Saturday, March 31, 2012

EPA’s New Rule Kills Coal, Makes Natural Gas King

From CFIF:

EPA’s New Rule Kills Coal, Makes Natural Gas KingSharePrint
In a move that codifies into law Obama’s 'we can’t wait' mantra, Jackson announced on Tuesday a sweeping new emissions rule that will effectively kill the coal industry by halting construction on any new plants.
Move over, Steven Chu and the Department of Energy.  The Environmental Protection Agency’s Lisa Jackson wants a crack at being the Obama Administration’s latest energy sector dictator.
Recently, Energy Secretary Chu distanced himself from remarks he made in 2008 that “somehow we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe,” so that Americans will be forced to switch to alternative energy.  When asked during a Senate committee hearing two weeks ago whether he still believes that, Chu responded, “I no longer share that view.” 
Yet a few days before he flipped in the Senate, Chu was still flopping on the side of using his governmental powers to limit consumption of gasoline.  Under questioning from a House panel about making lower gas prices his top priority Chu retorted, “No, the overall goal is to decrease our dependency on oil.”
But with President Barack Obama’s approval ratings falling and gas prices spiking near $5 a gallon well before the usual summer demand surge, Chu needed to get out of the spotlight. 
After all, Chu is the Energy Secretary who put taxpayers on the hook for the failed $535 million Solyndra loan, plus as many as nine other suspect loans that have been put on an internal watch list by an independent investigation into the Department’s handling of the $8.3 billion renewable energy finance program. 
From his perch at the Energy Department Chu isn’t able to directly affect the price of gasoline.  Instead, he uses the power available to him to reward green technology ideas that no private investor will touch.  Call it venture crony capitalism with your money. 
This week, the EPA’s Lisa Jackson upped the ante. 
In a move that codifies into law Obama’s “we can’t wait” mantra, Jackson announced on Tuesday a sweeping new emissions rule that will effectively kill the coal industry by halting construction on any new plants.   
Of course, the rule doesn’t specifically prohibit companies from building new coal plants.  That would be, well, illegal.  Instead, the stringent emissions caps hit coal plants harder than other energy producers because the technology for cleaning coal enough to meet the new standards is both prohibitively expensive and unproven. 
For this reason, the EPA says, “Energy industry modeling forecasts uniformly predict that few, if any, coal-fired power plants will be built in the foreseeable future.” 
EPA’s confidence in this prediction is simple.  Implementing the new emissions rule will make operating a natural gas power plant much less expensive than using coal.  Within a decade, coal operators will either switch to natural gas or go out of business.  In one fell swoop, EPA has put the coal industry on a death march while driving investment toward natural gas.   
The irony of EPA elevating natural gas at the expense of coal is breathtaking.  Just last year, the Obama Administration was warning the public about contaminated ground water due to a new extraction method called fracking that blasts water into underground rock formations to release natural gas deposits. 
But the greenies in the Obama administration ran into three problems.  First, ground water contamination from fracking is minimal.  Second, natural gas is a cleaner form of energy than coal or oil.  And third, the amount of natural gas now recoverable thanks to fracking from shale rock alone is estimated to be 750 trillion cubic feet; which, when combined with other domestic supplies of natural gas is enough to supply America’s natural gas needs for more than 100 years. 
Faced with Chu’s failure to fund alternative energy into existence, an inability to dictate gas prices and a glut of natural gas, Jackson did what ideologically driven bureaucrats do best – regulate a disfavored industry out of existence. 
It may be that fracking has ushered in a “golden age of gas,” but EPA central planners can’t predict the future. 
Nor should they be allowed to. 
As energy analyst John Kemp points out, “Just seven years ago the [natural gas] industry was gripped by panic about gas production peaking and thought America stood on the brink of needing to import increasing quantities of expensive gas.” 
Congress writes the laws and cuts the checks that give Chu, Jackson and their ilk power.  It’s time to rein them in before entire an entire industry disappears by bureaucratic fiat. 

Friday, March 30, 2012

“FOP” Food Labeling: The Energy Star Model Raises First Amendment Concerns

by Sarah Roller, Donnelly L. McDowell
Washington Legal Foundation
March 23, 2012
Working Paper Series
A front-of-package labeling system modeled after the Energy Star® program would pose substantial First Amendment issues. Any front-of-package labeling program must grant food marketers sufficient freedom to convey truthful information and avoid placing unnecessary restrictions on how that information is conveyed. Additionally, the front-of-package labeling program must avoid compelling speech which is not necessary to consumer use or safety. The front-of-package labeling system has the potential to stigmatize wholesome and nutrient rich products that can be part of a healthy diet, based on a “signal” that highlights solely calories and nutrients that consumers would be encouraged to avoid – added sugars, saturated and trans fats, and sodium.

