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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Global Warming With the Lid Off

The Wall Street Journal
November 24, 2009

Global Warming With the Lid Off

'The two MMs have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the U.K., I think I'll delete the file rather than send to anyone. . . . We also have a data protection act, which I will hide behind."

So apparently wrote Phil Jones, director of the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU) and one of the world's leading climate scientists, in a 2005 email to "Mike." Judging by the email thread, this refers to Michael Mann, director of the Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center. We found this nugget among the more than 3,000 emails and documents released last week after CRU's servers were hacked and messages among some of the world's most influential climatologists were published on the Internet.

The "two MMs" are almost certainly Stephen McIntyre and Ross McKitrick, two Canadians who have devoted years to seeking the raw data and codes used in climate graphs and models, then fact-checking the published conclusions—a painstaking task that strikes us as a public and scientific service. Mr. Jones did not return requests for comment and the university said it could not confirm that all the emails were authentic, though it acknowledged its servers were hacked.

Yet even a partial review of the emails is highly illuminating. In them, scientists appear to urge each other to present a "unified" view on the theory of man-made climate change while discussing the importance of the "common cause"; to advise each other on how to smooth over data so as not to compromise the favored hypothesis; to discuss ways to keep opposing views out of leading journals; and to give tips on how to "hide the decline" of temperature in certain inconvenient data.

Some of those mentioned in the emails have responded to our requests for comment by saying they must first chat with their lawyers. Others have offered legal threats and personal invective. Still others have said nothing at all. Those who have responded have insisted that the emails reveal nothing more than trivial data discrepancies and procedural debates.

Yet all of these nonresponses manage to underscore what may be the most revealing truth: That these scientists feel the public doesn't have a right to know the basis for their climate-change predictions, even as their governments prepare staggeringly expensive legislation in response to them.

Consider the following note that appears to have been sent by Mr. Jones to Mr. Mann in May 2008: "Mike, Can you delete any emails you may have had with Keith re AR4? Keith will do likewise. . . . Can you also email Gene and get him to do the same?" AR4 is shorthand for the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change's (IPCC) Fourth Assessment Report, presented in 2007 as the consensus view on how bad man-made climate change has supposedly become.

In another email that seems to have been sent in September 2007 to Eugene Wahl of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Paleoclimatology Program and to Caspar Ammann of the National Center for Atmospheric Research's Climate and Global Dynamics Division, Mr. Jones writes: "[T]ry and change the Received date! Don't give those skeptics something to amuse themselves with."

When deleting, doctoring or withholding information didn't work, Mr. Jones suggested an alternative in an August 2008 email to Gavin Schmidt of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, copied to Mr. Mann. "The FOI [Freedom of Information] line we're all using is this," he wrote. "IPCC is exempt from any countries FOI—the skeptics have been told this. Even though we . . . possibly hold relevant info the IPCC is not part of our remit (mission statement, aims etc) therefore we don't have an obligation to pass it on."

It also seems Mr. Mann and his friends weren't averse to blacklisting scientists who disputed some of their contentions, or journals that published their work. "I think we have to stop considering 'Climate Research' as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal," goes one email, apparently written by Mr. Mann to several recipients in March 2003. "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal."

Mr. Mann's main beef was that the journal had published several articles challenging aspects of the anthropogenic theory of global warming.

For the record, when we've asked Mr. Mann in the past about the charge that he and his colleagues suppress opposing views, he has said he "won't dignify that question with a response." Regarding our most recent queries about the hacked emails, he says he "did not manipulate any data in any conceivable way," but he otherwise refuses to answer specific questions. For the record, too, our purpose isn't to gainsay the probity of Mr. Mann's work, much less his right to remain silent.

However, we do now have hundreds of emails that give every appearance of testifying to concerted and coordinated efforts by leading climatologists to fit the data to their conclusions while attempting to silence and discredit their critics. In the department of inconvenient truths, this one surely deserves a closer look by the media, the U.S. Congress and other investigative bodies.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Settled Science

The Wall Street Journal
November 23, 2009

Settled Science?

Computer hackers reveal corruption behind the global-warming "consensus."

By JAMES TARANTO

"Officials at the University of East Anglia confirmed in a statement on Friday that files had been stolen from a university server and that the police had been brought in to investigate the breach," the New York Times reports. "They added, however, that they could not confirm that all the material circulating on the Internet was authentic." But some scientists have confirmed that their emails were quoted accurately.

The files--which can be downloaded here--surely have not been fully plumbed. The ZIP archive weighs in at just under 62 megabytes, or more than 157 MB when uncompressed. But bits that have already been analyzed, as the Washington Post reports, "reveal an intellectual circle that appears to feel very much under attack, and eager to punish its enemies":

In one e-mail, the center's director, Phil Jones, writes Pennsylvania State University's Michael E. Mann and questions whether the work of academics that question the link between human activities and global warming deserve to make it into the prestigious IPCC report, which represents the global consensus view on climate science.

"I can't see either of these papers being in the next IPCC report," Jones writes. "Kevin and I will keep them out somehow--even if we have to redefine what the peer-review literature is!"
In another, Jones and Mann discuss how they can pressure an academic journal not to accept the work of climate skeptics with whom they disagree. "Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal," Mann writes. . . .

Mann, who directs Penn State's Earth System Science Center, said the e-mails reflected the sort of "vigorous debate" researchers engage in before reaching scientific conclusions. "We shouldn't expect the sort of refined statements that scientists make when they're speaking in public," he said.

This is downright Orwellian. What the Post describes is not a vigorous debate but an attempt to suppress debate--to politicize the process of scientific inquiry so that it yields a predetermined result. This does not, in itself, prove the global warmists wrong. But it raises a glaring question: If they have the facts on their side, why do they need to resort to tactics of suppression and intimidation?

It is hard to see how this is anything less than a definitive refutation of the popular press's contention that global warmism is settled science--a contention that both the Times and the Post repeat in their articles on the revelations: "The evidence pointing to a growing human contribution to global warming is so widely accepted that the hacked material is unlikely to erode the overall argument," the Times claims. The Post leads its story by observing that "few U.S. politicians bother to question whether humans are changing the world's climate," and that "nearly three years ago the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change concluded the evidence was unequivocal." (As blogger Tom Maguire notes, this actually overstates even the IPCC's conclusions.)

The press's view on global warming rests on an appeal to authority: the consensus among scientists that it is real, dangerous and man-caused. But the authority of scientists rests on the integrity of the scientific process, and a "consensus" based on the suppression of alternative hypotheses is, quite simply, a fraudulent one.

Lawmakers Probe Climate Emails

The Wall Street Journal
November 23, 2009

Lawmakers Probe Climate Emails

By KEITH JOHNSON and GAUTAM NAIK

Congressional Republicans have started investigating climate scientists whose hacked emails suggest they tried to squelch dissenting views about global warming.

An aide to Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, said investigators are studying the documents, which unknown hackers stole last week from the computer of a prominent British climate-research center.

Investigators are focusing on the correspondence of White House Science Adviser John Holdren, he said. Dr. Holdren, a point man for the Obama administration on climate change, sent one of the hacked emails. In the 2003 email, Dr. Holdren, then at the Woods Hole Research Center in Woods Hole, Mass., defended research by Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University, a scientist who believes global warming is man-made and who also sent some of the hacked emails.
On Monday, Dr. Holden said: "I'm happy to stand by my contribution to this exchange. I think anybody who reads what I wrote in its entirety will find it a serious and balanced treatment of the question of 'burden of proof' in situations where science germane to public policy is in dispute."

The aide said investigators are also probing the contributions of dozens of climate scientists to reports published by the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The Environmental Protection Agency, in its recent move to boost regulation of greenhouse gases, based its conclusions on IPCC reports.

The IPCC has said the climate is heating up and humans are almost certainly to blame. Those who disagree that the globe is warming, or on the cause or extent of any warming, complain that their views have been excluded.

The documents, hacked from the Climatic Research Unit at East Anglia University in the U.K., show that some climate researchers declined to share their data with fellow scientists, and sought to keep researchers with dissenting views from publishing in leading scientific journals.
Separately, Sen. James Inhofe (R., Okla.), an outspoken critic of the view that humans are causing global warming, said that in light of the emails, he will call for an investigation into the state of climate science if the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works doesn't act soon.

Amid the furor over the released documents, more than two dozen climate scientists will release a report Tuesday arguing that the effects of man-made global warming have intensified in recent years.

One of them is Dr. Mann, director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State. In a 2003 response to an email complaining about a paper in the journal "Climate Research" which questioned assertions that the 20th century was abnormally warm, Dr. Mann wrote, "I think we have to stop considering 'Climate Research' as a legitimate peer-reviewed journal. Perhaps we should encourage our colleagues in the climate research community to no longer submit to, or cite papers in, this journal."

Dr. Mann said Monday that he didn't think there was anything wrong in telling his colleagues that "we shouldn't be publishing in a journal that's activist."

Police in the U.K. are continuing to investigate the attack, and the university there said Monday that it is conducting its own review.

Hans von Storch, editor at the time of "Climate Research," had his own objections to the paper mentioned by Dr. Mann, and resigned shortly after it was published, citing a breakdown in the peer-review process. But Dr. von Storch, now at the University of Hamburg's Meteorological Institute, said Monday that the behavior outlined in the hacked emails went too far.

East Anglia researchers "violated a fundamental principle of science," he said, by refusing to share data with other researchers. "They built a group to do gatekeeping, which is also totally unacceptable," he added. "They play science as a power game."—Guy Chazan contributed to this article.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Revenge of the Climate Laymen

The Wall Street Journal
November 18, 2009

Revenge of the Climate Laymen

Global warming's most dangerous apostate speaks out about the state of climate change science.

By ANNE JOLIS

Barack Obama conceded over the weekend that no successor to the Kyoto Protocol would be signed in Copenhagen next month. With that out of the way, it may be too much to hope that the climate change movement take a moment to reflect on the state of the science that is supposedly driving us toward a carbon-neutral future.

