Tag: environmental policy

Is Governor Inslee Right About the Impact of Coal Exports on Puget Sound?

Large cargo ship being loaded with coal at the Ridley Island Terminal in British Columbia, Canada. [image: istockphoto.com]

Large cargo ship being loaded with coal at the Ridley Island Terminal in British Columbia, Canada. [image: istockphoto.com]

Would you consider a change of 0.083 percent “unparalleled” and “significant”? Apparently, Governor Jay Inslee does.

Two weeks ago, Governor Inslee visited the Vancouver Columbian editorial board and defended his proposal to require an unprecedented level of analysis regarding proposed export terminals. His process, known as “expanded SEPA,” has never been done before and would attempt to analyze the environmental impact not only of the terminal but of all the products being exported.

The governor told the Columbian he felt this was justified because:

“We know this, wherever the coal is burned, a portion of the coal that is burned ends up in Puget Sound and off our West coast and makes our water more acidic. We will be evaluating the carbon pollution increase associated with the state of Washington and it appears to be significant. It would have a significant increase in the carbon pollution associated with the economic activity and with an unparalleled dimension the increase in carbon pollution associated with these projects would be unparalleled in state history.”

He went on to note that “we’ve had to move some of our oyster operations to less acidic waters because of carbon pollution.”

There are two key claims he makes here:

  1. Human-caused ocean acidification is already causing Washington oyster growers to leave the state.
  2. Coal exports from Washington would have an “unparalleled” impact on Puget Sound and Washington waters.

Both of these claims are wrong.

First, the Governor frequently says that oyster growers are leaving the state. He has stopped, however, saying where they are going. Previously he noted that they moved to Hawaii. It is unlikely that oyster growers looking to avoid ocean acidification would move to the middle of the ocean, which may be one reason the Governor no longer adds that bit of information.

Additionally, the oyster growers that have moved were along the coast, not in Puget Sound. Along the coast, there are natural swings in the pH of the water by 0.6 pH. According to the IPCC, the UN climate change agency, the total contribution of mankind’s carbon emissions to acidity is 0.1 pH since industrialization, over 100 years. The human-caused portion of acidification over 100 years, therefore, is only about seven percent the amount that can occur naturally, in a single day, along the coast (the pH scale is logarithmic, making 0.1 only seven percent of 0.6).

Currents, upwelling and other natural forces, not carbon emissions from burning coal, are the cause of changes in the pH level along the coast. Blaming coal for oyster growers moving to Hawaii is simply unscientific.

Second, using the IPCC’s science, which the left used to call the “scientific consensus,” we can estimate the impact of coal exports from Washington on the Puget Sound.

Like any estimates, there is a margin of error. But, as we will see, even allowing for an wide margin of error, the impact is far from “unparalleled” or even “significant.”

  1. In 2012, China used 4.1 billion tons of coal according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). This number will increase in the future, but this is a good baseline number.
  2. The proposed export terminals could ship about 100 million tons of coal annually.
  3. Exports from Washington, therefore, would account for a maximum of 2.4 percent of China’s coal consumption.
  4. Coal used by China accounts for 22 percent of worldwide CO2 emissions according to the EIA.
  5. Thus, Washington’s coal exports would account for a maximum of 0.54 percent of worldwide emissions and a commensurate amount of ocean acidification.
  6. According to the IPCC, under the second highest emissions scenario, known as RCP 6.0, the oceans will see pH fall (i.e. become more acidic) by 0.2 by the year 2100.
  7. This means the maximum amount the coal from Washington would impact Puget Sound would be to lower pH (i.e. increase acidity) by 0.000836.
  8. Since the pH scale is logarithmic, the change in pH over the next 100 years due to the carbon from coal exported from Washington is 0.083 percent of what can occur daily, naturally, in Willapa Bay.

Put simply, the Governor claims that a change in the pH of Puget Sound or the coast of Washington by 0.083 percent over 100 years as compared to what occurs naturally in one day, is “significant” and “unparalleled.”

One final note. All of this assumes China will not find a replacement for the 2.4 percent of their coal consumption that would come from Washington’s export terminals. That is clearly false. It is likely that China will have no difficulty finding a replacement for most or all of that tiny amount of coal, meaning the net impact of stopping coal exports from Washington’s on ocean acidification would be literally zero.

