On at least a couple of previous Thanksgivings, I have quoted from William Bradford’s account of the Pilgrims taking leave of the port of Delftshaven in 1620, crossing the Atlantic, and settling in Plymouth Colony. Bradford’s written account of the Pilgrims’ journey ends this way:
“Besides, what could they see but a hideous and desolate wilderness, full of wilde beasts and wilde men? and what multitudes of them there were, they then knew not: for which way soever they turned their eyes (save upward to Heaven) they could have but little solace or content in respect of any outward object; for summer being ended, all things stand in appearance with a weatherbeaten face, and the whole country, full of woods and thickets, represented a wild and savage hew. If they looked behind them, there was a mighty ocean they had passed, and was now as a main bar or gulph to separate them from all the civil parts of the world.”
This may be the end of Bradford’s account, and no doubt it paints a bleak picture of what he foresaw for the Pilgrims in the new land – in the “desolate wilderness.” But I find it a good beginning for thinking about America on Thanksgiving, about the road we have traveled in the almost four centuries hence. And, most importantly, in thinking about the idea of America.
Certainly, as always, we continue to face challenges, and serious ones, as we strive to create the “more perfect Union” of which our Founders spoke in our Constitution’s Preamble. But, with all our challenges, America remains a bountiful country, with much opportunity for advancement for those who wish to work hard and share in the bounty.
I understand there are deep divisions in the country concerning important matters of domestic and foreign policy. But, frankly, despite what you may be told by today’s instant pundits, any real student of history knows that this is nothing new. There is a reason why in the earliest days of our Republic, Jefferson’s Democratic-Republicans (yes, that is what they called themselves!) emerged to do battle with Adams’ Federalists. There were important philosophical differences between the two parties concerning the proper purposes of government and the legitimate extent of government power. And it has been ever thus, and that is as it should be in a democratic republic.
On Thanksgiving and throughout the year, I am unabashed in proclaiming my belief in American exceptionalism. I am unabashed because I have deep faith that the idea of America as expressed in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence is exceptional. The Declaration proclaims, “all Men are created equal, and they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” And the Constitution’s Preamble states that it is ordained to “secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”
Understanding how far America has come since William Bradford looked upon the “desolate wilderness” in 1620, it is difficult not to be optimistic about our country’s “exceptional” future, and I am.
As I said above, I am not naïve about the serious challenges confronting the country today as in the past. And I full well understand that citizens have very different approaches to resolving the important issues of the day.
At the Free State Foundation, consistent with our understanding of the meaning of the Declaration and the Constitution, and the ideas they seek to embody, we advocate free market, limited government, and rule of law principles, with an emphasis on protecting individual freedom, free speech, and property rights as a sure means of promoting the nation’s social and economic well-being. In other words, as a means of preserving liberty while increasing America’s bounty for all.
We are grateful for many things on this Thanksgiving Day, but we are especially grateful for the freedom we still enjoy in America to vigorously advocate these principles and to espouse our perspectives and policy prescriptions. And, we are grateful that, if you differ, you still enjoy the same freedom.
So, looking backward over four centuries since the Pilgrims’ landing, but mostly looking ahead to the future, here’s wishing you a safe, happy Thanksgiving. As always, we’re most grateful for your support of the Free State Foundation and our work, and for your friendship.[Article originally posted on The Free State Foundation]
This time of the year, whether in good economic times or bad, is when Americans gather with their families and friends and enjoy a Thanksgiving meal together. It marks a remembrance of those early Pilgrim Fathers who crossed the uncharted ocean from Europe to make a new start in Plymouth, Massachusetts. What is less appreciated is that Thanksgiving also is a celebration of the birth of free enterprise in America.
The English Puritans, who left Great Britain and sailed across the Atlantic on the Mayflower in 1620, were not only escaping from religious persecution in their homeland. They also wanted to turn their back on what they viewed as the materialistic and greedy corruption of the Old World.Plymouth Colony Planned as Collectivist Utopia
In the New World, they wanted to erect a New Jerusalem that would not only be religiously devout, but be built on a new foundation of communal sharing and social altruism. Their goal was the communism of Plato’s “Republic,” in which all would work and share in common, knowing neither private property nor self-interested acquisitiveness.
What resulted is recorded in the diary of Governor William Bradford, the head of the colony. The colonists collectively cleared and worked the land, but they brought forth neither the bountiful harvest they hoped for, nor did it create a spirit of shared and cheerful brotherhood.
The less industrious members of the colony came late to their work in the fields, and were slow and easy in their labors. Knowing that they and their families were to receive an equal share of whatever the group produced, they saw little reason to be more diligent in their efforts. The harder working among the colonists became resentful that their efforts would be redistributed to the more malingering members of the colony. Soon they, too, were coming late to work and were less energetic in the fields.Collective Work Equaled Individual Resentment
As Governor Bradford explained in his old English (though with the spelling modernized):
“For the young men that were able and fit for labor and service did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men’s wives and children, without recompense. The strong, or men of parts, had no more division of food, clothes, etc. then he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labor, and food, clothes, etc. with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignant and disrespect unto them. And for men’s wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc. they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could husbands brook it.”
Because of the disincentives and resentments that spread among the population, crops were sparse and the rationed equal shares from the collective harvest were not enough to ward off starvation and death. Two years of communism in practice had left alive only a fraction of the original number of the Plymouth colonists.Private Property as Incentive to Industry
Realizing that another season like those that had just passed would mean the extinction of the entire community, the elders of the colony decided to try something radically different: the introduction of private property rights and the right of the individual families to keep the fruits of their own labor.
As Governor Bradford put it:
“And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number for that end . . . This had a very good success; for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted then otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little-ones with them to set corn, which before would a ledge weakness, and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.”The Plymouth Colony experienced a great bounty of food. Private ownership meant that there was now a close link between work and reward. Industry became the order of the day as the men and women in each family went to the fields on their separate private farms. When the harvest time came, not only did many families produce enough for their own needs, but also they had surpluses that they could freely exchange with their neighbors for mutual benefit and improvement.
In Governor Bradford’s words:
“By this time harvest was come, and instead of famine, now God gave them plenty, and the face of things was changed, to the rejoicing of the hearts of many, for which they blessed God. And the effect of their planting was well seen, for all had, one way or other, pretty well to bring the year about, and some of the abler sort and more industrious had to spare, and sell to others, so as any general want or famine hath not been amongst them since to this day.”Rejecting Collectivism for Individualism
Hard experience had taught the Plymouth colonists the fallacy and error in the ideas that since the time of the ancient Greeks had promised paradise through collectivism rather than individualism. As Governor Bradford expressed it:
“The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years, and that amongst the Godly and sober men, may well convince of the vanity and conceit of Plato’s and other ancients; — that the taking away of property, and bringing into a common wealth, would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For this community (so far as it was) was found to breed confusion and discontent, and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort.”
Was this realization that communism was incompatible with human nature and the prosperity of humanity to be despaired or be a cause for guilt? Not in Governor Bradford’s eyes. It was simply a matter of accepting that altruism and collectivism were inconsistent with the nature of man, and that human institutions should reflect the reality of man’s nature if he is to prosper. Said Governor Bradford:
“Let none object this is man’s corruption, and nothing to the curse itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in his wisdom saw another course fitter for them.”
The desire to “spread the wealth” and for government to plan and regulate people’s lives is as old as the utopian fantasy in Plato’s “Republic.” The Pilgrim Fathers tried and soon realized its bankruptcy and failure as a way for men to live together in society.
They, instead, accepted man as he is: hardworking, productive, and innovative when allowed the liberty to follow his own interests in improving his own circumstances and that of his family. And even more, out of his industry result the quantities of useful goods that enable men to trade to their mutual benefit.Giving Thanks for the Triumph of Freedom
In the wilderness of the New World, the Plymouth Pilgrims had progressed from the false dream of communism to the sound realism of capitalism. At a time of economic uncertainty and growing political paternalism, it is worthwhile recalling this beginning of the American experiment and experience with freedom.This is the lesson of the First Thanksgiving. This year, when we, Americans sit around our dining table with family and friends, we should also remember that what we are really celebrating is the birth of free men and free enterprise in that New World of America.
The true meaning of Thanksgiving, in other words, is the triumph of Capitalism over the failure of Collectivism in all its forms.
[Originally published on Epic Times]
Over the past several years, the federal government has launched several programs to encourage the development of new and advanced telecommunications services in all areas of the country. The two most prominent efforts are the Connect America Fund (CAF), a spinoff of the Universal Service Fund (USF), and the Rural Utilities Service Connect America Fund (RUS), a loan program administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as part of the Farm Bill.
Both the RUS loan program and CAF were launched in an attempt to further expand deployment of broadband Internet services to areas of the country the government believes are underserved. Both programs use taxpayer dollars chasing a goal that has already been achieved: The vast majority of Americans (around 95 percent) already have access to some form of broadband coverage.
Thomas Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW), argued in a CAGW article that the very premise of the programs is based on a misconception of the broadband market.
“Support for programs like the RUS comes from the mistaken belief that private utilities cannot or will not deliver their products to certain areas. Like most allegations of market failure, the government’s solution is a thinly-veiled excuse for unnecessary spending that harms private entrepreneurs and supports political allies while wasting taxpayer money.”
Failure to Focus
The RUS loan program was established by Congress in the 2002 Farm Bill. It is designed to provide loans to bring Internet broadband service to rural communities either unserved or underserved by private Internet providers. The RUS generally defines rural communities as municipalities with populations of less than 20,000. Despite this standard, which was tightened in the 2008 Farm Bill, one of the most significant problems with the RUS, according to its critics, is its ambiguity over what areas qualify as rural and underserved.
Two separate reports from the USDA in 2009 and 2012 found the RUS did not maintain its focus on rural communities. The 2009 report from the USDA’s Office of Inspector General found the RUS had funded broadband services in 148 communities within 30 miles of a city with 200,000 people, including several communities near the Chicago and Las Vegas metropolitan areas.
Andrew Moylan of the R Street Institute argued in a Big Government article that the RUS stands in the way of broadband development and does not justify its cost.
“Well-intentioned or not, there’s no rational justification for RUS to lend money for rural broadband development to companies that serve wealthy suburbs. We simply cannot afford such excesses if we are to stand any chance of creating a sustainable fiscal future.”
This problem remains unresolved; a 2012 report from the USDA also found the RUS does not target the areas it is supposed to target: “We found that RUS had not maintained its focus on rural communities most in need of Federal assistance. This is largely because its definition of ‘rural area,’ although within the statutory guidelines, was too broad to distinguish between suburban and rural communities. As a result, RUS issued over $103.4 million in loans to 64 communities near large cities.”
Waste and Fraud
In a Town Hall essay, Kelly Cobb of the Cato Institute argued programs like the RUS and CAF are plagued by waste and abuse that is difficult to track.