But should a moment for self-reflection arise, campaigners against climate change could do worse than take a look at the work of Stephen McIntyre, who has emerged as one of the climate change gang's Most Dangerous Apostates. The reason for this distinction? He checked the facts.

The retired Canadian businessman, whose self-described "auditing" a few years ago prompted a Congressional review of climate science, has once again thrown EnviroLand into a tailspin. In September, he revealed that a famous graph using tree rings to show unprecedented 20th century warming relies on thin data. Since its publication in 2000, University of East Anglia professor Keith Briffa's much-celebrated image has made star appearances everywhere from U.N. policy papers to activists' posters. Like other so-called "hockey stick" temperature graphs, it's an easy sell—one look and it seems Gadzooks! We're burning ourselves up!

"It was the belle of the ball," Mr. McIntyre told me on a recent phone call from Ontario. "Its dance card was full."

At least until Mr. McIntyre reported that the modern portion of that graph, which shows temperatures appearing to skyrocket in the last 100 years, relies on just 12 tree cores in Russia's Yamal region. When Mr. McIntyre presented a second graph, adding data from 34 tree cores from a nearby site, the temperature spike disappears.

Mr. Briffa denounces Mr. McIntyre's work as "demonstrably biased" because it uses "a narrower area and range of sample sites." He says he and his colleagues have now built a new chronology using still more data. Here, as in similar graphs by other researchers, the spike soars once again. Mr. McIntyre's "work has little implication for our published work or any other work that uses it," Mr. Briffa concludes.

He and his colleagues may well ignore Mr. McIntyre, but the rest of us shouldn't. While Mr. McIntyre's image may use data from fewer sites, it still has nearly three times as many tree cores representing the modern era as Mr. Briffa's original.

Yet Mr. McIntyre is first to admit his work is no bullet aimed at the heart of the theory of man-made climate change. Rather, his work—chronicled in papers co-written with environmental economist Ross McKitrick and more than 7,000 posts on his Climateaudit.org Weblog—does something much more important: It illustrates the uncertainty of a science presented as so infallible as to justify huge new taxes on rich countries along with bribes to poor ones in order to halt their fossil-fueled climbs to prosperity. Mr. McIntyre offers what many in the field do not: rigor.

It all started in 2002 when—as many might given the time and Mr. McIntyre's mathematics background—he decided to verify for himself the case for action on climate change.
"It was like a big crossword puzzle," he told me. "Business was a bit slow at the time, so I started reading up."

Prior to the Briffa graph revelation, he had also caught a statistical error that undercut another exalted "hockey stick" graph prominently featured by the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change or IPCC, this one by Michael Mann, head of Pennsylvania State University's Earth System Science Center. Alerts about review boards' seemingly lax standards litter his blog, highlighting in particular the IPCC, which has used both the Mann and Briffa graphs in its reports. In 2007, Mr. McIntyre found a technical gaffe that forced NASA to correct itself and admit that 1934, not 1998, was the warmest year recorded in the continental U.S.

"At the beginning I innocently assumed there would be due diligence for all this stuff. … So often my mouth would drop, when I realized no one had really looked into it."

Even more innocently, he assumed the billion-dollar climate change industry would welcome his untrained but painstaking work. Instead, Mr. McIntyre is subjected to every kind of venom—that he must be funded by Big Oil, by Big Business, by Some Texan Somewhere. For the record, the 62-year-old declares himself "past my best-by date, operating on my own nickel."

James Hansen, the director of NASA's Goddard Institute, has dismissed him as a "court jester." Mr. Mann replied to an emailed query about Mr. McIntyre by decrying "every specious contrarian claim and innuendo against me, my colleagues, and the science of climate change itself."

Others are more thick-skinned: "You mention his name in my community, people just smile. It's a one-liner to get a laugh out of a group of climate scientists," affirms Stanford University's Stephen Schneider.

One wonders what is so funny, when it is not only the Canadian hobbyist fueling skepticism, but also figures from the U.S. National Snow and Ice Data Center that now show thickening Arctic ice; from the U.K. Met (Meteorological) Office showing falling temperatures that contradict modeling predictions; and other studies that suggest natural factors in climate change are being dramatically underestimated.

Climatologists say they will only take Mr. McIntyre seriously if he creates his own temperature reconstructions and submits them for peer review. But the best science should stand up even to outside scrutiny. And if Mr. McIntyre has a credibility problem with climatologists, climatologists' predictions are increasingly viewed skeptically by the public.

A Pew report last month revealed that the number of Americans who believe humans are causing climate change has dropped 11 percentage points in the last 18 months to 36%; that the number who feel there is solid evidence that the earth is warming has fallen by 14 points to 57%; and that those who think the issue is "very serious" has sunk nine points to 35%.

Mr. McIntyre declares no interest in debunking The Theory in toto, nor in discouraging efficient energy use. His blog will disappoint those seeking anything more political than technical analyses.
In fairness, researchers are far from the loudest voices telling "skeptics" like Mr. McIntyre to sit down, shut up and surrender their lightbulbs without further question—that megaphone belongs to the politicians and activists pushing centrally-planned economies in the name of saving the Earth. Here, we see that contempt for laymen is not universal: Al Gore's ignorance is happily overlooked given his power to push billions in research funding. The same goes for Barack Obama, Leonardo DiCaprio, and everyone else declaring "the debate is over."

I asked 10 climatologists what they thought was the most reliable method of predicting climate, and got nearly as many answers. People in the field compare climate studies to health studies—another complex mechanism with uncontrollable factors, where best practices will always be debated.

Climate researchers know their prescriptions don't carry the certainty laymen assume from that which is labeled "science," yet most shy from a straightforward account of this uncertainty.
"Methods certainly need to be continually refined and improved. I doubt that anyone in the paleoclimate community would disagree with that," says Rob Wilson of the University of St. Andrews's School of Geography and Geosciences. "However, can the nuances of methodological developments be communicated to the laymen—and would they want to know? I do not think this would help."

Maybe not, but letting people feel duped by hyperbole is proving even more harmful to the warmers' cause.

"I never said I was proving or disproving anything…. I just don't think we should be thanking the people who make it harder to find out what's true," Mr. McIntyre says.

The climate establishment will probably never thank Mr. McIntyre, much less follow his example. The rest of us should do both.

Miss Jolis is an editorial page writer for The Wall Street Journal Europe.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Economic Uses of Al Gore

The Economic Uses of Al Gore

Sincerity is no substitute for disinterestedness.

By HOLMAN W. JENKINS, JR.

Last spring Tennessee Republican Rep. Marsha Blackburn asked Al Gore during a House hearing if his investments in green energy meant he would benefit personally from cap and trade.
"If you believe that the reason I have been working on this issue for 30 years is because of greed, you don't know me," Mr. Gore responded (and, yes, according to two reporters present, he sighed).

Mr. Gore is quite right that his arguments should be judged on their merits, not on his investments. He's wrong to think his investments are irrelevant, and, even more, that sincerity is dispositive of anything. Sincerity is no substitute for disinterestedness.

Here are a couple questions: When so much of his position and prestige are invested in a predicted climate crisis, is Mr. Gore likely to be open to contrary evidence? Is he likely to be particularly fastidious about whether proposed steps will actually have an effect on global warming if they also happen to benefit his investments?

Ms. Blackburn's challenge was in a sense late. Mr. Gore long ago jumped over to the side where salesmanship, by whatever means, was the trumping priority. As far back as 1989, he insisted there was "no dispute worthy of recognition" about the danger of manmade climate change. By now, he titularly heads a vast establishment with a stake in one side of the argument.

Notice, for instance, after a decade in which the earth appears to have stopped warming and even cooled, that global warming advocates have rushed to embrace a computer simulation that predicts this cooling (in retrospect, of course) and allows for indefinite future cooling, even while assuring that the world is destined to face disastrous warming anyway. Isn't this what forecasters of doom have done since time immemorial when their deadlines for doom haven't been met?

Mr. Gore's own predictions of a climate catastrophe have not lessened, but every time he opens his mouth, the costs of meeting the emergency become easier and easier to swallow. They aren't even costs anymore; as he says in his new book, they are "profits."

All policy salesmanship naturally defaults toward the proposition of huge benefits and negligible costs (i.e., free lunchism). Isn't that where Al Gore is today?

Mr. Gore notes that he has poured his own money into two climate action nonprofits, but, whatever his self-felt motives, aren't these nonprofits functionally propaganda arms (i.e., advertising) that benefit his for-profit investments?

The truth is, evidence of man's impact on climate remains maddeningly elusive, in part because man's impact on climate is so small as to be hard to disentangle from natural variability. This is not Mr. Gore's position, of course. If anything, however, the case for action has become less closed since he pronounced it closed in 1989, if only because of the huge sums and manpower poured into the subject to little avail.

In retrospect, a significant moment was the falling apart or debunking of two key attempts seemingly well-suited to clinch matters for a scientifically literate public. One, the famous hockey stick graph, which suggested the temperature rise of the past 100 years was unprecedentedly steep, was convincingly challenged. The other, a mining of the geological record to show past episodes of warming were sharply coupled with rising CO2 levels, fell victim to a closer look that revealed that past warmings had preceded rather than followed higher CO2 levels.

These episodes from a decade ago testified to one important thing: Even climate activists recognized a need for evidence from the real world. The endless invocation of computer models wasn't cutting it. Yet today the same circles are more dependent than ever on predictions made by models, whose forecasts lie far enough in the future that those who rely on them to make policy prescriptions are in no danger of being held accountable for their reliability.

For a while the media could patch over the scientific shortfall by reporting evidence of warming as if it were evidence of what causes warming. Inconveniently, however, just as temperature-measuring has become more standardized and disciplined and less reliant on flaky records from the past (massaged to the Nth degree), the warming trend seems to have faded from the recent record.

