The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee this week held its first hearing on climate science since 2009. Politico incorrectly claimed that no star witnesses testified. In fact, University of Alabama-Huntsville Professor John Christy, one of the world’s leading climate scientists, provided outstanding testimony. Professor Christy’s written testimony is available here, and video of his opening statement is available here.
In the News
New GM’s Turn to Subprime Loans Could Prevent Bailout Payback
Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner, 2 August 2012
Muller’s BEST Study Doesn’t Meet Peer-Review Standards for Publication
Ross McKitrick, RossMcKitrick.com, 30 July 2012
News You Can Use
Electric Vehicle Sales Continue to Disappoint
Last month Nissan sold 395 Leafs, the car company’s first electric vehicle manufactured for the American market. That’s down from 1,708 sales the previous June. This contributes to the mounting evidence that the U.S. will fall far short of President Obama’s 2011 promise to put 1 million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.
Inside the Beltway
Romney Opposes, Senate Supports Taxpayer Handouts to Big Wind
The Senate Finance Committee on 2nd August marked up and passed a business tax extenders package on a 19 to 5 vote that includes a provision to extend and expand the wind production tax credit. Senator Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) offered an amendment to reduce the 2. 2 cents per kilowatt hour tax credit by 20%. Electric rates in several States that rely mostly on coal-fired power plants average under 8 cents/kWh, so 2.2 cents is a big subsidy. Coburn’s amendment failed on a 9-15 vote. All thirteen committee Democrats plus Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.) and Pat Roberts (R-Ks.) voted against the amendment.
Senators Grassley and Roberts were not only supporting their crony capitalist pals in Big Wind; they were also defying the Republican Party’s candidate for President. On 30th August, the Mitt Romney campaign issued a statement opposing extension of the wind PTC. Here is the relevant passage: “Mitt Romney believes it is time for a new approach to ensure our nation’s energy independence. He will allow the wind credit to expire, end the stimulus boondoggles, and create a level playing field on which all sources of energy can compete on their merits. Wind energy will thrive wherever it is economically competitive, and wherever private sector competitors with far more experience than the President believe the investment will produce results.” Iowa’s Grassley, Governor Terry Brandstad (R-Ia.), and Rep. Tom Latham (R-Ia.) all criticized Romney in the press this week for opposing the wind PTC.
A number of other energy tax subsidies were included in the bill. Fiscal conservatives can cheer, however, that the $2,500 credit for electric motorcycles was reformed so that electric golf carts no longer qualify.
Prospects for the wind PTC in the House are unclear. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) is clearly opposed, as are a strong majority of conservative members of the 170-strong House Republican Study Committee. However, as I have noted in previous Digests, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) supports extending the wind PTC, and sixteen House Republican freshmen (including eight members of the RSC) sent a letter to the Speaker in June urging an extension.
House Members Urge Administration to Suspend Ethanol Mandate
One-hundred fifty-six Members of the House of Representatives sent a letter on 1st August to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson that urges her to reduce or suspend the ethanol mandate in response to sharply higher corn prices caused by the Midwest drought. The 2007 anti-energy law requires that refiners use 13.2 billion gallons of corn ethanol this year.
The letter was organized by Representative Bob Goodlatte (R-Ohio), former chairman of the House Agriculture Committee. The 156 signers are mostly Republicans, but range across the political spectrum. Few are from the Corn Belt States.
In opposing the ethanol mandate in the 2007 anti-energy bill, CEI raised the issue of what would happen when a drought sharply reduced the corn crop. When corn prices jumped in 2008 as a result of tight corn supplies and the diversion of food to fuel, hunger went up dramatically in a number of poor countries around the world and food riots broke out in Mexico, Egypt, Haiti, and Bangladesh. My CEI colleague Marlo Lewis goes into more detail in his post on GlobalWarming.org.
Carbon Tax Rears Its Ugly Head in the Congress
Representative Jim McDermott, the hard-left Democrat from Washington State, introduced a bill to levy a carbon tax on 2nd August. Notably, McDermott’s bill does not replace the EPA’s regulations of greenhouse gas emissions and a host of other anti-carbon-energy regulations, but is in addition to those regulations.
