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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Will Illinois’ New Marijuana Law Eventually Duplicate the Results in CO and CA?

January 12, 2014, 12:41 AM

Colorado broke new ground by ringing in the New Year with the nation’s first legal pot industry for recreational use, where a doctor’s note is not required and where production of the marijuana is unregulated (unlike in the Netherlands).  Although federal law still makes the sale of marijuana a crime, Attorney General Eric Holder made clear in August 2013 that he’s not much interested in prosecuting marijuana cases.

Following is an account of how the news was greeted in Colorado:

Hundreds of people — if not thousands by the end of the day — braved cold temperatures and intermittent snowfall on New Year’s Day to make history in Colorado by legally buying recreational marijuana.  Lines formed well before dawn at most pot shops, but many said that it was worth the lack of sleep and discomfort to be among the first in the world to buy marijuana in state-sanctioned stores.  Across the state, 37 shops opened for business and dozens more are expected to open in the coming weeks and months.

The owner of two Colorado Springs medical pot shops who came to Denver to toast the dawn of pot sales for recreational use had this to say:

This feels like freedom at last.  It’s a plant, it’s harmless, and now anyone over 21 can buy it if they want to. Beautiful.

Sounds wonderful, but the pot shop owner is wrong, according to Dr. Marvin Seppala, the Chief Medical Officer at the Hazelden Foundation, a prominent drug recovery center in Minnesota. He stated there is danger of addition and studies on the brain have shown the use of pot alters the hippocampus affecting short-term memory. It also affects the lungs.  According to Yale University scientists There is a higher chance of users suffering  from chronic bronchitis. Marijuana smoking also exposes a user’s respiratory system to infectious organisms such as molds and fungi.

Brian Vicente, one of the co-authors of Amendment 64 called the grand opening “a watershed moment” in U.S. history and said Colorado will serve as a model for other states preparing to legalize marijuana by “charting a path for the rest of the country to follow.” Considering the potential mental and physical negative aspects of smoking marijuana, that path may be filled with snares and dangers.

Of note is that neither Gov. John Hickenlooper or Denver Mayor Michael Hancock were present at the opening day celebrations. Both had campaigned against Amendment 64, passed by Colorado voters in 2012.

In the midst of all the celebratory hoop-la on New Year’s Day over what can rightly be called Colorado’s pot experiment came predictions of a “hogwild” Colorado train wreck. Coming from a surprising source, former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) had this to say in a conference call hosted by “Smart Approaches to Marijuana” the day before the Amendment 64 took effect.

Colorado and Washington state — where stores will open later in 2014 — are ‘canaries in the coal mine.’  There are a lot of unintended consequences’ . . . that will make them ponder whether this was the right decision. Kennedy predicted more traffic accidents, increased school truancy, higher drop-out rates, and a general decrease in public health.

Linda Chavez, author of An Unlikely Conservative: The Transformation of an Ex-Liberal, had these cautionary remarks about the “Rocky Mountain high” in a Dec. 29, 2013 Viewpoint article published in the Chicago Sun-Times:

Even before marijuana becomes legal, the effects of the drug are apparent in everyday life in the city I now call home (Boulder). The work ethic in Boulder already leaves something to be desired. Try finding someone to put in a full eight-hour day doing home repair, painting or yard work in this college town. It they show up by 10, you’re lucky. . . . But the real damage will be to Colorado’s youth. Young brains are especially vulnerable to marijuana use, with studies showing that becoming drug-dependent is far more likely among people who start using marijuana in their teens. Drug related school suspensions are a major problem in Colorado, with more than 5,000 occurring in the last year for which there are records.

The legal limit is a quarter of an ounce for non-Colorado residents, while residents can purchase up to an ounce of marijuana at a time. Buyers are not restricted from shopping from store to store, although under state law they are only allowed to have up to one ounce at a time. Possession of more than one but less than eight ounces of marijuana is a misdemeanor and carries fines up to $5,000 and up to 18 months in jail. More than eight ounces is considered a felony and fines can be as high as $100,000 and up to three years in prison. Amendment 64 does restrict where marijuana can be smoked.

One gain is how marijuana warehouses are creating massive energy demands with an increased carbon footprint. An energy bill received by the owner of a Colorado marijuana grow facility was for $21,500 for one month of electricity and climate control. He didn’t complain to the utility but simply paid his bill, admitting that this is just the cost of doing business for him and others in the medical marijuana business.

[First published at Illinois Review, with co-author Bonnie O'Neil.]

Categories: On the Blog

Antibiotic Surprise

January 10, 2014, 12:18 PM

Almost everyone these days uncritically accepts that the solution to antibiotic-resistant disease is to use fewer antibiotics. What about using more antibiotics? More varieties that is.

When doctors found penicillin was losing its efficacy as our first line of defense against bacterial infections, the medical community didn’t throw up its hands and use less. New antibiotics were developed! And thankfully so.

No… not stronger antibiotics. New varieties were developed that kept us ahead of the bacteria that ail us, humans and animals alike, to the point where doctors and veterinarians now have well in excess of 100 antibiotics to rely upon in fighting infection.

But now, thanks to overregulation resulting from tax-funded lobbying by anti-antibiotic, naturopathic, homeopathic, sustainability and organic activists, pharmaceutical companies have largely abandoned the development of new antibiotics. It simply does not pay to bring new antibiotic strains to market in the current regulatory environment. Pharmaceutical companies find it much simpler and more profitable to focus instead on treating phony ailments like attention-deficit disorder, obesity and erectile dysfunction.

According to anti-antibiotic activists, the root of the problem is in using growth-promoting antibiotics (GPAs, also referred to as sub-therapeutic antibiotics) in livestock feed. Back in the 1940s the agricultural community realized that by adding antibiotics to animal feed in low doses, animals not only stayed healthy but also gained more weight.

This resulted in significant reductions in the cost of meat which, naturally, drove activists crazy thanks to the misguided belief that paying less for food is bad. So they launched negative public-relations campaigns alleging that this practice was largely responsible for the increase of antibiotic-resistant diseases in humans, and that it allowed farmers to get rich quick by raising animals in unsanitary and inhumane conditions. And the next thing you knew people started to avoid using antibiotics when they fell ill under the mistaken assumption that it was the overuse of antibiotics that made them ill in the first place.

Activists fueled the fire of misunderstanding by inventing the term “superbug,” implying that bacteria were becoming stronger, requiring ever-stronger antibiotics. But the fact of the matter is that bacteria don’t become stronger when confronted with antibiotics; they simply adapt.

When a bacterium develops resistance to an antibiotic, just like when a weed develops resistance to a herbicide, we don’t resort to ever-stronger versions of antibiotics or herbicides to win the battle. Different varieties do the trick. And while the development of new antibiotics and herbicides is characterized by activists in linear, ever-increasing terms, it is more-accurately described as cyclical, like the hands on a clock.

Let’s say that we went from 0:00 to 1:00 AM when Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin – humankind’s first true antibiotic – in 1928. Now, 85 years later, we’re probably somewhere around 6:00 AM on the dial, and still have a long way to go (decades for sure) before we run the full 24 hours and return to where it all began.

This means that the antibiotics we put back on the shelf today due to antibiotic-resistant bacteria could someday be taken back off the shelf by our great-great-grandchildren and used again in the confidence that they will have the same efficacy as when they were first developed. And in the meantime, we need more varieties to continue the cycle. A couple hundred more would be nice.

This concept is more difficult to grasp than the activists’ simplistic model of bacteria that develop superpowers. It also explains how medical and veterinary science moved forward over the last century, and consistently made life better, at least until activists gained a political foothold.

There will always be those who believe we must go backwards so as to move forward. But we never stood still before. Why start now?

Let’s keep moving forward on antibiotics.

Categories: On the Blog

The Very Green Keystone Pipeline Delay

January 10, 2014, 11:03 AM

Stopping the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from carrying Canadian oil, a major trading partner and ally of the United States, is just part of a much larger environmental agenda aimed at preventing access to this energy source, but it is larger in scope; stopping or slowing the development of America’s huge reserves of coal, oil, and natural gas.

Just before 2013 came to an end, the Sierra Club sent out an email claiming that “2014 is shaping up to be a defining year for the environment” warning that “Superstorms, wildfires, and mass destruction from climate change threaten us all. Future generations and endangered species like wolves and bear are counting on us.” This is pure fear-mongering. In 2013, all the factors mentioned were in decline.

On the first Earth Day in 1970, here are just some of the predictions that were made:

“We have about five more years at the outside to do something.”
— Kenneth Watt, ecologist

“Civilization will end within 15 or 30 years unless immediate action is taken against problems facing mankind.”
— George Wald, Harvard Biologist

“We are in an environmental crisis which threatens the survival of this nation, and of the world as a suitable place of human habitation.”
— Barry Commoner, Washington University biologist

“Man must stop pollution and conserve his resources, not merely to enhance existence but to save the race from intolerable deterioration and possible extinction.”
New York Times editorial, the day after the first Earth Day

On December 29, 2013, the Sierra Club was celebrating the shutdown of the 150th coal-fired plant that provided electricity. They want more solar and wind power, the least reliable source of the smallest production of electricity. They applauded the Obama administration’s plans to restrict any drilling for oil in the Arctic and “proposed new EPA rules on carbon pollution.” There is no carbon pollution.

According to Wikipedia:

“Carbon is the 15th most abundant element in the Earth’s crust, and the fourth most abundant element in the universe by mass after hydrogen, helium and oxygen. It is present in all known life forms, and in the human body carbon is the second most abundant element by mass (about 18.5%) after oxygen. This abundance, together with the unique diversity of organic compounds and their unusual polymer-forming ability at the temperatures commonly encountered on Earth make this element the chemical basis of all known life.” [Emphasis added]

Calling carbon a threat to human life is so absurd that it defies known science, but that was exactly the basis for all the “global warming” lies, claiming that carbon dioxide would warm the Earth when it plays no such role in the atmosphere. Suggesting that humans have any role in “climate change” is the basis for the legislative and regulatory objectives of the Obama administration that declared a “war on coal” when it is in reality a war on electricity production, the most essential element of life in America.

My friend, David Rothbard, the president of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) a free market think tank, led a team to visit to Fort McMurray, Canada in 2012 to see first-hand the tar sands from which oil is being extracted. “I have to tell you,” he said, “not just by the technology being used to bring much-needed oil up to the surface in situ with hardly a trace of environmental impact . . . but much more so, by the infectious spirit of opportunity in this bustling frontier town. To me, Ft. McMurray is a symbol of the kind of progress and prosperity that can come when people are able to discover and access abundant natural resources in a way that serves society and protects the environment.”

What the Greens see in Northern Alberta and in Nebraska that is enjoying an economic boom thanks to the fracking technology that produces more natural gas are people having more wealth and freedom, more jobs, more energy for the rest of us.

Pipelines in the Midwest

According to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration:

The nation’s more than 2.6 million miles of pipelines safely deliver trillions of cubic feet of natural gas and hundreds of billions of ton/miles of liquid petroleum products each year. They are essential: the volumes of energy products they move are well beyond the capacity of other forms of transportation. It would take a constant line of tanker trucks, about 750 per day, loading up and moving out every two minutes, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to move the volume of even a modest pipeline. The railroad-equivalent of this single pipeline would be a train of 75 2,000-barrel tank rail cars every day.

Pipeline systems are the safest means to move these products. The federal government rededicated itself to pipeline safety in 2006 when the PIPES Act was signed. It mandates new methods and makes commitments for new technologies to manage the integrity of the nation’s pipelines and raise the bar on pipeline safety.

So why has President Obama, for five years now, blocked the extension of the Keystone XL pipeline to America’s Gulf Coast where many of the nation’s refineries are located? Because it represents jobs and further economic development.

The AFL-CIO wants to see Keystone XL built:

The American construction industry has suffered greatly. The national unemployment rate for construction workers remains about 13% and far too many of our members have lost homes and are struggling to put food on the table. For many members of our unions, Keystone XL is not just a pipeline; it is, in the most literal sense, a life line.

Typical of Obama’s lies was his view of the Keystone XL pipeline when he said “They keep on talking about this—an oil pipeline coming down from Canada that’s estimated to create about 50 permanent jobs—that’s not a jobs plan.” His own State Department estimated that 42,000 jobs would result from the construction of the pipeline.

Obama does not want more jobs. He wants more Americans on the unemployment dole and on food stamps. He doesn’t want more electricity, more gas and diesel for our vehicles. He wants to destroy the nation’s healthcare system. He wants to undermine the economic growth of America in every way he can.

And thanks to the Democratic Party and the millions who still believe in “global warming” and “climate change” he was elected to a second term in 2012.

[First published at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

Google’s Robots and Creeping Militarization

January 10, 2014, 8:13 AM

Google CEO Larry Page has rapidly positioned Google to become an indispensable U.S. military contractor. Google recently purchased Boston Dynamics, a robotics pioneer that produces amazing humanoid robots for the U.S. Defense Department.

