Legal attacks on fossil fuels will only make us poorer

Nearly half of all US states have pledged to go totally carbon-free by at least 2050.

While many states and the federal government are pushing and subsidizing entrepreneurs to scale up carbon-free alternatives to fossil fuels such as nuclear energy, wind, and solar – other states are hoping to reach their goals by seemingly suing oil and gas companies into extinction.

Though American consumers have been the primary customers for fossil fuel companies, several Democratic state attorneys generals have staged elaborate lawsuits hoping to legally pin climate change on a handful of companies.

Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison has been at the forefront, but he’s had plenty of support and funding along the way, including from key law firms across the country and the billionaire former New York mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Though our judicial system is supposed to be immune from political agendas, these third-parties target certain industries and corporations for litigation, hoping to tip the balance in prominent cases being heard across the country.

This trend is so troubling that the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability held ahearing in September to evaluate this threat. But missing from that congressional discussion about deep-pocketed, heavily coordinated movements to influence legal action was the subject of climate litigation.

In September, the largest climate change lawsuit was filed by the state of California against five major oil companies and associates, alleging public deception about climate risks associated with fossil fuels.

With an economy twice that of Russia, California becomes not just the biggest U.S. state to sue energy companies, but the largest economy to do so. California has thrown its weight around before, suing auto manufacturers over greenhouse emissions and legally banning the sale of new combustion-powered vehicles by 2035.

California’s vendetta against oil and gas may seem impractical, but the fact that 17 states followed their lead on the eventual gas-powered car ban shows that “as California goes, so goes the nation” is more than just a saying.

Nonetheless, California faces the same uphill battle as its unsuccessful auto industry lawsuit. One environmental law professor at Yale University told the Wall Street Journal, “the entire modern economy relies on the oil industry, and it could be hard to pin liability solely on companies.”

The lawsuit itself, however, will do nothing to promote climate progress. In fact, it will only add to consumer burdens, should they be successful. Gas prices are already disproportionately high in California, at 55 percent higher than the national average. But worse yet is the protracted, multi-million-dollar campaign waged by third parties to pressure energy producers and persuade the public they’ve been deceived.

Deep-pocketed private donors have persuaded organizations and attorneys to take up climate litigation, pouring millions into institutions like the Center for Climate Integrity (CCI) who aggressively encourage state and local governments to sue energy producers. Allies like the Rockefeller Family Fund not only help funnel money to CCI – about $10 million, in fact – but also host legal forums and initiate climate ligation support among elected officials.

Senator Ted Cruz and U.S. Representative James Comer raised these concerns, pointing out the chief law firm litigating climate lawsuits, Sher Edling, is essentially paid to target energy companies. Rather than implementing contingency fees, “the lawsuits are being funded, tax-free, by wealthy liberals via dark money pass-through funds.”

Beyond that, billionaire Michael Bloomberg has put legal muscle behind the movement, seeding the NYU School of Law’s Environment and Energy State Impact Center with $6 million to offer lawyers as “Special Assistant Attorneys General.” These attorneys, embedded at the state level, provide more legal horsepower to pursue climate suits.

Most recently, a congressional ethics probe was opened on Ann Carlson, unconfirmed acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), for her extreme agenda and prior partnership with Sher Edling. The members allege she was involved in coordinating the law firm’s efforts to pursue climate litigation and worked to raise money through dark money funds to support that work.

This public campaign to vilify energy producers ignores the reality that we rely on fossil fuels and need them to lead America’s energy transition, as they have for years now.

Data from 2022 shows oil and gas represented nearly 70 percent of American energy consumption, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration reports global consumption of liquid fuels (gasoline and diesel) will remain high for the next decade.

Despite this, these lawsuits target energy producers in hopes of shrinking the role of American oil and gas development and starving consumers of affordable energy sources, even if there are no ready replacements.

The public relations and legal war against energy producers is the wrong path for real change –  a mistake only amplified by dark money and partisan networks to encourage more climate lawsuits. It’s time we pursue common sense solutions, rather than misleading the public with disingenuous lawsuits that won’t combat climate change, and won’t make our lives any better.

