Cooler Heads Digest 14 March 2014

14 March 2014

In the News

EPA’s Artless Dodging on Carbon Pollution Standard
Marlo Lewis,, 13 March 2014

James Hansen Sleepless in Ningbo
Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 13 March 2014

Four Reasons Why the Green Movement Belongs on ‘The Biggest Loser’
Steven F. Hayward, Forbes, 13 March 2014

Philadelphia Revitalized by Energy Boom
Katie Colaneri, NPR, 12 March 2014

Democrats Talk Climate, Rake in Billionaire Bucks
Timothy Carney, Washington Examiner, 11 March 2014

Coal to the Rescue, But Maybe Not Next Winter
Matthew Wald, New York Times, 10 March 2014

Senate Climate Talkathon: For People Who Thought the Oscars Didn’t Go On Long Enough
Nick Gillespie, Hit & Run, 10 March 2014

News You Can Use
Gallup Poll: Climate Change a Low Priority for U.S. Voters

According to a Gallup poll published this week, climate change placed next to last on a list of 15 issues ranked in order of their importance to American voters. The top priority was “the economy.”

Inside the Beltway
Myron Ebell

Senate Democrats Talk through the Night, But Don’t Want To Vote on Global Warming

Nearly thirty Democratic Senators, organized by Senators Brian Schatz (D-Hi.) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), kept the Senate in session from Monday evening until mid-morning on Tuesday to talk about the necessity of taking immediate action to stop global warming.  But there was almost no talk about legislation to limit greenhouse gas emissions by rationing energy and raising energy prices.

The whole event was so hypocritical that even the Washington Post published two scathing criticisms.  Ed O’Keefe in the Fix blog wrote that the talkathon was all about keeping billionaire Democratic mega-donor Tom Steyer happy.

Dana Milbank’s news analysis printed on page 2 was headlined “Democrats global warming weapon?  Hot Air.” Milbank wrote that: “If he [Democratic Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.)] and his colleagues really want action, they don’t have to lose sleep. All they have to do is bring a climate-change bill to the floor.  The problem is that Reid doesn’t have the votes in his caucus to pass such a measure. A year ago, the last time the Senate considered a fee on carbon emissions, 13 Democrats joined with all 45 Republicans in defeating it.  Democrats facing difficult re-election fights this year were conspicuously absent from Monday night’s lineup.”

The only Republican to speak during this climate fest was Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), the Senate’s leading global warming skeptic and opponent of energy-rationing legislation.  Inhofe is also the only Senator who has bothered to learn something about climate science.  He spent nearly an hour early Monday evening trying to educate his Democratic colleagues on some of the simpler scientific facts about the climate that even they might be able to understand.  It became clear as the night went on that the Senate’s Democratic global warming alarmists weren’t listening.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), speaking earlier in the day on Monday, challenged Senator Reid to “Bring up the carbon tax bill. Put it on the agenda. Let's debate it.”  Reid kicked off the all-nighter by repeating his statement made last week that “Climate change is the worst problem facing the world today.”  A reporter on Tuesday asked Reid why he had not brought the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill that passed the House in 2009 to the Senate floor when the Democrats had enough votes to surmount a Republican filibuster: “We didn’t have 60 votes, [except] for only a very short period of time. We had a number of other things we were working on.”  As my CEI colleague William Yeatman noted on, Reid and many of his Democratic colleagues have plenty of time to talk about the world’s most pressing problem, but no time to do anything about it.

Keystone Pipeline Update

The U. S. State Department’s public comment period on whether building the Keystone XL Pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf Coast refineries is in the national interest ended on 7thMarch.  Approximately three million comments were received—two million from opponents and one million from supporters.

But Juliet Eilperin reported in the Washington Post that nearly half the comments submitted by opponents come from people living outside the United States.  Avaaz, an international web site that generates online petitions on a variety of leftist causes, was responsible for nearly 900,000 foreign comments.  Another 66,817 anti-Keystone comments came from Canadians.

Several Republican Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee took to the floor on 13th March to note that it has been 2000 days since TransCanada first applied for a permit to build the pipeline.  

On the Senate side, the Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on building the pipeline.  The star witness was Dr. James Hansen, now retired as director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City.  Hansen helped get the anti-Keystone campaign going by claiming that it would be a make or break event in the effort to save the planet from global warming.  Hansen during the hearing re-iterated his opposition to oil produced from Alberta’s oil sands and his support for a tax on carbon dioxide emissions. Democratic Senators who favor a carbon tax are being remarkable quiet because they would like to retain their majority in the November elections.

House Science Committee Questions EPA's Basis for Carbon Pollution Standard 
Marlo Lewis

This week the House Science Energy and Environment Subcommittees held a joint hearing on EPA’s “Carbon Pollution Rule,” which effectively bans the construction of new coal-fired power plants.

To meet the rule’s carbon dioxide (CO2) performance standards, coal power plants have to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology. CCS dramatically increases the cost of new coal generation, compelling utilities planning to build new coal units to “fuel switch” and build new natural gas combined cycle plants instead. The rule is an egregious case of backdoor (bureaucratic) lawmaking, since Congress never authorized EPA to block new coal generation, and any bill embodying a CCS mandate would be dead on arrival.

Acting Air Administrator Janet McCabe testified on behalf of EPA. Although calm and non-ideological in tone, McCabe’s responses in the lengthy Q&A were terse, usually uninformative, and often evasive. She also claimed climate change is responsible for recent hurricanes – an unscientific assertion she could not back up when challenged by Energy Subcommittee Chair Cynthia Lummis (R-Ariz.).

McCabe tried to make the case that the “Carbon Pollution Rule” is not a CCS mandate, because it leaves utilities free to devise their own strategies for achieving the same degree of emission reduction achievable through CCS. This is a distinction without a difference, because the only known technology that can achieve the same degree of emission reduction is CCS.

My blog post, EPA: Artless Dodging on ‘Carbon Pollution’ Rule, provides a running commentary on the back and forth between McCabe and Committee members. In the conclusion, I offer four possible explanations of why McCabe’s responses were uninformative and evasive:

  1. The Obama administration has so little regard for the separation of powers that it feels no obligation to explain or justify its actions beyond vague generalities and repetition of talking points that everybody familiar with the debate has already heard.
  2. Obama officials are so steepedin groupthink they see little point in addressing arguments or criticisms put forward by contrarians, skeptics, or Republicans.
  3. Obama officials cannot afford to give straight answers because that might expose the “Carbon Pollution Rule” for what it is — a product of anti-coal ideology rather than policy-neutral science and economics.
  4. All of the above.

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,