Category Archives: CO2 Abatement

Nissan Leaf MPG Numbers Very Flawed

Cross-posted from Coyote Blog

The EPA has done the fuel economy rating for the all-electric Nissan Leaf.  I see two major problems with it, but first, here is the window sticker, from this article

Problem #1:  Greenhouse gas estimate is a total crock.  Zero?

The Greenhouse gas rating, in the bottom right corner, is that the car produces ZERO greenhouse gasses.  While I suppose this is technically true, it is wildly misleading.  In almost every case, the production of the electricity to charge the car does create greenhouse gasses.  One might argue the answer is zero in the Pacific Northwest where most power is hydro, but even in heavy hydro/nuclear areas, the incremental marginal demand is typically picked up by natural gas turbines.  And in the Midwest, the Leaf will basically be coal powered, and studies have shown it to create potentially more CO2 than burning gasoline.  I understand that this metric is hard, because it depends on where you are and even what time of day you charge the car, but the EPA in all this complexity chose to use the one number – zero – that is least likely to be the correct answer.

Problems #2:  Apples and oranges comparison of electricity and gasoline.

To understand the problem, look at the methodology:

So, how does the EPA calculate mpg for an electric car? Nissan’s presser says the EPA uses a formula where 33.7 kWhs are equivalent to one gallon of gasoline energy

To get 33.7 kWhs to one gallon, they have basically done a conversion through BTUs — ie 1 KWh = 3412 BTU and one gallon of gasoline releases 115,000 BTU of energy in combustion.

Am I the only one that sees the problem?  They are comparing apples and oranges.  The gasoline number is a potential energy number — which given inefficiencies (not to mention the second law of thermodynamics) we can never fully capture as useful work out of the fuel.  They are measuring the potential energy in the gasoline before we start to try to convert it to a useful form.  However, with electricity, they are measuring the energy after we have already done much of this conversion and suffered most of the losses.

They are therefore giving the electric vehicle a huge break.  When we measure mpg on a traditional car, the efficiency takes a hit due to conversion efficiencies and heat losses in combustion.  The same thing happens when we generate electricity, but the electric car in this measurement is not being saddled with these losses while the traditional car does have to bear these costs.  Measuring how efficient the Leaf is at using electricity from an electric outlet is roughly equivalent to measuring how efficient my car is at using the energy in the drive shaft.

An apples to apples comparison would compare the traditional car’s MPG with the Leaf’s miles per gallon of gasoline (or gasoline equivalent) that would have to be burned to generate the electricity it uses.  Even if a power plant were operating at 50% efficiency (which I think is actually high and ignores transmission losses) this reduces the Leaf’s MPG down to 50, which is good but in line with several very efficient traditional cars.

Example of Why Climate Science is Becoming a Laughingstock

Some of you may have seen this at my other blog, where I ran it by accident, thinking I was posting here.   From the Thin Green Line, a reliable source for any absurd science that supports environmental alarmism:

Sending and receiving email makes up a full percent of a relatively green person’s annual carbon emissions, the equivalent of driving 200 miles.
Dealing with spam, however, accounts for more than a fifth of the average account holder’s electricity use. Spam makes up a shocking 80 percent of all emails sent, but most people get rid of them as fast as you can say “delete.”
So how does email stack up to snail mail? The per-message carbon cost of email is just 1/60th of the old-fashioned letter’s. But think about it — you probably send at least 60 times as many emails a year than you ever did letters.

One way to go greener then is to avoid sending a bunch of short emails and instead build a longer message before you send it.

This is simply hilarious, and reminds me of the things the engineers would fool the pointy-haired boss with in Dilbert.  Here was my response:

This is exactly the kind of garbage analysis that is making the environmental movement a laughing stock.

In computing the carbon footprint of email, the vast majority of the energy in the study was taking the amount of energy used by a PC during email use (ie checking, deleting, sending, organizing) and dividing it by the number of emails sent or processed. The number of emails is virtually irrelevant — it is the time spent on the computer that matters. So futzing around trying to craft one longer email from many shorter emails does nothing, and probably consumers more energy if it takes longer to write than the five short emails.

This is exactly the kind of peril that results from a) reacting to the press release of a study without understanding its methodology (or the underlying science) and b) focusing improvement efforts on the wrong metrics.

The way to save power is to use your computer less, and to shut it down when not in use rather than leaving it on standby.

If one wants to argue that the energy is from actually firing the bits over the web, this is absurd. Even if this had a measurable energy impact, given the very few bytes in an email, reducing your web surfing by one page a day would keep more bytes from moving than completely giving up email.

By the way, the suggestion for an email charge in the linked article is one I have made for years, though the amount is too high. A charge of even 1/100 cent per email would cost each of us about a penny per day but would cost a 10 million mail spammer $1000, probably higher than his or her expected yield from the spam.

But What About Positive Feedbacks?

