There were two documents provided to the press: a fact sheet/summary and the full plan. Both are available as PDF’s at the end of this essay. I see a lot of “pie in the sky” language in the plan document, with little in the way of concrete ideas. It seems just another expansion of “big government” bureaucracy with little tangible benefit to the American citizen.
This is by no means a complete point by point commentary, I’m just touching on things that caught my eye. Readers are encouraged to submit responses to specific points in the comments section below.
1. There is no carbon tax/excise tax increase on gasoline that I can find. Some people thought there may be a plan to tack on some sort of additional carbon tax for gasoline, or some pitch for the excise tax to be increased by congress.
2. The claim is made that “the President’s plan will help American families cut energy waste, lowering their gas and utility bills.”. A worthy goal to be sure, but, knowing that government doesn’t do anything well or efficiently, I seriously doubt we’ll see lower utility bills. I expect the opposite.
3. The plan “invests to strengthen our roads, bridges, and shorelines so we can better protect people’s homes, businesses, and way of life from severe weather.”. Hurricane Sandy would have had less impact if NYC had better sea defenses, so building up these long ignored issues is a no-brainer. But, at what cost and from what funding?
4. The plan “Commits to partnering with industry and stakeholders to develop fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to save families money at the pump and further reduce reliance on foreign oil and fuel consumption post-2018″. On the surface this seems good, because better fuel efficiency is always a good thing, but at the same time this might translate into an unreachable draconian CAFE standard that automakers don’t even have technology for now.
5. The plan calls for “investment in a range of energy technologies, from advanced biofuels and emerging nuclear technologies – including small modular reactors – to clean coal.” Biofuels are a waste of effort and money IMHO, small modular nukes sound good, as does clean coal. I like the clean coal part if only for the irritant factor it will be for the greens.
6. They haven’t declared fossil fuels to be evil. The plan says “Spurring Investment in Advanced Fossil Energy Projects: In the coming weeks, the Department of Energy will issue a Federal Register Notice announcing a draft of a solicitation that would make up to $8 billion in (self-pay) loan guarantee authority available for a wide array of advanced fossil energy projects under its Section 1703 loan guarantee program.” Again, that will tweak the greens.
7. There’s no mention of the KXL pipeline at all, but there is this bit of language:
“In addition, when it comes to the oil and gas sector, investments to build and upgrade gas pipelines will not only put more Americans to work, but also reduce emissions and enhance economic productivity.” The document then goes on to mention the Bakken Oil field as an example, but seems not limited to this.
My take on this: I think what is going on here with this document is that Obama is throwing environmentalists a bone, especially with coal power plant restrictions mentioned, while at the same time telegraphing that KXL is likely to happen. As I’ve said before, the Canadian Tar Sands oil will get burned someplace, and the USA may as well take advantage of the opportunity.
8. Launching a Climate Data Initiative: Consistent with the President’s May 2013 Executive Order on Open Data – and recognizing that freely available open government data can fuel entrepreneurship, innovation, scientific discovery, and public benefits – the Administration is launching a Climate Data Initiative to leverage extensive federal climate-relevant data to stimulate innovation and private-sector entrepreneurship in support of national climate-change preparedness.
This sounds good, but I’m not sure it will do anything to improve the already shoddy surface temperature data. For example, NCDC spent millions on the Climate Reference Network, but has yet to even mention it in their monthly State of the Climate Reports.
9. Many of these things will take years to implement, and by then we might have some sanity in the White House. What can be done by executive order can be undone by executive order.
10. This plan is likely to put backlashes in place on Democrats from the citizenry, thus perhaps enabling a power shift in the Senate.
1. More hand-outs for an already bloated climate science culture.
Developing Actionable Climate Science: The President’s Fiscal Year 2014 Budget provides more than $2.7 billion, largely through the 13-agency U.S. Global Change Research Program, to increase understanding of climate-change impacts, establish a public-private partnership to explore risk and catastrophe modeling, and develop the information and tools needed by decision-makers to respond to both long-term climate change impacts and near-term effects of extreme weather.
Apparently Obama never got the memo that climate models aren’t working.
2. More regulations on existing power plants, as if they don’t have enough already. This will translate into higher electricity prices everywhere.
President Obama is issuing a Presidential Memorandum directing the Environmental Protection Agency to work expeditiously to complete carbon pollution standards for both new and existing power plants. This work will build on the successful first-term effort to develop greenhouse gas and fuel economy standards for cars and trucks.
Great, I can just see the warning sticker on my next new car. Warning: This vehicle emits dangerous carbon pollution known to the Federal Government to cause bad weather. A tax is paid at purchase to mitigate your contribution to bad weather by daring to own this vehicle.
3. Pie in the sky savings.
Establishing a New Goal for Energy Efficiency Standards: In President Obama’s first term, the Department of Energy established new minimum efficiency standards for dishwashers, refrigerators, and many other products. Through 2030, these standards will cut consumers’ electricity bills by hundreds of billions of dollars and save enough electricity to power more than 85 million homes for two years. To build on this success, the Administration is setting a new goal: Efficiency standards for appliances and federal buildings set in the first and second terms combined will reduce carbon pollution by at least 3 billion metric tons cumulatively by 2030 – equivalent to nearly one-half of the carbon pollution from the entire U.S. energy sector for one year – while continuing to cut families’ energy bills.