We could go on. But from our first column on this subject, we have been convinced that the scientific questions are interesting and irrelevant, since it was never in the cards that Western societies (or Brazil or India or China) would sacrifice economic growth for the uncertain benefits of fighting climate change. Unable to do anything meaningful about climate change, policy would therefore default to satisfying the demand of organized interests for climate pork.
Isn't that, however much he may be distracted by feelings of sincerity, exactly the economic function of Mr. Gore today?

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Poor Countries Won't Curb Emmissions

Uncommon Sense

Why Poor Countries Won't Curb Emissions

Forbes.com Shikha Dalmia

07.15.09, 12:01 AM EDT

If I were an environmental activist, I would be despairing right around now about ever getting meaningful action on global warming. Over the last eight years, eco-warriors had managed to convince themselves that the main obstacle to their grand designs to recalibrate the Earth's thermostat was a stupid and callow U.S. president unwilling to lead the rest of the world.

But with Barack Obama in office they no longer have that problem. In fact, they have a charismatic and savvy spokesman who combines a deep commitment to their cause with considerable powers of persuasion. Yet his call to action at last week's G-8 summit in Italy yielded little more than polite applause, and that only when he issued a mea culpa. "I know that in the past, the United States has sometimes fallen short of meeting our responsibilities," he said amid cheers. "So let me be clear: Those days are over."

What did this brave self-flagellation yield? To be sure, he got the attendees to collectively declare that they would never ever let the Earth's temperature rise two degrees centigrade from pre-industrial levels. This is supposedly a prelude to the real horse-trading over emissions cuts that will begin in a Copenhagen, Denmark, meeting this December.

But the depressing thing for climate warriors was that Obama could not get developing countries, without whose cooperation there is simply no way to avert climate change, to accept--even just in theory--the idea of binding emissions cuts. India's prime minister took the occasion to position his country as a major victim of a problem not of its making. "What we are witnessing today is the consequence [of] over two centuries of industrial activity and high-consumption lifestyles in the developed world," he lectured. "They have to bear this historical responsibility." And even before the summit began, China declared the West had "no right" to ask it to limit its economic growth.

Rather than engage with the issues, eco-pundits are grasping for all kinds of fanciful pseudo-scientific theories to explain why Obama's sweet-talking ways are leaving the rest of the world cold. New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, for instance, recently blamed the lack of progress on the faulty circuitry evolution has wired into the human brain. According to Kristof, evolution has programmed us to be alert to immediate threats, such as snakes, or enemies with clubs, but not for vastly greater but less imminent dangers that require forethought. If this sounds like a warmed-over, 21st-century version of the Calvinistic crooked-timber view of human nature, that's because it is.

Not to be outdone, Kristof's Nobel Prize-winning colleague at the Times, Paul Krugman, pulled out the folk story about the frog and the boiling pot in his latest column to explain our collective torpor over climate change. Just as the proverbial frog wasn't able to feel the gradually rising temperature before he boiled to death, so too, in Krugman's telling, human beings are not equipped to comprehend the dangers of an overheating planet before they fry to death.

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But this psychologizing only exposes the inability of climate activists to take seriously the rational case for inaction. In fact, there is a perfectly good reason developing countries are unwilling to act on climate change: What they are being asked to do is more awful than climate change's implications--even if one accepts all the alarmist predictions.

Consider what would be necessary to slash global greenhouse-gas emissions just 50% below 2000 levels by 2050--a far less aggressive goal than what the enviros say is necessary to avert climate catastrophe. According to U.S. Chamber of Commerce calculations, even if the West reduced its emissions by 80% below 2000 levels, developing countries would still have to return their emissions to 2000 levels to meet the 50% target. However, Indians currently consume roughly 15 times less energy per capita than Americans--and Chinese consume seven times less. Asking them, along with the rest of the developing world, to go back to 2000 emission levels with a 2050 population would mean putting them on a very drastic energy diet.

The human toll of this is unfathomable: It would require these countries to abandon plans to ever conquer poverty, of course. But beyond that it would require a major scaling back of living standards under which their middle classes--for whom three square meals, cars and air-conditioning are only now beginning to come within reach--would have to go back to subsistence living, and the hundreds of millions who are at subsistence would have to accept starvation.
In short, the choice for developing countries is between mass death due to the consequences of an overheated planet sometime in the distant future, and mass suicide due to imposed instant starvation right now. Is it any surprise that they are reluctant to jump on the global-warming bandwagon?

The Waxman-Markey climate change bill that just passed the U.S. House of Representatives wants to force developing countries to accept this fate by resorting to the old and tired method of protectionism. Should this monstrosity become law, starting in 2020 the United States will impose carbon tariffs on goods from any country that does not accept binding reductions. But this is a path to mutually assured economic destruction--not to combating climate change.

For starters, by 2020, when these tariffs go into effect, India and China--with GDPs projected to grow anywhere from 6% to 10% annually--will have much bigger economies with huge domestic markets that they are increasingly opening to each other. Thus they might well be better off forgoing access to the U.S. market than accepting crippling restrictions on their growth.

Also, by then they will also have more economic clout on the world stage to enforce their own ideas of who ought to take moral responsibility for climate change. The West's case for restricting Indian and Chinese exports rests on the claim that these countries' total emissions will exceed those from the West within the next few decades. (China's emissions are already at par with those of the U.S., the biggest emitter).

But these countries have, and will continue to have, far lower emissions on a per-capita basis, given that China's are now around one-fifth those of the United States and India's one-twentieth. Thus they would have an equally valid case for imposing countervailing restrictions on American exports based on per-capita emissions. The West might well be the bigger loser in this economic warfare if it is barred from accessing new, growing markets.

Obama obviously understands this--which is why he has condemned the House's turn down the protectionist path. So what should climate warriors do? Right now the only certain way to save lives is by calling off this misguided war on climate change. If and when climate change promises to claim more casualties than poverty and starvation, the world will begin heeding their calls. If, however, these climate-change casualties don't materialize, there would have been no need to act in the first place. Either way, the world has far more immediate and scarier problems than climate change to address right now.

Monday, July 6, 2009

EPA Silences a Climate Skeptic

Wall Street Journal
July 6, 2009

The EPA Silences a Climate Skeptic

The professional penalty for offering a contrary view to elites like Al Gore is a smear campaign.
By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL

Wherever Jim Hansen is right now -- whatever speech the "censored" NASA scientist is giving -- perhaps he'll find time to mention the plight of Alan Carlin. Though don't count on it.

Mr. Hansen, as everyone in this solar system knows, is the director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies. Starting in 2004, he launched a campaign against the Bush administration, claiming it was censoring his global-warming thoughts and fiddling with the science. It was all a bit of a hoot, given Mr. Hansen was already a world-famous devotee of the theory of man-made global warming, a reputation earned with some 1,400 speeches he'd given, many while working for Mr. Bush. But it gave Democrats a fun talking point, one the Obama team later picked up.

So much so that one of President Barack Obama's first acts was a memo to agencies demanding new transparency in government, and science. The nominee to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Lisa Jackson, joined in, exclaiming, "As administrator, I will ensure EPA's efforts to address the environmental crises of today are rooted in three fundamental values: science-based policies and program, adherence to the rule of law, and overwhelming transparency." In case anyone missed the point, Mr. Obama took another shot at his predecessors in April, vowing that "the days of science taking a backseat to ideology are over."

Except, that is, when it comes to Mr. Carlin, a senior analyst in the EPA's National Center for Environmental Economics and a 35-year veteran of the agency. In March, the Obama EPA prepared to engage the global-warming debate in an astounding new way, by issuing an "endangerment" finding on carbon. It establishes that carbon is a pollutant, and thereby gives the EPA the authority to regulate it -- even if Congress doesn't act.

Around this time, Mr. Carlin and a colleague presented a 98-page analysis arguing the agency should take another look, as the science behind man-made global warming is inconclusive at best. The analysis noted that global temperatures were on a downward trend. It pointed out problems with climate models. It highlighted new research that contradicts apocalyptic scenarios. "We believe our concerns and reservations are sufficiently important to warrant a serious review of the science by EPA," the report read.

The response to Mr. Carlin was an email from his boss, Al McGartland, forbidding him from "any direct communication" with anyone outside of his office with regard to his analysis. When Mr. Carlin tried again to disseminate his analysis, Mr. McGartland decreed: "The administrator and the administration have decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision. . . . I can only see one impact of your comments given where we are in the process, and that would be a very negative impact on our office." (Emphasis added.)

Mr. McGartland blasted yet another email: "With the endangerment finding nearly final, you need to move on to other issues and subjects. I don't want you to spend any additional EPA time on climate change. No papers, no research etc, at least until we see what EPA is going to do with Climate." Ideology? Nope, not here. Just us science folk. Honest.

The emails were unearthed by the Competitive Enterprise Institute. Republican officials are calling for an investigation; House Energy Committee ranking member Joe Barton sent a letter with pointed questions to Mrs. Jackson, which she's yet to answer. The EPA has issued defensive statements, claiming Mr. Carlin wasn't ignored. But there is no getting around that the Obama administration has flouted its own promises of transparency.

The Bush administration's great sin, for the record, was daring to issue reports that laid out the administration's official position on global warming. That the reports did not contain the most doomsday predictions led to howls that the Bush politicals were suppressing and ignoring career scientists.

The Carlin dustup falls into a murkier category. Unlike annual reports, the Obama EPA's endangerment finding is a policy act. As such, EPA is required to make public those agency documents that pertain to the decision, to allow for public comment. Court rulings say rulemaking records must include both "the evidence relied upon and the evidence discarded." In refusing to allow Mr. Carlin's study to be circulated, the agency essentially hid it from the docket.

