Senator Inhofe with Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Mike Spradling (left)
and American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman (right)
At the Oklahoma Farm Bureau's Annual Leadership Conference, Monday, February 15, Senator Inhofe was presented with the American Farm Bureau Federation's highest award, the Golden Plow award. Inhofe was nominated for the award by the Oklahoma Farm Bureau for his work on critical agriculture and Farm Bureau issues.
"I am very honored to accept the Golden Plow award and to have this opportunity to speak to Oklahoma's farmers and ranchers," Inhofe said. "I will continue fighting for you in Washington, D.C. to address the issues you face--whether it's lower fuel and feed costs or leading the fight against devastating cap-and-trade legislation. It is always a pleasure working with the Oklahoma Farm Bureau and I look forward to working together in the future to ensure that Oklahoma continues to be a national leader in agriculture."
"With over six million members, the American Farm Bureau Federation is the world's largest farm organization and we are extremely proud our very own Senator Inhofe is receiving the award," said Oklahoma Farm Bureau President Mike Spradling.
AFBF presents Golden Plow awards to one House member and one Senate member each year. Farm Bureau awards the Golden Plow to a member of Congress, regardless of party affiliation, whose philosophy or record demonstrates his or her commitment to the private enterprise system; sound agricultural policies supported by the Farm Bureau; fiscal conservatism; and reduced federal regulations on businesses and individuals.
Sen. Inhofe is one of only three Oklahoma lawmakers to receive the prestigious award, following former U.S. Sen. David Boren, who won the award in 1990, and former U.S. Sen. Don Nickles, who received the award in 1992. In addition to the Golden Plow award, Sen. Inhofe has been given American Farm Bureau's "Friend of the Farm Bureau" Award in every Congress since he took office and was named Oklahoma Farm Bureau's Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award recipient in 2005.
On Thursday, February 11, Senator Inhofe delivered a Senate Floor speech on several of the recent media reports uncovering serious errors and possible fraud by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. Below are highlights of the speech:
"I rise today to highlight several recent media reports uncovering serious errors and possible fraud by the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC. I can already hear the question: just what is the IPCC? Many in this body may not be familiar with it. But I hope the Senate becomes more acquainted with it very soon, if only because of its sheer importance to the debate we're having on global warming and cap-and-trade legislation. For now, you need to know just three things about the IPCC: (1) the Obama Administration calls it "the gold standard" of climate change science; (2) some say its reports on climate change represent the so-called "consensus" of scientific opinion about global warming; and (3) the IPCC and Al Gore were awarded the Nobel Prize in 2007 for "their efforts to build up and disseminate greater knowledge about man-made climate change..." Put simply, what this means is that, in elite circles, the IPCC is a big deal. So when ABC News, the Economist, Time Magazine, and the Times of London-among many others-report that the IPCC's research contains embarrassing flaws, and that the IPCC chairman and scientists knew of the flaws, but published them anyway-well, you have the makings of a major scientific scandal.
"So again, here we have the ‘gold standard' of climate research; here we have a body that was awarded the Nobel Prize in 2007. How can the world's preeminent climate body fall victim to such inaccuracy, and, it must be said, outright fraud? I'm sure that, for many in this body, this information is shocking. But for me, I'm not very surprised. Five years ago, I sent a letter to Dr. Pachauri, specifically raising the many weaknesses in the IPCC's peer-review process. But Dr. Pachauri dismissed my concerns. Here's how Reuters reported his response: ‘In the one-page letter, [Pachauri] denies the IPCC has an alarmist bias and says ‘I have a deep commitment to the integrity and objectivity of the IPCC process.' Pachauri's main argument is that the IPCC comprises both scientists and more than 130 governments who approve IPCC reports line by line. That helps ensure fairness, he says.' Given the significance of the reports, Dr. Pachauri should come clean and respond directly to the numerous charges made against himself and the IPCC. And given that Dr. Pachauri's has testified before Congress, including the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, we should hear directly from him as soon as possible as to how he can salvage the IPCC's vanishing credibility...
"How did we get to this point? I've been documenting deceit of this kind for several years now. But I must say that a great turning point occurred just a few months ago, when thousands of emails from the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit, or CRU, were leaked to the media. The CRU is one of the world's most prestigious climate research centers. The emails appear to show some of the world's preeminent climate scientists manipulating data, violating information disclosure laws by deleting emails, and blocking publication of research contrary to their own...
"Mr. President, there is a crisis of confidence in the IPCC. The challenges to the integrity and credibility of the IPCC merit a closer examination by the US Congress. The ramifications of the IPCC spread far and wide, most notably to the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that greenhouse gases from mobile sources endanger public health and welfare. EPA's finding rests in large measure on the IPCC's conclusions-and EPA has accepted them wholesale, without an independent assessment. At this pivotal time, as the Obama EPA is preparing to enact policies potentially costing trillions of dollars and thousands of jobs, the IPCC's errors make plain that we need openness, transparency, and accountability in the scientific research financed by U.S. taxpayers."
Senator Inhofe and his family were in Washington DC when the recent blizzard hit the DC area. The Inhofe family had a little fun at the expense of Al Gore and global warming alarmists.
