In the News
If You Think Sky Is Falling, Check Out the Prophecies of the 1970s
Michael Barone, Washington Examiner, 9 April 2014
News You Can Use
President Hindering Oil and Gas Development on Federal Lands
Despite the oil and gas boom unleashed by hydraulic fracturing, federally issued drilling permits last year dropped to their lowest level in more than a decade, according to new data from the Bureau of Land Management. Since President Obama took office, total federal oil production has declined 7.8 percent and federal natural gas production has declined 21 percent.
Inside the Beltway
Eleven Senate Democrats Urge Obama To Act on Keystone
Eleven Democratic Senators sent a letter to President Barack Obama this week urging him to make a final decision on whether to permit the Keystone XL Pipeline no later than 31st May. Senators Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana initiated the letter. Other signers were Mark Begich of Alaska, Mark Pryor of Arkansas, Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Mark Warner of Virginia, Jon Tester of Montana, John Walsh of Montana, and Kay Hagan of North Carolina.
Six of these Democrats—Landrieu, Begich, Pryor, Warner, Walsh, and Hagan— are running for re-election in November, and most of them face serious challenges from pro-energy Republicans. Interestingly, Senator Mark Udall of Colorado did not sign the letter, even though he is running and his Republican opponent, Rep. Cory Gardner, is focusing on Keystone and other energy issues.
Asked about the letter at a White House press conference, Obama spokesman Jay Carney replied, “Our position on that process hasn’t changed, which is that it needs to run its appropriate course without interference from the White House or Congress.” The process to which Carney refers is the State Department deliberation on whether the pipeline from Alberta’s oil sands to Gulf refineries is in the national interest. State’s very lengthy environmental impact analysis concluded earlier this year that there were no major environmental issues.
Sen. Landrieu, the new chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, responded to Carney’s brush-off by announcing that she may move a bill to permit Keystone. The House of Representatives has passed similar legislation several times. My guess is that President Obama will keep trying to delay the pipeline to death. That’s because he’s more interested in his own interests than in the national interest, and his own interests are more in maintaining good relations with billionaire Democratic donors, such as Tom Steyer, than in maintaining good U. S.-Canada relations.
EPA Releases Strategic Vision
The Environmental Protection Agency released its 2014-18 strategic plan on Thursday, 10th April. EPA’s top priority is addressing climate change and improving air quality. One possibly significant change is that the agency intends to focus more on the largest polluters (including emitters of carbon dioxide, which EPA defines as a pollutant, and producers of fossil fuels) in order to achieve the largest reductions in pollution levels. Otherwise, I see few changes or surprises in a relentlessly misguided and depressing document.
Senators Sessions and Inhofe Come Out Swinging against EPA
Senator Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) announced at an Environment and Public Works Committee hearing this week on the nomination of Janet McCabe to be assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for air and radiation that he couldn’t vote to confirm McCabe if she insists on denying the conclusion of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that there is no historic trend in the incidence and severity of tropical cyclones (hurricanes and typhoons). Here’s the video clip:
Climate Progress, an especially deranged outpost of the ironically-named Center for American Progress’s Think Progress web site, immediately accused Sen. Sessions of opposing McCabe “because she accepts climate science.”
At the same hearing, Senator James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), former chairman of the committee, announced that he will start offering resolutions of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act for every new EPA air regulation until the agency starts doing ongoing economic and employment assessments for all Clean Air Act regulations on an economy-wide basis. Such assessments seem to be required by Section 321 (a) of the Clean Air Act, but the EPA has always (during previous Republican and Democratic administrations as well as the current administration) limited its analyses to the economic effects of only the facilities directly regulated.
According to an article in Environment and Energy Daily, Sen. Inhofe’s intention in requiring CRA votes on the Senate floor is to put Senators on record as to whether they support economically-damaging rules. He has also introduced a bill, S. 2161, along with 30 co-sponsors, to correct the EPA’s interpretation of Section 321(a). Murray Energy has filed a suit in federal court to compel the EPA to analyze the economy-wide employment effects of Clean Air rules.
