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.

The NRA Just Thanked Obama For Something He Recently Did — And It Wasn’t Even Joking

Barack Obama has been sarcastically credited as an unintentionally effective gun salesman, as firearms purchases have spiked in response to his anti-gun rhetoric. His consistent criticism of the National Rifle Association has also accompanied notable spikes in the organization’s membership numbers.

While pro-gun activists have given Obama some tongue-in-cheek gratitude for these increases, the NRA recently found something for which it feels the administration deserves legitimate credit. In a recent statement, the lobbying group thanked Obama for signing into law the National Defense Authorization Act, complete with “several NRA-backed provisions.”

Among them, the press release revealed, are “expanding gun rights on stateside military bases; prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency … from banning traditional ammunition; and saving taxpayer dollars by allowing gun collectors to buy vintage military surplus pistols.”

NRA Institute for Legislative Action Executive Director Chris W. Cox expounded on one provision, made especially relevant after four Marines were killed in an attack on two military recruitment stations in Tennessee this past summer.

“The brave men and women in our Armed Forces should not be left defenseless against terrorists on American soil,” he said. “Local commanders now have the authority to allow service men and women to be armed while on base. Members of the military should have the same ability to defend themselves as every other law-abiding citizen.”

Cox went on to explain the relevance of the NDAA’s EPA restriction, noting that it “ensures that our military, hunters and sportsmen will have access to traditional ammunition at a reasonable cost.”

Without the provision, the NRA explained, “anti-hunting groups” pressuring the EPA to ban lead ammunition would likely pursue new avenues in achieving their goal.

As for opening up vintage military firearms for public sale, Cox celebrated the measure as a victory on two fronts.

“The NDAA puts an end to the wasteful government practice of warehousing firearms,” he said. “It’s a common sense measure that saves taxpayers money and allows gun collectors to add a sought after [sic] vintage sidearm to their collection.”

626 Democrat Politicians Just Rose Up Against Obama And Sent Him A Demand He Didn’t Want To See

Over 600 Democrat politicians from 32 states have joined together to oppose the centerpiece of Pres. Obama’s climate change agenda, the Clean Power Plan.

“As Democrats committed to a prosperous America and a healthy environment, we believe the United States has a unique opportunity to lead the world in addressing the global climate challenge, and yet do so, as we must, without unduly burdening the American economy or the American people,” the Democratic coalition called CoalBlue said in a letter sent Tuesday to Obama.

“The letter was signed by 626 state and local officials from nearly three dozen states, including 177 state legislators, 278 local elected officials and 148 Democratic Party officials,” the Washington Examiner reports

These leaders believe the Environmental Protection Agency’s new rules regarding carbon emissions will cause great harm to the economy:

Unfortunately, the EPA’s recently published rules for new and existing electric generating units severely miss the mark in many important regards. Taken together, they endanger the continued development of critical carbon-mitigating technologies necessary to achieve sustainability, threaten the reliability of the U.S. power grid, and place significant economic burdens on the American economy and the American people, in the form of higher energy costs and a potentially less reliable electric grid, without achieving any meaningful reductions in global CO2 emissions.

“The EPA, while well intentioned, has lost sight of the importance of preserving affordable and reliable energy in its pursuit of clean energy,” the Democrat leaders add.

As reported by Western Journalism, the EPA’s Clean Power Plan calls for a 30 percent reduction in CO2 emissions by the nation’s power industry by 2030.

The energy sources that will be impacted the most by the new regulations are coal and natural gas. Currently, the United States derives 39 percent of its energy from coal, 27 percent from natural gas, 19 percent from nuclear, 6 percent from hydroelectric, and 7 percent from other renewables (mostly wind power).

The president has stated that his plans for the energy sector will necessarily cause utility rates to “skyrocket and result in the closure of coal-fired power plants.

The Heritage Foundation released a study last fall that found the EPA regulations the Obama administration has announced in order to achieve its climate change goals would reduce the United States’ Gross Domestic Product by $2.5 trillion by 2030. Further, employment levels would “track nearly 300,000 jobs below the no-carbon-regulation baseline in an average year, with some years seeing an employment deficit of more than 1 million jobs.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce found that a typical U.S. household could lose about $3,400 in disposable income per year, with a combined loss for all households of $586 billion by 2030, due to Obama’s new EPA climate change regulations.

The report by the Institute for Energy Research concludes that the “EPA’s regulations impose huge costs for small benefits. The agency’s ozone rule could be the single costliest regulation in U.S. history…Meanwhile, EPA’s CO2 rule will impose double-digit electricity rate hikes for residents of 43 states, but limit global warming by just 0.02 degrees Celsius. The solution is for EPA to withdraw its proposed ozone and CO2 rules.”