Yeah, people are going to just rush right out and buy new appliances in this economy. That’s the ticket. Better efficiency is a good thing, but I think the adoption rate will be slower than they think.
4. Outright lies. (from the fact sheet)
“In the President’s first term, the Department of Energy and the Department of Housing and Urban Development completed efficiency upgrades in more than one million homes, saving many families more than $400 on their heating and cooling bills in the first year alone.”
Really? Where? In the greenest state of the union, California, my electricity bill has increased since 2008. I recently put solar on my home not as a climate hedge, but as a hedge against skyrocketing electricity rates.
5. The trucking industry is going to get hit again. This will translate into higher cost for goods.
During the President’s second term, the Administration will once again partner with industry leaders and other key stakeholders to develop post-2018 fuel economy standards for heavy-duty vehicles to further reduce fuel consumption through the application of advanced cost-effective technologies and continue efforts to improve the efficiency of moving goods across the United States.
6. Fast-tracking green energy – more pie in the sky since just about every green initiative and handout in Obama’s first term has ended in failure.
Accelerating Clean Energy Permitting: In 2012 the President set a goal to issue permits for 10 gigawatts of renewables on public lands by the end of the year. The Department of the Interior achieved this goal ahead of schedule and the President has directed it to permit an additional 10 gigawatts by 2020. Since 2009, the Department of Interior has approved 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine wind farms, and 11 geothermal plants, which will provide enough electricity to power 4.4 million homes and support an estimated 17,000 jobs.
Green jobs aren’t generally like real jobs, there’s usually a handout or subsidy tied to them, and they tend to be transient, because after the solar field or wind farm is built, what then?
7. No comprehensive nuclear power plan, no mention of a Thorium reactor initiative, much like China is doing. A Thorium power initiative would go a long way to having safe, clean, and reliable electricity infrastructure without this nuclear waste issues that plague Uranium based reactors. Instead, they are chasing after wasteful biofuels initiatives which will do little. Have a bad crop year? Sorry, you can’t fill up with biodiesel.
Mobilizing Climate Finance: International climate finance is an important tool in our efforts to promote low-emissions, climate-resilient development. We have fulfilled our joint developed country commitment from the Copenhagen Accord to provide approximately $30 billion of climate assistance to developing countries over FY 2010-FY 2012. The United States contributed approximately $7.5 billion to this effort over the three year period.
9. Higher prices at the pump.
President Obama is calling for the elimination of U.S. fossil fuel tax subsidies in his Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 budget, and we will continue to collaborate with partners around the world toward this goal.
This will of course get passed on to consumers.
1. Multiple citations of the crazy idea that carbon dioxide is “carbon pollution”, when it is essential to almost all life on Earth.
The phrase “carbon pollution” is mentioned 21 times.
2. Equating carbon dioxide to mercury and arsenic, which is just nuts.
Cut Carbon Pollution in America: In 2012, U.S. carbon emissions fell to the lowest level in two decades even as the economy continued to grow. To build on this progress, the Obama Administration is putting in place tough new rules to cut carbon pollution – just like we have for other toxins like mercury and arsenic – so we protect the health of our children and move our economy toward American-made clean energy sources that will create good jobs and lower home energy bills.
3. Elevating a fake crisis.
While this progress is encouraging, climate change is no longer a distant threat – we are already feeling its impacts across the country and the world. Last year was the warmest year ever in the contiguous United States and about one-third of all Americans experienced 10 days or more of 100-degree heat. The 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15 years. Asthma rates have doubled in the past 30 years and our children will suffer more asthma attacks as air pollution gets worse. And increasing floods, heat waves, and droughts have put farmers out of business, which is already raising food prices dramatically.
No mention or recognition of the siting issues and adjustments that lead to these temperatures:
The claim of “The 12 hottest years on record have all come in the last 15 years.” isn’t supported by the state all time high temperature records, it only exists in the highly adjusted national average.
This graph by Alabama State Climatologist, Dr. John Christy:
It also isn’t supported in the general population of stations, this graph is by Greg Carbin of NOAA:
And asthma attacks? Really? Pollution levels are down since the 1970′s. Unless you live in China, air pollution is now far less than what it once was.
I’m not impressed at all with the Obama plan. It lacks real vision, and seems written mainly to appease activist groups. While there are some glimmers of positive things in it, the lack of a real way forward (solar, biofuels, and wind aren’t it) combined with new restrictions can only mean higher energy prices in our future, most of it due to government meddling in the free market.
Like most everything from this president, it is likely to be mostly lip service and tied up in legal battles for years. By that time Obama will no longer be President, and we’ll be left to wrestle with the consequences.
The documents: (Thanks to Marc Morano of CFACT for getting access to these documents.)