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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Madhav Khandekar Talks Climate Change on the Progressive Radio Network

May 03, 2014, 6:49 PM

On April 29, renowned climate scientist, Heartland Institute policy advisor, and external reviewer of the IPCC Madhav Khandekar appeared on “The Infectious Myth” show on the Progressive Radio Network. “The infectious Myth” focuses on addressing medical and scientific issues for which “the simple story we are told” is in fact untrue. Dr. Khandekar seeks to do just that for the issue of man-made climate change.

Dr. Khandekar discussed the findings of his decades-long research program into the effects of CO2 emissions on global climate and temperature. According to that research, the sun, not humans, is the primary driver of climate change:

“I think there was no change in the concentration of atmospheric CO2 during the Little Ice Age. So quite possibly, and quite definitely as most solar scientists feel, it has something to do with the low sun [activity] at the time, what is known as the Maunder Minimum.”

According to Dr. Khandekar, the world may in fact be moving in the coming decades toward another Little Ice Age thanks to an approaching decline in solar activity.

Dr. Khandekar acknowledges some amount of increased temperatures, but this he says is very limited and has largely been beneficial to humans:

“The small warming we have experienced is beneficial to world humanity. It has helped increase grain yields, especially in the developing world of South Asia and South America, as well as Africa.”

The evidence surrounding climate change and global warming remains hotly debated in scientific circles, despite the efforts of some to quash the discussion as violating a “consensus.” But scientists like Dr. Khandekar continue to fight for attention for their alternative views. The fact he was invited to speak on the Progressive News Network might well suggest that their calls for attention are starting to be heeded.

Categories: On the Blog

Common Core Debate: Heartland’s Joy Pullmann on Fox News

May 02, 2014, 12:59 PM

Heartland Institute Research Fellow Joy Pullmann told Fox News viewers on Tuesday why Common Core is a terrible idea and must be defeated state by state. Her opponent for the April 29 debate was Michael Brickman of the Thomas B. Fordham Foundation — who did his best, but Joy definitely got the better of him. Brickman spent a lot of time swinging and missing at Heartland and Joy instead of making a positive argument for his side.

Watch the video below, and for a lot of  information about Common Core, visit Heartland’s “Fight the Common Core” page and a search of Common Core at PolicyBot.


Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s College Rating Plan

May 02, 2014, 11:18 AM

Last year, President Obama announced that he would create a plan to measure colleges based on access, affordability, and student outcome. On Wednesday, Education Secretary Arne Duncan appeared before a Senate subcommittee to discuss the education budget. Mr. Duncan states the initiative will move forward with or without the requested 10 million dollars, although the money would be beneficial.

Ignoring that the administration is requesting 10 million dollars they do not need, Congress should not fund the college rating plan because it will not fix the problem of college affordability. A recent study done by the American Council on Education states the President’s plan is “well-intentioned but poorly devised.” The rating plan is intended to help low-income students, but they will likely be the most ill-served. Obama’s ratings are expected to be based off of data that will misrepresent community colleges and four-year comprehensive institutions. The efforts of institutions that largely serve low-income students will be ignored and students will have access to misleading information.

More so, college rankings do little good for institutions of higher education. Although the Obama administration has gone through exhaustive efforts to differentiate ranks and ratings, they are both numbers universities can manipulate. Over the past three years, I have watched my institution manufacture numbers and tout statistics in order to climb one rank in U.S. News and World Report. As my school brags about admission rates, diversity, and test scores, the students still experience a lack of commitment and investment by the university. The numbers look good, but students have reaped little benefit from manipulated numbers and a U.S. News and World Report ranking of 12 as opposed to 13. It is only a matter of time before universities find a way to manipulate their affordability, access, and outcome to help themselves and not the students they allegedly serve.

The rating plan also ignores that students, especially low-income, don’t actually care about college ratings/rankings. Low-income students are more likely to choose colleges close to home or based on financial aid packages. We need to be directly helping low income students access higher education—not giving money to institutions that achieve a good rank (based on inaccurate data) and hoping they will put the federal money towards improving affordability. The rating plan does not address the root of the actual problem we face.

