The great energy debate – Scientific Alliance Newsletter

It is hardly surprising if people are confused about their energy supply. Chris Huhne, at this week’s Liberal Democrat conference, made a major gaffe, by blaming consumers for high energy tariffs (Consumers too lazy to cut fuel bills, minister says) and was criticised by those who said that it’s not as easy as he thinks (the first rule of politics: don’t insult the voter). But that’s not the main problem. People following the news will have seen stories such as these recently:

Cuadrilla unveils huge new UK gas resources (story in the Petroleum Economist on reported shale gas discoveries in the Blackpool area)
Green energy revolution needed to stabilise power bills – new analysis (Friends of the Earth press release)
Deep cuts to feed-in tariff would put 10,000 jobs at risk (BusinessGreen article on a report from solar power company Engensa, concerned at government unwillingness to keep feed-in tariffs at the current high level)
Harvesting ‘limitless’ hydrogen from self-powered cells (BBC report on the development of microbial reverse-electrodialysis electrolysis, using microorganisms to release hydrogen and oxygen from seawater)

What exactly does the future hold? Will we really see a new supply of cheap gas upsetting the apple cart for the renewables lobby, or are Friends of the Earth right to see wind and solar as the technologies of the future? And what about the purported hydrogen economy?

Of course, if anyone could answer those questions with any reasonable degree of certainty, they would be busy making money, or at least setting up the companies which would make them wealthy. The truth is that we simply can’t tell what the energy market will look like it a generation’s time. After all, even the basic debate about peak oil has not been settled. Those who say we have pretty much reached that point make a convincing case, but it is just as easy to be swayed by more optimistic souls who point to previous announcements of the onset of the evil day having been wrong, while oil and gas reserves continue to increase. If agreement on something as basic as this has not been possible, a consensus on future supplies is hardly likely.

The problem is that, whatever enthusiasts may say, there seems little chance of wind or solar power truly becoming price competitive unless the peak oil scenario does force prices up considerably higher. So, it’s quite safe to say that FoE are wrong, at least at present: any stabilisation of power bills would be at a much higher level than at present. It’s equally right to be suspicious of the report from Engensa, whose business is installing solar panels; the company would fold if FITs were cut.

And the jobs they talk about are essentially in the construction industry. They, like other suppliers, will most likely source their PV panels from China, where they can be produced at relatively low cost (and using electricity largely generated from coal). There have been some recent high profile bankruptcies of solar panel manufacturers in America, because they simply were not price competitive. So any thought of building a green manufacturing sector is essentially a pipe dream: the Chinese solar panel industry is doing very nicely on the back of European and American taxpayer subsidies, and any new jobs in wind turbine manufacturing are also very likely to end up in the Far East.

What then, of hydrogen, if it can be made cheaply by microbes? Well, we mustn’t forget that hydrogen is just an energy carrier, not a primary energy source, so it is really immaterial in the debate about energy security. Unless, that is, more energy can be extracted by recombining hydrogen and oxygen than is required to split them in the first place. As a bald statement, that would appear to break the first law of thermodynamics, but if the energy for microbial growth came from the Sun or some plentiful, cheap nutrient, then maybe, just maybe, we would have a realistic, affordable source of renewable energy. But don’t hold your breath: the report is only about lab-scale experiments.

Which leaves us with the shale gas reserves. Ignoring the question of fracking, which has attracted opposition from some environmentalists, the two key questions are: how much gas is really there and how much can be economically recovered? This is an area of great debate and all we can really say for now is that those at the extreme ends of the spectrum of opinion are almost certainly wrong. On one hand, shale gas is not a potential resource which can only be recovered using dangerous, polluting technologies and therefore should be ignored, but on the other hand it is unlikely to become a new resource which will dominate our energy future for the next couple of generations. Exploitation of the Marcellus shales in America has certainly increased US production (and reduced their price for gas) considerably, but the depletion characteristics of shale gas reserves are likely to be quite different from ‘conventional’ gas fields. Unless there are really vast reserves (and there could well be, but we don’t know yet), shale gas may be a relatively short-lived, albeit useful, resource.

In the meantime, we do know that many countries – the UK being a prime example – are in real danger of entering their first sustained period of energy insecurity for many years, because of governments’ failure to make sensible strategic decisions. In South Africa, an inexplicable failure by the government to invest in new power generation has left both industry and citizens of a growing economy subject to regular black-outs while power stations are at last being built. British voters are unlikely to be forgiving of any political party which managed the same trick because they failed to replace ageing coal-fired and nuclear stations with viable alternatives. Simply repeating the renewables mantra won’t keep the lights on. It seems almost certain that there will be many more gas-fired stations built in coming years, so let’s hope that shale gas does come good.

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Victory is sweet, but the war continues

Paul Driessen

Celebrate EPA’s withdrawal of job-killing ozone standards – but prepare for more onslaughts

Millions of Americans recently celebrated the demise of the Environmental Protection Agency’s job-killing ground-level ozone regulations. While a toast was appropriate, we shouldn’t drink too much champagne just yet.

As with the Battle of Midway and Lt. Col. James Doolittle’s Tokyo Raid in early 1942, White House action on this single EPA rule is merely a welcome victory in a long struggle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce may have declared, “Now, at least they’re listening,” but other observers say the EPA and Obama administration are still tone deaf.

Indeed, a major factor in the White House decision on ozone was a map showing that 85% of America’s counties would be out of compliance with the Clean Air Act if the new rules were implemented. That would mean no new construction or manufacturing projects could begin – and no jobs “created or saved” – until billions are spent to bring existing facilities into compliance with arbitrary new ozone standards.

Many of those counties are in politically important states like Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Virginia – which better explains the administration’s sudden “conversion,” than does any supposed recognition that its rules are unnecessary and harmful. Moreover, the ozone rule was not killed; it was postponed until after the 2012 elections, to safeguard jobs: White House, administration, Democrat and SEIU jobs.

The administration’s mile-long regulatory freight train merely paused to shunt the ozone boxcar onto a siding, to be retrieved later. The engines and remaining cars are still roaring down the tracks, heading for a collision with a sick economy that has left 14 million Americans jobless, 9 million forced to take part-time work, 2.5 million who have given up looking for jobs, and 46 million on food stamps.

Orchestrated environmentalist outrage over the delayed ozone rule may deflect attention from the rest of the freight train, and make it easier to impose hundreds of other regulations. In fact, reams of complex Dodd-Frank financial rules and Obamacare health sector regulations are still onboard, as are National Labor Relations Board unionizing schemes, Agriculture and Interior Department land use regulations, and many others.

The Energy Department continues to lavish taxpayer dollars on expensive wind and solar projects that provide minimal energy at exorbitant cost, even after two more solar companies went bankrupt, costing Americans another $1 billion and 1,900 jobs. Solyndra alone cost US taxpayers $535 million, to create 1,100 temporary jobs at $485,000 apiece. They’re all gone now.

Citing Energy Department reports, the Washington Post reports that the $39-billion loan guarantee program, which President Obama promised would “create or save” 65,000 jobs, has instead spawned a measly 3,545 new, supposedly permanent jobs – after blowing nearly $18 billion, or $5 million per job.

