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DAEMEN: U.S. Mining Best Way to Address Looming Threat of Foreign Mineral Cartel

America needs to adopt a bold strategy to ramp up mining. The aim should be to solve a major problem in the fight against climate change — a shortage of minerals vital to clean energy technologies like electric cars and transmission systems for renewable power.

Mining is the foundation of a green economy. Countries require minerals, and that means mining. The world’s growing economies and population will demand a lot more minerals like copper, nickel and lithium. The International Energy Agency says that global production of battery minerals needs to expand tenfold to meet projected critical minerals needs by 2030. Hundreds of new mines are needed, the IEA says.

But beyond our horizon of attention, trouble is brewing.  Several resource-rich countries, led by Indonesia, are considering forming a cartel to control the global supply and pricing of battery metals, similar to what OPEC does for oil.  With demand for lithium, nickel and other vital raw materials rising, the idea that some mining countries would like to take advantage of their mineral deposits and control the future market is gaining ground. The so-called lithium triangle of Chile, Argentina and Bolivia has considered forming a lithium cartel — and may yet do so. But we know from our experience with OPEC that the best way to counter cartels is to ramp up production in the United States.

But domestic mining inspires in many groups a deep aversion — and they have been able to block efforts in Congress to streamline the mine permitting process. It may be hard to believe, but it takes 15 years or more for a mining project in the U.S. to become operational. In most other mining countries, it takes less than half that time.

With global demand for raw materials soaring, we should stop pretending that we can depend on imports of minerals from other countries to meet our needs. Such dependence carries a huge risk from a potential cartel and from our heavy reliance on Russia for uranium and China for rare earths and other vital minerals.

Make no mistake, the United States has abundant mineral resources beneath the ground, but they’re out of reach.  Paradoxically, if environmentalists continue to have the upper hand and block mining, the transition to clean energy technologies will be slowed and carbon emissions from using fossil fuels will climb, which would be terrible news for the environment.

As climate change unfolds, the minerals challenge will be felt acutely by U.S. industries, especially the automobile industry. A typical electric car requires six times the mineral input of a conventional vehicle. Each EV battery has hundreds of pounds of minerals imported mainly from overseas. Auto industry analysts warn that a mineral shortfall could stop electric car production.

We dare not stick our heads in the sand and pretend we can do without mining.  Domestic production and processing of minerals is a hedge against volatility in mineral prices and protection against potential cartels fixing prices and imposing embargoes.

Now is the time for the administration and Congress to create a sound regulatory policy so that new mines in the United States can open without further delay. Only then will we be able to deal with the economic and security challenges of a carbon-affected world. The need for collective action is unmistakable.

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Despite Leaving Climate Group, Vanguard Adheres to Environmental, Social, Government (ESG) Dogma

Investment behemoth Vanguard may have decided recently to quit a net zero climate effort, but do not expect the Pennsylvania-based advisor group to walk away from all things environmental.

Economist Jerry Bowyer of Boston, Pennsylvania-based Bowyer Research says Vanguard has been quieter about the climate change political agenda than Blackrock, but Bowyer’s research shows Vanguard is “in many ways” a more consistent vote against fossil fuels.

“This political intrusion into finance violates the intention of the firm’s founder, John Bogle,” adds Bowyer. “The energy policy side may well violate Vanguard’s agreement with government regulatory officials to stop interfering with management decisions in this space.”

In short, Bowyer says Vanguard is supposed to be a money management firm, not an energy regulatory agency. The regulation of energy is what the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) Initiative involves. In fact, the very commitment that managers agree to is an acknowledgment that “there is an urgent need to accelerate the transition towards global net zero emissions” and for asset managers to help deliver the goals of the Paris Agreement. In signing on to NZAM, organizations commit to supporting the goal of net zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050, in line with global efforts to limit warming to 1.5°C (‘net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner’).

“It also commits to support investing aligned with net zero emissions by 2050 or sooner,” says the commitment, which is available on NetZeroAssetManagers.org.

Vanguard, one of the world’s biggest mutual fund managers, announced its decision to quit the Net Zero Asset Managers (NZAM) Initiative on December 7. Vanguard officials said they wanted to provide the clarity that its investors desire about the role of index funds and about how they think about material risks, including climate-related risks. Vanguard also wants to make clear that the firm speaks independently on matters of importance to its investors.

Vanguard’s announcement comes as members of the State Financial Officers Foundation and attorneys general have been holding large asset aggregators such as Blackrock and Vanguard accountable for environmental, social, and government (ESG) policies. Had it not been for these efforts, Bowyer thinks Vanguard would still be in the Net Zero group.

“It’s a victory, but a partial one,” says Bowyer. “Vanguard has shown no indication that is changing its policies one iota, and in announcing this change, it reasserted its commitment to fighting global warming.”

Vanguard’s statement says climate change and the ongoing global response will have “far-reaching economic consequences” for companies, financial markets, and investors, presenting what Vanguard considers a clear example of a material and multifaceted financial risk. Vanguard adds this change in NZAM membership status will not affect its commitment to helping investors navigate the risks that climate change can pose to their long-term returns.

