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Congress Oversees EPA’s New Source Review
When the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a meeting on January 13 to discuss "an alternative sector-based approach to complying with an upcoming rule on new source review provisions of the Clean Air Act" (CAA), it raised some red flags in Congress (BNA Daily Environment Report, January 13, 2000).
On January 12 staff from Rep. David McIntosh (R-IN), Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), Rep. Ken Calvert (R-CA), and Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) met with Robert Dehrer (EPA/Deputy GC), Alan Eckert (GC/EPA-OAR), and William Harnett (Office of Air Quality Planning and Standards) to discuss the matter.
The concern was that EPA appeared to be considering the Clean Energy Group’s proposal to establish a "voluntary" cap and trade program for multiple pollutants, including CO2, in preparation for a rulemaking. This was seen as a potential violation of the Knollenberg provision, which prohibits the implementation of the Kyoto Protocol.
EPA assured the congressional staffers that it had not endorsed CEG’s proposal, and had no plan to include a CO2 cap in a rulemaking to revise the New Source Review (NSR) program. EPA also said there was no connection between the stakeholder consideration of alternatives to the existing NSR and EPA’s litigation of seven major utilities under the NSR.
According to a McIntosh aide, "EPA Deputy Administrator Robert Perciascepe spent about one quarter of his introductory remarks at the stakeholders meeting on January 13 speaking to concerns we raised at our meeting, denying that EPA has a ‘plan’ to revise the NSR, and reaffirming EPA’s fidelity to the Congressional ban on Kyoto implementation. Our timely oversight appears to have had a salutary effect."
James Baker, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Peter Ewins, head of the UK Meteorological Office, issued a joint statement on claiming that global warming is rapidly changing the world’s climate and that human actions are responsible. "The rapid rate of warming since 1976, approximately 0.2 degrees per decade, is consistent with the projected rate of warming based on human-induced effects," said the meteorologists. "Scientists now say that they cannot explain this unusual warmth without including the effects of human-generated greenhouse gases and aerosols."
They ignore the fact that there are credible scientists who disagree with them. They attribute all opposing views to the "American business community." The Independent of London (December 23, 1999) noted that, "The statement from such senior figures breaks a tradition of caution by scientists involved in climate research, who have been providing evidence for a decade of global warming, but have left the conclusions to politicians."
Greens Swarm New Hampshire
According to Greenwire (January 3, 2000), "The Boston-based Green Corps has dispatched 10 ‘green mercenaries’ to Iowa and New Hampshire to advocate global warming as a campaign issue." The group has contracted the D.C.-based nonprofit group Ozone Action to help with the project. They believe that by scaring Iowa corn farmers and New Hampshire ski resort operators and maple syrup producers with stories about scorching temperatures and extreme weather they can turn global warming into a serious campaign issue.
Physicians for Social Responsibility have also released a report, Death By Degrees: The Emerging Health Crisis of Climate Change, that focuses on New Hampshire. Here’s an excerpt from the executive summary: "This report examines health impacts of global climate change: temperature change and extreme weather events, air pollution, diseases, and sea level rise. The facts are daunting: Over the next several decades the state can expect much heavier precipitation in the winter—on the order of 25 to 60 percent, and more intense winter storms. This can lead to more accidents, hypothermia, and cardiac deaths, as well as more carbon monoxide poisonings." Information about the report can be found at www.psr.org .
French Carbon Tax
In an attempt to fight global warming, the French government will unveil an "ecological tax" to drive down the use of energy use. The tax will go into effect in the year 2001 and will be based on the amount of carbon produced by various energy sources.
"The tax," notes Reuters (January 8, 2000), "would apply to France’s state-owned power utility Electricite de France, as well as to makers of cement, glass and steel, to name a few." It is also meant to reduce driving in urban areas and to "persuade automobile manufacturers to lower the maximum speed of vehicles."
Is Wind Energy Viable?
On June 21, 1999, the U.S. Department of Energy unveiled its new "Wind Energy Initiative" that sets a goal of producing 5 percent of the nation’s electricity from windmills by the year 2020. The proposal is part of the Clinton/Gore administration’s attempt to promote renewable energy as part of implementing the Kyoto Protocol.