“These costly and duplicative programs are plagued with the same waste and abuse – only this time no one is sure exactly how much. The loan program also picks winners and losers in the market; taxpayer-funded companies have a competitive advantage over others with only private capital. By 2009, over three quarters of the loans went to communities that already had broadband service – and nearly 60 percent of the taxpayer money went to places with two or more providers.”
There have been efforts to reform the RUS. The 2008 Farm Bill attempted to narrow the definition of rural communities and met with some success, but it did not eliminate the waste. During the debate over the 2013 Farm Bill, Senators Mark Warner (D-VA), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) pushed a package of reforms in an amendment that was accepted by the Senate but never implemented. The amendment made several major improvements to the RUS program: Ittightened RUS requirements so that 25% of the households in a proposed service area be unserved by existing providers while adding new measures to ensure transparency and accountability.
Just a Slush Fund
In a joint statement, a coalition of free-market, consumer, and tax watchdog groups including the Competitive Enterprise Institute, R Street, Americans for Prosperity, and Americans for Tax Reform voiced their opposition to the RUS loan program:
”The Rural Utilities Service is a classic example of waste and market distortion. In addition to the cost, in many areas, the practice of guaranteeing loans serves to undercut existing private-sector investment.”
Broadband slush funds, paid for by taxpayers everywhere, are a drain on consumers and totally unnecessary. The vast majority of Americans (around 95 percent) already have some form of broadband coverage, and the market is doing a great job of bringing new broadband services to where they are in demand. The RUS and programs like it are yet another subsidy wasted on a problem that does not exist.
The whole idea of green energy—renewable resources—grew out of an energy reality that was much different from today’s. It was in the 1970s, following the OPEC Oil Embargo that solar panels began popping up on rooftops and “gasohol” subsidies were enacted. It was believed that green energy would move the U.S. off of foreign oil and prevent oil from being used as a weapon against us.
Today, that entire paradigm has been upended and OPEC’s power has been virtually neutered by increasing domestic oil production and decreasing gasoline consumption.
Jay Lehr, Heartland Institute science director, likens continuing “as though our new energy riches did not exist” to “ignoring our telecommunication revolution by supporting operator-assisted telephones with party lines.”
Instead of growing our gas, we need to be growing food that can feed a hungry world and balance out the U.S. trade deficit.
In a November 17 editorial, the Wall Street Journal (WSJ) perfectly sums up the current renewable resource status: “After 35 years of exaggerations about the benefits of renewable fuels, the industry has lost credibility.” Similarly, on the same day, the Washington Post (WP) went a step further, stating that ethanol “has been exposed as an environmental and economic mistake.”
It seems that ethanol is an idea whose time has come—and gone.
Mandated for blending into America’s gasoline supply in 2007 through the Energy Security and Independence Act, ethanol now has an unlikely coalition of opponents—including car and small-engine manufacturers, oil companies and refiners, and food producers and environmental groups.
A national movement is growing and calling for the end of the ethanol mandates that, according to the WSJ, have “drained the Treasury of almost $40 billion” since the first gasohol subsides were enacted in 1978. Realize the word “Treasury,” used here, really means “taxpayer.”
“At the end of 2011, the ethanol industry lost a $6 billion per year tax-credit subsidy,” the WP points out. But the mandate for the American consumer to use ethanol remains through what Senator David Vitter (R-LA) calls: “a fundamentally flawed program that limps along year after year.”
Imagine the surprise, given that EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy asserts: “Biofuels are a key part of the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy, helping to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, cut carbon pollution and create jobs,” when, on November 15, the EPA gave a nod toward market and technological realities and, for the first time, proposed a reduction in the renewable volume obligations—below 2012 and 2013 levels.
On a call with reporters, a senior administration official explained: “While under the law volumes of renewable fuel are set to increase each year this unanticipated reduction in fuel consumption brings us to a point where the realities of the fuel market must be addressed to properly implement the program.”
The WP describes the problem: “Mixing more and more ethanol into a fixed or shrinking pool of fuel would bump up against the capacity of existing engines to burn it, as well as the capacity of the existing distribution network to pump it.” It states: “The downward revision of roughly 3 billion gallons is the first such reduction since Congress enacted the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) in 2007.”
The EPA’s decision is lauded by AAA President and CEO Bob Darbelnet: “The EPA has finally put consumers first.” He said the targets in the 2007 law “are unreachable without putting motorists and their vehicles at risk.”
The November 15 announcement has even received rare bipartisian support. In a joint statement, House Energy and Commerce Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) and ranking member Henry Waxman (D-CA) praised EPA’s decision to cut into the biofuels mandate next year. “As our white papers and hearings made clear, the status quo is no longer workable,” Upton said. “Many of the issues raised by EPA, stakeholders, and consumer advocates are now reflected in the agency’s proposed rule.” Both suggested the committee would continue to examine possible legislative changes to the overall mandate.
The ethanol lobby is not so enthusiastic. “Despite a lack of demand,” states the WSJ, it “wants government to force a blend of E15 or higher on millions of consumers and force car makers to adapt their fleets to a fuel that offers less octane per mile traveled and no environmental benefit.”
Brooke Coleman, Advanced Ethanol Council executive director, expressed the industry’s disappointment: “While only a proposed rule at this point, this is the first time the Obama administration has shown any sign of wavering when it comes to implementing the RFS.”
Coleman added: “What we’re seeing is the oil industry taking one last run at trying to convince administrators of the RFS to relieve the legal obligation on them to blend more biofuel based on clever arguments meant to disguise the fact that oil companies just don’t want to blend more biofuel. The RFS is designed to bust the oil monopoly. It’s not going to be easy,” To which, Taylor Smith, Heartland Institute policy analyst, quipped: “The renewable fuel industry has reacted to EPA’s announcement as if something big has been taken away from them, when technically nothing has been taken away from them, just less will be given to them in the future. The oil industry’s heavy lobbying may be blamed for EPA’s announcement, but ethanol’s failure to lower CO2 emissions or reduce oil use or oil imports since the law was passed has just as much if not more to do with it.”
Ethanol is setback.
While the ethanol mandate hasn’t been eliminated, the administration has wavered and has given a nod toward “market and technological reality.” Likewise, those of us opposed to government mandates and subsidies were handed a small victory in Arizona when, on November 14, the commissioners tipped their hand by setting a new direction for solar energy policy. In a 3-2 vote, the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) took a step and added a monthly fee onto the utility bills of new solar customers to make them pay for using the power grid.
While the ACC decision didn’t make national headlines, as the EPA decision did, it has huge national implications.
The issue is net-metering—a policy that allows customers with solar panels to receive full retail credit for power they deliver to the grid. Supporters of the current policy—including President Obama—believe that ending it “would kill their business.” Opponents believe it “unfairly shifts costs from solar homes to non-solar homes.”
The ACC vote kept the net-metering program, but added a small fee that solar supporters call “troubling.” Officials for SolarCity and SunRun—companies that install solar arrays—have reportedly said: “The new fees mean fewer customers will be able realize any savings.”
“What amounts to a $5 charge is a big hit to the solar industry,” said Bryan Miller, SunRunvice president for public policy and power markets. “In our experience, you need to show customers some savings.”
Considering that Arizona Public Service Co. (APS) wanted to cut the rate paid to customers with solar and wanted a much larger fee added, the ACC decision might not seem like a victory. In fact, the solar supporters called it a victory for their side, claiming “policymakers in Arizona stood up for its citizens, by rejecting an attempt from the state’s largest utility to squash rooftop solar.” But that’s not the full story.
The new fee passed 3-2—which might sound like a narrow margin. However, the two “no” votes, voted “no” because each believed the fee should be higher—meaning that all five commissioners wanted a fee added (four of the five had previously indicated that they were ready to add fees as high as $50 a month). Additionally, the fee is only in place until the next rate case that will be filed in June of 2015. Plus, a clause was added that allows the commission to adjust the charge annually. After December 31, solar customers will be presented with a document making it clear that the fees they pay the utility may increase.
James Montgomery, RenewableEnergyWorld.com associate editor, reported that the Alliance for Solar Choice representative, Hugh Hallman, acknowledged that there is a cost-shift that the solar sector needs to address. In the ACC case, it was the solar industry that proposed the fee—even thought it had “bitterly” fought any new fees. The Arizona Republic coverage of the vote states: “The solar industry offered the $5 compromise as it faced the reality that the commissioners appeared poised to enact even higher fees closer to what APS requested.” And adds: “The meeting appeared to be going against the solar industry.”
Commissioner Brenda Burns, who was one of the “no” votes because she wanted higher fees, called out the Arizona Solar Energy Industries Association over a statement made in a letter claiming that solar customers used their own money to install solar at no cost to their neighbors. She noted: “Solar customers got up-front incentives to pay for their solar panels until they expired in October. Those incentives came from other customers and ran into the thousands of dollars for many solar users. APS ratepayers paid more than $170 million in cash incentives,” she said. “It is a fact, and we shouldn’t ignore the fact.”
The ACC’s process pointed out the customers’ savings that $170 million in cash incentives got them could be “largely or entirely wiped out” with a $5 fee. It solidified that there is cost-shifting taking place—which the industry has denied. And, it set up larger fees and potential credit adjustments in the near future.
Rhone Resch, Solar Industries Association president/CEO, called the ACC decision “precedent setting action.” There are a number of other state commissions currently reviewing net-metering policies.
Renewable energy has suffered a setback in both the EPA ethanol decision and the ACC solar decision. Will wind be next?
On November 14, fifty-two Congressmen signed a letter, organized by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), calling for the end of the wind production tax credit (PTC). In the letter addressed to Rep. Dave Camp, chairman of the Committee on Ways and Means, they point out that the PTC, which was scheduled to end on December 31, 2012, was extended “during the closing hours of the last Congress,” as a part of the American Taxpayer Relief Act (ATRA). Not only was it extended, but it was enhanced by modifying the eligibility criteria. Originally, wind turbines needed to be “placed in service” by the end of the expiration of the PTC to qualify for the tax credit. Under the ATRA, they need only to be “under construction” to qualify.
The letter points out: “If a wind project developer merely places a 5% deposit on a project initiated in 2013, it will have at least until 2015 and possibly 2016 to place the project in service and obtain the PTC. That means that a wind project that ‘begins construction’ in 2013 could receive subsidies until 2026.”
Like ethanol and solar, “the growth in wind is driven not by market demand, but by a combination of state renewable portfolio standards and a tax credit that is now more valuable than the price of the electricity the plants actually generate.”
Earlier this month, more than 100 organizations—including the two for which I serve as executive director—sent a letter to Congress calling for them to allow the PTC to expire as scheduled. This letter states “after 20 years of preferential tax treatment,” wind energy “remains woefully dependent on this federal support” and calls for “energy solutions that make it on their own in the marketplace—not ones that need to be propped up by the government indefinitely.”
Both of these actions come at a time when wind energy is suffering some embarrassing setbacks of its own.
