Entries Tagged as 'environment'

Gulf Residents Ready to Jump-Start Drilling

April 20th, 2011 at 11:48 pm 3 Comments

Slowly but surely, ask Louisiana is recovering from the devastating blow it was delivered when BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded a year ago. Fishermen are managing to get by, businessmen are thriving – but oil workers are still hampered by the Obama administration’s decision to release only a small number of oil drilling permits.

FrumForum talked to two prominent Louisiana businessmen to get a sense of the situation in the state.

In New Orleans, the tourism has kicked up, the business climate is steady, and seafood sales are recovering well. “It’s just wonderful. Some cities have golden ages at different times, and this is certainly one of them [for us]… we still have a lot of problems, but we’re dealing with those problems. While most of the country is suffering from malaise or distress over the economy, our tourism is way, way up,” New Orleans businessman Bryan Wagner told FrumForum.

“The economy is between good and very good,” Fenn French, another New Orleans businessman, told FrumForum. “You don’t see businesses failing, our unemployment rate is below the national average.”

On the coast, in small fishing hamlets like Venice, Louisiana, the locals are still reeling from the twin disasters of Katrina and the oil spill. BP is dragging their feet on paying damages, but their contracts for cleanup work have helped.

The improving market for Gulf seafood has also helped. Shrimp, crab and fish, being mobile, were able to avoid some of the most toxic consequences of the oil spill, and demand for these are expected to rebound this season. The oyster fields are not expected to rebound so quickly.

But in the view of those working in the Gulf, the refusal to issue new permits is at least as disastrous as the oil spill itself. “Fishermen have had their share of suffering, but the ones who are continuing to suffer right now are the oil workers,” said Wagner.

Unemployment along the Gulf in Louisiana’s Plaquemines Parish, which between 2006 and 2008 bounced between four and six percent, was 9% in January.

And while the Obama administration’s moratorium on drilling has been lifted, there has been little alleviation in the financial pain facing oil workers. The Obama administration has been very slow to issue permits for oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, leaving many oil workers still looking for work.

“The oil patches – they’re dead over there, because there are no permits to drill. Drastically higher employment over there [on the coast],” said French.

But French has an optimistic outlook on the outcome. “Once we get the BP money and get back to drilling, I think we [Louisiana] are going to be in really good shape,” he said.

The message is clear: for these Louisiana businessmen, the best days are ahead – with the memories of the oil spill fading, it appears the Bayou State is rebuilding for the better.

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It’s About Time Congress Takes on BP

April 20th, 2011 at 12:01 am 7 Comments

One year ago, viagra the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing eleven workers and injuring sixteen more. The devastating environmental damage that resulted from months of uncapped oil leaking from the site was accompanied by the economic catastrophe mandated by an off-shore oil drilling moratorium.

Freshman Rep. Jeff Landry (LA-03) has proposed two measures to try and address the consequences and lessons of the disaster. For one, BP has been dragging its feet on paying for damages through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment (NRDA) process – via legal procedures, BP and other responsible parties could put off paying damages for decades.

Landry – whose district includes some of the most impacted regions of Louisiana’s Gulf Coast – teamed up with Senator David Vitter (R-LA) to propose the Natural Resources Restoration Act.

The Act mandates that the National Academies of Science put together a panel of appropriately qualified scientists, who would then assess the amount that BP should pay to repair the damage caused by the spill. BP could then pay 30% of the assessed damages upfront, or negotiate a schedule for payment over some other time period.

“I am tired of BP using every trick and turn of the court process to prolong their obligation to pay for the damages they have caused to Louisiana’s natural resources. Our bill forces BP to make a choice: pay 30 percent of what they owe right now or negotiate in good faith; delaying the payment is no longer an option,” said Landry in a statement provided to FrumForum.

Landry also proposed another piece of regulation, the Offshore Installation Emergency Evacuation Act, which would require a private standby vessel to be stationed within 12 miles of offshore drilling installations. After the Deepwater Horizon explosion, survivors were in the water for over an hour before a chopper arrived on the scene – a length of time this bill aims to dramatically lessen the next time an emergency occurs. The bill would require the vessel to have the capacity to carry 100% of the most populated deepwater facility in the area – for shallow-water operations, the bill would only require standby vessels during the most dangerous periods of operation.

