Political Climate
May 08, 2016
What Happens to an Economy When Forced to Use Renewable Energy?

By Robert Bryce, Manhattan Institute

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Reality Check

Some of America’s most prominent politicians want national mandates for renewable electricity. In addition, over the past seven months, three states - California, New York, and Oregon - have instituted plans that will require utilities to produce 50 percent of the electricity that they sell to customers from renewables. The politicians backing these measures claim that such mandates will help reduce customers’ bills and create jobs. Had these politicians considered the surge in electricity costs that have occurred in Europe in recent years, they might have been less eager to push such mandates. Indeed, the three EU countries that have been the most aggressive in pursuit of renewable energy - Germany, Spain, and the U.K. - have all seen their electricity rates increase more than other EU countries. Further, Germany and the U.K. are seeing job losses due to high energy prices.

Key Findings

1.  Between 2005, when the EU adopted its Emissions Trading Scheme, and 2014, residential electricity rates in the EU increased by 63 percent, on average. Over the same period, residential rates in the U.S. rose by 32 percent.
2.  Industrial rates in Europe have increased about twice as quickly as in the U.S.
3. EU countries that have intervened the most in their energy markets - Germany, Spain, and the U.K.- have seen their electricity costs increase the fastest. During 2008-12, those countries spent about $52 billion on interventions in their energy markets.
4. During 2008-12, Germany’s residential electricity rates increased by 78 percent, Spain’s rose by 111 percent, and the U.K.’s soared by 133 percent.
5. In 2016 alone, German households will be forced to spend $29 billion on renewable electricity with a market value of $4 billion - more than $700 per household.
6. The residential electricity rate increase in Germany has been 13 cents per kilowatt-hour - an increase larger than the average cost of residential electricity in the U.S. (12.5 cents).
7. While European countries have succeeded in creating jobs in the solar and wind industries, their energy policies have also resulted in significant job losses elsewhere.
8. Germany’s energy minister has warned that the continuation of current policies risks the “deindustrialization” of the country’s economy.

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In January 2014, Germany’s energy minister declared that his country had reached ‘the limit’ with renewable-energy subsidies and that Germany had to reduce its electricity prices or risk ‘deindustrialization.’ To avoid the kinds of
results seen in Europe, U.S. policymakers should be required to do rigorous cost-benefit analyses before imposing renewable-energy mandates. U.S. policymakers must also consider the impact that higher energy costs will have on overall employment and industrial competitiveness.

A European Model for America?

The push for leadership on climate issues has led U.S. policymakers at the federal and state levels to push for European-style energy policies. Hillary Clinton has declared her intent to increase domestic solar-energy capacity to about 140 gigawatts by 2020, a sevenfold increase over current capacity. Bernie Sanders has introduced an energy plan that would require America to get 80 percent of its energy from renewables by 2050. Similar moves are afoot at the state level. In October 2015, California governor Jerry Brown signed into law a bill that requires the state’s electric utilities to get 50 percent of their power from renewables by 2030. In his push for renewables and greater energy efficiency, Brown has claimed that California will create some 500,000 new jobs. In December 2015, New York governor Andrew Cuomo directed his state’s Department of Public Service to “design and enact a new Clean Energy Standard mandating that 50 percent of all electricity consumed in New York by 2030 result from clean and renewable energy sources.” As part of that push, the state plans to spend $15 million to train some 10,000 people in clean energy technologies. In March 2016, Oregon’s governor, Kate Brown, signed into law Senate Bill 1547, which requires the state’s utilities to meet 50 percent of their customer’s needs with renewable electricity by 2040.

After it introduced the Clean Power Plan (CPP), the Environmental Protection Agency claimed that the new regulations would save consumers money and create jobs. By 2030, the agency claims, the CPP will “save Americans about $8 on an average monthly residential electricity bill ... [and will create] jobs related to demand-side energy efficiency, such as jobs for machinists to manufacture energy efficient appliances, construction workers to build efficient homes and buildings or weatherize existing ones.”

