Cooler Heads Digest 12 July 2013

12 July 2013


The Institute for Energy Research will hold a lunch panel on “A U.S. Carbon Tax: The Rest of the Story,” on Wednesday, July 17th, from 12:30-2:00. Panelists include IER Senior Economist Dr. Robert Murphy, University of Guelph Professor Ross McKitrick, Fraser Institute’s Dr. Kenneth Green, and Heritage Foundation’s Dr. David Kreutzer. The panel will be moderated by IER founder Robert Bradley, Jr. It will be held at the Loews Madison Hotel. RSVP here.

In the News

EPA’s Failure to Meet Deadlines Invites Regulatory Manipulation
Washington Examiner editorial, 12 July 2013

Does Caring for “the Least of These” Demand Fighting Global Warming?
David R. Legates, Cornwall Alliance, 12 July 2013

Fracking Is Greener Than Critics Claim
Deroy Murdock, Washington Times, 12 July 2013

The Crazy Costs of Excessive Coal Regulation
Stan Veuger, U.S. News & World Report, 11 July 2013

Don’t Thank Stringent Regulations for California’s Reduced Energy Use
Lawrence J. McQuillan, Forbes, 10 July 2013

Forget Climate Change. The Biggest Problem in the World Is…
Nick Gillespie, Reason Hit & Run, 9 July 2013

Obama for Coal Power…In Africa
Planet Gore, 9 July 2013

The Lies of Gasland
Lake Superior, Daily Kos, 7 July 2013

News You Can Use
EPA Past-Due 98% of the Time

Since 1993, 98 percent of EPA regulations (196 out of 200) pursuant to 3 core Clean Air Act programs were promulgated late, by an average of 2,072 days after their respective statutorily defined deadlines, according to a study published this week by CEI. In addition to suggesting incompetence, the agency’s woeful performance on deadlines raises serious questions about EPA’s climate regulations and also exposes the insidiousness  of a practice known as “sue and settle.” To read the study, click here.

Inside the Beltway
Myron Ebell

Confirmation of Gina McCarthy Moves Closer after Senator Vitter Declares Victory

Senator David Vitter (R-La.), ranking Republican on the Environment and Public Works Committee, sent out a press release on 9th July announcing that he will not try to block the confirmation of Gina McCarthy to be Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency on a cloture vote.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed cloture petitions on 11th July on seven Obama nominees, including McCarthy.  Cloture votes could come as soon as 16th July.   If cloture is invoked, then a final vote to confirm McCarthy could come any time after that. 

Senator Vitter said that he made his decision based on the progress he has made with EPA on his five requests for greater transparency at the agency.  Specifically, the EPA has agreed to: 1) retrain all its employees on complying with the Freedom of Information Act and issue new guidance on complying with the Federal Records Act; 2) initiate requests for obtaining the underlying data for the health studies that are used to justify Clean Air Act regulations; 3) convene a panel of independent economic experts to review the agency’s economic modeling practices; and 4) publish on two websites Notices of Intent to Sue and Petitions for Rulemaking; and 5) produce tens of thousands of pages of responsive records pursuant to previous FOIA requests.

It appears to me that Senator Vitter has made real progress on items 1, 3, and 4.  However, the most important “request” is the second.  The EPA has for decades claimed hundreds of billions of dollars of health benefits from Clean Air Act regulations based on several epidemiological studies for which it has never released the underlying data.  The reason it has kept the data secret is obvious: the EPA’s claims are not supported by the data.  If they were, the EPA would release the data.  On this request, Senator Vitter’s press release seems to me to be papering over the reality that so far he has been unable to extract any solid commitment from the agency, which has made similar unkept promises in the past.

In regard to the fifth request, Vitter said in his press release that he will keep working on it.  The EPA continues to refuse to turn over thousands of documents requested by Vitter and Representative Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Many of these documents have been received in heavily redacted form by the Competitive Enterprise Institute as a result of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by my colleague Chris Horner.

Many of the redacted e-mails are to or from McCarthy, who has served for the past four-and-a-half years as assistant administrator for air and radiation.  It appears to me that Obama’s top officials at the EPA and the White House are defying the Congress’s legitimate oversight authority because they think that revelations from the “Richard Windsor” e-mails and other FOIA requests could sink McCarthy’s confirmation.  And Senator Vitter is letting them get away with it, which should trouble anyone who cares about the institutional arrangements that safeguard transparency in government.

Senator Vitter, his seven fellow Republicans on the committee, most other Senate Republicans, and perhaps even a Democrat or two will probably end up voting against confirming McCarthy.  However, the Senate will probably vote to confirm her by a comfortable majority because Senator Vitter, perhaps under orders from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), has decided not to mount an effort to defeat cloture, which requires three-fifths of all Senators voting (or 60 votes if all 100 vote).  In my mind, this failure to fight signals acquiescence by Senate Republicans in the Obama Administration’s anti-energy agenda and especially of the climate plan that President Obama announced on 25th July. As assistant administrator for air, Gina McCarthy has been in charge of developing and implementing that agenda, which is raising energy prices and thereby making Americans poorer and destroying jobs.

Department of Energy Claims Climate Change Threatens Energy Sector

The Department of Energy this week released a report on U. S. Energy Sector Vulnerabilities to Climate Change and Extreme Weather. John Broder in the New York Times summarizes its findings:

“The blackouts and other energy disruptions of Hurricane Sandy were just a foretaste, the report says. Every corner of the country’s energy infrastructure — oil wells, hydroelectric dams, nuclear power plants — will be stressed in coming years by more intense storms, rising seas, higher temperatures and more frequent droughts.”

Broder goes on to quote Jonathan Pershing, deputy assistant secretary of energy for climate change policy and technology, who was in charge of producing the report: “We don’t have a robust energy system, and the costs are significant.  The cost today is measured in the billions.  Over the coming decades, it will be in the trillions.  You can’t just put your head in the sand anymore.”

Neither the Department of Energy’s report nor any of the news stories I’ve read consider the major reason why the energy sector is becoming less robust and resilient.  It’s largely because of all the regulations and mandates that require the energy sector to invest hundreds of billions of dollars in technologies that provide very little energy, which means that there is little capital available to invest in improving and enlarging the energy infrastructure.

In particular, the margin that provides electric reliability in times of stress to the system has been declining because electric utilities have been building lots of windmills and solar panels that provide small amounts of unreliable and expensive electricity while preparing to close conventional coal-fired power plants that produce large amounts of reliable and inexpensive electricity in order to comply with EPA regulations. It’s not climate change, but climate change policies that are harming the energy sector.

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,