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Governor’s Chief of Staff: State’s Climate Policy Worse than Federal Cap-and-Trade

in Press releases

Seattle - Claiming that Washington families and workers benefit from her executive order on climate regulation, Governor Christine Gregoire is preparing to head to Copenhagen to attend the conference on climate change. Despite those claims, however, internal briefing documents marked “confidential” show that officials know the proposal will hurt Washington businesses and families.

Former Washington Climatologist Phil Mote Trades Science for Semantics

December 6, 2009 in Blog

Former Washington State Climatologist Phil Mote is now at Oregon State University, but despite the change of venue, his penchant for putting politics before science remains consistent.

In the past, Phil has been called to task for fudging the numbers on warming-related snowpack decline in Washington state and committing errors with weather data and forest science when testifying before the legislature. Now he's waded into the debate about the Climategate e-mails.

Last week, Mote wrote an e-mail to colleagues at Oregon State University, trying to put the e-mails from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at East Anglia University into some context:

The correspondence is being used to claim that CRU and other climate scientists were manipulating data to exaggerate global warming and colluding to prevent skeptics from having a voice. While some of the personal comments about skeptics are embarrassing, the incident primarily represents woeful misrepresentation of the scientists' words (e.g., where 'trick' was used to mean 'clever way to solve a problem', not 'deception') has been blown out of all proportion.

So, what was the "problem" that the scientists were trying to "solve?" Here are the words of Phil Jones, head of the CRU, in one of the e-mails:

I've just completed Mike's Nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years (ie from 1981 onwards) and from 1961 for Keith's to hide the decline (emphasis mine).

So, Phil is right. The "trick" is just a clever way to solve the problem of how to "hide the decline." The trick wasn't the deception, it was just a tool used to deceive. Funny that Phil didn't mention the "hide the decline" phrase that appears in the same sentence.

The e-mails from East Anglia are revealing enough, but the efforts of those like Mote who rush in with tortured explanations to downplay the seriousness of the revelations betray how much politics have become a part of the discussion about climate science. Of course just because someone who agrees with you made errors or played games doesn't mean that your beliefs are wrong by extension. There is no denying, however, that the impulse to enthusiastically engage in semantic games to defend your friends demonstrates that Phil is willing to use politics to make up for their failures to follow the scientific method.

Why I Like Sightline

December 2, 2009 in Blog

Our ideological counterpart on environmental issues is the Sightline Institute in Seattle and I chat with them occasionally to test my thinking and hear what they are thinking about environmental issues. Here is one good example of why I like them.

Sightline is committed to a cap-and-trade system, but they are more realistic about it than others. And they are willing to take their fellow-travelers on the left to task when they make dumb arguments.

The latest example is a silly video, "The Story of Cap and Trade" by Annie Leonard. Leonard also made a previous video predicting the end of the planet called "The Story of Stuff" that is little more than an updated statement of the 1970sclaims about resource depletion of the kind made by the President's science adviser John Holdren. Except this time the end is truly near!

Here is what Sightline has to say about the video:

It's not just the trading part that she butchers. She comes close to flat out lying about offset programs (and I say this as a card-carrying offsets skeptic), fumbles on allocations, blinks on consumer fairness, and mangles a description of Europe's experience. In fact, so childish is the video that most of the criticisms are actually directed at "these guys," a pair of stick figures in pin-striped suits. No kidding, the critique is literally directed at a caricature.

It reminds me of Orwell's 1984, where the government attacked the enemy with caricatures of capitalists in "top hats."

Given all of the problems with cap-and-trade, I wish Sightline would abandon it altogether for the right reasons, but I am glad that they reject the extreme leftism that sees cap-and-trade as too flexible and too little government intervention.

Sigthline is subject to giving in to populist impulses that are fundamentally anti-prosperity and they often argue that with the right kind of government regulation we can achieve anything without conceding that unintended consequences make that approach costly and ineffective. I do appreciate their willingness, however, to call out those on their side of the spectrum for arguments that are more about reflexive opposition to the free market and trying to control people's lives than reality.