Europe’s Rising Energy Prices

Since 2005, the EU and several of its member countries have enacted various climate-change initiatives, including emissions trading and renewable-energy mandates. During 2008-14, EU-member countries spent some $106 billion on energy subsidies. Three countries - Germany ($27.2 billion), Spain ($11.1 billion), and the U.K. ($14.3 billion) - accounted for nearly half of that sum. Those three countries have also seen the largest increases in residential electricity rates. According to Eurostat, during 2005-14, residential rates in the EU increased by 63 percent, on average. In Germany, those rates increased by 78 percent; in Spain, they increased by 111 percent; and in the U.K., they rose by 133 percent. Over that same period, residential rates in the U.S. rose by 32 percent.

In 2016 alone, German residential customers will pay renewable-energy surcharges of some $29 billion for electricity that, on the electricity market, is worth only about $4 billion. Germany has about 40.2 million households. Thus, in 2016, renewable-energy surcharges will cost the average German household about $721. European countries are seeing big increases in industrial rates, too. During 2005-14, industrial electricity prices in the EU increased by 46 percent, nearly twice the increase seen in the U.S. over the same period. Industrial electricity prices in the U.K. jumped by 133 percent, to 16.6 cents per kilowatt-hour, among the highest rates in the European Union.

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A Green-Energy Warning for America

In January 2014, Germany’s energy minister, Sigmar Gabriel, declared that his country had reached “the limit” with renewable-energy subsidies and that Germany had to reduce its electricity prices or risk “deindustrialization.” Germany’s renewable-energy push has had a particularly harsh effect on two of its largest utilities, RWE and E.On. Since 2011, the two companies have cut a total of 32,000 jobs. Over the past year, Siemens, one of Germany’s biggest industrial companies, has shed 4,500 jobs.15 The job losses in Germany’s industrial sector would likely be far higher but for the fact that the German government has provided about $10 billion in subsidies to its most energy-intensive industries since 2013.

British industry is also suffering. In March 2016, Tata Steel announced that it was planning to sell its steelworks in Britain, a move that puts about 15,000 jobs at risk. Among the reasons the company cited for its plan to pull out of the U.K. was high energy cost. In the second half of 2015, British steelmakers and other large industrial users of electricity paid nearly twice as much for electricity as the EU average.

Meanwhile, Spain has effectively ended its renewable-energy subsidies, a move that has halted the expansion of the country’s solar and wind sectors. Nevertheless, the country’s electric utilities have accumulated a $32 billion deficit that must now be repaid, by adding surcharges of about 55 percent to customers’ bills. High energy costs are only adding to Spain’s economic woes. During 2004-14, Spain’s GDP grew by just 0.6 percent per year, on average, and the country’s unemployment rate now stands at about 21 percent (PEAKED AT 27.5%).

To avoid the kinds of results seen in Europe, U.S. policymakers at the federal and state levels should be required to do rigorous cost-benefit analyses before imposing renewable-energy mandates. U.S. policymakers must also consider the impact that higher energy costs will have on overall employment and industrial competitiveness.



May 06, 2016
Stiffling innovation

Scientific Alliance

Europe has an ambivalent attitude towards innovation. On one hand, we celebrate the growth of successful businesses and new home-grown products but, on the other, the natural desire to guarantee safety creates barriers that few companies - particularly small, innovative ones - can overcome.

The point of balance between innovation and safety varies from sector to sector. In general, we worry less about computers, smart phones and similar hardware. Most of haven’t a clue what goes on behind the screen, but we don’t know what we’d do without them and - with the possible exception of concerns about radiation from phones - don’t think they’ll do us any harm.

This is not the case for food. Understandably, because eating is both vital for life and carries so much cultural baggage, we are concerned about the wholesomeness of what we put in our mouths. This, of course, hasn’t prevented the current high levels of obesity, but people still generally have quite strong ideas about what is and isn’t good for them.