This proposed bill will almost certainly be met with pushback from oil companies, who strongly opposed a similar piece of legislation in the 1980s. Other Republicans would also likely protest that the bill adds another layer of regulation on the private sector.

Rep. Landry addresses this by saying in a press statement today that “the most valuable resource in the Gulf of Mexico is not the oil and gas underneath the Gulf [but rather] the men and women who are willing to risk their lives to extract America’s energy… every man who commits his life to extracting our nation’s energy [should be] met by an equal commitment that, no matter what might happen on the rig, a vessel will be waiting to safely take him home.”

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Confessions of a Climate Change Convert

April 19th, 2011 at 11:00 am 134 Comments

I was defeated by facts.

It wasn’t all that long ago when I joined others on the right in dismissing concerns about climate change. It was my firm belief that the science was unsettled, buy viagra that any movement associated with Al Gore and Van Jones couldn’t possibly be trusted, recipe that environmentalists were simply left-wing, online anti-capitalist kooks.

It wasn’t until after I read Stanford University professor Morris Fiorina’s book Disconnect (2009) that I started to reconsider things. Fiorina noted that while environmentalism is now considered the domain of the Democratic Party, for many years it was the GOP that was identified with conservationist concerns. I was curious as to how the political climate shifted with regard to environmentalism—and whether there was something to all this talk about climate change.

I’m very fortunate to have acquaintances in the environmentalist movement, and I began discussing my concerns with them last fall. One friend recommended that I read the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, suggesting that it might resolve some of the questions I had about the science behind climate concerns.

I began reading the report with a skeptical eye, but by the time I concluded I could not find anything to justify my skepticism. The report presented an airtight case that the planet’s temperature has increased dramatically (“Eleven of the last twelve years [1995-2006] rank among the twelve warmest years in the instrumental record of global surface temperature [since 1850]”), that sea levels have undergone a dramatic and disturbing increase since the 1960s (“Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3]mm per year over 1961 to 2003 and at an average rate of about 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8]mm per year from 1993 to 2003”) and that climate alteration is having an unusual impact on avian and sea life (“…recent warming is strongly affecting terrestrial biological systems, including such changes as earlier timing of spring events, such as leaf-unfolding, bird migration and egg-laying…observed changes in marine and freshwater biological systems are associated with rising water temperatures, as well as related changes in ice cover, salinity, oxygen levels and circulation”).

The report highlighted the key role carbon emissions played in climate alteration, noting, “The largest growth in GHG emissions between 1970 and 2004 has come from energy supply, transport and industry, while residential and commercial buildings, forestry [including deforestation] and agriculture sectors have been growing at a lower rate” and that “[c]hanges in the atmospheric concentrations of GHGs and aerosols, land cover and solar radiation alter the energy balance of the climate system and are drivers of climate change. They affect the absorption, scattering and emission of radiation within the atmosphere and at the Earth’s surface.” I was stunned by the report’s claim that “[t]he observed widespread warming of the atmosphere and ocean, together with ice mass loss, support the conclusion that it is extremely unlikely that global climate change of the past 50 years can be explained without external forcing and very likely that it is not due to known natural causes alone.”

If carbon-fueled climate alteration continues at its current rate, the report noted, we will bear witness to unprecedented health horrors: “The health status of millions of people is projected to be affected through, for example, increases in malnutrition; increased deaths, diseases and injury due to extreme weather events…increased frequency of cardio-respiratory diseases due to higher concentrations of ground-level ozone in urban areas related to climate change; and the altered spatial distribution of some infectious diseases.” In addition, “For increases in global average temperature exceeding 1.5 to 2.5°C and in concomitant atmospheric CO2 concentrations, there are projected to be major changes in ecosystem structure and function, species’ ecological interactions and shifts in species’ geographical ranges, with predominantly negative consequences for biodiversity and ecosystem goods and services, e.g. water and food supply.”

The report did provide some hope, noting that “[s]ocieties can respond to climate change…by reducing GHG emissions [mitigation], thereby reducing the rate and magnitude of change… Policies that provide a real or implicit price of carbon could create incentives for producers and consumers to significantly invest in low-GHG products, technologies and processes.”

