Perspectives on Climate Change: Al Gore

Posted by Brad Johnson Wed, 21 Mar 2007 13:30:00 GMT

Witnesses
  • Former Vice President Al Gore
  • Global warming skeptic Bjorn Lomborg
  1. An immediate “carbon freeze” that would cap U.S. CO2 emissions at current levels, followed by a program to generate 90% reductions by 2050.
  2. Start a long-term tax shift to reduce payroll taxes and increase taxes on CO2 emissions.
  3. Put aside a portion of carbon tax revenues to help low-income people make the transition.
  4. Create a strong international treaty by working toward “de facto compliance with Kyoto” and moving up the start date for Kyoto’s successor from 2012 to 2010.
  5. Implement a moratorium on construction of new coal-fired power plants that are not compatible with carbon capture and sequestration.
  6. Create an “ELECTRANET”—a smart electricity grid that allows individuals and businesses to feed power back in at prevailing market rates.
  7. Raise CAFE standards.
  8. Set a date for a ban on incandescent light bulbs.
  9. Create “Connie Mae,” a carbon-neutral mortgage association, to help defray the upfront costs of energy-efficient building.
  10. Have the SEC require disclosure of carbon emissions in corporate reporting, as a relevant “material risk.”

9:56 Hall (TX) If we allow this attack on energy unanswered, we’ll force a reliance on OPEC more than now. It could result in a loss of a generation of men and women. We must press for energy self-reliance and combat the threat of carbon dioxide. If we tap into American ingenuity we find domestic solutions for our future. I understand that Dr. Lomborg will explain R&D solutions that will cost a lot less than Kyoto-type policies that will cost our nation a lot of money and won’t stop global warming in the future.

You can bring expert after after that will talk about the threat to world health but they won’t talk about the costs. Working Americans will not tolerate shipping our jobs to China. Pro-Kyoto self-styled experts won’t talk about the costs. I’ve used the word “cost” eight times. The Kyotites won’t say it.

10:01 Boucher and Hastert waive opening statements.

10:02 Lampson and Ingliss (SC) waive opening statements.

10:03 Gordon is recognized to introduce Gore.

10:04 Gordon: Al was a legend. “You’ve got some big shoes to fill following Al Gore.” Even though Al represented the entire state we share mutual constituents, including Barbara Mandrell: “I was country when country wasn’t cool.” The IPCC report stated that with 100% certainty there is global warming. Over 25 years ago Congressman Al Gore Jr. held some of the first global warming hearings. Now, after books, an Oscar-winning documentary, thousands of frequent flyer miles, and hundreds of slide show presentations. I’m sure that my daughter will ask me if I was part of the problem or if I was part of the solution.

10:07 Dingell: Welcome back and welcome home.

Gore: It is an emotional occasion for me to come back to the room. I learned a lot from you, Chairman Dingell, when I first came here in 1976. Thank you, Chairman Gordon, for your leadership. Thank you for inviting me, and to you Chairman Dingell. Chairman Boucher, we worked just across the state lines for so many years. Congressman Dingell, I want to say a special word of thanks to you, because our fathers served together. At the time when our fathers served together in the House, the concentrations of CO2 were about 300 ppm. They had never gone about 300 ppm at least a million years in the ice record.

10:10 There is a hope. This is the greatest country on the face of this earth. America is the natural leader of the world. And our world faces a true planetary emergency. I know the phrase sounds shrill. And I know it’s a challenge to the moral imagination to see that our relationship to the world has been radically altered. The population has quadrupled since 1900. The population is stabilizing. Literacy among women is going up. Having multiplied by four the number of people on this people, that in itself causes a big change in the relationship between humanity and the planet. Our technologies are thousands of times more powerful than our ancestors.

The side effects now sometimes outstrip our talents.

We’ve adopted a short-term way of thinking more common than our grandparents. The short-term focus in the markets. The entertainment, media, news business. How many eyeballs can you reach. The honorable profession of politics. When I came into office, I had never done a poll. Now it’s just one big continuous poll, and I don’t think the effect on our democracy is that good.

You are the repository of the hopes and dreams of people on this earth.