Our consistent position has been that every energy source should pay for the impacts it causes and coal emits more carbon than any other energy source. Our position is also that Washington should focus on policies that yield the greatest environmental benefit. Governor Inslee’s plan to stop the export terminals based on the potential impact of exported coal on ocean acidification clearly fails the second test and is not supported by the science.

[Reprinted with permission from the Washington Policy Center blog; image: iStockphoto.com]

GOPLabs: Obama’s Proposed Environmental Regs Mean Millions More U.S. Jobs Lost

If Republicans were like 1960s liberals, there would be an aural avalanche of poems and folk songs, each protesting the shocking war on jobs the Obama administration seems to be waging. We would hear the sweet refrain, an echo of Seeger’s and Baez’ lament, asking, “Where have all the good jobs gone?”

Republicans are not liberals, but the rapid research and communications group formed by Congresswoman Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) – the team at GOPLabs who some are calling a “think-and-do tank” – has crafted another visually striking and fact-filled statement about the economic quagmire that threatens to drag the U.S. further down.

The latest infographic from GOPLabs is a sharp condemnation of the real culprit that threatens to keep the U.S. down – five job-killing regulations proposed by the Obama administration that GOPLabs contends would put millions more Americans on the unemployment line.

Oh, those progressives. Oh, when will they ever learn?


[image courtesy of @GOPLabs]

Freedom (Not Mandates) Is Our Best Hope For a ‘Greener’ Future

I have a bumper sticker on my desk that reads “I’m an environmentalist, but NOT the anti-human, collectivist kind.” In Washington state, too many believe that to be one you must be the other. In fact, however, wherever we look, we see people working in a free market doing more for environmental sustainability than politicians and government programs. Unfortunately, much of our current environmental approach sees the only solution coming from collectivist approaches like public transit and sees humans, and especially human freedom, as the enemy.

As we celebrate his birthday, we can also celebrate Milton Friedman’s fundamental commitment to the reality that even as politicians tell us we cannot make progress on environmental stewardship without them, individuals in a free market system are already doing it.

Perhaps Milton Friedman’s greatest insight is recognizing the power of free and voluntary interactions between people to improve lives and find ways to be better stewards of resources. Those voluntary interactions exist whether we recognize them or not, even when politicians might wish to stifle them.

As Friedman notes in Capitalism and Freedom, even as McCarthyism sought to blacklist some for their views, the power of people’s desire to make quality films allowed one blacklisted writer to win an Academy Award using a nom de plume. Jim Crow laws in the south are another example of politicians using the power of government to limit voluntary interactions between people.

A similar pattern emerges with environmental policy. Politicians promise their schemes will yield benefits but when they fail, those same politicians push for more of the same – at the expense of individual liberty.

The City of Seattle claims success in meeting the Kyoto Protocol’s carbon reduction targets but quietly admits that “economic factors,” i.e. individual efforts to save energy, rather than government regulations created the reduction. Metro buys soy diesel to cut carbon emissions in its buses, only to dump it a year later when it turned out the cost was too high and it didn’t help the environment. And rather than allowing school districts to find the best way to cut energy costs, legislators required schools to meet a cookie cutter “green” building standard the legislature’s own auditor says costs more than it saves.

Perhaps the area where Milton Friedman would have most to say about the green movement is in the claim that “green” jobs will create prosperity. When visiting China, Friedman watched as laborers worked to build a dam with shovels and picks. He asked why they weren’t using modern equipment. When his Chinese hosts explained that this was a jobs program, Friedman responded “Then why aren’t they using spoons?” Green jobs work in a similar way.

Greens brag that it takes more labor to produce a kilowatt hour of green energy than traditional energy. This is like bragging that banning tractors would create more agricultural jobs. Workers would be poorer, prices would be higher, but politicians could claim they created more “jobs.”

Indeed, we could probably create an even greater number of green jobs by putting those workers on a treadmill to create “renewable” energy.

Despite a record of failed environmental policies, some see the solution as more government intervention, not less.