I came away from the report convinced that climate alteration poses a critical threat to our health and way of life, and that “policies that provide a real or implicit price of carbon” are in fact necessary, from an economic and a moral standpoint, to mitigate that threat. Such policies—most notably the much-maligned concept of cap-and-trade—should not be considered job-killers but life-savers.

There’s a part of me that understands why libertarian pundits seem to have so much scorn for those who support state action to combat carbon emissions. Modern libertarianism is suffused with skepticism of government, and supporting state regulation of carbon emissions requires, on some level, a belief in government to get things right. Is it even possible to be a libertarian and an environmentalist—or a conservative and an environmentalist, for that matter?

I’m a bit skeptical myself. I’d argue that conservatives and libertarians should strongly support regulation to reduce carbon pollution, since pollution by one entity invariably infringes upon the rights of others (including property rights), and no entity has a constitutional right to pollute. It does not put America on the road to serfdom to suggest that the federal government has a compelling interest in protecting the country from ecological damage. If anything, it puts America on the road to common sense.

Since reconsidering climate science, I’ve had a number of debates with conservative and libertarian friends, who oppose government regulation of carbon emissions in part because they believe those regulations will cost too much. Of course regulations cost; limiting ecological damage and preserving public health requires money. The issue is whether those costs are moral to impose. If no entity has a constitutional right to pollute, and if the federal government has a compelling interest in reducing carbon pollution, then how can those costs not be moral?

In the months following my acceptance of the conclusions in the IPCC report, I’ve had a change in my emotional climate. I go back and forth between disappointment and hope—sadness over seeing Republicans who once believed in the threat of climate change (such as Massachusetts Senator Scott Brown and former Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty) suddenly turn into skeptics; optimism about efforts by such groups as Republicans for Environmental Protection and Citizens Climate Lobby to sound the alarm about the need to combat climate pollution. I struggle with the urge to give in to cynicism and bitterness, to write off the American right for its refusal to recognize scientific facts. Thankfully, there’s a stronger urge—an urge to keep working until the American right recognizes that a healthy planet is required to have the life and liberty that allows us to pursue happiness.

Inhofe’s Wild Flying

April 17th, 2011 at 7:31 am 35 Comments

Ever wonder why Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) is so intractable in his insistence that global warming is a hoax?

Thanks to a revealing incident that took place in Texas last fall and whose details were made public this week, the answer could be that Inhofe is either incapable of perceiving the obvious or chooses to ignore it.

Inhofe is a licensed pilot who owns a twin-engine Cessna. Seems that the Oklahoma Republican was flying his plane into the Port Isabel-Cameron County Airport, a small, general aviation facility near the southernmost tip of Texas, last October 21. Inhofe approached a runway that had a big yellow X painted on it. Every licensed pilot knows that a big yellow X painted on a runway means “THIS RUNWAY IS CLOSED. DO NOT LAND HERE.”

Inhofe landed anyway, forcing workers doing a construction job on the runway to run for their lives and nearly barreling into a work truck whose driver apparently soiled his trousers in fright. “He just went right over a huge yellow X,” construction supervisor Sidney Boyd told the Federal Aviation Administration, according to audio of Boyd’s call to the FAA that was released by TheSmokingGun.com web site on April 13. “He was determined to land on that runway, come hell or high water, evidently.”

The airport manager, Marshall Reece, told the FAA, according to the released audio, that in his long years of flying experience, “I have never seen such a reckless disregard for human life in my life.”

According to Boyd’s call, Inhofe stormed around after his landing, insisting he should have had “unlimited airspace” – as if he were President Inhofe.

Check out audio samples here.

Oh, and according to the FAA incident report, Inhofe hadn’t bothered to check relevant Notices to Airmen indicating that the runway was off limits.

In lieu of getting a fat FAA ticket, Inhofe agreed to the aviation equivalent of traffic school – four hours of remedial classroom training, which covered basics like preflight planning, operating at uncontrolled airports, and runway signs, and three hours of flight instruction, including cockpit management.

Too bad that Inhofe hasn’t been required to get remedial training from the National Academy of Sciences after taking off on his scientifically illiterate flights of fancy about the supposed global warming hoax.

