In the News
Enhanced Review of Coal Exports Would Set Dangerous Precedent
Nicolas Loris, The Foundry, 31 January 2013
Entertainment Meets Energy: Yoko’s Magical Mystery Frac Tour
Thomas Shepstone, Master Resource, 30 January 2013
New You Can Use
Al Gore’s new book, titled The Future, hit bookstore shelves this week. In it, Gore writes that television is poisoning democracy because, “virtually every news and political commentary program on television is sponsored in part by oil, coal and gas companies.” Only three weeks before the publication of this charge, Al Gore reportedly made $100 million selling his television network Current TV to Al Jazeera, a cable network which was founded and owned by the Emir of the oil-rich nation of Qatar. Although Al Jezeera was sold in 2011, it reportedly still receives substantial government funding from Qatar, which proves Al’s point.
Inside the Beltway
Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced his resignation on 1st February. He said in a long letter to Department of Energy employees that he intends to return to California and to academic life. My CEI colleague Marlo Lewis called for his resignation three years ago.
Before becoming Secretary of Energy in 2009, Chu was director of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor of physics at the University of California at Berkeley. He won the Nobel Prize in physics in 1997 for developing methods to cool and trap atoms using laser light. His involvement in energy issues was not primarily professional, but rather was based on an amateur’s enthusiasm for new renewable energy technologies.
The 2009 economic stimulus bill gave the Department of Energy a total of $35 billion in additional funding, which was considerably larger than its 2011 department budget of $27 billion. Chu oversaw the distribution of huge grants and loan guarantees to hundreds of renewable and alternative energy companies. Many of these companies have since gone bankrupt, most notably Solyndra. A California-based solar panel manufacturer, Solyndra in 2009 received a $535 million loan guarantee from DOE before going bankrupt in August 2011.
Chu was a cheerleader for cap-and-trade legislation and other energy-rationing policies in order to address the alleged threat of global warming. He also pushed DOE to adopt higher energy efficiency standards for a whole range of appliances and devices. Before he became Secretary, he remarked that the U. S. needed to get its gasoline prices to European levels.
Chu’s resignation comes on top of the resignations of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar and Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Lisa Jackson. President Barack Obama has not yet nominated successors to Salazar or Jackson.
Senate Approves Kerry for State Department
The Senate on 29th January confirmed President Barack Obama’s nomination of Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) to succeed Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State by a vote of 94 to 3. Senators James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ted Cruz (R-Tex.), and John Cornyn (R-Tex.) voted No.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, Kerry said that one of his biggest regrets of his twenty-seven years in the Senate was the failure to enact cap-and-trade legislation. Kerry said, “Probably the finest piece of legislation I did didn’t get enacted into legislation yet.”
In his confirmation hearing, Kerry promised to be a “passionate advocate” for action to address climate change. As Secretary of State, Kerry will oversee the ongoing UN negotiations on a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol.
Sen. Vitter & Rep. Issa Press EPA on Transparency
Senator David Vitter (R-La.) has hit the ground running as the new ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. This week Vitter and Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to James Martin, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency’s Region 8, asking whether Martin had used a secret, private e-mail account to conduct official business.
As Vitter and Issa note in their letter, “The use of personal, non-official e-mail accounts raises concerns that you could be attempting to insulate this and other e-mail correspondence from a Freedom of Information Act request. Moreover, your actions may also constitute violation of the Federal Records Act.” It may also be used to evade congressional oversight of federal agencies.
Several of Martin’s private e-mails were released by the EPA as a result of a lawsuit by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. The efforts of CEI’s Chris also revealed that EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson was using an alias official EPA account in the name of Richard Windsor.
Sens. Vitter & Alexander Ask AG Why Oil Is Prosecuted for Killing Birds, but Not Wind
Senator David Vitter (R-La.) and Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) this week asked Attorney General Eric Holder to explain the Department of Justice’s selective enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918. Oil and gas producers have been prosecuted for unintentionally killing small numbers of birds, while windmill owners are never prosecuted for killing thousands of birds protected under the legislation and underlying treaty.
Vitter and Alexander argue that the legislation was never intended to cover incidental killings of protected birds, as occurs frequently with windmills and rarely with oil and gas production. “Owning a cat could be subject to criminal prosecutions if this precedent is set.”
Sen. Vitter Objects to EPA’s Absurd Mandate for Non-Existent Fuel
Senator David Vitter (R-La.) this week also made a statement objecting to the EPA’s 2013 requirements for the Renewable Fuels Standard. The EPA is proposing to require refiners to use 14 million gallons of advanced biofuels, primarily cellulosic ethanol. Fourteen million gallons is a huge increase over the 2012 requirement of 8.65 million gallons. A few thousand gallons of cellulosic ethanol were produced in 2012.
Last week, the federal Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the EPA must base its requirements for advanced biofuels on reasonable estimates instead of on pie-in-the-sky hopes.
Vitter has replaced Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.) as ranking Republican on the EPW Committee. Inhofe has replaced Sen. John McCain (R-Az.) as ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee.
Across the States
Pennsylvania Fracking Royalties Surpass $1 Billion
According to an Associated Press analysis published this week, Pennsylvania landowners last year received roughly $1.2 billion in royalty payments from natural gas production on their property. AP’s article focused on how the royalties are improving welfare in poor rural communities. This same theme—that the boom in natural gas production can help revive rural communities—was the subject of an excellent documentary produced by the Foundation for Land and Liberty, titled The Empire State Divide. Click here to watch the film.
Audit of Colorado Energy Office Demonstrates Mismanagement of Stimulus Subsidies
In a scathing review published last month, the Colorado Office of the State Auditor determined that the Colorado Energy Office grossly mismanaged green energy subsidies from the 2009 Stimulus. The Energy Office received almost $144 million in federal stimulus funds to promote energy conservation and renewables, yet it didn’t could produce a budget for the programs that were supposed to distribute the money.
This is the second straight week of bad news for Colorado’s green energy initiatives. Last week, the Cooler Heads Digest reported that former Colorado Governor Bill Ritter’s suite of energy policies, collectively known as the New Energy Economy, cost Xcel electricity ratepayers $484 million in 2012.
Around the World
Schwarzenegger Wants Us To Buy Biofueled Hummers
Former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, speaking at the R20 Regions of Climate Conference in Vienna, recommended a new approach for the environmental movement. Schwarzenegger suggested abandoning the talk of “doom and gloom”, instead advising people to adopt a “sexy and hip” attitude towards climate change. To reinforce this new idea, Schwarzenegger remarked, “I still drive my Hummers but now they are all on hydrogen and biofuel.”
China's Coal Consumption Nearly Equal to that of All Other Countries Combined
On Tuesday, the U.S. Energy Information Administration reported that coal consumption in China increased 9 percent in 2011, continuing the country’s rapid growth of coal use. Indeed, China is now driving global coal consumption: Of the 2.9 billion tons of global coal demand growth since 2000, China accounted for 2.3 billion tons (82%). In 2011, EIA estimates that China consumed 3.8 billion tons of coal, compared to 4.3 billion tons for the rest of the world combined. If China’s coal use continues to average 9 percent annual growth—as it has since 2000—then the country’s coal consumption will surpass that of all other nations sometime this year.
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.