Green jobs? Greenback jobs is more like it – taxpayer greenbacks for Obama and cronies. Worse, by draining billions from taxpayers, consumers and productive sectors of the American economy, the administration is killing two to three traditional, sustainable jobs for each greenback job it creates.

Then there is EPA, which even in this toxic environment remains the biggest single job-killing agency in government. Its ozone rulemaking is just one of dozens it has planned, finalized, or brought to the brink of sign-off and implementation.

Unable to get cap-tax-and-trade passed in Congress, EPA has its economy-killing carbon dioxide rules waiting on a railway siding, until the November elections spur a regulatory frenzy. It is still preparing coal-fired power plant emission rules to control the 0.5% of mercury that actually enters America’s atmosphere from those facilities, as well as expensive regulations on heavy-duty trucks.

“Cross-state” air pollution regulations will force utilities in a few states to install billion-dollar retrofits on coal-fired power plants that EPA computer models say could (minimally) affect air quality hundreds of miles away. EPA claims 20 states affect downwind states during the May-September NOx/ozone season, but demands that Florida shoulder 79% of the national responsibility.

It claims seven states affect Houston’s air quality, but wants Florida to provide 94% of the alleged benefits for the Texas city, 800 miles away, across the sultry, largely windless summertime Gulf of Mexico – after Florida utilities already reduced their NOx emissions by two-thirds since 2003. EPA also says Texas must retrofit power plants that might affect Illinois communities 400 miles away.

Even crazier, EPA is using outdated air pollution measurements to justify these rules. In reality, data from recent years show the supposedly impacted cities already meet national ambient air quality standards.

EPA’s “maximum achievable control technologies” (MACT) rules will impact power sources in factories and refineries. Its “reciprocating ignition compression engine” (RICE) rules will curtail the availability of thousands of backup, “peaking” and emergency generators at colleges, hospitals, malls, groceries and other facilities. When storms knock out power, or heat waves strain overloaded grids, the dearth of electricity will cause brownouts, blackouts and widespread chaos, especially in hospitals.

Coal ash and water quality rules will raise costs even further for nearly half of America’s power plants – and electricity users – for minimal environmental gain.

For three years EPA has used global warming claims to oppose the Keystone XL pipeline project, which could create hundreds of thousands of American refinery, construction, manufacturing, financial and other jobs – and stymie Shell’s oil drilling plans in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea.

In every instance, EPA claims “the regulatory benefits far exceed the costs.” However, as independent natural scientist Dr. Willie Soon and other analysts have documented, the health, welfare and environmental risks and benefits have frequently been exaggerated or even fabricated.

Worse, EPA steadfastly refuses to consider the significant adverse effects that its rules will have on human health and welfare. The cumulative weight of these rules will send energy costs skyrocketing and kill millions of additional jobs, Affordable Power Alliance co-chair Niger Innis points out.

Poor and newly jobless families will be even less able to afford gasoline, clothing, healthcare, proper nutrition and other basic needs, Innis notes. Many will suffer increased stress, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and crime rates. Many low income families will be unable to afford proper heating during frigid winter months or air conditioning during summer heat waves. People will die.

Equally outrageous, while it may have shunted its ozone boxcar onto a railway siding, EPA is ramping up its campaign to rally support for its dangerous policies. Under its “Plan EJ 2014” initiative and other programs, the agency is “leading from behind” – funneling millions of taxpayer dollars to minority, low-income and environmentalist groups that will advance EPA’s rulemaking, permitting, compliance, enforcement and other agenda items under guise of “environmental justice” and “civil rights” claims.

The Environmental Protection Agency is setting the stage for a national disaster.

EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson insists she wants “a real conversation about protecting our health and the environment.” By all means, let’s have that conversation. It’s likely, however, that she and her radical allies will not enjoy it one small bit.

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Paul Driessen is senior policy advisor for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow, and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Lies, Damn Lies and the Liars that tell them!

The Inconvenient Skeptic

There are so many ways that politicians lie. The latest one is so blatant that once again I feel the need to write an article showing the real numbers behind the lies. This time, it is President Obama that is going to seek a new alternative minimum tax rate to make sure that millionaires pay a tax rate that is higher than the tax rate that the middle-class pays. The initial problem is that it is a tremendous lie that people making an income greater than $1 million dollars do not pay a higher tax rate than the middle class.

Now to prove it. I will start by using the latest tax data from the IRS. Since 2009 is the latest data available, that is what I will use to prove that President Obama and his friend Warren Buffett are in fact lying about the tax rates. This is so easy to disprove, that it is a waste of time to bother throwing the lie out there, but is seems that they will do it anyway. This is not to say that there are not some millionaires that do manage to avoid taxes, but on average, people making more than $1 million pay a much higher rate of taxes.

I will start by showing the numbers of just how many people we are talking about. The number of people making more than $1 million is tiny.

As I will show shortly, it doesn’t even depend on what you define as middle-class for this article. The numbers are so overwhelming that once a person or family makes more than $100,000 per year, the tax rate goes up dramatically. It is also important to note that the number of people that make more than $1 million a year is vanishingly small. In 2009, only 228,609 people in the United States made more than $1 million dollars. That is 0.163% of the population. This is one reason why he might feel it is safe to single them out.

Now it is easy enough to compare the the total taxes paid and the percentage of income paid as federal income taxes.

What is obvious from the numbers is that once a person/family exceeds $200,000 in income, the percentage of that income that goes to taxes doubles. People that earn less than $100k, paid 8.5% of their income to federal taxes. People that earned more than $200k, paid 19.6% of their income in taxes. Every group that earned over $500k paid at least 22.6% of their income in taxes. That is about double the percentage of even the group that earned between $100-200k.

If I combine all the different ranges of AGI (Adjusted Gross Income) to show a more compressed form, it is also very clear that those that make more than $200k already pay a much higher percentage of their income in Federal Income Tax. Do not forget that most states also tax them at a higher rate so they get hit twice with a higher rate of taxes.

Middle-class and below already pay a much lower rate of taxes.

So what exactly is Obama talking about when he says he is going to make the rich pay their fair share and make sure that millionaires are going to pay the same percentage as the middle class? That is a fascinating question, because on average, the people making more than $200k already pay double the percentage of their income and they are still being targeted for more money.

There is one strange group that shows up in the numbers and that is those that have an AGI of less than $0. This is where it gets interesting. There are ~2.5 million filings that have an AGI in that range and their average AGI is -$79,206. So these people are losing money, but they still pay an average federal tax bill of $22,350. I was baffled by a group of millions of people that pay a tax equivalent to an income of ~$150k, but end up losing money each year.

So I spoke to a CPA to figure it out. There is a very limited number of ways to get into that situation and both of them involve owning a business with the most common one being farmers. According to the EPA there are currently 2.1 million farms in the USA. That is a very good fit for the number of filings that meet the criteria of negative AGI, but still need to pay taxes. I will have to assume that most farmers (95%) have a negative AGI. If there is one business model that should have a negative AGI, it is farmers. With that assumption farmers account for 80% of the filings that have a negative AGI. While farms can bring in a vast amount of money, they also have significant expenses and risks associated. Just ask any farmer in Texas right now.

That leaves about 20% of the negative AGI folk, or about 500,000 families. That is a relatively small percentage of non-farm businesses and I would expect that non-farm businesses that have a negative AGI don’t last very long. So failing businesses probably make up a good chunk of that portion. Here is a Businessweek article on failing small businesses.

