coal

This fellow from New Zealand appears to think that Climategate proves that the big money is in climate skepticism. How does that work?

Here’s my attempt to follow his argument: The US Government has spent $79 billion in the past two decades on climate science. But Big Oil and Big Coal want a piece of this. They spend heavily on lobbyists to get it. They would be well served by certain provisions in bills and international treaties. [I agree with this so far...] But “the aims of the climate change lobby groups and the large industries they represent dovetail quite nicely with the arguments put forward by the sceptics.” So [he implies] therefore the skeptics have all the money.

Huh?

Global warming skeptics don’t want carbon capture and storage. They don’t want targets for emissions reduction. They don’t want international treaties and thousand page bills that take money out of the productive class and spend it on vastly expensive ways of doing things we know how to do already. Global warming skeptics do not want “a seat at the table.” They don’t think there should be a table in the first place.

Our science blogger friend has confused skeptic with rent-seeker. We skeptics have a grudging respect for our ‘alarmist’ opponents. In most cases they have a sincere belief that there is a serious problem and want to solve it. (Part of the problem revealed by climategate was that many of them, however, want to solve the problem by any means necessary and are insincere in their methods). Rent-seekers, on the other hand, want to exploit such beliefs for personal/corporate gain*, at the expense of the rest of us. Therefore rent-seekers are a bigger problem than alarmists, because they do indeed bring the big bucks. That’s why rent-seeking businesses want carbon capture and storage, which they will be paid handsomely for. They want international treaties and thousand page bills that contains nice incentives for them, their executives and their shareholders. They want the free market distorted to their benefit. The ends they desire, however, are completely different from those desired by the skeptics. Their aims do not dovetail with the ends of the skeptics in the slightest.

That’s why the big money is with those looking to establish a regime for emissions reduction. Now those thieves have certainly fallen out, and there are still some honorable types who want no handouts to big energy companies at all, but the money is certainly on that side of the aisle.

If genuinely skeptical groups have gotten as much as $790 million total worldwide for global warming efforts since 1989 – 1 percent of that devoted to climate science – I’d be extremely surprised. A tenth of that amount is more likely in the right ballpark. You can’t change that by lumping rent-seeking industries in with skeptics. Rent-seekers really do follow the money.

* Rent-seekers are also only too happy to exploit belief in the free market, arguing for free enterprise up until they can see a benefit from government restricting market entry, and so on.

In today’s New York Times, Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman preens about intellectual dishonesty while presenting the most intellectually dishonest case about the cost of climate change policies I have seen this side of Joe Romm.  It moved me to do something I have not done for some time, and Fisk the entire article.  Krugman’s words are in italics.

So, have you enjoyed the debate over health care reform? Have you been impressed by the civility of the discussion and the intellectual honesty of reform opponents?

If so, you’ll love the next big debate: the fight over climate change.

And Mr Krugman is about to demonstrate his level of civility and intellectual honesty in what only can be described as a pre-emptive strike.  Is this the Krugman Doctrine?

The House has already passed a fairly strong cap-and-trade climate bill, the Waxman-Markey act, which if it becomes law would eventually lead to sharp reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.

Sharp reductions? The Breakthrough Institute, which strongly champions action on global warming, says that the way the bill is structured “U.S. emissions in capped sectors could rise for much–if not all–of the next two decades.” Krugman protects himself against the accusation of outright lies by using the word “eventually,” but without disclosing the ineffectiveness of the bill over the next 20 years, Krugman is already being intellectually dishonest.

But on climate change, as on health care, the sticking point will be the Senate. And the usual suspects are doing their best to prevent action.

Some of them still claim that there’s no such thing as global warming, or at least that the evidence isn’t yet conclusive. But that argument is wearing thin – as thin as the Arctic pack ice, which has now diminished to the point that shipping companies are opening up new routes through the formerly impassable seas north of Siberia.

