The Electric Car Conundrum: If You Care About Emissions, Gasoline Is The Better Choice

While campaigning in 2008, President Obama called for 1 million plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles (EV) on the road by 2015. Since then, he’s supported the goal with executive orders and billions in funding. He included it in the 2011 State of the Union Address.

A February 2011 Scientific American analysis titled “Raising the Volt-Age: Is Obama’s Goal of 1 Million Electric Vehicles on U.S. Highways by 2015 Realistic?” states: “the Obama administration realizes that attaining such a goal will be impossible without help from the federal government.” It delineates the billions of dollars in federal spending aimed at reaching what it acknowledges “may still be just a pipe dream.”

2015 is now in the record books, and, after all the EV subsidies for consumers and industry, Reuters reports: “only about 400,000 electric cars have been sold. Last year, sales fell 6 percent over the previous year to about 115,000, despite the industry offering about 30 plug-in models, often at deep discounts.”

Regardless of the slow sales, Reuters says: “the industry continues to roll out new models in response to government mandates and its own desire to create brands known for environmental innovation.” And there is the crux of the EV effort: “environmental innovation”—there is a sense that EVs are the right thing for the environment. Green car advocates say: “EVs are a crucial part of the effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”

All of this, to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and appear environmentally innovative and technologically forward, is missing the mark.

In December 2014, a study was released that claimed that electric cars actually produced “3.6 times more soot and smog deaths than those powered by gas.” Study co-author Julian Marshall, an engineering professor at the University of Minnesota, says: “It is kind of hard to beat gasoline. …A lot of technologies that we think of as being clean are not better than gasoline.” In reality, these zero-emissions vehicles are generally fueled by coal.

According to Popular Mechanics, researchers “set out to study the effects on human health of various alternative ways to power a car.” Surprisingly, “Internal combustion vehicles running on corn ethanol and electric vehicles powered by electricity from coal were the real sinners.”

While EV advocates want to claim, as one did, that EVs are powered by wind and solar energy, the facts don’t support the fantasy.

In November, the Washington Post (WP) ran a major story: “Electric cars and the coal that runs them.” It points out: “Alongside the boom has come a surging demand for power to charge the vehicles, which can consume as much electricity in a single charge as the average refrigerator does in a month and a half.”

“Thanks to generous tax incentives, the share of electric vehicles has grown faster in the Netherlands than in nearly any other country in the world.”  How are they meeting the “surging demand for power?” With three new coal-fueled power plants.

The WP concludes: “But for all its efforts locally and nationally, the Netherlands will blow past its 2020 emissions targets, the result of the new coal-fired power plants.”

The results are similar in China, where EV sales have quadrupled. Last week, Reuters addressed a series of studies by Tsinghua University. The results? “Electric cars charged in China produce two to five times as much particulate matter and chemicals that contribute to smog versus petrol engine cars.”

It turns out that Obama’s 1 million EVs by 2015 was a “pipe dream” after all. Even the federal government didn’t buy the projected quantities. His ideals are not consistent with either consumer interest or technology.

 

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Ted And Trump Take Different Tracks On Ethanol

On Tuesday, January 19, at the Iowa Renewable Fuels Summit, longtime Iowa Governor Terry Branstad jumped into the campaign fray by attempting to influence the outcome of the February 1 caucus: “I don’t think that Ted Cruz is the right one for Iowans to support in the caucus.”

Branstad slammed Cruz because, as he told reporters: “He’s opposed to the wind energy tax credit. He’s opposed to ethanol and biodiesel”—which are the very positions that make Cruz an attractive candidate to limited-government, free-market voters.

Cruz has long opposed energy subsidies. In his first year in office, Cruz co-sponsored legislation to repeal the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS)—which requires ever-increasing amounts of ethanol be blended into the nation’s fuel supply. In 2014, he took a different bite at the same issue and introduced a bill that would overhaul several energy policies, including phasing out the ethanol mandate in five years. Early in the campaign season, at the 2015 Ag Summit, Cruz was the only GOP candidate who didn’t support the RFS.

Since then, several GOP candidates have supported its phase-out. However, of all the presidential candidates from both parties, only Cruz and Rand Paul received a “bad” rating on the American Renewable Future’s (ARF) “Final presidential report card on the Renewable Fuel Standard”—which means they demonstrated consistent opposition to the RFS.

Trump, however, likely earned his ARF “good” rating because he does not have a history of opposition to burdening “working Americans with hidden taxes”—which is one of several derogatory phrases USA Today used to describe the RFS. In 2011, the Los Angeles Times reported that Trump “has relied on tax breaks and federal funding to build his real estate empire.”

It shouldn’t be surprising, then, that Trump told hundreds of attendees at the January 19 Summit: “I am there with you 100%.” Trump also said he was opposed to changing any part of the RFS—which means, as The Hill heralded, “Trump calls for higher ethanol mandate.”

Trump’s ethanol position puts him at odds with most in his party—and even many Democrats and environmentalists—as, outside of Iowa, ethanol has few friends. Today, as U.S. News says, “the ethanol mandate makes no sense economically or environmentally.” The WSJ calls it: “one of America’s worst corporate-welfare cases.”

