Cooler Heads Digest 27 September 2013

27 September 2013

In the News

Federal Mandarinate Decrees End to Coal
William Tucker, American Spectator, 27 September 2013

Congress Should Repeal the Ethanol Mandate
Washington Examiner editorial, 27 September 2013

The IPCC’s Political Suicide Pill
Patrick Michaels, National Review Online, 26 September 2013

Wind Farm Mortality: Environmental Disinformation, Ecodamage
Mark Duchamp, Master Resource, 26 September 2013

Models Unreliable on Antarctic Ice Expansion Projections
Anthony Ward,, 26 September 2013

Obama Campaign Manager Jim Messina Joins Biofuel Company Awarded Millions in Federal Cash
Lachlan Markay, Washington Times, 25 September 2013

FERC Nominee Ron Binz Is Not Being Borked
Brian McNicoll, Human Events, 24 September 2013

What Is Really at Stake in House Committee’s Battle for EPA’s Secret Science
Geoffry Kabat, Forbes, 23 September 2013

News You Can Use
William Yeatman

Carbon Pollution Standard = Net CO2 Emissions Increase?

Last Friday, EPA proposed a regulation, known as the Carbon Pollution Standard, which would require partial carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) at all new coal-fired power plants. Due to the exorbitantly high cost of capturing, transporting, and sequestering CO2, EPA expects that any new coal fired power plants built in the foreseeable future will defray the costs of CCS by selling its carbon dioxide to oil companies, which can use the gas to help extract oil by displacing liquid fuels deep underground.

EPA, however, failed to account for the CO2 emissions attributable to the increased oil production caused by its proposed rule. According to my conversion calculation, for each kilogram of CO2 captured at a coal plant and injected into an oil well, a volume of oil is produced that would emit 1.6 kilograms of CO2 when combusted. These results indicate that EPA’s rule, which is supposed to curb CO2 emissions, would actually increase emissions.

Inside the Beltway
William Yeatman

Energy Policy Figures Prominently in the Debt Ceiling Battle

House Republicans are expected to pass legislation to increase the debt ceiling as soon as tomorrow. Because the U.S. government spends beyond its means, it is necessary for the U.S. Treasury to borrow money. Since 1917, the Congress has imposed a ceiling on the amount of debt the government can take on. Currently, the debt ceiling is $16.7 trillion, and the U.S. Treasury will soon reach this limit. This requires the Congress to effectively increase the ceiling, which is politically unpopular, because voters are concerned about rising red ink. As such, House Republican leadership is demanding concessions in exchange for the vote.

On Thursday, National Review obtained a copy of Republican demands, among which energy policies figure prominently. In exchange for suspending the debt limit for a year, House leadership demands the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline, expanding oil and gas production on federal lands, and a legislative repeal of EPA’s proposed Carbon Pollution Standard. Of course, this is only the first offer in an ongoing negotiation, and an opposing party controls both the White House and the Senate. Nonetheless, the debt ceiling bill is a must-pass piece of legislation, so it does provide an ideal vehicle to achieve good policies, especially measures—like approving Keystone XL—that enjoy broad bipartisan support. [N.B., the debt ceiling battle is a related but separate from the ongoing budget battle.]

President’s FERC Nominee Ron Binz in Trouble

Last Friday, my colleague Myron Ebell reported on the terrible week endured by President Obama’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) nominee Ron Binz. Binz’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee did not go well, as he got entangled in a web of his own contradictions that left him with little support among the lawmakers who are to decide the fate of his nomination. Things got worse for Binz this week. Bloomberg today reported that the administration is searching for alternatives to Binz, which suggests his nomination has been scuttled.

This is great news. Before he was nominated to run FERC, Binz was chair of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission, which is roughly akin to a state-level FERC. In that capacity, Binz proved to be a green energy advocate who pushed the boundaries of regulatory authority in order to discriminate against fossil fuels and promote renewable energy. As I explain in a paper published last week, Binz’s Colorado experience was a troubling portent for what he could do at FERC. Ratepayers should be relieved that his nomination is on the rocks.

Around the World
William Yeatman

Reactions to IPCC AR5

On Monday, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change will publish the first of four parts of its Fifth Assessment Report, The Physical Science Basis, by Working Group 1. Working Group 2’s contribution (Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability) is due March 2014. Working Group 3’s contribution (Mitigation ofClimate Change) is due April 2014. And the final contribution, the AR5 Synthesis Report, is due in October 2014.

Today, the IPCC released a summary for policymakers of the Working Group 1 contribution. In a CEI press release, my colleague Myron Ebell commented on the document’s political spin,

“The global warming establishment is in denial over the still-widening divergence between the models and reality. The modelers dominate the public debate and the IPCC reports, but their predictions in the past 20 years have been disproved by reality.  If they can't even come close to predicting the global mean temperature for 10 or 20 years, how can they possibly predict the gmt for 50 or 100 years? Models tend to diverge from reality the further away from the starting point they go”

Read the whole press release here. For a round up reactions, see WattsUpWithThat and Climate Depot.

Science Update
Marlo Lewis

Smoking Gun of Man-Made Global Warming Still Eludes Scientists

A study by 13 prestigious atmospheric scientists published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) claims to find “clear evidence for a discernible human influence on the thermal structure of the atmosphere.” Their conclusion echoes the IPCC’s famous statement that the “balance of evidence suggests a discernible human influence on global climate.” The authors would have us believe they have finally settled the issue.

Climate models predict that rising greenhouse gas emissions will not only warm the troposphere (middle atmosphere), but also cool the atmospheric layer above it, the lower stratosphere. Why? Supposedly, rising greenhouse gas concentrations trap heat in the troposphere that would otherwise radiate up through the stratosphere on its way out to space.

Over the past 34 years, satellites show a warming of the troposphere and a cooling of the lower stratosphere. The researchers hail this match between the model-predicted “fingerprint” and the atmosphere’s observed “thermal structure” as “clear evidence” of anthropogenic warming.

But there’s less to this finding than meets the eye, because according to the study, the “human influence” cooling the lower stratosphere is predominantly the presence of man-made ozone depleting substances, not human enhancement of the greenhouse effect.

In fact, a study cited by researchers found that the “influence of greenhouse gases” on stratospheric temperatures “is not yet clearly identifiable.” Contrary to appearances, the authors of the PNAS study have not really found the smoking gun of man-made global warming.

For more context and detail, see my Fox News column, “Models of misinformation -- climate reports melt under scrutiny.”

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,