Overreach at the EPA

by Judith Curry

When did the EPA become our Nation’s energy regulator? When did the EPA acquire both the statutory mandate from Congress and the required subject-matter expertise to do FERC’s and the States’ jobs? When did the EPA gain the expertise to determine the optimal and most reliable mix of coal and natural gas power plants? When did the EPA acquire the expertise to determine how much power can (or should) be reliably generated using wind farms and solar arrays? –  Forbes

A good overview article on the issue of EPA overreach is this recent article in Forbes:  EPA’s Dangerous Desire to Become America’s Energy Regulator.

Richard Epstein on the Clean Power Plan

The focus of this post is the legal authority of the EPA to promulgate the Clean Power Plan.  Specifically, the perspectives of libertarian legal scholar Richard Epstein.  For the reader’s digest version, Epstein has written two recent short articles on the topic:


The issues are complex and their resolution depends in large measure on understanding the ways in which the EPA’s CPP (Clean Coal Plan) exercises its power.

The nub of the difficulty here is this: traditionally, the Clean Air Act pays homage to federalism by having the EPA set National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQs), leaving it to the states to figure out how best to meet the national target in pollution control while knowing that the federal government can override them with its own FIP (Federal Implementation Plan) if the plan is not regarded as sufficient.

The big difference with the CPP plan is that it takes these BSERs (‘best system of emissions reduction’)  the next level by announcing that plans should address four discrete “blocks” of issues that include modification of facilities but go beyond that to cover substitution of both natural gas and renewable energy for coal, and to taking measures to reduce the demand for energy within the state.

It is one thing to let the EPA specify the best technology for controlling pollution from a given source. It is quite another to allow it to venture into regulating the transmission and consumption of electrical power, especially since the first of these tasks is governed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, which normally leaves these issues to state control. This peculiar jurisdictional line up means that the FIP may not be able to incorporate any of the last three approaches that the EPA wants to be included in SIPs (State Implementation Plans), at which point slashing carbon dioxide output from coal plants could require wholesale plant closings under the as-yet-stated FIP which may only be able to attack facility emissions directly.

The question is just how much discretion should the EPA have in making decisions that could cost individual states and firms billions, especially since it appears that its direct regulatory authority to implement on its own only direct regulation of emissions from designated facilities. It looks therefore that the threat of very heavy direct cuts in output could be used to lever states to make alterations in local policy that the EPA is powerless to impose under its own authority. At this point, the crafty game of extending powers through threats does give rise to a serious constitutional challenge, as the EPA seeks to implement indirectly measures that it could not impose directly.

Even if the end of pollution control is manifestly legitimate, the choice of means should be subject to higher levels of review than are often applied today. More concretely, the ability to set wildly different targets for different states opens up the real possibility that the EPA could help its political friends and hurt its political enemies. They should ratchet up their scrutiny of individual EPA determinations on carbon dioxide to see if they bear any relationship to sensible pollution control strategies, which on balance they do not.

At this point, the legal survival of the EPA’s CPP is anyone’s guess. Much will depend on the EPA’s own guidance documents about FIPs, which should come down this summer. But it is dangerous business to let the EPA take the coal industry hostage by this set of aggressive maneuvers. The Supreme Court’s initial wrong was Massachusetts v. EPA, which wrongly held that carbon dioxide counted as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

The simple point is that carbon dioxide raises unique issues that cannot be sensibly addressed within the basic Clean Air Act framework, which is why Congress should now legislate to take this confused matter out of the EPA’s hands. A  key element is to develop a constructive national scheme that first updates the EPA’s 2009 endangerment finding on carbon dioxide, and then looks for a more even-handed regulatory scheme that does not hold an enormous dagger over the entire coal industry.

Epstein has penned an earlier article The EPA Gets High on Greenhouse Gases, which provides additional perspective on this issue.

Richard Epstein on climate change

Epstein makes a superb 5 minute statement about climate change [here], although the production and video isn’t great. For a longer version, via podcast, link [here].

Epstein has published a lengthy article (2010) Carbon Dioxide: Our Newest Pollutant.  My excerpts from this paper focus on Epstein’s take on solutions to the climate change issue:

The question now is whether any climate control legislation will pass Congress. Temperatures have been cooling, but tempers have been rising. At present, my view is that Congress will not pass any such legislation. The high costs will not sit well in bad economic times. It is just too much of a shot in the dark to go full steam ahead on the strength of imperfect science in the face of a persistent economic downturn. And even if it is passed, the prediction is that all the administrative targets for enforcement will be relaxed either by administrative decree or by special Congressional action. The fragile political consensus on global warming makes it highly unlikely that the decision can be made in a consistent coherent fashion once and for all. Domestically, the gulf between the two political parties is too great, and there is no question that the energy-intensive industries tend to be in Republican states, which gives rise to a differential impact that will add another element of long-term instability.

On the one hand, I think that there is good reason to believe that the threat from global warming is overstated, which would be welcome news if true. On the other hand, if it is not overstated, I have sought to explain what I believe to be the major shortfalls of all current and proposed solutions. So what then should be done about this problem, given that no one is sure about what the future will bring? My preferred program has six key components.

First, either cap and trade or a system of pollution taxes works far better than any effort to make collective judgments about the “best available” technology as a precondition for launching new facilities or vehicles. The “best available” technology is the worst possible approach because it hangs regulators up on small differences between alternative technologies when it makes far more sense to let the parties pick their own technology so long as we are able to monitor their output and force them to live with the costs (and benefits) of their own decisions. 

Second, go after the low-hanging fruit, by stopping those forms of pollution that are easiest to control. Methane is one obvious place to secure substantial benefits. In the short run, the gas contributes more to global warming than carbon dioxide. In addition, it has other dangerous properties, which are worth curbing. Nor is it too difficult to secure major advantages without disrupting the overall economy. The hope here is to buy some more time so that the technology will evolve in ways that make us less dependent on fossil fuels. 

Third, remove subsidies that lead to the destruction of forests. Whether one lives in Iowa or Massachusetts, there is simply no justification for doling out substantial ethanol subsidies to induce people to substitute it for gasoline. Any sensible set of reforms has to force the farm states to back off from these dangerous programs, and the sooner they do, the better. The ethanol situation is driven by the usual suspects: government mandates on fuel and heavy subsidies for domestic production.

Fourth, simplify the regulation on nuclear power. That task can only be done by rebuilding, from the ground up, a regulatory structure that has prevented the construction of a single new plant since 1977. Someone has to change it, and perhaps climate change could be the impetus for some urgency on this score.

Fifth, shun industrial policy, especially one that uses the government to pick preferred pollution control technology. By the same token, we should not indulge in any form of public subsidy for other clean forms of energy production, which may or may not pan out. What is needed is not government experts picking winners (who fail), but a sensible scheme of taxation that allows any entrepreneur a decent return on investment, and a system of intellectual property law that is geared toward the imperatives of innovation. One hidden advantage of this approach is to generate technology that other nations will be prepared to purchase because it will be in their own local interest to do so.

Sixth, ensure that investments in global warming are accurately timed. There is, in all discussions of temporal issues, the question of whether it is better to accumulate your wealth today and spend it tomorrow in order to achieve some long-term end.

We are not even sure of the direction of temperature changes, let alone their magnitude, so we do not have the wealth of empirical evidence that is available in the education context. At this point, the cautious method looks far more attractive. Getting this message across is hard, to be sure, because of the endless technical disputes. But at least for the moment, the EPA’s endangerment finding seems to be both an environmental and institutional mistake. Watchful waiting looks to be the far better policy.

JC reflections

Epstein raises a host of issues about the EPA’s greenhouse gas policies.  I think that his bottom line conclusion is important:

The simple point is that carbon dioxide raises unique issues that cannot be sensibly addressed within the basic Clean Air Act framework, which is why Congress should now legislate to take this confused matter out of the EPA’s hands. 

The Clean Air Act appears to be ‘wrong trousers’ for the climate change/carbon dioxide problem.  Unless a better legal framework emerges, this issue will continue to be a political football that switches sides with the party that holds the Presidency.

Epstein’s perspective seems to me to be more consistent with mainstream libertarian thought, more so than the perspective of Jerry Taylor (discussed in recent CE post).

I’m very pleased to see Epstein writing on this topic, I have been following his writings since my days at the University of Chicago (I’m sure RE doesn’t remember this, but our daughters were classmates at the UC Lab School).