There’s a movie out there, 300. A relatively small group of people are sometimes called upon to make decisions. This congress is now the 535. Really and truly this is one of those times.

Congressman Dingell, you are a member of the greatest generation, fought in World War II. You are part of a relatively small group that saved the world. Your generation came back transformed, having walked through the fire. You came home with a different capacity for vision, a deeper moral authority.

10:17 Your generation said yes to the Marshall Plan. You knew it took vision and a fifty year time frame. The UN was established. Taxes were involved. Omar Bradley said “It’s time to steer by the stars and not by the lights of every passing ship.” Republicans like Arthur Vanderburg reached across the aisle.

I say all that because is what we’re facing is a crisis that is the most serious we’ve ever faced. Some think it is beyond the capacity of us to do anything. I think they’re wrong. When you learn what’s at stake all of a sudden it can move very quickly. I came with some messages from 516,000 people just in the past few days. The folks that have contacted AlGore.com, we’ve got 100 new contacts a second.

The faith communities, the evangelical communities, the business community. 10 of them had a press conference just before the state of the union calling on you to act.

These are not normal times.

Congressman Gordon, I want you to say happy birthday to Peggy.

I promise you our children and grandchildren will ask one of two questions.

What in God’s name were they doing? Didn’t they see the evidence? 4 times in 15 years the scientific community of the world called on them to act? Were they too blinded, too numb by the business of daily life? Did they think all the scientists were wrong? What were they thinking?

Or, they’ll ask another question.

How did they find the uncommon moral courage to rise above politics and redeem the promise of American democracy, and do what some said was impossible?

10:24 I’m going to do my part to muster support in both parties when you do the right thing.

If some of you in districts face pressures that are overwhelming, I would ask you to walk through the fire.

I have some suggestions.

First of all, the new evidence, let it be said here, that’s come out in just the last few months. Three days ago, two reports came out in Science.

The Arctic ice cap is melting more rapidly than predicted. It could disappear in summertime in as little as 34 years. This problem is burning a hole in the ice cover. If it goes it won’t come back in any time scale relevant to human species.

The earth is shaking because of what’s happening to Greenland. Glacial earthquakes. 1990: 7. 99: 14. 2006: 32. They don’t understand how it could be happening so quickly.

Among the billions of tons of frozen methane in the tundra, it’s warming much more rapidly than expected.

Fires. New study correlates it precisely with the warming temperatures, the earlier melting of snowpack, and the decreased precipitation. I see you’ve got the study there Congressman. Drier soils lead to drier vegetation.

10:29 We can’t afford to make it a political football. I think we should immediately freeze CO2 emissions in the US. Then reach sharp reductions by 90% in 2050. I think we need to freeze it right now.

Secondly, and I know how difficult it is to contemplate. I think we should use the tax code to reduce taxes on employment and production and shift to pollution taxes. Right now we are discouraging work and encouraging the destruction of the world.

10:31 We shouldn’t tack onto our wages the costs of health care, social security.

Carbon pollution is not presently priced into the marketplace. I internalize air and water.

Third: a portion of those revenues should be apportioned to those in lower incomes.

Fourth: We need to be part of a strong global treaty. I know that Kyoto as a brand has been demonized. One of the first issues I worked on was nuclear disarmament. Carter had SALT II. It was withdrawn and the name became a liability. I worked with Reagan. He had been against it. He came up with a stronger treaty, the START treaty.

I think we should work toward de facto compliance with Kyoto.

We ought to move forward the date of the next treaty from 2012 to 2010. So whoever is elected president in 2009 can use his chits, if you will, not just trying to fight a rear-guard action to ratify a treaty that will expire by the time it’s ratified, but to ratify a stronger treaty that begins in 2010. Landcover and methane and soot may be opportunities. Some creative way must be found to make them a part of this effort.

10:35 Next: This Congress should enforce a moratorium on coal-fired plants not compatible with CCS.

Next: I believe this Congress should develop an “Electronet”, a smart grid. We ought to have a law that allows people to put up solar panels, wind power, and allow them to sell that power into the grid, without artificial caps. If it’s regulated according to what the market for electricity is, then you might never need another central generating plant. We could see a revolution in small-scale production of electricity.

