Climate

The American Enterprise Institute compares EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Clint Eastwood and carbon polluters to criminals

http://web.tiscalinet.it/silviodr/Dirty%20Harry.gifIn a bizarre pop-culture flip-flop, Kenneth Green of the American Enterprise Institute has compared the mild-mannered EPA administrator to Dirty Harry:

You can just see Jackson standing there with a .44 magnum in her hand, and a steely glint in her eye, telling industry “You’ve got to ask yourself one question, ‘do I feel lucky?’ Well, do ya, punk?”

Seriously!

Let me get this straight, the right-wing is now saying it’s bad to be like Clint, the quintessential tough guy hero lionized by conservatives because he’ll do whatever is needed to save human life?  That means Green is directly equating U.S. industry with the psychopathic serial killer and criminals that Clint fights in the iconic 1971 movie.

Well, logic was never a priority of Denier-Industrial-Complex Kooks (DICKs) like Green, who regularly spouts nonsense like, “We’re back to the average temperatures that prevailed in 1978″¦.  No matter what you’ve been told, the technology to significantly reduce emissions is decades away and extremely costly” — from a 2008 speech AEI later removed from their website (excerpts here).

In fact, Green’s analogy makes no sense whatsoever since Jackson is simply obeying the command of the highest court in the land to regulate carbon pollution (see here).  Green entirely omits the fact that in 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court determined that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases were pollutants and that the EPA would have to regulate them if they were found to endanger public health and welfare.

So the only part of the analogy that makes sense is that deniers and delayers like Green oppose the rule of law — while Jackson is trying to enforce it.

Ironically, in its zealous quest to kill climate action, AEI has done another flip-flop.  Jackson proposes to start regulating only  “large industrial facilities that emit at least 25,000 tons of GHGs a year.”  Jackson explained, “This is a common sense rule that is carefully tailored to apply to only the largest sources – those from sectors responsible for nearly 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions sources.”  She told the Governors Climate Summit in Los Angeles, “we can begin reducing emissions from the nation’s largest greenhouse gas emitting facilities without placing an undue burden on the businesses that make up the vast majority of our economy,” adding, “The corner coffee shop is not a meaningful place to look for carbon reductions.”

But Green doesn’t believe in common sense — he urges big polluters to sue to make sure small businesses and farmers are regulated also:

For that matter, the large emitters would be wise to sue for this also, both to ensure that they’re not the only ones disadvantaged by the EPA’s actions, and to make manifest the insanity involved with EPA regulating greenhouse gases.

Note that for Green and the American Enterprise Institute, obeying the Supreme Court is “insanity.” You don’t have to be Dirty Harry to realize which side of the law he is on.

Fundamentally, Green wants to use the legal system to pervert the process.  And this scorched earth strategy is one the big polluters are threatening, too.  I’ll end this post with an analysis — “It’s Hard To Hide An Oil Refinery Behind a Donut Shop” — from David Doniger, Policy Director at NRDC’s Climate Center, and former “director of climate change policy at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and, before that, counsel to the head of the EPA’s clean air program”:

Two years ago, the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling that EPA has the authority and responsibility to use the existing Clean Air Act to cut dangerous global warming pollution.  And under President Obama, EPA is starting act.  Under the clean car peace treaty unveiled in the Rose Garden last March, Administrator Jackson has proposed nationwide global warming pollution standards for new cars and trucks, modeled on California’s path-breaking standards.  And EPA is working on carbon limits for big power plants, oil refineries, cement plants, and other big factories responsible for most of our heat-trapping pollution.In a fairly desperate reaction, some of America’s biggest polluters – led by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the National Petroleum Refiners Association (NPRA), and others – are trying to scare America’s small businesses owners into thinking it’s them that the EPA is after.

If they force me to curb my pollution, the big boys say, they’ll come after schools, homes, and hot dog stands.  No one is safe, they shout.  Be afraid.  Be very afraid.