Originally published here

Réaffirmer la neutralité suisse: le cas de l’énergie

À l’étranger, on caricature souvent la Suisse par sa seule neutralité. Cette description devrait nous interroger, car elle reflète sans doute plus qu’une simple philosophie de relations internationales.

Cette neutralité transparaît dans notre relation à la politique. La population suisse voit ses hommes politiques comme les garants d’un cadre général et non comme des sauveurs qui permettront de réorienter la nation dans la bonne direction. Vue de l’extérieur, la politique suisse est moins conflictuelle, plus tournée vers la discussion et la recherche de solutions. 

Toutefois, il y a des sujets qui semblent échapper à ce principe. C’est notamment le cas de la politique énergétique, qui est devenue un sujet passionnel. Il y a des pro et des antinucléaires, des pro et des antisolaires, sans parler des éoliennes, qui détruisent le paysage ou sauvent la planète. Choisis ton camp, camarade!

La neutralité énergétique devrait être la solution que nous devrions défendre collectivement au niveau politique. Ce principe repose sur la flexibilité et l’acceptation des différentes solutions possibles, afin de maintenir un approvisionnement en énergie fiable et durable tout en préservant l’environnement. La diversification des sources d’énergie est capitale pour garantir notre prospérité.

Cependant, ces dernières années, la politique énergétique suisse a pris un tournant controversé avec la mise en œuvre de la politique énergétique 2050, qui est en rupture avec l’histoire de notre pays.

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A Nuclear Renaissance Is the Best Path Forward

For decades, the fruits of the fracking revolution, plus our newly minted status as the world’s top net exporter of natural gas, demonstrated that American consumers were swimming in bountiful energy.

But as the pandemic effects of supply chain shortages, the war in Ukraine, and higher government spending gave way to inflation hikes, suddenly all eyes were on utility bills. In 2021, Americans spent as much as 25% more on energy than in the previous year.

Compounding that problem for energy consumers are political pledges aimed at the “electrification of everything,” including massive subsidies for electric vehicles, home heat pumps, and solar panels in pursuit of a carbon neutral future.

Now state policies are accelerating that, as at least 22 states — plus Puerto Rico and Washington, D.C. — have committed to either 100% carbon-free electricity generation or “net zero” carbon emissions by 2050.

But rather than subsidize our way toward political climate goals with foreign-made solar panels, batteries, and wind turbines, what if we looked to the new generation of a safe technology that is already the densest and carbon-free source of electricity in the world? What if it’s time to once again champion nuclear energy?

Energy investors, customers, and even green politicians should have every reason to love the atom. Nuclear energy is safe, clean, and reliable for decades. It produces no emissions and produces tens of thousands of good jobs for generations. There’s a reason nuclear plants have larger parking lots than wind turbines or solar farms.

At least three states — Illinois, New Hampshire, and South Carolina — currently generate over 50% of their electricity needs from nuclear power, making them effectively carbon neutral and an ideal hub for energy-intensive industry. 

Even green warrior California Gov. Gavin Newson was forced to rethink the closing of Diablo Canyon in the face of aggressive climate goals, giving the state’s only nuclear plant a lifeline. Other states are reconsidering nuclear energy as their licenses head toward their expiration date.

That said, traditional nuclear energy faces several obstacles. Environmental and radiation concerns are invoked, though new innovations like accident-tolerant fuels have lessened the risk. Regulatory restrictions and permitting can delay approvals and renewals for up to a decade. Most importantly, nuclear projects are significantly labor and capital intensive, testing the financial limits of private investors and utilities who dip into subsidies to stay afloat.

But the age of the brutalist concrete cooling towers and highly centralized state control as the only features of nuclear power may already be over.

Next-generation nuclear energy technology — such as small modular reactors — may share the splitting of the atom with its predecessor, but its modern form is anything but.