Just what we need — in order to solve a problem greatly exaggerated by computer models that likely will prove to have little predictive ability — we are asked to adopt a “solution” whose costs are just forty cents a day per person.  That’s right — global warming averted for 40 cents a day.  And how do we know the costs will be low?  A computer model of course, from the EPA, which says the economic impact of substantially raising energy prices will be low.

Update: I found the trick.  Apparently the model gets a 50% reduction in greenhouse gasses in the US with a trivial (e.g. 25-cent per gallon of gas, 3-cent per kwh of electricity) affect on prices.  See updates to this post.  Wow, that must be a really high sensitivity of output to prices.  Where have we heard issues about overly high sensitivity assumptions in computer models before?

Too Bad, So Sad

Via the Arizona Republic

Arizona will no longer participate in a groundbreaking attempt to limit greenhouse-gas emissions across the West, a change in policy by Gov. Jan Brewer that will include a review of all the state’s efforts to combat climate change.

Brewer stopped short of pulling Arizona out of the multistate coalition that plans to regulate greenhouse gases starting in 2012. But she made it clear in an executive order that Arizona will not endorse the emission-control plan or any program that could raise costs for consumers and businesses.

My Climate Plan

Apparently this is Blog Action Day for Climate.  The site encourages posts today on climate that will be aggregated, uh, somehow.  Its pretty clear they want alarmist posts and that the site is leftish in orientation (you just have to look at the issues you can check off that interest you — lots of things like “societal entrepreneurship” but nothing on individual liberty or checks on government power).  However, they did not explicitly say “no skeptics” — they just want climate posts.  So I will take the opportunity today to post a number of blasts from the past, including some old-old ones on Coyote Blog.

From the comments of this post, which wondered why Americans are so opposed to the climate bill when Europeans seem to want even more regulation.  Leaving out the difference in subservience to authority between Europeans and Americans, I wrote this in the comments:

I will just say:   Because it’s a bad bill. And not because it is unnecessary, though I would tend to argue that way, but for the same reason that people don’t like the health care bill – its a big freaking expensive mess that doesn’t even clearly solve the problem it sets out to attack. Somehow, on climate change, the House has crafted a bill that both is expensive, cumbersome, and does little to really reduce CO2 emissions. All it does successfully is subsidize a bunch of questionable schemes whose investors have good lobbyists.

If you really want to pass a bill, toss the mess in the House out. Do this:

  1. Implement a carbon tax on fuels. It would need to be high, probably in the range of dollars and not cents per gallon of gas to achieve kinds of reductions that global warming alarmists think are necessary. This is made palatable by the next step….
  2. Cut payroll taxes by an amount to offset the revenue from #1. Make the whole plan revenue neutral.
  3. Reevaluate tax levels every 4 years, and increase if necessary to hit scientifically determined targets for CO2 production.

Done. Advantages:

  1. no loopholes, no exceptions, no lobbyists, no pork. Keep the legislation under a hundred pages.
  2. Congress lets individuals decide how best to reduce Co2 by steadily increasing the price of carbon. Price signals rather than command and control or bureaucrats do the work. Most liberty-conserving solution
  3. Progressives are happy – one regressive tax increase is offset by reduction of another regressive tax
  4. Unemployed are happy – the cost of employing people goes down
  5. Conservatives are happy – no net tax increase
  6. Climate skeptics are mostly happy — the cost of the insurance policy against climate change that we suspect is unnecessary is never-the-less made very cheap. I would be willing to accept it on that basis.
  7. You lose the good feelings of having hard CO2 targets, but if there is anything European cap-and-trade experiments have taught, good feelings is all you get. Hard limits are an illusion. Raise the price of carbon based fuels, people will conserve more and seek substitutes.
  8. People will freak at higher gas prices, but if cap and trade is going to work, gas prices must rise by an equal amount. Legislators need to develop a spine and stop trying to hide the tax.
  9. Much, much easier to administer. Already is infrastructure in place to collect fuel excise taxes. The cap and trade bureaucracy would be huge, not to mention the cost to individuals and businesses of a lot of stupid new reporting requirements.
  10. Gore used to back this, before he took on the job of managing billions of investments in carbon trading firms whose net worth depends on a complex and politically manipulable cap and trade and offset schemes rather than a simple carbon tax.

Payroll taxes are basically a sales tax on labor.  I am fairly indifferent in substituting one sales tax for another, and would support this shift, particularly if it heads of much more expensive and dangerous legislation.

Update: Left out plan plank #4:  Streamline regulatory approval process for nuclear reactors.

What A Real Global Warming Insurance Policy Would Look Like

It is frustrating to see the absolutely awful Waxman-Markey bill creeping through Congress.  Not only will it do almost nothing measurable to world temperatures, but it would impose large costs on the economy and is full of pork and giveaways to favored businesses and constituencies.

