Vol. VIII, No 16
Politics <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office" />
Kerry Campaign Issues Energy Plan
The presidential campaign of Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) released a fourteen-page energy policy paper on August 2 that emphasizes reducing <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" />America’s dependence on foreign oil. “An Energy Independent America” argues that, “Dependence on foreign oil is a security problem because it forces us to rely on volatile regions ruled by some of the world's most authoritarian regimes. We believe a strong America must no longer rely on the cooperation of regimes that may not share our values, and we are not willing to risk a future in which our young men and women might have to risk their lives to protect Mideast oil supplies.”
Energy independence has been a favorite rallying cry across the political spectrum for some years, but ignores the fact that crude oil is a global commodity and therefore prices are set in a global market.
The Kerry campaign plan also calls for $10 billion in taxpayer funding for clean coal technology research and the use of “flexible, market-based strategies” to lower nitrogen oxides (NOx), sulfur dioxide (SOx), carbon dioxide (CO2), and mercury emissions from such facilities. “Flexible, market-based strategies” would appear to mean that Kerry supports cap-and-trade programs for carbon dioxide emissions and the various air pollutants. Senator Kerry voted for the Lieberman-McCain Climate Stewardship Act on October 30, 2003, which would have put a cap on CO2 emissions.
The proposal also states that as President Kerry would “update and strengthen” fuel-efficiency standards and provide incentives for automakers to build more efficient automobiles and for consumers to purchase these automobiles. This appears to be a retreat from Kerry’s earlier call to increase corporate average fuel efficiency (CAFE) standards to 36 miles per gallon from the current 27.5 mpg by 2015. Such a requirement would place many drivers’ lives in danger as automakers would be forced to produce smaller, lighter vehicles.
The plan re-iterates Kerry’s goal of a 20 percent renewable portfolio standard by 2020 for electric utilities and an expansion of the production tax credit for wind and biomass energy sources (Greenwire, Aug. 3).
On the campaign trail in West Virginia, Senator John Edwards (D-N. C.), Kerry’s vice presidential running mate, emphasized the Democratic ticket’s support for coal. “For us, coal is an enormous part of our energy strategy for America. We need to be investing in clean coal technology, which is not happening now. We want to make sure people who work in coal now keep their jobs (Wheeling News Register, Aug. 1). The Bush campaign suggested that Kerry’s “rhetoric doesn’t match his actions.”
UN Considering Global Carbon Tax
The United Nations is studying proposals for global taxes as a means to generate sources of financing for development in poor countries. The proposals being considered include a carbon tax on fuel use, a tax on currency transactions (the Tobin tax), an arms sales tax, a global lottery, and a tax on international airline travel.
U. N. Under Secretary-General Jose Antonio Ocampo, head of the department of economic and social affairs (DESA), believes the study will be ready by this September. He recognized that, “Some key countries are very strongly opposed to these proposed global taxes [but] a number of developing countries are giving them careful consideration.”
France and Germany, backed by Chile and U. N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, signed a declaration in January relaunching the concept of taxing arms sales and financial transactions to boost funding for global development efforts in combating poverty and hunger. The declaration also supported the United Kingdom’s proposal to “frontload” development aid through capital markets via an International Finance Facility (IFF).
The European Union is divided on the establishment of an IFF, with EU Commissioner Poul Nielsen stating at UNCTAD XI in June 2004 that, “A sleight of hand with the rules of public finance—that mortgages future aid programmes—is no substitute for the hard political task of securing and sustaining the will to provide increased aid, now and for many years to come. This leads me to say that the IFF is really not the right way to go. Fighting global poverty is not something we should leave to be paid for by our children and grandchildren.” (www.ipsnews.net, Aug. 2).
Alarmist Canadian Minister Fired
Following his narrow victory in the Canadian general election, Prime Minister Paul Martin has fired global warming alarmist Environment Minister David Anderson from his cabinet.
Mr. Anderson reacted angrily to his rejection. The Vancouver Sun reported (July 30), “The Victoria MP said he believes Mr. Martin's advisers gave in to demands from the National Post, the Calgary Herald, the Alberta government, and pro-business lobby groups that all wanted him fired from cabinet.”
Terence Corcoran, editor-in-chief of the Financial Post, reacted, “The National Post and the Financial Post have certainly published many columns and commentaries on Mr. Anderson's global warming crusade, but to imagine that our newspaper also somehow joined a backroom cabal to apply pressure on Mr. Martin to dump Mr. Anderson is sheer fantasy.”
