Divestment Activists and Anti-Vaxxers Cut from the Same Cloth

American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle penned a letter to the editor of The Dallas Morning News. The text of the letter is below:

The recent measles outbreak at Disneyland helped shine a light on the lethal ideology of anti-vaxxers who deny the science on vaccines.

Another group of activists recently descended on cities across the country to peddle a potentially more dangerous notion: to pressure Americans into divesting any stocks or bonds they own in companies that produce natural gas, oil or coal.

If successful, the fossil-fuel divestment movement would take America back to a time before modern medicine could control the spread of deadly viruses like measles and polio. In other words, divesting from fossil fuels means divesting from modern medicine — and modern life.

Natural gas, for instance, generates 46 percent of Texas’ electricity, but the fuel is also a key feedstock for many medical devices. As just one example, polymers made from natural gas are used to create the syringe tips that administer life-saving vaccines.

The same is true of oil. In addition to fueling our cars, petrochemicals are used to make acetylsalicylic acid — aspirin — the main ingredient in many over-the-counter pain relievers.

Finally, coal supplies 32 percent of Texas’ electricity. It also has numerous public health applications: Kidney dialysis machines, for example, are made from activated carbon, which comes from coal. The list goes on.

Anti-vaxxers and divestment activists are cut from the same cloth. Their ideas deny reality and cause needless pain and suffering. Texans should inoculate themselves against the divestment delusion.

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Obama Used His Pen

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AEA Statement on Keystone XL Veto

WASHINGTON — American Energy Alliance President Thomas Pyle issued the following statement on President Obama’s veto of the Keystone XL pipeline bill:

“The White House said President Obama would veto the Keystone bill ‘without drama or fanfare or delay.’ That’s rich coming from a president who has spent the last six years turning a routine decision over an infrastructure project into a media circus.

“Instead of listening to the American people, who overwhelmingly support the pipeline, the president continues to carry water for the national environmental lobby. Keystone XL is an economic no-brainer that would create thousands of jobs and strengthen America’s relationship with Canada, our strongest energy partner. Along with the administration’s methane rules, plans to lock up ANWR, and permitting delays on federal lands, this veto sends a clear message to OPEC that help is on the way.

“The only drama here is that of the president’s own doing.”

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Top Questions for EPA Admin. Gina McCarthy

On Wednesday, February 25,  EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy will testify before a joint hearing of the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittees on Energy and Power and Environment and the Economy. This hearing offers lawmakers an opportunity to question the Administrator about her agency’s Existing Source Rule for power plants—also known as the “Clean Power Plan”—which EPA is promulgating under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act. AEA offers the following questions as a sampling of the types of questions the Administrator should answer about her agency’s regulatory agenda:

  1. A new report released by the Institute for Energy Research highlights the combined effects of government policies on grid reliability. As we note, the North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) estimates that anti-coal policies from EPA could shutter 103 gigawatts of reliable coal-fired generation. That is more than enough power to meet the residential electricity demand of 80 million Americans. Why is EPA not concerned about the reliability of the grid when your policies are taking enough power plants for more than ¼ of America’s population off line? 
  1. FERC Commissioner Philip Moeller has warned that EPA regulations shuttering coal-fired power plants could cause “rolling blackouts” if we have another cold winter like last year’s polar vortex. Why is EPA going forward with rules that will harm the reliability of the grid and may cause blackouts?
  1. Several state agencies have questioned the legality of certain aspects of the Existing Source Rule. The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, for instance, writes in public comments that EPA is imposing “unlawful reductions associated with natural gas dispatching, renewable energy generation, and energy efficiency.”

a. Does EPA have the authority to require states to dispatch natural gas power plants instead of coal? If so, where is that statutory authority in the Clean Air Act?

b. Does EPA have authority to require states to use more renewable sources instead of coal? If so, where is that statutory authority in the Clean Air Act?

c. Does EPA have the authority to require states to use less electricity? If so, where is that statutory authority in the Clean Air Act?

  1. You have claimed on numerous occasions that “flexibility” for states is a key element of the Existing Source Rule. Yet several states are concerned that EPA’s requirements under the proposed rule are impossible to meet—regardless of any flexibility. In public comments, Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management writes, “there are no viable or cost effective mechanisms by which the goals can be met.” How can EPA’s rule be “flexible” if states don’t believe its goals are even achievable?
  1. Last week, EPA’s Acting Assistant Administrator for Air and Radiation, Janet McCabe, was asked about whether EPA is double counting health benefits from reducing PM2.5. She testified that EPA “certainly are not double counting. We are very careful in all of our regulations to make sure that we don’t do that.”