It didn’t have to be that way.   I think readers know my position on global warming science, but the elevator version is this:  Increasing atmospheric concentrations of CO2 will almost certainly warm the Earth — absent feedback effects, most scientists agree it will warm the Earth about a degree C by the year 2100.  What creates the catastrophe, with warming of 5 degrees or more, are hypothesized positive feedbacks in the climate.  This second theory of strongly net positive feedback in climate is poorly proven, and in fact evidence exists the sign may not even be positive.  As a result, I believe warming from man’s Co2 will be small and manageable, and may even been unnoticeable in the background noise of natural variations.

I get asked all the time – “what if you are wrong?  What if the climate is, unlike nearly every other long-term stable natural process, dominated by strong positive feedbacks?  You buy insurance on your car, won’t you buy insurance on the earth?”

Why, yes, I answer, I do buy insurance on my car.  But I don’t pay $20,000 a year for a policy with a $10,000 deductible on a car worth $11,000.  That is Waxman-Markey.

In fact, there is a plan, proposed by many folks including myself and even at least one Congressman, that would act as a low-cost insurance policy.  It took 1000+ pages to explain the carbon trading system in Waxman-Markey– I can explain this plan in two sentences:  Institute a federal carbon excise tax on fuels whose rate increases with the carbon content per btu of the fuel.  All projected revenues of this carbon tax shall be offset with an equivalent reduction in payroll (social security) taxes. No exemptions, offsets, exceptions, special rates, etc.  Everyone gets the same fuel tax rate, everyone gets the same payroll tax rate cut.

Here are some of the advantages:

  • Dead-easy to administer.  The government overhead to manage an excise tax would probably be shockingly large to any sane business person, but it is at least two orders of magnitude less than trying to administer a cap and trade system.  Just compare the BOE to CARB in California.
  • Low cost to the economy.  This plan may hurt the economy or may even boost it, but either effect is negligible compared to the cost of Waxman-Markey.  Politically it would fly well, as most folks would accept a trade of increasing the cost of fuel while reducing the cost of employment.
  • Replaces one regressive (or at least not progressive) tax with a different one.  In net should not increase or decrease how progressive or regressive the tax code is.
  • Does not add any onerous carbon tracking or reporting to businesses

Here are why politicians will never pass this plan:

  • They like taxes that they don’t have to call taxes.  Take Waxman-Markey — supporters still insist it is not a tax.  This is grossly disingenuous.  Either it raises the cost of electricity and fuel or it does not.  If it does not, it has absolutely no benefits on Co2 production.  If it does, then it is a tax.
  • The whole point is to be able to throw favors at powerful campaign supporters.  A carbon tax leaves little room for this.  A cap and trade bill is a Disneyland for lobbyists.

Here are three problems, which are minor compared to those of Waxman-Market:

  • We don’t know what the right tax rate is.  But almost any rate would have more benefit, dollar for dollar, than Waxman-Market.  And if we get it wrong, it can always be changed.  And it we get it too high, the impacts are minimized because that results in a higher tax cut in employment taxes.
  • Imports won’t be subject to the tax.  I would support just ignoring this problem, at least at first.  We don’t worry about changing import duties based on any of our other taxes, and again this will affect the mix but likely not the overall volumes by much
  • Making the government dependent on a declining revenue source.  This is probably the biggest problem — if the tax is successful, then the revenue source for the government dries up.  This is the problem with sin taxes in general, and why we find the odd situation of states sometimes doing things that promote cigarette sales because they can’t afford declining cigarette taxes, the decline in which was caused by the state’s efforts to tax and reduce cigarette use.

Postscript: The Meyer Energy Plan Proposal of 2007 actually had 3 planks:

  1. large federal carbon tax, offset by reduction in income and/or payroll taxes
  2. streamlined program for licensing new nuclear reactors
  3. get out of the way

Bad Legislation

I would like to say that Waxman-Markey (the recently passed house bill to make sure everyone has new clothes just like the Emperor’s) is one of the worst pieces of legislation ever, resulting from one of the worst legislative processes in memory.  But I am not sure I can, with recent bills like TARP and the stimulus act to compete with.  Nevertheless, it will be bad law if passed, a giant back door step towards creating a European-style corporate state.  The folks over at NRO have read some of the bill (though probably not all) and have 50 low-lights.  Read it all, it is impossible to excerpt — just one bad provision after another.

I found this bit from Bruce McQuain similar in spirit to the rest of the bill, but hugely ironic:

Consider the mundane topic of shade trees:

SEC. 205. TREE PLANTING PROGRAMS.

