Vol. VII, No. 7
Senate Draft Energy Bill Contains Global Warming Title
The majority staff of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 26 released comprehensive energy legislation in draft form. The bill includes significant global warming policy proposals in Title XI. The climate change title would create a White House Office of Climate Policy and climate czar, require the executive branch to produce a national strategy that “will stabilize and ultimately reduce net U. S. emissions of greenhouse gases” plus annual progress reports; and create a system administered by the Department of Energy to award credits for voluntary actions to cut emissions.
After taking comments through April 4, the committee staff plans to produce a “chairman’s mark” for release on April 8. This would allow Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) to mark up the bill in committee on April 10. It is unlikely that action on the entire bill will be completed before the Easter recess, but sources told Cooler Heads that the chairman wanted to complete work on the climate title on the 10th.
The language in the climate provisions is mostly taken from Republican-sponsored amendments to the energy bill put together in the last Congress by then-Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S. D.), which was brought to the floor without being considered by the Energy Committee. Most of those amendments were offered in an attempt to
water down what were considered by their sponsors to be the most objectionable parts of Daschle’s bill.
The energy bill overall is much more pro-energy than last year’s Daschle bill. It contains provisions that would allow greater access to America’s energy resources and promote development of the nation’s energy infrastructure. It also jettisons several provisions that would limit energy supplies and raise prices, such as the Renewable Portfolio Standard for electric utilities.
The Competitive Enterprise Institute immediately came out against the climate title. A joint letter to Chairman Domenici was being circulated for signing by other non-profit groups. It states that the climate title would “in our view create the institutional and legal framework and the political incentives necessary eventually to force Kyoto-style energy rationing on the American people.” The letter will be posted at www.cei.org.
“The climate title looks more like a Kerry or Lieberman campaign document than something produced by a Republican committee staff. If this title is enacted, we won’t need the rest of the energy bill,” said Myron Ebell, director of global warming policy at CEI (and editor of Cooler Heads).
Although committee staff initially spread the word that the Administration supported the climate title, Administration sources denied that they supported it or had been involved in its drafting. In fact, legislating a White House climate czar and office would undo the Bush Administration’s decision in 2001 to abolish that Clinton-created office and position.
Wind Power: Bad Economics, Bad for Environment
Radnor Township in Pennsylvania has announced with great fanfare “that it will purchase 62 percent of its electricity from pollution-free, wind-generated electricity, making it the nation’s leading wind energy purchaser among municipalities” (PRNewswire, February 26, 2003). The Township will purchase 1,400,000 kilowatt hours per year over three years from a wind farm near Mt. Storm, West Virginia.
But according to renewable energy expert Glenn Schleede, the officials of Radnor Township have been hoodwinked. Wind energy entails significant environmental costs, with little environmental gain, and significant economic costs that hurt customers, but serve to line the pockets of wind farm owners.
The amount of electricity that will be purchased by Radnor Township is insignificant. It will represent 1/1000 of 1 percent of the total electricity sold by electric utilities in Pennsylvania in 2001. “Any claim of favorable air quality impact is specious at best,” says Schleede. “Wind farms adversely affect a wide variety of environmental, ecological, scenic and property values.”
The electricity would come from FPL Energy-owned wind farms that are planned for scenic West Virginia. One proposed wind farm would be located “along 14 miles of the picturesque high mountains near Canaan Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Canaan Valley State Park, Blackwater Falls State Park, the Monongahela National Forest which includes Dolly Sods and Dolly Sods Wilderness Area.” The wind farm would consist of 200 very tall (300 to 400 ft.) wind mills spread over thousands of acres.
The real impetus behind the construction of wind farms is not the environmental or economic benefits to customers, but massive government subsidies. One proposed wind farm in West Virginia, would cost $300,000,000 to build, but would recover those costs and then some through various tax shelters and subsidies equaling $325,434,600. In many cases, the profit from this government largesse exceeds the income generated from electricity sales. Wind farm owners enjoy windfall profits at taxpayer expense.
Schleede makes an interesting comparison and offers some advice to the citizens of Radnor Township. “If each household substituted two 27-watt energy efficient light bulbs for two 100-watt incandescent bulbs that are used an average of 4 hours per day, the people of Radnor Township would avoid the use of 2,131,600 kWh of electricity each year, or about 50 percent more than the 1,400,000 kWh that is substituted in the electricity-from-wind purchase scheme.” The cost? $100,000!
Declines in Population Growth Give Europe a Leg Up on Kyoto
Europe is on an irreversible trajectory of falling population rates, according to a study by Wolfgang Lutz and Sergei Scherbov, with the Austrian Academy of Sciences in Vienna, and Brian O’Neill, with the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis in Laxenburg, Austria.