“We will continue to provide investors the information and products they need to make sound investment choices, including products designed to meet net-zero objectives,” Vanguard officials said. “We will continue to interact with companies held by Vanguard funds to understand how they address material risks, including climate risk, in the interests of long-term investors, and we will continue to publicly report on our efforts with respect to climate risk, grounded in our deep commitment to our investors and their financial well-being.”

If you ask Bowyer, the only change announced here is that Vanguard will speak with an independent voice in the future. However, that says nothing about whether the independent voice will be any different from its past voice. Bowyer also doubts that Attorney General turned Governor-elect Josh Shapiro (D-Pennsylvania) will in any serious way challenge Vanguard on climate change. Like Governor Tom Wolf, Bowyer considers Shapiro a reliable left-of-center voice who represents Philadelphia regional politics and not the pro-fossil fuel agenda of the rest of the state.

Professor Burton Hollifield with the Tepper School of Business at Carnegie Mellon University can see where Vanguard is coming from with this decision. Vanguard is owned by its funds, themselves which are owned by the fund investors. Therefore, Hollifield says Vanguard has a duty to produce high, long-term returns for their owners.

“Vanguard provides low-cost products to meet long term investment goals, offering many passive index products,” says Hollifield. “Their stated reason for withdrawing from the NZAM is that they want to provide clarity on their focus on how net-zero approaches can impact index products.”

Hollifield adds that long-term index returns reflect long-term risks faced by the economy as a whole. Meanwhile, Hollifield says climate change is an economy-wide risk. So, Vanguard has strong incentives to worry about climate risk for their funds. Pulling out of NZAM does not change that. Vanguard has strong incentives to work to manage long-term climate risks.

“That other investment funds remain in NZAM means that investors who decide to embrace the net-zero goals will still have access to competing products committed to that approach,” says Hollifield. “Competition may force Vanguard to change their approach in the future if the NZAM approach is the only way to deal with climate risks.”

 

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State AGs Accuse Vanguard of Pressuring Utility Companies Over Climate

Thirteen state attorneys general are asking the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to hold a hearing about the actions of Malvern-based investment company Vanguard toward utility companies in which it has invested.

The states, whose utilities use coal and natural gas, accuse Vanguard of kowtowing to climate activists to actively manage utilities it invests in to move away from fossil fuels to renewable energy, raising utility bills for consumers in those states.

In their complaint, the attorneys general for Utah, Indiana, Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Nebraska, Ohio, South Carolina, South Dakota, and Texas allege Vanguard has gone back on its 2919 promises to FERC not to interfere with the management of these utilities. They ask that FERC hold a hearing rather than simply agreeing to approve Vanguard’s latest request for a three-year approval for an extension of its investments in utility companies.

A spokeswoman for Attorney General Josh Shapiro did not respond when asked if his office plans to join the complaint. Pennsylvania utility companies also use natural gas. And Pennsylvania produced some 7.6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas from the Marcellus Shale in 2021, second only to Texas, according to the U.S. Energy Atlas. The state is also third for coal production. It is also the second-highest exporter of energy to other states after Texas.

Vanguard has also been the subject of climate change protests.

“Vanguard, pursuant to its environmental commitments, has taken actions through its stewardship, engagement, and proxy-voting strategies to control the day-to-day operations of its portfolio utility companies in violation of the 2019 Authorization. For example, in its own publications, Vanguard warns its portfolio companies that it will support shareholder proposals that require the pursuit of climate risk mitigation targets and disclosure of greenhouse gas emissions or other climate-related metrics,” the complaint said.

“Vanguard also engages companies in carbon-intensive industries to have risk mitigation targets that are aligned with the Paris Agreement and disclosure of progress against those risk-mitigation targets,” the complaint said.

Further, the complaint said, “Vanguard’s environmental mandates impose costs on its portfolio companies, and it is highly plausible that those costs are passed on to consumers directly or indirectly by hampering access to capital or foreclosing certain revenue-generating opportunities. A holding company of Vanguard’s size and influence should not be overlooked; to do so would be an abdication of the Commission’s statutory duty to safeguard the energy markets.

“Finally, we note that in joining (climate activist groups) NZAM and Ceres, Vanguard has engaged (and promises to continue to engage) in organizations that coordinate conduct with other major financial institutions, including BlackRock and State Street, to impose net-zero requirements on publicly traded utilities. This group effort to control day-to-day operations of public utilities raises serious concerns about the continuing efficacy of the 10 percent and 20 percent ownership limits imposed by the 2019 Authorization and the Office of Energy Market Regulations’ nine-month extension order.”

“As an investor-owned asset manager, Vanguard’s role is to promote long-term value creation for investors in our funds, leaving management and policy decisions to companies and policymakers. We look forward to working through the regulatory process,” said Alyssa Thornton, a spokeswoman for Vanguard.

Previously, she told Delaware Valley Journal, “Vanguard considers climate change to be a fundamental risk to many companies and their shareholders’ long-term financial success. As an investment manager and steward of our clients’ assets, we have a responsibility to ensure investors are aware of material risks, and that portfolio companies are taking the appropriate steps to manage and mitigate those risks on behalf of their shareholders.

