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With the recent deluge of popular headlines being monopolized by celebrity deaths, Governor indiscretions, and even the President’s pitch for health care reform… there is another massive elephant in the room and it’s time to give it some attention.

Here in South Florida, the business landscape has noticeably changed since the economy has “gone south.” With many long-time local businesses permanently shutting doors in the past few months amd recent news of Miami’s unemployment rate hitting double digits at 10.2 percent, why should South Floridians take notice of the American Clean Energy and Security Act that just passed the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday.?

First, it might be useful to know that Florida’s largest utility, FPL, is seeking new rate hikes. FPL is hoping to raise rates in order to “allow it to earn a ‘fair’ profit, while making its infrastructure stronger, more efficient and less likely to emit greenhouse-gas emissions.” According to the Sun-Sentinel, under the FPL proposal, base rates for residential customers would increase about 30 percent the first year. So if you have a base rate, as a residential customer, of 1,000 kilowatt hours, now costing $39.31– it would increase to $51.71.

National legislation will increase the costs of electricity for the average person

As if FPL’s proposal weren’t troubling enough, on the national scene, President Obama is praising the U.S. House of Representative’s very narrow passage of the climate bill last Friday. H.R. 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act, approved by a vote of 219-212, with mostly Democrat support.

“It will open the door to a clean energy economy and a better future for America,” President Obama said Saturday.

Even so, a new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey shows that just 19% believe the climate change bill passed by the House on Friday will help the economy.

Whatever attacks critics can launch at the American Clean Energy and Security Act… among the most glaring could be what the cost would be to the average person– a cost which the President himself acknowledged in 2008:

“Under my plan of a cap and trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket.” — Barack Obama, January 17, 2008, San Francisco Chronicle

“‘Cap and trade’ refers to a system of buying and selling pollution permits to meet emissions limits.”
MSNBC posted an AP article with the following breakdown of the potential effects of the Clean Energy Act on the average person.

* Such a law would impact how much people pay to heat, cool and light their homes (it would cost more); what automobiles they buy and drive (smaller, fuel efficient and hybrid electric); and where they will work (more “green” jobs, meaning more environmentally friendly ones).
* Farmers would see the cost of fertilizer and electricity go up.
* A new source of income could come from selling pollution credits by planting trees or changing farming methods to absorb more carbon dioxide.
* Energy would cost more because it would become more expensive to produce.
* Changes to how homes are built and even financed seem likely as energy efficiency is taken into account in building codes and the cost of mortgages.

In a nutshell, this energy bill has the potential for changing how we live, where we live, and the very landscape of the earth itself. Increases in the cost of energy would be passed down to everyone, everywhere, for everything.

In the above mentioned article, increasing energy costs is promoted as a kind of fringe benefit to homeowners and businesses who “would have greater incentive to use more energy-efficient lighting, windows and insulation.” How exactly this will play out is unclear: taxes and fines on energy to mandate compulsory special light bulbs and window insulation, required home energy inspections in order to sell one’s home?

Carbon concerns– it’s not what you think

The article, Energy legislation could bring deep change explains how coal, which accounts for half the electricity produced, would continue as a major energy source, however– and here’s the fascinating part– the carbon released when coal is burned would be “captured”.

“It’s a technological hurdle with a complication: “not in my back yard” complaints over what to do with the billions of tons of carbon dioxide captured from power plants and pumped beneath the earth. Would people feel comfortable having it stored near or under their homes, factories and businesses?”

Doesn’t taking viable carbon dioxide essential for sustaining trees and all other plant life and pumping it beneath the earth– beg the questions– just how will this effect the ground, water, and drinking supply? Plus, how much could it possibly cost to pump “billions of tons of carbon dioxide” beneath earth?

Science Daily examines carbon sequestration in an article entitled Carbon Capture And Storage To Combat Global Warming Examined

Of greater concern to the researchers are the potential risks of carbon sequestration to human health, mainly through asphyxiation and groundwater contamination. The threat of asphyxiation-or suffocation due to carbon dioxide displacing oxygen-is very low, the researchers said, because of the unlikelihood of a rapid leakage, which would have to occur to cause a problem.

Sally Benson, the executive director of the Global Climate and Energy Project (GCEP) and professor of energy resources engineering claims that

“Drinking water contamination is the more probable danger. For example, if carbon dioxide enters the groundwater somehow, it can increase the water’s acidity, potentially leaching toxic chemicals, such as lead, from rocks into the water. People often ask, ‘is geological storage safe’ It’s a very difficult question to answer. Is driving safe”?

Okay, so how about is thinking safe?

The global climate power shift?

While those of us across America and here in South Florida, might actually be more concerned with being able to pay bills and keeping food on the table, in Europe– climate protection issues are taking front stage. Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international news website is assuring us all that climate protection will guarantee some ominous sounding “power shifts” between “countries, institutions, and economic actors.”

The goal of achieving an ambitious climate protection convention in Copenhagen in December calls for a new development paradigm, and that in turn has implications for established power structures…. It also goes without saying that the power shifts that this implies between countries, institutions, and economic actors will not be to everyone’s taste.