This development invites attention to Google’s broader military contracting ambitions — especially since Boston Dynamics is the eighth robotics company that Google has bought in the last six months.

Just like drones are the future of air warfare, humanoid robots and self-driving vehicles will be the future of ground warfare according to U.S. defense plans.

There are many other reasons why the U.S. military is on path to become Google’s single largest customer. Likewise these reasons indicate Google has a closer working relationship with the NSA than it acknowledges publicly.

First, consider the military value of Google’s research and development efforts and the military contracting pipeline revenue it could represent.

Page created Google X, which is Google’s secretive research and development lab tasked with pursuing “moon-shot” technology breakthroughs. So far, Google X is best known for its earth-bound self-driving cars and Google Glass.

Tellingly, the purpose of the original “moon-shots” by the Soviet Union and America was military. The two Cold War superpowers were in a “space race” to publicly showcase the technological and military supremacy of their rival ideologies.

Simply, America’s Cold War “moon-shot” was about winning the military space and arms race with the former Soviet Union.

Even more tellingly, the greatest application for most all of Google X’s “moon-shot” technological efforts — are military. Like drones, self-driving vehicles, and robot soldiers could enhance military surveillance and payload delivery while reducing risks to military personnel.

Google Glass’ advances in wearable augmented reality could offer American soldiers tactical advantages over enemy combatants. Google’s Project Loon could quickly provide a supplemental battlefield bandwidth advantage in remote areas.

Second, Google’s personnel hiring signals its aspirations for a closer Google-military relationship.

In 2012, Google hired Regina Dugan, the head of DOD’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), DOD’s in-house “moon-shot” idea factory. At the time a Google spokesperson said: “Regina is a technical pioneer who brought the future of technology to the military during her time at DARPA.  She will be a real asset to Google.”

Simply, few people could have a better insider knowledge of the U.S. military’s future technology needs that Google could exploit than Ms. Dugan.

Third, Google has a long history of working for, and with, the NSA and the other U.S. intelligence services.

In 2004, Google purchased satellite mapping company Keyhole, which was strategically important enough to be funded by the CIA’s investment fund In-Q-Tel.

Google turned the aptly-named “Keyhole” surveillance capability into the wildly popular Google Earth and Google Maps service used by over a billion people and over one million websites.

In 2008, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that U.S. spy agencies use “Google equipment as the backbone of Intellipedia, a network aimed at helping agents share intelligence.” The article also reported that Google had a support contract with the NSA.

In 2010, the Washington Post reported that Google worked with the NSA to figure out how Chinese hackers broke into Google. The New York Times later reported that those Chinese hackers stole Google’s entire password system called Gaia.

Fourth, Google has too many unique capabilities and metadata sets that are of strategic value to the NSA to believe Google’s denials that it does not work closely with the NSA.

Snowden’s NSA revelations have underscored the high value the NSA puts on collecting the metadata of who is communicating with whom, when, where, and how much.

Remember Google is metadata central. It is veritable surveillance catnip for the NSA.

Think about it. Google’s cookies track the Internet behavior of nearly 2 billion people. Over a billion people regularly use Google Search, Maps, Android, and YouTube. And about a half billion people use Gmail and Google + social media.

Former NSA Director Michael Hayden has said “Gmail is the preferred Internet service provider of terrorists worldwide.”

Thus Google has the unique capability to surveil for the NSA the online behavior of a targeted group of people by country, language, interests, keywords, names, communications, physical location, movements, time and more.

Simply put, Google’s world’s largest computer already can do what the NSA wants to do most.

Add to all this Google’s unique capability to instantaneously translate 80 different languages across applications, and why wouldn’t the NSA covet a close working relationship with Google?

Finally, the behavior of America’s greatest military rivals, Russia and China, speaks volumes about the likely extent of unreported close cooperation between Google and NSA/DOD.

Remember it was the U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) that invented the Internet in the early ‘70s. It is no coincidence that Russia and China have been the most hostile to allowing Google’s Internet dominance to extend into their countries.

In summation, the accumulating evidence indicates that the U.S. military is on path to become Google’s single largest customer.

Page’s strategic positioning of Google’s biggest investments to strongly align with future U.S. military needs is no coincidence. It is likely tacit confirmation of a much stronger relationship than Google has acknowledged to date.

Page’s creeping militarization of Google will increasingly become problematic for the privacy of Google’s foreign users, which generate over half of Google’s revenues. While U.S. law purportedly prevents the NSA from surveilling Americans without a warrant, the NSA’s official mandate is to surveil foreign signals intelligence.

In short, Google’s creeping militarization means Big Brother Inc. aspires to work more closely with Big Brother government.

[First published at the Daily Caller.]

Categories: On the Blog

Obama’s Climate Change Lies

January 10, 2014, 12:43 AM

The extreme cold that gripped the nation at the beginning of the year just added to the growing public dismissal of the claims that “greenhouse gas emissions” would lead to a dangerous stage of “global warming.”  Indeed, even the charlatans that have devoted decades to this hoax are now using the phrase “climate change.”

We tend not to recall what the weather was like a year ago. In May 2013, Dennis T. Avery, a senior fellow at the Heartland Institute, noted:

Lots of us are commenting on the U.S. having the second coldest spring in the official thermometer record (starting ca. 1860) and the coldest since 1975. This cold spring highlights another climate cycle that has nothing to do with carbon dioxide (CO2).

Records of cold weather are being broken all around the nation and the world. That’s not exactly what the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has been predicting since it was set up in 1988 to get nations to sign onto the Kyoto Protocols to reduce CO2 emissions, claiming they were causing warming. [Editor's note: Examine the scientific rebuttal to the IPCC from the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC).]

We are all going to have to pay attention to what President Obama will have to say in his forthcoming State of the Union speech and other pronouncements about “climate change” because that is going to be a major theme of his as he begins the second year of his second term. Climate change ranks right up there with “If you want to keep your healthcare plan, you can. Period.”

Last February, the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), an extremely liberal group, wrote Obama to say “We are inspired and gratified by your commitment to address the threat of climate change. Still gushing, they said that the “science of climate change…calls for action to swiftly and deeply reduce heat-trapping emissions and better prepare our nation for now unavoidable impacts.”

If one merely refers to “climate change” without specifically identifying it, how can the UCS be so sure that emissions from our cars, trucks, manufacturing, and of course the coal-fired plants that, until Obama arrived, provided half of all the electricity Americans need and use. To save us all from the “climate change” 150 of these plants have been closed since he took office.

To replace them, the Obama administration “invested” in a variety of wind and solar businesses, most of which promptly went bankrupt with our taxpayer funds. To get us to stop driving, Obama advocated high-speed railroads in a nation where people routinely get on an airplane to get to distant cities. Amtrak has never made a profit since it was created in 1970.

The President, however, can be counted upon to talk about “climate change” as if recent examples of it threaten our lives. The facts say something else. For example, there has been no global warming for over 17 years.

In 2013 there was a record quiet tornado season and severe tornadoes have been declining for 40 years.

Other than tropical storm Sandy in 2012, the U.S. has gone more than 8 years without a major hurricane strike and the U.S. has experienced the fewest forest fires in three decades and, over the same time period, there has been no sea level rise on the west coast of the U.S. or Canada.

In contrast, an Antarctic global warming expedition of 74 eco-tourists, certain that sea ice there was melting, was trapped by it. In the summer of 2013, all manner of yachts, sailboats, and others got trapped by sea ice while trying to sail the Northwest Passage after being told it would be free of ice. It turned out that 2013 recorded the second highest volume of sea ice ever recorded.

It’s not that the climate is not changing. The climate—measured in decades and centuries—has always changed and it does so in remarkably predictable cycles. The period between ice ages is 11.500 years. We are overdue for the next one, though we did have a mini ice age from 1300 to 1850.

All this scientific data guarantees one thing. The president is lying when he talks of “climate change” by which he means a warming cycle. He is lying when he blames it on carbon dioxide which plays no role whatever in climate change. The $7.45 billion his administration gave to 120 nations between 2010 and 2012 to cope with “climate change” was an utter waste of our taxpayer dollars. Given the nation’s $17 trillion in debt, it was money we did not have, but which added to our debt.

Recall, too, that Obama refused to negotiate with the Republican Party in 2013 when it wanted to reduce such spending, resulting in the government shutdown that was blamed on the GOP.

You can forget about “climate change”, but you should keep in mind what the president is doing to bankrupt America and deny it the production of the energy it needs as the weather gets colder.

[First posted at Warning Signs.]

Categories: On the Blog

If You Like Your Light Bulb, You Can’t Keep Your Light Bulb

January 09, 2014, 11:20 PM

Americans will be feeling a new and unexpected pain of government overregulation before they vote in November. Yet, more than two-thirds of the public is currently unaware of what has the potential to be a serious 2014 election issue—representing more government intrusion and meddling with free markets, increased cost, loss of American jobs, and the elimination of choice.

The reality of Obama’s green-energy policies is going to hit home with your next light bulb purchase.

A recent study found that only 28 percent of Americans were aware of the 2007 law that unrealistically raised the minimum efficiency standards for light bulbs to the point where it effectively turned the 25-cent light bulb into contraband. “In its place,” reports CNS News, “alternative, costly and mercury-filled CFLs are manufactured in China, and incandescent factories in the US have been shuttered.”

The last U.S. incandescent light bulb factory, in Winchester, Virginia, closed in September 2010 leaving 200 well-paid employees feeling that they’d been “sold out by the government.” The GE news release about the closure stated: “A variety of energy regulations that establish lighting efficiency standards are being implemented in the U.S. and other countries and will soon make the familiar lighting products produced at the Winchester Plant obsolete.”

As of January 1, in America, it is now illegal to manufacture or import the traditional incandescent light bulbs.

President George W. Bush signed the “Energy Independence Security Act of 2007” that was cosponsored by Congressman Fred Upton (R-MI), in a different energy era. Back in 2007, there was a general belief that we were truly facing an energy shortage and that global warming was a real manmade crisis. It was thought that forcing efficiencies upon the public would reduce energy use and CO2 emissions.

(Note: one of the stated purposes of the 2007 act was to move the U.S. toward “greater energy independence and security.” Light bulbs are powered by electricity. The U.S. is, and has been, electricity independent and secure. We import oil for our transportation fleet, not for electricity. Light bulb efficiency has nothing to do with energy independence or security.)

Republicans, faced with a new abundant energy reality, realized the error of their ways and, in 2011, attempted to repeal the efficiency standards for light bulbs. Upton, who cosponsored the 2007 bill, stated:

The public response on this issue is a clear signal that markets—not governments—should be driving technological advancements.

Nearly half of the Republicans who originally voted for the 2007 law, voted for the repeal of the standards in 2011. The repeal failed because, as the New York Times reported:

Democrats, despite being in the minority in the House, were able to defeat the repeal on a vote of 233 to 193 because the measure was brought up under rules that require a two-thirds majority for passage.

Democrats ridiculed the Republicans for taking “American families another step backward and voting on a bill rolling back bipartisan energy standards which will save consumers $12.5 billion when fully implemented.” Leader Nancy Pelosi’s blog claimed that Republicans “are up-in-arms over a provision encouraging the production of more energy efficient light bulbs.” (Encouraging? They are mandated by law.)

Time magazine scoffed at the Republicans who were “defending our freedom again, this time our freedom to buy inefficient light bulbs.” Michael Grunwald, the author of the Time piece, defended the efficiency standards, calling them: “a virtually pain-free way to dramatically reduce our energy independence, our carbon emissions and our utility bills. They do involve a bit of government interference in the free market, but…” He called the Republicans’ efforts: “pure political theater” because “Republicans know that it’s not going to pass the Senate, and if it somehow did, President Obama would veto it.”

Nearly four years after the failed repeal attempt, the attitude about government intrusion, thanks in large part to Obamacare, is much more negative. The New York Post editorial Board states: “If you build a better light bulb—at a good price—consumers will come to it of their own accord. The fact that this has to be mandated to be successful should cause concern.”

What if Americans do like the “freedom to buy inefficient light bulbs?” After all, we like the freedom to buy inefficient trucks—with the Ford F-150 being the number one selling car in America in 2013.

Mark Simone, WOR Radio talk show host, during his January 3 appearance on the Kudlow Report addressing the 2014 election cycle, postulated:

You know what’s going to be a big issue, nobody’s even thought about this, the light bulb is going to be the big deciding issue here. As of right now, you’re not allowed to make a regular light bulb or import it into this country. …nobody’s going to like it …What happened here? The government tells you what light bulb you can use?” Simone calls the light bulb ban “the greatest single act of government control where no public need exists.

Which should make you wonder, said Kudlow: “Why is the government pushing so hard on energy efficiency? Shouldn’t it be a choice to buy energy efficient, albeit more expensive, light bulbs, or not?”

Under the Obama Administration we’ve seen many mandates for increased efficiency—55 miles per gallon of gasoline and requiring microwave ovens to use less power in stand-by mode are just two examples of government controlling our choices. It is not that efficiency is wrong or bad, but as the New York Post editorial board posited: “The fact that this has to be mandated to be successful should cause concern.”

