The Cooler Heads Digest will not be published next week due to the holiday. We will return with a shortened Digest the next week. Have a merry Christmas and a Chanukah!
In the News
Obama Operative Joins Taxpayer-Backed Solar Company
Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon, 17 December 2014
Japan’s Turn to Coal Belies Claim That Climate Change Mitigation Comes Cheap
William Yeatman, GlobalWarming.org, 16 December 2014
Poll: Two-Thirds of Americans Oppose Federal Gas Tax Increase
Marc Scribner, Open Market, 16 December 2014
Cape Wind To Miss 2014 Goal To Close Project Financing
Richard Kessler, Recharge, 16 December 2014
Special Interests Influence Costly EPA Regulations
Larry Bell, Newsmax, 16 December 2014
News You Can Use
NAS Study: Gasoline Better for Environment Than Electric Cars
According to a study published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, “Powering vehicles with corn ethanol or with coal-based or ‘grid average’ electricity increases monetized environmental health impacts by 80% or more relative to using conventional gasoline.” Study co-author Julian Marshall told the Associated Press, “it’s kind of hard to beat gasoline” for public and environmental health.
Inside the Beltway
CEQ Releases New Guidance on Including Climate in Environmental Impact Statements
The White House Council on Environmental Quality on 18th December released the second draft version of a guidance document on how federal agencies should consider climate impacts in preparing Environmental Impact Assessments under the National Environmental Policy Act. The first draft version was released in 2010. CEQ invited public comments for 60 days.
In keeping with NEPA regulations that require Environmental Impact Statements to consider the direct, indirect, and cumulative environmental impacts of proposed projects and actions, the guidance document recommends that the direct, indirect, and cumulative impacts of greenhouse gas emissions be included in preparing EISs. This includes “upstream” and “downstream” emissions connected to the project. Thus a new bridge that would allow the transport of tens of millions of tons of energy-intensive goods over its lifetime could have an enormous carbon footprint.
Reports stated that the guidance document recommends that climate impacts be considered in the NEPA process when any project or action would increase greenhouse gas emissions by at least 25,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent annually. This is not correct. The document states that a quantitative analysis is only necessary when emissions exceed 25,000 tons annually. Considering the impacts of lower annual emissions is required but does not necessarily require quantification.
The guidance does contain a caution on the use of the Social Cost of Carbon guidance document: “When using the federal social cost of carbon, the agency should disclose the fact that these estimates vary over time, are associated with different discount rates and risks, and are intended to be updated as scientific and economic understanding improves.” In other words, today’s Social Cost of Carbon estimate may be much lower than tomorrow’s. The document also notes that global general circulation models “may have limitations on how they can be used in regional or local impact studies.”
The guidance also cautions that providing a boilerplate paragraph that the emissions from a proposed action constitute “only a small fraction of global emissions is more a statement about the nature of the climate change challenge,” and “is not helpful to the decision maker or public” because that is true of every particular action.
Some news reports have suggested that the guidance will apply mainly to new fossil energy production on federal lands or offshore areas. This is also incorrect. The guidance applies to all matters that fall under NEPA regulation: “all federal proposed actions, including individual federal site-specific actions, federal grants for funding of small-scale or broad-scale activities, federal rulemaking actions, and federal land and resource management decisions. Federal rulemaking decisions includes Clean Water Act and other federal permits required to build new factories, bridges, highways, airports, and mines, as well as pipelines, coal terminals, offshore oil fields, etc.
Under the NEPA process, one of the alternatives must always be, “no action,” which means, don’t proceed with the project being studied. Once direct, indirect, and cumulative greenhouse gas emissions are included, it is likely that any big new project will be found to have environmental impacts so large that the “no action” alternative will be preferred by federal regulators.
Congress Extends Wind PTC for 2014
The Senate adjourned on 16th December, but not before passing by a vote of 76 to 16 a package of tax cut extenders retroactively for 2014. Included in the package is the wind production tax credit. The House passed the bill earlier, so it now goes to the President for his signature. By extending the wind PTC (and other deductions) for only the current year, the Congress has decided to punt the issue to the new 114th Congress next year.
Across the States
Cap-and-trade crashed and burned in Congress when the November 2010 elections cashiered 29 Democrats who had voted in June 2009 for the Waxman-Markey bill. Many factors including Climategate and the burgeoning skeptic movement torpedoed Waxman-Markey, but perhaps the most important was the bill’s exposure as “cap-n-tax” – a stealth energy tax and wealth-transfer scheme. For example, Treasury documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act revealed that the Obama administration expected to raise up to $400 billion in annual revenues from carbon permit auctions.
So is cap-and-trade ‘really most sincerely dead’? No, because big-spending politicians always want more boodle, and there’s only so much blood you can squeeze out of taxpayers, especially in states like Washington, which levy no individual or corporate income taxes.
The Evergreen State is facing a $2.35 billion budget deficit over the next two years. So this week, Governor Jay Inslee (D) proposed ($) a cap-and-trade program that would “apply to roughly 130 entities in oil and gas and electrical sectors.”
