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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Renewable Energy Death Toll Impugns Green Claims

September 24, 2014, 4:42 PM

Renewable energy sources are killers, not so much green as red. Until recently, renewable energy sources—wind, solar, hydro, etc.—have gotten a pass on the environmental harms they cause. However, as the death toll mounts, the public has begun objecting to the deadly impacts of “green” energy sources.

Hydroelectric dams, once the darlings of the green jet set, have been killing migrating salmon for decades. Despite designers’ best efforts, they have yet to solve the problem, and now dams are being dismantled to save salmon and river ecosystems.

Two decades ago, some environmentalists began referring to wind farms as “cuisinarts of the air” because birds were being mangled by the huge, fast-spinning turbines.

The problem has only gotten worse as the number of wind farms has grown rapidly under the Obama administration’s push for subsidized green energy.

Wind turbines kill bats as well as birds. Most recently, a 7,600-acre wind farm in Nevada was found to have killed 566 bats, more than triple the number it is allowed to take each year. Conservationists believe many more bats die each year but their carcasses are not found.

Biologists have found even if a bird or bat avoids the spinning blades, the changes in barometric pressure caused by the spinning blades can cause their insides to explode.

Engineers have tried various ways to avoid or reduce bird and bat deaths, by reducing turbine speeds, shutting down turbines during certain periods, and spacing turbines differently, all to no avail. Birds, including eagles, falcons, and condors, continue to be killed, along with huge numbers of bats.

Wind farms must be located where the wind blows fairly constantly. Unfortunately, such locations are prime travel routes for migratory birds and bats, including protected species such as bald eagles, golden eagles and endangered Indiana bats. Wind farms act as both bait and executioner—rodents or insects near the base of turbines multiply with the protection from raptors and bats, and their greater numbers draw more birds and bats to the blades.

Industrial solar power plants also kill wildlife. Traditional photovoltaic facilities fundamentally alter the dozens of square miles the solar panels take up. In the Western United States, such farms are swallowing up large blocks of threatened desert tortoise habitat. Tortoises have died in and around these facilities. In some instances, tortoises have been relocated from their native habitat where solar panels are being placed to other, similar areas, but whether the tortoises can thrive or even survive in their new locations has yet to be established. New research indicates areas where solar farms and tortoises currently coexist may soon become too hot for tortoise survival as the solar farms become heat islands—areas much hotter than the temperature in adjoining rural locations.

Solar power towers, where hundreds of thousands of mirrors redirect concentrated sunlight toward boiler towers, heating the water inside to 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit and producing steam that turns turbines to generate electricity, are turning out to be the microwave ovens of the skies. The Center for Biological Diversity estimates BrightSource Energy’s Ivanpah solar tower project kills 28,000 birds annually. The bright light reflecting off the mirrors attracts huge amounts of insects, which in turn attract birds. Both are torched in mid-flight by Ivanpah’s intense heat.

Federal and state wildlife officials have confirmed birds flying over Ivanpah are catching fire in midair, with numerous reports of puffs of smoke suddenly appearing, followed by dead birds, called “streamers,” plummeting to the ground.

For decades, people have recognized and accepted the environmental drawbacks fossil fuels impose because coal, oil, and natural gas have been the engine driving the economic progress of the past two centuries. Renewable energy sources, by contrast, destroy wild, open lands and kill wildlife, while delivering little or no economic benefit. Instead of putting money into the economy, the subsidies they require to exist and operate drain federal, state, and ultimately, individuals’ pocketbooks.

Every energy source has negative environmental impacts, but traditional power sources at least deliver tangible benefits such as jobs, reliability, and tax revenues. Let’s stop subsidizing environmentally and economically costly green energy pipedreams. The birds, bats, and tortoises will thank us.

[First published in the Orange County Register.]

Categories: On the Blog

Smelly Lockers: A True Story of Pirates

September 24, 2014, 3:43 PM

The Digital Citizens Alliance recently released a report that is troubling if somewhat unsurprising.  The report documents that intellectual property piracy continues, that it is big business and that cyberlockers play a substantial role in enabling the criminal activity.

Not to be confused with cloud computing, cyberlockers are “online services that are intentionally architected to support the massive distribution of files among strangers on a worldwide and unrestricted scale, while carefully limiting their own knowledge of which files are being distributed.”   But the inducement to criminal behavior goes well beyond simply building a tool that facilitates such activity. As the report explains, the typical cyberlocker business model includes receiving funds from multiple sources. One stream of income is derived from people who want to view stolen movies and pay a fee to access a cyberlocker site to do so. But to attract those subscription fees the cyberlocker needs content and so “people who post popular files are often paid by the cyberlocker through affiliate programs that reward users when their uploaded content is accessed.”

One could easily imagine a similar business model where the content was owned by the person posting it, perhaps seeking to gain a greater audience for that artist’s music, movies or photography. But in the case of the typical cyberlocker there is no such good intent. In fact, it’s just the opposite. With business models built to skirt the laws, the site owners try to ignore that rampant illegal behavior is taking place on their platform.

Another factor sets cyberlockers apart from cloud computing as the report states, “Personal storage and access are not the purpose: indeed, files not accessed for a period of time are deleted by most cyberlockers, and individual file synchronization among a user’s devices is not offered.” Cloud computing companies seek customers who will store their files online, and in fact the consumer understands they are paying precisely to have storage for their files. The transient nature of cyberlocker “storage” adds to the concern that in fact such business models are not at all for file storage, but rather are intended for file churning, quick use and removal of stolen material.

Most cyberlockers also demonstrate their apparent true nature in their resistance to following their own rules regarding repeat rights holder infringement on their sites. Such willful ignorance makes it hard to discern how the site is acting in good faith and as a responsible part of the Internet ecosystem. The point is further driven home as the report reveals that “the overwhelming bulk of files found on cyberlockers are infringing. Searches by NetNames for infringing materials stored on legitimate cloud services found negligible amounts of content.”

Cyberlockers, like many Internet sites, also make money by selling advertising. However, most does not appear on the Web site itself but rather is served up on a file download or during the streaming of videos. So cyberlockers generate revenue when their users download or use stolen property. In fact, they receive more than half of their revenue from advertising served up from a small number of advertising networks. The profit generated by these ads is quite substantial, in part driven by the household name brands that end up being advertised on these sites. Given the minimal start up and operating costs, and that the content the sites are “selling” is stolen from artists and creators, any income results in abundant profit.

Cyberlockers, as they attract, are designed, and then by willful ignorance, condone theft are little more than a planned attack on the Internet ecosystem. The entire ecosystem needs to respond. Success in the digital world is achievable when all parties understand that they cannot stand on their own, that in fact an economically thriving digital ecosystem requires good faith cooperation, within the bounds of the law, and with an eye towards what is best for the broader ecosystem. In other words, the distributed nature of the Internet is a fundamental part of its design, and no one entity, whether private sector or government, can control it so stakeholder cooperation is imperative for the success of all.

Pirates, mere thieves of artists and creators inventions, have at the moment found a new place from which to operate – their own smelly lockers.

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Institute Experts Comment on Obama’s Climate Speech at United Nations

September 24, 2014, 12:31 AM

President Obama on Tuesday addressed the Climate Summit at the United Nations, promising to take more executive actions at home, and work more closely with other countries abroad, to fight climate change.

The following statements from environment policy experts at The Heartland Institute – a free-market think tank – may be used for attribution.

“President Obama may be taking the lead on new global warming initiatives, but few world leaders critical to the success of any prominent climate agreement appear willing to follow. The leaders of China, India, Russia, and Germany are all skipping the U.N. climate gathering. Since they are among the largest CO2 emitters, without their agreement, CO2 will continue to rise whatever America and the rest of the world does.

“The thing is, they’ve finally recognized the climate farce for what it is: a giant wealth transfer scheme from the poor in rich countries to the rich in poor countries.

“While Obama commits to squandering U.S. taxpayers’ hard-earned money subsidizing green energy schemes in poor countries, the leaders of China, India, Russia, and Germany are concentrating on improving economic conditions in their own countries.

“Unable to get an ineffective, costly climate treaty through the Senate, Obama has evidently decided to burnish his environmental credentials and cement his green legacy with measures which sound good but will ultimately do nothing to prevent climate change and will inevitably harm our economy. I guess that will be the next president’s problem to deal with.”

H. Sterling Burnett
Research Fellow, Environment & Energy Policy
The Heartland Institute
Managing Editor, Environment & Climate News
hburnett@heartland.org

 

“This is nothing but the latest round of executive orders that will bypass Congress and probably violate the U.S. Constitution. Don’t forget that in July 1997, the United States Senate voted unanimously against the very initiatives now proposed by President Obama. Those senators included current Obama cabinet members John Kerry and Chuck Hagel.

S. Fred Singer
Senior Fellow, Environment
The Heartland Institute
Director/Founder
Science and Environmental Policy Project
sepp@his.com

 

“President Obama’s climate agenda will succeed in sending our nation into poverty. Many of his programs promote needless spending of tax dollars on renewable energy sources of wind, solar, ethanol from corn, other biofuels, etc. that are not competitive with abundant, inexpensive, and geographically distributed coal, oil, and natural gas. For a nation going into debt about $1.5 billion per day, these intrusions into the marketplace cause debt to spiral out of control.

“There is a vast amount of experimental data showing increased atmospheric carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels has a negligible effect on global warming or using President Obama’s term ‘climate change.’ The most obvious at this time is the pause in global warming the past 17 years in which increases in atmospheric carbon dioxide is the highest in a millennia. Using unworkable computer models for global climate change policy shows a total lack of common sense.”

James H. Rust
Professor of nuclear engineering (Ret.), Georgia Tech
Policy Advisor
The Heartland Institute
jrust@bellsouth.net

 

“The critical scientific measure of whether or not increased atmospheric carbon dioxide will cause significant global warming is the sensitivity of the earth’s temperatures to a doubling of carbon dioxide. Since 1979, the estimate has been 1.5 ºC to 4.5 ºC — about 3º to 8ºF. U.S. government reports estimate U.S. expenditures on climate change top $165 billion, with over $35 billion given to climate science between 1993 and 2013. Yet, the latest report (2013) by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change places the sensitivity at 1.5 ºC to 4.5 ºC, the same as it was 35 years ago.

“The simple fact is that there has been no warming of the atmosphere for over a decade and no warming of the surface for over 15 years, which government-funded climate science cannot explain. The failure of the government to advance scientific knowledge provides a clear illustration of the problems in critical assumptions in the research, as well as how the research is being conducted. All the pomp of the UN and its activities cannot hide these deficiencies.

“Further spending on climate change is unjustified until these deficiencies are directly addressed with a comprehensive understanding of the natural causes of global warming/climate change — a topic which is largely ignored or minimized by government-financed science.”

Kenneth Haapala
Executive Vice President
Science and Environmental Policy Project (SEPP)
Ken@Haapala.com

 

“President Obama’s speech to the United Nations regarding climate change ignores the fact that humanity has nothing to do with the changes that occur in the Earth’s climate and has never played a role in affecting or influencing those changes. They are part of massive and natural cycles from warmth to coolness and back again that have occurred over the course of billions of years. They are all related to the cycles of the Sun and are influenced by our atmosphere, our oceans, volcanic activity, and other factors far beyond anything humanity can alter. Moreover, they occur over periods that reflect centuries, such as the last mini-ice age that lasted from 1300 to 1850.

“To suggest that the United Nations or any other global form of governance has anything to do with the climate is false. This is about depriving people of their freedom.”

Alan Caruba
Founder, The National Anxiety Center
Policy Advisor, The Heartland Institute
acaruba@aol.com

 

“Obama only offers hypothetical solutions to imaginary climate change in a vague distant future as a distraction from the real and growing social, economic, political and military problems that have been left to fester under his administration.”