I think this statement is very well said; essentially what I tried to say in my recent Congressional testimony that seemed to confuse Rep Beyer:

On the one hand, I think that there is good reason to believe that the threat from global warming is overstated, which would be welcome news if true. On the other hand, if it is not overstated, I have sought to explain what I believe to be the major shortfalls of all current and proposed solutions.

Of Epstein’s six recommendations for responding to climate change, I don’t disagree with any of them, but I am not a fan of carbon cap and trade or carbon tax (any of the versions that I have seen).

As a summary statement, I like this statement from Epstein’s coal article:

Indeed, one great tragedy of this entire unfortunate episode is that it pushes further down the road any coherent way to deal with all forms of pollution.

132 responses to “Overreach at the EPA

  1. So Epstein is for a carbon tax, right?
    Will such a tax cause EPA to step back and cancel all plans for CO2 regulation? (Fat chance… ).

    The main problem is that US coal plants, whose average age is 42, will close within the next few years, with EPA or without it. The same goes for the nuclear plants, who are, likewise, old and obsolete.
    The two together supply almost 60% of US electricity.
    Who or what will replace them?
    Seems the only power sources that are able, nowadays, to clear regulatory hurdles are wind and solar, and these won’t be able to supply the power needed. Not by far.

    • A carbon tax sounds fair if they phase down mandates and subsidies. I think the transition could be arranged over 20 years. An income tax reduction would be required to offset the carbon tax collected . This doesn’t address the futility of USA actions on the global warming front. But it should address energy security. A carbon tax should lead to higher energy efficiency, will reward high pressure supercritical coal plants, should reduce cement manufacture, as well as force municipalities to improve their garbage disposal methods. We should also tax imported products according to the country of origin’s per capita CO2 emissions. A carbon tax can be a very powerful tool.

      • A carbon tax is a powerful tool only to destroy what’s already a fragile economy. There’s no way the government would compensate the costs of a carbon tax ultimately passed on to the citizen; not any more than the government has promised to eliminate corruption or expense in medicare or countless other corrupt or mismanaged programs. The politics behind this uses euphemisms like “revenue neutral”, and they say it with a straight face. It’s just another power grab; the tax would one way or other find a path to subsidizing a healthy percent of the much talked about global fund for which the U.S. would pay a healthy percent of. Those would be dollars totally stripped from our economy. I hope I don’t sound cynical.

      • Jungle;
        Even more simply, tax what you want less of. And be careful what you ask for: you may get it. Punishing energy production is anti-civilization to the core.

        And the real properties of CO2 are such that it should attract financial rewards, not punishment.

    • The main problem is that US coal plants, whose average age is 42

      Which means on average they have 18 years of life left in them and that the largest coals plants also tend to be the newest coal plants.

      So if I’m a coal burning utility my decision point as to what to replace them with will be no earlier then 2023 if am left alone.

      We will have two sets of AP1000 demonstration nuclear plants running by then as well as two sets of demonstration Small Modular Reactors by then.

      The real problem is those advocating for thousand plus year old energy solutions(wind mills) are pushing for implementation immediately. They already know that nuclear power and wind power are mutually exclusive.

  2. Mike Jonas

    ” I think that there is good reason to believe that the threat from global warming is overstated, which would be welcome news if true.”

    Well, yes it would be welcome news to rational people, but it would be the worst possible news for the EPA and all those promoting alarm over “climate change”. All their power and influence would be gone in a stroke. They will fight tooth and nail to prevent any such finding. In fact, they are already fighting to prevent it, eg, their desperate arguments to counter the fact that global temperature has stopped warming.

    • “welcome news”

      My reading of the CAGW belief, across broad spectrum, is that the investigation into the science is just a ruse by lukewarmers who are trying to create doubt. They believe that ECS/TCR does not matter. Any change if caused by man is bad. Man’s current business as usual evolutionary rate of technology is not a substitute for serious and dramatic sacrifice. After all, zero impact is the goal since it is the only true mode of millennial sustainability. Here is a post on Carbon Brief by their science editor Roz Pidcock titled “Your questions on climate sensitivity answered.” She concludes that although it’s super complicated it doesn’t really matter because the policies that are required are the same regardless.

      As a lukewarmer I actually partially agree with some of the sentiments. Civilization does need to push forward. Sustainability is the goal. My difference is in best means for that. Progress is not made in a vacuum without regard to weighing all risks and optimal investing, or by splintered factions. It is best when true consensus and respect for all help galvanize a socially ethical culture. We need to go forward together, hopefully as free people in control of our governments, which is the only true way to minimize corruption, tribalism and demonizing.

      • Ron, the nature of the Universe is constant change, nothing is sustainable, we can never maintain our world in a steady state. Attempts to do so are a denial of reality.


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  4. “Of Epstein’s six recommendations for responding to climate change, I don’t disagree with any of them, but I am not a fan of carbon cap and trade or carbon tax (any of the versions that I have seen).”

    I think all potential alternate paths will contain flaws. I suspect cap and trade may be a cost that must be paid if we want to move off of the current towards a more rational path.

    • Have you studied the “cap & trade” adopted in Europe, known as EU-ETS.

      Do you think it is a “more rational path” ?
      Anyhow, it has achieved exactly zero emissions reduction.

      • From the link above:
        “In 2020, emissions from sectors covered by the EU ETS will be 21% lower than in 2005. By 2030, the Commission proposes, they would be 43% lower.”

        Why don’t they state how much lower they are now, than in 2005?
        You guessed it.
        How many factories have they exported to China ?
        What is the cost of a ton of carbon on the ETS? About 8 $ ? Does this reduce emissions?

        “Oh, but we in the US are smarter, we will implement a better cap&trade”.

      • I’m not saying that I think cap and trade will lead to emission reductions nor do I endorse it because I think it might (on it’s own) lead to net benefits of any sort. But if cap and trade is a “cost” you have to pay to avoid blanket regulations limiting generation divorced from the cost of displacement of that generation – then it might be a supportable evil. I see it a tool to keep “blind” regulations from killing the most and beneficial resources that might be targets under a RPS or blanket requirements. By trading resources credits you might be able to “save” the best resources at least. It at least gives a signal of what is trying to be captured versus more vaguely regulated targets. If you can get there without cap and trade, I’m on board that train too.

      • “to avoid blanket regulations limiting ….”
        A trade to avoid harmful regulations would be ok, but no such trade is offered or likely.
        When emissions don’t drop, after cap&trade, the warmist hysteria continues unabated, then all harmful regulations (and then some) will be implemented.

      • It’s like in Europe: they have cap&trade (ETS) AND fit (feed in tariffs for 20 years) AND renewable mandates, AND bio-fuel mandates, and everything you can imagine. It’s not that cap&trade or a carbon tax prevent other regulations.

    • aplanningengineer | May 18, 2015 at 8:48 am | Reply
      “Of Epstein’s six recommendations for responding to climate change, I don’t disagree with any of them, but I am not a fan of carbon cap and trade or carbon tax (any of the versions that I have seen).”

      I think all potential alternate paths will contain flaws. I suspect cap and trade may be a cost that must be paid if we want to move off of the current towards a more rational path.

      I respectfully disagree.

      There are a bunch of rich fat intolerant self-centered narcissists who want us to give up fossil fuels even though they benefit man and nature, for no good reason.

      Time has come to toss down the gauntlet, give them the come hither gesture and quote Bruce Campbell, “Come get some!”

  5. David L. Hagen

    Grid Reliability more important than cooling 0.01C
    Epstein excellently raises critically important issues. The EPA’s proposed “solution” will likely severely reduce the reliability of our electric grid at enormous cost for an undetectable reduction in global temperature (0.01C) in the next century. Epstein cites the NERC’s Potential Reliability Impacts of EPA’s Proposed Clean Power Plan Initial Reliability In extreme bureaucratic understatement, NERC says:

    According to the EPA’s Regulatory Impact Assessment, generation capacity would be reduced by between 108 and 134 GW by 2020 (depending on state or regional implementations of Option 1 or 2). The number of estimated retirements identified in the EPA’s proposed rule may be conservative if the assumptions prove to be unachievable. Developing suitable replacement generation resources to maintain adequate reserve margin levels may represent a significant reliability challenge, given the constrained time period for implementation.

