On the Blog

Obama Administration Kicks the Oil-and-Gas Industry While it is Down

Somewhat Reasonable - January 05, 2015, 1:12 PM

For the past six years, the oil and gas industry has served as a savior to the Obama presidency by providing the near-lone bright spot in economic growth. Increased U.S. oil-and-gas production has created millions of well-paying jobs and given us a new energy security. The president often peppers his speeches with braggadocio talk about our abundant supplies and decreased dependence on foreign oil.

 So now that the economic powerhouse faces hard times, how does the Administration show its appreciation for the oil-and-gas industry boon to the economy over the past six years?

 By introducing a series of regulations—at least nine in total, according to the Wall Street journal (WSJ)—that will put the brakes on the US energy boom through higher operating costs and fewer incentives to drill on public lands.

 WSJ states: “Mr. Obama and his environmental backers say new regulations are needed to address the impacts of the surge in oil and gas drilling.”

 U.S. oil production, according to the Financial Times: “caught Saudi Arabia by surprise.” The kingdom sees that US shale and Canadian oil-sand development “encroached on OPEC’s market share” and has responded with a challenge to high-cost sources of production by upping its output—adding to the global oil glut and, therefore, dropping prices.

 Most oil-market watchers expect temporary low-priced oil, with prediction of an increase in the second half of 2015, and some saying 2016. North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness believes “We’re in an energy war.” He sees “the price slump could last 16 months or even one to two years as U.S. supply stays strong, global demand remains weak and OPEC continues to challenge U.S. production.” However, Ibrahim al-Assaf, Saudi Arabia’s finance minister, recently said: “We have the ability to endure low oil prices over the medium term of up to five years, even if it means delving into fiscal reserves to cover a large deficit.”

 While no one knows how long the low-price scenario will last—geopolitical risk is still a factor.

 Many oil companies are already re-evaluating exploration, reining in costs, and cutting jobs and/or wages. “In the low price circumstance like today,” Jean-Marie Guillermou, the Asian head of the French oil giant Total, explained: “you do the strict minimum required.”

 In December, the WSJ reported: “Some North American companies have said they plan to cut their capital spending next year and dial back on exploring for new oil.” It quotes Tim Dove, President and COO for Pioneer Natural Resources Co.: “We are seeking cost reductions from all our suppliers.”

 Last month, Enbridge Energy Partners said: “it has laid off some workers in the Houston area”—which the Houston Chronicle (HC) on December 12 called: “the latest in a string of energy companies to announce cutbacks.” The HC continued: “Other key energy companies have also announced layoffs in recent days as oil tumbles to its lowest price in years. Halliburton on Thursday said it would slash 1,000 jobs in the Eastern Hemisphere as part of a $75 million restructuring. BP on Wednesday revealed plans to accelerate job cuts and pare back its oil production business amid crumbling oil prices.” Halliburton said: “we believe these job eliminations are necessary in order to work through this market environment.”

 Civeo, a lodging and workforce accommodation company for the oil-and-gas industry has cut 30 percent of its Canadian workforce and 45 percent of its U.S. workforce. President and CEO Bradley Dodson said: “As it became evident during the fourth quarter that capital spending budgets among the major oil companies were going to be cut, we began taking steps to reduce marketed room capacity, control costs and curtail discretionary capital expenditures.”

 I have warned the industry that while they have remained relatively unscathed by harsh regulations—such as those placed on electricity generation—their time would come. Now, it has arrived. The WSJ concurs: “In its first six years, the administration released very few regulations directly affecting the oil-and-gas industry and instead rolled out several significant rules aimed at cutting air pollution from the coal and electric-utility sectors.”

 According to the WSJ: “Some of the rules have been in the works for months or even years.” But that doesn’t mean the administration should introduce them now when the industry is already down—after all, the administration delayed Obamacare mandates due to the negative impact on jobs and the economy.

 Greg Guidry, executive vice president at Shell, recently said that he doesn’t want the EPA to “impose unnecessary costs and burden on an industry challenged now by a sustained low-price environment.”

 Different from Obama, Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper gets it. Under pressure from the environmental lobby to increase regulations on the oil-and-gas industry, he, during a question session on the floor of the House of Commons in December, said: “Under the current circumstances of the oil and gas sector, it would be crazy—it would be crazy economic policy—to do unilateral penalties on that sector.” He added: “We are not going to kill jobs and we are not going to impose a carbon tax.”

 Introducing the new rules now kick the industry while it is down and shows that President Obama either doesn’t get it, or he cares more about burnishing his environmental legacy than he does about American jobs and economic growth.


Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – David Quast: Hydraulic Fracturing Ban in New York

Somewhat Reasonable - January 05, 2015, 9:15 AM

New York has made headlines and history by becoming the first state with significant deposits of natural gas to ban hydraulic fracturing. The decision was announced by New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and came on the heels of the release of a controversial new study by the New York Department of Public Health which claims there is not enough evidence to prove that fracking is safe. However, studies used to bolster these claims have been widely discredited by state health officials around the country.

Research Fellow Isaac Orr and his special guest David Quast from Energy In Depth discuss the flaws in the “science” used to justify the ban, the economic impact it will have for the citizens of New York, and the broader implications this ban could potentially have on the industry in other states.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]

Categories: On the Blog

Weather Bulletin #4, January 5, 2015: The Iceman Cometh

Somewhat Reasonable - January 05, 2015, 1:07 AM

Weather Bulletin #4, January 5, 2015

Temperatures in the coastal city of Syracuse in Sicily, dropped to record or near record lows on December 31 and again on January 2. January is typically the coldest month of the year in Syracuse, but the average low temperature according to Best of Sicily is a relatively balmy 50 degrees. In addition to unusually low temperatures, Syracuse rang in the year with a historic snowfall – something that had never happened before.

Indeed, snow and ice struck, and stuck, across much of Europe in late December, leaving thousands of homes without power in Britain, with accompanying high winds closing France’s port of Calais. While the French Alps welcomed the snowfall, so much snow fell so fast, traffic jams occurred resulting in fewer than 7,000 of 36,000 drivers expected to reach the alpine region of Savoie. France established emergency shelters for the thousands forced to spend the night on the road.

Meanwhile back in the United States, The National Weather Service (NWS) announced on Jan. 3 almost half of the U.S. should expect severe winter. Much of the eastern seaboard, including New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania have been placed under a winter weather advisory. In New Hampshire, snow squalls have already led to massive highway pileups with whiteout conditions causing accidents involving 35 vehicles on one interstate.

It’s not just the North East and New England suffering under winter’s icy spell, however, as frozen water pipes exploded around Denver, leaving many residents without potable water. Southern California also experienced unusual cold and significant snowfall, with the town of Julian receiving six inches of snow.

Meanwhile, many residents of Hawaii experienced a white Christmas and Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa on Big Island have received blizzard warnings from National Weather Service which warned those traveling to these mountains’ could face life-threatening conditions.

Nor, evidently, will the Midwest or Southern states being spared the winter freeze. The coldest air of the season will plunge into the Midwest, bringing to mind the worst of last year’s polar vortex experience.

The Weather Channel predicts two rounds of arctic cold will hit the U.S. The first blast has already begun, pushing below freezing as far south as Amarillo, Texas.

Starting Monday almost the entire states of North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin can expect to see extended days of subzero lows, with 20 below zero in northern Minnesota. The cold, accompanied by high winds are expected to deliver dangerous wind chills, with wind chill warnings out for much of the Upper Midwest. Several locations, including International Falls, Minnesota, already saw wind chills in the 40s below zero Sunday evening.

According to the Weather Channel, “High temperatures Monday will be up to 25 degrees below average for areas around Lake Michigan, including single-digit highs for much of Wisconsin and Michigan.”


The second round of freezing weather is expected to result in high temperatures up to 35 degrees below average in parts of the Midwest. For instance, “Chicago may see a subzero high temperature on Wednesday. The last time the mercury did not reach zero there was on January 6 of last year. Chicago may also set a daily record cold high temperature on Wednesday (current record is 3 degrees set just last year) and a record low temperature on Thursday morning (current record is 10 degrees below zero).”


Minneapolis will experience its coldest temperatures this season with lows as much as 15 degrees below zero expected in the Twin Cities early in the week.

New Yorkers can expected to see a nearly weeklong spell of below 32 degrees temperatures, and while Houston and New Orleans could get a break from their dreaded humidity as temperatures fall to the low 20’s by Thursday morning.

Cold is breaking out all over and the summer is a long way off. Tis the season for global warming alarmists to claim global warming causes record cooling.

Categories: On the Blog

Book Review: The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold

Somewhat Reasonable - January 04, 2015, 6:22 PM

The first edition of Edmund Contoski’s book,The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold was excellent, and would be an outstanding textbook in a college economics course. The second edition, released in November 2014, is even better, because he has added significant new chapters, focusing on issues such as the world’s gold economy, alternative currencies, and Keynesian economics’ logical inconsistency.

In my opinion, this book ranks among those written by Adam Smith, Frederick Bastiat, and Ludwig Von Mises. Understanding Contoski’s message will make a reader a more effective participant in the fight to fix our country’s flawed economic policies.

By reading Contoski’s clearly-written book—a rare trait among economics books—one gains an understanding of just what money is. By inflating the money supply beyond the amount of resources supporting currency reserves, readers will learn, governments are the cause of all recessions.

The world is effectively covered in fiat money, paper unrepresentative of value from physical resources, Contoski explains.

The author explains the history of bank notes and checks and that fiat money descended from the receipts given by goldsmiths, the keepers of a valuable physical resource. Contoski also tells entertaining true stories of intrigue, such as how a single individual working at Goldman Sachs was able to keep Greece’s debt crisis from becoming public knowledge for years, collecting $300 million as a reward.

This, and other parts of the gold story, read like a best-selling mystery thriller.

He makes the failure of Fannie and Freddie easy to comprehend, naming thethe politicians who created the housing bubble which began with the Community Reinvestment Act, and expanded through FHA and various HUD housing mandates, involving characters such as Janet Reno to Barack Obama

Another true story, which reads like a best-selling mystery thriller, is Contoski’s retelling of some of President Richard Nixon’s economic measures to shift the American monetary system to a fiat system.

When one reads Contoski’s common-sense approach to economics, one begins to wonder\ how government gets it so wrong. In a free market, he tells us, every transaction benefits both sides, according to their own judgment. If a transaction did not benefit all parties, they would not participate in the transaction.

However, in transactions forced by government, it is a win-lose game, because government seeks to benefit one side by imposing loss on the other.

“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in a society,” French economist and philosopher Frederic Bastiat wrote, “they create for themselves, in the course of time, a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.”

Throughout his book, Contoski provides evidence that we live in such a society. The Founding Fathers, Contoski explains, feared the evolution of such a system, in which politicians enacted policies by force, declaring such unilateral actions as beneficial to all.

Un-Convention-al Suggestions

This fear is coming true, Contoski writes, as government actions and regulations become more aggressive.

On a positive note, however, The Impending Monetary Revolution, the Dollar and Gold is refreshing, because of the author’s pragmatic recognition of the improbability that any single politician will solve the nation’s economic problems.

Because of individual politicians’ desire to win votes by pleasing their constituents, Contoski concludes that a constitutional convention to change the rules by which government plays represents a solution more likely to succeed.

State legislators, he writes, should be willing to call for a convention, to retake their power over the government’s operation. At some point during the nation’s history, the states allowed themselves to become subservient to the federal government, an outcome our Founding Fathers would have found undesirable.

Additionally, Contoski describes a simple set of amendments he believes would meet with widespread approval during a constitutional convention, putting our nation back on its intended track.

Some examples supported by the author include reforming the Electoral College and a Balanced Budget Amendment punishing legislators with forced resignation, should the national government fail to balance its checkbook.

Other suggested reforms include the restoration of the Enumerated Powers of the Constitution, repealing The Federal Reserve Act and restoring the interpretation of “interstate commerce.”

