Friday, April 18, 2008

More On The Costs Of Global Warming

If you are a regular reader of our Comments About Responsible Energy, you know that one of our concerns at CARE is the costs that climate change mandates will place on consumers--and for what? We believe that the debate is ongoing--as it should be--and that the science is not decided. We believe that before one makes a decision that will have Herculean ramifications, the discussion should be explored fully.

When this piece landed in our in-box, we just had to pass it on to you. It is from Steven Milloy of fame. We did a review of his book Junk Science Judo in our February PowerLine (CARE’s monthly e-newsletter). Here Steven presents some fresh insights on the climate change debate. Read on! Tell us what you think!

The Global Warming Bubble
You didn’t have to be a rocket scientist in the 1990s to figure that speculative investment in dot-coms with no revenues would be disastrous. The same goes for lenders giving mortgages to borrowers with no job, no income and no assets. So after surviving the tech bubble and while trying to extricate the economy from the housing bubble, why are we bent on heading into the global warming bubble?

Last month, the Environmental Protection Agency issued its economic analysis of the Lieberman-Warner global warming bill that is being considered by the Senate. The EPA projects that, if the bill is enacted, the size of our economy as measured by its gross domestic product (GDP) would shrink by as much as $2.9 trillion by the year 2050. That’s a 6.9 percent smaller economy than we might otherwise have if no action was taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For an idea of what that might mean, consider our current economic crisis. During the fourth quarter of 2007, GDP actually increased by 0.6 percent, yet trepidation still spread among businesses, consumers and the financial markets. Though the EPA says that Lieberman-Warner would send our economy in the opposite direction by more than a factor of 10, few in Congress seem concerned. For more perspective, consider that during 1929 and 1930, the first two years of the Great Depression, GDP declined by 8.6 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.

And what would we get for such a massive self-inflicted wound? It ought to be something that is climatically spectacular, right? You be the judge.

The EPA says that by the year 2095--45 years after GDP has been slashed by 6.9 percent--atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels would be 25 parts per million (ppm) lower than if no greenhouse gas regulation was implemented.

Keeping in mind that the current atmospheric CO2 level is 380 ppm and the projected 2095 CO2 level is about 500 ppm, according to the EPA, what are the potential global temperature implications for such a slight change in atmospheric CO2 concentration? Not much, as average global temperature would only be reduced by a maximum of about 0.10 to 0.20 degrees Celsius, according to existing research.

Sacrificing many trillions of dollars of GDP for a trivial, 45-year-delayed and merely hypothetical reduction in average global temperature must be considered as exponentially more asinine than the dot-bombs of the late-1990s and the NINJA subprime loans that we now look upon scornfully.

So who in their right mind would push for this?

I met many of them up-close-and-personal recently at a major Wall Street Journal conference at which I was an invited speaker.

My fellow speakers included many CEOs (from General Electric, Wal-Mart, Duke Energy, and Dow Chemical, to name just a few), California’s Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the heads of several environmental activist groups.

The audience--a sold-out crowd of hundreds who had to apply to be admitted and pay a $3,500 fee--consisted of representatives of the myriad businesses that seek to make a financial killing from climate alarmism. There were representatives of the solar, wind, and biofuel industries that profit from taxpayer mandates and subsidies, representatives from financial services companies that want to trade permits to emit CO2, and public relations and strategic consultants to all of the above.

We libertarians would call such an event a rent-seekers ball--the vast majority of the audience was there to plot how they could lock-in profits from government mandates on taxpayers and consumers.

It was an amazing collection of pseudo-entrepreneurs who were absolutely impervious to the scientific and economic facts that ought to deflate the global warming bubble.

In the interlude between presentations by the CEOs of Dow Chemical and Duke Energy, for example, the audience was shown a slide--similar to this one--of the diverging relationship between atmospheric CO2 levels and average global temperature since 1998. That slide should have caused jaws to drop and audience members to ponder why anyone is considering regulating CO2 emissions in hopes of taming global climate.