As Roll Call first reported, "While most Washingtonians took cover during the Blizzard of 2010 (or Snowpocalypse, or Snowmaggedon - whatever you want to call it) Sen. James Inhofe's family braved the storm to poke fun at former Vice President Al Gore. The Oklahoma Republican's daughter, Molly Rapert; her husband, Jimmy; and their four children built an igloo - roomy enough to fit several people inside - at Third Street and Independence Avenue Southeast. They officially dedicated the humble abode in honor of global-warming crusader Gore, even posting a cardboard sign on the igloo's roof reading "AL GORE'S NEW HOME" on one side and "HONK IF YOU [HEART] GLOBAL WARMING" on the other."
To our surprise however, the igloo caught not only Roll Call's attention, but most of the main stream media as well!
The Oklahoman: Family's igloo draws debate over warming; Inhofe's daughter says it was a joke (February 13, 2010) - Stranded in Washington during the weekend because of heavy snow, one of Sen. Jim Inhofe's daughters and her family decided to build an igloo, which led to what they considered a joke. The igloo and the joke wound up being featured in the national media and getting them named the worst people in the world by liberal MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann.
Wall Street Journal: D.C. Igloo Takes Aim at Global Warming (February 10, 2010) - Sen. James Inhofe of Oklahoma is lightly frosted but mostly amused that liberal commentator Keith Olbermann named his grandchildren "the worser people in America" - his daughter was the "worst" - for the signage on an igloo they built on Capitol Hill: "Al Gore's New Home," and "Honk if you [heart] Global Warming." "I didn't even know they were doing it," laughs the senator, one of the most vocal skeptics of global warming. He posted the pictures up on his Facebook page.
Wall Street Journal: Snow Adds to the Political Drift (February 11, 2010) - WASHINGTON-In a town where everything takes on political freight, this week's historic snows have dumped a shovelful of mixed metaphors on the federal government. Oklahoma Republican Sen. Tom Coburn found himself stranded inside the Capitol, an odd position for a small-government curmudgeon who called the government shutdown a "dream." He cleaned his desk, wrote to constituents, read books and reveled at the empty corridors of power.
Washington Times: Blizzards heat up warming debate (February 12, 2010) - In Washington, even a snowstorm is a political event. The record snowstorms that have blanketed the capital and shut down cities across the Mid-Atlantic have already sparked a new round of sparring between supporters and skeptics in the global-warming debate. As city residents trudge through blizzards and shovel out stranded cars, climate-change skeptics have been tossing verbal snowballs at those arguing that the planet is heating up and that human activity is to blame. Myron Ebell, director of energy and global warming policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI) and a global warming skeptic, acknowledged that one weather event is not enough to prove or disprove the climate-change thesis, but noted that "global-warming alarmists" tend to take any severe-weather incident - heat waves, cold snaps, droughts and floods - as evidence supporting their position.
CBS NEWS: Snow Fuels Global Warming Debate (February 12, 2010) - (CBS/ AP) After a week of blizzard conditions that buried some parts of the East Coast under record-breaking amounts of snow, the debate over climate change continues to simmer. Critics of global warming science gleefully point out their windows to mounting snow drifts, which they see as clear evidence that the idea of man-made climate change is bunk. Advocates insist that unusual weather events signify climate change is already underway. (Ironically, while the East Coast is buried under snow, Vancouver, the home of the 2010 Winter Olympics, has experienced weather so balmy officials have had to bring snow in by helicopter).
New York Times: Climate-Change Debate Is Heating Up in Deep Freeze (February 11, 2010) - WASHINGTON - As millions of people along the East Coast hole up in their snowbound homes, the two sides in the climate-change debate are seizing on the mounting drifts to bolster their arguments. Skeptics of global warming are using the record-setting snows to mock those who warn of dangerous human-driven climate change - this looks more like global cooling, they taunt. Most climate scientists respond that the ferocious storms are consistent with forecasts that a heating planet will produce more frequent and more intense weather events.
CNS NEWS: Sen. Inhofe's Family Builds Igloo for Global Warming Spokesman Al Gore in Snow-laden D.C. (Feb. 9, 2010) -(CNSNews.com) - The family of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) had some fun at former Vice President and global warming spokesman Al Gore's expense over the weekend after record snowfall blanketed the nation's capital. The family spent Saturday and Sunday building an igloo near the U.S. Capitol building, and the Oklahoma senator posted photos of their handiwork on his Facebook page. They added signs to the snow dwelling that read, "AL GORE'S NEW HOME!" and "HONK IF YOU (LOVE) GLOBAL WARMING."
Newsmax: Inhofe Family Builds Igloo 'Gore's New Home' (Wednesday, 10 Feb 2010) - The family of Sen. Jim Inhofe, a vocal skeptic regarding man-made global warming, had some fun at climate change crusader Al Gore's expense by building an igloo near the U.S. Capitol. The Oklahoma Republican's daughter Molly Rapert, along with her husband and four children, built the igloo over the weekend as Washington was hammered with a fierce blizzard. The family posted a cardboard sign on the igloo's roof reading "AL GORE'S NEW HOME" on one side and "HONK IF YOU [HEART] GLOBAL WARMING" on the other. Sen. Inhofe, the ranking Republican on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, told Roll Call newspaper that his family's ironic tribute to Gore was "really humorous." The senator even posted several photos of the igloo on his Facebook page.
