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Archive for the ‘Environment’ Category

The Obama Administration set records on expansive and expensive new environmental regulations.  In one example, compare the 56 federal implementation plans forced on states during the Obama years to the 5 total imposed by the combined Clinton and Bush presidencies.  Unfortunately, the Obama years also yielded the slowest regulation driven environmental gains in decades, 2% in seven years compared to 2% a year from 1980 to 2009.

The primary force for a better environment turned out to be innovations in natural gas production, a development the administration and environmental groups fought, that was carried out by private industry on private lands. Natural gas prices dropped 80% as producers figured out how to use horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing to release tightly held gas from shale formations.  Falling natural gas prices dragged down the price of coal and oil that shows up in lower electricity, gasoline, and heating costs, and is saving families over $1500 a year in lower energy prices!  Fuel switching from coal to cleaner burning natural gas at power plants added almost another 5% improvement in air quality.

Obama era regulations targeted three primary substances; ground level ozone and fine particles the Environmental Protection Agency claimed posed a health hazard, and carbon dioxide the EPA linked to rising global temperatures.  Ozone levels improved by 1% a year up to 2009, but only improved 1% in seven years under Obama.  Fine particles improved 3% a year up to 2009, but only improved 3% over seven years under Obama.  The Obama regulatory effort reduced carbon dioxide emissions by an amount that will lower global temperatures by 0.01°C by 2100, essentially zero impact!  Carbon dioxide reductions from power plants can be attributed 70% to fuel switching for lower prices, and 30% to new regulations.

EPA cost benefit analysis showed new regulations would cost tens of billions of dollars a year to implement.  Free market sources, such as, the US Chamber of Commerce, estimated the cost to more likely be hundreds of billions of dollars.  Either way, a lot of money for marginal air pollution improvements.

The problems don’t end with air pollution regulations.  Voluntary multistate programs to improve water quality in areas such as the Chesapeake Bay brought Water Quality Index improvements of 25-percent from 1986 to 2010. That improvement ended after the voluntary agreement became a regulation in 2010 requiring states to institute mandatory steps, such as, storm water management regulations.  No water quality improvement, but those regulations have managed to increase new home prices by $10,000 each in the Chesapeake watershed.

Aggressive requirements in motor vehicle miles per gallon standards were also mandated.  The latest information shows average MPG for the nations motor vehicle fleet actually dropped from 17.6 MPG in 2009 to 17.5 MPG in 2014.  The mandated MPG standards were unreachable and will likely be scaled back to a more practical level by the Trump Administration.

The Obama Administration, often through procedural short cuts and with support from questionable science, relied on ineffective regulations to “improve” the environment.  Predictably, results were poor.  We look forward to the Trump Administration rolling back bad regulations, and following the rule of law.  We expect a focus on actual improvements to the environment. This could include increasing infrastructure spending on securing drinkable water (remember Flint?), improving sewer systems, and reclaiming brownfields and Superfund sites.  Under the new administration, infrastructure spending could double without increasing the budget by using sources such as multi-billion dollar fines from the Volkswagen settlement for fudging tail pipe emissions, and other large settlements instead of handing them over to the Sierra Club and Greenpeace, favored interest groups of the Obama EPA administration.

For more details on air quality improvements see our study “Sorting Root Causes of Air Quality Improvements 2009 to 2015” at https://criblog.wordpress.com/2017/02/12/sorting-root-causes-of-air-quality-improvements-2009-to-2015/ .

David T. Stevenson, Director, Member Trump Administration EPA Transition Team

E-Mail: David Stevenson@CaesarRodney.org

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Delaware and Maryland utility commissions have one more shot to convince electric grid regulators to lower the cost of the Artificial Island Transmission Line.  Governors Markell and Hogan have joined forces to fight the burdensome cost of this project, but a new approach is needed.  If we want to win this fight we need to negotiate using an alternative approach.  More local power generation could replace the transmission line.  This could lead to lower electric rates instead of higher rates, to a more robust economy, and to improved electric reliability.

