Cooler Heads Digest 10 July 2015

10 July 2015


Video of Robert Bradley, Jr.’s presentation at the Cato Institute, titled “Free Energy Market Thought,” is available for viewing online.

In the News

Ratepayer Opportunity: State PUCs v. EPA’s Clean Power Plan
Travis Fisher, Master Resource, 9 July 2015

Committee Head: EPA Engaging in “Pattern of Obstruction”
Zack Colman, Washington Examiner, 9 July 2015

Indiana Governor Urges States To Fight Clean Power Plan
Maureen Groppe, Indianapolis Star, 9 July 2015

Climate Scientists Grapple with Psychological Problems
Jack Holmes, New York Magazine, 9 July 2015

Tory “Blue Crap” Means UK Is Falling behind in Global Switch to Green Energy
Catherine Mitchell, Guardian, 8 July 2015

A Global Coal Renaissance
Brad Plumer, Vox, 7 July 2015

German Green Power Push Forces Neighbors To Bolster Blackout Defenses
Weixin Zha & Marek Strzelecki, Bloomberg Business, 7 July 2015

Goodbye Mercury Rule, Hello Clean Power Plan?
Brian Potts & Abigail Barnes, Energy Collective, 7 July 2015

OMB Acknowledges (Most) of Our Comments on the Social Cost of Carbon, Engages None
Marlo Lewis,, 6 July 2015

Energy Department Doesn’t Know What’s Best for Consumers
David Kreutzer, Washington Times, 6 July 2015

Green Pope Goes Medieval on Planet
Joel Kotkin, Daily Beast, 5 July 2015

News You Can Use
Steep Price Tag for Climate Change Mitigation

According to a new study by the Global Commission on the Economy and the Climate, it will require $1 trillion in annual investments to green global energy production—and this was only one of 10 requirements necessary to achieve “nearly all” of the U.N.-recommended emissions reductions.

Inside the Beltway
Myron Ebell

House Leadership Pulls Interior-EPA Appropriations Bill After Confederate Flag Flap

The House returned from the week-long Independence Day recess to resume floor consideration of the Interior and EPA Appropriations bill, H. R. 2822. After voting on a number of amendments, the bill was moving toward a vote on final passage Thursday, 9th July, when it became bogged down in the flap over displays of the Confederate flag.  House leadership then pulled the bill from the floor. It appears unlikely that it will be brought back.   

On Tuesday, the House agreed by voice vote to an amendment offered by Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) that would ban the display of the Confederate flag in national cemeteries.  Huffman’s amendment passed when few people were paying attention.  When it was publicized, a number of Republican Members told their leadership that they could not vote for final passage if the bill contained the Huffman amendment.

Representative Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), chairman of the Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, then offered an amendment that would allow the Confederate flag to be flown at some times in some national cemeteries.  While Democrats were creating an uproar on the House floor, it became clear that enough Republicans would vote against the Calvert amendment to defeat it.  At that point, the bill was pulled from the floor.

This is something of a setback for efforts to block major new EPA rules through appropriations riders.  H. R. 2822 as passed out of committee included riders to block the greenhouse gas emissions rules for existing and new power plants, the ozone rule, and the wetlands rule.  Amendments on the floor added several other riders. 

The Interior-EPA Appropriations bill will be thrown into some sort of larger omnibus spending bill this fall.  Some or all the riders can survive and be included in that package, but the fact that the House didn’t pass them will weaken the argument for including them.  The Senate Appropriations Committee has included similar riders in their Interior-EPA Appropriations bill, but it is expected that the Democratic minority will prevent all appropriations bill from coming to the Senate floor.

Senate Appropriations Committee Votes For Green Climate Fund

The Senate Appropriations Committee voted 16 to 14 on 9th July to remove a prohibition on contributing to the UN Green Climate Fund from the State Department Appropriations bill.  The amendment offered by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Oreg.) was supported by all the Democrats on the committee and by Republican Senators Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Susan Collins (Me.).  Apparently, more foreign aid is a winning political issue in some States. 