On November 20, the sixth GE 1.6 megawatt wind-turbine blade in 17 months broke off. Three “incidents” have taken place in Illinois (most recently on November 20), two in Michigan (November 12), and one in New York (November 17). The blades weigh about 20,000 pounds and are about 160 feet long. These six cases are called “rare” and “isolated” but there are hundreds of the same GE turbines in the same industrial wind parks where the blades broke off. One can’t help but wonder which turbine will “crash to the ground” tomorrow?
Reports indicate that so far, “no one was injured.” However, locals have reported shrapnel from the blade break has been found more than 1500 feet away.Setbacks for turbine installations are 511 feet from roads and only 700 feet from property lines, so the possibility of somebody getting killed is a real probability.
Note: The North American Wind Power story on the Michigan failures, states: “GE’s 1.6-100 is one of North America’s most sought-after turbines.” Woe to the person who has a different manufacturer’s turbine nearby if these are the “most sought after.”
While, to date, no one has been killed by a wind-turbine blade, plenty of birds—including federally protected birds, such as bald eagles—have been killed. On November 22, the first-ever criminal enforcement of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act for unpermitted avian takings at wind projects was settled. Duke Energy agreed to pay fines, restitution, and community service totaling $1 million and was placed on probation for five years.
The EPA finally saw some sense when it announced the reduction in the amount of ethanol that refiners are required to blend into gasoline in 2014. The ACC signaled a change in ratepayer compensation for solar energy. Will Congress show similar wisdom and allow the wind tax credit to expire at the end of 2013?
These mandates and tax credits are remnants of an outdated energy policy that is akin to “ignoring our telecommunication revolution by supporting operator-assisted telephones with party lines.” America’s energy paradigm has changed and our energy policies need to keep up and be revised to fit our new reality.
[Originally published on TownHall.com]
The Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) makes clear that climate alarmism is now and has always been a matter of faith, and not science.
The just-released report includes remarkable revelations. Contrary to previous IPCC reports, this report shows that planet Earth’s mean temperature is not directly tied to the concentration of one relatively weak greenhouse gas — carbon dioxide — floating around in the atmosphere. It shows that other forces influence the planet’s climate, which for the most part are well beyond our control.
Volcanoes can pump particulate matter into the air, a phenomenon that lowers global temperatures by dissipating sunlight. The planet’s oceans — in particular, the massive Pacific — serve as enormous heat sinks, effectively modulating any natural temperature variations. And perhaps most importantly, the ultimate source of our day-to-day temperature fluctuations, the Sun itself, undergoes its own fluctuations that influence our lives far more than the burning of carbonaceous compounds in order to generate heat and power.
All of these facts, truths that “skeptics” such as the Heartland Institute (and yours truly) have been trumpeting for years, are acknowledged in the latest IPCC report.
However, that same report tells us to believe none of these other influences matters nearly as much as the small amount of carbon dioxide that mankind adds to the atmosphere. Doomsday is still on the way, according to the IPCC. Its arrival has merely been delayed a bit by an unexpectedly frivolous Mother Nature. We must not waver in our confidence that ruination is just around the corner.
We are supposed to forget how confident the prophets of doom were thirty years ago when they first began asserting that unless we kicked the fossil fuel habit, disaster was sure to arrive early in the 21st century. Well, here we are. The global climate is not markedly different from what it was when they started their predictions of doom. The “hockey stick graph” indicating a drastic temperature increase has given way to a broomstick, with temperatures lying flat for the past 15 years.
In just about any realm of human study, being this dramatically wrong would cause the authors of the errors to be dismissed as unreliable, and perhaps as quacks. But in the world of environmental fearmongering, a spectacularly false prediction is no obstacle. There is no “wrong” in climate activism, there is only the message, which must be pushed continuously without regard for contrary evidence or honest scientific skepticism. Unsettling facts must not get in the way of “settled science.”
If you disagree, you are labeled a flat-Earther. The IPCC says the science is settled, what more evidence does one need?
If you have the temerity to question prominent alarmist Michael Mann’s refusal to test his climate claims against real world measurements, you’ll be told that proofs are for mathematics, and that only a blockhead would not accept Mann’s word on the matter.
Climate science is both solid and liquid at the same time, although uniquely neither, a paradox reminiscent of the Trinity in Christian doctrine. And although I’m a fan of the Trinity, perhaps doctrines such as this should be reserved for religion. Though since environmental and climate activism has always been a matter of faith rather than science, perhaps such essentially religious formulations were inevitable.
The First Church of Climate Change needs a reformation. According to its leaders, we peasants are no more qualified to understand the subtle nuances of climate science than the serfs of medieval Europe were qualified to understand the mysterious motions of the heavens. And so we are told to put our faith in the modern-day version of the papal astronomer and to never, ever question the word of the educated elite. To do so would be heresy, a sin that has the most heinous of consequences.
Rich Trzupek (email@example.com) is a chemist and a policy advisor to the Chicago-based Heartland Institute on environmental issues. He has been an environmental consultant specializing in air quality issues for more than 30 years.[Article originally posted on pjmedia.com]
Mr. Ammori, one of Google’s and Free Culture’s most able defenders, comes to the public defense of Google in his recent USA Today Op-ed “Blame the NSA not Facebook & Google.”
He publicly castigates privacy advocates for doing their jobs, stating: “blaming tech companies for the NSA’s overreach isn’t just ignorant, but dangerous.”
As most understand, ad hominem attacks are the refuge of those who know the facts are not on their side.
Nevertheless Mr. Ammori does us all a favor for elevating the important public question of whether or not Google, in particular, deserves any blame for its significant role in the NSA spy scandals.
First, let’s address whether it is “ignorant” to blame Google for complicity in NSA spying. Consider the following facts.
- Google is unique in having a public mission to collect all of the world’s private information.
- Consider the staggering number of ways that Google has developed to monitor more people more intimately than any entity ever – including today’s NSA. See this one-page graphic: Why Google is Big Brother Inc.
- Consider how similar Google is to the NSA in spying habits, legal positions, and attitudes in this analysis.
- Look at how closely Google has cooperated with the NSA over the last decade in this list.
- See how Google is the spy tool of choice, the one-stop-shop for spying and the spymasters dream in this analysis.
- Given all the Snowden NSA revelations involving Google, it is reasonable that many in the rest-of-world could look upon Google Glass’ capability — to enable anyone to surreptitiously video record and immediately send it back to Google servers — as Google’s Spy-Glass or Team NSA headgear. See here.
So considering the overwhelming evidence against Mr. Ammori’s view, it is far from “ignorant” to put some blame on Google for creating a unique global database of extremely intimate private information on over a billion people that every intelligence service around the world naturally would covet.
Second, let’s address whether it is “dangerous” to blame Google for complicity in NSA spying. Consider the following.
- What Google fears here is that holding Google accountable for its part in pervasively invading the privacy of Americans and innocent people around the world would endanger Google’s two-pronged political strategy. First, it seeks to divert attention from Google’s world-leading privacy violations (see here). And second, it seeks to undermine calls for commercial privacy reforms and legislation by advancing the self-serving and absurd notion that only government’s can violate people’s privacy – not companies, organizations, or individuals. Simply, Mr. Ammori is complaining that privacy advocates understand that protecting Americans’ privacy depends on better privacy accountability legislation for the Government and for companies, organizations and individuals.
- Another real danger here would be to ignore that Google’s online advertising model is not financially-aligned with users’ interests, but advertisers’ interests. To best learn people’s private hot buttons in order to best influence their commercial behavior via advertising, Google has invented more ways to spy on people’s very intimate behaviors, and to aggregate immense private dossiers on individuals, than any entity ever.
- While Google’s online advertising is a very legitimate business model, it truly would be dangerous to ignore that the same information that Google uses to influence users’ commercial behavior easily could be used by governments to influence citizens’ political, economic and social behaviors.
- In addition, it would also be dangerous to ignore that the current dominant Internet advertising model advances a property-and-privacy-destructive, Internet commons/free culture philosophy that all Internet content, software and bandwidth should not require any permission or payment to use.
- Finally, another real danger here would be to allow Google to evade accountability to the rule of law, and to the high ethics and privacy standards that Google publicly represents itself as having, when Google has accumulated such a uniquely long and bad corporate rap sheet – see here.
Thank you Mr. Ammori, your op-ed has brought welcome additional attention to the many overwhelming facts surrounding Google’s complicity in the NSA spying scandals. The evidence proves some blame is very well placed on Google.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent comments disparaging “white suburban moms” for protesting new national tests and curriculum mandates are not the isolated remarks of an out-of-touch elitist. His attitude is typical among bureaucrats from both parties regarding Common Core, but politicians who ignore this sleeper topic endanger themselves in 2014 and 2016.
Common Core lists what several committees convened within two DC-based nonprofits decided K-12 children need to learn in math and English. Although federal influence over testing and curriculum is illegal, the Obama administration has funded two other nonprofits it oversees to make national tests that will measure whether children have learned what these committees wanted. These currently unfinished tests will replace state tests in more than 40 states in 2014-15. In most states, test results influence teacher pay, personnel hiring and firing, school funding, state control over school districts, curriculum, whether students pass their grade or graduate, college acceptance, and more. Basically, Common Core touches everything in U.S. education except bus routes.
At least a dozen states have held hearings reconsidering the initiative in just 2013. Such hearings routinely need overflow rooms to contain abnormally large audiences of moms, dads, grandparents, and teachers who attend during work and school hours. New York and Ohio are right in the middle of such hearings, following Oklahoma, Wisconsin, Michigan, Tennessee, and Indiana in just the past two months. Opponents’ concerns include lack of public input, costs, further centralization in education, lost teacher autonomy, crony capitalism, academic quality, and experimental testing. (To learn more, here’s a good place to start, and another.)
Common Core opponents include, as entire institutions or representatives from them, the American Principles Project, Americans for Prosperity, the Badass Teachers Association, the Brookings Institution, the Cato Institute, Class Size Matters, Eagle Forum, FreedomWorks, the Friedman Foundation for Educational Choice, the Goldwater Institute, the Heartland Institute (where I work), the Heritage Foundation, Hillsdale College, the Hoover Institution, Notre Dame University, the National Association of Scholars, the Pioneer Institute, Stanford University, United Opt-Out, and leaders from Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell to a coalition of Catholic university scholars and teachers union darling Diane Ravitch. These organizations’ flavors range from constitutionalist to libertarian to liberal. The people making the noise are regular moms, dads, and grandparents, but they’re backed up by organizations with intellectual chops.
Even so, knowledge of Common Core is relatively low among the general public, so many politicians have seen this as an opening to disregard or ignore it. That’s a dangerous move.We’re Not Listening
As a sampling of the disregard politicians have bestowed on thousands of ordinary people agitating against Common Core as it rolls out into schools in advance of the tests, consider the following.
