February 10, 2016
Another gem from the most destructive Supreme Court in history.
<political comment>I keep remembering the Ralph Nader rallying cry from the 2000 election – “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Al Gore and George Bush.”
If disastrous terror attacks, wrongheaded catastrophic wars, and economic collapse don’t stick in your memory – well – this court keeps reminding us – that there really was a dime’s worth of difference.
Something to remember in this contentious primary season.</political comment>
First place to go for analysis is Joe Romm and Climate Progress.
The shocking decision by the five conservative Supreme Court justices to “stay” the EPA’s carbon regulations for power plants does not, by itself, destroy what’s left of the Court’s reputation — or even doom the EPA’s Clean Power Plan (CPP).
Heck, it doesn’t even mean that the United States won’t be able to hit the CO2 reduction target it pledged with the other nations of the world in the Paris Agreement. Indeed, I expect with or without the CPP, the U.S. is probably going to meet its Paris pledge, its Intended Nationally Determined Contribution (INDC), to cut greenhouse gas pollution 26 to 28% below 2005 levels in 2025 (see below).
The Court’s stay just stops the EPA from from starting to implement its “Carbon Pollution Emission Guidelines for Existing Stationary Sources: Electric Utility Generating Units” probably until the Court itself rules on it — assuming that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit rules for the EPA and then the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal.
Senior White House officials said on a media call Tuesday evening that this was a temporary procedural determination that does nothing to affect the soundness of the rule, nor the White House’s determination to proceed with the rule and to cut emissions. They expressed confidence that the administration’s climate targets were achievable, citing momentum in the renewable power sector.
Of course, if the Roberts court ultimately decides to kill the rule 5-4 then that decision will immediately become the leading contender for the worst Supreme Court decision in U.S. history. After all, if the nations of the world ultimately don’t avoid catastrophic warming and if the U.S. is seen as bearing a significant portion of the blame — two entirely plausible outcomes — then future generations and historians will be judging the Court’s decision while suffering in a world with a climate that has been irreversibly ruined for centuries.
The untenability of the decision is pretty clear-cut for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court itself said back in 2007 in Massachusetts vs. EPA that the EPA was legally required to put in place such standards once CO2 was scientifically determined to endanger public health and well-being, which it obviously does. As Dave Roberts wrote in 2013: “Once more, with feeling: the EPA is required to regulate carbon from existing power plants.”
February 9, 2016
Above, a Texas flood survivor, who has obviously been watching my video interviews with Dr. Carl Mears (see below) and others, confronts Ted Cruz about climate change.
Voter: “About the satellite data, the scientist that put out that data said you’re misquoting it and misusing it.”
Cruz: “I understand there are scientists with political agendas.”
(he said, while shaking hands in a ropeline campaigning in the New Hampshire primary…)
Like a slowly tightening noose, public concern about climate change is closing in on GOP candidates who have backed themselves into an untenable corner on the critical issue, in what may be yet another record hot year.
MANCHESTER, N.H. — When Dan Kipnis stood up and asked Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) about his plan to address climate change, he thought he might face some angry audience members who didn’t like his question. He was shocked to instead find people clapping for him.
“I thought I’d get some boos or something like that,” the 65-year-old retired fishing boat captain from Miami Beach told The Huffington Post after Rubio’s Sunday town hall in Londonderry. “But you know, these people up here in New Hampshire, they’re pretty enlightened.”
This event wasn’t an isolated incident. Questions about climate change frequently come up at GOP town halls, even though it’s an issue that the candidates rarely talk about unprompted and one that almost never comes up during debates.
Kipnis said he was also able to ask former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) a climate change question at a New Hampshire town hall, and he received a similar reception.
“I basically got a standing ovation,” he said.
Bush also received a climate change question during his Saturday town hall in Bedford, New Hampshire. This one was from Cindy Lerner, mayor of Pinecrest, Florida. She and 14 other mayors — a bipartisan group — recently wrote to Rubio and Bush and asked to meet with them about climate change.
“What we’re seeing in Florida and around the country is a very strong, green economy with renewable energy and energy efficiency. And we’d like to see leadership from our next president on this,” Lerner said to applause.
“Look, the climate is changing. We have billions of people that live on the planet. We clearly have an impact. To deny it doesn’t make sense,” Bush replied to more applause, adding that he’d like to meet with the mayors when he’s back in Florida.
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) has also repeatedly received questions on the topic.
Republican presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush should be getting an education in climate change soon.
The two GOP candidates agreed last week to meet with a group of 15 South Florida mayors concerned about climate change’s impact on their state and on the country as a whole. The mayors had sent letters to Rubio and Bush in late January, urging the candidates to “acknowledge the reality and urgency of climate change” and asking them to take meetings with them to discuss climate change. One of the mayors — Cindy Lerner of Pinecrest, Florida — journeyed to New Hampshire last week, and questioned both candidates about the letters during town hall events.
“I know that they know the science we are relying on,” Lerner told ThinkProgress of the two candidates, both of whom have political histories in Florida. Bush served as governor of the state from 1999 to 2007, and Rubio is a U.S. senator from Florida. Florida’s university system is heavily involved in climate science, so these two candidates should have a good understanding of the issue, Lerner said.
“To have especially Marco, who is in such denial, ignore the very academic institutions that he has supported, funded, and worked with for more than a decade is really ridiculous, quite frankly,” she said.
Below, my interview with Dr. Mears, whose work Cruz pretends to cite. Read the rest of this entry »
February 8, 2016
Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services on Tuesday cut the ratings of 10 U.S. oil and gas exploration and production companies, citing the sharp drop in crude oil prices.
Chevron Corp., the second-largest U.S. energy company by revenue, was among the companies that had their credit ratings cut. Its corporate credit rating was cut one notch to double-A-negative.