Whitfield Stands Up to EPA for Lower Gas Prices

Whitfield Stands Up to EPA for Lower Gas Prices

Regulation Goes Medieval

by Andrew A. Schwart
Cato Institute
March 29, 2012
Section 301 of the Credit CARD Act, which denies credit cards to those age 18–20, should be repealed. After much discussion in the 1960s and 1970s, our society rejected the ancient common-law rule that one is an infant until age 21, and coalesced around the view that legal adulthood begins at 18. That consensus has not changed. Hence, by raising the age of contractual capacity to 21, section 301 contradicts the well-established preferences of the public as well as the strong public policy favoring entrepreneurship. Just as 18-year-olds are deemed by the law to be sufficiently mature to enter into any other contract—and mature enough to be drafted, vote, serve as a juror, and be sentenced to death—then, a fortiori, they are mature enough to hold a credit card.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

No More GOP Whining about Overregulation

From The CATO Institute:

No More GOP Whining about Overregulation

by Richard W. Rahn
This article appeared in Washington Times on March 27, 2012.
     Sans Serif
The Supreme Court last week ruled against the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in a unanimous decision. The EPA had charged a couple with violating the Clean Water Act. It claimed their property was a “wetland” and said it would fine them up to $75,000 per day — but there was no water on the property and there had been no judicial review of the charge. Where are the members of Congress whose funding enables the EPA to engage in this tyranny?
We are used to various government agencies overreaching and then seeing members of Congress go on TV and complain about what the government agencies are doing. The fact is, Congress (both parties are guilty) has failed in its oversight responsibilities and continues to fund agencies that ignore both the Constitution and the law.
Republicans whine that they cannot control spending because they only control one half of Congress. But the plain fact is that the Constitution is very specific. Any spending bill must be passed by both houses of Congress and signed into law by the president. Setting aside for the moment the budget agreements that House Republicans, Senate Democrats and the president made about the overall level of spending and funding of the entitlements, there is still much House Republicans can do through the appropriations process to prevent many of the excesses of government.
Richard W. Rahn is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute and chairman of the Institute for Global Economic Growth.
More by Richard W. Rahn
For instance, there is nothing to prevent the House Republicans from refusing to fund the EPA’s desired budget until the agency puts procedures in place to guarantee the basic constitutional rights of all Americans, including independent judicial review, before any fines or criminal charges are levied. These same rules also should apply to the Securities and Exchange Commission (well-known for its incompetence and overreaching), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other agencies that have a record of abusing citizens.
Most federal agencies are required to do a cost-benefit analysis before issuing any major rule or regulation, normally defined as having an impact of $100 million. Many agencies only pay lip service to the requirement, rarely having truly independent and competent staff to do the required analysis. Another stunt used by bureaucrats to avoid doing cost-benefit studies is always to assume that the cost of the proposed regulation is under the $100 million threshold by ignoring many of the indirect costs of the regulation.
Some agencies claim they are not required to comply with the cost-benefit requirements — the IRS being one example. The IRS is now writing rules for the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). The rules could drive out much of the more than $10 trillion foreign portfolio investment in the United States, which would cost millions of jobs. Has the IRS done an independent cost-benefit analysis of the regulation? No. Has the IRS looked at the impact of the regulation on Americans living abroad? No. Has the IRS done an assessment of the impact of the regulation on our relations with friendly foreign countries? No. Has the Republican House banned the IRS from spending funds on enforcing what is likely to be a very destructive regulation until a thorough and independent cost-benefit study on the regulation is done? No.
Wake up, congressional Republicans. When the foreign investments stop flowing freely next year and millions of Americans are losing jobs as a result, you are going to be blamed — and properly so — because you did nothing to stop it. You have the power to stop it and many other outrages. You don’t need Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Senate Democrats or the president to give you permission to stop this.
House Republicans, when are you going to find the guts to stop funding National Public Radio (NPR)? Much of its taxpayer-funded but liberally biased programming attacks only you and your base, but you sit there just waiting to be hit. The folks at NPR know that you are all talk and no action so they continue to misuse public funds to promote a Democrat-only agenda.
Many Republicans continue to vote for appropriations for international outfits such as the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, which has an anti-tax competition agenda and global minimum-tax agenda, and the International Monetary Fund, which indirectly helped fund the Greek bailout. Both organizations damage American interests. Members of Congress, please explain why U.S. taxpayers should have some of their hard-earned money spent to help the Greeks. The administration and members of Congress argue that no U.S. taxpayer money was directly used, but money is fungible. Just because it goes through several pockets does not mean that U.S. taxpayers did not contribute.
Tea Partyers and others who are concerned about the growth of abusive government need to pay attention and make it clear they will oppose those, including Republicans who call themselves fiscal conservatives, who vote to fund these abusive agencies and activities.