However, EPA admits in its RIA for the Existing Source Rule that “it is possible that some costs and benefits estimated in this RIA may account for the same air quality improvements as estimated in the illustrative NAAQS RIAs.” (4-15) If EPA is taking credit for the same benefits in both the NAAQS and the Existing Source Rule, does that not amount to double counting benefits? Why did McCabe testify that EPA is “very careful” not to double count benefits?

  1. In Massachusetts v. EPA, the U.S. Supreme Court expressed concerns over “precipitate rise in sea levels” and a “rise in global temperatures” associated with climate change. What specific impact does EPA’s Existing Source Rule have on sea levels and global temperatures?
  1. Last week, EPA official Christopher Grundler announced that the agency would combine three years of volume requirements (2014-2016) under the Renewable Fuel Standard into a single proposed rule to be finalized by November. That means EPA will have missed its 2014 deadline by two years and the 2015 deadline by a year. Given its history of missed deadlines and inaccurate predictions, what makes EPA think it is capable of administering the RFS?

STUDY: Assessing Emerging Policy Threats to the U.S. Power Grid

According to a new report from the Institute for Energy Research, the biggest threat to our power grid isn’t a cyber or physical attack – it’s government policies. IER’s new study examines numerous threats to our incredibly dependable power grid, which stem from policies at both the federal and state level. Below is the executive summary of the report:

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Executive Summary

Abstract

Reliable, affordable electricity is critical to our well-being and essential to modern life. But today, threats to the reliability of the power grid are numerous: cyber-attacks, weather, and accidents. Fortunately, the most significant threat is also the most avoidable—bad policy. Federal and state policies are already increasing electricity bills around the country, and the worst effects are yet to come. The federal government, and particularly the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is promulgating regulations that will reduce the reliability of the power grid with little thought of the consequences. In fact, these policies threaten to take offline 130 gigawatts of reliable electricity generation sources—enough to meet the electricity needs of more than 105 million Americans, or one-third of the population of the entire United States. Reforming policies that threaten grid reliability should be a top priority for policymakers.

Overview

American homes and businesses depend on reliable electricity. We use it to energize everything from our lights and appliances to our computers and the data centers that give us the Internet. Because so much of what we do every day depends on having access to reliable power, threats to the consistent delivery of electricity put modern life itself at risk. Such threats take many forms. Some originate from things beyond our control— such as cyber attacks and extreme weather —and we can seek to defend against and mitigate those threats. Others result from accidental error, such as the transmission line failure that resulted in a major blackout of the Northeastern U.S. in 2003. Smart planning and the use of best practices in the electricity industry can minimize these accidents, but they are an unavoidable part of a society powered by a complex system of electricity delivery.

In contrast, some emerging threats are completely avoidable. These threats come from a different kind of error—bad policy. Currently, a host of federal and state regulations, subsidies, and mandates threaten to undermine the reliability of the U.S. power grid by taking offline over 130 gigawatts of reliable power, which is enough to meet the residential electricity needs of more than 105 million Americans. New stresses on the electricity delivery system are coming primarily from two types of policies:

1) Regulations that directly shut down reliable sources of electricity, such as coal and nuclear power, and

2) Subsidies and mandates that force increased amounts of unreliable sources of electricity on the grid, such as wind and solar power, and undermine the normal operation of reliable power plants.

Together, these two types of policies create a much less reliable grid and increase the chances of a major blackout.

This year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is slated to finalize a regulation that closes reliable power plants and forces the use of unreliable sources of electricity. With this wide-ranging carbon dioxide regulation under Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act—called the Existing Source Rule—EPA threatens simultaneously to shut down vast swaths of reliable electricity generation across America and impose a federal mandate for renewable energy. Affected utilities and grid operators are pushing back on the rule and asking for extra time to comply. However, pushing back deadlines does not solve the most important problem with the Existing Source Rule, which is EPA’s disregard for electric reliability.

