Alaska Senator Begich on Energy Policy


Here’s an excerpt from an address Senator Begich gave on Tuesday to the Alaska legislature. Note the section on how little those in D.C. know about oil and natural gas:

Certainly high on my list is Alaska’s oil and gas industry, which has taken its share of lumps recently with the fall in world oil prices.

That’s why I was troubled by proposals from the national administration to scale back incentives designed to increase domestic oil and gas production which make our nation more energy secure. I told President Obama exactly that in the Oval Office a couple of weeks ago and repeated it to his budget director last week.

I am working with senators from states like Louisiana, Nebraska, Montana and Texas to educate the administration and members of Congress on the need for a healthy American oil and gas industry.

Certainly renewable energy and conservation must be an essential part of a national energy policy. But we can’t make the transition overnight as national decision-makers finally come to grips with the consequences of climate change.

In just the few months I’ve been in Washington, I’ve discovered there’s little understanding of how oil and gas production works.

My colleagues are amazed when I explain how Alaska is on the cutting-edge of production technology, using techniques like directional drilling to reach oil miles away with minimal disruption to the environment.

The bill Senator Murkowski and I introduced calling for directional drilling to reach the oil beneath the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge may just change the conversation on that controversial issue.

If that happens, it will be Planet Gore readers who are the “amazed” ones.

More Companies Lobbying to Hike Your Energy Costs


Wednesday’s Oil Daily reports:

“We’re going to have to have higher energy prices,” said Michael Thaman, President of Owens Corning, the world’s largest maker of fiberglass insulation. “You can’t manage demand without talking about price and we’re living in a fantasyland if we think all this is going to happen at $1.89 a gallon for gasoline and 7¢ a kilowatt for electricity. We’re going to have to encourage a reduction in demand.”

As chance would have it, the “this” (the state “managing demand” for that which drives all economic activity – energy) that “has to . . . happen” would, by happy coincidence for Owens Corning, impose policies that force you to buy their products. The Owens Corning website blares: “Energy Efficient: We’re delivering solutions that improve comfort and support more responsible use of our natural resources.” Just not more efficient use of your personal resources because – like decisions about using natural resources — how those are used is apparently Owens Corning’s business.

So they’re pretty intent these days lobbying government to deliver to them new, unwilling customers, rigging policy to get you to buy Owens Corning products that you otherwise might decide didn’t make economic sense for your budget. World’s second-oldest profession, I tell you.

And of every penny you spend on their products, a portion of it goes to lobbying for higher energy taxes to force you into handing over more to the state and, in a convenient public-private partnership, to Owens Corning.


Wagoner’s Media Caricature


Detroit, Mich. — No auto story seems complete these days without gross MSM malpractice, and the media’s summation of GM ex-CEO Rick Wagoner’s career in the wake of his removal by The Chosen One is a case in point.

Wagoner’s caricature neatly fit the Media/Washington/Big Green narrative that Detroit is a victim of its resistance to going green.

“Wagoner became CEO of the company in 2000,” went a typical dispatch from Politico. “He is considered responsible for increasing GM’s focus on trucks and SUVs — at the expense of the hybrids and fuel efficient cars that have become more popular in the last couple of years.”

The Wall Street Journal, in its news section, freely editorialized in the same manner. “Among (Wagoner’s) key decisions that hurt the company: a huge bet on trucks and SUVs that piled up on dealers’ lots unsold as high gas prices drove Americans to look for more fuel economy offered by rival companies.”

In fact, given the labor cost disadvantage that GM suffered, Wagoner might be credited with skillfully playing a bad hand. As my Detroit-based colleague with the Reason Foundation, Shikha Dalmia, wrote last week for Forbes, “out of GM’s top 20 ‘profit-contributors’ last year, only nine were cars — the rest were all politically incorrect SUVs and trucks.”

Indeed, Wagoner understood that UAW wage and benefits — coupled with restrictive federal CAFE laws that force domestics to make small cars in U.S. plants — made it unprofitable for the company to make small cars.

But it is also a flat-out falsehood to say that he built those vehicles “at the expense of the hybrids and fuel efficient cars that have become more popular in the last couple of years.” GM offers more hybrid models (30) than any other manufacturer. But — the popular Toyota Prius aside — most hybrids have been market failures whether produced by Detroit or the Japanese.

“GM sold less than 15,000 hybrids last year,” writes Dalmia, “and this year is going to be worse because industry-wide hybrid sales have dropped by two-thirds from their peak last year.”