My favorite suggestion, though, is official recognition of the right to pursue happiness, a reform which would eliminate government control over which crops we plant and which light bulbs or bathroom showerheads we install in our homes.

“Either we return to the principles on which this country was founded which were the basis for its success,” Contoski soberly concludes, “or we face a bleak future.”

Clearly, this outstanding text is a cautionary tale worth reading by anyone who has a serious interest in our economy.

I rarely rate the books I review, but economics books—often called “the dismal science”—sometimes scare readers away. Giving this book “five stars” may encourage people to pick up this enjoyable and informative book.

Categories: On the Blog

How the Left Wants to Eradicate Planes, Trains and Automobiles by Shutting Off Their Financial Fuel

Somewhat Reasonable - January 04, 2015, 10:11 AM

“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” is not just the name of Steve Martin and John Candy’s 1987 everything-goes-wrong comedy film. It’s also the prospective casualty list of the foundation-led anti-fossil-fuel campaign called the Divest-Invest movement.

The new crusade “responds to climate change by urging universities, churches, pension funds and other big institutional investors” to destroy petroleum and coal companies by dumping their shares and reinvesting in a “fossil-free clean-energy economy,” modeled loosely on the anti-apartheid activism of the 1980s.

In the past two years, dozens of public and private institutions have announced plans to divest fossil fuels from their portfolios. In August, a Bloomberg New Energy Finance white paper quoted one executive as saying Divest-Invest is “one of the fastest-moving debates I think I’ve seen in my 30 years in markets.”

The debate made headlines at the U.N. Climate Summit in September, where the “Divest-Invest Global Movement” delivered divestment pledges from 50 “philanthropic” foundations and more than 700 participating institutions and individuals” worth more than $50 billion.

At the United Nations, a small, functional “secretariat” was created to “survey all existing and pending Divest-Invest commitments, vetted by a committee of movement leaders.” That gave a patina of legitimacy to a “grassroots-driven movement” that was actually a “foundation grant-driven movement.”

Does all this hype matter? It could.

Even though there’s scant chance the movement can purge the nearly $5 trillion in oil and gas equities, the Bloomberg analysts think that “coal divestment could be relatively easy,” with existing shares worth less than 5 percent of oil and gas equities and large institutional investors much less invested in coal.

And an Oxford University “Stranded Assets” study asked, “What does divestment mean for the valuation of fossil fuel assets?” It found that dumping stocks may not even be necessary to destroy the oil and gas industry because “stigmatizing” can do it.

“[T]he stigmatization process, which the fossil fuel divestment campaign has now triggered, poses the most far-reaching threat to fossil fuel companies and the vast energy value chain. Any direct impacts pale in comparison.”

Why is that?

“In almost every divestment campaign we reviewed from adult services to Darfur, from tobacco to South Africa, divestment campaigns were successful in lobbying for restrictive legislation affecting stigmatized firms.”

Regulatory bans could be fatal.

The unanswered questions

Stigmatizers behave as if fossil-free alternatives are available for everything. Are they?

What if somebody answers the unasked question and reveals transportation’s vulnerability to stigmatization and government restrictions? The stock market is an open door that investors can enter and exit at will, and sometimes shocking news leads to shocking selloffs. If the Oxford researchers are right, stigmatization and restrictions could bring down the oil and gas industry in a jolting overnight panic.

What if the fossil fuel supply chain does suddenly vanish for lack of capital? What then?

What shall we do with America’s 254.4 million registered fossil-fueled passenger vehicles? Junk them? Convert them to biofuels or electric batteries or hydrogen? Force everyone to buy new? Where is the biomass or power grid or fueling network for that stupendous new load? Or do we just ban cars and forget being a mobile culture?

How will we power America’s 26.4 million registered commercial trucks and the 2.4 million heavy-duty trucks that deliver more than 70 percent of all freight, including our food? Where is the fossil-free infrastructure to take over that demand? How would we react to empty food shelves in every market and hungry millions ready to do anything for a meal?

What will fuel our 39,000 merchant ships? What about the estimated 40,000 ships of other nations? Go nuclear? The technology exists, but it’s not clear that we have the uranium and shipyard capacity for some 80,000 retrofits or new builds.

How will we keep rail freight carrying our bulk cargoes? Maybe hydrogen, which emits only water when burned? Experimental test locomotives are now being fueled by massive hydrogen tank cars and pulling standard strings of freight cars. None of these Hindenburg-on-rails experiments have exploded yet.

What will we use to make plastics, lubricants, asphalt for paving roads, wax for sealing frozen food packaging, fertilizer, linoleum, perfume, insecticides, petroleum jelly, soap, vitamin capsules, pharmaceuticals and the 6,000 other petroleum products we all use?

Without transportation fuel, modern civilization would collapse into an unimaginably horrendous chaos.

How will we fuel jetliners? Jet fuel is a high-energy, freeze-resistant mixture of a large number of different hydrocarbons, and that includes emerging biofuels. The aircraft biofuel industry hopes to cut jetliner carbon dioxide emissions in half—by 2050.

Zero-emission jet fuel is not expected on any time horizon. Even the synthetic fuels under study are all hydrocarbons. A fossil-free jet fuel would have to be extremely high energy per gallon because jetliners carry all their fuel inside the wings; none is carried beneath the passenger cabin. That fuel supply must take the plane to destinations near and far.

It also has to be freeze-resistant, because the atmospheric temperature at cruising altitudes is about 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit, and even in-wing heaters can’t keep gel-prone fuels from clogging. So, do we go fossil free and jetliner free? Anybody who recalls the closure of American airspace after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks knows what that means. U.S. stocks lost $1.4 trillion in one week.

Without transportation fuel, modern civilization would collapse into an unimaginably horrendous chaos. Don’t think it can happen? Who’s the denier now?

Who is behind Divest-Invest?

Unlike most grant-driven movements, the Divest-Invest movement is not just a blob of faceless “foundations.” It can be traced to a single private foundation, the little-known Washington-based Wallace Global Fund II—2012 assets, $115,471,213.

The WGF’s millions originally came from the 1920s-era Hi-Bred Corn Co. of Henry A. Wallace, who parlayed his wealth into political power and stints as secretary of agriculture, secretary of commerce, vice president under Franklin D. Roosevelt and presidential nominee in 1948 of the ultra-left Progressive Party.

The current heirs, co-chairmen Scott and Randall Wallace and treasurer Christy Wallace, along with executive director Ellen Dorsey (2012 compensation, $298,596), realized their investments in coal companies conflicted with their ideological goal of eliminating coal use and divested the offending securities, according to the fund’s website. It was a short step to building their example into a movement.

In June 2011, Dorsey and program manager Richard Mott (2012 compensation, $238,434) convened a group of college students and environmental activists at the fund’s offices to discuss launching a coal divestment campaign on the nation’s campuses.

According to the fund’s IRS Form 990PF reports, it gave more than 20 cooperating groups a substantial chunk of its nearly $15 million in grants in 2011 and 2012. Recipients included the Sierra Club Student Coalition, $180,000; the Hip Hop Caucus, $40,000; the anti-corporate lawsuit group As You Sow, $160,000; and Bill McKibben’s 350.org, $205,000 to front the campaign. The scope quickly expanded from coal only to all fossil fuels.

McKibben gets the credit for starting the Divest-Invest movement, largely because of his scary articles in Rolling Stone and Grist. But McKibben is the sock puppet in this fight and has secured only 13 commitments to divest, all from small colleges with small endowments. He doesn’t have traction in the trustee councils of big universities, which refuse to give any symbolic divestment pledge because they have a legal fiduciary trust to keep their institutions solvent.

Matt Dempsey of Oil Sands Fact Check, told The Daily Signal, “The divestment campaign is pure political theater designed to draw attention around fringe anti-fossil-fuel efforts leading up to the UN Climate Conference in France in 2015. No wonder leading academic voices on campuses across the country are rejecting this extreme campaign that would significantly cut student resources while doing nothing to improve the environment.”

[Originally published at The Daily Signal]


Categories: On the Blog

A Question for 2015: Is the FCC Unlawful?

Somewhat Reasonable - January 03, 2015, 9:42 AM

In May 2001, I published a law review article titled, “The Public Interest Standard: Is It Too Indeterminate to Be Constitutional?” In the article, I suggested that the ubiquitous public interest standard, invoked in support of so much of the Federal Communications Commission’s regulatory activity, is so lacking in any “intelligible principle” that the standard is unconstitutional. After all, in 1928 the Supreme Court held that, in order for congressional delegations of authority to comply with the constitutionally-mandated nondelegation doctrine, they must contain an “intelligible principle” to guide the agency or official exercising the authority. The public interest standard, I concluded, “is inconsistent with the separation of powers principles vindicated in our constitutional system through the nondelegation docrine.”

Not too long after the article’s publication, I was in attendance at a conference at which Cass Sunstein, now a Harvard Law School professor and former Obama Administration “regulatory czar,” was addressing the lawfulness of certain executive actions. I was startled when, referring to my “Public Interest Standard” article, Professor Sunstein, as part of a recitation of various challenges to administrative actions, declared: “And Randy May claims the FCC is unlawful!”

Well, to be frank, I had never considered my contention that the public interest standard is unconstitutional to mean that the FCC itself is unlawful. To my mind, I simply had suggested that the lawfulness of actions taken pursuant to the public interest standard should be questioned.

I suspected then, and still do, that perhaps Professor Sunstein simply used shorthand to capture what he understood to be my particular claim.

But, more recently, and increasingly, I have been turning over in my head the question suggested by Professor Sunstein’s characterization: “Is the FCC unlawful?” Now, to be sure, and not to be misunderstood, I do not wish to suggest that I believe a court, or certainly the Supreme Court, will hold in 2015 that the FCC itself is unlawful.

Instead, here I propose only to begin what I anticipate will be a yearlong conversation. As we begin the New Year, there are reasons why this year will be a propitious time to examine – even more intensely than in the past – the FCC and its actions through just such a lawfulness frame of reference.

First, 2015 marks the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. There are many ways of thinking about the Magna Carta and what the “Great Charter” represents. Some of these ways of thinking are contested as matters of history and of legal significance. But there is widespread agreement that the Magna Carta signed by King John at Runnymede in 1215 represents an important milestone in the development of our rule of law tradition. In fairly short order, Magna Carta came to be understood to mean that the law, at least in certain ways, protected the king’s subjects against certain of the king’s claims.

The most famous of Magna Carta’s protections – and most significant for purposes of advancing the rule of law tradition – was Clause 39: “No free man is to be arrested, or imprisoned, or disseised, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any other way ruined, nor will we go against him, except by the lawful judgment of his peers or by the law of the land.” As Brian Tamanaha points out in his book, On the Rule of Law: History, Politics, Theory, the phrase “due process of law” was used in a statute in England as early as 1354, and it soon came to be identified with Magna Carta’s phrase “ by the law of the land.”

The U.S. Supreme Court has invoked Magna Carta over 170 times, including Clause 39 on many of these occasions. For example, in 1855 in Murray’s Lessee v. Hoboken Land and Improvement Co., the Court stated that “[t]he words, ‘due process of law,’ were undoubtedly intended to convey the same meaning as the words, ‘by the law of the land,’ in Magna Carta.”

In his concurrence in Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, which held that President Truman’s order seizing control of the nation’s steel mills exceeded the president’s executive authority, Justice Jackson invoked the Due Process Clause when he famously declared, “there is a principle that ours is a government of laws and not of men, and that we submit ourselves to rulers only if under rules.”

On this 800th anniversary year of the signing of Magna Carta, it is especially fitting to consider whether the actions of our government, including those of the Federal Communications Commission, are consistent with the rule of law.

The second reason the timing is propitious to consider the question “Is the FCC lawful?” is that we now have before us Philip Hamburger’s magisterial new book, Is Administrative Law Unlawful? In a massive work that surely consumed many years, Professor Hamburger claims – and backs up his claims by extensive research into English and American constitutional history – that most, if not all, of the actions of our administrative agencies are unlawful. The FCC and its actions fall squarely within the ambit of Professor Hamburger’s critique.

