Friday, February 27, 2009

How the electric power lobby remains out of touch on global warming

President Obama has made it clear that he wants action now to reduce global warming pollution. And key members of Congress are rallying around ideas that would force polluters to pay for carbon permits rather than allow the polluters to receive them for free.

So what's the strategy of the electric power lobby?

Why just re-package the same old strategy of delay.

For an analysis of the Edison Electric Institute's plan, see the Clean Air Watch report, Too Little, Too Late, at

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Federal appeals court: Bush blew it on particle soot decision

In a stunning rebuke to the former Bush administration, a federal appeals court today said the EPA had acted illegally in setting weak national clean air standards for particle soot.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ordered the EPA to go back to the drawing board and set standards based on science.

Those of you who followed this issue will remember that Those of you who followed this case may recall that the EPA ignored the advice of the vast majority of the agency’s science advisers and set a weak standard based on political science, not real science. The Bush administration tried, illegally and covertly, to keep the costs down for its big polluting financial contributors.

In the process, it left many millions of Americans exposed to the prospect of disease and premature death.

This is a real chance for the EPA to get it right, and to set standards that are truly based on the need to protect people’s health.

Here is the decision:

Excerpts from the decision:

Because the agency promulgated standards for fine particulate matter that were,
in several respects, contrary to law and unsupported by adequately reasoned
decisionmaking, we grant the petitions for review in part and remand those
standards to the agency for further proceedings….

The EPA failed to explain adequately why an annual level of 15 μg/m3 is “requisite to protect the public health,” including the health of vulnerable subpopulations,
while providing “an adequate margin of safety.” 42 U.S.C. §

In Part III we grant in full the petition for review of
the secondary NAAQS for fine PM brought by the environmental groups and remand them to the EPA for reconsideration. The EPA unreasonably concluded that the
NAAQS are adequate to protect the public welfare from adverse effects on

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Science update: Who's giving George Will advice on global warming?

We’ve seen some interesting nonsense lately from the crowd that would like to block limits on global warming emissions. You may recall that earlier this month, Rep. “Smokey” Joe Barton of Texas told his congressional colleagues that “another ice age” was looming:

A similar bogus claim has been put into circulation by alleged “pundit” George Will. In a commentary published Sunday in The Washington Post,
and )

One of his most egregious comments:

“As global levels of sea ice declined last year, many
experts said this was evidence of man-made global warming. Since September,
however, the increase in sea ice has been the fastest change, either up or down,
since 1979, when satellite record-keeping began. According to the University
of Illinois' Arctic Climate Research Center, global sea ice levels now equal
those of 1979.”

Only a few hours after Will’s column was published the University of Illinois’ Arctic Climate Research Center shot back seeking to correct the record:

“We do not know where George Will is getting his information, but our data
shows that on February 15, 1979, global sea ice area was 16.79 million sq. km
and on February 15, 2009, global sea ice area was 15.45 million sq. km.
Therefore, global sea ice levels are 1.34 million sq. km less in February 2009
than in February 1979. This decrease in sea ice area is roughly equal to the
area of Texas, California, and Oklahoma combined.

“It is disturbing that the Washington Post would publish such information
without first checking the facts.”

As you might imagine, this has many activists in an uproar. Some are pushing Will and the Post to run a correction. (The Post’s editorial writer, Jonathan Capehart, has done an exemplary job on this and many other issues. Commentary by “pundits” such as Will apparently don’t go through much of a screening process – even though they end up becoming part of the DC debate. Wait until “Smokey Joe” sends out his next letter…)

Should you want to join their ranks, here is where you can email George Will (, Fred Hiatt (the Washington Post editorial page editor,, and Andy Alexander (the Washington Post Ombudsman,

But that doesn’t answer the question: where does a guy like Will get his information? (And does he ever get speaking fees from groups with an interest in such matters? His agent notes that his “fees vary depending on event location.” Unlike politicians, I don’t think “pundits” have to disclose who pays them…)

Maybe he will show up at the upcoming kook-fest, “Global Warming, Was It Ever Really A Crisis?” sponsored by the flat-earth society chapter known as the Heartland Institute.

