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Posts from — June 2009

Krugman Crashes on Climate Change

 “Yes, you read that correctly. Paul Krugman, a Nobel Laureate, writing in America’s paper of record, just accused nearly half of the House of Representatives, including both Republicans and Democrats, as guilty of treason against the very planet—along, presumably with the many thousands of scientists, policy analysts, economists, and environmentalists who have raised objections to the Waxman-Markey energy bill.”

- Ken Green, “Is Paul Krugman Inciting Violence?” The Enterprise Blog, June 29, 2009

New York Times op-ed columnist Paul Krugman recently praised the passage of the Waxman-Markey climate change bill by the House of Representatives as a “remarkable achievement.” But rather than just congratulte House members voting aye, Krugman disparaged the nays as having undertaken “treason against the planet” for choosing “willfully, to ignore that threat [from climate change], placing future generations of Americans in grave danger, simply because it’s in their political interest to pretend that there’s nothing to worry about.”

Krugman emotions got the best of him, for his logic fails, his facts are wrong, and his conclusions are off-the-wall. [Read more →]

June 30, 2009   7 Comments

Why Waxman-Markey Is Not A Climate Bill

The current debate has proven one thing very clearly. The U.S. climate debate is not about saving the climate. It is about regulation for its own sake in the name of “saving the climate.” This fact should give pause to everyone who really cares about human welfare. Cap-and-trade is at odds with the economic wealth needed to adapt to a future that cannot be centrally planned by politicos.”

- “Cap-and-Trade and the Temple of Enron,” MasterResource

Saturday’s New York Times headline (print edition) read: “House Backs Bill, 219-212, to Curb Global Warming.” But if the 219 House members who voted for the American Clean Energy and Security Act (HR 2454, aka the Waxman-Markey climate bill) thought they were casting a vote to “curb global warming,” they were sadly mistaken.

As I have shown, the climate impact of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions prescribed under Waxman-Markey is very small—best case it reduces projected global warming by less than one-tenth of a degree Fahrenheit by 2050 and only about one-third of a ºF by century’s end—a reduction that is scientifically meaningless. Many Representatives, in their pre-vote statements on the House floor, pointed this out, and perhaps many of the dissenting vote casters took this fact to heart.

However, while many of the opposition speakers mentioned the paucity of climate impacts from the emissions reduction measures, the great majority of the supporting speeches focused on energy security and domestic job creation (a contention vehemently challenged by the dissenters) and left the influence on the climate out of it! Undoubtedly, they knew full well that it would be inconsequential. [Read more →]

June 29, 2009   3 Comments

Houston Chronicle's Loren Steffy on Waxman-Markey (can this straight shooter be added to the newspaper's editorial board?)

The Houston Chronicle editorials have long been a bastion of climate alarmism and policy activism (see here and here), positions that must be so dear to the paper’s senior management (and owners?) that they have created badwill in the Houston community and no doubt a loss of readership.

One could call this courageous and a good thing if this position was well vetted and intellectually sound. A good paper should lead, not only follow, its audience.

But sadly, this is not the case. The case for regulating carbon dioxide (CO2) is quite questionable on purely physical scientific grounds (examine the empirical data; understand the debate over feedback effects regarding climate models). The balance of evidence is certainly not toward the high end of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) temperature range, and it is, in fact, trending at the low end of this range with a decade of temperature quiet. The low end is where the problem not only fades but where little temperature reversal can occur no matter how capped global emissions are.

Given, the scientific debate is complicated, and recent data has been trending away from long-held views of alarmism. But on economic cost/benefit grounds, the case for policy activism falls apart, for leading economists have been unable to justify pricing CO2 via government mandates without assuming perfect knowledge (William Nordhaus’s “environmental pope“) where we have:

  • Infallible knowledge about the problem (the “market failure”);
  • Infallible knowledge about the solution (what to do policy-wise); and
  • Perfect implementation of the solution (no political imperfections, or what is called “government failure”).

And then there comes the political animal called Waxman-Markey, a bill that was called a “monstrosity” by James Hansen at 648 pages–and is now more than double that in size.

So the debate is not only about market failure from unregulated greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, as the Chronicle editorial board sees it. It is about analytic failure and government failure.

A second look at the paper’s editorial support of Waxman-Markey is called for. This is a bill that hardly resembles what economists and political scientists would call focused, rational public policy, even from a climate activism viewpoint. And a good place to start such a rethinking is with the piece published yesterday by the Chronicle’s ace business columnist/editorialist Loren Steffy. Steffy’s position on energy has clashed with the editorial slant before, and he has once again added a needed perspective in the energy/climate debate for Houston’s newspaper of record.

