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California CO2 Bill Passes
The California legislature passed a bill on July 1 designed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from new vehicles. Governor Gray Davis must sign or veto the bill within 30 days. Davis said, “I believe this bill strikes the appropriate balance, and that's why I'm strongly inclined to sign it” (Sacramento Bee, July 4, 2002).
The legislation had been stymied for several weeks by intense opposition generated by the auto industry and unions through a major advertising campaign and direct lobbying. Supporters changed the bill number from AB 1058 to AB 1493 without notice, made a few changes to address criticisms, then rushed the bill through the Senate on Saturday, June 29. On Monday, July 1, the Assembly passed it on a 41-30 vote. Assembly rules require a minimum of 41 votes (out of 80) to pass legislation.
If enacted into law, AB 1493 would require the California Air Resources Board to design policies to “achieve the maximum feasible reduction of greenhouse gases” from cars and trucks by 2005. The new regulations would first apply to the 2009 vehicle model year. AB 1493, unlike AB 1058, prohibits new taxes and would allow legislative review before any new regulations went into effect.
Assemblyman Dennis Mountjoy (R-Arcadia) spoke of the “hypocrisy” of Democrats who supported the measure while listing the cars they drive, Chevy Suburbans and Jeep Cherokees among them (Los Angeles Times, July 2, 2002). Assemblyman Dennis Hollingsworth (R-Murieta), told the New York Times (July 2): “This will cost lives. The reason it will cost lives is that it will price people out of the market. So they will keep their older cars, which do not have the safety features of newer cars.”
Hearings Will Review Administration Climate Policies
The House Science Committee is holding a hearing on July 10 to review President Bush’s climate change policies. Witnesses scheduled to testify are: John Marburger, Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; Jim Mahoney, Assistant Secretary of Commerce in charge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; and Robert Card, Undersecretary of Energy.
On July 11, the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee is scheduled to hold a hearing on the Bush Administration’s Climate Action Report 2002. Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.), who will chair the hearing, and Ranking Republican John McCain (R-Az.) have both used the administration’s report to the U. N. to attack the administration for not doing enough to stop global warming.
Marburger and Mahoney are also scheduled to testify at the Senate hearing, plus Glenn Hubbard, Chairman of the President’s Council of Economic Advisers, and James Connaughton, Chairman of the President’s Council on Environmental Quality.
In related news, Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham and three other members of the Bush Cabinet sent a letter on July 8 to the president with their recommendations on how to “improve and expand” the voluntary registry of greenhouse gas emissions and reductions managed by the Department of Energy and to create a voluntary transferable credit system for reductions.
President Bush had directed them in his February 14 speech on climate policy to propose improvements. The letter promises new guidelines for the registry by January 2004. The letter may be downloaded at http://www.energy.gov/HQPress/releases02/julpr/GreenhouseGasRegistryLetter.pdf .
House and Senate conferees on the energy bill, H. R. 4, held their first meeting on June 27, after nearly two weeks of bickering over whether it was the turn of the House or the Senate to chair the conference committee. It was finally agreed that Rep. Billy Tauzin, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will chair the horse-trading sessions.
Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham sent a letter to Tauzin on June 27 detailing the Bush Administration’s positions on most of the main provisions in the House and Senate versions. The administration opposes all three climate change titles in the Senate bill (Titles 10, 11, and 13) because they “are not consistent with the President’s climate plan.” Several sources have told Cooler Heads that during administration deliberations only the Environmental Protection Agency and the Council on Environmental Quality were against opposing the Senate’s three climate titles.
The administration also opposes the renewable portfolio standard (RPS) passed by the Senate, but supports the Senate’s expanded ethanol mandate. The RPS would require privately-owned utilities to produce 10% of their power from non-hydro renewable sources by 2020.
Abraham re-iterated Bush’s support for oil and gas exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which was approved by the House. However, while supporting a natural gas pipeline from Alaska to the 48 States, the administration opposes the huge subsidies for it contained in the Senate bill.
The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee voted out S. 556, the Clean Power Act, by a 10 to 9 vote on June 27. Although Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.) said that he would like to bring the bill to the floor this fall, it appears to lack the 60 votes necessary to invoke cloture and end a filibuster.
Chairman Jim Jeffords (I-Vt.) was joined by eight committee Democrats and Republican Lincoln Chafee (R-R.I.) in support of Jeffords’s bill. Eight Republicans and Democrat Max Baucus, who faces a re-election campaign in Montana, voted against.
Senator Bob Smith (R-N.H.) offered an amendment based on President Bush’s Clear Skies initiative. That and several other Republican amendments were offered and then withdrawn before a vote because they were unlikely to pass.