Mr. Anderson has said that he will now work with the left-wing New Democratic Party on certain environmental causes. The new environment minister is Stéphane Dion, M.P., a former senior research fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C.
Higher Energy Prices Hurt Economy
The slowdown in the growth of the U. S. economy in the second quarter has been put down to rising energy prices. The rate of annual growth in gross domestic product declined from 4.5 percent in the first quarter to 3 percent in the past three months. Consumer spending also dropped from a growth rate of 4.1 percent to a meager 1 percent in the second quarter.
Although economists predict the economy to rebound over the next few months, analysts say rising oil prices are the biggest threat to this recovery. Crude oil is up 35 percent since January 1, at around $44/barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Sung Won Sohn, chief economist at Wells Fargo Bank, told the Boston Globe (July 31), “Rising oil prices are one of the biggest concerns I have. It’s like a tax, and that will hurt consumers and the economy in general.” Economists generally agree that long-term high oil prices hurt consumer spending, which is one of the primary drivers of economic growth.
Japan May Tax Fossil Fuel Use
Japan is considering taxing consumers of fossil fuels, including petroleum and coal, in their latest plans to meet their targets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. To ensure that Japanese business does not suffer, steel makers and other businesses using coal and oil as fuel would be given tax waivers or receive lower rates.
The environment ministry expects tax revenues of roughly 600 billion yen (US$5.4 billion) a year. With approximately 45 million households in Japan, this will cost each household roughly $120 per year.
Specific tax amounts will be determined according to carbon dioxide emission volume and added to gasoline prices, electricity fees, and the like. Under the ministry's draft proposal, a tax of slightly more than 1 yen (US$0.009) would be imposed for each liter of gasoline. The revenues would be used to finance energy-saving policies. The ministry will present this proposal to the Liberal Democratic Party’s environmental research council Thursday. The ministry hopes to incorporate their proposal into fiscal 2005 tax reform. (Asia Pulse/Nikkei, Aug. 3).
Great Britain at Sea over Global Warming Programs
A new report from Cambridge Econometrics finds that, “The [British] government’s 20 percent domestic carbon-reduction goal is likely to be missed by a large margin” (Bloomberg News, July 30). The forecasters suggest that emissions will only be 12.3 percent down on 1990 levels. Emissions from power generation will drop by 5.5 percent, but emissions from domestic and transportation sources will rise.
The study also found that United Kingdom participation in the controversial European Union emissions-trading plan alone won't be enough to cut British emissions to the government target, although it did conclude that the UK is “expected easily to meet its target under the Kyoto Protocol” (to reduce emissions by 12.5 percent by 2012 from 1990 levels).
Cambridge Econometrics also concluded that emissions from road transport will rise by 14 percent by 2010 from 1990 levels.
In related news, The Guardian reported (July 29) that the UK government is to, “press on with plans to build 120,000 homes in the Thames Gateway flood plain despite accepting the increased chance of flooding disasters due to global warming.” The announcement said that, “New homes on floodplains would have to be sited and designed to ensure that they were ‘flood resilient.’”
This action, placing current needs over future worries, may reflect the current state of public opinion in the UK. A BBC poll (taken in mid-July to coincide with a series of BBC television programs pushing the alarmist case on global warming) found that climate change finished at the bottom of a list of seven “important issues” facing the UK, below even immigration. Of the respondents, 53 percent thought Britain would be affected “only a little” or “not at all” by climate change. Finally, while most respondents said that they would be willing to change their lifestyles to combat global warming, only low-cost options were popular. A mere 37 percent would be willing to pay more for gasoline.
Glacial Melting on Mt. Kilimanjaro Not Due to Global Warming
In a new paper published in the International Journal of Climatology (24; 329-339), Georg Kaser of the University of Innsbruck and colleagues from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and the Tanzania Meteorological Agency provide more proof that the snows of Kilimanjaro are disappearing owing to factors other than global warming.
In “Modern Glacier Retreat on Kilimanjaro as Evidence of Climate Change: Observations and Facts,” Kaser et al. “develop a new concept for investigating the retreat of Kilimanjaro’s glaciers, based on the physical understanding of glacier–climate interactions.” They say, “The concept considers the peculiarities of the mountain and implies that climatological processes other than air temperature control the ice recession in a direct manner. A drastic drop in atmospheric moisture at the end of the 19th century and the ensuing drier climatic conditions are likely forcing glacier retreat on Kilimanjaro.”