In no way can I do justice to the fullness of Professor Hamburger’s argument here. For present purposes, I need only to state the boldness of his contention:

“Once it is clear how administrative power revives absolute power, and how this power conflicts with the very nature of American law, liberty, and society, one can dig into the details of how it violates the Constitution. Because it returns to the very power that constitutional law developed in order to defeat it, it does more than simply depart from one or two constitutional provisions. It systematically steps outside the Constitution’s structures, thereby creating an entire anti-constitutional regime.”

Or as he states in his conclusion:

“Apologists for administrative power thus must overcome many constitutional objections. They must put aside the specialization or separation of powers, the grants of legislative and judicial powers, the internal division of those powers, the unrepresentative character of administrative lawmaking, the nonjudicial character of administrative adjudication, the obstacles to subdelegation, the problems of federalism, the due process of law, and almost all of the other rights limiting the judicial power.”

Although there is much rich scholarship in Professor Hamburger’s book, I don’t necessarily subscribe to his claim, at least as expounded in its most expansive fashion, that all “administrative law is unlawful.” I say this for no other reason than, aside from the merits of the claim, it is most improbable that, at any time in the foreseeable future, the Supreme Court will agree with him.

But that does not mean that Professor Hamburger’s contentions, and the questions he raises, won’t impact administrative law or our nation’s jurisprudence. In my view, they should and will – and these arguments and questions should also impact the way we think about the lawfulness of various FCC actions and the way the courts consider these actions on review. Professor Hamburger’s arguments concerning the lawfulness of administrative rulemaking and administrative adjudication, subdelegation of agency decision-making, affording due process of law, and so forth, all apply to the FCC and its modes of operation.

Most fundamentally, the FCC, an agency at the crux of what has been called the “headless fourth branch” of government, derogates from separation of powers principles at the core of our tripartite constitutional system, with the legislative, executive, and judicial branches established and their powers delineated. In an early case, FCC v. Pottsville Broadcasting Co., involving the FCC’s authority under the public interest standard, Justice Frankfurter, an enthusiastic supporter of the Progressive Era and New Deal alphabet agencies, quoted Elihu Root to this effect:

There will be no withdrawal from these experiments. We shall go on; we shall expand them, whether we approve theoretically or not, because such agencies furnish protection to rights and obstacles to wrong doing which under our new social and industrial conditions cannot be practically accomplished by the old and simple procedure of legislatures and courts as in the last generation.

I suspect our Founders would shudder if they could hear the words concerning “these experiments.” Nevertheless, it is likely true that, despite any arguments by Professor Hamburger or me to the contrary, there will be “no withdrawal from these experiments,” at least in the sense of any wholesale withdrawal – and at least in the sense that a court will conclude that “the FCC is unlawful.”

But that is not really the point for the work ahead in 2015 for myself, Free State Foundation scholars, and for all those who share the conviction that the FCC, and communications law and policy, at least should be reformed in ways that are consistent with rule of law norms.

And there will be plenty of such reform and rule of law-oriented work on which to focus. By way of example:

  • Despite two previous setbacks in which courts already have held that the FCC exceeded its authority under the Communications Act, Chairman Tom Wheeler appears intent, especially after President Obama’s intervention, on forcing adoption of new public utility-like net neutrality mandates applicable to Internet service providers – once again relying on questionable legal authority.
  • And it is likely – given a past statement by Mr. Wheeler to the effect that the FCC should use its authority to review proposed mergers to achieve broad industry-wide regulatory objectives – that the agency will abuse its merger review authority by imposing, or inducing merger applicants to “volunteer,” conditions unrelated to any competitive concerns directly raised by the proposed transactions.
  • Moreover, it is likely that the FCC will continue to try to micromanage competition in ways that favor certain parties over others without sufficient regard to reliance or proprietary interests or due process concerns.
  • Finally, during his short tenure Chairman Wheeler increasingly has evidenced a tendency to diminish his colleagues’ ability to participate in FCC decision-making processes, for example, by directing the agency staff to act on “delegated authority” on significant matters or acting alone. Of course, each commissioner, under the law, has an equal vote, but that vote becomes meaningless if the Commission’s business is conducted in a way that avoids voting on various measures.

These and other examples implicate both substance and process issues that should be considered this coming year with an eye on reform. And, in one way or the other, they implicate rule of law norms that harken back to what was done in the fields of Runnymede in 1215. It is not my intent to suggest that the FCC’s past or future actions in any way rise to the level of the import of Magna Carta. And it is not my intent to subscribe in any wholesale manner to Phillip Hamburger’s contention that all of administrative law is unlawful.

But I do want to suggest, as 2015 begins, that we ought to draw inspiration from Magna Carta’s 800th anniversary and the recent publication of Professor Hamburger’s book to renew our commitment to contributing in a constructive way to reforming communications law and policy and the FCC as an institution, always with an eye on consistency with rule of law norms.

[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

The NYPD’s Revolt Is A Direct Threat To Democracy

Somewhat Reasonable - January 03, 2015, 8:06 AM

New York City Mayor Bill De Blasio should take a page out of the book of Calvin Coolidge.

Since the moment when police officers turned their backs in protest on New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, we’ve seen the type of escalating activity in the city which would be more recognizable as the preview to a messy Latin American coup d’etat.

The latest is a form of purposeful sabotage on the part of the NYPD, which is now actively shirking its duty to enforce the law. According to the New York Post, traffic tickets and summonses have plummeted by 94 percent, and overall arrests are down 66 percent for the week compared to the same period last year. Here’s the data comparisons from this year to 2013:

Citations for traffic violations fell by 94 percent, from 10,069 to 587, during that time frame. Summonses for low-level offenses like public drinking and urination also plunged 94 percent — from 4,831 to 300. Even parking violations are way down, dropping by 92 percent, from 14,699 to 1,241. Drug arrests by cops assigned to the NYPD’s Organized Crime Control Bureau — which are part of the overall number — dropped by 84 percent, from 382 to 63.

Considering how much New York, as with many of our other major cities, has leaned toward over-policing, this isn’t all a bad thing – I’m not going to get worked up about cops handing out fewer parking violations. But as a whole, this represents a completely irresponsible rejection of the duty to enforce the law. Yesterday, speaking to a graduating class of more than 800 new officers at Madison Square Garden, de Blasio was booed and heckled as he struggled to extend an oratorical olive branch. De Blasio told the gathering of new cops “you will confront all the problems that plague our society, problems that you didn’t create” – in response, a heckler jeered “You created them!” People in the audience applauded and cheered as a de Blasio tried to recover with even more voluminous praise for the force.

Supporters of the NYPD have pointed out throughout the back-turning that their officers feel upset at Mayor de Blasio and others, that they feel they are less safe because of the comments of politicians. This is one more example of one of the most irritating tendencies of unionized police forces today – a recurring demand that they receive the same attitude of respect for authority given to the United States military, without any of the responsibility and duty that comes with it. A poll last week found that a mere 15 percent of active duty service members approve of President Obama – understandable, considering his many policy decisions and a laundry list of questionable choices.

But is the American military turning their backs on the Commander in Chief? Showing contempt for him? Going AWOL with the endorsement of their superiors? Shirking their duty? Booing and jeering at him at a graduation ceremony? No. They, after all, are not unionized.

The real rise of frustration with police officers in America comes down to one thing: an enduring sense that the current law enforcement system is unfair. We have to abide by rules they do not. We are the civilians, as if they are not. When we go before a court, enduring bias assumes that police are responsible and honest, even if the evidence suggests otherwise. District attorneys have one method for grand juries with cops, and different methods for ones without cops. The problem is one of institutional disrespect for their own civic obligations. We have to obey the commands of officers, but they have no real desire to obey the commands of their own authorities, or the ultimate authority they serve – the people.

In retrospect, Mayor de Blasio should’ve responded to the backs turning by firing people immediately. The NYPD needed to be reminded that chain of command exists, and that they are not at the top of it. Instead, what New York City is experiencing now amounts to nothing less than open rebellion by the lone armed force under the worst kind of weakened junta, one led by a figure ideologically radical and personally weak, who has lost control of his bureaucracies and may soon be devoured by them.

Perhaps he can take a cue from a political leader of another time, who faced open revolt from a police force in another major city.

To Mr. Samuel Gompers
American Federation of Labor
New York City, N.Y.

Replying to your telegram, I have already refused to remove the Police Commissioner of Boston. I did not appoint him. He can assume no position which the courts would uphold except what the people have by the authority of their law vested in him. He speaks only with their voice. The right of the police of Boston to affiliate has always been questioned, never granted, is now prohibited. The suggestion of President Wilson to Washington does not apply to Boston. There the police have remained on duty. Here the Policemen’s Union left their duty, an action which President Wilson characterized as a crime against civilization. Your assertion that the Commissioner was wrong cannot justify the wrong of leaving the city unguarded. That furnished the opportunity, the criminal element furnished the action.

There is no right to strike against the public safety by anybody, anywhere, any time. You ask that the public safety again be placed in the hands of these same policemen while they continue in disobedience to the laws of Massachusetts and in their refusal to obey the orders of the Police Department. Nineteen men have been tried and removed. Others having abandoned their duty, their places have, under the law, been declared vacant on the opinion of the Attorney General. I can suggest no authority outside the courts to take further action. I wish to join and assist in taking a broad view of every situation. A grave responsibility rests on all of us. You can depend on me to support you in every legal action and sound policy. I am equally determined to defend the sovereignty of Massachusetts and to maintain the authority and jurisdiction over her public officers where it has been placed by the Constitution and law of her people.

Calvin Coolidge
Governor of Massachusetts

I doubt that the Salvador Allende of Park Slope has the stomach for such a confrontation – but the reality is that the NYPD today is turning into an embarrassing neighborhood bully, and the only thing a bully understands is force. You wouldn’t want those broken windows to stay broke, would you?

Ben Domenech is the publisher of The Federalist. Sign up for a free trial of his daily newsletter, The Transom.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Making Predictions

Somewhat Reasonable - December 31, 2014, 6:57 PM

If there is one thing pundits like to do it is to make predictions. If they turn out to be right you can always look back and quote them as proof of your prescience and if they are not, you can always ignore them.

The best ones, of course, are those filled with doom and I suspect they are the most prevalent. We all live to some degree in fear of the future. It is, after all, unpredictable and we are conditioned to believe something awful will happen. That’s what keeps insurance companies in business. Governments continue to create problems and then promise to solve them.

For example, at some point there will be a huge earthquake in California thanks to the San Andreas Fault and in a comparable fashion the Yellowstone National Park will have an even bigger event due to a huge volcano that lies beneath it. The loss of life and economic impact will be historic no matter when they occur.

What is predictable will be natural events such as hurricanes and tornadoes, but what is largely unreported is that both have been occurring less in recent years. As Weather.com noted this year, “the Atlantic basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean, produced the fewest tropical cyclones and fewest named storms since 1997.”  Worldwide, there are some 40,000 tornadoes and the U.S. averages some 1,200 a year. So the weather guarantees some unhappy news for some of us some of the time.

Blaming natural phenomenon on “global warming” which is not happening or on “climate change” which has been happening for 4.5 billion years is the way the merchants of fear keep everyone scared of real and imaginary weather events. The planet has been in a naturalcooling cycle for the past nineteen years because the Sun is in one as well, producing less radiation.

As for climate, it is measured in units as small as thirty years and as big as centuries and millenniums. Nothing mankind does has any impact. The Pope is wrong. The President is wrong. And lots of others who claim that climate change is an immediate threat.

What interests most people is the state of the economy and the good news is that it appears to be improving although relying on government issued statistics is problematic because they are often mathematically skewed to show a favorable trend. There is a natural dynamism to the U.S. economy which would be even greater if the government would eliminate the hundreds of thousands of regulations that interfere with the conduct of business and stop issuing more. Less taxation would boost the economy as well.

