Policy Advisor at The Heartland Institute
James H. Rust is a policy advisor for The Heartland Institute, a retired professor of nuclear engineering, and an outspoken critic of unnecessary alarmism over man-made global warming. He funds several scholarships for students majoring in chemical engineering at Purdue University. He currently is delivering a talk titled “America's Failed Energy Policies and The Reason Why.”
Latest posts by James H. Rust (see all)
For years the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been issuing onerous rules applying to the use of fossil fuels that has caused increases in energy prices and contributed to the economic malaise that has befallen the country since the end of the last recession in 2009. The latest assault occurred June 2, 2014 with the EPA’s issuing its Carbon Pollution Standards requiring a 30 percent reduction in carbon pollution from existing power plants below the 2005 level by the year 2030. 2005 was a year of high carbon pollution for the United States with total carbon dioxide emissions of 6.723 billion tons and 2.642 billion tons for electric power generation. A 30 percent reduction in power emissions by 2030 is 0.793 billion tons leaving no more than 1.85 billion tons of carbon emissions for electric power generation.
For the EPA, carbon pollution means carbon dioxide, the trace gas necessary for life on the planet; not the dirty soot older people remember turned snow black in the winter, ruined laundry hung outside to dry, and coated cars parked outside. This is a direct attempt to deceive the public about the nature of the hazard being foisted upon them.
PUBLIC HEALTH BENEFITS EMPHASIZED
Along with usual stopping catastrophic climate events due to global warming, carbon pollution standards were pushed from the standpoint of health benefits. The May 31, The Guardian carried an article “Obama heralds health benefits of climate plan to cut power plant emissions” which described a presentation President Obama made, with white-robed individuals in the background, in an asthma ward at the Children’s National Medical Centre in Washington, DC. The President said, “just in the first year the plan would reduce asthma attacks by 100,000 and heart attacks by 2100″. A 7-page report from The White House “The Health Impacts of Climate Change On Americans” list their claims of health problems from global warming. No mention most health problems occur in the winter.
On June 2, EPA Administrator Gina McCarty announced EPA’s Carbon Pollution Plan calling attention this plan reduces illnesses like asthma by reducing carbon pollution. Ms. McCarthy said, “The first year these standards go into effect, we’ll avoid up to 100,000 asthma attacks and 2,100 heart attacks-and those numbers go up from there.”
“No one really knows what causes asthma. We do know asthma is a chronic inflammatory disease of the airways. Causes of asthma symptoms vary for different people. Still, one thing is consistent with asthma: when airways come into contact with an asthma trigger, the airways become inflamed, narrow, and fill with mucus. Allergies with asthma are common problem. Eighty percent of people with asthma have allergies to airborne substances such as tree, grass, and weed pollens, mold, animal dander, dust mites, and cockroach particles. In one study, children who had high levels of cockroach droppings in their homes were four times more likely to have childhood asthma than children whose homes had low levels. Asthma exacerbation after dust exposure is usually due to dust mite allergy.”
A devastating July 11, 2011 article in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution by University of Georgia Emeritus Prof. R. Harold Brown “Politics of asthma have outrun the science of the condition” destroys arguments by the EPA power plant emissions cause asthma. EPA claims ozone causes asthma; but Prof. Brown cites studies show a negative correlation of asthma attacks with peak eight-hour ozone concentrations. Air pollution would be thought to be worse in urban areas; but asthma rates are as high in rural areas as urban areas. A 2004 global report on asthma cited asthma incidences among adults as 10.9 percent in the U. S., 2.1 percent in China, and 2.2 percent in Russia; all countries with far more polluted air than the U. S. A 2001-2004 CDC study reported 14.6 percent of U. S. born women, 4 percent of Mexican born women, and 6.8 percent for immigrants born elsewhere claimed they had asthma. Additional studies, most in Europe, show children born on farms with lots of livestock contact are less likely to have asthma.
