July 31, 2015 12:41 PM
In 2010, during the 111th Congress, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid shelved a cap-and-trade bill because too many Democrats opposed the bill during caucus meetings. And during his 2012 reelection campaign, President Obama conspicuously dodged speaking about climate change. Despite the failure of climate policy within his own party in the Senate, and after neglecting the issue altogether in 2012, President Obama in the summer of 2013 unveiled a far-reaching executive strategy for addressing global warming, known as the Climate Action Plan.
July 6, 2015 11:58 AM
Joel Kotkin has written an outstanding analysis posted on the Daily Beast of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’. I would quibble with certain details. For example, I think Francis is more influenced by Liberation Theology than by Argentina’s Peronist economy. And Kotkin’s historical account of the “Middle Ages” is based on outdated scholarship. But he is absolutely correct that the encyclical allies the Pope with radical Greens who hate capitalism and favor de-industrialization.
Here are several excerpts from Kotkin’s insightful article:
What makes the Pope’s position so important—after all, the world is rejecting his views on such things as gay marriage and abortion—is how it jibes with the world view of some of the secular world’s best-funded, influential, and powerful forces. In contrast to both Socialist and capitalist thought, both the Pope and the greens are suspicious about economic growth itself, and seem to regard material progress as aggression against the health of the planet.
Another flash point between papal concerns and those of their new best friends lies in addressing poverty. The Pope is correct in identifying inequality and poverty as major concerns, but it’s hard to say how green strategies—particularly when they make energy, housing, and industry far more expensive—actually alleviate the plight of the poor or the middle class. Ultimately the green platform seeks not to increase living standards as we currently understand them (particularly in high income countries) but to purposely lower them. This can be seen in the calls for “de-development,” a phrase employed by President Obama’s science advisor John Holdren for all “overdeveloped” advanced countries, in part to discourage developing countries from following a similar path.
Given the reluctance of still poor countries to further impoverish themselves, the burden of the Catholic-green alliance will necessarily fall on the middle and working classes. As we can already see in California (the state with the most draconian environment laws), long-term economic growth has been tepid, despite the occasional tech and property bubbles. At the same time, the state suffers not only among the highest unemployment rates in the country, but the highest level of poverty, when cost of living is addressed, and has become home to one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients.
This confluence of private interest, public power and the clerical class is suggestive of a new feudal epoch. Bankrolled by inherited money, including from the oil-rich Rockefellers as well as Silicon Valley, the green alliance has already shown remarkable marketing savvy and media power to promote its agenda. Now that their approach is officially also the ideology of the world’s largest and most important church, discussion of climate change has become both secular and religious dogma at the same time.
Vatican Downplays Political Involvement in Climate Debate While Joining Forces with Radical Leftist Naomi KleinJuly 1, 2015 7:28 PM
Kathryn Jean Lopez reports on NRO’s The Corner that Cardinal Peter Turkson downplayed the political intentions of Pope Francis’s encyclical, Laudato Si’, when he spoke to a “high level discussion” in New York City Tuesday night (June 30).
According to Lopez, Turkson said that the encyclical was, “Rather than a political or doomsday document, it’s a call to better stewardship.” Moreover: “He also insisted that Pope Francis is not against business and never puts them down in it or elsewhere but challenges business and technology to always be used to help the poor.”
Cardinal Turkson, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and the Vatican’s point man on climate action, was apparently speaking to a group of prominent Roman Catholics, many of whom were probably concerned about what they had read about the papal encyclical. And apparently the cardinal thought that he could get away with what he said because few in the audience had read the encyclical.
But earlier in the day, the cardinal addressed the United Nations’ High Level Meeting on Climate Change, convened by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. To that very different audience, Cardinal Turkson had a very different message: “Overcoming poverty and reducing environmental degradation will require the human community seriously to review the dominant model of development, production, commerce and consumption…. Such a courageous review and reform will take place only if we heed ‘the call to seek other ways of understanding the economy and progress’ (quoted from paragraph 16 of the encyclical). The political dimension needs to re-establish democratic control over the economy and finance, that is, over the basic choices made by human societies.”
Much of what Cardinal Turkson said was in the political code used by leftist international bureaucrats. If anyone doubts that Pope Francis’s Laudato Si’ is a political rant that advocates dismantling modern industrial civilization, then consider the climate conference that the Vatican is hosting this week. Cardinal Turkson invited Naomi Klein to co-chair the conference.
June 30, 2015 11:06 AM
“In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court blocked the Environmental Protection Agency’s mercury and air toxics standards, charging that the administration failed to adequately consider the estimated $10 billion it would cost utilities to dramatically cut power plant pollution to comply with the measure,” reported The Washington Times yesterday.
While the question has been raised about the broader implications of the court’s decision on other EPA regulations, CEI’s William Yeatman, says there is not much broad impact.
As Reuter’s Lawrence Hurley reported:
"’The agency must consider cost - including, most importantly, cost of compliance - before deciding whether regulation is appropriate and necessary,’ Scalia wrote.
“The EPA says the rule, which went into effect in April, applies to about 1,400 electricity-generating units at 600 power plants. Many are already in compliance, the U.S. Energy Information Administration said.
“The legal rationale adopted by the court is unlikely to have broader implications for other environmental regulations, including the Obama administration's Clean Power Plan that would cut carbon emissions from existing power plants, according to lawyers following the case.
“William Yeatman, a fellow at the conservative-leaning Competitive Enterprise Institute, said the impact is ‘circumscribed’ due to the ‘narrowness and uniqueness’ of the legal provision the court was examining.”
As Kate Sheppard points out at The Huffington Post, the lower court now has the opportunity to revisit the case, meaning the rule could still go forward even as the EPA adheres to the Supreme Court’s decision.
June 4, 2015 11:45 AM
Environmental scientist Dana Nuccittelli accuses University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) atmospheric scientist John Christy of “manufacturing doubt about the accuracy of climate models” at a May 13 hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee. Nuccitelli claims Christy’s testimony “played rather fast and loose with the facts.” Those allegations are incorrect.
Christy offered a scientific perspective on the Obama administration’s “guidelines” (i.e. directive) for incorporating “climate change effects” in agency environmental reviews of proposed projects in National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) proceedings.
Christy’s testimony argues that the state-of-the-art models informing agency analyses of climate change “have a strong tendency to over-warm the atmosphere relative to actual observations.” To illustrate the point, Christy provides a chart comparing 102 climate model simulations of temperature change in the global mid-troposphere to observations from two independent satellite datasets and four independent weather balloon data sets.
Christy reasonably concludes the models are not accurate enough to inform policymaking:
On average the models warm the global atmosphere at a rate three times that of the real world. Using the scientific method we would conclude that the models do not accurately represent at least some of the important processes that impact the climate because they were unable to “predict” what has occurred. In other words, these models failed at the simple test of telling us “what” has already happened, and thus would not be in a position to give us a confident answer to “what” may happen in the future and “why.” As such they would be of highly questionable value in determining policy that should depend on a very confident understanding of how the climate system works.
May 13, 2015 12:59 PM
Today the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) showed its support of a new legislative effort to pushback against the “Clean Power” Plan. Introduced by U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-W.Va.), the ARENA Act is new greenhouse gas legislation that will be addressed today at a press conference on Capitol Hill.
Myron Ebell, CEI’s director of the Center for Energy and Environment said:
CEI strongly supports Senator Capito's bipartisan legislation and other efforts to block the Environmental Protection Agency's so-called ‘Clean Power’ Plan. The EPA's proposed regulations go far beyond the authority Congress delegated in the Clean Air Act. If fully implemented, the regulations will raise energy prices in States where electricity is still affordable into copies of California's failing economy.
See more on CEI’s work on related topics here.
March 31, 2015 3:38 PM
Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute responded to the Obama Administration’s submission of its intended nationally-determined contribution (INDC) to the United Nations:
“President Obama has pursued his domestic climate agenda without trying to build support for it with the American people or in Congress, and today’s INDC submission is no different. The President thinks he can make an international commitment to reduce greenhouse emissions by up to 28 percent of 2005 levels, and thereby limit economic growth, without consulting Congress. The administration is making this commitment to the forthcoming Paris Accord under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change without any authorization from Congress and without broad public support. Governments in other countries should be aware that the President’s plan is dead on arrival in Congress.
“The U.S.’s INDC goes far beyond the commitments undertaken by the Clinton Administration under the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. But the Senate did not ratify the Kyoto Protocol, and the Congress refused to enact cap-and-trade legislation or any other significant climate legislation. Nor has Congress given any indication that it will support major elements in the plan submitted to the UN. The largest single component of the plan is the EPA’s proposed Clean Air Act regulations to reduce emissions from power plants. These rules are being challenged in federal court by at least 13 states and are opposed by a majority in both the House and Senate.”
March 20, 2015 10:05 AM
A recent Washington Post story by Joby Warrick says much about the credulity of the media. The story extols the great gains in wind power, noting that it “could provide more than a third of the country’s electricity by 2050 while yielding a net savings in energy costs paid by consumers.”
