Category Archives: Environment

United Liberty Podcast

Many readers here are also familiar with the United Liberty blog, not least because our contributor Jason Pye is the editor-in-chief of that blog, and co-contributor Doug writes at both locations.

They (Jason and UL Assistant Editor Brett Bittner) recently honored me be asking that I join them as a guest on their podcast, which you can find here or on iTunes.

Topics ranged from the Federal Reserve and Ben Bernanke, to health care, to home weatherization (a topic where I nearly defect from doctrinaire libertarianism), immigration and Copenhagen. All in all, I had a lot of fun and hopefully some of you may enjoy the listen.

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Obama Has Failed in Copenhagen, Minorities and Women Will Benefit the Most

Fortunately for humanity and the civilization that sustains it, Barack Obama stayed true to his record of incompetence and failure, messing up the talks at Copenhagen.  The talks have ended with nothing more than yet another agreement to meet again in a few years’ time. His last ditch instructions to Hillary Clinton, which led to her offering $100,000,000,000 of taxpayer dollars each year to nations hard hit by climate change could not band-aid the gaping gash that is the rift between developing and developed nations.

The root of the conflict is very simple: curbing emissions produced in the territory of poverty-stricken nations would require them to regress to a poorer state of being.  The politicians ruling over these nations recognize that such attempts would probably inspire revolts that would topple them and earn them an appointment with a noose and a lampost.  In the meantime, the politicians ruling developed nations also recognize that if they allow people living in the developing nations to produce CO2, that global economic production will simply be moved to those territories.  And the newly unemployed will come after the politicians who screwed them over with pitchforks.

By the time Obama landed in Denmark with his entrourage of bodyguards, the conference was doomed.  The failure lay in the groundwork;  having failed to prioritize effectively between his desire to take over the medical industry, the financial industry, the automotive industry and the manufacturing industries, and having spent money like a drunken sailor with a fist-full of Continentals, the Obama administration was in no position to offer a credible deal of any sort.

Most politicians outside the U.S. recognize that the days of U.S. hegemony are almost over.  The vast welfare state and creeping state takeover of industry have emptied the U.S. treasury, and the U.S. government is having an increasingly difficult time borrowing the money it needs to meet its current obligations.  Had Obama eschewed the “spend-your-way-into-prosperity” approach of George Bush, the U.S. government might have been in a position to make credible offers both to curb CO2 production.  Instead, he showed up at the conference with a track record of leading a government that had no backbone, a reputation for rhetoric over substance, and a fiscal state that is laughably shaky.  Moreover, he also has been consistently lying through his teeth throughout his time in office. For these reasons, no promise or offer he could make would carry serious weight.

If the AGW alarmists are correct, the situation involving the production of CO2is an externality; Those who produce CO2 through economic activity gain the benefit of the wealth produced while the costs of warming are suffered by everyone.  Thus, those who decide not to produce CO2 suffer, while those who engage in production gain  the benefit of of the wealth they create.

The proper way to handle an externality is to internalize it: to establish a regime where the people who cause ‘harm’ suffer a loss commensurate with the harm the do.  This is not simple with the atmosphere.  The plan favored by most alarmists, which essentially amount to requiring nearly every source of CO2 to require government permission to operate, permission that in essence controls how much CO2 is produced, are functionally equivalent to the centrally planned economies of the now defunct Soviet block.  In essence they recreate the crippling economic coordination problems that Ludwig von Mises identified in Socialism.

Obama seems to be oblivious to the economic collapse he is dicing with in his attempts to build a more fair world. For this reason, I am grateful for his incompetence.  The socialism that he and many of the delegates in Copenhagen were advancing has a demonstrated track record of creating incredible misery particularly for the masses that are not politically connected.  As a result, we are fortunate that Obama’s incompetence has postponed the AGW alarmist juggernaut.  By the time the next meeting is held, the temperature trend will likely give lie to the dire alarmist predictions that gave the alarmists much of their political momentum.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Free Market Capitalism: Good for the Environment?

Anyone who is really paying attention to the global warming debate will notice that reducing carbon emissions and wealth distribution go hand-in-hand.

Or do they?

Dick Morris and Eileen McGann wrote a very interesting article which makes very much the opposite point.

The goals of the climate change crowd are not reduction in global warming but the enactment of a world-wide system of regulation which puts business under government control and transfers wealth from rich nations to poor ones under the guise of fighting climate change. Should the emissions come down on their own, as they are doing, the excuse for draconian legislation goes, well, up in smoke.

The facts are startling. In 1990, the year chosen as the global benchmark for carbon emissions, the United States emitted 5,007 millions of metric tons of carbon (mmts). Kyoto specified that emissions must be reduced to a level 6% lower than in 1990. For the U.S., that means 4,700 million metric tons.

American carbon emissions rose year after year until they peaked in 2007 at 5,967 mmts. But, in 2008, they dropped to 5,801 and, in 2009, the best estimate is for a reduction to 5,476. So, in two years, U.S. carbon emissions will have gone down by more than 500 mmts – a cut of over 8%.

President Obama has pledged to bring the U.S. carbon emissions down by 17%. He’s halfway there.

All this without government regulation, taxation, or phony “carbon credits”.

In all honesty, I really don’t know what to make of the science behind the man made global warming debate* but I have been a skeptic since the issue has been part of the public debate (and long before the whole ClimateGate scandal broke). I don’t doubt the phenomenon of global warming at all; the earth has warmed and cooled many times over billions of years without the intervention of man. Why wouldn’t the earth warm up again regardless of man’s intervention?

My skepticism aside, the fact that carbon emissions are being reduced on the part of private actors without government force isn’t all that surprising. Over the last several years, global warming “awareness” has been broadcast on an almost daily basis and the market has responded.