With this one regulation, EPA will be able to exercise unprecedented control over the electric grid. In turn, grid reliability will suffer because reliability is neither a priority for EPA nor one of EPA’s statutory obligations. Some have referred to the Existing Source Rule as a federal takeover of the electric grid because EPA is proposing to turn electricity markets on their head by mandating a radical shift away from economic dispatch (the tried-and-true method of balancing the grid while minimizing costs by selecting reliable generators on a least-cost basis) and towards environmental dispatch (choosing generation sources based on their carbon dioxide emissions rather than their reliability and cost).

EPA is charging ahead with the Existing Source Rule and other grid-threatening regulations despite vocal opposition from independent grid experts. The North American Electric Reliability Corporation— the group of reliability experts designated by the federal government to oversee the power grid—continues to raise questions about the effect of EPA rules on the grid. It is unclear whether EPA will address these reliability problems before finalizing its rules. Electricity policy in the U.S. deserves to be reevaluated. In fact, if federal and state policymakers intentionally set out to cause havoc for grid operators and hurt grid reliability, they would be hard pressed to do better than the current policy trajectory.

Dozens of policies handicap electric reliability by favoring unreliable sources of power, undercutting reliable sources, or both. From state-level renewable energy mandates, to the wind production tax credit, to multiple EPA rules targeting coal-fired power plants, to—yes—blocking the Keystone XL pipeline, bad policy threatens to wreck America’s power grid. Fortunately, policymakers have every opportunity to address these threats.

For those who want to ensure that Americans have access to reliable electricity long into the future, the time has come to push back against policies that hurt grid reliability. It is time to repeal regulations that shut down reliable sources of power and to remove massive subsidies for unreliable power sources. Today’s electricity policy is a risky nationwide experiment in burning the candle at both ends— something has to give. That means reliability problems and blackouts if emerging policy threats go un-checked. Policymakers should choose now to put the U.S. power grid back on track and to ensure reliable electricity for years to come.

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Divesting from Climate Alarmism

The Boston Globe published a letter from Institute for Energy Research CEO Robert Bradley responding to a recent piece by Globe Columnist Jeff Jacoby on the numerous benefits of fossil fuels. The text of Mr. Bradley’s letter is below:

Activists cite “catastrophic climate change” as the impetus for “divesting” from companies that produce natural gas, oil, and coal. But warming has flat-lined since the late 1990s, even as carbon-dioxide emissions have continued to rise; severe-weather events are less common; and the North Pole is still ice-covered, despite Al Gore’s prediction that it would be ice-free by sometime last year. The simple fact is that the famed climate models got it wrong. An analysis by scientist Roy Spencer found that more than 95 percent of climate simulations have over-estimated Earth’s warming trend since 1979. The benefits of using fossil fuels are as obvious as ever. Instead of breaking up with fossil fuels, let’s divest from climate alarmism.

To read Mr. Bradley’s letter, click here.

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Prominent Climate Activist Criticizes Divestment Movement

The latest critic of the fossil fuel divestment movement isn’t an energy company or a university president, but a prominent climate activist. In a recent interview with Valerie Richardson of the Washington Times, Paul Hamill of the liberal American Security Project called efforts to divest financial holdings in natural gas, oil, and coal companies “a glib PR stunt.” Here’s an excerpt from the piece:

Paul Hamill isn’t what you’d call a climate denier. Far from it. But he’s also not a fan of pressuring academic institutions to sell off their fossil fuel stocks.

Four years after its inception, the divestment movement is under attack, and not just from its natural enemies in the oil, gas and coal business. Opposition is also emerging from liberal analysts, scientists and professors who are wholeheartedly dedicated to combating climate change, but insist that divestment is a waste of time and resources. 

“What they [divestment activists] want to do is to reduce CO2 levels in the atmosphere to tackle climate change, and that is spot-on — that’s what we really need to do,” said Mr. Hamill, director of strategy and communications for the center-left American Security Project in Washington, D.C.

“But divesting is not the way to do it. It’s almost like a glib PR stunt. It feels nice to go out and campaign, and it feels nice to try and divest from these companies, but it’s not serious,” he said.

Along with Mr. Hamill, most major universities—from Harvard to Yale to Swarthmore College—want nothing to do with divestment. Swarthmore, for instance, found that the college could “lose $15 million per year over the next 10 years under fossil fuel divestment policies.” That could mean less money for students, including scholarships, research, and need-based financial aid.

Divesting from natural gas, oil, and coal is an immoral cause. It means abandoning not just 82 percent of the energy we use, but also many products we use every day—including lifesaving kidney dialysis machines and sterile plastics used in hospitals. It’s easy to see why even some climate activists oppose the divestment delusion.

