Category — Climate policy
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) recently published a report urging the world’s governments to “reform” energy subsidies estimated at $1.9 trillion in 2011. Eliminating government policies designed to rig markets in favor of particular energy companies or industries is a worthy goal. Unfortunately, that’s not the agenda the IMF is pushing.
The IMF seeks to shame U.S. policymakers into enacting a carbon tax. Assuming $25 per ton as the “social cost of carbon” (SCC), the IMF claims the U.S. massively subsidizes coal, gas, and oil — simply by not taxing the carbon content of fuels. Our total energy subsidy is estimated to be $502 billion a year, making America the world’s biggest energy subsidizer!
Not Taxing = Subsidizing?
Some may find the IMF’s terminology counter-intuitive, even Orwellian — as if not taxing carbon is a subsidy on a par with cash payments to politically-preferred companies or industries funded at direct taxpayer or ratepayer expense. If we consider just those wealth transfers accomplished by specific acts of government intervention, fossil fuels are among the least subsidized energies in the U.S.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), in 2010, federal energy subsidies (including cash grants, targeted tax breaks, R&D support, and preferential loans) totaled $37.1 billion. Renewables ($14.674 billion), end-use subsidies such as LIHEAP ($8.241 billion), and conservation programs ($6.597 billion) received substantially more than coal ($1.358 billion), natural gas and petroleum liquids ($2.820 billion), and nuclear power ($2.499 billion).
More pertinently, observes the Institute for Energy Research, per unit of energy produced, subsidies for renewable energy vastly exceed those for fossil fuels. In the electric sector, for example, ”solar is being subsidized by over 1200 times more than coal and oil and natural gas electricity production, and wind is being subsidized over 80 times more than the more conventional fossil fuels on a unit of production basis.”
Source: IER (based on EIA data)
Carbon-taxers disclaim any intent to pick energy-market winners and losers, but that is in fact the core function of a carbon tax. As with cap-and-trade, the policy objective is to handicap fossil energy and, thereby, ”finally make renewable energy the profitable kind of energy in America,” as President Obama charmingly put it. [Read more →]
April 9, 2013 8 Comments
“Our real manmade climate crisis takes four closely related forms…. Influence peddling…. Politicized science, markets, and ethics… Climate eco-imperialism that impoverishes and kills…. Ready-made excuses for incompetence.”
In his first address as Secretary of State, John Kerry said we must safeguard “the most sacred trust” we owe to our children and grandchildren: “an environment not ravaged by rising seas, deadly superstorms, devastating droughts, and the other hallmarks of a dramatically changing climate.”
But hyperbole is getting stale even for a politician. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and British Meteorological Office now recognize that average global temperatures haven’t budged in almost 17 years. Little evidence suggests that sea level rise, storms, droughts or other weather and climate events or trends display any statistically significant difference from what Earth and mankind have experienced over the last 100-plus years. So Mr. Kerry’s dire warnings are on thin polar ice.
The middle-of-the-road view, in fact, is shifting toward global lukewarming, as Chip Knappenberger has documented at MasterResource. And courageous climatologists such as Judith Curry are asking the hard questions that are redefining the mainstream.
However, we do face imminent climate disasters. Global warming is the greatest moral issue of our time. We must do all we can to prevent looming climate catastrophes.
But those cataclysms have nothing to do with alleged human contributions to planetary climate systems that have always been chaotic, unpredictable and often disastrous: ice ages, little ice ages, dust bowls, droughts and monster storms that ravaged and sometimes even toppled cities and civilizations. [Read more →]
March 4, 2013 9 Comments
“The [EPA] Proposal ignores the obvious association between increased GHG emissions and positive health and welfare benefits. GHG emissions and improving quality of life are associated because the economy runs on energy, and that energy is principally derived from fossil fuels.”
Several detailed and extensive comments were submitted to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding their proposed Standards of Performance for Greenhouse Gas Emissions for New Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units documenting new and influential science that the EPA did not assess when issuing the proposed standards. Instead, EPA simply deferred to their Endangerment Finding that they issued in December 2009.
As yesterday’s post pointed out, a lot is new in the rapidly evolving field of climate (change) science, and thus the EPA Endangerment Finding is getting a bit stale—or should I say becoming “endangered.” A reassessment is sorely in order. After all, how long can you base new regulations on old science?
Here, I examine another aspect of the issue that was largely overlooked by the EPA—the benefits (not only costs) of manmade greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Several commentors point to the good to the public health and welfare that came about as a result of human greenhouse gas emissions—or more specifically, the energy whose production gave rise to the GHG emissions.