Washington Post: Inhofe's Al Gore igloo (February 9, 2010) - In this most wintry of Washington winters, those Al Gore jokes were only a matter of time. The family of the most prominent skeptic of climate change in Congress, Sen. James M. Inhofe (R-Okla.), built an igloo on Capitol Hill and named it in honor of Gore, the environmentalist/Oscar recipient/Nobel Prize winner who has committed his life to addressing the dangers of global warming. And in case an article about the igloo in Roll Call's "Heard on the Hill" wasn't enough, Inhofe posted more photos on his Facebook page. No word on whether they'll expand the igloo into a building on the scale of Sweden's Ice Hotel in the aftermath of this week's second snowstorm.
Rush Limbaugh: Inhofe Family Builds Igloo 'Gore's New Home' (February 11, 2010) - RUSH: Did you see what Jim Inhofe did? He built an igloo in Washington and put a little cardboard sign over it that said "Algore's New Home." Hee-hee.
Clean Skies: D.C. Snowstorm Sparks More Global Warming Debate - The man who may be the most vocal climate skeptic in Congress, Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., is making his point on Capitol Hill. Even though the House is closed for business and Senate hearings are postponed this week, Inhofe's family "built an igloo" to visually make their case, and labeled it "Al Gore's new home."
Yesterday, Senator Inhofe issued the following statement in response to the Obama Administration's release of draft guidance on how federal agencies should use the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) to address greenhouse gas emissions that result from major federal actions, as well as establishing and applying "categorical exclusions" under NEPA:
"I commend the Obama Administration for addressing the interplay between NEPA and greenhouse gas emissions," Sen. Inhofe said. "I look forward to working with them to ensure that NEPA is used judiciously and according to its original statutory purpose.
"Using NEPA as a backdoor tool to regulate greenhouse gases will stifle job creation and create greater uncertainty for the economy. The Administration's proposed NEPA guidance for GHGs appears to do exactly that: it will enable federal agencies to block or delay production of America's domestic energy resources, which are the largest in the world.
"In addition," Sen. Inhofe continued, "if the intent of the Obama Administration's proposal on categorical exclusions is to clarify NEPA to help advance production of America's energy resources, then the Administration should be commended. If, however, the intent is to create jobs for environmental lawyers by adding greater burdens on an already cumbersome NEPA process, then it should be vigorously opposed.
"Again, I look forward to working with the Administration to ensure NEPA reforms help create jobs and increase American energy production."
In his column Wednesday, February 17, Tom Friedman of the New York Times wonders whether "we can have a serious discussion about the climate-energy issue anymore." From our end, we believe the answer is yes. That is, one can simultaneously see the good-humored fun in kids building an igloo in honor of Al Gore and legitimately question whether the IPCC-backed consensus on global warming - that a climate catastrophe is well-nigh upon us - suffers from serious flaws (think Himalayan glaciers). And we believe one can support an energy policy that draws on all of America's domestic resources-coal, natural gas, oil, solar, wind, geothermal, nuclear-and that such advocacy can be rooted in prudential concern for cost, jobs, energy security, and reliability, rather than rank corporate shilling.
We lament the fact that Mr. Friedman, justly regarded as he is for the eloquence of his prose and the force of his arguments, categorically dismisses those of a skeptical bent as given to "errors and wild exaggerations." Some may be, but many are not. Such a dismissal is simply incorrect - one thinks of the University of Alabama-Huntsville's John Christy or Australia's Ian Plimer - and contrary to the spirit of open intellectual engagement. Nevertheless, in hope of serious debate, we take issue with several of Mr. Friedman's assertions:
FRIEDMAN: "Avoid the term ‘global warming.' I prefer the term ‘global weirding,' because that is what actually happens as global temperatures rise and the climate changes. The weather gets weird. The hots are expected to get hotter, the wets wetter, the dries drier and the most violent storms more numerous."
RESPONSE: It's appropriate that Mr. Friedman drop "global warming," for the simple fact that there has been "no statistically significant warming" for the last 15 years. This is not the judgment of a skeptic, but of Phil Jones, the former director of the University of East Anglia's Climatic Research Unit (CRU), who is at the center of the ‘Climategate' scandal (Jones did say that in his view that the overall temperature trend is one of warming).
Moreover, at some point, the notion, suggested by Friedman, that anything and everything-blizzards, heat waves, droughts, hurricanes, floods, and otherwise ‘weird weather'-are caused by global warming becomes unfalsifiable, thereby rendering the catastrophic global warming hypothesis meaningless. We would also caution Mr. Friedman against relying too heavily on the "storms-get-stormier" hypothesis.