Krugman condenses a very complex argument over the nature of global warming into one statement and then dismisses it out of hand.  There are very few who deny the heat-trapping properties of greenhouse gases.  There are many who suggest that the influence of these gases on the climate as a whole has been significantly exaggerated.  For instance, I wonder what Mr. Krugman thinks of the recent research of Lindzen and Choi, published in August, which uses actual observations to find that climate sensitivity to greenhouse gases has been overestimated by a factor of six.

As for the Arctic, it has been melting since the end of the Little Ice Age two hundred years ago.  In fact, The Washington Post published a story on a government report that described “a radical change in climatic conditions,” “unheard-of temperatures in the Arctic zone,” and the melting of ice as long ago as November 2, 1922.  The fact that the North-East Passage, a holy grail for traders for hundreds of years, is now open might also warrant some balancing mention of its benefits.

Even corporations are losing patience with the deniers: earlier this week Pacific Gas and Electric canceled its membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in protest over the chamber’s “disingenuous attempts to diminish or distort the reality” of climate change.

PG&E made an odd member of the Chamber of Commerce to begin with, as its profits come about not by commerce but by government regulation.  PG&E’s profits are “decoupled” from the amount of energy it sells.  There are suggestions, by the way, that companies are coming under pressure in the way of threats of activism directed against them if they continue to support the Chamber’s efforts to protect the interests of its members.

So the main argument against climate action probably won’t be the claim that global warming is a myth. It will, instead, be the argument that doing anything to limit global warming would destroy the economy. As the blog Climate Progress puts it, opponents of climate change legislation “keep raising their estimated cost of the clean energy and global warming pollution reduction programs like some out of control auctioneer.”

If the estimated costs rise, that is because people like the bloggers at Climate Progress keep persuading politicians to go for more ambitious programs, which of course cost more. Auctioneers only respond to bids, and it is the bidders who are out of control.

It’s important, then, to understand that claims of immense economic damage from climate legislation are as bogus, in their own way, as climate-change denial. Saving the planet won’t come free (although the early stages of conservation actually might). But it won’t cost all that much either.

Here we are getting to the nub.  Having succeeded in chilling the speech of those who are doubtful about the effect of greenhouse gases on the climate, Mr. Krugman now wants to make it unacceptable to say that policies designed to raise the cost of energy will have any detriment to the economy.

How do we know this? First, the evidence suggests that we’re wasting a lot of energy right now. That is, we’re burning large amounts of coal, oil and gas in ways that don’t actually enhance our standard of living – a phenomenon known in the research literature as the “energy-efficiency gap.” The existence of this gap suggests that policies promoting energy conservation could, up to a point, actually make consumers richer.

Well of course there is waste involved in generating energy.  If there wasn’t so much regulation of energy generation right now, which has the perverse effect of locking in old technology, then we’d actually be a lot more efficient than we are.  However, being more energy efficient does not mean we use less energy.  Mr. Krugman’s own newspaper just recently published an excellent story about the Jevons Paradox, first formulated in 1865, which states, “It is wholly a confusion of ideas to suppose that the economical use of fuel is equivalent to a diminished consumption. The very contrary is the truth.”  This really is Energy 101.

Second, the best available economic analyses suggest that even deep cuts in greenhouse gas emissions would impose only modest costs on the average family. Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income. That’s roughly the cost of a postage stamp a day.

Once again, Mr. Krugman is being economical with the truth.  The government studies most emphatically did not find that the bill will cost a postage stamp a day in 2020.  They can only arrive at that figure of $160 a year by discounting twice.  They took the nominal cost – the actual out-of-pocket cost – of the increases in energy prices and worked out what that would be in today’s dollars.  Then they discounted back to find the present value of that figure.  In other words, $160 a year is what you’d have to lock away in a bank account with a guaranteed interest rate today in order to pay your bills in 2020.  If you didn’t do that, the figure from the EPA’s study in today’s dollars (ie not accounting for inflation) is above $2700 a year for a family of four.  The CBO study, meanwhile, admits that it did not attempt a comprehensive study of lost income.