Before one of these hearings in October, Ohio House Education Chairman Gerald Stebelton (R-Lancaster) told reporters Common Core critics “don’t make sense.” He also called opposition a “conspiracy theory.” In Wisconsin the same month, state Sen. John Lehman (D-Racine) told a packed audience their hearings were “crazy” and “a show,” and asked, “What are we doing here?” When Michigan’s legislature reinstated Common Core funding after several hearings, State Rep. Tim Kelly (R-Saginaw County) said, “[W]e’ve marginalized, quite frankly, the anti-crowd into a very minute number.” Delaware Gov. Jack Markell (D) has called opponents a “distract[ing]” “fringe movement.”
Thousands of New York parents and teachers have attended public forums to protest Common Core this fall. At the first of 16 state-sponsored townhalls on the topic, state education Commissioner John King was booed after talking over parents repeatedlyand giving the large, angry audience 20 minutes to ask questions after a two-hour presentation. After the meeting, King declared the forum was “co-opted by special interests whose stated goal is to ‘dominate’ the questions and manipulate the forum.” So he canceled the rest. After calls for his resignation, King announced new, invite-only forums.
Then, there’s Florida. Former Gov. Jeb Bush has said those who object rely on “conspiracy theories.” At a recent conference by Bush’s education nonprofit, education blog RedefinED reported, “political strategist Mike Murphy said polling shows most of the public still isn’t familiar with Common Core. The heaviest opposition, he said, comes from Republican primary voters, who, when they’re first asked about the standards, are opposed 2-to-1. ‘They think it’s a secret plot controlled by red Chinese robots in the basement of the White House,’ he said.”
Florida’s state board of education received 19,000 public comments on Common Core in October. Officials still have not formally reviewed those, and lawmakers including Gov. Rick Scott (R) told constituents the comments were part of lawmakers reconsidering Common Core after dropping its national tests. The day before the comment period closed, however, Florida Deputy K-12 Chancellor Mary Jane Tappen said on a webinar, “We are moving forward with the new more rigorous [Common Core] standards. So, if anyone is hesitating or worried about next year, the timeline has not changed.”
In November, Florida Senate President Don Gaetz said of Common Core: “You can’t dip [the mandates] in milk and hold them over a candle and see the United Nations flag or Barack Obama’s face. They’re not some federal conspiracy.” (The Republican hails from Niceville. Really.) When opponents met with Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) to discuss their substantive concerns, he asked them, “Is Common Core going to teach gay sex or communism?” according to three people who attended the meeting.
Beyond the name-calling and avoidance of what is obviously a strong public concern, given nationwide forums attracting tens of thousands of people to talk about arcane education policies, a number of public bodies have taken non-action actions in vain attempts to stamp out the brushfire under their feet. Arizona renamed Common Core. That’s it. State Superintendent John Huppenthal explained: “The Common Core brand has become devalued by curriculum issues not associated with the Arizona standards.” In other words, Common Core critics aren’t really complaining about Common Core, but they aren’t savvy enough to know that.
Governors in Maine and Iowa issued essentially do-nothing executive ordersblustering about how states can still control their education policies despite being under contract with the federal government to implement Common Core, at risk of federal education funds and sanctions. Florida’s board of education approved a motion allowing school districts to ignore already optional appendices to Common Core. Alabama’s board of education voted to withdraw a non-binding letter of support for the initiative the state superintendent signed in 2009.Electoral Implications
Most grassroots Common Core opponents are women, in line with Duncan’s slam, although their races and home locations would be absurd to quantify. For one, Michelle Malkin, describing herself as a “brown-skinned suburban mom,” called Duncan a “race-baiting” “bigot.” Essentially all of the politicians demeaning the Common Core moms are also white men. So far, though, no one has labeled this a “war on women” or a stereotypical attempt by the patriarchal establishment to silence, demean, and trivialize women’s concerns. But it fits that description.
Suburban women, of any color, are a coveted voting demographic, so it’s weird Duncan or any politicians would slap them around. Recent election results indicate Common Core can be a make-or-break issue. In Indiana in 2012, for example, the only Republican to lose a statewide election (besides U.S. Senate candidate Richard Mourdock, who had other problems) was state Superintendent Tony Bennett, a political superstar whose fortunes fell because he alienated suburban women, partly because of his support for Common Core. In Colorado this year, suburban voters in both Douglas and Jefferson counties, in nationally-noticed and highly contested elections, elected slates of school board members who question or downright reject Common Core.
Even so, Murphy, the political strategist quoted above, is right: Most people don’t know about Common Core, according to the most recent polls (which aren’t that recent). A May Gallup/Phi Kappa Delta poll found that 62 percent of Americans, and 55 percent of those with children in school, have never heard of Common Core. That doesn’t mean it is not an electoral issue. In fact, it’s rapidly becoming a litmus test among Tea Party groups and already prompting nascent primary challenges in states including Indiana, Ohio, and Wisconsin. As one Indiana activist told me, “If lawmakers don’t get Common Core, there’s a lot more they don’t get.”
The polls don’t actually offer politicians much comfort, although many of them undoubtedly trust that public ignorance is a good omen for their support. That seems to be the line from the White House, where a spokesman attempting to cover for Duncan told “Politico” that “supporters of the new standards should focus on the substantial number of parents who routinely tell pollsters they don’t know enough about the Common Core to have a firm opinion.” Many polls, however, that purport to show public support for the project use leading questions that undoubtedly influence the outcome, as Cato’s Neal McCluskey has pointed out on a Tennessee poll and national poll, and some show significant public distrust of the idea.
A November poll of New Yorkers found 49 percent are not confident Common Core will increase learning, while 45 say the opposite. As Shane Vander Hart notes, the crosstabs on that poll do reveal higher confidence in the mandates among African Americans, but 33 percent have little or no confidence, as do 44 percent of Latinos. An unrepresentative November survey of nearly 300 Iowa teachers showed that most object to Common Core and think it a waste of time. National polls of teachers generally show support for the idea but critiques of how it actually plays out in classrooms.Taking Voters Seriously
A number of Republican governors likely to try for the 2016 presidential nomination have seen this issue as important enough to modify their positions or attempt a dodge: This includes Wisconsin’s Scott Walker, Indiana’s Mike Pence, and Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal. In fact, the only GOP presidential likely who strongly supports Common Core is Jeb Bush. Walker and Pence both took months of grassroots pressure to take stances, given Common Core’s strong support among the business lobby, but Walker eventually said “Wisconsin can do better” and Pence keeps repeating, “Indiana needs Indiana standards.” Indiana’s House speaker, who previously blocked anti-Common Core legislation, just publicly agreed with Pence. Jindal is in a tougher spot given Louisiana’s decrepit education system, so he has largely taken a pass on the issue, referring it to the state school board and superintendent for review. A staffer for a prominent GOP governor told me, “This has turned into a pitchforks versus elites conversation that is dangerous politically. There are a lot of states, specifically red states, that are very, very scared right now. Our legislators are getting beaten up by constituents.”
Democrat constituents concerned about this issue are getting far less play than the Republican grassroots. For one, the Obama administration heartily supports Common Core, financially, through crucial regulations, and rhetorically. And national teachers unions have signed on, making some local and state affiliates furious. Baltimore teachers, for one, just filed a union grievance because Common Core is making teachers work far longer hours.
“I’ve called everybody in the progressive caucus in the Congress,” said Chicago Laboratory Schools history teacher Paul Horton, a Common Core opponent who works at the school that graduated Duncan and President Obama’s daughters used to attend. “People just don’t know what the issues are. They’ve got a guy in education, they do what he says. And number one is party loyalty: The president’s in power…we might have an opportunity to move up in the ranks. If we’re disloyal, we’re not going to get the [campaign] funds.”
Politicians comfortable with central planning ignore that the wheels are likely to come off just as soon as Common Core tests try to roll out in 2014-2015, making it a looming political disaster. The massive enterprise is just as shaky as the Obamacare website, and that’s not an exaggeration. For one, the tests must be taken online, and surveys show some three-quarters of the nation’s schools don’t have the technical capabilitiesfor that.
But the biggest thing Washington politicos may be overlooking about Common Core is the simple fact that wedge issues matter. Most of the populace does not show up to vote for most elections. People who have strong reasons to vote do, and turnout often determines elections. Getting passionate people to vote is half the point of a campaign. The Common Core moms have a reason to vote, and boy, do they have a lot of friends.
[Originally published on The Federalist]
Among those reasons are the undemocratic process of adoption, evidence of its recycling of fuzzy math and downgrading of classic children’s literature, lesson sheets from CCSS-preferred publishers that sneak in left-wing slants, the mining of personal data about students, and, yes, early signs that the CCSS tests created with $350 million in federal stimulus loot will frustrate millions of primary-age children with inappropriate questions.
Ultimately, disempowerment may be the main reason for parental angst. Unless it is stopped, Common Core will deliver a devastating blow to parental choice at all levels. The one, limited power possessed by most public-school parents is the ability to seek change at the local school board. Unfortunately, the corporate and foundation-funded sponsors of CCSS copyrighted the standards and set up no process for local amendment.
The greatest leverage for parents comes when they can use vouchers or tax-credit scholarships to transfer their children to private or parochial schools. But even in a state with as strong a voucher program as Indiana, the government requires schools accepting voucher students to administer the official test, which has opened the door wide to CCSS-style assessment. Thus will governmental creep dilute the liberating effect of school choice.
Nor will homeschooling parents be exempt if CCSS stands, because many states also require home educators to administer the official test. Even more insidious, Common Core lead writer David Coleman (formerly a testing consultant) now heads the College Board and has vowed to align the SAT with the nationalized standards. Thus any student—whether from public, private, parochial, or home school—will have to be Common Core-acclimated.
Ah, but U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan believes such concerns as loss of choice over their children’s upbringing do not motivate those parents rallying and marching in opposition to CCSS. Tapping his inner snarkiness while addressing like-minded educrats Nov. 15, Duncan stereotyped dissenters as “white suburban moms” who are miffed that CCSS online testing will show their children aren’t so “brilliant” after all.
This playing of a dual race/gender card was not the Obama education minister’s first slander of CCSS opponents, whom he has portrayed as delusional and paranoid.
All along, Duncan and fellow bigwigs aboard the CCSS bandwagon have insisted these math and English standards are state-led, purely voluntary, and 100 percent federal interference-free. If that were truly the case, why would Duncan be doing all this dirty cheerleading?
No doubt many of the activists bad-mouthed by Duncan indeed are moms, as was the case when grassroots opposition bought down a similar scheme called School to Work during the Clinton years. However, one wonders what demographic data prompted the federal Secretary to take such a sexist and racist slant.
There are plenty of dads, as well as male principals and teachers in the stop-CCSS coalition. And students are speaking out, too – most remarkably high school senior Ethan Young, who delivered a withering critique of CCSS in the five minutes allowed him by the Knox County, Tennessee school board. So compelling was Young’s November 6 presentation that, just two weeks later, it already had 1.4 million “views” on YouTube.
