On the Blog

Twin ‘Botched’ Government Programs: Obamacare and Common Core

Somewhat Reasonable - March 28, 2014, 10:00 AM

President Obama has provided us with many classic statements worthy of making the “famous last words” list.  For instance, on September 26Obama said, “…most of the stories you’ll hear about how ObamaCare just can’t work is just not based on facts.  Every time they have predicted something not working, it’s worked.”  About a month later, with hyped media coverage and much fanfare, HeathCare.org was finally launched and open to enrollment.  Within hours, it became apparent there were critical failures in the system, resulting in a disastrous computer crash and one more obvious embarrassing failure for the president.

This past Sunday, March 23, just happened to be the 4-year anniversary of Obamacare, called by some as the president’s signature domestic policy achievement.  Despite the wishful thinking of Obama, his Administration, and many Washington Democrats, the American people have now realized the computer crash was just the beginning of disappointments and deceptive advertising.  Folks all through America are getting hit with higher premiums and fewer choices, we are not always able to keep our doctor if we like our doctor, and seniors on Medicare are frightened due to mounting uncertainly and confusion over what kind of care they will receive.

The American people certainly aren’t celebrating Obamacare’s 4th anniversary.  The results of the latest Pew Research survey show 53% of respondents disapproving of Obamacare, while only 41% approve. Opposition to Obamacare is just one point shy of the poll’s all-time high.

Meanwhile, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are on record to spend $52 million more for a final media push before the end of the enrollment on March 31.  Worse yet, consider that an estimated $684 million has been spent on publicity, marketing, and advertising the Affordable Care At, according to The Associated Press.

Even so, signups for Obamacare have fallen short of the Administrations’ original goal of seven million, which has now been lowered to a hoped for six million. Arguably worst of all, the system will only sustain itself if young, healthy adults pay into it, but it appears to be the opposite.  The healthy find it too expensive and a waste of money, while those with known medical problems and staggering expenses are taking advantage of the program.

Isn’t it enough to have one botched government program that adversely affects many more Americans than it promised to help?   The Obama administration is also responsive for launching the highly controversial Common Core.

While everyone has heard about Obamacare, this is not the case with Common Core, a United Nations UNESCO global education agenda.  The Tides Foundation in conjunction with UNESCO and Bill Gates of Microsoft had Common Core prepared prior to Obama’s election and once elected, the funding was incorporated into the Stimulus bill of 2009 and funded without knowledge or consent of Congress as usual.  Most telling is that Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education, is a strong proponent of UNESCO.  A “Race to the Top” grant program was used to help persuade the States into signing onto the Curriculum sight unseen in 2010.   If states did not agree to implement the Common core Curriculum, the education grant monies for the States was withheld.

With Common Core curriculum, students will no longer be taught math, literature, history, science or social studies the same way we were taught. Much of this nation’s history has been distorted or eliminated by the authors of Common Core.  It is a one size fits all approach to education which does not address the unique individuality of each child.  Most disturbing is that the progressive movement will flourish through the indoctrination of students, who will be lured into accepting an extreme leftist ideology.  I am not suggesting that this will happen in the U.S., but millions of German young people were won over to Nazism in the classroom. The indoctrination of students is not new; it has happened in Germany and continues in Middle Eastern countries today.

As with most every government program, there are those who stand to make substantial profits from it.  Realizing the escalating controversy over Common Core, those who will benefit from it have begun promoting it through expensive advertisements. They are countered by pockets of parents and concerned citizens all through America who are demanding their state legislators stop implementing Common Core.   Perhaps most significant is the growing number of teachers who are highly critical of the Common Core curriculum and have begun speaking out against it.   Their concern forced the attention of the National Education Association (NEA) president, Dennis Van Roekel, who recently made the startling confession that Common Core was indeed botched.  The battle rages on.

It was on February 19, 2014, when NEA president Dennis Van Roekel posted a letter to union members at NEAToday.org, breaking with his administration pals by admitting that Common core implementation had been botched. This followed intense teachers’ representative dissatisfaction with Common Core during the 2013 NEA convention at which delegates from the floor introduced two measures, both of which failed to pass.  The measures condemned Obama’s education policies outright and were critical of Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.

Teachers, parent, and concerned citizens knew several years ago that Common Core was seriously flawed, but no one wanted to hear those complaints.  Those who did complain were often labeled as extremists, malcontents, and nut-jobs (Thorner spoke several time during public comment time in front of the principal, superintendent and board members of Lake Forest District #115, but to no avail.  All are staunch pro-Common Core supporters.)  Obama’s Secretary of Education Arne Duncan even said he found it “fascinating” that Common Core opponents were “white suburban moms who all of a sudden discovered their child isn’t as brilliant as they thought they were. . . .”  Some wonder if Duncan is equally as fascinated now that the one finding fault with Common Core is his union ally.

In his letter Van Roekel maintains that “scuttling these standards” is a bad idea, but still maintains that “the union wants states to make a strongcourse correction and move forward.”

Van Roekel further suggests allowing teachers “time to field-test the standards in classrooms to determine what works and what needs adjustment.”  As standard have started to be implemented in 46 states and the District of Columbia doesn’t it seem a little late to be field testing?

According to the NGA (National Governors Association) the CCSSO (Council of Chief State School Officers), and their agent, Achieve, Inc., teacher input had been included.  Not so claims Van Roekel who wrote:

“The very people expected to deliver universal access to high quality standards with high quality instruction have not had the opportunity to share their expertise and advice about how to make [CC] implementation work for all students, educators, and parents.”

Van Roekel’s letter ends with this proclamation:

“There’s too much at stake for our children and our country to risk getting this wrong.  That is exactly what Common Core opponents have been saying for years.”

On Wednesday, March 26, State Representative Dwight Kay (R-Glen Carbon) presented HR 543 before the House Elementary & Secondary Education Committee in Springfield. This resolution will urged the Illinois State Board of Education to delay the implementation of Common Core Standards until a study is conducted showing the costs associated with Common Core.

What are the chances Illinois will opt out of the Common Core curriculum as was announced by Governor Mike Pence of Indiana on Tuesday, March 25?  Slim to none, indeed!

Illinois accepted Common Core sight unseen in 2010.  Endorsed wholeheartedly by the Illinois Education Union, Common Core is now being implemented across the state.

Abraham Lincoln is credited with the warning:  “The philosophy of the classroom in one generation will be the philosophy of government in the next”.

Vladimir Lenin, a notorious Russian communist, knew the power of controlling schools and once said, “Give me four years to teach the children and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted.”

Heed Lenin’s declamation and take action if you care about the future of this nation. It is imperative that you take an interest in how and what your children are learning.  If you don’t have children of school age, attend board meeting, ask questions, and be ready to confront school administrators and school boards with facts about the progressive Common Core experiment which was never tried or tested before using children as guinea pigs.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

This Is How The Tea Party Ends

Somewhat Reasonable - March 28, 2014, 1:58 AM

How do political movements end? And how do we assess the impact they had on the political sphere? In the case of the Tea Party, it seems to me that some smart analysts are focusing too much on horserace politics, and less on the bigger picture of how public policy is made.

More than one smart journalist is writing this spring that the less aggressive approach of grassroots groups in this year’s Senate and House primaries means that the Tea Party movement is essentially coming to an end. In a piece at National Journal titled “The Tea Party’s Over”, Josh Kraushaar writes:

2014 is shaping up as the year the Republican establishment is finding its footing. Of the 12 Republican senators on the ballot, six face primary competition, but only one looks seriously threatened: Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi. More significantly, only two House Republicans are facing credible competition from tea-party conservatives: Simpson and Rep. Bill Shuster of Pennsylvania—fewer than the number of conservative House Republicans facing competition from the establishment wing (Reps. Justin Amash, Walter Jones, and Kerry Bentivolio). With filing deadlines already passed in 23 states, it’s hard to see that dynamic changing.

And in a piece at Democracy, Molly Ball writes:

The Tea Party appears to have lost much of the media presence, grassroots energy, organizational backbone, and fundraising clout that powered it in 2010. That’s not to say it couldn’t have an impact in select races, and doesn’t still have vocal proponents in Congress. But where it was once the engine of the GOP base, it is now more properly regarded as one faction among many in the Republican coalition—and a poorly organized, arriviste faction at that. Social conservatives, by comparison, have been organizing within the GOP for years, creating important, lasting grassroots power centers.

I think these analyses aren’t all wrong, but they miss something important that’s actually taken place here. The Tea Party’s success is not gauged by primaries alone. It’s gauged by how much the Tea Party’s priorities become the Republican Party’s priorities.

The Tea Party’s impact in primaries is largely about putting fear into establishment candidates, whether they knock them off or not. It took them two cycles, but the traditional Republican establishment took the right lessons from the Bennett and Lugar losses. Orrin Hatch spent 2011-12 voting lockstep with Mike Lee. Primary threats made Mike Enzi part of the organizing group for the defund push. Pat Roberts is doing his best to don the winger apparel. Lindsey Graham is trying like mad to re-establish his conservative credentials. Thad Cochran is the exception that proves the rule: it’s no accident that a traditional Washington appropriator who hasn’t modified his ways is the most vulnerable GOP Senator this cycle. So if establishment Republicans understand that they are vulnerable in primaries, and have to pretend to be Tea Partiers when they’re in cycle, is that a sign that the Tea Party is dead – or a sign that it’s had a significant political impact?

Within the realm of Senate primaries, there’s not as clear-cut of a field of candidates this time in the challenger side with appropriators on one side and strong limited government types on the other (see Nebraska, where Tea Party folks are split between Sasse and Osborn). And the story hasn’t been finalized in North Carolina or Georgia. But even considering the relatively narrow issue of primaries, it’s clear that establishment guys who run as establishment guys lose: their path to winning is to appeal to the Tea Party, champion opposition to Obamacare, hoist the musket and run as right-wingers. Is the fact Mitch McConnell is winning his primary today because of Rand Paul a sign of Tea Party weakness? I think not.

This also speaks to the generational point, where we see Tea Partiers elected to lower level offices rise to take more prominent positions, backed by a new infrastructure of groups which can offset traditional fundraising routes. Think about what the roster in the Senate looks like in 2020, after the next two or three cycles. Senators like Chambliss, Cochran, Grassley, Hatch, Isakson, McCain, Roberts, Shelby, and Wicker will all be gone. What will their replacements look like? If the answer is more Tea Party-friendly and less traditional Grand Old Party, then the Tea Party was an unmitigated success. And there’s no question that of the top ten most public and prominent faces of the next generation of Republican policy leadership in DC, most — Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, Marco Rubio, Mike Lee, Pat Toomey — are all Tea Partiers or Tea Party-friendly. Only Paul Ryan is outside the Tea Party circle of friendship, and they still like him just fine — heck, he used to work for Empower America.

But of course, horserace politics is not the only arena, or even the most important arena, in which the Tea Party has had a huge impact. Votes that were easy are now difficult. Obamacare’s prioritization has been paramount. ExIm reauthorization went from a voice vote, to nine no votes, to 20 no votes (including Mitch McConnell and John Cornyn), and lobbyists are furious that the House Banking Chairman doesn’t care if they reauthorize it. K Street priorities have been dramatically diminished, and Wall Street is frustrated by the increasing willingness of Republicans to take on the big banks – even in their tax plans. A Republican Party yelling about crony capitalism would’ve seemed absurd in 2006 – now, it’s taken for granted.

Ask John Boehner whether he thinks the Tea Party has influenced policy-making in the House. Ask any conservative or libertarian policy wonk if the market for their ideas in Washington and in the states today is the same as it was in 2006. Or look at the Farm Bill, which in the 2000s was a badge of honor for appropriating GOP politicians, and is now passed in the dark of night (with the rhetorical cloak of “reform/cuts”) to avoid to voter scrutiny and anger. Just as with the backlash over earmarks, what has traditionally been typical Washington deal-making is now something Republicans have to sheepishly defend.

It’s a mistake to assume the Tea Party amounts to Washington-based activist groups and a scattered group of primary challengers. As an organic limited government movement motivated by activist citizens outside the beltway, it has had an enormous impact on reshaping the Republican Party and their policy priorities, in forcing traditional politicians to bend to their will, or at least pretend to until they get re-elected. The old framework where the party elders and K Street set economic policy, temper the social/domestic policy preferences of the coalition, and adopt foreign policy generally as circumstances dictate has been thoroughly smashed. In its place is a new reality which the Tea Party created – a reality which has, and will continue to have, a significant impact on the American political sphere for the foreseeable future.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Skepticism on Skeptics

Somewhat Reasonable - March 27, 2014, 4:58 PM

I think most man-made global warming skeptics are not realistic. We have to understand: It doesn’t matter if we are right to the people that are demonizing us. By that I mean this idea that somehow we are winning when the powers that be continue to shut down the very sources that would make our nation strong and self dependent.

They could care less about what is right and wrong concerning what is really driving the climate. If you actually cared, why would you make the statements we see coming out of many of the political elite in this nation, given data that at the very least is questioning their ideas, and in many cases, going the opposite direction? You wouldn’t. It’s because they don’t care about all this, except that it’s a smokescreen to continue accomplishing their real mission that, unfortunately, most of the people that really care about what is right and wrong are not involved in.

You have another group that cares that they have become important because of this. Before this issue came to life, can you name one climatologist that had “rock star” status? Yes, plenty of weathermen, from local to national; but for climatologists, it’s like this was their chance to get on the big stage. Heroes and enemies of the people, dispatches from the front lines of the “Climate Wars,” tales of storms for grandchildren – its like some study in delusions of grandeur.

Then there is the money behind it. I have no objection to developing energy sources that are based on the sun and wind. Personally I think it should be done at a grassroots level first – businesses and homes – empowering the individual to control his own fate better. But I don’t care where energy comes from because you need a forecast for planning and that is what I do. So for my own “selfish” purposes I should be all for this. What is not to love about an energy company that needs to know not only what the seasonal forecast is, or demands next week, but whether the on-site weather for their operation is optimum every single day? It’s a meteorologist’s dream come true!

