Continuing to view carbon dioxide as toxic is a mistake
Analysis byTom Harris
Executive Director, International Climate Science Coalition
There is a fly in the ointment
Illustration by Greg Groesch/The Washington Times
President Trump’s energy policies are, mostly, a beautiful thing to see. In line with his America First Energy Plan, Mr. Trump has ended the Obama administration’s war on coal, America’s least expensive source of electricity, by rescinding the Clean Power Plan and other burdensome and unnecessary regulations. He has fast-tracked the approval of the Keystone XL pipeline to increase the flow of crude oil from the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin in Alberta to U.S. refineries. And of course, he has announced U.S. withdrawal from the flawed Paris Agreement on climate change, while promising to “refocus the [Environmental Protection Agency] on its essential mission of protecting our air and water.”
On June 29, at the Unleashing American Energy Event at the Department of Energy in Washington, Mr. Trump went even further. He committed to work to “revive and expand our nuclear energy sector,” starting with a “complete review of U.S. nuclear energy policy.” He will encourage the financing of highly efficient overseas coal stations. New petroleum pipelines are in also the mix, as are new natural gas sales to South Korea, new export terminals for natural gas, and a new offshore oil and gas leasing program.
But there is a fly in the ointment, an echo of climate change policies that, according to the Congressional Research Service, the Obama administration spent $120 billion on. Rather than dismissing the Paris Agreement as fundamentally unsound, a multitrillion-dollar boondoggle devoid of sound science, Mr. Trump said at the Energy Department event, “Maybe we’ll be back into it someday, but it will be on better terms, fairer terms. We’ll see.”
The Paris Agreement is based on the hypothesis that carbon-dioxide (CO2) emissions from industrial activities are causing, or will in the foreseeable future cause, dangerous climate change. If carbon-dioxide emissions are harmless or, as Energy Secretary Rick Perry said last month, not “the primary control knob for climate,” then the raison d’etre for Paris vanishes. It makes no sense to boast, as Mr. Perry does, that, even though the U.S. is withdrawing from the agreement, “the United States already leads the world in lowering emissions.”
All efforts to reduce carbon-dioxide emissions are, at best, a waste of money. That includes the capture and storage underground of carbon-dioxide emissions from power plants, which Robert E. Murray, CEO of Murray Energy Corp., told E&E News on June 30, “was a pseudonym for no coal.” Mr. Murray explained, “It is neither practical nor economic. It is just cover for the politicians, both Republicans and Democrats that say, ‘Look what I did for coal,’ knowing all the time that it doesn’t help coal at all.”
Senior fellow for energy and climate at the Heartland Institute, Frederick D. Palmer, said, “Though still undergoing further research, capturing CO2 and compressing it to a liquid for the purpose of enhanced oil recovery from shale fields may be valuable. But it should be funded mostly by industry as they see fit, not the government.“On the other hand, capture and geologic storage of CO2 emissions from power plants is a serious mistake since it implicitly accepts the flawed premise that CO2 is a toxic substance. All government support of this technology should be canceled,” Mr. Palmer concluded.
Unlike the way he spoke about these technologies before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on June 22, Mr. Perry must differentiate between capturing and storing carbon dioxide for misguided climate protection purposes and the use of CO2 for enhanced oil recovery. Neither will “affect our environment in a positive way,” as Mr. Perry suggested to the committee they would.
Finally, the energy secretary must stop implying that carbon-dioxide emission reductions is a benefit of more nuclear power. Nuclear is a valuable energy source that stands on its own without resorting to unfounded climate change concerns.
To have any chance of its energy policies lasting beyond the Trump presidency, the administration must work hard to sway public opinion so solidly against the global warming alarm that no sensible politician would dare promote it again. As long as the public continue to view carbon-dioxide emissions as a problem, one to be solved by a new and fairer Paris Agreement, sequestration of CO2 underground, or a greater use of nuclear power, then we have not won the war. It will only be a matter of time before, under a future president, new U.N. climate treaties will once again hobble the nation’s energy providers.
On Friday, an important step was taken by EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt that has the potential to contribute to the public re-education required. Mr. Pruitt announced that he will launch a program to critique the science of climate change. His evaluation will apparently involve climate experts from both sides of the debate in an effort to determine the actual state of the science. It should show that, rather than being “settled” in favor of climate alarmism as President Obama repeatedly claimed, the science is still immature.
Mr. Pruitt must broadly publicize the results of his evaluation and cite reports, such as those of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, which show that much of what we thought we knew about climate is either mistaken or highly debatable. Only then will the public come to understand why many experts reject the climate scare as scientifically unfounded.
In the meantime, Mr. Trump must remove the flies that are spoiling an otherwise excellent energy program.