But it’s hard to hide an oil refinery behind a donut shop.

So what is EPA really doing?

Well, when EPA issues its final clean car standards next March, certain other things happen automatically under the Clean Air Act.  The most important is that when companies build or expand big pollution sources — power plants, oil refineries, or cement kilns, for example — they will have to install the “best available control technology” (BACT) for carbon dioxide and the other global warming pollutants.  This is nothing fancy.  It’s what they’ve done for years for other dangerous pollutants like sulfur dioxide.

EPA is proposing to set “thresholds” – carbon pollution levels that separate big sources that will have to meet these requirements from small ones that will not.

This is a common sense concept that NRDC and other environmental groups proposed a more than a year ago.

But along come lawyers and spokesmen for the big boys arguing that EPA can’t do that.  If you regulate any of us, you have to regulate all of us, down to the donut shop.

It’s hostage taking.  We’re gonna take everyone down with us.  Listen to Charles Drevna, of the National Petroleum Refiners Association:

“This proposal incorrectly assumes that one industry’s greenhouse gas emissions are worse than another’s,” Drevna said. “Greenhouse gas emissions are global in nature, and are not isolated to a few select industries. The Clean Air Act stipulates unequivocally that the threshold to permit major sources is 250 tons for criteria pollutants.  EPA lacks the legal authority to categorically exempt sources that exceed the Clean Air Act’s major source threshold from permitting requirements, and this creates a troubling precedent for any agency actions in the future.”

EPA argues that it can set a different threshold – it has proposed 25,000 tons of carbon dioxide – to recognize that each power plant or other big source emits roughly 100 times more carbon dioxide than conventional pollutants like sulfur dioxide.  Accordingly, EPA says the proposed 25,000 ton threshold respects Congress’s decisions about which big plants should have to install the best available control technology, and which small ones should not.  Congress, EPA contends, never wanted to treat mom and pop shops the same as the big boys.  In short, EPA argues that its new thresholds avoid absurd results and administrative nightmares.

The big boys’ lawyers are getting ready to argue that EPA can’t do this, that only Congress can change these threshold numbers.  They claim the courts will strike EPA’s rule down.  But who’ll bring that suit?  It won’t be NRDC or any of the other environmental groups active in this fight.  And it’s not clear that the big boys have “standing” – the kind of legal injury needed to take to take this complaint to court.  And the courts themselves have recognized the doctrines of avoiding absurd results and administrative nightmares.

So I’m betting on EPA.  And then, with small businesses safely shielded, the Chamber and NPRA will have no one to hide behind.

What’s more likely is that Congress will clear this up well before the courts weigh in, by writing the EPA’s thresholds into new comprehensive climate and energy legislation.  That’s an idea with support from both environmental organizations and responsible companies.

Maybe I’m a dreamer, but it’s never too late for the Chamber and its allies to stop the scare-mongering and join the effort to pass this new legislation.

Well, the Chamber’s call for a ‘Scopes monkey trial of the 21st century’ worked out so well for them (see “Nike runs fast and loud from the incredible, shrinking U.S. Chamber Board over its global warming denial“), that if they want to pursue this lawsuit, which I suspect will be equally popular with their members, I say, “Go ahead, make my day!”

19 Responses to The American Enterprise Institute compares EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson to Clint Eastwood and carbon polluters to criminals

  1. Chris says:

    Hmm, actually the Dirty Harry comparison isn’t a bad idea. Maybe we need some movies that turn the whole seventies tough guy image around. We can have a Dirty Harry like cop, or a Charles Bronson like vigilante going around blowing away the evil polluters. A few big budget hollywood movies of this type might do more than Al Gore. :)

  2. Jeff Huggins says:

    A Number Request

    Joe, I agree with your points. It’a amazing the illogic being used by the folks who will do anything to block progress.

