VII, No. 2
States Seek to Regulate CO2
The American Legislative Exchange Council has released a report on the activities of state legislatures that are seeking to regulate the emissions of carbon dioxide.
According to the report, Energy, Environment, and Economics: A Guide for State Legislators, 60 bills were introduced in 2001-2002 legislative sessions to regulate carbon dioxide as well as many resolutions and measures to classify CO2 as a pollutant. Taxpayer subsidies to pay for renewable energy and alternative fuels are also “multiplying in the States as back-door approaches to eliminate carbon-based fuels from the nation’s energy mix.”
Several States appear close to passing bills to regulate CO2 emissions, including Connecticut, Illinois, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin. The report also notes that California, Oregon, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Suffolk County in New York have already regulated CO2.
The report also contains examples of model legislation that could be used to counter regulatory bills, including the Verifiable Science Act to “protect citizens from arbitrary and capricious regulations promulgated without any impetus that is justitified by pertinent, ascertainable, and peer-reviewed science.” It also includes a Power Plant Siting Act to create “a single Board that functions as the permitting authority for all government approvals necessary to site a Power Plant in the State,” and a “Resolution in Opposition of Carbon Dioxide Emission Standards.”
Oklahoma state Sen. Jim Dunlap (R), ALEC’s 2002 national chairman, said that one of the greatest threats to the nation are the regulatory burdens on energy. He also said that ALEC’s goal is to provide its members from state legislatures with a cost-benefit evaluation “of the economic impact of carbon dioxide or multi-pollutant standards that may have little, if any, measurable effect on air quality or the global climate.” The report is available at ALEC’s website at www.alec.org.
Wind Power Is No Bargain For WV
Glenn Schleede, the intrepid energy analyst, has done another bang-up job of identifying the weaknesses of yet another wind power project. This time his sights are set on West Virginia, and the prognosis is bleak.
One wind farm is already in operation in West Virginia, another has been approved by the Public Service Commission, and a third application is still pending. The amount of power produced from the three plants, assuming a generous 30 percent capacity factor, would equal a little over 1.6 billion kWh of electricity per year. The plants would occupy 30 to 40 square miles, yet only produce an amount of energy equal to 1.7 percent of the total amount of electricity produced in West Virginia in 2000. A new 265 MW gas-fired combined-cycle generating plant, on the other hand, would produce slightly more electricity on just a few acres.
Not only will these wind farms produce paltry amounts of electricity, the electricity produced will be of lower value due to the intermittent, volatile, and unpredictable nature of wind-generated electricity. To offset these characteristics and maintain the reliability of the grid, they will have to be backed up with dispatchable generating units. “Units serving this backup role must be on line (connected to the grid and producing electricity) and running below their peak capacity and efficiency, or in a ‘spinning reserve’ mode (i.e., connected to the grid and synchronized but not putting electricity into the grid),” according to Schleede.
Electricity from wind farms also increases the cost of electricity by adding to the burden of keeping the grid in balance and makes it difficult to keep transmission lines from being overloaded. Moreover, mountaintop wind farms require additional transmission capacity, which will only be used between 25 to 35 percent of the time due to wind power’s low capacity factors. All of these costs are part of the true cost of wind power, but are usually ignored when the projects are being sold.
Wind power receives generous subsidies from both federal and state governments. The subsidies available to the West Virginia wind farms include federal accelerated depreciation (5 years as opposed to 20 years for other electric generating facilities), production tax credits, a reduction in the West Virginia Corporate Net Income Tax (due to accelerated depreciation), an 87.5 to 93.75 percent reduction in West Virginia’s Business and Occupation Tax, and a 91.67 percent reduction in West Virginia property taxes.
These subsidies shift the tax burden to other taxpayers and electric customers. As Schleede notes, “The total of $69.7 million in tax liability that could be avoided by the ‘wind farm’ in the first year, as well as the liability avoided in subsequent years represents a tax burden that would be shifted to remaining taxpayers.”