I am hopeful people will stop being taken in by the talk about “income inequality.” If the economy improves there will be jobs and the marketplace will determine the salaries they will pay. By contrast, legislating minimum wage increases reduces jobs. We’ve been watching machines replace humans for a long time now.

Elsewhere in the world, the economy is very iffy. The drop in the price of oil will have a dramatic impact on nations whose economies are dependent on it. The Russian Federation will likely be less aggressive with neighboring nations. Venezuela is already in a world of trouble. The Middle East will feel its impact as well. The reason traces back to the increase in the technology of hydraulic fracturing, otherwise known as fracking. It had its beginnings in 1947 and today it is unlocking huge amounts of oil and natural gas. It will make the U.S. energy independent and that’s a very good thing. It will also continue to generate jobs and revenue.

Will there be wars in the world? The short answer is that there will always be conflicts because that is the nature of the world. Wars are very expensive and most nations want to avoid them. The big problem in 2015 will focus on two nations. North Korea is led by a mentally unstable dictator, a threat to others in its region thanks to its nuclear weapons, missiles, and huge army. Iran will be a threat if it is allowed to acquire the ability to make its own nuclear weapons. When that happens the threat level to Israel and the U.S. increases, along with every other nation its missiles can destroy.

What is entirely predictable will be the horrific attacks of Islam’s “holy war” on all other religions and, testimony to its lack of internal cohesion, its attacks based on whether Muslims are Sunni or Shiite.

It would be nice to predict that science will find cures to many of the ills of mankind and the fact is that it has been doing that for much of the last century and will continue to do so in this one. In 1973, life expectancy in the U.S. was 71 years of age and it is now up to 78. In much of the world people are living longer and that is having some interesting demographic impacts in nations that are trying to cope with providing care for a growing older generation.

In the sphere of U.S. politics the most encouraging trend as seen in the last two midterm elections has been voters—those who actually show up and vote—toward conservatism. The Republican Party has regained control of the Senate and expanded its control of the House. The majority of U.S. states have Republican governors. The Tea Party has played a significant role in this, but it is a movement and will continue to take the lead in seeking to reduce the size of the federal government that is far too large for a society based on the idea of freedom and liberty. In what is likely to be an increasing bipartisan effort, the new Congress will work to control as much as possible the damage Obama seeks to inflict.

It takes no great prescience to predict that Barack Hussein Obama will spend his remaining two years in office doing what his Communist roots and ideology has trained him to do; stir as much racial divisiveness as possible, encourage more illegal immigration, keep the increasingly unpopular ObamaCare alive, undermine our moral structure, degrade our military strength, and other such mischief.

Two years sounds like a long time, but he will be gone by January 20, 2017 when a new President takes the oath of office that he has ignored. One prediction about him is easy. He will be judged the worst President the nation has had and, in fact, that judgment has already been rendered.

What is not predictable are the directions the U.S. Supreme Court will take the nation in 2015. Despite its august name, it has made some supremely bad decisions in the past. Wouldn’t it be nice if it undermined ObamaCare after having helped inflict it on a health system that was the best in the world and is now suffering greatly from it?

If any of my predictions turn out to be true, I will claim bragging rights, but mostly what I intend to do is maintain my personal sense of hope, sensing that more people worldwide are discovering that others share their desire for less corruption and more freedom.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Exodus of the School Children

Somewhat Reasonable - December 31, 2014, 11:29 AM

The urban cores of the nation’s 52 major metropolitan areas (over 1 million population) lost nearly one-fifth of their school age population between 2000 and 2010. This is according an analysis of small area age group data for children aged 5 to 14 from Census Bureau data, using the City Sector Model. Over the period, the share of 5 to 14 age residents living in the functional urban cores declined from 15.0 percent to 12.0 percent (Figure 1).

The City Sector Model

The City Sector Model analysis avoids the exaggeration of urban core data that necessarily occurs from reliance on the municipal boundaries of core cities (which are themselves nearly 60 percent suburban or exurban, ranging from as little as three percent to virtually 100 percent). It also avoids the use of the newer “principal cities” designation of larger employment centers within metropolitan areas, nearly all of which are suburbs, but are inappropriately joined with core municipalities in some analyses. The City Sector Model” small area analysis method is described in greater detail in Note 1 below (previous articles are listed in Note 2). The approach is similar to the groundbreaking work of David Gordon, et al at Queen’s University for Canadian metropolitan areas.

School Age Losses

The urban core school-age population dropped from approximately 3.40 million in 2000 to 2.73 million in 2010, for a loss of 670,000 (Figure 2). Much has been made about the affinity of the Millennial generation for the urban cores. Despite this, our small area analysis indicated that the percentage of 20 to 29 year olds living in the functional urban cores declined between 2000 and 2010, with 88 percent of the growth in suburbs and exurbs (see Dispersing Millennials). Coincidentally, over the period, there was a reduction of two school age children in the urban cores for every additional resident aged 20 to 29 (Figure 3).

A loss was also sustained in the earlier suburbs (with median house construction dates between 1946 and 1979). The school-age population declined slightly more than 1 million in the earlier suburban areas. In 2000, 45.3 percent of school age children lived in the earlier suburbs, a figure that declined to 40.5 percent in 2010.

Virtually all of the gain in 5 to 14 age residents was in the later suburban areas (a median house construction dates of 1980 or later) and exurban areas. Overall, these two city sectors added 1.9 million school-age children, while the urban cores and the earlier suburban areas experienced a reduction of 1.7 million, for a reduction of approximately 10 percent.

The largest increase was in the newer suburban areas (median house construction dates of 1980 or later), where 1.47 more school-age children lived in 2010 than in 2000. This represented an increase of approximately 30 percent. Exurban areas have a more modest increase of 310,000 school-age children, up 8.3 percent from 2000.

Losses in the Largest Urban Cores

All of the large urban cores in the metropolitan areas experienced losses in school aged children from 2000 to 2010. Among the 24 urban cores with more than 100,000 residents, Washington (-5.5 percent) and Seattle (-8.4 percent) came the closest to retaining their 2000 school age numbers in 2010.  Seven large urban cores experienced losses of at least 30 percent. Baltimore’s loss was approximately 30 percent. Los Angeles joined rust belt cities St. Louis, Rochester and Cleveland at 33 percent to 34 percent and Detroit at 38 percent. New Orleans had the largest loss (-70.2 percent), owing in part to population loss from the disastrous hurricanes (Figure 4).

Finally, in all of the 52 metropolitan areas, the later suburban and exurban areas (combined) retained more of their school age children than the urban cores and earlier suburbs. There were gains in 45 of the later suburban and exurban areas.

Better Schools: The Necessary (But Maybe Not Sufficient) Condition

One of the issues of most interest among urban analysts has been whether urban cores will be able to retain the share of Millennials that they have attracted. The functional urban cores seem likely to maintain their attraction for younger adults, so long as the cores sustain their improved living environment (such as much lower crime rates than before and continued investment by retailers and other commercial business to support the new populations).

However, the continuing exodus of people with school-age children described seems to indicate that young adults tend to move to the suburbs and exurbs around the time their children enroll in school. Suburban and exurban schools often provide better educations than urban core schools.The Editorial Projects in Education found that high school graduation rates were 77.3 percent in suburban school districts, compared to 59.3 percent in “urban” school districts (Note 3). There are other difficulties as well, such as having sufficient defensible outdoor space for children to play and for parents to feel secure. But education seems likely to be the most important consideration.

Of course, in urban areas the highly affluent can enroll their children in private schools. The alternative of private schools can be overly expensive, inducing households to relocate to school districts with higher quality education. According to research by Chief Economist Jed Kolko of Trulia: “Private school enrollment in the lowest-rated school districts is more than four times as high as private school enrollment in the highest-rated school districts after adjusting for neighborhood demographic differences.”

A balanced broad age distribution of households, including those with children of school age, is not likely to be achieved in urban cores unless Millennials are retained in substantial numbers. Once having moved, the chances of their returning are slim, because households move less frequently as they move up the age scale.

Note 1: The City Sector Model allows a more representative functional analysis of urban core, suburban and exurban areas, by the use of smaller areas, rather than municipal boundaries. The more than 30,000 zip code tabulation areas (ZCTA) of major metropolitan areas and the rest of the nation are categorized by functional characteristics, including urban form, density and travel behavior. There are four functional classifications, the urban core, earlier suburban areas, later suburban areas and exurban areas. The urban cores have higher densities, older housing and substantially greater reliance on transit, similar to the urban cores that preceded the great automobile oriented suburbanization that followed World War II. Exurban areas are beyond the built up urban areas. The suburban areas constitute the balance of the major metropolitan areas. Earlier suburbs include areas with a median house construction date before 1980. Later suburban areas have later median house construction dates.

Urban cores are defined as areas (ZCTAs) that have high population densities (7,500 or more per square mile or 2,900 per square kilometer or more) and high transit, walking and cycling work trip market shares (20 percent or more). Urban cores also include non-exurban sectors with median house construction dates of 1945 or before. All of these areas are defined at the zip code tabulation area (ZCTA) level.

Note 2: The City Sector Model articles are:

From Jurisdictional to Functional Analyses of Urban Cores & Suburbs

The Long Term: Metro American Goes from 82 percent to 86 percent Suburban Since 1990

Beyond Polycentricity: 2000s Job Growth (Continues to) Follow Population

Urban Cores, Core Cities and Principal Cities

Large Urban Cores: Products of History

New York, Legacy Cities Dominate Transit Urban Core Gains

Boomers: Moving Farther Out and Away

Seniors Dispersing Away from Urban Cores

Metropolitan Housing: More Space, Large Lots

City Sector Model Small Area Criteria

Note 3: This report (which was prepared with support from the America’s Promise Alliance and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation) provides graduation rates using the US Department of Education “local codes.” This typology generally defines “urban” school districts as those in core cities as well as other principal cities (such as Arlington, Texas and Mesa, Arizona). Most of the population of core cities and principal cities is classified as functionally suburban (see: Urban Cores, Core Cities and Principal Cities). Further, the typology classifies some districts as suburban that have large urban components (such as Las Vegas, Miami, Louisville and Honolulu), which is necessary because of county level school districts that include both urban cores and suburban areas. As a result the functionally suburban component of urban districts is overstated and the functionally suburban component of suburban districts is understated. Because urban graduation rates tend to be less than suburban rates, both of these factors seem likely to overstate the “urban” graduation rates and understate the “suburban” graduation rates.


[Originally published at New Geography]

Categories: On the Blog

2014: Year of Futility in the Fight Against Climate Change

Somewhat Reasonable - December 31, 2014, 10:26 AM

The year 2014 was another year of futility in the fight against climate change. Climatists redoubled efforts to convince citizens that urgent action is needed to stop dangerous global warming. But the gap between public warnings and actual events produced an endless stream of climate irony.

January began with a frosty bang as an arctic air mass descended on the central United States, following a similar event in December. What was once called a cold snap is now ominously christened a “polar vortex.” Record-low daily temperatures were recorded from Minnesota to Boston, along with all-time seasonal snowfalls in many cities.

In a White House video released on January 8, John Holdren, chief science advisor to President Obama, made the paradoxical statement, “But a growing body of evidence suggests that the kind of extreme cold being experienced by much of the United States as we speak is a pattern that we can expect to see with increasing frequency as global warming continues.”

Also in January, passengers of the research ship Akademik Shokalskiy were rescued after the ship was locked in ice for 10 days near the antarctic coast. The expedition lead by professor Chris Turney had intended to study how weather patterns near Antarctica were changing due to man-made global warming.

On February 16, during a presentation in Indonesia, Secretary of State John Kerry stated that climate change was “perhaps the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Only two days later, protestors set fire to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, leading to the resignation of President Viktor Yanukovych. In March, Russia seized the Crimea. In July, Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down over eastern Ukraine, and political unrest continues today. In the Middle East, slaughter of innocent civilians and beheading of western captives became a growing trend. Man-made climate casualties seem remarkably scarce in comparison.