Furthermore, Wagoner might be credited with learning the lessons of his predecessor Jack Smith who was at the cutting edge of electric car development with the 1996 EV-1, only to lose millions on the project when it found few buyers.

What Wagoner can legitimately be faulted for is not taking being more aggressive with the UAW (which would have resulted in crippling strikes), or axing more brands. His company’s ruin, however, is not for a lack of green foresight, but uncompetitive labor costs and a too-big corporate structure.

Sadly, that truth is a victim of MSM bias.

The PUMA and Procreation


In case you missed Mark Steyn’s take this afternoon, he wrote over on the Corner that the PUMA . . .

 . . . is fine for mowing down grannies in the discount-aisle at Wal-Mart or for the nuclear space-laser lab technicians to get around the Nehru-suited villain’s secret volcano lair in a Roger Moore-era Bond movie, but not for much else.

There is a – drumroll, please – demographic element to the automobile question. Europeans often ask, “Why do Americans need those big cars?” The short answer is: Because Americans have kids and Europeans don’t. So Italians and Spaniards and Germans (and Japanese) can drive around in things the size of a Chevy Suburban’s cupholder because they’ve got nothing to put in them.

If you’re a soccer mom schlepping three kids plus little Jimmy from next door around, you need a vehicle of a certain size. In the old days, you could just toss ‘em all in there and they’d roll around as you took the hairpin bends in fourth gear. But now you can’t stick kids in the front and you need baby seats for the youngest and booster seats for the oldest and soon nanny-state regulation will require every American under 37 to be in a rear-facing child seat, which is a pretty good metaphor for where the country’s going.

And, if you mandate small cars and child-seat regulations, don’t be surprised if the size of the American family starts heading south, too. The difference between U.S. and European vehicles isn’t an emblem of environmental irresponsibility or American corpulence but of something more basic and important.

Planet Gore regular Mark Szekely, responding to today’s posts by Pollowitz and Payne, writes in with a complementary observation to Steyn’s concerning the relationship between PUMA-type vehicles and fertility rates:

The key question on the Puma is: Will it be a chick magnet?

Bob Lutz answered this question vis-a-vis the Chevy Volt.

I think not. Chicks dig horsepower . . .

Performance Vehicle or Pedicab?


As Greg noted this morning, the New York Auto Show will feature the unveiling of Government Motors’s — er, General Motors’s — new prototype, the PUMA (Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility), an electric vehicle developed with Segway. Essentially, the two-wheeler is a motorized rickshaw for use by the hip urban-mobility crowd instead of bicycles or motor scooters or pedicabs.

And, of course, the PUMA fits the government’s vision for the country’s largest automaker as a “green” company. No doubt the PUMA, if produced, could be a benefit against rising CAFE mandates, much as automakers are allowed to sell golf carts to satisfy California emission rules.

But less publicized is GM’s decision in recent months to eliminate its performance division — reportedly as a result of government pressure. Sports versions of vehicles — such as Cadillac’s V8-powered V-series or Chevy’s SS cars — will disappear from the company lineup, taking with them the sexy cache they often brought to their market segments.

Interestingly, Ford — the lone Detroit Three automaker not to take federal money — has conspicuously ramped up its performance division in recent months, perhaps angling for market share abandoned by GM as well as advertising itself as a performance-oriented brand. Ford is planning a sports version of its Taurus (the SHO) as well as mulling whether to bring in the 300-hp “pocket-rocket” version of its European Ford Focus.

Or maybe two-wheeled pedicabs are what make you salivate.


Current and Currency


Yesterday, Interior Secretary Salazar made his first stop on a four-city tour to gauge public opinion on offshore drilling. A New Jersey crowd featured anti-drilling activists. The Wall Street Journal reports:

According to an analysis of federal data by Securing America’s Future Energy, a Washington-based group of business and retired military leaders that advocates increased domestic production, the offshore industry produced 10.2 billion barrels of oil between 1985 and 2007 with a spill rate of .001%. 

“I hope [the government] recognizes that we have a tremendous environmental record that they can look at,” said Denise McCourt, industry-relations director with the American Petroleum Institute.

But voices like Ms. McCourt’s were in the minority at the hearing. One group in the back rows held up dollar bills whenever pro-drilling speakers had the microphone, to show that “money talks,” members said.

