Al Gore and Venus Envy

By Steven Milloy
January 29, 2009, FoxNews.com

Al Gore has a new argument for why carbon dioxide is the global warming boogeyman — and it’s simply out of this world.

Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday with yet another one of his infamous slide shows, Gore observed that the carbon dioxide (CO2) in Venus’ atmosphere supercharges the second-planet-from-the-sun’s greenhouse effect, resulting in surface temperatures of about 870 degrees Fahrenheit. Gore added that it’s not Venus’ proximity to the Sun that makes the planet much warmer than the Earth, because Mercury, which is even closer to the Sun, is cooler than Venus. Based on this rationale, then, Gore warned that we need to stop emitting CO2 into our own atmosphere.

Incredibly, not a Senator on the Committee questioned — much less burst into outright laughter at — Gore’s absurd point. In fact, each Senator who spoke at the hearing, including Republicans, offered little but fawning praise for Gore. It’s hard to know whether the hearing’s lovefest was simply an example of the Senate’s exaggerated sense of collegiality, appalling ignorance and gullibility about environmental science, or fear of appearing to be less green than Gore.

It is true that atmospheric CO2 warms both Venus and the Earth, but that’s about where the CO2 commonality between the two planets ends. While the Venusian atmosphere is 97 percent CO2 (970,000 parts per million), the Earth’s atmosphere is only 0.038 percent CO2 (380 parts per million). So the Venusian atmosphere’s CO2 level is more than 2,557 times greater than the Earth’s. And since the CO2 in the Earth’s atmosphere is increasing by only about 2 parts per million annually, our planet is hardly being Venus-ized.

Gore’s incorporation of Mercury in his argument is equally specious because Mercury doesn’t really have any greenhouse gases in its atmosphere that would capture the radiation it gets from the Sun. As a result, the daily temperature on Mercury varies from about 840 degrees Fahrenheit during the day to about -275 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Mercury’s daily temperature swing actually belies Gore’s unqualified demonization of greenhouse gases, whose heat trapping characteristics tend to stabilize climate and prevent wild temperature fluctuations.

The significance of Gore’s testimony is that the Venus scenario seems to be his new basis for claiming that CO2 drives the Earth’s climate and, hence, his call that we must stop emitting CO2 into the atmosphere. At no time did he refer to his two An Inconvenient Truth-era arguments concerning the relationship between CO2 and global temperature — that is, the Antarctic ice core record that goes back 650,000 years and the 20th century temperature/CO2 record. There’s good reason for his apparent abandonment of these arguments — presented fairly, both actually debunk global warming alarmism. (Note: This YouTube video that I produced explains this point.)

Gore seemed to “wow” the Senate Committee with images and projections of environmental and even political upheaval allegedly already caused and to be caused in the future by climate change, such as melting glaciers and the 2007 fires in Greece that, Gore says, almost brought down the government. Gore repeatedly said that global warming threatens the “future of human civilization” and could bring it to a “screeching halt” in this century. Gore said that we are on a fossil fuel “rollercoaster” that is headed for a “crash.” We are near a “tipping point,” he said, beyond which human civilization isn’t possible on this planet.

Such melodrama, of course, is necessary to conceal and distract from the fact that there is no scientific evidence indicating that manmade emissions of CO2 are having any detectable impact, much less any harm, on the Earth’s climate or its population.

During his testimony, Gore invoked the specter of James Hansen, NASA’s global warming alarmist-in-chief, to bolster his climate claims. But like the ice core and 20th century temperature records, Hansen may soon have to be dropped from Gore’s presentations.

Hansen’s former NASA supervisor — atmospheric scientist Dr. John S. Theon, who recently announced that he is skeptical of global warming alarmism — recently wrote to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee staffer Marc Morano that, “Hansen… violated NASA’s official agency position on climate forecasting (i.e., we did not know enough to forecast climate change or mankind’s effect on it) … [and] thus embarrassed NASA by coming out with his claims of global warming in 1988 in his testimony before Congress.”

Commenting on another key deficiency in the manmade catastrophic global warming hypothesis, Theon also observed that “[climate] models do not realistically simulate the climate system… some scientists have manipulated the observed data to justify their model results… This is clearly contrary to how science should be done… Thus there is no rational justification for using climate model forecasts to determine public policy.”

The same could be said for Gore and his slide shows.

Venus envy? Yeah, why not? There’s no Al Gore there.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Green-on-Green Violence

By Steve Milloy
December 04, 2008, FoxNews.com

The activist group Environmental Defense got a taste of what it used to dish out this week when its Washington, D.C., offices were invaded by another green group, the Global Justice Ecology Project.

The Global Justice Ecology Project (GJEP) essentially accused Environmental Defense (ED) of collaborating with the enemy — big businesses that want cap-and-trade global warming legislation. Noting that her father was one of ED’s founders, GJEP head Rachel Smolker said she was now “ashamed” of ED because it advocated cap-and-trade. Smolker said that the European version of cap-and-trade, the Kyoto Protocol, had “utterly failed” to reduce emissions and served “only to provide huge profits for the world’s most polluting industries.”

“Instead of protecting the environment, ED now seems primarily concerned with protecting corporate bottom lines. I can hear my father rolling over in his grave,” Smolker said.

The GJEP activists who took over ED’s offices rearranged the furniture to illustrate how cap-and-trade is “like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” and sported signs that read “Keep the cap, ditch the trade” and “Carbon trading is an environmental offense.”

While this column’s position is that global warming alarmism is the ultimate in junk science and that the proposed solutions to this non-problem amount to economic and social suicide, for those who believe in the need for global warming regulation, the GJEP activists do indeed have a point — cap-and-trade is a charade.

If you subscribe to climate alarmism, you can view cap-and-trade only as too little, too late. Last August, the head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, R.K. Pachauri, told the Voice of America that the clock is running out on the amount of time left to reverse global warming. “I would say about six or seven years. We need to think about change rather quickly because unless we do that, then the impacts of climate change are going to get more and more serious,” he said.

Assuming for the sake of argument that manmade greenhouse gases are the climatic culprit that the U.N. and CO2-phobes make them out to be, how much progress toward Pachauri’s goal of reversing global warming will cap-and-trade have made in seven years? None.

First, NASA’s CO2-phobe-in-chief, James Hansen, says that atmospheric carbon dioxide levels need to be stabilized at about 350 parts per million (ppm) to avert harmful climate change. But atmospheric CO2 levels are already at 380 ppm and growing. So the CO2 horse has already left the climate barn.

Next, the schedule of emissions reductions in the Lieberman-Warner climate bill — the legislation that died in the Senate last June because it was too onerous — would only have reduced annual U.S. greenhouse gas emissions by about 11 percent by the seventh year of its implementation. Since the Lieberman-Warner scheme covered only 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions, in the first place, the actual reduction in annual emissions after seven years would have been less than 8 percent from current levels. As the U.S. would still be emitting more than 6 billion tons of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere annually, it’s pretty obvious that a measly 8 percent reduction would not “reverse” global warming, as Pachauri says needs to happen.