The Senate voted last week for two resolutions (both 52-48) blocking the implementation of Obama’s Clean Power Plan (CPP), with Democrats Joe Machin (W.Va.) and Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) siding with Republicans. The House will likely take up the resolutions next week, while the president travels to Paris to take part in the U.N. Conference on Climate Change. The White House has promised Obama will veto the congressional resolutions.

Twenty-four states have joined together to sue the Obama’s EPA to block implementation of a new CPP rule regarding CO2 emissions.

Liberals Are Endangering Our Citrus Industry

Florida’s citrus harvest has plummeted 60 percent from ten years ago, because of citrus greening disease, a bacterial infection that causes trees to produce stunted fruit and eventually die. The disease has also been found in one Los Angeles area orchard, potentially putting California’s citrus groves at risk. Billions of dollars and thousands of jobs are at stake.

Introduced and spread by the flying aphid-like Asian citrus psyllid, citrus greening is also called HLB, from the Mandarin word for “yellow dragon disease.” It can quickly infest entire orchards, and thus far there is no cure. Infected trees must simply be destroyed.

Fortunately, a new pesticide called sulfoxaflor can prevent infections by killing psyllids. It is the only product other than neonicotinoid insecticides that protects valuable citrus trees against HLB. (Although technically in a different class, sulfoxaflor is similar to neonics.)

Unfortunately, a three-judge panel from San Francisco’s Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals recently banned the chemical’s use. This is the most liberal, most frequently overturned court in the United States. But its decision has forced the Environmental Protection Agency to cancel its approval of sufloxaflor’s registration, and ban the chemical’s sale and distribution in the United States.

Both the California and Florida citrus industries need this product if oranges are going to be kept off the endangered list. Can growers and state officials secure commonsense legal decisions before it’s too late?

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is extremely cautious about insecticides. Yet it approved sulfoxaflor, after discussing it with Canadian and Australian regulatory agencies and reviewing more than 400 studies, reams of data and many analyses of field tests examining effects on honeybees.

Not good enough, said the Ninth Circuit. Because “bees have been dying at alarming rates,” the judges said, they felt compelled to substitute their judgment for the EPA’s – and revoke sulfoxaflor’s approval.

In the end, their chief objection came down to three measurements of pesticide residue in nectar and pollen – out of 132 measurements taken. Because this two percent of results barely exceeded the EPA’s extremely conservative “level of concern,” and even though the detected residue amounted to only a few parts per billion (equivalent to a few seconds out of 32 years), the judges pulled the pesticide’s approval and told the EPA to do more homework.

In reality, it is the judges who need to do more homework. Their decision failed to recognize several critical facts.

First, residue detection does not equal harm. Neonicotinoids – the insecticides that the court compared to sulfoxaflor – have not impacted honeybee populations. Real-world experience and extensive field studies demonstrate that bees thrive throughout millions of acres of neonic-treated canola grown in Western Canada. These pesticides are also widely used in Australia, where the bee industry is so healthy that it exports honeybee queens worldwide.

Second, bee populations are actually rising. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that America’s colony numbers have risen slightly, from 2.6 million in 2000 to over 2.7 million in 2014. They’re currently at a 20-year high in the United States, the Washington Post reports, and up 80% worldwide since 1961.

The number of hives in Canada has also increased, even as neonic use has grown. In Ontario, hive numbers rose from 84,000 in 1995 to 97,500 in 2013. Relatively high losses in Ontario over the frigid 2014/15 winter may reflect the fact that the province has a greater proportion of hobbyist beekeepers.

They try hard to maintain their hives, commercial keeper Lee Townsend observed. But “they’re not as current as commercial beekeepers,” who are generally more up to speed on how to protect hives. Bees are “how we make our money. This is how we support our families. There’s a big difference,” he says.

Third, media reports on wintertime bee losses may have made the judges think bees are in trouble. But beekeepers lose a certain percentage of their hives every year, and view losses around 19 percent as acceptable.

When losses are higher, such as 23 percent last winter, they can cause economic setbacks for some beekeepers. But most can quickly rebuild their hives in the springtime – a detail that many news stories leave out.

Many journalists also fail to recognize that worker bees live for only six weeks in the summer. The Ninth Circuit seems to have made the same errors, ignored experts and evidence, and listened mostly to anti-chemical activists who blame neonics for seasonal bee loss fluctuations.

Fourth, it appears that significant colony losses in recent years were caused primarily by aptly named Varroa destructor mites that carry multiple bee viruses and diseases. Other serious threats to beehives have included parasitic phorid flies, intestinal fungi, the tobacco ringspot virus and abnormally cold weather in some area.

Thankfully, beekeepers are managing these challenges better, despite how difficult it is to treat bees for parasites – basically killing bugs on bugs. While trying to address hive health problems, beekeepers have sometimes accidentally killed off entire hives through overuse or off-label use of pesticides.

