Putting the Clean Power Plan in Perspective

climate_changeby James A. Bacon

Governor Terry McAuliffe has created a working group to recommend concrete steps on how to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions from Virginia’s power plants. As the task force undergoes its deliberations, I hope it will consider the tradeoffs between economic costs and environmental benefits.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal today, Bjorn Lomborg, president of the Copenhagen Consensus Center, noted that implementation of the Clean Power Plan would reduce global temperatures a grand total of 0.023 degrees Fahrenheit by 2100. From what I can glean from the Internet — readers, please point out if I have missed something — the Obama administration has not disputed that the magnitude of the change would amount to no more than a small fraction of a degree.

Rather than contest the numbers, the Obama environmental team has made two arguments: (1) that the Clean Power Plan regulating the electric power industry is only one element in a package of initiatives, such as promoting energy efficiency and improving better gas mileage for cars, that will have a much bigger impact, and (2) the United States needs to take the lead in order to persuade other CO2 emitters like India and China to accede to the United Nations framework for attacking man-made global warming.

Lomborg contends that the total U.S. package, of which the Clean Power Plan is only a part, will reduce global temperatures by only 0.057 degrees, and if the whole world follows through with commitments to the U.N. agreement, the forecast rise in global temperatures would moderate by only 0.3 degrees.

That’s the big picture. While one can reasonably argue that Virginia must “do its part” to achieve these benefits, it is also worth asking what difference Virginia’s contribution to that effort will make. In 2014, Virginia consumed 112 million kilowatt hours of electricity, about 3% of the national total. Assuming that Virginia’s implementation of the Clean Power Plan accounts for a comparable 3% of the national figure, the Old Dominion will contribute to a .0007-degree reduction. (Implementation of the administration’s other measures would increase Virginia’s total contribution to about .0017 degrees, but those are not an issue at the state level.)

For purposes of discussion, let’s assume that the Clean Power Plan wins the Supreme Court stamp of approval and moves forward as the law of the land. The plan provides states different paths to achieving its goals. The big decision facing Virginia at that point will be which of four broad approaches to adopt: one of four flavors of a “rate-based” plan or “mass-based” plan. (See here for details.)

All four options would reduce CO2 emissions, although one of the mass-based options would reduce it more than the others. Thus, the debate is over the difference between the two plans. When we ponder the trade-offs between the cost to Virginia rate payers, the reliability of Virginia’s electric grid, and benefits to the global environment, we should recognize that the most consequential decision Virginia can make will lead to a reduction (assuming the climate models are valid) of some fraction of .0007 degrees, with a margin of error of a couple ten thousandths of a degree, in global temperatures by 2100.

I fully concede that these are back-of-the-envelope calculations, and I’m sure they can be refined. I may have overlooked important considerations. I’m open to information that anyone can provide to help refine them, and I solicit your input. Consider this a starting point for discussion.

I’m not being a global warming “denier” here. I’m accepting the proposition that human-caused climate change is real, that the net impact to the world will be negative, and that the way to deal with the threat is to re-engineer the global energy economy. But I do think it is important to give Virginians an honest accounting of the costs and benefits. Citizens should press the McAuliffe administration either to acknowledge the rough validity of the numbers I have presented or to present their own numbers.

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44 responses to “Putting the Clean Power Plan in Perspective”

  1. Acbar Avatar

    If you accept any part of the notion that the world has a climate change problem on its hands, then, the United States, and each State within it, should do its fair share, regardless of the de minimis consequences of Virginia’s contribution to the pot. The biggest problem with carbon emissions reduction is that only the industrialized nations have seen fit to commit to do anything. If we all acted and paid the price together, then no nation would come out with an unfair economic advantage; but allowing the likes of India and China and Brazil a free ride is a significant loophole!

    It was the judgment of the EPA that the United States should begin reducing carbon emissions unilaterally, to set an example at least. But with a nod to the politics of the situation, the EPA proposed different baselines for measuring what reductions were called for, and even once given a baseline, several different ways to improve on it.

    What is Virginia’s share of the national goal, and is it a fair share? I really don’t think anyone knows. But there is one thing that’s certain, and that is, the people over at Dominion and most other utilities just wish someone would please give them firm target numbers for each year and let them get on with finding the least-cost way to meet them! The uncertainty is what drives an electric utility executive crazy — both, the uncertainty as to method, and the uncertainty as to timing of deadlines. Leave things up in the air and the utility can’t plan for it; worse, the utility may have to express an opinion on whether the uncertain deadline is a good public policy idea or a bad one, and that means getting dragged into the politics of public opinion where no utility executive feels comfortable.

    So it didn’t surprise me that Dominion did its best, with this year’s IRP, to toss the EPA’s rulemaking and Virginia’s response back into the hands of the VSCC and step back and say, in effect, “here are the inputs and the variables and the costs as we see them, just tell us what answer you want.” You are right, Jim, Dominion’s portion of the Virginia share of this nation’s prescription for dealing with this world’s problem is tiny; but letting the uncertainty drag on with competing models and competing means of compliance and delays from litigation is undoubtedly the worst possible way to deal with climate change from the utility’s point of view. Somebody out there, please decide!