    Power plant closures are already far greater and faster than EPA projected. e.g., Power Plant Closures

    More than 72 gigawatts (GW) of electrical generating capacity have already, or are now set to retire because of the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) regulations. The regulations causing these closures include the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (colloquially called MATS, or Utility MACT)[1], proposed Cross State Air Pollution Rule (CSAPR)[2], and the proposed regulation of carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants.
    To put 72 GW in perspective, that is enough electrical generation capacity to reliably power 44.7 million homes[3]—or every home in every state west of the Mississippi River, excluding Texas.[4] In other words, EPA is shutting down enough generating capacity to power every home in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, North and South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Arkansas, and Louisiana.

    Furthermore, Harvard’s Constitutional Law Prof. Lawrence Tribe writes:
    The Clean Power Plan Is Unconstitutional

    The EPA acts as though it has the legislative authority to re-engineer the nation’s electric generating system and power grid. It does not. . . .
    the EPA, like every administrative agency, is constitutionally forbidden to exercise powers Congress never delegated to it in the first place. The brute fact is that the Obama administration failed to get climate legislation through Congress. Yet the EPA is acting as though it has the legislative authority anyway to re-engineer the nation’s electric generating system and power grid. It does not.

    McKitrick’s T3 Tax
    Epstein’s nod to “either cap and trade or a system of pollution taxes works ” would be better than the EPA’s leaden hand, but nowhere near as effective as Ros McKitrick’s “T3 Tax (for Temperatures in the Tropical Troposphere).”

    We need a coherent century long energy policy to best serve “We the People”, not political coercion based on questionable interpretation of an obscure environmental law to bury massive resources for no perceptible benefit.

  6. I disapprove of all punitive taxes.

  7. The central question is just this: Can the National Academy of Sciences be held accountable for

    1. Deceiving Congress, and
    2. Abusing NAS review of budgets of federal research agencies to deceive the public

    About the energy that provides heat and light to planet Earth and sustains our lives?

    See: http://www.nasonline.org

    “The National Academy of Sciences (NAS) is a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars. Established by an Act of Congress, signed by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863, the NAS is charged with providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology.”

    • I.e., neither EPA nor any other federal agency – nor Michael Mann nor any other individual – should be blamed for the NAS decision to deceive the public.

      • One hundred and fifty-two years ago, President Lincoln appointed a private, self-perpetuating group of then-distinguished scholars to advice our government on “matters related to science and technology” . . . long, long before Eisenhower built the research-military-industrial complex with annual budgets of billions of tax funds.

        There are still distinguished scholars in the NAS, but I do not believe Lincoln himself would approve of the present situation where NAS members review the budgets of federal research agencies for Congress.

  8. To answer the question about whether science authoritarians at the EPA control average global temperatures or is it the sun, just ask any liberal fascist.

    • Can the present descendants of “a private, non-profit society of distinguished scholars” in 1863 be held accountable for “providing independent, objective advice to the nation on matters related to science and technology” in 2015?

      I think not..

  9. “Sixth, ensure that investments in global warming are accurately timed.”

    Funny wording there…but since all the evidence I’ve seen indicates that higher temperatures are a good thing on balance – maybe we should invest in global warming instead of cooling eh?

    Also, I’m really amazed at the Supreme Court Ruling that CO2 is a pollutant. I think this ruling shows us a couple of things: one, that the Supreme court has too much power in general, and two, that they are basically swimming with whatever public opinion is.

    People who value their rights should be warned that no branch of the government can be trusted to secure those rights – including the Supreme Court.

    And after all, “…that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men…”

    • David Wojick

      Unfortunately one of the definitions of pollutant in the Clean Air Act (CAA) includes causing climate change, so the Supreme Court is technically correct and could hardly have acted another way. I wonder why Epstein thinks otherwise? The Court is bound by the law.

      The real problem is that the CAA machinery is completely unsuitable for regulating CO2. It is based on setting an attainable NAAQS but this simply cannot be done for CO2, because US emissions have no control over global CO2 levels. The CAA was specifically designed for local pollution. Hence the mess and the strangeness in EPA’s approach. The Courts may finally admit this but we are not there yet.The regulations have not even been finalized.

  10. It’s all a wild grab for power by the Democrats, based on complicit, made-for-politics enviro-loon pseudo-science.

    We, The People, have to stop it by voting.

  11. Indeed, one great tragedy of this entire unfortunate episode is that it pushes further down the road any coherent way to deal with all forms of pollution.

    Nowhere is it more clear than in this article about a poison pool at the end of the rainbow:


    It’s the basis for all of the insane stonkernomics that justify rigging the economy to favor battery-powered cars fueled by acres of solar panels in the desert –i.e., the art of turning a blind eye to those things that interfere with the Left’s grand narrative of liberal Utopia:

    It could be argued that China’s dominance of the rare earth market is less about geology and far more about the country’s willingness to take an environmental hit that other nations shy away from. (Ibid.)

  12. Watchful waiting looks to be the far better policy.

    We’ve got a winner.

  13. Epstein does not cover the constitutional law points that Prof. Tribe of Harvard Law has raised in his brief. Well worth reading, easy to understand. Shows how grave the EPA overreach is.

    • in the main coal article, Epstein does critique Tribe

      • Yes. I read it. Superficial treatment so Epstein could get on with his own other legal libertarian arguements. But if Tribe is right, no other arguments from any other political orientation are necessary. Period. Which is why Tribe wrote the brief despite being a leftist Harvard type. His loyalty to the constitution trumped all else. And he has since said so, several times in several ways. As courageous in his circles as you are in yours.

    • I only wish any government official including Supreme Court Justices could be thrown out for violating their oath to the Constitution. There’s gotta be a way!!

  14. The EPA situation strikes me as empowering a federal agency to fix a problem with water pollution, where a landfill is leaching into a river, and having the agency find that the problem is all the stuff being put into the landfill, and thus they get to regulate the content, production amounts, and dry weight of all food stuffs and manufactured goods that could end up in a landfill.

  15. It does all touch on the political.

    I remember the Cayahoga river on fire, so I’m thinking the Clean Water Act was ok.

    I remember the Johnny Carson ‘It was so smoggy in LA today’ running gags, so I guess the Clean Air Act was ok.

    But it is important to reflect on this – the US has largely met the Clean Air
    Act standards:
    So what did the EPA do? Came up with new lower standards!

    Zero is not an appropriate risk level. That’s probably not a winning campaign slogan, but logically infinite cost goes to zero risk.

    But committees and bureaucracies don’t like to declare victory and disband.
    They tend to maintain the empire.

    • Zero emissions would be a challenge. When looking at the infamous CO2 hockey stick curve; in order for humans to eliminate AGW we would have to go back to roughly an 18th century carbon footprint to get in front of the inflection point where we began to tip toe towards destroying the planet. So dust off your horse and plant a carrot if that’s where they want us to go.

    • But committees and bureaucracies don’t like to declare victory and disband.
      They tend to maintain the empire.

      I think you nailed it for me. I want to fix all the problems of the world but on our own time as free people with free market choices and small businesses. I don’t want the ever growing crisis bureaucracies run by tsars commanding all the solutions and constantly reforming last year’s solution that had unintended consequences, was corrupted or plain didn’t make a dent.

    • If the “do-gooders” would spend their own money and time to fix what they don’t like about the world, that would be great. But they don’t. They lobby the government to spend OPM instead.

      • One wonders about the ethical high ground of spending future generations money too. I can imagine a very plausible scenario where a young person in 2100 is not thankful for well-intentioned but mis-informed investments made of their wealth made on their behalf.

    • “But committees and bureaucracies don’t like to declare victory and disband”. That is why federal agencies like the EPA should have an expiration date – say 15 years – at which time it would take a super majority of congress to prolong it’s life by a much shorter time period, say 3 to 5 years. As you noted, the EPA served a useful purpose initially, but has long since outlived its usefulness and is now causing more harm than good. Liberal progressives seem to think that risk can be legislated or mandated away so that we can all live in some mythical utopian risk free society where the climate is set to some unspecified “perfect” setting that will never change if we just stop burning fossil fuels.

  16. Pooh, Dixie

    At first, I mis-read “CPP” as “CCCP”. On the other hand, what’s the difference?

    Wikipedia contributors. “CCCP (disambiguation).” Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia, May 17, 2015. http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=CCCP_(disambiguation)&oldid=662692381

  17. The EPA has gone rogue.

    If you can understand the science that temperature change occurs as a transient in response to the time-integral of net forcing, you can discover that CO2 has no effect on climate.