 

The Artificial Island project is a technical response to importation of power.  Maryland and Delaware are the second and fifth highest electricity importing states in the country.  In 2015 Maryland imported 41% of its power, and Delaware imported 32%.

 

Importing power lowers electric grid reliability.  It also adds cost.  Regional grid manager, PJM Interconnection, is responsible for maintaining reliability with a combination of pricing mechanisms, and transmission line policy.  There are line charges to compensate for longer power transmission distances, congestion charges to encourage lower peak demand, and capacity charges to encourage more local generation.  See the graph below to see how these premiums can go.  These premium charges roughly equal the added monthly costs of the proposed transmission line, are already added to our electric bills, and most of the cost will continue even if the new transmission line is built!

 

Cost Premiums in Delaware & Maryland for Grid Congestion and Transmission Cost

dave stevenson Artificial Island

Source: PJM Interconnection Real Time Statistics

So, how do we boost local generation?  Start by asking electric generation and distribution companies already invested in the state what state policies would encourage more generation.  State policies led to lower local generation in very real ways and changed policies can help reverse the trend.  Prepare to kill some sacred cows when we hear the answers.

 

Maryland and Delaware are the only two states in the thirteen state PJM region with a tax on carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.  The cost of that tax is passed on as a hidden tax on electric bills.  Our generating facilities burning coal and natural gas have to charge more, and lose bids to supply power.  Consequently, local power plants operate less frequently.  For example, the Indian River power plant in Millsboro, Delaware, is only operating 20% of the time compared to an average of 55% for coal fired plants nationally.

 

The tax was designed to reduce emissions but all it has really done is shifted the emissions out of state, and discouraged power plant construction locally.  The revenue was supposed to be used for energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, but after a decade of work only a quarter of annual tax revenue is being spent on such projects.  Ending the tax would lower electricity prices and would allow more power to be generated locally.

 

In Delaware we only need to build the equivalent of three to four new power plants to become self-sufficient.  Calpine recently completed a new natural gas fired power unit in Dover and has the permits needed for a second unit.  What incentive does Calpine need to build the second unit?

 

Exelon recently acquired Delmarva Power, the state’s largest electric distribution company, and is one of the largest generation companies in the nation.  A decade ago distribution companies owned all the generation facilities as well with a guaranteed rate of return regulated by the Public Service Commission.  Delaware and Maryland joined a handful of other states in deregulating the price of generated power thinking this would increase competition and lower electric cost.  The actual result was the sale of generating facilities and a 70% increase in electric rates in the deregulated states.  Partial reregulation might encourage distribution companies to build at least some new generation capacity.

 

Exelon is one of the largest builders of large scale solar farms in the country.  A little known fact is utility scale solar is now essentially competitive with conventional power plants during high demand daylight hours.  Delaware policy has emphasized building smaller scale systems that actually add cost to our electric bills.  Yes, in this case bigger is better and a policy change is needed.

 

Land acquisition is a barrier to building more solar.  The state could offer marginal state owned open space land for long term lease for solar farms to lower start-up costs.  The revenue could be used for state park operations.

 

No doubt a dialogue to boost local power generation would uncover more opportunities.  The result would not only avoid the added cost of the Artificial Island project but might lower existing electric rates by as much as 15% removing a barrier to job creation, and could lead to up to a billion dollars in new construction projects.   

David T. Stevenson, Director

Center for Energy Competitiveness

                               

