From fracking to flatulence: the all-out assault on methane

Commentary by Marita Noon

What is the “biggest unfinished business for the Obama administration?” According to a report from Bill McKibben, the outspoken climate alarmist who calls for all fossil fuels to be kept in the ground, it is “to establish tight rules on methane emissions” – emissions that he blames on the “rapid spread of fracking.”

McKibben calls methane emissions a “disaster.” He claims “methane is much more efficient at trapping heat than carbon dioxide” and that it does more damage to the climate than coal. Methane, CH4, is the primary component of natural gas.

Apparently, his progressive friends in California agree, as they are now, according to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ): “seeking to curb the natural gas emanating from dairy farms” – more specifically cow manure and flatulence. The August 12 editorial says that the California Air Resources Board “suggests that dairy farms purchase technology to capture methane and then sell the biogas to customers.” It acknowledges that the supposed cure would only be cost-effective with “substantial government subsidies and regulatory credits.” WSJ points out that while California’s proposed regulations might produce the “least GHG intensive” gallon of milk in the world, it would also be the “most expensive.”

To buttress his anti-fracking argument, McKibben is selective on which studies he cites. He starts with a paper from “Harvard researchers” that shows increased methane emissions between 2002 and 2014 but doesn’t pinpoint the source of the methane. He, then, relies heavily on “a series of papers” from known fracking opponents: Cornell scientists Robert Howarth and Anthony Ingraffea. Within his report, McKibben mentions Howarth’s bias, but, I believe, intentionally never mentions Ingraffea’s. Earlier this year, in sworn testimony, Ingraffea admitted he’d be lying if he said that every one of his papers on shale gas was “entirely objective.” Additionally, a group that Ingraffa co-founded and for which he serves as Board Chair, Emeritus: Physicians, Scientists and Engineers for Healthy Energy, received, at least, tens of thousands of dollars in coordination with wealthy foundations to support the broad movement of opposition to shale gas drilling.

Because of bias, McKibben claims to reach out to an “impeccably moderate referee”: Dan Lashof. Mckibben then goes on to report on Lashof as having been “in the inner circles of climate policy almost since it began.” In addition to writing reports for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and crafting Obama’s plan to cut “coal plant pollution,” Lashof was the “longtime head of the Clean Air Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council” and he now serves as COO for “billionaire Tom Steyer’s NextGen Climate America.” Lashof is hardly an “impeccably moderate referee.”

Because McKibben goes to great lengths trying to appear balanced in his conclusions, a casual reader of his report might think the research cited is all there is and, therefore, agree with his cataclysmic views. Fortunately, as a just-released paper makes clear, much more research needs to be considered before cementing public policy, such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s “tight rules on methane emissions.”

In the 28 peer-reviewed pages (with nearly 70 footnotes) of Bill McKibben’s terrifying disregard for fracking facts, Isaac Orr, research fellow for energy and environment policy at The Heartland Institute, states: “Although McKibben – a journalist, not a scientist – accurately identifies methane as being exceptionally good at capturing heat in Earth’s atmosphere, his ‘the-sky-is-falling’ analysis is based on cherry-picking data useful to his cause, selectively interpreting the results of other studies, ignoring contradicting data, and failing to acknowledge the real uncertainties in our understanding of how much methane is entering the atmosphere. In the end, methane emissions aren’t nearly as terrifying as McKibben claims.”

In the Heartland Institute Policy Brief, Orr explains why it has been difficult to achieve consistent readings on methane emissions: “Tools have been developed only recently to measure accurately methane emissions, with new and better equipment progressively replacing less perfect methods.” He then details the various methods:

  • Direct measurement of emissions, on-site, identifies methane emissions from specific sources;
  • Ambient Air Monitoring uses aerial surveys, allows large areas to be surveyed, with results affected by uncertainties;
  • Life-Cycle Analyses draw on multiple sources to provide an integrated measure of emissions from the entire natural gas value chain; and
  • Meta-Analyses combine the results of multiple studies using different methodologies or databases to search for overarching trends, recurring facts, and robust findings.

Throughout the section on methodology, Orr draws attention to the results of the various techniques – which he says shows “great uncertainty about how much methane is entering the atmosphere, how much is produced by oil-and-natural gas production, and how emissions can be managed in the future.” He also points out that more than 75 studies examining methane emissions from oil and gas systems have been done, yet “McKibben chose an outdated study [Howarth/Ingraffea] that used unrealistic assumptions and reached inaccurate conclusions.” Additionally: “Natural gas producers have a powerful economic motive to reduce methane leakage and use technologies that capture methane emissions during the drilling and well completion phase.”

Orr calls McKibben’s assertions that methane emissions are from the oil-and-gas sector: “simplistic” and “inappropriate.” Regarding the Harvard study, he explains: “Estimating the contributions from different source types and regions is difficult because there are many different sources of methane, and those sources overlap in the same spatial area. For example, methane is produced naturally in wetlands – and it is worth noting that environmentalists support ‘restoring’ wetlands despite the increases in methane emissions this would cause. Methane also is produced by agriculture through growing rice and raising livestock, fast-growing activities in developing countries. This makes it difficult to calculate exactly where methane is coming from and what sources should be controlled.”

Based on McKibben’s approach, other sections of The Heartland report include: Methane and Global Warming, Repeating Gasland Falsehoods, and What’s the Fracking Alternative – with the latter being my favorite.

Because McKibben’s ultimate goal is to keep fossil fuels in the ground, he goes to great lengths to support how wind and solar – the fracking alternatives – have progressed (an argument that Orr takes apart). However, a careful read of McKibben’s version of the story reveals that he acknowledges that his preferred energy sources are uneconomic. Within his report, McKibben admits that fracking has “brought online new shale deposits across the continent.” He sarcastically derides politicians who viewed fracking as a win-win situation by suggesting they were cynically saying they “could appease the environmentalists with their incessant yammering about climate change without having to run up the cost of electricity.”

McKibben even attacks President Obama’s support of natural gas – made abundant thanks to the companion technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. (He’s not too happy with Secretary Clinton’s efforts either.) Here are a few of the key phrases McKibben uses in that paragraph: (Note: McKibben sees these as negatives.)

  • “The fracking boom offered one of the few economic bright spots”;
  • “Manufacturing jobs were actually returning from overseas, attracted by newly abundant energy”; and
  • “The tool that made restrictions on coal palatable.”

Combine these McKibben statements and he is clearly aware that his plan will take away one of the few economic bright spots; that due to higher priced electricity, manufacturing jobs will leave our shores; and coal regulations will be unpalatable. While McKibben touts the oft-mentioned line about Denmark generating 42 percent of its power from wind, Orr reminds us that the figure only accounts for electricity – not total energy. When factoring in all of Denmark’s energy consumption, wind, solar, and geothermal only account for 5 percent of the energy mix and, as Orr explains, Denmark has the highest electricity rates in Europe and is still dependent on fossil fuels for the vast majority of its energy.

I am often asked why the anti-fossil fuel crowd has so recently turned against the decades-old technology of hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, that has provided such economic and environmental benefits and has become even safer due to ever-increasing advances. In his report, McKibben states what is essentially the answer I often give: “One of the nastiest side effects of the fracking boom, in fact, is that the expansion of natural gas has undercut the market for renewables.” It has upset the entire world-view of people like McKibben who’d banked on oil and natural gas being scarce – and therefore expensive. In that paradigm, wind and solar power would be the saviors. Now they are an expensive redundancy.

Worrying about whether methane emissions come from oil-and-gas activities, from agriculture, such as cow flatulence or rice farming, or from naturally occurring seeps may seem irrelevant to the average energy consumer’s day. However, when you consider that long-term, expensive public policy is being based on this topic, it is important to be informed fairly and accurately – and to communicate with your elected officials accordingly.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The few, the loud, the anti-fossil fuel crowd

Commentary by Marita Noon

If you get your news from the mainstream media, you likely think the views expressed by the environmental activists represent the majority of Americans. After all, their highly visible protests against the Keystone pipeline – sit-ins in front of the White House, locking themselves to the White House fence and then being arrested for it, and parading down the National Mall carrying a huge inflated tube emblazoned with the words: “Just say no to Keystone” – were effective. Despite repeated polling that showed a majority of Americans supported the pipeline, with a small minority opposed, the loud theatrics of the anti-fossil fuel crowd eventually won out. After years of stall tactics, President Obama finally bowed to their demands and said no to the job-creating infrastructure project.

Earlier this year, the usual group of suspects, led by well-known anti-fracking activist Bill McKibben, planned a “global wave of resistance” called BreakFree2016 - scheduled to take place from May 3-15 – on six continents. The event’s website announced the various activities, including an appearance and speech by McKibben, a Vermont resident, at the Colorado rally that promised: the “largest mass mobilizations for climate action in the history of Colorado.” It confirmed that there would be “civil disobedience.”

Did you hear about it? Probably not.

A news report of the planned Colorado activities said: “And on May 14, 350 Colorado is planning a day of speeches, live music and activities protesting oil and gas developments close to neighborhoods and schools in Thornton. The goal is to draw 1,000 people to the upcoming events.” The website, post-event, states: “about 800 people joined the action throughout the day” with “about 30-40 people” still there at the end of the day for the dramatic “frack-site” invasion. Yet, as even their own Facebook page photos indicate, not even 100 were present for the big McKibben speech. Without vendors and media, he may have had no audience at all.

After flying in to Denver, and then being driven to the protest site in a limousine, McKibben jetted off to Los Angeles, California, where he was joined by the greens’ “Daddy Warbucks,” billionaire political campaign donor Tom Steyer – with much the same results: a few hundred protesting fossil fuels and, as Energy In Depth reported, “the very social and economic underpinnings of liberal democracy.” The typical anti-everything protestors were present – but only a few.