One such commentor was Peabody Energy Company, the world’s largest private-sector coal company and a “leader in sustainable mining and clean coal solutions.” Peabody wanted to make darn sure that the EPA recognized not only that access to fossil-fuel produced energy that improved peoples’ lives, but also that limiting access to it, as proposed by the EPA, would result in negative consequences to public health and welfare—the very thing that the EPA’s regulations were crafted to avoid.
Here I excerpt the section from Peabody Energy Company’s rather extensive comment to the EPA in which they lay out the basics for how GHG emissions are associated with public health benefits rather than impairment as concluded by the EPA. Couple these with other positive externalities from carbon dioxide and modest GHG-induced climate change, and it isn’t hard to see why the EPA’s 2009 Endangerment Finding is out of date and out of touch. [Read more →]
July 13, 2012 5 Comments
What’s been happening recently in North Carolina (NC) is a microcosm of the anthropogenic global warming (AGW) story: politics versus science, ad-hominems versus journalism, evangelists versus pragmatists, etc.
The contentiousness is over one of the main AGW battlefields: sea-level rise (SLR). North Carolina happens to have a large amount of coastline and has become the U.S. epicenter for this issue.
The brief version is that this began several years ago when a state agency, the Coastal Resources Commission (CRC), selected a 20± member “science panel” to do a scientific assessment of the NC SLR situation through 2100. This could have been a very useful project if there had been balance in the personnel selections, and the panel’s assessment adhered to scientific standards. Regrettably, neither happened and the project soon jumped the rails, landing in the political agenda ditch.
In their 2010 report, the panel concluded that NC should expect a 39-inch SLR by 2100. Their case was built around a 2007 paper by Stefan Rahmstorf, and was not encumbered by a single reference to a perspective different from Rahmstorf’s. Shortly after the report was released, state agencies started making the rounds of North Carolina coastal communities, putting them on notice that they would need to make BIG changes (elevating roads and bridges, re-zoning property, changing flood maps for insurance purposes, etc.).
As an independent scientist, I was solicited by my coastal county to provide a scientific perspective on this report. Even though I wasn’t a SLR expert, I could clearly see that this document was a classic case of Confirmation Bias, as it violated several scientific standards. But to get into the technical specifics I solicited the inputs of about 40 international SLR experts (oceanographers, etc.). [Read more →]
June 12, 2012 12 Comments
“The whims of foreign nations, not to mention Mother Nature, can completely offset any climate changes induced by U.S. greenhouse gas emissions reductions…. So, what’s the point of forcing Americans into different energy choices?”
A new study provides evidence that air pollution emanating from Asia will warm the U.S. as much or more than warming from U.S. greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The implication? Efforts by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (and otherwise) to mitigate anthropogenic climate change is moot.
If the future temperature rise in the U.S. is subject to the whims of Asian environmental and energy policy, then what sense does it make for Americans to have their energy choices regulated by efforts aimed at mitigating future temperature increases across the country—efforts which will have less of an impact on temperatures than the policies enacted across Asia?
Maybe the EPA should reconsider the perceived effectiveness of its greenhouse gas emission regulations—at least when it comes to impacting temperatures across the U.S.
A new study just published in the scientific journal Geophysical Research Letters is authored by a team led by Haiyan Teng from the National Center for Atmospheric Research, in Boulder, Colorado. The paper is titled “Potential Impacts of Asian Carbon Aerosols on Future US Warming.”
Skipping the details of this climate modeling study and cutting to the chase, here is the abstract of the paper: [Read more →]
June 7, 2012 17 Comments
[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
“Malaria already kills a million people a year and now, researchers fear, climate change could make the problem even worse.” –ABC News, April 1, 2011
“Based on the new numbers, malaria deaths have fallen by 32 percent since 2004, dropping from 1.8 million deaths worldwide to 1.2 million in 2010.” –ABC News, February 3, 2012
Malaria has been long postulated to benefit from rising global temperatures and is included near the top of most alarming lists of the bad things that will happen if greenhouse gas emissions limitations are not immediately put into place. And while this seems good in theory, real world data show little, if any, connection between climate change and malaria outbreaks. In fact, while the climate has been warming, malaria has been in decline—being beaten back by direct measures aimed at reducing the spread of the disease.
And malaria is not alone. There are many examples of positive trends in measures that climate change is supposed to worsen. The broader lesson is that directed actions trump climate change. In fact, in some cases, climate change may even hasten positive change. Yet, the recognition of such is largely absent from assessments of the impacts associated with human-caused climate changes. Consequently, the assessments present overly pessimistic and unreliable visions of our future based on overly simplistic modeling exercises.