  2. LarrytheG Avatar

    well here’s some heartening news:

    ” Antarctic Ozone Layer Shows Signs of Healing”

    ” The Antarctic ozone layer is beginning to show signs of healing, according to new research.

    The study, published in the journal Science, found that the hole in the ozone layer is closing. The researchers found that the average size of the ozone hole when measured each September has shrunk by more than 1.7 million square miles since 2000.

    The scientists credit the 1987 Montreal Protocol, which cut the production of chemicals that damage the ozone layer, with facilitating the healing. “We can now be confident that the things we’ve done have put the planet on a path to heal,” Susan Solomon of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, who led the team of scientists, said in a statement. “We decided collectively, as a world, ‘Let’s get rid of these molecules’. We got rid of them, and now we’re seeing the planet respond.”


    oh – and Jim – do you know this guy’s Bjorn background?

    Is he a Scientist or an Economist? How is he funded? Is he considered an objective commentator or is he already committed to one side of the issue?

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      “How is he funded? ” Larry, WADR, I’ve raised the issue about who is funding whom and the parameters around the funding, and you’ve suggested it’s not an issue, at least not, when funding comes from pro-global warming sources.

      The source of funding is an issue, but we also need to recognize that any expert will be paid, at least normally. (I was an expert witness twice – once in court, for which I was paid. And once, before the VSCC, for which I did gratis for a friend.)

      Quite important in my mind are: 1) the parameters around the funding; 2) whether the expert has ever researched the opposite; 3) peer review; 4) access to assumptions and work papers; and 5) some form of cross-examination of the expert. There must be a way for other parties to probe into the expert’s analysis and conclusions.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        No I think you got that wrong TMT. I am totally in FAVOR of FULL DISCLOSURE of ALL FUNDING – PERIOD!

        what I said was that if you think individuals in environmental organizations are contributing huge dollars as compared to industry donations – I strongly suspect – the numbers are pretty lopsided.

        and if the enviros are getting big money from Soros or others – totally in favor of full disclosure.

        On your last paragraph – “research” is not a finding… you don’t “research” an opinion or viewpoint. That’s not the way that science works. In fact, its one of the ways that peer review will ding your findings if they think you configured your research to reach a preordained result. The “way” that “probing” is done is by peer-review which involved others trying to replicate your results using a different approach. The “cross-examination” is done via the peer review process.

        when you advocate this TMT – are you also advocating that the skeptics and deniers “research” be subjected to the same standards ?

        Should folks be able to “cross-examine” Bjorn ?

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          Larry, my points are valid for any experts presenting his/her conclusions or findings into the public policy arena.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            TMT – do you consider “skeptics” and “deniers” to be experts?

            do you advocate the same level of “cross examination” to other science for Cancer, diabetes, earth tecktonics, Chesapeake Bay cleanup?

            What I’m looking for is a standard – consistency in how you approach science in general – as opposed to being okay with most science but not other science – …

            For myself – I’ve never considered one field of science any different in process and procedure than others and I believe in the peer-review process where others also with credentials challenge and vett the work and at the end -issue their concurrence or nonconcurrence -and after multiple peer-reviews and time gone by – a general consensus starts to emerge.

            that process I trust whether it’s cancer or volcanoes or Chesapeake Bay – etc.

            and when I say “trust” I do not believe that concurrence means 100% certitude on any scale – it’s whatever general acceptance exists at any point in time – i.e. the body of knowledge – with the proviso that it’s not final. and is subject to change – per the same rules – a series of others work – will render further concurrence or changes , etc.

            I consider that process as a proper one that is typically the norm – for all science and – acknowledged as not infallible.

            but again – similar standards used – not different standards for different field of science.

          2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            Larry, I meant exactly what I wrote. There needs to be a means to challenge and probe any person positioned as a “expert” whenever such person’s expert opinion is used to influence public policy. That include probing as to whether the person is truly expert in her/his field.

            I don’t see a difference between cancer, diabetes, earth tectonics, clean-up of the CB, or climate change.

  3. “Is he already committed to one side of the issue?”

    Is that really a disqualifier in your mind? Does it apply to you?

  4. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think you should disclose that – yes – if you say you want an honest conversation.

    and you already know I pretty much accept science … across the board .

    is the offer to have an honest discussion – null and void if we use science for our views?

    I ALSO DO subscribe to the economic calculations – we sure should be looking at potential costs – on both sides.

  5. I am concerned that the CPP is just another in a series of manipulated arguments. Too often an issue is created and we all respond according to our respective labels and everyone misses the point. We are a society that likes to measure things. We get into great arguments about those measurements whether or not they really apply to the issue at hand.

    There is evidence that CO2 levels have been decoupled from global temperature rise since the beginning of this century. Perhaps much longer than that. Just as with cholesterol, correlation does not mean causation. However, most reasonable people would agree that it makes sense to avoid putting man-made pollutants into our life-support system on this planet, especially if avoiding polluting can be done more cheaply than it costs to release the pollutants.

    Dominion’s IRP alternatives are all just different flavors of the same proposition. Building more central station power plants to meet a growing energy demand. All determined by the dominant utility in the state (the same scenario as in North Carolina). All of the discussion occurs within the box determined by Dominion or Duke, or the federal government.