Here is Steffy’s column of June 26, 2009: [Read more →]

June 27, 2009   6 Comments

Perversities of Whackman-Malarkey

The closer that the Waxman-Markey energy planning bill gets to the floor of the House of Representatives, the more convoluted and intellectually absurd it becomes. The cap-and-trade provision is getting the most attention, but there is so much more that deserves criticism. Jerry Taylor, for example, has exposed the “Clean Energy Bank” provision (buried in Subtitle J) as an open-ended piggybank for uneconomic, politically correct energies.

As I blogged at the Enterprise Blog yesterday, a provision of HR 2454 would forbid EPA to proceed with a ruling about how foreign land-clearing would be taken into account when calculating ethanol’s carbon footprint. Instead, EPA is forced into a 5-year moratorium to ”study” the issue. Amazing, EPA does an endangerment finding in a few months but has to ”study” this single, relatively well-understood issue for 5 years. Now that is science suppression!

There are other perversities of Waxman-Markey. Analysts at the Breakthrough Institute continue to dig into the ramifications of the bill, and keep finding nuggets of madness. As I blogged earlier at MasterResource, they’ve already found that Waxman-Markey isn’t actually a cap as in a maximum from which absolute reductions follow. Emissions are actually allowed to rise through 2030. [Read more →]

June 26, 2009   7 Comments

Market Conservation vs. Government Conservationism: Understanding the Limits to Energy Efficiency and 'New-Economy' ESCOs

“Today the conservation movement is led by sober business men and is based on the cold calculations of the engineers. Conservation, no longer viewed as a political issue, has become a business proposition…. The old school looked on conservation as a governmental function; the new school believes in entrusting it to the hands of business men and engineers.”

- Erich Zimmermann, World Resources and Industries (New York: Harper & Brothers, 1933), pp. 784–85.

Profit-seeking conservation is nothing new, as economists have noted. So why must we assume that self-interested conservation is a ‘market failure’ requiring government subsidies and mandates? Why is market decision-making with energy necessarily sub-optimal?

And if “market failure” is posited, what must be said about “government failure”? Political processes are human too, and worse, bureaucrats do not have their own hard-earned cash on the line. The case for government (non-market) conservation is not self-evident.

Technological improvements and greater capital investment have often reduced resource requirements. History is replete with statistics showing how resource efficiencies have been a natural byproduct of profit-driven activity in a free and prosperous commonwealth as shown, for example, by economist Pierre Desrochers (here and here).

Coal Pounds/kWh Efficiencies: 1900 and Today

Consider the use of energy inputs to generate electricity. At Samuel Insull’s Commonwealth Edison Company in Chicago, for example, between 1900 and 1913 the amount of coal per kWh fell from approximately seven pounds to three pounds. (1) Insull spoke to such invisible-hand conservation–versus political shouts–in a 1916 speech: [Read more →]

June 25, 2009   16 Comments

"Green" China: Big PR vs. King Coal (move over dung, primitive biomass, and Waxman-Markey)

In a previous post, CO2 Cap-and-Trade Meets the (China) Dragon, I described China’s rising greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as a “one-country negation” to the Waxman-Markey climate bill (HR 2454). “The expected growth of coal-fired generation in China over the next 20 years will result in a net increase in CO2 emissions from their power sector of more than ten times that of reduced U.S. emissions due to coal constraints,” I concluded. This is good, not bad, insofar as dung and wood are terrible things to burn.

Given China’s path, unilateral U.S. actions like Waxman-Markey are futile, symbolic measures. Indeed, U.S. industry would move to China to transfer emissions (called “leakage“) under a stringent U.S. carbon-dioxide regime.

A PR Moment from China

The Chinese government recently announced its intent to reduce the energy efficiency of its economy (GJ/$GDP) by 20%, invest something like $586 billion in renewable energy technologies, improve the power grid and other infrastructure by 2020, and phase out its older, less efficient coal-fired power plants with newer models, including supercritical (higher pressure boiler) technologies. In this vein, a recent article in the New York Times touted China’s success in building more efficient coal-fired power plants, especially in comparison with the U.S.

Importantly and correctly, replacement of older, dirtier coal-fired power plants in China is considered progress. [Read more →]

June 24, 2009   9 Comments

Left Pushback on Waxman-Markey: Is It Time to Start Over?

The battle cry of Joseph Romm at Climate Progress (Center for American Progress) earlier this year was “Obama Can Get a Better Climate Bill in 2010: Here’s How.” But now Romm is in panic mode, trying to convince the rebelling Environmental Left that the out-of-control Waxman-Markey climate change bill (now 1,090 1,201 pages) is the last best hope to save civilization. As Romm stated in a post yesterday:

Waxman-Markey is the only game in town.  If it fails, I see no chance whatsoever of stabilizing anywhere near 350 to 450 ppm since serious U.S. action would certainly be off the table for years, the effort to jumpstart the clean energy economy in this country would stall, the international negotiating process would fall apart, and any chance of a deal with China would be dead.