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Rational thought underlies conservative Christian views on climate change and the environment
by Dr. David R. Legates
Although he has rarely been willing to discuss or debate energy or environmental issues with those who do not share his views, environmentalist David Suzuki frequently challenges them on other grounds. In his recent article, “Religious Right is wrong about climate change,” Suzuki claims that some US and Canadian scientists hold religious views that are “anti-science”.
Suzuki asserts that some climate scientists – including me, by name – put “misguided beliefs above rational thought.” His implicit assumption is that conservative Christian views are irrational and incompatible with science, and that I have replaced Almighty God with the “almighty dollar,” believing the economy matters more than the environment.
As a co-author of the Cornwall Alliance’s Renewed Call to Truth, Prudence, and Protection of the Poor: An Evangelical Examination of the Theology, Science and Economics of Global Warming, which forms the basis for the Evangelical Declaration on Global Warming that Suzuki criticizes, I know the Cornwall Alliance fully and carefully integrates scientific, economic, ethical and theological reasoning to support its conclusions. There’s nothing at all irrational about it – unless you consider religion irrational per se.
However, Suzuki is correct regarding one aspect of my belief: the economy does matter as much as the environment. Good environmental stewardship requires sound financial footing – and improving and safeguarding human health and welfare requires maintaining a strong, vibrant, innovative economy that can sustain continued environmental progress.
When a country is in dire need of food, clothing, shelter and other necessities for life, it cannot possibly be concerned with environmental issues. The poor people of India pour untreated sewage into the Ganges River – and then draw their drinking and “cleaning” water from it. So poor that they’re desperate simply for survival, they cannot possibly concern themselves with environmental stewardship. Only when economic improvements allow technological advancements to increase the quality of life, provide ample food and clothing, house citizens, provide clean drinking water, and treat and eradicate diseases can a thus wealthier society turn its attention to caring for the environment.
That is precisely what has happened in more developed nations. As the United States and Canada advanced economically, we developed technologies and policies that increased our quality and length of life. In turn, this has led us to be more proactive with our environmental stewardship.
We emit far less pollution and waste today, both per person and per unit of production, than we did fifty years ago. We feed more people with every parcel of land, we get more energy from every drop of oil, we are more efficient at everything we do, and we are much better stewards of our environment. But none of that could have occurred without a strong and developing economy.
Unfortunately, some so-called environmentalists wish to keep Africa and other developing nations in perpetual underdevelopment. They pay them off to be “environmentally conscious,” by giving them handouts – food and monetary aid – to keep them alive and perhaps have little solar panels on their huts. But they also ensure that those poor families never prosper or become middle class – so as to perpetuate environmentalist notions of “noble natives,” supposedly “at one” with their environment and living a “sustainable” existence.
Equally harmful, much of that money is lost to corruption, while the people are forced to continue living in a state of poverty, disease, malnutrition and deprivation, as technologies that could enhance their length and quality of life are denied to them. Among the technologies denied are modern seeds, fertilizers, and high-tech, high-yield farming methods to increase food supplies; natural gas and electricity to heat homes and cook food, instead of cutting down forests and burning wood, thereby degrading indoor air quality and causing lethal lung infections; refrigeration so that people do not have to choose between eating spoiled food and going hungry; and the use of insecticides, including the powerful insect repellant DDT, to spare them from the agonizing illness and death brought on by malaria.
Each of these enhancements requires plentiful, dependable, affordable energy. Yet in the name of “saving the planet” or “preventing cataclysmic climate change,” environmentalists like Suzuki deny developing countries the modern technologies and energy they need to improve their lives and environment – thereby perpetuating high infant mortality, significantly shortened life spans, and greatly decreased quality of life.
Climate alarmism is the rationale for these deadly policies – and that is where political ideology mixes with the new religion of environmentalism. Overstated or non-existent threats to the environment, along with impractical or imaginary ways to prevent the purported threats, are the new scripture on which the adherents develop their theologies and policies for directing and micromanaging the course of human events. Unfortunately, these eco-religionists never encounter (or intentionally avert their eyes from) the misery and devastation that their policies dramatically inflict on the world’s poorest people. That is because they are too concerned with “saving the planet.”
Back in North America, some wish to have energy rationed or be made increasingly expensive, creating artificial fuel poverty for millions. Such policies will make food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and medical care – in short, everything – more expensive and scarce, create more unemployed workers, push many people back into conditions of poverty and deprivation, and gravely impair human health and welfare. This strategy will not save the planet, as they hope, because one of its first casualties will be environmental stewardship. History and human nature both testify that, forced by economic limits to choose between a cleaner environment and food on the table, people always choose food.
In the Parable of the Talents, Jesus told of a master who gave one of his servants a single talent, and then condemned him for hiding it in the earth and not putting it to use. Often we think of the talent only as money or ability, but it really stands for every resource – including natural resources. How will the Master of all creation judge us if we hide our resources in the earth, and then on Judgment Day say, “Behold, you have what is yours”?
If we do not use the resources God has set before us in the earth to care for those in need, our Creator will likely condemn us, saying: “You kept buried what I gave you, instead of using and investing it. You failed to employ my gifts to care for the poor, the hungry, the sick, and those who were dying from disease. You have been worthless, irresponsible stewards of my creation.” We would deserve the same fate as the servant the master called “wicked and lazy.”
I fail to understand how anyone thinking rationally can argue that poverty and economic hardship will enhance environmental stewardship, or that the planet is more important than the people who live on it.
_________
David R. Legates is a Professor of Climatology at the University of Delaware in Newark, Delaware, USA. He is a Christian and a senior fellow of the Cornwall Alliance for the Stewardship of Creation. He is a member of CRI’s Advisory Council.