The online version of the article does not include two paragraphs that the print version includes. The first paragraph says Sec. Salazar indicated that Interior will release final rules regarding offshore renewables (wind and wave) in a month or two. Salazar then claims that wind turbines off the East Coast could generate enough electricity to replace most, if not all, coal plants in the U.S. The second omitted paragraph quotes Revis James, of EPRI, who says that such a plan “might be theoretically possible” but that “in practical terms, it’s not very likely that it will be economical.”

For those playing at home: (1) In 2007, coal generated 48.5 percent of our nation’s electricity, while wind accounted for 0.77 percent. (2) Erecting turbines off certain parts of the East Coast doesn’t sit well with the locals.

I wonder how many of those holding up currency at the Salazar town-hall meeting in Atlantic City would look forward to getting their current from a forest of turbines off the Jersey Shore.

‘Carbon Price Signal’


That is how Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, describes how Americans will view the higher energy bills they will face under the Obama energy plan:

“The carbon price signal created by a cap-and-trade system will encourage energy efficiency, the low-hanging fruit of greenhouse gas emissions reductions,”

Why not be honest and say, “the really, really high energy costs created by a cap-and-trade system will encourage energy efficiency because people won’t be able to heat their homes to the terrarium-like temperatures that President Obama enjoys in the White House.”

President Obama Signaling More Ethanol?


Industry Week reports:

President Obama’s nomination of an alternative-fuels insider to a Department of Energy (DOE) post is the latest news that points to imminent large-scale production of ethanol made from non-edible plant sources (cellulose) in the United States.

On March 23 Obama announced his nomination of Steven Koonin, chief scientist at BP, to the Undersecretary of Science position, which reports to DOE Secretary Steven Chu. Koonin, a physicist, has focused heavily on alternative energy research since joining BP in 2004, and he and Chu previously collaborated on biofuels research through a BP partnership with academia.

The president and others see development of a cellulosic ethanol industry as crucial to meet the federal Renewable Fuels Standard (RFS) mandate for the transportation fuel industry to produce 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel by 2012. Producers will make 11 billion of renewable fuels this year, according to the Renewable Fuels Association (RFA).

GM in the News


Forget taxpayer money used for bonuses — I want to know how much GM is wasting on this:

General Motors Corp. is teaming with Segway Inc., maker of the upright, self-balancing scooters, to build a new type of two-wheeled vehicle designed to move easily through congested urban streets.

The machine, which GM says it aims to develop by 2012, would run on batteries and use wireless technology to avoid traffic backups and navigate cities.

The struggling auto maker, surviving on a government lifeline, is looking to generate enthusiasm for its increasingly uncertain future ahead of the New York auto show this week.

GM has slashed product-development programs, advertising and spending on auto-show events. But it will take to the streets of Manhattan on Tuesday to show off a prototype of the vehicle, called PUMA, for Personal Urban Mobility and Accessibility.

The Segway Personal Transporter was launched with considerable hype eight years ago but practical issues prevented the scooter from becoming a mass-market product, including its relatively high cost and restrictions on its use in many jurisdictions.

GM is betting PUMA’s more car-like traits — an enclosed compartment and top speed of 35 miles per hour — will lead to better results. GM didn’t say how much the machines would cost, but research chief Larry Burns said owners would spend one-third to one-fourth of the cost of a traditional vehicle.


California’s Deal with EPA: Watch Your Wallets!


Detroit, Mich. — An environmental watchdog group reported Monday that California and EPA have reached agreement in principle that auto fuel-economy rules will be set by the federal government — but according to California’s proposed regulations. The resulting hike over already-onerous federal rules, say industry analysts, could cost U.S. automakers billions more in regulatory compliance at a time when they are already financially insolvent.

“EPA is likely to follow historical precedent and federalize the state rules,” reports, thus resolving “the long-running fight over the state’s request for EPA to grant a Clean Air Act waiver for greenhouse gas emissions standards while retaining industry’s preferred compliance mechanism under CAFE.”

The auto industry had vigorously opposed California’s new GHG target, arguing that they are a de facto fuel-economy standard (since there is a direct correlation between mpg and CO2 emissions) and California only has the legal right to set air standards. Furthermore, granting California a fuel economy waiver would set precedent for an unworkable patchwork of state-by-state mpg standards that automakers would have to meet.

The compromise favors industry arguments, but at enormous cost. The federal CAFE mandate will now leap from a required 35 mpg by 2020 (just adopted in 2007 at an estimated cost to automakers of $85 billion) to a whopping 42 mpg — equivalent to European Commission mandates that even European automakers have been unable to meet despite $6-a-gallon gas prices.

