GM Asks for Debt Forgiveness


The Hill:

General Motors announced an acceleration Monday of its restructuring into a smaller company that will have fewer employees, brands and dealers.

GM also announced it was asking the Treasury Department to agree to convert half of the company’s debt to the government into equity. This would involve the U.S. forgiving a sizable amount of GM’s debt, and would make the U.S. government a large shareholder in GM.

GM CEO Fritz Henderson said the administration has “not expressed any interest in running” the company. “They want to make sure the company is run well to benefit all the parties,” he said in a press conference broadcast on GM’s web site.

The debt-for-equity exchange with Treasury combined with a separate deal with the United Autoworkers could bring in $20 billion, GM said. GM is under heavy pressure from the Obama administration to restructure itself by June 1 to win additional government loans. GM has already received $15 billion in loans, and wants an additional $11 billion.

Our Inconstant Star


CCNet’s Benny Peiser today on solar variability:

There is no let up in new research findings and news reports about the extraordinary behaviour of our sun. Both the UK National Astronomy Meeting and the Swedish Research Council are addressing the sun’s prolonged inactivity that is baffling the astrophysical community. Solar researchers are readily admitting that they do not understand the mechanisms and dynamics that drive solar variability. Nor are they able to predict the timing and the climatic effects of the next solar cycles.

Most climate researchers, in contrast, seem happy to ignore the whole quandary as the sun’s shifting activity and its terrestrial impact do not play any significant role in what is called the ‘climate consensus.’

Solar scientists have been monitoring the sun’s activity for many years in an attempt to establish whether or not its variability is correlated with terrestrial temperature changes. Interestingly, the sun was more active during much of the 20th century than it was for the last 1000 years. Yet, as long as the terrestrial warming trend persisted, this discovery was routinely rejected as wholly insignificant.

Now, however, the sun’s cyclical behaviour has gone into reverse. And, coinciding with its exceptional inactivity, temperatures around the world have actually begun to stall, if not to drop slightly. The arrest of the warming trend of the late 20th century at a time that solar activity is exceptionally low again raises the key question of climate science: has our star perhaps a much more dominant effect on climate change than is generally assumed?

As David Whitehouse makes clear in The Independent today, this question can no longer be dismissed that easily. Neither can it be resolved, on way or another, in the short term. Only time and a determined effort to study and understand the sun’s behaviour will provide answers. There is no doubt, however, that a growing number of scientists are concerned that the next two or three solar cycles may coincide with low solar activity comparable to previous solar minima.

Given the unexpected arrest of the global warming trend and the extraordinary behaviour of our sun, it is prudent to reassess the solar-climate link with extra rigour. The current climate lull provides the scientific community and the world’s decision makers with a respite. They would be well advised to spend more time and money on the study of our variable star whose intrinsic dynamics and climatic effects remain a mystery to this day. 


Dearth Day, Illustrated


In his Impromptus today, Jay Nordlinger offers up this letter from a fan:



I made a “demotivator” poster for that idiotic “Earth Hour” event where the greenies told us to turn off our lights for an hour. As I work for [a state environmental agency], you can imagine the general reaction I got. Like I give a rat’s behind, as I have 30 years in the harness . . .

I just loved that letter — and the “demotivator” is even better: here. It shows the famous satellite image of the Korean peninsula at night, with the north all dark and the south all lit up. And the poster says: “Earth Hour: Guess which Korea is free and which is a Stalinist dictatorship. Guess which Korea eats and which one starves. Electricity is good. Choose freedom, and build more power plants.”

The image in question:

Newt in the House, Yo


Newt Gingrich’s testimony before Energy and Commerce is available here. Not included there, of course, is a priceless floor exchange between the former Speaker and Rep. Henry Waxman (D., Beverly Hills).

It may be news to the Renewable Energy Now crowd, but America has had a little experience with market-driven technological advance — and it didn’t come at the point of a regulatory gun, using the “tax and destroy” method preferred by President Obama and Congressional Dems.

“We didn’t build the trans-continental railroad by punishing stage coaches,” Gingrich sagely observed.

“Well I am glad you’re not in charge of foreign policy,” replied Waxman (as if today’s Democratic caucus is well known for its use of sticks over carrots in foreign-policy negotiations).

Replied the former Speaker: “I don’t think of the American people in the same terms as foreign dictators.”

Newt ZINGrich!

