Vol. VII, No. 15

Vol. VII, No. 15

July 23, 2003

Politics

 

Senate Ready to Debate Climate Amendments to Energy Bill

 

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) has scheduled all next week for floor debate on S. 14, the comprehensive energy bill.  While he has suggested that the Senate will not go home for the August recess until the bill is voted out, some Senate Democrats have hinted that they intend to keep the debate going until next year by offering amendment after amendment.

 

A draft of the climate amendment that Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.) plans to offer has been floating around.  It looks a lot like Titles X, XI, and XIII passed by the Senate in the 107th Congress as part of Senator Daschle’s energy bill.  Bingaman has removed or modified several controversial provisions.  For example, the draft drops sense of the Congress findings on climate change.

 

The provisions regarding the registry of greenhouse gas emissions make several important changes to the Brownback-Corzine amendment in last year’s bill.  Bingaman’s draft amendment would allow the president to choose the lead agency for managing the registry.  Most unusually, it would direct that a not-for-profit organization be given a contract to design and operate the registry database and designate independent groups to verify and audit emissions reports.  It would also set up complex procedures for certifying reported emissions reductions, again using and provides civil penalties of up to $25,000 per day for non-compliance.

 

The possible amendment to require a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) for electric utilities has been further analyzed by the Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration.  In May, EIA reported that the proposed 10% RPS would have a cumulative probable cost of $4.9 billion by 2030.  That was using assumptions specified by Senator Bingaman.  Using more realistic assumptions specified by Senator Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, EIA finds that the likely costs could range from approximately $36 billion upwards to well over $100 billion.  The EIA’s supplementary analysis may be found at <http://tonto.eia.doe.gov/FTPROOT/service/supplement.pdf>.

 

Europe Falling for Russian Bait?

 

Speculating as to why Russia’s supposed enthusiasm for ratifying the Kyoto Protocol appears to have stalled, the Wall Street Journal editorialized July 17, “Russia's change of heart over Kyoto seems mostly motivated by its wallet.  Countries can sell ‘credits’ for carbon dioxide emissions allowed under the protocol but not used, to other countries who need higher levels of emissions than the protocol allows them.  This potentially puts Russia in the money, because Kyoto's calculations were based on 1990 levels, and since then-following the collapse of the Soviet Union-Russia's levels have decreased by 36%.  Russia reportedly wants guarantees from Europe and Japan that its credits will be snapped up, netting the Kremlin tens of billions of dollars.  Holding Kyoto hostage may also be a ploy to secure concessions from Europe on Russia's languishing World Trade Organization membership bid, or over the status of Kaliningrad.”

 

Europe already seems to be falling for the Russian ploy.  EU Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom, speaking in Italy on the weekend of July 19, suggested that Europe would be happy to give Russia all kinds of help.  According to the Independent of London (July 21), she “stressed that Russia would gain economically from ratification, arguing that Western countries would invest in Russian emission-cutting technology. EU countries could ‘demonstrate that we are also interested in providing them with clean technology,’ she said.”

 

The Wall Street Journal may have foreseen the outcome.  It concluded its editorial, “Assuming Moscow's ploy works, while the Kremlin is laughing all the way to the bank, Europe's taxpayers will be scratching their heads wondering what happened after Kyoto's provisions kick in, hitting European growth and raising costs in industries dependent on carbon dioxide.  Maybe it's time for Europe to have its own second thoughts.”

 

Environmentalists for Enron

 

The Coalition for Environmentally Responsible Economies, or CERES, which numbers among its members the AFL-CIO, Environmental Defense, and the Presbyterian Church, has issued a report criticizing American oil, energy and automotive industries for failing to follow its good corporate governance guidelines.  Specifically, it objects to their failure to disclose possible financial risks associated with climate change and their unwillingness to enter into a ‘voluntary’ emissions trading scheme.

 

The report complains that American petroleum companies are devoting virtually all their development efforts to increased oil and gas exploration, while European competitors are investing in renewable energy technologies.  They complain that American auto manufacturers are “depending on sales of big sport utility vehicles that get low gas mileage as their main profit center,” while Japanese competitors have taken the lead in introducing gasoline-electric hybrid vehicles.  And they allege that American electric utilities are “investing heavily in refurbishing old, coal-fired power plants,” while regulators’ activities “argue in favor of” replacing these plants with new, lower-carbon-emitting facilities. 

 

CERES argues that these strategies amount to significant risks that should be disclosed to shareholders.  They call on CEOs to appoint and listen to Chief Environmental Officers, to “include a statement on material risks and opportunities posed by climate change in the company’s securities filings” and to participate in an external voluntary greenhouse gas emissions trading program.  They claim that this represents a governance challenge that responsible stewards must rise to, intimating that Enron-like corporate scandals await if they do not.