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Division of Energy and Climate in the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC)

If you missed this story, Delaware has a new “climate action plan” based on dubious data which assumes more state control of private land use will somehow save us from “man-caused climate change”. Below is our response.

For the most part, the state’s new climate plan could have been titled “Let’s Plan for the Storm of the Century”, a basically sound idea. Unfortunately, the plan also promotes a continuing un-Constitutional effort of the state to take over land use planning from the counties and municipalities. It also promotes the concept there will be catastrophic impacts from global warming which some key state leaders follow with religious like fervor. The facts show no upward trend in global average temperatures for the last eighteen years, and point to modest impacts on our environment from global warming.

Recent lawsuits have upheld local control of land use issues, as delegated by the Delaware Constitution, by over turning state attempts to write land use regulations. The state Strategic Planning Office must approve local land use plans as it relates to state funded infrastructure such as highways. Some key goals of the climate plan are directed at influencing land use planning. The office is adding a request local land use plans consider climate change, and will enforce it by weighing infrastructure investment in favor of localities that include climate considerations that conform to the state plan.

Additionally, DNREC will specifically use their excessive estimates of global warming induced sea level rise estimates and increased rainfall estimates to push for more control over storm water management (an issue already involved in a lawsuit), shoreline management, beach replenishment, and expanded tidal wetlands maps. DELDOT will use the presumption of more temperature influenced high ozone days to consider driving restrictions during air quality events. DEDO will encourage real estate agents to spread out weekly beach rentals to different start dates, an idea which has some merit but will be disruptive to the tourist industry. It should be noted all of these efforts will likely lead to higher cost for private industry.

The climate plan forecasts sea level rise from greenhouse gas induced global warming at 1.5 to 5 feet by 2100, and used three feet to develop Flood Risk Adaptation Maps which will be used for state planning purposes. Meanwhile, the report also quotes the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration estimates of only 1.1 feet of sea level rise by 2100, including about half that amount from localized land subsidence at the Lewes Tide Gauge, an amount roughly equal to sea level rise that occurred during the twentieth century. Most of the state is not subsiding, and land height actually increases for estuaries from deposition of sediments from upstream erosion. A realistic expectation is about six inches of sea level rise by 2100.

The plan also assumes rainfall will increase during major storms because of global warming. Even the UN climate change report admits no linkage has been confirmed between global warming and storm intensity.

The state wants to abandon the use of Federal Emergency Management Agency hundred year Flood Insurance Rate Maps which look at historic trends and current flood plain data. The complaint is these maps don’t forecast future trends. We submit the FEMA maps are updated frequently enough to be used for infrastructure planning over the likely lifespan of most infrastructure projects. The use of DNREC’s Flood Risk Adaptation Maps uses questionable forecasts and will result in un-needed additional expense for both the state and private interests. The expanded wetland maps will take a large amount of private land without compensation.