The Pits



House of Pain


I don’t know about your experience, but watching the House’s spotty audio and video webcast feed of today’s global warming confab left me even less comfortable than before about the prospects of their keen ministrations engineering a ration- and quota-driven energy supply.

When the feed managed to come through, however, highlights included Congressmen Henry Waxman and Jay Inslee not even bothering to conceal the fact that they were reading from pre-printed scripts, prepared before they even sat down, expressing outrage and surprise over “what we just heard” from former Speaker Gingrich. The only thing I can imagine is that Newt Gingrich actually was asked to provide — and provided — his testimony the day before, just as mere mortal witnesses are required to do. Al Gore, I understand, still has not provided his tightly held slides from recent Senate testimony — which the rules apparently dictate should have been provided in advance.

I was comforted by how the Democrats were reduced to relying upon a thoroughly exposed effort by an MIT professor that seems to require at least one of the following assumptions: either a) the Obama administration is lying when it admits to just a fraction of the billions it plans to take in energy taxes (their advertised $650 billion over ten years from selling cap-and-trade ration coupons might actually total in the several trillions); or b) that every dollar taken from the taxpayer is actually a dollar in benefit to the taxpayer — which is the more likely assumption, and patently absurd.

With such great lead arguments, I can hardly wait to hear the rest.

Al Gore, Climate Propheteer


Get a load of Rep. Ed Markey (D., People’s Republic of Massachusetts) swooning over Al Gore earlier today:

Long before greenhouse gases and global warming became a subject of daily discussions, Al Gore, Henry Waxman, John Dingell and I debated ways to improve the Clean Air Act. Vice President Gore was a leader of the debate in the 1980s. And now the whole world knows that he has long been a visionary. It is sometimes said that a prophet is someone who is right, but too soon. Al Gore is an example of someone who, not only was right early, very early, in fact, but who dedicated his life to educating our country so that they, too, saw the threats he foresaw decades ago.

Dingell: Cap-and-Trade is Toast


At today’s House platform for Al Gore to push the investment portfolio for which he is so aggressively lobbying, we just saw something of great import, affirming what I have been telling thumb-suckers for a while now.

That is, former Energy and Commerce Committee chairman Dingell said:

“cap-and-trade is a tax and it’s a great big one.”

Remember what MoveOn said last week:

“If Republicans convince voters that clean energy legislation amounts to a new tax, Obama’s plan is toast.”

So, it seems that Mr. Dingell is convinced, and his party’s cap-and-trade rationing taxes are now toast.

NASCAR Going Hybrid


The New York Times’s “Wheels” blog reports:

Toyota announced this week that its Camry Hybrid would be the pace car for the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowes Motor Speedway on May 24, thus becoming the first hybrid pace car to serve from start to finish in a Nascar race.

It seemed like a nice, if minor, marketing coup, timed to coincide with Earth Day. But could the announcement also have been a small tweak at Ford?

In case you forgot, Ford’s Fusion Hybrid earned the distinction last November of being Nascar’s first hybrid pace car when it led the field to the green flag at Homestead, Fla. But the hybrid gave way to the gas-powered Ford Fusion Sport after the start of the race, leaving room for Toyota to make its own Nascar milestone.

FAA Releases Bird-Strike Data


Can we start shooting the geese yet? The environmental friendly methods of the past decade aren’t working:

WASHINGTON — Airplane collisions with birds have more than doubled at 13 major U.S. airports since 2000, according to Federal Aviation Administration data released for the first time Friday.

Topping the list of airports where planes were either substantially damaged or destroyed by birds since 2000 were John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York with at least 30 such accidents and Sacramento International Airport in California with at least 28 such accidents. Kennedy, the nation’s 6th busiest airport, is located amid wetlands that attract birds, and Sacramento International, the nation’s 40th busiest, abuts farms whose crops draw birds.

And some airplanes just seem jinxed:

A single United Airlines 737 passenger jet suffered at least 29 minor collisions with birds and one accident involving a small deer — more than any other plane since 2000.

Global-Warming Report from Michigan


Reader Dan D. sends in a report from the field:

Per the Presque Isle County Road Commission and published in the Onaaway Outlook, as of 3-31-09, there has been 157 inches of snow (13.08 feet) this season, second highest amount since record keeping began in 1955.