“As such, we continue to address climate change risk by engaging with the companies held in our funds on their climate risk oversight, mitigation, and disclosures; through thoughtful investment products that help investors manage certain climate-related risks and opportunities; and, through engagement with policymakers, regulators, and other industry participants,” she said.

When asked to comment, Douglas Pyle, co-founder of Radnor Capital Management, said it is not unusual for investment firms to cater to clients’ wishes as far as avoiding certain industries. In the past, those shunned groups tended to be alcohol, tobacco, and firearms manufacturers. Now fossil fuels are deemed unacceptable by some investors.

“We have managed a lot of ‘socially responsible’ money, but the clients came to us and said, ‘Here are the things that we find objectionable,’” said “Pyle. “So, we would do it, but we would not do it for all of our clients, whether they wanted it or not.”

Pyle noted that investors can pull their money, which the state of Florida just did, withdrawing $3 billion from the investment firm Blackrock.

Asked if Vanguard has a fiduciary duty to make money for its clients rather than focusing on climate change activism, Pyle said, “I would say yes. But they must have alternatives for regular investment funds where that’s not a priority versus putting everybody into something that has those guidelines.”

With a workforce of more than 8,000 people, Vanguard is the largest employer in Chester County.

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KING: If You Want To Get Climate Serious, Get Nuclear Serious

If you have gasped in Dallas, sweltered in London or baked in Tokyo this summer, you will likely believe that global warming is real.

You are also likely to believe that governments — at least the caring ones — are desperate to cut the amount of carbon released into the atmosphere from power plants and vehicles.

More electricity is needed to cut the greenhouse-gas emissions from cars, trucks, buses, trains and, eventually, aircraft. The government figures that U.S. electricity demand will double by 2050, even as the fuels producing it change.

There are three technologies for producing new large quantities of electricity without producing greenhouse gases: wind, solar and nuclear.

Leading global energy institutions, including the International Energy Agency, are adamant that nuclear must be part of the future energy mix. Nuclear is desirable in many ways:

—It isn’t dependent on foreign supply except for some heavy components, like the castings for large pressure vessels. If needed in newer reactors, these can be acquired from reliable allies, including South Korea and Japan. Alternatively, we could reinvigorate our large component industry.

—When it comes to the supply chain, nuclear component manufacture can be brought on shore. It doesn’t have a Chinese component. Wind is dependent on rare earths — they are a multiplier in wind turbines, increasing output up to five times. More than 90 percent of rare earths are processed in China, even if they are mined elsewhere. It will take precious decades to replicate the Chinese rare earths infrastructure. Also, China dominates the manufacture of cheap solar cells.

—Nuclear offers long-term planning: The design life of a plant can be as long as 100 years. These plants are clean, safe — and getting safer. They have a high energy density and low land use, which contrast with solar and wind.

Incredibly, the world, outside of China and Russia, seems to have lost the ability to build nuclear plants. It is as though talent and institutional knowledge have disappeared. Those under construction are running many times over their projected costs and a decade or more behind schedule. They represent a systemic industrial failure, whether it is Plant Vogtle in Georgia, Flamanville-3 in France (which gets 70 percent of its electricity from nuclear; we get 19 percent), or Olkiluoto 3 in Finland.

At the heart of these failures — complex and far-reaching — is a failure of welds and a shortage of welders.

As a first step, the United States, in conjunction with the nuclear manufacturing industry, needs to find out what it is that we have lost in expertise and how to recapture it. We built more than 100 reactors in the 1960s and 1970s. There were some delays back then, but they were nothing like the catastrophic ones of today. Particularly, examining what has gone wrong with nuclear building needs to concentrate on welding. Is this an old trade that needs updating? Can we fix some of the human error that has plagued big industrial welding, from nuclear plants to new ships, through automation and AI?

Not since the 1960s, I am told by nuclear lobbyists, has the public policy apparatus been so aligned to favor nuclear. One of these lobbyists said, “Both houses of Congress are on board, the administration is on board, the regulatory agencies are on board, and public acceptance is greater than it has been in years. But the industry is on its back.”

The issue, to my mind, is not whether we can relearn how to do what we used to do but that there is no mechanism for the utilities to buy and build nuclear plants, whether they are the new generation of small modular reactors now under development or updated, large (about 1,000 megawatts), more traditional light water reactors. No utility can take the risk in the deregulated world. It is too much to ask.

The nation needs a coherent plan whereby a new generation of nuclear power can be built quickly. It has been done in the past, and it can be done again.

I would suggest — as I have suggested over many years — that nuclear needs government safety oversight, proliferation safeguards and approval that a tranche of reactors be built on government sites, financed by the government and sold to commercial consortia to operate. These needn’t necessarily be utility companies. Wind and solar are being developed by merchant companies in many cases.

There is a national climate crisis, and a national electricity crisis is building. Utilities are having to produce more electricity while giving up coal and gas to do it. Nuclear is the strong third leg of the future electricity stool.