    By the way, ExxonMobil is surely the largest company that’s part of the NPRA. Yet, it likes to tell us (or imply) that it is concerned about global warming and knows the CO2 problem must be addressed. (Ha!) But then, if they are the largest company in the NPRA (and they have a member on the NPRA’s lead managing committee), why is the NPRA trying to block this? Or, if their argument is ultimately that there should be a much better way to address CO2 emissions, economy-wide, then why aren’t they wholly behind a robust cap-and-trade effort or a real and effective carbon tax, designed in a way that would truly be effective?

    But I’m writing because of this: Numbers.

    It seems to me, recently, that there is an important confusion, and if you don’t clear it up, who will?

    I’ll bet that, if someone does the actual calculation or asks the E.P.A. to be more clear, the GHGs emitted from the large facilities (meeting the threshold), while very important, do not amount to nearly 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

    As you know, a specific facility is one thing. The “sector” that it is part of is another. And of course, some sectors are mainly full of small sources, like transportation.

    Also, a refinery may emit a large amount, call it X thousand tons. But, the actual CO2 emissions from the products of the refinery (gasoline, etc.), when those products are used in cars and so forth, are MUCH higher, in total, than the amount of CO2/GHG emitted by the refinery itself. BOTH are ultimately important to deal with, of course. (I’m not suggesting that the E.P.A. deal with individual cars: Instead, I’m trying to ask that the numbers be made more clear.)

    Note what the E.P.A. said . . . “… to only the largest sources — those from sectors responsible for nearly 70 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emission sources.”

    There is a difference, of course, between the volumes coming from these largest facilities and the total volumes coming from the “sectors” they are a part of.

    I think (if I’m not mistaken) The New York Times got this wrong. And, the other person you quote above also seems to get this wrong or leave it unclear. Well, to be clear, he doesn’t seem to quote the 70 percent figure. But, he says “… big power plants, oil refineries, cement plants, and other big factories responsible for most of our heat-trapping pollution.”

    So, is the figure (from these particular large facilities) OVER 70 percent, as The New York Times says? Or, is it NEARLY 70 percent, as one (incorrect) interpretation of the E.P.A.’s comment might indicate? Or, is it “most” of our emissions, which would be over 50 percent, I suppose? What IS the actual approximate figure?

    I don’t think it’s 70 percent or even near that figure. It might still be correct to say “most”, although that’s too ambiguous. Can we get clarity from the E.P.A.?

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  3. john says:

    For the opposite take on the Dirty Harry theme, see: http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/08/16-2

  4. A DICK has just got to know his limitations.

    [JR: Impressive!]

  5. lizardo says:

    Re Jeff’s comment re numbers Is it possible that the 70% figure is for stationary sources? which vehicles aren’t.

    Re the post in general:
    This is an old GOP strategy, if a policy doesn’t hurt the little guy, lie about it and say it does, or, if the little guy is getting too smart for that, change the policy so it does.

    For them the logical extension would be making us pay to breathe (and your little dog too, Dorothy).

    Of course this is nonsense and no reputable court would buy it, so good luck suing boys, because the EPA has a history of regulating emissions by process and industry sectors as do the states, so there’s precedent, as well as by stationary source amounts.

  6. David B. Benson says:

    The Who’s Who at Electric Power Plants Directory covers nearly 3,700 U.S. and Canadian generating plants … from
    http://www.platts.com/Products.aspx?xmlFile=whoswhoatelectricpowerplants.xml
    which doesn’t actually answer my question of how many coal fired such plants there are.

    … nearly 600 coal and oil-fired power plants. from a March 2000 report:
    http://www.catf.us/publications/view/6

    and somewhere that I can’t locate again stated 670 coal fired plants.

    Now coal provides around half of the electric power generated, so how do we get to 3,700 generating plants?

  7. Interesting article. Leads to lots of different opinions.

  8. David B. Benson says:

    Leland Palmer (7) — Thanks. CARMA might prove useful in my current quest for information.