(FWIW, it’s also been too cold for to grass to grow, so I’m saving big bucks on lawn care at my office)

Green Trucks or Unions in Los Angeles?


A brewing fight out in La-La land. The Los Angeles Times reports:

Monday is shaping up to be a bad day for the Teamsters, Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and a handful of environmental groups, whose efforts to unionize port truckers will probably be squelched by a federal judge. That’s just as well, but we’re afraid the mayor and his union backers won’t take no for an answer.

The clean-truck program at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach, a long-overdue attempt to reduce the diesel pollution that sickens and kills thousands of Angelenos every year, forces truckers to buy cleaner, more modern vehicles and imposes a fee on shipping containers that pass through the ports in order to help pay for them. None of that is controversial, and if that were all the program did, it wouldn’t be enriching an armada of lawyers. But it also contains concession agreements that the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has determined will probably be ruled unconstitutional.

At the Port of Los Angeles, the program would eliminate independent truckers, insisting that they all be employees of drayage companies by 2013 (opening the door for the Teamsters to unionize them). The Port of Long Beach doesn’t insist on employee truckers, but it does impose other requirements that may not pass legal muster. That’s because U.S. law forbids local jurisdictions from making rules that affect the price, route or service of motor carriers.

The rest here.

What the FERC Is He Talking About?


So far, the Obama administration has been kind of fun in that you can at least watch his run-of-the-mill socialist mind at work. He’s going to raise taxes, spend our way out of a recession, redistribute wealth, nationalize health care, and make friends with Cuba, Venezuela, and Iran. You know sooner or later these things will blow up in his face and make him an easy target in four years.
But what happened Wednesday had the ring of cold terror (and not the kind that comes from overseas).

On Earth Day, Jon Wellinghoff — President Obama’s month-old pick as chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission — claimed that we may never have to build base-load coal or nuclear power plants again. Windmills are going to take care of everything. (“Base load” comes from power plants that run night and day, keeping the world running; “intermediate load” is added during the day when demand rises; “peak load” is the high point reached, say, on hot summer days when everybody turns on the AC.)
Here are Wellinghoff’s exact words:

I think baseload capacity is going to become an anachronism. Baseload capacity really used to only mean in an economic dispatch, which you dispatch first, what would be the cheapest thing to do. Well, ultimately wind’s going to be the cheapest thing to do, so you’ll dispatch that first.  People talk about, ‘Oh, we need baseload.’ It’s like people saying we need more computing power, we need mainframes. We don’t need mainframes, we have distributed computing.

Let me tell you, anybody who says this hasn’t the slightest idea what he’s talking about. This is just boilerplate picked up from a hundred handouts by environmental groups. (For an analysis of why wind won’t work, see here.) It’s almost superfluous to note here that Wellinghoff is a lawyer and not an engineer. 
What Wellinghoff has said is identical to what Jerry Brown — “Governor Moonbeam” — announced when he decided to put California on the “soft energy path” in 1980. The Golden State didn’t build any new base-load power plants for 20 years. It practiced draconian conservation, subsidized every conceivable form of so-called renewable energy from wind farms to solar collectors to burning old tires for electricity — and by 2000, it didn’t have enough electricity to run its traffic lights.

That’s the road we’re now going down as a nation. This isn’t some wild-eyed pamphleteer from Greenpeace talking. This is the chairman of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. FERC has to give its permission before any new power plant in the country can be built.
Start laying in diesel generators. It’s going to be a rough ride.

Telling the Truth About Wind and Solar


Here’s a great op-ed in today’s Washington Post by James Schlesinger and Robert L. Hirschon on the realities of the solar and wind industries. An excerpt:

Solar and wind electricity are available only part of the time that consumers demand power. Solar cells produce no electric power at night, and clouds greatly reduce their output. The wind doesn’t blow at a constant rate, and sometimes it does not blow at all.

If large-scale electric energy storage were viable, solar and wind intermittency would be less of a problem. However, large-scale electric energy storage is possible only in the few locations where there are hydroelectric dams. But when we use hydroelectric dams for electric energy storage, we reduce their electric power output, which would otherwise have been used by consumers. In other words, we suffer a loss to gain power on demand from wind and solar.

At locations without such hydroelectric dams, which is most places, solar and wind electricity systems must be backed up 100 percent by other forms of generation to ensure against blackouts. In today’s world, that backup power can only come from fossil fuels.

