The Silence is Broken…
We have previously remarked on the curious fact that global warming did not even rate a mention during the presidential debates, a first since the AGW hysteria began to gather steam in the early 1980's.
Something many readers may not be aware of: the first politician propagating the AGW theory and putting her weight behind it was actually Margaret Thatcher. At the time the theory was still in its infancy, some unknown climate tinkerer in Scandinavia had come up with it. Thatcher saw it as a gift that could help her in her struggle against Arthur Scargill and the UK coal mining unions. By portraying coal as a contributor to a dangerous climate trend, Scargill would lose the public's sympathies – this is how her calculation presumably went. We wonder if she had been so enthusiastic had she known what would become of this particular propaganda exercise. It sure has taken on a life of its own.
Anyway, now that president Obama has been reelected, he has suddenly 'rediscovered' the topic of climate change.
Many politicians love the almost endless possibilities it offers to tax and regulate businesses and consumers alike. After all, who can possibly be against contributing a little something to save us from certain disaster? As you will see below, big business loves it too. The new taxes and regulations are yet another obstacle standing in the way of upstart competitors. Consumers and society as a whole are losing out, economic progress stalls, but rent seekers all over the show are growing fat and happy.
What 'We' Allegedly Want…
As Ezra Klein reports on the president's climate agenda in the Washington Post:
„We want our kids to grow up in an America… that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” That was the president in his acceptance speech Tuesday night. Now that Obama has won reelection, apparently, he feels free to talk about climate change — a topic notably absent during the campaign. Now what does he actually plan to do about it?
An Obama second term could have fairly significant implications for energy and climate policy. Many of the bigger initiatives from his first term now won’t likely be repealed, from strict fuel-economy standards on automobiles to regulations on coal-fired power plants. And those could all have a modest effect on the America’s oil use, its energy mix — and ultimately its heat-trapping carbon emissions. Yet doing anything bigger on climate change will likely require working with a Republican Congress.“
We would comment here that what 'we' really don't want is for our kids to grow up in a cooling world. Now that would certainly be a disaster of major proportions. However, there is nothing we could do about it. It seems actually highly likely that the world will eventually cool down again, as it has done regularly and repeatedly in the past following periods of warming. It also seems pretty certain that an if the planet were to cool down by eight degrees Celsius or even more as has happened in the distant past, it won't be able to support seven billion plus people. Unless, that is, if capital accumulation has progressed to the point that all food can be profitably grown in greenhouses and everybody has a nicely insulated abode to live in. This is one of the reasons why one must be so careful about implementing policies that are certain to retard economic growth and capital accumulation.
The list of Obama's likely climate related initiatives Klein supplies in his article unfortunately indicates that the implementation of such policies is precisely what is going to happen.
Fuel Economy Standards
„Stricter fuel-economy standards are here to stay.´In his acceptance speech, Obama promised to work with Congress on “freeing ourselves from foreign oil.” Yet his most ambitious move on this front won’t require Congress at all. His administration has already set new rules requiring new passenger vehicles sold in the United States to average 54.5 miles per gallon by 2025, up from 29 miles per gallon today.“
It should be pointed out here that every single president since the 1970's has promised to 'free us from the dependence on foreign oil'. This is simply economic nonsense. If oil can be produced competitively elsewhere, why should one not buy it? As it were, market forces and human ingenuity are already at work to reverse the decline in domestic US oil output, which has been rising quite strongly of late – in fact, it has reached an 18 year high. And no, the government did 'not build that'.
Daily US oil production in 1,000ds of bbl. – rising strongly to an 18 year high – click for better resolution.
Monthly domestic US crude oil production – click for better resolution.
As the “Post Libertarian” blog wrote on the fuel efficiency standards and the way they were sold to the public (the entire post is well worth reading as it were):
“The Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) program always felt like an amusingly bureaucratic invention to me. First you have to quantify “average miles per gallon” for a single vehicle that varies significantly by highway or city and various driving conditions. Then you have to quantify that average across an entire manufacturer’s fleet (is it by number of vehicles sold? is it by number of models?). Additionally, a mandate based on miles per gallon is built on an assumption that the MPG is fairly constant regardless of trip length, but hybrid and electric vehicles break that assumption. Now you have to forcibly quantify into your old system a vehicle that uses no gas for X miles and then either uses Y mpg after that or can’t go anywhere at all. Finally, once you assume you can quantify everything satisfactorily, you build a new assumption that future technology will be able to meet an arbitrary number sometime in the future.
