That question now confronts the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association because a Pennsylvania judge earlier this month turned down the PIAA’s request to modify a 1975 state court ruling regarding girls playing on boys’ high school athletic teams. Call it the law of unintended consequences: Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court Judge Kevin Brobson’s recent ruling lets boys play on high school girls’ sports teams – at least for now.
No doubt as old as time, the quest for gender equality began in earnest in the United States in 1848 with the “Declaration on Sentiments” in Seneca Falls, New York, gained momentum with ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920, and arguably took its next major step in the early 1970’s as dwindling United States involvement in the Viet Nam War made the unfairness of a male-only military draft inconsequential.
In 1972, social and political forces coincided as Ms. Magazine debuted on the newsstand, Congress passed Title IX of the Education Amendments Act, and Congress passed and sent to the states for ratification the Equal Rights Amendment.
Written in 1923 by suffragist leader Alice Paul and introduced without success into every session of Congress since 1923, the ERA provided simply that “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” ERA opponents argued at the time that the proposed amendment would lead to such perceived horrors as public lesbianism, gay marriage, no-fault divorce, abortion on demand, fatherless children, women in men’s locker rooms, and even unisex washrooms.
Although the ERA has still not been ratified by the necessary 38 states, many of its goals have already been adopted by custom or by state and federal law, most notably the equal educational opportunity amendments of Title IX and the equal employment opportunity provisions of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1965.
Under Title IX, women are guaranteed equal educational opportunity with men, which since Cohen v. Brown University in 1996 has meant proportional opportunities on varsity athletic teams. Because the biggest money-making intercollegiate sport (major college football) requires about 100 male scholarship players to be competitive, however, and because nearly three out of five current undergraduates at U.S. four-year institutions are now female, that has meant eliminating men’s varsity athletic teams, typically swimming, gymnastics, baseball, volleyball, and sometimes hockey or crew.
While seemingly unfair to young men, the result has generally been good for young women: helping them to keep fit, to learn teamwork, to develop self-confidence, and to earn college scholarships. Meanwhile, however, what to do with all those boys and young men who want to play sports but can’t find a team?
In college the answer is usually to play a club sport or to choose another sport or even another college. But in states like Pennsylvania, which has had its own Equal Rights Amendment since 1971, the answer has been to let high school boys play on high school girls’ sports teams when there is no boys’ team.
The Pennsylvania ERA, like the proposed national ERA, provides that “[e]quality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania because of the sex of the individual.” (Pa. Const. art. I, § 28.) In 1975 a Pennsylvania state court said this means the PIAA must permit girls to compete on high school boys’ sports teams.
At present, according to Associated Press reports of a recent survey to which about half of PIAA schools responded, 104 of 1400 PIAA schools have had girls who played boys’ football, 112 who wrestled boys, and 34 who played boys’ soccer. But about three in five Pennsylvania high schools also allow boys to play on girls’ teams, including 38 in field hockey, fourteen in volleyball, eight in lacrosse, five in soccer, and one each in swimming and tennis. The PIAA and some of its members don’t approve, and sued to modify the 1975 court decision to prevent boys from competing on girls’ teams while still permitting girls to compete on boys’ teams.
Judge Brobson rightly ruled that he has no power to change PIAA policies or to give advisory opinions. “If PIAA, as the primary policymaking body for interscholastic competition in the Commonwealth, believes it is appropriate to take action in this area,” he said instead, “then it should take the first step into the breach and create a policy.” “Only then,” he continued, “if that policy is challenged in a court of law, may its constitutionality be evaluated.”
Whether boys competing on girls’ teams – or girls competing on boys’ – makes any sense is in the eye of the beholder. But since Brown v. Board of Education, the United States has at least paid lip service to the notion that “separate educational facilities are inherently unequal,” and Title IX cases hold that school athletic programs are subject to the law governing educational facilities.
What’s sauce for the goose should be sauce for the gander, but how this will play out in Pennsylvania remains to be seen.
This may be a surprising headline to readers of The Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post, which reported virtually the opposite result in their August 19 editions. The stories, “Hip, Urban, Middle-Aged: Baby boomers are moving into trendy urban neighborhoods, but young residents aren’t always thrilled,”
by Nancy Keates in The Wall Street Journal and “With the kids gone, aging Baby Boomers opt for city life,” by Tara Barampour in the Washington Post reported on information from the real estate firm, Redfin (a link to the corrected Wall Street Journal story is below). Both stories reported virtually the same thing: that 1,000,000 baby boomers moved to within five miles of the city centers of the 50 largest cities between 2000 and 2010. Because these results appeared to be virtually the opposite of census results, I contacted both papers seeking corrections.
When pressed for more information, Redfin.com responded with a tweet indicating that: “We don’t have a link to share or published study; Redfin did a special analysis of Census data at reporters’ requests.”
In fact, the census data shows virtually opposite. Redfin’s method was not clear, so I queried the five mile radius within the main downtown areas of the 51 metropolitan areas with more than 1,000,000 population in 2010, shown below in the table and the figure.
Within the five mile radius of downtown, there was a net loss of nearly 1,000,000 baby boomers, or 2 percent of the 2000 population (ages 35 to 55 in 2000). There was also a loss of 800,000 in the suburbs, or 17 percent of the 2000 population. The continuing dispersion of the nation is indicated by the fact that there was a gain of nearly 450,000 in this cohort outside the major metropolitan areas. Overall, there was a net loss of 1.3 million, principally due to deaths.
To its credit, The Wall Street Journal issued a correction, as I would have expected. The incorrect reference to an increase of baby boomers in the urban cores was removed. To my surprise, not only did the Washington Post fail to make a correction, but they also ignored multiple requests to deal with the issue (though my emails received courteous computer generated acknowledgements).
With the ongoing repetition of the “return to the city from the suburbs” myth, it is important to draw conclusions from the data, not from impressions.
PERSONS BORN 1946-1965 RESIDENTIAL LOCATIONS Total Population Major Metropolitan Areas 2000 2010 Change % 5-Mile Radius of Downtown 5,811,000 4,826,000 (985,000) -17.0% Balance 39,436,000 38,639,000 (797,000) -2.0% Major Metropolitan Areas 45,247,000 43,464,000 (1,783,000) -3.9% Outside Major Metropolitan Areas 37,579,000 38,025,000 446,000 1.2% United States 82,826,000 81,489,000 (1,337,000) -1.6% Data from US Census, University of Missouri Radius Tool Statistical discrepancy overstates 2010 population by approximately 0.5 percent.
[First Published by Newgeography]
Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is scheduled to release the first portion of its Fifth Assessment Report (AR5). AR5 will conclude once again that mankind is causing dangerous climate change. But one week prior on September 17, the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change (NIPCC) will release its second report, titled Climate Change Reconsidered II (CCR-II). My advance review of CCR-II shows it to be a powerful scientific counter to the theory of man-made global warming.
Today, 193 of 194 national heads of state say they believe humans are causing dangerous climate change. The IPCC of the United Nations has been remarkably successful in convincing the majority of the world that greenhouse gas emissions must be drastically curtailed for humanity to prosper.
The IPCC was established in 1988 by the World Meteorological Organization and the United Nations Environmental Program. Over the last 25 years, the IPCC became the “gold standard” of climate science, quoted by all the governments of the world. IPCC conclusions are the basis for climate policies imposed by national, provincial, state, and local authorities. Cap-and-trade markets, carbon taxes, ethanol and biodiesel fuel mandates, renewable energy mandates, electric car subsidies, the banning of incandescent light bulbs, and many other questionable policies are the result. In 2007, the IPCC and former Vice President Al Gore shared the Nobel Peace Prize for work on climate change.
But a counter position was developing. In 2007, the Global Warming Petition Project published a list of more than 31,000 scientists, including more than 9,000 PhDs, who stated, “There is no convincing scientific evidence that human release of carbon dioxide, methane, or other greenhouse gases is causing or will, in the foreseeable future, cause catastrophic heating of the Earth’s atmosphere and disruption of the Earth’s climate.” At the same time, an effort was underway to provide a credible scientific counter to the alarming assertions of the IPCC.
The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change was begun in 2003 by Dr. Fred Singer, emeritus professor of atmospheric physics from the University of Virginia. Dr. Singer and other scientists were concerned that IPCC reports selected evidence that supported the theory of man-made warming and ignored science that showed that natural factors dominated the climate. They formed the NIPCC to offer an independent second opinion on global warming.
Climate Change Reconsidered I (CCR-I) was published in 2009 as the first scientific rebuttal to the findings of the IPCC. Earlier this summer, CCR-I was translated into Chinese and accepted by the Chinese Academy of Sciences as an alternative point-of-view on climate change.
Climate Change Reconsidered II is a 1,200-page report that references more than one thousand peer-reviewed scientific papers, compiled by about 40 scientists from around the world. While the IPCC reports cover the physical science, impacts, and mitigation efforts, CCR-II is strictly focused on the physical science of climate change. Its seven chapters discuss the global climate models, forcings and feedbacks, solar forcing of the climate, and observations on temperature, the icecaps, the water cycle and oceans, and weather.
Among the key findings of CCR-II are:
- Doubling of CO2 from its pre-industrial level would likely cause a warming of only about 1oC, hardly cause for alarm.
- The global surface temperature increase since about 1860 corresponds to a recovery from the Little Ice Age, modulated by natural ocean and atmosphere cycles, without need for additional forcing by greenhouse gases.
- There is nothing unusual about either the magnitude or rate of the late 20th century warming, when compared with previous natural temperature variations.
- The global climate models projected an atmospheric warming of more than 0.3oC over the last 15 years, but instead, flat or cooling temperatures have occurred.
The science presented by the CCR-II report directly challenges the conclusions of the IPCC. Extensive peer-reviewed evidence is presented that climate change is natural and man-made influences are small. Fifteen years of flat temperatures show that the climate models are in error.
Each year the world spends over $250 billion to try to decarbonize industries and national economies, while other serious needs are underfunded. Suppose we take a step back and “reconsider” our commitment to fighting climate change?
The Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change is a project supported by three independent nonprofit organizations: Science and Environmental Policy Project, Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change, and The Heartland Institute. Steve Goreham is Executive Director of the Climate Science Coalition of America and author of the book The Mad, Mad, Mad World of Climatism: Mankind and Climate Change Mania.
[First Published by The Washington Times.]
One hundred years ago, Woodrow Wilson was leading a counterrevolution against the Constitution. Unfortunately, he was doing it from the White House, as President of the United States. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Wilson was one of the early leaders of the so-called Progressive Movement, which was an open conspiracy against the Constitution from the start. Former President of Princeton University, he had the haughty attitude of superiority that marks so-called “Progressives” to this day. He was so sure he was so much smarter than the Founding Fathers, who laid the careful foundations of the most successful country in the history of the world. He displayed the contempt for the average American Progressives exhibit to this day as well, successfully running for reelection in 1916 on the Slogan “He kept us out of war,” before he led America into World War I the next year.
Wilson’s handiwork as President bedevils the nation to this day. That includes the federal income tax, and the Federal Reserve Board. Posterity is finally beginning to recognize the rotten seeds Wilson planted that have grown to ensnarl America in vines that now threaten to bring the whole nation down.
But now comes the most effective response to Wilson, and the whole Progressive Movement, since Ronald Reagan, in the new book from former Reagan Justice Dept. official, Landmark Legal Foundation President, and nationally syndicated talk radio host Mark Levin, The Liberty Amendments: Restoring the American Republic.
Levin recognizes the damage the Progressives have done over the last 100 years, and seeks to restore the original Constitution that served the country so well over its first two centuries. In his book, he seeks to do that with 11 proposed Amendments to the Constitution, which he advances “not because I believe the Constitution, as originally structured is outdated and outmoded, thereby requiring modernization through amendments, but because of the opposite – that is, the necessity and urgency of restoring constitutional republicanism and preserving the civil society from the growing authoritarianism of a federal Leviathan.”
The Prosperity Agenda
The proposed Amendments actually incorporate an impressive, sweeping, fundamental economic policy agenda. That is because the Amendments include a Tax Limitation Amendment, a Spending Limitation Amendment, and a Balanced Budget Amendment. Those Amendments represent a new, free market, Libertarian, supply side economics of economic growth and prosperity for all.