    There appear to be plenty of choices. But each option is about building a larger rate base for the long-term flow of revenues. This is not surprising. Dominion’s CEO is paid by the shareholders. And utility planners know that the only current method of getting the revenues they need is to build more plants – of any type.

    We are on the threshold of making an enormous change in our energy system that we must live with for the next 40-100 years. Energy executives have been telling us that natural gas is a “bridge” fuel that is needed to take us to some idyllic future. They are not so clear in telling us that they will expect a full return on those investments whether or not they are used to their expected capacity during the 40 years of their financial life.

    Natural gas is a valuable and flexible fuel. High natural gas prices 10-15 years ago helped us discover significant new gas resources in shale formations. High prices might help us discover more. But shale plays are different than the sources we used for the previous 100 years. They run out in just a few years.

    The Department of Energy and the Energy Information Administration both see that natural gas-fired generation will have a role in meeting the CPP requirements over the next 5 years. Beyond that the larger role will be played by renewables and energy efficiency.

    We would all be better served by a complete re-evaluation of our energy system. Not just a discussion of different ways of doing the same old things.

    The real issue is – what is the best way to obtain the comfort we desire in the lowest cost, cleanest way possible? This will probably require a revision in the role of the utilities, but will give them a more secure financial future. Utilities will have to release their grip on providing all of the generation and energy services their customers might require. This will be an adjustment, but will increase choices and innovation, while lowering costs and reducing emissions.

    Let us not get caught in a box of another’s making. We need to re-examine our mindset about energy. The CPP can be part of the discussion, but we should not be limited by it. If our discussion, and panel of experts is limited only to those with a stake in keeping the status quo – then that is what will continue. We all deserve a more open discussion about the possibilities of our future.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Good comments.

    I do not see the CPP as ONLY about CO2.

    Am I mistaken?

    as far as “de-coupling” goes – I see this similar to the way I saw the CFC/Ozone issue – on the front end.

    We did not know with certainty.

    there were those who disagreed.

    Industry and economists were concerned about fiscal impacts for no gain because we really did not have an absolute link… there were, as now, a lot of complex interactions in play that were not all fully understood.

    I don’t think we’re ever going to get any better certainty than that.

    we have to use judgement rather than insist on irrefutable proof before we agree to act.

    when 90% of scientists think a particular way – like they did with CFCs – I don’t know where we go next – if we reject that level of concurrence.

    at this point – it looks like people are picking and choosing what they themselves are choosing to believe -and those beliefs are not on the traditional science but often on what non-scientists are offering for “analysis”.

    the point you make about utilities traditional “central” role verses ‘distributed” is valid and I agree with it – but I think it only stirs the pot on CO2 … and widens out the CPP issue with more players and more issues which is going to make it harder to reach an agreement – in my view.

    The CO2 issue is about the survival of the earth as we know it . Some will disbelieve that. Others will want science to keep pushing to get more clarity – rather than rejecting science in doing that role and basically having arguments about people’s opinions…

    1. I have not studied the CPP as closely as I would like. Partly because it takes the conversation in a slightly different direction than I think it needs to go.

      If it were truly about climate change there would be a broader discussion about our energy supply chain. Methane leaks relating to natural gas production and distribution, for example. Transportation would be a larger part of the discussion. And certainly, there would be a much bigger emphasis on energy efficiency. That is by far the cheapest way of providing the outcome we want (comfort) with no emissions. But that option takes money away from those who want to save their investments in natural gas and the power producers. But it does put more money back in the hands of individual citizens.

      If CO2 is a major focus, then it should be a simple mass based limit. With the intensity based options, you can emit more total CO2, just less per MWh and be OK. There is something a bit disingenuous about that. It is like too many of our policies, the appearance of taking care of an issue but not really doing so.

      Science is just a consensus of opinion arrived at through a methodical process. The more freedom we have to explore different opinions the better is our understanding of the world in which we live. Today, too many special interests from both ends of the spectrum are attempting to “buy” the science they want to support their existing opinions rather than expand our knowledge. Many researchers on the “contrary” edge cannot obtain funding. Especially in areas where so much money is at stake: medicine, pharmaceuticals, food and agriculture, energy, etc. Just as with many inventions, breakthroughs in our understanding quite often come from those who are not the established experts. Einstein is a great example of this. You need people willing to question fundamental assumptions not just make adjustments at the margin of the existing system.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    I have to agree with you about the methane – no question.

    but science is more than a consensus – if it becomes the basis for decisions – as it has been for much of our law and regulations – and policy.

    we switched over from CFCs to an alternative – worldwide – based on that “consensus”.

    treatment of cancer – the accepted protocols, the drugs is based on consensus science and differentiates what is considered quackery.

    The Chesapeake Bay Cleanup – what is considered harmful contaminates – and what is not and the concentration is all based on consensus science.

    Where we put satellites in what orbits at what heights doing what functions are all based on what science has determined to be the physics.

    we just don’t make seat-of-the-pants arbitrary decisions that we “vote” on – typically.

    we do get challenges and questions – but as we get them – we also gain concurrence on what is and is not – we add to the body of science. not just dither about it and never agree.

    if we really thought that any/all science was truly ” too many special interests from both ends of the spectrum are attempting to “buy” the science they want to support their existing opinions rather than expand our knowledge. ” how do we go forward on any of it not only climate?

    how do we decide what we should act on or refuse to act on , if not the traditional scientific consensus we have used in the past?