I do care, though, when I see that we need to develop the technology that is not there yet for it, and yet we are forcing a solution down people’s throats. It’s very simple to me: Have the economy boom and set aside a bit of the profits for developing these other idealistic, cleaner and more efficient sources – a practical, not panic-driven approach. But it’s a perfect storm of demonization and disinformation. I am still waiting for my huge check from the sources that are supposed to be paying me to spread all these lies. Yet if you follow the money, the path doesn’t lead to me or anyone I know personally in this, and I know plenty. But I am all for any economical source of energy, including the development of these sources that in the rush to demonize people on my side, portray us as anti-science.

I would like, for once, someone to show who is on the payroll of all these big evil empires that supposedly are seeking to stop all this. I suspect the strawmen they create would burn like paper on fire if they had to reveal what they supposedly know.

In my opinion, here is the real issue behind all this: By standing for what you believe in, you are a threat to the social order they cherish – the “let’s all get together/along” mentality (providing they are in charge). The very idea that a single person with a simple answer based in truth can challenge them, yet alone be correct, is a huge threat to the social order they seek to be in charge of (and in many ways are now). So the fight here is not about whether Earth is warming or cooling ; it’s about something I think is far more sinister – the destruction of the will of the individual to stand for what he believes in. If we understand that, then you see the so-called fight is about something they will use to achieve their ends, no matter what the means.

Given all the evidence out there, what other conclusion can one come too? The fact is that men of good will are at a disadvantage if the fight is not what they believe it is. So all the polls in the world mean nothing to people who really don’t care about the answer, but only care that they get their way.

I want you to think about this winter, unforecasted by so many and like last winter, that keeps dragging on: Record ice cover on the Great Lakes right now at 70% coverage, and more snow coming this week in much of the northern tier of the nation as yet another warmup is getting beat back (relative to the season). Many of the signs of colder times across the globe always have compensating warmer areas somewhere else. But no matter what happens, everything now becomes a talking point for these people to push their agenda. And so the science here is a red herring.

I am just as skeptical about some mythical idea that we are winning the global warming debate as global warming itself. Why? Because the side that we are “debating” could care less about what the climate is actually doing. That is not their goal, and the so called scientific debate is merely a useful side issue to them.

While Rome is burning, Nero is fiddling (with science).

[First published at the Patriot Post.]

Categories: On the Blog

Duke Energy’s Clean Coal Plant Uses More Energy Than It Produces

Somewhat Reasonable - March 27, 2014, 11:00 AM

NLPC has detailed extensively the wastefulness and folly of spending billions of taxpayer and consumer dollars to subsidize wind energy, solar energy and electric vehicles, all in the name of fighting climate change.

But the complicated, uneconomical boondoggle that Duke Energy built inEdwardsport, Ind. so as to burn coal gasrather than coal – and thus produce less carbon dioxide than a traditional coal plant – may be the dumbest idea to fight imaginary global warming to date. If you swallow the alarmists’ premise and “solutions,” the plant so far is a joke, as recent evidence shows it is using more energy than it produces.

Edwardsport was supposed to cost $1.9 billion but that estimate was about $1.6 billion short. The project has hacked and wheezed since 2006 under evidence of cronyismcorruption, conflicts of interest, cost overruns, delays, waste, and mismanagement, but at least it became operational in June – for six days. Then it broke down, and intermittently juiced the grid for the remainder of 2013. Duke was only able to extract 37 percent of Edwardsport’s maximum capacity during the period,according to the Indianapolis Star. Hoosier State customers are paying up to 16 percent more for the privilege – a rate hike pretty much cemented into their bills last week by a state Court of Appeals decision.

Technology is supposed to improve over time, apparently except in the case of electric vehicle batteries and Southwest Indiana power plants. As the Indianapolis Business Journal reported, in an extremely cold January, the art-of-the-state coal gasifier eked out only four percent of its capacity.

“Edwardsport generated 19,644 megawatt hours of electricity,” theJournal reported, “enough to power about 20,000 homes, in one of the most frigid months on record, according to a Feb. 28 filing with the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. The new plant, at its maximum capacity, could have generated almost 460,000 megawatt hours in January.”

And now, in the latest battle Edwardsport has taken against global warming, the plant was found to have used more energy from September to November than it produced. The Business Journal reported earlier this month that Duke is trying to recover $1.5 million in fuel costs related to the plant, which is being challenged by Indiana’s Office of the Utility Consumer Counselor, which is supposed to advocate on behalf of utility customers.

“We’ve never seen an episode of negative generation as large as this,” said Anthony Swinger, a spokesman for the counselor’s office.

With all the failures and shortcomings, groups representing consumers and environmentalists have asked the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission for an investigation. Duke argued that it already reports regularly on the plant’s operations to the IURC and therefore an investigation is unnecessary.

A settlement has limited the costs of the build-up of the plant for customers to $2.6 billion, while Duke’s shareholders are to absorb $900 million. But now that Edwardsport is officially “online,” critics fear that repairs and maintenance that should be charged against the original design of the plant, will instead be added as new costs for customers under routine ongoing upkeep. And with the Court of Appeals decision, the IURC does not appear willing to revisit the settlement over division of costs.

“The commission gave Duke a blank check for a science project,” said Kerwin Olson, executive director of the Citizens Action Coalition, to industry publication SNL Energy.

Duke might not be feeling the pressure from the activist groups as much had the company not engendered distrust throughout the development and construction process. As costs skyrocketed, CEO Jim Rogers sought out help from then-Gov. Mitch Daniels in search of some kind of intervention between Duke and the contractors it felt should absorb some costs, General Electric and Bechtel. According to documents, Rogers also pursued financial support in Washington from federal programs intended for “clean coal” technology development. And two Duke officials were fired after the successful recruitment of an Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission counsel to join Duke, while the lawyer still oversaw cases that concerned the utility. That attorney, Scott Storms, was reprimanded last month by the Indiana Supreme Court for his misconduct in the scandal.

In early 2012 the Office of Utility Consumer Counselor was sharply critical of Duke’s management of Edwardsport. According to The Star, the advocate agency believed Edwardsport illustrated “a compelling case of a company that, through arrogance or incompetence, has unnecessarily cost ratepayers millions of dollars and has set back the public’s trust in our regulatory process.” OUCC characterized Duke’s management of the project as “woefully unqualified” and its methods led to “unnecessarily complicated” engineering and construction costs.

“Duke has not demonstrated any budgetary constraints on this project,”testified Barbara A. Smith, director of OUCC’s resource planning and communications division. “There appears to be a lack of responsibility or accountability on the part of those causing these multimillion-dollar cost overruns.”

Nevertheless the IURC has determined that Edwardsport is a necessity to meet Indiana’s electricity demand in the future, and customers will pay for most of it. Duke has said it will take 15 months to get it to full operation. With energy intake vs. output in an upside-down situation after six months, how realistic can that be?

 

[Originally published at NLPC]

Categories: On the Blog

Learning from Extremists’ Tactics, Job Creators File a Lawsuit Against the Federal Government

Somewhat Reasonable - March 27, 2014, 10:00 AM

For years environmentalists have usurped individual private property rights and thwarted economic development. Now, thanks to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, it appears that the job creators may have finally learned something from the extreme tactics of groups, like the Wild Earth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which have been using the courts to their advantage by filing lawsuits against the federal government.

On Monday, March 17, on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA), Pruitt filed a lawsuit against the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The lawsuit alleges the “FWS engaged in ‘sue and settle’ tactics when the agency agreed to settle a lawsuit with a national environmental group over the [Endangered Species Act] listing status of several animal species, including the Lesser Prairie Chicken.”

The Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) is especially important, as the FWS is required—based on the conditions set forth in the settlement of a 2010 lawsuit—to make a determination, explicitly, on the LPC by March 31, 2014. A “threatened” listing would restrict the land use in the bird’s 40-million-acre, five-state habitat: Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas. The affected area includes private, state, and federal lands—lands rich in energy resources, ranch and farm land—plus, municipal infrastructure, such as water pipelines and electric transmission.

Understanding the negative impact a listing would have, industry (oil and gas, electric transmission and distribution, pipelines, agriculture and wind energy), states, and the FWS have collaborated to develop a historic range-wide plan (RWP) to demonstrate that the LPC and its prairie habitat can be protected without needing to list it. The RWP includes habitat management goals and conservation practices to be applied throughout the LPC’s range. According to a press release about the Oklahoma law suit, the cooperative effort has spent $26 million dollars on the voluntary conservation plan—which would be more than enough to protect restore LPC habitat, as well as to develop an elaborate state-of-the-art LPC hatchery. RWP enrollees are optimistic the FWS can cite the conservation commitment as justification for a decision not to list the LPC as a threatened species.

A DEPA spokesman states: “this designation could disrupt drilling and exploration on hundreds of thousands of very promising oil and gas lands in this part of the country.” The CBD has made no secret of their disdain for oil and gas extraction and has filed many successful lawsuits specifically to block development.

Pruitt says: “the sue-and-settle timelines force the FWS to make determinations without a thorough review of the science. This violates the original statute requiring sound science before listing species.”

Stephen Moore, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, explains: “Under the Obama administration, the feds have entered into a consent agreement with the environmentalists to rush forward a judgment on an unprecedented number of species. A 2012 Chamber of Commerce study found record numbers of such ‘sue and settle’ cases under Obama.” Pruitt adds: “Under President Obama, we have had sue and settle on steroids.”

Political Impacts

The “rush” as Moore calls it, is being driven by the desire to get the decisions made under the friendly Obama Administration—which may appease the environmental base while, unwittingly, hurting Democrats in the 2014 elections and handing the Senate to Republicans.

The LPC decision impacts five western states, from which even Democrat Senators, aware of the potential economic impact, sent a letter to the FWS asking to delay listing the LPC as threatened. The next big listing is the Greater Sage Grouse (GSG) with a habitat covering eleven western states. If the LPC is listed, after the groundbreaking efforts to preserve its habitat, there will be no similar cooperation on the GSG. The GSG will surely be listed—triggering a modern Sage Brush Rebellion and costing Democrats the Senate (and some House seats, too).

The Democrats are in a bind. The rushed listings are being forced by the environmental base, which is myopically focused on the anti-fossil-fuel (job-killing) agenda of restricting oil-and-gas development on western lands and isn’t looking at the bigger political consequences.

It appears the decision has been made. Sources tell me that Dan Ashe, Director of the FWS, has called a meeting on Capitol Hill to brief the stakeholders prior to Thursday’s announcement. If he decides to list the LPC, Pruitt’s lawsuit could be just the first shot that ignites the new rebellion pushing states to take control of the lands within their borders.

Kent Holsinger, a Colorado-based attorney specializing in Endangered Species Act (ESA) issues, told me: “State wildlife management is much more efficient and effective than federal listings. Oklahoma and DEPA should be commended for pushing back on these issues.”

The environmentalists are looking at the end, but not the political means.

Power Shift

For CBD, it isn’t even about the science. Its staff page boasts three times as many attorneys as biologists.

In a High Country News interview with CBD co-founder Kieran Suckling, he explains how their strategy was developed through their first “major victory” over the Mexican wolf.

Previously environmental groups had no leverage with the government, other than saying “pretty please.” In the case of the wolf, groups proposed introducing it onto New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range. The general in charge of the range had no interest. Suckling reports: “The strategy of the wolf coalition was to wait for the general to retire. We decided, let’s just sue instead. It got settled with the Service agreeing to do a wolf study, which led to reintroduction. That was the moment when we looked at it and said, ‘Wow.’ The environmental movement spent a decade going to meetings and demanding action and getting nothing done. They were asking powerful people for something from a position of no power. We realized that we can bypass the officials and sue, and that we can get things done in court.”

Suckling called lawsuits: “one tool in a larger campaign.” He explained: “we use lawsuits to help shift the balance of power from industry and government agencies, toward protecting endangered species. That plays out on many levels. At its simplest, by obtaining an injunction to shut down logging or prevent the filling of a dam, the power shifts to our hands. The Forest Service needs our agreement to get back to work, and we are in the position of being able to powerfully negotiate the terms of releasing the injunction.”

When asked if his lack of a degree in science was a hindrance, he answered: “No” and pointed out that “the professionalization of the environmental movement has injured it greatly.” He added: “I’m more interested in hiring philosophers, linguists and poets. The core talent of a successful environmental activist is not science and law. It’s campaigning instinct.” They operate on emotion, not science.

Sue and Settle

It is these tactics, along with a friendly Obama government, that has led to the “sue and settle” procedure that Pruitt’s lawsuit is hoping to end. The lawsuit is seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of the ESA.” Moore reports: “The relief is intended to overturn designations of dozens of species added to the threatened or endangered list through the ‘sue and settle’ process.”

The Oklahoma lawsuit asserts: “the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act by agreeing in its settlement with Wild Earth Guardians to not consider the statutorily-created ‘warranted but precluded’ category when determining the listing status of the 251 candidate species.” Additionally, the lawsuit states: “the FWS violated the law by agreeing to a truncated timeline to the decision-making process on the listing status of the 251 candidate species, essentially sidestepping the rule making process.”

Pruitt believes that: “because these settlements are taking place without public input, attorneys general are unable to represent the respective interests of their states, businesses, and citizens.” Forbes Contributor Larry Bell agrees: “While the environmental group is given a seat at the table, outsiders who are most impacted are excluded, with no opportunity to object to the settlements.”

Bell describes the “sue and settle” practice—sometimes referred to as “friendly lawsuits”—this way:

“Cozy deals through which far-left radical environmental groups file lawsuits against federal agencies wherein court-ordered “consent decrees” are issued based upon a prearranged settlement agreement they collaboratively craft together in advance behind closed doors. Then, rather than allowing the entire process to play out, the agency being sued settles the lawsuit by agreeing to move forward with the requested action they and the litigants both want.”

In a succinct soliloquy about the LPC and GSG, Fox Business’ Stuart Varney says: “I’ve always been amazed at the ability of a very small, but well-funded, group to get their way using the court system. But, that is what really is happening. The Sage Grouse and the Lesser Prairie Chicken interests are obviously far more important than America’s interest in energy independence.”

Gratefully, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has stepped up to the plate and used the environmentalists’ tactics and filed a lawsuit against the federal government. It will not delay the March 31 deadline for the FWS decision on the LPC, but it could “overturn designations of dozens of species added to the threatened or endangered list through the ‘sue and settle’ process.” It could prevent the unnecessary listing of thousands of other flora and fauna—allowing companies to continue providing the jobs, producing the oil, natural gas, and other commodities such as timber and critical minerals that are so important to America and our energy freedom.

