Vol. V, No. 16
Finally someone has brought the climate change debate back down to earth
House Passes Energy Bill
The U. S. House of Representatives on August 2 passed by a vote of 240 to 189 a major energy bill containing several key elements of President Bush’s energy plan. In a significant setback for advocates of carbon suppression, the House defeated amendments to apply much higher CAFÉ standards to light trucks and to remove the provision allowing oil and gas exploration in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR).
The House decision to open ANWR to oil exploration came on a close vote of 223 to 206, after intense lobbying by the Teamsters and other labor unions and after adoption of an amendment offered by Rep. John Sununu (R—N.H.) to restrict drilling to 2,000 acres total in the 19 million acre refuge. Thirty-six Democrats and 186 Republicans voted to open ANWR.
Rep. Sherwood Boehlert’s (R—N.Y.) amendment to raise Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards to 27.5 miles per gallon for both cars and light trucks by 2007 was defeated by a 269 to 160 vote. The large margin surprised many observers, since the auto industry has appeared to be in disarray over how to deal with CAFÉ.
The energy bill includes $33.5 billion over ten years in subsidies, tax breaks, and incentives for the various energy industries and encouraging conservation. This compares to around $10 billion proposed by the Bush administration.
Action now moves to the Senate, where Senator Jeff Bingaman (D—N.M.), the new chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, is putting together a comprehensive bill. Bingaman has said that his bill will focus more on energy conservation and efficiency and on renewable and alternative energy sources than does the House bill. It has been reported that Bingaman is talking to committee colleagues about including provisions to address global warming.
Senate Committee Votes Out Byrd-Stevens Climate Bill
The Senate Government Affairs Committee on August 1 unanimously approved the Climate Change Strategy and Technology Innovation Act of 2001. S. 1008, introduced on June 8 by Senate powerhouses Robert Byrd (D—W.V.) and Ted Stevens (R—Alaska), would create a new White House Office on Climate Change to bring the United States into compliance with the United Nations’ Framework Convention on Climate Change. It would also create a new office within the Department of Energy to coordinate $4 billion in research on new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions over the next ten years.
An amendment offered by Senator Fred Thompson (R—Tenn.) was adopted by the committee that expands the definition of greenhouse gases to include black carbon aerosols or soot. Thompson’s amendment had the strong support of Dr. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and the progenitor of the global warming scare in 1988. Hansen’s recent research has focused on the strong climatic forcing of soot, which also has terrible health effects, particularly on children in poor countries.
It is expected that S. 1008 will be the major global warming vehicle in this session of Congress and could go to the Senate floor as early as September. Other global warming policies could be offered as amendments when the bill reaches the floor.
McCain, Lieberman Support CO2 Cap
On August 3rd, Senators John McCain (R-Az.) and Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.) issued a joint statement demanding that President Bush adopt a domestic CO2 cap-and-trade program to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases. McCain cited the compromise reached at the United Nations’ climate negotiations in Bonn as justification for capping CO2 emissions. He also discussed why he believes the failure to regulate greenhouse gas emissions will harm the U.S. economy.
McCain stated that, “In accordance with the agreement reached last week, there is going to be a world marketplace for carbon reductions, a marketplace that rewards improvements in energy efficiency, advances in energy technologies, and improvements in land-use practices – and we are running the risk that America is not going to be part of it.”
McCain also discussed why he believes businesses would benefit: “A comprehensive cap…can encourage innovation across the full range of opportunities for reducing emissions. That would provide businesses with the regulatory certainty and flexibility they need to confront the climate challenge successfully. Industry has repeatedly said that if government sets the rules, they will take them from there and make it work.”
Lieberman echoed McCain’s concerns and added that failure to adopt a domestic program will harm American companies that do business abroad “…Under the Kyoto Protocol, [a] corporation will be able to receive valuable credits for making…efficiency gains…Those credits will be worth cold, hard cash in the world market that will be established under the treaty. In contrast, the United States has no system by which the company will gain credit for the gains.”
Senate Committee Urges Bush to Negotiate New Warming Treaty
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee on August 1 unanimously approved, 19-0, a non-binding amendment urging the Bush administration to negotiate a new or improved global warming treaty (New York Times, August 2, 2001). The amendment from Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) was attached to the State Department funding authorization bill.
It calls on Bush to produce an alternative global warming plan “with the object of securing United States’ participation in a revised Kyoto Protocol or other future binding climate change agreements.”
During the committee meeting, Chairman Joseph Biden (D—Del.) expressed his anger at President Bush for abandoning the Kyoto Protocol. “The United States has an inescapable responsibility to lead on global environmental challenges. It is wrong to simply walk away from this international agreement.”
Senator Kerry echoed Biden’s call for a U.S. role in a climate treaty. “Ultimately, you’re going to have a global agreement of some kind. It does not have to be Kyoto,” Kerry said.
Senator Chuck Hagel (R—Neb.) explained his support for the amendment as a continuation of the Senate’s stance on Kyoto since 1997, when the Senate passed the Byrd-Hagel resolution on a 95-0 vote. “The amendment clearly stated that U.S. participation in international negotiations must protect our economic interests and include developing countries. These are the principles that have guided the Senate since its unanimous vote in 1997.”