There is clear evidence that our dietary habits (along with other lifestyle factors) have an impact on our healthiness and life expectancy. As for short-term effects, by far the biggest food-related issue is food poisoning, caused by inadequate cooking or poor storage. But one of the biggest campaigning issues of the recent past has been against genetically modified crops, an issue on which the overwhelming scientific consensus is that there are no safety concerns.

The complex and politicized approvals process for new GMOs has had a number of negative consequences, not least the effective export of research and development in agricultural biotechnology by companies active in the area and the erection of regulatory barriers which only major multinationals have the resources to scale. But if that isn’t bad enough, the situation could soon become even worse.

The current regulations define a GMO as having been made via a very specific technique, what is known as recombinant-DNA technology, and the end result is known as a transgene because the genome includes genetic material not present in the original variety. This may be one or more genes plus additional promotor and inhibitor sequences to control expression.

The process itself involves producing a sufficient quantity of a given genetic construct using the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) and then introducing this into cells of the target plant variety using agrobacterium tumefaciens or the gene gun (biolistics). One of the key arguments of critics is that this gives transgenic plants that could not have been derived from crossing two related parent varieties. In the early days of commercialisation, one rather emotive graphic showed a tomato with a fish tail, because a variety was being developed using a gene discovered in a cold water-tolerant fish species.

However, the rDNA technique can also be used to introduce genes from related species to achieve a particular end that would be much more difficult to arrive at via conventional breeding. In this case, the end product has been dubbed cisgenic, since it contains no ‘foreign’ DNA. The big question, which has been wrestled with for many years by the EU, is whether such a cisgene should be regulated in the same was as a transgene.

EFSA’s opinion is that cisgenics introduces no significant new hazards compared with ‘conventional’ breeding (a term that encompasses a wide range of techniques, including uncontrolled mutagenesis). This opinion from independent scientists has, however, not yet been enough to nudge the Commission towards an evidence-based decision.

This is in fact only one example of a novel plant breeding technology not available when the current regulations were formulated. Of particular interest right now is one called CRISPR cas9 (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats). This can be used to make precise changes to particular genetic sequences by excising and replacing them by the modified DNA. This is a naturally occurring repair mechanism in microorganisms, and can give exquisitely precise control over the genome.

More particularly, this technique overcomes the major shortcomings of rDNA technology by being targeted to very specific parts of the genome and leaving no ‘foreign’ DNA in place. It has enormous potential in healthcare, agriculture and industrial processing. But, in the agricultural sector, the EU has not yet decided how it (or other new plant breeding techniques) should be regulated.

Predictably, anti-GM groups are calling for all such new techniques to be classed as GMOs and therefore be considered under the same cumbersome and largely unworkable regulation. For example, from Greenpeace: Why EU GMO law must be fully applied to the so-called ‘New Plant Breeding Techniques’.

On the other side of the argument, groups such as COCERAL, representing companies in the agricultural trade sector, are also making their case: Trade body: Don’t lump ‘new plant breeding techniques’ in with GMOs. Their point is that these new techniques offer significant benefits and it is the end result that is more important than the means of achieving it. Critics, on the other hand, suggest dire consequences from engineered plants spreading their traits to other species.

At heart, this is a philosophical argument. On one hand, we have companies eager to realize the potential of powerful new and evolving technologies, and a farming community largely keen to see what it can deliver for them. On the other, there are a number of vocal lobby groups concerned ostensibly about the science, but in reality also not fans of the multinational agricultural supply companies or modern intensive farming. The public are somewhere in the middle, not really interested in the science but easily swayed by scare stories. Policymakers, in turn, pander to these lobby groups and are loathe to accept the scientific advice.

The impact of this highly precautionary approach is to stifle innovation and reinforce the competitive advantage of the USA, China and others. If CRISPR and other techniques are lumped in under the GMO regulations, this is a further step in the EU’s downward path away from an innovation-led economy. The vision of Europe becoming a Knowledge-Based Bio-Economy will be increasingly at odds with an anti-technology reality. But there is still a chance for rational policymaking to win the day.