To add more confusion to causes of asthma is a new study reported June 6, 2014 in Health Daily News “Too-Clean Homes May Encourage Child Allergies, Asthma: Study” reported children from dirty homes were less likely to have wheezing coughing by age 3. The study is still in infancy.
An article by Brian Palmer titled “How Dangerous Is Asthma?” shows you are more likely to die from drowning than asthma in the U. S. Deaths due to asthma have fallen from 2 per 100,000 in 1998 to 1 per 100,000 in 2010.
“Air pollution not correlated with asthma hospitalizations” is reported by a JunkScience.com study. Soot and smog were not correlated with emergency admissions for asthma at a large Los Angeles hospital over the two-year period 2010-11. Los Angeles is one of the most polluted areas in the United States.
Carbon dioxide is a trace gas, 0.04 percent, occurring in our atmosphere and its slight increases have no effect on causing asthma or stimulating its attacks. Claiming asthma reductions by a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from electric power generation in the next 16 years is totally false. It may be the EPA’s calling “wolf” for years on power plant pollution that causes parents to keep their children inside homes where actual air pollution is more severe.
There is some thought increasing ozone in the atmosphere stimulates asthma attacks. Weather alerts given in cities about impending bad air is due to ozone increases caused by automobiles. One source of atmospheric ozone is due to ethanol being mixed with gasoline as a renewable fuel. A December 14, 2009, report by Stanford University researchers “Ethanol results in higher ozone concentrations than gasoline” shows vehicles running on ethanol generate higher concentrations of ozone than those using gasoline, especially in the winter. This could create new health concerns in areas where ozone hasn’t been a significant problem before. Further evidence of ethanol causing ozone is shown by studies in Sao Paulo, Brazil “Study Links Ethanol To Higher Air Pollution. These studies showed higher ozone pollution during times of greater ethanol use due to ethanol’s lower prices.
This is an example where the EPA attacks a non-problem, carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels, and creates a real problem by pushing use of ethanol as a mix with gasoline. An analogous situation occurred in 2011 when the EPA attacked mercury from effluents of coal-and oil-burning power plants with its Mercury and Toxic Substance (MATS) Rule and supervised elimination of incandescent light bulbs with replacement of mercury-containing compact fluorescent light (CFL) bulbs. A May 3, 2011 paper by James H. Rust “Do New EPA Regulations on Power Plant Mercury Effluents Make Sense” shows mercury emissions from power plants are negligible compared to natural mercury emissions; while mercury concentrations in small areas in homes from CFL breakage posed potential severe environmental hazards.
THE GLOBAL WARMING PITCH
The EPA has long claimed carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels causes catastrophic global warming (CAGW). Thus its 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide from electric power generation from 2005 levels should reduce global warming. CAGW is stated to cause increased flooding, drought, wildfires, tornadoes, hurricanes, sea level rise, Arctic ice melting, etc. The EPA maintains scientific support for carbon dioxide threats are a series of 5 Assessment Reports by the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) released since 1990 with the most recent in 2014. These documents are accepted without question.
To counteract omissions, half-truths, and false statements in these reports, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was formed in 2003. Since 2009, NIPCC has released 6 Reports that give authoritative, easily-read information about vast amounts of experimental data showing negligible influence of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels on climate, benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, financial losses from mitigation, and proper role of adapting to climate change. NIPCC is supported by three non-profit organizations–Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, Science and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute.
A host of data exists to show all catastrophic events alleged caused by CAGW occurred in the past when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower and constant. For many weather events, rates of occurrences recently declined. In addition, lack of global warming the past 16 years, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased the highest rate in thousands of years, is conveniently ignored. NIPCC reports cover all these omissions.
A lifetime could be spent studying past global temperatures, theories about causes of climate change, and failures to predict the future. Three recent examples are of interest:
A June 24, 2014 article by P. Gosselin “Laughing Stock Met Office—2007 “Peer-Reviewed” Global Temperature Forecast A Staggering Failure” reports an August 10, 2007 Science article claimed global temperatures would rise 0.54 degrees F. from 2004 to 2014 and at least half the temperatures after 2009 would be above the highest recorded (1998 super El Nino) up to that time. In actuality a cooling of 0.025 degrees F. occurred over the ten-year period and no temperatures were above the 1998 temperature.