The Tax Limitation Amendment states, “Congress shall not collect more than 15% of a person’s annual income, from whatever source derived.” Levin explains that as a limit on income taxes. But the language would seem to apply as well to payroll taxes, sales or excise taxes, and any other federal tax actually, imposing a limit on federal taxation of 15% of income.
From whatever source derived means that the limit covers investment income as well as labor income, counting all forms of the multiple taxation of investment income. That would mean it covers also capital gains taxes and taxes on dividends. The Amendment prohibits outright death, or estate, taxes, which are another form of multiple taxation of capital income. The Amendment protects labor as well from multiple taxation by also prohibiting a Value Added Tax (VAT) and a national sales tax.
Such tax limitation is highly desirable, because it prohibits the mob politics of the many ganging up on the few most productive earning the highest incomes. Those at the highest incomes would still pay proportionally more under this limit. Someone earning $10,000 could be subject to maximum federal taxes under this limit of $1,500 per year. But someone earning 100 times as much at a million dollars would still be subject to maximum federal taxes of 100 times more, at $150,000 a year. The tax burden could still be skewed proportionally more to the upper income earners, but only by reducing the burden on the lower income earners. In other words, lower rates than 15% could still be imposed on those at the lower income levels, while the highest could still be subject to a top rate of 15%.
Consequently, the Amendment does not require a flat tax, but limits the depredation on any one person to 15%. Note that supply side economics emphasizes marginal tax rates as the key factor on taxes providing incentives for economic growth, especially the top marginal tax rate. Levin’s Tax Limitation Amendment is consequently wise in limiting the top marginal tax rate to 15%, as I recommended in my 2011 book, America’s Ticking Bankruptcy Bomb.
The Amendment also wisely subjects the ruling class to maximum fury over taxation, providing, “The deadline for filing federal income tax returns shall be the day before the date set for elections to federal office.”
The proposed Spending Limitation Amendment provides, “Total outlays of the federal government for each fiscal year shall not exceed 17.5 percent of the Gross National Product for the previous calendar year.” Spending could still grow every year, but only to the extent the economy grows. Another section of the Amendment wisely provides that if Congress fails to adopt a budget, to which the spending limit could be applied, then the spending limit that applies to all expenditures is 5 percent less than was spent the previous year.
This is another pro-growth policy, as it limits what the federal government could draw out of the private sector, where the resources can be most effectively utilized to increase jobs and wages. Spending cuts were one of the planks of Reagan’s pro-growth economics, which produced a 25 year economic boom, the greatest economic boom in world history.
Levin’s Balanced Budget Amendment provides, “Total outlays of the federal government for any fiscal year shall not exceed its receipts for the fiscal year.” That means the borrowing power of the federal government would be eliminated, which inherently limits government. But Levin affords a necessary out which can apply in the case of war or other national emergency, providing that the balanced budget requirement can be suspended by a 60% vote by both houses of Congress. America’s victory in World War II was financed by the biggest run up in government debt in world history, at least as a percent of GDP. President Obama and his Democrats are taking us back to that same wartime debt record, which saved civilization from the fascists of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan. But this time there is no war for survival, only an overwhelming desire to buy votes and power, sort of a fiscal coup d’etat.
National Tax Limitation Committee President Lew Uhler points out that President Reagan’s proposed balanced budget amendment passed the Senate in 1982 with 69 bipartisan votes. It only failed in Tip O’Neill’s Democrat majority House by just a few votes short of the required two-thirds majority. Balanced Budget Amendment supporters would be wise to look closely at the language of that proposed Amendment, which eminent economists such as Milton Friedman and William Niskanen contributed to and supported. There is no point to trying to reinvent the wheel on what was done right before.
But the best part of any Balanced Budget Amendment is that it renders Keynesian economics unconstitutional. Keynesian economics holds that the key to promoting economic recovery is to increase federal spending, deficits and debt. If that sounds nuts, that is because it is. Borrowing or taxing a trillion dollars out of the private economy to spend another trillion dollars back into the economy does nothing to promote the economy or economic growth overall on net. Counting dislocation effects of the policy, and the negative incentive effects of any higher taxes to finance the increased spending (higher deficits are recognized in the market as increased future taxes), the result is actually an overall net drag on the economy.
That is why President Obama’s blowout stimulus spending of nearly $1 trillion adopted as one of his first acts in office in 2009, never worked to produce the expected economic recovery and growth. Instead, it produced the worst economic recovery from any recession since the Great Depression, reflecting the net drag on the economy discussed above, along with Obama’s explicit tax rate increases, and the Fed’s counterproductive monetary manipulations.
And that is why Keynesian economics never worked to pull the economy out of the Great Depression, which is what it was invented to do, nor has it ever worked at any other time, in America or anywhere else. Those who believe in Keynesian economics do not do so because it is logical or has been proven to work. They believe in it because it justifies what they want, and what the politicians want, which is increased spending, deficits and debt, while avoiding the burden and political negativity of imposing higher taxes to pay for the increased spending.
Keynesian economics is actually just an abuse of democracy, as well as academic freedom, and the First Amendment when it is publicly advocated, morally deserving of punishment in my opinion. Forget about I don’t agree with what you say, but I would defend to the death your right to say it. I myself would favor public flogging of the more abusive Keynesian advocates, such as Paul Krugman. But just making their views unconstitutional would seem to be a reasonable, civil compromise.
Further Promoting Economic Growth
Levin’s Amendments would further promote economic growth by restoring strengthened protections for property rights. His proposed Amendment to Protect Private Property restores the Takings Clause by providing that private property may be taken by government only for public use, such as for a park or a highway, not to be redistributed to other private citizens, such as through so-called economic development programs. The proposed Amendment also wisely provides for regulatory takings, where property is effectively taken by regulations heavily restricting its use, such as when private property is devoted to a nature preserve by prohibiting any effective use. Levin’s proposed Amendment would require compensation to property owners for regulatory takings when the regulation imposes a loss in market value of the property of $10,000 or more. But that would not apply to regulations acting to prevent uses of property that injure the property rights of other property owners, such as harmful emissions of pollution that harm use or enjoyment of other property.
Levin’s Amendment to Promote Free Enterprise would return the Commerce Clause to its original intent, which was not to grant the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce, but to prevent states from adopting protectionist regulations on trade between states. That would sharply restrict federal regulation harmful to economic growth, while preserving the free trade among the states that has been central to American prosperity.
Levin’s proposed Amendment to Limit the Federal Bureaucracy is another pro-growth measure. It would grant Congress the power to nullify any federal regulation costing the private sector $100 million a year or more. That would prevent President Obama’s abusive misuse of Executive Branch powers contrary to the will of Congress. No longer would a President be able to say, like a South American authoritarian, if Congress doesn’t act, I will. This would stop anti-growth overregulation, like the EPA’s War on Coal. War on American industries should be left to foreign enemies of the United States, not for our own President to wage against his own people. The Amendment would also provide that all federal departments or agencies shall expire within three years unless individually reauthorized in a stand alone bill. That would reduce unnecessary spending and overregulation, which are both pro-growth.
Restored Checks and Balances
Levin’s other proposed Amendments all serve to restore and reinvigorate checks and balances on runaway federal power. The U.S. Supreme Court hastily declared term limits for federal offices unconstitutional, warning against trying to repeatedly return to the Court with clever manipulations that might achieve the same result. Levin rewards them with the only remaining recourse, a proposed Constitutional Amendment imposing term limits on Congress and the Supreme Court.
Under Levin’s term limits Amendment, Members of Congress could serve for a total of 12 years in either the House or the Senate combined. That would prevent the effective capture of members who serve in Washington too long, coming eventually to represent the interests of centralized power in Washington to their constituents back home, rather than representing the interests of their constituents to Washington.
Moreover, a separate Amendment would also limit Supreme Court Justices to serving no more than 12 years, rather than for life, or until they decide to retire, as today. This would avoid the stealth liberal Justice, such as Chief Justice Earl Warren and Justice William Brennan appointed by President Dwight Eisenhower, and Justice John Paul Stevens appointed by President Ford, from becoming lifelong mistakes.
That same Amendment would further limit judicial abuse of power, or abusive judicial activism, not merely interpreting the law as written, but making up the law, which is effectively legislative action. The Amendment would empower Congress to override majority opinions of the Supreme Court by a three fifths vote in both houses. Moreover, it would also empower the states to do so through a three fifths vote of state legislatures. These are critical checks and balances on what have become destabilizing judicial abuses of power. An oversight in the original Constitution was to leave out any effective check and balance on the judicial branch. That was because the Founders never imagined the abuse of the modern judicial activism of today. Levin’s Amendment corrects that oversight, in light of modern experience.
Another proposed Levin Amendment would restore the originally intended federalism by granting states powers to check federal abuses. It would enable the states to override federal statutes by a three fifth vote of state legislatures. The states today could use that power to repeal Obamacare, an abuse passed on a completely partisan basis by a temporary partisan supermajority, with effective bribes to hold partisan unity. Remember the Cornhusker Kickback, and the Louisiana Purchase? By the same three-fifths vote, the Amendment would enable state legislatures to override federal regulations costing the private sector $100 million a year or more, another important check on anti-growth, federal, regulatory abuses. A similar Amendment would grant states the power to adopt further Constitutional Amendments directly, by a two-thirds vote of state legislatures.
The Populist Power and Appeal of Levin’s Liberty Amendments
Levin’s book provides an important breakthrough among conservatives, who have been long divided over using existing state powers to amend the Constitution by national convention, for fear that a runaway convention might rewrite the Constitution, and destroy critical American liberties in the process. Levin explains in the book that the state power for such amendment, which is how he sees his proposed Amendments possibly being adopted, not through federal action, was included in the Constitution precisely for a situation like today, when a runaway federal government breaks through the bounds of the Constitution, and threatens the nation with tyranny. Levin is so right about this, because our current Constitution has been broken by a century of rebellion and conspiracy against it by so-called “Progressives,” who actually deserve to be treated like any other rebels and outlaws. This is where the real loss of critical American liberties has become manifest today.
The potential tidal wave of public opinion and grassroots activism that Levin’s book could generate should not be easily dismissed. The book itself is a check and balance on Obama and his Marxist Democrats, just by raising the threat of such Constitutional amendments adopted through state action. Moreover, the proposed amendments have genuine grassroots populist appeal. Limiting taxes, limiting federal spending, banning federal deficits and debt, new powers to stop abusive federal regulations, term limits, new checks and balances on runaway federal judges, sharply limiting government takings, another chance to repeal Obamacare, and the potential for finally reigniting traditional American growth and prosperity, all of these hold great appeal to stir up a grassroots firestorm. Some entrepreneurial grassroots activists will see the new opportunity Levin’s book creates.
Moreover, just the fight to adopt such Amendments would restore balancing grassroots political power. During the 1970s, a populist movement among the states to adopt a federal balanced budget amendment almost succeeded, falling just one or two states short. But the grassroots organization from that campaign flowed right into the 1980 Reagan campaign, and Congressional elections, resulting in a transformational political earthquake in 1980. Just the effort to pass the Liberty Amendments can have that same political effect again.
[First Published by Forbes]
Syria isn’t the only battle into which President Obama is injecting himself where he doesn’t belong. True, on a global scale, Arizona’s fight over net metering seems insignificant. However, on a personal scale, what is taking place in Arizona’s sunny desert has the potential to directly impact far more Americans than the shots being fired in Syria’s desert.
Syria’s conflict is often called a proxy war in that it is an indirect confrontation between superpowers via substitute actors. According to the definition of a proxy war found on the Intro to global security blog, “Modern non-state actors do not necessarily want to take over territory or a government; most use the expanding global communication network to levy resources (human or otherwise) and generate wealth and political/ideological power.” By that definition, Arizona’s net metering debate is Obama’s proxy war in the desert.
To understand Obama’s proxy war in the desert, you have to understand the intentionally confusing term: net metering.
Simply, net metering is the process through which homeowners with rooftop solar panels are paid by the local utility company for the excess power they produce. In its report on net metering, the Institute for Energy Research defines it this way: Net metering “allows people who generate electricity on their homes and businesses to sell electricity back to the grid when their generation exceeds their usage.” Sales pitches for rooftop solar often explain net metering as the electric meter running backwards.
