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Heartland, Other Groups Support Congressional Anti-Carbon Tax Efforts

May 11, 2018

Climate Change Weekly #285

House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-LA) and Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV) have introduced a sense of Congress resolution stating a carbon tax would harm the economy and should not be enacted. Scalise introduced a similar resolution in 2016, which passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 237 to 163 in favor of the resolution, with six Democrats joining the entire Republican caucus in supporting it.

Although the resolution is purely symbolic, I applaud the consistent, continued, very public effort to prevent any carbon tax from being enacted. There is no bill pending to impose a tax on carbon dioxide, nor is one likely in this Congress. When carbon taxes or similar bills capping carbon dioxide emissions have been considered in the past, they have either been rejected or failed to get a vote.

Having said this, Scalise and McKinley’s resolution is important at this time because a group of old-guard, “swamp” Republicans, including James Baker and George Shultz, have joined with anti-fossil fuel politicos such as Obama-era Secretary of Energy Steve Chu and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg to push a carbon tax.

President Donald Trump opposes a carbon tax and, if adopted, Scalise and McKinley’s resolution would put Congress on record as opposing one as well. The resolution states any carbon tax would result in myriad harms: “a carbon tax will increase energy prices, including the price of gasoline, electricity, natural gas, and home heating oil; … will mean that families and consumers will pay more for essentials like food, gasoline, and electricity; … will fall hardest on the poor, the elderly, and those on fixed incomes; … [and] will lead to more jobs and businesses moving overseas.

“Working with President Trump, this Congress is leading America toward energy dominance and strong economic growth, yet some liberal Washington special interests continue to pursue a radical agenda that includes imposing a job-killing carbon tax, which would raise costs on everything we buy from electricity and gasoline to food and everyday household products,” said Scalise in a press statement.

In the same press statement, McKinley added, “At a time when America has finally turned the corner and our economy is growing, the last thing we need is a tax that will take money out of the pockets of middle-class families.”

A group of 29 research institutes, legal foundations, and grassroots activist groups, including The Heartland Institute, submitted a letter to Congress supporting the resolution.

The letter noted multiple independent analyses have found a carbon tax would cost jobs, reduce economic growth, and harm the poorest the most. “A 2014 Heritage Foundation report found that a $37 per ton carbon tax would lead to a loss of more than $2.5 trillion in aggregate gross domestic product by 2030 … [or] more than $21,000 in income loss per family,” the letter states. “In addition, a carbon tax would cost over 500,000 jobs in manufacturing and more than one million jobs by 2030. According to a 2013 CBO report, a carbon tax is highly regressive.”

There is never a good time to enact bad policy, and a carbon-dioxide tax is one of the worst policies I can imagine.

— H. Sterling Burnett

SOURCES: U.S. Congress; Americans for Tax Reform


IN THIS ISSUE …

IPCC, climate models grossly overestimate warmingNY Gov. Cuomo accused by opponent of being soft on climateSouth Korean geothermal plant caused damaging earthquakeALEC task force adopts Heartland’s state oil, gas primacy resolution


IPCC, CLIMATE MODELS GROSSLY OVERESTIMATE WARMING

According to a new study in the Journal of Climate (JOC), the earth’s equilibrium climate sensitivity (ECS), the average temperature increase expected from a doubling of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere from preindustrial levels, is much lower than climate models assume. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) ECS estimated range is between 1 and 6 degrees Celsius with the most likely range being between 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius, with a mean estimate of 3.1 degrees Celsius.

Taking into account historical atmospheric and ocean temperature trends since the mid-19th century and recent research concerning the extent to which atmospheric ozone and aerosols affect global temperatures, climate researchers Nicholas Lewis and Judith Curry estimate the IPCC temperature projections are 30 to 45 percent higher than they should be.

“Our results imply that, for any future emissions scenario, future warming is likely to be substantially lower than the central computer model-simulated level projected by the IPCC, and highly unlikely to exceed that level,” Lewis said in a press release from the Global Warming Policy Forum discussing the JOC paper.