Walter Starck
Policy Advisor, Environment and Energy
The Heartland Institute
media@heartland.org

Categories: On the Blog

Kill Kyoto Liabilites

September 23, 2014, 11:12 PM

The Kyoto Protocol was dreamed up by the climate jet-set in Kyoto, Japan in 1997. One of the first decisions of born-again-green PM, Kevin Rudd, was to commit Australia to Kyoto Phase 1 in 2007.  This treaty required signatories to reduce production of carbon dioxide to 5% below 1990 levels by 2012.

As a late joiner, Australia got a lower target, involving no actual cuts.  And they achieved that easy target by robbing Australian landowners – they stole carbon credits from landowners by imposing tree clearing bans. That larcenous trick can’t be pulled twice.

Ironically, the death notice for the Kyoto misadventure was posted by Japan, the birthplace of Kyoto, when they announced at Cancun in 2010 that Japan would not agree to any further targets. Japan was shocked at the billions in liabilities they had accumulated by not meeting Kyoto 1 target cuts.

Undeterred by this warning, another ALP/Green government agreed to Kyoto 2 in 2012 – 5% below 2000 levels by 2020.

This target, agreed to without due diligence, is dreamland stuff for Australia. Once the growing population is taken into account, this target would require Australians in 2020 to maintain industries and create new jobs using 30% less hydro-carbon energy per capita than was used in 2000.

Mining and mineral processing, agriculture, manufacturing, transport, tourism, electricity generation, cement, forestry and fishing are the backbone industries of Australia. Not one of these industries could maintain production while also significantly reducing their production of carbon dioxide, unless Australia embarks on a crash program of building new hydro and/or nuclear power stations. The chance that green regulators or politicians will allow either of these options any time soon is zero.

The use of carbon fuels, more than any other indicator, measures the growth and health of modern economies. The only way to kill carbon is to kill the economy – close industries or send them overseas. The Global Financial Crisis probably did more to reduce the use of hydro-carbon fuels than Kyoto will ever do.

Japan’s exit from Kyoto obligations was soon followed by Canada and Russia. USA never signed, nor did China, India, South Africa or Brazil.

Thus the four biggest economies in our region (USA, China, Japan and India) are not burdened by Kyoto. Nor are our big competitors – Brazil (iron and beef), Indonesia (coal), Chile (copper) and Canada (wheat). We only have the Kiwis and the faraway Europeans sharing the sinking Kyoto ship.

The Kyoto Agreement is a failure. Australia repealed the costly carbon dioxide tax. Next we should get rid of Kyoto liabilities.

Categories: On the Blog

FCC Chairman Won’t Allow His IG To Hire Any Criminal Investigators

September 23, 2014, 12:34 PM

We had some inordinately interesting congressional testimony recently from David L. Hunt, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)’s inspector general.

IG Hunt appeared on Wednesday, September 17 before the House Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. The topic? “Oversight of FCC Budget and Management.”

What exactly does IG Hunt and his FCC Office of the Inspector General (OIG) do?

(T)he Inspector General (IG) and his office provide objective and independent investigations, audits, and reviews of the FCC’s programs and operations.

Incident thereto, the Inspector General provides recommendations to detect and prevent fraud, waste and abuse in FCC programs and operations….

The Inspector General informs the Chairman and Congress of fraud or any serious problems with the administration of FCC programs and operations discovered during audits, investigations and reviews.

The OIG — via “audits, investigations and reviews” – makes sure the FCC doesn’t stray from the straight and narrow.

So what IG Hunt has to say in his written testimony is more than a bit disturbing:

“Very shortly after Chairman Wheeler took his office, I was informed by his Chief of Staff that OIG would not be allowed to hire criminal investigators.

“I have continued a dialogue with management, but to no avail.”

Get that? Chairman Wheeler refuses to allow Hunt’s OIG to hire any people to investigate possible criminal behavior conducted by … Chairman Wheeler, and his FCC.

This makes the following even more problematic: ‘Most Transparent Ever?’ Behold the FCC’s Secret, Crony Socialist Meetings

During which Chairman Wheeler is inviting companies opposed to Comcast’s Time Warner Cable acquisition to testify — secretly.

Is this a possible breach of law?

In my decades-long experience with FCC matters, it is fairly unusual, if not unprecedented, for the FCC to take the initiative in encouraging confidential complaints in the context of an on-the-record merger review proceeding. The fact that it is doing so here caught my “administrative law” eye.

(As a former Chair of the American Bar Association’s Section of Administrative Law and Regulatory Practice, a current member of the Administrative Conference of the United States, and a current Fellow at the National Academy of Public Administration, I do have such an “administrative law” eye. But, of course, I am speaking here only for myself.)…

In administrative law terms, the FCC’s merger review proceeding – a proceeding in which the FCC is considering applications to approve the transfer of specific spectrum licenses and other specific authorizations – is an adjudicatory proceeding affecting the legal rights of the parties to the applications.

In most cases, adjudicatory proceedings are “restricted” proceedings. This means that ex parte, or off-the-record, contacts between interested parties and Commission decision-making officials are not allowed. In restricted proceedings, all communications between interested parties and FCC officials must be on-the-record. 

Sounds very much like something for which IG Hunt could use some criminal investigators. Just in case.

Too bad the guy he needs to investigate — Chairman Tom Wheeler — refuses to let him hire any.

[Originally published at The Daily Caller]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Democracy is Not the Same as Freedom

September 23, 2014, 12:17 PM

Democracy does not equal freedom.

A fundamental fallacy of our time is that democracy is the open-sesame to peace, freedom, and prosperity. The political events surrounding what was called the ill-fated “Arab Spring” a couple of years ago was a based on the idea that “democracy” would solve all the problems of any society. But democracy in itself does not define or guarantee a free society. History has told many stories of democratic societies that have degenerated into corruption, plunder, and tyranny.

A little over 80 years ago Adolf Hitler came to power partly on the basis of the democratic electoral successes of the Nazi Party in German election during the Great Depression. Indeed, it is worth recalling the mass appeal that both the Nazi and Communist parties had in Germany in the early 1930s during the twilight of the Weimar Republic.

Hitler’s Democratic Road to Dictatorship

In the German national election on July 31, 1932, Hitler’s National Socialists emerged as the largest party represented in the parliament (though not a majority), while the Communist Party came in a strong third behind the Social Democrats. In the last free election, on November 6, 1932, before Hitler came to power in January 1933, the Nazis lost seats, but still were the largest parliamentary party, with the Communists still in third place but gaining on the Social Democrats.

Neither the Nazis nor the Communists were shy in letting the German voters know what was in store if they came to power. Each clearly told the German electorate that if they, respectively, came to power they would use such a political victory to impose authoritarian controls over the society in the name of building a new collectivist paradise. The National Socialists promised a race-based nationalist vision for Germany. The German Communist Party promised a class-based socialist utopia.

Indeed, the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises observed in 1926 that many Germans “are setting their hopes on the coming of the ‘strong man’—the tyrant who will think for them and care for them.” Men have sold their freedom, even through the ballot box, when they have been seduced by the promises of political paternalism.

In today’s world, especially in Western Europe and North America, such extreme forms of tyranny have little appeal for most people. Few are ready to vote away their freedom for a totalitarian utopia. No, today people merely wish to use the state for mutual plunder through government intervention and coerced welfare redistribution.

Political Plunder via Interest Group Politics

What is practiced in the democratic nations of the world is what in 1896 the Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto called “bourgeois socialism”—the use of the state by a vast array of special-interest groups for trade protectionism, income subsidies, monetary manipulation, and domestic regulations to stifle competition.

Furthermore, Pareto also understood over a hundred years ago what Public Choice economists in the twentieth century came to call the asymmetrical incentives resulting from the concentration of benefits and the diffusion of burdens arising from government intervention in a democratic system. Explained Pareto:

“Let us suppose that in a country of thirty million inhabitants it is proposed under some pretext or other, to get each citizen to pay out one dollar a year, and to distribute the total amount amongst thirty persons. Every one of the donors will give up one dollar a year; every one of the thirty beneficiaries will receive one million dollars a year.

“The two groups will differ very greatly in their response to this situation. Those who hope to gain a million a year will know no rest day and night. They will win newspapers over to their interest by financial inducements and drum up support from all quarters. A discreet hand will warm the palms of needy legislators, even of ministers. In the United States, there is no necessity to resort to such underhand methods: these deals are made in the open; there is an open market for votes just as there are markets in cotton and grain.

“On the other hand, [Pareto continued] the despoiled are much less active. A great deal of money is needed to launch an electoral campaign. Now there are insuperable material difficulties militating again asking each citizen to contribute a few cents . . . The individual who is threatened with losing one dollar a year—even if he is fully aware of what is afoot—will not for so small a thing forego a picnic in the country, or fall out with useful or congenial friends, or to get on the wrong side of the mayor or the prefect! In these circumstances the outcome is not in doubt: the spoliators will win hands down.”

What we have, in other words, is a system of democratized plunder, under which, as Frédéric Bastiat said, everyone attempts to use the state to live at the expense of everyone else.

Freedom as the Right to Live for One’s Self

We need to remember that democracy, in essence, is merely a mechanism for the peaceful selection of political officeholders. As such, it is certainly superior to revolutions and civil wars. As has often been said, democracy replaces bullets with ballots. Its inestimable importance for this purpose should never be discounted or forgotten.

But democracy is not liberty. The meaning of liberty was explained by the French classical liberal Benjamin Constant in a famous lecture he delivered in 1819, The Liberty of the Ancients Compared with that of the Moderns. Said Constant:

“First ask yourselves, Gentlemen, what an Englishman, a Frenchman, or a citizen of the United States of America understand today by the word ‘liberty.’ For each of them it is the right to be subject only to the laws, and to be neither arrested, detained, put to death or maltreated in any way by the arbitrary will of one or more individuals.

“It is the right of everyone to express their opinion, choose a profession and practice it, to dispose of property, and even to abuse it; to come and to go without permission, and without having to account for their motives or undertakings. It is everyone’s right to associate with other individuals, either to discuss their interests, or to profess the religion which they and their associates prefer, or even simply to occupy their days and hours in a way which is more compatible with their inclinations or whims.

“Finally it is everyone’s right to exercise some influence on the administration of the government, either by electing all or particular officials, or through representations, petitions, demands to which the authorities are more or less compelled to pay heed.”

Constant, we see, believed that an essential element of liberty is the ability to participate in the political process, with elected officials answerable to the citizens.

But “democracy” is not the core ingredient of human liberty. That core is the individual’s freedom to be self-governing, for each to be free to live his own life for himself, secure in the recognition and the respect for his individual rights to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property.

By extension, he must leave all other individuals alone to be the same. His relationships with them must be based on consent, without government restriction or regulation.

The task of government is to secure the individual in his freedom from violence and coercive interference, to protect his life, liberty, and property from aggression. When it goes beyond this his liberty has been abridged, even when that government is democratically chosen.

If there were to be a triumph of democracy around the world, it would be a hollow victory if it does not grow out of the more fundamental idea of individual liberty. Otherwise, men everywhere will continue to live under a tyranny—the tyranny of electoral majorities determined to use the government to benefit themselves at others’ expense.

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

Make Energy the Number One Issue in 2014 Election

September 22, 2014, 1:11 PM

The United States has been facing an economic malaise and severe foreign policy issues since the end of the last recession in 2009.  Inept energy policies can be blamed for much of these problems.  It is prudent for energy policy to be elevated to a number one issue in the 2014 and 2016 elections in order to restore the nation’s economy and international leadership.

CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM

President Obama and the Democrat Party have adopted a policy to restrict fossil fuel (coal, oil, and natural gas) use due to beliefs carbon dioxide emissions from combustion causes catastrophic anthropogenic (man-made) global warming (CAGW).  As a consequence, the nation must rely on continued expansion of renewable energy sources of solar, wind, ethanol from corn, other biofuels, etc. to replace fossil fuels.  With present technology, solar and wind energy sources are not economical due to erratic nature of their supply.  Their use requires subsidies of grants or government-guaranteed loans for plant construction, requirements for utilities to buy back electricity from these plants at costs above conventional electricity costs (feed-in-tariffs), and mandates to use their electricity regardless of cost (renewable portfolio standards—RPS).  Nineteen states have electricity rates above the national average and all have RPS.  Arguments against ethanol from corn are numerous and global price increases for corn is said to be one of the causes of the Arab Spring in 2011.  Biofuels are also a waste of tax dollars.