In response to a question about light bulbs that I posted on my Facebook page, one man responded: “I switched to compact fluorescent bulbs years before because it made sense for the money I saved. Not because I was forced to.” It is great that he could afford the choice. The New York Post states:

The average house has about 100 light bulbs. The average cost of a light bulb in 2007 when the law was passed was 25 cents meaning your house had about $25 worth of light bulbs. Today, those same 100 light bulbs would set you back about $500.

Tim Carney, in the Washington Examiner, poses:

. . . a middle ground between everyone using traditional bulbs and traditional bulbs being illegal. It’s called free choice: Let people choose if they want more efficient and expensive bulbs. Maybe they’ll chose LEDs for some purposes and cheap bulbs for others.

So, why did supposedly pro-choice Democrats kill the Republicans’ attempt to bring back choice in light bulbs?

I believe that all of the efficiency rules and regulations are to hide the increasing energy rates—especially spiking electricity bills that are 20% higher than they were six years ago.

Despite America’s energy boom, electricity has become a very expensive commodity. Investors Business Daily explains it this way:

What’s really at work here is simple: Through unnecessary regulations, government has destroyed another working market, telling us what kind of energy to use regardless of cost—based solely on the green movement’s moral beliefs about what kinds of energy are ‘good.’

So, by mandating increased efficiency, which lowers our electricity usage, the pain of higher electricity prices is kicked, as usual, further down the road.

I posted a quick survey on my Facebook page. I asked: “When you get your utility/electric bill, do you pay attention to the kilowatt hours used or to the total dollars?” Within hours I had 118 responses, the vast majority answered dollars—which proves my point. Most of us do not know how much electricity we are using, but we know how much we are spending. When the price goes up, but we use less, the bill remains more or less the same. We are not aware of it.

But, when it used to cost $25 to equip your house with 100 light bulbs and it will now cost $500, the pain will hit home. Consumers will be asking: “What happened to the light bulbs?” They’ll be told that incandescent light bulbs have been outlawed.

Simone told me, during the break, after he mentioned light bulbs as a 2014 election issue on the Kudlow Report, that Larry Kudlow and the other two panelists asked him what he was talking about. None of them knew about the 2007 law that finally took full effect on January 1, 2014—part of the 72 percent who will be shocked the next time they purchase a new made-in-China light bulb.

As people are literally being forced to live in the dark, there will be public outcry. As Upton found, the “public response” won’t be good. Like Obamacare, Republicans are on record as trying to change bad policy that takes away free choice—and that could spell trouble for Democrats in the 2014 elections.

I like my light bulbs. Why can’t I keep them?

Categories: On the Blog

Risking Lives to Promote Climate Change Hype

January 09, 2014, 10:50 PM

Will global warming alarmists ever set aside their hypotheses, hyperbole, models and ideologies long enough to acknowledge what is actually happening in the real world outside their windows? Will they at least do so before setting off on another misguided adventure? Before persuading like-minded or naïve people to join them? Before forcing others to risk life and limb to transport – and rescue – them? If history is any guide, the answer is: Not likely.

The absurd misadventures of University of New South Wales climate professor Chris Turney is but the latest example. He and 51 co-believers set out on the (diesel-powered) Russian charter ship Akademik Shokalskiy to prove manmade global warming is destroying the East Antarctic ice sheet. Perhaps they’d been reading Dr. Turney’s website, which claims “an increasing body of evidence” shows “melting and collapse” across the area. (It is, after all, summer in Antarctica, albeit a rather cold, icy one thus far.)

Instead of finding open water, they wound up trapped in record volumes of unforgiving ice, from Christmas Eve until January 2 – ensnared by Mother Nature’s sense of humor and their own hubris. The 52 climate tourists were finally rescued by a helicopter sent from Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, which itself became locked in the ice. The misadventurers were transferred to Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, but the Shokalskiy remains entombed, awaiting the arrival of US Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star. (Meanwhile, Tourney hopes to get more grants to study manmade global warming, to help him make more money from his Carbonscape company, which makes “green” products from CO2 recovered from the atmosphere.)

As to his expertise, Dr. Tourney couldn’t even gauge the ice conditions the 74 crewmen and passengers were about to sail into. And yet we are supposed to believe his alarmist forecasts about Earth’s climate.

NASA reports that Antarctic sea ice is now the largest expanse since scientists began measuring its extent in 1979: 19.5 million square kilometers (4,806,000,000 acres) – 2.1 times the size of the entire United States. Another report says ocean melting of western Antarctica’s huge Pine Island Glacier ice shelf is at the lowest level ever recorded, and less than half of what it was in 2010. Reminding us of Monty Python’s pet store clerk, Turney nonetheless insists that the sea ice is actually melting, and his communications director says the record sea ice is due to … global warming! (As they say, fiction has to make sense.)

Equally amazing, the Shokalskiy was apparently not equipped with adequate wind and weather monitoring and forecasting capabilities. The expedition had to contact climate realists John Coleman, Anthony Watts and Joe D’Aleo for information that would allow them to plan their helicopter rescue.

All of this raises serious questions that most media have ignored. How could Tourney put so many lives and vessels at risk – people he persuaded to join this expedition, the ship and crew they hired, the ships and helicopter and crews that came to their rescue? How did he talk the Russian captain into sailing into these dangerous waters? Who will pay for the rescue ships and their fuel and crews? What if one of the ships sinks – or someone dies? What is Tourney’s personal liability?

This may be the most glaring example of climate foolishness. But it is hardly the first.

In 2007, Ann Bancroft and Liv Arnesen set off across the Arctic in the dead of winter, “to raise awareness about global warming,” by showcasing the wide expanses of open water they were certain they would encounter. Instead, temperatures inside their tent plummeted to -58 F (-50 C), while outside the nighttime air plunged to -103 F (-75 C). Facing frostbite, amputated fingers and toes or even death, the two were airlifted out a bare 18 miles into their 530-mile expedition.

The next winter it was British swimmer and ecologist Lewis Gordon Pugh, who planned to breast-stroke across open Arctic seas. Same story. Then fellow Brit Pen Hadow tried, and failed. In 2010 Aussie Tom Smitheringale set off to demonstrate “the effect that global warming is having on the polar ice caps.” He was rescued and flown out, after coming “very close to the grave,” he confessed.

Hopefully, all these rescue helicopters were solar-powered. Hardcore climate disaster adventurers should not be relegated to choppers fueled by evil fossil fuels. They may be guilty of believing their own alarmist press releases – but losing digits or ideological purity is a high price to pay.

All these intrepid explorers tried to put the best spin on their failures. “One of the things we see with global warming is unpredictability,” Bancroft-Arnesen expedition coordinator Anne Atwood insisted. “But global warming is real, and with it can come extreme unpredictable changes in temperature,” added Arnesen. “Global warming can mean colder. It can mean wetter. It can mean drier. That’s what we’re talking about,” Greenpeace activist Stephen Guilbeault chimed in.

It’s been said insanity is hitting your thumb repeatedly with a hammer, expecting it won’t hurt the next time. It’s also believing hype, models and delusions, instead of real world observations. Or thinking taxpayers are happy to pay for all the junk science behind claims that the world faces dangerous manmade global warming. Or that they are delighted that the EPA and IPCC are increasingly regulating our lives, livelihoods, liberties, living standards and life spans, in the name of preventing climate change.

The fact is, Antarctic ice shelves have broken up many times over the millennia. Arctic ice has rebounded since its latest low ebb around September 2007. Despite steadily rising atmospheric carbon dioxide levels, average global temperatures have been stable or declining since 1997. Seas are rising at barely seven inches per century. And periods of warmer or colder global and polar climates are nothing new.

Vikings built homes, grew crops and raised cattle in Greenland between 950 and 1300, before they were frozen out by the Little Ice Age and encroaching pack ice and glaciers. Many warm periods followed, marked by open seas and minimal southward extent of Arctic sea ice, as noted in ships’ logs and discussed in scientific papers by Torgny Vinje and other experts. But warm periods of 1690-1710, 1750-1780 and 1918-1940, for instance, were often preceded and followed by colder temperatures, severe ice conditions and maximum southward ice packs, as during 1630-1660 and 1790-1830.

“Not only in the summer, but in the winter the ocean [in the Bering Sea region] was free of ice, sometimes with a wide strip of water up to at least 200 miles away from the shore,” Swedish explorer Oscar Nordkvist reported in 1822, in a document rediscovered by astrophysicist Willie Soon.

“We were astonished by the total absence of ice in the Barrow Strait,” Francis McClintock, captain of the Fox, wrote in 1860. “I was here at this time in 1854 – still frozen up – and doubts were entertained as to the possibility of escape.”

In 1903, during the first year of his three-year crossing of the Northwest Passage, Roald Amundsen noted that his party “had made headway with ease,” because ice conditions had been “unusually favorable.”

The 1918-1940 warming also resulted in Atlantic cod increasing in population and expanding their range some 800 miles, to the Upernavik area of Greenland, fisheries biologist Ken Drinkwater has reported.

Climate change is certainly real. It’s been real throughout Earth and human history – including the Roman and Medieval Warm Periods, Little Ice Age and Dust Bowl, and through countless other cycles of warming and cooling, flood and drought, storm and calm, open polar seas and impassable ice.

Humans clearly influence weather and climate on a local scale – through heat and emissions from cities and cars, our clearing of forests and grasslands, our diversion of rivers. But that is not the issue. Nor is it enough to say – as President Obama has – that the climate is changing and mankind is contributing to it.

The fundamental issue is this: Are humans causing imminent, unprecedented, global climate change disasters? And can we prevent those alleged disasters, by drastically curtailing hydrocarbon use, slashing living standards, and imposing government control over industries and people’s lives? If you look at actual evidence – instead of computer model forecasts and “scenarios” – the answer is clearly: No.

Categories: On the Blog

Shanghai’s History: A Tale of Successful Capitalism

January 08, 2014, 1:06 AM

China’s impressive modernization since the death of Mao Zedong in 1976 and the end to the destructive madness of the Cultural Revolution has been epitomized by the dramatic growth of the industrial and port city of Shanghai, with its majestic skyline of impressive futuristic skyscrapers. It is forgotten that Shanghai already was a commercial and industrial center before the Second World War, built on the principles of laissez-faire capitalism.

Following the Chinese-British War of 1842, several ports along the China coast were opened to Western merchants. In these “treaty ports,” portions of the cities were recognized to be under European jurisdiction. Known as “concession” areas, the European powers administered these areas according to Western principles of the “rule of law,” with recognition and protection of property rights, personal freedom and civil liberties.

By the end of the 19th century, Shanghai had become the most important of the treaty ports. Indeed, it was the industrial, commercial and cultural center of modem China until the Japanese occupation of the city in December 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Shanghai an Almost Free City-State

The Western-administered portions of Shanghai were divided into two districts: the French Concession and the International Settlement. A Consul-General appointed by Paris administered the French Concession.

But the much larger International Settlement was administered by a Municipal Council composed of fourteen members elected by the permanent foreign residents of the city, with the franchise based on being a “ratepayer,” i.e., a tax-paying property owner within the boundaries of the International Settlement. By the 1930s, around 90,000 Europeans and Americans lived in Shanghai.

Hence, Shanghai’s International Settlement was almost an independent “city-state” based on the nearly unhampered principles of free trade and free enterprise under the protection of the Western Powers (which ended up meaning mostly a British and American military presence).

In general, the economic policies of Shanghai’s International Settlement followed the ideas of Adam Smith’s system of natural liberty and laissez faire. The Municipal Council limited itself primarily to three functions: administration of justice; police protection of individual liberty and property; and the undertaking of a limited number of “public works,” such as construction of roads, traffic control (administered by Sikh policemen brought by the British from India), harbor patrol, and the dredging of the Whangpoo River that connects Shanghai with the mouth of the Yangtze.

Treaty agreements between China and the major Western nations established that legal disputes in which a Chinese citizen sued a Western resident were adjudicated before a court of the country of which the Westerner was a citizen. This system was known as “extra-territoriality.” While viewed as an insult to Chinese territorial integrity, and while not always free of abuse and bias, this meant that on the whole, an impartial and efficient system of Western-style justice was guaranteed for everyone in Shanghai’s International Settlement.

A Prosperous Metropolis of Asia

Under a regime of limited government, low taxes, and economic laissez faire, Shanghai became the most prosperous metropolis in all of Asia. The standard of living, including that of Chinese residents in the International Settlement and in surrounding Chinese-administered areas, was the highest in East Asia. It was this free market environment that created that Western-style skyline that in the 1930s was considered the Asian rival of New York.

The city also became the focal point for the Chinese intellectual community as well as a Chinese cultural center — and one in which freedom of speech and press were protected for all, Westerner and Chinese alike. While tempests of civil war engulfed China in the period between the two World Wars, Shanghai was a haven of economic and civil liberty.

