Energy and global warming news for February 8, 2011: Upton, dismissing human role in warming, plans to block emissions rules; Kochs spent big on EPA foes

Upton to press on with plans to block emissions rules

The chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee said Monday he’ll press forward with legislation to block the Obama administration’s plan to regulate emissions of heat-trapping gases linked to climate change.

But Rep. Fred Upton (R., Mich.) warned that some competing proposals to achieve that goal could backfire.

Mr. Upton, in an interview with The Wall Street Journal, said the Environmental Protection Agency shouldn’t regulate companies’ emissions of greenhouse gases, and that permanently stripping the agency of its authority to do so is the best way to give businesses clarity about federal policy.

Mr. Upton spoke ahead of a hearing that his committee is scheduled to hold Wednesday on draft legislation – introduced last week – that would strip the EPA of its authority to regulate greenhouse-gas emissions.

Mr. Upton said the hearing would feature testimony by the EPA’s administrator, Lisa Jackson, and Texas’ attorney general, Greg Abbott, who has filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legal and scientific arguments behind the EPA’s regulations to combat climate change….

Mr. Upton, who has a small-scale model of a wind turbine in his office, said he favors greater use of cleaner energy sources by U.S. businesses. But he said he does not favor using “giant subsidies” to encourage companies to use wind, solar or other low-carbon power sources.

“You don’t subsidize different forms of power — you let the market run on its own,” Mr. Upton said in the interview.

Some of Mr. Upton’s fellow Republicans have broached the idea of blocking EPA regulation of greenhouse gases by denying the agency funds needed to implement its proposed regulations.

Mr. Upton said such a measure would simply keep U.S. businesses “on pins and needles” and possibly delay companies’ construction investment decisions, since companies could still be legally obligated to get air-quality permits from the agency or state regulators — and if the agency didn’t have the money to issue the permits, the projects could still be delayed.

“It could be a bigger can of worms than you might imagine,” Mr. Upton said. “You need a legislative fix” to quash the EPA’s legal authority altogether, he added.

Mr. Upton’s draft proposal to block the EPA regulation has drawn criticism from environmentalists, some of whom have accused him of backtracking on past statements in which he described climate change as “a serious problem” and that the U.S. has a responsibility to reduce its emissions.

“The market is tilted in favor of the dirty energy sources, and we’re paying for it with our health,” said David Doniger, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, “Somehow you have to level the playing field so that public health and natural resources are protected from the pollution.”

Upton skeptical of human role in climate change

Pressed to clarify his stance on climate change, which he termed a “serious problem that necessitates serious solutions” in 2009, Upton said he accepts recent scientific findings that the planet is warming but is not prepared to say the shift is “man-made.” That position puts him in line with a growing portion of the GOP, particularly the tea party-backed House freshman class but is sure to further alarm green groups unnerved by Upton’s increasing alignment with conservatives.

Kochs spent big on EPA foes

If you really want to influence politics, it’s not enough to fund think-tankers and build a network of media buddies. You also need some friends in high places. The brothers Koch know that better than anyone, and they’ve spent big on the members of Congress who will craft energy policy for the next two years.

The Los Angeles Times has a piece today looking at the election expenditures that the Kochs’ Kansas-based oil and gas conglomerate and its Political Action Committee have made in recent years. As it turns out, much of the money has gone to Republican candidates (and a few Democrats) who now hold prime seats on the House Energy and Commerce Committee. This election cycle, Koch passed Exxon and Valero as the largest oil and gas sector donor to current members of the committee. The Kochs and their employees gave $279,500 to 22 Republicans and $32,000 to five Democrats on the committee during the 2010 election cycle. Of the five Democrats that Koch PAC supported in 2010, three voted against the cap and trade bill in 2009″”John Barrow of Georgia, Jim Matheson of Utah and Mike Ross of Arkansas. From the article:

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group “” Americans for Prosperity””to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grass-roots activity during the 2010 campaign.

Polls: Americans back EPA and clean energy

Despite Newt Gingrich’s recent call to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency, new polls show Americans want the EPA to do more – not less — and want Congress to provide incentives for clean energy sources such as solar and wind.