Mr. Krugman also ignores polling evidence that finds that only 10 percent of respondents would be willing to pay more than $100 a year to achieve the supposed benefits of the Waxman-Markey bill.  So even if the cost was just a postage stamp a day, people would still find that cost expensive.

By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income. But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent. The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth. And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.

The same argument can be made about global warming itself.  Even with all the supposed dramatic effects of global warming, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that people all over the world – even in the poorest countries – will be many times richer than they are today as a result of the economic activity sustained by fossil fuels. This demonstrates that a warmer-but-richer world is better off than a cooler-but-poorer world, and we will in fact be best off in the warmest world.  Krugman’s argument here in fact suggests that we shouldn’t do anything about emissions at all.

So where do the apocalyptic warnings about the cost of climate-change policy come from?

Are the opponents of cap-and-trade relying on different studies that reach fundamentally different conclusions? No, not really. It’s true that last spring the Heritage Foundation put out a report claiming that Waxman-Markey would lead to huge job losses, but the study seems to have been so obviously absurd that I’ve hardly seen anyone cite it.

The Heritage Foundation has updated its report and recently defended its methodology in a panel of other modelers, who did not raise significant objections to it (so much for its obvious absurdity).  If Mr Krugman hasn’t seen it cited it is the same way that Pauline Kael didn’t know anyone who voted for Nixon.  But the Heritage Report is not the only one.  The American Council on Capital Formation found job losses of 1.8 to 2.4 million in 2030.  The research of the left-leaning Brookings Institution has found that “Achieving reductions in greenhouse gas emissions is a costly endeavor.”  Once one strips away the discounting tricks, even the government studies demonstrate the truth of this statement.

Instead, the campaign against saving the planet rests mainly on lies.

Thus, last week Glenn Beck – who seems to be challenging Rush Limbaugh for the role of de facto leader of the G.O.P. – informed his audience of a “buried” Obama administration study showing that Waxman-Markey would actually cost the average family $1,787 per year. Needless to say, no such study exists.

Once again, Mr. Krugman is being economical with the truth.  He is correct only in so far as the recently revealed documents simply summarize the real effects of the other studies that have been disguised using economic trickery.  Here is what the Treasury documents say will be the effect of the President’s policies:

Given the administration’s proposal to auction all emission allowances …a cap-and-trade program could generate federal receipts on the order of $100 to $200 billion annually. … Economic costs will likely be on the order of 1% of GDP, making them equal in scale to all existing environmental regulation. …One advantage of auctioning allowances is the potential for generating large revenues (perhaps $300 billion annually). … Domestic policies to address climate change and the related issues of energy security and affordability will involve significant costs and potential revenues, possibly up to several percentage points of annual GDP (i.e., equal in size to the corporate income tax).

These documents are available for viewing here.  The fact that the Treasury initially redacted the most embarrassing sentences suggests strongly that they wanted to hide this.  That sounds like burying the truth to me.

But we shouldn’t be too hard on Mr. Beck. Similar – and similarly false – claims about the cost of Waxman-Markey have been circulated by many supposed experts.

The claims are the claims of the US Treasury Department, available now for all to see.  We show, while Mr. Krugman tells.

A year ago I would have been shocked by this behavior. But as we’ve already seen in the health care debate, the polarization of our political discourse has forced self-proclaimed “centrists” to choose sides – and many of them have apparently decided that partisan opposition to President Obama trumps any concerns about intellectual honesty.

So here’s the bottom line: The claim that climate legislation will kill the economy deserves the same disdain as the claim that global warming is a hoax. The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green.

Mr. Krugman is hoist by his own petard.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X5ff2xcy7qY 285 234]

Apologies for the late notice, but I had an article on the potential of solar power in last Friday’s Washington Examiner:

If the American Clean Energy and Security Act, which passed narrowly in the House of Representatives this week, also passes the Senate, does this mean that we’ll soon replace coal-derived electricity with clean and green solar power? Don’t count on it. Solar has a lot of problems, and those relying on it for the promised “green jobs” will probably be let down.

