NEWS OF THE DAY:
Senate Passes $3.5 Trillion Partisan Budget Plan, Clearing Way for Sweeping Government Expansion
Zachary Evans, National Review, August 11, 2021
The Senate approved the framework of a $3.5 trillion budget plan in a key procedural vote on Wednesday morning, allowing the body to move towards a final vote on the issue.
Senators voted to advance the framework 50-49 along party lines, with Senator Mike Rounds (R., S.D.) absent. The vote came just before 4 a.m. following a “vote-a-rama,” during which senators introduced amendments for largely symbolic votes designed to test the level of Senate support for various issues.
The plan provides for universal pre-kindergarten, free two-year community college, tax incentives for clean-energy sources to fight climate change, and an expansion of Medicare to cover dental, vision, and hearing. Democrats hope to cover the cost of the plan in part with tax hikes on corporations and high-earning families.
“Senate Democrats have just took a massive step towards restoring the middle class of the 21st century,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said after the vote. “What we’re doing here is not easy. Democrats have labored for months to reach this point…. But I can say with absolute certainty that it will be worth doing.”
Republicans unanimously opposed the plan, saying the amount of government spending in the proposal during a time of rising inflation is reckless.
“Senate Democrats want to take their next big step toward playing Russian roulette with our country,” Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R., Ky.) said in a floor speech on Tuesday before the vote. “What our colleagues are proposing, and planning is absolutely jaw-dropping…. This reckless taxing and spending spree is like nothing we’ve seen.”
However, McConnell added that since Democrats can use Senate rules to push the plan through with a simple majority, Republicans “will probably not be able to save our colleagues from themselves.”
While the framework of the resolution was approved, Democrats are divided on a final price tag for the measure. Progressive Representative Jamaal Bowman (D., N.Y.) said the $3.5 trillion partisan plan “still doesn’t go far enough,” while Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D., Ariz.) has already indicated that she does not support the plan’s price tag.
The plan now goes to the House, where lawmakers will return early from recess to take it up. Moderates have argued that the House should hold a stand-alone vote on the $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill that passed earlier Wednesday, but progressives have said they will refuse to vote on the infrastructure bill until the House approves the budget package.
A dozen Senate committees will now begin negotiating the final details of the budget package, which Schumer hopes to pass in mid-September.
Big Oil’s Foray Into Green Energy Creates Highly Competitive Market
Tsvetana Paraskova, OilPrice.Com, August 11, 2021
The increased investments of international oil majors in renewable energy projects are diminishing the returns of the pure clean energy firms, especially combined with a surge in raw material prices this year, executives tell Bloomberg.
Members of the Big Oil club are now competing among themselves and with the pure renewables players for wind and solar tenders around the world, pushing up prices for acreage and thus raising costs and reducing the profitability of companies that have been operating for years in the sector.
“If you look at renewables — just renewables, nothing else attached to it — you reach a stage where the returns are going to plateau and probably go down a little bit in the next years because of increased competition,” Francesco Strake, chief executive at Italy’s to utility Enel, told Bloomberg TV. “Our view is that the strategy of an integrated utility is a much safer position,” Starace added.
At the end of last year, Enel, Europe’s largest utility, said it planned to invest as much as US$190 billion (160 billion euro) by 2030 in boosting renewable power generation, decarbonization, and grid infrastructure as part of a new plan to become a “Super Major” in renewables.
The biggest developer of offshore wind farms in the world, Denmark-based Ørsted, said in June it was concerned that the race of the biggest oil companies to enter offshore wind could lead to spikes in seabed acreage prices, which would undermine project competitiveness and the speed of technology development.
“Our concern is that if that inflation continues it will eventually come to the disadvantage of the speed with which we accelerate the technology or the competitiveness of the technology,” Ørsted’s chief executive officer Mads Nipper told Reuters in an interview ahead of the conference Reuters Events: Global Energy Transition in June.
