EPA Publishes National U.S. Greenhouse Gas Inventory

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released the 16th annual U.S. greenhouse gas inventory. The final report shows overall emissions during 2009 decreased by 6.1 percent from the previous year. This downward trend was attributed to a decrease in fuel and electricity consumption across all U.S. economic sectors.

Total emissions of the six main greenhouse gases in 2009 were equivalent to 6,633 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. These gases include carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, hydrofluorocarbons, perfluorocarbons and sulfur hexafluoride. The report indicates that overall emissions have grown by more than 7.3 percent from 1990 to 2009. Emissions in 2009 represent the lowest total U.S. annual GHG emissions since 1995. These numbers reflect the most up to date data at the time of publication.

The Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990-2009 tracks annual greenhouse gas emissions at the national level and presents historical emissions from 1990 to 2009. The inventory also calculates carbon dioxide emissions that are removed from the atmosphere by “sinks,” e.g., through the uptake of carbon by forests, vegetation and soils.

This inventory, prepared in collaboration with federal agencies, is the latest submitted by the United States to the Secretariat of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The UNFCCC sets an overall global framework for nations to address climate change. The final report takes into consideration comments received from stakeholders across the country.

More information on the greenhouse gas inventory report: http://www.epa.gov/climatechange/emissions/usinventoryreport.html

A rational choice of energy sources

The Scientific Alliance Newsletter

Despite the intense debates which occur about the merits of different sources of electricity, the fact is that governments have an obligation to keep the lights on for their citizens. Modern societies need a constant supply of energy so that businesses can operate efficiently and individuals can be safe and comfortable. Even short power cuts can be very disruptive: computers stop working, broadband connections are lost, modern phones will not work, central heating pumps and boilers cut out and candles and torches are the only sources of light. Imagine if this was a regular occurrence.

This power, of course, does not always have to be generated in the same way. Many countries have moved from an almost total reliance on coal towards greater use of gas. Nuclear is part of the mix for many and France has chosen to make it its primary source of energy. For countries with the right geography, such as Norway, hydroelectricity is the obvious answer and in a few cases (eg Iceland) geothermal power is viable. But in all cases, a mix has been arrived at which can – barring occasional problems – provide energy security at a reasonable price.

This could change over the next few years. The current drive to reduce the carbon intensity of power generation ahead of whatever changes free market forces might bring risks placing undue reliance on intermittent sources of power, particularly wind generation, which is the most mature and generally the least expensive of the non-nuclear alternative options. Even enthusiasts agree that the intrinsically intermittent nature of the wind means that turbines on average only generate a fraction of their nominal capacity. What is still a very controversial issue is the extent to which this can be accommodated within an overall generating mix.

The John Muir Trust, which describes itself as the ‘leading wild land conservation charity in the UK’ has therefore done a valuable service by commissioning a report on the topic from Stuart Young, called (accurately but somewhat prosaically) Analysis of UK Wind Power Generation; November 2008 to December 2010. Using publicly-available information, this analyses the data to give a rather less positive assessment than we get from organisations such as Renewable UK (until recently the British Wind Energy Association, but now also covering wave and tidal power) or the Renewable Energy Association. It will not have pleased Alex Salmond, First Minister of Scotland, who spoke at a recent conference of ‘putting Scotland at the forefront of the global energy revolution’.

Critics may say that the John Muir Trust has an axe to grind, because it does not want to see wind turbines erected in what is currently wilderness. This is a fair point, but very few reports are published for purely altruistic reasons and it is for the reader to judge for themselves the objectivity of the author. In the case of the JMT report, the facts are allowed to speak for themselves. The National Grid, via its Balancing Mechanism Reporting System, provides very detailed data, publishing information every five minutes since November 2008. This data can be accessed by anyone, including those who may be sceptical of Stuart Young’s conclusions.

The author set out to test a series of statements often made in support of wind power and, in so doing, came to some important conclusions about its ability to make a useful contribution to the mix. For example, based on these data, he concludes that a figure of 30% of rated capacity for the average outputs of on-shore wind farms is a significant over-estimate. For November and December 2008, the figure was 31.7%, but in 2009 it fell to 27.2% and in 2010 was only 21.1%. Over the whole period covered, the average was just 24.1%. It should be said that the NG figures include only metered wind farms, but these are all in Scotland, which we can safely assume to be windier than the UK average. Including on-shore wind turbines in England would only make the picture worse.

