Too Much Wind a Bad Thing?

Trying to find a compromise when it comes to wind power has proven difficult. Few can argue with the fact that wind turbines and the power they generate are a good thing, diversifying our energy mix. The point of contention has been between those who believe wind and other renewable can replace coal (and other traditional sources) and those who are not "blown away" by the wind or "overheated" by solar’s potential.

Now there is a new argument, courtesy of a recent study, that the unpredictable nature of wind is causing an actual increase in carbon dioxide emissions. I’ll let the expert, James Taylor of the Heartland Institute, explain. The bottom line, as Taylor points out, is that Washington just might need to slow down on the emission regulations and the renewable mandates.

Government policies designed to fight global warming by encouraging, subsidizing, or mandating renewable power may be making global warming worse.

In a published paper, electrical engineer Kent Hawkins shows when wind power surpasses 5 percent of power generated, the frequent ramping up and ramping down of other power sources to compensate for wind’s unpredictable variability causes such inefficiency in power generation that overall carbon dioxide emissions rise.

For a good analogy, consider this: A driver who keeps his or her speed at a consistent 60 miles per hour will get better gas mileage than one who frequently accelerates and decelerates between 45 and 75 miles per hour. The inefficiency of frequently ramping up and ramping down vehicle speed is substantial enough that the vehicle driving at variable speeds will burn up more gasoline than many vehicles with a lower fuel economy rating.

The same appears to hold true for power generation. Power plants in the Netherlands, Colorado, and Texas switched some of their generation from coal and natural gas to wind power. Because wind speeds are variable and unpredictable, plant operators were forced frequently to vary the ordinarily steady, constant generation of baseload power to back up variable wind power. Whereas a small amount of wind power generation helped reduce carbon dioxide emissions, those emissions began surpassing prior levels once wind power exceeded 3 percent of the power mix.

If the proponents of federal legislation to force reduction of carbon dioxide emissions are sincerely concerned more about alleged global warming than the accumulation of government power to hand out money and favors to preferred industries and contractors, these real-world carbon dioxide facts should put an immediate freeze on renewable power subsidies, renewable power mandates, and cap-and-tax global warming plans. How Congress responds to these new findings will tell us much about the true motivation behind proposed global warming legislation.

In the lawmaking process, as in life itself, rushing to enact "solutions" to speculative problems before the facts are known usually produces more harm than good. Keeping this axiom in mind, Congress need not rush to enact carbon dioxide restrictions on the American economy. After all, total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions are falling, not rising, and they have been declining for the past decade. To the extent global emissions are rising, the fault does not lie with the United States. 

Not All Will Like These Luntz Words

At the Indiana Chamber’s "An Evening With Frank Luntz" on February 16, maybe we will hear the pollster/communicator talk about climate change. According to CQ Politics, Luntz did just that recently.

Not that we weren’t already in for an interesting evening (following the annual Legislative Reception), but this could add a little intrigue.

Luntz’ forte is formulating terminology that can redefine political policy debates. During the Bush administration, he wrote a memo suggesting that Republicans could dampen public concern about global warming by stating — over and over — that the environmentalists’ proposals were loaded with "scientific uncertainty" and would impose an "unfair economic burden" on the nation. By embracing the Luntz approach, climate change skeptics successfully sowed seeds of doubt on climate change and delayed federal action.

But that was then. Now Luntz is applying his "language guidance" talents to help the greens sell their proposals to curb greenhouse gas emissions. Based on polling conducted at the end of 2009, Luntz said that the vast majority of Americans believe that global warming is real and that mankind is contributing to the problem.

According to Luntz, Americans tend to dismiss the scare tactics that environmentalists and global warming skeptics use to shape public opinion. "If you really want to scare Americans, it’s not about glaciers that are melting or the struggle of the polar bear," he said. "What scares Americans is the idea that this great technological industry will be developed in China or India rather than here in America."

Luntz’ report was released at a time when the environmental community is waking up to the reality that the ambitious, economywide climate change bills passed last year by the House and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee are dead.

As the environmentalists and pro-legislation businesses decide their next steps, they’re likely to keep Luntz’ advice in mind. "The American people don’t accept the status quo," he said. "The American people not only think that we can do better as a country, they want us to do better as a country. And they don’t care whether it’s Republicans or Democrats who are offering it — they expect more."

Asia Continues Greenhouse Gas Emissions Growth, Not Concerned About U.S. Policy

Critics of cap and trade remain unconvinced that tightening the reins on CO2 emissions in America would have much impact on global pollution — and thus would hinder American businesses with little benefit. That’s a sentiment echoed by the Heartland Institute:

Already responsible for one-third of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, China, India, and other Asian nations are on pace to generate more than 40 percent of the world’s emissions by 2030, according to data released at a climate change conference in Manila, Philippines…

Following a recent visit to Beijing by U.S. climate change envoy Todd Stern, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang indicated his country has no plans to curb emissions in the near future, regardless of whether the United States does so.

“China is still a developing country, and the present task confronting China is to develop its economy and alleviate poverty, as well as raise the living standard of its people,” Gang told reporters. “Given that, it is natural for China to have some increase in its emissions, so it is not possible for China in that context to accept a binding or compulsory target.”

Max Schulz, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, observes China and India have both publicly stated they have no plans to slow their growth.

“The steep growth in emissions by developing Asian countries, combined with clear statements that these nations have no plans to curtail their emissions, further highlights the futility of the United States’ plans to make drastic cuts in emissions,” said Schulz.

