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Ethanol Theater



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As part of his “Just Say No to Oil” campaign, President Bush hosted the Big Three automakers at the White House this morning to flog ethanol as an answer to global warming and oil independence. It’s maddening to watch industry play its role in this Washington charade, but Big Auto execs subscribe to the theory that “if you’re not at the table, you’re on the menu.”

 

The automakers’ joint statement contained this jewel which might as well have come from the Goracle himself:

 

“We appreciate the President meeting with us today on issues that are critical to reducing our nation’s gasoline consumption and greenhouse gas emissions. All three companies conveyed to the President their support for reducing gasoline consumption in the U.S.”

 

Of course, automakers have no control over gasoline consumption. Consumers consume gasoline. Automakers simply build what their customers demand. As everyone on that White House lawn knows, only government can effect consumption by making it more expensive – and everyone on that lawn knows that no sane politician is going to propose raising gas taxes.

IPCC Merry Go Round



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The UN’s IPCC telegraphed its intention to try and drag out its alarmist Summary for Policymaker(s) of this year’s Fourth Assessment Report by stringing them out through the course of the year, releasing four such documents, one for each Working Group. The media already went through the de rigueur hysteria earlier in the year for WGI, likely lost in the memory’s recesses after last week’s Goregasm. Fear not, the IPCC has announced that the “wash, rinse, repeat” nature of their alarms will continue anon, beginning on April 2, likely with a 3-4 day news cycle trumpeting “thousands of the world’s leading scientists” drafting a document proclaiming the end of the world.

AP’s Seth Borenstein will no doubt write a story in advance announcing how Working Group II has concluded that things are much, much worse than previously thought and this time they are much, much more certain; his story will prove, yet again, to be hogwash (speaking of wash, rinse, repeat).

Bear this in mind, however: the WGII plenary kicks off on April 2 at 10 a.m. Brussels time. If you know how these things work then you know that they begin with seemingly endless gasbaggery. You can see by the speakers already announced that this event will be no exception.

Then, according to none other than the IPCC, by 9 a.m., after what appears to be 3 days to draft a consensus summary of thousands of pages of underlying science, the edited, approved, bound hard copy version of their hard-fought agreement will be available to the press. Now, this is not only in the European Commission, mind you, but the UN working in cooperation with the EC. So just remember this process of quite obviously simply approving something, with a handful of people – not “thousands of the world’s leading scientists” – haggling over a few details the pre-fabricated preferred characterization of a draft version of someone else’s work still not yet completed (the actual WGII document will be completed this summer), when you are told to imagine a process by which “thousands of scientists!!!!” cobbled the document. Nonsense.

Even the underlying science, as MIT’s Richard Lindzen has pointed out – after abandoning the distorted process for which he served as a Lead Author – only includes scientists having agreed (with one other scientist, typically) on the one page to page-and-a-half that they were tasked with drafting. No one is ever asked if they agree with the report, let alone the Summary drafted by bureaucrats, politicians and lobbyists. As always, good luck finding that inconvenient truth in the press coverage.

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Carbon Rationing Hurts the Poor



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In Scotland and Australia, two places as far apart on the globe as you can get, people are realizing that rationing carbon is a socially regressive move.

In Scotland:

An energy underclass could develop in Scotland if personal carbon trading is introduced in the fight against climate change, urban planning experts warned yesterday.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors in Scotland voiced concerns that low-income households could be driven into an eat-or-heat situation if tradable allowances were introduced.

In Australia:

THE jobless would be hardest hit by carbon pricing, with new research showing low-income households would have to pay about $600 a year to fight climate change.

The research by academic Peter Brain found carbon pricing would disproportionately affect people on low incomes, especially the unemployed.

When they’re not suggesting that the poor and unemployed will find new, highly-paying jobs in the wind-farm construction and hybrid battery industries, the preferred solution of the Green is to advocate a vast new income-redistributing bureaucracy to provide energy welfare to the poor, because government has all the answers (particularly, it seems, to the problems it creates).

Poltics and science



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“Contrarians” have long complained that the IPCC process is deficient because it enables science to be distorted for political ends.  Now the “alarmists” have echoed that call, because the recent IPCC Working Group I report wasn’t sufficiently alarmist for them.  IPCC ”apparatchiks” have defended the group against both sets of accusations.  Roger Pielke Jr examines the various claims and concludes:

Everyone seems to agree that the IPCC reflects a political agenda, the question is who’s [sic] political agenda? Is it that of the participating scientists? Do participating scientists in fact have a “political agenda” or instead do they have many competing political agendas? Or is the political agenda of the IPCC that of the participating governments? But do participating governments in fact have a “political agenda” or many competing political agendas?

