President Obama was happy to announce the next step in his plan to fight global warming: carbon dioxide emissions limits on existing power plants. These limits are predicted to cut U.S. carbon emissions by 30 percent by 2030.
But Obama may be fighting a battle that ended nearly 18 years ago, as global temperatures leveled off in the late 1990s, according to RSS satellite data. Such data shows that there has been no warming since August 1996 — more than 17 years and 9 months ago.
“The 212 months without global warming represents more than half the 423-month satellite data record, which began in January 1979,” wrote UK politician and journalist Christopher Monckton, the third Viscount Monckton of Brenchley, last month.
“No one now in high school has lived through global warming,” Monckton wrote, adding that there has been no warming for more than half the 423-month satellite record.
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“Recent extreme weather cannot be blamed on global warming, because there has not been any global warming. It is as simple as that,” Monckton added, bashing a claim often made by environmentalists and politicians that a warming world has made weather worse.
The long lull in global warming was first reported by media outlets during 2013. Media outlets have said there has been no warming since 1998, two years later than what Monckton argues.
“Since 1998, there has been an unexplained ‘standstill’ in the heating of the Earth’s atmosphere,” BBC News reported in June 2013.
There have been a number of explanations for why global warming has been absent the last two decades ranging from an increase in volcanic activity to the theory that warming has been absorbed by the Earth’s oceans. But scientists are still struggling to explain the hiatus in warming.
Despite the lack of certainty, President Obama ordered the Environmental Protection Agency to craft regulations aimed at lowering U.S. carbon dioxide emissions from existing power plants 30 percent in the coming decades.
This regulation has been heavily opposed by the coal industry, some states and some utilities that rely on coal power. EPA regulations are already forcing hundreds of coal-fired power plants to shut down prematurely, costing jobs and setting the stage for higher energy costs.
“President Obama is delivering on his promise to send electricity prices skyrocketing,” Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, said in a statement. “With this new rule, Americans can expect to pay $200 more each year for their electricity.”
“On top of higher electricity prices, Obama’s regulatory cap and trade plan will tax American households hundreds of dollars more per year, harming the elderly, the poor, those on fixed incomes, businesses, families, and local institutions like schools and hospitals,” Pyle added.
The EPA argues that the new regulations will actually lower electricity prices 8 percent due to increased energy efficiency and reducing energy demand. But other analyses predict that energy prices will go up.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce reported last week that households and businesses could pay $17 billion more per year for energy because of EPA’s carbon limits. Indeed, power prices were already set to rise due to retiring coal plants before the EPA issued its proposed rule.
Most coal plants projected to shut down will be closed by 2016, the year an EPA mercury emissions rule goes into full effect. Much of the retired coal capacity will be replaced by natural gas, driving natural gas prices up. This, in turn, could push electricity rates up for households by 7 percent by 2025, according to the Energy Information Administration.
By 2040, power prices could increase by 22 percent as more coal plants are shut down and replaced by natural gas-fired plants.
An earlier EPA rule putting carbon dioxide emissions limits on new power plants could increase wholesale electricity prices by “70 or 80 percent”, according to Dr. Julio Friedmann — the Energy Department’s deputy assistant secretary for clean coal.
This is because new coal-fired power plants being built would have to install carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology, which is costly and largely unproven. CCS would add significant costs to coal-fired power generation.
“The precise number will vary, but for first generation we project $70-90 per ton (on the wholesale price of electricity),” Friedmann told Congress. “For second generation, it will be more like a $40-50/ton price. Second generation of demonstrations will begin in a few years, but won’t be until middle of the next decade (2022-2025) that we will have lessons learned and cost savings.”
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