Next: I think we should raise CAFE standards. I’ve taken note of statements by you, Chairman Dingell, and the auto industry, that it needs to be part of a comprehensive solution.

Basically, the problem is cars, coal, and buildings.

Next: You should not shy away from using the regulatory power. Set a date to ban incandescent light bulbs. You can’t sell the old inefficient kind.

Next: Buildings. I’d like to see you pass Connie Mae: carbon-neutral mortgage association. Selling price is what the market is very sensitive too. All the things we need to do to bring down carbon bring up the selling price but pay for themselves only in three years or so.

We ought to set up an association where all those costs are set aside, separate from the selling price. Here’s your Connie Mae home-improvement package.

Next: I think the SEC ought to require disclosure of carbon emissions. The largest pension funds in this country called upon the SEC and Congress to require disclosure. It’s a material risk. If there’s an exposure to carbon restraints.

10:42 Thank you for the courtesy of allowing me the time.

The way the Chinese and Japanese express the concept of crisis is with two characters, one that means danger, one that means opportunity. This is the greatest danger we face and the greatest opportunity. People see Darfur, ocean depletion, and they say, we have all these problems, isn’t it terrible.

Our opportunity is not only to solve this. This was our Thermopylae, we defended civilization’s gate. But we also dug down and found a capacity we didn’t know we had, and solve these other problems.

I cannot possibly overstate the strength of the hope and good feeling that people in this country have about this Congress and the new approach they feel is taking place.

Thank you.

10:46 Dingell Thank you. I defer my questions.

Barton When we deferred our five minutes I understand we have our additional time.

Dingell Yes. It will take time from other members.

Gordon I see Sherry Boehlert is here. My friend and ranking member Mr. Hall asked what’s going to the cost.

10:48 Gore I thank Sherry Boehlert for being here.

On the cost: I remember on the Sci & Tech Committee we used to get testimony from Amory Levins. People can’t keep up with him. One of the things he used to say is “they’ve got the sign wrong.” I thought he meant “sine”. He’s talking about a plus sign and a minus. If you go about this the right way you need to put a plus sign in the sense it’s going to save you money and make the economy stronger. Sometimes the people who work with the details of the climate crisis feel that way. There are some solutions that have minus signs as well as plus signs.

In Sweden they have zero-carbon buildings. They put in expenses for window treatments, insulation, CAD. It more than pays for itself.

There are some other approaches that would be costly. If we pick and choose correctly we can improve our economy.

This isn’t incomprehensible. Pollution is waste. You’ve got to buy raw materials to make pollution.

Over there, the Tories and the Labour Party are competing with one another with who can produce the most effective solutions for it.

The debate on science is over.

The Stern Report said the cost on our economy on not doing anything would be devastating.

10:53 Dingell recognizes Barton for 10 minutes.

Barton: I sincerely disagree with your conclusions but I commend your passion.

Your testimony bears very little resemblance to the written testimony.

The first thing I want to address is the portrayal of science in “The Inconvenient Truth.”

You display a timeline of timeline v. CO2 over 600,000 years.

I have an article from Science Magazine that historically a rise in CO2 lagged temperatures.

It remains a fact that for 100s of thousands of years CO2 lagged temperatures.

You said sea level would rise twenty feet. Twenty feet. The IPCC says twenty-three inches. Twelve inches make a foot.

Your ideas aren’t all bad. Energy efficiency, hybrid and fuel-cell cars, increased use of renewables, CCS, they’re good energy policy. We passed the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Many of things you recommended we’ve already done.

A Kyoto-style cap-and-trade system will raise energy prices.

Instilling a carbon tax on the American people without the participation of China and India is similar to a doctor telling a sedentary chain-smoker he needs to wear a seatbelt.

When you jetted into Kyoto you ignored our requests to get China and India involved.

You gave us an idea for a CO2 freeze. If you take that literally that means no new industry, no new cars, no new people.

We need principles that’s actually good for the environment, American industry strong, American jobs.

What CAFE increase do you support?