A new study by Glen Schleede, president of Energy Market & Policy Analysis, Inc., shows that DOE’s goal is "truly unrealistic." In order to reach this goal, says Schleede, it would be necessary to generate 239.1 billion kilowatt hours (kWh) using windmills. This translates into constructing more than 132,000 750 kW windmills across the United States. One of the problems with this endeavor is that these windmills are huge. The 750 kW models are 213 ft. tall, with rotor blades that are 164 ft. in diameter. From the ground to the end of the blades, is about 300 ft. in height. This is as tall as the U.S. Capitol building from the ground to the top of the statue.
The massive size of these windmills make it likely that there will be heavy opposition to locating them in places suitable for wind energy production. "Their large size, the large number required, the large expanses of land needed for wind farms and likely opposition to windmills in populated, protected, scenic, recreational and other areas," make the DOE’s initiative "a formidable undertaking," says Schleede.
Additionally, wind generated electricity is still more expensive than electricity generated by more conventional means. Proponents of wind energy often point to the fact that the cost of generating electricity with windmills has decreased, and that R&D programs underway may reduce the costs even further. They also point out the environmental advantages of wind energy. But, says Schleede, "Based on available information on economic costs, there seems to be no doubt that electricity generated from wind energy is more costly than electricity generated by hydro power and it is also almost always more costly than electricity generated by using fossil fuels (coal, oil, or natural gas)."
Moreover, wind power carries its own environmental costs, including unattractive visual effects due to windmill size; the necessity of building large transmission capacity due to the need to locate wind farms in remote areas; and bird kills. According to the National Wind Technology Center’s website, "There are two primary issues: 1) effects on bird populations from deaths caused by wind turbines; and 2) violations of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act or the Endangered Species Act, or both, if even one bird from a protected species is killed."
The full 26-page report can be obtained by contacting Mr. Schleede at (703) 709-2213 or by email at EMPAInc@aol.com .
The Canadian government has given lip service to the Kyoto Protocol, but like other industrialized countries it has not yet ratified the treaty. The reason may be due to the costs of actually lowering greenhouse gas emissions to 6 percent below 1990 levels.
According to a new study by a Washington University researcher, the costs of complying would be very high for Canada. In order to meet its target Canada must reduce emissions by 31 percent below business-as-usual scenarios, which would lead to a 2.8 percent reduction in GDP in 2010. The study argues that Canada would suffer the most among industrialized countries from reductions in energy use (The Gazette (Montreal), December 30, 1999).
NRC Reviews Temperature Data
One of the most puzzling aspects of global warming for climate scientists has been the wide discrepancy between the surface temperature data and the satellite temperature data. The surface record shows warming, while the satellite data shows no trend.
A new report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences tries to reconcile the discrepancies. The report notes that surface temperatures are estimated have risen by 0.25 to 0.4 degrees C during the past 20 years. The satellite temperature record, on the other hand, shows a trend of 0.0 to 0.2 degrees C at the lower to mid-troposphere (the atmospheric layer extending from the earth’s surface up to about 30,000 feet). It also notes that balloon-borne observations agree with the satellite data.
The report makes two important points: 1) "the warming trend in the global-mean surface temperature observations during the past 20 years is undoubtedly real and is substantially greater than the average rate of warming during the twentieth century; 2) the recent corrections in the MSU (microwave sounding units) processing algorithms bring the global temperature trend derived from satellite data into slightly closer alignment with the surface temperature trends, but a substantial disparity remains."
With regard to the satellite record, the report warns, "temperature trends based on data for such short periods of record, with arbitrary start and end points, are not necessarily indicative of the long-term behavior of the climate system." It notes that the wide disparity between surface and tropospheric temperatures could be the result of several causes, but that the uncertainties are still large.
To reduce the uncertainties, the report calls for an "improved climate monitoring system designed to ensure the continuity and quality of critically needed measurements of temperature, other climatic variables, and concentrations of aerosols and trace gases." Also, the data must be made available for researchers.