Unable to defend the EPA's actions, the climate-change crew -- , led by anonymous EPA officials -- is doing what it does best: trashing Mr. Carlin as a "denier." He is, we are told, "only" an economist (he in fact holds a degree in physics from CalTech). It wasn't his "job" to look at this issue (he in fact works in an office tasked with "informing important policy decisions with sound economics and other sciences.") His study was full of sham science. (The majority of it in fact references peer-reviewed studies.) Where's Mr. Hansen and his defense of scientific freedom when you really need him?

Mr. Carlin is instead an explanation for why the science debate is little reported in this country. The professional penalty for offering a contrary view to elites like Al Gore is a smear campaign. The global-warming crowd likes to deride skeptics as the equivalent of the Catholic Church refusing to accept the Copernican theory. The irony is that, today, it is those who dare critique the new religion of human-induced climate change who face the Inquisition.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Carbonated Congress

Wall Street Journal

The Carbonated Congress

Orszag nails it: The 'largest corporate welfare program' ever.

July 4th, 2009

President Obama is calling the climate bill that the House passed last week an "extraordinary" achievement, and so it is. The 1,200-page wonder manages the supreme feat of being both hugely expensive while doing almost nothing to reduce carbon emissions.

The Washington press corps is playing the bill's 219-212 passage as a political triumph, even though one of five Democrats voted against it. The real story is what Speaker Nancy Pelosi, House baron Henry Waxman and the President himself had to concede to secure even that eyelash margin among the House's liberal majority. Not even Tom DeLay would have imagined the extravaganza of log-rolling, vote-buying, outright corporate bribes, side deals, subsidies and policy loopholes. Every green goal, even taken on its own terms, was watered down or given up for the sake of political rents.

Begin with the supposed point of the exercise -- i.e., creating an artificial scarcity of carbon in the name of climate change. The House trimmed Mr. Obama's favored 25% reduction by 2020 to 17% in order to win over Democrats leery of imposing a huge upfront tax on their constituents; then they raised the reduction to 83% in the out-years to placate the greens. Even that 17% is not binding, since it would be largely reached with so-called offsets, through which some businesses subsidize others to make emissions reductions that probably would have happened anyway.

Even if the law works as intended, over the next decade or two real U.S. greenhouse emissions might be reduced by 2% compared to business as usual. However, consumers would still face higher prices for electric power, transportation and most goods and services as this inefficient and indirect tax flowed down the energy chain.

The sound bite is that this policy would only cost households "a postage stamp a day." But that's true only as long as the program doesn't really cut emissions. The goal here is to tell voters they'll pay nothing in order to get the cap-and-tax bureaucracy in place -- even though the whole idea is to raise prices to change American behavior. At the same time -- wink, wink -- Democrats tell the greens they can tighten the emissions vise gradually over time.

Meanwhile, Congress had to bribe every business or interest that could afford a competent lobbyist. Carbon permits are valuable, yet the House says only 28% of the allowances would be auctioned off; the rest would be given away. In March, White House budget director Peter Orszag told Congress that "If you didn't auction the permit, it would represent the largest corporate welfare program that has ever been enacted in the history of the United States."
Naturally, Democrats did exactly that. To avoid windfall profits, they then chose to control prices, asking state regulators to require utilities to use the free permits to insulate ratepayers from price increases. (This also obviates the anticarbon incentives, but never mind.) Auctions would reduce political favoritism and interference, as well as provide revenue to cut taxes to offset higher energy costs. But auctions don't buy votes.

Then there was the peace treaty signed with Agriculture Chairman Colin Peterson, which banned the EPA from studying the carbon produced by corn ethanol and transferred farm emissions to the Ag Department, which mainly exists to defend farm subsidies. Not to mention the 310-page trade amendment that was introduced at 3:09 a.m. When Congress voted on the bill later that day, the House clerk didn't even have an official copy.

The revisions were demanded by coal-dependent Rust Belt Democrats to require tariffs on goods from countries that don't also reduce their emissions. Democrats were thus admitting that the critics are right that this new energy tax would send U.S. jobs overseas. But instead of voting no, their price for voting yes is to impose another tax on imports from China and India, among others. So a Smoot-Hawley green tariff is now official Democratic policy.

Mr. Obama's lobbyists first acquiesced to this tariff change to get the bill passed. Afterwards the President said he disliked "sending any protectionist signals" amid a world recession, but he refused to say whether this protectionism was enough to veto the bill. Then in a Saturday victory lap, he talked about green jobs and a new clean energy economy, but he made no reference to cap and trade -- no doubt because he knows that energy taxes are unpopular and that the bill faces an even tougher slog in the Senate.

Mr. Obama wants something tangible to take to the U.N. climate confab in Denmark in December, but the more important issue is what this exercise says about his approach to governance. The President seems to believe that the Carter and Clinton Presidencies failed by fighting too much with Democrats in Congress. So his solution is to abdicate his agenda to Congress -- first the stimulus, now cap and trade, and soon health care. We wish he had told us he was running to be Prime Minister.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Cooling the Global Economy

Will The Global Warming Bill Cool The Global Economy?

Nouriel Roubini, 07.02.09, Forbes Magazine

Last Friday, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the landmark American Clean Energy and Security Act by a narrow seven-vote margin, including 44 "no" votes from Democrats. The legislation, also known as Waxman-Markey (after its sponsors) or the "climate bill," will face an even tougher audience in the Senate, where it must meet a 60-vote threshold.

The Minnesota Supreme Court's decision to seat Al Franken in the Senate may add to the Democrats' leverage. The bill aims to cut 2005 emissions levels by 17% by 2020 and has at its core a cap-and-trade system that calls for mandatory caps on greenhouse gas emissions. Any companies wishing to emit above a certain level will need to purchase permits to do so.

Additionally, the bill requires large utilities to increase their use of renewable energies such as hydro, wind, solar and geothermal power generation.

The bill's passage by the House is historic and will likely increase President Obama's leverage in global climate negotiations as global leaders try to replace the soon-to-expire Kyoto Protocol. Detractors, though, point to its economic costs and the limited nature of the final legislation

How the Bill Works

At the heart of the bill is a cap-and-trade system, a market-based system that caps emissions at a certain level and allows large emitters to buy permits for additional emissions from other companies that emit less than the upper limit. The legislation calls for the number of permits to be reduced over time to encourage lower emissions. In practice, establishing a market for these permits will increase the cost of using carbon-based energy (especially electricity from coal), which will in turn reduce demand.

The revenue earned through auctioning would be distributed among households to offset the negative effect on their purchasing power from the higher cost of energy. Initial plans called for all, or at least a majority, of the permits to be auctioned, but the vote-getting process increased the number allocated. The bill passed by the House calls for 85% to be allocated and 15% to be auctioned. Some of the allocated permits will go to utility companies, the idea being that they will either invest the proceeds in renewable fuels or temper price increases for consumers. This change reduces the potential revenue generation of the policy and runs the risk that low electricity costs could actually encourage greater usage.

Cost Estimates

Estimates of the total economic costs of the U.S. cap-and-trade program have varied widely. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the net annual economic cost of the program in 2020 would be $22 billion--or about $175 per household. Analysis of the CBO results suggests that the implicit tax is relatively progressive. While this estimate has been accused of being understated (and it is worth noting that the Environmental Protection Agency came to an even lower estimate), it presented a baseline for analysis.

Other estimates put the ultimate cost much higher. An analysis from the Heritage Foundation concludes that the cap-and-trade system described in the bill would cost the economy $161 billion by 2020--or about $1,870 per household. Such estimates do not necessarily account for changes in the price of energy that would occur naturally as a lack of investment limits production of fossil-fuel-based energy.

Furthermore, they may not fully include the technological and efficiency gains that the current legislation hopes to encourage. For example, some of the allocations to utilities are granted with the expectation that they will be auctioned off and the proceeds will be used to fund renewable energy development. It's worth noting, however, that there's no guarantee the utilities will do this in practice.

Sector-by-Sector Impact

Where the U.S. is concerned, the likely impact of the new price for carbon varies by sector. Utilities are likely to be the most affected, especially in those regions that derive much of their power from coal-fired plants. The Midwest, the country's already-shrinking industrial and manufacturing base and the home of many of its coal-fired plants, seems particularly vulnerable. (The distribution of allowances in the legislation is intended to find the funds to improve competitiveness of coal plants.)

The effects on agriculture are also varied. Recent Deutsche Bank ( DB - news - people ) research suggests that no-till agriculture, which limits disturbance of the soil, as well as reforestation and planting of vegetative buffers, could derive significant carbon credits annually under a cap-and-trade regime. By some counts, up to 20% of U.S. carbon emissions come from the release of carbon dioxide from farmland.

However, the bill puts off to the future one contentious issue--the promotion of agricultural land to grow corn for ethanol, which critics suggest is very inefficient and contributed to global food shortages in 2008. The legislators also chose the Department of Agriculture, more likely to be sympathetic to farmers concerns, rather than the EPA, to be the regulator for approving carbon offsets.

The oil and metals sectors may also face vulnerabilities. Some analysts worry that emissions standards would encourage companies to keep inventories low and to import more refined fuels, contributing to idle capacity in U.S. refineries. However, it may also encourage the creation of cleaner processes or the development of carbon capture technologies, which are as yet far from being commercial. Overall, businesses have supported establishing a climate regime, given that clarity over regulatory responses is key to planning. However, there are still many uncertainties about how such a regime will be implemented.

Trade Concerns

There is also a growing fear that climate change policies could prompt trade protectionist policies. The risk that higher costs might accelerate a decline in the U.S. manufacturing base as more production is moved offshore has contributed to the suggestion that compensatory import taxes might be placed on carbon-intensive imported goods. President Obama, in saluting the bill's passage, did insist that the U.S. not discriminate against imports. Doing so might lead to retaliatory protectionism and a further hit to trade. In a report released last week, the World Trade Organization (WTO) suggested that import taxes might be WTO-compliant if they limit distortions. Paul Krugman suggests that the WTO's view is analogous to that for value added taxes.

