Posts tagged ‘Clinton Administration’

More Thoughts on EV MPG

After several posts yesterday, I rewrote my thoughts on EV's and the new EPA mileage numbers.  I am more convinced than ever that this standard borders on outright fraud, particularly when the DOE published what should be the correct methodology way back in the Clinton Administration and the EPA has ignored this advice and gone with a methodology that inflates the MPG (equivilant) of EV's by a factor of nearly 3.  For example, the list the Nissan Leaf with an MPGe of 99, but by the DOE methodology the number should be 36.

The full article is in Forbes.com and is here.  An excerpt:

The end result is startling.  Using the DOE's apples to apples methodology, the MPGe of the Nissan Leaf is not 99 but 36! Now, 36 is a good mileage number, but it is pretty pedestrian compared to the overblown expectations for electric vehicles, and is actually lower than the EPA calculated mileage of a number of hybrids and even a few traditional gasoline-powered vehicles like the Honda CR-Z.

Supporters of the inflated EPA standards have argued that they are appropriate because they measure cars on their efficiency of using energy in whatever form is put in their tank (or batteries).  But this is disingenuous.  The whole point of US fuel economy standards is not power train efficiency per se, but to support an energy policy aimed at reducing fossil fuel use.  To this end, the more sophisticated DOE standard is a much better reflection of how well the Nissan Leaf affects US fossil fuel use.  The only reason not to use this standard is because the EPA, and the Administration in general, has too many chips on the table behind electric vehicles, and simply can't afford an honest accounting.

The Payoff

Hollywood delivered for Obama in the last election, and he is ready to pay them back.  The world's most open and honest administration is again using closed hearings and executive fiat to force legal changes that likely would create a firestorm of controversy in a normal legislative process.

It's hard to know, then, which is more appalling: the fact that the Obama Administration has conducted the ACTA negotiations in secret, or that it has indicated that it plans to adopt the final Agreement as an "Executive Order," one that does not require submission to or ratification by the Senate (or any Congressional action whatsoever) to become effective. ...

But even this summary makes it clear that, once again (see Clinton Administration) the Democratic Party has caved in to Hollywood's demands regarding intellectual property enforcement. As David Fewer of the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic and the University of Ottawa noted, "if Hollywood could order intellectual property laws for Christmas what would they look like? This is pretty close."

Mandating the Impossible (Not to Mention the Stupid)

Here is a snippet from the energy bill that just passed the House:

On Thursday, just over a year after winning the majority, Democrats in
the House of Representatives voted through an energy bill that
represents a stark departure from the administration's approach. It
would raise vehicle fuel efficiency (Cafe) standards for the first time
in over 30 years, by 40%, to 35 miles per gallon for both cars and
light trucks and SUVs. A renewable energy standard mandates that
utilities generate 15% of their power from renewables by 2020. It would
set a renewable fuel standard aiming to generate 36 billion gallons of
ethanol a year by 2022. A tax package would roll back some $13.5bn in
oil industry subsidies and tax breaks to help pay for $21bn worth of
investments in clean energy development, mainly in the form of
investment tax credits for wind and solar, along with the development
and purchase of plug-in hybrid vehicles. And it would raise efficiency
standards for appliances and buildings.

Let's look at a couple of pieces very quickly.  Recognize that this is based on 10 whole minutes of research, far more than a busy Congressman could possibly be expected to muster.

  1. They want 15% of power generation from renewables by 2020.  I am not sure if this includes hydro.  If it does, then a bunch of Pacific Northwest utilities already have this in the bag.  But even if "renewable" includes hydro, hydro power will do nothing to meet this goal by 2020.  I am not sure, given environmental concerns, if any major new hydro project will ever be permitted in the US again, and certainly not in a 10 year time frame.  In fact, speaking of permitting, there is absolutely no way utilities could finance, permit, and construct 15% of the US electricity capacity by 2020 even if they started today.  No.  Way.   By the way, as a sense of scale, after 35 years of subsidies and mandates, renewables (other than hydro) make up ... about .27% of US generation.
  2. The Congress is demanding 36 billion gallons of ethanol.  Presumably, this is all from domestic sources because Congress has refused to drop the enormous tariffs on ethanol imports.  But the entire corn harvest in 2004 of 11.8 billion bushels would make only 30 billion gallons of ethanol.  So Congress wants us to put ALL of our food supply into our cars?  Maybe we can tear down the Amazon rain forest to grow more.
  3. By the way, I am all for cutting all subsidies to any industry for any reason, but when they say "industry subsidies and tax breaks" for the oil industry, what they mostly mean is this:

These were leases for drilling rights in the Gulf of
Mexico signed between oil companies and the Clinton Administration's
Interior Department in 1998-99. At that time the world oil price had
fallen to as low as $10 a barrel and the contracts were signed without
a requirement of royalty payments if the price of oil rose above $35 a
barrel.

