Cooler Heads Digest 05 February 2016

5 February 2016


The Independence Institute and the Competitive Enterprise Institute are hosting a panel discussion of the EPA’s greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants at noon on 16th February at the Independence Institute, 727 East Sixteenth Ave., in Denver, Colorado.  RSVP here

In the News

EPA Magic: Regulation by Illusion
William O’Keefe, Fuel Fix, 5 February 2016

“Experts” Warn Global Warming Is Making Dogs Depressed
Liam Deacon, Breitbart, 5 February 2016

Do Scientists Suppress Uncertainty in the Climate Change Debate?
Craig Idso, Cato at Liberty, 4 February 2016

Don’t Put Eco-Finance Measures in Energy Bill
John Berlau, Open Market, 4 February 2016

State AGs Bullish on Challenge to EPA’s Climate Rules
Timothy Cama, The Hill, 3 February 2016

Finally, America May Be Catching onto the Ethanol Racket
Nicolas Loris, Daily Signal, 2 February 2016

Green Car Crash
Jim Gorzelany, Forbes, 2 February 2016

Leonardo DiCaprio Options Climate Disaster Movie Set in 2049
Ben Child, Guardian, 2 February 2016

Electric Vehicles: Perennial Subsidies, Hope, Fail
Robert Bradley, Jr., Master Resource, 1 February 2016

EPA Is Metastasizing into a National Zoning Board
Washington Examiner editorial, 1 February 2016

News You Can Use
IER Study: Big Benefits of Producing Oil and Gas on Federal Land

According to a study published today by the Institute for Energy Research, the economic benefits of expanding development of oil, gas, and coal resources on federal lands include a $21 trillion increase in economic activity over the next 37 years.

Inside the Beltway
Myron Ebell

President Obama Will Propose $10 a Barrel Tax on Oil To Pay For $32 Billion Green Transit Slush Fund

The White House has begun to release details of President Barack Obama’s budget request for Fiscal Year 2017.  Most interesting so far is the announcement that the President will propose a new $10 fee on each barrel of oil.  With oil selling at roughly $30 a barrel, this would amount to a one-third increase in the cost of oil.

The projected $32 billion a year in new revenue would be used to fund “green” transit: $20 billion for mass transit, including high-speed rail and magnetic levitation; $10 billion for streamlining local and state transit planning, a Climate Smart Fund to give bonuses to States that reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and three new grant programs for “livable” cities, climate-resilient infrastructure, and regional-wide transit projects; and $2 billion for research into “clean” transportation.

There is no chance that the 114th Congress will enact this new $32 billion tax plus green slush fund, so it’s not clear why the President doesn’t follow his tried and true practice and just impose it by executive order.  I doubt that many Democrats in Congress who are running for re-election in 2016 will support it. 

Senate Energy Bill Stalled by Wrangling

The Senate spent part of the week considering amendments to the Energy Policy Modernization Act, S. 2012, but then got hung up on Democratic demands that the bill should include $600 million to help Flint, Michigan to deal with its water supply problems.  Two cloture votes to limit debate and move to a vote on final passage were defeated by votes of 46 to 50 and 43 to 54 (with 60 votes needed to invoke cloture).

Negotiations will continue over the weekend, so it’s too early to say that the bill sponsored by Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairman Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and the committee’s ranking Democrat, Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), is dead.  I hope it is dead because it has many more bad provisions than good ones.  On the plus side, the bill would require expedited permitting of LNG terminals. The bad stuff includes several new subsidies and preferences, lots of new federal programs, some more loan guarantees, and permanent re-authorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

When the Republican leadership initially resisted putting money for Flint into the bill on the grounds that the Constitution requires that all appropriations bills start in the House of Representatives, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) replied that “those excuses are overcome every day.”  Unfortunately, Senator Stabenow is correct: for many Senators (and Representatives) the Constitution is now just a trivial obstacle to be gotten around.    

EPA Opposes Stay of Greenhouse Gas Rule

The Department of Justice this week submitted its response to the petition to the Supreme Court to stay the Environmental Protection Agency’s greenhouse gas rule for existing power plants until litigation against the so-called “Clean Power” Plan is concluded in federal court.  Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli, Jr. argues that the “applicants will not suffer irreparable harm while this case is pending before the D. C. Circuit” (page 53). 