On Friday, Chevron said it would lay off workers and slash more than $9 billion in capital spending this year after reporting it had swung to a fourth-quarter loss.
Other companies that saw their ratings cut by one notch are: Apache Corp., Continental Resources Inc., Devon Energy Corp., EOG Resources Inc., Hess Corp., Hunt Oil Co., Marathon Oil Corp., Murphy Oil Corp. and Southwestern Energy Co.
Norway’s huge sovereign wealth fund, the world’s biggest, has sold out of 73 companies in the past year because their social or environmental policies could hurt profitability.
The Norwegian state pension fund’s annual report relating to “responsible investment” did not give the names of companies, but it indicated that most were coal or energy companies using coal, as well as those involved in mining, producing cement and heavy construction.
“We want to measure the risk in our investments,” said the head of the fund, Yngve Slyngstad, in a statement on Thursday.
February 6, 2016
February 6, 2016
Any impact or non impact of a carbon tax may be trivial compared to the growing geo-political and technological challenges to the Oil industry.
Those who claimed low oil prices would crash renewables (other than biofuels) were wrong. The reason is simple. Wind and solar power make electricity. Oil makes less than four percent of world and under one percent of U.S. electricity, so oil has almost nothing to do with electricity. Thus in 2015, as oil prices kept skidding, global additions of renewable power set a new record, adding about 121 GW of wind and solar power alone. Renewables’ $329 billion investment was up 4% from 2014, says Bloomberg New Energy Finance (which tracks each transaction), but it added 30 percent more capacity because renewables got much cheaper. Solar power is booming even in the Persian Gulf, where it beats $20 oil.
Natural gas does compete with solar and windpower, and its price tends to move with oil’s, but cheaper gas doesn’t much affect renewable power either. That’s because new wind and solar power often beat even the operating costs of the most efficient gas-fired power plants anyway, even without counting the market value of gas’s price volatility.
Yet as oil prices gyrate, it’s important to understand that underlying trends are shifting too, to oil’s disadvantage. It’s happened before. In the 1850s, whalers—America’s fifth-largest industry—were astounded to run out of customers before they ran out of whales. Over five-sixths of their dominant market (lighting) vanished to competitors—oil and gas both synthesized from coal—in the nine years before Drake struck “rock oil” (petroleum) in Pennsylvania in 1859. Two decades later, Edison’s electric lamp beat whale oil, coal oil, town gas, and John D. Rockefeller’s lighting kerosene. Today in turn, most traditional lighting is being displaced by white LEDs, which each decade get 30x more efficient, 20x brighter, and 10x cheaper. By 2020 they should own about two-thirds of the world’s general lighting market.
LEDs inside-out are PVs—photovoltaics, turning light into electricity. PVs often, and very soon generally, beat just the fossil-fuel cost of running traditional power plants. PVs are now less capital-intensive than Arctic oil, not counting the ability to use electrons more effectively than molecules. Costly frontier hydrocarbons like Arctic oil can’t sell for a high enough price to repay their costs. Their revenue model has been upside-down for years. Had Shell persevered instead of abandoning its $7-billion Arctic investment, and had it found oil, it wouldn’t have won durable profits.
Oil companies since 1860 and electric utilities since 1892 have sold energy commodities—molecules or electrons—rather than the services customers want, such as illumination, mobility, hot showers, and cold beer. This business model means that when customers use the energy commodity more efficiently to produce the service they want, the provider loses revenue, not cost. That’s bad for both electric utilities and hydrocarbon companies, because most (and for oil, ultimately all) of the commodity they sell can be displaced by far cheaper energy productivity. Read the rest of this entry »
February 6, 2016
The President has proposed a modest tax on oil, 10 per barrel, at a time when oil is so low that Oil companies are being derated. Conventional wisdom says it’s dead on arrival, but the fact that it’s being proposed suggests that oil companies might not be the unbeatable “Bigbads” they were a few years ago.
Above, Art Laffer was an architect of Ronald Reagan’s tax policy. Bob Inglis is a former republican congressman from South Carolina.
Both of them think a carbon tax might be a pretty good idea.
It’s the last year of President Obama’s presidency. He doesn’t have to stand for reelection. Congress isn’t going to pass any of his proposals anyway. So he may as well dream big.
That’s one way to read this new idea Obama’s putting forward: He’s suggesting that Congress slap a $10-per-barrel tax on oil, phased in over five years, in order to fund $300 billion worth of investments in “clean transportation” over the next decade. That would mean massively increased spending on mass transit, high-speed rail, self-driving cars, freight upgrades, and so on.
None of this is going to pass Congress anytime soon — House Republicans have already vowed to block it — so any discussion here is purely academic. But there are a few points to make about this plan:
1) In theory, there’s not a huge difference between a broad oil tax and a tax on gasoline. An oil tax might sound better — the White House says it will be “paid for by oil companies” — but the costs presumably pass through to consumers anyway. As a rule of thumb, a $10-per-barrel increase in the price of crude oil translates into a roughly 24-cent-per-gallon increase in the price of gasoline.
2) That said, there are a few smaller differences. A gasoline tax mainly affects drivers; a broader oil tax would hit air travel, home heating, and a few other sectors as well. What’s more, a per-barrel oil tax would be a bit more work to implement, since we’ve never done this before. By contrast, the United States already has a federal gasoline tax, so it’d be much simpler to just hike that.
3) If you were going to tax oil or gasoline, right now would be the time to do it. The price of crude oil has been plummeting over the past year, down to around $30 per barrel, a level not seen since 2004. A $10/barrel tax would lift that to $40 per barrel, which is roughly the (still-low) price we saw… last November.
February 6, 2016
Not usually a metalhead, but this has a good beat and you can bang heads to it.