Saturday, December 10, 2016

GWPF Newsletter: Trump Picks Climate Sceptic To Head Environment Agency








Ebell Offers Energy And Environment Agenda To Next US Congress 

In this newsletter:

1) Trump Picks Climate Sceptic To Head Environment Agency
Financial Times, 8 December 2016

2) Scott Pruitt: Climate Debate Is ‘Far From Settled’
National Review Online, 17 May 2016

3) Myron Ebell Offers Energy And Environment Agenda To Next US Congress 
E&E News, 8 December 2016

4) Democratic Senator Says “Keep It In The Ground” Anti-Energy Extremists to Blame for Election Losses
Energy Indepth, 6 December 2016

5) Josh Kraushaar: U.S. Democrats Pay A Price For Being Green
National Journal, 6 December 2016

6) Lord Donoughue: Labour Must Ditch Its Climate Change Obsession
Politics Home, 5 December 2016

Full details:

1) Trump Picks Climate Sceptic To Head Environment Agency
Financial Times, 8 December 2016
Barney Jopson

Donald Trump has signalled his intent to undo Barack Obama’s efforts to curb climate change by choosing as his chief environmental regulator a conservative state law enforcer who is battling to overturn the president’s legacy.

Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma’s attorney-general, has been selected to lead the Environmental Protection Agency, as the president-elect turns to a man who, like himself, has questioned the science of climate change, the Trump team said.

If confirmed by the Senate he would be catapulted from the US’s oil-producing heartland to the centre of global policymaking on climate change, a position from which green groups worry he would wreck progress to stem carbon emissions.

Mr Pruitt, 48, has railed against the EPA for meddling in state affairs and played a leading role in a lawsuit that has frozen the centrepiece of Mr Obama’s climate policy pending a court judgment.

His nomination sparked a fierce reaction from the left. Senator Jeff Merkley said he would turn the EPA into the “Polluter Protection Agency” and Eric Schneiderman, New York attorney-general, called him a “dangerous and unqualified choice”.

The EPA has played a central role in devising Mr Obama’s Clean Power Plan rules to cut emissions from the power sector, which are the bedrock of the president’s commitments in the Paris climate accord.

Mr Trump has called global warming a “hoax” and threatened to ditch the Paris accord. His victory rocked international policymakers who have looked to the US for leadership on action against climate change.

Mr Pruitt’s confirmation would put him in an extraordinary position at the head of an agency whose modus operandi he has condemned, branding it a rogue operator that is overstepping its authority by bossing around states in an interview with the Financial Times last year.

“What we see with the current EPA approach is almost an attitude that the states are a mere vessel of federal will,” he said in 2015, explaining the motivation for the climate change lawsuit. “What the EPA is trying to achieve through regulatory rulemaking [is] unlawful.”

Environmental groups including the League of Conservation Voters condemned Mr Pruitt as a “climate denier” and ally of the oil industry, citing a 2014 New York Times report that said energy lobbyists had drafted letters for Mr Pruitt to send to the federal government on environmental issues.

Mr Pruitt’s re-election campaign in 2014 was chaired by Harold Hamm, the billionaire chief executive of shale producer Continental Resources and an energy adviser to Mr Trump.

In his 2015 interview with the FT, Mr Pruitt said he had been compelled to fight Mr Obama’s plans because they infringed on states’ rights as enshrined in the law, not because of any beliefs about climate change.

Humanity’s contribution to global warming was “subject to considerable debate”.

But when told that 97 per cent of scientists endorsed the idea that humans had caused (sic) climate change, he said: “Where does that fit with the statutory framework? That’s not material at all. So that’s why I don’t focus on it.”

Mr Pruitt said it was “fanciful” to think that renewable energy could entirely take the place of fossil fuels.

But he bristled at the suggestion that if left to its own devices, Oklahoma might do nothing to cut carbon emissions, noting that the state already generated about 15 per cent of its electricity from wind.

Full post

2) Scott Pruitt: Climate Debate ‘Far From Settled’
National Review Online, 17 May 2016
By Scott Pruitt and Luther Strange

The Obama administration lawlessly rewards its supporters and punishes its enemies.

