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Posts from — April 2012

Coal Ash Regulation: Another Front on the ‘War Against Coal’

“For three years the Environmental Protection Agency has imposed a de facto ban on new coal-fired power while doing everything it can to harm existing coal plants.”

- Killing Coal,” Wall Street Journal, April 5, 2012.

Unhappy with the speed of EPA regulation of coal combustion by-products, a number of environmental organizations recently filed a lawsuit to force EPA to finalize regulation of coal ash.

A natural byproduct of the combustion process for coal-fired power plants, coal ash is typically stored onsite at power plants or sold on the open market for use in the production of concrete and other materials. In 2010, EPA proposed a pair of regulatory approaches for dealing with coal ash, but has to yet to decide how to regulate the material.

Nearly a dozen groups were party to the lawsuit, including the Sierra Club, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Environmental Integrity Project. 1 The lawsuit comes just days after the EPA announced plans to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector, which the New York Times characterized as EPA’s movement toward “closing out the era of old-fashioned coal-burning power generation.” So much for Obama’s all-of-the-above energy policy.

Perils of Coal Ash as Hazardous Waste

In its lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that EPA is violating the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) by not including coal ash among the substances it regulates. The organizations are demanding that EPA regulate coal ash under Subtitle C of the RCRA, the title that deals with hazardous waste. A superior option being explored by EPA would regulate coal ash under Subtitle D of the RCRA, allowing states to adopt rules at their own discretion.

It is no surprise that groups with a stated mission of shutting down our nation’s use of coal for electricity would file such a lawsuit, because they understand that coal ash regulations present huge financial and logistical burdens for utilities. The problem is these organizations have no real solutions for keeping the lights on and power bills affordable. [Read more →]

April 16, 2012   6 Comments

1Q–2012 Activity Report: MasterResource

One thousand in-depth posts, 135 different contributors, and 1.2 million views to date–MasterResource has stature as a free-market movement-wide energy blog.

With 415 categories in our index, MasterResource is a lasting research tool, not only a day-to-day contribution to energy scholarship and current political debates. And we have achieved critical mass; ‘Google’ an energy-policy-related term along with MasterResource, and there we usually are!

Our content promises to stand the test of time. Our headlines do not have Stunner or Stunning as does a rival blog selling energy/climate alarmism. Our contributors are wed to reality, not to think-it-and-make-it-is-real and wish-it-and-it-can-happen postmodernism.

Wind Power Niche

One particular niche at MasterResource has been giving voice to the growing, articulate grassroot opposition to industrial wind parks. Such turbines generate a heavy environmental footprint, not only small, unreliable bursts of electricity. Our category, Grassroots Opposition, Windpower, is full of confessionals where former wind supporters saw the light of economic and environmental reality. Here are three from the past year:

* Walter Cudnohufsky: My One-Time, Tacit Support of Industrial Wind: A Confessional

* Michael Morgan: Why I Turned Against ‘Green’ Windpower

* Jen Gilbert: Dear Sierra Club (Canada): I Resign Over Your Anti-Environmental Wind Support  

Other example is Eric Bibler speaking truth to power before the Cape Cod Commission and to Massachusetts authorities.

Regular contributors Jon Boone (see here and here); John Droz Jr (here and here); Tom Stacy (here and here); Sherri Lange (here, here, and here); and the tireless Lisa Linowes have helped make MasterResource a top thirty “green blog” (out of more than 10,000) according to Technorati (#21 as of March 12).

Countless hours spent by Kent Hawkins on calculating the lost reductions from (intermittent) wind power given fossil-plant cycling is another example of a great American (sorry, Kent, you are Canadian) volunteering time to do what is politically incorrect for the U.S. Department of Energy to do. [Read more →]

April 13, 2012   2 Comments

‘PC’ Power Is Not Sustainable (and President Obama’s “all-inclusive” energy policy is anything but!)

“Entitlement debt is destroying our great nation. These kinds of taxpayer- and ratepayer-funded giveaways, imposed in the name of being ‘green,’ are simply not sustainable – especially if we want our children and grandchildren to live free and prosper.”

President Obama’s mantra du jour for his 2012 campaign speeches is “all-inclusive” energy. But any business touting this version of “all-inclusive” would be prosecuted for false advertising.

When the President says “all-inclusive,” he means politically correct (PC) “green” energy (wind, solar and bio-fuels), and nothing that actually provides reliable, affordable power – especially not hydrocarbons. Another PC buzzword – “sustainable” – is right out of the United Nation’s Agenda 21 Protocol and the President’s goal of “fundamentally transforming” America.

Increasing pain at the pump and the plug underscores the reality that Mr. Obama’s energy policies are anything but “all-inclusive,” and PC power is anything but sustainable – though they certainly are transforming our country. In fact, if the Keystone XL pipeline’s oil were used to generate electricity, it would provide more energy than all existing U.S. wind and solar installations combined. [Read more →]

April 12, 2012   2 Comments

‘Crony Capitalism and Energy Policy’ Lecture at the U. of Rochester

[Editor note: This introduction was given on March 28 at the University of Rochester where Dr. Rizzo is assistant professor of economics. An increasing number of colleges and universities are becoming 'freedom friendly,' creating opportunities for free-market guest speakers such as Robert Bradley on energy.]