Denver Post Joins Media Chorus Against Divestment Radicals

On the heels of last week’s “Global Divestment Day,” Denver Post columnist Vincent Carroll penned an opinion piece explaining the “folly of fossil fuel divestment.” In it, Mr. Carroll correctly points out that divesting from natural gas, oil, and coal would be akin to divesting from modern life. Here’s an excerpt from his piece:

But fossil fuels actually are nothing like apartheid and tobacco — one a system of racial oppression and the other a product whose health effects are comprehensively bad. By contrast, were you to banish fossil fuels today with a wave of a wand, millions would likely freeze and starve to death as civilization as we know it essentially imploded.

How is it morally disreputable or a waste of profits to supply something that we all rely upon, however much we might wish to transition to non-carbon-based energy sources?

Is it a bad thing that 1.6 billion people were introduced to electricity in the 1990s alone, or a good thing that 1 billion people still lack it today? Of course not.

Recent media coverage of the divestment movement has been largely negative. A recent op-ed in The Wall Street Journal, for instance, slammed divestment as “feel-good folly” that can potentially harm low-income students by reducing university endowments, which are used to provide need-based financial aid.

Meanwhile, Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby exposed the cynical tactics of divestment activists who “demonize the industry” because “it will be easier to turn Big Oil into a pariah than to convince the public to abandon its cars and smartphones.”

To read the rest of Vincent Carroll’s Denver Post column, click here.

Study Undermines Scientific Basis for EPA’s Ozone Rule

Researchers have long thought that there was a correlation between living in urban areas and asthma prevalence. This is part of a belief that outdoor air pollution, which is often worse in inner-city areas, contributes to asthma development.

However, a new study questions the link between asthma and city living. It shows that once we adjust for other factors, notably race and poverty, whether a person lives in an urban or a non-urban area is not a good predictor of asthma.

This new research calls into question EPA’s longstanding belief that people, particularly children, who are exposed to more outdoor air pollution, such as ozone, are at a greater risk for developing asthma. Instead, the researchers found that poverty is a greater risk factor for asthma, while living in urban areas (with higher outdoor air pollution) is “not significant.”

The finding that poverty has more to do with asthma than living in urban areas undermines EPA’s case for lowering national standards for ground-level ozone—a regulation that could be the costliest rule ever proposed.

By making people poorer, EPA’s proposed rule could make asthma worse. If this study is correct, then the ozone rule would be inconsistent with EPA’s statutory requirement under the Clean Air Act to protect public health with an “adequate margin of safety.” It also underscores the need for Congress to force EPA to consider the link between economic costs and public health.

In light of this new evidence, EPA should rescind its proposed ozone rule. This rule could exacerbate the public health problem it is trying to mitigate and impose enormous economic burdens on American families. Moreover, ozone levels are already declining without further regulation, obviating the need for more federal mandates.

Study Questions Long-Held Asthma Link

EPA has long linked outdoor air pollution to asthma attacks, the “development of asthma,” and other respiratory conditions. The agency uses the assumed correlation as a pretext for nearly all of its clean air regulations, including its proposed ozone rule.

However, this new study, published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology by a team of researchers led by Dr. Corinne Keet at the John’s Hopkins Children’s Center, examined data for 23,065 children across the country. The study concludes: “Although the prevalence of asthma is high in some inner-city areas, this is largely explained by demographic factors and not by living in an urban neighborhood.”

In fact, the authors found that indoor pollution linked to poverty is a greater risk factor for asthma than living in an urban area, where outdoor air pollution is usually worse. As TIME explains:

The new findings still support pollution as a cause for asthma, but it suggests that indoor pollution may be doing more of the harm.