Net metering has been around since the early 80s when solar panels were expensive and few people had them. But the dynamics changed drastically when states began passing renewable portfolio standards (RPS) that required predetermined percentages of electricity be generated from renewable sources—some even specified which sources are part the mix and how much of the resource was required. For example, in my home state of New Mexico, the Diversification Rule requires that 1.5 percent of the RPS must be met by “distributed generation” (read: rooftop solar). Arizona requires 30 percent of the RPS be derived from “distributed energy technologies” (once again, rooftop solar).
To meet the mandates, utility companies agreed to pay, what essentially amounts to, full retail rates for the excess electricity being generated by the solar panels. Often the combination of the electricity the homeowner buys from the utility (at night) and what they sell back (during the day) gives them a utility bill of nearly zero. Yet they are still using power from the electric company; they are still plugged into the grid. Grid maintenance, transmission lines and transformers, customer service, and other costs that are part of providing consistent, steady electricity to homes and businesses have historically been borne by everyone using it. Most people don’t think about it; it is just part of the bill.
Anyone who has ever owned a business, knows that you won’t survive for long when you are buying your product at retail and selling it for retail, as there are many additional costs between wholesale and retail. Yet, this is what utility companies are being forced to do through the net metering agreements that were made back when solar was in its infancy and customers needed to be incentivized to install solar panels so that the utility could purchase the power to meet the mandates. When there were only a few solar installations, the loss to the utility had a very small impact. But now, with the numbers increasing, the loss is larger. That loss is being carried by the entire rate base and taking money from family budgets.
The Institute for Energy Research explains:
The option to utilize solar is principally available for those people who own their own homes, rental properties or businesses. This means that most solar energy installations and all of the government benefits flow to Americans of some means. Despite the steep drop in solar panel prices over the last few years, PV is still a pricey option that is unattainable for most. Therefore, more affluent Americans tend to be the beneficiaries of federal, state and local subsidies, mandates, and utility reimbursement for excess power generation that solar systems may provide. The unintended outcome of the wealthier utility customers enjoying the benefits of net metering subsidies at the expense of their lower-income neighbors has been labeled the “reverse Robin Hood effect.”
Even the New York Times acknowledges that the economics of rooftop solar “depend on government incentives and mandates.” All Arizonians are paying for the few who can afford the up-front costs of solar panel installation—not just through the taxpayer-funded state and federal subsidies, but through their increasing utility rates that are unfairly punishing those who can least afford them.
The Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) is currently considering revising the generous credits offered to customers with rooftop solar. The ACC has two plans before it aimed at making up for the lost revenues without the majority of the rate base having to subsidize their wealthier neighbors. One has residential solar customers selling electricity to the grid paying a monthly “convenience fee” for the use and maintenance of the grid and the related expenses. The second, would reduce the credit, which customers with new solar installations would receive, making it comparable to market rates the utility pays other power generators. Those who currently (installed up through mid-October) have rooftop systems would be “grandfathered” in.
“In a lot of ways, Arizona represents ground zero in the debate about how to create a sustainable system for compensating solar rooftop customers,” explains Lance Brown, Executive Director of the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy (PACE). “We’re talking about a state that is rich in solar resources and that has a mature community of customers who have invested in residential solar. The problem is that the model for paying solar customers for their power generation is utterly unsustainable.
“States that are contemplating how to treat residential solar customers face the fundamental question of how to fairly compensate customers for generation without unfairly shifting the burden of fixed costs to non-solar customers,” adds Brown. “Paying solar customers three and four times the cost of retail generation clearly isn’t the answer. Rather, regulators are going to have to scale back net metering rates and ensure that everyone who is hooked to the grid pays for the fixed costs of maintaining it.”
Many states, including Arizona, are looking at policy adjustments as well. (The New Mexico Public Regulatory Commission has a public hearing regarding its revisions on September 10 in Santa Fe.)
Subsidy-loving President Obama has launched an Arizona-specific campaign lauding those who have made “the switch” to solar and demanding that the ACC protects “full credit for clean energy.” If solar users paid for the panels on their own and cut the cord to the utility, then they truly have made the switch—as the rules stand now, they are just milking the system.
Obama’s involvement shows how important Arizona is to his desired national energy policy—supporting the inefficient, ineffective, and uneconomical models that line the pockets of his friends, while punishing the energy that makes America great. He is using the “global communication network to levy resources (human or otherwise) and generate wealth and political/ideological power.” If the “reverse Robin Hood” policies are modified, the surging purchase and installation of solar panels will slow and more solar companies, funded through the nearly 100 billion of taxpayer dollars allotted to green energy through the 2009 stimulus bill, will go bankrupt. It is in Obama’s best interest to keep these policies that only exist because they “depend on government incentives and mandates” in place—but it is not in Arizona’s best interest, nor America’s. These policies “generate wealth” for Obama’s friends and “political/ideological power” for him.
It is not about whether or not you like rooftop-generated solar electricity, it is about whether or not the subsidized industry continues to make solar executives rich on the back of the average American. It is about continuing, or ending, the crony corruption that fills the solar industry. If you agree that it is time to end the solar subsidies and generous residential credits and that solar customers need to pay their share of grid maintenance and other non-generation costs, please sign the petition to tell the ACC that you support the proposed revisions.
Edward Fenster, chief executive of SunRun (which has received stimulus funds and is under a federal probe), believes “the next six-12 months are the watershed moment for distributed energy.” He, of course, supports continuing the subsidies for solar power and understands that if his side succeeds, it will “dissuade utilities with net metering programs elsewhere from undoing them.”
The saying is usually “as California goes, so goes the nation.” In the case of generous solar credits, as Arizona goes, so goes the nation—which is why Obama’s proxy war in the desert has the potential to directly impact far more Americans than the shots being fired in Syria’s desert.
[First Published By: Townhall]
Being an Obama administration stimulus failure doesn’t mean you have to be electric, and it also doesn’t mean the Department of Energy won’t pretend you’re still legitimate when Congressional pressure is on.
The neutrally named Vehicle Production Group, which was loaned $50 million by the DOE thanks to the Recovery Act, revealed in May it had stopped operations in February and laid off 100 staff, after DOE froze its assets. Now, in a typical Obama administration “hope-they-don’t-notice” Friday announcement, DOE told American taxpayers that $42 million of that money won’t be paid back. Apparently there weren’t many assets left to freeze.
About $5 million was recovered by the government. The weekend info release said the rest of the debt was sold at auction for about $3 million to AM General, a Humvee manufacturer.
“After exhausting any realistic possibility for a sale that might have protected our entire investment,” said DOE spokesman Bill Gibbons in an email, “the department determined that auctioning the remainder of VPG’s loan obligation offered the best possible recovery for the taxpayer.”
The agency struck its now-familiar stance, acting as though the money it’s “investing” in these losers was offered up to them voluntarily rather than forcibly taken from hard-working taxpayers. DOE is still proud of its “portfolio,” with losses accounting for “only” two percent of all its clean energy financing in the program, and “only” approaching $1 billion in total losses. Good news if you ask DOE – that’s only 10 percent of what Congress allegedly expected them to lose!
“While an auction was not what anyone hoped,” Gibbons said, “our overall portfolio of more than 30 projects remains strong.”
The DOE “investments” – including VPG – are something you’d expect more in public service warnings about scams, rather than in boasts about bureaucrats’ savvy and ingenuity.
For example, there’s the near-dead electric charging company Ecotality, which was created by a former kitchen manager who wanted to sell his own environmentally friendly cleaning products, but then a business partner changed the business to EV chargers. He turned management of the company over to a self-admitted “political beast” that once led a hotel chain and – Voila! – Ecotality had $135 million from DOE.
Or Fisker Automotive, which was going to sell a $107,000 electric luxury car to rich Hollywood liberals in enough quantity that would remove the equivalent of 30,000 cars off the road annually, “displace” 17.4 million gallons of gasoline per year, leading to 154,000 tons of carbon dioxide avoided. For that equivalent of beachfront property in Nebraska the DOE granted Fisker a $529 million loan.
And there’s Vehicle Production Group, who you might think would have saving grace by not having the electric car curse hanging over it. You’d be wrong.
The mission that VPG chose to accept, and DOE chose to fund with your money, was to produce a line of wheelchair accessible vans that ran on compressed natural gas. We all know because of the pending disaster from global warming, and because the world doesn’t have enough vehicles for handicapped people that run on CNG, that the market demanded these vans – right?
The only problem was the market wouldn’t pay for them, so DOE did – with your money. DOE and VPG had so much hope, too: 900 “green” jobs, 3,000 cars off the road per year, 1.4 million gallons of gasoline “displaced,” 12,200 tons of CO2 kept out of the atmosphere. But it wasn’t meant to be, and company officials now say “don’t blame us.”
According to Business Insider Australia, VPG CEO John Walsh said fear caused by bad publicity and Congressional scrutiny of Fisker led DOE to impose greater restrictions on his company. The news site said VPG raised $400 million in private equity in addition to the DOE loan, and like other recipients was required to keep a certain level of cash in reserve. Walsh said when VPG dropped below that amount, DOE froze its assets, which forced it to stop operations and lay off its employees. Still, he insisted the business was healthy, with a few thousand vans sold and thousands more ordered from customers.
“I think the DOE has made a major error with this company because of the pressures of the Fisker situation, and that is unfortunate,” Walsh said. “It has everything to do with Fisker.”
Business Insider Australia reported that DOE froze VPG’s assets on February 29th, but that didn’t keep the embattled agency from including it among its list of successes before an April 24 hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Growth, Job Creation and Regulatory Affairs, under the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Nicholas Whitcombe (on left in photo), Acting Director of DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Program, gave testimony in which he defended DOE’s loan to failed Fisker. In doing so he cited his office’s efforts to “protect the interests of taxpayers” and “due diligence,” while boasting of its “critical role in the development of advanced technology vehicles by providing long-term capital….”
At that point he included VPG on his list of DOE loan successes.
“The Vehicle Production Group received a $50 million loan from the Department in March 2011,” Whitcombe testified, “allowing the company to support the development of the six-passenger MV-1, a factory-built wheelchair accessible vehicle that will run on compressed natural gas.”
There was no mention that DOE froze VPG’s assets two months earlier. And then Whitcombe had the audacity to conclude with this:
“Four years ago, the American automobile industry was on the brink of collapse during a historic economic crisis,” he testified in April. “Now, in part because of help from the ATVM program, America’s automotive industry is reinventing itself — expanding production, growing profits, creating jobs, and making more fuel efficient automobiles. While American manufacturing continues to face substantial challenges, its future prospects are stronger than they have been in over a decade. The Department looks forward to continuing its support of this success.”
Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, chairman of the House Oversight subcommittee where Whitcombe testified, has called the loan program “one of the most disastrously mismanaged and corrupt programs in U.S. history,” and said during that Fisker hearing, “The Obama administration owes the American taxpayer an explanation as to why this bad loan was made in the first place.”
He might also want an explanation why Whitcombe hid the truth about VPG while under oath before his subcommittee.
[First Published by National Legal and Policy Center]
Activist groups continue to promote scary stories that honeybees are rapidly disappearing, dying off at “mysteriously high rates,” potentially affecting one-third of our food crops and causing global food shortages. Time magazine says readers need to contemplate “a world without bees,” while other “mainstream media” articles have sported similar headlines.
The Pesticide Action Network and NRDC are leading campaigns that claim insecticides, especially neonicotinoids, are at least “one of the key factors,” if not the principle or sole reason for bee die-offs.
Thankfully, the facts tell a different story – two stories, actually. First, most bee populations and most managed hives are doing fine, despite periodic mass mortalities that date back over a thousand years. Second, where significant depopulations have occurred, many suspects have been identified, but none has yet been proven guilty, although researchers are closing in on several of them.
Major bee die-offs have been reported as far back as 950, 992 and 1443 AD in Ireland. 1869 brought the first recorded case of what we now call “colony collapse disorder,” in which hives full of honey are suddenly abandoned by their bees. More cases of CCD or “disappearing disease” have been reported in recent decades, and a study by bee researchers Robyn Underwood and Dennis vanEngelsdorp chronicles more than 25 significant bee die-offs between 1868 and 2003. However, contrary to activist campaigns and various news stories, both wild and managed bee populations are stable or growing worldwide.
