Cooler Heads Digest
1. A note from Fred Smith, CEI president
Your help is eagerly solicited. Global warming alarmists have taken evidence that there’s been modest warming over the last century (a warming trend that has been underway with lots of ups and downs since the last Ice Age) to push for policies that would make energy less affordable, more expensive. Many of you will have seen Al Gore’s (not-so-classic and certainly no documentary) video, An Inconvenient Truth. All of you will have experienced the daily drumbeat of “the world is dying and mankind—mostly Americans actually—is to blame” media stories.
Our point? Yes, there are modest risks of global warming, but the much greater risks arise from granting governments around the world the power (and moral authority) to restrict energy use. And that risk/framing is absent from the current debate. Proponents talk about “socking it to business,” getting rid of coal and other fossil fuels, forcing car and appliance manufacturers to reduce energy use. None of these people seem to be aware that America has become increasingly energy efficient for the last century (In 1973 it took slightly more than 174,000 BTUs (British Thermal Units) to produce a dollar of GDP. By 2004, that same dollar of output took only 92,500 BTUs to produce, a cumulative reduction in energy consumption of 46.9%. And the pace at which efficiency is improving remains steady. In fact, the efficiency increase since 1997 has been the strongest since the first half of the 1980s). Moreover, we use energy for productive purposes—to clean our clothes and warm our homes …
And government intervention can make that all less likely and more costly.
What can you do?
- See whether your group might do what the Tennessee Center for Public Research did to document the energy use of Al Gore. You probably have some blusterly windbag eager to impose energy rationing—letting others know how much energy they use can be very useful.
- The Carbon Indulgence Game
- The Texas Energy Template: The Texas Public Policy Institute worked with CEI to produce an excellent state monograph on energy use in that statehere’s how you might quickly produce one for your state. If you’d like to co-produce one with CEI for your state, please contact us and we’ll work out with you just what is needed to produce an effective paper tailored to your state’s needs.
Our weekly e-mails will highlight some of the major energy related events and work by our side. We welcome questions from all of you—what information have you found most useful, what information would be most helpful in the future, what do you think of some of the ad-style outreach work (you’re our on-line focus group!).
This is the battle for civilization—let’s win it!
EU Increasingly Isolated in G8 Disagreement The Observer, 27 May 2007
Tony Blair Says Future Climate Pact Must Include USA, China, IndiaHindustan Times, 23 May 2007
Emissions Likely to Rise by 60 Percent by 2030 Reuters, May 21 2007
Permafrost Melting Not the Threat it AppearedUPI, May 21 2007
Scientifically Incorrect Statements in IPCC WGIProf. Roger Pileke Sr, Climate Science weblog, May 18 2007
Inside the Beltway CEI scholar Marlo Lewis analyzes the global warming debate in our nation’s capitol.
U.S. energy-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions fell by 1.3 percent in 2006, while the economy grew by 3.3 percent, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) reports in a recent “flash estimate.” The carbon intensity of the economy (CO2 emissions per dollar of real GDP) dropped by 4.5 percent, the biggest intensity decline since 1990. President Bush’s statement on this achievement is available here. European Union officials love to lambaste Bush for his “inaction” on climate change, yet EU emissions in 2006 grew by 1-1.5 percent, according to this column in The Guardian.
On Tuesday (May 22, 2007), House Energy and Air Quality Subcommittee Chairman Rick Boucher (D-Va.) announced that forthcoming legislation will include a low-carbon motor fuel standard, according to Greenwire, the online environmental newsletter. The legislation would establish a credit-trading system, under which companies that exceed the fuel standard could purchase credits from others that do not meet the standard. Boucher declined to elaborate on how the low-carbon fuel standard program would affect the federal fuel economy program, which sets miles-per-gallon standards for new vehicles.
On Wednesday (May 23, 2007), the House Foreign Affairs Committee, by a vote of 29-16, approved legislation requiring the Bush Administration to participate in Kyoto Protocol negotiations to determine the next (post-2012) set of emission reduction targets and timetables. House panel clears legislation forcing U.S. participation in Kyoto talks. Faintly echoing the July 1997 Byrd-Hagel Resolution, the bill would require U.S. negotiators to seek “commitments” from “all major emitters,” such as India and China, albeit “based on their level of development,” and through “policy-based” measures like energy-efficiency standards rather than an economy-wide cap on emissions. The bill would also establish a State Department Office on Global Climate Change headed by an ambassador appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.
On Thursday, May 24, 2007, witnesses at a Senate Environment and Public Works Committee Hearing explained how global warming policies endanger the U.S. recreation industry and families’ access to the great outdoors. Derrick Crandall of the American Recreation Coalition reminded lawmakers that large SUVs and even motor homes get “more passenger miles per gallon when occupied by a family than does even the most fuel efficient car available today when occupied solely by a driver.” Barry McCahill of SUV Owners of America pointed out that, due to current federal fuel economy standards, only 1 percent of today’s cars has the oomph to tow a small trailer or fishing boat. Tighter fuel economy standards, as advocated by every global warming alarmist, threaten to make family road trips a thing of the past or “at minimum a luxury that only the wealthy could continue to enjoy.”
