California blows climate cost-benefit analysis

To support the enactment of California’s global warming bill, Mary Nichols, the state’s top air regulator, embraced as “good-news-numbers” a cost-benefits analysis that predicted the law would create 100,000 jobs and increase per-capita income by $200 by 2020.

The New York Times reported this morning that, as it turns out, it is the critics who labeled the cost-benefit analysis as “unrealistic” who were correct:

In one withering review, Matthew E. Kahn of the University of California, Los Angeles said the analysis unconvincingly portrayed the law as “a riskless free lunch.” Another economist, Robert N. Stavins of Harvard, said the regulators were “systematically biased” in ways “that lead to potentially severe underestimates of costs.”

Now, with the recession deepening — unemployment in California is 9.3 percent — manufacturers like Mr. Repman say the recession will make carrying out the state’s plan, the first stage of which goes into effect in 2010, even more difficult and could make the economy worse.

The lesson? As the Times reported:

“We’re talking about a transformation of the way of life,” said Greg Freeman, an economist with the Los Angeles Economic Development Commission. “There’s going to be transitional costs. We can’t have the debate about whether the cost is worth paying unless we have a realistic idea of what the cost will be.”

Canadian PM says energy realities trump greens on tar sands!

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the following to Larry Kudlow on CNBC’s Kudlow Report tonight:

First of all, let me be clear about the importation [by the U.S.] of oil sands oil. Regardless of what any legislature does, the United States will be importing this oil because there is absolutely no doubt that if you look at the supply-and-demand pattern into the future, the United States is going to need Canadian oil. It is the one secure, growing market-based source of energy that the United States has. There will be no choice but to import this oil…

… any policy [to stop the importation of oil sands oil] is completely unrealistic if you look at American needs for energy and where Americans can get the supply at a reasonable price… we will do what we can to reduce the carbon footprint. But there should be no illusion that economic reality will hit those environmental policies pretty hard when one goes to implement them…

BTW, Larry Kudlow is an endorser of Steve Milloy’s upcoming book, Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them.

Among many topics, Green Hell discusses how tar sands oil is a key means of providing affordable and secure energy and avoiding an environmentalist-induced oil/gasoline crunch.

Canadian PM Stephen Harper on tar sands oil (CNBC, Kudlow Report, at about 5:51 into clip)

Pickens says no one opposes his ‘Plan’

T. Boone Pickens said in an interview this morning on CNBC that,

… but know this… we’ve never had a person that stands up and says your plan is not good. Nobody has said that… I don’t know… there’s not many op-ed pieces or any thing…

But Steve Milloy has written six columns critical of the Pickens Plan — one of which Pickens’ team responded to on

The Cato Institute’s Jerry Taylor has been critical of the Pickens Plan here and here.

Reece Epstein and David Ridenour of the National Center for Public Policy Research have a lengthy critique here.

Here’s a Wall Street Journal article about Pickens’ critics, who include FedEX CEO Fred Smith and former Kansas governor Bill Graves, who now heads the American Trucking Association.

There are plenty more who have stood up against the Pickens Plan. Yet Pickens denies their existence in his effort to “swiftboat” America into his make-Boone-richer-scheme.

The Futility of Hybrid Cars

By Steven Milloy
February 05, 2009,

By Steven Milloy

Could plug-in hybrid cars actually increase greenhouse gas emissions? Is energy efficiency being oversold as a greenhouse gas reduction measure? A new report from the research arm of Congress raises troubling questions about the direction in which President Obama is taking us.

Produced by the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Carbon Control in the U.S. Electricity Sector: Key Implementation Uncertainties provides the lowdown on a variety of carbon control options for the electric power sector, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, nuclear power, advanced coal technology, carbon capture and sequestration, plug-in hybrid vehicles and small-scale power generation technologies.

President Obama has proposed that we reduce our CO2 emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. For the electric power sector, this goal translates to reducing what is projected to be 2.6 billion metric tons of CO2 emitted in 2020 to approximately the 1.8 billion metric tons of CO2 that were emitted in 1990 — a more than 30 percent reduction in emissions over a period of about 10 years.

