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The Policy and Commentary Blog of The Heartland Institute
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Capitalizing on Cheap Energy for the Long Term

January 17, 2015, 8:37 AM

For the past several weeks, falling oil prices and a likely veto of the Keystone XL pipeline by President Barack Obama have been commanding the headlines. But something more significant has been lost in the commotion. Last year, the United States produced more oil and natural gas than any other country, allowing us to achieve virtual energy independence which has been an expressed goal of public policy since the 1970s. What’s more, American consumers are reaping a fiscal windfall as lower energy prices reduce the costs driving their cars and heating and powering their homes. Most American industries are benefiting as well, especially energy-intensive manufacturing companies that use oil and gas both as fuels and feed stocks.

American innovations, in particular the application of hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling in the nation’s many shale plays, are primarily responsible for our new-found energy abundance. Ironically, while total U.S. oil output has doubled since 2008, off-shore production has been dropping for the past six years.

Here’s another little known fact: The largest gas field in the nation today isn’t in the Southwest but in the North East. The Marcellus shale, which encompasses much of Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Eastern Ohio and the southern tier of New York, has become the nation’s biggest gas producer. And even though New York has banned hydraulic fracturing, the state’s residents nonetheless benefit from the drilling activity occurring on the south bank of the Susquehanna River.

The economic benefits from America’s shale revolution have not been limited to the traditional oil patch but have been spread widely across the nation. Thirty-two states currently produce commercial amounts of oil and gas, and though only about 350,000 workers actually toil in the field, the energy industry directly and indirectly supports more than nine million jobs across the country.

Cheap oil and natural gas are helping the economy in other ways, such as reducing our trade deficit and attracting foreign investment, especially in heavy manufacturing. Increased use of clean natural gas for power generation is largely responsible for reducing greenhouse gas emissions to their level of 20 years ago.

The shale boom has also helped revive a number of “Rust Belt” cities who are providing drilling equipment and oilfield services to operators in the northeastern U.S. And the Great Recession would have been longer and deeper absent the shale boom that started about the time the economy went into a tailspin.

Without question, the dramatic drop in oil and gas prices over since last summer is posing challenges to America’s domestic energy industry. The number of operating rigs, as well as new drilling permits, has been falling for the past two months, and several large companies have recently announced layoffs. At today’s prices, new deepwater drilling in the Gulf of Mexico may well be put on hold.

But oil prices won’t remain depressed forever. At present, every OPEC country, including Saudi Arabia, is running a budget deficit due to lower prices, an imbalance that can’t persist for the long-term. By contrast, the U.S. budget picture will be minimally affected by lower oil and gas prices while the International Monetary Fund projects a one-half percent bump in our GDP growth rate this year from cheaper energy.

Being the world’s largest producer of oil and gas gives America huge economic and political leverage, but only if we engage more fully in the global marketplace. To retain this leverage, while sustaining our oil and gas industry during a period of lower prices, we should quickly remove any artificial barriers to enhanced production. In addition to completing the Keystone XL pipeline, all restrictions on the export of oil and natural gas should be lifted and lease sales on federal lands and the outer continental shelf should be resumed.

[This first appeared in The Hill]
Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Sean Parnell: 2014 in Healthcare and Looking Ahead to 2015

January 16, 2015, 3:49 PM

Director of Communications Jim Lakely talks to Managing Editor of Healthcare News and Research Fellow Sean Parnell about the past year in regards to healthcare and the obamacare law. They discuss the failures from the launch of the government healthcare websites to the lackluster enrollment numbers.

Lakely and Parnell also talk about the future of Obamacare and what 2015 may hold for the controversial law. They discuss the potential political battles that may be looming. Between the pressure to repeal and replace the afforable care act and the further implementation of said law, 2015 should be an interesting year for the subject of healthcare.

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

Categories: On the Blog

The EPA’s Methane Madness

January 16, 2015, 11:03 AM

The Obama administration’s attack on America’s energy sector is insane. They might as well tell us what to eat. Oh, wait, Michelle Obama is doing that. Or that the Islamic State is not Islamic. Oh, wait, Barack Obama said that.

Or that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is about protecting the environment. It used to be decades ago, but not these days.

There was a time when the EPA was devoted to cleaning up the nation’s air and water. It did a very good job and we now all breathe cleaner air and have cleaner water. At some point, though, it went from a science-based government agency to one for which science is whatever they say it is and its agenda is the single minded reduction of all sources of energy, coal, oil and natural gas, by telling huge lies, citing junk science, and generating a torrent of regulation.

Americans have been so blitzed with global warming and climate change propaganda for so long one can understand why many just assume that these pose a hazard even though there hasn’t been any warming for 19 years and climate change is something that has been going on for 4.5 billion years. When the EPA says that it’s protecting everyone’s health, one can understand why that is an assumption many automatically accept.

The problem is that the so-called “science” behind virtually all of the EPA pronouncements and regulations cannot even be accessed by the public that paid for it. The problem is so bad that, in November 2014, Rep. David Schweikert (R-AZ) introduced a bill, HR 4012, the Secret Science Reform Act, to address it. It would force the EPA to disclose all scientific and technical information before proposing or finalizing any regulation.

As often as not, those conducting taxpayer funded science studies refuse to release the raw data they obtained and the methods they used to interpret it. Moreover, agency “science” isn’t always about empirical data collection, but as Ron Arnold of the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise, noted in 2013, it is “a ‘literature search’ with researchers in a library selecting papers and reports by others that merely summarize results and give opinions of the actual scientists. These agency researchers never even see the underlying data, much less collect it in the field.”

The syndicated columnist, Larry Bell, recently noted that “Such misleading and downright deceptive practices openly violate the Information Quality Act, Executive Order 12688, and related Office of Management and Budget guidelines requiring that regulatory agencies provide for full, independent, peer review of all ‘influential scientific information.’” It isn’t that there are laws to protect us from the use of junk science. It’s more like they are not enforced.

These days the EPA is on a tear to regulate mercury and methane. It claims that its mercury air and toxics rule would produce $53 billion to $140 billion in annual health and environmental benefits. That is so absurd it defies the imagination. It is based on the EPA’s estimated benefits from reducing particulates that are—wait for it—already covered by existing regulations!

Regarding the methane reduction crusade the EPA has launched, Thomas Pyle, president of the Institute for Energy Research, says “EPA’s methane regulation is redundant, costly, and unnecessary. Energy producers are already reducing methane emissions because methane is a valuable commodity. It would be like issuing regulations forcing ice cream makers to spill less ice cream.”

“The Obama administration’s latest attack on American energy,” said Pyle, “reaffirms that their agenda is not about the climate at all—it’s about driving up the cost of producing and using natural gas, oil, and coal in America. The proof is the EPA’s own research on methane which shows that this rule will have no discernible impact on the climate.”

S. Fred Singer, founder and Director of the Science and Environmental Policy Project as well as a Senior Fellow with The Heartland Institutesays “Contrary to radical environmentalists’ claims, methane is NOT an important greenhouse gas; it has a totally negligible impact on climate. Attempts to control methane emissions make little sense. A Heartland colleague, Research Fellow H. Sterling Burnett, says “Obama is again avoiding Congress, relying on regulations to effectively create new laws he couldn’t legally pass.”

As Larry Bell noted, even by the EPA’s own calculations and estimates, the methane emissions limits, along with other limits on so called greenhouse gases “will prevent less than two-hundredths of a degree Celsius of warming by the end of this century.”

That’s a high price to pay for the loss of countless plants that generate the electricity on which the entire nation depends for its existence. That is where the EPA is taking us.

Nothing the government does can have any effect on the climate. You don’t need a PhD in meteorology or climatology to know that.

[Originally published at Warning Signs]

Categories: On the Blog

CBO Report: Social Security Going Bankrupt Faster Under Obama

January 16, 2015, 11:00 AM

At a town hall meeting in Columbus, Ohio in 2010, President Barack Obama ensured the worried audience that “Social Security is not in crisis.”  Obama was wrong.

Not only is Social Security in the worst shape it has ever been in, a recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report reveals the problem has grown significantly worse under the Obama administration.

In its annual long-term Social Security projections report, the nonpartisan CBO says 2013 Social Security costs exceeded income by about 9 percent, and that gap is expected to average 17 percent over the next decade. The CBO projects that by 2030, all Social Security trust funds will be exhausted, and unless income exceeds expenditures, “the Social Security Administration [will] no longer have legal authority to pay full benefits when they [are] due.”

The slow demise of Social Security trust funds should surprise no one, but what is disturbing is the rate at which the CBO’s projections for Social Security’s survival has dropped under Obama.

In August 2009, the CBO estimated the Old-Age and Survivors Insurance (OASI) and Disability Insurance (DI) — the two funds that compose Social Security — would be exhausted in 2043. The last CBO report for Social Security under President George W. Bush, released in August 2008, projected funds wouldn’t be exhausted until 2049.

The 13-year decline in CBO estimates for Social Security’s viability from 2009–2014 under the Obama administration represents a major failure by the president to solve — or even mitigate — a crisis everyone knew was coming.

“We’re going to have to make some modest adjustments in order to strengthen [Social Security],” Obama said in Ohio in 2010, but rather than strengthen the system, the president’s economic policies have contributed to its downfall.

Since his inauguration, Obama has implemented countless destructive taxes. In fact, taxes have risen faster under Obama than they have under any other president since the end of World War II.

The American Action Forum also found in its recent study that new or expanded regulations passed by the Obama administration cost Americans $181.5 billion in 2014 alone, and the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service found that businesses have been forced to endure 50 percent more “significant” regulations under Obama than under George W. Bush.

The irresponsible business climate fostered under the president’s leadership is reflected in numerous important economic indicators that help explain the increasing collapse of Social Security.

Although the misleading unemployment rate under Obama dropped down to 5.6 percent in December 2014, the civilian labor force participation rate for Americans aged 25–54 has fallen by more than 2 percent since Obama took office, which means there are fewer non-retirement-age people, relative to total population, paying into Social Security than in past decades. Additionally, real median household incomes have sharply decreased under Obama, and the number of Americans receiving food stamps is up by more than 50 percent since George W. Bush left office in 2009.

Add it all together and it’s easy to see why the nation has been left with a Social Security disaster — one so extreme that the CBO says the DI trust fund, which is responsible for aiding disabled workers and their spouses and children, will be tapped out by 2017.

