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Competing to Impose Expensive Energy on Residents

The whole notion of states’ competing to lead the nation in offshore wind, as reported in an AP article by Providence Journal alum Philip Marcelo, is strange.  This isn’t an attempt to woo companies to the state, whether through a mere personal touch or millions in taxpayer subsidies; it’s explicitly an effort to force electrical customers (i.e., everybody) to fund the industry:

A state law passed last year to boost Massachusetts’ use of renewable energy outlines the process for developing offshore wind power.

The law calls for generating at least 1,600 megawatts of power, roughly enough electricity to power 750,000 homes annually, from offshore wind by 2027.

To accomplish this, the utilities are required to secure long-term contracts with wind farm developers in at least two phases: a bid request this June and another in 2019.

Treating this as some sort of positive competition reveals a certain tint of ideological glasses.

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We Won’t Always Have Paris, Thank Goodness

In light of Dan Yorke’s surprising incredulity that Mike Stenhouse would be satisfied with President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, I was happy to come across Roger Kimball’s shared glee over the withdrawal and the ensuing lunacy from the Left:

Hysteria on the Left was universal. But as many cooler-headed commentators observed, one of the really amusing things is that the Paris Accord means exactly nothing. Since it requires nothing of its signatories, it will yield nothing from them. As an editorial in The Wall Street Journal pointed out, “amid the outrage, the aggrieved still haven’t gotten around to resolving the central Paris contradiction, which is that it promises to be Earth-saving but fails on its own terms. It is a pledge of phony progress.”

Kimball offers two things that Paris does do, though.  First is offering people an opportunity for cheap-to-them virtue signaling.

The second reason for the hysteria follows from the one serious effect of the climate accord. It has nothing to do with saving the environment. Every candid observer understands that the real end of the accord is not helping “the environment” but handicapping the developed countries. At its core, the accord is intended as a mechanism to redistribute wealth by hampering countries like the United States from exploiting its energy resources and growing its economy. Hamstring the United States, but let countries like China and India—industrial strength polluters, both—do whatever they want.

Like many international agreements, the unspoken subtext of the Paris Climate Accord is “hamper America. Grab as much of its wealth as you can. Say it’s in the name of ‘fairness.’”

The irony is that the Left is throwing around terms like “traitorous” and “betrayal,” which makes me think of Indiana Jones.  Kimball quotes left-wing billionaire political activist Tom Steyer on the first term; I’ve noted our own Senator Sheldon Whitehouse’s using the second, conspicuously just a few days after the mega-donor’s statement.  And yet, they’re using those words to describe an action that, from the perspective of many conservatives, puts working Americans’ interests first.

That’s a strange sort of betrayal, if your loyalty is to Americans.

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The Other Side in Battling Climates

RI Center for Freedom & Prosperity CEO Mike Stenhouse appeared on Dan Yorke State of Mind this week to talk about the Center’s Family Prosperity Index (FPI) release, but inasmuch as he followed a segment criticizing President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate change accords, he tied the two together thus:

The one thing that’s missing from all [your previous guests’] discussions you heard was how this impacts real people and real families.  There’s this mythical — I don’t think the professor can prove that there’s “catastrophic” climate change coming — there’s this mythical problem we’ve created of this catastrophe.  Maybe the temperatures are rising, but is it a catastrophe?

What we do know is that it drives all these crazy energy policies, like the carbon tax, like energy mandates, that are driving up energy rates on families and businesses, that are driving people out of this state.  Do you know that in those 12-year periods, we’ve lost the equivalent of 11 cities and towns worth of people to net migration loss.

The costs of energy and other taxes and regulations are so high on businesses and families that they’re fleeing our state.  Eighty thousand people.  That’s 11 of our smaller cities and towns gone.

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The New England-Based Energy Supply Shrinks

From an aesthetic and health point of view, Michael Holtzman’s Fall River Herald report certainly doesn’t bother me:

“The decision is irreversible,” a spokesman for Brayton Point Power Station, along 300 acres fronting Mount Hope Bay, told The Herald News in an hour-long phone interview.

It’s “the permanent retirement” of coal-powered Brayton Point, not “mothballing” the 1,488-megawatt plant, said David Onufer, external communications and media relations manager for Houston-based Dynegy Inc.

Still, we need energy.  Right now, thanks largely to fracking, we’re enjoying a period of relatively cheap energy, but that could change.  If it does, the effect will be analogous to the increase of interest rates after a household has put itself into a great deal of debt during a time of cheap credit.