But given that Waxman-Markey is climatically inconsequential, a fact that Romm does not dispute ( “well, duh“, he said), the hard Left is understandably getting restless, even rebelling against the pseudo climate bill. After all, who really wants an Enronesque cap-and-trade bill that enriches lawyers and corporate types at the expense of everyone else?  The first comment on Romm’s blog at Climate Progress made this point:

No. I’m sorry, but the first question everyone must ask about Waxman-Markey is “Did we really need more than 600 pages to do legislate what needs to be done and isn’t 600 pages of dense text likely to have hidden in it so many loopholes, exceptions, obscure procedures and contrary regulations and guidelines that no one except a high-powered corporate law firm will be able to make total sense of it (and thus be able to use it to their corporate clients benefit).”

For the same reason, to Romm’s chagrin, NASA scientist and Al Gore mentor James Hansen got off the Waxman-Markey bandwagon 553 pages ago. Hansen complained: [Read more →]

June 23, 2009   10 Comments

U.S. Gas Resources: Julian Simon Lives! (Malthus, Hotelling, Hubbert are wrong again)

The Potential Gas Committee has issued its new biennial gas resource estimate for the United States and once again raised its estimate, this time by 15%, or from 1,321 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) to 1,525 Tcf. This equates to a  70-year domestic cushion, given annual U.S. consumption of 20 Tcf. The evaluation of available shale gas, production of which is now soaring, played a major role in this re-evaluation and potently demonstrates how new technology (aka human ingenuity, what the late Julian Simon called the ultimate resource) creates resources, refuting the static fixity/depletion view of the mineral-resource world.

Few realize that the PGC has been raising the estimates of conventional resources throughout history, even as the United States has consumed large amounts of natural gas. Thus gas has been and is an expanding resource, not a depleting one. [Read more →]

June 22, 2009   2 Comments

W. S. Jevons and UK Coal Revisited (worth re-reading weekend)

In an earlier post at MasterResource, W. S. Jevons (1865) on Coal (Memo to Obama, Part III), the hall-of-fame-economist explained how coal was a godsend to Britain, powering the industrial revolution in a way that renewable energies could not.

I am reminded of Jevons with the headline from the June 17th Guardian, “Carbon capture plans threaten shutdown of all UK coal-fired power stations.” It read in part:

All of Britain’s coal-fired power stations, including Drax, the country’s largest emitter of carbon, could be forced to close down under radical plans unveiled by government today. Ed Miliband, the energy secretary, is proposing to extend his plans to force companies to fit carbon capture and storage technology (CCS) onto new coal plants – as revealed by the Guardian – to cover a dozen existing coal plants. The consultation published by his Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) conceded that if this happened “we could expect them to close”.

Timeless Wisdom from 1865

Here is the MasterResource post (January 31) on Jevons and coal. What would he think today of the politics and policies of climate change in his home country? [Read more →]

June 20, 2009   No Comments

Does the "Smart Grid" Have a Smartest-Guys-in-the-Room Problem?

[Editor note: Ken Maize, a long-time energy analyst, joins MasterResource for the first time (see his bio at the end of this post). A MR previous post by Robert Michaels has questioned 'smart metering,' part of the 'smart grid' concept]

However politically incorrect my conclusion, I’m convinced that the “smart grid” is not smart and even dumb. It diverts attention from what is a more important objective–a strong grid. And it politicizes in the very area where we need more consumer-driven, free-market incentives.

Following the Northeast grid collapse of 2003, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) popped out the smart grid concept, largely the brainchild of then EPRI’s CEO Kurt Yeager. The blueprint was for an interconnected intelligent network reaching from the generating station to your toaster, able to talk up-and-down the line, matching supply and demand seamlessly.

Sounds cool, but doesn’t stand up to analysis in my judgment.

Where Did ‘Smart Grid’ Come From?

The idea of a smart grid has been laying around in bits and pieces for many years. I recall visiting Southern California Edison (SEC) in the 1980s where a group of us energy reporters visited the utility’s “smart house.” It kinda reminded me of the Betty Furness advertisements for Westinghouse kitchens when I grew up in Pittsburgh in the 1950s and 1960s. SCE assured us that the smart house, connected to the utility over phone lines (this was pre-World Wide Web) and through radio signals, would dominate home construction in the coming years. (Enron would have a ‘smart house’ a decade later to awe visitors to 1400 Smith Street in Houston, but that’s another story.) [Read more →]

June 19, 2009   6 Comments