For example, in her book Green Gone Wrong, Heather Rogers laments the fact that there isn’t “social control of capital,” saying the failure of environmentalism to make a bigger impact is due to the lack of government power to make decisions for the planet. Ironically, she also laments the failure of the Indonesian government to protect mangrove swamps in that country, saying the political leaders side with big companies rather than indigenous peoples. Her philosophy comes down to something like “the government should be in control of key decisions, except when it shouldn’t.” Indeed, this is the only philosophy those who believe in government power can have. They can only make it up as they go, hoping the imposition of this regulation or law will work out better than the last and assuming the very people who often turn out to have their personal interests in mind, not the planet’s, will make good decisions.

People in a free market consistently do better than politicians because they can harness the creativity of millions of people, each looking to reduce the amount of energy and resources they use, rewarding those who come up with the best solutions.

This pro-human approach, respecting the voluntary choices of individuals and their relationships with each other, is not only more successful, it is more moral.

Each of us has an incentive to use as few resources as possible to attain the lifestyle we want to live. We don’t want to waste energy, food or resources because such waste is antithetical to the efficiency that is central to a free market approach.

It is why an economic mindset is so critical to offering the environmental amenities we in the Evergreen State love. Environmentalism is born of a concern about scarce resources. Economics is the study of the allocation of scarce resources. What could be a better match?

It is why environmentalism should leave the government-heavy mindset of the 1970s behind, and honor the contributions Milton Friedman made not only to human freedom and prosperity, but to future environmental sustainability.

This year we celebrate not another year of the man, perhaps, but another year of the man’s ideas that make such a difference for people and the planet.


Guest contributor Todd Myers is Director of Washington Policy Center’s Center for the Environment. He is one of the nation’s leading experts on free-market environmental policy and is the author of Eco-Fads: How the Rise of Trendy Environmentalism is Harming the Environment, Five Years of Environmental Policy: Are We Making a Difference; Promoting Personal Choice, Incentives and Investment to Cut Greenhouse Gases, and more.  Todd’s in-depth research on the failure of the state’s 2005 “green” building mandate continues to receive national attention.  Todd holds a Master’s degree from the University of Washington.

Former Greenpeace Director Takes Harsh View on Environmental Policy Extremism

At an environmental policy conference in Seattle, Wash. Thursday, former Greenpeace director and author of “Confessions of a Greenpeace Dropout: The Making of a Sensible EnvironmentalistDr. Patrick Moore slayed sacred cows of the clean Earth movement one by one, a series of fanatically-held beliefs Moore argues are often unscientific and lead to the creation of poor—even dangerous—public policy.

Moore spoke to a room of hundreds who came down to Seattle’s waterfront for the 9th Annual Washington Policy Center Environmental Policy Conference and Lunch. Soliciting rapt attention and ironic laughter, the cerebral Vancouver, B.C. native and popular environmental speaker rolled casually through a discourse on what he argues is the backward agenda of the environmental extreme.

On issues as wide-ranging as agricultural genetic modification, foresting policy, hydro-electric power, nuclear energy (an issue on which his own opinion has changed since working for Greenpeace) and climate change, Moore described case after case in which science and logic have been ignored and substituted with flimsy rationale to rally an under-informed public to a popular cause.

“You don’t need a Ph.D. in nuclear physics to be against nuclear war, and you don’t need a Ph.D. in marine biology to think the whales should be saved,” Moore said. “But when you start talking about all the chemicals and substances that are used in all of our products and services … you need to know something about chemistry and biology in order to analyze those kinds of issues correctly.”

It’s a point of view that is hard to argue against rationally, but clashes on just that point eventually became the wedge forcing him to exit Greenpeace. When the group began to mobilize to ban chlorine—in all its forms—from worldwide use, the scientist in Moore became aware of irreconcilable differences with the extremists in the movement.

“I said you guys, ‘That’s one of the elements in the periodic table.’ It’s one of the building blocks in the universe and I don’t know if it’s in our jurisdiction to be banning something that important,” Moore said, a chuckle rippling through the audience.

But, in Moore’s view, banning chlorine had implications greater than the cosmic weight of arrogance.

“If you look at the chemicals in your cold and flu medicines and other pharmaceuticals you will find that about 80% of them are based on chlorine chemistry,” Moore explained.