However, Martin Feldstein notes that the system could be very complex. With different countries each having country-specific caps and different tariffs, it could be very difficult to assess how comparable the measures are and what remedies might be needed. Thus, the implications for international trade and trade law could be quite significant. Moreover, developing countries are petitioning for trade restrictions on carbon-reducing technologies to be lifted, or for technology transfer of such goods. The mostly advanced-economy companies who developed such expertise have been reluctant to cut prices.

Other Efficiency Steps

The administration's energy policy more broadly tries to offset potential costs with new opportunities and technological advances to boost productivity growth. It aims to generate 25% of U.S. energy from renewable sources by 2025, create "green jobs" and reduce dependence on imported oil. Projects to develop renewable fuels and improve the efficiency of the power grid received funding in the stimulus bill, in part to offset the impact of the triple shock of lower energy demand, lower credit and lower hydrocarbon prices on renewable producers. President Obama's team plans to spend $150 billion over the next decade to promote energy from solar, wind and other renewable sources, as well as energy conservation.

Other key steps include the May 2009 auto efficiency program, which requires the American fleet to increase to an average mileage standard of 39 miles per gallon (mpg) for cars and 30 mpg for trucks by 2016--a jump from the current average for all vehicles of 25 miles per gallon. Doing so would create a new national standard, after many states have unilaterally taken more aggressive steps. A national standard could make it easier for car companies to supply different jurisdictions.

Government estimates that oil consumption may fall 1.8 billion barrels from 2012 to 2016 and greenhouse gas emissions by 900 million metric tons could be overoptimistic. They may, however, be more effective than the recently announced "cash for clunkers" program in which consumers receive a rebate for a new, more fuel-efficient, vehicle if they turn in a gas guzzler. Yet the required fuel-efficiency increase is rather low (only 4 mpg), and the threshold is lower than the current national average.

As such, the latter policy, which has been effective in stoking auto demand in countries like China, Germany and South Korea, might have limited effect in the U.S. However, the effects of such incentives may be temporary. If they elapse without a sustained increase in consumption, demand for autos could fall quickly, especially in developed economies, which already have a high number of cars per household.

These initiatives together hope to reduce the amount of oil the U.S. imports. The bulk of energy imports (oil, gas and electricity) come not from the Middle East but from Canada. An increasing amount of the oil supplied is bitumen from the oil sands, which continues to bear an expensive environmental and economic cost per barrel under current technology. Bitumen's carbon footprint is improving, though, through technological innovation--and the fuel expended in transport is clearly lower than the amount needed to ship oil from Saudi Arabia. Yet there is still a long way to go.

Given the shift toward energy efficiency and lower-emissions fuel supply, Canadian authorities and producers are struggling to improve production so that their largest consumer will keep buying. On President Obama's visit to Ottawa, his first foreign trip as president, he and Prime Minister Harper announced joint investment in carbon capture technology, adding to funds already pledged by the province of Alberta. Such measures hope to help the U.S. meet energy security needs without adding to environmental insecurity. However, carbon capture technology is still far from being commercial.

One of the biggest benefits of this legislation is that it provides a mechanism to set a price for carbon over the mid-term. Doing so will help households and businesses make investment and savings decisions. However, economists have long argued that a carbon tax would be more efficient than a cap-and-trade system, as it would be less complex and vulnerable to distortions. A carbon tax would set a specific cost per unit of carbon dioxide, thus establishing a clear cost for carbon. A cap-and-trade system, on the other hand, would set an upper limit for emissions, but the prices it established for carbon might be variable. Of course, introducing new taxes is rarely popular, particularly not during a recession, even if the tax option would be more efficient and have lower compliance costs.

The European Union's experience with cap-and-trade over the past several years provides reason for caution. The first iteration of the policy issued too many permits, undermining demand. With prices for carbon low, so was the incentive to reduce emissions. A reformulation improved this balance, and emissions have been reduced, though European countries still have a significant space to reach their targets. The E.U. system allows companies to bank or store their allocations for the future or to borrow them from the future. The E.U. system also illustrates an effect of the global recession. The drastic reduction in industrial output has meant that many companies are producing well lower than their quotas and are seeking to sell their excess allocation. Several companies sought to raise cash by selling their carbon certificates, causing the price of carbon to plummet. A market-derived carbon price might actually be very volatile.

The Road to Copenhagen

World leaders will meet this December in Copenhagen to negotiate a replacement to the Kyoto Protocol, which expires in 2012. Kyoto aimed at reducing emissions of 1990 greenhouse gases levels by 5.2% by 2012. The range that is now being discussed is around 25% to 40% of 1990 levels by 2020. The previous U.S. administration withdrew from ratifying Kyoto, saying it deemed the protocol unfair for allocating reductions targets between developed and developing countries. The reluctance of emerging-market economies to make emissions cuts that might stunt their growth could again be an obstacle to a deal later this year.

The U.S. and China are the world's top two greenhouse gas emitters, together accounting for more than 40% of annual emissions. If the two can become catalysts in bringing about a strategic transformation to a low-carbon, sustainable global economy, the world will take a giant step forward in combating climate change. Given the complexities of global discussions, analysts like Kenneth Lieberthal suggest that climate change is yet another policy arena that could be best tackled by a G-2, that is bilateral talks by the two countries.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Worse than fiction

JUNE 6, 2009

Wall Street Journal

'Worse Than Fiction'

Global warming alarmists are fond of invoking the authority of experts against the skepticism of supposedly amateur detractors -- a.k.a. "deniers." So when one of those experts says that a recent report on the effects of climate change is "worse than fiction, it is a lie," the alarmists should, well, be alarmed.

The latest contretemps pits former U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, now president of the Geneva-based Global Humanitarian Forum, against Roger Pielke, Jr., an expert in disaster trends at the University of Colorado. Mr. Annan's outfit issued a lengthy report late last month warning that climate change-induced disasters, such as droughts and floods, kill 315,000 each year and cost $125 billion, numbers it says will rise to 500,000 dead and $340 billion by 2030. Adding to the gloom, Mr. Annan predicts "mass starvation, mass migration, and mass sickness" unless countries agree to "the most ambitious international agreement ever negotiated" at a meeting this year in Copenhagen.

Even on its own terms, the numbers here are a lot less scary when put into context. Malaria kills an estimated one million people a year, while AIDS claims an estimated two million. As for the economic costs, $125 billion is slightly less than the GDP of New Zealand. Question: Are targeted campaigns using proven methods to spare the world three million AIDS and malaria deaths a year a better use of scarce resources than a multitrillion-dollar attempt to re-engineer the global economy and save, at most, a tenth that number? We'd say yes.

But the Annan report deserves even closer scrutiny as an example of the sleight of hand that so often goes with the politics of global warming. Unlike starvation, climate change does not usually kill anyone directly. Instead, the study's authors assume a four-step chain of causation, beginning with increased emissions, moving to climate-change effects, thence to physical changes like melting glaciers and desertification, and finally arriving at human effects like malnutrition and "risk of instability and armed conflicts."

This is a heroic set of assumptions, even if you agree that emissions are causing adverse changes in climate. Take the supposedly heightened risk of conflict: The authors suggest that "inter-clan fighting in Somalia" is a product of climate change. A likelier explanation is the collapse of a functioning Somali government and the rise of jihadists in the region.

Enter Mr. Pielke, who, we hasten to add, does not speak for us (nor we for him). But given the headlines the Annan report has garnered, his views deserve amplification. Writing in the Prometheus science policy blog, Mr. Pielke calls the report a "methodological embarrassment" and a "poster child for how to lie with statistics" that "does a disservice" to those who take climate change issues seriously.

Mr. Pielke's critique begins by citing a recent peer-reviewed paper by three German researchers that "it is generally difficult to obtain valid quantitative findings about the role of socioeconomics and climate change in loss increases." Reasons for this, the researchers explain, include "the stochastic [random] nature of weather extremes, a shortage of quality data, and the role of various other potential factors that act in parallel and interact."

The report does admit to a "significant margin of error," but this hardly excuses the sloppiness of its methodology. "To get around the fact that there has been no attribution of the relationship of GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions and disasters," Mr. Pielke notes, the Annan "report engages in a very strange comparison of earthquake and weather disasters in 1980 and 2005. The first question that comes to mind is, why? They are comparing phenomena with many 'moving parts' over a short time frame, and attributing 100% of the resulting difference to human-caused climate change. This boggles the mind."

It gets worse. The Annan report cites Hurricane Katrina as a case study in the economic consequences of climate change. Yet there's not even remotely conclusive evidence that temperature increases have any effect on the intensity or frequency of hurricanes. The authors also claim that global warming is aggravating the El Niño effect, which has "ruined livelihoods, led to lost lives and impaired national economies." Yet new research "questions the notion that El Niños have been getting stronger because of global warming," according to Ben Giese of Texas A&M.

We could go on, except we're worried about the blood pressure of readers who are climate-change true believers. Our only question is, if the case for global warming is so open and shut, why the need for a report as disingenuous as Mr. Annan's?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Obama Reckless Endangerment

APRIL 24, 2009

Wall Street Journal

Reckless 'Endangerment'

The Obama EPA plays 'Dirty Harry' on cap and trade.President Obama's global warming agenda has been losing support in Congress, but why let an irritant like democratic consent interfere with saving the world? So last Friday the Environmental Protection Agency decided to put a gun to the head of Congress and play cap-and-trade roulette with the U.S. economy.

The pistol comes in the form of a ruling that carbon dioxide is a dangerous pollutant that threatens the public and therefore must be regulated under the 1970 Clean Air Act. This so-called "endangerment finding" sets the clock ticking on a vast array of taxes and regulation that EPA will have the power to impose across the economy, and all with little or no political debate.