May 01, 2016
Weather Channel founder calls Bill Nye ‘a pretend scientist in a bow tie’

By Natalie O’Neill, NY Post

A stormy fight is brewing between Weather Channel founder John Coleman and Bill Nye the Science Guy - who bashed a new movie featuring Coleman that denies the existence of global warming.

“I have always been amazed that anyone would pay attention to Bill Nye, a pretend scientist in a bow tie,” Coleman said Friday, according to ClimateDepot.com.

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Bill Nye, the Science Lie Guy, AP Photo

The science smackdown started after Nye shunned the film “Climate Hustle,” which Coleman introduces, and warned viewers not to take it seriously.

“I think it will expose your point of view as very much in the minority and very much not in our national interest and the world’s interest,” Nye said if the movie, according to the climate change website.

But Coleman, who has been a meteorologist for 60 years, fired back that the flick is legit, saying Nye spouts junk science.

“As a man who has studied the science of meteorology for over 60 years and received the AMS (American Meteorological Society’s) ‘Meteorologist of the Year’ award, I am totally offended that Nye gets the press and media attention he does. And I am rooting for the ‘Climate Hustle’ film to become a huge hit - bigger than ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ by Al Gore,” Coleman said.

Coleman also slammed Nye for claiming earlier this month that climate change skeptics should face jail time.

“That is the most awful thing since Galileo was jailed for saying the Earth was not the center of the Universe,” Coleman said.

“In 20 or 30 years, when Nye is an old man, he will realize how wrong he was as the Earth continues to be a just a great place to live,” he said.

Coleman was the original weatherman on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

(Aside: Here John was pictured with Icecap’s joe D’Aleo, who worked as meteorological producer for John on GMA , during which time they planned TWC)

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The movie hits theaters May 2 for one day only.

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Some of the original Weather Channel on camera staff that John Coleman and I hired back in 1982. TWC launched on May 2, 1982, ironically the day that Climate Hustle plays nationwide in theaters. How many can you name???

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This photo was courtesy of Dale Dockus. he writes: “On May 2nd, 1982, The Weather Channel was officially launched on cable TV. Here are many of the original on-camera meteorologists:
First Row L-R: Gay Dawson, Charlie Welsh, Bill Schubert
Second Row: Brian Durst, Vicki Griffin Williams, Vince Miller, Dale Bryan
Third Row: Bruce Kalinowski, Dale Dockus, Charlie Levy, Gary Ley, John Hope, John Cessarich, Bob Richards (Schwartz)
Fourth Row: Herb Stevens, Dennis Smith , Will Annen
John proudly referred to the the entire OCM staff as “23 of the top meteorological minds in the country” Not pictured, but also original OCMs: Andre Bernier, Craig Weber, Mark Mancuso, Donald Buser, Bill Keneely, Jim Wegner, Rick Griffin, Steven Kaye (Kosch), Gene Rubin, Bob Brown, and the one & only Fred Barnhill.

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Real World energy and climate

“The sky is falling” scare stories have no place in public interest science or policy
By John Coleman

Earth Day 2016 brought extensive consternation about how our Earth will soon become uninhabitable, as mankind’s activities of civilization trigger unstoppable global warming and climate change. President Obama used the occasion to sign the Paris climate treaty and further obligate the United States to slash its fossil fuel use, carbon dioxide emissions and economic growth.

I love this little blue planet and do all I can to preserve it for my children and grandchildren.

If I thought for even a second that the civilized activities of mankind are producing a threat to our planet, I would spend the rest of my life correcting the problems. However, after devoting a decade to carefully studying mankind’s impact on our climate, I am firmly convinced that the entire global warming/climate change campaign is based on a failed scientific theory.

In short, there is no dangerous manmade climate change problem.

“Who cares about your scientific study,” many people respond. “This is about loving a native environment.  This is about escaping from the horrors of so called civilization.”

That response is understandable because for fifteen years the Greenpeace-Sierra Club crowd has been constantly decrying the “ugliness” of civilization: cars, planes, trains, trucks, factories, power plants and all the rest. It seems they think things were better in pre-industrial times, or perhaps the world of Tarzan or modern-day central Africa.