According to Moore, all logic and common sense were unable to overcome zealous activism. With some melancholy, Moore finished the story. “It fell on deaf ears; I had to leave.”

It is the appearance of environmental and ecological extremists as insensitive to real-life consequences in the very populations they seek to persuade—particularly those people living under the world’s most abject conditions—that Moore seems most apt to question, expose and assail.

A prime example of what Moore sees can be found in the unswerving opposition to the use of genetic modification, including for food production, and in the Northwest no conversation on the subject is safe from a segue into salmon. Soon Moore’s talk turned to the silver-scaled, nutrient-rich fish that had also been served up for lunch.

Aquacultural activities such as salmon farming in Alaska and Canada have been targeted by Greenpeace and its surrogates, and Moore sketched a recent encounter in which anti-farming forces seized upon a historically bad run of sockeye on British Columbia’s Fraser River to provoke a Royal Commission to investigate the matter.

According to Moore, the 2009 run of Fraser River sockeye was a dreadfully low 1.4 million and that activists claimed the decline was caused by sea lice festering in salmon farms along the migratory route of the wild salmon. Their conjecture was that the sea lice were killing off the fries headed out to sea before they could return to spawn. However, Moore pointed out that though farms in subsequent years continued to produce supposed sea lice-breeding salmon, the wild runs came back stronger than ever, but the government inquiry is still going strong.

“Meanwhile, last year, 34 million sockeye returned to the Fraser last year… it’s the largest that they’ve ever seen since they’ve been recording it, and yet we’re still having a parliamentary inquiry into the collapse of the Fraser River sockeye,” Moore said.

Though Greenpeace has declared a de facto war against the salmon farming industry, Moore argues that salmon farms are needed particularly because they enable conservation of wild stocks, while also smoothing out the highly seasonal employment cycle to provide more consistent income in coastal communities.

But Moore also sees Greenpeace interfering in a way to prevent struggling countries in the developing world from solving perpetual crises with malnutrition and malnourishment.

In many areas of the world, rice is the only item in many diets, but its naturally-occurring form is devoid of vitamins and minerals. The result is startlingly high levels of blindness and mortality as a result of vitamin A deficiency. The invention in 1998 of a product known as ‘golden rice’ could introduce critical vitamin A into the diets of poor around the world, but as a genetically modified food it was successfully targeted by Greenpeace.

“Greenpeace said right away, ‘We’ll rip it out of the ground if you plant this stuff. There could be unforeseen health and environmental consequences,’” Moore said.

But again, Moore’s focus stayed fixed on what impact all of this policy-wrangling has on the people it is meant to protect.

“[Greenpeace does] know, I’m sure, the World Health Organization estimate of 250,000 to half a million blind kids a year.”

Moore eventually took aim directly at former Vice President Al Gore and others for the ease with which they sidestep questions of how their policy proposals would affect civilization and our future generations.

“Al Gore is actually proposing in print and on stage that we should eliminate fossil fuel use in this world in 2020. Eliminate it. 86% of the world’s energy supply. If that actually happened, say actually in 2020 fossil fuel consumption came to an end and we knew it was going to happen today and we started planning for it now, there wouldn’t be one tree left on this planet within a couple of years from now. Because people would start using them for energy, because what else is there?” Moore speculated then matched the dire predictions of global warming hysterics with one of his own.

“[P]eople would start starving to death… Think about what the repercussions of not having 86% of our energy would be and what would we do instead? Build a bunch of windmills? I don’t think so… I think people would die by the hundreds of millions.”

Still, Moore did voice his support for reducing our overall use of fossil fuels, if not for the purpose of averting a hot mess global climatic disaster than to conserve a resource with uncertain reserves.

“[I] do believe that we are using 300 million years of fossil fuel creation in a few centuries. That is not actually a very good model for sustainability or for conservation,” Moore suggested.

He then completed the thought, adding, “If we’re going to charge our electric car, for example, we don’t want to do it on a coal-fired power plant.”

Much of the science is unsettled on many of the environmental issues, and the impact on our society not fully considered. Voices such as Moore’s—a man who pursues facts and logic as a means to obtaining truth, and one who has thought with the mind of those he now opposes—are an asset in our public debate on environmental policy.


[photo credit: flickr]

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