FrackNation, a feature documentary produced by Phelim McAleer and Ann McElhinney that debunks environmental alarmism about the drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” had debut screenings in New York and Los Angeles this week. The film will make its nationwide television premiere on January 22, 2013 at 9 PM Eastern Time, on AXS.tv. Click here to learn more about the film and also to check your local listings for the premier. Here is a good review in Variety.
The George C. Marshall Institute has released a new study that examines the justification for and effectiveness of government support for green energy. The study, titled "The Infant Industry Argument and Renewable Energy Production," was authored by Clemson University economists Sergey Mityakov and Margarita Portnykh. It is available here.
In the News
For Jon Stewart, Gore-Al Jazeera Deal Is Chance To Attack Fox
Byron York, Washington Examiner, 11 January 2013
2012 Probably Not the Hottest on Record, After All
Tom Harris & Tim Ball, Washington Times, 11 January 2013
Twenty Windsorgate Questions for Obama Administration
Mark Tapscott, Washington Examiner, 10 January 2013
Will the Supreme Court Review EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Regulations?
Marlo Lewis, GlobalWarming.org, 8 January 2013
Dishonest Land: Hollywood’s “Promised Land” Slanders the Fracking Revolution
Alex Epstein, Master Resource, 7 January 2013
News You Can Use
New York Closing Its Environment Desk
The New York Times announced this week that it will close its environment desk. Two editors and seven reporters will be re-assigned. One week ago, Daily Climate reported that the Times, among the five largest U.S. dailies, published the most stories on climate change from 2009-2012, and also had the biggest increase in coverage during that time.
Inside the Beltway
Ethanol Driving Up U.S. Food Costs and Causing Hunger in Poor Countries
The New York Times may be shutting down its environment desk, but nonetheless ran an important story on Sunday, January 6, on the role that the U. S. ethanol mandate is playing in increasing hunger and malnutrition in Guatemala. Elizabeth Rosenthal writes that, “Now that the United States is using 40 percent of its [corn] crop to make biofuel, it is not surprising that tortilla prices have doubled in Guatemala, which imports nearly half of its corn. …In a country where most families must spend about two-thirds of their income on food, ‘the average Guatemalan is now hungrier because of biofuel development….’” This means that, “Roughly 50 percent of the nation’s children are chronically malnourished, the fourth-highest rate in the world, according to the United Nations.”
Guatemala is an extreme case because it is a very poor country and a high percentage of total calories consumed comes from corn tortillas. But higher corn prices caused by the ethanol mandate are increasing hunger and poverty around the world.
A new study by Dr. Thomas Elam published on January 8 similarly finds that the ethanol mandate is driving up grocery costs for American consumers. Published by FarmEcon, an agricultural and food industry consulting firm in Indianapolis, the study is titled “Food Costs Are Eating American Family Budgets.” Elam shows that a long-term trend of food becoming more affordable for U. S. consumers ended in 2006. Americans on average spent 26% of their disposable income on food in 1950. That percentage declined fairly steadily with only one major hiccup in the 1970s to 12% in 2006. But since then food prices have been going up faster than other prices and are taking a slightly larger share of disposable income.
Elam concludes that the ethanol mandate is a major cause of increasing food prices. Corn prices have gone up as a result of the mandate. Corn is a major ingredient in many foods. Higher corn prices have also caused prices of other crops, such as wheat and soybeans, to go up because they have to compete with corn for acres planted. And corn is a major feed for poultry, hogs, and beef, so higher corn prices are raising meat and chicken prices.
In October 2011, CEI and the anti-hunger group ActionAid USA filed a formal Data Information Request with the EPA that asked the agency to correct its position that its ethanol-fuel programs don’t significantly worsen food scarcity. EPA sat on the request for over a year before responding on December 12, 2012. The agency denied the request and reaffirmed its claim of no significant food impact.