Looking at the data shows that whatever President Obama is trying to accomplish, the majority of it is a lie. The millionaires that he is targeting, already pay a significantly higher percentage of their income than the middle-class. The only group that might not be paying a higher percentage than the middle-class is farmers. If he proposes a income only based alternative minimum tax on millionaires, then the main group that he will be hitting is farmers. President Obama fully appears to be going after the farmers to get them to pay an extra $1.5 Trillion in taxes over the next 10 years.

See the post with the graphs

Warmed right over

By Lawrence Solomon, National Post
Friday, Sept. 16, 2011

Nobel-winning physicist Ivar Giaever resigned as a fellow from the American Physical Society this week over its endorsement of warming.

The global-warming theory is nearing its end as evidence against it mounts

Why do a majority of Canadians — 52% according to the latest Angus Reid poll — still hold the belief that humans are mainly responsible for global warming?

I think I know, based on the feedback I’ve received from literally thousands of Canadians who have commented in recent years on my articles dealing with global warming. Most of that 52% have so often been told that the science is settled on global warming, and so rarely that there is any credible dissent, that they have not yet twigged to straightforward information, such as the rejection by most top scientists of the global-warming dogma.

Just this week, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Ivar Giaever resigned as a fellow from the American Physical Society, saying he could not live with its nonsensical endorsement of global-warming alarmism. Dr. Giaever joins a host of other eminent scientists who have dismissed concerns over global warming, including Freeman Dyson, a Princeton physicist and America’s best known scientist, Antonino Zichichi, the president of the World Federation of Scientists and Italy’s best known scientist, Claude Allegre, a former socialist Minister of National Education, Research and Technology and France’s best-known scientist, and America’s Reid Bryson, known as the “father of scientific climatology” and judged “the world’s most cited climatologist” by the journal of the Institute of British Geographers.

In contrast to this Who’s Who of the scientific world, the list of top global-warming scientists falls far short. No scientist has been awarded a Nobel Prize in a science field for his work on global warming because no piece of science in the field has achieved a major scientific breakthrough. This despite the global-warming issue’s dominance of the scientific world for more than two decades, garnering the lion’s share of scientific funding and an inordinate amount of coverage in scientific publications. The only Nobel Prize conferred on global-warming advocates came from the political wing of the Nobel Prize establishment, which awarded them a prize for peace in consolation for their failure to merit a prize for science.

The most celebrated global-warming scientist by far has been NASA’s James Hansen, whose 1988 testimony in the U.S. Senate first brought the climate change issue to the popular press. Hansen presented projections, based on his computer models, showing dangerously high temperatures in the decades between then and now. Had those projections been borne out, he would today have a Nobel Prize in science. Unfortunately for him, his models proved to be duds. And aside from his global-warming work, he has precious few scientific accomplishments.

The next most celebrated global-warming scientist is Michael Mann, developer of the infamous hockey stick model that showed temperatures on Earth to have shot up dramatically in the last century, after 900 relatively stable years. That model, Mann’s sole claim to fame, also proved to be a dud. Once the icon of the global-warming movement, Mann’s hockey stick is now the subject of court proceedings and an icon for deceit.

What about all the thousands of scientists associated with the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change who are said to endorse the IPCC’s global-warming theory? Do the global-warming proponents make up in quantity of scientists what they lack in quality? No. Those thousands of scientists never endorsed the IPCC position, or any position. They were merely peer reviewers of the IPCC reports, and they often disagreed with the material they reviewed.

Some Canadians blame humans for global warming because they’ve been told that Antarctica is melting in unprecedented ways, the “proof” being spectacular film footage of huge chunks of ice breaking off into the Antarctic Ocean. They don’t yet know that Antarctic ice has always broken off, that satellites show Antarctica to be gaining ice overall, and that Antarctica has been getting colder, not warmer, over the last half century.

Other Canadians think the Arctic ice is in danger of disappearing, unaware that several times over the last century the Arctic Ocean was actually navigable — ­today’s Arctic is no different from before.

What about all the hurricanes predicted to ravage our shores because of global warming? They never happened, and for good reason: As the IPCC’s own hurricane expert said in resigning from that organization, there is no evidence that global warming will cause an increase in hurricanes.

The submerged islands in the Pacific? That, too, never happened. Yes, the oceans have been rising, as they have been for centuries, but not because of recent carbon dioxide emissions. In fact, the recent evidence shows the oceans’ rate of rise has been slowing.

The correlation between carbon dioxide and global warming? In the last century, there has been none. While carbon-dioxide emissions have steadily increased, the temperature has gone up and down like a yo-yo. The down period in the 1970s was so severe that many scientists at the time thought we were heading for a period of global cooling, as many do again, now that the planet has again stopped warming.

There is, in fact, not one important claim made by the global-warming alarmists that has stood up to scrutiny. The chief reason why so much of the Canadian public remains misinformed is that the Canadian press has failed to provide the scrutiny, or even to report the news — unlike the U.S. and European press, for example, no mainstream Canadian news outlet has yet reported Ivar Giaever’s resignation earlier this week — this column is likely the first you’ve heard of it.

Despite the media’s general reluctance to report dissenting views of global warming, Canadian are slowly becoming informed. Two years ago, 63% of Canadians told Angus Reid that they blamed humans for global warming; last year 60% did so and last week, 52%. Next year, as Canadians continue to better inform themselves, the percentage should be in the 40s. We will then join the civilized peoples of the world in having a healthy skepticism of those selling us pet theories on global warming as if they were established fact.

What’s exactly happened with the goverment’s Solyndra loan?

By Liz Goodwin | The Lookout

President Barack Obama visited the facility in May 2010, and said it was “leading the way toward a brighter and more prosperous future.” But only a month later, the company laid off 100 employees and cancelled its plans for a public stock offering. Two weeks ago, it filed for Chapter 11 and fired 1,000 workers. FBI agents promptly raided the company’s California offices.

So what exactly happened? And how big will the fallout be for Obama?

The accusation

Republicans on the House and Energy Commission are accusing the Obama administration of ignoring multiple warning signs that Solyndra was a bad bet. The Commission lays out its case against the administration’s handling of the loan in a report released Wednesday, following a months-long investigation.

Under the Bush administration, the Department of Energy rejected Solyndra for a loan in early 2009, worrying that the company didn’t have good long-term prospects. Yet only two months later, Obama’s newly appointed Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced the government would give the company a $535 million loan, funded with money from the stimulus. Last year, government accountability investigators criticized the White House for scheduling a groundbreaking at a Solyndra plant before the Energy Department had even finished filing all its paperwork. “This deal is NOT ready for prime time,” a White House budget analyst wrote only nine days before the agreement was announced.