Through a system of private colleges and universities that served both Westerner and Chinese, Shanghai developed into China’s center for higher learning. Indeed, through scholarships and philanthropic endowments — many being supported by Christian missionaries — many of those who later became China’s leaders in politics, literature and the arts acquired their advanced schooling in Shanghai.

A Refuge from Taxes and Tyranny

The city was a refuge for many searching for fortune or freedom, and often both. For Western businessmen Shanghai was a haven for those “escaping” from heavy taxation in other parts of the world. For example, along the Bund, the commercial waterfront, stands an impressive hotel with a pyramid roof. This was the Cathay Hotel, also known as Sassoon House, built by Sir Victor Sassoon, who left Britain with a good part of his fortune in 1927, to get away from the high business and income taxes in Great Britain.

The port bustled with the coming and going of merchant ships from all over the world. Shanghai’s manufacturing enterprises supplied inexpensive but quality goods to serve the consumers of China, and competitively exported many products on the global market.

Shanghai also was a haven for many people escaping real tyranny — not just tax “oppression.” Following the Bolshevik Revolution, thousands of (anti-communist) “White Russians” found refuge in Shanghai. They became famous in the city, not only among the city’s “sing-song” girls, but as doormen at nightclubs and bodyguards for Chinese gangsters who usually preferred the nightlife in the French Concession; and, of course, for the city’s many fine Russian cuisine restaurants. (Russian noblemen, or their sons, were seen playing the balalaika in those restaurants, or even in the streets pulling rickshaws, to earn enough to live, having lost their family wealth to communist confiscation in Russia.)

In the 1930s, thousands of German Jews who fled Nazi Germany found refuge in Shanghai, because the city had neither passport nor visa requirements. Many of them settled in the Hongkew district of Shanghai, which had been badly damaged during the fighting between Chinese Nationalist and Imperial Japanese army forces, first, in 1932, and then, again, in 1937.

But under the diligent work ethic and industry of these refugee German Jews, much of the Hongkew district was rebuilt and again became a thriving part of the city. And, then, in an irony of fate, when the Japanese occupied the International Settlement following the attack on Pearl Harbor they did not intern these Jews (unlike the systematic roundup and imprisonment and cruel treatment of all French, British and American citizens), because these Jews carried German exit passports. And though these passports were stamped with the infamous “J,” the Japanese viewed them as citizens of their wartime ally.

A Safe Haven from Chinese Tyrants and Warlords

Shanghai was also the headquarters for numerous religious and secular charities and philanthropies that ministered to the needs and improvements of the Chinese population both in the city and throughout other parts of China. There were voluntarily funded orphanages, soup kitchens, shelters, schools, and vocational training colleges to give a “helping hand” to the Chinese.

Finally, throughout the second half of the 19th century and up until the 1941, Shanghai’s International Settlement and French Concession were a refuge for many Chinese when revolutions, civil wars, or the general cruelty of Chinese government governors or warlords made life “nasty, brutish, and short.”

There in Shanghai, financial savings were safe in Western banks, and property rights were respected and protected from both illegal plunder and the “legal” plunder of Chinese officials and warlords.

But, in addition, Shanghai’s International Settlement was a cultural oasis for Chinese artists and intellectuals. Here was born the Chinese motion picture industry; non-traditional music and art; and a haven for freedom of speech and the press, which were not allowed in surrounding Chinese administered areas. Here civil liberties were respected and secure, under the rule of law.

It was also a property rights-safe place for the development of Chinese-owned manufacturing and industry — not only Western businesses. In Shanghai, these Chinese entrepreneurs were free from the “squeeze,” the Chinese term for bribes and corrupt protection rackets and government official shakedowns.

Imperfect People, But Still a Free and Prosperous City

It was also a city that operated on the basis of commercial trust and integrity. Many of the foreign residents, for instance, never paid for anything with cash or check. A person simply signed his name to a “chit” for any purchase, and just settled up at the end of the month, and rarely did these everyday debts go unpaid.

Shanghai was, of course, a many-sided city. In the French Concession were the homes of many of the most notorious Chinese gangsters. Opium dens abounded and houses of ill repute existed in the hundreds — and catered to every imaginable racial and socio-economic group. And the city attracted its fair share of adventurers, conmen and hucksters from all around the world.

Like everywhere, in an imperfect world with imperfect people, Shanghai was no “utopia.” But its instituting and general protecting of Western civil and economic liberty made the International Settlement a place of practical, everyday personal and economic freedom.

Of course, most Chinese — from intellectuals down to the ordinary (and usually) illiterate Chinese “coolies” — resented the power and presence of the European and American “foreign devils.” And this resentment and anger against the power and too-often arrogance of the Westerner, took many forms, including boycotts and strikes, and sometimes violent demonstrations, especially in the 1920s and 1930s.

But, de facto, Shanghai’s International Settlement gave many Chinese the personal safety and economic and cultural opportunities they could never have under their corrupt and power-lusting Chinese rulers in the rest of the country.

The End to Shanghai’s Era of Laissez-Faire

This all came to an end in 1941, with the Japanese occupation of the city. Then, at the 1943 Cairo Conference between Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill and Chiang Kai-Shek (the head of the Nationalist Chinese government), the Western powers relinquished their rights to “extra-territoriality,” which was the basis for those foreign concessions in China, of which Shanghai’s International Settlement was the most important and famous.

After the war, from 1945 to 1949, when Shanghai was under the control of Chiang’s Nationalist government, the city suffered through political corruption and abuse, and as well as a hyperinflation caused by the Nationalist government’s massive printing of paper money to finance its war against Mao’s communists.

Then from 1949 until the 1980s, the communist regime left the city in a state of a “frozen moment in time,” with its skyline virtually unchanged from what it was in the 1930s.

Yet, Shanghai’s “frozen” capitalist-built commercial skyline symbolized all that was possible when men and their creative, entrepreneurial minds are left free, and people are at liberty to peacefully and profitably produce, trade and prosper to the mutual benefit of all individuals concerned.

[First published at Epic Times.]

Categories: On the Blog

Bitter Cold Blasts Chicago, a City Fighting Climate Change

January 07, 2014, 11:57 PM

FROZEN, Jan 2014: A rare thing on the Chicago River.

Chicago was blasted this week by the coldest weather in 18 years. Below zero temperatures and wind gusts of up to 35 miles per hour produced wind chills of minus 40 F. The deep freeze followed a winter storm that blanketed the area with 6 to 10 inches of snow on Sunday. The extreme cold and snow was a natural retort to Chicago’s policies to fight global warming.

On Sunday and into Monday, Chicago was mostly shut down. More than 1,000 flights were cancelled at O’Hare Airport. Chicago public schools and most suburban schools were closed. Northwest Indiana was hit by over 10 inches of lake-effect snow, where officials of Lake County declared a state of emergency, banning all vehicles from snow-covered roads except emergency vehicles.

Temperatures at O’Hare Airport dropped to -15 F, breaking the old daily record of -14 F set in 1894 and 1988. The brutal temperatures were the coldest since the thermometer reached -19 F in 1996, but well short of the all-time cold record of -27 F set January 20, 1985.

The cold weather stands in sharp contrast to Chicago’s policies to slow global warming. In his Sustainable Chicago 2015 plan, Mayor Rahm Emanual lauds efforts to “. . . reduce pollution, and protect homes and communities from the effects of flooding and climate change.” In 2013, the mayor and city council passed an ordinance requiring businesses to audit and disclose energy usage in buildings of over 50,000 square feet. The city’s sustainability plan calls for citizens to install solar panels, consume renewable energy, and use bicycles, mass transit, and electric cars, rather than gasoline-powered automobiles.

University of Chicago professor David Archer is a strong proponent the theory of man-made warming. In his 2010 book The Climate Crisis, Archer notes that the 2007 Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change predicted reduced snowfall:

One of the robust findings of the report is that snow cover in most continental areas will dramatically decrease unless warming is stopped. . . . Large areas are expected to become snow free.

But there is no evidence of a snowfall shortage in Chicago. O’Hare Airport has already received 34.7 inches of snow this winter through January 5. This exceeds the average annual snowfall of 30.8 inches, with two months of winter yet to go.

Leading Chicago corporations tout their efforts to fight climate change. Steel company ArcelorMittal and financial firm Northern Trust boast of big reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. Utility Exelon claims emission savings from costly new solar and wind projects, while winning a 2014 rate hike to pass higher costs on to electricity users. Baxter International purchases renewable energy certificates to “offset” greenhouse gas emissions. These efforts may be great for corporate public relations, but are meaningless when it comes to the climate.

The greenhouse effect is a natural effect, and man-made influences are small. Somewhere between 75 and 90 percent of Earth’s greenhouse effect is caused by water vapor and clouds. Ninety-six percent of the remaining portion of the greenhouse effect is due to natural emissions of carbon dioxide and methane from the oceans and biosphere. Human emissions are responsible for only about one percent of Earth’s greenhouse effect. If humankind completely eliminated CO2 emissions, the difference in global temperatures probably could not be detected.

Nevertheless, Chicago organizations continue a futile fight to control the climate. Grove Avenue Elementary School in Barrington, a Chicago suburb, has established an innovative “Green Tuesdays” program. School lights are off each Tuesday to raise student awareness about climate change and the environment.

Keep up the good work, Chicago. With the ample snow and bitter cold, your efforts to fight global warming appear to be working!

Editor’s note: Get the scientific and Inconvenient Truth (to some) about what’s happening to our climate at The Heartland Institute’s Climate Change Reconsidered site. And buy Steve Goreham’s book, The Mad Mad World of Climatism at Heartland’s store.

[First posted at The Washington Times.]

Categories: On the Blog

Nattering Net Neutrality Nonsense Over AT&T’s Sponsored Data Offering

January 07, 2014, 9:03 PM

Net neutrality activists’ criticism of AT&T’s new freebie for consumers called Sponsored Data is nonsensical. AT&T’s pricing innovation creates a new freebie for consumers and a new freedom for web providers of Internet content, apps and devices that is fully in keeping with any reasonable notion of a free and open Internet.

AT&T’s Sponsored Data offering is no different from other business freebies offered to consumers to market and competitively differentiate their businesses like: Amazon’s free shipping and free Kindle wireless service; Apple’s free messaging and video conferencing; Google’s free Search, Fiber, Maps, Mobile Operating System, and video conferencing offerings; or Yahoo’s free email. A full list of all free and open Internet consumer freebies would be endless.

AT&T’s Sponsored Data innovation is no different from sponsored ads, website sponsors, content sponsors or any other kind of Internet sponsor.

It is nonsensical for net neutrality activists to not be open to yet another free web service. On what reasonable basis is a consumer freebie from AT&T different than a consumer freebie offered by any other competitor in the Internet ecosystem?

How have net neutrality activists let themselves get so comically twisted up in their own free and open Internet rhetoric that they now find themselves opposing more Internet freedom, choices, and freebies for consumers!

Simply, AT&T’s new Sponsored Data freebie is pro-consumer, pro-competition and pro-innovation. It’s neither discriminatory nor does not block, degrade or impair a consumer’s legal access to the content, applications or devices of their choice.

Net Neutrality activists are the ones opposed here to Internet freedom, “innovation without permission,” and consumer choice — not AT&T.

Categories: On the Blog

In Defense of E-cigarettes

January 06, 2014, 2:00 PM

He saved his worst ban for last. Former New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s nanny-state policies have left a trail of damage. His defeated soda ban, the ban on food donations to homeless shelters and other antics have cost New Yorkers moneyjobsfood choices, and even their freedom to give charity.

But a bill passed by the City Council in December, and signed by Bloomberg as one of his last official acts, could cost New Yorker’s their lives. The city’s wide-ranging anti-smoking law now forbids the use of relatively harmless vapor from e-cigarettes wherever cigarette smoking is banned, not only in bars and restaurants, but in parks and on beaches. For New Yorkers trying to keep their New Year’s resolution to quit smoking, the ban is a bust.

In 2014, similar laws are likely be considered in cities and states around the country. The city of Santa Fe, N.M., already has a hearing on the matter scheduled for later this month.

If the government treats smoke-free e-cigarettes with the same restrictive laws as their deadly tobacco burning predecessor, fewer people will be inclined to quit smoking by switching to e-cigarettes. Not only would e-cigs lose their advantage in terms of being more convenient alternatives, the implicit (and incorrect) message would be that they are also equally dangerous, not only to the user, but to those exposed to the vapor.

Here is a product created by profit-driven private sector innovation that is doing what many hundreds of millions of dollars of government spending, costly litigation, addictive excise taxes, warning labels and punitive regulations have been unable to do: help cigarette smokers quit happily.

It is no wonder the likes of Mayor Bloomberg have smoke coming out of their ears about e-cigarettes. They understand that in order to maintain not only their huge budgets, but their basis for authority to control personal decisions and private businesses, they must demonize, delegitimize, and defeat e-cigarettes every step of the way. Treating them equal to cigarettes would be a dangerous first step.