  9. Leland Palmer says:

    Hi Jeff Huggins-

    By the way, ExxonMobil is surely the largest company that’s part of the NPRA. Yet, it likes to tell us (or imply) that it is concerned about global warming and knows the CO2 problem must be addressed. (Ha!) But then, if they are the largest company in the NPRA (and they have a member on the NPRA’s lead managing committee), why is the NPRA trying to block this? Or, if their argument is ultimately that there should be a much better way to address CO2 emissions, economy-wide, then why aren’t they wholly behind a robust cap-and-trade effort or a real and effective carbon tax, designed in a way that would truly be effective?

    Well, the Rockefellers pretty much invented public relations, according to some sources I’ve read, and PR certainly includes lying when necessary to protect company profits. ExxonMobil specifically and the Rockefeller financial empire in general appear to be fully capable of telling many lies, to many different target groups, at the same time.

    Scott Borgerson, of the Rockefeller dominated Council on Foreign Relations (David Rockefeller was the Chairman for many years, and his title now is something like “honorary chairman”) says breathlessly that global warming is occurring with “breathtaking speed” and touts Arctic riches, which include an estimated 22 percent of the remaining undiscovered oil on earth. So, for the target audience consisting of policy wonks and financial elites that constitute the CFR, the message is that yes, of course the Arctic is melting, and isn’t that wonderful?

    Go to the CFR website, or Google “Scott Borgerson” and “CFR” and follow the links for his many articles in Foreign Affairs, the NYT and other major newspapers, and testimony before Congress with this message. During his Congressional testimony, he hinted that we really, really need a fleet of nuclear powered icebreakers, at a couple of billion dollars each, to be able to compete with the Russians, for Arctic “resources”.

    But the denier front groups funded by the traditionally Rockefeller controlled ExxonMobil, for the dittohead audience, claim that global warming has not been proven to be occurring, and if it is occurring, it has not been shown to be manmade. The Greenpeace site Exxonsecrets for example mentions that the American Enterprise Institute has received close to a million dollars in funding from Exxon:

    AEI has been an avid opponent of the Kyoto protocol, as well as most other environmental regulations. AEI climate science skeptics include James K. Glassman, also of ExxonMobil-funded Tech Central Station. ExxonMobil CEO Lee Raymond is on the AEI board of trustees. ExxonMobil gave AEI approximately $925,000 between 1998 and 2003.

    It’s not certain how much control the Rockefeller family still has over ExxonMobil, but they apparently according to the MSM, had enough control to send Lee Raymond back to Texas with a 450 million dollar golden parachute, after he was supposedly forced out as CEO by the Rockefellers in 2006.

    Unless, of course, this is itself just another lie, and the golden parachute was actually a payoff for a job well done.

    It’s almost comical, in a very strange way, to see Congresspeople from the two different camps, some of whom have internalized the CFR propaganda, and some of whom have internalized the AEI propaganda, argue with each other.

  10. Eli Rabett says:

    as Eli put it elsewhere

    I know what you’re thinking. “Is climate change really happening?” Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself. But being greenhouse gases are the most powerful forcing we know, and the best science predicts disaster ahead, you’ve got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?

  11. Gail says:

    Oh, Eli, pshaw. The real question (ignore the rest, it’s all a distraction) is, do You Know How to Whistle??

  12. Anonymous says:

    2 Jeff Huggins: Coal fired power plants account for 40% of our CO2. Industrial processes account for more than 30% of our CO2. 40% + 30% =70%. Do the arithmetic before posting. Transportation, all of it, is a poor third. Coal fired power plants are the most easily relpaced with alternatives. Industrial sources are the sacond most easily replaced with alternatives. Do the arithmetic before posting.

  13. Anonymous says:

    RE: US Supreme Court Case # 08-0205
    I am eager to submit a friend-of-court brief for this and other cases.

    ALL corporations are psychopaths/sciopaths/sociopaths. Only most of them are killers in their quest for the almighty dollar. Corporations are better described as totalitarian governments than as persons deserving First Ammendment and other rights. Many of them deserve the death penalty as serial killers. In particular, the coal companies deserve the death penalty for the ultimate crime of attempted genocide against the entire human race; because Global Warming has a high probability of making Homo Sapiens extinct.

