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Energy Dominance in the Midterm Elections

November 19, 2018

Climate Change Weekly #305

In the 2018 midterm elections, voters in several states cast ballots in favor of energy and natural gas development.

Alaskan voters rejected an initiative that would have placed new restrictions on dam building, mining, and oil and gas development near salmon habitat across the state. The initiative was opposed by the natural resource industry, Alaska Native corporations, and unions, among other groups.

Similarly, Colorado voters rejected an initiative to dramatically restrict new oil and gas development on private and state lands. Initiative 97 would have required all new oil and gas wells to be at least 2,500 feet away from permanent structures, up from the current 500 feet from homes or other occupied dwellings and 1,000 feet from schools. Colorado residents made a smart decision. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission issued a report revealing the expanded distance requirement would cause up to 147,800 lost jobs, a $147.6 billion reduction in personal income, and a $9 billion loss in state and local tax revenue by 2030.

Arizona voters rejected out-of-state billionaire carpetbagger Tom Steyer’s attempt to export California’s energy policies to the Grand Canyon State. The initiative would have required 50 percent of Arizona’s electricity to be generated from renewable sources by 2030. Some economic analyses estimate Arizona families would have paid an additional $2,100 per year for electricity if the initiative had passed. Arizona voters apparently recognized the renewable sources required by the initiative would be expensive and unreliable.

Washington state voters showed common sense in rejecting a proposed tax on carbon dioxide. Initiative 1631 would have made the Evergreen State the first in the nation to impose a tax on carbon dioxide emissions: a $15 per metric ton tax on commercial, industrial, and transportation-related carbon dioxide emissions, increasing by $2 per ton every year until the state reduced carbon dioxide emissions 50 percent below 1990 levels. Every credible analysis showed the tax would have resulted in major job losses as companies fled the state or closed due to lower-cost competition from companies out of state.

Despite Washington voters rejecting a similar carbon dioxide tax initiative in the 2016 election, anti-fossil-fuel zealots resurrected the bloodsucking carbon dioxide tax like a vampire in a bad horror movie. Voters once again drove a stake through the initiative’s heart. Let’s hope it sticks this time.

Although voters in Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, and Washington made smart energy choices at the voting booth, voters in the Silver State did not do so.

On election night, the modest blue wave crested in Nevada, where Democrats largely swept the major races for public office.

The high turnout of Democrat voters is likely responsible for the fact Nevada voters approved a Steyer-backed constitutional amendment to force utilities to ensure 50 percent of the electric power they provide comes from renewable sources by 2030. Voters approved Question 6 even though their electric bills have risen by 11 percent over the past five years partly because of the state’s existing renewable energy mandate. Furthermore, a 2013 study by the Nevada Policy Research Institute revealed producing 25 percent of Nevada’s electric power from renewable sources would likely raise power prices by an additional 11 percent and cost the state more than 3,000 jobs. The recently approved 50 percent renewable energy mandate will wreak even more economic havoc on in the Silver State.

The good news is Nevadans have an opportunity to correct their mistake. Under a unique state law, any constitutional amendment must pass in two consecutive elections to be ratified. This means voters must also approve the renewable mandate amendment again in the 2020 election. Let’s hope Nevada voters regain their energy sanity before then.

On the national stage, as Heartland Institute Senior Fellow James Taylor predicted, the congressional Climate Solutions Caucus (CSC) took a hit in the midterm elections. Before the election, the bipartisan CSC had 86 members, with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans. CSC supported economically costly, ineffective, taxes on carbon dioxide that have consistently been rejected by a majority of Republicans in the House and Senate.

In an October report, Taylor said Republican CSC members could face a backlash from their constituents for embracing climate alarmism, a view out of step with the majority of the Republican base. Taylor’s warning was prescient. Fourteen of the 43 Republican CSC members, including caucus cofounder Rep. Carlos Curbelo (R-FL) lost their reelection bids. Seven Republican CSC members retired—five of whom were replaced by Democrats—and one caucus member was ousted in the primary. As a result, CSC lost more than half of its Republican members.

Polls consistently show climate change ranks last or second to last on voters’ list of concerns, meaning it is likely rarely a deciding factor in a candidate’s election prospects. It is almost certainly the case, however, that Republicans who joined CSC, some in a transparently craven attempt to appear moderate to independent voters, lost more votes from their Republican base by their CSC membership than they gained from independents, especially given that the Democratic candidates they were running against were climate alarmists themselves. With a few House elections yet to be determined, it is instructive that two-thirds of the 30 or so seats Republicans lost in the 2018 midterms belonged to CSC members.

Any action to fight supposed human-caused climate change at the federal level would have be bipartisan, even more so now with the House and Senate controlled by different parties. That means the loss of more than half of the Republican CSC members diminishes, rather than increases, the chances of Congress passing climate legislation.

  • H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: The Heartland Institute; Ballotpedia


IN THIS ISSUE …

IPCC’s ‘cartoonishly’ costly climate war Humans not responsible for alpine glacier declineAustralia, Japan, reject ending coal


IPCC’S ‘CARTOONISHLY’ COSTLY CLIMATE WAR

On October 7, 2018 the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its latest report on the purported threats from human-induced climate change. IPCC’s report said the world needed to be at net-zero carbon dioxide emissions by 2050 in order to avoid disaster from a more than 1.5 degree Celsius rise in temperature by the end of the century.