“Europeans are also being burdened by rising energy bills from domestic green policies and EU rules that effectively mandate higher cost electricity generation from renewables, like wind and solar power.”

Members of the Obama administration have to adhere to these beliefs and their actions are shown by a few quotations the past 6 years.

Campaigning in San Francisco during the Democrat Party primaries in January 2008, Presidential Candidate Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle editorial board, “So if somebody wants to build a coal-powered plant they can; it’s just that it will bankrupt them because they’re going to be charged a huge sum for all that greenhouse gas that’s being emitted.”  “Under my plan of a cap-and-trade system, electricity rates would necessarily skyrocket. Even regardless of what I say about whether coal is good or bad,” he added. “Because I’m capping greenhouse gases, coal power plants, you know, natural gas, you name it — whatever the plants were, whatever the industry was, they would have to, uh, retrofit their operations. That will cost money. They will pass that money on to consumers.”

In an energy policy speech in Miami February 23, 2012, President Obama said, “The United States consumes more than a fifth of the world’s oil — more than 20 percent of the world’s oil — just us.  We only have 2 percent of the world’s oil reserves.  We consume 20; we’ve got 2.”  The President failed to note he was off hundreds of billions of barrels of oil in U. S. domestic reserves.

Upon winning re-election November 6, 2012, President Obama stated during his victory speech, “Wewant our children to live in an America that isn’t burdened by debt, that isn’t weakened by inequality, that isn’t threatened by the destructive power of a warming planet.”

 

At a Chicago fundraiser May 29, 2013, President Obama said “I don’t have much patience for people who deny climate change.”  At his swearing in ceremony May 21, 2013, Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz declared he is “not interested in debating what is not debatable.”  These remarks echo long-standing pleas of climate alarmists the “science is settled” with regards to burning fossil fuels causing CAGW.

 

On February 16, 2014, Secretary of State John Kerry gave a long speech in Jakarta, Indonesia saying, “We simply don’t have time to let a few loud interest groups hijack the climate conversation.”  Referring to what he called “big companies” that “don’t want to change and spend a lot of money” to act to reduce the risks.  “We should not allow a tiny minority of shoddy scientists and science and extreme ideologues to compete with scientific facts.”  “Nor should we allow any room for those who think that the costs associated with doing the right thing outweigh the benefits.”  “The science is unequivocal, and those who refuse to believe it are simply burying their heads in the sand,” Kerry said.   An analysis refuting John Kerry’s remarks is contained in the March 4, 2014 paper by James H. Rust “John Kerry’s Climate Policy is the Same as Bloodletting:  Patients are not Cured, and Sometimes Die”.

 

On August 4, 2014, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “Climate change is the most consequential, urgent, sweeping collection of challenges we face as a nation and world.”  Clinton also said at the National Clean Energy Summit 7.0 in Nevada, “The data is unforgiving no matter what the deniers try to assert.”  Focusing on wind, solar and other renewables, Clinton called for investments as a means to help raise U.S. families into the middle class faster than traditional energy sources.  Ask the families of the two Americans beheaded by ISIS what they think is the biggest challenge for the United States.

 

Secretary of State John Kerry said during his January 2013 confirmation hearings that he would be a “passionate advocate” on climate-change issues, and he’s living up to that promise. In a speech August 2014 in Hawaii, Mr. Kerry called climate change “the biggest challenge of all that we face right now.  Not 10, 20 or 100 years from now—right now.”

 

Not to be outdone, Georgia Democrat U. S. Senate candidate Michelle Nunn’s website said “… in Georgia rising sea levels could have a significant effect on our coastal regions. Communities like Tybee Island and St. Mary’s are already confronting climate change….”  The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Tides and Currents database gives sea level data for Fernandina, FL., six miles from St. Mary’s.  Data from 1897 to 2013 shows a constant sea level rise of 2.02 mm per year or 8 inches per century.  Data shows a slight decrease in rate of rise the past 20 years.  Candidate Nunn is now featuring television ads supporting uneconomic renewable energy programs.

 

REASONS FOR CLIMATE ALARM PITCH

Environmentalists within the Democrat Party like Al Gore and Tim Wirth subscribed to global warming in the 1980s and gained further support after the United Nations formed the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change (UNIPCC) which produced a series of 5 Assessment Reportsreleased since 1990 with the most recent in 2014.  These documents are accepted without question.  CAGW is stated to cause increased heat wavesrecord high temperaturesfloodingdroughtwildfires, reduced snowfall,  tornadoeshurricanes, sea level riseArctic ice melting, etc. that are readily shown to be false or exaggerated.

 

To counteract omissions, half-truths, and false statements in these reports, the Non-governmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) was formed in 2003.  Since 2009, NIPCC has released6 Reports that give authoritative, easily-read information about vast amounts of experimental data showing negligible influence of carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels on climate, benefits of increased atmospheric carbon dioxide, financial losses from mitigation, and proper role of adapting to climate change.  NIPCC is supported by three non-profit organizations–Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global ChangeScience and Environmental Policy Project, and The Heartland Institute.

A host of data exists to show all catastrophic events alleged caused by CAGW occurred in the past when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels were lower and constant.   For many weather events, rates of occurrences recently declined.  In addition, lack of global warming the past 16 years, when atmospheric carbon dioxide levels increased the highest rate in thousands of years, is conveniently ignored in the UNIPCC Summary for Policymakers Reports.  Due to consternation among climate alarmists,  52 explanations have been produced to date for the pause in global warming.

FRENZY FOR CLIMATE ALARM

Due to Congressional elections this November and a United Nations meeting in Paris late 2015 to devise an international treaty to reduce fossil fuel use, there is an abundance of reports from the media and federal government to support the CAGW scare.  A few examples follow:

 

On March 31, the New York Times (NYT) featured an article by Justin Gillis “Panel’s Warning on Climate Risk:  Worst is Yet to Come” that reported findings in the just released UN IPCC Working Group II report “Climate Change 2014:  Impacts, Adaption, and Vulnerability”.   From the 44-pageSummary for Policymakers Mr. Gillis stated, “In particular, the report emphasized that the world’s food supply is at a considerable risk—a threat that could have serious consequences for the poorest nations.”  An April 9, 2014, article by James H. Rust “Last Dance for IPCC Group II Report?” refutes IPCC arguments for dangers of carbon dioxide emissions discussed in that article.

 

An August 26 NYT article “U. N. Draft Report Lists Unchecked Emissions Risks” by Justin Gillis reports an unauthorized U. N. draft report shows more dangerous consequences of global warming than reported in the U. N. 5th Assessment Reports released in 2013 and early 2014.  Mr. Gillis wrote, “Global warming is already cutting grain production by several percentage points, the report found, and that could grow much worse if emissions continue unchecked.”  Using Department of Agriculture data, Roy Spencer determined the increase in world crop yields from 1960 to 2011 was 200 percent for wheat, 150 percent for corn, and 137 percent for soybeans.  IPCC Reports exaggerate and distort effects of climate change.   The USDA is predicting record corn and soybean yields in the U. S. for 2014—record corn crop yields have been set in the U. S. 5 of the past 12 years.  The leaked report cited by reporter Gillis is to be finalized and released in October, a time to influence U. S. elections.

 

A July 26, 2014 NYT article by Coral Davenport “Obama pursuing climate accord in lieu of treaty” discusses President Obama’s forging a sweeping international climate change treaty to cut fossil fuel emissions; but without approval of Congress.  Davenport wrote, “To sidestep that requirement, President Obama’s climate negotiators are devising what they call a ‘politically binding’ deal that would ‘name and shame’ countries into cutting their emissions.  The deal is likely to face strong objections from Republicans on Capitol Hill and from poor countries around the world, but negotiators say it may be the only realistic path.”

 

REASONS FOR FOSSIL FUEL DEVELOPMENT

 

Annual U. S. fossil fuel use is approximately 900 million tons of coal, 6.6 billion barrels of oil, and 26 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  The U. S. is the wealthiest nation in the world on energy resources. The EIA estimates U. S. coal reserves are 481 billion tons.  U. S. government estimates of oil and natural gas reserves are too low because they fail to account for improving technologies in production.

 

Estimates for oil and natural gas reserves are difficult because of rapidly improving methods of drilling sparked by hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling.  In a September 16, 2014 article by Energy & Capital writer Keith Kohl “Discovered:  The Super Shale” describes features of North America over 100 million years ago during the Cretaceous Period.  North America was split in two by a massive sea over 2000 miles long stretching from the Arctic to the Gulf of Mexico known as the Western Interior Seaway (WIS).  Conditions in the WIS were perfect for producing oil shale over millions of years to thicknesses exceeding 12,000 feet.  Gradually the land rose and the WIS disappeared.  Mr. Kohl calls this the Super Shale and estimates it may contain 6.268 trillion barrels of oil.   Even if this estimate is reduced by an order of magnitude, U. S. oil reserves will lasts 100 years.

Restrictions on oil and natural gas production off shore, in the West, and Alaskan lands should be lifted and encouragement given the oil and natural gas industry to start production.  In an article “Drilling on Federal Lands:  How The West Could Be Won Again” in the October 26, 2013 Denver Post, Professor Timothy Considine wrote,  “But if the output on federal lands had matched that on private property, the economic benefits would have been significant.  I estimate that over the next decade, the region’s seven states — Wyoming, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Montana, Nevada, and Idaho — would gain between $9.5 billion and $26 billion in annual gross regional product, between $2.4 billion and $5.1 billion in annual tax revenue, and between 67,000 and 208,000 regional jobs.”

Energy supply has been a cause for international strife from prior to WWII until today.  A September 4 article in the Financial Post by Lawrence Solomon “How global warming policies have led to global insecurity” points out Western nation’s failure to develop fossil fuel resources led to unstable events in the Ukraine, power for ISIS, unstable Middle East, and China’s pressuring its neighbors over islands in the South and East China Seas.  ISIS is selling 40,000 barrels of oil per day for $2 million per day.

 

On September 19, 2014, the U.S. Department of Defense announced a plan to construct and commission bio-refineries that produce a collective annual 100 million gallons of drop-in biofuels for military and private sector transportation needs, for an average price of $3.45 per gallon.  Military purchases of these fuels from the private sector would be $1 per gallon cheaper for an annual savings for tax payers of $100 million.

For the U. S. to rapidly grow its fossil fuel production will make the country a dominant player in international affairs and allow us to supply our allies when they are being threatened by energy supply cutoffs as Russia is doing at this time.  Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia wrote the US Congress March 6 to help them buy American natural gas and reduce their dependence on Russia by loosening US export limits.

 

For information about various excuses for global warming alarm by the federal government, CFACT issued a report by Paul Driessen called “Climate Hype Exposed” which gives a compact summary of many problems cited and errors in formulation.

 

The people of the United States need to understand production of fossil fuels is a manufacturing process.  Production of 1000 tons of coal, 330 barrels of oil, or 7 million cubic feet of natural gas is the same as producing a $30,000 car, 7000 bushels of corn, or 15,000 two-dollar hamburgers.  Millions of high paying jobs are created, billions of tax and royalty payments paid, and security and safety for all our citizens.  Do we want to risk nuclear war by failing to develop our fossil fuels?

 

A final reason for fossil fuel development can be stated in ethical terms through considerations of man’s moral duty to protect the poor.  A great summary of reasons to fight climate change policies is a policy statement by the Cornwall Alliance “Protect the Poor: Ten Reasons to Oppose Harmful Climate Change Policies” issued September 17, 2014.

REPUBLICAN ACTIONS ON ENERGY POLICY

 

To address energy policy failures, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed three important pieces of legislation that lay the groundwork for a national energy strategy that would help the United States take better advantage of its abundant, domestic energy resources, promote North American energy independence, curb gas prices, and create jobs.

