Energy Secretary Steven Chu is claiming that scientific evidence for climate change is as convincing as ever — a comment that arrives just as controversies surrounding the renewable energy industry and new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) rules face staunch opposition from Republicans and industry groups.
"Over the last couple of years, the dispassionate, hard science evidence has been mounting, increasing," Chu claimed at an energy forum sponsored by the New York Times. The Energy Secretary acknowledged that "we don’t understand everything," but that evolving weather patterns and other climate-related factors are leading to a sea level rise.
Chu contended that the vast majority of scientists believe global warming is a serious problem, and that countless studies show that environmental destruction is already running its course on the earth. One common assertion, for instance, is that warming trends are wiping out the polar bears in the Arctic and northern Canada. But as has been the case with other popular arguments coming from global warming alarmists, there have been countless studies that have refuted these catastrophic doomsayer scenarios. For example, a survey released earlier this month seemed to prove the polar bear argument false:
The debate about climate change and its impact on polar bears has intensified with the release of a survey that shows the bear population in a key part of northern Canada is far larger than many scientists thought, and might be growing.
The number of bears along the western shore of Hudson Bay, believed to be among the most threatened bear subpopulations, stands at 1,013 and could be even higher, according to the results of an aerial survey released Wednesday by the Government of Nunavut. That’s 66 per cent higher than estimates by other researchers who forecasted the numbers would fall to as low as 610 because of warming temperatures that melt ice faster and ruin bears’ ability to hunt. The Hudson Bay region, which straddles Nunavut and Manitoba, is critical because it’s considered a bellwether for how polar bears are doing elsewhere in the Arctic.
There has been rising opposition from Republicans and industry groups over the debacle, particularly as the federal government creates elaborate plans to "curb" the effects of climate change. New EPA regulations and costly government-subsidized green energy projects have posed serious threats to both the economy and taxpayers’ pocketbooks.
The Obama administration has accepted a prominent role in subsidizing green-energy technology, particularly in the area of solar power. "Don’t you want to be selling rather than buying? You don’t even have to think about [climate] to say there are new technologies coming," Secretary Chu said Wednesday. "It is our lead to lose. We are still the greatest innovative country in the world and here is a worldwide market that is going to grow and grow and grow."
Of course, Chu’s remarks come at a delicate time for the administration, which is enduring a hailstorm of GOP attacks over the bankruptcy of Solyndra, the Silicon Valley solar panel-maker that harvested a $535-million federal loan guarantee in 2009. But Solyndra is not the sole transgressor when it comes to such taxpayer-funded boondoggles.
The Energy Department under Steven Chu’s reign has a dismal track record, as numerous green energy companies have either filed bankruptcy or are currently in financial disarray, after reaping millions of dollars in government assistance. A CBS News study released earlier this year, for instance, presented documents showing that 12 green energy companies are in fiscal disorder after collectively receiving $6.5 billion in government assistance. Five of these companies — Solyndra, SpectraWatt, Beacon Power, Evergreen Solar, and Eastern Energy — have already filed for bankruptcy, leaving taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars.
Still, the administration announced last week that it plans to offer more taxpayer-backed loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. "The Department expects to begin issuing conditional commitments over the next several months after completing a rigorous internal and external review of each application," Energy Department loan program director David Frantz wrote to congressional leaders on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Moreover, in underscoring "President Obama’s commitment to energy security," Chu announced on Wednesday a new research competition "that will engage our country’s brightest scientists, engineers and entrepreneurs in improving the performance and safety of energy storage devices, including hybrid energy storage modules being developed by the Department of Defense for military applications." Energy.gov explains the new program, which has a price tag of $30 million:
Through its Advanced Research Projects Agency — Energy (ARPA-E), the Energy Department is funding the "Advanced Management and Protection of Energy-storage Devices" (AMPED) program, to seek out transformational, breakthrough energy storage technologies that are too risky for private-sector investment but have the potential to translate science into quantum leaps in energy technology, form the foundation for entirely new industries, and have large commercial impacts.
Despite the collapse of Solyndra, and so many other taxpayer-funded energy projects — combined with shaky evidence that climate change is in fact a "serious problem" — the Obama administration is pressing on with more government spending and more environmental regulations that threaten the viability of American businesses, and some industries altogether.
As the public becomes more aware of these impacts, there has been a rising resistance to such measures. But Chu told New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman, "I hope the United States does not lose its appetite for moving forward."
Photo of Energy Secretary Steven Chu: AP Images