Senator Chafee noted that tourism was the chief source of income in Rhode Island and expressed concern that his state’s beaches would disappear because of manmade global warming. He cited the administration’s Climate Action Report 2002 as evidence.
S. 556 would require electric power plants to reduce their emissions of nitrogen oxides by 83 percent, sulfur dioxide by 83 percent, mercury by 90 percent, and carbon dioxide by 23 percent from today's levels by 2008. This is the first piece of legislation marked up in Congress to contain mandatory CO2 emission reductions.
Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality, told Environment and Energy Daily (July 10) that he hoped to have President Bush’s Clear Skies plan introduced in legislative form before the end of this Congress. He also said that he still opposes regulating CO2 emissions and that he doubts that S. 556 will go anywhere while Bush is in office.
U. S. Carbon Dioxide Emissions Declined in 2001
The Department of Energy’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) reported on July 1 that U.S. carbon dioxide emissions decreased by 1.1 percent in 2001. The decrease from 1,558 million metric tons of carbon equivalent (MMTCe) in 2000 to 1,540 MMTCe in 2001 was the first since 1991, when emissions dropped 1.2 percent. EIA attributes the decline primarily to the economic recession and to warmer winter weather, which lowered demand for heating fuel.
Not all sectors showed a decline, however. Residential sector emissions grew by 1.8%. EIA estimates that energy-related CO2 emissions have increased on average 1.2% per year since 1990.
Momentum Building for Air Fuel Tax
Margaret Beckett, a junior minister in the United Kingdom’s environment ministry, has called for an international tax on aviation fuel in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. And U. K. Environment Minister Michael Meacher told the Times of London (June 20) that opposition from the United States was the only obstacle to agreeing on such a tax. Meacher said, “The evidence that taxes or charges work is pretty clear. The ideal way to deal with this is to get agreement with all the Western countries in the International Civil Aviation Organisation. But that has proved difficult because the Americans are not prepared to reach agreement.”
European environmental groups are claiming that aviation fuel taxes are needed because airline fares are too low. A June 27 story in the Moscow Times quoted Nic Ferriday of the Aviation Environment Federation: “Some air fares have fallen so low, there may be some artificial demand being created. People are flying more and more. But how much of this is really necessary?”
UK “Green” Energy Prices Set to Rise
The price of renewable power in the United Kingdom is likely to rise steeply over the next five years because there won’t be enough plants to meet the government’s strict renewable energy targets, according to new industry research.
The proportion of power produced from renewable energy sources that suppliers sell must equal ten percent by 2010 under the government’s new rule. To verify that they have met the obligation, suppliers receive renewable obligation certificates (ROCs) for each unit of renewable electricity they buy, which then must be submitted to the government’s Office of Gas and Electricity Markets (OFGEM) at the end of the year. Plants that do not meet the target can purchase ROCs from plants willing to sell them. If the number of available ROCs is insufficient, then plants may pay a buyout price to OFGEM of 3 pence/KWh, which will then be awarded to those plants that meet their obligation.
According to new research by Platts and the Renewable Energy Association, “There is a strong chance that not enough new renewable energy projects are being planned for the Government to meet its 2010 target. This means that the price of ROCs could rise steeply over the next few years because demand for green power will not be met by supply.”
Electricity suppliers could be faced with having to pay up to $92 per MWh for ROCs by 2006-07, which is twice as much as the government has forecast, according to Dominic Maclaine, editor of Platts Power UK newsletter. Even under the most optimistic scenario, “where all green projects with planning permission are built and start on time, the value of certificates is estimated to be still worth around £40 MWh ($62) by 2006-07,” said Maclaine.
Two studies appearing in the July issue of Global Change Biology have concluded that increasing CO2 levels will have negative effects on insects, but positive effects for plants. One report by Peter Stiling and colleagues found that, “More herbivores die of host plant-induced death in elevated CO2 than in ambient CO2” and these plant-eating insects are more likely to be attacked because they have to feed for longer periods of time to get the nutrients needed.
A second study by David Stacey and Mark Fellowes concluded that there is now “empirical evidence that changes in host plant quality by increased levels of CO2 can alter the outcome of interspecific competition among insect herbivores.” As Robert Balling of Arizona State University points out, both studies show that plants would benefit from higher CO2 levels. Balling states, “These two articles add to the evidence that elevated CO2 will benefit plants without giving herbivores any competition advantage over the plant.”
Climate Models Fail to Reproduce Natural Temperature Fluctuations
Climate models that serve as the basis for global warming predictions fail to reproduce correctly the fluctuations in atmospheric temperatures over time scales of months and years, according to new research appearing in the July 8 issue of Physical Review Letters.
