Isaac Orr, a research fellow with The Heartland Institute, discussed in a recent Environment & Climate News article that methane emissions from hydraulic fracturing operations have become the latest target for activists seeking to ban hydraulic fracturing. Orr however argues “In reality, methane is not the monster it’s made out to be, because emissions from oil and gas operations are generally low, and when leaks do occur, they are fixed quickly and easily.”
Author and activist Bill McKibben – a journalist, not a scientist – suggested in a recent New Republic article that the world needs to view climate change as a new world war. McKibben accurately identifies methane as being exceptionally good at capturing heat in Earth’s atmosphere. But his “the-sky-is-falling” analysis is based on cherry-picking data useful to his cause, selectively interpreting the results of other studies, ignoring contradicting data, and failing to acknowledge the real uncertainties in our understanding of how much methane is entering the atmosphere. In the end, methane emissions aren’t nearly as terrifying as McKibben claims.
In a recent Heartland Institute Policy Study, Isaac Orr examines how methane emissions are measured, reports the affect those emissions may have on global warming, and discusses several falsehoods McKibben repeats from the discredited movie Gasland. It also considers what alternatives might be available to energy produced by fracking … and finds those alternatives wanting. The study also discusses the relatively small impact new methane emissions rules enacted by EPA will have on the global climate.
Orr, concludes “The question of how much methane is being emitted by the oil and gas sector in the United States is largely unresolved at this time. The topic requires a serious discussion and attention to real solutions, neither of which appear in McKibben’s article.” Orr continues to refute McKibben’s world war III stating “the most terrifying aspect of McKibben’s piece is his biased selection of flawed supporting documentation and his disregard for the truth about fracking.”
What We’re Working On
Budget & Tax
Research & Commentary: South Carolina Pension System Needs Reform
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines pension reform proposals in South Carolina and argues the state should follow the private sector’s lead by switching workers to defined-contribution plans. “Defined-contribution plans give workers direct control over retirement funds and enable them to change jobs without losing accrued pension benefits. They also allow governments to budget more accurately because the benefits are a set amount of money each year. Only then can South Carolina eliminate the burden of future pension liabilities, avert the pension crisis, and make budgeting more predictable,” Glans wrote. Read more
Florida Court Dismisses Teacher Union Lawsuit Against Tax-Credit Scholarships
Florida’s First District Court of Appeal unanimously upheld the Florida Tax Credit Scholarship Program (FTCSP), dismissing a lawsuit the state’s teachers union and other groups brought against the program, writes Elizabeth BeShears on Heartland.org. Florida launched FTCSP in 2001 to provide students of low-income households with scholarships worth up to $5,886 per year to spend on private school tuition. Corporations that donate to the scholarship program receive a tax credit on corporate income and insurance premium taxes. The Florida Education Association (FEA), the state’s largest teachers union, the League of Women Voters of Florida, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People’s Florida State Conference, and others sued the state in 2014, alleging FTCSP is unconstitutional because it violates the state’s Blaine amendment. In May 2015, a Leon County Circuit Court judge dismissed the case, ruling the plaintiffs did not have standing to sue because they failed to show FTCSP harmed public education. In August 2016, a three-judge panel affirmed the 2015 ruling, writing in their decision, “Despite arguing that public funds have been diverted from the public school system, [the plaintiffs] make no argument whatsoever that public school funding has actually declined.” Read more
Energy & Environment
Research & Commentary: Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards
In this Research & Commentary, Heartland Institute President and CEO Joseph Bast and Policy Analyst Tim Benson discuss a new Environmental Protection Agency draft technical assessment that says U.S. automobile manufacturers are not on pace to meet the updated CAFE standards set by the Obama administration in 2012 – even though the report says the manufacturers have the technical ability to do so. CAFE imposes fees on car and truck manufacturers if they fail to achieve minimum targets for sales-weighted average fuel economy, which is expressed in miles per gallon (mpg). The 2012 CAFE standards mandate a current fuel economy of 35.5 mpg fleetwide. By 2025, CAFE will rise to 54.5 mpg fleetwide. Light-truck emissions in the United States account for only 1.5 percent of all human-caused greenhouse-gas emissions, and Bast and Benson say raising CAFE standards will not achieve the greenhouse-gas emissions reduction desired by the standard’s proponents. Read more
Research & Commentary: There’s Nothing ‘Free’ About the Georgia Chamber of Commerce’s ‘Free-Market’ Plan for Medicaid Expansion
Some Republican-controlled states have expanded their Medicaid programs using reforms they have labeled as “free-market,” even though the policies enhance the power of government and are fiscally irresponsible. Other states have considered using funds from the pot of allegedly “free” dollars offered by the federal government to expand Medicaid, even though many states have learned the hard way these funds have detrimental strings attached to them.
In this Research & Commentary, Senior Policy Analyst Matthew Glans examines several plans for Medicaid expansion in Georgia and argues expansion is a bad idea. “Georgia legislators should continue to resist Medicaid expansion and instead reform their fiscally unsustainable program in ways that offer better care to enrollees and lower costs for taxpayers,” Glans wrote. Read more
From Our Free-Market Friends
Study: Cost Effectiveness of the Earned Income Tax Credit as a Health Policy Investment
A recent study published by Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health and promoted by The Empire Center in a recent NYTorch blog post praised New York State’s Earned Income Tax Credit. The study estimates recipients of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) benefit from of an additional 2.2 years of healthy life on average compared to those who live in states without EITC. The authors of the study, which was published in the September 7 edition of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, say EITC is cost-effective and argues relatively small investments in EITC might reduce poverty and improve health and life expectancy.