Recall that in 2005, Christopher Landsea, of the National Hurricane Center, and one of the nation's foremost experts on hurricanes, resigned in protest from the IPCC. At the time, Landsea wrote, "I am withdrawing [from the IPCC] because I have come to view the part of the IPCC to which my expertise is relevant as having become politicized. In addition, when I have raised my concerns to the IPCC leadership, their response was simply to dismiss my concerns." He wrote further that, "The latest results from the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory suggest that by around 2080, hurricanes may have winds and rainfall about 5% more intense than today...It is beyond me why my colleagues would utilize the media to push an unsupported agenda that recent hurricane activity has been due to global warming."
FRIEDMAN: "Those who favor taking action are saying: ‘Because the warming that humans are doing is irreversible and potentially catastrophic, let's buy some insurance - by investing in renewable energy, energy efficiency and mass transit - because this insurance will also actually make us richer and more secure.' We will import less oil, invent and export more clean-tech products, send fewer dollars overseas to buy oil and, most importantly, diminish the dollars that are sustaining the worst petro-dictators in the world who indirectly fund terrorists and the schools that nurture them."
RESPONSE: Taking out insurance is wise. But Mr. Friedman's insurance policy means exorbitant premiums with no protection in the event disaster occurs. Take the Waxman-Markey bill. According to the National Black Chamber of Commerce, Waxman-Markey would cause a net reduction-yes, even taking into account "green jobs"-of up to 3.6 million jobs. It would reduce GDP by 1.5 percent compared to business-as-usual. And the climate benefit? According to Chip Knappenberger of Master Resource, by the year 2050, Waxman-Markey "would result in a global temperature ‘savings' of about 0.05ºC regardless of the IPCC scenario used." In other words: no climate benefit. Even if one chooses a carbon tax to reduce emissions, the climate impact arguably would be even less, given that reductions are not guaranteed.
There are more economical options, and they are not the work of industry robber barons. We call Mr. Friedman's attention to a 2008 Department of Energy study titled "Combined Heat and Power: Effective Energy Solutions for a Sustainable Future."
As the study noted, the generating capacity of the more than 3,300 US combined heat and power (CHP) sites "stands at 85 gigawatts (GW)-almost 9 percent of total US capacity." In 2006 CHP produced 506 billion Kilowatt Hour (kWh) of electricity-more than 12 percent of total US power generation for that year." According to DOE, if the United States adopted high-deployment policies to achieve 20 percent of generation capacity from CHP by 2030, it could:
- Save an estimated 5.3 quadrillion Btu (Quads) of fuel annually, the equivalent of nearly half the total energy currently consumed by US households;
- Generate (cumulatively through 2030) $234 billion in new investments and create nearly 1 million new highly-skilled, technical jobs4 throughout the United States.
DOE also concluded CO2 emissions could be reduced "by more than 800 million metric tons (MMT) per year, the equivalent of taking more than half of the current passenger vehicles in the US off the road. In this 20 percent scenario, over 60 percent of the projected increase in CO2 emissions between now and 2030 could be avoided."
As an insurance policy, this is something the American people would probably be more inclined to support than taxes that impose all cost for no climate benefit.
FRIEDMAN: "Even if climate change proves less catastrophic than some fear, in a world that is forecast to grow from 6.7 billion to 9.2 billion people between now and 2050, more and more of whom will live like Americans, demand for renewable energy and clean water is going to soar. It is obviously going to be the next great global industry.
"China, of course, understands that, which is why it is investing heavily in clean-tech, efficiency and high-speed rail. It sees the future trends and is betting on them. Indeed, I suspect China is quietly laughing at us right now."
RESPONSE: China is pursuing an all-of-the-above energy policy-exactly what Republicans have been supporting for years. Yes, China is investing in renewable energy, but it is also building advanced coal and nuclear power plants. According to the Energy Information Administration, "Coal consists of roughly three-quarters of [China's] power generation feedstock and the EIA forecasts they will maintain this market share through 2030."
Here in the U.S., green pressure groups and the Obama EPA-and, we suspect, Mr. Friedman-- oppose construction of new, more efficient (therefore lower emitting) coal plants. They might say they have to be equipped with "carbon capture and storage technology"-which won't happen on a commercial scale for years (and assuming environmentalists will even allow construction of the infrastructure needed to support it).
As for nuclear, according to the "Nuclear Street" website, "there are 12 newly-approved" nuclear units under construction in China that will have a combined capacity of 34.76 million kW." We are pleased the Administration has signaled support for new nuclear plants, but by pulling the plug on Yucca Mountain, it fails the consistency test.
FRIEDMAN: "And Iran, Russia, Venezuela and the whole OPEC gang are high-fiving each other. Nothing better serves their interests than to see Americans becoming confused about climate change, and, therefore, less inclined to move toward clean-tech and, therefore, more certain to remain addicted to oil. Yes, sir, it is morning in Saudi Arabia."
RESPONSE: According to a recently released report from the Congressional Research Service, America's combined recoverable natural gas, oil, and coal endowment is the largest on earth. America's recoverable resources are far larger than those of Saudi Arabia (3rd), China (4th), and Canada (6th) combined. And that's without including America's absolutely immense oil shale and methane hydrates deposits. We suspect the "whole OPEC gang" would become more than a little nervous if the U.S. got serious about developing its resources-all of them.