Since 1890, the U. S. Weather Service has collected temperature data across the country that is stored in the United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN). This data is published by USHCN and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS). In the last few decades, this data has been adjusted as reported “Data Tampering At USHCN/GISS”. The measured data set shows a decline in US temperatures since the 1930s. However, after adjustments to the data, the cooling trend since the 1930s had been changed to a warming trend. More recent analysis is reported as “Just Hit The NOAA Motherlode”.
An article by Tom Harris in the June 30, 2014 Washington Times quoted a statement by President Obama to the League of Conservation Voters on June 25 in Washington. President Obama said, “We know that carbon dioxide traps heat. We know that the levels of carbon dioxide are higher than they’ve been in 800,000 years. We know that the 20 warmest years on record for our planet all happened since 1990 — and last month was the warmest May ever recorded.” President Obama got his information from NOAA(May 2014 warmest ever and 1.33°F above the 20th century average 58.6°F), for which the preceding paragraph shows doctors their data. However, if you examine satellite temperature data from the University of Alabama at Huntsville you get the following numbers: May 2014 temperature 0.59 degrees F., May 1998 temperature 1.01 degrees, and May 2010 temperature 0.83 degrees—all temperatures above the global average from 1981 to 2010. The Wood For Trees data site, which contains British HADCRUT 4 global mean temperature data, also showed May 1998 was warmer than May 2014. This is another example of shaky data used to promote EPA’s policies.
IS THE REST OF THE WORLD YAWNING?
The EPA and President Obama hailed their carbon dioxide reductions would convince the rest of the world to cut back on use of fossil fuels.
After EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards announcement, Reuters published China announced a plan to cap carbon dioxide emissions due to remarks by Chinese Professor He Jiankun at a conference in Beijing. These remarks were quickly undone when Professor He made a later statement, “What I said today was my personal view. The opinions expressed at the workshop were only meant for academic studies. What I said does not represent the Chinese government or any organisation.”
In another Reuters announcement “German state allows Vattenfall to expand brown coal mining” points out the East German state of Brandenburg will mine 200 million tons of brown coal from 2026.
Another follow-up is Robert Wilson’s article “What a difference a decade makes: an updated reality check on the global energy system” for the Energy Post. He reported China in a decade and a half built the equivalent of the entire American electricity grid. “China today consumes 4 billion metric tons of coal and has a commitment to 500 GW of new coal capacity. It is unlikely China’s coal use for electricity generation will be significantly lower 30 or 40 years from now.” China’s carbon dioxide emissions are twice that of America’s today.
Even if carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels had an effect on global warming, it is apparent the United States reduction of 0.8 billion tons by 2030 would have no measureable effect on climate change.
EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards are a difficult requirement to explain that are based on their descriptions of carbon dioxide Emission Rates in pounds of carbon dioxide per Megawatt-hour electricity produced for each state for the years 2012 and 2030. The connection to a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from the year 2005 is not apparent. Readers are invited to predict sacrifices for their states.
Some facts are known. The population of the U. S. in 2005 was 296 million, 317 million in 2013, and predicted 373 million in 2030. This is a 26 percent increase in U. S. population from 2005 to 2030 and an 18 percent increase from 2013 to 2030. Thus a 30 percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions from 2005 to 2030 means a 44 percent reduction on a per capita basis.
Some information about possible cost escalations of the Carbon Pollution Standards are in a June 2 article by James H. Rust “President Obama’s and EPA’s Attack on Fossil Fuels”. The EPA thought their rules would encourage use of cap-and-trade programs in individual states to force reductions in carbon dioxide output. Ten states currently have cap-and-trade programs–nine states in theNorth East and Mid Atlantic Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and California. RGGI started January 1, 2009. Cap-and-trade went into effect in California January 1, 2013.