The stated purpose of anti-smoking laws has always been first to reduce exposure to environmental cigarette smoke and second, to reduce the number of places people can smoke, with the hope that it would cause people to quit. These e-cigarettes restrictions undermine both of these goals. It won’t reduce exposure to second-hand smoke, because there is no smoke. In fact, people will continue to smoke cigarettes, often bunched up on the sidewalk in front of a bar, exposing passers-by to the stinky smoke. And if the degree of enthusiasm former smokers have for e-cigarettes is any barometer, they are a much more popular way to help people quit smoking than forcing them to stand out in the cold.

Those who support the bans rely on the flimsy argument that vaping (since users inhale vapor, not smoke), “normalizes” smoking because people may think vaping is smoking. That’s nonsense.

Robin Vitale of the American Heart Association, in her testimony in support of the New York City ban, said, “this mimicry of traditional cigarettes, if used indoors where smoking is banned, can easily lead to confusion and confrontation by New York business owners. The potential for this dynamic to weaken the city’s decade-long ban on smoking in workplaces is quite clear and is the greatest motivating factor to support this proposal.” She must have been embarrassed when a spokesman for business owners denied there have been many such complaints.

In addition, it seems that regular citizens have the common sense to realize that the blue LED light on the tip of market leader Lorillard’s “blu” e-cigarette signifies that it isn’t actually a cigarette. And many other popular products don’t even come close to the look of cigarettes. However, many smokers prefer kicking the habit with a product that looks and feels like a cigarette.

But even those shouldn’t cause much confusion, since an e-cigarette’s vapor doesn’t produce the smelly smoke of a cigarette. And there will be even less confusion as more people become accustomed to seeing people vape.

Spike Babian, co-owner of Vape New York, a city “vape shop,” testified that “we don’t ban water because it looks like vodka.”

At the same hearing, New York City Health Commissioner Thomas A. Farley suggested that e-cigarettes could be a gateway to smoking. But initial studies, as well as empirical evidence, show that e-cigarettes are a major gateway away from, not toward, smoking.

As cities and states consider adding e-cigarettes bans this year, legislators should remember the law they all too often tend to ignore: the law of unintended consequences. As any vaping former smoker will tell you, a vote against e-cigarettes is a vote for smoking.

[Originally published on Politix]

Categories: On the Blog

‘Dark Money’ Funds To Promote Global Warming Alarmism Dwarf Warming ‘Denier’ Research

January 05, 2014, 9:00 AM

Global warming activists claim vast amounts of untraceable special interest money fund global warming skeptics and give skeptics an unfair advantage in the global warming debate. The undeniable truth is global warming alarmists raise and spend far more money – including far more untraceable special interest “dark money” – than global warming skeptics.

Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle published a paper last week in the journal Climatic Change identifying 91 conservative and libertarian think tanks that Brulle claims play an influential role opposing global warming programs. Brulle claims the 91 groups receive approximately $900 million in cumulative funding each year, with approximately $64 million coming from foundations that distribute “dark money” that cannot be traced to a particular donor. Brulle claims the $900 million in funding – and especially the $64 million in dark money – tilts the playing field and gives global warming skeptics undue political and public relations influence.

Global warming alarmists and their media allies present Brulle’s paper as “proof” that money drives the global warming debate and the money is heavily skewed in favor of skeptics. For example, UK Guardian environmental reporter Suzanne Goldenberg published an article last week titled “Conservative groups have spent $1bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change.”  Scientific American published a similar article titled “’Dark Money’ Funds Climate Change Denial Effort.” Liberal pundit and former MSNBC anchor Cenk Uygur posted a 10-minute Internetvideo discussing Brulle’s paper and playing up its findings.

Brulle’s paper and the media narrative may score some temporary points with members of the general public who do not closely follow the global warming debate, but ultimately Brulle’s paper and the media narrative will backfire on global warming activists. The narrative will backfire because the general public is not stupid. Slick lies may win some converts who will not check the facts, but the greater number of people will check the facts and hold the liars accountable.

As an initial matter, despite what Suzanne Goldenberg and the UK Guardian claim, it is palpably untrue that “Conservative groups have spent $1 bn a year on the effort to deny science and oppose action on climate change.” Without even addressing the mathematical fact that $900 million is $100 million short of the $1 billion claimed by Goldenberg, Brulle’s paper merely tabulates the total money raised by the 91 conservative think tanks for their total operations regarding all issues they address and does not break down how much of each think tank’s resources are devoted to issues such as economic policy, health care policy, foreign policy, climate policy, etc. Goldenberg tells the lie that all money raised by all conservative and libertarian think tanks is devoted to global warming skepticism. Tell that to the supporters of Obamacare.

A look at some conservative think tank websites illustrates the point. While writing this article on New Year’s Day, I pulled up the website for the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), which Brulle and the media claim is the conservative think tank receiving and spending the most money on global warming skepticism. AEI has 15 articles featured on the front page of its website, and not a single one focuses on global warming.

I also pulled up the website for the Heritage Foundation, which Brulle and the media claim is the conservative think tank receiving and spending the second most amount of money on global warming skepticism. The Heritage Foundation has 10 articles featured on the front page of its website. None of the 10 focuses on global warming. Merely 2 of the 10 focus on any aspect of energy or environment policy.

Between AEI and Heritage – representing fully 30 percent of the money raised by the 91 conservative think tanks – the global warming issue comprises substantially less than 10 percent of their cumulative time, money and efforts. Even if we generously assign to the global warming issue a full 10 percent of the money raised by the 91 foremost conservative think tanks, this means the 91 conservative think tanks are devoting a mere $90 million per year – rather than the asserted $900 million per year (or Goldenberg’s exaggerated $1 billion per year) – to the global warming debate.

And it is not just AEI and Heritage that devote little attention to the global warming issue. The Hoover Institution, identified as raising and spending the third most money on global warming skepticism, also rarely addresses the global warming topic. The most recent Hoover Institution item I can find addressing the topic is a short op-ed published more than two months ago in National Review Online by a Hoover Institution fellow commenting on a global warming poll. Prior to that short op-ed, the most recent Hoover Institution item I can find is an article published nine months ago supporting a carbon tax.

This brings us to another whopper told by Brulle, Goldenberg and their media allies – the assertion that all the think tanks identified in Brulle’s paper actively fight against global warming activism. To the contrary, two of the three top-funded groups (AEI and the Hoover Institution) support a carbon tax. Other groups identified in Brulle’s paper have similarly expressed support for a carbon tax and global warming activism. At least 25 percent of the funding that Brulle claims goes to skeptical think tanks actually goes to think tanks supporting global warming restrictions.

All told, giving the global warming activists every benefit of the doubt, no more than $90 million of conservative think tank money addresses global warming, and no more than $68 million supports conservative think tank efforts opposing global warming activism. This $68 million is counterbalanced by $22 million for conservative think tank efforts supporting global warming activism. That leaves a net of merely $46 million among 91 conservative think tanks opposing global warming activism.

Even though $46 million is far short of the $1 billion claimed by Goldenberg, $46 million may still seem like a large amount of money. It is only a drop in the bucket, however, compared to the money raised and spent by groups supporting global warming activism.

Two environmental activist groups – Greenpeace and The Nature Conservancy – raise more than $1 billion cumulatively per year. These two groups raise more money than the combined funding of the 91 conservative think tanks identified in Brulle’s paper. Just as importantly, these two groups raise money solely for environmental causes and frequently advocate for global warming restrictions. Their $1 billion is not diluted addressing issues such as economic policy, health care policy, foreign policy, etc.

Five environment-specific groups alone raise more than $1.6 billion per year (Greenpeace, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, National Wildlife Federation, and the Sierra Club). All five focus solely on environmental issues and are frequent and prominent advocates for global warming restrictions. When global warming activists claim global warming skeptics receive the lion’s share of funding in the global warming debate, they are lying through their teeth.

Interestingly, Brulle and his media allies place special emphasis on the so-called dark money given to conservative think tanks by foundations with anonymous donors. Only $64 million of the conservative think tanks’ $900 million in total donations come from foundations. At most, only $6.4 million of the “dark money” addresses global warming topics, with a net of only $3.2 million opposing global warming activism. Nevertheless, the assertion is dark money is nefarious money and has a special impact on the debate. As Cenk Uyger claimed in his video post:

“There’s over 140 different foundations … As you’re about to find out here, they’re totally funded by the groups that have a financial interest in making sure that you don’t believe in climate change. So those 140 different foundations are shell groups – they’re set up ironically by companies like Shell – to make sure that you believe something that’s going to help their bottom line that isn’t true.”

Curiously, neither Brulle nor Uyger provides any evidence or source material backing up the assertion that most money donated to conservative foundations is donated by energy companies with an agenda to fund global warming skeptics. They simply make the assertion based on speculation without providing any factual support. However, it is difficult to believe that most conservative foundation money is donated by energy companies with an anti-global warming agenda, especially when the conservative foundations give a large portion of the money to think tanks that support carbon taxes and think tanks that devote little attention the global warming issue.

Putting this minimal conservative dark money in context, liberal foundations with anonymous donors are major funders of global warming activist groups. For example, check out the list of Defenders of Wildlife’s “Select Funders” here. Heck, Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project sent out a fundraising letter last week telling people that an “anonymous donor” would match every other donation dollar-for-dollar. Somehow, neither Brulle nor the media remembered to mention these inconvenient truths in their narrative.

Oh, and seeing that Uyger brought it up – Shell is alongtime supporter of carbon dioxide restrictions and has a history of funding global warming activist groups.

The long and short of it is think tanks and activist groups supporting global warming restrictions raise and spend far more money than think tanks and activist groups opposing global warming restrictions. Global warming activists may think they are scoring short-term political points by lying and misleading the public about such funding, but their lies will certainly come back to haunt them. They always do.

[Originally published on Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

VID: Hitler Gets Trapped in Sea Ice

January 05, 2014, 12:18 AM

Yes, the “Hitler Becomes Engraged By Something Something” video meme is an oldie. But it’s a goodie.

It’s especially fun in this version (below), in which Hitler goes ballistic because the ship sent to the Antarctic to prove man-caused global warming got … well … stuck in the ice. (NOTE: There is fake captioned profanity in the video, and the “Chris” referenced in the video is Chris Turney, an Australian climate alarmist scientist.)

BTW: With the help of Heartland Senior Fellow James M. Taylor, I reworked up our own version of this meme in February 2010, titled “Hitler Learns of Global Warming Collapse.” Let’s just say James and I were a bit ahead of the curve, and our captions very much apply today.

I’ve embedded Heartland’s vid below the newest one from our Australian friends. Enjoy both.

 

 

Heartland’s very-relevant “Hitler Is Enraged” meme vid from 2010:

 

Categories: On the Blog

Barack Obama’s Presidency Is A Complete Failure By His Own, Self-Imposed Standards

January 04, 2014, 9:00 AM

At the end of 2013, after serving five years, Barack Obama is a complete failure as President, by his own standards, as reflected in his own words.

How many times has President Obama told us that he is “fighting for the middle class”?  But real median family income has been in a continuous downward spiral since he became President, actually falling more since the recession ended in the summer of 2009 according to the National Bureau of Economic Research than during the recession.  That has added up by now to the middle class losing a month’s pay a year under President Obama’s economic policies.

If President Obama is “fighting for the middle class,” why doesn’t he approve the Keystone Pipeline?  Building and maintaining the pipeline would provide thousands of good paying jobs.  So would refining and selling the oil and gas from the Gulf Coast refineries where the pipeline would deliver the Canadian crude.  Moreover, that plentiful supply of low cost energy from a long time, reliable ally would support hundreds of thousands if not millions of additional good paying jobs in the American economy.

President Obama is constantly calling for raising taxes to increase government spending to build further infrastructure, with millions of “shovel ready” jobs supposedly waiting for that government rescue.  We borrowed hundreds of billions for that in Obama’s 2009 so-called Stimulus bill, but the shovel ready jobs turned out not to be so “shovel ready” he later joked, while the economic suffering continued for millions of Americans.

But with Keystone, we have private investors fully capable of financing the more than ready to go infrastructure project, with their own private investment funds rather than taxpayer dollars.  That should be a “no-brainer,” for anyone who is truly “fighting for the middle class.”

Meanwhile, electricity prices are skyrocketing to all-time highs, according to the government’s own official statistics.  The Electricity Price Index of the Bureau of Labor Statistics hit an all-time record in November, 20% higher than 6 years ago.  That is another loss for the middle class, further reducing real incomes.

That is due to Obama’s runaway overregulation, pursuing the President’s War on Coal, and other manipulative, fairy tale delusions.  New EPA regulations will take out 10% of all electricity produced by plentiful, low cost American coal, according to the Institute for Energy Research.  As for the dishonest global warming fantasy, relatively soon the period of no global warming, which started 17 years ago, will be longer then the period of actual global warming, which was a natural cycle that lasted only 20 years, from the late 1970s to the late 1980s.  That was preceded by about 30 years of global temperature decline, or global cooling.

