October 15, 2015 3:24 PM
Eco-theocracy has swept America and Europe, resulting in governments devoting vast sums to build their Green Temples where “renewable energy” and “recycled materials” can be worshipped. High Priest Barack Obama advancing these themes in America often cited Spain as a nation that was leading the world in demonstrating how “green energy” could save the planet and grow the economy. As in the U.S., Spanish politicians from left to right rushed to expand government spending on these “noble” projects. President Aznar began all of this in 2004, launching the rapid development of renewables in Spain. Those programs were consolidated and expanded by subsequent governments led by President Zapatero. In the period from 2004 to 2011 expenditures on renewables grew rapidly, reaching €9 billion a year.
Zapatero’s Minister of Industry and Energy, Miguel Sebastian, was the first to reign in this program, in 2010. Sebastian acknowledges in his recent book The False Bonanza that in the midst of the economic boom:
Excited about [increased] economic activity and employment, we didn’t want to hear about the structural difficulties, of imbalances, or of sustainable growth.
Sebastian’s mea culpa regarding the renewables mandate: “We lost our minds with green energy.” The resulting excesses were partly to blame for the problems, including skyrocketing consumer prices that Spain’s electricity sector has recently experienced.
October 15, 2015 12:42 PM
Controversy continues to swirl around the September 1 letter from 20 climate scientists to President Barack Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and White House science adviser John Holdren requesting a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) investigation of “the fossil fuel industry and their supporters.” The scientists allege that the aforementioned interests “knowingly deceived the American people about the risks of climate change, in order to forestall America's response to climate change.” In May, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) called for a RICO investigation of “fossil fuel companies and their allies.” The scientists “strongly endorse” Sen. Whitehouse’s proposal.
What boggles the mind is not that 20 climate scientists would attempt to stifle debate, drive the market out of the marketplace of ideas, and punish those who do not worship at the altar of “consensus.” There’s no shortage of “progressive” intolerance in these times. Using RICO to silence opponents is fairly tame compared to environmental activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr.’s demand that fossil-fuel executives be tried for treason (the usual punishment for which is death).
What’s noteworthy about the RICO 20 is the scientists’ lack of self-awareness—their inability to judge themselves by criteria they invoke to condemn others. They have no clue how easily they can be hoist on their own petard.
What is it, exactly, that fossil-fuel interests conspire to hide from Congress and the public, according to the RICO 20?
The stability of the Earth’s climate over the past ten thousand years contributed to the growth of agriculture and therefore, a thriving human civilization. We are now at high risk of seriously destabilizing the Earth’s climate and irreparably harming people around the world, especially the world’s poorest people.
Well, the “stability of the Earth’s climate over the past 10,000 years” is not all it’s cracked up to be. The planet has been through three cycles of cooling and warming in the past 2,600 years, and experienced a major cooling event 8,200 years ago (see pp. xiv-xv of this book). In addition, substantial evidence indicates that humanity suffered in cold periods and prospered in warm periods. But let that pass.
The core issue in the global warming debate is not whether climate change risks exist but how much is really known about them (EPA’s climate change impacts report, for example, is rife with flimflam) and whether the usual set of “climate solutions” would actually make the world a better place or would instead be a cure worse than the alleged disease.
The RICO 20—and indeed all educated climate campaigners—have to know several key facts they never mention in their advocacy campaigns:
(1) Affordable, reliable, scalable carbon-based energy has made, and continues to make, indispensable contributions to human health and well-being. Over the past 250 years, global average life expectancy more than doubled, global per capita GDP increased nearly eightfold, and global population increased more than sevenfold. Those positive trends, which are the best overall indicators of human health and welfare, are strongly correlated with rising carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from fossil fuels. Fossil energy-supported economic development has vastly improved the health, welfare, and sustainability of the human species.
October 14, 2015 3:25 PM
The folks at Food & Water Watch are pissed. And I don’t mean “pissed” as in drunk; they are mad as hell about the proposed merger between two big breweries and demanding the Department of Justice step in and block the deal. Despite the fact that big breweries have been merging and acquiring bits and pieces of each other for decades, F&WW believes that allowing Anheuser-Bush InBev to acquire SABMiller would bring about an end to this golden age of beer we’re currently enjoying. My advice to them is to crack open a beer and take a deep breath.
After months of negotiation, Anheuser-Busch InBev (purveyor of Budweiser, Stella, and now Corona) announced it had reached an agreement to acquire SABMiller (which owns Coors, Fosters, Pilsner Urquell, and Peroni) for a hefty $106 billion. Predictably, self-styled consumer advocates are having a collective conniption about the new “monopoly” such a merger would create. But while this is likely one of the largest mergers of two breweries in price tag and share of the market, it’s not really anything new and probably won’t affect consumers.
