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Is global warming driving auto sales?



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Like hurricane season predictions, the MSM now interprets monthly car sales figures with an eye towards global warming. As Toyota and Honda continue to carve into Detroit’s market share, the knee-jerk Green line is that Big Three sales are down because Americans are abandoning Detroit’s gas-guzzling trucks and opting for Japanese hybrids.

 

Well, not exactly.

 

Consider Toyota. Its U.S. numbers surged last month in part because sales of its unique Toyota Prius hybrid more than double from a year ago. But the company’s other hybrids – the Toyota Highlander and Lexus RX-400 – saw sales slide by 16 and 40 percent respectively.

 

Ditto Honda’s hybrid sales. Its compact Insight (introduced in 1999, a year before the Prius) has been discontinued due to lack of demand, while sales of the hybrid version of its popular Accord are off a whopping 33 percent.

 

The Prius is an undeniable hit (selling over 100,000 units in 2006), but industry analysts say there is another factor in its March sales spike: The federal tax break on the Prius of $1,575 dropped 50 percent to $787.50 on April 1 under federal rules. Furthermore, the tax break only applies to the first 60,000 of any one hybrid model’s sales. That, combined with generous sales incentives, may mean Prius hybrid sales will fall to earth with other hybrids as the year winds down.

 

Meanwhile, Toyota truck sales of its huge new Tundra and Tacoma trucks are up by double digits, while GM’s biggest truck – the mammoth, 14-mpg Suburban – saw sales race ahead 31 percent last month!

 

Look across all vehicles and the trend in today’s auto market is not Al Gore-induced eco-awareness as many MSM pundits would have you believe. What continues to drive the American consumer is quality. And Toyota does that consistently better – big or small, model for model – than anyone out there.

Selected, Not Enacted



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Now that the Supremes have decided that the deliberative processes of the two elected branches of government had failed to date to produce the desired outcome when it comes to making expensive, futile gestures in the name of climate control, it is certainly only a matter of hours before we hear former Vice President Gore tossing in a line about how even a majority of the Supreme Court now agrees that global warming is a terrific threat. His acolytes will spread the claim far and wide.

I for one shall take no small pleasure in in the spectacle of this mantra, from this crowd, which for (what seemed like) the longest time screeched about the cravenness of a 5-4 majority hijacking the political process upon which we count for the truest reflection of public will.

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Greens win on another court front



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In addition to the Supremes, Greens won on another court front last week as they press their bid to shut down carbon-related industries. In West Virginia, reports AP, enviro groups “hailed a federal court victory as the possible death knell of mountaintop removal coal mining in Appalachia.”

 

The mining industry vowed to appeal a judge’s ruling that demands costly, endless environmental reviews for site permitting. The ruling puts 30 pending projects on hold and raised fears of broader job losses. A similar ruling (ultimately overturned) by a Clinton appointee in the late 1990s turned the traditionally Democratic state against Clinton/Gore enviro policies and was a key factor in Bush’s 2000 upset win there.

 

The war on mountaintop mining puts a lie to Gore’s oft-stated claim that Green is good for jobs – and has opened a rift between the Democratic bases of enviro and union activists.

 

West Virginia surface mines employ an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 people.

 

“We’ve seen what a dramatic effect this has on people’s jobs and lives when they have these kinds of decisions,” said the president of the West Virginia Coal Association. “What does it do to our people who are out there working?”

RFK Jr. vs. Washington



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He says the environ posts are filled by polluters in his latest Vanity Fair piece.

Vote Now



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A fellow Planet Gore-ite asked the following question, and suggested I post the response as food for thought. So here goes the question and answer, (I’m somewhat busy at the moment, so please excuse the lack of hyperlinks). I also do not indulge the purists horrified at the prospect of doing anything in the face of protocol; it’s protocol, and I’m told that the issue at hand addresses “the greatest threat facing mankind”. As such, I believe that offending protocol has the political upper hand here.

 

Possibly more later as the politics of SCOTUS’s CO2 opinion yesterday percolate.

 

Question: Is the Senate free to ratify Kyoto at any time? Or do they have to wait for the President to submit it to them. If the former, has anyone written anything on this glaring failure of the Democrat-controlled Congress to ratify Kyoto?