 

They neglect to mention that Enron was the leading promoter of a greenhouse gas emissions trading program, arguing that it would do more to promote Enron’s business than any other regulation.  (See <http://ceres.org>)

 

Climate Research Plan Hits the Streets

 

The Climate Change Science Program’s strategic research plan is scheduled to be released by Commerce Secretary Don Evans and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham at a press conference on July 24.  The report will be available at <www.climatescience.gov>.  

 

An interagency team led by NOAA’s James Mahoney developed the plan over the past year through an exhaustive process of consultation, comment, and review.  A pre-release summary lists five major goals of future federally-funded climate research:

 

Goal 1:  Improve knowledge of the Earth’s past and present climate and environment, including its natural variability, and improve understanding of the causes of observed variability and change.

Goal 2:  Improve quantification of the forces bringing about changes in the Earth’s climate and related systems.

Goal 3:  Reduce uncertainty in projections of how the Earth’s climate and related systems may change in the future.

Goal 4:  Understand the sensitivity and adaptability of different natural and managed ecosystems and human systems to climate and related global changes.

Goal 5:  Explore the uses and identify the limits of evolving knowledge to manage risks and opportunities related to climate variability and change.

 

“A Product of the Bureaucracy”

 

The Competitive Enterprise Institute has received new documents from the EPA under the Freedom of Information Act relating to the EPA’s claim that it is not responsible for Climate Action Report 2002 (which President Bush disowned, claiming it was a “product of the bureaucracy”).

 

The EPA’s chronology states that the document was submitted to the Executive Office of the President (EOP) by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).  EPA confirmed this, then incorporated the EOP comments into the final document and prepared it for printing.  EPA then asked the State Department and the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), which had earlier revised the executive summary of the document, on how to handle its public release.  CEQ and the State Department decided to publish the document without publicity.

 

Economics

 

Hydrogen Cars Not the Answer

 

An article published in the July 18 Science, “Rethinking Hydrogen Cars,” was largely critical of the claims made for hydrogen cars in the areas of air quality, climate change, energy security and hydrogen’s role as a transportation fuel.

 

Authors David Keith of Carnegie Mellon University and Alexander Farrell of the University of California, Berkeley, found that other current technologies appear more cost-effective than hydrogen cars.  They mention, for instance, that the National Academy of Sciences found that increases in the fuel-economy of light-duty vehicles paid for themselves (although they neglect to mention the 2,000 or more lives lost each year as a result).

 

The authors also point to the disparate motives of those involved in promoting hydrogen cars, calling them “an unusual coalition-from environmentalists and futurists to auto executives, oil barons, and nuclear engineers.”  They conclude that, “Transportation R&D should be broadly based, and should focus on basic enabling technologies rather than on a rush to deploy hydrogen cars.”

 

Nature also addressed the potential hydrogen economy in its July 10 issue, with Paul Grant of the Electric Power Research Institute arguing that, “The only practical and clean way of extracting hydrogen from its most readily available source, water, is nuclear energy. In addition, it will be many years before the infrastructure for using hydrogen power is complete and meanwhile we will need clean energy from somewhere.  A rebirth of the nuclear power industry could be the best option.”  Grant summed this up as “a world where ‘atoms for peace’ would prevail, creating a clean energy source independent of any geographically accidental richness of fossil reserves.”

 

World Bank Launches Emissions Reduction Fund

 

The World Bank has instituted a fund “aimed at bringing the financial benefits of the Kyoto Protocol to the world's poorest countries, beginning with a $35 million commitment from public and private investors.”  The Kyoto Protocol allows industrialized countries to claim credit for emissions reductions either by actually reducing domestic emissions or by investing in emissions-reducing programs in the developing world.  So far little attention has been paid to the latter option.

 

According to Greenwire (July 16), “The World Bank and the International Emissions Trading Association created the Community Development Carbon Fund to encourage companies to invest in small-scale projects by lowering the transaction costs associated with such projects. High transaction costs are one of the main detractors for companies looking to invest in Kyoto projects.  As such, investors have tended to favor larger projects with greater potential for producing emissions credits.”

 

The fund was launched with contributions from the governments of Italy, Canada and the Netherlands, together with donations from private sector companies such as Daiwa Securities SMBC, Idemitsu Kosan, Nippon Oil, and Okinawa Electric, all from Japan, and BASF AG from Germany.  The World Bank hopes to reach a target of $100 million for the fund.

 

Science

 

Sea Levels See-Saw

 

An article in Japan’s Kyodo News July 7 attributed a sea level rise in 2002 of over 5 cm greater than the century’s average to global warming.  However, the paper added that “the new figure topped the previous highest rise of 5.07 cm recorded in 1948,” also pointing out that the latest rise began only in 1985.