The two mega breweries in question are themselves frankenfirms—the product of a dozen (or more) mergers and acquisitions of smaller firms. In 2004 AmBev, the largest brewery in Latin America and fifth biggest in the world (the product of a merger between Brahma and Antarctica breweries) merged with Interbrew—a large Belgian brewery (which had previously acquired Brouwerij Artois, Piedboeuf, and Labatt Breweries), creating InBev—the largest brewery at the time, holding 14 percent market share. When InBev subsequently merged with Anheuser-Bush (which itself owns or has shares in many other large and small breweries, including Grupo Modelo, Redhook, Widmer and Kona Brewery) it became even larger, controlling about 20 percent of the world’s beer sales by 2014 and taking on the name Anheuser-Busch InBev (or its mercifully short abbreviation, ABI). ABI also controls about 45 percent of US beer sales. SABMiller, itself a product of multiple mergers, controls around 30 percent of the American beer market.
October 13, 2015 3:58 PM
One of the classic lines from the 1990 novel and 1993 movie Jurassic Park is that “life finds a way.” As with dinosaurs, so with government programs. The Export-Import Bank expired on June 30, and has been in liquidation ever since. But Ex-Im’s supporters may have found a way to bring it back to life. Just as frog DNA implanted in Jurassic Park’s all-female cloned dinosaurs allowed them to reproduce by causing some of them to switch genders, Rep. Stephen Fincher (R-Tenn.), who once opposed Ex-Im, has found a way to get Ex-Im past its own obstacles in the House: a discharge petition.
In the House of Representatives, a bill must typically be approved by a Committee before it moves to a full floor vote before all 435 members. A successful discharge petition circumvents Committees and brings a bill straight to a floor vote, but it is rarely used. The last time a discharge petition succeeded was in 2002—ironically, in Fincher’s case, for the McCain-Feingold campaign finance regulation bill.
Fincher’s re-election campaign has received about 150 donations totaling a little more than $250,000, as of the most recent campaign finance disclosures. Two of those donations come from his home state of Tennessee, totaling $750. As journalist Tim Carney puts it, this “rounds to 0 percent of his money raised.” In total, “More than 99 percent of the money powering Fincher's re-election bid comes from political action committees (almost all of them corporate PACs) and K Street lobbyist types.” Among those corporate PACs are all of Ex-Im’s biggest beneficiaries, including Boeing, General Electric, and other large firms.
October 12, 2015 11:05 AM
The 2015 Federal Register broke the 60,000-page barrier in a big way, with new rules ranging from tuna boats to Nicaraguan archaeology.
On to the data:
- Last week, 68 new final regulations were published in the Federal Register, after 76 the previous week.
- That’s the equivalent of a new regulation every two hours and 28 minutes.
- So far in 2015, 2,611 final regulations have been published in the Federal Register. At that pace, there will be a total of 3,330 new regulations this year, far fewer than the usual total of 3,500-plus.
- Last week, 1,245 new pages were added to the Federal Register, after 1,832 pages the previous week.
- Currently at 61,185 pages, the 2015 Federal Register is on pace for 78,043 pages.
- Rules are called “economically significant” if they have costs of $100 million or more in a given year. 21 such rules have been published so far this year, none in the past week.
- The total estimated compliance cost of 2015’s economically significant regulations ranges from $1.69 billion to $1.81 billion for the current year.
- 219 final rules meeting the broader definition of “significant” have been published so far this year.
- So far in 2015, 427 new rules affect small businesses; 60 of them are classified as significant.
Highlights from selected final rules published last week:
October 9, 2015 6:09 PM
The co-chairmen of UN negotiations on the forthcoming Paris climate treaty released what they called a “first draft,” which they said will serve as “a concise basis for negotiations for the next negotiating sessions from October 19-23 in Bonn. The new twenty-page draft is a slimmed down version of much longer drafts released in February and July.
As Andrew Revkin points out on his New York Times blog, the new draft is a lot shorter, but it is still riddled with brackets that enclose text that has been suggested during the negotiations by one or more countries, but has not been agreed on. Although the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action, as the negotiations are officially titled, was adopted in 2011, the draft text still doesn’t answer a key question: whether the new agreement is going to be “a protocol, another legal instrument or an agreed outcome with legal force” under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).
It is widely understood that the inability or unwillingness of the negotiators to decide what form the agreement will take is due to the conflict between the desire to have a legally-binding agreement (that is, a treaty like the UNFCCC and its Kyoto Protocol) and the need to pretend that it is not a treaty so that it is not subject to ratification by the U.S. Senate. The Kyoto Protocol was negotiated by the Clinton Administration in 1997 and signed by President Clinton in 1998, but was never submitted to the Senate because ratification would not have come close to the two-thirds super-majority necessary for ratification. At this point, the Paris Agreement looks just as unratifiable as Kyoto.