SMRs can be as small as an SUV but still produce plenty of megawatts of energy. They can more quickly and reliably deliver power to the electric grid or industry, and in some cases, the spent fuel can be reused. SMRs could become the main carbon-free power source for a large manufacturing facility that would employ thousands of people and keep the load off residential grids. 

For example, SMR developer X-energy is collaborating with chemical giant Dow to install  an advanced SMR nuclear plant at Dow’s manufacturing site in Seadrift, Texas. The Dow project is focused on providing its Seadrift site with safe, reliable, zero carbon emissions power and industrial steam as existing energy and steam assets near their end-of-life.

The project is contingent upon delivering on various reviews and approvals, as companies like Dow must follow strict timeframes to ensure continued operation of its site. X-energy first initiated NRC pre-application activities for their Xe-100 reactor in 2018.

Only one small modular reactor design, made by Oregon-based NuScale, has been certified by the National Regulatory Commission, which released its final rulemaking after a decade-long application process.

If we want to deliver energy at scale and at a low cost for millions of energy consumers, that pace will have to move to a warp speed timeline.

There are simple solutions that could save us time. Every state with an expiring nuclear license should consider supporting plant life extensions. States with anti-nuclear statutes should rethink their implications. Where possible, states should include nuclear and fusion technology within “clean energy” definitions, as North Carolina seems poised to do. The NRC should continue its steadfast efforts in reducing regulatory burdens to fast-track reviews and permits for new nuclear while still keeping a laser focus on safety.

Rather than closing coal plants without alternatives, states should quickly allow experienced project proponents to convert those facilities into nuclear stations. The US Department of Energy estimates that over 80% of the country’s existing coal plants could be cheaply converted into SMRs or advanced nuclear reactors, saving up to 35% in infrastructure costs while reducing emissions for decades. Roadmaps already exist to convert coal plant jobs to next-generation nuclear jobs.

This would represent billions in savings to energy customers, hundreds of thousands more good-paying jobs, and unlimited opportunities for innovators to unleash the next generation of nuclear power technology both domestically and as a global export.

Politicians and regulators have created the paradigm of a net zero world. Nuclear energy will enable that and provide prosperity, resilience, and sustainability that will keep us energy independent. 

It’s time we recognize nuclear energy’s vital role and champion it as a force for good in our world.

Originally published here

La dangereuse transition énergétique envisagée en Suisse

La Suisse pourrait risquer une hausse dévastatrice des prix de l’énergie, que l’Allemagne a connue à la suite de sa sortie du nucléaire.

La prospérité de la Suisse est notamment due à son impressionnante capacité à produire, importer et fournir de l’énergie aux entreprises et aux ménages. Le pays possède le système électrique le plus propre parmi les 31 pays membres de l’Agence internationale de l’énergie, émettant la plus faible quantité de dioxyde de carbone pour chaque kilowatt produit. Malgré une population croissante, la Suisse a réussi à réduire ses émissions de carbone de 18,3% depuis 1990, tout en connaissant une croissance économique continue.

Une énergie peu coûteuse et suffisante est une condition sine qua non de la compétitivité industrielle et permet aux consommateurs de dépenser leur argent pour d’autres biens. L’indice semestriel « Country Index Family-owned Businesses » (en allemand) a attribué à la Suisse la quatrième place en matière de compétitivité énergétique en 2008, mais seulement la quinzième en 2022. Durant la même période, l’Allemagne a chuté de la 11e à la 18e place.

Cependant, le pays est confronté à des défis liés à l’impact de l’invasion de l’Ukraine par la Russie sur le marché suisse de l’énergie et aux exigences croissantes en matière de changement climatique. Pour faire face à ces problèmes, le gouvernement suisse prévoit d’adopter une stratégie énergétique visant à atteindre la neutralité carbone d’ici 2050. Parmi les politiques incluses dans le plan figurent de fortes subventions pour les énergies renouvelables et la fermeture des centrales nucléaires. Une erreur déjà commise par l’Allemagne.