Fifth, while some still have problems maintaining the health of their hives, experienced, attentive beekeepers are finding their profession is “more profitable than ever,” says independent researcher and beekeeper Randy Oliver. Bees are highly sought for pollination services, and prices are high.

Meanwhile, however, U.S. citrus growers face devastation.

Sulfoxaflor offers them a chance to survive. Its safety, effectiveness and unique insect-control mechanism make it especially valuable. Even the Ninth Circuit judges acknowledged this.

As entomologist Michael Rogers, director of the University of Florida’s Citrus Research and Education Center, recently told the Lakeland Ledger: If they don’t have sulfoxaflor, “the alternatives growers would use would be more toxic” to bees that pollinate so many crops.

“Neonic crop protection is currently the only thing we have that can ensure the citrus industry survives citrus greening long enough to be rescued by genetic engineering,” Rogers adds. Ironically, many of the groups battling neonics also oppose biotechnology.

The White House’s recent National Pollinator Health Strategy emphasized the need to “balance the unintended consequences of chemical exposure with the need for pest control.” The Ninth Circuit ignored that guidance and let fear and misinformation triumph over facts.

California and Florida growers and agricultural agencies should pursue legal remedies that regain their sulfoxaflor option, before psyllids and HLB destroy the nutritious citrus fruits we love. Thankfully, the Ninth Circuit just granted the EPA’s request for a panel rehearing on its decision to ban the chemical.

Growers and other affected parties should at least file “friends of the court” briefs, to ensure that the judges are aware of all the relevant facts before it renders a new decision.

Paul Driessen is senior policy analyst for the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow (www.CFACT.org) and author of Eco-Imperialism: Green power – Black death.

Ethanol Loses Its Few Friends

Early in his campaign, now top-tier Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson supported ethanol—a position for which I called him out. It has long been thought that to win in Iowa, a candidate must support ethanol.

However, in a major policy reversal, during the CNBC GOP debate, Carson announced that he no longer supports subsidies for any industry, including U.S. ethanol producers: “I have studied that issue in great detail and what I’ve concluded, the best policy is to get rid of all government subsidies and get the government out of our lives and let people rise and fall based on how good they are.”

The ethanol industry responded, saying it receives no government subsidies. But it neglected to mention a very important fact. Instead of subsidies, ethanol producers get something better: a mandate that orders refiners to blend ethanol into motor fuels and which forces consumers to buy their product. A federally guaranteed market beats a subsidy every time.

The ethanol industry also benefits indirectly from agriculture programs that support farmers who grow corn for ethanol. And recently, the Obama Administration announced the U.S. Department of Agriculture is offering $100 million in grants to subsidize the installation of blender pumps at gas stations all over the country.

In attempting to push more ethanol into the motor fuel market, the Environmental Protection Agency admits it plans to “drive growth in renewable fuels by providing appropriate incentives.”

Carson, and a majority of Republicans and many Democrats, knows the ethanol mandate is a program that has gone horribly wrong. Enacted by a well-meaning Congress, in a different energy era, it is part of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), which requires refiners to add biofuels to gasoline and diesel.

Ethanol-blended fuel provides fewer miles per gallon because ethanol contains only two-thirds as much energy as gasoline, forcing motorists to fill up more often.

The mandate puts at risk millions of vehicles owned and operated by private citizens and fleets. Ethanol is corrosive. In tests, it has been proven to eat engine components, including seals and gaskets, causing expensive repairs.

Likewise, marine engine makers also caution boat owners to avoid fuels with high percentages of ethanol. During winter storage, they suggest pouring a fuel stabilizer into built-in gas tanks to avoid problems. A survey of boat owners has shown ethanol-related repairs cost an average of about $1,000.

These are just some of the costs that impact consumers who buy fuel. Yet the RFS continues to stumble along because Congress has not mustered the will to repeal it.

By November 30, the Obama administration must finalize the amount of biofuels to be blended into motor fuels in the next couple of years. A pitched battle is developing on Capitol Hill. On one side are those who want an even larger market share for ethanol. On the other side are those who see the program for what it is—a massive payout to one allegedly “green” industry.

The latter group includes more than 180 Washington lawmakers who have sent a letter to the administration asking it to “limit the economic and consumer harm this program has already caused.”

Wisely, Carson has figured out that government meddling in the marketplace is a bad idea. Contrary to conventional wisdom, his rejection of special treatment for ethanol is not hurting his campaign. Polls conducted before and after the Oct. 28 debate, when he announced his revised view on ethanol, show Carson continuing to rise in popularity nationally.

Congress could learn from Carson’s positive poll numbers by once and for all ending the ethanol subsidies, er, mandates, without fearing political reprisal.

 

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.