In March, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change of the United Nations released Climate Change 2014: Impacts, Adaptation, and Vulnerability, part of its Fifth Assessment Report. The report said that man-made climate change would reduce world agricultural output. Lead author Dr. Mark Howden stated, “There’s increasing evidence that climate change is also impacting on agriculture, particularly on some of the cereal crops such as wheat and maize. The negative impacts are greater and quicker than we previously thought.”

Meanwhile, farmers continued to ignore the warnings of the IPCC. According to the US Department of Agriculture, world agricultural production set all-time records for all three major cereal crops in 2014, with rice output up 1.1 percent, wheat up 11.2 percent, and corn up a whopping 14.0 percent over 2013.

The Obama administration continued its attack on coal-fired power plants, which provide about 40 percent of US electricity. In June, the EPA proposed new restrictions on carbon emissions that would make it vitually impossible to build a new coal-fired plant in the US. At the same time, more than 1,200 new coal-fired plants are planned across the world, with two-thirds to be built in India and China.

In his 2007 Noble Prize acceptance speech, former Vice President Al Gore warned that the arctic ice could be gone in “as little as seven years.” But arctic sea ice rebounded in 2014 and antarctic sea ice has been growing for decades. According to the University of Illinois, satellites measured global sea ice area at above the 30-year average at the end of 2014.

In September, the United Nations held a climate summit in New York City to urge the world to conserve energy and reduce emissions. Spokesman Leonardo DiCaprio stated, “This disaster has grown beyond the choices that individuals make.” Mr. DiCaprio neglected to mention his frequent flights on carbon-emitting private jets or his ownership of the world’s fifth largest yacht, purchased from a Middle East oil tycoon.

In October, climate skeptics reported the eighteenth straight year of flat global temperatures. Satellite data shows no temperature increase since 1997. The “pause” in global warming is now old enough to vote or to serve in the military.

Hurricanes and tornados are favored events for generating alarming climate headlines, but US weather events were few in 2014. US tornadic activity was below average and the lack of strong hurricanes continued. No Category 3 or stronger hurricane has made US landfall for more than eight years, the longest period since records began in 1900.

The last half of 2014 witnessed a steep drop in world petroleum prices from over $100 per barrel to under $60 per barrel. Hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling, technologies perfected by US geologists and petroleum engineers over the last two decades, produced an explosion in US oil production and triggered the fall in world prices.

But the concurrent drop in US gasoline prices to two dollars per gallon is not welcomed by man-made global warming believers. Former Energy Secretary Stephen Chu said in 2008, “So we have to figure out how to boost the price of gasoline to the levels in Europe.” English journalist George Monbiot has lamented, “We were wrong about peak oil: there’s enough in the ground to deep-fry the planet.”

With all the climate fun in 2014, what will 2015 hold?

[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog

People I Don’t Like

Somewhat Reasonable - December 31, 2014, 1:44 AM

At the end of every year it is customary to offer up lists of all kinds—the best this, the worst that—and it is a brief, generally amusing exercise.

I don’t usually make lists, but lately though I have been thinking a lot about people I don’t like and at the top of the list are the monsters of the Islamic State, the Taliban, and Boko Haram, all “militant” Islamists who justify their barbaric immoral slaughters, kidnappings, and other crimes in the name of Allah. I have had a bellyful of these horrid people and am weary of hearing they are only a small part of Islam.

There are more than a billion Muslims in the world and, if the Islamists are “just” ten percent, that means there are a hundred million who are active waging their “holy war” or who support them. Among those whom I do not like are the millions of silent Muslims who do nothing to organize and speak out against them. It is true, however, that the handful that do speak out literally risk being killed. What kind of a religion is predicated on making war on all other religions?

Closer to home among the people I do not like are those who joined marches to denigrate our nation’s police corps, defaming them with charges of racism and murder. The events that followed the shooting in Ferguson, Missouri, one of self-defense by a white cop against a black thug and the death in Staten Island that resulted when a long-time offender refused to be arrested, were simply an excuse by those who apparently prefer the streets to be filled with criminals whom the police are not supposed to “profile.”  Well, cops make judgments about the people on their beat all the time, black, white, or otherwise. That’s their job!

I do not like people crying “racism” every time the commission of a crime goes badly for a black perpetrator are people I do not like. People in high office who use these events to exacerbate racial divisions are high on my list of those I don’t like.

Among the much discussed social issues, I am less than sympathetic for those women who enter into consensual sex and then cry “rape.” If they have been raped, they need to contact the police. I am not sympathetic to those colleges and universities who think it is their job to regulate the private sexual activities of students with all manner of “codes” that one can add to those that crimp freedom of speech and other Constitutionally-protected behavior.

At this time of year, I really don’t like those people who insist that one cannot or should not say “Merry Christmas” or that communities should not display Christmas scenes on public property. These are the same dreadful people forever declaiming against any public display of religious belief such as the kind that has for centuries opened government and legislative meetings of every description in America. The atheists among us have every right to be atheists, but they have no right to insist we deny a greater power because they refuse to do so. Even the Supreme Court has ruled against them.

While I see no practical or even moral way to deport the eleven million illegal aliens among us, that doesn’t make them any less illegal. Like a lot of others, I want to see our borders made more secure and less open to swarms of invaders—not “refugees”—that we saw occur when 75,000 children and their families who invaded the U.S. this year and who must now be absorbed at a cost that comes out of the pockets of every native-born and naturalized citizen. That must stop. For those illegals who have been born here or lived here for five years or so, they should be permitted to go to the back of the line and seek naturalization. For others, temporary work permits are a common sense option.

A group of people I have not liked for decades are the environmentalists. The reason is very simple. They lie about everything they champion in the name of “global warming” or “climate change.” Both are hoaxes that, like most everything else the Greens protest, result from the way they debase meteorological science or their absurd claims about the use of fossil fuels. As far as Greens are concerned, anything that benefits mankind from new housing to more industry producing more jobs, and anything that requires the use of chemicals in their manufacture (that is everything!) is just a tiresome scare campaign that is promulgated to line their pockets with the millions they receive every year. I don’t like the liberal foundations that give them millions.

In America politics has always been a blood sport. It’s vigorous. It sometimes produces real leaders. It increasingly requires millions of dollars to run for high office and that has led to a high degree of control by those entities that have deep pockets. I suspect it has always been thus though not at the levels of cost that exist today. I am not a big fan of those politicians of the Far Left or the Far Right. Those in the middle and those who understand that a republic requires compromise are often seen as too willing to go along, but finding a middle way to solve problems is usually the best way.

In the last midterm elections those who showed up to vote sent a clear message to Congress and to a President who claimed he heard them as well as those who didn’t vote. Those who didn’t vote should shut their mouths because their message was surrender.

I don’t like the Obama administration that has produced six years of unrelenting failure domestically and internationally. That’s what happens when the voters put a Marxist and very likely a Muslim in office. I don’t like Barack Hussein Obama, a man many regard as the worst President this nation has ever had.

If the last two midterm elections are any indication, voters have learned their lesson—which leaves the 2016 election. Don’t listen to anyone who says they know who will run or who will win. Two years in American politics is an eternity and people vote differently in national elections than in midterms.

There are a lot of people I do like.

I like the ones who go to sporting events or concerts and share the enjoyment with everyone around them without regard to race, gender, or any other reason.

I like the ones who volunteer in their community to make it a better place in which to live and raise children.

I like the ones who put their lives on the line—police and firemen—for the rest of us.

I like those who are members of our armed forces at a time when they are being treated in a shabby fashion, but believe enough in America to defend it.

I like those in the medical professions who devote themselves to helping cure and treat the ill.

I like the legion of caregivers who look after older family members and others.

There are others I like, but this is a pretty good list, right?

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – John Graham: The Cromnibus effect on Obamacare

Somewhat Reasonable - December 30, 2014, 1:56 PM

Managing Editor of Health Care News, Sean Parnell, talks with a Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, John Graham, in today’s Heartland Daily Podcast. In this episode, Parnell and Graham discuss a few health care related issues that have been in the news recently.

The main topic of discussion is the recently passed Cromnibus bill and the effects it had on Obamacare. While the change to Obamacare was small, it may be an important change. Parnell and Graham also talk shortly about the recent failure of the single-payer health care plan in Vermont.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]


Categories: On the Blog

The Unpredictable Future and Winning Liberty

Somewhat Reasonable - December 30, 2014, 11:19 AM

As a new year begins, it is easy to consider that the prospects for freedom in America and in many other parts of the world to seem dim. After all, government continues to grow bigger and more intrusive, along with tax burdens that siphon off vast amounts of private wealth.

Extrapolating these trends out for the foreseeable future, it would seem that the chances for winning liberty are highly unlikely. There is only one problem with this pessimistic forecast: the future is unpredictable and apparent trends do change.

Many years ago the famous philosopher of science Karl Popper pointed out, “If there is such a thing as growing human knowledge, then we cannot anticipate today what we shall only know tomorrow.” What does this mean?

When I was in high school in the 1960s, I came across an issue of Popular Science magazine published in the early 1950s that was devoted to predicting what life would be like for the average American family in the 1970s. It had a picture of a wife and child standing on an apartment building roof waving good-bye to dad as he went off to work—in his one-seat mini-helicopter!

As best as I can recall, the authors talked about such things as color televisions, various new household appliances, robots that would do much of our household work, and the use of jet planes for commercial travel. What was not mentioned, however, was the personal computer or the revolution in communication, knowledge, and work that it has brought about. When that issue of Popular Science was published, one essential element of the computer revolution had not yet been invented: the microchip.

We Cannot Predict Tomorrow’s Knowledge Today

Those authors could not imagine a worldwide technological revolution before the component that made it all possible was created by man. Our inescapably imperfect knowledge means we can never predict our own future. If we could predict tomorrow’s knowledge and its potentials, then we would already know everything today—and we would know we knew it!

This applies to social, political, and economic trends as well. Most people in 1900 expected the twentieth century to be an epoch of growing international peace and harmony. In 1911, the British free trader and peace advocate, Norman Angell (who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1933), argued in The Great Illusion that war had become so costly in terms of financial expense and wasteful destruction that it would be irrational for the “Great Powers” of Europe or America to be drawn down that path any longer.

But, instead, in 1914, there began the First World War, that went on for four years, took the lives of at least 20 million soldiers, and cost (in 2014 dollars) over $3 trillion. And the relatively classical liberal and free market world that prevailed before the “Great War,” was shattered.

The twentieth century, as a whole, was the bloodiest and most destructive in modern history due to the rise of political and economic collectivism, in the forms of socialism, communism, fascism, Nazism and the interventionist-welfare state. The conflicts that collectivism brought in its wake have cost possibly 250 million lives over the last one hundred years. No one anticipated this turn of events in 1900.

The Unpredictability of Future Political-Economic Trends

When I was an undergraduate in the late 1960s the book assigned in my first economics class was the seventh edition of Paul Samuelson’s Economics (1967), the leading Keynesian-oriented textbook at the time.

There was a graph that tracked U.S. and Soviet Gross National Product (GNP) from 1945 to 1965. Samuelson then projected American and Soviet GNP through the rest of the century. He anticipated that possibly by the early 1980s, but certainly by 2000, Soviet GNP would be equal to or even greater than that of the United States. Notice his implicit prediction that there would be a Soviet Union in 2000, which in fact disappeared from the map of the world in December 1991.

Which of us really expected to see the end of the U.S.S.R. in our lifetimes, without either a nuclear cataclysm or a devastating and bloody civil war? In the mid-1980s the often perceptive French social critic Jean-François Revel published How Democracies Perish, in which he expressed his fear that the loss of moral and ideological commitment to freedom by intellectuals and many other people in the West meant that the global triumph of communism under Soviet leadership was a strong possibility. Instead it was Soviet communism that disappeared from the map of the globe.

Who in January 1990 anticipated that Saddam Hussein would invade Kuwait in August of that year, setting in motion a chain of events that resulted in two American invasions and a ten-year occupation of Iraq?