Friday, February 13, 2009

EPA official: we may need to stimulate volcanoes to slow down global warming

We've heard from far-out talk in the past about trying various ways to slow down global warming, including trying to set off volcanic eruptions.
Yes, it sounds like vintage Ray Bradbury. But now the idea is getting blessed by a top U.S. Environmental Protection Agency scientist.

The topic of stimulating volcanoes (“Geoengineering”) is on pages 29 and 35 of the presentation by EPA's Frank Princiotta:

“…It is the author’s opinion to consider geoengineering options, which although radical in concept, could potentially buy the time we may need to make the necessary adjustments in our energy and industrial infrastructure.”

According to Inside EPA Weekly Report, the presentation was given earlier this month:

A high-ranking EPA official lays out in a new analytical paper key
technological and other mitigation options the United States and other countries
should pursue to delay the impacts of climate change in an effort to allow time
to develop other, more advanced technologies to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG)

Some of those technologies include a controversial concept called
"geoengineering," which amounts to the government simulating volcanic eruptions
by releasing massive quantities of sulfate particle into the stratosphere that
can cool the planet by reflecting solar rays.

The paper primarily consists of suggestions about how the government
should help research, develop and deploy advanced technologies in the power
generation, transportation, building, and industrial sectors to significantly
reduce GHG emissions over the coming decades.

The paper may help form the basis of future EPA strategies or
recommendations to Congress and other federal agencies regarding how the nation
should pursue and budget for GHG emission reductions at a massive scale, and
points to several areas where agency programs might be expanded to aid the

The paper, "Global Climate Change and the Mitigation Challenge," by
Frank Princiotta, EPA Office of Research & Development's (ORD) director of
the air pollution prevention and control division at the National Risk
Management Research Laboratory, has not been published but was outlined by
Princiotta at a major energy and environment conference earlier this

Friday, February 06, 2009

Who's trashing "green" jobs?

Would you be surprised if I told you it’s oil industry front groups, led by ex-aides to Tom DeLay and Dick Cheney?

From some of the grim details (including the utter cluelessness of CNN, which recently fired its entire environmental unit), see at

Thursday, February 05, 2009

The word from Smokey Joe Barton: "another ice age" looms

Just when you thought there was scientific consensus on global warming, a minority view raises its ugly head. In this case, both a political and scientific minority.

Republican Congressman Joe Barton of Texas, once christened “Smokey Joe” by the editorial page of the Dallas Morning News, is up to his old tricks.

In a “Dear Colleague” email to other members of Congress, Barton argues that “Climate Change Science is Not Settled,” and predicts a looming ice age.

This is all a rather obvious effort by Barton to undermine Henry Waxman’s stated goal to have the House Energy and Commerce Committee to adopt legislation by Memorial Day.

It might be a somewhat fashionable, if misleading, argument to make during a cold snap. But what will Barton say during a long, hot summer?

From: e-Dear Colleague Sent: Tuesday, February 03, 2009 12:17 PMTo: Environment: Dear Colleague: The Climate Change Debate is Still Open

The Climate Change Debate is Still Open
From: The Committee on Energy and Commerce - Minority StaffSent By: 2/3/2009
February 3, 2009


Dear Colleague:

I am writing to draw your attention to a January 30, 2009 op-ed by British environmental scientist David Bellamy and businessman Mark Duchamp. In this piece, the authors offer a surprising suggestion for the current climate change debate: global temperatures may, in fact, be largely influenced by factors other than carbon dioxide. What’s more, the earth’s climate history suggests another ice age is in the future, not necessarily a period of intense heat.

What these facts tell us is the debate on climate change is not over. Please take a moment to review their findings and consider their implications on current ideas for climate policy.