Climate change estimates will be used to force a review of electric rates by the Public Service Commission which could lead to higher rates. The Department of Health & Human Services wants to increase low-income fuel assistance even though higher average temperatures would have a net impact of lowering utility bills as much more money is spent on heating then on cooling. Every state agency has an action step in the plan to increase education of the reality and impacts of catastrophic climate change, an effort some would call propaganda.

Finally, the state has adopted a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emission by 30% by 2030 from a 2008 base year. The plan admits carbon dioxide emissions were already reduce by 25% by 2010 and so is looking for an additional 5% reduction from new initiatives by 2030. Appendix C of the plan provides the key assumptions used in developing emission forecasts. The plan used the U.S. Energy Information Agency 2009 forecast which assumed carbon dioxide emissions would increase 0.7% a year to 2030. The more recent EIA 2014 forecast assumes emissions will decrease by 0.2% a year. Based on the more recent forecast, the 30% reduction target will be met without any new initiatives needed.

The legislature, and all Delaware citizens, should question any legislation, budget, or regulatory changes driven by the “Climate Framework for Delaware”.

Dave T. Stevenson, Policy Director

Center for Energy Competitiveness

Caesar Rodney Institute

                                              

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CRI has joined a Freedom of Information Act request for disclosure of sources of grants given to University of Delaware Professor John Byrne for his work on climate change. Those paying attention to these issues will notice that our request merely followed in the footsteps of a request for similar information regarding UD’s Dr. David Legates. We replicated US Representative Raul Grijalva’s language nearly verbatim, hoping to place his move in perspective. As Delaware citizens we proceeded under a transparency law providing for the release of public records; to those who would claim such requests chill academic freedom, we note that it is Rep. Grijalva whose request waves the banner of governmental authority.

Rep. Grijalva is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee and is targeting only those who have testified, using their research, against claims that global warming is causing harms such as an increase in severe weather events. He states it is important we know who funded the research in case some fossil fuel company supported the funding to influence the results. He has not made similar requests of anyone who testified using research that supports the connection. Apparently, grants from environmental groups, government, and certain foundations are assumed, incorrectly, to be beyond suspicion of influencing research.

Using the power of his office for this sort of one-sided pursuit poses real potential to limit research of controversial topics. For several years we have seen an ongoing campaign aimed at removing inconvenient scientists from the climate change debate. Roger Pielke, Jr. of the University of Colorado, Boulder announced in a blog post responding to Grijalva’s letter, “The incessant attacks and smears are effective, no doubt. I have already shifted all of my academic work away from climate issues.” Pielke’s work, similar to Dr. Legates, shows that damages from hurricanes, floods, tornadoes, and droughts have not increased in frequency or intensity since the middle of the twentieth century despite warmer temperatures. The UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading proponent of government action to decrease carbon emissions, also states global warming has not been proven to impact severe weather events.

We support transparency at publicly funded institutions, and researchers should disclose funding sources when they publish a paper as is the policy at most universities. However, we have seen numerous requests for “skeptic” scientists’ emails (such as Dr. Legates’ at Delaware) draw no university opposition or public challenge, only to hear shrieks of outrage when the roles are reversed. The reach of transparency laws is a topic of legitimate debate, though whether they should be evenly applied should be beyond challenge. The use of government office to join one side and intimidate unwanted challenge, however, is climate McCarthyism. We hope our request will contribute to placing the similarities — and stark differences — between these efforts in perspective.

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Over the weekend the New York Times did a hit piece on a man named Dr. Willie Soon, an astrophysicist still employed with the  Harvard–Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, MA, because his superiors haven’t figured out how to completely get rid of him.

Disclosure: Dr. Soon was employed with the Caesar Rodney Institute from November 2012-April 2013. He wrote two articles on climate science and made one appearance with CRI Advisor Dr. David Legates. Their presentation can be viewed here and here. Their PowerPoint is available here.

From the New York Times:

“For years, politicians wanting to block legislation on climate change have bolstered their arguments by pointing to the work of a handful of scientists who claim that greenhouse gases pose little risk to humanity.