(a) Findings- The Congress finds that–

(1) the utility sector is the largest single source of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States today, producing approximately one-third of the country’s emissions;

(2) heating and cooling homes accounts for nearly 60 percent of residential electricity usage in the United States;

(3) shade trees planted in strategic locations can reduce residential cooling costs by as much as 30 percent;

(4) shade trees have significant clean-air benefits associated with them;

(5) every 100 healthy large trees removes about 300 pounds of air pollution (including particulate matter and ozone) and about 15 tons of carbon dioxide from the air each year;

(6) tree cover on private property and on newly-developed land has declined since the 1970s, even while emissions from transportation and industry have been rising; and

(7) in over a dozen test cities across the United States, increasing urban tree cover has generated between two and five dollars in savings for every dollar invested in such tree planting.

So now the federal government will issue guidelines and hire experts to ensure you plant shade trees properly:

(4) The term ‘tree-siting guidelines’ means a comprehensive list of science-based measurements outlining the species and minimum distance required between trees planted pursuant to this section, in addition to the minimum required distance to be maintained between such trees and–

(A) building foundations;

(B) air conditioning units;

(C) driveways and walkways;

(D) property fences;

(E) preexisting utility infrastructure;

(F) septic systems;

(G) swimming pools; and

(H) other infrastructure as deemed appropriate

Why is this ironic?  Well, this is the same Federal government that cannot spare a dime (or more than 0.25 FTE) for bringing up its temperature measurement sites (whose output help drive this whole bill) to its own standards, allowing errors and biases in the measurements 2-3 times larger than the historic warming signal we are trying to measure.  See more here.

Is it “Green” or Is It Just Theft?

This is reprinted from my other blog.  I usually confine my posts on this blog to issues with the science of global warming rather than policy issues, but I know I get a lot of folks with science backgrounds here and I would honestly like to see if there is something in this I am missing:

From Greenlaunches.com (via Engadget) comes a technology that I have written about before to leech energy from cars to power buildings:

shoppers_car

Now when you shop, your can be responsible to power the supermarket tills. As in with the weight of your vehicles that run over the road plates the counter tills can be given power. How? Well, at the Sainsbury’s store in Gloucester, kinetic plates which were embedded in the road are pushed down every time a vehicle passes over them. Due to this a pumping action is initiated through a series of hydraulic pipes that drive a generator. These plates can make up to 30kw of green energy in one hour which is enough to power the store’s checkouts.

The phrase “there is no such thing as a free lunch” applies quite well in physics.  If the system is extracting energy from the movement of the plates, then something has to be putting at least as much energy into moving the plates.  That source of energy is obviously the car, and it does not come free.  The car must expend extra energy to roll over the plates, and this energy has to be at least as great (and due to losses, greater) than the energy the building is extracting from the plates.  Either the car has to expend energy to roll up onto an elevated plate to push it down, or else if the plates begin flush, then it has to expend energy to pull itself out of the small depression where it has pushed down the plate.

Yes, the are small, almost unmeasurable amounts of energy for the car, but that does not change the fact that this system produces energy by stealing or leeching it from cars.  It reminds me of the scheme in the movie “Office Space” when they were going to steal money by rounding all transactions down to the nearest cent and taking the fractional penny for themselves.  In millions of transactions, you steal a lot but no one transaction really notices.

I have seen this idea so many times now portrayed totally uncritically that I am almost beginning to doubt my sanity.  Either a) the media and particular green advocates have no real understanding of science or b) I am missing something.  In the latter case, commenters are free to correct me.

By the way, if I am right, then this technology is a net loss on the things environmentalists seem to care about.  For example, car engines are small and much less efficient at converting combustion to usable energy than a large power station.  This fact, plus the energy losses in the system, guarantee that installation of this technology increases rather than decreases CO2 production.

Postscript: One of the commenters on my last post on this topic included a link to this glowing article about a “green family” that got rid of their refrigerator:

About a year ago, though, she decided to “go big” in her effort to be more environmentally responsible, she said. After mulling the idea over for several weeks, she and her husband, Scott Young, did something many would find unthinkable: they unplugged their refrigerator. For good.

How did they do it?  Here was one of their approaches:

Ms. Muston now uses a small freezer in the basement in tandem with a cooler upstairs; the cooler is kept cold by two-liter soda bottles full of frozen water, which are rotated to the freezer when they melt. (The fridge, meanwhile, sits empty in the kitchen.)

LOL.  We are going to save energy from not having a refrigerator by increasing the load on our freezer.  Good plan.  Here is how another woman achieved the same end:

Ms. Barnes decided to use a cooler, which she refilled daily during the summer with ice that she brought home from an ice machine at her office.

Now that’s going green!  Don’t using electricity at home to cool your groceries, steal it from work!

Update: The one place one might get net energy recovery is in a location where cars have to be breaking anyway, say at a stop sign or on a downhill ramp of a garage.  The plates would be extracting speed/energy from the car, but the car is already shedding this energy via heat from its brakes.  Of course, this is no longer true as we get more hybrids with dynamic breaking, since the cars themselves are recovering some of the braking energy.  Also, I have never seen mention in any glowing article about this technology that placement is critical to having the technology make any sense, so my guess is that they are not being very careful.