The authors reference another study, soon to be published in the Journal of Geophysical Research. According to them, “Mölg and Hardy (2004) show that mass loss on the summit horizontal glacier surfaces is mainly due to sublimation (i.e. turbulent latent heat flux) and is little affected by air temperature through the turbulent sensible heat flux.”
Acid Rain Stops Global Warming
In a case of the bugbear of the 1980s meeting the hobgoblin of the 1990s, scientists have found that acid rain can slow global warming by reducing methane emissions from natural wetland areas.
The new study, led by Vincent Gauci of Britain’s Open University together with colleagues at NASA and published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, finds that acid rain counteracts the natural production of methane gases by microbes in wetland areas.
As New Scientist says (Aug. 3), “Methane is thought to account for 22 percent of the human-enhanced greenhouse effect. And microbes in wetland areas are its biggest producers. They feed off substrates such as hydrogen and acetate in peat and emit methane into the atmosphere.”
The theory is that global warming itself will speed up the production of methane, “as heating up the microbes causes them to produce even more methane. But the new model suggests that sulphur [sic] pollution from industry cancels this out. This is because sulphur-eating bacteria also found in wetland regions outcompete the methane-emitting microbes for substrates. Experiments have shown that sulphur deposits can reduce methane production in small regions by up to 30 per cent by activating sulphur-eating bacteria.”
Atmospheric concentrations of methane have leveled off in the past few years.
CCSP to Look at Satellite/Surface Temperature Disparity
The Bush Administration’s Climate Change Science Program is beginning the first of 21 major climate assessments despite a fiscal crunch. The first assessment addresses the long-running debate over whether discrepancies exist between warming rates at the Earth’s surface and readings taken from the middle troposphere, where most weather occurs.
The apparent difference between the rate of warming at the Earth's surface and the middle layer of the atmosphere has proven to be one of the most enduring issues of contention in climate change science. Computer models used to simulate climate conditions predict faster warming in the mid-troposphere than on the ground, while observations taken from satellites and weather balloons have contradicted those predictions by showing that the surface has warmed at least twice as fast as the atmosphere since 1980. This disparity has led many to criticize computer model results, which are the bedrock of climate change projections, as unreliable.
Critics of the new study question its value. “The big challenge is, are they going to say anything different than the academy concluded a couple of years ago?” asked Anthony Janetos of the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics, and the Environment, referring to a 2000 National Research Council study on the temperature data that concluded that both surface and satellite data sets were accurate, but did not account for the disparity.
The study does have supporters, such as John Christy of the University of Alabama at Huntsville, who along with colleague Roy Spencer developed the satellite temperature dataset. Christy believes the CCSP research is essential to take into account the peer-reviewed studies that have been published in the past two to three years. “An update at a minimum is what's needed on this issue,” Christy said.
The study will be completed despite the tight monetary crunch the CCSP must deal with. Janetos believes “the prospects for a lot of new funding are really quite dim.” This is largely because the Bush Administration's fiscal year 2005 budget request for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration would eliminate the government's abrupt climate change research program as well as cut its paleoclimatology laboratory by half, potentially compromising the agency's ability to conduct climate research (Greenwire, July 28).
1930s-Style “Dust Bowls” Historically Not Uncommon
Extreme weather conditions in the Great Plains, specifically dust bowls, have long been a natural occurrence, according to a recent Duke University study.
Jim Clark, H.L. Blomquist Professor of Biology at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment and Earth Sciences, summarizes: “What would happen was that the grass would disappear [because of naturally occurring droughts]. So the fuel for fire would be lost. We'd see the erosion start. The chemistry of the lakes would change. We would see these dust-bowl effects. And then, within several decades to a century later, the grasses would come back, fires would start back up and erosion would stop.”
According to Clark, the regularity of these ancient droughts make much more recent Great Plains droughts in the 1890s and 1930s appear “unremarkable” by comparison, even though the contemporary ones “walloped people.” An understanding that extreme weather events have long occurred seriously puts in to question environmentalists’ assumptions that human activity causes extreme weather events. In fact, Clark went so far as to say, “It's not only climate change from changing CO2 content in the atmosphere, but also this natural variability out there that we don't fully understand.” (Duke University press release, Aug. 2).
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
Fraser Institute, Canada
Frontiers of Freedom
George C. Marshall Institute
Istituto Bruno Leoni, Italy
National Center for Policy Analysis
National Center for Public Policy Research
Pacific Research Institute
60 Plus Association
Small Business Survival Committee