Across the States
EPA's Absurd Mercury Rule Threatens Jobs in Georgia
On Monday, Georgia Power announced that it will retire 15 coal- and oil-fired power plants, totaling 2,061 megawatts. The utility estimates that as many as 500 jobs will be threatened by the decision. In the announcement, the company cited compliance costs with EPA’s Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. EPA’s justification for this job-killing rule is the need to protect a supposed population of subsistence fisherwomen, who eat hundreds of pounds of self-caught fish from only the most polluted waterways. Notably, EPA has never actually identified a single such pregnant, subsistence fisherwomen; rather, they are modeled to exist.
EPA Is Running Scared in Pavillion, Wyoming
In December 2011, EPA issued a bombshell press release, alleging that an aquifer in Pavillion, Wyoming “likely” had been contaminated by hydraulic fracturing. If true, this would be huge news. Industry long has claimed that fracking has been performed hundreds of thousands of times, without once ever having polluted an aquifer. EPA’s announcement seemed to be evidence to the contrary. Despite the gravity of the announcement, EPA issued the press release after having reviewed only preliminary data and before the peer-review process.
Problems soon surfaced with EPA’s science, as Wyoming state regulators criticized the federal government’s methodology. Specifically, state officials maintained that EPA’s inexpert drilling to collect the water samples had led to the contamination. Due to these concerns, the U.S. Geological Survey agreed to perform an independent retest of the Pavillion water samples. On the basis of those results, industry called on EPA to withdraw its preliminary conclusions. In today’s Federal Register, EPA announced that it is delaying its peer review on the Agency’s work in Pavillion for 8 months. Regarding the delay, Energy in Depth’s spokesman Simon Lomax told GreenWire (subscription required), “The agency knows its draft report is deeply flawed, but instead of doing the responsible thing and withdrawing it, EPA is dragging out the process.”
Around the World
Met Office Predicts No Global Warming for Five More Years
The British Met Office has gotten itself into a bit of hot water after it quietly released a graph on Christmas Eve predicting no upward trend in temperatures over the next five years. The 2013-2017 prediction, based on computer models, is significantly lower than projections made in 2011. According to London's Telegraph, the Met Office expects the global average temperature to remain between 0.28C and 0.59C above the 1971-2000 long-term average, with values most likely around .43C. The Met Office has 1998 as the hottest year in the 160-year temperature record, with an average global temperature of .40C above average.
It is hard not to conclude from this that global warming skeptics are being somewhat vindicated, as temperatures continue to rise more slowly than predicted, and media outlets are beginning to admit this. Even the BBC, generally a staunch promoter of climate alarmism, acknowledged the pause in warming: “This short-term forecast, if accurate, could mean that according to the Met’s own data, there would have been almost no global rise in temperatures for almost two decades." Also see the Daily Mail's scathing editorial
2012 Hottest Year in U.S.—A Big Deal?
Global warming alarmists have seized upon an announcement by NOAA this week that 2012 was the warmest year in the U. S. historical record going back to 1895. For example, Joe Romm writes on his ClimateProgress blog that, “2012 showed that the record-smashing weather extremes of 2011 weren’t a fluke, they were a pattern.”
According to the NOAA report released on January 8, the average annual temperature for the contiguous U.S. was 55.3F. This is an increase of 3.3F above the 20th century average, and makes 2012 the warmest year on record. The report also states that the continental U.S. experienced its 15th driest year on record.
In a Politico article, Deke Arndt, chief of the climate monitoring branch at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center writes, “The heat that we saw in the U.S. (in 2012) is consistent with what we would expect in a warming world.
However, a previous blog by Joe Romm should be kept in mind when considering the significance of the 2012 record. In 2010, Romm provided an answer to skeptics who point out that 1934 was the warmest year in the U. S. historical record: “1934 is the hottest year on record in the USA which only comprises 2% of the globe.”
Yes, that’s right, the United States comprises an insignificant 2% of the world’s surface area when we’re talking about the American heat wave in 1934, but it’s a highly significant 2% when we’re talking about last year’s high temperatures.
According to the global satellite temperature record maintained by John Christy and Roy Spencer at the University of Alabama at Huntsville, 2012 was the ninth warmest year globally since 1979.
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.