11:03 Gore: The committees should be under no illusion what the scientific consensus is. The IPCC has now four times in the last 15 years has unanimously endorsed the consensus. It’s a stronger consensus on practically everything than except gravity.

The fact that more CO2 traps more heat in the lower atmosphere is a fact.

When CO2 goes up it traps more heat. The hottest winter globally was this year. The earth has a fever. If the crib’s on fire you don’t speculate the baby is flame retardant.

There is no consensus linking frequency of hurricanes to global warming. It’s intensity.

I’m trying to answer the rest of his questions.

Barton laughs derisively.

11:09 Dingell I’m in a pickle.

Gore I’ll submit my answers into the record.

11:09 Boucher asking same question he’s asked in other hearings We’re looking at various methodogies. The consensus now is that the European cap-and-trade system on CO2 is flawed. Should cap-and-trade be considered seriously?

11:11 Gore Cap-and-trade should be considered seriously. The European system is in fact working. I disagree respectfully that Europe is not meeting their target. As a region they’re meeting them. They just adopted binding targets much deeper than Kyoto.

Here’s what they did wrong when they started. They miscalculated their base year. Their start-up phase was way too long. They’ve dealt with these problems.

The US is about 23% the annual ongoing CO2 emissions. If we stop completely it’ll be 100 years before it all falls out. Our lack of participation is like using a bucket with a hole in it.

Here’s what it’s doing to business. They’re focused on how this trading system works. A year ago they asked companies who are reducing carbon internally. 15%. This year, 65%.

11:15 Hall I never met a Tennesseean I didn’t like, honestly. You’re dear to us. I just don’t agree with you on this. If you say it costs nothing, Al, and I think you said that, I think we’re gonna hear from Dr. Lomborg, if the Kyoto had been successfully adopted would have postponed warming by just 5 years at a cost of $80 billion annually. Ask China what they think about paying for it. Ask Mexico, ask India. To get to my question, if United States and China and India don’t adopt action at the same time, what will happen to the United States? How would you prevent the US manufacturers from being harmed?

Gore I really do believe what I said earlier about reaching across the aisle.

On China and India, very serious challenge. Every global treaty since WW II separate countries by per capita income. I wish there were some other way.

In China, they’re having terrible water shortages. They now have massive demonstrations. That’s why their two top leaders have made speeches. I don’t make much stock that they’ll do anything about it.

Dingell: Lampson.

11:21 Lampson: In 1945 the Army published a book cautioning our reliance on foreign oil. Even with your powerful position you’ve had trouble getting your message out. By addressing climate change, don’t we achieve other benefits?

Gore: Yes. There was an effort to include CO2 pollution when utilities modernize. Asthma, lung diseases will likely go down. Yes, you will solve other problems.

Lampson: Coal is the most abundant and cheapest source of energy in the United States. How do we make clean coal viable?

Gore: It was Republican mayors with Democratic mayors blocking the TXU effort. We need to accelerate the development of carbon capture and sequestration. If it’s done right it does open up the opportunity to using coal. Pulverized coal you’re producing so much nitrogen there’s no way to capture. There’s a way to design these plants to make them CCS compatible. Coal’s future depends on getting an accurate price for carbon in the marketplace and rapid CCS development.

11:26 Hastert I listen to you sometimes in wonderment. There are costs. Costs. You can tax the American people, or do the old fashioned way, and have economic activity. A lot of those recommendations I can agree with. A lot of those recommendations are more regulations, more costs. Let me just say, I agree with you. The debate over climate change is over. I agree the science tells us that the earth’s temperature has gone up. I’m less certain about the extent of human influence. As a thinker, as a movie star, you can come back with general themes, and say do this.

I have pledged my cooperation with Mr. Dingell and Mr. Boucher. I think there are answers. The fact is 50% of our energy is coal. I have a new grandson. The fact is we’re going to have to have that growth. How do we do it? I think we can find answers. We need nuclear. We can have clean air with nuclear energy. Someone in the Senate has a filibuster hand on Yucca Mountain.