As the myriad of stories from news outlets around the world reveal, the IPCC continues to be buried under allegations of scientific misconduct:
Inhofe EPW News Round-Up
Daily Mail: Climategate U-turn as scientist at centre of row admits: There has been no global warming since 1995 - Colleagues say that the reason Professor Phil Jones has refused Freedom of Information requests is that he may have actually lost the relevant papers. Professor Jones told the BBC yesterday there was truth in the observations of colleagues that he lacked organisational skills, that his office was swamped with piles of paper and that his record keeping is ‘not as good as it should be'. The data is crucial to the famous ‘hockey stick graph' used by climate change advocates to support the theory. Professor Jones also conceded the possibility that the world was warmer in medieval times than now - suggesting global warming may not be a man-made phenomenon. And he said that for the past 15 years there has been no ‘statistically significant' warming. The admissions will be seized on by sceptics as fresh evidence that there are serious flaws at the heart of the science of climate change and the orthodoxy that recent rises in temperature are largely man-made.
Chicago Tribune Editorial: Global doubting - So now the U.N. panel's credibility is heavily damaged - and so is the science of global warming. Doubts about the science - and scientists - are creeping in. Many people can't help but wonder: Are some of these climate scientists trying to find the facts or hide them? You could see that uncertainty in the recent global warming summit in Copenhagen, where the world's powers agreed to absolutely nothing of consequence. You can see it in the U.S. Senate, where an expensive and complicated cap-and-trade carbon bill is dead. You can sense that public opinion is turning against the idea of massively expensive solutions. In a recent Rasmussen poll, slightly more than half the people surveyed said that warming is a serious problem. But a rising number of people - half in the latest poll - blame long-term planetary trends, not human activity.
Debra Saunders: The winter of global warming - The last few months have been cruel and wintry for global-warming true believers. The long storm began in November, when a leak of e-mails from Britain's University of East Anglia Climate Research Unit revealed that key global-warming scientists tried to stifle dissent, politicize peer-review, which led to revelations that the researchers had dumped much of the raw data used to bolster the alarmist argument. Then came the news that that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 2007 report - you know, the one that reported that man-made global warming was "unequivocal" - wrongly predicted that it was likely Himalayan glaciers would disappear by 2035, based not on peer-reviewed research, but on an article in a popular magazine. Oh, and it turns out that the IPCC was wrong in reporting that 55 percent of The Netherlands is below sea level.
Washington Post: Series of missteps by climate scientists threatens climate-change agenda - Two Republican senators who have long opposed a cap on carbon emissions, James M. Inhofe (Okla.) and John Barrasso (Wyo.), are citing the errors as further reasons to block mandatory limits on greenhouse gas emissions. Last week, Barrasso called for an independent probe into the IPCC, suggesting that the United States should halt any action on climate until it verifies the panel's scientific conclusions. Inhofe said Thursday in the Senate that the Environmental Protection Agency's efforts to curb greenhouse gases should be reexamined, since the U.N. panel's conclusions influenced the agency's finding that climate change poses a public threat. "The ramifications of the IPCC spread far and wide, most notably to the Environmental Protection Agency's finding that greenhouse gases from mobile sources endanger public health and welfare," Inhofe said. On Friday, a coalition of conservative groups filed a petition to overturn the EPA's finding on the same grounds."
Spiegel: De Boer's Resignation Is Catastrophic - "Many will say the wrong man at the UN has resigned. Rajendra Pachauri, who's responsible for unfettered alarmism at the IPCC, will stay, owing to either profound sloppiness or even nepotism in climate politics. Meanwhile the whole world wants his resignation. Yet Yvo de Boer will resign -- the UN's climate secretary, who also bears some responsibility for the failure at Copenhagen, according to his critics. In this regard the move is not entirely wrong. But Pachauri should follow, and so should UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, whose rhetoric put climate politics front-and-center at the UN often enough." "What failed at Copenhagen was not just the summit. A subliminal notion of establishing the UN as a sort of world government through the use of climate politics -- using far-reaching management methods to influence, first of all, the world's economy -- has also failed."
Wash. Times: Pruden: The Red Hot Scam Unravels - You can fool some of the people some of the time, as Abraham Lincoln observed, and you even can fool all the people some of the time. But you can't fool all the people all the time. Al Gore and his friends got so excited about points one and especially point two that they forgot point three. Not everybody is on to the global-warming scam, not yet, but all the people - or enough of them - are getting there. "Global warming," or even "climate change" as Al's marketing men now insist that it be called, is becoming the stuff of jests and jokes. Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, a Republican, built an igloo of that hot stuff that buried Washington last week on the Capitol lawn and dubbed it "Al Gore's new home."
Yvo de Boer's resignation compounds sense of gathering climate crisis
Despite his steady hands at the helm of climate talks, de Boer was losing his touch and navigated into rancorous territory
By: Mark Lynas
February 18, 2010
How can everything have gone so wrong so quickly? A year ago, the prospects for successful climate change regulation were bright: a new US president promised positive re-engagement with the international community on the issue, civil society everywhere was enthusiastically mobilising to demand that world leaders "seal the deal" at Copenhagen, and the climate denial crowd had been reduced to an embarrassing rump lurking in the darker corners of the internet.