The ten states with cap-and-trade have mandates for renewable energy generation—solar and wind energy–called renewable portfolio standards (RPS). Thirty three states have RPS with Hawaii the highest RPS of 40 percent renewables by 2030. California has the second highest RPS with a requirement of 33 percent by 2020. Nineteen states have all sector electricity rates above the national average and all have RPS. With exceptions of Hawaii, whose majority of electricity is generated with oil, and Alaska; the ten states with cap-and-trade have the highest electricity rates in the nation. The March 2014 average cost of all sector electricity for the ten states with cap-and-trade is 14.84 cents per kilowatt-hour (kw-hr)–44 percent higher than the average of 10.32 cents per kw-hr for the nation.
It is apparent EPA’s insistence on a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions will increase electricity prices. Individual states will suffer more than others.
WHAT ARE ECONOMIC CONSEQUENCES?
At her public announcement June 2, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy made the following comments about the economic consequences of the Clean Power Plan:
“I know people are wondering: can we cut pollution while keeping our energy affordable and reliable? We can, and we will. Critics claim your energy bills will skyrocket. They’re wrong. Any small, short-term change in electricity prices would be within normal fluctuations the power sector already deals with. And any small price increase—think about the price of a gallon of milk a month—is dwarfed by huge benefits. This is an investment in better health and a better future for our kids.
In 2030, the Clean Power Plan will deliver climate and health benefits of up to $90 billion dollars. And for soot and smog reductions alone, that means for every dollar we invest in the plan, families will see $7 dollars in health benefits. And if states are smart about taking advantage of efficiency opportunities, and I know they are, when the effects of this plan are in place in 2030, average electricity bills will be 8 percent cheaper.
For over four decades, EPA has cut air pollution by 70 percent and the economy has more than tripled. All while providing the power we need to keep America strong.”
We think of economic growth in terms of total amount; but a more accurate measure is increase in gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. A June 6, 2014 article in The American Thinker by Sierra Rayne “How Environmental Regulations Hurt The Economy In One Graph” shows U. S. economy growth on a per capita basis has slowed since 1970 compared to the time period 1929-1970. From 1970 to 2010, the U. S. population increased from 203 million to 309 million and GNP per capita increased from $24,000 to $49,000. However, based on the growth rate over the period 1929-1970, per capita GDP would have been $84,000. Sierra Rayne thought the procession of environmental acts (1970 Clean Air Act, 1972 Clean Water Act, 1973 Endangered Species Act, and 1987 Montreal Protocol) may have been the catalyst to slow down the nation’s rate of economic growth prior to 1970. The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan will only add to regulatory burdens and increased economic slowdown.
Heidi Moore of The Guardian wrote June 6 “The fault in our starry-eyed ‘recovery’ : 2014 looks like we are going bust again”. The article disputes economic data put out by the government on unemployment, economic growth, and wealth of most Americans. This shows EPA’s hit on the economy by unnecessary regulations on fossil fuel use is unwarranted.
Prof. Anthony Kelly’s multi-referenced report “Climate Policy and the Poor” for the Global Warming Policy Foundation found actions to restrict fossil fuel use has far greater impacts on the poor whether they are from developed or developing nations. In addition, many adverse consequences are due to implementation of renewable energy sources–solar, wind, biofuels, and biomass–as substitutes for fossil fuels. He further states the religions of the Western World place assisting the poor as their first priority and yielding to calls for programs to mitigate climate change are counter to this argument.
Carbon dioxide is a necessary chemical to sustain life on this planet. It is an airborne fertilizer that increases plant yields and bigger plant root systems that makes them more drought resistant. A report on social benefits of carbon dioxide for agriculture alone is estimated at $3.2 trillion from 1961 to 2011. Benefits from 2012 to 2050 are estimated to be $9.8 trillion. It may be the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide from 310 parts per million (ppm) in 1950 to 400 ppm today is the reason the planet can feed the population increase of 2.5 billion in 1950 to 7 billion in 2013. These benefits from increased atmospheric carbon dioxide make any suggested economic benefits from carbon dioxide curtailment by the EPA irrelevant.