Another suspicious aspect about the mandates is that most of the major auto manufacturers “.” Industry support for regulation is often used as proof that the regulation is good, but if you’re familiar with economics you know that established big businesses tend to support regulation because it increases costs they can handle while raising barriers to entry that protect them from new competition, which ultimately hurts consumers with higher costs and less innovation.
They say these mandates are supported by 13 manufacturers that make up 90% of the market, and there’s still plenty of competition between them, but I don’t understand the alleged reason for manufacturer support: it gives them “the certainty they need to make manufacturing plans far into the future.” If consumers already want better mileage, and they think they can handle it, why do they need a mandate to do it? Why don’t they just supply it already? It’s supposed to be a win for consumers because now they’ll get better gas mileage, but the whole thing feels to me like a bizarro paradigm where The White House sets the Reality of What Is Possible To Make. Consumers can’t demand and manufacturers can’t supply better cars until the Voice of the Executive Branch speaks, but once it speaks, suddenly it’s possible for more efficient vehicles to roll off the assembly lines. (Why doesn’t the Voice speak an even higher number?)”
EPA Regulation of Coal Plants
Klein informs us further:
“The Environmental Protection Agency’s existing rules on coal plants will survive. In Obama’s first term, the EPA set strict limits on mercury pollution from coal-fired plants and put an upper limit on the amount of carbon dioxide that could be emitted from any new power plant built in the United States. Combine those EPA rules with cheap natural gas and rising mining costs, and coal is in trouble.”
Coal was already in trouble before these rules were established, as the market found ways to vastly increase the production of natural gas by employing new drilling and extraction methods. Of course natural gas is not going to stay that cheap if coal fired plants are shut down. And it appears the plan is precisely to wage a war on coal that will end with the industry's destruction. It will also cost the economy a fortune and hit numerous poor communities especially hard. According to the non-partisan Manhattan Institute, the cost could amount to $700 billion. Writes the institute:
“On March 27, the EPA proposed what it calls the first “Clean Air Act standard for carbon pollution for new power plants.” The proposal, if enacted, will effectively outlaw the construction of new coal-fired power plants in the United States. It is one of a myriad of rules leading to what some have called the “regulatory death” of domestic coal-fired electricity production. Shortly after the EPA announcement, Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia said the move shows that the EPA is engaged “in a war on coal.”
There’s no denying that coal has earned its reputation as a relatively dirty fuel. Generating electricity by burning coal results in higher levels of carbon emissions than does burning oil or natural gas. But the EPA should not prohibit the use of coal based on its carbon dioxide emissions. Doing so ignores modern advances in plant design and construction that have steadily improved air quality. But more to the point, prohibiting coal will increase the cost of producing electricity—a cost which will ultimately be paid by consumers—while doing almost nothing to reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions.
Despite its drawbacks, coal remains a cheap, easily accessed, and abundant domestic fuel source. In other words, there is still a case for coal. The EPA should revisit its proposed ban on new coal-fired power plants. It is bad policy for several reasons:
1.The anti-coal regulatory regime reduces access to a vital source of energy.
2.Electricity producers need to retain a balanced fuel mix. Prohibiting a specific fuel has been tried in the past by regulators.
3.The newest coal plants are clean by traditional EPA measures.
4.Prohibiting construction of new coal-fired generation units won’t do anything to achieve the EPA’s stated purpose of reducing global carbon dioxide emissions.
We would add to this that it isn't even clear to us why carbon dioxide emissions are considered 'bad'. There is plenty of evidence from ice cores that suggests that the link between global warming and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere works exactly the other way around from that claimed by the 'climate consensus'. This is to say, increases of CO2 in the atmosphere appear to follow temperature increases with a considerable lag. A recent paper suggests that this lag effect (which has to do with the release of CO2 from the oceans) is even observable in much smaller time frames, which strongly supports the ice core evidence. One of the most important highlights of said paper is the following point:
But meeting that target depends on a few things. States would have to continue to promote renewable power. California would have to get its cap-and-trade system working. Natural gas would have to stay cheap. And the EPA would have to strengthen its rules on carbon dioxide from power plants and keep the fuel-economy rules in place.”