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SCOTUS to Congress: On Environmental Policy, Do Your Job

The U.S. Supreme Court delivered a strong message to Congress regarding regulating the nation’s environmental policy:

Do your job.

It’s a particularly important message in Pennsylvania, where the Biden administration’s expansive plans to regulate — and perhaps shut down — fossil fuel energy plants would have a significant effect on the state’s economy.

In West Virginia v Environmental Protection Agency, the Court ruled 6-3 that the Clean Air Act does not give the EPA broad authority to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants on its own.

“Capping carbon dioxide emissions at a level that will force a nationwide transition away from the use of coal to generate electricity may be a sensible ‘solution to the crisis of the day,’” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the opinion. “It is not plausible that Congress gave EPA the authority to adopt on its own such a regulatory scheme.

“The agency must point to clear congressional authorization for the power it claims,” Roberts added.

Supporters of the Obama-era policy argue that the threat of climate change outweighs the limits on government power set by the court and they raised questions as to whether an elected Congress is capable of regulating such an important issue.

“Members of Congress often don’t know enough—and know they don’t know enough—to regulate sensibly on an issue,” Justice Elena Kagan wrote in her dissent.

“The decades-long fight to protect citizens from corporate polluters is being wiped out by these MAGA extremist justices,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) “It’s all the more imperative that we soon pass meaningful legislation to fight the climate crisis.”

Court supporters noted the irony of Schumer’s call for legislation, which was the conclusion of the court majority as well.

“It was incredibly risky for the federal government to try to turn our power-generating system inside out,” says Sam Kazman with the Competitive Enterprise Institute. “Today the Supreme Court ruled that if the government is going to do so, then it must be clearly authorized by congressional laws rather than by the dictates of unelected bureaucrats.”

Myron Ebell, Director of CEI’s Center for Energy and Environment, said the court’s ruling walks back its 2007 decision in Massachusetts v EPA.

“The Massachusetts case held that the EPA could use the Clean Air Act to regulate greenhouse gas emissions,” says Ebell. “The Court has now invoked the major questions doctrine and recognized that Congress designed the Clean Air Act to regulate air pollutants and not carbon dioxide emissions from burning coal, natural gas, and oil.

“The Biden administration must now get explicit authorization from Congress if it wants to continue to enact major climate policies that will further raise energy prices,” Ebell added.

President Joe Biden has directed his legal team to work with the Department of Justice and affected agencies to review this decision and find ways that the administration can continue protecting Americans from what he calls harmful pollution that causes climate change.

“We cannot and will not ignore the danger to public health and existential threat the climate crisis poses,” said Biden in a press release Thursday. “The science confirms what we all see with our own eyes – the wildfires, droughts, extreme heat, and intense storms are endangering our lives and livelihoods.”

Former President Barack Obama also weighed in, saying no challenge poses a greater threat to our future than a changing climate.

“Every day, we’re feeling the impact of climate change, and today’s Supreme Court decision is a major step backward,” Obama tweeted.

But it was Obama and his team that pushed through a regulatory scheme, rather than passing legislation limiting greenhouse gas emissions, that led to today’s ruling.

At the state level, Republican gubernatorial candidate state Sen. Doug Mastriano is running as an unapologetic ally of the state’s energy sector. He has pledged, for example, to pull the state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) cap-and-trade scheme on his first day in office.  His opponent, Democratic nominee Josh Shapiro, has expressed doubts about RGGI but has kept his stance intentionally vague.

Environmental groups have denounced the Supreme Court’s ruling, calling this a dangerous decision that gives “coal executives and far-right politicians exactly what they asked for” by frustrating EPA’s efforts to protect communities and families.

“For years, EPA has had the clear authority and duty under the Clean Air Act to effectively reduce climate-disrupting carbon dioxide pollution from fossil fuel-burning power plants, in line with the action the public and science demands,” said Andres Restrepo, senior attorney for the Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program. “But Thursday’s decision accommodates the powerful instead of the people by seriously narrowing that authority.”

But energy sector advocates say their industry still isn’t out of the EPA woods of overregulation.

“While this decision clearly reins in EPA authority to craft carbon rules that force a remaking of the nation’s electricity mix, the agency has already signaled it’s going to use every other tool at its disposal to accelerate coal plant closures and pursue its agenda,” one industry insider told InsideSources. “If you’re concerned about grid reliability and electricity affordability, Congress needs to step up and ensure it is steering domestic energy policy, not the regulators at EPA.”

Still, some conservative groups are taking the win.

“This is a win for the climate and constitutional democracy,” says Drew Bond, president of Conservative Coalition for Climate (C3) Solutions. “Any serious person knows that innovation, not over-regulation, is the solution to reducing global greenhouse gas emissions.”

Instead of looking to regulators to impose top-down mandates, Bond says activists on all sides should ask legislators to pass laws that encourage bottom-up solutions.

“Our Climate and Freedom Agenda highlights dozens of actions Congress can take to meaningfully reduce greenhouse gas emissions through innovation and by expanding economic freedom,” says Bond about C3 Solutions. “Let’s put our focus there. American innovation won’t disappoint.”