 

[Originally published at Conservative Action Alerts]

Categories: On the Blog

Top Three Barriers to Paying Teachers $90k a Year

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2014, 1:00 PM

Matt Damon made headlines a few years ago when he went on an expletive-laced screed about teachers’ poor (not his word, but close) salaries. It’s personal to him because Damon’s mother is an early childhood education professor.

Let’s agree with Damon that good teachers should earn a lot. The job can be very demanding, and it is crucial to society. So what would it take to pay teachers a great salary — say, something around $90,000 a year or more? That’s actually possible, without raising taxes or adding to the great American debt mountain. Here are three major barriers to that.

High benefits for a select few. When you count benefits, teachers actually make 152 percent of what they could earn in the private sector, according to research by Andrew Biggs and Jason Richwine. The main reason is simple: Government pensions pay far more than private pensions (that’s one reason they’re flat broke at $1.2 trillion in the hole), and typically encourage people to retire after only 30 years of work. But because these pensions typically kick in after teachers have been in the same job for at least five to 10 years, the 55 percent of teachers who move before then essentially get nothing, whereas teachers who manage to stay put really make bank.

Making retirement benefits accrue at a steady pace and allowing them to follow teachers into new jobs would be fairer and in many places give teachers a salary boost, according to several studies.

Administrative bloat. School administrators also make out like bandits in government pension systems. A Missouri study found superintendents contribute 53 percent more to their pensions than a career teacher, but get pension benefits 89 percent higher. That means, as the study authors say, “Novice teachers are subsidizing a handsome payoff to better-paid administrators.”

A stunning study from the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice found that, from 1950 to 2009, the number of nonteaching school staff in the United States increased seven times as much as the number of K-12 students. If the two had increased at the same pace, U.S. taxpayers would have saved $24 billion a year. On average, it would have provided an extra $12,314 per classroom per year. That’s not a bad pay raise.

Union pay scales. Giving in to unions’ demands, most school districts pay teachers according to two, and only two, factors: Credentials and time on the job. The more degrees and certificates a teacher gets, the more she gets paid, sometimes even if the coursework is not related to her job. And each year a teacher stays in the school district gets her a salary boost, whether she has improved or not.

Not paying according to how a particular teacher benefits her students means the best teachers are underpaid, and the extra wages they’re not getting are going to overpay the worst teachers, notes Stanford University economics professor Caroline Hoxby. This pushes the good teachers to leave the profession because they can get better pay elsewhere, and encourages the worst teachers to stay because they’re getting much better pay than they could elsewhere.

Teacher compensation policy matters beyond mere fairness, because good teachers make a huge difference to kids and, therefore, to society and the economy. Having a teacher in the top 5 percent for just one year raises a child’s lifetime earnings by $80,000, reduces her likelihood of becoming a teen mother, and makes her more likely to go to college, according to a blockbuster study of 2.5 million children over 20 years. Having a teacher from the top 20 percent for three to four years in a row would close achievement gaps between rich and poor kids, or between whites and minorities. Such academic gains have huge economic impacts in the aggregate: “the achievement gap between the U.S. and the world’s top-performing countries can be said to be causing the equivalent of a permanent recession,” says Stanford economist Eric Hanushek.

The U.S. school system doesn’t just punish good teachers with low salaries. By refusing schools and families the freedom to reward good teachers and encourage the worst to find other employment, it also blights kids’ life prospects. That’s not just impractical — it’s shameful.

 

[Originally published at Watchdog.org]

Categories: On the Blog

Individual Self-Determination vs. Ukrainian or Russian Nationalism (Part 2)

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2014, 10:00 AM

In the early years of the nineteenth century the new nationalist idea of self-determination in establishing in what country people should live was considered a logical extension of the general idea of individual liberty and freedom of choice.

Just as an individual should have the liberty to guide his own life according to his own values, beliefs and ideals; just as he should be free to peacefully associate with whomever he chose on the basis of commonly shared goals or mutually beneficial exchanges; so, too, individuals should have the freedom to choose in what political state they wanted to live.

Freedom and the Government Under Which to Live

The (classical) liberal ideal included, therefore, the individual’s right to freedom of movement. That is, if an individual chose to move to another country to live, work or visit, and as long as he was peaceful in his conduct and paid his own way, then there should be no legal barriers preventing him from freely migrating from one part of the world to any other.

Thus, if a person did not agree with the government under which he was living, or considered himself in some way oppressed or persecuted by that political authority, he should have the freedom to “vote with his feet” and move to a political jurisdiction more to his liking and desire.

However, it was also argued that people should not necessarily have to leave their home and country due to oppression and control by an arbitrary and tyrannical government under which they lived. They should be able to influence and determine both who held political office in that country and through them the policies implemented by that government. Thus, arose the advocacy of representative government in place of absolute monarchies claiming to rule by “divine right.”

It was also argued, as stated in the American Declaration of Independence, that when a government has become oppressive, and after many reasonable and peaceful attempts for a redress of their grievances, individuals have a right to replace that government and form a new one that will respect and enforce their respective inalienable rights to life, liberty and honestly acquired property. This was the American Founding Father’s rationale for revolution and breaking away from Great Britain, and in forming their own new nation and political system.

Self-Determination and the Right of Peaceful Secession

But why should men have to resort to and bear the human and material costs of violent change if they no longer wished to live under a particular political authority? Thus, there arose the idea of a right to peaceful secession.

If a group of individuals who shared a set of common values and beliefs, or a similar language or culture wanted to form their own political country independent of the one that they had belonged to up to that time, or be joined with another existing political country through a territorial transfer, they should be free through peaceful plebiscite to make that decision.

The fundamental premise of this right to secession was that of the individual’s right of self-determination. This was explained with great cogency by the free market Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises, in his book, “Liberalism” (1927):

“The right of self-determination in regard to the question of membership in a state thus means: whenever the inhabitants of a particular territory, whether a single village, a whole district, or a series of adjacent districts, make it known, by a freely conducted plebiscite, that they no longer wish to remain united to the state to which they belong at the time, but wish either to form an independent state or to attach themselves to another other state, their wishes are to be respected and complied with. This is the only feasible and effective way of preventing revolutions and civil and international wars . . .

“The right of self-determination of which we speak is not the right of self-determination of nations, but rather the right of self-determination of the inhabitants of every territory large enough to form an independent administrative unit. If it were in any way possible to grant this right of self-determination to every individual person, it would have to be done.

“This is impracticable only because of compelling technical considerations [in the provision and enforcement of police and justice], which make it necessary that a region be governed as a single administrative unit and that the right of self-determination be restricted to the will of the majority of the inhabitants of areas large enough to count as territorial units in the administration of the country.”

The Collectivist Turn to National Self-Determination

The problem was that the idea of the individual’s right of self-determination in the form that Mises explained become replaced by the collectivist notion of national self-determination in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

That is, the unit of decision-making was not the individual, but “the people” as a whole defined as a national group sharing some characteristic such as a common language, culture, religion, ethnicity or race, and an often presumed shared “national homeland” over a particular geographical area.

Once established, the government representing that national group was to use its political authority to enforce the use of a particular language or to educate and indoctrinate all inhabitants of this “nation-state” into the cultural customs and traditions of that national group through government schooling, propaganda, and restrictions on the introduction of “alien” cultural influences – regardless of the wishes of the individual citizens of that country, including those who may happen to make up a linguistic or cultural minority in that nation-state.

Government Intervention Against National Minorities

Often in European history, national governments harshly discriminated against linguistic, ethnic or religious minorities within their national borders. Regulatory procedures have been used to restrict members of such a minority group from entering and practicing certain professions, occupations, or trades. Taxes have been imposed in an apparently “neutral language” that, in fact, ended up targeting certain sectors of the economy containing many members of the minority group, and thus placing them at a competitive disadvantage relative to the majority national group.

Economic intervention by the government through taxing and regulatory procedures and practices can and have imposed biased burdens on individuals and minority linguistic, ethnic and religious groups under the cover of “preserving” the majority national group’s cultural, linguistic, or historical heritage.

Here we see the “national self-determination” and government interventionist dilemmas in the current international crisis between Russia and Ukraine. This part of Europe never had the opportunity to fully absorb and integrate the ideas of “the West” concerning the political philosophy of individualism, personal freedom, private property, respect for contacts, and the general, impartial rule of law.

The Collectivism of Imperial and Soviet Russia

Carried over from both the older imperial era of Russia before the Bolshevik Revolution as well as the nearly seventy-five years of communist control and economic planning has been the notion that the sole purpose of government is to plunder others in society through political privileges, favors and “connections” with those in authority.

In old Russia under the absolute monarchy, the Czar was the ruler and nominal owner of all land and property on it. Possession was not a “right” belonging to the individual, but a privilege bestowed upon a person and his heirs for as long as it served the “pleasure” of the Czar.

Both commoner and nobleman were subject to having all that they possessed taken back by the Czar if they fell out of favor due to criticisms or opposition to the wishes of the absolute ruler. This could include exile to the vast wastelands of Siberia.

Following the communist revolution of 1917, all privately owned land and capital were confiscated and transferred to the new revolutionary socialist state. The means of production were controlled and managed by the new Soviet government through a comprehensive system of central planning – of course, in the name of the people and for their claimed benefit.

With the socialist government as the single monopoly producer and employer, every person within the Soviet Union had his fate and future determined and dictated by how he fit within the socialist “plan” of building the bright, beautiful collectivist future.

Political Privilege in the Soviet “Classless” Society

The asserted “classless society” of the Soviet Union was a huge and intricate system of power, position and privilege overseen, commanded and controlled by the Communist Party. Gradations of privilege permeated the entire Soviet system reflected in apartment allocations, accesses to special food shops and medical clinics, acceptance into institutions of higher learning for one’s children, and even designated resorts for rest and recreation based on one’s position within the Party structure and management or employment in the various state enterprises.

The Soviet system worked on the basis of “rank” within the hierarchies of power. Within the Communist Party structure subordinates paid “tribute” to those above them with “gifts” and “services,” and, in turn, these subordinates received “favors” and perks for loyalty and obedience from those “above,” in an almost feudalist relationship of lord and serf.

In such a system the notion of “rights” to life, liberty and property had no meaning. The only implicit rule was to get what one could from any privileged access to the resources and goods owned and produced by the state.

Cheating, manipulating, and stealing what you could was the nature of “competition” in the worker’s paradise of socialist central planning. The only “rules of the game” were to not get caught, remain on the “good side” of those above you in the communist power structure, and often use people in any way that might further your personal interest.

The Plunder Lands of Ukraine and Russia

This is the legacy inherited by those who came to power in the newly independent and “democratic” Ukraine, as well as in the post-Soviet Russian Federation.

Every political party that has come into office in Ukraine since 1991 has used the power of the State to enrich its leading members and others who have given support and allegiance to those in power who can bestow various privileges and favors.

Ukraine, like most of the other former Soviet Republics, has been a plunder land of abuse, corruption, and huge wealth grabs for plutocratic oligarchs and special interest groups that revolve around and manipulate the redistributive and interventionist halls of political power.

In Ukraine, however, the thousands who demonstrated against and overthrew the corrupt and murderous government of Victor Yanukovych in February 2014 have shown their desire, and some of them with the loss of their lives, that they want a new and more “Western”-oriented country.

Yet among those Ukrainians are a significant number ardent nationalists who are more concerned with their collectivist conceptions of a “protected” and enforced Ukrainian culture and language than an open and free society in which each citizen makes his own choices on such matters, and lives his life is own way as he considers best and most desirable.

The main difference between Ukraine and Russia over the last twenty-two years since the end of the Soviet Union in this regard is that Russia is a larger land to plunder and far worse in its political authoritarianism under Vladimir Putin.

Nothing happens in Russia without connections, “pull,” and bribes. Property rights have no meaning – a Russian or a foreigner can find that one day they own a business and the next it has been confiscated under some trumped up charges, with the Russian owner imprisoned and sent off to Siberia or in the case of the foreign investor being expelled from the country with a total loss of his investment.

The news media, especially radio and television, are under virtual government monopoly control. Even “independent” newspapers and other Internet information outlets are subject to conscious degrees of self-censorship under the threat of being shut down. Those from the West wishing to share and disseminate news or information that is in any way viewed by the Russian government as a challenge or threat to the existing system of power have their permissions to operate and their visas to reside in Russia revoked.

Dissent in the street is often met with harsh treatment from the police, and with the danger of high financial fines and uncertain periods of imprisonment.

Ethnic Conflicts within Russia

In addition, Russia’s central, regional and municipal governments have also dealt harshly with some ethnic minorities within the Russian Federation. Several Muslim and ethnic groups in southern European Russia in the Caucasus mountain region, especially the Chechens, have attempted to gain national independence.

This has resulted in massive physical destruction and thousands of deaths as the Russian government under Putin has tried to crush the rebellions in this part of the country. In response, the Chechens and some other related groups have resorted to indiscriminate and deadly terrorist attacks on civilian targets, including in Moscow and most recently, shortly before the winter Olympics, on a train station in Volgograd.

This has angered and frightened ethnic Russians in many parts of the country. Chechens and other groups from that southern region of European Russia have been beaten up, had their property vandalized, and in some cases have been killed in Moscow and other places. In addition, in spite of the fact that every Russian citizen is lawfully to have freedom of movement and residence within the borders of the Russian Federation, the Chechens and some other groups have been required to have residency permits or have been expelled from Moscow and other cities, simply based on their ethnicity.

Ukrainian and Russian Conflict over Crimea

In Kiev, it is said that Crimea is an integral part of Ukraine and cannot secede from that country, either to be independent or a part of Russia, without the approval of the entire country. In Moscow, it is said that Crimea is a historically important area for Russia, and the people of the peninsula had to decide whether or not to join the Russian Federation.

The problem is that Crimea is populated by three groups: Russian-speakers who make up almost 60 percent of the population, Ukrainian-speakers who represent around 25 percent of the people there, and the Muslim Tartars, who make up an additional 12 percent.

