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Good Riddance to Bad Clean Power Plan

October 13, 2017

Climate Change Weekly #265

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed a notice in the Federal Register it is rescinding former President Barack Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP)—providing more proof gridlock in the congressional swamp is not slowing President Donald Trump’s efforts to roll back ineffective and extremely costly climate programs.

EPA’s decision was not unexpected. Trump has repeatedly said the United States faces numerous problems more important than climate change, pledging to eliminate CPP as well as other climate regulations hampering economic growth and domestic energy development. As part of his March 28 “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” executive order, Trump directed EPA to review CPP and rescind or revise it, if necessary, to promote the wise development of natural resources, unencumber energy production, and enhance job growth.

EPA based the decision to rescind CPP on three main grounds: CPP is inconsistent with the 1970 Clean Air Act; CPP violated states’ authority to decide the best mix of power generation within their borders and eroded longstanding federal/state partnerships necessary to achieve environmental improvement; and enforcement of CPP would have had a devastating effect on jobs and raise energy costs for consumers while not preventing climate change.

CPP was the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s policy of moving the United States away from the use of fossil fuels, beginning with coal, in order to fight climate change. CPP would require states to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 32 percent below 2005 levels by 2030, on average.

To comply with the plan, states would have to force utilities to shutter dozens of coal-fired power plants prematurely. The Energy Information Administration had projected CPP would result in $1.23 trillion in lost GDP (in 2014 dollars) between 2020 and 2030, with an average annual GDP loss of $112 billion. Estimates indicate CPP would boost people’s electric bills 11 to 14 percent per year and cost more than 100,000 jobs in manufacturing and other sectors annually. Despite those substantial harms, the Obama administration acknowledged in testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology on July 9, 2015, if the United States met CPP’s emission reduction targets it would prevent at best 1/100th of one degree C of temperature rise by 2100—talk about all pain, no gain!

Twenty-seven states, led by West Virginia, and several industry groups and trade associations challenged CPP’s legality in federal court. In February 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court took the unprecedented step of ordering a nationwide stay on implementation of CPP before it went into effect, pending the outcome of the legal challenges.

By rescinding CPP, Trump is doing what he promised to do and what any president should do, putting Americans and American jobs first. While I applaud Trump’s action, I do so with a caveat: Unless Trump wants CPP or something like it reimposed by the courts, EPA must withdraw its endangerment finding.

CPP and other climate regulations imposed by the Obama administration were justified based on the endangerment finding: EPA’s determination carbon dioxide poses a threat to human health and the environment. Relying upon unsubstantiated projections produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, EPA determined carbon dioxide emissions from cars and industry threaten human welfare.

Environmental groups and some state government officials have already announced they will sue to keep CPP on the books. The endangerment finding is the lever they will use to do so.

As long as the endangerment finding exists, no climate regulation or rule Trump acts to rescind or block is truly dead. To solidify his climate deregulatory efforts Trump must direct EPA to reconsider its endangerment finding and demonstrate through independent, validated research that carbon dioxide emissions are toxic (which they aren’t at any foreseeable levels) or that global warming is causing measurable amounts of sea-level rise, increased hurricane numbers or intensity, the spread of disease, or other harms attributable directly to carbon dioxide emissions in the United States. If EPA can’t directly link such problems to U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, or can’t show such problems can be dramatically reduced by cutting U.S. carbon dioxide emissions, EPA should withdraw the endangerment finding.

Withdrawing the endangerment finding would end the legal justification for the panoply of climate regulations while ending radical environmental activists’ ability to use the courts to impose climate rules on an unwilling public whose elected representatives have repeatedly rejected climate policies.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: Environment & Climate News; The Heartland Institute; and Environmental Protection Agency


IN THIS ISSUE …

Plants improve water use in changing climateLittle Ice Age global and linked to the sunNat Geo puts science on the ash heapPeople making hurricane risk worse


HEARTLAND AMERICA FIRST ENERGY CONFERENCE ON HORIZON

The Heartland Institute is hosting an America First Energy Conference in Houston, Texas on November 9 at the JW Marriott Galleria. Speakers include Heartland’s new president, former Congressman Tim Huelskamp; University of Delaware climate scientist David Legates; Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry; and more. Registration for the event is $349.00 (including meals), visit http://americafirstenergy.org/register/ for more information.


PLANTS IMPROVE WATER USE IN CHANGING CLIMATE

Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences by an international team of researchers from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, the Imperial College London, Purdue University, Cornell University, and the Netherlands’ University of Groningen show plants are adapting to climate change by using water more efficiently. The researchers found plants have increased their water use efficiency, losing less water through their stoma during transpiration as carbon dioxide has increased over the past few decades. Because of this, the researchers conclude, with respect to the water needed for plants, including crop growth, “the biosphere has become less constrained by water stress globally.”

SOURCE: PNAS (behind paywall)


LITTLE ICE AGE GLOBAL AND LINKED TO THE SUN

A report in Science Daily confirms, contrary to many climate alarmists’ claims, the Little Ice Age between the early fifteenth and mid-nineteenth centuries was global, not regional, and driven by an unusually quiet solar period.