Cruz and Trump are making different political calculations. In a matter of days, we’ll know which one was wiser: Cruz, who stuck to his principles, believing that the people of Iowa “will respect his honesty,” or Trump, whose embrace of the “top-down government mandate,” as The Atlantic calls it, “speaks to just how much he wants to win Iowa.”

The Atlantic concludes: “If Cruz manages to win Iowa without siding with the state’s high-profile lawmakers and a powerful industry, it could send a message to future candidates that they don’t need to support the mandate to emerge victorious in Iowa.”

Regardless of who actually wins in Iowa, if Cruz comes out ahead of Trump, it could pave the way for a Republican president, whomever he or she might be, to finally repeal the outdated and unworkable RFS—which, oddly enough, could help Iowa’s corn producers. Refiners would still use ethanol. It has a place in the free market. As I’ve previously addressed, ethanol is the most cost-effective octane booster. But the RFS requires increasing unavailable advanced biofuels and reducing corn ethanol. When the Environmental Protection Agency announced the 2016 blending rule, it required higher advanced biofuel levels.

Soon, we will know if Iowa, like the rest of America, realizes that the RFS is ripe for repeal.

 

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Killing Coal: The Obama Administration’s Intentional Assault On An Industry

Since moving into the White House, President Obama has used bureaucratic weapons and administrative agencies to assault America’s coal industry. Between 2008 and 2012, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) reports, 50,000 coal jobs were lost—that number would certainly be much greater today. West Virginia has been hit particularly hard with unemployment rates in double digits. Addressing the job losses, the Charleston Gazette-Mail blames the “liberal environmental policies that have accelerated coal’s decline”—which it says have left “hard working men and women” jobless.

In addition to the job losses, Obama’s policies have “helped spur the closing of dozens of coal plants across the country,” according to Politico. The November 2015 report states: “More than one in five coal-related jobs have disappeared during Obama’s presidency, and several major U.S. coal mining companies have announced this year that they would or may soon seek bankruptcy protection.”

On Monday, January 11, Arch Coal became the biggest domino to fall when it filed for bankruptcy. Arch follows Walter Energy, Alpha Natural Resources, and Patriot Coal Corp.—all of which filed for bankruptcy in 2015. James River Coal went bankrupt in 2014. The WSJ says: “Over a quarter of U.S. coal production is now in bankruptcy, trying to reorganize to cope with prices that have fallen 50% since 2011.” As a result, a “record number of mines are for sale,” and remaining workers are receiving lower wages. In hard-hit West Virginia, starting wages have been cut 50 percent in the past few years, from around $40 an hour to $20.

CNN Money states: “Since Obama took office in January 2009, shares of many coal companies have plummeted more than 90%.”

The Obama administration’s latest stab at killing coal is Friday’s announcement of a federal-lands-leasing moratorium for coal mining. Bloomberg reports that “about 40 percent of U.S. coal now comes from federal land.” The announcement came just days after Obama’s State of the Union Address pledge “to change the way we manage our oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet.” In short, the plan is to halt federal leasing while the Department of Interior completes a “Programmatic Environment Impact Statement” that the agency says it can complete in three years—though government projects are seldom completed on schedule. The years-long process will include public review and participation under the National Environmental Policy Review Act. As a result, it is expected that companies will have to pay more to mine coal on public lands.

While mining can continue under existing leases, and the pause will likely have minimal impact as interest in leasing has declined with many government lease sales only having a single bidder, it sends a clear signal regarding administrative assassination. Addressing Friday’s announcement, Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, declared: “If there were any lingering questions about whether the Obama administration is intent on decimating America’s coal industry, this should answer them.”

Bloomberg points out that the Obama administration is “facing mounting calls from conservationists to thwart new fossil fuel development as part of the ‘keep it in the ground’ movement”—which Murkowski says is a “misguided” effort that “will harm local economies and threaten future energy supplies.”

The assault on the coal industry pleases affluent progressive funders, and then taxes all Americans for the re-education aimed at buying the support of the workers who used to have well-paying  jobs—all the while hitting the pocketbook of those same Americans as coal-fueled power plant closures and expensive renewables force electricity rates to skyrocket.

 

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Finally, The U.S. Becomes A Global Energy Superpower

For years, American energy policy was dictated by expected scarcity. But that all changed when the techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing were successfully combined—allowing previously unrecoverable oil and natural gas to be extracted—unleashing the new era of American energy abundance. When the oil export ban was lifted on December 18, it represented the first big energy policy shift in decades.

Despite predictions that, given how flooded the global crude markets were, lifting the oil export ban wasn’t likely to translate into any immediate exports, the first shipments of U.S. crude oil in more than 40 years have already left our shores, heading to Europe. On New Year’s Eve, a tanker—the Theo T.—pulled out of Corpus Christi, Texas, with roughly 400,000 barrels of crude supplied by ConocoPhillips from the Eagle Ford Shale. Saturday morning, January 9, the second tanker, the Angelica Schulte, left the Houston ship channel after Enterprise Products Partners loaded it with 600,000 barrels of light crude oil.