Greens tentatively embraced the compromise, which comports with the EPA’s larger goal of regulating GHGs (which the agency has concluded “endanger human health”).

But Rep. Pete Hoekstra (R., Mich.) was alarmed by the proposal. “So we’re going to have a national standard, but California gets to write it,” said the congressman who has watched his state lose hundreds of thousands of auto jobs, in part due to the costs of previous CAFE mandates.

Philip Gott, an auto analyst with IHS Global Insight, confirmed that the 42 mpg standard “would be da**ed expensive.” A recent Global Insight study found that California’s mandate “would increase power-train costs by 50 to 70 percent” — roughly $1,000 for small, large-volume vehicles and $5,000 for larger, luxury vehicles.

With GM and Chrysler dependent on federal aid for survival, Hoekstra fears the industry will have little say in the final rules. “The Obama administration fired (GM CEO) Wagoner last week,” says Hoekstra. “Is (new CEO) Henderson going to resist? I don’t think so.”

Myron Ebell of the Competitive Enterprise Institute, fails to see the logic of EPA’s rush to harsher mpg rules. “It’s going to be much tougher for the automakers to meet a national standard based on the California rules,” he says. “It seems odd to me that the Obama administration wants to set rules that make it difficult for Detroit automakers to survive while at the same time loaning billions of taxpayer dollars to try to save them.”

“The best thing the administration could do for Detroit would be to ask Congress to repeal the higher CAFE standards and deny the California waiver,” Ebell continues. “Unless they do that, it’s not clear to me how Detroit can survive no matter how many taxpayer dollars are poured into them.”

– Henry Payne is an editorial writer and cartoonist for the Detroit News.

Faith-Based Science


This really is rather humorous, if sadly typical (h/t Roanoke Slant):

The 4/5 AP story which ran under ledes such as “Quieter sun (fewest sunspots since 1913) bodes well for Earth” includes a couple of expert comments that, juxtaposed, are real gems.

NASA’s chief solar physicist Hathaway says we don’t know why such solar quietude happens. But, don’t worry, NOAA director Bogdan says solar activity should be increasing “anytime now,” and the regularly scheduled warming should continue. Ah, yes, the old “We don’t know what causes this but it should change anytime now.” At some point. They sure hope. I mean, their budgets have done awfully well under this particular panic that’s falling on cold, hard times.

It’ll Never Happen Here?


The Telegraph headline and sub-hed tell it all:

Households could be forced to collect food waste in separate bins under EU plans

Every household could be forced to collect food and garden waste in separate bins from other rubbish under proposed EU laws designed to combat climate change.

As I noted in Red Hot Lies,:

It is little wonder, then, that UK citizens appear to be the first who believe in large numbers that carbon police lie in their future. They are no doubt comforted by the head of that massive nanny state’s Energy Savings Trust (seriously), who says that such heavyhandedness “need not be the case.” If people get with the program on their own, that is. (citation omitted)

I specifically recall Jim Bohannon scoffing that we would ever confront such nannying, during an interview on the book’s release. And of course, we are indeed ritually told such things as a way to dismiss what a law clearly authorizes – only to pretend to be surprised when the sages at EPA et al. follow through on their authority.

OK. But I do believe that there really are things we can learn from our European betters. Principal among them is how the “global warming” state — premised on our acquiescence in doing what they want, or else everyone dies! — cannot feasibly stop at silly, expensive light bulbs and cars, since no one claims any of that would under any set of assumptions “do something” about carbon emissions.

Show Me the Money!


A quite revealing letter is circulating from New York State Senate Energy Committee Chairman Kevin Parker to Gov. David Paterson. It’s so bizarre that I’ve had to ask the fellow who sent it if it is a potential gag: the “properties” of the document at least claim it was written by the “New York State Senate” on April 2. Accepting his assurances, this letter confirms the obvious: that the Northeast’s Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) is all about the money.

The letter complains of the governor’s decision to increase the free allocation of RGGI ration coupons to utilities, thereby decreasing the revenue collected from an auction. (Note to the Obama administration: from where will you raise the hundreds of billions your budget spends on social engineering should your own cap-and-trade rationing scheme actually reduce emissions as promised?)