    Proof that CO2 has no significant effect on climate and identification of the two factors that do cause climate change (95% correlation since before 1900) are at http://agwunveiled.blogspot.com

  18. Living on the edge of the beltway – it is pretty obvious that Federal agencies are constantly in empire building mode. As long as an agency exists it will try to acquire new responsibilities and publish more regulations.

    The solution is to terminate the EPA. It has outlived its usefulness.

    The useful functions of the EPA can be returned to the states (where they should have stayed to begin with).

    Any “caretaker” functionality at the federal level should be pruned of its regulatory promulgation function and merely exist to enforce existing law and regulation.

    US air and water are clean enough, Time to pat ourselves on the back and put the EPA out to pasture.

    • The useful functions of the EPA can be returned to the states (where they should have stayed to begin with).

      Pollution does not respect state boundaries. How would you suggest that states deal with this?

      • As long as the EPA is stripped down to just the enforcement functions (the guys that wander around and actually sample at state borders) I’m sort of ok with that.

        What levels of pollution drift across the borders?

        Some examples of existing interstate problems that threaten health or safety would be helpful.

        The fact that the EPA is attempting to regulate a harmless beneficial plant nutrient is prima facie evidence that they have solved all the serious problems. The EPA bureaucrats obviously have too much time on their hands and don’t have anything useful to do.

      • rogercaiazza

        One of the biggest interstate issues at this time is ozone pollution particularly along the I-95 corridor from Washington to Boston. Downwind states such as CT and NY claim that they can turn off all their emissions and still not attain the ozone standard. All the states in the corridor claim there are problems with precursor pollution transport from the Midwest that creates ozone over the corridor. It is a real issue that does need a national view point to solve.

        Of course as soon as we attain one standard EPA-funded scientists on the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee recommend a more stringent standard because everybody knows that ozone causes asthma and childhood asthma rates are going up. Funny they never address the fact that ozone levels and all the other pollutants have been going down at the same time the childhood asthma rates have been going up.

      • Well, gee.

        The stratospheric ozone depletion may have been responsible for much of the late 20th century warming. So ozone up high is good.

        At ground level not so much.

        It is sort of funny – scientists try to convince us that mercury wasn’t responsible when removing it from vaccines didn’t reduce the autism rate, but when reducing ozone doesn’t lower the asthma rate we are still supposed to believe it is responsible and bad.

        Color me skeptical.

        Haven’t made up my mind about ozone and PM2.5. The fact that PM2.5 has relatively little effect on Caucasians is suspicious. There does seem to be an asthma link to ozone or something that correlates with ozone.

        Don’t know, probably makes sense to reduce hydrocarbon vapor sources and NOx where it can be done cheaply and easily. The solution for urban areas might be to release an ozone destroying chemical upwind (preferably a chemical about as dense as air). Did eliminating CFCs make the terrestrial ozone problem worse?

  19. The economic threat of a carbon tax is proportional to its rate. The Federal gas tax is $ 0.184 per gallon. Adding $ 0.050 to that I don’t think is a threat. It has some effect for sure, reducing spending on other things. Reducing the corporate tax rate by a small amount as part of the deal, gives something to both sides. Even getting just an increased Federal gas tax can be argued to help the economy by reducing the debt. We have to much Federal debt. We are spending over $ 200 billion a year on interest payments because of the Federal debt. The Republicans could channel their fiscal conservatism or give us more of what we expect to see from them.

    • Unless the US increases tax collections the budget will NEVER be balanced since there is zero desire to significantly cut spending. The problem is the administrative costs associated with a “revenue neutral” fuel tax and not the tax itself

  20. If one buys into warmer alarmism then the general presumption in the debate about how to curb CO2 is that without further government pressure there will be no incentive to make industry lessen their carbon footprint, and that alternatives will forever languish as fanciful blueprints. But is this the reality? There’s evidence that change is occurring rapidly without any more pressure from government than the threat of carbon taxes.

    Corporate CEO’s see the risks the EPA pose, many have taken initiatives to control their emissions by mitigating their carbon footprint ahead of punitive legislation; companies like Shell and others outside the energy industry, Disney for example. Beyond this there’s entrepreneurs looking to exploit alternatives as these technologies mature and become promising cost effective and scalable replacements to legacy energy sources. An example here is the oil tycoon T. Boone Pickens who tried to build the worlds largest wind farm in Texas a few years ago, although it failed because of transmission issues, others will follow suit to exploit alternatives.

    Outside of government the biggest enemy of an entrepreneur is another entrepreneur; it’s one of the key strengths of capitalism that naturally rejuvenates industry, legacy industries that don’t evolve will not survive. Most CEO’s want to be good stewards, but even those few that are the proverbial evil exec certainly understand competitive pressures. Beyond alternatives, technology is advancing with plant equipment and processes that will replace obsolete equipment and processes going forward with ever more efficient solutions to limit carbon output.

    Is their a place for government? Sure, but if you’re a warmer I really doubt government can speed CO2 reduction quicker using job killing regulations and punitive taxes without breaking the back of the economy. As Hemingway wrote: “How did you go bankrupt? Two ways: Gradually, then suddenly.”

  21. I believe there are (1) “Good Faith Skeptics” but also “Bad Faith Contrarians“.

    Mr. Epstein’s article hits many of the buttons of a “Bad Faith Contrarian“:


    • You’re accusing someone else of bad faith? Oooookay.

      • stevepostrel — Where have I demonstrated “bad faith”? It isn’t on Renewable Energy (RE), where I’ve been very clear that I oppose “Mandates” that put decisions in the hands of Politicians in Congress rather than our Engineers. What I’ve balked at here at CE are your ubiquitous statements on RE (which many people here at CE have told you is in error). Renewables at say, 10% could make sense in New England but be currently less than 1% in Mississippi.

      • I would place your repeated attempts on post after post to bring up irrelevant statistics from Germany on grid reliability, even after experts have explained in detail why they are irrelevant to the topic at hand, as a strong signal of bad faith. I would also place your repeated misleading claims about the current level of subsidies enjoyed by solar and wind power, even after the nature of these claims was exposed (i.e. not using per-kwh metrics) as misleading hype, probably carried out in bad faith. Of course, these behaviors might come from other roots, but so might the behaviors to which you object.

    • interesting article at green energy, but categorizing epstein as bad faith contrarian is seriously incorrect IMO

      • Bad Faith Contrarians make arguments in a vacuum (with one dimensional straw-men). Mr. Epstein did this several times — e.g. ethanol (ignoring things like octane and cancers), the Winners vs Losers argument (ignoring subsidies to the oil industry, nuclear power, etc.).

      • Stephen, the octane enhancement additive should be left to industry, with appropriate oversight. I know you have a dog in this race and I don’t blame you for defending your income. But still, the free market (with SOME oversight) can produce the most economical solution. It could work out that ethanol is the choice of industry, who knows? But the subsidies should be dropped for all energy sources except nuclear. (And by subsidy, I’m not talking about the tax laws that apply to all business in one form or another.)

      • Stephen Segrest
        “The winners and losers argument (ignoring subsidies to the oil industry…)”

        I’m not a fan of government providing subsidies, although I understand why they exist in some areas; for example farm subsidies to keep balance in food supplies during feast or famine.

        I’m certainly not a fan of government picking winners and losers. However, equivocating subsidy of oil companies with the EPA driving whole industries out of business (i.e. coal industry) is really an unbalanced critique.

        Oil company subsidies are little understood and largely misrepresented by the left through ommision; ironically Democrats are one of the reasons the oil companies receive a good portion of their over $4 billion in subsidies. Near 25% of the subsidy is for the Home Energy Assistance Program, the left has made a big stink about this being cut in the past. The manufacturer’s tax deduction represents near 50% of the deduction and is a generic subsidy given to all large companies, like Apple, etc., it’s designed to keep jobs in the U.S., farm fuel is another fuel tax deduction given to the oil industry.

        It’s you making arguments in a vacuum. See here for the breakdown in subsidy: http://www.forbes.com/sites/energysource/2012/04/25/the-surprising-reason-that-oil-subsidies-persist-even-liberals-love-them/

      • Jim2 — I spent time (trying at least) to address concerns/statements that I’ve seen here at CE on ethanol. Towards the end, I discuss “be careful what you wish for” on eliminating the Renewable Fuel Standard. The EPA would have to replace it with something. The RFS simplified existing Regs.


        (Note: On going above the ~10% blend wall, I agree with President Obama that the RFS isn’t a “mandate” to do so). Anything above ~10% blending should be market driven.