At issue are two main things. One, emails obtained by the Center for Public Integrity show that White House officials asked the Department of Energy to make a decision on the Solyndra loan so that they would know whether they could schedule President Obama for a visit to the facility to publicize the loan. Republicans say this is evidence that the White House pressured the Energy Department, or used undue influence, to approve the loan before they knew whether it was a good bet. Republicans also mention that a big private backer of the deal, Oklahoma billionaire George Kaiser, also raised money for Obama’s 2008 campaign.
The second accusation is that once the loan went through, the Obama administration ignored warning signs that the company was failing and then refinanced the loan in a way that left taxpayers twisting in the wind. A few days before the groundbreaking on the new Solyndra facility in September 2009, a Department of Energy official completed an analysis that concluded the company would run out of cash by September of 2011–a forecast that turned out to be right on the mark.
But it wasn’t until last February that the government decided Solyndra was about to default, and refinanced the company’s original loan with the help of $75 million from private investors. As part of the deal, the government agreed that if Solyndra ever went bankrupt, it would have to pay back the $75 million to investors first, ahead of disbursing any money back to the taxpayers.

Center for Public Integrity reporter Ronnie Greene told The Lookout that Republican members of the subcommittee suggested Wednesday that cutting such a deal was illegal, in violation of a provision of the Clean Air act.
Jeffrey Zients, deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget, defended the restructuring at the hearing Wednesday, arguing that it was less costly to taxpayers than liquidation or any other option would be.

The White House’s defense

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Wednesday that the White House did not try to accelerate the approval process for the loan in any improper way. “What the emails make clear is there was urgency to make a decision on a scheduling matter. It is a big proposition to move the president or to put on an event and that sort of thing so people were simply looking for answers about whether or not people could move forward,” Carney told reporters. “It had nothing to–and there is no evidence to the contrary–nothing to do with anything besides the need to get an answer to make a scheduling decision,” he said.
Democrats on the panel, meanwhile, tried to deflect blame to the Solyndra executives themselves, arguing that company officials misled them about Solyndra’s financial situation in July.

“I’m perplexed how they can be in my office in July telling me things are looking better and two months later filing for bankruptcy,” Rep. Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), the top Democrat on the committee’s oversight panel, said, according to The Hill.
The FBI won’t say why it raided Solyndra’s offices, and later searched executives’ homes.

The top Energy Department and Office of Management and Budget officials at the panel said the Bush administration had also looked into giving the company money and that all such investments are risks. Zients, of the Office of Management and Budget, stressed that an independent credit rating agency and experts had examined the company before it was approved for the loan.
“Some of America’s most sophisticated professional investors collectively invested nearly a billion dollars in the company after conducting extensive due diligence of their own,” Jonathan Silver of the Energy Department testified.
Potential fallout?

The most obvious consequence of the Solyndra fiasco is that the government is going to lose some cash. According to the Washington Post, taxpayers will pick up the tab for the loan if Solyndra can’t repay it. “The Energy Department could seek repayment in court, but receiving more than a nominal amount is unlikely because of the company’s depleted cash and assets,” the Post reports.

The legal implications of the case are less clear. Since the FBI won’t disclose the reasons for raiding Solyndra’s offices, the nature of the agency’s investigation is unclear. Democratic lawmakers have suggested that the company misrepresented its financial situation to Congress.

Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers suggested that the February refinancing of the loan providing for private investors to be paid back before the government may be illegal. But that’s far from certain, according to Greene.
In the short term, the controversy has spurred calls to roll back or regulate Obama’s green jobs program. Sen. David Vitter (R-La.) floated legislation Wednesday to require all renewable energy companies that received a loan from the U.S. government in the past two years to undergo an audit,the Hill reported.

Obama energy policy raises costs, limits jobs

, Special to CNN

Editor’s note: Robert Bryce is a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute. His latest book is “Power Hungry: The Myths of ‘Green’ Energy and the Real Fuels of the Future.”

Austin, Texas (CNN) — For decades, political commentators have been lamenting America’s lack of an energy policy. That’s no longer true. Under Barack Obama, the U.S. has adopted a very clear energy policy: obstruct and even vilify the coal, oil and natural gas industries while lavishing subsidies on unreliable and expensive sources like solar, biofuels and wind energy.

The events of the past few weeks provide plenty of examples. The most recent: the bankruptcy of solar-panel-maker Solyndra, which despite a $527 million loan guarantee from the Department of Energy could not compete with overseas producers.

Two weeks before Solyndra’s bankruptcy, the White House announced that the Departments of Agriculture, Energy and Navy will “invest up to $510 million during the next three years” to develop “advanced drop-in aviation and marine biofuels to power military and commercial transportation.”

Never mind that the entire notion of “advanced biofuels” has been a colossal failure. Despite decades of hype and tens of millions of dollars in subsidies, the U.S. still doesn’t have any substantive biofuel production other than the corn ethanol boondoggle, which is now consuming about 40% of all U.S. corn production, and soy-based diesel.

About the same time the White House unveiled the latest biofuel initiative, several news outlets reported on a lawsuit filed by Exxon Mobil Corp. against Obama’s Interior Department in which the energy giant claims it has been “singled out” for “unprecedented adverse treatment.” At issue: Exxon’s lease on offshore acreage that contains the Julia Field, a discovery that may hold 1 billion barrels of recoverable oil, making it one of the biggest finds ever made in the Gulf of Mexico.

Between 2006 and 2008, Exxon spent about $230 million drilling a pair of wells — each of them to depths exceeding 31,000 feet — that delineated the giant oil deposit. In late 2008, it applied for an extension of its lease, a process that had been routinely done many times before. But federal officials refused, saying the company hadn’t proved a “commitment to production.”

Unless the Interior Department changes its position, years of litigation will delay the production of millions of barrels of domestic oil and, with that delay, a postponement of what could be $11 billion in royalties payable to the federal government over the life of the field.

Obama regularly includes anti-oil-industry rhetoric in his speeches. Thursday night, during his speech on jobs, he nearly ignored the issue of energy policy altogether — no mention of “green jobs,” wind, solar or “clean energy” — but he did manage to squeeze in a condemnation of “tax loopholes for oil companies.” The president said the tax preferences for oil companies should be eliminated so that small business owners could get a tax credit for hiring workers.

Obama may not know it, but the domestic oil and gas industry is creating jobs, lots of them. Over the past 18 months or so, 48,000 people were hired in Pennsylvania by companies drilling in the Marcellus Shale. Last month, Halliburton announced that it would hire 11,000 workers this year, most of them to work on shale oil and shale gas projects in North America.

And this week, the American Petroleum Institute, perhaps the most powerful member of the oil lobby, sent a letter to Obama saying that if the industry were allowed to drill in more areas, it could create more than 1 million jobs.

In January, during his State of the Union speech, Obama called oil “yesterday’s energy.” Since then, he’s repeatedly said Congress should repeal the $4 billion worth of annual tax preferences used by the oil and gas industry because, as he said in May, the biggest oil companies are making “about $4 billion in profits each week.”

Never mind that during the second quarter, the average member of Big Oil had a profit margin of 7.9%. Last year, Exxon Mobil, the biggest U.S.-based member of Big Oil, had a profit margin of 8.6%. That’s only slightly higher than the average profit margin of 214 other sectors tracked by Yahoo Finance. By comparison, Apple’s profit margin was 21.5%.

While Obama vilifies the oil industry’s profits, his appointees at the EPA are pushing regulations that may force the shuttering of as much as 80,000 megawatts of coal-fired generation capacity because the companies who own those plants cannot comply with the proposed rules.

The closure of the coal-fired plants, which could begin in January, will probably mean even higher electricity costs for cash-strapped consumers. Since 2005, the average cost of residential electricity has increased by about 30% and now stands at 12 cents per kilowatt-hour.