As for Duncan’s insinuation that whites are uniquely offended by government power grabs in education, it has been well documented that black families have been a significant component in the 75 percent increase in American home schooling since 1999. Having experienced the false promises government-run education has made to minorities and having opted for opportunities made possible for their children by independent learning, it is a safe bet these families do not wish to be to forced back onto a statist plantation by CCSS.
Millions of Americans of diverse backgrounds and political beliefs do care deeply about parental rights, and they recognize the grave danger CCSS poses. That’s the real reason the Secretary devotes his office hours to thinking up new insults to hurl at those uppity parents as he works to cement his “voluntary” Common Core into place.
[Originally published at Knox News]
Barely half of American Meteorological Society meteorologists believe global warming is occurring and humans are the primary cause, a newly released study reveals. The survey results comprise the latest in a long line of evidence indicating the often asserted global warming consensus does not exist.
The American Meteorological Society, working with experts at George Mason University and Yale University, emailed all AMS members for whom the AMS had a mailing address (excluding associate members and student members) and asked them to fill out an online survey on global warming. More than 1,800 AMS meteorologists filled out the survey, providing a highly representative view of scientists with meteorological, climatological, and atmospheric science expertise.
The central question in the survey consisted of two parts: “Is global warminghappening? If so, what is its cause?” Answer options were:
Yes: Mostly human
Yes: Equally human and natural
Yes: Mostly natural
Yes: Insufficient evidence [to determine cause]
Yes: Don’t know cause
Don’t know if global warming is happening
Global warming is not happening
Just 52 percent of survey respondents answered Yes: Mostly human. The other 48 percent either questioned whether global warming is happening or would not ascribe human activity as the primary cause.
Importantly, the survey addressed merely one of the necessary components of a human-induced global warming crisis. The survey did not ask whether temperatures are warmer than those of the Medieval Warm Period or other recent warm periods, did not ask whether temperatures are warming at a rapid pace, did not ask whether recent warming has been harmful or beneficial and did not ask whether transforming our energy economy would stop global warming or pass a cost/benefit test. Certainly, many of the 52 percent of meteorologists who believe humans are primarily responsible for some warming would nevertheless question some of these other necessary components of a human-induced global warming crisis.
In short, the news for global warming activists is far worse than the survey results showing barely half of meteorologists believe humans are primarily responsible for some global warming. The reality is when you factor in the other necessary components of a global warming crisis, clearly less than half of American Meteorological Society meteorologists believe in the frequently asserted global warming crisis.
Mind you, this is a survey of scientists with targeted atmospheric science expertise and who have demonstrated the skills and experience to qualify for AMS membership. This isn’t a poll of chemists or engineers, nor is it a position statement put together by a dozen or so members of a scientific group’s bureaucracy; it is a poll of more than 1,800 atmospheric scientists.
While these survey results should have a seismic impact in the global warming debate, they shouldn’t come as a surprise. The evidence of a sharp scientific disagreement in the global warming debate has been building for years.
Chinese Academy of Sciences Vice President Ding Zhongli explained human activity is not the only factor causing global warming and we don’t know how to assign relative weight to human and natural warming factors. “Up to now not a single scientist has figured out the weight ratio of each factor on global temperature change,” he wrote., “The phenomenon observed today, in particular the temporary rise of global temperature, is the result of the natural rhythm of climate change.”)
According to the American Physical Society, “There is a considerable presence within the scientific community of people who do not agree with the IPCC conclusion” of a global warming crisis.
According to the Director of the Center for Sun-Climate Research at the Danish Space Research Institute at the Danish National Space Center, we have recently experienced “the highest solar activity we have had in at least 1,000 years.”
This led to the Voice of Russia reporting, “Global warming is coming to an end: In the coming years the temperature over the entire planet will fall and the cooling will provide a character of relief. This is the conclusion reached by Russian scientists from the Physics University of the Russian Academy of Science.”
Scientific truth is determined by facts, evidence and observations – not a show of hands. If a show of hands determined scientific truth, medical doctors would still be bleeding people with leeches and we would still believe the sun revolves around the earth. Nevertheless, there may be times when political leaders feel compelled to give special consideration to an overwhelming scientific majority when that overwhelming majority reaches strong agreement on a matter of serious public concern.
Global warming activists claim a serious public concern presently exists and the overwhelming majority of scientists agrees humans are creating a global warming crisis. The survey of AMS meteorologists, however, shows no such overwhelming majority exists. Indeed, to the extent we can assign a majority scientific opinion to whether all the necessary components of a global warming crisis exist, the AMS survey shows the majority does not agree humans are creating a global warming crisis.
The results of this new survey may not come as a surprise to those following the global warming debate, but it is a piece of evidence with seismic importance in the ongoing political debate.
[Originally published on Forbes]
Last Friday the EPA announced a reduction in 2014 biofuel mandates from 18 billion to 15 billion gallons. This decision was made because gasoline consumption has fallen and fuel mixes made with over 10 percent biofuels can damage car engines. But there is more to the story.
Originating with the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) required that fuel sold in the United States contain biofuels. These are made from various plants, of which corn-based ethanol is the most common.
The rationale behind adding biofuels to gasoline was reducing dependence on foreign oil and protecting the environment. The first is no longer a major concern and biofuels failed in achieving the second. They instead harm the environment and increase costs for food and transportation.
More efficient technologies such as hydrofracturing (fracking), which has provided access to potentially 200 years of natural gas, have eased concerns over dependence on Middle Eastern oil. On top of this, North America will soon be the world’s top oil producer.
Though once supporters, many environmental groups are now opposed to biofuels. “Corn ethanol is extremely dirty,” says Michal Rosenoer, biofuels manager for Friends of the Earth, “It leads to more climate pollution than conventional gasoline, and it causes deforestation as well as agricultural runoff that pollutes our water.”
Why does the United States continue with this failed policy?
Two economists, retired George Mason professor Gordon Tullock and the late Nobel Laureate James Buchanan, suggest an answer. They were both pioneers in the public choice school of economics. By applying self-interest to the political realm, they explained seemingly inexplicable situations—including biofuel’s resilience.
From the 1980s until recently, domestic ethanol producers were protected by an import tariff of 54 cents per gallon. This insulated U.S. farmers from international competition, allowing them to charge higher prices and benefit from growing corn for fuel, not food.
In 2012, federal ethanol subsidies worth 45 cents a gallon expired, along with the protective tariff. But, the recently reduced mandate remained and it continues to provide farmers with benefits at the expense of American consumers.
About 40 percent of U.S. grown corn is used for ethanol, not food or livestock feed. When the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) examined the effect of ethanol subsidies on food prices, they found that 10 percent to 15 percent of price increases could be blamed on ethanol subsidies. Because food accounts for 16 percent of all expenditures for those in the lowest fifth of incomes, an increase in the cost of a meal causes significant hardship.
Since 1978, when the first subsidies for biofuels were enacted, tax credits have cost the Treasury over $40 billion. A 2010 study by the CBO found that biofuel tax credits reduced federal revenues by about $6 billion the year before.
At this point, Professors Buchanan and Tullock would point out that biofuel subsidies directly cost the millions of Americans who are harmed only about $20 each a year. While the actual costs are certainly higher (from secondary effects of subsidies on prices), the amount lost is not high enough to warrant significant backlash. If someone earns $10 an hour, it would not be rational for them to spend more than a few hours educating themselves about and fighting against the special treatment biofuels receive.
On the other hand, biofuels are a large portion of farm subsidies, which have many wealthy beneficiaries. The federal government paid out $11.3 million in taxpayer-funded farm subsidies to 50 billionaires on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans between 1995 and 2012.
On a smaller scale, farmers whose livelihoods depend upon high crop prices will lose thousands of dollars annually if biofuel programs are terminated. It makes sense for them to spend more time lobbying legislators to keep subsidies in place.
On November 15, Iowa Republican Senator Chuck Grassley wrote an article attacking the “special interest” groups that support ending the ethanol mandate. He seemed to forget that the farm lobby is equally as guilty of pursuing its interests at the country’s expense.
The EPA lowered the 2014 requirement for ethanol purchases despite special interest pressure. Public choice economics teaches us small, concentrated interests are difficult to overcome—even when they advocate harmful policies. However, overcoming them is not impossible and this reduction offers an opportunity for discussing the failures of biofuel programs. When costs to consumers and the environment are considered, it becomes clear that reforming the biofuel mandate is necessary.
[Originally published on e21: The Manhattan Institute]
*Jared Meyer is a research associate at the Manhattan Institute for Policy Research. You can follow him on Twitter here.
Joy Pullmann, Education Research Fellow at The Heartland Institute, talks about the two major trends in education, which she believes are conflicting trends. Before beginning her explanation, she asked the audience to view the two structures through a lens; what is the structure that most promotes the right and ability of families and local communities to govern themselves? Because that is a fundamental American right.
The first structure, or historical education track, is the government track; the top-down, “objective” testing structure of education that has dominated the system for a long time. Pullmann discusses that the progressive/government trend of education gained traction because progressives believed that objective measuring techniques (aka testing) would lead them to truth. But, Pulmann explains that objective testing is only a tool to be used to reach truth, but cannot get us there alone. Without context, test results are just empty numbers.
Pullmann goes on to explain that the government structure doesn’t empower children, but empowers bureaucracy. Many schools hire outside services (for example, testing) but they do so with no-bid contracts. The teacher certification system is flawed; a state-run system that mandates every teacher- even private- to become certified before entering a classroom gives power to the state to decide how teachers should teach. Common core hands the power over testing- the keys to education- to outside, state-controlled organizations which can change it however they want. Bureaucracy-empowered education is the opposite of what we want!
To contrast the government structure of education, Pullmann discusses the other kind; local control. By local control, she means that the parent should be the prime unit of control. Over history, the term “local control” has meant union control, or school board control, but Pullmann regards this as a “local control” failure.
Pullmann supports school choice, but it has to be real choice, and we can’t allow the state to “pretend” to trust the parents when they make the choices that they make.
Things continue to happen under the radar while this nation and its people are immersed in headlines about Obamacare and the tussle in Congress over the delays fostered by the disastrous October 1st roll out of the Obamacare Government Exchange. But juggling lots of balls in the air at any one time is part and parcel of the Obama administration, so confusion reigns and measures that greatly affect this nation and its people get lost in the tumult and confusion of other events. Check out #8 of Saul Alinsky’s 12 Rules for Radicals used by Barack Obama’s as his guide when a community organizer in Chicago.
Such is the under-the-radar situation as the Obama administration is moving stealthily toward unprecedented control over private property under a massive expansion of its Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Water Act authority.
Since 1972, the Clean Water Act has protected our health and environment by reducing the pollution in streams, lakes, rivers, wetlands, and other waterways. According to the EPA website, a court ruling since the 1974 passage of the Clean Water Act has caused confusion about which waters and wetlands remain protected, making improvements to the Clean Water Act essential to clarify the jurisdiction necessary to reduce costs and minimize delays in the permit process. The achieved result will be to protect water that is so vital to public health, the environment, and the economy.