Beekeeper-managed honeybees, of course, merit the most attention, since they pollinate many important food crops, including almonds, fruits and vegetables. (Wheat, rice and corn, on the other hand, do not depend at all on animal pollination.) The number of managed honeybee hives has increased some 45% globally since 1961, Marcelo Aizen and Lawrence Harder reported in Current Biology – even though pesticide overuse has decimated China’s bee populations.
Even in Western Europe, bee populations are gradually but steadily increasing. The trends are similar in other regions around the world, and much of the decline in overall European bee populations is due to a massive drop in managed honeybee hives in Eastern Europe, after subsidies ended with the collapse of the Soviet Union. In fact, since neonicotinoid pesticides began enjoying widespread use in the 1990s, overall bee declines appear to be leveling off or have even diminished.
Nevertheless, in response to pressure campaigns, the EU banned neonics – an action that could well make matters worse, as farmers will be forced to use older, less effective, more bee-lethal insecticides like pyrethroids. Now environmentalists want a similar ban imposed by the EPA in the United States.
That’s a terrible idea. The fact is, bee populations tend to fluctuate, especially by region, and “it’s normal for a beekeeper to lose part of his hive over the winter months,” notes University of Montana bee scientist Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk. Of course, beekeepers want to minimize such losses, to avoid having to replace too many bees or hives before the next pollination season begins. It’s also true that the United States did experience a 31% loss in managed bee colonies during the 2012-2013 winter season, according to the US Agriculture Department.
Major losses in beehives year after year make it hard for beekeepers to turn a profit, and many have left the industry. “We can replace the bees, but we can’t replace beekeepers with 40 years of experience,” says Tim Tucker, vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation. But all these are different issues from whether bees are dying off in unprecedented numbers, and what is causing the losses.
Moreover, even 30% losses do not mean bees are on the verge of extinction. In fact, “the number of managed honeybee colonies in the United States has remained stable over the past 15 years, at about 1.5 million” – with 20,000 to 30,000 bees per hive – says Bryan Walsh, author of the Time article.
That’s far fewer than the 5.8 million managed US hives in 1946. But this largely reflects competition from cheap imported honey from China and South America and “the general rural depopulation of the US over the past half-century,” Walsh notes. Extensive truck transport of managed hives, across many states and regions, to increasingly larger orchards and farms, also played a role in reducing managed hive numbers over these decades.
CCD cases began spiking in the USA in 2006, and beekeepers reported losing 30-90% of the bees in many hives. Thankfully, incidents of CCD are declining, and the mysterious phenomenon was apparently not a major factor over the past winter. But researchers are anxious to figure out what has been going on.
Both Australia and Canada rely heavily on neonicotinoid pesticides. However, Australia’s honeybees are doing so well that farmers are exporting queen bees to start new colonies around the world; Canadian hives are also thriving. Those facts suggest that these chemicals are not a likely cause. Bees are also booming in Africa, Asia and South America.
However, there definitely are areas where mass mortalities have been or remain a problem. Scientists and beekeepers are trying hard to figure out why that happens, and how future die-offs can be prevented.
Walsh’s article suggests several probable culprits. Topping his list is the parasitic Varroa destructor mite that has ravaged U.S. bee colonies for three decades. Another is American foulbrood bacteria that kill developing bees. Other suspects include small hive beetles, viral diseases, fungal infections, overuse of miticides, failure of beekeepers to stay on top of colony health, or even the stress of colonies constantly being moved from state to state. Yet another might be the fact that millions of acres are planted in monocultures – like corn, with 40% of the crop used for ethanol, and soybeans, with 12% used for biodiesel – creating what Walsh calls “deserts” that are devoid of pollen and nectar for bees.
A final suspect is the parasitic phorid fly, which lays eggs in bee abdomens. As larvae grow inside the bees, literally eating them alive, they affect the bees’ ability to function and cause them to walk around in circles, disoriented and with no apparent sense of direction. Biology professor John Hafernik’s San Francisco University research team said the “zombie-like” bees leave their hives at night, fly blindly toward light sources, and eventually die. The fly larvae then emerge from the dead bees.
The team found evidence of the parasitic fly in 77% of the hives they sampled in the San Francisco Bay area, and in some South Dakota and Central Valley, California hives. In addition, many of the bees, phorid flies and larvae contained genetic traces from another parasite, as well as a virus that causes deformed wings. All these observations have been linked to colony collapse disorder.
But because this evidence doesn’t fit their anti-insecticide fund-raising appeals, radical environmentalists have largely ignored it. They have likewise ignored strong evidence that innovative neonicotinoid pest control products do not harm bees when they are used properly. Sadly, activist noise has deflected public and regulator attention away from Varroa mites, phorid flies and other serious global threats to bees.
The good news is that the decline in CCD occurrence has some researchers thinking it’s a cyclical malady that is entering a downswing – or that colonies are developing resistance. The bottom line is that worldwide trends show bees are flourishing. “A world without bees” is not likely.
So now, as I said in a previous article on this topic, we need to let science do its job, and not jump to conclusions or short-circuit the process. We need answers, not scapegoats – or the recurring bee mortality problem is likely to spread, go untreated or even get worse.
I had the opportunity to reconnect with an old friend of mine the other day. We shared a lot of good times together when we were living the single life, a period of post-academic matriculation but before becoming involved in serious relationships that would potentially lead to marriage and family. Let’s call it that “20 something period.”
My friend Mitch and I had a lot of fun together, going out with different women, engaging in competitive one-on-one basketball games and sharing a lot of personal issues that gave us a sense of genuine camaraderie. The one thing, however, that we did not have in common was our political orientation.
While I was a staunch conservative, Mitch was a hard core progressive. While I spent my free time enjoying the works of Hayek and Rand, his preferences were Marx and Chomsky. When the subject of Vietnam came up once, I was quick to point out the role of the American media in driving the anti-war sentiment that came to prevail in the late 1960s. Mitch preferred to gloat over the defeat of the U.S. at the hands of the less well-armed but determined Vietcong and NVA forces, a Jane Fonda acolyte if you will.
Then, as I went on to attain greater success in the financial services industry, I began to sense a glint of disapproval as Mitch’s anti-capitalist opinions of my career path seemed to bubble up just beneath the surface. Eventually, he went on to fulfill his teaching ambitions — despite having failed in his aspiration to first acquire his education degree from Cal Berkeley. Mitch now lives in northern California in some type of communal setting, but he recently traveled back to the East Coast to attend to some family matters. He gave me a call last week and asked if I had some time to get together while he was in the area, so I obliged, looking forward to reminiscing over some our good times together and getting updated on what Mitch was up to.
I gave Mitch some directions to a local watering hole and made plans to spend a few hours over some beers and perhaps a light meal. Having arrived early, I procured a draft for myself and had just taken my first swallow when I looked out the window to see Mitch pull up in his Prius.
He looked pretty much the same as he did 20 years ago, about the last time our paths had last crossed. He was quite tall, but still fairly lean. He had kept that trademark scruffy beard and was attired in shorts, a tee-shirt and a pair of Birkenstock sandals. We exchanged some pleasantries and ordered dinner before delving into some discussion about our current lives.
Mitch was currently teaching modern literature at some high school in Anderson, California (a community not far from Redding) and was still single. It turned out that Mitch, quite enthralled with the Obama victory in 2008, had become very involved with Organizing for America (now called Organizing for Action), and was now increasingly active with the group. He went on to share his involvement in the recently formed Climate Leader Reality Corps, fresh off of a recent trip to Chicago where he participated in one of the training seminars.
Now Mitch was very aware of my conservative leanings, so made an effort to not come across as too confrontational. For my part, I chose not to share my several years of independent research on the climate change science and my affiliation with the Heartland Institute. I wanted to feign my ignorance of the subject, curious to see how far he would go to try to evangelize me.
Mitch seemed to become more energized as I innocently expressed my interest in the climate change matter. He pontificated about the devastating effects of Hurricane Sandy, the tragic loss of life from the Oklahoma tornadoes this past spring, and the dwindling level of Arctic sea ice. This all derived, in his view, from man-made climate change.
At the risk of revealing my hand, I pursued him on the issue of how Sandy could be construed as an indication of global warming when I had recently come across an article showing declining trends in global and Atlantic Basin hurricane activity since 2005 as defined by a measure called the ACE Index (I pretended not to fully understand the article).
Mitch confessed that he had never heard of the ACE Index but assured me that a resumption of above-average hurricane activity was likely to occur in the coming years. At the time of the two Oklahoma tornadoes, I also shared with Mitch that I had happened to come across an article showing that the preponderance of category F3 or stronger tornadoes had demonstrated a downward trend since the early 1970s. That article further pointed to the randomness of tornadoes, noting that the growth of populations in tornado prone areas would naturally lead to more deaths and injuries in such areas of the country. I added that I had seen some data that graphically demonstrated overall tornado activity in 2013 was likely to be one of the lowest in the last ten years.
Mitch appeared to scoff at my findings, cited some quote from Sen. Barbara Boxer about a link between tornadoes and climate change, but also conceded he thought the Fujita scale sounded like it had something to do with photography. I had to keep from bursting into laughter.
Trying my best not to appear disrespectful of his newfound knowledge from the Chicago seminar, I pressed Mitch to share what else he learned while there. Now appearing a little more vulnerable, Mitch went for his trump card and recited some quote from Al Gore about record low sea ice in the Arctic.
I scratched my head, then innocuously recalled recently reading a study in a science blog showing that Antarctic sea ice levels were currently making record highs and Arctic sea ice levels were well off their lows of recent years. The article on the blog showed that the current total global sea ice level was actually very close to the 35-year average. Mitch was trying to enjoy his veggie burger that he had ordered earlier, but now seemed to be having a bout of indigestion. So I ordered another beer for him in order to break the tension and help his gastronomic function.
Struggling in one last attempt to make his case, Mitch proudly stated that he was on a mission as part of an initiative called Action August to do what he could to spread the news about climate change and help enlist more people to the cause. In an effort to probe the depths of his understanding of the science, I responded with one final tweak of his progressive mind.
I asked Mitch about recent trends in temperatures, sharing with him that I had read an article somewhere showing that temperature trends over the last 15-16 years had been fairly flat despite a continued rise in the levels of CO2. The article, I suggested, seemed to imply that models citing causality between CO2 levels and temperature changes were coming under considerable questioning.
I could tell Mitch was starting to become a little suspicious of me by now and was getting more than a little annoyed with my questions. He blurted out that any such studies were probably fabricated by some “deniers” who were funded by oil companies. The science is settled” Mitch stated, “and besides, 97% of the scientific community agrees on that point.”
I was tempted to interject a study that I had read pointing to the fallaciousness of the 97 percent figure, but decided not to push him over the brink. So seeing Mitch’s discomfort, I agreed with his suggestion that we move on to a different subject.
By this time we had finished our meals and I took care of the check. Mitch was really not making too much money as it turned out, and so he happily let me pay for his dinner and his two high-priced import beers. I guess he figured that capitalists like me shouldn’t have a problem sharing the wealth.
When it comes to Tesla Motors, an irrational exuberance has overtaken Wall Street, theDepartment of Energy, electric car advocates, government interventionists, crony capitalists, techie nerds and Elon Musk fanboys everywhere.
The praise comes rapid fire: $20 billion market capitalization! It’s worth more than Chrysler! Itsstock price is at $169! They’ve had two consecutive profitable quarters! They paid back their government loan early! The Model S is the safest car of all time! Consumer Reports says it’s almost perfect! Its batteries don’t burn up!
But the media has not tried to mute the celebration too much with the reality that much of Tesla’s “success” has come thanks to government mandates, subsidies, and taxpayer support. NLPC reported last month, for example, that Tesla’s second quarter results included $51 million in zero-emission credits revenue thanks to a warped California vehicle sales scheme. Also, the company delivered $26 million in net income if you disregard Generally Accepted Accounting Principles, but under GAAP Tesla lost $30.5 million.