The team of researchers, from the Universities of Gloucestershire, Aberdeen, and Plymouth, analyzed peat from a bog near Ushuaia, Tierra del Fuego to reconstruct the climate record for South America for the past 3,000 years. Their data show “the most extreme cold phases of the Little Ice Age – in the mid-15th and then again in the early 18th centuries – were synchronous in Europe and South America,” corresponding to periods with extremely few sun spots.

Frank Chambers, Ph.D., head of the University of Gloucestershire’s Centre for Environmental Change and Quaternary Research and lead author of the report, told Science Daily:

Our study is significant because, while there are various different estimates for the start and end of the Little Ice Age in different regions of the world, our data show that the most extreme phases occurred at the same time in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. These extreme episodes were abrupt global events. … It seems that the sun’s quiescence was responsible for the most extreme phases of the Little Ice Age, implying that solar variability sometimes plays a significant role in climate change. A change in solar activity may also, for example, have contributed to the post Little Ice Age rise in global temperatures in the first half of the 20th Century. … [I]n light of our substantiation of the effects of ‘grand solar minima’ upon past global climates, it could be speculated that the current pausing of ‘Global Warming,’ which is frequently referenced by those skeptical of climate projections by the IPCC, might relate at least in part to a countervailing effect of reduced solar activity, as shown in the recent sunspot cycle.

SOURCE: Science Daily


NAT GEO PUTS SCIENCE ON THE ASH HEAP

A few months before the Trump administration announced an end to the federal government’s war on electricity generated by coal when it rescinded the Clean Power Plan, the National Geographic (Nat Geo) channel, supposedly a bastion of science journalism excellence, ran a biased, anti-coal propaganda piece, From the Ashes, falsely claiming coal is causing everything from health problems to climate change. A short “viewer’s guide” by James Rust and Edward Hudgins, released by The Heartland Institute, effectively falsifies many of the claims made in Nat Geo’s docuganda.

For example, From the Ashes misleadingly labels carbon dioxide, “carbon pollution.” However, as Rust and Hudgins point out, “Far from being a pollutant, CO2 is a naturally occurring gas that has been in the atmosphere for hundreds of millions of years, well before humans walked the planet. It is necessary for the cycle of life on Earth.”

Thousands of studies demonstrate higher concentrations of carbon dioxide increase plant growth and crop yields, which is why greenhouse operators add carbon dioxide when growing plants. By contrast, not a single study can show carbon dioxide is toxic to humans as current or anticipated levels.

While From the Ashes pushes the idea renewable energy sources can replace coal-fired power plants for electric power generation, the facts tell a different story. Rust and Hudgins show wind and solar power sources create their own environmental problems and cannot serve as reliable either baseload power or on-demand power, being dependent on the availability of sunlight and wind.

As Rust and Hudgins point out, perhaps we shouldn’t be too surprised Nat Geo’s piece is biased, since as a review of the program in Variety points out, “[t]he film is part of Michael Bloomberg’s environmental efforts, which have included a commitment of more than $100 million via Bloomberg Philanthropies to move the U.S. away from coal and toward clean energy.” Another key collaborator on Nat Geo’s film is the misanthropic Sierra Club. It seems Bloomberg got what he paid for in From the Ashes: a piece of anti-coal screed, not a serious examination of the benefits and costs of coal power or carbon dioxide.

SOURCE: The Heartland Institute


PEOPLE MAKING HURRICANE RISK WORSE

In a piece in the Financial Post, University of Guelph economics professor Ross McKitrick says Americans have contributed to the increasing damage caused by hurricanes, not by burning fossil fuels for energy and any spurious connection to climate change, but because people are increasingly moving to the coasts, leaving increasing numbers of them (and their property) at risk of harm when hurricanes make landfall.

“The formation of an Atlantic cyclone is a weather event, not a climate event,” McKitrick writes. “Hurricanes existed long before humans emitted [greenhouse gases]. A ‘climate event’ would be a multi-decadal change in their major characteristics. But this has not been observed.”

As McKitrick points out, in 1950 the South Atlantic and Gulf states of Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, South Carolina, and Texas—hurricane alley—had 12.3 percent of the U.S. population. A group of northern states “with four seasons and virtually no hurricane risk”— Massachusetts, Michigan Minnesota, Nebraska, and Wisconsin, and Nebraska—also had 12.3 percent of the U.S. population.

By 2015, the Gulf and South Atlantic states, which from 1950 experienced a population growth rate double the national average, comprised 21 percent of the U.S. population. The population of the northern states fell to 9.3 percent of the U.S. population. Apparently a large part of the U.S. population decided it prefers living in locales with a warmer but more hazardous climate to colder locations lacking beaches. Government policies exacerbate this coastal migration by subsidizing hurricane and flood insurance policies. Taxpayer-financed disaster relief lessens the personal costs to people who move to, and rebuild in, hurricane- and flood-prone areas.

SOURCE: The Financial Post

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