Sortie du nucléaire

Jusqu’à présent, la logique des autorités de régulation suisses s’est appuyée sur le modèle standard du monopole naturel, dans lequel un fournisseur unique fournit de l’électricité à un coût décroissant, une fois les frais initiaux d’installation des lignes électriques et de construction des groupes électrogènes payés. L’industrie suisse de l’énergie est très majoritairement (90%) détenue par l’Etat et présente des barrières élevées à l’entrée ainsi qu’un nombre important de consommateurs captifs, tout en bénéficiant d’importantes subventions.

Le résultat de la votation du 18 juin dernier ouvre la voie à une politique énergétique prescriptive imposant des échéances pour la neutralisation des émissions de carbone dans certains secteurs de l’économie.

L’ES 2050 (le plan de transition énergétique suisse) préconise une sortie progressive de l’énergie nucléaire au profit d’autres sources d’énergie neutres en carbone, sachant que l’énergie éolienne, solaire ou hydroélectrique ne peut, au mieux, que partiellement remplacer le nucléaire.

Les combustibles fossiles étrangers sont indispensables pour couvrir les besoins énergétiques de la Suisse. Le pays consomme au total environ 225 térawattheures d’énergie. Les dérivés du pétrole utilisés pour le transport et le chauffage représentent la plus grande part de la consommation finale totale, avec 95,81 térawattheures, soit 42% de la consommation totale. A titre de comparaison, le gaz ne représente que 33,97 térawattheures, soit 15% de la consommation totale. Depuis 2022, le gaz suisse est importé via des plateformes de l’UE.

Ces mêmes sources d’énergie jouent un rôle essentiel dans les transitions énergétiques. Selon les données de l’Etat, la Suisse est déjà passée d’un exportateur net d’électricité en été à un importateur net d’électricité en hiver tout au long de sa transition vers l’objectif ES 2050, avec des importations nettes de 5,7 milliards de kilowattheures aux premier et quatrième trimestres.

Production inefficace

Le gouvernement est même prêt à introduire des centrales à cycle combiné au gaz ou au pétrole (qui représentent actuellement 9% de la production d’énergie, mais qui devraient progresser à défaut d’autres options). Malgré les ambitions élevées d’« énergie propre » de l’ES 2050, au moins un rapport de l’AIE prévoit que la Suisse importera davantage de combustibles fossiles, et non moins, en raison de ses objectifs climatiques.

Ainsi, tout plan d’autosuffisance est d’emblée voué à l’échec. La production nationale de tous les besoins devrait combler l’important déficit énergétique de 95,81 térawattheures, ce qui coûterait aux consommateurs ordinaires des dizaines de milliards de francs suisses rien que pour produire de l’énergie inefficace et plus polluante plutôt que d’acheter à l’étranger une énergie plus abordable et de meilleure qualité. Le reste de l’énergie totale consommée provient de la production intérieure : 56,8% de la production nationale d’énergie électrique provient des 682 centrales hydroélectriques et des 220 barrages du pays (la Suisse détient la plus forte densité de barrages au monde), l’énergie nucléaire comptant pour 34%.

Il convient de rappeler que la consommation énergétique suisse est déjà découplée de la population et de la croissance économique, écartant l’idée que la croissance économique est intrinsèquement liée à plus de pollution (et réfutent les affirmations empiriques des partisans de la décroissance). Bien que la population du pays ait augmenté de 15% et que l’économie a connu une croissance du PIB de près de 32% mesurée en parité de pouvoir d’achat depuis 2000, les émissions totales de carbone de la Suisse ont diminué de 18,3% entre 1990 et 2020.

Toutefois, des complications à long terme ternissent ce résultat. D’une part, les exigences en matière de lutte contre le changement climatique n’ont fait que croître au fil du temps. Le gouvernement fédéral suisse avait déjà adopté des objectifs climatiques dans le cadre du protocole de Kyoto et des contributions déterminées au niveau national dans le cadre de l’accord de Paris, s’engageant à réduire les émissions de gaz à effet de serre de 20% d’ici 2020 et de 50% d’ici 2030, afin de revenir aux niveaux observés pour la dernière fois en 1990.