The White House agreed with Senator Hagel’s assessment of the amendment. Bush spokesmen Scott McClellan said that the President share’s the Senate’s goal of “a truly global solution to reducing greenhouse gas emissions that does not exempt developing countries or harm our economy.”
Murkowski, Hagel, and Craig Introduce Climate Bill
Senators Frank Murkowski (R—Alaska), Chuck Hagel (R—Neb.), Larry Craig (R—Id.), Pat Roberts (R—Ks.), Christopher Bond (R—Mo.), and Pete Domenici (R—N.M.) introduced S.1294, the Climate Change Risk Management Act of 2001 on August 1.
According to press releases from Hagel and Murkowski, the bill mandates a technology-based approach to reducing emissions. “Any climate change program must be long-term, global and technology based,” Murkowski said.
The bill suggests a number of ways to research climate change. It calls for the development of a national climate change strategy and proposes a 10-year, $2 billion domestic energy technology program aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It also earmarks $1 billion for another 10-year program designed to help developing countries reduce emissions. A new Office of Applied Energy Technology, located in the Department of Energy, would be created to oversee the programs.
S. 1294 would create a national register of voluntary actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Finally, the bill would expand and improve mechanisms for reporting and certifying greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Murkowski said S. 1294 would help developing countries deal with emissions, which the Kyoto Protocol does not do. “The goal must be to reduce our emissions of greenhouse gases while meeting our future energy needs. We can achieve this by harnessing the best that American ingenuity and technology has to offer,” Murkowski said.
Environmental Economists Weigh In
Environmental economists are starting to acknowledge that the Kyoto Protocol really is fatally flawed, according to an article published in the Wall Street Journal on August 7.
Environmental economists study the costs and benefits of an environmental regulation and translate the effects of such a regulation in terms of expenses. Since Kyoto was unveiled in 1997, environmental economists have worked diligently at forecasting its effects. According to Yale University Professor William Nordhaus, the plan “may well be unworkable.”
Many environmental economists believe that global warming may be a problem in the future, but they argue nonetheless that the U.S. could best attack the problem by spending money on research for better technologies rather than to waste it on curbing current carbon dioxide emissions. University of Wyoming economist Jay Shrogen believes that, “We might as well do it slowly and let the capital stock turn over during the next 30 years, so we’re not throwing away equipment before its time.”
Rushed regulations to curb emissions could force coal-fired power plants to shut down before they have reached the end of their useful lives. Richard Schmalensee, dean at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, predicts that all the coal-fired plants in the U.S. would have to be closed just to get halfway to Kyoto.
Sue Your Neighbor
What should a developing country do if it thinks it has been harmed by global warming? Sue. That is according to a new report published by the New Economics Foundation. Wrritten by Andrew Simms, An Environmental War Economy: The Lessons of Ecological Debt and Global Warming contends that existing and emerging international law would allow adversely effected states to bring international tort action against nations that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases (http://www.neweconomics.org/uploadstore/pubs/War%20Economy(1).pdf).
According to Simms, precedent for an international tort lawsuit can be based on a cross border dispute between Canada and the United States. The case arose over the emissions of a Canadian smelter, which blew across the border and polluted land in the State of Washington. The decision reached through arbitration was that countries had the responsibility to protect other countries from the effects of its actions. This precedent is further strengthened by the UN International Law Commission’s draft declaration on state responsibility. This would hold states legally and financially responsible for actions that impacted other states. Although this is an untested legal field, the financial incentives for pioneering legal action are enormous.
No Change in Ocean Circulation
One of the predictions made by computer models is that global warming may lead to a cessation or slowing down of the thermohaline circulation (TC). The TC is a conveyor-belt-like circulation in the Atlantic Ocean where cold water from the “overflow sills that lie south of the Nordic Seas” sink and flow southward warming and rising along the way, then cooling once again along the Antarctic continental slope, sinking and returning northward again.
The TC is thought to be an important regulator of global temperatures, especially for Europe. In 1999, Wallace Broecker published a paper in Science suggesting that global warming may slow down or stop the circulation, plunging Europe into a deep freeze.
As has become common in global warming studies, the evidence contradicts the computer model forecasts. In a study published in the August 1 issue of Geophysical Research Letters, Alejandro Orsi with the Department of Oceanography at Texas A&M University and several coauthors with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory at Columbia University have found that there has been no change in the circulation due to global warming (http://www.agu.org/grl/).
Using chlorofluorocarbon and radiocarbon tracers that sink with the cold water, the authors determined that the circulation rate has remained constant. “This physical and chemical evidence offers little support for hypothesis of a possible 20th-century slowdown or near-zero production of deep and bottom water in the Southern Ocean,” according to the authors.
Following Seattle’s decision to implement the Kyoto Protocol on its own, Jon Reisman, who teaches environmental policy at the University of Maine at Machias, suggests in in a column published in Maine’s Times Record (July 31, 2001) that the town of Brunswick should also implement the Kyoto Protocol. Brunswick is the politically-correct home of Bowdoin College and several Maine environmental groups. Reisman provides tongue-in-cheek advice, such as shutting down the Brunswick Naval Air Station and a $3 a gallon local gasoline tax. Perhaps this idea will catch on.
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
Small Business Survival Committee