Author Archive

Reality slaps the EPA in the face on ethanol

What is going on at the EPA?  It can’t really be a growing awareness of reality and the need for common sense when considering environmental regulations and counting their effects since it is forcing cities around the country to spend millions of dollar to replace their fire hydrants for fear of lead.  There is no health threat from the lead in the caps of fire hydrants but that is not stopping the EPA from promulgating these new regulations.

Still its not all bad news (more of one step backward, a half a step forward) since for the first time the EPA has decided to ease the ethanol blending requirement.  In doing so, they are finally bowing to the dictum, ought implies can.  The reality is there is not enough ethanol being produced to meet the requirements of the law.  The EPA is asking refiners in 2014 to blend 15.2 billion gallons of renewable fuel—most of it ethanol—into U.S. gasoline supplies. which is approximately  16% less than what the 2007 energy law specified. The law gave EPA the ability to lower the requirement, and the EPA is finally exercising its discretion.  Now if we can just get rid of the subsidies and mandates altogether.  Oh, well, at least its a start.

Climate Partners act like rats fleeing a sinking ship: The SS Global Warming

International Global Warming talks have resumed once again this week in Poland.  It’s not looking good for alarmists.

Even as the conference Grandees were arriving, dark clouds formed on the horizon as Poland the conference sponsor held a two day conference touting the virtues of and continuing need for coal.

Since then Australia’s new government has introduced promised legislation that would  eliminate the carbon tax and cut funding to green energy.

And Japan one of the initial leaders in the international fight to combat purported human caused warming has at least partially come to its senses, drastically scaling back its CO2 emission cut targets.

Its sad that while the world is finally wising up to the climate change hype, American, which has fought to good fight for sound science and good economic policy up until now is, under the Obama administration, seemingly going down the rabbit hole of climate fantasy that the rest of the world is just coming back from.

Government Programs Hurt the Environment

The NCPA has written numerous times about various government agencies and programs that are supposed to protect or promote environmental quality but which result in environmental harm.  For instance:

Federally subsidized flood insurance;

Federal mismanagement of public lands;

Federal  endangered species policies;

Federal promotion of ethanol, wind and solar power;

Federal agriculture subsidies;

And Federal mismanagement of ocean fisheries.

Now, on a single day, I have been given the gift of multiple news reports each detailing new ways the government is hurting the environment while purporting to save it.

On how government ethanol subsidies and mandates  are destroying the prairies.

On how government subsidized and required solar power is competing with wind power to slay birds – combine the two and we really could have the Silent Spring Racheal Carson wrote about, just not from chemicals as she opined.

But Washington is not the sole source of environmental decline, other researchers and government officials think it’s a good idea to kill animals to study (the world’s oldest animal was killed to determine its age) or to save them (slaughtering thousands of chickens in order to save some few of them from the possibility of dying in the chicken fight ring).

Folks, I could make this stuff up, but I don’t have too.  And this is the same government we’re supposed to trust when it says there are no death panels in the health care law?

On Biotech: People 2, Fearmongers 0!

On Biotech: People 2, Fearmongers  0!

When you think Washington State and politics, you think blue, as in a solidly liberal, Democrat state.  Yet, on Tuesday, the people of Washington State spoke relatively authoritatively, rejecting an initiative that would have required foods containing genetically engineered ingredients to be labeled.  The vote was 54.8% opposed to labeling and 45.2% in favor of it.  This follows a failed bid in sunny, liberal California that attempted in 2012 to do the same thing.

I have written at length about the harms caused anti-technology luddites attempting to restrict GMO foods or trying to get them treated as if they are strange and different.  Others and myself and have also written of the virtues of biotech crops.

If environmental lobbyists can’t win in California or Washington, they should move on to another scare story.

Fortunately, the good citizens of these two states saw the arguments for labeling for just what they were, hype, and recognized the fact that biotech food is ubiquitous and has been shown to be safe in crop after crop, product after product.

The starving and malnourished people of the world should rejoice over the common sense displayed by the citizens in CA and WA in the past year.  I know I do!

Cash-for-Clunkers was a Dud

A new report from the Brooking’s Institution shed’s new light upon the Obama Administration’s Cash-for-Clunkers program: it was an economic lemon.

According to the report, the $2.85 billion Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) created jobs at the price of $1.4 million each and had almost no effect on reducing emissions or gasoline consumption.