 

Answer: The former: there is nothing in the Constitution impeding or prohibiting the Senate from voting on a duly signed treaty. Protocol, as manifested in Senate rules, is the sole structural impediment (a lack of political will and related considerations also come into play).

That is, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee rules read as though they only contemplate voting on treaties transmitted to them by the president; Senate Standing Rule XXX contemplates only voting on treaties reported out by the FRC.

 

Now, who writes those rules, and regularly waives them (including for the purpose of Barbara Boxer’s unique, opening hearing on climate change? Right. And only the Senate, per the Constitution, so no court would impede them.

 

[In truth of course, because the "political question" doctrine dictates that this is between them and the Executive, the Senate also could vote on a treaty that Bush “unsigned”, the “Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court”. I suggest that the subsequent political dynamic would be quite different, however.]

 

The problem potentially would be that in truth a treaty isn’t really ratified until a president submits the instrument of ratification, in this case with the UNFCCC, but now we get into the weeds, though it is a useful discussion.

 

If the Senate ratifies Kyoto thereby challenging Bush to follow through on that act, clearly there is some measure of political pressure on Bush to submit the ratification – as well as an opportunity to educate the public, eschewed to date so an unlikely prospect. This pressure is, however, much less on him as a lame duck, but even more so for one who the world claims has already “rejected” and/or “withdrawn from” Kyoto. It seems to go without saying that the political cost is mitigated when one is only doing that which the world already thinks you’ve done. You just re-antagonize them. (Trust me, with this crowd, you won’t know the difference.) Heck, pass the buck to the next guy, just like Clinton did with this – it was 801 days after agreeing to Kyoto before he left office, without lifting a finger; he did the same with the ICC, even claiming during the signing ceremony that he didn’t agree with the document!

 

At this point the establishment mavens need smelling salts. The rest of you, bear with me.

The ultimate point toward which this argues is that the prevailing notion that George W. Bush is responsible for the US refusal to play Kyoto ball is absurd, if very, very politically useful for the Europeans–and our domestic version, the Democrats. He ought to simply transmit the treaty now – on the heels of the SCOTUS opinion and Democrat crowing about how the wind is now at their back to overcome that awful Bush – to make this point, demanding a vote if without recommendation.

 

The Senate after all is preparing to vote on the annual “embarrass-Bush-on-his-way-to-the-G-8” resolution, this year styled as “Biden-Lugar”, demanding that he negotiate a treaty that the Senate can approve of. To which the clever, I’ve-had-it-with-this Bush says, “you mean, do a better job of negotiating than Gore did. Well, there’s an offer on the table. Have at it.”

Republican Senate offices I’ve talked to are inexplicably terrified of this scenario. They think the Ds would get a majority but not 2/3 and make political hay blaming those mean Republicans. I say a) no they wouldn’t, but b) sounds like a nice fight to have, and besides, c) Article II Sec. 2 says treaties require approval by 2/3 of those voting.

 

So, Republicans, don’t vote. Leave it to those who profess global salvation. (At this point in the discussion, industry’s knees start knocking; apparently there are more Senators than Bernie Sanders who really want the US to be party to Kyoto). And watch the fun when they realize what you’re up to. Rushing down to change votes, deploring your conduct as a dirty trick, and other outbursts.

 

Alternately, the Republicans announce their plan to watch, in advance, and watch their antagonists, who have had a free ride on this issue at their expense, and fully count on two more years of it to really take over, rush to block what they earlier called salvation on procedural grounds (no presidential transmittal, etc).

 

Again, food for thought.

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Hurricane Predictions



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Shorter USA Today .

Meteorologists: “We predicted death and destruction last year, and we were wrong–but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t listen to us this year!”

Update: Yes, I’m aware that Gray is a prominent global warming skeptic, but what’s important here is that forecasts of an intense hurricane season will inevitably be linked to global warming, a notion that’s sadly mistaken. 

“It’s about time we started billing America’s fighting forces for their irresponsible greenhouse-gas emissions and putting the money into developing a wind-powered aircraft carrier.”