As a society, we’ve let environmental concerns rise up on the scale relative to the production of energy and all of the uses to which we put it.  Some crisis may or may not shock us to the realization that we went too far, but clearing the landscape of existing energy sources while blocking anything that isn’t a fashionable, subsidized, “green” alternative seems reckless on its face.

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Regulating for Profit

Such stories as this, in the Providence Journal, should read less like celebrations of newfound revenue and more like lamentations of tyranny:

Volkswagen is paying more than $157 million to 10 states to settle environmental lawsuits over the company’s diesel emissions-cheating scandal. …

Volkswagen has admitted to programming its diesel engines to activate pollution controls during government treadmill tests and turning them off for roadway driving.

So some states imposed harsh restrictions on cars, and one company cheated.  (More specifically, one company has been caught cheating.)  As a results those states are getting windfall slush money to splash around.

What huge incentive for states to over-regulate everything!  Environmental policy is especially ripe for this sort of abuse, and one can see why governments want so badly for there to be a looming environmental catastrophe to justify its confiscation of money and assault on rights.

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Human Advancement Is the Greatest Material Benefit for Mankind and the Planet

Ronald Bailey notes in Reason that human ingenuity, more than draconian restrictions on our freedom, is advancing U.S. environmental health:

The International Energy Agency is reporting data showing that economic growth is being increasingly decoupled from carbon dioxide emissions. Basically, human beings are using less carbon dioxide intensive fuels to produce more goods and services. The IEA attributes the relatively steep drop in U.S. emissions largely to the ongoing switch by electric generating companies from coal to cheap natural gas produced using fracking from shale deposits. Renewals also contributed a bit to the decline.

Yes, you could argue that the pressure from environmentalists and regulators pushed the energy industry to make the investment in alternatives, although I’d be skeptical and also argue that radical environmentalism has been a net negative even then.  Even without that argument, though, we must acknowledge that, if safeguarding the planet really is our goal, allowing humanity to advance is a critical part of the strategy. And it keeps our lives improving, too. Win-win.

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Dismissing Factual Claims About the Atmosphere Isn’t Science

Jeff Jacoby has a great column in the Boston Globe about the reasonableness of doubt about extreme climate change claims:

Yet for all the hyperventilating, Pruitt’s answer to the question he was asked — whether carbon dioxide is the climate’s “primary control knob” — was entirely sound. “We don’t know that yet,” he said. We don’t. CO2 is certainly a heat-trapping greenhouse gas, but hardly the primary one: Water vapor accounts for about 95 percent of greenhouse gases. By contrast, carbon dioxide is only a trace component in the atmosphere: about 400 ppm (parts per million), or 0.04 percent. Moreover, its warming impact decreases sharply after the first 20 or 30 ppm. Adding more CO2 molecules to the atmosphere is like painting over a red wall with white paint — the first coat does most of the work of concealing the red. A second coat of paint has much less of an effect, while adding a third or fourth coat has almost no impact at all.

This paragraph reminds me of the time I spent my half hour lunch break from construction sitting in my van on a snowy day arguing back and forth with a PolitiFact journalist about his bogus rating for Republican Congressional Candidate John Loughlin related to global warming.  I forget the specifics, but key was the notion that 94% of greenhouse gases are natural, most of it water vapor.  It’s a notion I first encountered in this 2007 Anchor Rising post by Monique (which she raised as a reminder for years afterwards, as you can see by searching “6%” here).

The reporter took much the same rhetorical approach as those who’ve attacked Pruitt and (I’m sure) Jacoby: dismissal, mockery, and scorn.  As fun as DMS may be, it isn’t science, and it shouldn’t be a basis for public policy that affects people across the globe.

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Subsidized Wind Fights for No Taxes

Although it is unfortunately not online, a March 8 Newport Daily News story by Marcia Pobzeznik raises an interesting controversy involving a wind turbine in Tiverton.  Like all green energy installations, the turbine is heavily subsidized, and it is arguably more so, in this case, because it is part of the affordable housing development at Sandywoods Farm.  That hasn’t made the owners shy about wanting to skirt their tax bill.

According to Tiverton’s tax assessor, David Robert, the turbine is worth $395,000 and is taxed accordingly at $7,560 annually.  Church Community Housing Corp., the owner of the development, is arguing that the turbine should be exempt from taxation because the energy is sold at retail.  There, if I’m understanding the article correctly, is the rub:

The electricity generated by the turbine is sold to National Grid per an agreement signed on May 9, 2011. The 275-kilowatt turbine’s output would “offset some, but less than all of the projected on-site usage” of the housing development, according to the agreement that Sandywoods shared with the Tax Assessment Board of Review.