Interior's Inspector General investigated and found
that this standard royalty clause was omitted not because of any
conspiracy by big oil, but rather because of bureaucratic bungling in
the Clinton Administration. The same report found that a year after
these contracts were signed Chevron and other oil companies alerted
Interior to the absence of royalty fees, and that Interior replied that
the contracts should go forward nonetheless.

The companies have since invested billions of dollars
in the Gulf on the basis of those lease agreements, and only when the
price of oil surged to $70 a barrel did anyone start expressing outrage
that Big Oil was "cheating" taxpayers out of royalties. Some oil
companies have voluntarily offered to renegotiate these contracts. The
Democrats are now demanding that all these firms do so -- even though
the government signed binding contracts.

Update:  More thoughts hereMy climate skeptic video is here.

Another Example of Government's Respect for Contracts

When you or I sign a bad contract, we have to live with it.  Did you sign up for a mortgage you can't afford anymore?  Sorry, you can find a way to suck it up financially, you can have the bank take your home, or you can declare bankruptcy and try to sort things out.  As a farmer, did you pre-sell your crops for what now looks like too low of a price?  Sorry, better luck next year.  What you and I don't get to do (and with good reason) in these situations is call for a mulligan and arbitrarily rewrite the terms of the contract the way we would like them today.

But the government, apparently, gets to do just that.  A while back I wrote about a series of court cases regarding wholesale electricity contracts in California:

Mike Gibberson
links a pair of court decisions that may set back any progress made in
deregulating at least the wholesale electricity markets.  In a series
of suits, the State of California is seeking a mulligan, asking the
court to rule that wholesale electricity contracts it entered into in
2000-2001 should be voided because the price was too high and FERC did
not have the authority to allow blanket market-based rather than
cost-based electricity pricing.  And the judges seem to agree:

The panel held that prices set in those bilateral transactions pursuant
to FERC's market-based program enjoyed no presumption of legality.

I
don't think there is anything more depressing to a good
anarcho-capitalist like myself than seeing the government rule that a
price negotiated at arms length by the free will of consenting, and in
this case well-informed adults enjoys "no presumption of legality."  If
not, then what does?  Is that where we are heading, to a world where no
voluntary actions enjoy a presumption of legality?

By the way, one has to remember that this is not a case of an
impoverished high school drop-out in East St. Louis signing a high
interest rate loan he didn't understand.  This is the case of highly
paid electricity executives and government electricity officials
signing electricity contracts.  It is as ridiculous to argue that they
were somehow duped in buying the one and only item they ever buy for
resale as to argue that Frito-Lay somehow shouldn't be held responsible
for the price it negotiates for potatoes.  These electricity companies
knew they had obligations to supply power at retail at certain rates
and failed to lock up enough supply in advance.  Whether Jeff Skilling
gamed the short-term spot market is irrelevant - the utility executives
were at fault for finding themselves beholden to the spot market for so
great a volume of electricity, and doubly at fault for taking this
power at insane rates when other lower cost options were available to
them (such as cutting off customers on interruptible contracts).

Apparently, Congress is doing it again, this time with offshore oil royalty rates.   They WSJ($) picks up the story:

The Democrats also insist that the big five oil
companies have received sweetheart deals from the government that have
ripped off taxpayers. So let's take a closer look. The most
controversial issue involves $6 billion in royalty payments that oil
companies are said to owe the government for oil pumped from federal
waters. The facts suggest otherwise.

These were leases for drilling rights in the Gulf of
Mexico signed between oil companies and the Clinton Administration's
Interior Department in 1998-99. At that time the world oil price had
fallen to as low as $10 a barrel and the contracts were signed without
a requirement of royalty payments if the price of oil rose above $35 a
barrel.

Interior's Inspector General investigated and found
that this standard royalty clause was omitted not because of any
conspiracy by big oil, but rather because of bureaucratic bungling in
the Clinton Administration. The same report found that a year after
these contracts were signed Chevron and other oil companies alerted
Interior to the absence of royalty fees, and that Interior replied that
the contracts should go forward nonetheless.

The companies have since invested billions of dollars
in the Gulf on the basis of those lease agreements, and only when the
price of oil surged to $70 a barrel did anyone start expressing outrage
that Big Oil was "cheating" taxpayers out of royalties. Some oil
companies have voluntarily offered to renegotiate these contracts. The
Democrats are now demanding that all these firms do so -- even though
the government signed binding contracts.

The Democratic bill strong-arms oil companies into
renegotiating the contracts or pay a $9 per barrel royalty fee from
these leases. If the companies refuse, they lose their rights to bid
for any future leases on federal property. So at the same time that the
U.S. is trying to persuade Venezuela and other nations to honor
property rights, Congress does its own Hugo Chávez imitation.

Note: This is an update of this post, where I got these royalty issues both wrong and right.