If any referendum on Crimea’s future were to require a vote by the entire population of Ukraine, or by the representatives in the parliament in Kiev, the Ukrainian majority would no doubt vote against it. This would result in many in the Russian-speaking majority in Crimea forced to live within a country to which they do not want to be a part.

Any vote in Crimea, even if “fair” and open to international supervision to prevent “irregularities” compared to the vote recently taken for incorporation into Russia, easily would end in the Russian majority expressing their desire for unification with the Russian Federation. This would leave many of both the Ukrainians and the Tartars forced now to be citizens of a country (Russia) they would prefer not to live in as a result of a change in the political lines on a map.

After the thuggish and brutal behavior of the ‘self-defense” gangs of Crimean Russians and the Russian military forces “hiding” their identities by not having official insignias on their jackets since the “non-invasion” by Russia, the Ukrainian and Tartar minorities most certainly would be frustrated and fearful of a pro-Russia outcome to such a free and impartial referendum.

At the same time, given the behavior of a seemingly sizable number of the Russian-speakers in Crimea to actively and aggressively support the move for annexation by Russia, if the peninsula remained a part of Ukraine resentment and anger against them could easily result in their lives being made “uncomfortable,” or even arrest and imprisonment of some of them as “traitors” to the Ukrainian motherland.

These alternative possible outcomes reflect the effect of thinking of self-determination in nationalist and collectivist terms. The “nation as a whole” of Ukraine has to decide, or the national majority within the entire Crimean peninsula must have its political way and impose it on the ethnic and linguistic minorities who live around them.

A More Individual Self-Determination Solution for Crimea

What, then, could be a (classical) liberal “third way” rather than a nation-wide Ukrainian referendum or a “winner-take-all” plebiscite on the Crimean peninsula? A solution to the dilemma along the lines presented by Ludwig von Mises would suggest that each village and town in Crimea should have a plebiscite, in which the residents would decide between independence, reunification with Russia, or continuing political unity with Ukraine.

A new political map of Crimea might look like a colored checkerboard, with some villages or towns where the majority of the occupants are Ukrainians or Tartars being the same color as Ukraine. Other portions of the Crimea, perhaps a large part of the peninsula, would be the same color as Russia on the map. And possibly some areas would be a different color different from either Ukraine or Russia, being those districts or towns in which the majority had opted to form a separate Crimean government.

Would this prevent the continuing discomfort of some ethnic or linguistic minorities who might still find themselves surrounded by a majority of people who speak a different language or practice different customs in the village or town in which they reside? Or would it prevent political discrimination or favoritism against them by the majority if state power were used in this way? Unfortunately, the answers are, “No.”

As long as people believe that it is the duty and responsibility of government to regulate commence and industry, redistribute wealth and interfere into the individual’s right of free and peaceful association, political power will be used and abused to benefit some at other’s expense.

But such a system of local plebiscite in determining both the formation of governments and the boundaries of political entities, would give each individual more weight in deciding his own future and fate than when he is lost in the great mass of people in the modern nation-state. And it would at least tend to minimize the number of people who might find themselves in the situation of being an ethnic or linguistic or other type of minority within a political entity.

The fact that some areas belonging to one political authority may not be contiguous to the others but separated by the territories of other countries need cause no problems if a minimum of freedom of movement and free trade exist between them. One particularly enlightened outcome of the European Union has been the dismantling of border controls, so people may move as freely between member countries, for the most part, as Americans take it for granted in traveling between and across the states that make up the U.S.

If such a more (classical) liberal method was followed as an answer to these types of disputes everywhere, then at least state borders and political frontiers would no longer be determined by blood and conquest, but by the local choices of the people themselves who reside in such areas.

In addition, they could be open to revision and change periodically as demographics and people’s preferences changed. A plebiscite might be held once every ten or twenty years, as a formality. Or it could be held whenever, for example, two-thirds of the population in an area petitioned for the holding of such a plebiscite.

Such a system for the defining of boundaries of political entities does not necessarily imply exclusionist nationalism. The people of some regions, towns or districts might wish to form separate states or join larger ones that are consciously multi-ethnic and multi-linguistic, and culturally diverse precisely because of the societal advantages of such pluralistic communities. Furthermore, to the extent that freedom of movement and trade existed, everyone could take advantage of global culture diversity and a commercial international division of labor.

The Ideal of Individualist Self-Determination for the Future

Unfortunately, too many people and their governments are not ready for such a system of tolerance and respect for the choices of their fellow individual human beings in establishing their political affairs and boundary lines. Too many still take the collectivist view that the group or tribe owns the entire territory of a nation-state, including those who live, work, and die within it.

But we may wish that after enough wars and conquests, civil wars and campaigns of terrorism against the innocent, people may finally come to see the importance and value of respecting the rights and choices of the other individuals with whom they live in this troubled world.

 

[Originally published at Epic Times]

Categories: On the Blog

Benefits of Global Warming Greatly Exceed Costs, New Study Says

Somewhat Reasonable - March 26, 2014, 8:06 AM

The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) will issue its critique of the United Nations’ IPCC Working Groups II and III Reports at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Wednesday, April 9.

The Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP), and Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change will join NIPCC in presenting the report, published by The Heartland Institute.

What: Breakfast press conference with authors and reviewers of Climate Change Reconsidered IIBiological Impacts, and Climate Change Reconsidered II: Human Welfare, Energy, and Policies

When: Wednesday, April 9, 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Where: National Press Club, Bloomberg Room, 529 14th Street NW, Washington, DC

Who: Joseph Bast, president, The Heartland Institute; Dr. S. Fred Singer, professor emeritus of environmental science at the University of Virginia; Dr. Craig D. Idso, founder, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and others to be announced.

An international panel of climate scientists and economists will release a massive new report April 9 that finds the benefits of global warming “greatly exceed any plausible estimate of its costs.” The new report, the second and third volumes of Climate Change Reconsidered II, were produced by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) and published by The Heartland Institute.

The new report summarizes scholarly research published as recently as January 2014 on the impacts, costs, and benefits of climate change. Hefty chapters summarize thousands of peer-reviewed studies of the impact of rising levels of carbon dioxide – a greenhouse gas produced during the burning of fossil fuels – on plants and soils, agriculture, forests, wildlife, ocean life, and humankind.

Read chapters as they are edited and publicly posted at the Climate Change Reconsidered website.

The authors find higher levels of carbon dioxide and warmer temperatures benefit nearly all plants, leading to more leaves, more fruit, more vigorous growth, and greater resistance to pests, drought, and other forms of “stress.” Wildlife benefits as their habitats grow and expand. Even polar bears, the poster child of anti-global warming activist groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), are benefiting from warmer temperatures.

“Despite thousands of scientific articles affirming numerous benefits of rising temperatures and atmospheric CO2, IPCC makes almost no mention of any positive externalities resulting from such,” said one of the report’s lead authors, Dr. Craig D. Idso. “Climate Change Reconsidered II corrects this failure, presenting an analysis of thousands of neglected research studies IPCC has downplayed or ignored in its reports so that scientists, politicians, educators, and the general public can be better informed and make decisions about the potential impacts of CO2-induced climate change.”

The authors look closely at claims climate change will injure coral and other forms of marine life, possibly leading to some species extinctions. They conclude such claims lack scientific foundation and often are grossly exaggerated. Corals have survived warming periods in the past that caused ocean temperatures and sea levels to be much higher than today’s levels or those likely to occur in the next century.

The authors contend the world’s economies are heavily dependent on fossil fuels because such fuels are and will continue to be safer, less expensive, more reliable, and of vastly greater supply than alternative fuels such as wind and solar. Dramatically reducing the use of fossil fuels would have devastating effects on workers and consumers of both the developed and developing worlds, leading to severe hardship and even deaths.

Rather than continue to fight what is most likely a natural and unstoppable phenomenon, the authors call for adopting new energy and environmental policies that acknowledge current market and environmental realities. Such policies would encourage economic growth as the foundation for a cleaner environment, responsible development and use of fossil fuels until superior energy sources are found, and repeal of many of the regulations, subsidies, and taxes passed at the height of the man-made global warming scare.

A Summary for Policymakers (SPM) of the report, written in collaboration with the lead authors and approved by them, will be available at the press conference. The complete study will be released digitally in April and available in printed form in May.

 Previous volumes in the Climate Change Reconsidered series were published in 200820092011, and 2013. Those volumes are widely recognized as the most comprehensive and authoritative critiques of the reports of the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). In June 2013, a division of the Chinese Academy of Sciences published a Chinese translation and condensed edition of the 2009 and 2011 volumes.

For copies of previous reports and background on NIPCC, please visit the Climate Change Reconsidered website. For more information on the event, please contact Director of Communications Jim Lakely at 312/731-9364 or jlakely@heartland.org.

The Heartland Institute is a 30-year-old national nonprofit organization headquartered in Chicago, Illinois. Its mission is to discover, develop, and promote free-market solutions to social and economic problems. For more information, visit our Web site or call 312/377-4000.

Categories: On the Blog

U.N. Agenda 21 Designed to Spawn a One-World Government

Somewhat Reasonable - March 25, 2014, 10:40 AM

[This piece is co-authored by Bonnie O'Neil, vice president of Eagle Forum in CA.]

Although the initial impetus for Agenda 21 can be traced back to the Stockholm Conference of 1972, Agenda 21 became an official document at the 1992 Rio Conference through an extensive process of preparation at the professional level and negotiation at the political level.

Project 21 contained twenty-seven principles warning against a mode of growth that was leading to the extinction of life on earth.  As such, Project 21 represented a major step forward in establishing the basic principles that must govern the conduct of nations and peoples towards each other and the Earth to ensure a secure and sustainable future.  This plan was developed rather covertly, and due to that lack of transparency, we are still discovering some of the more grievous aspects of their Agenda.

Introduced as a cooperative task and challenge for world nations, Project 21 is based on two fundamental ideas:  development and environment.  To the Preparatory Council of the Rio Conference, it was impossible to have an environmentally sound planet in a socially unjust world, as these goals complement each other in each community and each country around the globe.  They claimed without a global order with greater justice, tranquil prosperity would exist for no one.  An awareness of belonging to a wider human community brought with it an obligation to reduce inequalities as a permanent cause if a better future were to be provided to mankind.

Notice all the “buzz” words in the above statement.  They should sound familiar, as they are words and labels used by our mainstream media and “progressives” of today to promote the concepts outlined in Agenda 21.

Upon learning of Agenda 21, and the vast scope of its reach into our lives, begs the question “How did it all happen and why haven’t I heard of it?”

It began when One hundred nations attended the 1992 Rio Education on Environment and Development (Agenda 21), and according to the UN information Center, all nations in attendance agreed to the document. 

Representing the U.S.A. was President George H. Bush, President, 1989 – 1993.  In a News Conference given in Rio de Janeiro on June 13, 1992, Bush’s opening statement included the following remarks prior to questions taken from reporters:

“Let’s me be clear on one fundamental point.  The United States fully intends to be the world’s preeminent leader in protecting the global environment.  We have been that for many years.  We will remain so.  We believe that environment and development, the two subjects of this Conference, can and should go hand in hand.  A growing economy creates the resources necessary for environmental protection and environmental protection makes growth sustainable over the long term.”

President Clinton signed U.N. Agenda 21 later on to continue the program in the United States.  Agenda 21 is “soft-law,” so elements of it don’t have to be voted on by the Congress.  That is particularly unfortunate, because the impact of this mandate will drastically impact our country in a myriad of ways, and yet basically two men inflicted this agenda on us all.    A non-governmental organization, International Council of Local Environmental Initiatives (ICLEI), has the responsibility of carrying out the goals of Agenda 21.  Over 600 cities in the U.S. have since become members of ICLEI, and the number is growing.  Costs are paid by taxpayers.

Is it possible Bush and Clinton were unaware of the full impact Agenda 21 will have?  Has it changed from the time they were first introduced to it?  It is hard to imagine they would have inflicted on us what we are now in the process of experiencing.

They were likely persuaded by lofty Agenda 21 talking points, such as these which are taken from their website:

The concentration of population growth in developing countries and economic growth in the industrialized countries has deepened, creating imbalances which are unsustainable, in either environmental or economic terms. . . Population must be stabilized, and rapidly.  If we do not do it, nature will, and much more brutally.  The rich must take the lead in bringing their development under control, reducing substantially their impacts on the environment, leaving environmental ‘space’ for developing countries to grow.  The wasteful and destructive lifestyles of the rich cannot be maintained at the cost of the lives and livelihoods of the poor, and of nature.  

For the rich, the transition to sustainable development need not require regression to a difficult or primitive life.  On the contrary, it can lead to a richer life of expanded opportunities for self-realization and fulfillment.  More satisfying and secure because it is sustainable, and more sustainable because its opportunities and benefits are more universally shared.”

When our rights and quality of life are being stripped from us, those talking points will not appease us.  We will know the U.N. statements are simply “cleverly devised words and talking points” to push an anti-American way of life upon us.  The U.N. statements are designed to avoid negative public objections.   If we all realized the full impact of Agenda 21 objectives, we would not be at all compliant.  Fortunately, some have dug out the bare facts of how Agenda 21 will negatively impact our lives, and discovered a very dismal picture.  Imagine Russia just before it fell apart or possibly China today.  There will be few freedoms, if any at all for citizens, as the rules and regulations will dictate a whole different life for you and me.

Americans are largely in the dark about Agenda 21 because facts have largely been kept from the public, but also because the recession slowed their plans a bit.  However, they are now beginning to be more aggressive in their implementation process.  We all must learn of the specifics their plan.  Education is essential if we, the public, are to stop Agenda 21.  Hopefully, we can do so before experiencing the huge adverse effects on our lives.  Once implemented, it will be much harder to stop and restore what has been lost to us.

Are the American people going to sit passively by while the United Nations seeks to co-opt, via individual governments, and eventually spawn a one-world government where individuals are stripped of all personal rights and freedoms? The whole idea seems futuristic and impossible to comprehend, like something out of George Orwell’s 1984, but this is the goal of U.N. Agenda 21 for now, and it will happen unless an army of us rise up and demand it stop.

As Agenda 21 covers so many areas of our lives (sometimes called a whole life plan), each aspect of their agenda must be explained individually and carefully.  That is why we will be writing articles in several installments on issues relating to Agenda 21, among them being Property Rights and the Environment.

