Wednesday, September 30, 2009

'Competitive edge’ big concern in climate change debate

President Obama delivered a clear message before the United Nations on climate change. But there’s a lot more ground to cover, and numerous specifics to flesh out. The Minnesota Chamber’s biggest concern is the impact of any legislation on the cost of energy. Minnesota historically has had competitive prices that in turn give our companies a competitive edge in the global marketplace. Whether we maintain that edge remains to be seen with any national or international agreement.

To be clear, Minnesota businesses are strong protectors of the environment. We’ve been major players in shaping state legislation to reduce smokestack emissions and increase the use of renewable energy resources. In the larger arena, from the standpoint of Minnesota businesses, we’ll lobby to make certain any cure is not costlier than the disease. To put the issue in perspective, emissions from Minnesota contribute only 0.37 percent of greenhouse gases worldwide, according to 2006 statistics. China and the United States each contribute about 20 percent. Minnesota businesses are first in line to advocate for policies that protect the environment and ensure a vital economy. But it’s shortsighted to adopt policies that threaten the livelihood of Minnesota employers and employees and do little or nothing to address climate change on the global scene.

Climate change most appropriately is addressed on the national and international levels. Even then, businesses must know the rules and the impact on their bottom lines. Minnesota’s laws on mercury reduction and renewables have been driving energy costs up in recent years. We need to play close attention to these rising costs if we are to maintain a healthy state economy.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

LCFS: Part 1: Status Update Part 2: Analysis



According to the Congressional Research Service, the Low-Carbon Fuel Standard Act of 2009, introduced 3/30/2009, proposes the following:

  • Amends the Clean Air Act to require the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to issue regulations that:

(1) determine the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions of all transportation fuels;

(2) determine the fuel emission baseline (i.e., average lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions per unit of energy of all transportation fuels sold in the United States in 2005);

(3) apply to refineries, blenders, and importers of transportation fuels;

(4) ensure that, for 2014-2022, annual average lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions do not exceed the fuel emission baseline; and

(5) ensure that, for 2023 and thereafter, transportation fuel providers make specified reductions in the annual average lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions for transportation fuels sold in the United States.

  • Grants the Administrator authority to waive emission reduction requirements of this Act to prevent economic or environmental harm.
  • Requires the Administrator to study the environmental and resource conservation impacts of the regulations required by this Act and their effect on energy security.


On April 23, 2009, the California Air Resources Board (ARB/Board) approved the low-carbon fuel standard (LCFS) regulation. As part of the Board hearing, the Board approved Resolution 09-31 (Resolution). The Resolution includes a number of provisions related to ongoing work on the LCFS. One such provision relates to land use and indirect effect analysis of transportation fuels.

· The Board-approved Resolution reads: “BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Board directs the Executive Officer to convene an expert workgroup to assist the Board in refining and improving the land use and indirect effect analysis of transportation fuels and return to the Board no later than January 1, 2011, with regulatory amendments or recommendations, if appropriate, on approaches to address issues identified."

· While California has adopted a low-carbon fuel standard, a number of Northeastern states are also looking at the idea, as is the Midwest. Several other states, including Minnesota and Wisconsin, are considering adopting a low-carbon fuel standard.


· According to the hardly conservative New York Times, Green, Inc., "A low-carbon fuel standard is likely to do little to reduce global warming emissions and can even be counterproductive." This conclusion was based upon an academic paper entitled Greenhouse gas reductions under low-carbon fuel standards by Stephen Holland, Jonathan Hughes, and Christopher Knittel published in the highly-esteemed American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, 2009. The study found that the policy reduces consumption of high-carbon fuels like oil, but “increases low-carbon fuel production, possibly increasing net carbon emissions.”

· While a low-carbon fuel standard requires that the mix of transportation fuels sold to automobiles or trucks include only a limited percentage of carbon-intensive fuels, the idea is to cut carbon emissions from driving, since transportation accounts for more than a quarter of the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

· The Holland, Hughes, Knittel Economic Journal article starkly concludes that a low-carbon fuel standard “cannot be efficient.”

· One problem with a low-carbon fuel standard is that it could be extremely costly. The research says that a 10 percent reduction in the carbon intensity of fuels could result in abatement costs ranging from $307 to $2,272 for each ton of carbon dioxide.

  • That is roughly 100 to 700 times the price of carbon dioxide emissions allowances now traded in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a program in 10 Northeastern states to combat global warming by cutting power plant emissions.

· A related problem is that rather than cutting fuel use across the board, such a fuel standard would encourage drivers to increase their consumption of “low-carbon fuels,” and thus theoretically increase the overall amount of fuel consumed.

· Stephen Holland, an assistant professor in the Department of Economics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and one of the study’s authors, cited an analogy of a child who eats two chocolate bars but no bananas, and is told he has to increase his banana consumption. The result is that he eats two bananas and two chocolate bars, which increases his overall calories.

· Similarly, the low-carbon fuel standard is “regulating the mix, but not the levels,” he said.

· The easiest way to cut carbon emissions from transportation is to cut the level and “not drive so much,” Mr. Holland said. “Carpool! Take public transportation! Leave the car at home.”

As has been publicly argued about for the past several years, the largest controversy surrounding low-carbon fuel standards involves ethanol, and in particular how to compute the carbon cost of corn ethanol (the issue at hand in California).

· Mr. Holland, who said that ethanol was the primary fuel involved in the study, said that he used a range of assumptions about ethanol, but that since the study had gone to press, he had taken the view that corn ethanol was more carbon-intensive than the paper had accounted for.

· Finally, a low-carbon fuel standard would disallow the importing of Canadian crude from Alberta, making Minnesota and much of the upper Midwest more dependent on crude from political enemies in the Middle East. With all the economic worries our globalized economy confronts each day, deriving oil from our friendly neighbor to the north seems both prudent and reliable.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Business Organizes Fight Opposing Waxman Markey

"Those who do not stand up for their own rights will certainly lose them" (
Despite being a summer dominated by heated public involvement and media coverage of the national health care debate, and relatively cool temperatures for the Upper Midwest, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and the National Association of Independent Businesses (NAIB) have been planning and now have launched a multi-state campaign designed to influence Senate debate of Waxman Markey.

Together with state manufacturing associations in Michigan, Indiana, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, and Virginia, this powerful business coalition is encouraging small business owners and the public to make sure their collective voices are heard on the devastating economic impact of Waxman Markey on the national economy.

The national advertisement portion of the "Speak Out" campaign will run through September 4 and will include television, radio and the Internet.

Their early August-announced Study of the Economic Impacts of Waxman Markey conducted by NAM and the American Council of Capital Formation (ACCF) produced the following five key findings:

1. cumulative loss in GDP up to $3.1 trillion (2012-2030);
2. employment losses up to 2.4 million jobs in 2030;
3. residential electricity price increases up to 50% by 2030;
4. per gallon gasoline price increases up to 26% by 2030; AND
5. the manufacturing sector would absorb 55-66% of the jobs lost

NAM and NAIB are urging the public to lobby their Senators to oppose any climate legislation that damages job creation or raises consumer and business costs.

Considering the unemployment rate increases and stagnating incomes during the great recession that began in 2006, sounds like good advice to me.