Because of the way the transaction is structured — with the turbine owner receiving a check from National Grid and being charged separately for its own energy — the lawyer for the development argues that it is, indeed, selling the energy.

One suspects that, even to the extent the general public pays attention to public policy, most people wouldn’t think it matters whether a turbine owner gets a reduction on his or her bill or just a check that offsets energy usage.  With green energy, affordable housing, and any government-subsidized activity, though, one must always assume there to be a scheme.

Just another reason to stop all subsidies.

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Against Being Fair in Foolishness on Energy

The snow coming down, leaving us inside with our heating systems and, for many, the comfort of generators should things get that heavy, creates an excellent atmosphere in which to read Stephen Moore’s thoughts on why “Europe’s Lesson Teaches Us: Don’t Go Green.” Moore also touches on the impetus to make the United States green, too:

So very quietly, Europe and other nations aren’t going so green anymore. The EU spent an estimated $750 billion on green energy handouts over the past decade and what it has bought for that is a doubling of its power costs.

This has given American steel, auto, light manufacturing, agriculture, and technology firms a big competitive edge in world markets.  This is why European nations and Australia are understandably desperate for the U.S. to move to the same green energy policies that they adopted years ago.

Just as it’s in Russia’s interests to bankroll an American anti-fracking movement, the elites of Europe, who have pushed their countries too far toward fashionable energy programs, have reason to pressure the United States to hobble its own economy.  If Europeans were to demand that their leaders put the well-being of workers and families first and loosen their regulations, many in the United States would cheer them on, but our own elites shouldn’t expect us to sacrifice our workers and our families to make us fair in foolishness.

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Another Way Activists Manipulate Government

Here’s a key part of a recent article by Kimberley Strassel, of the Wall Street Journal, profiling President Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) director, Scott Pruit:

Speaking of lawsuits, Mr. Pruitt says he plans to end the practice known as “sue and settle.” That’s when a federal agency invites a lawsuit from an ideologically sympathetic group, with the intent to immediately settle. The goal is to hand the litigators a policy victory through the courts—thereby avoiding the rule-making process, transparency and public criticism. The Obama administration used lawsuits over carbon emissions as its pretext to create climate regulations.

“There is a time and place to sometimes resolve litigation,” Mr. Pruitt allows. “But don’t use the judicial process to bypass accountability.” Some conservatives have suggested the same tactic might be useful now that Republicans are in charge. “That’s not going to happen,” he insists. “Regulation through litigation is simply wrong.” Instead, Mr. Pruitt says, the EPA will return to a rule-making by the book. “We need to end this practice of issuing guidance, to get around the rule-making procedure. Or rushing things through, playing games on the timing.”

There are way too many ways for activists to slip changes into the law without the awareness of a voting public that can’t possibly keep track of it all or, even if we could track it, select candidates to correct specific problems on the vast field of government activity.  That’s why it’s entirely appropriate to elect executives who see themselves in opposition to the bureaucracy itself.

Don’t forget, by the way, that the activists moving policy through “sue and settle” also tend to take home a decent paycheck courtesy of the government, like the ACLU lawyers who sued Rhode Island over the UHIP debacle.

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Some Day, My Prince … Er, Cheap, Green Energy Will Come

You may have been keeping half an eye on the proposed power plant that a firm called Invenergy would like to build in Burrillville. Friday, the Providence Journal reported that

Invenergy has failed to sell the second half of the power output of its proposed fossil fuel-burning power plant in Burrillville to the regional electric grid.

Opponents of the proposed plant understandably view this development as good news. However, it is not a fatal blow for the proposed power plant, as the article notes.

Further along, the article also notes that New England has had 4,200 megawatts of generating capacity taken off line (my observation: this happened in large part due to out-of-control EPA regulations by the Obama administration), and another 6,000 megawatts are at risk of going off line. Accordingly, many of us are concerned about the cost and continued adequate supply of electricity.

Environmentalists believe they have the answer.

But opponents of the plant say that renewable sources can fill in any need for new power in New England.

Yikes. Sorry, no, that is simply not the case.

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Reminder: Low Energy Costs Are Good!

Contrary to the implicit beliefs of environmentalist zealots, this is a good thing:

… rates for all of 2016 were generally low throughout New England. Mild weather and the lowest natural gas prices since 1999 drove overall wholesale energy prices to their lowest point since 2003, according to Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO-New England, the operator of the regional power grid.