While it hammers the coal sector, the Obama administration is showering the wind energy business with what can only be described as corporate welfare. Consider the Shepherds Flat wind project in Oregon. Not only is the Energy Department giving General Electric and its partners a $1.06 billion loan guarantee on the $1.9 billion project, but as soon as GE’s 338 wind turbines start turning at Shepherds Flat, the project owners will get a cash grant of $490 million from the federal government.

The deal has so much “green” for the project developers that last fall, some of Obama’s top advisers objected, saying that its backers had “little skin in the game” while the government would be providing “a significant subsidy (65+ percent).” The advisers’ memo points out that the subsidies could allow GE and its partners, which include Google and Japan’s Sumitomo Corp., to reap an “estimated return on equity of 30 percent.”

Over the past year, the average electric utility’s return on equity has been 7.2%. Thus, taxpayers’ money is helping GE and its partners earn more than four times the average return on equity in the electricity business, but Obama hasn’t uttered a negative word about GE, which paid little or no federal income taxes last year even though it generated $5.1 billion in profits from its U.S. operations.

While campaigning last month, Obama repeatedly decried America’s need for “foreign oil.” In Minnesota, he talked about the need to “win back energy independence,” and then, in nearly the same breath, he denounced the tax breaks that encourage domestic drilling for oil and gas. The solution in Obama’s math- and physics-free view of the world: more solar, more wind energy and yes, of course, more electric cars.

Never mind that in 2010, oil and natural gas provided nearly 200 times as much energy to the U.S. economy as all solar and wind energy production combined. Never mind that the Energy Information Administration recently estimated that wind-generated electricity costs about 50% more than that produced by natural gas-fired generators while solar-generated electricity costs at least 200% more.

The latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics show that 16.3% of U.S. workers are either unemployed or underemployed. In addition, about 14% of the US population, 45.1 million Americans, are now relying on federal food stamps. Given those numbers, the federal government should be doing all it can to keep energy as cheap, abundant and reliable as possible. Unfortunately, on nearly every front, the Obama administration is taking actions that will achieve the exact opposite. And with numerous analysts — as well as the Federal Reserve — predicting a prolonged recession, it is doing so at the worst possible time.

That’s not good energy policy, but it is, nonetheless, a policy.

Rapid Sea Level Rise? To the Contrary, Nature Says

by Chip Knappenberger

“The short-term rate of global sea level rise has decreased by about 25% since the release of the AR4—and a new paper shows that some 15% of the observed rise comes not from global warming, but instead from global dewatering…. [R]ather than raising its projections of sea level rise, perhaps the IPCC ought to consider lowering them once again.”

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is under pressure to revisit its projections of the expected amount of sea level rise by the year 2100. Many rather influential types are pushing for the IPCC to dramatically increase its central estimate by some 2-3 times above the value given in the IPCC’s Fourth Assessment Report (AR4).

Not so fast!

Nature speaks with a contrary voice, political agendas aside. The short-term rate of global sea level rise has decreased by about 25% since the release of the AR4—and a new paper shows that some 15% of the observed rise comes not from global warming, but instead from global dewatering.

In light of all this, rather than raising its projections of sea level rise, perhaps the IPCC ought to consider lowering them once again (as it did from its from its First Assessment Report to its Second, and from its Second to its Third).

IPCC Sea Level Rise Projections

After the release of the IPCC AR4, skeptics were howling mad with the IPCC and its relatively modest projections of future sea level rise (I use skeptics here to refer to someone who is at odds with some aspect of the IPCC and its “consensus of 2,500 scientists”), claiming that the IPCC failed to consider the large amount of ice that was surely to be lost from Greenland and Antarctica as the temperatures (both land and ocean) there increased. But the IPCC defended itself via Dr. Richard Alley (one of the authors of the IPCC AR4 chapter dealing with sea level rise projections). Dr. Alley testified before the House Committee on Science and Technology shortly after the release of the AR4 concerning the state of scientific knowledge of accelerating sea level rise and pressure to exaggerate what it known about it. Dr. Alley told the Committee:

This document [the IPCC AR4] works very, very hard to be an assessment of what is known scientifically and what is well-founded in the refereed literature and when we come up to that cliff and look over and say we don’t have a foundation right now, we have to tell you that, and on this particular issue, the trend of acceleration of this flow with warming we don’t have a good assessed scientific foundation right now.

The IPCC did toss a bone to its skeptics by discussing the potential for “changes in ice dynamics” to “increase the contributions of both Greenland and Antarctica to 21st-century sea level rise” listing basal lubrication in Greenland and loss of glacial buttressing in Antarctica as possible mechanisms. In a back-of-the-envelope type of calculation, the IPCC determined that “if recently observed increases in ice discharge rates from Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets were to increase linearly with global average temperatures change, that would add 0.1 to 0.2 meters to the upper bound of sea level rise.” But, somewhat astutely, the IPCC added “Understanding of these effects is too limited to assess their likelihood or to give a best estimate.” I say “astutely”, because in the case of basal lubrication in Greenland, additional research has shown this not to be very effective at producing a large long-term acceleration of ice flow (e.g. Nick et al., 2009), and in the case of Antarctica, modeling work suggests that recent accelerations are not likely to be sustained (Joughin et al., 2010).

The Pressure Mounts

In its AR4, released in 2007, the IPCC had pretty modest sea level rise projections which ranged from about 18 cm (7.1 in.) to 59 cm (23.2 in.) with a central value about 38.5 cm (15.2 in.). But in the intervening years between the publication of the AR4 and now, a host of papers have been published which suggest that the most likely sea level rise by century’s end will be near, or even exceed 1 meter (e.g., Vermeer and Rahmstorf, 2009; Grinsted et al., 2009). And a new paper that NASA’s Jim Hansen has in the works suggests the “possibility of multi-meter sea level rise this century.”

Such findings have raised a far degree of alarm and resulting in growing pressure for the IPCC to reassess their TAR projections. And waiting until the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report to investigate the topic apparently is unacceptable. And so a movement is afoot to try to sneak some new sea level rise text into one of the other myriad “Special Reports” put out by the IPCC (which typically don’t draw as much attention as the their major Assessment Reports do—but I imagine that would change with the release of a major change in the projected rate of sea level rise). One potential outlet would be the IPCC’s “Managing the Risks of Extreme Events and Disasters to Advance Climate Change Adaptation (SREX)” that is scheduled for release in late 2011 or early 2010. I hope the IPCC resists this urge.

In reconsidering its existing sea level rise projections, the biggest thing that the IPCC needs to bear in mind—even bigger than the string of reports projecting a meter sea level rise by the year 2100—is what reality has to say.

Nature Intervenes

There are at least three things that nature is telling us that I think the IPCC ought to pay attention to.

First off, the decadal rate of sea level rise has been decreasing.

Some may be quick to argue that looking at the rate of sea level rise for such a short period of time is not instructive, but to such people I would respond that the IPCC apparently found that it was instructive enough to include in the high profile Summary For Policymakers (SPM) section of the AR4 in which they had the following to say:

“Global average sea level rose at an average rate of 1.8 [1.3 to 2.3] m per year over 1961-2003. The rate was faster over 1993 to 2003: about 3.1 [2.4 to 3.8] mm per year. Whether the faster rate for 1993 to 2003 reflects decadal variability or an increase in the longer-term trend is unclear.”