Are we to understand that major power struggles will be intentionally initiated under the guise of climate protection? One might wonder exactly what these “power shifts” mean and its implications for we Americans.

Is there a climate change debate?

In his weekly address on Saturday, the President has definitively announced that

“There is no longer a debate about whether carbon pollution is placing our planet in jeopardy. It’s happening.”

Conversely, CBS is reporting that

“The Environmental Protection Agency may have suppressed an internal report that was skeptical of claims about global warming, including whether carbon dioxide must be strictly regulated by the federal government… [and] warned against making hasty ‘decisions based on a scientific hypothesis that does not appear to explain most of the available data.’

The Oregon Institute of Science and Medicine (OISM) also has a signed petition of 31,000 scientists rejecting claims of human-caused global warming.

“The purpose of OISM’s Petition Project is to demonstrate that the claim of “settled science” and an overwhelming “consensus” in favor of the hypothesis of human-caused global warming and consequent climate damage is wrong. No such consensus or settled science exists. As indicated by the petition text and signatory list, a very large number of American scientists reject this hypothesis. ” Reuters

President Obama highlights more scary energy efficiency

On Monday, the President, in an effort to keep the focus on energy, announced a non- “sexy” light bulb initiative for the White House:

“I know light bulbs may not seem sexy, but this simple action holds enormous promise because 7 percent of all the energy consumed in America is used to light our homes and businesses,” the president said.

Perhaps more scary, than sexy– the light bulbs the President endorses using stand to pose potential health and environmental risks. Any parent or pet owner should be aware of safety precautions, especially should a CFL bulb get broken. The EPA has devoted quite a bit of discussion to the topic. From the EPA website:

What if I accidentally break a fluorescent lamp in my home?

The lamp contains a small amount of mercury, but you can clean this up
yourself if you do the following:
• Do not use a vacuum cleaner to clean up the breakage. This will
spread the mercury vapor and dust throughout the area and
could potentially contaminate the vacuum.
• Keep people and pets away from the breakage area until the
cleanup is complete.
• Ventilate the area by opening windows, and leave the area for 15
minutes before returning to begin the cleanup. Mercury vapor
levels will be lower by then.
• For maximum protection and if you have them, wear rubber
gloves to protect your hands from the sharp glass.

Finally the EPA warns that people should

“consider not utilizing fluorescent lamps in situations where they could easily be broken. Consumers may also consider avoiding CFL usage in bedrooms or carpeted areas frequented by infants, small children, or pregnant women. Finally, consider not storing too many used/spent lamps before recycling as that may increase your chances of breakage. Don’t forget to properly recycle your used fluorescent bulbs so they don’t break and put mercury into our environment.”

Huh? The disclaimer for these little gems falls just short of announcing that continued use may cause vomiting, shortness of breath, and an occasional seizure. But hold on– I stand corrected: “Chinese workers making energy-saving fluorescent light bulbs for Western consumers have been sickened by the hundreds due to mercury poisoning.” Curious is the fact that these light bulbs are designated for the “West”, possibly implying that China, the world’s largest and most populous country, is not necessarily onboard the Green movement?

Perhaps the President forgot that while CFL bulbs are energy-efficient, the neurotoxins they contain, causing kidney and brain damage, kind of overrides any claim to its benefits?

The amount of mercury in CFL bulbs is reported to be

“tiny — about 5 milligrams, or barely enough to cover the tip of a pen — but that is enough to contaminate up to 6,000 gallons of water beyond safe drinking levels, extrapolated from Stanford University research on mercury. Even the latest lamps promoted as “low-mercury” can contaminate more than 1,000 gallons of water beyond safe levels.” MSNBC

Two days ago, research on compact fluorescent light bulbs prompted Health Canada to warn of effects ranging from too much UV exposure to possible mercury poisoning. Health Canada is studying both ultraviolet radiation and electrical and magnetic field emissions from compact fluorescent light bulbs.

Energy bill heads to the Senate

Obama said on Monday that

“In the months to come, the Senate will take up its version of the energy bill, and I am confident that they too will choose to move this country forward.”

Indeed. Miami City Buzz Examiner urges everyone to study the issues surrounding cap and trade and the American Clean Energy and Security Act for themselves. Contact your Senators with your opinion on this most comprehensive and controversial energy legislation to date.

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2 Responses to “Climate change bill may cost you; electric rates will ‘sky-rocket’ with cap and trade”
  1. peterdub says:

    Yes, light bulb ban makes no sense

    What Americans Want
    Americans, like other citizens, choose to buy ordinary light bulbs around 9 times out of 10.
    Banning what Americans want gives the supposed savings – there is no point in banning an impopular product!

    Why They Want It
    The ordinary simple light bulb has for many people a pleasing appearance, it responds quickly with bright broad spectrum light, is
    easy to use with dimmers and other equipment, can come in small sizes, and has safely been used for over 100 years.