Who in 2000 would have anticipated that Bill Clinton’s eight years in office would seem, in retrospect, an era of restrained government compared to the explosion in government spending and intervention during the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations?

Historical Chronology Does Not Mean Future Causality

And who today knows what the whole twenty-first century holds for us? Let me suggest that the answer is: nobody.

As the late Robert Nisbet, one of America’s great social thinkers, once pointed out, “How easy it is, as we look back over the past – that is, of course, the ‘past’ that has been selected for us by historians and social scientists – to see in it trends and tendencies that appear to possess the iron necessity and clear directionality of growth in a plant or organism . . . But the relation between the past, present, and future is chronological, not causal.”

The decades of relative global peace and market-based prosperity that preceded 1914 did not mean that war and destruction were impossible for the rest of the twentieth century. The ascendancy of Soviet communism, Italian fascism, and German Nazism in 1920s, 1930s and 1940s did not mean that freedom and democracy had reached their end, though the books and articles of some of the most insightful advocates of individual liberty and limited government in the years between the two World Wars carried the despair and fear that totalitarianism was the inescapable wave of the future.

The persistent and current growth in government intervention and the welfare state does not mean that a return to the classical-liberal ideas of individual liberty, free markets, and limited government is a pipe dream of the past.

Human Events are the Result of Human Action

Human events are the result of human action. Our actions are an outgrowth of our ideas and our will and willingness to try to implement them. The stranglehold of Big Government will persist only for as long as we allow it, for as long as we accept the arguments of our ideological opponents that the interventionist welfare state is “inevitable” and “irreversible.”

That is, the present trend will continue only for as long as we accept that the chronologically observed increase in government power over the last decades is somehow causally determined and inescapable in the stream of human affairs.

This could have been equally said about human slavery. Few institutions were so imbedded in the human circumstance throughout recorded history as the ownership of some men by others. Surely it was a pipe dream to suggest that all men should be free and equal before the law.

Yet in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries a new political ideal was born – that declared that all men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable individual rights to life, liberty and honestly acquired property, which no other mortals could take away. So slavery, which Aristotle considered to be the natural condition of some men, was brought to an end before the close of the nineteenth century through the power of ideas and human purpose.

In the 1700s, mercantilism – the eighteenth-century version of central planning – was considered both necessary and desirable for national prosperity. Even Adam Smith, in the Wealth of Nations (1776), believed that its hold over men’s minds and actions was too powerful to ever permit the triumph of free trade. Yet in one lifetime following Adam Smith’s death in 1790, freedom of trade and enterprise was established in Great Britain and the United States, and then slowly but surely through much of the rest of the world.

This was all made possible because of the rise and partial triumph of a political philosophy of individual rights that argued for the banishment of violence and oppression in the relationships among men.

Liberty’s Winning Ideas are Out There

We cannot imagine, today, how freedom will successfully prevail over our current paternalistic governments, any more than many people could imagine in 1940 a world without German Nazism and Soviet communism, or FDR’s New Deal. But that does not mean it’s impossible.

Precisely because the future is unknown, we may be confident that trends can and will change, just as they have in the past. We cannot fully know today what arguments friends of freedom will imagine and successfully articulate tomorrow to end government control of our lives. But those arguments are out there, waiting to be better formulated and presented, just as earlier friends of freedom succeeded in making the cases against slavery and mercantilism.

In 1951, Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises pointed out, “Now trends of [social] evolution can change, and hitherto they almost always have changed. But they changed only because they met firm opposition. The prevailing trend toward what Hilaire Belloc called the servile state will certainly not be reversed if nobody has the courage to attack its underlying dogmas.”

There is one thing, therefore, that we can predict: patience, persistence, and belief in the power of ideas and a well articulated defense of individual rights and free markets will provide the best chance we have to achieve the free society many of us so much desire.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]




Categories: On the Blog

Government turns Grinch. No Christmas Light for the Poor

Somewhat Reasonable - December 29, 2014, 5:33 PM

Not content with regulating our toilets and light bulbs, the federal Consumer Products Safety Commission has decided to ban inexpensive outdoor and indoor Christmas lights and decorations.

In October, with little fanfare, the CPSC proposed new regulations to outlaw strings of bulbs, lighted lawn figures and similar items based on wire sizes, fuses, and tensile strength.

Only the most expensive decorations would meet the new standards with the ones within the price range of the middle class and poor being declared hazardous. Wave goodbye to lawn Santa’s, Rudolph, stars topping the trees, and even lights on the tree or house. The agency estimates that their proposed regulations will impact 100 million items per year with a market value of $500 million.

Each of these items are thoroughly tested and regulated by internal industry standards regulations set by the CPSC that has already been responsible for the recall of 3.6-million unsafe lights since 1974.

To justify the stricter regulations, regulations that treat the middle class and poor as if they were to incompetent to make their own decisions, the CPSC cites 250 deaths from fires or electrocutions by Christmas lights. That’s not 250 deaths per year however, it’s 250 deaths since 1980 (33 years) or 7.5 deaths a year. If that was that is the new standard for consumer products, wave goodbye to your pool and tub, baseball bats, stoves, cars, wash buckets and any other goods in common use since they all of them produce more deaths than that.

There seems to be no end to the nanny state’s meddling in peoples’ joy. The comment period ends December 30. Call humbug before then and hope the CPSC comes to its senses or future Christmas’s will be a lot less bright.

Categories: On the Blog

Google Goes Off the Climate Change Deep End

Somewhat Reasonable - December 29, 2014, 1:31 PM

Paul Driessen Co-authored this article with Chris Skates.

In a recent interview with National Public Radio host Diane Rehm, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt said his company “has a very strong view that we should make decisions in politics based on facts. And the facts of climate change are not in question anymore. Everyone understands climate change is occurring, and the people who oppose it are really hurting our children and our grandchildren and making the world a much worse place. We should not be aligned with such people. They’re just literally lying.”

While he didn’t vilify us by name, Mr. Schmidt was certainly targeting us, the climate scientists who collect and summarize thousands of articles for the NIPCC’s Climate Change Reconsidered reports, the hundreds who participate in Heartland Institute climate conferences, and the 31,487 US scientists who have signed theOregon Petition, attesting that there is no convincing scientific evidence that humans are causing catastrophic warming or climate disruption.

All of us are firm skeptics of claims that humans are causing catastrophic global warming and climate change. We are not climate change “deniers.” We know Earth’s climate and weather are constantly in flux, undergoing recurrent fluctuations that range from flood and drought cycles to periods of low or intense hurricane and tornado activity, to the Medieval Warm Period (950-1250 AD) and Little Ice Age (1350-1850) – and even to Pleistocene glaciers that repeatedly buried continents under a mile of ice.

What we deny is the notion that humans can prevent these fluctuations, by ending fossil fuel use and emissions of plant-fertilizing carbon dioxide, which plays only an insignificant role in climate change.

The real deniers are people who think our climate was and should remain static and unchanging, such as 1900-1970, supposedly – during which time Earth actually warmed and then cooled, endured the Dust Bowl, and experienced periods of devastating hurricanes and tornadoes.

The real deniers refuse to recognize that natural forces dictate weather and climate events. They deny that computer model predictions are completely at odds with real world events, that there has been no warming since 1995, and that several recent winters have been among the coldest in centuries in the United Kingdom and continental Europe, despite steadily rising CO2 levels. They refuse to acknowledge that, as of December 25, it’s been 3,347 days since a Category 3-5 hurricane hit the US mainland; this is by far the longest such stretch since record-keeping began in 1900, if not since the American Civil War.

Worst of all, they deny that their “solutions” hurt our children and grandchildren, by driving up energy prices, threatening electricity reliability, thwarting job creation, and limiting economic growth in poor nations to what can be sustained via expensive wind, solar, biofuel and geothermal energy. Google’s corporate motto is “Don’t be evil.” From our perspective, perpetuating poverty, misery, disease and premature death in poor African and Asian countries – in the name or preventing climate change – is evil.

It is truly disturbing that Mr. Schmidt could make a statement so thoroughly flawed in its basic premise. He runs a multi-billion dollar company that uses vast quantities of electricity to disseminate information throughout the world. Perhaps he should speak out on issues he actually understands. Perhaps he would be willing to debate us or Roy Spencer, David Legates, Pat Michaels and other climate experts.

Setting aside the irrational loyalty of alarmists like Schmidt to a failed “dangerous manmade climate change” hypothesis, equally disturbing is the money wasted because of it. Consider an article written for the Institute of Electric and Electronic Engineers’ summit website by Google engineers Ross Koningstein and David Fork, who worked on Google’s “RE<C” renewable energy initiative.

Beginning in 2007, they say, “Google committed significant resources to tackle the world’s climate and energy problems. A few of these efforts proved very successful: Google deployed some of the most energy efficient data centers in the world, purchased large amounts of renewable energy, and offset what remained of its carbon footprint.”

It’s wonderful that Google improved the energy efficiency of its power-hungry data centers. But the project spent countless dollars and man hours. To what other actual benefits? To address precisely what climate and energy problems? And how exactly did Google offset its carbon footprint? By buying “carbon credits” from outfits like the New Forests Company, which drove impoverished Ugandan villagers out of their homes, set fire to their houses and burned a young boy to death?

What if, as skeptics like us posit and actual evidence reflects, man-made climate change is not in fact occurring? That would mean there is no threat to humans or our planet, and lowering Google’s CO2 footprint would bring no benefits. In fact, it would keep poor nations poverty stricken and deprived of modern technologies – and thus unable to adapt to climate change. Imagine what Google could have accomplished if its resources had been channeled to solving actual problems with actual solutions!

In 2011, the company decided its RE<C project would not meet its goals. Google shut it down. In their article, Koningstein and Fork admit that the real result of all of their costly research was to reach the following conclusion: “green energy is simply not economically, viable and resources that we as a society waste in trying to make it so would be better used to improve the efficiencies in established energy technologies like coal.”

Skeptics like us reached that conclusion long ago. It is the primary reason for our impassioned pleas that that the United States and other developed nations stop making energy policy decisions based on the flawed climate change hypothesis. However, the article’s most breathtaking statement was this:

“Climate scientists have definitively shown that the buildup of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere poses a looming danger….  A 2008 paper by James Hansen, former director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies… showed the true gravity of the situation. In it, Hansen set out to determine what level of atmospheric CO2 society should aim for ‘if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on Earth is adapted.’ His climate models showed that exceeding 350 parts per million CO2 in the atmosphere would likely have catastrophic effects. We’ve already blown past that limit. Right now, environmental monitoring shows concentrations around 400 ppm.…”

We would never presume to question the sincerity, intellect, dedication or talent of these two authors. However, this statement presents a stunning failure in applying Aristotelian logic. Even a quick reading would make the following logical conclusions instantly obvious:

  1. Hansen theorized that 350 ppm of atmospheric CO2 would have catastrophic results.
  2. CO2 did indeed reach this level, and then exceeded it by a significant amount.
  3. There were noconsequences, much less catastrophic results, as our earlier points make clear.
  4. Therefore, real-world evidence clearly demonstrates that Hansen’s hypothesis is wrong.

This kind of reasoning (the scientific method) has served progress and civilization well since the Seventeenth Century. But the Google team has failed to apply it; instead it repeats the “slash fossil fuel use or Earth and humanity are doomed” tautology, without regard for logic or facts – while questioning CAGW skepticsintelligence, character and ethics. Such an approach would be disastrous in business.

We enthusiastically support Eric Schmidt’s admonition that our nation base its policy decisions on facts, even when those facts do not support an apocalyptic environmental worldview. We also support President Obama’s advice that people should not “engage in self-censorship,” because of bullying or “because they don’t want to offend the sensibilities of someone whose sensibilities probably need to be offended.”

In fact, we will keep speaking out, regardless of what Messsrs. Schmidt, Hansen and Obama might say.

