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Obama’s House of Cards


President Obama seems anxious to shore up his legacy in several disparate areas: concluding a nuclear deal with Iran; reaching an international climate accord in Paris in December 2015; phasing out fossil fuels for electric generation in favor of wind and solar; and also: shoring up Obamacare before the inevitable cost explosion; irreversibly changing the ethnic and moral make-up of the US; destroying the middle class and making a larger fraction dependent on government hand-outs. Obviously, many books can be written on these topics and on others, like immigration, race relations, education, gun control, and the generally increasing involvement of the feds in state and local affairs.

Here I will comment briefly on the first three topics: Iran, Paris, and Electric power. All three are controversial, with the public and Congress largely opposed to the White House (WH). It may take only one veto over-ride to bring down all of Obama’s initiatives; it depends mainly on coalitions forming among angry Democrat senators. [More on that below.]

1. Iran Nuclear Accord

Earlier, I published a somewhat detailed analysis of the “Deal.” Obama now has avoided the need to veto legislation blocking the release of funds to Iran, thanks to a Senate filibuster. But it’s not a done deal; Congress has not seen all of the secret side-agreements.

Congress is readying new legislation to re-impose sanctions—all in the hope of negotiating a better Deal, with more safeguards against Iranian cheating. And don’t forget Iran’s pledge never to build or acquire nuclear weapons; we must hold them to that—even at the risk that Iran will call the Deal off, as reportedly threatened last week in true bazaar-merchant fashion by Ali Larijani, Iran’s Parliament speaker. Well, so be it. Remember, it’s not over “till the fat lady sings.”

2. The Paris Prognosis

That’s an easy one to predict: No matter what the outcome of negotiations, the White House spin machine will picture it as an Obama victory in saving humanity from heat death, ocean inundation, extreme weather—and every imaginable calamity to human health and welfare—provided we submit to onerous, costly, and ineffective EPA regs [see below]. Unfortunately, US actions have become largely irrelevant to global issues.

The pattern was set in Nov 2014 when China agreed to do nothing until 2030—after which it might cut emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse (GH) gases; this opens the door for each nation to do their own thing, while the US and EU would cut emissions immediately—and with little effect on global levels. India has already announced a doubling of its domestic coal production by 2020. Even Germany is forced to build new coal-fired power plants, while the US has closed nearly half its coal capacity in order to comply with ever-stringent EPA regs.

3. The EPA’s “Clean” Power Plan (CPP)

Remember Obama’s campaign promises: to make electricity prices “skyrocket,” and to bankrupt constructors of coal plants? He is keeping these promises, but not ones like “you can keep your doctor” and “lower cost of healthcare.” And note that the “clean” in CPP refers to less CO2—and not to ordinary health-damaging pollution; yet another example of WH spin.

And if you thought that CO2 can be captured and sequestered underground, that was last year’s story. Just another few billions wasted on impractical schemes. Console yourself; there are much worse schemes.

EPA’s approach to CPP is threefold: (i) Misuse of the Clean Air Act (CAA) for purposes unintended by Congress. (ii) Requiring emission levels for mercury that cannot be justified scientifically. And (iii): Unreasonably tightening the ambient ozone standard—yet again—by inventing new health hazards based on unverified studies. All three should and will fail—but they produce promises that the WH can brag about in Paris.

i) Misuse of the Clean Air Act (CAA): To recap: in 2007, the Supreme Court (SCOTUS) ruled that CO2 may be treated as a pollutant—provided that EPA could demonstrate a hazard to health and human welfare. Relying on UN-IPCC reports, EPA’s Endangerment Finding (EF) lacked a sufficient science base, but the DC Court of Appeals deferred to “EPA expertise.” [Lawyers consulted by the Science & Environmental Policy Project believe that such a lawsuit might now be successful and, if necessary, reach SCOTUS.]

EPA ambitiously extended the judicial remit to include stationary sources of CO2—but not all of them. In violation of the CAA, EPA applied an arbitrary “Tailoring Rule,” covering only a few hundred coal-fired power stations. But EPA still requires State Implementation Plans (SIPs); instead, most of the States have decided to sue EPA, arguing that CPP is neither “appropriate or necessary” and hoping that compliance with regs can be staved off until after litigation.

EPA’s “Clean Power Plan” will Quadruple US Electric Bills

Obama’s war on coal is progressing. Following his presidential directive of 2013, EPA has now issued its “Clean Power Plan” (CPP).

As an example, I choose North Dakota, where I have some family connections. Grand Forks (ND)-based Minnkota, burning cheap lignite, produces some of the lowest-cost US electricity at about 2 cents per kilowatt-hour (kwh), selling it to small municipal co-ops in eastern ND and western MN—an obvious benefit to the whole region.