A lot of what may make a difference is what happens inside the home than outside the home, especially as we spend so much time indoors these days,” says Keet. Allergen exposure from old housing materials, cockroaches and mice, mold pollution, cleaning supplies, and tobacco smoke may be heavy contributors. [Emphasis mine]

The authors note in their study that once they controlled for race, ethnicity, and poverty, the correlation between inner-city living and asthma prevalence disappeared:

Here we show that although some inner-city areas have high rates of asthma, particularly in the Midwest and Northeast, other non-urban poor areas have equal or higher asthma prevalence. Overall, black race, Puerto Rican ethnicity, and poverty rather than residence in an urban area per se are the major risk factors for prevalent asthma. [Emphasis mine]

On the next page, the authors offer further explanation:

Residence in urban areas, a potential risk factor for asthma hypothesized to be mediated by exposure to indoor and outdoor pollution, pest allergens, and violence and other stressful life events, was not found to be a significant risk factor for prevalent asthma or asthma morbidity in this US population–based analysis. [Emphasis mine]

This new study isn’t the first to question the science of asthma and air pollution. Last year, Drs. Julie Goodman and Sonja Sax accused EPA of “cherry-picking” studies to support stricter ozone standards. As Goodman and Sax put it, “EPA assumes that ozone causes more health effects than what the science supports.”

This latest study casts further doubt on the scientific basis for EPA’s ozone rule. In a recent opinion piece for The Hill, Dr. Joseph Perrone, chief science officer at the Center for Accountability in Science, was the first to point out how the Hopkins study undermines EPA’s science on ozone and asthma:

This is science the EPA cannot ignore. If the agency is truly interested in “following the science,” it should spend more time addressing real public health threats than imposing costly rules based on dubious science that may only make us poorer and sicker.

It is important to note that Keet’s study examined asthma prevalence, not asthma attacks or any other health effects. EPA cites reductions in both asthma prevalence and asthma attacks to justify its proposed ozone rule.

EPA’s Ozone Rule Exacerbates Asthma and Poverty

EPA is currently accepting public comments on a proposal to tighten national ozone standards by as much as 20 percent, from 75 parts per billion (ppb) to 60 ppb. EPA Administration Gina McCarthy claims that the proposed rule is necessary because “cutting air pollution to meet ozone standards lowers the risk of asthma.”

In fact, EPA may actually make asthma worse by exacerbating poverty. A recent analysis finds that EPA’s ozone rule could slash economic growth by $270 billion per year, destroy 2.9 million jobs annually, and reduce household spending by $1,570 per year. That would make EPA’s proposal the costliest regulation in U.S. history.

If poverty contributes more to asthma than ozone, EPA’s proposal, which could put millions of Americans out of work and slow economic growth, could actuallyincrease asthma prevalence. That would make EPA’s ozone rule inconsistent with the agency’s statutory obligation under the Clean Air Act to protect public health with an “adequate margin of safety.”

Ozone Declining Without Further Regulation

Even if EPA’s proposed ozone rule didn’t threaten public health, it would still be unnecessary because ozone levels are already declining without a tighter standard. According to EPA’s own data, ozone levels have declined 33 percentsince 1980 alone. The following EPA chart shows national ambient ozone levels between 1980 and 2013:

Ozone Air Quality

 

Further tightening ozone regulations would likely only increase poverty, which could actually make asthma worse. To protect public health with an “adequate margin of safety,” EPA must rescind its proposed rule.

EPA Should Consider Link Between Poverty and Public Health

A major flaw with EPA’s ozone rule is that EPA cannot consider the link between economic costs and public health, even though the science shows that poverty worsens public health. In EPA’s Regulatory Impact Analysis for its proposed ozone rule, the agency claims “the Clean Air Act and judicial decisions make clear that the economic and technical feasibility of attaining ambient standards are not to be considered in setting or revising [National Ambient Air Quality Standards],” including ozone.

This is problematic, as it seems to conflict with EPA’s statutory requirement under the Clean Air Act to protect public health with an “adequate margin of safety.” EPA’s ozone rule could impose enormous compliance costs, resulting in job losses and reduced economic activity. In other words, the rule could make people poorer, which the science shows makes people less healthy.

Congress should force EPA to consider the link between the economic costs of its regulations and public health outcomes. EPA might still conclude that health benefits outweigh costs, but it would at least force the agency to consider the science on poverty and health.

Conclusion

The new study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology found no link between living in an inner city—where outdoor air pollution (including ozone) is generally higher than non-inner-city areas—and asthma prevalence in children. Rather, the study found that poverty is more closely linked to asthma than city living, where outdoor air pollution is generally worse. That means EPA’s proposed ozone rule, which could be the costliest regulation in U.S. history, could actually make asthma worse by making poverty worse. In light of these new findings, EPA should withdraw its proposed ozone rule.

No shirt, no shoes, no fossil fuels

Life without natural gas, oil, and coal is not much of a life at all. Click here to learn more about the divestment movement.

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