Unless Obama swallows his pride and works with the Republican-led Congress to make serious reforms to Social Security trust funds, Baby Boomers around the nation are going to be stuck with ever-decreasing benefits in an increasingly inflationary world.

[Originally published at the American Thinker]

Categories: On the Blog

Friends of the Earth are the Enemies of Mankind

January 16, 2015, 10:44 AM

It’s such a benign sounding name, Friends of the Earth. This multi-million dollar international organization is a network of environmental organizations in 74 countries. If its agenda was adopted and enacted much of mankind would lose access to the energy sources that define and enhance modernity or the beneficial chemicals that protect food crops from insect predators and weeds.

I am on FOE’s mailing list and the most recent email informed me and the thousands of others who received it that “the oil lobby and the Republican leadership in Congress are plotting a full frontal assault on our environmental protections…” I bet you didn’t know that the Republican Party was an enemy of the environment. That’s curious because it was a Republican, Richard M. Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency with an executive order!

 

FOE was upset by the $1.01 trillion bill to fund the U.S. government for the coming year through to September. “What’s more, in a surprise giveaway to the super-rich, the bill raised the maximum contribution limit from individuals to political parties—opening the door for billionaires like the Koch Brothers to purchase even more seats in government.”

The sheer hypocrisy of FOE defies the imagination. No mention was made of the secretive “billionaires club” that was revealed in August in a report by Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It was titled “The Chain of Environmental Command: How as Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.”  Didn’t read about it in the mainstream press? That’s because it was hushed up.

You may, however, have heard of San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer who in February pledged to spend up to $100 million, half his own money and half from other billionaire donors, to get candidates who promised to pass anti-global warming legislation elected in the midterm elections. Steyer has been a leading opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, but for sheer hypocrisy, Steyer made his fortune by investing in fossil fuel companies!

As far as FOE is concerned, only conservative billionaires are evil.

 

Categories: On the Blog

Will Gov. Snyder Drop The Ball on E-cigs?

January 16, 2015, 8:55 AM

The Michigan Legislature got it right last year, passing bills to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Only a handful of states haven’t gotten around to this sensible, limited form of e-cigarette regulations.

Under pressure from activist groups who oppose this approach, Gov. Rick Snyder hasn’t signed the bill, and may veto or pocket veto it in the next week.

You read that right: So called “public health” groups have been lobbying governors and legislators around the country against bans on sales of e-cigarettes to minors. Why? Because bans on sales of e-cigarettes to minors make sense and are popular. So activists are trying to load up these bills with all sorts of nanny state provisions that would incorrectly treat e-cigarettes as if they were actual cigarettes. Then the activists could accuse opponents of the add-on regulations of supporting the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

As a longtime anti-smoking policy expert, I have studied the issue of tobacco harm reduction at the city, state, and federal level.

Failing to sign this legislation would leave Michigan as one of the few remaining states that allow the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

By definition, no reputable retailer sells e-cigarettes to minors, even without this legislation on the books. However, like in any field, there are unscrupulous actors. This legislation would properly make their actions illegal, and send a clear message that these products, which are meant for adult smokers, are not for minors.

There is a nearly universal consensus that there should be a ban on sales of e-cigarettes to minors. However, groups who seek Snyder’s trust have been advising him not to sign the bills. Instead, they seek to keep the sale of e-cigarettes to minors legal, until they pass legislation that rushes to treat e-cigarettes exactly like combustible cigarettes. For this, there is little support in the scientific community.

In fact, treating e-cigarettes like cigarettes would undermine a central tenet of the U.S. FDA’s approach to securing the potentials benefit of e-cigarettes, while minimizing any potential harm.

As the FDA’s chief tobacco regulator, Mitch Zeller, told the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s New Public Health, “If, at the end of the day, people are smoking for the nicotine, but dying from the tar, then there’s an opportunity for FDA to come up with what I’ve been calling a comprehensive nicotine regulatory policy that is agency-wide and that is keyed to something that we call the continuum of risk: that there are different nicotine containing and nicotine delivering products that pose different levels of risk to the individual.

“Right now the overwhelming majority of people seeking nicotine are getting it from the deadliest and most toxic delivery system, and that’s the conventional cigarette. But if there is a continuum of risk and there are less harmful ways to get nicotine, and FDA is in the business of regulating virtually all of those products, then I think there’s an extraordinary public health opportunity for the agency to embrace some of these principles and to figure out how to incorporate it into regulatory policies.”

Certainly, regulatory approaches to e-cigarettes, beyond those already underway at the Food and Drug Administration, will need to take into account what Zeller and others refer to as the “continuum of risk” among different products. Failure to do so risks unintended consequences that include discouraging smokers from switching to significantly less harmful products such as e-cigarettes.

Those who encourage Snyder not to sign the ban on e-cigarette sales to minors are seeking a range of potentially harmful regulations. Yet those proposals deserve individual consideration on their merits, taking into account the best science available. Those approaches do not deserve any halo from the consensus of banning sales to minors. Conversely, a ban on sales to minors should not be delayed because some groups seek to advance approaches that aren’t supported by science and may undermine public health.

In the meantime, Snyder should act to remove Michigan’s name from the quickly shrinking list of states that still legally permit the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

[This first appeared at Pundicity]
Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast: Rob Bradley – What is the Biggest Threat to Energy Today?

January 15, 2015, 1:37 PM

Rob Bradley, Jr. can be fairly considered one of the leading experts in the nation, if not the world, on energy issues, particularly oil and gas and renewables.  Bradley has written seven books including, Edison to Enron: Energy Markets and Political Strategy’s and an energy primer (coauthored with Richard Fulmer) Energy: The Master Resource and is the CEO and founder of the Institute for Energy Research, among the nation’s leading research institutes on the structure and regulation of energy markets.

Bradley briefly discusses the history of innovation in natural gas markets, why markets work better than government intervention in reducing energy poverty and what the biggest threats are to energy and thus economic progress in the world today.  Bradley also dissects the motives of climate change alarmists and the idea that renewables are the new, innovative form of energy for the future.

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

Categories: On the Blog

Friends of the Earth are the Enemies of Mankind

January 15, 2015, 1:09 PM

It’s such a benign sounding name, Friends of the Earth. This multi-million dollar international organization is a network of environmental organizations in 74 countries. If its agenda was adopted and enacted much of mankind would lose access to the energy sources that define and enhance modernity or the beneficial chemicals that protect food crops from insect predators and weeds.

I am on FOE’s mailing list and the most recent email informed me and the thousands of others who received it that “the oil lobby and the Republican leadership in Congress are plotting a full frontal assault on our environmental protections…” I bet you didn’t know that the Republican Party was an enemy of the environment. That’s curious because it was a Republican, Richard M. Nixon, who created the Environmental Protection Agency with an executive order!

FOE was upset by the $1.01 trillion bill to fund the U.S. government for the coming year through to September. “What’s more, in a surprise giveaway to the super-rich, the bill raised the maximum contribution limit from individuals to political parties—opening the door for billionaires like the Koch Brothers to purchase even more seats in government.”

The sheer hypocrisy of FOE defies the imagination. No mention was made of the secretive “billionaires club” that was revealed in August in a report by Republicans on the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee. It was titled “The Chain of Environmental Command: How as Club of Billionaires and Their Foundations Control the Environmental Movement and Obama’s EPA.”  Didn’t read about it in the mainstream press? That’s because it was hushed up.

You may, however, have heard of San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer who in February pledged to spend up to $100 million, half his own money and half from other billionaire donors, to get candidates who promised to pass anti-global warming legislation elected in the midterm elections. Steyer has been a leading opponent of the Keystone XL pipeline, but for sheer hypocrisy, Steyer made his fortune by investing in fossil fuel companies!

As far as FOE is concerned, only conservative billionaires are evil.

“At Friends of the Earth, we’re working to protect people and the planet from Big Oil and its profits.” Translation: We don’t want oil companies to provide the source of energy that fuels our cars, trucks, and other devices that improve our lives. We don’t like profits because they are the result of capitalism.”

For good measure, FOE tells its supporters the “future would be great for companies like Dow, Syngenta, and Monsanto — but terrible for bees, butterflies, and people like us. Take away pesticides and all you have left are the pest insects that spread disease and harm food crops.

According to Wikipedia, “Originally based largely in North America and Europe, its membership is now heavily weighted toward groups in the developing world.” It’s the developing world that has been the focus of the United Nations greatest hoax, global warming, now called climate change, as a means to transfer money from wealthy nations to those less well governed, often because there is a despot or larcenous group in charge.

It is little wonder that FOE is upset by the decision of millions of American voters to elect candidates who want to rein in the excesses of the Environmental Protection Agency and take steps to improve the economy. Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is denounced as “a climate denier with close ties to the coal industry.”  He has made it clear that getting the Keystone XL pipeline approved by Congress will be a priority.

FOE’s email even named the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) as “a policy group that helps develop anti-environmental state laws across the country. Right now they’re focused on plans to erode the President’s Clean Power Plan and EPA’s ability to carry out its mission.”

What FOE’s email decrying Big Oil and Republicans doesn’t mention is that, among the elements of the 1,603 pages of the omnibus appropriations bill, is a reduction in the funding of the Environmental Protection Agency which received $60 million less than last year. At $8.1 billion, the EPA is operating on its smallest budget since 1989.

I would like to see the EPA eliminated as a federal agency and that funding go as grants to the individual state environmental protection agencies to address problems closer to those responsible to do so. As it was, the omnibus bill put a variety of limits on EPA “greenhouse gas” programs, some of which verge on the totally idiotic such as permits for gas emissions—methane from cows!

The bill also disallowed President Obama’s promise to give $3 billion to the United Nations Climate Fund, a means to take our money and give it to nations for “environmental” programs that are more likely to end up being something else entirely.

With its anti-energy, anti-capitalism agenda, Friends of the Earth are in fact enemies of mankind. They would happily return the planet to the Dark Ages. That’s why people like me shine a very bright light on them so you will not be duped in the way far too many others are.

Categories: On the Blog

How to Achieve a Balanced Budget Amendment

January 14, 2015, 4:52 PM

On January 5, Compact for America Education Foundation President & Executive Director Nick Dranias was a guest on Michigan’s Frank Beckmann show. Sitting in for Frank Beckmann and conducting the interview was M. L. Elrick. Dranias discussed his organization Compact for America and their plan to fix the national debt crisis.