Finally, as former Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney said, it’s called “global warming” not “America warming.” China is either close to passing, or has already passed, the U.S. as the world’s leading greenhouse gas emitter. As it builds a new coal-fired power plant every week, China is increasing its emissions by as much as 10 percent per year. China, then, will increase its emissions more in one year than the U.S. would cut in seven years. Now that’s a carbon offset — one that renders any U.S. cap-and-trade efforts as futile as King Canute trying to command the tides.

The Global Justice Ecology Project is entirely correct that cap-and-trade is a system that will “rake in profits” for Environmental Defense’s big business buddies. ED’s cohorts in the U.S. Climate Action Partnership lobbying effort expect that taxpayers will award them more than $1 trillion in free carbon credits over the first 10 years of a cap-and-trade scheme. After all, USCAP members like Alcoa, Dow Chemical, Dupont, and General Electric are not lobbying for global warming regulation just so they can operate under an even more onerous regulatory regime. Cap-and-trade is the latest in corporate rent-seeking — getting paid for being regulated.

Hardcore Greens like the GJEP are understandably upset at supposed allies “sleeping with the enemy.” But large activist groups like Environmental Defense went mainstream long ago and are now more like the big businesses they used to scorn rather than the than grassroots groups they started out as. In contrast to GJEP’s hand-scrawled 2006 tax return showing revenues of a mere $103,349, ED’s neatly typed out 2006 tax return showed revenues of $83,827,034.

Environmentalism has become an industry of sorts. According to a recent Forbes report, the 11 largest environmental groups have combined annual revenues of about $1.8 billion and own billions of dollars of assets. By selling out, Big Green has cashed in.

It will be interesting to see whether the hardscrabble green groups that seem to really believe in a coming climate apocalypse will succeed in pressuring the limousine Greens to return to the fold, or whether the haves will make the have-nots an offer they can’t refuse.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Obama's Bad Green Deal

By Steven Milloy
November 26, 2008, FoxNews.com

President-elect Barack Obama’s plan to combat unemployment by creating 2.5 million public works jobs could only be loved by someone ignoring the economic and political realities of public works, alternative energy and the Greens.

“Rebuilding roads and bridges, wind farms and solar panels, fuel efficient cars and alternative energy technologies that can free us from our dependence on foreign oil and keep our economy competitive in the years ahead” is what Obama said he intends to accomplish.

It’s true that road building can contribute to economic growth, but not like Obama seems to think. The road building boom of the 1950s and 1960s did boost U.S. economic growth, according to Federal Reserve economist John Fernald. But this was because mass expansion of the interstate road system facilitated growth-producing economic activity. While necessary for keeping traffic moving safely and smoothly, simply re-building roads and bridges doesn’t spur commerce and, so, isn’t a strategy for economic growth.

While appropriate expenditures on new roads can produce high economic returns, according to a 2002 study published by George Mason University transportation experts in Public Works Management Policy, this isn’t what Obama is proposing. His reticence on new construction is likely due to his indebtedness to the Greens, who oppose new roads. The Natural Resources Defense Council testified before Congress last June, for example, that “footprints,” or new and existing road construction, should be “minimized.”

Moreover, capital spending on infrastructure doesn’t seem to work fast enough in economic hard times. The U.S. has only “limited experience with capital spending as a countercyclical device” and “the results have been largely negative,” according to the George Mason study. Capital expenditures on infrastructure take four to six quarters to implement because of the necessary planning, contract bidding and construction phasing.

The public works programs of the Great Depression, the historical event with which our current economic crisis is being compared, failed to stimulate the economy. As described in Jim Powell’s book, FDR’s Folly, the Civilian Conservation Corps spent $2 billion between 1933 and 1939 working in wilderness areas and parks planting trees, controlling tree diseases, and building paths, picnic areas and firefighting infrastructure.

Not only did the Public Works Administration only build roads, bridges, schools, dams and naval ships, it tended to employ architects, engineers and skilled workers rather than the unskilled people who needed work. Newspaper columnist Walter Lippman concluded that the PWA was “worse than a failure” when it came to jobs creation and economic stimulus.

Other New Deal infrastructure public works programs, including the Federal Emergency Relief Act, Civil Works Administration and the Works Progress Administration, “do not appear to have had the strong effect on productivity” in the areas where the money was spent, concluded National Bureau of Economic Research economists in 2001.

Then there are the Greens, who tend to oppose any sort of construction, even for so-called renewable energy projects. Prominent Greens such as Maryland Gov. Marvin O’Malley and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. have opposed wind farms as eyesores. Canadian Greens oppose a wind farm in British Columbia because it allegedly will “wipe out” migratory birds. A wind farm proposed for the Georgia coast cannot proceed without a multiyear study of its impacts on whale calving grounds. Green activists currently oppose dozens of applications for solar farms across more than 518,000 acres of public lands in the Southern California desert because of alleged concerns for tortoises, squirrels and other wildlife.

What about the fuel-efficient cars and alternative energy to which Obama referred? A Washington Post headline this week said it all, “Hybrid vehicles are popular, but making them profitable is a challenge.” Batteries that add $8,000 to sticker prices and $7,500 tax credits that about one-half of Americans can’t take advantage of because they don’t earn enough money didn’t make economic sense when gas cost $4; they make much less sense with $2 gas. Hybrid and plug-in cars may use less fuel, but they are light years away from economic efficiency. If the cars aren’t cost-effective — which is the only reason to buy them — they won’t be flying off the assembly line and won’t be creating jobs in the flagging U.S. car industry.

One great green alternative energy hope is cellulosic ethanol, which uses biomass (like switchgrass) rather than food (like corn) as a feedstock. But there are no commercially viable cellulosic ethanol plants because the technology is expensive. The Department of Energy is spending $385 million to build six plants over the next four years in hopes of producing 130 million gallons of ethanol per year. The purpose is to show that the plants can be run profitably once their construction costs are covered by taxpayers.

But not only will these test plants be too small and not be built in time to provide economic stimulus, the long-term feasibility of cellulosic ethanol itself is questionable. Americans consume about 140 billion gallons of gasoline annually. Will the Greens — who oppose the 149 gasoline refineries now operating — really permit the construction of hundreds of cellulosic ethanol refineries that make greenhouse gas-producing fuels? And what about the environmental impacts of the plants themselves?

Finally, let’s keep in mind that, for most of us, energy is an expense that we like to minimize. How does forcing consumers to buy expensive “green” energy contribute to economic recovery and growth?

If Obama wants to solve the economic crisis when he’s president, he’s going to have to promote policies that encourage real economic growth, rather than regurgitating green talking points that are a recipe for making a bad situation worse.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Detroit Needs Drilling, Not Bailouts

By Steve Milloy
November 20, 2008, FoxNews.com

Looking for the root of the impending car industry debacle? Look no further than the failure of the Big Three and the United Auto Workers to challenge the Green attack on cheap gasoline.

Since the 1980s, the golden goose of the U.S. auto industry has been SUV and light truck sales. Those vehicles were so popular and so profitable that the Big Three could afford to meet UAW demands for high wages and generous benefits. The golden goose even enabled the Big Three to afford the infamous UAW Jobs Bank where thousands of laid-off auto workers were kept on the payroll for years, costing the automakers billions of dollars.