Those skyrocketing electricity prices are another loss for the poor too.  Under the ultraliberal Barack Obama, and his “progressive” Democrats, poverty has soared while he has been President to nearly 50 million Americans, more than at any other time in the more than 50 years that the Census Bureau has been tracking poverty.  The poverty rate has also jumped by over 30% to 16.1%, about the same as when the War on Poverty started $5 trillion and almost 50 years ago.  We need “progressive” liberal Democrats for this?

Obama has also been the food stamp President, with the number on food stamps increasing during his Administration to an all-time record high of 47.7 million, up 80% over the past 5 years.  Contrast that with the Clinton-Gingrich 1996 reform of the old, New Deal, Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program.  Under those reforms, the number dependent on the old AFDC program declined by two-thirds.  Their incomes from going to work instead were documented to increase by 25%, while saving taxpayers 50% of the cost of old AFDC, compared to prior trends.  But today’s “progressive,” Obama/Che Guevara Democrats are not the Kennedy/Clinton Democrats of yore.

Most recently, we have heard President Obama giving speeches bemoaning rising inequality.  On December 4, President Obama told the nation that this rising inequality was “the defining challenge of our time.”

Inequality is measured by a statistic called the “Gini Index,” named after an Italian statistician who first wrote about measuring inequality in 1912.  The Gini Index for the U.S. is officially published by the Census Bureau.  The Index as published by the Census shows inequality sharply accelerating under President Obama, in contrast to greater stability under President Bush.

This follows automatically from the discussion above, with real incomes of the middle class and the poor declining under Obama.  In fact, real incomes of the entire bottom 80% have been declining consistently under Obama, because of his poor record of generating economic growth, and any normal recovery from the 2008-2009 recession.  Only the incomes of the top 20% have been rising under Obama, as the Fed’s loose monetary policies have juiced the stock market and corporate profits.

This has to be considered a disgrace, that Obama carries on publicly about rising inequality and how that is so important, yet inequality has been precisely accelerating under his own, consistently anti-growth, economic policies, which are precisely crippling the poor and the middle class.  But no more of a disgrace than his record on unemployment, which reflects that it has been precisely his own, strongest supporters, particularly blacks, Hispanics, the young, and women, who have suffered the most under Obama’s failed policies.

For President Obama’s entire time in office, 5 years now, blacks have suffered unemployment well into double digits.  With “Latino unemployment close behind,” as Obama himself also lamented in his Martin Luther King 50thAnniversary speech last August.  Yes, the economy was in recession when President Obama entered office.  But under every other President in U.S. history, for well over a century at least, the economy was in a booming recovery within 5 years, even under Franklin Roosevelt during the Great Depression!

Indeed, in the 10 previous recessions since the Great Depression, prior to this last recession, the economy recovered all jobs lost during the recession after an average of 23 months after the prior jobs peak (when the recession began), according to records kept by the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis.  So the job effects of prior post Depression recessions have lasted an average of about 2 years.  But under President Obama, by last month, November, 2013, 71 months after the prior jobs peak, virtually 6 years, we still have not recovered all of the recession’s job losses.  In November, 2013, jobs were still down about 1%, or about 1.5 million, from when the recession started virtually 6 years ago.

That included the longest period since the Great Depression with unemployment above 8%, 43 months, from February, 2009, when Obama’s so-called stimulus costing nearly $1 trillion was passed, until August, 2012.  It also included the longest period since the Great Depression with unemployment at 9.0% or above, 30 months, from April, 2009, until September, 2011.  In fact, during the entire 66 years from January, 1948 to January, 2013, there were no months with unemployment over 8%, except for 26 months during the bitter 1981 – 1982 recession, which slayed the historic inflation of the 1970s.  That is how inconsistent with the prior history of the American economy President Obama’s extended unemployment has been.  That is some fundamental transformation of America.  And this does not include the plunge in labor force participation under President Obama, with millions fleeing the work force, and so not even counted in these unemployment rates.

Reagan suffered a severe recession starting in 1981, which resulted from the monetary policy that broke the back of the roaring 1970s inflation.  But all the job losses of that recession were recovered after 27 months, with the recovery fueled by traditional pro-growth policies.  By this point in the Reagan recovery, 71 months after the recession started, jobs had grown 11.2% higher than when the recession began, representing an increase of about 11 million or more additional jobs.

In November, black unemployment was still 12.5%, after 5 years under President Obama.  The Hispanic, or Latino, unemployment rate was still 8.7%.  The teenage unemployment rate, reflecting Obama Democrat experiments with the minimum wage, was 20.8%.  The black teenage unemployment rate was 35.8%.

Even though the entire 1981-1982 recession occurred during Reagan’s first term, while only the last 5 months or so of the 2008-2009 recession occurred during Obama’s first term, real median weekly incomes for females rose 32.1% in Reagan’s first term, compared to 6.6% in Obama’s first term.  Employment of women rose by 4,460,000 in Reagan’s first term, while women suffered a net loss of 354,000 jobs during Obama’s first term.  Conversely, the number of women not in the work force rose by 4,458,000 in Obama’s first term, compared to 345,000 in Reagan’s first term.

More than 3 times as many jobs were created for African-American women in Reagan’s first term, compared to Obama’s first term, even though the population was much larger in Obama’s first term.  Jobs for African American women rose by 15.1% in Reagan’s first term, compared to 2.6% in Obama’s first term.

Teenage female African Americans employed fell by 19.1% in Obama’s first term, compared to a decline of just 1.5% in Reagan’s first term.  The unemployment rate for teenage female African-Americans rose by 5.7 percentage points in Obama’s first term, compared to just 1.1 percentage points in Reagan’s first term.  So who is conducting the real War on Women.

Obama apologists cannot say Obama’s unemployment record is so bad because the recession was so bad.  The American historical record is the worse the recession, the stronger the recovery, even during the Great Depression.  So the 2008-2009 recession really just set the foundation for what should have been a booming recovery coming out of it, in 2009-2010, which would have made Obama such a hero.  Administration economists, and even Obama himself, seemed to be expecting that.  Remember Obama saying on national television in 2009 that if the recovery doesn’t take hold by 2012, he would be a one term President?  This is what gave him the confidence to say that.

But Obama’s own, consistently anti-growth policies of increasing tax rates, exploding overregulation, runaway government spending in the beginning (before the Republican House was elected in 2010 to get in the way of that), and wild-eyed, destabilizing monetary policy, short-circuited the recovery, which still has not really happened.  President Obama promised America in 2009 that if his nearly $1 trillion “stimulus” spending was enacted, it would bring down unemployment to 5%.  Of course, we are still nowhere near that.  He should have known that such wild-eyed Keynesian economics was thoroughly discredited, and rightly abandoned, more than 30 years ago.  And it never held any sound logic in the first place.  But Obama was so arrogant and self-satisfied about that outdated Keynesian doctrine from the get go.

What Obama needed to achieve his own stated goals to advance the middle class, the poor, and equality was economic growth, as President Kennedy’s policies so ably achieved, not to mention Reagan.  Only booming economic growth can create good jobs and rising wages for the poor and the middle class.  The foundation of the booming growth for both Kennedy and Reagan was reducing, not increasing, marginal tax rates.  Reagan added sharply reducing regulatory costs, burdens and barriers, which began so stirringly under President Carter.  Obama has repeatedly told us, as in his December 4 inequality speech, that he is for “streamlining regulations that are outdated or unnecessary or too costly.”  But that is just another Obama failure, by his own words, as he has not remotely done anything like that, but so decisively just the opposite.

Reagan further stimulated the economy by cutting rather than increasing federal spending starting in his first year, and holding domestic discretionary spending flat for the rest of his two terms.  And perhaps the most important was the strong dollar monetary policy which Reagan’s Administration consistently supported, giving the Volcker Fed the political cover to get the historic anti-inflation policy implemented.

This growth formula would do the job again, even more spectacularly than ever before, given all the long pent up growth in the economy.  But Obama is so ideologically opposed to every component of this true growth formula, wrongly, even perversely, deriding it as the same policies that created the recession mess in the first place.  He, in fact, has only done just the opposite in each case.  Hence his perverse results.

And speaking about Obama failures, we haven’t even begun to talk about Obamacare yet.  That was sold to the public as creating universal coverage.  But not only has CBO scored it as leaving 30 million Americans uninsured 10 years after full implementation.  The real world effect of Obamacare so far has been to increase rather than reduce the uninsured, by millions of Americans with Obamacare’s cancelled policies.

Also directly contrary to Obama’s often repeated promise, on which he sold Obamacare to a gullible public, that “if you like your health insurance plan you can keep your health insurance plan,” that has now been formally recognized even by the Democrat media as the Lie of the Year.  But which year?  It now turns out that what Obama really meant was that if he likes your health plan, you can keep it.  Obama’s promise that if you like your doctor, you can keep your doctor, has fared no better.  Even the policies on the Obamacare Exchanges offer sharply restricted doctor and hospital networks, to millions of Americans seeking to replace their cancelled coverage.

Obama also promised us that Obamacare would reduce health insurance costs by $2,500 a year per family.  But Obamacare’s “free” benefit mandates, and overregulation, has only resulted in sharply increasing health insurance costs, more than doubling premiums in many cases, another President Obama failure by his own words and standards.

But the worst President Obama failure can still be yet to come.  Obama told us that nuclear weapons in the hands of Iran’s terrorist government would be “unacceptable” and he would stop it by any means necessary, with all options now on the table.  But the flower child Obama/Kerry nuclear negotiations now actually seem resigned to only trying to contain what Reagan defense expert Frank Gaffney now is calling the Iranian “Obamabomb,” to echo the Obamacare failure.  But this is the one failure that can prove far more deadly to millions of Americans than even Obamacare.

[Originally published on Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

Looking Into My 2014 Crystal Ball

January 04, 2014, 8:30 AM

Pundits are expected to make predictions for the year ahead and far be it for me to avoid what, generally speaking, depends on who is making them. Major trends are already in place and easy to predict as they proceed, but it is always unknown events that upend predictions. Mother Nature and perpetrators of evil can always be counted upon to provide them.

Since the Earth has been in a seventeen-year cooling cycle, I can safely predict there will be no “global warming” in 2014 and, given the other science-based factors, the likelihood is that 2014 will experience more colder weather and may even be an earlier predictor of a mini-ice age much the same as the one that occurred from 1300 to 1850.

As mentioned, it is the unpredictable events that will affect 2014. The good news is that the U.S. has seen far fewer hurricanes, tornadoes, and forest fires in recent years. The global cooling trend, however, is likely to cause more and larger blizzards.

“Climate change”? This is now the basis of all the lies we shall hear from the President to justify his five-year delay of the Keystone oil pipeline, his continued war on coal—affordable electricity—and other Environmental Protection Agency efforts to control our lives while denying the creation of the thousands of jobs the pipeline and other energy-related development would provide. Environmentalism is the enemy of the technologies that have transformed and enhanced our lives.

The November mid-term elections hold the promise of ridding Congress of some of the Democrats who unanimously voted for Obamacare in 2009. It will also replace those Republicans-in-name-only, RINOs, who have joined Democrats in voting for legislation that advanced the socialism that is strangling the nation by expanding the federal government. I predict the ranks of “independent” voters will increase in 2014.

The erosion of the Democratic Party base will continue as Obamacare afflicts millions of Americans who will lose their healthcare insurance plans, be deprived of using their personal physician, and see their costs increase. It is the essence of communism, providing the government with control over one’s life and, in too many cases, causing many to die for the lack of plans they previously had or the costs of those they are required to purchase. Those leaving the party will include women and the younger generation leaving college to discover there aren’t any jobs to help them cope with the debt they incurred to attend. Hispanics, too, show signs of leaving.

It is hard to predict what will occur within the Republican Party whose leadership has engaged in denunciations of the Tea Party movement. However, when the Tea Party movement elects more committed conservative GOP candidates, it will save the nation and the party. Suffice to say that Obamacare will be the gift that keeps on giving in 2014. It will, in time, be repealed.

Obama’s failed foreign policy will ensure that former allies will cease to trust the U.S. to support their need to deal with the rising threat of Islamic jihad in the Middle East and Africa. Obama has lost Egypt and Saudi Arabia as long-time allies. Israel is in a particularly perilous situation and the outcome of the Syrian civil war does not bode well for it or its neighbor Jordan.

Iran will be the greatest threat of war since the 1930s. And, yes, the U.S.-led “deal” will fail.

Polls reveal a growing unhappiness with the U.S. Congress. The President’s performance ratings have been falling and will continue to do so in 2014. The problem is the growth of socialism that began during and in the wake of the Great Depression of the 1930s. The pension debt and other benefits resulting from government worker unions has forced Detroit into bankruptcy and other American cities will follow.

By executive order the President just raised government salaries by 1%. Can he do that? Not really. Only the House can authorize such expenditures. Can he change Obamacare without consulting Congress? Not really.