Branding Cap and Trade

The Obama administration really likes to create little brands, from the Obama “O” to the absurd symbol to be affixed to every stimulus-funded project.  In this vein, a reader wrote me that the slam-dunk obvious graphic for cap-and-trade has already been created over 30 years ago:

animals

Why Kyoto Used 1990 as a Base Year

I have made this point several times, but the 1990 reference date for Kyoto was not just picked randomly.  In fact, on its face, it was a bit odd for a treaty negotiated in 1997 to use a 1990 base year.   But 1990 allowed signatory countries to claim credit for alot of improvements in CO2 output that had nothing to do with the treaty.  For example, in Germany, 1990 was after unification but before wildly inefficient east German factories had been shut down.  In England, 1990 was just before a concerted effort to substitute North Sea oil and nuclear to shut down Midlands coal use.  In France and Japan, 1990 was the beginning of a period of slow economic growth (and, as an added special bonus, punished the US because it was the beginning of strong economic growth here).

Here is further proof:

In an odd twist on market economics, Europe’s ex-communist states are starting to exploit a new market. Thanks to the Kyoto climate-change agreement, they can, in effect, now make money off the pollution their onetime central planners were willing to tolerate as the price for rapid industrialization and universal employment.

Ukraine, Hungary, the Czech Republic and other countries of the region not exactly renowned for clean air have made or are close to signing deals to sell the rights to emit greenhouse gases, and their main customer is environmentally friendly Japan.

This carbon windfall dropped into Central and East Europe’s lap because the Kyoto Protocol sets 1990 as the reference year for future reductions in greenhouse gas emissions. The socialist states at that time were producing gargantuan amounts of CO2 and other gases implicated in global warming from unfiltered coal-fired power plants and factories; when those unprofitable industries withered, countless thousands of workers went on the dole — but the air got cleaner. In the coming years, in line with European Union mandates, would-be members gradually adopted better environmental policies. It’s the difference between the often unspeakably bad air of 1990 and the comparatively clean air of today that allows them to sell "carbon credits" potentially worth billions of euros.

In effect, signatory countries are still making their Kyoto goals with actions that had nothing to do with Kyoto, in this case the modernization and/or shut down of communist-era industry.  This continues the charade that a) Europe is actually making real progress on CO2 emissions, which it is not and b) emissions reductions are cheap.

Update:  Before the treaty, but for which the treaty supporters claim credit by selecting 1990 as the base year, signatory countries had large CO2 reductions due to the forces at work detailed above:

CO2 Emissions Changes, 1990-1995

EU -2.2%
Former Communist -26.1%
Germany -10.7%
UK -6.9%
Japan 7.2%
US 6.4%

Since the treaty was actually signed, from 1997 to 2005, countries that ratified the treaty had emissions rise 21%.  When the treaty was signed in 1997, they signatories knew they had this pool of 1990-1995 emissions reductions to draw on to claim victory.  To this day, this is the only improvement they can show, improvement that occured before the treaty and through steps unrelated, in the main, to CO2 abatement.

Sucking the Oxygen Out of the Environmental Movement

I have written on a number of occasions that, years from now, folks who would like to see meaningful reductions in man’s negative impacts on the environment are going to look back on the global warming charade as a disaster for their movement — not just in terms of credibility, but in terms of lost focus on real, meaningful improvements.

China is a great example.  Like London in the 19th century or Pittsburgh in the early 20th, China’s air quality is a mess.  Real steps need to be taken to clean up the air, for the health and safety of its residents.  The Olympics might have been a venue for people around the world to apply pressure to China to clean up its act.

But, in fact, there is little real pressure from outside for China to clean up the soot, unburned hydrocarbons, NO2, SO2 and other such pollutants from its vehicles and coal plants.  That is because all the pressure, all the attention, is on China’s CO2 production.  But there is nothing China can do to slow down CO2 growth without killing its economy and probably destabilizing its government in the process.  So, it gives the world a big FU to such admonitions. 

Which is a shame.  Unlike for CO2 abatement, there are real technologies that are proven to be economic that can abate the worst of China’s pollution problems.  Had we instead been spending our moral capital pressuring China to take such steps, there might be real progress. 

This is all the more true as we learn that some of the problems we ascribe to CO2 may in fact be more linked to soot from Chinese industry.  John Goetz recently linked one such story:

Smog, soot and other particles like the kind often seen hanging over Beijing add to global warming and may raise summer temperatures in the American heartland by three degrees in about 50 years, says a new federal science report released Thursday.

These overlooked, shorter-term pollutants — mostly from burning wood and kerosene and from driving trucks and cars — cause more localized warming than once thought, the authors of the report say.They contend there should be a greater effort to attack this type of pollution for faster results.For decades, scientists have concentrated on carbon dioxide, the most damaging greenhouse gas because it lingers in the atmosphere for decades. Past studies have barely paid attention to global warming pollution that stays in the air merely for days.