This is one aspect; in terms of planning investment, it would be safe to assume that on-shore wind farms would have an average output of only about a quarter of their rated capacity. But even more important is the variability of the output. It has already been argued many times that wind farms can do little to reduce carbon dioxide emissions because conventional generating capacity has to be kept running inefficiently on standby to make up the shortfall when the wind is too weak (or too strong). The ability of the grid to cope with large, rapid changes in supply has also been questioned.

The analysis in the report gives a good illustration of this. To summarise, the metered wind farms operate:

At below 20% of capacity more than half the time

Below 10% of capacity more than one-third of the time

The equivalent of one day in twelve below 2.5% capacity

The equivalent of just under one day a month below 1.25% capacity

To compound this, the total output from the wind farms (about 1600MW metered capacity) was less than 20MW on average more than once a week, and this low output typically lasted for nearly five hours on each occasion. To compound this “Movements in excess of 100MW over a five minute period are relatively common even at the low levels of metered capacity during the study period. As more wind power is connected the magnitude of rapid changes will increase.”

Some people will see this report and its conclusions as an attack on wind power. I prefer to see it as a recognition of the reality and an aid to rational decision making. If the objective is to reduce the carbon intensity of electricity generation, it makes no sense to wilfully ignore the negative aspects of particular technologies. To do so would be to saddle the country with a power grid which is not fit for purpose.

Even enthusiasts for renewables should take proper note of these issues. Professor David MacKay, Cambridge academic and currently Chief Scientific Adviser at the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change is both a committed environmentalist and an excellent and rational scientist. For those who want to look at the broader issues of energy generation and use in more detail, the first point of call should be his extremely useful (and free in pdf form) book Sustainable energy – without the hot air. Rather than make the sort of unwarranted assumptions some are prone to do, he estimates capacities and outputs from first principles. Both he and Stuart Young have made invaluable contributions to the debate and we can only hope that they are the voices which are listened to.

WOULD you buy a used tax from Greg Combet and his mates Bob Brown and Julia Gillard?

Terry McCrann, Herald Sun

WOULD you buy a used tax from Greg Combet and his mates Bob Brown and Julia Gillard?

It’s only been slightly used, only been driven so to speak on Sundays, by its former owner named Kevin – before his best mates Julia and Wayne persuaded him to garage it. And then, promptly ‘locked’ him in, or out, with it.

Because if you do, I’ve got a certain bridge in a city on the harbour to sell you. Newly painted and all.

Just how stupid does the prime minister and her climate minister think you are? Pretty damn stupid has to be the answer. There they both were yesterday, saying we want to hit you with a $10 billion tax, to pretty quickly grow to a $20 billion or $30 billion one. And we promise to give you back half of it.

They actually think this is the trump card! Climate Change Minister Combet: “I can assure you … that more than 50 per cent of the carbon price revenue will be used to assist households.”

While earlier in the day, the prime minister herself even more emphatically: “I can guarantee that more than 50 per cent … of the revenue raised will go to assisting households.” She then managed to say with a straight face: “That means millions of Australian households will be better off under a carbon price.”

How persuasive can you get? We hand over $10 billion, they give us $5 billion back. And it just gets “better” as the tax rises. We hand over $20 billion, they give us back $10 billion. We hand over $40 billion, they give us back $20 billion.

So this is what Ms Gillard means when she claims that people will be “better off”. Just focus on the $5 billion or $10 billion or more that you are “getting back”. You don’t need to worry about the $10 billion or $20 billion or more flowing to Canberra, because as Gillard and Combet keep claiming, you won’t be paying it.

No, only the big so-called polluters will be paying the tax. Believe that and I have an opera house to throw in with the bridge I’ve got to sell you.

Further, the promise only appears to apply specifically to half of what’s raised with the initial level at which the tax starts. When the tax is up to $30 billion a year, how much of that will be given back? The give-back only flows to some taxpayers. Perhaps half of personal taxpayers will get zero, zip, nada from the get-go, and so also all business taxpayers. They’re going to have to raise their prices or go broke or both.

Just to really make you feel enthusiastic, Gillard and Combet promise to hand the other half that is raised to climate change spivs and mainchancers – by splashing the money on useless wind farms and solar power(less) plants.