White House calls on OPEC+ to increase oil production as gas prices rise
Andrew Freedman, Axios, August 11, 2021
The White House on Wednesday morning moved to address higher gas prices by directing the Federal Trade Commission to investigate any “illegal conduct” and “anti-competitive practices” involving gasoline prices and leaning on OPEC+ members to boost production.
Flashback: In July, OPEC+ agreed to boost production by 400,000 barrels per day on a monthly basis starting this month and lasting into 2022.
What they’re saying: In a statement released Wednesday morning, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan stated that unchecked higher gasoline costs risk harming the economic recovery.
- “While OPEC+ recently agreed to production increases, these increases will not fully offset previous production cuts that OPEC+ imposed during the pandemic until well into 2022,” Sullivan wrote. “At a critical moment in the global recovery, this is simply not enough.”
- Sullivan said the Biden administration is “engaging with relevant OPEC+ members” to discuss “the importance of competitive markets in setting prices.”
Coal executive to fight Biden agenda from House perch
Timothy Cama, E & E Daily, August 11, 2021
Ohio is poised to send to Congress a Trump-backed former coal executive who plans to target President Biden’s environmental agenda and work to preserve the coal industry.
Mike Carey, who won last week’s special election primary for Ohio’s 15th District, has a history of lobbying at the highest levels for coal. He was vice president of government affairs at American Consolidated Natural Resources Inc., formerly known as Murray Energy Corp., the company founded and led by Robert Murray. Carey switched to a consulting role with the company during the campaign.
The 15th is a largely rural area that also includes parts of Columbus and its suburbs. While Carey will have an Election Day face-off with state Rep. Allison Russo, the Democratic nominee, the district is heavily Republican. He is expected to win and succeed former Rep. Steve Stivers (R) (E&E Daily, Aug. 4).
Carey didn’t make coal a major part of his congressional campaign. But he said one of his top priorities in Congress would be to work to carry on former President Trump’s energy policies, including bolstering coal, despite Biden’s stated goal to remove all fossil fuels from the electric grid by 2035.
“When President Trump was elected in 2016, his commitment was to put miners back to work,” Carey told E&E News in an interview last week following his primary win. “President Trump was doing everything he could to make sure that the environment in which coal mining operates was improving. And then we had the complete switch-over with now-President Biden.”
Carey describes himself as an “all-of-the-above type of person” when it comes to energy sources but argues: “Let’s not mandate that you eliminate fossil fuel energy, and let’s not mandate certain standards about what energy resources need to power the grid.”
He pointed to the February grid failure in Texas caused by freezing temperatures. “I think anybody who lived through … Texas realizes that you’ve got to have baseload power plants that are operating,” he said. While Carey did not specifically cite renewables, fossil fuel advocates and elected officials in Texas have blamed those clean energy sources for the grid failure, though energy officials in Texas noted all sources failed (Energywire, Feb. 19).
‘One-man wrecking ball’
Carey, a native of Sabina in the 15th District, has been Murray’s and American Consolidated Natural Resources’ top lobbyist since 2012. Before that, he led the Ohio Coal Association since 1999 and previously had roles working as a House staffer, in the Ohio Legislature and in the Army National Guards of Ohio and Alabama. He made an unsuccessful run for the state House in 1996.
His leadership of the Ohio Coal Association during the cap-and-trade debates led POLITICO to label him a “one-man wrecking ball.” After the House passed that bill, he called it “disastrous for the coal industry” and “disastrous for Ohio’s economy” (Greenwire, June 30, 2009). In the 2004 presidential election, he headed a coal-backed group that ran advertisements assailing Democratic candidate John Kerry as an “extreme environmentalist” (Greenwire, Oct. 5, 2004). He’ll likely bring that energy back to Capitol Hill.
“Part of what I want to do is go and push back on this Green New Deal that many of the Democrats in Congress are saying is the greatest thing in the world,” Carey said.
While the 15th is not a coal-heavy district, Carey said he’s nonetheless concerned about the economic repercussions from declining coal employment, as well as what he says is the hit on consumers’ wallets.