But for decades, the Big Three and the UAW overlooked the linchpin of all these “good times” — the cheap gasoline that fueled SUV sales. For some strange reason, neither the companies nor the UAW had the foresight or courage to challenge the Green chokehold on our gasoline supply.

While the Greens blocked oil drilling offshore and on public lands, like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the Big Three and the UAW looked the other way. When the Greens worked to block the expansion of gasoline refineries through both direct opposition to plant expansion and through stringent EPA regulation that made refinery expansion expensive and unprofitable, the car industry snoozed. Only Ford CEO Wiliam Clay Ford Jr. was active on the Green issue — but not in a helpful way. He advocated higher gas taxes to incentivize the public away from buying SUVs.

It wasn’t until September 2008 that the CEO of General Motors finally got around to calling for increased offshore oil drilling — almost 20 years after the offshore drilling moratorium began. The UAW has yet to make the connection between cheap gas and its members’ jobs.

But let’s not give GM too much credit yet. In a full-page advertisement in the New York Times this week, entitled “There’s a belief that GM is not doing enough,” GM boasts that, “We have aggressively addressed our North American manufacturing footprint, shifting our production from trucks and SUVs to smaller cars and crossover vehicles.” What?

Amazingly, as gas prices plummet to levels not seen since early 2005 and SUV and light truck sales start to rebound, GM is “aggressively” shifting out of the hugely profitable vehicles that the public loves into less-profitable eco-boxes that are loved only by the Greens. Moreover, foreign carmakers can make better ecoboxes and sell them for less money, since they aren’t burdened by the UAW legacy costs that add about $2,000 to the cost of a car. Smaller cars were losers for Detroit in the 1970s and 1980s, and little has changed.

GM has also let the Greens goad it into betting much on the production of the electric car known as the Chevy Volt. “The future is electrifying,” is GM’s marketing pitch for the Volt. Touting the car as an “Extended-Range Electric Vehicle that is redefining the automotive world,” GM says that the Volt “is designed to move more than 75 percent of America’s daily commuters without a single drop of gas.

That means for someone who drives less than 40 miles a day, Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions.” Should you decide to drive more than 40 miles, then the Volt has a “gasoline-powered, range-extending engine that drives a generator to provide electric power when you drive beyond the 40-mile battery range.”

But as Wall Street Journal columnist Holman Jenkins pointed out last week, “We’re talking about a headache of a car that will have to be recharged for six hours to give 40 miles of gasoline-free driving.” If you use the car as intended, that is, never going beyond 40 miles between charges and so never using the gasoline engine. Even then, you’ll have to periodically drain the tank, since gasoline goes bad after a couple of months. And then you’ll have to make a special effort to dispose of the old fuel in an environmentally safe manner, just as for used motor oil.

The alleged advantage of the Volt is that, while it’s running on its battery, it produces no emissions. But it can hardly be assumed that consumers will flock to the Volt for that dubious reason.

Detracting from this alleged benefit is the fact that India’s Tata Motors is preparing to sell its $2,500 Nano car as low-cost transportation in developing nations. The millions of carbon dioxide-emitting Nanos to be sold in the developing world will more than offset whatever emissions are avoided by the many fewer Volts sold in the U.S. Moreover, there is the overriding reality that both China and India, the fastest growing emitters of carbon dioxide, have vowed not to cut their emissions. So the Volt’s alleged emissions benefit is quite illusory in the context of global warming.

Although the Big Three and the UAW didn’t set out to kill their golden goose, they didn’t do anything to protect it, either. It’s not too late for them to figure out that cheap gasoline is their friend and the Greens are the enemy. The future may be electrifying one day, but for today, the Big Three and UAW need, “Drill, baby, drill” and the equally important “Refine, baby, refine.”

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Greens Pave Way to Republican Comeback

By Steven Milloy
November 13, 2008, FoxNews.com

If congressional Republicans — or what’s left of them — are looking for the path out of the political wilderness following last week’s electoral drubbing, there’s a shortcut to victory in 2010 being paved for them by the Greens.

Last weekend on Fox News Sunday, Barack Obama’s transition chief, John Podesta, said the Obama administration would act quickly to reverse a recent Bush administration move opening up public lands in Utah to oil and gas drilling. Podesta said that it was a “mistake” for the Bush administration to allow drilling “in some of the most sensitive, fragile lands in Utah…”

So, GOP, the battle lines are drawn. Since declining oil and gas prices are likely only temporary, we remain in an energy crisis. The problem could be solved by increasing domestic oil and gas production, but the Obama administration apparently aims to stand four-square against this.

The time has passed for Republicans to fret about being painted by the Greens as “pillagers of the Earth” for supporting drilling in allegedly fragile environments. Let’s get real. While such demagoguery is a standard Green tactic to block the development of natural resources, the notion of a “fragile” environment is a canard.

We routinely alter local environments. Any time you stick a shovel in the ground, you’ve permanently altered the environment. But in a rational world, mere environmental change is not the same as environmental destruction — and if we are going to pretend that it is, then we’re going to have a hard time justifying any development whatsoever.

Moreover, modern oil and gas drillers aim to minimize their environmental impact, out of self-interest if nothing else. The potential legal and reputational liabilities are too great if they don’t. Last spring, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) even commended three oil and gas drillers (BP America, Devon Energy and Questar) for reducing their footprint on public lands.

Of course, local environments will be disrupted to some limited extent by drilling, but most probably to a much lesser extent than most other sorts of development, whether they be new or expanding suburban communities, roads, farming or a green energy projects — like wind farms, solar panel fields, and cellulosic ethanol plants.

Consider, for example, how much “fragile” environment would be disturbed by T. Boone Pickens’ plan to build the largest wind farm in the world on 400,000 acres in the Texas panhandle. While the Greens say they support Pickens’ effort, in what way is the Texas panhandle less fragile than the Utah desert?

Last spring, the BLM placed a moratorium on solar power projects to be built on public lands, pending environmental impact studies. The necessary transmission lines and water use might disturb the native vegetation and wildlife, says the BLM. But the solar power industry screamed bloody murder and the moratorium was soon rescinded.

Given that the Greens oppose oil and gas drilling everywhere, the rest of us — especially congressional Republicans — must adopt the solar industry tactic of outspoken outrage if we want to end the Green-induced energy crisis. There is at least one congressional Republican who understands the Greens’ no-drilling-anywhere game — Arizona’s John Shadegg.

In an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal in September, Shadegg spotlighted the Greens’ “dead-ender” mentality on drilling with respect to leases in Alaska’s Chukchi Sea, which holds an estimated 15 billion barrels of oil (a two-year supply) and 76 trillion cubic feet of natural gas (a three-plus-year supply).

Not only have groups like the Sierra Club and EarthJustice challenged the legality of all 748 government-issued leases in the Chukchi, they’ve challenged the legality of the entire outer continental shelf leasing program itself. Shadegg wrote that the Greens’ “incessant legal and administrative challenges make true the Democrat claim that oil from newly opened [public lands] will not reach the market for years.”