 

In this regard, an article on sea-level rise in Science (July 1) makes for interesting reading.  Scientists are unable to make the "steric" rise (caused by thermal expansion of a warming ocean) now estimated at 0.5 mm/year and the "eustatic" rise (caused by more fresh water) normally estimated at 0.2 mm/year [the IPCC figure] add up to the total IPCC figure for sea-level rise of 1.5-2.0 mm/year during the 20th century.  Some have suggested the tide gage readings are predominantly in unusual areas for sea-level readings. 

 

The author believes the explanation is likely more fresh water than thought running off continents, but concludes: “Global coverage by satellite altimetry...shows a notably larger than average level rise in the last decade of the century.  The detection of the relatively slow century-scale trend is plagued by the dominance of high (decadal) frequencies in the spectrum of the rate of sea-level variability.  It will take several decades to obtain good estimates of the role of global warming in sea level rise.

 

“In the meantime, 20th century sea level remains an enigma-we do not know whether warming or melting was dominant, and the budget is far from closed.”

 

According to London’s Guardian (July 19), scientists from Australia’s National Tides Facility suggest that, while the sea level around the Pacific atoll nation of Tuvalu (which is only 3 meters above the sea) have risen by about 5 cm since 1993, this may not be anything to worry about.  One scientist said, “We've had a large El Nino which appears to have raised sea levels across the western Pacific, so rises in future may well not be as dramatic.” Previous estimates suggested that the aftermath of El Nino could see a fall of up to 30 cm in the waters around Tuvalu.

 

Nevertheless, the Tuvaluan Congregational Church has asked Australia to give the Tuvaluan government an island to which they can evacuate the entire nation.

 

Sequestration Appears Sustainable

 

The idea that carbon sequestration via forests is a sustainable option for reducing the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has come under attack in recent years.  The theory is that new forest growth will quickly become saturated and will start returning stored carbon to the atmosphere by 2050.  New research from Luo et al published in Global Biogeochemical Cycles suggests that this may not be the case.

 

The researchers examined a new forest called Duke Forest established in 1983 in North Carolina.  Beginning in 1996, they started enriching 30 meter diameter plots with CO2 to concentration 200 ppm above ambient, while maintaining control plots at the ambient level.  The studies revealed “sustained photosynthetic stimulation at leaf and canpy levels which resulted in sustained stimulation of wood biomass increment and a larger C[arbon] accumulation in the forest floor at elevated CO2 than at ambient CO2.”

 

The researchers then developed a model for studying the long-term sustainability of sequestration.  In a scenario where atmospheric CO2 concentration gradually rises from 378 ppm in 2000 to 710 ppm in 2001, they calculated sustained carbon sequestration rising from 69 units to 201 in 2100.  (co2science.org, July 16)

 

Extreme Weather Events Reportedly Increase

 

On July 2, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO - a UN agency) issued a press release that blamed global warming for an observed increase in extreme weather events, tied to the heat wave in Europe and the busy tornado season in the central US.  The WMO also blamed the cooler-than-average spring in the eastern US on increasing temperatures.  Hedging their predictions with “mights” and “coulds,” the WMO suggested that, “Recent scientific assessments indicate that, as the global temperatures continue to warm due to climate change, the number and intensity of extreme events might increase.”  The press release also claimed that, “considering land temperatures only, last May was the warmest on record.”

 

However, as John Daly, who runs the Still Waiting for Greenhouse web site from Tasmania, pointed out, much of the seeming increase in extreme weather events could be attributable to increased reporting of the events rather than to an actual increase in their occurrence.  When this possibility was put to the Director of the World Climate Program for the WMO, Ken Davidson, he replied, “You are correct that the scientific evidence (statistical and empirical) are (sic) not present to conclusively state that the number of events have (sic) increased.  However, the number of extreme events that are being reported and are truly extreme events has increased both through the meteorological services and through the aid agencies as well as through the disaster reporting agencies and corporations.  So, this could be because of improved monitoring and reporting.”

 

Daly also pointed out that, although the scattered surface temperature stations in their urban heat islands may have suggested that May was the warmest month on record, the satellite temperature measurements place this May as only the 4th warmest in the last 25 years.  Finally, Daly reminded us that recent temperatures are influenced upwards by the current El Nino.  (<http://www.john-daly.com>)

 

Etc.

 

Does McCain-Lieberman Cover This?

 

Tristram West of the Oak Ridge National Laboratory has calculated that barbecue grilling on Independence Day burns the equivalent of 2,300 acres of forest and consumes enough energy to power a town the size of Flagstaff, Ariz., for an entire year.