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LOMBORG: The Fuzzy Math Behind U.N. Report on Global Disasters

A new U.N. report has revealed the disturbing news that the number of global disasters has quintupled since 1970 and will increase by 40 percent in coming decades. It finds that more people are affected by disasters than ever before, and the U.N. deputy secretary general warns humanity is “on a spiral of self-destruction.”

Astonishingly, the United Nations is misusing data, and its approach has been repeatedly shown to be wrong. Its finding makes for great headlines — but it just isn’t grounded in evidence.

When the U.N. analyzed the number of disaster events, it made a basic error — and one that I’ve called it out for making before: It basically counted all the catastrophes recorded by the most respected international disaster database, showed that they were increasing and then suggested that the planet must be doomed.

The problem is that the documentation of all types of disasters in the 1970s was far patchier than it is today, when anyone with a cellphone can immediately share news of a storm or flood from halfway around the world.

That’s why the disaster database’s own experts explicitly warn amateurs not to conclude that an increase in registered disasters equates to more disasters. Reaching such a conclusion “would be incorrect” because the increase really just shows improvements in recording.

You would think that the United Nations would know better, especially when its top bureaucrats use language that sounds like Armageddon is here.

Unsurprisingly, climate change is central to the U.N. agency’s narrative. Its report warns there is a risk of more extreme weather disasters because of global warming, so the acceleration of “climate action” is urgently needed. Somehow, the huge international organization has made the same basic fallacy that many of us do when we see more and more weather disasters aired on the TV news. Just because the world is more connected and we see more catastrophic events in our media doesn’t mean that climate change is making them more damaging.

So how do we robustly measure whether weather disasters really have become worse? The best approach is not to count the catastrophes, but to look instead at deaths. Significant losses of life have been registered pretty consistently over the past century.

This data show that climate-related events — floods, droughts, storms, fires and temperature extremes — are not actually killing more people. Deaths have dropped by a huge amount: In the 1920s, almost half a million people were killed by climate-related disasters. In 2021, it was fewer than 7,000 people. Climate-related disasters killed 99 percent fewer people than 100 years earlier.

The U.N. report does include a count of “global disaster-related mortality” — and manages to find that, contrary to the international disaster database, deaths are higher than ever before. They reach this conclusion by bizarrely including the deaths from COVID in the catastrophes. Remember, COVID killed more people just in 2020 than all the world’s other catastrophes in the past half century.

Lumping these in with deaths from hurricanes and floods inappropriately seems designed to create headlines rather than understanding, especially when the agency is using the findings to argue for an acceleration of climate action.

The truth is that deaths from climate disasters have fallen dramatically because wealthier countries are much better at protecting citizens. Research shows this phenomenon consistently across almost all catastrophes, including storms, floods, cold and heat waves.

This matters because by the end of this century there will be more people in harm’s way, and climate change will mean sea levels rise several feet.

One comprehensive study shows that at the beginning of the 21st century, around 3.4 million people experienced coastal flooding each year, causing $11 billion in annual damages. About $13 billion, or 0.05 percent, of global GDP was spent on coastal defenses.

If we do nothing and just keep coastal defenses as they are today, vast areas of the planet will be routinely inundated by 2100, with 187 million people flooded and damage worth $55 trillion annually. That’s more than 5 percent of global GDP.

But we will obviously adapt, especially because the cost is so low. That means fewer people than ever will be flooded by 2100. Even the combined cost of adaptation and climate damages will decrease to just 0.008 percent of GDP.

These facts show why it’s important that organizations like the United Nations deliver us the real picture on disasters. The U.N. Office for Disaster Risk Reduction has bad form for making unfounded claims. Instead of headline-chasing with dodgy math and frightening language, the U.N. should do better — and it should be focused on championing the importance of innovation and adaptation to save more lives.

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UPDATE: Court Stops Wolf Admin From Imposing RGGI Rule

Just one day after the GOP-controlled state legislature failed to stop Gov. Tom Wolf from pushing Pennsylvania into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a state court has stopped the regulation from taking effect, “pending further order of the court.”

Republicans were delighted.  

“The court’s action is a welcome step in the right direction,” said Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Bradford). “It’s prudent to press pause on RGGI, given the administration’s gross underestimations of how much it will inflate electricity costs for all Pennsylvanians. We need to pursue climate solutions that encourage collaboration with our energy sector, not regressive and unconstitutional taxes meant to destroy it and leave us reliant on foreign oil and gas for decades to come. I look forward to further court action on this matter and continuing our fight to protect Pennsylvania’s economic prosperity.

Before the court’s ruling, Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward (R-Westmoreland) said it was absurd for Pennsylvania to increase taxes on people and the commonwealth’s energy resources when inflation and gas prices are skyrocketing. 

“We are trying to help Pennsylvanians manage through the economic fallout from COVID-19, not to mention the effects of the current state of affairs globally,” said Ward. “Instead, Pennsylvania Democrats voted to increase Pennsylvanians electric bills by 30 percent, eliminate 22,000 homegrown jobs and increase the cost of everyday products with no significant environmental benefit.”