Nevertheless the developments this year have been more positive for Tesla than the dismal results overall in the much-maligned electric vehicle industry. As a result new Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz has announced he is looking for ways to revive the moribund Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing loan program. No alternative transportation company would touch it after it got a bad reputation because of excessive government red tape and horrendous publicity from other DOE loan failures such as Solyndra, Fisker Automotive and A123 Systems. The findings were part of a Government Accountability Office report.
Moniz, the replacement for departed Secretary Steven Chu, sees a renewed opportunity thanks to Tesla.
“The Department first offered loans to Tesla and other auto manufacturers in June 2009, when car companies couldn’t get other financing and many people questioned whether the industry would survive,” Moniz boasted after Tesla’s $465 million stimulus loan was repaid in May. “Today, Tesla employs more than 3,000 American workers and is living proof of the power of American innovation….Tesla and other U.S. manufacturers are in a strong position to compete for this growing global market.”
As the secretary prepares to open the stimulus vault again and twists arms to get businesses to take money, another killjoy (besides NLPC) has weighed in to dilute the Tesla party punch. The excitement over billionaire CEO Musk’s payback, according to investment lawyer John Petersen, is no signal that Tesla is a good bet to make electric vehicles a certain future success. Instead, he says, it looks like Musk (in Flickr photo above, by Jurvetson) hid information about having to refinance the loan to avoid default at the end of the year, and quickly (and/or secretly) raised a massive amount of private capital to make the loan go away.
Why should anyone care how it was paid back, so long as it was paid back? Petersen, a regular contributor to investment Web site Seeking Alpha, says it’s because Musk may have run afoul of Securities and Exchange Commission disclosure rules as well as the terms of its DOE loan.
“Tesla’s management knew that it would have to refinance the DOE loan before year-end to avoid a certain default,” Petersen wrote, “but it didn’t adequately disclose that fact to the market.”
Rather than explain those less-than-optimistic circumstances, Musk painted a pretty picture. Tesla reported in its Dec. 31, 2012 SEC filing that “current projections of cash flow from operating activities, will provide us adequate liquidity until we reach expected profitability in 2013…,” adding that those resources would cover its endeavors for the coming year. But in its March 31, 2013 disclosure Tesla had removed “expected profitability in 2013” (despite its claim for 1st quarter profitability) and added what Petersen described as a “fuzzy disclosure…to describe a remote-sounding possibility that Tesla might seek additional financing….”
The unpleasantness that Petersen said should have been disclosed were the implications from the conditions of the DOE loan. He explained in his Seeking Alpha article that the Leverage Ratio terms prohibited Tesla’s consolidated debt from exceeding 6.5 times Earnings Before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortization (EBITDA) for the 4th quarter of 2012, and 4.5 times EBITDA for each quarter in 2013. Because the company could not meet those standards, DOE lend-o-crats awarded a waiver in Feb. 2012 that delayed the effective dates of those ratios, but also required Tesla to set aside its loan payments ahead of time in a segregated account. A second waiver that delayed the Leverage Ratio requirement was granted on March 1, 2013, but the requirements to accelerate repayment of its loan became even more onerous as a result.
“Both waivers were presented to the market as triumphs of financial engineering,” Petersen wrote, “but they were basically an up-market equivalent of a credit card issuer increasing minimum payments for a troubled cardholder.”
Because, according to Petersen’s analysis, Tesla had no chance of raising 2013 earnings (EBITDA) high enough (an estimated $220 million, which Tesla would fall far short of) to cover the Leverage Ratio requirements for the year, the company would need to either renegotiate or repay the loan by the end of the year.
Those facts were not disclosed in its SEC filings, nor was Musk forthcoming about the situation on a May 7 1st quarter conference call, after he was asked by a participant about the need to raise more capital.
“We don’t have any plans right now to raise funding,” Musk responded. “Potentially we expect to be – we were positive cash flow in Q1 and we expect to be there relatively sort of neutral on cash flow in Q2. But if it was possible, we could be optimistic about raising a round, but we have spent no time on that at all.”
But only eight days later Tesla announced a $1 billion public offering backed by heavy hitters Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Morgan Stanley, which enabled the payback of the $465 million DOE loan and “shore(d) up a dismally feeble balance sheet that had $124.7 million of equity and a $14.2 million working capital deficit on December 31, 2012,” Petersen wrote.
“Are Tesla investors that chronologically challenged?” Petersen wondered. “Does anybody believe Tesla could conceive, negotiate, document and sell a billion dollar public offering in 10 days?”
In other words, you’d have to be pretty gullible to believe Musk pulled those massive finance entities together so quickly to put the deal together. Rather, it’s more likely he already had it in his hip pocket. Nevertheless Tesla – especially after implementing a financing scheme that allowed customers to lease its cars while the company got all the money up frontfrom private banks – had far more debt on its books than DOE would have allowed them to get away with.
“If Tesla didn’t promptly renegotiate or repay the DOE loan,” Petersen added, “it would be in default by year-end. Instead of fully and fairly disclosing that risk and discussing management’s plans to mitigate it, Tesla relied on vague half-truths in its SEC filings and deliberately hid the ball when a caller asked about the need for additional financing in its (1stquarter of 2013) conference call.”
Petersen has his detractors, to be sure – there are many in the commentson his Seeking Alpha article. But while he builds his case based upon documents, public comments and hard numbers, his critics base their attacks on issues he cares little about: Wall Street prognostication, how much money they made on Tesla stock, speculation about motives, etc.
Add to that NLPC’s previous reporting on Tesla’s dependence on California’s automotive market distortions and government subsidies, rather than actual sales, and the need to temper enthusiasm is obvious to those who pay attention to such details.
So a few years need to pass, and more stability added, before we anoint Tesla as “the next Apple.” Got that, fanboys?
[First published at the National Legal and Policy Center.]
There’s an election in Australia on Saturday, September 7, and while the economy is of the greatest concern, it is a carbon tax that has driven up costs and put businesses into closure that is the issue that will determine the outcome. Meanwhile, in the U.S., imposing a carbon tax remains a top priority of the Obama administration.
A carbon tax is really a tax on the use of energy. Diehard environmentalists oppose any form of energy use. The code words are “greenhouse gas emissions”, meaning carbon dioxide (CO2) that the Greens constantly tell us will cause the Earth’s temperature to rise, but the Earth is not cooperating, having been in a natural cooling cycle going on 17 years now. Nor are the apocalyptic predictions about CO2 anything more than lies given the fact that it is a minimal element of the Earth’s atmosphere. That said, without it, all life on Earth would die because all vegetation depends on it.
In “Taxing Air: Facts and Fallacies About Climate Change”, Bob Carter and colleagues dismember green claims and, addressing Australia’s carbon tax, note that “price increases will cascade through the economy, and for most of them no compensation will be proposed. At the bottom of the pile, to whom the accrued costs will be passed, lies the squashed citizen and consumer.” Those citizens will be voting on Saturday.
As an article in The Guardian, a British daily, noted, a conservative coalition led by Tony Abbott is likely to win, ending six years of Labor (socialist) rule that included a battle within the Labor party for its leadership, the result of its having passed a carbon tax after the then-Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, had promised not to impose it. Kevin Rudd challenged and replaced her. Now he and the Labor party are expected to be defeated.
“Having built his standing as opposition leader on the contention that Labor’s carbon tax would destroy jobs and hurt households,” the Guardian article noted, “Abbott has promised his first legislative act as prime minister will be to repeal it.”
What has occurred in Australia is a case history example of what happens when greens get their way. They always manage to destroy the economy. A recent study of Australia’s carbon tax by the Institute for Energy Research yielded the following findings:
# In the year after Australia’s carbon tax was introduced, household electricity prices rose 15%, including the biggest quarterly increase on record.
# Currently 19% of the typical household’s electricity bill is due to Australia’s carbon tax and other “green” programs such as a renewable energy mandate.
# The job market had previously been stable, but after Australia’s carbon tax, the number of unemployed workers has risen by more than 10%.
# Because Australia’s exports are relatively emissions intensive, the practical result of the Australian carbon tax serves as a tax on exports and import-competing industries.
# Australia’s carbon tax was accompanied by income tax increases for 2.2 million taxpayers.
# Due to fiscal gaps that exist between carbon tax revenues and increased government spending that accompanied the scheme, Australia’s budget bottom line will worsen as higher deficits and greater public debt increase.
# Carbon dioxide emissions have actually increased, and will not fall below current levels until 2043, according to the Australian government.
Viv Forbes, chairman of the Carbon Sense Party in Australia, an opponent of the carbon tax and other green proposals, says “The growing failure of green energy in Europe should warn Australia to abandon bi-partisan policies dictating targets, mandates and subsidies for ‘green’ energy.”
This mirrors the same problems here in America where billions in loans to so-called green energy companies can be added to the list of Obama administration scandals as one after another went out of business. Solar and wind power is proving to be as great a hoax as “global warming” and a very costly one at that. How long has it being going on? Jimmy Carter had solar panels placed on the roof of the White House. Ronald Reagan had them removed. Barack Obama has had them installed.
Fifteen million registered voters in Australia will go to the polls and render their judgment on September 7. It is a vote that should be reported upon in the United States, but it more likely to be ignored or buried
I live in the best environmental conditions in the history of mankind. Even in Chicago, my air and water is far cleaner than the air and water used by cavemen thousands of years ago. There are more natural resources today than there were before the industrial revolution. I am less likely to die or be harmed by nature than virtually every person born before me. The environment is the cleanest, healthiest, safest, and the most conducive to human life it has ever been.
To most people, this idea is impossible to imagine. What about the factories and their smoke stacks sending unpronounceable chemicals into the air around us? What about the depletion of finite natural resources? What about factory farming, pesticides, and slash and burn agriculture? What about the hundred or more years of nearly unregulated pollution which has torn minerals out of the ground, cut down trees, dumped PCBs into rivers, pumped carbon into the atmosphere, blown the tops off of mountains, stripped mined rolling hills, and generally pillaged planet earth?
This feeling of pessimism in the face of unprecedented environmental success is largely a result of a failure to properly conceptualize what the environment is. The two ecological definitions of “environment” from the Merriam-Webster Dictionary are:
- the circumstances, objects, or conditions by which one is surrounded
- the complex of physical, chemical, and biotic factors (as climate, soil, and living things) that act upon an organism or an ecological community and ultimately determine its form and survival
Clearly the circumstances, objects, and conditions of the vast majority of people on earth are sublime in the sense that we are wealthier, healthier, and safer than ever. I live in an apartment with heating and air conditioning, and with a refrigerator which keeps food imported from around the world fresh. My livelihood persists regardless of weather conditions (except maybe in extreme circumstances) and provides me with a standard of living superior to that of 19th century European kings. The second definition is just an extension of the first, and factors in the global network of social and economic interactions which provide me with my standard of living.
Yet these definitions do not represent the standard conception of environment. The conception we are taught in school, and further assaulted with in common parlance, is that the environment is a giant, amorphous blob of “stuff” which includes forests, the air, rivers, oceans, and other parts of the planet without any cohesive unifying element between them. For some reason, we must protect this environment from the “harm” of human interaction. An untouched pile of coal in the ground is a part of a healthy environment; getting that coal out of the ground and putting it to human use is bad for the environment.
The key component left out in this conception is the personalized nature of the environment. There is no single environment except in an extremely broad, meaningless sense that we all live on the same planet. In a more functional sense, my environment is determined by the things and areas which I directly interact with, not by distant places and things which I will never directly perceive.
The average river in America in 10,000 BC had fewer industrial pollutants in it than the average river in America today. The same can be said about most air and soil. Yet my environment is cleaner and healthier than those of cavemen. I use soap, ventilation, filtration systems, germ theory, and all of the facets of modern life to clean my environment for personal use.
On the other hand, cavemen used to light fires in their caves whenever they were cold and breathe in smoke for hours on end. They urinated and defecated in the same water sources they bathed in and drank from. They ate animals filled with dangerous bacteria and parasites. Who had the cleaner environment?
But those are external alterations, the cavemen still had the cleaner natural environment. So what? What good was it to cavemen that the air two hundred yards above their head was clean, or that the water upriver was free of man-made pollutants (but not the excrement of animals)? Who cares what the “untouched” environment is like? We always interact with our environment to shape it to our needs. Our ability to use reason to shape nature to our will is what separates humans from animals.