Warrick, like many in the media, viewed this prediction by the Department of Energy as clear evidence of the gains by non-fossil fuel sources. Indeed, he quoted without comment the Department’s statement that there would a “net savings in energy costs paid by consumers” and later that this shift “would result in a net price increase of about 1 percent for consumers” even though “an overall savings of 2 percent.” The “savings” would include the imputed values of CO2 and other pollutant reductions. Consumers are going to pay more, but “society” will benefit—a story we’ve heard before.
But, although the article suggests that dramatic cost reductions in the wind power area have made this source more economically attractive, the report also “warned that consistent government policies were critical to avoiding boom and bust cycles,” and that “Congress must keep the wind-friendly tax policies in place.” So, an efficient technology option has to be subsidized to survive in the marketplace? Does the media ever read its own stories?
Of course, wind power can be attractive to some if it is heavily enough subsidized. But an energy alternative that’s been around since the Middle Ages and which the Department of Energy claims to be cost-competitive cannot survive without continued government subsidies? The media seems to like any energy source that requires government support.
February 25, 2015 10:24 AM
Those favoring larger government are finding it harder to finance them by raising taxes. Proponents have sought to reduce opposition by claiming that they’re not really raising taxes at all—their taxes will be “neutral.” Sure, we’ll take $50 billion or so in taxes from the economy, but we’ll then put it back again in the form of tax reductions or rebates. From a macro-economic perspective, they argue, there will be no impact at all! Why bother, you might ask?
The prime candidate advanced by those seeking to better plan our economy is the carbon tax. We’ll tax carbon and use the revenues to offset its impact. People will use less energy but retain the same income. We’ll change prices without changing income—a highly targeted incentive package! To tax energy users is feasible, although complicated—simply tax all energy materials. But farmers have traditionally escaped gas and diesel taxes for on-farm use—will this exemption be repealed?
In many regions, people use natural gas, oil, and electricity (which in turn uses coal, natural gas, and some hydro and nuclear). The prices of some of these energy types is market driven, while others are regulated. The income impact on specific consumers is not easily ascertained nor is the appropriate rebate. The result is that the micro-impact of energy taxes is never neutral. Individuals in areas dependent on coal or oil will lose; individuals in areas where climate or policy has shifted to solar or other renewable energy will gain relatively. And this critique fails to note another problem: the tendency of politicians to use new tax revenues to gain support for the measure. Since different groups have different priorities, the result is often to “spend” the new tax revenues many times over. Rebates, being complicated and having no strong political champion, are likely to receive low priority.
January 26, 2015 9:39 AM
The Niskanen Center is a new libertarian think tank that we at CEI look forward to working with on a number of issues. However, one where we are unlikely to agree is on the virtues of a real-world tax on carbon emissions. Sarah E. Hunt had a post last week over at the Niskanen Center's Climate Unplugged blog arguing that Senate EPW chairman Jim Inhofe's recent defense of the federal gas tax as an infrastructure user tax is at odds with his antipathy to a carbon tax.
Now, I have criticized Sen. Inhofe's blindspot on infrastructure spending in the past, as he has long admitted he is "a big spender in two areas: national defense and infrastructure." But is Sen. Inhofe's position on the federal excise taxes on motor fuels really contradictory? Under closer examination, the answer is no.
Sen. Inhofe supports fuel taxes in the way they have been used since 1956, when Congress greatly expanded the federal-aid highway programs to construct the Interstate Highway System. Built upon the user-pays/user-benefits and pay-as-you-go principles, Congress directed the proceeds from highway user taxes into the Highway Trust Fund, which was intentionally designed to bypass the general treasury and annual appropriations battles. Multi-year highway (and later transit) program reauthorization legislation then specified outlays to various formula-based disbursement programs that flow to state departments of transportation, with Congress setting total outlays to approximate projected revenues over that period.
Of the four major fuel tax increases since the modern federal-aid system was established, two were solely infrastructure revenue-raisers, one was half user-tax and half deficit reduction, and one, the last increase in 1993 that brought the current rate up to 18.4 cents per gallon of gasoline, was intended solely for deficit reduction. That 4.3-cent increase from 1993 aimed at deficit reduction was redirected to the Highway Trust Fund in 1997. This is where the federal gas tax rate sits today.
Note that promoting environmental benefits appears nowhere above. Regardless of your position on federal fuel taxes, they have never been used for any purpose other than dedicated infrastructure funding and, very occasionally and temporarily, deficit reduction.* In recent years, the traditional federal-aid system has started to break down, with Congress refusing to either reduce outlays to meet projected revenues or increase the fuel tax rates. Instead, Congress has bailed out the Highway Trust Fund with over $50 billion in general funds over the past decade, moving the U.S. in a road socialist direction.