Combet seems well suited to this. I don’t think I’ve seen any previous minister who has managed to so seamlessly combine the most basic stupidity and the most shameless dishonesty. While at the same time demonstrating he actually doesn’t have a clue that’s what he is doing!

In his speech yesterday he used the word ‘pollution’ or a variant a total of 48 times, either directly or indirectly linked to the word carbon.

In every case he was of course talking about carbon dioxide – not simply harmless but utterly necessary plant food. You’d have to conclude that he does know just how dishonest he was being to so repeatedly talk about carbon pollution – deliberately promoting an image of dirty bits of grit.

But you’d also have to conclude that at some level he actually doesn’t. The stupidity and dishonesty is also captured and projected in the claim that on the one hand “only” the so-called big polluters will pay. But about half of you will be “compensated”, indeed over-compensated.

Compensated for what? If only the polluters are paying?

Further Combet – and Gillard – continue to tell lies about China. They must know they are lying. But again incredibly, they also appear to believe what they say – having a bizarre ability to “not see” all the new coal-fired power stations that China is opening.

There is a very clear bottom line. This is a huge tax. It will grow to be at least half the size of the GST, perhaps even more. You all got fully compensated for the GST with the personal tax cuts. The Gillard-Brown government isn’t even promising that with this tax.

Just think about that. Imagine a prime minister standing up and promising to raise the GST from 10 to 15 per cent – and not providing any offset by way of tax cuts or other rebates to half of all taxpayers and all, repeat all, of business.

Indeed, that it is entirely possible it could end up being the equivalent of doubling the GST to 20 per cent. A tax that’s exactly opposite to the reform of the GST and the price-cutting impact of tariff reductions, will very seriously damage the economy.

That a government could be so inept in both political and policy terms is almost beyond belief. Except it is happening, right out there before your eyes in plain view, personified and projected by Gillard and Combet.They are starting to make Bob Brown look like the voice of reason and sanity.

What’s Wind Got to Do With It?

By Paul Chesser on 4.13.11 in American Spectator

Last week our organization, American Tradition Institute, sued the State of Colorado in federal court because we assert that its Renewable Energy Standard law violates the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.

The mandate requires that major utilities in the state (mainly Xcel Energy, which favors the law) to obtain 30 percent of their power generation from “renewable” sources, such as wind or solar, by the year 2020. It shouldn’t be difficult for anyone who is slightly familiar with the Commerce Clause to understand why a state law that restricts the sale of a product (electricity), which is delivered on a grid that crosses state lines, would violate that clause. We seek 12 claims for relief under the Commerce Clause, which you can read in our complaint. Many of them have to do with forcing Xcel to purchase power from “renewable” sources — with favoritism for those in state — which discriminates against electricity generators from out of state. This impermissibly burdens interstate commerce.

What has confused some people, including myself a little bit, is our Law Center director David Schnare’s explanation that we are “putting wind energy on trial.” What does that have to do with the Commerce Clause?

Well, there’s a history. A 1970 Supreme Court decision in Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc. established a “balancing test,” which said if the effects on interstate commerce are only “incidental” compared to the local benefits a statute establishes, then it will be upheld. But if the burden on interstate commerce “is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits,” then it is unconstitutional.

Hence the problem for Colorado: Wind energy, which the American Wind Energy Association says now provides 5.8 percent of the state’s electricity (and 72 percent of all Colorado’s renewable energy), offers no local benefit compared to other generation sources. In fact, because wind energy produces dirtier, less dependable and more expensive electricity than the alternatives, it is a detriment.

Most people use electricity without regard for how their utility generates it. They just want it on. But for manufacturers and businesses that depend on timely production and delivery schedules, the losses due to even the slightest interruptions in power supply are in the millions of dollars.

Because the expectation is for electricity to be uninterrupted, the only other aspect where its “quality” can be graded is in its generation. For a long time environmentalists have told us that “renewable” sources like wind and solar deliver superior power because it is cleaner in its generation. That has not proven true.

Studies of Colorado and Texas by BENTEK Energy, LLC, in addition to a study of the Netherlands, found the coercion of utilities to accept wind power means they must suddenly turn on coal and natural gas generators when wind stops blowing — and then off when it does — and then on again, etc. These fossil fuel combustion generators create more pollutants (sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and those dreaded greenhouse gases) when they are operated in this fashion than they would if they ran continually. Also, wind’s intermittency puts the electrical grid at greater risk of blackouts and brownouts.

