Archive for October, 2010

Insider trading on green energy in Harry Reid’s office?

October 11, 2010

The Wall Street Journal reported today about a staffer in Harry Reid’s office who nearly doubled his $3,500 investment in a renewable energy firm in 2008. Sen. Reid helped pass legislation that benefitted the firm.

Reid’s spokesman tried to defend the staffer, Reid’s top energy policy adviser, by asserting that he had no influence over tax incentives for renewable energy firms.

Under federal securities law, of course, it is not important whether the staffer had any influence over legislation, Sen. Reid or anyone or anything else.

If it can be shown that the staffer breached a duty of confidentiality in using “inside information” as the basis for buying and selling the stock, then he may very well be guilty of the crime of insider trading.

In May 2009, the Associated Press reported,

Federal prosecutors and the FBI have been investigating possible illegal insider trading by two Securities and Exchange Commission enforcement attorneys who were in a position to receive sensitive information about agency probes of public companies.

Similarly, if the staffer had material information that the public didn’t have and he took advantage of it in the buying and selling of securities, he could have committed a serious crime — as well as anyone he may have tipped off.

Reid’s staffer has denied wrongdoing, but that should not be dispositive.

The Department of Justice, FBI and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission ought to be investigating the staffer as well as any other potential insider trading violations described in the WSJ article.

At the very least, the staffer should be afforded the same opportunity as Martha Stewart to chat with federal investigators — that worked out so well for her.

Don’t expect this to happen, however, as Sen. Reid and other members of Congress will no doubt quietly work to quash any investigation.

Obama kills Maryland nuke power project

October 11, 2010

President Obama is so concerned about greenhouse gas emissions that he’s essentially killed the Calvert Cliffs (Maryland) nuke power project.

Oh sure, Constellation Energy technically pulled the plug on its own project, but only after the Obama administration demanded $880 million in exchange for a $7.5 billion loan guarantee.

That the Obama administration would allow a mere $880 million to come between it and its supposed goal of reducing greenhouse gas emissions is absurd. The administration has blown billions of dollars on a variety of allegedly green stimulus projects that have no prospects of accomplishing anything meaningful.

President Obama is doing what the greens want (i.e., killing off nuclear power) and he is doing it in a way that provides political cover (i.e., making Constellation the bad guy).

California, where the graft is greener

October 8, 2010

by Steve Milloy
GreenHellBlog, October 8, 2010.

The banana-fication of California is reaching critical mass.

The Antelope Valley Union High School District has entered into public-private partnership (taxpayer beware!) with private firm PsomasFMG to build a 9.6 megawatt photovoltaic system, according to a report in Climatewire. And what a deal it is.

The school system, which expects to save $40 million over the life of the panels (no word of how long “life” is), will not have to put any money down, instead signing a 20-year power purchase agreement with PsomasFMG for about 80 percent of its power needs. Southern California Edison will generously provide the other 20 percent at a reduced rate. A “bonus” feature of the deal is that PSomas will donate $20,000 to train a teacher to design a special algebra curriculum (6th grade to high school) to train students to work in the solar industry. Solar algebra? Are you kidding me?

But while the school district is “saving” millions in electricity bills (who knows how the “savings” were actually calculated), federal and state taxpayers will be paying for this scam, including a 22-cents-per-kilowatt-hour subsidy from the state-run California Solar Initiative. While it apparently is illegal for school districts to get federal funding for such projects directly, the project will evade the law by using PsomasFMG as the subsidy recipient. Try a scheme like that at home with, say, federal tax or election laws and see in which federal prison you land!

And many Californians appear to approve of this sort of activity.

A new Reuters/Ipsos poll claims that Proposition 23, a ballot initiative to roll back California’s global warming law until unemployment recedes, is losing 49%-37%. That any Californian who could vote himself out of a paper bag would oppose Proposition 23 is incredible — the state has a budget deficit of $19 billion and and unemployment rate of 12 percent. The state needs to create economic growth and revenue producing jobs as opposed to innovative ways to milk a shrinking tax base.