Across the States
California: Greens Reject Carbon Tax for Cap Swap
“California’s Senate majority leader is backing away from a controversial proposal to replace part of the state’s cap-and-trade system with a tax on greenhouse gases,” Climatewire (subscription required) reports.
In February, State Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D) introduced legislation to impose a carbon tax on transportation fuels. The tax would start at $15 per ton and increase to $50 per ton by 2030. Steinberg claimed that a carbon tax would give Californians greater certainty about fuel prices than is possible under the State’s cap-and-trade program.
Environmental groups “immediately opposed” the plan. A Natural Resources Defense Council spokesman explained: "It's critical to keep our largest-emitting sectors subject to mandatory carbon pollution limits for the state to meet its near- and long-term climate goals.” Steinberg this week canceled a scheduled committee hearing on the bill.
More evidence of what should already be obvious: the green movement has no interest in swapping mandates, regulations, and cap-and-trade for a carbon tax.
Around the World
Japan Bows to Reality, Turns to Coal
Nearly three years ago, in the immediate wake of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster, the Japanese government announced a bold energy plan that would replace nuclear power with renewables. Notably, the plan failed to articulate how Japan would achieve this goal.
Nuclear, hydropower, and coal are reliable, which is why they serve as ‘base-load’ electricity generators. That is, they run 24 hours a day, and are taken offline only for maintenance. Renewable energy sources like wind and solar power are intermittent and expensive. As such, it would be a tall order for Japan to replace nuclear with renewables.
Yesterday, the Japanese government approved a new energy plan that recognizes that coal-fired electricity is “an important base-load source.” Renewable energy targets were conspicuously absent. Two weeks ago, Japanese utilities announced that they were certain to build 3,500 megawatts of coal-fired electricity capacity, and possibly 7,000 megawatts more.
Is Ocean Acidification a Crisis?
Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D.-R.I.) once castigated “climate deniers” for ducking the issue of ocean acidification, claiming skeptics “ignore facts they cannot explain away.”
The term “acidification” is a bit loaded and rhetorical. Although ocean pH has declined from about 8.2 to 8.1 over the past 200 years, there’s no danger of it decreasing to below 7.0 – the pH of neutral water. “De-alkalization” might be a more accurate way of describing the effect of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions on ocean chemistry.
Be that as it may, in a rebuttal to Sen. Whitehouse, I noted that CO2Science.Org, one of the oldest and most prominent skeptic blogs, hosts an extensive (and growing) ocean acidification database, and regularly reviews new scientific research on the topic.
This week on CO2Science.Org, chief blogger Craig Idso posts a 5,700-word essay reviewing 17 field studies of changing ocean pH levels, coral calcification rates, and coral health.
Much of the alarm over ocean acidification is based on short-term laboratory exposure studies. Field studies, notes Idso, “more aptly represent conditions in the real world, many of which conditions are impossible or impractical to incorporate into a laboratory setting.” Here are results from three of the studies reviewed.
Bessat and Buigues (2001) found that, instead of the 6-14% decline in calcification rates predicted by a prominent laboratory study, calcification rates in massive Porites corals in French Polynesia increased during 1801-1990.
Meron et al. (2012) examined two coral species off the coast of Naples, Italy, where CO2 from underwater volcanic vents produces a natural decline in pH levels. The researchers found that the “corals present at the lower pH sites exhibited only minor physiological changes,” and that “no microbial pathogens were detected.”
Similarly, Noonan et al. (2013) examined six scleractinian coral species exposed to elevated CO2 concentrations from volcanic “seeps” near Papua New Guinea. Dissolved CO2 concentrations were 28%-88% higher than in adjacent control areas. Nonetheless, the six species “were all able to not only survive, but to function well throughout the full range of CO2-induced pH values to which they had been exposed throughout their entire life spans,” Idso writes.
For a more extensive review of the literature on acidification and impacts on marine plants and animals, Idso’s chapter on aquatic life in the just-released report Climate Change Reconsidered II: Biological Impacts.
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.