    TMT – who seems to agree with you – says this: ” I don’t see a difference between cancer, diabetes, earth tectonics, clean-up of the CB, or climate change.”

    I’m afraid that I do. For instance, I do not see people challenging the SCIENCE behind the policy decision to clean up the Bay. Science has recommended certain concentrations of nitrogen and phosphorus and as far as I can tell -those levels have been not only accepted but made policy – without challenge.

    honest question – it appears that people today – reject the way science has been used in the past to determine the path forward – what’s to take it’s place?

    1. My point is that today’s science has become politicized and commercialized. I was trained as a scientist and we were taught years ago that science is a continual evolution towards a deeper understanding about how things work. A true scientist is always open to new ideas and explanations. Our politicians and business leaders want scientific “facts” that can be used to support their own agendas.

      Much of our research by national labs and university researchers used to relate to “pure” science, i.e. that is towards a better understanding of the nature of the universe. A large part of that is now supported by corporate sponsors who want science to mostly support new products and a marketing position. Researchers reporting different results cannot even get published because the review committees are stacked by corporate sponsors.

      We all pay a price for this decline in the objectivity of the scientific method. It is more difficult to know what the scientific “truth” is. And therefore more difficult for sound science to inform our policy decisions. This is not new. It has been going on for decades, but science is now being tainted more than ever. One of the reasons people want “science” based decisions is that the purity of the scientific method was supposed to allow for open disclosure of information and a fair discussion of various points of view. Too much science is being high-jacked for special interests in order to use the public’s perception that calling it “science” somehow makes it true.

      Real science always encourages a new way of looking at things; for continuous exploration even if that turns up things that do not support the current theory. Too many people want to hang their hat on a scientific “fact” to support their argument and to keep it frozen in time. If we all adopted that habit we would still believe the earth is flat and flies emerge spontaneously from rotten meat.

      We have become too afraid to see things in a new way. We seek safety in our beliefs and listen only to those who agree with us. This is not the path to an enlightened prosperous future.

      Regarding how “science has been used in the past to determine the path forward – what’s to take it’s place?” My answer is – science the way it was intended to be. Scientists are human after all, they are vulnerable to manipulation, accolades and greed like many others. My hope is that we can let the better angels of our nature lead us back into the light of open discussion of the best evidence that we have available. Not just a certain group’s view of how things should be. When we allow a free exchange of information, remain open to other points of view, the quality of our decisions improves. But too often people are fearful that such an interchange won’t support their agenda and that “science” becomes a captive to support it. As a culture, what has made us so frightened about seeking a better understanding of things? Why do we demonize those who see things differently?

      Regarding energy, I think we would all benefit from an open discussion about the best ways to obtain the comfort we desire, without being constrained to the options that a utility or a federal agency puts forth. There are many forces at work that are taking us in a different direction. I believe that we have a chance to take the easier path there rather than suffer the difficulties of taking the hard way.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        @TomH – you view of science being co-opted has always been true – with some scientists but not all and certainly not hundreds/thousands around the world on the same subject – climate change.

        There have always been charlatans – but all of them exposed over time by peer review of other scientists – that’s how science works.

        when 90% around the world concur on some things -if one is going to take the “they’ve been co-opted” approach – you’re basically talking about some kind of conspiracy.

        I accept that some people no longer trust science – but my question is – how do we resolve these issues if the traditional science is no longer trusted?

        It appears to me that folks just decide to “believe” what they want to believe – instead – often citing others whom they have been convinced by – like in this case Jim B citing Bjorn Lomborg who he apparently prefers over the hundreds of Climate Scientists – around the world -even though Bjorn is not a scientist, not an economist – but instead a political scientist.

        Okay – so we now have a significant number of people who essentially reject traditional peer-review science – and have decided to do their own analysis and that’s what they now believe usually not based on science but instead their own logic and reason.


        I don’t agree with it but I think it is important to understand the anti-science viewpoint – because I presume – at some point – we need to find some way to actually agree on how to proceed – as opposed to perpetual gridlock – where we just stop because we cannot agree on what the problem itself is or is not – much less any changes going forward.

        If the answer is – that, in fact, some folks do believe that Scientists on a global basis – are, in fact, colluding – politically rather than on science itself – if that’s the new belief – I’m not sure how that mindset does not ultimately affect all science – not just climate – it basically indicates that people no longer trust science as a field.

        1. ” that, in fact, some folks do believe that Scientists on a global basis – are, in fact, colluding – politically rather than on science itself – if that’s the new belief – I’m not sure how that mindset does not ultimately affect all science – not just climate – it basically indicates that people no longer trust science as a field.”

          Yes. That is my concern. If you want to undermine science as a useful tool for policy making, manipulate the scientific process and replace it with “soundbite” science and pseudo-experts.

          My point is that the scientific method is intended to be open to all opinions that are then publicly scrutinized. And as TMT suggests, the merits of the ideas and the presenter are subject to review.

          It is natural that long held theories have momentum. New ways of thinking will not automatically topple old ways until a preponderance of evidence begins to support them. But they should have an opportunity to do so, if the data support it.