As a general rule, I believe that reducing waste and increasing efficiency is not only good for the environment but also cost effective. Being environmentally conscious should not mean sacrificing quality or increasing costs.

A good Capitalist wants to have the car with the best mpg rating without sacrificing safety. It’s not because the Capitalist is necessarily concerned about man made global warming nor that s/he wants to “stick it to the BIG oil companies” but simply s/he wants more bang for his/her buck (greedy Capitalist!).

On a personal level, I use the reusable shopping bags not because I am overly concerned about too many plastic bags filling up the public landfill but simply because the reusable bags are stronger. I am quite willing to pay the $2 it costs to buy the stronger, reusable bag because it means fewer trips between my vehicle and my home without fear of the bag tearing in the process.

Many of these “green” innovations have benefits beyond combating pollution.

But even if everything Morris and McGann writes is true and even if the Kyoto targets are met (or even exceeded), this will not be enough for the global warming extremists**. If carbon emissions are reduced by 17%, they will move the goal posts and demand 20 and 25% reductions. When these goals are not met, the extremists will demand more government regulation despite what the free market has achieved on its own.

» Read more

Monday Morning Question

All, if you’ve followed the ClimateGate scandal, you’ll note that most coverage on both the left and the right centers around the emails. There is discussion in the emails of trying to influence access to peer-reviewed journals to stop critics (unethical), and even some suggestions that data requested under FOIA be deleted (potentially illegal).

So we’re stuck with two basic sides:

Skeptics: “This shows that we’ve been right about you trying to stonewall us, and thus we won’t accept your conclusions unless you show us the source data and methodology, which you’ve tried to avoid for years. Your behavior suggests you have something to hide, and these emails show that you’re hiding it. Now put up or shut up.”
AGW Crowd: “This is regrettable and we all think there should be more transparency in the process. But it hardly invalidates the claims, which are from source data available elsewhere and which correspond with the claims of other climate researchers working independently of us.”

The debate largely stays at this level, because like most political debates, few in the media or in the public are comfortable looking at the deep dark bowels of all of this — numbers.

As an engineer, though, I am not stricken with such numerophobia, and thus wading through data sets and statistical methods. As such, I’ve seen a particular critique which bothers me greatly (as described here by Eric S. Raymond (via QandO)):

From the CRU code file osborn-tree6/briffa_sep98_d.pro , used to prepare a graph purported to be of Northern Hemisphere temperatures and reconstructions.

;
; Apply a VERY ARTIFICAL correction for decline!!
;
yrloc=[1400,findgen(19)*5.+1904]
valadj=[0.,0.,0.,0.,0.,-0.1,-0.25,-0.3,0.,- 0.1,0.3,0.8,1.2,1.7,2.5,2.6,2.6,$
2.6,2.6,2.6]*0.75 ; fudge factor
if n_elements(yrloc) ne n_elements(valadj) then message,’Oooops!’
;
yearlyadj=interpol(valadj,yrloc,timey)

This, people, is blatant data-cooking, with no pretense otherwise. It flattens a period of warm temperatures in the 1940s 1930s — see those negative coefficients? Then, later on, it applies a positive multiplier so you get a nice dramatic hockey stick at the end of the century.

All you apologists weakly protesting that this is research business as usual and there are plausible explanations for everything in the emails? Sackcloth and ashes time for you. This isn’t just a smoking gun, it’s a siege cannon with the barrel still hot.

Correction

(Note: Raymond points out later that he missed the 0.75 modifier, so what is shown here (at the maximum) as a 2.6 deg correction in the graph is likely a 1.95 deg correction. This appears to be an older version of the graph.)

One caveat — this is the only “smoking gun” I’ve seen thus far, and I personally haven’t scoured these files at all to determine exactly how important this particular file is to the whole picture. I’m likewise a bit concerned that we haven’t seen more of these “corrections”; if this is purported to account for the northern hemisphere, what about the southern?

But at this time, that’s beside the point. Absolutely NO voice on the pro-AGW side that I’ve come across has even attempted to answer this critique. They may think it’s not serious, or know that it’s being misinterpreted, or they may simply believe that if they don’t give it an answer, it’s obscure nature to most innumerate people will let a true critique be ignored. I’m not sure.

So here’s my question to readers: Have you seen any credible answer to the charge by Eric Raymond that this is blatant data-cooking? Barring that, have you seen any non-credible answer or off-handed dismissal of this charge? What I’m trying to find out is if there are actually voices trying to answer this, or if it is being ignored.

Cargo Cult Science and the State

I think the educational and psychological studies I mentioned are examples of what I would like to call cargo cult science. In the South Seas there is a cargo cult of people. During the war they saw airplanes land with lots of good materials, and they want the same thing to happen now. So they’ve arranged to imitate things like runways, to put fires along the sides of the runways, to make a wooden hut for a man to sit in, with two wooden pieces on his head like headphones and bars of bamboo sticking out like antennas–he’s the controller–and they wait for the airplanes to land. They’re doing everything right. The form is perfect. It looks exactly the way it looked before. But it doesn’t work. No airplanes land. So I call these things cargo cult science, because they follow all the apparent precepts and forms of scientific investigation, but they’re missing something essential, because the planes don’t land.