For example, the chairman states: “For New York to forego revenue is a very significant and troubling decision, given the fiscal challenges faced by the State. More importantly, that abandoned revenue was originally designed to be allocated to projects reducing New York’s carbon footprint, promoting ‘green collar’ jobs, and conducting research into pollution reduction technologies.” He rattles off various, essentially unrelated (in any material way) issues related to particulate, ozone, acid rain, mercury, other river pollution — all of which, as you know, can theoretically be addressed in a spectacularly inefficient (expensive) way through chasing GHG emissions. Or — just a thought – through programs already enacted to address them.

Oh, he remembers to toss in climate change there once, at the end of the letter, as an apparent afterthought.

So we see that the chairman — of the Energy Committee, mind you — understands not so much the substance of the issue at hand but at least the real important thing: raising revenue from taxpayers, especially for pet projects.Which makes sense, really, given that New York’s scheme, like RGGI and Kyoto (even if put on steroids) would each do one obvious thing – finally achieve a long-held wish-list of rent-seekers and nagging pressure groups – and notably avoid doing another – detectably impact the climate. That is, this has never been about the climate. There’s no reason to start expecting it to be, now.

Bio-Diesel Going Poof


From the New York Times’s “Green, Inc.” blog:

The Great Biodiesel Shutdown

By Kate Galbraith

The sufferings of the American biodiesel industry continue.

Last month I wrote about the industry’s problems in the wake of a European tariff on American biodiesel producers. Imperium Renewables, once one of the country’s largest refiners of biodiesel, had also just laid off 24 employees.

It turns out that Imperium is not in fact producing any biodiesel. (A reader informed me of this, and I subsequently confirmed it with an Imperium representative, John Williams, who said by e-mail that “Imperium has produced fuel in 2009, but is not currently producing fuel.”) The suspension of production is the latest bad news for the company, which last year lost a big contract with Royal Caribbean cruise lines, and also canceled an initial public offering in early 2008.

Other states are weighing in with tales of woe. (The problem is not only the European tariff, but also the fact that diesel prices in this country have fallen below biodiesel prices, reducing incentive to buy the alternative fuel.)

I assume the New York Times corporation must use diesel fuel in at least some of their delivery trucks.  Maybe the suits should start using the more expensive biodiesel in their operations? Shareholders might object, but we have a planet to save!

Amazing Science News!


It seems a revolutionary new technology has been developed to soak up the extra CO2 in the atmosphere. It’s called a “tree.” More study is needed, of course . . .

Trees are growing faster and could buy time to halt global warming

No Global Warming Tours for You!



WASHINGTON — The Obama administration is pushing to protect Antarctica’s fragile environment by imposing mandatory limits on the size of cruise ships sailing there and the number of passengers they bring ashore.

At a conference set to begin Monday in Baltimore, U.S. diplomats will propose amending the 50-year-old Antarctic Treaty. The move would seek to mandate, under international law, the current voluntary restrictions on tourism.

A U.S. document provided to The Associated Press by the State Department says the plan would “minimize the likelihood of marine oil spills” in the Antarctic and “ensure that tourism is conducted in a safe and environmentally responsible manner.”

This is good news as it seems that it’s always these Antarctica cruise ships that run into trouble.  Let the eco-tourists pay more for safer ships on which to take their vain, carbon-spewing trips on behalf of the planet.

It’s Not Easy Being Green


MSNBC/AP headline

It’s not easy being green in an economic crisis

Some shoppers are put off by the cost of environmentally friendly products

Well, the good news is there’s already a song to go along with this change in consumer behavior:

Some Dem Honesty on Cap-and-Trade


Sen. Ben Cardin on cap-and-tradeWashington Post:

Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.) called cap-and-trade “the most significant revenue-generating proposal of our time,” and said it would be difficult to pass without reconciliation because Democrats would be forced to accommodate a handful of Republicans as they did in the debate over the president’s stimulus package. Although winning use of the maneuver is unlikely, Cardin said, “a lot of us don’t want to give up without a fight.”

It’s like tax-revenue Lotto for these characters. They go to bed dreaming of all the socialism they can implement if only cap-and-trade could pass.

Taking a Step Back


Below, a graph from the presentation by Dr. Syun Akasofu at the recent Heartland conference here in New York, which offers some useful historical perspective on temperature trends. Jo Nova guest blogger David Evans discusses it here.

For Your Viewing Pleasure


Here’s Marc Morano vs. Joe Romm on global warming politics. Enjoy:

Part I and Part II


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