The answers to the questions are all unclear. The IPCC tries to have things both ways by asserting governmental participation without governmental influence. This makes no sense, and participation is meaningless absent influence.

Roger has some suggestions for improving the process, but I can’t imagine they’ll be acceptable to those who argue that science trumps economic and political considerations.

BP’s Fuzzy Math



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Talk about having learned at the feet of their master–in this case, Enron.

This does tempt one with remembering that it was BP’s (then-) Sir John Browne with whom Kenny Boy sashayed into the Oval to meet Bill and Al on August 4, 1997.

Their advice? Ignore the unanimous Senate advice just given less than a month earlier, and agree to Kyoto, but it had to include a trading scheme.

We of course know whose advice was deemed more persuasive.

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BP’s Prestige Moment



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How do you reduce your emissions by vast amounts without costing you a penny?  BP has the answer:

THE oil giant BP has been accused of creative accounting after declaring a cut of 830m tons in its annual carbon dioxide emissions — roughly equivalent to the entire output of Britain and the Netherlands combined.

It has decided to exclude the oil, gas and chemicals it buys on world markets from its emission figures, and now takes responsibility only for the hydrocarbons it has itself extracted.

Until 2005, BP took responsibility for about 1.4 billion tons of CO2 in documents it filed with the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP). However, in the latest documents filed to the CDP, covering 2006, BP revised its CO2 output downwards to 570m tons — an apparent decrease of 830m tons.

Ta-daa!

What you won’t hear, Part 3



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More nuggets of which our Senate Energy Committee sages should not be deprived but – by stacking the panel to receive counsel solely of the variety offered by surgeons for ill-fated astronaut Steve Austin, as opposed to substantive dissent (does anyone see a pattern emerging in this “debate”?) – nonetheless will, unless of course they are Planet Gore readers:

“Arcelor Mittal, the world’s largest steel company with 135,000 workers in Europe, is among several companies that are sending out distress signals two years after the EU began capping carbon dioxide emissions from 10,000 factories and power plants.

Tougher EU policies to cap emissions ‘could threaten two of our plants’ because they would significantly raise costs, Wurth said during a recent interview. Instead of battling pollution, he argued, the measures were encouraging ‘less production in Europe and more imports from places with fewer environmental regulations’ — a result that Wurth deemed ‘absolutely ridiculous’.” IHT January 7, 2007

“For other industries, the main concern is the higher cost of electricity, which was exacerbated by the introduction of emissions trading. The Norwegian company Hydro has closed two aluminum units in Germany since 2005 because of high power costs, in part citing tough environmental laws in Europe. A Norsk Hydro spokesman, Thomas Knutzen, said his industry would make new investments mainly in countries that ‘do not have obligations to reduce their CO2 emissions through Kyoto.’ In the case of Arcelor Mittal, Wurth said the combination of high electricity prices and the prospect of buying carbon allowances could lead to partial plant closures in France.” –IHT, January 7, 2007

“The emerging large increases in electricity prices and their potential impacts on international competitiveness are a major concern for energy-intensive industries. A full analysis of the impacts of the ETS and appropriate improvements is critically needed.” Statement by UNICE, the Union of Industrial and Employers Confederation of Europe, representing employers of over 20 million in 33 European countries [the largest EU employer group], –November 2005

“The rising costs of reducing carbon dioxide emissions by smokestack industries may trigger a shift in major investments in such sectors from Europe to countries where carbon controls are less strict, analysts said. ‘In the future, European companies may decide to make big investments abroad, say in Brazil, because Europe is too expensive,’ Michael Grubb, chief economist at the Carbon Trust, a UK thinktank [sic], told a European power conference last week. ‘There is an option of driving energy-intensive industries out of Europe’.” — Reuters, 13 June 2006

Many energy-intensive companies face the dilemma whether to pay the excessive costs of complying with Kyoto, or redirect investments to other countries, as has Acernox, the world’s second-largest stainless steel manufacturer (sending its growth to the U.S. and South Africa). CEO Victoriano Muñoz repeatedly warns of Kyoto creating a “very grave” situation for Spanish industry, “forc[ing] us into a second industrial restructuring.” In his opinion, “Kyoto is one of the biggest problems Spain will have to deal with in the coming years.”