Lewis and Curry’s median ECS estimate is 1.66 degrees Celsius from a range of 1.15 to 2.7 degrees Celsius.

Reason magazine notes Lewis and Curry’s findings are consistent with recent estimates by other climate researchers. For instance, in a July 2017 Nature Climate Change article, climatologists Thorsten Mauritsen of the Max Planck Institute for Meteorology and Robert Pincus of the University of Colorado calculated an ECS median ECS estimate of 1.5 degrees Celsius from a range of .9 to 3.6 degrees Celsius.

SOURCES: Reason; Climate Etc.; Journal of Climate


NY GOV. CUOMO ACCUSED BY OPPONENT OF BEING SOFT ON CLIMATE

The 1994 movie Dumb and Dumber reminds me of the current race to become the next governor of New York (on the Democratic side at least), except if I made it into a movie it would be called “Crazy and Crazier.” New York’s Gov. Andrew Cuomo is a known climate alarmist and dedicated enemy of fossil fuel production. Cuomo banned fracking in New York state, hurting government coffers and shafting property owners in upstate New York. Subsequently, at Cuomo’s behest, the state offered solar companies nearly a billion dollars in subsidies, tax abatements, and other inducements to create a new factory in Buffalo New York. Then, Cuomo had the state’s Public Service Commission enact a new Clean Energy Standard in August 2016 without any legislative vote, requiring at least 50 percent of all the electricity sold in New York by its utilities to come from renewable generation sources by 2030. CES also requires the state’s utilities to reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 40 percent by 2030 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, a mandate known as “80 by 50.”

One might think these policies would cement Cuomo’s environmental credentials on the left, but not so. Cuomo now faces a challenge for the Democratic nomination for governor from actress Cynthia Nixon. Nixon says Cuomo has been soft on companies in the fossil fuel industry, writing on her campaign website, “Eight years ago, I voted for Andrew Cuomo because I believed he was a real Democrat. Our state could be a place where every single New Yorker has what we need to thrive, if only we could stop our governor from selling New York off to the highest bidder.”

Nixon backs up those fighting words with a loony energy plan. In her recently published “Agenda for a Clean Energy Economy and Climate Justice” Nixon one-ups Cuomo’s clean energy plan by committing to run the state entirely on 100 percent renewable energy by no later than 2050. As Nixon says in her new plan, Cuomo’s plan addressed carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector only, whereas “most of the emissions in New York come from buildings and transportation.” Nixon also pledges to halt all new investment in new fossil fuel plants and pipelines, instead providing more support for wind and solar power, and to “make corporate polluters pay for the damage their [sic, OMG] causing to our communities and our planet.”

There is an old saying from baseball, “from out of left field,” meaning something that is unexpectedly odd or strange. On climate issues, if Cuomo were a left fielder, he would already be playing with his back against the wall on the warning track. Nixon’s progressive challenge is from out beyond the bullpen, way out of the field of play. Cuomo’s efforts are hurting the state’s economy and increasing New York’s already high energy prices. Nixon’s plan would make a bad situation worse. I say, let them slug it out. States like my own will benefit if either of them wins, as energy prices continue to rise and businesses, seeking a better business climate, and residents, seeking lower energy prices and more and better jobs, increasingly flee New York.

SOURCES: Watts Up With That?; Cynthia for New York; The Heartland Institute; The Heartland Institute;


SOUTH KOREAN GEOTHERMAL PLANT CAUSED DAMAGING EARTHQUAKE

Two new studies published in Science indicate a geothermal power plant developed in Pohang, South Korea in an attempt to bring electric power to the country from a renewable source while emitting no carbon dioxide, is responsible for the second largest earthquake in modern South Korean history and the largest earthquake ever caused by a geothermal power plant.