Now there seems to have been a complete reversal. Obama is held hostage by a deadlocked Senate, which will agree to neither domestic climate legislation nor US participation in a new legally binding treaty. Copenhagen was a disaster from start to finish, and even the face-saving Copenhagen accord is winning at best lukewarm support even from the countries that helped draw it up. To add to the sense of crisis, the climate denial lobby is suddenly resurgent, and the conspiracy theories that underlie the hacked climate emails controversy are in danger of becoming popular received wisdom.
These are dark times. And the resignation of Yvo de Boer as executive secretary of the UN climate change secretariat today only compounds the sense of gathering crisis. De Boer has been a steady pair of hands guiding the international negotiations through some very rocky periods - not least the dramatic episode in Bali two years ago where he himself burst into tears on the plenary stage - and his trustworthy, solid presence will be sorely missed. Despite the official denials, there can be little doubt that this resignation indicates his frustration at the general unravelling of the process that was so depressingly evident at Copenhagen.
Whether de Boer himself should shoulder any of the blame for the Copenhagen debacle is arguable. Most of the responsibility for the conduct of the negotiations, which were marked by poor organisation, suspicion, bitterness and almost absurd levels of chaos on the final night, rests with the hosts Denmark. But the secretariat also appeared powerless to navigate past procedural blocking tactics employed by Sudan and other retrogressive developing nations, suggesting a creeping lack of confidence on the part of the UN. De Boer seemed to be losing his touch.
Even after Copenhagen was finally over, things continued to deteriorate. It was unclear what, if any, legal standing the accord actually had given that it was only "noted" by the Conference of Parties rather than adopted as a decision. And a 31 January deadline for countries to decide whether they wanted to be "associated" with the accord was allowed to slip, while governments continued to be confused as to what, if anything, they were supposed to be sending the secretariat.
In the meantime, the prospects for a legally binding new treaty being agreed at Cancun, at the next major UN climate meeting in December, seem to recede by the day. The only countries that support a new round of Kyoto targets are those that would not be bound by them - namely the developing countries.
Even the EU, Kyoto's most stalwart supporter during the Bush era, is now backing away. The more logical idea of tying the world's biggest emitters - China, the US, the EU, Russia and India, in descending order - into a single, fair framework for emissions reduction seems even less plausible, given the current political mood.
All in all, the next few months look grim. There is now no serious prospect of Obama getting legislation through the Senate, this year, or possibly ever. Following the sustained attack by climate deniers on both individual scientists and the IPCC, public confidence in climate change as an urgent issue is also steadily eroding, further reducing the room for manoeuvre by politicians. The next round of intermediate negotiations, due to start in Bonn on 31 May, look set to take place in a poisonous atmosphere of bitterness and rancour.
No wonder Yvo de Boer wanted to get out.
Senate moderates keeping distance from cap-and-trade bill
By: Darren Samuelsohn, E&E senior reporter
February 16, 2010
Senate promoters of a comprehensive climate and energy bill are reaching out to moderate Republicans and Democrats, but they have little to show for it.
The nation's economic troubles and election-year politics are making a signature item on President Obama's domestic agenda a tough sell, despite the optimism expressed by the legislation's leading advocates, Sens. John Kerry (D-Mass.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).
"I'm trying to avoid talking to people like ... Senator Kerry and all of the people that are the stalwarts on the [climate bill], because I think we've got other things we've got to finish up before we embark upon that," Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said earlier this month.
Even exchanges of legislative text are not breaking any ice.
Graham asked Republican Lisa Murkowski of Alaska earlier this year if she would write provisions to expand U.S. production of oil and gas -- so long as she also expressed support for capping the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.
Murkowski recently produced a proposal to expand revenue sharing for states that allow drilling off their coasts, modeling the legislation on ideas rejected last spring during an energy bill markup in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. But the senator's spokesman insisted that she is not ready to play ball on a sweeping energy and climate change package.
"When a colleague comes to Senator Murkowski and asks us what should be in an oil and gas title, that's a no brainer," Murkowski spokesman Robert Dillon said yesterday. "We're going to tell them what we think is important to improve America's energy security."
Dillon explained that Murkowski, the ranking member on the energy committee, also contributed last year when Lieberman sought proposals from Democrats and Republicans on how to boost U.S. nuclear-power production. Still, he insisted, "There's been no agreement. We've not signed onto anything."
Other Republicans whose support is seen as critical to a climate and energy bill are also keeping their distance.
Senate Foreign Relations ranking member Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) said earlier this month that while he has expressed an interest in tackling greenhouse gas emissions in a sector-by-sector fashion, that effort remains "hypothetical." And the Republicans' 2008 presidential nominee, Arizona Sen. John McCain, who once led on the issue alongside Lieberman, is laying low now that he has a conservative challenger in the Aug. 24 Republican primary (E&E Daily, Feb. 10).