Now it behooves me, of course, to tell you what they’re missing.But it would be just about as difficult to explain to the South Sea Islanders how they have to arrange things so that they get some wealth in their system. It is not something simple like telling them how to improve the shapes of the earphones. But there is one feature I notice that is generally missing in cargo cult science. That is the idea that we all hope you have learned in studying science in school–we never explicitly say what this is, but just hope that you catch on by all the examples of scientific investigation. It is interesting, therefore, to bring it out now and speak of it explicitly. It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

Details that could throw doubt on your interpretation must be given, if you know them. You must do the best you can–if you know anything at all wrong, or possibly wrong–to explain it. If you make a theory, for example, and advertise it, or put it out, then you must also put down all the facts that disagree with it, as well as those that agree with it. There is also a more subtle problem. When you have put a lot of ideas together to make an elaborate theory, you want to make sure, when explaining what it fits, that those things it fits are not just the things that gave you the idea for the theory; but that the finished theory makes something else come out right, in addition. » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Yet Another Unintended Consequence Of Ethanol Mandates/Subsidies

I’ve not been kind to the forces for ethanol. I’ve pointed out that demand for ethanol raises the price of food for poor people, how I’ve felt the pinch personally in increased prices for homebrew supplies, how the use of ethanol is wasting scarce water resources. Finally, I pointed out that ethanol actually increases pollution, not decreases it!

You’d think that’d be enough… But the hits just keep on a’comin… Researchers at my alma mater, Purdue, suggest that the increased land usage necessary to meet the demand for ethanol might disrupt migration patterns for dozens of species of migratory bird:

A new Purdue study suggests the demand for ethanol could fuel the decline of migratory birds by driving the elimination of small woodlots on farms, which many birds use for protection during migration.

Over two years, researchers found 76 species of migratory birds using those small wooded landing zones during their flights between Canada and South or Central America.

Dunning and Packett’s study suggests that the woodlots are as important to protect as larger forests.

Those trees are among the limited stopover areas birds have as they migrate over land. Open fields or cities could leave the birds susceptible to predators. The wooded areas also provide food, not just shelter.

But Dunning said there is concern that with the increased demand for ethanol, farmers and others may not see the value of the wooded areas and may cut down the trees to make more room to plant corn there.

“There are strategies for conserving forest for migratory birds, but those strategies emphasize the largest patches of forest,” Dunning said in a news release. “We found that even very small woodlots were filled with migratory birds at times. It makes us believe we also need to conserve the little patches of forest, not just the big ones.”

Sometimes I think it’d be hard to come up with a worse policy than ethanol.

But rest assured, as long as we have a Congress, I’m sure we’ll have plenty of contenders.

If You Kill Your Cattle, You Will Starve

Over at the Master Resource Blog,  law professor Gail Heriot points out the similarities between global warming, fear-monger Al Gore and Xhosa Prophetess Nongqawuse:

Nongqawuse was a teenager and a member of the Xhosa tribe in South Africa.  One day in April or May of 1856, she went down to the river to fetch water.  When she returned, she said that she had encountered the spirits of three of her ancestors who told her that her people must destroy their crops and kill their cattle.  In return, the sun would rise red on February 18, 1857, and the Xhosa ancestors would sweep the British settlers from the land and bring them fresh, healthier cattle.  (Some of the Xhosa cattle had been suffering from a lung ailment, which may or may not have been brought by the British settlers’ cattle.)

Astonishingly, the Xhosa chieftain, Sarhili, agreed to do exactly as this young girl urged.  Over the next year, a frenzy occurred in which it is estimated that between 300,000 and 400,000 cattle were killed and crops destroyed.  Historians sometimes call it the “Great Cattle Killing.”

But on February 18, 1857, the sun rose as usual.  It was not red.  And the Xhosa ancestors did not show.  But the Xhosa people had destroyed their livelihood.  In the resulting famine, the population of the area dropped from 105,000 to less than 27,000.  Cannibalism was reported.  Following Nongqawuse’s advice was a calamity of staggering proportions for the Xhosa people.

Like Nongqawuse, Gore tells us that the sun will soon rise red over the land.  Well, maybe.  But already the models that he relies on have been proven wrong.  The intense period of warming that these models predicted over the past ten years never came to pass.  Yet we are repeatedly told that it’s still coming and that it’s just a little late.  Apparently, we should pay no attention to the fact that the polar ice is expanding again.  Instead, we must put the brakes on our use of energy–the very thing that makes the modern world possible–to avoid antagonizing the spirits of our ancestors, I mean to avoid climate disaster.

The most infuriating aspect of the fear-mongers’ movement is that their solution to climate change is for humanity to adopt an economic system that has brought misery and death nearly every time it has been tried.  From the tropics to the poles,  free markets have brought prosperity, comfort and longevity to the masses.  No matter how well intentioned they are, the fear-mongers threaten to wreck the engine that allows the Earth to support a human population in the billions.

The Earth’s climate is in a state of flux. The notion that humanity should doom itself to privation and famines in a futile attempt to maintain climactic parameters within a set of narrow bands is the height of folly.  If we kill our cattle, we too will starve.

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Petty Meddlers Face Jackboot

Homeowners’ Associations are one of life’s little sour tastes of government. Petty meddling nannies who tell you that you can’t do X, or that you must do Y, in order to keep the neighborhood “uniform” or somesuch. Sadly, it’s also a microcosm for most peoples’ reactions to government. When it’s a neighbor doing something they don’t like, they scour the by-laws for a way to run off to the HOA board of directors to get a nice little note sent to the neighbor. But when it’s their own behavior scrutinized, they think the HOA board of directors is an intolerable PITA.

So you can imagine I’m not a big fan of HOA’s, and there’s a little bit of schadenfreude in watching them get their hands slapped… But I still can’t support this (via Ezra Klein — hence calling this “good” — on Waxman-Markey):

Lots of small tweaks were added in the past day or two. And some of them were good! Rep. Dennis Cardoza, for instance, added a smart amendment to discourage neighborhood associations from prohibiting solar panels of aesthetic grounds.

So, they can tell you not to paint your door green, but they can’t stop you from filling your roof with a solar array the size of a tennis court.

I have a coworker facing this issue right now. He lives in Newport Beach, CA, and his HOA has some waterfront homes. One of his neighbors with oceanfront (cliff, not sand) is planning to put solar panels down the face of the cliff to electrically heat his pool. This, of course, is California. There are environmental laws, and the HOA doesn’t want to see this happen either. But being California, they ALREADY have laws that stop the HOA or anyone else (including the Greens) from interfering, because solar energy takes precedence. Now it sounds like this will extend nationwide.

This is one of those issues that gets thorny for libertarians. It comes down to property rights, but the question of what legitimate hindrances can be placed on the owners by HOA’s. After all, an HOA is a contract that a buyer of a house willingly enters into. But it doesn’t seem to me like an issue in which Congress has any right to intervene.

As a renter who is waiting for the complete collapse of the market before I buy a home, I know that I may be faced with a tough decision regarding my purchase based upon whether or not I’ll choose a neighborhood with an HOA, and whether the existence of an HOA is enough to dissuade me from the house we otherwise find desirable. But I know what I don’t want, and that is for Congress to be the one telling my HOA what it can or cannot do.

I have to give the man some credit

I happen to live in Arizonas 5th congressional district; and am currently represented in the house by Harry Mitchell.

Congressman Mitchell and I disagree about a lot of things. Abortion, social security and government health care, school choice and education policy, many economic issues, government intervention and regulations in general, and the overall wisdom of his party leadership and the DNC…

However, I have to give the man some credit. He has generally been good on energy policy, and on guns since he came to congress (as a local politician his record on guns was mixed). He was also against the auto industry bailout, against TARP, and especially against the unconstitutional TARP bonus tax. He’s even reasonable on national security issues, and veterans affairs.

I believe he has ably represented the interests of his district within the congress; and bucked the leadership when he thought it was best for the district (if perhaps not bucking them enough outside of issues of direct interest to the district).

Today, he voted against his leadership; choosing to vote for the greater good of Arizona, and of the nation; against the Waxman cap and trade bill.

Unfortunately, we all lost in that vote; but senate leaders are already saying it’s dead on their floor… so we’ll see.

Last week, and again this morning, I urged congressman Mitchell by telephone to both his offices, and by email, to vote against the bill; as it was against the interest of both the district, and the nation. This evening, having found out how he voted, and reading his statement on the issue, I called to thank him.

We may disagree with our elected representatives, we may have voted for the other guy, we may think they are the wrong person to be in that chair; but once they are there, they are OUR representatives. The peoples representatives.

Letting them know how you feel about something, how important it is to you, what benefit or harm it will do you personally; it works. It may not seem so much of the time, but most congressmen really do care about what the people of their districts think; if for no other reason that it improves their chances for reelection.

So participate. Let them know. After all, it can’t hurt; and it just might make a difference.

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

Cap And Tax

Coming from Ezra Klein

Via Dave Weigel and Matt Yglesias comes the depressing news that the vast majority of the public doesn’t know what cap and trade” is. And I don’t mean in the sense that they don’t understand the auctions. They have no idea what problem the policy actually refers to.

“Given a choice of three options, just 24 percent of voters can correctly identify the cap-and-trade proposal as something that deals with environmental issues. A slightly higher number (29 percent) believe the proposal has something to do with regulating Wall Street while 17 percent think the term applies to health care reform. A plurality (30 percent) have no idea.”

Sounds like a perfect time to properly articulate it to the American public. And to do this, I’m going to steal borrow an explanation I commonly here on my weekend listening from the Financial Sense News Hour (which I highly recommend you download or subscribe to the podcast — great stuff).

It’s not cap and trade, it’s Cap And Tax. It caps economic growth, and it taxes just about everything.

The $30 Billion Stack of Paper

Steve's Stimulus Request21 pages of paper is apparently worth $30 billion taxpayer dollars — if you are too big to fail, that is. That’s 1,428,571,428.57 bucks per page. Here’s how ABC reports the story:

An AIG report to the Treasury Department last month warned that if the government didn’t come to its rescue again, its collapse would trigger a “chain reaction of enormous proportion” that would “potentially bankrupt or bring down the entire system” and make it impossible for AIG to repay the billions it already owed the U.S. government.

Four days later, AIG was given $30 billion in federal aid on top of the $130 billion it had already received.

Read the AIG Report to the Treasury Department here.

A draft of the report, obtained by ABC News, was marked “strictly confidential.” It said, “The failure of AIG would cause turmoil in the U.S. economy and global markets and have multiple and potentially catastrophic unforeseen consequences.”

The draft was dated Feb. 26. On March 2, the Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve system announced that AIG, which lost $61.7 billion in the fourth quarter of 2008, would receive $30 billion in new government help.

AIG warns in its report of the “systemic risk” that a potential collapse posed. It describes a “systemic risk” as one that “could potentially bankrupt or bring down the entire system or market.

Considering how easy it is to come with $30 billion of other people’s money, I thought I’d try the same approach.  Of course, I’m not as greedy as AIG — I only need a million bucks to stimulate the parts of the economy in which I’m interested.

I also think my request deserves special consideration for two reasons.  The first is that it was very difficult to write on toilet paper with a magic marker.  Have you ever tried it?

The more important reason is that I only used four squares of singly-ply toilet paper for my request.  Not only are my sheets smaller than those used by AIG, but the total cost to the taxpayer will only be $250,000 per sheet.  Considering that I’m saving everyone $1,428,321,428.57 per sheet as well as saving the rain forest, I’m certain my request won’t be denied.

Instead of TARP funds, perhaps we could call them CRAP funds, instituting a new Crappy and Reckless Assets Program.  For a few extra trillion dollars,  I could also be appointed the Crap Czar, so I can mismanage toxic assets as well as the fine folks in D.C.

The bottom line is that if I don’t get the money, millions of people will lose their jobs, it will impact countries around the world and every bank in America will go under.  And, as evidenced by my request for stimulus largesse, it’s obvious that I’m way too big to fail.

A tip of the hat to Andrew Sullivan.

They can have my toilet paper when they pry it from between my cold, dead butt cheeks

The bad news is that the environmental movement wishes to interfere with our bowel movements. From the tree killers at The NY Times:

The national obsession with soft paper has driven the growth of brands like Cottonelle Ultra, Quilted Northern Ultra and Charmin Ultra — which in 2008 alone increased its sales by 40 percent in some markets, according to Information Resources, Inc., a marketing research firm.

But fluffiness comes at a price: millions of trees harvested in North America and in Latin American countries, including some percentage of trees from rare old-growth forests in Canada. Although toilet tissue can be made at similar cost from recycled material, it is the fiber taken from standing trees that help give it that plush feel, and most large manufacturers rely on them. [snip]

The country’s soft-tissue habit — call it the Charmin effect — has not escaped the notice of environmentalists, who are increasingly making toilet tissue manufacturers the targets of campaigns. Greenpeace on Monday for the first time issued a national guide for American consumers that rates toilet tissue brands on their environmental soundness. With the recession pushing the price for recycled paper down and Americans showing more willingness to repurpose everything from clothing to tires, environmental groups want more people to switch to recycled toilet tissue.

“No forest of any kind should be used to make toilet paper,” said Dr. Allen Hershkowitz, a senior scientist and waste expert with the Natural Resource Defense Council.

There is an upside in all of this, however. Greenpeace has published a guide which will probably serve consumers actually looking for more cush for the tush. It will also help those who don’t like a raw, red nose when suffering from a cold or allergies, too. All the reader has to do is pick a product from Greenpeace’s “to be avoided” list.

So, we’re not all going to drown, or be killed by hurricanes?

This is the single best, and clearest, explanation of the Rationalist Position on global warming I’ve Ever Seen

Key line: “So, why don’t we ever talk about the suns contribution to global warming? …Well, because we can’t regulate it, tax it, or make it feel guilty for what it’s doing“.

Got it in one there friend.

There’s no profit, political gain, or power to be grabbed from acknowledging the real causes, and real effects of whatever global warming there actually is. So, the interested parties simply ignore all that, shout down anyone who disagrees with them, and go about seizing as much power as they can, in a disorderly fashion.

From “What You Oughta Know“, a website with videos explaining an assortment of general, and sometimes esoteric knowledge.

Oh and here are the links he mentioned in the video:

Pacific Research Institute:
the documentary, more information

Reid A. Bryson – scroll down for ice cap article

Solar Activity: A dominant factor in climate dynamics – scroll down read sections in blue

BBC’s The Great Global Warming Swindle

Other possible causes for global warming

Oh and just for fun, here’s the same sites take on “Liberals vs. Conservatives“… which is really a pretty solid explanation of the foundations of minarchist positions:

And a great take on the bailout:

“Because there is no disaster that immediate, decisive, wrong action cannot make worse”

I am a cynically romantic optimistic pessimist. I am neither liberal, nor conservative. I am a (somewhat disgruntled) muscular minarchist… something like a constructive anarchist.

Basically what that means, is that I believe, all things being equal, responsible adults should be able to do whatever the hell they want to do, so long as nobody’s getting hurt, who isn’t paying extra

So What Is Barack Obama’s Carbon Footprint ?

Apparently, our new President likes to crank up the thermostat:

WASHINGTON — The capital flew into a bit of a tizzy when, on his first full day in the White House, President Obama was photographed in the Oval Office without his suit jacket. There was, however, a logical explanation: Mr. Obama, who hates the cold, had cranked up the thermostat.

“He’s from Hawaii, O.K.?” said Mr. Obama’s senior adviser, David Axelrod, who occupies the small but strategically located office next door to his boss. “He likes it warm. You could grow orchids in there.”

Does anyone remember what Obama said back in May ?

Pitching his message to Oregon’s environmentally-conscious voters, Obama called on the United States to “lead by example” on global warming, and develop new technologies at home which could be exported to developing countries.

“We can’t drive our SUVs and eat as much as we want and keep our homes on 72 degrees at all times … and then just expect that other countries are going to say OK,” Obama said.

“That’s not leadership. That’s not going to happen,” he added.

Apparently, though, wearing a sweater and turning down the heat is just for the little people.

And, oh yeah, Obama may have been born in Hawaii, but he spent the last several decades in Chicago. He should be used to the cold by now.

Cross-posed from Below The Beltway

Driving Home In The Dark

For a long time, I’ve been pissed off about Daylight Savings Time. In my job, I work with a lot of people across the country, and thus I get into work early (7:30 or so) and leave about 5:00 PM. Before it went into effect this year, each morning I would drive to work in sunlight, and return home in sunlight. I’d have a good half an hour or more of evening dusk when I got home. After it went into effect, I still drove to work in the sunlight, but each day I drive home in the dark.

I had remembered learning, years ago, that it had something to do with making life easier on farmers. Which I never understood, because farmers live far more based on the earth’s clock than man’s. But even so, I never quite understood why the rest of us would be stuck going along with it, when we no longer live an in agriculture-dominated society. Then, they changed the deal, making the duration of DST shorter in the hopes of being more “green”.

It turns out, though, that DST is actually rather pointless AND it is an energy-waster.

The Daylight Savings idea was one of Ben Franklin’s worst. He thought we’d all save candles if, in the summer, we started the day earlier on the clock, leaving more sunshine for the evening.

Politicians made it official: Move the clock one hour forward in the summer, to hoodwink people to get up earlier and leave more daylight hours for after work.

But now it turns out that Daylight Savings Time doesn’t save energy. Matthew J. Kotchen and Laura E. Grant, writing in the New York Times, report on their recent study in Indiana, where implementation of Daylight Savings has been county-by-county, a perfect statistical testing ground.

They found that Daylight Savings cost one percent extra. Franklin didn’t figure on morning heaters and daytime air conditioning.

I lived in Indiana before DST was in effect there, while I attended Purdue. Half the year, I would be on the same time as my parents in Illinois, and half the year I’d be an hour ahead of them. While it was largely an annoyance, it wasn’t that big of a deal. I often chided my hoosier friends* about the residents of their state simply being incapable to comprehend DST and change their clocks.

But — and believe me, it pains me to say it — maybe Indiana was right? Could it be finally time to put an end to DST once and for all?

UPDATE 10:30 PM: Okay, folks… Mea culpa. I said I never quite understood the whole deal about DST, and then I proved myself completely correct. I’m still not a big fan of it, but thanks for pointing out my mistakes.
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Why Nationalization Damages Liberty and Prosperity

Many progressives are looking forward to increased government oversight over the auto industry. They see this as a chance to influence the types of vehicles that are produced and to dictate that production be turned to socially beneficial uses, including the manufacture of green cars that auto manufacturers are not manufacturing. These vehicles are not manufactured presently because car manufacturers see bigger profits in continuing to produce SUV’s and more cheaply built sedans. Viewing this judgment as short-sighted, progressives are overjoyed at the prospect of including non-monetary considerations such as ecology or social needs in deciding what to produce. We who oppose the nationalization are viewed either as being too stupid to recognize the benefits of introducing considerations other than profits to production decisions, or as being wed to outdated economic theories or to be apologists for fat-cat capitalists.

This is incorrect. Rather, the progressives who support nationalization are being very short-sighted and are threatening to return society back to feudalism and are threatening to destroy the development of new technologies, technologies that will be vital to improving our standard of living while reducing the amount of pollution and natural resources needed to maintain such comfort. This not hyperbole but rather simple fact.

The problem, which has plagued all fascist and socialist economies throughout history, is that nationalization destroys the ability of the economy to rationally allocate capital goods and invest in the future. It is this incapability that is behind the phenomenon where communist countries seem to become mired in the past with stagnant technology, bare shelves in shops and factories that routinely fail to meet production quotas. » Read more

I am an anarcho-capitalist living just west of Boston Massachussetts. I am married, have two children, and am trying to start my own computer consulting company.

Monday Tuesday Open Thread

Both Obama and McCain suggest that with a cap-and-trade scheme, we can make headway against global climate change. Without getting into the debate over whether climate change is real or man-made, I think it’s clear that any climate change avoidance techniques America engages upon will not make a lick of difference to what China and India do, nor to the rest of the developing world, and probably won’t really achieve any goal of stopping the process.

But let’s step back a moment. There’s another question to be had. Let’s posit that global warming is occurring but isn’t humanity’s fault. How do we deal with it?

So… forget about AGW. If the oceans were to rise a meter for natural reasons, how would people respond? If ocean currents and wind patterns changed to bring lasting drought to Western Europe, what would Europeans do about it? If glaciers covered the NFC North as they did just 20,000 years ago, would we just surrender that territory without a fight? What kind of a fight would be feasible or even possible?

The only thing constant about climate is that it’s changing. Irrespective of the cause, is there any debate that can be had about how to deal with such change? I know my position (economic growth will make us better able to adapt and deal with it than economic restriction), but what do you folks think?

Want to Serve Your Country? Well, What’s Stopping You!

Time has an ongoing series which advocates the need for “voluntary” national service. In the magazine’s latest article by Managing Editor Richard Stengel, the author praises both John McCain and Barack Obama for their urging of Americans to “serve interests greater than self.”

It is a unique moment for the idea of national service. You have two presidential candidates who believe deeply in service and who have made it part of their core message to voters. You have millions of Americans who are yearning to be more involved in the world and in their communities. You have corporations and businesses that are making civic engagement a key part of their mission.

If “millions of Americans” wish to be “more involved” in service to others and “their communities” what’s stopping them? Do we really need a President McCain or President Obama to force “inspire” these Americans to serve their fellow Americans? Is their really a “volunteer” deficit?

In Stengel’s original article on this subject A Time to Serve he seems to suggest the opposite:

Polls show that while confidence in our democracy and our government is near an all-time low, volunteerism and civic participation since the ’70s are near all-time highs. Political scientists are perplexed about this. If confidence is so low, why would people bother volunteering? The explanation is pretty simple. People, especially young people, think the government and the public sphere are broken, but they feel they can personally make a difference through community service.

I fail to see the problem here. If people do not have confidence in the government, this is a very good thing*! Ordinary Americans are helping others on their own volition, not because some politician told them to do so.

Despite this seemingly positive news, this isn’t enough for Stengel:

[T]he way to keep the Republic — is universal national service. No, not mandatory or compulsory service but service that is in our enlightened self-interest as a nation. We are at a historic junction; with the first open presidential election in more than a half-century, it is time for the next President to mine the desire that is out there for serving and create a program for universal national service that will be his — or her — legacy for decades to come. It is the simple but compelling idea that devoting a year or more to national service, whether military or civilian, should become a countrywide rite of passage, the common expectation and widespread experience of virtually every young American.

Am I missing something here? How does a president “persuade” people who otherwise would not be inclined to national service without using some form of coercion? Toward the end of the article, Stengel offers a 10-point plan on how the next president should implement a national service agenda:

1. Create a National-Service Baby Bond (a.k.a. forced wealth distribution)

2. Make National Service a Cabinet-Level Department (a.k.a. taking money from citizens to pay for another Bureaucracy)

3. Expand Existing National-Service Programs Like AmeriCorps and the National Senior Volunteer Corps

4. Create an Education Corps

5. Institute a Summer of Service (a.k.a. teenagers serving the government to learn that all great things come from government)

6. Build a Health Corps (a.k.a. “volunteers” helping low income people access government healthcare programs which they are not already taking advantage of such as SCHIP)

7. Launch a Green Corps (similar to FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps but would improve infrastructure and combat climate change).

8. Recruit a Rapid-Response Reserve Corps (a.k.a. volunteers doing the job the National Guard traditionally does in the wake of natural disasters).

9. Start a National-Service Academy (a.k.a. a school to train government workers)

10. Create a Baby-Boomer Education Bond (a.k.a. forced wealth distribution).

In one way or another, every one of these proposals requires government to use force**. While this form of coercion is not as visible as directly “drafting” people into government service, make no mistake, coercion is still very much part of the equation.

To Time’s credit, the magazine did offer a counterpoint to Stengel’s article. Michael Kinsley calls B.S. on this whole notion of national service (particularly on the part of young people):

One of the comforts of middle age — a stage that the editor of TIME and I have both reached — is that you can start making demands on young people, safe in the knowledge that they won’t apply to you. Having safely escaped the Vietnam era draft ourselves, we are overcome by the feeling that the next generation should not be so lucky. Many of these young folks are volunteering for socially beneficial work, and that’s good. But it’s not good enough. “Volunteerism” is so wonderful that every young person should have to do it.

[…]

I’m perfectly prepared to believe that today’s young people are deplorable specimens, ignorant and ungrateful and in desperate need of discipline. Or I am also prepared to believe that they are about to burst with idealism like a piñata and only await somebody with a giant pin. But they aren’t the only ones who could use a lesson about social obligation. What about grownups? Grownups, who still have some hope of collecting Social Security and Medicare before they go broke, who have enjoyed the explosion in house prices that make the prospect of home ownership so dim for the next generation; who allowed the government to run up a gargantuan national debt, were miraculously bailed out of that, and immediately allowed it to be run up a second time; who may well have gone to college when tuition was cheap and you didn’t automatically graduate burdened by student loans. We are not in much of a position to start dreaming up lessons in social obligation for the kids.

As I pointed out in my last post, many people are in favor of “service” and “sacrifice” if it is being done by someone else. Kinsley also points out that the answer to serving the needs of others is good old fashioned Capitalism!***

Let’s be honest. If you really want to “serve your country/community/world,” again I ask you: What’s stopping you? Your level of service has not one thing to do with who occupies the White House at any given time.

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Cali Going “Green” — Raising House Prices By Restricting Supply

California, in an attempt to fix the housing mess* by making houses less affordable by making you buy features you wouldn’t otherwise**, has announced new statewide building restrictions to go “green”.

From the Governator on down, nanny statists in California are more than willing to use force to make your life more expensive, and are quite happy to gloat about it the whole while:

Today, the California Building Standards Commission announced the unanimous adoption of the nation’s first statewide “green” building code. The code is a direct result of the Governor’s direction to the Commission and will lead to improved energy efficiency and reduced water consumption in all new construction throughout the state, while also reducing the carbon footprint of every new structure in California.

Unanimous? There’s nobody willing to step up and say “maybe we should let individuals decide how their houses should be built”? You can argue day in and day out whether building codes for safety purposes are a legitimate form of government coercion, but this is just nanny-state do-gooderism. It’s the logical next step to a government that won’t allow any market forces the freedom to develop the energy people want to use, so simply requires that they use less. Allowing market forces to price water, for example, might suggest to people that they should save water for their own sake. But government regulation artificially keeping water prices low means, of course, that they must either ration water, mandate regulation to reduce use through the building code, or both. Throwing bad government after bad? I’d say so.

“Once again California is leading the nation and the world in emissions reductions and finding new ways to expand our climate change efforts,” said Commission Chair Rosario Marin.

Sometimes being first is a good thing. Sometimes it’s not. Something tells me that increasing housing prices in a place like California, already far too expensive with other taxes and regulations (and market forces) for the average person to survive comfortably, will not end up helping the state.

“The commission should be commended for bringing everyone to the table including representatives of the construction and building trades industry, environmental groups and labor organizations, and achieving something no other state has been able to.”

“We railroaded this through in a bipartisan manner. Therefore it’s obvious that it’s futile to resist.”

The new California Green Building Standards Code goes well beyond the current building standards. These new statewide standards will result in significant improvements in water usage for both commercial and residential plumbing fixtures and target a 50 percent landscape water conservation reduction.

Plumbing fixtures? Better buy a plunger. Maybe even an auger when they get through with your house. Oh, and I hope you like Xeriscapes, because you’re going to see a lot more of them. (Again, this is a result of government artificially pricing water too low, and then enacting use restrictions that natural market forces could already have arranged).

They also push builders to reduce energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than today’s current standards.

Again, in many ways this is a good thing. But it’s not something that most people had deemed necessary to pay for in the past, or it wouldn’t need to be regulated.

They also push builders to reduce energy use of their structures by 15 percent more than today’s current standards.

I guess they thought this was really important to point out, since they repeated the sentence in the press release. Or perhaps they are just experts on “being green”, and not so much into the whole proofreading thing…

The new standards declare the minimum California will accept in environmentally friendly design – local jurisdictions and builders who wish to do more are applauded.

[clap clap clap]Yay, Berkeley! You go girl![/clap clap clap]

In addition to the new codes adopted today, Governor Schwarzenegger’s Green Building Initiative (Executive Order S-20-04) (http://gov.ca.gov/executive-order/3360/) directs state agencies to reduce energy use at state-owned buildings 20 percent by 2015, while also reducing the impact state buildings have on climate change.

Please tell me they’re going to do this by reducing quantity of state buildings and number of state employees by this much!

His executive order directs that new state construction and major renovation projects should meet a minimum of the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Silver certification in order to save energy, conserve water, divert waste from landfills and cut greenhouse gas emissions. To date, 13 state buildings have achieved LEED certification.

I guess that’s the end of major renovation projects to state buildings. Oh, wait, they’re spending our money? Never mind.

And wow, 13 whole buildings so far? What size bucket does that drop fall into?

According to the U.S. Green Building Council, buildings nationwide account for 70 percent of electricity consumption, 39 percent of energy usage, 12 percent of potable water consumption, 40 percent of raw materials usage, 30 percent of waste output (136 million tons annually), and produce 39 percent of associated greenhouse gases (CO2).

I thought I learned from the NRA that buildings don’t waste energy, people do. Up next, Washington DC outlaws private ownership of buildings!

California’s new building standards will result in increased water and energy savings through a combination of more efficient appliances, use of efficient landscapes and more efficient building design and operation.

Again, I’m sure they’re not doing anything to increase the efficiency of government.

The code also encourages the use of recycled materials in carpets and building materials, and identifies various site improvements including parking for hybrid vehicles and better storm water plans.

Hey, so you get primo parking for your 20 mpg Chevy Tahoe Hybrid, while the guy with the much more environmentally-friendly 36 mpg Honda Civic languishes at the back of the lot. I’ll bet he produces a lot less smug, too.

Additionally, the new code contains standards for single-family homes, health facilities and commercial buildings. The code is composed of optional standards that will become mandatory in the 2010 edition of the code. This adjustment period will allow for industry and local enforcement agencies to prepare for, and comply with, the new green building standards.

This is why the construction industry went along… Anyone with half a brain will be pushing for their construction to be complete by 2010! After all, what California really needs is MORE real estate being developed, because we don’t have quite enough of a surplus now!

Moving forward after 2010, the California Green Building Standards Code will be updated on an annual basis to ensure that the latest technology and methods of construction have been incorporated to always maintain a high level of standards.

And here’s the giveaway to lobbyists. Just think how much money is going to be spent at the state capital ensuring that pet technologies get implemented into the code. Oh, and I’m sure regulations that change yearly will require a lot more inspectors and training, another fun way to spend taxpayer money. Sacramento should be a boom town over the next few years.

For more than 20 years, the California Building Standards Commission has established California as an international leader in areas such as energy conservation, water conservation and seismic strengthening—resulting in some of the most efficient and sustainable buildings in the world.

Ahh, the final buzzword. “Sustainable.” As long as they keep taxes and regulation just shy of killing the goose that laid the golden egg, Sacramento’s economy should remain sustainable. But just imagine if the local government was trying to pull this sort of shit in a state without beautiful scenery and picturesque beaches… They’d call it Detroit.
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Lesson In Unintended Consequences #2

The government likes to support biodiesel. It has all the buzzwords. “Recycling”. “Sustainable”. “Environmentally-friendly”. So they subsidize efforts to blend diesel with biodiesel.

One main problem here. Americans don’t use much diesel. So they’re subsidizing foreign, not domestic, use. In fact, they’re simply sending money for non-American-produced diesel that won’t be consumed on American soil to foreign fuel companies:

The problem began when Sen. Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa), the friend of farmers, inserted the so-called “Blenders’ Credit” into the Jobs Act of 2004. The idea was to increase biofuels production and consumption in the U.S., as biofuels were thought to be environmentally friendly and a viable alternative to fossil fuels. The credit provides $1 for each gallon of biodiesel that is mixed with regular diesel in the United States. The provision has not dramatically increased domestic consumption, but it has increased production and exports to Europe’s thriving and subsidized diesel markets.

Under World Trade Organization rules, the U.S. government cannot extend the credit only to American companies or to fuels produced in America. Thus, foreign companies are eligible whenever they bring their biodiesel stateside for mixing. But the limited American market for the fuel has given birth to an unintended consequence known as “Splash and Dash.”

Rep. John Shadegg (R., Ariz.) demonstrated the concept’s simplicity last week by referring to an article that received little attention when it was published last year. It works like this: A foreign tanker carrying 9 million gallons of biodiesel from Brazil or Malaysia sails to an American port. While it waits, 9,000 gallons of American diesel is added — that’s right, a .1 percent blend — so as to earn the blender a $9 million tax credit. The tanker heads to Europe, where diesel cars are far more common and biodiesel is further subsidized.

In some cases, tankers have reportedly made round trips from Europe to the U.S. simply to collect the subsidy. Thus we “import” and “export” the same fuel from and to the same country.

“Just think of it,” said Shadegg. “If I produce biodiesel anywhere in the world where the cost of shipping it to the United States before shipping it to the end consumer is less than a dollar a gallon, then I’m going to take advantage of this subsidy.”

(Emphasis added).

Does lowering the cost of fuel for Europeans really seem like a great use of our tax dollars (and those of our children/grandchildren, since we’re borrowing the money anyway)? Now, you’d think that this program would be universally opposed in the United States…

But you’d be wrong:

Last week, Shadegg proposed a bill (H.R. 5713) to end “Splash and Dash” by limiting the blenders’ tax credit to biodiesel that is actually consumed in the United States. But domestic producers are already upset by this idea: Although they resent foreign firms’ use of “Splash and Dash” to take away their competitive advantage, they still want their subsidy for the biodiesel they export to Europe. Grassley, the original author of the tax credit, wants to make Splash and Dash less profitable but continue those subsidies for American exporters that have so angered the Europeans.

Of course oil producers don’t worry that much about ending the subsidy to foreigners. While an infintesimal proportion of their tax dollars support the foreign subsidy, a far greater amount of our tax dollars go right into their own pockets.

But hey, I’m sure if we just elect Obama/McCain/Barr/Cthulhu, he’ll solve all these problems and “reform” the government!

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