In the StatesALEC’s Dan Simmons delivers here an update of what is happening in state capitols across the U.S with respect to global warming mitigation policy.
Last November’s elections lead to great changes in the state legislatures. One of the biggest changes has been a massive increase in the number of bills related to the regulation of greenhouse gases at the state level.
At the American Legislative Exchange Council we have been tracking these types of bills since 2001. In 2004 there were 110 bills at the state level that would regulate greenhouse gases. In 2005, the number of bills that would regulate greenhouse gases fell to 78. And in 2006, the number fell further, to 68. But with the dramatic changes in the composition of state legislatures, there have been 324 such bills introduced! Clearly, momentum in state capitols is with the alarmists.
Of these 324 bills, 18 have been codified into law. These measures vary in size and scope, but all will be pernicious in effect. Six states have passed bills that add implement or increase already existent renewable portfolio standards. Invariably, these bills mandate the use of renewable energy sources in the generation of energy. As a result, utilities are forced to buy a certain percentage of their electricity from these renewable sources, even though electricity from renewable sources is much more expensive than is electricity from conventional sources. Of course, these costs will be passed along to you, the American consumer.
Of particular note, in Washington, the legislature passed SB 6001. SB 6001 establishes emissions targets that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 1990 levels by 2010 and 50 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. Washington State has relatively low electricity prices because it gets most of its electricity from hydroelectric power plants. But existing power sources are insufficient to meet the energy needs of a growing population, and consequently this bill will drive up the price for new power.
The myopia inherent to measures like renewable portfolio standards and Washington’s SB 6001 is indicative of all emissions reduction legislation passed by state lawmakers. We here at ALEC are most concerned that legislators fully appreciate the costs they are imposing on their constituents."
Around the WorldCEI scholar Iain Murray examines the state of global warming policy outside the U.S.
The main focus of international climate concerns has been the upcoming G8 meeting in Germany. Initial spin that Chancellor Angela Merkel was going to insist on a deal on binding emissions after the end of the first Kyoto period in 2012 was bolstered by suggestions that outgoing British Prime Minister Tony Blair had changed President Bush’s mind on the subject. As always is the case in the run-up to G8 meetings, however, this proved not to be the case. After first Canada, then Japan, joined the US negotiating stance, it became apparent that no such deal was imminent. Recent reports (see news section) have in fact confirmed that even the German government is now downplaying the chances of a deal on action post-2012. CHD is, however, happy to predict that any discussions at the G8 summit will be hailed as an “historic agreement” by the press and environmental groups.
Brazil has become the latest major developing country to refuse to consider binding caps on emissions. President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva is sticking to the Kyoto line that emissions caps should be binding only on developed nations.
Kyotowatch: While US emissions fell in 2006, despite a growing economy (see “Inside the Beltway”), note that The Guardian reported in April that, “German emissions rose 0.6% while overall EU emissions went up by 1%-1.5% because of resumed growth in the eurozone.”
Often, corn-based ethanol is proffered by the alarmists as an integral component of any climate change mitigation strategy. In theory, at least, corn-based ethanol is better for the environment because the corn used as feedstock for ethanol production absorbs carbon dioxide as it grows, and thereby offsets the carbon released when the ethanol is burned in a car engine. In reality, it’s not that simple, and there are a number of carbon inputs into both the production and distribution of ethanol. The upshot is that ethanol emits somewhere between 29% and 36% less GHG than does regular, unleaded gasoline.
Of course, perception is frequently just as good as reality, at least on Capitol Hill, and the illusion that ethanol is green has the democrat Congress eager to force you to fill your gas tanks with it. To that end, there are efforts now underway in both the House and Senate to mandate that 20% of the fuel supply in America come from biofuels like ethanol.
But did you know?:
Ethanol mandates increase gas prices.
Why would gas companies invest in new refineries – investment that is essential to increasing supply (and lowering gas prices) – if they know that 20% of their market will contract by federal decree?
Ethanol mandates may increase smog.
A byproduct of the combustion of ethanol is ozone, the building block of smog. According to a recent Stanford study, the adoption of E-85 ethanol fuels nationwide would result in the premature death of 4% of the American population.
Ethanol mandates increase grocery prices.
Mandates create an artificial demand for corn, which drives up its market price. As it so happens, corn is used to feed livestock, to make corn syrup, and to bake a number of goods. Ethanol mandates mean corn is more expensive, which means your grocery bill goes north.
Ethanol mandates starve the world’s poor.
Because the price of corn increases, more American farmers grow it, and less arable land is given to the production of other crops. Less supply, of course, translates into higher prices, for all grains. Because American agriculture sets the world price, an increase in price here means an increase in price everywhere, and the world’s poorest and hungriest are the hardest hit. Scholars from the University of Minnesota have estimated that ethanol mandates could starve more than 600 million in the developing world.
Ethanol mandates harm the environment.
Corn, un-rotated year in and year out, is horrible for the soil. Livestock fed with corn substitutes produce more phosphorous in their manure, which turns rivers, lakes and streams into oxygen depleted dead zones. In order to accommodate the increased demand for corn, agricultural interests are angling to open up 17 million acres of environmentally sensitive, yet arable, land in the heretofore off-limits Conservation reserve Program.