Despite the fact that low energy costs help people, especially the poor and working class, the Left wants to close down power plants, like the one at Brayton Point in Somerset and to prevent new sources of energy, like the proposed natural gas plant in Burrillville.

Unfortunately, it isn’t clear that the general public makes the connection between environmentalism and energy prices strongly enough for a reasonable balance to overcome heated rhetoric and numbers games.

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The EPA Restricts Lifeboats While Driving into an Energy Iceberg

Ah, the tender extremism of the Environmental Protection Agency, as John Daniel Davidson writes on The Federalist:

… now comes the federal government to tell the inhabitants of Alaska’s interior that, really, they should not be building fires to keep themselves warm during the winter. The New York Times reports the Environmental Protection Agency could soon declare the Alaskan cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, which have a combined population of about 100,000, in “serious” noncompliance of the Clean Air Act early next year.

Read the whole thing, but in sum, according to Davidson this is a local problem isolated to an area that people can choose to leave.  The writer, for one, is willing to take the health risks associated with some wood-fire-related pollution for the benefits of life in the area, but the distant federal government isn’t willing to allow him that option.

Like much progressive, big-government action, the effect of this regulation (intentional or not) will be to limit the places humanity can settle… except, naturally, those privileged few with money to burn.  To be sure, it must be difficult for federal bureaucracies to tell people how to live their lives when we’re so spread out into the wilderness.

Indeed, one finds it difficult not to see a deliberate restriction of human freedom if the picture combines Davidson’s explanation of the energy challenges in the region…

Heating oil is too expensive for a lot of people, and natural gas isn’t available.

… with the EPA’s restrictions and President Barack Obama’s imperial ban on oil drilling along Alaska’s coast.

In The Titanic, one passenger laments that there aren’t enough lifeboats for half of the passengers, and the movie’s wealthy villain proclaims that it won’t be “the better half” who are stranded.  Think of government as a crew both steering toward an iceberg and restricting access to escape and you’ll have something of the sense of how progressive policies function.

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Rhode Island “Company of the Year” (and State Ward) Already Has a Broken Turbine

Much to the detriment of the state’s rate payers, Deepwater Wind began generating electricity on December 12. Less than three weeks later, one of its five turbines broke (oopsie). As though wind energy isn’t already expensive enough, now we have to add the cost of making repairs thirteen miles out on the ocean. (‘Cause the cost of water and seawater-related repairs is always very reasonable, right, boat owners …?)

It probably was not a coincidence that the company made this embarrassing admission on a day – the Friday before Christmas – sure to glean the absolute minimum amount of public attention.

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New York State Cuts 2017 Renewable Energy Target by 94%

The big dirty little secret about renewable energy is that it is very expensive. Pointing to the “extraordinarily poor value” of return BY THE EPA’S OWN STANDARD in carbon footprint reduction, the Rhode Island Center for Freedom and Prosperity earlier this year called on the State of Rhode Island to significantly roll back renewable energy mandates.

Fast forward to last week. The Empire Center for Public Policy’s Kenneth Girardin alertly spotted that the State of New York has done almost exactly that for 2017.

The state Public Service Commission has quietly reduced the amount of renewable energy that utilities will have to purchase next year by 94 percent, according to PSC documents.

Kudos to New York for quietly modifying their mandate to conform with reality, even if it’s just for one year. For the sake of their already over-burdened ratepayers who have no obligation to fund pointless, feel-good, very expensive energy sources, Rhode Island and all other states need to follow suit, and not just for one year.

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Unlike the Tea Party, the EPA Is a Government Agency

By now, the Trump transition team has promised that it has “properly counseled” the staffer who asked for names of people involved in certain of the Environmental Protection Agency’s activities, but it remains a telling incident:

The official said questions about professional society memberships and websites that staff at the Energy Department’s national laboratories maintain or contribute to could raise questions about Trump’s commitment to scientific independence – a fundamental tenet at the agency. …

Democrats have called the questionnaire a modern-day political witch hunt that could have a chilling impact on federal workers.

Gee.  If anything, that sounds less aggressive and presumptuous than the Obama administration’s treatment of Tea Party groups in the run-up to his reelection campaign.  The main difference: Those were private citizens being harassed by the IRS on the president’s behalf.  If there’s any harassment with the EPA request, it’s the people’s elected president harassing out-of-control agencies.  That’s kind of how representative democracy ought to work.

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