Joe Barton, Ranking Member
Committee on Energy and Commerce

The Washington Times
Friday, January 30, 2009

BELLAMY/DUCHAMP: World is getting colder
David J. Bellamy and Mark Duchamp

After the wet and cold centuries of the Little Ice Age (around 1550-1850 A.D.), the world's climate recuperated some warmth, but did not replicate the balmy period known as the Middle Age Warm Period (around 800-1300 A.D.), when the margins of Greenland were green and England had vineyards.

Climate began to cool again after World War II, for about 30 years. This is undisputed. The cooling occurred at a time when emissions of CO2 were rising sharply from the reconstruction effort and from unprecedented development. It is important to realize that.

By 1978 it had started to warm again, to everybody's relief. But two decades later, after the temperature peaked in 1998 under the influence of El Nino, climate stopped warming for eight years; and in 2007 entered a cooling phase marked by lower solar radiation and a reversal of the cycles of warm ocean temperature in the Atlantic and the Pacific. And here again, it is important to note that this new cooling period is occurring concurrently with an acceleration in CO2 emissions, caused by the emergence of two industrial giants: China and India.

To anyone analyzing this data with common sense, it is obvious that factors other than CO2 emissions are ruling the climate. And the same applies to other periods of the planet's history. Al Gore, in his famous movie "An Inconvenient Truth," had simply omitted to say that for the past 420,000 years that he cited as an example, rises in CO2 levels in the atmosphere always followed increases in global temperature by at least 800 years. It means that CO2 can't possibly be the cause of the warming cycles.

So, if it's not CO2, what is it that makes the world's temperature periodically rise and fall? The obvious answer is the sun, and sea currents in a subsidiary manner.

The tilt of Earth, the shape of Earth's orbit (distance to the sun), and Earth's "wobble" as it turns around the sun are all important factors in the cyclical recurrence of ice ages and interglacial periods. It has been observed that ice ages last about 100,000 years, and warm interglacials only 12,000. And within these warm periods, variations in solar activity cause shorter periods of less-pronounced warming and cooling.

There is no way to know for sure if the present cooling period will last several decades or 100,000 years. Russian scientists have just warned that a fully-blown ice age is not to be ruled out, as about 12,000 years have elapsed since the end of the last one.

Entering a new ice age would be a disaster for humanity: billions of people could die from lack of food, from the cold, and from the collapse of the world economy, social strife, war, etc.

And if what's ahead of us is only a little ice age, the consequences would still be pretty dire. World food reserves are already low, and we can barely feed the current population of the planet. Surfaces of arable land used for bio-fuels and biomass are increasing. Cool and wet summers would cause crop failures as they did in the Little Ice Age (as a result, starving Parisians had taken to the streets, soon sending their king to the guillotine). Winter frost would also bring its share of misery, destroying fruits and vegetables on a large scale.

Let's just hope we'll only have a few years of cooling, and that another warming period will follow. But it may be wishful thinking. In any case, there will be hardship during the cold cycle, whatever its length.

As President Obama takes office, and as the European Union is about to waste one trillion euros to de-carbonize the economy (in a bid to stop nonexistent man-made global warming) they would be well-advised to perform a reality check on what's currently happening to the climate. Talking to independent scientists about the positive properties of CO2 (plant food that enhances crops) would also be a good idea.

If they don't, we may be in for mass starvation. And let's not forget that the world population is increasing by about 78 million every year.

David J. Bellamy is a professor at three British universities and an officer in several conservation organizations. Mark Duchamp, a retired businessman, has investigated global- warming theory and written more than 100 articles.

Visit the e-Dear Colleague Service to manage your subscription to the available Issue and Party list(s).

Winds of change for coal burning... but will the U.S. Senate keep burning it?

The U.S. Justice Department has announced a "national initiative" to crack down on illegal coal burning. (See below.) And a power company in Montana has just cancelled plans to build a new coal-fired power plant. But will the U.S. Senate continue to tolerate coal burning in its own back yard -- at the ancient Capitol Power Plant? A sit-in protest is scheduled March 2. See excerpts below from today's Environment and Energy Daily.

