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Vol. VI, No. 3
Vol. VI, No. 3
February 05, 2002
Politics<?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Bush Administration Tip-Toeing Toward New Policies
The New York Times and Washington Post reported this week (February 6, 2002) that the Bush Administration is getting close to deciding on a new set of global warming policies, which President Bush may announce before he visits Asian leaders next week. The only public indication of what those policies may be is contained in the Economic Report of the President, released by the Council of Economic Advisers on February 5.
The Report states that, “The current uncertainty surrounding climate change implies that a realistic policy should involve a gradual, measured response, not a risky, precipitous one.” Andrew Revkin in the Times notes that the Report contains a generally favorable review of the pros and cons of emissions trading schemes.
The Post story reports that, “One idea winning favor would replace the notion of setting fixed targets for power plant emissions of carbon dioxide with ‘emission intensity’ targets - measures that would expand or contract with economic growth.”
“Another proposal,” says the Post, “dealing with pollutants such as nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide and mercury, calls for an emissions trading program that would allow big polluters that exceed mandatory emission targets to buy credits from cleaner companies whose emissions come in lower than the targets.”
EPA Administrator Christine Todd Whitman “argued persuasively in favor of a trading approach with mandatory targets during Monday’s meeting,” according to the Post, a plan that the Department of Energy opposes.
A February 1 article by David Wojick in Electricity Daily details more specific possible proposals. “According to one administration source,” Wojick writes, “a 20 percent reduction in emission by 2012, below a 2000 baseline, is being discussed,” a target similar to the U.S. reduction required under Kyoto.
His story goes on to explain that, “The CO2 restriction is part of a complex package that includes New Source Review regulatory reform and a three-pollutant - nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and mercury - control proposal.”
James Connaughton, chairman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, told Electricity Daily that the administration’s climate plans will go far beyond a No Regrets strategy. “No regrets implies that you are doing nothing,” he said, “and our policy will be very proactive, and we will commit major resources toward it.”
This quote implies that Chairman Connaughton doesn’t know what No Regrets means, which could prove a serious problem in trying to devise sensible policies.
Looking For New Things to Regulate, States Focus on CO2
A bill approved last week in the California Assembly instructs the California Air Resources Board to formulate regulations that would limit carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.
According to the Environmental News Service (February 1, 2002), “If the measure becomes law, state regulators will draft rules aimed at achieving ‘the maximum feasible reduction’ of carbon dioxide emitted by California's passenger vehicles and light duty trucks, including sport utility vehicles. The regulations would need to be in place by January 2004, but auto manufacturers would be given flexibility in deciding how to achieve the new standards.”
Assemblymember Fran Pavley (D) stated, “This bill will give us the opportunity to protect California’s economy, public health and the environment from the potentially devastating effects of global warming. The bill will also allow California to greatly affect the outcome of the world’s global warming crisis.”
Other states may well follow California’s lead. Plans are in the works for some type of global warming regulation in New Hampshire, New York, North Carolina, Washington, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.
Sandy Liddy Bourne, Director of the American Legislative Exchange Council’s Energy Task Force, has been monitoring state carbon dioxide regulation proposals, which ALEC opposes. “Now is not the time to voluntarily impose CO2 emission standards as a knee jerk response to environmental hysteria,” she said. “At a time of recession, the best way to fuel our economy is to use the best energy technology the free market has to offer.”
Clean Air Settlement Includes CO2 Cuts
A New Jersey utility has settled a Clean Air Act enforcement action by signing a consent agreement that “for the first time will require the company to participate in a voluntary scheme to reduce carbon dioxide emission,” according to a story in Inside EPA (February 1, 2002). The settlement between PSEG Fossil, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the State of New Jersey, which was announced by the Department of Justice on January 23, concludes one of many New Source Review actions begun by former EPA Administrator Carol Browner in the Clinton Administration.
The Bush Administration has been reviewing the Clinton-era interpretation of New Source Review regulations since last summer and is expected to announce reforms soon. In the meantime, the Justice Department has decided that the NSR enforcement efforts that they inherited from the Clinton Administration are reasonable and will be continued.