Under the 2009 program, people could trade in older, less fuel-efficient vehicles in return for a voucher that could be used to buy a new, more fuel-efficient vehicle.  Car owners traded in 678,000 vehicles with an average voucher reward of $4,200, and vehicle sales rose by 14 percent in July and 28 percent in August (the two months the program ran before funds ran out), boosting new vehicle sales by 380,000.  This was only half the overall 700,000 vehicles sold during those two months and according to the report additional purchases would have occurred during subsequent months anyway.

The Brooking’s report largely confirms what both earlier reports show.  For instance, a 2009 report from vehicle research firm found that of a total of 690,000 new vehicles sold under the Cash for Clunkers program, only 125,000 were vehicles that would not have been sold anyway, and each of those cost the government $24,000 per vehicle.  In addition, the NCPA provided an analysis of the cash for clunkers program which was largely critical of the administration’s plan.

Brookings found that not only did cash for clunkers not push tons of new cars out the door, in addition, it was among the poorest programs for creating jobs and didn’t do so well in reducing greenhouse gasses:

  • ·         The $1.4 million price per job created was six times higher than the next most expensive job creation stimulus policy and was 10 times more expensive per job created than the reducing the employer payroll tax.
  • ·         The price per ton of emissions was far higher than the social cost per carbon or even what carbon emissions would have cost under the 2009 House cap-and-trade climate bill but the price was equivalent to the cost per ton of carbon dioxide under the $3,400 hybrid vehicle tax credit, and more cost-effective than the tax subsidies for electric vehicle, ethanol and renewable fuel standards.

Overall, it says, the program only saved about eight days’ worth of current gasoline consumption.

Another negative effect of Obama’s cash-for-clunkers plan as it was carried out is that because it destroyed the cars traded in, the used car market suffered shortages and used car prices went up considerably.  This means that people unable to take advantage of cash-for-clunkers but also unable to afford new or now higher priced used cars keep their aging vehicles on the road, even as they pollute more and more.

The NCPA actually developed a cash-for-clunkers program that would have avoided many of these problems, and would have had the added benefit of removing more older cars and thus improving air pollution.

What next, another failed green energy grant recipient? Oh, wait, that happened too this week.

EPA Takes its Lumps in Court Again

Once again, separate federal courts have ruled against the EPA in two cases with important economic implications.

In March, the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the court ruled in favor of the Iowa League of Cities, which argued that the agency was pushing a new interpretation of its wastewater treatment rules in letters sent to some cities in Iowa in order to prohibit selected internal techniques for treating wastewater during high-flow storm events.  The EPA this week officially decided not to challenge the ruling.

Waste treatment plants use secondary treatment of sewage which relies on biological organisms to remove microbial pathogens and other pollutants, but those organisms are sensitive to flows and can be washed away during storms.  In this case, some plant operators in Iowa had begun to route some flows around secondary treatment and blend them back into the treated flows, while keeping the final, blended discharge within the end-of-pipe pollution limits.

The EPA objected and sent a letters to these operators stating that blending was not allowed.  Thus, the lawsuit.  The ruling has potentially wide-reaching implications both for the extent of EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act and for how agencies can communicate with regulated entities.

Basically, the ruling says what goes on within the plant is not within the EPA’s purview as long as the effluents leaving the plant meet pollution limits.  The NCPA has long argued that the EPA shouldn’t focus on process or paperwork but rather on results in terms of pollution reduction. This court seems to get it.  As importantly, it the ruling makes clear that if the EPA wants to regulate an activity, it must go through the rule making process, not simply give opinions – until the rules change, the EPA can’t contradict its own rules.

Whether this ruling will be applied by the EPA outside of the 8th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction and whether it applies to other entities (beside municipal waste water treatment facilities) also regulated under the clean water act remains to be seen, but the ruling has potentially far reaching consequences.

In a second case, the rogue EPA’s attempts to act outside of their authority was also struck down.  For years the EPA has been trying to figure out a way to limit farm runoff.  There’s just one problem, while Congress has delegated to the EPA the power to regulate large water polluters, it has never granted the EPA’s wish to regulate farmers or individual homeowners – factories and power plants, not farms.

Alt filed the lawsuit in June 2012 after EPA issued a compliance order for stormwater runoff that it determined to be coming from her CAFO in West Virginia. EPA said dust and manure from the operation’s eight poultry confinement houses had settled on the farmyard and had been exposed to precipitation, leading to runoff into local waterways.

The agency told Alt she must obtain a Clean Water Act permit for the discharges or face penalties of up to $37,500 a day.

Alt argued she maintained best-management practices and took steps to reduce the amount of manure and litter that would be exposed to rain and snow. She argued the operation didn’t require a Clean Water Act permit for the runoff because the law explicitly exempts agricultural stormwater discharge from regulation.