According to the current Minnkota Messenger, the final EPA rule unfairly targets ND—a steep increase from an 11% reduction in CO2, proposed initially in July 2014, to 45 %(!) reduction by 2030—all to make the US goal look good in Paris—yet with no measurable impact on average global temperature. To satisfy the EPA quotas, coal-fired plants must shut down and be replaced with unreliable solar and wind.

The Institute for Energy Research mocks Obama’s claim that CPP’s annual compliance cost will be “only” $8.4 billion by 2030 and will save consumers $155 billion from 2020 to 2030. IER notes, it is difficult to believe that any plan that requires construction of new utility plants, and prematurely retires existing plants ... could actually save money for consumers. [A new natural-gas combined-cycle unit on an annual cost-of-operation basis would be almost twice as expensive as an existing coal-fired unit, and a new wind unit would be two to three times as expensive.]

[DOE’s Energy Information Administration (EIA) has projected that CPP will result in $1.23 trillion in lost GDP (in 2014 dollars) between 2020 and 2030, with an average annual GDP loss of $112 billion. According to EIA modeling, CPP will cost an average of $199 in lost economic growth for each ton of CO2 reduced between 2020 and 2030, an amount more than 10 times greater than EPA’s low estimate for the social cost of carbon (SCC), and nearly $50.00 more per ton than EPA’s high estimate.]

[Former EPA economist Alan Carlin has projected the possible costs of CPP to American ratepayers and the economy by examining the impact of dramatically increasing renewable energy sources’ share of the energy mix, as has already been done in Europe. According to Carlin’s estimates, if CPP is fully implemented, US electricity prices will almost quadruple by 2030. His estimates include the costs of rebuilding the electric grid to handle renewable power’s inherent variability and the costs of keeping traditional power plants on standby. Carlin writes, “So if your electric bill is now $100 per month, the new CPP requirement would increase your monthly costs to over $350 by 2030 in current dollars.” He also notes businesses facing higher energy costs will move overseas to countries without mandated CO2 emission reductions—as has happened already in Europe.]

“And all of this pain to prevent an [unmeasurable] temperature rise of less than a hundredth of a degree in 2100, “says H. Sterling Burnett. While CPP is the main thrust of the WH “war on coal,” EPA is already preparing regs on methane emissions to go after US gas & oil production.

To sum up: All published calculations suggest that the US cost of electric power will quadruple. [Willis Eschenbach gets the same results as EIA and Carlin by extrapolating actual cost figures from Denmark and Germany, leaders in uneconomic solar and wind energy.]

I trust that US Senators Heidi Heitkamp (D- ND) and Al Franken (D-MN) are paying close attention; voters will hold them responsible if the WH prevails on CPP. Both senators have also indicated their support for the Iranian nuclear deal but may wish to reconsider.

ii) Emission levels for Mercury (Hg): Another EPA ploy for closing down coal-fired powerplants relied on regs calling for very expensive retrofitting of existing plants. Not many are aware that about 60% of Hg emission was removed during the Bush years and that SCOTUS, in Michigan v. EPA [2015], ruled that EPA should have considered the huge costs of additional Hg mitigation.

For that matter, EPA’s benefit estimates are likely way too high; the health effects are contrived, and we have no solid data on Hg as a global problem, which would be determined mainly by Chinese emissions.

iii) Unreasonably tightening the ambient ozone standard—yet again: This could turn out to be EPA’s most costly program; it would put most of the nation “out of compliance” and is only vaguely connected to the CPP. As the WSJ explains,

This fall EPA plans to take its next grand regulatory step, following the announcement of the Clean Power Plan over the summer. EPA is likely to introduce stringent new standards for ground-level ozone, arguing that a lower allowable level of ozone, an important component of smog, will reduce asthma in the US, among other claimed health benefits. Yet the EPA ignores decades of data and studies, some under the agency’s own auspices, which reveal no detectable causal relation between past reductions in ozone and better public health, including reductions in asthma cases.

EPA’s claimed health benefits are specious and not subject to independent check. My colleague Charles Battig, MD, asks: “Which city has the worst-looking ‘dirty’ air? Shanghai, China. What city boasts an average life-span of 82.5 years, greater than any major U.S. city? Shanghai.”

To sum up: By making energy needlessly more expensive, the WH-CPP creates economic hardship for the poorest among us, and a threat to our national economic competitiveness.


Obama’s single-minded irrational war on fossil fuels could activate Democrat senators from the Rockies to the Appalachians and cause them to oppose him also on other policies, like Iran and Paris.

Atmospheric physicist S. Fred Singer is a Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Sciences at the University of Virginia, and former founding Director of the U.S. Weather Satellite Service. He is author of Hot Talk, Cold Science: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate (The Independent Institute).

From S. Fred Singer
HOT TALK, COLD SCIENCE: Global Warming’s Unfinished Debate
Distinguished astrophysicist S. Fred Singer explores the inaccuracies in historical climate data, the limitations of attempting to computer climate models, solar variability, the effects of clouds, ocean currents, and sea levels on global climate, and factors that could mitigate any human impacts on world climate.