 

Not only that, but the grilling emits 225,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.  West based his calculations on the relative use of gas and charcoal grills.  If the nearly 34 million liquefied petroleum and natural gas grills used on July 4 were instead charcoal grills, they would emit an additional 89,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide, West said (a 40 percent increase in emissions).  If, however, the nearly 23 million charcoal grills were fueled by liquefied petroleum gas, carbon dioxide emissions could be reduced by about 26 percent, or about 59,000 metric tons.  (Eurekalert press release, July 3).

 

Less Developed Argument

 

Klaus Toepfer, head of the UN Environment Program, appears to want to keep the Chinese people in poverty.  According to Reuters (July 17), he criticized Chinese plans for economic growth on Malthusian grounds, arguing that the world does not possess enough resources to meet China’s aim of quadrupling its economy by 2020.

 

Saying that this was part of the “rationality of economics,” Toepfer also appeared to cast doubt on the idea that anywhere else had achieved economic progress.  He pronounced, “Quadrupling the GDP of a country of 1.3 billion, can you imagine what are the consequences if you go in the same structure as was done in the so-called developed countries?”  Toepfer was speaking from Australia.  He presumably arrived there by so-called airplane, rather than by outrigger canoe.

 

Land of the Midsummer Snow

 

[Editor's note: Cooler Heads does not stoop to the methods of global warming alarmists, who send out a press release every time there's a hot spell.  We therefore make no claims for the following item.  It's merely anecdotal and tells us nothing about global temperature trends.]

 

An inch of snow fell on July 16 at the headquarters of Denali National Park in central Alaska.  The Fairbanks Daily Miner-News (July18) reported that it was the first snow ever recorded there during the entire month of July.  The high temperature of 42 degrees F was also the lowest ever recorded in July.

 

Similar low temperature marks were set throughout central Alaska.  In Fairbanks, the high was 48 degrees, which is only the third July day in 99 years that the thermometer hasn't reached 50 degrees.  Snow was also reported for the first time ever in July at several other locations.  According to the U. S. Naval Observatory web site, on July 16 the sun rose in Fairbanks at 3:56 AM and set at 11:56 PM.

 

Announcements

 

    "The Climate Conflict", the award-winning Danish documentary, will be aired on the Science Channel on Friday, August 8, from 9 to 10 PM ET.  It will also be shown five times on Saturday, August 9, at midnight, 5 AM, 8 AM, 1 PM, and 4 PM.  The broadcast schedule may be consulted at <http://science.discovery.com>.  The Cooler Heads Coalition has sponsored two showings of "The Climate Conflict" with introductory remarks by solar physicist Paal Brekke of the European Space Agency, who is interviewed in the documentary.  The Science Channel is broadcasting a new English-language version that has been updated.  Danish scientist Henrik Svensmark's theory that solar variation is the main climate driver is investigated.

 

    The Fraser Institute in Canada has published a paper titled “Greenhouse Gas Reductions: Not Warranted, Not Beneficial” by Dr. Kenneth Green, Fraser’s chief scientist and director of its Risk and Environment Centre.  The paper may be found on the web at http://www.fraserinstitute.ca/admin/books/files/Climate.pdf.

 

    The Center for Science and Public Policy, a project of Frontiers of Freedom Institute, has published a paper titled “EPA Mercury MACT Regulation Rulemaking Not Justified by Science.”  Its authors are Dr. Willie Soon and Robert Ferguson.  It will soon be posted at www.ff.org.

 

Corrections

 

    In our article in the last issue on S. 139, the Lieberman-McCain bill to regulate CO2 emissions, we said that national disposable income “would take fifteen years to return to the amount reached in 2000” and that, “By 2025, the country’s GDP would be $106 billion lower in real terms than it is today.”  Both these statements are incorrect, owing to a misreading of graphs in the report.  They should read: “would take fifteen years to return to the levels envisaged without McCain-Lieberman,” and “... would be $106 billion lower in real terms than it would have been without McCain-Lieberman.”

 

    In vol. VII, no. 12, we also undercounted the number of scientists who signed the open letter to Canadian PM-in-waiting Paul Martin (now available on the web at <http://www.sepp.org/NewSEPP/LttrtoPaulMartin.html>).  There were 46 signatories at our last count.

 

We regret the errors and thank our readers for pointing them out.  We encourage our readers to point out any future errors.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Consumer Alert

Defenders of Property Rights

Frontiers of Freedom

George C. Marshall Institute

Heartland Institute

Independent Institute

JunkScience.com

National Center for Policy Analysis

National Center for Public Policy Research

Pacific Research Institute

Seniors Coalition

60 Plus Association

Small Business Survival Committee