So if the 3.1 mm per year from 1993 to 2003 were interesting enough to be included in the SPM, then, keeping up with the decadal rate of change should be high on the IPCC’s to-do list.

And just in case they have let this slip, I include Figure 1 which shows the progression of the decadal rate of sea level rise as measured by the same source used by the IPCC, from the inception of the data in 1993 through the present.


Figure 1. The trend in the decadal rate of sea level rise as measured by the satellite-borne altimeters from 1993 through March 2011. Note that these data have been revised since the IPCC AR4 such that the rates of sea level rise do not correspond exactly to those reported by the IPCC in its AR4 (data source and information about the data revisions: University of Colorado Sea Level Research Group)

A picture is worth a thousand words.

The rate of sea level rise for the most recent 10-yr period is 2.37mm/yr—a drop of nearly 25% from the value last reported by the IPCC.

On to number 2. A fair proportion of the sea level rise is not from global warming, but instead is from global dewatering.

What am I calling “global dewatering”? The pumping of groudwater for human use, the bulk of which finds it way into the global oceans instead of back into the aquifers where it came from. A new paper by Leonard Konikow of the U.S. Geological Society puts the total annual groundwater removal during the 2000s as ~145 cubic kilometers per year, which subsequently contributes about 0.40mm per year of sea level rise. And Konikow finds this amount to be on the rise (i.e., contributes an ever-growing amount to the rate of global sea level rise).

So of the 2.37mm/yr of observed sea level rise, ~0.40mm/yr—or about 15%—comes not from “global warming” but instead from our consumptive water use. Which leaves only about 2mm/yr from climate change—a value which falls comfortably in the range of sea level rise which characterizes the behavior during the 20th century. In other words—evidence for a recent acceleration of sea level rise is entirely lacking.

Which brings me to my third point for the IPCC to consider: there is a huge disconnect between current rates of sea level rise and the rate necessary to get to 1 meter by the year 2100. If the global sea level is going to be 1 meter (or more) higher in 89 years, it better get going. As of now, it needs to average 11.23 mm/yr or a rate that is about 5.7 times greater than the current rate to get to a meter by 2100.

But, as with most catastrophic climate change projections, there always seems to be an “out” when it comes to trying to use actual observations against wild projections. In Hansen’s “multi-meter sea level rise this century” paper, he helpfully includes the figure below (Figure 2), to explain why most of us will be dead before knowing whether he was right or not—instead of a linear increase in the rate of sea level rise, he suggests that it more likely will be exponential and all sneak up on us during the last few decades before 2100.


Figure 2. Hansen’s caption: “Five-meter sea level change in 21st century under assumption of linear change and exponential change (Hansen, 2007), the latter with a 10-year doubling time.”

The good old “exponential rise”—an alarmist’s dream.

Well, if Hansen is right, hopefully we’ll have figured out a way to deal with it by then. And if he is wrong, then business-as-usual seems to be plenty sufficient to handle what is to come. (Note: in the real world, exponential changes are usually not sustainable).

All this to say that the IPCC has its job cut out for it when it comes to reassessing its projections of 21st century sea level rise.

Bottom Line

The observations are not well-cooperating with the projections calling for a sustained acceleration of the rate of sea level rise leading to a rapid increase in the height of the oceans—in fact, the rate of sea level rise (which itself is the grand integrator of all processes acting upon it, including ice loss from Greenland and Antarctica) was been slowing.

Instead of racing upwards, the global sea level is plodding a way along at a rate that that will only produce an additional ~20 centimeters (~8 inches) of rise between now and century’s end.

So, instead of the IPCC authors trying to justify a meter or more, it seems like they are going to have to work hard just to defend the AR4 mean value of 39 cm (15 inches).

References:

Grinsted, A., J.C. Moore, and S. Jevrejeva. 2009. Reconstructing sea level from paleo and projected temperatures 200 to 2100AD. Climate Dynamics, doi: 10.1007/s00382-008-0507-2.

Hansen, J., and M. Sato, 2011. Paleoclimate Implications for Human-Made Climate Change, accepted for publication in Climate Change at the Eve of the Second Decade of the Century: Inferences from Paleoclimate and Regional Aspects: Proceedings of Milutin Milankovitch 130th Anniversary Symposium (Eds. Berger, Mesinger and Sijaki), Springer. (http://arxiv.org/abs/1105.0968v3)

Joughin, I., Smith, B. E., and D. M. Holland, 2010. Sensitivity of 21st Century Sea Level to Ocean-induced Thinning of Pine Island Glacier, Antarctica. Geophysical Research Letters, 37, L20502, doi:10.1029/2010GL044819.

Konikow, L., 2011. Contribution of Global Groundwater Depletion Since 1900 to Sea-Level Rise. Geophysical Research Letters, in press.

Nick, F. M., et al., 2009. Large-scale changes in Greenland outlet glacier dynamics triggered at the terminus. Nature Geoscience, DOI:10.1038, published on-line January 11, 2009.

Vermeer, M., and S. Rahmstorf, 2009. Global sea level linked to global temperature. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 106, 51, doi: 10.1073/pnas.0907765106, 21527-21532.

7 Business Screw-Ups From America’s Super CEO-And-Chief Barack Obama

By John Hawkins, Townhall.com

“I have developed the 7-11 challenge: I will quit making fun of, for example, Dennis Kucinich, if he can prove he can run a 7-11 properly for 8 hours. We’ll even let him have an hour or so of preparation before we open up. Within 8 hours, the money will be gone, the store will be empty, and he’ll be explaining how three 11-year olds came in and asked for the money and he gave it to them.” — Ann Coulter

One of the biggest problems with many of the politicians in D.C. is that they have come to believe that because they’ve had a little success in their lives, they’re smarter than everyone else and can run people’s businesses better than they can do it themselves.

In actuality, even if they were smarter than most other people, which isn’t true just because their sycophantic aides tell them it is, experience usually trumps brilliance. In other words, a politician like Barack Obama who has never run a business, is making and breaking companies from Washington with bail-outs, laws, and regulations, despite the fact that he has very little idea of what the real world impact of his actions will be.

Meanwhile, people are wondering why corporations are hunkering down, hoarding cash, and refusing to hire people right now. The biggest reason for it is sitting in the Oval Office. At any moment, Obamacare may have some unknown complication, a government agency may implement some incredibly costly new regulation, the White House may go after them to help a connected Democrat donor, or Obama may impose a new tax in the name of “fairness.”

Here are just a few examples that show you how little Barack Obama really knows about business.

General Motors: Democrats hail GM as a wonderful success story that shows how well the government and private industry can work hand-in-hand to save jobs! The cost of that “wonderful success story?” Roughly 13 billion dollars in taxpayer money and a 45 billion tax break. That’s supposed to be a victory? Gee, what was it that King Pyrrhus of Epirus once said after a “victory” like that over the Romans? Oh, yes, “Another such victory and I come back to Epirus alone.” But no worries, as long as we can keep borrowing more money from the Chinese for your children to pay the bills, Obama’s fatcat corporate pals will never have to go it alone.