"Beat the Crap Out of Him" is Scientific Jargon

November 25, 2009 in Blog

The keynote speaker at our annual environmental luncheon is featured prominently in the current scandal involving the e-mails hacked from the University of East Anglia's Climate Research Unit (CRU). The e-mails, from some of the most outspoken global warming alarmists, show how deeply politics has influenced the "science" they produced for the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

Pat Michaels, a Past President of the American Association of State Climatologists, is mentioned in one of the e-mails in a rather unscientific tone. Michaels raised alarm bells that scientific data used by Phil Jones of the CRU had been destroyed rather than shared as is required by the scientific process. Despite that destruction, the EPA used Jones' conclusions as part of their justification for decision to regulate CO2 as a pollutant under the Clean Air Act.

One of Jones' colleagues offered his sympathy to Jones that he had to deal with the unreasonable demand that his science be transparent:

From: Ben Santer

To: P.Jones

Subject: Re: CEI formal petition to derail EPA GHG endangerment finding with charge that destruction of CRU raw data undermines integrity of global temperature record

Date: Fri, 09 Oct 2009 11:07:56 -0700


I’m really sorry that you have to go through all this stuff, Phil. Next time I see Pat Michaels at a scientific meeting, I’ll be tempted to beat the crap out of him. Very tempted.

You can listen to Michaels discuss these revelations on the Laura Ingraham show here.

The e-mails also discuss efforts to prevent science that contradicts their own from being published and efforts to punish journals that did publish alternative science.

The great philosopher of science Thomas Kuhn wrote fifty years ago that "One of the strongest, if still unwritten, rules of scientific life is the prohibition of appeals to heads of state or to the populace at large in matters scientific." The reason for this rule was to prevent politics from corrupting science. Despite loud claims that the IPCC and global warming alarmists are simply "following the science," these e-mails demonstrate that they were eager to use politics to fill in the gaps of their own science and silence others

Stimulus Rules Slow Environmental Progress and Job Creation

November 18, 2009 in Publications

When environmental sustainability is left to politics, competing priorities often intervene, undermining the environmental goals. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), known as the federal stimulus package, is a good case in point. Here in Washington, ARRA's rule on "buy American" and prevailing wage have had the perverse impact of preventing job creation and slowing projects to promote environmental sustainability. Projects to create clean water and promote energy efficiency have been held up by the bureaucratic rules that come with politically-motivated programs. As a result, the goal of job creation has been undermined and the state is far below the targets it set for making homes more energy efficient. These problems are more examples that when we put environmental sustainability in the hands of government programs, the results are often costly and disappointing.

Small businesses rank top policy priorities

November 13, 2009 in Blog

Small business owners, legislators, and policymakers from all over Washington gathered in SeaTac this past Tuesday to discuss the state's business climate at WPC's 2009 Statewide Small Business Conference. During several interactive issue breakout sessions, business owners suggested and discussed solutions to improve the climate for small businesses in Washington. This was the fourth statewide small business conference hosted by WPC since 2003.

Oregon's Green Job Experience: Much Green, Few Jobs

November 12, 2009 in Blog

With jobs high on the agenda for the public, environmental activists have made the creation of "green jobs" a central talking point in their campaign to justify government expenditures and environmental regulation. Politicians have jumped on this message as well. For instance, WPC was attacked by Dow Constantine in the recent King County Executive race because, he claimed, we "oppose green jobs."

Of course what we oppose are policies that kill two jobs for every one created in a politically favored industry. That is the path to higher unemployment and reduced prosperity. By way of contrast we favor innovation tax cuts that strengthen job growth, green or otherwise, while promoting energy efficient technologies.

Now, there is more evidence from the other side of the Columbia that the strategy favored by environmental activists and "green" politicians is costly and ineffective.