In other words, the parameters of the CWA are currently quite muddled. The proposed rule to expand the EPA’s authority under the Clean Water Act was prompted by a decision reached in March of 2013, Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center. The nearly unanimous decision re-affirmed that federal agencies are granted a wide berth in interpretations of their own rules.
Last month Lou Dobbs and Andrew Napolitano of Fox Business and Fox News respectively, along with Republican lawmakers, accused the EPA of a “Power Grab.” Lou Dobbs on Fox Business claimed that the clarified parameters represented “unprecedented control over private property” — “maybe” extending to “mud puddles.” Legal analyst Andrew Napolitano branded the EPA’s Science Board study as “bogus” – merely a rationalization to “regulate all bodies of waste” and “control more behavior.”
The EPA’s Science Board study referred to above by Judge Andrew Napolitano — based on the extent to which small streams and wetlands connect to larger bodies of water downstream — claims that small streams, even those that only flow at certain times, “are connected to and have important effects on downstream waters. The wetlands are likewise similarly integrate, making them also subject to CWA protection.
The study, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters, contains more than 1,000 pieces of relevant peer reviewed Scientific literature. Regarding this draft study of the EPA’s Science Advisory Board, procedure calls for public comments to be submitted and public peer review meetings held before the end of this year.
Procedure, however, is being thrown overboard according to Chair of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, Representative Larmar Smith (R-Texas). For on the same day (November 12) the EPA submitted the proposed water rule to the White House for approval, the EPA provided Smith with the draft scientific assessment for peer review. This was but two day before November 14 when EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy testified before Rep. Smith’s House Science Committee.
As noted by Rep. Smith, an open peer review of the scientific basis for the new Water Rule should have happened before sending the EPA’s water rule to the White House for approval. After all, the proposed water rule would have a potential impact of more that $500 million in any one year on either the public or private sector.
A letter sent the first week of November by Rep. Smith, and his colleague, Subcommittee Chairman Chris Steward (R-Utah), to the Office of Management and Budget, expressed concerns that the EPA was “rushing forward, regardless of whether the science actually supports the rules.”
As expressed in the letter by Smith and Steward:
This rule could represent a dramatic expansion of EPA’s authority to include isolated wetlands, streams and ditches. Such unrestrained federal intrusion poses a serious threat to private property rights, state sovereignty and economic growth.
Just what can be done to stop this and other power grabs by the President and his administration? Not being a constitutional scholar the remedy must be left to others.
Notwithstanding, if the out-of-control EPA is allowed to get its way unchecked in rule-making by rubber stamping their predetermined regulatory agenda, its flouting of power will continue and will further violate this nation’s Constitution by ignoring its commitment to Congress and the American people.
The words were those of Ethan Young, a high-school senior in Knoxville, TN, who mustered the courage to take the allotted five minutes and critique the Common Core national standards before his local school board and administration. So brilliantly did Young expose Common Core as a killer of innovation and individualism that a video of his November 6 presentation already has had more than 1.4 million “views” on YouTube.
You can watch Young’s presentation here.
This week, on November 19th, the nation celebrated the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address. Regular readers of this space know I am fond of quoting Lincoln. It would be difficult to improve upon the eloquence of the Gettysburg Address, and, to my mind, the speech bears re-reading more than just once a year on the anniversary of its original deliverance.
Considering Lincoln this week made me think of one of my favorite Lincoln quotes, and recalling that quote made me think of the FCC and its new chairman, Tom Wheeler. No, I am not comparing Tom Wheeler to Abraham Lincoln, so hold the tweets! But Wheeler is a certified Lincoln scholar (see his two books on his bio page), so he is likely familiar with the quote. And I hope he appreciates the point I wish to make.
On April 18, 1864, in his “Address at a Sanitary Fair” in Baltimore, Lincoln said this:
“The world has never had a good definition of the word liberty, and the American people, just now, are much in want of one. We all declare for liberty; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.”
If you are not familiar with what Lincoln said about the meaning of liberty that day, you may want to read the short Sanitary Fair address. But what got me thinking about Tom Wheeler – and, frankly, the rest of his FCC commissioner colleagues – is this: What if the word “competition” is substituted for “liberty.”
In other words, like so: “We all declare for competition; but in using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.”
Certainly, all of us involved with communications policymaking – including those in Congress and FCC commissioners – declare we are for “competition,” that we are “pro-competitive.” Indeed, in adopting the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Congress declared the statute’s intent right up front “to promote competition and reduce regulation.”
But what do we mean when we declare for competition? I know by using the same word we do not all mean the same thing.
In his “Opening Day at the FCC” blog, Chairman Wheeler said this:
“During my confirmation hearing I described myself as ‘an unabashed supporter of competition because competitive markets produce better outcomes than regulated or uncompetitive markets.’ Yet we all know that competition does not always flourish by itself; it must be supported and protected if its benefits are to be enjoyed. This agency is a pro-competition agency.”
I certainly agree that competitive markets produce better outcomes than regulated or uncompetitive markets. And, in the abstract, or at the theoretical level, it is hard to argue against Mr. Wheeler’s assertion that competition must be supported and protected, so I don’t want to quibble.
What I want to do instead is to say a bit here about what “competition” means to me, and what I hope it means to Chairman Wheeler and his colleagues as they move forward in deciding real-world issues on the FCC’s plate. Of course, the matter of what “competition” means in various contexts is an ongoing conversation. You can find more than seven years’ worth of publications on the subject, with much elaboration, on the Free State Foundation website.
Promoting sustainable competition in the communications marketplace means, foremost, encouraging investment in facilities by service providers, regardless of the technology platform employed. When the Commission (or Congress) creates regulatory regimes that seek to promote competition by granting non-facilities-based providers access or sharing rights to the facilities of others, this is really a form of “managed competition,” which most often fails to produce sustainable competition, while at the same time harming consumers. Such mandated access regimes depend, ultimately, on the Commission continuing to regulate the prices and other terms and conditions of access.
Once such a mandatory access, sharing, or unbundling regime is established, even with the notion that it is intended to be temporary, say, as a means to allow new entrants to gain a “leg up,” it is very difficult, as a matter of political economy, for the regime to become anything other than permanent, or at least semi-permanent. The Commission almost always is cast at sea in trying to get the “promoting competition” regime just right – in the exact sweet spot, so to speak – amidst all the self-serving pleas for “fairness,” “nondiscrimination,” and “leveling the playing field.”
Even assuming the Commission’s best intentions, with the technological dynamism and competitive forces that largely roil today’s communications marketplace, it is very difficult for the FCC to possess the foreknowledge and necessary information to ensure that its “leveling the playing field” efforts will actually promote competition rather than deter it. This is because – absent getting the regulated prices, terms, and conditions “just right” – these efforts to establish access or sharing regulations are likely to discourage further investment by those with facilities and also by those who otherwise would invest in new facilities but for the advantage they perceive they have gained through regulation.
While I don’t want to discuss them now because I have done so many times before in this space and will do so, I’m sure, many times again, here are a few examples of such past Commission regulatory efforts to promote competition that are highly problematic from a consumer welfare perspective: the Unbundled Network Elements facilities-sharing regime; the Net Neutrality anti-discrimination regulations; the set-top box integration ban; the program access and program carriage video regulations that apply to cable broadband providers; the leased access provisions that apply to cable and satellite operators; and the order requiring Comcast to provide online video distributors with regulated access to Comcast’s broadband facilities.
It is not a criticism of the commissioners’ good intentions to say that the costs – and I mean not only the direct costs, but also the costs to consumer welfare through the loss of economic efficiency – of such regulatory efforts at “promoting competition” very frequently outweigh the benefits. It is rather a plea for the new Chairman and his fellow commissioners to exercise a high degree of regulatory modesty in today’s dynamic telecom marketplace.
As the newly reconstituted Commission moves forward to tackle thorny issues, such as the IP transition and the incentive auction, the agency will be confronted with incessant pleas from various parties seeking “fairness” and a “level playing field” in the name of promoting competition. I have no doubt that the new Chairman and his fellow commissioners will all declare for “competition.”
I hope that in using the same word they mean the same thing I do.
Attempting to drum up fear about global warming in the San Antonio Express-News, Andrew Dressler and Gerald North wrote an Oct. 6 article titled, “Climate change is real and denial is not about the science.” In their article they claimed political ideology rather than scientific evidence motivates skepticism toward their assertions of a global warming crisis.
In reality, sound science continues to deliver blow after blow to claims of a global warming crisis.
On September 17, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change released Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science (CCR-2), containing more than 1,000 pages of scientific research indicating global warming is not an impending crisis. Forty-seven scientists contributed to CCR-2, presenting nearly 5,000 citations of peer-reviewed studies exposing flaws in global warming alarmism.
The following week, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its Fifth Assessment Report, which backtracks on many prior IPCC predictions and contradicts many of the most frequent assertions made by global warming activists. The IPCC report contradicts claims that global warming is causing more extreme weather, acknowledges global warming is occurring more slowly than the IPCC previously predicted, predicts less future warming than previous IPCC reports, and admits the lack of global warming this century defies nearly all computer models that predict rapid future warming.
Several peer-reviewed studies published during recent weeks reinforced the lack of a global warming crisis. For example, a study in the peer-reviewed Nature Climate Change reported global warming is occurring more slowly than what was predicted by 114 of 117 climate models relied on by the IPCC and other government agencies. Real-world warming is occurring at merely half the pace projected by most climate models, the study found.
The peer-reviewed Geophysical Research Letters reported Earth is undergoing substantial greening as a result of higher carbon dioxide levels and more-favorable weather conditions. Plant life is flourishing, and foliage is becoming more prevalent all across the globe as Earth warms, with the most impressive gains observed in arid regions bordering deserts. The western United States is among the big winners, with many regions in the U.S. West experiencing 30 percent or greater increases in foliage during the past 30 years.
Mother Nature punctuated these reports and peer-reviewed studies with several exclamation points. Global hurricane frequency is undergoing a long-term decline, with global hurricane and tropical storm activity at record lows during the past several years. The year 2013 tied an all-time record for the latest formation of any Atlantic hurricane.
The United States is benefiting from the longest period in recorded history without a major hurricane strike. Tornado activity is in long-term decline, with major tornado strikes (F3 or higher) showing a remarkable decline in recent decades. Nearly all locations included in the global soil moisture databank show long-term improvement, signaling a substantial decline in the frequency and severity of droughts.
Dressler and North attempt to divert attention away from these scientific facts by appealing to political leanings. They write, “If you are skeptical of the science of climate change, then you almost certainly oppose the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, and support gun rights.”
Attempting to connect climate alarmism with Obamacare and gun restrictions may help solidify support for global warming restrictions among political liberals, but it does nothing to address the scientific flaws in global warming alarmism. Dressler and North unwittingly illustrate the political prism through which they view the global warming issue.