According to Dranias, the most realistic solution to resolving the national debt crisis in America is to pass a balanced budget amendment. Dranias uses historical precedence and quotes from the founding fathers to justify this potential amendment.

When advocating a balanced budget amendment, critics will argue our debt may be unnecessarily limited when facing a disaster or crisis that requires an increase in spending. In the interview, Dranias lays out an impressive work-around that would prevent this hypothetical scenario from occurring. Regardless of hypothetical situations, something has to be done.

The current system that we are operating in America is unsustainable. When the government’s spending is unconstrained, it makes it easier for politicians to promise seemingly unlimited entitlements. This causes our debt to balloon with no real end in sight. And eventually, this debt causes instability and dependence. On a whim, China – our largest foreign debt holder – could send our economy reeling if it drastically altered its bond-holding practices. This is not sustainable and is not something we should settle for.

Listen to the interview by clicking on the picture above for more information about the process required to create a balanced budget amendment and other details about the plan.

For even more information, visit the website –> Compact for America

Categories: On the Blog

Heartland Daily Podcast – Joy Pullmann: 2014 Education In Review and Looking Forward to 2015

January 14, 2015, 1:47 PM

Joy Pullmann, managing editor at The Federalist and education research fellow at the Heartland Institute discusses some of the top education policy stories of 2014 with Heather Kays, managing editor of School Reform News. Pullmann and Kays also discuss what’s to come in 2015.

The issues Pullmann and Kays talk about include teacher tenure, the midterm elections, Common Core, the impact of teachers unions, and school choice. Pullmann outlines causes for concern as well as reasons to be hopeful in regards to education policy.

 

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

Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 3 of 8)

January 14, 2015, 12:58 PM

This is part 3 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

Exhibit C-James Madison in Federalist No. 43

In Federalist No. 43, James Madison emphasized that Article V: “equally enables the general and the State governments to originate the amendment of errors, as they may be pointed out by the experience on one side, or on the other.”

The most plausible way Article V could be viewed as “equally” enabling the “State Governments to originate the amendment of errors” as with the general government, or Congress, is if the Application of two-thirds of the legislatures of the States, which triggers the convention call, could also direct the Article V convention to propose desired amendments.

If you agree, like and share! And consider a tax deductible donation to our “Balance the Budget Now!” campaign.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

The Founders Wanted a Laser-Targeted Article V Convention (Part 2 of 8)

January 14, 2015, 12:10 PM

This is part 2 of the 8 part series establishing that the laser-focus of the Compact for America approach to organizing an Article V convention with the specific job advancing and ratifying a pre-drafted, specific federal Balanced Budget Amendment is clearly, unequivocally, and overwhelmingly what the Founders expected from the state-originated amendment process.

“Exhibit B” linked below is strikingly powerful. It is a huge brick in the wall of proof that the Article V convention was meant and publicly understood at the time of the Founding Era to be an instrumentality of the states and subject to the states’ direction and control—as illustrated by the Compact for a Balanced Budget.

Exhibit B-Tench Coxe

“If two thirds of those legislatures require it, Congress must call a general convention, even though they dislike the proposed amendments, and if three fourths of the state legislatures or conventions approve such proposed amendments, they become an actual and binding part of the constitution, without any possible interference of Congress.” Coxe further explained, “[t]hree fourths of the states concurring will ensure any amendments, after the adoption of nine or more.”

These statements were made during the Constitution’s ratification era and constitute clear evidence of the public understanding of the function of the state legislative application in the Article V amendment process. Notice that these statements clearly indicate that two-thirds of the states would specify and agree on the desired amendments in their Article V application before any convention was called. If you find this evidence to be as powerful as we do, please like and share this blog. Also, consider a donation to our “Balance the Budget Now!” campaign.

[Originally published at Compact for America]

Categories: On the Blog

Requiem for a Failed Socialist State

January 14, 2015, 10:58 AM

No folks, it’s not Bernie Sanders’ Vermont nor Jerry Brown’s California Democratic Republic that’s about to get flushed down the economic toilet. We are talking about Nicolas Maduro’s Venezuela that he inherited from his predecessor Hugo Chavez. With the recent collapse in crude oil prices that account for roughly 95% of the country’s export revenues, the red lights are flashing that the country is once again on the cusp of widespread civil unrest with the additional prospect of a possible overthrow of the socialist government. From a fiscal standpoint, the country is also only a few steps away from defaulting on its debt. The country’s current plight is a culmination of fifteen years of profligate spending on all manner of social programs and subsidies while failing to reinvest in PDVSA’s oil production and refining operations and to set aside adequate cash reserves for potential downturns in the commodity cycle.

The seeds of the failure of the Bolivarian state were sewn throughout the period of Hugo Chavez’s dictatorship. From the time he took office in 1999, plans were implemented to dramatically transform the country’s economy. Over time, private property was confiscated, the entrepreneur class of the population was largely stripped of its wealth and oil revenues were funneled increasingly into constructing a welfare state. Along the way, in 2002, the state-owned oil company, PDVSA, went on strike with the end result that thousands of trained engineers were fired from their positions and replaced by Chavez party loyalists. PDVSA soon became just another cog in the country’s cultural metamorphosis, increasingly taking on the role of provider of funds for Chavez’s socialist revolution. Thus, the oil company took on a greater role of passing along cash flows to social programs while investing less in maintaining the refining infrastructure and the exploration and production activities of its oil operations. A Reuters article in April of 2013 noted that in 2012 PDVSA contributed $44 billion to spending on social programs. While the spending level for these programs has largely been maintained, PDVSA currently generates only roughly $32 billion of crude oil revenues with oil now trading at $50 per barrel. At the same time, the underinvestment in the company’s oil business has had a pernicious effect on operations. The lack of spending on oil infrastructure was a likely contributor to the massive explosion and fire at the 645,000 barrel a day Amuay refinery that killed 48 in 2012 and for ongoing operational problems that have kept the company’s Isla refinery operating at half of capacity for the last few years. Likewise, despite investment from the Chinese and other foreign players, PDVSA’S upstream division has lacked the attention it needs to attain production goals.

In evaluating Venezuela’s options, none of the country’s courses of action appear to be without great risk. Reduced spending on social welfare programs and reduced subsidies for gasoline (currently at $.18 per gallon at a cost of $22 billion per year) runs the risk of stoking civil unrest and creating further disenchantment with a Maduro administration that currently has only a 22% approval rating. The second option involving further currency devaluations is likely to lead to further inflation problems, creating greater financial hardship among the general population. Venezuela also could try to restructure its debt with the Chinese, having already sold a great deal of future production to the country in exchange for loans. The Chinese, however, appear to be increasingly wary of loans to Maduro’s regime and are likely to make the terms of any future loans more stringent. In light of its financial predicament, the country’s CCC-rated sovereign bonds currently sell for around $.44 on the dollar, are yielding around 22% and the credit default swaps that serve as a barometer of the bonds’ quality suggest a greater than 90% chance of default.

Combined with an inflation rate approaching 60%, ongoing currency devaluations, widespread scarcity of basic consumer goods and an extremely high crime rate, the country indeed appears on the cusp of some type of major upheaval. As the tenuous situation looks to become more dire, an overthrow of the current regime looks increasingly possible as the country’s inhabitants reconcile themselves with the idea that socialism, once again, has proven to be a failed experiment.

Categories: On the Blog

Government + Phony Science + $$$$ = Waste

January 13, 2015, 1:13 PM

The obvious successes of past technologies have made politicians and environmentalists eager to be in the forefront of promoting futuristic schemes for their goals. Everyone wants to be on the side of the next Great Idea. All too often these futuristic fantasies are sold to a gullible public, as well as fellow politicians and the news media, with impressive but scientifically-flawed arguments that bump up against harsh physical realities that are immutable. These cannot be changed by any amount of laws, government spending or propagandizing. Solar power and wind power are examples. So is global warming.

SOLAR

Sunlight, despite being plentiful all over the earth, is inherently dilute. It arrives at a rate of 1 kilowatt per square meter (about 11 square feet) when the sun shines unobstructed directly overhead. That rate can never be increased. It imposes an inefficiency that can never be overcome. As Dr. Petr Beckmann, a professor of electrical energy, explained:

“No amount of technology, no amount of money, no genius of human inventiveness can ever change it….The effort of concentrating it, either by accumulation in time or by funneling it in space, is so vast that nothing as puny as man has been able to achieve it; only Nature herself has the gigantic resources in space, time and energy to do the job.

“To get an idea of how concentrated the energy is in coal, and how dilute sunshine is, consider a lump of coal needed to make 1 kilowatt-hour of electricity. It weighs under a pound…its shadow would measure perhaps 15 square inches. How long would the sun have to shine on those 15 square inches to bring in 1 kilowatt hour of energy? For 1,000 hours of pure sunshine. In the Arizona desert, where the sun is out about 12 hours a day, almost three months. For the average location in the U.S., our little lump of coal would have to be out for almost half a year to be struck by a total energy of 1 kWh. But only struck by it; if we wanted to get 1kWh out from that sunbeam, we would have to divide by the conversion factor….That is how concentrated the energy is in coal, and how dilute it is in sunshine.” And the energy in coal is available almost immediately.

WIND

Power from wind energy also bumps up against immutable physical realities. One is the fact that the wind doesn’t blow all the time. That can never be changed. Another is that 25 to 60 percent of the time the wind is blowing, it is at a rate less than the maximum efficiency for the turbine. As a result, windmills operate at only around 33 to 40 percent of maximum production level, compared to 90 percent for coal and 95% for nuclear power. Turbines start producing power with winds at 8 mph, operate most efficiently at 29-31 mph winds, and must be shut down at 56 mph winds (though the highest winds have the most energy to be collected) to avoid potential damage, such as rotor blades flying off or “cause vibration that can shake the turbine into pieces.”