The latest settlement requires large cuts in sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides emissions at PSEG Fossil’s two coal-fired power plants in addition to a 15% reduction in carbon dioxide emissions below 1990 levels to be achieved by 2005.
In 2000, David McIntosh then Indiana Representative and Chairman of the House National Economic Growth, Natural Resources, and Regulatory Affairs subcommittee, wrote a letter to EPA regarding their NSR enforcement, accusing it of using “intimidation” to secure “voluntary” agreements from electric utilities to cap CO2 emissions. “In short,” said McIntosh, “if I were attempting to implement, or prepare to implement, the Kyoto Protocol and build a pro-Kyoto business clientele, I would proceed exactly as EPA has done and apparently plans to do.”
PSEG Fossil is the first to agree to a settlement with the EPA that includes a voluntary CO2 emissions cap. Inside EPA argues that “The appearance of at least tacit approval for carbon controls could provide the administration - which has historically resisted the idea - with political headaches when the issue is taken up by the Senate later this year.”
Emissions Rise in England, Germany and Japan
Carbon dioxide emissions continue to rise in the world’s leading economies. The latest report from the United Kingdom estimates that emissions went up three percent in 2001. In Germany, the figure is 1.5 percent. And Japan has announced a 1.1 percent rise in the year to March 2001.
Germany’s carbon dioxide emissions rose by 1.5 percent in 2001, according to Germanwatch, an environmental lobby group based in Bonn. The group claims that the opening of brown coal power plants in former East German states and colder winter temperatures that increased heating oil consumption caused the increase.
The good news, according to Germanwatch, is that higher fuel taxes caused a five percent decrease in traffic, with gasoline consumption falling by 2.8 percent and diesel consumption falling by one percent (Reuters, February 4, 2002).
A report from economic forecaster Cambridge Econometrics says that Britain is unlikely to meet its self-imposed carbon dioxide reduction target of 23 percent below 1990 levels, because power generators are switching from burning natural gas to cheaper coal. “The achievement of the government’s own 20 percent reduction target looks increasingly unattainable,” said the report (Reuters, February 4, 2002).
As a result, Britain’s emissions rose three percent in 2001, following a 2 percent increase in 2000. According to an Environmental News Service article (February 4, 2002), Cambridge Econometrics reports that, “The UK data reflected ‘inherent contradictions’ in government policies aimed simultaneously at providing cheaper energy and achieving energy and emission savings.”
Japan’s carbon dioxide emissions increased by 1.1 percent from March 2000 to March 2001, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry (METI), making it the second consecutive year that emissions have increased.
The growth in emissions was due to economic growth. Said a METI spokesman, “The economy was not doing so badly at the time…so [energy] consumption in the industrial sector rose as well” (Reuters, February 4, 2002).
Winds Dying Down in Denmark
The Wall Street Journal Europe (January 24, 2002), Reuters (January 25, 2002), and The Week That Was (February 2, 2002, www.sepp.org) have picked up reports from Danish newspapers that the new Danish government intends to cancel plans for three new offshore wind power facilities. According to Reuters, financial daily Borsen quoted Economy Minister Bendt Bendtsen, “We are very concerned about the costs for society and for Denmark’s competitiveness if we continue to expand the use of green energy.”
The Danish government provides subsidies for wind power, and 6300 windmills have been erected as a result. But there is speculation that the new government may discontinue the subsidy. According to The Week That Was, an editorial in Jyllandposten, Denmark’s largest newspaper, states that without the subsidy no more wind farms will be built.
Share prices in Danish wind turbine manufacturers Vestas Wind Systems and NEG Micron, the world’s largest and third-largest respectively, have dropped as a result of the weakening U.S. market for their products, according to the Wall Street Journal. The U.S. subsidy of 1.7 cents per kilowatt-hour lapsed at the end of December. Renewal of the subsidy is contained in the House-passed energy bill, but that bill has been blocked from consideration by Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-South Dakota).
Studies Find More Model Weaknesses
Two studies appearing in the February 1 issue of Science give further evidence that climate models are still wholly inadequate to predict future climate change. Using satellite data from the last two decades, a team of researchers led by Bruce A. Wielicki with NASA’s Langley Research Center found that, “The top-of-atmosphere (TOA) tropical radiative energy budget is much more dynamic and variable than previously thought.”