When you look at it this way, we can see that the environment used to be terrible. For most of human history, the environment would kill us when it was too warm, too cold, too rainy, not rainy enough, or when it produced too many insects, or did anything that our primitive technology couldn’t respond to. This caused men to desperately “destroy” the environment by cutting down trees, mining coal, and damning rivers so that the “untouched” environment wouldn’t kill us when weather patterns randomly shifted. Yet it is economic advancement and technological growth which is blamed for the lion’s share of “environmental decline” today. In reality, it is the exact opposite case.
In the introductory paragraph, I originally wrote, “the environment is the cleanest it has ever been in the Western world” rather than the whole world, but I soon realized my error. It is true there are places where impoverished individuals labor under skies darkened by soot and water poisoned by toxins, but even the vast majority of them have better environments than they did fifty years ago. The water is a little bit dirtier, but it is probably better filtered, and their food is more plentiful, their clothes of a higher quality, and their houses better built. “Sweat shop” laborers in India and China would rather work in a Nike factory next to a polluted river, than on a subsistence farm in the untouched countryside. Based on the migration movements within these countries, clearly they prefer the environment of one over the other.
What about climate change or other large scale environmental shifts caused by human interactions? I do not know to what degree human beings cause global environmental changes, but to the degree they theoretically do, the best solution is to further augment the environment to our needs. When humans first migrated north out of warm climates, their response to coldness was not to move back south, but to kill animals and wear their fur. When humans faced high infant mortality rates, their response was to improve agriculture to get a better food supply, not to stop having as many children. When the use of horses threatened the growth of cities, man started using the car, instead of moving to the country side.
Let there be no mistake, the left’s view of the environment is mystical and anti-human. It puts inanimate objects and mindless beasts on a higher moral level than conscious humans. It says that man must sacrifice himself so mountains can look pretty and water can be clear. Most importantly, it holds the standard of environmental health to be the degree to which nature is not used by men. By extension, the healthier the environment is, the more impoverished mankind is.
This false conception must be tossed aside. The environment is the surroundings of each individual, and the standard of its health is the value it provides to the individual. Do not think of human beings as a pox upon the earth, but rather think of the earth as a tool for human beings.
Credit to Alex Epstein for enabling me to understand many of these arguments.
The budget sequestration has taken effect and in the next few weeks it will push President Obama and Congress into another haggle over government spending. The President will likely continue to support and push his plan that he made reference to in his 2013 state-of-the-union speech: to raid the Medicare prescription drug benefit program. The President’s plan would require pharmaceutical manufactures to offer rebates on drugs for people that are “dual eligible” for Medicaid and Medicare and receive drug benefits through Medicare’s Part D drug program.
The Medicare Part D rebate proposal will not only raise costs for seniors but will deny them access to drugs they need. Currently, the more than 37 million seniors enrolled in Part D are able to choose from an array of plans that best meet their budget and medical needs. Private insurance plans compete with one another offering varying drug coverage, deductibles, and premiums, and the feds subsidize the premiums. Market competition between the plans vying for seniors’ attention will keep premium cost low translating into less taxpayer money being used for subsidies.
The President’s proposal would require pharmaceutical companies to rebate some of the money they make on drug sales to “dual eligibles.” The former Congressional Budget Office Director Douglas Holtz-Eakin has stated the “rebates” will force Part D premiums up by as much as forty-percent and drug companies will try to recover the cost of those forced rebates from somewhere. That somewhere will be seniors’ pockets.
In response to the President’s plan a coalition of conservative and free-market organizations have written a letter to Congress urging them to oppose Medicare Part D Rebates. The letter argues that,
“This is not a ‘rebate’ in any true sense of the word. Rather, this is an attempt to force drug makers to sell to insurance companies at a loss, as the government does with the poorly-performing Medicaid program. Government forcing companies to turn money over to the Treasury is not a rebate, it’s a tax.”
This rebate is essentially a tax hike that will only go to fund more reckless spending by the Obama administration.
The U. S. Constitution rightly puts the military under civilian control by giving Congress the power to declare war and by making the president the commander in chief. But what happens when Congress is not in session and the Commander-in-Chief is AWOL? Then you get Syria.
With Congress not returning from its summer recess until September 9, 2013, and the White House proclaiming through its Secretary of State, former Vietnam Vet Against the War John Kerry, that the U. S. has “irrefutable evidence” that Secretary Kerry’s former dinner partner, Bashar Assad, has used chemical weapons against his own people, our Peace Prize–winning President finds himself in a bit of a pickle, to say the least.
“This war, like all wars, must end,” pronounced President Obama back in May, declaring a unilateral end to the U.S. war on terrorism directed against our own country. “That’s what history advises. That’s what our democracy demands.” Yet the bad guys didn’t get the message, for despite the celebrated execution of Osama bin Laden by the formerly secret – and now largely depleted – Seal Team Six, al Qaeda is more active than ever and the U. S. is on the run, having to close embassies in the face of anticipated attacks because it cannot or will not defend them.
Some wars, though, evidently must be started, for that is what history also advises and the president himself demands – or does he? While running for re-election just over a year ago, President Obama announced on August 20, 2012, that “We have been very clear to the Assad regime … that a red line for us is we start seeing a whole bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized.” Yet on Wednesday, September 04, 2013, the president claimed in Stockholm that “I didn’t set a red line; the world set a red line,” putting the credibility of the “international community” and of Congress – not of the White House – on the line.
The administration’s wishes notwithstanding, there is no “international community” regarding Syria. No international organization has endorsed an attack; China and Vladimir Putin’s “reset” Russia wield an insurmountable and inevitable veto against any U. N. action; and the Parliament of America’s historically closest ally, Great Britain, has rejected its own Prime Minister’s request to get involved. Congressional ratification of a treaty “condemning” the use of chemical weapons is equally meaningless; either deploring the use of weapons of mass destruction does not automatically require the U. S. to go to war to avenge their use or the President has forgotten Secretary Kerry’s characterization of the Iraq war as “”the wrong war in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
No U.S. military response at this time can possibly send a “clear message” for the president has none to send: His administration has no overarching foreign policy strategy and its only tactics are political. Somebody’s “red line” has been crossed – but not his – and it’s up to somebody else to do something about it, for the President cannot and will not act decisively.
In a 2011 Washington Post column, former George W. Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson observed that the Obama administration “lacks a consistent foreign policy philosophy [but] has nevertheless established a predictable foreign policy pattern. … [A]fter an internal debate that spills out into the media, the president decides he must do something. But hoping to keep expectations low, his actions are limited in scope. By this point, a strategic opportunity is missed and the protesters in country X feel betrayed.” Witness Tehran, Cairo, Benghazi, and now Damascus.
Former General Barry McCaffrey of Operation Desert Storm fame put it more succinctly. In a September 2, 2013, interview with Fox News, Gen. McCaffrey observed that the kind of half-hearted military attack for which the president is trying to drum up support won’t likely achieve its stated purpose and might even leave Assad more emboldened. The President, he said, “was so far out on a limb it was pathetic.”
The full-court press is on. Alarmist scientists, politicians, pressure groups, newspapers, ministers, rabbis and bureaucrats want Americans to “stop stalling” on climate change. They demand that we embrace “revenue-neutral” carbon taxes and carbon dioxide regulations, before it’s “too late” to prevent “catastrophic” global warming, “monster” storms and rising seas that will “inundate our coastal cities.”
Anyone dissenting from this “call to action” is a climate change “denier” – a pejorative devised to vilify and silence anyone who rejects this agenda, by linking our views to Holocaust denial. What nonsense.
All of us “deniers” know climate change is real and has been throughout Earth’s many cycles of warming and cooling, storms and droughts, ice ages and little ice ages. Striations (scratches) on a chunk of Niagara Escarpment limestone that I dug out a mile from my boyhood home memorialize stones dragged by the last glacier that buried Wisconsin under a mile of ice. Countless climate changes have buffeted our Earth.
What we deny are assertions that human carbon dioxide emissions have replaced the myriad of complex, interrelated planetary, solar and cosmic forces that caused previous climate reverberations, and that what we are experiencing now is unprecedented and likely to be catastrophic.
Not one of the alarmist claims is supported by actual observations or scientific evidence. Even worse, the claims are getting more ridiculous with every passing day: “children aren’t going to know what snow is,” crime is rising, oceans won’t smell the same, and storms are getting worse – because of global warming.
Contrary to the hype and hysteria, our planet stopped warming 16 years ago, even as atmospheric carbon dioxide levels continued to climb. That prompted climate catastrophists to start talking about “climate change” and blame every “extreme weather” event on CO2 emissions.
As I have pointed out before, far from being a “dangerous pollutant” (as President Obama and EPA keep saying), carbon dioxide makes all life on Earth possible. It makes food crops and other plants grow faster and better, loads them with more nutrients, helps them survive droughts, and makes our planet greener.
This trace gas has almost nothing to do with planetary warming or climate change. But it’s worth noting that the United States has slashed its CO2 emissions more than almost any other country – sending them back to where they were 30 years ago, thanks to the environmentalists’ latest target: fracking! And the daily human contribution of CO2 to our atmosphere is equivalent to a penny out of $1 million!
CO2 levels have “soared” to 400 ppm (0.04% of Earth’s atmosphere) not because of the USA or other developed countries – but because China, India and dozens of other countries are working desperately to lift billions of people out of abject poverty. To do that, they need fossil fuels, which provide 80% of the energy that makes modern civilization and living standards possible – and these countries are not going to slash their hydrocarbon use. To suggest otherwise reflects callous contempt for the needs of families that want to take their rightful places among Earth’s healthy and prosperous people.
No one would suggest that the absence of extreme weather events over a particular time period is due to humans. However, recent history certainly contradicts incessant claims that our weather is getting worse. In fact, no category 3 or higher hurricane has struck the United States in eight years, the longest such stretch since the Civil War. With only a couple of exceptions earlier this summer, the US is enjoying its longest respite from major tornadoes in decades. We are also witnessing the highest August Arctic sea ice extent since 2006, amid the coldest summer on record at the North Pole; record August lows for Alert and Eureka, in Nunavut, BC; and record highs for the extent of August sea ice in Antarctica.
Equally fascinating, most of the record high temperatures that the alarmists are trumpeting beat the previous records, mostly set in the 1930s, by mere hundredths of a degree. Yet, somehow that’s news.
As to oceans inundating coastal communities, Topex Poseidon satellites show virtually no rise in sea levels between 1993 and 2001, and the EU’s Envisat satellites show no rise from 2003 through 2011. The steady 2-3 mm per year rise in sea level, it turns out, is because scientists “adjust” the raw data (always upward, never down, for some reason). But even 200-300 mm (8-12 inches) per century, or by the year 2100, is a far cry from the 3-20 feet that President Obama and former VP Al Gore have warned us about. Even Mr. Obama was off a few years when he said June 2008 was “the moment when the rise of the oceans began to slow.” But it’s one more climate cataclysm that we can erase from our worry list – especially compared to the 400 feet that the world’s oceans have risen since the end of the last ice age.
(Mr. Gore is also famous for misinforming his 2009 “Tonight Show” audience that the Earth’s interior is “really hot, several million degrees” – the core is actually 9,000 degrees F – and forrefusing to debate anyone on climate change or even take audience questions that he has not preapproved. Perhaps in his defense, Nobel Laureate Gore managed only a C+ and a D in the only science courses he ever took.)
If it’s “weird weather” you seek, just peruse Richard Keene’s fascinating weather guides,Skywatch East and Skywatch West, for numerous examples of wild and wacky weather in the USA. For more examples, check out the Tri-State Twister and Children’s Blizzard, or consult the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change 2011 interim report, Climate Change Reconsidered. You will be amazed at how different the facts are from the fallacies, fibs and fear mongering you find in the “mainstream media.”