Wind turbines are—and will always be—unable to achieve high efficiency even under the most favorable conditions. To attain 100 percent efficiency would mean the blades would stop rotating. The best efficiency achieved is about 47 percent, which is about as good as it can get because of a physical law known as the Betz Limit. This has been known for a hundred years. It was independently discovered by three scientists in three different countries: Albert Betz (1919) in Germany, Frederck Lanchester (1915) in Great Britain, and Nicolay Zhukowsky (1920 in Russia. Their discovery applies to all Newtonian fluids and identifies the maximum amount of kinetic energy that can be captured by windmills as 59.3 percent. But the advocates of wind power are either ignorant of this or willfully ignore it to make wind power seem feasible for achieving their goals. Wind turbines may be useful in remote locations with adequate winds where more efficient energy sources are unavailable, but they will never achieve widespread displacement of more economic energy without the waste from government subsidies and/or artificially high electricity rates for consumers.

ETHANOL

The government’s taxpayer support for industry to produce ethanol—for which both republicans and democrats received huge campaign donations—and the requirement that consumers buy it at gas pumps are further examples of forcing us to pay wastefully higher prices for an inferior fuel. Ethanol has only two-thirds the energy of gasoline, meaning it will take a car only two-thirds as far as a gallon of gas without ethanol would take it. And the amount of energy in ethanol cannot be changed; you cannot get more energy out of ethanol than is in it. No amount of laws, government spending or research is going to change that. Ethanol corrodes rubber, aluminum and steel, imposing costs on the design and construction of surfaces with which it comes in contact. US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory warns against the use of zinc with ethanol. (Carburetors are made from alloys of zinc and aluminum.) Because ethanol attracts water, including moisture from the air, it cannot be shipped by pipeline—the cheapest method of transport—and must be distributed by truck.

There have been several studies of the economics of ethanol. The most thorough was done by Cornell University Professor David Pimmentel, who also chaired a U.S. Department of Energy panel to investigate the energetics of ethanol production. Pimmentel and his associates found that it takes more energy to produce ethanol than you can get out of it. They found that “131,000 BTUs are needed to make one gallon of ethanol. One gallon of ethanol has an energy value of only 77,000 BTU….a net energy loss of 54,000 BTUs [per gallon].” Pimmentel adds, “That helps to explain why fossil fuels—not ethanol—are used to produce ethanol.”

A study by Hosein Shapouri is championed by pro-ethanol advocates because it disputes Pimmentel’s finding and instead claims a modestly positive net energy balance. But Howard Hayden, a Professor Emeritus of Physics from the University of Connecticut and Adjunct Professor at the University of Southern Colorado, notes that Shapouri et al “use the most optimistic figures: the best corn yield, the least energy used for fertilizer, the least energy required for farming, the most efficient distillation techniques, the most residual energy (in the form of mash); and in general the most favorable (but still credible) values for any and all aspects of [ethanol] production.” Even so, Hayden says that, using Shapouri’s numbers, the net average power available from the ethanol of one acre of corn would be enough only to keep one 60-watt light bulb burning continuously for one month. To keep that bulb burning for a year would require 12 acres of corn. (An acre is 43,560 square feet.)

Pimmentel vigorously defends his study and launches a formidable criticism of Shapouri’s report. He gives this explanation for their differences:

“Pro-ethanol people make [ethanol] out to be positive by omitting many of the inputs that go into corn production. For example, they omit the farm labor — I’m not talking about the farm family, I’m talking about the farm labor. They omit the farm machinery. They omit the energy to produce the hybrid corn. They omit the irrigation. I could go on and on. Anyway, if I did all of those manipulations, I could achieve also a positive return.

“However, that’s not the way these assessments are made. You can go check the noted agricultural economists who have looked at corn as well as other crops, and they do include the labor, they include the farm machinery, they include repair of the farm machinery, and so forth and so on. And so, those are all inputs that the ag economists include. Why are the pro-ethanol people leaving them out?”

One aspect of the dispute between Pimmental and Shapouri involves credit for distillers grains, a byproduct of ethanol fermentation that is used as animal feed. Pimmental says Shapouri uses an extravagant credit to make ethanol look good, while Shapouri say Pimmental doesn’t account for the credit. Pimmental’s response:

“We do account for it. Distillers grains, incidentally, are being used as a substitute for soybean meal. So we went back to the soybean meal, and examined how it’s produced, and the energy that is required to produce it. Instead of giving [distillers grains] a 40 to 60 percent credit as the pro-ethanol people do, we found that the credit should be more like 9 percent. They [pro-ethanol researchers] are manipulating the data again.”

How can the correct numbers for all the inputs be determined? How can each be given an appropriate weighting in the total picture? How can we be sure that no inputs are left out? Or manipulated? The free market automatically does this through the mechanism of prices. It is a further waste of resources to employ hordes of government regulators and researchers to determine that which the market can automatically do more thoroughly and accurately. If the inputs for ethanol, or anything else, add up to a profitable price for demand of a given commodity, it will be produced voluntarily in the market. If it is not profitable, laws and regulations on producers and consumers will not make it so. They will merely translate the losses (waste) into higher prices for consumers or taxpayers or to future generations in the form of depreciating dollars and a growing national debt.

Other biofuels—which futuristic fantasists acclaim is the next Great Idea in energy—are worse than corn-based ethanol. They all bump up against the limits of photosynthesis. Chlorophyll converts sunlight into energy, but solar energy is dilute to begin with and plants, on average, collect only one-tenth of one percent of the solar energy available. If corn-based ethanol were to replace all the oil used in the U.S. for transportation, 700 million acres of corn would be required, compared to 408 million acres currently used for all types of crop production. If soy biodiesel were the substitute, it would require 3.2 billion acres of soybeans—one billion more acres than the entire U.S. including Alaska. Nevertheless, in 2013 the Obama administration announced contracts for $16 million to 3 biofuel plants in Illinois, Nebraska and California.

ENVIRONMENT

It has long been argued that solar and wind must be the energy sources of the future, regardless of cost, because the world will run out of petroleum in a few centuries. But that argument has been destroyed in recent years by new drilling techniques, the invention of fracking to extract oil and gas, and the discovery of hundreds of new oil and gas fields all over the world—even at extreme depths under the oceans—all of which mean the world will not exhaust petroleum resources for many thousands of years, if ever.

The environmentalists preach that the extractive industries which produce fossil fuels rape the landscape, pollute the air and water, and consume resources that should be left in their natural state. They worship the primitive. Their ideal is a pristine state of nature uncontaminated by civilization. So they favor renewable energies as being less damaging to the environment. But they ignore the environmental consequence of the consumption of energy and other resources that solar and wind utilization requires, which are greater than the traditional energy industries they deplore.

Like the pro-ethanol advocates, the advocates of solar and wind energy fail to consider all the inputs in the claims they are economic. The construction of a 1,000 MW solar plant requires 35,000 tons of aluminum, 2 million tons of concrete, 7,500 tons of copper, 600,000 tons of steel, 75,000 tons of glass, and 1,500 tons of chromium and titanium and other materials. These amounts are about 1,000 times greater than what’s needed to construct a coal-fired or nuclear plant producing the same power. Nuclear plants require enormous amounts of concrete for the massive containment structure, but a solar plant of equal capacity requires 500 times as much..

Those massive material requirements also consume massive amounts of energy in their manufacture. These include: 75 million BTU per ton of aluminum, 56 million BTU per ton of steel, 18 million BTU per ton of glass, and 12 million BTU per ton of concrete. And the manufacturing processes emit pollution of various sorts, some toxic, along with other wastes, for which disposal sites must be provided at further cost.

Solar and wind generating plants require vast land areas, with the most favorable areas being distant from the urban populations that require electrical power. This means further cost and energy requirements for establishing a power distribution network.

GLOBAL WARMING

Though it is no longer believable that the world is going to run out of petroleum, there is another scare tactic that demands we must use renewable fuels even if they are uneconomic. That is the threat of global warming ruining the planet. Isn’t saving the world more important than saving money? But once again, just as in the foregoing examples, inputs have been left out resulting in a false conclusion.

What has been left out? Temperature records were discontinued or no longer included in the data base in certain cold regions of the world, thus showing an elevated global temperature record. New measuring stations were added in warm areas, with the same result. Data was manipulated, falsifying records. There is no recognition of, or explanation for, the earth being warmer 1,000 years ago, 3,000 years ago and 10,000 years ago, when there were no factories or automobiles. Also omitted is that 10,000 years ago when the carbon dioxide level was about the same as today, the climate rose as much as 6 degrees Celsius in a decade—a hundred times faster than the rate we are supposed to regard as troubling—yet without the catastrophic consequences now predicted for global warming. Also omitted is incontrovertible evidence that rising temperatures produce rising carbon dioxide levels—not the other way around. Also omitted are 90,000 measurements of atmospheric carbon dioxide made between the years 1812 and 1961 and published in 175 technical papers that give lie to the claim industrialization has increased atmospheric carbon dioxide. Those measurements were made by top scientists, including two Nobel Prize winners, using techniques that are standard textbook procedures; they show an average of 440 ppm carbon dioxide in 1820 and 1940. Also, ice cores show over 400 ppm carbon dioxide in 1700 A.D. and 200 A.D., as well as 10,000 years ago. Samples from Camp Century (Greenland) and Byrd Camp (Antarctica) range from 250 to nearly 500 ppm over the last 10,000 years. These make a lie out of the claim in 2013 that the recent atmospheric carbon dioxide level of 400 ppm is the highest in 3 million years. I explained these issues in previous postings on this blog so will not repeat them here. What else has been left out? Almost 5,000 peer-reviewed scientific papers in professional journals, identified by the Nongovernmental International Panel on Climate Change, showing the claim that carbon dioxide causes dangerous global warming is baseless.

One doesn’t need to be aware of all those shortcomings to realize the falsity of the global warming propaganda. It was sold to the public on grounds that the computer models on which it was based represented the real world. Reality has shown they do not. That is all you need to know. Eighteen years of no global warming—in the face of enormous increases in carbon dioxide emission—invalidate the global warming hypothesis. The U.S. government alone has wasted more than $165 billion since 1993 to combat global warming from carbon dioxide and caused many billions of dollars more to be wasted by the private sector.

One other item missing from the anti-global warming campaign is the role of the sun. It determines not only the earth’s climate but the carbon dioxide content of its atmosphere!

