Look closely at the energy-related news stories of the past dozen or so days, and, between the lines, you'll see a theme: government makes predictions and assertions that cannot be backed up by data to protect or project preferred messaging.
The unusual collaboration of the University of Texas and the Environmental Defense Fund conducted a first-ever detailed examination -- more than 500 wells were analyzed -- of individual drilling sites to determine the total amount of escaped methane from shale gas operations. The study was released on September 16 by the National Academy of Sciences. The New York Times story on the study opens with: "Drilling for shale gas through hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, appears to cause smaller leaks of the greenhouse gas methane than the federal government had estimated."
Why does this matter? Because environmental groups have used previous methane-leak estimates to claim that leaks offset the environmental benefits of the clean-burning natural gas the wells produce. Such claims are used to bolster fracking opposition. A September 17 press release from the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works states: "methane leakage from shale gas development is not releasing nearly as much methane as U.S. Environmental Protection Agency had predicted. EPA's grossly exaggerated estimates have been widely used by critics and far-left environmentalists to discredit the benefits of hydraulic fracturing."
CLIMATE CHANGE NEWS
The U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is scheduled to release its fifth Assessment Report, or AR5, on September 27. But leaked copies indicate that it will "dial back on the alarm." On September 16, the Financial Post published a graph from AR5: "The IPCC graph shows that climate models predicted temperatures should have responded by rising somewhere between about 0.2 and 0.9 degrees C over the same period. But the actual temperature change was only about 0.1 degrees, and was within the margin of error around zero. In other words, models significantly over-predicted the warming effect of CO2 emissions for the past 22 years."
On September 17, the Heartland Institute, released the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, or NIPCC, 2013 Report: Climate Change Reconsidered II -- which focuses on facts rather than fear and cites dozens of peer-reviewed papers. The NIPCC report is 1,200 pages long and was prepared by 50 climatologists and other scientists from 15 countries. The goal of the NIPCC report, according to Jim Lakely, Director of Communications for the Heartland Institute, "is to inform the public, scientific community, and media that the upcoming IPCC report doesn't have all the science to make informed judgments."
In his review of the NIPCC report, Paul Driessen states: "the deficient models are being used to devise and justify policies, laws and regulations that stigmatize and penalize hydrocarbon use, promote and subsidize wind and solar energy, and have hugely negative effects on jobs, family energy bills, the overall economy and people's lives."
Which brings us to the coal news.
In the face of facts, on September 20, the EPA released the latest attack in Obama's war on coal: new limits on carbon-dioxide emissions from all future power plants built in the United States that are so strict, they essentially serve as a moratorium on all new coal plants for decades to come because they require technology that is not yet viable. In 2010, the Government Accountability Office found that commercial deployment of Carbon Capture Sequestration was possible in 10 to 15 years contingent upon overcoming economic, technical, and legal challenges that have yet to be met.
In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said: "The President's decision today is an escalation of the War on Coal and what that really means for Kentucky families is an escalation of his War on Jobs and the Kentucky economy." Similarly, Senator Joe Manchin, D-W. Va., said: "If these regulations go into effect, American jobs will be lost, electricity prices will soar and economic uncertainty will grow."
The EPA's latest blow in the war on coal is really part of a bigger war on energy -- which becomes a war on jobs. Eastern Kentucky lost about 4,000 mining jobs in 2012. On September 17, James River Coal announced it would lay off 525 full-time workers.
Add in the Sept. 17 news: "Ecotality, an electric car charger maker, files for bankruptcy" and the hearing of Obama's pick of Ron Binz to be the nation's top energy regulator -- about whom the Wall Street Journal said has "a record and philosophy hostile toward fossil fuels of any kind" -- and you surely see a pattern.
If fracking is allowed to continue, oil and natural gas will be plentiful, we won't need expensive wind- and solar-generated electricity; we don't need to transform the entire transportation fleet to range-limited electric vehicles.
If manmade climate change isn't an issue and fossil fuels aren't the demon they've been made out to be, we can continue to generate cost-effective coal-fueled electricity and drive cars powered by domestic oil and natural gas. We don't need electric vehicles.
If fracking continues and climate change isn't an issue and coal-fueled power plants are allowed to live out their economic lives, the millions and millions of taxpayer dollars spent on expensive, green energy -- in the midst of an economic crisis -- will have been for naught. It would be exposed as the scam it is.
Instead, as this week's news proves, we continue the Chicken Little attempt to keep the sky from falling.
The author of Energy Freedom, Marita Noon serves as the executive director for Energy Makes America Great Inc. and the companion educational organization, the Citizens' Alliance for Responsible Energy (CARE).