Sound science—supported by objective, real-world data—indicates humans are not creating a global warming crisis. For some reason, Dressler and North consider this to be bad news.
Craig Idso (firstname.lastname@example.org), Ph.D., is the founder and former president of the Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change and coeditor of the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change. James M. Taylor (email@example.com) is senior fellow for environment policy at The Heartland Institute.
The survival of wind and solar energy, like electric vehicles, is wholly dependent on coerced wealth transfers by government from the private sector (i.e., taxpayers) to the renewable industry. This distorted “economic sector” could only exist under political practices such as Communism at worst, and crony-favoring corporate welfare at best.
Unfortunately for “green” proponents, they are stuck with the stigma that they can’t make it without government mandates and subsidies. The last few years of President Obama’s (un-)stimulating spending, with billions of dollars that have gone to prop up projects that produce piddly amounts of energy (compared to fossil fuels), that have resulted in bankruptcies including Solyndra and Abound Solar, have projected an even worse image for wind and solar.
As a result the advocates for clean-tech, in order to conceal the true nature of renewable economics, have come up with a new term: “Democratization.” For example:
- A proposed program, funded with a $10 million U.S. Department of Energy grant, by the North Carolina Solar Center would seek to “Solarize Raleigh” by reducing the cost (or subsidizing) residential solar installations. “Democratizing solar energy in our community not only makes renewable energy more accessible to the general public, it also creates an innovative model for reducing the cost of clean energy,” said Evelyn Contre, managing director of Springleaf Strategies, a NC sustainability consulting firm.
- The president of Juhl Energy, a Minnesota-based wind power company, said “We remain committed to ‘democratizing’ the renewable energy asset class….”
- Forbes reported last year how the California Solar Initiative employs state and federal tax breaks and incentives that make costly rooftop solar systems more affordable for lower-income homeowners. The publication characterized it as a “trend toward democratizing solar in the Golden State.”
It’s hard to imagine a more misleading adjective to describe the expansion of “green.” The word “democratize” means exactly what it implies: To make something, such as a nation, organization or business, more “democratic.” Only recently has Merriam-Webster (and only Merriam-Webster) expanded to allow a secondary meaning: to “make (something) available to all people” – undoubtedly the result of liberals bastardizing the term until it stuck. M-W is also the editorial organization that strives to be culturally relevant to the point it has added “f-bomb,” “sexting,” and “man-cave” to its Collegiate Dictionary.
Sticking with the actual meaning, if solar and wind energy were truly “democratized,” their results would parallel those of the Green and Libertarian parties at Election time. In order for a democracy to exist there must be a choice, but when it comes to renewable energy, government’s policy is to implement mandates and payoffs because almost nobody would choose it otherwise. As my former colleague Jon Sanders of the John Locke Foundation wrote this week:
“After all, if a measure of democracy were present, then people would be able to choose solar and any other energy source by themselves, without hosts of subsidies and with arrangements to buy and sell without the state utility monopoly. Apart from third-party sales, there has been nothing out of the solar industry in North Carolina to suggest that it wants anything to do with the kind of “democracy” that involves people freely voting with their wallets. To hear them tell it, solar is a powerhouse industry that would collapse like the Tacoma Narrows Bridge if any state support were removed.”
For both wind and solar, whenever their special privileges are threatened, they fight in Congress and state legislatures to prevent their removal. For example last year the federal production tax credit for wind energy was due to expire on December 31st, but thanks to furious lobbying by the American Wind Energy Association, it was preserved for another year. Now it’s due to expire again and the fight to protect it is gearing up, but the one-year reprieve didn’t help the “democratization” of renewables much.
“The uncertainty over renewal of the PTC had a massive impact on the industry: Just one wind turbine was installed in the first six months of 2013,” Politico reported earlier this month. “The figure crept up in the third quarter, but only to an anemic 68.3 megawatts, according to an American Wind Energy Association report…. That’s a far cry from 1,000-plus megawatts that the industry built in most quarters in recent history.”
The desperation to repeatedly preserve the PTC undermines the claim that wind has ever been “democratized.” As the Institute for Energy Research notes, the PTC was enacted in 1992 and “was supposed to at the end of 1999, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, and 2012,” and now 2013.
“The wind PTC…supports an industry that simultaneously claims it is an ‘infant industry’ and that it is 100 percent competitive with other sources of electricity generation,” IER reports. “In reality, wind generation has been around for more than a hundred years, and its recent growth has been driven by public policy, not consumer demand.”
A genuine “democracy” of energy would allow consumers (akin to voters) to make their choice freely from the slate of sources available to generate power: wind, solar, biomass, natural gas, nuclear, oil or coal. But instead, besides the tax credits and subsidies, government (in about 30 states) demands that utilities generate specific percentages of their electricity from renewable sources. On the other side of the equation, government – pushed by environmental pressure groups – are trying to destroy the coal industry and eliminate power plants that burn it.
Meanwhile the lie you hear from wind and solar advocates is that the public would demand their energy if they could just get their sockets connected to it. In other words, if their products weren’t so expensive and delivered even when the sun isn’t shining or wind isn’t blowing, customers would be all-in. In the “democratization” analogy that’s like Ralph Nader or Lyndon LaRouche saying if everyone just came to their senses and agreed with them, they’d win their elections. But because wind and solar aren’t viable or economical in the real world, government has to coerce their usage.
“You can hear echoes of that same justification here,” Sanders of the John Locke Foundation wrote. “‘Solar energy has mainstream appeal’ — it clearly does not. Basketball has mainstream appeal. Fast food has mainstream appeal. iPhones have mainstream appeal. Solar only gets some people’s interest if they can succeed in forcing other people to pay for it. That’s ‘how great the demand is.’”
So just like the “global warming” alarmists changed their slogan to “climate change,” then “energy security,” and then “climate disruption” when the planet’s temperature stopped increasing, so also now is the renewable energy industry trying to sell wind and solar as “democratization.”
If that’s their tack, then make them comply with campaign laws and disclose who’s sponsoring their phony ads. Then we can vote.
Paul Chesser is an associate fellow for the National Legal and Policy Center and publishes CarolinaPlottHound.com, an aggregator of North Carolina news.[Article originally posted on nlpc.org]
Sadly, President John F. Kennedy did not live to experience the positive emotional and geopolitical outcomes of his decision to challenge the country to go to the Moon. The tragic events of November 22, 1963, prevented this well-deserved honor.
As one of the most important Presidential acts in history, a review of major factors leading to his May 25, 1961, address to the Congress provides guidance for such decisions in the future. In that address, Kennedy proposed that America ³should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the Moon and returning him safely to Earth.²
Kennedy, and President Eisenhower before him, recognized that international leadership in space capabilities provided critical leverage in the conduct of foreign and defense policy during the most intense stages of the Cold War.
After the Soviet Union¹s October 1957 success with Sputnik-1, Eisenhower¹s quiet implementation of national space policy laid essential foundations for what would follow. In the first few months of the Kennedy Administration, the new President rapidly assimilated both the status of Soviet intentions for space dominance and the growing potential for the U.S. to counter those intentions.
President Kennedy¹s ultimate decision to send Americans to the Moon built on many technological advancements and events. The Wright Brothers¹ successful aircraft flight on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and its demonstration of American ingenuity, provided the first link in the chain that led directly to the Apollo Program for ³landing a man on the Moon² in 1969.
Rapid advancement of early aviation prior to and during World War I led Congress to create the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA), signed into law by President Wilson on March 3, 1915. The work of the NACA and the military services began to accelerate the country¹s advancement in aviation.
Rocket technology began its march toward the future with the successful launch of a small liquid-fueled rocket by Robert Goddard on March 16, 1926, near Auburn, Massachusetts. Although neglected in the U.S. for the next 20 years, wartime liquid-fueled rocket technology advanced in Germany, led by Wernher von Braun, with the development of the V-2 missile. In the summer of 1945, with Eisenhower as Supreme Commander in Europe, von Braun and many of his engineers surrendered to the U.S. Army. As the Cold War loomed on the horizon, the von Braun team became part of the Army Ballistic Missile Agency.
All through World War II and the Cold War period, the development of defense-related electronics proceeded apace. In addition, major aircraft and defense companies and laboratories continued to advance their capabilities to manage and execute complex engineering endeavors.
On October 4, 1957, with the success of Sputnik-1 the first artificial satellite of Earth, the pace of foundational events moved rapidly forward toward Kennedy¹s rendezvous with the Moon. The continued disappointment of the Navy¹s Vanguard rocket to orbit a satellite during the highly visible International Geophysical Year led Eisenhower to turn to the Army for a response to Sputnik. After an 84-day crash effort, the Army launched the Explorer 1 satellite on a modified Jupiter ballistic missile on January 31, 1958.
By October 1958, President Eisenhower and the bipartisan congressional leadership of Lyndon Johnson, John McCormack, and Tiger Teague had created NASA by joining the NACA with the Army¹s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and Ballistic Missile Agency. All agreed that NASA should be a fully visible, civilian agency.
T. Keith Glennan of the Case Institute and Hugh Dryden of the former NACA were chosen as leaders of the new Space Agency. Glennan soon created the Space Task Group to study human spaceflight under the leadership of Robert Gilruth and other veterans of the NACA. Their experience with managing complex projects would be fundamental to future success in space flight.
Building on the complex and highly successful X-15 Rocket Plane project, Gilruth¹s Space Task Group began to work on Project Mercury in January 1959 with the goal of putting Americans in Earth-orbit. During the same period, lunar mission concept and design studies were underway both in NASA, under George Low¹s leadership, and by several future industrial contractors.
Soon after opening its doors, NASA had assumed responsibility from the Air Force for the development of the huge, 1.5 million pound thrust F-1 rocket engine. Next, on January 14, 1960, sixteen months before Kennedy¹s Moon landing decision, Eisenhower personally directed Glennan to ³accelerate the super booster program². This program evolved into the Saturn V Moon rocket with five F-1 engines as the mainstay of its first stage.
As Kennedy prepared to take office in January 1961, Glennan formalized a Manned Lunar Task Force under George Low. In addition, Vice-President Johnson continued as a major advocate for aggressive space policy within the new Administration. Then, NASA received another outstanding leader when Kennedy appointed former Bureau of the Budget head James Webb as Administrator.
In rapid fire, events in April and May 1961 led up to JFK¹s decision on the Moon: Yuri Gagarin launched from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan and orbited the Earth in Vostok-1 on April 12th. Five days later, the Bay of Pigs fiasco began. On April 20, Kennedy asked Johnson ³Is there anyŠspace program which promises dramatic results in which we could win?² This triggered a weeklong multi-agency review headed by the Vice-President.
Within the fallout from the Bay of Pigs, Kennedy held a press conference on April 21st during which he said, ³If we can get to the Moon before the Russians, then we should.² On April 28th, Johnson submitted a report to Kennedy in answer to his earlier question, concluding ³Šwith a strong effort, the United States could conceivably be first in [circumnavigation of the Moon and also in a manned trip to the Moon] by 1966 or 1967.² The month concluded with Vice-President Johnson forcing an agreement between Webb and a reluctant Science Advisor, Jerome Wiesner, that a national goal should be a Moon landing.