In Iowa, as I addressed last week, a meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition – which according to the organizer includes those with “concerns about the impact it could have on the environment, farmers who worry about their cropland and religious groups who view expanding use of fossil fuels as a moral issue because of climate change” – expected a crowd of 200. Instead, according to the Ottumwa Courier, “only 40 or so were seated when the meeting began. Others trickled in as the meeting progressed.”

Now, Colorado is ground zero for “one of the biggest environmental fights in the country this year,” as Lauren Petrie, Rocky Mountain region director for Food and Water Watch, a Washington, D.C.-based group advocating for safety in food production and oil and gas production, called it. Two ballot initiatives, 75 and 78, have the potential to, according to Colorado regulators, “effectively halt new oil and gas development in as much as 90 percent of the state.” In order to get the initiatives on the ballot, 98,492 valid signatures needed to be turned into the Colorado Secretary of State by August 8 – no later than 3:00 p.m.

In June, The Tribune reported that Tricia Olson, who has pumped in most of the funding for a group backing initiatives 75 and 78, hoped to “collect 160,000 signatures to account for the invalid signatures that inevitably pop up.” (Politico just announced: “recent campaign finance reports were filed with the Colorado secretary of state, the Sierra Club gave $150,000, making it the largest single reported contributor to the anti-fracking effort.”)

Because the Colorado Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision on May 2, declared local fracking limits “invalid and unenforceable,” as state law trumps local ordinances, Olson sees the ballot initiatives as their “last ditch effort.”

On Monday, August 8, exercising stagecraft, at 2:30 p.m., dozens of supporters emptied a U-Haul truck and delivered box after box of signatures to the Secretary of State’s office. They celebrated their “victory.” 350 Colorado, one of the groups behind the measures, proclaimed: “We did it! Over 100,000 signatures delivered on initiatives to limit fracking!” – not the 160,000 originally hoped for, and likely not enough to get on the ballot in November.

By CBS Denver’s accounting about 105,000 signatures were turned in – most in half empty boxes. Lynn Bartels, Colorado Secretary of State Communications Director, tweeted: “Proponents of fracking measures turned in lots of boxes with very few petitions in them.” Once the petitions were consolidated, there were roughly 50 empty boxes. Simon Lomax, an associate energy policy analyst with the conservative Independence Institute in Denver and a consultant who advises pro-business groups, said: “To make it look more impressive they added a bunch of empty boxes, or boxes with very few petitions. It just sort of shows, these groups don’t do substance, they just do deceptive publicity stunts.”

On CBS Denver, former Secretary of State Scott Gessler explained that since you need about 98,000 signatures to get on the ballot because, for a variety of reasons, at least 30 percent are rejected, you need to submit at least 140,000. He says that for the 105,000 signatures turned in to qualify would be “unprecedented,” something that “has never occurred in Colorado for a ballot initiative.” According to Gessler, the effort is “doomed” – though we will not know for sure until next month when the final counts are released.

Noted election reporter and national affairs columnist for the National Review, John Fund, told me: “If there is enough public support for an issue to get the votes needed to pass, getting a surplus of signatures to get it on the ballot is an easy task.”

Many Democrats, including Governor John Hickenlooper, support hydraulic fracturing and have come out against the ballot initiatives. Politico posits that because mainstream environmentalists “fear that their movement will suffer a demoralizing defeat if the two proposals make it in front of the voters,” they “hope the ballot initiatives will die instead.”  Additionally, “A decisive referendum on oil and gas production would increase calls for [Hillary] Clinton to explicitly take a side.” She’s previously aligned with 75 and 78 – which could spoil her attempts to attract moderate Republicans she’ll need to win the state.

Despite their drama and declared “victory,” it doesn’t seem that the Colorado anti-fossil fuel crowd has enough signatures, or support, to make it onto the November ballot. They may be loud, but, alas, they are few.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Seeking action on Medicare

The mailing had everything needed for the shock value: a worried-looking senior citizen juxtaposed over a stack of paper stamped “DENIED.” “Worried About Government Bureaucracy Restricting Your Medicare?” it asked. If the piece of paper could listen I would tell it that I’m not even counting on having Medicare when I get to that age, but I figured this may be a fun bit of research and exploration to do. “Okay, I’ll bite,” I thought.

The mailing came to both my wife Kim and I as two separate “families” and was paid for by the American Action Network (AAN). So my first question was obvious: who is the American Action Network? According to Wikipedia, the AAN is “a nonprofit issue advocacy group based in Washington, D.C. which promotes center-right public policy. It was established in 2010 by Fred Malek and Norm Coleman as a 501(c)(4) organization.” On their behalf, the AAN argues its “primary goal is to put our center-right ideas into action by engaging the hearts and minds of the American people and spurring them into active participation in our democracy.” So the heart must be the center and the mind must be right?

In essence, it’s a group similar to one I pointed out last week, Americans for Limited Government. AAN may have fancier digs and a larger mailing list and donor base, but they are just another of the thousands of issue advocacy groups orbiting around the capital region – one that has $1.7 million to spend on sending a piece that specifically asked me to, “Tell Congressman Andy Harris to Continue His Fight to Protect Your Medicare.” Since both Kim and I are registered as Republicans, I’m thinking the list was culled to specifically target GOP voters and it wouldn’t shock me if they also narrowed this mailing to only reach those over 50 (as Kim and I both are.) According to AAN, 61 districts in 27 states were targeted for the advocacy campaign, for a total cost (with print and digital ads) of $4.8 million.

To be specific, the mailing advocated the passage of two bills: H.R. 1190, which is better known as the Protect Seniors’ Access to Medicare Act of 2015, and H.R. 5122, which doesn’t have a fancy title but is intended “To prohibit further action on the proposed rule regarding testing of Medicare part B prescription drug models.” Harris (as well as every other Republican present, and 11 Democrats) voted for the former bill last year, but it’s been bottled up in the Senate.

H.R. 1190 has two purposes: one is the termination of the Independent Payment Advisory Board (or, in the words of Sarah Palin, the “death panels”) while the other cuts billions of dollars in spending on the Prevention and Public Health Fund over the next decade. But because Barack Obama isn’t going to agree with this anyway, it’s apparent that the bill will go nowhere in the Senate (they won’t even make it past the cloture vote.)

The second bill, H.R. 5122, would eliminate spending on a proposed rule, which is 33 pages to explain that the Department of Health and Human Services wants to try a new method of payment for certain drugs administered to Medicare patients as a trial program. The overall idea is to encourage the use of lower-priced drugs, since the authors of the rule contend the providers use more expensive medications to take advantage of a flat 6 percent reimbursement rate. As an experiment, the rate would go down to 2.5% plus a flat $16 additional reimbursement. After its introduction the bill has apparently sat in a desk drawer someplace because no vote has been taken on it.

Yet AAN objects to both bills, and ”calls on seniors to advocate for two key legislative priorities: (1) H.R. 5122, to prevent the Obama Administration from changing the Medicare Part B payment policy for treatments, and (2) H.R. 1190, to repeal the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB). Both bills will block bureaucrats from imposing harmful changes to Medicare that could threaten seniors’ access to care.”

So I investigated further, and found a missive Coleman wrote last month about this and other issues. Among the things Coleman said:

Despite assurances that ObamaCare would be the end all, be all, for health care reform in America, we now know that it is simply collapsing in on itself.  Insurers are fleeing the system - premiums are increasing - and recent court rulings have undermined the credibility of the financial assumptions used by liberals to justify the creation of ObamaCare.

All this is true. Yet Coleman goes on:

In the end, America doesn’t need only to reform government.

We need to reform the notion that government is the solution to our problems or the key to our future prosperity.

Again, truer words have never been spoken. But the premise of the AAN mailing is that of protecting a government program by appealing to the beneficiaries. (A subsidiary site operated by AAN and promoted on the mailing makes this clear: DontCutOurMedicare.com.) If government isn’t the solution to our problem, one would think AAN would be looking to repeal Medicare entirely (over a relatively lengthy sunset period, of course) to truly reform the notion that Americans should depend on our government for health care or feel entitled to it. At the very most, the idea of Medicare should be no more than a state-level initiative – if the people of Maryland want a lavish senior care program, let them adopt it as their own. However, those in Delaware may feel differently.

So the definition of “center-right” seems to be the same sore subject that millions of Donald Trump voters used as their excuse to vote against the “establishment.” While they have selected a deeply flawed vessel to amplify their message, it seems those frustrated voters are looking more for the “right” than the “center,” since all the center seems to be is the maintenance of a failed status quo.

On the other hand, one can argue that their objection is not about government involvement, but instead only a complaint about the originator of the idea. They don’t seem to have the same issues with the Medicare Part D program enacted under Republican President George W. Bush – which is, in some respects, similar to the pilot program H.R. 5122 seeks to defund because Part D tends to reward the usage of less expensive medication. It’s still the federal government subsidizing health care, but it was done in the name of a centrist ”compassionate conservatism” instead of the leftward ”fundamental change to America.”

To me, it’s very ironic that a group which wants to back away from the idea that our government is a solution sends out a directive to appeal to our very conservative representative to maintain a costly government entitlement program. Even more so, those who complain “don’t touch our Medicare” would be the first to object to expanding eligibility to cover those over 50 years of age, in part because it’s Hillary Clinton’s idea. (Trump seems to favor the Medicare status quo with a few tweaks, which may explain why much of the AAN target audience is his support base.)