I would say there’s a lot of things we can do. I understand the problems with the other nations. No matter what we do in this country, stop every car, stop every coal fired plant, we’d match our drop what China adds. I was there in Kyoto. I watched this development. I remember when you signed the agreement. The fact is not everything’s worked.

What I’m asking and what I’m saying is I think there are answer. I think there are ways we can use coal. We have become so dependent on foreign fuels we’re tied to sheiks and dictators: Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq, Qatar, Russia… I could go on and on. I was at a wrestling tournament, I wasn’t raising money in your district Mr. Chairman, maybe a little.

11:36 Gore Congratulations on your grandson. In your original recitation I wasn’t sure you agreed that human action is the main cause of the global warming.

Hastert: I think I said that.

Gore: The investments in TXU came to naught because the investors felt there was such insecurity in carbon prices.

I don’t want to raise taxes. I want to shift taxes to pollution. Some of the plants have closed because the old technologies aren’t competitive.

On nuclear, I’m not an absolutist. I think nuclear won’t be a large part because they’re so expensive.

11:39 Butterfield Will you talk about the water vapor vs. CO2?

Gore The residence time of water vapor is 10 days. It is slave to CO2. It goes up and down based on the warming. Whenever it’s warmer the water vapor increases and magnifies the warming phenomenon. In the present it is completely slave to CO2.

Butterfield: It is clear you’ve spent a lot of time in China. Ernst & Young says it’s one of the top ten countries in clean energy.

Gore: They’ve announced grand plans but the proof is in the pudding. Wu Jintao has made two speeches in the last ten days. They’re worried their grand coming out party in the Olympics will be ruined by pollution. They are deeply concerned about the sea level issue. I’ve gotten it translated into Mandarin. They have scientists who are on the cutting edge. They are riding a tiger in the sense that their growth is so rapid. I think they’re preparing to initiate big policy changes.

Their CO2 emissions will likely surpass ours in two years ago.

Butterfield: Do you think it’s too late to keep CO2 emissions from 450?

Gore: I disagree. I think the present level is too high. I recognizes that politically feasible maximum still exceeds the limit. The good thing is once we shift our momentum it’ll be a lot easier. Wal-Mart is investing in this not to commit economic suicide. They’re making money.

11:45 Inglis I paid to see Inconvenient Truth. As a conservative I think we should internalize the externals. I think markets should work. That’s not just economic, that’s a Biblical notion. Also I think we’ve got wonderful conservative opportunities with net metering. Recoup the investment in my roof by making it create electricity. I think you teach your children to do the right thing even when nobody’s watching.

We care about dynamic scoring. We need to dynamically score the American can-do spirit. There is a way to break our addiction to oil. There is a way to deliver better sources of energy.

I agree with you it doesn’t necessarily have to be a lose proposition. How do you get there? There are some scary costs we face. There are decisions we have to make.

For example, Duke Energy in SC: he’d rather build a nuclear plant than a coal plant. But it’s difficult to get all the ducks in the row. Can we agree to advance the nuclear option?

11:49 Gore Thank you for your statements, I yearn for the day when there are more of you on your side of the aisle. Yes, our faith traditions teach us about this, without proselytizing this I believe our purpose to glorify God and we can’t do this if we’re heaping contempt on his creation.

I think the single best thing we can do on electricity is to allow decentralization to allow Jim Rogers to avoid the decisions he has to make today.

But on your core choice. I’m not opposed to nuclear. I have deep questions about it. I used to be enthusiastic about it. I think the stoppage of the nuclear industry that after OPEC crisis the speculation for electricity demand plummeted. Electricity chases oil. The fact of the uncertainty is why utilities don’t want to place the bet on long-term returns.

Inglis A company’s willing to put the capital at risk. Shouldn’t we be moving as quickly as possible? Have you given any thought where the developed world has an agreement if you build a plant here, you have to follow our standards in the third-world countries?

Gore It’s very difficult to integrate social and environmental factors into the world trading system. I think the market is a more effective way to do it, but you can put it into trade agreements. A cap-and-trade system sets a price.

11:57 Barrow We had hearings with the scientist. Then we’ve had a series of hearings with the impact community. With the scientists, there wasn’t much question. With the impact community, there’s been a lot of pooh-poohing. On March 7, one of the members of the community, said “Natural emissions overwhelm manmade emissions.”