You might also be interested in the levelized cost-comparisons for building new power plants in 2016 from the Energy Information Administration, helpfully compiled by the Institute for Energy Research.  The cheapest form of energy (assuming a cost of carbon at $15 a ton)? Nuclear.  The most expensive? Solar thermal and solar photovoltaic.

Back in 1999 and 2000, a fierce debate raged as to whether digital networks and devices increase or decrease electricity consumption and emissions.  Does the growth of the digital economy jeopardize the Kyoto agenda by increasing emissions? Or is the Internet a “green” force reducing our energy and carbon intensity?

On one side of the debate, researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory argued that the Internet could help reduce emissions by, for example, promoting telecommuting, online shopping, and efficient supply-chain management. On the other side, technology analyst Mark Mills and co-author Peter Huber argued that the rapid proliferation of digital devices and networks was increasing demand for high-quality (largely coal-based) power.

The Berkeley Lab researchers directed a lot of fire at Mills’s ”ballpark” estimate that Internet-based equipment and networks already accounted for 8% of U.S. electricity demand. I won’t try to settle that part of the controversy.

However, a just-published study by the International Energy Agency (IEA) shows that Mills was right about the big picture. Climatewire (subscription required) gives the gist of the study in its headline: “Soaring electricity use by new electronic devices imperils climate change efforts.” Herewith a few highlights:

  • Efforts by countries worldwide to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy security are in trouble if nothing is done to check the energy gobbled by both information and communication technologies and consumer electronics.
  • Energy used by computers and consumer electronics will double by 2022 and increase threefold by 2030.
  • The projected increase is equivalent to the current combined total residential electricity consumption of the United States and Japan.
  • To operate these new devices, households around the world will spend around $200 billion in electricity bills and require the addition of approximately 280 Gigawatts (GW) of new generating capacity between now and 2030.
  • The number of people using PCs will exceed 1 billion over the next seven months, and nearly 2 billion television sets are in use worldwide, averaging more than 1.3 sets per each household with access to electricity.
  • More than 3.5 billion people will be mobile phone subscribers by 2010.
  • In many households in OECD countries, electronic devices–a category that includes televisions, desktop computers, laptops, DVD players and recorders, modems, printers, set-top boxes, portable telephones, answering machines, game consoles, audio equipment, clocks, battery chargers, mobile phones and children’s games–consume more electricity than do traditional large appliances.
  • Household use of electronic devices is the major reason that residential electricity consumption is increasing in most countries.
  • Computers, related equipment and consumer electronics are responsible for close to 15 percent of total residential electricity consumption today, a share similar to that of other major appliance categories such as water heating or refrigeration.
  • Even with improvements foreseen in energy efficiency, consumption by electronics in the residential sector is set to increase by 250 percent by 2030.
  • “The share of electricity consumption by these appliances is therefore increasing to the extent that they will most likely comprise the largest end-use category in many countries before 2020, unless effective steps are taken,” said IEA Executive Director Nobuo Tanaka in a press release.
  • “These estimates suggest that total residential electricity consumption will increase more than many previous forecasts, and therefore pose a serious challenge to all governments with policy ambitions to increase energy security and economic development, and to mitigate climate change,” states the report.

Criticism of Huber and Mills got pretty nasty at times. But, as the old adage says: He who laughs last, laughs best.

One irony of mandating renewable energy is that it isn’t necessarily any cleaner than coal.  One example of this is North Carolina’s mandate for renewable energy derived from chicken litter waste.   Chicken litter waste is composed of wood shavings and of course chicken droppings.  There are plans to build a chicken litter waste plant in North Carolina and one has already been built in Minnesota.

As it turns out, burning chicken litter waste tends to produce a high level of particulates, high levels of carbon monoxide, high levels of nitrogen oxides, and a high level of arsenic.  The reason the plants produce high levels of particulates and carbon monoxide is because the wood shavings don’t burn as hot as coal and so there is often incomplete combustion.  The high levels of nitrogen oxides come from the fact the chicken waste is high in ammonia and urea.  In fact, chicken waste is often used as a source of nitrogen fertilizer on farms.   The reason for the high levels of arsenic is that most commercial chicken feed contains Roxarsone, which is an arsenic based compound that is added to the chicken feed to prevent the birds from developing parasites.

