards were set at a level that is impossible to meet. After the regulations were promulgated, West Virginia, Kentucky, and the National Mining Association (among others) sued EPA in the federal court for the District of Columbia, alleging that the Agency violated administrative law by imposing the regulation without affording the States and industry their rightful voice in the regulatory process. In July, Judge Walton sided with the plaintiffs, and the rule was vacated. 

Around the World
Brian McGraw

Slowdown in China Hurting U.S. Coal Exports

The slowdown of economic growth in China has hit the U.S. coal industry hard over the past few months, particularly in Appalachia, as the Wall Street Journal reports. Surging Chinese demand for metallurgical coal, used in steelmaking, provided much needed support for the domestic coal industry amidst declining demand for thermal coal, more commonly used in power plants. Metallurgical coal is currently selling for $170 per metric ton, down almost 50 percent from its 2011 peak of $330 per metric ton.

Numerous domestic coal companies have announced layoffs this year, and Patriot Coal declared bankruptcy. While the downturn in Chinese demand for coal is largely out of our control, much of the blame for losses in the domestic coal industry rests at the feet of the Obama Administration. Though historically low natural gas prices have also played a role, the Obama Administration has issued costly regulations directed at the coal industry, contributing to the planned shutdown of more than 200 coal fired power plants in the next three to five years.

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.

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