Delaware Climate Plan misses on facts and policy path

Posted on 02-14-2022

by David T. Stevenson, February 4, 2022
Center for Energy & Environmental Policy
Newark, DE — Every written comment on Delaware’s Climate Action Plan starts out repeating the same unsupported “facts” and ends promoting the same poor policy choices. Action plan statements are corrected below, followed by a discussion of better policy choices.

Temperatures have risen 2 degrees Fahrenheit since 1895 (56.75° to 58.65° in 2021)- In fact, temperatures have been rising since about 1850 after a 2 degree drop during the preceding 150 years in a period known as the Little Ice Age. Global temperatures have risen 1.2° since 1977 after several decades of cooling. We note temperatures rose 0.7° between 1911 and 1940. Manmade carbon dioxide did not begin to accumulate at a significant rate until the 1950s and ’60s. Any temperature increase before then would have been from natural causes, not CO2. Perhaps half the recent temperature rise is from natural factors.

The Lewes tide gauge shows 1 foot of sea level rise since 1900 – yes, sea level has risen, but about half that increase is attributable to land subsidence, not sea level rise. Subsidence is a natural occurrence. Global tide gauge and satellite data show a sea level rise of 7″ over the last century. That rate hasn’t changed much during decades of rising and falling temperatures. It appears we can expect a similar rise in the future, and we will have to adapt to that, such as with dikes and raised roads and buildings where needed.

 

Models predict temperatures could rise 4.5 degrees by mid-century and precipitation may rise 10% – Computer models used in United Nations predictions run much hotter than real temperature data over the last three decades and will likely not be any more accurate in the future. Using actual data (not simulated) from two satellite systems backed up by weather balloons, temperatures have been rising at 0.25 ° F per decade over the last four decades. This means global temperatures will rise 2.5° F with a doubling of atmospheric CO2, meeting a United Nations established goal with no change in current emission rates.

 

A stated Delaware goal is to reduce emissions by 26 to 28% by 2025, and we agree that goal will be met, technically. Actually, the goal has been achieved by shifting electric generation emissions to other states along with shifting energy intense manufacturing jobs elsewhere as well.

Delaware adopted aggressive goals for adding wind and solar power and a tax on in state electric generation emissions. Consequently, electric power prices rose about 10%. Delaware has lost a steel mill, chemical plants, and even a data center that moved to other states for lower electric rates. At the same time, in state power generation has fallen from 78% to 33% since 2016, while total electric demand remained the same. Both of these trends simply moved emissions out of state and had no impact on global emissions.

The Climate Action Plan calls for more of the same with an even higher tax on electric generation and even more wind and solar, including high cost rooftop solar, offshore wind, and even more expensive battery backup. This is exactly the plan recently adopted in Virginia. The Virginia utility commission calculated electricity costs would rise 60% by 2030, or $800 a year for residential customers and by millions for large industrial customers. Our analysis showed the same carbon dioxide reduction could be met at one-eighth the cost of adding carbon dioxide capture to existing coal and natural gas facilities. The carbon capture option leaves reliable generation in place instead of replacing it with intermittent wind and solar. Longer term zero emission, reliable power will likely come from advanced nuclear reactors.

A second major component of the Climate Action Plan would add a carbon tax on gasoline to subsidize the purchase of electric vehicles costing up to twice as much as conventional vehicles. Our analysis shows the carbon tax would raise gasoline prices, further adding more pain to lower income drivers who can’t afford expensive EVs and wouldn’t actually reduce emissions. Our analysis shows electric vehicles don’t save much emissions when the emissions of mining and refining of metals needed to produce 1000 pound lithium batteries, charging with electricity from carbon dioxide emitting sources, and the 21% loss of electricity from transmission and conversion to DC power are considered.

Meanwhile, significant real motor vehicle emission reductions are available if people buy more gasoline/battery hybrid vehicles that are 50% more efficient at a modestly higher purchase price that is paid back in as little as two years from gasoline savings. No subsidies needed.

A third major action plan component calls for the electrification of buildings to replace natural gas and propane. This would be counterproductive. Electric heat pumps become inefficient when outdoor temperatures fall below about 40 degrees and are ineffective at 25-30 degrees. That is when natural gas and propane efficiently kick in. Natural gas and propane are also more efficient in tankless hot water systems and generally preferred for cooking.

Delaware can continue to move toward a less carbon intense future in a more measured way using techniques that continue to offer low cost, reliable power.