To these 'few things' (leaving aside for the moment whether reductions in carbon dioxide emissions are even desirable or useful):
Regarding the 'promotion' of renewable power, see our comments on wind energy above. It just makes no economic sense, and very likely therefore also makes no environmental sense. It merely lines the pockets of vested interests. 'Cap-and-trade' is a major boondoggle that has so far been failing spectacularly wherever it has been tried. The artificial 'carbon markets' have collapsed. But the vested interests, represented by professional climate alarmists in most cases, . No wonder there is 'interest' in reviving this mad idea.
'Natural gas would have to stay cheap' – is this some kind of joke? Two paragraphs further above Klein has just explained why it cannot possibly stay cheap if the president and the environmental bureaucracy have their way.
As to 'strengthening the rules on carbon dioxide from power plants', see the discussion above. It can be done, but at great cost to the economy and consumers, especially the poorest strata of society, for whom energy costs represent a very large portion of their income and spending (the authoritarian left rarely mentions such things, so we feel compelled to spell them out).
A Number of Proposals Won't Fly – We Hope
Klein then concludes wistfully:
“Bigger action on climate will require Congress. Obama has signaled at many points that he would be open to more sweeping action to tackle global warming. He has proposed a clean energy standard that would require utilities to get a greater portion of their electricity from renewables. Joseph Aldy, a former White House official, has hinted that Obama would be open to a carbon tax if Republicans were willing to negotiate.
But Obama would have to get those proposals through Congress first. And, after that, he’d then have to revive international climate talks with countries like China and India, which have been flagging of late. We’re still a long, long ways off from a world “that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.” By itself, Obama’s re-election can’t change that.”
Obama would be 'open to a carbon tax'? That sounds almost as though he were reluctantly weighing the pros and cons of such a step. Why not admit that he's practically chomping at the bit to impose one?
Anyway, this final paragraph leaves one with a small modicum of hope that the most radical proposals simply won't fly, as neither the Republican controlled Congress, nor China or India seem overly eager to sacrifice the economy on the altar of climate alarmism. As it were, we have more faith in China and India in that regard than in Congress, where such issues are often decided through the influence wielded by lobbyists.
Meanwhile, we are writing this post from a place that has lately been bitter cold and could really use a good dose of warming. Where the hell is it? Twenty years ago were fervently hoping that we might live to see better (and especially much warmer) weather in these here parts. No such luck so far.
Charts by: AEI and skepticalscience.com
Dear Readers! We are happy to report that we have reached our turn-of-the-year funding goal and want to extend a special thank you to all of you who have chipped in. We are very grateful for your support! As a general remark, according to usually well informed circles, exercising the donation button in between funding drives is definitely legal and highly appreciated as well.
Bitcoin address: 1DRkVzUmkGaz9xAP81us86zzxh5VMEhNke
6 Responses to “Climate Change is Back on the Agenda”
Most read in the last 20 days:
- Fresh Mainstream Nonsense on Gold Demand
They Will Never Get It... We and many others have made a valiant effort over the years to explain what actually moves the gold market (as examples see e.g. our article “Misconceptions About Gold”, or Robert Blumen's excellent essay “Misunderstanding Gold Demand”). Sometimes it is a bit frustrating when we realize it has probably all been for naught. Gold wants to know what it has done now... Photo credit: Ajay Verma / Reuters This was brought home to...
- Switzerland About to Vote on “Free Lunch” for Everyone
Will the Swiss Guarantee CHF 75,000 for Every Family? In early June the Swiss will be called upon to make a historic decision. Switzerland is the first country worldwide to put the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income to a vote and the outcome of this referendum will set a strong precedent and establish a landmark in the evolution of this debate. The Swiss Basic Income Initiative in a demonstration in front of parliament. As we have previously reported (see “Swiss...