“It’s something very personal to me because I know these miners, I know the people in the communities. And that’s been my life’s work, trying to stand up for the people that need it,” he said. “And running for Congress seemed like a natural transition, because I’ve seen what’s happened to those communities.”
As for climate change — the reason Biden is cracking down on fossil fuels — Carey’s not overly concerned.
“I do believe that there’s a natural warming and cooling of the Earth,” he said. “But I also think the most important thing is that we cannot destroy economies based just completely on eliminating carbon dioxide or methane or whatever it is. What we have to do is continue to fund the science and technologies to do whatever we can to make sure we have the cleanest energies available.”
Help from Andrew Wheeler
Carey had some help in his campaign from a longtime friend, former Trump EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. The two first met around 1999, when Wheeler worked for the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee and Carey was the coal association’s president. Later, Wheeler had Murray Energy as a lobbying client from 2009 to 2017 when he worked at Faegre Baker Daniels Consulting, overlapping with Carey’s tenure.
Wheeler backed Carey’s campaign and traveled to the district to stump for him. Wheeler is an Ohio native as well, though his hometown, Hamilton, is not in the 15th.
“I’ve known him for over 20 years, I worked with him side by side and I think he’s going to make a great congressman,” Wheeler told E&E News.
He said Carey’s history in the coal industry is a key qualification for office. “Mike has a really good grasp of federal laws and regulations and the regulatory process,” he said. “The people that came up to him are concerned about their energy prices going up, concerned about their gasoline prices going up. People came up to him and told him about family members that have been laid off because of the coal mines shutting down. It can be overwhelming at times.”
Wheeler did work for some campaigns, including Trump’s, before he became EPA head. He said his campaigning for Carey was a one-time act for a friend, and he’s not starting a career in political consulting.
Just weeks after Carey filed to run, Trump announced his support. The former president conducted tele-rallies for Carey and hit back against the other 10 Republicans in the race — many of whom wanted Trump’s endorsement too — especially when they tried to present themselves as being aligned with the former president.
“Numerous candidates in the Great State of Ohio, running in Congressional District 15, are saying that I am supporting them, when in actuality, I don’t know them, and don’t even know who they are,” he said in one such statement.
Trump later boasted about Carey’s win as a victory for himself and his de facto leadership of the GOP. The endorsement was nearly five years in the making, Carey said.
He first encountered Trump during the 2016 race, when he, Murray and another executive at Murray’s company met with the then-candidate at Trump Tower in New York City.
“He really was engaged on energy, he was really engaged on the cost of energy and what it does for manufacturing, and he really wanted to make sure that we knew that he was going to support making sure that these coal miners were going to be able to work in honor and dignity and have an opportunity to send their kids to college and retire,” Carey said.
“We got back in the car, and I said to Mr. Murray, ‘This guy is the most honest politician I’ve met in my life.’”
Murray, who died last year, went on to hold fundraising events for Trump during the 2016 and 2020 campaigns, and Carey said he met with the president a number of times, including in the Oval Office.
Coal enjoyed a strong alliance with the Trump administration, and Murray and his company were no exception. Officials carried out a number of the industry’s priorities on air pollution, water pollution, labor standards and other matters, although the industry still suffered significant declines.
Carey still has to win the general election and he says he isn’t resting on his laurels, but he’s not overly worried about Russo. Stivers won by more than 26 percentage points last year.
“I’ve only met her once,” he said. “I think she’s going to be wrong on all the issues for the 15th congressional district. I think on many of the social issues, she’s not aligned with the majority of the people in this district. And the fact that she supports Nancy Pelosi and President Biden … and people in the 15th District don’t.”
Russo beat little-known Army veteran Greg Betts in the Democratic primary.
“For far too long, working Ohioans in this district have not had someone in Congress who is willing to stand up to the special-interest politicians and lobbyists who run Washington. That needs to change,” she said in a statement after her win.