La Suisse doit se ressaisir et éviter la hausse dévastatrice des prix de l’énergie que l’Allemagne a connue à la suite de sa sortie du nucléaire.

Originally published here

Biden’s Department of Energy doesn’t know what will save Virginians money

In the first weeks of 2022, it came time to replace a number of appliances in our Manassas, Virginia home.

The attic’s insulation was no longer effective and the AC/heating system was struggling to push air into every room.

Thanks to a detail-focused handyman, we also learned that the water heater was in dire need of replacement.

HVAC repair was enough to bust whatever budget we had in mind for home repairs to get us through winter, and the subject of also buying a water heater was insult atop injury.

We considered our options and financed a new $800 water heater and far more expensive HVAC system at 9.99% interest over a 12-month period.

Like everyday consumers across America, my wife and I have the most intimate understanding of our finances and the conflicting priorities within our monthly budget.

Does Joe Biden’s administration and his Department of Energy under Jennifer Granholm, presume to know what was best for us when we needed new home appliances?

In July, Biden’s DOE released new proposed energy-efficiency standards for water heaters, following a contentious few months of defending their intent to restrict consumer’s use of gas range stoves.

The administration both defended its policy while simultaneously claiming the coming restrictions were pure fiction dreamed up by their opponents in Congress.

Come 2029, these regulations would mandate that new boiler installations employ electric heat pumps. These heat pumps draw warmth from the surrounding air to heat water, as opposed to internally heating the water.

The standards for traditional gas-fired water heaters will be tightened, with the inevitable effect of increased costs.

The economics of this are quite simple. Heat pump water heaters are more energy-efficient machines because they take in surrounding heat rather than having to create every bit of heat from nothing.

Consumers stand to save several hundred dollars per year on a heat pump system. The Biden administration and its environmentalist hawks favor pumps because they produce less emissions than gas boilers.

The problem is that heat pump water heaters are more expensive, sitting anywhere from $1,500 to $3,000 upfront for the device — whereas conventional gas heaters are usually only $500 to $1,000.

In a perfect world, consumers would think long-term about every expenditure and investment they make. But since we live in the real world, people are just trying to get to tomorrow.

Collectively, Americans now owe over $1 trillion in credit card debt, led primarily by credit card balances.

Virginia is in the top 10 nationwide, with the average Virginian needing at least 13 months to pay down their balances, according to a study by WalletHub.

A lot of us are spending money we don’t have, and it’s gotten so bad during this period of high inflation that even groceries are being purchased on credit in record numbers. If this sounds like you, you’re not alone, I’ve been there.

If you’re debt-free or financially secure, the DOE rules which would force you toward a more expensive and efficient water heater will not seem like a big deal.

If you’re like the millions of Americans treading water due to the rising costs of living, that water heater will more than likely go onto your credit card tab. With credit card delinquency rates rising, any savings from energy efficiency will disappear.

The ugly thing about making big purchases on credit is that you’re gambling on nothing else bad happening in the no-interest period of the debt. In our case, go figure, more bad stuff happened. Fifteen months later we’re still paying for that financed water heater and sorting through the accumulated interest.

The White House has recycled DOE Secretary Granholm’s talking point about consumers saving around $1,000 over the lifetime of the heat pump water heaters, but don’t be surprised if they quietly walk back the projected consumer savings like just happened with the Department of Energy’s report on gas stove regulations.

Regardless of whether one device or another saves my family money month to month by being more energy-efficient, regulators don’t know what’s going on in my life or my bank account.

Consumers will buy the products they need when they need them and in the case of expensive appliances, that probably just means adding to their debt. Consumers truly save money when they can afford the products they buy and get to choose from a wide range of appliances on the market.

We’ll manage our home, Secretary Granholm, you manage yours.