 

[Originally published at Illinois Review]

Categories: On the Blog

US Electricity System in Regulatory and Terrorist Crosshairs

Somewhat Reasonable - March 25, 2014, 10:00 AM

Government agencies are forcing us to spend countless billions on illusory risks and anti-fossil fuel mandates, while ignoring real threats to our livelihoods, living standards and lives.

America runs on electricity. Our lights, refrigerators, air conditioners and furnace controls, computers and internet, social media, radios and televisions, banks and ATMs, cell phone chargers and transmitters, electric cars and gasoline pumps, hospitals and schools, offices, factories, refineries, farms and water purification systems – all run on electricity. 68% is generated by fossil fuels, 20% by nuclear and 7% by hydropower.

Electricity reaches its billions of destinations through a complex, interconnected system of power lines, substations and transformers called the power grid. The entire United States is divided into just three separate grid segments: East, West and Texas

Without abundant, reliable, affordable electricity, America would sink into Third World status. If our electricity were cut off for a prolonged period, the nation would collapse into survivalist chaos.

And yet President Obama insists that electricity prices must “necessarily skyrocket” and the United States must be “a global leader in the fight against climate change.” Secretary of State John Kerry calls climate change “the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy says there is “no more urgent threat to public health than climate change.”

In response, using faulty computer models and secretive pseudo-science, federal agencies are imposing “social cost of carbon” analyses, carbon dioxide emission limits and “carbon capture and storage” standards. They are implementing stringent pollution, drilling, mining and other regulations – and requiring costly power grid upgrades to accommodate expensive, unreliable, intermittent electricity from wind and solar installations. They are compelling the early closure of efficient, low-cost coal-fired power plants, with many remaining years of productive life, thereby raising electricity prices for businesses and families, and forcing ratepayers to pay for mothballed plants and new ones to replace them.

They are spending 20 billion taxpayer dollars a year just on climate change initiatives, while forcing the electric power industry to spend billions of dollars every year to comply with a plethora of rules. The Heritage Foundation calculates that EPA’s proposed climate regulations alone will cost our economy $2.2 trillion between 2015 and 2038.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration is ignoring real threats.

On April 16, 2013, saboteurs attacked a power substation near San Jose, California, the Wall Street Journal reported on February 5. They cut fiber optic cables in a manner designed to maximize repair time and shot up 17 transformers, causing them to leak their oil coolant, overheat and fail.

It took them less than an hour, after which they disappeared into the night, leaving no fingerprints on more than 100 cartridges. It took 27 days to get the substation back online. Thankfully, grid operators were able to reroute power and avoid blackouts. Otherwise we could have repeated the 2003 transformer failure that triggered a cascading blackout affecting 50 million people in the eastern USA and Canada.

Former Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) director Jon Wellinghoff called the attack “purposeful, extremely well planned and executed by professionals who had expert training.”  Other utility experts said it could have been a “dress rehearsal” for much bigger operation. One called it “preparation for an act of war,” in which a few terrorists with cheap bolt cutters and bullets unleash a real weapon of mass destruction – not an imaginary one – as calamitous as what an electromagnetic pulse or hacker-initiated computer system meltdown could inflict.

Many substations are in rural areas, with no human staff, protected only by cameras and chain-link fences. On a hot summer day, experts fear, by destroying or disabling a dozen carefully chosen interconnection substations and transformers, terrorists could set off cascading blackouts, taking down much of the US or even North American power grid for an extended period.

Communications, jobs, food, fuel, safe drinking water and other benefits of modern civilization would quickly disappear. The United States could be plunged into darkness, chaos, crime, anarchy and widespread deaths. Even smaller, less coordinated attacks could be devastating across entire regions.

Replacing these huge, 40-ton, high-voltage, multi-million-dollar transformers could take weeks, months, a year or more, depending on many factors. Few American companies make the big transformers, and those factories could be affected by the blackout. Replacing one behemoth recently took nearly two years and a 7,000-mile journey from Korea. Bringing one of these monsters in on rush basis could require a jumbo cargo plane that only one country builds: Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

Who could launch such an act of war? Al Qaeda, Iran and North Korea certainly come to mind. Even Mexican drug cartels are suspects, after an attack on power installations in Mexico’s Michoacan State.

Nevertheless, within weeks of the first WSJ article, Russia invaded Crimea, Secretary Kerry said the “aggression” would bring “serious repercussions,” President Obama worked on his short game and March Madness “bracketology,” and 28 Senate Democrats held an all-night gabfest to rant and obsess about – climate change! None of them mentioned the threat of terrorist attacks on our grid and nation.

Just as maddening, responsibility for protecting the grid is apparently not in the job description of any US government agency. Homeland Security says it is the utility industry’s job, and FERC recently gave the industry until early June 2014 to propose new standards for securing critical facilities against threats of this nature and magnitude.

Thankfully, the industry is taking the challenge very seriously and is examining ways to improve both site security and the equipment replacement process. Mr. Wellinghoff says “there are probably less than 100 critical high-voltage substations that need to be protected from physical attack. It is neither a monumental task, nor would it take an inordinate sum of money to do so.”

Defining “inordinate” is not easy, however, especially in the context of other regulatory demands. Utilities will have to find the money, while also spending billions to comply with countless environmental rules of dubious value. The Congressional EMP Commission estimates the cost of hardening the national grid will be about $2 billion. But all the necessary precautions will likely run into the tens of billions.

Virginia’s Dominion Resources alone plans to spent up to $500 million over the next seven years to harden its facilities, the WSJ reports. Multiply that and 24/7/365 monitoring times numerous other utility companies, facilities and weak points, and the price tag is significant. But the Obama Administration and many members of Congress are intent on spending billions for climate change “prevention” and health and environmental rules that will bring minuscule benefits, because the risks are exaggerated to illusory.

Responsible federal and state legislators, utility companies and citizen groups need to make protecting America’s electrical transmission system and civilization against terror attacks a high priority – and a central topic in the 2014 campaign debates and elections.

If others want to make “dangerous manmade climate change” their central them, voters will decide which issues truly merit our uppermost attention.

Categories: On the Blog

The Green Scam of “Endangered Species”

Somewhat Reasonable - March 25, 2014, 9:30 AM

A recent article in The Wall Street Journal took note of what has occurred since the 1990s when some three dozen gray wolves were captured in Canada and transferred to the wilderness of Idaho. According to federal biologists, this was necessary to restore the ecological balance in a region teeming with elk and other creatures on the gray wolf food chain.

The article noted that more than 650 wolves roam the state today according to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game which has been hearing a lot of complaints that the wolves “are wreaking havoc on Idaho’s prized elk and livestock, and prompted the governor’s office to embark on an effort to wipe out three-quarters or more of the population.”

So the federal biologists bring in the wolves and a few years later the governor’s office says kill them. Why? Because the elk population has fallen about 15% since the wolves arrived, along with 2,589 sheep, 610 cows, and 72 dogs.

Take a moment on contemplate how arrogant and unconscionably stupid it is to take gray wolves from Canada and put them in Idaho in the name of “ecological balance.” The only balance achieved was a significant imbalance in the elk population and witless destruction of sheep and cows which represent a livelihood to ranchers and dinner to the rest of us.

Throughout America we are all paying for the environmental notion of “endangered species” and the quest to “save” some from extinction. The problem with that conceit is that 95% of all the species on Earth have gone extinct over hundreds of millions of years. One paper on this noted that “Mass extinction of biological species has occurred several times in the history of our planet.”

The Endangered Species Act became law on December 28, 1973, just over forty years ago. It’s not about saving species. It’s about providing a vehicle to environmental groups to shut off access to vast areas of the nation in order to prevent drilling for oil and natural gas or mining them for coal and other minerals.

In a December 2013 Wall Street Journal article, Damien Schiff and Julie MacDonald reported that,

“A law intended to conserve species and habitat has brought about the recovery of only a fraction—less than 2%–of the approximately 2,100 species listed as endangered or threatened since 1973.

“Meanwhile, the law has endangered the economic health of many communities—which creating a cottage industry of litigation that does more to enrich environmental activist groups than benefit the environment.

“One reason the Endangered Species Act has spun out of control is that the federal agencies that decide whether to list a species—the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service—no longer based decisions on what the law calls for: data. Instead they invent squishy standards like ‘best professional judgment.”

The result of that can be seen in California’s San Joaquin Valley where much of the nation’s almonds, broccoli, onions, watermelons, lettuce and tomatoes have been grown. About 13% of all agricultural production in the nation takes place in the region where some 250 different crops are grown. That is, until the Natural Resources Defense Council won a lawsuit against California’s water-delivery system that they claimed was endangering Delta smelt, on the Endangered Species list since 1994. The result was a manmade drought for the valley’s farmers and ranchers. If you wonder why the cost of everything in the vegetable section of your supermarket costs more, you can thank the NRDC.

Lying about animal species is so much a part of the environmental movement that polar bears have become a fund-raising symbol over the years despite the fact that polar bear populations, said to be threatened by melting Arctic ice, have been thriving since the 1970s. According to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, there are between 20,000 and 25,000 polar bears worldwide, living in Canada, Greenland, the northern Russian coast, islands of the Norwegian coast and the northwest Alaska coast. Hunting them was banned in the U.S. and worldwide with the exception of Alaskan Natives for tribal needs.

Currently almost half the land west of the Mississippi river belongs to the federal government and environmentalists want to expand on that to prevent the nation’s booming oil and gas development. That development could make the U.S. energy independent, create many jobs, and its revenues could significantly reduce the tremendous national debt.  At the heart of the environmental movement is an intent to destroy capitalism and reduce the U.S. among other nations to an era before fossil fuels improved life for everyone.

One way to do that is to increase the endangered list by a record 757 new species by 2018. Two species with the greatest impact on private development are range birds, the greater sage grouse and the lesser prairie chicken. Among the environmental groups who specialize in using the Endangered Species Act are the Wildlife Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity who have been party to more than one thousands lawsuits between 1900 and the present. The Center has made no secret of wanting to end fossil-fuel production in the U.S.

The Endangered Species Act should be repealed because it has a pathetic record regarding its goal over the past forty years and because it threatens the economic development of the nation. Unless or until this occurs, environmentalists will continue their assault on America.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]
Categories: On the Blog

Putin’s Gift to America’s Energy Independence

Somewhat Reasonable - March 24, 2014, 3:53 PM

The ongoing crisis in the Ukraine stirred much public interest and great lessons are learned by the March 7, article “Putin’s Real Great Game:  Energy Imperialism” by Peter Glover.  Russia’s annexation of the Crimea and threats to the rest of Ukraine after Peter Glover’s article makes it more important.

Energy supply is a major player in world events since the start of World War II.  German expansion aims were toward the East  with an objective of U. S. S. R. Caucasus oil resources.  In June 1941, the United States, Britain, and the Netherlands embargoed oil to Japan because of aggression against China.  Japan had a one-year oil supply and had the choice of giving in to these nation’s demands or secure oil sources in Southeast Asia  The result was the December 7 attack on Pearl Harbor, simultaneous attacks on the Philippines and British Malaya, followed by attack on the Dutch East Indies.  Within months Japan had secured its oil resources and a brutal war left millions dead.

A later disturbance for the United States is the October 1973 Oil Embargo by the Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries which disrupted oil supply and caused increased costs of gasoline, electricity, and natural gas.  The United States suffered economic malaise until the early 1980s.  Starting with President Nixon in 1973, a rallying cry for “Energy Independence” was proposed by all presidents without success.  Conflicts between proponents of increasing energy production and environmental groups protesting environmental degradation stalled development of America’s vast resources of fossil fuels–coal, oil, and natural gas.

The U. S. lacks pawns to be a leader in the foreign policy chess game–insufficient oil and natural gas production.  Years of neglect in pushing fossil fuel production left the country unable to assist allies in times of emergency.

Russia provides substantial natural gas, oil, and coal to Europe that gives it leverage in the Ukraine Crises due to Europe’s fear of energy supply cutoff.  The European Union has assisted in its servitude by resisting natural gas production by fracking and shutting down and curtailing future use of nuclear power plants.

The Ukraine Crises is an example of future events until the United States develops fossil fuel energy production superiority.  The Ukraine Crisis–just as the 1973 Oil Embargo– is a great gift to stop the environmental movement’s eliminating fossil fuel production and insistence on relying on solar, wind, ethanol from corn, etc. as energy sources.  These renewable energy sources are of no consequence in conduct of foreign policy.   Do we want peace and prosperity or “green energy”, poverty, and the possibility of nuclear war?

To rectify this situation President Obama should immediately approve construction of the Keystone XL Pipeline.  Congress should pass laws to allow unfettered export of all fossil fuel energy resources–coal, oil, and natural gas.  Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Slovakia wrote the US Congress March 6 to help them buy American natural gas and reduce their dependence on Russia by loosening US export limits.

Restrictions on oil and natural gas production off shore, in the West, and Alaskan lands should be lifted and encouragement given the oil and natural gas industry to start production.  In an article “Drilling on Federal Lands:  How The West Could Be Won Again” in the Post, Professor Timothy  Considine wrote,

“But if the output on federal lands had matched that on private property, the economic benefits would have been significant.  I estimate that over the next decade, the region’s seven states — Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, and Idaho — would gain between $9.5 billion and $26 billion in annual gross regional product, between $2.4 billion and $5.1 billion in annual tax revenue, and between 67,000 and 208,000 regional jobs.”

Little attention is given oil production in the North Slope of Alaska has fallen from 2 million barrels per day in 1988 to 500,000 barrels per day in 2013.  Alaska now ranks fourth as an oil producing state.  If oil flow through the Alaska Pipeline slows to 300,000 barrels per day, the oil may freeze and the pipeline never restarted.  Oil in Northern Alaska is stranded.  Steps should be made to allow oil production in a 2000-acre area of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge  (ANWR) whose area is 30,000 square miles.

Another impediment to fossil fuel development is the Environmental Protection Agency’s designation carbon dioxide a pollutant that should be abolished.  Carbon dioxide is an airborne fertilizer that increased plant growth the past 50 years.  A report on the social benefits of carbon dioxide for agriculture alone is estimated at $3.2 trillion from 1960 to 2012 and $7.9 trillion from 2012 to 2050.