The emissions at the Minnesota plant are apparently so problematic the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency  has pending legal action.  So much for clean green renewable energy.

Hosts Richard Morrison and Cord Blomquist join Michelle Minton in welcoming you to LibertyWeek 36: The Green Episode. We begin our environmental adventure with an update on the high cost of renewable energy and the good news from the coal laboratory. We then pass on advice for drinking green in Beer News and celebrate the recent observance of Human Achievement Hour. This brings us to the featured interview with our distinguished colleague and author Steve Milloy – where we explore his new book Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Ruin Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them and its targets, from the Audubon Society to Zero Population Growth. Finally we round out the program with a little Olympic News.

This funny headline is the title of a column in the March 26 issue of Wired Science.

“Scientists have devised a new way to transform coal into gas for your car using far less energy than the current [Fisher-Tropsche] process,” Wired reports. “The advance makes scaling up the environmentally unfriendly fuel more economical than greener alternatives.”

Now, you might think that inexpensive motor fuel is a good thing, especially in these times of financial peril, fiscal chaos, and high unemployment. In addition, since America is the “Saudi Arabia of coal,” conversion of coal to motor fuel, provided it is economical and market-driven, could enhance U.S. energy security.

So why is this “bad news”? Because coal-derived fuel “could produce twice as much CO2 [carbon dioxide] as traditional petroleum fuels and at best will still emit at least as much of the greenhouse gas.” Consequently, what these scientists are proposing to do “is simply not allowable if we want to avoid the perils of unconstrained anthropogenic climate change,” declares Pushker Karecha of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.

Okay, then how about some candor in the energy policy debate? Climate activists claim repeatedly that their agenda will benefit consumers and achieve real energy security. How? By jump-starting a “beyond petroleum” economy, which will free consumers forever from pain at the pump and relegate OPEC to the dustbin of history.

But this deliberately confuses the green solar-hydrogen utopia, which may never materialize, or which may come about only after technological breakthroughs nobody today can plan or predict, with the restrictions, burdens, and penalties climate activists mean to impose on us today and for the foreseeable future.

If OPEC is a problem because it restricts oil supply to drive up price, how is cap-and-trade, which also–and by design–inflates motor fuel costs, a solution? If dependence on oil supplies from unstable or hostile foreign countries is a problem, how is banning domestic oil production in Alaska, the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, and the deep waters off the U.S. East and West Coasts, a solution?

Again, if volatile motor fuel prices and dependence on Mideast oil are problems, how is restricting imports of oil from Canadian tar sands a solution? And how, pray tell, is blocking development of unconventional motor fuel from Rocky Mountain oil shale or West Virginia coal a solution?

If greenies believe global warming is so terrible that we must pay any energy price and make any sacrifice of energy security to combat it, fine. Plainly say so, and we can then debate whether or not global warming is the planetary doom they claim it is.

But candor demands that they immediately stop posturing as defenders of consumer welfare and energy security. Their policies lead straight to more pain at the pump and an America more at the mercy of events in unstable and unfriendly parts of the world.

Your hosts Richard Morrison and Cord Blomquist bring you Episode 32 of the LibertyWeek podcast with special guest Sam Kazman and surprise guest co-host Jeremy Lott. We start by looking into the possible future of the Federal Communications Commission with nominee Julius Genachowski about to ascend to the chairmanship, and then take another stroll through the New Great Depression with high-level financial talks between unpopular British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and über-popular President Barack Obama. Oregonian brewers fight a proposed fifteen cents a pint tax in Beer News, and the Lady Madoff tries to stash away tens of millions from the feds in this edition of Scandal Watch. We hit our stride with an interview with CEI General Counsel Sam Kazman and his tales of the icy global warming rally staged earlier this week here in Washington, D.C. Finally, a little belt-tightening Olympic News from the USOC.