One final point. No tax that penalizes people and businesses for using fossil fuels is “revenue neutral.” Any such tax or regulation kills profits and jobs, turns full-time jobs into part-timers, and adversely affects people’s health and well-being. Millions of families cannot heat and cool their homes properly, pay their rent, mortgage or other bills, take vacations, or save for retirement. The increasing stress results in sleep deprivation, poor nutrition, more commuting, higher incidences of depression and alcohol, drug, spousal and child abuse, lower life expectancies and higher suicide rates. Climate taxes and regulations also force us to spend billions subsidizing environment unfriendly biofuel, wind and solar energy.
That’s an intolerably high price to pay, for “protection” from illusory and exaggerated climate dangers.
Climate alarmists are trying to sucker, snooker and stampede us into taking “immediate action” on job and economy-strangling taxes and restrictions, before more people catch on to what’s really happening. This protection racket is one more example of passing a law, so that we can find out what’s in it. We simply cannot afford to let science continue being coopted to serve anti-hydrocarbon political agendas.
Demands that we “stop stalling” on “catastrophic manmade climate change” have nothing to do with preventing warming and cooling, storms and droughts that have been “real” since time immemorial. They have everything to do with regulating and restricting the use of hydrocarbons that provide 80% of the energy that makes modern civilization and living standards possible. They have everything to do with giving politicians, bureaucrats and pressure groups more money and more control over our lives and economy – but with no accountability for the lies, mistakes, job losses, ill health and deaths that are inevitable as US living standards deteriorate, and Third World lives remain destitute and desperate.
Computer models and scary predictions are not evidence. Basing energy and economic decisions on climate models is akin to betting your life’s savings on a computer model that focuses on middle linebackers and ignores quarterbacks and offensive lines, in predicting the Buffalo Bills will win the 2014 and 2015 Super Bowls – and when the prediction falls flat insisting that the Bills really did win, and reality must be “adjusted” to make it conform with the predictions.
Climate “deniers” and rationalists should support Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI) and other politicians and scientists who are under constant attack by climate alarmists, for daring to dissent from approved orthodoxy. Their vigilance and determination are all that stand between energy and economic sanity – and America heading down the same destructive path that Europe has trod for the past two decades.
In 1982 the U.S. Congress established a national policy to solve the problem of nuclear waste disposal. As far back as 1957, the National Academy of Sciences had recommended that the best way to address the problem was to dispose of it in deep underground rock. In 1987, Yucca Mountain in Nevada was designated as the site. It was immediately opposed by both environmentalists and others. Congress approved the site in 2002.
An Associated Press article on August 13 reported on a recent decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruling that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission had to complete the licensing progress and approve or reject the Energy Department’s application for the site.
“The court’s decision was hailed by supporters of the Yucca site, which has been the focus of a dispute that stretches back more than three decades,” reported the AP. “The government has spent an estimated $15 billion on the site but never completed it. No waste is stored there.”
The failure to open the Yucca Mountain repository is an obscenity. Instead of storing nuclear waste in the most studied piece of U.S. geography in the history of the nation, it is stored at more than seventy (70) sites around the nation. The Yucca Mountain site was supposed to begin accepting spent fuel by January 31, 1998, fifteen years ago.
The Appeals Court delivered a serious rebuke to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission which has essentially been treated as a political instrument of the Obama administration. The Court said the NRC was “simply flouting the law” when it allowed the Obama administration to continue plans to close site. This is especially egregious insofar as federal law designates the site as the nation’s nuclear waste repository.
“The President may not decline to follow a statutory mandate or prohibition simply because of policy objections,” said Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh who wrote the majority (2 to 1) opinion. “It is no overstatement to say that our constitutional system of separation of powers would be significantly altered if we were to allow executive and independent agencies to disregard federal law in the manner asserted in this case by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.”
It is not just the President and the NRC that will not uphold the law that Congress passed. It is has been the Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid, Democrat from Nevada. Kim Strassel noted in an August 15 commentary that “Mr. Reid has for years single-handedly thwarted Congress’s will to create a deep storage facility…Such has been one senator’s ability to render the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act, 30 years of work, and $15 billion of federal funds moot.”
The arrogance of Sen. Reid, with the support of the President, is that of imperial kings and other monarchs for whom their personal agenda outweighs the welfare of the rest of the nation. The project was abandoned in the President’s first term; in 2011 the NRC, a supposedly independent agency, allowed the shutdown to stand.
The present claim is that there is no money to move forward with the completion of Yucca Mountain and it is true that opponents in Congress, led by Sen. Reid, have cut nearly all funding in the last three years, but the court said that the NRC has about $11 million remaining for the purpose of funding a review of its safety. Congressional staffers who have seen a redacted draft of the review to date say that is safe.
Nuclear waste, the by-product of electric power generation at commercial nuclear plants and of high-level radioactive waste from reprocessed spent fuel, must be stored somewhere. Congress addressed that in 1982, more than three decades go. We are still waiting for a rational, practical solution because of politics, not science, nor common sense.
Energy is a super-resource. It is beneficial to several targeted economic problems and may even help some political conditions. The qualities of energy make it a special category of elements found in nature: a super-resource.
Berries, broccoli, and beans are all considered superfoods which are defined as a special category of foods found in nature; a food that is considered to be beneficial to your health and that may even help some medical conditions. They pack a lot of punch.
Oil, natural gas and coal, are all super-resources. They are found in nature. They pack a lot of punch. They are beneficial to the economy in that they create jobs, increase revenues, and help balance the trade deficit.
Here are three examples of how these super-resources benefit the economy.
The Keystone pipeline would create thousands of jobs—primarily union jobs in construction (one of the hardest hit industries in the economic recession) and increased service employment in supporting communities. These jobs and the various land-use payments will provide additional revenues to the federal coffers. As some of the oil brought into the US will be refined and exported, it will help balance the trade deficit.
America’s abundance of natural gas—due to the combined techniques of horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and new technologies—means that there is more natural gas available than can be used within our borders. Many countries, such as Japan (with whom we run a $6 billion trade deficit), want our excess, but to ship it, the natural gas must be liquefied—which requires special liquefied natural gas (LNG) terminals. Reports indicate that LNG exports would “result in the creation of over 100,000 direct, indirect, and economy wide jobs and have an immediate economic impact resulting in $3.6 to $5.2 billion in potential annual revenues.”
The US contains one-fourth of the world’s coal reserves and the Powder River Basin (PRB) found in Wyoming and Montana accounts for about 40 percent of US coal reserves. The 13 active coal mines in the Wyoming portion of the PRB employ more than 6800 workers. US exports of coal to European and Asian markets are increasing. Exports could really take off if West coast ports were allowed to expand deep-water loading capacity—which would create new construction jobs.
Energy is clearly “beneficial to the economy.” Countries with super-resources have healthier economies, like superfoods help human health. But to effectively draw the “superfood” comparison, energy must “even help some” political “conditions”—and that “political condition” is immigration.
Mexico has been in the news lately—specifically for the energy reforms President Enrique Peña Nieto has proposed. Mexico has 115 billion barrels of oil equivalent—some of the world’s biggest remaining untapped oil reserves, yet production has declined by nearly 25 percent over the past decade. Mexico is now a natural gas and gasoline importer. The Financial Times reports: “experts predict it will become a net oil importer within a decade unless something is done.”
Pemex, the national oil company, with $60 billion in debt, is plagued by mismanagement and political meddling. “Because,” as reported in the Financial Times, “profits are siphoned towards government spending, not enough money has been ploughed back into exploration.” Or, as energy minister Pedro Joaquin Coldwell observed: “investment spending at Pemex is often, well, suboptimal.”
The Economist explains that Mexico is running out of easy-to-access oil and, on its own, is unable “to take advantage of the shale and deepwater deposits that have proved so bounteous across the border in the United States. So it needs partners.” David Gee, US energy practice leader of the Boston Consulting Group, according to CNBC, said: “Accessing those reserves requires intensive capital and specialized skills.”
President Peña Nieto understands the country’s need for modernization and that bringing Mexico’s wealth to the surface will take “the right business model and the right technology.”
Peña Nieto’s proposed energy reforms would end Pemex’s monopoly by allowing it to partner with foreign companies through profit-sharing contracts that would provide exploration and development opportunities. He hopes to “attract the foreign capital and expertise Mexico needs.”
Emilio Lozoya, the Pemex chief executive tasked with selling Mexico’s energy reform to foreign investors, hopes to increase oil investment by $10 billion a year. With the familiar geology and operating conditions found in Mexico—versus the politically unstable regions of Africa or the Middle East or the difficulty of operating in the Arctic—and the lure of access to previously unreachable natural resources, attracting foreign oil and oil-field service companies with the needed financial muscle and technical skills should be easy.
However, potential investors are skeptical. In 1938, under then-President Lazaro Cardenas, Mexico nationalized its oil industry—expropriating fields from US and British companies. In response to the proposed reforms, Chevron spokesman Kent Robertson said: “As with all the investment opportunities we consider around the world, factors such as economic returns, stability of the investment climate and sanctity of contract are central to any decisions we make.” While the terms being offered are not what the industry prefers—profit-sharing rather, than production-sharing—they should, if passed as planned, provide legal certainty.
“Even though the terms are not ideal,” Ayman Asfari, chief executive of the oil service company Petrofac, which is active in Mexico, believes they should not prove to be a deterrent. “Mexico’s reserve potential, particularly for deepwater and shale gas, is so great that it will definitely be attractive to the majors.”
Mexico holds the other half of two of America’s biggest discoveries. Chevron’s Lower Tertiary extends into Mexican waters and Texas’s Eagle Ford shale doesn’t stop at the Rio Grande. In just one year, 2012, the US issued more than 9100 permits, to 170 companies, to drill wells. Mexico has only drilled three shale gas wells and has not tapped the deep waters on its side of the Gulf of Mexico. John Padilla, managing director of the energy-consulting firm IPD Latin America, said “It’s probably the largest virgin untapped play that’s out there.”
Clearly, the super-resource will be beneficial to Mexico’s economy. The Economist calls Peña Nieto’s intentions “nakedly economic.” Peña Nieto believes: “This profound reform can lift the standard of living for all Mexicans.” But, how will it help the US political condition known as immigration?
If Peña Nieto can get his reforms through, despite the need to change the constitution and the opposition from those who believe any move toward privatizing petroleum “betrays the country,” he will create, according Pemex chief executive Lozoya, 500,000 jobs by 2018 and 2.5 million by 2025. Mexico will be booming. As has happened in North Dakota, people will be moving to Mexico for the jobs. Instead of Mexicans sneaking across the US border for low-paying jobs in America, they’ll be lining up for the good-paying jobs in Mexico’s oil fields.
Peña Nieto’s reforms are expected to pass, but experts predict it will be several years before they will boost oil-and-gas production. With immigration stalled in Congress, Peña Nieto’s energy reforms could have millions of jobs available in its oil fields before America passes immigration reform.
In a review of Mexico’s proposed energy reforms, Carl Meacham, director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, concludes: “If the Mexican Congress passes the constitutional amendments, Mexico could help itself and North America achieve their full potential, positioning the region as a global driving force of a revolutionary and revolutionizing energy industry.” Only a super-resource could do all that.
[First Published by Townhall]
I’ve just finished reading Rich Lowry’s new book, Lincoln Unbound, and as someone who has read a lot of books on Lincoln, I happily commend it to you.
The book’s rather long subtitle is “How an Ambitious Young Railsplitter Saved the American Dream – and How We Can Do It Again.” As the dust jacket puts it:
Lincoln lived the American Dream and succeeded in opening a way to it for others. He saw in the nation’s founding documents the unchanging foundation of an endlessly dynamic society. He embraced the market and the amazing transportation and communications revolutions beginning to take hold.
At the end of his enjoyable book, Mr. Lowry takes what he understands to be Lincoln’s philosophical dispositions and policy perspectives and suggests how they might be applied to address today’s problems. This is an interesting, thought-provoking exercise, but you’ll have to get the book to see whether or not you agree.For today, I just want to comment on how Lincoln’s thoughts concerning what he called “free labor” relate closely – indeed, are integral – to a proper understanding of our free enterprise system and property rights and to what the Declaration of Independence refers to as the “unalienable Rights” to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. While Lincoln could not have anticipated Labor Day as it has evolved today, I want to suggest that his own understanding of “labor” ought to have a special resonance as we think about the meaning of this Labor Day.