 

First, H.R. 4899, the Lowering Gasoline Prices to Fuel an America that Works Act, would allow the United States to responsibly expand production of its own energy resources.

 

In addition, H.R. 6, the Domestic Prosperity & Global Freedom Act, would bring certainty to the U.S. Department of Energy’s liquefied natural gas (LNG) export approval process, increasing natural gas production and setting a timeframe by which the agency must act on an application to export LNG to our allies. It is also estimated that the legislation will bring more than 30,000 jobs to Ohio by 2035.

 

Finally, H.R. 3301, the North American Energy Infrastructure Act, would help build the energy infrastructure needed to fully enhance our domestic production.

Republican Senate candidate Dan Sullivan (Alaska) blamed President Obama and Senate Democrats for locking up the country’s energy resources in the Republican Party’s September 6, 2014 weekly address; vowing that a GOP-controlled Senate would be the best fix.  Sullivan said, “The Obama-Reid agenda has locked up America’s natural resources, burdened small businesses throughout the country with an avalanche of regulations and suffocated job growth through a complete disrespect for the rule of law.  A Republican Senate would approve Keystone XL pipeline jobs, because Canada is our neighbor and ally.  We’ll authorize more offshore development, because it’s good for coastal states and the rest of the country. We’ll seize the opportunity to expand our energy trade, because that will benefit our nation, and others who need energy – like Ukraine.”

 

In a September 16, 2014 speech before The Heritage Foundation, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said,“The reality is right now we’ve got an administration in the Obama administration that are science deniers when it comes to harnessing America’s energy resources and potential to create good-paying jobs for our economy and for our future.”  This attack is putting the Obama administration on the defensive when it comes justifying their global warming policies.

PLAN OF ACTION

 

Physicist John Droz, jr. circulated a paper on how energy policy should be approached in the election that I can’t improve upon.  His article in entirety follows:

 

As we move towards a critical November election in the US, you should look for an opportunity to communicate with your local House or Senate candidate. My recommendation is that you reach out to your federal candidates, to see which of them are most sympathetic to supporting science-based policies.

 

Prior to the elections, these politicians are likely to be more available and receptive, so now is the time to make some inroads!

 

Here are some suggestions to consider:

1 – The candidate should have “Energy” listed on their Issues webpage — as energy is an extremely important matter, since it plays a pivotal role in our economy, security, etc.

 

2 – When writing up any Issue page, it is important to adhere to two criteria:

— Distinguish yourself from your opponent

— Establish an accurate, understandable and defendable position

 

3 – Their fundamental position regarding technical matters: technical policies should be based on real science. For example:

— We do have energy and environmental issues [i.e. there is no denial]

— Such technical matters should be resolved by applying genuine Science [i.e. vs political science]

 

4 – A major mistake many Republicans make regarding Energy is to advocate an “All of the Above” strategy.

— This is a Democrat originated slogan, so why would any Republican say it?

— More importantly, it is nonsensical:

“ALL of the above” would include unreliable alternative sources of energy — why would we support those?

“ALL of the above” would include extremely expensive alternative sources of energy — why would we support those?

“ALL of the above” would also include environmentally destructive alternative sources of energy — why would we support those?

 

5 – The appropriate Energy mantra to advocate is “All of the Sensible.” Which energy options are sensible? Well, that’s exactly the conversation we should be having!

 

IMO sensible alternative energy options would be those that have scientific proof that they are a net societal benefit. Another perspective would be that we support alternative sources that provide abundant, reliable, and low-cost energy.

 

6 – For more information they should look at our website, WiseEnergy.org. The candidate should pay particular attention to EnergyPresentation.info — a comprehensive science-based discussion of energy. Energy and Mankind is also an excellent primer.

 

I’d be glad to answer questions about any of this.

regards,

john droz, jr.

physicist & environmental advocate

Categories: On the Blog

Blathering Eco-Intellectuals

September 22, 2014, 1:00 PM

I confess I have always been wary of intellectuals. They love arcane theories that often have little to do with real life and this is particularly true of eco-intellectuals who have embraced a panoply of lies and claims about the “environment”, “fossil fuels”, “sustainability”, and other notions that permit them to bloviate without once addressing reality.

This has been a week of eco-propaganda on a global scale. On Sunday there were “Climate Marches.” On Tuesday there will be a UN “Climate Summit”, and there will likely be an avalanche of nonsense in the media intended to make us believe we have control, influence, or impact on the climate when it is obvious to the rest of us that we—the human race—have none.

In the past nearly two decades we have all be experiencing not a warming, but a cooling of planet Earth. It has nothing to do with us and everything to do with the Sun that has been in a low cycle of radiation—less heat!

A friend alerted me to an article in the August 22nd edition of theNew Republic, a famously liberal magazine. “Global Warming Is Just One of Many Environmental Threats That Demand Our Attention” is the title of Amartya Sen’s article. He is a Nobel laureate in economics, a winner of the National Humanities Medal, an author, and teaches at Harvard University.

There were two immediate red flags that caught my attention. First was that he is an economist and the second was that he was writing about “global warming” as of it was happening.

In early September I had written about another economist who had an opinion published in The Wall Street Journal. It was ludicrous in terms of his complete lack of even the most basic science he was either addressing or ignoring as he too warned of horrid environmental portents to come.  Economists should stick to economics.

If you suffer from insomnia or have a fondness for reading sentences filled with words rarely used in common communication, you will find that Sen’s article will either put you to sleep or, more likely, give you a migraine headache. The article is an insufferable platform for him to demonstrate his Nobel certified intellectual brilliance, while possessing very little understanding of science or what we ordinary people call common sense.

“Our global environment has many problems. If the high volume of carbon emission is one, the low level of intellectual engagement with some of the major environmental challenges is surely another.” That’s how Sen began his article and, in the very first sentence, he reveals his ignorance by referring to “carbon emissions” instead of “carbon dioxide” (CO2) emissions.

The latter is a so-called “greenhouse” gas that the Greens keep telling us is trapping huge amounts of heat in the Earth’s atmosphere that will surely kill us all. CO2 is about 0.04% of the entire atmosphere, the least of the gases of which it is composed. It doesn’t trap heat, but it does provide the “food” that all vegetation requires to grow. We carbon-based humans exhale CO2 after we breathe in oxygen. It is part of thenatural cycle of life between animals and the vegetation that releases oxygen; a perfect balance of nature.

Suffice to say that Sen’s very lengthy article is typical of the eco-intellectual disdain for virtually any form of energy to serve humanity except for the two least reliable, wind and solar energy. There’s a reason why mankind turned to coal, oil and natural gas. It was vastly abundant and released large amounts of energy for transportation and other benefits that include the production of electricity.

There was a time not that long ago when people used whale oil to light their homes. And wood was used to heat them. Walt Whitman, a famed poet who lived in Lincoln’s time, never turned on an electrical switch in his life. It didn’t exist 150 years ago. There were no autos, no telephones, et cetera. If you define a generation as 25 years, that’s only six generations ago. And Sen wants us to abandon “fossil fuels” because he fears “the dangers of global pollution from fossil fuels…”

He’s no fan of nuclear power either. (I guess we should all go back to whale oil, only we won’t because we love the whales.) “There are at least five different kinds of externalities that add significantly to the social costs of nuclear power” writes Sen, but who else refers to “externalities” of nuclear power? Okay, why not just say there have been two bad accidents, Chernobyl and Fukushima, and leave it at that. That still leaves a lot of safely performing nuclear plants here and worldwide.

We do not live in a world without risk or trade-offs. For lack of enough pipelines, a lot of oil is being transported by rail and there have been accidents. Around the world there are coal mining accidents. Even solar farms literally sizzle birds to death that fly over them and wind turbines chop them into little pieces.

Mother Nature does not care what happens to us when she conjures up a volcanic eruption, a flood, a wildfire, a hurricane or blizzard.

Humans have learned to either flee these things or wait them out in the safety of their homes. That’s what modern life is all about and it is a hundred times better than in the past when people were lucky to live to the age of sixty. Many died much younger from plagues of disease and we are watching that occur with Ebola in Africa. Even simple injuries caused death a scant time ago.

“There are empirical gaps in our knowledge as well as analytical difficulties in dealing with the evaluation of uncertainty.” Huh? What? This is intellectual gobbledygook, a substitute for saying that much of the time we don’t know what the future holds.

What we do know is that the Earth is 4.5 billion years old and that we humans have developed what we call civilization over the past 5,000 years, a blink of time in eternity.

We should know by now to accept the Earth, the Sun and the galaxy in which we live for what it is and stop bothering to embrace idiotic notions that we have any control or that we are causing so much “pollution” the Earth cannot exist much longer.

You know what we do with the mess of stuff we produce and throw away? We burn it or we bury it. We even recycle some of it.

This keeps archeologists busy as they examine the garbage our not-too-distant ancestors left behind in their caves. Thankfully, none of them were economists.

© Alan Caruba, 2014

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

What Do Students Learn from a Guy Like This?

September 22, 2014, 11:57 AM

I received another one of those remarkable emails this morning. You know, the kind that make you wonder about the people teaching at universities these days.

Geoffrey Clay Godfrey, apparently a professor of “leisure studies” in the Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Management in the College of Health and Human Development at Penn State’s University Park campus, sent the following email:

You cheap, lying sons of bitches. If you think selling rocks to burn is more important than the future of this planet, God have mercy on your very sorry souls. Hope you can’t sleep, an indication you still have shards of ethical thought.

Geoffrey Godbey
g7g@psu.edu

 

Now, I’m not a prude. (You should hear me cuss during Green Bay Packers games.) But name-calling, really? Do parents really want to pay for their children to be taught, even if it is just leisure studies, by someone who can’t engage in civil debate? And why do universities employ people like this?

Mr. Godbey has no expertise in climate science, as near as I can tell. Hard to say if he’s read anything about climate science, perhaps an alarmist website or two. And he clearly knows nothing about The Heartland Institute and its sources of funding.

Categories: On the Blog

Senator Tom Udall Wants to Shut Me Up

September 20, 2014, 11:14 AM

Each week I write an energy-themed commentary. The topic on which I write is generally something that my readers—even those in the energy industry—don’t know about. I frequently get grateful responses for the information, education, and deadlines addressed.

One reader reported that when my column comes out each week in his local paper, he takes it into the shop and passes it around for all the guys to read: “I’ve been in this industry all my life, and I know we’ve done a poor job explaining what we do and educating people. That’s what you do. It is good for my guys to know that there is someone out there who is looking out for them and their jobs. Plus, reading your column gives them a perspective on the industry that is bigger than their individual job roles. Thanks for what you do!”

Another offered this complement: “You have carved a really nice little niche out for yourself. Each week when I read your column, I think ‘I should know this stuff’—but I don’t. I appreciate the effort you put into keeping us informed about what is going on in the energy world. There is no one else doing what you do and you do it really well.”

In the eight years that I have been preaching my unique brand of energy evangelism, I’ve slammed agencies, such as the Environmental Protection Agency or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; laws, such as the Endangered Species Act; and lawmakers for the energy-killing policies in which they engage.

My ultimate goal is to ensure that Americans have access to energy that is efficient, effective, and, most importantly, economical. I hope to provide a counterbalance to the plethora of propaganda promoted by the White House and green movement that propagates the fairytale that we can power America on butterflies, rainbows, and pixie dust.

I believe my work—along with a growing chorus of others—is making an impact.

Recently the Wall Street Journal featured an article, in a small business supplement, titled: “Small Firms Are Downplaying Their Green Side.” It pointed out that using “green” in marketing was no longer effective, and, in fact, “the eco-friendly tag can stir up negative feelings for many.”

Polls repeatedly place global warming—or, climate change as policy proponents now like to call it—at the bottom of the list of issues on which the government should be focused. One particularly interesting poll done by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette concluded: “environmental activists still face a significant challenge in recruiting deep public support for government actions such as the greenhouse gas regulations recently promulgated by the Obama administration.”

I can do what I do, because this is America, and in America, we have free speech.