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Stephen Spruiell reports on Congressman Peter Welch’s inconvenient idea.

John Kerry Is All About Diapers and Lightbulbs



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From Climate Change to Theory of Everything



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Just in case you had forgotten the metaphysical pretensions of the climate alarmism crowd, consider David Robert’s mini-manifesto in today’s Huffington Post:

What we really need is to remake the way humanity lives on the world. We need a Second Industrial Revolution that produces more equitable distribution of resources, greater local and regional self-sufficiency, reduced terrorism, war, and conflict, and above all an immensely reduced ecological footprint.

That’s the kind of charge that can inspire a generation. That’s the kind of charge that lends itself to narrative and myth. That’s a story a generation can tell about itself. “Fight climate change” is clinical, narrow, and negative. “Remake the world” is inspiring, encompassing, and positive.

Hmm, “remake the world”? That reminds me of another “encompassing” saying, this one from Marx: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways: the point, however, is to change it.” If I recall correctly, the outcome of those inspiring words wasn’t especially positive.

Regulate the Chemicals...



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As everyone who’s taken a look at the front pages of the major papers knows by now, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that he EPA has the power to regulate CO2 as a pollutant. Jonathan Adler has a summary and response to the case in NRO today:

Congress has discussed and debated the issue of global warming for years, consistently refusing to adopt regulatory controls on the emission of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Despite this fact, a divided Supreme Court decided Monday that the Environmental Protection Agency has untapped authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions from new motor vehicles under the Clean Air Act. The Court’s decision in Massachusetts v. EPA makes federal regulation of carbon emissions a near-absolute certainty, and not just from cars and trucks. It also ensures that federal courts will retain a hand in climate-change policy for many years to come.

The legal controversy began in 1999 when a handful of environmentalist groups petitioned the EPA to regulate emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases from new motor vehicles. The Clinton administration accepted the argument that the EPA had such authority, but declined to act on it. At the time, I speculated that the EPA was hoping a federal court would force its hand, thereby reducing and political costs to initiating new emissions regulations unilaterally. Ever since a Democratic Congress had rejected the Clinton-Gore energy-tax proposal, the administration was reluctant to address global warming head on.

After the Bush administration took over, the environmentalist groups repeated their call for action. Joined by several state attorneys general, they prepared to sue. In response, the Bush EPA formally rejected the initial petitions on the grounds that the EPA lacked the legal authority to regulate greenhouse gases without express approval from Congress. Although there is language in the Clean Air Act that could be applied to greenhouse gases, these provisions were designed to address conventional air-pollution problems, such as soot and smog, rather than control global atmospheric pollutants. Even if it the EPA such authority, the Bush EPA argued, it would be unwise to do so given scientific uncertainty and the need for coordinated international action on climate change.

Read the whole thing.

Also, it should be noted that the name of the writer who wrote the front page story on the case for the New York Times today is Linda Greenhouse

Taxing BBQ



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I’d normally be hesitant to depend upon one single report from Novosti about goings on in the world but this (via Reason’s Hit and Run ) is simply too good to ignore.

Experts said that between 50 and 100 grams of CO2, a so-called greenhouse gas, is emitted during barbequing. Beginning June 2007, residents of Wallonia will have to pay 20 euros for a grilling session.

The local authorities plan to monitor compliance with the new tax legislation from helicopters, whose thermal sensors will detect burning grills.

As Reason points out, they’re going to use helicopters (1 tonne of CO2 emitted per 900 miles flown) to look for BBQs that emit 50 grammes of CO2? That is, that for every 900 miles flown, they’ve got to uncover (or deter) 20,000 illegal BBQs?

Surely this is simply a late April Fool’s entry?

If it isn’t, well, I guess that Iain Murray is right that Pigou taxes aren’t quite what I like to think they are. If we take the numbers from the Stern Review (yes, yes, disagree if you wish but let’s at least follow the green logic to see where it leads shall we?) then the correct tax on one tonne of CO2 is $85. This is some 0.62 euro cents per 100 grammes CO2. The point of Pigou taxes is, remember, to only tax the actual cost of the externality so this is in fact over taxation by the order of 3,000 % or so (if my math is correct, not a certainty).

If over taxation at that sort of level is what our Lords and Masters have in mind to stop the oceans from flooding the rice paddies well, paraphrasing the last words of King George V, bugger Bangladesh.

I would much rather believe that the translation unit at Novosti is simply a couple of days slow on this.

The Green Supremes



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The Supreme Court has given us another rude reminder of the importance of judicial appointments – a legacy that long outlasts a president’s own tenure. Three Republican nominees joined two Clinton appointees Monday to render a breathtaking act of judicial fiat (decision is here). The court’s Green majority declared carbon dioxide a pollutant under the federal Clean Air Act (CAA). That’s right, the very stuff that you are exhaling right now is a “waste product that renders the air harmful or generally unusable,” as Webster’s defines pollutant. So if CO2 is now the functional equivalent of lead, must the EPA remove it entirely? What level constitutes harmful CO2?

 

As CEI’s Marlo Lewis pointed out in a comprehensive preview of this case in 2005, the idea that the Clean Air Act applies to CO2 is an “affront to common sense.”

 

“Indeed, the terms ‘greenhouse gas’ and ‘greenhouse effect’ do not appear anywhere in the Act,” continues Lewis in his NRO piece. “Nowhere does it even hint at establishing a climate-change-prevention program. There is no subchapter, section, or even subsection on global climate change.”

 

But the Green Supremes, parroting claims brought by America’s bluest states and their activist allies, have simply rewritten federal law in order to satisfy their personal fears of climate change.

 

“Rising seas have already begun to swallow Massachusetts coastal land,” writes Justice John Paul Stevens, a view at the left fringe of global warming science.

 

In effect, the Green Supremes just signed the 1997 Kyoto Treaty regulating CO2 emissions, a treaty the elected U.S. Senate never ratified. In fact, though the Clinton Administration signed the pact in 1997, it didn’t bother to submit it for ratification after a preliminary, 95-0 Senate vote declared the treaty unacceptable.

 

No matter, the justices have substituted their opinions for our elected bodies.

Supremes enter the surreal CO2 debate



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I’ll leave it to better legal minds than mine to explain how in the world the U.S. Supreme Court defined the product of human respiration (Co2) as a pollutant subject to regulation by the EPA. Instead, I am struck by the absurdity of where such regulation is supposed to lead us. Listen to lefty Josh Dorner of the Sierra Club today, one of the “victors” in this suit. The ruling, he says, “sends a clear signal to the market that the future lies not in dirty, outdated technology of yesterday, but in clean energy solutions of tomorrow like wind, solar.” 

 

That statement is flat out fantasy.

 

I spent the weekend in West Virginia, the country’s second-largest coal producer, but also one of the nation’s biggest wind-power states thanks to Appalachia’s high elevations and steady winds. Yet, despite massive tax subsidies, the largest wind investment east of the Mississippi has contributed barely four percent of the state’s 15,000 megawatt generating capacity.

 

Currently, four big, new wind projects are being proposed totaling 400 windmills and doubling the state’s wind capacity by adding 600 megawatts – barely the size of one average coal-fired generator. But because the wind doesn’t blow 24/7, the actual capacity is just a third of that: about 200 MW.

 

Now compare those numbers to the John Amos Plant, West Virginia’s largest coal plant. Its three generators produce 2,900 MW of power around the clock – nearly 15 times that of the proposed wind facilities. And the Amos plant does it on one-tenth the land, taking up just 3,000 acres – or 4.5 square miles.

 

The highly controversial 400 turbines, by contrast, will sprawl over 50 miles of pristine Appalachian ridgeline, marring the landscape and shredding migratory birds.

 

Given that 56 percent of the country’s power generation comes from coal, wind is clearly not an alternative.

 

This debate is a surreal theater (now including a cameo by the highest court in the land) of rhetoric that has no relation to the realities of daily life. But some day won’t the two have to collide?

A Tale of Two Houses



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The Gores and the Bushes.

SCOTUS Speaks



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This morning the Supreme Court issued opinions in two “environmental” (actually, energy) cases with major implications, Massachusetts v. EPA and Environmental Defense v. Duke Energy (disclosure, I filed amicus briefs in both). I hope to have more comment later on the specifics of the opinions but for now note the following. 

