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House Committee Will Take Up Sense of Congress Language on Climate
The House International Relations Committee is scheduled to take up the State Department Authorization bill (which has not yet been given a number) on May 7. Committee staff expect that Rep. Robert Menendez (D-N. J.) will offer sense of Congress on climate change language similar to that voted out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on April 9.
Last year, a similar amendment offered by Menendez was approved on a 23-20 vote. Republican Representative Chris Smith of New Jersey joined committee Democrats in voting for the amendment. Four Republicans missed the vote. The amendment was dropped in the House-Senate conference report on the bill.
This year, Menendez’s amendment faces a more organized opposition. Chairman Henry Hyde’s (R-Ill.) committee staff are canvassing Republican members. The House majority leadership are united in opposing the amendment. A joint letter opposing the amendment from several trade associations led by the National Association of Manufacturers has been sent to committee members. Another joint letter from non-profit groups is being circulated by the Competitive Enterprise Institute for signatures.
The Senate has scheduled consideration of its State Department authorization bill, S. 925, for May 6. It is not known whether there will be an
attempt to strip or replace the climate language. Among other things, the climate section calls on the administration to negotiate a new international treaty with binding commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. For a more complete account of the Senate version, see the April 16 issue.
Senate Energy Bill Goes to Floor Without Climate Title
The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee completed work on comprehensive energy legislation on April 30 and sent the bill to the floor. The bill, S. 14, does not contain any climate policy provisions. Senator Jeff Bingaman’s (R-N.M.) amendment to add a renewable portfolio standard for electric utilities was also defeated.
The Senate could begin floor debate on the bill as early as next week, although it is expected that there will be several weeks of intermittent debate before a final vote. Numerous amendments on climate policy may be offered. These include Titles 10, 11, and 13 from last year’s Senate energy bill; the McCain-Lieberman bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions, S. 139; and Senator Tom Carper’s (D-Del.) Clean Air Planning Act, S. 843.
White House Denies Petition Using Data Quality Act
The White House Office on Science and Technology Policy on April 21 denied a petition to have the National Assessment on Climate Change corrected to comply with the Federal Data Quality Act.
OSTP legal counsel, in replying to the petition filed by Christopher C. Horner on behalf of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, claims that the National Assessment was produced by a federal advisory committee and is therefore exempted by the Federal Advisory Committee Act from meeting the Data Quality Act’s requirements.
“Only a few problems stand between this claim and reality,” Horner commented.
“First, the statute authorizing the National Assessment expressly states that it will be produced by OSTP. Second, the National Assessment’s text acknowledges that it was produced by OSTP. Third, on numerous occasions the federal advisory committee charged with assisting OSTP acknowledges that the National Assessment itself will be a product of OSTP,” Horner continued.
“Furthermore, neither OSTP’s guidelines nor the White House Office of Management and Budget’s FDQA guidelines provide any exemption for FACA products,” said Horner, who is preparing an appeal on behalf of CEI.
The petition and the White House’s denial may be found at www.cei.org .
CBO Releases Study on Economics of Climate Change
The Congressional Budget Office on April 25 released a new study on The Economics of Climate Change: a Primer, prepared by Robert Shackleton of the CBO’s Macroeconomic Analysis Division. The study considers most of the issues involved in controlling greenhouse gas emissions, but reaches only tentative and general conclusions.
The study draws on a wide range of scholarship, but does not attempt to estimate the costs of various policies. It does conclude that pricing emissions through taxes or fixed-price permits is preferable in many ways to capping emissions through quotas.
One chapter considers climate science and the potential costs and benefits of global warming. Curiously, two graphs are displayed together that show a remarkable correlation between fluctuations in global temperature and in atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations over the last 450 thousand years. Although the text does not claim that increasing carbon dioxide levels cause higher temperatures, the causal connection is implied by juxtaposing the two graphs.
Apparently the author is unaware that it has been observed and is now generally agreed that higher temperatures have preceded higher carbon dioxide levels. It has further been plausibly argued that temperature fluctuations cause carbon dioxide fluctuations through the atmosphere-ocean transfer of carbon dioxide. Oceans absorb carbon dioxide as temperatures cool and release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere as temperatures rise.
The study and a four-page issue brief based on it are posted at www.cbo.gov .
