The big push to backdoor the Kyoto Protocol through the listing as “threatened” of the polar bear got an enormous push via the efforts of various environmental organizations. The industries likely to be impacted by the listing seem by contrast to be almost completely unaware of the approaching regulatory putsch. Note the sweep of the ambitions in this statement:
Noting that the federal government initiated lease sales to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea earlier this month, Kert Davies, research director at Greenpeace USA, said, “Our lawsuit has forced the Bush administration’s hand on the issue of global warming like no other, even as it rubberstamps drilling rights for Big Oil in pristine polar bear habitat. If the federal government is really serious about protecting the polar bear, then its next steps will be to cancel lease sales in the Chukchi Sea and immediately implement a plan for deep cuts in U.S. global warming pollution.” (Emphasis added.)
Recent data on the expansion of ice in the Arctic may have provided the Secretary of the Interior with the data he needed to reject the petition to list the polar bear, but the groups have brought suit to force the listing in the Northern Distirct of California.
Meeting rising demand will prove difficult. To maintain its role as the world’s producer of last resort, the United States will need to make major investments in mines, railways and ports.
“We think the current world markets have legs,” said Thomas F. Hoffman, senior vice president of external affairs at Consol Energy, one of the biggest U.S. coal producers. Consol is trying to decide whether to expand output at its Appalachian mines and to add capacity in Baltimore‘s harbor.
“We’re at a point where we’re running through the capacity,” said David Khani, a coal analyst at Friedman, Billings, Ramsey Group. He compares the coal market to the oil market. For coal, he added, “it is unprecedented.”
If high prices last, that would raise the cost of U.S. electricity, half of which is generated by coal-fired powered plants.
Expensive or not, coal is almost always dirtier to burn than are other fossil fuels. Although its use accounts for a quarter of world energy consumption, it generates 39 percent of energy-related carbon dioxide emissions. Climate change concerns could lead to legislation in many countries imposing higher costs on those who burn coal, forcing utilities and factories to become more efficient and curtail its use. Climatologists warn that without technology to capture and store carbon dioxide emissions, burning more coal would be disastrous.
If the polar bear is listed, every federal permit connected with all aspects of the expansion of the domestic coal industry, from mining to shipping (including such things as the Army Corps of Engineers permit connected to the expansion of the port facilities in Baltimore, for example) will have to evaluated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service pursuant to Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act, an onerous and expensive process that not only delays all projects caught up in its many coils, but which also allows the Service’s biologists to demand “mitigations” that are detailed and often unworkable.
This is just one example of the impacts of the proposed listing.
The case for listing the polar bear is deeply flawed, and Secretary of the Interior Kempthorne should finalize the decision rejecting the proposed rule while articulating a detailed argument for skepticism as to (1)the shrinking of the ice and (2)the cause-and-effect connection of hydrocarbon emissions to the ice’s dynamics.