The Climate and Energy State of the Union

How about a "balanced approach" to energy and climate policy?

(Page 2 of 2)

The president endorsed a proposal by the Energy Security Leadership Council, a group of corporate CEOs and retired generals and admirals, to establish an Energy Security Trust. Funded by oil, gas, and coal royalties derived from leases on federal lands, the Trust would "be strictly limited to supporting R&D programs related to oil displacement in the transportation sector." The Trust proposal may have some bipartisan credibility, since Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) outlined a similar scheme in her Energy 20/20 plan.

So far billions in federal subsidies have failed to jumpstart an electric car industry, much less produce batteries that are ten times more powerful. Billions in federal subsidies have conjured the bioethanol industry into existence, but scientists still debate whether corn bioethanol actually reduces greenhouse gas emissions. A recent life-cycle analysis of corn ethanol production found that its greenhouse gas emissions could be "roughly 25 percent more than the entire lifecycle emissions of petrol." And that's on top of the questionable morality of turning half of America's corn crop into vehicle fuel.

The president proudly told the assembled members of Congress, "Last year, wind energy added nearly half of all new power capacity in America." One reason for that: Wind power producers rushed to complete projects before the end of the year because they feared that the federal production tax credit (PTC) of 2.2 cents per kilowatt-hour was about to expire. Not to worry. Buried among the tax increases Congress adopted to avoid going over the "fiscal cliff" at the turn of the year was an extension of the wind PTC. To get some idea of just how important this subsidy is, experts estimated that without it wind power installations would have fallen from 12 gigawatts in 2012 to 1.5 gigawatts in 2013.

Thanks to federal wind and solar subsidies, the amount of power produced by wind turbines has increased from 52,000 gigawatt-hours in 2009 to 139,000 gigawatt-hours in the past year. Solar power net generation rose to 2,400 gigawatt-hours in the past year from 900 gigawatt-hours in 2009. To provide some perspective, Americans consumed 4,000,000 gigawatt-hours of electricity in 2010, which means that wind power contributed 3.5 percent and solar power less than one-thousandth of the electricity consumed by Americans. 

Finally, President Obama announced, "I'm also issuing a new goal for America: Let's cut in half the energy wasted by our homes and businesses over the next 20 years." Hold on. If energy in our homes and business is actually being "wasted" why not cut all of the waste, not just half? I suspect what the president really means is that he would like us to double the energy efficiency of our houses and businesses. The president is basically adopting the goal set in the Energy 2030 report issued last week by the Alliance to Save Energy. This plan proposes a slew of tax breaks, direct subsidies, and other inducements to encourage Americans to use less energy.

Do Americans need to be lured by subsidy carrots and beaten with tax sticks to convince them use energy more efficiently? Perhaps not. Broadly speaking, Americans have been doing that all along. The Energy Information Administration's (EIA) 2013 Annual Energy Outlook report notes that between 1990 to 2011, energy use per dollar of GDP declined on average by 1.7 percent per year. It also projects that energy use per 2005 dollar of GDP will decline by 46 percent from 2011 to 2040. Part of that decline will result from government energy efficiency policies, but most will occur because of the market-driven efforts of consumers and businesses to save themselves money.

President Obama's ambitious energy efficiency goals will have to cope with the phenomenon of energy rebound. Energy and money saved in one place often gets spent elsewhere. For example, the EIA notes that houses built between 2000 and 2009 were 30 percent bigger than before 2000, but use 2 percent more energy. Residential energy efficiency improvements have been more than offset by consumer desires for larger houses. Similarly, an MIT study last year found that if Americans today were driving cars with the same average size and power of vehicles in 1980 that "the country's fleet of autos would have jumped from an average of about 23 miles per gallon (mpg) to roughly 37 mpg." Instead, gas mileage increased to only an average of 27 mpg. Americans chose to channel 60 percent the fuel efficiency savings into bigger and more powerful cars. In any case, a new analysis of energy efficiency engineering estimates suggests that the "energy efficiency gap" is much smaller than the president thinks it is.

Let's Make A Deal?

The president is right about this: The balance of current scientific evidence shows that the increasing concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, chiefly by burning fossil fuels, is likely boosting average global temperatures. The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates that doubling the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere over its pre-industrial level of 280 parts per million is likely to raise the global average temperature by around 3 degrees Celsius (5.4 degrees Fahrenheit). It's now at more than 390 parts per million. To the extent that Obama has accurately identified some deleterious trends, most researchers also agree that rising temperatures will, toward the end of this century, significantly exacerbate them. So if man-made global warming is going to become a big problem, how much would the president's proposals do to fix it? Not much.

One problem is that global warming is, well, global. Assuming the projected trajectory of overall global emissions by all countries, climatologist Chip Knappenberger of the Cato Institute, calculates that if the U.S. were somehow to entirely eliminate all of its greenhouse gas emissions right now that would reduce future warming by only 0.2 degree Celsius by 2100. In other words, the globe would warm by 2.8 degrees instead of 3.

Another problem with Obama's proposals is that many of them have already been tried and have failed. Carbon cap-and-trade in Europe, for example, has cost consumers $277 billion for "almost zero impact" on cutting carbon dioxide emissions. Scores of billions in federal energy subsidies and tax breaks squandered over the past several decades have produced similarly dismal results.

Assuming that the federal government is going to do something about climate change, it oddly turns out that something like the Boxer and Sanders carbon tax and rebate scheme is the least economically damaging proposition. Barack Obama is always urging a "balanced approach" to solving problems. So in that spirit, here's an idea: Remove all regulations on carbon dioxide emissions and eliminate all energy subsidies and tax breaks in exchange for a revenue-neutral, fully rebated carbon tax. Deal?

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • T o n y||

    Round up any denier with a microphone and shoot him. Then declare a state of emergency, have Obama crowed god-emperor for life, at which point he can personally eliminate polluting industries by fiat and direct as many resources as necessary to develop clean energy tech and convert energy production and consumption to it nationally.

    That would be a moderate, balanced approach compared to "drill baby drill" or maintaining the status quo, which will have more harmful consequences by any measure.

  • mgd||

    Come and get me, bitch.

  • Jordan||

    No wonder you don't trust anyone to own guns. Behold the mind of a totalitarian zealot.

  • ||

    The consensus is settled!

    I'm totally cereal guys.

  • grey||

    I said this elsewhere, socialists have violent and oppressive tendencies consistently superimpose these tendencies on others; and this is why they fear those that can defend themselves. They fear their own dark selves. The way cheaters are the most jealous.

    Socialist equivalency of argument:

    Fascist Ruler Murdering Non-Compliant Citizens = People wishing to take continued advantage of safe and plentiful natural resources

    Someone please explain to me the difference between a modern US liberal and the fascist oppressors mankind has encountered all through history?

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Someone please explain to me the difference between a modern US liberal and the fascist oppressors mankind has encountered all through history?

    *crickets*

  • ||

    The historical ones are dead. Ours arent. Yet.
    And we have to stop calling them liberals.

  • grey||

    Fascist, socialist, leftist, communist, statist, what's the best descriptor? I'd just call them douches, but only here would everyone know instantly who I meant.

  • Bill||

    "Progressives" But you have to include the quotes to highlight how stupid it sounds.

  • marshaul||

    Seriously. Even if the term "liberal" is totally destroyed, they don't deserve to wear it.

  • ||

    "War! What is it good for? Squandering wealth and oppressing your fellow man. Say it again!"

    -Tony

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    You know, I really do try to give humanity the benefit of the doubt. And then people like you show up and wipe out any faith I once had. Sad thing is, I can't tell whether you're just confrontational for the sake of confrontation or you REALLY REALLY are this stupid.

  • Tman||

    He really is this stupid.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    Dear god, no. So you're telling me it IS possible for IQ to dip into the negatives?

  • Tman||

    They have a Kelvin-type scale for the Tony levels of stupid.

  • itsnotmeitsyou||

    I'm fairly certain he'd still be in the single digits on that scale. Maybe 1 or 2 degrees above Absolute Derp. (gotta give him at least 1 point. He does manage to use a computer and form words)

  • Tman||

    You are quite generous. I always thought he had the pool boy do the typing and surfing and what not.

  • grey||

    Tony may be simply the next new generation of socialist random word generator (a more advanced version of the cyborg like Rosie O'Donnell version who unfortunately ate all the other cyborg models of that generation). It takes in all the words from each evenings MSNBC broadcast, shuffles them like a deck of cards, then randomly reassigns verbs, nouns, pronouns, and the other necessary components into the fallacy structures of liberal arguments, and viola, you have a perfectly coherent (by liberal standards) spokesperson to troll the net. No reasoning skills or ethics necessary - only the raw talking points of liberalism. Since one incoherency is the same as the next, the organization of the words and ideas on any given topic is not important.

  • T o n y||

    Liberalism is a comprehensive and realistic political worldview, talking points or no. Libertarianism is slogans as philosophy.

  • ||

    Liberalism = libertarianism. Thanks for shitting on it.

  • Calidissident||

    Modern liberalism is an incoherent mess. As is conservatism for that matter. There's no underlying logic behind why they have the beliefs they do on different topics. They just do. I don't know why a coherent worldview with a guiding principle is so worthy of scorn

  • ||

    Because if they can't have a coherent worldview based in things like principles, then obviously nobody else really does either.

  • T o n y||

    Principles are one thing. Dogma is another.

  • Sevo||

    T o n y| 2.16.13 @ 12:45AM |#
    "Principles are one thing. Dogma is another."

    Turing test fail, scheisse kopf.

  • Rabban||

    Conservatives would argue that they prefer and advocate traditional approaches that have been vindicated by history. Progs will declare that only they don't hate women, children and minorities. All of whom are seen as too helpless to survive sans government charity.

  • Bill||

    You are a progressive. Look up classical liberal.

  • Hopfiend||

    Now that IS funny. Liberalism is a comprehensive collection of action/unintended consequence/action to fix unintended consequence ad infinitum.

  • Oso Politico||

    I think Obama has already been 'crowed'.

  • John C. Randolph||

    You know Tony, none of us would need guns at all if it weren't for people like you.

    -jcr

  • Marie487897||

    like Herbert replied I'm alarmed that people able to profit $5735 in a few weeks on the computer. have you seen this site link... www.snag4.com

  • T o n y||

    Woooosh.

  • grey||

    It was not fed enough words from last nights broadcast.

  • Stacy56||

    If you think Edna`s story is cool..., last pay-cheque my sister's best friend basically also recieved a check for $5865 working a seventeen hour week from there apartment and their best friend's mom`s neighbour done this for 9-months and got over $5865 parttime from a labtop. follow the instructions on this address, http://www.FLY38.COM

  • TheZeitgeist||

    I thought Reason put in the registration (and thirty billion analytic trackers) of users to eliminate shit like this. Fail.

  • T o n y||

    Endorsing the status quo is the most radical of the available options.

  • Rick Santorum||

    Endorsing the status quo is the most radical of the available options.

    Lol, trying to backpeddle, shithead.

  • T o n y||

    Just trying to make the point in plain English because the more illustrative method apparently completely confused you idiots.

  • John C. Randolph||

    Anyone who's still an Obama-fluffer is on very thin ice when they call anyone else stupid.

    -jcr

  • Hopfiend||

    stupid person comes in, calls other people stupid...

  • Death Rock and Skull||

    I find all supposed consequences of global warming acceptable if the occurrence of an ice age gets prolonged.

  • Libertarius||

    I've got it.

    All the libtards can join obozo's civilian army of social justice lolzozlzolz and all the Tonys of the world can go valiantly tell the Chinese they have to stop polluting, what the fuck these retards act like America is the only country that uses oil lolzozlzolzolz

  • Russell||

    Seriously underwhelming, Ron. With 32,000 Oregon Petition signatories to choose from, why pick Pat Michael's understudy iof ten years in a political closed shop devoted to denying global temperature trends?

  • ||

    This Obama is such a pioneer and innovator. I mean, no president ever tried to "reduce oil imports" or "promote alternative energy" or "reduce emissions" ever before, did they?

  • ||

    Aren't we on track to being the number one exporter?

  • NotAnotherSkippy||

    Climate model. Climate model. Climate MODEL. Let's talk about facts. The fact is that global temps as measured by RSS, UAH, and HadCRUT show no statistically significant warming for over a decade which is in direct contradiction to the modeled predictions. Without the silly positive feedback and amplification from water vapor assumed in the now falsified models global temps are expected to rise ~1C for every doubling of CO2, not the 3C fear mongering from the IPCC. Furthermore, it's hardly clear that a slightly warmer Earth would even be a bad thing. Certainly human history has been far more dismal when it has been cold (dark ages, Little Ice Age) than when it was warm (Minoan, Roman, and Medieval Warm periods).

  • grey||

    Truth nerd.

  • mgd||

    Are you really going to let facts get in the way of ceding more control to The State?

  • grey||

    51% of voters had no problem doing so, the mandate has spoken.