First, both opinions send the actions back from whence the disputes came; that is, respectively, to EPA to better explain (or capitulate on) their decision to not regulate carbon dioxide as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act, and to the lower courts to in essence start anew with various technical parameters having been established. 

Regarding the CO2 case, CEI Senior Fellow Marlo Lewis offers the following, inescapable and breathtaking conclusion as to the meaning of the Supremes’ opinion, both according to the 5-Justice majority, and to all of us if EPA simply capitulates: 

“The decision implies that Congress ratified the Kyoto Protocol, or enacted the McCain-Lieberman bill, when it enacted the Clean Air Act’s Section 202, which regulates auto emission, in 1977—but somehow forgot to tell anybody. Preposterous! The same groups that sued EPA to regulate CO2 auto emissions under Section 202 will now sue EPA to set national ambient air quality standards (NAAQS) for CO2. The Court has forbidden EPA to consider cost when setting NAAQS. The potential for economic harm is vast.”

Note also how this outcome is a direct consequence of trying to politically manage an issue when the legal and policy situation demands that clear, authoritative positions be staked out.

That is the same reason that Europe insists that the US will join Kyoto – they actually say that whoever succeeds President Bush will sign a new, even more severe treaty! Even if true, um, we signed the old one…your problem isn’t Bush, it’s that the Senate wants nothing to do with this scheme.  

We have helped keep that thing hanging around when otherwise it would already be just a bad memory on its way to the ash heap of failed Grand Ideas, simply because the Senate won’t vote on it, Bush won’t press the issue, and no one wants to say that we are not going to join any so-called “legally binding” scheme whereby we would be the only ones ultimately legally bound by it – forget the “but gee maybe if China and India sign up too” line being touted on the Hill; that particular equity argument doesn’t cure what’s really the problem: such a scheme isn’t called for, it is technically impossible to satisfy – controlling atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases, at some level that the UN won’t say until we’re on board but which in truth doesn’t matter (see below), and as it’s designed its a US-specific disaster even if it were in order.  

Heck, one other court (in the 9th Circuit, of course) actually just cited Gore’s movie in determining that an enviro pressure group lawsuit over climate change should be allowed to proceed! Great. Let’s cite it here, to point out as does Gore that atmospheric concentrations go way, way up, and way, way down, naturally, such that it is a truism that Man cannot reverse or control, but only contribute at the margins to, concentrations.

It is (long past) time the administration (and Congress) stop worrying about the sensitivities of pressure groups and how a hostile press will caricature them, and just stake out what’s in the US’s best interests. This SCOTUS opinion affirms that: had EPA simply pointed out the scientific uncertainties, ab initio – after all, what are we spending billions on every year? – and that even if they demanded that the US de-industrialize it wouldn’t detectably influence global climate, we wouldn’t be sitting here today confronting this. So now’s the time.

Not “What’s Happening,” But “What Do We Do About It?”



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The New York Times’ review of Brian Doherty’s history of libertarianism, Radicals for Capitalism, says that the Cato institute (and, implicitly, other libertarians) is “struggling to persuade people that global warming… is a hoax.”  Except, of course, that, as David Boaz notes, Cato isn’t saying that.  Liberals often accuse conservatives and libertarians of being stuck in the past on global warming, but these days, it’s liberals who’re behind the times.  The debate these days isn’t nearly so much about whether global warming is happening (although there is still disagreement over what factors contribute to it), it’s whether or not it will be catastrophic, and what we can and should do about it with regards to public policy.  

SCOTUS Delivers a Headache to the White House



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WaPo, EU Cheerleader



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The Washington Post ran a piece yesterday breaking the seal on establishment (outside of Gore) discussion about the dreaded T-word…tax, as in carbon tax. They note the Clinton effort to adopt a Btu tax in 1993, a debacle that led Al Gore recently to attribute the Democrats’ loss of Congress the next year in part to this. This is worth remembering, as any tax honestly seeking to now pursue the climate change agenda, instead of simply picking up where the energy-tax ideologues left off when defeated in ‘93, would be on a much grander scale, as (I believe) would the subsequent political defeat.