Could this goal be achieved through gains in energy efficiency? Numerous private and government sources have claimed, after all, that 25- to 30-percent gains in efficiency are possible over a 5- to 15-year time horizon. But according to the CRS, “the diffuse nature of efficiency opportunity and the economic complexity of decision making” has historically made moving beyond the 5 percent to 7 percent electricity savings range “a persistent challenge to conservation proponents.” Although more aggressive policies could be attempted, the CRS says, there is “little track record upon which to base projections of future effectiveness.”

The CRS considered wind power and biomass as renewable energy sources. The main problem with wind, according to the report, is that while proponents assert wind could provide 20 percent of U.S. electricity needs, the U.S. electricity transmission network is already much constrained, with wind power producing only 1 percent of those needs. As much as 19,000 miles of new transmission lines would be needed to make wind work. The price tag — a net present value of $26 billion — isn’t the showstopper so much as public challenges to transmission line projects, which the CRS describes as “among the most serious and intractable challenges in the U.S. energy sector.”

The prospects for biofuels are worse. The CRS report cites sources that say a significant increase in biofuel production “would require harvesting various energy crops at a scale that vastly exceeds current practice.” A 2007 study from MIT estimated that as much as 500 million acres of land would be required, which would displace so much cropland that the U.S. would have to become a “substantial agricultural importer.”

Heavy use of biofuels, it seems, would simply move us from depending on foreign oil to depending on foreign food.

Nuclear power? Given the facts of green opposition to nuclear power and the decline in U.S. nuclear infrastructure over the last 30 years, the optimistic view for nuclear power is that we could perhaps build as many as 30 new U.S. reactors by 2030 — fewer than half the number constructed during the 1963-1985 heyday of nuclear construction. The pessimistic view, as cited by the CRS, is that we aren’t likely to see a serious ramp up of nuclear power for 15 to 20 years.

Although advanced coal technology can reduce CO2 emissions, the plants “still burn coal and — absent carbon capture technology — still release large volumes of CO2 to the atmosphere,” observes the CRS. So what about carbon capture and sequestration (CCS)? Should we hold our breath waiting for it? Not according to the CRS. Hardly anyone expects the first CCS projects to be constructed before 2020. Then again, there are so many hurdles for CCS to overcome, “one just has to put a big question mark on it,” the CRS cited a Department of Energy official as saying.

What about plug-in hybrid vehicles? When he was running for president, Obama pledged to put 1 million of the vehicles on the road by 2015. Aside from the question of how popular they’ll be with a projected retail price of $40,000 (as compared to $23,000 for a conventional vehicle), will they actually reduce carbon emissions? Only if the power plants they get electricity from produce little if any carbon. But since most U.S. electricity production is not carbon-free, the CRS observes that the “widespread adoption of plug-in hybrid vehicles through 2030 may have only a small effect on, and might actually increase, net CO2 emissions.”

The final carbon control options addressed by the CRS are the so-called “distributed energy resources” like rooftop solar panels, fuel cells, natural gas microturbines, small scale wind turbines, and combined heat and power systems (CHP), which makes productive use of “waste” heat from electricity generation. Of these resources, only CHP is economical, accounting for nearly 9 percent of U.S. electricity generating capacity in 2007. But according to the CRS, even CHP often faces technical and utility infrastructure barriers to implementation.

Combined with the dubious reasoning behind calls to reduce CO2 emissions — check out this YouTube video produced by — and repeated avowals by China and India to not make any special efforts to reduce their CO2 emissions, the CRS report makes clear that significant U.S. carbon reduction could very well be little more than an expensive and painful exercise in futility.

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

Al Gore and Venus Envy

By Steven Milloy
January 29, 2009,

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 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,

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 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,

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 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,

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 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,

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 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,

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, 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,

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 and 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,

“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 and He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.