In Colorado, an organization called Coloradoans for Responsible Energy Development (CRED) launched an aggressive campaign to educate the state about the role of the energy industry on jobs, economic development, and the safety of hydraulic fracturing. Its effort changed public opinion in the state to the point that candidates, such as Governor Hickenlooper and Senator Mark Udall, were so afraid of the Democrat-sponsored anti-energy initiatives that they made a backroom deal to have them removed from the ballot. Polls now show that only 34 percent of Coloradans oppose hydraulic fracturing. But the partisan divide on the issue indicated that having the anti-energy initiatives on the ballot, would drive Republicans to vote in November. The Democrat candidates feared losing their re-election bids. I wrote about it last month.

The Colorado public education campaign could be waged, because this is America, and in America, we have free speech.

Given the collapse of public popularity for issues Democrats like the Senators Udall favor, it is no surprise that while “Rome is burning,” they have been in Washington, DC, spending a week of debate fiddling around with the First Amendment—the one that allows free speech. Both Cousins, Senator Mark Udall, and my Senator, Tom Udall, voted to shut-up their constituents.

As with most of my columns, where I aim to draw attention to under-reported issues that impact access to energy, you likely didn’t even know the vote took place last week. Sadly, with everything going on the world, the national media didn’t report that your first amendment rights—and their rights—were being threatened.

With important issues pressing in on America such as border security, terrorism, and energy access like approving the Keystone pipeline, why would my Senator, Tom Udall, spend so much time on something that has no chance of passing in the Senate, let alone the House?  If you take a closer look, Udall’s proposed amendment would significantly impact the energy industry’s ability to communicate with voters about issues like hydraulic fracturing, public lands exploration, water use, and environmental protection. It would limit the voices of royalty owners, industry employees, and everyday citizens who value energy development.

Obviously, it’s about getting re-elected—rather than working for issues that matter to his constituents. Somehow, he thinks being able to say that he cast a “yes” vote on his doomed, proposed Constitutional Amendment (Senate Joint Resolution 19)—which would be the 28th  and could limit my free speech, and that of groups like CRED—will drive his base to the polls. (Fortunately, it failed to pass—for the third time—even in the Democrat-controlled Senate.) Instead, his attempt to limit free speech should motivate his opposition. Don’t let Tom Udall muzzle me—or others like me.

This still America, and in America, as the Supreme Court affirmed, we have free speech.

Categories: On the Blog

Al Gore Mentions Heartland, Tells 11 Falsehoods in Just 35 Seconds

September 19, 2014, 3:50 PM

Al Gore hosted his annual “24 Hours of Reality” program this week. You might have missed it since Gore no longer has a cable network to show his Jerry Lewis-style telethon for the climate-alarmist set, but instead had to broadcast the whole thing online. Come to think of it, you probably also missed all the other “24 Hours of Reality” programs on his old, low-rated, bore of a network, Current TV.

In the middle of his latest presentation, Gore mentioned The Heartland Institute and how our research ended up in a draft of some K-12 textbooks the Texas School Board is reviewing. Gore managed to pack in no fewer than 11 errors/lies/falsehoods about Heartland and the Texas School Board’s review of text books in just 35 seconds. Watch it for yourself (and read the breakdown of Gore’s dissembling and ignorance below).


The good news … is that no one really listens to Al Gore anymore. But we did, and here are his errors/lies/falsehoods, 1-11.

… the state of Texas has just ordered all of their children to read science text books partly written by a climate denier organization, The Heartland Institute …

(1) Texas has “ordered” nothing. The Texas School Board is merely in the process of reviewing proposed text books, which (2) would not be for all children, but kids in grades 5 and 6 in public schools.

(3) The few passages in these proposed text books that depart from alarmist ideology were not “partially written” by Heartland. We only found out Heartland was mentioned in the text books after the left-wing activist group the National Center for Science Education (NCSE) raised a stink about it. (Come to think of it, that should be even more troubling to Al Gore and his fellow fear mongers. Heartland didn’t lobby to get a mention in these text books, but was cited organically. Uh oh.)

(4) The text books that caused this “controversy” are social studies text books, not science text books.

(5) Heartland is not a “denier” organization. We have hosted nine International Conferences on Climate Change, at which no one has ever denied the climate is changing. Many scientists, however, question the extent of man’s influence on global temperatures — and, lately, if we are now about to enter a cooling trend after 18 consecutive years of no atmospheric global warming.

… so that they will get instruction about falsehoods — being told what this carbon-polluter-funded denier organization says and it’s just a propaganda exercise.

(6) It is not a “falsehood” to present the idea that the science is not settled on the causes and effects of climate change. See thousands of citations from the peer-reviewed literature in the NIPCC reports at the Climate Change Reconsidered website.

(7) Heartland is not funded by “carbon polluters.” We get such a tiny percentage of our overall $6 million annual budget from energy companies it’s hardly worth mentioning … except to thank them for their support, of course.

(8) The CO2 emissions from power plants and automobiles is not “pollution,” let alone “carbon pollution,” whatever that is.

(9) Heartland is not a “denier organization.” See #4.

(10) Informing school-aged children in social studies class that many esteemed scientists disagree with global warming alarmism — Richard Lindzen, Judith Curry, Alan Carlin, Patrick Michaels, Roy Spencer, and many more — is not “propaganda.”

It’s so terrible that school children are exposed to that. But here’s the good news that I started to get at …

(11) It is actually excellent that school children might be exposed to the truth about the scientific climate debate — these books have not yet been approved — which is vigorous among real scientists who are interested in getting to the truth, not advancing an agenda.

That’s an impressive streak of misinformation, ignorance, and lies — even for an ex-politician.

NOTE: Read more about Al Gore and other “Merchants of Smear” in this new Heartland Policy Brief by Russell Cook.

Categories: On the Blog

EPA Clean Power Plan: All Pain – No Gain for American Jobs and Energy

September 19, 2014, 11:48 AM

EPA Clean Power Plan: All pain – no gain for American jobs and energy

A diverse and growing coalition, has sprung up in opposition to the Clean Power Plan (CPP). Yet most people are unaware of the potential impacts or of the pending deadline for public comment.

I’ve written this week’s column with the specific intent of giving you verbiage that you can simply cut and paste into the comment form before October 16.

The CPP will radically alter the way electricity is generated in America. It is based on the discredited theory that climate change is a crisis caused by the use of fossil fuels emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. It aims to reduce overall carbon dioxide emissions by 30 percent below 2005 levels by 2030. The combination of the CPP and previous regulation will shut down more than 40 percent of coal-fueled generation—representing 10 percent of all electricity-generation capacity—within the next 6 years.

What will this forced, premature elimination of America’s electric capacity do?

The proposed EPA plan will seriously threaten America’s electric reliability

Unless the EPA backs down on its harsh regulations and coal-fueled power plants get a reprieve, blackouts are almost guaranteed—especially in light of the projected cold winter. About the 2014 “polar vortex” that crippled the U.S., Alaska Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski, at an April Senate hearing on grid reliability, stated: “Eighty-nine percent of the coal electricity capacity that is due to go offline was utilized as that backup to meet the demand this winter.” Murkowski’s comments were referencing coal-fueled power plants that are already due to be shut down based on regulations from five years ago, before the proposed CPP additionally reduces supply. Affirming Murkowski’s comments, Nicholas Akins, president and CEO of Ohio-based American Electric Power Company Inc., sees the 2014 near crisis as a warning sign. At that same hearing he said: “The weather events experienced this winter provided an early warning about serious issues with electric supply and reliability. This country did not just dodge a bullet—we dodged a cannonball.” This is before the projected closure of an additional 75 megawatts of coal-fueled electricity generation due to the new regulations. If McCarthy was serious when, prior to the release of the proposed regulations, she stated: “Nothing we do can threaten reliability,” she’d withdraw this plan, as it will do just that.

The proposed EPA plan will chase away more American industry

While the CPP appears to be about forcing the power sector into reducing carbon-dioxide emissions, there are spillover impacts of higher electricity rates on overall economic activity—especially energy-intensive industries such as steel, manufacturing, and chemicals. America’s abundance of affordable, reliable energy provides businesses with a critical operating advantage in today’s intensely competitive global economy. The EPA’s proposal will reduce America’s advantage, as it’s acknowledged that the proposed regulations will raise electricity rates in the contiguous U.S. by 5.9% to 6.5% in 2020. If industry continues to leave the U.S., the CPP results will be opposite of the planned effect. Emissions will increase as companies move to countries with lower labor costs, cheaper energy, and lax environmental regualtions. An additional unintended consequence will be more jobs lost in manufacturing.

The proposed EPA plan will kill hundreds of thousands of jobs

In late July, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) International President Edwin D. Hill said: “If these rules are implemented as written, dozens of coal plants will shut down and with no plans to replace them, tens of thousands of jobs will be lost and global carbon emissions will rise anyway.” Investor’s Business Daily reports: “The IBEW has now joined the United Mine Workers of America, the Boilermakers and several other unions opposed to the new anti-carbon rules.” The United Mine Workers of America has estimated that the rule will result in 187,000 direct and indirect job losses in the utility, rail, and coal industries in 2020 and cumulative wage and benefit losses from these sectors of $208 billion between 2015 and 2035. No wonder the economy is sluggish and the jobs picture continues to be bleak.

The proposed EPA plan will cause harsh economic consequences while having virtually no impact on the reported goal of stopping global climate change

From increased energy costs to job losses, the CPP will further damage the economy. Perhaps these economic consequences would be worth it, if they actually did anything to really reduce carbon-dioxide emissions—assuming what humans breathe out and plants breathe in is actually the cause of global warming. Carbon dioxide emissions from non-Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development countries—such as China and India—are projected to grow by nine billion tons per year. The Partnership for a Better Energy Future reports: “for every ton of CO2 reduced in 2030 as a result of EPA’s rule, the rest of the world will have increased emissions by more than 16 tons.” Our reduction in 2030 would offset the equivalent of just 13.5 days of carbon-dioxide emissions from China alone. The CPP will become the definition of “all pain and no gain.”

The EPA’s October 16 deadline will be upon us before you know it. Take a few minutes now to send them your commentshttp://www2.epa.gov/carbon-pollution-standards/how-comment-clean-power-plan-proposed-rule.Pick any of the above suggestions, customize them as you please, and send them on to the EPA. For America to grow, we need energy that is effective, efficient, and economical, rather than that which is threatened by the EPA’s flood of excessive and burdensome regulations.

Categories: On the Blog

End the Costly Integration Ban – Part II

September 19, 2014, 11:35 AM

For almost eight years, I have been urging, along with other Free State Foundation scholars, an end to the costly so-called “integration ban.”This outdated, costly FCC regulation bans cable operators from integrating the security and programming navigation functions in set-top boxes.

The supposed rationale for the integration ban, which was implemented in 2007, was to promote the availability of an independent retail market in set-top boxes. But, as I explained in my July 25 blog, “End the Costly Integration Ban,” from the very beginning, “in light of the competition among multichannel video providers that already then existed, it was clear that the costs imposed by the mandated separation of security and program navigation functions outweighed the consumer benefits.” The blog explains, at considerable length, and with links to several of FSF’s works on the subject, why it is time — indeed, way past time — to end the integration ban.

To its credit, the House of Representatives’ bill reauthorizing STELA included a provision ending the integration ban. Now, to my dismay, I have read that Senator Ed Markey plans to try to add a provision to the Senate STELA reauthorization that would reinstate the integration ban in some form. For all the reasons spelled out in “End the Costly Integration Ban,” I sure hope he doesn’t succeed.

The reality is that over his long career, Sen. Markey has always equated more regulation of the communications marketplace with more competition. There may have been some merit to that view, at least in particular instances where segments of the communications marketplace remained monopolistic,  when then-Rep. Markey first articulated this proposition 30 years ago. But there is no doubt, as explained in my blog and the other referenced Free State Foundation work, that the video services marketplace, including the market for all sorts of navigation devices and services, is now competitive.