      • Gee, Stephen. Did you even read my comment? I said INDUSTRY should develop the octane booster. Not the EPA. Some government standards WRT things like water quality/storage would have to be in place. But I never said the EPA should pick anything.

      • When MTBE went away, industry essentially did pick ethanol.

      • jungletrunks — Then put all energy subsidies on the table for review by Congress and then have a up/down vote. This is what Republican Senator Grassley (Iowa) is saying.

      • Jim2 — Its more complicated than just octane. Issues like oxygenates, VOCs, and MSAT are involved which the EPA would have to address if the RFS was “just eliminated”.

      • Stephen Segres
        “jungletrunks — Then put all energy subsidies on the table for review by Congress and then have a up/down vote.”

        I’d be happy with the vote you suggest Stephen, but you’re still not totally grasping the nature of the subsidies it appears. Some components of the subsidy have indeed been put on the table but Democrats vetoed the idea; i.e. the Home Energy Assistance Program that makes up near 25% of the subsidy. Yet almost half oil subsidy comes from the “manufacturer’s tax deduction”, this is given to all large companies as incentive to keep jobs in America, so this would mean all this subsidy needs to go away for all companies? I don’t know. Do you want to end the U.S. strategic reserve? Or do you think the U.S. government should just take what it wants for this?

        It’s not possible to have an energy subsidy up or down vote because almost half of the subsidy is generic corporate subsidy in nature.

        These questions are not as easy to answer when you get in the weeds and understand what the subsidies really are. You hear the left bashing the oil industry just about daily over this issue, I bet very few know what the subsidies are. Most would probably be in a conundrum as to what to do if they were actually educated about it.

      • jungletrunks In my blog post, I tried to be clear on this — its about things like oil tax credits only specific to the oil industry and not general tax credits taken by oil companies and others. This is exactly the argument that people like Republican Senator Grassley (and other Republicans) are making (who I think grasps the issue). I linked to a Sen. Grassley talk on the U.S. Senate Floor about this. So — it isn’t a liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican “thing” as many people here at CE want to make it.

      • Okay Stephen, but specific to the oil industry; what would you do about the Home Energy Assistance Program? That’s near 25% of oils subsidy and specific.

        How about the quid pro quo tax credits for the U.S. strategic petroleum reserves? The Obama administration wants to spend $1.5 billion to $2 billion for upgrades to this money pit’s aging infrastructure.

        How about the subsidy to provide cheap fuel to farmers?

        A lot of people blame the oil companies for a lot of things that in reality are politics driven to protect certain constituents. I have no problem cutting some of these frankly, maybe all of them. I’d need more information.

        But this issue is a different question from the original point. Subsidies to oil aren’t really about picking big oil as a winner, it is more politically nuanced than that for them. Coal on the other hand is branded as a clear loser by the government however.

    • Stephen Segrest: “Bad Faith Contrarian“:

      Attributing “bad faith” to another person is just another mechanism of “science denial”. Either you have good arguments with good evidence or you don’t.

      • matthewmarler: I respectfully disagree. There are people where the science will never be good enough, the economics will never be justified.

      • This effort is just more sociological/psychological manipulation. More meme manipulation. More BS on the part of the ignorant warmists. Propaganda is all they got, so they spread it around like the manure it is.

      • Jim2 — The are many Conservatives trying to move the national dialogue off of incendiary positions like Senator Inhofe to being constructive. Republican Lindsey Graham certainly isn’t a Warmist — but he’s at least in conversation with folks like the NRDC.

        As a Conservative, Dr. Curry’s posts on Taylor are troublesome to me — as I disagree with a U.S. Carbon Tax, Cap & Trade, a Federal Renewable Energy Portfolio Standard. I just personally think that “bottom/up” and “no regrets” policies involving international trade and Fast Mitigation are much better.

        We can either start talking about things like this and why we are for them — or we can just continue the horrible partisanship on this issue.

      • Stephen, you seem to be throwing a lot of different bones in the pot, so I’ll toss in a couple more.

        I’m for subsidies for nuclear energy even though I am invested in fossil fuel stocks and worked in the oilfield for a good while. I think the oil business is a great industry that has contributed untold wealth to our country and citizens. Our standard of living is due mostly to companies like Standard Oil.

        Nevertheless, I am a huge nuclear power advocate. You might say that nuclear can’t take the place of gasoline, but that is speculation. There is certainly a push to develop better energy storage for the purpose of producing electricity. Eventually, those efforts will yield something widely affordable.

        I am OK for methane mitigation. I’m sure the oil companies can do that pretty easily.

        At any rate, an ethanol mandate isn’t the way to go and neither is a carbon tax. There! We agree on something!

      • Jim2 — Personally, I believe that as long as Obama is holding to ~10% blending levels for ethanol (which he appears to be doing), then all this “fussin and fighting” is over nothing — in basketball we say “no harm, no foul”.


      • AK — Well I guess I could have said “Good Faith Skeptic” versus “Bad Faith Skeptic”. But this doesn’t reflect what I believe and was trying to say in the blog. I believe there is some group of folks who are just always gonna disagree, no matter what (I call them Contrarians).

      • I believe there is some group of folks who are just always gonna disagree, no matter what (I call them Contrarians).

        Yup. And then you’ve made all sorts of blanket accusations of “bad faith”.

        A blanket tendency, “just always gonna disagree, no matter what” can be engaged in in good faith. Your linked post assumes a bad-faith pretense of that.

        Skepticism” is different from “contrarianism”, in my view and based on the dictionary definitions. (Although, to be fair, there’s quite a bit of vague cross-over in actual use.) The correct opposition ought to be between “good-faith” and “bad-faith”, in skepticism, in contrarianism, and in defense of the paradigm.

        We certainly see plenty of bad faith in paradigm defense around here. (Not pointing the finger at you so much wrt here, I was surprised at the difference between your arguments here and in the blog post you linked.)

      • Stephen Segrest: There are people where the science will never be good enough, the economics will never be justified.</i

        That may be true, but attributing "bad faith" to any one in particular is an error-prone business. On the "control CO2" side of the debate there are also many instances of ignoring scientific evidence as well. The part of temperature rise that might have been induced by human-sourced CO2 is the appx 0.7-0.9 increase since 1880; think of the large number of "CO2 control" advocates who ignore outright the evidence that it might have been due to whatever caused natural fluctuations in the past, and who assert with no evidence at all that it has been bad, or that future CO2-induced warming will be both bad and rapid. Attributing "bad faith" to people who point out the liabilities in the evidence is just another way to avoid confronting those liabilities in the evidence. Same with "projection", "denial", "Dunning-Krueger effect", "big oil", "Koch brothers" and a host of others. The plain fact is that the evidence is a mess, and incomplete theories are in conflict.

      • Stephen Segrest: But this doesn’t reflect what I believe and was trying to say in the blog.

        I don’t doubt that your belief was sincere, but the evidence for “bad faith” in most cases is poor. If you don’t admit the limitations of the evidence, you ought not accuse others of “bad faith”, no matter how strong your belief. After nearly 40 years of what might be tenderly called “hyperbole” from the purveyors of alarm, if there is a case for “bad faith”, it is against the purveyors of the alarm.

    • Where have I demonstrated “bad faith”?

      Well, you linked approvingly to that egregious exercise in bad-faith, dishonest rhetoric.

      • Give me just one example (your best shot), where I’m showing dishonest rhetoric.

      • From the post you linked to:

        (3) Bad Faith Contrarians: As described in the Washington Post article, Contrarians are believed to have a politico-psychological trait (some would say a downright obsession) against authoritarianism where issues are framed (staw-man arguments) in extreme terms of black or white, good and evil, individual rights versus socialism. There is rarely, if ever, any nuanced area of gray that could lead to compromise for any mitigation actions.

        Make no mistake about this Group however — they are highly educated in science/engineering and talk a “very good game” of Reasonableness. But it’s a game of obfuscation. In the end-game of taking any meaningful policy action to mitigate the threat of Global Warming/Climate Change — these “Contrarians” end up in the same policy place as “Deniers”.

        First of all, the article he linked to doesn’t even use the word “contrarian”.This dishonest use of a reference is then used to build the implication that any contrarian is acting in bad faith. Contrarians “are believed to have a politico-psychological trait (some would say a downright obsession) against authoritarianism where issues are framed (staw-man arguments) in extreme terms of black or white, good and evil, individual rights versus socialism.