Last week, Shadegg trounced his Democratic opponent, garnering almost 80 percent of the vote. His success stands in stark contrast to Green-friendly Republicans who were defeated, including New Hampshire Sen. John Sununu and North Carolina Sen. Elizabeth Dole. Then there’s Minnesota Sen. Norm Coleman, who may very well lose in a recount against comedian Al Franken. Let’s not forget that John McCain’s embrace of global warming alarmism garnered him no visible Green support while simultaneously alienating many Republican voters.

Earth to Republicans: the Greens don’t and never will support you. That should come as no surprise since they’re all about left-wing politics — not the environment, which they use only as a battering ram/shield for their political agenda. Kowtowing to the Greens is a fool’s errand, if not political suicide. In contrast, most Americans want and need energy security and independence. They would vociferously support you in that endeavor.

The Greens plan to make an all-out push for their agenda in 2009, knowing that 2010 is an election year in which politicians, even Democrats, get cautious and avoid radical legislation. Since anything could happen in 2010 — including the election of a Republican-controlled Congress — the Greens have no choice but to grab what they can, while they can.

All that stands between America and energy policy disaster in 2009 is the Republican minority in Congress. Averting that disaster and championing domestic production is the path to victory in 2010. If the Republican leadership needs help in getting its arms around the problem, a visit to Rep. Shadegg’s office would be a good start.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Candidates don't come clean on coal

By Steven Milloy
October 16, 2008, FoxNews.com

A squabble about “clean coal” has broken among the presidential candidates. Neither side has leveled with voters.

Democratic vice presidential candidate Joe Biden kicked off the controversy in September when he commented at an Ohio campaign stop that, “We’re not supporting clean coal.” He then had to back track since Barack Obama supports clean coal, as he reiterated in last week’s second presidential debate. Then, at a rally in Scranton, Pa. this week, Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin jumped in the fray saying that, “So whether Joe Biden approves it or not, John McCain is going to develop clean coal technology here in America…”

It’s a lot of hot air about an idea that is unlikely to go anywhere fast.

The “clean coal” debate is about air emissions from power plants that burn coal to generate electricity. Nowadays when the candidates talk about “clean coal,” they’re not talking so much about power plant emissions of particulate matter (soot), sulfur dioxide (SOX) and nitrogen oxide (NOX) so much as they are that great global warming boogeyman, carbon dioxide (CO2). When the candidates say they support “clean coal,” they’re talking about technologies that would capture CO2 emissions before they are emitted into the air and then store them permanently underground. The shorthand for this process is “carbon capture and storage.”

But the technology for simply capturing carbon dioxide isn’t ready for prime time and won’t be anytime soon — if ever — on the sort of commercial scale that would need to occur for it to make any sense. The main problem is cost. The most promising technology for CO2 capture is called IGCC (Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle). But the cost of building a power plant with IGCC technology to capture 90 percent of the CO2 generated is 47 percent higher than that for traditional power plant, according to a July 2006 study by the EPA.

Capturing CO2 imposes a cost amounting to about $24 per ton. At the largest U.S. power plant which emits about 25 million tons of CO2 annually, the extra cost would be $600 million per year. For all U.S. coal-fired power plants, which emit a total of more than 2.2 billion tons annually, the cost would be a staggering $52 billion per year. Passing along the capital and operating costs to consumers would raise electricity prices by almost 40 percent according to the EPA. And since the EPA is not known for overestimating costs, the actual cost is likely to be much higher and even more difficult to pass on to consumers.

So it’s no wonder that private investors have shunned IGCC technology, forcing its promoters to rely on government subsidies. But even those are vanishing. Earlier this year, the deep-pocketed federal government pulled out of the FutureGen project — a pilot effort to build and operate the first zero-emissions, coal-fired power plant — because of cost.

Capturing CO2 is hardly the end of the game, however. The gas has to be stored somewhere, after all. But where would you store the approximately 1.2 trillion cubic meters of CO2 produced annually produced by the nation’s coal-fired power plants?

Underground geological repositories, like saline formations and depleted oil and gas fields are being considered. But it’s not at all clear that these potential repositories could reliably hold vast and ever-increasing amounts of CO2 forever without leaking and without polluting surrounding groundwater. CO2 leaching into groundwater would acidify it. Then there’s the possibility of explosion. In August 1986, a natural formation of CO2 under Cameroon’s Lake Nyos exploded killing hundreds of people.

If repositories are identified, we’d need a nationwide network of pipelines to pump the CO2, oftentimes, hundreds of miles from power plants. This would be a massive project that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars factoring in the acquisition of rights of way, construction, operations, maintenance and environmental monitoring costs.

Keep in mind that much energy would be needed to pump CO2 long distances through pipelines which would have to be kept dry to prevent corrosion and leak-free to prevent groundwater pollution requiring expensive cleanup. Rest assured that environmentalists and trial lawyers would be monitoring for leaks.

Past the cost and technical challenges, there’s the public acceptance problem. A July 2008 report from the Congressional Research Service concluded that CO2 pipelines and storage may give local communities much gas.

Even if all the aforementioned problems were solved, perhaps the most daunting obstacle remains — the Greens. One of the most powerful special interest lobbies of our time, the Greens don’t like coal even if it is “clean.” Obama endorser and Natural Resources Defense Counsel attorney Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., for example, says that “there is no such thing as clean coal.” He alleges that the “true costs” of coal include “dead forests and sterilized lakes from acid rain, poisoned fisheries in 49 states and children with damaged brains and crippled health from mercury emissions, millions of asthma attacks and lost work days and thousands dead annually from ozone and particulates.” An e-mail alert from Greenpeace ahead of this week’s final presidential debate called clean coal a “myth” since coal mining “destroys mountains and forests and pollutes America.”

The irony is that coal — which is used to provide about one-half of our electricity — is already burned cleanly and safely in the U.S. with existing pollution control equipment and enforcement of government regulations, regardless of what hysterical Greens claim. There is no credible evidence to the contrary.

So beware of politicians talking about “clean coal” — it’s just another promise they couldn’t keep even if they tried.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com, manages the Free Enterprise Action Fund. He is a junk science expert, and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Picking on the Pickens Plan?

By Steven Milloy
September 25, 2008, FoxNews.com

Billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens’ camp responded last week to this column’s multi-part analysis of the so-called “Pickens Plan.” Focusing on my most recent comments, Pickens Plan defender Warren Mitchell said he was “overwhelmed” by my “lack of logic” and wondered what plan I had to “wean ourselves from foreign oil.”

Mitchell first objected to my point that Iran isn’t switching to natural gas cars to sell more oil (as claimed by Pickens in a TV ad), but rather to reduce its gasoline imports and, thereby, reduce international pressure on its nuclear weapons program.

But as pointed out in a January 2007 congressional hearing by Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), “[… squeezing Iran economically… is having an effect… Iran’s oil minister admitted that this financial pressure has stunted its oil industry. It now has to import 42 percent of its refined gasoline.”

An Iranian political analyst said in July 2007 that “We will greatly suffer if [foreign countries] suddenly decide not to sell us fuel… Fuel rationing [Iran’s initial strategy for reducing imported gasoline] is a security-economic decision to reduce fuel consumption.”