Sen. Markey’s invariable view equating continued regulation with “protecting competition” is now woefully outdated, certainly including this instance. Sen. Markey’s position may, in fact, provide some help in propping up particular competitors in some situations for some amount of time. But in markets that are already subject to competitive forces, consumers almost always are the losers.

I hope the Senate Commerce Committee will see the wisdom in the House bill ending the costly integration ban — and, in doing so, put consumers’ interests first. 

[Originally published at The Free State Foundation]

Categories: On the Blog

Apple’s New Security Policy Is Great News for iPhone, iPad Users

September 19, 2014, 9:39 AM

Apple Corp. last night announced that it is implementing a new security protocol that will make it impossible for the firm to turn over users’ personal information to government agencies, or anyone else. This is great news for users of Apple products, and one hopes that the other major phone and tablet operating system providers—notably, Google and Microsoft—will quickly follow suit.

This is a real innovation that makes the electronic-device consumer experience much better and much safer.

The Washington Post reports:

The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple’s latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal quandary: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that prevents the company — or anyone but the device’s owner — from gaining access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers.

The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails and recordings. Apple once maintained the ability to unlock some content on devices for legally binding police requests but will no longer do so for iOS 8, it said inthe new privacy policy.

“Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data,” Apple said on its Web site. “So it’s not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8.”

This action demonstrates once again that free-market choices make for innovation and consumer satisfaction, in contrast with government coercion and intrusion. Kudos to Apple for this smart and consumer-friendly action.

[Originally published at The American Culture]

 

Categories: On the Blog

Food Fight: Can Food Companies Help Battle Obesity?

September 19, 2014, 9:30 AM

This week may be a turning point in the food fight that has been taking place in this country for over a decade.

An analysis published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine this week (Sept. 17) found that major food companies exceeded their pledge to Michelle Obama that they’ll reduce the calories they sell to consumers.

The pledge, according to the first lady, mattered. When it was announced in 2010, she made what turned out to be a controversial proclamation, arguing that “Solving the obesity epidemic requires far more than anything government can do alone and today’s announcement represents an important step forward to providing Americans with healthier choices so that they can choose to lead healthier lives.”

This didn’t sit well with NYU’s in-house nutrition activist Dr. Marion Nestle. Nestle, the author ofFood Politics, is one of the most widely quoted voices about nutrition and obesity policy.

For her and others who urgently demand more government intervention with how we eat, obesity seems less like a public health problem, and more like a news hook. To activists, every report about obesity is a justification to increase food and beverage taxes, lobby for more taxpayer-funded programs, and call for restrictions on advertising of foods they don’t want us to eat.

Regulation-hungry thought leaders like Dr. Yoni Freedhoff of the University of Ottawa blame obesity on the failure of public health officials and lawmakers to “legislate change” – not enough statutes, regulations, public monies spent, or taxes on foods that he thinks are bad.

However if it were really just about solving a serious public health problem, these smart people would be able to come up with more narrowly-tailored and useful solutions than the one-size fits all big-government regulatory approaches they’ve been trying to shove down our throats. And instead of demonizing industry, they’d realize that companies that sell food aren’t the enemy, they are a necessary partner.

While a conciliatory approach is the sensible one, it isn’t a strategy that helps sell books, raise funds, motivate their base, get media attention, and cajole politicians.

Nestle reflected about the first lady’s ongoing anti-obesity campaign in an interview with The Nation’s Bridget Huber in 2012, “Looking back on it, it’s enough to make you weep. So little has been able to be achieved.”

To activist groups, partnering with industry is akin to signing a pact with the devil. Huber framed the underlying controversy accurately. “It also raises fundamental questions about whether the goals of public health and those of the food industry are at irreconcilable odds. Should those who seek to address the obesity crisis treat food companies as collaborators or as adversaries?”

The study published Wednesday suggests an answer to Huber’s question. And it puts the Marion Nestle’s of the world on the wrong side of history. This isn’t just my view, but it seems to be the take of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, no bastion of free-market policy advocacy.

In a commentary published alongside the report in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, RWJF president Risa Lavizzo-Mourey and colleagues wrote, “Through the HWCF and similar initiatives, industry is demonstrating that it can be part of the solution. So we both congratulate these companies and call upon them and other industry leaders to join together with the health community to go even further to help all children achieve a healthy weight.”

Those who care about public health, rather than scoring political body blows should agree. But the call should go further. We should urge public health groups to realize that the way towards progress for healthy eating is to encourage this type of voluntary dialogue backed up by results.

Activists in the public health community should latch onto this positive example of private-sector driven progress and put an end to divisive rhetoric that demonizes food companies rather than helps consumers be healthy. Think of it this way: When it comes to addressing obesity, carrots work better than sticks.

[Originally published at Pundicity]

 

Categories: On the Blog

The Miracle and Morality of the Market

September 19, 2014, 9:17 AM

One of the great fallacies arrogantly believed in by those in political power is the notion that they can know enough to manage and command the lives of everyone in society with better results than if people are left to live their own lives as they freely choose.

The fact is, there is far more in the world that successfully manages and “regulates” itself without the controlling hand of the government than many of us pause to reflect on or understand.

Have you ever stopped to think about how much of the world around us we take for granted? How often do any of us reflect on the law of gravity that keeps the moon revolving around the earth or on the chemical workings of our internal organs after we have eaten a meal?

The Physical and Biological Worlds Don’t Need Government

Yet whether we think about or even understand the law of gravity or the processes of chemical reactions, the moon continues to travel around the earth and the food we normally eat continues to be digested. These physical and biological processes operate whether or not we think about or understand them.

If the wonders of the physical world and the complexities of our own biology often seem miraculous to us, we should be no less awestruck at the miracle of the marketplace.

Just as the forces of gravity and the internal chemistry of our bodies operate without conscious human intervention and control to direct or regulate them, so too the market brings together the actions of multitudes of producers with the desires and demands of an equivalent multitude of buyers with no central directing and commanding hand overseeing the processes at work. Just as most of nature and much of human biology are “self-regulating,” so too is the greater part of our economic activities in society.

Markets Use More Knowledge Than a Mind Can Master

Day in and day out we give little thought to the vast and complex array of economic processes, which if they were to stop or severely malfunction would mean hardship or even disaster for many of us. The supermarkets are daily replenished with wide varieties of fruits, vegetables, meats, canned and packaged goods, dairy products, and many other items.

We crowd the shopping malls and find them filled with practically every conceivable commodity we can imagine, with each of them offered in attractive and diverse varieties. Just think of the wide spectrum of shoes and clothes placed at our disposal in those malls as an example of this. And if we do not want the inconveniences and irritations of crowded shopping areas, a growing number of us now do an increasing amount of our shopping over the Internet with the mere click of the “mouse.”

Even if we wanted to fully understand how all those goods are actually brought to the marketplace for our various wants and desires, virtually none of us would be able to trace through all the intricate ways by which our demands are satisfied.

Back in 1958, free market advocate, Leonard Read, wrote a famous essay titled “I, Pencil.” He outlined a history of manufacturing a simple old-fashioned wooden pencil, from a tree being cut down in a forest and the mining of the graphite in a faraway country to its assembly into its finished form so that it might be readily available for purchase by any of us in some neighborhood store. Read’s central insight was to remind us that no one individual or even wise and informed group of us possesses all the knowledge or information that has gone into that pencil’s manufacture.

Furthermore, it is not necessary for anyone to fully understand the processes involved in making that pencil for it to be available to us as a writing instrument. Indeed, if it were required for some mastermind to know all that is needed to know to make all of the goods offered to us everyday on the market, the variety of goods available to us would be both fewer in number and poorer in quality.

Market Competition and the Price System

How are the activities of an increasingly larger group of individuals successfully coordinated, so that all the multitudes of demands and supplies are brought into balance and harmony? The Austrian economist and Nobel Laureate Friedrich Hayek showed how all of the knowledge and information in society is encapsulated in the price system of the free-market economy. In our roles as both consumers and producers we communicate to one another what we think goods, resources, capital, and labor services are worth to us in their various and competing uses through the prices we are willing to pay for them. These “price signals” serve as the means for all of us to decide and coordinate what we want and are willing to do together with other members of society.

Thus, and indeed quite miraculously, it is not necessary for an “economic czar” to rule over and command us in our everyday market activities to assure that a vast quantity of food gets to the supermarkets or that thousands of different varieties of goods are constantly available in the shopping malls or other stores and businesses throughout the land.

Each individual finds his own corner of specialization — guided by those opportunities, expressed in market prices, that seem to offer the greatest likelihood of earning an income that will enable him to buy from others all of the goods he himself desires.

Competition in these voluntary interactions of the market helps us to discover where each of us can best interact our fellow men for mutual betterment within the system of division of labor while pursuing our own personal interests.

The competitive process tests us through the reward of profits and the penalties of losses. Profits lure us into those production activities that our neighbors, as consumers, want us to do more of. Losses warn us that we have undertaken production actions that those same neighbors think are not worth the costs of our continuing to do them in the same way.

No overseer’s whip is needed to prod people to do more of some things and less of others. No paternalistic planner is needed to assure that everything that is wanted is produced and in the most economically cost-efficient way. No restraining regulations and controls are needed to hamper the free choices and actions of the multitudes of millions in society – other than the crucial and general legal rules against murder, theft, and fraud in our dealings with one another.

Mutual agreement and voluntary consent are the bases of these market relationships. It is not the police power of the government with its use or the threat of violence and force that compels the cooperation and collaboration of humanity.

The Morality of Market Relationships

There is also an important moral element in this functioning free-market economy. There are none who are only masters and others who are simply servants. In the market society we are all both servants and masters, but without either force or its threat.

In our roles as producers — be it as men who hire out our labor for wages, resource owners who rent out or sell our property for a price, or entrepreneurs who direct production for anticipated profits — we serve our fellow men in attempting to make the products and provide the services we think they may be willing and interested in buying from us.

“Service with a smile” and “the customer is always right” are hallmarks of the seller’s deference to those to whom they offer their supplies. What motivates such attitudes is the fact that in an open, competitive market no one can compel us to buy from a seller who offers something less attractive or more costly than what some rival of his is presenting to us for our consideration.

And why are we interested in not offending or driving away some potential customer into the arms of our rival suppliers? Because only by successfully making the better and less expensive product can we hope to earn the income that then enables us to re-enter the market, now in the role of consumer and demander of what our neighbors are offering to sell to us.

As consumers, we become the “masters” who those same neighbors attempt to satisfy with newer, better, and cheaper products. Now those whom we have served defer to us. We “command” them, not through the use of force but through the attraction of our demand and the money we offer for the goods they bring to the market.

By how much we can “command” the service of others in the market in our role as consumer is directly related to the extent to which we have been successful in our service to our neighbors as reflected in the money income we have earned from satisfying their wants and desires.

In a free society, no man is required to do work or supply any good he considers morally wrong and ethically questionable. He may earn less from choosing to supply something that is valued less highly in the market, but he cannot be forced to produce anything that his conscience may dictate to be wrong.

On the other hand, we cannot prevent others from supplying a good or service we find morally objectionable. The ethics of liberty and the free market require that we use only morally justifiable means to stop our neighbors from demanding and supplying something that offends us. We must use reason, persuasion, and example of a better and more right way to live.

Unfortunately, too many of our fellow men want to preserve or extend a return to a form of a slave society — regardless of the name under which it is presented. Too many want to dictate how others may make a living, or at what price and under what terms they may peacefully and voluntarily interact with their fellow human beings for purposes of mutual material, cultural, and spiritual betterment.

Moral Courage for Winning Freedom

Our task, for those of us who understand and care deeply about human liberty, is to reawaken in our fellow men an awareness of the miracle and morality of the market. The task, I know, seems daunting. But it must have seemed that way to our American Founding Fathers when they heralded the truth of the inalienable individual rights of man to life liberty and honestly acquired property for which they fought and then won a revolution, or when advocates of economic freedom first made the case for the free market against government control.