Democrats are hesitant too when it comes to jumping into the mix on a comprehensive bill that includes a cap on greenhouse gases. Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh, who yesterday announced plans to retire rather than run this fall for a third term, said in a recent interview that he would prefer a focus on energy-only legislation.
"I think this is a very difficult time, given the state of the economy," Bayh said. "And the lack of a firm commitment on the part of other nations. That makes it more difficult. That's not to say progress can't be made. If I were advising the president, I would focus on energy security, job creation in the energy space that would have the additional advantage of helping to address carbon emissions but do it an economically friendly way."
And McCaskill said that while she would like to wean Missouri off coal, she is also concerned about creating a new carbon market that might be gamed.
"It's hard for many of us to get excited about a new derivative market until we figure out what we do with the one we have," she said. "A lot of this is going to hinge on what financial-sector reforms are made, and whether or not people feel comfortable about whether we're not creating a new underbelly of wealth around a carbon market."
The Senate trio working at the center of the debate are keeping a positive tone. They argue that trying to find a sweet spot capable of winning 60 votes was already difficult well before the political earthquake last month when Republican Scott Brown of Massachusetts won the special election to replace the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D).
In interviews, Kerry, Graham and Lieberman have urged patience in trying to read into the fate of their closed-door negotiations. Each insisted the talks are fluid, and they do not want to go public with any legislative language until they secure a bigger coalition.
"I think the worst thing we could do is roll out ideas that are not well vetted," Graham said. "I've learned a lot from immigration. I've learned a lot from health care. And I know y'all want to know more. And quite frankly, what I'm trying to do is make sure people feel good about it and we've thought this thing through. Because the attacks will come."
'Chicken and egg problem'
Graham's efforts are being watched the closest given he is one of just two Republicans -- the other being Susan Collins of Maine -- to publicly engage with Democrats on the specifics of climate change legislation. Several sources say the White House has invested heaviest in Graham given the need for bipartisan consensus on the issue.
Obama's top political adviser, David Axelrod, signaled the hands-off approach that the administration is taking during an interview with C-SPAN earlier this month.
"In terms of cap and trade, there are efforts ongoing in the United States Senate between Republicans and Democrats to come up with an overall energy bill that would help drive this clean energy investment, this clean energy economy," Axelrod said. "If a consensus can be reached, we want to support that. But this is clearly an issue that Republicans and Democrats are going to have to do together. It's not something that one party or the other can do."
For Graham, many say that means he has a green light to be a bit of everything to everybody.
Last month, for example, Graham co-sponsored a controversial proposal authored by Murkowski aimed at halting U.S. EPA's efforts to limit carbon emissions. Graham said he would only vote for Murkowski's measure if it came as part of a broader bill that would cap greenhouse gases. And Graham also signed on to legislation from Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.) that deals with conventional air pollution from power plants. Also on the bill: Republicans Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Judd Gregg of New Hampshire and Collins.
As he drafts language with Kerry and Lieberman, Graham said his message to other Republican senators is pretty straightforward: "We like your ideas, but we want your vote. If we make accommodations, it's to get people to sign on to the bill."
But hurdles remain.
Moderates -- especially Republicans -- face the question of whether there is any incentive in teaming up with Democrats in the climate debate considering the issue's status at the very bottom of a recent poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. There is also the conservative base already riled up over the simple mention of cap-and-trade legislation.
"What's in it for a Republican to roll around in that?" asked an industry lobbyist working on the issue.
McCain's shifting stance on climate change is already being questioned by former Rep. J.D. Hayworth, a Republican challenger in Arizona's Aug. 24 primary. And while Murkowski does not have a Republican opponent in her primary, there is still the prospect a conservative challenger could emerge by the state's June 1 filing deadline.
David Jenkins, the government affairs director at Republicans for Environmental Protection, said he is worried that election-year dynamics could curtail GOP participation in the climate and energy debate. "It does put a little bit of pressure on them to not work with Democrats," he said. "In this case, that's a really big mistake."
Murkowski said she is well aware that Republicans could be painted as obstructionists too. She said there is still room to work with Democrats on a bill that both parties could claim credit for. "I think that's the way you need to look at this," she said. "Is this a win for the country?"
The Alaskan also praised Graham for trying to find common ground on the energy and climate debate but added that she is a long way from signing on as a co-sponsor.
"It's one thing to talk to your colleagues and say we need a robust nuclear title, we need more domestic production, and we need a price on carbon," she said. "Is that something you could work with? Absolutely. Let's talk. But let's get into the details of it. Because my domestic production piece, ANWR, might be very different than what Susan Collins' domestic production piece might look like."
"It's important to get people focused on these broad concepts," Murkowski added. "And then try to figure out what it's going to look like. And it may be that the devil in the details is what kills the whole thing."
Off the Hill, environmentalists urge caution against reading too deeply into the lack of details emerging from the Kerry, Graham and Lieberman effort. But they too are getting antsy about the prospects for the bill as they watch the legislative calendar shrink ahead of the November midterm elections.
"We have a little bit of a 'chicken and egg' problem," said John Coequyt of the Sierra Club. "No one wants to step forward because they're nervous nothing is going to happen. And they're not going to get out on a limb for nothing. At the same, while everyone is feeling that way, it looks like there's no progress."