Categories: On the Blog

School Buses: America’s Largest Transit System

Somewhat Reasonable - December 29, 2014, 12:55 PM

Reminiscent of the late Rodney Dangerfield’s lament, America’s network of school buses get “no respect.” The thousands “yellow buses” are buried without a mention in the most important tables of the US Department of Transportation’s National Transportation Statistics. Neither the terms “school” nor “school bus” appear in tables summarizing the number of vehicles (Table 1-11), vehicle travel (Table 1-35), passenger travel (Table 1-40) and others. At the same time, there is far more complete information on virtually every other transportation mode.

School Buses: A Large Transportation System

This would not be surprising if the school bus system was small or insignificant. It is anything but.  This point was made in a National Association for Pupil Transportation (NAPT) white paper:

“School bus carriers operate the largest mass transportation fleet in the country. Each day, 480,000 yellow school buses travel the nation’s roads. Compare that to transit, with 140,000 total vehicles, 96,000 of which are buses; to the motor coach industry, with 35,000 buses; to commercial airlines, with 7,400 airplanes; and to rail, with 1,200 passenger cars. In fact, our school bus fleet is 2.5 times the size of all other forms of mass transportation combined.”

By at least that measure, the school bus system is the largest mass transportation system in the nation.

Comparing School Bus and Transit

The NAPT white paper (above) indicates that there are many more school buses than transit vehicles. School buses compare favorably to transit in other measures as well.

According to the American School Bus Council (ASBC), school buses transported an average of 26 million elementary and secondary students daily in 2010 (see the ASBC summary of environmental benefits). This is 52 million one way trips. Approximately 55 percent of the nation’s enrollment travels to and from school on school buses.

By comparison, our analysis of Federal Transit Administration data for 2010 indicates that all transit services (subway, commuter rail, light rail, bus, paratransit, etc.) carried approximately 25 million one-way trips on the average weekday in 2010 (adjusted to eliminate transfers between vehicles on the same passenger trip, using an American Public Transportation Association estimate). On school days, it turns out that school buses carry more than twice as many passengers as transit passengers (Figure 1).


ASBC estimates the average one-way school bus trip at five miles. This means that every day, pupils travel approximately 260 million miles. The school bus advantage over transit is somewhat less in passenger miles than passengers, because transit trips are longer. School bus passengers travel approximately 50 percent more miles than transit weekday passengers travel (approximately 170 million miles).

The annual differences in school bus and transit use are much less. This is because school bus service is provided only an average of 180 days annually, approximately one-half the 365 days that transit service operates. Based on the American School Bus Council estimate, the annual number of one-way school bus trips by students is estimated at 9.4 billion in 2010. By comparison, annual transit passenger journeys (excluding transfers) were an estimated at under eight billion in 2010.

Transit, however, carries passengers farther than school buses each year. With its 365 day per year operation, transit carried 52 billion transit passenger miles in 2010, approximately 10 percent more than the 47 billion passenger miles traveled on school buses.

School Bus Data

Without a centralized digital data collection system, there is no readily available school bus data below the state level. Thus, unlike transit (with its National Transit Database), development of school bus information on a metropolitan area level would be time consuming and expensive and is not regularly done. Industry publications, such as School Bus Fleet and School Transportation Newsprovide detailed information but only at the state level.

State and Local School Bus Ridership

School bus services are provided nearly everywhere in the United States, in both urban and rural areas. Most school bus service is provided by local school authorities (school districts). According to NAPT, about two-thirds of the service is provided directly by school transportation departments, while the other one-third is provided by private contractors (“outsourced”).

Based on information in School Bus Fleet, all the top 10 states have school bus ridership of more than 1,000,000 one-way pupils every school day. New York has the highest ridership, at nearly 4,000,000. Texas has more than 3,000,000 daily riders, followed by Pennsylvania, Indiana, Illinois, Georgia and Florida, all with more than 2 million daily riders (Figure 2).


The school districts with the highest pupil ridership are concentrated in the Northeast and South, which include nine of the 10 most patronized systems. The strong southern representation is largely due to the county level school districts, which are larger than the more local school districts typical in the rest of the nation.

Based on School Bus Fleet data, the New York City school district carries more passengers than any other, with nearly 310,000 daily trips. Fairfax County (Virginia), Gwinnett County (Georgia), Charlotte Mecklenburg (North Carolina), Clark County (Nevada) and Montgomery County (Maryland) also carry more than 200,000 daily passengers (Figure 3).


The Largest Transit System

With the national school bus fleet nearing 500,000 vehicles, the state of New York has the largest number, at nearly 45,000, according to School Bus Fleet. Texas ranks second with 40,000 school buses, while Illinois, California and Pennsylvania have between 20,000 and 30,000 buses. The combination of just a few states can exceed the national total of transit buses (60,000).

On any given school day, school buses are the largest transit system in the nation.

Wendell Cox is principal of Demographia, an international public policy and demographics firm. He is co-author of the “Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey” and author of “Demographia World Urban Areas” and “War on the Dream: How Anti-Sprawl Policy Threatens the Quality of Life.” He was appointed to three terms on the Los Angeles County Transportation Commission, where he served with the leading city and county leadership as the only non-elected member. He was appointed to the Amtrak Reform Council to fill the unexpired term of Governor Christine Todd Whitman and has served as a visiting professor at the Conservatoire National des Arts et Metiers, a national university in Paris.

Categories: On the Blog

John Stossel Discards Liberalism for Libertarianism

Somewhat Reasonable - December 29, 2014, 12:08 PM

The Heritage Foundation Luncheon on Friday, December 12 spear headed Jim DeMint, President of The Heritage Foundation, as Master of Ceremonies. Prior to the luncheon a panel discussion had taken place during which time DeMint and Michael Needham, Chief Executive Officer of Heritage Action for America, discussed “A Bold Agenda for a Better America, Taking on the 114th Congress.” See Part 1 for write up.

John Stossel, Fox Business Network Host and Commentator, gave the keynote luncheon address. Prior to Stossel’s remarks, Governor-elect Rauner offered some special remarks of his own. Introduced by Illinois native Steven Moore, Rauner was described by Moore as not a criminal, as  knowing economics, as not being owned by any one, and believing that Chicago could be a great city and the next Hong Kong if he succeeds.

Bruce Rauner spoke about restoring the American dream for Illinoisans.  Said Rauner: “It’s not how much we spend, but how and why we are spending the money we do.”  Rauner intends to take on the core elements of the spending process to eliminate waste and fraud.  In speaking about his agenda, Rauner expressed high aspirations. Rauner’s agenda items include: 1) Ethics reform; 2) substantial tax reform; and 3) school choice.  Noted by Rauner was that for years Illinoisans had elected individuals based on promises, only to discover later on that many had turned out to be unprincipled and even corrupt   For success to happen Rauner needs a big team effort.  An invitation was extended to attend Rauner’s inauguration in Springfield on January 12, 2015.

President Jim DeMint introduced John Stossel.   DeMint, in explaining why John Stossel had been chosen to speak at The Chicago Heritage Foundation event, noted: Stossel is despised by Democrats who are suspicious of free market and capitalism, and not particularly popular with conservatives because he believes in personal freedom, but as an advocate of the Free Market System, Stossel is in step with The Heritage Foundation.  Having started his career in viewing the marketplace as a cruel place where you need intervention by government and lawyers to protect people, after watching regulators work Stossel came to the realization that the free market provides the protectors of the consumer.

Agile and looking younger than his chronological age of 67, John Stossel bounded onto the stage, and positioning himself behind the podium, he quipped, unapologetic for being a Libertarian:  “Born and raised in Illinois, I escaped Illinois, but you didn’t.”  Born in Chicago Heights, Illinois, Stossel is a graduate of New Trier High School.  Although a stutterer early in life, Stossel over time conquered this speech problem which could have derailed his career.

John Stossel spoke of being trained as a liberal consumer reporter.  Believing rules were needed because life was complex, Stossel whole heartedly endorsed regulations, only to watch them fail.   As to the The Department of Consumer Affairs, Stossel spoke about licensing requirement for repair shops.  Licensing, however, didn’t protect customers.  30 years later repair shops, despite being licensed, were still fooling consumers and not giving consumers what they were promised to expect.

Stossel believes in invisible spontaneous order to help people organize their lives. Simply put, spontaneous order is what happens when you leave people alone, when entrepreneurs see the desires of people and then provide for them.  Admittedly, many Americans believe central planning works best.  To illustrate why competition works (free market) much better than government, and how it is better and more productive than relying on a handful of elites in some distant bureaucracy, Stossel spoke of communist-era automobile disasters. The East German Trabant, with its sputtering two-stroke engine and resinated paper-mache bodywork, barely deserved the devotion lavished on it by that country’s frustrated car-lovers, yet it was the best car a planned economy could produce and mediocre at best!  Consider also the Yugo built in Soviet-bloc Yugoslavia, which earned the reputation of being the worst car in history.

And what about OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Association), the main federal agency charged with the enforcement of safety and health legislation.  OSHA would make people safe.  Trumpeted was how fatalities had dropped since the beginning of OSHA?  “Not so,” said Stossel.  Free people will make the adjustments needed when an accident happens, treating accidents as free market problems without government interference.

Consider also the “War of Poverty.”  Poverty was decreasing even before the War on Poverty began.  The programs established to decrease poverty only encouraged and taught people to be dependent and remain in poverty.  And what about wars fought in other countries to protect this nation?  In prior generations government would shrink after wars ended, but not anymore.

Stossel, in looking back over the years and the many issues he confronted as a consumer reporter, expressed embarrassment that it took him 15 years before he really woke up to the fact that almost everything government attempts to do makes it worse.  As Stossel tells it:  His work as a correspondent for 20/20 and a consumer reporter for “Good Morning America” stems back to 1981. Stossel was named co-anchor of 20/20 in May of 2003, where eight to 10 million people watched his program weekly.  Stossel’s discovery ofReason while co-anchoring 20/20 — a libertarian monthly print magazine covering politics, culture, and ideas — was cited by Stossel as the impetus that channeled his movement toward embracing Libertarian beliefs.  In October of 2009 Stossel left his long-time employment at ABC News to join the Fox Business Channel and Fox News Channel.  He presently hosts a weekly news show on Fox Business and regularly provides analysis on various Fox News programs, including a weekly appearance on The O’Reilly Factor.  Additionally, Stossel writes a Fox News Blog, “John Stossel’s Take,” and has been a nationally syndicated newspaper columnist since February of 2011.  His article appear in online publications such as Newsmax, Reason, and Townhall. To Stossel’s credit, he has received 19 Emmy Awards and has been honored five times for excellence in consumer reporting by the National Press Club.

John Stossel, as a believer in the free market system, is reaching out to high school and college students through his DVDs.  His new Economics DVD, published this year, “The Power of Markets vs the failure of Regulation,” uses segments from recent shows to compare and contrast resource allocation based on market decisions with the actual effects of allocation caused by government regulation of the market. His first DVD, published in 2011 is titled “Making Economics Come Alive” with John Stossel.  Both of the Economics DVDs are designed for high school and college students and sell for $19.95. Both can be ordered for a special price of $29.95.

In working with high school students, Stossel asks this question:  There are 7 billion people in the world. 2 billion of them live on a buck or two a day.  Why do we do well and others live in poverty?  Responses from students:  1) Because we are a democracy, 2) Because we have lots of resources, and 3) Because of over population.

Stossel then inquires students to think about India noting, “While India is overpopulated, so is New Jersey. What about Hong Kong?  It isn’t a democracy, and it has no natural resources, yet in 50 years it went from the third worst city to the first in the world.  Why?  Because Hong Kong honors a rule of law that dictates not to kill or steal from each other.  Hong Kong also has economic freedom.  It is free people left alone that made Hong Kong rich.”

In Hong Kong it’s possible to open a business in only one day. In India it would take a year to do so.  Stossel then related about trying to open a lemonade stand in NYC.  He gave up after 60 days.  There is a teachable moral:  If and when fewer people are unable to open businesses because of imposed restrictions and rules, more people will remain poor.