The $38 million Pohang enhanced geothermal plant, which injects high-pressure water deep into the Earth where it’s heated by the hot granite crust before being pumped back up to heat homes and generate power, was supposed to produce enough carbon-free electricity to power 1,000 homes.

On November 15, 2017, a magnitude 5.5 earthquake rocked Pohang. The earthquake destroyed homes and cracked roads, resulting in more than $52 million in damages and 90 people being injured.

Geothermal power plants have been linked to small earthquakes on a few occasions previously, the largest being a 3.4 magnitude quake caused by the operations of an enhanced geothermal power plant in Basel, Switzerland, located in an area known to be geologically active. The southeast coast of South Korea, where the Pohang was constructed, was considered a safe place for the plant, being far from any known tectonic plates. Before the geothermal plant’s two wells were drilled, the area had never experienced a significant earthquake.

Seismic monitors deployed at Pohang by a team of researchers from South Korea’s Pusan National University—the authors of one of the Science papers—found the earthquake and several strong foreshocks all began directly beneath the well that injected water into the subsurface to create the plant’s heating reservoir. The researchers speculate the high-pressure water lubricated a previously unknown fault or crack in the underlying rock, causing it to slip and triggering the earthquake.

A team of European scientists, authors of the second Science paper, using regional seismic data and satellite measurement of surface movements, support the South Korean researchers’ conclusions, writing, “the locked fault was storing energy that was waiting to be released.”

The Pohang plant has been shut down for now.

SOURCES: Science; Science (behind a paywall); Science (behind a paywall)


ALEC TASK FORCE ADOPTS HEARTLAND’S STATE OIL, GAS PRIMACY RESOLUTION

Working with several other free-market groups, The Heartland Institute successfully encouraged state legislators and private sector members participating in the American Legislative Exchange Council’s (ALEC) 2018 Spring Task Force Summit to adopt a model resolution developed by Bette Grande, a research fellow at The Heartland Institute, titled “Resolution Supporting States’ Ability To Permit And Regulate Oil And Gas Development On Federal Lands Within Their Borders.”

In the quest to fight climate change, the federal government under President Barack Obama enacted various rules and regulations that substantially raised the cost of oil and gas development on federal lands. These Obama-era climate regulations resulted in a decline in federal oil and gas leases even while production was booming on private and state lands during the fracking revolution. On January 18, Sens. John Barrasso (R-WY) and John Hoeven (R-ND) reintroduced the Opportunities for the Nation and States to Harness Onshore Resources for Energy Act (ONSHORE Act) to empower states to manage the development of oil and gas on federal lands.

Barrasso says this bill is necessary to end duplicative, costly federal permitting requirements that discourage the development of fossil fuels.

“Punishing regulations and permitting delays have plagued the federal oil and gas permitting process for years,” Barrasso said in a press statement released when he offered the bill. “Our bill also eliminates unnecessary regulations and increases mineral revenue for states. This will spur job creation and economic growth across the country by creating an environment where American energy can flourish.”

The resolution Grande offered to ALEC’s Energy, Environment, and Agriculture (EEA) Task Force provides a model for states to adopt showing support for ONSHORE Act.

The resolution states, “Whereas, onshore energy development supports hundreds of thousands of American jobs, generates billions of dollars in government revenue annually, and lessens America’s dependence on overseas oil; and Whereas, the United States is estimated to have 5.3 billion barrels of proved oil reserves located on federal acreage onshore …; and Whereas, States know how best to utilize their land and natural resources, and their role in doing should be expanded; and Whereas, federal legislation, most notably the Opportunities for the Nation and States to Harness Onshore Resources for Energy (ONSHORE) Act, gives states greater responsibility and oversight for oil and gas development on federal lands within their borders; NOW, THEREFORE, LET IT BE RESOLVED that the [state legislature] hereby urges the President and Congress to work together to give states the authority to manage oil and gas permitting and regulations on federal lands within their borders.”

The EEA task force unanimously adopted The Heartland Institute resolution.

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

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