- Drowning the Fir
Presidential Duties Our editor recently stumbled upon an image in one of the more obscure corners of the intertubes which we felt we had to share with our readers. It provides us with a nice metaphor for the meaningfulness of government activity. First, here is a look at the picture – just quietly contemplate it for while and let it work its magic on you: Yes, these two gentlemen are actually watering a tree in the middle of a downpour... Photo via...
- Gold – The Commitments of Traders
Commercial and Non-Commercial Market Participants The commitments of traders in gold futures are beginning to look a bit concerning these days – we will explain further below why this is so. Some readers may well be wondering why an explanation is even needed. Isn't it obvious? Superficially, it sure looks that way. As the following chart of the net position of commercial hedgers illustrates, their position is currently at quite an extended...
- Heretical Thoughts and Doing the Unthinkable
Heresy! NORMANDY, France – The Dow rose 222 points on Tuesday – or just over 1%. But we agree with hedge-fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller: This is not a good time to be a U.S. stock market bull. Legendary former hedge fund manager Stanley Druckenmiller at the Ira Sohn conference – not an optimist at present, to put it mildly. Photo credit: David A. Grogan / CNBC Speaking at an investment conference in New York last week, George Soros’ former partner...
- Staying Home on Election Day
Pretenses and Conceits The markets are eerily quiet… like an angry man with something on his mind and a shotgun in his hand. We will leave them to brood… and return to the spectacle of the U.S. presidential primaries. On display are all the pretenses, conceits, and absurdities of modern government. And now, the race narrows to the two most widely distrusted and loathed candidates. US election circus: Deep State Rep vs. Rage Channeller The first, a loose...
- How the Deep State’s Cronies Steal From You
Expanding in Ireland DUNMORE EAST, Ireland – We came down the coast from Dublin to check on our new office building. For this visit, we wanted to stay somewhere different than we normally do. So we chose a small hotel on the coast, called the Strand Inn. Irish landscape with alien landing pads. Even the guys from Rigel II have heard about Ireland's corporate tax rate. Photo credit: Tourism Ireland It is an excellent place for seafood and soda bread on a...
- The World's 100 Most Influential Hacks, Yahoos and Monkey Shiners
Hacks and Has-Beens NORMANDY, France – What has happened to TIME magazine? Henry Luce, who started TIME – the first weekly news magazine in the U.S. – would be appalled to see what it has become. Time cover featuring the sunburned mummy heading the globalist IMF bureaucracy (which inter alia advocates that governments should confiscate a portion of the wealth of their citizens overnight, even while its own employees don't have to pay a single cent in taxes). Once you...
- The Japanese Popsicle Affair
Policy-Induced Contrition in Japan As we keep saying, there really is no point in trying to make people richer by making them poorer – which is what Shinzo Abe and Haruhiko Kuroda have been trying to do for the past several years. Not surprisingly, they have so to speak only succeeded in achieving the second part of the equation: they have certainly managed to impoverish their fellow Japanese citizens. Shinzo Abe and Haruhiko Kuroda, professional yen assassins Photo credit:...
- Kuroda-San in the Mouth of Madness
Deluded Central Planners Zerohedge recently reported on an interview given by Lithuanian ECB council member Vitas Vasiliauskas, which demonstrates how utterly deluded the central planners in the so-called “capitalist” economies of the West have become. His statements are nothing short of bizarre (“we are magic guys!”) – although he is of course correct when he states that a central bank can never “run out of ammunition”. BoJ governor Haruhiko Kuroda Photo credit:...
- Revolution at the Ranch
Alarming News BALTIMORE, Maryland – An alarming email came on Tuesday from our ranch in Argentina: “Bad things going on… We thought we had the originarios problem settled. Not at all. They just invaded the ranch.” Originarios on the march... Photo credit: cta.org.ar To bring new readers fully into the picture, Northwest Argentina, where we have our ranch, has a revolution going on. Some of the indigenous people – that is, people with Native...
- The Long-Buried Secret of Napoleon Bonaparte
Family Secrets DUBLIN – The smart money is getting out while the gettin’ is still good. That’s the message we get from reading the recent headlines. Here’s the Financial Times: Redemptions from stock funds have hit nearly $90 billion this year as portfolio managers and hedge funds struggle to navigate a market that no longer seems driven by radical central bank policy. S&P 500 Index: causing navigational problems - click to...