The mainstream media will continue to lose its credibility as the Internet affords Americans alternative means of finding out what is really occurring as opposed to the deceptive and manipulative efforts of the Obama administration. Having raised voter’s expectations of Obama, his fall will be dramatic in 2014. The mainstream media is largely composed of liberals who are the result of the transformation of education into socialist indoctrination that began in the 1960s. By contrast, conservative print and broadcast media will thrive. Fox News has more viewers than the networks and CNN, combined.

Events such as the current attack on Southern Sudan, and the on-going slaughter in Syria will continue. Christians throughout the Middle East and Africa will find themselves under continued attack. Muslim-on-Muslim violence will continue. Islamists are devoted to its “holy” war, including its own schism.

In America, privacy, an essential element of the Constitution, will continue to be diminished if Congress does not address the vast collection of information of all of our communications. Read the Fourth Amendment. It says in part that “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

We may see more states enact laws to defy Obamacare. South Carolina is currently the only one. The Tenth Amendment says “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

Read the Constitution, you will not find the words “health” in it, nor “education”, nor ‘environment.” The federal government should get out of these aspects of our lives.

My most positive prediction is that historians will look back at 2014 as the year in which Americans woke to the threat of socialism-communism and, like the Tea Party movement, began to fight back.

Categories: On the Blog

Them vs. Us

January 03, 2014, 4:19 PM

With all the talk of America’s forgotten middle class, it’s worth taking time as we begin a new year to consider that the country’s seeming obsession with wealth and inequality may instead be turning the U. S. into a country with only two classes: the governed and the governing.

The aim of the 100-year old Progressive movement in America has purportedly been a more just and humane society in which everyone’s needs are taken care of by government, no one goes hungry or without health care because the state provides for everyone, and everyone is equal in almost every way – except, of course, for the ruling class of expert elites, who will always be more equal than the rest of us.

The goal of conservatives and libertarians, on the other hand, is a more just society in which individuals make their own decisions about what is best for themselves and their families, resources are allocated more efficiently because most people actually pay for what they consume, and everyone has an equal opportunity to succeed or to fail based upon his or her own talents, ambition, and work ethic.

A pragmatist will concede that a certain amount of inequality will always exist under both worldviews, as talent, ambition, work ethic, political connections – and just plain luck – are not distributed evenly or equally among the general population.

For every Michael Jordan, for example, are a thousand or a million kids who never make it off the playground; for every Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, or Steve Balmer are a bunch of programmers writing code in anonymity; for every Oprah Winfrey are a host of local television news readers and late-night radio disc jockeys; and for every Steven King or J. K. Rowling are a million bloggers seeking a following.

A market-based system that attempts to maximize individual liberty and opportunity accepts inequality of results as inevitable and recognizes that, for all its perceived unfairness, maximizing individual liberty also maximizes human happiness. Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Steven King, and J. K. Rowling have brought joy to millions – if not billions – of people worldwide while generating ancillary jobs and revenue in the sports, television, publishing, movie, and toy industries, among everyone from ticket-takers to executive suites, as well as inspiring others to attempt to achieve some comparable degree of success.

Progressivism sees this as unfair and seeks redistribution of wealth by taxing those who’ve succeeded financially and subsidizing those who haven’t. But as one hundred years of a “progressive” income tax, over eighty years of alphabet administrative agencies, and fifty years of an unsuccessful “war” on poverty have demonstrated, the unfortunate result is not equality in any meaningful sense but instead an increasingly polarized population. More people have civilian government jobs and more people receive public assistance than ever, yet the nation is not demonstrably better off either economically or spiritually.

The sad truth is that no amount of wealth redistribution is likely to create the next Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, J. K. Rowling, or Michael Jordan, no matter how much we wish it were so. If that were true, then every lottery winner would go on to fame and creative success instead of disappearing into obscurity or winding up in bankruptcy.

In one important sense, however, progressivism has indeed reshaped society. Primarily through actuarially unsound defined-benefit pension systems with health care benefits and compounded cost of living adjustments, it has created a new privileged class of government employees and former employees who have lifelong claims on the resources of the rest of the population. Part of the population must work longer and harder so that others may retire from working sooner.

Most people would likely not begrudge such a system for citizen-soldiers – particularly those who have been seriously injured while serving their country – but it is difficult to understand why those who hold essentially civilian jobs with little or no distinction should be so privileged.

Real-life examples include the public school teachers whose graduates can neither read nor write but who were promoted into administrative positions their last three years so that their pensions would exceed the salaries they received during most of their careers; the cops who checked in at the station in the morning, then spent the rest of the day snoozing in the local movie theater; the third guy on the garbage truck who rode shotgun and read the paper while another drove the truck and the third guy picked up the garbage before the whole crew drove under a viaduct for an afternoon nap before returning the truck to the depot. That’s not service; it’s taking unfair advantage.

A society in which growth may be a thing of the past can no longer tolerate such excesses, waste, and abuse. But the threat is not merely financial; it is moral and structural as well. For privileged treatment for a fortunate few first undermines initiative and promotes apathy, then lethargy; in the end it generates envy, then resentment, then anger, which has ways of boiling over.

As Abraham Lincoln famously observed in his Gettysburg address, a society cannot exist half slave and half free. Nor can it exist half productive and half parasitic. As the nation begins a new calendar year, it is worth taking the time to ponder how Lincoln’s words may still ring true today.

Categories: On the Blog

Sound Science And The U.S. Economy Victimized By The EPA’s CIA Fake, John Beale

January 03, 2014, 12:26 PM

While the American public is justifiably outraged about a high-ranking EPA official collecting large paychecks while messing around, skipping work and falsely claiming to be doing CIA work, it is the work that John Beale actually performed – rather than the work he didn’t  – that should cause the most outrage and alarm. The incompetent, bumbling imposter served as the right-hand man to EPA’s top official and personally oversaw the development of EPA’s climate policy and international climate negotiations. Sound science and the American economy are currently paying the steep price for Beale’s “Spies Like Us” asininity.

In one of the funniest slapstick scenes from the 1985 comedy classic, bungling wannabe spies Chevy Chase and Dan Aykroyd are caught blatantly cheating on their foreign service exam. Presented with video evidence of their cheating, Aykroyd asks his government overseers, “So what are we going to get, dismissal, suspension, censure, departmental prosecution – what?”

Chase and Aykroyd then bungle their assignment so badly that they launch a nuclear missile against their own country.

Put Chase and Aykroyd at the top of EPA rather than the top of CIA field operations, and you have an idea of how Beale monumentally screwed up EPA climate policy and international climate negotiations.

Inexplicably believing Beale’s story that he was actually a CIA spy and that was why he was missing so much work, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy took Chase and Aykroyd’s slapstick asininity to a new, real-world level. In a memo sent out to EPA staffers, McCarthy attempted to provide cover for Beale to continue skipping work under fictitious CIA pretenses. Beale “is supposed to be sitting in 5426B of Ariel Rios North, but good luck finding him. We are keeping him well hidden so he won’t get scooped away from [his EPA position] anytime soon,” McCarthy wrote.

McCarthy then affirmed Beale would continue overseeing EPA’s climate policy and international climate negotiations.

Putting Beale in charge of crafting our nation’s climate policy was the equivalent of putting Bernie Madoff in charge of crafting our nation’s fiscal policy. Or, in this scene from Spies Like Us, entrusting Chase and Aykroyd to impersonate medical doctors and treat live patients.

While Chase and Aykroyd’s antics make for good comedic cinema, Beale’s antics had much more serious real-world impact. When EPA disregarded mountains of sound science demonstrating carbon dioxide emissions are being scapegoated for a mythical global warming crisis, Chase and Aykroyd – er, I mean Beale – was calling the shots on behalf of EPA’s “scientific” findings to the contrary. As a result, coal miners are being sent to unemployment lines in droves, Americans are being deprived of their most affordable widely available electricity source, jobs and wealth are being shipped overseas and bogus EPA findings are driving the Obama administration’s war on affordable energy.

The Beale fiasco is just the latest in a long line of appalling scandals perpetrated by global warming alarmists. The Climategate and Climategate II scandals should have sunk the fictitious man-made global warming crisis once and for all, but alarmists and their media allies worked to ignore and hide the truth. The Fakegate scandal of 2012 further demonstrated the agenda-driven dishonesty motivating prominent global warming alarmists.

Now we learn that Beale, one of the highest ranking figures in the Environmental Protection Agency, was not only a bumbling fool, but also a criminal, recently sentenced to 32 months in federal prison. His own attorney says his client was motivated “to manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives.”

You have to search long and hard to find a better representation of the individuals at the top of the global warming movement. Again and again we have seen these are men and women who lie to the public, manufacture false data, conceal evidence and use the power of their offices to attack those who expose their fictitious narratives.

Maybe the best that can be said of these latest revelations is they provide more evidence, in case any more was needed, that the mythical global warming crisis was a canard from start to finish, that the Obama administration and EPA in particular need to be reined in before they destroy even more of America’s economic strength, and that 2014 must be a breakthrough year for the voices of truth.

[Originally published on Forbes]

Categories: On the Blog

The Guardian Slams Funding of Anti-Global Warming Groups

January 03, 2014, 11:35 AM
The Guardian, a London-based daily newspaper, has been a leading advocate of the global warming theory—now called climate change—and its December 20 edition published an article by Susanne Goldenberg, “Conservative groups spend up to $1bn a year to fight action on climate change.”

The article focused on a study by Drexel University sociologist Robert Brulle that had been published in the journal Climate Change asserting that “The anti-climate effort has been largely underwritten by conservative billionaires, often working through secretive funding networks. They have displaced corporations as the prime supporters of 91 think tanks, advocacy groups and industry associations which have worked to block action on climate change.”

What action these organizations or even entire governments could take to have any affect whatever on “climate change” defies common sense. Nothing they could do, for example, would have any effect on the action of the Sun, the primary determinant of climate. For the past seventeen years the Sun has been in a natural cycle of reduced radiation, less warmth for the Earth. The result has been a cooling cycle on Earth that has crushed decades of lies about “global warming.”

It’s not that the Earth hasn’t had previous cycles of warmer climate, but they had nothing to do with anything humans do. There was warming before the Industrial Revolution introduced the use of coal, oil and natural gas to provide the energy that has marked the development and use of technologies that have improved human life in countless ways. “Global warming” is blamed on the emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other so-called greenhouse gases. The most prominent of these gases in the Earth’s atmosphere is nothing more than water vapor.

Apparently, if Brulle and The Guardian are to be believed, anyone or any organization that donates to any group that doubts the claims of Big Green are the enemies of “global warming”, but this conveniently ignored estimates that the U.S. government, according to an October article in The New American “will spend more money on fighting global warming than it will on tightening border security.” The spending is estimated to cost approximately $22.2 billion this year, twice as much as the $12 billion estimated for customs and border enforcement.”

There are, according to the White House, “currently 18 federal agencies engaged in activities related to global warming. These agencies fund programs that include scientific research, international climate assistance, renewable energy technology, and subsidies for renewable energy producers.”

The Guardian article caught my eye because, among the organizations that have been active in debunking the “global warming” theory has been The Heartland Institute. I have been an advisor to the Institute which, since 2008, has organized eight international conferences on global warming that have featured some of the world’s leading skeptics.

If you want to know how the Institute is funded, you can go to their website where you will find, for example, that it does not solicit or accept grants from any of those government agencies using billions of taxpayer dollars to convince Americans that “global warming” is real or that anything the government does about “climate change” can have any effect on it. In 2012, Heartland received 50% of its income from foundations, 28% from individuals, and 18% from corporations. No corporate donor contributes more than 5% of its annual budget.

In contrast, a recent article by Ron Arnold, a Washington Examiner columnist and executive vice president of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, noted that over the past decade environmental organizations received 345,052 foundation grants totaling $20,826,664,000—over twenty billion dollars—largely from a 200-plus member Environmental Grantmakers Association and the smaller, farther-left National Network of Grantmakers. Arnold said that “Today, foundations are the backbone of Big Green.”

On a recent CNN television program, Marc Morano, the communications director of the Committee for a Constructive Tomorrow (CFACT) took on the Sierra Club director, noting that this major environmental organization has received $26 million from natural gas corporations to support its attacks on the coal industry. So “fossil fuels” industries are okay if they are giving the Sierra Club money.

“So record cold,” said Morano, “is now evidence of man-made global warming.”

While the Koch-affiliated foundations that provide grants to conservative groups were singled out, along with Exxon Mobil, in The Guardian article, no mention was made of multi-billionaire George Soros who is famed for funding all manner of liberal groups and who reportedly has invested heavily in “clean energy” companies—solar and wind—whose products do not produce the so-called greenhouse gas emissions.

One of the more recent articles in The Guardian was titled “Global warming will intensify drought, says new study.”  The problem, of course, is that there is NO global warming.

By contrast, a July Fox News article, “Billions spent in Obama climate plan may be virtually useless, study says” was not also reported in the mainstream media. Suffice to say that those billions came from taxpayer’s pockets.