Rand’s Rant Against Green Bulbs

April 15th, 2011 at 1:47 pm 43 Comments

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources (ENR) Committee got a dose of libertarian wackiness at a recent mark-up hearing that was strikingly reminiscent of the bizarre tirades that Glenn Beck doled out daily on his now defunct television show.

The ENR Committee was voting on S. 398, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Jeff Bingaman (NM) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) to strengthen energy efficiency standards for appliances and some other consumer products. This legislation, which has strong industry support and sailed through the committee last year, was thought to be non-controversial.

This year is different. Tea Party favorite Rand Paul happens to be on the committee.

Paul objected to the legislation, and speaking of the efficiency standards in the legislation he said, “I think that to be consistent with a free society, we should make them voluntary.”

Paul offered an amendment to remove the government’s authority to enforce the standards. Then, Paul escorted his colleagues into the Twilight Zone.

According to an account in Energy & Environment Daily, Paul launched into a sermon about Ayn Rand’s 1937 novel Anthem, which depicts a dark future where the concept of individuality has fallen prey to the evils of collectivism and socialism.

Paul described a scene from the novel in which the protagonist, called Equality 7-2521, discovers the incandescent light bulb. Paul recounts that Equality 7-2521 naively thinks that electricity and the brilliance of electric light would be an advantage for society. But when he takes the light bulb to the society’s elders, they crush it “beneath the boot heel of the collective.”

Paul then instructed his fellow senators that in the novel, “the collective has no place, basically, for individual choice,” and adds, “Now, I’m not suggesting that this collective is against electricity, per say, or individualism … but I am suggesting that we’re against choice.”

How long will it be before Paul is bringing blackboards into the Senate ENR hearing room and is drawing diagrams purporting to show that Senators Murkowski and Bingaman are agents of a Middle Eastern caliphate plotting to stop America from using its coal?

At least two of Paul’s fellow Republican Senators were belting down his tea. After Paul’s amendment failed, Mike Lee (UT), another tea party fave, and John Barrasso (WY) joined Paul in voting against the bill.

Assertions that efficiency standards restrict consumer choice are simply wrong. Extreme arguments that efficiency standards are the agenda of a supposed “collective” that seeks to impose totalitarian rule on America are the product of a cultish, delusional ideology that fails to connect to the real world.

Paul’s logic would seem to oppose virtually any mandatory standards. I suppose automobile manufacturers should never have been required to install seatbelts, asbestos should still be allowed for building insulation, and we should have wasteful high flow toilets even in the arid West where water is scarce.

In 1974, Governor Ronald Reagan signed into law the Warren-Alquist Act establishing the California Energy Commission and authorizing the commission to set appliance efficiency standards. Then on March 17, 1987, President Reagan established strong federal standards by signing the National Appliance Energy Conservation Act into law.

We have heard consumer choice arguments for years in rants by Rush Limbaugh and others against even the most modest increase in automobile fuel efficiency standards. Does anyone today really believe that consumer choice has been hurt by having these standards? It actually cuts the other way. Without these standards, consumers would not have available the many fuel-efficient vehicle options from which they can choose today.

Rather than restricting consumer choices, standards prompt manufacturers to invest in technology R&D that results in a range of better products. Manufacturers simply don’t behave like deer caught in the headlights, as some would have us believe. Prompted by standards, they innovate.

For example, the assertion that incandescent lighting standards will result in the Easy Bake Oven children’s toy being taken off the market is a false scare story. The toy manufacturer is coming out with a better product — an Easy Bake Oven with a built-in heating element that is more efficient than a 100-watt incandescent light bulb, which makes for a more efficient toy and one that is more convenient for parents and children (no light bulb to burn out and replace every 1,000 hours.)

What Senator Paul’s hand-wringing about the “collective” (and perhaps black helicopters) ignores is that we are not islands unto ourselves. Our energy choices have impacts on others, and on society as a whole.

Using energy wastefully increases energy demand, which in turn requires construction of power plants whose costs show up in all our energy bills. Using energy wastefully results in environmental impacts that harm public health and the environment, and using energy wastefully hastens an inevitable decline in the availability of fossils fuels.

There is nothing conservative or prudent about waste. Nor is there anything conservative or prudent about the notion that we do not need efficiency standards to help secure our energy future.