“I’ve won really tough districts before because I took the time to listen to Ohioans about what’s important to them, campaigned on issues that would help working families, and advocated for good ideas no matter which party they came from,” she said.
The Ohio Democratic Party slammed Carey for his industry ties.
“Allison is on the side of working families while special-interest lobbyist Mike Carey represents everything wrong with politics. He’s spent his career and campaign boosted by special interests who know that he’ll have their backs in Congress — not working Ohioans,’” spokesperson Matt Keyes said in a statement.
Both Alaska senators voted for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill. Here’s why.
Alex DeMarban, Anchorage Daily News, August 11, 2021
Both of Alaska’s senators voted for the $1 trillion infrastructure bill on Tuesday, a sweeping proposal aimed at making needed upgrades to roads, broadband, water systems and other projects across the country, including a number of investments in Alaska.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Sen. Dan Sullivan joined 17 of their Republican colleagues, but broke with 30 other Republican senators, who raised concerns about the growing national debt.
Support from Murkowski was expected — she was part of a bipartisan group of 10 senators who helped create the measure. She issued a statement saying the legislation will benefit Alaska for decades to come.
“Investments in repairing, maintaining, and upgrading our infrastructure such as roads, rails, and bridges will create safer communities,” Murkowski said. “We invest in transportation infrastructure that are a lifeline to connecting Alaskan communities — such as our Alaska Marine Highway System, ferries, ports, and small airports. Through this bill we address our lack of basic energy and wastewater infrastructure to meet vital needs. We also provide support to strengthen broadband.”
” I pushed for a number of initiatives we included to address our energy infrastructure needs by enabling important projects to advance which will help communities see more affordable, clean energy,” she said. “I’m proud to have worked on this bipartisan effort in crafting this bill.”
Sullivan had previously voted “No” in procedural votes to advance the measure in Senate.
But he supported the measure Tuesday, and issued a lengthy statement explaining his position.
Sullivan said his support for the bill was difficult. He said the measure is imperfect, in part because it funds projects that in some cases don’t support “core American infrastructure,” and itcontains provisions he doesn’t support.
He said he’s concerned with excess government spending. (The Congressional Budget Office has said the measure would increase deficits by $256 billion over the decade.)
But Sullivan’s statement said the infrastructure bill appropriates $550 billion over five years in new investments in infrastructure without raising taxes.
“Despite these and other problems with this bill, on balance, I believe the benefits to Alaskans and the overall focus on physical infrastructure, like roads, ports, broadband, and water and sewer, and the jobs and opportunities this will create for Alaskans, outweigh my serious concerns about other negative aspects of this bill,” he said.
Sullivan said the investments in Alaska, with its limited road system and broadband service, would help address the state’s “historic deficit in infrastructure.” The measure would streamline project permitting efforts, something Sullivan has supported, he said in the statement.
” It has very significant funding for Alaska roads, water systems, ports, airports, our ferry system, bridges, and Coast Guard infrastructure. It also contains historic funding for broadband build-out in Alaska, which will help our fellow Alaskans in terms of education, telehealth, and small business opportunities, and it has billions of dollars in federal loan guarantees for the Alaska natural gasline — a step toward unlocking our massive reserves of natural gas for the benefit of Alaskans, our country, and our allies overseas.”
Sullivan also said the bill will help the U.S. compete with the economic and security challenges presented by China.
“America cannot have crumbling roads, bridges and ports if we are going to continue to lead the world economy,” he said.
Both senators criticized a $3.5 trillion bill pursued by Democrats that would include spending on family-service programs, climate change and other more progressive priorities.
Each has called the measure “reckless.” Sullivan said on Tuesday he will “fight like hell to ensure it does not pass.”
Same Climate Report, Different Day
Homan Jenkins Jr., The Wall Street Journal, August 10, 2021
Beneath its alarmism, a new U.N. study adjusts downward its expected future warming risk.