The United States was born out of a revolution against, in the words of the Declaration of Independence, an “arbitrary government” that put men on trial “for pretended offences” and “abolish[ed] the Free System of English laws.” Brave men and women stood up to that oppressive government, and this, the greatest democracy of them all, one that is governed by the rule of law and not by men, is the product.

Some of our states have forgotten this founding principle and are acting less like Jefferson and Adams and more like George III. A group of Democratic attorneys general has announced it intends to criminally investigate oil and gas companies that have disputed the science behind man-made global warming. Backed by green-energy interests and environmentalist lobbying groups, the coalition has promised to use intrusive investigations, costly litigation, and criminal prosecutions to silence critics of its climate-change agenda. Pretended offenses, indeed.

We won’t be joining this coalition, and we hope that those attorneys general who have joined will disavow it. Healthy debate is the lifeblood of American democracy, and global warming has inspired one of the major policy debates of our time. That debate is far from settled. Scientists continue to disagree about the degree and extent of global warming and its connection to the actions of mankind. That debate should be encouraged — in classrooms, public forums, and the halls of Congress. It should not be silenced with threats of prosecution. Dissent is not a crime. The Clean Power Plan was promulgated without any consultation with Congress. No bills were debated, no votes were taken.

Sadly, this isn’t the first time we’ve seen this tactic of advancing the climate-change agenda by any means necessary. President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is a particularly noteworthy example. This EPA regulation, one of the most ambitious ever proposed, will shutter coal-fired power plants, significantly increase the price of electricity for American consumers, and enact by executive fiat the very same cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions that Congress has rejected.

The Clean Power Plan was promulgated without any consultation with Congress. No bills were debated, no votes were taken, and the representatives of the American people had no opportunity to object or offer their own suggestions. The checks and balances built into our system of government were simply ignored as inconvenient impediments to the president’s agenda.

But in our states, we believe in and govern with respect for the rule of law, rather than by ambition to use the power of our governments to stifle political opponents. That is why we are part of a very different kind of coalition, a coalition of 29 states seeking to vindicate the rule of law by challenging the legality of the Clean Power Plan in our courts. The 29 states and state attorneys general who are part of this effort respect our proper role, which is neither to pick winners and losers in the energy sector nor to silence those with whom we disagree. Rather, our job is to hold the EPA accountable to the laws that created it and to fulfill our statutory duties to ensure that consumers in our states have access to reliable, affordable energy. We will continue to pursue those goals and to present our arguments in the courts and in the public square, treating our opponents with the respect they deserve.

It’s unfortunate that this respect is not always returned. In their press conference, the group of state attorneys general called themselves an “unprecedented coalition.” On this point, they are correct. Rarely in our nation’s history has the police power of the state been so eagerly used to intimidate citizens into silence. But even more troubling are internal e-mails and other documents that indicate that this coercion was orchestrated not by the attorneys general themselves, but by green-energy advocacy groups using these officials as puppets to further their extreme agendas. This should frighten us all. Outside groups should not be able to use the power of the government as a sword to go after their political opponents.

We do not doubt the sincerity of the beliefs of our fellow attorneys general about climate change and the role human activity plays in it. But we call upon them to press those beliefs through debate, not through governmental intimidation of those who disagree with them. Few things could be more un-American.

— Scott Pruitt is the attorney general of Oklahoma. Luther Strange is the attorney general of Alabama.

3) Myron Ebell Offers Energy And Environment Agenda To Next US Congress 
E&E News, 8 December 2016
Hannah Hess

Senate leaders would schedule a ratification vote on the Paris climate agreement to set the stage for withdrawal from the deal if they follow an agenda released today by the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Other recommendations include defunding the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and amending the Clean Air Act to clarify that it never delegated to U.S. EPA the authority to make climate policy.

The 25-page energy and environment portion of the free-market think tank's "pro-growth" proposal for the 115th Congress cites longtime climate change skeptic Myron Ebell, whom President-elect Donald Trump tapped to lead his EPA transition team, as the chief expert behind the plan.

However, recent analysis suggests it would be tricky for Trump or Republicans on Capitol Hill to follow all of Ebell's advice.