Emissions Drop Sharply in Britain
Carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom dropped 3.5 per cent last year. The government’s planned target of a 3.5 million ton reduction in emissions was exceeded by 10 million tons.
“The results of our agreements demonstrated real gains in energy efficiency, achieved in a cost-effective way,” claimed Lord Whitty, the government minister for sustainable energy, according to a Reuters story (April 9, 2003). Under the government’s Climate Change Agreements, companies that fail to meet their targets can incur steep energy taxes.
Environment Minister Michael Meacher said that, “Today’s figures are another boost for government’s aim to cut carbon emissions by 60 per cent by 2050.”
The Independent of London explained the reason for the sharp decline in emissions in an April 8 article. “But the reductions in carbon dioxide output were principally due to falling steel production as Corus – formerly British Steel – struggled with ‘severe operational difficulties’, ministers admitted,” wrote technology editor Charles Arthur.
Study challenges air pollution alarmism
A study by Joel Schwartz challenges the scientific basis of both the Bush Administration’s Clear Skies Initiative and Senator Jim Jeffords’s (I-Vt.) Clean Power Act. The analysis has implications for climate policy because Jeffords’s legislation includes regulation of carbon dioxide emissions and Bush’s plan could serve as a proxy climate policy by forcing utilities to close coal-fired power plants in order to reach the limits on mercury emissions.
Clear Skies and Clean Power would impose tough new controls on power plants to reduce levels of fine particle (PM2.5) pollution, which both sides claim kills tens of thousands of people per year. Supporters of these bills promise substantial benefits from additional PM reductions.
Schwartz’s new study, published by the Competitive Enterprise Institute, argues that Clear Skies and Clean Power rest on a weak scientific foundation. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) based its new annual fine PM (PM2.5) standard on a study known as the American Cancer Society (ACS) study of PM and mortality, which assessed the association between the risk of death between 1982 and 1998 with PM2.5 levels in dozens of American cities.
Although the ACS study reported an association between PM and mortality, some odd features of the ACS results suggest that PM is not the culprit. For example, higher PM levels increased mortality in men, but not women; in those with no more than a high school degree, but not those with at least some college; in former-smokers, but not current- or never-smokers; and in those who said they were moderately active, but not those who said they were very active or sedentary.
These odd variations in the relationship between PM2.5 and mortality seem biologically implausible. Even more surprising, the ACS study reported that higher PM2.5 levels were not associated with an increased risk of mortality due to respiratory disease; a surprising finding, given that PM would be expected to exert its effects through the respiratory system.
EPA also ignored the results of another epidemiological study that found no effect of PM2.5 on mortality in a cohort of veterans with high blood pressure, even though this relatively unhealthy cohort should have been more susceptible to the effects of pollution than the general population. The evidence therefore suggests that EPA’s annual standard for PM2.5 is unnecessarily stringent. Attaining the standard will be expensive, but is unlikely to improve public health.
Air pollution has declined dramatically over the past 30 years, and will continue to decline, both because more recent vehicle models start out cleaner and stay cleaner as they age than earlier ones, and also because already-adopted standards for new vehicles and existing power plants will come into effect in the next few years.
If policymakers feel they must do something to speed up PM reductions, Schwartz advises they offer people tax incentives to scrap high-polluting older vehicles that account for a substantial portion of ambient PM levels in metropolitan areas. This flexible, cost-effective approach is more likely to result in net public health benefits than either Clear Skies or Clean Power.
The study is available at http://www.cei.org/gencon/025,03452.cfm .
The Cooler Heads Coalition and the George C. Marshall Institute will host a congressional staff and media briefing on Friday, May 16, from Noon to 1:30 PM in Room G-50 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. Dr. Willie Soon, a research physicist with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, will speak on, “Was the Twentieth Century Climate Unusual? Exploring the Lessons and Limits of Climate History.”
Lunch will be provided, and reservations are required. To register, please telephone the Marshall Institute at (202) 296-9655 or e-mail them at email@example.com .
Soon’s talk will be based on a recent major review article of which he was the lead author. See the April 16 issue for more details. The article has been posted on the web at http://cfa-www.harvard.edu/~wsoon/1000yrclimatehistory-d/ . A less technical version is available on the Marshall Institute’s web site at www.marshall.org/pdf/materials/136.pdf .
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