As Kent Hawkins of MasterResource.com noted, “There are not only more emissions with [Renewable Energy Standards] than without them, but also there is duplicate capacity installed (wind) at significantly higher costs, which adds notably to the costs of electricity.”

So you see that under the Pike balancing test, no “local benefit” can be cited in order to overturn a determination that Colorado’s Renewable Energy Standard is unconstitutional under the Commerce Clause.

And that is what putting wind on trial has to do with it.

67-MPG Ford Focus ECOnetic Debuts

Just the Facts:

The 67-mpg Ford Focus ECOnetic debuted on Wednesday, with a European introduction date set for early 2012, but the Dearborn automaker told Inside Line there are no plans to sell this fuel-squeezing diesel version of the Focus here.

The ECOnetic gets a turbocharged 1.6-liter Ford Duratorq TDCi turbodiesel engine that delivers 103 horsepower.

An aerodynamic package includes an Active Grille Shutter, ultra-low-rolling-resistance tires and a revised final drive ratio.

BRENTWOOD, England — The 67-mpg Ford Focus ECOnetic debuted here on Wednesday, with a European introduction date set for early 2012, but the Dearborn automaker told Inside Line there are no plans to sell this fuel-squeezing diesel version of the Focus here.

“No, it isn’t coming,” wrote Said Deep, a Ford spokesman, in response to a e-mailed query from Inside Line.

The European Focus ECOnetic was introduced on a day when the national average price for a gallon of unleaded gasoline in the U.S. hit $3.70. Gas prices have already topped $4 a gallon in California, Alaska and Hawaii, according to the AAA Daily Fuel Gauge Report. With the ongoing turmoil in the Middle East and the increased demand for fuel due to the economic recovery, many analysts are predicting that gas prices will hit a national average of $4 per gallon in short order.

The Focus ECOnetic features a turbocharged 1.6-liter Duratorq TDCi turbodiesel engine that delivers 103 horsepower. The engine is linked to a six-speed manual transmission. The 1.6 TDCi is rated on the European driving cycle at the U.S. equivalent of 67 mpg.

An aerodynamic package includes an Active Grille Shutter, ultra-low-rolling-resistance tires and a revised final drive ratio. Ford said in a statement that the Active Grille Shutter is a new system that optimizes aerodynamics by “using vents to control air flow through the grille to the cooling system and engine compartment.” If air is required to cool the engine, the vents are opened; but if no air flow is needed, the vents are shut, reducing aerodynamic drag.

The Focus ECOnetic will be available in five-door and wagon variants.

Inside Line says: With $4-a-gallon gas looming across the country, why wouldn’t this be a good option for U.S. buyers? — Anita Lienert, Correspondent

Editorial: Cap and Evade

Wall Street Journal

Why do Americans hate politics? Consider last week’s Senate spectacle on whether to rein in the Environmental Protection Agency’s plans to regulate carbon dioxide. Democrats deliberately turned the votes into a hall of mirrors, with multiple amendments to dodge accountability.

The maneuvering began after Republican Leader Mitch McConnell introduced an amendment that would have barred the EPA from regulating carbon. Congress has never given the EPA that power, and a Democratic Senate expressly rejected cap and tax last year. But Administrator Lisa Jackson’s EPA has claimed that power anyway under the 1970 Clean Air Act and later amendments, even though Michigan Democrat John Dingell says that he and other co-authors never intended to include CO2 as a regulated pollutant.

The McConnell amendment scares the incumbency out of Senate Democrats, especially after what happened in last year’s election to House Democrats who voted for cap-and-tax regulation. Last week the House voted 255-172 for a bill similar to Mr. McConnell’s, and the ayes included 19 Democrats. So what’s a nervous liberal to do?

Jumble the categories to confuse the voters. In classic Senate fashion, this means supporting phony alternatives as political cover, then turning around and voting to kill the McConnell amendment.

Democrats weren’t taking any chances and offered no fewer than three alternatives. West Virginia’s Jay Rockefeller got 12 votes for his proposal to delay the EPA’s carbon rule for two years. Michigan Democrat Debbie Stabenow’s bill to exempt agriculture from the rule received seven votes, and Montana’s Max Baucus got all of seven votes for his bill that would codify the current EPA rule while also exempting agriculture.