Rep. Tracy Pennycuick (R-Harleysville) said “radical senators” ignored warnings last week from the Pennsylvania Independent Fiscal Office (IFO) that RGGI would increase consumer electricity costs by $800 million.

“If the courts do not stop the RGGI tax, it will become the most regressive tax in Pennsylvania history,” said Pennycuick. “This is the last thing that families and seniors need who are already struggling to make ends meet with historic inflation, including household energy bills and skyrocketing gasoline prices.”

RGGI is a regional carbon cap-and-trade program among mostly-blue northeastern states: Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Virginia.

Wolf has been fighting to force Pennsylvania into the compact since 2019 when he issued an executive order directing the state’s entrance into it.

The Senate Environmental Resources and Energy Committee held a hearing last week on the IFO’s warnings about RGGI’s economic harm. Still, Democrats, including Sen. Carolyn Comitta (D-Chester), support RGGI.

“In Pennsylvania, it’s been a years’-long process with more review, comment, and study than any other initiative in memory,” said Comitta. “RGGI has more than a long history of economic success.”

Since 2008, RGGI states cut power sector emissions in half, reduced electricity prices, and outpaced the nation in economic growth, all while creating $4 billion in net economic gains and nearly 50,000 job-years of employment, Comitta asserted.

Committa said RGGI prices “account for a small portion–a sliver, really–of what makes up an electricity bill.”

“While electricity rates are already rising across the country, during the first 10 years that RGGI was in place, rates dropped nearly 6 percent in RGGI states, and in those states, RGGI energy-efficiency investments of $2.8 billion have produced nearly $13.5 billion in consumer energy savings” or a return of nearly $4.80 for every dollar invested.

“Do my colleagues who oppose RGGI have a plan, a new plan to address climate change, rising energy costs, the decline of coal-fired power plants, and impact to their workers and communities? I am not aware of one,” she said.

Comitta also cited a letter from businesses in Pennsylvania that support RGGI, including Nestle, Mars Incorporated, and British Petroleum (BP).

Sen, Katie Muth (D-Montgomery), another committee member, backs RGGI. Muth has long argued that reducing emissions will improve public health.

“Efforts to block Pennsylvania from joining RGGI only put our environment, health, and economic security at risk,” she wrote in a 2020 Op-ed.

But labor and business leaders say jobs are on the line.

Kris Anderson, of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Third District, told the committee there was a “dramatic reduction” in jobs in the electric generation sector in neighboring states that enrolled in RGGI.

“We can be assured that Pennsylvania would suffer a similar fate,” said Anderson. “The Cheswick Power Plant has announced it will cease operations by the end of this month (and) with that announcement, 50 people will lose their job, Forty-two of those workers are IBEW members.”

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is also concerned.

“Small businesses have been disproportionately impacted by the effects of COVID-19, and many are still struggling,” said Melissa Morgan, assistant state director of NFIB. “Shutdown orders, a lack of workforce, supply chain disruptions, record-high inflation, and a recovering economy have devastated a sizable segment of Pennsylvania’s small businesses.”

“The incidence of price hikes on Main Street is clearly on the rise as owners pass on rising labor and operating costs,” and RGGI would accelerate that, she said.

“Employers continue to operate with minimal staff and higher labor and material costs, all while struggling to reopen to pre-pandemic levels,” said Morgan. “Should small businesses continue to struggle and close their doors in communities across the state, Main Streets will suffer, state and local tax bases will collapse, and more workers will lose their jobs.”

Pennsylvania Manufacturers’ Association (PMA) also testified against RGGI. Carl A. Marrara, vice president of government affairs, warned RGGI would cause industries to relocate.

Marrara said it is “not a stretch” to say supporting RGGI is supporting Russian and Middle Eastern global energy leadership and Chinese steel dumping. He called for a market-based approach.

Yaw supports the litigation from Senate Republicans to “protect Pennsylvania from economic ruin.”

“The Democrats’ delusional support for RGGI will cost 22,000 jobs and ruin real lives without ever making a dent in air quality,” said Yaw. “We cannot allow this administration to squander Pennsylvania’s legacy as an energy leader while simultaneously duping 13 million residents into paying for the state’s economic demise, all under the guise of lowered emissions.”

 

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PA’s Garrity Calls Out Biden Banking Pick: She’s a Danger to Energy Jobs

Pennsylvania State Treasurer Stacy Garrity joined the growing list of Republicans calling on President Joe Biden to withdraw his nominee for a top Federal Reserve post. 

Many Republicans believe Sarah Bloom Raskin, Biden’s pick to become the Fed’s top banking regulator, is too extreme for the job. On Wednesday, a group of 48 congressional Republicans sent a letter to the White House asking Biden to pull Raskin’s nomination as vice-chair of supervision, warning her past statements indicated she would “irreparably politicize the Federal Reserve and destroy what remains of its credibility and independence.”

Two weeks ago, Garrity joined a group of state financial officers who released their own letter expressing reservations.