Perhaps, we can hope, the poll is just another mainstream media ploy to discourage voters from turning out to save California from the green grifters.

In any event, the people behind the Antelope Valley school district scheme should be investigated — not cemented in place by the defeat of Proposition 23.

Obama’s Sunshine Scam

October 8, 2010

By Steven Milloy
Human Events, October 8, 2010

It’s hard to sufficiently mock President Obama’s decision to install solar panels on the White House. But I’ll try.

The cost of the panels at this point is unknown. But the White House has assured the public that the installation job will be offered through a competitive bidding process. Given that Jimmy Carter spent about $30,000 in the 1970s installing solar panels on the White House (removed in 1986 by President Reagan), you can bank on President Obama’s folly blowing that price tag away, especially when you consider all the federal employee staff time, and security and public relations efforts that will go into the project.

Since the annual savings of the system is estimated to be only $2,300, you could also safely bet that the system will never actually pay for itself—no matter how many decades (centuries?) the system is used.

The system won’t make the White House energy independent since nighttime, clouds and rain will all force the building to remain hooked up to its existing power sources and back-ups.

Finally, the system will offer no environmental benefits. Whether or not you believe that manmade greenhouse gas emissions are changing global climate for the worse, whatever few tons of carbon dioxide emissions that might possibly be avoided through White House (or anyone else’s) use of solar panels will scarcely offset the new coal-fired power plant that China erects every other week.

The panel installation can be, then, little more than a too-little-too-late exercise in public relations to salvage something legislatively for President Obama’s green base.

While even President Obama has given up on a cap-and-trade bill coming out of this Congress, he no doubt would like to prod Congress into passing a so-called national renewable electricity standard (RES) in the upcoming lame duck session of Congress. An RES would require that a certain percentage of electricity generation come from solar, wind biomass and other supposedly renewable sources. Conveniently, Senators Jeff Bingaman (D.-N.M.) and the retiring Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.) have just introduced such a bill (S. 3813).

Although the Bingaman-Brownback bill is little more than cap-and-trade in renewable drag, it has attracted some Republican support in the Senate from Susan Collins (Maine), Jon Ensign (Nev.) and Chuck Grassley (Iowa). But Democratic skeptics like Mary Landrieu (La.), Blanche Lincoln (Ark.) and Ben Nelson (Neb.) have offset these Republican votes. Sen. Dick Durbin has also rained on the Bingaman-Brownback RES parade, telling Congressional Quarterly, “It’s not an easy and quick bill. There are many choices, and most of them are controversial. To think we can do them quickly in a lame duck is a long shot.”

The President’s desperate green supporters insist the White House project is not completely symbolic. The CEO of solar panel maker Sungevity told Climatewire that, “This is not about Carter and another President doing solar; it’s about the fact that solar is able to save customers money.” Just who those customers are and how much money they’re actually saving, wasn’t disclosed, however.

The Center for American Progress’ Richard Caperton told Climatewire that if the President used the solar panel announcement “appropriately,” he could “show that the [solar] industry leads to jobs.” But of course the vast majority of solar manufacturing jobs are in China, where renewable energy workers earn about 1/10 of American workers.

DuPont is expanding its facility in Circleville, Ohio, to manufacture solar energy materials, accepting $56 million in federal stimulus and state aid for the $175 million project. What does the taxpayer get for all that money? Seventy new jobs created, 444 existing jobs retained and 230 construction jobs. Add all the jobs up and divide and you get a per job cost of $235,000, $76,000 of which comes from taxpayers.

Taxpayers are on the hook for about $114,000 for each stimulus-funded solar panel job at projects in Longmont, Colo., and Tipton, Ind. Then there is the $592,000-per-solar-job cost at the Emmet J. Bean Federal Center in Indianapolis, Ind.

Pardon me, but since the purpose of all this is to force consumers to spend more money buying high-priced energy (but only when the sun shines), as a taxpayer, I vote for unemployment.

Mr. Milloy is the founder and publisher of JunkScience.com. His columns and op-ed pieces have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Financial Times, and Los Angeles Times. He is the author of “Green Hell,” a new book from Regnery Publishing.