Regardless, not all was kosher with the WaPo treatment of the issue, as noted in the following letter sent to the editor this morning which, if our mutual history is any guide, will never grace the eyes of any readers outside of Planet Gore. Despite providing fans of cap-and-trade generally and Europe’s specific experiment with such a scheme, a forum to tout its wonders, they fail to provide the reader any sense of the reality of such claims, which do not survive scrutiny:

To the Editors,

 

In a piece dedicated to the merits of a trading scheme for carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions, one which included intimations of a “guarantee the emissions will go down” under such a regime (Fred Krupp of Environmental Defense) and outright assertions that Europe’s attempt at this “is functioning very well” (EU Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas), the dog-that-didn’t-bark was The Post offering no assessment of the real-world evidence about such premises’ validity. (“Tax on carbon Emissions Gains Support”, Sunday 1st April 2007, p. A5). This is particularly odd given that the piece ran merely two days after publication of 2006 emission figures for most of Europe, which demonstrated that emissions continue to rise in countries covered by this program.

 

According to figures published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration and International Energy Agency, EU carbon dioxide emissions have risen at a rate twice as fast as those in the U.S. since the Kyoto Protocol was agreed (1997), and the performance gap is widening. This is despite Europe’s “cap-and-trade” scheme coming on top of energy taxes massively higher than those anywhere in the U.S. In truth, since Kyoto was agreed emissions continue to rise everywhere, including even more rapidly in Europe in subsequent years than before the treaty despite routinely boastful rhetoric to the contrary.

Judges Matter



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I think I’ll cite the Coca-cola ads in my comments against listing the Polar Bear under the Endangered Species Act. The greens won’t stand a chance. It’s a good thing this guy wasn’t around to hear the Titanic litigation. Or that unpleasantness over the Towering Inferno.

The San Francisco Chronicle and the Associated Press
Federal judge allows global warming lawsuit to advance
By SCOTT LINDLAW

Saturday, March 31, 2007
San Francisco (AP) — Citing Al Gore’s movie on global warming, a federal judge has advanced a lawsuit against the government for its financing of overseas projects that may contribute to climate change.
The Bush administration had argued last year that the “alleged impacts of global climate change are too remote and speculative” to require the sort of environmental review for foreign projects sought by environmental groups and four U.S. cities.


But U.S. District Judge Jeffrey White on Friday allowed the lawsuit to proceed against two federal development agencies that insure billions of dollars of U.S. investors’ money for foreign projects, among them power plants that emit greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide.


White accepted the plaintiffs’ argument that the National Environmental Policy Act, or NEPA — the law requiring environmental assessments of proposed projects in the United States — can apply to the U.S.-backed projects overseas. The environmental groups and cities argue the overseas projects harm the U.S. environment because the effects of global warming will be felt at home.


The judge also rejected the administration’s arguments that the agencies — the Overseas Private Investment Corp. and the Export-Import Bank of the United States — are exempt from NEPA.


However, White did not rule on the question of whether the projects at issue constitute “major federal action” that would significantly affect the environment — an important criteria for NEPA. White said he did not have enough evidence on that question.
The projects include a pipeline from Chad to Cameroon; oil and natural gas projects in Russia, Mexico, Venezuela and Indonesia; and a coal-fired power plant in China.
The plaintiffs say those projects and dozens of others received more than $32 billion in financial assistance, without first evaluating the projects’ global-warming impacts on the United States.


The lawsuit was brought by the environmental groups Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace, as well as Boulder, Colo., and the California cities of Oakland, Santa Monica and Arcata. Since it was filed in 2002, several of the projects have gotten well under way or have been completed.


Ronald Shems, a Vermont attorney representing the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit goes on in hopes that it can set ground rules for future overseas projects. If successful, the lawsuit also would promote transparency in NEPA, he said.


In court filings last year, the government had argued that the link between overseas energy projects and the U.S. weather changes predicted by the plaintiffs were “so remote there can be no meaningful NEPA analysis of potential impacts on the United States.”
More broadly, the government argued that “the alleged impacts of global climate change are too remote and speculative to require NEPA analysis.”