11:59 Gore I appreciate your service very much. The extra amount of CO2 that’s been added since the beginning of Industrial Revolution is manmade. Volcanoes produce heavy particulates. They fall back to the ground. The vast majority of the problem is CO2. It stays there so long. We’ve got to take a lot of steps. It’s not the natural emissions that are causing this.

12:01 Dingell recognizes Mr. Upton for five minutes.

12:04 Upton I want to talk about nuclear energy. It was your old boss, Mr. Clinton, who said he would veto Yucca Mountain. In China we’re seeing a new coal plant every four days. France is about 90% reliant on nuclear energy. In this country we’re about 20% reliant. I am a supporter of nuclear energy. I think it can be an enormous asset. I would hope that because this was missing in your book and movie.

12:06 Gore I’m not a reflexive opponent of nuclear power. I think economically the answer will be decentralization. I don’t want to exaggerate the problems of nuclear power, I think we can find solutions. I’m not opposed to it as a category.

12:09 Waxman: When we put something in place to deal with this problem it strikes me what we need to do is look to renewable energy, alternative energy, greater energy efficiency. I introduced the Safe Climate Act yesterday. The levels we called for were 1990 levels by 2020 and 80% by 2050. If we’re going to deal with this problem, let’s follow the science.

Gore: I do like your legislation a lot. I think the levels of reduction are in line with the scientists. If we see the loss of the Arctic ice cap it’ll be a radically dangerous change. In a few years we’ll be back here and the world will look different and the changes we’re talking about now will seem so little.

It is not partisan, it is not a political issue, people will be demanding this. We have a carbon crisis. We’re borrowing all this money from China, buying all this oil from Saudi Arabia, and burning it out into the atmosphere.

12:13 Waxman: Fear can be paralyzing. People say we have a magic solution, nuclear! It smacks of a theological solution. Your solution seems to be to unlock the ingenuity of the marketplace.

12:15 Roscoe Bartlett: I think it’s possible to be a conservative without appearing to be an idiot. How can we get together to combine our forces? Global warming, national security, peak oil are going to require international cooperation. Are we reaching out enough to China?

Gore: I don’t think so. In order to reach out to them we’re going have to take the initiative ourselves. With methane, land cover we have opportunities to reach out to them. If they’re the outlier and the rest of the world is acting I don’t think they won’t get on board.

I’ve followed some of your comments over the last few years. I do think one of the keys of getting a true bipartisan dialogue is that the market is failing to internalize some of the consequences. If the decision to pollute is free then the actual costs are misleading you. To give businesses a better chance to compete effectively give carbon a price. Morgan Stanley executed the first trade for carbon post 2012. There isn’t even regulation.

12:19 Markey (MA): Welcome back. When we joined Congress had just passed a bill to double CAFE standards. Our dependence on foreign oil went down from 46% to 20%. Since then CAFE standards haven’t changed and our dependence has gone back up. Could you talk about the need to improve the fuel economy standards for our vehicles?

12:21 Gore: I’m excited about your leadership on this issue. I support your bill and the general idea that your legislation should be part of a comprehensive package, a series of initiatives that sharply reduce carbon emissions. I can see why Chairman Dingell would be rightly concerned as one industry seems to be singled out.

Let me say something controversial, well I don’t think it’s controversial, but it’s unwelcome.

Successful lobbying for low efficiency standards has not been good for our auto industry. We need national health care, but efficiency goes hand and hand with the new economy our nation is rushing toward.

Markey You had your finger on the pulse of the issues of the twenty-first century. History has borne you out.

12:25 Whitfield: We appreciate the time you’re spending with this joint committee. We live in a pretty polarizing country today.

Dingell: The gentleman from Kentucky will be the last person to question the witness. We’ll then go to a vote and return for the second witness.

