Sen. John Barrasso predicted China emissions wrong

See the power behind FERC get it very wrong. About China emissions, about energy and economy, about solar power, and all in one speech.

American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), YouTube, 3 December 2009 (posted 15 Dec 2009), U.S. Senator John Barrasso speaks at ALEC in December 2009 in DC. Part 3,

Just look at China, they’re the number one emitter in the world right now. And when you look at China, now they’re starting to talk about a green economy. I would say pay attention to what they do, not what they say. Emissions from China are gonna continue to grow every year, all the way to the year 2050. That’s already the plan; that’s going to continue to happen.

That’s even if they promise to do everything they’re promising to do. The Chinese will not put their economy in the back seat to the environment. They’re going to choose to get richer, rather than to get greener.

He went on to claim that was an argument for why the U.S. shouldn’t do anything but research emissions scrubbers.

What actually happened? Chinese emissions peaked in 2014 and now are falling.

Lauri Myllyvirta, GreenPeace, 19 January 2016, China’s CO2 emissions likely fell 3% in 2015 — and that trend looks set to continue,

Chinas CO2 emissions from fossil fuel use

Don’t believe Greenpeace? Try New York Times, or Guardian about an economic report from the London School of Economics, or MIT, or Nature. Sure, there’s some doubt whether that was actually the peak just now in China, but every one of those studies says if it wasn’t, the peak will come within a decade. That would be by 2026, not 2050, as Sen. Barrasso predicted. And the Nature article notes:

Country’s 13th Five-Year Plan advances a broad goal to phase down coal and expand renewable energy.

What did you say, Sen. Barrasso?

That’s already the plan; that’s going to continue to happen.

Well, this is not just the plan, this is the Five-Year Plan: coal going down and emissions decreasing.

Which in part reflects a deal U.S. President Barack Obama worked out with Chinese President Xi Jinping. And China’s emissions are actually improving faster than China promised.

What’s that you said, Sen. Barrasso?

The Chinese will not put their economy in the back seat to the environment. They’re going to choose to get richer, rather than to get greener.

Well, that was a false choice. Coral Davenport, New York Times, 5 April 2016, Can Economies Rise as Emissions Fall? The Evidence Says Yes,

In a paper published last month by the journal Climate Policy, two British researchers made the case that China’s emissions may have peaked in 2014 and have now begun a modest decline. It’s hard to know for sure because China’s self-reported emissions data can be faulty. But if it is true, and China’s economy continues on even a modest growth path, it could have profound implications for the future of climate change. “The question with China is if they really have turned the corner and if it can stick,” Mr. Aden said.

That story seems unsure about decoupling. Let’s look for a more authoritative source.

International Energy Agency, Press Release, 16 March 2016, Decoupling of global emissions and economic growth confirmed: IEA analysis shows energy-related emissions of CO2 stalled for the second year in a row as renewable energy surged.

Global emissions of carbon dioxide stood at 32.1 billion tonnes in 2015, having remained essentially flat since 2013. The IEA preliminary data suggest that electricity generated by renewables played a critical role, having accounted for around 90% of new electricity generation in 2015; wind alone produced more than half of new electricity generation. In parallel, the global economy continued to grow by more than 3%, offering further evidence that the link between economic growth and emissions growth is weakening.

In the more than 40 years in which the IEA has been providing information on CO2emissions, there have been only four periods in which emissions stood still or fell compared to the previous year. Three of those — the early 1980s, 1992 and 2009 — were associated with global economic weakness. But the recent stall in emissions comes amid economic expansion: according to the International Monetary Fund, global GDP grew by 3.4% in 2014 and 3.1% in 2015.

The two largest emitters, China and the United States, both registered a decline in energy-related CO2 in 2015.

So why does it matter that the junior Senator from Wyoming was wrong in what he said at ALEC?

First of all, ALEC is not just a lobbying group, it’s a shadow government, with corporate representatives voting equally with state legislators on draft bills that those legislators take back to their state and try to pass. A legislator who succeeds becomes an ALEC Alumnus. And those bills cover a wide range of things big companies want at the expense of the public, including to prohibit disclosure of fracking chemicals, to make state PSCs subsidize pipelines, to expand LNG exports, to revoke renewable energy portfolios, and to charge rooftop solar generators a monthly tax.