This is a momentous decision that has the potential to affect the daily life of every American, yet most of the media barely noticed, and those that did largely applauded. When America's Founders revolted against "taxation without representation," this is precisely the kind of kingly diktat they had in mind.

Michigan Democrat John Dingell helped to write the Clean Air Act, as well as its 1990 revision, and he says neither was meant to apply to carbon. But in 2007 five members of the Supreme Court followed the environmental polls and ordered the EPA to determine if CO2 qualified as a "pollutant." The Bush Administration prudently slow-walked the decision. As Peter Glaser, an environmental lawyer at Troutman Sanders, told Congress in 2008, "The country will experience years, if not decades, of regulatory agony, as EPA will be required to undertake numerous, controversial, time-consuming, expensive and difficult regulatory proceedings, all of which ultimately will be litigated."

The Obama EPA has now opened this Pandora's box. The centerpiece of the Clean Air Act is something called the National Ambient Air Quality Standards, or NAAQS, under which the EPA decides the appropriate atmospheric concentration of a given air pollutant. Under this law the states must adopt measures to meet a NAAQS goal, and the costs cannot be considered. For global warming, this is going to be a hugely expensive futility parade.

Greenhouse gases mix in the atmosphere, and it doesn't matter where they come from. A ton of emissions from Ohio has the same effect on global CO2 as a ton emitted in China; and even if Ohio figured out a way to reduce its emissions to zero, it would still have no control over the carbon content in its ambient air. But under the law, EPA would be required to severely punish Ohio -- and every state -- for not complying with NAAQS.

Under the Clean Air Act, the EPA also must regulate all "major" sources of emissions that emit more than 250 tons of an air pollutant in a year. That includes "any building, structure, facility or installation." This might be a reasonable threshold for conventional pollutants such as SOX or NOX, but it's extremely low for carbon. Hundreds of thousands of currently unregulated sources will suddenly be subject to the EPA's preconstruction permitting and review, including schools, hospitals, malls, restaurants, farms and colleges. According to EPA, the average permit today takes 866 hours for a source to prepare, and 301 hours for EPA to process. So this regulatory burden will increase by several orders of magnitude.

The EPA took the highly unusual step of not accompanying its endangerment finding with actual proposed regulations. For now, EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson claims her agency will only target cars and trucks. That is bad enough. It probably means, for example, that California's mileage fleet burdens will seep out to every other state. So even as taxpayers are now paying tens of billions of dollars to prop up GM and Chrysler, Ms. Jackson will be able to tell the entire auto industry it must make even more small cars that consumers don't want to buy.

Still, why confine the rule only to cars and trucks? By the EPA's own logic, it shouldn't matter where carbon emissions come from. Carbon from a car's tailpipe is the same as carbon from a coal-fired power plant. And transportation is responsible for only 28% of U.S. emissions, versus 34% for electricity generation. Ms. Jackson is clearly trying to limit the immediate economic impact of her ruling, so as not to ignite too great a business or consumer backlash.

But her half-measure is also too clever by half. By finding carbon a public danger, she is inviting lawsuits from environmental lobbies demanding that EPA regulate all carbon sources. Massachusetts and two other states have already sued in federal court to force the EPA to create a NAAQS for CO2.

Which brings us back to the Obama Administration's political roulette. Democrats know that their cap-and-tax agenda is losing ground, notably among Midwestern Senators. The EPA "endangerment" is intended to threaten businesses and state and local governments until they surrender and support the Obama agenda. The car industry is merely the first target, meant to be the object lesson.

Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey put it this way at MIT recently: "Do you want the EPA to make the decision or would you like your Congressman or Senator to be in the room and drafting legislation? . . . Industries across the country will just have to gauge for themselves how lucky they feel if they kill legislation in terms of how the EPA process will include them."

This "Dirty Harry" theory of governance -- Do you feel lucky? -- is as cynical as it is destructive. And contra Mr. Markey, if cap and tax is killed this year, it will be done in by Democrats, many of whom are starting to realize the economic harm it would inflict. In March, the Senate voted 89 to 8 on a resolution vowing to pass a climate bill only if "such legislation does not increase electricity or gasoline prices."

That's called democracy, but for the Obama Administration such debate is an inconvenient truth. If they can't get Congress to pass their agenda, they'll use EPA and the courts to impose it. How lucky do you feel?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Obama Overreach

APRIL 24, 2009

Global Warming Overreach

By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL

Congressman Henry Waxman played to the crowds this week with high-profile hearings designed to boost his climate legislation. To listen to the Energy and Commerce committee chair, a House global warming bill is all but in the recyclable bag.

To listen to Congressman Jim Matheson is something else. During opening statements, the Utah Democrat detailed 14 big problems he had with the bill, and told me later that if he hadn't been limited to five minutes, "I might have had more." Mr. Matheson is one of about 10 moderate committee Democrats who are less than thrilled with the Waxman climate extravaganza, and who may yet stymie one of Barack Obama's signature issues. If so, the president can thank Democratic liberals, who are engaging in one of their first big cases of overreach.

Not that you couldn't see this coming even last year, when Speaker Nancy Pelosi engineered her coup against former Energy chairman John Dingell. House greens had been boiling over the Michigan veteran's cautious approach to climate-legislation. Mr. Dingell's mistake was understanding that when it comes to energy legislation, the divides aren't among parties, but among regions. Design a bill that socks it to all those manufacturing, oil-producing, coal-producing, coal-using states, and say goodbye to the very Democrats necessary to pass that bill.

Such sense didn't deter Mrs. Pelosi, who first tried an end-run around Mr. Dingell in 2007 by putting Massachusetts Rep. Edward Markey in charge of a new global-warming committee. When that didn't get her a bill, she helped her fellow Californian, Mr. Waxman, unseat Mr. Dingell. Environmentalists threw a party, and the Waxman-Markey duo got busy on legislation to please their coastal crowds.

Cap and trade was already going to be a brawl, but the two upped the ante by including tougher targets and restrictions. If that weren't enough, they rolled in every other item on the green wish list: a renewable electricity standard; a low-carbon fuel standard; a broader renewable fuels policy; new efficiency standards. Any one of these is a monumental fight on its own. Put together they risk an intra-party committee mutiny.

There's Mr. Matheson, chair of the Blue Dog energy task force, who has made a political career championing energy diversity and his state's fossil fuels, and who understands Utah is mostly reliant on coal for its electricity needs. He says he sees several ways this bill could result in a huge "income transfer" from his state to those less fossil-fuel dependent. Indiana Democrat Baron Hill has a similar problem; not only does his district rely on coal, it is home to coal miners. Rick Boucher, who represents the coal-fields of South Virginia, knows the feeling.

Or consider Texas's Gene Green and Charles Gonzalez, or Louisiana's Charlie Melancon, oil-patch Dems all, whose home-district refineries would be taxed from every which way by the bill. Mr. Dingell remains protective of his district's struggling auto workers, which would be further incapacitated by the bill. Pennsylvania's Mike Doyle won't easily throw his home-state steel industry over a cliff.

Add in the fact that a number of these Democrats hail from districts that could just as easily be in Republicans' hands. They aren't eager to explain to their blue-collar constituents the costs of indulging Mrs. Pelosi's San Francisco environmentalists. Remember 1993, when President Bill Clinton proposed an energy tax on BTUs? The House swallowed hard and passed the legislation, only to have Senate Democrats kill it; a year later, Newt Gingrich was in charge. With Senate Democrats already backing away from the Obama cap-and-trade plans, at least a few House Dems are reluctant to walk the plank.

Rumors were in fact flying earlier this week that Mr. Markey might have to postpone next week's subcommittee markup. For now, he and Mr. Waxman are busy trying to buy or arm-twist votes. They have some potent tools, in particular the enticement of giving some carbon-emission permits away for free, or allocating them to specific industries. Yet having set expectations so high, the duo risk losing liberal members if they give away too much.

The Obama team is aware it has trouble, which explains last week's well-timed Environmental Protection Agency "finding" that carbon is a danger. The administration is now using this as a stick to beat Congress to act, arguing that if it doesn't the EPA will. (Reality: Any EPA actions will be tied up in court for years.) It also helps explain EPA's Monday analysis claiming the legislation won't cost all that much. (Reality: The agency could only make this claim by assuming an endless recession.)

The real risk to the president is that his bill goes down at the hands of his own party -- with nary a Republican to blame. Whether Mrs. Pelosi and Mr. Waxman considered this as they crafted their gem is unclear. But the overreach has made it a possibility now.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Alternate fuel folly

APRIL 17, 2009

Wall Street Journal

Alternative Fuel Folly

By KIMBERLEY A. STRASSEL

Every so often Washington throws out a controversy that brilliantly illustrates everything wrong with Washington. Consider the brewing outrage over "black liquor."

This is the tale of how a supposedly innocuous federal subsidy to encourage "alternative energy" has, in a few short years, ballooned into a huge taxpayer liability and a potential trade dispute, even as it has distorted markets and led to greater fossil-fuel use. Think of it as a harbinger of the unintended consequences that will accompany the Obama energy revolution.

Back in 2005, Congress passed a highway bill. In its wisdom, it created a subsidy that gave some entities a 50-cents-a-gallon tax credit for blending "alternative" fuels with traditional fossil fuels. The law restricted which businesses could apply and limited the credit to use of fuel in motor vehicles.

Not long after, some members of Congress got to wondering if they couldn't tweak this credit in a way that would benefit specific home-state industries. In 2007, Congress expanded the types of alternative fuels that counted for the credit, while also allowing "non-mobile" entities to apply. This meant that Alaskan fish-processing facilities, for instance, which run their boilers off fish oil, might now also claim the credit.

What Congress apparently didn't consider was every other industry that might qualify. Turns out the paper industry has long used something called the "kraft" process to make paper. One byproduct is a sludge called "black liquor," which the industry has used for decades to fuel its plants. Black liquor is cost-effective, makes plants nearly self-sufficient, and, most importantly (at least for this story), definitely falls under Congress's definition of an "alternative fuel."