October 9, 2015 6:05 PM
EnergyWire ($) reports that North Carolina won’t seek an extension on the September 2016 deadline for submissions to comply with the Clean Power Plan, but that the state’s on time submission will be limited to “inside the fence line” measure--in direct contravention of EPA’s requirement to remake the entire electricity sector in accordance with the administration’s climate goals. In Kentucky, Attorney General Jack Conway, the Democratic nominee for governor, promised this week that he would not submit a state plan, if he were elected governor. His Republican challenger already has pledged to not submit a plan.
This piece was originally published in the Cooler Heads Digest. You may subscribe to the weekly digest at GlobalWarming.org
October 9, 2015 6:03 PM
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change elected Dr. Hoesung Lee as its new chairman at its meeting in Dubrovnik, Croatia, this week. Dr. Lee, who is currently one of the IPCC’s three vice chairmen, defeated five other candidates. Dr. Lee replaces two-term IPCC Chairman Rajendra K. Pachauri, who resigned in disgrace in February.
Dr. Lee is professor of the economics of climate change, energy, and sustainable development at Korea University. In an informative interview with the Carbon Brief, he said, “If you ask me to choose the most important work in climate change issues, then I'll choose carbon price. That's because it is the driver to put us into the right track.”
In his nomination papers, Dr. Lee wrote that his vision for the IPCC was to “enhance participation of developing country experts,” “increase policy relevance and neutrality,” and to “pay special attention to climate change issues associated with job creation, health, innovation and technology development, energy access and poverty alleviation.”
October 9, 2015 5:55 PM
The House of Representatives passed a bill on October 9, 2015, to lift the forty-year-old ban on crude oil exports by a vote of 261 to 159. Twenty-six Democrats joined 235 Republicans in voting "yes" on H.R. 702, which was sponsored by Representative Joe Barton (R-Tex.). Six Republicans and 153 Democrats voted "no".
An obscure provision to raise authorized funding to subsidize U.S.-flagged merchant ships that can be commandeered for military purposes was added to H.R. 702 by Republican leadership in order to increase Democratic support. That caused at least two conservative groups, Heritage Action and Freedom Works, to withdraw their support for the bill.
Although the bill or a similar bill has a good chance to pass the Senate, the White House earlier in the week issued an official veto threat. The statement said: “Legislation to remove crude export restrictions is not needed at this time. Rather, Congress should be focusing its efforts on supporting our transition to a low carbon economy. It could do this through a variety of measures, including ending the billions of dollars a year in federal subsidies provided to oil companies and instead investing in [subsidies for] wind, solar, energy efficiency, and other clean technologies to meet America’s energy needs.”
As Representative Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.), chairman of the energy subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee, drily noted, President Obama did not make this argument when he lifted the sanctions on oil exports from Iran. The United States is now the only oil-producing country that bans crude oil exports.
October 8, 2015 12:23 PM
Utah Republican Congressman Jason Chaffetz recently threw his hat in the ring in a bid to replace Speaker John Boehner, after House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) gaffe regarding the Benghazi investigation made the race far more open. As my colleague Jessica Melugin notes, Chaffetz considers himself one of the more tech-savvy members of Congress and a strong defender of the Tenth Amendment.
Yet, Chaffetz has twice introduced the Restoration of America’ Wire Act (RAWA, H.R. 707), which would allow the federal government to overturn state laws that govern a wholly intrastate activity. Internet gambling has been around since the day the Internet made it into American homes. And Republican lawmakers have been trying to ban it—without much luck. So much for state sovereignty.
There is no federal law directly governing Internet gambling, so the task has been left to the Department of Justice to interpret existing federal gaming laws. During the Clinton administration, DOJ defined online sports betting as unlawful. Then during George W. Bush’s administration, DOJ determined that all online gambling was illegal under U.S. law—an interpretation that held until 2011 when, pressed by state lotteries, the Obama DOJ returned to the previously held understanding: As long as the gambling is intrastate and not related sports betting, it is not illegal under federal law.
This opened the door for states to legalize intrastate online gambling. Three states—New Jersey, Delaware, and Nevada—have done so. In addition, more than a dozen states have some form of lottery games available online.
Unsurprisingly, casino magnate and GOP mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has poured millions of dollars into promoting legislation meant to crush the burgeoning online competition to his business. What is surprising is who in Congress is now pushing his federalism-trampling bill.