A coalition of 88 free market organizations this week released a joint letter urging Members of Congress not to extend the $22 per megawatt hour wind production tax credit that is set to expire on December 31. Click here to read the letter.
In the News
Two More Stimulus-Backed Solar Companies Hit the Skids
Lachlan Markay, The Foundry, 16 November 2012
Why You Should Care That Courts Overturn EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standard
Marlo Lewis, Forbes, 14 November 2012
News You Can Use
International Energy Agency: U.S. To Overtake Saudi Arabia on Oil Production by 2020
According to the International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook, which was released this week, the United States is on track to surpass Saudi Arabia as the world’s largest oil producer by 2020.
Inside the Beltway
Carbon Tax Update
This week, the Obama administration sent conflicting messages on the issue of a carbon tax.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the President responded to a question about the carbon tax by saying that, “I don't think anybody’s gonna go for that. I won’t go for that.” Just to make sure that the President’s position on a carbon tax is clear, his press secretary Jay Carney told reporters the following day that, “We would never propose a carbon tax and have no intention of proposing one,” as reported by Energy & Environment News PM (subscription required).
And yet, despite the President’s disavowal, the Treasury Department continues to hide records pertaining to carbon tax deliberations within the administration. In response to a Freedom of Information Act request by my colleague Chris Horner, the Treasury Department conceded the existence of 7,300 documents referencing carbon from this year. However, the Treasury Department claims that these records would not inform the public, and it refuses to release them on these grounds. On Tuesday, the Competitive Enterprise Institute sued the Treasury Department for its failure to comply with transparency requirements.
To recap: President Obama disavows a carbon tax, but his administration concedes it has been working on one and refuses to divulge any information about its deliberations. So it’s a murky situation.
In related news, Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist this week unequivocally stated his organization’s opposition to a carbon tax. He did so in the immediate wake of a misleading report by National Journal, which suggested that Norquist had said that support for a carbon tax might not violate ATR's Taxpayer Protection Pledge to not raise taxes.The pledge has been signed by hundreds of Members of Congress.
Committee Shakeups in the 113th Congress
A number of key committees on energy and environment policy will have new leadership in the 113th Congress.
In the Senate, David Vitter (R-LA) will become ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee. His predecessor, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) was term limited from continuing at EPW, but he will become ranking member of the Armed Services Committee. Sen. Vitter is a climate skeptic, albeit a quieter one than Sen. Inhofe, and he is keenly interested in offshore oil and gas drilling, which is a key industry of his home state. Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) will remain the Chairman of the EPW Committee. This is the best possible outcome, in light of her ineffectual leadership on past major energy initiatives. She single-handedly sank the Lieberman-Warner cap-and-trade in the 111th Congress, and then she botched the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade in the 112th Congress.
In the House, Rep. Doc Hastings will retain the gavel on the Natural Resources Committee. It had been rumored that Rep. Hastings would leave the Natural Resources Committee and take over the Chairmanship of the influential Rules Committee. However, the Rules Committee Chairmanship instead went to Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). This is a welcome development. Rep. Hastings has been tireless in his oversight of the Obama administration’s anti-energy policies, and his leadership is all the more important now that the President is no longer beholden to electoral consequences.
Across the States
California Launches Cap-and-Trade Energy Rationing Scheme
On Wednesday, California held its first auction for energy rationing coupons under the state’s cap-and-trade scheme. The auction is expected to raise $1-$2 billion, although the final results won’t be released until Monday. As the cap gets tighter, auction prices will get higher, and state regulators project that auction revenues could get as high as $14 billion by 2015-16. It is unclear how California will use the auction proceeds. Before last Tuesday, the funds could only have been used to mitigate climate change. As a result of last week’s election, however, Democrats now have a super majority in the state legislature, which means they can vote to spend the money for whatever purpose they want, if they vote as a block.
Around the World
Greenpeace Secret Recordings Stoke Energy Debate in Great Britain
Greenpeace this week released video of a conversation that an undercover activist secretly recorded with Lord Howell, the father-in-law of George Osborne, a Member of Parliament and also Chancellor of the Exchequer. During the conversation Lord Howell said that his son-in-law Osborne was privately leaning on Prime Minister David Cameron to persuade him to water down or abandon British renewable energy and carbon dioxide emissions targets. Howell also noted that the appointments of Owen Paterson as the Energy Secretary and John Hayes as the energy minister would ensure that the case against wind power was “heard within Government.”
In response, George Osborne released a statement, seemingly denying what Howell had claimed: “The Chancellor supports Government energy policy which has helped secure record investment into the UK energy infrastructure.”
Current law aims for a 34% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by 2020 and 80% by 2050. As the Cooler Heads Digest reported earlier this month, major disagreements have emerged within the British government regarding future support for wind power, which currently receives generous subsidies
Sting Recording, Take Two
Greenpeace also released video of a conversation that an undercover Greenpeace activist had with Chris Heaton-Harris, a senior British politician and member of the Tory Party. The video, secretly recorded, seems to indicate that Heaton-Harris had encouraged British journalist James Delingpole to temporarily run against Christine Emmett, a member of Chris Heaton-Harris’s own party, as an independent candidate. The situation is further confused by the fact that Heaton-Harris was managing the campaign of Christine Emmett. Here is Delingpole’s take on the situation (also here and here).
Delingpole, a global-warming skeptic, was encouraged by Heaton-Harris to step into the election as an anti-wind energy candidate in order to “write it into the DNA of the Tory Party,” the “it” being opposition to wind energy.
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.