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is figuring out where they got $4.8 million for the campaign. We have a few clues, but the backers of this group aren’t being very public about it. So if they were looking for exposure, I suppose this piece is added value to them. But I must say: the “center” of their “center-right” really comes out with this one, particularly if you consider the center as our current situation – a President pulling to the left and Congress mildly countering to the right. Then again, to AAN we are only a “democracy” anyway, so at the moment the people want largesse from the public treasury, with AAN’s large donors perhaps trying to preserve their cut of the proceeds.

While those on the Left, such as writer Igor Volsky, celebrated Medicare as a success and believe the issue is settled, I happen to think those Volsky cites who argued against the concept when it was first proposed over 50 years ago were proven correct. Volsky also quotes an exchange between then-Congressman Mike Pence and journalist Andrea Mitchell:

Rep. Mike Pence (R-IN) explained his opposition to a new public health care option by arguing that Medicare spending has exceeded actuarial estimates from 1965. As Andrea Mitchell pointed out, somewhat jokingly, “I don’t know if you want to go back to Indiana and campaign against Medicare.”

Obviously those on the center-right don’t want to, so it’s going to take decades of re-education on the concepts of liberty and personal responsibility to counter the effects of the entitlement mentality society we live in today. Some may consider Medicare a success and wish it saved, but to achieve the rightsizing of government we need it’s clear Newt Gingrich was correct: Medicare does need to “wither on the vine.” Given the sheer number of insurance companies that now cater to the senior market, the problem Medicare was created to “solve” can easily be addressed by the private sector.

The pipeline’s approved. Environmentalists are angry.

Commentary by Marita Noon

Final federal approval for what is being called the “new Keystone” came from the Army Corps of Engineers on July 26 – allowing the pipeline to move forward. The 1,168-mile long Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), also called the Bakken Pipeline, is comparable in length to the Keystone XL. It will cross four states and carry 450,000 barrels of oil a day from North Dakota to a transfer terminal in Illinois where it will connect with other pipelines and be taken to refineries.

The $3.8 billion dollar project has pitted environmentalists against economic interests.

During the Keystone fight, outspoken opponent Jane Kleeb, founder of Bold Nebraska, said: “In America we should be focused on making sure that the oil in North Dakota, Oklahoma, and others, in Montana, that that oil is getting to market.” Now, thanks to DAPL, America’s oil will have a safer way to get “to market” – freeing up as many as 750 train cars a day to transport corn, soybeans, and grain. However, as soon as DAPL came on the scene, they moved the marker, and environmental opposition was mounted. Bold Iowa, a group that shares a website with Kleeb’s Bold Nebraska, says it has members willing to risk arrest in “nonviolent protests.” They are also training monitors to report any environmental violations or hazards.

On August 1, nine pieces of heavy equipment – excavators and bulldozers – were set on fire at three different DAPL construction sites, causing $3 million in damage. At the time of this writing, no arrests have been made. Additionally, protestors have gathered on the grounds of the North Dakota Capitol, calling for Governor Jack Dalrymple and legislators to put a halt to construction of the pipeline until their lawsuits are addressed.

On its “Stop the Bakken Pipeline” page, the Iowa Sierra Club posted: “A new pipeline will delay the US transition to clean and renewable energy and more fuel-efficient vehicles. The United States needs to move away from fossil fuel extractions and to energy sources that have less impact on climate change.”

The Club’s position sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton’s. When she finally came out against Keystone, she said: “We need to be transitioning from fossil fuels to clean energy.” She called the pipeline “a distraction from important work we have to do on climate change.”

Opposition, however, is not as broad-based as the environmental groups had hoped for. At an April meeting of the Bakken Pipeline Resistance Coalition in Iowa, organizers were disappointed. Chairs were set up for 200, but only about 40 “trickled in.” In the four states the pipeline will cross, more than 90 percent, on average, of the landowners signed the voluntary easement agreements.

At its peak, the DAPL’s construction is expected to involve as many as 4,000 workers in each state and will require the purchase of $200 million in American-made heavy construction and related equipment from Caterpillar, Deere, and Vermeer.

Cory Bryson, Business Agent for Laborers Local 563 reports: “We’ve been inundated with calls from all over the country from people wanting to work on this pipeline project. Mainline pipeline projects like Dakota Access provide excellent working opportunities for our members and tremendous wages. The Laborers excel at this work.” No wonder men and women want to travel to the pipeline’s locale, some workers, most without college degrees, brag about banking $2,000-5,000 a week.

In Illinois, the Jacksonville Area Chamber of Commerce has assembled hundreds of packets with information including restaurants, health-care facilities, RV sites, and laundromats. Executive Director Lisa Musch reports that her office has been receiving calls for months from people looking for rental properties. Teriann Gutierrez, owner of Buena Vista Farms, a resort-campground, and a retired plastics engineer, says: “I’ve been full since the beginning of April.” She told me the boost in population is bringing a lot of money into the community that has been hit hard with the loss of manufacturing jobs. DAPL is putting a lot of local people to work. Gutierrez is very thankful as the boom means she’ll be able to pay down debt.

“Like any major construction project, the DAPL will create, and more importantly maintain, high paying American jobs throughout the supply chain and throughout the nation,” North Dakota’s at-large Congressman Kevin Cramer said. “I’ve seen the crews that work on building the line and they take great pride in their craft. They spend money in local, usually rural, communities throughout the route. The steel suppliers and equipment manufacturers and distributors are just a few of the links in the chain. Everybody from fry cooks to hotel owners to financers are affected. Perhaps, most importantly, in a low price crude market, the economics of moving oil by the most efficient and safe manner possible preserves jobs on the production side of the equation as well.”

While DAPL is already creating lots of jobs, it is just one of many pipeline projects in the works that could be bringing much needed economic development to other communities and high-paying jobs for American workers. Gutierrez explained that, according to the workers staying at Buena Vista Farms: “The hardest thing is getting the permits. The long process holds up jobs.” Apparently, many of them made reservations but, then, had to delay them – and delay starting to work on the pipeline – because the permits hadn’t been approved as expected. It doesn’t have to be that way. Under President Obama, permitting for oil-and-gas activity has been slow-walked. Jobs have been held up.

Donald Trump has made clear that he’ll support pipelines and said he’ll invite TransCanada to reapply for the Keystone permit. On the other side, Clinton opposed Keystone and supports moving away from fossil fuels. Secretary of State John Kerry, Clinton’s successor, has implied that with “some 300 pipelines” we really don’t need any more. He said: “it’s not as if we’re pipeline-less.” A Clinton administration would likely extend the Obama delay tactic.

Whichever candidate wins in November will appoint agency heads who support his or her views – thus driving the policy direction.

Like Gutierrez, union members are grateful for the jobs. Last week, Dave Barnett, Pipeline Representative for the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipefitting Industry, told me: “We are pleased that the thousands of job opportunities associated with these projects are being decided on their need and merits, not on political pressures by extremists as the Keystone XL was.”

Whether the thousands of additional job opportunities materialize depends on American voters. Will we vote for pipelines that fuel the American economy and transport our natural resources safely and cheaply? Or, will we block job creation and economic development by voting with the environmentalists who want to “keep it in the ground?” In less than 100 days, we’ll have the answer to these important questions.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

The Renewable Fuel Standard: “set up for fraud”

August 2, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

America’s rush to renewables has invited corruption and fraud.

Researcher Christine Lakatos and I, together, have produced the single largest body of work on green-energy crony-corruption. Our years of collaboration have revealed that those with special access and influence have cashed in on the various green-energy programs and benefitted from the mandates, rules, and regulations that accompany the huge scheme. Dozens of the projects, including biofuel, which required the unwitting investment of taxpayer dollars have failed – leaving employees without jobs, buildings without tenants, taxpayers without repayment, and cronies without pain (even snatching hefty bonuses on the way down). Most people know about Solyndra, the first bankruptcy, and some may know about Abengoa, the biggest bankruptcy, but there are many more.

These big projects allowed the politically connected to bilk taxpayers of billions and is the definition of corruption. But, there’s fraud in renewable energy, too – and, while it doesn’t hit us as hard as taxpayers, it does cost us as consumers.

Wednesday, July 20, representing the latest fraudster to be convicted – but not the first and surely not the last – “a jury found an Indiana man guilty of securities fraud and other crimes connected to a massive biodiesel fraud scheme,” reported Greenwire. It turns out, Jeffrey Wilson and his multistate cohorts pretended to manufacture biodiesel, which allowed them to claim renewable fuel credits – known as Renewable Identification Numbers or RINs. The Department of Justice said Wilson’s actions resulted in a $20 million loss to investors, $140 million in revenue, and $56 million in criminal profit.

I know more than most about the corruption surrounding green energy, but I hadn’t followed this. I dug further.

Just two weeks earlier, two men in Florida pled guilty to a “multistate biodiesel fraud scheme.” Biodiesel Magazine says Thomas Davanzo and Robert Fedyna operated several shell companies that were used to facilitate the “multistate scheme to defraud biodiesel buyers and U.S. taxpayers by fraudulently selling biodiesel credits and fraudulently claiming tax credits.”

Six months before, on December 21, 2015, two men were indicted on “101 charges alleging they abused incentives offered to companies that produced biodiesel fuels.” According to The Morning Call: “A federal prosecutor says they took subsidies for fuel they did not produce and sold renewable energy credits to unsuspecting buyers.” The charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, filing false tax documents, obstruction of the Internal Revenue Service, and obstructing a federal investigation. The indictment claims Dave Dunham and Ralph Tommaso used a complex scheme that reached from Lehigh Valley, PA, to Washington state and into Canada and allowed them to apply for and receive government subsidies for producing clean diesel.