In his press release, McDermott commented that, “Mitt Romney’s Economic Advisor Greg Mankiw, Exxon-Mobil, the American Enterprise Institute and other conservatives have backed this concept because they know we have to wean ourselves off of carbon emitting energy sources, and do it in a way that doesn’t hurt our economy and makes sense for businesses.”
I discussed the American Enterprise Institute’s recent involvement in a secret political effort to enact a carbon tax in the 13th July Digest. In an article in the 3rd August issue of Inside EPA, Dawn Reeves reports that: “In an Aug. 2 interview, McDermott said that his staff has been in discussions with AEI, which has been hosting closed-door forums to develop a strategy on moving a carbon tax. ‘I know what they are doing, I know what they are up to,’ he said.”
Marlo Lewis, my CEI colleague, provides an analysis of what’s wrong with a carbon tax here.
House Checks Energy Department’s Solyndra Program
The House Energy and Commerce Committee on 1st August marked up and sent to the House floor the No More Solyndras Act. H. R. 6213, which was introduced by Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), passed on a 29-19 vote. If enacted, the bill would end the Department of Energy's scandal-ridden Section 1705 loan guarantee program for applications received after 1st January 2011.
The bill resulted from the committee's seventeen-month investigation of the loan to Solyndra. The California-based solar-panel manufacturer declared bankruptcy in late August 2011. Federal taxpayers lost their $535 million loan to the company. The committee's Republican majority released a final report of the investigation on 2nd August. The 147-page report can be accessed here.
It details the close involvement of the White House in the DOE loan process and frequent visits to the White House by George Kaiser, a major 2008 Obama campaign donor and the largest investor in Solyndra. ABC News reported that the White House e-mails released in the report reveal that then-White House chief of staff William Daley was briefed about Solyndra's financial problems six months before the company went bankrupt.
Across the States
Appalachia Wins Reprieve from EPA’s War on Coal
West Virginia and Kentucky won a significant victory on 30th August in the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia, when Judge Reggie Walton struck down EPA’s 2010 Clean Water Act guidance document for surface coal mining in Appalachia. The guidance document had established water quality standards for salinity from surface coal mines, in order to protect a short lived insect that isn’t an endangered species. At the time, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson conceded that surface coal mines in Appalachia would not be able to meet the new salinity standards. Before the court, West Virginia and Kentucky contended that EPA used the guidance document to effectuate a new regulatory requirement, without having allowed the States an opportunity to object. The States claimed that this was a violation of their procedural rights pursuant to the Clean Water Act. EPA argued that the guidance document was not a regulation; instead, EPA maintained it was “non-binding,” despite the fact that it was the basis for the Agency’s objections to numerous permits issued by Appalachian States for surface coal mines. Judge Walton rejected EPA’s contention and vacated the guidance document.
Around the World
Germany Swaps Nuclear for Coal
Environmentalists cheered when Germany, after the Fukushima disaster in Japan, pledged to shut down its nuclear reactors within a decade. Their support for abandoning nuclear power came as a surprise to many, as electricity produced from nuclear power is capable of providing base load electricity that does not produce carbon emissions. Environmentalist support for abandoning nuclear seems to have backfired, as Germany is replacing that nuclear power with over 20 coal-fired power plants, adding a total of almost 25,000 MW of coal-fired capacity to the grid.
Airlines Continue to Push Back Against EU Aviation Cap-and-Trade
The U.S. State Department and Department of Transportation met in Washington this week with representatives from dozens of countries in opposition to the European Union’s emissions trading scheme (ETS), which requires foreign airlines to purchase credits for their carbon dioxide emissions.
The countries have signaled their unanimous opposition to the EU’s plan on the basis of national sovereignty, but have allegedly been willing to consider ways to reduce airline emissions through the International Civil Aviation Organization. Despite heavy pressure, the EU has refused to back down from its plan to require foreign airlines to participate in the ETS.
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.