One of the names they invoke most often is Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics who claims that variations in the sun’s energy can largely explain recent global warming. He has often appeared on conservative news programs, testified before Congress and in state capitals, and starred at conferences of people who deny the risks of global warming.

But newly released documents show the extent to which Dr. Soon’s work has been tied to funding he received from corporate interests.

He has accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work.

The documents show that Dr. Soon, in correspondence with his corporate funders, described many of his scientific papers as “deliverables” that he completed in exchange for their money. He used the same term to describe testimony he prepared for Congress.”

Stop for a moment. They argue that because “corporations” fund Dr. Soon’s research, he must be doing this only to please his fossil-fuel company corporate masters who “deny” the climate “science” because of their capitalist greed. Yet the same people doing the attacking happily accept money from groups or people like The Ford Foundation, Climate Action Fund, Tom Steyer, 11th Hour Project (founded by Wendy Schmidt, wife of Google CEO Eric Schmidt), the United Nations, government agencies invested in proving man-made climate change in order to increase taxes and regulations, other businesses involved in the green energy movement, etc., yet somehow their contributions or motives for proving man-made climate change theories as fact are not questioned in this article.

We knew at the time Dr. Soon joined CRI he had received money in the past from those in the energy sector (we didn’t know how much though) who have an interest in preventing carbon taxes and the like from ruining their businesses. But do you blame them? The radical environmentalist movement has an agenda to destroy “fossil fuels” and anyone who stands opposed to the unnecessary growth of government control over the private sector. Note that he doesn’t get money for his research because the people giving grants cut him off for his disagreement, and he does have two small kids he has to provide for. If he cannot compete fairly for grant money because his work does not fit in with what his employers want (that humans are destroying the planet and only government regulations and carbon taxes can save us), then where else do people expect him to get money for his income?

“Environmentalists have long questioned Dr. Soon’s work, and his acceptance of funding from the fossil-fuel industry was previously known. But the full extent of the links was not; the documents show that corporate contributions were tied to specific papers and were not disclosed, as required by modern standards of publishing.

Though he has little formal training in climatology, Dr. Soon has for years published papers trying to show that variations in the sun’s energy can explain most recent global warming. His thesis is that human activity has played a relatively small role in causing climate change.

Many experts in the field say that Dr. Soon uses out-of-date data, publishes spurious correlations between solar output and climate indicators, and does not take account of the evidence implicating emissions from human behavior in climate change.”

Naturally we never find out who the “many experts in the field” are because they are not cited. Also we note that those who criticize Dr. Soon’s research do not point out the specifics where he is wrong or where his data is out of date.

“Dr. Oreskes, the Harvard science historian, said that academic institutions and scientific journals had been too lax in recent decades in ferreting out dubious research created to serve a corporate agenda.

“I think universities desperately need to look more closely at this issue,” Dr. Oreskes said. She added that Dr. Soon’s papers omitting disclosure of his corporate funding should be retracted by the journals that published them.”

CRI has this problem too. We are accused by our detractors of being “right-wing nuts,” yet our work, coming directly from public sources, is not challenged on its merits. Assumptions are made because we don’t support the “general consensus” on issues like Sea Level Rise, Prevailing Wage, and carbon taxes.Personal attacks are used in place of debate.

Now environmental policy is only a minor part of CRI’s platform. To the extent we cover environmental policy we do so in the forms of how it will affect energy policy or civil liberties. Policy Director Dave Stevenson prefers to focus on energy-related issues and keep away from the overall climate-change debate because it isn’t our main focus, with the exception of stopping the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and carbon taxes. We are not suggesting alternative energies are bad or that we as humans don’t cause environmental problems we need to resolve. However, given the nature of the attacks and the source it comes from, we feel this should be addressed from our end. If you believe people like Dr. Soon are wrong, then prove it with your own data and not just broad assumptions about who your opponents are.

As for whether Dr. Soon’s papers meet academic guidelines, we have no dog in that fight and no comment.

We stand by the material which is up on our website and until someone provides credible evidence that Dr. Legates’ and Dr. Soon’s data is incorrect, we will leave it up.

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