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) maintains the Paris Agreement is an executive agreement. Because it entered into force on Nov. 4, 2016, Trump would not have the right to withdraw from the deal until Nov. 4, 2019, under Article 28 of the agreement.

Full story (subscription required)

4) Democratic Senator Says “Keep It In The Ground” Anti-Energy Extremists to Blame for Election Losses
Energy Indepth, 6 December 2016
Lily Emanian

Washington D.C. Earlier this week, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) blamed the “Keep It In The Ground” (KIITG) movement for Democrats’ devastating losses in the November election.

When asked by CNBC “Squawk Box” co-host Joe Kernan if the “somewhat radical” energy and climate policy advocated by the KIITG movement has served her party well, Heitkamp responded,

“I think when you look at it, it’s so critically important that we live in the real world and not in the world of ideology. I can tell you that… there’s a large number of people that are ‘Leave It In The Ground’ that think we should shut down all fossil fuels. I think people in the fossil fuel industry feel that, whether they’re coal miners, or they’re oil workers, and I think that kind of alignment with ‘Leave It In The Ground’ and not looking at energy policy, has had an effect (on the way voters cast their ballots this year).”

There is ample evidence to back up Heitkamp’s assessment, particularly in key swing states such as Pennsylvania and Ohio. Rust belt voters overwhelming supported candidates and campaigns who ran on issues that support domestically produced oil and natural gas in November, rejecting the “Keep-It-In-The-Ground” agenda that poses a serious threat to working families.

Heitkamp is also just one of many progressive leaders who feel the KIITG agenda runs counter to good energy policy and sensible politics. KIITG activists are even taking heat for their unrealistic stance against fossil fuels from the most prominent progressive north of the border.

Full story

5) Josh Kraushaar: U.S. Democrats Pay A Price For Being Green
National Journal, 6 December 2016

If the party was serious about winning back the Rust Belt, it would strike a smarter balance between the environment and the economy.

In the af­ter­math of the pres­id­en­tial elec­tion, Demo­crats have been blam­ing their de­feat on everything but the ob­vi­ous. The Clin­ton cam­paign has dis­missed sug­ges­tions of a voter man­date, point­ing to its pop­u­lar vote vic­tory and nar­row mar­gins of de­feat in three Mid­west­ern states. House Minor­ity Lead­er Nancy Pelosi blamed lackluster com­mu­nic­a­tion for the party’s dis­mal show­ings in re­cent elec­tions.

Demo­crat­ic Na­tion­al Com­mit­tee mem­bers from the Mid­w­est blamed their prob­lems on an or­gan­iz­a­tion­al de­fi­cit, ac­cord­ing to my Na­tion­al Journ­al col­league Karyn Brugge­man, even though Clin­ton’s ground game was con­sidered her cam­paign’s biggest strength in the run-up to the elec­tion.

But the most glar­ing prob­lem for the Demo­crat­ic Party is an un­will­ing­ness to even en­ter­tain the pos­sib­il­ity that its policy agenda had any­thing to do with its stun­ning de­feat. Even Re­pub­lic­ans, thanks to their na­tion­al com­mit­tee’s “autopsy re­port” in the af­ter­math of Mitt Rom­ney’s loss, con­cluded that the party had to take a more mod­er­ate stance on im­mig­ra­tion to win fu­ture elec­tions. Demo­crats have done no sim­il­ar soul-search­ing.

Let me of­fer a piece of un­so­li­cited ad­vice, one that Demo­crat­ic strategists have dis­cussed privately but are reti­cent to pro­mote pub­licly for fear of ali­en­at­ing green act­iv­ists. Tak­ing a more mod­er­ate stand on en­ergy policy—wheth­er it’s support­ing the Key­stone XL pipeline, cham­pi­on­ing the frack­ing boom that’s trans­form­ing re­gion­al eco­nom­ies, or simply sound­ing a more skep­tic­al note on the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s lit­any of en­vir­on­ment­al reg­u­la­tions—would do won­ders for the Demo­crat­ic Party’s abil­ity to com­pete for the work­ing-class voters who have drif­ted away from the party.