  14. Chris says:

    @Anonymous, another way to fix that problem would be to restore personal liability for people in a corporation. This would include the CEO, board members, and maybe even shareholders. If your company does something really bad that causes many deaths, they corporate executives should go to jail. If they’ve killed thousands, they might even deserve the death penalty. Surely, they are more deserving than someone who shoots and kills the owner of a convenience store. That’s a terrible crime, of course, but it’s just one perosn.

  15. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear “Anonymous” (Comment 12)

    Please, if you would, try to be more polite.

    Now, please also be aware of the big difference between entire sectors and categorizations (e.g., “industrial processes”) and specific large-scale sources (that actually meet the high threshold) that fall within particular sectors/categorizations.

    Many commercial and industrial facilities do not meet the E.P.A.’s threshold. So, you can’t really add up a total sector figure (with others) and say that the large facilities add up to such-and-so percentage, unless you actually use the figures of the large facilities, not the sectors.

    In some cases, of course (especially electricity generation), the facilities are so large (usually) that the sector’s figure and the figure for large facilities within it would be about the same, I’d expect. But, in other sectors (e.g., transportation), most sources are small. And, in commercial and industrial sectors, facilities are of a mixture of sizes.

    So, you comment does not address my point or question. Indeed, your comment makes the same mistake that I’m trying to point out. What I’d like to see from someone (the E.P.A.?) is this: The CO2 emissions that come specifically from the large facilities in question. Even the initial E.P.A. announcement preserved this distinction, although didn’t make it clearly enough for others to preserve it. So, now we have people misinterpreting the figure.

    That said, we can’t be positive (one way or the other) whether the actual figure comes out to be 70%, less than 70%, much less than 70%, still more than half (50%), or what. So, that final question remains open. What we can be sure of, I believe, is that a sector’s TOTAL emissions will NOT be the same as the total emissions from only the large threshold-meeting facilities WITHIN that sector. Those numbers may be close for the power-generation sector, but they won’t be the same for most other sectors, where facilities are of a range of sizes.

    Thank you, Anonymous.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  16. Anonymous says:

    15 Jeff Huggins: 25 kilotons of GHG is a very small quantity by industrial standards. Almost all factories either make many many times that or they went out of business a couple of centuries ago, or they are in some other business. For example, the standard unit of electricity generation is 1000 megawatts. A 1000 megawatt coal fired power plant makes at least 14.7 Million tons of CO2 per year. A power plant that makes less than 25,000 tons of CO2 per year is not economically feasable and doesn’t exist except in extreme circumstances. For example, a military outpost or an Alaskan village could have a generator that small. There are places in Alaska where the price for electricity is more than 13 times as much per kilowatt hour as what I pay. Of course, Alaskans don’t run their air conditioners as much as I run my air conditioner.

    The EPA is doing it exactly right. Yes, we are sure of what the numbers are. I read a book recently that had all of those numbers in detail. I don’t remember the title. The federal government certainly has all the data. As a retired federal bureaucrat, I can assure you that the government has the data. Check with your local public library.

    Oh, of course you can find a power plant in the lower 49 states that makes a fraction of 1000 megawatts.

  17. Anonymous says:

    14 Chris: I disagree mostly. They are all nice people when they are not working. The state laws on corporate charters tell them that enhancing stockholder value is their only goal. Corporations do things that the individuals would never do. A corporation is an emergent beast, not the sum of its personnel. The punishment must go to the corporations in the case of corporate crime. That is separate from crimes done by individuals against corporations, such as embezzlement.

    The system has to change: States should make things other than enhancing stockholder value be more important than enhancing stockholder value. For example, the prime directive should be to enhance the survivability of the species Homo Sapiens. Corporations should be given finite life expectancies so that they cannot out-wait their humans.

    What happens when computers become smart enough to become CEOs?