Originally published here

Neue Studie: Von Deutschlands Fehlern lernen – Energiesicherheit in der Schweiz

Das Consumer Choice Center (CCC), eine globale Konsumentenorganisation, hat seine neueste Policy Note zur Energiesicherheit in der Schweiz veröffentlicht. Die Arbeit wurde von Fred Roeder, Emil Panzaru, Frederic Jollien, Bill Wirtz und Luca Bertoletti verfasst und betont die Bedeutung von Technologieneutralität und Offenheit in der Energiepolitik.

Laut der Studie ist es anmassend und ineffektiv, konkrete Ziele zur schrittweisen Abschaffung bestimmter Energiequellen festzulegen. Stattdessen argumentieren die Autoren, dass technologische Innovationen und die Wahlmöglichkeiten der Konsumenten, die Schlüssellösungen sind, um sowohl die Energieversorgungssicherheit als auch die Nutzung vielversprechender und kosteneffizienter Energiequellen sicherzustellen. Deutschlands gescheiterte und kostspielige Energiewende sollte eine Warnung für den Standort Schweiz sein.

Roeder betont, dass Politiker aufhören sollten, fossile Brennstoffe für Autos, Heizsysteme und die Kernenergie verbieten zu wollen. Er empfiehlt, die Entscheidung zur Abschaltung der verbleibenden vier Atomreaktoren in der Schweiz rückgängig zu machen und Bewilligungen für neue Kernkraftwerke zu erteilen. Ausserdem wird die Unterstützung vielversprechender Durchbrüche in der Kernenergie, wie beispielsweise kleiner modulare Reaktoren, gefordert.

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Government Interference in Energy, Gaming Is Harming PA

Small businesses throughout Pennsylvania have faced many hardships over the past few years, ranging from supply-chain bottlenecks to overbearing bureaucratic mandates. And the toll has not gone unnoticed, as evidenced by President Joe Biden’s visit to the state shortly after taking office. 

During his March 2021 visit, President Biden noted that some 400,000 businesses in the state were facing closure. His policies, however, have not helped: the administration’s 2023 budget proposal does little to alleviate burdens for Pennsylvania business owners. 

In fact, the Biden administration has called for increasing taxes on residents and businesses even though Pennsylvanians already pay one of the nation’s highest tax ratesHigher gasoline prices are also likely, given that Biden is pushing new energy regulations that will inhibit alternative energy supply. Gas prices in Pennsylvania are already among the highest in the U.S., and state residents’ home heating billshit record highs at the end of last year.

All of this explains why the state’s natural gas reserves should be leveraged. A recent Wall Street Journal article credits natural gas for keeping energy bills manageable during this hot summer; and for Pennsylvania residents, natural gas is beneficial not only for lowering energy costs but also for driving economic growth. Pennsylvania’s total natural gas storage capacity is the fourth-largest in the nation, at about 763 billion cubic feet, and fracking generates substantial economic spillover effects, providing jobs and investment opportunities.

In addition to infringing upon energy supply, the Biden administration is also interfering with private business deals – most recently within the gaming sector, another important industry for Pennsylvania. 

Recently, Biden’s Federal Trade Commission chair, Lina Kahn, sought to block Microsoft’s acquisition of game developer Activision-Blizzard. Fortunately, the FTC’s case fell short in court, and Microsoft’s Xbox users can look forward to better options when subscribing to its Game Pass plans.

The Microsoft-Activision deal improves gaming choices for consumers and also helps elevate Microsoft’s status in the global gaming market. Tencent, headquartered in China, and Sony, based in Japan, presently dominate the gaming realm.

Microsoft’s acquisition of Activision-Blizzard is an important step for Pennsylvania’s economy since, according to Fortune magazine, Pennsylvania is one of the top 10 states for video-game development. The state’s gaming sector is thought to be worth over $80 million locally. It is alarming that Khan and the Biden administration sought to stifle America’s competitiveness in this sector, especially when international jurisdictions greenlighted the transaction. When the EU is a better champion for an American firm’s aspirations than our own federal government, something is clearly amiss.