The world was transformed by these ideals of the morality of free men in free markets. What is most important is that each of us understands as best we can the miracle and the morality of the market economy. Too often the friends of freedom allow the advocates of various forms of government regulation, control, and redistribution to set the terms of the debate. Freedom will not win if we do not put those proponents of political paternalism on the defensive.

By what moral right do they claim to tell other men how to peacefully go about their private and market affairs — as long as those men do not use murder, theft, or fraud in their dealings with others? By what ethical norm do those political paternalists declare their right to take that which others have honestly acquired through production and trade, and redistribute it without the voluntary consent of those from whom it has been taken? By what assertion of superior wisdom and knowledge do they presume to know more than the individual minds of all the members of society about how the market should go about the business of manufacturing all the things we want, and matching the demands with the supplies?

Defenders of individual freedom and the market economy have nothing to be ashamed or fearful of in advocating the free society. The American system of limited government, personal liberty and free enterprise liberated the individual creativity and energies of many millions of people. It provided the greatest opportunity for individual betterment and the highest standard of living ever experienced in human history. It also generated the most benevolent and philanthropic society in the world. Therefore, it should be the critics and opponents of this system of individual rights and human freedom that should have to justify their continuing calls for reducing our liberty.

It was clear thinking and moral courage that won men liberty in the past. Liberty can triumph again, if each of us is willing but to try. We need to take to heart the words of the free-market Austrian economist, Ludwig von Mises:

“Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction…. What is needed to stop the trend toward socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage.”

[Originally published at EpicTimes]

Categories: On the Blog

With Global Conflict at the Door, World Leaders Pursue Futile Climate Efforts

September 19, 2014, 9:06 AM

On September 23, representatives from 190 nations will gather at the Climate Summit 2014 at United Nations headquarters in New York City, including 125 heads of state. President Obama and other world leaders will attend to discuss the urgent problem of climate change, seeking common ground in preparation for a “meaningful global agreement in 2015.” At the same time, Europe is threatened by conflict in Eastern Ukraine and ISIS beheads US citizens in the Middle East.

With regard to ISIS, President Obama recently addressed the nation, but many have said that the President’s strategy is still unclear. However, the President does have a strategy for a global climate change agreement. It was reported last month that the Obama administration is pursuing a global accord to compel nations to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

On February 16, Secretary of State John Kerry stated, “In a sense, climate change can now be considered another weapon of mass destruction, perhaps even the world’s most fearsome weapon of mass destruction.” Only two days later, demonstrators set fire to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, protesting ties between then President Viktor Yanukovych and Russia. Yanukovych was forced to step down four days later. Events in Ukraine have continued to deteriorate, with the Russian seizure of Crimea in March and today’s growing insurrection by Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine.

European leaders and President Obama appear to have no effective plan to stabilize the situation in Ukraine. But the Europeans do have a strategy to halt global warming. The European Union has proposed a 40 percent cut in greenhouse gas emissions from 1990 levels and a 30 percent energy efficiency target by the year 2030 for member states.

The irony of the situation is that all human efforts to “fight” climate change are likely to be futile. The greenhouse effect, which is blamed for human-caused global warming, is overwhelmingly a natural effect. Earth’s dominant greenhouse gas is neither carbon dioxide nor methane. Water vapor is Earth’s most abundant greenhouse gas, accounting for between 75 and 90 percent of the greenhouse effect.

Of the remaining portion of the greenhouse effect that is due to carbon dioxide and methane, the vast majority is caused by natural emissions from oceans and the biosphere. Every day, 25 times as much CO2 enters the atmosphere from natural emissions as from all human industry. In sum, humans cause only about one percent of Earth’s greenhouse effect.

Alarming warnings from the UN are based on climate model projections, which diverge further from reality with each passing month. We are approaching 18 years of flat global temperatures, with no global warming since 1997. Most US high school students today have never lived during a period of rising global temperatures.

Global sea ice, long regarded as an indicator of man-made climate change, has rebounded. Data from the University of Illinois shows that global sea ice area has returned to the 30-year average. Last winter was the coldest winter in the United States since 1911-1912. Many scientists now predict two or three decades of cooler global temperatures.

Because the greenhouse effect is dominated by natural, not man-made factors, there is no accord that the United Nations can sponsor that will halt sea-level rise. There is no regulation that the EPA can enact that will make the hurricanes less frequent or less severe. There is no law that Congress can pass to curb droughts or floods. The sum of thousands of climate change laws across hundreds of nations will not have a measureable effect on global temperatures.

Today the world is spending over $250 billion per year on renewable energy and other programs to try to stop the planet from warming. In addition to the unresolved conflicts in Ukraine and Iraq, an estimated 20,000 people die each day from hunger-related causes. Two billion persons are trying to survive on less than two dollars per day, 1.8 billion do not have adequate sanitation, 1.4 billion do not have electricity, and almost one billion lack clean drinking water. Millions die each year from disease.

Suppose we forgo the foolish attempts to stop the planet from warming and return to solving the real problems of the world?

[Originally published at Communities Digital News]

Categories: On the Blog

Bobby Jindal Pwns Other Governors On Common Core

September 19, 2014, 6:16 AM

In August, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal sued the federal government over Common Core. He’s already embroiled in three Louisiana lawsuits over Common Core, and recently concluded another against the Obama administration, contesting its demand for intimate data about students enrolled in the state’s voucher program.

Three federal laws explicitly prohibit the national government from directing, supervising, or controlling curriculum and instruction. Common Core, as a system of curriculum mandates and tests to measure whether students have absorbed them, very obviously deals with curriculum and instruction. The CEO of one of the two national Common Core testing groups (PARCC) recently put it plainly:

High quality assessments go hand-in-hand with high quality instruction based on high quality standards. You cannot have one without the other. The PARCC states see quality assessments as a part of instruction, not a break from instruction.

Or, as teachers repeat, “What gets tested is what gets taught.”

Did I mention these national Common Core tests are exclusively funded by the federal government? And that the Obama administration set up a panel to regularly review these tests as they’ve been developed, right down to the very test questions? The Obama administration has repeatedly proved they don’t care for this trifling thing called “the rule of law,” but that was perhaps to be expected. Worse has been Congress and the nation’s governors letting it slide, and not only playing right along, but in education practically begging the feds to issue them more rules so they could keep their red lentil pots of federal cash.

A major extra-legal policy of the Obama administration has been its decision to let states ignore the nation’s largest federal education law, duly passed by elected representatives in Congress, in exchange for submitting themselves directly to the whims of unelected federal education officials. In order to get these No Child Left Behind waivers, states had to, among other things, adopt Common Core. This although the law itself contains no grant of power for the administration to let states ignore it in exchange for following administrative diktats.

So states that ostensibly repudiated Common Core, notably my home state of Indiana, in reality replaced it with essentially paraphrased Common Core because if they eschewed this academic swamp entirely they feared the loss of the NCLB waiver, and with it, federal silver. So while pretending to thumb their noses at the feds, in truth they’re still led around by them.

What This All Means

A herd of Republican governors has been taking former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee’s advice to rebrand Common Core, either by inaction or foreseeably ineffective action. These include Alabama’s Bob Bentley, Arizona’s Jan Brewer, Florida’s Rick Scott, Georgia’s Nathan Deal, Idaho’s Butch Otter, Iowa’s Terry Branstad, Indiana’s Mike Pence, New Jersey’s Chris Christie, Utah’s Gary Hebert, and Wisconsin’s Scott Walker. While making blustery statements about the rule of law, federalism, and local solutions for local problems, their actions in this respect have proved them complicit in subverting all three.

It’s actually been getting really depressing watching moms and dads flood their elected officials with phone calls, hearing attendance, emails, and townhall questions demanding an end to Common Core, only to have those same officials burn their grassroots. State action is necessary because citizens don’t have legal standing to sue the feds over its arm-twisting. So far, however, the threat of Obama administration displeasure (and the almighty dollars it represents) has been enough to scare GOP leaders from saying, “No.”

It’s not clear what got Bobby Jindal. It’s actually not even clear something got him. He’s term-limited, which means he’s done being governor in January 2016. That may be enough time to make something happen, but if it hangs for more than a year and the next governor doesn’t want to continue this lawsuit, it’s finished. Competitors for Jindal’s spot support Common Core. So it could be that only 2016 got Jindal’s attention. If so, at least it’s been effective. This will clearly distinguish him from other oft-named 2016 presidential contenders, particularly Pence and Walker, except for Texas’s Rick Perry (who has from its inception firmly and genuinely opposed Common Core).

But, as a visible former Common Core supporter, Jindal has also risked being called a flip-flopper on this issue. He switched sides anyway. He also has a compelling personal story about his switch, which mirrors one many parents who oppose Common Core share: His son brought home indecipherable math homework one day, and it was over.

Opposing federal meddling in curriculum is also much more than a legal and states-rights issue. It’s a common-sense issue. Our country has historically not been keen on centralization because it eviscerates our system of self government and creates bureaucratic, one-size-fits all programs that fit practically no one well. Devolving control over education to states, communities, and parents is far more likely to yield an eduction system that respects individual and local preferences and needs, thereby increasing student achievement and societal cooperation.

Plus, then parents can actually bring complaints to the people who have the power to fix them and vote those school boards out or financially vote those private schools out of existence if either doesn’t listen. While the public is incoherent on the federal role in education, as it is on the federal role in everything, polls show Americans are very clear about not wanting the feds deciding what kids learn. August’s annual Gallup poll on education repeated a frequent finding: Comfortable majorities of Americans agree local school boards should have far more control over what schools teach than state or federal governments.

Jindal has gone to war to oust the Common Core tests that not only represent but actually extend the hand of the federal government directly into classrooms. He sued Louisiana’s elected state board of education for ceding the state’s authority over curriculum and tests to Common Core’s constellation of unelected private and federal officials. A judge made a preliminary decision against him on that one, and it’s now on appeal. Going for the feds directly, as the entity gripping state education bureaucracies’ leashes, will hopefully be far more effective.

Given that the federal role in education has rewarded a lot of cronies and entrenched a lot of anti-freedom bureaucrats but produced no student achievement gains, and can constitutionally exist only because the feds bribe states with their own money, it’s about time someone with power and cojones took a stand.

[First published at The Federalist.]

Categories: On the Blog

Ryan Leads On Welfare Reform And Fighting Poverty

September 18, 2014, 6:57 PM

No one in Washington is taking the lead in addressing poverty and welfare reform like House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan. Almost alone, he has noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the War on Poverty. So now is an appropriate time to take stock of what we have done, what we have accomplished, and what we have not.

After those 50 years, America’s welfare state today is not a principality. It is a vast empire itself bigger than the entire budget of almost every other country in the world. That empire involves nearly 200 joint federal/state means tested welfare programs, including Medicaid, Food Stamps, 27 low income housing programs, 30 employment and training programs, 34 social services programs, another dozen food and nutrition programs, another 22 low income health programs, and 24 low income child care programs, among others.

Federal and state governments today spend close to a trillion dollars a year just on these means tested welfare programs, which do not include the big entitlement programs for retirees, Social Security and Medicare. That is roughly $17,000 per person in poverty, over $50,000 for a poor family of three. The Census Bureau estimates that our current welfare spending totals four times what would be necessary just to give all of the poor the cash needed to bring them up to the poverty line. Charles Murray wrote a whole book, In These Hands, documenting that we spend far more than enough to completely eliminate all poverty in America. This dramatic overspending leaves wide scope for reforms that would be far more effective in reducing poverty, while still saving taxpayers a fortune.

Over the 10 year period from 2009 to 2018, federal and state welfare spending will total $10.3 trillion. That does not include Obamacare’s massive expansion of Medicaid, or Obamacare’s massive new health insurance subsidies for families making close to $100,000 per year, and ultimately beyond. Even in 2005, government spending on these means tested welfare programs was 25% more than was spent on national defense, and that was at the height of the wars in the Middle East.