On May 3rd, Webb briefed Johnson on the feasibility of a Moon landing, based on the work of the Low and Gilruth teams and von Braun¹s progress with development of ³the super booster². On May 5th, Mercury Astronaut Alan Shepard, aboard Freedom 7, became the first American in space. The next day, Webb and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara agreed that NASA should lead the Moon effort rather than it being a classified, military project.
The following day, May 7th, Administrator Webb presented a draft Decision Memorandum that the President accepted without change. Soon after, on May 25th, 1961, President John F. Kennedy addressed a joint session of Congress and proposed the goal of landing a man on the Moon.
Young Americans achieved Kennedy¹s goal on July 20, 1969, when the Eagle landed and Neil Armstrong became the first person to set foot on the Moon.
[First published at America's Uncommon Sense.]
The debate on climate change is over. Anthropogenic (human) activity is increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, which in turn is causing the global temperature to rise. Anyone who disagrees is a denier and an impediment to climate science.
A new book, Climate Change Reconsidered-II Volume One: The Physical Sciences (CCR-II), by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC), published by The Heartland Institute, is sure to heat up the climate science debate, even if global temperatures are not responding in kind.
There are two important reasons to take issue with the no-debate position described above.
First, the most recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) demonstrates global warming has not occurred since 1997, despite an 8 percent increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) levels since that time. Furthermore, that 8 percent increase represents 34 percent of all of the carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere since the start of the Industrial Revolution. At this juncture, drawing causation between CO2 emissions and temperature would seem an over-simplification of global climate systems.
Second, and more importantly, when it comes to science, the debate is never over.
Despite what many people seem to think, science does not occur on a linear trajectory, and knowledge is not manufactured by people crunching numbers in clean white lab coats in ivory towers where they find definitive answers.
Science and the discovery of knowledge is an interactive messy process. In order for this process to work, a fundamental rule must be followed, as stated eloquently by Jonathan Rauch in his book Kindly Inquisitors:
“[Y]our knowledge is always tentative and subject to correction. At the bottom of this kind of skepticism is a simple proposition: we must all take seriously the idea that any and all of us might, at any time, be wrong.” [italics in original]
By accepting that we are not immune from error, we implicitly accept that no person, no matter who they are or how strongly they believe, is above possible correction. If anyone can be in error, no one can legitimately claim to have any unique or personal powers to decide who is right and who is wrong. Therefore, a statement may be claimed as established knowledge only if it can be debunked, in principle, and only insofar as it withstands attempts to debunk it (Rauch 1993 pp. 46–48).
This leads to two conclusions:
- No one (or organization) gets the final say on scientific matters.
- No one (or organization) has personal authority to decide a scientific question is “settled.”
These principles have important implications for the climate change debate because the rules of liberal science not only allow but require that those who claim anthropogenic origins for recent rises in global temperature allow their theory to be checked.
Therefore, the NIPCC’s critical review (checking) of IPCC reports is not an attempt to sabotage the advancement of knowledge but a necessary requirement for science, and any attempt to paint it as unscientific is itself unscientific.
Over the past 16 years, the models used by the IPCC to predict rising global temperatures driven by anthropogenic CO2 emissions have been contradicted by the observed evidence. The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere has risen without a corresponding rise in temperature and Antarctic ice mass sits near balance.
Clearly, if the predictions made based on IPCC models are not supported by real-world observations, the models need improvement. Whether excess heat is being absorbed by the deep oceans, or increases in global temperatures near the end of the twentieth century were driven primarily by natural forces, it’s obvious there are additional factors affecting the global climate that must be taken into account.
This is certainly not to say that attempting to model and predict what will happen in the future is not a worthwhile pursuit. It does say, however, the IPCC models aren’t there yet. CCR-II explains why.
The debate on climate science is not over, and it never will be. Instead of stooping to name-calling and belittling of those who hold differing views, real scientists check each other’s work to produce the best science possible. CCR-II is a valuable resource for this pursuit.
Isaac Orr is a speaker, researcher, and freelance writer specializing in hydraulic fracturing, agricultural, and environmental policy issues. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin Eau Claire with studies in political science and geology, winning awards for his undergraduate geology research before taking a position in the Wisconsin State Senate. He is the author of a Heartland Institute Policy Study on hydraulic fracturing.
They’re calling for a “vehicle miles traveled” (VMT) tax because, darn it, cars and trucks are becoming more fuel-efficient. Drivers are getting more miles for each gallon of gasoline or diesel fuel they buy, which means fuel tax revenues have not been growing as much as government officials would like. Taxing us on each mile driven would get them more money.
The intrusiveness of such a scheme, especially in light of the continuing revelations about the U.S. government spying on Americans and even heads of state of some of this nation’s staunchest allies, should worry us all. Do we really want the federal or state governments knowing every mile we drive, and possibly every place we go? In Oregon, where several thousand drivers are participating in a tax-per-mile system test, GPS is included in some of the “black boxes” that record miles driven.
To the “If you’re doing nothing wrong, you should have no problem being tracked” crowd, let us ask: Do you put curtains, drapes, or blinds over the windows in your home? Following their logic, if you’re doing nothing wrong, you should take down all your window coverings and let people peer inside whenever they want.
Some things are no one else’s business, even if those things are legal. If we don’t want our neighbors or even our close relatives watching us whenever they like, how could we possibly want government bureaucrats we don’t know—bureaucrats whose power is backed up by the threat of police violence and prisons—tracking every mile we drive?
There’s no disputing the federal Highway Trust Fund is broke. But this is partly because money has been diverted to things other than roads and bridges—public transit, sidewalks, bike paths, scenic trails, etc. A simple solution would be to end the diversions and spend money that is collected for highways on highways.
Motor fuel taxes also could be raised. The federal gasoline and diesel fuel taxes have remained unchanged at 18.4 cents and 24.4 cents a gallon, respectively, for nearly 20 years. But raising gas taxes angers people. A VMT would be less transparent. To people in government, an easy-to-see tax is never as good as one that is easy to hide.
This is why there is nearly universal opposition among politicians to ending withholding of income taxes. If people had to regularly send Uncle Sam a check for income tax owed, there’d be much fiercer opposition to the tax. With the tax owed automatically withheld from paychecks, workers never see the money, and they’re less inclined to miss it. It would be a similar experience with the electronic tallies of a VMT tax.
VMT advocates complain that hybrid cars and electric vehicles burn little or no gasoline, so people drive them for free. But those vehicles are still just a tiny sliver of the nation’s rolling stock. Moreover, it would be easy to impose a special tax on them at time of purchase, or an annual tax, to make up the difference. This would be poetic justice, in fact, considering the thousands of dollars of subsidies the government showers on such vehicles and their buyers, who receive hefty tax credits for their purchases.
Another solution—one that many states have begun using—is to use “public-private partnerships” in which private companies put up their own funds to help fund transportation infrastructure projects.
“Our own recent survey identified 18 jurisdictions that are financing big-ticket highway and bridge ‘mega-projects’ without federal funding. Instead, they are using long-term credit (private and TIFIA [federal Transportation Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act money]), ‘availability payments,’ private equity risk capital, and concession agreements,” wrote transportation expert C. Kenneth Orski in a recent issue of his InnovationBriefs newsletter.
Raise fuel taxes. End diversions of highway funds. Charge a road fee for owners of hybrid and electric cars. Leverage existing federal programs to involve private companies to address highway needs. These all would be better solutions than the hidden and privacy-violating VMT.
Steve Stanek (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a research fellow at The Heartland Institute in Chicago.
They should be 100% certain. Since the climate is the average of local weather, and weather is the sum of behavior of the surging gases around us, and mankind moves through, modifies, and changes these gases, as does every other animal and plant species, it is certain humanity influences the weather, hence climate.
The only real question is: How much?
The IPCC says it’s lots. Why? Well, because of theory. Theory insists the bulk of the observed temperature changes over the past several decades were mostly caused by people. There’s one thing seriously wrong with this. The temperature lately hasn’t been changing in the direction theory said it would. Temps have stayed still or bounced around with no preferred direction.
In olden days, when a theory made consistently poor predictions, people concluded it was wrong. They tossed these theories and marked them as historical curiosities. If the predictions weren’t too awful, as the IPCC’s are, people removed the bad bits and grafted on new, good pieces. Nobody claimed the flawed theories were “95% likely to be true.”
But we’re all postmodernists now. It’s not the truth of the theory or the accuracy of predictions based on it that count. It’s what in your heart that matters. Love and caring trump reality.
If the IPCC’s theory that mankind is viciously changing climate is false, then nothing need be done. But doing nothing seems uncaring. Doing nothing means we sit idly by and just watch the weather. That hardly seems caring.
Then there’s the love. The IPCC is like Pygmalion in having fallen in love with its computer-modeled creation. The IPCC scientist cherishes his work, has told the world of his ardor. He can’t very well publicly abandon his inamorata now. That would call his judgment into question.
There’s a bigger problem. Assume for the sake of politeness the IPCC’s 95% estimate is correct. The natural response is, “So what?” So the global average temperature is going to increase by a half degree over the next 50 years, or whatever. What of it?
Climate change is of no real interest to anyone except climatologists, because nobody experiences a climate. We experience weather and the phenomena it affects, such as crop yields. What’s important is what the changing climate does to weather and what changing weather does to everything else. The IPCC’s claims about all of these things have been thoroughly refuted by the recent 1,000-plus-page peer-reviewed report by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change Reconsidered II: Physical Science, which cites nearly 4,000 peer-reviewed scientific articles that contradict the IPCC’s claims.
Now, no matter how certain the IPCC is that the climate will change, we must necessarily be less certain that the climate will change in any particular way, and further, that various things will change in predicted ways because the climate changed. On top of that, we must be even more unsure of the claims we won’t be able to adapt to the presumed changes that will be caused by the predicted changes in the climate. That’s a lot of uncertainty. You can work all that out mathematically, but translated into plain English it means the original 95% certainty has no application at all to complicated, real-world events.
Finally, there’s something odd about the research on the things that are supposed to change because of global warming.
I have reviewed an enormous number of papers which purport to show the evils that await when global warming finally strikes. There is a curious similarity in these works. If a species is warm, cuddly, cute, delicious, or photogenic, researchers have discovered global warming will strike it down without mercy.
But if the species stings, bites, pricks, stinks, or cannot secure an advocacy group, scientists have found global warming will cause it to flourish amazingly. Sharknadoes may become common.
Nobody has yet figured out why this asymmetry exists.
Article by William M. Briggs (email@example.com), a.k.a. “The Statistician to the Stars!” has a Ph.D. in statistics and a master’s degree in atmospheric science from an Ivy League university, so you know whatever he says is true.