Thanks in part to such restrictive economic policies, Pennsylvania now ranks 44 out of 50 in business environment for economic growth. And, according to the 2023 State Business Tax Climate Index, the state ranks 42 out of 50 for corporate taxes and 33 out of 50 for tax rates overall. Heading into the 2024 presidential election, the Biden administration should recognize Pennsylvania’s political importance and ease regulatory restrictions to allow the state’s residents to prosper.

Originally published here

The ‘Save Our Gas Stoves Act’ is about protecting your consumer choice in the kitchen

WASHINGTON, D.C. — This week, the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on the Save Our Gas Stoves Act (H.R. 1640), a bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Debbie Lesko (AZ-08) and co-sponsored by 63 of her colleagues, standing in support of consumer choice on household cooking appliances. 

The bill would prohibit the Department of Energy from adopting recently proposed rules that would limit what fuel sources consumers can choose from for their cooking implements, with the intended effect of gradually removing gas stoves from the market.

“People know the risks of gas stoves and the cost-benefit analysis that comes with purchasing one. The purpose of having a variety of stoves is to offer users — professional chefs and home cooks alike — the option that fits best with their lifestyle and budget,” said Stephen Kent, spokesman for the Consumer Choice Center. “Rather than policing how we cook our eggs, agencies in Washington should focus on meaningful reforms that would help lower energy costs to spread savings to consumers.”

Recent studies reported by CBS News show that Americans spend at least 400 hours per year in the kitchen. That’s roughly 22,800 hours in the span of an average adult life cooking for yourself. 950 days worth of time spent in the kitchen — close to three years. That time spent in the kitchen should be as fulfilling as possible. 

“The idea behind the Save Our Stoves Act is simple. If legislators want to ban gas stoves and limit consumer choice on cooktops, they’ll have to put their name on it instead of passing the buck to unelected and unaccountable officials at the Department of Energy,” added Kent, “Support of the Save Our Stoves Act sends a message that the DOE has overstepped its authority in attempting to limit the lifestyle choices of consumers in the privacy of their own homes.” 

 ***CCC’s Stephen Kent is available to speak with media contacts on consumer regulations and consumer choice issues. Please send inquiries to stephen@consumerchoicecenter.org***

The CCC represents consumers in over 100 countries across the globe. We closely monitor regulatory trends in Ottawa, Washington, Brussels, Geneva, and other hotspots of regulation and inform and activate consumers to fight for #ConsumerChoice. Learn more at consumerchoicecenter.org.

The War Over Gas Stoves Is Arguably Just the Beginning

Gas stove bans made headlines earlier this year, and caused significant uproar. Over concerns about climate change, and air quality, the U.S Consumer Product Safety Commission hinted that gas stoves are dangerous and could be banned. Although the Commission later walked those comments back, the debate over gas stoves unfolded, and now New York State has set the table for a gas stove phase out, eliminating these appliances from being built in new residential buildings.  

As it stands right now, 3 states, and 26 cities have passed gas stove phase out plans, while 20 states have banned such bans, preemptively stopping cities from creating “all electric” building codes. 

But the war over your kitchen appliances doesn’t end with gas stoves.

In fact, Maine, through proposed regulations on PFAS, are taking the debate over appliances to the next level. PFAS are man made chemicals, used in a variety of products like microchips, medical devices, waterproof clothing and non-stick cookware. These chemicals can pose a threat to consumers, depending on the circumstances, with the most famous instance being when Dupont criminally dumped these chemicals into water sources.  Maine, in an attempt to limit exposure to PFAS, irrespective of consumer risk, is set to enact a ban on all products which contain intentionally added PFAS by 2030.

Sounds good right? No one wants the products in their homes to be dangerous to our health. It certainly seems like a good idea if all you consider are the headlines, or even worse the rants of late night comedian John Oliver. But, as with everything, the devil is in the details, because as it stands now, most of your appliances in your kitchen would be banned in Maine if nothing changes to the legislation.