The sun’s radiation is varied by “sunspot cycles,” disturbances on the surface of the sun. Magnetic fields rip through the sun’s surface, producing holes in the sun’s corona, solar flares, coronal mass ejections, and changes in the “solar wind,” the stream of charged particles emanating from the sun. The solar wind, by modulating the galactic cosmic rays which reach the earth, determines both the formation of clouds and  the carbon dioxide level in the earth’s atmosphere. Sunspot cycles cause only slight changes in the sun’s radiation, but these changes are amplified many fold by interaction 1) with ozone in the upper stratosphere, and 2) with clouds in the lower troposphere. Clouds have a hundred times greater impact on climate and temperature than CO2.

“Cosmic radiation comes to the earth from the depths of the universe, ionizing atoms and molecules in the troposphere, and thus enabling cloud formation. When the sun’s activity is stronger, the solar magnetic field drives a part of cosmic radiation away from the earth, fewer clouds are formed in the troposphere, and the earth becomes warmer,” wrote N.D. Marsh and H. Svensmark, pioneers in this issue. The process was explained with eloquent simplicity by Theodore Landsheidt of Canada’s Schroeder Institute: “When the solar wind is strong and cosmic rays are weak, the global cloud cover shrinks. It expands when cosmic rays are strong because the solar wind is weak. This effect [is] attributed to cloud seeding by ionized secondary particles.” Or, as Zbigniew Jaworowski put it more poetically, “The sun opens and closes a climate-controlling umbrella of clouds over our heads.”

The sun also sets the carbon dioxide level in the earth’s atmosphere by the same process. Nigel Calder explains: “The sun sets the level of carbon dioxide in the earth’s atmosphere by the cumulative effect of variations in the galactic cosmic rays reaching the earth, as modulated by the solar wind. My results leave no room for CO2 levels due to man-made CO2….nothing to do with emissions from factories or cars (emphasis added.)”

After about 210 years, sunspot cycles “crash” or almost entirely die out, and the earth can cool dramatically. These unusually cold periods last several decades. Of greatest concern to us is the Maunder Minimum, which ran from 1645 to 1715. (See It’s the Sun,Stupid for graphs and explanation.) Some years had no sunspots at all. The astronomer Sporer reported only 50 sunspots during a 30-year period, compared to 40,000, to 50,000 typical for that length of time.

In the year 2008 there were no sunspots at all on 266 days, an ominous indication of extreme cold weather for several decades despite all the BS about carbon dioxide.  While the believers in anthropological global warming usually try to make their case on a basis of a century or less of data covering the rise of industrialization (and fail), a prominent Russian solar physicist was looking elsewhere. Looking at 7,500 years of Maunder-type deep temperature drops, Habibullo Abdussamatov predicted a slow decline in temperatures would begin as early as 2012-2015 and lead to a deep freeze in 2050-2060 that will last about fifty years. In October 2013 he updated his earlier warning: “We are now on an unavoidable advance towards a deep temperature drop.”

Everyone knows the sun’s heating of the earth and atmosphere is uneven. We have all witnessed changes in the sun’s heat we receive throughout the day, that it is warmest in midday when the sun is directly overhead; and as the sun moves across the sky, new volumes of air are exposed to its heating while others are left behind. This uneven heating is the basis for wind currents. A similar process takes place in the oceans, creating ocean currents. According to NASA, “uneven heating from the sun drives the air and ocean currents that produce the Earth’s climate” (italics added)

While others were studying and propagandizing about carbon dioxide, Don Easterbrook, a geology professor and climate scientist, noticed a recurring pattern in an ocean cycle known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation going back to 1480. Every 25-30 years there was an alternation of warm and cool ocean cycles. In 2000 he concluded “the PDO said we’re due for a change,” and that happened. No global warming now for 18 years.

Nitrogen, oxygen and argon comprise more than 99 percent of our atmosphere. Water vapor and carbon dioxide are the next most abundant gases. Carbon Dioxide comprises 0.04 percent and is a weak greenhouse gas; water vapor, a strong one. Joseph D’Aleo, first direct of meteorology, the Weather Channel, offers this perspective, “If the atmosphere was a 100-story building, our annual anthropogenic (man-made) contribution today would be equivalent to the linoleum on the first floor.”

Meteorologist Joe Bastardi says only 1/50,000 of the air is man-made and carbon dioxide is “too trivial of a factor” to be of concern regarding global warming, that the whole argument is “tiresome and absurd…Warmists are living in a fantasy world.

“To those who say there is…a gas (which is only 1/2500th of an atmosphere in which the most prominent GHG [Greenhouse gas] is water vapor, and with oceans that have 1,000 times the heat capacity of the atmosphere) is somehow controlling all this (recall that we once had an ice age at 7,000 ppm CO2), you live in a fantasy world.

“Then again, men who have the fantasy of saving the planet by controlling others are indeed in their own world. It’s up to those grappling with the real facts to make sure that the world we live in is one that promotes freedom and the betterment of mankind, and not one controlled by those who believe they are superior to everyone else. This is where the real battle is, and not with a trace gas that has little if anything to do with the climate of a planet created and designed the way it was.”

We close with a quote from Reid Bryson, founding chairman of the Department of Meteorology at the University of Wisconsin: “You can go outside and spit and have the same effect as a doubling of carbon dioxide.”

Categories: On the Blog

In 2010, Seventy-Four House Dems Opposed Obama’s Internet Power Grab. Now? Not So Much

January 13, 2015, 10:30 AM

November’s election was an overwhelming, historic rebuke of what President Barack Obama and his Democrats are doing – and how they’re doing it.

But if you think the newly-minted major Republican majorities should serve as a roadblock to the Democrat agenda – well, that’s yet another thing you don’t have in common with the Democrat Party.

President Obama has been unilaterally rewriting law in Executive-Order-fiat-fashion since about fifty-seven seconds into his Administration.  Last November’s election launched him into power grab overdrive.

Are Congressional Democrats protecting their purview?  And asking – nay demanding – President Obama leave the law writing to the lawmakers?  Of course not.

Sheila Jackson Lee: Writing Executive Orders for Obama to Sign ‘Our Number One Agenda’

Why would Democrats do their jobs – where they’ll have to deal with all those pesky Republicans the American people keep electing in ever-greater numbers?

Better to help President Obama render Congress ever more irrelevant.  Democrats get the undiluted-by-compromise Huge Government they want – and invited to all the President’s fancy Fiat Signing Ceremonies.

President Obama has nearly unlimited flexibility now that there are no more elections between him and the end of his regime.  But the clock is ticking – so he is really moving.

Just after the election he basically demanded that the allegedly independent Federal Communications Commission (FCC):

(R)eclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act….

The President wants his FCC to pretend to be Congress.  To yank the Internet out of 1996 law – and shove it into 1934 law.  He wants the omni-dynamic World Wide Web to be over-regulated like a Depression-era land line telephone.

Shocker – it looks like Obama-campaign-cash-bundling FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is going to give the President what he wants.

Because this is the Democrat Party.  

As much government as possible – 

by any means necessary.

Meanwhile, Republicans still cling to the quaint Constitutional notion that elected legislators should be the ones legislating.

Republicans in Congress appear likely to introduce legislation next month aimed at preventing Internet providers from speeding up some Web sites over others.…

But those new powers would come with a trade-off… (T)he FCC would refrain from regulating net neutrality using Title II of the Communications Act….

Congressional Democrats?

“The FCC can and should take strong action… We would forcefully oppose any (Congressional) reforms that would undermine the FCCs authority….”

Get that? Democrats say Congress shouldn’t do Congress’ job – because that would prohibit the FCC from illegally doing Congress’ job.

Remember – the FCC doesn’t have any authority over anything unless and until Congress first writes law giving it to them.  (I’m reminding Democrats – not you, Gentle Readers.)

In 2010, many Democrats were singing a very different tune.  (Brace yourselves – else you might get whiplash.):

74 House Democrats Not Happy With FCC Broadband Plan Either

The lawmakers signed (Rep. Gene Green of Texas’) letter…expressing their opposition to the FCC’s…plan to reclassify broadband from a Type I information service to a Type II telecom service….

“The significant regulatory impact of reclassifying broadband services is not something that should be taken lightly and should not be done without additional direction from Congress.”…

Green said “This letter clearly shows it is not a partisan issue.….”

And now?

Congressman Gene Green and 19 other Democratic Members of Congress sent a letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC)…in response to recent reports that the FCC will consider regulating broadband Internet as a Title II, common carrier service under the Communications Act of 1934….

“A strict, utility-type regulation under Title II-created to regulate telephone services in the 1930s-simply wont work for this new, innovative, ever-evolving technology.”

74 dwindles to 20.  Profiles in Discouraging.  What happened to the rest?  Some lost intervening elections.  Some returned to the Democrat Huge Government fold.

Rep. Peters Flips for Net Neutrality

Back in 2010, Michigan Rep. Gary Peters was one of 73 House Democrats who signed fellow Rep. Gene Greens letter urging the FCC not to adopt strong Net Neutrality rules….

This week Peters, whos running for Senate, wrote a letter pushing the agency to protect the open Internet in the best way possible: by reclassifying Internet service providers as common carriers.

He’s now Senator Peters.  He was running for a promotion as a lawmaker – in part on refusing to make law. And was apparently unhindered by his newfound preference for unilateral government power grabs and his own irrelevancy.

Because this is the Democrat Party.  As much government as possible – by any means necessary.

Categories: On the Blog

Lessons for Winning Liberty in a World of Statism

January 13, 2015, 2:39 AM

Friends of freedom often become despondent when it seems that every day brings another growth and intrusion of government over people’s lives. But there is no reason to be disheartened, because there are lessons for winning liberty – from the opponents of freedom.

 Beginning in the last decades of the nineteenth century, through most of the twentieth century and into our own time, all ideological, political and economic trends have been in the direction of various forms of collectivism. How did this come about, and what might friends of freedom learn from it?

Let’s take the case of socialism. On March 14, 1883, a German philosopher living in exile in London passed away. When he was buried three days later in a modest grave where his wife had been laid to rest two years earlier, fewer than ten people were present, half of them family members.

His closest friend spoke at the gravesite and said, “Soon the world will feel the void left by the passing of this Titan.” But there was, in fact, little reason to think that the deceased man or his long, turgid, and often obscure writings would leave any lasting impression on the world of ideas or on the course of human events.

That man was Karl Marx.