Congress should not give the Department of Education the 10 million dollars it may or may not need. Obama’s college rating plan will not help low-income students, but instead, perpetuate universities to obsess over rates and rankings. College affordability is an amazingly important issue that greatly affects students. We need to change, but Obama’s plan is not the place to start.

Categories: On the Blog

Duke Energy’s Clean Coal Plant Coughed, Wheezed in February

May 02, 2014, 11:15 AM

After the global warming-battling Edwardsport coal gasification power plant used more power than it generated during the September-to-November time-frame, earlier this month information filed with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission showed the Duke Energy facility operated at less than 1 percent of capacity in February.

As Duke wants to recover $1.5 million in costs related to the plant, the state office that advocates for its customers – the Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor – wants IURC to more closely scrutinize why Edwardsport’s operation has been such a miserable failure. The much-delayed and fought-over plant had a $1.4 billion cost overrun and as a result is adding an average 16 percent increase to Hoosier State customers’ electric bills.

“The ratepayers of Duke Energy should not be mandated to bear the risks and most of the costs of this boondoggle,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of Citizens Action Coalition, to the Indianapolis Star. Olson’s organization has been a longtime critic of Duke Energy and the Edwardsport project specifically.

Duke has argued that it would need 15 months for the plant to become fully operational. According to the Indianapolis Business Journal, after the three-month blunder late last year, power production “slowed to a crawl” in January due to mechanical problems. The company claimed it moved up planned routine maintenance to February, which extended its period of diminished activity.

“It’s a large, complex project, and it has taken time to work out technical issues,” said Duke spokeswoman Angeline Protogere to the IBJ.

For the customers there is a huge difference between attaching the cost of Edwardsport’s “issues” to its initial construction costs vs. charging for ongoing maintenance. A settlement limited the costs of the build-up of the plant for customers to $2.6 billion, while Duke’s shareholders are responsible for $900 million. But now that Edwardsport is officially “online,” critics fear that repairs and maintenance that should be charged against the original design of the plant, will instead be added as new costs for customers under ongoing upkeep.

Those representing the grassroots of Indiana don’t appear to want to cut Duke any slack. Olson has been unrelenting, and in early 2012 the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor sharply criticized the utility as “a company that, through arrogance or incompetence, has unnecessarily cost ratepayers millions of dollars and has set back the public’s trust in our regulatory process.” An OUCC official testified, “There appears to be a lack of responsibility or accountability on the part of those causing these multimillion-dollar cost overruns.”

Another ugly aspect of Edwardsport/Indiana appears to be drawing to an end. As the saga played out over who would be responsible for cost overruns, David Hardy – the chairman of the IUCC appointed by then-Gov. Mitch Daniels – was revealed to have been meeting with Duke secretly to discuss problems at the power plant. Daniels fired Hardy after it was also disclosed that he knew that an IURC administrative lawyer was discussing a job with Duke while he participated in cases regarding Edwardsport. Hardy was indicted in 2011, but last year a judge ruled his actions no longer amounted to a crime, and yesterday the state Court of Appeals confirmed his decision despite the fact that they applied a law to Hardy’s situation that wasn’t passed until a year after his actions,according to the Star.

The track record for holding Duke Energy and government officials accountable for carelessness, ethics breaches and outright performance failures is not inspiring – especially in Indiana. The same Court of Appeals dumped the bulk of the Edwardsport costs also on its blameless customers. Meanwhile government know-nothings and former Duke CEOJames Rogers pushed for an ill-conceived project all for the purpose of reducing life-giving carbon dioxide, which is blamed for global warming.

Undoubtedly such folly would not have happened – or at least have been tolerated – in a truly competitive free market. Instead we have a monopolistic industry that thrives as much on crony favoritism from government as it does from the actual sales of its product.


[Originally published at National Legal and Policy Center]

Categories: On the Blog

Renewable Energy in Decline, Less than 1% of Global Energy

May 02, 2014, 10:24 AM

The global energy outlook has changed radically in just six years. President Obama was elected in 2008 by voters who believed we were running out of oil and gas, that climate change needed to be halted, and that renewables were the energy source of the near future.

But an unexpected transformation of energy markets and politics may instead make 2014 the year of peak renewables.