Peter Glover’s article pointed out,

“In the 1980s Reagan talked the Saudis into significantly boosting their oil production, effectively flooding the market with cheap oil. It is not widely understood that this move, resulting in dramatic fall in the global oil price, led directly to the collapse of the Soviet economy and, ultimately, the downfall of the Soviet empire.” 

With a massive program to develop fossil fuel resources in the United States, Russia’s fossil fuel assets are rendered impotent in a few years.

The people of the United States need to understand production of fossil fuels is a manufacturing process.  Production of 1000 tons of coal, 330 barrels of oil, or 6 million cubic feet of natural gas is the same as producing a $30,000 car, 7000 bushels of corn, or 15,000 two-dollar hamburgers.  Millions of high paying jobs are created, billions of tax and royalty payments paid, and security and safety for all our citizens.

President Obama’s January 28, State of the Union address declared ,

“But the debate is settled. Climate change is a fact. And when our children’s children look us in the eye and ask if we did all we could to leave them a safer, more stable world, with new sources of energy, I want us to be able to say yes, we did.”

In a sense President Obama’s State of the Union remarks are right.  The Climate Change debate is over because there never was one–how do you debate the sun rises from the East in the morning.  And we can leave our children’s children a safer, more stable world with abundant energy supplies–develop our vast resources of inexpensive fossil fuels–coal, oil, and natural gas.  Abandoning these resources by substituting renewable energy sources–that are uneconomical, unreliable, and difficult to produce vast energy amounts–leaves our children’s children a bankrupt nation unable to exert strength on global affairs.

Perhaps President Obama can have a vision that imparts wisdom and he reverses his job-killing and nation humbling energy policies.  In the future President Obama can truly say, “yes, we did.”

Categories: On the Blog

Job Creators Sue Federal Government

Somewhat Reasonable - March 24, 2014, 11:28 AM

For years environmentalists have usurped individual private property rights and thwarted economic development. Now, thanks to Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt, it appears that the job creators may have finally learned something from the extreme tactics of groups, like the Wild Earth Guardians and the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD), which have been using the courts to their advantage by filing lawsuits against the federal government.

On Monday, March 17, on behalf of the state of Oklahoma and the Domestic Energy Producers Alliance (DEPA), Pruitt filed a lawsuit against the federal government, specifically the U.S. Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). The lawsuit alleges the “FWS engaged in ‘sue and settle’ tactics when the agency agreed to settle a lawsuit with a national environmental group over the [Endangered Species Act] listing status of several animal species, including the Lesser Prairie Chicken.”

The Lesser Prairie Chicken (LPC) is especially important, as the FWS is required—based on the conditions set forth in the settlement of a 2010 lawsuit—to make a determination, explicitly, on the LPC by March 31, 2014. A “threatened” listing would restrict the land use in the bird’s 40-million-acre, five-state habitat: Oklahoma, Colorado, Texas, New Mexico, and Kansas. The affected area includes private, state, and federal lands—lands rich in energy resources, ranch and farm land—plus, municipal infrastructure, such as water pipelines and electric transmission.

Understanding the negative impact a listing would have, industry (oil and gas, electric transmission and distribution, pipelines, agriculture and wind energy), states, and the FWS have collaborated to develop a historic range-wide plan (RWP) to demonstrate that the LPC and its prairie habitat can be protected without needing to list it. The RWP includes habitat management goals and conservation practices to be applied throughout the LPC’s range. According to a press release about the Oklahoma law suit, the cooperative effort has spent $26 million dollars on the voluntary conservation plan—which would be more than enough to protect restore LPC habitat, as well as to develop an elaborate state-of-the-art LPC hatchery. RWP enrollees are optimistic the FWS can cite the conservation commitment as justification for a decision not to list the LPC as a threatened species.

A DEPA spokesman states: “this designation could disrupt drilling and exploration on hundreds of thousands of very promising oil and gas lands in this part of the country.” The CBD has made no secret of their disdain for oil and gas extraction and has filed many successful lawsuits specifically to block development.

Pruitt says: “the sue-and-settle timelines force the FWS to make determinations without a thorough review of the science. This violates the original statute requiring sound science before listing species.”

Stephen Moore, formerly with the Wall Street Journal, explains: “Under the Obama administration, the feds have entered into a consent agreement with the environmentalists to rush forward a judgment on an unprecedented number of species. A 2012 Chamber of Commerce study found record numbers of such ‘sue and settle’ cases under Obama.” Pruitt adds: “Under President Obama, we have had sue and settle on steroids.”

Political impacts

The “rush” as Moore calls it, is being driven by the desire to get the decisions made under the friendly Obama Administration—which may appease the environmental base while, unwittingly, hurting Democrats in the 2014 elections and handing the Senate to Republicans.

The LPC decision impacts five western states, from which even Democrat Senators, aware of the potential economic impact, sent a letter to the FWS asking to delay listing the LPC as threatened. The next big listing is the Greater Sage Grouse (GSG) with a habitat covering eleven western states. If the LPC is listed, after the groundbreaking efforts to preserve its habitat, there will be no similar cooperation on the GSG. The GSG will surely be listed—triggering a modern Sage Brush Rebellion and costing Democrats the Senate (and some House seats, too).

The Democrats are in a bind. The rushed listings are being forced by the environmental base, which is myopically focused on the anti-fossil-fuel (job-killing) agenda of restricting oil-and-gas development on western lands and isn’t looking at the bigger political consequences.

It appears the decision has been made. Sources tell me that Dan Ashe, Director of the FWS, has called a meeting on Capitol Hill to brief the stakeholders prior to Thursday’s announcement. If he decides to list the LPC, Pruitt’s lawsuit could be just the first shot that ignites the new rebellion pushing states to take control of the lands within their borders.

Kent Holsinger, a Colorado-based attorney specializing in Endangered Species Act (ESA) issues, told me: “State wildlife management is much more efficient and effective than federal listings. Oklahoma and DEPA should be commended for pushing back on these issues.”

The environmentalists are looking at the end, but not the political means.

Power Shift

For CBD, it isn’t even about the science. Its staff page boasts three times as many attorneys as biologists.

In a High Country News interview with CBD co-founder Kieran Suckling, he explains how their strategy was developed through their first “major victory” over the Mexican wolf.

Previously environmental groups had no leverage with the government, other than saying “pretty please.” In the case of the wolf, groups proposed introducing it onto New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range. The general in charge of the range had no interest. Suckling reports: “The strategy of the wolf coalition was to wait for the general to retire. We decided, let’s just sue instead. It got settled with the Service agreeing to do a wolf study, which led to reintroduction. That was the moment when we looked at it and said, ‘Wow.’ The environmental movement spent a decade going to meetings and demanding action and getting nothing done. They were asking powerful people for something from a position of no power. We realized that we can bypass the officials and sue, and that we can get things done in court.”

Suckling called lawsuits: “one tool in a larger campaign.” He explained: “we use lawsuits to help shift the balance of power from industry and government agencies, toward protecting endangered species. That plays out on many levels. At its simplest, by obtaining an injunction to shut down logging or prevent the filling of a dam, the power shifts to our hands. The Forest Service needs our agreement to get back to work, and we are in the position of being able to powerfully negotiate the terms of releasing the injunction.”

When asked if his lack of a degree in science was a hindrance, he answered: “No” and pointed out that “the professionalization of the environmental movement has injured it greatly.” He added: “I’m more interested in hiring philosophers, linguists and poets. The core talent of a successful environmental activist is not science and law. It’s campaigning instinct.” They operate on emotion, not science.

Sue and Settle

It is these tactics, along with a friendly Obama government, that has led to the “sue and settle” procedure that Pruitt’s lawsuit is hoping to end. The lawsuit is seeking “declaratory and injunctive relief for violations of the ESA.” Moore reports: “The relief is intended to overturn designations of dozens of species added to the threatened or endangered list through the ‘sue and settle’ process.”

The Oklahoma lawsuit asserts: “the Fish and Wildlife Service violated the Endangered Species Act by agreeing in its settlement with Wild Earth Guardians to not consider the statutorily-created ‘warranted but precluded’ category when determining the listing status of the 251 candidate species.” Additionally, the lawsuit states: “the FWS violated the law by agreeing to a truncated timeline to the decision-making process on the listing status of the 251 candidate species, essentially sidestepping the rule making process.”

Pruitt believes that: “because these settlements are taking place without public input, attorneys general are unable to represent the respective interests of their states, businesses, and citizens.” Forbes Contributor Larry Bell agrees: “While the environmental group is given a seat at the table, outsiders who are most impacted are excluded, with no opportunity to object to the settlements.”

Bell describes the “sue and settle” practice—sometimes referred to as “friendly lawsuits”—this way:

“Cozy deals through which far-left radical environmental groups file lawsuits against federal agencies wherein court-ordered “consent decrees” are issued based upon a prearranged settlement agreement they collaboratively craft together in advance behind closed doors. Then, rather than allowing the entire process to play out, the agency being sued settles the lawsuit by agreeing to move forward with the requested action they and the litigants both want.”

In a succinct soliloquy about the LPC and GSG, Fox Business’ Stuart Varney says: “I’ve always been amazed at the ability of a very small, but well-funded, group to get their way using the court system. But, that is what really is happening. The Sage Grouse and the Lesser Prairie Chicken interests are obviously far more important than America’s interest in energy independence.”

Gratefully, Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt has stepped up to the plate and used the environmentalists’ tactics and filed a lawsuit against the federal government. It will not delay the March 31 deadline for the FWS decision on the LPC, but it could “overturn designations of dozens of species added to the threatened or endangered list through the ‘sue and settle’ process.” It could prevent the unnecessary listing of thousands of other flora and fauna—allowing companies to continue providing the jobs, producing the oil, natural gas, and other commodities such as timber and critical minerals that are so important to America and our energy freedom.

 

[Originally published at Townhall.com]

Categories: On the Blog

Sprint’s Crony Socialist Hypocrisy

Somewhat Reasonable - March 24, 2014, 11:06 AM

Crony Socialism is, in part, the government cutting special deals for certain  companies – at the  expense of other companies, and the free market.

It is particularly pathetic when companies publicly troll for this treatment.  It’s  almost as if they’ve given up on actually, you know, trying.

Sprint, T-Mobile US, Dish Network and other smaller carriers are already  lobbying [Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler]. 

In a letter to Wheeler on Thursday, the companies’ top  executives…urged Wheeler to adopt rules for the (spectrum) auctions that  would ensure “that the two dominant wireless incumbents not be allowed to lock  competitive carriers out of acquiring…spectrum.

But — it’s an auction. Everyone bids, and the best bids win. Everyone  has equal access. Problem preemptively solved. Except that’s not what these guys  mean. More from their begging letter:

“To be clear, none of us has ever suggested excluding the largest two  carriers from theauction.

Oh — good.

“Reasonable spectrum-aggregation limits, however…

Oh — wait. So they do want the government to exclude some companies  from freely bidding in the auction. Maybe they should have written “Let  us be clear” instead.

“More competition, in turn, means more jobs, more investment , faster  innovation, and more economic growth in America. Competition will also enable  the Commission to maintain its ‘light-touch’ regulatory approach to the wireless  industry.” 

Absolutely. But no one’s going to go out of business as a result  of this auction. There’ll be just as many competitors after as before.

However, the whole debate over spectrum aggregation limits will largely be  a moot point if the FCC can’t persuade enough broadcasters to give up their  spectrum for auction in the first place.

A great way to ensure that not enough broadcasters participate? Have the  government limit the number of bidders — and thus the coin to be garnered by the  broadcasters. Exactly what these crony socialist companies are asking for.

Obviously not satisfied by all this is Masayoshi Son, the President of  SoftBank — Sprint’s parent company.  While seeking to have the government fetter in  his favor the auction, Son is simultaneously looking for unfettered government  approval of Sprint’s purchase of T-Mobile.

But wait — what about all that high-minded talk of the importance of  competition in his letter?  Son wants the government to approve his merger  – meaning there will be one less  competitor.

“I’d like to provide an alternative,” Son said in the  speech.

You already do, Mr. Son — Sprint. What you  actually want to do is provide one less alternative, by taking T-Mobile off the board.

At an earnings briefing last month, for example, Son deflected questions  about a possible Sprint/T-Mobile deal. “What I can say is that the  United States’ mobile industry is not  competitive.

Again, the merger will mean one less competitor.

I am not saying I’m opposed to the Sprint-T-Mobile merger — I am saying I’m  opposed to Son’s crony socialism-riddled hypocrisy.

In 2011, AT&T wanted to purchase the very same T-Mobile Son’s Sprint now  seeks to acquire.

Sprint Reminds Us It Didn’t Want  AT&T-T-Mobile Merger

In a statement released today, Sprint  thanked departing FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski for his service and for  blocking AT&T’s 2011 bid for T-Mobile.”

Oh – and there was a spectrum auction just last year:

Sorry, Not Interested: Sprint Bows Out of the PCS  Spectrum Auction

Get that? Sprint bailed on the last one — but now wants the government to rig  this one for them.

According to Son and Sprint, when the government can mess with your  competitors, it’s all good — and they ask for it. When the government can impede  you, they demand we all let the free market reign. Regulate thee, not me.

Crony Socialism epitomized.

 

[Originally published at Daily Caller]

Categories: On the Blog

Range Loss of EVs in Extreme Temperatures Has Been Reported for Years

Somewhat Reasonable - March 24, 2014, 10:53 AM

Last week AAA released findings from tests it had run on three models of electric automobiles, and announced that the heavily subsidized vehicles suffer dramatic driving range loss in both cold and hot temperatures.

The news wasn’t new, but apparently the broader media noticed because the pronouncement from the nation’s largest consumer automotive club made it official. NLPC (beginning with a Consumer Reports experience) has reported from time to time on such problems since late 2011. The Tulsa World reported that AAA found driving distance for electric vehicles can be diminished up to 57 percent in extremely cold temperatures, and by one-third in very hot temperatures.

The models tested were the Ford Focus EV, Mitsubishi i-MiEV, and the much-hyped Nissan Leaf. AAA said it rated “normal” range as 105 miles on a single charge, but that’s not even realistic for at least one Oklahoma owner.

“My average is just a little over 70 in perfect conditions,” said Leaf owner Murray Thibodeaux, “but when it got really cold we were just getting 40 miles.”