Radical libertarians, like Senator Paul, who want to champion individuality above all else, either possess utopian ignorance regarding the fallibility of man, or have taken   short-sighted, live-for-today selfishness to its liberal extreme.

Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservatism, once wrote: “Men have no right to what is not reasonable, and to what is not for their benefit.” His American protégé, Russell Kirk instructed that “Every right is married to a duty, every freedom owes a corresponding responsibility.”

If you happen to stumble upon a blackboard while walking the halls of Congress, I suggest you erase the conspiracy diagram and replace it with these wise words, or this, also from Kirk:

To check centralization and usurping of power … we require a new laissez-faire. The old laissez-faire was founded upon a misapprehension of human nature, an exultation of individuality (in private character often a virtue) to the condition of a political dogma, which destroyed the spirit of community and reduced men to so many equipollent atoms of humanity, without sense of brotherhood or purpose.

If Congress would heed the rational conservatism of Burke and Kirk, and ignore the ranting of the radical libertarian fringe, I’m sure a lot of American individuals would breathe a collective sigh of relief.

Natural Gas: Not as Green as We Thought?

April 12th, 2011 at 6:54 pm 10 Comments

A forthcoming paper from Cornell University researchers suggests that gas is more of a bad actor in climate change than coal. The gas industry is not taking kindly to the suggestion.

It’s the latest PR challenge for the industry and one more reason why gas producers need to get ahead of the curve on environmental issues if gas is to fulfill its promise as a clean, diagnosis secure energy source.

Gas, medicine for decades the quiet little brother of oil and coal in the fossil fuel family, diagnosis has come out from beneath its siblings’ shadows with a reputation as an environmentally friendlier, domestically abundant energy source that could serve as the foundation for America’s energy economy for decades to come.

Gas is feeling its oats. Thanks to expanding discoveries in deep shale formations, the industry is boasting that a century’s worth of clean burning fuel is available securely within U.S. borders. Take that, dirty coal! Take that, scheming OPEC oil barons!

Now, along comes the Cornell study, which suggests that shale gas production has a bigger carbon footprint than coal because of fugitive methane releases from production. Molecule for molecule, methane packs a bigger heat-trapping punch than carbon dioxide.

Whoa, Nellie, says the gas industry, pushing back with castigations of what industry spokesmen call errors of fact and methodology in the study.

This, along with continuing controversy over the feared impacts of hydraulic fracturing chemicals on drinking water aquifers and the divisions among townspeople that gas drilling has spawned in production areas, is keeping the gas industry’s PR mavens working overtime.

Time for the gas industry to do more than play defense in a battle of press releases.

First, the methane issue. Leaving aside the issue of whether the Cornell study has merit, there is no reason not to minimize fugitive methane emissions, if only to maximize product in the pipeline. As EPA’s deputy administrator testified today at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee hearing, there are practical technologies available today to keep methane releases to a minimum, and many gas producers already employ them. Those that don’t ought to take a look.

Next, the water issue. The gas industry and its regulators at the state level argue that hydraulic fracturing, “fracking” for short, poses little danger to drinking water supplies. At today’s EPW hearing, Senator James Inhofe hoisted a chart showing more than a mile of solid rock separating Marcellus shale gas formations in the Northeast from aquifers that supply domestic water wells.

“The fluid migration can’t happen and it doesn’t happen,” Inhofe declared. Perhaps he’s right. Still, worries about surface spills of fracking chemicals and handling of produced water drawn from gas wells should not receive a brush-off that sounds too much like “we’re the experts, you’re not, so keep quiet and go away.” Intended or not, when such a high-horse message goes out, people worried about their drinking water are not inclined to keep quiet and go away.

The gas industry could do itself a favor by agreeing to full disclosure, well by well, of all fracking chemicals. Transparency helps build trust, and trust is a tool that is just as essential for the gas industry as drill bits and tubing tongs.

Don’t Bank Our Future on Oil We May Not Have

April 5th, 2011 at 8:02 am 13 Comments

Over the weekend, salve I noticed that an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily took me to task for citing “proven” oil reserves in my FrumForum post, The GOP’s Oil Drilling Pipe Dream.

The author, an economics professor at George Mason University (GMU) named Donald Boudreaux, makes the case that government estimates of “proven” or “proved” reserves are irrelevant because the estimates of “unproven” reserves are so much higher.