Gingrich, former GOP House speaker and potential 2012 presidential candidate, proposed abolishing the EPA in a speech last month in Iowa and replacing it with an “Environmental Solutions Agency,” according to POLITICO. He said the new agency would spur innovation and new technology, not regulation and litigation.

To see how Americans feel about this, the Natural Resources Defense Council commissioned a survey by ORC International. Only 25% backed Gingrich’s plan to abolish the EPA while 67% opposed it, including 61% of Republicans and 79% of Democrats, according to the phone survey of 1,007 adults taken Jan. 27-30. The survey did not ask them what they think of Gingrich’s alternate agency idea.

Republicans ask court to toss climate case

Two top House Republicans and the Senate’s leading global warming skeptic asked the Supreme Court Monday to throw out a lawsuit seeking to force electric utilities to slash greenhouse gas emissions.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-Mich.), his energy lieutenant Rep. Ed Whitfield (R-Ky.) and Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) submitted an amicus brief Monday in the high-profile American Electric Power v. Connecticut case.

The lawmakers urged the judges to reverse a lower court ruling that allowed states and environmental groups to move ahead with a public “nuisance” lawsuit seeking to force the utilities to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

“[C]ourts are not equipped to make judgments about the appropriate emissions standards for utilities located throughout the country,” the lawmakers wrote. “Judicial establishment of such standards would violate decades of Supreme Court precedent and unconstitutionally interfere with Congressional and Executive branch efforts to address climate change-related matters.”

OVERNIGHT ENERGY: The battle to shape a ‘clean’ standard

The Center for American Progress (CAP), a liberal think tank with strong White House ties, is laying down a marker in the battle to shape energy legislation this year.

The group on Monday circulated “principles” to guide a “clean energy standard” – that’s the proposal President Obama is pushing that would require a steep increase in low-carbon power generation.

Under Obama’s plan, utilities would supply 80 percent of their power from sources like renewables, nuclear energy, and natural gas by 2035. But CAP – in what may foreshadow a broader push by liberal groups – is calling for provisions that ensure renewable sources like wind and solar, along with energy efficiency, meet a substantial part of the target.

In the memo circulated Monday, the group applauds Obama’s plan, but adds: “In embracing this agenda, however, we emphasize that it is essential that such a policy builds a strong market for innovative clean energy technologies in order to foster the rapid expansion of the emerging American clean-tech industry.”

Federal offshore wind plan: $50.5 million in research funding

The yachts and gulls might need to make some room off the mid-Atlantic coast for the offshore wind turbines that the government is hoping to soon install.

Federal agencies are jumping on the goal that President Obama set in his State of the Union address last month, aiming to derive 80% of all electricity generation across the country from clean energy sources by 2035.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar paired up Monday to announce a new game plan that will set up a network of wind turbines off the Eastern seaboard potentially by the end of the year.

The government will offer $50.5 million in funding for research and development over the next five years and identified potential sites on the outer continental shelf off of Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey and Virginia.

35 Responses to Energy and global warming news for February 8, 2011: Upton, dismissing human role in warming, plans to block emissions rules; Kochs spent big on EPA foes

  1. Prokaryotes says:

    How does Mr Upton aka indirect destroyer of the world, justifies his utopian disaster plan? Flip flop Upton is a disgrace for the human species. Ofc we all know he has become the puppet of David Koch.

    Ultimately he will fail miserably, because the climate gives a shit about politics. The question is just if there is a future with humans or without them. Thanks Mr Upton to threaten the survival of the entire Species!

  2. Michael T. says:

    NOAA: U.S. Cooler and Much Drier than Normal in January

    “Last month was the coolest January since 1994, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C. Across the contiguous United States, the average January temperature was 30.0 F, which is 0.8 F below the 1901-2000 average. And despite several large winter storms across the country, last month was the ninth driest January on record, much drier than normal. Average precipitation across the contiguous United States was 1.48 inches, 0.74 inch below the 1901-2000 average.”

    State of the Climate National Overview – January 2011

    NOAA also provides very useful graphs of temperature and precipitation for different states and regions of the U.S. going back to 1895:

  3. Mimikatz says:

    The focus has to be on children’s health and well-being. Why to Fred Upton and the Koch brothers want your child to suffer from asthma? Why do the Koch brothers and Fred Upton want your child to grow up in a world of extreme temperatures, droughts and torrential storms? Why do Fred Uptron and the Koch brothers want your children to suffer food and water shortages from crop losses due to ozone pollution and melting snowpacks? Are their profits really worth the future of your children?