          We began this discussion dealing with the CPP and whether or not it is a worthy goal to achieve a marginal improvement in global temperature rise.

          My main point was that this argument distracts from the more fundamental issue at hand. At the moment our attention is centered on which fuel is best for central station power plants to use to meet a growing electrical load.

          My contention is that we should reframe the question to be – what is the most effective way to provide for our comfort in the lowest cost, cleanest and most efficient way possible? That opens up the discussion to creative solutions that provide better outcomes. We might find ways to have greater comfort using less electricity, or lower cost ways to generate it where it is needed rather than spend extra to transport it long distances. Successful, long-term solutions usually mimic natural systems. Nature lives off energy income with short-term storage rather than a “bank account” of stored energy that is continually declining. Nature does not use combustion as an energy source, implosion is the natural model.

    2. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      Larry, you’ve been listening to Obama and McAuliffe too much. They think that the ends justify the means. To hell with due process.

      My point is that there should be a means to challenge any “expert” who is attempting to drive public policy based on their “expert findings and conclusions.” In our judicial system, an expert has to file a report and is subject to cross examination in a deposition and in the trial. The other side can put on its own expert, but is subject to the same challenges.

      When a congressional committee is taking expert evidence in connection with legislation, the committee normally hears from experts that might disagree. And committee members are allowed to ask probing questions and introduce information that may agree or disagree with an expert.

      In rulemaking, a party may offer an expert report. But so can the other side.

      In sum, we need to follow established processes that offer others a means to challenge an expert’s credentials, experience, assumptions, methodology, conclusions and recommendations whenever the expert is being used to justify some action by government.

  8. CleanAir&Water Avatar

    Only a ‘skeptic?’ I checked on the author and his numbers. Mr. Lomborg, who lost funding from the Danish government for his Think Tank and evidently found enough support from Fred Singer to move to the US several years ago. Mr. Singer is a leader of the Group called the Merchant of Doubt in the book of the same name. Here is my take on the book, with quotes from the publisher, Bloomsbury Press.

    After the bipartisan environmental legislation was passed under Nixon, the Merchants of Doubt took over our national conversation. These ‘merchants’ are “a loose-knit group of high-level scientists and scientific advisers, with deep connections in politics and industry.” They “denied the truth about studies linking smoking to lung cancer, coal smoke to acid rain, and CFCs to the ozone hole … and are the same individuals who claim the science of global warming is ‘not settled’.” Their idea was to create enough skeptics so that nothing would block corporate control of our environmental rules. The rules can, after all, offload corporate costs, enhancing the bottom line. Offloading costs we certainly have done.

    About Lomborg’s numbers … The base numbers used are from the EIA 2013. Several people have discussed the problems with EIA projections, and even with the base numbers. The projections were based on historical trends and did not allow for developing industries with their exponential growth. In addition, until this past year the EIA data did not included anything for any on-site generation. Estimates from NREL’s GIF based report suggest Virginia can generate 25% of total demand from behind the meter solar installations. Nationally the new estimate is 40%.

    Here is a very different EIA analysis – 2016 …. In other woods, as NERC says… change is happening anyway.

    “Even without the CPP, electricity-related CO2 emissions remain well below their 2005 level at 1,942 MMT in 2030 and 1,959 MMT in 2040; this outcome reflects both low load growth and generation mix changes driven by the extension of key renewable tax credits, reduced solar photovoltaic (PV) capital costs, and low natural gas prices.”

    Given the inevitability of change I would like the question to be focused on the best way to a clean energy future, not how to meet EPA numbers … where does the best potential lie for Virginia to create clean energy? A Plan that is not dependent on decisions based on current monopoly regulations.

    Virginia has done little to promote energy efficiency, ranking near the bottom of all states in terms of its overall efficiency efforts (Serota 2015) and receiving the lowest possible score by the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy for utility and public benefits programs and policies (Gilleo et al. 2015). A variety of cost effective ways to do efficient buildings are already up and running in other states.

    A recent U.S. Department of Energy analysis of the economic potential of renewable energy in Virginia believes the state’s electricity generation can be led primarily by utility-scale solar and wind—ranges from 48 to 118 percent of the state’s electricity sales in 2014 (Brown et al. 2015). Why is Virginia doubling down on fossils?

    Fossil-fuel-fired power plants are the single largest source of anthropogenic CO2 emissions in the U.S. They emitted 2.2 billion tons of CO2 in 2012 (AOE 2014) and currently account for 39% of total U.S. CO2 emissions (USEPA 2014b) We are foolish not to think this change to our electric system though with more in mind than meeting the CCP. Reducing CO2 emissions from power plants can spur additional significant improvements, improvements to public health by also curbing other emissions from power plants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter, and mercury. Harvard and Syracuse have published a new study.

    No one believes the Plan is enough to stop global warming. Virginia is already 80% on the way to meeting the CPP target. We can do better if we choose to do better. I, too, am saying … we would be better served by a complete re-evaluation of our energy system.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    @CleanAir&Water – re: Mr. Lomborg

    that’s why I had asked Jim if he should disclose Mr. Lomborg’s background if he was going to cite his “work” as a basis for his thinking.

    He’s not only not a Scientist nor an Economist – he has – as others similar to him – chosen to pick and choose different data from different sources and weave it into his version of what he thinks reality is – and apparently there are those who find his reasoning “plausible” and that’s good enough to believe it – rather than traditional science.