John Cochrane, the economist and always interesting blogger, recently aimed a considerable missile of justice at those Biden officials who’ve been promoting the corporate climate disclosure nonsense, which they certainly know is nonsense.
Collectively, the markets are as well informed as they can be about the uncertain risks of climate change and climate politics. Corporate management has nothing material to add. And notice the larger meta fraud at work: Demand for fossil fuels remains robust. Emissions continue uninterrupted. The disclosure and accounting rules sought by activists would make public companies pretend that meaningful climate policies have been enacted though the clear message from the political sphere is that they won’t be.
Economists have been rolling their eyes over this since climate politics began. Advocates refuse to acknowledge the so-called Jevons’s paradox, which holds that forced or subsidized investment in alternative energy technology doesn’t mean less fossil fuel will be consumed. People will still use all that the going price makes it desirable to consume. The solar panels Americans are being subsidized to install, the Journal recently noted, are produced in “carbon-dioxide-belching, coal-burning plants in China.” Your subsidy to buy an electric car is the manufacturer’s subsidy to consume fossil energy in mining the lithium and rare metals needed to make it. It’s the electric company’s subsidy to burn more fossil fuels to help you keep it charged.
A carbon tax, because it reduces the incentive to consume fossil fuels across the board, is the way to lower emissions meaningfully.
But a carbon tax would be unpopular and never pass, exclaimed President Obama as he abandoned his climate promises the moment, he took office.
Then I guess we have no taxes, because taxes are always unpopular with people who pay them.
So, Democrats modify their argument: Republicans would never support a carbon tax except in exchange for “tax cuts for the rich” and we can’t have that.
Then you don’t care about climate change. If you are not willing to engage in politics, then you’re a colossal fraud.
This week the U.N.’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released a draft of its long-awaited sixth assessment report coupled with an unscientific and fatuous preamble that said “no one is safe” from a warming planet.
Yes, and no one is safe from iced tea and Kylie Minogue either, since both also involve costs and benefits just like humanity’s habit of using the atmosphere as a CO2 dump.
Of interest to the nonfatuous was the track of real-world temperature changes. The IPCC estimates a rise of 1.1 degrees celsius in the past 150 years. This information, which it highlighted in bold print, led the IPCC in much finer print to lop 0.5 degree Celsius off its likely worst-case impact of a doubling of atmospheric carbon dioxide.
In other words, real-world warming, the IPCC finally acknowledges, has been less than that expected from its climate models.
What else was notable? In its sixth assessment report, as in the previous five, the IPCC failed to say global warming was leading to human extinction, though portraying climate change as an “existential threat” is now a Pavlovian word choice of many politicians.
We can model this too. Green subsidies as now designed will have no effect on emissions and therefore no effect on climate change. But when the end of the world doesn’t materialize anyway, greens will credit themselves with the victory.
The big risks in the IPCC report are the known unknowns, the possibility of sudden tipping points in ice sheets or ocean circulation. But if buying insurance is sensible, green energy subsidies are not that insurance. A widely noted simulation by two Princeton economists realistically finds such subsidies produce “a minuscule reduction in CO2 emission and temperatures” even over centuries because of the incentive to consume more energy overall.
It’s hard not to come back to the obvious. We have so many taxes. A carbon tax could be enacted in a congenial way, to reduce taxation on work and investment.
If Republicans and Democrats each had a stake in such a modest tweak to our convoluted tax code, if the example of a pro-growth carbon tax caught on with other nations, emissions could have been lower decades ago.
But then the greatest mystery has been: If climate change is such a serious risk, and if activists care so much, why have their strategies all been designed to alienate and vilify potential allies? Why do they always seem to opt for short-term green pork over meaningful climate incentives?
The question should be put to Al Gore most of all. It was Mr. Gore who, on President Obama’s election, suddenly discovered the hard political work to implement carbon taxes wasn’t necessary. Handouts to renewable energy investors (like Mr. Gore) would fix the climate problem. When the subject is green fraudulence, many roads lead back to Mr. Gore.