There certainly has been a steady barrage of “research” that finds everything going drastically wrong with Planet Earth because of our civilized life. The media join in, of course, proclaiming “the sky is falling,” and Al Gore’s book, movie and “climate crisis tipping point” mantra stirred the media into an even bigger tizzy. Now almost the entire Democrat Party has climbed aboard.

As a result, billions of dollars in annual government funding keep the alarmist climate research and environmental campaigns marching on. Tens of billions more subsidize wind, solar and biofuel energy that is supposedly more “sustainable” and “climate friendly.”

Today, a high percentage of Americans accept climate change as a valid problem, even though the vast majority rate it at the bottom of their top ten or twenty concerns. Many accept news reports that tell us the United Nations through the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (UN IPCC) has “settled” the science in the last fifteen years.

In fact, President Obama and others say the matter is so proven that 97% of scientists agree on climate change. But this oft-quoted phrase has been totally debunked as fabricated or bait-and-switch. A group of scientists is asked, “Do you agree that Earth has warmed in recent years and Earth’s climate is changing?”

Probably every honest, competent scientist would answer “Yes.” But then the “survey” team changes the question to have them say, “Yes, humans are causing dangerous climate change.” Since 100% agreement would look suspicious, they back off a little and make it a “97% consensus.”

This leaves a somewhat David and Goliath situation for those of us climate experts who agree that Earth’s climate is changing, has always changed, and humans have some effects today - but do not believe that mankind’s emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide have replaced the powerful natural forces that have always driven climate change, or that any current or future changes must necessarily be dangerous or cataclysmic. We are frequently insulted and dismissed as Deniers.

Our side is not as small as the media may have you think. Many notable scientists totally reject claims of a manmade climate crisis. Over 31,000 have signed a statement that rejects the manmade global warming scare and says we see “no convincing evidence” that humans are causing dangerous climate change.  They and other experts have widely discredited the IPCC and other assertions about the climate.

There is even a Non-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC). It has published several impressive 4,000-page books of scientific papers that totally dismantle IPCC claims. The NIPCC’s Climate Change Reconsidered and other books are also published on-line.

Even the late, great author/physician/scientist Michael Crichton (of Jurassic Park fame) debunked global warming and wrote about it in his novel State of Fear.

Our fossil fuel, nuclear and hydroelectric powered civilization has made billions of lives much healthier, longer and more pleasant than in previous times. Heating and air conditioning, power for lights and computers and smart phones, and modern hospitals and schools are just a few of the blessings that bring incalculable value to our lives.  What we enjoy today is the result of hundreds of generations of hard working men and women, each one moving us forward by inches or miles.

In my 80s now, I think about the world into which I was born. Radio was just beginning. Phones were few and far between and very primitive, requiring hand cranks and operators. Cars and trucks were slow and produced awful soot, smoke, carbon monoxide and other pollutants. Factories, power plants and home furnaces fueled by dirty unprocessed coal with un-scrubbed smoke billowing from their chimneys, left us all in smoggy, unhealthy air.

Doctors had few medicines to offer, and only primitive x-ray devices to peer inside us. Jet airplanes, computers, televisions, rockets, satellites and so much more had not yet been invented. Most people died in their late 40s or 50s. In this one man’s lifetime, civilization has made amazing progress.

Now think about what life on Earth will be like when you are my age.  I predict the fossil fuel-powered society will have been replaced by systems only a few geniuses are even thinking about today. A long list of now fatal diseases will have been conquered, and people will live healthy life into their late nineties.

I predict our cars and planes will not need drivers or pilots, and space flight will become common. Robots will do much of the work, so people can enjoy their lives much, much more.

And I predict that anyone who looks back on the threat of climate change/global warming and all the threats to life on Earth will have a hearty laugh, as mankind will have progressed beyond accepting any such silliness.

Life is good. Enjoy it. And stop worrying about climate hobgoblins.



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