This is consistent with other recent work that hypothesizes that increase of melting rates of Arctic sea ice may be as much due to Chinese black carbon falling on the ice  (and thereby decreasing its albedo and increasing solar heating) than from rising global temperatures.  This makes sense to me, and may help explain why melting in the Arctic sea ice was nearly as great as last year’s record, despite much lower Arctic temperatures (see below) over the last year.

Uahmsunpol

CO2 Limits Most Harmful to Low-Income Minorities

The Environmental Justice and Climate Change Initiative has issued a report that rising temperatures, supposedly from CO2, will hurt American blacks the most.

Blacks are more likely to be hurt by global warming than other Americans, according to a report issued Thursday.

The
report was authored by the Environmental Justice and Climate Change
Initiative, a climate justice advocacy group, and Redefining Progress,
a nonprofit policy institute. It detailed various aspects of climate
change, such as air pollution and rising temperatures, which it said
disproportionately affect blacks, minorities and low-income communities
in terms of poor health and economic loss.

“Right now we have
an opportunity to see climate change in a different light; to see it
for what it is, a human rights issue on a dangerous collision course of
race and class,” said Nia Robinson, director of the Environmental
Justice and Climate Change Initiative. “While it’s an issue that
affects all of us, like many other social justice issues, it is
disproportionately affecting African-Americans, other people of color,
low-income people and indigenous communities.”

Heat-related
deaths among blacks occur at a 150 to 200 percent greater rate than for
non-Hispanic whites, the report said. It also reported that asthma,
which has a strong correlation to air pollution, affects blacks at a 36
percent higher rate of incidence than whites.

Existing
disparities between low-income communities and wealthier ones, such as
high unemployment rates, are exacerbated by such negative effects of
climate change as storms and floods, the report said.

Hmm, no mention of reductions in cold-related deaths, which typically are larger in a given year than heat-related deaths.  But a more serious issue is the CO2-abatement measures this advocacy group supports.  These abatement efforts could easily increase gas prices by as much as $20 a gallon, along with similar increases in electricity and natural gas prices.  In addition, strong CO2 abatement programs are likely to knock a percent or two off economic growth rates and, if ethanol is still a preferred tactic, will likely substantially raise food prices as well.  I am no expert, but I would say that rising gas, electricity, and food prices and falling economic growth are all likely to hit low-income minorities pretty hard. 

CO2 abatement is a wealthy persons cause.  The poor of America and the world at large will be demonstrably worse off in a world that is cooler but poorer.

1990: A Year Selected Very Carefully

Most of you will know that the Kyoto Treaty adopted CO2 reduction goals referenced to a base year of 1990.  But what you might not know is exactly how that year was selected.  Why would a treaty, negotiated and signed in the latter half of the 90’s adopt 1990 as a base year, rather than say 1995 or 2000?  Or even 1980.

Closely linked to this question of base year selection for the treaty is a sort of cognitive dissonance that is occurring in reports about compliance of the signatories with the treaty.  Some seem to report substantial progress by European countries in reducing emissions, while others report that nearly everyone is going to miss the goals by a lot and that lately, the US has been doing better than signatory countries in terms of CO2 emissions.

To answer this, lets put ourselves back in about 1997 as the Kyoto Treat was being hammered out.  Here is what the negotiators knew at that time:

  • Both Japan and Europe had been mired in a recession since about 1990, cutting economic growth and reducing emissions growth.  The US economy had been booming.  From 1990-1995, US average real GDP growth was 2.5%, while Japan and Europe were both around 1.4% per year (source xls). 
  • The Berlin Wall fell in 1989, and Germany began unifying with East Germany in 1990.  In 1990, All that old, polluting, inefficient Soviet/Communist era industry was still running, pumping out incredible amounts of CO2 per unit produced.  By 1995, much of that industry had been shut down, though even to this day Germany continues to reap year over year efficiency improvements as they restructure old Soviet-era industry, transportation infrastructure, etc.
  • The UK in the late 1980’s had embarked on a huge campaign to replace Midlands coal with natural gas from the North Sea.  From 1990-1995, for reasons having nothing to do with CO2, British substituted a lot of lower CO2 gas combustion in place of higher CO2 coal production.

Remember, negotiators knew all this stuff in 1997.  All the above experience netted to this CO2 data that was in the negotiators pocket at Kyoto (from here):

CO2 Emissions Changes, 1990-1995

EU -2.2%
Former Communist -26.1%
Germany -10.7%
UK -6.9%
Japan 7.2%
US 6.4%

In the above, the categories are not mutually exclusive.  Germany and UK are also in the EU numbers, and Germany is included in the former communist number as well.  Note that all numbers exclude offsets and credits.