Welcome to Liberty Week at the University of Rochester hosted by the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. We want to again thank the College Democrats for co-sponsoring the opening event with Robert McNamara of the Institute for Justice. His sobering and inspiring presentation was on the fight to protect the right to freely choose to enter into occupations and consume from businesses of their choosing, to pursue their own destinies, in the face of overreaching by governments and interest groups.

Tonight, we focus on the forces operating the other side of this coin – the businesses and governments who cozy up in bed to benefit themselves at the expense of all Americans. We are pleased  to have Robert L. Bradley Jr., founder and CEO of the Institute for Energy Research to talk to us about how this process works, with a particular focus on how this operates in the energy sector.

We’d like to thank the College Republicans for co-sponsoring our event this evening.

Institute for Energy Research

Rob Bradley joins us from the Houston office of the Institute for Energy Research. IER is a scholarly non-profit that studies the economics and politics of energy markets from Houston and its main office in Washington, D.C.

The scholars (profiles here) who write/research for IER are accomplished and prolific economists, lawyers, mathematicians and policy experts from a wide variety of backgrounds, including Mary Hutzler a former head of the U.S. Energy Information Agency; Andrew Morriss, a lawyer and economist who has written widely on Common Law and the Environment, Green Jobs programs, and the history of property rights; and Robert Murphy– financial consultant and one of the leading purveyors of basic economic knowledge in America today. The full-time staff of the Institute has extensive experience in a variety of positions on Capitol Hill.

Check out IER’s website, where you will find neat short summaries of almost all possible forms of energy supply and see infographics and links to the work from their scholars. [Read more →]

April 11, 2012   6 Comments

EPA’s Proposed CO2 Rule for New Power Plants: Coal First, Then …

While campaigning in San Francisco in early 2008 during the Democratic primaries, Barack Obama got a little too candid.  “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can,” he opined to the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board. “It’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”

Waxman-Markey: Never Forget

Elected, President Obama tried to keep his promise by way of the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (aka Waxman-Markey, H.R. 2454), which narrowly passed the House in June 2009 by a vote of 219 to 212.

Among the many features in the 1,437-page bill, cap-and-trade of carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions was designed to price (cap-and-tax, to critics) and thus reduce such emissions down to 17 percent of the 2005 level by 2050.

Per capita CO2 emissions were last at this level around the end of the U.S. Civil War.

There was considerable outcry against the Waxman-Markey Bill when the House recessed that August, and leaders of the Senate decided not to consider the bill. After November 2010 election losses, Democrat Senate leaders told President Obama cap-and-trade was dead. President Obama responded by saying that “cap-and-trade was just one way of skinning the cat.” [Read more →]

April 10, 2012   9 Comments

Is the EPA Endangering Public Health and Welfare by Attempting to Mitigate Extreme Weather?

On the rationale of mitigating man-made climate change and thus limiting the occurrence of extreme weather events, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is (unintentionally) fostering a less prepared and less resilient population. As such, EPA should regulate its own actions as endangering public health and welfare.

New Proposed Rule

Back in December 2009, the U.S. EPA issued a finding that human emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs) “threaten the public health and welfare of current and future generations.” This “Endangerment Finding” opened the door to the EPA’s issuing regulations aimed at restricting GHG emissions in the U.S. To date, the EPA hasn’t been shy about stepping through that door.

The latest in a string of EPA greenhouse gas regulations was announced just last month. This one is aimed at carbon dioxide emissions from new power plants. The proposed regulation would limit CO2 emissions to 1,000 pounds per megawatt-hour of power produced, which is not achievable by coal plants under current or near-term technology. It is congruent to what a new gas-fired power plant can achieve–and thus the standard.

So if this proposal were adopted, it would effectively eliminate the construction of all new coal-fired power plants in the U.S.

Flawed ‘Endangerment’ Rationale

In its fact sheet, EPA claims that “unchecked greenhouse gas pollution threatens Americans’ health and welfare by leading to long-lasting changes in our climate.” Listed among the EPA’s threatening impacts is “Longer, more intense and more frequent heat waves.”

But claiming the increasing heat waves endanger public health and welfare is not a new approach from the EPA. It is one that I have been fighting them about ever since they originally proposed this concept back in a preliminary draft of their “Endangerment Finding.” [Read more →]

April 9, 2012   16 Comments

Fracking Good News: American Energy Stepping Up

All too often it seems we are inundated with bad news – or, at least, presumably bad news – about the impacts of domestic energy development, particularly hydraulic fracturing. We see headlines every day that suggest this proven and tightly regulated technology is damaging local communities and the environment.

Of course, the stories are rarely based in scientific facts (or even a basic knowledge of the processes discussed), and the real track record of shale development speaks for itself: more than 1.2 million wells hydraulically fractured, without a single proven case of water contamination.

Still, those who are eager to write attention-grabbing headlines and sensational reports often win the day, as a recent University of Texas study demonstrated quite clearly: two-thirds of all stories about hydraulic fracturing are decidedly negative in tone. Thus, against that backdrop, it’s worth noting that the past week has actually been dominated by good news – great, even – for those who support responsible domestic energy development.