LOL of the day: EWG claims EPA panel nominee is biased

October 7, 2010

October 8, 2010

Mr. Edward Hanlon
Designated Federal Official
Science Advisory Board
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

1200 Pennsylvania Ave., N.W., Mail Code 1400R

Washington, D.C. 20460-4164

Dear Mr. Hanlon,

This letter responds to the comments of the Environmental Working Group (EWG) concerning the nomination of Dr. Michael Economides to serve on the EPA Science Advisory Board (SAB) Panel for the Review of the Hydraulic Fracturing Study Plan.

The EWG objects to the nomination of Dr. Economides because, by authoring an op-ed that was published in the Syracuse Post-Standard on September 13, 2010, “Mr. Economides appears to be biased in favor of a predetermined outcome to EPA’s study…”

If such a standard — i.e., publicly expressing an opinion relating to an area of one’s expertise — is grounds for disqualification, then the SAB will need to disqualify many of its current members.

For example, consider the following examples of current SAB members with well-known opinions and biases:

  • Gina Solomon, a member of the SAB Drinking Water Committee is an employee of the Natural Resources Defense Council, an environmental activist group. Ms. Solomon, herself a self-acknowledged activist, has a long history of making alarmist statements to the media on a variety of environmental topics — too many to do justice in this short letter. But one may get a flavor of her various biases from her blog (http://switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/gsolomon/).
  • Arnold Schecter, a member of the SAB Dioxin Review Panel, has many times expressed his alarmist opinions regarding dioxin. Mr. Schecter’s Facebook page, not surprisingly, reveals that he is a fan of the Environmental Working Group — which perhaps is why EWG hasn’t requested to have Mr. Schecter disqualified from serving on the Dioxin Review Panel.
  • Bruce Lanphear, a member of the SAB Lead Review Panel, has often expressed alarmist opinions about exposure to lead, including that “there is no safe exposure to lead.” Mr. Lanphear has also called for a ban on commercial uses of lead.

There is no question that many other members of the SAB and its ad hoc committees and panels could be exposed for the apparent wrong of expressing an opinion.

If Dr. Economides is to be disqualified for holding opinions in his field of expertise, is the EPA prepared to similarly disqualify the above-mentioned individuals as well as all other SAB participants who can be shown to have publicly expressed their opinions?

Sincerely,

/s/

Steve Milloy
Publisher, JunkScience.com

cc:
Lisa Jackson, Administrator
Angela Nugent, DFO SAB

Another sicko ad from the greens

October 6, 2010

Last week’s exploding kids video was not a one-of-a-kind twisted green ad. Below is an ad from ACT-Responsible:

Time for a name change for Act-Responsible.

If Ken Cuccinelli is on a witch hunt then…

October 6, 2010

… Michael Mann is a witch.

The Washington Post today editorialized that the Virginia attorney general is on a witch hunt. [Click for Cuccinelli’s new investigative demand to the University of Virginia.] But even the Post is not too thrillled with Mann’s work, labeling it “not unacceptably poor.” At least now we’re all only debating how “poor” Mann’s hockey stick is.

The Post tries to exonerate Mann by claiming that he was cleared by the National Academy of Sciences and his employer, Penn State. Neither claim is true.

First, while the post refers to the prestigious National Academy of Sciences, it was actually a panel of the non-prestigious, for-hire National Research Council that actually reviewed Mann’s work. Below is the NRC’s conclusion about the hockey stick:

In response to a request from Congress, this report assesses the state of scientific efforts to reconstruct surface temperature records for the Earth over approximately the last 2,000 years and the implications of these efforts for our understanding of global climate change. Because widespread, reliable temperature records are only available for the last 150 years or so, scientists estimate temperatures in the more distant past by analyzing “proxy evidence,” which includes tree rings, corals, ocean and lake sediments, cave deposits, ice cores, boreholes, and glaciers. Starting in the late 1990s, scientists began using
sophisticated methods to combine proxy evidence from many different locations in an effort to estimate surface temperature changes during the last few hundred to few thousand years. This report concludes that large-scale surface temperature reconstructions are important tools in our understanding of global climate change that allows us to say, with a high level of confidence, that global mean surface temperature
was higher during the last few decades of the 20th century than during any comparable period during the preceding four centuries. Less confidence can be placed in large-scale surface temperature reconstructions for the period from A.D. 900 to 1600, although available proxy evidence indicates that temperatures at many, but not all, individual locations were higher during the past 25 years than during any period of comparable length since A.D. 900. Very little confidence can be assigned to statements concerning the hemispheric mean or global mean surface temperature prior to about A.D. 900, primarily because of the scarcity of precisely dated proxy evidence. [Emphasis added]

No part of that conclusion, of course, exonerates Mann or his hockey stick. Where in that conclusion, for example, does it say that the hockey stick appropriately deleted the Medieval Optimum or the Little Ice Age? Where in that conclusion does it say that Mann appropriately grafted late-20th century thermometer data onto the tree ring data (while deleting tree ring data not favorable to his case for warming) to give the impression of dramatic, manmade warming during the 20th century? For more on Mann and his hockey stick, check out JunkScience.com’s “Michael Mann: Defamed or defined by ‘Hide the decline’?

As to Penn State’s “investigation” into Mann’s hijinks, click here to read about that whitewash.

By labeling Cuccinelli’s request for data from a state university a “witch hunt,” the Post is trying to liken the Virginia AG to Sen. Joe McCarthy. In that case, I’m all for such witch hunts, because Sen. McCarthy was correct. The U.S. Government was chock full of Soviet agents, communists, fellow travelers and other security risks during the mid-20th century. These “witches” did real damage to the U.S. and other nations around the world. Similarly, Mann and his ilk have done real damage to science and our educational system, while helping to advance the misanthropic “progressive” (read Marxist-socialist/neo-communist) political agenda.

The Red Menace is back — although it never really went away in the first place. We should all hope that Cuccinelli has the same fortitude, persistence and resilience as McCarthy.

[Note: Readers interested in Joe McCarthy and the supposed communist “witch hunts” should read M. Stanton Evans’ shocker “Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America’s Enemies.” What you’ll learn is that “McCarthyism” isn’t what Joe McCarthy did to others; it;’s what the communists and their enablers did to him. Ann Coulter called Evans’ book “The greatest book since the Bible.” At this point in our nation’s history, though, I disagree. “Blacklisted by History” is the greatest book ever.]

Disingenuous EPA statement of the day

October 6, 2010

In an interview with Politico.com about her damn-the-critics approach to greenhouse gas (GHG) regulation, EPA administrator Lisa Jackson said,

“The Clean Air Act is a tool. It’s not the optimal tool. But it can be used. And, in fact, I’m legally obligated now to use it. And so we’ve laid a lot of groundwork on that and we’ll continue.” [Emphasis added]

But EPA is not, in fact, legally obligated to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act.

In its March 2007 decision Massachusetts v. EPA, the Supreme Court ruled only that the EPA may — not that it had to — regulate GHGs. And the Bush administration subsequently declined to regulate GHGs.

It wasn’t until December 2009 that the Obama EPA got around to declaring greenhouse gases to be a threat to the public welfare (the so-called “endangerment” finding), an optional pronouncement that enabled the EPA to move toward regulating greenhouse gases.

But just as the EPA opted to make the endangerment finding, it could opt to reverse it, thereby relieving the agency of any obligation to regulate GHGs under the Clean Air Act.

Lisa Jackson knows full well that the EPA does not have to regulate GHGs, yet she plays to the media like her hands are tied to following an economically-suicidal and environmentally-futile course.

Don’t cap, subsidize: Wind industry needs to become cost competitive

October 4, 2010

By Steve Milloy
The Gazette (Cedar Rapids, IA), October 3, 2010

It’s terrific that Sen. Chuck Grassley wants to help out Iowa’s wind industry, but does he have to sell out the rest of the state in the process?