Instead, it was as if the audience did a collective blink and missed the slide entirely. When I tried to draw attention to the slide during my presentation, it was as if I was speaking in a foreign dialect.

The only conclusion I could come to was that the audience is so steeped in anticipation of climate profiteering that there is no fact that will cause them to reconsider whether or not manmade global warming is a reality.

The callousness of their blind greed was also on display at the conference.

In an instantaneous poll, the Wall Street Journal asked the audience to select the most pressing societal problem from a list of five that included infectious disease (malaria, AIDs, etc.), terrorism, and global warming.

Global warming was the most popular response, receiving 31 percent of the vote, while infectious disease was far behind in last place with only 3 percent of the vote. It’s an amazing result given that billions are sickened, and millions die every year from infectious disease. The consequences of future global warming, on the other hand, are entirely speculative.

Finally, I was astounded by the double-speak practiced by the global warmers.

Virtually every speaker at the conference professed that they were either in favor of free markets or that they supported a free-market solution to global warming. But invariably in their next breath, they would plead for government regulation of greenhouse gases and government subsidies for alternative energy.

It’s hard to conceive of any good coming from a public policy in which facts play no substantial role in its development and words have no meaning in its public debate.

Steven Milloy publishes and He is a junk science expert, and advocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Big Oil and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming

If you have been a regular reader of our Comments About Responsible Energy, you know that one of our big concerns is the impact seemingly altruistic initiatives regarding energy and global warming have on the unsuspecting consumers—the citizens who make up much of our membership. Last week the House Select Committee made much ado about bringing the CEO’s from the major oil companies to Washington to research the high gasoline prices. While all their posturing is made to look like they are doing something for the citizens, they may, in fact, do more harm than good. Note the comment about increased production costs raising the price at the pump.

With this insightful posting, we introduce you to a new voice. We believe you’ll want to hear more from his experience! Let us know what you think.

Massachusetts Congressman Ed Markey wants some answers from “Big Oil.” He had five oil company CEOs in front of his House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, grilling them on high prices and high profits. Markey said, “This is not an April’s fools joke on Big Oil, because the prices at the pump are no laughing matter.”

He’s right. It’s not a joke on the oil companies.

The joke is on us.

Markey wants to revise the tax structure on U.S. oil producers, increasing their tax burden by some $18 billion. Of course, as Rep. Markey should know, increasing these taxes will simply increase production costs and further raise the pump prices that he’s so concerned about. It will make oil exploration in the U.S. even less competitive and force American companies to do more work overseas, further increasing our reliance on other countries.

All in all, a poorly thought out strategy from someone in charge of a committee with “Energy Independence” in the name.

Oil and natural gas companies don’t make any more on their investment than a lot of other industries. In fact, percentage-wise, they’re only around average.

Energy companies make big profits when prices are high, like they are at present. But in good times and bad, they must invest gigantic sums of money in exploration, production and infrastructure.

They’ve sunk $1.25 trillion into energy production since 1992 and it’s estimated that $6 trillion more will be needed to meet global demand over the next twenty years. If high taxes diminish oil company profits and discourage investors, where does the money for development come from?

As Exxon Mobil Senior VP Stephen Simon told Congress, "Imposing punitive taxes on American companies will discourage the investments needed to safeguard our energy security. The pursuit of alternative fuels must not detract from investments in oil and gas."

He’s right. Developing alternative fuels is smart. Diminishing our supply of traditional fuels in the process is not. Markey needs to rethink his agenda.

Jack Rafuse is the principal of Rafuse Consulting, and a former energy policy advisor for the Nixon Administration in the Office of Management and Budget and the Federal Energy Administration. Rafuse had previously worked at the Navy Department and the Center for Naval Analyses. He subsequently worked for Union Oil of California (Unocal), an international oil and gas company. Currently, Rafuse is an independent consultant on energy and trade. His areas of expertise are Global Energy Trade and Supply, and Energy Regulation and Policy. For more information, visit