But EPA said the stormwater exemption did not apply to Alt’s operation, arguing that the exemption, applied only to areas where manure, litter or process wastewater has specifically been applied in accordance with nutrient management practices, not to areas where they may have inadvertently accumulated during livestock operations.

Judge John Bailey in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia found that discharges from Lois Alt’s farm in Old Fields, W.Va., were covered by a Clean Water Act exemption for agricultural stormwater.

In Baily’s ruling he wrote, “Common sense and plain English lead to the inescapable conclusion that Ms. Alt’s poultry operation is ‘agricultural’ in nature and that the precipitation-caused runoff from her farmyard is ‘stormwater.'” Baily further noted that courts have long upheld a broader definition of agricultural stormwater discharge than contained in EPA’s 2003 CAFO rule and in its arguments in the Alt case. EPA’s argument that the exemption applies only to land application areas is contrary to previous court rulings, he said.  The only requirement is that the exempt discharge must be agriculture related.”

The case, Alt v. EPA, had been closely watched by both agricultural interests who feared that a favorable ruling for EPA would open concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, to permitting requirements for stormwater discharges. The West Virginia Farm Bureau and the American Farm Bureau Federation joined the lawsuit on behalf of Alt. In response to the ruling the Farm Bureau President said, “The outcome of this case will benefit thousands of livestock and poultry farmers who run their operations responsibly and who should not have to get a federal permit for ordinary rainwater from their farmyards.”

These rulings reinforce the fact that the EPA, no less than any other part of the government, is constrained the rule of law, no regulatory or executive whim.  Though I would argue that government agencies have too much power as it is, it should be clear that they don’t have power not granted to them by Congress, and in these cases, so the courts have ruled.

New Report: Green Energy Technology Not Ready for Prime Time

As the NCPA (among others) has argued in a number of documents, a new report says that environmentalists’ push to rapidly deploy existing clean energy technology rather than focusing on innovation has been and will continue to be expensive and likely result in waste and failure.

The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation discovered that  in the past three years, 71 percent of direct federal investments in clean energy went to deployment and public investment tripled in deployment and procurement, while R&D and demonstration projects were steady or declined.   In critiquing the “deployment now,” policies embraced by the Obama administration, the report states:

“Achieving widespread renewable energy adoption with existing technologies is technically feasible — the United States achieved multiple moon landings over the course of the Apollo program — and given enough funding, a colony could conceivably be established.  But the amount of investment required for realizing this future would be astronomical and the performance of such a colony would not meet high standards of health, food, water, and safety, similar to renewable energy intermittency not meeting the reliability standards of energy consumers.”

Earlier government studies found much the same thing.  It would be better to economically and environmentally to deploy as yet undeveloped breakthrough technologies in the future when people are richer than to weigh down the economy by forcing the deployment of less effective, more costly technologies today.

According to Nobel Prize-winning economist and climate-change expert Thomas Schelling, the best climate change policy is to emphasize continuous economic growth for the least well-off. Adopting costly, short-term policies that seriously retard economic progress is terribly shortsighted because wealth dramatically increases resiliency, especially to the effects of climate change.

Furthermore, since the truly serious consequences of climate change will not appear for many decades, we should not worry so much about the welfare of future, wealthier and more technologically advanced generations while depriving today’s most destitute. Thus, the best climate change policy is to emphasize present economic growth, especially in the developing world.

One aspect of the ITIF study that is problematic, however, is that it assumes that government spending on R & D for clean energy will be more efficient or worthwhile than its investment in deployment. Government spending, using tax dollars directed at a single goal with n market measure of failure or sucussess, is very different than developing new technology for the private economy where there are a couple hundred million decision makers, most of whom care about cost. Glenn Schleede, an energy analysts points out that those pushing more tax dollars for energy R&D need to consider the fact that, from 1973 to 2012, the DOE and its predecessors spent $154.7 Billion (2012$) of our tax dollars on “Energy R&D”* and has yet to produce a significant energy technology that is commercially viable (i.e., without tax breaks and/or subsidies).

More Good news for Climate; Bad news for Climate alarmists

It seems that once again climate reality – you know the facts on the ground – is conspiring once again to confound climate modelers and those scientists and activists who continually argue that we should trust the models for our views on climate and climate policy.

NASA has announced that Antarctic sea ice has set a new record for maximum extent – just a little over a week after it broke the previous record.  Indeed, though not a lot of people know it, global sea ice area is also above normal, and has been for much of the year.