Because of this need for full fossil fuel backup, the public will pay a large premium for solar and wind — paying once for the solar and wind system (made financially feasible through substantial subsidies) and again for the fossil fuel system, which must be kept running at a low level at all times to be able to quickly ramp up in cases of sudden declines in sunshine and wind. Thus, the total cost of such a system includes the cost of the solar and wind machines, their subsidies, and the cost of the full backup power system running in “spinning reserve.”

And don’t forget the cap-and-tax costs added to the cost of the the backup fossil-fuel plants.

Save the Planet by Going Vegetarian


PETA’s latest:  “Meat’s Not Green” 

GE’s Smart-Meter Move


GE and the city of Miami are banking on $200 million of stimulus pork for a pilot “smart meter” program that will allow users to know how much electricity they’re using and when:

The City of Miami announced a proposal on Monday to install 1 million two-way “smart meters” to all Miami residents over the next two years in what would be the most comprehensive smart-grid program in the U.S.

Mayor Manny Diaz outlined the Energy Smart Miami plan, which is anticipated to cost $200 million in its first phase, at a press conference at Miami Dade College. Joining Diaz were the CEOs of the key suppliers in the project: Florida Power & Light CEO Lewis Hay, General Electric CEO Jeffery Immelt, Cisco systems CEO John Chambers, and SilverSpring Networks CEO Scott Lang.

“To me these are prudent and smart investments that will easily pay for themselves,” Diaz said. “It will show the nation how to address environmental, energy, and economic challenges all at the same time.”

The installation of meters with a wireless Internet connection will allow consumers get detailed home energy usage information from the Web, according to Hay, the CEO of the Florida utility. With the up-to-the minute data, consumers are expected to take steps to lower their consumption.

About 1,000 consumers will get in-home energy display from GE, called an EcoDashboard, and have smart-meter-controlled appliances and thermostats. These people will also participate in a demand-response program that will allow the utility to adjust appliances to throttle down electricity use during peak times.

What the piece doesn’t say is that a two-way meter is the only way to get time-of-day pricing. You want to use your air conditioner at noon in Miami? Well, that’s going to cost you extra. Now, whatever you think of time-of-day pricing, the politics of should get quite messy — especially in a state like Florida, where most folks are using their air conditioners at noon.

Obama in Iowa


Yesterday, President Obama was in Iowa, touting the virtues of clean energy and the urgent need to deal with climate change. Much of the same: Out with the old, in with the new; spend lots of money; America should set an example; global warming is a real and growing threat; etc. etc.
  Here is his message, in a nutshell:

“Now, the choice we face is not between saving our environment and saving our economy. The choice we face is between prosperity and decline. We can remain the world’s leading importer of oil, or we can become the world’s leading exporter of clean energy. We can allow climate change to wreak unnatural havoc across the landscape, or we can create jobs working to prevent its worst effects. We can hand over the jobs of the 21st century to our competitors, or we can confront what countries in Europe and Asia have already recognized as both a challenge and an opportunity: The nation that leads the world in creating new energy sources will be the nation that leads the 21st-century global economy.”
President Obama is certainly correct in noting that we have a choice between prosperity and decline, but the irony is that his plans, as presented, will lead to less energy, not more. And less energy means more expensive energy.

Obama has made clear that his regime will send coal packing, yet he has offered no plausible replacement for the fuel that generates roughly half of our nation’s electricity. He wants to wean us off of foreign oil, yet petroleum meets around 96 percent of our transportation-fuel needs, and there is no commercially viable subsitute in the near future. He wants wind power to sweep the nation, but the list of reasons that won’t happen — at least no time soon — is a long one. It’s one thing to price conventional energies out of the market. It’s quite another to do so without realistic alternatives to step in and fill the void. Yet this is exactly where Obama is taking us.   He talked about creating “millions of new jobs right here in America.” Sounds great. Now, what about the jobs that will be lost, as a result of shifting resources away from more efficient to less efficient energies? As I detailed in Myth 3 of Energy & the Environment: Myths & Facts: What about the 1.8 million Americans working in the oil and gas industries? What about the over 81,000 coal-industry workers? Create green jobs all you want. Just be honest with the American public about the fact that creating jobs does not necessarily mean an overall net gain in employment. A net decline is much more likely.   (Interestingly, Obama actually mentioned nuclear power, as well as the need to expand domestic extraction of oil and natural gas: “As I’ve often said, in the short term, as we transition to renewable energy, we can and should increase our domestic production of oil and natural gas. We’re not going to transform our economy overnight. We still need more oil, we still need more gas. If we’ve got some here in the United States that we can use, we should find it and do so in an environmentally sustainable way. We also need to find safer ways to use nuclear power and store nuclear waste.”)   Plenty more to respond to from Obama’s speech, like exploring the facts about Denmark’s wind power generating 20 percent of the country’s electricity. Or his praise for California’s energy policies. I don’t even know where to begin with that one. 