The public should remember electrification was voted The Outstanding Engineering Achievement of the 20th Century by the National Society of Professional Engineers and other scientific organizations. This is due to inexpensive, abundant, reliable electricity has contributed more to the health and pleasures of life than any other scientific accomplishment by man. Any activity to reduce its reliability and increase costs is a threat to the health, safety, and economic welfare of the nation. The few articles that follow show EPA’s carbon pollution plan serves that purpose.
A June 16, 2014 report “Ensuring Adequate Power Supplies For Tomorrow’s Electricity Needs” for the Electric Markets Research Foundation calls attention to a host of issues affecting the reliability of our electric grid system. Extreme cold during the 2014 winter caused price spiking and loss of reserves in parts of the country, in particular the Northeast. Coal-fired power plants scheduled for retirement in 2015 were needed to maintain power supply. Increased reliance on intermittent sources such as solar and wind, that may not be available when needed, may cause system reliability problems. The trend to using natural gas for new plant construction and conversion of existing power plants to natural gas may cause future problems over pricing and availability of natural gas in future times of urgent demand. All of these issues are solutions for reducing carbon dioxide emissions demanded by the EPA. Thus EPA’s rules jeopardize the national grid reliability.
A paper by Martin E. Rock, P.E., J.D. “Here’s the dirt on the EPA’s new ‘Clean Power’ Plan…” published June 18, 2014 by energy industry leader EUCI outlines numerous problems with the EPA plan. One comment is “Another dirty little secret is that market forces have reduced GHG emissions more in the US since 2005 than in any other country in the world without any intervention by EPA. US innovation, free market capitalism, and gas exploration has allowed for dramatic reductions, and these trends indicate even steeper future reductions than does the EPA’s Plan for the next 15 years. Perhaps someone should tell the EPA the obvious truth about this situation: ‘If it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.’”
Matt Ridley wrote an article June 19 for the Financial Post “Junk Science Week: IPCC commissioned models to see if global warming would reach dangerous level this century. Consensus is ‘no'” that analyzed worst predictions from the latest IPCC Report. The worst set of conditions on greenhouse gas increases led to a temperature rise of 2.1 degrees C. “The IPCC produced two reports last year. One said that the cost of climate change is likely to be less than 2% of GDP by the end of this century. The other said that the cost of decarbonizing the world economy with renewable energy is likely to be 4% of GDP. Why do something that you know will do more harm than good?”
International events in 2014 illustrate the dangers of the United States not exploiting its abundant reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas. The March 24, 2014 article by James H. Rust “Putin’s Gift To America’s Energy Independence” points out the role of energy in foreign affairs in the 20th century and Russian President Putin’s aggressive role in the Ukraine being fueled by their providing substantial amounts of natural gas to Western Europe. The Ukraine Crisis and unsettled events in Iraq are great gifts to stop the environmental movement’s eliminating fossil fuel production and insistence on relying on solar, wind, ethanol from corn, etc. as energy sources. The EPA’s Carbon Pollution Standards will force shutdown of numerous coal-fired power plants and a shift to less polluting natural gas. This leaves the United States in a position to having less natural gas available for export and thus less importance on the international stage. Renewable energy sources are of no consequence in conduct of foreign policy. Do we want peace and prosperity or “green energy”, poverty, and the possibility of nuclear war?
A House Subcommittee on Energy and Power had a hearing June 19 on the EPA Clean Energy Plan reported as follows:
“Rep. Bill Cassidy (R-LA) compared EPA’s promises for its power plant proposal to the administration’s failed promises of Obamacare. He criticized the administration for misleading the American people about the plan’s impact on jobs and energy prices and overall feasibility and flexibility, saying, “You may say you don’t demand something, but the inherent nature of the rule – the only way it can be reached without the federal government’s squeezing the state – will be to shut down coal.” Watch the exchange HERE.