The amendment removed language from the bill that said that no funds could go to the Green Climate Fund until authorized by Congress in a separate bill.  The House’s State Department Appropriations bill contains a similar prohibition, so the fight is far from over.  President Barack Obama requested $500 million for the Green Climate Fund for FY 2016. 

At the UN climate conference in Copenhagen in 2009, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Obama saved the conference from total collapse by promising that the U. S. and other developed economies would provide $100 billion annually in climate assistance to poor countries starting in 2020.  The hard skirmishing in Congress over the first half a billion dollars suggests that it’s going to be next to impossible for the next president to keep President Obama’s promise.

Supreme Court Overturns EPA’s Mercury Rule

The Supreme Court on 29th June reversed the D. C. Circuit Court’s decision upholding the EPA’s mercury rule for power plants (which was originally called the MACT Rule and is now called the Mercury and Air Toxic Standards or MATS Rule). Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the majority decision, which was joined by Chief Justice Roberts and Justices Thomas, Alito, and Kennedy.  The case now goes back to the D. C. Circuit Court “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.”

The majority opinion states that: “The [Environmental Protection] Agency must consider cost—including, most importantly, cost of compliance—before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary.”

However: “We need not and do not hold that the law unambiguously required the Agency, when making this preliminary estimate, to conduct a formal cost-benefit analysis in which each advantage and disadvantage is assigned a monetary value.  It will be up to the Agency to decide (as always, within the limits of reasonable interpretation) how to account for cost.”

To those who argued that the mercury rule’s co-benefits or ancillary benefits as estimated by the EPA far outweigh the costs of complying with the rule, Justice Scalia tartly noted that: “In the Agency’s own words, the administrative record ‘utterly refutes [the] assertion that [ancillary benefits] form the basis for the appropriate and necessary finding.’”

Justice Clarence Thomas issued a short concurring opinion which is much stronger and more persuasive than the majority opinion and well worth reading.  It and the minority’s dissenting opinion follow the majority opinion here.

While EPA will now have to rework the rule in order to satisfy the Supreme Court, the damage has already been done.  And EPA is aware of this fact.  Two days before the court released its ruling, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy appeared on the Bill Maher television talk show.  She expressed confidence that the Supreme Court would uphold the mercury rule, but then crowed: “But even if we don’t, it was three years ago. Most of them are already in compliance, investments have been made, and we’ll catch up.” 

Senate EPW Holds Hearing on Obama Climate Treaty Agenda
Marlo Lewis

On 8th July, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee held a hearing on the President’s climate-treaty agenda and its implications for U.S. domestic policy and our constitutional framework.

Much of the discussion focused on the administration’s pledge in the COP 21 climate treaty negotiations – our so-called Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC) – to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions 26%-28% below 2005 levels by 2025.

David Bookbinder, formerly general counsel for the Sierra Club, presented estimates of the emission reductions plausibly projected for each of the administration’s current and proposed climate policies. Those policies would achieve “maximum annual reductions in 2025 of 840 MMT [million metric tons], leaving the U.S. 349 MMT short (about 29%) of even the lower end of our Paris commitment.” Bookbinder’s analysis tallies with that of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which finds that the administration’s policies fall short of the President’s maximum (28%) emission-reduction goal by 33%. 

Jeff Holmstead, formerly EPA air office chief under President George W. Bush, noted that Obama officials continue to dodge questions about how they plan to achieve the 26%-28% reduction target under existing law, even though the White House announced that goal eight months ago in the U.S-China climate pact. President appears to be making promises he does not intend to keep, treating international commitments like campaign promises, which, as the saying goes, are made to be broken.

An even more disturbing possibility is that Obama officials will attempt to regulate beyond the scope of existing law. In fact, they already are. EPA’s “Clean Power” Plan constitutes about 35% of the President’s emission-reduction pledge. Holmstead makes a powerful case (pp. 3-6) that the Clean Power Plan is blatantly unlawful. 

George Mason Law School Professor Jeremy Rabkin raised constitutional concerns. The President seeks an agreement that would not actually be a treaty and thus not require Senate ratification, yet would somehow bind the next Congress and president to implement the “Clean Power” Plan and other Obama administration climate policies.