Whitfield This is one of those issues there’s a lot of division on. Scientists say there is global warming and humans are causing it. “We have 10 years to avoid a catastrophe with killer heat waves…” A response: “This is overstating our certainty about knowing the future.” Another scientist, “This is shrill alarmism.” Lomborg and eminent economists looked at the problems facing the world today. They listed 17 issues that faced mankind today. Climate change came as the very last issue that should be addressed. What is the urgency of global warming? What is the consequence of it? What advice would you give?

Gore The initial quote I don’t recognize. Let me say what I do believe. This comes from the scientists who I most trust the judgment of. The scientists I most respect, including Jim Hansen, have recently come to the conclusion that the evidence does show that we have 10 years to start dramatic changes to prevent changes we’ll lose our ability to forestall them.

If the Arctic ice cap goes it’ll become the greatest heat sink.

If the cap goes, that puts pressure on Greenland.

If Greenland goes, we lose our ability to retrieve it.

West Antarctica is more stable.

There have been tipping points in the ancient past when frozen methane has been released.

Thank you very much and I wish you well in the crucial legislative task you have before us.

Barton Thank you.

Dingell We remember you with great affection.

Gore Every time I’m here I learn a new rule from you.

Dingell They are the only defense the chair has.

Allegations of Political Interference with Government Climate Change Science (Part II)

Posted by Brad Johnson Mon, 19 Mar 2007 14:00:00 GMT

On Monday, March 19, 2007, the Committee held a second oversight hearing on allegations of political interference with government climate change science. Witnesses at the hearing included the former Chief of Staff of the White House Council on Environmental Quality (CEQ), the current Chairman of CEQ, the Director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, and a former NASA public affairs officer. At the hearing, the Committee examined evidence of White House efforts to minimize the significance of climate change.

Witnesses

Panel I
  • Philip Cooney, former Chief of Staff, White House Council on Environmental Quality
  • Dr. James Hansen, Director, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • George Deutsch, former public affairs officer, National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Panel II
  • James Connaughton, Chairman, White House Council on Environmental Quality
Panel III
  • Dr. Roy Spencer, University of Alabama in Huntsville
Transcript

U.S. Climate Action Partnership Report

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 13 Feb 2007 15:00:00 GMT

USCAP is a group of businesses (Alcoa, BP, Dupont, etc.) and environmental organizations (Environmental Defense, NRDC, Pew Center, etc.) that have come together to call on the federal government to quickly enact strong national legislation to require significant reductions of greenhouse gas emissions. Their report: A Call for Action.

The report advocates a cap-and-trade system plus R&D support with the following targets for GHG emissions:

  • 100-105% of today’s levels within 5 years of enactment
  • 90-100% of today’s levels within 10 years
  • 70-90% of today’s levels within 15 years

Witnesses

  • Chad Holliday Chairman and CEO , Dupont
  • Fred L. Smith Jr. President, Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • Jonathon Lash President, World Resources Institute
  • Kevin Book Senior Analyst/Vice President, Friedman Billings Ramsey & Company, Inc
  • Peter Darbee Chairman, CEO, and President, PG&E Corporation
  • Harold G. Hamm Chairman and CEO, Continental Resources, Inc.
  • Steve Elbert Vice Chair, BP America

10:56 Fred Smith of the EII is anti-cap-and-trade. “Even if one accepts the alarmist view of global warming.” His opening statement is going too long.

10:59 Harold Hamm, Continental Resources (mid-size oil & gas exploration company). “While I do not believe the science of global warming is proven or settled…” he does support energy efficiency. “I strongly disagree with” cap-and-trade. He’s equivalating it with Pres. Clinton’s proposed BTU tax which was killed by the oil & gas lobby.

11:03 Sen Carper is up. Darbee (PG&E) is neutral on cap-and-trade since their profit margin is already regulated. What’s your motivation? “In short, it’s to do the right thing.” The company had no official position on global warming when he became CEO two years ago. They studied it, had roundtables, and decided that anthropogenic global warming is real and the time to act is now.

11:08 Kevin Book: review of acid rain mercury/sulfur rules. (Paraphrasing) it worked.

Peter Darbee: there is merit in breaking up the problem into discrete components. US-CAP believes in an economywide program but it may be reasonable to start going industry by insdustry.

Holliday: DuPont used an internal cap-and-trade like program by rewarding internal programs that were more efficient.