Rep. John Shimkus (R-IL) highlighted the hardships states would face in complying with EPA’s plan, and questioned EPA’s assumptions about electricity generation in states. Shimkus also asked what would happen if EPA did not approve a state’s implementation plan. She replied, “EPA will move forward with a plan. … We are not focused on that right now.” Watch the full exchange HERE.
Upton concluded, ‘As with the health law, another train wreck is coming – unless Congress does something about it. It’s time to start being honest with the American people about this expensive power plan, and that process started with today’s hearing.’”
Possibly the greatest dangers to the nation lies in what happens after EPA implements its Carbon Pollution Standards.
On June 30, the EPA announced their climate change adaptation programs that are summarized as follows:
“EPA’s policy is consistent with the President’s Climate Action Plan and Executive Order 13653 on Preparing the United States for the Impacts of Climate Change, which calls on the federal government to strengthen the adaptive capacity of its programs and operations. The new policy updates the EPA policy first issued in June 2011, and includes the following directives:
– Modernize EPA financial assistance program to encourage climate-resilient investments;
– Provide information, tools, training and technical support for climate change preparedness and resilience;
– Implement priority actions identified in EPA’s Climate Change Adaptation Plan and Implementation Plans;
– Focus on the most vulnerable people and places;
– Measure and evaluate performance of climate adaptation actions;
– Continue EPA planning for climate change-related risk; and
– Coordinate with other federal agencies”
Later that day EPA announced their proposed rule Standards of Performance Solid Waste Landfills. This rule would increase removal of methane gas from landfill emissions to 66 percent.
On July 10, EPA made a news release “EPA Proposes to Replace and Reduce Harmful Greenhouse Gases” which is a program to prohibit use of hydrofluorocarbons “used in aerosols, motor vehicle air conditioning, retail food refrigeration and vending machines, and foam blowing.” “This action is estimated to reduce greenhouse gases by up to 42 million metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent by 2020.” By 2020, natural emissions of carbon dioxide would have been about 3,600,000 million metric tons or human-produced emissions of 150,000 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Not much effect on global warming no matter what the cost of these EPA rules.
CITIZEN ACTION NOW
The climate adaption program could make EPA a powerful master that could dictate to all departments in the government. Already the Department of Energy, Department of Interior, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Defense have numerous programs that promote President Obama’s Climate Action Plan. I am on the distribution list for News Releases from all these agencies. My observations are each agency is trying to out-perform the others in their attempts to come up with programs that please the Whitehouse. What comes to mind is the fealty of vassals to their lord back in medieval times. The EPA may be the new lord. One example is the U. S. Navy’s “Farm to Fleet” program that has a long term goal of 50 percent biofuels for its fleet needs. It would be cheaper to buy oil wells.
With a country that has budget deficits of $1.5 billion per day, these programs could help sink the nation into an insurmountable level of debt in a few years.
There is much speculation Emperor Nero fiddled when Rome burned in AD 64. It appears the “fiddle” has been passed to the EPA by its recent rulings. It is time to say to the EPA “You have done enough”.
By coincidence, sixty years ago on June 9, 1954; U. S. Army lawyer Joseph Welch told Senator Joseph McCarthy, “You have done enough. Have you no sense of decency.” Welch’s remarks stopped McCarthy’s harassing people alleged as Communists. Maybe these remarks will stop this useless harassment of the nation’s abundant, economical, reliable, and geographically distributed fossil fuels.
EPA provided a means to make written comments on the Clean Power Plan Proposed Rule that are due by October 16, 2014. EPA will have hundreds of thousands of favorable comments from environmental groups. Use information from this document to send EPA your comment telling them “You have done enough.”
James H. Rust, Professor of nuclear engineering and policy advisor The Heartland Institute.