Different agencies and groups have slightly varying definitions of “proved” reserves, but the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) sums it up nicely:

Proved reserves are those quantities of petroleum which, by analysis of geological and engineering data, can be estimated with a high degree of confidence to be commercially recoverable from a given date forward, from known reservoirs and under current economic conditions.

Estimates of “unproven” reserves mostly refer to “undiscovered, technically recoverable oil.” In other words, oil that geologists estimate might be in the ground and recoverable using existing or reasonably foreseeable technology. Such estimates are intriguing, but too speculative to take to the bank. They do not take into account the quality of the oil that might be there or the economic profitability of production.

Such numbers can change as we learn more. For example, while the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has dramatically increased its mean estimate of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil in North Dakota and Montana’s Bakken Formation from 151 million barrels to 3.65 billion barrels, the same agency recently revised comparable estimates for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPRA) downward from 10.6 billion barrels to 896 million barrels—roughly 10 percent of its 2002 estimate.

Considering that the U.S. currently consumes roughly 7 billion barrels of oil per year, the notion that we can bank our energy future on unproven reserve estimates represents little more than an imprudent roll of the dice.

Then, of course, there is economics. A significant fraction of undiscovered oil reserves, assuming that they really exist, are in remote locations and consist of heavy oil, both of which are not profitable to produce if prices are low. How high does the price of a barrel of oil need to be before this oil could be economically produced? Is it $100 per barrel? $150 per barrel? We are not talking about cheap or easy oil.

Cheap and easy oil, to the extent that it remains, is mostly located outside of the United States.

Anyone who claims that unproven reserves are the answer to high gas prices is either uninformed or trying to hoodwink the public.

Mr. Bourdreaux, echoing a common refrain of petro-peddlers like Sarah Palin and Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX), contends that government restrictions are the only thing preventing our nation from producing all of the oil we could ever need.

It is a claim driven far more by special interests and political agendas than by anything approximating reality.

Unproven reserves are just that, unproven.

While the amount of proven reserves will fluctuate based on the price of oil, new discoveries, and technological advancements, the current proven reserves estimates remain the most prudent guide for making decisions about our energy future—along with the knowledge that oil is a finite resource.

In addition to being more certain, proven reserve numbers exist for all of the major oil producing countries.  We can see how we compare with other nations and better assess our economic and strategic vulnerabilities. That is not the case for unproven reserves.

In making policy decisions, we must evaluate  the risks of perpetuating dependence on oil and exposing our economy and security to price spikes and supply uncertainties caused by events over which we have little control.

Mr. Bourdreaux teaches at GMU, whose team nickname is the Patriots. I think that true patriotism requires us to pin our country’s energy future on something more reliable than unproven reserves.

How America Lost the Green Tech Race

March 31st, 2011 at 5:18 am 14 Comments

The good news from the latest Pew Charitable Trusts and Bloomberg New Energy Finance clean energy investment report is that the sector shook off the recession blues in 2010. Investment in wind, generic solar, and other clean energy technologies grew 30 percent, to nearly a quarter trillion dollars, last year. The bad news is that the U.S. – the land of innovators and entrepreneurs where the modern energy economy took shape – fell from second to third place, behind top dog China and runner-up Germany.

We’re Number 3! No surprise why we’re getting that sinking feeling. Congress – wallowing in a noxious mud pit of overwrought ideology, destructive partisanship, and scientific illiteracy – is sending investors a clear message: the U.S. doesn’t have a coherent energy strategy and don’t bet on seeing one anytime soon.

Instead, Republicans would rather spend time searching for the chimera of energy independence through increased domestic oil drilling, bashing EPA, and rehashing climate science for the umpteenth time. Democrats would rather play to type, run scared, and let teacup-rattling troglodytes set the terms of the debate.

As the Pew-Bloomberg report noted: “Investors have noted ongoing uncertainty in United States policy as a key reason that capital is sitting on the sidelines, or looking for certainty and opportunity abroad. Concerns include a lack of clarity on the direction of energy policy, uncertainty surrounding continuation of key financial incentives … and disproportionate government support for century-old fossil energy sources.”