EPA imposes first greenhouse gas limits on new power plants

From The Washington Post:

EPA imposes first greenhouse gas limits on new power plants

The Environmental Protection Agency issued the first-ever limits on greenhouse gas emissions from new power plants Tuesday, but stopped short of imposing any restrictions on the nation’s existing coal-fired fleet.
The move sparked protests from Republicans and coal industry officials, but administration officials and most energy analysts said it would have only a modest impact because low natural gas prices are already prompting utilities to build natural gas plants instead.
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“While the president is overseas,” House Speaker John Boehner said, “I think it’s appropriate that we not be critical of him or of our country.”
The rule, which is now open for public comment for 60 days, will require any new power plant to emit no more than 1,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt hour of electricity produced. The average U.S. natural gas plant, which emits 800 to 850 pounds of CO2 per megawatt, meets that standard; coal plants emit an average of 1,768 pounds of carbon dioxide per megawatt.
“Today we’re taking a common-sense step to reduce pollution in our air, protect the planet for our children, and move us into a new era of American energy,” EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson said in a statement. She told reporters in a conference call Tuesday afternoon that the proposal “is in line with investments already being made throughout the utility industry.”
The rule, which comes on the heels of tough new requirements that the Obama administration imposed on mercury emissions and cross-state pollution from utilities within the past year, dooms any proposal to build a coal-fired plant that does not have costly carbon controls. The Washington Post first reported details of the proposal Monday.
“The rule would effectively ban the future of almost half of our current electric portfolio,” said Scott Segal, a lobbyist for coal-fired utilities who serves as executive director of the Electric Reliability Coordinating Council.
Jackson said the proposal “may” affect 15 power plants now in the permitting pipeline, but even that estimate may be high: The Energy Information Administrationestimates only one 900-megawatt coal-fired power plant is likely to be built between now and 2030.
“The message here is it’s not costing jobs; the market has already shifted,” said Ned Helme, president of the Center for Clean Air Policy, noting that gas plants employ the same number of workers but emit about half the carbon of coal plants. “It’s simply a shift from a dirtier fuel to a cleaner fuel.”
Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) said in a statement that the new regulation provides a new incentive for the United States to think twice before approving eight natural gas export terminal proposals, which according to the Energy Department could export 20 percent of the nation’s total gas production.
“This carbon standard is yet another indication that we need to keep America’s natural gas here at home to provide affordable electricity and capitalize on our competitive advantage to rebuild our manufacturing, chemical and fertilizer industries,” Markey said.
Republicans in both chambers of Congress said they would seek to overturn the rule through legislative means.
“We were successful in stopping their job-killing agenda through legislation when we defeated cap-and-trade. Now our fight is to stop them from forcing it on the American people through regulations,” said Sen. James M. Inhofe (Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.
Some advocacy groups, on the other hand, called the proposal too weak because it failed to cover existing power plants, which emit more than 2 billion tons of greenhouse gas emissions a year, or roughly a third of the nation’s total.
Michael Livermore, executive director of New York University’s Institute for Policy Integrity, called the failure to cover existing plants “a big problem,” noting that the move might encourage utilities to keep operating conventional coal plants operating longer.
“When you want to reduce pollution, you need to go where the pollution is, and that’s existing sources,” he said, adding that when the government grandfathers existing plants and raises the standards for building new ones, “you increase the incentives to keep existing facilities around.”
Jason S. Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, said the issues with the rule highlighted the fact that there is no overarching national climate policy. “The Congress and courts are forcing EPA to use a 1990 public health statute to address a global challenge that was largely unappreciated at the time. In the absence of additional congressional action, no faction or party will be satisfied with these regulatory outcomes,” he said.
The rule provides an exception for coal plants that are already permitted and beginning construction within a year. It also provides some flexibility by judging utilities’ compliance with the rule over 30 years, allowing super-efficient coal plants an exemption for the first decade of operation before requiring them to reduce their carbon emissions by more than 50 percent.

Friday, March 23, 2012

The Doom Industry Has Been Proven Wrong Over and Over Again

From The Heritage Foundation:

In the video below, Matt Ridley recounts all the ways Julian Simon was correct in his criticisms of ecological pessimists. Ridley is the winner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute’s 2012 Julian Simon Award.
The Doom Industry