As you can see, led by the collapse of the former communist economies and the shuttering of inefficient Soviet industries, in addition to the substitution of British gas for coal, the European negotiators knew they had tremendous CO2 reductions already in their pocket, IF 1990 was chosen as a base year.  They could begin Kyoto already looking like heroes, despite the fact that the reductions from 1990-1997 were almost all due to economic and political happenings unrelated to CO2 abatement programs.

Even signatory Japan was ticked off about the 1990 date, arguing that it benefitted the European countries but was pegged years after Japan had made most of their improvements in energy efficiency:

Jun Arima, lead negotiator for Japan’s energy ministry, said the 1990 baseline for CO2 cuts agreed at Kyoto was arranged for the convenience of the UK and Germany. …

Mr Arima said: "The base year of 1990 was very advantageous to European countries. In the UK, you had already experienced the ‘dash for gas’ from coal – then in Germany they merged Eastern Germany where tremendous restructuring occurred.

"The bulk of CO2 reductions in the EU is attributable to reductions in UK and Germany."

His other complaint was that the 1990 baseline ruled inadmissible the huge gains in energy efficiency Japan had made in the 1980s in response the 1970s oil shocks.

"Japan achieved very high level of energy efficiency in the 1980s so that means the additional reduction from 1990 will mean tremendous extra cost for Japan compared with other countries that can easily achieve more energy efficiency."

So 1990 was chosen by the European negotiators as the best possible date for their countries to look good and, as an added bonus, as a very good date to try to make the US look bad.  That is why, whenever you see a press release from the EU about carbon dioxide abatement, you will see them trumpet their results since 1990.  Any other baseline year would make them look worse.

One might arguably say that anything that occured before the signing of the treaty in 1997 is accidental or unrelated, and that it is more interesting to see what has happened once governments had explicit programs in place to reduce CO2.  This is what you will see:

Just let me remind you of some salutary statistics. Between 1997 and 2004, carbon dioxide emissions rose as follows:

Emissions worldwide increased 18.0%;

Emissions from countries that ratified the protocol increased 21.1%;

Emissions from non-ratifiers of the protocol increased 10.0%;

Emissions from the US (a non-ratifier) increased 6.6%;

A lot more CO2 data here.

Postscript:  One would expect that absent changes in government regulations, the US has probably continued to do better than Europe on this metric the last several years.  The reason is that increases in wholesale gas prices increase US gas retail prices by a higher percentage than it does European retail prices.   This is because fixed-amount taxes make up a much higher portion of European gas prices than American.  While it does not necesarily follow from this, it is not illogical to assume that recent increases in oil and gas prices have had a greater effect on US than European demand, particularly since, with historically lower energy prices, the US has not made many of the lower-hanging efficiency investments that have already been made in Europe.

The Cost of the Insurance Policy Matters

Supporters of the precautionary principle argue that even if it is uncertain that we will face a global warming catastrophe from producing CO2, we should insure against it by abating CO2 just in case.  "You buy insurance on your house, don’t you," they often ask.  Sure, I answer, except when the cost of the insurance is more than the cost of the house.

In a speech yesterday here in Washington, Al Gore challenged the United States to "produce every kilowatt of electricity through wind, sun, and other Earth-friendly energy sources within 10 years. This goal is achievable, affordable, and transformative." (Well, the goal is at least one of those things.) Gore compared the zero-carbon effort to the Apollo program. And the comparison would be economically apt if, rather than putting a man on the moon—which costs about $100 billion in today’s dollars—President Kennedy’s goal had been to build a massive lunar colony, complete with a casino where the Rat Pack could perform.

Gore’s fantastic—in the truest sense of the word—proposal is almost unfathomably pricey and makes sense only if you think that not doing so almost immediately would result in an uninhabitable planet. …

This isn’t the first time Gore has made a proposal with jaw-dropping economic consequences. Environmental economist William Nordhaus ran the numbers on Gore’s idea to reduce carbon emissions by 90 percent by 2050. Nordhaus found that while such a plan would indeed reduce the maximum increase in global temperatures to between 1.3 and 1.6 degrees Celsius, it did so "at very high cost" of between $17 trillion and $22 trillion over the long term, as opposed to doing nothing. (Again, just for comparative purposes, the entire global economy is about $50 trillion.)

I think everyone’s numbers are low, because they don’t include the cost of storage (technology unknown) or alternative capacity when it is a) dark and/or b) not windy.

A while back I took on Gore’s suggestion that all of America’s electricity needs could be met with current Solar technology with a 90 mile x 90 mile tract of solar.  Forgetting the fact that Al’s environmental friends would never allow us to cover 8100 square miles of the desert in silicon, I got a total installation cost of $21 trillion dollars.  And that did not include the electrical distribution systems necessary for the whole country to take power from this one spot, nor any kind of storage technology for using electricity at night  (it was hard to cost one out when no technology exist for storing America’s total energy needs for 12 hours).  Suffice it to say that a full solution with storage and distribution would easily cost north of $30 trillion dollars.