Also in 2015, two Las Vegas men and an Australian man were sentenced to federal prison for schemes to generate and sell fraudulent biodiesel credits. In another case, Rodney Hailey, owner of Clean Green Fuels in Maryland, was convicted of selling $9 million in counterfeit RINs from his garage without even trying to make biodiesel. Hailey’s neighbors called authorities because they were alarmed by the “profusion of luxury cars” that showed up in his “suburban Baltimore neighborhood” – 22 in all, claims a report in Bioenergy Connection. Then there is Jeffrey David Gunselman, owner of Absolute Fuels in Lubbock, TX, who was indicted by a federal grand jury in Texas for lying about producing biodiesel fuel and selling the resulting renewable fuel credits. Reports indicate that he generated some 48 million RINs without actually producing any biodiesel fuel. He’s remembered for using his ill-gotten gain to purchase, among numerous luxury items, a demilitarized Patton tank.

The most interesting biodiesel fraud case may be that of Philip Rivkin, founder and chief executive of Houston-based Green Diesel who is now serving a 10-year sentence for selling fraudulent RINs. Over a seven-year period he concocted an elaborate scheme that included, according to Bloomberg: “a three-story steel skeleton crammed with pipes and valves” – some of which were not connected to anything. In late 2008, Green Diesel did reportedly produce a batch of about 130,000 gallons of biodiesel, but the quality was “too poor for commercial sale.”

Biodiesel RINs have become a valuable commodity because, as a result of the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), refiners are required to blend biofuels into the nation’s fuel supply and the RINs supposedly prove they’ve complied. Rivkin sold more than $78 million in sham RINs. He bragged about building a $500 million company without any debt. When he fled the U.S. in 2011, prior to his 2014 capture, he did so in his $3.4 million Canadair Challenger jet.

These cases of RIN fraud are just those who’ve been caught – but they all have a common thread. They aren’t the names we are used to in the green-energy corruption story like billionaires Warren Buffet and Tom Steyer or former politicos like Al Gore and Bill Richardson. They aren’t cronies who’ve used political connections to work the system. They are fraudsters who found a way to fortune through the flawed RFS – first enacted by Congress in 2005 and expanded in 2007 – which contains a credit-trading program.

In a July 25 report on the RFS, Marlo Lewis, Jr., a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, explains: “Each gallon of biofuel produced is assigned a unique 38-digit Renewable Identification Number (RIN). When a refiner sells a gallon of biofuel in the motor fuel market, it earns a RIN credit. A refiner that does not meet its annual obligation by actually blending and selling biofuel can comply by purchasing surplus RIN credits from another refiner that exceeded its obligation. A refiner can also bank surplus RIN credits to meet up to 20 percent of the following year’s obligation.”

Because the law requires ever-increasing quantities of biofuel be produced – even beyond what consumers want or most vehicles can handle – RINs offer refiners a way to presumably meet the mandates while providing the market with what it wants. But, according to Brendan E. Williams, American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers executive vice president, biodiesel RINs are especially lucrative: “Ethanol RINs stay attached to physical gallons of ethanol until the ethanol gallon is blended with petroleum.  This separation usually occurs at terminals, which are rarely owned by ethanol producers. Once ethanol is blended, the RIN is detached and becomes a tradable commodity.  Therefore, rather than a refiner or ethanol producer, it is often the terminal operator who does the blending that controls ethanol RINs.  A refiner that has a terminal rack at the refinery for local gasoline distribution can also do this blending, but this is not the usual situation because refineries are not located everywhere.  Biodiesel RINs work differently. EPA allows biodiesel producers to detach the RIN as soon as the biodiesel is produced. There is no requirement for biodiesel to be blended to petroleum diesel before the RIN is detached. This difference highlights why there is more fraud in biodiesel. The biodiesel fraudsters lie about producing physical biodiesel just so they can generate RINs on paper to sell. This is made possible based on the previously mentioned fact that there is no requirement for biodiesel to be blended with petroleum diesel.” A graphic in the Bloomberg report adds: “Biodiesel RINs tend to cost more than ethanol RINs or other types because they are scarcer and can be used to satisfy multiple requirements under the Renewable Fuel Standard.”

“RIN swaps,” according to Bloomberg, “are usually agreed upon between companies, traders, and brokers via email, phone, texts, and chatroom messages.” The onus is on the buyers, “if the RINS are found to be fraudulent, the holder has to purchase new credits to replace the phony ones” – and the new credits must be purchased at the current price that may be higher than the original purchase.

Of course, the refiners’ purchase of RINs – and in the case of fraudulent RINs, the double purchase – is passed on to the consumer. We are stuck holding the bag for the fraudsters’ get-rich-quick scheme that is enabled by the RFS.

“Because refiners can buy them to satisfy their obligations to introduce renewable fuels into the national market,” Scott Irwin, an agriculture economic professor at the University of Illinois, according to The Morning Call, calls the RINs: “valuable.” He explains: “A combination of little regulation, the small-business nature of biodiesel producers and higher-than-expected prices for credits produced a rash of fraud. … It was kind of set up for fraud.”

Because the EPA, whose expertise is in things like oil spills and air pollution, isn’t equipped to handle these cases of sophisticated financial fraud, Bloomberg reports, it has reached out to the Commodity Futures Trading Commission – “which is itself stretched thin because of its responsibilities under Dodd-Frank.” The lack of oversight made the RFS biodiesel program a “government playground for con artists.”

The biofuel fraud is just one prong in the growing push for RFS reform. The economic and technical realities of the “blend wall,” as detailed in Lewis’ report, is another. On July 27, Bloomberg chronicled the history of the unlikely third prong: big green groups’ biofuel blunder. They’ve now turned against ethanol due to the agricultural runoff in waterways and conversion of prairies to cropland. Environmentalists, who once championed biofuels, are now seen as a factor in “improving the odds that lawmakers might seek changes to the program next year.”

Reforming the RFS is not a partisan issue. Free market advocates don’t like the mandates. Consumers resist been forced to purchase something they don’t want. Environmentalists don’t like the loss of prairie land and damage to the water supply. Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) says the RFS has “truly been a flop. The environmental promise has been transformed into an environmental detriment.”

The only resistance to calls for RFS repeal or reform comes from the biofuel producers lobby – though as I’ve previously addressed, corn ethanol would likely still be blended into our fuel supply at about the current levels as it is a valuable oxygenate that increases octane.

Lewis concludes his report with this admonition: “Congress should repeal the RFS so that consumer preference and competition, rather than central planning policies, determine which fuels succeed or fail in the U.S. marketplace. Failing that, Congress should sunset the RFS so it ends after 2022. In the meantime, the EPA should cap mandatory biofuel sales at the E10 blend wall, while allowing biofuel producers to sell as much additional renewable fuel as consumers actually want to buy.”

Every politician in Washington talks about getting rid of waste, fraud, and abuse. Getting rid of the RFS would go a long way to achieving that goal.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Compare and contrast: government vs. the private sector

A few days ago I mentioned the manufacturing advocates the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) in a post regarding their convention plans. I wasn’t surprised to see they were very pleased with Hillary Clinton’s remarks, including a plan to “pass the biggest investment in new, good-paying jobs since World War II.” Ah yes, the old “investment” in infrastructure, where taxpayer money will be shoveled to cronies and unions in an effort to build things we may not need or use (like facilities for public transit, bike paths, and so forth) at the artificial “prevailing” wage. Spend five dollars, waste two or three more – they don’t care because it’s all on the credit card anyway.

It sounds to me just like the promises regarding the “stimulus” package from Barack Obama, officially known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) of 2009. Those “shovel-ready” jobs actually turned out to be, among other things, government backstopping certain public-sector jobs that may have been destined for the chopping block. Only a small portion of the over $800 billion spent actually went to infrastructure, but ARRA was sold as an investment in infrastructure. So pardon me if I expect little good to come from Hillary’s plan.

Anyway, last night I read a contention that was more interesting (and realistic) from American Enterprise Institute scholar (as well as professor of economics and finance) Mark J. Perry. Here is the money line:

The bottom line is that America’s abundant and low-cost natural gas and electricity have more than offset higher labor costs in the U.S. and have contributed to the strongest profitability in a generation or more for U.S. manufacturers. Within three years, and possibly even sooner, it will be cheaper for most U.S. companies to manufacture goods for the American market at home, compared to producing those same goods in Asia. (Emphasis mine.)

Of course, that prediction is fraught with peril. We could regulate our way out of the energy boom by continuing to mandate the use of expensive, inefficient renewable energy sources (or, in lieu of that, transfer payments from utility providers), we can maintain the oppressive tax climate that has been one of many reasons companies are choosing to go offshore – any bean counter will tell you it’s better to pay 15% tax than 35% – or actually enact the increasing minimum wage that unfortunately Donald Trump is now supporting. Any or all of these are possible regardless of who wins the Oval Office.

And that’s the shame of it all. Over the course of the nation’s history, we have seen America become a great industrial power only to lose its advantage to upstarts like Japan and China. (Then again, we wrested the title from the British in the 1800s so things are always fluid.) These Asian nations took advantage of newer technology and less expensive labor to attract American manufacturing jobs that were in older, less efficient unionized plants, despite the fact these items would have to shipped back thousands of miles to their primary market.

But here we have the chance to get some of this back, and my fear is that too many people want to keep the status quo in place as a political issue rather than solve the problem. We talk about being a free market insofar as trade is concerned, but I contend that we need to work on freeing our own market:

  • Toss out these federal and state regulations and carveouts that only benefit special interests or large, established competitors trying to corner their respective markets.
  • Encourage the adoption of right-to-work laws so unions are forced to compete and sell the benefits they provide for the cost to workers.
  • Instead of debating whether the minimum wage should be increased or not, we should be debating how quickly we phase it out. The true minimum wage is zero, which is what workers who are tossed out of a job when companies can’t afford the increased labor costs will earn.