  18. Jeff Huggins says:

    Dear Anonymous (Comment 16)

    If I do say so, you aren’t reading my comments well or answering with facts sufficient to answer the question.

    First, there is still a very large difference in some important sectors between the volumes generated by only the threshold-meeting facilities and those generated by the entire sector. The difference is least (as I said and you have also described) in the power-generation sector, and we both understand that quite well. Indeed, the difference may be very small or even nil in that sector. But, the difference is huge in transportation (as we both seem to agree), and it is in-between (although not small) in the agricultural, commercial, and industrial sectors.

    You are, to a degree, predefining the answer to the very question by assuming that, even in those sectors (commercial, industrial), all or nearly all facilities are threshold-meeting. That is (in all likelihood) FAR from the case, because those sectors are broadly defined and, although small is small, there is a lot of “small” out there IN THOSE SECTORS. By assuming that all facilities in those sectors are threshold-meeting, you are answering the question only by your own assumption, not by fact. Indeed, that’s the very question that I’m raising.

    If you can list the facilities that you say you saw in that book, and their amounts, that is (indeed) the request that I made in my initial post.

    Also, the information that I have (regarding 2005, from the McKinsey report) show that the emissions from transportation and agriculture alone are well over 30% of the total in the U.S. So, (although some agricultural facilities are quite large, of course, though there are also many small ones), the facilities in the other sectors would nearly ALL have to be threshold-meeting for the 70% figure to even have a chance of being correct.

    That said, the point of my original post, of course, was to seek facts (lists, clear comments from the E.P.A, a detailed report), not to seek conceptual arguments based on sector totals and assumptions about facility sizes.

    Also, to be clear, and in contrast to what one of your comments suggests, I’m NOT saying that the E.P.A.’s own statement was wrong. That statement was (or could be) quite correct. What I’m saying is this: I think that some people have MISinterpreted the E.P.A.’s statement to mean something that it doesn’t, or doesn’t necessarily, mean. The E.P.A.’s own statement, itself, didn’t say (as far as I can remember this morning) that 70% (or over) of the GHG emissions come specifically from facilities of the size that meet their threshold. Instead, they said something along the lines that 70% or so of the emissions come from the segments that those facilities are a part of. It was the OTHER statements (the interpretations) that got the matter incorrect, or at least that’s the question I’m raising. Many people “jumped” from the E.P.A.’s statement to a statement that those large facilities themselves generate the percentage in question.

    So, all that said, if you can provide a list of the threshold-meeting facilities themselves that shows that they generate 70% of total emissions (from the book you read, if it has such a list; or from a more recent report; or from the E.P.A. itself), that would answer the question. Or, better yet, a reported can ask the E.P.A. for clarification:

    How much is generated by the facilities themselves, rather than by the entire segments that those facilities belong to?

    It’s a simple question, and I trust that the E.P.A. knows the difference. It would be an easy question for ClimateProgress or The New York Times to ask.

    Anonymous, I agree that the vast majority of genuine power plants (that actually rely on hydrocarbon-based fuels) would likely meet the threshold. But, I’m not at all willing to assume or agree that ALL, or even nearly all, commercial and industrial facilities meet such a threshold. The actual numbers would tell us, one way or another. And that’s all I’m requesting.

    Be Well,

    Jeff

  19. The power to regulate does not mean all sources being regulated are held to the same standard. Thus, this whole idea that the EPA has to “regulate” every source down to those putting out 250 tons a year does not mean much. All it means is that they are empowered to set standards and responsible for doing so. So this seems like a lot of wasted talk.

    So a rule can be: Emitters of more than 25,000 tons per year must install the best available technology. Emitters of 250 tons up to 25,000 tons per year are allowed to operate as usual.

    There is a more important problem with the “best available technology” phrase. Does this mean that electric power producers have to shift from coal burning equipment to natural gas? And this would be without regard to cost?

    Handling of things seems to be not happening in the best possible way.