See also “Three Spanish companies closed down for violating Kyoto Protocol,” Spain Herald, August 9, 2005.

What you won’t hear today, Part Deux



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Here are some things that won’t be talked about over the coffe breaks at the Senate Energy Committee “Roundtable” on Europe’s cap-and-trade scheme, because the people not making money off of or attaining authority under this racket weren’t welcome.

You won’t hear much talk about the leading assessment of the ETS, from United Kingdom think tank Open Europe, styled “The High Price of Hot Air: Why the EU Emissions Trading Scheme is an environmental and economic failure” (http://www.openeurope.org.uk/research/ets.pdf), offering, inter alia, the following conclusions applicable to any U.S. application of such a scheme:

“Botched central planning, rather than a real market. Instead of auctioning off permits and allowing the market to operate, member states have handed permits out to firms according to 1960s-style National Allocation Plans (NAPs). This means handing permits free to individual firms on a variety of rather sketchy criteria. This attempt at central planning has had all kinds of perverse results. For example NHS hospitals have been forced to spend a total of £1,300,000 buying up permits, and 18 UK universities are also net contributors. Ironically, Large oil companies have made substantial profits from the scheme.”

“An administrative nightmare. Compared to an energy tax or focussed emissions tax on power stations, the scheme is complicated and has imposed very high administrative burdens. Many small plants – for example the main boiler in a hospital – are covered by the scheme, and have to employ staff toconduct monitoring, and compliance activities, and pay for official verification. Despite this, such plants contribute little to total emissions. The estimates in the UK Government’s preliminary Regulatory Impact Assessment suggest that this administrative burden is costing firms and public sector bodies approximately £62 million a year in the UK.”

Maybe these are among the reasons why “Tom Crotty, chairman of the chlorine producer Ineos ChlorVinyls, said that spiralling energy costs had led to the loss of 100,000 job losses over the past 18 months. Included in those losses were the closure of 13 glassmakers and 11 papermills. Ineos ChlorVinyls, which had to halt production temporarily last year because of higher energy costs, has 80 per cent of its costs tied up in energy. Mr Crotty said that energy policy had failed industry: ‘The true cost comes in lost business, lost jobs and lost income’.” The Times (UK) November 28, 2006

What you won’t hear today, Part I



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The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee are hosting a Roundtable Discussion of European Union Emissions Trading Scheme today. ENR clearly cherry-picked its participants to exclude the many individuals with real world experience, widely available in the public record and readily available to the Committee, that also happens to be quite unhelpful to their theme that we must follow our European climate superiors into cap-and-trade bliss.

These cherry-pickies span the breathtakingly parochial gamut from an official of the European Commission (who designed the scheme), to largely unaffected nuclear-power dependent Electricite’ de France, to rent seekers and their pilot fish like a Shell Oil carbon credit trader and the founder of Point Carbon. O, The Great Debate that awaits us! In advance, each of them offered, in one page or less, what’s “right” with the EU’s Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), and what’s “wrong”. To summarize the tenor and substance of the “wrongs” offered, simply recall the scene in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High” where a stoned Jeff Spicoli leans out the window of Trans Am which he has just wrecked, and returns fully inside said vehicle to say “Relax, all right? My old man is a television repairman, he’s got this ultimate set of tools. I can fix it.” Um, no, you can’t.

The “right” pages give banal comments worldwide a bad name, particularly those of Bruno Vanderborght, Vice President of Climate Protection, Holcim Cement — please, as if I could even make that up. I think he may have been in a really big hurry because this sure reads like he just excerpted the Commission website.

In truth, the concept that Europe’s implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is a model to follow, if with strong lessons, doesn’t withstand the slightest scrutiny. So, throughout the day I will post a few quotes that you won’t hear, from regulated entities that might soon be looking for more accommodating places to conduct their business.

Michael Ramirez on Planet Gore



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Hate Al Gore? Disagree With, Yes...



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Pity perhaps, but hate Al Gore? Why, I’ve never even met the man; so what is Jonathan Chait talking about ?

National Review magazine, with its popular website, is a perfect example. It has a blog dedicated to casting doubt on global warming, or solutions to global warming, or anybody who advocates a solution. Its title is “Planet Gore.” The psychology at work here is pretty clear: Your average conservative may not know anything about climate science, but conservatives do know they hate Al Gore. So, hold up Gore as a hate figure and conservatives will let that dictate their thinking on the issue.