I am happy to know that the Heartland Institute, a 29 year old non-profit research organization, CFACT, and other free market research and activist groups receive foundation and other support. Without them, the lies about “climate change” from the Obama administration and the many environmental organizations would not be debunked.

[Originally published on Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

Crooked Labs, Agencies and Prosecutors

January 03, 2014, 11:18 AM

Former Durham, NC district attorney Mike Nifong was disbarred for withholding evidence from the defense and lying to the court in the trumped-up Duke lacrosse team rape case. Ex-Boston crime lab technician Annie Dookhan was prosecuted for faking test results and contaminating drug samples, to get accused dealers convicted. In both cases, charges against their victims were dismissed or are under review.

So how should we handle federal officials who’ve become unethical researchers and prosecutors – determined to get convictions, basing their cases on esoteric circumstantial evidence, allowing tainted and fraudulent evidence, hiding exculpatory information, rewriting the law, and denying defense counsel the right to cross-examine adverse witnesses or present their case?

As the Committee For A Constructive Tomorrow explains in its amicus curiae brief to the US Supreme Court, that’s what Environmental Protection Agency regulators have been doing with global warming. They’re pulling every dirty prosecutorial trick in the book, to convict fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, and America’s economy and living standards of “endangering” the public welfare.

Since 2009, EPA regulators have shown a single-minded determination to slash hydrocarbon use, drive up the price of energy, and impose huge costs on companies, industries and an economy struggling to stay afloat and retain jobs. They want to control CO2 emissions from vehicles, electrical generating plants, and eventually the sources of nearly everything we make, grow, ship, eat and do. The damage to our livelihoods, liberties, living standards, legal system, health, welfare and life spans will be enormous.

The devious dealings have continued under new EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, who has pronounced that there is “no more urgent threat to public health than climate change.” Now it appears the mendacious malfeasance is even worse than previously thought.

Newly released emails reveal that Ms. McCarthy was “very excited” in 2010 to “finally get the opportunity to work with” Mr. John Beale, who for several years was the senior EPA policy advisor helping Ms. McCarthy and her Office of Air and Radiation develop and implement tough air quality and climate regulations. When he wasn’t off on one of his Walter Mitty undercover CIA capers, that is.

Beale was just convicted of defrauding taxpayers out of $1 million in salaries and expenses for extended vacations that he took while claiming to be a high level intelligence operative. His attorney says he had a “dysfunctional need to engage in excessively reckless, risky behavior” and “manipulate those around him through the fabrication of grandiose narratives.”

It defies belief to suppose his dysfunctions and fabrications did not extend to his official EPA roles of devising agency air pollution and climate policies, then cherry picking reports and manipulating research to justify them. The criminal fraud for which Beale will serve 32 months in prison and repay $1.4 million is outrageous. The fraud on our economy, democracy and people’s lives is far more costly and despicable. Even worse, their regulatory fraud is a pervasive problem throughout EPA.

The Constitution specifies that the Executive Branch has no authority to engage in lawmaking, but must faithfully execute the laws as written – and not as regulators might wish the laws had been written, to advance their preferred policy agendas. EPA has violated these most fundamental rules, ignoring inconvenient statutory language, and devising and enforcing other provisions out of whole cloth.

Between 1989 and 2010, Congress considered and rejected some 692 bills addressing various aspects of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change. So President Obama’s EPA simply imposed carbon dioxide controls by executive fiat, using “prevention of significant deterioration” and “new source performance standards” to create new authority over coal-fired electrical generating plants. It then unilaterally changed precise statutory emission standards from 250 tons per year to 100,000 tpy – to avoid the public backlash that would come if it began regulating and shutting down all the natural gas generators, refineries, cement kilns, factories, paper mills, shopping malls, apartment and office buildings, hospitals, schools and even large homes that emit more than 250 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Those job-killing rules can come later, when radical environmentalists sue radical regulators, to enforce the statutory requirement.

In circumventing Congress, rewriting laws and ignoring the “separation of powers” doctrine, EPA accomplished an unprecedented power grab over the energy that fuels our economy and makes our jobs, living standards and civil rights progress possible. It also flouted clear NEPA, Clean Air Act and other statutory mandates that EPA protect the health, welfare and environmental quality of all Americans.

The agency remains fixated on the speculative impacts of sea levels, storms, droughts and other manifestations of allegedly “dangerous manmade climate change.” As CFACT’s amicus brief explains, it completely ignores the increasingly adverse effects that its boiler MACT, carbon dioxide and 1,900 other Obama-era EPA regulations are having on companies, jobs, families, entire industries and communities – and thus people’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.

As breadwinners are laid off or reduced to part-time status, families are unable to heat and cool their homes properly, pay bills, rent or mortgage, buy clothing and medicines, or take vacations. Increasing numbers of families deplete their savings and are made homeless. Being unable to find or keep a job erodes self-worth, self-confidence and psychological well-being. The stress of being unemployed, or involuntarily holding multiple lower-paying part-time jobs, means reduced nutrition, sleep deprivation, increased risk of heart attacks and strokes, higher incidences of depression and alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse, more suicides and generally lower life expectancies.

It means the regulations are far worse than the harms they supposedly redress. For EPA to ignore this simple reality is illegal and unconscionable. For it to do so based on fraudulent science is outrageous.

The agency’s position hardly reflected genuine climate science in 2009, when EPA decreed that carbon dioxide endangers human health and welfare. Since then, Earth’s temperature and weather events have refused to cooperate with EPA’s dire predictions. But the agency’s views and decisions remain etched in stone, leaving the agency on the extreme fringe of alarmist opinion, insisting that its views are supported by IPCC predictions that are increasingly discredited by Climategate revelations, investigations into IPCC practices, the Beale scandal and even an exhaustive report by one of EPA’s own analysts.

When presented 37-year EPA veteran Alan Carlin’s analysis, his supervisor tried to suppress the paper and refused to forward it to the EPA group preparing the final report that would guide the endangerment decision. The supervisor told him: “The administrator and administration has [sic] decided to move forward on endangerment, and your comments do not help the legal or policy case for this decision.”

Finally, even full compliance with EPA’s destructive regulations would achieve zero benefits, because emissions from China, India and other rapidly developing countries will continue increasing total atmospheric GHG levels – and because climate change is driven primarily by natural forces, not CO2.

For all these reasons, EPA’s carbon dioxide “endangerment” decision must be reversed; its stationary source regulations must be scrapped; and the agency must be required to fully evaluate the consistently adverse effects of its regulatory edicts on human health, welfare and environmental quality. If the Supreme Court fails to do so, the House and Senate must reassert their Constitutional roles.

Otherwise the United States will steadily fall behind its international competitors. The health and well-being of Americans will increasingly suffer. And the Legislative and Judicial Branches will become mere bystanders to an unelected, unaccountable, agenda-driven Executive Branch.

Categories: On the Blog

The Solar Swindle

January 02, 2014, 5:39 PM

Solar electricity is growing, promoted, and most importantly, heavily subsidized.  The promoters of solar electricity claim that it is close to being competitive with conventional sources of electricity.  That is a fantasy.

Solar electricity is expensive and impractical.  If it weren’t for government subsidies, some explicit and some disguised, the solar industry would collapse.  The many claims of competitiveness are always based on ignoring subsidies provided to politically correct renewable power, ignoring the costs associated with unreliability, and ignoring the cost of backup fossil fuel plants.

An example of a hidden subsidy is the California Renewable Portfolio Standard that mandates utilities to obtain 33% of their energy from so-called renewable sources by 2020.  This mandate forces utilities to contract for expensive sources of energy, such as solar.  The cost is passed on to the utility customers with the connivance of the government.  Although the motivation behind the California scheme is to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, politically incorrect sources of CO2-free electricity, such as nuclear and large-scale hydroelectric, can’t be counted as renewable.

People whose knowledge of electricity production ends at their wall outlet are dictating national energy policy.  Magical thinking by hopelessly ignorant political activists permeates the alternative energy universe.

How much does electricity from conventional sources cost?  If I look at my ComEd (Chicago) bill, the charge for electricity is about 5 cents per kilowatt-hour (KWH).  Additional charges for delivering the electricity and various taxes increase the total to about 10 cents per KWH.  This is electricity mainly from coal, nuclear, and natural gas.  Electricity is available at the plant gate in much of the U.S. for about 5 cents per KWH.

Figuring out how much solar electricity costs is tricky.  Most of the cost is the capital cost of building the plant; in favorable situations, a solar plant costs 15 times more than a fossil fuel plant per KWH generated.  How one assigns this initial capital cost to the electricity generated over the life of the plant depends on economic assumptions involving interest rates.  The amount of sunshine can vary by as much as two to one, if you compare sunny Arizona locations with cloudy European ones.  Photovoltaic technology, using electricity-generating panels, is the currently favored technology.  An alternative technology is thermal solar or plants that use reflectors to concentrate sunlight to generate high-pressure steam, or other high-pressure gas, to operate turbines that drive generators.  The estimates in this article refer to recently constructed photovoltaic plants.

The cost of solar electricity at the plant gate is about 25 cents per KWH, or about 5 times more than conventional electricity.  It may be 50 cents per KWH in cloudy northern areas.

It is true that the cost of solar panels has greatly decreased in recent years.  This decrease has to do with technological improvements and overbuilding of capacity in the Chinese panel manufacturing industry.  However, even if the panels cost nothing, solar electricity would not be remotely competitive.  The panels are only part of the cost.  One also has to pay for the land, the mounting systems for the panels, and other infrastructure.

The cost of a solar electricity plant is usually quoted as so many dollars per watt.  For example, many large-scale plants cost about $4 per watt to build.  The watts in this case refer to the maximum amount of electricity the plant can produce when the sun shines squarely on the panels, or, more technically, the number of watts that can be generated when the panels are illuminated with sunlight with an energy content of 1,000 watts per square meter (approximately the energy flux of full sunlight).  In the best locations, a solar plant with fixed panels can generate the equivalent of full power 25% of the time.  That is called the utilization factor.

As an example, the Agua Caliente solar plant in Arizona, when completed in 2014, will be rated at 397 million watts and will cost $1.8 billion.  This works out to $4.53 per watt of capacity.  The cost of generating electricity from this plant has two components: the capital cost of building the plant spread out over the 25-year life of the plant and the annual maintenance cost for such things as periodically washing the solar panels that cover 4 square miles of land.  When a utility invests in a generating plant, it needs a rate of return on its investment great enough to stay in business.  It must pay dividends attract capital, maintain a good credit rating, and pay substantial taxes.  Roughly an 8% return on a generating plant investment is needed to maintain the business.  This means that if $1.8 billion is invested, the annual capital cost is similar to the payments on a 25-year mortgage at 8% interest.  This is a higher interest rate than one might pay on a home mortgage due to taxes and the need to attract risk capital.  The utility might finance half the cost at 4% or 5% and finance the other half with equity capital, for which a return of 10% or 12% is necessary.  The budget for the Agua Caliente plant would look roughly like this:

 

This is the price at the plant gate, assuming that all the electricity generated is purchased for 25 years.  The required price of 22 cents per KWH compares unfavorably with the 5 cents per KWH that is widely available in the U.S.  But this is only half of the story.  The price of 22 cents per KWH for a plant in sunny Arizona is actually misleadingly low.

Solar electricity is generated when the sun is up and the sky is clear.  But electricity is needed during the night and on cloudy days.  So a solar electricity plant must be accompanied by a backup plant.  A combined-cycle natural gas plant can be purchased at a capital cost of approximately $1,000 per kilowatt of output capability.  Depending on the percent utilization, electricity can be generated in the range of 4 cents to 6 cents per KWH.  The natural gas fuel at current prices costs about 3 cents per KWH.  Capital costs distributed over the 30-year life of the plant are in the range of 1-3 cents per KWH depending on percent utilization.  The percent utilization can be has high as 90%.

The bottom line is that the only saving from a solar electricity plant is the fuel not burned when the solar is working.  Most likely, the fuel is natural gas.  But the maintenance of the solar plant costs about the same per KWH as the fuel for a natural gas plant.  It most cases, it probably makes sense to bulldoze a solar plant and use the backup natural gas plant.

Believers in global warming alarmism will probably claim that it is worth paying 5 times more for electricity in order to reduce CO2 emissions.  But if they are really concerned about CO2, the obvious solution is CO2-free nuclear power, which is far cheaper and more practical than solar.

Wind power is the other renewable energy.  The capital cost of building wind farms is less than solar, and the utilization factor may be higher in favorable locations.  But, at best, wind energy costs 2-3 times more per KWH than conventional energy.  There are doubts about the useful life of wind turbines and many population centers have no suitable wind energy sites near enough to economically transport the power.

Solar energy and wind energy are nothing but a scam promoted by ideological fanatics in environmental organizations and allied special interests.  We all pay for the scam with our taxes and with our electric bills.

[Originally published on the American Thinker]
Categories: On the Blog