Although the report says little that is new, the media turned the study into further evidence that drastic action is needed to prevent global warming and a refutation of the global warming skeptics. CBS News (January 12, 2000) reported that the study shows that "The warming trend during the past 20 years is undoubtedly real." And the Houston Chronicle (January 12, 2000) says, "satellite readings that appear to conflict with the surface warming trend of the past 20 years do not disprove it." It goes on to say that, "Critics of the assertion that ‘greenhouse gases’ from human activities are causing global warming maintain that the satellite measurements cast doubt on whether warming is actually occurring."
The Chronicle apparently didn’t interview any of the critics. No credible skeptic says what the Chronicle claims they say. The skeptics say that the satellite temperature record do not confirm the predictions made by computer climate models, which predict that the troposphere will warm more rapidly than the surface.
Finally, CBS News claimed that the report supports the Clinton-Gore Administration’s attempts to stop global warming, "keeping with the opinion of form State Department Official Rafe Pomerance, who thinks, ‘It won’t stop. Sea levels will rise, forests will move, water resources will be shifted all over the earth – it’s a very unpredictable and dangerous future and there is all the rationale in the world to act and act decisively.’"
"Such thoughts used to be called ‘doom and gloom’ by many," said CBS News. But the report shows, "a growing number of scientists are hearing the critics, looking at the data, and saying it’s a forecast that can’t be ignored." CBS needs to reread the report. The report does not support Clinton’s and Gore’s view on climate change. Rather it states that there are large uncertainties in the science and we need better monitoring systems.
Tree Rings and Global Warming
Tree ring data has played an important role in the climate change debate. Recent research conducted by Franco Biondi with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography has found something interesting in the 1000-year record he has constructed. The limber pines that he has studied have grown more in the last twenty years than any other time in the last 1,000 years. This is not due to increased moisture, concludes Biondi. More likely it is a result of greater nitrogen deposition in the soil or higher concentrations of carbon dioxide due to industrial emissions.
Research conducted by Jonathan Overpeck of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and Susan Woodhouse with the University of Colorado also used tree ring data to discover that central North America has experienced severe droughts over the last 2,000 years that dwarf the Dust Bowl drought in magnitude and duration. Droughts lasting 20 to 30 years occurred regularly until about 400 years ago and could happen again.
Other research shows that the Jamestown Colony of Virginia (founded in 1607) suffered through one of the most severe droughts in 770 years (Los Angeles Times, December 30, 1999). This data shows that recent droughts in the U.S. that have been blamed on global warming are well within natural variation.
European Windstorm Blamed on Global Warming
Recent windstorms that swept through Europe without warning caused severe damage, particularly in France, but also in other parts of Europe. The head of the United Nations Environment Program, Klaus Toepfer, said the disasters "are directly linked to climate change triggered by emissions from industries and vehicles," according to a UPI report (December 29, 1999).
But, according to European meteorologists, the cause of the windstorms is uncertain. Patrick Galois, a forecaster with the French national weather service, Meteo, said that global warming "does not create storms, but maybe it will have an effect on them. If the oceans are warmer, that could be another source of energy out there that might intensify a storm."
The New York Times (January 4, 2000) noted that "while there is evidence that rainstorms have become heavier in some parts of the world, there is no solid indication of stronger wind storms. At any rate, experts say, no specific weather development can yet be attributed to global climate change."
The article also noted that, "The two storms that struck Europe…are the kind that develop along a front, a boundary, between cold arctic air and warmer southern air that circles the globe. Above this boundary is the jet stream, the high altitude river of air in which most storm systems are embedded, and that carries them on the general west-to-east course."
Some researchers say that global warming may intensify the jet stream, which fuels storms, leading to more severe storms. But, as Patrick Michaels, a climatologist with the University of Virginia has noted, the nature of the warming that has been observed to date should weaken the jet stream. Nearly all of the warming has occurred in the coldest regions of the Northern Hemisphere with little or no warming in the Southern Hemisphere. The result is a decrease in the temperature gradient between the two hemispheres and thus a weaker jet stream.
CBS News claimed that, "One theory attributes the rise to global warming." A Gulf Coast tourist noted that "The last several days it seems like that there are quite a few of them on the beach" (January 12, 2000).
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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