Global Warming Exonerated in Resurgence of Malaria
“Highland malaria has returned to the tea estates of western Kenya after an absence of nearly 30 years,” begins a new study in Emerging Infectious Diseases, a journal published by the Centers for Disease Control. Many researchers have speculated that the return of this dreaded disease to the East African Highlands is yet another indicator that man is dangerously warming the planet. The new study, however, concludes that, “The results of our work do not support these conclusions.”
The study, led by Dennis Shanks at the U.S. Army Medical Research Unit in Kenya, used long-term malaria illness and total hospital admissions data (January 1966 to December 1995) from a large tea plantation in Kericho, Kenya, located in the Rift Valley highlands. The plantation covers 141 square kilometers and has employed about 50,000 people throughout the study period. The employees receive their health care from the company-operated medical system.
The mean monthly temperature and monthly total rainfall data used in the study came from a meteorological station located at the tea estates, as well as from global climatology data from a larger area of 3,025 square kilometers, which contains the area of the plantation. A secondary variable considered for the study was vapor pressure. The researchers also categorized those months deemed suitable for malaria transmission based on temperature and precipitation thresholds into a monthly suitability index.
What the researchers found was that, “During the period 1966-1995, malaria incidence increased significantly while total (malarial and other) admissions to the tea estate hospital showed no significant change. Measurements of mean monthly temperature and total monthly rainfall [at the local meteorological station] also showed no significant changes.” The study also showed that data from the larger area of study such as “Mean, maximum, and minimum monthly temperatures; precipitation; and vapor pressure all demonstrated no significant trends.” Nor when the “meteorologic data were transferred into months when malaria transmission is possible,” were there significant changes evident.
So what is the cause for the resurgence of malaria transmission in the East African highlands? The most likely culprit is resistance of the disease to the malaria drug chloroquine, especially “since all other relevant environmental and sociological factors are unchanged.” The researchers also note that travel to and from the Lake Victoria region by some of the tea estate workers “exerts an upward influence on malaria transmission in Kericho….” The study notes that similar conclusions have been reached in detailed analyses of other areas of the East African highlands that have experienced a resurgence of malaria transmission.
CO2 Emissions May Lower Ozone and Methane Concentrations
A new study in Nature, posted online in advance of publication, shows newly discovered benefits from anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions. The study’s authors, led by Todd Rosenstiel with the Cooperative Institute for Research in Environmental Sciences, planted three cottonwood plantations of fifty trees each in the forestry section of Columbia University’s Biosphere 2 Center in Arizona to take advantage of its controlled environment.
One of the plantation’s carbon dioxide concentration was maintained at 450 parts per million (ppm) while the other two were maintained at 800 and 1200 ppm respectively. What the authors found was that increased concentrations of carbon dioxide lower “isoprene emissions” from the trees’ leaves by 21 percent at CO2 concentrations of 800 ppm and by 41 percent at 1200 ppm. Isoprene is a highly reactive non-methane hydrocarbon, which is emitted in large quantities from trees and contributes significantly to the production of ground-level ozone.
As the study notes, the expansion of tree farms with fast-growing species “has been suggested as a way to ameliorate increases in atmospheric CO2 concentrations.” Objections have been raised, however, because “the continued expansion of agriforest plantations has the potential to affect significantly the oxidative behavior of the atmosphere, in turn negatively affecting local air quality.” But the new study puts that fear to rest. Not only did higher concentrations of CO2 reduce isoprene emissions, it did so while boosting biomass production by 60 to 82 percent.
Isoprene also boosts the atmospheric lifetime of methane, a greenhouse gas 21 times more powerful than CO2, by 14 percent. So increased carbon dioxide concentrations would also inhibit the negative influence of isoprene emissions on atmospheric methane. The study concludes that, “The negative air-quality impacts (that is, isoprene emissions) of proliferating agriforests may be partially offset by increases in global CO2.”
· Jesse Ausubel of the Rockefeller University will give a Cooler Heads Coalition congressional and media briefing on “Climate Change: the Known, the Unknown, the Unknowable” on Friday, February 7, from noon to 1:30 in Room 628 of the Senate Dirksen Office Building. Lunch will be provided, and reservations are required. To attend, please contact Paul Georgia at firstname.lastname@example.org or (202) 331-2257. Include your name, telephone number, e-mail address, and institutional affiliation.
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