    In other words – don’t believe the thousands of scientists – around the world – but DO believe Mr. Lomborg …..

    I find it bizarre, inexplicable – but I am forced to acknowledge that this is how significant numbers of people feel – and so I do accept that reality – we just have significant numbers of people who prefer to believe folks like Lomborg rather than the thousands of credentialed scientists around the world.

    And let me distinguish – There ARE – SOME scientists and SOME science that I myself AM “skeptical” of – no question. I remember those folks screwing around with “cold-fusion” a few years back and never bought it and neither did succeeding scientists who tried to replicate what they claimed. Peer-reviewed science exposed that fraud.

    I am highly skeptical that the Chesapeake Bay folks should be using “models” rather than actual testing – to determine pollution levels upon which they base cleanup requirements for farmers and localities. It’s one thing to use models to look at general aggregate trends – but when you’re going to require actions that cost people money – the science has to be actual numbers not model output.

    but not believing one scientist or even a group promoting a new theory is way different than not believing thousands of independent and unaffiliated scientists – around the world – who have been working for decades – and accusing them of some kind of massive conspiracy to defraud everyone – to create a false body of knowledge… that’s a bridge way too far for me.

  10. CleanAir and Larry G, I am not quoting Lomborg as the ultimate authority on the impact the Clean Air act on temperatures. I am quoting him because he attempted to come up with a figure — something no one else seems to have done. I am perfectly open to the idea that his methodology can be challenged and refined. What I’m not hearing from either of you is that anyone else has come up with a number.

    Why not? Isn’t it relevant, as we discuss the future of America’s energy infrastructure, to have some ballpark estimate of the environmental benefit? Or is the magnitude of the benefit totally irrelevant? If you believe there is no need for a cost-benefit analysis, how can you possibly say that your policy preferences are driven by science?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      Lomborg is the only one to come up with a figure? Doubtful. where did he get is data?

      I don’t have a problem with you citing him as long as you do disclose his background and position…

      I think there IS a NEED for cost-benefit but you’re not talking about “A” number – you need a risk-based approach that shows different cost levels according to how much damage might actually happen.

      start with varying estimates of sea level rise and costs to mitigate unless you disavow sea level rise as a consequence…. etc.

  11. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    The danish denier is koch-funded
    Bacon never disappoints!

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      And being Koch funded is less trustworthy than being Obama funded? Or Steyer funded? That’s why every “expert” should be subjected to some challenge.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Koch-funded and not openly disclosed but instead found out by investigation.

        Calling Lomborg an “expert” on climate change is a stretch since he has no background in science… or economics…but the idea of full financial disclosure I totally support – most scientists funding is pretty open and most deniers is not

  12. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Absolutely. His “copenhagen” institute is based in the US.
    Pull my other leg. It squirts whiskey

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      And Bill Clinton and Loretta Lynch talked about golf and grandkids in the closed meeting in an airplane.

    2. CrazyJD Avatar


      I didn’t think it was possible to get less thinking from you than from Larry, who I thinks makes some reasonable comments here.

      Re: Lomberg. He was one of the original global warming warriors…until he figured out that the cost of the fix bore no relationship to the problem. He also figured out that the computer models used to predict the terrible outcomes were total bullshit. So he switched sides…sorta, kinda. He still thinks there’s global warming, he still thinks man has something to do with it. But he became convinced that those pesky things called details didn’t exactly add up. That’s why his methodology should be examined and challenged, like Jim, and even Larry, seem to suggest.

      Your total comment just makes the suggestion that he’s a fraud because of his funding. Get real.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        Lomborg has been all over the map on his “thinking” which basically is his opinion based on data generated by others – and some of that data – not from research – just “stuff” that has been splatted onto the internet.

        the discussion about how many tenths of a degree increase – is a good example of how data in a scientific context means something different than what the average layman thinks it means.

        Further – Lomborg latches on to this stuff as if it is supposed to be the inviolate truth from on high – rather than different model estimates ..

        and let me give a couple of examples –

        1. what were the model estimates of the ozone holes BEFORE we made policy decisions to replace CFCs and how did it turn out ? Does anyone actually believe the model predictions had to be dead on accurate or science was lying and was co-opted by special interest money?

        2. – anytime there is a hurricane – look at the different model predictions of track and intensity – dozens – now tell me which ones got it “right”.

        actual was not predicted by any of them – not on track and not on intensity – now tell me again this proves that scientists are “liars” and were colluding to produce scary data so they could profit in some way from their science?

        that’s how loony this whole concept of science being accused of being “special interest” motivated by money…

        If you took the skeptics/deniers “approach” to climate and applied it to Ozone Holes or Hurricanes or Chesapeake Bay – all of it would be discredited by the same folks – who would sift through the data to find nuggets of “contradictory” stuff they thought “proved” the science “corrupt” – in no small part because they don’t really have the background to understand the meaning of the data.

        it’s just nutty. It’s like we’ve reverted back to medieval times …in the age of the internet…

        In fact, Sketpics/Deniers are said to be “equal” to Scientists – each has their own version of what is … Science has no special intelligence or knowledge – it’s just another group of folks with opinions… so if you like Bjorn Lomborg’s version of climate science – it’s just as good as any Scientists version, right?

