Cooler Heads Digest 13 February 2016

13 February 2016


America’s Future Foundation will hold a happy hour presentation on “Global Climate Change: Myths and Facts with Dave Rittenhouse and Dr. James Rust” at the Whitehall Tavern in Atlanta on 23rd February.  Rsvp here.

In the News

Here’s How States Can Defy the EPA’s Global Warming Plan
Andrew Follett, Daily Caller, 12 February 2016

Jane Mayer on Energy Policy: Some Corrections
Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 11 February 2016

White House Must Give Think Tank Climate Docs
Rebekah Kearn, Courthouse News Service, 11 February 2016

Obama’s New Oil Tax Would Drive Up Gas Prices
Veronique de Rugy, Reason Hit & Run, 11 February 2016

E-mails: EPA Rushed To Resolve Tesla’s “Million Dollar” Bureaucratic Snafu
Lachlan Markay, Washington Free Beacon, 10 February 2016

How Much Will Climate Change Rules Benefit Americans?
Susan Dudley, Forbes, 9 February 2016

Sue and Settle Again Rears Its Ugly Head
Robert Jackson & John Eick, ALEC, 8 February 2016

“Keep It in the Ground” at Work in the Real World
Marita Noon, Oil Pro, 8 February 2016

Obama To Set First-Ever Climate Rules for Airlines
John Siciliano, Washington Examiner, 8 February 2016

Obama Orders Military To Give Priority to Climate Change
Rowan Scarborough, Washington Times, 7 February 2016

Shut Up, She Explained: My Request for Climate Evidence
Benjamin Zycher, AEI, 4 February 2016

News You Can Use
Food Cheap, Despite Global Warming

Due to “ample agricultural supply conditions,” world food prices fell to almost a seven-year low at the start of 2016, according to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Inside the Beltway

Supreme Court Blocks EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Rule for Existing Power Plants Until Litigation Is Completed
Myron Ebell

The Supreme Court on 9th February granted the petition to stay the EPA’s greenhouse gas rules for existing power plants until lower court litigation is completed. The decision, which came on a 5-4 vote, is unprecedented, which is perhaps why it surprised nearly everyone and clearly caught the Obama Administration off guard. 

EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and the White House quickly expressed confidence that the so-called “Clean Power” Plan will not be overturned.  But that 5-4 vote must make them and their allies worry that the Supreme Court will indeed overturn all or most of the rule.  McCarthy made many public appearances at COP-21, the Paris climate conference in Paris in December, which concluded with agreement on the new Paris Climate Treaty.  At each appearance where I saw her, McCarthy assured the media and delegates from other countries that the EPA had “legally bulletproofed” the rule.

The petition for the stay filed by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on behalf of 26 States made a powerful argument that the rule is so legally flawed that it will eventually be overturned in court, but that so much economic damage will be done before the litigation is completed that the rule must be suspended as soon as possible.  My guess is that their argument was strongly aided by statements from McCarthy and Janet McCabe, acting assistant administrator for air and radiation, last summer after the Supreme Court ruled against EPA on the Mercury MACT rule.  They both said that the court’s decision didn’t really matter because most utilities had already taken action to comply.

Administrator McCarthy was at it again after the court’s stay decision.  She told the House Agriculture Committee during a three-hour grilling that “Nothing is going to be implemented while the stay is in place. It is clearly on hold until it resolves itself through the courts.” But when McCarthy addressed state air regulators, she said that the EPA would work with any State that wanted to keep working on implementing the rule. Several reporters described her attitude in the speech as defiant. 

Obama’s Budget Requests Lots More Greenbacks for Green Energy and Climate Programs

President Barack Obama’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2017 proposes billions of dollars of new spending on “green” energy and climate programs. As I reported last week, much of the funding would come from his proposed $10 tax on each barrel of oil consumed.  The Congress will not enact the fee and will almost certainly deny nearly all of these new spending requests.

The President’s budget also asks Congress to make the tax credit for wind power and the investment tax credit for solar power permanent.  So much for the idea that renewable energy is now or soon will be commercially competitive with conventional sources of electricity.

The budget request $1.29 billion for its Global Climate Change Initiative, which includes another $500 million for the Green Climate Fund.  Congress zeroed out the Green Climate Fund in the FY 2016 omnibus appropriations bill in December, but it is expected that the State Department will reprogram other funding and send at least $200 to 300 million to the GCF this year.

I summarized some of the proposed new spending here.  Nick Loris of the Heritage Foundation provides more details here.

Spinning the Stay
Marlo Lewis

A few days before the start of the COP-21 meeting in Paris, U.S. climate negotiator Todd Stern filed a declaration urging the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals to deny West Virginia and other states’ request to put a stay on EPA’s so-called “Clean Power” Plan (CPP). Stern argued that freezing the rule would undermine U.S. “leadership” on climate change, creating “a real threat that some other countries, including major emitters, might reduce the intensity or pace of their actions or even fail to achieve their commitments.” Horror of horrors, it might diminish their climate “ambition”.