“We oppose Ms. Raskin’s radical banking and economic views and are deeply concerned that she would use the supervisory authority as Vice-Chair for Supervision at the Federal Reserve Bank to disrupt the private banking sector, reliable energy supplies, and the U.S. economy,” the state financial officers wrote.

Republicans charge that acting on her progressive climate change views would result in severe job losses in the petroleum, natural gas, and coal industries. Democrats say the job losses are countered by those that would be created in the green energy sector or jobs would be lost anyway due to the continuing climate crisis that they believe confronts the world.

Stacy Garrity

“The nominee is a risk to reliable energy companies and the millions of people who are employed by them here in Pennsylvania and across the country,” Garrity said. [Raskin] has claimed that the fossil fuel industry is a dying industryand actively worked against it. Meanwhile, the Energy Information Administrations preliminary data for 2020 show that energy produced from petroleum, natural gas, and coal accounted for about 79 percent of total U.S. primary energy production.

“These energy industries are critical to our nations economy, and its clear that Ms. Raskin is not the right person to serve in this position. If President Biden doesnt withdraw the nomination, the Senate should swiftly reject it,” Garrity added.

Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.) had similar objections to Raskin.

Todays hearing is not just about vetting [Biden’s nominees], its really about the Feds independence and whether or not were going to abandon a core part of our democracy,” Toomey said.

Democrats argued many of these attacks have been overblown and are politically motivated.

We have seen a coordinated effort by some to paint her as a radical… that characterization requires a suspension of common sense,” said Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

Many of the objections to Raskin stem from a New York Times piece she wrote in 2020 entitled, “Why Is the Fed Spending So Much Money on a Dying Industry?”

“The coronavirus pandemic has laid bare just how vulnerable the United States is to sudden, catastrophic shocks. Climate change poses the next big threat. Ignoring it, particularly to the benefit of fossil fuel interests, is a risk we cant afford,” she wrote. 

In the article, she lays out how she thinks the fossil fuel industries had fallen short of addressing the climate crisis and accrued impossible amounts of debt as they continued to expand, often without turning a profit. She argued continuing to fund those industries “undermines urgent efforts to counter surging carbon dioxide and methane emissions, which are bringing us closer to the catastrophe of an unliveably hot planet.”

Not all Republicans consider that line of thinking controversial.

“Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change,” said Republican former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. When retired Marine Gen. Jim Mattis took office as secretary of defense, he urged the armed forces to battle the effects of global climate change.

Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written testimony addressed to the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2017. He claimed that, “While Trump downplayed the problem, his Pentagon quietly continued to follow a ‘climate change adaptation roadmap’ to protect against catastrophic storms that put coastal bases at tremendous risk.”

The Republican criticism that addressing these concerns would have serious economic ramifications is serious. In their letter to Biden, Garrity and the other fiscal officers explained that they feared Raskin “would use the supervisory authority as vice-chair for supervision at the Federal Reserve Bank to disrupt the private banking sector, reliable energy supplies, and the U.S. economy.”

To switch to a fully green economy would be an enormous undertaking and might ultimately cost millions of jobs in the fossil fuel sectors. Still, many progressive Democrats fear that the time for politics as usual in confronting the climate issue has ended and demand action.

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PA Pans NY Ban on Natural Gas Hookups

Pennsylvanians are shaking their head at New York’s governor for supporting what would be the first statewide ban on natural gas connections for new buildings.

“The proposed ban on natural gas hook-ups for new buildings takes virtue signaling to new and even more absurd heights,” says Leo Knepper, political director of Citizens Alliance of Pennsylvania (CAP).

“It’s extremely shortsighted,” says Dan Weaver, president and executive director at Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association (PIOGA).

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D-N.Y.) views the ban as a way of helping the environment.

“To make real progress on climate change, it’s time to tackle major sources of pollution head-on, ensure greener housing is available to all New Yorkers, and pave the way toward a more sustainable future,” the governor said after her recent State of the State address. “This transformative investment in green infrastructure will cement New York’s status at the forefront of climate action and ensure equity in our transition to a cleaner, greener state.”

Hochul’s move follows New York City, which passed its own ban on gas-powered heaters, stoves, and boilers beginning in 2023. Her blueprint calls for the state to pass legislation requiring all new buildings to use zero-emissions sources of heat by 2027, which would end the use of natural gas.

Critics say that is short-sighted.

“If we look at the switch from coal to natural gas, look at the benefits that have occurred just in air quality from there,” Weaver told Delaware Valley Journal. “The fact of the matter is they want to electrify everything, but the majority of the production of electricity in the northeast comes from natural gas!”

Information from the federal government’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) confirms natural gas does generate a lot of electricity in New York state. Nuclear and hydropower also contribute.

“Natural gas fuels five of the state’s 10 largest power plants by capacity, and natural gas-fired power plants account for more than two-thirds of New York’s generating capacity,” says EIA.gov.

The state that could be providing that natural gas to New York is right next door in Pennsylvania, the second-largest natural gas-producing state in the nation. (Texas is number one.)