Shocked, astounded, why haven’t you heard this from the mainstream mass media?  Because it, once again, contradicts climate change dogma as represented by the climate models.  As a recent paper points out, most climate models erroneously predict that Antarctic sea ice extent decreased over the past 30 years, which “differs markedly from that observed.”  Antarctic sea ice has confounded the models by instead increasing over the satellite era. In fact, it is currently at a record extent that is more than 2 standard deviations above the 1979-2000 average. The authors lament, “The negative [Antarctic sea ice] trends in most of the model runs over 1979 – 2005 are a continuation of an earlier decline, suggesting that the processes responsible for the observed increase over the last 30 years are not being simulated correctly.”

Climate models don’t get the temperature rise (or current non-rise as the case it) right, they don’t get sea ice right, they don’t get hurricanes right, they don’t get glaciers right, but we are supposed to trust them when shaping policy that could impoverish much of the world.

As Howard Hayden points out, the IPCC’s stated confidence in the accuracy of its models and their proof of the human source of global warming has increased as the models’ divergence from the real temperature data has increased.

IPCC divergence


It’s a classic case of “are you going to believe what I tell you, or are you going to believe your lying eyes.”

“Nobel “ in agriculture goes to Biotech food manufacturers

A short while ago, largely under the radar, the World Food Prize – the equivalent of a Nobel prize for the field of agriculture — was awarded to two of the world leaders in the world of genetically modified organisms for food: a Vice-President of Monsanto and the founder of Syngenta ‘s biotech research center.

Of course, ill-informed, anti-biotech activists are up in arms over the selection.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing — without regard to race, religion, nationality, or political beliefs — the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. The Prize recognizes contributions in any field involved in the world food supply — food and agriculture science and technology, manufacturing, marketing, nutrition, economics, poverty alleviation, political leadership and the social sciences.

The World Food Prize emphasizes the importance of a nutritious and sustainable food supply for all people, by honoring those who have worked successfully toward this goal.  Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work in world agriculture, envisioned a prize that would honor those who have made significant and measurable contributions to improving the world’s food supply. Beyond recognizing these people for their personal accomplishments, Borlaug saw The Prize as a means of establishing role models who would inspire others. His vision was realized when The World Food Prize was created in 1986.

Though a relatively new field, the development of bioengineered crops holds the most promise of any ongoing line of research to feed the worlds growing, increasingly wealthy, population.  I, among others, have written about the promise of and threats to the ongoing development of genetically modified crops on a number of occasions.

It’s good to see productive science recognized and rewarded even in the face of unfounded, but increasingly publicized, fears of new technology.

Every scientific body worth counting has judged biotechnology to be safe and necessary, but still many environmental radicals play on fears of the unknown to get the public and sadly, all too often successfully, public officials to come out against and even restrict or prohibit the introduction of nutritious, high-yield, vitamin enhanced biotech crops.

For ecoradicals, it’s evidently better that millions of people in developing countries die of starvation or suffer the effects of malnutrition now than consume bioengineered crops on the off chance that some small percentage of people could somehow, through some unexplained mechanism , suffer some as yet unobserved harm that the radicals theorize could be a reaction to biotech foods at some later date.


The Global Environmental Facility: Another Failed, Corrupt International Boondoggle

A new paper by the NCPA examines the U.N.’s Global Environmental Facility.  The United States has donated $1.24 billion to the GEF. Over the past five years, U.S. contributions have increased 61 percent.  The GEF was established to fund international projects to preserve biodiversity, prevent global warming, protect international waters, stop land degradation, save the ozone layer and remove persistent organic pollutants in less developed countries.

However, as with so many well-meaning, international efforts as the study details, the GEF is rife with corruption, sends most of its funding to wealthier, fast growing countries that could fund their own environmental efforts rather than the poorest countries that could really use the help, has little accountability, and appears immune to reform.

Concerning corruption, The GEF has been scandal-ridden. For instance:]

  • In 2007, the GEF was caught in procurement fraud in Africa worth $8 million; but when an official reported it, the United Nations retaliated against the whistleblower.
  • In the Philippines, the GEF was reportedly operated by an official who awarded grants to her own local nongovernment organization (NGO); then, diverted funds to enrich her family. When a U.N. employee blew the whistle, the United Nations covered it up.
  • The U.N. Development Program, which oversees the GEF, was investigated for illicitly giving funds to North Korea, and for their inability to account for $100 million designated for sustainable development projects.

The GEF has proven adept at one thing, transferring money from some rich countries to other rich countries – while leaving those countries most in need of environmental help begging for scraps.  The U.S. should not continue to throw good money after bad. This is not a program in need of reform – rather it needs to be scrapped entirely.