In Search of Honesty

Both major presidential candidates have endorsed CO2 abatement targets for the US, with Obama advocating for the most stringent — the "20 by 50" target by which the US would reduce CO2 emissions by 80% in the next 40 years.

Given that they support such targets, the candidates’ public positions on gasoline prices should be something like this:

Yeah, I know that $4 gas is painful.  But do you know what?  Gas prices are going to have to go a LOT higher for us to achieve the CO2 abatement targets I am proposing, so suck it up.  Just to give you a sense of scale, the Europeans pay nearly twice as much as we do for gas, and even at those levels, they are orders of magnitude short of the CO2 abatement I have committed us to achieve.  Since late 2006, gas prices in this country have doubled, and demand has fallen by perhaps 5%.  That will probably improve over time as people buy new cars and change behaviors, but it may well require gasoline prices north of $20 a gallon before we meet the CO2 goal I have adopted.  So get ready.

You have heard Obama and McCain say this?  Yeah, neither have I.  At least Obama was consistent enough not to adopt McCain’s gas tax holiday idea.  But it’s time for some honesty here, not that I really expect it. 

We need to start being a lot clearer about the real costs of CO2 abatement and stop this mindless "precautionary principle" jargon that presupposes that there are no costs to CO2 abatement.  When proponents of the precautionary principle say "Well, CO2 abatement is like insurance — you buy insurance on your house, don’t you," I answer, "Not if the insurance costs more than the cost to replace the house, I don’t."

Map of Pain Created by CO2 Abatement Efforts

Government treaties and legislation will of necessity increase the cost of energy substantially.  It will also indirectly increase the cost of food and other staples, as fertilizer, equipment, and transportation costs rise.  This is not to mention the substantial rise in food costs that will continue as long as governments continue their misguided efforts to promote and subsidize food-based ethanol as a global warming solution. 

I found the map below in another context at economist Mark Perry’s site.  It shows the percentage of the average person’s income that is spent on food, fuel, and drink, with low percentages in green and high percentages in red.  However, this could easily be a map of the pain created by CO2 abatement efforts, with the most pain felt in red and the least in green.  In fact, this map actually underestimates the pain in yellow-red areas, as is does not factor in the lost development potential and thus lost future income from CO2 abatement efforts.

Foodfuelmap

Update on food prices:

Biofuels have caused a 75 per cent increase in world food prices, a new report suggests.

The rise is far greater than previous estimates including a US Government claim that plant-derived fuels contribute less than three per cent to food price hikes.

According to reports last night, a confidential World Bank document indicates the true extent of the effect of biofuels on prices at a crucial time in the world’s negotiations on biofuel policy.

Rising food prices have been blamed for pushing 100 million people beneath the poverty line. The confidential report, based on a detailed economic analysis of the effect of biofuels, will put pressure on the American and European governments, which have turned to biofuels in attempts to reduce the greenhouse gases associated with fossil fuels and to reduce their reliance on oil imports.

The report says: "Without the increase in biofuels, global wheat and maize stocks would not have declined appreciably and price increases due to other factors would have been moderate."

The Cost of the Insurance Policy Matters

I once found myself in a debate with someone advocating the precautionary principle, that we should abate all CO2 production "just in case" it might cause a catastrophe.  The person I was debating with said, trying to be reasonable, "you buy car insurance, right?"

I answered, "Yes, but I wouldn’t buy insurance on my car if the insurance itself cost more than my car."  The point is that in most forecasts, the cost of CO2 abatement with current technologies tends to outweigh even some of the more dramatic catastrophic costs of warming, particularly since the best defense against climate disaster is wealth, not less CO2.  Here is another example:

Climatologist Patrick Michaels thinks it would have virtually no effect on the climate, an additional 0.013 degrees (Celsius) of "prevented" warming. That’s another little bitty fact that will never see the light of day on most press reports. Instead what we’ll get is the usual hot air, except this time it has the price tag of 660 hurricanes.

Update:  "the sexiness has gone out of the movement…AGW was fun … as long as nobody lost an eye."  Or as long as no Senator had to put his name on a $4 a gallon gas tax (about what they have in Europe, an amount that is still way insufficient to force compliance with Kyoto goals).

You Make the Call

A half degree cooler or $45 trillion poorer?  You make the call.  And remember, these are the cost numbers from climate alarmists, so they are very likely way too low. 

The press is so used to the politically correct language of victimization, that they don’t even think about it before applying it.  As a result, global warming alarmists get a pass on claiming to be helping the poor by fighting global warming.

But this is absurd.  The poor don’t care about polar bears or bad snow at the ski resort or hurricanes hitting their weekend beach house.  They care about agriculture, which has always been improved by warmer weather and longer growing seasons, and development, which relies on the profligate expenditure of every hydrocarbon they can get their hands on.  Can anyone really argue that a half degree warmer world is harder on the poor than a $45 trillion dollar price increase in energy costs?