I Haven’t Read It


So, EPA chief Lisa Jackson testified yesterday to kick off four days of hysteria that will culiminate, naturally, with the Goracle on Friday (I’d leave the snow tires on until Saturday just to be safe).

She was forced to admit that she hadn’t read the bill she was testifying about.
Later, she somehow managed to claim that the same bill would be vastly better than the disastrous “endangerment” rulemaking she had just threatened us all with, obviously to blackmail the weak-kneed into just suing for carbon peace (or at least, what they think will be peace).
Having read much of the bill that she hasn’t, I can attest that the above assessment confirms her prior answer.

You can’t read Waxman-Markey and conclude it’s somehow an acceptably managed chaos compared to “endangerment” regulation; all a regulated party would accomplish by agreeing to legislation instead would be to relieve both the administration and Team Reid-Pelosi them of the political burden that’s kept them from legislating, that prompted the mad scramble last year to get Bush to take ownership of this mess, and that would set off round after round of infighting and threats.

It is worthwhile to bear in mind as this circus proceeds that the parade of horribles Waxman-Markey put in their bill — and all that they refused to put in it, like preemption of ESA and NEPA, of states doing anything other than cap-and-trade, of numerous other CAA provisions kicking in . . . a breathtaking list of threats that would persist unmolested after passage of this vehicle for supposedly providing regulatory “certainty” — make the thing completely unfixable.

This leaves industry better off taking its chances:

  1. in court litigating the EPA rule, which is entirely grounded in unverifiable computer models and non-peer reviewed documents like IPCC AR4 (grounded in the same models, textbook arbitrariness); and
  2. with the likelihood that both the admininstration and congressional Democrats will continue “blinking” in their intra-family spat, one that we have no business getting in the middle of since they’re fighting over which of them should get the chair for taking the axe to us.

We’ve seen two major overreaches by the Democrats — the budget’s cap-and-trade revenue stunt, and now this bill. The administration has painted itself into a corner with the “endangerment” threat: “We’ll do something really disastrous to the economy unless you agree to do it first!” Now, either acting means they both lose — mutually assured political destruction, which is why they are desperately seeking to have their bacon saved.

I fail to see the threat. Let’s hope the targeted industries and congressional Republicans continue to see things similarly.

Secretary Chu Admits He Was Being Silly


From the climate hearings yesterday on Capitol Hill:

REP. CLIFF STEARNS, R-Fla.: Last September you made a statement that somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe, which at the time exceeded $8 a gallon. As Secretary of Energy, will you speak for or against any measures that would raise the price of gasoline?

SEC. CHU: As Secretary of Energy, I think especially now in today’s economic climate it would be completely unwise to want to increase the price of gasoline. And so we are looking forward to reducing the price of transportation in the American family. And this is done by encouraging fuel-efficient cars; this is done by developing alternative forms of fuel like biofuels that can lead to a separate source, an independent source of transportation fuel.

REP. STEARNS: But you can’t honestly believe that you want the American people to pay for gasoline at the prices, the level in Europe?

SEC. CHU: No, we don’t.

REP. STEARNS: No. But somehow, your statement, “Somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” doesn’t that sound a little bit silly in retrospect for you to say that?

SEC. CHU: Yes.

Hat-Tip Marc Morano

CBS Calculates President Obama’s Earth Day Fuel Usage


CBS estimates that President Obama used 9,116 gallons of kerosene yesterday to fly to Iowa and talk about saving the environment with wind power.

But check out how the post by White House correspondent Mark Knoller starts:

It happens every time a president leaves town to make an Earth Day speech. Reporters scramble to point out how much fuel was expended so the President could talk about conserving energy and using alternative fuels.

Yes, it happens every year because it’s hypocritical — but particularly for a president whose rhetoric is as green as Obama’s.


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