Rabkin warned that the administration’s climate agenda would set a dangerous precedent altering our constitutional structure. U.S. regulatory statutes would “be interpreted to accord with priorities established by foreign governments and by international bodies” expressed in executive agreements without any form of congressional approval. “We cannot go very far down that road before the idea that we are governed by law starts to look like a fable for school children.”

Recalling that the Byrd-Hagel Resolution scuttled U.S. participation in the Kyoto Protocol, Rabkin advised the Committee to propose a Sense of the Senate resolution “to put the world on notice that unilateral ‘political’ commitments of the President should not necessarily be taken as a fully reliable statement of future American policy.”

Around the World
Myron Ebell

Radical Anti-Capitalist Naomi Klein Co-Chairs Vatican Climate Conference; Pope Francis in Bolivia Calls Capitalism “Dung of the Devil”

Following up on Pope Francis’s climate encyclical, the Vatican held a two-day climate conference in early July. Unsurprisingly, no non-alarmists were invited to speak.  Astonishingly, the Vatican invited radical leftist Naomi Klein to co-chair the conference along with Cardinal Peter Turkson.  My comments on Klein’s involvement are posted here. The New Yorker magazine has just published Klein’s diary of the event. This week Pope Francis has been visiting South America.  While in Bolivia, the Pope revealed that he agrees with Naomi Klein’s rabid anti-capitalist position.  He said in a speech that unfettered capitalism (whatever that is) was the “dung of the devil.”

My comments on the papal encyclical are here. Joel Kotkin has written a perceptive, much longer analysis here. Indur Goklany has written a detailed rebuttal of the encyclical’s scientific and economic assumptions here.

Science Update
Marlo Lewis

EPA’s Climate Action Flimflam Report

EPA recently released Climate Change in the United States: Benefits of Global Action. The report, an obvious effort to gin up public support for a new climate treaty to replace the expired Kyoto Protocol, claims “significant global action” would avert 70,000 premature U.S. deaths and deliver hundreds of billions of dollars in health benefits to Americans by 2100. The report is a shameless piece of propaganda.

The core bias that predetermines all of EPA’s “global action” benefit estimates is the assumption that in the reference (“no action”) scenario, global temperatures will rise by 9°F (5°C) by 2100. That prediction is based on climate models that increasingly overshoot observed temperatures. In the latest University in Alabama Huntsville satellite record, the warming rate of the past 36 years (0.114°C/decade) translates into an additional 2.2°F by 2100, not 9°F.

Things could change, of course, but EPA provides no evidence the warming rate will increase by 400% during the next 85 years.

Even if the planet were warming as fast as EPA imagines, the agency’s benefit estimates would still be loopy. For example, EPA claims “global action” would avoid approximately 57,000 premature U.S. deaths in 2100 from deteriorating air quality, the theory being that warming will increase ozone and fine particulate matter (PM2.5) air pollution (p. 27). However, EPA arguably overestimates health risks of ozone and PM2.5 pollution at today’s historically-low levels. More importantly, as EPA data show, U.S. air pollution emissions and concentrations keep declining, decade by decade, despite global warming.

Indeed, long before 2100, all significant remaining U.S. air pollution emissions will likely have been eliminated. The impact of warming on U.S. air quality should thus be minimal. Yet EPA claims “global action” will deliver $930 billion in U.S. air quality improvements in 2100. How is that possible?

As explained in a text box (p. 25), what EPA actually models is not the impact of projected warming on emission levels reasonably anticipated to occur in 2100, but the impact of such warming on “present-day levels.” EPA claims that holding present-day levels “fixed” allows the agency “to isolate the climate change-related impact on air quality.” Nonsense. It allows EPA to grossly inflate the health effects of projected future warming. The only way to “isolate” the impact of climate change on air quality in 2100 is to compare the effects of different warming scenarios on emissions in 2100, not emissions in 2015.

Evidently, EPA is trying to pull a fast one while including just enough info in the fine print to protest its innocence of trying to deceive.

For a more detailed examination of EPA’s report, see my blog post, EPA’s Climate Action Flimflam.

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,