In reading the GOP platform (and I’m just going to ignore the Democrats on this one, since they aren’t selling themselves as free-market, limited-government types) I saw some attention paid to these issues, although their approach seems to be more of just controlling growth and pruning around the edges than a wholesale reduction. Needless to say, that platform could be completely ignored by the elected members of the party from Donald Trump on down if the idea of enriching their friends, rather than the supporters of the other side that have engorged themselves over the last eight years, remains in place.

Sadly, over most of the last century it hasn’t really mattered which side was in power because government has grown regardless of who was in charge. (The one exception: the Harding-Coolidge era of the 1920s, when the federal budget was drastically reduced – and annually balanced - after World War I. In a time where we are stuck with Trump, Clinton, or maybe Gary Johnson, what we really needed was a Coolidge. Bobby Jindal was probably the closest we had in the GOP field.)

I began this whole process by talking about infrastructure, and there’s a legitimate need for prudent spending on upgrades where it is appropriate. Sometimes there is a need for a new federal or state facility. But I have also seen how the government uses infrastructure to maintain a cash cow, with my favorite example being the Ohio Turnpike I grew up close by.

You see, the original plan was to eliminate the tolls once the bonds to construct the road were paid off in the 1980s. (This was promised when the highway was built in the early 1950s – my dad remembers them staking it out a few miles from his house.) But then they decided that some new exits were necessary (which they were) so they decided to build those. Then it was adding a third lane in each direction between Youngstown and Toledo (a process still going insofar as I know, since I haven’t been that way in a couple years), then renovating all the rest areas (twice in thirty years, and ditto), and so on and so forth. Forget the promise to remove the tolls once the highway was paid off – they constantly spend money on projects that weren’t within the original scope, perpetuating the agency that runs the Turnpike.

In theory, we could spend money from now until doomsday on government-sponsored projects. Some contractors would benefit, but others would be left out in the cold because there’s a certain procedure required to bid on and win public works contracts. But it wouldn’t necessarily be the best use of our funds – and by that I don’t mean the money in the public till but the money that we earn for our collective pockets. If we really want to get manufacturing going and bring it back to America, we need to maximize their potential for meeting our marketplace. They may make mistakes, but that should be up to the market to pick winners and not the government.

Hillary’s energy policies: enriching Wall Street cronies, while the poor are pawns in their political game

Commentary by Marita Noon

In his less-than-enthusiastic endorsement of Hillary Clinton as the Democrat’s choice for President, Sen. Bernie Sanders decried “Greed, recklessness, and illegal behavior” and declared that we couldn’t let “billionaires buy elections.” Perhaps his opposition research team discovered what we have about Clinton’s connections with the very entities he despises: Wall Street – which he’s accused of “gambling trillions in risky financial instruments;” and “huge financial institutions” that he says: “simply have too much economic and political power over this country.”

Wall Street and its “huge financial institutions” are Clinton allies – supporting both her campaign and donating big bucks to the Clinton Foundation.

In the batch of Democrat National Committee (DNC) emails WikiLeaks made public on July 23, DNC Research Associate Jeremy Berns tells his colleagues: “She [Clinton] doesn’t want the people knowing about her relationships on Wall Street.” He adds: “She wants to achieve consistency and the best way to do that is to keep the people ignorant.”

For the past four years, I’ve collaborated with citizen activist/researcher Christine Lakatos (she’s been at it for six years) on what we’ve called: President Obama’s green-energy crony-corruption scandal. Together we’ve produced the single largest body of work on the topic. In her blog, the Green Corruption Files, she posts her exhaustive research – what I affectionately refer to as the drink-from-the-fire-hydrant version. I, then, use her research to draft an overview that is appropriate for the casual reader.

More recently, our efforts have morphed to include the Democrats’ presidential nominee, as Lakatos found the same people are her “wealthy cronies,” too.

In Lakatos’ most-recent, and final Green Corruption File, released on July 19, she states: “While there are numerous ways you can ‘buy access to the Clintons,’ I’m only going to connect the dots to the Green Gangsters, which we’ve already established are rich political pals of President Obama, as well as other high-ranking Democrats and their allies, who were awarded hundreds of billions of ‘green’ taxpayer cash.”

Her lengthy report is “devoted to proving beyond a reasonable doubt that the Democrat presumptive presidential nominee, Hillary Rodham Clinton, is not on only in bed with Big Money (Wall Street, the Uber-Richspecial interests groups and lobbyists) and Dark Money (Super PACS and Secret Cash), she’s also bankrolled and is in cahoots with – directly and through her husband and her family foundation – the wealthy Green Gangsters, who are robbing U.S. taxpayers in order to ‘save the planet.’”

While the dozens of pages prove the involvement of names you know – like former vice president Al Gore, former Governor Bill Richardson, and billionaire donors Tom Steyer and Warren Buffett, and names you likely don’t know: David Crane, John Doerr, Pat Stryker, and Steve Westly – I’ve chosen to highlight the Clinton’s Wall Street connections that have benefited from the green deals that were cut in the Obama White House and that will continue on if Clinton wins.

Lakatos points out: “Clinton’s ‘ambitious renewable energy plans’ move far beyond Obama’s green mission that has been rife with crony capitalism, corporate welfare, and corruption.” Along with more climate rules, she “wants an open tab for green energy.” Remember the DNC’s official platform includes: “the goal of producing 100 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2050″ and “a call for the Justice Department to investigate fossil fuel companies for misleading the public on climate change.”

Three Wall Street names of my limited-word-count focus are Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and Bank of America. Each is a top-contributing Clinton campaign supporter and a Clinton Foundation donor. They have benefited from the hundreds of billions in taxpayers dollars given out for green energy projects through the Obama Administration. All three have expectations that Clinton will continue the green programs put in place by the Obama administration.

Goldman Sachsdonated between $1 million to $5 million and the Goldman Sachs Philanthropy Fund has contributed between $250,000 to $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation.

As Lakatos pointed out in previous reports, Goldman Sachs is connected, via various roles, to at least 14 companies and/or projects that won green taxpayer cash – a tab that exceeded $8.5 billion. One specific example: Goldman is credited as the “exclusive financial adviser” for the now bankrupt Solyndra ($570.4 million loss). Then there is now-bankrupt SunEdison – an early Goldman Sachs investment. SunEdison received $1.5 billion in federal and state subsidies. And, in 2010, Goldman Sachs handled the IPO of government winner, Tesla Motors that was awarded $465 million from the Department Of Energy (DOE) ATVM program – they got much more if you factor in the state and local subsides: $2,406,805,253 to be exact. Also, according to Goldman, “In May 2013, [they] helped raise over $1 billion in new financing for Tesla Motors.”

Citigroup/Citi Foundation – donated between $1 million to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation.

This big bank is connected to approximately $16 billion of taxpayer money. Lakatos, in 2013, reported that Citi was actively involved in securing the 1703/1705 DOE loans; was a direct investor; and/or served as an underwriter for the initial public offering (IPO) of at least 16 of Citi’s clients that received some form of government subsidies. One green company where Citi is a major investor is SolarCity, which has been subsidized through various stimulus funds, grants and federal tax breaks at the tune equaling almost $1.5 billion. Billionaire Elon Musk is CEO of Tesla and Chairman at SolarCity. He’s a Clinton Foundation donor ($25 million to $50 million) and Hillary supporter, too.

Bank of America/Bank of America Foundationdonated between $500,000 to $1 million to the Clinton Foundation.

Bank of America, amongst other green efforts, participated in Project Amp – a four-year, $2.6 billion project to place solar panels on rooftops in 28 states. At the time, the Wall Street Journal reported: “Bank of America Merrill Lynch unit will provide $1.4 billion in loans for the project,” of which “the financing is part of Bank of America’s plan to put $20 billion of capital to work in renewable energy, conservation and other clean technologies that address climate change.” In the final days of the DOE loan program (September 2011), the DOE awarded a partial guarantee of $1.4 billion loan to Project Amp. According to a press release, Bank of America increased its second environmental business initiative from $50 billion to $125 billion in low-carbon business by 2025 through lending, investing, capital raising, advisory services and developing financing solutions for clients around the world.

It’s important to remember that climate change – which is the foundation of the green agenda – is part of the Clinton Foundation’s mission statement: “In communities across the globe, our programs are proving that we can confront the debilitating effects of climate change in a way that makes sense for governments, businesses, and economies.” Additionally, the Foundation’s coffers were enriched when Clinton and her State Department staff solicited contributions from foreign governments to the Clinton Global Initiative, as we detailed in our coverage of her clean cookstove campaign.

In addition to Clinton’s obvious Wall Street connections, one of the many startling realizations that can be gleaned from the report on Hillary’s Horrendous Hypocrisy, is the fact that these companies – some of which would not be in existence without the grants and tax credits – that received millions in taxpayer dollars, took our money and gave it to the Clinton Foundation and to the Clinton Campaign. As was the case with Clinton Foundation donor/campaign fundraiser George Kaiser, these billionaires are making lucrative profits, at taxpayer expense, from bankrupted green companies like Solyndra.

In short, we, the taxpayers, are subsidizing the well-connected millionaires and billionaires – and Hillary Clinton is part of all of it. Meanwhile, she admonishes the average American to combat climate change by driving less and reducing our personal use of electricity.

Bernie Sanders was right to be alarmed. Huge financial institutions do have too much political power. Wall Street billionaires are trying to buy Clinton the White House. In return, she’ll be sure their green energy investments pay off for them by demanding that America go green.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

Showing their colors

On several occasions, since my brief dalliance with a company and website called American Certified - which, alas, is no longer in business – I have cited a group I first ran across around that timeframe called the Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM.) I have also pointed out that their perspective comes from their backing, as it is a conglomeration mainly composed of unionized steel manufacturers – so I always assumed they were more in line with the Democratic Party than the Republicans, which traditionally have been more in favor of free trade rather than protectionism.