Although the appellate court declined to stay the rule, the Supreme Court this week granted a stay. So now what are administration officials saying? Do they stand by their earlier claims that suspending the CPP threatens the climate treaty?

No way. According to Climate Progress blogger Joe Romm, “Senior White House officials said on a media call Tuesday evening that this was a temporary procedural determination that does nothing to affect the soundness of the rule, nor the White House’s determination to proceed with the rule and to cut emissions. They expressed confidence that the administration’s climate targets were achievable, citing momentum in the renewable power sector.”

“Heck,” Romm opined, “it [the stay] doesn’t even mean that the United States won’t be able to hit the CO2 reduction target it pledged with the other nations of the world in the Paris Agreement. Indeed, I expect with or without the CPP, the U.S. is probably going to meet its Paris pledge, its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to cut greenhouse gas pollution 26 to 28% below 2005 levels in 2025.”

That’s whistling past the graveyard. Stephen Eule of the U.S. Chamber’s Institute for 21st Century Energy has done the math. Even if we include the Power Plan—the largest single component of the U.S. INDC—all current and proposed administration climate policies account for only 55% of Obama’s emission pledge. Remove the CPP, and the “gap becomes a chasm,” according to Eule.

Administration officials and environmentalists are in “full damage control mode,” reports Jean Chemnick in today’s ClimateWire ($). Why? Because the “high-profile signing of the Paris climate agreement in New York City on April 22 will now take place under the cloud of this week's Supreme Court decision to stay the U.S. EPA Clean Power Plan.” As Harjeet Singh of ActionAid International in India told Chemnick: “The climate community is taken aback and concerned that it may see the same fate as the Kyoto Protocol, and the leadership that Obama showed, despite domestic political challenges, has also gone in vain."

Of course, none of that is a reason the Supreme Court should not have put EPA’s lawless rule on hold. Nor is it a reason the appellate court, which has scheduled oral argument for June 2, should not overturn the CPP.

In Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court held that EPA’s authority with respect to greenhouse gases could not be decided on the basis of “policy concerns” “divorced from the statutory text.” The Court specifically cited as irrelevant the concern that EPA climate rules “might impair the President’s ability to negotiate with key developing nations to reduce emissions.”

For either the appellate court or the Supreme Court, all that should matter in the Power Plan litigation is whether the rule squares with its alleged statutory basis, Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. There is no mention of either climate “leadership” or climate “ambition” in 111(d) or any other provision of the Act. Those concepts are not statutory factors and have no relevance to the case.

Around the World
Myron Ebell

Supreme Court Decision Could Undermine the Paris Climate Treaty

The Supreme Court’s decision to stay the EPA’s greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants may lead to some good news at the international level as well.  A story in the New York Times began by stating that the decision “could weaken or even imperil the international global warming accord reached with great ceremony in Paris less than two months ago, climate diplomats say.”

The story goes on to quote Navroz K. Dubash, a senior fellow at the Center for Policy Research in New Delhi: “If the U. S. Supreme Court actually declares the coal power plant rules stillborn, the chancesof nurturing trust between countries would all but vanish.  This could be the proverbial string which causes Paris to unravel.”  It should be noted that India’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions counts on a lot of nurturing from the developed countries--$2.5 trillion in aid, to be precise.

Former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright agrees.  According to the Washington Times, she filed a statement in the case that concludes that a stay “could derail the international momentum to implement the emission reduction commitments achieved at the Paris climate conference.”  Even more amusingly, as my CEI colleague Marlo Lewis reported on Global on 7th December, Todd Stern, the State Department’s chief climate negotiator, also filed a declaration that a stay could undermine the forthcoming Paris Climate Treaty. That’s because the so-called “Clean Power” Plan accounts for the largest share of greenhouse gas emissions reductions in the Intended Nationally Determined Contribution that the Obama Administration submitted as its commitment. 

But that was before the Supreme Court ruling.  After it, the White House was quick to deny that the stay would have any effect on achieving the U. S. commitment.  At a press briefing aboard Air Force One on 10th February, White House spokesman Eric Schultz gave a lengthy answer to why the stay would not slow the decline in U. S. greenhouse gas emissions.  One of the reasons he gave was especially interesting: “[T]he budget agreement that was signed at the end of 2015 … included long-term extensions of the renewable energy tax credits.  The inclusion of those tax credits, which is something this administration fought for, is going to continue the momentum of cleaner sources of energy and lower emissions in the power sector….  It is our estimation that the inclusion of those tax credits is going to have more impact over the short term than the Clean Power Plan.”   

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,