  • Jayburd||

    hide da decline

  • Wind Rider||

    Good god, Ron. Take a year long break from the innertoobs, and come back to find you writing things that pretty much summarize down to "I SURRENDER!" or "No, no, do it to her, put the rat on her!"

    And the rest just sounds like carping over the amount of sand imbedded in the lubricant (applied just to hold the sand on) for the royal shafting we're all likely to experience from the totally moronic policies the political classes of all stripes are insisting upon inflicting upon us.

    All over a hysterical chicken little dance by insignificant fleas on the ass of a chihuahua.

  • Rabban||

    As a child you never realized that Chicken Little was out to cost you your quality of life.

  • Tobias4||

    just as Alfred replied I am surprised that a mother can make $4084 in four weeks on the computer. did you see this page http://www.FLY38.COM

  • mtrueman||

    ¨in exchange for a revenue-neutral, fully rebated carbon tax. Deal?¨

    Sorry to burst your bubble, but Mother Nature doesn´t do deals. We´re not going to be able to finesse our way out of this predicament. Physics is physics and we´re stuck with it.

  • Redmanfms||

    Physics is physics and we´re stuck with it.

    When the doomsayers come up with a model that is successfully predictive, then we'll talk, until then physics isn't on your side of the debate shitheel.

  • mtrueman||

    We´ll talk when there is a model that can demonstrably predict, say 50 years into the future? You mean no talking until at least 50 years from now?

    Why calling me shitheel? Where is this hostility coming from? You are angrier than a black police supervisor in a Hollywood action pic. Please try to calm yourself before responding to me. You are clearly not thinking this climate modelling predicament through either.

  • grey||

    ^^This^^ Needs repeated more often.

  • grey||

    "When the doomsayers come up with a model that is successfully predictive, then we'll talk, until then physics isn't on your side of the debate shitheel."

    Comment fell out of line, ^^This^^ needs repeated more often.

  • mtrueman||

    No science, on anyone´s side, is going to tell us the climate some 50 years hence. That´s not the way science rolls.
    We can hypothesize about the future climate, but that´s as far as we go. If you want to take things further, you´ll just have to wait until the future actually arrives.

    Modelling, though it uses the tools of science, is more of an interpretive art. To suggest that we should take no action or even discuss the issue until the models are predictive is to completely misconstrue the nature of what we´re facing. Think this through a moment. If we are not going to take any action for 50 years because our modelling may be faulty, and we will simply see for ourselves how the climate will be in 50 years by waiting 50 years, then why insist on modelling in the first place?

  • JayDick||

    Yes, let's discuss the issue. The problem so far has been that warming alarmists have done their best to silence skeptics' voices.

    As for the "consensus" the only consensus I see is among recipients of government money, who hope to get more of it by issuing reports that please the bureaucrats.

    Is the climate warming? Probably. It's been warming since the little ice age ended. However the system for measuring ground temperatures is not very reliable, so we can't get precise information from it.

    Why the warming? Most likely it's just the normal warming and cooling cycles that have been occurring for millions (billions?) of years. To accept any other conclusion, we need very reliable data and analysis. Instead, we have mathematical models of a system not thoroughly understood that include all kinds of assumptions that have no empirical basis. Based on this shaky foundation, we're supposed to spend trillions of dollars trying to affect the climate?

    Moreover, even if all the warming alarmists' conclusions are accurate, it would require worldwide cooperation to reduce atmospheric CO2 even a little. How likely is that? We're just tilting at windmills, very expensive windmills.

  • mtrueman||

    ¨To accept any other conclusion, we need very reliable data and analysis.¨

    We have a pretty sound theory on the heat trapping properties of gases like CO2. It´s been borne out by 150 years of empirical analysis and experimentation. It´s not ¨mathematical models¨ as you say.

    ¨it would require worldwide cooperation¨

    The easiest way to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce economic growth. That´s pretty clear. No worldwide cooperation required, other than a handful of ideologically inclined wreckers and saboteurs. Welcome to the 21st century!

  • grey||

    I recall a true consensus and wide public acceptance of the dangers of fluorocarbons and the ozone. Why the difference with fluorocarbons and climate change? My advice to those that believe we are facing a problem, allow dissenting voices, and keep working.

    I had no ethical issue with the successful fight against fluorocarbons in aerosol, why? Because HARM, clear and present. Libtards have adopted climate change as a part of their socialist coalition, they are drawn to the widespread growth in government powers associated with the issue. Once again, facts are disregarded and replaced with bold faced lies to the sole effect of growing government.