Last week, Sen. Grassley co-sponsored a bill (S.3813) to establish a national renewable electricity standard (RES), legislation that Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) has indicated he would try to make the consolation prize in this Congress’ final lame duck-clash over global warming regulation.

Despite his co-sponsorship, Sen. Grassley is rightly wary of Sen. Reid’s gambit and told the media that unless more than a handful of Republicans also sign on to the bill, “I’m not going to be a part of one or two Republicans, get 60 votes, so they can have a partisan victory.”

What is RES and why should Sen. Grassley not go down the RES road at all?

An RES would require that electric utilities generate a set percentage of their power from so-called “renewable” power sources, like solar and wind, by a certain date. The disastrous-for-House-Democrats Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill passed in June 2009, for example, would require that utilities generate 20 percent of their power from renewables by the year 2020. S. 3813 would reduce the Waxman-Markey standard to 15 percent.

But even a 15 percent RES would be quite the monumental challenge given that solar and wind power provide less than 2 percent of current electricity generation and require massive subsidies to do so. According to the Department of Energy, solar and wind are each subsidized at a rate 55 times that of coal, 97 times that of natural gas and 15 times that of nuclear power.

Solar panels and windmills aside, it’s only the taxpayer wallet that makes these forms of energy “renewable.”

But even cost is not the main reason for rejecting the arbitrary targets and deadlines of a national RES.

Imagine a utility that generates 100 percent of the electricity it sells by burning coal or natural gas. Impose the S. 3813 RES standard on that utility and, all of a sudden, only a maximum of 85 percent of its electricity can be generated by fossil fuels. In other words, the utility’s use of fossil fuels has been capped — the result would be skyrocketing energy prices.

Since the passage of the Waxman-Markey bill, Americans have been up in arms against cap-and-trade. As Sen. Grassley recently observed “If we pass cap and trade we’d export all of our jobs, manufacturing jobs to China.”

But the same reasons for opposing cap-and-trade can and ought to be applied to RES, which ought to be labeled as calling cap-and-subsidize.

Under cap-and-trade, electric utilities would be compensated for higher generation costs by charging consumers more for electricity and by selling billions of dollars of carbon credits, which they received for free courtesy of taxpayers. Under RES, electric utilities would be similarly compensated for higher generation costs, courtesy of over-charged consumers and untold billions in taxpayer subsidies.

So the difference between RES and cap-and-trade is merely a change in form, not a change in substance of an economy-killing consumer/taxpayer rip-off.

None of this is to dissuade Sen. Grassley from trying to help Iowa’s wind industry, which is the second largest in the U.S. – but that path forward is much different than a job- and economy-killing cap on fossil fuel use.

The first step forward for wind entrepreneurs is to push for tax and regulatory policies that will restart economic growth. A growing economy requires more energy, thus enlarging the opportunities for renewable technologies. Next consumers who value renewable electricity should be allowed — not forced — to purchase it at whatever price the market will bear.

The renewables industry should also be encouraged to look for niches where its technologies are competitive with conventional energy technologies. Finally, like all other business enterprises, the renewable energy businesses should look for efficiencies that make its products more cost competitive.

Many in the renewable energy sector have gotten lazy and have decided that hiring lobbyists is easier than innovating and competing. Sen. Grassley should work to help the latter and to discourage the former.

Steve Milloy publishes JunkScience.com and is the author of “Green Hell: How Environmentalists Plan to Control Your Life and What You Can Do to Stop Them” (Regnery 2009).

Sony, Kyocera bail out of violent climate video outfit

October 4, 2010

Sony and Kyocera Mita are no longer listed as sponsors of the violence-advocating 10:10 climate group. (h/t Paul Chesser)

Click here to see the letter we sent the companies last Friday.

In addition to Sony and Kyocera leaving 10:10, Caterpillar, ConocoPhillips, Deere & Co., Xerox and Marsh & McClennan have abandoned the U.S. Climate Action Partnership (USCAP).

Is corporate support for the green agenda melting faster than the Arctic ice cap?