    “No, They just buy Light Bulbs because they are Cheap!”
    Nothing wrong with being cheap as well.
    But you don’t keep buying a cheap-but-poor product.
    Nor do people avoid products only because they are expensive – or no other expensive products would be sold.

    If other lights were better, people would buy more of them instead.
    There are – for example- well known batteries and washing up liquids that are expensive but sell well because they last longer
    as they repeatedly show in their advertising.
    Fluorescent light manufacturers and distributors are very happy to let governments promote their case,
    and happy that they ban the lights that people are buying, so the fluorescent (and/or LED) light manufacturers can win market
    – why should they bother making better products and advertise them?
    They can clean up the market and charge what they like when those cheap competing rivals keeping down prices are gone.

    New LED lamps are on the way.
    If they are good, people will buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (little point).
    If they are not good, people will not buy them – no need to ban ordinary light bulbs (no point).
    The arrival of the transistor didn’t mean that more energy using radio tubes had to be banned… they were bought less anyway.

    “Look at all the energy we save”, says President Obama.
    Since when does America need to save on electricity?
    There is no energy shortage, there are plenty of local energy sources, Middle East oil is not used for electricity generation.
    Consumers pay for any power stations, just as they do for factories and shops generally.
    Certainly it is good to let people know how they can save energy and money – but why force them to do it?

    As it happens, not only can the savings -and desirability- be questioned for households to switch all lights (different light types
    suit different locations, and not all lights are often used),
    but there are also questions around having efficiency regulation on household products in the first place.
    Scottish research announced spring 2009 shows that since energy efficiency effectively means cheaper energy, people just use more
    energy, not worrying about wasting it!

    “Look at all the emission savings”, says President Obama.
    Dear Mr President: Does your light bulb give out any gases?
    Power stations might not either:
    In Washington state practically all electricity is emission-free, while around half of it is in states like New York and California.
    Why should emission-free Seattle, New York and Los Angeles households there be denied the use of lighting they obviously want to
    Low emission households will increase everywhere, since emissions will be reduced anyway through the planned use of coal/gas
    processing technology or energy substitution.

    Again, the savings – and their value – can be questioned.
    Global warming is a global problem, whatever about carbon dioxide reduction effects on it.
    Thereby the irony of abandoning American jobs in the low energy consuming low emission making of simple safe cheap light bulbs in
    local factories,
    in favor of the high energy consuming high emission making of mercury containing expensive fluorescent lights in unregulated coal-
    powered China,
    with intercontinental transport emissions and recycling emissions added on top.
    It’s called “environmental progress”.

    Without recycling, fluorescent lights leak mercury on dump sites, hard to deal with (and their locations unknown).
    Coal power emissions also contain mercury, but they can nowadays be dealt with as recent Government EPA data shows (and chimney locations are known).

    If there was really a need to lower light bulb use (there clearly isn’t),
    then taxation would be preferable for all concerned anyway, as well as for the environment.
    A product is normally banned for being unsafe to use, like lead paint or fireworks, and that is not the case here.

    People don’t like taxes, but prefer it to a ban on what they want to buy.
    and by generally spreading taxes across different lights according to efficiency, some could be cheaper than today.
    Taxes can flexibly be altered according to tax intake and sales reduction requirements, can be adapted to new market entrants, and
    can be lifted when no longer necessary.
    Taxes, unlike bans, give federal/state government income that can be used to lower energy use and emissions (renewable energy projects, home insulation schemes etc) more than remaining light bulb use causes them. Current 2 billion anual US lightbulb sales gives a hight
    intake potential.
    Efficiency taxation could be applied generally to products instead of efficiency regulation.

    However, such taxation is still in principle wrong,
    affecting the natural business-consumer demand and supply relationship which includes the efficiency feature anyway, as the above
    article says,
    and taxation is also wrong in still affecting emission-free households: Taxation is simply a better alternative than bans if
    Government insists on targeting electrical products, or indeed cars and buildings.

    Understanding why a ban on light bulbs is unnecessary and wrong: onwards
    Understanding why all efficiency regulation is unnecessary and wrong: onwards

    Final note: The only reason for pushing all the regulation on consumers is a cop out of actually lowering emissions, as shown by the offsets and free allowances of Cap and Trade. Assuming a benefit in dealing with emissions (for all else they contain, whatever about CO2) then direct action on transport and electricity alone (80% of emissions) is enough, as explained on the site.

    Equity and long term loan finance can be used: Long term industrial loans from financial institutions, particularly if federal/state guaranteed, give low yearly interest repayments and lessen the effect on electricity bills or transport cost.
    The impact on the businesses is further lessened by the stability and predictability surrounding the funding.
    Since only electricity and transport are involved, other business continues as usual and consumers and society in general are spared expense and disruption.
    This is even more obvious from having no energy efficiency regulation either, as said.

  2. BITS: Business Information, Technology, & Services of Winston-Salem says:

    […] Climate change bill may cost you; electric rates will ’sky-rocket’ with cap and trade Posted by Sophist in Business News, Financial, Political […]

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