On MasterResource, Mark Krebs, an engineer and efficiency program designer, dissected IPCC’s claims high carbon taxes or fees would produce huge benefits. Krebs notes IPCC’s “report went to great lengths estimating the environmental costs of climate change and the benefits (including economic benefits) from implementing their ‘findings,’ but never analyzed the economic costs of their proposed taxes.” IPCC estimates avoiding “catastrophic anthropogenic global warming” requires governments to impose carbon dioxide taxes of between $135 and $5,500 per metric ton.

Krebs shows such an exorbitantly high tax on fossil fuels would cause far more harm than the ills it is intended to (but may well not) prevent.

The October 11, 2018 E&E News CLIMATEWIRE published an article noting the ridiculousness of the proposed carbon tax, “A $5K carbon tax sparks questions—and laughter (subscription required).” The story quoted Institute for Energy Research President Tom Pyle saying, “Taxing carbon at the levels proposed in this report would make humanity trillions of dollars poorer, causing far more damage to economic growth than it might alleviate in terms of climate change…. The size of the proposed carbon tax is cartoonishly large.”

Krebs’ analysis demonstrates how true Pyle statement is.

In March 2018, the International Energy Association reported global energy-related carbon emissions alone had risen to 32.5 gigatons in 2017—a historic high.

“One gigaton is equal to 1,000,000,000 metric tons. At $5,500 per metric ton (feasible per the IPCC special report), the cost per gigaton would be $5,500 Trillion per year. And at the IPCC’s low end of $135 per ton, the cost is $135 Trillion per year. Now multiply the above costs … by 32.5 to get the total cost per year of a global carbon tax,” writes Krebs.

Even the low-end $135 per ton tax on carbon dioxide emissions—the minimum tax IPCC estimates is needed avert climate catastrophe—dwarves world GDP, which the International Monetary Fund reported was $79.9 trillion in 2017 and expects will rise to 108.5 trillion in 2022. Of course, IMF’s estimate of future GDP assumes the continued use of fossil fuels.

Based on this analysis, Krebs concludes IPCC’s climate policy prescriptions mean “We have to destroy the global economy to save it.”

SOURCE: MasterResource


HUMANS NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ALPINE GLACIER DECLINE

People wedded to the theory human activities are causing dangerous climate change have blamed the significant decline of many mountain glaciers around the world over the past 150 years on industrialization. However, new research from the Paul Scherrer Institute—Switzerland’s largest research center for engineering, environmental, and health sciences—shows the dramatic melting of alpine glaciers began before the Industrial Revolution took hold in the middle of the nineteenth century. Many researchers have asserted alpine glacial retreat began around 1860 as factories and trains began burning coal for fuel, increasing the volume of soot and smoke falling on glaciers, which, when warmed by the sun, caused them to melt.

Examining a variety of glaciers in the Swiss Alps between the cantons of Bern and Valais, Scherrer Institute researchers found 80 percent of the glacial retreat experienced in the region occurred before 1875, before the levels of soot in the air began to rise above historical background levels across Central Europe from industrialization, and long before human civilization began significantly adding greenhouse gases into the atmosphere after the 1950s.

Alpine glaciers reached their peak during the middle of the Little Ice Age, which lasted from 1300 to 1870, and this research shows they began to decline even before most scientists say it officially ended. The decline accelerated just before and after the Little Ice Age ended.

SOURCE: Swiss Info


AUSTRALIA, JAPAN, REJECT ENDING COAL

Reports indicate Australia and Japan are scaling back their commitments to cut carbon dioxide emissions by ending the use of coal for electric power generation. Their governments’ decisions to continue the use of coal to generate electricity arrive despite the IPCC’s recent report saying governments must make steeper emission reductions than they promised under the Paris climate accord, in part by ending the use of fossil fuels by 2050, if not before.

The BBC and SBS News report Australia’s Deputy Prime Minister and its Environment Minister have both said the country would maintain its use of coal and continue mining and exporting coal for use by other countries, despite the IPCC report.

Coal generated approximately 62 per cent of Australia’s electricity in 2016 and 2017, while renewable sources such as hydro, solar, and wind generated only 15.6 per cent of the country’s electric power.

Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack made it clear the Australian government will not force utilities to phase out their use of coal in the near future. “I'm very much supportive of the coal industry,” McCormack told Sky News on October 8. “I understand the IPCC report, and I'll certainly consider what it has to say, but the fact is coal mining does play an important part of our energy mix in Australia and will do so going forward.”

Japan has also indicated it would be impossible for it cease using coal to generate electricity by 2050.

Japan’s ambassador to Australia, Sumio Kusaka, said Japan will need to increase its use of coal in the immediate future, regardless of the IPCC’s report.

“I am aware the recent IPCC report contains some firm recommendations in relation to coal,” Kusaka told The Australian. “However, Japan is a country with very limited resources of its own, and bearing in mind our energy-security requirements, it would be difficult for us to eliminate coal-fired power altogether.”

Kusaka said Japan, which was the largest importer of Australian coal for electric power generation in 2017, would continue to buy coal from Australia to secure its energy needs in the coming decades.

SOURCES: SBS News; BBC News; Global Warming Policy Forum

Author
H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. is a Heartland senior fellow on environmental policy and the managing editor of Environment & Climate News.
hsburnett@heartland.org