Socialism Did Not Always Seem “Inevitable”

Advocates of liberty often suffer bouts of despair. How can the cause of freedom ever triumph in a world so dominated by interventionist and welfare-statist ideas? Governments often give lip service to the benefits of free markets and the sanctity of personal and civil liberties. In practice, however, those same governments continue to encroach on individual freedom, restrict and regulate the world of commerce and industry, and redistribute the wealth of society to those with political power and influence. The cause of freedom seems to be a lost cause, with merely temporary rear-guard successes against the continuing growth of government.

What friends of freedom need to remember is that trends can change, that they have in the past and will again in the future. If this seems far-fetched, place yourself in the position of a socialist at the time that Karl Marx died in 1883, and imagine that you are an honest and sincere – if naïve – advocate of socialism.

As a socialist, you live in a world that is still predominately classical liberal and free market, with governments in general only intervening in relatively minimal ways in commercial affairs. Most people – including those in the “working class” – believe that it is not really the responsibility of the state to redistribute wealth or nationalize industry and agriculture, and are suspicious of most forms of government paternalism.

How could socialism ever be victorious in such a world so fully dominated by the “capitalist” mindset? Even “the workers” don’t understand the evils of capitalism and the benefits of a socialist future! Such a sincere socialist could only hope that Marx was right and that socialism would have to come – someday – due to inescapable “laws of history.”

Yet within 30 years the socialist idea came to dominate the world. By the time of the First World War the notion of paternalistic government had captured the minds of intellectuals and was gaining increasing support among the general population. Welfare-statist interventionism was replacing the earlier relatively free-market environment.

The socialist ideal of government planning was put into effect as part of the wartime policies of the belligerent powers beginning in 1914, and also lead to the communist revolution in Russia in 1917, the rise to power of fascism in Italy in 1922, the triumph of National Socialism (Nazism) in Germany in 1933, and the implementation of FDR’s New Deal policies in 1933, as well.

Collectivists Triumphed Based on Individualist Methods

Socialism triumphed during that earlier period of the last decades of the nineteenth and early decades of the twentieth centuries because while socialists advocated an ideology of collectivism, they practiced a politics of individualism. They understood that “history” would not move in their direction unless they changed popular opinion. And implicitly they understood that this meant changing the minds of millions of individual people.

So they went out and spoke and debated with their friends and neighbors. They contributed to public lectures and the publishing of pamphlets and books. They founded newspapers and magazines, and distributed them to anyone who would be willing to read them. They understood that the world ultimately changes one mind at a time – in spite of their emphasis on “social classes,” group interests, and national conflicts

They overcame the prevailing public opinion, defeated powerful special interests, and never lost sight of their long-term goal of the socialist society to come, which was the motivation and the compass for all their actions.

 

Lesson One: Confidence in the Moral Rightness of Liberty

What do friends of freedom have to learn from the successes of our socialist opponents? First, we must fully believe in the moral and practical superiority of freedom and the free market over all forms of collectivism. We must be neither embarrassed nor intimidated by the arguments of the collectivists, interventionists, and welfare statists. Once any compromise is made in the case for freedom, the opponents of liberty will have attained the high ground and will set the terms of the debate.

Freedom advocate, Leonard E. Read, once warned of sinking in a sea of “buts.” I believe in freedom and self-responsibility, “but” we need some minimum government social “safety net.” I believe in the free market, “but” we need some limited regulation for the “public good.” I believe in free trade, “but” we should have some form of protectionism for “essential” industries and jobs. Before you know it, Read warned, the case for freedom has been submerged in an ocean of exceptions.

Each of us, given the constraints on his time, must try to become as informed as possible about the case for freedom. Here, again, Leonard Read pointed out the importance of self-education and self-improvement. The more knowledgeable and articulate we each become in explaining the benefits of the free society and the harm from all forms of collectivism, the more we will have the ability to attract people who may want to hear what we have to say.

Lesson Two: Focusing on the Long Run, Not Short Run Turns

Another lesson to be learned from the earlier generation of socialists is not to be disheartened by the apparent continuing political climate that surrounds us. We must have confidence in the truth of what we say, to know in our minds and hearts that freedom can and will win in the battle of ideas.

We must focus on that point on the horizon that represents the ideal of individual liberty and the free society, regardless of how many twists and turns everyday political currents seem to be following. National, state, and local elections merely reflect prevailing political attitudes and beliefs. Our task is to influence the future and not allow ourselves to be distracted or discouraged by who gets elected today and on what policy platform.

As Austrian economist, F.A. Hayek, emphasized, current policy directions are the product of ideological and political trends from thirty or forty years ago. In other words government policies today are the lagged effect of political-philosophical and ideological trends of earlier decades. To change tomorrow’s policies, our focus today must be on influencing the “climate of opinion” reflected in people’s minds that, then, will determine how people in the future view issues such as the role of government in society based on their notion of the nature and rights of individuals.

Lesson Three: Knowing that Only Freedom Works

Let us remember that over the last hundred years virtually every form of collectivism has been tried—socialism, communism, fascism, Nazism, interventionism, welfare statism—and each has failed. There are very few today who wax with sincere enthusiasm that government is some great secular god that can solve all of mankind’s problems – at least not many outside of those currently employed in the White House!

 

Statist policies and attitudes continue to prevail because of institutional and special interest inertia; they no longer possess the political, philosophical, and ideological fervor that brought them to power in earlier times.

Political collectivism resulted in terrible and brutal tyrannies around the world. Government central planning created economic stagnation and chaos wherever tried. Interventionist-welfare statist policies have generated spider’s webs of special interest politics, intergenerational redistributive dependency, and perverse incentives and barriers to opportunity and prosperity.

There is, in fact, only one “ism” left to fill this vacuum in the face of collectivism’s failures in all its forms. It is classical liberalism, with its conception of the free man in the free society and the free market, soundly grounded in the ideas of each individual’s right to his life, liberty, and honestly acquired property in a social setting of peaceful association and voluntary cooperation and trade.

If we keep the classical liberal ideal of individual rights and laissez-faire capitalism before us, we can and will win liberty in our time – for our children and ourselves.

Categories: On the Blog

Castro’s Message to Cubans Contradicts Obama’s Stated Reforms

January 12, 2015, 7:17 PM

It was on Wednesday, December 17, that President Obama instructed the Secretary of State to immediately initiate discussions with Cuba on the normalization of diplomatic relations with Cuba to ease the U.S. trade embargo and move toward full diplomatic relations, with the possibility of re-establishing an embassy in Havana. Following Obama’s announcement the Vatican issued its own same day statement expressing Pope Francis’ “warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations.”

The White House credits Pope Francis with being an important catalyst to the diplomatic thaw between Cuba and the United States. While the eighteen month negotiations took place primarily in Canada, the final deal was worked out at the Vatican and personally attended to by the first Latin American, pope, Pope Francis. Obama said during his fifteen minute speech: “His Holiness Pope Francis issued a personal appeal to me and to Cuba’s president, Raul Castro, urging us to resolve Alan’s case and to address Cuba’s interests in the release of three Cuban agents, who’ve been jailed in the United States for over 15 years.”  Cited by the White House is how the Pope raised the issue repeatedly with Obama when the two men met at the Vatican in March of 2014.

Following Obama’s December 17th statement, the Vatican issued its own same day statement expressing Pope Francis’ “warm congratulations for the historic decision taken by the Governments of the United States of America and Cuba to establish diplomatic relations.” The statement also confirmed that in recent months, Pope Francis wrote letters to both Castro and Obama, and “invited them to resolve humanitarian questions of common interest, including the situation of certain prisoners, in order to initiate a new phase in relations between the two Parties.”

Raul Castro’s Victory Lap Speech contradicts Obama’s message

What the Cuban people heard were not the reforms in diplomacy as delivered by President Obama. Instead, they heard Raul Castro’s Embargo in his Victory Lap Speech as he spoke simultaneously to the Cuban people as President Obama delivered his remarks.  Castro explained the release of both USAID worker Alan Gross (who had been subjected to various abuses in Cuban prison for attempting to connect Cuban Jews to the Internet) and the three Cuban spies convicted of crimes in the United States, as a promise kept by “Comrade Fidel.”

Raul Castro further noted how the new diplomatic relations were a sign that Cuba can “resolve differences through negotiations without renouncing to even one of our principles,” going on to applaud  “the heroic Cuban people” for “remaining loyal to our ideals of independence and social justice.”  And in a definite swipe against President Obama, Castro touted how the new reforms would help in “the actualization of our economic model to construct a prosperous and sustainable socialism.” Although Castro did note that the decision by President Obama deserved the respect and recognition of the Cuban people, he placed blame on President Obama’s shoulders and called for Obama to lift the embargo entirely through executive action.

Former Ambassador to the UN John Bolton said on the Fox News Channel on the day of Obama’s announcement (December 17) that Obama’s move constituted “appeasement” and is a “very, very bad signal of weakness and lack of resolve by the president of the United States.

Anger and condemnation was the prevailing GOP reaction to Obama’s announcement of a thaw in U.S.-Cuba relations.  Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called Obama’s action “appeasement of a dictatorship.”  House Speaker John Boehner remarked how it “emboldens all state sponsors of terrorism. But not so with Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul who not only said Obama had made the correct decision to allow more trade with Cuba as it will lead to a freer Cuba, but that the president had also acted within his executive authority to do so.

Republicans who like Ran Paul support Obama’s new Cuba policy (including Arizona Senator Jeff Flake and Representatives Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Rep. Mark Sanford Mark of South Carolina), all have in common the fact that they were born after the 1959 Cuban revolution. The same describes younger Cuban-Americans who are skeptical of the sanctions against their ancestral homeland and don’t subscribe to the hardline Cold War rhetoric that accompanied the 196l embargo.

Were Senator Ron Paul and others favoring Obama’s decision aware of the measure the Cuban government declared a day before Obama announced his thawing of U.S.-Cuba relation? The mainstream media was certainly nowhere to be found.

In an official announcement in state newspaper Granma, just one day before President Obama announced sweeping changes that would allow potential American investment in Cuba on Tuesday, December 16, the Cuban government announced a new measure that would allow Cubans who work for foreign companies to keep only 8% of their salaries. In other words, even if a foreign company has the means to pay more than a Cuban company, the worker will receive the same salary as if he were working for a Cuban company, and the government will pocket the rest, 92%!  In addition to the 92% of salaries being pocketed by the Cuban government, Cuban government employment offices will charge 20% of the salary of each worker they connect to the corporation for the service of finding said corporation employees. Employees will also lose 9.09% of their salaries for “vacation time.”