  4. PSU Grad says:

    ““You don’t subsidize different forms of power — you let the market run on its own,” Mr. Upton said in the interview.”

    Great to see Upton come out in favor of eliminating subsidies for oil and coal companies, not to mention ethanol. By month’s end I expect to see Mr. Upton’s action plan for removing those subsidies.

  5. Crank says:

    “You don’t subsidize different forms of power — you let the market run on its own,” Mr. Upton said in the interview.

    …right after you’ve loaded the dice by exempting the preferred solution from bearing the costs of its effluent.

  6. Leif says:

    My sentiments completely PSU Grad, @2. Does Mr. Upton have a clue what he is saying?

  7. The market has no conscience.

    I get some comfort knowing these monsters will eventually be held accountable.

  8. 350 Now says:

    AS LONG AS IT IS JUST several hundred or several thousand scientists and/or environmental activists challenging the Upton/Inhoffe legislative agenda, the GOP/K street Congress will neither listen nor notice. Koch,’s money speaks far louder than a John Baptist crying in (or for) the wilderness.

    So how about… we take it to the streets? This has been suggested dozens of times in this CP Forum.
    So how about a date – Mother’s Day. This Year. Sun. May 8, 2011. There are already some kids planning and organizing this and it would behoove all of us “responsible” adults to help out – not just in DC, but in all our hometowns.

    If a ground swell of grass root folk turn out, it will be more powerful than the heavily funded astroturf events. The media should/could/would intensify the effort in coverage if the numbers are great.

    Some cool “I Matter” black/white signs to reproduce on recycled paper are on their website at: Check them out!

    More info:

    If we set aside this day to honor our intentions, (and not just have another day of lip service on Earth Day) to honor Mother Earth, to honor our Moms and especially: the Moms of tomorrow, I’d say we’ll be able to sleep a little better – regardless of the outcome.

    As the powerful line from the film PAY IT FORWARD goes: you’re being graded on your efforts, not results.

    It is 12 weeks away. How about it? Because what you do…. matters.

  9. gilgit says:

    While I think it is good to publicize how corrupt and extreme the Republicans are, I’m a little puzzled by the number of stories about this I hear on the news.

    The House on its own can not cut funding for the EPA or strip the EPA of its authority to regulate green house gasses. I’m also unaware of any authority it has to block new regulations from going into effect.

    While it is possible that the Democrats will buckle completely, (wouldn’t be the first time) I expect the Senate to fully fund the EPA and block any crazy House bills. The only way this will have any effect is if the House refuses to compromise with the Senate budget bill and shutdown the government over it.

    Which, if the polls are to be believed, will make the House look like it is full of crazy people. (Which it is.)

    If I’m wrong and there is something the House can do on its own, please tell me. Otherwise I assume this will end up making the country turn on the Republicans.

  10. Mike Roddy says:

    It’s pretty obvious what’s going on, but this is not the first time in history that a country became hijacked by the wealthy. The Bourbons, czars, European fascists, and even putative socialists have done this for centuries.

    History teaches us that this destroys the perpetrators just as surely as it impoverishes the public. It doesn’t take a guillotine, either-protecting wealth also becomes an exercise in propping up outmoded industries, and in fruitless military adventures, two self defeating enterprises. China, in Tibet and their coal districts, is as much a current example of these phenomena as the US. The population can be manipulated for a while, but the truth has a way of surfacing eventually, as polls show is already happening here. These activities derive from cultures that have drifted into spiritual emptiness, but we don’t have time for these pontifications now.

    The problem this time is that people like the Kochs will be taking the whole world down with them, a Gotteramdung with unimaginable consequences. Americans have to step up and stand up to them. Soon.

  11. climate undergrad says:

    “Mr. Upton’s draft proposal to block the EPA regulation has drawn criticism from environmentalists, some of whom have accused him of backtracking on past statements in which he described climate change as “a serious problem” and that the U.S. has a responsibility to reduce its emissions.”