ALEC members include all of the companies involved in all three components of the Southeast Market Pipelines Project: Sabal Trail (NextEra, Spectra, and Duke), Hillabee Expansion Project (Williams Co.), and Florida Southeast Connection (FPL).

OK, that’s bad, but who’s John Barrasso?

This is the same Sen. John Barrasso of Wyoming who found an alleged conflict of interest that caused former FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff to resign shortly after Wellinghoff predicted in 2013 that more U.S. electric energy would come from solar power by about 2023 than from any other source.

Herman K. Trabish, Green Tech Media, 21 August 2013, FERC Chair Jon Wellinghoff: Solar ‘Is Going to Overtake Everything’: One of the country’s top regulators explains why he is so bullish on solar.

“Solar is growing so fast it is going to overtake everything,” Wellinghoff told GTM last week in a sideline conversation at the National Clean Energy Summit in Las Vegas.

If a single drop of water on the pitcher’s mound at Dodger Stadium is doubled every minute, Wellinghoff said, a person chained to the highest seat would be in danger of drowning in an hour.

“That’s what is happening in solar. It could double every two years,” he said….

“Geothermal, wind, and other resources will supplement solar, Wellinghoff said. “But at its present growth rate, solar will overtake wind in about ten years. It is going to be the dominant player. Everybody’s roof is out there.”

I had made almost exactly the same prediction 29 January 2013.

And Wellinghoff was right. Well, actually a bit too conservative. U.S. solar power deployment is actually doubling in slightly less than each two years. If goes on, we won’t see emissions continuing up from China, we can if we want to see no emissions at all, with the whole world powered by wind, sun, and water.

Investors have caught onto solar power deployment doubling like compound interest. Tom Randall, Bloomberg, 6 April 2016, Wind and Solar Are Crushing Fossil Fuels: Record clean energy investment outpaces gas and coal 2 to 1. That article explicitly cites the two-year doubling rate of solar power, and the somewhat slower doubling rate of wind power deployment. And that’s just a recent example of the many financial press articles about big banks and investors stampeding away from fossil fuels and to sun and wind power investments.

Sen. Barrasso’s prediction was wrong. Sun and wind power are actually the smart choice to get richer, while cleaning up emissions. Fixing climate change is profitable.

Yet this is the same Barrasso who nixed the first FERC Chair nominee after Wellinghoff, Ron Binz, because Binz said natural gas was a dead end.

Current FERC Chair Norman Bay barely squeaked by Sen. Barrasso’s gauntlet by being very quiet about any dead ends for natural gas or good future for solar power.

Here’s Sen. Barrasso, the power behind the FERC throne, just yesterday. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, YouTube, 14 June 2016, Sen. Barasso, R-Wyoming, questions Mr. Peress of the Environmental Defense Fund regarding “extremely troubling” protester tactics. I’m not going to transcribe it; I can’t; I’m laughing too hard.

Barrasso complains Beyond Extreme Energy (BXE) has been holding protests in front of the DC houses of FERC Commissioners. Barrasso wants to know if “physically intimidating” people is OK. Sen. Barrasso wonders if this will go on until some FERC person is physically harmed. By these oh-so-polite doctrinaire non-violent BXE folks:

He also complained about protestors driving FERC people off the stage at one of FERC’s recent dog-and-pony shows. This laughable complaint came from the power behind the FERC that let a Spectra pipeline blow up in Pennsylvania this April, incinerating trees and a house and sending its owner to the hospital with third-degree burns. I could go on about hazards of pipelines that FERC has approved.

But Sen. Barrasso’s complaint is that some people don’t like what this alleged federal agency (that actually brags about getting 100% of its funding from the industries it “regulates”) does. That some people don’t like it so much they are actually trying to do something about it.

Wait, what’s this Sen. Barrasso also said to ALEC back in 2009, in that same video?

We the people tell the government what to do; it doesn’t tell us. We the people are the driver, and the government is the car. And we decide where it should go, and by what route, and how fast.

Well, maybe we the people will prove Sen. Barrasso right about that one.

On every other point Sen. Barrasso made? The emperor has no clothes.

Here’s the video:

U S Senator John Barrasso speaks at ALEC in December 2009 in DC Part 3