While White makes no direct judgment about the merits of global warming, he casts doubt on the administration’s assertion that disagreements remain about the connection between human activity and climate change.


“It would be difficult for the court to conclude that defendants have created a genuine dispute that (greenhouse gases) do not contribute to global warming,” White wrote.
In his ruling, White also cited increased attention on the issue in the news and entertainment media. Among them are Gore’s documentary on climate change, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and recent newspaper articles.


The case now either proceeds to trial on whether the projects represent “major federal action,” or the parties can appeal the judge’s ruling that he needs more evidence on that issue.


Norman L. Dean, executive director of Friends of the Earth, said the goal is to force the government to consider alternative energy sources when financing such projects. Eight percent of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide come from projects funded by the two agencies, he said.


“This decision is a step toward achieving our goal,” he said.


Spokesmen for the two government agencies did not respond to phone messages Saturday seeking comment.

It Came From Hollywood



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I’ve been thinking about John Travolta’s global warming comments after hearing several parties dismiss them as off-the-cuff remarks of such a sweet guy which ought to just be ignored. Well, can we make ignoring these comments a rule, not just an exception because he’s a nice guy? Would that it were the case that society (and particularly policymakers) ignored celebrity opinions, either the spontaneous or the scripted “I’m-not-just-an-artist-I’ve-got-things-to-say” shtick.

It isn’t. I first came to town with Washington still abuzz over Meryl Streep having weepily testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on what are otherwise complex matters of toxicology (during the Alar scam), which is of a kind with Jessica Lange, Jane Fonda and Sissy Spacek appearing before Congress to inform them of the plight of the American farmer (they made movies about it). The practice of treating celebrity opinion as facially worthy of consideration because they’re celebrities does not appear to be going away. Admittedly, Travolta’s comments appear to be received more as humorous, hypocritical novelty than most, but why are actors and crooners regularly asked these things in the first place?

[Note: yes, Michael Crichton has testified on global warming, though anyone familiar with this knows he’s possessed of more appropriate training and ability to substantively argue the matter than Al Gore. I suggest IMHO that writing a heavily sourced work – even if fiction – requires greater substantive grasp than acting out a script; it is for this reason that, say, Stephen Ambrose is more credible on D-Day than Tom Hanks (who, it is worth mentioning, actually has given serious consideration of the matter beyond producing related works).]

As such, let us address the inanity of these remarks – at their substance, not their source – which are quite in line with opinions expressed by the likes of Gore and most any member much of the entertainment community now falling over themselves to climb on board the trendy bandwagon of catastrophic man-made global warming. Like John Kerry.

According to London’s Evening Standard, Travolta sayeth:

“It [global warming] is a very valid issue,” Travolta declared. “I’m wondering if we need to think about other planets and dome cities.”

We need to think about relocating to other planets; this is a new way of saying that people face lifestyle changes. Notice the absence of a clothes-line or windmill on the aerial shot of his house, however. It is safe to say that, once again, we are talking about other people who face significant lifestyle change.

“Everyone [sic] can do their bit. But I don’t know if it’s not too late already. We have to think about alternative methods of fuel.”

Put up some windmills (somewhere else), move to Mars. It’s all good.

The concluding line, however, is what’s sticking in my craw.

“I’m probably not the best candidate to ask about global warming because I fly jets.

“I use them as a business tool though, as others do. I think it’s part of this industry – otherwise I couldn’t be here doing this and I wouldn’t be here now.”

You see, he has valid reasons for his energy use, no matter how profligate. We wouldn’t experience his premiers and public appearances but for this consumption, let alone his art. This betrays the underlying argument of all of the elite demand that we “do something”; all of those other people need to change things because — unlike with (particularly the noisiest) activists and hand wringers — their consumption is harmful and/or illegitimate.

It is this amazing detachment, liberally sprinkled with elite arrogance, that is so off-putting and explains the eye-rolls with which the public greets the policy stances of celebrities whose, e.g., product endorsements they otherwise appear to consider as valid. Though these outbursts are treated with seriousness – or, at minimum, opportunism – by the media, even Woman of the People Katie Couric gets it.

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