Solyndra: Those “green jobs” Obama talks about incessantly have really worked out well, haven’t they? Just look at Solyndra. It received 535 million dollars of your money via stimulus loans and now? Solyndra just laid off 1100 workers and went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Hmmm, maybe there was a REASON that it had to get that huge loan from the government instead of investors beyond, “Capitalists are big meanies!”

Health Care Follies at AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar, Deere, Valero Energy, AK Steel, 3M and McDonald’s: When Obama tried — and failed — to sell health care reform to the public, he was promising everything to everybody. Among the many, many false promises that were made was that the bill would reduce health care costs and that people could keep their current health care if they wanted it. Unfortunately, although not surprisingly, Obama was either lying or had no idea what he was talking about because health care costs are going to explode under the law and numerous companies are considering dropping their coverage when the law comes into force.

On Thursday and Friday AT&T, Verizon, Caterpillar, Deere, Valero Energy, AK Steel and 3M announced publicly that a tax provision in the new health care law will make it far more expensive to provide prescription drug coverage to their retired employees.

McDonald’s Corp. has warned federal regulators that it could drop its health insurance plan for nearly 30,000 hourly restaurant workers unless regulators waive a new requirement of the U.S. health overhaul.

Thirty percent of employers will definitely or probably stop offering health benefits to their employees once the main provisions of President Obama’s federal health care law go into effect in 2014, a new survey finds. The research published in the McKinsey Quarterly found that the number rises to 50 percent among employers who are highly aware of the health care law.

Is Obama a Machiavellian schemer who’s trying to create this result or an incompetent blockhead who has no idea what he’s doing? Whichever the case may be, the end result is the same: An unkept promise and people who will be forced off healthcare plans that they were already happy with because of the government.

Johnson Controls, Inc.: Under Obama massive amounts of government money have flowed to well connected or politically correct green industries with little emphasis on results. For example, 300 million dollars of your money was given to Johnson Controls, Inc. as part of a stimulus grant so it could make high-tech batteries. So, how many “jobs, jobs, jobs” were created with all of those tax dollars? Only 150 so far, which comes out to a mere 2 million dollars per job created. Evergreen Solar, Inc.: Not only did Evergreen Solar receive stimulus cash, it received tax dollars from the state of Massachusetts. So how well was your money spent?

Last week, the Massachusetts-based Evergreen Solar filed for bankruptcy, after laying off 800 workers in March. Now, they are slated to dump another 65 workers by closing a plant in Michigan. This, after receiving an undisclosed amount of stimulus cash, in addition to $58 million in state aid.

Gibson Guitars: It was raided — again — for the terrible sin of supposedly buying illegally harvested wood from another country. Of course, Gibson has noted that the wood was received from a Forest Stewardship Council certified supplier and one has to wonder if that has more to do with the fact that Gibson’s CEO contributes to Republicans while one of its biggest competitors, C.F. Martin & Company, has a CEO who contributes to Democrats. Incidentally, don’t worry too much about Gibson Guitars because the DOJ has come up with a solution: They should fire their American workers and hire people in Madagascar to do the same work.

Boeing: Unions dramatically drive up costs, make it more difficult to fire political workers, are more likely to strike and have been responsible for decimating whole industries in the United States. Naturally, no company ever WANTS to work with a union if it doesn’t have to do it. Unfortunately for Boeing, unions are too important to Barack Obama’s re-election campaign; so he’s stacked the National Labor Relations Board with union puppets who, for the first time in the history of the United States, refused to allow Boeing to open a plant in South Carolina because the plant would use non-union labor.

Deep into the recent recession, Boeing decided to invest more than $1 billion in a new factory in South Carolina. Surging global demand for our innovative, new 787 Dreamliner exceeded what we could build on one production line and we needed to open another.

…[T]he National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) believes it was a mistake and that our actions were unlawful. It claims we improperly transferred existing work, and that our decision reflected “animus” and constituted “retaliation” against union-represented employees in Washington state. Its remedy: Reverse course, Boeing, and build the assembly line where we tell you to build it.

This is the eternal dilemma of the American businessman: At any point some politician, bureaucratic toady, or left-wing judge may come up with some haywire interpretation of a law or regulation and throw sand in the gears. No amount of preparation can really fix the problem because our regulatory schemes have become such vast Byzantine tangles of red tape that everyone is essentially breaking some law or another during every waking moment of the day.

Environment policy reforms to add £300 to energy bills

Household energy bills will rise by more than £300 a year as a result of the Coalition’s green policies, a senior Downing Street adviser has told David Cameron.

Rising energy bills represent a problem for the Coalition at a time when wages are being squeezed and inflation is high

By Andrew Porter, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8741032/Environment-policy-reforms-to-add-300-to-energy-bills.html

The Prime Minister has been warned that government plans to get people to reduce their bills through efficiency measures are likely to fail.

Mr Cameron’s senior energy adviser pours scorn on claims by Chris Huhne, the Energy Secretary, that rises in gas and oil prices will be offset by people using less power. A note by the adviser describes his department’s analysis as “unconvincing”.

It warns that the Government’s move to increased nuclear power, wind turbines and other measures will add 30 per cent to the average family’s annual energy bill of £1,069 by the end of the decade.

Mr Cameron is said to be “very worried” about the figures in the paper, written by Ben Moxham, his senior energy adviser who was recently brought in to beef up the Prime Minister’s policy unit.

The private note, seen by The Daily Telegraph, is titled “Impact of our energy and climate policies on consumer energy bills”. It was sent to Mr Cameron and offers a blunt assessment of how Coalition energy plans, in particular a series of green policies, will affect householders.

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It concludes: “Over time it is clear that the impact of our policies on consumer bills will become significantly greater.”

Rising energy bills represent a problem for the Coalition at a time when wages are being squeezed and inflation is high.

Mr Cameron has vowed to bring down energy prices by giving the regulator Ofgem tougher powers, but this year he has had to watch as energy companies increase their prices.

The disclosure that Mr Cameron’s own policies are likely to add “significantly” to the burden on householders will anger voters. Just two months ago, Mr Huhne described calculations by researchers at Cambridge University that the Coalition’s reforms would increase bills by 32 per cent as “rubbish”.

The six-page document, dated July 29, says: “DECC’s [Department of Energy and Climate Change] mid-case gas price scenario sees policies adding 30 per cent to consumer energy bills by 2020.”

The report then identifies four policies that it says will increase bills, including the Government’s demand for energy to come from more renewable sources and the plan to guarantee power companies a fixed price for electricity if they use low carbon methods to generate it. The paper, addressed to the Prime Minister, is copied to just 12 of his No 10 aides, including Jeremy Heywood, his permanent secretary, Ed Llewellyn, his chief of staff, Steve Hilton, his closest policy adviser, and Andrew Cooper, his pollster.

There is growing concern about the issue. Ministers and officials from the Treasury, DECC and the Department for Communities and Local Government, are now expected to be called into No 10 for a high-level meeting to discuss how to pursue the policies.

Mr Moxham used to work for BP and more recently was employed by a private equity group specialising in oil and renewable energy run by Lord Browne, the former BP chairman. His note to the Prime Minister casts extensive doubt on claims by those Cabinet ministers behind the climate change policies.

Some ministers, including Mr Huhne, have suggested that consumers will change their habits, opting for better home insulation to offset rises in prices.