So I had an e-mail in my back pocket that I was going to mention in a piece like this. Originally it laid out AAM’s plans for both conventions, but I received an updated version of their plans for the Democratic convention confirming that’s where the effort would be.

Here was their slate for the GOP in Cleveland:

AAM is hosting the Keep it Made in America tent, a space located just outside the Quicken Loans arena where we are chatting with convention-goers about ways to grow American manufacturing jobs. We also are speaking at a number of state delegation breakfasts, sharing with local, state and national lawmakers the issues that we think must be on their policy agendas.

AAM president Scott Paul added in a blog post last week:

(T)rade and the atrophy of middle-income factory jobs are dominating the national political discussion. Trump talks about it constantly. But he’s not alone, and this is the first time in the post-World War II era that we’ve seen both party candidates take the issue so seriously.

It’s better late than never. Before you write off Trump’s bellicose “45 percent tariff” rhetoric as low-brow protectionism - or find the change of heart on the Trans-Pacific Partnership that Hillary Clinton experienced on the trail a little too politically convenient - keep in in mind that a lot of our fellow Americans agree with this sentiment. They certainly do here in Ohio.

The logic behind free trade, though, is that nations benefit when value is maximized and it may be possible to add more value to a product in another location than it is in America. Yet the AAM argues – correctly to an extent – that nations like China take advantage of the rules by not dealing fairly through a policy of subsidizing industries and currency manipulation.

On the other hand, though, AAM will certainly be pulling out all the stops for the Democrats in Philadelphia, including what they describe as a “scene-setting Town Hall meeting”:

The Alliance for American Manufacturing (AAM) is hosting a conversation about why these issues matter for our economy, our children’s future and our politics today.

Recent focus group and polling data show these topics are driving voters’ decisions on which candidate to select. Both Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump have been aggressive in defining their plans for trade and manufacturing.

Confirmed Speakers Include:

  • Gene Sperling, key economic adviser to Hillary Clinton
  • Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers
  • Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA 3rd District)
  • Mark Mellman, award-winning pollster for Democratic leaders
  • Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing
  • Mike Langford, president of the Utility Workers Union of America
  • Tom Conway, international vice president of the United Steelworkers

This to me represents less of an exchange of information as it would be an echo chamber.

Protectionism and punishing corporations that choose to offshore manufacturing is one possible answer, of course. But the thing I always think about when this conversation comes up is the East German Trabant automobile that was hopelessly stuck decades behind the times when Germany finally reunited in 1990. Because it had a protected market, what incentive did Trabant have for improvement?

Unfortunately, a short-sighted government-centered approach that saw manufacturers as cash cows for big government and favored the big guys over leaner, hungrier start-ups through regulation too burdensome for smaller competitors to withstand has done as much (or more) to curtail American manufacturing as our trade policies have. While I certainly don’t believe many of our larger trade agreements were tailored to suit our interests enough, for the most part it’s the complexity of the deals and how they worked out exceptions for certain industries and players that is the issue. If we simply said “we won’t tariff your stuff if you don’t tariff ours” and both sides stuck to it, eventually the market would find its own level. America should be able to use the advantages of a predictable legal system, well-educated workforce, abundant sources of energy, and outstanding transportation network, but they are negated by the policies in place that I describe above.

The generation of my grandparents won World War II by being able to produce within our borders much of the material and equipment needed to keep a two-front fighting force going. Can anyone honestly say we could do that today? I don’t wish us to be on a war footing, but I’m convinced America can be a place that makes things again. It’s a simple matter of policy over protectionism, and adopting a hands-off approach at the federal level (yes, there’s that limited government idea of mine again) would be the best course of action. I just don’t think AAM would be willing to listen to that argument.

40th annual Tawes Crab and Clam Bake in pictures and text

It was awful tempting to jump on into that water, but several thousand people managed to sweat their way through another hot Tawes Crab and Clam Bake. While Republicans tend to have a little more presence in the area, some of the Tawes regulars were absent because the event coincided this year with the Republican National Convention in Cleveland.

That convention minted the GOP Presidential nominee, who seemed to be pretty popular.

That group of signs dwindled little by little, as Trump adorned a number of tents. On the other hand, there were far fewer Hillary signs – but the Democrats also had their crowded space.

Sarah Meyers (in the blue shirt) is a friend of mine, and she was tearing her hair out as the coordinator there because they overbooked the space. (You may see her at the Democratic Convention next week, as she will be there as a page.) By the same token, the Somerset Republicans only went with one tent as well and it was packed, too. So both parties had close quarters.

Yet the businesses seemed to have ample space. I didn’t peek into every tent, but many of them (as well as businesses lining State Route 413 into Crisfield) had a simple message: welcome Governor Hogan.

Even lobbyist Bruce Bereano, who always has the largest space, got into that act.

Yet among those businesses I did pick out I found an odd juxtaposition there, particularly under the auspices of the local economic development commission.

In order, these businesses are Cleanbay Renewables, which is a chicken waste recycling firm, Pinnacle Engineering, which services NASA, the Somers Cove Marina Commission, and Great Bay Solar I. The last is interesting because this project was originally supposed to be wind turbines, but objections to the siting of the turbine towers from the Navy forced the company to go solar, making lemonade out of lemons. With the exception of Pinnacle, the state has sort of forced the market for the other two businesses.

Yet on the other side was a law firm that objects to the approach the state is using to clean Chesapeake Bay through its Clean Chesapeake Coalition. They believe much of the problem comes from the sediment that leaches out from behind Conowingo Dam in severe storms.

I happen to think the CCC has a pretty good case.

Speaking of business, the food business did pretty well there. Almost too well.

According to my cell phone camera, which took all my photos today, I took that picture at 12:01 as I walked over to get in line for food. Here is the end result, 46 minutes and four lines later.

I actually asked for the onion rings as I inched closer to the front of the French fry line. And I certainly don’t fault the crew because they worked hard, even toward the end when I snapped this.

I think the issue is the increasing use of “runners” who get multiple orders of food and slow down the lines. It seemed like every third person in line was one, which meant those who just wanted to fend for themselves had to wait.

The guy who didn’t have to wait in line was Governor Larry Hogan, because I don’t think he ate a bite.

This is a second segment of time lapse. I took this photo above in the area where the food lines were at 1:57 p.m. Now, let me ask you: where’s Hogan?

He’s barely visible in the center of the photo, obscured by Delegate Charles Otto in the pinkish shirt. In 35 minutes he had advanced maybe 80 yards thanks to the crush of well-wishers who wanted to shake his hand, have a photo with him (although he suggested it in a number of cases) and perhaps say their piece. I was in the latter group as I wanted to thank him for his stance on the Presidential election. Larry commented that he had noticed the reception I’ve received on social media a couple times as it echoed a lot of what he had seen on his.

Stay strong, Governor.

The two major-party candidates for U.S. Senator were also there. Now I missed Democrat Chris Van Hollen – perhaps because I didn’t recognize him walking around – but I did get a glimpse of Kathy Szeliga from the GOP.

Of the people I saw and photographed, she was one of the few I didn’t speak to at least a little bit. I don’t blame her – our paths just didn’t cross but once.

Of course, a few locals managed to be in front of my camera, such as Delegate Mary Beth Carozza, who brought her family and a batch of others from Worcester County.

She was speaking to Duane Keenan from Red Maryland.

The other half of Worcester County must have come with Senator Jim Mathias, who had a number of folks with a matching shirt to his. He was a little peaked by the time I took the moment to thank him for his assistance with the school board election bill.

Yet while we had hot and cold running politicians there, we also had a lot of media asking questions. I noted Duane Keenan above, but here’s Ovetta Wiggins of the Washington Post (right) speaking to Jackie Wellfonder. Jackie made the cut in Ovetta’s story.

I also had the pleasure of meeting Mike Bradley, who hosts WGMD’s morning show out of Lewes, Delaware. Since his station covers a fair amount of the lower Shore in its signal, he was interviewing some of the local players. It’s a very good show that I catch once I cross into Delaware on my way to work.

And it could be that the Tawes event is becoming one for the greater Delmarva area. A delegation of elected officials from the First State included Representative Tim Dukes, who covers the Laurel and Delmar areas in his 40th District.

The reason I’m in the photo on the right: it was taken by Dukes’ fellow representative (and Minority Leader in the Delaware House) Danny Short of Seaford. Since we’re neighbors with Delaware it was nice to see some of their elected officials, too.

In that respect, this coverage was a little lacking because I did a lot of walking and talking to a number of nice folks from around the state. I want to say I overheard Jackie Wellfonder say this, but Tawes really is “like a big ‘ol family reunion.” We don’t often see a lot of politicians travel across the bridge but for attending Tawes, so you have to say hello and speak your piece when you can.

The case against Trump (part 1)

If you haven’t figured it out by now, I’m one of those Republicans who occupies the #NeverTrump camp.

Before I go any further, let me explain some basic math to you: 0+0 = 0. My not voting for Trump does not add one to Hillary Clinton’s column because I’m not voting for her, either. By the theory some on the Trump bandwagon are using to criticize #NeverTrump, my not voting for Hillary should add one to his total. But it won’t. I will vote for someone who I feel is the most qualified on the ballot, rather than the lesser of two searing-hot evils.

This election was supposed to be the repudiation of the Obama big-government, strongly executive agenda. Unfortunately, unless the GOP comes to its senses next week, frees the delegates, and comes up with a good conservative candidate, they will sink like the Titanic in November.