What do you think? Would cap and trade be futile due to the impact of Asian polluters et al.?

“Global Warming” Bill Could be Cooled in Senate

Recently, we broke down the U.S. House vote approving climate change legislation that might be better referred to as a national energy tax. That was step one in a process that the Obama administration is trying to put on the fast track.

Early indications are that the Senate will have a more difficult time than the House in passing HR 2454. California’s Barbara Boxer, chair of the Senate Environment and Public Works committee, is expected to begin hearings on Tuesday. Her goal is to mark up legislation modeled on the House bill (capping greenhouse gas emissions and mandating increased energy from renewable sources) before the August recess.

Other Senate committees — Agriculture, Finance and Foreign Relations — are expected to weigh in with mid-September deadlines.

As was the case in the House, moderates and senators from coal-producing states will be the key votes. The focus is expected to be on about 15 Democrats, including Indiana’s Evan Bayh, who fall into one of those categories.

The U.S. Chamber offers this concise primer on the terms and issues involved in the global warming debate. The battle will continue.

A Closer Look at the Climate Change Vote

Late last week, the U.S. House voted 219-212 to pass climate change legislation. It is one of what will be a long series of contentious debates and votes during the current session. Although Democrats have a strong majority in the House, this was not a party-line vote. A few of the facts:

  • Forty-four Democrats voted against the measure, with 211 voting for it. Thus, it took some of the eight Republican "yes" votes for the bill to pass
  • Those numbers may be slightly misleading, however, as some of the Dems switched their votes when the total reached 220. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says some of those 44 would have been with her party’s majority to ensure the bill’s passage
  • This topic has often been referred to as geographical rather than political. According to analysis from the National Journal, 30 of the 121 Democrats from states that generate at least 40% of their power from coal (think Indiana and its 95% coal use) voted against the bill. Only 14 of the 134 Democrats from states that are less reliant on coal joined in the opposition
  • On the political side, Sen. John McCain carried 49 districts last year in which Democrats were elected to the House. Twenty-nine of those reps voted against the measure. In the 207 districts that voted for both Democratic reps and President Obama, only 15 voted against the bill

Political dynamics will continue to be at play — they always are. But each issue, each vote, will prove interesting with different legislators and regions coming to the forefront. Stay tuned for plenty more to come.

Cap & Trade: A Really Difficult 932-page Read

Not sure you understand this whole climate change, cap and trade debate in Congress? You’re not alone. But when it is declared as the biggest economic threat to Indiana’s future, it’s clear we should be paying a little more attention.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee will be attempting a markup of legislation this week that would impact all businesses and consumers (in the form of higher prices). Indiana’s heavy reliance on coal makes those impacts significantly deeper here than in other areas.

The minority Republicans will try to offer a wide range of amendments. They may also try to slow the process, and hope sanity eventually prevails, by requiring the committee clerk to read the entire 932-page bill.

Back to learning more. Try this U.S. Chamber of Commerce fact sheet for starters; for Indiana Chamber members, participate in our June 5 policy conference call.  Invest a little time now to try and save a whole lot of pain later.

Global Warming Debate Still a Debate

Read the current issue of BizVoice magazine (available online today and in the mail to regular subscribers) and you will find the words green, environment and sustainability throughout. The "going green" focus features companies, communities and initiatives related to environmentally friendly products and practices. Global warming is cited as one of the reasons for action by some.

But despite an increase in the attention to global warming, the scientific debate is apparently far from over. The Heartland Institute reports that more than 30,000 scientists signed a petition "rejecting the assertion that global warming has reached a crisis stage and is caused by human activity."

The Heartland article tells one side of the story; numerous resources provide the flip side of the coin. What do you think? How serious is global warming? How big of an impact do human activities have on our environment? 

Tell Us: Is Carbon Footprint in Your Vocabulary?

I’ve told you that the July-August BizVoice® magazine is going to be “all green all the time.” In addition to a stellar story lineup from our talented writers, I’m gathering insights from Indiana Chamber members. 

The first two interviews traveled the green spectrum – one person describing active involvement in a community recognition program for environmentally-friendly practices; the other admitting to not having greenwashing and carbon footprint on her radar screen.

What do you think? Do you feel a personal responsibility to alter the way you operate at home, work and play to try and make a difference for future generations? Or, despite Al Gore’s best efforts, are you unconvinced about global warming and man’s direct impact?

 Let us know what you think. I’d like to add your perspective to our BizVoice® report and analysis.

Speaker to Present Different Take on Global Warming

GlobeNumerous headlines regarding global climate change appear in newspapers around the world every day.  Former Vice President Al Gore and other leading environmentalists have been warning that we are headed for a man-made global catastrophe if our interaction with the planet doesn’t drastically change. More recently, environmental experts such as April 29 Economic Club of Indiana speaker Steven Hayward, have publicly disagreed with Gore and company.

Hayward, an environmental researcher holding numerous prestigious fellowships and an adjunct professorship at Georgetown University, starred in a film rebutting Gore’s claims of pending disaster as a result of climate change.  Hayward is of the belief that the planet goes through natural periods of warming and cooling and is not tremendously influenced by the activity of human beings.

His position on the issue, shared by an increasing number of scientists – such as MIT’s Richard Lindzen – has earned him both criticism and praise. Hayward plans to present his research, "The Unseriousness of Climate Change Policy: Confronting the Economic and Energy Realities” at the Economic Club of Indiana luncheon on April 29.   

Agree or disagree? Either way, you should hear what Hayward has to say. It’s from noon to 1:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 29 at the Indiana Convention Center.