As they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity. My own view is very close to that of Bjorn Lomborg’s:

In written testimony for the House Energy and Commerce Committee, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish statistician and author critical of people who present environmental problems as a crisis, asserted that Mr. Gore’s portrayal of global warming as a problem, and his prescription for solving it, were deeply flawed.

Mr. Lomborg said that “global warming is real and man-made,” but that a focus on intensified energy research would be more effective and far cheaper than caps or taxes on greenhouse gas emissions or energy sources that produce them.

Where I part company with Al Gore is that I actually listen to and read scientists on the subject. For example, Al said to Congress last week that this is a “planetary emergency”. James Annan, who is indeed a climate scientist (his work has recently concentrated on climate sensitivity, how much warming will there be with a doubling of atmospheric CO2, his answer generally assumed to be correct: a lot less than some others have been saying):

The only real surprise was that any scientists would try to oppose the motion – that “global warming is not a crisis” – and it’s only to be expected that they would struggle. Of course it’s not a “crisis”, but rather a long-term problem. There is nothing special about this year, or even this decade, compared to the previous or next, other than that it happens to be the one we are currently in. In fact the entire problem centres on the fact that climate change is a long-term issue, rather than something that can come to a turning point and be resolved.

If it’s not a crisis then it’s hardly an emergency, is it, even of the planetary kind? This is the heart of my opposition to the Goracle’s message: it’s his extremism, his brushing aside of the actual science (both of climate change and economics) which makes him so dangerous. He wants to bounce all into something that we don’t actually need to be bounced into. He’s working to a political timetable, not to a scientific one.

(I should perhaps reveal an interest here. Given my day job, as part of the international scandium oligopoly, the banning of incandescent light bulbs would hugely raise my income. Scandium is used in some of the alternative technologies, but not in incandescents. Despite that, I still think it’s a damn fool idea to ban them.)

Al Gore, Renaissance Man?



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Al Gore. Inventor of the Internet. Climatologist. Now add auto industry expert to the list.

The Goracle raised blood pressures in Detroit Wednesday when he lectured U.S. automakers on their business model. A main reason “our auto companies are in trouble,” he told the Senate climate panel, is “they got all these gas guzzlers they can’t sell that people don’t want to buy.”

Bunkum.

In December, GM rode the backs of double-digit sales increases in its big new Chevy Tahoe and GMC Yukon SUVs to turn its first quarterly profit in two years. Just last month, sales of its biggest gas-guzzler – the Chevy Suburban – were up a whopping 33 percent. Profit margins on light trucks run upwards of $7000 a vehicle, which is foreign makers have also been jumping into the SUV market.

Overall, of course, SUV sales were down last year due to higher gas prices (proving market conditions – not federal fuel mandates – move consumer choices), but that hurt Japanese as well as Big 3 makers. Sales of Toyota’s big Land Cruiser and Sequoia SUVs were off 30 percent, for example. The difference is that Toyota still makes money when consumers switch to their sedans, but struggling American cos. like Ford do not.

Why? Because UAW labor costs are a crippling $1500 per vehicle higher than their Japanese counterparts. That’s the very same union that plowed many of those labor costs into eight years of Gore/Clinton candidacies.

Kyoto Jobs



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Rich Lowry’s column today addresses the myth of the purported economic benefits to be reaped from adopting the Kyoto agenda. Hey, it’s supposedly a “global treaty” (covering 34 countries, that is) so there must be evidence in abundance, right? We know it’s working in Europe and, as Rich notes, those jobs are actually likely to be created in China and India. I have received calls from European colleagues after they’ve walked out of meetings with governmental officials offering “temporary exemptions” for energy intensive industries in certain countries experiencing capital flight, in order to get them to sign on to a “post-2012” agreement.

As noted in these pages once before, we already have 175 living breathing possibly even voting examples of “Kyoto jobs”. I have also had occasion to raise it not once but twice to a particularly prominent legislator hailing from the same state as these jobs. On neither occasion did he seem remotely impressed by the talking point.

At some point between now and the 2008 campaign, somebody had better find it useful or we might well jump on Europe’s sinking policy ship.

About that Moral Superiority



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After the spectacular success found in making an “evergreen” promise to swear off of nuclear power (that is, they renew – translated: postpone – the promise every now and then, with the latest vow being by 2050), Sweden recently decided to swear off of oil, too!