    This is so ingenuous on a number of levels;
    1. environmentalists didn’t accuse him of backtracking; he backtracked. The WSJ has the quote right there
    2. Replace “environmentalists” with “reasonably intelligent people”
    3. Replace “some of whom” with “most of whom”
    4. Replace “bactracking on past statements…..” with “intentionally putting the future lives and prosperity of all Americans”

  12. Anonymous says:

    #7 gilgit: The House on its own cannot strip the EPA of authority. But the House on its own can strip funding. According to the Constitution, spending bills must originate in the House; so if key committees want to deny funding to specific programs, they can probably do it. The problem for Upton, as he himself makes clear, is that cutting EPA funding may simply delay the issuance of new permits until Democrats resume power in the House.

  13. Mike says:

    Some people warrant an acronym of their own: Unthinking Politician Takes On Nature.

  14. Confidential cables: US diplomat convinced by Saudi expert that their oil reserves have been overstated by 300 billion barrels (10 years of world oil demand);

  15. paulm says:

    Say no to nuclear….we cant use it responsibly and we shouldn’t be leaving the legacy of waste behind when we have better alternatives.

    Report scathing of nuclear reactor safety

  16. David B. Benson says:

    We need a FCOAD fee.

    No to mention removing existing incentives for fossil fuels.

  17. opit says:

    I am really going to be pissed if this co2 nonsense ends up discrediting the provably urgent need to get off the coal kick. Sourcewatch has the information on coal ash that the EPA couldn’t seem to find to save its life.
    And I would have much less problem with the ‘costs’ arguments if they included realistic assessments for groundwater pollution and chopping the perversion of the market by subsidies on fossil fuels. Check out what Texaco / Chevron has done in the Amazon over the years for just a starter on real costs.
    And I promise you ‘natural’ gas in the ground is neither a renewable resource nor a safe one.

  18. Edith Wiethorn says:

    I am engaged in foundation work for a pro-biosphere, scalable, high-tech business startup & have no day-time to read/study. I do visit Climate Progress every day in my ‘research sweep” & save files to read/study in the evening. There are now ~ 125 CP articles/markups in that file & I’ve shared some with tech colleagues. Here are two relevant links on the mechanisms of denial of climate science, an ongoing topic at CP. Today from the international Permaculture Research institute in Australia – with a self-explanatory url: Although plain English, this is pleasantly wonkish at ~ 29pp with bibliography. And in January, a link from Paul Kedrosky’s blog, Infectious Greed includes an audio interview with Dan Ariely.
    He is the author of the New York Times Bestseller, Predictably Irrational: The Hidden Forces that Shape Our Decisions and The Upside of Irrationality: The Unexpected Ways We Defy Logic at Work and at Home.

    “Dan has a fresh and pretty non-traditional way of explaining the more intriguing aspects of human behavior, including:

    The overwhelming influence of emotion in driving our decision-making
    Our vulnerability to present temptations & our overestimation of our future virtuousness
    Our amazing capacity to justify irrational circumstances
    Our blindness to conflicts of interest when they work in our favor
    Why we do a poor job of appreciating future risk
    Each of these played a role in the excessive behavior responsible for the credit crisis – and continue to hamper our ability to handle its aftermath rationally today.”

    … or the climate crisis. Ariely, and life, remind me that human nature still inherently imperfect, with great potential everywhere. Following CP reminds me forcibly that the first fallacy of logic is assuming that others know what you know. And then there all the different channels through which people learn & are most receptive. My work history includes successful information outreach with quantified goals & results. I would estimate that the strategy & effort required to produce those regular, quantifable results was always ~ 4x more than you might think, as compared with “getting the word out.”

    What you have here is the most significant communication mission & challenge in the human history of the earth. So Joe – your New Year’s resolution was to expand the influence of Climate Progress. In response, my
    New Year’s resolution, like yours, is what i am doing these days – to act on what I know. I will share some strategies soon. Thank you for the open weekend threads …

  19. Michael T. says:

    NOAA: U.S. Cooler and Much Drier than Normal in January

    “Last month was the coolest January since 1994, according to scientists at NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center (NCDC) in Asheville, N.C. Across the contiguous United States, the average January temperature was 30.0 F, which is 0.8 F below the 1901-2000 average. And despite several large winter storms across the country, last month was the ninth driest January on record, much drier than normal. Average precipitation across the contiguous United States was 1.48 inches, 0.74 inch below the 1901-2000 average.”

