The Anti-Energy Manifesto Of The State Attorneys General

A Competitive Enterprise Institute Commentary

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In a joint letter of July 17, 2002, the attorneys general (AGs) of Alaska, California, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Vermont urged President Bush to adopt mandatory controls on emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), the principal greenhouse gas targeted by the Kyoto Protocol, the non-ratified UN global warming treaty. CO2 is the inescapable byproduct of the hydrocarbon fuels that supply 70 percent of U.S. electricity and 84 percent of all U.S. energy. Like the Kyoto Protocol, the AGs demand, in effect, that the United States institute a regime of energy rationing.

That these particular AGs should lambaste Bush’s energy policies and call for CO2 controls is hardly surprising. The AGs are politicians, and nothing is more ordinary than a politician pursuing partisan advantage. Also quite common is the attempt to use tax and regulatory policy to reward home-state interests and penalize out-of-state competitors. Ten of the eleven AGs are Democrats, and none is a Republican. Ten are from states where all or most electricity comes from fuel sources other than coal. On average, the AG’s eleven states generate only 16 percent of their electricity from coal, compared to 59 percent for the rest of the country. CO2 regulation would make coal-generated electricity less (or non-) competitive.

The AGs build their case for energy rationing on Chapter 6 of the Bush Administration’s Climate Action Report 2002 (CAR). That chapter presents scary projections of U.S. temperature increases and climate impacts over the next century. The AGs claim the President’s refusal to regulate CO2 is “inconsistent” with the Report’s “dire findings and conclusions.”

There is a massive problem with this line of argument. Chapter 6 of the CAR is a summary of the Clinton-Gore Administration’s “U.S. National Assessment on Climate Change” (USNA). Out of 26 available computer models, the USNA picked the Canadian Climate Centre Model and the British Hadley Centre Model. Both are “worst-case” calculators. The Canadian model is the “hottest” or most “sensitive” to “forcing” by greenhouse gases. The UK model is the “wettest,” projecting the largest increases in rainfall.

When Virginia State Climatologist Patrick Michaels analyzed those models, he found they are no better at replicating U.S. temperature trends over the past century than a table of random numbers. The climate scenarios on which the AGs build their case for energy rationing are computer-aided storytelling – science fiction, not science.

The Bush Administration has stated that the USNA climate scenarios “do not represent government policy” and “are not policy positions or statements of the U.S. Government.” Yet the CAR – an official statement of the U.S. Government – incorporates the USNA scenarios.

Rather than embrace energy rationing, the Bush Administration should withdraw the CAR from the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), and redact it from the public record. Otherwise, it will continue to lend the color of legitimacy to those, like the eleven AGs, who advocate economy-chilling restrictions on energy use.