Polling Results

The first item was a new poll released early last week that found 57 percent of Americans support the use of hydraulic fracturing. Only 22 percent oppose the process, which means nationwide support exceeds opposition by a more than two-to-one margin (sorry, Mark Ruffalo). The poll fits nicely with other recent surveys, such as one by Harris Interactive that found 66 percent of Americans believe the economic benefits of natural gas far outweigh any concerns about environmental impacts, despite “intense negative media focus.” [Read more →]

April 6, 2012   5 Comments

California Cap-and-Trade: Making Ourselves Poorer and ‘Dirtier’ (Part 2)

[Editor's Note: This post concludes a two-part series on counter-productive regulation passed in the name of addressing man-made climate change.]

In Part One yesterday, I summarized the recent research by U.C. Berkeley researcher Margaret Taylor, which found that cap-and-trade programs (CTP) impede technological innovation. Not only do they stifle future technological improvements, CTP often erase past improvements.

California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (AB32) and the Air Resources Board’s implementation of that law to date provide a sobering example of the Taylor Thesis.

California Improvements before Cap-and-Trade

California is the only state insisting on implementing economy wide cap-and-trade. The climate impact, if the programs (unrealistic) goals are achieved, are miniscule. Nonetheless, the program is to start later this year, according to the California Air Resources Board (CARB). Not acknowledged by these uber-bureaucrats, California has the third BEST carbon intensity in the U.S., according to the Congressional Research Service.

The carbon intensity of the U.S. is only a quarter of China’s and is well below the average of the world. Every ton of cement California imports from Arizona, every basket of fruit the U.S. imports from Chile, and every techno-gadget we import from Asia, in other words, result in a net increase of emissions, compared to our producing those things here at home. [Read more →]

April 5, 2012   4 Comments

Misdirected Innovation: Environmentalist Taylor on Cap-and-Trade (Part I)

[Editor Note: This is Part One in a two-part series by Mr. Tanton on counter-productive regulation passed in the name of addressing manmade climate change. Part II tomorrow focuses on California. ]

Cap-and-trade programs (CTP) do not provide incentives to develop innovative technologies and likely increase emissions, according to a new essay, Innovation Under Cap-and-Trade Programs, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Author Margaret Taylor, a researcher at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, completed her study as assistant professor at the University of California-Berkeley’s Goldman School of Public Policy.

Based on actual case studies, she found that CTP have reduced incentives for research and development. “Policymakers rarely see with perfect foresight what the appropriate emissions targets are to protect the public health and environment,” said Taylor.

Emission targets might actually be set more strict, she explains, even while the mechanism (i.e. CTP) may be inefficient, or ineffective, or counterproductive. Yet policymakers also seldom set targets they don’t have evidence that industry can meet. This is where R&D that can lead to the development of innovative technologies over the longer term is essential.

The Estimation Problem

Putting aside whether the targets (i.e. emission levels) are set correctly, the question remains whether cap-and-trade is a useful mechanism. In fact, it might actually get in the way of the technology that reduces emissions and achieves other worthwhile goals like productivity enhancement and wealth creation. [Read more →]

April 4, 2012   5 Comments

Why We Fight (Part II: ‘A Free Market Energy Vision’)

“In the U.S. energy sector, market reliance has produced economic coordination, fostered economic growth, and democratized wealth. Government intervention, on the other hand, such as oil and natural gas price controls in the 1970s, has produced shortages, civil strife, and bureaucratic waste.”

Energy is the master resource. Without energy, other resources could neither be produced nor consumed. Even energy requires energy: There would not be usable oil, gas, or coal without the energy to manufacture and power the requisite tools and machinery. Nor would there be wind turbines or solar panels, which are monuments to embedded fossil-fuel energy.

Just how important are fossil fuels relative to so-called renewable energies? Oil, gas, and coal generate the electricity needed to fill in for intermittent wind and solar power to ensure moment-to-moment reliability. Renewable energy is dependent on nonrenewable energy–short of (prohibitively expensive) battery technology assuring the flow of electricity.

As a component of all products and services, energy needs to be affordable, convenient, and reliable. To this end, public policy should respect consumer preferences and allow energy producers to meet the demands of the marketplace. This requires a respect for private property rights, voluntary exchange, and the rule of law to facilitate the global exchange of energy and its innumerable infrastructure components. Such are the key to energy sustainability.

In this election season, all political parties, candidates, and voters should revisit the fundamentals of a market-driven, versus government-engineered, energy sector.

Government Intervention

Global energy supplies are primarily owned by governments rather than by individuals, giving rise to ‘energy security’ problems for some nations and regions. In state-run economies, political elites make the decisions that otherwise would be made by the market transactions of millions of people. Win-win voluntary exchanges are supplanted by government-dictated win-lose transactions. Wealth is redistributed rather than created. Pure waste results from the intervention of (political) third parties into what otherwise would be mutually advantageous self-interested exchange. [Read more →]

April 3, 2012   4 Comments