As early as next week, the first ever tanker of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the lower 48 states could head out filled with U.S. shale gas. (LNG exports have not been restricted by law or regulation. However, a decade ago, it was predicted that the U.S. would be importing 25 percent of our natural gas. LNG import terminals were built. Now, because the U.S. shale boom displaced the need for LNG imports, those terminals are being converted to export LNG that can now flow to our friends in Europe.)

The Energy Atlantic LNG tanker is expected at Cheniere Energy’s Sabine Pass terminal in southwest Louisiana on January 12. The terminal—once called “America’s most unlikely energy project”—is one of “the largest industrial energy facilities under construction in North America.” Costing more than $20 billion over more than a decade, Sabine Pass is the first of its kind to be built in the U.S. in nearly 50 years.

The natural gas is currently being liquefied—meaning it is super-cooled and compressed to 1/600th of its volume. The super-dense liquid weighs 3.5 pounds a gallon and will be loaded onto tankers and sold to customers worldwide.

Once operational, Bloomberg reports, about 700 million cubic feet of natural gas will begin arriving each day, from all over the country. The Sabine Pass facility is “the end of America’s natural gas pipeline network.”

January’s milestone shipments of both oil and LNG are just the start. Most believe that oil will need to be over $50 a barrel for exporting to make widespread economic sense. The planned January LNG shipment is a test cargo. Commercial operations are expected later this year. Regardless, January 2016 is a tipping point—the month that the U.S. became a global energy superpower. Both can be, as RealClearEnergy’s Bill Murray says, “leveraged diplomatically with friends and foes overseas and used to dramatically improve the country’s chronic balance of payments deficit.”

U.S. oil and natural gas entering the global market changes the energy landscape, allowing us to help our allies with reliable supplies, help balance our trade deficit, and will give U.S. companies a wider playing field.

Murray points out: “By acquiescing to the ban’s lifting, congressional Democrats—and President Obama—implicitly admitted that conventional economic views on oil and gas supplies were wrong. Domestic supplies weren’t in inexorable decline.” Instead of running out of oil and natural gas, we are now an energy superpower showing the world, as energy analyst Kent Moors said, “what can be accomplished with private property and profit incentive, with a fair amount of entrepreneurial skill for good measure.”

 

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Did The GOP Congress Change Energy Policy?

Last year, when Republicans gained a decisive edge in both houses of Congress, I made predictions as to the six energy-policy changes we could expect. Here’s where American energy policy stands today.

Keystone Pipeline

As predicted, the GOP got right to work backing the Keystone pipeline. With strong bipartisan support, on February 11, Congress passed the bill approving construction. Though many Democrats crossed the aisle and voted with the Republicans, it fell a handful of votes short of making it veto-proof. As expected, two weeks later, President Obama vetoed the bill. Late night arm twisting failed to bring the needed Democrats on board for the March 4 veto-override vote.

Oil Exports

A bill to lift the decades-old oil export ban was introduced in February and gained momentum throughout the year. On September 17, the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted to send the legislation to the full House for final passage—which took place on October 9.

The White House threatened a veto.

The Senate didn’t take up the bill. Lifting the ban, however, was included in the omnibus-spending package that Obama quickly signed on December 18.

With the ban now officially overturned, the first shipment of U.S. crude will be heading overseas in a matter of days—to Switzerland.

Climate Change

Days before the U.N. conference on climate change took place in Paris, the Senate held a hearing and passed resolutions designed to let the world know that Obama did not have the support of the U.S. Senate—which would be needed for any legally binding treaty. The New York Times reported: “proponents believe their defiance will have diplomatic repercussions.”

It is believed that the Republican drumbeat prompted the European Union to back off of its insistence that any carbon goals in the final agreement need to be legally binding. The agreement that was ultimately reached in Paris is, according to the New York Times, “essentially voluntary.”

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

In the December 18 spending bill, the EPA didn’t get a budget increase while many other departments did. It is considered a “loser.” Funding levels for the EPA in 2016 are at a level lower than 2010, but on par with 2015.

Additionally, the agency has received several smack downs in 2015 from federal courts—including putting its onerous Waters of the U.S. Rule on hold. Obama’s Clean Power Plan, the focus of the Senate’s resolutions, is facing numerous lawsuits and may also be awarded a stay. This is surely an issue to watch in 2016.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA)

One of the big concerns for anyone in the West who earns a living from the land—ranching, farming, mining and mineral extraction—has been the potential listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species. While it did not get listed, and the omnibus deal blocks the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service from putting it on the Endangered Species list, the Bureau of Land Management has enacted land use plans that will likely have many of the same effects of listing under the Act. It is time for ESA reform.

Federal Lands

This final issue saw little action in 2015; but with the anti-fossil fuel movement’s aggressive plans to keep resources in the ground, especially on federal lands, this one is ripe for attention.

For 2016, Congress will need to stay on top of Obama’s rules, regulations, and executive orders aimed at burnishing his legacy on climate change. It should also rein in the EPA, reform the ESA, and work to reduce the amount of land owned by the federal government.

 

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy—which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.