Inslee estimates the plan would raise $400 million annually, covering 40% of a proposed $12 billion, 12-year transportation improvement program. To reassure environmentalists, carbon permit fees would not (horror of horrors) fund highway projects and encourage people to drive, Inslee aides said cap-and-trade revenues “would go only toward green uses, such as transit grants or incentives for electric vehicles, and to maintain existing roads.”
Still, won’t taxpayers ultimately foot the bill in the form of higher prices for goods and services produced or delivered with carbon energy? Nah, as Inslee explained, the fees would only be collected from “big polluters.” And if the good folks in Washington believe cap-and-trade is a free lunch, then they have the government they deserve.
New York Governor Cuomo Bans Fracking
Citing health concerns, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) on Thursday announced a statewide ban on “fracking,” the combination of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing drilling processes that has led to an American energy boom. Cuomo’s decision codifies a de facto moratorium on fracking that had been in place for 6 years, predating his administration.
According to the New York Times, Governor Cuomo appeared “determined” to portray the announcement — and its consequences for upstate New York — as “decisions made by experts objectively weighing the facts, not by him.” When asked about global warming, he even responded that “he wasn’t a scientist,” rather than spouting off about how alarming it is, which earned the ire of Grist.
Of course, the decision was wholly political. For starters, fracking has been done in hundreds of thousands of wells across the U.S., without polluting a single utility scale aquifer. Indeed, New York’s neighbor Pennsylvania has revitalized formerly depressed rural communities by allowing for the safe and responsible use of fracking.
Instead of a true public health purpose, Cuomo banned fracking to get the greens off his back. Fordham professor Zephyr Teachout won a surprising 34 percent of the Democratic Party gubernatorial primary vote against Cuomo, by running a near single issue campaign in opposition to Governor Cumo’s indecision fracking. Moreover, the incumbent was reportedly taken aback by the aggressiveness of anti-fracking activists on the campaign trail.
Around the World
COP-20 in Lima Finally Ends with Just Enough Progress To Keep the Bandwagon Rolling
I was in Lima for the last week of the twentieth Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which concluded a day and a half late at around 4 AM on Sunday, 14th December. COP-20 was fairly dull and low key. Attendance was also noticeably lower than at past COPs. Partly that is due to the fact that the big show is scheduled for COP-21 in Paris next December, when a new international agreement is scheduled to be signed. And it’s partly due to the fact that the UNFCCC Secretariat has cut way back on the number of observers representing NGOs allowed to attend.
The main show was meetings at least once and often several times a day of the Ad Hoc Committee for Advancing the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, known as the ADP. Wrangling over the Draft Decision of the ADP is what kept COP-20 going into the early hours of Sunday morning. As Todd Stern, the chief U. S. negotiator, noted in his remarks to the ADP Saturday afternoon, the wrangling was unnecessary because all of the opposing positions were contained in the Elements, a lengthy document attached to the Draft Decision. That is, nothing had been decided, so everyone could relax.
That did not satisfy a number of factions within the 195 parties. They are concerned that the new agreement will blur the clearly differentiated responsibilities of the developed countries (listed as Annex 1) responsible for the emissions causing the global warming crisis and the developing countries (listed as Non-Annex 1) not responsible. One sticking point is whether developing countries that have developed since 1992, when the UNFCCC was signed at the Rio Earth Summit, will ever move from Non-Annex 1 to Annex 1 status. Countries such as China, which now has the highest annual greenhouse gas emissions, and Chile and Mexico, which now belong to the OECD.
Other negotiating streams at COP-20 were held on the Warsaw International Mechanism for Loss and Damage and the Green Climate Fund. The Lima Ministerial Declaration on Education and Awareness-Raising was also adopted. All the COP-20 documents may be found here.
Greenpeace Damages Nazca Lines, a World Heritage Site in Peru
The only real excitement connected to COP-20 was provided 250 miles south of Lima by the despicable folks at Greenpeace. As revealed by our good friends at CFACT (a founding member of the Cooler Heads Coalition) and then reported by mainstream media around the world, Greenpeace activists “irreparably damaged” the famous pre-historic Nazca lines, which are listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Greenpeace laid down large yellow cloth letters that said: “TIME FOR CHANGE! THE FUTURE IS RENEWABLE. GREENPEACE.” They placed their message in an area adjacent to the image of a hummingbird, one of the most famous images in the Nazca lines. Entry to the area is strictly prohibited. Peru’s vice minister for culture, Luis Jaime Castillo, was quoted in the Guardian: “This has been done without any respect for our laws. It was done in the middle of the night. They went ahead and stepped on our hummingbird, and looking at the pictures we can see there’s very severe damage. Nobody can go on these lines without permission – not even the president of Peru!”
After Peruvian authorities announced that they would prosecute the perpetrators for the crime of attacking an archaeological monument, the Greenpeace employees apparently escaped the country. The crime is punishable by up to six years in prison. It was reported this week that Peru may seek extradition.
Greenpeace’s executive director flew to Lima to apologize and said that Greenpeace would help with the investigation. Greenpeace said in a statement: “We fully understand that this looks bad. We came across as careless and crass.” But it has also been reported that Greenpeace has not given Peruvian authorities the names of the perpetrators.
A video of the damage was aired on the PBS News Hour and was posted here.
The Nazca lines are geoglyphs—huge figures scratched on the desert ground by the Nazca culture between 400 and 650 AD.
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.