“If not for the advent of modern natural gas development, the United States could not claim much of the significant clean air and climate progress we have achieved,” said Marcellus Shale Coalition president David Callahan. “If New York is truly serious about addressing climate matters and ensuring around-the-clock affordable power, the state should pursue policies that preserve energy choice and encourage natural gas generation.”

Gregory Wrightstone, executive director of the CO2 Coalition, says the ban is a solution in search of a problem.

“New York’s plan to ban all new hookups of natural gas to buildings throughout the Empire State is a horribly misguided attempt to cure a non-existent crisis,” says Wrightstone. “This proposal would restrict New Yorkers’ options on heating homes and cooking meals to one imposed on them by government dictate (when) natural gas is an affordable, abundant and clean-burning fuel already used safely by millions of citizens across the state.”

Restricting citizens’ fuel choices to only heat and cook with electricity would significantly increase demands on an electric grid that Wrightstone says is already stressed by increased reliance on intermittent energy from wind and solar.

“Texas’ near-collapse of its entire electric grid last February should be a wake-up call to regulators across the country that renewable energy just cannot meet the demands of a growing economy,” says Wrightstone. “A ban on new natural gas hookups will increase costs and decrease grid reliability.”

New York is not alone in the push to ban natural gas from new construction. Deep-blue cities like Berkeley, Calif., and Seattle, Wash. have imposed similar measures. In response, 20 states have proposed or passed laws preventing municipalities from cutting willing customers, including Pennsylvania.

The Pennsylvania Senate passed such a bill, sponsored by Environmental Resources and Energy Committee chair Sen. Gene Yaw (R-Lycoming), with a vet0-proof majority.

“Banning specific fuel sources in pursuit of ‘clean energy’ makes zero sense in Philadelphia and beyond,” Yaw said in an editorial published last week. “Protecting energy choices for consumers means residents can pursue “cleaner” electricity sources if they want to or can afford to, while not punishing those who don’t have the option.”

 

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KING: The 2022 Climate Debate: Will Population Growth Dominate?

It wasn’t front and center at the climate change summit, COP26, in Glasgow, but it was whispered about informally, in the corridors, and over meals.

For politicians, it is flammable. For some religions, it is heresy. Yet it begs a hearing: the growth of the global population.

While the world struggles to decarbonize, saving it from sea level rise and the other disasters associated with climate change, there is no recognition officially anywhere that population plays a critical part.

People do things that cause climate change from burning coal to raising beef cattle. A lot of people equal a lot of pollution equals a big climate impact, obvious and incontrovertible.

In 1950, the global population was at just over 2.5 billion. This year, it is calculated at 7.9 billion. Roughly by mid-century, it is expected to increase by another 2 billion.

There is a ticking bomb, and it is us.

There was one big, failed attempt to restrict population growth: China’s one-child policy. Besides being draconian, it didn’t work well and has been abandoned.

China is awash with young men seeking nonexistent brides. While the program was in force from 1980 to 2015, girls were aborted and boys were saved. The result: A massive gender imbalance. One doubts that any country will ever, however authoritarian its rule, try that again.

There is a long history to population alarm, going back to the 18th century and Thomas Malthus, an English demographer and economist who gave birth to what is known as Malthusian theory. This states that food production won’t be able to keep up with the growth in the human population, resulting in famine and war; and the only way forward is to restrict population growth.

Malthus’s theory was very wrong in the 18th century. But it had unfortunate effects, which included a tolerance of famine in populations of European empire countries, like India. It also played a role in the Irish Great Famine of 1845-49, when some in England thought that this famine, caused by a potato blight, was the fulfillment of Malthusian theory, and inhibited efforts to help the starving Irish. Shame on England.

The idea of population outgrowing resources was reawakened in 1972 with a controversial report titled “Limits to Growth” from the Club of Rome, a global think tank.

This report led to battles over the supply of oil when the energy crisis broke the next year. The antigrowth, population-limiting side found itself in a bitter fight with the technologists who believed that technology would save the day. It did. More energy came to market, oil resources were discovered worldwide, including in the previously unexplored Southern Hemisphere.

Since that limits-to-growth debate, the world population has increased inexorably. Now, if growth is the problem, the problem needs to be examined more urgently. I think 2022 is the year that the examination will begin.

Clearly, no country will wish to go down the failed Chinese one-child policy, and anyway, only authoritarian governments could contemplate it. Free people in democratic countries don’t handle dictates well: Take, for example, the difficulty of enforcing mask-wearing in the time of the COVID pandemic in the United States, Germany, Britain, France, and elsewhere.

If we are going to talk of a leveling off world population we have to look elsewhere, away from dictates to other subtler pressures.

There is a solution, and the challenge to the world is whether we can get there fast enough.

That solution is prosperity. When people move into the middle class, they tend to have fewer children. So much so that the traditional populations are in decline in the United States, Japan, and in much of Europe — even in nominally Roman Catholic France. The data is skewed by immigration in all those countries — except Japan, where it is particularly stark. It shows population stability can happen without dictatorial social engineering.

In the United States, the not-so-secret weapon may be no more than the excessive cost of college.

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