Given this new government measure, American companies who might like to do work in Cuba would be keeping very little of the money they invested and earned in business, but instead would line the pockets of the communist government. As Raúl Castro noted in his speech, the Cuban government made no concessions in this recent negotiation with the United States, save the freedom of Gross and one other American agent whom President Obama did not name, which leaves it open to sanctioning American companies who dare attempt to do business on the island as they see fit.

Account of one who escaped from Castro’s Cuba as a teenager

Below are excerpts from an article, “Obama, Castro and the Pope,” by Elvira Fernandez Hasty, my friend and collaborator a devout life-long Catholic.  It was first published on December 18 at Canada Free Press. Elvira Hasty knows firsthand of what she speaks and doesn’t mince words. Soon after Fidel Castro came to Cuba there were rumors of the government takeover of private schools. Elvira was sent as a young teen to the USA via the Pedro Pan program to live with cousins of her mother in Tampa, Florida.  It was to be a temporary situation, just until the government in Cuba changed to a democracy, but after all these years Cuba is still a communist country.  It is the USA that has changed.

The Obama promise of “a radical transformation of America” is being accomplished in a blatant disregard for our constitution and our laws, and no one seems to do anything about it.  Apparently not being called racist by the liberal press is more important to our elites in government and society than to save our country.

Not only it is the USA becoming a Marxist tyranny under President Obama, but even the Catholic Church leader, Pope Francis, is helping out in achieving it.  What makes this Pope think he can meddle in the politics of an independent country?  And this from a person who has no idea of economics, history, and what communism has done to humanity. Does he not understand that being a “do-gooder” without knowledge always ends up in disaster for those they wish to help?  Father Jonathan of Fox News is happy for the Cuban people——really?  For what?  Nothing will change for them.  There is no embargo.  This is another scam perpetrated by the Marxist media and the billionaire thugs, just like Global Warming.  Cuba has been for years able to trade freely with every other country in the world.  In addition, the USA trades with Cuba, but on a limited basis.  The problem has always been credit the Cuban government demands when trading.  Just ask those countries that have traded with Cuba and never got paid. Obama will now have the funds to help out the communist Cuban government. 

And help it is!  Cuba is close to complete economic meltdown.  It can no longer rely on Russia because it has its own economic problems.  And Venezuela’s economy is suffering due to the decrease in oil prices.  Cuba had been relying on Venezuela providing oil to just survive.  Not to worry, Castro boys; Obama comes to the rescue!  He will never let down one of his own comrades. After all, too few communist countries are left and Obama needs friends.  In addition, the Chamber of Commerce can never turn down a good scam, just like with illegal aliens.  As money from tourists and exported goods reach Cuba, the Castro brothers and their friends will become richer and more powerful while the Cuban workers will continue to be paid in cheap pesos. 

To the Americans who so much desire to travel to Cuba, my sincere prayers that you would realize what your money would do to your country before you start packing that suitcase.  Life is really not about pleasure, but about love & sacrifice for your fellow human beings in this world.

To the Catholic leaders who wish to help the Cuban people, my prayers, too, that you would realize the evil that has descended upon our country and the Church.  Your purpose is to save souls, not to be used as pawns for the Devil.

Postlude

The outgoing head of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the son of Cuban immigrants, noted on a Jan. 4th Sunday morning news program that he knew nothing about the eighteen month Cuba deal to normalize relations with Cuba.  Furthermore, Senator Bob Menendez was not at all pleased that this nation got nothing for giving up all the Castro regime wanted to see and had lobbied for.

In so far as President Obama stated in his Dec.17th announcement that the change in U.S.-Cuban relations came about because isolation hadn’t worked, further stating that Cubans should not face harassment or arrest for expressing their views, Obama then promised to monitor human rights violations.   President Obama didn’t have long to wait when only two weeks after his announcement human rights activists and political dissidents were arrested.  Signaling that Cuba will continue to suppress dissent, Cuban’s President Raul Castro detained more than 50 activists on Tuesday, December 30, in what was reported a move to squelch a planned gathering in Havana’s Revolution Square on New Year’s Day. Also of concern is that although the U.S.-Cuba deal called for the release of 53 political prisoners held by the Castro regime, so far the prisoners have not been released or even identified.

In spite of the harsh response to the crackdown by the Obama administration and the State Department, the Obama administration has been stung by Cuba’s crackdown on dissidents. Little seems to have changed in Havana despite President Obama’s diplomatic outreach.  What are the odds of the Obama administration taking any action other than its rhetorical protests against human rights abuses in Havana? Did President Obama just give the Castro regime in Cuba an unwarranted bailout?  For more than a half century there was the bi-partisan consensus of 10 presidents with a consistent policy toward Cuba.  It never occurred to any of them to surrender to Cuba.

Obama seems to relish trading Americans who hate America for foreign terrorists and murderers who also hate America, i.e., the swap of Bowe Bergdahl for five members of the Taliban’s high command.  Obama also seems to hold deep affection for hardline Islamic states, so anything could happen in the next two years.  Iran might even be looked on favorably by the Obama administration and given an Embassy, so desperate is Obama to sign a nuclear deal which wouldn’t be worth the paper it was written on!

[First published at Illinois Review.]

Categories: On the Blog

Congress Doesn’t Create Free Markets—It Only Destroys Them

January 12, 2015, 3:15 PM

When people clamor for Congress to pass a “free-market health plan,” they are forgetting two things: Congress only does laws, which restrict freedom. We need fewer laws, not more. And the free market is by nature not a plan.

Big laws like ObamaCare are designed by special-interest groups, such as the “insurance” (managed care) cartel, Big Hospitals, Big Pharma, and influential groups that want their benefits (abortion, contraception, drug and alcohol rehab, AIDS therapy, etc.) paid for by people who would never use them.

There are good ideas circulating, such as health status insurance, expanded health savings accounts, and critical illness insurance. How good? We won’t know without trying them. The free market—voluntary decisions by free individuals—picks the winners and losers, and allows options that work for some but not others. The free market cannot achieve the utopian state in which everybody gets optimum care, paid for by everybody else. Neither can government. The government can only force everybody (except of course for the elite) into equally shabby care, paid for by extortionate taxes with huge losses to corruption and incompetence.

Obviously, government does not actually provide medical care. It just sets up the conditions under which doctors, nurses, paramedics, pharmacists, and others do that. Congressionally mandated conditions are making it more and more difficult for medical professionals to do their work.

The only thing government can do to create a free market is to get out of the way. Laws that constrain people’s ability to innovate or to do their best need to be repealed—and many of these date back to the New Deal.

The key change is to restore the liberty of the people to make enforceable contracts—which the Roosevelt Supreme Court destroyed. Specifically, this would mean:

  • Prices would be set by agreement of buyer and seller. Over forty centuries, price controls have always and everywhere had the same results: shortages, misallocation of resources, corruption, and misery, whether imposed by Roman Emperor Diocletian, Hitler, Roosevelt, Nixon, or Medicare/Medicaid.
  • People could agree to limits on liability. Doctors should not have to risk impoverishment every time they try to help someone.
  • People could buy insurance at an actuarially fair price with the coverage they desire—or refrain from buying it at all. If federal mandates and impediments were repealed, it would just take one state to allow marketing of insurance to out-of-state residents to start a marketplace for people in states where the price of individual insurance is prohibitive owing to state mandates.

We can’t just wipe out programs that people are dependent upon—although they are headed to inevitable bankruptcy. But why not let people turn down the benefits and “protections” if they choose to do so? That way we could relieve pressure on the programs, while finding out how the way of freedom is better.

Here are some things that some people would like to do without:

  • Medicare. Really. Some seniors even sued for the right to forgo Part A without paying back all their Social Security. Why? As a colleague wrote me, “You ought to see how academic centers don’t want to take care of old people or high-risk people.”
  • FDA restrictions on “unproved therapies.” People who are facing certain death or disability want the right to try treatments that haven’t been through years and $2.6 billion in testing to satisfy the FDA—or to have to first “fail” on approved but painful, toxic, minimally effective treatment first. Why not fail on the new treatment first and fall back on the old?
  • Electronic medical records. People want to have their doctor’s undivided attention, and they don’t want their life story in a government database. They can keep track of the important facts themselves, thank you very much.
  • The third-party system of scribes, coders, claims filers, preauthorizations (or denials), compliance monitors, managers, auditors, “re-pricers,” etc. This probably skims off 40 percent of the “healthcare” dollar while providing nothing that resembles medical goods or services.

If some people like their government healthcare, let them keep it. But let the people go if they prefer freedom.

Categories: On the Blog

Wind Energy’s Bluster Peters Out

January 12, 2015, 1:15 PM

Touted as “America’s first offshore wind project,” Cape Wind became one of America’s most high-profile and most controversial wind-energy projects. Fourteen years in the making, estimated at $2.6 billion for 130 turbines, covering 25 square miles in Nantucket Sound off the coast of Massachusetts, the Cape Wind project has yet to install one turbine—let alone produce any electricity. Now, it may be “dead in the water.”

On January 6, the two power companies, National Grid and Northeast Utilities, that had agreed to purchase most of the electricity Cape Wind was to generate, terminated their contracts with the developers due to missed milestones. Under the terms of the contracts, Cape Wind had to secure financing and give notices to proceed to its suppliers to start work by December 31, 2014. Neither happened and both companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements. “The project is in cardiac arrest,” according to Amy Grace, a wind-industry analyst with Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

Cape Wind has faced stiff opposition since it was first proposed in 2001. Senator Edward Kennedy’s efforts, and those of his wealthy friends, to fight Cape Wind have been the most publicized, but Native Americans, fishermen, and local communities have also battled the industrialization of Nantucket Sound. The town of Barnstable has been particularly active in the fight. The Cape Cod Times reports that Charles McLaughlin, Barnstable’s assistant town attorney, said: “The town’s concerns include the possibility that a collision between a boat and the large electric service platform the project requires could spill thousands of gallons of oil into the sound.”

Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick (D) positioned Cape Wind as the centerpiece of his renewable energy goals and invested significant political capital backing the proposal—including tying the NStar power purchase agreement to approval of the NStar and Northeast Utilities merger (given the unfavorable terms of the agreements, the companies may have been looking for any exit ramp). Yet, Ian Bowles, Patrick’s first energy and environment chief who, according to the Boston Globe, “helped shepherd the offshore project,” acknowledges that the loss of the power purchase agreements “may have spelled the end for Cape Wind.”

The announcement came two days before Patrick left office. While he claims: “We’ve done everything as a state government to get them over the regulatory lines,” Patrick concedes it is now “up to the market.” According to the Cape Cod Times, the former governor doesn’t know “if the project could survive without the contracts in place.”

Even the Department of Energy (DOE), which seems to indiscriminately throw money at any politically favored green-energy project, was tepid in its support for Cape Wind. DOE’s loan guarantees generally average about 60 percent of the project’s costs, but the $150 million offered to Cape Wind made up a mere 6 percent—and that, only after the project received commitments for about half of its financing. In most cases, the government guarantee comes before the private financing and signals a go-ahead for investors.

While both supporters and detractors believe the project is in jeopardy, environmentalists and Cape Wind Associates LLC have not yet waved the white flag. According to Kit Kennedy, director of the energy and transportation program at the Natural Resources research : “Cape Wind may be down, but it is not out.” The Boston Globe reports that Cape Wind’s president, James Gordon, believes the perpetual litigation “triggered a clause in the contracts that allows for more latitude in Cape Wind’s ability to meet the deadlines.” However, after the company already spent $50 to $70 million on the project, the fact that Gordon opted not to pay the utilities the mere $2 million needed for a six-month extension signals that he doesn’t have confidence that they can continue.

Additionally, the political winds have shifted. While Governor Patrick championed Cape Wind, Massachusetts’ new governor, Charlie Baker (R) is on record as being staunchly opposed to it—even calling it Patrick’s “personal pet project.” While campaigning, Baker “dropped his opposition to Cape Wind” because he believed it was a “done deal.” Now that the deal may well be undone, Baker says he “will not try to influence the outcome of the legal process surrounding the Cape Wind project.”

The cancellation of the contracts is “a near fatal blow” to Cape Wind according to Audra Parker, president of the Alliance to Protect Nantucket Sound, a Cape Cod based group which has led the fight against cape wind.

Wind energy’s future faces problems beyond Massachusetts.

While Massachusetts’ utility companies filed to cancel power purchase agreements, two Minnesota wind farms, operating as Minwind Companies, were filed for bankruptcy because the eleven turbines needed extensive repairs and the 360 farmers and landowners who invested in the projects can’t afford the maintenance. Minwind CEO Mark Willers explained: “Minwind Companies have enjoyed relative prosperity in recent years, but the April ice storm last year took a toll on equipment—and on the budget.” At a December 17 meeting, he told shareholders: “We were 200 to 300 percent over budget to make those repairs.”

Minwind’s nine separate limited-liability companies allowed investors to take advantage of federal wind-energy credits, USDA grants, and the now-discontinued state assistance program for small wind projects. The Star Tribune reports: “The owners stand to lose their investment, and the wind farms eventually may have to shut down.”

On the national level, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) has continued to lobby for a retroactive extension of the Production Tax Credit (PTC) for wind energy that expired at the end of 2013. Disappointing AWEA, the lame-duck Congress did approve a ninth extension—but just through the end of 2014. AWEA’s CEO Tim Kiernan groused: “Unfortunately, the extension to the end of 2014 will only allow minimal new wind development and it will have expired again by the time the new Congress convenes.” In response to the “bare-minimum extension,” Luke Lewandowsi, Make Consulting research manager, said it “casts doubt on the willingness or ability of Congress to revisit the PTC in 2015.”

Adding insult to industrial wind’s injury, wind turbine installation placed number three in the list of 10 dying U.S. industries—following only computer and recordable media manufacturing.

All of this news doesn’t bode well for the wind energy business, but for ratepayers and those who believe in the free market and who believe that government shouldn’t pick winners and losers, current wind conditions are a breath of fresh air. Governments, both state and federal, have given wind energy every advantage, to quote Governor Patrick: “It’s now up to the market”—and even Warren Buffet admits the tax credits are the only reason to build wind farms.

Categories: On the Blog

Book Review: The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels

January 12, 2015, 11:54 AM

Alex Epstein, author of “The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels,” at Heartland’s 9th International Conference on Climate Change in July 2014.

“Epstein explains in philosophical terms how the public has been duped by the likes of Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben for decades. Their real agenda has never been to save the world but instead to promote an idyllic view of nature untrammeled by humans. They have fooled the public into fearing fossil fuels, by focusing only on the risks of fossil fuel usage to mankind and nature, while ignoring all the benefits.”

In his new book, The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels, Alex Epstein makes one of the most compelling arguments for the moral value of fossil fuels and the need to increase their use that we have ever read. Although virtually everyone battling the anthropogenic global warming delusion takes a defensive position with regard to the world’s use of coal, natural gas, and oil, our so-called fossil fuels, Epstein recognizes that, as in sports, the best defense is a good offense.

Written in a conversational style that is easy to read and understand, this book can serve as a layman’s guide, refuting the absurd claims that man controls the climate, while explaining why the current abundance of oil and gas due to hydraulic fracturing will leave all efforts to impose wind and solar energy in our rear-view mirrors.

For Epstein, human life, well-being, and flourishing are the standard of value public policy should maximize. He calls this position ethical humanism, a theory that goes back to the ancient Greeks, if not before, and was virtually unchallenged as a basis for judging right and wrong until recently. He examines fossil fuels strictly in relation to their ability to enhance or constrain human well-being.

Unfortunately, many prominent environmental writers have rejected humanism, instead embracing a bio-centric philosophy that views human changes to the environment as intrinsically bad and takes minimizing human impacts on the environment as the prime moral goal. As such, bio-centrism is a prescription for human poverty, disease, starvation, and premature death—in other words, an endorsement of the world as experienced by all but the wealthiest individuals for the vast majority of human history.

Epstein explains in philosophical terms how the public has been duped by the likes of Paul Ehrlich, John Holdren, Amory Lovins, and Bill McKibben for decades. Their real agenda has never been to save the world but instead to promote an idyllic view of nature untrammeled by humans. They have fooled the public into fearing fossil fuels, by focusing only on the risks of fossil fuel usage to mankind and nature, while ignoring all the benefits. Epstein makes short shrift of the fear-mongering that focuses on catastrophic depletion of our fossil fuels rather than on the human ingenuity that always finds replacements for all our resources before they run out.

Fossil Fuels Power Progress and Well-being

Fossil fuel use has dramatically increased human life expectancy and reduced infant mortality in the developed world. Thanks to fossil fuels, “millions of individuals in industrializing countries have gotten their first light bulb, their first refrigerator, their first decent paying job, their first year with clean drinking water or a full stomach,” Epstein writes. Ultimately, the moral case for fossil fuels is not about fossil fuels; it is the moral case for using cheap, plentiful, reliable energy to amplify our abilities to make the world a better place for human beings.

The development and use of fossil fuels has benefitted the poor far more than the rich, making available to the person of average means, food, goods, and services that even the rulers of old could hardly dream of. Fossil fuels grant freedom and free up time.

Epstein builds on Milton Friedman’s explanations in his Free to Choose TV series where he explains that the rich do not benefit so much as others do from advances in energy, as they have always had servants to fetch, entertain, make clothes and the like. The achievement of inexpensive energy, Friedman remarks, “has made available to the masses conveniences and amenities that were previously the exclusive prerogative of the rich and powerful.”

Problems with Other Energy Sources

The book also briefly but effectively skewers all standard forms of renewable energy, including wind, solar, and biofuels (but not hydropower), explaining they are useful for niche applications but utterly unable to supplement fossil fuels in the electric grid or for transportation.

And yet our political leaders propose massive restrictions on fossil fuels with the promise that these inferior technologies will replace them. This reflects either an ignorance of (perhaps willful) or indifference to the need for efficient, cheap, reliable energy for 1.3 billion people without electricity and more than 3 billion who do not have adequate electricity. For everyone “to have as much access to energy as the average American, the world’s energy production would have to quadruple,” Epstein writes.

Seeing the Big Picture

Epstein’s assumption that human welfare and flourishing are the primary moral standard leads to a couple of important conclusions. One, we should look at the big picture when determining the value of using fossil fuels. That means we must examine not just the costs or potential harms to humans from fossil fuel use but also all the virtues and benefits it provides and the harms that would occur if fossil fuels are abandoned as a source of energy. If one has an open mind, it is apparent fossil fuels provide unique and tremendous benefits to humankind, unmatched by any other fuel source at current prices with current technology, benefits far outweighing the harmful by-products resulting from their use, even if one believes their use contributes to global warming.

Second, Epstein writes:

Climate is no longer a major cause of deaths, thanks in large part to fossil fuels.… Not only are we ignoring the big picture by making the fight against climate danger the fixation of our culture, we are ‘fighting’ climate change by opposing the weapon that has made it dozens of times less dangerous. The popular climate discussion has the issue backward. It looks at man as a destructive force for climate livability, one who makes the climate dangerous because we use fossil fuels. In fact, the truth is the exact opposite; we don’t take a safe climate and make it dangerous; we take a dangerous climate and make it safe. High-energy civilization, not climate, is the driver of climate livability.

Restricting or ending fossil fuel use, not climate change, is the real recipe for disaster, Epstein argues. It would set human civilization back centuries, ringing a true death knell for present and future generations.

Epstein sums up much of his moral argument in his final chapter, “Winning the Future,” with this excellent statement: “We don’t want to save the planet from human beings; we want to improve the planet for human beings. We need to say this loudly and proudly. We need to say that human life is our one and only standard of value. And we need to say that the transformation of our environment, the essence of our survival, is a supreme virtue. We need to recognize that to the extent we deny either, we are willing to harm real, flesh and blood human beings for some antihuman dogma.”

This is a great book for all your open-minded friends willing to spend a few hours expanding their understanding beyond the myopic delusion purveyed by the contemporary mainstream media.

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Jay Lehr, Ph.D. is science director, and H. Sterling Burnett is a research fellow, at The Heartland Institute, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center based in Chicago, Illinois.

Categories: On the Blog