Thank you Madame Chairman for making last-minute adjustments to today's hearing. I think it makes sense, given the weather situation, to hold a hearing for all of these nominees this afternoon. I want to extend a welcome to the nominees and their families here today. I will be supporting all of the nominees, and I look forward to working with them.
Let me first address the nominee for Inspector General of the Environmental Protection Agency, Arthur Elkins, Jr. Mr. Elkins - you have your work cut out for you. Among other things, there needs to be an unbiased investigation into how EPA made its endangerment finding for greenhouse gases. This finding will lead to policies that destroy jobs and raise energy prices for consumers.
I also want to note the numerous inquiries and document requests from the Minority of this committee to EPA. Those inquiries and requests have either gone unanswered or were addressed in a grossly incomplete fashion. Mr. Elkins, I hope you will work with me to assure taxpayers that EPA is following the law and that it conducts business with openness and transparency.
Today, we also have a nominee for the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), Sandford Blitz. I look forward to hearing how Mr. Blitz plans to manage this new program and how to make it work effectively for those it is designed to help. And we have Earl Gohl as the nominee for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC).
For both Mr. Gohl and Mr. Blitz, the rules and regulations this Administration has imposed and wants to impose have at least one thing in common: they disproportionately impact rural America. So I say to you today: stand up for rural America and be sure that its voice gets heard.
Now, let me turn to our Tennessee Valley Authority nominees. A critically important issue is how TVA is responding to the Kingston coal ash spill that occurred in December of 2008 in Roane County, Tennessee. TVA=s CEO, Mr. Tom Kilgore made a commitment to the community to clean up the site as quickly and safely as possible. I believe TVA is living up to its commitment. I would like to hear the nominees' thoughts on TVA=s progress, what TVA can do better, and how your role on the Board will ensure that TVA continues to make good on its promise.
As TVA continues cleanup, the EPA and the Obama Administration are supposedly close to finalizing a proposed rule to regulate coal combustion waste. The proposal, from what we have gathered, attempts to regulate coal combustion waste as a hazardous waste under Title C of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.
Let's not forget that Kingston was an engineering failure. That is where our focus should be-we need to ensure that the coal ash impoundments are structurally sound. Taking the hazardous waste course that EPA is considering will not ensure the structural safety of the impoundments. Moreover, it will prevent the beneficial use of coal combustion waste. This will impair our ability to build and improve roads and infrastructure, which is so badly needed in today's economy.
Madame Chairman, I look forward to hearing from the witnesses.
Senator Inhofe delivered the following statement on Tuesday, February 9, 2010 for a hearing on the nominations of George Apostolakis, William Magwood, and William Charles Ostendorff to be members of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission:
Thank you, Chairman Boxer, for holding this hearing. All three nominees are of high caliber and will make outstanding contributions to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
I was glad to hear that President Obama has finally embraced nuclear energy as crucial to our energy security and economic prosperity. I couldn't agree more. Nuclear energy is a safe, clean source of energy that should play a central role in strengthening America's energy security.
We are all very aware that the national economy has changed drastically since the first application for a new reactor was filed in September of 2007. These changing economic circumstances force U.S. utilities to continually assess electricity demand and their options for meeting it. As with any other business, they must make these decisions in real time in response to changing market conditions.
The NRC is insulated from the challenges of responding to those dynamic conditions. Regulatory decision making should not be pressured by economic conditions. The NRC's mission to ensure safety, however, does not absolve the agency of the responsibility to regulate in an efficient and predictable manner.
The NRC now has two years of experience with reviewing new plant applications, yet it still has not indicated dates when applicants can expect to receive their licenses. How can you budget and allocate resources if you don't know how long application reviews will take? How can you evaluate performance without a schedule to measure against?
Granted, it's been decades since the NRC has licensed new plants. There have been hiccups and will likely be more as everyone gains experience with the process. The agency, however, should not hide behind that excuse in order to avoid taking responsibility for establishing a transparent, predictable schedule and managing accordingly.
My question is simply this: If the agency doesn't have confidence in its own process and ability to manage it, why would stakeholders? As commissioners, each of you will be responsible for the leadership of this agency. I hope you will all strive to make this process more predictable so that the agency is viewed as an effective regulator, not as an obstacle to building new nuclear plants.
I also hope each of you, should you be confirmed, will keep a safety-focused mindset in assessing the matters that come before you. The natural inclination of a regulator is to regulate more. That tendency requires increased resources from both the industry, to comply, and from the regulator to develop regulations and monitor compliance. Neither the industry nor the agency has unlimited resources. It is the Commission's responsibility to ensure that the agency remains safety-focused and that resources are dedicated to issues of the highest impact to safety.
Congress intended that the Commission function as a collegial body in its mission to protect public health, safety, and the environment. It certainly functions best with the full complement of five commissioners. It is my hope that the Committee, and then the full Senate, will soon complete its consideration of these nominees and fill the Commission, because the Commission has plenty of work to do, and we need to ensure the agency has its full measure of leadership.