        Here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say:

        a person who takes a contrary position or attitude; specifically : an investor who buys shares of stock when most others are selling and sells when others are buying.

        Hardly the same thing. Here’s an excerpt from Wiki

        In science, the term “contrarian” is often applied to those who reject a general scientific consensus on some particular issue, as well as to scientists who pursue research strategies which are rejected by most researchers in the field.[citation needed] Contrarians are particularly prominent in cases where scientific evidence bears on political, social or cultural controversies such as disputes over policy responses to climate change, or creationism versus evolution.[citation needed]

        Writers on scientific topics commonly described as “contrarian” include David Berlinski, a critic of mainstream views on evolution,[citation needed] and Richard Lindzen, a critic of the scientific consensus on climate change[citation needed]. Bjørn Lomborg, who accepts the scientific consensus on climate change, but argues against action to mitigate it, has been called “the poster boy of the contrarian trend”.[5]

        Scientific contrarianism is frequently referred to, favorably, as skepticism and, pejoratively as denialism. An example of the latter usage is climate change denialism.[citation needed]

        So, anybody who rejects the consensus is acting in bad faith, according to the web-site you linked.

        Do you believe that? If not, why did you link to a site that engages in dishonest rhetoric to “prove” that canard?

      • AK — In my blog post I absolutely made the difference between a “Good Faith Skeptic” and a “Bad Faith Contrarian”. The Washington Post article gave me the idea to write “what I thought” (not what the Washington Post thinks) in my blog.

        If you have a long and clear history of opposing almost every EPA Reg proposed (e.g., Lead & MTBE (in gasoline), Mercury, Smog, Particulates, Acid Rain, Ozone Hole, Fluoridation, (drinking water), Methane, Coal Ash — you just might be a Contrarian

        If you have a long and clear history of opposing Renewable Energy subsidies, but believe that subsidies for oil and nuclear shouldn’t even be put on the table for Congress to review also — you just might be a Contrarian.

      • IMO a contrarian isn’t another category in the climate debate; they can be a warmer or denier if they are arguing strictly for partisan reasons.

      • In my blog post I absolutely made the difference between a “Good Faith Skeptic” and a “Bad Faith Contrarian”.

        No, actually, your rhetoric took the position that anyContrarian” is acting in bad faith. Being a natural contrarian myself, I found your conclusions offensive and your rhetoric dishonest.

        If you want to make the distinction between “Contrarians acting in good faith” and “Contrarians acting in bad faith”, go ahead. But that isn’t what the post you linked to did.

      • Stephen Segrest: If you have a long and clear history of opposing almost every EPA Reg proposed (e.g., Lead & MTBE (in gasoline), Mercury, Smog, Particulates, Acid Rain, Ozone Hole, Fluoridation, (drinking water), Methane, Coal Ash — you just might be a Contrarian

        “might be a Contrarian” — is that the case that you are trying to make, that somebody “might be” a Contrarian? Just as possibly, somebody might be aware that government regulations are not always well-considered (aspartame, acrilonitrile), can have unintended consequences (exporting pollution and jobs to China); and can lead to abuses of power against political opponents (the Gibson Guitar case), or abuses of power in favor of supporters (the Solyndra case.)

      • How on earth is the Gibson guitar case an abuse of authority?

    • I have trouble distinguishing their definitions of Deniers and Contrarians, especially as they label Republicans in the former not latter category. I would have thought that these are the psycho-politico types that are considered Contrarians. In my view, Deniers are more inclined to just say no to the science (skydragons, Miskolczi, Salby), without all the psycho-political baggage of conspiracies, funding, peer pressure, etc.

      • In my view, Deniers are more inclined to just say no to the science (skydragons, Miskolczi, Salby), […]

        Talk about bad faith.

      • That’s just it. I don’t think it is bad faith. The Deniers really just disagree with the science. There are some of these people.

      • The Deniers really just disagree with the science.

        I wasn’t talking about them. Anybody who calls Salby a denier is acting/speaking in bad faith.

        He may not be right, but he’s actually got hold of some good science. Better than yours. He’s actually got innovative ideas. When did you ever do anything but echo the party line?

      • Jim D: Deniers are more inclined to just say no to the science (skydragons, Miskolczi, Salby),

        Salby has a nice long book full of the science. In about 20 pages of that book, he idiosyncratically emphasizes two lines of evidence that he asserts undermine the consensus view. Nowhere does he “just say no to the science”.

      • Salby has denied a basic premise that the flow of extra CO2 is from emissions to the atmosphere to the ocean. His net arrows are in the opposite direction to the actual ones. This is about as much as you can get towards denial. He may know about other areas, but has admitted he doesn’t know much about the carbon cycle.

      • Jim D: Salby has denied a basic premise that the flow of extra CO2 is from emissions to the atmosphere to the ocean.

        That is a premise, and he has questioned the evidence in its favor by citing evidence in opposition. He might be idiosyncratic or Quixotic or wrong (I think he probably is wrong), but he does not “just say no to science”.

      • Sure, someone who sees no further than the horizon can be a flat-earther and point to all kinds of things to support it. That doesn’t mean they are credible, because they also ignore or just don’t know about a lot of the evidence against them.

      • Salby has denied a basic premise that the flow of extra CO2 is from emissions to the atmosphere to the ocean. His net arrows are in the opposite direction to the actual ones.

        Can you prove it? Given the egregious misrepresentations of Salby’s ideas so far spouted around here, anybody would be justified in being highly skeptical of this claim.

      • AK, as far as I can tell, Salby has no clue about what physical process causes his vast amounts outgassing in this era of emissions, and why the ocean acidifies. Since he has no ideas except denial, it is hard to discredit them.

      • Jim D: Sure, someone who sees no further than the horizon can be a flat-earther and point to all kinds of things to support it. That doesn’t mean they are credible, because they also ignore or just don’t know about a lot of the evidence against them.

        In no way can you justify your claim that Salby “just [says] no to the science.”

      • Since he has no ideas except denial, it is hard to discredit them.

        Blatant, bad-faith misrepresentation. Either you’ve never listened to any of his big presentations, or you did so in very bad faith.

    • http://greenenergy.blogspot.com/2015/03/are-you-global-warming-skeptic-denier.html

      Ummm… Gee…. That is a loaded article. It sounds like the crazed liberal position on global warming

      Lets look at one of the criterion:
      “Environmental Issue”:only answers are support/oppose. “Oppose” means you are an evil contrarian. That isn’t a realistic test. Lets look at real answers:

      1. Lead & MTBE (gasoline): – Would like as much out as could be removed/avoided cheaply.
      2 .Mercury: norm is 50 PPB so reduce output to reasonable levels, waste of time/money to set zero standard.
      3 .Smog: – Support the air standard up to 1990 (that was good enough)
      4. Air Particulates – Air shouldn’t be chewy or gritty.
      5. Acid Rain:- efforts up to 1990 were ok. Not a big fan of sulfur dioxide.
      6. Ozone Depletion:- don’t have a position on past legislation – but oppose future Ozone measures since the past ones appear to have failed.
      7. Fluoridation (drinking water): – ought to be limited to where teeth don’t yellow.
      8. Methane:It is 1/3 cows and termites – pointless to do anything about a gas with a 9 year lifetime that is over 1/2 due to landfills and natural processes..
      9. Coal Ash: reasonable restrictions
      10. Global Warming (AGW): – some kind of joke, can’t prove CO2 is bad, can’t prove warming is bad, can’t prove forcing is anything other than trivial, can’t prove CO2 level will even rise 20%.

      • PA — The problem in your very constant opinions is that you want to fight all the time. You want to play high stakes poker — winner take all, where there can be only one winner and one loser.

        What’s so bad in scrapping things like carbon taxes, cap & trade, federally mandated Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards, International Treaties — and offer up some conservative principled options in a clear comprehensive strategy (bottom/up, no regrets) like international trade and reducing air pollution (Dr. Ramanathan’s Fast Mitigation)?

        For example, the U.S. imports ~98% of its clothing. The U.S. could have some big leverage say with Vietnam for (1) them to implement a lower carbon economy by purchasing U.S. energy efficiency equipment (say high efficiency coal power technology); where (2) by doing so, we give Vietnam special perks into our markets? It’s a win/win/win for the U.S., Vietnam, and Global Warming.