Here are the details:

Total invested in the clean energy sector last year: $243 billion. Of that amount, the top three were China: $54.4 billion, Germany: $41.2 billion, and the U.S.: $34.4 billion. China’s spending, fueled by an ambition to dominate the clean energy manufacturing and power generation sector, is equal to the global total for 2004.

Among the energy technologies, solar investment grew fastest, by 53 percent to $79 billion. Installation of solar generating capacity totaled 17,000 megawatts last year. Wind remained the leading recipient of investment capital, $95 billion in G-20 member countries, which resulted in 40,000 megawatts of wind capacity installations, 17,000 of which were in China.

Total global capacity of wind, solar, biomass, geothermal, small hydro, and ocean energy – 388,000 megawatts, equal to about one-third of total U.S. electric power generating capacity as of 2009.

Despite continuing its global lead in venture capital and private equity investment, the U.S.”will have substantial difficulty keeping pace with China” and other hungry competitors “absent adoption of predictable, ambitious, long-term clean energy policies,” the report noted.

Money goes where it’s welcome. Money to invest in clean energy is more welcome in Asia and Europe than it is in the U.S. – that’s the message, unintended or not, that investors get when leaders of the world’s largest economy can’t figure out what sort of energy future the U.S. should have and show no inclination that they’re willing to have a serious debate on the matter.

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Pawlenty’s Cap and Trade About-Face

David Frum March 30th, 2011 at 7:52 am 16 Comments

Here is what I don’t understand about Tim Pawlenty’s reversal – not only on cap-and-trade – but also on any concern for climate change whatsoever:

It would make sense to say:

“Back in 2007, I supported cap-and-trade. That was before the recession. In these difficult times, our economy cannot support an additional burden. Let’s get back to full employment and strong economic growth. Once our economy is prospering again, it will be time to decide what to do to protect our environment.”

Or else:

“Cap-and-trade is a conservative idea, originating with free market economists, that was successfully used by the first Bush administration to stop acid raid. But the actual cap-and-trade bill that emerged from the Democratic House of Representatives was stuffed with gimmicks and giveaways to Democratic constituencies. I could not support that. So as president I’ll be looking for other ideas to protect our environment.”

But whoever is president after 2013 will inherit both an improving economy – and also an accelerating climate-change problem. Why put yourself on record now in ways that will inhibit responding to environmental challenges in the future?

The Dems’ Climate Change Dodge

March 25th, 2011 at 3:10 pm 4 Comments

Leave it to the Democrats to come up with weasly alternatives to Senator James Inhofe’s bill that would prohibit the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gas emissions and repeal a scientific determination on which regulations would be based.

Instead of pushing back against the Inhofe bill by calling it what it is – a crass attempt to substitute a political agenda for science – the Democrats are likely to allow a Senate vote on two alternatives to Inhofe’s bill – Jay Rockefeller’s legislation to delay regulations for two years and Max Baucus’ amendment that would exempt agriculture and small industrial facilities from greenhouse gas emissions rules.

While Inhofe and others are hell-bent on swimming upstream against science and the laws of physics, cure Rocky and Baucus are simply content to dig up some cover for themselves and the other coal-state Democrats who fret that Mr. Peabody’s coal train will haul away their political careers.

Instead, remedy the weaving and dodging Democrats who purport to support the Clean Air Act should take the dose of calcium offered by former EPA Administrator Russell Train, whose March 16 letter to Senate leaders bluntly said, “Arguments that it should be left to Congress solely to decide how to regulate greenhouse gas pollutants ring hollow, since Congress has consistently failed to take meaningful action in spite of the clear scientific evidence of the dangers these pollutants pose.”

Further, Train continued, arguments that the Clean Air Act was not intended to regulate greenhouse gas emissions “misrepresent Congress’ original intentions in passing the act. Precisely because existing knowledge of air pollutants and their potential effects was so limited at the time, Congress did not enumerate the pollutants that should or should not be regulated under the Clean Air Act.” Instead, the term was defined broadly and discretion was left to EPA scientists to evaluate pollutants and determine whether regulation was necessary.

Train, who headed EPA during the Nixon and Ford years, was present at the Clean Air Act’s creation. He has no patience for the revisionist historical smog that the climate change denial crowd is spewing about the Clean Air Act, and neither should the law’s supporters in Congress.