        1. Acbar Avatar

          I was with you up to the last paragraph. And I agree that the politically-motivated ranting skeptics don’t deserve quasi-science “status.” No, it’s simply that science itself is based upon proper caution and skepticism, constant openness to re-evaluation, and weight-of-the-evidence comparisons (qualified as such) when no better logical proof is available. In that sense “science” as a whole DOES have special intelligence or knowledge. Science when abused or distorted by those callously seeking political backing or research funding from politicians certainly can yield to the temptation to stray from “scientific” methods and goals. But let’s not reduce all of “science” to just another “opinion.” The facts, plus the scientific method to interpret them, is all we’ve got, as an extension of logical thinking, to deter the ideologues and the loonies!

          The problem with climate change research is that the very people doing it are all caught up in the politics of it, with inadequate facts and unsupportable conclusions based on what little we do know. I give Lomberg credit for saying so; for his skepticism. But not necessarily much credit for the alternatives he puts out there, except to demonstrate how little we know “for certain.”

  13. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    Less thinking than larry? I take that as a compliment

  14. Acbar Avatar

    Ah, Peter, your hollow whiskey leg and Bill Clinton’s grandkids. What conversations they can cause!

  15. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    So if larrytheg is a”moron” that makes me a “cretin”?

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      @TMT – what does this have to do with Obama? What Obama believes is what Science is saying – and what Science is saying is not one static view – of anything.

      It says that we do have a big complex system that we are still learning about.

      that’s does not invalidate at all their current consensus about their concerns.

      If we had the same level of “anti” folks back when we made decisions about the ozone holes – people who would have demonized science and whatever POTUS (Bush I) who heeded that science and agreed with other countries leaders to discontinue CFCs – what would have happened?

      What would have happened is that we would have gridlocked like we are now and Bush I would have been castigated like Obama is now and we’d be talking about some giant conspiracy of corrupt scientists trying to “fool” the American people into discontinuing CFCs at huge economic costs – not necessary.

      that’s the simple truth. take the “anti” people today – and CFCs would have never been banned..

      1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

        You are missing the concept of proportionality. For example, the solution to the ozone problem that science proffered was quite narrow – phase out fluorocarbons – and was tied to an expected and measurable result – the ozone hole will begin to close.

        Contrast global warming-climate change. The proposed solutions are essentially to reorder the American energy industry; impose new taxes, fees and regulations; pay “reparations” to island nations; ignore carbon emission growth in many nations; etc. And, under Obama, by executive fiat, some of which has been stopped by the Supreme Court. And with what result? Perhaps, some reduction of .XXX of a degree.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          actually not TMT – we did not know a lot more about ozone holes at that point in time than we know about climate change now – in terms of what would happen if we did nothing verses something.

          you surely remember the “skeptics” at that time – I’m sure.

          The “proposed” solutions to Climate Change are not what you say guy – because what you are saying is basically repeating the fear mongering from the opponents and the truth is – what is being actually proposed is the CPP which is nothing like what you are claiming. The rest is wacko-bird conspiracy theories.

          I say again the same opponents were citing the same lies and gloom and doom back during the ozone holes – it was and is the same crowd spouting the same propaganda and disinformation – and who refuse to cite who funds them.

          here’s an example of how the opponents characterize these issues:

          ” NASA scientists have revealed the inner workings of the ozone hole that forms annually over Antarctica and found that declining chlorine in the stratosphere has not yet caused a recovery of the ozone hole.

          More than 20 years after the Montreal Protocol agreement limited human emissions of ozone-depleting substances, satellites have monitored the area of the annual ozone hole and watched it essentially stabilize, ceasing to grow substantially larger. However, two new studies show that signs of recovery are not yet present, and that temperature and winds are still driving any annual changes in ozone hole size.”


          not about proportionality at all – it’s about denial.. and lay people taking NASA and other scientific data and totally misrepresenting it

          and to what end? what’s the purpose and motivation of the skeptics and deniers other than to essentially say that nothing need be done because the threat is not real.

  16. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    The same industry-funded deniers fought banning ddt, honest cigarette ads, reclaiming coal strip mines , cfc and the list goes on.
    I bet they’d be still in favor of child labor, saying america was built on self-denial and no labor unions. Happy 4th

    1. Acbar Avatar

      While you’re at it, bring back burning at the stake, dunking, and other forms of population control for those who disagree with the received wisdom of the majority. Come on now, there is a place for skepticism. Including, skepticism funded by industry, to rebut some of the silliness put out there by the True Believers. Meanwhile, Happy 4th — even as we are.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        There certainly IS a place for skepticism – including by industry – but it ought to be disclosed who is funding it.

        And I agree about some of the “silliness” but accusing hundreds of scientists around the world along with their govts of a massive global conspiracy – is not exactly ” true believer silliness” especially when the accusers refuse to say how they are funded.

        I’m 100% ALL FOR the dialogue – because as much as I think much of the “anti” viewpoint is as nutty or more so than the true believers – that we won’t move forward until we find common ground – and that seems like a pretty ignorant way of essentially gambling about things that could be the demise of the earth as we know it.