Writing about Oregon's effort to create green jobs, the Longview Daily News today highlights the costs of their government subsidies:

No state has been a more vigorous advocate of green economy — or, as it turns out, invested more in attracting renewable energy companies — than Oregon. ... [The Oregonian] reported that the state’s Business Energy Tax Credit (BETC) cost taxpayers $68 million in 2007-09 — more than 40 times what legislators had been told it would cost. And that’s only for starters. The cost of BETC subsidies for green projects is estimated to climb to $167 in 2009-11, and to $243 million in 2011-13.

We've seen this before with Cash for Clunkers and other programs. Programs that offer free government money end up finding many takers. The problem is that the results are not in line with the costs. The Oregonian highlighted some costly failures:

Among them was the Clatskanie ethanol plant which eventually went bankrupt and ceased operations. It received $12 million in tax subsidies and a $20 million energy loan from the state. Another wasteful example cited in the report was a wind energy project that was handed tax credits totaling $40 million. [The Oregonian] found that this project will generate less electricity than projects that received credits totaling around $4 million.

The question is, have these projects generated jobs? Oregon's unemployment rate is currently 11.5 percent. More than 1.3 percent higher than the national average and 2.2 percent higher than Washington's rate.

Given the poor results from these subsidies, imagine what could be done with that funding that would truly make a difference.

The results are worthy of Linda Richman: "green" jobs are neither green, nor jobs...discuss.

Is Plug-in Worth a Plug Nickel?

November 12, 2009 in Blog

A major part of Washington's strategy to reduce CO2 emissions is the promotion of plug-in hybrid vehicles that would run on battery power for many trips but would use a gas-powered engine when needed. It is argued that these vehicles will significantly reduce carbon emissions. A study that came across my screen today calls this into doubt.

A study advocating hydrogen vehicles includes the graph below. Of course hydrogen vehicles come out looking good. There are many problems with hydrogen vehicles that cannot be captured in this graph, notably that the cost of vehicles is high and the refelling infrastructure is nonexistent.

What interested me most is the comparison between the projections of carbon emissions between gasoline-powered hybrids and plug-in hybrids. Plug-in hybrids emit only four percent less CO2 than regular hybrids. This is a remarkably small return on investment of the state's money to build plug in stations across the state. For instance, diesel hybrids are projected to emit less CO2 than plug-in hybrids.

These numbers are national and the numbers for Washington are likely to be different because so much of our energy is carbon-free hydro and nuclear. We should remember, however, that going to plug-ins would increase demand for energy and we aren't likely to build many new dams or even nuclear power any time soon.

Plug-ins are one of those technologies politicians have latched onto in an effort to demonstrate "greenness" to the public. As is common, however, what is politically popular isn't always environmentally friendly and spending money on inferior technologies misses opportunities to make real improvements in energy efficiency.

CO2 Emissions Comparison  

Dow Constantine is Lying about Washington Policy Center

in Press releases

Seattle - In a new T.V. ad King County Executive candidate Dow Constantine renews his attack on Washington Policy Center, claiming WPC’s Policy Guide for Washington State opposes green energy jobs. 

Constantine’s claim is false.  WPC’s research shows that policymakers should be aware that efforts to create jobs by promoting green technology may be offset by jobs losses in other economic sectors.

On page 75 the Policy Guide says:

Guess the Headline: Climate Change Edition

October 25, 2009 in Blog

The Seattle Times today has an Associated Press story about climate change and forestry in the Northwest. The story highlights a study done by Oregon State University regarding the effect of increasing temperatures on the growth of forests during the next century. It notes that:

Researchers from Oregon State University and the U.S. Forest Service calculated an increase in forest growth rates in Oregon and Washington of between 2 percent and 12 percent by the end of the century, when climate models predict temperatures to be between 0.9 degrees and 6.7 degrees higher than they are now.

It goes on to say that the biggest winners will be Washington's forests, saying "The highest growth rates showed in the Olympic Mountains and Northern Cascades of Washington and the Blue Mountains of Oregon."

So, what headline would you use for this story?

Study: Warmed NW forests likely to yield more timber

Study: Washington forests see greatest benefit from climate change

Study: Warmed NW forests may yield less timber

See the answer here.