Even Iran’s main car maker admitted to the Associated Press that natural gas cars “will greatly help Iran reduce, and even stop in the long run, importing gasoline from abroad.”

Although some Iranian politicians aligned with the national oil company have previously pushed for higher gas prices to curtail domestic demand for subsidized gasoline so that the Iranian government could invest in more oil production over the long-term, there’s no evidence that this is driving Iran’s switch to natural gas cars.

Moving on, Mitchell claimed that I “assaulted America’s natural gas supply, acting as if natural gas is already a scarce commodity in the U.S… Reality dictates a very different picture when it comes to America’s oil and natural gas supply.” Mitchell went on to say that the U.S. imports about 70 percent of its oil, while it has only 3 percent of the world’s oil reserves. In contrast, he says, 97 percent of U.S. natural gas comes from North America and these figures don’t account for the natural gas shale reserves that U.S. gas providers are able to access.

“Sleight-of-hand” is probably more appropriate than “reality” with Mitchell’s figures. When Mitchell talks about oil, he limits it to U.S. imports and sources. But when he talks about natural gas, he talks expansively in terms of North America — that is, the United States, Canada and Mexico.

Most of the oil used in the U.S. (53 percent), in fact, comes from North American sources, according to the Department of Energy (DOE). Next, the U.S. produces only about 83 percent of its natural gas. We import the rest, and this supply — just like our oil supply — is vulnerable to world events and market pressures.

Mitchell is wrong about known U.S. oil reserves — the actual figure is only about 1.6 percent (about a 3-year supply), according to the most recent DOE data. The good news — omitted by Mitchell — is that the U.S. reserve data excludes many known-but-not-counted domestic sources of oil, including the outer continental shelf (a 9- to 15-year supply), public lands like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (a 1.5-year supply in ANWR alone) and western oil shale (possibly an 800-year supply, according to the Department of Interior).

While Mitchell touts natural gas shale reserves as significantly adding to U.S. production, such “unconventional production” of natural gas is expected by the DOE to increase only from 44 percent of total domestic production in 2005 to about 49 percent by 2030 — not enough to reduce U.S. dependency on imported natural gas. The DOE says that liquid natural gas (LNG) imports will be the largest incremental source of natural gas for the U.S.

Readers should note that while Mitchell liberally engaged in ad hominem argument, he didn’t respond to my earlier comments on the Pickens Plan, including that Pickens: wants to profit at taxpayer and consumer expense; plays fast and loose with facts; lobbied the state of Texas turn him into a government entity so he could earn private profit; and fails to mention the hurdles, costs and inconveniences of switching to natural gas cars.

Readers should also be aware that Mitchell is more than merely the “former chairman of Southern California Gas Company and San Diego Gas & Electric,” as he signed his column. He also serves along with Pickens on the board of Clean Energy Fuels — the largest provider of vehicular natural gas in North America, a company Pickens founded in May 2006.

Finally, Mitchell criticized me for not offering an energy plan to “save America from itself.” He must not be aware of my many columns in which I suggest that America’s energy path forward is to step-up development of domestic oil, natural gas and coal resources as well as to develop more nuclear power. Other energy sources could be used as they prove themselves in the marketplace — rather than as forced upon us by fast-talking special interests and their politician mouthpieces.

America has made it this far without Soviet-style, long-term central planning, where, regardless of the likelihood of changing circumstances in the future, the government arbitrarily picks society’s winners and penalizes the losers, leaving the nation stuck indefinitely with the high costs of bad decisions.

We don’t need to save America from itself, but it seems we will need to save it from energy hucksters.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Pickens' Natural-Gas Nonsense

By Steven Milloy
September 12, 2008, FoxNews.com

“Get this one,” says billionaire T. Boone Pickens in his latest TV ad, “Iran is changing its cars to natural gas and we’re not doing a thing here. They’re doing this to use less oil and sell it for $120 a barrel. We can switch our cars to natural gas and stop sending our dollars to foreign countries.”

Readers of this column know better than to take at face value the marketing of the so-called “Pickens Plan.”

So what’s the full story behind Iran’s move, and what would be the impact of switching our cars to natural gas?

Although Iran is a major oil and gas producer, it lacks oil-refining capacity and must import about 50 percent of its gasoline. To be less vulnerable to international pressure concerning its nuclear program, President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad decided to reduce Iran’s reliance on imported gasoline.

He started with rationing in May 2007. But that quickly led to violent social unrest.

Ahmadinejad then decided to convert Iran’s new car fleet to natural gas. So 60 percent of Iran’s car production this year — about 429,000 vehicles — will be dual-fuel-ready, capable of running on both gasoline and natural gas.

But contrary to Pickens assertion, Iran isn’t trying to use less oil:; It’s trying to use less imported gasoline — and only to thwart a possible international gasoline embargo.

Though hardly a role model for energy policy, should we nevertheless follow Iran’s lead with respect to natural-gas cars? Just what would that mean to you and to our economy?

While the natural gas sold for auto fuel is as much as 50 percent less expensive than gasoline — at least for now — the cover charge to get into a natural-gas vehicle can easily erase any savings.

A new natural-gas-powered car, such as the Honda Civic GX, for example, is almost 40 percent more expensive than a conventional Civic ($24,590 versus $17,700).

While tax credits can reduce the cost by thousands, somebody — either you and/or taxpayers — will be paying the difference.

If natural gas fuel saved you, say, $2 per gallon, then you’d have to drive 124,020 highway miles or 82,680 city miles to break even on fuel costs against the $6,890 purchase price premium.

You can convert an existing car from gasoline to natural gas, but the costs are daunting.

Converting a car to dual-use (as in Iran) costs between $6,000 to $10,000. Converting a car to run on natural gas only is about half as expensive.

Even so, the conversion has to be done correctly or, in the worst case, you risk leaks that could turn your car into an improvised explosive device. And if your car is altered without proof of EPA certification, you might not get any of the all-important conversion tax credits.

Then there’s the inconvenience. Though their fuel tanks are larger — which, incidentally, reduces trunk space — natural gas cars have less range.

While a new Honda Civic can go as far as 500 miles on a tank of gasoline, the GX’s range is less than half of that — and, currently, there are only about 1,600 natural-gas refueling stations across the country, compared with 200,000 gasoline stations.

If your home uses natural gas, you could buy a home filling station at a cost of about $2,000 plus installation. While home filling stations can further reduce fuel costs to substantially below $2 per gallon, the devices take about 4 hours to replenish the fuel consumed by only 50 miles of driving. So much for gas-and-go.

Moving past the personal expense and inconvenience, the broader implications of natural-gas cars are worrisome.

The U.S. currently uses about 23 trillion cubic feet of natural gas per year. Like all commodities, the price of natural gas is supply-and-demand dependent.

Switching just 10 percent of the U.S. car fleet to natural gas would dramatically increase our consumption of natural gas by about 8 percent (1.9 trillion cubic feet) — an amount that is slightly less than one-half of all current residential natural gas usage and one-quarter of all industrial usage.