Everyone knew all three would fail overwhelmingly because the GOP leadership and most liberal Democrats opposed them. But the amendments served their political purpose in allowing 13 Democrats to vote for one or another. The Senators will now claim that they, too, voted to rein in the EPA, even as they also whisper to the Sierra Club and other green lobbies that they voted to kill Mr. McConnell’s amendment. As Democrats expected, the media ignored all this and merely reported that the effort to limit the EPA had failed. Notice, too, how the green lobbies are keeping quiet lest any crowing embarrass the 13 Democrats.

The McConnell proposal received 50 votes, so it would have reached the 60-vote threshold for passage if those 13 Democrats had voted for it. The nearby table lists the names of those 13 Democrats, along with Maine Republican Susan Collins, who also voted for Mr. Rockefeller’s two-year delay but against her own leader’s more consequential ban.

It’s no coincidence that five of those Democrats are up for re-election in 2012, with Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, Pennsylvania’s Bob Casey, Missouri’s Claire McCaskill, Michigan’s Ms. Stabenow and Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar running in states that rely heavily on fossil fuels and would be especially hurt by the EPA rule.

All 13 tacitly acknowledged that the EPA rule will do economic damage because they voted to limit its breadth or delay it for two years. But then they helped to kill the one bill that had the most support and would have done the most to prevent that economic damage.

We have far more respect for Jon Tester, the Montana Democrat who is running for re-election in 2012 and voted against all four bills to limit the EPA. Those votes may hurt him next year, but at least he didn’t join the cynics. As for the rest, they are today’s reason to hate politics.

An Oil Market Of Our Very Own

IBD Editorial

Energy Policy: Gasoline prices are punitively high, and many blame the administration. But prices could be lower and approval ratings higher if the president got behind an important pipeline project.

The Keystone XL pipeline, proposed six years ago, is a 36-inch feed linking Alberta’s oil sands fields to the refineries of Texas’ Gulf Coast. It would carry not only Canadian crude, also but oil from the energy-rich U.S. states.

If allowed to proceed, it would eventually transport more than a million barrels of crude each day — more, according to Heritage Foundation analyst David Kreutzer, than we now import from either Saudi Arabia or Venezuela, our two largest suppliers after Canada and Mexico.

“Along with the pipeline and petroleum,” says Kreutzer, “would come increased energy security and a boost to the U.S. economy.”

Given the benefits, who could oppose such a project? Washington Democrats. They reflexively oppose any proposal that increases energy availability. The green energy solutions they promote aren’t designed to expand energy; they are meant to restrain capitalism.

So when a Democrat — in this case, the Democrat in chief — indicates that maybe some reasonable thinking is outweighing nonsensical green ideology, there’s reason for tempered optimism.

We don’t want to overstate the possibility. But when President Obama pointed out last week that Canada, unlike more volatile suppliers, is a “steady and stable and reliable” source of crude, it suggested he could be more open to the pipeline than those who have accused him of delaying the project think. His support is key; the trans-border pipeline needs State Department approval.

Environmentalists, of course, oppose the project. They imagine spills because they believe the pipe’s steel won’t be strong enough to hold the load. They are not moved by fact it will be made of advanced materials and transport the crude at low pressure.

The environmental lobby will cite, as well, the higher level of emissions associated with oil sands production. But as we’ve noted many times, there’s nothing to fear about CO2. It is a naturally occurring substance necessary for life. It has a weak greenhouse effect and makes up only a small sliver of our atmosphere.

Expect environmentalists to also argue there’s not enough oil in the ground to justify such a project. They’d be wrong. The Green River formation in the Western U.S. alone might hold more than 1.5 trillion barrels of oil, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates.

We like to think the Keystone XL Pipeline, part of which is already built, could be the start of a North American oil market that would operate independently of a world market viciously skewed due to governments owning and controlling at least 80% the world’s crude.

Such a market would not be subject to the depredation of OPEC and other states that use oil as a weapon against the U.S. Without their interference, prices would the set by supply and demand — and probably be lower.

Obama should let Keystone be the cornerstone of such a market by ordering his State Department to approve the project. That in itself could have an impact at the pump. The market response to a future with more oil is lower prices. Relief is just an executive decision away.