Besides enormous upfront costs (which President Obama’s Department of Energy has attempted to mitigate with billions of dollars in subsidies and tax credits) and long refueling (or re-powering) times, “range anxiety” has been a big deterrent to electric vehicle adoption by the public. Technological progress clearly has not been made despite billions more in taxpayer dollars that have been devoted to the improvement of EV battery performance. And of course one of the biggest reasons range diminishes in immoderate temperatures is because drivers like to use features such as heating and cooling when the outside climate is unpleasant.

As NLPC reported in November 2011, a Consumer Reports analyst based in New York discovered first-hand how driving a Leaf in 39-degree temperatures can chill bones and rattle nerves. Eliza Barth recounted how she started her 33-mile morning commute in a test-Leaf that said she had 70 miles of range, but despite keeping the heater off, the range gauge dropped to 39 miles about halfway “and I was freezing.” She ultimately made it to her office with numb fingers and toes, with little range to spare.

“It seems Leaf ownership is best if you are not in a hurry or live in a climate where the temperature remains moderate, so you can avoid using the climate control for heat or air conditioning,” Barth wrote.

The same month a Los Angeles-based Leaf owner, writer Rob Eshman, related his experience driving in the always-warm Southern California temperatures with hilly – when not mountainous – terrain. He told of one example in which he embarked on a 35-mile trip with the gauge reading 82 miles available, but after reaching his destination had not nearly enough juice for his return trip.

“I drove below the speed limit on the freeway, windows down so I could keep the mileage-guzzling AC off,” Eshman recalled. “Nevertheless, by the time I arrived at camp, I had only 31 of the original 82 miles left. That’s been my experience day in and day out….”

In mid-2012 several Leaf owners in Phoenix complained their batteries lost their capacity after only one year. One owner told a local television station he could drive 90 miles on a charge when he first purchased the vehicle, but within 12 months the range was halved.

And then there’s the story of the Tennessee environmentalist who set out to prove a point over the holidays in 2011, wanting to show that his Leaf could make a 180-mile trip from Knoxville to Nashville to visit family within a reasonable amount of time. Strategically located “fast-chargers” at Cracker Barrel restaurants along the Interstate were supposed to aid the swiftness of his journey.

Alas, it wasn’t to be so. Once again the Leaf’s gauge misled its owner into thinking its battery had more range than it would deliver. The driver – Stephen Smith of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – was unable to travel farther than 55 miles on any leg of the trip. With his wife and five-year-old son as passengers, Smith needed four recharges and six hours for a trip that in a gas-powered vehicle would require less than half the time and no refueling stops (but probably a bathroom break!).

The range woes aren’t limited to the Leaf (or the Focus or the i-MiEV). As NLPC colleague Mark Modica reported in January, a recent study revealed the Chevy Volt has only about half the electric range (it has a small gas tank also) as those that are owned in warmer climates.

AAA’s study only confirmed what has been reported often elsewhere, but the organization’s influence at least caused a few more journalists to notice and some consumers to become more aware of yet another shortcoming of EVs.

 

[Originally published at National Legal and Policy Center]

Categories: On the Blog

Mandates Never Work: The Case of Auto Insurance

Somewhat Reasonable - March 24, 2014, 9:21 AM

Some readers of my recent piece on Ezra Klein’s misleading explanation of the “individual mandates” were surprised that, despite being mandated, 14 percent of drivers are uninsured.

This really should not be surprising. I wrote about this for the National Center for Policy Analysis in 2006  At the time, I wrote:

  • All but three states mandate automobile insurance, but 14.6 percent of America’s drivers remained uninsured in 2004, according to the Insurance Research Council.
  • No state mandates health insurance, but 17.2 percent of the population lacked health coverage in 2004, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.
  • In 17 states, the uninsured rate for auto is higher than for health.

What is remarkable about the finding is this: considering that driving is a voluntary activity and enforcement is relatively easy – making people show proof of insurance when they register their cars.  Further, auto coverage is relatively inexpensive, especially since the only part of the coverage mandated in most states is the damage you might do to other people and their property.  You are not required to insure for the damage you do to yourself or your own car.

This, despite the fact that the penalties for non-compliance can be severe:

  • In Kentucky an uninsured motorist can be fined $1,000 and 6 months in jail; Wyoming also has a 6 month jail term and a $750 fine.
  • In Louisiana, the driver’s car can be impounded for failure to insure.
  • Yet the rate of noncompliance is 12 percent in Kentucky, 11 percent in Wyoming and 10 percent in Louisiana.

About this time I did a comparison of the rate of non-insurance for auto versus health in sixteen states where mandatory auto insurance resulted in higher rates of non-compliance than for health, which was voluntary.

Rate of Non-Insurance, Auto versus Health, by state, 2004

State Auto Health AL 25.0 16.3 AZ 22.0 19.7 CA 25.0 21.6 DC 21.0 11.5 DE 12.0 11.5 HI 13.0 11.5 IA 12.0 10.9 IL 16.0 15.9 IN 16.0 14.7 KS 13.0 12.7 MI 17.0 12.4 MN 10.0 9.1 MS 26.0 19.2 OH 15.0 13.3 RI 14.0 10.7 WA 18.0 16.0

Table: The state-by-state breakdown of uninsured motorists is from, “Uninsured Motorists: 2006 Edition,” Insurance Research Council, 718 Providence Rd. Malvern, PA, 19355. The state-by-state breakdown of the population uninsured for health care is from, “Sources of Health Insurance and Characteristics of the Uninsured: Analysis of the March 2004 Current Population Survey,” by Paul Fronstin, Employee Benefit Research Institute, December, 2004.

More recently the Wall Street Journal weighed in with some updated numbers. This article noted that uninsured motorists don’t just hurt themselves, they can inflict enormous damage on other people. It cites one story from Oklahoma that resulted in $500,000 in medical bills to an innocent couple “when a driver plowed through a stop sign and crashed into the Jeep in which they were riding, sending them both to the hospital with serious injuries.”

It reports that state efforts to beef-up penalties have had little effect on the problem:

Look, it is a fantasy that a group of legislators in Washington, DC or Albany New York can wave their magic wands and make everybody do what they want. A few years ago, I gave a speech to a group of state legislators in Albany shortly after New York enacted a new law prohibiting the use of hand-held cell phones while driving. In the taxi going from the airport to the venue I noticed that every single car on the highway was violating the 55 MPH speed limit, without exception, and at least a third of the drivers were chatting merrily on their hand-held phones.

NONE OF THIS EVER WORKS!

There is always a significant portion of the population in the United States that is indifferent to these laws or too dysfunctional to obey them. That may not be the case in Europe, but it sure the hell is here.

Legislators may make themselves feel good by enacting such a mandate – “We have taken decisive action to fix this terrible problem!” – but passing a law that will widely be ignored does no one any good. In fact, it diminishes respect for laws generally.  Legislators would be better off simply passing a resolution – “In the opinion of this body, no one should ever do X, Y, or Z!”

 

[Originally published at The Federalist]

Categories: On the Blog

Solar and Wind Power Losing Worldwide Support

Somewhat Reasonable - March 24, 2014, 9:08 AM

In his state of the union speech in January President Obama claimed that the U.S. was closer to “energy independence” than ever. He was referring to solar energy while ignoring that his administration has been the most anti-fossil fuel energy than any previous one.

The U.S. has the greatest energy reserves, coal, oil and natural gas, of any nation in the world, but Obama has been waging a “war on coal”, delaying the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, and  slow to issue permits to explore for new sources of energy reserves on federal lands. The impact on the economy is incalculable, but it is driving up the cost of energy for everyone and every industry.

Meanwhile, Obama keeps talking about “green jobs” and doubling the nation’s supply of renewable energy in the next three years.”  This is another fantasy to which he clings.

As Taylor Smith, a senior policy analyst for The Heartland Institute, points out “Despite years of favorable public policy, including renewable power mandates and billions in subsidies, solar power still produces only about 0.2 percent of the nation’s electricity. The National Conference of State Legislatures says power from most large, utility-scaled solar installations still costs about 35 percent more than electricity from natural gas plants; many other experts estimate the levelized cost is even higher.”

U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that the United States is producing less electricity now than it did when Obama took office even with the inclusion of wind energy.

From 2008 to 2012, U.S. electricity production declined by 1.7 percent. That’s what happens when Environmental Protection Agency regulations force coal mines to close along with coal-fired plants that previously produced 50 percent of the nation’s electricity.

Suffice to say, Obama is the enemy of fossil fuel production and the energy it provides for electricity production and our transportation needs. That makes him the enemy of the American people.

In February, the National Review had an article, “Europe’s Green Collapse”, by Stephen Moore in which he noted that “Not long ago nearly all the nations of Europe bought into this same dream of a green energy free lunch as they legislated tens of billions of dollars in subsidies for solar and wind power while directly and indirectly taxing and capping carbon-based energy.”

That policy was set in motion by the United Nations Kyoto treaty in 1997. It was based on the global warming hoax that called for a reduction in so-called “greenhouse gas” emissions. The U.S. did not sign onto the treaty and Canada withdrew from it in 2012.

The Earth, however, has been in a natural cooling cycle for going on seventeen years, the result not of any manmade gases, but because of the Sun has been producing lower levels of solar radiation. The hoax is based largely on the utterly false claim that carbon dioxide warms the Earth when, in fact, it plays virtually no role whatever in the Earth’s climate. The Earth is likely to remain cooler for decades.

That fact has been brutally clear in Europe where the cold has been comparable to the temperatures the U.S. has been encountering. Moore reported that “In January Brussels announced with little media fanfare that the European Union is ditching their renewable-energy standards.” It is a matter of economic survival for Europe.

What is astonishing is the way both the U.S. and Europe adopted renewable energy production because it is unpredictable and mindlessly expensive. A major factor why the global warming hoax is collapsing, it has cost everyone here and in Europe billions in loans and subsidies. Both solar and wind require a backup from traditional power sources that utilize coal, oil and natural gas.

“Thanks to about $33 billion a year in government subsidies, Germany currently gets 25 percent of its electricity from wind and solar power, and that is scheduled to rise 40 to 45 percent by 2025.” Watch Germany abandon its plans. “The EU admits that the cost of electric power in member nations is often 50 to 100 percent higher than in the U.S,” noted Moore. “Manufacturers are starting to move plants out of the EU and even to, of all places, the U.S.”

“Here is a textbook case of how centralized industrial planning—or ‘government investment’ as we now say—usually leads to catastrophically wrong bets.” In the U.S. it began in the 1970s when President Carter spent billions on renewable energy and projects like the Synthetic Fuels Corporation, a predecessor of Solyndra and other companies that went bankrupt shortly after receiving loans during the Obama administration’s first term in office. Under Obama’s “stimulus” program, 83 percent of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Acts Section 1705 loans went to solar energy projects with wind receiving 11 percent of the funds.

“What saved the U.S. economy from replicating the Euro-industrial malaise was the entirely spontaneous oil-and-gas boom driven by technology and billions in investment by wildcat entrepreneurs…”  That’s called capitalism. The sooner we get the U.S. government out of “investing” in such nonsense, the better.

As with everything else Obama has to say, his advocacy of renewable energy, like Carter’s, has proven to be a massive, costly failure.

[Originally posted at Warning Signs]
Categories: On the Blog

Net Neutrality is About Consumer Welfare not Corporate Welfare for Netflix

Somewhat Reasonable - March 22, 2014, 1:32 AM

Billionaire Netflix CEO Reed Hastings objects to Netflix having to pay anything at all for Netflix’ gorging on 30% of the Internet’s North American bandwidth. In a Netflix corporate blogpost billionaire Reed Hastings rails against the perceived injustice of Netflix paying Internet usage-based pricing like consumers do.

At core, Mr. Hastings now derides traditional consumer-defined net neutrality, which ensures consumers the freedom to access the legal content of their choice – as “weak” net neutrality.

Meanwhile, he is attempting to rebrand his new self-serving, corporate-defined net neutrality, which ensures the largest corporate users of the Internet pay nothing for their largest usage of interconnection bandwidth — as “strong” net neutrality.

Mr. Hastings’ position clearly prioritizes corporate welfare above consumer welfare.

His own words make his upside-down priorities clear:

Strong net neutrality additionally prevents ISPs from charging a toll for interconnection to services like Netflix, YouTube, or Skype, or intermediaries such as Cogent, Akamai or Level 3, to deliver the services and data requested by ISP residential subscribers. Instead, they must provide sufficient access to their network without charge. [Bold emphasis added.]

Simply, Mr. Hastings’ self-serving position here is that large Internet corporations not only should not have to pay for any usage-based Internet interconnection, they should not have to pay anything at all!

Netflix’ position is that users should fund the full cost of the Internet’s infrastructure, while the largest Internet corporations which profit the most from the Internet are entitled to an official special-interest pass on corporate responsibility.

Most simply, Netflix demands that large Internet corporations be entitled to use and profit from the Internet for free, while consumers and ISPs pay their tab.

Anyone who thinks about it appreciates that the Internet operates over very expensive high-tech infrastructure that constantly needs upgrade to handle exploding usage. Someone has to pay for it, it is not free.

Like any other market, Internet users can buy different types of Internet access based on their different needs, wants and means. Specifically, a consumer can buy the speed and mobility they want and the amount of usage they want to consume. And like any other rational economic market, those that use more, pay more.

Give Mr. Hastings credit where credit is due, he has a lot of gall. His concept of “strong” net neutrality is that the corporation that uses the most Internet bandwidth, his, with a whopping 30%, should pay the least.

Moreover, under Mr. Hastings “strong” net neutrality vision, corporations may charge consumers for their Internet usage, but may not charge other corporations for their usage. Here Mr. Hastings employs self-serving, pejorative terms like “toll” and “arbitrary tax” to distract people from the fact that what we are really talking about here is simply a price for value received.

Notice how Mr. Hastings’ priority for “strong” net neutrality effectively abandons the consumer?

It will be telling to see if any consumer groups support Netflix’s anti-consumer position. And if some do it will be telling how they square that circle with their consumer clients.

In sum, this whole issue is actually very simple. For two decades of exponential growth, the Internet backbone market has flourished spectacularly without government regulation.