      • PA — In 2012, Jon Huntsman (who knows a thing or two about international trade and Asia) tried to direct a Republican conversation on approaching AGW from a trade standpoint. He was booed off stage by a Tea Party mentality. Huntsman, by the way, had an overall “conservative rating” much more conservative than either McCain or Romney in 2008 and 2012.

      • Stephen Segrest | May 19, 2015 at 12:51 am |
        PA — The problem in your very constant opinions is that you want to fight all the time.

        “My Problem” is that the global warming arguments are dishonest, disingenuous, and meritless.

        Any time I try to analyze any of the global warming arguments and apply some figure of merit, the argument falls apart.

        I get very angry when one group of people in the climate debate constantly lie to me and insult my intelligence.

        I am not a fan of the denier branch either. Screaming “no it doesn’t warm things” and having odd theories of how the atmosphere works is a niche argument. CO2 is going to have a effect. But there aren’t any indications it will be significant enough to be worrisome or come close to equaling the benefits of more CO2. The original planetary pre-1900s CO2 level was so low that almost any conceivable CO2 increase would be an improvement.

        Coal and nuclear facilities aren’t going to be a lot cheaper or more efficient 10 years from now. There is no incentive to delay.

        Renewable resources use vast amounts of resources and land. They will get cheaper and more efficient (at least consuming less resources and land). Creating thousands of square miles of glass or metal/plastic farms today using megatons of scarce resources is sort of stupid. 2000 MW (a standard nuclear plant) of modern Wind power (2000 MW delivered) consumes about about 800,000 metric tons of mostly stainless steel with the rest other high tech material, including 500 metric tons of rare earths. There is no reason to deploy now.

        There are a number of “killer app” renewable technologies like organic solar that would make current deployment of PV like poor planning. Sensible people would wait for these technologies.

        The US consumes much of its energy as electricity, much of the rest of the world generates power at the point of use. Research to develop power sources for the third world that are cheap and not resource intensive should be more of a priority. This is a win-win that reduces their emissions and improves their lives.

        And an fun fact found researching this post: US consumes relatively little energy by GDP.

      • Stephen Segrest: Jon Huntsman (who knows a thing or two about international trade and Asia) tried to direct a Republican conversation on approaching AGW from a trade standpoint. He was booed off stage by a Tea Party mentality.

        Perhaps Huntsman was wrong about AGW policy (I think he was wrong: there is not much of a case that his policy could have beneficial effects). How does that demonstrate “bad faith” or some such in his audience?

  22. Beta Blocker

    The EPA’s 2009 Endangerment Finding for carbon pollution has been upheld by the US Supreme Court, allowing carbon emissions to be regulated under the Clean Air Act. Regardless of its crucial role in supporting life on earth, here in the United States, carbon dioxide is now legally categorized as a pollutant whenever its total concentration in the earth’s atmospheric exceeds levels which are deemed by climate scientists to be potentially harmful to human health and the environment.

    The basic problem with the EPA’s attempt to adopt a more-or-less conventional pollution abatement approach in reducing America’s GHG emissions is that any person, corporation, or private business entity in the United States which engages in any form of social and economic activity whatsoever is a source of carbon pollution emissions, to some greater or lesser extent.

    The EPA’s Clean Power Plan attempts to get around this problem by combining carbon pollution emissions with other types non-carbon pollutants such as heavy metals and SO2, embedding these disparate pollution types inside a regulatory strategy which focuses on the coal industry as the easiest and most convenient target for achieving significant reductions in both types of pollutants simultaneously.

    As it is now formulated, the Clean Power Plan will not stand up in the courts because it unfairly assigns responsibility for the nation’s overall GHG reduction goals to just one sector of the American economy, the coal industry.

    The only possible means of fairly distributing the economic burdens of greatly reducing America’s carbon emissions is to put a stiff price on carbon, a price which is high enough to encourage a variety of energy conservation measures and which is ambitious enough in its scope and breadth to encourage an eventual transition away from fossil fuel energy into non-carbon energy resources.

    Even a Congress controlled by progressive liberal Democrats will never enact a national carbon tax or a national cap-and-trade scheme. But there is another approach available to the US Government for putting a price on carbon, one which is potentially much simpler to enable and to enforce.

    Placing a stiff price on carbon can be done without a legislated carbon tax through an integrated combination of two major anti-carbon measures administered by the EPA. The first measure would be to directly constrain emissions of carbon pollution through a specified series of state, regional, and national GHG emission limits. The second measure would be to impose a corresponding framework of stiff carbon pollution fines which is the functional equivalent of a legislated carbon tax.

    Under such a scheme, the GHG emission reduction targets for each state and EPA region must assign regulatory accountability as equitably as possible among all classes of GHG emitters within each state and EPA region. The accountability figures so assigned must also be in relatively close alignment with the national average for each category of carbon pollution source. Each state collects these carbon pollution ‘fines’ through a series of standardized enforcement and collection mechanisms, ones which are uniformly implemented across all states according to EPA-published guidelines.

    As long as the EPA properly follows its existing and well-tested regulatory rule-making processes and procedures; and as long as the anti-carbon regulations are themselves fair and impartial in their application among all states and among all classes of carbon emitters, then this two-prong regulatory attack on carbon emissions can be made bulletproof against the threat of lawsuits.

  23. ‘The question is,’ said Humpty Dumpty, ‘ which is
    to be master – that’s all.’ – Lewis Carroll.

    • Government bureaucrats don’t seem to realize they are civil servants.

      This is easy to fix.

      Issue a medium blue (whatever the government blue color is) vest to each government employee. Enact a statute that wearing of the vest during work hours is mandatory and not wearing it is a firing offense.

      On the front in big white letters says “Servant of the Taxpayers” (I like “Government Slave” too).

      On the back it says, “How may I serve you?”.

      I’m open to discussing which logo is on the front and which is on the back.

  24. Serf jackets. I like that.

  25. EPA’s attempts seem to duplicate regulatory mandates of other federal agencies. It should get out of the energy regulation business.

    Geoge Devries Klein, PhD, PG, FGSA

  26. There don’t seem to be any adverse health effects at all from CO2 up to at least 1000 ppm.

    What is carbon pollution? Would banning carbon fibre used in aircraft, or carbon in the form of graphite in pencils make people healthier? Banning diamonds might save money, and avert life threatening rages of jealousy.

    The British dealt with sunlight pollution by taxing windows. Maybe the EPA could follow suit. Reduction in skin cancers, melanomas, sunburn, freckles, wrinkles, premature ageing . . . What’s not to like?

    If EPA management want other excellent ideas, for a small fee I can be bought.

  27. There are three modes of climate thinking. Equilibrium, purely periodic and chaotic.


    The third mode is the reality. Means and variance shifts every 20 to 30 years and I doubt whether we have the tools to predict even the sign of the next shift. Abrupt climate change – locally as much as 16 degrees C in a decade – provides serious added impetus to mitigation of destabilising pressures in an inherently unstable system. It does however make a nonsense of a 2 degrees C target, equilibrium climate sensitivity and the delusion that we can determine global temperature outcomes based on CO2 projections with any accuracy.

    The solutions to emissions of power plants in the US involve a natural gas to advanced nuclear strategy. Purely based on levelised costs of energy. It mitigates 26% of greenhouse gases and does nothing for population, black carbon, soil and ecosystem degradation or greenhouse gas emissions from other sectors.


    The US EPA may be overreaching but it is also a hugely irrelevant posturing for political purposes. Purely symbolic.

    • Chief
      As I am trying to visualize #3, the chaotic + random, it occurs to me that the influence of doubling CO2 has some sort of effect, a perturbation as some would call it, and then other processes take over. I suggest this as we see Ghil’s diagram of #3 goes down to some pre-doubling base line.

      In electrical terms, at doubling of C02, is the gain ramped up for the system? so that what ever response there is, is exaggerated? Is this what is meant by CO2 as the control knob? We can’t see the fingerprint of CO2 because it is acting like a: catalyst? speeding reactions up so that the output is greater?

      I say this, i.e. CO2 behaving as a catalyst, because there are specific properties that govern how catalysts influence the speed of the reaction and that usually is that the substrate is a rate limiting quantity. Another, is that the environment around the catalyst can be rate limiting as well as the product of the reaction feeds back to limit the influence of the catalyst.

      Just thinking out loud kinda.