All of which has allowed the paper industry to start collecting giant federal payments for doing nothing more than what it has done for decades. And in fairness, why not? If Congress is going to lard up the tax code with thousands of complex provisions designed to "encourage" behavior, it shouldn't be surprised when those already practicing said behavior line up for their reward, too.

In March, International Paper announced it had received $71 million from the feds for a one-month period last fall. The company is on track to claim as much as $1 billion in 2009. Verso took in nearly $30 million from the operation of just one mill in one quarter of last year. Other giants are gearing up to realize their own windfalls. Wall Street has gone wild, pushing paper-company stocks up dramatically in recent weeks.

Happy as industry is to have this new federal lifeline in the middle of a recession, it is the only one smiling. Foreign competitors are screaming that the subsidy is unfairly propping up the U.S. industry in tough times. They claim the U.S. industry is ramping up production simply to realize more tax money. Canadian forestry firms are already demanding their government file a trade complaint.

In order to qualify for the credit, alternative fuel must be mixed with a taxable one. (The government might want to encourage alternative fuels, but not to the extent that it loses its gas-tax revenue.) This means that to qualify, the paper industry must mix some diesel with its black liquor. This has sent environmentalists around the bend. They have accused the industry of burning fossil fuels that it didn't used to burn, simply to get the tax dollars. (The industry has not been clear on whether it is, in fact, using more diesel.)

And then there's Congress, which is suddenly looking at billions more in red ink than expected. In 2007 it estimated a 15-month extension of the credit would cost taxpayers $333 million. It has since revised those numbers to take into account black liquor and is now figuring a one-year cost of more than $3 billion. Wall Street analysts are talking $6 billion. Senate Finance Committee bosses Max Baucus and Charles Grassley are reportedly aware of the issue, none too happy, and they are working to bar the paper industry from receiving the credit.

But this, in turn, has tossed up uncomfortable questions. The paper industry argues that if the government is going to be in the business of rewarding good behavior, it ought to do it equally. Is green policy only to be aimed at dirty or economically unviable actors? Is black liquor any less useful than ethanol or biodiesel, and if so why? If not, shouldn't Washington encourage its use? Isn't every green subsidy in fact the basis for a trade dispute? These are questions Congress has no interest in confronting, since it would expose the muddle that is its entire green-energy program.

All of this is highly amusing, if not surprising. Every government attempt to manage energy markets has resulted in similar disarray. Look at the havoc that came from the energy price controls, regulations and subsidies of the 1970s. Or look, more recently, at the ethanol fiasco, and the accompanying soaring food costs. Energy powers the economy. Mess with energy markets, and mess with everything else. When will Washington learn?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sea level rise greatest lie ever told

Rise of sea levels is 'the greatest lie ever told'

The uncompromising verdict of Dr Mörner is that all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story, writes Christopher Booker.

Christopher Booker
Daily Telegraph 28 Mar 2009

If one thing more than any other is used to justify proposals that the world must spend tens of trillions of dollars on combating global warming, it is the belief that we face a disastrous rise in sea levels. The Antarctic and Greenland ice caps will melt, we are told, warming oceans will expand, and the result will be catastrophe.

Although the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) only predicts a sea level rise of 59cm (17 inches) by 2100, Al Gore in his Oscar-winning film An Inconvenient Truth went much further, talking of 20 feet, and showing computer graphics of cities such as Shanghai and San Francisco half under water. We all know the graphic showing central London in similar plight. As for tiny island nations such as the Maldives and Tuvalu, as Prince Charles likes to tell us and the Archbishop of Canterbury was again parroting last week, they are due to vanish.

But if there is one scientist who knows more about sea levels than anyone else in the world it is the Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change. And the uncompromising verdict of Dr Mörner, who for 35 years has been using every known scientific method to study sea levels all over the globe, is that all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.

Despite fluctuations down as well as up, "the sea is not rising," he says. "It hasn't risen in 50 years." If there is any rise this century it will "not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm". And quite apart from examining the hard evidence, he says, the elementary laws of physics (latent heat needed to melt ice) tell us that the apocalypse conjured up by Al Gore and Co could not possibly come about.

The reason why Dr Mörner, formerly a Stockholm professor, is so certain that these claims about sea level rise are 100 per cent wrong is that they are all based on computer model predictions, whereas his findings are based on "going into the field to observe what is actually happening in the real world".

When running the International Commission on Sea Level Change, he launched a special project on the Maldives, whose leaders have for 20 years been calling for vast sums of international aid to stave off disaster. Six times he and his expert team visited the islands, to confirm that the sea has not risen for half a century. Before announcing his findings, he offered to show the inhabitants a film explaining why they had nothing to worry about. The government refused to let it be shown.

Similarly in Tuvalu, where local leaders have been calling for the inhabitants to be evacuated for 20 years, the sea has if anything dropped in recent decades. The only evidence the scaremongers can cite is based on the fact that extracting groundwater for pineapple growing has allowed seawater to seep in to replace it. Meanwhile, Venice has been sinking rather than the Adriatic rising, says Dr Mörner.

One of his most shocking discoveries was why the IPCC has been able to show sea levels rising by 2.3mm a year. Until 2003, even its own satellite-based evidence showed no upward trend. But suddenly the graph tilted upwards because the IPCC's favoured experts had drawn on the finding of a single tide-gauge in Hong Kong harbour showing a 2.3mm rise. The entire global sea-level projection was then adjusted upwards by a "corrective factor" of 2.3mm, because, as the IPCC scientists admitted, they "needed to show a trend".

When I spoke to Dr Mörner last week, he expressed his continuing dismay at how the IPCC has fed the scare on this crucial issue. When asked to act as an "expert reviewer" on the IPCC's last two reports, he was "astonished to find that not one of their 22 contributing authors on sea levels was a sea level specialist: not one". Yet the results of all this "deliberate ignorance" and reliance on rigged computer models have become the most powerful single driver of the entire warmist hysteria.

•For more information, see Dr Mörner on YouTube (Google Mörner, Maldives and YouTube); or read on the net his 2007 EIR interview "Claim that sea level is rising is a total fraud"; or email him – morner@pog.nu – to buy a copy of his booklet 'The Greatest Lie Ever Told'
Fined, frozen and now jailed

The Marine Fisheries Agency was certainly onto a winner when it enlisted the aid of the Assets Recovery Agency in its ruthless war against our fishermen. In December 2007 Charles McBride and his son Charles, from Kilkeel in Northern Ireland, were fined £385,000 for under-declaring catches of whitefish and prawns in the Irish Sea, threatening the loss of their homes and boat. But the Assets Recovery Agency, using powers designed to recover money from drug dealers, also froze all their assets. To pay the fines, the McBrides tried to borrow against their assets. Now, for this effort to pay the fines, Liverpool Crown Court has sentenced the two men to two and three months in gaol for “contempt of court”.

Blown away

The Climate Change Secretary, Ed Miliband, timed his jibe impeccably last week when he said that opposing wind farms is as “socially unacceptable” as “not wearing a seatbelt”. Britain’s largest windfarm companies are pulling out of wind as fast as they can. Despite 100 per cent subsidies, the credit crunch and technical problems spell an end to Gordon Brown’s £100 billion dream of meeting our EU target to derive 35 per cent of our electricity from “renewables” by 2020.

Meanwhile the Government gives the go-ahead for three new 1,000 megawatt gas-fired power stations in Wales. Each of them will generate more than the combined average output (700 megawatts) of all the 2,400 wind turbines so far built. The days of the “great wind fantasy” will soon be over.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Earth Hour, The Real Meaning

The Real Meaning of Earth Hour

By Keith Lockitch

On Saturday, March 28, cities around the world will turn off their lights to observe “Earth Hour.” Iconic landmarks from the Sydney Opera House to Manhattan’s skyscrapers will be darkened to encourage reduced energy use and signal a commitment to fighting climate change.

While a one-hour blackout will admittedly have little effect on carbon emissions, what matters, organizers say, is the event’s symbolic meaning. That’s true, but not in the way organizers intend.

We hear constantly that the debate is over on climate change--that man-made greenhouse gases are indisputably causing a planetary emergency. But there is ample scientific evidence to reject the claims of climate catastrophe. And what’s never mentioned? The fact that reducing greenhouse gases to the degree sought by climate activists would, itself, cause significant harm.

Politicians and environmentalists, including those behind Earth Hour, are not calling on people just to change a few light bulbs, they are calling for a truly massive reduction in carbon emissions--as much as 80 percent below 1990 levels. Because our energy is overwhelmingly carbon-based (fossil fuels provide more than 80 percent of world energy), and because the claims of abundant “green energy” from breezes and sunbeams are a myth--this necessarily means a massive reduction in our energy use.

People don’t have a clear view of what this would mean in practice. We, in the industrialized world, take our abundant energy for granted and don’t consider just how much we benefit from its use in every minute of every day. Driving our cars to work and school, sitting in our lighted, heated homes and offices, powering our computers and countless other labor-saving appliances, we count on the indispensable values that industrial energy makes possible: hospitals and grocery stores, factories and farms, international travel and global telecommunications. It is hard for us to project the degree of sacrifice and harm that proposed climate policies would force upon us.

This blindness to the vital importance of energy is precisely what Earth Hour exploits. It sends the comforting-but-false message: Cutting off fossil fuels would be easy and even fun! People spend the hour stargazing and holding torch-lit beach parties; restaurants offer special candle-lit dinners. Earth Hour makes the renunciation of energy seem like a big party.

Participants spend an enjoyable sixty minutes in the dark, safe in the knowledge that the life-saving benefits of industrial civilization are just a light switch away. This bears no relation whatsoever to what life would actually be like under the sort of draconian carbon-reduction policies that climate activists are demanding: punishing carbon taxes, severe emissions caps, outright bans on the construction of power plants.