In December of 2007, former Vice President Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for work on man-made climate change, leading an international crusade to halt global warming. In June, 2008 after securing a majority of primary delegates, candidate Barack Obama stated, “…this was the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow and our planet began to heal…” Climate activists looked to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Conference as the next major step to control greenhouse gas emissions.

The price of crude oil hit $145 per barrel in June, 2008. The International Energy Agency and other organizations declared that we were at peak oil, forecasting a decline in global production. Many claimed that the world was running out of hydrocarbon energy.

Driven by the twin demons of global warming and peak oil, world governments clamored to support renewables. Twenty years of subsidies, tax-breaks, feed-in tariffs, and mandates resulted in an explosion of renewable energy installations. The Renewable Energy Index (RENIXX) of the world’s 30 top renewable energy companies soared to over 1,800.

Tens of thousands of wind turbine towers were installed, totaling more than 200,000 windmills worldwide by the end of 2012. Germany led the world with more than one million rooftop solar installations. Forty percent of the US corn crop was converted to ethanol vehicle fuel.

But at the same time, an unexpected energy revolution was underway. Using good old Yankee ingenuity, the US oil and gas industry discovered how to produce oil and natural gas from shale. With hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, vast quantities of hydrocarbon resources became available from shale fields in Texas, North Dakota, and Pennsylvania.

From 2008 to 2013, US petroleum production soared 50 percent. US natural gas production rose 34 percent from a 2005 low. Russia, China, Ukraine, Turkey, and more than ten nations in Europe began issuing permits for hydraulic fracturing. The dragon of peak oil and gas was slain.

In 2009, the ideology of Climatism, the belief that humans were causing dangerous global warming, came under serious attack. In November, emails were released from top climate scientists at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom, an incident christened Climategate. The communications showed bias, manipulation of data, avoidance of freedom of information requests, and efforts to subvert the peer-review process, all to further the cause of man-made climate change.

One month later, the Copenhagen Climate Conference failed to agree on a successor climate treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. Failures at United Nations conferences at Cancun (2010), Durban (2011), Doha (2012), and Warsaw (2013) followed. Canada, Japan, Russia, and the United States announced that they would not participate in an extension of the Kyoto Protocol.

Major climate legislation faltered across the world. Cap and trade failed in Congress in 2009, with growing opposition from the Republican Party. The price of carbon permits in the European Emissions Trading System crashed in April 2013 when the European Union voted not to support the permit price. Australia elected Prime Minister Tony Abbott in the fall of 2013 on a platform of scrapping the nation’s carbon tax.

Europeans discovered that subsidy support for renewables was unsustainable. Subsidy obligations soared in Germany to over $140 billion and in Spain to over $34 billion by 2013. Renewable subsidies produced the world’s highest electricity rates in Denmark and Germany. Electricity and natural gas prices in Europe rose to double those of the United States.

Worried about bloated budgets, declining industrial competitiveness, and citizen backlash, European nations have been retreating from green energy for the last four years. Spain slashed solar subsidies in 2009 and photovoltaic sales fell 80 percent in a single year. Germany cut subsidies in 2011 and 2012 and the number of jobs in the German solar industry dropped by 50 percent. Renewable subsidy cuts in the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom added to the cascade. The RENIXX Renewable Energy Index fell below 200 in 2012, down 90 percent from the 2008 peak.

Once a climate change leader, Germany turned to coal after the 2012 decision to close nuclear power plants. Coal now provides more than 50 percent of Germany’s electricity and 23 new coal-fired power plants are planned. Global energy from coal has grown by 4.4 percent per year over the last ten years.

Spending on renewables is in decline. From a record $318 billion in 2011, world renewable energy spending fell to $280 billion in 2012 and then fell again to $254 billion in 2013, according to Bloomberg. The biggest drop occurred in Europe, where investment plummeted 41 percent last year. The 2013 expiration of the US Production Tax Credit for wind energy will continue the downward momentum.

Today, wind and solar provide less than one percent of global energy. While these sources will continue to grow, it’s likely they will deliver only a tiny amount of the world’s energy for decades to come. Renewable energy output may have peaked, at least as a percentage of global energy production.

[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog