Squaring the Culture

"...and I will make justice the plumb line, and righteousness the level;
then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies,
and the waters will overflow the secret place."
Isaiah 28:17

06/19/2010 (8:58 pm)

Oh, Yes, It's a Shakedown Alright

The Hot Air boys introduced me to The Optimistic Conservative by cross-posting this piece of hers yesterday (thanks, boys.) TOC speaks the truth that corrupt and frightened politicians on both sides of the aisle are clearly unwilling to say: no matter what we think of British Petroleum and their role in the unfolding eco-disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration shook down BP to obtain a $20 billion slush fund, and it’s both immoral and illegal.

Joe Barton (R-TX) is right: the $20 billion escrow fund is a shakedown. Not because BP isn’t liable for the oil spill, and not because BP shouldn’t help the people losing their livelihoods on the Gulf Coast. But because Obama extorting the escrow fund from BP is an exercise of executive power outside the rule of law.

Following the rule of law would produce relief for the oil spill’s victims. It just wouldn’t put Obama’s appointee in sole charge of a $20 billion fund. That has a meaning beyond the “Chicago” implication of pure extortion, fund-skimming, and payola. It means Obama couldn’t use the money to cushion the near-term consequences of his own policies. He’d be constrained by that pesky rule of law, if he weren’t holding the discretionary purse strings for the damages payouts…

This is worth noting: within the span of my lifetime, America has become so accustomed to the largely unsupervised overreach of federal agencies that our ability to detect a shakedown in progress has been severely compromised. We have the confused idea that somebody should somehow be doing something to help all these people, and don’t we have an agency for that? – so why shouldn’t the president, the man in charge of the agencies, step in and take matters into his own hands?

This is, however, confused sentiment. It’s pure sentiment, with no temper from wisdom or judgment. It’s not a sound basis for government, no matter how we feel and no matter what the problem is. Governments good and bad operate on precedent, whether you like it or not, and one shakedown tolerated will lead as night the day to more shakedowns. Eventually one of them will get to your doorstep. No one is so perfectly positioned in his universal immune-victim status as to never face being sliced through the mid-torso region by the Super-Whammadine Shakedown-o-matic.

This is SEIU/UAW tactics writ large – and those tactics thrive on the government-by-agency paradigm.

It’s worth your time to read the whole thing. The fact that Rep. Barton was forced by shame to back down from his candor demonstrates why ordinary political activism is not going to work this time. We have a Thug President. He is not constrained by the rule of law. The very point of his bending the system this way is to place his thumb firmly on the electoral scales so that electoral politics will not remove him and cannot undo what he’s doing. The solution must lie outside of ordinary electoral politics, and must be approached now; if we wait until we see the result of his scale-cheating maneuvers, our objections will be dismissed as sour grapes for having lost an election, the way we dismissed Al Gore’s sour grapes in 2000 (never mind that our complaint would be orders of magnitude more legitimate.)

It’s already starting, in fact. Let your outrage settle just a few weeks and it goes away. The outrageous becomes backdrop. We forget what got us so agitated in the first place. We’ve watched how it went with AIG and Citibank, with GM and Chrysler, with Fannie and Freddie. We’ve become accustomed to abuses of law and process, and think this is just part of politics as usual. It is not. The republic is dying. We used to see it clearly; now it is less so. If we do not rise up and stop the Thug President from engaging in his thuggery, it will become the norm, the US will become like any penny-ante Central American dictatorship, and it will be our fault.

UPDATE 6/20 @5:33 PM: One of the RedState regulars has posted what Rep. Joe Barton (R, TX) actually said in his “apology” to BP. After reviewing it, I’m ashamed that anybody in the Republican party raised a single word of objection. He was absolutely clear in objecting to the lawless behavior of the White House, and completely correct. Unsurprisingly, the reaction by that ugly Nazi Henry Waxman and the rest of the Democratic party has been nothing but vicious demagoguery. I agree with every word of Barton’s statement… the first one, not the later one when he had been shamed into backing down. I want to identify all the Republicans who objected to his words and mark them for defeat, because nobody who countenances the plainly illegal thuggery of the Obama administration has any business holding office in this nation.

06/19/2010 (2:50 pm)

Renewable Energy and the Path Forward — Part I

For about three decades now, talk of America’s energy policy has been dominated by calls for renewable sources of energy — sources of energy that are just as available after you use them as before. Fearful of the theoretical possibility that we might someday run out of oil, coal and natural gas to drive our industrial economy, whipped into frenzy by environmentalists’ scientifically- and economically-deficient howling over what comes out of smoke stacks, leftists have flogged their infatuation with 70s-chic technological solutions that seem, on the surface, to solve both the depletion and pollution problems of fossil fuels.

Never one to miss an opportunity to sound smarter than the citizens he governs, last week our President used the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico to reinforce his already-too-well-established endorsement of renewables:

For decades, we have known the days of cheap and easily accessible oil were numbered. For decades, we’ve talked and talked about the need to end America’s century-long addiction to fossil fuels. And for decades, we have failed to act with the sense of urgency that this challenge requires. Time and again, the path forward has been blocked — not only by oil industry lobbyists, but also by a lack of political courage and candor.

I don’t agree with any of the premises, either stated or implied, in that paragraph, but I’m having a particular problem these days with the assertion that we need to replace “finite” fossil fuels with “infinite” sources of electricity like wind, solar, and biomass. Renewable though they may be, these are just, plain lousy solutions, and the effort to force markets to choose them over sensible, plentiful, readily-available fossil fuels is likely to lock the US economy into a permanent deep freeze. “Renewable” and “clean” are nice-sounding features, but they ignore the more crucial imperative: energy sources need actually to supply enough energy.

Energy sources for a robust, industrial economy need to be available in plenty, easily transportable to the place they’ll be used, available on demand, relatively safe and easy to use, and they need to be able to do these things at a price that compares well with other energy sources that meet those criteria. When we say an energy source is “renewable,” we’re addressing only one small portion of the first of those criteria. When we say it’s “clean,” we’re addressing only one portion of the “safe” criterion. “Renewable” and “clean” are helpful features, but they’re not sufficient to commend a technology to us. There are other criteria that must also be met, and if our “renewable” source can’t meet them, we need to keep looking until we find something that can.

Nor is “renewable” a necessary criterion. We can continue to use non-renewable energy sources for centuries while we look for alternatives. That there exists no hurry is proved by the fact that there exists no shortage: Enviros have to force fossil fuel prices up artificially in order to make them seem unattractive. If there were real shortages, the prices would rise without anybody’s help.

“Clean” is in some sense necessary, but it’s also relative. Technology has done an amazing job of addressing the soot problems of the 50s and the smog problems of the 70s; air pollution from stationary sources has plateaued and is dropping, even while the number of automobiles and smokestacks is rising. We can all breathe, far into the foreseeable future. How clean do we have to get to be clean enough?

Solar, wind power, and biomass are all limited by the laws of physics. They’re available to some degree everywhere, but they’re diffuse. The Sun may be an enormous source of power, heat, and light, but it’s about 92 million miles away, and only a tiny fraction of its energy actually hits the Earth; you only get so much sunlight on a particular square mile of ground. By the same token, only so much wind passes over a given square mile of earth, and only so much vegetable matter can be grown on that same square mile. They’re all limited by the amount of land that’s available for producing energy; and land is a finite and extremely precious commodity.

Robert Bryce provided a useful metric with which to assess this notion of energy density in an analysis he produced for Forbes Magazine in May 2010.

The two [nuclear power] reactors at the South Texas Project produce 2,700 megawatts of power. The plant covers about 19 square miles, an area slightly smaller than the island of Manhattan. To match that output using wind energy, you’d need a land area nearly the size of Rhode Island. Matching that power output with corn ethanol would require intensive farming on more than 21,000 square miles, an area nearly the size of West Virginia.

Bryce also noted that a marginal oil well producing only about 10 barrels of oil per day has an energy density that’s roughly half that of the South Texas Project nuclear power plant, but about 22 times more dense than that of a wind farm.

These numbers can be improved marginally for wind and solar power, but ultimately they’re limited by the laws of physics. Ultimately, the choice to use these “renewables” is the bad end of a Hobson’s Choice: in order to spare the earth some insult, we’re choosing to permanently use up vast stretches of the earth itself to supply our energy — and there’s no indication that doing so will ever actually provide enough energy to keep our economy rolling.

Furthermore, solar and wind are intermittent. The sun does not shine at night, and gets clouded over frequently during the day. The wind does not blow 100% of the time in the range of speeds required to drive a wind turbine. The electrical grid does not have batteries built into it to store previously-generated electricity against future needs (and the resources required to build such batteries would be unimaginable). So, for every new watt of power from a wind turbine or solar plant an electrical power company builds, the company has to build a conventionally-fueled plant to provide that same watt of power — because sometimes the power will be available from the “renewable,” but sometimes it won’t. And it has to be available at a second’s notice, so — watch carefully — the conventional plant that gets built alongside the “renewable” plant has to be fully powered and ready to be brought on-line at all times, and it has to be large enough to produce just as much power as the “renewable” plant. For this reason, wind turbines and solar plants cannot stop a single ounce of CO² from being generated — and they more than double the price of electricity. Proponents of wind and solar argue that electrical utilities build spare capacity all the time, and they’re correct — but they don’t have to build a watt of spare capacity for every watt of new capacity, it’s more like 20%, or 30%. With renewables, they need to build spare capacity to cover 100% of the capacity of the new source. And that’s new capacity; they can’t just use the existing conventional power plants because they’re already in use generating electricity live.

As for biomass, who could possibly imagine that in a world with 8 billion living souls and land a finite and increasingly valuable resource, it would make sense to burn our food to run our factories? American biofuels subsidies, produced by the Bush administration, are probably responsible for nearly doubling the cost of grain worldwide during a period when hungry nations could least afford it. There’s nothing difficult to predict about this outcome; of course farmers are going to cash in if the government pays them extra to plant corn instead of wheat and provides them with a guaranteed market. Biofuels are a disaster — and that’s before assessing whether they can even produce more energy that it takes to grow them!

Charles Krauthammer took the President to task yesterday for his pompous insistence on using federal power to rescind the laws of nature.

Pedestrian is beneath Obama. Mr. Fix-It he is not. He is world-historical, the visionary, come to make the oceans recede and the planet heal.

How? By creating a glorious, new, clean green economy. And how exactly to do that? From Washington, by presidential command and with tens of billions of dollars thrown around. With the liberal (and professorial) conceit that scientific breakthroughs can be legislated into existence, Obama proposes to give us a new industrial economy… His argument: Well, if we can put a man on the moon, why not this?

Aside from the irony that this most tiresome of cliches comes from a president who is canceling our program to return to the moon, it is utterly meaningless. The wars on cancer and on poverty have been similarly sold. They remain unwon. Why? Because we knew how to land on the moon. We had the physics to do it. Cancer cells, on the other hand, are far more complex than the Newtonian equations that govern a moon landing. Equally daunting are the laws of social interaction — even assuming there are any — that sustain a culture of poverty.

Similarly, we don’t know how to make renewables that match the efficiency of fossil fuels. In the interim, it is Obama and his Democratic allies who, as they dream of such scientific leaps, are unwilling to use existing technologies to reduce our dependence on foreign (i.e., imported) and risky (i.e., deep-water) sources of oil — twin dependencies that Obama decried in Tuesday’s speech.

Private electric companies refuse to build solar power plants and wind farms except where enormous government subsidies distort real economic incentives enough to make them do it. As soon as the subsidies dry up, they abandon the wind farm or the power plant and go right back to generating power using energy-dense, highly available fossil fuels and/or nuclear power. There is no sensible way for a power company to make money using wind or solar to generate electricity on the scale we need. It does not work, and can’t. These are bad ideas.

Today I addressed the question of whether the fact that a power source was renewable was sufficient to commend it as a power source. In a few days, I will add to this by examining the premises on which the President and his leftist friends insist that the national government must force technological change to rescue us from “addiction to fossil fuels.”

05/01/2010 (1:54 pm)

The Price of Doing Business


The oil slick from the BP drilling rig that exploded and sank last week is just a few miles from the Louisiana shoreline, threatening oyster beds, fish spawning areas, and other wildlife along the coast. It was expected to touch ashore by nightfall on Friday, but apparently did not. Now experts are saying that currents could carry the oil slick to the east coast of Florida (yes, the east coast.) Efforts to use an undersea vessel to activate a shutoff valve near the wellhead have failed, and alternative measures could take weeks or months to implement. Though the volume of oil from this spill is still nowhere near the volume that leaked from the Exxon Valdez in 1989, this could turn out to be as costly when measuring damage to the livelihoods of working Americans along the Gulf Coast.

Incidents like the Exxon Valdez and this one give us reason periodically to consider the cost of maintaining an industrialized society.

The technological explosion and economic growth of the 19th and 20th centuries raised billions of people out of abject poverty and provided the great mass of ordinary people around the globe with basic sanitation, antibiotics, inexpensive clothing and food, transportation, communication, and other advantages in a lifestyle that was unavailable to kings in earlier eras. The West has nothing for which to apologize when we consider the advances conferred by technology. And yet, the price of that technology includes occasional accidents of a magnitude previously only produced by random acts of God, like volcanoes or earthquakes.

The question is, can we face those, work sensibly to minimize and contain them, and yet not succumb to the temptation to abandon technology? Victims and governments will initiate a head-hunt soon, looking to find a scapegoat on which to pin the blame. Gulf coast fishermen are grousing about how they were misled by BP, and some have already filed suit. Environmentalists are already using photos of waterfowl endangered by the oil slick to obstruct public support for the issuing of new offshore drilling leases. Can we competently assign responsibility without succumbing to the urge to create demons?

Accidents happen. So do stupid humans. And so long as those things are true, the advance of technology will be accompanied by the periodic accident.

Like accidents, politicians and governments also happen. Wherever they do, the self-righteous posture and puff to use the events to enhance their own images, and the gullible are taken in by the display. “At least they’re doing something.” Sure thing.

The important things that need to be done are procedures for minimizing the occurrence of accidents and improving the response to them. This almost never requires new regulation; BP is already, under existing law, going to pay the cost of the cleanup, not to mention the exorbitant public relations cost of having owned the platform that caused the incident. The incentives to avoid future accidents of this sort far exceed anything that can be accomplished by new regulations, and none of the techniques currently being used to prevent or clean up spills are the result of regulation. But new regulations will be written, because politicians need to appear to be doing something in order to impress gullible constituents.

Meanwhile, other useful lessons will be missed altogether. I recall a little less than 2 years ago, clueless liberals in Congress were wondering out loud why oil companies needed leases on offshore oilfields when they already held leases on millions of acres, and did not believe it when they replied that drilling in the existing leases was far more difficult. Why, wondered Nancy Pelosi (D, the Planet Brainless), should we “subsidize” them by letting them pay for leases on fields where the oil was more readily available?

The current incident explains why (among other reasons). Accidents like these are far more likely, and far more costly, when one is forced to drill for oil at the bottom of the ocean, a mile from the surface. It’s not just a question of more profit, as Nancy Pelosi imagined; there are real, tangible consequences to withholding fields where oil is easier to reach and forcing oil companies to drill where it’s hard. But of course, Nancy Pelosi will draw the wrong conclusion and insist that we shut down industrial society altogether, rather than accept blame for her role in the disaster. Pelosi should be required by law to man (woman?) one of the recovery vessels herself, as punishment, though it’s unlikely that anyone who’s reached her stage of life with as little understanding as she has, can actually be taught anything useful.

Technology on the whole has been an enormous boon to humankind, but that boon comes with a cost. It is at times like this, when the cost becomes most apparent, that it becomes most necessary to keep a cool head and resist the knee-jerk hysteria of the weak, the self-serving, and the tyrannical.

03/31/2010 (5:54 pm)

Revisiting Some Thoughts on Oil Drilling

The Obama administration exercised the Democratic party’s penchant for symbolic gestures by allowing drilling offshore of Virginia — and leaving drilling offshore in Alaska, most of the Gulf of Mexico, most of the Western seacoast, and most of the Eastern seaboard off-limits. This small offer of drilling leases is a good thing for Virginia, but nowhere near what we should be doing. Typical of Democratic party policy, Obama’s move was for public relations only.

Just so we can keep the details of the issue in view, here are a few thoughts and factoids about drilling for oil in America.

  • Screw energy independence. We don’t need energy independence any more than we need steel independence, titanium independence, or fruit independence. Ours is an economically interdependent world.
  • US oil production has no impact one way or the other on the ability of Islamic radicals to wage international jihad. Income to middle eastern nations from oil sales would not even experience a hiccup if we stopped buying crude oil from them altogether.
  • The US trade deficit, the difference between what the US imports and what it exports, is negative in excess of $700 billion. The amount of oil and oil products we import from foreign nations was around $400 billion for 2008. Any questions why we should be drilling as much of our own oil as possible?
  • Can you imagine what the tax revenue on $400 billion in oil production would be, if we could produce that here in the US? Any other questions why we should be drilling as much of our own oil as possible?
  • Two of the three nations from which the US imports the most oil are Canada and Mexico. If you know anything about geology, you can imagine what this says about possible resources in the continental US.
  • Actually, US oil production overall is about equal to Canada’s and Mexico’s combined. However, what we’re capable of producing is a great deal higher.
  • Official figures for oil reserves include only those reserves for which estimates are available based on current technology. The US has extensive oil resources in Rocky Mountain shale that does not show up as “known reserves,” because oil extraction from shale is experimental. Shell Oil has a process for extracting oil from shale at a cost of around $25/barrel, that does not require extensive water resources and leaves the rock intact. How much oil does the US have in this form? Current known world reserves are around 1.2 trillion barrels. Estimates for US oil in Rocky Mountain shale, just from Colorado, Utah, and Nevada, come in at around 1.8 trillion barrels. You read that correctly; what the US has in oil shale exceeds the world’s known reserves by a factor of 1.5.
  • Oil companies are currently prevented from developing US oil shale resources by — guess.
  • The main reason Democrats want to restrict oil production is to force the US to develop sources of energy that do not rely on fossil fuels. They want to do this because they imagine that fossil fuels are destroying the environment, by generating large volumes of CO². They think it causes global warming. They don’t seem to have been paying attention as the entire global climate change edifice came tumbling down over the last 6 months.
  • Even if there was some truth to the notion that burning fossil fuels endangered the planet’s climatic system (there is a little, but not very much,) the marginal amount of CO² that the US would produce if it were permitted to drill its own oil is not enough to make a meaningful difference in the total atmospheric CO² load. Even assuming that Democrats’ notions are true, restraining oil production helps nothing.
  • Arguments claiming we should stop using oil products because the world has already reached peak oil productivity assume that world energy users are too stupid to foresee their own requirements into the future. If oil production peaks, prices will rise; if prices rise, alternatives will become financially attractive; if alternatives are financially attractive, people will use them. Alternatives are already being developed, and have been since the 1970s. There is not a single, sane reason why anybody should need to artificially increase the price of anything to force changes, as the changes will occur — and in fact, occur more effectively — without government help.
  • No “renewable” source of energy promises to contribute any significant amount of production without enormous government subsidies; this is the best indication possible that alternatives are not ready for wide-spread use. Relying on “renewable” energy sources is the surest way to guarantee energy shortages and national government deficits for decades to come.
  • Fossil fuels remain the most popular source of energy in western industry for the simple reason that fossil fuels are still, by far, the most plentiful, most readily available, simplest, most efficient, most effective source of large-scale energy known to mankind.
  • For the record, the amount of known uranium reserves in the world are not sufficient to support producing 100% of the US’ current electrical demand using nuclear power.

Short summary of all of the above: Democrats have not the slightest clue what they are doing regarding energy policy, and the policies they have been pursuing for decades will starve the nation for energy for decades. Welcome to the Democrats 2nd Great Depression, produced deliberately. Thanks, Democrats.

12/08/2009 (2:23 pm)

I'm Not The Only One…

I ended my post yesterday by observing that when the EPA asserts the power to regulate everything, which is what’s produced if the EPA declares CO² a public danger and imposes the Environmental Protection Act’s emissions limits on any business emitting as few as 250 tons of CO² per year, the revolution will follow quickly on its heels. Turns out I’m not alone in that assessment.

Take a listen to Charles Krauthammer, from Special Report with Bret Baier:

Krauthammer correctly quotes Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic, saying “Environmentalism is the new Socialism.” They’ve been planning this for some time, but it’s going to produce a reaction that will tear the nation apart.

Review my comments from 2008 about the plan to use EPA to institute national economic planning here.

07/29/2009 (2:09 pm)

Committed to Energy Independence?

centrifugeThe Obama administration added to the suspicion that it may intentionally be crippling the US economy by denying a critical loan guarantee to a major nuclear energy project, reports KnoxNews.com.

Campaign rhetoric for decades from both sides of the aisle has touted the importance of energy independence for American economic security. Recent moves by the Obama administration to suppress development of coal and natural gas resources, and moves by the Congress to suppress domestic offshore oil development, have been rationalized as necessary for the environmental health of the planet, despite their requiring the nation to rely more heavily on foreign imports of energy products.

However, concern for the planet can hardly explain this move: the Department of Energy has denied a loan guarantee to USEC, Inc., which has been developing new refinement technology for nuclear fuel at Oak Ridge, TN. USEC, the only American nuclear enrichment company, was set to construct an enrichment plant after 6 years of testing and development to verify the feasibility of new, more efficient enrichment technology. The project depended on a number of factors, including confirmation of the technological advances, which promise to refine uranium in a manner that reduces the electricity usage of the process by 95%. It’s folding now, not because the technology does not work, but because the Department of Energy, after 7 years supporting the project, simply refuses to endorse it.

According to Knoxnews.com:

The Department of Energy has denied USEC Inc.’s application for a $2 billion loan guarantee, and the company has started “demobilizing” the American Centrifuge Project, which currently employs about 450 at its Oak Ridge manufacturing site…

USEC Chief Executive Officer John K.Welch, after learning that DOE would not grant the loan guarantee, made this statement today:

“We are shocked and disappointed by DOE’s decision. The American Centrifuge met the original intent of the loan guarantee program in that it would have used an innovative, but proven, technology, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and created thousands of immediate jobs across the United States.

“Our application has been pending for a year, and we have addressed any concerns the department raised. Technically, we operated the American Centrifuge technology in a lead cascade for approximately 235,000 machine hours. Financially, we have invested $1.5 billion dollars in the project and offered $1 billion of additional corporate support. It is unclear how DOE expects to find innovative technologies that assume zero risk, but the American Centrifuge clearly meets the energy security and climate change goals of the Obama administration.”

Individual projects may fail for all sorts of reasons; there can be unexpected budget overruns, manufacturing delays, unexpected market collapses, political stalling, even personal disputes that get in the way. However, at a time when energy needs are a central focus, when the government is deliberately spending hundreds of billions of dollars to stimulate the creation of jobs, and when the country is deliberately crippling its ability to produce fossil fuels, for the DOE to simply and quietly shut down a key component of a viable nuclear energy strategy without an explanation is… unfathomable.

Might the Obama administration genuinely intend to cripple the US economically? They at least had a plausible rebuttal to that claim when shutting down fossil fuel development — not that the rebuttal makes scientific sense, but it was at least plausible. But this? I cannot explain it other than to say, they genuinely do not want the US to produce its own energy. Why not?

I’m not a fan of energy independence, as a strategy. The US does not need to be completely independent of the rest of the world for energy any more than it needs to be independent for steel, bauxite, shirts, computers, or any other single product; the economy is global. However, the US economy is suffering from a $700 billion balance-of-payments deficit (we import that much more than we export), and every bit of energy we produce internally reduces that and creates American jobs. Furthermore, the US stands to suffer serious spot shortages of electricity as fossil fuels lose market share (thanks to economically destructive carbon rationing and senseless Congressional limits on development) until alternative sources of electricity are ready to make up the attendant shortfall in the nation’s power needs — which will be decades from now. Developing nuclear power is a key to surviving that transition period. Shutting down this project makes no sense.

The 450 jobs that will vanish as the American Centrifuge Project closes up shop is just the tip of the iceberg. How, precisely, does the DOE propose that the US obtain the necessary refined uranium for new nuclear power plants? And how does the Obama administration explain shutting down this project in the light of their commitment to energy independence?

We are so screwed…

07/09/2009 (11:56 am)

Waxman-Markey: Read It and Weep

Depressed by what I already know, I don’t think I have the energy, and I’m sure I don’t have the time, to completely analyze the entire Waxman-Markey bill, known as Cap-and-Trade. However, motivated by questions I had about a couple of blog posts I read yesterday reciting building code requirements in the bill, I read enough of it to comment.

This is absolutely the end of limited federalism, for one thing. The bill establishes national standards for energy efficiency for buildings, cars, light bulbs and all sorts of lighting fixtures, washing machines… you name it, it controls it. It makes its limits a part of every building code in America, and it enforces itself by threatening to withhold substantial federal funding from states who refuse to implement it — and upon such refusal, asserts itself as the law of those states. After this, there is no aspect of life that the national government has not asserted absolute right to control. Granted, there have been national standards before — and they, also, stomped on limited federalism — but none of them asserted control at this level. Kiss the 10th Amendment the US Constitution goodbye.

For another thing, this bill literally defines 2005 as the peak of American economic growth. From now on, growth will be negative. Why? Because the total amount of carbon to be emitted by the entire US economy is limited to a percentage of the gas emitted in 2005. This literally puts a cap on growth. If the bill says that the amount of carbon from all measured sources cannot exceed 97% of total carbon emitted in 2005 (which it does), then the amount of economic growth possible is hard-tethered to the amount of reduction produced by technological improvements; if technology has produced only 3% improvement by then, the economy is not permitted to grow at all. If technology has produced a 4% improvement by then, the economy may grow only 1%. If technology has produced only 2% improvement by then, the economy must shrink at least 1%. And naturally, the cap tightens even more as time goes on: 83% by 2020, 58% by 2030, and the practically impossible 17% by 2050.

Remember Plumb Bob’s Rule of Electrical Generating Reality: the alternatives are nowhere near ready to replace any substantial portion of our nation’s electrical generating capacity, and will not be for many decades. Attempts to force progress up the curve will only result in further declines in GDP, as the huge dollar subsidies and immense rise in electricity costs will rob growth from other economic sectors. Guys, if it takes one woman 9 months to make a baby, that does not mean 9 women can do it in a month. Some things just take as long as they take, and technological change is one of them.

epaco2liebermanThe good news is that with the unbelievable burden this bill will place on the entire economy, we will have to do nothing remarkable to reach those goals; the resulting economic depression will certainly achieve them for us even without technological improvements.

And this is all being done to produce exactly zero improvement in the environment, even if you believe the disingenuous horse manure about human-generated carbon affecting climate (it does a little, perhaps enough to boost plant growth by around 10% worldwide; aside from that, peer-reviewed science documents no known harm from human-generated CO²). Last year, while preparing for the Warner-Lieberman bill, the EPA produced a chart showing how little global CO² would change with the US acting unilaterally, and how dependent genuine reduction in global CO² was on cooperation from China, India, and other producing nations. These nations are smarter than we are; they are not going to hobble their own economies for carbon reduction.

Let’s take a lesson from our Honduran brothers, and recognize this bill for what it is; the American experiment in self-government ends if we adopt this bill. And it’s only the beginning of the new restrictions our Supreme Leader Obama intends to lay on our backs. Time to grow huevos and protect our republic.

06/26/2009 (2:36 pm)

Cap and Trade Update (Updated)

American Conservative Union just emailed me and said they’d heard that Speaker Pelosi has postponed debate on HR 2454, the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill. This is excellent news; it means she counted her votes and didn’t think she had enough to pass.

Please, call your representative right now and urge him or her to vote “No” on HR 2454. We need to ratchet up the pressure to make sure this anchor does not sink the US economy into the ocean.

UPDATE: HR 2454 passed the House by a vote of 219 “yea” to 212 “no” at around 7:15 PM EDT. Eight Republicans voted in favor of the measure, while 44 Democrats voted against it. The bill will now move to the Senate, where plenty of pork will likely be added; there may be additional opportunities to stop this disastrous legislation in the Senate.

The eight Republicans who voted for the measure were Reps. Mary Bono Mack (CA), Mike Castle (DE), Steven Kirk (IL), John McHugh (NY), Leonard Lance (NJ), Frank LoBiondo (NJ), Dave Reichert (WA), and Chris Smith (NJ).

06/26/2009 (10:35 am)

Cap and Trade: Even Worse Than You Thought

According to NRO on Wednesday and the New York Times yesterday, the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill may contain a clause that forces the President to impose stiff tariffs on imports from any nation that does not restrict carbon emissions the way we do.

captrade062609A stiff tax on carbon emissions in the US will encourage producers to move their facilities to nations that have friendlier policies toward producers. In order to prevent the exodus of still more of America’s productive capacity, the bill’s authors reportedly added language that requires the President to impose carbon tariffs on carbon-intensive imports from countries that fail to institute emission-reduction measures that are at least 80% as costly as ours.

So, not only will cap-and-trade oppressively and regressively tax the American people into poverty, it will initiate trade wars with China and India, who are not about to stifle their own, new-found prosperity to mollify preening environmental busybodies.

Of course, the tariff measure, which certainly will not work, constitutes the Democrats’ admission that they know perfectly well that a US cap-and-trade measure will increase rather than reduce global carbon, by shifting production to less efficient producers overseas.

Apart from the sheer insanity of willfully demolishing our own productivity over environmental concerns that have already fallen into scientific disrepute, the hypocrisy of the measure takes one’s breath away. Leftists have been lecturing us for decades about how arrogant it is of America to dictate moral behavior to the rest of the world (meaning, how dare we defend liberty?) The moment they took office, they sent their shame-faced emissaries to bow and plead forgiveness from every foreign court — and now, within 6 months, they are proposing ham-fisted tariffs to force foreign governments into engaging in radical environmentalism, which everybody recognizes as a leisure game for the rich.

We should force Democrats to state the matter plainly. They have no objection to America dictating morals to the rest of the world, to the entire universe, or even to God Himself, so long as the morals being enforced are theirs. Their objection is not to arrogance, but simply to America deigning to defend virtues to which they, the Originators of All Things Blissful and Harmonious, do not agree. How dare we disagree with them!

John Hinderaker at PowerLine reports that in order to secure the necessary votes to pass the measure, Speaker Pelosi has struck deals with farm state Democrats to add protections for ethanol. Thus, it gets even better; to crushing the economy and initiating a world-wide trade war, we now add starving the poor of Africa! No price too high to save the planet from .07 degrees of warming (their estimate, and not a scientifically sound one). Just so long as Nancy gets her taxpayer-funded private jet, and Barry and Michelle, their wagyu beef.

Hinderaker also notes that we don’t know for sure whether this measure made it to the final bill, because, typical of governance by Democrats, the Speaker is eager to pass this legislation before anybody has a chance to read the whole thing. No, I’m not kidding.

Q and O offers a good set of supporting links, and Volokh astutely draws parallels to Smoot-Hawley from the Depression years.

And for a little gallows humor, here’s South Park writers Matt and Trey explaining their “Smug Alert” episode about preening enviros. In the episode, all the characters close their eyes when they explain how they’re saving the environment; Matt and Trey insist that people really do this in San Fransisco and LA. Unbelievable. Multiple F-bomb warning, but the stench of the enviro’s self-satisfaction is truly more obscene than the language here.

We are SO screwed…

06/25/2009 (6:32 pm)

"NO" to Cap-and-Trade

Congress will be voting tomorrow on H.R. 2454, the Waxman-Markey Cap-and-Trade scheme. This is a permanent energy tax that will, in fact, cripple the US economy, extending the current downturn into the foreseeable future. Proponents are touting a Congressional Budget Office estimate that says the cost will be minimal, but the Heritage Foundation explains why their estimates grossly underestimate the costs and completely ignore the depressing impact that an energy tax will have on the economy.

American Solutions has a petition that we should all sign, expressing our general opposition to any cap-and-trade system or energy tax.

Two factors that I’ve discussed frequently on this blog come into play:

(1) The alternatives to fossil fuels are not ready for prime time. The evidence of this is that nobody will touch them without enormous subsidies, which means they do not believe they can make a profit at current energy prices. By this we know that a tax sufficient to force producers to build alternative-technology electrical generating capacity will necessarily drive our electricity rates through the roof; they will not work unless fossil-fuel-generated electricity costs more than alternative-generated electricity — which we already know costs so much that producers won’t touch it without huge subsidies. Worse, even with artificially high fossil-fuel prices and ridiculous subsidies, fossil fuels will continue to provide most of our energy for at least the next 35 years, and more likely longer. If you want to read what I’ve written about energy alternatives and their readiness for use, click the topic “Energy” under the Topical Index on my sidebar, or click here.

(2) Switching away from fossil fuels will accomplish exactly nothing. Not only is it the case that the best estimates of the reductions in CO² by America implementing cap-and-trade are not sufficient to stop any significant warming; it is the case that current science has pretty much demolished any defense of the notion that humans are causing the climate to heat enough to cause any damage. There remains not a shred of observable evidence suggesting that humans are heating the planet more than a few fractions of a degree, and the returns from NASA’s Aqua satellite demonstrate beyond reasonable doubt that the earth responds to increases in CO² by generating more cloud cover, cooling the earth to counteract greenhouse warming. Not only that, but theorists studying the effect of solar flares on cloud formation predict 25 years of cooling, and the earth has not experienced any warming in the last 11 years. If you want to read what I’ve written about climate change, click the topic “Climate Science” under the Topical Index on my sidebar, or click here.

Thus, Waxman-Markey engages bad economics in an attempt to calm fears caused by obsolete science.

Please sign the petition, then call your Congressman and tell him to vote “No” on H.R. 2454.

Aren’t you glad the Democrats control Congress?

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