Forget one measly hour with just the lights off. How about Earth Month, without any form of fossil fuel energy? Try spending a month shivering in the dark without heating, electricity, refrigeration; without power plants or generators; without any of the labor-saving, time-saving, and therefore life-saving products that industrial energy makes possible.

Those who claim that we must cut off our carbon emissions to prevent an alleged global catastrophe need to learn the indisputable fact that cutting off our carbon emissions would be a global catastrophe. What we really need is greater awareness of just how indispensable carbon-based energy is to human life (including, of course, to our ability to cope with any changes in the climate).

It is true that the importance of Earth Hour is its symbolic meaning. But that meaning is the opposite of the one intended. The lights of our cities and monuments are a symbol of human achievement, of what mankind has accomplished in rising from the cave to the skyscraper. Earth Hour presents the disturbing spectacle of people celebrating those lights being extinguished. Its call for people to renounce energy and to rejoice at darkened skyscrapers makes its real meaning unmistakably clear: Earth Hour symbolizes the renunciation of industrial civilization.

Keith Lockitch, PhD in physics, is a fellow at the Ayn Rand Center for Individual Rights, focusing on science and environmentalism. The Ayn Rand Center is a division of the Ayn Rand Institute and promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of “Atlas Shrugged” and “The Fountainhead.”

Copyright © 2009 Ayn Rand® Institute. All rights reserved.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Physics for the Rest of Us

Physics for the Rest of Us
Kerry A. Dolan
03.11.09
Forbes Magazine dated March 30, 2009

A Berkeley professor dares to debunk the popular wisdom about the future of energy.
In his driveway in the heart of ultraliberal Berkeley, Calif. Professor Richard A. Muller has an unsurprising possession: a hybrid-electric Toyota Prius. What's surprising is his motivation for owning it. "It doesn't save me money," he explains. "It doesn't help slow global warming. I just love the technology."

It's a measure of how popular this physicist's lectures are that he can get away with such unpopular views. Surrounded by tree-hugging academics at UC, Berkeley, he dares to argue that coal and nuclear fission are good sources of energy. Hydrogen- and electric-powered cars won't do much to save either our atmosphere or our balance of trade, he says; solar panels on residential rooftops make no economic sense; those environmental preachers Al Gore and Thomas Friedman are exaggerating the effects of global warming.

Muller, 65, named a MacArthur "genius" in 1982, teaches a course called "Physics for Future Presidents," voted best class at Berkeley in 2008. Since 2000 it has grown from 54 students to 500, with a 100-person waiting list. Last year he put out a book with the same title (for a general audience). Over the past eight years he's attracted attention in public policy circles with his efforts to inject scientific understanding into the debates about terrorism, nuclear power, energy and global warming.

Muller concedes that the Earth is getting warmer and that this is worrisome. He agrees with studies that show global temperatures have increased roughly two degrees Fahrenheit over the last century and that carbon dioxide levels have risen 36% over the same period. But he says a vast amount of misinformation has been spread by scientifically uninformed folk: "deniers" on the one hand and "exaggerators" like Gore and Friedman on the other. "No one actually pays attention to the IPCC," he sighs, referring to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of scientists, diplomats and politicians who have come to a consensus on the science.

The misinformation spread by the exaggerators, says Muller, includes the panic Al Gore creates in his documentary film An Inconvenient Truth. Gore shows the U.S. being flooded as the oceans rise. The more likely scenario, says Muller, is a 12-inch rise in sea levels over the next 100 years (his source: the IPCC). Another fallacy in Gore's film has to do with the bears. "Those polar bears that can't find the ice? There's no record of that," sniffs Muller.

Muller's gripe about Tom Friedman is his claim that global warming has caused an increase in hurricanes, tornadoes and floods. That's because we're looking harder for such storms and finding more, says Muller. "There is compelling evidence that the rate of such storms has been slowly going down," he says.

Muller's chief concern is the U.S.' lack of understanding about the science behind important policy issues. This conviction stems partly from the 34 years he spent as an adviser to the U.S. government on national security issues. "I was painfully aware that scientific issues were not understood by top officials," he says. "So many important issues have a high-tech angle to them."

The U.S. hasn't fired up a new nuclear power plant since 1996, and Muller lays the blame in part on irrational worries about radiation. "We need to educate the public. Nuclear is not as dangerous as they think it is," he says. For starters, the public doesn't understand that a certain amount of radioactivity is normal. Denver has 50% more radioactivity than the average U.S. city because of the granite in the rocks there, he says. Yet the cancer rate in Denver is lower than in
"We assuage public fears by passing ridiculously low limits on radioactivity," he says, but adds that low levels of radioactivity do concern him. Radioactivity levels are likely to be lower at Yucca Mountain, the proposed nuclear waste storage site in Nevada, than in Denver, but Muller says that hasn't calmed the public's fears about storing waste at Yucca.

Clean coal is yet another promising source of energy, says Muller. In this process, now under development, the carbon dioxide created by coal combustion is captured and pumped deep into the ground. In early 2008 the U.S. government canceled plans to build a 275-megawatt clean-coal plant because of cost overruns, but Muller says it can be built. The developing world will continue to use coal because it's cheap; Muller says clean coal will be necessary to control the carbon emissions.

Muller's bad news on photovoltaics: "The only way to break even on solar rooftop panels is through the subsidies." He is more optimistic about the future of concentrated solar power, in which a lens focuses the sun on a solar cell; the cost of that can be brought down to $1 per peak watt, he says. He concedes that a new genre of solar cells using ultrathin layers of copper, indium, gallium and selenide might change the picture for residential solar.
Muller is skeptical about battery-powered cars. "Electric vehicles are good for wealthy people," he says. People who think they are saving money by converting to electric or plug-in hybrid cars are not taking into account the cost of replacing batteries, he says.

Over the next several decades the biggest contributors to global warming will be China, India and Russia, as their economies grow and industrial production increases. If we really want to slow down global warming, we have to invest in, or invent, technology that's cheap enough to be deployed in China. "Anything that does not address China and India is a feel-good solution," he says.

Muller grew up in New York City's South Bronx. He studied physics at Columbia University and got his Ph.D. under the tutelage of Luis Alvarez, a UC, Berkeley professor and Nobel laureate in physics whose investigations included X-raying the pyramids and deciphering what killed the dinosaurs.

As physicists go, Muller is quite the Renaissance man. He began working in particle physics and spent time investigating ice ages. He has a controversial theory about a star he calls Nemesis that he says is orbiting the sun at a distance of a few light years. On the walls of his book-filled home hang photographs he has taken of wildlife during his world travels, including a gorilla in Rwanda and a lion cub in Kenya. He whips out his iPhone to show a visitor a video of how he came within a few feet of gorillas. The animals appear to ignore the tourists.

Muller's peers are happy to take him on in the great policy debates. John Harte, a physicist who teaches in UC, Berkeley's Energy & Resources Group, declares that the economics of both clean coal and nuclear power are doubtful enough to make solar, wind and geothermal generation well worth pursuing instead. Franklin Orr, director of Stanford University's Precourt Institute for Energy, agrees with Muller that there is room for nuclear and possibly clean coal (if nuclear waste storage and carbon capture can be solved) but doesn't agree with him that Al Gore and Tom Friedman are overstating the risks of global warming. Orr notes that carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is dissolving in the ocean, changing the acidity and affecting the coral reefs.

Felix Kramer, founder of California Cars Initiative, a nonprofit that promotes plug-in hybrids, says Muller's math is faulty when it comes to the lifetime of electric batteries. He says the batteries in the Tesla, an all-electric sports car, should last about as long as the car--between 100,000 and 200,000 miles.

Muller says, "If Obama got strongly behind nuclear, then it could move much faster." He doesn't believe we need to choose between nuclear and solar: "This is an example of the 'green bickering' that I deplore: 'I am cleaner than thou.' We need all [those sources of energy]." He agrees with Orr that the CO2 dissolving in the oceans is a problem, and he addresses it in his book. "I consider this to be potentially a bigger problem than global warming," Muller says. But he is surprised that Orr doesn't see Gore and Friedman's exaggerations. "Certainly he would agree that Gore and Friedman are making claims that are way beyond those in the consensus of the IPCC. Maybe he is not part of the consensus."

Answering Kramer, Muller cites recent research by Consumer Reports showing that converting to plug-in hybrids costs $10,000, but the batteries have to be replaced at the end of three years.
Muller insists that he doesn't aim to tell anyone--future President or not--what to do about energy policy, or anything else. In all his years advising government, he says, "the most valuable thing I taught them was how to understand the issues so they could see the conclusion themselves, and then convince other people."

My Rant

The claim that climate change is direct result of man's energy consumption is simply unproven and politically motivated. While they propound lies that certain lightbulbs or cars will destroy the earth and raise ocean levels as much as 20 feet within the next century, fascists, like Al Gore, fly around in their Gulfstream jets and live in homes that use 22 times the energy of an average American's home! Their propaganda is outrageous and potentially catastrophic for the economies of United States, the developed world and developing world.

The proof of global warming or man's influence on climate change is not settled science. Just consider the source of the big lie: the proselytizing hypocritical high priest of the pagan environmental religion Al Gore or the other Kool-Aid drinking climateers from the left such as Learjet liberals, Hollywood high school drop-outs, billonaire elitists, the left-leaning mainstream media, the United Nations, academia, environmental radicals, socialists, other anti-capitalists and so called "researchers", "experts" and/or "scientists" whose paychecks depend upon the apparent existence of the "issue".

United States energy conservation and independence is a worthy goal that should be supported by Republicans, the Democrat Party, true Democrats, Independents and environmentalists. Energy independence is a major national security concern. However, lying to our people, implementing the cap & trade boondoggle which will crush our economy or doing anything that will cause the United States to transfer an portion of its sovereignty to the United Nations is idiotic. Not in my name!