But I don’t come by my distaste for Trump lightly. While he has some redeeming qualities that could conceivably come into play on the slim chance he’s elected, there is the sense in my mind that he takes the ideal of limited government and wrests it from the domain of the GOP, leaving both major parties as two sides of the same worthless coin.

It’s likely you recall that I based my original endorsement (of Bobby Jindal, who is backing Trump but has been quiet about it) on the field’s positions on ten items, with a sliding scale of importance assigned to each:

  • Education
  • Second Amendment
  • Energy
  • Social Issues
  • Trade and job creation
  • Taxation
  • Immigration
  • Foreign Policy
  • Entitlements
  • Role of Government

So I went back and reminded myself. To avoid this being overly long, I’m doing the first five in this part with part 2 hosting the second half.

On education, Trump claims to be for local control and against Common Core, which is an orthodox Republican view. But even though he would “cut it way, way, way down” he doesn’t support the complete elimination of the Department of Education. He does have a good point in reversing the trend toward the government being a student loan lender, pushing it back to the banks and other lending institutions where it traditionally rested.

The problem with his approach is that it doesn’t go far enough. Other candidates vowed to finish the job Ronald Reagan vowed to start by eliminating the Department of Education. To me, the federal government has no place on education – states and localities should set standards and run their school systems as they see fit. But any attempt to wean local school districts off the crack of federal funding will be met with howls of protest and Trump fails to impress me as someone who will follow through with these promises. After all, Trump did say education was one of the top three functions of government. “The government can lead it, but it should be privately done.” I’m confused, too.

Trump seems to be a Second Amendment guy as he did get the NRA endorsement. But the chairman of Gun Owners of America was not as quick to praise The Donald based on his past statements. And again, the idea is not just to enforce the laws on the books but get rid of some of the most egregious, let alone get to ”shall not be infringed.” But wouldn’t someone who is on the no-fly list in error be having their rights infringed? This observer asks the question.

And then we have the subject of energy. Now Trump went to North Dakota – a major oil producing state – and promoted his “America First” energy plan. In it, he promised “Any regulation that is outdated, unnecessary, bad for workers, or contrary to the national interest will be scrapped.” But when he was in Iowa campaigning a few months earlier he threw his support behind a wasteful ethanol subsidy and carveout. So which is it? And would he allow Sarah Palin to sunset the Department of Energy?

On to social issues: Trump says he is pro-life and would defund Planned Parenthood, but how will he restore a “culture of life”? We don’t have that specific. Nor will be stand against the troubling idea of leaving people free to use the bathroom they feel like using – this despite claiming gay marriage should be left to the states – or is it the “law of the land“? (By that same token, so is abortion as it was based on a SCOTUS decision, too.)

So do you get the idea so far that I trust him about as far as I can throw him based on mixed messages and inconsistent policies? Once again, the idea here in the upcoming term was to reverse the tide of bigger, more intrusive government – but I don’t detect the same sort of impetus from Trump that I received from the candidates I favored. And to me, what would make America great again is for us to return to being good – at least in terms of re-adopting the Judeo-Christian values we’ve gotten away from after ousting God from the public square. I don’t see “Two Corinthians” but three marriages Trump as being a spiritual leader in the manner of a Reagan or George W. Bush, even insofar as being decent human beings.

And lastly for this evening, I’d like to talk about Trump on trade and job creation. Since history isn’t taught well, we tend to believe the Great Depression was the end result of the 1929 stock market crash. But there’s a convincing argument made that rural America took the biggest hit thanks to the effects of the Smoot-Hawley tariff of 1930. Granted, the world is a lot different and more interconnected now, but American farmers produce a lot of exports (as do chicken growers locally, as the products in demand overseas complement nicely with what we consume here.) Certainly a renegotiation of our current and proposed trade pacts is in order, but would Trump walk away from the table or just angle for any deal? And would he be against Trade Promotion Authority like he was as a candidate when he’s the president negotiating the pact? I doubt it.

And given the amount of union rank-and-file backing he seems to have, it’s no wonder he hasn’t come out more strongly for right-to-work laws, barely mentioning it during the campaign.

To many, Trump’s views on these subjects are on the outside of the range that’s acceptable to the standard GOP. And are they to the right of Hillary Clinton? For the most part, yes – but that assumes that he’s a man of his word and his business dealings suggest otherwise.

So in part 2 I will discuss the more important five issues on my scaling system, and this is where Trump really begins to sound like Hillary.

El Niño, La Niña and natural gas

July 12, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

Death Valley, California, is known as “the hottest place on earth.” But, if you hear the news that the “Hottest Place on Earth Has Record-Breaking Hot June” – when “temperatures exceeded average June temperatures by about 6 °F” – it might be easy to ascribe the heat to alarmist claims of climate change. While Southern California was experiencing power outages due to a heat wave, Death Valley hit 126 °F – though the previous June high was 129 °F on June 30, 2013, and Death Valley holds the highest officially recorded temperature on the planet: 134 °F on July 10, 1913.

Yes, it is a hot summer for most of the U.S. – but that was predicted by WeatherBELL’s Joe Bastardi who, on Groundhog Day, referenced El Niño and said: “we may have the hottest summer since 2012.” Dr. Roy Spencer, Principal Research Scientist at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, explains: “it is usually the second calendar year of an El Niño event that is the warmest.” The current El Niño event made 2015 “the 3rd warmest year in the satellite record” – records, which have been kept for 38 years (all three of the hottest years were during an El Niño event). The 2015-16 El Niño is one of the strongest on record.

El Niño is a natural weather pattern first discovered centuries ago by Peruvian fisherman who noticed that the ocean would often warm late in the year. They called the phenomenon El Niño, after the Christ Child. “Modern researchers,” according to Bloomberg, “came to realize its importance to global weather in the 1960s, when they recognized the link between warm surface water and corresponding atmospheric changes.”

El Niño usually means warmer or milder winters and cooler summers in the U.S. – which has been bad for producers of America’s natural gas, as less has been needed for heating and air conditioning. Describing the winter of 2015-16, one account said: “warm, wet or even ‘what winter?’” This past winter’s milder temperatures coincided with abundant output from shale formations, that continued to grow through last winter, and, as reported by Natural Gas Intelligence (NGI): “collapsed natural gas prices to the lowest levels since 1999.” As a result, wholesale electricity prices also tumbled.

The trend away from coal for power generation has previously helped natural gas producers, as the increased production easily met strengthening demand. However, that demand has slowed as, according to NGI: “most U.S. regions that could switch out of coal on economic terms have already done so.”

While the warmer winter and oversupply condition coincided to drive natural gas prices to their lowest levels in almost 17 years, weather and supply are now driving them back up.

El Niño patterns are usually followed by what is called La Niña – which happens as the ocean temperatures cool. La Niña generally takes place three months, or as much as twelve months, after an El Niño cycle. A report from CNBC, back in January, projected that this year’s El Niño would “fade by May-July” – which is what we are seeing and that is causing the hotter, drier summer. The Browning World Climate Bulletin says: “The factors that cooled so much of North America in April and May are retreating and the hot marine air masses will surge inland.” Likewise, NGI States: “The El Niño event that led to record North American winter temperatures has made way for the transition to La Niña, which usually results in hotter-than-normal summer temperatures.”

Addressing these weather patterns, Bloomberg cites Kevin Trenberth, distinguished senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colorado, as saying: “The cycles occur every two or three years on average and help regulate the temperature of the Earth, as the equatorial Pacific absorbs the heat of the sun during the El Niño and then releases it into the atmosphere. That can create a La Niña: a ‘recharge state’ when ‘the whole Earth is cooler than it was before this started.’”

While experts differ on the exact timing, most expect La Niña to form as early as July or as late as December – or even January. Trenberth explains: “La Niña is more like a strong case of ‘normal.’ If a region is typically dry, it could become arid in a La Niña. If it’s usually wet, there may be floods.” Which translates to a colder, and more volatile, than average winter – though predictions are for drier and warmer in the southwest U.S. Reports indicate that a strong La Niña could push more polar vortexes down into the U.S. and typically a strong El Niño, as we’ve just experienced, is followed by a strong La Niña.

On June 29, the Financial Times announced: “US natural gas prices have leapt 30 per cent this month as hot weather boost demand for air-conditioning and slowing supplies point to a gradually tightening market.” It adds: “After years with prices in the doldrums, US gas output has also begun to level off.”

The hot summer, according to Bastardi, will continue with widespread warmth through the fall – with the Northeast and Midwest possibly hitting 90 °F into October. Then, going from one extreme to the other, when winter hits, it is expected to be, as previously addressed, colder-than-normal across the Northwest, Upper Midwest, and Northeast.

These conditions create higher cooling and heating demand for natural gas. And that, coinciding with reduced supply, will give a boost to U.S. natural gas prices – rebalancing the market and bringing price recovery.

For investors, Bloomberg states: “Seeing as North American Winters are expecting to be stronger with La Niña, SocGen [Societe Generale Corporate & Investment Banking] recommends investing in natural gas.” The Price Group’s Phil Flynn, seen daily on the Fox Business Network, concurs. He told me that in the rush to convert electricity generation to natural gas, we are now in a place, unlike the winter of 2014, where there are not enough coal-fueled power plants to fill the demand gap. The idea was that with global warming, winters would remain mild, but with the naturally occurring La Niña cycle, and the projected cold winter, we are facing high demand at a time when natural gas production is “getting ready to fall off a cliff.” With reduced supply and pipeline constraints, natural gas may not be able to meet all of the demand. He is encouraging his clients into natural gas.