The study explains that, “Earth’s climate system is driven by a radiative energy balance between the solar or shortwave radiation absorbed by Earth and the thermal infrared or longwave radiation emitted back to space.” For the Earth’s climate to remain unchanged, this energy budget must equal zero. “The TOA radiation budget,” says the study, “is crucial in determining climate variability and feedbacks.” It also provides a rigorous test of the ability of climate models to represent the atmosphere’s physical processes.
The data show that there was a drop in longwave radiation of about 2 W/m2 (watts per square meter) from the late 1970s to the mid 1980s followed by a rise of about 4 W/m2 from the mid 1980s to the late 1990s. “Because radiative forcings of 1 W/m2 or less are important for climate change prediction, natural variability of 4 W/m2 in the longwave part of the tropical radiation budget is considered a major change.”
The researchers argue that this is not likely due to global warming since, “The flux changes are far too large to be explained by the small surface and atmosphere warming over this time period, which will tend to be offset by increased CO2 and water vapor greenhouse gas trapping.”
More importantly, however, “These changes are sufficiently large that, in principle, they should be seen in climate model predictions.” The researchers tested five different models, including the well known Hadley Centre and National Center for Atmospheric Research models. They found that “There is remarkably little variation in the tropical mean fluxes from the models when compared to the data.”
The other study attempts to answer the question of whether the changes observed in the satellite data in the Earth’s radiative balance over the last two decades are the result of natural variability or manmade global warming. The researchers, Junye Chen, Barbara E. Carlson, and Anthony D. Del Genio, with NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, found that the “Earth has been radiating more heat and reflecting less sunlight in the region from 30 degrees S to 30 degrees N over the past decade, the net result being more energy leaving the tropics.”
This change is due to a strengthening of two different tropical circulations known as the Hadley cell and the Walker cell. “Equatorial convective regions,” say the researchers, “have intensified the upward motion and moistened, while both the equatorial and subtropical subsidence regions have become drier and less cloudy.”
So what’s the upshot? “The possibility that lapse rates were decreasing instead [of increasing] before 1980 suggests that the observed intensification of the Hadley-Walker cell may be due to natural variability on decadal or longer time scales rather than to a forced climate change.”
No Global Warming in Alaska
In 2001, the U.S. National Assessment on climate change concluded that Alaska would warm between 5 and 18 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. It further claimed that Alaska has already experienced an average “4 degrees F warming since the 1950s.”
This claim is highly misleading, according to Sallie Baliunas and Willie Soon of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics. In an article appearing on Tech Central Station (www.techcentralstation.com, January 22, 2002), the two scientists explain that the apparent warming in Alaska is due to an entirely natural phenomenon.
The National Assessment stated, “Much of the recent warming occurred suddenly around 1977, coincident with the most recent of the large-scale Arctic atmosphere and ocean regime shifts.” What the report failed to mention, however, is that the global circulation models it used to make its predictions show a gradual warming due to higher concentrations of carbon dioxide, not sudden jumps.
The cause of the 1977 climate jump was a phenomenon known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation. As explained by Baliunas and Soon, “The Pacific Ocean temperature changes naturally on multiple time scales. The major pattern in the northern Pacific Ocean is for it to hold at a low average temperature for roughly 20 to 30 years, and then to suddenly shift upward, where it remains for some decades. Then it shifts back down again.”
This is a pattern that has been directly measured for the last 100 years. The pattern has also been observed in temperature data derived from tree rings, and reaches back at least 1,000 years. Moreover, a look at the temperature data in Alaska after 1977 shows that 22 of the 30 locations from which Alaska’s temperature is measured have experienced “either no warming or a significant cooling trend.”
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
Alexis de Tocqueville Institution
Americans for Tax Reform
American Legislative Exchange Council
American Policy Center
Association of Concerned Taxpayers
Center for Security Policy
Citizens for a Sound Economy
Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow
Competitive Enterprise Institute
Defenders of Property Rights
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
60 Plus Association
Small Business Survival Committee