The Case of Malaria
One of the key elements of global warming alarmism is proposing a link from rising global temperatures to the increasing occurrence of really bad things. Think of any bad thing, and almost assuredly, a Google search of “global warming” and “[insert really bad thing here]” will turn up loads of hits. Try it! It is kind of fun to see just how absurd a link you can find. “Global warming” and “shark bites”? You betcha. “Global warming” and “UFO attacks”? Ding ding! “Global warming” and “malaria”? Of course. [Read more →]
February 23, 2012 3 Comments
“Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is going to cost a lot (both in terms of dollars and effort), and it is going to produce few if any demonstrable climate results for decades to come (if ever).”
The scientific community—or especially that part of it which holds the opinion that not enough is being done to mitigate potential climate change—is struggling with why the general public (and hence policymakers) are not heeding their call to action on global warming.
In a recent post, I pointed to one reason: the fast diminishing role that any U.S.-side mitigation would have in curbing greenhouse gas emissions enough to measurably affect global climate. This is a classic bang-for-the-buck evaluation. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions is going to cost a lot (both in terms of dollars and effort), and it is going to produce few if any demonstrable climate results for decades to come (if ever).
In short, a mitigation (versus a wealth-is-health adaptation strategy) is a tough sell given even the most alarming climate change projections, and becomes nearly impossible under more modest climate change scenarios.
The role of climate change science has been, and continues to be, in arbitrating between the potential climate outcomes. And although there are some who argue that the science no longer matters as far the politics go, a lot of other scientists who make at least a partial living studying climate and climate change (including myself) would like to think otherwise.
And many of us have taken the additional step of not only producing science, but also translating our results (and that of others) into more layman’s terms, describing what implications the results have on the bigger picture of climate change, and then suggesting what, if anything, should be done about it. With mixed success (depending on who you ask). [Read more →]
December 16, 2011 7 Comments
“[T]he impact that emissions reduction efforts in the U.S. will have on global emissions totals–and by extension, global climate–is quickly diminishing.”
The just-released numbers for last year’s carbon dioxide emissions (not including land-use changes) show why forcing large cuts in carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions is not very high on the priority list of the U.S. powers-that-be (including voters).
In 2010, the total global CO2 emissions were the highest on record, ~9.1 PgC (33,400 million metric tons). The U.S. contribution was ~1.50PgC, about 16% of the global total—percentage-wise the lowest on record (since 1959) and falling rapidly.
Unilateral U.S. CO2 mitigation strategies, in other words, are doomed to increasing irrelevance–and even unintended consequences should carbon rationing at home result in industrial transfers to less regulated areas. [Read more →]
December 8, 2011 7 Comments
Last Wednesday, November 17, 2010, the Subcommittee on Energy & Environment of the Committee on Science and Technology of the U. S. House of Representatives held a hearing on climate change titled “A Rational Discussion of Climate Change: the Science, the Evidence, the Response.” In a clear deference to the incoming make-up of the House, there were a relatively high number of panelists that were invited by the sitting minority, which made this hearing more “rational” and fascinating that than most subcommittee hearings in some time.
The first two are stalwarts of the let’s-just-hold-on-a-minute view of catastrophic anthropogenic global warming. And, true to form, at the hearing each presented compelling evidence as to why anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions might not rapidly push up global temperature—not now, nor in the future. The testimony of Lindzen and Michaels can be found here and here respectively. And while their arguments are met with considerable opposition from the global-warming-is-a-dire-problem types, the ideas espoused by Lindzen and Michaels are scientifically compelling.
The third Republican invitee, Georgia Institute of Technology’s Dr. Judith Curry, is a new addition to this group (her testimony can be accessed here). In fact, not too long ago, she was starring for the Democrats at Congressional hearings. She also endorsed Joe Romm’s book, Come Hell and High Water, upon its release in 2006.
But all this changed about a year ago, when Dr. Curry started delving into the contents of the Climategate emails (which just celebrated the one-year anniversary of their release). She did not like what she found and spoke up.
At the time, when expressing her initial concern about the behavior on display (and its implications) in the Climategate emails, hers was one voice among several that came from folks who were typically apart from the usual (critical) suspects.
However, as time went on, the other voices have grown dimmer, while Judith’s has grown louder—primarily because of her continued investigations and her conviction borne upon what she has found.
Her primary interest, as of late, concerns the recognition and representation of uncertainty in our scientific knowledge. She holds the opinion that the level of true uncertainty is suppressed in the IPCC documents, and that its full revelation is essential in presenting a fair description of the state of scientific knowledge.
Her frank discussion on this topic has made her rather unpopular among her past supporters (she was at one time deemed the “high priestess of global warming” but now labeled a “heretic”) and is what has landed her in the anchor seat of the Hearing last week.
Here is a snippet of how she describes her personal journey: [Read more →]
November 22, 2010 8 Comments