Carper: What can Congress do to get industry ready?

Holliday: It’s understanding the total legislation that comes is important. Companies will be like DuPont: our employees and shareholders are asking us to take action. Change has come in the last two or three years.

11:14 Sen. Lamar Alexander questions Darbee. “There’s no coal-fired plants in California?” Some coal-powered energy comes in from outside the state, but even though 50% of US energy comes from coal, nearly none of California’s energy is coal-based. It’s almost entirely hydro, nuclear, and natural gas.

11:21 Elbert is interested in a national, mandatory program that covers all sectors of the economy.

11:56 Kit Bond (R-MO), a big cap-and-trade opponent. It’s fun watching a Republican trying to attack big corporations like those represented by the panel. He’s actually bringing up Enron as why cap-and-trade is evil. “They would profit off the pain of other companies and consumers.” Companies are willing to work for environmental goals because it pads their bottom line. Big Oil will make money in any scenario. Some on this committee, but not me, would consider their profits ill-gotten windfalls. But hey, they’re there to make a profit. He’s twisting himself into knots being a pro-mega-corporation populist.

The future is clear in cap-and-trade: less coal, more natural gas, higher profits from higher costs. Am I here to blame the companies today? No, I expect you to return value to shareholders. Let’s not get that competitive advantage by sticking it to the people.

Ah, the struggling middle-class workers.

“Don’t saddle the Midwest - our workers, our farmers, our poor - with outrageously expensive natural gas caused by carbon caps.”

He throws it to Fred Smith to attack cap-and-trade.

Boxer basically says Smith’s claims about Europe’s situation is a bunch of hooey.

12:08 Sen. Sanders (I-VT) in his remarkable accent is talking about the Boxer-Sanders legislation. “While the political will in Washington has been lagging the American people, the technology is moving forward.” How could it be that MPG has gone down in the last twenty years? We are at the cusp of a solar energy revolution. All of the technologies are sitting there waiting to go forward. Sanders knows Lash from Vermont.

What is the economic implication if we do not move away from fossil fuels.

Lash says that Paul Volcker gave a speech a week ago: moving away from greenhouse gases won’t be that bad, but if we don’t, the economy will go down the drain in the next 20-30 years.

12:12 Darbee (PG&E): regulations on our industry were great for California and just fine for our company. Similarly the acid rain cap-and-trade worked faster and was cheaper than expected. “The cost of not [dealing with GHG] could be catastrophic.”

Darbee: I’m very concerned about energy security here in the United States. Plug-in hybrid cars can make use of the unused night-time generating capacity than even already exists. The leap to the plug-in hybrid is not very far. Toyota is leading.

Sanders: Despite the significant amounts of corporate welfare we have given Detroit, Toyota and Honda are ahead on hybrid cars. I find that very unfortunate.

Holliday (DuPont): hooray for corn ethanol!

12:17 Inhofe up to make his closing statement. I can’t deal with it, honestly, it hurts my head to hear him.

Inhofe: hero of marginal and stripper wells everywhere.

12:35 Boxer: Don’t compare companies that are sitting here today with Enron! Don’t use Enron as a way to defame people who support action on global warming.

Allegations of Political Interference with the Work of Government Climate Change Scientists

Posted by Brad Johnson Tue, 30 Jan 2007 15:00:00 GMT

The Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on January 30 regarding political interference in the work of government climate change scientists. In preparation for the hearing, Chairman Waxman and Ranking Member Davis have requested documents from the Council on Environmental Quality related to allegations that officials edited scientific reports and took other actions to minimize the significance of climate change.

Witnesses
  • Dr. Drew Shindell, Goddard Institute for Space Studies, NASA
  • Mr. Rick Piltz, former Senior Associate, U.S. Climate Change Science Program
  • Dr. Francesca Grifo, Senior Scientist and Director of the Scientific Integrity Program, Union of Concerned Scientists
  • Dr. Roger Pielke, Jr., Professor in the University of Colorado’s Environmental Studies Program and a Fellow of the Cooperative Institute for Research in the Evnvironmental Sciences.
Transcript

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