The price ramifications of such a demand spike would likely be significant. The current cost advantage of natural gas over gasoline could easily be reversed. Our move toward energy independence could also be compromised.

Domestic production of natural gas has not kept pace with rapidly increasing demand. Consequently, about 15 percent of our natural gas must now be imported.

Without more domestic gas drilling, additional demand will need to be met with natural gas imported by pipeline and in liquefied form from the very same foreign sources that T. Boone Pickens rails about in the context of oil.

In its most recent annual outlook, the U.S. Department of Energy projects that the U.S. natural-gas market will become more integrated with natural-gas markets worldwide as the U.S. becomes more dependent on imported liquefied natural gas — causing greater uncertainty in future U.S. natural-gas prices.

The natural-gas supply problem will be additionally magnified if significant greenhouse-gas regulation is enacted.

Here’s how: Currently, when natural gas gets too expensive, electric utilities often substitute coal or cheaper fuels for power generation.

Under a greenhouse-gas regulation scheme, however, inexpensive coal might no longer be an alternative because of the significantly greater greenhouse-gas emissions involved with its combustion.

Utilities, and ultimately consumers, could easily find themselves at the mercy of natural-gas barons — like T. Boone Pickens himself, a large investor in natural gas.

Is that the real “Pickens Plan?”

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Debunking Democrats on Drilling

By Steven Milloy
August 28, 2008, FoxNews.com

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last Tuesday dismissively referred to pro-oil-drilling demonstrators chanting “Drill here! Drill now!” as the “2-cents-in-10-years-crowd.” She may have to revise her insult strategy, since it seems that some mere pro-drilling posturing by President Bush has already helped reduce the price of gas.

The “2-cents-in-10-years” slam refers to the anti-drilling environmentalists’ primary argument that even if we expanded domestic oil production, it would have only a marginal impact on gasoline prices far into the future.

Increased worldwide oil demand, a weak dollar and increased oil futures speculation are among the leading factors that have caused crude oil prices to rocket upward since last summer, reaching a peak of about $136 per barrel in mid-July. Since then, the price of oil has backed off to about $110 per barrel, a decline of almost 20 percent. Gasoline prices have also fallen from mid-July’s national average of $4.11 per gallon to late-August’s $3.73 — a decline of more than 9 percent.

Why have the prices of oil and gasoline declined so much since mid-July? It’s hard to know for sure, but let’s consider the factors that caused the price to spike in the first place.

Americans, who drive about 3 trillion miles per year, do seem to be driving less and reducing demand for gasoline, according to the latest figures from the Federal Highway Administration.

Americans drove 4.7 percent fewer miles in June 2008 than June 2007, and 53.7 billion fewer miles between November 2007 to June 2008 than over the same period a year earlier — a time when gasoline prices rose from $3.06 to $4.13. So if less driving leads to lower oil and gas prices, the data don’t show that relationship.

How about the dollar’s 8 percent rally against the Euro since mid-July? Historically, the relationship between the dollar and the Euro has been only weakly correlated with the price of oil. That is, higher-dollar/lower-Euro and lower-dollar/higher-Euro movements have correlated only about 20 percent of the time with decreases and increases, respectively, in the price of oil. Recently, however, this correlation has increased to 57 percent, indicating “a reasonably high level of common movement,” according to David Gaffen, who writes the Wall Street Journal’s Marketbeat blog. So it is possible that the dollar’s rise against the Euro may have helped reduce oil prices somewhat — but to what extent is unclear.

The remaining factor is oil futures speculation — which can be gauged by so-called “open interest” in crude oil, the number of futures contracts open on a given day. Since mid-July, crude oil open interest has declined by 100,000 contracts, a sign of heavy liquidation, the president of an energy risk management firm recently told the Associated Press.

So what happened in mid-July to cause oil speculators to bail out of oil? Could it have been Bush’s July 14 announcement that he was lifting the 1990 executive order barring the Department of Interior from issuing leasing rights to explore and drill for oil offshore? If Bush’s announcement was the trigger — and there doesn’t appear to be any other significant event during that time that might have caused speculators to rethink their positions — then it’s all the more remarkable since Bush’s action itself will not lead to more drilling or a major infusion of new supply.

Not only is there a separate moratorium on offshore drilling that Congress renews every year — and, so far, the Democrat-controlled Congress has given little indication that it is seriously considering lifting it — but there’s “only” an estimated 18 billion barrels of oil in the offshore areas subject to the leasing prohibitions. At current consumption rates of 7.5 billion barrels of oil annually, that’s less than a three-year supply of oil for the U.S.

Getting back to Pelosi’s derogatory “2-cents-in-10-years-crowd” comment, it seems as if it was debunked before she uttered it. Bush’s revocation of the executive order — which without similar congressional action amounts to little more than a political statement in favor of increasing the oil supply — has possibly already reduced the price of gasoline by 38 cents in 30 days.

The mere prospect that the U.S. might get serious about increasing the supply of oil has sent speculators scurrying for cover. Imagine what would happen if we actually explored, drilled and produced some of that offshore oil — which, by the way, could be way more than 18 billion barrels. The U.S. Minerals Management Service estimated in 2006 that the quantity of undiscovered technically recoverable oil in the outer continental shelf is between 66.6 to 115.3 billion barrels of oil.

In any event, even if the offshore drilling only reduced the price of oil 2 cents over 10 years, as Pelosi would have us believe, isn’t that better than the alternative her no-drill policy offers — ever-increasing prices?

As reported by Politico.com, Pelosi’s retort to the protesters’ chant was, “Right here? Can we drill your brains?” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer then chided the protesters that “sophomoric chanting” won’t solve the energy crisis. That may be true as long as we allow petulant Democrats to run Congress and our energy future.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Environmentalists Prompt Nuclear Power Wake-Up Call

By Steven Milloy
August 14, 2008, FoxNews.com

What did the nuclear power industry get for playing footsie with the “greens” on global warming? A knife in the back, it looks like. The greens now are saying that emission-free nuclear power may actually contribute to climate change.

After decades of having its growth entirely stymied by anti-nuclear environmentalists, the industry decided to help the greens lobby for global warming regulation in hopes of easing opposition to the expansion of nuclear power. Companies like Exelon, FPL Group and NRG Energy, for example, helped the greens form the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP) — a coalition of big businesses and green groups that has been leading the charge on Capitol Hill for global warming regulation.

But as the saying goes, when you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.

A case in point is the proposed addition of a third reactor at the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant in southern Maryland. The greens formed a group euphemistically called the Chesapeake Safe Energy Coalition (CSEC) to oppose the new reactor. Members of the CSEC are hardcore anti-nuclear activists including the Sierra Club, Public Citizen, Maryland Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), the Maryland Green Party and the Chesapeake Physicians for Social Responsibility.

A June 2007 report by Maryland PIRG lays out the standard anti-nuclear objections against the proposed reactor, including that nuclear plants are expensive to build, radiation is inherently dangerous, uranium mining is environmentally destructive, and that nuclear waste “remains dangerous for thousands of years and no nation on earth has developed an acceptable solution for safely disposing of it.”

But in this era of global warming hysteria, the standard arguments apparently aren’t working.