If the GOP gains in the Mid­w­est were an an­om­aly, per­haps Demo­crats could af­ford to cater to their en­vir­on­ment­al base. But this wasn’t the first time that Demo­crats lost sig­ni­fic­ant ground in the re­gion. In 2010, they lost a whop­ping 63 seats in the House in part be­cause of failed cap-and-trade le­gis­la­tion; over one-third of the seats they lost were in the Mid­w­est. Re­pub­lic­ans am­ped up their at­tacks on Obama’s en­vir­on­ment­al policies dur­ing the 2014 midterms—air­ing more than 26,000 spots cit­ing the En­vir­on­ment­al Pro­tec­tion Agency—and swept nearly every com­pet­it­ive Sen­ate race on their way to the ma­jor­ity.

Take the Key­stone XL pipeline as a stand-in for voter sen­ti­ment on the bal­ance between pro­tect­ing the en­vir­on­ment and pro­du­cing jobs. A March 2014 Pew Re­search Cen­ter poll, con­duc­ted dur­ing the Key­stone de­bate, found that a 49 per­cent plur­al­ity of Demo­crats sup­por­ted build­ing the pipeline—even though the pres­id­ent and top party lead­ers op­posed it. Among work­ing-class Demo­crats (those who made less than $50,000 a year), sup­port for the Key­stone pro­ject out­dis­tanced op­pos­i­tion by a whop­ping 22 points (54 to 32). When your party’s own voters are at odds with its elite, it’s a re­cipe for dis­aster. Don­ald Trump’s Mid­west­ern sweep was the cul­min­a­tion of these long-stand­ing trends.

The party’s ex­pos­ure is even great­er in 2018. There are sev­en Demo­crat­ic sen­at­ors up for reelec­tion in the Rust Belt, with an eighth (Sen. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota) rep­res­ent­ing an en­ergy-rich Plains state. Trump car­ried sev­en of the eight states, and came with­in one point of win­ning deep-blue Min­nesota. If Demo­crats con­tin­ue to raise holy hell on cli­mate change but sound un­in­ter­ested in pro­mot­ing en­ergy jobs, Trump will have a ready-made is­sue to ex­ploit over the next two years.

“Hil­lary Clin­ton lost Pennsylvania not be­cause she didn’t hit her mar­gins in the sub­urb­an [Phil­adelphia] col­lar counties,” said a seni­or Demo­crat­ic op­er­at­ive. “She lost be­cause of a surge in white votes for Trump in the west­ern part of the state. A lot of that is be­cause of the so-called war on coal that has an­im­ated that part of the coun­try since 2010.”

Full post

6) Lord Donoughue: Labour Must Ditch Its Climate Change Obsession
Politics Home, 5 December 2016

The cost of tackling climate change is falling most heavily on Britain’s working families. If Labour does not speak out it is UKIP who will benefit, writes former minister Lord Donoughue
 
Image result for Bernard Donoughue
In 2008, I was one of the many members of both houses who unquestioningly voted for Ed Miliband’s Climate Change Act, with its legal commitments to rapidly decarbonise the British economy. The measure was not properly costed (now forecast at upwards of £360bn by 2050). I had not studied the Bill. This seemed a noble, if eye-wateringly ambitious, project: to ‘save the planet’. Who could object to that?  

I decided to study climate change. The more I explored it, the more I began to question what was being claimed by the evangelical climate change movement, and especially how the Labour party was responding. I was also intrigued by the growth of the ‘save the planet’ movement, in a period when Marxism and Christianity were falling further into discredit.

People on the liberal left of politics often now lacked a motivating belief. Climate change offered to fill that faith void. It was an easy political ‘good’, providing policy objectives linked to fashionable green environmentalism around which ‘well intentioned’ people, reading the Guardian and listening to the BBC, can unite.

It also appealed to what is now helpfully termed ‘virtue signalling’, whereby declared support for some good cause by the well intentioned is a clear signal of moral righteousness, even superiority. The trouble is, as Anthony Crosland once said, “good intentions often lead to bad policies”.

My initial conclusions are simple: that the climate is indeed changing – it always has; that the planet is in an upward warming cycle – as it has been several times, before cooling again; and that carbon emissions do have a relationship with global warming – though the degree of this sensitivity has not been conclusively established. So I am certainly not a ‘denier’, like some nasty neo-Nazi denying the clearly proven Holocaust.

