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LOMBORG: Hypocrisy Abounds at Climate Summit

Every year, global climate summits feature a parade of hypocrisy as the world’s elite arrive on private jets to lecture humanity on cutting carbon emissions. The current U.N. climate summit in Egypt offers more breathtaking hypocrisy than usual because the world’s rich are zealously lecturing poor countries about the dangers of fossil fuels — after devouring massive amounts of new gas, coal and oil.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine pushed up energy prices, wealthy countries have been scouring the world for new energy sources. The United Kingdom vehemently denounced fossil fuels at the Glasgow climate summit just last year but now plans to keep coal-fired plants available this winter instead of shutting almost all of them as previously planned. 

Thermal coal imports by the European Union from Australia, South Africa and Indonesia increased more than 11-fold. Meanwhile, a new trans-Saharan gas pipeline will allow Europe to tap directly into gas from Niger, Algeria and Nigeria; Germany is reopening shuttered coal power plants; and Italy is planning to import 40 percent more gas from northern Africa. And the United States is going cap-in-hand to Saudi Arabia to grovel for more oil production.

At the climate summit in Egypt, the leaders from these countries will somehow declare with straight faces that poor countries must avoid fossil fuel exploitation for fear of worsening climate change. These rich countries will encourage the world’s poorest to focus instead on green energy alternatives like off-grid solar and wind energy. 

They’re already making the case. In a speech widely interpreted as being about Africa, the U.N. secretary-general, Antonio Guterres, said it would be “delusional” for countries to invest more in gas and oil exploration.

The hypocrisy is simply breathtaking. Every rich country today became wealthy thanks to the exploitation of fossil fuels. The world’s major development organizations — at the behest of wealthy countries — refuse to fund fossil fuel exploitation that poor countries could use to lift themselves out of poverty. Moreover, the elite prescription for the world’s poor — green energy — is incapable of transforming lives.

That’s because sun and wind power are useless when it is cloudy, at night or there is no wind. Off-grid solar power can provide a nice solar light but typically can’t even power a family’s fridge or oven, let alone provide the power that communities need to run everything from farms to factories, the ultimate engines of growth.

A study in Tanzania found almost 90 percent of households given off-grid electricity just want to be hooked up to the national grid to receive fossil fuel access. The first rigorous test published on the effect of solar panels on the lives of poor people found they got a little bit more electricity — the ability to power a lamp during the day — but there was no measurable effect on their lives: they did not increase savings or spending, did not work more or start more businesses, and their children did not study more.

Moreover, solar panels and wind turbines are useless at tackling one of the primary energy problems of the world’s poor. Nearly 2.5 billion people continue to suffer from indoor air pollution, burning dirty fuels like wood and dung to cook and keep warm. Solar panels don’t solve that problem because they are too weak to power clean stoves and heaters.

In contrast, grid electrification — which nearly everywhere means mostly fossil fuels — significantly positively effects household income, expenditure and education. A study in Bangladesh showed that electrified households experienced a 21 percent average jump in income and a 1.5 percent reduction in poverty yearly.

The biggest deception is that rich world leaders have somehow managed to portray themselves as green evangelists, while more than three-quarters of their enormous primary energy production comes from fossil fuels, according to the International Energy Agency. Less than 12 percent of their energy comes from renewables, mostly from wood and hydro. Just 2.4 percent is solar and wind.

Compare this to Africa, the most renewable continent in the world, with half of its energy produced by renewables. But these renewables are almost entirely wood, straws and dung, and they are really a testament to how little energy the continent has access to. Despite all the hype, the continent gets just 0.3 percent of its energy from solar and wind.

To solve global warming, rich countries must invest much more in research and development on better green technologies, from fusion, fission and second-generation biofuels to solar and wind with massive batteries. The crucial insight is to innovate their actual cost below fossil fuels. That way, everyone will eventually switch. But telling the poor to live with unreliable, expensive, weak power is an insult.

There is already pushback from the world’s developing countries, who see the hypocrisy for what it is: Egypt’s finance minister recently said that poor countries must not be “punished,” and warned that climate policy should not add to their suffering. That warning needs to be heard. Europe is scouring the world for more fossil fuels because the continent needs them for its growth and prosperity. That same opportunity should not be withheld from the world’s poorest.

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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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One Year Later: Lessons Learned from Legendary ‘Texas Freeze’

The soundbites and images were startling. Blackouts. Burst pipes. People dead from extreme cold and carbon monoxide poisoning. This week marks one year since the coldest weather in generations hit Texas.