Yes, you read that right. Pretty much every appliance you have in your kitchen relies on PFAS in some way shape or form. And ironically, for legislators at least, the use of PFAS in these circumstances are not just better for the environment, but they present no risk for consumer health.

Take refrigerators for example. Modern fridges use HFO (hydrofluoroolefin), which is technically PFAS, and would be subject to the ban in Maine. This is, to put it mildly, a disaster in the making.

The use of HFO for fridges is a huge net benefit for consumer safety and the environment. Historically, refrigeration was only possible by using ammonia and methyl chloride, which are toxic to humans. Understandably that is concerning. 

Then, as technology advanced, refrigeration was made possible by the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), but those heavily depleted the ozone. Another big problem. That paved the way for HCFCs (hydrochlorofluorocarbons) in the 1990s, which still depleted the ozone, then HFCs (hydrofluorocarbons) but those significantly contributed to global warming. That is where HFO came into use, which not only have no ozone-depleting potential, but they also represent 0.1% of the Global Warming Potential of previously used HFCs. They’re also low in toxicity and generally non-flammable. 

This is undeniably an upgrade from the days of ammonia cooling, which if humans are exposed to is toxic, causes severe skin burns, and is toxic to aquatic life.

Now supporters of the ban celebrate this as a win, citing that refrigeration can be done with “natural refrigerants”, i.e. CO2 or ammonia. For ammonia, there are good reasons why industry moved on decades ago, as already mentioned. And for CO2, well that isn’t a net benefit for the environment. Target, for example, compared two models for refrigeration, one using HFCs (which have high global warming potential), and one using CO2, and found that the CO2 fridges used 20% more energy. And for systems that use modern HFOs, they found an average annual decrease in energy consumption of 3% when compared to systems using HFCs. The idea that these refrigerants are viable alternatives to the modern use of HFO’s just doesn’t hold up, certainly not if climate change or consumer safety is a serious priority. Legislators need to avoid falling for a naturalistic fallacy.

But now, if lawmakers in Maine have their way, modern fridges are just not an option anymore, and reverting to older technologies like the ones listed above carry a huge list of potential dangers. 

The war over gas stoves was just the beginning. If more states like Maine go rogue creating opaque rules, consumers are in for a world of pain. Everyday items like fridges, or air conditioning units, will have to revert to the dangerous chemicals of distant memory, giving consumers poorer products that are potentially risky.

Originally published here

The Gas-Powered Banning Bandwagon: Why Politicians Should Leave Leaf Blowers Alone

According to studies on motivation, autonomy, mastery, and purpose are key driversof human behavior. And those embodying an entrepreneurial mindset will capitalize on their desire to create by leveraging networks and opportunities as they arise from the marketplace.

Consumer interests and consumption patterns serve as powerful signals regarding what is of value, and economic pressures ensure that what is pursued is worth producing.

Unfortunately, some innovations are being demanded by politicians, not markets. Take, for example, advancements in electric and battery-powered tools. Such machinery has been gaining significant traction over the past few decades, as iterations and adjustments have occurred through learning by doing.

Major benefits of battery-powered equipment include reduced noise and reduced emissions. As such, for landscapers, battery-powered leaf blowers seem to be an intriguing option. These types of blowers improve working conditions (no need for ear protection or concerns for breathing gas fumes all day), improve workflow (no concerns with disturbances at odd hours), and appease customers who are environmentally conscious.

The disadvantages, however, still outweigh the positives, given that battery blowers are less effective and rather costly compared to those that are gas-powered. For the time being, battery blowers only make sense for homeowners with light maintenance needs.

Be that as it may, industry interests and product improvements are creating incentives for battery options to become the standard choice over time, but government officials are demanding that the time for change is now.

It’s been a little over a year since the District of Columbia phased out gas blowers due to both noise and air pollution. Cities and states have gotten into the act too, banning gas-powered leaf blowers despite the fact that battery-powered blowers increase costs to both landscapers and their customers. Moreover, inefficient leaf cleanup can also create environmental costs due to storm water management matters.

Read the full text here

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