The War on Poverty was proclaimed in 1964, and initiated in 1965. From 1965 to 2008, the total spent only on means tested welfare for the poor in 2008 dollars has been nearly $16 trillion. Rector et al. report that has been well over twice all spending on all military conflicts from the American Revolution to today, at $6.39 trillion in 2008 dollars.

Yet, in November, 2012, the Census Bureau reported that more than 16% of Americans were in poverty, including nearly 20% of American children. Today, more than 46 million Americans live in poverty, an all-time record. In other words, we fought the War on Poverty, and poverty won.

Counterproductive Welfare Policies the Root Cause of Poverty Today

Poverty fell sharply after the Depression, before the War on Poverty. The poverty rate fell from 32% in 1950 to 22.4% in 1959 to 17.3% in 1965. The poverty rate continued to decline, to 12.1% in 1969, soon after the War on Poverty programs became effective. Progress against poverty as measured by the poverty rate then abruptly stopped.

Today, the poverty rate, as indicated above, has been well above that 1969 level for years, and the actual numbers in poverty are at an all time high record. Not a worthy payoff for $16 trillion spent over 50 years, about 4 times what it took to defeat Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan.

One key reason that poverty stopped declining after the War on Poverty started is that the poor and lower income population stopped working. In 1960, nearly two-thirds of households in the lowest income one-fifth of the population were headed by persons who worked. But by 1991, this work effort had declined by about 50%, with only one-third of household heads in the bottom 20% in income working, and only 11% working full-time, year round.

This was not a matter of the poor not being able to find work. While the economy was chaotic during the 1970s, during the 1980s and 1990s America enjoyed an historic economic boom creating ultimately 50 million new jobs. The proof is in the pudding, or in how people actually voted with their feet. Millions of illegal aliens surged across the border to gain those jobs and participate in America’s economic golden age, with the unemployment rate collapsing to 4.4% under President Bush by 2006.

In his 50th Anniversary Report of the War on Poverty, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan observed that only 2.7% of Americans that work full time, year round, are in poverty. Robert Rector of the Heritage Foundation adds that the typical poor family with children is supported by only 800 hours of work during a year, which amounts to 16 hours of work per week. If work in each poor family increased to 2,000 hours per year, which is the equivalent of one adult working 40 hours per week throughout the year, nearly 75% of poor children would be lifted out of poverty.

With the government offering such generous and wide-ranging benefits, from housing to medical care to food stamps to outright cash, and many others, to those with low incomes or who are not working at all, naturally many choose to reduce or eliminate their work effort and take the free benefits. Incentivewise, it is as if the government is generously paying people not to work and to have low incomes.

The Poverty Trap

Consequently, under today’s welfare system, taxpayers are effectively paying the bottom 20% of the income ladder more than a trillion dollars a year basically not to work. This was confirmed by the famous Seattle/Denver Income Maintenance Experiment (“SIME/DIME”) conducted from 1971 to 1978, which demonstrated the impact of such substantial, unconditional, welfare subsidies on the incentive not to work. The dramatic bottom lime result of that experiment – for every $1 of extra welfare given to low income persons, they reduced their labor and earnings by 80 cents. No wonder the War on Poverty failed!

Even worse, when those in poverty try to go to work, they are effectively subject to extra, higher, marginal tax rates. Since welfare is phased out as income rises, the loss of welfare benefits is economically the same as a tax on the rising earnings. Take the example of someone suffering in poverty who receives $12,000 a year in welfare benefits. Suppose she gets the opportunity for a job earning $16,000 a year. But if she loses 50 cents in welfare benefits for every dollar earned, that is like a 50% tax taking away $8,000 of the earnings from work. The payroll tax will take another 7.65% of earnings, federal income taxes another 10% on the margin, and state income taxes roughly another 5% on the margin on average. That leaves an effective marginal tax rate of 72.65%, leaving little incentive for the poor to work.

The point is that the current welfare system counterproductively provides powerful incentives for the poor not to work, which too many intellectually lazy, knee-jerk defenders of the status quo have failed to understand, nearly as well as the poor themselves, who are only responding to those incentives rationally.

Family Breakup

But along with this collapse of work, the War on Poverty was also associated with the breakup of lower income families, and soaring out of wedlock births. Prior to the War on Poverty, black families remained intact, and the overwhelming majority of black babies were born to 2 parent families. But coinciding with the War on Poverty, the rate of black out of wedlock births soared from 28% in 1965, to 49% in 1975, to 65% in 1990, to about 70% in 1995, where it remains today. This effect has not been limited to blacks. Among whites, out-of-wedlock births soared from 4% in 1965, to 11% in 1980, 21% in 1990, and 25% in 1995, where it also remains today. Among white high school dropouts, the rate of out of wedlock births is 48%. Among Americans overall, the rate of out of wedlock births has soared from 7% when the War on Poverty began to 39% today.

Such out of wedlock births are the second key cause of poverty, in addition to non-work. The poverty rate for female headed households with children is 44.5%, compared to 7.8% for married couples with children. The poverty rate for married black Americans is only 11.4%, while the rate for black female headed households is 53.9%. As Rector again explains, “If poor women who give birth outside of marriage were married to the fathers of their children, two-thirds would immediately be lifted out of poverty. Roughly 80 percent of all long-term poverty occurs in single-parent homes.”

Family break up and illegitimacy are again the natural result of the incentives created by our massive, overgrown welfare empire. Most welfare benefits are restricted to families with children. If you are a non-elderly adult in America without children, you are pretty much expected to support yourself. That is a sound principle. But it means that having a baby is the gateway to a generous package of government benefits.

Moreover, if the mother is married to a man who earns a significant income, then the benefits are lost. Indeed, if the mother is married to a man who is not working, but the government requires him to take available work before benefits are paid, then the benefits will be lost in any event, whether he refuses to work, or if he works and earns an income that eliminates benefits.

Once again, it is as if the government is paying women to have children out of wedlock. As Rector aptly puts it, “Welfare …converts the low-income working husband from a necessary breadwinner into a net financial handicap. It transformed marriage from a legal institution designed to protect and nurture children into an institution that financially penalizes nearly all low-income parents who enter into it.”

Opportunity Knocks

Ryan has become the leading source for new ideas in Washington to help the poor and address poverty. On July 24, 2014, his House Budget Committee released Expanding Opportunity in America, a discussion draft advancing a new agenda to liberate the poor from the binds of poverty.

In the publication, Ryan proposes a new Opportunity Grant program that would start as a pilot project in a select number of states. For the selected states, the reform would consolidate a number of means-tested, public assistance programs into a single Opportunity Grant for the state. The chosen states would get the same amount from the Opportunity Grant as they currently do from the consolidated programs. So the reform would be budget neutral.

But in the process, the states would each propose new strategies and innovations to pursue with the funds to address the problems of the current, costly, ineffective, counterproductive system discussed above. The consolidated programs would include SNAP (food stamps), TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, formerly Aid to Families with Dependent Children), Section 8 Voucher and Project-Based Housing Assistance, Public Housing Capital and Operating Funds, Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance Payments, Child Care and Development Fund, Community Development Block Grants, The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), the Weatherization Assistance Program, and WIA Dislocated Workers.

To obtain an Opportunity Grant, states would each write their own proposals regarding what they would do with the consolidated grant funds to help the poor in their state climb out of poverty and grow into financial independence. The federal government would choose which states won the Opportunity Grants.

The grant proposals all must include means to require the able bodied to engage in work or work related activities to receive public assistance. The proposals would include multiple, non-governmental, service-providers which the poor could individually choose from to receive their services and benefits. These services and benefits would be provided on a comprehensive, case management basis, enabling poor individuals to get all their services and benefits in one place with one cash payment, instead of on a fractured basis applying separately to and dealing with multiple bureaucracies.

Ryan’s proposal is inspired by the enormously successful 1996 block grant welfare reforms of the old, New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program. Those 1996 reforms changed the matching federal financing for AFDC, paying states more federal funds the more they spent on AFDC, to fixed, finite, block grants of federal funds, that did not vary with the amount each state spent. That transformed the incentives for the states, as any additional state, AFDC spending would come 100% at the expense of the state. But any AFDC savings remained 100% with the state.

Under those transformed incentives, within a few years, two-thirds of those dependent on AFDC were led by state administrators to leave the program for work. They were documented to increase their incomes by an average of 25% as a result. But after 10 years of flat federal funding for AFDC, the program cost taxpayers 50% less than it would have otherwise, under prior trends.

Ryan’s proposal is effectively a means of beginning to extend these same reforms to all of the programs covered by the Opportunity Grant proposal. It gives some chosen and willing states broad authority and full incentives to remake those programs without welfare’s current counterproductive effects in actually creating poverty, rather than preventing it. Under these Opportunity Grants, the states can be expected to produce a new generation of inspired reform ideas to remake welfare assistance for the 21st century, leading to full block grants for all of these programs.

The Opportunity Grant proposal should be viewed in the context of Ryan’s budget proposals to block grant Medicaid to the states, which would also greatly benefit the poor, while saving taxpayers nearly a trillion dollars over 10 years from that one program alone, and Ryan’s proposals for block grants for federal job training programs as well. Together, these reforms overall involve enormous strides to what should be the ultimate goal, which would be federal, fixed, finite block grants to the states for all federal means tested welfare programs. That was the original dream of Ronald Reagan, and his top welfare advisor Robert Carleson, who I worked for directly in the Reagan White House.

[First published at Forbes.]

Categories: On the Blog

Sorry, Steve Running, Wildfires Are Decreasing with Global Warming

September 18, 2014, 2:48 PM

A Billings Gazette article last week quoted University of Montana global warming activist Steve Running claiming major wildfires have quadrupled since 1986, but the facts show wildfires are actually declining.

In the September 7 Gazette article, “Global warming makes firefighting more dangerous,” Running is quoted saying “Since 1986, longer, warmer summers have resulted in a fourfold increase of major wildfires and a sixfold increase in the area of forest burned, compared to the period from 1970 to 1986.” Fortunately for scientific truth, the National Interagency Fire Center keeps detailed statistics on wildfires going back to 1960. The objective data show wildfires are decreasing, not increasing, as the planet modestly warms.

The National Interagency Fire Center reports 85,000 wildfires occurred in 1986, versus only 47,000 wildfires last year. Fewer wildfires occurred in 2013 than any year since 1984, and 2013 had the third-fewest wildfires since records began in 1960.

This year’s wildfire season may end up being even quieter than 2013. On the same day Running’s claim was quoted in the Billings Gazette article, the Washington Times reported only 38,000 wildfires have occurred so far this year. The 2014 wildfire season will almost certainly be one of the three quietest since 1984, and may well end up quietest of them all.

So how does Running justify his claim that global warming is making wildfires worse? Running cleverly slips in the term “major” wildfires, which allows him to blame global warming for recent forestry management policies that allow small wildfires to become large wildfires. During recent years, U.S. wildfire policy has emphasized allowing wildfires to burn without human suppression until and unless the wildfires threaten human population centers. This is a dramatic change of policy after decades of government policy to extinguish wildfires whenever and wherever they occur. Accordingly, even though there were approximately half as many wildfires in 2013 as in 1986, the total number of acres burned increased by more than 50 percent in 2013.

If one conveniently ignores the extremely quiet 2013 and 2014 wildfire seasons and compares 1986 to 2012, wildfires in 2012 burned nearly four times as much acreage in 1986, but there were fewer wildfires in 2012 than in 1986.

The National Interagency Fire Center data show an even more striking decline in wildfires when comparing the full 1970-1986 era versus the full 1986-2013 era. True, the number of acres burned each year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, was approximately 67 percent higher during 1987-2013 than during 1970-1986 (though substantially less than the 600 percent figure claimed by Running), but even this small increase in acres burned merely reflects changes in federal wildfire suppression policy. Barely half as many wildfires occurred each year from 1987-2013 than from 1970-1986.

Outlandish and misleading claims by global warming alarmists such as Running explain why the public increasingly tunes out the alarmists’ unending predictions of doom and gloom. If they want people to take them seriously, they must begin speaking truth rather than propaganda.

Categories: On the Blog