In a report published in Science (March 28, 2003), the authors note that at present only 1.5 babies are borne per woman in the European Union, well below the “replacement rate” of 2.1 births per woman. Even if European women began having more children at younger ages, the population decline would continue for decades because there are too few childbearing-aged women to make a difference. The study does not take into account immigration, but even that may not be large enough to offset population declines.
While the study does not address climate change, this may well explain part of the reason the European Union has readily accepted the Kyoto Protocol and why they are so eager to have the U.S. sign up to similar restrictions. Given their declining population, it will be much easier for European Union countries to reduce emissions to pre-1990 levels than the U.S., which continues to experience robust population growth.
The targets for emissions reductions for the EU and the U.S. are very similar. The EU would have to reduce their emissions to an average of 8 percent below 1990 levels by the 2008-2012 compliance period, the U.S. by 7 percent. But since 1990, the EU economies have grown relatively slowly, meaning that CO2 emissions increased little. The U.S. on the other hand, has experienced tremendous economic growth since 1990, so its Kyoto target is actually more difficult than the EU’s.
Europe’s economic troubles are largely due to heavy economic regulation and taxes, including high energy taxes. As a result, U.S. companies are out-competing EU companies. Rather than deregulate, the EU has sought to level the playing field by saddling U.S. companies with similar restrictions through the Kyoto Protocol.
This became quite clear in March 2001 soon after President Bush announced that his administration would not seek to impose carbon dioxide regulations on utilities. Margot Wallstrom, the European Union’s commissioner for the environment, complained that, “This is not a simple environmental issue where you can say it is an issue where the scientists are not unanimous. This is about international relations, this is about economy, about trying to create a level playing field for big businesses throughout the world. You have to understand what is at stake and that is why it is serious.” Clearly Europe sees the energy rationing required by the Kyoto Protocol as the means by which it can regain some of its lost competitiveness relative to the U.S.
What’s Behind the IPCC’s Latest Projections?
When the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its Third Assessment Report (TAR) in 2001, many were surprised that its projections for temperature increases had risen substantially. The IPCC’s 1996 Second Assessment Report (SAR) predicted that the earth’s temperature could increase by as much as 0.9 to 3.5 degrees Celsius. The TAR, however predicted a rise of 1.4 to 5.8 degrees C. In a paper published in the Journal of Climate (October 15, 2002), Thomas Wigley with the National Center for Atmospheric Research and Sarah Raper with the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, ask the question, “Why are the more recent projections so much larger?”
The authors attempt to quantify how much of the change in projections was due to the new emissions scenarios presented in the IPCC’s Special Report on Emissions Scenarios, and how much was due to differences in the science used in the climate models. To determine this, the authors plugged the emissions scenarios responsible for the high and low ends of the temperature projections into the models used for the TAR, what Wigley and Raper call the “TAR science.”
For the TAR’s high end, coal-intensive scenario, the “CO2 concentrations are remarkably similar” to those used for the high-end scenario in the SAR. The biggest differences between the two high-end scenarios are the assumptions about sulfate aerosol concentrations, which are thought to offset warming. “The large aerosol forcing differences arise because the SRES scenarios account for likely policy responses to sulfur pollution.... This leads to substantially lower SO2 emissions than for the [SAR scenarios].” There are also some differences in methane forcing and tropospheric ozone forcing. This exercise revealed a difference in forcing from changes in the TAR greenhouse gas cycle from 0.5 Watts per meter squared (W/m2) at the low end to 2 W/m2 at the high end.
The differences in science between the two reports refer to changes in the way the models handle complex climate processes. So it is not so much a change in science as a change in modeling. To determine how these changes affect the projections, Wigley and Raper compare the low and high-end scenarios using SAR science and TAR science. What they found was that “the effects on concentration projections for any give emission scenario are relatively small.”
In fact, there was actually a reduction in CO2 forcing combined with increased warming. This was due primarily to two things—a change in a parameter that defines the relationship between CO2 concentrations and forcing and a change in how the thermohaline circulation (THC) was modeled. A slowdown in the THC, for example, would offset some of the projected warming due to higher greenhouse gas concentrations. In the TAR, the THC will not slow down as much as assumed in the SAR.
The result of these exercises reveals that very little of the change in temperature projections is due to changes in scientific understanding or better modeling, but due almost entirely to different emissions scenarios. “At the low warming limit, TAR science inflates the 1990-2100 warming for the [low-end SAR scenario] by around 34 percent,” says Wigley and Raper. “At the high end, TAR science inflates the 1990-2100 warming for the [high-end SAR scenario] by around 4 percent.” The rest of the high-end alarmist projection comes from changes in the worst-case storyline, which has little basis in reality. A full 79 percent of the change at the high-end projection came from the changed assumptions about sulfate aerosols alone, about which we know very little.
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
60 Plus Association
Small Business Survival Committee