Of late, Sweden has also assumed a particularly annoying boastfulness about its greenhouse gas emissions and Kyoto performance, which I must remind you – as they certainly don’t – amounted to a promise not to increase their emissions beyond a certain amount (4% above 1990 levels). Their current official projection offered to the European Environment Agency in mid-2006, of being at or just below that, is apparently the stuff that Kyoto legends are made of.

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Everything is relative, however, so context for such boastfulness is found in the fact that tdoes in fact leave them as just one of two among the EU-15 who project emissions consistent with their promises under the Kyoto Protocol.

Today’s news also suggests that a little more Scandinavian reserve might be in order.

Little Green Book



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Russell Roberts notes how Al Gore wants to do for US energy production what Mao did for Chinese steel production.

I must say that this particular push by Gore further begs (to my mind) the question of who, precisely, underwrote his PowerPoint Tour and other activities outside of his heavily remunerated (see links) speaking engagements? It is worth noting that BP, which donated $100 fuel cards to attendees of Gore’s pre-Oscar party, is pushing this peasant-production idea hard, particularly in the form of a mandate in the UK that every home be a net contributor to “the grid” through microwind and the like. As I note in my book, although hailed by academia and the media for its “soft” persuasion, BP is no stranger to larding out money for its massive lobbying, er, public affairs efforts.

One of BP’s in-house PR gurus in London was kind enough to enthusiastically walk me through this a couple of years ago, responding to my disbelief with patient explanation about the need for a mandate to overcome societal stigma on microwind turbines, traceable to their association with government housing where it is mandated (frankly I’ve never personally witnessed the product of such mandates and this growing obsession in the UK, though my visits are generally to urban London where such turbines would be even more futile). Eyesores to be sure, he told me, but that’s a temporary reaction; after all, people were up in arms over the blight of satellite dishes, only to then get used to them, and once they’re made to get used to this the same comfort will accrue.

And if they don’t? Well, Mao had answers for that, too.

Welcome Back, Hotter



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On The Daily Show last night, Jon Stewart poked fun at Gore’s “flame retardant baby” metaphor, at how he was treated with contempt by Sen. Inhofe, and at Gore’s weight. It’s the first video that comes up on The Daily Show web site this morning. This can’t have been what Gore expected from The Daily Show, and is an interesting cultural indicator.

Cloud of Smug, cont.



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Sure, Goldman Sachs and Enron once feverishly collaborated on what a trading scheme and exchange floor for swapping carbon ration coupons would look like — hint, UK traders call it “our new playground” — and that the Bush administration’s fiercest internal advocates of such a scheme happen to be Goldman alumni (SecTres Paulsen and WH CoS Bolten). But maybe it’s time we gave them their due for seriousness of purpose.

“Goldman Sachs has been one of the most aggressive firms on Wall Street about taking action on climate change; the company sends its bankers home at night in hybrid limousines.”

The New York Times. February 25.

“Written without a hint of irony,” Charles Krauthammer observes, “this front-page dispatch captured perfectly the eco-pretensions of the rich and the stupefying gullibility with which they are received.”

Hat Tip to Brandon Dutcher at the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs.

The Economist Wields the Stiletto



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The Economist, which has been all over the map on climate change, has a neat line in its latest leader:

“Testifying before Congress on March 21st, the former vice-president was as cautious and understated as any other movie star. “

The Goremobile



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Al and Tipper arrived at Wednesday’s Capitol hearings in a spanking new, black 2008 Mercury Mariner Hybrid. Ford touts the “the most fuel efficient SUV in the world” as going over 30 percent farther on a tank of gas than a standard Mariner (32 mpg vs. 20).

Or, as the Goracle might say: “If your baby has a fever. . . you should feed it just two-thirds of a spoonful of poison.”

Of course, morality doesn’t come cheap: The $30,000 Mariner hybrid stickers for $5 grand more than the standard model. Uncle Sam chips in a bit with a $3000 tax break. And the Gores own two – one for DC, the other for their 10,000 square foot Nashville home.

So that’s a $6000 subsidy we taxpayers are putting in St. Gore’s collection box.

Lomborg’s Defense



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You can read Bjorn’s own responses to several of the various charges laid at his door by Rep. Gordon here. One example: the Danish Committees on Scientific Dishonesty invalidated their original finding of dishonesty and closed the case back in 2004.

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