Maryland’s Gov. Martin O’Malley — who is well-regarded by environmentalists for consuming and metabolizing the green Kool-Aid on global warming — supports the Calvert Cliffs expansion. O’Malley apparently realizes that Maryland needs the electricity given the fact that the state is facing rolling blackouts on summer days starting as early as 2011. Moreover, nuclear power is emissions-free, another plus for Maryland’s warmer-in-chief. His support is even more remarkable since he recently barred the installation of wind turbines on public lands.

The governor’s picking nukes over wind must have sent the greens into meltdown. So in response, the desperate greens came up with a bizarre new argument: nuclear power causes global warming.

That’s right, nuclear is the latest form of “dirty” energy. How can that be, you ask? Nuclear power doesn’t produce greenhouse gases, does it? Well, not directly, the greens argue. But nuclear power “worsens climate change,” says prominent environmentalist Amory Lovins in a new paper, because it diverts money away from alternative energy and efficiency efforts that would otherwise reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Adding insult to injury, Lovins also says that nuclear power is “grossly uncompetitive, unneeded and obsolete” and “weakens electric reliability and national security.”

The head of Maryland PIRG picked up on Lovins’ line of thinking, telling Carbon Control News (Aug. 8) that “efficiency programs and renewables such as wind and solar can provide more carbon-abatement per dollar while avoiding the downsides of nuclear power.”

The movement to block the Calvert Cliffs plant also has an international component. Greenpeace has taken its anti-nuclear jihad to Flamanville, Finland, where a private utility company is currently building a European Pressurized Reactor (EPR) — a safer, more reliable and cheaper next-generation reactor. But Greenpeace has alleged technical and safety problems with the EPR and misconduct in the Finns’ safety approval process. Though the Finnish regulatory authority has rejected the misconduct claims, it nevertheless announced that it plans further studies on the EPR’s safety.

This, of course, has delighted the opponents of the Calvert Cliffs expansion since the reactor that has been proposed to be built is an EPR.

And the greens aren’t just going after the Calvert Cliffs plant, they are turning their sights on the entire nuclear industry. No doubt this is a direct result of the industry’s effort to expand in the wake of global warming hysteria, which has taken the form of more than 20 applications to the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Agency for new plant licenses.

Lovins claims “the nuclear industry’s sales pitch is false” and that “the supposed nuclear revival is a carefully manufactured illusion that seeks to become a self-fulfilling prophecy.” The Natural Resources Defense Council has a “fact sheet” on its web site entitled “New Nuclear Power Plants Are Not a Solution for America’s Energy Needs.”

Environmental Defense ominously intones on its web site that, “Serious questions of safety, security, waste and proliferation surround the issue of nuclear power. Until these questions are resolved satisfactorily, Environmental Defense cannot support an expansion of nuclear generating capacity.”

The World Resources Institute says, “And while it can be argued that the actual risks of nuclear power are far lower than the perceived risks, and that coal-fired power plants have killed a far greater number of people than nuclear energy, most communities do not want nuclear plants nearby.”

While the nuclear industry has no reason to expect better treatment from activists like Lovins, shouldn’t it get at least a little friendly lip service from the Natural Resources Defense Council, Environmental Defense and the World Resources Institute — its lobbying partners in USCAP?Instead, these groups are happy to exploit the influence and resources of the likes of Exelon, FPL Group and NRG Energy to promote global warming regulation, but then feel no compunction about trying to tear down the partners it exploited.

Is the industry OK with such two-facedness? Will anyone complain or drop out of USCAP? We’ll see.

Meantime, it’s ironic and disturbing that the nuclear industry can figure out how to safely and productively harness the power of the atom, but it can’t figure out that lobbying with the enemy is a bad idea.

Steven Milloy, who publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com, is an advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Pickens Gives New Meaning to 'Self-Government'

By Steven Milloy
July 31, 2008, FoxNews.com

The more you learn about T. Boone Pickens’ plan to switch America to wind power, the more you realize that he seems willing to say and do just about anything to make another billion or two.

This column previously discussed the plan’s technical and economic shortcomings and marketing ruses. Today, we’ll look into the diabolical machinations behind it.

Simply put, Pickens’ pitch is “embrace wind power to help break our ‘addiction’ to foreign oil.” There is, however, another intriguing component to Pickens’ plan that goes unmentioned in his TV commercials, media interviews and web site — water rights, which he owns more of than any other American.

Pickens hopes that his recent $100 million investment in 200,000 acres worth of groundwater rights in Roberts County, Texas, located over the Ogallala Aquifer, will earn him $1 billion. But there’s more to earning such a profit than simply acquiring the water. Rights-of-way must be purchased to install pipelines, and opposition from anti-development environmental groups must be overcome. Here’s where it gets interesting, according to information compiled by the Water Research Group, a small grassroots group focusing on local water issues in Texas.

Purchasing rights-of-way is often expensive and time-consuming — and what if landowners won’t sell? While private entities may be frustrated, governments can exercise eminent domain to compel sales. This is Pickens’ route of choice. But wait, you say, Pickens is not a government entity. How can he use eminent domain? Are you sitting down?

At Pickens’ behest, the Texas legislature changed state law to allow the two residents of an 8-acre parcel of land in Roberts County to vote to create a municipal water district, a government agency with eminent domain powers. Who were the voters? They were Pickens’ wife and the manager of Pickens’ nearby ranch. And who sits on the board of directors of this water district? They are the parcel’s three other non-resident landowners, all Pickens’ employees.

A member of a local water conservation board told Bloomberg News that, “[Pickens has] obtained the right of eminent domain like he was a big city. It’s supposed to be for the public good, not a private company.”

What’s this got to do with Pickens’ wind-power plan? Just as he needs pipelines to sell his water, he also needs transmission lines to sell his wind-generated power. Rights of way for transmission lines are also acquired through eminent domain — and, once again, the Texas legislature has come to Pickens’ aid.

Earlier this year, Texas changed its law to allow renewable energy projects (like Pickens’ wind farm) to obtain rights-of-way by piggybacking on a water district’s eminent domain power. So Pickens can now use his water district’s authority to also condemn land for his future wind farm’s transmission lines.

Who will pay for the rights-of-way and the transmission lines and pipelines? Thanks to another gift from Texas politicians, Pickens’ water district can sell tax-free, taxpayer-guaranteed municipal bonds to finance the $2.2 billion cost of the water pipeline. And then earlier this month, the Texas legislature voted to spend $4.93 billion for wind farm transmission lines. While Pickens has denied that this money is earmarked for him, he nevertheless is building the largest wind farm in the world.

Despite this legislative largesse, a fly in the ointment remains.

Although Pickens hopes to sell as much as $165 million worth of water annually to Dallas alone, no city in Texas has signed up yet — partly because they don’t yet need the water and partly because of resentment against water profiteering.

Enter the Sierra Club.

While Green groups support wind power, “the privatization of water is an entirely different thing,” says the Sierra Club. Moreover, the activist group has long opposed further exploitation of the very groundwater Pickens wants to use — the Ogallala Aquifer.