The study explains that large-scale atmospheric and oceanic dynamics are solved in the models using highly sophisticated numerical solutions, but that there are also “subgrid-scale processes” that are too small to be modeled. These are handled by “parameterization schemes,” which amounts to little more than arbitrarily assigning a value to the particular process being considered. Some of these subgrid-scales includes, surprisingly enough, the roles of various greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide and the effect of aerosols.
In earlier research, the authors discovered a universal mathematical relationship, known as a scaling law, which describes the correlations between temperature fluctuations. What they found was that temperature variations from their average values exhibit persistence that decays at a well-defined rate. “The range of this persistence law exceeds ten years, and there is no evidence for a breakdown of the law at even larger timescales,” according to the study.
Using this scaling law, the researchers tested seven general circulation models, including the U.S.-based model at the National Climate for Atmospheric Research, against historical atmospheric temperature data from six representative sites. What they found was that the models, “fail to reproduce the universal scaling behavior observed in the real temperature records.”
The researchers explain that, “It is possible that the lack of long-term persistence is due to the fact that certain forcings such as volcanic eruptions or solar fluctuations have not been incorporated in the models.” But they cannot “rule out that systematic model deficiencies (such as the use of equivalent CO2 forcing to account for all other greenhouse gases or inaccurate spatial and temporal distributions of sulfate aerosols) prevent the [climate models] from correctly simulating the natural variability of the atmosphere.”
They conclude, “Since the models underestimate the long-range persistence of the atmosphere and overestimate the trends, our analysis suggests that the anticipated global warming is also overestimated by the models.”
More National Assessment Shenanigans
The National Assessment (NACC), a Clinton administration report on the possible impacts of climate change that has resurfaced in the Bush administration, has come under repeated and heavy criticism due to its sloppy research, absurd computer modeling, and political bias. Now it appears that the NACC involves scientific fraud as well. According to Tech Central Station at (www.techcentralstation.com , June 28, 2002), the U. S. Global Change Research Program altered the color scheme of the graphics used in the assessment to hide large discrepancies between the two models - one from the Canadian Climate Centre and the other from the UK-based Hadley Centre - that were used to make 100-year forecasts.
When the results from the two models were completed, they showed very different trends for future warming. Typically, when modelers show their results graphically, they use colors on a map to show temperature variations. The color scale goes from dark blue to lighter blues, which represent cooling, to green, yellow, orange and red to show progressively warmer temperatures. Dark blue sections represent about a 5 degree cooling, whereas red represents about a 15 degree warming.
Putting the two model results side by side, one could see that there were huge discrepancies between them. Several of the technical reviewers commented that the differences between the models cast doubt on the quality of the predictions. To “fix” the problem, the USGCRP changed the color scheme so that the scale used was mostly red and orange with a little blue at the bottom. Indeed, the orange extended all the way into the cooling part of the scale. The result was to eliminate blues, greens and yellows from the maps, which became nearly all orange or red, thereby obscuring the differences between the model results. The before and after pictures are available at the Tech Central Station website. A more detailed discussion of the changes can be found at www.john-daly.com .
At a press conference held by Environmental Media Services in Washington on July 2, it was claimed that U. S. businesses could be harmed by the Bush Administration’s decision to reject the Kyoto Protocol. John Palmisano, whose company Evolution Markets advises corporations on how to trade and reduce emissions, asserted that even if global warming is not true, business will benefit through emissions trading because…well, because they will have the ability to track emissions. Palmisano was previously a leading promoter of emissions trading at Enron Corporation.
Joseph Romm, of the Center for Energy and Climate Solutions and a former Assistant Secretary of Energy in the Clinton Administration, said: “There is no type of business in this country that cannot make a profit through reducing carbon emissions.” Romm claimed that consumers prefer to buy products from “cool companies”, a sentiment echoed by Michael Marvin of the Business Council for Sustainable Energy. Marvin claimed that both consumers and shareholders want emissions reductions.
Environmental Media Services passed out copies of a recent report by the Conference Board titled, “Global Climate Change: Fact or Fiction? It Doesn’t Matter-the Issue is Here to Stay.” For those interested in basing public policy or investment decisions on fantasy, the report may be found at http://www.conference-board.org/ea_reports/EA_23.pdf .
The Cato Institute is sponsoring a lunchtime briefing on Global Warming: Rational Science, Rational Policy on July 19 in Room B-338 of the Rayburn House Office Building. The speakers will be Patrick Michaels of the University of Virginia and Cato and Jerry Taylor of Cato. Registration, which is required, may be accomplished by calling Julie Cullifer at (202) 789-5229 or online at www.cato.org/events .
THE COOLER HEADS COALITION
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