On the other hand, Verrilli claims that the planet will be harmed by global warming if the rule is delayed for even a few months.  For one thing, delaying the rule will undermine the Paris Climate Treaty: “Delaying the Rule’s implementation would also disrupt the United States’ leadership on the international stage, which has facilitated new emission-reduction commitments by countries representing 98% of global CO2 emissions.” (pages 71-72)

The States petitioners replied to EPA’s brief today, and their brief is available here. Chief Justice John Roberts is expected to rule on the petition in the next few weeks.

Across the States
Myron Ebell

Cruz Wins Iowa Caucuses Despite Opposition to Ethanol Mandate

Senator Ted Cruz’s (R-Tex.) victory in the Iowa Republican presidential caucuses on 1st February is a defeat for the corn ethanol industry.  Cruz made a point of telling Iowa voters that he opposed the Renewable Fuels Standard and also wind and solar subsidies. Iowa is the nation’s number one corn producer and a major wind power producer.

The corn and ethanol industries and Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (R) mounted major efforts to defeat Cruz.  An industry lobby group, America’s Renewable Future, reportedly spent $300,000 to defeat Cruz.  In addition to radio and print ads, robo calls, and mailers, the group followed Cruz around Iowa in a truck called “You Cruz You Lose.”

Tim Carney in the Washington Examiner wrote that “The ethanol lobby is a paper tiger, and Ted Cruz just tore it to shreds.” I think that overstates the case, but Cruz’s victory does show that the ethanol mandate is not untouchable.  As the program continues to collapse, other Members of Congress may now be willing to take on Big Corn. 

Around the World
Myron Ebell

Australia Cuts Back on Climate Science Jobs Now That Climate Science Is Settled, But Climate Scientists Disagree

Australia’s principal scientific research agency, the Commonwealth Scientific and Agricultural Research Organisation (CSIRO), announced plans this week to eliminate up to 350 research jobs, many of them in climate science.  Faced with funding cutbacks from the Australian government, CSIRO has decided that climate scientists are not needed now that climate science has been settled.

Climate scientists in Australia and around the world were quick to deny that climate science is settled.  For example, University of Melbourne earth scientist Kevin Walsh was quoted in the Australian newspaper (subscription required): “It is incorrect to say that the climate change science problem is solved, and now all we need to do is figure out what to do about it.  No working climate scientist believes that.”

Science Update
Marlo Lewis

Dr. Christy Rebuts Alarmist Spin on Satellite Data

The divergence between satellite data and climate model warming predictions has long been too large for “consensus” scientists to ignore, and it keeps growing despite 2015 being anointed the “warmest year on record.”

Unsurprisingly, the usual suspects try to discredit the satellite data, even to the point of suggesting that surface records, notwithstanding their well-known heterogeneity, gaps, and quality-control issues, are more reliable.

In testimony earlier this week before the House Science Committee, University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) atmospheric scientist John Christy rebuts a Yale Climate Connections video featuring several heavyweights of the climate science establishment.

The video claims satellites do not actually measure temperature, but infer it from microwaves emitted by oxygen molecules in the atmosphere. That is true but irrelevant. Christy explains: “In reality, the sensors on satellites measure temperature by emitted radiation—the same method that a physician uses to measure your body temperature to high precision using an ear probe. Atmospheric oxygen emits microwaves, the intensity of which is directly proportional to the temperature of the oxygen, and thus the atmosphere. . . . As an aside, most surface temperature measurements are indirect, using electronic resistance.”

The video also claims satellites’ loss of altitude over time due to atmospheric friction—a phenomenon called orbital decay—induces a cooling bias. Again, true but irrelevant. “This vertical fall has an immeasurable impact on the layer (Mid-Troposphere or MT) used here and so is a meaningless claim. In much earlier versions of another layer product (LT or Lower Troposphere), this was a problem, but was easily corrected almost 20 years ago. Thus, bringing up issues that affected a different variable that, in any case, was fixed many years ago is a clear misdirection that, in my view, demonstrates the weakness of their position.”

Finally, the scientists in the video cite the cooling bias from the satellites’ tendency to drift from east to west. Far from being unacknowledged by Christy, the UAH team was the first to detect that bias, and corrected for it 10 years ago. Moreover, the error was not a factor in the MT layer, where observations reveal a sharp divergence from climate model projections.

For further discussion, see my blog post, “Satellites and Global Warming: Dr. Christy Sets the Record Straight.”

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,