      • ‘Technically, an abrupt climate change occurs when the climate system is forced to cross some threshold, triggering a transition to a new state at a rate determined by the climate system itself and faster than the cause. Chaotic processes in the climate system may allow the cause of such an abrupt climate change to be undetectably small.’ http://www.nap.edu/openbook.php?record_id=10136&page=14


        CO2 is not especially privileged as a control variable. The response – chaotic bifurcation – is internally generated through changes in cryosphere, atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere and biosphere. The system fluctuates madly at bifurcations and then settles into a new pattern. Ergodic implies that the system states are revisited over a sufficiently long time span – say 2.58 million years. We may well hope that the climate system is ergodic and will stay within Quaternary limits.

        In climate terms it is dynamic sensitivity as opposed to the low or high sensitivity of the mode 3 thinking challenged. .


        The above is a solution of an energy-balance model (EBM), showing the global-mean temperature (T) vs. the fractional change of insolation (μ) at the top of the atmosphere. (Source: Ghil, 2013)

        Ghil’s model shows that climate sensitivity (γ) is variable. It is the change in temperature (ΔT) divided by the change in the control variable (Δμ) – the tangent to the curve as shown above. Sensitivity increases moving down the upper curve to the left towards the bifurcation and becomes arbitrarily large at the instability. The 1-D climate model uses physically based equations to determine changes in the climate system as a result of changes in solar intensity, ice reflectance and greenhouse gas changes. With a small decrease in radiation from the Sun – or an increase in ice cover – the system becomes unstable with runaway ice feedbacks. Of course – translating a 1-D model into a real world simulation is fraught with difficulties.

        It shows however one possible mode of abrupt climate change. The US National Academy of Sciences defined abrupt climate change as a new climate paradigm as long ago as 2002. A paradigm in the scientific sense is a theory that explains observations. A new science paradigm is one that better explains data – in this case climate data – than the old theory. The new theory says that climate change occurs as discrete jumps in the system. Climate is more like a kaleidoscope – shake it up and a new pattern emerges – than a control knob with a linear gain.

        And the reason for my seeming obsession with it is that both the world is warming and the world is not warming memes are possible in an inherently unstable system. There is no definitive answer with the available data. And neither side have rational means of knowing where the next climate shift is heading in a decade or two.

        ‘Using a new measure of coupling strength, this update shows that these climate modes have recently synchronized, with synchronization peaking in the year 2001/02. This synchronization has been followed by an increase in coupling. This suggests that the climate system may well have shifted again, with a consequent break in the global mean temperature trend from the post 1976/77 warming to a new period (indeterminate length) of roughly constant global mean temperature.’ http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2008GL037022/full

        Yet both sides pretend that they do – and it leads to profound policy confusion just when the greatest clarity is required. My goal is to put the irrefutable mode 3 scientific paradigm – and the needed comprehensive policy response – in the clearest terms possible. Otherwise I would just shut up and go back to pondering the natural philosophy of rainfall and runoff.

  28. David Wojick

    Alan Caruba has a good blog article with links to the pending legislation blocking EPA’s regulation of CO2:
    We now have a Senate bill well as the House bill.

  29. Epstein’s only problem is that he, like John Derbyshire, credits the climate science. His analysis, given that, is fine.

    For the same reason as Derbyshire, too. He thinks he’s not the expert.

    I always say that he hasn’t worked with actual career-minded STEM types. They’re much different from actual physicists.

    They supply what pays rather than what interest them.

    Derbyshire and Epstein don’t know how numerous these are.

  30. Epstein is arguing that EPA is overreaching and needs to be reigned in by Congress. But then he argues that Congress should step in and take steps to regulate global climate change.
    Can’t imagine why anyone would call that “libertarian thought.”
    I just re-examined the Constitution and nowhere in it can I find a provision which authorizes government control of the economy, industry, and human life to achieve a stable climate condition.
    Epstein is being naive, anyway. If Congress passes new climate control legislation, they will delegate rule-making to the EPA, which will then do what it wants with the legislation. It’s all a scam, which Epstein actually knows.
    And so does SCOTUS, which will bless it all, in the long run.
    If and when climate change presents problems to be solved, free people are the best resource for dealing with it, not politicians, lawyers, and federal police agencies.

  31. Libtertarian: Epstein goes to the principles that lead to libertarianism, instead of starting with it.

    You want voluntary transactions because they leave both sides better off (or they wouldn’t have happened).

    For some things, this is hugely inefficient or even impossible. Somewhere around 5 people it starts to break down, and you get holdouts trying to become free riders. It is more efficient to impose conditions on the group so that everybody who benefits pays. You still want to leave everybody better off (or no worse off), but the imposition of conditions is justified to a libertarian working from the principle of beneficial trades.

    He errs in buying the climate science, is all.

  32. No. I want voluntary transactions because the freedom of each participant is respected, because their participation is a choice, not a mandate.
    If you want to decide who benefits, and what they should pay, and under what conditions, then you are disrespecting the rights and liberties of the participants. You are imposing your supposed superior determination of proper outcomes. That is fascism, not libertarianism. Libertarians oppose the initiation of force, and don’t allow themselves to determine how people would be better off if you just forced them so submit to “conditions.” They recognize that they don’t have the right to impose costs on anyone. They value freedom and don’t seek to regulate outcomes.

    • Rather quickly in government you get to imposition not leaving everybody imposed on better off, and then Epstein agrees with regular libertarians.

      Regular libertarians though do not see that everybody is worse off without some impositions. Some particular ones, not just anything a democrat dreams up.

      Epstein is trying to point out the value of distinguishing these from those, and how law and the constitution are based on that.

  33. rogercaiazza

    This article describes another issue with EPA: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/19/us/critics-hear-epas-voice-in-public-comments.html?partner=rss&emc=rss&_r=0

    In particular:
    “At minimum, the actions of the agency are highly unusual. “The agency is supposed to be more of an honest broker, not a partisan advocate in this process,” said Jeffrey W. Lubbers, a professor of practice in administrative law at the American University Washington College of Law and the author of the book “A Guide to Federal Agency Rulemaking.” “I have not seen before from a federal agency this stark of an effort to generate endorsements of a proposal during the open comment period,” he said.”

    Elsewhere, EPA funds NGOs that just happen to have a viewpoint aligned with EPA and, lo and behold, the organization publicly supports the EPA policy. Read any press release associated with a new policy and there are always quotes from supporters and invariably the supporters fit this description.

  34. Obama is the worst thing to happen to the US since Hitler.
    From the article:

    But critics say there is a reason for the overwhelming result: The E.P.A. had a hand in manufacturing it.

    In a campaign that tests the limits of federal lobbying law, the agency orchestrated a drive to counter political opposition from Republicans and enlist public support in concert with liberal environmental groups and a grass-roots organization aligned with President Obama.

    The Obama administration is the first to give the E.P.A. a mandate to create broad public outreach campaigns, using the tactics of elections, in support of federal environmental regulations before they are final.


    • The EPA needs a good nut-cuttin’.
      More from that article:
      “The agency has relentlessly campaigned for the rule with tweets and blogs, not informing the public about the rule but influencing the public to advocate for the rule,” said Ellen Steen, general counsel at the American Farm Bureau Federation. “That is exactly what the Anti-Lobbying Act is meant to prevent.”

  35. jhprince2014

    I’m glad you highlighted your interaction with Don Beyer, demonstrating how over-symplified politicians have churned the issue, or how they understand it. The way politicians and the media play us locally is insulting. Keep pressing politicians, JC.

  36. Reblogged this on I Didn't Ask To Be a Blog and commented:
    “Congress should now legislate to take this confused matter out of the EPA’s hands.”

  37. Brian G Valentine

    “When did the EPA become our Nation’s energy regulator?”

    When it was allowed to be its own little Government. Liberal Democrats took the “passive” approach to parenting – and parents became the hostage to adolescents with no knowledge and no judgement and little respect for the parents that gave them life

  38. kenfritsch

    Richard Epstein in my view could be considered a libertarian only by allowing the Chicago School of Economics reasoning to pass for libertarian thought. Always with the Chicago School it seems assumed that a supposed problem with the free markets can be remedied by government action without ever questioning that the original problem may be the result of government and that the government attempt at mitigation will not make the problem worse. Further not appearing considered is the difference in lifetimes between a failed government program (it needs more money so do not shut it down and rather double down on funding) and a failed unsubsidized private enterprise.

    The Austrian School of Economics in Murray Rothbard works linked below has a theoretical approach to problems like AGW that while unlikely to be implemented any time soon is a view that should be read if for only the purpose of comparing alternative approaches that are much more likely to be implemented.


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