In closing, Stossel indicated there were two ways to do business:  by force or voluntary.  But for business to flourish both parties must win. It is economic freedom that brings prosperity.  Big government makes us poor and makes us less (we become smaller). On a positive note Stossel added this thought: “Despite all the controls, this nation has continued to proper and grow despite government restrictions.”

The Question and Answer session offered several comments worth noting .

  • How can big government be trusted when government can’t even count votes correctly?
  • Stossel’s defined the EPA as standing for ENOUGH PROTECTION ALREADY.
  • The first thing Stossel would like to see Rauner do is for Rauner to embarrass the stranglehold control of unions.

Stossel has written three books.  His most recent book, “No, They Can’t:  Why Government Fails – But individuals Succeed”, was published on April 10, 2012.  Read here a review of the book. The book can be purchased at Amazon.com.   Stossel’s first book, “Give Me a Break: How I Exposed Hucksters, Cheats, and Scam Artists and Became the Scourge of the Liberal Media”, published in 2005, is an autobiography that documents Stossel’s career and philosophical transition from liberalism to libertarianism.

DeMint’s closing remarks looked ahead to 2016.  Of importance: 1) to preserve those things we know work, 2) to recognize the importance of informed and engaged citizens, 3) to look back at programs that lifted people out of poverty, and 4) to create an environment so people with wrong ideas will do the right things

[Originally published at Illinois Review]


Categories: On the Blog

Environmentalists and Energy Advocates Agree: Ethanol Reform Now

Somewhat Reasonable - December 29, 2014, 11:17 AM

We all expect to pay a price for missing deadlines—fail to pay a ticket on time, and you may find a warrant out for your arrest. But the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) can apparently miss deadlines with impunity.

For the past two years, the EPA has failed to meet the statutory deadline under the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS), requiring the agency to tell refiners how much ethanol to blend into the nation’s motor fuels.

In November 2013, the EPA attempted to announce the proposed 2014 blend levels, which by then came months past the legally mandated deadline. The EPA surprised and pleased RFS opponents when it utilized its authority by taking market conditions into consideration to adjust levels. The agency set the proposed 2014 standard to a level lower than 2013’s, even though the law requires increasing amounts. Ethanol producers, expecting the usual uptick, loudly opposed the reduction. They made so much noise, the EPA agreed to reconsider. To date, the 2014 standards have not yet been announced.

Then, on November 21, the EPA announced it would make a decision next year on how much ethanol refiners had to add to gasoline this year. Yet, if refiners don’t meet the unknown requirement, they get fined. That’s akin to handing out the class syllabus after the students have failed the final exam.

With the goal of reducing foreign oil imports, Congress enacted the RFS in 2005 and revised it in 2007—which also provided incentives to America’s fledgling ethanol industry. At the time, gasoline demand was rising to an all-time high and oil imports comprised more than 58 percent of U.S. oil consumption. No doubt Congress believed it was saving American consumers from their addiction to oil.

Then the world changed. The U.S. economy plunged into a terrible recession, unemployment soared, and gasoline demand fell sharply. Meanwhile, advanced drilling technologies, including the long-used hydraulic fracturing and newer horizontal drilling, began producing oil and natural gas from U.S. shale formations—previously uneconomic to develop—leading to America’s 21st-century energy boom.

Today the U.S. stands as the world’s largest natural-gas producer, projected to pass Saudi Arabia as the number-one oil producer. With crude-oil supplies flooding the market, prices have been cut in half. Although fears over foreign-oil dependence have abated, the U.S. remains stuck with an outdated, unworkable, and even harmful—to vehicles, engines, and the environment—ethanol mandate.

Consider just some of the RFS’s flaws.

The law requires refiners to cap their blending of corn ethanol and use more cellulosic biofuels. Never mind that very little cellulosic biofuel has ever been produced—even according to EPA’s own data. But that fact hasn’t prevented the EPA from levying millions of dollars in fines against refiners for failing to use the phantom fuel. It’s kind of like receiving a bill for something you cannot buy because it doesn’t exist, but you’re being charged anyway.

Then there is the “blend wall” problem. With less gasoline sold than Congress anticipated, refiners cannot add ever-rising amounts of ethanol to gasoline without exceeding E10—the fuel consisting of 10 percent ethanol and 90 percent gasoline sold virtually everywhere in the country today. To get around the blend wall issue, the EPA granted a “partial waiver” allowing the sale of E15, a fuel blend containing up to 15 percent ethanol for model-year 2001 and newer vehicles.

The EPA’s quick fix made a bad situation much worse. Ethanol levels higher than 10 percent can damage or destroy vehicle engines, according to a study conducted by the well-respected Coordinating Research Council. Automakers are voiding warranties and refusing to be held responsible for mechanical problems caused by fuels containing more than 10 percent ethanol.

Ethanol contains less energy than gasoline, forcing motorists to fill up more often, thereby causing more consumer expenditures. Ethanol production has driven up food prices here and abroad. Additionally, some studies indicate ethanol usage increasesgreenhouse-gas emissions.

Then politics entered the scene. Rumors flew that the EPA delayed the announcement of the 2014 blend levels to help Rep. Bruce Braley (IA-D) in his Senate bid. Braley pushed for an increase in the proposed levels and hoped to influence the White House to raise the targets. Politico quoted Braley saying: “Voters in Iowa look at where I stand on this issue and where my opponent stands, who’s supporting me in this campaign and who’s supporting [Ernst].” The Politico story states: “Iowans say wavering on corn ethanol once would have been certain political suicide in a state where 90 percent of the land is farm acreage. So Braley sought to capitalize on Ernst’s expressed qualms about big government, portraying her as someone Iowans can’t trust to fight for them.” Yet, Ernst, a Republican, won the Senate seat formerly held by Democrat Tom Harkin.

The EPA’s unwillingness to do its job by setting ethanol volumes—along with ethanol’s loss of “political heft”— should provide the impetus for ending the complex and wasteful RFS program. Ethanol plays as a rare topic where environmentalists and energy advocates agree. As soon as the new Congress convenes in January, it should give the RFS an “F,” and reform, revise, or repeal it.

[Originally published at Breitbart]


Categories: On the Blog

HEARTLAND DAILY PODCAST – Will Coggin: The Big Green Radicals Project

Somewhat Reasonable - December 29, 2014, 11:14 AM

Will Coggin is a Senior Research Analyst at the Environmental Policy Alliance where he manages its Big Green Radicals project, which focuses on exposing environmental zealotry and hypocrisy.

Coggin is a frequent critic of radical activists who seek to take choices away from Americans, whether it’s affordable energy for families or food on the table. Will points out that global warming activism, anti-fracking protests, ports being closed to expansion for coal export terminals are all part of an anti-fossil fuel agenda; keeping energy from those who need it most both in the U.S. and around the world in an effort to create an idealistic green utopia with minimal impact by mankind.

The Big Green Radicals projects demonstrates that many environmental leaders and media personalities that promote anti-energy, anti-biotech food causes, talk the talk but don’t walk the walk as they use far more energy and live more environmentally destructive lifestyles, than the general public whose choices they are attempting to constrain. Contrary to popular belief, the causes promoted by environmentalists are not based on sound science, and the environmentalists themselves don’t have the moral high ground.

[Subscribe to the Heartland Daily Podcast for free at this link.]


Categories: On the Blog

Crazy Is as Crazy Does

Somewhat Reasonable - December 28, 2014, 2:51 PM

Read this Washington Post piece from November on the idea that global warming (what happened to climate change?) is driving “crazy” winters. It’s a testimony to a lot of nonsense going on in our nation today, where people have little ability to remember the past and understand that history is what got us where we are today.

Let’s look at last winter. As “crazy” as it was, the fact is that Weatherbell.com, my company, forecasted it well in advance by looking at the winters of 1917-191 and 1993-1994 – before global warming was “driving crazy winters.”

Here’s last winter:

And here’s the blend of analogs for 1917-1918 and 1993-1994 we used in July of 2013 to set up last winter’s outlook for clients – along with anyone who wanted to look – rather than stick our hand in the sand and blame global warming (which is what is actually crazy).

Not exactly the same, but similar.

But “crazy” winters now? The only thing “crazy” here is the idea you can claim that winters were going to be warm with less snow several years ago, but expect to have rational people of good will accept your “crazy”explanation.

Did global warming drive the winters of the late 1970s? The anomalies below are for three consecutive winters, not one.

By the way, November 1976 – which my company used to warn clients about how winter could get off to a fast start this year, and was a precursor to the severe winter of 1976-1977 that had Buffalo headlined due to the harsh conditions and had Time magazine among others speculating on a coming Ice Age – is being challenged for the coldest in 50 years by this November! How is it some private sector meteorologists were looking at this possibility several months beforehand (us), and now we see people claiming it’s global warming?

How much overkill do you need here? Should I pull out the “crazy” winters of ‘57-’58, ’65-’66 (DC was closed for a week to 10 days, depending on when you shoveled out), ’66-’67, ’68-’69, ’69-’70, et al, when CO2 was much lower?

You know what’s crazy to me? People refuse to acknowledge the past and then make statements like that of The Washington Post. And here’s something even more crazy: The media today refuse to challenge such things. We have adjustments being made to pre-satellite era temperatures, techniques referred to as normalization, which make previous warm periods look cooler or estimates colder Arctic temperatures that we had no way of measuring the way we do now. The media refuse to hold people accountable for past forecast busts, yet simply accept what alarmists say is going on now.

The “crazy” November we’ve had looks a heck of a lot like one of our big analogs – 1976.

November so far:

It may turn out colder than 1976, as we have a heck of a week of winter weather in front of us, including a major Thanksgiving snow event on the East Coast. There is a chance snow cover on Thanksgiving morning may be greater than the normal snow cover on Christmas day (33%).

Here’s November 1976:

How is it that utilizing techniques that line up past similar events and the overall climate cycles we are in – something that involves many hours of meticulous work, not just looking at a statistical average that leads to a value added forecast – is not the way to explain all this? Folks on the other side of the aisle claim that what we warned people about with the work we did is due to something else they had no idea of. Do they show the examples of how it could turn so cold beforehand? No; they wait until after the fact to explain something they had no idea would or could happen, then claim it’s because of what they said. You can label that technique a bunch of things, but “crazy” would come to mind. And you would be “crazy” to believe it.

The global warming argument is not “settled science.” The fact that the globe overall has leveled off and in the past 10 years cooled some, along with myriads of other indicators, show that.

Past 10 years:

What’s amazing is that we have seen winters become more like they were when the Pacific was colder in the ’60s and ’70s, and the actual global temps cool a slight bit, but then we find people that have the audacity to blame warming when it’s actually level, or cooling! We’ve had three cold winters out of the last five, one warm one, and one that turned very cold in the mid-winter and went through much of spring. Do you see what’s going on here? There’s been no guidance for cold weather from people pushing the “crazy” weather missive for the cold because of warmth. And because they don’t see it, they blame the agenda (man-made global warming)! Yet those of us whose livelihood depends on it use the techniques to see it, get called deniers, etc., even after our customers get value-added forecasts. What’s “crazy” is a media that trumpets “the warmest year ever” based on one set of data with major, subjective re-adjustments, which ignore more objective data that says prove otherwise. But a complicit and apparently non-curious media does not even question how alarmists could miss so badly a month out! 1976 has been one of Weatherbell.com’s chief analogs since April, and here we are, close to beating November of 1976 for coldest November in the last 50 years.

Settled science is the idea of gravity, or the freezing and boiling points of water. To argue climate is something akin to that is true denial of what scientific reality is and, dare I use the word of choice here (theirs, not mine), “crazy.”

I just don’t get it. How do you trust someone about what they say relative to the last hundred-plus years,when their track record over the past five years shows they can’t see cold when it’s coming? That’s what is truly crazy, not the natural occurrences caused by similar past situations.

Crazy is as crazy does.

[First published at Patriot Post.]

Joe Bastardi is chief forecaster at WeatherBELL Analytics, a meteorological consulting firm.

Categories: On the Blog
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