        No we cannot go off the deep end and ban fossil fuels as soon as possible – but refusing to do anything at all is just as bad. There is a middle ground of compromise to start to do things on a proactive basis – that we can always stop if it turns out to be wrong.

        but if we had done with CFCs what we are now doing with Climate Change what would have been the outcome?

        by the way – we have NOT gotten rid of all CFCs either. Some nations did not sign on to the ban and others not 100% or right away.

        “true believers” on the denier side who “believe” there is a global conspiracy – I would say are further around the bend than the anti-fossil-fuel folks…

        and Happy 4th back at you though it looks like fizzle… !!!

  17. LarrytheG Avatar

    we’ve had a long and ample history of industry surreptitiously funding front groups -who would not disclose their funding sources and who then used that funding to attack the science – and the PROOF of that is none other than the Virginia Tobacco Settlement.

    That behavior continues. Ask who Bjorn Lomborg is and what and where the, Copenhagen Consensus Center is located and how he and it are funded and you won’t get any of those answers from Mr. Lomborg or those who fund him.

    and here is an example of how that works:

    ” Donors Trust is an American nonprofit donor-advised fund.[4] It was founded in 1999 to promote the ideals that sustain a free society and safeguard the charitable intent of libertarian and conservative donors.[5] Like all donor-advised funds, Donors Trust can offer anonymity to clients who do not wish to make their donations public.[6][7][8] It makes grants to charities that are not dependent on government support and that promote limited government, personal responsibility and free enterprise. It is affiliated with Donors Capital Fund, another donor-advised fund. In September 2015, Lawson Bader was announced as the new president of both Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund. Bader was formerly president of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and Vice President at the Mercatus Center”

    notice – even as they claim high principles of personal responsibility and govt but they have, in fact, set up a system to hide the donors …..

    it gets worse:

    ” Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund distributed nearly $120 million to 102 think tanks and action groups skeptical of the science behind climate change between 2002 and 2010.[7] According to a 2013 analysis by Drexel University environmental sociologist Robert Brulle, between 2003 and 2013 Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund combined were the largest funders of organizations opposed to restrictions on carbon emissions, which Brulle calls the “climate change counter-movement.”[13][33] According to Brulle, by 2009, approximately one-quarter of the funding of the “climate counter-movement” was from the Donors Trust and Donors Capital Fund.[14]

    this is the face of the skeptic/deniers …. almost none of them actually disclose their funding…

    even as the skeptics/deniers accuse scientists of not disclosing their funding – almost all of which is from the govt and almost always stated in the preamble of their research papers – as required.

    but as you can see – anti-climate “research” can and is funded without disclosing the funder….

  18. CleanAir&Water Avatar

    I read someone wrote a book debunking Lomborg’s assertions ….

    First …There is a factual direct link between the amount of GHG we send onto the atmosphere and the global temperature rise. Please take a look at the UCS charts of past emissions and temperature/climate changes that I tried to copy into my earlier comment … Models have accurately projected the rise.


    Second … You say … “But I do think it is important to give Virginians an honest accounting of the costs and benefits.” Absolutely, but the cost accounting we have now is not accurate as many of us have said. Even so we have just about gotten to the point where renewables look better than either coal or nuclear on a cost basis alone, without the offloaded environmental and health costs. But that isn’t the issue Lomborg raises. He is arguing that over this century the changes we make will not reduce the expected temperature by very much … so why bother? That completely misses the point, I think.

    The IPCC report agrees that … “Projections of near-term climate show small sensitivity to GHG scenarios compared to model spread”. However, that has to do with the history of emissions and the length of time CO2 remains in the atmosphere. We have loaded GHG emissions into our air, primarily from the middle of this century, and that loading will remain for 100+ years.” More immediate mitigation of climate change, which Lomborg seems to require to make action seem worth doing, requires a way to actually reduce CO2 concentrations. Changing our energy systems won’t immediately reduce CO2. It will just not add to CO2 concentrations, and therefore not add to the climate risks.

    Bloomberg says wind and solar costs will fall sharply. Levelised costs of generation per MWh for onshore wind will fall 41% by 2040, and solar photovoltaics by 60%, making these two technologies the cheapest ways of producing electricity in many countries during the 2020s and in most of the world in the 2030s. If Virginia takes a clean energy route UCS says the benefits will include:

    …. Reducing the typical Virginia resident’s electricity bills by 5 percent in 2030, for an annual savings of $77;
    …..Developing 6,163 MW of new wind and solar capacity in Virginia by 2030, generating $3.4 billion in new capital investments;
    ….. Providing health and economic benefits worth an estimated $2.6 billion cumulatively ingthrough 2030 by avoiding CO2, sulfur dioxide (SO2), and nitrogen oxides (NOx) pollution and
    …. Avoiding 77 million tons of CO2 through 2030,

    To which I would add buying an insurance policy against increasing the risks of climate change damage.

  19. CleanAir&Water Avatar

    Hope someone will remover that double post … It evidently happened with an edit! Sorry

  20. Peter Galuszka Avatar
    Peter Galuszka

    I prefer waterboarding deniers at a little Virginia town west of me called “Skin Quarter.”

  21. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think it would be interesting to go back and identify all the folks who said banning CFCs to repair the ozone holes was a conspiracy and see how many are now skeptics and deniers in the Climate issue.

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