Listen here!

Mark Tapscott, in today’s Washington Examiner, explodes the propaganda from the “Reality Campaign,” a coalition of leftist environmental groups, which has all but declared war on America’s most abundant source of energy: coal.

You’ve no doubt seen the TV spot where the guy in the hard hat steps through an industrial-looking door  into the desert and begins mocking “clean coal,” which he says doesn’t exist.

This clever advocacy campaign is courtesy of the imaginatively misnamed Reality Coalition of the Alliance for Climate Protection, League of Conservation Voters, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and Sierra Club.

Despite the millions of private donors, lucrative investments and big endowments received by members of the Reality Coalition, your tax dollars helped finance some of its richest members.

The NRDC, for instance, got a $400,333 federal grant in 2006 under the Clean Air Act, according to FedSpending.org, even though the organization’s 2006 annual budget exceeded $70 million. You can review NRDC tax returns at Guidestar.org.

So, if you’ve wondered why extremist green groups have so much money, it’s because they get so much of your money!

And NRDC isn’t the only Reality Coalition member getting government support. According to their most recent IRS forms, the National Wildlife Federation received $188, 695 in government grants in 2006, while the League of Conservation Voters got nearly all of its funding for 2006 — $5,501,205 out of $5,638,881 — from government grants. (The IRS Form 990 lists government grants from all levels together, not just federal, but still, it’s tax dollars, either way. Moreover, according to the federal website usaspending.gov, which lists all federal grants, NWF regional offices have gotten $81,200 from the federal government in FY 2008.)

Federal funding of advocacy is bad enough. Making this situation even worse is the fact that said advocacy is so misleading. Tapscott goes on:

But back to clean coal. Is there really no such thing, as claimed by the Reality Coalition? Well, consider the following facts (courtesy of Paul Driessen of www.Eco-Imperialism.com) and judge for yourself:

* Particulate emissions (i.e. “soot”) from coal-burning power plants have been reduced to 90 percent below 1970 levels despite a tripling of coal use.

* Most of what’s left in that soot is ammonium sulfate and ammonium nitrate, neither of which is regarded as dangerous to public health, even at much higher levels of concentration.

* Coal is used to generate half of all electricity used in this country, and in 22 states it accounts for 60-98% of the electricity used. Ever calculated the economic cost — lost jobs, production, productivity – of banning coal in states like Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, North Dakota, Ohio, Utah, West Virginia or Wyoming that absolutely depend upon the black rock?

* Ever think about the human cost to Americans of banning coal? Here’s a partial list of medical products made possible by the electricity generated from coal-burning power plants: X-rays, CT scans, colonoscopies, cardiac surgeries, refrigerated vaccinations against deadly diseases and kidney dialysis.

* The human cost of not having electricity in Third World countries is staggering, as Driessen notes in a recent Townhall.com column: “Four million infants, children and parents die every year from lung infections — caused by smoke, soot and other pollutants from open fires that heat their homes and cook their meager food, because they don’t have electricity. Two million more perish from intestinal diseases, caused by unsafe water and spoiled food, because they lack refrigeration, sanitation and water treatment.”

My point here is this: Global warming extremists continually make absolute claims in their propaganda like the Reality Coalition’s clean coal spot, but the truth is often found in the facts they ignore or try to suppress.

The facts cited by Driessen concern conventional coal. New technologies are on the horizon such as gasification and carbon-capture that promise to make coal burning even more environmentally friendly.

So strictly speaking, the “clean coal” technologies aren’t here yet. But then neither are the alternative energy supplies the environmentalists regularly cite as ready replacements for coal and other carbon-based fuels. And there are serious trade-offs with the alternatives that environmentalists don’t like to talk about.

Indeed, as Thomas Sowell has insistently noted, it is the tendency to ignore the necessity of trade-offs, in search of all-encompassing “solutions,” that has led many on the Left down utopian-seeking dead ends — with dire consequences in the area of real-world public policy.

See Paul Driessen’s interview in CEI’s Planet newsletter here.