Mr Moxham says DECC analysis predicts “the impact of our policies on household electricity bills would be lower due to the effect of other policies, notably energy efficiency measures, in lowering electricity consumption”.

However, Mr Cameron’s energy adviser writes: “We find the scale of household energy consumption savings calculated by DECC to be unconvincing.

“Their analysis may be based on the assumption that many energy efficiency measures will be taken up without subsidy, whereas we believe a large number of measures will need to be subsidised, given the hassle factor and other barriers to consumer uptake.”

Mr Cameron is told that there are now “a number of questions” that arise.

They include whether green policy can be designed better to counteract the “uncertainty and unpredictability” of future gas prices. And whether “we can go further on consumer energy efficiency to offset energy price rises, and if so how?”

Intriguingly, the possibility of reversing some policies is also raised.

Mr Moxham asks: “Can we open some of our policies?” He goes on to suggest looking at the high-cost technologies such as offshore wind turbines, “in a way that minimises cost and disruption to investment”.

The paper was written after Mr Cameron held a seminar recently on “Green Deal implementation” – his drive to improve energy efficiency within households and businesses.

The purpose of that No10 meeting was to discuss the impact of energy and climate change policies.

It was also supposed to examine “what can be done to minimise consumer bill increases in the short and medium term”.

That effort is now likely to be intensified as households face sharp rises in their energy bills.

Five of the “big six” providers have in recent months announced price rises of as much as 24 per cent.

The latest was Npower which said the tariffs for gas would increase by 15.7 per cent and the price of electricity would rise by 7.2 per cent from Oct 1. The sixth firm, EDF, is yet to announce changes.

Affordable energy is essential for jobs, justice – and better health

EPA needs to address health and welfare issues it has thus far ignored, say minority coalition

Niger Innis

The Environmental Protection Agency insists that its recent air quality initiatives will protect minority and poor Americans from pollution that “disproportionately affects” their health and impairs “environmental justice.” The Affordable Power Alliance is not convinced.

We believe EPA needs to reexamine its entire air pollution regulatory program and carefully consider all aspects of health, welfare and justice, especially those it has failed to address thus far.

As a coalition of minority, civil rights, religious, elderly and small business groups, the APA strongly supports public health, pollution control and justice. However, we are deeply concerned that EPA’s proposed rules actually undermine those objectives, by impairing access to affordable, reliable energy – and thus people’s health and welfare.

EPA’s health claims about mercury, soot, ozone, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and other pollutants are speculative and based on selective literature searches, according to an extensive analysis by natural scientist Dr. Willie Soon (posted at http://www.AffordablePowerAlliance.org). The agency failed to consider studies that contradict its claims that poor and minority communities face serious, immediate health risks from power plant emissions, say Soon and scientists cited in his report.

These emissions have been declining for decades and are not related to asthma rates – which have been rising for reasons unrelated to outdoor air pollution, say air pollution consultant Joel Schwartz and other experts. Indeed, it defies logic to suppose that power plant emissions are causing increased asthma, if asthma rates are rising while pollution is declining. Rapid power plant emission reductions of the magnitude contemplated by EPA would thus not seem necessary.

Worse, EPA’s pollution rules will impair access to affordable electricity. They will force the closure of multiple power plants, send electricity prices soaring 12-60 percent, and severely impact business and family budgets, according to studies by Management Information Services (MIS), utility associations and other experts.

Especially in the 26 states that rely on coal for 48-98% of their electricity, EPA’s actions will raise family electricity costs by hundreds of dollars a year. They will increase factory, hospital, office, hotel, school, church, charity and other business electricity costs by thousands to millions of dollars annually.

Because every $30,000 in increased energy costs could mean the elimination of another entry-level job, EPA’s rules will cause further job losses. MIS predicts that 3.5 million jobs and up to $82 billion in annual economic production will be lost in just six Midwestern manufacturing states.

Chicago public schools alone will face an extra $2.7 million a year for electricity costs by 2014, notes the Chicago Tribune. These increases will mean reductions in school employment, salaries, and academic, sports and music programs.

Unemployment is already 9.1% nationally and over 17% in black communities. EPA’s plans will worsen these rates, significantly increase household energy costs, and make poor, minority and elderly families even less able to afford gasoline, food, clothing, healthcare and other basic needs.

Many families will suffer increased stress, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and crime rates. Unable to afford proper heating and air conditioning, disproportionate numbers of people in low income communities will face hypothermia during frigid winter months and heat prostration during summer heat waves. People will die, as cash-strapped states run out of money for heating and AC assistance, even more rapidly than they did last year.

Retrofitting older power plants is often too costly to justify and, in today’s regulatory and litigious environment, replacing them will be extremely difficult, especially under EPA’s short timeframe for further cleaning up … or simply closing down … the older plants.

Analysts project that EPA’s rules could cost Illinois 3,500 megawatts of electricity generation by 2014 – enough to power 3,500,000 homes and small businesses. The United States could lose 17,000 to 81,000 megawatts of capacity by 2017, industry and independent experts forecast. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission estimates up to 81,000 megawatts of capacity could be lost by 2018.

That means further impaired electricity availability and reliability during peak use periods. It will likely result in brownouts and blackouts, further harming businesses, schools, families, jobs and health.

EPA says the benefits of its new rules “far exceed” their costs. However, the agency’s analyses and definitions of “human health,” “public welfare” and “environmental justice” fail to consider the vital factors presented here. The fact is, the adverse effects of unemployment, sharply higher energy costs and generally lower socio-economic conditions far outweigh asserted benefits of improved air quality.

“Even when properly done, science can only provide the analytical and factual basis for public policy decisions,” says Dr. Roger McClellan, former chair of EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee. “It cannot and should not dictate a particular policy choice in setting and implementing standards.”

Those decisions must consider the full spectrum of energy, employment, economic, health, welfare and justice issues presented here and by other analysts. So far, EPA has failed to do this and has relied on biased analyses in setting its unscientific pollution standards.

McClellan also agrees with Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, whose commonsense, comparative health approach recognizes the detrimental impacts that unemployment and reduced living standards have on people’s health and welfare. “Those impacts far outweigh benefits from further improvements in already good air quality,” especially as calculated using EPA’s computer models and linear extrapolations from limited health and air quality data, McClellan explains.

EPA says it cannot consider the economic effects of its regulations. However, if the regulations also affect human health and welfare, EPA needs to consider those impacts fully and carefully.

EPA’s mission is to protect Americans from real health risks – not from speculative dangers based on cherry-picked data and extrapolations, McClellan, Schwartz, Soon and other experts emphasize. The agency must refrain from implementing rules that adversely affect vital components of “public health and welfare,” like those discussed here, until all these factors are examined fully and carefully.

Abundant, reliable, affordable energy is the foundation for everything we eat, make, ship and do – and for jobs, human health, environmental quality, civil rights progress and environmental justice.

America needs a full national and congressional debate on EPA’s rules, before they cause serious damage that many experts fear is inevitable if the regulations are implemented.

__________

Niger Innis is co-chair of the Affordable Power Alliance (www.AffordablePowerAlliance.org), a coalition of organizations that represent African, Hispanic, Asian, Native Americans, as well as the elderly, poor and small businesses. The Alliance and its members believe reliable, affordable energy is the foundation of environmental justice and human health and welfare.