As Lincoln’s thinking evolved, and especially by the time of the Lincoln – Douglas debates, Lincoln increasingly based his argument against the abomination of slavery on his understanding of the meaning of the natural rights secured, in his view, by the Declaration of Independence. But long before rising to national prominence for his stand against human bondage, Lincoln had espoused, over and over again, his belief that an individual should reap the reward of his own labor.
As Mr. Lowry points out, in 1847 Lincoln wrote that “each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor.” Or, as he put it in a more colloquial Lincolnism: “I always thought the man that made the corn should eat the corn.”Lincoln’s views concerning free labor – and the Declaration’s affirmation of the natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness – were grounded in the Founders’ understanding and acceptance of John Locke’s work, with which they were intimately familiar and often relied upon. In his famous Second Treatise of Government, Locke put it this way: [E]very man has a property in his own person: this no body has any right to but himself. The labour of his body, and the work of his hands, we may say, are properly his. Whatsoever then he removes out of the state that nature hath provided, and left it in, he hath mixed his labour with, and joined to it something that is his own, and thereby makes it his property.
Note the explicit way that Locke linked an individual’s own labor to his property interest.Following Locke, James Madison, the principal drafter of our Constitution, declared that individuals possess property rights “in their actual possessions, in the labor that acquires their daily subsistence, and in the hallowed remnant of time which ought to relieve their Fatigues and soothe their cares.”
In his opposition to slavery, but also in a more universal sense, Lincoln repeatedly articulated the Lockean view that all individuals, of whatever race or creed, possess a natural right to enjoy the fruits of their own labor, to make those fruits their own property.
Moreover, Lincoln understood that the intertwining of free labor and property rights was essential to securing and maintaining the liberty espoused by the Declaration of Independence and guaranteed by the Constitution – and that free labor, individual initiative, and property rights are essential elements of the American free enterprise system.
Finally, in extolling the virtue of labor and property, Lincoln frequently admonished those who would set one man or class against another. As he put it in 1864 in his reply to the New York Workingmen’s Democratic Republican Association:
Property is the fruit of labor…property is desirable…is a positive good in the world. That some should be rich shows that others may become rich, and hence is just encouragement to industry and enterprise. Let not him who is houseless pull down the house of another; but let him labor diligently and build one for himself….
As early as 1847 Lincoln had expressed the same thought this way:[I]t has so happened in all ages of the world, that some have laboured, and others have without labour, enjoyed a large proportion of the fruits. This is wrong and should not continue. To [secure] each labourer the whole product of his labour, or as nearly as possible, is a most worthy object of any good government.
To my mind, it is always timely to consider Lincoln. And as Labor Day approaches, it is especially timely – and useful – to consider Lincoln’s views on free labor, and to contemplate the inextricably intertwined nature of labor, property rights, individual freedom, and the American free enterprise system which Lincoln championed.
Whether you are working this Labor Day, or merely contemplating Lincoln’s thoughts on labor, my best wishes for an enjoyable Labor Day weekend.[First published at the Free State Foundation blog.]
Americans are a fair people, and therefore support the principle of equal pay for equal work. But study after study has proven that our society falls short of the goal of pay equality in one glaring and inexcusable way: shorter people make less money than taller people.
Recent studies have shown that short people, women, blacks, Hispanics, immigrants, mothers, singles, gays/lesbians, the young, lefties, overweight people, handicapped people, people without blonde hair, bald men, women who don’t wear makeup, weak people, nice people, (maybe) people with unusual names, ugly people, and excessively beautiful people face wage discrimination in the workplace. We as a society shouldn’t be arbitrarily punishing workers for these innocuous attributes.
However, many of these factors, like attractiveness, are subjective. Others are concealable, like sexual orientation or hair color. Some are changeable, like physical fitness or weight. But one’s height is an objective, unchangeable physical characteristic and, therefore, the easiest of these wage injustices to address with common-sense, fair legislation.
Wealth should be earned. If an individual works hard, he deserves to be compensated accordingly.
Why should the short man make less money than the tall man? Unless the job in question is professional basketball playing, or some other job in which height is a tangible benefit, short people should be compensated just as well as their tall counter-parts. Yet tall privilege currently results in heightist employers paying short people 9% lower wages than their tall co-workers.
The solution to this problem is simple: we need the government to create a Bureau of Labor Fairness (BLF) to prevent wage discrimination. The private sector is simply incapable of dealing with this social issue, but the state can stand tall and stop oppressed short Americans from falling through the cracks.
Free-market ideologues will argue that America doesn’t need another government agency filled with bureaucrats to regulate the private sector, but this proposal will actually shrink the size of government and simplify regulations. The Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Sex Discrimination Act, and all other existing anti-discrimination policies would fall to one agency which would have the power to stop all private prejudice – starting with height discrimination. Other forms of salary discrimination, such as prejudice against less attractive employees, could be addressed when objective, standardized assessments of beauty are developed by the BLF.
Too tall an order? Here is how the BLF can fix the problem of height discrimination: each business must submit an annual report to the BLF which states the height of each of their employees followed by a written evaluation of their work-place competence and their current salary. The BLF can then examine these reports and measure the degree of bias in each company by comparing the employee wage and competency evaluation against the national average wage.
If a worker’s wage differs from the national average, the BLF can determine the extent of height bias. If the bias is negative (paying the shorter employee less than he deserves), then the company must pay a bias tax and compensate the employee for lost wages and damages. If the bias is positive, the company is rewarded with tax breaks equal to some amount less than the bias premium.
With this framework established, unfair discrimination will be disincentivized, and historic wrongs might even be slowly righted. The program is not intrusive and only requires one report per year to be filed by American companies. Best of all, shorter workers who have faced oppression will no longer fear discrimination in the work place. They will know that companies will treat them a measure of respect and dignity. We need to be willing to stand tall and demand that the government end labor discrimination today.
In a sign her troubles have undergone a significant expansion, the Washington Free Beacon reported last week that former EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has hired a lawyer as new details of her use of private email accounts to conduct official government business were revealed.
The agency and its previous head have still breathed easy despite months of inquiries and Freedom of Information Act requests fromChris Horner of the Competitive Enterprise Institute and American Tradition Institute. Jackson and enviro-crats have been shielded by colleagues’ efforts to block access to records, delay their delivery, or conceal damning information with redactions. Nevertheless the indefatigable Horner has continued to pepper the agency with new requests from new angles almost every time he discovers a new hint of malfeasance revealed from previous requests.
What seems to have alarmed Jackson – who is now Apple’s top environmental officer – is the revelation that she communicated with an official with Siemens from her alternative “Richard Windsor” account, which was revealed previously thanks to earlier Horner FOIAs. But even that cloaked “EPA.org” account didn’t provide enough secrecy for Jackson to hide missives she might not want prying eyes to see, so she made a request of Alison Taylor, a vice president for the multinational company.
“Can you use my home email rather than this one when you need to contact me directly?” Jackson asked. “Tx, Lisa.”
Conducting official government business on private accounts is illegal, if used for the purpose of concealment. The crime is punishable with a fine or imprisonment of not more than three years, or both. Also, the offender “shall forfeit his office and be disqualified from holding any office under the United States.” According to Horner, the message Jackson sent Taylor showed a deliberate effort to hide from the public how government business was conducted.
“There’s no ambiguity here,” said Horner to the Free Beacon. “This reflects a clear intention to violate law and policy.”
The conservative news site reported that Jackson hired Washington-based attorney Barry Coburn, which he wouldn’t confirm to them, but did a day later to Politico.
“Lisa Jackson has been a dedicated public servant who served her country honorably for over two decades,” Coburn said in a statement. “She has engaged in no wrongdoing of any kind. She is committed to responding appropriately to any inquiry initiated by any forum. We have offered to assist her in doing so.”
Unfortunately for the taxpayers who paid her salary, “responding appropriately” did not mean “rapid and forthcoming” under Jackson’s EPA reign, which was supposed to operate under President Obama’s “unprecedented level of openness in government.” In addition to Horner and CEI, House and Senate members who exercise oversight of the executive branch (and specifically EPA) have sought records and demanded explanations about use of the alias email accounts.
In November Texas Rep. Ralph Hall, chairman of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology, sent a request to EPA’s Inspector General to review whether the agency complied with the Freedom of Information Act and Federal Records Act. The response he received was not enlightening.
“Given the large volume of emails sent to the public account — more than 1.5 million in fiscal year 2012, for instance — the secondary email account is necessary for effective management and communication between the Administrator and colleagues,” Associate Administrator Arvin Ganesan said in his Dec. 12 letter. He explained that the practice is “commonly employed in both the public and the private sector.”
Even so, the EPA Inspector General initiated an audit of the handling of the agency’s electronic records.
Then in December Michigan Rep. Fred Upton, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations Chairman Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), wrote to Jackson “that you describe fully the nature and extent of this practice.” At the time the congressmen wanted to know whether EPA’s records custodians responded to FOIA requests for Jackson’s correspondence by searching her (and others’) alias accounts – as opposed to their email addresses for public correspondence that they didn’t conduct their business on – for relevant materials. The committee leaders asked Jackson for “a detailed description of EPA’s procedures that ensure that all your ‘internal’ email accounts…are included in any search for responsive information or materials when EPA receives Congressional committee requests for information or documents….”
EPA began producing records in January from Jackson’s “Richard Windsor” email account that had a lot of text obliterated with black marker – so much that Horner called it a “defective compilation (that) boasts an impressively anemic content-to-volume ratio.” Even the name “Windsor” was redacted from the messages.
“I don’t know any other agency that does this,” said Anne Weismann, chief counsel of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, to Politico. “Why would you pick a fictitious name of someone of different gender? To me it smacks of…trying to hide.”
Sen. David Vitter, R-La., the Ranking Minority Member on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, and his colleagues upped the pressure on EPA at that point as well.
“EPA’s supposed reliance on ‘precedent’ is especially misleading because they’re clearly using a separate and distinct practice than previous Administrations,” Vitter said. “And if ‘Richard Windsor’ is no more than a standard work email account, why not share the unredacted versions and prove it to the American public?”
The practice was not limited to Jackson, of course, as it was discovered in other Obama administration agencies and was also used within EPA by both Deputy Administrator Bob Perciasepe and Jackson’s permanent replacement, former assistant administrator Gina McCarthy, who was only allowed to be confirmed last month after Vitter won concessions from EPA on transparency measures. But the revelation that Jackson evaded even beyond the “Windsor” account disturbed the senator.
“For months this Administration has brushed off transparency concerns, especially when it comes to federal record-keeping laws. Former EPA Administrator Jackson, aka ‘Richard Windsor’, has been the biggest culprit,” Vitter said. “Even with EPA’s recent promises to review and revamp its email practices and policies, the mere fact that the agency’s Administrator was trying to circumvent ‘sunshine’ laws is a huge red flag for the effectiveness of the agency and the Administration.”
Vitter, on Fox News, pledged to “go after” all of Jackson’s communications while she was at EPA from all her accounts. “Generally what’s being hidden is a very cozy relationship between this EPA and far-left environmental groups,” he said.
Which coincides with Jackson’s hiring of Coburn as her legal counsel. In June NLPC wondered why Apple, Inc., and CEO Tim Cook, would want to bring her and her baggage into a company that has enjoyed success but whose stock price has been in decline lately. In an interview with the Fuqua School of Business, at his alma mater Duke University, Cook explained how part of his management philosophy is to “look for people that are not political, people that are not bureaucrats….”
Besides the email fiasco, Jackson has other ethically questionable activities that occurred on her watch: Regional EPA administrators whose practice was to “crucify” oil and gas companies; EPA’s war against coalcompanies and utilities; excessive, controversial regulations; and experiments on human beings that piped diesel exhaust into their lungs.
“Tim Cook should think twice,” said Amy Ridenour, president of the National Center for Public Policy Research, a conservative think tank that also owns stock in Apple. “President Obama’s cabinet officers may get away with all kinds of things (or they may not, in the end), but the Responsible Corporate Officer Doctrine makes CEOs potentially criminally liable for any misdeeds of subordinates, even if they don’t know about them.”
Wonder if the “non-political” Cook has asked Jackson why she needs a lawyer all of a sudden.
[First published at the National Legal and Policy Center.]