A year later, energy policy experts in Pennsylvania and across the nation are looking for lessons to be learned from those failures.

“There were multiple errors, but green energy failed at a critical time, and we no longer had fossil fuels and baseload power systems to back them up,” says H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D., a Texan serving as senior fellow on environmental policy for the Heartland Institute.

“What led to the crisis and the blackouts is 20 years of bad policies pushed by politicians on both sides of the aisle from Washington, D.C. and here in the state of Texas that were propping up one form of unreliable variable generation over another, which is good natural gas and clean coal thermal generation that has been diminished because of these market-distorting policies, subsidies if you will,” said Jason Isaac, a four-time Texas state representative now serving as director of Life: Powered at the Texas Public Policy Foundation (TPPF).

“That’s why we’ve seen this incredible growth in this variable generation that’s now a third of our grid in the state of Texas in wind or solar that we’re dependent on when the wind blows or the sun shines, and there’s no backup generation requirements for those sources of electricity generation,” he said.

Solar was virtually non-existent in terms of electricity generation at the time of the storm. Wind dropped to 1.5 percent of the electric generation.

“It’s, again, 33­­ percent of our grid,” said Isaac. “That’s unbelievable, and over 90 percent was coming from the other 66 percent of the grid, natural gas, coal, and nuclear.”

“There’s a reason we never had something like this before in the middle of winter,” said Burnett. “That’s because we never had so little reliable baseload power as part of our system.”

It should serve as a wake-up call for other states, especially at a time when federal and state legislators are pushing the Green New Deal and related measures.

“The national takeaway on the crisis that we experienced in Texas, the energy capital of the world, if you will, is that we need good, reliable natural gas, coal, and nuclear,” said Isaac.

The Sunrise Movement, a youth movement to “stop climate change and create millions of good jobs in the process,” sees things differently. Sunrise said in an email it is “building an army of young people” to make climate change an urgent priority across America.

“(We want to) end the corrupting influence of fossil fuel executives on our politics, and elect leaders who stand up for the health and wellbeing of all people,” according to its website.

And Sunrise has its eyes on Texas, where a primary election is scheduled for March 1.

“We have an opportunity to send our own — Jessica Cisneros and Greg Casar — to Congress to fight for us and win a Green New Deal,” Sunrise said in an email to supporters. Republicans, corporate Democrats, and Big Oil want you to forget what happened one year ago in Texas, but we’ll never forget.”

Pointing to the remarks from Sunrise, Isaac said they are laughable at best.

“The Green New Deal is about controlling everything we do in our lives and increasing the cost of energy, and expensive energy hurts the poor more than anyone else,” said Isaac. “If we had the Green New Deal here in Texas, our electric bills would be triple what they were, the reliability of electricity would be laughable, and deaths last year would have been much more horrendous than they already were.”

“Sunrise wants to double down on the policies that created the very problem,” said Burnett. “We had 200 people die last year during this weather.”

The indoor temperature of Burnett’s home was in the 50s after he lost power.

“The Sunrise Movement wants more wind and more solar, and that’s great, unless the wind stops blowing like it did last February and snow falls and covers all your solar panels,” said Burnett. “To be fair, the wind came back up, but by then, the turbines had frozen, (and) you don’t want turbines turning on and throwing icicles across highways.”

Isaac holds firm to his position on the need for natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy.

“Wind and solar is habitat and environment destroying technology that increases the cost of electricity, does nothing to improve the environment, and just winds up hurting the poor most,” says Isaac. “It increases the unreliability of our grid and the instability.”

It was a close call in Texas last year, one that should cause other states to wake up to what Isaac calls a “cult-like fascination with decarbonized electricity.”

“We were nearly four minutes away from a complete grid collapse because renewable energy was not producing any electricity,” says Isaac. “That would have been completely devastating to Texas. We would still be rebuilding today. Millions of people would have fled the state because of this, and just thousands of people would have died.”

“ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) made some terrible decisions,” says Burnett. “After the power outage, they wanted to get the lights on immediately, so they said, ‘natural gas plants, you have to ramp up,’ but then they cut off power to switching stations for natural gas and for storage for natural gas, so there was no power heating the pipelines or the switches and the plants were using gas at an enormous rate, and those pipelines and switches froze.”

“That would not have happened with a coal plant because coal typically has six months of capacity sitting around in a stockpile,” says Burnett. “They’re not going to run out if the switching stations freeze, but those coal plants had closed, so there were multiple errors.”

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