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2009 (202) 514-2007
WWW.USDOJ.GOV TDD (202) 514-1888


Complaint Is Part of National Initiative to Stop Illegal Pollution from Coal-Fired Power Plants
WASHINGTON — The United States has filed a complaint against Westar Energy alleging that the company violated the Clean Air Act by making major modifications to the Jeffrey Energy Center, a coal-fired power plant in St. Marys, Kan., without also installing and operating modern pollution control equipment, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced today.

The complaint alleges that for more than a decade, the Jeffrey Energy Center has operated without the best available emissions-control technology required by the New Source Review provisions of the Clean Air Act to control emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, contributing to formation of fine particulate matter, smog and acid rain.

The lawsuit, filed by the Justice Department on behalf of the EPA, asks the court to order Westar Energy to install and operate appropriate air pollution control technology in order to substantially reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter emissions from the Jeffrey Energy Center. The United States also seeks civil penalties up to the maximum amount authorized by law, as well as actions by the energy provider to mitigate the adverse effects alleged to have been caused by the violations.

Coal-fired power plants collectively produce more pollution than any other industry in the United States. They account for nearly 70 percent of sulfur dioxide emissions each year and 20 percent of nitrogen oxides emissions. Emissions from coal-fired power plants have detrimental health effects on asthma sufferers, the elderly and children. Additionally, these emissions have been linked to forest degradation, waterway damage, reservoir contamination and deterioration of stone and copper in buildings.

To combat these adverse effects, the EPA and the Justice Department are pursuing a national initiative, targeting electric utilities whose coal-fired power plants violate the law. The suit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Kansas City, Kan.

# # #
COAL: Protestors reignite dispute over Capitol Power Plant (02/05/2009)
Robin Bravender, E&E reporter

A coalition of advocacy groups led by veteran environmental activists are planning a massive sit-in on Capitol Hill next month to protest the continued burning of coal at an aging plant owned by the federal government.

More than 40 advocacy groups have signed onto the cause, teaming up with environmental heavy-hitters such as NASA climatologist James Hansen, who has been warning Congress about global warming for more than 20 years, and activist and author Bill McKibben.

"It's a power plant that's in Congress' back yard operated by them," said Matt Leonard of Greenpeace, who is helping organize the March 2 sit-in. "This is an iconic symbol of the political stranglehold that coal has."

How to deal with the 98-year-old Capitol Power Plant, which sits three blocks south of the House office buildings, has been a thorny issue for years within Congress. Environmentalists and Washington, D.C., residents have continually called for the plant to stop burning the fossil fuel while lawmakers from coal-producing states have fought to symbolically keep the plant running.
Protesters are hoping Congress will set an example for the country by removing coal from the Capitol Power Plant...

Attempts to cut coal face high costs, Senate opposition

Under the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's (D-Calif.) Green the Capitol initiative, the House of Representatives has shifted from burning coal to burning natural gas for the percentage of hot and cool air that the House uses...

.The Senate Rules Committee held a hearing last June about the possibility of reducing the use of coal even further, but the Senate has not yet eliminated the fossil fuel from the mix (E&E Daily, June 16, 2008).

Possible hurdles to halting coal burning at the plant include high costs and opposition from coal-state lawmakers who have staunchly opposed similar measures in the past. The Capitol Power Plant would need a $7 million upgrade to allow it to burn more natural gas in place of coal, the acting architect of the Capitol told a Senate panel in June.

Plans to eliminate coal from the plant have also come under fire from coal state senators including Sen. Robert Byrd (D-W.Va.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).

"Sen. Byrd has been a supporter of the use of coal at the Capitol Hill power plant, but has also been an advocate of efforts to 'green' the Capitol campus," spokesman Jesse Jacobs said in an e-mail. Byrd has pushed to install carbon capture and storage technologies at the power plant, but a study last year determined that the plant was not suitable for such technology because of its location, Jacobs said.