    U.S. Climate at a Glance

  20. David B. Benson says:

    Ah, if only we had strong libel laws in the USA

    Andrew Weaver Sues Tim Ball for Libel

  21. opit says:

    Edith Weithorn

    That’s a very interesting piece by Dan Ariely. I’m a fan of perceptual framing as a worthwhile field because advertising models so dominate what passes for discussion, with Talking Points perverting ‘reality’ to the detriment of usable and informed judgment.
    I have to Index my collections as the sources alone run in the thousands. is my sharable tagfile.

    And I know Climate Progress purports to update people on misrepresentation. I also am familiar with Logical Fallacy, Poisoning the Well Argumentation, and Strawman Argumentation. The last is where you ‘take both sides of the argument’ so that you can ‘debunk’ contrary opinion…..except that last is evaded by misstating the premises one is contesting.

    Which is why I collected ‘pro’ and ‘con’ to compare and collate….and see which propositions relied on rhetoric.

  22. Colorado Bob says:

    So , i got some hard numbers from Sri Lanka today for the last 5 weeks , the last 90 days there have been off the charts. This is rain like we never dreamed of.
    7 feet of rain from just the reports with numbers. There have been at least 3 events when I couldn’t document the totals.

    It comes in waves , you never get a chance to dry out. Wet and muddy day after day. This is the entire island tonight.

    ShelterBox –

  23. Michael T. says:

    2011 Expected to See Flooding Along Upper Mississippi River

    “Even before the massive winter storm hit the Midwest during the end of January and beginning of February, the outlook for flooding along the upper Mississippi River was grim. The NWS Weather Forecast Office in St. Louis released the office’s spring flood outlook on Jan. 27, predicting there will be “moderate or major flooding likely along the Mississippi River” that could bring spring flooding greater than any experienced in the area in the last eight years — worse than the spring flooding of 2008.”

  24. Anne van der Bom says:

    What happened to my comment? Ok, 2nd try.

    Forgot my additional remark. We have in large part the German FiT to thank for creating the market that kickstarted true mass production.

    PV would have gotten to this price point without subsidies. Eventually. But the climate doesn’t allow us ‘eventually’, it demands ‘immediately’.

  25. Prokaryotes says:

    Brisbane council faces $440m clean-up bill

    It has been a few weeks since Brisbane flooded, and while the blow to tourism is still unknown, the city is facing a repair bill of nearly $500 million.

    When the floodwaters receded people took to Brisbane’s streets to clean up the mud.

    But the city’s ferries are not running and the museum precinct is still closed while staff mop up.

    The council’s finance spokesman, Adrian Schrinner, is grateful for the help of volunteers in the wake of the floods.

    “We had more than 23,000 volunteers helping out and that, if we’d had to pay for that, would equate to tens of millions of dollars worth of work,” he said.

    Nevertheless Brisbane City Council is facing a clean-up bill of $440 million.

    Lord Mayor Campbell Newman says the biggest expense will be repairing roads – that is estimated to cost $137 million.

    “The continuous rain right through the Christmas/New Year period actually really hit the road network very badly,” he said.

    “We’re talking about an accelerated deterioration in the pavement. I think when I last checked, we’ve filled about 10,000 potholes since the start of this calendar year.”

  26. Prokaryotes says:

    Top News from reddit,

    Never a miscommunication…

  27. paulm says:

    There seems to be a link between animal attacks on humans and warm temps….
    Food supply for animals gets tight when we get extreme weather not just for our crops but for foraging animals…Bear attacks have been going up recently in bad years…

    There were 79 unprovoked shark attacks around the world in 2010, the highest number recorded in a decade.

  28. paulm says:

    WikiLeaks cables: Saudi Arabia cannot pump enough oil to keep a lid on prices
    US diplomat convinced by Saudi expert that reserves of world’s biggest oil exporter have been overstated by nearly 40%

  29. What are the chances that the EPA rules can be stopped or significantly modified? Briefly, what is the process by which it can be done?

  30. Joe Earth says:

    I can understand why a large number of American would support the EPA, as it deals with matters that affect them today. (For example, as another commenter mentioned, children with asthma.)

    Very different than concerns about climate change.