But those are not the real questions which should concern policymakers. They are whether the globe is warming at an unprecedented rate, which will accelerate and seriously damage our planet. And whether carbon emissions, if responsible, can be controlled by political action to limit or reverse those alleged new trends.

Observational evidence so far gives no answers to those questions which justify the alarmist predictions. Factually, our global temperature has increased by only some 0.8°C since proper official records began nearly 140 years ago – and has seen virtually no further warming at all this century. Alarmists proclaim that 2016 is our ‘hottest year’ (implying ‘ever’). But those 140 years of a warming cycle are a mere drop in the ocean of climate history.

The prediction for a scorching planet later this century is based on computer model forecasting. It may happen, but there is no evidence for it. These model forecasts, published in the UN IPCC reports for 20 years, show ranges of predicted temperature growth for this century – none of which have so far happened. Our temperatures have been below the most cautious forecast.

Many predictions of specific environmental damage from warming have not emerged. Polar bears have not disappeared, but are at a recent peak number. The Arctic is melting, but parts of the Antarctic are icing over. Ocean levels are rising, as they have for centuries, but not at alarming levels.

Claimed ‘weather extremes’ have no proven basis. Mass migration is not caused by climate change; it is linked to war and relative poverty. The dogmatic claim that a ‘universal consensus among scientists’ supports the alarmist observations has not survived factual scrutiny. Beware climate scaremongering.

Further influencing me in this debate has been the aggressive and ad hominem style shown by many climate change arguers. Anyone questioning their case on factual or financial grounds risks abuse. Being radical Labour (63 years’ membership), I resist bullying orthodoxies.

I also ask who pays for this expensive policy of precipitately decarbonising our energy economy – and is it working? The current programme is paid for disproportionately by our poorer working people through their inflated energy bills. These green taxes are punitively regressive. 47% of the recent large increase in domestic energy costs is due to green taxes – and those levies are scheduled to rocket by 2020.

The sacked steelworkers at Redcar and Port Talbot are also paying the price: made redundant partly because of the green taxes on their energy costs (double that on their European competitors) rendering them uncompetitive. Their jobs are taken by factories in Asia with few, if any, green taxes – and high carbon emissions!

It seems odd that Labour pursues climate policies whose costs fall most heavily on those who traditionally supported Labour. No wonder some of the Labour vote has left to Ukip and Brexit.

The reasons are complex, but the obsession of Labour’s recent liberal leadership with elitist issues such as climate change is one of them. Polls show that climate change ranks very low among the concerns of working people. Job security, frozen pay, immigration and housing shortages concern them far more.

Labour needs to reposition on climate change. It should not ignore it; if evidence shows dangerous warming developing, we should make proportionate responses. We have time for that. But the ‘insurance’ case is not convincing. The price currently being imposed is not justified by the evidential risk.

Anyway, dangerous climate change will be countered only on a fully international level, including the main emitters, China, India and the US. With Trump in power, they may do little. Indeed they are opening more coal-fired generators than we ever had to close. There is no sense in the UK damaging its economy and its consumers with high energy costs in pursuit of some fanciful ‘moral leadership’ of the world, when we emit less than 2% of global carbon anyway. That is fatuous ‘virtue-signalling’.

Meanwhile, Labour could reconstruct a sensible climate policy, based on the evidence as it develops. Adopt practical measures which are desirable anyway: better coastal defences and use of floodplains, greater energy efficiency, the use of efficient renewables (not silly and expensive windmills), the use of small nuclear plants and the extraction of cheap and relatively clean shale gas from our bonanza reserves.

We should retreat from the punitive 2008 legal emissions targets and accept that an energy efficient economy is crucial to the wellbeing of the British people. The costs of sensible climate adaption should rest on progressive direct taxation.
Labour should make a realistic appraisal of the climate situation and get back in touch with its natural support among working people.

Lord Donoughue is a Labour peer, and a former farming minister and senior No.10 policy adviser. He is a trustee of the Global Warming Policy Foundation.

The London-based Global Warming Policy Forum is a world leading think tank on global warming policy issues. The GWPF newsletter is prepared by Director Dr Benny Peiser - for more information, please visit the website at www.thegwpf.com.


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