For consumers this may mean that, because wholesale electricity prices strongly correlate to natural gas prices, power supply costs could be impacted – resulting in higher utility bills. Because of low natural gas prices, homeowners have not felt the full hit of higher cost renewables – but that could be changing as we head into a La Niña winter.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

May free speech reign and scientific inquiry prevail

July 5, 2016 · Posted in Business and industry, Marita Noon, National politics, Politics, Radical Green · Comments Off 

Commentary by Marita Noon

Throughout the past four years, climate change activists have been secretly coordinating with one another regarding ways to prosecute individuals, organizations, and companies that are their ideological foes. They met to develop a strategy to use RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act), which was intended to provide stronger weapons for prosecuting organized crime, against those who speak out against the Obama administration’s war on fossil fuels.

More recently, the activists, including Naomi Oreskes and Bill McKibben, have coordinated with Attorneys General (AG) culminating with a March 29 press conference, led by New York AG Eric Schneiderman and joined by former Vice President Al Gore. There the “unprecedented coalition” – as Schneiderman’s press release called it – was announced: the newly formed AGs for Clean Power. Though “vague” on their specific plans, 17 AGs (16 Democrats and 1 Independent) have, as the Huffington Post reported: “committed to pursuing an all-levers approach” to, as Gore said: “hold to account those commercial interests that have been, according to the best available evidence, deceiving the American people, communicating in a fraudulent way.”

ExxonMobil has been the first and most obvious target. While the RICO Act is federal legislation passed in 1970, more than two dozen states have “Baby RICO” laws – which are, according to InsideClimateNews.org, “broader than the federal version.”

Four different investigations claiming that Exxon conspired to cover up its understanding of climate science have been launched. Schneiderman was the first. Last November, he issued a subpoena demanding: “that ExxonMobil Corporation give investigators documents spanning four decades of research findings and communications about climate change.” In January, the Los Angeles Times announced: “California Atty. Gen. Kamala D. Harris is investigating whether Exxon Mobil Corp. repeatedly lied to the public and its shareholders about the risk to its business from climate change – and whether such actions could amount to securities fraud and violations of environmental laws.” On April 19, Massachusetts AG Maura Healey opened an investigation to seek “information regarding whether Exxon may have misled consumers and/or investors with respect to the impact of fossil fuels on climate change, and climate change-driven risks to Exxon’s business.” Just days after the March 29 press conference, Virgin Islands’ AG Claude Walker, in his demand for records, became the first to cite the racketeering law to “probe Exxon over its longtime denial of climate change and its products’ role in it.” Additionally, he listed roughly 100 academic institutions and free market think tanks in his subpoena. The National Review reports that Walker promised a “transformational” use of his prosecutorial powers in the global-warming crusade. Separately, Walker also subpoenaed records from the respected Washington DC think tank, the Competitive Enterprise Institute (CEI). Schneiderman and Healey have also requested records from research and advocacy groups. Harris, who is running for the Senate seat to be vacated by retiring Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), “isn’t expected to do much in terms of investigating Exxon,” according to the Daily Caller.

The Free Beacon references “internal documents” stating that the goals of the larger campaign are:

  • “delegitimize [ExxonMobil] as a political actor,”
  • “force officials to disassociate themselves from Exxon,”
  • “drive divestment from Exxon,” and
  • “to drive Exxon & climate into center of 2016 election.”

The Wall Street Journal (WSJ) adds:

  • “to establish in the public’s mind that Exxon is a corrupt institution that has pushed humanity (and all creation) toward climate chaos and grave harm.”

Despite the attacks on Exxon, WSJ quotes Lee Wasserman, director of the Rockefeller Family Fund – one of the foundations behind the crusade – as saying: “It’s not really about Exxon.” Instead: “It’s about helping the larger public understand the urgencies of finding climate solutions.”

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), who has long advocated that the Department of Justice (DOJ) investigate whether Exxon and other fossil fuel companies violated the RICO statute by disputing the role of fossil fuel burning in global warming, at a recent hearing, asked Attorney General Loretta Lynch if she’d considered using RICO against fossil fuel companies. She replied: “This matter has been discussed. We have received information about it and have referred it to the FBI to consider whether or not it meets the criteria for which we could take action on.”

WSJ reports: “The new legal theory has yet to gain momentum within the Justice Department, according to officials familiar with internal discussions. But after prodding by lawmakers, the Federal Bureau of Investigation is conducting a preliminary review.”

Even legal scholars, such as Columbia Law School professor Merritt B. Fox, who, according to Reuters, agrees with the importance of climate change, expressed skepticism about the legal strategy of the prosecutors: “The market was well supplied with information about climate change from a variety of sources.” Reuters adds: “investors get information on climate change from many sources and Exxon would probably not be able to alter the ‘total mix’ of publically available information.” Similarly, Pat Parenteau, a professor of environmental law at the Vermont Law School, is quoted by InsideClimateNews.org: “Hopefully there is something more than unsubstantiated suspicion to support this.” Parenteau explains: “The most serious question is whether the attorney general [Walker] has any basis to suspect that Exxon has engaged in activities that violate the statutes about obtaining money by false pretense and fraud.” In WSJ, David Uhlmann, a university of Michigan law professor and former federal crimes prosecutor, expressed concern regarding the ability to establish “clear culpability for global warming.” The reporting says: “Millions of individuals contribute with their use of fossil fuels, while national governments have done little despite knowing the risks.” Uhlmann states: “Exxon should have been far more forthright about the risks associated with climate change, but all of us are culpable for our collective failure to change.”

Then there are the opponents. WSJ points out: “Both sides see this as a pivotal moment in a growing campaign by environmentalists to deploy a legal strategy used against tobacco companies in the 1990s by arguing that oil companies have long hidden what they know about climate change.”

Late last month, five Republican Senators sent a letter to Lynch demanding that: “the DOJ immediately cease its ongoing use of law enforcement to stifle private debate on one of the most controversial issues of our time – climate change.”

William Perry Pendley, whose group, the Mountain States Legal Foundation, is named in Walker’s subpoena, told me the effort by environmental groups is: “an abuse of power that we haven’t seen in this country since Woodrow Wilson.” His foundation, according to the Washington Times, has “long acknowledged that Exxon is one of its many funders.” Pendley says: “accepting funding from Exxon and disagreeing with Greenpeace on the causes and extent of climate change are not crimes. What we are accused of saying is: ‘Maybe there isn’t global warming, maybe it’s not caused by man, and maybe your solution won’t work. It will be too expensive and drive us into poverty.’”

Ronald Bailey, science correspondent for the Reason Foundation – also named in Walker’s subpoena – said, according to the Washington Times: “These subpoenas are a huge step in using courts to silence people who hold views that differ from those of powerful government officials.”

CEI, the organization singled out for Walker’s separate subpoena, issued the following statement from president Ken Lassman: “All Americans have the right to support causes they believe in and the CEI subpoena is an abuse of the legal system and an effort to intimidate and silence individuals who disagree with certain attorneys general on the climate debate. Disagreeing with a government official is not a crime; abusing government power to take away Americans’ rights is.”

I know this to be true as my organization, though not featured on Walker’s list, is still a victim. We had some essential funding in place that would have allowed us to continue for months without extreme financial stress. However the DC policy shop that was to provide the support for our efforts, pulled it as a result of the AG’s campaign. I was told that the funding was approved, but that when I wrote my April 25 column on the film Climate Hustle – which questions the science behind the politically correct narrative of manmade catastrophic climate change – the board got cold feet because they, too, are one of the organizations on the list. At first, I wanted to quit, as without the funding I couldn’t continue. But then, I got mad. I realized that if I stopped doing what I do, these AGs would win – which is their goal. Indirectly, they attempted to silence me. I am grateful for individuals and companies who believe in my work and who have stepped up to fill the funding gap - at least for a few months.

Those of us who’ve been attacked are not the only ones who saw the flaw of the AG’s crusade. Exxon and CEI have filed lawsuits against the accusers. Exxon claimed that the subpoenas “violated constitutional amendments on free speech, unreasonable search and seizure and equal protection.” As a result, last week, Walker withdrew his subpoenas and Healey, reports the Daily Caller, has “agreed to an abeyance of the subpoena, meaning her office won’t enforce the subpoena until all legal appeals are exhausted, which may take a couple of years.”

In a big victory for free speech, The Hill states: “The withdrawal closes a major chapter in the drive by liberals and environmentalists to punish Exxon over allegations that it knew decades ago that fossil fuels were causing climate change but denied it publically.”

In response to the “retreat,” Representative Lamar Smith (R-TX), Chairman of the House Committee on Science and Technology said: it “confirms what my committee has known all along – these legal actions were conceived and driven by environmental groups with an extreme political agenda and no actual regard for the law.” His statement added: “Companies, nonprofit organizations and scientists deserve the ability to pursue research free from intimidation and threat of prosecution.”

The Heartland Institute, for which I serve as an “expert” on energy issues, is also on the “list.” Its president, Joe Bast, told me: “because there is a lively debate over the causes and consequences of climate change, this litigation has First Amendment implications.” He added: “It is not the possibility of harm to the public that led the AGs and DOJ to decide to enter into a wickedly complicated scientific debate, but the possibility of harm to the current administration in the White House. Their objective is to silence opposition by ExxonMobil and CEI (and other nonprofit organizations similar to CEI) to this administration’s draconian energy policies.”

Where these attacks on free speech go next remains to be seen. But as Texas AG Ken Paxton said in response to Walker’s withdrawal: “In America, we have the freedom to disagree, and we do not legally prosecute people just because their opinion is different from ours.”

May free speech reign and scientific inquiry prevail. True science welcomes a challenge because it can stand up to it – while political correctness must silence challenge.

The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc., and the companion educational organization, the Citizens’ Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE). She hosts a weekly radio program: America’s Voice for Energy - which expands on the content of her weekly column. Follow her @EnergyRabbit.

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