Internet backbone interconnection pricing is largely based on volume of exchanged traffic (usage) by ISPs, the largest Internet companies and intermediaries. Consumers, both individuals and businesses, also pay for their Internet based on usage. Why now should Netflix and other big Internet corporations be granted a regulatory special exemption from Internet usage pricing at the expense of consumers and other businesses?

Consumers know the old adage — you get what you pay for. Somehow Netflix imagines it is owed whatever they want — and it does not have to pay anything for it.

Simply, Netflix is putting corporate welfare above consumer welfare.

***

Netflix Research Series

Part 1:  Level 3 & Net Neutrality – Ignorance Unleashed! [11-30-10]

Part 2:  Level 3-Netflix Expose their Hidden Agenda [12-3-10]

Part 3:  Sinking Level 3 Seeking FCC Internet Regulation Bailout [12-8-10]

Part 4:  Netflix’ Open Internet Entitlement Hubris [2-1-11]

Part 5:  Fact-Checking Netflix’ Net Neutrality WSJ Op-ed [7-8-11]

Part 6:  Netflix’ Glass House Temper Tantrum Over Broadband Usage Fees [7-26-11]

Part 7:  Netflix Crushes its Own Momentum [9-20-11]

Part 8:  Netflix the Unpredictable [10-10-11]

Part 9:  Is Netflix the AOL of Web Streaming? [3-9-12]

Part 10: Netflix’ Net Neutrality Corporate Welfare Plan [5-9-12]

Part 11: 5 BIG Implications from Court Signals on Net Neutrality – A Special Report [9-13-13]

Part 12: Video: Why FCC Title II Reclassification of Broadband is a Legal Non-Starter [9-22-13]

Part 13:  Is Net Neutrality Trying to Mutate into an Economic Entitlement? [1-12-14]

Part 14:  Exposing Netflix’ Extraordinary Net Neutrality Arbitrage [1-24-14]

[First posted at the Precursor Blog.]

Categories: On the Blog

Report: Three Hours of Waterboarding Over Fracking on The Daily Show

Somewhat Reasonable - March 22, 2014, 1:03 AM

On Thursday, February 27, I received an email inviting me to be part of a segment “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart was doing on fracking. After doing my research, I agreed to participate and flew to New York City for a March 7 taping.

I expected that they’d try to spring something on me. Based on the pre-taping interviews, I had a sense of where the interview would go. I studied up as if I was heading in for a final exam. I wanted to be sure they couldn’t trip me up.

When I walked into The Daily Show offices, I felt that I was ready.

The interview started straight enough. They asked: “Why do environmentalists hate fracking?” I explained that I didn’t think it was really about fracking, as thousands, if not millions, of wells had been drilled using hydraulic fracturing since modern techniques were developed in 1949. I pointed out that a primitive form of fracking was done in the late 1800s when a nitro glycerin torpedo was dropped down a well hole. Despite this long, safe, and prosperous history the frack attacks had started in October 2007 — shortly after the technologies of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling were successfully combined and began to unleash America’s new energy abundance.

I continued: It is not really about fracking. It is about fossil fuels — and hating them. The average person doesn’t have a clear understanding of the role that energy plays in their lives (which is why I do what I do). All most people know about energy is the price of gasoline and they know “drill, baby, drill.” They know that increased production of oil translates to lower prices at the pump. So the anti-fossil fuel crowd can’t come out with an anti-drilling campaign, but they can use a term that sounds scary and that people do not understand: fracking — the vernacular for hydraulic fracturing.

Because people do not know what fracking is, the antis can give it whatever definition they want and use fear, uncertainty, and doubt to turn people against the proven technology that is almost singly responsible for creating millions of jobs in America and bringing us closer to energy independence than previously ever thought possible. In a recent Fracking by the Numbers report, on page 6, Environment America offers a definition that basically covers the entire drilling process from permitting to production, including: “to deliver the gas or oil produced from that well to market.”

Once they had scared people, those against fracking set out to stop the procedure—with the ultimate goal of banning it all together. Since 96-98% of all oil-and-gas wells drilled in the U.S. today are stimulated using hydraulic fracturing, banning fracking essentially bans modern oil-and-gas production.

I was asked about fracking accidents. I asserted that there were none that I was aware of and cited the fact that three leading Obama Administration secretaries — hardly fossil-fuel fans — had declared fracking to be safe: former Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, former Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and current Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz.

Now, in hour three of what I told the crew was like three hours of waterboarding where they kept throwing stuff at me in hopes I’d give something up, the tone changed. Suddenly, the correspondent repeatedly asked me about pizza and whether it was appropriate compensation for a “fraccident.” I stopped and told them: “I will not say that word.” Since I was not aware of any fracking accidents, I wasn’t going to let them get me on camera saying “fraccident.”

Once I was back at home and at my desk, I did a search on drilling, accident, and pizza. The story came up — but it wasn’t a “fraccident.” While the exact cause of the Greene County, PA well fire is still under investigation, the local news reported:

Chevron had previously completed drilling and hydraulically fracturing, or fracking, the well and was in the final stages of using steel pipe to hook it up to a pipeline distribution network for production.

The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection’s Scott Perry stated:

The problem may have come from a defect in the wellhead itself. Chevron’s wellheads are ringed with collars that have set pins running horizontally through them.

Perry says one of the pins may have blown out of the collar, releasing the gas.

The accident referenced by The Daily Show, took place in a rural area and no homes were ever endangered. But Chevron realized that the increased truck traffic and other activities inconvenienced the folks of Bobtown, a place on the Pennsylvania/West Virginia border with a population of 747 people. In an effort to be a “good partner” in the community, Chevron offered vouchers to the only eatery within 80 miles.

While the locals aren’t upset with Chevron for the gesture, saying, “the whole issue was blown out of proportion,” comedians have had a field day with it and the anti-fossil fuel crowd is using it for messaging. A petition has been started at MoveOn.org demanding that Chevron apologize for the free pizza — calling it “an insult.” There are currently nearly 13,000 signatures, mostly from distant locales, but none from Bobtown. Local resident Gloria Garnek commented on the contrived controversy and the coupons saying: “I think it’s a nice thing.”

I’ll have to wait to see how The Daily Show turns three hours of media waterboarding into a 3 – 5 minute segment when it airs in late March or early April.

[Originally posted at Townhall.]

Categories: On the Blog

No Fundamental Shift to Transit: Not Even a Shift

Somewhat Reasonable - March 21, 2014, 9:44 AM

The American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is out  with news of higher transit ridership. APTA President and CEO Michael  Melaniphy characterizes the new figures as indicating “a fundamental  shift going on in the way we move about our communities.” Others even characterized  the results as indicating “shifting consumer preferences.” The data shows  either view to be an exaggeration.

1935 and 2013

This is hardly a reliable time for making judgments about  fundamental shifts or shifts in consumer preferences. Economic performance has  been more abysmally abnormal only once in the last century –during the Great  Depression – than at present.

The last year, 2013, is the sixth year in a row that total  employment, as reported by the Bureau of Labor Statistics was below the peak  year of 2007 (Figure 1). This run of dismal job creation was exceeded only between  the Great Depression years of 1929 and 1936 in the last 100 years (Note 1). From  World War II until the Great Recession, the maximum number of years that  employment fell below a previous peak was two, following the 9/11 terrorist  attacks (2001 to 2003). The Great Recession may have ended, according to the  National Bureau of Economic Research, but the Great Malaise continues as the  economy is performing well below historic levels. Judgments about fundamental shifts and consumer choice today are not more reliable than they would have been in the Great Depression year of 1935.

Transit’s Market  Share: Stuck in Neutral

But more importantly, there is no shift to transit.  APTA is right to point out that transit  ridership has grown faster than vehicle travel in the United States since 1995.  Nonetheless, transit’s share of urban travel has barely budged, because its 1995  share of travel was so small. This is indicated by Figure 2, which compares the  overall market share of transit to that of cars and light trucks from 1995 to  2013. Indeed, the top of Figure 2 (the 100 percent line) is virtually  indistinguishable from the personal vehicle share over the entire period. The bottom  of the chart (the zero percent line) is virtually indistinguishable from the  transit share. This is not the stuff of fundamental shift.

Commuting: The Story  is Not Transit

A similar pattern of little or no change is indicated by the  commuting (work access) data from the Census Bureau’s American Community  Survey.

Over the past five years, as with virtually all the years  since such data has been collected, the overwhelming majority of new commuters  have driven alone (Figure 3). Indeed, transit has not taken a single net  automobile off the road since 1960, and not in the last five years. Between  2007 and 2012, 93 percent of the additional commuters drove alone (Note 2). The  drive alone market, which might have been thought to be saturated, actually rose  from 76.1 percent to a 76.3 percent market between 2007 and 2012.

The biggest change has been the continuing loss in carpool  use, which dropped from 10.4 percent to 9.7 percent from 2007 to 2012. It is  estimated that nearly 450,000 passengers left carpools (excluding drivers),  approximately 1.8 passengers for each additional commuter using transit  (250,000).

The largest gain from 2007 to 2012 was in working at home,  including telecommuting. Working at home increased from 4.1 percent to 4.4  percent. In actual numbers, working at home added 1.9 times the increase in  transit commuting. Its change in market share was greater than that of transit  in 42 of the 52 major metropolitan areas. Surprisingly, this includes New York,  with its incomparable transit system (by US standards).

Transit’s share of commuting inched up only 0.1 percentage  points between 2007 and 2012. This is so small that if this rate of annual  increase were sustained for 50 years, transit’s commute market share would  edge up to only 6 percent (Figure 4),  approximately transit’s 1980 market share (doubling to 10 percent would require  130 years). The latest data indicates both gains and losses for transit, with  market shares up in 28 major metropolitan areas and down in 24.

Transit Losses

In Atlanta, with the nation’s second largest Metro (subway)  system built since 1975, a declining overall employment base was accompanied by  a loss of 13,000 transit commuters, at the same time that there was an increase  in working at home of 19,000.

In Portland,  considered by many around the world to be an urban planning Utopia, the data is  hardly favorable. Since 1980, the last year with data before the first of five light rail lines and one commuter rail line opened, transit’s market share has  dropped from 8.4 percent to 6.0 percent. While spending billions of dollars on  rail, working at home – which involves little or no public expenditure – increased  by triple the number of people drawn to transit. And things have not changed  materially, even during the claimed “fundamental shift.” In the last  five years, the working at home increase is more than double that of transit.

In Los Angeles, ridership at the largest transit agency continues  to languish below its 1985 peak, despite having opened 9 light rail, Metro, and  rapid busway lines and adding more than 1.5 million residents. Even this decline  may be under-stated because of how transit counts passengers. Each time someone  steps on a transit vehicle, they are counted (as a boarding). A person who  transfers between two or three buses to make a trip counts as two or three  boardings, which is what the APTA data reports.

When rail is added to a transit system, bus services are  reconfigured to serve the rail system. This can mean many more boardings from  transfers without more passenger trips. This potential inflation of ridership  is likely to have occurred not only in Los Angeles, but in all metropolitan  areas that added rail systems.

Transit Gains

At the same time, gains are being made in some metropolitan  areas. Ridership has risen more strongly in transit’s  six “legacy cities,” the municipalities (not metropolitan areas)  of New York, Chicago, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Boston, and Washington. Between  2007 and 2012, 68 percent of the additional transit commuting occurred to  employment locations in these six municipalities. This is higher than the 55  percent of national transit commuting that these areas represented in 2012. The  much larger share being attracted by these areas in the last 5 years is an  indication that transit ridership, already highly concentrated in just a few  places, is becoming even more concentrated.  Further, 50 percent to 75  percent of commuters to the corresponding six downtowns reach work by  transit.

Rational Consumer  Behavior

Even when the nation finally emerges from the Great Malaise,  only vain hope will be able to conceive of a large scale consumer preference driven  shift toward transit. The rational consumer will not choose transit that is  slower or less convenient than the car. Where transit access is impractical or impossible,  people will use cars. This is the case for most trips in all US metropolitan  area, as the Brookings Institution research cited below indicates

The  Brookings Institution research indicated that the average employee in the  nation’s major metropolitan areas are able to access fewer than 10 percent of  jobs in 45 minutes. This is not only a small number of jobs, but it is a travel  time that is approximately twice that of the average employee in the United  States (most of whom travel by car).

More funding for transit cannot solve this problem. The kind  of automobile competitive transit system needed to provide rational consumer  choice between cars and transit would require annual expenditures rivaling the  total personal income in the metropolitan area, as Jean-Claude Ziv and I showed  in our 2007 11th World  Conference on Transport Research paper (2007). It is no wonder that not a  single comprehensive automobile competitive transit system exists or has been  seriously proposed in any major US or Western European metropolitan area (Note  3).  Transit is about the largest  downtowns and the largest urban cores.

Unbalanced Coverage

All of this appears to have escaped many media outlets, which largely parroted the APTA press release. For example, The New York Times, CBS  News, the Washington Post, and the Chicago Tribune were as parish  newsletters commenting on a homily by the priest, for their failure to report  both sides. A notable exception was USA Today, whose reporter consulted  outsider Alan Pisarski (who has written for newgeography.com). Pisarski placed  the APTA figures in historical context and expressed reservations about  restoration of the transit commuting share numbers of 1980 or before.

———————

Note 1: Current Employment Statistics Survey data, 1939 to  2013. 1913 to 1938 estimated from data in Historical  Statistics of the United States: Bicentennial Edition.

Note 2: The source for the commuting data is the American  Community Survey of the Census Bureau, which indicates an employment level in  2012 that is higher than in 2007. The Current Employment Statistics Survey of  the Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates a decline.

Note 3: I would be pleased to be corrected on this. In 2004,  we issued a challenge on this subject, and while there were some responses,  none met the required criteria (see http://demographia.com/db-challenge-choice.htm).  The criteria are repeated below:

To identify an actual system or  propose a system that provides the following in an urban area of more than  1,000,000 population:

· Transit choice (automobile  competitive public transport service) for at least 90 percent of trips and  passenger kilometers in the particular urban area.

· Automobile competitiveness is  defined as door to door trip times no more than 1.5 times automobile travel  time.

The description of any system not  already in operation should also include an estimate of its cost, capital and  annual operating.

 

[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog
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