“The source of drinking water and irrigation for Plains residents from Nebraska to Texas, the Ogallala Aquifer is one of the world’s largest — as well as one of the most rapidly dissipating… If current irrigation practices continue, agribusiness will deplete the Ogallala Aquifer in the next century,” says the Sierra Club.

In March 2002, the Sierra Club opposed the construction of a slaughterhouse in Pampa, Texas, because it would require a mere 275 million gallons per year from the Ogallala Aquifer. Yet Pickens wants to sell 65 billion gallons of water per year — to Dallas alone. In a 2004 lamentation about local government facilitation of Pickens’ plan for the Ogallala, the Sierra Club slammed Pickens as a “junk bond dealer” who wanted to make “Blue Gold” from the Ogallala.

But while the Sierra Club can’t seem to do anything about Pickens’ influence with state legislators, they do have enough influence to make his water politically unpotable. This opposition may soon abate, however, now that Pickens has buddied up with Sierra Club president Carl Pope.

As noted last week, Pope now flies in Pickens’ private jet and publicly lauds him. The two are newly-minted “friends,” since Pope needs the famous Republican oilman to lend propaganda value to the Sierra Club’s anti-oil agenda and Pickens needs Pope to ease up on the Ogallala water opposition.

This alliance isn’t sitting well with everyone on the Left.

A TreeHugger.com writer recently observed, “… I am left asking myself why the green media have neglected [the water] aspect of Pickens’ wind-farm plans? Have we been so distracted by the prospect of Texas’ renewable energy portfolio growing by 4000 megawatts that we are willing to overlook some potentially dodgy aspects to the project?”

It shouldn’t sit well with the rest of us either. Pickens has gamed Texas for his own ends, and now he’s trying to game the rest of us, too. Worse, his gamesmanship includes lending his billionaire resources, prominent stature and feudal powers bestowed upon him by the Texas legislature to help the Greens gain control over the U.S. energy supply.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Is T. Boone Pickens 'Swiftboating' America?

By Steven Milloy
July 24, 2008, FoxNews.com

Liberals have done a U-turn on conservative billionaire oilman T. Boone Pickens.

Formerly reviled for funding the “Swift Boat Veterans for Truth” campaign against Sen. John Kerry, he’s now adored by the Left — unfortunately, for trying to gaslight the rest of us on energy policy.

This column recently spotlighted Pickens’ proposed plan to get America off foreign oil by substituting wind-generated electricity for natural gas-generated electricity and then using the natural gas to replace gasoline.

Already having addressed the proposal’s flaws — and Pickens’ plan to profit at taxpayer expense from it — let’s consider how Pickens’ marketing shades the truth.

On his Web site and in TV commercials, Pickens tries to frighten Americans about being “addicted to foreign oil.”

“In 1970, we imported 24 percent of our oil. Today, it’s nearly 70 percent and growing,” he intones.

Aside from the fact that the Department of Energy (DOE) puts the import figure at a more moderate 58 percent, Pickens gives the impression that imported oil is scary because it all comes from the unstable Mideast.

His TV commercials feature images of American soldiers fighting in Iraq and he likens the annual $700 billion cost of foreign oil to “four times the annual cost of the Iraq war.”

But hold the phone. Only 16 percent of our imported oil comes from the Persian Gulf — barely up from 13.6 percent in 1973, according to the DOE. Imports from OPEC countries are actually down — from 47.8 percent in 1973 to 44.5 percent in 2007.

Contrary to Pickens’ assertion that oil imports are growing, the DOE expects oil imports to decrease by 10 percent by 2030.

Pickens tries to shame Americans because, “America uses a lot of oil … That’s 25 percent of the world’s oil demand, used by just 4 percent of the world population.”

Some might think these figures make us sound greedy and wasteful.

But what Pickens omitted to mention is that the size of the U.S. economy in 2007 was about $13.8 trillion and the size of the global economy was $54.3 trillion.

This means that the U.S. economy represents about 25.4 percent of the global economy. So what’s the problem if a nation that produces 25 percent of the world’s goods and services needs 25 percent of the world’s oil output?

Would he prefer that we shrink our economy by 84 percent to match our share of world population?

Pickens plays the hope-squasher.

“Can’t we just produce more oil?” he asks. “The simple truth is that cheap and easy oil is gone,” he responds.

But there are hundreds of billions of barrels of oil in the form of oil tar sands and oil shale in North America, not to mention the more than one hundred billion barrels of oil in the outer continental shelf of the U.S. and on public lands like the Arctic National Wildlife Preserve (ANWR).

And don’t forget that coal-to-liquids technology can convert our 268 billion tons of coal into 20 times the nation’s current crude oil reserves, according to investment analysts. We have liquid fuels to burn.

While producing this oil may not be as easy as it was in 1859, when crude oil bubbled out of the ground in northwest Pennsylvania, it is much more feasible and far less expensive than Pickens’ fantasy of replicating the entire existing U.S. wind supply system every year for the next 15 years in addition to building the national infrastructure for natural-gas filling stations.

Finally, Pickens laments the $700 billion (less at current oil prices) “wealth transfer” from America to foreigners every year because of our “addiction.”

But is he also concerned about our “addiction” to other imports?

In 2007, the U.S. merchandise trade deficit — the difference between imports of goods from and exports of goods to foreign countries — exceeded $815 billion.

Contrary to Pickens’ demagoguery, “wealth transfer” is a term generally used in the context of estate planning, where money is simply “gifted” to heirs.

Our purchases of foreign oil, in contrast, are more reasonably known as “trade” — and trade is good.

Americans are not simply petro-junkies who mainline crude oil for the masochistic high of watching gas pump numbers spin faster. We produce goods and services with imported oil more than any other people on this planet.

Pickens’ bad-mouthing of our use of oil sounds like it comes from Al Gore and his fellow Democrats and extreme Greens — and guess who Pickens’ new friends are?

Pickens told the National Journal that, “I think I would be for Al Gore for energy czar [in an Obama administration].”

Pickens said that he and Gore agree on about 95 percent of their respective energy plans.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Pickens to speak before the Democratic Caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says that, while Pickens was once a “mortal enemy,” they are now friends because of the oilman’s conversion to alternative energy.

Then there’s Carl Pope, the head of the Sierra Club, who not only flies in Pickens’ private jet but writes paeans about him on the liberal Huffington Post blog.

“T. Boone Pickens is out to save America,” Pope wrote on July 3.

It would have been more accurate, perhaps, for Pope to write that “Pickens is out to make billions of dollars for himself and to save the Sierra Club’s anti-coal, anti-oil, anti-natural gas agenda.”

Lastly, the New York Times rhapsodized about Pickens in an editorial this week.

Pickens’ involvement in the alleged swiftboating of John Kerry seems to have been forgiven and forgotten by the paper. But the Times went absolutely over-the-top when it observed that the billionaire Pickens wasn’t in it for the money because “he doesn’t really need it.”

It’s too bad we can’t generate electricity from such hilarity, half-truths and hypocrisy. Pickens and his new friends could power us — as Buzz Lightyear might say — to infinity and beyond.

Steven Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and DemandDebate.com. He is a junk science expert, advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.