  • mtrueman||

    ¨Why the difference with fluorocarbons and climate change?¨

    Good question. Off the top of my hand I would say that substitutes for fluorocarbons are readily available, so even if the sensible people disagree with the libtards in principle, that something should be done, doing something, ie switching to a libtard acceptable alternative is possible and relative easy to swallow. There´s even money to be made.

    With climate change, no alternative is feasible. A kilogramme of gas contains about 13,000 watt hours of energy. Electrical batteries today store at best 300 watt hours of energy. They are no substitute for fossil fuels. Banning fossil fuels would lead to extreme economic disruption. This is not about a ¨scientific consensus¨ or lack thereof. Science is not a democracy and never has been. The difficulty addressing the climate issue is social and economic. If libtards are capable of recognizing this, there is no reason why sensible people shouldn´t as well.

  • grey||

    I'm convinced socialists are not capable of understanding the dependency on fossil fuels or the related economic issue. I don't agree there is a consensus, MSNBC and the President can keep repeating it, but I've read volumes in scientific magazines and across the internet. There is conflicting data and we do not know what, if any, climate change is occurring. When I was a child we were speeding up the next ice age, then it became global warming, then they started calling it 'climate change' - this was perfect: an indisputable catch all since the climate has been changing the moment the Earth formed.

    Climate change activists (I can't with a straight face associate them environmentalists any more) need to get focused on real science and communicating facts. You can't say a hurricane, earth quake, or asteroid was caused by climate change and then expect me to take you seriously.

    Batteries is a key issue to alternative energy forms being more competitive, and they will continue to improve. Fossil fuels have high mining, transportation, storage, and processing costs. I have no doubt it will be usurped eventually. The only environmentalist I can take seriously is one that believes in the free market. If you free the energy markets and the capitalist markets then less polluting and more localized energy sources will replace fossil fuels much faster than a centralized solution.

  • marshaul||

    Welcome to the 21st century, where that will never happen?

  • marshaul||

    In response to mtrueman's remark about ideologically motivated saboteurs or somesuch.

  • Tristan34||

    uptil I saw the bank draft which had said $4886, I did not believe that my mom in-law realy taking home money in there spare time on their apple labtop.. there neighbour started doing this for less than seventeen months and by now repaid the debts on their place and purchased a great new Saab 99 Turbo. I went here, http://WWW.FLY38.COM

  • Bill||

    Ron,

    Have you seen Pielke Jr.'s recent piece? http://www.thegwpf.org/trust/

    And he refers to an IPCC document. Not sure if this is part of the 5th report draft or
    not but that draft seems to say that even some of what you stated above is not
    quite correct. (i.e. not as much evidence for increase in some of the things you mentioned)

    http://ipcc-wg2.gov/SREX/

  • Udolf41||

    until I saw the check 4 $6936, I didn't believe that my father in law was realie earning money part-time on their computer.. there aunt had bean doing this less than eighteen months and at present repaid the depts on there mini mansion and got a great Infiniti. this is where I went, http://tiny.cc/uqtnsw

  • Vernon||

    uptil I saw the draft of $9973, I did not believe ...that...my father in law could trully receiving money part time at their computer.. there aunts neighbour has done this 4 only about eleven months and at present paid for the mortgage on there place and got a gorgeous Chrysler. we looked here, http://www.fb26.com

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  • Art On Web||

    The climate change are one of important things that we must to do everything positive for our families.

  • buybuydandavis||

    ' Americans must take steps now to cut "our emissions of the dangerous carbon pollution that threatens our planet." '

    How about they pressure the government to get out of the way of fracking, the single most powerful factor in our reduced CO2 emissions?

  • Libertarius||

    Looting and mooching, is the way
    Hear what Capitan Obozo, has to say!!!

    GOOOOO PLAN IT!!!

  • Kroneborge||

    "Remove all regulations on carbon dioxide emissions and eliminate all energy subsidies and tax breaks in exchange for a revenue-neutral, fully rebated carbon tax. Deal?"

    I'd take that deal

  • ygsrf||

    Kickoff to you with the online store 2013

  • Jayburd||

    HIDE THE DECLINE!!!!!!

  • jecobjesan||

    like Patricia said I didnt even know that anyone can profit $6401 in 1 month on the internet. did you look at this site www.WOW92.com

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